For all Joy wants Eternity
The sight of those shaking hands of his had become alarmingly familiar. Even now that his brow was resting against both of his palms he could feel them trembling, shivering. Not only a result of feeling drained, of profound weariness, but also of the terror of the past hours that he had witnessed - and had been an active part of as well.
Slowly lifting his head, Severus surveyed his surroundings without emotion, taking in the shapes of the others who had Apparated to the same room afterwards as he had. They were all there. All of them. Each Death Eater who had left from here seven hours ago to carry out the Dark Lord's orders. None of them seriously affected by the bold but absolutely futile resistance that they had met, none of them left behind. Enthusiastic voices exclaiming congratulations, extravagant praise and self-laud filled the air, probably more an outlet for the immense tension their mission had been under than anything else. Repulsive triumph was shining in each pair of those now unmasked eyes, even though the spy could read the same exhaustion in those faces that was currently numbing him. Still, the air was thick enough with satisfaction and complacency to overcome the Slytherin with nausea.
Only when he was about to turn away from the disgusting scene in front of him did he notice that another glance was searching for his from across the room.
He met Lucius's grey eyes and held his calm gaze with no effort at all.
'Excellent work you delivered back there, Severus.'
After he let a very deliberate snort escape his lips, Severus tried to put as much hurt pride and sarcasm into his voice as possible, immediately falling back into the hated performance of a Death Eater - one who had just been humbled to the dust.
'Leave it, Lucius! Mine was not exactly an arduous task.'
Ignoring the effusive chattering around them and looking deadly serious, Malfoy slowly shook his head.
'Giving us your highly reliable backing is not what I would call a minor or unworthy job. Quite the opposite. And even though I know you would have preferred to fight where the real danger seems to be, I for my part am tremendously grateful for his decision to designate you the one to see to it that we would not be stabbed in the back.'
Overwhelmed with self-loathing, the spy let his head fall back against the wall where he was sitting, desperately hoping that Malfoy would not realize the true motivation for this gesture - And that his fellow Death Eater would stop his paean to what he, Severus, had done during the past hours. Being cast back into those events was the last thing that the spy wanted to trouble his mind with now; he knew that guilt and abhorrence would take hold of him soon enough, so he definitely didn't need Lucius as a reminder. He didn't need for Lucius to do anything, other than finally shut up.
The blond Death Eater didn't do him that favour, though.
'I mean it, Severus. There's no one in whose hands I would have felt safer. And you know that you've proved your reliability to us all, as well as the necessity and value of your presence! We'd not all be here had it not been for you.'
An iron fist closed around Severus's heart at the other man's last sentence. The constantly tightening muscles of his lower jaw forced his teeth down onto his tongue until he felt and tasted his own blood trickling into his mouth and down his throat; still it wasn't the pain that aggravated the shivering of his hands, but recall. The crystalline memory of the feeling of his wand between his fingers, the taste of the curse's words in his mouth and the sound of bodies hitting the ground...not being able to be blind to those harrowingly distinct recollections, Severus continued staring at a point on the low ceiling, until an unbearable stinging in his completely dry eyes forced him to close them at last.
Which was exactly when he noticed the grave and profound silence that had fallen.
When he felt how every single hair on the back of his neck rose to the sound of the utterly hated voice grating upon his perception.
'I must say I'm delighted, my Death Eaters.'
Severus's eyes flew open. Forgotten were exhaustion and self- hatred as fear drove him back to his feet in a single second, ignoring the swimming of his head that this provoked. Still not in control of his shaking hands which were now clutching his mask and gloves, he swiftly joined in the obedient bow with which the eight Death Eaters were greeting their Master.
'You have fulfilled your duties properly. I'm more than satisfied with your performance.'
The red gleam that scrutinized each face from beneath the black hood seemed to sparkle with malicious amusement.
'I can see that faithfully doing your duty as you have been has been demanding. Still, I need you all to be ready to achieve even more impressive feats soon, and after you have given me your reports concerning this most successful strike one by one, I want you to rest.'
The spy could feel Voldemort's eyes setting on the back of his lowered head, was almost able to sense the Dark Lord's horrible smile as he bowed again with the others to demonstrate his submission. When he straightened again, though, he found his former Master had turned his head slightly towards the door, and when his skeleton-hand gestured, a well-known figure emerged from the darkness outside the room.
'Wormtail here will bring you to me one at a time, and I promise I won't keep you from your well-deserved rest too long.'
And this time, Severus couldn't miss the ghastly grin the Dark Lord sent his way before he turned in a swirl of black robes and exited.
Severus was almost grateful when he finally heard Wormtail call his name as the last of the Death Eaters waiting to report to their Master. Each minute that the spy had been forced to spend in the company of the maddening, tearing memories from the past night had been purest torture. Visions and sounds had been attacking him without mercy, and the constantly growing awareness of what he had done was almost impossible to endure.
In the beginning, he tried to seek shelter from it in another recollection, but all his desperate attempts to escape to what the night that he had spent in Remus's quarters represented were in vain. He was barely able to realize that it had been little more than thirty hours ago that he was able to fall asleep, unaffected for once by the consequences of leading the life that he did. The single subsequent day had been enough to rip all the safety, confidence and peace that he had felt that morning from him. It had all been destroyed by the events of a single night.
And just as he had been forced to realize that he had destroyed this refuge himself, had personally driven Remus's comforting presence from his mind, had done so with his very own deeds, the Gryffindor with the silver hand had called his name. On their silent way through the uninhabited house which had been assigned as the meeting point for this particular mission, the cool air of the dark corridors woke the Slytherin a little from the despair that he had fallen into. Gradually, his role as spy took over once more, and suddenly very aware of the fact that he would have to face the Dark Lord any minute, Severus willingly let himself get carried away by the awakening sense of alarm and the gradual steeling of his mind and will that would be necessary if he was to get through another encounter with his former Master. To keep himself from thinking of how this meeting was most likely to end, he began to work out his report in his head, and only when he had more or less finished doing so did Wormtail stop in front of a door, where he let the silver knuckles of his hand fall against the wood a single time.
Without the least sound, the door in front of them slid open, revealing the warm, soft gleam of a fire. Not intending to wait to be prompted by Wormtail to enter, Severus crossed the threshold almost before he was aware of it. By no means would he add to the humiliation awaiting him by taking orders from that pathetic excuse for a Gryffindor...
The door at his back closed as soundlessly as it had opened.
'Welcome, my dear Severus. It's a pleasure to see that you have returned safe and sound.'
Voldemort stood in the middle of the room, hood thrownback to reveal his ghostly skull, white as bleached bones, tautly covered with translucent skin. His robes seemed to attract the shadows lurking where the light of the fire was too weak, and when the Dark Lord approached the younger Slytherin with his gliding walk, it appeared to Severus that the darkness was following him.
Partly because he knew it was expected of him, partly because he was no longer able to endure the sight of Voldemort coming closer, the spy lowered his head in another small bow before he murmured his answer.
'Thank you, my Lord'
He saw the bony fingers nearing before they actually curled around his chin. Still it took all of the spy's composure to not shrink back from the dry touch that rustled over his skin. Knowing perfectly well that resisting the slight pull that Voldemort's hand was exerting would be futile, whereas pre-empting it would provoke the Dark Lord's rage, Severus gave in to the gentle force with which his former Master lifted his face until the red eyes were only inches away from his own.
'Always so self-deprecating. So beyond any kind of hauteur. Despite all that bright pride of yours.'
A languorous smile lifted the corners of Voldemort's mouth as he slightly inclined his head, never releasing Severus from his red stare.
'This, my faithful Death Eater, is definitely a Slytherin quality that I've thus far been oblivious to. But as I've told you before: You were and still are a source of most pleasant surprises.'
In a playful caress, a desiccated thumb whispered over Severus's cheek to the sound of low laughter, coloured with amusement. Penetrating the spy's eyes with one last, burning glance, the Dark Lord spun on his heel and walked over to the fire where he let himself sink into an armchair in one swift movement. Severus, who did not intend to move without the explicit order to do so, focused all the concentration that he could muster on observing the profile of his former Master and thus on his only chance to catch an early warning about the Dark Lord's dreaded mood shifts.
'The truth is, Severus, that you have not the slightest reason to be so self-effacing. After what I've heard so far concerning tonight's events, you should be proud of yourself. At least as proud as some of the others are grateful for your excellent performance.'
Slowly, Voldemort turned his head until he was able to inspect the spy once more, who, regarding the direction this one-sided conversation had taken, was now struggling to conceal from the Dark Lord that a powerful flare-up of guilt was going right through him.
'And rest assured that I am more than pleased myself with the loyalty and reliability that you've demonstrated.'
Somewhere within the violent swirl of hot shame and acid revulsion that he felt towards himself, Severus found the composure to master his voice.
'I'm very fortunate to have been granted an opportunity that suited my Lord's wishes.'
The Dark Lord's low-pitched chuckle sent icy shudders over the spy's form, which had begun to slightly tremble anyway. Even though for completely different reasons.
'And I hope you will continue doing so, my sweet Snow White.'
The hated pet name drilled its way into Severus's perception, as did the scarcely veiled implications behind his former Master's words, frightening off self-contempt and hatred, replacing them with dread and fear instead. The spy was yearning to at least close his eyes to the sight of that lipless mouth forming the verbal forerunners of his later humiliation, but that merciless red gaze which was still directed at him completely ruled out any breaking of eye contact.
'I will do my very best, my Lord.'
'I know, Severus. It has not escaped my attention that even my attempts to keep you out of harms way could not prevent you from hurling yourself right into it.' The red slits were narrowing a bit. 'I do hope that you nevertheless appreciated my efforts.'
Confusion mingled with the chaotic remnants of the spy's emotions. His mind was aware of the Dark Lord's words, but still completely refused to take them for the truth. It was extremely difficult to believe that Voldemort would recoil from sacrificing anyone in order to achieve his twisted goals...
'Tell my the reason for this...disarrangement that apparently has seized you, my dear Severus.'
A distant part of the spy's mind wondered what else the Dark Lord was able to detect from him when he was reading at least his emotions so very easily. But most of Severus's attention was focused on the need to phrase an answer.
'I hope my Lord will forgive my frankness...'
'I *expect* you to be frank, Severus.'
Momentarily put off stride by Voldemort's interruption, the spy swallowed hard, desperately trying to find his train of thought again. The patient, expectant smile on the Dark Lord's face didn't help at all.
'Thank you, my Lord. It is... As...as grateful as I am for my Lord's generosity, I have to admit that I completely fail to see why I was allowed to benefit from so great a largesse.'
If anything, the smile on the Dark Lord's face deepened before he spoke again softly.
'And I really had thought that was obvious.'
Even when he elegantly lifted his body out of the chair Voldemort didn't relieve the younger Slytherin of that scrutinizing stare of his. With very slow steps, the Dark Lord gradually moved around the chair, a thoughtful expression upon his terrible face.
'Come over here, Severus. Let me help you get clear about certain things.'
Blind obedience nourished by bright fear born of the awareness of what dissent would bring made Severus cross the room, even though every conscious part of him was screaming with the urge to struggle away from the creature that was silently awaiting him.
The cruelty in the smile that was dawning on Voldemort's face as soon as the spy had finally reached him outmatched anything that Severus had been forced to witness and do during the events of the past night. Like claws of a predator ready to strike, the Dark Lord's hands slowly lifted to the fastenings of the younger Slytherin's cloak, while the now casual sound of Voldemort's voice filled the room again.
'I already have more plans for you as far as our crushing strike against those pathetic Muggle-lovers is concerned.' To another of the Dark Lord's rancorous smiles, the heavy cloak fell to pool around Severus's feet, laying open his robes to Voldemort's avid hands.
'You will have the honour to decisively contribute to Hogwarts falling into our lap very soon, Severus.'
The spy's robes followed the way the cloak had already taken. Ten fingertips were drawn down Severus's chest, sending their heat almost unimpeded through the thin cloth of his jersey. He was sure that the Dark Lord must be able to feel his heart jerking erratically against his ribcage, must notice how desperately his lungs fought for air...
'So rest assured that you won't have to wait very much longer before there will be sufficient room for you to show me more of last night's unconditional devotion yet again.'
With one quick movement, Voldemort slid his hands under the black fabric which had been the only thing still keeping him from Severus's naked flesh. The younger Slytherin felt those hands glide up his torso, taking his jersey with them, until they reached his shoulders where they slowly forced the spy's arms above his head. With a contented hiss leaving his mouth, now almost touching Severus's lips, the Dark Lord finally pulled the black jersey up the spy's outstretched arms, his unhurried movements showing clearly how much he enjoyed this little interlude.
'Before you undoubtedly become one of our victory's most glorious heroes, however, let me show you how much I approve of you as the ordinary Death Eater that you are now, my lovely Snow White.'
Severus's muscles shivered against Voldemort's fingers as they whispered back down his chest, as the Dark Lord's tongue, hot and dry as his hands were, slowly slipped out of his mouth, and languidly moved along the spy's upper lip.
No longer able to endure his former Master's burning red stare, Severus closed his eyes. He tried to send his mind away as he had done so many times before, to let it escape from what was about to come, but after last night's event's all he found in his desperate search for a place to retreat to was smoke, horror and death. From each spot that he went to, disgust, disdain and terror were flung back to him in the here and now, leaving him no choice but to be ever more aware of Voldemort's presence and touches, of the fingers that had already opened his trousers and were now wandering to his hips and beyond them towards the small of his back, until they locked in place at the hem of his trousers and pants. With the same tantalizing slowness as before, thumbnails lightly scratched across Severus's buttocks. Both were gradually pulled down, allowing hot claws to bury themselves in the soft flesh where the spy's bottom and thighs met.
'Do you remember now, my lovely Snow White?'
A small gasp escaped Severus's lips between his accelerated breaths as two fingers made their presence felt at his opening. He didn't need for Voldemort to remind him, he never had since the ritual had been completed. His body knew it was the Dark Lord's possession. It was painfully aware of this every single second of each day...The spy now realized what a fool he had been not to see the reason for Voldemort's apparent concern about his, Severus's, safety from the beginning. The Dark Lord would not risk the intactness of his property unless it was absolutely necessary. Losing Severus in one of the still relevant but secondary fights of the war would mean losing a far too entertaining toy, one that the Dark Lord would probably never find a substitute for...Fighting hard to force himself to relax around the three fingers that were now stretching and readying him, a violent surge of shame and degradation rose inside the spy, increasing the choking feeling in his throat. No, he really could not think of anyone else naive and stupid enough to expose himself to horror as he had.
Like those hands afflicting him from within and without, one of them burrowing into his arse, the other having buried itself in his hair which was damp with sweat, now pulling gently, forcing his head back until teeth, too sharp and pointed to be entirely human, loomed over the extended arc of his neck. A deep bite on his shoulder made blood mingle with cold sweat, and the spy felt the Dark Lord's hot breath blowing up the wet skin on the side of his throat, leading the lip-less mouth directly to Severus's ear.
'Do you remember....?'
The letting go of his hair, the pulling out of his arse, the strong grip on his shoulders that turned him around to face the back of the armchair Voldemort had sat in only a few minutes ago, all seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. All Severus had time to do was grip the backrest with both hands as he felt the Dark Lord's fingers clawing into his hips. And even though he had already gone through this so many times, he was not able to stifle the cry that wrung itself from his mouth when one violent move of his former Master's body pushed Voldemort's erection into him.
And through the bright haze of pain, the Dark Lord's voice rang out once more.
And after that, the only sounds audible for a long time were Severus's desperate gasps.
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