Warnings: Slash and a bit of darkness.
Summary: What would you give for the one you loved more than life itself? Sometimes, to know something is real, one needs to see it bleed.
A/N: Originally written for the third Severus Sighs Anti-Valentine's Day Mini Fest. These characters do not belong to me. This is based on a story I heard at a cousin's wedding when I was younger, and written with the help of WhiteCotton. Thank you so much for all your assistance. My prompt was number five: 'Severus was nothing to look at, he had no charm or natural confidence to smooth his rough edges, so why was this happening?' and number four: 'Eenie, meenie, miney, moe ...'
For those wondering about the next chapter of Pains and Contradictions, I'm pleased to say that the damned thing is almost done. It's a labor of love, but writer's block, real life and a complete lifestyle change have been battling with creativity. The battle's nearly done and I will be the victor.
Blindfolded, Harry was thrown to the floor, scraping his knees on hard stone as his kidnappers ordered him to stay quiet. He struggled with his bonds, attempting to get free without his captors knowing, but they wouldn't give. Sighing, he only hoped he could get himself out of this situation before Severus found out. There'd be no end to his mocking.
"You may remove the blindfold now," a distorted voice said from in front of him, and Harry turned his face toward it in response.
"Oh, you've got to be joking," he muttered under his breath as he took in the scene before him. He was in a large room with torches lit against the walls. In the center of the room was a dais made of stone. To complete the package, there was a masked wizard with ridiculously ornate robes sitting on a throne with a pile of black rags at his feet.
"Welcome, Harry Potter," the wizard said, "I can't tell you how long I've wanted to meet you."
"Yeah, hi," Harry said, getting to his feet. "Any chance we can make this quick?" he asked, mentally considering what time it was. If he could get himself out of this in the next five minutes, it was possible for him to make it home before Severus realized anything had happened.
"I don't believe you realize who I am," the wizard said. "After you, I'm the most powerful wizard in this hemisphere. And once I've destroyed you, I'll be the most powerful."
Exasperated, Harry rolled his eyes and guessed that, no, he wasn't going home anytime soon. He fiddled with his bonds again, trying to use wandless magic to free himself. Attempting to distract his captor, he said, "You have high ambitions. What will you do then?"
"That's really no concern of yours," the wizard said, then removed his wand from a sleeve and aimed it at Harry. "And please stop trying to escape. I've waited a long time for this, and I assure you there is no way out of this room, unless I wish it."
Harry made his movements less noticeable, but didn't stop trying to loosen his bonds.
Harry fell to his knees in pain, falling to his side as the curse set off every nerve in his body. The curse ended soon enough, and for the first time since he'd been taken, Harry began to feel fear.
Slowly he rose to his knees, wincing as his torn flesh met the stone.
"What do you want?" Harry asked, realizing that perhaps this wizard wasn't as ridiculous as he looked, and that the situation he was in could be far more serious than he'd originally thought.
"I've told you, Mr. Potter. I want to destroy you."
Quelling the urge to sigh, Harry straightened his shoulders and said, "Why are you just standing there, then? If you want to kill me, kill—ah!"
Harry cried out as a curse tore open the flesh on his shoulder, pain and terror mounting as he struggled with what to do.
"I believe I've already told you, Mr. Potter. I don't want to kill you. I'm going to destroy you. There is a difference."
The wizard waved his wand and suddenly the air in front of Harry grew thicker and he could see images in front of him. He saw the house on the outskirts of Godric's Hollow he and Severus had shared for nearly ten years, then their potions business on Diagon Alley. There were men dressed in black standing in front of both places, and Harry felt his heart drop.
"If I'm to destroy a man I believe the place to start would be his home, followed by his livelihood. Tell me, Mr. Potter, how much is your home worth to you?"
"What?" Harry asked, eyeing the men who were standing in his front garden. "Don't." Old instincts began to unearth themselves as he saw the threat this wizard posed to him and to Severus. "You don't know who you're dealing with, whoever you are. You have no idea what—"
The wizard lifted his arm, and the men outside his home and business raised their wands. "Think quickly, Mr. Potter. How much are your home and business worth to you? Your fortune perhaps? Every Galleon to your name?"
Harry barked out a laugh. "Money? That's what you're after? You want my—"
Harry screamed as the curse hit him, and stayed down longer this time, watching as more men joined the others surrounding his home.
"Answer me now, Mr. Potter. Do you wish for your home and business to be destroyed or do you wish for your Gringotts account to remain untouched?" He raised his wand in the air again. "What are your home and business worth to you?"
Panting, his nerves on fire, Harry closed his eyes. Money wasn't everything, but he and Severus had worked hard to gain what they had. But...the idea of losing their home, one they had found together, a place that contained so many memories cut deeply. And their business was precious, to Severus in particular. They'd built it together from nothing. Money could be made again.
"Well? Have you decided?"
"Fine. Whatever," Harry said, his cheek still on the cold stone floor. "Take the money."
The wizard lowered his arm and the scene disappeared. "Excellent. Now that I have your fortune, let's move on to something else."
"What about your friends, Mr. Potter?" the wizard said, waving his wand and again casting a picture in front of Harry. He saw Ron behind the counter at George's shop, and Hermione in her office at the Ministry. "What would you give me for them?"
"I—" Harry stammered, and rose to his knees, frantic. "What do you mean?"
"Their lives, Mr. Potter. What will you give me for their lives? Or do you think that a decade after the war Ronald Weasley could defend himself against ten wizards? And it appears as though his wife has become very fat."
"She's pregnant!" Harry shouted.
"All the more difficult to defend herself," he said, and raised his wand again. "So tell me, Mr. Potter, what you will give me for their lives? What are they worth to you?"
"Don't—" Harry said, rising to feet, not knowing what he was doing but knowing he couldn't let anything happen to his friends.
"Oh, please don't do that," the wizard said, waving his wand and immobilizing Harry. "You're just drawing this out longer, making it more painful than it should be. Now," he said slowly, "what will you give me for your friends?"
Panting, Harry looked around the room frantically, searching for anything he might have overlooked, any way he could escape and run to help Ron and Hermione.
"I—my business, that—"
"Just a business? What about your home as well?"
"Please! I'll give you anything, my fortune—"
"But I already have your fortune."
"My home then, all my possessions! Just don't hurt them, please!"
The wizard nodded his head and ended the spell, Ron and Hermione's faces vanishing. Harry's heart was racing, and he had no idea how he could escape. He frantically worked at his bonds again, uncaring as to what would happen to him. He had to get out before this got any worse.
"There's just one thing left, Mr. Potter," the wizard said, returning to his dais, kicking the pile of black rags as he walked.
It moaned in pain, and Harry looked harder. What had looked like a pile of black rags suddenly seemed familiar to Harry.
"No," he whispered. "Oh please, God, no."
The wizard lifted some of the rags away, grabbed some of the black and pulled, revealing Severus' bloodied face.
Harry charged the dais, not caring that his hands were bound, not caring that he didn't have a wand. A shield went up and then the wizard pointed his wand at Severus' neck.
"None of that, Mr. Potter," he said, and Harry shouted and summoned all his power to try and break the shields.
A cutting hex to Severus' shoulder stopped Harry in an instant, and he shouted, "Don't touch him!"
"And I won't...provided you give me what I want."
"You sick bastard! Don't you touch him, don't you fucking—"
Another cutting hex, this time to Severus' chest, and Harry went silent, his breaths coming out in pants and his eyes wild.
"Now," the wizard said, keeping his wand pointed at Severus, "if you are finished we can begin the last negotiations."
"Please," Harry said, his heart leaping into his throat, tears beginning to flow down his cheeks at the sight of Severus threatened, "Please don't!"
"And I won't harm him again...if you give me what I want. Now, let's see. I have your fortune, your property, and your business." The wizard gave a devious laugh and said, "So tell me, what will you give me for Severus Snape?"
Panting, Harry focused on Severus, bleeding and drained on the dais next to this madman. Next to Severus, property and money meant nothing. He couldn't bear the idea of losing him, but he had nothing else to give, nothing of value. Thoughts of the next curse that would strike Severus down churned through Harry's head, and he had no idea what to do, what to offer...
Then, in a heartbeat he knew. He looked at Severus one last time, knowing that this was the only way.
"Me," he said, tears flowing from his eyes as he prayed Severus would have the strength to lift his head and look at him one last time.
"I beg your pardon?"
Harry looked back at the wizard and said, "You can have me." Severus began to stir from his place at the wizard's feet, but he didn't look up. "That's what you wanted in the first place, right? Well, you got it. You can have me if you let him go."
The dark wizard was silent for a moment, as though he was considering Harry's offer. The air seemed very still, and Harry nearly choked as he focused on Severus, realizing that if he got what he wanted, he was about to die.
"Very well," the wizard said slowly, his voice dripping with satisfaction. "I accept your offer."
A desperate sort of whimper escaped from Harry's mouth but he managed a nod, then he looked at Severus again. His hair was covering his face, and Harry prayed that Severus wouldn't remember what had happened. He kept his eyes on him, knowing that even now, Severus was the last person he wanted to see before he died.
"Can I say goodbye to him?" he asked, praying for a moment, just one single moment alone. Harry needed to talk to Severus one last time, needed him to know without a doubt that he did love him.
That he would die for him.
"He's right here," the wizard said. "Say your goodbyes."
"I—" Harry's throat clenched as he searched for the right words to say to the only man he had ever loved. Knowing that the next words to come out of his mouth would be his last, he forced his thoughts to slow and took a deep breath through his tears.
"Severus, I love you," he said, before the world faded to black.
Severus adjusted himself on the cold stone floor, and groaned when the pain from his injuries flared. He absentmindedly heard the rustle of robes beside him, then a voice distortion charm canceled. The highly ornate mask fell to the floor, and a potion was thrust into his hand.
A deep sigh and then Lucius asked, "Was that truly necessary, Severus?"
Drinking the potion, Severus leaned against the throne, and thought that yes, it was.
Lucius returned to his seat. "That seemed cruel...even for us."
Groaning, Severus rose to his feet and went over to where Harry lay crumbled on the floor. Holding his face in his hands, he wiped the streaks of tears with his thumbs, silently apologizing for what he felt he had to do.
"It was, yes," Severus admitted. "But I had to know."
"That boy loves you," Lucius said. "Anyone who sees the two of you together knows it."
But Severus hadn't known it. He'd never been able to truly believe it. He said nothing to Lucius, just continued to cradle Harry close to him, knowing that no explanation would be satisfactory. Lucius wasn't undesirable as Severus was, and his partner wasn't the hero of the Wizarding world.
"How are you going to explain all this to him?" Lucius asked, still seated on that ridiculous throne. "I don't want a team of Aurors coming to my doorstep over this."
"When he wakes up in our bed, I believe I'll be able to convince him it was all a dream," Severus said, already thinking of the ways he'd make this up to Harry. "Regardless, you have nothing to fear."
Gathering his strength, he collected Harry in his arms and readied himself to Apparate. Back to home and back to a life that felt far more real than it ever had before. "Now if you'll excuse us, Lucius, I have to get Harry home."
"Are you finally satisfied, Severus?" Lucius asked, sounding tired, hands braced on both sides of the throne.
Severus looked down onto Harry's beloved face, seeing the anguish there, still present even in sleep. He couldn't bring himself to look back to Lucius, unable to take his eyes off the man that was willing to die for him.
"Yes," he said, softly, "I am."