Severus peered around the dark, damp corner carefully, his body tense and poised for flight. The Inferius' steps were slow, scuffing and dragging against the ground. And then...it happened. The Inferius paused. For one nerve-wracking moment, it stopped, close to where Severus hid.
Severus breathed shallowly, forcing himself to fight the nearly irresistible urge to escape. He heard the soft scuffing sound of the Inferius' bare, rotting feet, as it seemed to come closer, and began to chant to himself, no. No. No. No no no nonononono...
The Inferius then moved...away from him. Severus' tense, knotted muscles burned with painful relief as the echoes of the Inferius' steps faded away softly, leaving the slow, sluggish drip of brackish water as the only sounds breaking the silence.
Severus took his chance to dart quickly out and travel further into the darkness, into the stifling, malevolent air of the dungeon. He could not afford to run just yet; it would be ages before another good chance to investigate the Dark Lord's recent activities cropped up again. And he needed to investigate what was going on, he needed to know what was changing the tides of the war, why the Light side was steadily losing – and what had made the Dark Lord seem so...anticipatory.
It had first started when the Death Eaters had captured a Muggle priestess for sport. The Dark Lord had mocked the terrified woman, had sneered at her religion and pitiful little beliefs. "Call for your god now, Mudblood." He had said to the hoots and jeers of the Death Eaters. "I dare your pathetic deities to defy me! Macnair, get the knives. Let her be our little blood sacrifice to her gods."
Just then, one of the younger Death Eaters had called out gleefully, "What gods? Our Lord is greater than any god! Let her be a sacrifice to you, My Lord!"
That statement, made in ignorance and a desire to flatter, seemed to have an electrifying effect on Lord Voldemort. His laughter cut off like a sharply cut string, while his eyes narrowed in thought. This quieted the Death Eaters, who watched with bated breath to see if they had again, offended their capricious Master. They only relaxed when a slow, sadistic smile spread across the Dark Lord's features and he focused his gaze back on them.
"Well, why not?" His laughter rang out once more. This time, however, his laugh sounded different. It sounded, Severus noted, happier. Eager. Something had attracted the Dark Lord's interest, and if it was what Severus thought it was...a shiver of dread passed through his body. He waited, and watched. "Why not? Let her be a sacrifice...to me!"
That had been the beginning of the end. Previously, all the Dark Lord had been obsessed about was to find and kill Potter – a sentiment that Severus keenly shared, as the little brat with his two moronic sidekicks had decided to just up and run to find dangerous soul artifacts without telling anybody! Now, however, the Dark Lord had a new and far more dangerous obsession – to find a way to become a god.
First it had been the books. Death Eaters were sent out on quests, to dig in black pyramids and steal from undead necromancers. Many had died, but the Dark Lord had been contented with what he gained – dark grimoires bound with human skin, blood tomes which flayed its readers alive...and books to summon gods.
The next indication was the strange condition of captured prisoners. Muggles would disappear from their cells at strange hours and days, only resurfacing some time later with their bodies emptied of blood and organs. Light wizards would scream in agony when taken near the Dark Lord, often turning insane before they even saw him face-to-face. However, it was possibly the Dark Lord's effect upon Death Eaters and Dark creatures which were the most worrisome problem of all – none of them were capable of resisting him, none of them could do anything but mindlessly drool and worship at his feet.
Preoccupied with worries, Severus just kept on moving, digging his fingers into the moldy walls for guidance in the darkness. Carefully, he extended his magic out around him, trying to ignore the mingled pain and pleasure that the Dark magic was inflicting upon his Grey powers. Thank Merlin that I'm not a Dark Wizard, Severus shuddered in reminiscence of seeing his former comrades so seduced by the darkness, so blinded to the Dark Lord's increasing insanity. Even Lucius...even Narcissa...
And soon, even Draco. That image of Draco groveling for their terrible monster of a Dark Lord spurred Severus on with a desperation-fueled, reckless determination. What is his secret? Merlin, I have to find it before he returns. Maybe if I just extend my magic a little bit more, it might...
A soft snick sound was all the warning he had. Dark magic lashed out, shredding his strong shields like wet tissue. Severus screamed as his feelings of pain and pleasure were amplified, screamed as his body was caught in a tangled web of Darkness. He couldn't think, couldn't move, couldn't escape. He could only scream and scream and scream...
Until suddenly, it was over. The sudden halt of sensation was almost too much for his over sensitized nerves. It was with difficulty that Severus registered the high, cold laughter coming from the man before him. As well as the dark, terrible smile of the reptilian god hovering above him.
Merlin, I hate gods, thought Severus irritably as he tested the chains shackling him to the blood-stained altar. The results were mixed. On the one hand, the chains had been so saturated in Dark Magic he was forced to keep his Grey Magic tightly tucked within his core to shield it from harm. On the other hand, the chains were loose enough to allow him quite a bit of mobility. Also, the Dark Lord had taken his wand but neglected to strip him of his clothing and so, had not discovered his hidden weapons. Now, if he could just stretch his fingers a little more into his pocket, he could activate his emergency Portkey...
"The sacrifice has awakened," the rasping voice of the god echoed within the dungeon. Damn and blast! Severus gave up on feigning sleep and opened his eyes. Voldemort's leer filled his vision. His face had changed, Severus noted with a kind of distant horror. After his resurrection, Voldemort had always looked rather inhuman, but now...he seemed positively demonic. Blood-red eyes with little golden flames flickering in the pupils, razor sharp teeth glistening in the candlelight...Severus flinched back involuntarily as Voldemort bent his head closer to Severus' face.
"Ah, my little traitor. Betraying your master once again, I see." Gently, almost lovingly, Voldemort drew a sharp line through Severus' chest with a knife. Flesh split apart like an overripe plum, releasing trickles of dark blood pumped out by Severus' thundering heart. "You will find, however, that I am not as easy to kill as that pathetic Headmaster. Better mortals than you have tried – and failed – to kill a god."
And then...he began to chant.
And Severus' mind flamed with fresh pain.
OhgodsohgodsithurtshurtsHURTS nonono need to listen listen understand what he wants what's he doing dark chants blood sacrifice too much painpainpain...Severus struggled to think through the pain, to translate the runes carved in the corpses around him, to see the patterns of the cuts sliced into his torso, to understand the string of Latin words from Voldemort's chant...
And then, it clicked. The Dark Lord wants to become a god. No, not just a god. The God. He desires to control death, dark creatures, demons...oh Merlin, demons. He's using me as a blood sacrifice to summon and control demons. Damn where's that Portkey where's my Portkey...!
His fumbling fingers finally found the quill. Jabbing his finger hard against the nib, he could have cried with relief as his blood activated the Portkey and the familiar tugging sensation rose in his stomach. The last thing he saw before his body dematerialized was Voldemort's enraged face. Yet again, my Lord, foiled by your own conceit and carelessness. Forgetting the small necessities like installing Anti-Portkey wards? How utterly idio...
Severus never managed to finish that thought. Suddenly, a forceful shove came out of nowhere, sending him crashing down a few feet away from the altar. Looking up with pain-filled eyes, he watched as the reptilian god smiled and bent down, holding his left arm. His unattached left arm. I'd Splinched, he noted distantly, even as he felt a shift in the air. Looking back, he saw a whirling portal before the altar open.
The beginning of the end. He watched as Voldemort threw his head back and laughed in triumph.
The beginning of our end. He watched as a clawed rotting hand came through the portal.
The beginning...of my end. And he laughed in turn, laughed as he lunged to the portal, grabbing onto the black grimoire on his descent into self-damnation. The rules of rituals: the sacrifice must die by the caster's own hand. The timing must be exact for a summoning to succeed. Thank you, Lucius, for your lessons. This is for your son. This is for you. This is for all of you.
And Severus fell into the darkness, Voldemort's enraged shriek heralding his triumph.