The Usual Disclaimers. The writing is mine, the characters are not, with the exception of the few who are primarily unnamed in the Prologue.


The dungeons were dark and cold. They smelled of molding straw, blood, feces, and decaying flesh. No light, save that of the occasional lantern, had touched these stones since the dungeons were built. If one stood perfectly still, as the Auror who made these observations did, one could hear naught but the steady drip of water from somewhere towards the back of the dungeons.

The Auror brightened the light at the tip of her wand, and held it in front of herself like a torch. The darkness of Voldemort's dungeons seemed unphased by the appearance of such brightness, instead of retreating from it, the darkness seemed to take the light as a challenge. The dark tunnels and halls that ran from this central room seemed darker, more malevolent. The Auror shivered in spite of herself, but chose the tunnel to the left to begin exploring first. Before making her way down it, she called up the hole to where her fellow Auror's waited for her signal: "Looks clear - but you'll want more light." Her voice rang like a bell in the dungeon, echoing back to her.

She waited just long enough to hear the sounds of the Aurors above chatting amiably with each other now that any initial danger was clear. She could hear them casting light charms before clambering down the rickety stairs. She made a mark in the wall next to the tunnel to let them know that she was investigating, and made her way down it.

Here, the stones on the floor were a little sticky. She crouched for a moment to determine why her shoes seemed to have a great affinity with the floor, and determined that it was covered in blood, not more than a few hours old. It had become tacky, not yet dry. The Auror felt her gorge rise, but resolutely swallowed, refusing to let herself be shamed by vomiting. After wiping her brow, and taking a deep breath to steel herself, she continued.

Fifteen feet down the tunnel, she came to the first set of doors. They were thick, banded wood doors, one on each side of the tunnel. Peering into the darkness, it looked as if the doors went on, one every five feet for an indeterminable length.

The Auror shrugged off the sense of foreboding, and turned to the one on her left. A quick examination proved that the door had a minor curse on it, one easily expelled. After doing so, she opened the door. It creaked and groaned; its hinges had not been used in some time. Inside, there was nothing save a molding pile of straw and some rats who went scurrying away from the light her wand cast. A quick examination proved that the room was otherwise empty. Leaving the room, she closed the door behind her, and scribed a note on the door, listing the curse that had been cast, the charm used to expel the curse, and that the room was otherwise empty. She did the same to the door on her right, and continued the procedure down the tunnel.

Each dungeon cell offered something a little different. One had a few bones that had been gnawed on by rodents, another had the still rotting body of a prisoner. One had blood splashed on the walls - far more blood than a single human could hold. Towards the end of the tunnel - there were six doors on each side, and a door at the end, making thirteen total - the Auror thought she heard a scratching sound louder than the rodents. She paused between the eleventh and twelfth doors to listen, but it stopped. She continued to the twelfth door, finding in it a pile of rags and little else, otherwise identical to the other cells she had investigated. Following the procedure she set, she continued to the thirteenth door at the end of the hall.

Here she stopped short. The door itself was larger and heavier than those on the other cells. She could feel the power of the curses on the door without needing to use a charm. She shivered again, then felt hot all over. Something behind this door had been very dangerous to Voldemort - all the more reason to discover what it was.

The Auror thought briefly of calling for help, but she knew that she was the foremost authority on curses they had here. Anyone else would just be in the way, and a part of her, a more ambitious part, wanted the credit for breaking these curses to herself. She would be able to move up in the ranks, no longer be the first one to go into dangerous places, like Voldemort's dungeons, expendable in the extreme. If she proved herself here, she would be able to move to a cushier position, something with an office, perhaps...

The Auror shook herself. These were not her thoughts, nor should they be. She realized the power of the curses, and took a few steps back. This one gave her false confidence, enticing her to try by herself, and she knew that this was a path to folly. She made a mark near the door, identifying the curse, and walked back up the tunnel way to the main entrance where several Aurors were milling about. She asked after the lead Auror, and was told that he was down the right-hand tunnel. She followed down it, and found him overseeing the same procedure that she had been engaged in not long ago.

"Sir, I've identified the contents of all the cells down the left hall, save one. There are some fairly insidious spells on it, and I would like to have at least one person to aid, in case I should falter."

The words were difficult to say, and she burned with embarrassment. This was an after-effect of the same spell, she could tell, and she didn't like it at all.

The head Auror stared at her with piercing blue eyes, then nodded. "With your recommendation, then, I'll send Mr. Orange with you to lift the curses on the door."

A young man with orange hair, for which his family was clearly named, looked up from the sigil he was inscribing. "Yes, sir."

When they returned to the thirteenth door down the left tunnel, the Auror stopped again and looked at her knew companion. "Have much experience with these?"

The young man shook his head. "Not as much as you, ma'am."

"Well, nothing for it. Just stand back, and call for help if it looks like we'll need it."

The orange haired young man did as he was told, and she started her work, identifying the spells, curses and charms that were used, telling him about each one. This one to rot the flesh from your bones, this one for blindness. This one to transfigure your liver into jelly, that one to inspire foolish confidence. One by one they were identified and she determined the order in which they were placed upon it. Then, having determined how she would remove them, she started lifting them.

She was in the midst of the last one (liver to jelly), when she felt herself lose her focus. Her voice faltered, but the younger Auror behind her raised his voice to match hers, and moved forward, his wand at the ready. Together they removed the last curse, and the door fell open by itself. A malodorous wave came rolling out the door, and the young Auror retched. The older one blinked a few times, and moved to the door frame, peering inside, trying to discover the cause of the stench.

This cell was the size of the others, but seemed smaller as there was a body inside it, curled into a ball, broken and battered, bruised beyond all recognition of the original color of the skin, and covered in filth. The wrists and ankles were still shackled by means of chains to the walls, but the hands and feet were no more than bloody balls of flesh.

The Auror moved forward, holding her breath, her robes making the only sound, a soft rustle of fabric moving. It didn't look like the body had started decomposing, but it was only a matter of time. She knelt down next to where the head lay against the stone floor, and suddenly realized why the body hadn't decomposed. Shallow, almost silent breaths made the chest move almost imperceptibly. It - no, he - was still alive.

The Auror gasped in horror, realizing that whoever this was, Voldemort hadn't wanted him dead. He had wanted this man to live for as long as possible in his dungeon, beaten, tortured. She cried out to Orange to get the head Auror. The younger man, desperately happy to be away from this, scrambled back up the corridor, leaving her alone with the wretched victim of Voldemort's torture.

She moved around to try to see the face without moving him. She dimmed the light on her wand, in case he looked up into it, she didn't want him to be blinded, and finally found a decent vantage point. She brushed the long, greasy and lanky hair away from the face, and was at once disappointed and horrified. The nose had been broken, and the jaw looked as if it had been beaten into an amorphous mass. Blood, bruises and grime obscured the rest. She studied it while she waited for the other Aurors to return.

The head Auror came down the tunnel, making a racket as he did so. He stopped at the doorway, and peered in, making his own wand brighter. "What have we here?"

Before she could answer another Auror behind him looked into the room and started retching like Orange had done. Impatiently, the head said, "I have a potion in my kit for nausea. Go get it before you vomit all over my robes."

Suddenly, it clicked into place for her. "My God!" she exclaimed. "It's Severus Snape!"

The head Auror's eyes widened. "Call St. Mungos and the Ministry."

Numbly the two Aurors looked at the once terrifying Snape, then at each other. The elder's blue eyes softened for a moment as he surveyed his younger compatriot, a few curls of golden hair escaping from her normally tight bun. "Belay that. Call Dumbledore first. I want to make sure that he gets here before anyone else finds out. And for the sake of Merlin, don't let anyone else know who this is."

The younger Auror suppressed a shudder. "I don't think anyone else will be able to tell who this is."