Snape couldn't believe it but he had apparated into hell. Saying the incantation, any incantation because he couldn't imagine any place being worse than where he was, he had ended up no better off. Mind dulled by pain and torture, and the liberal application of the crucious curse, all he could think to do was to get away from Voldemort and the Death Eaters, to go anywhere they weren't, yet here he was, somewhere unknown, still being beaten. This time by children.

Broken and dying, he didn't have the strength to fight back or the power to apparate away again. This was the end. He coughed. Wiping his mouth he saw blood, too much blood. More flowed. He realised he was cold, so very cold that it seemed to have seeped through his body into his bones, claiming control. Snape could feel his extremities going numb as the blood flowed from his body, and what remained struggled to maintain his life.

Dying slowly, Snape was at least glad of the release from the pain, even if that pain was only a small repayment for the pain he had caused during his tenure as a Death Eater. Boy's laughter surrounded him and he heard the crack of bones as they kicked him again. At least Voldemort had been a little more imaginative in his punishment. Snape stopped struggling and relaxed, knowing it would be over soon. He wondered if anyone would notice he had gone, and if they did, whether they would care.

He doubted it.

There was a scream. Snape wasn't sure but he didn't think it had come from his lips. He had learned, early on, how to bare the pain in silence. The kicking stopped. "Get the fuck away from him. He's mine." The voice ordered.

God, no, Snape thought, Voldemort had followed him. He trembled, terrified, waiting.

Snape felt the boys move away, backing off slowly. "You can have him, he's broken anyway," one of them replied, laughing, but with a slight hint of fear tinging his voice. Struggling to open his eyes, Snape watched as they turned and ran.

Relief. Relief flooded over the dying wizard at the cessation of further beatings, but he stiffened as hands reached out and touched him tentatively. "It's OK, they won't come back, not while I am here." It was a girls voice, quiet but slightly tense. "Where does it hurt?" She wiped the blood from his mouth and the hair from his face.

Snape didn't respond, couldn't respond. Unable to speak he simply looked up, terrified.

"Everywhere?" She asked.

Snape nodded in answer.

"I'll try and help." She pulled a blanket over him. It smelt of dirt, rubbish and urine but it was warm. Snape faded away, hoping never to return.

Snape didn't so much regain consciousness as awareness of the pain throughout his body crept up until he could no longer ignore it. He moaned weakly, no longer able to tolerate it and no longer able to ignore it, weakened as he was by the physical and mental harassment and torture that he had endured.

Unable to move, panic rose in him as he frantically endeavoured to move any body part. Nothing responded as it should, his efforts produced only small, jerky movements no matter how hard he tried. That caused more panic. He coughed once and that started a fit of coughing he couldn't contain. It hurt to cough. He could taste the blood in his mouth. He shivered, the coldness bitting into him. He gasped for air between bouts of coughing and prayed that he would die soon.

Beside him a body stirred. Snape froze, not daring to move a muscle in case the beatings resumed. He flinched as a cold hand touched his face. Pulling back involuntarily expecting to be struck, he was surprised when it didn't happen. Instead, soothing words flowed over him as the fingers of that hand wiped the blood away and stroked his face, easing him gently into unconsciousness.

The same scenario was played out over and over again for an indeterminate time. Snape would wake, pained, chilled and terrified, uncertain of anything except that he wanted to die, only to be soothed by the gentle touch of a stranger.

At one point he willed himself to open his eyes and look at his surroundings. He saw a young girl, a street urchin, unkempt and dressed in rags looking out of a dirty window with broken glass. She had blonde hair and was humming something wistful, a tune Snape vaguely recognised, but couldn't place. He closed his eyes, weariness flooding over him as his injuries took their toll, and slept.

Things gradually improved as his body healed, the worst, most dangerous injuries, the ones he shouldn't have survived, were still making their presence known, but at some point he regained enough awareness to realise they would no longer kill him. He wasn't entirely pleased with that scenario however - he still had no idea where he was and no real control of his body. He also realised he didn't have his wand.

Snape couldn't be certain that he had it when he escaped Voldemort but he though he had. Perhaps the boys that had beaten him had taken it. He knew he would have to find it if he was to have any chance of returning to Hogwarts. He tried to rise, at least to a sitting position, but his body protested. Wincing in pain, but containing the cry that rose to his lips, he fell back down, gasping as he hit the floor.

This time he didn't loose consciousness; this time he didn't get that relief. He was left conscious to watch as the blonde girl moved quickly to his side. She stroked his hair back. Snape could smell the dirt ingrained into her skin and under her fingernails. He noted that she was filthy and wore rags, she had now shoes, yet she touched him gently, her fingers straying only to parts they wouldn't hurt. He sighed, relieved to be in the care of such a gentle child, and wondered what had brought her to such a place.

Snape opened his mouth, wishing to speak, but still unable to. The girl watched him, watched as terror rose in his eyes. She stroked gently, not ceasing. "Shhh. It's OK, you will be alright. Don't try to talk or move, just rest. You have been badly beaten, but I won't let that happen again." She watched as the injured man considered her words then relaxed. "I am Jane."

She was Jane. He closed his eyes.