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Get Back | Tomorrow Never Knows

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Tuesday, 25 April, 1977


When Severus awoke, his first thought was that he was at home. His second thought was that he must have done something terribly wrong, because it felt like his father had given him the worst beating of his life. He hurt everywhere.

Then his sleep fuzz cleared and he saw the green velvet curtains hanging on all sides of him, and he remembered that he was at Hogwarts. In those first few foggy moments, that was all he remembered, and he frowned fiercely up at the canopy overhead, trying to get his bearings.

When realization came, it did so with a wallop he could almost feel, as if his old man had just hauled off and belted him a good one along the side of his head. The weekend. Lord Voldemort. The ceremony. The Dark Mark.

He was now a Death Eater.

He rolled the thought around in his mind, testing it, trying it on for size. He, Severus Augustus Snape, was a Death Eater, one of the Dark Lord’s chosen disciples. He rolled it around, and he decided he didn’t like it. Didn’t like how it made him feel, all shivery and hot at the same time, all loose and fluttery in the pit of his stomach. He knew how it was supposed to make him feel, all right — it was supposed to make him feel thrilled and flattered, honored and empowered — and the fact that it did not frightened him in a way he did not understand.

Oh, Merlin. What have I done?

He remembered some of what he had done — or, rather, what had been done to him. Fragments of memory came to him, some random and fleeting, others burned into his mind. He remembered the Dark Lord taking him, of course, and others, too, after the…well, afterward. He remembered Lucius, his touch as familiar and unmistakable as the silver-grey eyes burning from his mask. He remembered Bellatrix, riding him, her breasts like heavy ripe fruit in his hands, her soft heat pulsing all around him. He remembered pain so intense he had thought he would go insane and pleasure, equally intense and just as terrible in its relentless way, pleasure so vast he had wanted to die. He remembered the Dark Lord in his mind, raping his mind as surely as he was raping his body, flaying open every hurt and humiliation Severus had ever suffered and filling him with a merciless, killing rage. He remembered hating, and that hate morphing into images so twisted, so sick, that his saner self had turned from them in an agony of horror. Potter’s head, smashed to jelly. Pettigrew vomiting his own entrails. Black, his screams dying to wet gurgles as his throat was torn open. His father—

The flutter in his belly became a surge of greasy nausea, and Severus lurched from the bed, clawing at the curtains, crying out as the sudden movements jolted his stiff, screaming muscles. He stumbled and staggered for the bathroom at the far end of the room and made it with not a moment to spare: as he hit his knees on the cold tile in front of the toilet, everything came up and out in a sour, burning rush.

He vomited for almost fifteen minutes, until there was nothing left in his stomach and black sparkles danced before his eyes. He closed them and groped for the flush, sending the mess away. He sank down on his haunches, shivering as the dungeon air chilled the sweat running down his body. He curled up as tightly as he could and waited for his strength to return and for the shakes to stop, his only coherent thought the same one he had had since waking. What have I done, what have I done, what have I done?

He drifted. His stomach still didn’t feel very good, and his face felt hot and flushed even as the shivers wracked his body. He wondered if he was getting sick. Or perhaps he’d eaten something bad, something that hadn’t agreed with him. Sure. At Malfoy Manor, probably. He just wasn’t used to all that rich-people food.

You didn’t eat it, you dolt. It’s eating you. It’s eating into you, right now. If you look, you’ll see it. It’s invisible to outsiders, but you’ll see it, all right. You can even feel it.

And he could feel it, the Mark newly-burned into his arm, throbbing painlessly but stubbornly just under the skin — but he didn’t want to look. Just that cold pulsing, like something alien was alive in there and struggling to get out, was enough to make his stomach heave miserably again.

Grimly, he gulped a deep breath, then another, and another, until the nausea passed. It wasn’t the Mark that was making him sick, it wasn’t. That was absurd. As if the Dark Lord went around welcoming his chosen ones with poison tattoos! It was just…just him. He’d always had a bad stomach anyway; whenever he was nervous or upset, that was where it hit him. A bitter chuckle slipped from him at the thought. A Death Eater with a weak stomach. How ironic. How hilarious. Funny as a dead Muggle, as Lucius would say.

He drifted some more. He didn’t hear the light, quick footsteps behind him. Only when Madam Pomfrey spoke did he jerk and turn, his sore, sprung muscles screaming in protest again.

“Severus! There you are! Mercy, child, are you all right?”

Startled, disoriented — he had actually been dozing, dozing whilst curled up in a shivering ball next to a filthy toilet, and how was that for exhausted? — Severus scrambled to his feet. Madam Pomfrey, the Hogwarts mediwitch, stood in the doorway. Beside her was Professor Prozac. Both of them were staring at him with slightly shocked expressions, and Severus had to look down at himself before he remembered that he was naked. He glanced around frantically for something with which to cover himself, finally grabbing a towel and draping it over as much as he could.

Still, they stared. Something in their faces told him they were seeing more than just his nakedness, and he looked down at himself again.

Merlin! No wonder they looked shocked. He was a mess. Every place he could see (and, no doubt, quite a few places he couldn’t) there were scratches, cuts, whip wheals, bruises and bites. Some of the bites were decorated with little circlets of dried blood, and an incriminating number of them were in places no nice boy would ever allow himself to be bitten.

“Good gods, boy!” Prozac said. “What happened to you?”

I don’t know was what trembled on the tip of his tongue, but of course he couldn’t say that out loud. In truth, he didn’t know what to say. His usual knack for effortless lies seemed to have abandoned him for the moment. Abandoned him just when he needed it most, and wasn’t that the fucking story of his life.

Instead of answering Prozac’s question, he answered Pomfrey’s. “I’m quite all right, thank you. Just a bit…I was sick to my stomach earlier, but I’m feeling better now.” He wasn’t, not at all — his insides were churning again, the nausea rising and falling like a dinghy on storm-roughened seas — but he wanted them to leave. They hadn’t seen the Mark — they couldn’t see that, not if what Lucius had told him was true — but they had seen enough to make them ask questions, questions he probably couldn’t answer even if he wanted to. “I’m sorry if I’ve worried anyone.”

“You got in very late last night,” Prozac said. His voice was clipped, curt. “You missed curfew.” Severus opened his mouth to protest this, and Prozac forestalled him with an impatient wave of his hand. “Yes, yes, Mr. Snape, it’s quite all right, I got Mr. Malfoy’s owl saying you’d be late. But you also missed breakfast this morning, as well as your first three classes, and I became concerned.”

Severus frowned. Breakfast? Classes? Three classes? “What time is it, sir?”

“It is well past noon, Mr. Snape.” Prozac didn’t even glance at his watch. “I thought perhaps you were ill, and I went to the hospital wing to see if you were there, but Madam Pomfrey hadn’t seen you either. And, as none of your Housemates were either able or willing to tell me anything about your whereabouts, I came down here to check for myself.” He folded his spindly arms and gave a single, shrewd blink. “And you still haven’t answered my question, child.”

Child. Severus wished they’d stop calling him that. Bad enough that it was what Lord Voldemort had called him; worse yet that it wasn’t even true. He wasn’t a child, not anymore. Not after last night. Children were pure. Children were innocent. Children did not go around joining secret, evil organizations without a second thought and letting Dark wizards brand terrible promises into their flesh. “Question, sir?”

Prozac scowled. “Look at yourself! For the gods’ sakes, boy, you look” — debauched was the word that sprang to the teacher’s mind; even without his wand, without Reaching, Severus caught that one word quite clearly — “terrible. How did you get all those marks on you?”

“I fell down the stairs, sir.” It came popping out of Severus’s mouth before he quite knew he was going to say anything, and he tensed, expecting Prozac, and maybe Pomfrey, too, to burst into laughter. He would have, in their shoes; it was an utterly ludicrous explanation. Even the image it conjured — scrawny old Snape, all arms and legs and hair as he bounced down a flight of stairs — was funny. Oh, yes. Funny as a dead Muggle.

But neither of them laughed. They simply stood, glancing at each other briefly, then back at him, their expressions identical, speculative and a little sad. No, they weren’t laughing, but they weren’t buying it, either, and Severus heard himself rushing on, trying to fill that awful, we-don’t-believe-you silence before they could fill it for him.

“I — I spent the holidays at Malfoy Manor, you see, and, well, you know how it is when you’re in an unfamiliar place, and it was dark and I didn’t bring a torch or even light my wand, stupid of me, I know, and I couldn’t see where I was going, and there’s this enormous marble staircase, not stone, at least, rather lucky for me, and I—”

“You’re bleeding.” Pomfrey’s voice cut him off, flat and dismayed.

Severus looked at her, then down at himself. The towel he still held clasped to his front was small; it covered his genitals but not much else, and he could see almost all of his body, his chest and belly, his legs, even the very edge of his pubic hairline. But he saw no blood. He lifted his head and looked a question at her, a question suddenly touched with fear. She was a mediwitch, she had her wand out now, pointing at him and murmuring under her breath, clearly analyzing his condition — and did she see something he couldn’t, some internal bleeding, some damage hidden deep within?

“Severus,” she said gently, “would you please turn around?”

He colored a bit, embarrassment joining his confusion, his unease. “I beg your pardon?”

“Please, Severus.” Her gentle tone did not change. “Please, don’t make this harder than it must be.”

“I don’t even know what you’re—” he flared at her, then stopped. Of course he knew what she was on about. He could feel it now. Feel them now, sticky streams of blood, no more than trickles really, sliding down the backs of his thighs. As soon as he felt them, he also felt the fierce sting of the torn flesh that was producing them, and he winced before he could help it. Gods, it burned like acid, and he wondered how he could have been so oblivious to it until now. Perhaps, when he’d first awakened, he’d been too sore all over to isolate a single pain, even one as bad as this. Or perhaps he had aggravated the injuries while he was vomiting, tearing the small wounds open afresh.

“Severus, you’ve nothing to be ashamed of,” Pomfrey said now. Still in that maddening, oh-so-gentle tone. “Even if — even if this is what I believe it is, you’ve done nothing wrong. You are the victim here. You understand that, don’t you?”

Prozac was looking from her to Severus and back again, obviously lost. “Poppy—” he began, but Pomfrey silenced him with a tiny shake of her head, her eyes locked on Severus.

“Please, Severus. You must turn around. You must let me see.”

Mutely, Severus shook his head. Panic was moving in on him now, in nasty, sharp-fanged little bursts. If she saw, if she realized what happened, she would take him down to the hospital wing, she would examine him, she would realize he had been raped. There would be questions. The Malfoys would get dragged into it — everyone at Hogwarts knew where Snape had been for the past two weeks. And if the Malfoys got involved, others would as well. Perhaps even he — the he that no one wanted to get involved, the he that no one even wanted to mention — might get involved.

Worst of all, Dumbledore would get involved, and Dumbledore would find out what Severus had done. No matter that the Mark was invisible; Dumbledore would see it. Severus just knew it, the same way he knew he himself would see it, if he dared to look — not with his eyes, but with his mind.

As if mocking him, the Mark flared into sharp life. The pain was so sudden and so intense that Severus cried out, grabbing at his forearm. At the same time the nausea rolling around in his belly surged into his throat, and he turned and vomited into the toilet again, bent double, bracing himself on one trembling arm. There wasn’t much to come up now, and the spasms were all the more violent for it, ripping through him so hard they brought tears to his eyes. Even through the thudding of the blood pounding in his ears, he heard Pomfrey gasp, and he realized he was giving her the good long look she needed after all, but for now, he was too sick to care.

When he was through he sank to his knees, shaking all over, aching all over, sicker and weaker than he’d ever been in his life. He closed his eyes. Pomfrey murmured again, pointed her wand again, and there was a soft rustle as the warm cotton dressing gown she’d conjured settled and molded itself to his body. Severus spared a moment to be grateful — he was cold, so cold — and then Prozac was pressing a slender vial to his lips.

“Drink this, boy. It will settle your stomach.”

Severus opened his eyes and tried to glare at him. He knew perfectly well what it was and what it would do; he didn’t need some useless old brew-hack like Pavel Prozac to tell him. The smell alone was a dead giveaway. Chai, mint, ginger, a few other, stronger elements— he had made similar draughts himself on dozens of occasions. Well, of course he had. He was a potions prodigy with a weak stomach.

Correction, he thought. You’re a Death Eater potions prodigy with a weak stomach, and that made his stomach clench all over again even as he barked a short laugh, a laugh that sounded more like a sob.

He took the vial and drank.

“Severus.” Pomfrey again. “Who did this to you?”

He handed the empty vial back to Prozac and clenched his hands together in his lap, looking down at them, saying nothing.

“Severus—”

A soft hand touched his shoulder and he twisted away from it, sliding back on his knees. He glared up at her through the sweaty mat of his hair. “Get away from me, get away! Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

Pomfrey straightened, but she did not back away. “Because I can’t,” she said, and he saw with a sinking heart that that was the simple truth of it. It was in her eyes, sad and angry at the time, in her set white face and the grim, trembling press of her lips. She was doing what she had to do, and she would keep right on doing it until he cracked.

Oh, I am in so much trouble here, he thought.

“I need you to stand up now, Severus, if you can. We’re going to take you to the hospital wing.”

“No.”

Prozac’s scowl returned, and a single, swift glance at him told Severus that the stupid berk still hadn’t a clue what was going on here. Maybe I should have an arrow down my back, Severus sniped silently, with a big sign that says RECTAL TEARING AND BLEEDING, THIS WAY. “You’ll be doing what Madam Pomfrey asked, young man, or you’ll be in detention so long you’ll think you were born there. Now get up.”

Still, Severus didn’t budge. “You don’t have the authority to examine me without my permission.” He directed this at Pomfrey. He had no idea if it was true or not, but it was a shot in the dark.

He was surprised when she nodded. “That’s quite correct, Severus,” she said. “Only the Headmaster can authorize an exam without your consent, and, as luck would have it, he is not here at the moment. He was called away to the Ministry early this morning.”

Severus tried, and undoubtedly failed, not to look relieved.

“However,” she continued, “even in his absence, I do have the authority to admit you to the infirmary and keep you there for as long as I deem necessary.”

Severus narrowed his eyes at her, a terrible suspicion blooming in his mind. Oh, you sneaky, sneaky old bitch. “And how long is that?”

“Until the Headmaster returns,” she replied evenly.

Severus sagged, appalled at how neatly he’d been trapped. He hated adults sometimes, just fucking hated them. No matter how smart you were, no matter how careful you were, they always seemed to be just one step ahead of you. Every last bloody one of them was a Slytherin at heart.

“Please get up now, Severus. I’ve no wish to make this harder on you, child, but I will get you to the hospital wing, one way or another. Can you stand?”

He could, though just barely. Pomfrey eyed his swaying figure with concern. “Pavel,” she addressed Prozac, “could you assist him, please? He’s weak as a kitten. There, now, Severus, if you’ll just put your arm around the professor’s shoulders—”

“I can walk.”

But again, just barely. His belly and back ached from vomiting, his ass burned and throbbed with every step, and Pomfrey was right, he felt alarmingly weak. The potion had indeed quelled his nausea, but his legs were water. He managed only a shuffling step or two toward the doorway before he collapsed.

Prozac caught him, steadied him on his feet, and looked at Pomfrey doubtfully. “He’ll never make it to the hospital wing, Poppy.”

“No, I think not. Can you carry him, Pavel?”

“Yes, if we use the Floo.”

“Of course. The last thing he needs right now is the rest of the school staring and pointing.”

Prozac nodded. He bent and scooped Severus into his arms, easily, as if he were a child. Severus tried to struggle — he was not a child, damn it, not, he’d said it before, weren’t they listening? — but nothing happened. His body simply refused to punch or kick or squirm or do any of the things he told it to do. It refused to do anything but loll in Prozac’s arms like an oversized rag doll and ignore his wishes completely.

The potion, the bloody potion, sneaky old Slytherin fuck put something in the potion and now I’m stuck, can’t fight, can’t get away—

Except right now he couldn’t recall exactly why he wanted to get away. They weren’t taking him to some torture chamber, after all, just to the hospital wing. There were beds in the hospital wing, lots of them, lovely soft beds with warm blankets and fat pillows. He could sleep. He needed to sleep. He lusted for sleep. His body felt so tired, his eyes so heavy. They weren’t going to hurt him, they were going to help him, let him sleep. And Prozac’s arms around him were comforting, warm and surprisingly strong.

Stronger than he looks. Must be from slogging all those cauldrons around all day long. Builds muscles. ’Course it does. Look what it did for me. Gave me a body for the first time in my life. A body loads of people want. Gryffindors. Slytherins. Even dogs! I could get me a king with this body, maybe. Or a lord. Sure. A Dark Lord.

His own bitter laugh was the last thing he heard before the blackness swelled and swallowed him whole.

***

When Snape didn’t show up at breakfast, Sirius Black’s only reaction was contempt, tinged with a trace of jealous anger. It was faint contempt, faint jealousy and faint anger — but, then, most everything he felt these days was faint. He had been in a listless funk for weeks, ever since the night he had so forcibly introduced Snape to Padfoot, and not even the thought of Snape skiving off school to shag Malfoy a little longer could generate much of a response.

Although any response was more than Snape deserved, the lying little slut, and Sirius was disgusted with himself, disgusted that he’d even noticed the Slytherin’s absence in the first place.

Well, faintly disgusted, anyway.

It was only when Snape also missed Transfiguration, and then Herbology, that Sirius began to feel the first little ripples of unease. Breakfast was one thing, but classes? Snape was an absolute grind when it came to his studies, and Sirius could count on one hand the number of classes he had missed over the last six years. Would he actually jeopardize his grades just to whack the donkey with Malfoy and the rest of his pervert friends for an extra hour or two? Sirius didn’t think so. The only way he could see that happening was if—

(oh don’t be so stupid, don’t, it’s just such crazy, overdramatic crap)

—was if Snape really didn’t have any choice in the matter.

Sirius sighed. Because it was crazy, overdramatic crap, and he knew it. As if Malfoy had Snape imprisoned somewhere, like a princess in a tower in some dumb Muggle fairy tale! Sure. Absolutely. Repulsive, Repulsive, let down your greasy hair, he thought, and laughed mirthlessly to himself. You, Sirius old mate, are one great bloody idiot.

But was he? Even in school, Lucius Malfoy had been controlling, manipulative, more than a bit sadistic — why would his sexual proclivities be any less twisted than his social ones? Poor old Snape probably was chained to a wall somewhere, maybe in the dank, dark bowels of Malfoy Manor, everything from his nipples to his nuts tortured or teased, bound or clamped or strapped or caged. Tied up, maybe laid out on an altar, maybe with a big red ribbon round his head or even his cock. An offering, a living sacrifice to the great dark god of sex. Our Almighty Lord Hardonus, as James liked to say.

Speaking of whom — Sirius shifted in his seat, adjusting his slight erection gingerly, and with some surprise. Lord Hardonus had not visited Sirius in quite a while, a few weeks at least. Not since the night he had…the night of the first.

You fucking coward. The night you turned into a dog and raped him, you mean.

Sirius pushed that thought away. He was done feeling bad about that, done. Yes, okay, perhaps it had been the wrong thing to do, a nasty trick even by Marauder standards, but there was no law that said he had to think about it the rest of his life, was there? It was done, it could not be undone no matter how much he might wish it…and, anyway, Snape had deserved it. He had, damn it.

Of course he did. Just like he probably deserved whatever Malfoy and Company did to him over the fortnight. It’s like you told James all those months ago, right? Snape pretty much deserves whatever he gets.

And Sirius had enjoyed it. That was the worst part, how much he had enjoyed it. He had literally become an animal, and not just in flesh, as he normally did, but totally, completely. Afraid his rage and his hatred of Snape would push him to attack the other boy, he had submerged his human mind deep and allowed the dog’s natural instincts and urges to take over — and he had liked it. The Padfoot part of his brain was the ultimate in uncomplicated — no words, no real thoughts, just a delicious, unending cycle of sensation and response — and he had reveled in it.

He deserved it. He did, gods damn it.

His face. The look on Snape’s face when Padfoot had finished with him and the Room had returned to normal. The look in his eyes. It had all frightened Sirius quite badly at the time, and it haunted him still. Not even the miserable, sick spasms, the idea that Snape was so traumatized by the assault that he was actually physically ill, had scared Sirius the way the look in his eyes had. There had been nothing there, absolutely nothing: no fear, no hate, no anger, no anything. Just a blank, staring void where there was usually black fire…and how close had he come to sending Snape into that void for good? It was a question that came back to Sirius again and again in the days that followed.

He was faking. This was what Sirius told himself every time the memory recurred. He was faking, he was trying to scare me, that’s all. He’s “a marvelous little actor,” remember?

Yes, he remembered. But he just wasn’t sure. If Snape could fake that well, he deserved one of those Muggle movie awards, Omars, or whatever they were called. He couldn’t have faked that look. Or the sickness, or the terror, or even the way his voice had sounded when he had asked Sirius, “Why?” There had been no mistaking the bewildered anguish in that single word, an anguish that had pierced Sirius’s heart then and continued to do so every single time he recalled it. That it had been real, Sirius had no doubt. Nobody was that good an actor.

Which all begged the question: Did Snape deserve it? Did he know, was he in on it — or was it all just Bella, tarting things up to impress Malfoy? Or Bella and Malfoy, together, plotting and tricking and trapping them both?

He had never gotten the chance to find out. Snape had avoided him like the clap after that night — not that Sirius would have gone to him anyway, though he had been powerfully tempted. Whenever those nagging questions surfaced, late on sleepless nights or during a particularly empty stretch of class time, Sirius had been very tempted indeed. Tempted to go to Snape, confront him honestly, demand the truth…and even, maybe, offer some explanations of his own. Explain how the Room of Requirement worked. Explain that none of it had been real, none of it, that not even Prongs and Moony and Wormy had been real, but merely doppelgangers — doppelgangers so alive that Sirius had almost lost control of them, and so accurate that even Sirius had forgotten, at times, that they were fictions, created wholly from his mind by the room’s relentless magic. Explain that nothing had been real except for Padfoot — and that even he wasn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill street mutt.

Small comfort to Snape, perhaps — you weren’t really fucked by a dog, Sniv; it was just me, with a dog’s pecker, in a furry suit — and a terrible risk for Sirius…but if it could ease even a little of the guilt eating him alive night after night, it would be worth it.

But he hadn’t gone to Snape. A week later, Snape had gone off to Malfoy’s for the fortnight. And now, Snape was missing.

You are so stupid, he’s not missing, he’s sleeping in or he’s ill but he’s not missing—

Then he walked into Potions and there was still no sign of Snape, and he completed the thought. Completed it rather predictably, given his state of mind. No, he’s not missing. He’s dead.

And, honestly, Sirius couldn’t think of anything short of that which would keep Snape away from his beloved vials and nostrums.

The sight of Professor Sinistra standing at the front of the room, announcing that she was a substitute for Professor Prozac because he was “otherwise detained,” did nothing to allay his fears. Something had happened to Snape. Snape was absent, Snape was a Slytherin, and Prozac was his Head of House — he would be the first one notified if something had had happened to a Slytherin.

It was the longest forty minutes of Sirius Black’s life. As Sinistra knew nothing about potions (a fact she admitted not just willingly, but cheerfully), she turned the class into a free study period. Brilliant, Sirius thought moodily. Just what I need. More time to think.

He yanked his Potions text out of his bag and slapped it on the desk. He opened it at random and scowled down at it fiercely, as if it had offended him in some way. He hated potions as much as Snape loved them — but he supposed, if he was stuck here with nothing else to do, he might as well study. Who knew, maybe he’d even find a cure for his hopeless addiction to lying Slytherin assholes.

He read, or tried to, for fifteen minutes before he gave it up as a bad job. He just couldn’t concentrate; there were too many distractions, even without the chaotic thoughts buzzing through his head. Professor Sinistra, such an amiable taskmaster in her own classroom, apparently had no such concerns here, and before too long, students were getting up, moving about the room, changing seats, and talking ever more boisterously in little huddles of twos and threes. At one point, James caught his eye and mouthed Do you want me to come over there? but, after a moment’s hesitation, Sirius shook his head. He knew he shouldn’t decline if the other Marauders wanted to join him — he’d been avoiding them too much for the past few weeks as it was — but he just didn’t want any company right now. James looked disappointed, but he seemed to understand.

Remus and Peter never bothered to look at him at all.

What Sirius really wanted to do right now was listen. Half the class was Slytherin, after all, and he had the faint hope he might hear something about Snape. Where he was, how he was…hell, if he was. He picked up his book and opened it again, not seeing it as he strained to hear, blocking out all other sound as he focused on each conversation in turn, but the only person he heard even mention Snape’s name was Lily Evans. She asked Victor Crabbe if Severus was ill.

Crabbe — who was just as stupid as his buddy Goyle, but considerably more good-hearted — shrugged his massive shoulders. “He missed curfew last night, but his curtains were closed this morning, so I guess he was in there. I don’t know for sure, though.”

Oh, there’s a surprise, Sirius snorted to himself. Next time, try asking someone with a brain, you goody-two-shoes priss. Still, it bothered him a bit that even Evans didn’t know anything about Snape’s whereabouts, as she was the closest thing to a real confidante that Snape had.

By the time the period was almost over, he was so bothered, and so hungry for any news of Snape at all, that when Bella approached and slipped into the chair beside him, he was almost civil to her.

“Something I can do for you, Bella?”

“Not at all, Ri-Ri, not at all.” She leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs too high. Today she was wearing her robe unbuttoned from the waist down, with one of those Muggle miniskirts underneath. It was a very nice view, even if it was Bella’s, but Sirius found he wasn’t all that interested; it seemed Lord Hardonus had taken a powder on him again. “It’s more a question of what I can do for you.”

“You could drop dead,” Sirius suggested, as nicely as possible. “Failing that, you could leave.”

“I could, and I will. But not before I do my good deed for the day and tell you that Severus is perfectly fine.”

His heart sped up, though he gave no outward sign. Christ! Was he that obvious to everyone, or did Bella just know him too well? “And I would care why?”

She dimpled. “Oh, come now, Ri-Ri. I saw you eavesdropping on Vic and the Evans bitch. And you looked positively stricken when you walked in here and didn’t see Severus! Since you seem to be so worried about him, I just wanted to let you to know that you needn’t be. He’s absolutely safe and sound.”

“Really.”

“Yes, really. He’s most likely just having a bit of a lie-in. I expect he’s utterly exhausted. It was quite a party at Malfoy Manor over the fortnight, and Severus was the belle of the ball.”

He gave her no reaction. “Really.”

“Oh, yes. I can vouch for it personally. You know, I’m finally beginning to see why you’re so taken with him. I still say he’s not overmuch to look at, but he is a scrumptious fuck.”

As if he needed even one more reason to hate her, Sirius thought, words like scrumptious were actually part of her vocabulary. “Of course he is. I taught him everything he knows.”

“I doubt you had to teach him much,” she snickered. “That one’s a natural, he is.” She gave Sirius a sad little head shake. “I understand now why you’ve been moping about so the past few weeks. I imagine you miss him terribly, don’t you, dear?”

“I haven’t been mo—” Sirius began, but he caught himself in time. He was not going to get into this with her. “Bella, you’ve had your fun. Be a good little slag, now, and go back to your corner.”

“Oh, but why?” she pouted. “I thought perhaps we could chat a bit. Compare notes and all that.” She lowered her voice and leaned close to him. “What do you miss most about Severus, darling? Do you miss sucking his cock? I would. I quite enjoy it. He has such a unique taste, don’t you agree? Like licorice, or anise, perhaps. Though Lucius says it’s more like peaches.”

Sirius just looked at her.

“Or is it his arse?” she continued. “Such a hard, tight arse. I do like a lad with a firm arse, don’t you? I can’t tell you how many times I had my legs wrapped around that arse over the weekend.” A sly pause. “Actually, I could tell you — but I expect you don’t really want me to do that, do you, Ri-Ri?”

The hell with this shit, Sirius thought.

“I’ll tell you what I miss, Bella,” he said, dropping his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “I miss fucking him. I miss putting his legs over my shoulders and pulling his arse cheeks apart and just sliding into that tight pink hole of his, nice and slow and easy. I miss feeling him stretch around me. I miss feeling his arse sucking on my cock. I think he feels like velvet inside, don’t you? So warm and soft.” He eyed her faltering smirk with pleasure and flashed an insultingly big grin. “Oh, but I expect you don’t really want me to talk about that, do you, Bella? You wouldn’t know what that feels like, would you? You’ll never know. You can’t fuck him.”

Her expression didn’t change, but he saw the anger in her eyes, her balked, startled fury at not getting the reaction she wanted. “You can’t fuck him either,” she spat, probably more viciously than she intended. “Not anymore.”

“Why, Bella,” Sirius chuckled, ignoring the jab, “you look upset. What’s the matter? Have I gone and spoiled all your fun?”

He chucked her playfully under the chin; she wrenched her head away with a hiss.

“Oh, you’ve spoiled a lot more than that,” she said. Her voice was low and tense. “A lot more than you know, you stupid bastard.”

Sirius raised his eyebrows. “Name-calling now, Bella?” he clucked. “Why are you so mad? You were the one who wanted to compare notes, dear.”

“So I did.” She narrowed her eyes. “And speaking of notes, dear, have you read any good ones lately?”

Something in his belly fluttered and tightened. That was all, and at first he thought he had simply heard her wrong. “What?”

“You heard me. You know, you’re not only stupid, cousin, you’re drearily predictable. If I didn’t loathe you so much, I’d feel sorry for you. Anyone with half a brain could see what was going on, but not you. You couldn’t see past a few lines on a scrap of parchment.”

“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” But he did; he had a terrible sinking certainty he knew exactly what she was talking about, and that flutter in his gut became a full-fledged spasm.

“No? Shall I refresh your memory, then?” She closed her eyes, a theatrical frown creasing her brow. “‘That poor, friendless waif bit of his has my idiot cousin mooning about after him like a lovestruck first-year.’ ‘What a marvelous little actor he is! If he were just a bit prettier, he could be on the stage.’ ‘From what I can gather, even the sex isn’t all that spectacular. Dolpho said Severus told him that fucking Sirius is like fucking a dog. All panting and licking and not much else.’” She opened her eyes and gave him a smile brimming with vindictive pleasure. “Any of that ringing a bell, cousin? Or would you care to hear more?”

Sirius could only stare at her speechlessly. Her words — those hateful, hateful words from the letter— seemed to hang in the air between them.

She laughed outright at his expression. “Oh, don’t look so shocked, Ri-Ri! It took me nearly a dozen drafts to get it right, so of course every word is engraved in my memory.” She paused, her smile fading as she searched his face thoughtfully. “Yours as well, I imagine.”

“You dropped it.” Sirius’s voice sounded strange even to his own ears, hollow and distant. “I bumped into you, and you dropped it.”

“No, dear. I bumped into you. I followed you around half the day, waiting for an opportunity — and you can imagine my delight when you went up to the Owlery! I couldn’t have planned it better. It added just the right touch of credibility, don’t you think?”

“You dropped it on purpose.”

“Yes.”

“You wanted me to read it.”

“Yes.” Amused. Triumphant.

“You’re a liar.” His voice shook. “You’re the biggest fucking liar in the school, why should I—?”

“And you’re a fool.” She laughed outright. “Sweet Salazar! Did you honestly believe I’d put things like that down in writing if I didn’t want them to be read? Or that Lucius Malfoy would actually bring a piece of Gryffindor scum like you into his home for any reason, even an evening’s amusement? You’re pathetic, Sirius, truly pathetic. And predictable, as I said. It was like taking candy from a baby.”

Of course it was, he thought wretchedly. Because I’ve never been the sharpest wand in the shop. “Why, Bella?”

“Why what? Why did I do it?”

“Yes.”

She looked honestly surprised. “You really don’t know?”

“Wouldn’t be asking if I knew,” he snarled. “Was it just spite, Bella? Would you actually go to all that trouble just to fuck up my life?”

“Don’t flatter yourself.” She paused again, for so long that he began to wonder if she would answer at all. She was still regarding him with that thoughtful, considering look, and he thought he saw a shred of real pity buried deep beneath the mocking gravity. He didn’t like it, not on her: it was too human. “Severus was falling in love with you,” she said finally. “Lucius saw it, even if you didn’t, and it infuriated him. He told Severus to break it off with you, but when Severus didn’t, or wouldn’t, or couldn’t, well…” She shrugged. “At any rate, I was glad enough to help. A fellow Slytherin in need, and all that.”

The period was nearly over; people were gathering up their books and bags, shifting restlessly, glancing at their watches and at Sinistra, who was standing rather eagerly herself, waiting to dismiss them. Sirius registered none of it. Even her words, those impossible words — Severus was falling in love with you — didn’t fully hit him, not then. His head felt airy and dizzy and distant, his body strangely numb, and, for a terrifying few seconds, he thought he was going to faint.

Abruptly he stood and stuffed his Potions text into his bag. Bella cocked her head and smiled pertly up at him.

“Ohhh. Leaving so soon, Ri-Ri? Was it something I said?”

He ignored her and turned away. He walked to the front of the room. Even as he approached Sinistra, he had no idea what he was going to say. He wasn’t thinking; he couldn’t think, not until he got out of here, not until he was alone. His head still felt like a balloon filled with volatile gas — one spark, one wrong word or wayward thought, and it would explode. “Professor?”

“Yes, Mr. Black?”

“May I be excused now? I don’t — I don’t feel very well. I’d like to go up to my room and lie down.”

She frowned, already starting to shake her head, searching his face. Whatever she saw there apparently changed her mind, for she nodded immediately, without any questions. She even offered to make his excuses to Professor Flitwick.

He thanked her and left, feeling her curious eyes on his back. James’s, too, and Remus’s, Peter’s — but not Bella’s, of course. Good old Bella knew exactly why Sirius was leaving, just as she knew — as they both knew — it wasn’t really leaving he was doing at all, but running away.

***

The bastard had drugged him.

The bastard had drugged him, but not very effectively. Obviously, Prozac’s incompetence extended even to the simplest of narcotic draughts; Severus estimated he’d been asleep no more than half an hour. There was no clock in the room, and he wasn’t wearing his watch, but the slant of the light filtering in through the infirmary windows suggested it was not much past one. And Prozac was still here in the hospital wing; Severus could hear him in Pomfrey’s office, talking with her and someone else in hushed tones.

“—you’re suggesting seems unfathomable,” Prozac was saying. “I find it impossible to believe that anyone at Hogwarts, not a student, certainly not a teacher, would do such a thing.”

“You may believe what you like,” Pomfrey responded, a trifle coldly. “I know what I saw. Nothing else could have caused injuries of that type. And the vomiting, the trembling — I know the signs of trauma when I see them, Pavel. That boy was raped.”

Severus’s heart began to pound unpleasantly. He leaned forward even further, straining to hear every word.

“Can the Headmaster truly authorize such an…an intimate examination, without the boy’s consent?”

“Certainly, with proper cause.”

“And such an exam could prove he’d been assaulted?”

“The tearing and hemorrhaging are enough to prove that even without an exam. But there may be internal damage as well — and, more importantly, a proper exam can tell us who did this to him.”

Prozac sighed. “That’s what I was afraid of,” he muttered.

“Pavel!” The third voice rose a bit, sounding thoroughly astounded, and Severus placed it. McGonagall. Well, of course she would be here — she was Deputy Headmistress, and in charge of the school in Dumbledore’s absence. “What on earth is wrong with you? One of the students — one of your students — has been assaulted. You should be the first one to want to catch whoever did this.”

There was a pause. When Prozac spoke again, he had dropped his voice even lower, so low that Severus could scarcely hear him.

“You know where he spent the holiday,” he said. “Do you want to deal with the possibility that this might have happened at Malfoy Manor? With the power and the influence Lazarus Malfoy has? Sweet Salazar, Minerva! He’ll have our jobs. If not our heads.”

“I don’t care about politics,” McGonagall informed him. “My only concern is for the safety and well-being of the students in this school. And, frankly, I’m rather appalled at your attitude, Pavel. You are that child’s Head of House. Your priority right now should be Severus, not your tenure or your paycheque.”

“I quite agree.” Pomfrey again, and now there was no mistaking the coldness in her tone. “And if you’re for one moment suggesting we shouldn’t investigate this, or that we should cover it up, I will not be a party to that.”

“I’m suggesting no such thing,” Prozac growled. “All I’m saying is that I don’t want to be the one who tells Lazarus Malfoy a boy was forcibly sodomized in his home while under his care.”

“Then don’t,” McGonagall said curtly. “Albus and I will handle Malfoy. If it even comes to that. We’ve no evidence that the Malfoys are guilty of anything, after all — and, as much as I dislike Lazarus, we have no right to accuse him without proof.”

Another pause, longer than the first. Then Prozac spoke again. “There is one other possible suspect, though I daresay you won’t like to hear it, Minerva.”

“Who?”

“Sirius Black.”

Severus gasped audibly. Luckily for him, so did McGonagall. “What?”

“Sirius Black,” he repeated. “You’ve both heard the rumors about Black and Snape. We’ve all heard them, for months now. And given Black’s history, I’d say he’s a very likely suspect.”

“His ‘history’?” McGonagall’s voice quivered with outrage. Severus made a face. He liked McGonagall all right — she’d always been decent to him, and for the most part fair — but she was blind as a bat when it came to the Marauders. They were her little Gryffindor princes, the lot of them. “To what ‘history’ are you referring?”

“He and Potter are the biggest troublemakers in this school, Minerva, and you know it. They’re both swaggering, insolent little bullies, and Snape has always been one of their favorite targets. This wouldn’t be the first time one of their so-called pranks on him went too far.”

“Forcible rape is hardly a prank, Pavel,” Pomfrey demurred. “I know those boys, and I know they’ve let things get out of hand from time to time, but this is something else altogether. This is…”

“Preposterous,” McGonagall snapped. “Absurd, is what it is. Honestly, Pavel! Not five minutes ago you were saying you couldn’t believe anyone at Hogwarts capable of such a thing, and now you’re blaming a student? Are you that desperate to exonerate the Malfoys and protect your job?”

“Sirius Black and Severus Snape have been involved in a sexual relationship for months,” Prozac reiterated. “At the very least, Black has to be considered.”

“On the basis of some student rumors?”

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

McGonagall said nothing, but even at this distance, Severus could feel the anger surging through her. He could even picture her face, deadly pale, jaw clenched, lips pressed so tightly together they had almost disappeared. He’d had that particular look directed at him only once, but it had made an indelible impression.

It was Pomfrey who broke the uncomfortable silence. “There has been a great deal of talk about the two of them, Minerva. Pavel is right. We can’t discount Black as a suspect completely.”

“I’m not discounting it, Poppy,” McGonagall snapped, though she had just done exactly that. “But even if there is anything to the gossip, a consensual sexual relationship is a far cry from rape. And perhaps it has escaped your attention, Pavel, that Severus has also been rumored to be involved with Lucius Malfoy?”

“Oh, I see,” Prozac bristled. “So we’re attacking the victim, now, is that it? It wasn’t your student’s fault. Snape’s promiscuity is the reason he was assaulted.”

Well, that was a nice dodge, Severus thought. He couldn’t help but admire how deftly Prozac had deflected the point; he hadn’t thought the old fool was nearly that slick.

“How dare you.” McGonagall’s voice was low and dangerous. “I would never suggest anything of the sort. And if — if — it turns out that Black, or any other Gryffindor, had anything to do with this, rest assured I shall be the first to see him punished. Unlike certain other people on this staff, I try to be objective when it comes to the students in my House.”

“‘Certain other people’?” Prozac echoed. “I don’t think I quite care for what you’re insinuating, Professor.”

“I am insinuating nothing, Pavel. I’m stating it, quite plainly. You are hopelessly biased toward your Slytherins and brutally unfair to the other three Houses. Particularly my House. You’d quite like it if Sirius Black were to be found guilty, wouldn’t you, simply because he’s a Gryffindor?”

“That’s utterly absurd—” he blustered, but Pomfrey’s angry voice cut him off.

“Stop it!” she said sharply. “Stop it, both of you, please! None of this is helping Severus in the slightest. We’ll find the answers we need after I examine him, but, in the meantime, I’ll thank you to confine your House rivalry to the Quidditch pitch.”

Another long silence. Severus lay back quickly and closed his eyes, half-expecting Pomfrey to storm out of her office and into the ward, but she remained where she was.

“I’m sorry, Poppy,” McGonagall said at last. “She’s right, of course, Pavel. We’re behaving like children ourselves. There’s no point in insults or unfounded accusations — we’re supposed to be on the same side.”

To her credit, she sounded sincere; to Severus’s surprise, so did Prozac. “It is a most distressing business,” the Potions master admitted stiffly, “and perhaps I have not handled it as well as I might have. My apologies, ladies.”

They murmured awkwardly in response.

Prozac cleared his throat. “Poppy, I imagine you can do nothing further for the boy until Albus returns?”

“Just keep him comfortable — and heavily sedated,” she added with an uneasy sigh. “I can’t stand guard over him all afternoon, and I don’t want him trying to get rid of the evidence, or trying to escape.”

“You believe he would?” McGonagall sounded startled.

“Oh, no doubt. We’ve no idea how badly this has scarred him emotionally, or psychologically. And he’s scared to death, Minerva. In complete denial. I’m sure he wishes it would all just go away, and he could pretend it never happened.”

“How odd,” McGonagall mused. “As if he’s protecting someone, perhaps?”

Pomfrey sighed. “Perhaps, but not necessarily. From what I understand, it’s a very common reaction in rape victims. I don’t know, of course, I’m no expert…and I certainly never expected to become one. But I’ve read enough case studies to know that he might try to run.”

“Perhaps you should ward the room.”

“I can’t. Students need access in case of an emergency.”

“Of course. How stupid of me.”

“Here,” Prozac said, and Severus heard the faint clink of glass on glass. “Give him a swallow more of this. He’ll be out for hours.”

That’s what you think, imbecile, Severus snorted to himself.

“Thank you, Pavel.”

There was some more muttering back and forth, too low and indistinct for Severus to understand. They seemed to be moving away from him as they talked. Headed for the fireplace, perhaps, to floo back to their own offices? Hopefully. Severus Reached, but nothing happened. Not even a flicker of a thought. He lay back with a frustrated sigh.

The muttering continued for another minute or two. Then Severus heard the unmistakable soft fwump of floo powder hitting flame. Good, they were leaving. Finally. He closed his eyes and forced himself to breathe deeply and slowly, feigning sleep.

Gods, she was quiet! Pomfrey was at his side before he was even aware of her approach.

“Severus.” She shook his shoulder gently; he cracked one eye, trying to look groggy. “Here, child. Drink this.”

She slid a hand under his hair, behind his neck, and tilted his head so that he could drink without choking. He drained the cool, minty, faintly fruity potion without protest and lay back down.

“That’s a good boy,” Pomfrey murmured. “Rest now, dear. I’ll be back in a little while.”

Continued