phoenix ashes
the path of the serpent (chapter 10)



  by Ejab

Lucius Apparated into a small hallway, scarcely lit by a few torches on the wall. After a quick look around he saw Severus, standing only a few feet away. Neither dared to speak. They did not recognise their surroundings and somehow both felt that there was trouble ahead - one look at the other only confirmed that they both could almost smell it hanging in the air. This was NOT good.

"Lucius our Lord will see you now. Follow me." One of the doors opened and a nervous Peter Pettigrew motioned him to follow him. Lucius did silently, walking behind Peter through another hallway, several empty rooms and finally into a somewhat larger room which had at least some signs of being in use - there was a lit fireplace, a small dark carpet on the ground and in front of the fire on the carpet stood a large chair. In that chair sat his Master.

Without hesitation Lucius kneeled down, crawled to the chair and kissed the hem of his Master's robe.

"My Lord and Master" Carefully avoiding eye-contact, he crawled back and stood up, all the time keeping his eyes on the worn-down stones in front of his feet.

"Lucius, my slippery friend" Voldemort spoke slowly. "Tell me, do you still believe in our course?"

"My Lord?" Now Lucius looked up, questioning.

"Pureblood same sex marriages, Lucius?" The Dark Lord laughed a cold laugh. "Are you losing faith in our joint course? Or should I say 'in my ways of achieving it'?"

"Never, my Lord!" his Deatheater answered with fury and utmost sincerity.

Voldemort stared at him for some time, as if waiting for something to happen. All the while Lucius did not dare to break the eye-contact, in fear that it would possibly be mistaken for a sign of a guilty conscience.

"Very well" The piercing look faded as Voldemort sat back in his chair. "Explain."

"If I can be accused of anything, perhaps it is impatience, my Lord. With most of my fellow Deatheaters imprisoned, I saw no need in doing nothing to accomplish our goal in a different way. It seemed a good idea to establish a legal platform for our course. Making same sex marriages legal increases pureblood children. They, of course, will only marry other purebloods and we can see to it that they get the most influential positions. A following step could be banning marriages between magical and non-magical people. It is a foundation no one can touch."

"And why this Addams boy?"

"I selected him with great care, Master - he adores the aristocracy, is highly ambitious, not too bright, easily controlled and, although he would never say it out loud, clearly has a preference for dating strictly purebloods."

"I seegood, you may proceed with this." Voldemort folded his spider like unnaturally long fingers and smiled. "Tell me something else, Lucius why did you insist on taking Veritaserum during your trail?"

Lucius felt his stomach cringe. Was this what it was all about? How he had a narrow escape from going to Azkaban? Suddenly he felt really physically sick.

"I got acquitted claiming to be under the influence of Imperio once. I seriously doubted they would believe that a second time. The only other suitable way out was being willing to be interrogated while using a truthserum. I knew that Severus was secretly working on a potion to render one immune from any truthserum and asked him for some. He refused, claiming that it was not secure and reliable enough yet, but I insisted. I was willing to take that chance. He finally gave in. But he barely had enough and was afraid - "

"How did it work? Did you still feel the effects of the Veritaserum?"

"Yes, my Lord. Very strongly so. But the potion provided me with enough clearness of mind to resist and stay in control long enough."

"Interesting" Voldemort stared at the fire, deep in thought, for a moment. "Peter, get me Severus."

Within minutes the potions master payed his respects to His Lord and stood waiting.

"Severus, my elusive Severus " Voldemort sighed and glared at his follower with a disturbing smile. "Tell me about your latest potion, Severus."

"It is to withstand truthserums, my Lord. But it is still in an experimental stage, As Lucius has informed me, it still requires a strong mind to resist the truthserum. It also has a regrettably short lifespan. It is by no means reliable yet." Unlike Lucius, Severus did not take his eyes off his Master.

"And no doubt you didn't tell me of this potion because it isn't ready yet."

Severus nodded. "I also refused to give Lucius - "

"Yes, yes, we already established that." Voldemort silenced him with a irritated wave of his claw like hand and continued staring at the potions master. "You bother me, Severus," he finally said with narrowing burning red eyes. "I had every intention on killing you tonight, you know"

Out of the corner of his eye Severus could see Lucius flinch. He could fully relate to that.

"It's been a very long time since you gave me some useful information. So close to both Dumbledore and Harry Potter and yet you never seem to know anything of use to me so very, very disappointing, Severus." Voldemort rose to his feet and slowly walked forward until he was mere inches away from Snape. "But now it seems I have misjudged you somewhat make that potion as soon as possible and hand it to me. At least you still have that use for me." He walked back to his chair and looked silently at his two followers again.

"I can't help it you still bother me, Severus." With those words he, in an almost bored fashion, pointed his wand at the potions master. "Crucio!"

Snape fell to the floor, feeling that insufferable, all-consuming and scorching pain again - burning knives shredding his skin, bones and nerves, ripping, tearing them apart. The only thing he could do was scream his throat raw while his body violently convulsed. Oh, such pain! Hopefully his veins wouldn't explode, because it sure as hell felt that way. Especially since the torture seemed to hold so goddamn long forever how would boiled brains taste like, he wondered, gathering the last ounces of strength still left.

"Master please no more"

Lucius couldn't believe his ears. Sev was begging? Sev? He NEVER begged! He really had to be totally losing it! He knew no one who could stand pain better than his lover. Stand it, enjoy it, revel in it, feed of it, needing it. And he was always very willing to give it to him. But that was pain given out of love, so it wasn't really pain. This, on the other hand, was pain given only with the purpose to humiliate, hurt. HIS lover. So wrong, so very, very wrong. And yet there was nothing he could do in fact he had to hide his fears and concerns the powerlessness and having to see his dark angel like this oh gods

"You are always such a nice toy to play with, Severus," Voldemort chuckled, relentlessly continuing the curse. "You are the only one I know who can still talk after this amount of time of exposure. One day I'll find out how much you can really take before you lose your admirable mind. But not today unfortunately not today" He ended the curse reluctantly.

The potions master remained laying on the floor, desperately taking ragged gulps of air while blood dripped down from his underlip and head.

"Enjoyed the show, Lucius?" Voldemort turned towards Lucius, giving him an amused look. "You felt his pain, didn't you? I could smell it! You two are so close, always so close." He spat out those last words with such venomous intensity that Lucius backed down a few steps more amd held his breath.

"But would you die for him, Lucius? Would you die for him if I asked you to? Because you would die for ME, if I asked you to. Remember who you truly belong to, remember who your Master is, Lucius."

Lucius kneeled down fast and kissed the hem of the robes belonging to The Dark Lord. "My Lord and Master, I - "

"Shut up," Voldemort snapped. "I will let you two live because you both work on something that is of benefit to our course. Even without me ordering you to do so. For that you both deserve at least some credit because it shows loyalty still. But let me warn you - the next time you plan something to escape the heat, do include your fellow Deatheaters."

Voldemort returned to the still convulsing body of the potions master and indifferently pointed his wand at him again. "Crucio!"

Snape howled with pain again while his body went into spasms and uncontrollable jerks even more. This time however his Master lifted the curse sooner than before and suddenly beamed with triumph. "I was right! I knew it!" He laughed his sinister laugh and looked very pleased with himself, while Snape's eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed.

"Master, you asked me to remind you it is time" Pettigrew scraped his throat tensely.

"Ah, yes, yes " Voldemort nodded. "You two - out!" He hissed like a snake, looking at both Severus and Lucius with disgust, before leaving the room himself. Peter followed him.

As soon as the door closed behind them, Lucius ran towards a moaning Severus and carefully helped him back up his feet. His lover was nowhere near able to stand on his own yet so Lucius supported him outside. He then Apparated them to the edge of the schoolgrounds and headed for the entrance.

"No stop" Severus stopped him by simply refusing to take another step.

"Sev, you can hardly walk!" Lucius protested concerned.

"Been worse " The potions master gestured that he just needed some time to recover. "Besides, you can't just walk in through the main entrance not at this time of night." He weakly pointed to the back of the castle. Lucius brought him there.

"A secret passage? Well, I can still walk you to your chambers then!"

"No wards will throw you back just go now, I'll manage" Snape said as convincingly as he could. Lucius clearly did not believe him for a minute, but had no choice and let him loose. Hestitatingly.

"I hate to leave you like this sure?" His lover nodded and Lucius sighed, still worried.

"You can make it up to me some other time," Snape smiled faintly. "Now sod off, you beautiful bastard."

Lucius quickly stole a last kiss and walked away reluctantly. Severus waited until his lover had Apparated, collected his strength and slowly staggered to the secret passage and slipped inside.

Only to immediately fall against the cold and damp dark stonewall, gasping for breath.

Oh Merlin, he felt so exhausted, so crushed no, this was not the time to spend energy on thinking. He had to make it to his dungeons. Once there, he could take potions and lick his wounds

Gathering his last reserves, he visualised the way to go and went on his way, knowing that if he rested too long he soon wouldn't be able to move at all as his muscles would cramp up and disobey completely.

So he stumbled and staggered along, not remembering ever feeling this exhausted and defeated.

Because at the very end, he had been defeated. No question there. The consequence of that would be - no, NO THINKING! He fiercely concentrated on reaching his one goal and finally managed to shut out everything else. Tunnel vision at its highest level. Always a succesful survival tool.

"Severus! Oh, my gods what happened?" The werewolf. Oh Circe, not now! Snape gave him a deathly glare. That was all he was able to do for the moment. Lupin was everything but impressed, put down his plate with sandwiches (the man obviously had been down to the kitchens) on the floor, rushed towards him and supported the potions master to his chambers. As humiliating as it was, Snape had no choice then to accept it - his strength was seeping out of him fast and he truly felt too weak to protest.

So the DADA teacher brought him to his rooms and sat him down in a chair. By the time Snape registered that he was actually sitting, Lupin already pulled him up again, carried him to the bathroom, undressed him and lowered him down into a tub filled with soothing warm water. Oh yes, that felt good

Warm hands carefully massaged his neck, shoulders and arms and slowly pulled him back to a bit more awareness. After far too little time in the blessed water strong arms picked him up again and laid him down on his stomach on his bed and thoroughly and skilfully started kneading every inch on the back of his cramped body - from the top of his head down to his toes. Snape moaned and sighed contently. Oh Circe, this was SO good! He felt his muscles slowly loosen, unravel and relax. By the time the hands rolled him over and started the whole process on the front of his body, the potions master was already so relaxed that he slowly but surely drifted towards oblivion. And by the time Lupin tucked him in and left the room he was sound asleep.