Title: Weakness Rating: NC-17 Pairing: Snape/Draco, Draco/other Disclaimer: Not my characters; no copyright infringement intended. Summary: Set during DH. Snape decides Draco needs private lessons in occlumency, and it turns out that Draco has much to hide. Warnings: mild violence of a non-sexual nature Author's notes: sherant's request included dark and/or serious Snape/Draco. She also stated she was fond of UST, one-sided obsession, and a risk of being caught. She is one of my favorite artists, so I hope this meets her expectations. Thanks to F and R for the betas!
Draco raised his wand, trying not to let his hand tremble. The child crouched on the stone floor before him was sniffling, not even bothering to wipe the tears from her face any more. She looked at him with a spark of defiance in her brown eyes, and it nearly made him smile. Nearly.
"Very good, Mr. Malfoy," Amycus Carrow said at his left shoulder. His rancid breath was hot against Draco's cheek. "And once again."
Draco's eyes narrowed. "Crucio."
The girl screamed and writhed on the floor, but Draco didn't flinch. The important thing was to look as if you didn't care -- as if you couldn't hear the screams, or see the agony on the face, or smell the soiled knickers. You had to behave like a proper little Death Eater.
He was quite good at it now.
At a nod from Carrow he lifted the curse and turned away from the twisted form whimpering on the floor. "What did she do?"
Carrow frowned at the impertinence of the question, but Draco ignored it. He was closer to the Dark Lord than the Carrows could ever dream to be, and they knew it. He'd come back from the Christmas holiday shaken by the Dark Lord's control of his family, but steeled by the knowledge that he could use it to his advantage. Here at Hogwarts, far away from his parents and aunt, he was his own man. His father may be broken, but Draco was not.
Carrow was momentarily distracted by the scream of the fourth-year Goyle was currently torturing with a look of unbridled glee on his face. Draco pressed his lips together. Crabbe and Goyle both enjoyed inflicting pain far too much. They let themselves lose control, which did none of them any good. It was all about control. His mother had shown him that.
"What did she do?" he repeated more firmly, drawing Carrow's gaze once again.
Carrow shrugged. "Caught out of bed after midnight, wasn't she? She claims she was looking for her cat, but she's a Gryffindor, so we know what she was really up to."
Draco turned back to the girl, whose face was buried in her hands. She looked too young to be a threat, too small even to be a proper first-year. Her brown hair, carefully twisted into neat braids when she'd been dragged in by the prefects, was now a mass of frizz around her head. For a moment, Draco had a flash of memory: years ago he'd come across Granger sitting on a stone bench and sobbing, alone. He'd taken delight in teasing her about it at the time, and she'd run off into the girl's bathroom.
"And if we find the cat, we'll string it up by its guts," Carrow continued, and the girl's sobs grew louder.
"Is that really necessary?" Draco replied in a lowered voice, raising an eyebrow. "You could simply keep it locked up under threat of torture. That would keep a child like her in line."
Carrow scrunched up his pig-like face, looking as if the thought hadn't occurred to him. "Well, I suppose…"
"May I go?" Draco had long since stopped addressing Carrow as sir, though the man had barely noticed. "I've an essay for potions."
But Carrow's attention had been drawn by a frantic fifth-year who was having difficulty removing the cruciatus curse from his victim, and Draco slipped out the door before he could be assigned another student to punish.
He nearly collided with the Headmaster, who'd apparently been watching through the door.
"Sir," Draco said, taking a step back.
Snape's face was expressionless. "Torturing children again, Mr. Malfoy?"
"I do as I'm told."
Snape raised an eyebrow at that. "Indeed. Come with me."
Draco followed him to the entrance to the Headmaster's office, where Snape flicked his wand at each gargoyle in turn. They jumped aside and revealed the revolving stairway Draco was quite familiar with by now. He was one of the few students with the privilege to floo home from the office whenever he wished. He didn't wish to do so any more than necessary, though, and this was likely a sign that he'd been summoned again. He swallowed.
Snape opened the door at the top of the stairs and gave him a calculated look. "Relax, Mr. Malfoy. You won't be leaving us tonight."
Draco gritted his teeth. He let his guard down around Snape more often than he should.
Snape's lips curled into a sneer, as if he'd thought the same thing. "Have a seat."
Draco sat in an uncomfortable chair perched across from Snape's large desk and tried his best to look bored.
"As of this moment, I shall be tutoring you personally in the dark arts. There is no need for you to waste any more time in Carrow's course." The last word was spoken with great contempt. "You are far more advanced than the other students, dare I say more in some ways than Carrow himself."
Draco allowed himself a small smile, but only to show that Snape's praise didn't surprise him. "Mother will be pleased. She thinks so highly of you, Headmaster."
"We'll begin tomorrow evening. Report to my office at eight o'clock."
"Won't Carrow be displeased that you're taking me out of his class?"
Another teacher would have corrected Draco's casual use of a professor's name, but Snape didn't seem to notice. He'd turned back to his desk, already busying himself with a stack of parchment there. "I shall inform him of the change in your timetable. I don't suppose I need to remind you that this is a privilege, and one that you have earned."
Draco's smug smile was directed at Snape's back. "Should I bring the text?"
"You'll only need your wand."
"All practical, then. I look forward to it."
Snape gave Draco an odd look, but it passed after a moment. "Good night, Mr. Malfoy."
Draco nodded and left, excitement already swirling in his belly. He half-hoped he'd run into Carrow on the way back to the dungeon, just so he could boast that he'd moved beyond what the man could teach him.
"Private lessons with Snape?" Pansy repeated, her dark eyes wide with admiration. "I wish I were so lucky."
Draco allowed himself a smug smile and ignored the pointed stares of the other students in the common room who were listening to their conversation. "He says I'm too advanced for Carrow's class. After all, I've been learning to cast dark spells under the watchful eye of the Dark Lord himself."
Something between terror and lust sparkled in Pansy's eyes. "Do you think the Dark Lord will mark you soon?"
Draco shrugged and looked away. "Probably." He wasn't anxious for that to happen, but he wouldn't dare let anyone know.
"I wish I could have private lessons with Snape," Pansy continued, grinning. "He was always my favorite teacher, you know. Maybe he'd teach me more than just dark arts." She raised an eyebrow and slid a socked foot along the back of Draco's calf under the table.
Draco snorted and pulled away from her. "You think you could seduce Snape? Don't flatter yourself."
Pansy's face fell a bit. "Jealous?"
"Hardly." He really needed to break things off with her. He'd lost interest a long time ago and only kept her around for the occasional sloppy blow job, which was generally better than wanking. But he hadn't been interested in sex lately. There were too many other things on his mind.
"From what I've heard, you'd have a better chance than me anyway." She was chewing on the end of her quill now, apparently thinking it made her look alluring.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"He swings that way, according to my mother."
"Your mother is a stupid cow."
Pansy frowned. "Shut up about my mother."
"At least you don't deny it. I'm going to bed." He stood and smoothed his robes, and didn't bother saying good night.
He found his mother's owl waiting for him on his bed, preening its feathers. It looked up at him as he approached and blinked its eyes in greeting.
"Hello there," he said, and took the note attached to its foot. It shook out its wings and lifted off, up toward the small window at the very top of the chamber that allowed the owls free access. It knew better than to wait for a return message. Draco didn't write his parents any more.
He sat on the bed and opened the envelope. The letter from his mother said nothing of substance. Her letters never did; they assumed their communications were monitored. Instead she prattled on about how Father's health was improving, an apology for not sending a treat, as she'd been far too busy to organize the house-elves, the details of an upcoming visit from his Aunt Bellatrix, and then some mundane paragraphs about the weather.
Draco tossed the letter aside and fell back against his pillow. He ought to care, but it was so easy not to do, so far away from home. The holidays had been horrible, but he shouldn't have to return until Easter. Until then he could think about other things. More pleasant things. He closed his eyes.
Pansy's words were still fresh in his mind when he reported to Snape's office for his first lesson. The idea of Snape being queer wasn't particularly surprising, and would even explain a lot of things about the man. Draco didn't particularly care what Snape did on his own time, but he had to admit he was curious. It was always good to know as much as possible about people, his father had always said. One never knew when it might come in useful.
Snape seemed busy when he arrived, and Draco had to wait nearly a minute before the Headmaster even acknowledged his presence.
"We will begin," Snape said at last, "with occlumency."
Draco smiled. "But sir, I already--"
"Legilimens," Snape said with a lazy flick of his wand, and he was inside Draco's mind as easily as if he'd been invited. A moment later he'd withdrawn and was shaking his head. "I think not, Mr. Malfoy. If you cannot raise your defenses in a split second, you will only endanger yourself and those close to you."
"Who will I need to defend myself against?" Draco retorted, a bit more bitterness in his tone than was proper. "The enemies of the Dark Lord wouldn't try to use legilimency against me."
"The enemies of the Dark Lord are not the ones you should be concerned with. It is his allies who will do their best to undermine you at every opportunity. Surely your father is an example of that."
Draco felt a spike of anger, but before he could respond Snape raised his wand again. Draco braced himself, but Snape easily found his way inside Draco's mind again.
"I don't understand. I could block you before."
Snape's expression was as close to a smile as Draco had ever seen. "You have not practiced, and my skills have only grown stronger. We have a great deal of work to do."
Three nights a week Draco would report to the Headmaster's office for a solid hour of having his mind penetrated. Every now and then Draco would be able to resist, but never for long enough to make significant progress.
It was frustrating, and Draco had no idea what he was doing wrong. Bellatrix had taught him that protecting his mind was simply an application of willpower, but Snape seemed to be able to break through any amount of effort Draco made.
"Again," Snape said late on a Thursday evening in February, leveling his wand at Draco's head.
"No," Draco spat, grimacing. "No more. I'm tired."
"Do you think the Dark Lord would grant you a reprieve simply because you are tired?"
"Why are you so concerned about me protecting myself from the Dark Lord? I have nothing to hide from him."
Snape lowered his wand. "Oh, but you do. Surely you've learned that by now?"
Draco frowned, not sure how to answer. He never spoke frankly about the Dark Lord with anyone but his parents.
Snape pursed his lips. "How do you think I've managed to remain in the Dark Lord's favor for so many years? I do not let him see weakness in me. He despises weakness. Why do you think he torments your father so?"
"My father? How dare you!" Draco pointed his wand at Snape without even thinking.
Snape smirked. "Your love for your father is an example of your weakness. The Dark Lord has already used it to his advantage, much to the detriment of you both, has he not?"
Draco wanted to argue, but Snape was right. He lowered his wand. "But surely it's far more dangerous to keep secrets. Doesn't he know you're using occlumency against him?"
"Not if you do it well." Snape leaned back against his desk. "And I believe you are finally ready to begin."
"What are you talking about?"
"If I am not mistaken, you were not taking these lessons seriously before, because you did not see a need for them. Did you not wonder why you were able to keep me from your mind last year but not now? Your conviction then was strong, and it made a difference."
Draco snorted. "So this last month, all of it was just a test to see if I was ready?"
"If you prefer to think of it that way."
"Fine." Draco straightened his stance and held his wand at the ready. "I'm ready. So let's begin."
Within a week, Draco was able to prevent Snape from entering his mind nearly half the time, a stark improvement. He wasn't sure if it was because he really believed it was an important skill now or if Snape was easing up on him a bit. In either case, it made their lessons far less frustrating.
Snape had also begun to teach Draco legilimency, which was far more interesting. He had only been allowed into a few restricted areas of Snape's mind, mostly containing memories of extremely boring staff meetings, but it was still exciting. The feeling of sliding into the mind of another was exhilarating.
After a week of practice he could cast legilimens wordlessly, and though he doubted Snape would approve, he began practicing on others. It was addictive: he probed Pansy's sexual fantasies, Goyle's dim thoughts about enjoying his new role as torturer, younger students' fears (which he then enjoyed acting on, much to their horror), and even the minds of his teachers when he could get away with it. It certainly made answering questions in class easier.
It was like sex, in many ways.
He didn't dare perform it on Snape without permission, though. He kept that particular fantasy to himself, and was careful to lock it in the far corner of his mind where even Snape wouldn't be able to find it. He only let it roam free at night, when the dormitory was dark and the sound of even breathing was all around him.
He would stand in Snape's office, and Snape would be unarmed -- no chance to resist. He would only be able to watch helplessly while Draco slid into his mind with ease, penetrating the darkest recesses of his thoughts, spilling Snape's deepest secrets. His fantasies would spin various lurid imagined memories after that, many of which involved a younger Snape on his knees and sucking the enormous prick of a masked Death Eater, or pressed face-down into the floor with that same enormous prick up his arse.
Snape would expel Draco from his mind, but it would be too late -- now Draco knew his weakness, the one not even the Dark Lord knew -- and he could use it to his own advantage.
This fantasy typically resulted in Draco coming into his own hand under the sheets, biting back a moan.
"You never talk about your lessons with Snape."
Draco kept his eyes on the parchment in front of him, his quill poised to write. "There's nothing to tell."
Pansy snorted. "Of course there's something to tell. The fact that you don't tell means precisely that there's something to tell."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"I suppose you think you're quite clever, don't you?"
Draco looked up at that. "Have you considered that I've been sworn to secrecy? Perhaps I can't tell you anything, even if I want to."
That seemed to satisfy Pansy, as one corner of her lips turned upwards. She leaned closer, so close her lips brushed his hair. "So what could I do to entice you to give me a wee hint?"
To Draco's surprise, he wasn't tempted by her offer. In fact, he found the idea mildly repulsive. He looked away, certain she would see it in his eyes. "I can't. I've got to finish this essay."
Pansy sighed and leaned away again. "Potions? It was horribly complicated. You can read mine if you like."
"I should go to the library, actually. I'll see you later." He gathered up his belongings and stuffed them into his bag. He didn't bother looking back at her as he left the dungeon.
He started toward the library, but veered off in another direction. He needed to think, and not about potions. He was frustrated, even angry, and he wasn't sure why.
He turned a corner and nearly ran right into a Hufflepuff sixth-year, a boy whose name he didn't know, but whose face was familiar, as he'd played on the Hufflepuff Quidditch team -- back when there had been Quidditch. It seemed like ten years ago.
The boy's face paled at the sight of him, and Draco felt a surge of something he'd only experienced in his dreams.
"Well, well," Draco said, barely containing his glee. "What are you doing skulking about at this hour?"
"It's half seven," the boy said in response, but he took a step backwards.
Draco's fingers tightened on his wand and he cast a wordless legilimens without even hesitating. The slide into the Hufflepuff's mind was exquisite, so different from anything he'd felt before. Andrew, that was his name, and he was worried that Draco would find out he was on his way to meet someone to join the DA, and -- and here was something very interesting indeed, something Draco had not expected: Andrew had always fancied him.
Draco stepped forward, backing Andrew into an alcove behind a suit of armor. "You know better than to hang about and look suspicious, don't you? What will the Carrows think?"
"I've done nothing wrong," Andrew whispered, pressing himself back against the stone wall.
"I know you're off to join the DA tonight. You know what the penalty is for being associated with that particular group."
The color drained from Andrew's face. "I'm not, I swear. You can't prove it."
"Perhaps I can. Unless you convince me otherwise."
Andrew frowned. "What do you want?"
Draco leaned forward, so close his nose almost brushed Andrew's. "I was going to ask you the same question. I think there's something you want, isn't there?"
Andrew's eyes widened, and he bit his lip. Draco had withdrawn from his mind, but it was still easy to read him. "I don't know what you--"
"Yes, you do. Or I could always turn you in." He raised his wand. "I only have to say the word."
Draco waited a moment, and then Andrew's expression changed to one of interest. "Oh. I didn't know you were--"
"I didn't say I was." Draco raised an eyebrow.
"Right." Andrew's lips curled upwards, and without another word he slid to his knees. Draco tried not to let his surprise show, but found he could scarcely breathe. He'd enjoyed the game, the intimidation, but he hadn't really expected Andrew to play along. And now -- his trousers were being unfastened, and Andrew's mouth was warm and wet and on him and fuck -- he was hard and getting sucked off by a boy.
Andrew moved fast, sucking hard and using his tongue, and even made little moaning sounds, as if he were enjoying it as much as Draco was. Draco pressed his forehead against the stone wall and tangled one hand in Andrew's hair, urging him faster. This corridor was secluded, but not far off the main route to the library. Anyone could turn the corner, anyone could see.
It didn't take long. Andrew was clearly experienced, much better than Pansy had ever been, and Draco came embarrassingly quickly. Andrew was smirking as he rose to his feet. He left Draco with his trousers open and spent prick hanging out, and disappeared around the corner without another word.
Draco slid down the wall and sat, uncertain what had just happened. It was exciting, thrilling, erotic -- but disturbing at the same time. He'd enjoyed that more than any sexual experience he could remember having, and it had not only been with someone he didn't know, but with a boy.
He was pretty sure he'd just found his weakness.
Draco was standing in a dark room. There was a sound behind him, and he knew it was Snape before he turned to look. Snape was younger, slighter, and eyeing Draco with the same sort of hunger as Andrew had. He approached slowly, as if waiting for permission, but Draco said nothing, did nothing. He waited.
After a long, slow stalk, Snape sank to his knees before Draco, his eyes lowered. Draco's face was covered by what seemed to be a mask, and though he wanted to take it off, he didn't dare -- Snape mustn't find out who he really was. He thought Snape probably knew, though, by the way he carefully unfastened Draco's trousers, by the way he stroked Draco's cock to hardness, by the way he ran his tongue along the underside and nearly made him come from that alone.
When Snape's mouth finally closed around the head, Draco groaned, and saw Snape look up at him. Draco froze for a moment, afraid he'd blown his cover, but Snape didn't stop. His lips slid down the shaft, and he took Draco's cock in to the base. He worked slowly at first, long strokes with his tongue massaging the shaft and then pulling at the foreskin with his lips as he reached the head. The tip of his tongue would tease the slit for a moment before he started down again. One hand cupped Draco's balls, and the other reached behind him to grasp his arse and pull him closer, controlling the pace.
When he started to speed up, Draco could only hang on for the ride. He felt as if he were floating, suspended by the sensation alone, and it was unlike anything he'd ever felt. He was getting closer to coming, but he didn't want it to end. He opened his mouth to ask Snape to slow down, but no sound came out. He ripped the mask away, not caring now if Snape saw who he was. The robes fell away, and he was naked except for his socks, and Snape was devouring his cock and balls, swallowing them down. He floated above it, the sensation of the surge in his groin overwhelming.
His eyes flew open. He was in his own bed with the hangings drawn, and the room was silent and dark. He rolled onto his stomach and ground his hips against the mattress, muffling a moan in his pillow as he came. He'd had the same dream every night since the encounter with Andrew, but every night it had been Snape kneeling before him. He hadn't seen Snape for nearly a week, and he had no idea how he was going to be able to face him -- or worse, let him into his mind.
By the time he climbed the revolving staircase to the Headmaster's office the following evening he was nearly in a panic. He'd tried his best to conceal the encounter with Andrew and his subsequent dreams, but they were everywhere in his mind, entangled with too many thoughts to separate them completely. He couldn't possibly hide them, and he had no idea what to do about that.
He'd worked himself into such a state about it that when Snape cast his first legilimens, Draco pushed him out of his mind hard enough to make Snape stumble backwards.
"Effective, if not subtle," Snape said, eyeing Draco warily.
Draco felt his face flush. "I'm sorry, I just... It's the best I can do."
"Whatever it is that you do not wish me to see would barely be a challenge for the Dark Lord to uncover. And I can assure you that forcible entry into the mind is far from pleasant."
Draco looked away. "I know that, but I can't do it. Not tonight."
"You merely need to focus."
"I'm focused! You have no idea how focused I am right now, but I don't know what to do." Draco looked back at Snape, and was surprised to see that the Headmaster's expression had softened. "Help me. Tell me what to do, and I'll do it."
Snape considered him for a moment, and then nodded. "Very well. Enter my mind."
Relieved, Draco extended his wand. His hand shook as he cast the spell, but a moment later he seemed to be standing in a long, dark corridor, feeling unusually serene. The walls around him were bare, and there were no doors that he could see, just a corridor that extended in both directions without end.
"Where do you think you are?" Snape asked. He was now standing just behind Draco.
"I'm not sure. The Ministry?"
"This place does not exist. Beyond these walls are thoughts and memories I consider private."
"Hiding secret behind walls -- isn't that a bit obvious?"
"Perhaps, but it has provided sufficient protection."
Draco turned to look at Snape, and was surprised to see that he resembled the Snape he saw in his dreams. He swallowed and forced himself to look away. "What prevents the… someone from pushing through if they know what is there?"
"Look more closely."
Draco stepped closer to the wall, but it simply seemed blank. The closer he got the more difficult it was to look at, as if his eyes wouldn't focus on its surface. "I don't know what I'm supposed to see."
Snape did not respond, and when Draco looked over his shoulder he found he was alone again. He turned to look at the opposite wall, but the same thing happened. He put a hand on the wall, and he could feel its texture: rough and uneven, but he couldn't see it. His efforts to focus made his head hurt, and he closed his eyes.
"Come with me," he heard Snape say, and he opened his eyes again. He was sitting beside Snape in a room in the castle, surrounded by Hogwarts staff members. Flitwick was speaking, though his voice sounded muffled, as if Snape hadn't been listening at the time when the memory was recorded. "Do you see?" Snape asked, gesturing towards Flitwick.
Draco stared, and at first saw nothing. He stood and crossed to Flitwick, and then he saw it: there was a fine net around Flitwick's image, almost like a spider web. He reached out to touch it and it broke, and Flitwick's voice came tumbling through with surprising clarity. Draco took a step backward and the web repaired itself, muffling Flitwick again.
He turned back to Snape, but found himself pushed backwards, and then he was back in Snape's office again. Snape was leaning against his desk, studying Draco.
"Do you understand?"
"I believe so." Draco frowned, thinking. "You enclose memories in layers of something so thin that each layer is difficult to detect. And an accumulation of them forms walls like the ones you showed me?"
"Very good," Snape replied, pushing to his feet and circling behind his desk. "It must be done slowly, otherwise it tends to be unstable."
"And that's it? Why didn't you show me that before?"
Snape's head snapped up at that. "You were not sufficiently motivated."
Draco bit back a retort. It was true, and he didn't dare deny it. He nodded.
Snape focused his attention on an ancient volume that lay open on his desk. "Our lesson is finished for the evening. You may go."
Draco nodded and stood. Snape said nothing as he crossed to the door and left. Draco paused on the other side, wondering if he should say something more, perhaps apologize for his impertinence. It was getting late, though, and he didn't want to push his luck.
And besides, Snape might try a bit harder to see what Draco wanted to hide, which would be the worst thing that could happen.
"You never talk to me any more," Pansy said in a simpering tone. She was sitting sideways on the common room's sofa with her feet in Draco's lap and her skirt riding high on her bare thighs.
"I'm talking to you now, aren't I?"
Pansy's foot slid against the crotch of Draco's trousers, her toes wriggling. "You used to tell me everything. We'd talk for hours."
Draco shifted his hips away from her toes. "Not since we were twelve."
"I tell you everything."
Pansy withdrew her feet and pouted, but he ignored her. He had no interest in sex with her anymore. It had never been something he'd particularly enjoyed, though he hadn't realized that until recently.
There was a pause, and she lowered her voice to a whisper. "Draco, I know things are difficult for you at home. I know you have a lot to worry about, and I want to help you. If only you'd talk to me--"
"I don't want to talk about it," Draco snapped. "I'm not supposed to talk about it, not with anyone."
"Just… Leave it, Pansy." He stood and headed to his dormitory room, ignoring her pleas to come back. He closed the hangings around his bed and pulled his knees into his chest.
In truth, he barely thought about home at all, though he knew he should. The owls from Mother arrived once a week, but he skimmed them and tossed them aside. They didn't tell him what was really going on, and he found he didn't care. He'd been preoccupied with thoughts of a different nature, thoughts that, while troubling, were somehow easier to deal with. Struggling with the possibility that he was gay was far preferable to thinking about the fact that Voldemort was holding his parents hostage.
It was far more pleasant to think about Snape -- and so he did. His fantasies were growing more elaborate every day, despite his efforts to contain them using the method Snape had shown him. He felt as if his brain was full of cobwebs, and he couldn't tell whether he had wrapped thoughts in enough layers to prevent them from being seen.
He didn't get a chance to test how well he'd done -- Snape was called away from the school and didn't return before the Easter holiday. It was McGonagall who walked Draco up to the Headmaster's office to let him floo home.
He arrived in the ornate fireplace in his family's drawing room, and no sooner had he stopped spinning than the sneering face of his Aunt Bellatrix was looming over him.
"Well, well, look who's come home from school," she said, her heavily lidded eyes raking over him. "Won't Mummy and Daddy be pleased to see their darling boy?"
"Shut up," he said, pushing past her.
She cackled in that way that always made his skin crawl, but she didn't follow him. He didn't go look for Mother or Father; he went straight up the stairs to his room, closed the door, and dropped into the bed. He barely remembered what it was like to look forward to coming home for the holidays.
Just a few days and he'd be back at Hogwarts. It wasn't as if anything exciting would happen over Easter, anyway.
He'd become numb to the screaming. He'd blocked the screams out, even his own when the cruciatus curse racked his body and tore through his mind. Bellatrix's cries seemed more like ones of pleasure, and this somehow gave him a thread to cling to -- it was something to find annoying and not just horrific.
Now he stood before the Dark Lord himself, so tired he almost didn't care what happened to him. He couldn't answer for his actions; he had no idea why he hadn't identified Potter, Weasley, and Granger when he'd had the chance. Not that it would have mattered in the end -- Potter's gang had a way of getting out of the tightest of spots.
Of course, Bellatrix had wasted no time accusing him of protecting Potter, and everyone but his parents seemed to seize upon this idea. Draco Malfoy was a traitor, they said, too softened by the years at Hogwarts and the influence of Albus Dumbledore, the predictably flawed product of a liberal education. They wanted a scapegoat.
Draco hadn't even given them the satisfaction of a response. He was particularly proud that he'd managed to keep them out of the private corners of his mind -- Snape's teaching had been far more effective than Draco could have guessed. Even the Dark Lord skipped past the shrouded memories of his sexual fantasies, and rifled through the jumbled mess that was the rest. Draco could barely think straight by the time midnight came. The only thoughts that made sense to him were the ones he'd worked so hard to hide.
And so when Severus Snape appeared at the Dark Lord's bidding, Draco's carefully constructed resolve began to disintegrate.
"You've been tutoring the boy in the dark arts," Voldemort said, his long fingers steepled before him.
"Yes, my lord. He is a mediocre student at best. He does not apply himself."
Draco almost smiled. Only Snape would criticize his study habits at a moment such as this.
"Much like his worthless father," Voldemort said, his voice reduced to a rasp. "But you know him as well as any here. Do you believe him a traitor, Severus?"
Snape stepped forward, stopping just in front of Draco. "No, I do not. I think him a boy, one who still has a great deal to learn."
The words pierced Draco unlike anything that had been hurled at him all day. Did Snape mean them, or was he simply trying to protect Draco? He had to look away.
"Spoken like a Headmaster," Voldemort said. "But you have not answered the question."
Snape frowned, his back still to Voldemort. "My lord?"
"He has failed me before. If his actions today cost me Potter yet again, he will pay dearly. On the other hand, if he is merely as incompetent as the rest of his family--"
"I'm not incompetent," Draco said. "And I'm not a traitor. I hate Potter as much as anyone."
"You dare to speak in such a tone?" Voldemort spat, rising from his chair and pointing one long thin finger at Draco. Draco felt searing pain as his mind was invaded yet again. He had learned not to fight it, to trust that his barriers would remain intact, despite everything. He felt a surge of relief as Voldemort's presence retreated again, and he fell to his knees.
"My lord, might I try to persuade him to be more cooperative?"
Draco forced himself to look up at that. Snape's face was expressionless, which surprised him, somehow.
Voldemort made a sound almost like a laugh. "By all means, Severus. Do what you will."
Draco looked up into Snape's face, and knew immediately what he was going to do: Snape didn't know what Draco was hiding, but he knew how to get to it. It occurred to Draco that for all Snape knew, he was indeed a traitor, working with Potter and his friends, and that was what he'd been hiding all along. Despite everything, Snape had never learned what Draco's weakness was.
He panicked; he couldn't help it. He scrambled away, ran to the door, but it wouldn't open. He was vaguely aware that he was making his situation worse, but he couldn't stop himself.
There was a flash of light and he was pushed back against the door by an unseen force, his arms locked to his sides. Snape stood before him, scowling, his dark eyes narrowed to slits. He clasped Draco's jaw in one hand and raised his wand, and then he was inside Draco's mind. He wasn't as rough as Voldemort had been -- but then, he knew what he was looking for.
If he was surprised by the intricate network of shrouded memories, he did not reveal it. He chose one and seemed to focus his attention on it. Draco could feel his control over it slipping away, but he was helpless to resist.
"Please," he whispered, frantically searching Snape's face for something familiar, something of the professor he'd known all of his life. "Please don't do this. It isn't what you think."
Snape ignored him, and Draco felt the carefully constructed shell burst, spilling the lurid memory throughout his mind. It was one of so many that he doubted it mattered that it was first. Snape had Draco bent over the desk in his office in this one, fucking him slowly.
Draco saw Snape's jaw clench, felt him move to another and break it open -- and another, and another, each more embarrassing than the last. Draco felt broken, laid bare, violated in a way he'd never thought possible, but Snape didn't stop. The room began to slip away, the hardness of the door, the pain in his head, the hissing of the snake, Nagini -- and there was only Draco and Snape, by the shore of the lake, under the moon. Draco arched his back as he rose and fell on Snape's cock. Strong hands grasped at his hips and urged him to move faster, and he did.
"Draco," he heard, and he opened his eyes. There was another Snape standing there, watching, his face pale and drawn. Draco stared back at him, and then everything began to grow dim.
"He is not a traitor, my lord," Draco heard as he slipped into darkness. "He is a foolish child, and nothing more."
It was more than a week before Mother made him return to school. His physical injuries were not extensive, and though neither of his parents knew what had happened, they let him spend long days in bed, staring at the wall, refusing to eat.
It was all over. His life was over, and he might as well stay in bed until the war came to his doorstep and someone put him out of his misery. He didn't even care how it all ended any more. It didn't matter who won and who lost. It wouldn't change anything.
But he didn't resist when Mother came to sit on his bed and placed her wand in his hand, saying it was time to go back. Time to move on.
"I can't," he'd said.
"You must," she'd replied. "We've no choice any more. We must keep up appearances. Only time will tell what will become of us. The important thing is that we keep going."
And so he'd taken her wand, packed his bag, and flooed to the Headmaster's office. To his relief, it was McGonagall who met him there and escorted him back to his dormitory. If she knew of what had happened, she said nothing.
But people did know, it seemed -- at least, the Slytherins did. There were rumors, some wildly false and some fairly close to the truth, and most of them implied that the Dark Lord was finished with the Malfoys, that they'd tried to betray him.
As a result, he was ostracized. Not even Pansy would talk to him. He turned in his Prefect badge and spent most of his free time in the library, alone. It wasn't so bad, though it wasn't so good either.
For the first time, he thought he might understand what's Potter's life was like.
The summons to the Headmaster's office came a week after he returned to school. He ignored it. Three more arrived over the next two days, and the fourth was accompanied by McGonagall herself, her expression stern.
"Now, Mr. Malfoy."
Draco followed her without protest, resigned to his fate.
Snape was busy behind his desk, and he did not look at Draco when they entered. He and McGonagall exchanged some whispered words and she left, closing the heavy doors behind her. Draco sat in the uncomfortable chair across from the desk, his eyes firmly focused on the floor.
It was silent for a long moment, and though Draco felt Snape's eyes on him, he did not look up.
"I suppose I should commend you," Snape said at last, "for the skill with which you protected your thoughts from the Dark Lord. Surely you know what danger we both would have been in had he uncovered them."
Draco shrugged, still not looking up. He hadn't thought of that before. He hadn't thought of anything but himself.
"And I also wish to apologize for abusing your trust," Snape continued. "You are entitled to your private thoughts, and it was wrong of me to force myself into them."
"You did what the Dark Lord wanted," Draco said, his voice barely more than a whisper. "He might have killed me otherwise."
"Perhaps." Snape stood and crossed to the window behind Draco. "But still, I should have stopped when I realized what you were concealing. It was not necessary for me to continue as long as I did, and for that I apologize."
Draco didn't know what to say to that. He'd expected to be lectured, punished, for Snape to look at him with disgust, or even to expel him from the school -- but he'd never expected an apology.
"I have decided to end our private lessons. I'm sure I need not explain why."
"You needn't," Draco said, and buried his face in his hands.
He heard a sound like a sigh behind him. "I know it will be difficult for you to believe this, but I do understand. You should not feel ashamed of your own thoughts. There is nothing wrong with having fantasies."
"Can we please stop talking about this?" Draco groaned. "Surely you realize how humiliating it is for me, that you know what I… that I thought about… with you."
"I do, Draco. But that is precisely why you need to hear what I have to say."
Draco stood. "Unless you're going to punish me, I'd like to leave. I have homework to do."
"Would you like me to punish you?" Snape asked, and they both winced at the awkward double-entendre. "I meant--"
"I know what you meant. No. I've done nothing wrong."
"Precisely." Snape's footsteps grew closer, until he stood in front of Draco. "Look at me."
Draco swallowed, but forced himself to comply. There was nothing but guardedness in Snape's expression -- no warmth, no sympathy, no anger. Draco wasn't sure he could have stood any of those.
"This is the last we will speak of it as long as you are a student at this school," Snape told him. "It would be inappropriate for us to continue this conversation."
Draco nodded and looked away again.
"But I do hope you will come to me if you wish to discuss other things. The Dark Lord's anger can be difficult to bear. I understand that as well as anyone."
"Is that all?"
"Yes. You may go."
Draco started for the door, but stopped just before it. "Professor? I need to ask… How did you convince the Dark Lord that I was not a traitor?"
"I told him my search of your memories revealed you had cheated in my lessons for years, and that I doubted you were capable of being anything more than a nuisance to Potter."
Draco half-smiled. "I see."
"Though I remain curious as to why you did not identify him when you had the chance."
Draco paused for a moment before speaking. "I wasn't protecting anyone but myself. I simply didn't want the Dark Lord to come. I thought if I lied, if I stalled…" He shook his head and grasped the door knob. "I was a fool. I might as well be a traitor."
"I think you are far less foolish than you imagine," Snape said quietly. "Good night, Mr. Malfoy."
"Good night, Professor." Draco opened the door and didn't look back. He walked to the dungeon slowly, lost in thought, and took a winding path. He was in no hurry, as there was no one there who would talk to him, no reason to be there instead of anywhere else. Snape's last words replayed in his mind over and over, and Draco wondered what he'd meant. Snape was an enigma to him -- and perhaps that was why Draco had found him so intriguing.
Draco stopped, his stomach twisting. The corridor was deserted, and he knew better then to let himself be cornered like this, all alone. He looked up.
Andrew the Hufflepuff was leaning against the wall by a large tapestry, with a smug smile on his face. "I hear you're not the king of Slytherin any more."
"I hear you're a flaming poof."
"So we're both right," he replied with a grin.
They stared at each other for a moment. "What do you want?" Draco asked at last.
"I was going to ask you the same thing."
Draco couldn't help but laugh at that. The sound was strange to his ears, and he realized he hadn't laughed in weeks.
Andrew's grin widened, and he pushed off the wall. "Want to go for a walk? The Giant Squid has been out every night this week. It's kind of cool to see."
The shore of the lake this time of evening was a popular spot for couples, and Draco's appearance there with another boy would certainly not go unnoticed. But he had no reason to care what people thought -- not any more.
Draco turned to face him and shrugged. "Yeah, sure. Why not?"