~~*~~ Shattered Illusions of Safety ~~*~~
- Rise of the Dark Angel - Additional Scene -
~*~ Our Choices define us ~*~
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling and Bloomsbury / Scholastic / Warner Bros. This is a work of fanfiction, no money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. The same is true for a tiny quote from StarTrekTNG, created by Gene Roddenberry and owned by Paramount.
AN: 'Our Choices define us' is an Outtake from chapter 8 'Consequences part two' from 'Rise of the Dark Angel' a novel length Dark!Powerful!Harry fic WIP by Mykkia09 and Tonks_is_cool, . s/5908952/8/Rise_of_the_Dark_Angel
showing you what take place from Horace Slughorn's and later from Lord Voldemort's POV.
But I reckon you'll also enjoy reading this little story about the Slug's woes if you have not - yet - read anything of RDA. You should maybe know that in this complex AU world, Harry Potter has changed sides and is now secretly working for Lord Voldemort. Hedwig is not 'just' a post owl like in canon.
The title 'Our Choices define us' alludes to something that Dumbledore said to Harry at the end of COS.
Hope you like our Alternate Universe?
Horace Slughorn was not a brave man. He was a Slytherin.
He had filled the position of potions teacher and Head of House of Slytherin at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry for decades. It had been a good life; a regular job, a solid income, a comfortable place to live, a steady daily and yearly rhythm, recognition and acknowledgement from colleagues, parents, students and alumni.
His special talent was to recognize talent in his students. Talent in Potions, but also in any other areas, be it Charms, Transfiguration, Herbology, Quidditch, Politics or Business. He encouraged these talented students, created opportunities for them; he held his web of contacts dear. His recommendations opened doors for his students and in turn, they helped each other and stayed in contact with their old Head of House. Those that were successful were forever grateful to Slughorn. A mutually beneficial relationship, a social network of successful, happy people. All was well.
Horace´s Slug Club had worked wonderfully for decades. In the first war, he managed careful neutrality. Since 16 years, he was retired and enjoyed a quiet, comfortable life, with a box of chocolate, candied pineapple or a free ticket to a Quidditch match sent to him now and then by grateful alumni.
Well, that´s not quite true, because in the last year, his peaceful existence was disturbed. Causing the upheaval was one dark wizard, the Dark Lord, fearfully referred to as 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.'
Albus Dumbledore had claimed that You-Know-Who was back. Nobody believed him, well the Ministry didn´t and the Daily Prophet painted Dumbledore and the Boy Who Lived, Harry Potter, as attention seekers and troublemakers.
Horace dropped the newspaper, hurried of to pack his suitcase, shrunk his books, the piano and various knick-knacks and left his house intending to disappear. Slytherin self-preservation dictated that he changed his place of residence quite often, always nervous and ready to bolt.
His reason was simple: he believed Dumbledore and Potter that the Dark Lord was back. Which was a bad thing as far as Slughorn was concerned, he did not want to talk to or work for the Dark Lord or his Death Eaters if he could help it.
He did not want to be drawn into the service of the Dark Lord or his main adversary, Albus Dumbledore; he did not want to use his abilities or his web of contacts for such politics. Horace wanted to keep neutral, safe, and alive, far out of the line of fire. In addition – buried deep in his mind, he harboured a terrible secret about his former student.
For many months, Horace deluded himself that he had been very clever, never staying in one village or town longer than a few weeks, living in temporary empty muggle homes, keeping contact with the Wizarding World to a minimum to escape notice.
One day, an owl picked at the window of his latest residence with a letter. The name Potions Master Horace Slughorn in an elegant, Spenserian script of dark green ink was on the front, with a green and black wax seal bearing Slytherins coat of arms on the back. Horace panicked. Holding his wand with trembling fingers, he levitated the letter straight into the roaring fireplace without touching or reading it. While it burned merrily, he packed and bolted, again.
Many weeks later, he suddenly heard two Cracks outside the window of his newest temporary residence, a nice comfortable house in Peterborough. He saw two men in dark clothes striding towards the house and recognized the faces of former Slytherin students, although they were now middle-aged looking gentleman. Slughorn shrunk and packed his clothes, books, mementos and his grand piano with a practised wave of his wand and Apparated away just in time.
He had managed to escape, but only temporary. Changing from one empty Muggle house like that cosy one in Budleigh Babberton to the next, he was intent on covering his tracks, on loosing these people hot on his trail. It had been of no use. He should have known that the Dark Lord's followers would be stubbornly persistent.
Now, as Horace lay immobile due to the Body-Bind-Curse and additionally trussed up tightly with ropes on the hard cot in the cold, dimly lit dungeon cell, staring at the rough stone ceiling above him, he contemplated his exceedingly bad luck, alternatively cursing You-Know-Who and Dumbledore in his mind for dragging him into this mess. Perhaps the two young Death Eaters who had apprehended him had somehow followed Dumbledore to his newest hidey-hole in the oh-so charming village of Abbotsbury?
He tried again to fight against the Body-Bind, but his magic was not powerful enough, he could do nothing; save either succumb to despair and panic or keep thinking and planning.
What did he know about the situation? Where was he? How many guards were around?
His thoughts went again over everything he had heard or observed in the last quarter of an hour. Dumbledore had visited him, trying to persuade him to return to Hogwarts as the potions professor. A few minutes after the headmaster left, the door to the living room had slammed open, something blurry moved inside the room. He had heard a voice...
~* Flashback *~
"Good morning Professor Slughorn," voice number one said, followed by "Accio Slughorn´s wand". A young, male voice, cultured, aristocratic, upper class drawl.
Jumping around and backing up a step against the window, holding his hands up to show that he was unarmed, he had gasped out, "Please, don´t kill me. I'll do whatever you want. I'm a pureblood myself, I agree with the Dark Lord, I'm sorry I did not answer his missive at once, I´d be very happy to serve him now!"
"Perhaps you may be useful," the same voice as before drawled.
A second voice said, "Yes, we have a proposal for you." This voice also sounded like a young man´s, but spoke differently, maybe from the greater London area, not as well schooled as the first one. Therefore, there were at least two young Death Eaters in his house, disillusioned.
"Do you indeed? Yes? What is it?" Horace had replied, eager to keep them talking. Talking was much better than feeling the pain of Cruciatus, after all.
"Well," said the second voice, "we invite you for tea."
At the same moment, Horace felt the effect of the Body Bind Curse, but he had heard no incantation. So one of these boys could cast voicelessly. Which one?
An instant later, voice number one had yelled "Incarcerous". That was that, so boy number two was the magically stronger one.
As the spells had hit Slughorn, he fell like a log, but before he hit the floor, one of the boys had shot across the room and caught him. "Quick, the portkey!" voice one had whispered close to his ear, that was the same one that had him in a firm grip.
He had felt movement, something cold was pressed against his neck, and then he had felt how the other young man had pulled all of them close together.
Voice one had whispered "Lock up".
Suddenly he had heard a sharp Crack and then the door banged open against the wall, followed by hurried footsteps.
He had noticed movement out of the corner of his eye, a blue blur – yes, a man in a dark blue suit – Albus! He had come back! Horace felt hope swell in his chest.
There was a rush of magic, a red light streaking towards the huddled group, his mind supplied, a Stunner, oh yes, please, come here, closer, hit these bastards, but – in the very same moment he had felt ripped away by a feeling like a hook at his navel. Of course, they used a bloody portkey.
They had landed all together in a jumbled heap in the half dark on a hard, cold stone surface. There were more stones a few feet in front of him, musty air invading his nose. A dungeon, his franticly racing mind supplied, crushing all hope of rescue by Albus like a dung beetle under a mortar.
The boys entangled themselves from the coil of arms and legs. They cancelled the Dissillusiment charm, so that Horace finally was able to observe them. The boys' clothes consisted of a black robe with black leather vest and trousers, their faces and hair hidden by silver masks and black hoods.
One of them pointed his wand at their captive and mumbled some spell. Horace felt no pain, but a slight vibration in his front left vest pocket.
Then the young man bent down and searched his pockets. He found not much, a potion bottle was in an inside pocket of his jacket and a small knife in another pocket. Horace hoped that he would stop, but no, he plucked the crème silk handkerchief from the breast pocket of Slughorn´s vest.
Putting the delicate piece of cloth on the floor, the Death Eater pointed his wand at it and muttered "Finite Incantatem". Slughorn sighed internally, he knew what would appear, a reddish brown, short wand.
Merlin´s soggy pants! Horace had hoped his transfigured spare wand would escape their notice.
"Great Draco, well done; you´ll have to teach me that spell to detect a hidden wand," said the other Death Eater
"Yes, later," answered the one with the more drawling, upper class voice, while he summoned the wand from the floor and deftly caught it. Then he said, "Merlin Harry, you do have the most luck possible. We just escaped in time! Did you see Dumbledore come back?"
Horace catalogued everything he heard, his worry growing by the minute. So one boy´s name was Harry, the others Draco. Together with how his voice sounded, this young Draco was most likely an aristocrat, a pureblood. Draco, short for Draconis, a star constellation and an old Roman name... did he know any pureblood family that used similar names?
He mentally scanned through all his former pupils, well the important ones from Slytherin or Ravenclaw that fit this pattern. Star names... that would mean ... Black, or maybe Malfoy? The man sounded young, he was slim, so perhaps a seventh year. That meant that he was most likely the son of Lucius Malfoy and Narcissa Black. The old Black heir, Regulus, had died 1979 without siring offspring, and his brother, Sirius Black was in Azkaban. Bellatrix Black was married to Rodolphus LeStrange; both were also in Azkaban, no offspring known so far. Andromeda – she married a muggleborn, Ted Tonks, they had a daughter. Did any other Black have children besides Narcissa? He´d never heard of any, but of course, it was always possible that a bastard son was hidden somewhere...
Suddenly there was a flash and a bird, similar to a phoenix, appeared out of thin air, landing on Harry´s shoulder. It was not red and golden like Dumbledore´s phoenix, but white; the tips of its wings were black, as if they had been dipped in black ink. The magnificent bird thrilled excitedly.
"Oh hey girl, good to have you back," Harry greeted the phoenix.
Horace was so astonished his jaw would have dropped, if he could only move a muscle.
"Yeah, he must have felt us in the house; somehow he got suspicious, so he returned, without setting of that intruder alarm when he apparated into the hall. Hedwig told me that he went down the street and apparated away. Clever old fox, I have to admit that," Harry said.
"Hedwig, what did Dumbledore do?"
The phoenix trilled an answer, which this Harry seemingly understood, because he explained to Draco, "Hedwig says that Dumbledore looked around the living room and cast diagnostic spells, then walked through the house and briefly looked into all the other rooms, he did not find anything that interested him, so he Diapparated again."
Draco remarked, "I suppose he will have picked up traces from our spells, he will know magic has been used in the living room. Luckily we only cast three spells altogether, and nothing dark or very powerful at all, just as planned. We must hope he cannot identify our magical signatures from this little amount of magic used. Well, it should help that we used other wands, because as Headmaster he will have records or samples about the feeling of our 'normal' magic in School. He has no reason to connect both of us to this abduction; he will think it was a random Death Eater."
Harry asked, "Do you think he can he feel magical auras and recognize a person that way? I don´t think so, otherwise he would have known for example that the Dark Lord´s spirit possessed Quirrell in first year or that the Alistar Moody in fourth year was really Barty, a supposedly dead man."
Draco seemed astonished, because he asked, "Barty? Who is Barty?"
Horace listened riveted and fascinated. What were they talking about? They really sounded like Hogwarts students the way they talked about Dumbledore. Well they were well trained; the one called Harry was obviously powerful, if he, Horace, could not fight that Body Bind off at all. Maybe they were indeed seventh years? One was probably a Malfoy, but who was the other?
Harry? Horace had heard only ever of one Harry in the last few years: The Harry Potter, Boy-Who-Lived, the Saviour, now called the Chosen One.
Oh Merlin and Morgana, was this possible? No, it couldn´t be; Harry Potter was Dumbledore´s pet, a brave, but foolish Gryffindor; the boy was not on the Dark side, no, no, no. Besides, he was too young, only sixteen, a sixth year. He tried to push the thought away, but ... what if? Then the light side was so doomed.
Horace shuddered. The young men were obviously dark, but so young, could it be? They were dressed like Death Eaters, were they truly Death Eaters? Where was this dungeon? Did they capture him to bring him before the Dark Lord? What else? What should he do? How was he going to survive this mess? The questions kept tumbling one over the other in his frenzied mind.
"Didn´t you know!" asked Harry, he sounded surprised.
"The Moody that was our DADA teacher was in reality Barty Crouch junior, the son of Barty Crouch from the Ministry of Magic." Harry explained.
"What? How? Why?" said Draco, sounding dumb folded.
"Yes, it's quite a story, I´ll explain more when we have some free time. Now I think we should look after our guest and tell the Dark Lord we are back," Harry said, turning towards Horace, who looked up at him with an expression of confusion, anger and fear, after hearing the dreaded confirmation: he was indeed a prisoner of the Dark Lord.
Harry sniggered and sent an evil smirk down at Horace, who still lay on the cold, dirty dungeon floor, stretched out stiffly and tightly bound with strong ropes, unable to move a finger or to speak to the two young men looking down on him.
"Do you want to go or shall I?" Harry asked Draco.
Draco looked up from studying their captive, "I´d rather stay here, to admire the view, and keep him safe of course," he drawled and pointed his wand at their captive.
Horace felt himself suddenly lifted up in the air and moved sideways, until he was lowered on a flat surface above the floor. It seemed to be a cot next to the wall. The young Death Eater called Draco walked away, so that he could not see him any-more. There were footsteps, a bit of rustling and – what did they do?
Then he heard Harry chuckling, "OK, I´ll be back soon," and walked towards the bars that separated the cell from the hallway.
Horace heard a soft hissing whisper, then a clang and footsteps again. Was that... had he really just heard Parseltongue? How was that possible, the retired potions master wondered?
Then nothing happened for a few minutes, the only sound his own breathing that he tried to calm. Suddenly he heard footsteps again, a hissing whisper followed by a metallic click, the cell door opening most likely.
"Come on Draco, we´re dismissed," said the voice Horace identified as Harry cheerfully.
Rustling, footsteps, and then the masked face of the other young man appeared in his vision.
"Ta ta professor. Have a good time," Draco drawled mockingly and moved away swiftly, another clang, that must be the door of the cell closing. Horace heard their footsteps fading away and lay there again for endless minutes, lost to his fear and panic. His throat felt parched and his bladder uncomfortably full. He concentrated on his breathing, in, out, slowly, in, out; to prevent himself from hyperventilating and cramping or blacking out.
~* End flashback *~
What would happen now? Would Tom come down here? Would he send another Death Eater? If either man came, what would they do? Would he be tortured or – killed? Horace remembered all those horror stories he had heard and read about the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters twenty years ago. How should he behave, how answer to stay alive?
He did not want to die. He felt alone, so afraid, so cold. To distract himself, he began listing common potions and their ingredients for the NEWT potions exam in his mind.
When he thought he couldn´t stand this waiting any longer, he heard soft footsteps coming closer to his cell. They stopped, someone was there, and Horace felt him. A cloaked power, similar to Dumbledore, but completely different. Again a hissing whisper, the click and then he heard the person stepping closer.
"Hello Horace," drawled a cool, smooth voice.
Horace breath stopped, his mouth went completely dry, while his heart seemed to stop and then suddenly to burst from his throat in a frenzied gallop as he looked up. Above him towered a tall, most handsome man with pale skin, dark wavy hair and dark, brown, black and crimson eyes. Horace instantly recognized him as the former Tom Riddle, now Lord Voldemort. He looked like an older version of the charming Head Boy of 1944, only that a glowing crimson rim encircled his dark irises. How weird, hadn´t the reports said that You Know Who looked all white, no nose or hair, scaly and snakelike, not entirely human anymore?
An intoxicating, suffocating, dangerous wave of dark magic emanated from Voldemort, overwhelming Slughorn´s mind and soul. He could only sweat and tremble before this awesome power. He felt so foolish, why had he run away? Resistance was futile. There was no escape, the Dark Lord always got what he wanted, and every Slytherin knew that.
"What, no polite words of greeting for your former star pupil?" Voldemort sneered.
"Tut, tut, where are your manners, Horace?" he chided gently, while smiling viciously down upon the bald, fat man on the cot, whose eyes turned into the size of saucers, while he kept struggling against the Body-Bind-curse. With a huge effort, Horace managed to blink.
Cocking his head to the side and raising an eyebrow, Voldemort observed his former Head of House. Stressing the hissing quality of his speech deliberately to further intimidate him, he questioned the slightly trembling man on the cot.
"Yesss? Did you want to ssay ssomething? Perchance – explain why you didn´t answer Lord Voldemort´s misssive, or why you tried to hide from my Death Eatersss? That was incredibly foolisssh, Horacssse."
Horace desperately wanted to throw himself at the Dark Lord´s feet and plead for his life, but he could do nothing besides tremble and blink his eyes again.
Voldemort enjoyed this tense silence a lot, so he maintained it, staring at Horace. After a minute, he pulled out his wand in a deliberate, very visible, and slow motion, then he started to stroll around the cell, disappearing from Slughorn´s field of view. This frightened the man even more.
The taller wizard appeared again and leaned against the wall next to the cot, at the head end, right besides his prisoner so the man could partly see him without turning his head. He twirled his wand between his fingers casually, when he noticed the large wet spot in the trembling man's pants.
"Not entirely housebroken, Horace?" he noted disdainfully with an evil smirk on his face.
Slughorn's cheeks flushed in embarrassment. With a swift move, the Dark Lord pushed his wand against Slughorn´s temple. The man closed and opened his eyes and started to tremble severely. Still there was no sound or answer, but he was obviously extremely distressed, his face turned a pastry white, tears seeping out the corners of his eyes, the pupils impossibly dilated and his breathing ragged.
Voldemort bent down and reached out with his other hand to force Slughorn to look him in the eyes.
"Now Horace, why don´t you explain, will you? Drop your shields, in your best interest... Legilimens," he whispered calmly.
It was ridiculously easy for him to tear through the remains of Slughorn´s Occlumency shields, not caring if he hurt the man. Images flashed by and he found what he was looking for promptly. How Horace had thrown his letter into the fireplace without opening it, how he had fled from one hiding place to the next bolthole, how the old coot had visited him in Abbotsbury and how the two young Death Eaters had seized him only half an hour ago. Lastly, but most shocking: the dawning realisation that the 'Chosen One', the 'Boy Who Lived', the 'Saviour' of the light side, was probably a Death Eater. After a few minutes of rummaging around in the frenzied, panicked mind of his prisoner, searching for any other memories of Dumbledore, he pulled back and smirked triumphantly at the old man who had soiled himself so thoroughly, before the torture even started. Slughorn clenched his eyes shut and moaned from the pain in his temples and forehead.
"Ah, you dearly want to answer, but you cannot? Well, that´s easy to remedy, isn´t it?"
With these words, Voldemort waved his wand at Horace, cancelling the Petrificus Totalus. The rope coils that encircled him disappeared instantly.
Finally being able to move his stiff body, the old man groaned while pushing himself up into a sitting position. He started to stutter and babble, shaking with fright, "P... Please, n... no... Pl... Please! I ... I was afraid... I wanted to answer, b... but that, oh please, those boys you sent, they, they didn´t give me a ch... a chance... and then Albus came back and ... please, Tom!"
"Crucio!" Voldemort hissed at once upon hearing his hated childhood name together with Dumbledore´s name, while quickly stepping back a few paces. Horace should know better to address him this way. He didn´t expect much from this coward, but a neutral 'Sir' or perhaps 'Your Lordship' would have been appropriate.
The old man howled loudly and floundered all over the place so hard, that he fell off the cot and smashed to the stone floor violently, shrieking like a slaughtered pig.
Dispassionately the dark wizard watched Slughorn trashing about on the stone floor; savouring the enjoyable, tingling sensation this dark curse always send through his own nerves, the exquisite feeling this curse caused leaving his wand, while the recipient screamed in agony. Casting Cruciatus usually did wonders in lifting his mood, well most of the time.
Finally, he let up on the curse and turned the shaking, snivelling, panting, perspiring, and stinking body over with a swift kick of his dragon hide leather boot. Disgusting. Weak.
Slughorn curled up like a ball in the foetal position, crying and coughing up blood. "P.. Pl ... Please, st ... stop, no... no more, have mercy, please!" he wailed pathetically.
"Pleassse," Voldemort repeated slowly, like he was trying the word out on his tongue. "Well, ... I do not ressspond kindly to beggarsss who have nothing to offer me, Professor Sssslughorn," he threatened the frantic prisoner, mocking him with his former title.
"But, p... please your Lordship," whined Slughorn, tears streaming down his face, kneeling huddled up with his head bowed so low that it touched the floor.
He reached out with a trembling hand towards the hem of the Dark Lord´s robe, not quite daring to touch it. "But, please, I have ... to offer ... my service! I am a pureblood, I don´t really like muggles! You know I have ... connections ... I know a lot of p ... people in high positions. I ... I can call in favours or, or ... blackmail them if that´s what you need. Please, I will do anything you want of me, your Lordship. Please, let me serve you and your noble cause! Please, don´t kill me! Please, I want to, I can serve you well, and I will be useful." His voice wavered and was hoarse from screaming.
Voldemort rolled his eyes. Could the man be anymore despicable? He had not put that much power behind the Cruciatus curse, compared to other occasions, like recently when he had punished Harry, Yaxley or Lucius. Inadvertently he compared Slughorn´s pathetic performance today with Harry´s quiet strength, submitting to him of his own, free will, not only out of fear; that boy was so beautiful, so proud and defiant; he was so powerful and brave, even a year ago in the graveyard at only fourteen years of age.
Annoyed, he stopped Slughorn´s desperate pleading by aiming the Stinging Jinx at his back, which caused the old potions master to flinch, covering his head with his hands while uttering a frightened yelp, followed by yet more whimpers.
"Sweet Salazar, just shut up, Horace!" Voldemort snapped out. "Prove that you´ll be loyal, of assistance to our cause and maybe I´ll evaluate your worth again; although Nagini will be very disappointed to miss her treat."
"Of course, your Lordship," Slughorn answered, now prostrated trembling on the floor. He could not stop himself from asking, "Begging your pardon your Lordship, but please, who is this ... Nagini?"
"My snake," Voldemort stated proudly and smirked. "She´s rather large, hungry and was looking forward to eating you today - alive."
Slughorn shuddered, but didn´t dare to speak or move again without prompt.
The dark wizard observed him, wrinkling his nose. Slughorn smelled – well bad. He looked dreadful and utterly terrified, just like a prisoner in the Dark Lord´s dungeon should look. Quickly Voldemort cast a Cleansing charm on the man and one on the room, to banish the stink and filth. With another wave of his wand, he conjured a comfortable chair and sat down. Crossing his legs, he casually taped his wand on his knee and addressed Slughorn, "Look at me, Horace."
Slughorn carefully shifted to his knees and slowly raised his gaze until he met the dark and crimson eyes of Lord Voldemort, wincing at the discomfort. He was really too old to kneel like this on the floor, his legs hurt, well, his whole body hurt from suffering the Cruciatus curse. It had actually been his first time, a truly horrifying experience. He would bite his tongue off before he said 'Tom' again; this was not his former favourite student, the polite, charming, brilliant, and gifted prefect and Head boy, this was the Dark Lord.
Try not to set him off again, shot through his angst-ridden mind. He quickly glanced around in the cell, taking in the layout and the furniture. Two mounted cots without blankets or cushions on the walls, no window, bars on one side with the door and a small hole in the ground in the far corner, probably the - ughh dirty - toilet, everything was quite dreary and depressing. He quickly pulled his attention back to Voldemort´s face and hands.
Voldemort watched the play of emotions on Slughorn´s wrinkled face and smirked.
"Did you expect a chair for you too, Horace? Maybe a tea tray with cucumber sandwiches and shortbread? Or a glass of Sherry?"
Slughorn shivered, carefully shaking his aching head no, he rasped out, "No, sir."
"No, indeed." Voldemort drawled. "Well, if you had answered promptly when I summoned you months ago, this meeting could be very different. We would sit upstairs in my study enjoying a fine drink, and talking like civilized people."
Slughorn looked down ashamed and thoroughly humiliated, mumbling, "I know, your Lordship, I ... I was so afraid and... I´m sorry, I was so foolish." He sighed deeply. After gulping in a fresh breath of air, he straightened up a bit with new resolve and asked, "How can I serve your Lordship?"
"What did Dumbledore want?" inquired Voldemort briskly, although he had seen the memory already in Slughorn´s pathetic mind.
"He wants me back at Hogwarts, to take over as potions teacher again," supplied Slughorn.
Slughorn blinked confused. "No. Well, I don´t know; I didn´t give him the opportunity to elaborate much, as you have seen in my memory..."
"Yess, but I´d like to hear it from you. Why would Dumbledore ask you? Is there anything special that he could gain from you? After all, he has a good potions master already, has he not?"
"Special, from me? Severus Snape is brilliant, the youngest and brightest potions master in Britain ever. I doubt there is any potion he cannot brew. Snape surely is better than I, his old teacher," Slughorn answered.
When he received a nod from the dark wizard, he continued, "Albus didn´t give me a logical reason. He didn´t mention that Snape would be taking a sabbatical to research or perhaps teach something else. He only mentioned that Harry Potter was at Hogwarts. Everybody knows that, no reason at all for me to leave retirement. I´m sorry your Lordship, I really don´t know why Albus came to me."
Voldemort watched him, while playing with his wand in his hands, twirling it around. Slughorn´s eyes stayed glued on the slender yew length, he feared that wand. Now, was the old professor really so thick or so confused that he did not understand, or had he chosen to forget their little conversation fifty years ago? Maybe nudge him a bit more, give him another choice, before using pain again as an incentive to remember and to obey. Choices, choices, hmmm, another Cruciatus would feel surely good...
"Not special in potions, then. Maybe Dumbledore ... wants you at Hogwarts, because he seeks your expertise in ... another area of magic?" asked the suddenly silky voice softly.
"But, what would he ...?" Slughorn trailed of and stared at him for a little while, a lost look in his eyes. Suddenly he blanched and swayed. Throwing himself flat on the stone floor in front of the Dark Lord again, he urgently whispered, "No, no, your Lordship, I would never tell, I swear! I never told anybody, please, please, believe me!"
Voldemort rose from the chair and walked in measured steps circles around the shaking figure on the dungeon floor, tapping his tight with his wand.
Sounding suspicious, he asked, "Did you? You never talked with Dippet or Dumbledore about my inquiriesss back then?"
Slughorn blurted his answer out, desperate to convince his former student. "No, no, no, never, I promised. You said you were only academically interested! Aaaahhhh!"
A vicious flick of Voldemort´s wand sent Slughorn flying and crashing into the side of the cell, knocking the breath out of him. Another flick had him hanging upright, shackled at his wrists and ankles with his back to the rough wall, he was magically pulled and stretched most uncomfortably in an X shape.
"No, please! I did´t tell anyone! I tried to forget. I swear on my magic, I never told Albus anything of our private talks, no, never! Please believe me!" Slughorn wheezed urgently, he had great difficulty breathing and talking, due to hanging helplessly like this suspended in the air.
"Show me!" demanded Voldemort.
He stepped closer and waved his hand at Slughorn´s face forcing eye contact, while casting "Legilimens" with his wand. Slughorn´s frenzied thoughts revolved about their talk about Horcruxes so long ago after that Slug club meeting and his further dealings with Dumbledore over the years.
Numerous, boring, routine staff meetings, normal talks at the Head table whisked past, some talks in the Headmaster office about some Slytherin students, then his wish to retire; his satisfaction that Albus had found a worthy successor for the position as potions teacher and Slytherin Head of House in Severus Snape. A young man, harsh, bitter, but very capable. Since retiring, Slughorn had only exchanged occasional letters with Albus, like Birthday greetings or Christmas cards. They had both been invited to some Ministry functions or Parties, but Slughorn and Dumbledore never exchanged more than polite, meaningless pleasantries. The first time he had seen Albus in person and in private was today.
Slughorn was shaking and perspiring from the force of the mental attack. Abruptly Voldemort released him from the Legilimency probe and the shackles, dropping him to the ground like a wet sack, which caused another pained shriek trailing of in a moan.
"You will continue your silence, is that clear?" he hissed in a most menacing tone. The 'Or else' hung in the tense air between them.
"Yes, yes, I´ll never tell, I promise." Slughorn croaked, holding onto his hurting head.
"Good. Crucio," whispered Voldemort, lazily pointing his wand at the man. Better safe than sorry.
Slughorn shrieked, wailed and pleaded for mercy while flapping around on the floor like a fat little walrus on the beach. Uncontrollable spasms from the white-hot pain wracked his body, he screamed himself hoarse in his subjective never-ending agony.
After a short while Voldemort stopped the Unforgivable, he did not want to push the slug too far or cause a stroke; after all, he was an old man, not a healthy and fit youngster who could endure much more torture and violence before breaking. Slughorn lay curled up in a ball, but pushed himself weakly up on his arms to vomit, coughing up bile; he collapsed again, crying hysterically.
Voldemort stepped back and curled his lip up in disgust, but he was satisfied that Slughorn was a complete mess, a shaking, sobbing, sweat, piss and vomit soaked mess, who should be obedient and cooperative in the future to avoid further punishment or death.
"Listen, Horace. See to it that you write me an extensive report about your contacts in the next days. Who works in which Department in the Ministry? Who owns or controls which companies, shops or Quidditch teams? Who is connected to whom, any obligations, business loans and so forth, do you understand? Stay useful and you´ll stay alive, dear Horace."
With these parting words, Voldemort left the cell feeling energized and elated. Everything had worked out perfectly today. He let the cell door clang shut behind him and walked down the short corridor to the dungeon exit, where Goyle already waited for new instructions.
"Master," he greeted with a curt bow.
"Goyle," Voldemort returned the greeting politely, before snapping out orders.
"Clean that man up; give him a dose of healing and calming potion, enough food, and water. Add some comfort, like a warm blanket; after all, he is an old man. He´ll need a table, chair, secure reading light, parchment, some notebooks, quills and so on. His job is to write reports about his vast web of contacts from his Slug club and to provide information for us. Check upon him at least twice a day, see to it he does not slack off and send any full notebooks up to Lucius´ private study to check and cross-reference. Slughorn will stay down here for a while, as a lesson not to disobey me again. You do have enough space here for the next week or two, don´t you?"
"As you wish, my Lord," agreed Goyle, "At the moment, only one other cell is occupied; by your other special guest. Should you or one of the other teams plan a raid where many prisoners, I mean more than about ten, are expected, I would have to move these two guests elsewhere in advance. I suppose your other order still stands?"
Voldemort thought a moment and nodded. "All right. Thank you for reminding me Goyle."
"You´re welcome, my Lord. Please inform me on time, should there be any changes. Anything else, Master?"
"No, thank you, carry on..." Voldemort turned to leave the dungeons, but stopped again, asking over his shoulder," Oh, you don´t happen to have seen a fat rat somewhere down here?"
Goyle smirked. "As a matter of fact, I have. Do you need to appease Nagini again?"
Voldemort chuckled. "Indeed, I need a new, tasty morsel for her. She´ll be so disappointed when I´ll tell her that Slughorn is still of value to me. She nagged me again that she was looking forward to chase him or another prisoner around, to show her little ones how to hunt, then crush his ribs and devour him."
Goyle snorted, "I´ll send that rat up with an elf in five minutes. Better, I´ll tell that sloppy elf again to clean up the lower cells and catch a few mice, for Nagini´s little ones to learn. Does she still refuse to leave your chambers, my Lord?"
Voldemort nodded and then both men smirked in shared remembrance. Nagini had been either sleepy or moody of late, because of her little snake-lings. Being a mother seemed to be very taxing.