Title: The Rematch
Disclaimer: This is fanfic. It is produced for non-commercial purposes. All characters are copyrighted and trademarked by J. K. Rowling and the publishers of Harry Potter and related properties.
Warnings: None, really. Dueling can be a bit violent?
Summary: Draco Malfoy is 25 years old, single, rich, and bored with life, when an old schoolmate invites him into a very exclusive club: a dueling club.
Author’s Notes: A very slantwise homage to Chuck Palahniuk’s novel “Fight Club.” This is still my favorite of my Snape/Draco fics. Written originally as a gift for Femmequixotic in the 2006 Merry Smutmas fest.
“Come on, Malfoy. Don’t tell me you’re scared.”
by Ravenna C. Tan
PART ONE: FEINTS AND PARRIES
“Come on, Malfoy. Don’t tell me you’re scared.”
Draco kept his eyes on the fine liquor in the snifter in his hand, only flicking them toward Nott when he was sure his hesitation had conveyed his disdain. “Really, Nott. I thought you’d have outgrown those old schoolboy ways. But I seem to bring out the worst in you.”
Theodore Nott was a junior manager of international finance at Hamersly’s, which meant that Draco had to rub elbows with him all too often. Most of the Malfoy fortune was managed through Hamersly’s, ever since the Gringott’s scandal, and Nott always made a point of chumming up to him at public functions.
Yes, they’d been chums of a sort back at Hogwarts, though Nott had always been a little bit of a loner, never really a part of Draco’s gang. They’d almost become close, after Potter had named both their fathers in that tabloid rag, but soon after, Draco had pushed everyone away but Crabbe and Goyle, and he had only kept them close because he needed their help.
Draco handed the empty snifter to a passing servant and prepared to speak. He was only standing in this room–his body, mind, and inheritance whole–because he’d taken charge of his own survival all those years ago. “Listen, Teddy,” he said, using the nickname the senior managers had tagged Nott with, “I really don’t fancy re-living the so-called glory days.” Not to mention the fact that some former cohorts might not look kindly on Draco’s actions toward the end of the war.
Nott straightened the tie under his robes and leaned a bit closer. “Even Potter shows up sometimes, the crazy git. Malfoy, I’m telling you, you’ll enjoy it. You don’t have to duel. Just come and… see.”
Draco was twenty-five years old, single, rich, and bored with life. He was sorely tempted–but did not want to seem as if he capitulated too easily. “Dueling is for ponces like that old fraud Lockhart.”
Nott sniggered, reinforcing Draco’s thought that he was very much still a schoolyard bully at heart. “You wouldn’t say that if you saw some of the duels we’ve had. The club retains a full-time mediwizard, you know.”
“Losing a limb, even temporarily, is not my idea of fun,” Draco persisted, but he was licking his lips as he said so.
Nott gave him a knowing smile and took a scrap of parchment out of his pocket. “Here. Night of the new moon, eight o’clock. See you there.”
Draco slid the scrap into his pocket and moved to get himself another drink. He nodded to the undersecretary to the minister for Wizarding trade, elbowed past a portly investor in dragonhide exports, and then found himself continuing out of the room and into the loo.
With the door latched behind him, he uncurled the scrap of parchment and felt his throat tighten. The words written there were innocuous enough, giving an address that was flying distance from the Manor. No, what gave Draco such a shock was the handwriting, the spidery script as familiar to him as the man’s face.
Severus Snape had written this.
Draco scowled, disliking the thought that Snape had engaged Nott in a scheme to draw Draco in. But Snape and Nott had never been close. Likely, Nott didn’t even know of Draco and Snape’s past.
The new moon was ten days away. Draco memorized the address, turned the paper to ash in his fingers, and then washed his hands. He had ten days to decide.
The October wind had an icy bite to it, but Draco decided to fly to the meeting. With the moon dark, he would be unlikely to be seen and he wondered if that was the reason for the date. Surely he wouldn’t be the only one to arrive by broom? Besides, he wanted to reconnoiter the site before committing to entry, and time on a broom always cleared his head.
He had a feeling he’d want it to be clear. The last time he had spoken to Severus Snape, they’d been in the thick of things. After a mad dash through the countryside, avoiding Aurors and waiting for instructions on how to rendezvous with the Death Eaters, Snape had brought him to the Dark Lord after the attack on Hogwarts. The man had made only a cursory explanation of Narcissa’s foolishness with the Unbreakable Vow and Dumbledore’s daft plan to sacrifice his own life. Draco had wanted no part of it. Snape’s machinations were not going to free Lucius from Azkaban nor secure Narcissa’s life. Once they reached the Dark Lord, Draco had acted on his own.
They had not parted on good terms. Draco had negotiated his own way with the Dark Lord, and then as soon as he had insured his parents’ safety, went straight to the Ministry with enough to insure himself a full pardon. During the war, they exchanged curt, barely civil words when they had crossed paths in Death Eater circles, and after Draco’s desertion not at all. Since then, Draco had not laid eyes on his former mentor and Head of House.
The sky was clear, the stars glittering in the crisp air, as Draco drifted over the circle of ancient stones south of the Manor. Wiltshire was home to several ancient magical sites and he wondered if the dueling club’s location was a mere coincidence.
The building hove into view suddenly, a rectangle of grey stone set in the midst of thick forest. It had been a monastery of some kind once, and, like Hogwarts, would appear a mere ruin to any Muggles who happened by it. But having been given the secret, Draco could see torches flickering at the entryway and he spiraled down toward them.
“Malfoy!” came a voice from just inside the archway, and Marcus Flint stepped out and extended his hand. “We wondered if you’d be showing your face here at some point.”
“Flint,” Draco answered, taking his hand and shaking it firmly. Flint had been one of the most cut-throat Quidditch players Draco’d ever had the pleasure to fly with.
“Go on in,” Flint said. “I’m on door watch until the rest arrive.”
Draco nodded and went through the open doors and into the entrance hall, where there were many hooks for hanging outer robes and a stand for brooms. Draco left his cloak and broom and continued in. Just beyond was a large room, at least as large as the Great Hall at Hogwarts, with just as high a ceiling. Along the walls stood a collection of overstuffed chairs, wing-backs, some medieval-looking settles with high wooden backs but cushioned seats–a general mish-mash of every kind of chair, all facing the open space in the center of the room, and almost all empty.
Almost. There were several large, high-backed seats on a raised platform–obviously for the judges–and in the center seat sat a dark figure, his hair hanging as black and limp as his robes. He sat with his chin in one hand, his black eyes staring at Draco.
Draco merely gave him a nod, just as he would have if they’d seen one another at a Quidditch match, and shifted his gaze to the corners of the room. There were a few fellows at one end, helping themselves to tea, it looked like. Draco made his way to them.
He was interested to find they were non-Slytherins–the first he’d encountered so far with this group. Draco recognized the names of the two Ravenclaws who had been a couple of years ahead of him, and they introduced him to a third wizard, one Ambrose Colbert, who had been educated on the Continent but who was settled in England now. Colbert looked over his tiny spectacles, his blond hair glinting in the torchlight, and shook Draco’s hand, as the Ravenclaws explained it was Colbert’s first time there, as well.
Draco smiled inwardly, chiding himself the moment he realized what he had been doing. He had instinctively sized up each wizard and decided that he could beat them, if it came to that. He reminded himself that he was not here to duel, though, just to observe.
Nott walked in a short while later, and came immediately to Draco’s side. “They’re about to get started. Let’s grab seats.”
He steered Draco to some of the best near the center, meaning that they were directly across from the judges’ platform. Snape was now conferring with another wizard Draco did not recognize, an older gentleman with graying hair, his many heavy layers of robes more archaic than the lighter style of the young generation. Draco relaxed into his seat, a leather-upholstered wing chair with wide arm rests.
The gray-haired wizard, it seemed, served as not only a judge, but as the master of ceremonies. Draco found that interesting. He’d assumed Snape would do so, but apparently the former professor delegated that responsibility. It was obvious–from the placement of his seat to the looks he received from the others–that Snape was the ringleader here.
“Gentlemen,” the oldster said. “Thank you all for coming. In times such as these, men such as we shall not rust in the scabbard like forgotten swords.”
The words had a ritual sound to Draco’s ears and he wondered if they always began this way.
“And now, may I reiterate the rules of The Society, Pugnax Hetairia.” The old man, who still had not given his name, cleared his throat. “First, and foremost, as always, what happens here, stays here.”
Draco wondered if there were spells compelling them to secrecy, or if the Society depended on the willpower of the members to keep quiet. He’d lay odds that there was some kind of charm at work.
“Second, if any duel progresses to loss of consciousness, or loss of a limb, the duel is over.” Draco caught Nott’s eye at that, but Nott merely shrugged. “Likewise, if any participant shall capitulate, whether verbally, or if unable to speak, like so.” He sent a burst of red sparks from his wand. “There is no limit as to the amount of time a duel may take. Each duel shall progress until one or both participants are unable or unwilling to continue.”
He paused and scanned the crowd as though making sure they had all heard, though every wizard’s attention was on him. “Third, only two wizards may duel at a time, only one duel shall take place at a time, and no wizard shall duel more than once of an evening.”
Draco wondered who had created these rules, or if they had evolved over time. How long had The Society been in existence? There had been no indication. Most of the wizards here looked like they were his age, or perhaps a bit older, though there was one group who looked like they might have battled Grindelwald (or maybe supported him), sitting in one corner.
“Finally,” the master of ceremonies said, his eyes suddenly falling on Draco, “If this is your first visit to The Society, you must duel. It is that, or leave now, never to return.”
Draco shot a look at Nott, who said quietly, “Come on, Draco. You’d be disappointed if you didn’t give it a go.”
He scowled–Nott was almost certainly right about that–but gave a curt nod of assent toward the judges. He then tried to pick out Colbert to see his face–had he known or was he surprised by the news, as well?–but he must have been in the shadows at the fringes of the room.
Still scanning with narrowed eyes, he jumped when Snape’s voice cut the murmurs, but he was calling out the names of the first two combatants, and Draco was not one of them.
Two wizards stepped into the center of the room, saluted each other and within moments the hexes began to fly. Draco found his attention divided between the two duelists and the audience. Every one of them had his wand out, and it quickly became clear that as a group they were shielding the dueling area. Draco drew his wand so as not to look out of place, but no one had taught him the spell.
He was musing on that and the other things he did not know–like why there were only wizards, no witches, there, and whether there was any kind of unspoken restriction on the types of spells one could use. He decided it was unlikely that the Unforgivables were used–after all, they were called the Unforgivable Curses for a reason. But there were plenty of nasty jinxes that could be used, if the first duel was any indication. It ended when one of the combatants fell back, blood spurting from his nose. The victor was cheered even as the mediwizard and another man Apparated away with the victim.
Draco wondered if this meant there were no Anti-Apparition wards in the dueling hall. He considered the possibility.
The next three duels all ended in similar fashion. Draco wondered where they tended the wounded.
His musings were cut short when he heard Snape bark out Colbert’s name. He tightened his grip on his wand, expecting to be called also, but the name that followed was not his.
It was one of the fellow’s Ravenclaw chums. Draco’s attention to Snape sharpened. Did he choose who fought whom? The murmurs among the audience increased in pitch, though Draco did not know if it was merely because of the newcomer, or if dueling friend-on-friend gave the crowd an extra frisson.
It was over almost before it began. Draco applauded Colbert, who seemed determined to make his mark and who reduced his friend to capitulation in under a minute. The two men shook hands as they left the arena, Colbert basking in the cheers, the Ravenclaw looking chagrined but not angry.
Then Snape stood, and Draco felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. “Draco Malfoy,” he said, in exactly the same bloodless tone he would have used to call the attendance roll at Hogwarts.
Draco blinked, as the reason that Snape had stood became clear. He was to be Draco’s opponent. There was a momentary hush, and then the buzzing began.
Draco ignored the excitement of the observers and stepped calmly into the open space at the center of the room. Never mind that this was the man who had taught him to duel in the first place. Never mind that the last time they had spoken, they had parted in anger. Draco set all those thoughts aside, balling them up into one tight bundle and burying them under a layer of determination that he would not lose.
He ceased to see Snape standing there, raising his wand in salute. He saw only an adversary. A target.
A moving target that even now was on the offensive. Draco blocked that first hex, threw a Leg-Locker in response, moved to his right, and blocked again. These were mere feeling-out parries, as each measured the other. They exchanged blows and blocks again twice more, before Draco moved in to attack, Apparating just before throwing a bolt of flame from where he suddenly stood, behind his opponent.
Snape barely managed to deflect it, and the hem of his robe caught on fire. Draco then tossed Serpentsortia at him and Apparated again, expecting to appear mere inches behind Snape while the other man dealt with the conjured serpent.
But as he reappeared, ready to hold Snape at wandpoint or hex him again if necessary, he saw not the back of his old professor, but the surprised faces of the wizards in the front row. Snape’s arm caught him around the chest, the point of a wand jabbing into the soft place under his chin.
“Yield,” Snape said.
Draco struggled, but his wand arm was trapped in Snape’s embrace. The man had his wand in his left hand!
“Yield!” Snape said, forcing Draco to his knees.
Draco shook his head. If Snape wanted him to capitulate, he would not give him that satisfaction. Draco would rather be bloodied than bowed.
Snape growled and Draco felt a sudden tightening around his neck, as if his head were through a noose. He gritted his teeth, trying to draw a breath, but the spell choked him. He flailed, his reflexes fighting now, as his wand fell from his hand and his hands went instinctively to his neck.
Now he could not yield, even had he the wherewithal to do so. With no wand and no way to speak, he gradually succumbed to unconsciousness, as Severus Snape choked him without mercy.
He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
When Draco woke, he was in a small room with stone walls, illuminated by a few spell-steady torches. By the look of the stone he was still in the same building as before–the tower, he guessed.
The mediwizard was nearby, feet up on a small table as he read the Daily Prophet. Draco cleared his throat and was unsurprised to find it sore. The wizard sat up hastily, leaving the paper in a jumble and coming to Draco’s side.
“Well, Mr. Malfoy, welcome to the Society,” he said.
“And you are?”
“Zarathustra Payne,” the man said, inclining his head toward Draco. He couldn’t have been older than forty, Draco guessed. He had only a hint of frown lines around his mouth and no gray in his curly brown hair. “You gave me a bit of a scare when you didn’t respond to the usual Revival Charms, but Severus, as usual, was correct.”
The mediwizard peered at an hourglass on a shelf near the doorway. “He said you’d be out for at least an hour, and of course, he was right, nearly to the minute.”
Draco felt a flash of anger. Odd, he hadn’t felt at all angry during the duel, not even as Snape had been choking him, but he now felt like hot lead ran through his veins. He sat up, only to find Payne’s wand centered on his chest.
“Now, now,” the mediwizard said. “You’ll have a chance to call him out next month, if you would like a rematch. Though I wouldn’t recommend it.”
“And why is that?”
“He’s undefeated. No one has been able to best him. Not even that crazy Auror.”
Auror. “You can’t mean Mad-eye Moody?”
“The very same. Severus wiped the flagstones with him and the fellow has never been back. Trying to settle some old grudge, I think. The Auror, I mean. Didn’t get satisfaction, though.”
No, Draco thought, it didn’t seem that he would. “So, always on the new moon?”
“Yes,” Payne said, stepping back and slipping his wand back into his sleeve. “And always here.”
Draco swung his feet to the floor and was grateful to find someone had tucked his wand into his own sleeve. As he sat upright, it slid into his hand. “I’ll be here,” he said.
On the flight back to the Manor, Draco couldn’t help but replay the duel in his mind. Snape had anticipated his move, and that had been his undoing. Draco knew there were several books on dueling strategy in the Manor library, and he expected to read them immediately. But Snape must have some weakness. He was determined to discover it and exploit it.
PART TWO: STRATEGY AND TACTICS
He hasn’t changed. That was the thought that Draco had, the next time he sat with Nott and Flint, across from the judges. Snape did not seem to have aged at all–if anything, he looked younger than Draco remembered, even though Draco was quite sure that Snape would never bother with any vanity-stroking potions. But the man was no longer weighed down by the onus of double-agenting–perhaps the difference was visible. Being twenty years apart no longer seemed like a large gulf to Draco, now that it was less than half the difference in their ages. Snape couldn’t be older than his early forties, anyway, even though he had always acted at school like he was older than dirt.
He’s certainly made himself out to be that when he and Draco had sought mutual comfort when they were in hiding. Snape’s castigation of himself for corruption of Draco was as harsh as the rest of the man, never mind that Draco had come of age already and that when it came to being corrupt, Draco thought that a lifetime of being a Malfoy and seven years of being the ringleader of a bunch of Slytherins trumped anything Snape might do.
Draco was much better prepared for this month’s meeting of The Society. He had invited Flint to a Chudley Cannon’s game–Flint had always had a weak spot for the Cannons–and afterward they had retired to a pub, put up an Imperturbable Charm, and Draco had strip-mined him for information.
“First off, why no females?” Draco had asked, sipping at the dark lager in front of him so as not to end up with a moustache of foam. “How do you keep them out?”
Flint had shrugged. “I don’t think they’re banned exactly. I just think most guys would rather not have to fight a woman, so they don’t invite them. That and I’m sure most of the witches we know would think it was utterly daft what we do.”
“It seems like there are a lot of unspoken rules.”
Flint took a rather large swig from his pint. “Aye, you got that right. Like if you don’t duel at least once every four or five meetings, you might find yourself called out by Snape, and nobody wants that.”
“Because he’s never been beaten?”
“Because he’s a bloody sadistic bastard who’ll send you home on two separate brooms, that’s why.” Flint’s grin was knowing. “He took you apart right good last time, eh?”
Draco nodded even as he stared into his lager and thought over the duel. “it was like he knew what I was going to do.”
“He’s a bloody mind-reader, Snape is.”
Draco frowned. He was sure he had Occluded Snape. He’s always been able to keep that damned Legilimens at bay before, and he doubted this was any different. But maybe he had given away his strategy some other way. “Yeah,” he said vaguely. “So how do they decide who duels?”
“Oh, yeah. If you want to fight, you put your name on a but of parchment and hand it to the judges before the start. Snape decides who fights whom. Oh, and there’s one more unwritten rule you ought to know.” Marcus glanced around the pub. “Members of The Society don’t duel each other outside of The Society. Nott had a row with Higgs, you remember him?”
“A Seeker wasn’t he? Terry?”
“Terence. That’s him. Well, he and Nott got into a dustup couple of months ago, and the next meeting, Snape wiped the floor with both of them. At the same time.”
Draco opened his palm and stared at the tiny flame he conjured, then doused it by making a fist. Palma Ignicula was always a good pub trick wandless. “But I thought it was always one on one, and no wizard fights more than once a night?”
“Apparently, the rules only apply to us peons. And speaking of the rules, we’d best take down the Imperturbable. If we’re caught conspiring, you know what they’ll assume we’re talking about.” And with that, Flint had dispelled the charm.
Upon arriving at the monastery, Draco had, of course, presented a neat square of fine cream vellum directly to Snape with his eyes narrowed in challenge. Snape, for his part, merely plucked the paper from Draco’s fingers with no change in his expression at all. Now he sat with Flint on one side of him, Nott on the other, waiting to hear his name called.
But it was not called, not by the time they took intermission. Draco hadn’t know there would be an intermission, as he’d been unconscious during the previous one. There were some decent sandwiches, but nothing to drink stronger than tea. Draco approved. He found himself chatting with Terence Higgs near the tea cart.
Higgs was looking prematurely gray for someone who couldn’t be more than six years older than Draco, but then maybe he was one of those who had been hexed during the war. Draco didn’t presume on which side Higgs had fought. In fact, if there was one thing fairly clear about The Society, it was that it mattered not where one’s allegiances had lain among the old regimes. Higgs and he talked Quidditch and mused about the weather, which had turned decidedly to winter in the previous week.
When the duels resumed, Draco found his eye drawn again and again to Snape. Snape wore the same expression he had through many of the Dark Lord’s entertainments: barely concealed disdain. It was a decidedly cultivated look, and Draco burned with curiosity over what thoughts Snape hid underneath it.
He watched interestedly when Nott had to fight one of the Ravenclaws Draco had met last month, though Draco had forgotten his name until he heard it called: Pell Bradley.
It was a good match, each hexing hard and fast and blocking just as quickly. The shield around the dueling area shimmered with sparks nearly non-stop. The break came when Bradley sent some kind of slashing hex at Nott’s ankles and Nott’s Shield Charm was insufficiently low. He fell backward, grabbing at the blood spurting from the back of his leg, and Bradley closed in, Stunning him as he hit the floor.
Interesting. Draco wondered whether a sufficiently focused duelist might be able to fire off one last hex as he fell, or whether the reaction to the pain was simply too instinctive to overcome. As Bradley had closed, it seems as though there was a moment when Nott should have…?
“Draco Malfoy,” Snape intoned, and Draco was on his feet almost before he had finished his thought.
But Snape did not rise from his seat. He glanced up at Draco as he read off the name of his opponent. “Ambrose Colbert.”
The other rookie. Draco cracked his knuckles as he waited for Colbert to make his way into the ring.
As he had before facing Snape, he cleared his mind of his feelings for Colbert, meager as they were. He had eventually proven himself before the Dark Lord, no thanks to Snape, by showing the strength of his mind. Imperius had been like child’s play, Occluding no more difficult. If his “heart” was weak and kept him from killing Albus Dumbledore, well, that was Dumbledore’s great talent, arousing sympathy. Once the man was gone, Draco set about eradicating any trace of that emotion from himself and the Dark Lord had been pleased.
Really, Colbert never stood a chance. Draco sensed it even as they saluted each other. Happy that he had bested his friend the month before, Colbert wanted mostly to acquit himself well in this duel, to keep his estimation in his friends’ and peers’ eyes.
Draco wanted to win. The exchange of feints was quick and Draco’s only concession to Colbert’s ego. He then feinted toward Colbert’s feet. Colbert, he previous match still fresh in his mind, overcompensated and aimed his Shield Charm low, even as Draco’s wand was whipping upward.
The next few seconds passed as if in slow motion. Draco saw the moment when the tip of his wand, the hex he threw, and the soft whiteness of Colbert’s throat all aligned. In the next moment, the spray of blood shot upward, following the rise of his wand as if levitated there.
In the next moment Colbert fell back, and Draco was there, his own wand dropped as he pressed his empty hand against the gushing wound. “Payne!” Draco fairly screamed.
The mediwizard was there, trying to get between Draco and his victim.
“Just, let’s go!” Draco urged, not daring to move his hand from where it stanched Colbert’s lifeblood. Payne circled Draco and Colbert with his arms and Apparated them together.
When they landed in the infirmary room, Payne did finally succeed in pushing Draco away, flashing through several healing charms as quickly as the hexes had flown in the duel Draco sat on the floor a few feet away, his shirt soaked with blood and his hand red and sticky. His wand had been left behind and he pondered wiping the blood on his dark trousers.
“What did you use?” Zarathustra’s voice broke his reverie.
Payne sounded urgent. “What hex was that? I’ve slowed the bleeding but I cannot seem to make it stop.”
“Oh.” Draco looked up and blinked. What had it been? “Sectumsempra.”
“What? I’ve never heard of that.”
Draco got to his feet, willing himself to look at Colbert’s pale face, the seeping red spreading through the bandage. “Snape invented it. He taught it to me a long time ago. He knows how to heal it, too.”
Payne snapped his wand toward the doorway and Draco was startled as a silver snake with wings shot from the tip and disappeared. Payne’s Patronus, Draco realized, and a moment later Snape appeared in the room.
He spared not a glance for Draco nor Payne, merely brushed them both aside and pointed his wand at the gash in Colbert’s throat.
The chanting incantation he sang made Draco’s hair stand on end. Snape had sung it for him once, in that disastrous sixth year at Hogwarts. Just hearing it brought back the memory of being held in Snape’s arms, Snape carrying him to the Hospital Wing…
Draco backed away from the black-robed figure bent to his work. He was nearly out the door, when Snape stood abruptly. “Mr. Malfoy,” he said sharply, stopping Draco’s progress as assuredly as if Draco had been a schoolboy sneaking out of class. He then gave some instructions in a low voice to Payne before rounding on Draco.
“Come with me,” Snape demanded, as though marching Draco to the headmaster’s office.
“I rather think I’ve had enough for one night, don’t you?” Draco replied.
Snape held up a slim length of willow. “I don’t think you’re going anywhere without this, now, are you? Take my hand.” He reached his other hand toward Draco, who gripped it reluctantly but strongly, as if he could sprain Snape’s fingers in his own.
Draco nearly laughed when they Apparated into another square, stone-walled room. They were in the same tower, just a different floor. This room was furnished richly, with a mahogany table set for eight at one end, dark-leather upholstered chairs and a couch squared around the fireplace. The wall sconces and fire leapt to life as they entered the room.
“Here.” Snape handed him his wand. “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t leave bloodstains on anything.”
Draco was surprised that his hand shook as he spelled himself with the blood-removal charms he had learned in the war. “I assume Colbert will recover fully” he asked, pleased at how steady his voice sounded.
Snape poured whisky into two glasses, put one down with a thunk onto the low wooden table in front of the fireplace, and sat with the other in the chair closest the fire, saying nothing.
Draco took the chair opposite, and the glass, which was clearly meant for him. “I mean, he was gashed nowhere near as deeply as I was, that time with Potter. And I’ve barely a scar.” He tilted his chin upward as if tempting Snape to look for it. But Snape’s eyes remained on his glass.
“Don’t you need to get back to your minions?” Draco continued then, taking a sip of the whisky. It was golden smooth, like vanilla-scented smoke.
Snape waved a hand vaguely. “They shall carry on without me,” he said and then lapsed back into silence.
Draco sat back, cradling his glass in both hands. “Well, then? Haven’t you brought me here to scold me? To tell me I’ve broken yet another unspoken rule I couldn’t have known about?”
Snape looked up, his expression dark. “I would not like to see you use Sectumsempra again.”
“You reap what you sow,” Draco replied, chuckling inwardly at the pun. Snape himself had earned the nickname “The Reaper” among the Death Eaters for using the spell himself during attacks on Muggle villages. It was a useful spell, able to kill several at once, unlike Avada Kedavra, which had to be aimed at a specific person.
Snape took a swallow of his whisky, and then cleared his throat. “I said, I would not like to see you use that hex again.”
“All right, I won’t.” Draco set his glass down. “Now, if that’s all, Professor?” He stood to go.
Snape was there, then, his fingers quick but gentle on Draco’s chin. “Let me see. The scar.”
Draco tilted his head and kept his eyes on the tapestry hung over the liquor cabinet as Snape drew his fingers down the smooth skin of his neck.
“Hm,” Snape pronounced as he stepped back. “One would never know it was there, had you not said so.”
Draco fingered the wand in the depths of his trouser pocket. “I want a re-match, you know.”
“Yes, Mr. Malfoy,” Snape said, turning toward the fire and resting one hand on the mantel. “But have you earned one?”
Draco played silent this time.
“I normally only duel when someone is in need of… correction.”
Draco shifted where he stood. “Well, then, what did I do to deserve it last month?”
Now Snape turned, partly, his glass on the mantel and his shoulder hunched. “Perhaps I just enjoyed seeing you on your knees.”
“Very funny, Snape.” Draco resolved that his best course of action now would be to leave and not to return. Forget the Society, Snape, everything; it could not be worth the bother. “Though as I recall it, the one time I offered you that, you slapped me in the face and told me to get away from you.”
Snape straightened, eyes blazing. “And as I recall it, you bought your way into the Dark Lord’s good graces by selling my safety.”
Draco recoiled. “Don’t be ridiculous. You were as secure as you could be, while my fate was entirely in the balance! And Lucius and my mother’s, as well!”
Snape changed gears suddenly, his voice light. “And how are they, your dear progenitors?”
“Quite well, thank you,” Draco replied. They were safe, ensconced in a distant Wizarding community under assumed names. Draco had just received a letter from them this week, asking if he would be joining them for Christmas. “Now, I do feel I’ve had quite enough chit chat and I should be going.”
Draco had his hand on the door that presumably led to the stairwell, when Snape spoke again.
“Draco,” he said. But when Draco turned, Snape said nothing more, and Draco, more tired than ever of games and old grudges, shut the door behind him and left without saying another word to anyone.
PART THREE: COUNTERATTACK
It was around the time he decided not to visit his parents for Christmas when he also decided to return to The Society. But before doing so, he brought some of his not inconsiderable influence to bear on certain parties, to bring himself a bit more up to date on the state of Severus Snape.
Snape, it seemed, had bought the property on which the monastery stood with the restitution money that the Ministry had paid him after he was finally cleared of all charges of war crimes. Draco had not realized that Snape had spent nearly a full year in Azkaban; he’d been too preoccupied with restoring his own position at the time. It seemed unfair to him that Snape had come out of there nearly unchanged, while his own father emerged with somewhat lessened capacities. There were reasons Narcissa never brought him back to England. Draco had the distinct impression that she preferred him this way.
Draco, too, preferred him this way, if only because he was typically a few thousand miles away and no longer demanded anything of Draco.
Of Snape, there was not much else to know. He was cited a few times in some of the wizarding potions journals; apparently he kept up some research in that area in his spare time. Otherwise, he lived off his restitution and his Hogwarts pension. He remained unmarried, unattached, and was virtually unseen in society.
Except for the Society, which of course no one spoke of, wrote about, or knew of. Draco had no way to tell if the Society had originated with Snape or if it was an ancient Wizarding tradition still practiced after hundreds–or thousands–of years.
It didn’t matter. Draco bundled into his warmest cloak and Apparated to just outside the gate. The night was too cold to fly. Bradley was on gate duty, greeting Draco by name.
“Nott coming tonight?” he asked, as Draco made to pass into the entranceway.
Draco shrugged. “I assume so. Think he wants a re-match?”
Bradley just laughed.
Inside, the air was charmed warmer, and Draco shed his cloak and scarf. In the main room, he immediately caught sight of Snape off to one side, his head bent toward Terry Higgs, who seemed to be quite vexed about something. Snape straightened when he had heard enough, putting a hand on Higgs’ shoulder. They parted, Higgs looking dissatisfied, Snape looking around the room until his eyes met Draco’s.
He stared for a moment, as if coming to a decision, then looked away. Draco went directly to him to give him his name.
“Are you sure you want to duel tonight?” Snape said, as he held the paper in his fingers where Draco could still pluck it back if he wished.
“Why wouldn’t I?” Draco shot back, trying to puzzle out Snape’s insinuation. “I’m still waiting for another crack at you.”
Snape scowled as if a rematch were the furthest thing from his concern. Then he put a hand on Draco’s shoulder, a gesture both familiar and alien at the same time, coming from him. “Just be careful.”
“I’ll attempt no hexes that Payne lacks the knowledge to heal,” Draco replied, pulling away annoyed.
He was relieved to see Colbert by the tea cart, looking none the worse for wear. Draco went and shook hands, and in the end they ended up showing their nearly-invisible scars to the Ravenclaw whose name Draco didn’t remember, but who apparently had deep inquiries into this sort of thing and wanted to make a comparison. Draco declined to tell them exactly what the spell was, but did mention that it was of Snape’s invention.
“Goodness gracious,” Colbert exclaimed. “He’s quite the dark wizard, isn’t he? He must have had you as a student at school.”
Draco nodded. “I guess you could say I was his protégé. Didn’t last, though. We had a falling out during the war.”
Colbert’s eyes followed Snape as he took his seat on the platform. “Such an enigma, that man. Who would have thought a dark wizard would have so much healing ability?”
“Well, if there is one thing that the war taught us here in England,” Draco said, “it’s that the division between dark and light is not as firmly drawn as doctrine makes it out to be.” Snape was like a potion, Draco thought. Could be poison, or could be what saves your life.
Draco stayed in the shadows with Colbert and his group when the night’s activities began. The first few duels were over with quickly, both ending in unconsciousness. Draco wondered if perhaps excessive bloodshed would now be considered gauche, thanks to him. But then one of the older wizards, a man who must have been a veteran of the war with Grindelwald from the looks of him, had his wand arm severed, and Payne whisked him away for a quick repair job.
“Theodore Nott!” Snape called out, and Draco focused his attention on the arena, wondering if Bradley was going to face Nott again.
A murmur went through the crowd as Snape’s hesitation to call an opponent stretched out longer than usual. But finally he shouted, “Draco Malfoy!”
Draco rose amidst cheers from Colbert and his friends. Nott was already standing in the center, twirling his wand with an insouciant twist to his lips.
Clearing his mind as he always did, Draco stepped into the open space and felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up as the shields rose behind him. They bowed to each other, never taking their eyes off each other as they did so. Draco recalled how Nott had been hamstrung, but discarded the strategy as now too predictable, even as the first flurry of hexes and blocks were exchanged.
Nott was out for blood. Draco smelled rather than felt something singe the ends of his hair. But was that a tactic meant to distract? Draco doubted that Payne could heal him if he were incinerated to a crisp. Was Nott trying to rattle him?
Draco managed to tear a gash in Nott’s sleeve with a simple slashing spell, but missed the skin. They circled each other warily. Draco began to Apparate, firing off a hex each time he appeared and then moving to another location. Nott’s Shield Charms were strong, though, nothing got through, though Nott was unable to counterattack until Draco had to come to a stop for a few moments to re-orient himself.
Draco’s blocks were barely enough to turn the next two hexes. Nott really was trying to hurt him, maybe kill him, Draco decided. He changed tactics, throwing two close hexes and closing the distance between them, until he had Nott’s wand hand in his, his own wand in his left. Nott caught hold of that hand though, as well, and they struggled.
This was not about Nott’s wand, though, or Draco’s. Draco had merely wanted to get close enough for good eye contact. My, how interesting.
Then he Apparated across the ring, jarring Nott loose as they landed, and he backed away quickly, blocking Nott’s hastily flung and badly aimed curse.
Theodore Nott apparently felt that he was owed some sort of revenge for the way Draco had sold out his father during the war. Given that Nott was already in the hands of the Aurors at the time, Draco doubted that he had told the Ministry anything that they did not already know about Nott the Elder; it was less the actual facts and more the currency of his own repentance that Draco traded. Son of Lucius Malfoy, infamous right hand man to the Devil himself, turns to the Ministry in fit of righteousness. Sure.
The damnable part of it was that Draco felt himself tiring a bit. No duel he had seen yet had gone on so long at such a fevered pitch.
Nott’s weakness appeared to be in close quarters. Draco feinted again, Apparated close, feinted a second time, and then rushed in with his shoulder, his wand coming up between Nott’s overwide arm gestures, the tip coming toward Nott’s throat.
It would have worked beautifully if the wand had not flown from Draco’s hand just as he was delivering the stroke that would have ended it. Draco suddenly had his bare hands on Nott’s face, while Nott jabbed his wand into Draco’s ribs. No, was all Draco had time to think before he drove the flames of his palms through Nott’s face. He heard the scream–Nott’s voice–even as he himself was falling, falling. Yes, if he’d had his wand, he definitely would have had time to fling one more hex at his opponent as he fell–it took so long for the stone floor to come up to meet him.
Then came the pain, a searing, tearing sensation that reminded him of Cruciatus. He could no longer see, and he vaguely understood that this was because he was curled defensively into a ball, and that his eyes were screwed shut. And then arms around him, the pain intensifying, trying not to scream… and then not screaming as he realized that it was Snape’s arms around him, Snape whom he could recognize by his scent.
The Disapparition felt as though it drove knives through his flesh.
“Good God, Severus…” Payne’s voice.
“Leave him to me. See if you can save that other fool–I want him alive for questions. Do you understand me, Zarathustra?”
If there was any answer, Draco did not hear it. He understood that there was a bottle to his lips–a potion? No, whisky. He swallowed and then coughed, and the cough felt as though it were tearing him in two. There were wet sounds. Now another something at his mouth, this time yes, a potion, and the pain began to shrink, until it was no more than a nagging feeling that something was not right below his neck, but Draco could not put his finger on what.
He opened his eyes and was surprised not to see the infirmary room, but another room in the tower which, judging from the tapestries on the walls and the height of the ceiling was probably Snape’s living quarters, assuming he lived at the top. “What happened?”
“Please do not try to talk,” came Snape’s reply as he bent over Draco’s torso. “Doing so will tax your lungs, which I am attempting to repair as I speak.”
“Fine, you talk then,” Draco said.
“Mr. Nott, it would seem, harbored rather a bit more ill will toward you than was healthy for either of you,” Snape said.
“I know, I read…” Draco gasped as Snape did something that caused his chest to convulse.
“Please do not talk,” Snape repeated. “Now as I was saying, if Mr. Nott recovers from the injuries you dealt him, you can be assured that I shall deal with him.” He raised an eyebrow as Draco appeared about to speak again. “Yes, and his accomplice. It was quite clear that someone else expelled your wand from your hand.” The look he gave Draco made it clear that Snape was annoyed that Draco would doubt for one moment that he didn’t know everything that went on in his desmenses. “Now hold still a moment.”
Draco held his breath as Snape did something he could not see, but he heard a cracking sound, almost like a Disapparition, and then Snape wiped his brow with the back of one sleeve, unaware that he left a smear of blood there.
“Can I talk now?” Draco asked.
Snape sighed, the anger that had been building in his face momentarily displaced by exasperation. “Yes, I suppose.”
“Have you dealt with this sort of thing before?”
“Your injury, you mean? Or members of the Society attempting to kill one another in full view of the rest of us?”
“The latter. And for the record, I did not try to kill Nott.”
Snape placed his hand on Draco’s chest. It felt warm and heavy. “You should still not talk too much. But no, this is not the first time we’ve had an altercation like yours, but it is the first one in a long time. Surely you’ve noticed here how little enmity there appears to be between what used to be at least three separate factions during the war? The Dark Lord, the Ministry, and the followers of Dumbledore?”
Draco nodded, enjoying the feel of his chest rising and falling under the gentle weight.
“We have a different outlet for our aggressions. We have a shared secret, a shared fellowship.” Snape’s eyes were almost soft in the torchlight. “The Society is the way that most of these men found to heal after the war, a place where they belonged and were not looked at askance by the more peace-loving members of the Wizarding public.”
Draco nodded again. It was if there was some basic difference between those who had cut down an enemy on the battlefield and those who had not, and they could no longer speak to one another for very long. At weddings and cotillions and receptions, Draco inevitably found himself talking with someone else who had fought.
Snape sighed. “And every time I start to believe that we have finally left all the idiocy spawned by Tom Riddle behind, something like this…” He broke off and made as if to stand up, but Draco held tight to his hand.
Something flickered in Snape’s eyes, then blazed, then dimmed. “I should see how Mr. Nott is doing.”
Snape raised an eyebrow at the commanding tone in Draco’s voice.
“Nott isn’t the only one who had unfinished business with me,” Draco said, in his best “Lord Malfoy” voice. He expected next to begin an enumeration of the ways that he felt betrayed by Snape in the past, but the effect was somewhat ruined by the fact that he bent his head and rubbed his cheek along the man’s hand.
“Draco,” Snape said, his voice low. “You’re a bit groggy from the potion.”
“Then don’t leave me. I might… hurt myself.”
Snape let out a short bark of a laugh then. “Mr. Malfoy, in ten years you have not changed.”
“Neither have you,” Draco pouted, tightening his grip on Snape’s hand. “I want to be there when you question Nott. You owe me that.”
“I suppose.” Snape spread his fingers and began to rub small circles on Draco’s breastbone. “I promise I won’t do so until you wake up. But you should sleep.”
Draco shook his head. “Not until you tell me something.” He blinked, as the combination of shaking his head and the potion made it seem as though the room were now rocking like a ship.
“What would you like to know?”
“How do you do it? How do you get through the day knowing that you could bloody well destroy every last one of them in the room?”
Snape looked startled; that was certainly not a question he had been expecting. “I could ask you the same, Mr. Malfoy. For I think I can number on one hand the wizards who could defeat you.”
“Easy,” Draco replied. “I lord my natural superiority over them.”
“You have not changed.” Snape repeated. “Now sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
Draco suspected Snape cast a somnolence charm as he said it, because he dropped into sleep so quickly, he did not have time to argue that Snape had not answered the question.
PART FOUR: VICTORY
Draco woke some hours later, feeling as though every muscle in his body had been chewed by a rabid thestral. He moaned softly in the dark as he tried to roll onto his side.
“Here,” came a soft voice, as the candles around the bed came alight. “Drink this.”
“Severus,” Draco rasped. “Is it a potion?”
“Water first.” Snape slid his arm around Draco’s shoulders and helped him sit up enough to sip from a goblet. “Now this.” He took a small green phial from the bedside table and uncorked it with his thumb.
Draco swallowed it gratefully, the cramps and aches in his muscles easing within a few seconds. He sat all the way up and then ran his hands over his bare rib cage, his stomach. He looked up into Snape’s eyes.
Snape sat on the edge of the low bed. He was wearing just a pair of black trousers and a dark green shirt. Draco wondered if his robes had been blood-soaked beyond repair. “Nott used a rather nasty hex, one that turns your bones into knives. Your ribs in particular were affected, but that’s why you ache everywhere. There should be no lasting damage at all.”
Draco looked at his hands where they lay on the blanket across his lap. “You know, for a moment, when I woke up, I thought we were at that safe house in Wales.”
“The one where your aunt cast Cruciatus on you for allowing me to steal what should have been her family’s glory?”
“Exactly.” Draco blinked, thinking back on it. Snape had put a stop to it, of course, and Bellatrix had allowed it to seem like she was done expending energy on him, and Snape had bundled Draco off to a room and made the door Unlockable…
That had been the night that Snape had not said no, when Draco had been so hurt and afraid and so in need of love. That night, despite all the denials and pain and rage that came later, Draco still remembered as sweet.
“I wasn’t a child then, Sn-Severus. And I’m certainly not one now.” Draco made two tiny flames dance in his palms, merged them as he brought his hands together, and then snuffed them out by folding his hands. “We have unfinished business, you and I,” he said softly.
“I know,” Snape replied.
“And you’ve worked so hard to erase the old enmities. To put all that aside. Have you?” Draco looked up, searching the other man’s face.
“You choked me to unconsciousness the first time you saw me.” Draco was gratified to see Snape’s eyes flick downward. “Why? The truth, Severus.”
“You should have trusted me,” came the answer.
“You mean I should have remained loyal to you, isn’t that right? Be sensible, Severus. You had hatched an insane plan with Dumbledore. It was clear to me that my life, and those of my parents, were completely expendable if it meant the success of your schemes.” His voice, which had been lilting, turned hard. “Tell me I’m wrong.”
Draco waited, but when no answer came, he continued. “Yet you blame me for acting in self-preservation. I had to fight to get into Voldemort’s good graces, I had to arrange and lead the breakout of Azkaban, for God’s sake…”
“Draco.” Severus took one of Draco’s hands in his.
Draco pulled his hand free. “Not to mention the fact that it was idiocy to think I’d remain loyal to a man who… spurned me.”
Snape stood abruptly, but seemed to lack the will to move away from the bed. Instead he stood, the backs of his legs touching the edge of the mattress, his hands clenched into fists.
Draco knew how deep the knife had gone. Now he twisted it. “And to think, I would have worshipped the ground you walked on. I wanted you so…” He hitched his breath intentionally. “My God, Severus, maybe you were right. Maybe I was too young. The things I would have done for you, and only for you. All manner of horribly base acts. I suppose I should thank you for protecting…”
That was as far as Draco got, before a hand clawed at his chin. Severus’ eyes burned with anger in a way they never did when he dueled. His other hand was rushing to undo his belt buckle, his fly.
Draco licked his lips and met the angry gaze with one of his own, opening his mouth and daring the man to go through with it. But Snape hesitated and let his hand fall.
“You always did confuse passion and anger,” Draco said, placing a hand on either side of Snape’s hips, and getting up onto his knees. “Let’s try that again.” He took Snape’s hand in his and placed it gently against his own cheek, then nuzzled into it as Snape caressed with his thumb, his palm.
Draco leaned forward to rub his nose and forehead against Snape’s shirt. “Now, Severus,” he said, nearly in a whisper, “Let’s try something else again.” Draco slid onto the floor, pushing Snape into a sitting position on the bed as he did. He tugged at Snape’s trousers and left them around the man’s ankles as he rested his head against Snape’s knee.
“As I recall,” Draco said, “This is the point where you slapped me, that time. What are you going to do this time, Severus?”
Snape’s answer was a low hum in his throat, and both hands carefully–oh-so-carefully–cradling Draco’s face, then drawing him up until their mouths could meet. Snape’s kiss was equally careful, until a whimper of desire escaped Draco, and then all pretense at care was lost. Draco found himself flattened onto the bed, Snape’s mouth possessing his with growing urgency.
There was no reason to resist. He gasped as Snape slid his mouth lower, down his neck, even as the man’s hands traveled further down, stroking Draco’s ribs, his thighs, and teasing the sparse thatch of his pubic hair.
Draco’s hands worked the buttons on Snape’s shirt when they could and it was not long before Snape shrugged it off, as well. Draco tried to pull him down into an embrace, wanting to feel the hot skin on his own, but Snape pressed him down with a hand on one shoulder the other hand continuing to caress and tease until Draco’s hips pumped in a silent plea for more direct stimulation.
Snape centered himself between Draco’s legs, and then slowly, a hand on each of Draco’s shoulders, brought his cock into contact with Draco’s, rubbing upward in a long ragged stroke.
He repeated that thrice more, then said “Your hand, Draco.”
Draco did not hesitate to grasp both cocks and stroke them. Snape Summoned a vial of something–something wonderfully tingly and slippery, Draco found, when Snape poured it over their cocks and his hand.
“You were saying, I believe, something about all manner of base acts…?”
“God, yes, Severus. Anything.” Draco’s eyes were closed as he spoke, as he stroked. The lubricant seemed to be getting thicker and even more slippery as he worked it.
“I think my cock in your arse would do for now.”
Draco’s answer was to hook one leg around Snape’s back and pull him down. They shared another kiss, Draco surrendering to Snape’s demanding mouth, before Snape pulled back.
Draco kept stroking his own cock as he felt the slick fingers probe his entrance gently. Then a finger slid deep and sent shudders up his body. “Yes,” he hissed.
And then the rounded head of Snape’s cock was there, pressing, and then popping through the initial ring, sending a shudder through them both.
Draco nearly cried out when Snape pulled out, then gasped as he was entered again right away. And a third time Snape pulled back, and, one hand still wrapped around the base of his cock, thrust in. Oh God, Yes, Draco thought or said, he wasn’t sure which. Snape was fucking him with just the tip, maddening and arousing at the same time, making his insides spasm and his cock jerk in sympathy.
He would have begged for Snape to go deeper, but he couldn’t catch his breath. So he rode the sensation as it came, shivering and crying out. Then Snape took his hand away from his cock, lacing his fingers into Draco’s and pressing his hands into the coverlet, one on either side of Draco’s head as he finally deepened his thrust.
It was no longer a duel, if indeed it ever had been, Draco thought. It was now a race to see who would come first, Draco, whose cock was trapped between their slick stomachs and twitching madly, or Snape, whose cock was fucking eagerly and picking up the pace very fast. So of course Draco laughed when at just the moment when he began to spurt, Snape bellowed in orgasm, the two of them coming to a noisy, spasmodic end to their coupling.
Draco would not let Snape out of the bed afterward, not for several minutes anyway, when he wanted to lie there and soak up as much of the other man’s heat as he could.
They were still entangled skin to skin in the morning when Payne woke them. If he was perturbed by their state of undress or their position, he did not allow it to show. “I believe you may be able to question Mr. Nott now,” he said simply, before leaving the room.
Draco climbed out of the bed, then laughed. “I don’t suppose my clothing survived.”
Snape sat up. “No, not a scrap. You may borrow some robes of mine, if you wish. You may return them next month.”
“Next month?” Draco repeated.
Snape stood and drew him into a deep kiss, then released him. “Next month.”
“Next month,” Draco said a second time, this time with more certainty. He looked forward to a rematch.