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Triptych: Duty, Dream and Desire, by leela_cat

Triptych: Duty, Dream and Desire, by leela_cat

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Title: Triptych: Duty, Dream, and Desire
Author/Artist: Leela (leela_cat)
Rating: PG-13
Pairings: Rabastan Lestrange/Severus Snape
Word Count: ~3,200
Warnings: None
Betas: angela_snape and eeyore9990
Summary: Duty takes Rabastan Lestrange down a path towards darkness, but it cannot steal away his dreams or his desires.
Author's/Artist's Notes: Written for janus in hp_beholder.


Lestrange stands in the back of the Great Hall of Hogwarts, wrapped in shadows and spells. He watches and waits, staying out of the battle that rages in front of him. There's little doubt in his mind about which side will win, even less doubt about whom he will lose.

His eyes feel desiccated and ravaged. If he ever had any tears, they were dried up by years of following his brother down the path to the Dark Lord, then Azkaban, and back again.

Green light races from the Weasley woman's wand towards Bella, the Dark Lord's scream rises above the din, and Rodolphus turns his back on Shacklebolt to race to his dead wife. Rabastan bows his head. He cannot bear to watch what must happen next, the inevitable result of his brother's wedding day.

* * *

Lestrange Castle was dark and dreary at the best of times, which that Midwinter night most definitely was. The ballroom was lit by thousands of flickering white candles, half of which hovered upside down to give better light. Drops of wax fell at regular intervals only to sparkle and flare in green or silver or white as they were vanished out of existence by the protective spells.

Rabastan leant against the wall, half-hidden from the crowds by two pillars and the swathes of silk and flowering thorny vines wrapped around them. As the best man, he'd been forced to wear the black and silver chosen by his new sister-in-law — the crazy bitch — who seemed determined to spend what little was left of the Black fortune on her wedding. At least she was smiling, twirling around the dance floor and dividing her affections between her husband and the Dark Lord.

"Sickle for your thoughts?"

Suppressing his annoyance at being surprised by Severus's arrival, Rabastan didn't bother to turn around or take his eyes off the dance floor. "Not hard to divine, surely, even without being able to use Legilimency on me."

"Keeping an eye on the happy couple?"

"Which one would that be?" Rabastan choked back his bitter laughter.

"At least Rod seems happy."

"Does he now?" Rabastan drawled, and that time he did look over.

Severus looked drawn and tired. His black robes were new and neatly pressed, and his hair was caught back in a neat ponytail. However, his left boot bore a greenish brown mark from some potions ingredient or another, and he hadn't bothered to cleanse the stains from his hands. Somehow, Rabastan thought, that seemed appropriate.

"You appear duly appreciative of the honour being done to you, invited to witness the joining of the Lestrange and Black houses," Rabastan observed as he ran a finger down Severus's sleeve and tugged on a thread that hung from the embroidered cuff.

"I did my best." Severus's voice held a defensive note that Rabastan tucked away for further consideration.

"Indeed." Somehow Rabastan found a ghost of a smile, the quirk of his lips that usually made Severus soften towards him. "Forgive me," he said. "I'm the one who is unappreciative of the honour done to us by the Dark Lord in arranging a bride for my brother."

Severus nodded and then, being a gloriously intelligent man, summoned a house-elf and its floating trays of bottles and goblets. The elf also arranged for a small table and two chairs to be placed between the pillars.

Half a bottle of Siberian Snow Vodka later, Rabastan had relaxed enough to move his seat closer to Severus's and to be amused when he asked, "So, Bellatrix Black, huh? I didn't see that one coming."

"Neither did Rod." Rabastan snickered and raised a toast to the dance floor. "Bloody low-rent harpy that she is, he'll never break free of her talons."

"Doesn't seem to mind, though."

On the dance floor, Rodolphus was dipping Bellatrix with an extravagant flourish. Their kiss was long and luxurious and left her giggling.

"He'd love her, given half a chance," admitted Rabastan. Then he picked up the closest bottle and filled both of their goblets. "But least said about that in here, the better."

"True."

Lifting his goblet, Rabastan took a sip of vodka. The cold bit at his lips and tongue. The rush of warmth returning in the wake of the frigid liquid sent a shudder through him. Holding Severus's gaze, he licked his lips and then swept his tongue around the rim of the goblet. Then he held it out.

Accepting the glass with a bow of his head, Severus rubbed the rim of the goblet on his own lips and drank, slowly and deliberately.

"They'll leave soon," said Rabastan.

"I can wait." Severus handed the goblet back. His fingers were cool and welcoming against the back of Rabastan's hand.

As he drank, Rabastan watched his brother dance with the Dark Lord's trollop and resigned himself to a life in the Dark Lord's service. He could see no other way to protect Rodolphus. Or Severus.

* * *

Rabastan moves around the Great Hall with infinite care and patience, taking half-steps, sometimes not even that much, and being careful to avoid touching anyone. His camouflage and protective spells are among the best, but they won't help if someone bumps into him.

He's almost at the door, close enough to freedom to breathe in its heady fragrance, when he hears the one name that could make him turn back.

Severus Snape

That one irresistible name, yelled by the boy who will be their downfall once again, resounds in the silent room, and Rabastan stops to listen and to find out what has happened to Severus.

* * *

The holding cells in the bowels of the Ministry of Magic Headquarters were cold and dank. Death Eaters — and many who were merely accused of being Death Eaters — were squeezed three and sometimes four or five to cells designed for a single suspect as they awaited interrogation or trial. Witch-hunting, Antonin had called it when the Aurors had tossed him back into his cell, broken and bleeding from their questions.

Sighing, Rabastan wrapped his arms around his torso and once again attempted to use what little remained of his own body heat to warm himself. The grey robes provided by their jailers were too thin and too ragged to do anything more than ensure the prisoners weren't naked.

Behind him, Rodolphus moaned again and something close enough to hope that it attracted the Dementors rose in Rabastan. He turned around and looked over at the narrow bunk that took up more than half of their cell, but Rodolphus was still unconscious.

Severus looked up from his perch at the end of the bunk and shook his head.

Resisting the urge to bang his head on the wall, Rabastan went back to looking out the tiny, barred window in their cell door. Silencing spells kept him from listening, but Igor was still fighting the Aurors who were trying to haul him out of his cell and down the corridor.

"Stupid," Severus hissed. "He's just postponing the inevitable and making it worse for himself."

Rabastan nodded. "They'll come for you next."

"And I'll survive, as always."

"What you'll do—" Rabastan glanced back at his brother and then lowered his voice, forcing Severus to move closer to hear him. "What you'll do," he repeated, "is accept Dumbledore's offer of clemency."

Severus started to pull back, but Rabastan expected that and reached out to keep him close. Astonishingly, Severus's wrist was ice-cold beneath Rabastan's chill hand. Severus was too thin, too susceptible to the cold to survive long in the holding cells, and Rabastan couldn't bear to think how little time it would take him to succumb to the far worse conditions in Azkaban.

"My best friend is dead," Severus said dully. "What does it matter?"

His words were like a punch to Rabastan's already bruised and aching body. He tightened his grip enough to wrench a hiss of pain from Severus. "Your life matters," Rabastan gritted out. "Do not throw it away."

"He wants me to protect her son."

"So would she." Rabastan tried for a matter-of-fact tone. Severus's devotion to the Gryffindor was admirable, if misplaced.

When Severus didn't respond, Rabastan slid his hand up Severus's arm, baring the Dark Mark. It had twisted in on itself, and the once-vibrant colours were faded and barely visible. "Our Lord is not dead." Rabastan caressed the Mark with his thumb. "Defeated, yes. Disembodied, definitely. But not dead."

"And that's relevant how?" Severus sneered. "We do not have his protections. We can merely die."

"We can survive." Rabastan pulled Severus closer. Desperation added fierceness to his voice. "We can protect each other, and we can ensure that we live to see him rise again." There were other words — words that Rabastan would never speak aloud, not in this place and certainly not in the presence of his brother, unconscious or not. He rested his forehead against Severus's and stared into his eyes, trying to push those words past Severus's Occlumency shields.

In a long slow movement, Severus closed his eyes and reopened them. "And you," Severus said. "What will you do?"

"You know what I must do." Drawing away, Rabastan glanced at the bunk and back to Severus. "Someone has to protect Rodolphus from that bitch he married."

"Surely in Azkaban—"

"Especially there." Grief rocked through Rabastan as he remembered what he'd learned, about how husbands and wives and lovers were sometimes permitted conjugal visits, because doing so kept the Dementors better fed. He put his palm against the door to keep his balance.

Then Severus reached out and stroked a hand down Rabastan's cheek. "And who shall care for you?"

"I shall, of course." Rabastan clasped Severus's hand in one of this own and held it to his chest. "It would be easier to do, however, if I knew you were safe."

Before Severus could respond, the Aurors came for him. The next day, when Severus hadn't returned and Rookwood was tossed into their cell, Rabastan sealed his hope deep inside, protecting it from the Dementors. If he only had to look after Rodolphus in Azkaban, perhaps they could all survive. A life sentence, after all, was not quite as long as the life of a wizard, even one forced to endure the predations of that hellhole.

* * *

Killed Severus Snape.

The Dark Lord claims it, and the Boy Wonder doesn't deny it. Grief grips Rabastan's throat, paralysing him for a dangerously long moment. But then he hears someone nearby mutter, "Shrieking Shack," and someone else mumble, "Bloody vicious snake," and Rabastan knows there's a possibility that they're wrong.

He digs his hand into a pocket of his duelling robes and checks that the phials are intact. The cure for Nagini's venom that Severus himself developed and shared with those few Death Eaters he judged worthy of survival.

While others are distracted by the two opponents circling each other, Rabastan wraps a few more shadows and spells around himself and slips out of the Great Hall.

* * *

The room assigned to Rabastan in Malfoy Manor was too large, too luxurious, and far too near his brother's and the Dark Lord's adjoining rooms. After the disaster that had been his first morning as a free wizard, Rabastan had spelled the curtains shut to prevent the house-elves from ever again flicking them open without his permission. He had no interest in being exposed to that expanse of outside before he could prepare himself; once had been more than sufficient.

Nights were infinitely more difficult, however. Unable and unwilling to bear the shadows created by flickering candles and torches, he huddled at the edge of the bed beneath the heavy duvet and endured the silence of a room warded to ensure uninterrupted sleep.

The door opened. Rabastan tightened his grip on his new wand and held himself completely still, not even allowing himself to breathe in case that hindered his ability to hear the intruder.

A swish of heavy cloth and the resulting trace of bitterness on the air gave the intruder away and allowed Rabastan to identify him and at least try to relax.

"Budge over." Severus was a looming presence next to the bed.

Wanting to oblige, Rabastan shifted back a few inches.

There was a moment, an interminable pause, before Severus released the breath that he'd apparently been holding. The rustle of clothing falling to the floor was deafening, distracting Rabastan enough that he missed Severus's movements and was startled by the slide of Severus's body into the bed behind him. He'd left on his shirt and trousers for which Rabastan, who still wore his own day clothes, was unbearably grateful.

After so many years spent in solitude, Severus's presence in Rabastan's bed was almost too much. The touch of Severus's hand on his hip startled and soothed him. The brush of Severus's exhales on the back of his neck caused Rabastan to twitch and then turn to lie on his back.

"I'm sorry it took so long to get here," Severus said. "Things are... complicated at Hogwarts right now."

"It's only been a few days."

"Three days and eight hours."

There was a standard response to something like that, but Rabastan couldn't quite remember how the words were supposed to fit together. Instead, he reached out and traced a finger down Severus's side, feeling the bump of each rib through Severus's shirt and stopping when he reached a reassuringly prominent hipbone. Severus was too thin, his clothes were soft and worn, but he was alive. Rabastan took solace in that.

"You survived," he said.

"As did you."

Unlike so many others, he didn't press Rabastan for details with avid curiosity, nor did he comment on the fact that Rabastan had shorn his hopelessly tangled, waist-length hair in a desperate attempt to eradicate the stench of Azkaban. Severus merely settled next to him, remaining silent even when Rabastan twined their fingers together and held onto his hand as the predawn light snuck around the edges of the curtains.

* * *

Rabastan isn't the only fugitive slipping through the grounds of Hogwarts and taking advantage of the early morning fog. He occasionally steps over or skirts around a body, but he purposefully does not look down to see if he knows who it once was. Rodolphus, his older brother, is dead. He has fulfilled his duty and doesn't wish to have another imposed upon him.

The door to the Shrieking Shack has been blasted open. Door, walls, and windows fell before someone's Reducto. Not miscast, either, but thrown from the inside and therefore by the Dark Lord or one of his followers.

No longer capable of prayer, Rabastan still closes his eyes briefly before going inside. Then he heads directly for the room where the Dark Lord held court. He walks as fast as he can, avoiding the traps that they set for intruders and resisting the urge to cast an air purifying charm. The odour of death, of gore and reptilian musk, gets stronger with every step. By the time he reaches the room, it's overpowering and he's holding his sleeve in front of his face and breathing through his mouth.

The cause is immediately clear. Severus lies on the splintered wooden planks in a pool of drying blood. His position is awkward, his eyes fixed and staring upwards.

Too late. The thought crashes through Rabastan's mind as he moves closer. He understands how both Potter and the Dark Lord could be so sure that Severus is dead. And yet, he's studied the effects of a Naga's venom, has helped Severus in many experiments as they raced to create the antivenin. So he fights those two words with facts: postsynaptic neurotoxicity, coagulopathy, rhabdomyolysis, and, most importantly, reversible.

A Naga paralyses its prey first, Rabastan reminds himself, and neurotoxic paralysis can give the appearance of death. As he sinks to his knees at Severus's head, he pulls all of the phials out of his pockets. He still has the seventeen that he started with: five phials of antivenin, five of blood-replenishing potion, another five of a broad-spectrum healing potion, and two of dittany.

As he contemplates the ragged edges of Severus's neck wound — and comes uncomfortably close to appreciation for the Gryffindor boy who slew that thrice bedamned snake — Rabastan becomes aware of how close he is to the end of his last dose of energy-replenishing potion. He's been up for over twenty-four hours and fighting for a large percentage of that.

"Just a few more minutes," he mutters. "Just long enough to get the potions into Severus and Apparate out of here."

His hand trembles as he uncorks a phial and pours the antivenin over the wound. When the seeping blood doesn't coagulate, he uses another. This time he can see the change. It's slow but steady.

Lifting Severus's head is awkward, but Rabastan manages to rest it on his knees, leaving him with one hand to open his mouth and pour phials of potions in it, and the fingers of his other hand to stroke Severus's throat and encourage swallowing. Uncounted minutes tick by as he waits and watches, before the prominent Adam's apple moves, and Severus takes a shuddering, coughing breath.

Another prayerless closing of his eyes, and then Rabastan takes the ultimate risk. He retrieves his own wand and sings the healing charm that Severus taught him, closing the wound.

He's working too slowly. This Rabastan knows when he hears voices. He can't tell where they're coming from, but they're getting nearer by the second, and he can't take any chances. He lays Severus down gently and pockets the unused phials before getting to his feet.

The pain from breaking his wand, although he'd tried to prepare himself for it, takes Rabastan by surprise. But Azkaban taught him how to survive far worse agony. Without hesitation, he retrieves the long oak wand he took from the half-giant when he captured him. He banishes the fragments of mahogany and dragon heartstring, the empty phials, and as much of the blood as he can manage.

Taking a deep breath, he aims his wand at a stack of crates and says, "Incendio."

Fire roars into existence. Its violence is both reassuring and a little disturbing. Within seconds, it's consumed the crates and is moving on to the floor and walls. The voices rise in alarm, and the intruders begin running, their feet thudding on packed earth.

Rabastan bends down and picks up Severus's limp body. He cradles Severus close, reassuring himself with the faint movements of Severus's chest, and grasps the stolen wand — his wand — firmly.

As he fixes their destination in his mind, Rabastan sees dark hair and black-framed glasses through the flames. Harry Potter looks as shocked as he feels. They stare at each other for a moment.

Then Potter's gaze drops down to the body in Rabastan's arms. His mouth moves, but Rabastan cannot hear what he's saying or make out the words, so he's not sure whether to be relieved or concerned when Potter spins around and leaves.

Not willing to wait and find out, Rabastan tightens his hold on Severus and Apparates away.

~fin~
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