AN: Hey everybody ! I know I should be working on "What Am I" but the idea of this stand-alone wouldn't leave me alone so here it is ! It's a little dark but I wanted to try something different. ;-)
English is not my mother tongue so if you find mistakes, please, report them to me ! As always, constructive criticism is always welcomed, tell me everything !
Eddited to correct a few typos and to add:
- This is a one-shot; this fic is complete. I don't even think I'd be able to write a sequel.
- The fic is written from Snape's POV
- Thanks to all those who've already reviewed, thanks a lot. Thanks to those who will review, and thanks to those who took the time to read. :-)
I don't know what I was expecting to see. But it was certainly not that.
The Dark Lord had allowed me to enter the room where he held Harry Potter captive. Apparently, the Death Eaters' torture hadn't been enough to extract useful information out of the boy, and I had been ordered to give him the strongest Truth Serum I possessed. Usually, the Dark Lord doesn't believe in Veritaserum and the likes, according to him, they are not trustworthy. But torture is another matter.
However, in this specific case, torture didn't seem to be so efficient.
When the Dark Lord had asked me to come, I had considered adding a small quantity of healing potion in the Veritaserum, already anticipating the state in which Potter would certainly be, but I had come to the conclusion that it would negate the effect of both potions. As much as I wanted to help the spoiled little boy, I couldn't afford to be killed, and that's what the Dark Lord would have done if he had suspected me of ruining the potion on purpose. Not a good plan.
As I entered the room, I prepared myself for the sight of the infuriating boy, bloodied and crying in the most pathetic way. But even if he was an insufferable brat, I wouldn't have held it against him to cry while facing this maniac's torture. Anybody would cry himself to sweet unconsciousness. Bracing myself for the sight to come, I hardened my stance, shoved away the small amount of sympathy that I possessed, and stepped into the room.
The room stank of dry blood and sweat. Typical. I could have recognized this scent anywhere. The smell, however, didn't distract me for long. Chained on a chair, in the middle of the room, was a blindfolded young man who seemed to be unconscious. Suddenly, it hit me that Potter was not a child anymore. After all, he would have turned eighteen at the end of the following month. I silently chastised myself for thinking this way. The boy was not dead yet, and it was my job to make sure that he stayed alive.
Nevertheless, I had been right on one point : Potter was indeed bloodied, and in a sorry state. The psychotic man who was my master cast an "enervate" charm on the youth, and Potter was jerked awake. Judging by his grimace, he wasn't very glad to be back among us. I can't say I blamed him.
I placed the vial before the boy's lips and he let me pour its content inside his mouth. Potter swallowed obediently, probably realizing that he could not do anything but accept the potion. Putting up a struggle would have been brave but foolish, only resulting in a few more pains. Maybe the boy wasn't as stupid as I had thought.
"Where are the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix ?"
"What is Dumbledore's plan ?"
"Who is Ragis Earthorn ?"
"What is Dumbledore hiding in the Red Room ?"
"Where are the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix ?"
I frowned behind my mask. The interrogators had been throwing questions at the boy for the past hour, and Potter had only answered that he didn't know. Sometimes, he hadn't even answered. Either he was quite skilled at repressing the effect of the potion, or Potter really didn't know the answers. I suspected the later to be true, although the former explication was not to be over-looked, given Potter's natural way of fighting the Imperius Curse.
The Dark Lord, who had already demonstrated more patience than with his own followers, was getting seriously irritated. Fortunately, my loyalty wasn't in question, since the potion had already been tested on a random Death Eater, assuring the Dark Lord of its efficiency. I was safe. For the time being.
In a fit of rage, the Insane Lord tore the blindfold off my student's face, grabbed his chin, leant forward so that their nose were almost touching and yelled the questions one by one, over and over again. Potter had this dazed look, so common on those who are under the effect of Truth Serums, neither a hint of fear nor a spark of defiance shining in his emerald eyes.
"I don't know."
The Dark Lord struck him so hard that the chair fell to the side, taking the youth down with it upon the marble floor. The fact that the Dark Lord himself had resorted to muggle violence was an evidence of his aggravation. He then tried to calm himself by cursing his captive into oblivion. The boy tensed on the floor as he received the wrath of one of the most powerful and dark wizard of the century. His shut eyelids didn't succeed in holding the tears back, and soon, they were flowing freely on his dirty and bloodied face. He was not sobbing, nor yelling. He was just gritting his teeth. He couldn't prevent his tears, but they were not tears of despair, of sadness, of self-pity or of regret. They were tears of pain. Raw pain.
I knew how that felt, having been subjected to this type of intense torture myself. And I was puzzled by Potter's reaction. It was the reaction of someone who knew Pain intimately, who had been brought up in Pain, and who had accepted Pain as a part of his life. This kind of behavior didn't appear overnight. When had the Potter boy realized that Pain would be a huge part of his life ?
Somehow, Potter managed to open his eyes. His dazed look didn't come from the potion – which had eventually stopped working – but from the curses which made it difficult for him to stay focussed. His gaze slowly scanned the room, probably searching for an ally. Or maybe he was just trying to get his mind off the intense pain. His eyes saw me but didn't stop, making me feel that he had not recognized me. It was a relief. I felt uncomfortable enough watching a young man I had been teaching for the past seven years get tortured in the most horrific way, I didn't need him to implore my help with his surreal eyes to make it worse.
The Dark Lord stopped, it seemed that he had run out of sadistic ideas. Potter was lying limply on the floor. He would have fainted if the Dark Lord hadn't bothered to cast "Enervate" every three minutes. Suddenly, the Dark Wizard's body went rigid as a connection with one of his followers was established.
"Dementor riot," snapped the Dark Lord, "it shouldn't be long." With those words he left the room. There were only four Death Eaters in the room, myself not included. I had to acknowledge that it was ideal for an escape. I fingered my wand and sighed, preparing myself for what was to come.
Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I rested my head against the wall of my cell. Well, it hadn't gone totally as expected. But how was I to know that the Dark Lord had been held back by one of the Death Eaters in the corridor ? Of course, my plan didn't include an angry Dark Lord intercepting my student and myself in the middle of our evasion.
Potter was lying in the adjacent cell. He seemed to be unconscious. As I assessed approximately his injuries, I noticed that, even though most of the blood covering his face and clothes was dry, some was fresh. The red substance was dripping from his nose and from his mouth. Not good. I was wondering just how bad the internal damage were when I noticed that he was shivering.
I called his name, trying to wake him up. I knew he was exhausted, I knew that he needed to sleep, but he would get his sleep when we would be safe in Hogwarts. Here in the cell, the cold and the abuse he had suffered might have made him fall into a coma, and that was the last thing I needed to happen.
Sliding my long and thin arm between two bars, I reached Potter's shoulder and shook him, gently at first, then more roughly when he didn't wake up. Finally, the young man opened his eyes. I wish he hadn't. Potter's eyes were as hollow as the a Dementor's heart. He slowly brought himself to a sitting position, bringing his knees to his chest and encircling them with both arms. I waited for the expected moan or at least a sob of despair. None came. Potter only looked into space, a pensive expression on his face. Merlin, what had happened to the annoying Gryffindor brat ?
He had not acknowledged my presence, but he seemed to understand that it was crucial that he stayed awake. He was not shivering anymore. I cringed. The boy had accepted the Cold just as he had accepted the Pain. It was truly a disconcerting sight.
I could have asked him how he was feeling, but that would have been totally out of character. The irony of Potter surviving the Dark Lord only to die of a heart attack wasn't lost to my twisted sense of humor. I decided that small talk was better than this icy silence, and even if I wasn't sure that I could manage to have a conversation with Potter without snapping at him, it might at least help him stay awake.
I cleared my throat loudly before asking, "So... were you fighting the potion, or did you really not know the answers ?"
Potter turned his head slowly to look at me properly.
"Do you really think Dumbledore would trust me with this kind of information ?" The voice was devoid of any emotion. I could hear no resentment, no sadness, no disbelief, although his mainly neutral tone held a hint of derision.
I noticed that he hadn't answered my question. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the boy had no mean to know on which side I really was. After all, it could all have been a ruse to make him talk to me and spill his secrets. For once in his short life, Potter was actually being careful. Interesting.
"That was a pretty stupid move, back there." His voice was doubtful. He definitely thought it was a ruse.
"Coming from a Gryffindor, this remark is a bit rich," I snarled, although I had to agree. It had been a pretty stupid move.
Potter only shrugged and shifted to a more comfortable position, my words bouncing off him. He didn't care about what I thought. In fact, he didn't seem to care about anything. Was it an effect of the torture ? Probably. In order to survive, he had had to cut himself of the reality. And given the current reality, I could understand why he wasn't in a hurry to re- establish the connection.
The exhausted young man rested his head against the wall and closed his eyes, exhaling loudly.
"Potter ! Stay awake !"
He opened his eyes at once, but didn't say anything. I released an exasperated sigh, and started working on the heel of my boots. I had placed a few powders of my own creation there, in case something like this happened. I had learnt the trick in a muggle movie, I can't remember which one. If Potter noticed the irony, he didn't give any indication that he did.
"I need you to stay awake a little longer," I said firmly but more gently, "I'm going to get us out of here. We don't have much time."
My student only raised an eyebrow, clearly indicating that he wasn't as optimistic as me.
"And how much time do you think we have ?" he asked, humoring me.
"A couple of hours at most, half an hour at least. After that we will both probably be questioned. Interrogatories work better when two persons are questioned at the same time. Eventually, he'll kill us."
For a second, he seemed to want to say 'Well, thank you for stating the obvious,' but he stayed silent and absorbed himself in the contemplation of his bruised wrist. In the meantime, I had found the blue powder I had been looking for. I barked at Potter to come the closest he could to the bars separating us. He complied, and I spilled a thin line of powder in an arc around me. I handed Potter the powder through the bars and asked him to do the same. His hands shook as he completed the line. It seemed to me that it had taken for ever, but a few minutes later we were finally sitting inside what vaguely looked like a circle.
I muttered an incantation under my breath, and the air around us shifted to the heavy atmosphere of a stormy evening.
"It should break the anti-apparation wards for a few minutes," I explained, even though the boy had not asked. It felt strange. Potter should have asked, and I should have been annoyed to have to answer. Worry was creeping inside of me. "Take my hand," I snapped. Potter did as he was told and I used all my power to apparate both of us at the edge of the forbidden forest.
My worry was briefly replaced by pride when I realized that it had worked, but all too soon, I was jerked back into reality as Potter collapsed beside me. I caught him and held him until he regained his bearings. He seemed to recognize the forest, and understanding that it couldn't be helped, he started walking toward the castle. Although he was handling it pretty well, I kept my hand on his upper-arm as a security measure. The usually proud young man didn't jerk his arm away from my grip. Maybe he didn't trust his legs as much as he liked to pretend.
The boy was sleeping soundly in the hospital wing. He was less frightening now that he had been cleaned of all the blood and dirt. However, Pomfrey hadn't managed to wash away the bruises and the scars. He looked almost in peace, his face half hidden by the huge pillow, but looks can be pretty deceiving. Somehow, I knew that as soon as he would open his eyelids, I would see the emptiness, the despairing void lying inside his emerald orbs.
Pomfrey was giving me the exhaustive list of every injury Potter had obtained during his stay with the Dark Lord, something I wouldn't have minded not knowing. It was a wonder the boy had managed to make it to the castle without passing out. The Dark Lord was still in possession of my wand, and I had feared I would have to carry the boy. But excepting the few times when he had tripped and I had had to catch him, he had taken care of himself spectacularly well. I remembered how he had lain down on the first bed he had seen in the hospital wing, and only after that had he allowed himself to faint.
But according to Pomfrey, Potter shouldn't have been able to stand, let alone walk through a forest. I have to admit that I had slightly underestimated the extent of the boy's injuries. Sure, there had been a lot of blood, but minor cuts to the head can bleed like hell and still be superficial. I had assessed the boy's health according to what he could and couldn't do. But apparently, the rules were not the same for Potter as for every other normal person. When had the normal rules ever applied to the boy ? I shook my head. I was tired, confused and in pain, in other words, in no shape to dwell upon the mystery that was the Boy-Who-Lived.
I let Pomfrey lead me to a bed on the other side of the hospital wing. As much as I hated to admit it, I needed a break. But even as sleep began to take me, I couldn't help but think about the Boy-Who-Lived. The young man was no longer a 'Boy' and 'Lived' seemed to be an overstatement. 'Existed' would have been more appropriate.
I watched as Potter tied his shoes, preparing himself to leave the infirmary.
"Slept well ?" I asked, filling my voice with disdain. I had to be careful, it wouldn't do to sound like I actually cared. I thought that the young man had not noticed my presence before, but his lack of surprise at hearing my voice might prove otherwise. He stood up slowly and his emerald eyes met my own obsidian orbs. I felt a chill run down my spine as his hollow gaze transpierced my skull. It occurred to me that this emptiness wasn't new. It had been present for all those months, but I hadn't bothered to look. Now I felt a peculiar feeling form itself in me. It wasn't pity. I didn't feel sorry for the boy, even if I should have. What I felt was shame. Shame for the wizarding world.
I had questioned Dumbledore about the Man-Who-Existed unnatural endurance. 'Harry has a lot of amazing qualities. And he knows what has to be done.' That's all the older man had said on the subject. Yes, Potter knew what had to be done. In fact, that was the only thing he seemed to know anymore.
I was almost surprised when Potter answered my question.
"Yes professor, mainly. Though I had a vision about Voldemort." The same flat tone that I had learnt to hate even more than Potter's usual insolence.
"Oh," I said, trying not to flinch at the sound of my master's name, "and what was it about ?" I truly didn't want to know what had been on Potter's vision, but I wanted to keep him talking, I was waiting and hoping to catch a glimpse of his old infuriating self.
"Voldemort has finished assembling his army of Dementors, Professor. They will attack Hogwarts before the end of this month." His voice was so cold, so unlike it had been just a few years before. When he defeated the Dark Lord, I would have to be careful to stay on this young man's good side.
"What are you planning on doing ?" I asked, a sneer on my lips out of habit.
He waited a few seconds before replying as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, "My duty, professor. My duty."
He walked away and I knew that we would win the war.
But as I looked at the retreating back of my student, I couldn't prevent myself from feeling that, in a way, we had lost.
AN: There ! I hope it wasn't too boring. Don't forget to review, I need to know what you think of it ! :-)