For all Joy wants Eternity
Chapter One: Part A
Inwardly, he was shaking violently down to the very core of his soul.
It had begun as a faint shivering he had felt at the bottom of his stomach about two hours ago, when he had first stepped inside the low, stone-walled room he had been ordered to, finding everything as he was told he would. With every minute he had spent in the wet darkness of the former wine-cellar, all of his intellectual concentration focussed on the task at hand, the emotional rebellion inside of him had become stronger and stronger. He didn't know what he had expected, for this had been a first time for him, but surely not the waves of terror thundering against his ribcage with every single one of the countless, pain-stained screams, nor the throttling tightness in his throat that grew with every frantic plea, nor the heat of exploding nausea which had flooded his body after he had realized that the screams and pleas had at last vanished forever.
That he had made them vanish.
Nothing of the terror he felt showed in the proud way he now carried himself, though, or on his face that had fled once again behind the marble-statue mask he confronted the world with most of the time, now strangely illuminated by four weakly flaring torches. There was not the slightest flicker of doubt or uncertainty in the pitch black orbs that were his eyes. He had been summoned to meet his Master in this semi-dark room on the first floor right after it all had been over, and it simply wouldn't do to give his crashing emotions away by any outward signs. He didn't intend to destroy all of his Master's approval now, that he had struggled so hard for during the past months. Displaying the disgust and terror he felt this very moment, revealing the dawning shock in the face of what he had just done would be equivalent to stamping on the excellent reputation he had gained by now.
Had he known what this night still had in store for him, what was about to be initiated in this very room not too long from now, his awareness would have refocused from the image of the mangled corpse of the witch he had just tortured to death to sheerest fear for his own body, heart, soul and sanity.
But blessed with ignorance as he was, he continued to innocently wait for the man he had dedicated his life to - and his death, if ever necessary. The finality of his decision to accept all of the consequences that could possibly follow joining Voldemort - in his eyes the most powerful, admirable, impressive and charismatic wizard in the world - was silently screaming from his left forearm. For a year and a half now, the skull and snake were hurling their challenge to that part of the wizarding world that was too weak to seek power. Though the Mark was hidden by the sleeves of his robes most of the time, the simple knowledge of its existence had been enough to fill him with a previously unknown confidence, ever since he had received the sign that branded him *His*. When he had felt the first stings of searing pain in his arm that night, it had seemed to him as if he was glowing with the unrestricted self-abandon he wanted to serve his Master with. There had been nothing he had wanted more. He couldn't explain what it was exactly that drew him to the Dark Lord, though he had tried so many times to search for the reason why he was so very powerfully attracted to this man. All those attempts had been in vain, and by now he had accepted that some truths didn't need reasons. It was the one verity of his life: he belonged to his Master, and who needed explanations for this awareness that shone inside him like a hidden star?
And now, most annoyingly, there was something else growing within him, weak and trembling compared to the unshakeable devotion to his Lord, but still it was there. An aggravating, pathetic creation of his own mind, that obviously was not yet as strong as he wanted it to be. He was honest enough to recognize those fuzzy feelings were the result of the events of the past hours - and he detested his subconscious for the weakness it apparently still hadn't overcome. How would he ever be able to serve his master well, to belong to him with every fibre of his being, to be nothing but the efficient tool to do his will that he craved to be, if he was not even able to get those screams out of his head?
Drawing a deep breath to calm the shivering inside, he closed his eyes very deliberately and tried to concentrate on the fulfilment he usually found in the knowledge of belonging to *Him*. His right hand slowly pulled up the left sleeve of his blood-stained robes and came to rest on the part of his skin that bore his destiny. With slightly parted lips and eyes still closed, he evoked the most familiar image from underneath the gentle touch of his fingers to his inner view. But the calmness and self-assurance he waited for was a long time in coming, and even though the desperate voice of the first person he had ever killed pulsed much softer through his body with the beating of his heart than it had before, it was nonetheless still there.
"You appear to be a little confused for some reason, my lovely Snow White."
Severus Snape's eyes flew open to find himself face to face with his amusedly smiling Master. The young Death Eater had almost grown accustomed to Voldemort's habit of simply appearing soundlessly out of nowhere. Almost. The sudden confrontations with his Lord still threw him slightly off the track most of the time, though, and even more so right now since he had been totally self-absorbed.
His Master didn't leave him any time to regain his composure either. Taking one step forward, so the warm breath carrying his whisper seemed to lick over Severus's cheek, Voldemort's voice, unusually soft, filled the room once more.
"Why do I have the feeling that I will be able to help you with your troubled mind..."
Five cool fingertips came to rest on the back of Severus's hand which still covered the Dark Mark on his forearm. With maddening slowness, they glided forward until each of them had found the corresponding finger underneath to follow caressingly to its end. Voldemort's hand finally came down to completely cover that of his young servant to the sound of a barely audible, trembling sigh escaping from Severus's parted lips,.
It took effect immediately. From the part of his body that was entrapped between Voldemort's flesh and his magical brand, Severus could feel all of his self-assurance building again and flooding his entire being. His guts that had mere moments earlier still shivered with disgusted shock, given what he had just done, came to rest and the annoying screams pulsing through his veins were abruptly silenced. All that was left now was the certainty of being right where and with whom he was supposed to be.
Sheerest awe, gratitude and relief dawned in Severus's gaze that was still held firmly by the unblinking red eyes of his master. This hypnotic glance did one more thing to leave the newly-made killer in front of Voldemort retain no conscious doubts or scruples at all to ponder on anymore. Cocking his head lazily, the Dark Lord let his smile deepen.
"Tell me if you're feeling better now, Severus."
The younger Slytherin knew much better than to take this question as a rhetorical one. The weakness that had attacked him after the worthless Mudblood had died at his hands had registered, and that he had not been able to banish those pathetic emotions by himself was nothing his Master would take lightly. Fighting the throttling feeling of having his Lord disappointed, and still very aware of the ongoing physical contact between Voldemort and himself, Severus closed his eyes again to search seriously for any remains of the sense of guilt that had been about to build inside of him. Not until he was absolutely sure about his feelings did he look at his master again, who was patiently waiting for his servant's answer. Still smiling lasciviously. Still covering Severus's hand with his own.
"I'm feeling perfectly well, my Lord." Severus was not proud at all of the steadiness of his voice - to him, this was something natural; he had soon learned not to talk to his Lord without being in total control of his speech. A Death Eater did not insult Lord Voldemort by addressing him with the shaky stammering that was saved for undignified Mudblood weaklings, ridicilous Aurors and all the others that had to face the Dark Lord in the knowledge of their certain death...
If anything, Voldemort's gaze grew even more intense, and the breath of his soft voice caressed the pale face of his servant.
"It's a real joy to hear that."
Severus could feel the hand covering his own lifting, the light touch of fingers taking the same way back that they had come from. He didn't even try to keep the disappointment he felt at the loss of this touch from creeping into his eyes, and maybe this was what earned him another smile from his Master, before Voldemort swept past his young Death Eater with one gliding movement to slowly, soundlessly pace behind Severus's back.
Who knew that all he could do was wait, totally at the mercy of any punishment for his weakness that might take him by surprise any time now. Desperately banishing visions of Voldemort having drawn his wand from his mind, Severus struggled to force himself to keep his eyes on the darkness beyond the two torches in front of him. The urge to turn around and achieve certain knowledge about what was happening behind his back threatened to overwhelm him - yet he knew that this was exactly what he must not do, no matter how unbearable the uncertainty, the chilling fear and the complementary tension inside of him might become. No matter for how long he would have to stand here, facing this cold, blank stone wall, fighting the panic which squeezed his heart tighter with every second that he didn't know what was the next thing to happen, which curse was about to hit him, not even sure if Voldemort was still with him in this room or...
"I have to admit that I'm most pleasantly surprised, if not to say *impressed*, my dear Severus."
The Death Eater involuntarily flinched at the sudden sound of Voldemort's voice from behind his left where his Master had to be standing. What had he just said? Pleasantly surprised? *Impressed*? But before Severus had recovered enough to think further about those words, Voldemort continued speaking.
"To my absolute delight, because I've already had a feeling that it would be so, the strength and determination you showed tonight was of a kind that one is extremely lucky to find in a human - even if it might be the model Slytherin you are."
The hypnotic voice had drifted from left to right and back again, coming to a halt at one of Severus's ears on the last words. The young man had to hold his breath, afraid the sounds of his ragged in- and exhaling probably would keep him from perceiving every single syllable of the unbelievable things his Master was telling him.
"Do you know what I'm talking about, sweet Snow White?"
Again, Severus took this as the serious question he knew it was meant to be. Swallowing hard and searching for the composure to speak, he could already feel the answer pressing upon his tongue and lips, but it took him another moment to finally be ready.
"Forgive me, my Lord, but I'm afraid I don't."
A soft chuckle from behind his right, then close to his left ear, "And why, my totally oblivious Death Eater, do you suppose that is so?"
Severus felt his heartbeat slightly accelerating. Never before had there been a conversation like this between Voldemort and himself. So far, he had always been quick to find out what his Master was up to, what he expected from him and how he could best comply with his instructions. Now for the first time since he had joined the Dark Lord, he really *was* a totally oblivious Death Eater, and the feeling of utter helplessness that grew in the face of this situation was something Severus found most alarming.
But be that as it may, his Lord had asked him a question, and even if he didn't understand the sense of all of this yet, an answer, honest and open as usual, was the only way of dealing with the mess he and his weak subconscious had gotten himself into.
"My Lord, this is because I don't see which aspects of my behaviour this night might deserve to be connected with something like 'strength' or 'determination'."
Severus was not able to see the almost loving smile playing around Voldemort's mouth.
"Do you question my competence to judge what you've shown me tonight, Severus?"
Oh, this was not good at all! Biting down hard on his lower lip, Severus struggled for an appropriate reply, racking his annoyingly uncooperative brain to find a possibility to avoid getting himself even deeper into trouble, without offending Voldemort again at the same time.
"I don't question anything but my own capability to comprehend your benevolence concerning the more than questionable performance you had to see from me tonight, my Lord."
This time, the young Death Eater could actually hear his Master's soft laugh that was brushing the nape of his neck.
"My dear Severus, I honestly wonder against what your never failing eloquence will one day have to capitulate."
Voldemort continued chuckling for some moments, giving Severus some time to relax a little.
"So lets see if I can scratch a bit at this admirable composure of yours, my sweet Snow White."
Severus felt two hands sinking down on his shoulders, two thumbs which slowly started circling at the base of his neck, sending small shivers down his spine. A strange kind of exitement woke somewhere inside of him, a sensation he knew, something he had felt before, and only once before...
"The reason for my delight concerning you, Severus..." The thumbs that continued massaging the young Death Eater's shoulder blades were joined by two fingers that gradually made their teasing way up both sides of Severus's neck. "...are you interested in what it is?"
It took the young Slytherin several moments to master his voice, moments that seemed like minutes to him, moments that exposed him even longer to those maddening touches, to the confused pleasure he felt and that kept him from being in the usual control of his thoughts - and his voice.
"Yes, my Lord, I...if you'd share your thoughts with me..."
Voldemort's touches left two winding traces of burning, tickling sensation as his fingers slid back down the neck they were caressing. Severus could feel how his long hair was parted and brushed aside, how the warm, slightly moist breath from his master's mouth made him shiver as Voldemort gently breathed up the cervical vertebrae of his servant. The Death Eater was not able to hold back the shaky hiss he inhaled on, nor the slight swaying of his body; always more than aware that all it would take was a small movement backwards, and this mouth would actually touch his skin...
"It wasn't the reliable way you rid the world of another worthless Mudblood-soul, nor the punctuality with which you showed up here in this room after. It wasn't your distress in the face of your doubts and your sense of guilt, and it wasn't your very brave struggle against them."
Small puffs of air now brushed Severus's right ear with every word. He found it extremely difficult to concentrate on what the Dark Lord was saying. Most of the young man's awareness was focussed on the reactions of his helpless body to the touch of Voldemort's fingers and breath.
"You have to understand, my dear Severus, that I had to be sure. I had to be very sure, regarding what I have in mind for you. I had to be sure of your unconditional devotion and trust, and even though I knew you wouldn't disappoint me, this last test was necessary. And let me tell you that you passed it most successfully! Despite - or because - of those not very long lasting doubts that the little task tonight was supposed to raise in you, you were still willing and able to open yourself up for me completely."
Breath, fingers, thumbs and finally hands withdrew, and to Severus, this sudden absence felt almost as intense as the physical contact had before. He could sense a movement behind him, a certain change in the air, and then Voldemort entered Severus's visual field one more time, gliding further until servant and master were facing each other again. The younger Slytherin was caught in another burning red stare, and for a heartbeat there was nothing else existing in his universe but those absorbing eyes. Then the Dark Lord spoke again.
"Despite your troubled mind, which you knew you owed to me and my orders, you still accepted my touch, still trusted me enough to allow me to enter your mind and soul, you still craved the serenity and reassurance you know only I can grant you."
Taking one step back and slightly tilting his head, Voldemort let his scrutinizing stare drill even deeper into his Death Eater's eyes, captivating all of his servant's being now. Severus drowned in the focus of his master's attention. He wasn't aware anymore of his totally deserted mouth or his slightly shaking hands. He did not know about the sweat shimmering on his brow and throat, or that every muscle of his body had tensed and was on the edge of cramping. When his tongue quickly darted out to wet his dry lips, he even missed the content smile this unconscious gesture gave rise to on Voldemort's face.
"And I'm sure all you can think about right now is the question why I needed this final certainty about your total commitment to the one you once pledged all of your loyality to."
Severus could only manage a single, barely noticable nod and was answered in a voice that seemed to slash his brain with every single, painfully clearly accentuated word, bright and crystalline like the audible tinkling of pieces of broken glass.
"Because I want more from you than all of your loyality." The perfect silence that followed emphasized each syllable. Voldemort took one more step away from the paralyzed young man in front of him. His voice became very gentle one more time, and his words were accompanied by one of the smiles almost never seen by his underlings
"Tell me, my sharp-witted Slytherin, do you have any idea what I'm talking about?"
This time, it wasn't just his disobedient voice that Severus had to struggle with. Even though the absolute confusion that had seized him earlier was now slowly ebbing away - since Voldemort wasn't actually touching him anymore, Severus's mind had more or less gone back to work - his Master's last question was still cryptic to him. What more could there possibly be that he could give to the Dark Lord, aside from what he had sworn to some years ago? Helplessness and desperation seemed to strangle him as he frantically searched for answers. What more? What else...? Or did Voldemort perhaps doubt Severus's complete devotion?
Hit by this thought, Severus couldn't hold back anymore.
"My Lord, you...let me assure you that you have...that you already have all of me. My loyality, my commitment, my faithfulness. All...all of my ambition and determination are targeted at your...at your plans and purposes, my Lord. I want...I mean, this...this is all there is to take, there is nothing else, this is all I am! All I am I put down at your feet, my Lord!" With a soft chuckle Voldemort slowly moved away even further from the young Death Eater, and amusement colored his words when he spoke again.
"If you only knew how very touching you are in your naive ignorance, Severus. So very sweet and most appealing in your unsuspecting innocence..."
The Dark Lord was almost completely hidden now in the darkness gathering beyond the flickering torches that dimly lit the room.
"I'm totally aware of your absolute compliance with all that the Dark Mark could ever demand from you, my loyal Death Eater. From the very moment you received it, I could feel how you were completely absorbed in all it represents. As far as your joining my cause and supporting my goals with all that you can give is concerned, there's indeed nothing more you could offer me."
Relief eased Severus's body and flooded his mind that still swam a little with confusion. So at least it was not his loyality that was questioned here; he was not in the doghouse after all - but what *was* all this about, if not...
"You're wrong about one thing though, Severus."
Painfull tension abruptly grabbed for all of the yound man's being again.
"Contrary to your own belief, you are *much* more than the total of your Slytherin attributes. So much more..." The darkness radiating from the room's walls had completely swallowed Voldemort by now. "Usually, my faithful servant, this additional...*feature* of my inferiors is not of any interest to me at all. So far, none of my Death Eaters was worth being searched for more than what I generally seek: an impressionable volition, combined with acceptable magical skills and unlimited ambition - and in liaison with a strong belief in the superiority of the Pure-bloods, this makes all of a Death Eater that I need."
There was no use in scanning the floating black shadows for any sign of his master who had become one with the dense, dark thickness that encircled Severus, only held back by the unsteady flames from the torches. For the second time this evening, all he could do was rely on his ears as he desperately tried to banish the gnawing nervousness from his awareness and to focus on Voldemort's now very low whispering.
"You are different, Severus. You are not like them. Your devotion to the Dark Mark - to me - comes along with pride and an unshakable will power. At first sight, this might seem like an inconsistent antagonism...but in your case, this is not so. Your commitment is strong enough to hold your proud soul at bay, and at the same time, the force of your pride will never give in and get crushed under the weight of your unconditional devotion. You don't give up one in favor of the other, but stick equally strongly to both - a very admirable ability that you impressively demonstrated once more tonight.
"I already knew you were worth this second glance nobody else in my service had deserved so far, but after this evening, Severus, I'm absolutely positive. After this evening, what I already have from you is not enough anymore. Not only is there more you can *give*, but there is so much more that I *want*. More than the bond the Dark Mark unites us with. More than your exceptional magical skills. More than your current devotion that is as yet confined to loyality ."
The air was thick with those aspirated words that seemed to echo from the stone walls like reflected curses. It seemed to Severus that they swirled around him, spiralling towards his body that still stood in the centre of the room, motionless, waiting for those verbal projectiles to hit him. Heat had taken over, and his entire body burned with a strange mixture of proud joy - and the inexplicable fear of having to hear more of his Master's speech. What in the name of all Banshees was wrong with him? He should feel nothing but honored; this was one of the very rare occasions of receiving praise from the Dark Lord...praise like *that*! The disapproval of his master's words whispering in the back of his head nonetheless was something Severus didn't understand at all, and that annoyed him deeply. He would *not* give in to that infuriating feeling inside he couldn't even identify properly. All he knew was that this misty emotion was just as unwelcome as his sense of guilt had been earlier this evening. And that it was time to fight it. Time to get rid of it it. Time to take action.
"My Lord, if there is another way to prove my faithfulness, I am more than willing to take it." Furiously cursing the nebulous, contradicting protests in his head, Severus went on, very content about his regained control over his voice. "I can't begin to express how very embarrassed I am by my Lord's benevolence - and whatever it might be that could deepen the bond I am already allowed to share with you, I will most willingly consent to it. Whatever I haven't yet dedicated to you, my Lord, I will more than happily give, if my Lord will be so gracious as to tell me what it might be."
Silence. Darkness. And flames. Then The Dark Lord's voice:
"The shrine that gives shelter to that astonishing soul of yours. The wrapping of the unbelievable gift that you are. The flesh and skin that unclaimedly embrace what is already mine."
A powerful shudder ran down the young Death Eater's spine. But just as the still blurred and unnerving protest in the back of his head was about to report back, his iron determination and unconditional commitment were victorious once more, his voice as steady as ever.
"Yes, my Lord."
"Yes, my Lord."
"I want your body, Severus."
"Yes, my Lord!"
"Irrevocably, unalterably, absolutely, as I own your soul."
"Yes, my Lord..."
"Do you know what that means?"
"Yes, my Lord."
For some maddening moments, Severus saw and heard nothing but the shivering light and the crackling sounds of the weak flames surrounding him...
"...then come to me, my sweet Snow White."
His heart was a hot piece of pulsating lava, and Severus was afraid that with any beat now, it would finally burst and splatter its boiling, liquid heat throughout his entire body. An excitement he had never felt before benumbed his thinking when the disbelieving pride he felt regarding his Master's approval of him took over his brain. Forgotten was the small, very misty warning in the back of his head. He *did* know what the meaning of Voldemort's words was and he had done this before...Well, only once before, but though Severus was sure that *this* was going to be very different from his first sexual experience, it was nothing that really frightened him.
He had learnt during the years of his youth that his body was nothing compared to what his head contained. After all, there were seven years of living at Hogwarts behind him, seven years of living with others who had taught him very efficiently that his looks were nothing but detestable. In the end, he had finally come to accept the prominent nose, pale skin and thin lips as unworthy parts of himself he couldn't change - and to regard his looks as of no esteem as well. His body was nothing more than what the Dark Lord had said: A cover for what was underneath, for what *really* mattered, for the invisible beauty Severus desperately hoped was there.
So if he could deepen his bond with his Master by willingly giving this unloved conglomeration of bones, flesh and skin over to him...he had administered more than that after all; Voldemort already possessed the most precious aspects of his being! And even though Severus didn't understand *why* the Dark Lord was so eager to claim something looking as repulsive as he did, the young Death Eater knew his Master well enough to be sure that there had to be a reason. Voldemort would not have set up all this evening's events just for the fun of it...and it was an uplifting feeling to know that *he*, ugly, slimy Severus Snape, was wanted that way by no one other than his Master himself.
He made his decision.
And took the first step towards where Voldemort's voice had come from most recently.
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