Warnings: some Voldy torture, but not more graphic in detail than GoF or OoTP.
I clutched Potter to me, while the wind and the rain beat against us both. Staggering slightly, I lurched back inside the Tower. Weasley and Granger followed; it took their combined efforts to wrench the door shut behind us.
After the raging of the storm, the Tower seemed deathly quiet. Our ragged breathing echoed in the shadowy stairwell. I muttered a spell to make Potter lighter – even though, I noted, he was still too skinny anyway - and began to descend with as much haste as possible. Potter lay, utterly limp, in my arms.
Weasley and Granger trotted at my heels. I could hear their urgent enquiries, but I ignored them. A desperate tightness gripped my chest.
I took him to the infirmary, because it was closest.
"POPPY!" I bellowed, as I burst into the ward.
She emerged, blinking, from a side-door.
"Severus? – Oh my, Harry Potter, again… what has he been doing now… Lay him here, Severus, let me have a look…"
"It's no use, Poppy," I told her harshly. "He's been taken by Voldemort…I suspect through a Mind Matrix.."
She gasped, and her hands momentarily ceased in their examination of Potter's inert form.
"Oh no…and Albus is away…"
"Exactly," I said grimly.
Weasley and Granger were standing beside me, watching anxiously.
"Out, all of you!" Poppy snapped imperatively. "First things first, the boy needs to be warm and dry… out!"
As she spoke, she waved her wand, and curtains swished closed around Potter's bed. I found myself standing helplessly on the outside with Granger and Weasley. I had always resented the way Poppy Pomfrey shooed me about in her infirmary as though I were a stray chicken.
"Professor?" Granger whispered. "Please… what is happening?"
I began to pace. It says much for my state of mind that I preferred conversing with Granger and Weasley to the turmoil of my own thoughts.
"The Dark Lord seems to have enchanted Potter through his scar," I informed them tersely. "From the looks of it, I think he has imprisoned him in a Mind Matrix."
"What's that?" Weasley demanded. He looked scared. As well he might.
"It is a spell which traps somebody in their mindscape." My patience was, as ever, impressive.
"But..why?" Weasley asked. "What's he done it for? Can't we just break the spell?"
I rolled my eyes. What would the Dark Lord want to attack Potter for? Had Weasley not been paying attention for the last six or seven years? "Oh yes, of course we can just break the spell," I snapped at him waspishly. "That is precisely why we are standing around here choosing not to do so…"
It is very difficult both to cast and to break a Mind Matrix spell. I am a wizard of some power, but I thought it probable that only Dumbledore would really stand any chance of managing to counter one of Voldemort's making.
Granger's eyes had filled with dread. "He's using him in some way, isn't he?" she said quietly, directly to me. "Voldemort. He's not just cast the spell. He's got into Harry's mind..He wants something.."
I could think of at least three things the Dark Lord might want, which he could reasonably hope to achieve through this stratagem.
Knowledge: probably of the Prophecy. To his fury, Voldemort remained ignorant of all but its opening phrases; the bartender had removed the eavesdropper from the Hog's Head before he could hear more than half what Trelawney had said. Really, it was a pity Trelawney had not been more widely known. Then nobody would have bothered to listen to anything at all that came out of her mouth.
Potter's death. Not knowing the Prophecy in full, Voldemort undoubtedly sought to eliminate the threat Potter posed to him. He did not know that not only his and Potter's lives, but also their deaths, were intimately intertwined.
And me. Merlin knew, the Dark Lord would like to get his hands on me. Traitor. Spy. It could hardly be coincidence that this had happened when Dumbledore was away. The Dark Lord's own spies had undoubtedly informed him of the Headmaster's absence. As Voldemort well knew, I was one of the few other wizards available who was skilled in mind magics.
Potter's death, knowledge of the prophecy, and me: the odds looked promising for the Dark Lord to acquire all three of these things this evening.
Harry's bonds dug him into painfully. He shifted on the stone courtyard, trying unavailingly to find a more comfortable position. A long while seemed to have passed.
Voldemort was becoming impatient. The red slits of his eyes flared menacingly.
"Boy!" he hissed. "What is happening? I do not believe Dumbledore's minions would make no attempt to rescue their precious Harry Potter. Why are they delaying?"
Harry hesitated. He could not see, though, how answering would make his situation any worse.
"I was on my own," he told Voldemort. He worked hard at keeping his voice reasonably steady, but it still sounded wobbly to his ears. "I went up the Astronomy Tower at lunchtime; nobody goes there, and nobody would know that was where I was…It would be a while before anyone realized to look for me."
"Why must you always thwart me!" Voldemort's voice was cold with anger. "I have already wasted an entire day, sitting here watching you…Must I waste the whole night as well?"
Harry did not feel it would be tactful to point out that, as far as he was concerned, Voldemort could leave and get on with his other business just about any time he wanted to.
"Or perhaps you lie…" Voldemort mused. "Do you lie, Mr Potter? It is difficult to tell, here in your own mindscape…Perhaps your friends are simply waiting until they can fetch Dumbledore…Perhaps they think they can just hold on until then…."
Harry said nothing. He had no idea whether anyone had even found his body yet, let alone what steps people might take once they had done so. His awareness of time was a little hazy, but he guessed it must be well after dinner. He had been in this mess for hours. His constricted limbs ached dreadfully.
"I think," Voldemort said, in a suave voice that made Harry feel, if possible, even more nervous, "that we had better encourage your friends to come and help you…at once..."
Harry struggled instinctively in his ropes. He did not know what Voldemort was about to do. But he had a very strong sense that he was not going to like it.
The silence was tense. While Poppy tended to Potter's physical needs, I was thinking furiously.
I had sent Dumbledore an urgent message, but I knew the nature of his business: it would take some time for him to receive it, and more time again until he was in a position to respond to it. Still; he would undoubtedly come just as soon as he could.
We could just wait…wait until Dumbledore returned. In the mean time….
At that point, Potter screamed. It was a high sound of terror and pain that twisted horribly through the quietness of the ward.
I threw myself forward, and wrenched the curtains aside. Potter's unconscious form was juddering and twitching on the bed in obvious extreme pain. It was like watching a puppet having its strings violently jerked.
"Poppy!" I snarled. "What's going on?"
She was moving her hands frantically in an effort to still Potter's body. She muttered a charm I recognized as one to calm the heartrate. Potter continued to twitch obscenely. Finally, the convulsions ceased.
"His vital signs are all over the place," Poppy told me tensely. She looked very worried. "Whatever just happened, it put immense strain on his systems."
"What are you telling me, Poppy?" I ground out, even though I thought I already knew.
"If that happens often, or for too long…his body will not be able to cope with the stress," she informed me.
"It is Voldemort," I told her quietly, with sudden certainty. "He is warning us. He will kill Potter unless we make an immediate move to prevent it."
"But – how?" Poppy asked. "A Mind Matrix, Severus! Put in place by the Dark Lord! How are we supposed to break it without Albus here?"
I regarded Potter's small, still body. He was very white. His hand fell down over the side of the bed. I picked it up, and lay it on his chest. As I did so, I encountered a burning heat.
The Fireheart I had given him for his birthday. The stone was blazing fiercely. I laid it carefully outside his robes, so it could not burn his skin so easily.
"I will enter the Matrix myself," I found myself telling Poppy. "And see if I can at least hold Voldemort off until Dumbledore arrives. At the very least, he can never resist showing off once he has an audience..."
"Oh dear me, dear me…Severus, the risk!"
"Yes. I know." I was short with her. I was not precisely thrilled by the prospect myself. It contradicted my deeply ingrained Slytherin sense of self-preservation. However, I saw no alternative. While I did not think I could break the Matrix, I did know how to operate magically within a mindscape. Dumbledore would be most disappointed if I simply sat here and watched the boy die...
I took Potter's hand in mine again. Perhaps the physical connection would help me reach him.
"Severus, my dear, are you sure..?"
I lay forward so my head rested on the bed. My hand was still entwined with Potter's. It felt small and cold in my own.
I took a deep breath. And began the incantation.
"So," Voldemort said. "Let us give your friends something to think about…"
Harry watched in fearful anticipation as Voldemort raised a hand and pointed it in his direction. It slashed towards him, and a white light leapt from Voldemort's fingers.
Harry screamed, and contorted in his bindings. It seemed to go on for an eternity. He was so dazed, he did not know how long. Finally, he lay, panting, heart racing, while his shuddering body recovered from the blast.
Very slowly, it seemed to him, his wits began to gather. He became aware once more of the chill roughness of the paving stone beneath his face. He blinked. Voldemort was watching him lazily, with every sign of deep satisfaction.
It was minutes later, only minutes, that Harry heard footsteps echoing along the stone passages behind him.
He could not see, he was facing in the wrong direction, but he had no doubt to whom those measured footfalls belonged.
It was Snape.
Harry's heart leapt again in a welter of conflicting emotions. He could not entirely quash a sense of hope and relief: Snape had always managed to rescue him before, surely he would do so this time as well? At the same time, an awful fear choked him. Voldemort had done this deliberately in order to lure Snape into his clutches. This could well be the end for both of them.
Voldemort had seen Snape as well. He inclined his head as though greeting a respected evening caller.
"Why, Severus. At last, you have come to see me… it has been so long…"
"Indeed. No doubt you have missed me." Snape's voice was dry.
"But of course, Severus, how could I not? And not only I….Mr Malfoy has been quite distraught to hear of your….defection."
"One would think Lucius had other matters to worry about at present. I doubt he finds his new abode quite to the standards of Malfoy Manor."
"I dare say. I confess, I was quite…irritated… to lose Lucius' services. That was thanks to Mr Potter here. Never mind, never mind. Harry will make suitable recompense. When he is dying slowly at my feet, I will consider the debt in some measure repaid."
Snape made no reply. Voldemort smiled, that terrible thin curling of the lips which made Harry's flesh crawl, and took a step forward.
"What, Severus? No dramatic exclamations? No 'over my dead body' or any such foolish pronouncements?"
"No. As you say, such declarations would be pointless folly."
"So blunt, Severus. You used to call me 'Master…'"
"No longer." Snape's voice was very quiet.
"I think…" said Voldemort in a tone dripping with triumph and pleasure, "I think you are going to discover you are mistaken there."
Harry was bracing himself even as Voldemort's laugh shrilled out. The burst of pain was even worse than the previous time. He knew he was shrieking and crying out, but was powerless to stop himself. At last he lay, a puddle of agony, vaguely aware that he was moaning. His own helplessness infuriated him.
"You see, Severus? You can stop this. Drop to your knees in front of me. Put down your wand. And ask me nicely. Ask your Master nicely to stop this."
Harry had barely finished panting and twitching when the next curse hit him. He convulsed. He could hear screams echoing around the courtyard; he supposed they must be coming from him, but all he was conscious of was the torrent of pain searing along his nerves.
And then, as it subsided, Snape's voice as he had never heard it before.
"Stop it. Stop it….. Master."
"On your knees before me, I said, Severus."
Harry opened his eyes. Blearily, he saw that Snape had entered his field of vision. He was kneeling at Voldemort's feet. He had laid down his wand. Harry felt a pang of anguish quite different in kind from what Voldemort had just inflicted on him, but just as powerful. He had never thought to see Snape beg.
"Stop it. Please. Master."
"That is much better, Severus. Now we have established that, let us turn to some matters I wish to discuss. This prophecy. I am sure your trusted friend Dumbledore has confided its content to you, no?"
"Dumbledore has never told me the wording of the prophecy."
"Now, were it anyone but you, I would believe I could read the truth of that statement in your mind. But with you, even I hesitate to make such a claim…there is no-one else, no-one, who has lied to me so successfully and for so long. I take that rather personally, as it happens."
"Nevertheless, it is the truth." Snape's voice was thick and hoarse. "Dumbledore has never told me the wording of the prophecy."
"Hmm. Well, let's see, shall we? Crucio."
Harry watched in horror. It went on for such a long while. Worst of all was the noise Snape was making. If only he could block his ears… This was because of him. Snape was here on his account. Surely, surely, there had to be something he could do..and who cared about the prophecy anyway? Voldemort was going to kill him, Harry had no doubt about that, but maybe Snape would have a chance to get away if Harry agreed to reveal the prophecy.
"I'll tell you!" he called suddenly. "Leave him alone..I'll tell you…"
Snape's body flopped, released from the curse.
"Potter, no." His voice was a harsh whisper, but Harry heard it anyway.
"I'll tell you if you let him go," Harry said firmly.
Voldemort was laughing again.
"But this is wonderful. You are each prepared to suffer for the other! Severus, I thought your obsession with protecting Potter came from the fact his father, whom you loathed so much, had to go and save your life…clearly you have actually developed feelings for the boy, and he for you... How…touching…."
Harry's heart, yet again, contracted.
My resistance to the Cruciatus curse had weakened over the years. Nevertheless, I managed to hiss out, "Potter, no".
The stupid boy was going to ignore me, though, I could tell. Idiot. Foolish, Gryffindor, noble idiot…
Not that I could talk, I thought bitterly. My plan, such as it was, had failed miserably. I was not supposed to be here, without my wand, suffering under Cruciatus. I had without question surpassed myself this time. Association with Gryffindors must be sapping me of all critical judgement.
But I did at least know that Voldemort must not hear the prophecy. If he did, he would know his own death and Potter's were linked. Potter would be safe from death at Voldemort's own hands, oh yes; no doubt. But Voldemort would know all he had to do was get somebody else to kill Potter, and the last known threat to him would be obliterated. He could look forward to supreme rule. For however many ages his unnatural existence would extend for.
"Potter," I tried again. "Do not tell him."
With a casual flick, Voldemort put me back under the curse, and yet again, the world dissolved.
Granted, I thought dourly, in one respect my tactics were working. He was having too much fun playing with us to go for the kill. Dumbledore could turn up at any point…now would be good, I thought heavily, groaning and coughing yet again.
"I said LEAVE HIM ALONE!" Potter was shouting, furiously.
"Or what?" Voldemort asked in amusement. "My dear boy, you are bound hand and foot; even if you could get at your wand, you would not be able to make it function properly. What are intending to do? Oh, such a brave little Gryffindor…"
An idea struck me. It was possible…yes, after all, it was possible.. I would not dare try it myself, but wild magic was rooted in the emotions, and Merlin knew, Potter had enough of those.
"All…the Gryffindors…have fire in their hearts…" I wheezed. It was as near to a hint as I dared.
"What is this, Severus? You have betrayed not only me but Salazar Slytherin himself? Are you planning on taking up Minerva McGonagall's job as Head of Gryffindor? I am shocked. Shocked. Oh, yes…and - ah - ….Crucio."
Harry watched yet again in a rising tide of fury as Snape thrashed and screamed. He wished he could blast Voldemort where he stood, laughing and laughing and laughing…but he couldn't get his wand…
No wand, he was wandless .. wandless magic…what had Snape said, now? Fire in the heart…
Harry's breath sucked in. He could only try..Very carefully, with great concentration, he thought of his Fireheart stone. It would be blazing now, he was quite sure. The blue and purple flames would be writhing in its heart. He imagined pouring into the stone all his fury, his magic, his energy…
Would it work? Harry hesitated. He felt as though his whole body were bursting with some wild force. What should he do now?
Snape made a bubbling noise of pain. Harry's rage surged suddenly, fiercely. He could feel it crackling around him, almost tangible. With every ounce of his willpower, he hurled it at Voldemort's smirking form.
Harry gasped. His fury, channelled through the Fireheart, manifested as a great sheet of green-white flame. It exploded towards Voldemort with a dull roar.
Voldemort's robes caught fire. Harry's eyes were dazzled by the blaze, but he could see Voldemort shrieking in pain and fury as the conflagration consumed him.
And then he was gone.
Harry stared incredulously. He realized that Voldemort's bindings had disappeared from around him as well. He had been tied up for so long that he could barely move, but he managed to crawl across the courtyard towards Snape.
"Pr..professor," Harry managed. "Are you..ok?"
"Yes." Snape said after a pause, although his voice was ragged and rough. His body still jerked in the aftermath of the curse.
"No." Snape swallowed, groaned, and rolled over so he was facing Harry. "He has just fled back to his own body."
"Oh…Why haven't we…?"
"Voldemort has left us, but the Mind Matrix spell holds," Snape rasped out. "We are still in your mindscape."
Harry looked at him worriedly. Snape was ghastly white. Voldemort had kept him under the curse for such a long time…Harry crawled to the fountain, and wet his robes. Then he returned and began, tentatively, to bathe Snape's face. Snape's black eyes snapped indignantly at him for a moment, then he seemed to give in. He gave a groaning sigh, closed his eyes, and allowed Harry to continue his ministrations.
I lay weakly on the flagstones. This had all been a Very Bad Idea. Every move I had made this night seemed singularly lacking in basic common sense. Clearly, I was sickening for something.
However, Potter did seem to have managed to expel the Dark Lord from his mind. That was, obviously, to be counted on the plus side of the equation. He also seemed to be pretty much in one piece, which had of course been the object of the ill-conceived exercise.
On the negative side, the Mind Matrix spell still held. I was trapped here with Potter inside his head, I hurt abominably, and I was embarrassed my own ineffectiveness. I wished Dumbledore would hurry up.
In the meantime, Potter's inexpert daubing at my face was actually rather soothing. None of my fellow Death Eaters had ever done as much for me. I allowed myself to smile at him slightly.
And so, here I was; in Potter's mindscape. I just hoped that Dumbledore would arrive on the scene before Potter's Inner Child.
juliedecarson – ah, I want to huggle them too…. I wish!
hyouden-07 – thanks! Kip - glad you liked it..what's "The Cell?" though?? Does it have a Mind Matrix concept? I've seen similar ideas in lots of places…
barenakedally – poor Harry! Dark lord crawling around his mind, yech!
Vyxagallanxchi – Sevy is my favourite character, and I love writing him. He's turning into a Gryffindor, though, charging off like that to the rescue….
Sakia Ishida – thank you!
Reading Manic - heavens, I'm not sure I should be encouraging an addiction, lol…
wolfawaken – "NO." lol, that's pretty much what Snape thought I think.
Pleione – Evil cliffie last chapter I know….which from my POV makes it a good place to leave it!! Hehe.fanficaholic - hi, glad you're enjoying it!
Adenara Yatman – lol, bad Harry..he'd just do anything to irritate Severus…
ShadowedHand – thank you…glad you liked it.
cdkobasiuk – ooh, that's a compliment!
Kristine Thorne – wow, thanks so very much.
Persephone Lupin – lol, here's a calming draught…Voldy's gone for now..all better…for now.
lucidity – Aww, Severus is sweet, yes he is! Kind of.
Read300300 – lol, thank you so much. And I hope the teeth and lips are feeling better. Poor you.
Jaws - aww, cliffies are good! Anyway here's your update!
MYSTICAL PANTHER – eep, I didn't realize writing fanfic would be so dangerous!!! Lol
missjackiesparrow – hehehe, I will try to keep you away from death's door then. Here's an update!
Oya – lol, Harry hasn't read X-men comics. Maybe he should. Or maybe I should. I've seen a number of similar ideas though.
charl1e – Voldy's back, and gone, but he'll be back again…
velze – thanks very much, glad you liked it.
amber.moora – thanks lots, even if you did miss sleep, lol.
Jicky – poor Sevy, he just can't seem to help taking care of Harry. Even when he doesn't want to!
Lilith11 – herewith the answers to your questions…Snape was indeed foolish enough to try it.. Awww.
Amanda - /me sends Madam Pomfrey around. And thank you very much indeed for your rosiegirl – thanks very much!
crookshanks87 – ooh, glad you liked it.
Alynna Lis Eachann – thanks..I like storms….
snarkyroxy – lol, it would be nice to get an award!!! Well the Mind Matrix as such is my idea but there's lots of similar ones around the concept of a mindscape…I read too much…
acciodanrad9 – Thank you…poor Harry and Snape…
XiaoGui – ah, poor Sevy. Maybe I'd better send Madam Pomfrey round to you as well, she's doing the rounds…
Padawan Jan-AQ – thank you…as you see, dear Sevy actually walked into the trap!! Bless.