Less Fortunate
by alicamel

The hallway is damp and reeks of something rotting; of things lost and things forgotten. The wind whistles through the gaps in the stone walls, ice-cold and damp, clutching at his ankles as his robe is swept around him. Severus' boots tap out a rhythm on the stones - his pace is, as always, unfaltering in its regularity. He pushes though another set of wooden doors. No locks here, on the uppermost levels of Azkaban. No dementors, no guards, no need for any of the traditional wardens.

The third door on the right is ajar, and the cell beyond is pitch black and windowless. The air is always stale. He enters, a muttered, 'Incendio' lighting the torches on the walls. In the corner of the room there is a wooden bench, and on the bench is a man, lying impossibly still.

"Hello, Lucius." The words echo worse than when he drags the chair across the stone floor to sit by his old friend. Severus lowers himself into the chair and stares at the older man. Lucius is thin, skeletal; bones pushing against yellow- ish skin, threatening to cut through flesh. Cheekbones, once regal, had become painfully sharp next to the sunken eyesockets. Severus fingers the blonde-white hair before carefully he lifts a limp strand of hair away from Lucius' face, tucking it behind the ear.



As a first year he'd sat in the Slytherin common rooms and watched Lucius Malfoy. Severus knew how to be invisible - he was small for his age, and unremarkable, and after a few short days first years were no longer a novelty and he ceased to be noticed.

He watched Lucius, who could never be ignored. The other boy was two years older, and Seeker for the Slytherin Quidditch team. Severus watched as he acted out Quiddich moves that had won whatever match they had last played - as if all eyes hadn't been on him when he played. Over the top of his book he watched Lucius as he knelt on a chair by the fire, leaning over the arm, hand outstreched. He watched the lean muscles flex, the pale skin shifting and moving. Then Lucius laughed at something one of his friend's said, leaning back in the chair, the glossy hair moving elegantly as he did so. Once, for an instant the grey eyes rested on Severus, staring directly at him, before Lucius' friend distracted him again.

Severus had blushed and buried himself in his book.


Severus forces Lucius into a sitting position. Touches the exposed skin and bone of his arm, shudders at the atrophied muscles spread thinly between them. The skin is more yellow than white, and it feels like old parchment, dry and flaking. Lucius himself is limp, but decptively heavy for all his thinness. He was always taller, larger, broader, and by the time Severus has forced the other man into an acceptable sitting position, he is hot and sweaty, flushed with exertion. Sitting beside Lucius on the bench, he leans against the wall, careful to keep an inch or six of space between himself and the other man. He catches his breath, waits for his heart to stop beating so wildly - waits for it to stop beating.

"You always did get my heart beating," he mutters bitterly at the silent form.



August was impossibly hot, and even the cool drinks Dobby brought didn't ease Severus' discomfort. It had been the summer before his third year, Lucius' fifth, when he was invited to Malfoy Manor for the month. He spent many of the days sitting by the Malfoy's swimming pool in his robes, and, despite Lucius' coaxing, had had no desire to strip and join Lucius in the pool. Well, maybe a little, but he wasn't supposed to have been thinking about that. Or about how Lucius' grey eyes had sparkled when Severus looked away as he stripped.

Lucius had swam the length of the pool with easy strokes, the sun sparkling off the water, lighting up his back. Severus had perched uncomfortably on the edge of a chair, his eyes drawn to the expanse of skin; flawless, like everything else Lucius' owned. Closing his eyes, Severus had let a little sigh slip past his lips. When he opened them again, Lucius' face was mere centimetres away, water dripping of the end of his nose. As Severus gasp he had laughed and leaned back, shaking his hair and skattering droplets across the patio. "See some thing you like?" He had asked, perfectly innocently, apart from that damned sparkle in his eyes.

After that Severus had always brought a book to the poolside.


Severus sat opposite Lucius knees an inch from each other, his hands in his lap. He looked at the other man, his eyes tracing the other's face endlessly, avoiding the grey eyes that no longer sparkled, or shone, or focused on anything. He violently hated this man in front of him with sunken eyes and yellow skin and limp, greasy hair that remined him of his own. Hated that he kept coming back, when Draco never visited anymore, and Narcissa had never bothered to. Hated that he had to, that he couldn't not see what his decisions had led to.

Hated the man's grey, dead, empty eyes that held nothing of the Lucius' he knew and an endless reflection of himself.



"Traitor!" Lucius had screamed the first time, the time after Harry Potter, one year old and orphan, had defeated Voldemort, the time Snape visited Malfoy Manor after they were both pardoned. "You betrayed me!"

Eighteen months old and blissfully unaware, Draco had slept on upstairs.

"I-I- " He hadn't stuttered since the first time Lucius had spoken to him. "I had to, he-he was out of control, Luc, he-"

"Don't call me that!" For a blind instant of panic he thought that Lucius would curse him, Crucio or Avada Kadarva or someother Dark Magic that would be a fitting end to Severus Snape's life. "Rosier, Wilkes, Parkinson... all dead. You killed them 'Sev'," Lucius sneered out his old nickname. "My parents, your own... you don't care about anything. How can anyone trust you when you've already betrayed everyone you loved?"

There was that, of course. He asked Dumbledore the same question, and the old man had gone extremely quiet and still in the way that he never did - that made Severus think, yes, okay, I have a second chance, but no one really trusts me, do they?

"Traitor." Lucius spat out one final time, the way he had once spat out Mudblood or Potter, while Severus stood behind him and sniggered.


"You were right," he tells his friend. "They still don't trust me. Not one of them." Severus thinks how long it's been since the Dark Mark burned on his arm for the final time. He can count it down to the very seconds if he chooses. It's been years.


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