Title: Through Darkened Halls
Author: Many wonderful writers from the HPRoundRobinLivejournal, each chapter may be someone different from the one before.
Rated: R for upcoming situations Summary: Firestar038's Challenge: Severus's spying is found out by the Dark Lord and he's punished. He's returned to Hogwarts blind with little hope of regaining his sight and as a result has given up hope. What happens when Harry decides to intervene?
Spoilers: None that i know of.
Disclaimer: Not mine. No money made. These characters belong to JK Rowling
Feedback: Always welcome.
He continued to stir, letting the familiar motion soothe away all the tension in his body and mind. The brats had been particularly difficult today, but he'd expected no less, because it was a Hogsmeade weekend. Somehow, things always seemed more chaotic on this, the final day before the dunderheads; the older ones at least, could get away and cause problems off school grounds and out of sight of the professors.
Potter, especially, seemed able to find trouble simply by walking into, or out of, a room. That brat, in particular, had strained his last nerve today. He was glad the boy only had one more year after this to plague him. He forced himself to stop thinking about the explosion the Idiot had caused by his inattentiveness, letting the motion of his arm bring him back to his task with a gentle reminder of who and where he was.
Suddenly, his attempts to clear his head and rid himself of the week's mental and emotional detritus were rudely cut off by the burn that started building in his left arm.
Usually, he refused to give in to such childish utterances when he was working, but today was different. Only later would he realize how different today really was. He put down the ladle and made his way to his office. He quickly wrote a note to Albus, letting him know where he was going, and made his way to the edge of Hogwarts' anti-apparation wards. He took a deep breath, put on his mask and cloak, and disappeared.
The dank underground tunnel did not make Severus feel any safer. He knew this was deliberate, but he refused to give into the primal fear that was threatening to gnaw away at the edges of his mind. The Dark Lord loved seeing how far he could push his servants, but this night, as on many others, he would not find Severus wanting, at least, Severus hoped he wouldn't. Walking beside McNair, Severus wondered, not for the first time, when things had started to go wrong with this insane creature who had once been a man. Had he always been like this? Even as he thought of this, he knew that he was treading on dangerous ground. He forced himself to push all speculations to the very back of his mind and began to listen to McNair's rambling.
"Did you hear me, Severus?"
"Sorry, I had my mind on other things. What were you saying?"
McNair's grin split his face in a very unpleasant way. When he spoke, Severus heard the low, dangerous purr of a homicidal maniac.
"I was saying, our lord found a traitor, or he thinks he did. You know what that means don't you?"
Inwardly, Severus' heart nearly stopped beating. Had things finally come to a head at last? Was he going to come out of this alive? If The Dark Lord suspected someone else, would he be called upon to kill yet another human being in order to keep his cover from being blown? He gave a mental sigh. He could do that, he'd done it once already, but it wasn't easy. Still, nothing worth while was ever easy. He'd been forced to participate in the killing of one man, and had been forced to watch while others killed three more in this latest purge of followers, but he could say or do nothing to stop it, lest he be next on the list to die.
Finally, they reached the inner sanctum of the Dark Lord's private chamber. McNair went forward and knelt to kiss the Dark Lord's robe. Severus followed, but before he could rise, Voldemort laid a hand on the back of his neck.
"Ah, my dear Severus," Voldemort said in an oddly gentle voice. "I was wondering when you'd come. Kneel up and look at me."
Severus slowly rose to his knees and obeyed, occluding his mind and forcing himself to breathe normally. He met the Dark Lord's gaze and then found that he could not look away. His heart began to pound faster.
"Tell me, Severus, do you have a guilty conscience? Is there, perhaps, something you want to talk about? Do you feel the need to unburden your heart to your master?"
Severus answered without hesitation. He knew he could answer this question honestly, because Voldemort hadn't specifically named his 'master'.
"Yes, my lord," he said. "I do feel the need most keenly."
Voldemort began to laugh, the high, cold laugh that always made Severus shiver, no matter how much he struggled not to show it. His hand reached out and gripped Severus' chin in an almost tender, yet firm grip. All mirth was gone from the red eyes.
"I wonder," he murmured, "which master were you referring to, Severus?"
Severus was now staring directly into the madman's eyes. He could not look away, and something told him that no matter what he said, he wasn't going to get out of this in one piece. He took a deep breath before speaking.
"I serve only one master, my lord," he said.
"I'm glad you've decided to be honest with me, Severus. Your honesty should be rewarded. I am a fair man, after all. I'm going to have to punish you as an example to my servants, but you shall not be killed. I intend to make a lasting impression tonight."
Severus quickly decided not to push his luck by answering honestly to the madman's remarks. Voldemort stroked his left cheek with his thumb. Severus felt another chill run down his spine at the horrible parody of a caress.
"Ah, my Severus, my dear Severus, what was it that caused you to turn from me? I offered you everything, fame, time and funding to do your research, victims for your experiments, a place within the inner circle, and research material a plenty. What was lacking? What did Dumbledore give you that I could not, hmmm?"
A part of Severus was relieved. There would be no more playacting. No more late night returns to a cold lonely dungeon after hours of torture and emotional pain. There would be no more helpless frustration caused by teaching students who didn't want to learn what he had to teach. He'd always known that he was going to die this time around. No man could be lucky twice, except Albus Dumbledore, perhaps. This thought made him smile, and gave him strength to endure what lay ahead.
"My lord, do you truly wish me to answer your questions?"
Voldemort's fingers continued to stroke his face, and Severus ignored the revulsion that threatened to cause him to be physically sick.
"Yes, I do. Tell me everything," Voldemort replied.
"Dumbledore offered me my life. He offered me a chance to regain my dignity. He gave me the strength of character to face what I'd done while in your service and atone for it. He gave me a second chance, and most of all, he forgave me, and showed me how to forgive myself. What more could any man want?"
That single word was the only warning Severus got. Suddenly, Voldemort released him and hurled him to the floor. He tensed when the cry of, 'Crucio!' rang throughout the chamber, and then began to scream as the pain tore through every fiber of his being.