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Get Back | Tomorrow Never Knows

He didn’t know, then or later, how long he ran; it could have been an hour, or two, or three, and it was a miracle he didn’t get caught. At first, he ran blindly, stumbling and sometimes falling, blundering into dead-end walls, making turns and descending stairs in an unthinking, unseeing panic: the sheer physical need to put as much distance between himself and what had happened overwhelmed any sense of logic or caution. He ran until exhaustion took over and forced him to stop, collapsing against the nearest wall for support, a hot stitch in his side and knives in legs that threatened to buckle and spill him to the ground with his next step. His breathing was ragged and harsh, and it sounded shockingly loud in the sleeping school.

He still had no idea where he was.

He armed sweat from his forehead and closed his eyes, trying to think. It was hard — his brain was still in flight mode, screaming at him to forget all this thinking nonsense and just move, but he forced the impulse back and concentrated. After a moment, it came to him. No, he didn’t know where he was, but his sense of direction had always been keen, and it told him the dungeons were north of here, and down. If he kept moving in that general direction, he would, sooner or later, find the Slytherin dorms. Like as not, it would be later rather than sooner, but it was what it was; it would have to do.

He pushed himself away from the wall and walked on. His panicked flight was behind him, and he moved much more slowly now, but with just as little caution; the same listless blankness he had felt earlier had dropped over him again, robbing him of his usual stealth. His steps were clumsy, plodding, tired; his thoughts were dull and disjointed. By the time he reached the door to the Slytherin common room, he was in a very real state of shock.

You need to wash first, a voice said in his head — it was not the logic voice; this one came from somewhere much deeper. Severus nodded complacently. Yes. All right. Washing…washing was a good idea.

He turned away from the common room entrance and headed back the way he had come, around the corner to the prefects’ bathroom. Rudolpho Lestrange had told him the password. Good old Rudolpho. One of his Slytherin fuck-buddies, as Black would say.

He entered the bath. It was a luxurious room, elegant in its décor, almost decadent in its appointments. The tiles underfoot were silky-smooth and always the perfect temperature, never too hot or too cold; towels as thick as quilts were piled high on shelves that floated toward one at the wave of a hand. A sunken tub the size of a small swimming pool took up most of the center of the room and featured a dozen or so jeweled taps that would, at a touch, spew forth everything from multicolored bubbles to creamy foam. Severus had never been in the prefects’ bath before, but that tub looked uncomfortably familiar. He frowned, his foggy, shock-numbed brain reaching for the connection. After a moment, it came. The Malfoys had a tub like that, and he and Lucius had shared it any number of times. Lucius had, in fact, taken his virginity in it.

Good old Lucius. Another one of his Slytherin fuck-buddies. Just a right regular old fuck-buddy magnet, aren’t you, Severus? he asked himself, and uttered a crazy laugh.

There was a large painting of a mermaid on the far wall. It was a magical painting, but the creature it depicted was like no mermaid that Severus had ever seen; she was a strictly Muggle concoction of golden hair and porcelain skin and melon breasts. She was dozing when he came in, but as Severus walked past, her eyes fluttered open and batted a sleepy invitation.

“Why, hello, little one,” she trilled. “Isn’t it past your bedtime?”

Severus scarcely heard her. He skirted the tub and headed for the bank of frosted glass-and-gold stalls along the rear wall. He didn’t want bubbles, he didn’t want foam, and he certainly didn’t want to flirt with some painted tart. What he wanted was water as hot as he could stand it and soap strong enough to take off a layer of flesh or two. He had never felt so dirty in his life — if he could have shed his skin, he would have done so without a second thought.

He didn’t consciously think these thoughts, of course; it was instinct urging him on. Telling him to wash. Telling him he needed to feel clean again.

He stepped into the first stall and stripped out of his nightshirt, hanging it carefully on a hook outside the door. The mermaid oooh’ed appreciatively.

“My, my, my,” she purred. “Not-so-little one, I see.”

He ignored her and turned the tap. The showers were as charmed as the rest of the room’s appointments, and the water temperature was a perfect ninety-eight-point-six; he hardly felt it touch his skin.

Hotter, he thought at the faucet, and it obeyed the wandless, wordless command instantly. Steam rose around him, and he basked in it, stretching like a cat; the hot water felt like heaven on his strained and battered body, and for long moments he simply stood beneath it, lifting his face to the spray, letting it run slippery fingers through his hair.

It was heaven — but it wasn’t enough. He still felt dirty. Horribly dirty. He could still feel the dog’s tongue on him, the dog’s cock in him, the dog’s come spilling out of his body. He could still feel Pettigrew’s touch, loathsome and crude. And Potter’s, disturbingly sexy.

A bar of soap lay in a gaudy gold dish mounted to the wall, and he grabbed it and began scrubbing himself furiously. He soaped and rinsed and soaped and rinsed again, every inch of his body, inside and out, until his skin felt raw and glowed so pink it looked boiled. The stinging heat brought to mind the strapping Potter and Pettigrew had given him, and that brought to mind all the rest. His shell-shocked calm shattered, and the tears that had been threatening for hours welled up and out of him. This time, he made no effort to hold them back.

It was like opening a floodgate. The tears became sobs, enormous wracking sobs that seemed to rip their way out of him and bounce around the vast room in taunting echoes. He dropped the soap and slid slowly down the wall, laying his head on his drawn-up knees, shivering again in spite of the steamy spray. He wept as he hadn’t wept since he was a child, tears he had refused to shed during countless beatings and curses and humiliating attacks pouring out of him; he let them come, let the storm roar through him and take him where it wished.

It had taken years to store up so much grief; he supposed he could spare a few minutes to release it.

Finally, it was over. The sobs quieted to small, watery hitches, then fell off altogether. Severus lifted his head from his knees, looking around him with a new awareness. The crying jag hadn’t magically cured or cleansed him, but it had washed away that foggy cloud over his thoughts. He knew where he was. He knew what had happened.

Oh, gods, what had happened.

Slowly, he climbed to his feet and shut off the tap. He plucked a towel from one of the hovering shelves and dried himself thoroughly but gingerly — his skin was still a bit raw from the over-enthusiastic scrubbing he had given it. He pulled the nightshirt over his head and stepped out of the stall.

The mermaid was still awake, and she was looking at him with an expression he didn’t care for much.

“Poor little one,” she said again, but this time there was no giggling or coquettish fin-waving with her words. Her pretty eyes were somber, and a sad little smile curved her lips. “Poor, sad, lost little boy.”

Severus felt his face flame. Pity was bad enough from a living, breathing person; pity from a painting was untenable, both cruel and absurd. He opened his mouth to insult her, then stopped. What could he say? She knew the truth. She had seen him naked in more ways than one.

He left the bathroom without looking at her again.

***

Back in his own bed, with the covers pulled up to his chin and every ward he could think of securely in place, he burned.

Perhaps there was something to that old adage about the cathartic effects of tears. His shock was gone; his thoughts were clear and precise again, and singularly focused. He did not allow himself to think about what they had done to him. His shame and horror and that odd, bewildered grief were still there, but he refused to feel them. He locked them away in the back of his mind, not sparing them a second thought. Anger was all he allowed himself to feel. Anger, and hate. To feel anything else was to revisit this night again and again, and if he did that, he really would go insane.

So he burned.

They would pay. With their own fear, their own shame, with their blood and their most bitter tears. With their lives, if Severus could manage it. And he guessed he could manage it rather neatly — with the proper assistance, of course.

With their fucking lives.

He did not sleep. At dawn he rose and crept silently to the Owlery. He sent Lucius a message. It was only two words, but he had no doubt Lucius would understand it perfectly.

The Dark Lord had promised him many things, but Severus wanted only one. Revenge. And he would have it, with only two words.

I’m ready, it said.

Chapter 7