The Seers' Truth: Beyond the Darkness

By Lady Lestrange

Chapter 1

The Cost of Magic

Disclaimer: All Potterverse belongs to JK Rowlings.

This fic is a sequel to "The Seers' Truth: A Broken Beginning." If you have not read "The Seers' Truth: A Broken Beginning," it is suggested that you read it first.

Lady Lestrange

Still here? OK. Some spoilers for "The Seers' Truth: A Broken Beginning" follow, but if you really intend to read on without reading "The Seers' Truth: a Broken Beginning," here are some pertinent facts that will help you to understand the story. Otherwise, you would probably be hopelessly lost.

What you need to know, if you have not read The Seers' Truth: A Broken Beginning:

Tom Riddle, at age eleven, was possessed by the spirit of Salazar Slytherin. This combination became Voldemort. The phoenix feather wand was Tom's not Salazar's. A Prophecy Child, which Helga/Trelawney/Patil predicted would change the course of history, is now in Voldemort's hands, but due to Dumbledore's blunder, she is near death. The ministry is infiltrated by Death Eaters, and Azkaban is opened. Ginny Weasley, in an attempt to help the "innocent" Tom Riddle, whose memory lives in her head, finds herself surrounded by Death Eaters and a Death Eater herself. Ginny is also part of a Helga prophecy. Want to know how all that happened? Read "The Seers' Truth: A Broken Beginning," formerly entitled, HARRY POTTER AND THE SEERS' TRUTH.

( ) Indicates parseltongue spoken.

Chapter 1

The Cost of Magic

By Lady Lestrange

Fourteen year old Ginny Weasley rolled over and clutched the sheets trying to wake up, whimpering in her sleep. She was eleven in her dream and writing in the diary, doodling really, making little hearts with Harry's name in them. She decorated Harry's name with bubble letters and colored them in with her quill.

"I wish Harry would kiss me," she wrote. "I could just imagine—" In her sleep, Ginny tossed restlessly, remembering what was coming.

"What do you imagine, Virginia?" His writing was neat and thin. Spidery writing that reminded Ginny of the script in an old storybook. It was beautiful writing really. She would never tire looking at it.

"What it would feel like to have him kiss me—at least notice me," she wrote in the diary.

"Tell me," wrote Tom.

"I can't."

"You know you can tell me anything, Virginia."

She squirmed in her sleep, thinking he was still calling her Virginia. He was still so formal, but not for long. . . no not for long.

"I know, Tom." She sighed, biting on the end of the quill. "He thinks I'm just a little girl—his best friend's baby sister. He doesn't even know I'm alive."

"Perhaps I can help." The words formed slowly in Tom's neat thin handwriting. "There's a spell—somewhat like a love potion."

"What is it?" Ginny wrote anxiously.

The heart she had drawn with Harry's name in it reappeared on the diary page, complete with the decorations and doodles around it. Beneath it letters began to appear.

"It needs your kiss, Virginia," wrote Tom. "Lick your lips and kiss the heart and Harry will kiss you before the year is over."

"Really?" She looked at the diary for a moment and kissed the heart, thinking of Harry.

"Try again," he wrote. "Lick your lips first."

"I did," she complained.

She waited for the diary to answer her, to tell her what she did wrong. The writing came, flowing onto the page, explaining what she had to do.

"Remember, I told you that you always need a bit of the witch or wizard who casts a spell to make it strong? Once more, and when you have your lips on the diary, open your mouth a tiny bit and put your tongue against the page."

"But I'll spit on it."

"Exactly," wrote Tom, and Ginny hesitated.

"That's disgusting," she wrote.

"It's just a little thing, Virginia. The spell needs something of yours if you want it to work."

"Yes, but——"

The words came fast and harsh. Big sloppy letters marred the page, the thick ink strokes covering the curly decorations she had made around the heart. "Spit on the damned book, brat!"


"Would your prefer blood?" The diary in her hand ruffled its pages, and she slammed it shut, but not before one of the pages caught her finger at just that particular angle needed to draw a single drop of blood.

"No." Ginny opened the diary and sucked her index finger. She stared at the book as her blood sank into the page. As she watched, the word Harry in the center of the heart changed and reformed itself into other letters. Letters tinged with the red of her blood: TOM.

The dream suddenly skipped ahead as dreams do. It was much later in the year and she was in the Chamber of Secrets. It wasn't the first time, nor the last.

"You would bleed for me?" Tom wrote. His flowing spidery handwriting looked beautiful on the page.

"Yes," she wrote.

"Oh, Ginny Love," he wrote. And nothing more came for a long time.

She wrote, "Don't you know how to do this Tom?"

"Yes. I know how," wrote Tom. "There are two ways—the magic can come out of the diary, or you can come into the memory."

"You can come out?" she wrote excitedly.

"I think it's better for you to come in--"

She frowned. "Will I be able to get back out?"

"Of course. Why wouldn't you be able to get out?"

"You can't."

"That's because the evil wizard put a spell on me—a spell we are going to break. Remember?"

"I remember. Tell me what to do." Ginny wrote.

No answer came.

"Tom, tell me what to do."

The answer when it came was written in a slow careful hand.

"This is not as simple as it seems, Ginny. It is consent."

She was going to answer, but a second later, the writing began again, Tom continuing to explain.

"Do you remember what I told you about consensual magic?"


"I am not a physical being. I exist only in a magic memory. You cannot push me away if you change your mind."

"I won't change my mind. I trust you, Tom."

For a long while no answer came, but when it did, the writing grew rounder and bold strokes of ink quickly filled the page. "Open the diary and place your hand against the open book. Swear that you will free me—swear by your magic."

"No blood?" wrote Ginny, recognizing the change in writing. She knew the change in writing signified that it was now the evil wizard to whom she was compelled to write. It was not until much later that she discovered that evil wizard's name was Salazar Slytherin.

"Not yet."

She shivered, her hands tensing in fear and clutching the sheets where she slept.

Misstresss! hissed a small voice. Misstresss!

Ginny awoke, sitting up abruptly in her bed and breathing fast. It was only a dream. Everything would be all right. Only it wasn't her bed and nothing was all right. The sting of the paper cut still on her fingers and her heart pounding, she looked around the room—a room in His castle. The nightmare was not over. The nightmare had only just begun.

"You know, Ginny Love," observed the memory of Tom, which she now carried in her head. "We really have to try to improve the quality of your dreams of me. It's depressing."

Is danger? A ssheiss? hissed the voice. Mistress-s-s-s is ssscared.

No, she calmed the little serpent, speaking in parseltongue. There is no predator. Nothing for you to be afraid of— Of course, for Ginny, fear was a different matter.

She was in His lair at the Snow Castle and when she closed her eyes she could see His lipless mouth telling her once again to find his emerald. She could see His deep green eyes watching her…They slowly turned to red as He raised His wand. His voice hissing, "Blood and magic mingled. You are mine." Her Mark burning.

She shuddered with the memory. Was there nothing of her Tom left in that snake's body?

"I rather doubt it," advised Tom.

She pulled back the sleeve of her robe to see her Dark Mark. It was still and quiet, but just inches below it, toward her hand, was another mark: two puncture marks made by his basilisk's fangs. She looked at her hand expectantly and found that sometime during the night, the little basilisk had claimed his mistress with a bite on the index finger when she dreamed of the paper cut, and finally, she had the third, which was actually her first. The serpent had sunk his fangs deep into her neck moments after she had portkeyed from the grizzly scene of last night's events. No, it wasn't His basilisk, she thought. It was now hers since it had bitten her repeatedly.

Samara's book had said that one might feel sick after being bitten, but the bites were necessary to imprint the serpent to its wizard master. She didn't feel sick. Her neck hurt where it had bitten her, but the bites on her hand and arm were not so sore. She felt tired, and rather numb, but she thought that was from the events of last night. The reality just hadn't sunk in yet.

She rubbed her thumb along the cool iridescent scales of the serpent. It was green and turquoise and had a reddish glint, rather like the colors of a rooster. It was beautiful. She should hate the basilisk. Its mother had been everything she feared in first year, but the tiny serpent was quiet, only a baby really, literally born yesterday.

The tiny thing wrapped itself around her wrist twice, and its tongue tasted the skin of her hand. Its eyes were still closed. She tried to remember how long it took them to open. She should remember from her reading of Samara's book.

"Honestly, Ginny Love. Do you ever remember anything you read? It's six months," advised Tom.

"That's right," she thought.

"Of course I'm right," said Tom with his usual arrogance. "And you'd better start teaching it to keep its eyes closed. I'd rather like to keep our body alive."

"My body," corrected Ginny as she laid her hand across the basilisk's face.

Your eyes must stay closed, she told it.

Yessss Missstress.

Feeling the warm lump that was Beatrice, her witch friend and bunny animagus at her feet, she added, You will not eat anything I do not give to you. Only I will feed you.

Tom found her attempts to keep Beatrice alive strangely amusing. "You are speaking to a serpent," said Tom. "It does not understand Beatrice is your friend. It only understands that Beatrice, in her animagus form, is prey."

Do you understand? Ginny asked her basilisk in parseltongue.

Yesss Missstress. No hissuss unlesss Missstress givesss.

Ginny smirked, and Tom was silent for the moment.

Ginny rubbed her hands over the fine material of the bedding, arranging it carefully so as to not awaken her friend Beatrice. Her friend's life could depend upon how obedient the little serpent was to her. The entire situation felt impossible. Surreal.

Ginny leaned back against the silken pillows, thinking He did nothing half way. Hanging near the bed was a clean dove gray robe that looked new. It was expensive, made of the softest angora. Fine stitching depicted black serpents, which slithered around the hem, their scales showing iridescent color as they moved. It was infinitely better than any robe she had ever worn, but she told herself such things did not matter to her. She was here for one reason and one reason only: to find a way to free Tom from Salazar.

Also, beside the bed was a plate of fruit, the orange already cut into bite sized pieces, as if He knew it would be her choice. His guests were treated with as much opulence as his enemies were treated with pain. The question always was: at what point did one meld into the other?

She hesitated a moment and then popped a piece of the orange into her mouth, feeling a bit guilty for enjoying what He had given her. She pushed the apple aside saving it for Beatrice. What on Earth was she going to do with Beatrice? she wondered. She knew her animagus friend had come with her to help, but Ginny couldn't think of any way for the bunny to help, and she could think of a lot of ways she could get killed.

"Bet I could think of more," Tom challenged.

"Shut up, Tom," thought Ginny.

Ginny Weasley ran her hand slowly over the Dark Mark on her arm. Pleasure and pain, He had said, and she had felt both from Him, although the pain was more real to her. Right now, The Mark was still and quiet—just a tattoo.

She looked out of the window. The sun was just risen over the ice. It was beautiful. The colors of the sunrise had almost disappeared with the morning light, but a few pinks and blues were still visible against the ice and snow. She wondered how far the stronghold really was from civilization. She didn't know. All she knew was that it was unplottable. Death Eaters couldn't even Apparate to it without his call. She had no idea where on Earth the castle was. She didn't think anyone knew, save perhaps Maura Rosier whose family had built the Snow Castle for a family retreat years ago.

Ginny had Apparated to it once with a house elf and once she had come through the floo, but Voldemort had told Pritch to close the floo between it and Hogwarts. The floo was probably no longer an optional way back. Did she want to go back? How could she? How could she ever go back to her family? Visions of the twins, unconscious on the floor, dementors held off only by Ron's patronus and Ron's eyes accusing her of betrayal would haunt her forever.

"How long are you going to sit here and feel sorry for yourself?" Tom inquired. His feelings decidedly disgusted with her lack of action.

Tears crept into her eyes and she dashed them away. As much as she hated to admit it, Tom was right. How could she feel sorry for herself? She had things to do. First, she had to find a way to get her friend Beatrice back before Voldemort found her. There was no way that Beatrice would survive the Dark Mark. And secondly, she had to find Samara. Samara was in the most danger, both from Voldemort and from the monumental amount of magic that she had consumed. Ginny found herself wondering, not for the first time, how she had managed to get herself into this impossible predicament.

"It could have had something to do with demanding that Snape take you with them to Salazar," said Tom.

Sighing, she swung her legs out over the edge of the bed, intent upon finding out how serious her friend Samara's injuries were. But first, she had to find out where Samara was—

"Careful, Ginny Love," warned Tom.

He was too agitated to sit. His prophecy child could die. A century of work—all the waiting and it could all be for nothing. He paced like a caged animal, feeling helpless. It was a feeling that he thought he had left behind ages ago. Outside the room, whispered ridicule was passed from Death Eater to Death Eater. Later, he thought. He would deal with them later.

Just because he was too powerful to mock outright did not mean that he wasn't mocked. He had learned long ago the only way to stop the laughter was to stop the laugher—hard and fast—and then the fear kept the others in line. Some called his methods evil. He called them effective.

Most thought he was a hard man who ruled with an iron fist and a yew wand. Some thought he was not a man at all, and they would have been closer to the truth. However, no one expected him to be at the child's bedside. He was not the nurse-maiding sort. He always left that to Helga. Still the curious and taunting were lying in a heap outside of the door. Fools! They thought he couldn't see their taunting. But he saw. He knew. He always knew.

He levitated the dead body of the latest healer out of his way, depositing him in the corridor with the others, the healer who said that she could not be saved. His anger seethed anew thinking of it.

"Too far gone to the Elementals—" the healer had said. He would kill the man again if he could. His patient blue eyes and patronizing smile had reminded Voldemort of Dumbledore as he remarked that some things must simply be accepted. The words ate like an acid into Voldemort's gut, and Voldemort had pronounced the Avada Kedavra spell. If he had it to do over, he would not have used Avada. The man would have died much more slowly so that he could have looked death in the eye and knew exactly what he had pronounced for the prophecy child. The healer's slow death would have given Him satisfaction, but it wouldn't have changed the outcome, either for the healer or for the prophecy child.

No. Voldemort railed. Death would not be accepted, not unless he had chosen it for her. And he did not choose it. Let the weak accept it. Hadn't he defeated death? He sighed and settled himself in the chair by her bed—

For himself, and only for himself, he defeated death and at such cost. No one knew the cost of such magic. Ancient magic. Powerful magic. Magic more caustic than anything his current body could handle, but he had done it. When magic was still powerful, near the Rift. When there were few Mudbloods because few believed that Muggles and wizards were the same species. When he lived in the flesh of Salazar Slytherin, he had done it. He had examined death more closely than anyone alive. Countless numbers had died so that that he could understand the moment when consciousness left the body. Countless more had suffered to the point of death, so that he could learn how to evade its final end.

This was his most exhausting experiment. Most began to lose their grip on sanity after more than seven brushes with death. After he realized that, he never used the same person more than six times. Well, he smirked, almost never. Some deserved to die several deaths for their crimes. Some, of course, lost their sanity before the sixth trial, but their weakness wasn't his problem. He found that those who were insane approached death with more calm than the sane person. They were almost like the religious zealots. Of course, he didn't see much difference between the religious zealots and the insane.

The only thing that intrigued him was that the zealots and the insane didn't seem to suffer as much, and he wanted that protection for himself. Such was not to be. It was too fleeting and never the same. He could not isolate it.

Many of his experiments found themselves in a half-life, existing for days, or weeks or months, like the soulless dementor ravaged bodies, until at last they too faded to nothing without their souls. How did these soulless creatures differ from the vampires, the undead? And what about those that died and rose again like the phoenix?

Like a man possessed he pursued his goal. Did the phoenix ever really die? He touched the wand in his pocket and thought, not for the first time, that perhaps the phoenix had been a mistake. No. They were all necessary sacrifices in his quest for immortality. Even the phoenix was necessary. He could not have done it without their sacrifices. At last he had learned which threads to cut and which to bind. At last he learned how to reanimate a body, but none of those souls had a strong enough intent to stick with their new bodies, no matter how beautiful a body he chose for them. At last there was nothing more to do but to test it with his own iron willed intent.

The pain was beyond bearing—first the pain of ripping his soul from his body and second the pain of reanimating the new body he had chosen, but he had learned to endure, and in the end, he had conquered death. He was successful, but it was too late for his Helga. She embraced death like a lover. She had left him. She had left him with a sniveling son and a note and a lament about her loyalty to friends. Her loyalty was to HIM! Couldn't she see that? Damn her. It was only much later that he realized she had removed one of the emeralds, which depicted the stone basilisk's eye. Only later had he realized how deeply she had betrayed him—she who had professed her love.

Salazar's mind came back from his wanderings and watched his basilisks slithering over his prophecy child. Whether they were protecting her or simply reacting to the heat in her body, he did not know. They did not bite her. They did not eat. They would not allow themselves to be removed. Some would have thought their morbid vigil, like His, was because they cared about her. They did not. They were war animals that had no thought of life or death beyond prey and predator. Sometimes he wondered if they weren't the lucky ones.

He shut out the feelings that threatened. He was beyond caring about anyone or anything. He was beyond feeling—the Potter brat had seen to that fifteen years ago. No, it had happened long before that, thought Salazar, thinking of the years in the Chamber with only the stone serpents for company. It had happened over a thousand years ago when the world was turned inside out, or perhaps it had happened when his son deserted him or when Helga chose to die rather than take a stand that compromised her rigid standards of loyalty. If she had loved him like she professed, she would never have deserted him. No, he decided long ago the love she spoke of was a myth. Love did not exist, but as long as fools believed in it, they could be exploited.

He reached out and touched the face of his prophecy child. Samara had not allowed him to touch her while she was conscious, but now she was completely at his mercy. He could search her thoughts as well as the legimency would let him in this half wizard body, but what good would it do? It was dangerous. He could lose her. He could lose her anyway. What would you do, Helga? He thought. How would you save her?

"Helga wouldn't have allowed her to be hurt," spoke the voice of his nemesis. "She would have protected her with her own body if necessary, like—"

"What are you now, Tom?" Salazar interrupted with a sneer. "The voice of Helga Hufflepuff? Isn't it enough that you've been my conscience all these years?"

"If I had been your conscience, things would be different."

"Yes, I would be sane," replied Voldemort. "And whole. And the Potter brat would be dead."

Salazar folded his scarred hand over the wand in his fist to silence the annoying voice, but it was not his wand he was holding. It was hers. He reached in his pocket for the phoenix wand and silenced Tom. The pain of that silencing, as always, took him by surprise. Magic should no longer bring him pain. He had suffered enough. More than any—He closed his hand over the burnt skin on the palm of his hand, willing the throbbing flesh to silence, but the pain would not be stilled. Only the phoenix tears would still the pain, and no phoenix was going to cry for him. He hissed through his teeth, a sound of frustration as much as pain, but he endured, and the magic continued to exhort her cost.

After all his planning and work and years of waiting for this moment, it was intolerable that his prize was snatched from him once again by Dumbledore. He knew where the blame for this catastrophe lies. He knew it wasn't the Malfoy boy's fault that she was in such a state. Still, the boy needed the Crucio to wipe the smirk off of his face—the slippery little snake. Voldemort smiled. The boy reminded him of Carman before she was tamed. He could see none of Lucius in the boy. Well, maybe the girl saw some of Lucius's manipulative charm. Still, there was nothing within the boy that would save her.

No. It was Dumbledore's spell penetrating the shield that caused this—Dumbledore's spell and the Chamber of Chains. If His prophecy child died, the debt for her death lay solidly at Dumbledore's feet. Not that it was surprising. Dumbledore had exhibited such backbone before with Grindelwald. The hard choice: if I cannot turn him, kill him. The asset must not fall to the enemy side. He could not blame Dumbledore. He would have done the same thing. It was, after all, the only logical choice. But he missed Grindelwald. He was certain that, in time, the old wizard would have deferred to him, the classic story of the apprentice surpassing the master. But Grindelwald was dead, and he was alive, after a fashion.

"Master?" Voldemort turned. It was Severus.

"Have you finished your brewing?" asked Voldemort.

"I have," said Severus entering the room with the flask and going down on one knee and kissing the hem of his robe.

"Get up. Get up. You'll spill the potion."

Voldemort caught the incensed thought from the man: I have never spilled a potion. But Severus said nothing, and Voldemort had more important things to think about. "Tell me about this potion," ordered Voldemort.

"Her problem is twofold," continued Severus as he conjured a blue fire on the nightstand and put the potion on it. "She needs to draw herself back from the Elementals and she needs to release the monumental amount of foreign magic in her system. I can't control her decision in regard to the Elementals, and she can't swallow my potion in her unconscious state." Severus folded his hands in front of him and looked at them. "And I don't know if breathing the fumes will have the same effect as the actual potion. She should drink it, but that isn't an option. I can't control the dosage in the air, and all the potion will do is removed the hurtful magic, in any case. It will not guarantee that she will chose to pull herself back from her immersion in the Elementals. She must decide to do that on her own. Simply, she must want to live."

"But it will remove the foreign magic?" asked Voldemort.

"Yes—" Severus hesitated.

"Speak plainly," demanded Voldemort reaching out to touch Severus face, but as usual that touch did not afford him a look at the man's thoughts.

"Instead of removing the foreign and hurtful magic," said Severus, "It could remove—more than that."

"Can't you tell? Monitor her somehow?"

"Yes," said Severus, "but I don't think you want to stay in the room with her, the fumes cannot be contained by another magical substance. I was planning on doing the Bubble Head Charm to protect myself. Of course, you could do the same—"

"Ah," said Voldemort, understanding dawning. "You are protecting your own magic, then?"

Severus hesitated a moment and then said, "Yes, Master, I am."

"Good." Voldemort eyed him critically, thinking as he had thought many times before, there was more to Severus Snape than met the magic. He could usually discover those plans, but not with Severus. Of course, part of the reason for that was that Severus was an Occlumen and a Legimen himself and had natural shields common to those with that particular gift, but it was more than that.

He thought of his surprise when he felt the healing and power flowing into Severus just before he had gone to retrieve his basilisks from the Chamber of Secrets. He had called him and Severus did not come. He was very patient, waiting several minutes before upping the pain of the Dark Mark, but still Severus did not come. He had not wanted to summon him, but at last, he had no choice. He had missed the hatching of his basilisks once.

That mistake too he could lay at Dumbldore's feet, he thought bitterly, remembering the last clutch of basilisks lost. There were thirteen eggs that time too, but only one basilisk survived, the mother of this clutch. This time, only one died because he was with them at the magic of their hatching. For the first time in history, he had kept most of the clutch of basilisks alive. Today should have been a day of celebration, he thought with irritation. Damn Dumbledore!

He had never summoned Snape before, due to the sensitive nature of Snape's work at Hogwarts, but he wanted him present for the hatching. When he had finally determined that he had to summon Snape or risk missing the hatching again, the summoning had surprising results. Severus had Apparated right through Hogwart's Anti-Apparition Wards, and although Severus's magic was briefly disrupted, he was not unduly harmed. Unfortunately, Severus either could not remember or would not reveal how this miracle occurred.

And then Samara arrived and told him she had taken down the Hogwart's Anti-Apparition wards. Voldemort no longer knew what was the truth. The time had long past when he trusted anyone, but he could always discern the truth, except from Severus, who was so blocked. Severus always contended that the shields were naturally occurring and outside of his control, but occasionally Voldemort wondered how much of the shield was really natural and how much Severus had placed. But yesterday, Severus was hiding nothing. He had searched Severus thoroughly. There was nothing to see. There was no information about what had really happened to the wards.

Still, Severus was entirely too secretive. There were Occlumency wards of Severus's own making that he painstakingly would take down one at a time at Voldemort's request, but they were still there. Severus said they were for Dumbledore's benefit. Voldemort wondered. Of course, there were the Occlumency wards that mirrored his own and that damned childhood shield that should have been long gone. He had suggested to Lucius that he find someone who could seduce down Severus's shield, but Lucius had said no one would have the cold slimy fish. Perhaps Lucius needed some incentive to look harder.

Voldemort started to pace. At least, Severus hadn't thoroughly poisoned the thoughts of the Malfoy boy, although there was a time when Voldemort thought perhaps he had. No fifteen year old boy would guard his virginity so well unless he knew what it meant, and yet—Voldemort smiled as he mind went back to the unconscious Prophecy Child.

"Then we need someone to sit with her during this critical time," said Voldemort. "Someone who will remind her of the pleasures of life. I know just the person: the young Malfoy. How can you tell if the dosage is too strong?"

"Convulsions," said Severus shortly, "when the potion begins leaching her own magic, but I'd rather stay with her myself. If it is leaching Draco's magic—"

"Elf!" shouted Voldemort, and Winky popped into the room.

"Yes, oh Great one. How may I—"

"Shut up," snapped Voldemort. "Escort young Malfoy to me."

The elf disappeared with a pop and Voldemort turned back to Severus. "You will tell young Malfoy nothing." He gripped Severus shoulder and for once, Severus did not shy away from the touch. "Nothing," Voldemort repeated allowing the pain of the Cruciatus Curse to flow slowly through his fingers into Severus, the fire melting his bones into liquid as it progressed with sure precision, first his shoulder— "Nothing," said Voldemort as the Cruciatus progressed both into his neck and down his arm, burning his bones to nothing, the nerves firing in agony.

His physical contact with Severus was intoxicating, allowing him to see Severus's turmoil as well as the bones sizzling to a liquid flame with the inexorable force of his spell. Each tiny bone in his wrist popped and cracked like twigs consumed by fire as he waited for Severus to acknowledge his superiority.

"Yes, Master," said Severus through gritted teeth.

Voldemort held the curse still, almost disappointed that Severus had capitulated so soon. Usually he was more resolute when young Malfoy was concerned. "You will remember that both Malfoy and the Prophecy Child, are mine," said Voldemort. Tightening his hand on Severus shoulder, he felt the bones crumble like cinders beneath his hand, and Severus whimpered.

"Yes, Master."

"Such tension in your neck," Voldemort said softly, at last releasing the Cruciatus Curse and allowing his long fingers to caress the lingering pain in Severus' neck. He felt Severus tense more severely, wanting to move out of his touch. "I am not touching your mind, Severus," said Voldemort softly. "But what secrets do you hide there that you fear my touch?"

"I have no secrets—"

"Liar," Voldemort said softly. "We all have secrets."

"Nothing of worth."

"You have worked hard on my potion," said Voldemort. "It's time for you to relax. Go to Knockturn Alley. Enjoy the sites. Take Lucius with you, he knows how to have a good time."

Young Malfoy knocked on the door.

"Go on, Severus," said Voldemort. "I will take care of my Prophecy Child and young Malfoy here."

"But the potion is delicate, Master. Perhaps I should explain—"

"No," said Voldemort simply, waving Severus away. "Go."

Obediently, Snape left Voldemort alone with Samara and Draco, stepping over the dead bodies of the healer and two Death Eaters who dared to question why Voldemort was sitting with the Prophecy Child.

"Would you like me to have them removed?" Severus asked gesturing to the dead Death Eaters.

"No," answered Voldemort, thinking they were a physical reminder that he would not be mocked. Reminders, such as they were, were always effective. "Come, come, Malfoy. Don't dawdle."

Although Draco's eyes strayed first to the dead bodies and then to the girl in the bed, he knelt, sufficiently debasing himself, and crawled to Voldemort's side, kissing his robes with reverence. It was amazing the effect of a few bouts with Cruciatus, thought Voldemort. He was certainly not so arrogant now. Voldemort smiled.

"Thank you," whispered Draco, his eyes again going to the Prophecy Child and then dropping reverently to the floor.

Voldemort said nothing at first, allowing the boy to continue to kneel on the cold stone floor. Minutes passed and neither moved. At last Draco shifted his weight, his young body unused to the stillness, but Voldemort did not bother to tell him to rise from his subservient position.

"Do you love her?" asked Voldemort and when Draco failed to answer, Voldemort laid a finger along his cheek, stoking gently, waiting for the thoughts to come; it was remarkably easy now that the childhood shields were down.

Voldemort laughed softly. "So Malfoy, you traded one magic for another, and now your goal seems to be slipping away. Good. Then you will protect your investment well. Severus made a potion," continued Voldemort standing and moving towards the door. "You will remain with her. Talk to her. Tell her that you want her to live."

Voldemort wondered where exactly in the process she might be. It was possible that she would be past the point where she wanted to live. If she were, it would be difficult to convince her to embrace the pain again. He considered trying to draw out her thoughts just to satisfy his curiosity, but he decided against it. His intervention could push her away at a critical juncture. He could wait. A thousand years in the Chamber had taught him the value of patience.

"As the potion takes effect," he continued, "it will help her to release the magic that is burning inside of her. Tell her that the pain is temporary. It's important for her to understand that as soon as she is firmly on this side of the veil, I can relieve her pain. When the process is completed, her body will convulse. At that point, you will call my elf and send it to me."

"Yes, Master," said Draco, still on his knees. Voldemort noticed his hands were shaking. Perhaps his parents' Crucios after his own was too much for the boy, thought Voldemort. But he had to be sure that the parents were not party to the boy's deception. It would make him stronger in the end and less likely to stray…He knew that the boy had strong magic and strong ambition—a dangerous combination. He would have to play him carefully.

"Sit," Voldemort ordered, gesturing to the bedside chair he had just vacated and Draco stood, his body still struggling with the after effects of the Cruciatus. He sat hesitantly, uncomfortably, on the edge of the chair, his back to the potion flask, which was slowly oozing a pale smoke that immediately dissipated.

Voldemort's snake senses could smell the light flower scent already, and pulled abruptly on the air elemental for his own protection, but Draco didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. Voldemort touched Draco's face once again, this time gathering a glimpse of his indecision and fear. Fear was a good thing, thought Voldemort, as he left Draco alone with his Prophecy Child and his thoughts.

Wormtail scampered up to him, crawling over the dead Death Eaters and sniffing them. And for just a moment, the snake-like essence in him wanted to strike, to swallow him whole, to feel his furry little body in his mouth, tasting the last pulsing of his life seeping away, but he mastered the animal within himself. Then the wizard transformed.

"Minister Fudge awaits you, Master," said Wormtail.

"Thank you, Peter. How long has he been waiting?"

"Since 8:00 o'clock this morning—about four hours."

Voldemort released the air elemental in his lungs as he entered the corridor and held out his hand to Cornelius Fudge. Stupidly, the wizard still took it, and any hope of deception that Fudge had disappeared, not that the fool could play that game anyway—

"Dumbledore is beside himself," said Fudge. "He's running on about dementors at Hogwarts and no longer heeding my advice for caution. He's called out the Order of the Phoenix."

"You don't say," said Voldemort calmly, his long strides taking him toward the dining room. "Let's discuss it over lunch."

He thought about the aurors killed at Azkaban and whom he had replaced with his Death Eaters. A smile played around the edges of his lipless mouth. "Now, aren't the Scrimgoers members of the Order?" he asked.

"Yes Master," agreed Wormtail.

The smile widened.

Please come and read the sequel: The Seers Truth: Beyond the Darkness>