Title: Tail Gnawing Serpent - Good Girls

Chapter: 1. No Rest for the Weary

Author: MajinSakuko

E-Mail: MajinSakukoyahoo.de

Beta-Reader: Persephone Lupin – who doesn't even know she's incredible

Dedication: To everyone who reviewed 'Never Meant To' and 'Trick me Twice' and urged that I should write more about the background (no, sorry, this is not said background, but I used a theme from each story).

Disclaimer: I own nothing, JKR everything else

Fandom: Harry Potter

Pairing/Main-Chara: HP, SS, LV, GrW/HG

Rating: PG-13

Genre/s: Action/Adventure, Drama, Angst

Warning/s: OOC, C/Ds

A/Ns: Cho Chang Denial. Only at 18 is a wizard considered an adult

There are going to be a lot of quotes, credit where it is due

This story is based on an untitled drawing, showing Harry exactly the way I wanted to portray him.

Summary: Harry's sixth year is coming up, Snape is forced to continue his Occlumency lessons and Voldemort finally has a plan.

:-:

31st July 1996

Harry Potter was lying on his bed, still fully dressed from the day before, gazing up at the ceiling. Counting cracks in the walls where the wallpaper had peeled off or trying to come up with names for those patches of mould that resembled a face might not be the most captivating activity, but it was everything Harry could do at the moment. So far, Mark, Paul and Jesse had been great company. They didn't talk nearly as much as anyone else Harry knew – and when they did, they didn't lie.

The walls in his room were not fully dammed up; that was most likely the reason why it had only been Dudley's, Harry's fat and foul cousin's, second bedroom. Oh, how Dudley had wailed and cried, not wanting to give his room to Harry, insisting that he needed the space – which was probably true considering his pig-like girth -, that Harry was small enough, anyway, to stay in the cupboard under the stairs for at least seven more years, for then he would have to leave the Dursleys for good, in any case. Now, though, Dudley didn't even want his broken toys in his former second bedroom. Harry wasn't sure whether that was due to the state of the room or to the mere fact that Harry had 'infected it with his freakish presence'.

Over the last five years, Harry had spent the winter seasons at Hogwarts, School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry hadn't been with the Dursleys, his only remaining living relatives, for more than two months at a time since he was eleven, for which the boy was grateful – most of the time. Harry hadn't been in Little Whinging, in what he bitterly had to call his room, to watch the wetness and the cold seep slowly into the walls, into his room. He had been at Hogwarts, where the wetness flowed down his face, where the cold seeped slowly through the walls of his body, into his heart.

He had tried, of course, to tidy the room up but he wasn't allowed to use his wand outside of school until he was of age, which meant he had to wait two more years. However, Harry didn't plan to be anywhere near Surrey in two years' time. Uncle Vernon was suspicious, obsessively so, of everything Harry did, or more often than not, of what he wanted to do. So even smuggling a simple bucket of water and some cleansing materials into his room was a difficult task because he would be suspected of trying to brew some 'freakish and most likely highly poisonous beverage' immediately. And because Uncle Vernon had begun again to punish Harry for everything the boy did wrong and everything the beefy man surmised Harry did not absolutely the way it was meant to be in his eyes, meaning not 'freakish', Harry concluded that it might be a better idea to just stay put and let the man he loathed to call Uncle have his will. He knew better, anyway. And in his eyes, that was everything that counted.

Knowledge was power, as it was, like Harry's wand. Without his wand, Harry would be just the boy he had always imagined himself to be: Ordinary, slightly less than average height, scrawny looking, nothing special. Well, he wanted to be special, but only to a couple of people. People who held him dearly and expected nothing more in return than Harry's friendship. And maybe one person who would hold him a tad more dearly, and maybe, just maybe, this person would want nothing in return but Harry's heart. (And not in the literal sense on a silver platter.)

Harry did have a wand, though, and with said wand came the responsibilities he could never push aside. He was going to be the saviour of the Wizarding World, even if it was the last thing he would do.

Sometimes, when it was dark and the rain pounded heavily against his window, Harry thought that it might very well be the last thing he would do.

His wand gave Harry Potter power, as did the knowledge of the things to come. He knew he had to become a murderer in order to bring Voldemort's reign of terror to an end. Voldemort, the one thing – because one couldn't call him a man with clear conscience – that had killed Harry's parents, thus landing the orphan in the Dursleys' house in the first place. Voldemort, the one who dared to judge and eliminate those he deemed beneath him. Voldemort, the one who was better known as You-Know-Who in the other world.

Harry had already drowned in his tears; they had washed away the last evidence of innocence from his eyes, from his heart. Now his heart was cold enough for him to believe he could kill Voldemort. In order to stay the Boy-Who-Lived, he would willingly become a murderer.

"Like Bellatrix Lestrange?" whispered Mark shrewdly.

Harry ignored the voice, ignored the throbbing in his temples. He was tired, he hadn't slept all night, waiting ...

'Seems as if Dumbledore has cut me off entirely this year,' he thought bitterly as he watched the mouldy patches swirl before his eyes. 'To keep me safe, I bet, or to keep Ron and Hermione and every other person safe who was foolish enough in the past to try and befriend me ...'

Harry was so tired, so very tired, yet he couldn't rest. Normally, he would never think such things. How could he be bitter because Dumbledore wanted to protect his friends? He wasn't that selfish.

Harry was angry, even if a potential onlooker might mistake his state for plain apathy. One thing with great repercussions had changed between the end of his fifth year and the beginning of his second to last summer holidays at his relatives' house. His pain had morphed into anger and this anger had found a target, one single target that deserved everything that would be coming to him: Voldemort, the Dark Lord, You-Know-Who, Tom Marvolo Riddle, Snake Charmer – or whatever he wished to be called currently.

Harry sighed as he heard the clock chime.

He wanted to be left alone. Just this once. Just this one single time.

"BOY!" an angry shout shattered the previously undisturbed silence. His wish wasn't granted. Not that Harry had gotten his hopes up. "Move your lazy hide down this instant and make breakfast!" Sounds of heavy footsteps stamping down the corridor and down the stairs could be heard, and for a moment, Harry thought he could feel the earth, or at least his bed, shaking. Then, there was more silence.

"Well," said Harry quietly to himself before he pushed himself upright. "Happy Birthday to me."

:-:

Breakfast was the usual affair of pressing oranges for fresh juice, while simultaneously keeping a watch on the toast lest it burned and preparing the scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and fruit salad for his cousin who still had to suffer through his diet.

Harry sighed, wiping the light sheen of sweat from his forehead. It was summer, after all, it was awfully hot and having to stand bent over the stove for an extended period of time was not helping any, either. Harry longed to gulp down a glass of the iced orange juice but he didn't want to press any more fruits that morning. So he would just content himself with water. And bread rolls, probably, if Dudley was again faster than him when it comes to Harry's own plate. Greedy pig.

"Boy!" Uncle Vernon snapped from his seat at the table where he was waiting rather impatiently for his breakfast. "Hurry up, there. I don't want to be late because of you. As you well know," he said importantly, clearly acting the big shot once again, "Mr. Mason will be visiting the company today."

Harry had heard nothing else the four weeks he had been at the Dursleys'. Secretly, he rolled his eyes since his back turned to the breakfast table.

"Yes, Uncle Vernon," he said calmly, hurrying to finish the cooking.

"Don't you dare get cheeky with me! It is entirely your fault that there even has to be a second meeting, boy! If it weren't for your ... for your ... freakish traits, everything would have run smoothly four years ago!"

"Certainly, it would have, Vernon," Aunt Petunia said with a sniff, giving a great impression of an uptight horse, before her voice morphed to sickly sweet. "Dudley dear had looked so absolutely charming and-"

"I am hungry," Dudley stated lowly with an edge to his voice.

"Oh, but of course, sweetums," Aunt Petunia cooed, causing Harry's hackles to rise and a shudder to travel down his spine. "Well?" she said crossly. "Isn't Dudley's fruit salad ready yet?"

"Yeah," muttered Harry absently, switching the stove off and pushing the bacon to the side. He picked up the bowel with pieces of strawberries, oranges, apples and pears and brought it to the table. He set it in front of Dudley with a clunk. 'He hasn't starved yet, has he?' he thought sarcastically, again wiping a few droplets of sweat from his forehead. 'Would be kind of tough, anyhow, with all the fat reserves he has to spare.'

"Mom," Dudley whined pathetically, his piggy eyes screwed shut and lost in a sea of flabby cheeks, "I want some bacon! And cheese! And toast! And sausages! And scrambled eggs!" He sounded like a three year old toddler screaming 'I want, I want, I want!' in a teary fit and he would look like one, as well, with all the baby fat, were he not so big that he surely would fall from his stool were he to move too much or too sudden.

"Oh, Duddykins," Aunt Petunia said uncertainly, exchanging quick glances with Uncle Vernon. It was obvious that she was not immune against Dudley's so-called 'charm'. For her, Dudley was indeed still a big baby that required to be pampered and spoiled rotten even more. As if that was possible. Her husband rescued her, though, from having to explain to her precious Duddykins why they had to starve him.

"No," Uncle Vernon said, his voice only slightly wavering as if he felt very wretched for being forced to put his only son through this horrendous diet. Never you mind that Uncle Vernon was at least thrice as big as Dudley and that he himself needed a diet at least as desperately as his son – if not even more so. "It is unhealthy-"

"Why?" shrieked Dudley. It was the second stage to his tantrums. When whining didn't help immediately, let's up it a bit. He pointed an accusing finger at Harry, letting it shake weakly for good measure. "Why can he," he spat as if 'he' was some kind of disgusting animal or slimy substance or, well, Harry, "eat bacon, then? Why can he eat toast and scrambled eggs and cheese and sausages?"

Harry didn't point out that most days he didn't get most of the things Dudley complained about.

Harry's cousin squinted his beady eyes at him. "And he looks just like a walking stick! Where does all the food go? I would at least put it to good use!"

Aunt Petunia burst into tears, unable to cope with the amount of pain and humiliation they put poor Dudley through.

"Now, Dudley," Uncle Vernon said, "that may all be true-"

"It is true!"

"-but you can't blame the boy-" The man cut himself off, forking his brows and trying to think very deeply. "Well, of course, you can blame the boy but it won't change anything. You will have to stick to the fruit salad." Dudley tried to complain some more but Uncle Vernon raised his voice to override him. "And that's my final word!"

Dudley's lower lip trembled dangerously, Uncle Vernon averted his gaze because it was as hard for him as for his son, and Aunt Petunia jumped from her seat to comfort her darling, bawling baby.

Harry sighed quietly. Well, that was something new. Not every sentence at the table had been to anger or humiliate him. He turned around and gathered the food for breakfast. He put the pans, bowls and glasses on the table before he set down at his usual seat (the one where the sun blinded him through the open window). Harry loaded his plate with some eggs and toast and was just about to start eating when-

"Yuck!" shrieked Dudley, spitting a halfway chewed piece of apple across the table where it landed with several plops in Harry's glass of water – must have fallen apart while it was airborne. "Dad! Harry put a hair in my salad! He put a hair in it!"

:-:

"You wanted to see me, Albus?" asked Severus Snape, Hogwarts' current Potions master, shutting the door to the headmaster's office firmly behind him. He made a beeline for the nearest armchair, quickly posing his next question in order to override Dumbledore's perpetual offer of sweets. "Will this be taking long?" He didn't need to add that he had an important potion to brew.

Dumbledore smiled kindly at the Professor he considered one of his dearest charges. He quickly assessed the other's appearance, taking in the paler than usual skin, the dull glint to his black eyes, the rigid stance with which he tried to hold himself strictly still in his seat. Dumbledore reined in a sad smile when seeing Snape try to appear as always. The stubborn boy - for in Dumbledore's wizened gaze he was only a boy - not wanting to let his weakness be seen. Snape let his hair fall partially in his face.

"Well," Dumbledore said lightly, taking his outstretched arm back after his scrutiny, which hadn't taken longer than a few seconds. With the ever-present twinkle in his light blue eyes, he raked his gaze unhurriedly over the bonbons in the small box, wriggling his fingers. It would not do to hurry such an important decision. The choosing of the perfect bonbon could change the coming events drastically. Dumbledore, in his everlasting wisdom, was sure of that. Finally, the headmaster took his pick, plopping the deliciously sweet and sour bonbon into his mouth, grinning cheekily. "The more's for me."

"You needn't have worried, Albus," Snape drawled, tilting his head downwards slightly, his dark gaze never leaving the headmaster's face.

"Ah, but Severus," said Dumbledore gently with an enigmatic smile. "Here you are wrong. I do need to worry. I always do." Before Snape could ask what the headmaster was referring to, Dumbledore went on with the issue of his call. "This matter is of great importance and indeed very serious," he said gravely, rolling the bonbon around his tongue.

"What do you want me to do for Potter?" asked Snape with a slight sneer. Really, whenever something was 'of great importance' and/or 'very serious' it had either to do with Voldemort, Potter or a perilous shortness of treacle tarts at dinner. As there hadn't been any recent attacks and no new information he had gained from Voldemort in the latest gatherings and he had been down in the kitchens himself to check if there were enough desserts for the residing sweet tooth – never again did he want to be unprepared for such an undignified interrogation -, Snape surmised accurately that it had to be something with Potter. Taking a quick mental look at their statistics, it wasn't so hard to guess. Somehow, Snape ended up playing the unwilling nanny and additional tutor to the brat more often than he cared to count.

"Nothing I haven't asked you before, Severus," replied Dumbledore quietly. He waited a few moments to let his request sink in. He didn't want Snape to think that all he did was trying to torture him, for that was as far from the truth as it could get. Dumbledore loved Snape like the son he was never quite blessed enough to have. Therefore, he wanted the war to end as quickly as possible, to minimize the risk for his almost son. If Snape helped Harry to finally conquer the Dark Lord, then, hopefully, he could be free to do whatever he wanted. Dumbledore wouldn't put any obstacles in his way if Snape wanted to quit his job as Potions master at Hogwarts to start a new life. He would be sad to have to say goodbye but he would be glad on Snape's behalf.

"You want me to start Occlumency lessons again," stated Snape blankly. It wasn't a question, and he didn't wait for an answer. "I hope you realise that the boy is abysmal." Which was an outrageous understatement, to put it mildly.

"That he may well be," sighed Dumbledore, inwardly feeling compassionate for his charge. He didn't really want to put Snape through this again but he himself was still out of the question, because every time he was merely near Harry, he could feel the dark magic trying to force its way through the boy, trying to fiddle through his still too weak defences. Somehow, Voldemort only seemed able to use Harry as some kind of medium when he felt a powerful enough wizard in the boy's range. Fortunately, Voldemort couldn't gauge Harry's own power accurately. "And that is the reason I ask you to try and remedy it. After only a few short months worth of Occlumency training, Harry could not really have perfected his skills, could he? I made many mistakes," he sighed, the wrinkles in his face suddenly seeming much more prominent. "I should have told him everything from the start. Then, he wouldn't have been so suspicious when his defences became even weaker for a time. And everything else ... Well, we learn from our mistakes, don't we?"

"Probably," Snape conceded grudgingly; then, he sighed in defeat. "When do the lessons start again? I need to prepare for them accordingly." He didn't want a repeat of the fiasco of last year when the nosy Potter brat had sneaked a few glances into his Pensieve. Had Potter not been so arrogant – like his good-for-nothing father -, had he only tried to apologize for his entirely inappropriate daring, then maybe Snape would have been inclined to let it slide.

Heck, whom was he kidding?

Dumbledore smiled brightly, causing Snape to squish the ridiculously warm feeling inside his chest that had just blossomed up. He knew he had said the right thing when he received this kind of thank-you from his mentor.

"The lessons should start as soon as possible," said Dumbledore happily, clapping his hands once. "As soon as Minerva has finished the timetables, I will let you and Harry choose which day would be the most convenient for both of you."

Snape inclined his head curtly. "Very well," he said, quickly rising to his feet. "If that was all I should like to return to my laboratories to finish with the Wolfsbane lest it simmers too long. Wouldn't want ..." he trailed off.

Dumbledore smiled once more. "Ah, yes! That reminds me: There's one favour I wanted to ask you ..."

Snape merely lifted an inquiring eyebrow.

:-:

The dreary room was dark and damp. Old, rotting straw covered the cool stone floor. The walls were built with large stones, almost giving the impression that you were in a dungeon and not a Muggle cellar. Shadows raced through the room, which was only minimally illuminated by a lone bulb hanging from the ceiling. Occasionally it would flicker, casting ominous figures on the walls.

The room reeked of decay. There were moulding bits and pieces of meat on the straw, even a few bones could be found.

The stench attracted those small creatures most housewives were afraid of. Dozens of small paws scuttled around on the floor, through the straw, over to the pieces of meat to try to claim the juiciest bits for themselves.

One particularly scruffy looking specimen hurried to the far side of the room. Every time its right front paw came in contact with the floor there was a small click as if something made of metal clashed with the stones. The rat scuttled on, not giving the deliciously looking meat even a passing glance.

The lone window in the cellar room let the moon rays pass. There was nothing to hinder them, as the broken pieces of glass lay scattered around in the corner where the rat was obviously headed. Just as the first rays of moonlight touched the rat's body, a loud popping sound could be heard.

Out of thin air, a large, inhumanly skeletal body had appeared. A dark, heavy cloak was wrapped firmly around its slim shoulders, falling in foreboding waves to the ground. The head was obscured from view by a hood that was pulled deeply into the person's face.

"Wormtail!" the figure snapped, somehow managing to let it sound like a hiss. "Show yourself!"

There was a second, albeit quieter, pop and suddenly the rat in the moonlight was gone and in its wake, there was a balding, cowering man. His clothes were dirty, ripped in places and bedecked with straw from his run through the room.

The man called Wormtail quickly fell to his knees, scurrying towards the other person. His violently shivering hands reached out to take the hem of the other's robe. Wormtail pressed the cloth to his mouth, careful to wet it neither with his saliva nor his nervous sweat. His right hand glistered silvery in the moonlight as he pulled it back to his side.

"Y-yes, Master?" he stuttered, still on his knees with his head bowed. He flinched when his master spoke.

The tall man pushed his hood back to reveal his head. His face was long and thin like the rest of his body. He didn't sport a nose, nor was there any hair covering his abnormally white skin that stretched tautly over his skull. A lipless mouth drew into a sneer as the man, who was none other than Lord Voldemort or You-Know-Who, looked down his imagined nose at the rat at his feet. He enjoyed being worshiped, even thrived on it, on being feared. It made him feel so alive, so powerful, and so different from what he had to feel all those long, cold years when he had been all but abandoned by his supposedly faithful followers. Now it was time to make himself feel even better.

"Where is she?" asked Voldemort in a voice both soft as silk and cold as ice, sending visible shivers down Wormtail's spine. "I hope you and your little friends haven't damaged her beyond reason. I would certainly hate to have to punish you over such a trivial matter."

"No, Master, never, Master," Wormtail hastened to reassure, watery blue eyes blinking up shortly at the towering figure of Voldemort. "I would never do anything that-"

"Crucio," said the Dark Lord almost lazily, pointing his wand at the scrawny figure of his servant who shrieked and writhed in pain. That felt better, yes. Voldemort lifted the curse after only a few moments, though for Wormtail it had felt like a lifetime. No matter how often he was subjected to the Pain Curse, it never ceased to be new and excruciating in a different way.

"I asked you a question. Do I have to repeat myself?" Voldemort asked in a deadly whisper, enjoying wreaking terror on the weak man's mind.

"No, I-"

"Crucio."

Wormtail shrieked again, his nerves on fire. A long row of front teeth, oddly resembling those of a rodent, bit harshly into his lower lip. He felt like his ears would be starting to bleed any second since the pressure in his body was so high. The pain lancing through his muscles spiked after some more agonising moments; then it stopped. His breath came between great gasps and coughs of blood. Before he risked angering his more than usually aggravated master any more, though, Wormtail gasped out, "She is in the corner. In front of you."

Voldemort smiled a highly unpleasant smile. "Well, you did manage. It took you three tries but ..." He inclined his head slightly, his insanely red gleaming eyes flashing dangerously. "Do try to work on your attitude, will you, Wormtail? You know there are dozens of willing, and certainly capable, Death Eaters dying to give their left hand to take over your place. They wouldn't even want a reward for their sacrifice," he hissed, flicking his tongue lightly to taste the fear radiating from his servant. "Now leave!"

Wormtail needn't be told twice. He quickly scrambled forwards to kiss Voldemort's robe once more, ignoring the pains in his joints and muscles moving caused him, and then he vanished with a soft pop, the faint tap-tap-tap-click heralding his leaving the room in his rat form.

Voldemort sneered once more, watching Wormtail scuttle to the wall and crawl through a hole and away from him. It amused him to no end to know that, whatever he did and chose to do in the future, Wormtail would always be far too afraid of him to ever pose a threat. Even his most loyal followers like the Lestranges and Macnair could not compete with Wormtail's loyalty; the three former named weren't devoted-to-death Gryffindors, after all. All that Wormtail needed was the feeling that he, Voldemort, was the most powerful creature on the planet. Seeing as how Harry Potter, the sorry excuse of a bane for his existence, was merely a boy, a nuisance to be rid of, that was not too difficult to master.

Well, now Voldemort was going to make sure, for all time, that he was the most powerful. The Muggle-loving fool Albus Dumbledore could not hold a candle to him. The old coot needed the boy the people dared to call their hero to finish him, the greatest wizard of all times, off. And Harry Potter himself? Well, soon, very soon, this problem was going to be solved, once and for all. He smirked deviously as his gleaming eyes raked over the pitch-black corner of the cellar, making out one prone figure.

Swishing his wand, Voldemort set fire to the straw. He drew a circle with his arm, so that the fire would form the same circle around the unmoving woman. Magically restricting the flames to the ring, the Dark Lord gazed appreciatively at his prized catch.

Normally brown hair suddenly appeared red, sporting wandering traces of yellow and orange as if the woman's head was on fire, too. Frizzy locks lay fanned out as if she was sleeping peacefully. Her pained expression and the light sheen of sweat that may well come from some nightmare, however, belied her superficial serenity. The woman was dressed in a long, flowing cloth, which partially sported little holes as if rodents had been gnawing at it. Around her ankles and wrists bruises were forming where the woman had been trying to free herself from her invisible shackles. One of her long emerald earrings had been ripped right through her lobe.

Voldemort felt the excitement course through his inhuman body, not because of the sight of the living flesh that just begged to be tortured, but because of the information this particular female would provide. With this information he would finally be able to turn the tables in his favour. Nobody would be able to stop him, then.

"Enervate!" said Voldemort sharply, his wand aiming at the woman's chest.

The magic flowed through his arm, focused in his wand and then surged forward, slamming abruptly into the woman. She gasped sharply, nearly choking, arching her back awkwardly because she was still bound to the floor.

Voldemort was looking forward to the moment the woman realised where she was and whom she was with. And he didn't have to wait for long.

The woman looked around herself frantically, and once her gaze fell upon the Dark Lord, her breath hitched and her eyes grew round in fear and disbelief. What was she doing here? How had she got here? Where the hell was 'here'? The fact that there was a fire burning merrily around her, didn't seem to matter much at the moment.

Voldemort sneered slowly, taking a deliberate step closer. He let some of his magic leave his body to let her choke on his suffocating power.

"What? What? Oh my God! What am I doing here? You are-" She couldn't bring herself to speak his name, not even 'You-Know-Who' would come over her trembling lips. Her nerves were fluttering as if any second now she would have either a nervous breakdown or a heart attack. She supposed both were equally likely. "Let me go!"

"I fear, I cannot let you go," Voldemort drawled. "You, my dear, are going to be very helpful to our cause."

If possible, the woman's eyes grew even larger at that. "What?" she croaked. How could she of all people be of any help for the Dark side? That was ludicrous, laughable, ridiculous! "I don't see how I can-"

"Quietus!" the Dark Lord said forcefully, throwing the spell at the bound woman. Usually, this spell would make one's voice normal again after one had performed the Sonorus Charm. When one had not, however, one's voice would quieten down to the point of being impossible to hear. "Now, that is better." Voldemort smirked cruelly at the frightened look on the woman's pale face as she tried to scream and yell but no sound came forth from her mouth. "You will only speak when I tell you to, understood?" The smirk died away instantly as the woman tried to fight against her bonds and to produce a sound more desperately. His non-existent brows narrowed as she kept on ignoring him in order to continue her outrageous attempts at escape. Pathetic wench. And he had actually surmised she knew with whom she was dealing here.

"Crucio," the Dark Lord said easily with a flick of his wand, once again pointing it at her chest. Breathing deeply through the two holes he had in the middle of his face instead of a nose, he savoured her inaudible screams and her hindered writhing. She bashed her head backwards unto the hard floor, the rotting layer of straw and her frizzy hair cushioning her skull only minimally as she continued to try to express her agony.

When Voldemort finally lifted the curse, the woman's vision swam in front of her now watery eyes more than before. Her entire body throbbed, even her hair roots hurt. This was the first time she had felt the Pain Curse, and she sincerely hoped it would be the last time, as well.

"When I ask someone a question," Voldemort said icily, forcing his way ruthlessly into the woman's hearing, "I expect to be answered. Understood?"

The woman nodded, albeit slowly, for her head felt like exploding any second if she did more than that. It seemed that now, after her initial panic attack, the reality of the situation finally sank in.

She was alone with the Dark Lord, who wanted to take over the world; and he needed her help for something. Well, she would be damned if she gave him what he wanted. She hadn't been sorted into Gryffindor for nothing all those years ago, after all.

The woman made to raise her eyes defiantly, fury plainly visible in her now narrowed eyes. As she met Voldemort's gaze, however, her heart was abruptly filled with ice, no matter how hot the fire was burning around her.

"Oh, my dear," he said softly, and the woman knew that, even if she could have said something, she wouldn't have been able to. "You don't need to be willing for me to extract the information that I need." Recognition flashed shortly in her eyes, and the Dark Lord chuckled; the sound echoing eerily from the stonewalls. "Yes, indeed." Another chuckle.

"Legilimens!" he shouted then, his wand trained on the woman's forehead.

The woman was left defenceless as memory after memory flittered through her mind. She vaguely felt the intruding presence of the Dark Lord but she couldn't do anything to force him away, to put a stop to his breaching. Voldemort's power cut through her mind like a hot knife slicing through butter; there was no resistance at all. In no time, it seemed, he had what he wanted from her. He closed his eyes in triumph, effortlessly tuning out the screams of outrage and pain he still heard echoing in his own head after severing the connection between the woman and himself. It was done.

"And now be a good girl," Voldemort said softly, pointing his wand at the woman's chest for the last time, "and die."