And it's my first Snapledore, too.
A yousendit file of the ballad "Sovay" as recorded by Touchwood is here. (Let me know if it expires and I'll upload another.) You can also check out this webpage to read the lyrics.
Summary: "I only did it for to know/ If you would be a man or no."
Rating: R for sexual themes
A/N: A pastiche of the ballad Sovay. (Lyrics can be found here.) This marks the third ballad I've made into an HP story, so, yay, I can call it a series! Thanks to florahart for the beta.
He dons the robe. It is black and that is almost disguise enough, as his preference for bright colors is nearly notorious. Even for the somberest of occasions, the most funereal of garments in his wardrobe is a deep purple.
"Filthy little half-breed." He seizes the slack jaw and jerks it towards him as if he will wrench it off. "Such a liar, you are. We'll get your secrets out of you yet."
Gloves, for his hands. Hands tell much about a person. Gender. Age. Stains and calluses, which reveal one's habits. The texture of his hands upon Severus's skin might be familiar.
"Thought the Dark Lord didn't know, did you? Thought we were all idiots, to be taken in by the likes of you?" Another backhanded blow, drawing blood. He can't afford to do less.
"I'm not--" Severus stops, swallowing, stammering against that already thickening lip. "I'm not."
A traitor goes unspoken.
And the mask. He handles it with the tips of his fingers only, as if avoiding contamination. Though it is far too late for that.
He knows, of necessity, how to work such a disguise. Polyjuice is easier but Polyjuice functions in a short and dangerous capacity; he won't put his trust in it. Wiser to rely on his own skills.
He's become too accomplished at this kind of deception.
"Oh, you are, mudblood, I've no mistake. We've no mistake." The repetition of "we" again--he needs Severus to believe the others not only exist but are there with him, that the shufflings Severus hears in the darkness beyond are Voldemort's other sentinels, preparing to have their turn with the dirty little half-breed traitor. That more than one set of fists is ready to beat the truth from him.
Perhaps that will convince Severus that he should break all the sooner.
Severus left him a scant hour ago, and that too is necessary for Albus's purposes. He wants the boy to believe that his abduction so soon after his departure from Albus's quarters is no coincidence. That these men must be able to smell Albus on his flesh, commingling odours fresh and stale at the same time from where tongues have travelled, sweat has transferred, ejaculate has marked. He wants Severus to remember all this and know even further that he must be doomed.
He needs to know if he has made the greatest mistake of the war in succumbing and taking the boy into his bed.
On the edge of the Forbidden Forest, just before Severus can reach the edge of the wards, he strikes. Wary Severus, bless him, actually senses something amiss and has a counterdefense against his first spell, but the outcome is never in doubt and Albus overcomes him with his second. Mobilocorpus lifts the unconscious boy the short distance to the boundary of the wards and from there the Apparition destination is cheerlessly familiar.
Someone as observant as Severus might notice if the chains are in incongruously good upkeep, so the manacles are a squealing-hinged, rust-flaking constriction on Severus's wrists. Albus peels Severus's sleeves back as he locks them down; no quarter there either.
At last all that remains is the Ennervate spell to begin the next part of the farce. As Severus comes 'round Albus imagines--not with any pleasure--the boy's bewilderment, his fear, the panic that he will have to bite back as he takes in the dim stone cave, the masked and cloaked figure shadily visible before him, the lingering throb where the spell caught him in the chest and the restraints that have him helpless.
Severus does bite it back. He blinks owlishly but his face is no less a mask than that which covers Albus's, for all that he must know he is in terrible, terrible trouble.
And he does not speak. No tense questions to his captor, no threats nor demands nor jibes. Though the silence goes on he does not rise to it. Albus silently approves. Severus has taken instruction well.
The accent and timbre Albus has chosen are nothing like his own, but he thinks the words alone would almost be enough to divert any suspicions of Severus's. "You are well and truly fucked, boyo."
Only a tremor of movement from Severus. Good. "Knew there wasn't something right about you from the first. Skinny little nancyboy, you think the Dark Lord doesn't know when he's being played for a fool? You're worm food, you are."
The boy sucks in breath in a hiss, lets it out in the same sound. "Who the sodding hell are you? I've got no idea what you're on ab--"
The first backhand that the boy will earn this night. Albus feels his knuckles sting right through the glove. "You know right well, you bloody squealer. You're going to use that mouth to tell us what we want and not a word besides. Got that?"
The tip of Severus's tongue--that tongue that not two hours ago twined with Albus's own in hasty desperation--emerges to touch his lip. "Get fucked," he spits.
Albus pauses, quite still, letting Severus believe that under that mask there might be a grin splitting the face. "Oh, there's an idea. Think that'd make you talk? Or whine for more, no doubt." He leans in. "You're in bed with one of them, anyway. Which one's enjoying your arse, then, you filthy little sodomite?"
Severus doesn't answer, but then, he's barely begun. "Come on, then. Who is it? Who's got you on your knees nights, and likely mornings too, begging for a taste of his cock? Sodding shirt-lifter. Tell us. Make a clean breast of it and maybe we won't have to kill you." He sniggers.
"Sod you. There's no one." Severus has his face turned away when he says it.
"Filthy little half-breed..." And so it continues, never straying too far from either theme, that Severus has betrayed the Dark Lord, that Severus has done it all for a quick tumble of flesh with one of the enemy. Soon the blows are no longer backhanded; Albus is using a closed fist, telling his cold heart that it all can be healed. The physical hurts, that is.
"Come on. You're worth more to the Dark Lord alive than dead. Tell us. Maybe he'll make you his spy in their camp, after. You'd be valuable." He lets that sink in a moment, then repeats: "Tell us who."
He can see Severus thinking. Moving from double to triple agent, and, ironically, even quadruple, to stay true to Dumbledore. Are they telling the truth; would Voldemort really spare him? But he would have to give up the name.
"There isn't anyone," he says, and now it really is slurred, fighting its way from his swollen mouth.
Albus won't use the Cruciatus. Not out of fear, no. Because it is too clean. If Albus can abduct, bind and beat the boy who shares his bed because he has to test him, then Albus has no business hiding behind the sterile ease of an Unforgiveable Curse. He reaches up, takes hold of one of Severus's fingers with both hands, and snaps the middle joint. The scream is nothing that should ever come from a man's throat, and he wants to retch. Good.
He waits until the screams choke off into moaning, takes hold of a second digit, and says, "Tell us, damn you."
It's half-curse, half-plea, and is yet another sound Albus wants never to remember, but it still gives away no secrets.
He has broken three of Severus's fingers before he lets himself obey his inner voice, the one that fights the icy deceiver he must be in these moments. The voice begging For the love of Merlin, Albus, it's enough, it's enough.
He draws his wand. "Gah. We'll never get anywhere this way." The wand moves in a pattern he knows Severus would recognize, if he could see through tear-blinded eyes. "Legilimens."
He penetrates Severus's outer mental defenses, but he knows what he will see. The outer shell is where Severus keeps those memories of no value: unpleasant, joyless, and laced with its share of humiliation, but nothing that would betray him. He sees an unhappy boy, a persecuted student, all in familiar flashes, but nothing worse, not at this level.
He pushes further, and Severus blocks him. Three broken fingers and nearly a broken jaw, and Severus is still able to feel what he is doing and fight to keep him out. Yes. Yes. Harder, he pushes. The walls fray, leave breaches that are easy for him to slip between, but he makes a show of struggling for it so that Severus will not wonder at the capabilities of this particular Legilimens and suspect too soon.
And he is through, and what he sees...what he sees nearly has his own physical body falling to its knees in relief. What serves as Severus's ostensible inner shell is a blessed amalgam of images both recent and old, memories of his service to Voldemort as well as those incurred in his work for the Order, but of the latter, only the moments that show the Order members in the worst possible light: Alastor Moody, shouting his scorn; Sirius Black, granting him nothing but hexes and sneers. Lily Potter on the receiving end of Severus's malice. All of them are here. And he, Albus--
--there he is, coolly ordering Severus into silence despite the murderous trick played against his young life. That is all; that, or similar images of Albus lifting up his unworthy favorites at Severus's expense. There is nothing of a foolish old man and a much younger one, improbably entwined, ridiculous in their affection. None of that at all.
Albus knows, knows that he could find that remaining, hidden inner wall and breach it, because he is Albus Dumbledore and he doubts even Voldemort is as skilled a Legilimens as he. But this is exactly what he does not do. He has as much as he dared hope from Severus--he has far more, in fact. It is enough. It must be.
He sends the spell for sleep at Severus and does not even bother to disguise his voice.
Severus's eyes flicker open, and he is speaking as soon as he has seen Albus, not even fully awake yet. "Alb--they found me--didn't--they know, but I--didn't--didn't tell--" He is trying to crawl from beneath the bedclothes, stops short and looks at his undamaged hand, then at the other as if to be sure he did not mistake the injuries. He lifts one of those hands to feel his jaw, similarly healed.
"Hush," Albus says, stroking the side of Severus's face. "I know. You didn't give way. I know."
He waits for Severus to calm, and then waits for him to ask, as he knows he will, how Albus knows this.
And he does, and Albus tells him. He laces his fingers with Severus's as he explains, and then watches the still, stunned face, waiting for the moment when Severus withdraws his hand from Albus's. And it comes, and happens slowly and quietly. No cries of horror or outrage, no demands that Albus leave the room, leave him. Albus knew there would be none.
And when that hand--so recently broken and healed by the same loving agent--comes creeping back, fearfully, whisper-tentative, to slide into his own once more, Albus knew that that would happen as well.
As Severus is the most precious thing in the world to him, so, too, is he all that Severus has. And he knows that is the reason Severus does not ask him what would have happened had he failed, given up Albus's name to his tormentor.
Because Severus cannot afford to know the answer. He still will not leave.
Albus does not deserve to be spared the question.
But the inner voice of his weeps with relief all the same.