Lilith spent three days trying to keep busy and keep her mind off of what might be happening to her husband. Tending to Rose took a lot of her time, which on one hand she was grateful for, but the necessity to care for her child made her heart ache.
Rose was struggling emotionally and physically--unable to eat much, suffering nightmares every time she closed her eyes--and the strain was taking its toll on all of them. Violet didn't understand what was going on and Lilith was deliberately shielding her from the truth. She'd begun to ask when her father would come back.
And Lilith had no answer, simply a prayer that it was soon. Despite all that Severus had done, their family needed him.
The girls were in school and she was cleaning up the breakfast dishes when the vision hit, hard and fast, sending her gasping to her knees.
Pain. Deep down, unending, burning pain.
Despair. Leaking out from a tortured mind.
Laughter. Harsh, cruel.
An image formed, quick and bright and horrific. Severus sprawled on a marble floor, bleeding from eyes, nose, ears and mouth.
Her scream brought her back and she crumpled, her body racked with sobs. It couldn't be true. It couldn't. He'd said he wouldn't be killed. Punished but not killed.
Oh gods, let it not have happened yet. Let there still be time to save him.
The pain continued to reverberate through her and she clung to it. It was fresh, not old.
He was still alive.
She had to believe that.
Pushing herself to her feet, fighting for control of her emotions and her body, Lilith stumbled out of the kitchen, seeking her purse and the one thing she continued to carry from her old life.
The wand sent her where she desperately wanted to go.
Standing shaking in the middle of her old sitting room, Lilith's eyes fell heavily on the object on the coffee table that was out of place. An old sea shell, the possession of no one in their family.
A port key.
She swallowed convulsively, straightened her spine, and reached for it.
Nausea writhed through her as she tumbled through space and time--not due to the port key but the knowledge of her destination and fear of the unknown--and she landed hard on her hands and knees. Before she could dispel the dizziness her wand was magically yanked from her hand and she was dragged to her feet. Looking up, she saw two unfamiliar and young Death Eaters and fear fought down the nausea.
"Release her," came a sibilant command from several meters in front of her, and slowly she turned towards the voice. The hands fell away from her as she made brief eye contact with the monster sitting on a gilded throne. "Well, since Narcissa would never appear other than perfectly groomed, I can only assume I am addressing Mrs. Snape."
Not about to apologize for her jeans and t-shirt, Lilith tightened her jaw and took a step forward. "I've come to talk to you about my husband."
A nod from Voldemort and the two Death Eaters slithered out of the room, leaving them alone. "Come here." When she obeyed, stopping a few steps in front of him, he gave her an intrigued look. "Severus is being punished. Severely punished." A cruel smile crossed his non-lips at the play on words. "I assume you know why."
"He...Will you kill him?"
"Of course not," he replied smoothly, but she could see the blatant lie in his eyes, and felt herself paling.
The plea came out of her before she could stop it. "Please, don't. I'll do anything..."
The lie was joined by interest and he crooked one finger at her. Lilith forced herself to move directly in front of him and steeled herself from flinching when that finger slid down her arm. "Do you know how long I've wanted you here at my court? Severus' excuses have rung hollow for too many months, but I've allowed them because he's been...useful. Lucius was useful, too. In killing him, Severus took away something of equal value to himself. Does that not deserve punishment?"
"It doesn't deserve death," was her pained whisper. "He did it to save me."
"So he said."
Lilith wasn't completely sure that he believed that lie but she kept quiet about that, asking instead, "May I see him?"
"Have you earned that, my pretty little Gryffindor?" The fingers wrapped around her wrist. "Such delicate bones. So easily broken. Is there anything of steel in you or was it beaten out of you by the men who have owned you?"
"No one owns me," Lilith replied evenly. "And I'm not broken."
"I've been intrigued for nearly twenty years over whether or not there are differences between you and your twin. Obviously, not in beauty or features, but inside. She's weak, easily crushed. Will you be?"
He chuckled darkly and rose to his feet, forcing her to back up a step. "So, Mrs. Snape, what will you do to save your husband from further pain?"
"And, why would you do anything for him? He betrayed you, did he not, lied to you for your entire marriage, made you believe he'd gone soft and joined your cause. Don't you want him to suffer?"
Another laugh. "I think a part of you does."
"I...I want him to pay for his crimes, but not like this. Not with pain," Lilith stammered, then gasped as he caught her chin, forcing her eyes to his. Her stomach twisted but she fought down the sudden influx of panic.
"What have you seen, pretty one?"
"...Severus...dead at your command."
"Well...let's see what you'll do to stay that command." He released her and swept his robed arm towards a door beside his throne. "Go make yourself comfortable. I have certain orders to put on hold."
Lilith forced herself to walk past him to the door, open it and go through. She wasn't at all surprised to find herself in a well-appointed bedroom. While she hadn't given any outright thought to what he'd want from her, this was the obvious choice. After all, even though the truth had never been spoken between them, she knew what he'd done to Narcissa.
And he'd been human then. Now...
A shudder went through her and she forced down the urge to flee or scream or break down into tears. None of that would work or would be useful, and to do any of them would mean her husband's death. She was sure of that.
As she walked numbly to the large, velvet draped bed, the thought that here she'd earn Severus' life flitted through her mind, and she felt tears sting her eyes. The door behind her opened again and she hastily blinked them away and turned.
Voldemort strode towards her, supremely confident that she was his.
And he was right.
"He's resting comfortably for the moment. Well, as comfortably as one can get hanging in chains from a ceiling." He invaded her personal space again and she looked up with as calm of eyes as she could muster. "Beg me."
"On your knees," he added.
The growing knot went from her stomach to her throat, but she dropped silently to the carpet, hands clenched into fists against her thighs. Not wanting to look at all at what was directly in front of her barely concealed by black robes decorated with real stars, Lilith forced her eyes up to his face as she began again. "Please. I'll do whatever you want, however you want it, just don't kill Severus. Stop hurting him and I'm yours."
"Very pretty, but are you sincere?"
With a gesture, his robes parted and he ordered, "Prove it."
Lilith was hyper-aware of every sound, every movement, so when Voldemort slid from the bed and pulled on his robes, she held herself completely still, breathing so shallowly as not to be noticed, waiting to make sure...
To make sure he was done.
Her body ached, every muscle tense and stressed. A pulse of pain pounded in her temple and her eyes burned with unshed tears. She felt disgusting, dirty...used.
As she lay on that massive bed, trying not to shiver in reaction, arms wrapped tightly around her naked body, Lilith's mind drifted back to the day Severus had found her, how he had hurt her, how she thought she'd never get clean again, never feel normal.
She'd known nothing of how filthy and degraded a man could make a woman feel. Even Lucius paled in comparison to what she'd just suffered.
Listening to Voldemort move around the room, she prayed he was satisfied. He'd seemed pleased enough. She'd forced herself to respond as best she could, giving him pleasure even as her skin shrank from touching his and her mind screamed in horror. It had been an odd relief to discover that while his skin was cool and dry to the touch, and his fingers were long and clawed, he was still a man and responded as one.
She'd learned long ago on her knees in front of Lucius how to please a man she hated and feared.
But, there was something still inhuman enough about Voldemort to turn her stomach and make sweat rise on her skin.
He truly was a monster.
"I must admit, my dear, I expected a fight. That's not to say that I'm not pleased with your surrender, however grudgingly given." His voice dropped to a purr that sent a shudder of horror through her. "I actually prefer that my women don't enjoy themselves with me. Their distaste heightens my pleasure. You hated it, didn't you."
Lilith bit into her lower lip to keep from screaming, and refused to move, to look at him.
"Have you gone catatonic?" he teased.
A laugh broke from him. "Such a delight. It will be my great pleasure to break you."
It wasn't over. Oh gods, it wasn't over.
Panic flooded her and she forced herself to stay still and not hyperventilate.
Suddenly he was at her side, crouched down, forcing her to look at him. An evil smile crossed his face and his hand brushed her hair away from her cheek. Lilith flinched, and he chuckled again. "Did you think this would be it, my sweet lioness? That I would sate myself on you in one day?" The fingers brushed over her lips and she resisted the urge to bite and kick and claw herself away from him. "You may leave, and you've won your husband's miserable life, but when I summon you, you'll come to me and do whatever I wish."
"I won't kill for you, fight for you," she croaked out, mentally fighting past the horror clogging her throat.
He looked amused at that. "Why would I waste you as a warrior when you're such a pleasing whore?"
Letting his term for her slide over her, she held still, waiting to see if he'd actually let her go. When he rose and turned away from her, she nearly sighed in relief, and felt endorphin fill her, giving her the strength to rise and reach for her clothes scattered across the foot of the bed. With trembling hands she pulled them on, every thought on reaching the safety of home. Jamming her feet into her slip-on trainers, she looked up to see her wand being held out to her. Slowly she took it, her eyes briefly meeting his.
He trusted completely that she was no threat to him. When he held out his arm next, she forced herself to take that, too, and let him lead her out of the bedroom. There were several people milling around--Death Eaters and sycophants--and they all stopped to stare at her, but she ignored them, hoping she wasn't flushing. Voldemort ignored them as well as he led her past them and out a second set of doors which deposited them in a hallway with doors on one side and glass on the other. He stopped in front of the lone glass door. Outside was a garden facing west as the sun set through the trees, and when he opened the door and released her, she stepped outside. It was cold and, in her t-shirt, she shivered.
"Is it a Gryffindor quality that you simply take my word on your husband's safety?"
"It's the sure knowledge that if you lied to me and Severus dies, I'll come back here and kill you."
At her determined words, he grinned wildly and laughed darkly, then swept back up the hallway.
Swallowing convulsively and feeling the despair she'd been holding back creeping in, Lilith raised her wand and wished herself home.
Numbly Lilith opened her back door and stepped into her kitchen. Tucking her wand into her back pocket she returned to loading the dishwasher with the breakfast dishes. She couldn't think, wouldn't remember. The necessary, every-day tasks would help.
A glass slipped through her fingers and crashed to the floor, and she stared dumbly at the shards on the linoleum until a keen filled her ears.
It was coming from her.
Tears spilled down her cheeks and a sob burst from her, and she fled up the stairs and into her bathroom where she was violently sick. Crouched over the toilet, she heaved and sobbed until there was nothing left. Collapsing onto the rug, she curled into a ball and the sobs faded to soft weeping which led to merciful sleep.
Something brought her from the darkness of a thankfully dreamless sleep to full awareness. Brushing dry tears from her sore cheeks, she rose on stiff legs and crept from the bathroom, only to gasp in shock.
Severus stood in the middle of the bedroom, swaying slightly, blood crusted around his lips and nose, ugly bruises circling his wrists.
He turned swollen eyes to her and she raised trembling hands to her lips. He was hurt, but he was here, and she really hadn't expected him to be freed so soon. She'd stopped Voldemort from killing him, but he'd never promised to free him. As she took a step towards him, he backed away from her and she noticed the bleakness in his eyes for the first time. "Sev? How badly are you hurt? Let me get the first aid kit." As she turned to go back into the bathroom, he caught her wrist, pinning her in place, and she looked back at him.
"Tell me it's not true."
Oh gods...he knew.
Lilith felt herself go white and she pulled away from him, a part of her wanting to flee, a part of her wanting to crumple into tears again. Instead, she forced herself to calmly answer. "I had a vision. He was going to kill you."
"And that mattered to you?" he whispered.
Eyes widening in surprise--though, to be honest, she shouldn't be surprised that he believed she thought so little of him--Lilith responded the only way she could. "You matter to me."
"But, to...Lilith, you didn't need to sell your soul to him to save me."
In the face of his breaking down, she found strength and reached up to cup his cheek gently. "I didn't. My soul is my own. My body...it means nothing, Severus." But her fingers trembled against his skin and her heart ached in her chest as the memories pounded into her skull. "I knew...I knew what he'd want. It wasn't a sacrifice."
"You didn't know he'd keep your bargain."
"I knew." Gently she nudged him to sit on the end of the bed, joining him, her fingers entwining with his. "How badly are you hurt?"
"Nothing permanent. Nothing I haven't suffered before," was his bitter reply. "As you'll suffer...again. Once is never enough with him."
She paled but nodded. "I know."
"And he'll break you," Severus whispered.
"Only if I let him. I'm not my sister." When he turned to look at her, she tried to smile reassuringly. "This was my decision. I don't regret it." Hated it, feared it, but refused to regret it because to do so would mean Severus wasn't worth saving.
I'll kill him--the furious thought flashed into her mind and was just as quickly gone, and she watched his face remain emotionless. A master at the mental arts, he must be badly hurt or very angry to let that through.
"I'm surprised he let you go. That wasn't the bargain, just your life."
Bloody, bruised lips twisted into something dark and vicious. "He wanted me to know what you'd done for me. Wanted this confrontation."
At that comment, something hit her and she blanched.
He was monitoring them?
Lilith knew Voldemort was a gifted legilmens, probably better than anyone. Was he spying on them? Their thoughts and actions?
Had he heard Severus' threat?
Knowing that, Lilith asked a question she already had an answer for. "Are you...angry with me?"
The surprise in Severus' eyes confirmed her answer even before he shook his head and stammered, "Gods, no, Lilith. I couldn't be...I...I'm angry at myself. I'm so sorry that you had to do this. It's all my fault."
"No. You saved my life, now I've saved yours. It's what you do...for the person you love."
He gave her such a look of wonder that she nearly cried. "Lilith?" As his hand rose to cup her face, she leaned into it, feeling the warmth in his long fingers, the gentleness she'd missed so much. She'd been afraid, so afraid that what Voldemort had done to her would color every touch Severus gave her.
But it didn't.
"I can't help it. I love you," she murmured, meeting his dark eyes. "I'm so very angry and hurt but I haven't stopped loving you. I...I don't know if you ever...Was it real? Was any of our life together, real, Severus?"
"Yes. Oh, yes. I do love you. That's always been real, Lilith."
Gently, concerned for his injuries, Lilith wrapped her arms around him and rested her head on his shoulder. As he returned the embrace, breathing softly into her hair, she started to weep, and he only soothed her, his hands stroking her back, his love surrounding her.
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