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Love and Loyalty

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As Potter and his friends ran out of the Shrieking Shack with Severus' memories, he lay back in the dirt, waiting to die. Drifting in and out, his life playing out for him in flashes, he was glad it was finally over. He'd never had a chance to do any of the things he'd wanted, never had a chance to be content, let alone happy. And now, at the bitter end, there was nothing left, but the hope of oblivion.

After all his work, all his sacrifice, he wasn't even going to know if Potter succeeded. No satisfaction. No recompense. Nothing. How bloody typical of his life.

He opened his eyes. Was he dead? He was naked, lying on the floor of a room. A large cavernous room. King's Cross Station? How odd that he should be here. This wasn't what he'd thought the afterlife would look like.

What was he doing here?

Sitting up, he looked around, and spotted a black teaching robe lying across a nearby bench. It wasn't cold, but he put it on anyway. Better to meet whatever was coming dressed.


He turned slowly, half-fearing what he'd find. But there was Dumbledore, looking about the same as he had when Snape had last seen him, sans the blackened hand. Still wearing a garish purple robe with stars and moons on it. "Headmaster? Where am I?"

"You're in King's Cross Station."

Resisting the urge to snap that he knew that, Snape simply asked, "Am I dead?"

"Not quite. You could be, if you wish to be. You can go on to whatever is next. Or you can return to the living."

Severus just looked at him. This had to be a dream or more likely a nightmare. It just figured he'd end up with Dumbledore as his last thought. Maybe this was just a pre-death nightmare. Something else to disappoint him.

"It's not a dream. Not quite. If you choose to go on, there are many adventures that await you."

"Like what?"

"You have to go on to find out." Dumbledore smiled that silly bright smile he had.

Severus didn't trust it any more now than he did when he'd last seen it. "How do I make a choice without knowing the options? If I go back, what happens?"

"You will have a chance at the happiness that has been denied you." Of course, Dumbledore made it sound like it were possible.

Having hope just made everything worse. It was always better to not believe. "How? There isn't anyone who even cares whether I live or die."

"There you are wrong. Many care about you, but you were not open to knowing that. Many will take up your cause and stand by you, if you allow it." Dumbledore cleared his throat. "Perhaps they are not those you would have guessed in life, but when your story is known --"

Severus choked at the very thought. His anger, though somehow blunted, started to rise. "Good Lord, Potter is going to tell the whole world, isn't he? I should go back just to stop him."

"Do you wish to go back?" Dumbledore looked into his eyes, almost as if he were trying to find the answer there.

Severus didn't know what he wanted. No one had asked him that before. "What difference does it make what I do?"

"It only makes a difference to you. There are those who will mourn you if you die."

Sad as it was, he couldn't think of anyone. "I doubt it."

"I am seldom wrong about these things."

As much as he hated to admit it, the bastard wasn't usually wrong. It made him all the more infuriating. "How long do I have before I decide?"

"You must decide now."

He didn't really know what he wanted. But if there was even the remotest hint of a chance that he could be rewarded in life, then he wanted to take that chance. He'd earned it. He was only thirty-eight. He didn't want to die without ever having lived.

"If you go back, you must promise me that you'll be open to what comes to you."

Closing his eyes, Severus nodded. "I want to live."

"And so you shall."

The world was awash in pain. His neck hurt so badly that he couldn't think. He drifted in and out of consciousness, waiting to die, but knowing he wasn't going to even though he had no idea how he knew that.


With his eyes closed, he had no idea who that voice was attached to, but they sounded familiar.

"Sweet Circe, we'll get you some help. Draco send a Patronus to Madam Pomfrey."

"Expecto Patronum."

A moment later, or so it seemed, there was a pop of Apparition. He tried again to open his eyes, but couldn't quite summon the energy.

"What's this?" He did recognize Pomfrey's voice. "Good Lord, Severus."

"It seems Potter was wrong about him being dead," someone said, and as unlikely as it was, they sounded overjoyed by the prospect.

"Thank Merlin," someone female who wasn't Pomfrey said.

Severus thought he recognized that voice as well, but it was all slurring together. "Arrgh." he said, trying to ask what was going on.

"Severus? We've got help here. You're going to be all right." The voice was soft, no doubt attempting to be reassuring.

Severus wanted to disagree, just on principle, but he wasn't up to trying to speak again.

"We'll take care of you, Severus." Gentle fingers brushed over his hand.

"Let me work on him," Madam Pomfrey said testily.

"See that he is fixed as good as new," came the order. "Or there will be hell to pay."
Somehow Severus knew that tone, that order. Knew the command in it. But he couldn't figure out who would care that much.

"I'm doing the best that I can. Now all three of you, stand over there." Her tone brooked no argument.

He drifted out again.

The smell of the infirmary woke him. It was unique with the smell of his own potions and urgents in the air. He had stocked it well over the past year, using the time to brew as an escape from the horrors of being Headmaster with the Carrows as his deputies.

At one time, it might have amused him to terrify students with the threat of detentions. It stopped being as amusing when detentions meant Cruciatus and other tortures.

"Don't try to speak, Severus." He knew that voice. What was Lucius Malfoy doing sitting by his bed, holding his hand?

"Uggh." Even making that small sound was a huge mistake. He'd tried to lift his hand to his throat, but couldn't move it. His heart started to race.

"Don't be afraid. All will be well." Lucius' voice was surprisingly gentle. "And I told you not to try to speak. You never did listen very well."

Calming down a bit, Severus pried his eyes open to glare at him. It was only partially successful since Lucius smiled and patted his hand.

"Narcissa," Lucius said as he stood. "Look who has finally woken up."

"Oh, Severus. It's good to see you awake," she said, leaning down to kiss his cheek. "I'm so glad."

He blinked. This had to be a dream. Or worse, what if it wasn't? Had the Dark Lord won? "H...." His voice sounded like a snake hiss and the sound hadn't been worth the effort, because it had hurt enough that he'd consider never speaking again. Each breath felt like glass cutting into his throat.

"You shouldn't be speaking. Your throat is still quite damaged," Narcissa said, sitting beside him, and taking his hand. "If you promise not to try to speak, I'll tell you what happened."

Severus nodded. He had to know. After all of his sacrifices, he just couldn't believe that the Dark Lord had won, but what else could have happened? The weight of his failure to protect Potter crushed into his chest. He drew in an unsteady, painful breath.

"To begin with, Harry Potter vanquished the Dark Lord," Narcissa said, and she did not seem very upset about that. Indeed, she seemed nearly gleeful that he was gone. Not that Severus blamed her, but this was quite a change from the previous Malfoy public stance.

Severus closed his eyes as relief seared through him. All was not lost. If he could have, he would have shouted with joy. As it was, all he could do was close his eyes and savor knowing that Voldemort was gone.

"I was able to assist Mr. Potter. And because of that, he has been quite helpful in seeing that neither Draco nor Lucius nor I have been arrested, and I believe he will keep us all out of Azkaban," she continued.

How long had he been out? He opened his mouth to speak but she put a finger to his lips. "No. I told you not to try to talk or move. You'll hurt yourself."

"He always did do as he pleased." Lucius sounded amused. Which wasn't like him at all. It wasn't like either of them to take care of someone who wasn't family.

"I'll go on, but don't talk." She gave him an admonishing look. "There was a great battle and Mr. Potter somehow was able to turn the Dark Lord's killing curse back on him, and then he was dead. The Dark Lord, not Potter."

Severus was exhausted. His eyes were starting to close.

"I think that's all for now, my dear. He's fading out."

"Yes, I see that. We'll talk more later," she said, and squeezed his hand again.

Lucius put a hand on his shoulder, and Severus didn't know anything more after that.

This time when Severus woke, he was more alert and feeling some small amount better. The sun came through sheer drapes that had never seen the infirmary. The bed had soft cotton sheets which he could feel even through his nightshirt.

"Severus?" Draco asked. "Are you awake?"

"Yes." He spoke without thinking and deeply regretted it. His voice didn't sound like his own and his body felt sluggish, as if it wouldn't move if he asked it to.

Draco held some water to his lips and he drank. It hurt going down, but it also relieved the dryness. He nodded his thanks.

"You still shouldn't be talking. Your throat is starting to heal, but only just."

Severus nodded again.

"I think mother mentioned that Potter won. It probably won't surprise you that he killed the Dark Lord with 'Expelliarmus'." Draco had that tone of disbelief he often used when talking about Potter. "Before that, he managed to save my life and Greg's as well. He didn't save Vince, but that's almost understandable since Vince was trying to kill Potter at the time."

Severus gave him a hard look.

"I didn't want to kill him, just best him." Draco closed his eyes. "Mother convinced the Dark Lord that Potter was dead after he'd cast Avada Kedavra on Potter. She wanted to get into the castle to make sure I was all right. Which I was."

Severus knew that Narcissa would move heaven and earth to ensure Draco was unharmed. He made a motion with his hand to tell Draco to continue.

"Potter told the Dark Lord that you were always Dumbledore's man. He also told him why." Draco took a breath and looked at him as if he wanted to know if it were true.

Severus nodded. He loved that Voldemort knew his most trusted servant had betrayed him. Payback for having Nagini try to kill him. And for Lily. Strangely, the memories of her did not stab at him as they once would have done.

"Potter also told anyone else who would listen that you were a spy all along. And right now, they are all listening. He's playing you up as a hero. There's even talk that you'll get an Order of Merlin for your years of service to the Wizarding world."

An Order of Merlin? Oh, sweet Circe, he couldn't believe that. He'd been sure that he'd end up in Azkaban. Well, if he'd lived, and he hadn't expected that, either. Potter was lauding him as a hero. Would wonders never cease? He motioned again.

"There's not that much more to say. It's been about a week since the Battle of Hogwarts -- that's what the media is calling it. The school took a lot of damage. The remaining Death Eaters were rounded up and are going to stand trial."

Obviously not Lucius or Draco. He pointed to Draco.

"Potter put in a word for me. I think I'm okay. We don't know about Father yet. But since he didn't take part in the final battle and he's publically denounced the...Voldemort -- not to mention promising to donate huge sums of money for all sorts of restoration projects, we're hoping he won't be sent back to Azkaban." Draco let out a breath and looked away for a moment.

He wanted to ask about what was going on in the Wizarding world. Who was Minister of Magic? What about the teachers at Hogwarts? Draco didn't seem inclined to talk about that. He rambled on about various Slytherins in his year. And complained about various Gryffindors.

Ending with, "Pansy just about ruined herself. She stood up in the Great Hall and said we should all give Potter up to Voldemort --"

Severus put a hand to his head. Things had looked bad for the light at that point, but he still couldn't believe she'd been that stupid or self-serving.

"No one is talking to her now. McGonagall threw all the Slytherins out of the Great Hall, but a couple walked back from Hogsmeade to fight with Potter. Not that many, though." He sounded like he was sorry more Slytherins didn't return to fight.

And how could Minerva have done something like that? Not very sporting of her. Severus frowned. He'd have to have a word with her when he could talk again. If she were even speaking to him, that was.

Severus yawned.

"Oh, I should let you sleep. You're still very weak. The poison was in your system for a long time before Madam Pomfrey could neutralize it."

Severus fell asleep while Draco was still talking.


Potter was sitting at his bedside when he opened his eyes a few days later. He wasn't quite the last person on earth that Severus wanted to see, but most of the others on the list were dead. Potter smiled tentatively when he saw that Severus' eyes were open.

"Um...hi. How are you feeling?"

He was actually feeling better, but he didn't want to tell Potter that. "Out." Speaking still hurt. He took a couple of breaths hoping it would ease the knifelike pain.

Potter's face fell, and Severus tried not to care. "I know you don't like me, and that's okay. I get that. But I had to come to help --"

Severus shook his head. He coughed twice and that hurt even worse.

Clearly he wasn't taking no for an answer. Potter squared his shoulders. "I've been hoping to tell you thank you. For everything you've done for me. I know it was really for my mum --"

Severus winced. God, what had Potter thought of those memories? They were so personal. And yet they had been required to explain what needed to be said that he wasn't able to say. He shook his head.

"I know. I appreciate what you did. Really. Truly. I just had to see if I could do anything to help you." Potter's words were rushed together as if he were trying to get them all out as fast as he could.

Severus motioned with his hand. He wasn't going to try to speak.

"You want to know what happened?"

Well, he wasn't as stupid as Severus had always thought. He nodded.

"I thought they would have told you."

Severus nodded again and pointed to Potter.

"Okay, so my version. I guess you know I killed, well kind of killed, Voldemort."

He motioned with his hand and Potter explained about the Elder Wand and the Horcruxes. The latter Severus had guessed from what Dumbledore hadn't said. Potter promised that Voldemort was not coming back, and Severus believed him.

"And Bellatrix went after Ginny -- who shouldn't have been there at all -- and Molly went mad. She mowed down Bella like she wasn't even trying. It was great." Potter smiled that ridiculous gleeful smile.

Molly would no doubt be insufferable like all the other Weasleys. "Dead?" Severus tried to whisper, but that didn't ease the pain of speaking.

"Yes. She's dead." Then, surprisingly, Potter's eyes filled and Severus was suddenly sure he didn't want to know. "So are Remus, Tonks, and," Potter's voice cracked. "Fred."

Closing his eyes, Severus dug his fingers into his palms. Lupin. He hated him for many reasons, and for so many years, but he'd always thought he'd spend his life hating him. It didn't seem right that he'd be cheated of that.

And he'd always had a soft spot for the rambunctious twins. They were hell in the classroom, but both were brilliant at potions. The thought of one without the other was strangely painful to consider.

Instead of trying to say anything else, he took his wand and thought the words to a spell that would let him write the word in the air with his finger. Why hadn't he thought of this before? He wrote: 'What else?'

Potter blinked at the words and then nodded. "Good idea. There were about sixty or seventy dead. A lot of the Death Eaters. The school is heavily damaged. I've gone to a lot of funerals in the last few weeks." Potter's expression, usually so open, was closed and hurt.

Severus wanted to ask for a list of the dead. He also wanted to ask about the Ministry, but dear lord he was tired. It would wait. It would all wait.

Narcissa was wiping his brow when he woke the next time. Time had become an odd thing. He could see the days pass, see the night move into day and into night again, but one day bled into the next and he had no real sense of when it was. All the potions he was taking probably weren't helping with that either.

"You shouldn't have exhausted yourself with Mr. Potter. I'm half tempted not to let him come back if you don't behave yourself," she admonished gently.

'How am I?' he wrote in the air.

She smiled. "That's going to take more energy than you have right now."

He glared at her.

"Fine. You're doing very well. You shouldn't try to talk. The healers we brought in had to nearly replace your throat and it's going to take a few more weeks for it to heal completely. I know it shouldn't take that long, but the venom has made you very weak. We'll start helping you walk in a few days." She put her hand on his arm. "It's not going to be easy."

Even if it did exhaust him, he had to write: 'Why you?'

"We don't abandon our friends. You sent those potions to Lucius when he was sick in Azkaban and they wouldn't give him anything. You protected Draco. You're part of the reason that both of them survived. For that alone, we will always be grateful. But you've been a good friend to us, even when others had abandoned us."

He gave her a look that said he was a spy and needed to stay close to them. And if that wasn't the whole truth of it, it was enough of it. There wasn't any point in saying that even as wrong as he knew Lucius to be, he had tried to remain loyal to their friendship. To the man who had befriended a lonely first year who had no hopes and no prospects.

"Yes. We all know about you supposedly being Dumbledore's man. And that's fine." She patted his hand in a distracted way.

It wasn't fine. And they both had to know that. 'Was his man,' Severus wrote.

"I'm sure you were," Lucius said as he came in.

Severus didn't have the energy to write anything else, so he just closed his eyes and willed sleep to take him.

The sun was shining when he opened his eyes. He was half expecting Granger or Weasley this time, it seemed that everyone else had sat by his bedside. But no, it was Minerva. That she would enter Malfoy Manor, even to see him seemed...beyond stupid. Gryffindors all had more courage than sense.

"Oh, good, you're awake," she said with a smile that lit her face, but it didn't help to disguise the rings around her eyes or the exhaustion in her posture.

He glared at her. And wrote: 'Slytherins?'

"Yes. Yes. I've already been chastised for that. Kingsley was not pleased at all." She sighed, folding her arms over her chest. "That Parkinson girl annoyed the dickens out of me."

Severus chuckled and regretted it. It didn't hurt as much as it had when he'd tried to talk a few days ago, but it still hurt.

Minerva tisked at him. "I won't tell you not to speak. No doubt you know that."

He nodded.

"Good. Now, as I said Kingsley --"

He put a hand on her arm. 'Why him?' he wrote.

"Oh, right. He's the interim Minister of Magic."

What? That might explain the treatment he'd received. He looked at her and motioned for her to go on.

"He's been working with both sides to see that the trials are handled fairly. It's a mess as you might guess. Anyone who worked for the Death Eaters is being brought to trial for collaboration, but there are quite a number of claims of Imperius. Dolores Umbridge is trying to use that defense, but I understand that Harry is going to testify against her. I hope she ends up in Azkaban for a very long time. She deserves it."

It was nice to have things so black and white. But Minerva was a Gryffindor, so she probably wasn't capable of seeing the shades of grey.

'School.' He vaguely remembered that both Potter and Draco had said it was damaged.

"Undergoing repairs. We shall be ready to reopen in the fall. I've invited many of last year's seventh years back to repeat the year in an accelerated program so that they may sit their N.E.W.T.S. I'm pleased that Harry and his friends will be returning."


"Has been invited back as well. Though it was Harry who vouched for him."

No doubt Draco loved that.

"I'm also authorized to offer you the Defense position if you want it?" She didn't look very hopeful, which, all things considered, was a good thing. There wasn't a chance in hell he'd ever teach again. He'd starve first.

"No." He said and didn't regret the pain. There could be no misunderstandings.

She sighed. "If you wanted to teach potions --"

He shook his head emphatically. 'I hate teaching,' he wrote.

"Do you have any plans?"

He shrugged. No, he had no plans or prospects. If he could get to his Gringotts accounts, he might have enough to start his own potions business. Working for himself for a change. Every time he'd had to bow to the Dark Lord or do something for Dumbledore that he didn't want to do, he'd dreamed of being his own boss. Accountable to no one save himself. Maybe that could happen now.

"You might consider teaching for a year or two until --"

He glared at her. Even if she were a Gryffindor, she wasn't usually dense.

"All right, I had to ask." She sounded relieved. Despite the hero status, he suspected that he would still not be popular with the public or the parents at Hogwarts.

'Anything else?' he wrote.

"Do you want the gossip?" She smirked like a cat with cream.

No, he was still trying to process the facts. Besides, he was about ready for a nap.

"All right," Healer Jones said, pulling the blanket off. "We're going to cancel the catheterization spell and let you walk on your own to the toilet." Severus had noticed the black bag that was very discreetly attracted to his bed, but hadn't wanted to think about the reason.

Oh, joy. Just what he wanted. He nodded towards Lucius and Narcissa who had joined the healer in his room. He would rather not have witnesses.

"Finite Incantatem." The healer waved his wand.

Severus immediately had to go to the loo. He pushed himself up into a sitting position. A flash of weakness rolled over him. He wasn't going to make it and that would be utterly humiliating. He didn't have the energy left to write something in the air, either.

Before he could finish the thought, Lucius was at his side, helping him to stand. He leaned heavily on him. His limbs felt like they were made of lead, but he forced himself to take a step. And then another. He would have gone down, but Lucius held him and he made it the four additional steps to the toilet.

The basin was positioned so that he could hold himself up with one arm, and he glared at Lucius, who seemed to understand and stepped back, out of the room. He managed to relieve his bladder and get his nightshirt pulled back down. But that was all the energy he had.

With a sigh, he leaned against the wall and slid down until he was sitting on the cool floor. They'd find him eventually, he thought, tilting his head back and closing his eyes.

"Are you all right?" Lucius voice sounded very far away. He looked up at Lucius. It was very odd that Lucius was inclined to help him. What was in it for him...them? Unfortunately, he didn't have the energy to worry about it.

Then there were hands helping him up. Severus couldn't be bothered to open his eyes as he was led back to his bed. As he drifted off, he heard Lucius upbraiding the healer for pushing him too hard. And the healer saying that it was time he was up and about.

He never woke alone. Not in all the time he'd been at Malfoy Manor or the week before in the Infirmary.

Recovery was slow. He'd progressed from falling down after five steps to being able to make it on his own to the loo and to the chair by the window. Both still exhausted him, but even he could see the progress.

He rarely left the room. Either Narcissa or Lucius brought his meals -- he'd graduated to solid food sometime earlier in the week, for which he was grateful beyond words. And when it wasn't one of them, it was Draco or Potter or sometimes Minerva. Even Granger and Weasley had turned up a few times. Fortunately, Severus hadn't had to speak to them.

He must be starting to feel better because the constant barrage of people was beginning to irritate him. Some privacy would have been nice, too. He couldn't quite bring himself to complain about it. Not that he could say more than one word at a time.

Lucius was leaning against the headboard of his bed, his booted feet stretched out before him, fast asleep. Neither he nor Narcissa seemed to do anything except care for him.

That they would go this far out of their way for him made no sense. He had nothing they wanted, except perhaps his newly minted status as a war hero. In truth, that was tenuous at best. They would be better served if they cultivated an association with Potter. Another large donation to the school probably wouldn't go amiss, either. There were easier and better ways to curry favor than to care for him.

When he shifted to get out of bed to go to the loo, Lucius woke. "Are you all right, Severus?"

"Fine." He pushed himself up off the bed. "Loo."

"Need help?" Lucius solicitousness was annoying in the extreme. He'd bet Lucius knew it, too.

"No." He took a breath and then a step. It didn't hurt, but he had no energy.

Despite the amount of anit-venom he'd ingested over the previous year, the blasted snake had still nearly killed him. As it was, the poison had sapped all of his strength and reserves.

The constant fatigue was annoying. No doubt his caretakers were going to get tired of the constant demands of this kind of care soon enough.

After he finished in the loo, he leaned against the wall and took a breath, willing himself to have the energy to get back to his bed. Once there though, he couldn't get comfortable. He rolled over. And then again.

"Do you need something to help you sleep?" Lucius asked. He'd moved from the bed to the large armchair beside it.

"No." He was fine. Just not as tired as he'd been. If everyone would just leave him alone, he'd be so much better.

"What about a walk?"

"Had one."

"Maybe the terrace?"

It was the middle of the night. But the idea held some appeal. He could sit on the terrace and look out on the gardens which were lit with faerie lights.

Lucius let him lean on him as they slowly made their way to the French doors of his room. He was tired by the time he sat down, but it was nice to be out. One day soon he'd stroll along the paths again. Maybe he'd kick one of those nasty white peacocks. With a smile, he let his eyes close.

He could tell by the position of the moon that it was an hour or so later when he woke. Lucius was sitting on a bench, leaning against the wall. He looked quite tired, but he opened his eyes when Severus shifted.

"Are you ready to go back?" That solicitous tone was just so out of character for him.

It was going to drive Severus mad soon. "Why?"

Lucius chuckled. "Well, you need sleep."

Severus shook his head. "Why?" He waved a finger between them. He wouldn't get the truth, but perhaps he could get an answer.

"You may not think so, but we owe you a great deal. But more than that, we care about you." Lucius put a hand on his arm and squeezed reassuringly. He sounded quite sincere and if Severus hadn't known him for most of his life, he would have believed him utterly.

It was maddening not being able to speak more than a few words. And this was something he didn't wish to commit to parchment. Not that his hands were very steady for writing anyway. "Real reason."

"Why Severus," Lucius smiled that lovely snake oil salesman smile of his. "You don't trust us, do you?"

Of course, he didn't. He knew them all too well to trust any of them very much. Yes, Lucius would do anything for his family. But Severus wasn't his family. "Not family."

"Oh, but you are. I...we claim you as such."

There was no reason to. Even with his slightly elevated status, Severus could offer them nothing, no protection. Severus shook his head. That wasn't the answer. "No reason." It was starting to hurt to say even a few words. He knew better than to push it. He'd already had more than one relapse from trying to talk too much.

He put a hand on Severus' head, and lightly ran his fingers through Severus' lank hair. "Oh, I see. Yes. I think that will become clear in time."

That made absolutely no sense at all. Severus glared at him. But Lucius held out his hand to help Severus to his feet. "Let's get you back to your room."

In the morning, Narcissa took the tray from a house elf neatly dressed in a miniature maid's uniform. "Thank you, Miffy," she said. The elf curtsied and popped out.

Severus raised an eyebrow. He'd never expected to see a Malfoy elf in clothes.

"After all that's happened. We thought it a good idea to give clothes to all of our elves. Any that wished to leave were allowed to do so. Though surprisingly, only one or two of the younger ones wanted to go." She didn't seem distressed. "We are negotiating paying them. They don't want it, but..." She shrugged.

He wouldn't have thought they'd ever get to that point, even with the Dark Lord falling. Especially after Lucius' tantrum when Potter tricked him into giving Dobby clothes. "Change?"

"There is a lot that's happened and a lot more that's going to happen. We're hoping to stay ahead of the tide." She set the tray down on his lap. "For now, you shouldn't be worrying about that. You need to eat and get stronger."

So they could finally get rid of him. "Want me out?"

"Certainly not. We want you healthy. We hope that you'll join us downstairs for dinner tonight."

In the dining room where he'd watched Charity Burbage being fed to Nagini. As she screamed for Severus to help her. Severus closed his eyes and willed his stomach to settle.

"We've redecorated the room completely. Actually, we've done several rooms. You won't recognize it." She closed her eyes and then opened them. "We burned every piece of furniture that he touched."

"All of it?" There were so many family heirlooms.

"I'm sure you understand that we couldn't bear to look at some of it." She shivered. "You'll come down to dinner tonight?"

"All right."

"Join me for a nightcap?" Lucius said as he rose from the dinner table and held out his hand. He looked at Narcissa. "My dear?"

"No. I think I'll go upstairs. I have some letters to write." She smiled and left them.

He followed Lucius into the remodeled library. It was still a vast room with two levels of books, but the walls were now a muted shade of green and the wood of the bookcases had been changed to a lighter tone. The desk and sofas had been replaced with similar furniture in coordinating colors. As Narcissa had promised, the room no longer bore any resemblance to what it had looked like the last time Severus was there.

Lucius waved a hand for him to sit.

The wing chairs were upholstered in butter-soft green leather. Severus sank into them. "Topic?" Severus could say a few words at a time, slowly. But if he tried to speak for more than a few seconds, his throat closed up and started to throb.

"I thought perhaps you had one. You seem...restless."

"I am." He let out a breath. "I'll go home soon."

"Nonsense. We want you to stay until you're completely recovered, which you are not."


Lucius chuckled. "You seem to ask that a lot. You're so suspicious."

"With good reason."

"Granted. But things have changed for me. For all of us, really."

Severus raised an eyebrow in question. Things might have changed, but it seemed unlikely that Lucius would have done so willingly.

"The Dark..." Lucius paused and winced. "Voldemort. I realized far too late that he was mad. I was so..." He paused again and looked down. "I was arrogant enough to think I could handle him. No one can handle a mad-man."

And that Lucius admitted it showed just how bad the situation had got. Severus hid his shock with a nod. "True."

"I put my wife and my son in danger by following him, and for that, I can never forgive myself." Lucius pushed his unbound hair back from his face. "I should have seen what he was much sooner. No one could be what he became and remained sane."

"Was apparent." As soon as he was resurrected into a red-eyed monster. Of course, by then it was too late for anyone who bore his mark.

"You started out believing in him as well." Lucius' tone held no heat, not much inflection at all.

"Promises." He'd been promised fame and glory and revenge. All of which turned to ash in his mouth when the one thing he asked for was ignored.

"Which he did not keep," Lucius said bitterly.

"And Lily."

And where he expected another sneer, he got a sympathetic look. "I remember. You're still in love with her?"

It was on the tip of his tongue to say yes. But without the memories he'd given Potter, there was no intensity to the passion he'd felt for so long. He remembered it, but it didn't cut into him the way it always had.

Lucius was looking at him, obviously waiting for an answer.

One that Severus was at a loss to give him. He shrugged and shook his head. There was no way he was going to talk about it before he'd had a chance to think about it. After a moment of silence, he asked. "You've changed?"

"Not entirely. I still believe in the superiority of Wizards over Muggles. I do not like Muggles. However, I suspect that Muggleborns are not Muggles, simply misplaced wizards."

In a million years, he would not have expected that from Lucius. "Why?" Severus choked out.

"I've seen too many Muggleborn wizards with tremendous amounts of power. It was...illuminating."

"Miss Granger?" Who had been to visit a day or two ago. Lucius had been formally polite to her. She'd responded in kind.

On the other hand, Narcissa had enlisted Granger to help her with the remodeling spells that had reconfigured several rooms used by Voldemort and company. Despite everything or maybe because of it, Granger had agreed to help her.

"Miss Granger is a formidable opponent. She is..." He was clearly looking for an adjective that would fit.

"Powerful and talented," Severus suggested. Not that he'd ever tell her that. But it would be foolish not to acknowledge that she was a large part of the reason Potter lived to meet the Dark Lord.

"Quite." He looked like he had something else to say.

Severus waited a moment. "Is that why?"

"Why what?" Lucius blinked at him.

"Why you've changed?" Because he had. Even if he were just going with the current political tide to survive -- as any good Slytherin would -- he was making a major change to his whole way of thinking or at least appearing to do so. That, in itself, said something about Lucius' change of stance.

"Voldemort or Miss Granger?" There was a definite smirk lurking on Lucius' face.


"Both. I find that if I were wrong about her, then perhaps it's possible I was wrong about other Muggleborns."

That was a long time in coming. "Narcissa?"

"Has never been particularly interested in politics. She has always been more concerned about the effects of my ambition on her and Draco."

"She was right."

"Indeed she was." Lucius stood and stretched, reaching up until his hands were over his head. "Well, I'm for bed, my friend."

Severus could not help but watch the play of muscles. His prick twitched appreciatively. He must be truly getting better. Of course, a person would have to be dead not to notice Lucius' blatant sexuality.

As he left, he put a hand on Severus' shoulder and squeezed hard. "Good night."

"Um...Professor Snape?" It was Potter. He came into the sitting room, but didn't sit down.

"Not a professor now." He had to correct Potter every time he came to visit. It was getting annoying. Severus wasn't ready to give him leave to use his first name yet. And Potter didn't seem capable of calling him just Snape.

"Yeah. I know. How are you doing today?" He danced nervously from foot to foot. He'd been visiting all summer, so Severus had no patience for that act.

"What do you want?" He would have liked to have sounded more harsh or demanding, but his throat was still delicate, even if he could talk nearly normally now.

"I have something for you." He pulled a phial out of his pocket.

The memories. Severus' heart started to pound. "Pensieve?"

"Yeah. Of course." Potter set a cube on the table and waved his wand. It looked like Dumbledore's Pensieve. Only he would shrink it to carry it off. "McGonagall said I could use it. Or rather you could use it."

He held out his hand and Potter dropped the phial in his palm. Rolling it between two fingers, Severus watched the misty liquid move back and forth. Did he want to do this? Did he want to feel the intensity of the memories again? There was no choice. He uncorked the phial and poured the contents into the Pensieve.

One by one, he picked up the strands and put them back into his mind. The intensity wasn't there. Neither his feelings for Lily nor his hatred of James. He remembered how much he loved her, but the feelings behind it were faded, dulled. And so was his hatred of James and Sirius and Remus.

He looked at Potter and now saw only a boy. A young boy who had been expected to do something that most people would have balked at. "Thank you."

Potter blinked. "For what?"

He gestured to the Pensieve.

"I expected you to be angry that I hadn't returned them sooner." He cleared his throat. "Hermione said that the memories needed to be put back or they would...fade. But the healer said that you weren't well enough until this week. I brought them as soon as he said that I could."

That made some sense, then. "The intensity has faded. But the memories are still whole."

"Isn't that good?"

"Yes." He felt oddly light-hearted. As if a huge burden had been lifted from his chest. He met Potter's eyes. "This was well done of you."

Potter smiled that idiot smile he had, and Severus just shook his head.

"Um...I know you're not up to it now, but..." Potter took a deep breath and Severus could see him mentally squaring his shoulders. "When you're better, maybe when I come back from school at Yule, would you consider talking about my mum?"

"School?" Hadn't Minerva mentioned something about that?

"Yeah. I'm going back to finish up. Me, Ron, and Hermione."

Of course. The triumphant Trio returns. But it didn't actually annoy him. The three of them had earned their accolades. "Good."

"So, will you?"

It wouldn't hurt him to talk about Lily and no doubt, Potter would be grateful. That, in itself, might make it worth the effort. "Possibly."

"Great. Thanks." Potter was practically bouncing with joy.

"I said possibly."

"I know. But you didn't say no or throw me out like I expected."

He smirked nastily. "I still can."

"I know." But Potter was now smiling brightly, and Severus was hard pressed not to join him.

"I'll be going back to school next week," Draco said, sitting down next to him in the library.

Where had the summer gone? "Are you looking forward to it?" He could speak in whole sentences. But if he tried to talk too much or too fast, it felt like one of Nagini's fangs was driving into his throat again.

Now that he was up and about and quite a bit steadier on his feet, he'd lost his constant watch dogs. It was nice to be able to move around without constantly needing someone to pick him up.

"Mostly." Draco looked down. "I'm not sure how well I'll be...."

"You'll be accepted? Have you spoken with anyone this summer?" From all that he'd heard -- Minerva and Potter both loved to gossip -- all of the Death Eater children were being treated with suspicion and sometimes outright contempt. To show that Wizarding society needed to move on, Minerva had gone as far as to let them all come back to school to finish up and take their N.E.W.T.S.

"I'm not as big a pariah as Pansy is going to be. And Potter and I have gotten along when he's been here."

That Potter continued to visit him over the summer shouldn't have surprised him as much as it did. He suspected it was a gesture on Potter's part to show he believed Severus had spied for Dumbledore. Whatever it was, Severus would be getting an Order of Merlin with the rest of the Order in a ceremony honoring everyone who fought in the war. "You might try to cultivate a friendship with Potter."

"I beg your pardon," Draco choked out, his face going red.

He really shouldn't have to explain this to the boy. "He is the top of the social ladder these days. If you stand with him, you're there as well."

"You're also on the top of the social ladder."

"But I won't be at school with you." And really, there was a big difference between his status and Potter's.

"I'd have to stand next to Granger and Weasley." Draco wrinkled his nose in distaste.

And he shouldn't have to tell him, "It's not a bad place to be."

"If you can deal with the stench." The sneer was reminiscent of fifth year Draco.

The comment twisted in Severus' gut. He'd thought Draco had learned better than that. "Do I need to remind you that I'm a half-blood."

Draco's cheeks flamed even worse. "I was thinking of Weasley. Granger is at least intelligent."

"Far too intelligent for the likes of Ronald Weasley." That was one couple that he'd never understood. How could a witch as intelligent as Granger want a lackluster wizard like Weasley? That was his own prejudice showing. But, it had nothing to do with bloodlines.

"Too bad she doesn't think so."

"Indeed. Perhaps you can convince her otherwise."

Draco looked at him for a moment and then smiled. "You know, that idea has some merit."

"If you set your sights there, you had better not be trifling. Potter will eviscerate you if you hurt Granger."

"And what will Weasley do to me if I were to take Granger away from him?" Draco's shrewd expression said clearly that he was already working out the logistics of the problem.

"Oh, you'll have a fight on your hands, but if you do it correctly -- and I have no doubt that you will -- it won't even interfere with your budding friendship with Potter." It would require subtle manipulation of everyone around him, but Draco was just the Slytherin to do it.

Draco's expression turned thoughtful. "It might be worth the effort. At the very least, I'd have intelligent, powerful children."


Life was quiet after Draco and the trio left for school. About a week later, Narcissa came to his room just after he'd changed into his nightshirt.

"I've brought something for your tense muscles," Narcissa said, holding up a blue jar of something.

"What?" He hadn't brewed it, therefore it was suspect.

"It's massage cream." She opened the jar, and held it under his nose. The cream had the faintest scent of lavender. "Now be good, and take your nightshirt off. Lie down on your stomach and I'll start with your back."

Bloody Hell. While he wouldn't mind a massage from a masseuse, he did not want one from her. And by the look in her eyes, refusing would do him little good. It wasn't as if she hadn't seen him naked many times since he'd been living there, but he hadn't been in any kind of shape to respond to her then.

"Why would you want to do this?" Maybe he could stall for time. Not that he thought Lucius would be anything other than enthusiastic about Narcissa doing something to help Severus.

"I'm quite good at it. It will help you relax and sleep properly. We've heard you prowling around at all hours of the night."

"I didn't mean to disturb you," he said. He was starting to feel well enough that he should be thinking of moving back to Spinner's End. It wouldn't do to start counting on this luxury.

"You didn't disturb us. But I think this will help." She motioned with her hand for him to take his nightshirt off.

He sat on the bed and pulled the sheet over his lap, then pulled the nightshirt up and over his head.

She smiled at that. "Now lie down."

Her hands smoothed the warmed cream into his back. At first, just stroking the length of his back. Severus sighed, relaxing into her touch. It had been too long since anyone had touched him in anything other than a professional manner. There was more affection in her touch than he would have believed possible.

Her fingers dug into the muscles, searching out the sore and tense spots, working them until they gave in and started to ease. Severus sank further into the bedding, moaning softly, his body giving way.

It was heaven and it was hell. He was hard at her first touch and the more her fingers pushed into his skin the more his prick ached. Eventually, he'd have to turn over and that would be...he didn't even want to think about what that would be. It was even possible that they'd throw him out, though he had to admit that wasn't entirely likely.

"Turn over," she ordered.

"I'm very relaxed and I think I'll just go to sleep," Severus tried.

"Turn over, Severus. I won't hurt you."

She had to know. So, he turned over, adjusting the sheet so that he remained covered, even if it was blatantly obvious. At least she didn't make a big nose joke.

She went to work on his chest and then down his sides and his hands and finally his legs. When she was done, she looked down at the middle, which was leaking through the sheet.

"What shall we do about that?" She took some more cream and rubbed it on her hands.

Severus was appalled. "You can't."

"Why not?"

"Lucius." Severus could not believe how breathy his voice sounded.

"Shall I call him to ask? I'm sure he won't mind."

"What's going on?"

"You don't take hints very well." And for some reason, she chuckled at that.

She was laughing at him, but it was so gentle that there was no sting. And when had there been a hint? But would he have recognized it, if it were subtle? Maybe not.

When he didn't answer, she pulled the sheet down, exposing him. The air was warm, and she looked at him for permission. He closed his eyes and nodded. Then gasped as her slick hand circled him.

Her stroke was smooth and relentless. The pleasure and pressure built in him, and he came. Far too quickly. But it had been a very long time since anything but his own right hand had touched him like that.

It took a second for him to open his eyes. "Why?"

"You needed release. I think you'll sleep tonight."

"That is not part of taking care of me." He tried to sound firm and annoyed, but he was too tired and too sated to make it stick.

"Go to sleep." She leaned down and kissed him softly. Just a brush of her lips against his. But it had been even longer since anyone had kissed him. He turned into it for the briefest second before she pulled back. She rested her palm against his cheek, and then stepped back. "Good night."

He watched her go. What had just happened, and more importantly, why? His eyes wouldn't stay open to even consider it.

Lucius walked with Severus in the gardens most mornings after breakfast. And while the white peacocks strutted around, Severus refrained from kicking any of them. As he felt better, the urge to kick them grew less.

Narcissa had visited his room before bed several times that week. Not every night, but most nights. It wasn't that Severus had a problem with it exactly. She never took anything from him, even when he'd thought to offer. But he was...he wasn't sure. There was no way she would be doing it without Lucius knowing, but how could he be so casual every day?

It was driving Severus mad.

"You're quiet this morning. Are you well?"

"Yes. Fine." He looked at Lucius. He'd known this man for most of his life and he knew how to talk to him. Except now. Except for this. "Narcissa?"

"Ah. I was wondering if you were concerned about it. I do know she goes to your room at night."

"But why?" He seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time asking that question and so far, he'd not got a satisfactory answer.

Lucius laughed. "Don't you enjoy it?"

"Of course I do. But why would she do it and why don't you care." Because Severus could not make heads or tails of what was going on.

"You think too much. Simply enjoy her gifts."

"She doesn't let me --"

"Did you want to?"

"I've asked." Or tried to. "I would do what she wished." Or try to. His experience was fairly limited. Just talking about it had aroused him. He shouldn't go off like a teenager at his age, but Lucius was standing close to him. And the cologne he was wearing was spicy.

"Perhaps it will be me this time who helps you with your problem." He nodded downward with a smile.

Severus was too old to blush. "I..." He cleared his throat, barely aware of the pain of doing so. "I would like that."

"Why don't you sit down on the bench and I'll see what I can do."

He was trembling, but he sat. Lucius knelt in front of him and put one hand on each of Severus' thighs. "You're much too thin. We'll need to see that you eat better."

It was hard to eat when swallowing was excruciatingly painful. "Yes."

Skillful fingers that had obviously done this before, opened Severus' trousers and pulled down his pants so that he rose up, hard and aching. Lucius nuzzled him, his lips soft at first and then firm around him. His tongue wet and hot, sucking him down.

Severus' vision blurred, his heart rate soared, and he tried not to buck up into Lucius mouth too harshly. Even after all of Narcissa's handling, he came quickly.

When he got his breath back, he put a hand on Lucius' arm. "I can reciprocate."

"Do you prefer men, then?"

Severus preferred anyone who would have him. "Both. Mostly equally." He hadn't had enough sex with either gender to decide properly. Or maybe it was the person.

After doing up his trousers, Severus stood and pointed to the bench. "Please let me."

Instead of sitting down, Lucius drew him close and kissed him. Warmth flowed down into Severus' cold veins. He loved the small kisses that Narcissa had bestowed on him, but this was an order of magnitude greater than that. This was passion and Severus melted into it. He opened his mouth and groaned.

Lucius' tongue had Severus' taste on it, and it was doubly sexy that way. And he was getting weak in the knees just from the kiss. He pulled back and pushed Lucius down on the bench, kneeling as Lucius had done.

He buried his face in Lucius' still-covered groin and breathed in. That earthy male smell surrounded his nose, making him dizzy with desire. His fingers weren't as skilled, but he managed to free Lucius and tentatively lick along the length of him. And there certainly was a lot to lick.

"Have you done this before?" Lucius asked, his tone surprisingly gentle.

He hadn't had time to do anything wrong yet. Just a lick. "Yes." Perhaps three or four times.


"Not in years."

"Go slowly, then. Don't take more into your mouth than you can handle. And don't injure your throat."

He hadn't even thought of that. He put a hand around the base and sucked only the head into his mouth. He did love the taste. Lucius didn't hold out long, and he put a hand on Severus' head to let him know. But Severus drank him down, the taste a mixture of bitter and sweet. Not bad, though. Despite a slight pain at swallowing, he rather enjoyed the whole thing. And he loved the look it put on Lucius' face.

He rested his head against Lucius' knee for a moment and then started to rise. Lucius pulled him into a long, slow kiss. "Next time, I think with Narcissa?"

Severus' mind sizzled at the thought. "Oh, yes. That would be lovely."

"I'm sure she would think so too." Lucius nodded towards the house.

Severus could see her on the balcony of what must be their bedroom. She waved at them. He inclined his head in acknowledgment.

It wasn't that he was being seduced so much as he was being herded. And the real question was why. When he sat down to dinner with Narcissa and Lucius that evening, he folded his hands on the table.

"I think before this goes any further, I'd like an explanation."

Lucius blinked at him. The picture of innocence. "Of what, pray tell?"

"Of what is going on here? Why the seduction? Why..." He trailed off, feeling the heat rise in his face. "Why?"

Narcissa's eyes narrowed as she looked at him. "You were so impervious to our hinting that we assumed it was a game."

"What hinting?" The first thing he knew of this was when Narcissa wrapped her hand around his prick. "When?"

"Since you've been feeling better. A few weeks." Lucius' smirk faded. "You haven't been playing with us, have you?"

Severus slowly shook his head.

"Oh, dear," Narcissa said, and put her hand over her mouth.

His chest tight with disappointment, Severus sighed. This joke had gone far enough and it was indeed time to leave. At some point, he'd started to believe that they cared for him. Foolish of him, really, because he should have known better.

He stood up, scraping his chair against the hardwood floor. "Did it amuse you both to toy with me this way?"

"No. Severus." Narcissa stood, too, and reached out for him. "You misunderstand. We thought you were enjoying playing the innocent, pretending not to notice our advances. We escalated it until there was no doubt what we were asking you for."

Severus didn't know what she was talking about. There had been no innuendos, no overt or covert suggestions. He would have noticed that. Inexperienced he might be, but he wasn't oblivious. "I would have noticed?"

"In all the years you've known me, have I ever touched you as much as I have in the last few weeks?" Lucius asked, his eyebrow raised in question.

He had needed the help. Except that he hadn't needed it for some time. He could walk fine within a week of starting to regain his strength. Admittedly, he tired easily then, and he still did, but he hadn't needed the hand on his arm to steady him. But how was he supposed to realize that was more than help?

"The same with me," Narcissa said.

Anything he could say now would sound ridiculous. "Why would you want me in the first place?"

Lucius leaned back in his chair and smiled. "There are actually a lot of reasons."

"Tell me one." Severus folded his arms over his chest and remained standing, so that he was looking down at Lucius. It wasn't much of an advantage, but he would take what he could get.

"Every now and then we take on a third. A man." Narcissa looked at him. "Someone we can trust. Someone who we know has affection for us and for whom we share some affection."

That was not what he was expecting. "A man? For Lucius?"

"For both of us. I enjoy watching." She paused. "And I very much enjoy participating. Lucius likes a man's touch now and again."

"Why me then? Surely you would wish someone more..." Experienced. Sophisticated. Good-looking. Severus had a certain amount of knowledge, but much of it was theoretical.

"I think we've said why. The question remains whether you're interested in us." Lucius seemed...almost anxious as if the answer meant a great deal to him, and Severus could not for the life of him figure out why.

"Is that the reason you took me in? Cared for me?" It seemed unlikely. And he just couldn't credit that he'd been cared for so diligently so that he could be...what...their plaything? Severus shuddered. This was too bizarre for words.

"Of course not!" Lucius snapped, finally sounding like himself. "You insult us and yourself by even suggesting such a thing."

Narcissa shook her head, too. "All of the reasons for our care have been said. Why we decided to include you -- if you were willing -- was that you seemed...available perhaps isn't the right word, but no longer so tied to the past."

Lily. He still loved her. But the intensity had faded. Maybe it was the memories, or maybe it was just time. He looked at both of them and then sat back down at the table. "There is something you should know."

"We've ascertained that you're not..." Narcissa cleared her throat, "very experienced."

He hated it when he blushed like a schoolboy. "I'm probably even less experienced than you believe."

"How much less?" Lucius asked. As unlikely as it seemed, he didn't sound concerned. Indeed, if anything, he sounded anticipatory.

Surely they would want someone who knew what he was doing. Severus looked at the tablecloth and gritted his teeth. "I've never had actual --"

"Ah. But you would like to, correct?" Lucius did sound anticipatory.

Closing his eyes, Severus nodded.

"Well, if you want to, the condition is fixable," Narcissa also sounded eager.

His eyes snapped open. "You're joking?"

"We'd never joke about something so important." Lucius stood and walked over to stand beside Narcissa. "We would like you to join us for tonight."


"We were hoping it would be for a time, or longer if you're inclined." Narcissa sighed. "Most young men wish to marry or find a relationship of their own, rather than sharing ours."

He never had any kind of real relationship. School boy groping and a few furtive fumblings when he was young that was the extent of it. He stood as well.

Both Narcissa and Lucius offered him their hands and he took them.

"Our bedroom, my dear?" Lucius asked.

She nodded. "Oh, yes. I think that would be most excellent."

Their bedroom was not at all like what he'd expected. First off, it was huge. His entire house at Spinner's End could have fit in the room and there would have been space left over. The bed itself was enormous and could probably sleep five without anyone touching.

"Well, my dearest," Lucius drawled, "How shall we have him?"

The timbre of Lucius' voice played nicely down Severus' spine. He shivered.

"Naked, I think." Narcissa stood in front of him and Lucius at his back.

Lucius' hands came down gently on his shoulders and then across them, taking hold of his robe. "Excellent suggestion," he said, easing Severus' robe off.

Narcissa undid his belt, dragging the freed leather over the skin of Severus' belly.

As much as he wanted this, them, he was trembling as their hands divested him of his clothes. What would they think once they saw him? He didn't compare favorably to either of them. They might want to stop. But soft fingers ran over his naked flesh, touching him just enough to arouse, but not nearly enough to begin to satisfy.

Severus drew in a deep breath. "What of both of you? Am I the only one --"

"Of course not." Narcissa stepped back and held out her hands. "Please. Feel free."

He couldn't help but glance at Lucius, who nodded in encouragement. With his heart pounding, Severus reached out with tremulous fingers to push the hair off her face. He leaned forward and kissed her lightly on the mouth. Her lips were lush and soft, and opened under his.

A shiver ran through him as her tongue pushed into his mouth. A jolt of pleasure slid down his spine as Lucius pressed into him, fully clothed, from behind and then kissed the back of his neck. He moaned as both of their hands touched his bare skin.

Of all the scenarios he'd ever imagined for losing his virginity, this was not even a half-formed fantasy, but he was going to take and give as much as he could possibly manage. Slytherins were nothing if not adaptable.

In tandem, both Narcissa and Lucius stepped back.

"I think." She took a breath. "Undress me."

Severus nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Tentatively, he reached out and pushed her open robe off her shoulders. Her underrobe was thin and sleeveless, his fingers felt huge as he worked the small buttons on the front.

She stood quietly while he fumbled them open, and she drew in a sharp breath as his fingers touched her bare skin. A gentle touch worked better than a hard one, but he wasn't sure what else he should do. His fingers, of their own volition, continue to skim downward.

Lucius stepped behind her and pushed the top of her robe down off her shoulders. She stepped out of the skirt as it pooled at her feet.

Severus dragged in a breath. She was wearing only white lace panties, white stockings that stayed on her thighs without garters, and white high heels.

"Beautiful, isn't she?" Lucius asked, his hands cupping her breasts from behind.

Severus nodded. "Merlin, yes."

Narcissa smiled and leaned back against Lucius, gasping as his thick fingers tweaked both her nipples at the same time. "Mmmm...Severus, you too."

He stepped forward and brought his mouth down on her shoulder, licking down to her breast. His hand came up to hold one just as he'd seen Lucius do, and he licked her nipple and then blew softly on it. She moaned and arched up.

His hand strayed down her back to her arse and the soft curve was luscious to his touch. Lucius pressed into his hand.

He lifted his head and eyed Lucius. "Don't you think it's unfair that poor Lucius is clothed?"

"I do indeed. What shall we do about it?" Narcissa smiled.

"Yes," Lucius purred. "What are you both going to do about this state of affairs?"

His look made Severus ache even more. He reached for Lucius' belt. Together, he and Narcissa had him completely stripped in a matter of minutes.

Severus' first thought was that Lucius was really blond everywhere, and his second was to wonder how something that big could fit into any of the small spaces Lucius might want to put it into. He took hold of the impressive length.

"What are you planning to do with that?" Narcissa asked, laughing as Lucius drew in a deep breath.

"What do you think I should do with it?"

"Do I get a vote?" Lucius' voice had gone up a notch as Severus continued to hold him.

Narcissa looked at him and then at Severus. "I rather think not. Why don't we let Severus decide?'

With his heart pounding hard, Severus forced a knowing look and hoped he wasn't going to presume too much. "I think I'd like to be inside you and to feel this inside me."

Lucius and Narcissa's twin smiles were reassuring.

"On the bed, I think," Lucius said, nodding in that direction, but not moving as Severus still had hold of him.

Without any of them completely losing their grips on the other, somehow, they made it to the bed. A flick of his hand and Lucius wandlessly had the duvet and coverlet fold themselves down at the end of the bed.

Narcissa began to remove her shoes, but Severus put a hand on her arms to stop her. "Leave them?"

Her smile was delighted. "Of course."

She stretched out, her knees slightly bent.

Severus looked once at Lucius and saw the lust and anticipation leap into his eyes. He put a hand on Severus' shoulder and pushed just a bit. "I like seeing my beloved pleasured."

Not that it was needed after everything that had already come, but somehow the permission, from both of them, made it that much easier to lie down next to her and kiss her. Her mouth opened under his, her tongue darting into his mouth for a quick taste, then retreating.

Slowly, he moved from her mouth to her neck. Lucius was behind him, stroking his flanks and hips as he licked down along Narcissa's neck. She arched up into his touch, moaning. With both Narcissa and Lucius' hands on his body, his mind could only take in so much stimulation and had to shut down in favor of feeling rather than thinking.

He moved lower, his mouth closing on one of her nipples. She panted, her head thrown back, and her eyes closed tightly.

"Isn't she beautiful like this?" Lucius whispered in his ear, the lushness of his voice sliding over Severus, adding to the enjoyment of what he was doing.

"Oh, yes."

"Pleasure her with your mouth," Lucius ordered.

He wasn't done with her breasts yet, but he slid a hand down her thigh, touching her wet folds, searching.

She mewled when he found it. Working his way down her belly, he nuzzled and licked until he could replace his fingers with his tongue.

Her strangled cry told him he was in the right place. The taste was slick and spicy and he loved it. If Narcissa's cries were anything to go by, she did as well.

Lucius continued to caress him with broad strokes of his hand across Severus' back and then his belly.

As Severus' tongue pushed Narcissa over the edge, and she cried out, Lucius' tongue swept down the cleft of his arse and touched him intimately for the first time.

Severus cried out, too. Half shocked that he'd done it, but pleasured beyond words. He pressed his head against Narcissa's thigh and her hand touched his hair.

He moved above her. After a lifetime of waiting, this was it. She wrapped her stocking-clad legs around him as he slid into her. Wet heat surrounded him, and Lucius' tongue penetrated him at the same time. Closing his eyes, he prayed he wouldn't humiliate himself.

There was no hope. Panting, he thrust forward, burying himself in Narcissa's soft flesh as orgasm took him. He moaned out his embarrassment as the most brilliant pleasure he'd ever known slid over him.

Mortified, he opened his eyes, ready to hear their invective. "I'm sorry."

"It was not unexpected." She didn't seem put out and she should be.

Lucius put a hand on his hips. "We are far from done with you."

"I'm not a boy --"

"We should hope not." Lucius laughed. "You'll be ready for more soon enough."

Lucius pressed a kiss to the small of his back and then slid a finger down his crease.

"There will be no part of you left virgin when tonight is done," Narcissa promised. She kissed him, keeping him distracted until one of Lucius' slick fingers had breached him gently. He pushed back into it, the sensation not unpleasant.

Lucius pulled his hips back and after a bit of playing pushed a second finger into him. This was not as pleasant until Lucius pressed into his prostate. Snape moaned, his prick hardening as the pleasure-pain started to overwhelm him.

Narcissa's hands were soothing him, grasping his mostly hard prick and working him to full hardness with a slick hand.

"Are you ready?" Lucius' voice was raw.

He gave a nod, too far gone now to care about anything but relief.

Lucius pushed into him and then stopped. It took a moment to adjust, the pleasure had faded somewhat, but Narcissa's hand on him kept it from doing so completely. Once Lucius started to move, it came rushing back with each stroke.

"Please," Severus begged, not even sure if he wanted it to end or go on forever.

The pleasure broke over him in a wave, and he moaned, burying his face in Narcissa's chest. Vaguely, he heard Lucius moan, too.

He must have dozed off because when he opened his eyes, Lucius was pleasuring Narcissa with his mouth and she was arching her back, coming.

"More?" Lucius asked.

"Later." She subsided back onto the bed.

They both glanced at him.

"Good?" Lucius asked as if he didn't know the answer already.

Better than his wildest dreams. To them, he nodded. "Thank you."

"You're quite welcome," Narcissa said and took his hand.

"And we do mean that." Lucius stroked his fingers lightly across Severus' chest.

Oddly enough, Severus believed that they did mean it.


Severus locked his shop and hurried along the busy streets. He had dinner plans, but before that, he needed a bath and a change of robes. Even with another master brewer and two assistants working for him, there were some potions his customers insisted he do himself. They paid dearly for his time. The one he'd done this afternoon had been particularly delicate and produced some rather noxious fumes.

His quick pace and scowl assured that no one dared stop him. He was not in the mood for conversation.

It had been years since he'd left Malfoy Manor, healed in places he hadn't known he was wounded. Lucius and Narcissa had both asked him to stay, but after surviving against all odds, he'd wanted to create a life of his own. To build a future without dependence on anyone else for anything.

When he reached the door to his townhouse and put his hand on the cool wood, it recognized him and opened with a soft snick.

He didn't realize that he wasn't alone until he nearly stumbled on Lucius, who was kneeling on the carpet, naked, his long hair falling beautifully over his wide shoulders, his hands held behind his back.

Narcissa lounged on the settee, her legs encased in white stockings and white high heels. A riding crop dangled from her fingers.

He had several options. He could disrobe and kneel beside Lucius or he could take the crop from her hand and she would kneel or --

"Lucius, darling. Take off Severus' robe."

A deep thrill went through Severus. His earlier fatigue was gone. He loved it when Narcissa was feeling forceful.

"I'll need a bath." He didn't relish the idea of anyone touching him when he stank.

"I'm sure Lucius will be willing to help you with that, won't you dear?"

"Of course," Lucius said.

Severus' pulse picked up at the anticipation in Lucius' voice. His shower had been enhanced to fit three. Tonight, however, it would only be the two of them with Narcissa giving instructions.

Later, when he lay between them, he smiled to himself. Strange how his life had turned out. Strange, but so very good.