DISCLAIMER: I don't owns 'em. I just steals 'em away in the dead of night and gives 'em back when they're all tired and cute and no more fun to play with without bringing in the dreaded Mary Sue.

Author's Notes: Part of the Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest (Second Wave, scenario #138: Someone Snape cares about dies).

Archiving: The Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest Archive, and Slugs and Jiggers (if desired). All others ask. Bribes happily accepted.

Huge, huge thanks and much chocolate to Rhys Gwynbones for beta reading this little nugget of pure angst. All hail Rhys!

Ad Nihilum

By Sushi


The cottage had been destroyed by The Ministry in the late days of 1981. It had been part of his arrangement with Dumbledore, part of his penance, his punishment, the special "clemency" that kept him out of Azkaban. So long as Severus bit by bit sold his blackened soul, it would never be fed to the dementors.

He'd watched silently as the place was dismembered. Those things not already secreted away by the faceless minions were de-spelled, then dispelled into ash. Hadrian, his own brother following in their father's footsteps, personally destroyed what Severus still thought of as his marriage bed. (Not that anyone but Dumbledore knew this, and he had no great desire to play yet the trump he kept so hidden from The Ministry's own faceless horde.) The mourning cold deep in Severus' chest grew colder.

Just before the building itself was razed, Pescennius Snape, Senior Auror First Class assigned to oversee the whole operation, came out through the splintered front door. His dark cape billowed in the bitter November wind; very little of the afternoon's grey cold was banished by the bonfire hissing and roaring in the front garden. In his gloved hand was a cluster of white snowflakes.

Severus' stomach clenched when he saw them. He pulled his arms inside his cloak and pretended that the wind made him shiver. When the first of the delicate flakes touched the flames, it ignited in a small apocalypse and flew to the sky in a flurry of ash. Severus turned away before the Aurors could see the thin, clear streams sliding down his pallid cheeks.

The last words his father ever spoke to him were, "I hope you're proud of yourself."

Severus stood outside the haggard remains of the white picket fence. Beyond it lay the barren stone of some desolate piece of highland; within lay still-scorched earth, cracked rock, a few burned and rotting timbers not yet cast to the winds. Despite the relative warmth of a late June night, he shivered. He'd known it was a mistake but, after Diggory, he needed a few moments to remember how things had been before he could face Tom. More than simple re-acquaintanceship rode on this visit; the entire future of the wizarding world likely did as well. Not to mention Severus' own bleak future. Damn you, Headmaster. You won't be satisfied until you've stripped every last piece of me, will you?

Sometimes Azkaban was a tempting prospect.

But he doubted he'd even be allowed that respite.

Years before, on a lazy afternoon cloud-watching in the garden, Tom had mentioned his own father and how he'd met his well-deserved demise. He'd even mentioned a place called Little Hangleton. It was the only other home, apart from the orphanage and Hogwarts, that Tom had ever mentioned. The Mark had faded enough to make tracking difficult until Tom re-affixed the spells that would allow Severus to come to him at will. However, from Potter's crazed babbling, Severus knew he'd find Tom in his father's house. He Disapparated, and reappeared amidst stone markers of mortality.

The door to the mouldering house on the hill was unlocked. Of course, why would the most powerful wizard on the face of the Earth need to hide behind bolts of metal? Snape sneered faintly at the cobwebs running along the skirting boards. He held the edge of his cloak to avoid sending up clouds of dust. From the corner of his eye he saw a shred of movement, black on black, invisible to normal senses. His hypersensitive ears picked up the tiniest of squeaks, the muffled shuffling of feet. He followed them.

At the top of the stairs sat a fat, diamond-patterned snake. It lifted its head and hissed suspiciously. Severus knelt to pat the creature; it lunged, and he snapped his hand back just before the dripping fangs could bury themselves in his flesh. The snake flowed like water, slithering up the hall after the hurried, shuffling feet. There was a light at the end, a golden, shimmering shard upon the floor through the crack of an open door. He crept silently closer, breath catching in his chest, his heart fluttering as it hadn't in many a year.

"... Please, Master, you must believe me!"

"You insipid little rat, do you honestly believe a lone man could best Lord Voldemort?"



Low whimpering. A moment later, it was joined by a whistling hiss. Tom chuckled.

"It seems you have a redeemer. Nagini tells me there is, indeed, a man in the house. Oh, dear, dear, this shan't do. He tried to touch her. Find him, bring him to me. After this evening, I could use a bit of light entertainment."

Severus shivered. He knew well of what Tom's idea of "light entertainment" consisted; it was very similar to his own. He told himself he felt fear, not long-denied bloodlust, only fear. Before he could push the door open, it swung and he found himself looking down into the rodent-like face of Peter Pettigrew.

They stared at each other for a long, long moment. Before Severus could draw his wand to Cruciate the little rat, Peter screamed. He shouldered his way past Severus and tore down the hall, still screaming, tripping at the top of the stairs only to thump his way down. A few moments later, heavy footsteps limped further and further away until they faded into silence. The door had nearly swung shut in his panic.

"I know you're there," came Tom's voice, or close enough. The sibilance it had always held now subjugated the warmth, the depth, the humanity. "Show yourself. Even if you run, you shan't get far." The low hiss of scales along the floor made the soft voice less than human and a moment later the enormous snake curled around Severus' feet. Severus swallowed.

"Hello, Tom."

Silence. It was broken a moment later by the rustle of robes, the rapid shush of bare feet across a wooden floor. The door flew wide. Severus had the impression of bone-white flesh, of robes like ink, of crimson eyes like fresh blood, of... Tom. He could only stare, and try to remember how to breathe, as those bloodlike eyes darted over him. A lower lip - now quite without a proper lip - hung loose as they did.

Finally, Tom said softly, "I didn't think you were coming. What kept you?"

Severus dropped his eyes for the barest moment. "I couldn't bear to share you." It was wholly honest, and he hated himself for telling such a blatant lie.

Tom nodded, just a little. His narrow shoulders were stiff. They looked fragile without his brittle mane of weak waves to hide their thinness. He didn't look away.

Severus blinked, a little sadly. "You've changed."

Tom smiled ironically. It was the same bitter, rent smile he'd given Severus just before sending him away to Hogwarts. "As, I imagine, have you." Long, spidery fingers hesitantly reached out and touched Severus' hair. Severus closed his eyes and leaned into the touch as they wove into the fine, dry strands. He closed his eyes just before Tom's mouth closed over his.

Severus returned the kiss eagerly. It filled him with a sense of being alive, not merely existing. It melted the ice that had formed in his belly thirteen years before. Desperately, he wrapped his arms around Tom, felt the slight body hop over the fat snake still curled on the floor, hugged him tight as tiny tears stung the corners of his eyes. The kiss broke, and he buried his face in a skeletal shoulder, refusing to cry.

"I've missed you," Tom whispered.

"I'm sorry," Severus said wetly, wiping his eyes on the soft robe. The leather band around the collar scratched his face, pulled at his eyelashes. "I tried to find you." It wasn't a lie, not exactly. He'd searched Britain high and low for five summers. The fact that he knew perfectly well Tom wouldn't have stayed in Britain was a sore blight on his efforts.

"Shh, mere sanam. Look at me."

Severus lifted his head. His mouth was painfully taut, jerking down at the corners until he thought the muscle would snap.

Tom smiled at him, traced his brow, the harsh angle of his nose, the plane of his cheek with a tender finger. "I know." He kissed Severus again, briefly. The cool, serpentine mouth felt alien, but Severus couldn't pull away, not from his Tom. "I shan't go away again," Tom whispered fiercely when it broke.

Severus nodded. He bowed his head. Part of him wanted to sing in triumph. The rest wanted to howl in agony. So long as Tom lived, he would have no respite from betraying the only person he could ever wholly love.

Tom kissed him again. This time, Severus parted his lips enough for a soft, unexpectedly human tongue to flicker tentatively over the inside of his bottom lip. He touched it with his own, inviting it inside just as he always had, just as he always would. One of his hands slid up a thin neck and cradled the back of Tom's smooth skull. It took a moment to adjust to the absence of brittle hair, of dry strands of spider web wrapping willy-nilly around his fingers. Almost in retaliation, he pushed harder into the kiss, deeper, his other hand pressing flat against the small of Tom's back. He let his eyes flicker open for a moment, and felt a moment of shock when he realised that Tom's delicate brows and lashes were gone as well.

The snake still circled around their feet. It hissed softly, watching the stairs, watching for that pathetic Pettigrew's return. Severus winced internally at the thought that Sirius Black had been telling the truth. He did so again at the thought of his Tom ordering Diggory's death, aiming his wand and uttering the Killing Curse at Potter. Children, they were only children. He'd had enough of killing children.

Tom pulled away suddenly, concern creasing his naked brow. "What is it?" He lifted a hand and stroked his fingers over Severus' face. They came away wet.

Severus blinked. He darted out the tip of his tongue and caught a cool, brackish drop. It spread, turning sweet as it did. For an instant, he considered telling the truth. He'd no delusions that Tom wouldn't kill him for his treachery. It was a beautiful prospect in the light of a coming lifetime of betrayal. However, it was a lifetime of betrayal in which he might steal the odd fleeting moment of contentment. "It's nothing. Only, I've missed you so much," he didn't quite lie.

Tom's eyes closed. He pinned Severus back against the wall, kissing him gently, then desperately, licking and sucking and whimpering, his affections utterly mirrored. Severus' hands hurried to the neck of that robe with its long row of buckles. He fiddled with the first one, fingers trembling with years of celibacy.

Tom tugged at Severus' robe in return. He'd gotten it up to his knees before giving up and focusing on the buttons holding it closed along the neck. One clattered to the floor, much to the snake's curiosity. It flickered its tongue at the circle of jet before returning to its watch. Tom chuckled.

"Buckles don't do that."

Severus smiled. "Neither do buttons, usually."

Tom smirked and flicked another one to the floor. He lifted Severus' chin and ran his mouth along the skin beneath it. Severus released a harsh breath just short of a groan. A smile teased the prominent cartilage in his throat. "We're unstoppable, my love," Tom whispered against his skin. "The world is ours for the taking."

Severus moaned. It had been too long, too long since he'd heard such words. "More," he hissed, fingers clawing desperately at the silver buckles.

The soft pressure of teeth tugged at his flesh, and another button fell to the floor. "Man's inhumanity to man shall be reckoned under our rule. The spineless shall perish, and those who put the whole of their faith in a child shall choke on their own blood." The cruelty, the lies flowed over Severus' skin, through his nerves and, for just a few moments, he allowed himself to believe. He tipped his head back and moaned loudly.

"Mujhe tumse pyar hai," he said.

"Mujhe tumse pyar hai bhi."

"My god, I want you."

Tom pressed him even more tightly against the wall. Sharp jets of pain arced through the scars on his back, made a cruel contrast to the rare sensation of a body so close to his. The last jet discs clattered to the floor and Severus lifted his arms as the robe went over his head. The air was cool on his bare skin, through the thin, white cotton of his vest. The braces slid from his shoulders easily enough. Tom chuckled.

"You've not changed in the slightest, Severus."

Severus looked at him with heavy eyes. His chest rose and fell harshly. "The rest of the world thinks I have."

Tom's forehead wrinkled as the place where his brows ought to have been rose. For a moment he was quiet. Suddenly, a cold, cruel, mischievous smile spread across his serpentine face. He pressed his forehead against Severus'. "My good little spy." He kissed a line down the middle of Snape's face, his chest, rubbing his cheek delicately against the coarse black hairs above the vest's low neck. "You are the fulcrum of our world, my love." Tom slipped his spidery hands down to the waist of Severus' pleated black trousers, undoing the hook and smirking wickedly when Severus involuntarily bucked.

"God," Severus breathed. He heard, felt the zipper of his trousers slide down. His jaw went ever so slightly slack, and as air tickled the hairs on his legs he tipped his head back against the wall and imagined that he'd truly felt the touch of God. His brain bobbed gently in a surge of power and endorphins. "So long... it's been so long..."

"Soon, my Severus. Very," a soft kiss touched his neck, "very, soon."

The snake suddenly reared and spat. Severus and Tom both glanced towards the stairs just in time to see a flurry of movement rushing back down them. Tom snorted. "Wormtail."


"Ah, yes. Your plaything, isn't he?" Tom's mouth twitched teasingly.

Severus grunted. "Not anymore."

"Good. I don't fancy the thought of sharing you with anyone." He kneaded the flesh at Severus' hips with his thumbs. The silver silk of his shorts slid smoothly over small circles of skin. Severus whimpered softly, low in his throat. He kicked off his shoes and set once again to unfastening the buckles running down Tom's chest.

He loosened enough of the robe to push aside the familiar flaps of fabric. The inside was, as always, lined with heavy, smooth silk. It felt rough compared with the inhuman softness of Tom's hairless skin. Severus gazed intently as every fraction came into view. In the dim hallway, it seemed to glow like alabaster. Not a mark, not a bump marred its surface. Only the trace of ribs, the irregular surface of a sternum shattered its perfection. The fabric slid easily down Tom's stick-like arms and narrow hips, leaving him naked, smooth, utterly beautiful in the golden light. He smiled, pressing close, and did his best to devour Severus' mouth.

He knelt long enough to pull his wand from the discarded robe, pausing as he straightened to press his face against the bulge in Severus' shorts, to nuzzle it warmly and leave a soft kiss against the tip. Severus moaned, pressing his hips into the contact. "Mere sanam," he breathed.

Tom growled. He slid his hands underneath the vest and tugged it unceremoniously over Severus' head. It sent long, inky strands of hair flying, catching in Severus' eyelashes and getting caught between their mouths. The wet strands wrapped around their tongues like wires, fasting them together.

It was only a matter of seconds before Severus' shorts slid to the floor. He toed off his socks urgently. One hand slid around to cup Tom's arse, to lift him to his toes and draw heavy, wet sounds from both of them. Tom tilted his wand and gasped a short, complicated spell. Severus felt an odd squishiness run through his insides. He smiled, eyelids heavy with desire.

"I thought you'd said that spell didn't work."

Tom sucked the skin on the side of his neck until Severus whimpered and bowed outwards against him. "One has a great deal of time to think in the forests of Albania," he whispered impishly.

Severus rubbed his face against Tom's silken cheek. "My god, you've no idea how much I've missed you."

"I think I do."

No, mere sanam, Severus thought bitterly, you don't.

Carefully, he lifted one leg, wrapped it around Tom's slight waist, waited until that skeletal body had levered him against the wall to do the same with the other one. Deceptively strong arms held him by his thighs. He gasped at the unexpected burst of pain - thirteen years might as well have left him a virgin.

Tom moved slowly for a few minutes, gazing deeply, seriously into Severus' eyes. Severus returned it, both in intensity and emotion. The wall ground away at the knotted flesh on his back, sent bolts of agony screaming through a body that, at that moment, didn't care. He held tightly to Tom's neck, his shoulders, rising and falling gently against slow, burning motion.

"I want to rule the world with you," he murmured.

"You will, Severus. We only have to take it." The low, throaty hiss triggered its own soft moan. Tom smirked. He kissed Severus gently and whispered, "And we will."

"Yes," Severus lied in a breathy rush. "We will. Oh, god!" He threw his head back and cried out as a shock of joy erupted low in his body.

Tom shifted to hold Severus with one arm, leaning against the wall on the other. He increased his pace, air whistling softly through his slit nostrils. With every thrust, a low choking sound formed in his throat. The snake still slithered at his feet, hissing softly, running now over a foot, now sliding against the flesh of an ankle.

Severus clung more tightly. He forced his hips forward with each encompassing thrust, letting his cock grind into hairless flesh. A tremble started in his chest, radiating outward to meet the sharp tension building in his pelvis. That vivid, blinding rush of ecstasy crippled him again, blurring the world in his eyes, his ears, his rushing mind. A third blow broke something deep inside.

"God!" he shrieked, and squeezed with every limb as a heavy burst of brilliance shot through his body, erupting through his mouth in a howl, through other parts in a nerve-shattering fountainhead of swelling perfection.

He held on as tightly as his weak limbs would allow as Tom pounded into him. Severus could feel slow trails of blood dribbling down his back, had the vague sensation of unparalleled Hell; he couldn't bring himself to notice. He managed to press a soft, careful kiss to Tom's chin, and sighed contentedly when he felt a sharp jerk within him. The arm beneath his legs tightened, the body against his crushed him into the wall, and Tom gave a little cry as warm, rich fluid painted fragile, sensitive tissues.

He wasn't sure how much longer it was before they both stopped panting. Severus unwound a shaky leg, balancing carefully before reluctantly unwinding the other one, causing Tom to slip away. A short flash of loss sparked in those crimson eyes. Severus kissed Tom's bone-pallid eyelids, hugged him close.

"I love you," he murmured.

"I will love you forever, Severus Ajit, in our world or any other."

Severus' mouth smiled, but he could barely see the sallow hand tracing Tom's cheek through his tears.


He spent several days in his rooms at Hogwarts. Very few people had known he'd gone, and even fewer knew the exact purpose of his absence. There would be rumours, of course, but so long as he made an appearance at the Leaving Feast they could be contained.

Dumbledore came to him every day and sat with him for a time. They'd talked about things of little consequence - potions, the Triwizard Tournament (in which the headmaster had competed more than a century before), repairing some of the lesser-used dungeons - until Severus turned away and went silent. He said nothing of Tom, but he suspected the headmaster already knew why fresh streaks had appeared on Snape's face every day. Every day, Dumbledore touched him on the shoulder before leaving. Severus always flinched.

After they'd moved from the hall to the sitting room hearthrug, Tom had healed his wounds, numbed his back. They'd talked about things of little consequence - potions, the Triwizard Tournament (in which Tom had competed decades before, during Grindelwald's failed reign), repairing the house - until the fire burned low. Severus mentioned nothing of Dumbledore's desire to eradicate the Dark Lord, or Lords, but he suspected Tom already knew. They'd held each other. Severus reacquainted himself with the dizzying touch of skin against his own. He'd pressed for more, always more, until finally burying himself in new, familiar flesh until crying out and, soon, dozing comfortably in Tom's arms. He did so until morning.

Tom had asked him to stay a few days, insisted that he could lie to satisfy Dumbledore. He couldn't, though. His excuse was that Dumbledore was a harsh and demanding man, not so far from the truth as he'd have liked. The reality was that he simply could not convince himself again to believe in their perfect world. A diarchy would inevitably break down, and while it was one thing to be pitted against the love of his life for contrary goals, it was very much another to grapple for control of the same side. Somehow, that would have been even more deceitful, although he couldn't quite say why.

The Leaving Feast was a solemn affair and only served to drive home the fact that his future was to be more tragedy than triumph. He'd sobbed himself ragged during his escape from the world, not that he would let anyone know. The black drapes, in memoriam to Diggory, reminded him of Tom's inky robe, of the shadows in which they'd made love, of the shiny black scales on the back of the snake as it protected them from the world. From the corner of his eye, he caught a flash of a very different blackness. He blinked, and looked at Potter. Somehow, despite the understanding that Tom's unbigoted ability to murder made Severus' betrayal acceptable, he couldn't hate the boy any less for ridding the world of that monster oh-so-long ago.

A short, sharp pang ran through his chest. Severus tried to shove his thoughts aside, to tell himself he wasn't like Tom anymore, that whatever his lust for vengeance, it paled in comparison to the sickness that filled him whenever he remembered an amber-eyed boy turning still and slack in his arms. Potter had nothing to fear from him. The same sickness filled him at the thought of Potter dying in his arms of a werewolf's claws, of the Killing Curse. Those green eyes, the same eyes that in another generation had crinkled up at him in passion, crinkled at him now in suspicion.

He held the stare for a long moment. Severus reaffirmed his necessary vow to protect the boy. Whatever came, so long as Snape lived, Potter would have a reluctant champion. Still, it couldn't override his fear that his efforts to guard, his efforts to change, his efforts to stifle the megalomaniac he'd been, would eventually come to nothing.

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