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Stealing From Thieves

Chapter 1

I Was Robbed, or So I Thought

Robbed. Simple, trite, yet perfectly accurate. I was robbed of first my friends, then my love, next my freedom, and now it seems, my life. It's fitting. Now I am floating through Merlin knows what dimension looking at the same gray forever as I drift aimlessly in a perpetual state of déjà vu. At least the thieves who robbed me took away my pain. I don't hurt right now despite the debilitating bite I just received from Nagini, courtesy of the biggest thief of all, Lord Voldemort. How I hate that man, truly and deeply hate him, even in my death when I should finally be at peace, I hate him. And speaking of being at peace, isn't being dead supposed to be more than just the feeling of a floating through grayness? I once saw this Muggle film where this kid was stuck in a world that was being eaten by something called the Nothing. I feel like that is where I am, in the middle of the Nothing. If this continues much longer I might just be robbed of my faculties, and that would be the greatest loss of all. Maybe I am in hell.

I really wish I could have some sort of concept of time. It could be days, hours, maybe minutes since Nagini killed me. Things are starting to change though. Instead just feeling like a floating mind I have regained the sense of my body. I am aware of its location in space and I can actually feel my arms move. It is surreal having kinesthesia, but not being able to see my arms as I lift them in front of my face. Ah, now I can, there are my hands. I am still floating in a standing position, everything is still grey, but now I can see my body. I am still dressed in the same teaching robes I was wearing when I was murdered, but my hands are clean. I know that I grappled at my neck before I lost consciousness, so my abandoned body must have blood on its hands. I have more blood on my hands than my own though, that is for certain. In my mind's eye I can see Nagini coming at me in her silvery magical cage. Good, now I can think in pictures at least if the grayness isn't going away. I was kind of hoping when I died I would be the best possible version of myself, but I appear to be the same. Same hopeless sense of fashion, my nose is probably still large and hooked, based on my hands, I would say my skin is still sallow, if only the antidotes I had been taking actually worked, I would have had more time after the war to work on my appearance. Probably not, I probably would have ended up in Azkaban, but that is neither here nor there.

And that is how I spent probably the first ten or fifteen minutes or so after Nagini bit me. It could not have been much longer than that because at that point I was able to see my body not as if through a fog, but clearly as if I was hovering just above it. I just ended up there without any desire to do so. One moment I was imagining that I would end up in Azkaban if I had survived the war, and the next I was just hovering above my body watching Granger dig through my robes trying to find the antidotes and dittany that I am confident she knew I would have on my person. I half expected to somehow reenter my body after she poured the potions down my throat and doused my wounds with the dittany, but nothing happened. The wounds closed then reopened, but with less blood. Granger poured a blood replenishing potion down my throat and I fruitlessly wished she wouldn't because it just make the wounds bleed worse. She realized her mistake instantly, but I didn't see why I wanted to caution her considering I was already dead. That is when the fear really struck me. Where was I? Why was I being forced to watch my broken body lying ugly and ruined on the floor while an eighteen year old girl tried to save me? Needless to say I remained unconscious, but I was terrified and horribly alone. I tried to leave and return to the Nothing, but I could not. I remained unconscious as Granger cursed and screamed, and beat the ground around my head with flat palms begging me to wake up. Her tears were dripping onto my cheeks and though I could not feel them I instinctively reached a hand to my face to wipe them away. I couldn't feel my face. I was aware of my hand at the place where my face was, but I couldn't feel it. I could not feel my thin skin or the stubble from my five o'clock shadow. The fear gripped me even more strongly, and my nonexistent heart started to thunder in my chest. So strange that I could feel a heart beat that I no longer needed, but I could not touch my own face. I held my hands out in front of me palm to palm and felt nothing.

Below me, Granger was casting a charm on an empty potion vial turning it into a Portkey. Even in her distress she had enough sense to move me with a Portkey rather than attempt to Apparate me. I never had a chance to wonder where she was taking my body because as soon as the Portkey activated I disappeared too and reappeared from the same vantage point in the air, at St. Mungo's hospital. Several healers surrounded Granger and my body and I waited for them to take it to the morgue. Maybe if there was some sort of confirmation that I was actually dead then perhaps I could move on. After all, I was not a ghost, not even a simulacrum of myself, I was just air with a mind and body only I could sense. I could not even stand on the ground.

But I never went to the morgue. They moved me to a room; they plied me with potions and began casting charms on my wounds. I was not dead after all, but I was not comforted. Where was I, and what was supposed to do? I mean, I knew where I was physically, if you could call it that, but it appeared that my soul was not a part of earth anymore even though I could see it. I tore my eyes away from my body long enough to see Granger slinking unnoticed out of the room. I turned to follow her but I hit an invisible barrier at the door to the hospital room. Granger walked right out of it and turned left presumably towards the staircase that would lead her to an exit she could Apparate from. I, however, could not move any further from what I could only guess was my body. I was trapped. Excellent. I was moving from one awful dimension to another. At least I knew one thing for sure, and that was that I was still alive.

I continued to watch as the healer's worked on me. I could recognize the same healer that treated Arthur Weasley when he was bit by Nagini come in and begin his magic. I watched making useless mental notes of every spell and charm they used, surprised by the originality of sum, annoyed at the uselessness of others. After a few hours according to the clock on the wall I was apparently stabilized, but the healers left my room one by one grimly, not saying anything. I had no idea what my own fate was. Resigned, I settled my intangible body in the equally intangible (for me anyway) chair by the bed. I watched the shallow rise and fall of my chest for another hour before I became restless and even more frustrated. I tried to get out of the room once more, nothing. I closed my eyes and imagined myself back in the Nothing. More nothing. Finally, I decided to test my voice.

"Albus, damn it. Where are you when I need you?"

"Right here, of course."

I started violently, and if I had a body I would have fallen out of my chair. I could hear my voice as if I was a real body talking aloud, but I could also see and hear quite well Albus Dumbledore, who was perched on the end of the hospital bed patting my body's foot as if he had been there the whole bloody time.

"Where? How? What are you doing here?" I spluttered incoherently. I longed for an entire year to see Dumbledore again. I had consulted his portrait a thousand times during my tenure as Headmaster regarding all matters. My heart broke into a million little shards seeing him as if he were alive just sitting there, his eyes twinkling with laughter at my inability to speak properly. Oh, how I longed to beg his forgiveness for killing him and rail against him for making me do it at the same time. If I was lucky I would exist in this realm long enough to do both, but for the moment I was afraid he would disappear.

Dumbledore laughed, stood, walked behind my chair and put his hand on my shoulder, and I could feel it. This time I was unable to control my reaction and I was floating again above my body. Albus was sitting in the chair I had just vacated by the time I had the courage to look down again.

"How did you do that? I can't even feel myself!" What a waste of a question. He could disappear at any moment and all I could think about was how he had touched me?

Albus remained sitting in the chair not leaving. If anything he looked more solid the longer I stared at him.

"Don't be silly, you can feel yourself, you just have to concentrate a little. In this realm, there are some things that will just take a little more effort. Strike that, it takes a little more desire to achieve the result. You just have to want it badly enough." Dumbledore raised his hands as if gesturing me to try again, although I never actually tried to feel my own body in front of him.

Ignoring the technicalities of what Dumbledore may or may not have seen I raised my own hands in front of my face again. Strangely enough I really did desire to feel the contact of my own skin in a way I hadn't before. When I tried earlier it was just a simple test of what I could do with my ethereal body, the second time I really craved the sensation of my palms rubbing together. When my hands joined I felt the rough skin of my palms striking together, and if my current form had needed air, I would have struggled to breathe so relieved was I to feel my own hands. I reached up to feel the stubble of a day's growth on my face and was pleasantly surprised to feel it there as expected.

"See, simple as that," Dumbledore said with a tone of finality as if the current subject was closed.

I shook my head. Even in death Albus never changed. "Where am I, Albus, and how did you come to be here?"

"You asked. Apparently I am in high demand today."

I ignored his second statement even though it piqued my curiosity, but I chose to focus on how he got to me instead. He was right, I did ask where he was, but did that mean could have summoned anyone?

"Are you saying I could have asked for anyone? My mother? Lily?" I was longing to see them just as much as Albus. It was a wonder why I even thought of him first.

Dumbledore twinkled and smiled irritatingly, just as always. "That is correct, but before you ask, no, you cannot summon them now that you have summoned me. Only one of us can come back to this dimension to visit with the living. I am flattered that your heart desired me. I should have figured it would be Lily, but perhaps there are reasons for that."

I supposed that if I was really truly dead, Lily would have been my first choice, but I knew that I wasn't so calling on Albus was not really a shock. It was always him I would go to when I needed help. I was still disappointed that I could not call for my other loved ones though. Which led me to my next question.

"Can I go to them, if they cannot come to me?" I asked.

"Certainly, if that is your wish, but you would have to be dead and clearly you are not."

"What if I wanted to be? What if I want to leave all this behind," I swept a hand over my body, "and die? I have no reason to live anymore."

"Of course you do, Severus, or you would be dead," Dumbledore said forcefully as if I were missing an obvious answer to a simple question. "You are in the in-between dimension for lack of better words. We never really get around to this naming this place. You are not wholly alive because your body is in a coma, but nor are you dead. You, Severus, are being presented with a very rare opportunity: a choice. Death, and I mean Death the entity or being, and not merely the act of leaving one's mortal body, is not evil like he is brought out to be. People fear him because of what he represents, but sometimes he is undecided on whether or not he wants someone so he puts them into situations that allow them to make the choice for him. It is a bit of a game really. You are a really complicated person and you intrigue him. He knows that you wish death with the equal strength that you wish to live, but he believes you don't know what you want to live for so he is going to give you the chance to decide."

"Then I'll decide right now!" I cried. Somehow I had lowered myself to the bed and was sitting on the edge directly in front of Albus, and right next to my slowly moving chest. Albus perched his elbows on the arms of the chair so he could steeple his fingers and leaned over them to look at me more closely.

"Nice try, Severus. Death, who by the way would like to be called Odin this week, he cycles between all culture's names for him, has some rules you have to follow. He thinks he knows what is best for you so he is giving you limitations in your quest that only you can overcome. You already overcame one which was the ability to feel your own flesh. You had to desire it with all your heart for it to happen, and it did. You can try touching something else if you like."

Albus paused as if giving me the opportunity to take the time and try to touch something else. I had no pressing desire to do so. The imagined sensation of sitting was currently enough of a comfort for me. I had already had enough of trying new things for the moment.

"What are the rules then?" I asked.

"That is the tricky part. I can't tell you what the rules are, or more appropriately what your limitations will be. The only thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that your coma will last for exactly six months from today. On that day you will be forced to make a choice between life and death."

I thought I was robbed of everything, but there was a chance for redemption of one thing. I just had to decide what I wanted to be robbed of more, my life or my death. At that moment the choice would have been too simple. But now, looking back I can see how wrong I would have been.

A/N: Okey dokey, first chapter of a new story. This story is loosely based (and I mean loosely) on a one shot I wrote called It's A Long Way Up. Normally I wouldn't ask for reviews in order to decide if a story is worth writing or not, but this time I am going to. This story probably isn't that original, I wouldn't know, I haven't read enough fan fictions to be a good judge, but I am excited to write it, so please, please, please, give me some feedback. This story is not beta'd. I will do my best to keep the errors down to a minimum, but I was never great shakes at grammar when I was in school and I think I was probably fifteen the last time I had a lesson. That was a very long time ago. If I break a rule pretty consistently, just kindly point it out and I will correct my mistake in future chapters. Since I am admitting that I am prone to errors, please don't leave me a review with every single one and then tell me you could never read my story because it is so poorly written. Just don't read it, and leave it at that. But I really do want you to read my story so I will try to keep the mistakes to a minimum.

This story is written in a style I have never tried before. First person perspective is new to me, and I usually have a different sort of flow to it. Bear with me while I get used to it. This chapter is a prologue of sorts and is much shorter than the chapters that will follow. Thanks for stopping by and please review!