"You know what I must ask you to do."
Oh yes, Snape knew. He'd known from the instant his skin seared black.
Before that. He'd known from the first resurgence, just a thought at the back of Quirrell's mind.
Before that. He'd known from the moment it hadn't been over.
Fourteen years. More or less.
Sometimes he even thought he was ready. Ready to be asked -
"Someone is sure to come looking for me in a moment," Dumbledore noted. He sounded resigned. As though he'd rather simply skulk in the corridor all day.
Snape sagged against the wall, forced his legs to hold him up, much as he'd like to slither-slide down to the floor. Back of his skull against stone. He looked at Albus Dumbledore, who looked back over his half-moon spectacles.
"You once said..." Snape couldn't even repeat the words out loud now. Worried they might dissolve in air.
He doesn't need to. "And I meant it," Dumbledore said firmly. "I want to help you, Severus."
It was cold in this corridor. Snape could feel the prickle of sweat. "I won't declare against him. I won't claim Imperius." There was still pride.
Dumbledore allowed it with a incline of his head. "What do you want to tell me?"
"Everything." He shut his teeth over further words.
Dumbledore held his wand diffidently, but his spelled mindtouch had a gentle firmness. He ran long fingers through Snape's memories. (The standing circle, orders given, sharp-bite paranoia, the one singled out, punishment, praise, back-corridor meetings, hissings, machinations, elegance and condescension, palepalepale hands on flesh un/willingpantingshriekingwantinghating.)
When the fall ended, when Snape took a shaking breath and opened his eyes again, Dumbledore had put his wand away, had a soft brown paper bag in his hands instead.
"Gumdrop?" he offered.
Snape shook his head.
Albus nodded slowly, chewing. After he swallowed, he said: "You know what I must ask you to do."
Yes. Snape knew.
Ready to plead his case -
"I require obedience."
The voice hooked into his guts and yanked. Snape curled on the floor, his temple pressed to cold stone beside the perfect leather of Lord Voldemort's boot. "Milord," he gapsed.
"I don't want to hear your excuses, Severus."
Rubbish, of course. Voldemort always wanted to hear the excuses. It was the savoured pleasure - one of them. The world, on its knees, begging with every fragment of desperation and creativity and frantic will to live for its miserable life, please Great Lord...
Of course he wanted to hear his excuses. The pain was receding, dulling to a richocheting echo off Snape's internal organs. He was getting his voice back.
"Hogwarts," he managed.
"I know where you've been. Huddled under the skirts of that idiot old man. Quite his friend, aren't you?" Skin-stripping hatred in the lines. Vicious bile.
"I know him very well." Snape could get up on his knees now, look up at the towering, renewed Dark Lord - he looks just like he did... "Know your enemy, isn't that what the Muggles say?"
"How would I know?" Voldemort snapped. But the seed took quick root. A jerk of the chin. "And you teach... that brat?"
"Yes." Kneeling he might have been, but Snape could square his shoulders. He could look proud.
It wasn't enough to come crawling back and be forgiven. He couldn't do this on his knees. He needed more. He needed trust.
Cold eyes regarded him, and he felt the flickerings of a mind against his. So easy to hold his defences. To show what he wanted to see. What he wanted him to see. Barely worth pride. Not even worth a hint of hesitation.
He had a job to do.
Ready to slip back into the habits of half a lifetime ago.
Ready for almost anything but his name on those lips.
"Severus. You slimy bastard." The insult is delivered like a cold-fingered caress.
Snape turns to face him. And sees him like he always saw him, not the pale hair, the skin, the sneer, but just that elegant arrogance that had always made him feel like a fumble-fingered boy.
"Isn't there anything you can't wriggle your way out of?"
Malfoy's smile is lazy. He looks sharp and vibrant in a way that hasn't graced him in all the intervening years. A quick glance shows they're alone in the corridor. Snape doesn't want to be here. He feigns boredom. "Apparently not."
"You must have woven a gripping tale for the Dark Lord."
"Better wizards than you have failed."
"I sincerely doubt that."
Lucius is circling him slowly, a spiral orbit slowly decaying, leading him closer. Snape turns, forces himself to hold his ground. He'll get nowhere if he runs. Lucius has the sleeves of his robes turned back, Snape notices, and the Mark is obscenely flauntable on pale skin.
"It's been a long time." Malfoy's tone glitters like his eyes.
"I saw you at Hogwarts just last--"
"You know what I mean."
A long time? It feels like five minutes ago. Like everything between has crumbled.
Lucius is nearer. "Was it difficult, sneaking out from under Dumbledore's nose?"
"Not really," Snape says, standing so still. "What about you? Left Narcissa at home while you play? I suppose she finds solace these days in the boy."
Yes, think of Draco, that helps. Think of his vicious innocence and how he'd be crushed to Voldemort's side.
Snape knows well how Voldemort values youth.
But the distraction's not working. For either of them. Lucius is so close the distance cannot be measured in any sensible unit, save in the reaction it wrings prickling from Snape's skin.
"A long time," Lucius murmurs, and his hand's moving. Reaching.
Snape doesn't even know what he's aiming for. The taste in the back of his mouth is too not-nearly-forgotten familiar. He grabs Malfoy's wrist halfway between them.
Which isn't far enough at all.
Lucius kisses him.
Or, rather, Lucius's mouth hits his, tongue stabbing past his lips. He pushes back, repelling the invasion, the melee tangled and the contact skewing violently. The kiss slashes across their mouths. Snape snaps his teeth. He tastes blood when it's over, copper on his palate. He's still holding Lucius's wrist.
"Mmm," Lucius says, dragging his other thumb catching over Snape's bottom lip. "Just like old times."
He wants to react, but there's no reaction he'll allow himself. There's half a scream trapped at the back of his throat. His spine itches, his shoulders clench. He wants to jerk back, take himself forcibly out of this space. No. Never like old times, never again, he would never be there in the dark again.
But he can't do that. Can't ruin everything.
He should use this to his advantage. He knows that. Should encourage Lucius, should agree, should say, "Yes, just like..." and take that pale hand and hold it over the place in Snape's trousers where he's already hard, despite himself.
He could justify it. There's a reason.
But to be honest, he doesn't trust himself.
"No," Snape says quietly. "I don't think so."
And he walks away.
Trust by dee
All stories are works of fan-fiction by Dee. "Fan-fiction" means that she does not own any of the core creative concepts and characters, but she does heap adulation, appreciation and awe upon those people who do hold the intellectual property rights to those concepts and characters. Further, any instances of real people are fictional, and the author does not wish to suggest any truth should be attached to the actions, emotions and words attributed to them in these fictional stories.