Of Snake Bites and Dittany Cures
Chapter 16: Success
A/N: I am really sorry but I had a writer's block on this one. New chapters of "1981" are (in their preliminary version that needs to be reworked however) on my computer back at home, while I am at a study stay abroad at the moment. I promise that it will be finished, but I ask for a bit more patience – I hadn't managed to finish it before I went abroad as I had intended. )-:
As to this one, enjoy and don't forget that your reviews feed my muse. (-: Please, excuse also any mistakes remaining, I hope to become again patient enough to get a beta's approval for the next chapters. (-:
Severus took his time to intrude Potter's mind. As much as he desired to get more information on the seven soul vessels the Dark Lord had seen fit to create (Severus once again felt relieved that there were no more of them), the present Hogwarts Headmaster had set himself another task that needed to be accomplished that night – to teach Potter how to guard his mind against the Dark Lord at last.
By now, the boy ought to know how to clear his mind – the recent Imperio and laming hex lessons had served remarkably well there. Potter also positively understood that his distracting method had not worked and he was to avoid it. Unfortunately, the boy was still only able to push Snape out of his mind (unless the other wizard purposely lowered his shields for him) when Severus was about to view a particularly hurtful or private memory. Time to work on it, Severus, Snape resolved and once satisfied that Potter's stream of thoughts calmed, inquired about the nature and location of the Dark Lord's Horcruxes.
Potter's cleared mind reacted to Snape's pressure with some slight opening resistance, but the boy had not been able to show Snape out, nor did he offer any diversion. Rather, after the opening struggle, Potter's mind quite predictably reacted to Snape's prompt with a memory related to the Horcrux hunt.
Potter, by his appearance in one of his first Hogwarts years, raced down the corridor leading from the Headmaster's office. A moment later, panting for breath, the boy caught up with the retreating form of Lucius Malfoy. Severus had to smirk at the blond aristocrat's disgusted expression when Potter handed him a bloodied, dirty piece of cloth. Pulling the soiled cloth off of a small, black book, and throwing the piece of fabric, apparently Potter's sock, at his House-Elf, Dobby, the Malfoy patriarch prompted the present Potter to a belated attempt to show Snape out of his mind, or at the very least away from this particular memory.
It's private, Harry tried the tactic that had functioned for him before. You are not going to view that. The boy felt that his resolve not to allow Snape to see any more of the memory must have at least partially helped – the pressure of Snape's mind became less intensive, but sadly it didn't disappear altogether. The only thing Harry had accomplished was to slow the man's advance. The boy frowned when Snape got a glimpse of the damaged cover of Tom Riddle's diary in his mind. Then, thankfully, the memory shifted.
Right then, the book had clearly been one of them. Potter or Dumbledore must have destroyed it while stabbing it with some unknown, sharp device. Not the Gryffindor sword, however, by the shape of the hole, Snape made a quick mental note. Lucius clearly had been entrusted to store and guard the object, accomplishing exactly the opposite and endangering and consequently destroying the Horcrux on Dumbledore's or Potter's hands. It must have been the very same book that assisted young Miss Weasley to open the Chamber of Secrets in her first year – Lucius planned for revenge after Dumbledore had enraged him by his Gryffindor favouritism at the end of Potter's (and Draco's) first year... Clearly this is also the reason why the Dark Lord don't trust the man anymore. He must be aware then that this Horcrux had been destroyed. Would he attempt to or did he create a substitute one, I wonder?
In any case, that makes four known Horcruxes. Severus counted, somehow managing not to loose the mental connection with Potter, despite his distraction. On the edge of his mind, Severus was disturbed by Potter's lack of action, but he continued to summarize his knowledge on Horcruxes nonetheless. One Horcrux being Potter, the second the black book, the third the ring, the fourth the locket Potter and Weasley are destroying right now in the other time line. Three of them destroyed then. Dumbledore spoke of Nagini as if she was another, the fifth one, if I interpret his words correctly. There is also no seventh Horcrux, as the seventh part of the Dark Lord's soul must still reside inside of his body. We are hence looking for one, or possibly two more, should the Dark Lord have decided to compensate the loss of the Horcrux Lucius had been supposed to guard for him.
Snape sighed out in relief. This made the things definitely easier. He forced his thoughts to calm again and once more concentrated on Potter's memory stream.
Harry was upset with himself. Snape intruded his mind with brutal ease once again. Distracted by the slow start of the intrusion, something Snape unbeknownst to him had thought beneficial for his counterpart, Harry didn't manage to react and attempt to show the man out before Snape had viewed almost the whole memory of Riddle's diary.
Harry sighed. As much progress as he had thought to be doing, he clearly still had no chance against Snape. And if he couldn't stand to the murdering bastard, current undeserved Headmaster of Hogwarts, what were his chances against his dark master?
Absorbed in this rather depressive course of thoughts, Harry didn't notice when Snape's pressure on his mind temporarily diminished, once the man started to catalogue his knowledge on Horcruxes. He might have paid better attention, though, had he known what Snape would try next...
The day Dumbledore died, show me Potter what you were doing with the Headmaster, Snape commanded, anew increasing his pressure on Potter's mind. Unwilling, an image of a cave appeared on the front of the boy's mind, and Snape gasped. He had once heard a delirious House Elf repeatedly mention a place like this, not quite believing it actually existed and wasn't planted in the small creature's mind on purpose to mislead possible enemies of the Dark Lord. He also recalled a glimpse of the very same place in Kreacher's mind when he questioned Regulus Black's disappearance on the Dark Lord's bidding years ago. So, the place existed, he shook his head in disbelief, coming out of his reverie.
What happened there, Potter? Show me, he commanded again and was rewarded by a series of images – a boat crossing the black pool of the cave; Dumbledore's ancient wand examining some strange liquid and a basin it was stored in; Potter forcing the same liquid, a Potion of some sort, down Dumbledore's resisting throat... With sudden morbid curiosity, Snape increased his hold on Potter's mind, and pressed for particularities.
At this point, however, the unexpected happened. Potter, obviously not fond of his last memories of Albus Dumbledore, fought back. Severus got one last glimpse of the emptied basin and a locket resting on its bottom, the pendant very likely the very same medallion that Potter and Weasley had destroyed that night in the other reality line. Then, Snape was pushed out, fighting his surprise and relief.
Harry wondered if Snape asked for the memory of him poisoning Dumbledore on purpose. His actions that night ultimately led to the old man's death on the hands of the bastard, but it was unlikely that the man knew he was forcing Harry to relive one of the worse moments of his life. No, Snape was much more interested in learning about Voldemort's Horcruxes than making Harry miserable that night – had the offer of a drink to avoid headache meant something.
Be it as may, however, Harry was not willing to view any more of the painful memory. Not exactly knowing what he was doing but feeling it might be the right course of action, he let his mind envelope Snape's intrusion and pushed back with a single thought – you don't belong here.
The next he knew, Harry was blinking his eyes open, looking straight in the face of the murdering Slytherin bastard he had just showed out of his mind. Harry was about to redirect his eyes from the man when he noticed the unusual expression on Snape's face. The man was smiling, a genuine little smile playing on his thin lips. The expression made Snape look years younger and Harry suddenly understood the man was indeed young, no older than Lupin, Sirius or his parents.
Then, Snape spoke, his voice for once rid of all sarcasm and malice. "Finally, Potter. But it has certainly taken you long enough."
Harry shook his head in response, not able to stop a small smile from forming on his own lips. No matter Snape was his enemy now, he used to be his most demanding teacher once – and praise coming from his lips, however little of it, was something Harry had never expected to hear. For some reason it made him feel better.