title: Fall to Pieces
rating: PG-13
pairing: Severus Snape/Draco Malfoy (briefly)
other characters: Crabbe, Goyle, Voldemort (background)
prompt: for livejournal's 7spells community, "dragon tears"
summary: Draco needs assistance, Severus needs way too much.
setting: late autumn or early winter during HBP/Trio's sixth year

note: Reviews are the most important thing as reader has to offer. If you did not enjoy this story, explain what improvements would be necessary to make it right. If you did like it, tell me what worked for you. Five minutes of your time can help me become a better writer. :)

Breathe! Draco Malfoy demanded of himself as he bent over the sink, scooping up a handful of cool water from the porcelain bowl and splashing it across the feverish skin of his face. Come on, come on, concentrate, he urged himself mentally, biting down on his lip hard as he twisted the cold tap, opening it further to effectively lower the temperature of the water. Already, it was near freezing, cold enough to numb his fingers at the touch, but despite the shock of it as he patted the water against his face, beads of sweat continued to form upon his brow. Think! Damn it! The front of his shirt was soaking wet, the garment hanging partially open at the neck where he had torn away his pristine tie, unable to inhale due to the constriction of the fabric against his throat. Robes lay neglected on the floor at his feet.

Behind him, feet shuffled as Gregory Goyle pushed open the door worriedly. His bloated face showed scant emotion, but their was mild bewilderment in his eyes. "Er, Draco -- how long are you going to be? This is a girl's bathroom. We'd better --"

"Quiet! Shut up!" Draco shouted, righting himself. Nausea coursed through his body as he noticed Vincent Crabbe elbowing Goyle and grinning with dull amusement. "Get the hell out of here, go on!" he ordered, hands clutching the basin so his fellow Slytherins would not notice them shaking. "Go back to common room, then, leave me alone." Fighting for control, he gasped, drawing in a shaky breath as the bathroom door slammed.

The second it closed, he slumped to the ground, hardly caring about the grime and spilt dampness on the floor. Legs weak and tingling, he curled up around himself, making himself small, and buried his head in his folded arms. His pale blonde hair, slick with water, dripped chilly droplets down his neck, but at least the overwhelming heat was gone. The fever was subsiding, but Draco knew it would be back before long. The Dark Lord was impatient.

Gritting his teeth, he reached for his sleeve and rolled it up, exposing the pale expanse of his forearm to the bathroom's gloom. There, close to his elbow, a black wound seemed to pulsate. Fresh, still rimmed with bruises and edged with dried blood, Voldemort's mark contrasted sharply with the otherwise creamy skin Draco possessed. Snivelling, shaking his head slightly, Draco tried to get control over his racing heart. It pummelled away inside his chest as he reached forward cautiously, reluctantly to touch the mark, then settled his fingertips over the painful spot, tracing the edges carefully with the pads of his fingers. Burns still -- Father never mentioned how much it hurts. What if it never stops? I'll go mad, I'll.... "-- I'll lose my mind," he spoke aloud, surprised at how his soft voice echoed around the stone chamber. Clenching his fist, Draco glared down at the mark, hating it. "I won't have time to go mad. If I don't finish this job soon...."


Severus Snape's voice, on the other side of the door, was startled and worried, and Draco looked up hastily towards the sound of it, mouth agape and heart drumming an arrhythmic beat once more, his breathing shallow. Hastily, he yanked down his sleeve, obscuring the painful brand, and dragged himself to his feet. "What do you want?"

"I want to help you," came Snape's voice, slightly muffled by the door. He spoke in a low tone, not very loudly, but demandingly enough.

"I don't need your help!" Draco shot back, seething. Frantically, he wheeled away from the door, to the far corner of the bathroom, and there he leaned against the wall, his arms hugging his body as he shook. "Just go away, and leave me alone, won't you?"

Rapping his knuckles against the door, Severus paused to listen. He frowned, narrowing his eyes, at the sound of Draco panting awkwardly, trying to catch his breath. "Regardless of whether you believe you require my help or not, I am here to provide it. I was asked to do so, Draco, by your mother, and she does not take promises made to her very lightly. Now, I know your task, I know what you've been sent to do. You can trust me; I alone understand what you are planning. Either come out, so that we can discuss this privately in my office, or I'm coming in." He frowned. "Are you decent?"

Go away! Draco thought desperately, as he sank down the wall, until he was sitting on the floor once more, cowering in the corner. Can't you all just leave me alone? I have to do this, this is my task, entrusted to me, and if I fail -- no -- no I won't fail, not if he stops pestering me, not if they all just leave me be. "No!" he called back in answer, glaring in the direction of the door. "You don't understand anything!"

Hinges creaked, weary and rusty as Severus gingerly pushed open the door to the bathroom, wand out but mostly hidden. He had no plans of attacking, but was not entirely convinced that Draco would not foolishly try something. Of course, nothing the boy attempted would be successful; Severus was a far better dueller than Draco could dream of becoming, but Severus had no intentions of suffering even a minor wound, should the boy make a drastic mistake. He stepped through the doorway and let the door close behind him. "Draco?" Narrowing his eyes, he sought out Draco among the shadows lingering in the corner.

The young man looked a wreck. His shirttail hung out, his trousers were untidy and his blonde hair was askew, as if he had just dismounted his broom after a lengthy Quidditch game played in particularly bad weather. Pale, the only colour on his face two bright spots of humiliated pink across his cheeks, Draco stared him down resentfully with tear-filled, yet defiant grey eyes. He held his wand in both hands, but did not raise it in defence as Severus hastily crossed the room, dropping down to his knees in front of the him.

"This cannot continue," Severus explained in a matter-of-fact tone. "Minerva McGonagall just approached me in my office. She explained that you had fired several dangerous curses within her classroom after being only mildly provoked by Ronald Weasley." Severus' sneer was evident as he spoke the name. "Apparently, the banter was too much for you. I've warned you about that, the need to control your temper, to keep up appearances of normalcy. You cannot behave in this fashion, Draco. Already, you're drawing attention to yourself. People will become suspicious."

Twisting his lips into a scowl, Draco ducked his head, avoiding the professor's eyes. "Is that all?" he asked coldly, staring at the tiled floor.

Shaking his head, Severus frowned. "No, that is not all. Professor McGonagall desired that I should inform you, you've been given two weeks' detention, to be served this Saturday and the next." He nodded as Draco looked up sharply. "Yes, despite the Quidditch match. I have already asked her to rescind the punishment, owing to your need to play the match and she has refused. She has also advised me that she will not accommodate by rescheduling. I'm afraid your sole recourse is to take it up with Headmaster Dumbledore. The man does not normally interfere with the disciplinary measures used by the staff, but he is not unfair either; he may be willing to request McGonagall keep you after a different day."

Leaning his head back against the wall, Draco closed his eyes. "Doesn't matter. I'll serve her detentions whenever she wants me to. I don't care."

"Draco --"

"Don't!" he said angrily, eyes flying open as Severus' hand grazed his shoulder. Shrugging, he twisted his lips. "Don't touch me. I said it doesn't matter, and I mean it. Why the hell should I care about Quidditch now anyway?"

"Fine," Severus retorted, righting himself. He stood up straight. "I'm sure she will be pleased not to be challenged, and it hardly matters from my standpoint. The team seems destined for bottom of the league whether you deign to perform or not. Apparently, we have much more pressing matters to consider, that of the task given to you by Lord Voldemort." He nodded as Draco peered at him angrily. "Yes, that, and we are going to discuss it now whether or not you care so to do. Get up, now. We'll talk about this behind closed doors, someplace private." Wrinkling his nose, he looked around. "Somewhere that is not a girls' lavatory."

Shuffling, Draco managed to get to his feet, though his gait was not entirely steady as he shot a glare over his shoulder at Severus before walking slowly to the door and yanking it open. "I'm tired," he said, and there was a plaintive note in his voice alongside the anger which disguised his fear. "I need to sleep. I never sleep anymore -- all this damn revision, constant assignments, always thinking --" His complaints were lies, and they both knew it. Draco rarely bothered with his homework anymore. During a bored moment, he might glance over one of his textbooks simply to alleviate the tension of his thoughts, and once or twice he had escaped into the catharsis of completing a carefully crafted assignment, but mostly, his schoolwork had gone neglected. Neither Crabbe nor Goyle could offer any assistance, and it was mostly due to Pansy that he had not already been confronted by one of his professors. Her skills were mediocre at best, but she seemed pleased to have the honour of scratching out essays on his behalf, and as long as he had something to hand in each class period, Draco knew none of the professors would bother challenging him to do more. Doesn't matter anyway. Who is going to count the number of NEWTs I earned once I'm dead?

Feigning a yawn, he turned in the direction of the staircase which led down to the Slytherin common room. "We'll talk later, yeah?"

Catching Draco's wrist, Severus shook his head. "Not quite good enough," he retorted, pulling a reluctant Draco in the direction of his offices, which were located in the dungeons, one floor higher than Draco's residence within the Slytherin dormitory. "This cannot wait, not even a few more hours," he hissed. "It's gone far enough already. Now, look," he added, pulling Draco along down the staircases. "I know what task he's given you. I am completely aware of what he has asked you to do."

Wearily, Draco nodded. "It's my business to worry about, not yours. He gave the assignment to me," he said, with a note of something like pride in his voice. Scornfully, he looked at Severus. "You're not stealing this from me."

Taken aback, the Professor stared. "That is hardly my desire." He pulled open a door and urged Draco inside, carefully bolting it behind him and casting the usual protective spells, even though they were unnecessary. "Do you think this is some sort of game?" he burst out angrily, the moment the door was closed and secured. Dark eyes flashing, he shook his head. "This is life and death, Draco."

"I know that, Professor," Draco drawled sullenly, his eyes fixed on the older man's. He gritted his teeth so tightly it hurt, and tried to breathe in deeply to steal the flutter of panic within his chest. Stomach coiling, he kicked at the floor with the toe of his shoe. "Don't you think that's perfectly clear to me already?" Shaking his head, he sneered. "He'll kill my mother if I don't do precisely what he says; he warned of that, the repercussions, should I fail. Father's safe for the moment, in Azkaban, but Vo -- Vold -- Voldemort --" he managed with effort "-- Voldemort could have him out of there in seconds, whenever he wished, and he could kill him too." Draco's eyes shone as tears welled up with him, and he dragged his sleeve over his face to blot them. Sniffing, he clenched his jaw, refusing to cry. Not in front of him. "So why don't you just leave me alone, hey, and let me get on with it?"

"Because you cannot manage this burden alone," Severus replied. He pursed his lips, then reached forward, his hand settling on Draco's arm. "Already, you are breaking down. You've lost all control over your temper, and you give yourself away with these wild mood swings. I haven't brought you down here to lecture you," he hastened on as Draco made to pull away. "Nor am I going to waste my time attempting to dissuade you from your task," he added, causing Draco to blink in surprise. "I'm not trying to steal your glory either, so get that ridiculous notion out of your mind at once."

Cautiously, Draco frowned. "Then what do you want?" he asked carefully.

"Simply to provide assistance. Draco, you have known me most of your life. When you came to Hogwarts at age eleven, I became your teacher, but I've known you far longer than that, when you were not yet a student but merely the son of your father, my closest friend." Severus nodded. "I've proven myself to Voldemort time and again, and he trusts and relies upon my loyalty. I have no need to take on your task as well for the mere prize of gaining a bit of notoriety among the ranks. My assistance is on offer merely because I do not wish to see the consequences, should you fail. As you know, your parents are friends of mine." He stepped a bit closer. "And I would hate to have to witness your punishment, should something go wrong."

Gingerly, Severus's hand came to rest against Draco's neck, and the young man responded, bowing his head and pressing his face against Severus' chest, allowing Severus to wrap his arms around him. He stayed there a moment, breathing in the salty dampness of his tears, which spilt without his consent, dampening Severus' robes. Tousled blonde hair, very pale, fell over his face, and he could feel Severus stroking it softly, murmuring something. He could not decipher the words, but the tone was reassuring.

" -- don't know what I'm going to do," Draco whispered mournfully against Severus' chest. He drew back, wiping his eyes and setting his jaw, trying to regain some semblance of control. Composure lacking, he blinked back tears. "There's no way to manage it. Nothing I've tried seems to work -- it was me," he added quickly. "Katie Bell, the necklace." Noticing the absence of surprise on Severus' features, he ducked his head, cheeks flaming. "You knew."

"Assumed," Severus said. His tapered fingers trailed down Draco's neck, caressing his back soothingly, and then, when Draco looked up at him closely, he leaned forward. "I want to help you," he spoke softly, his breath warm against Draco's cheek. "Let me....let me help you."

Nodding, Draco reached out, pressing his palm to Severus' face. He shifted, and then there was only heat, as he pressed himself against Severus so that their bodies touched at chest and hip and thigh, and his arms encircled Severus' neck needfully, pulling the other man close. "Okay," he responded, feeling the shudder of pleasure that went through Severus' body as his own muscles began to relax. Tension, which had been stored up within him even before arriving at King's Cross station for the train ride to school, lessened slightly, and something unhitched within his chest, allowing him to breathe. "I need -- I need ---"

"I know," said Severus, who kissed him then. Pressure from his lips was hot and unyielding, crashing down against Draco's own with every intent of staking a claim. There was tenderness in the kiss, but possession too, and needful desire mixed with demanding. He cupped Draco's face, trailing his fingers across Draco's hairline, his mouth on Draco's urgent, impatient and his breathing shallow and erratic.

Flicking his tongue, so that his penetrated the barrier of Severus' lips, Draco sighed as contentment rushed through him. Just for a moment, the impossible task was forgotten. For the first time in weeks, his mind failed to focus exclusively on Albus Dumbledore and how the murder of such an imposing, incredible wizard could possibly be achieved. There was no agonising sensation of guilt either, no panicky fear, no dwelling remorsefully on the dark mark burned black into his arm. There was only Severus, whispering his name in a throaty voice and thrusting his hand into the waist of Draco's trousers in order to unbutton them; Severus kissing back powerfully, exercising his dominion by wrenching Draco's shirt open and trailing hot kisses down his neck and chest. Please, don't stop -- don't ever stop, he thought wildly as he felt Severus shift in order to pin him against the office wall. Allowing the professor to grasp his wrists tightly, Draco simply moaned as Severus held him in place, mercilessly claiming his mouth.

Then, all too soon, it was over.

"Why'd you stop?" came the petulant words from Draco's mouth as he wiped his lips with one hand, eyeing Severus warily. His erection strained against the pants, eager for the feel of Severus' hand against him, or perhaps something more.

White-faced, Severus looked at him sceptically, almost as if expecting a reprimand. "Because," he started to say, then trailed off, flapping his hands uselessly to try and explain without being forced to find the correct words. "I'm your professor," he announced, after a moment, as Draco continued to wait expectantly, his trousers still open, the shirt, buttons torn, hanging open and exposing a smooth expanse of chest. "I shouldn't be doing anything of the sort, not with you," he said, feeling the odd sensation of remorse, a rare sentiment in his experience. "You need my help."

"That was helping," Draco said plainly. He reached out, catching hold of Severus' hand, but the man pulled away after a moment, scowling.

"There is no time, Draco," Severus snapped irritably. "We are all in danger; no one can be safe until this task is completed or..." he broke off, sighing. Mustn't get distracted now, he warned himself, but the dampness on his lips made him dizzy with wanting. It was rare for someone to touch him, even more rare when it was done willingly, and he had entertained such notions about Draco for so long it was as if he had fallen headlong into a dream. Focus, Severus. Dark eyes shone as he looked the younger man over. "There is another way."

Sulking, Draco fiddled with his fingers, feigning a sudden vain obsession with his fingernails. "What way?" he demanded sullenly.

It was risk, Severus knew. Giving the boy ammunition to use against him could be extremely dangerous, if the young man decided not to trust Severus' guidance and instead hurried loyally back to Voldemort's side with news of a traitor. His cover would be utterly blown, that much was certain. Even if he tried to lie and managed to hold his own against the probing Legilimency of the Dark Lord, Voldemort was bound to remain suspicious, and pinning the inevitable leaks on him would be a simple enough matter. He did not honestly believe Draco was inclined to choose allegiance to the Dark Lord over safety for himself and his family, but the potential did exist. Draco's tremendous fear and naivety made him difficult to work with. At any time, he might decide it was altogether safer to turn Severus in as a traitor than to try and free the dark wizard's long arm completely.

I did promise Dumbledore I would try, he mused unhappily, gritting his teeth. And there is no other way, not really. He cannot be allowed to continue this reckless game. His fear is making him clumsy; either he'll give himself away so thoroughly that he'll be caught in the attempt, or he'll finally hurt someone else and we'll suffer the consequences of that. Already, he's come far too close for comfort. How long before the mistake he makes is fatal? Besides, he added reflectively, Voldemort won't wait much longer. He intends me to do his bidding when Draco fails. Soon enough, he'll decide not waste any more time toying with him, and simply carrying out the punishment that's been hanging over Lucius' head ever since that failure in the Ministry. Severus crossed his arms, wishing he felt stronger. There's no other option.

"I think -- I think you must go to Headmaster Dumbledore. No, wait," he hastened, holding up one hand as Draco gaped at him, aghast, then attempted to push past him towards the door. Stepping aside, he left the young man go. The door was held fast anyway, secured by his own spells; Draco was stuck, until such time as Severus saw fit to release him. "Listen to me, Draco. I am many things, but I am no fool, and I will never advise you wrong so long as you trust me. Dumbledore already knows of the Dark Lord's plan. Do not ask me how, I cannot give you any more information than that, but suffice to say, he is perfectly aware of the plans Voldemort makes, and he is already waiting for you."

Shaking his head, Draco gaped. "That's -- that's not true! You're lying!"

"Why would I lie?"

"Because you want to trick me. I know you'd do this, I knew it!" Draco exclaimed passionately. "You wanted the glory of Dumbledore's death all to yourself. You expect me to just go up there, to the Headmaster's office -- he'd kill me!"

Severus shook his head. "He already knows everything that has been asked of you and precisely what is at stake, and he's never once indicated the least bit of anger towards you. Dumbledore permitted you into the school, he's let you remain here all term; he does not want to hurt you, he wants to help you, as do I." Meeting Draco's reluctant gaze, Severus pleaded with him to understand. "I'm not trying to take this opportunity from you. I'm not a loyalist, Draco." He heaved a breath, feeling strangely heavy as his shoulders sagged. "Voldemort has been misled all these years, by me. I've worked as a spy, for the Order of the Phoenix, the group which opposes him - and they can protect you, Draco. They are willing to. There are safe places which you can go, and your family as well, if you fear for them, which I think you are right to do."

"Stop it! Stop it!" Draco shouted, clapping his hands over his ears to drone out the soothing, silken voice and all Severus' promises. "Let me out of here! Leave me alone!" His eyes rolled wildly. "I need to think about what to do -- this has to get done -- move out of my way, won't you? Open the door!"

"Draco...." Severus' hand reached for Draco's, clasping his fingers around the younger man's hand. He squeezed reassuringly. "Let me help you. I'll bring you to Dumbledore; we can be away from Hogwarts within the hour, and Narcissa as well. I promise."

Mournfully, Draco swatted his hands out as if to strike Severus' words from the air. "No, don't you see, that can never work! Voldemort is too powerful. He'll know." He gasped, biting his bottom lip hard, almost to the point of drawing blood. "He'll know, and he'll kill them -- kill me --"

Bracingly, Severus settled his hand on Draco's shoulder. Dark hair fell over his eyes, but did not hide their gleam. "Not if you act quickly. Now is the time to be decisive, Draco. Lucius is no longer here to make the decisions for you, but his life is in peril, as is your mother's, if you fail to choose correctly. Dumbledore can help you, and he will. Why do you think Voldemort has always feared him?"

Hope shone in Draco's eyes, fragile, and for a moment he paused, the barest expression of relief across his features. Then he shuddered. His voice was pleading as he spoke. "How can I believe that? I don't know if I can trust you. You could be lying, testing my loyalty, tricking me!"

"You've known me too long for me to deceive you," Severus answered. "Draco, this is urgent. It must be done. Contacting Headmaster Dumbledore, offering your allegiance to him and requesting his help to protect you and your family is the only option." He pressed his hand against Draco's collarbone, then delicately trailed his fingers downwards, brushing Draco's chest. "I will go with you, and offer whatever assistance I can provide, but do this, now. You have no other choice." Slowly, he leaned in, licking his lips nervously as guilt and anxiety flowed through him in equal measures accompanied by a strange sort of wanting that pushed him persistently forward. "Please, do this," he spoke, mouth inches from Draco's. He could feel the young man's breath against his lips. "I'll help you."

He had almost managed to press his lips against Draco's mouth once more, given over to the desire the had inflicted itself upon him despite the anguish of guilt, but Draco was the one who wrenched away this time, pushing Severus back so hard that he stumbled, momentarily losing his balance.

"You can't help me," Draco spoke, his voice brittle. Clouded, his eyes stared uncomprehendingly at Severus' face. I know what you want...you want so much, he thought, feeling resentful, afraid, more than little desirous himself. How easy it would be, he knew, to collapse once more into Severus' arms, to nod in agreement and to stand before the Headmaster. Just like he wants, but he doesn't understand. No one does. "Not you, nor anyone else, not even Professor Dumbledore." Steeling himself, he drew a tight breath into his burning lungs, as the thrum of his heart picked up frightened speed. "Just leave me alone," he called out, and pushed past Severus before the man could grab him.

Bowing his head, Severus drew in a shaking sigh of breath, allowing the wards which protected the door to fall. Draco was gone before he had the strength to turn around, leaving the door stood ajar, and beyond it was only darkness.