Title: Out Of His Mind
Author: Captain Tulip (captain_tulip)
Team: Team Wartime
Warnings: Heed the warnings on the Snarry Games post.
Word Count: 11,367
A/N: Huge thanks to auctasinistra for her wonderfully speedy (and boy, do I mean speedy!) beta work, the whole of so_teamwartime for being so bloody fantastic, the awesome mods of the snarry_games for being so understanding of my inadequacies and inabilities to meet deadlines, and last but certainly not least to smarmypenguin who listened to all of my ranting and raving and put up with half-crazed emails at five in the morning, and whose words of encouragement nearly made me cry.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Well, except for the weird stuff.
Summary: A desperate Order begins to suspect Voldemort of spying on them through Harry's mind, and the only person they can think of to help them isn't too happy about being enlisted.
Out Of His Mind
The sound of the legs of a chair being scraped across the ground fills the stone cell, and the various members of the Order give a collective wince. It is freezing cold but the room with "HOLDING AREA" blazoned across the walls still manages to feel stuffy -- thick with melancholy and sticky breath and a thousand memories. Potter is absent, as usual, but seeing as how they've taken to discussing him at the meetings, it's not as demoralizing as it was when it started. They all know he's safe wandering the winding hallways of Azkaban prison, anyway, as ironic as that seems -- they're all too tired for irony, now. Since the Great Escape there isn't a single Death Eater left in the whole place, save for the dead ones left rotting on the stone. They've all been moved along now.
The meeting starts late. Everyone filters slowly in, collapsing onto chairs and staring bleakly into their own little distances. Lupin and Tonks are the last in, their clothing mussed and their lips pink and bruising. Someone would have leered at them in the early years, but no one has the energy now.
"Maybe he has Tourettes," Hermione offers to the room, trying to fill up the silence.
Ron scowls. "What's trets?"
"Tourettes is an inherited neurological disorder defined as part of a spectrum of tic disorders, which include transient and chronic tics," Hermione recites. She gets fewer stares than she would have, once upon a time. Oliver Wood doesn't even look up.
Kingsley shakes his head. "We would have seen it when he was younger."
The room lapses into silence again. Hermione purses her lips.
"What happened to the roll?" she asks.
"Too fucking depressing," Fred mutters and there is general assent. Up until a few months ago they were still putting out the same number of chairs as they had in the early years, until they realised there were more empty seats than filled ones and they were having to shout at one another across the room, constantly reminded of every loss and every sorrow they had ever encountered.
"Someone oughta work on them blood stains," Mundungus says, gesturing at the crimson covered walls.
"They don't come off," Tonks replies, her eyes slowly travelling up and down the brown mess. "We've tried everything."
"Didn't think Dementors dealt with blood," Fred mutters.
"They don't," Terry Boot replies. "The people who brought the prisoners to the Death Eaters did, though -- Government officials and whatnot. Beating them and torturing them before giving them to the Dementors -- it was all really gruesome stuff. Didn't you study it your final year?"
"Buggered off, didn't I?" Fred snaps and Boot pales.
"Right. Of course. My mistake."
Neville stares idly at his thumb. "I think it's broken," he mutters to himself. "Anyone know when Professor McGonagall's getting here?"
"One step ahead of you, as always, Mr Longbottom," a croaky voice says wryly and Neville jerks his head up to see McGonagall making her entrance, carefully spelling the heavy bolted door across behind her. Neville smiles as she walks in slowly, her left hand still shaking uncontrollably. She takes a few shuddering breaths as she makes her way across the room, and with everyone's eyes on her she seats herself in the remaining chair, which -- not by accident -- it the biggest and most prominent one there. She closes her eyes, looking very old, very tired and somewhat pained.
"Are you all right, Professor?" Hermione asks, concerned.
"Fine, thank you," McGonagall says stiffly.
"Is something the matter, then?" Neville asks.
Every person in the room stares at McGonagall -- the lines on her ragged face, her velvet hat and her watery eyes, her shaking hands and her stiff posture -- waiting for the answer. No news is good news, after all, and the way McGonagall slowly takes off her gloves and folds them in her lap with a sense of forced calm suggests that there is, indeed, news.
No one wants to push for it, though. They sit quietly.
No one breathes.
No one shuffles.
No one dares to even blink.
McGonagall sighs and opens her mouth and the whole room leans forward a little, seeming to strain toward her lips.
"There is," she says with a piercing gaze, "a spy in our midst." She says it without falter, and the room freezes.
"What?" Ron says stupidly and Hermione glares at him out of the corner of her eye.
"Someone," McGonagall says, looking up and over the eyes of everyone in the room, "has carefully and calculatedly been feeding all of our most private information to the other side. Without fail."
"Impossible!" Mundungus says, doing his best to look appropriately scandalized and innocent.
"How do you know this?" Melinda Bobbin demands.
"McLaggen and I were just out -- questioning Alecto Carrow," Moody growls, sharing a dark look with McLaggen. "Certainly knew a damn lot more than I'd like scum of his sort to know."
McGonagall nods. "They know of all the plans we have made within the last few months."
Collective gasps go around the room. Hestia Jones's chin wobbles.
"It was no accident that the Death Eaters anticipated our attack on their camp outside of Hogsmeade," McGonagall says steadily. "Nor did they happen upon George Weasley and Alicia Spinnet as we had at first surmised."
Fred's face pales and his jaw starts to tighten.
"They know of our past actions and they know exactly what we know. They know about relationships between us -- Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks, for example."
Lupin shifts in his chair and casts a terrified look at Tonks.
"Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley also."
"But--!" Ron begins to splutter and Hermione silences him with a tense hand on his thigh.
"Whatever the possibilities, whatever the chances, however much you wish this not to be so -- it is so," McGonagall says. "And now we must decide what to do. Knowing, of course, that the Dark Lord may as well be sitting in the chair next to me as we discuss it."
There is dead silence.
"I don't think any of this lot did it, Professor," Fred says finally, nodding at the people surrounding him.
McGonagall clears her throat. "It is not necessarily someone in this room."
Padma Patil scrunches up her nose. "Excuse me, Professor, but you just said--"
"I am well aware of what I have just said, thank you, Miss Patil," McGonagall says. "Let us think for a moment. Who knows every in and out and careful little detail of our lives who is not in this room?"
Lupin leans back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. "Harry Potter is not the Dark Lord's spy."
Luna gazes at Lupin with inappropriate interest and the rest of the Order swivels their attention from Lupin's statement back to McGonagall, who stiffens slightly. "Not what I was implying, Lupin. I would hope I am not that far gone yet."
"Then what are you implying, Professor?" Hermione asks, frustrated.
McGonagall takes a deep breath and looks, oddly, at Ginny, who nods her head in encouragement. Everyone looks at her in confusion and then back to McGonagall.
"I'm not in the habit of making outrageous accusations or pointing the finger. We do not need someone to blame, nor is there any point in isolating anyone because we are scared," McGonagall begins. She lifts a hand up to her perfectly neat bun and smoothes it, picking at imaginary stray hairs. "It is necessary, though, in times like these to consider a wide range of possibilities," she continues. " 'It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it, after all.'"
A few gazes drift slowly over to Hermione. "Aristotle," she murmurs and McGonagall nods curtly.
"The thought I am about to present to you will be difficult -- perhaps, nearly impossible to entertain, but I must ask you not to reject it immediately. We are in the middle of a war. It is a different reality now. Things will happen that were not anticipated or desired. Sometimes, the luck is on your side. On other occasions, it is not."
"You can say that again," Bill mumbles and there are a few bitter chuckles.
"This particular instance has nothing to do with luck or chance. It is something that we feared would happen, and something we took considerable steps to avoid. I am afraid it may have happened nonetheless." McGonagall suddenly seems reluctant to continue.
"Go on, Professor," Ginny whispers.
A hush falls upon the room as McGonagall prepares for her final blow. No one dares pretend they already know what she is about to say, nor does anyone look away from the parched lips and wrinkled skin for even a moment.
"It is possible," McGonagall declares, "that Potter's mind is being possessed by the Dark Lord."
Ron grunts softly, his breath misting over Hermione's face before dissipating into the darkness.
"Could you...?" Hermione whispers.
"I don't--" Ron breaks off with an angry hiss. He bucks his hips and Hermione winces.
"Sorry, it's just -- it's freezing in here," she says into his ear, wrapping her numbing arms around him and pulling him tighter against her chest.
"It is Azkaban," he murmurs back, pausing a moment as a shiver shudders down his spine. They are don't speak for a while and all that can be heard in the roaring silence is the squeaking of the bed and the slick sound of flesh on flesh.
Hermione bites her lip. "Do you feel bad?"
"Because I love you," he says, in a frustrated tone of voice, falling off her inelegantly. "What bloke doesn't want to say 'I love you' in the closest way he knows how?"
Hermione sits up, wrapping the blanket around her chest. "You don't have to have sex with me just to show me that you love me, Ronald," she says stiffly.
"Yeah, but I want to," Ron protests. "I don't know if I'll -- y'know, if I'll ever be able to."
Hermione sighs. "I wouldn't be surprised. What with all we've been through."
"Pretty fucking depressing that after all we've been through I don't even get this to cheer up these bloody awful days." He buries his face in his pillow and Hermione frowns.
"Are they so awful?" She knows she shouldn't push Ron like this.
"We living in a prison in the middle of a war," Ron deadpans.
"It's not a prison anymore..."
"It still feels like a fucking prison. And it feels like you're only let out to get killed, so freedom isn't all that flash either..."
Hermione doesn't think she can reply to that, so she stays silent a moment. "Do you think it's true?" she asks softly.
The watch on Ron's wrists suddenly starts beeping like mad. "Oh, for Christ's sake," Ron grumbles, jerking up, "what the hell is he up to now?"
Hermione lies down, putting her hands gently behind her head. "He seems to enjoy getting lost, these days."
"He's left the fucking vicinity again. For Merlin's sake," Ron says, pulling himself out of the flimsy bed, "I'm going to have to follow him--"
"--I don't even know how he gets past all the wards," Ron continues, pulling his trousers and socks on roughly. "This tracking gizmo is a bloody great invention, Hermione, but it's a bloody pain in the arse too--"
"Why, thank you, Ronald."
"--cause now I have to heave myself over to whatever fucking hell-hole he winds up in this time -- some bloody church or playground or something -- to drag him back. Don't see why we don't just keep him tied up, myself. It'd certainly solve a hell of a lot of problems--"
"Just -- make sure you come back, okay?" Hermione interrupts anxiously.
Ron suddenly freezes, his boot hanging off his foot. "Now why would you go and say a thing like that?"
Hermione blinks. "Because I love you and want you to come home."
"Now you've just bloody well gone and bollixed it all up, haven't you? You've -- you've jinxed it."
"I haven't. I've given you luck," Hermione protest.
"Oh," Ron says, slightly placated. "Well, alright then," he says, going back to tying up his shoes and pulling on his jumper.
"Kiss?" she asks when he's done, offering her cheek. Ron grabs his wand, then leans down and kisses her softly on the lips.
"I love you. Remember that. No matter what, yeah?"
Hermione nods her head jerkily. "No matter what," she agrees.
"I'll be back soon."
Hermione nods again.
"Lead me," Ron says to his wristwatch, and with a shudder he's off.
Ron stumbles a little as his feet hit the ground with a splash, plunging into icy water. He sucks in a breath, anxiously trying to adjust his eyes to the dark light. The cold wind whips at his ears and he can hear trees rustling in the background -- not a good sign. He straightens up and winces, trying to fix his eyes on something.
It takes him a moment to realise he is in a graveyard.
"Harry?" Ron calls, his voice wavering slightly. He digs his hand into his pocket and pulls out his wand, his hand sweaty despite the cold. The moon is glittering down from the sky amidst the darkening clouds and the tombstones are like dominating figures leaning over him in the gloom. He suddenly notices a dark figure moving deeper and deeper into the mist and he wraps his arms around himself. "What are you doing?" he shouts. He can see a shudder go down Harry's back and he watches as Harry's fists tighten. He swallows nervously. "There's nothing you can do here," he says loudly, pulling himself through the swirling, filthy water. "Just another flood, is all."
Harry lets out a short puff that is halfway between amusement and despair, staring off at some point in the distance. "Dad's grave just went below."
Ron takes one last sluggish step through the water, now standing directly behind Harry. "What?"
"His grave. The water just -- can you see that? It's covered it completely."
Ron shakes his head. "Listen, let's just get out of here. It's not right for you to be here when this is happening--"
"I -- I could stop it."
Ron stares at the back of Harry's head. He rubs his hands roughly across his freckled face. "Right," he says wearily. "Because you're special, yeah?"
The air hangs thick and heavy between them before Harry starts to tread away, into the steadily flowing water.
Ron glares at his retreating back, refusing to trudge after him. "Buggered if I can remember the last time I had a good sleep," he mutters to himself. "The last time I had a proper meal, the last time I had a proper fuck -- and I'm standing here, freezing my balls off, in the middle of a flooded graveyard with my best mate who's gone completely bonkers wondering," he raises his voice, "what the hell I'm pissing around for!"
Harry spins around in the mud, sending two perfectly cascading waves around him, and stares at Ron, the whites of his eyes lit up by the cracking bolts of electricity in the sky.
"You don't need to be here."
"I came here to see if you--"
"I didn't ask you to follow me," Harry snaps.
Ron takes a deep breath. "Come on, mate," he says plaintively, briskly rubbing his arms. "Let's go home. You need sleep."
"Sleep, eat, wallow -- that's all any of us seem to do anymore! Why aren't we out doing something?! You'd think we'd be frantic, but I guess the power of love doesn't extend to drafting up plans," Harry says bitterly.
Ron doesn't know how to respond. He shivers uncontrollably and shifts, the freezing water seeping into his shoes and socks. "We have plans," he says, awkwardly.
Harry spins around again, choosing not to reply.
"Come on," Ron repeats again, reaching forward and slipping his hand into Harry's. Harry doesn't move or make any noise of protest and Ron takes this as consent. He concentrates hard on the distance between them and the prison, on the stone walls and the wards, letting his magical signature slip and slide around the intricate layers and details and potential dangers, letting it identify him and check his intentions, before finally he is able to apparate the two back into Azkaban.
He carefully lets go of Harry hand and they stand in the stony entrance chamber, staring at each other. Harry is breathing heavily, his hair and clothing drenched with rain. He rakes his eyes over Ron's body before laughing softly. "Home sweet home!" he says, flinging his arms out.
Ron blinks, then laughs awkwardly. "Yeah," he agrees. He scuffs his foot on the ground, staring at his toe poking out the end of his shoe, then looks back up at Harry. "Don't keep running out on us like that, you hear?" he says lowly.
The smile dissolves from Harry's face.
"What if something happened to you? What if there was an attack? You're safe within these walls, mate, but as soon as you get out into the real world--"
"I know that," Harry snaps. "I'm not stupid."
Ron takes a deep breath and nods slowly. "Right."
The two stand facing each other for a moment. "Well, I'm going to go and get some sleep, which everyone seems to find so damn important around here. Night," he says abruptly, turning around and slipping through the door.
"It's not true, you know," Ron calls to his retreating back. "What you said about the plans. We do have some."
Harry takes a step back and pokes his head through the door. "Oh, really?" His eyes sparkle with something akin to a cruel sort of playfulness. "And what are they?"
"Well," Ron says, frowning as he tries to think of an example. "We had reports that a large party of Death Eaters had taken camp in the church outside of Beauxbatons, and it was confirmed yesterday. We're going to wizardbomb it."
Harry cocks his head to the side. "Are you?" he asks in an odd voice.
"And what if they're not there? When you, er, wizard bomb this place?"
"Oh, they're there, Harry," Ron assures him. "Trust me. This'll take a hell of a lot off our minds, just you wait and see."
Harry turns around. "Indeed," he says again, before disappearing through the doorway once more.
The clock ticks heavily in the background.
No one speaks.
"I feel like a traitor," Neville says glumly.
"Nonsense, Longbottom," McGonagall snaps, before slipping into silence again.
Someone shifts in their chair and it squeaks. There is a shuffle of feet and someone else uncrosses their legs. Lupin lets out a maudlin sigh and Tonks gazes across the circle at him sympathetically.
"Someone will have to say something eventually," Kingsley supplies.
"How astute of you," Hermione quips, crossing her arms.
Arthur sighs. "There's no use arguing--"
"Well, there's no use us all sitting around like a bunch of twats, either," Fred snaps.
No one responds. George is dead and every word Fred speaks reminds them of it.
"He called me 'Weasley' the other day," Ron says eventually.
Bill rolls his eyes. "And there's no way You-Know-Who would call you 'Ron'--"
"--there's no way Harry would call me Weasley," Ron snaps back.
"You-Know-Who called Harry 'Harry' in the Chamber of Secrets," Ginny murmurs. Everyone looks at her with sympathetic eyes, images of a young girl trapped and terrified in a snake pit filtering through their minds. "He was Tom then, though."
There is a general ripple of unease at the familiarity with which Tom slips from Ginny's lips, but she doesn't seem to notice. Her eyes are locked on a stone in the corner.
"Voldemort called him 'Potter' when we saw him at the Department of Mysteries," Hermione says.
"So basically this whole name thing means nothing," Fred mutters.
There is a murmur of accord.
"Harry might be trying to defamiliarize -- to disassociate with everyone," Lupin says quietly. "One of his main fears has always been that someone will hurt his friends and family in order to get to him. Maybe he's trying to push everyone away so that Voldemort won't go after them."
"What about our private information being leaked? The swings of behaviour?" McGonagall asks severely.
"The last can be attributed to hormones," Moody grunts from his corner.
"He's twenty-two," McGonagall snaps, and then slips back into silence.
"I asked him if he's been having blackouts," Ginny says. "You know, like I did when I--"
"Yes, yes," Moody interrupts. "And?"
Ginny swallows, then frowns. "He looked at me in this completely terrified way and made this weird straining noise. He nodded again and again and then he looked like he was about to say something and then this weird change came over him. He suddenly looked calm and -- and almost pleasant. He said that he was sorry everyone was getting afraid, but he'd just been having some trouble sleeping lately. Then he..."
"He came over and hugged me. It was sort of--" She looks uncomfortable. "It was sort of romantic."
A few thin smiles appear. Ron looks uncomfortable.
"I was strung out at the time and started -- y'know, crying and stuff. He just kept rubbing my back and saying calmly, 'Everything must converge, Gin. It's only a matter of time. Everything must converge. It'll be over soon.'"
"Converge?" Moody asks sharply. "You're sure he said converge?"
Ginny nods and sniffs.
"How odd," Lupin says softly. "It still doesn't mean he's being possessed--"
"The blackouts, though?" Ginny demands. "The sudden change? That's not Harry," she insists. "That's not him."
"Yes, but is it Voldemort, necessarily?" Hermione says, raising a skeptical eyebrow. "It would be perfectly understandable for Harry's personality to go through changes during the war as it adapts to the situations and stress around him."
"Harry has been acting awful strange lately," Hestia murmurs with a frown.
"Yeh -- smacking his head and the like," McLaggen adds eagerly.
"Harry's Occlumency skills are extremely poor," McGonagall states. "And the Dark Lord has talents in this area possibly greater than the world has ever seen. He has tried to insinuate himself inside Potter's head before -- it would be natural for him to attempt it again, especially at this stage."
"It doesn't mean that all this time Harry has really been You-Know-Who," Ginny explains carefully, "just that sometimes the Dark Lord had control of his mind and his actions and stuff. It explains how the Death Eaters got hold of all our plans and why Harry is so exhausted all of the time -- his sudden mood swings, his odd behaviour -- plus the reason he doesn't want to involve himself with us so much. I remember having this sort of subconscious inkling that I shouldn't involve myself with too many other people when it happened to me."
The room lapses into silence as they process the information.
"How long has this been going on for?" Zacharias Smith asks.
"If it is happening, anywhere from a month to three," McGonagall replies shortly.
"How did this happen?" Bill demands. "I thought Harry was getting Occlumency lessons, or something?"
"They stopped at the end of Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts." McGonagall's eyes are hard. "The Dark Lord is a powerful enemy," she adds and Moody nods and mutters vociferous agreement.
"So," Neville says, a note of desperation creeping into his voice, "what do we do now?"
All eyes swivel to McGonagall.
"Mr Longbottom," she says, her lips thinning, "has kindly brought us to our next topic." There is a general murmur of conversation. "But let us have a break for half an hour, or so." She sighs deeply. "I'm afraid I am getting frail in my old age."
The thick globs of paint glimmer softly in the firelight, surrounded by the gold of the frame that has dulled and tarnished. At the time of the painting, it had seemed unnatural and eerie, even to McGonagall herself, but now she is glad of his stillness. His unmoving eyes, his unchanged expression. His still-fresh robes, his modest beard. She couldn't imagine standing in front of a moving Albus again, in this state. In this world. In her failure.
"My humblest apologies," she whispers.
His eyes do not dance. His painted lips do not quirk. Nor does the paint shift to allow a "Now, now, Minerva. There's no need to apologise. I'm the one who forgot you prefer truffles to praline crunches..."
She can feel chin trembling slightly. "I am -- unsure of what my next action should be."
She starts when his left eye twinkles, but her heart settles down again when she realises it is just the embers crackling up in the fire.
"You're not here to help. The Order is falling apart --" She purses her lips to prevent anything as imprudent as a gasp to escape. She lifts her chin up to stare him straight in his glassy eyes. "V-voldemort could be in Potter's mind."
The words hang in the air, shriveling and blackening until they perch thick and heavy on the edges of the portrait. She can't tell if saying the words has made it more real, or more like a sick fantasy dirtying the corners of her mind.
"You-Know-Who is such a superb Occlumens and Harry so weak -- it would be so simple for the Dark Lord to infiltrate his mind." McGonagall takes a shuddering breath. "We've tried to ascertain, but our Legilimency skills are so inferior compared to -- compared to his, there's no way we could ever know for sure..."
Dumbledore's face stays hard and displeased.
"I'm afraid we are in dire need of you, Headmaster," McGonagall says quietly, raising a shaking hand to her brow. "I don't believe there has been a child born with your seemingly infinite wisdom for hundreds of years. For Merlin's sake, even someone with Severus's aptitude would do..."
Dumbledore doesn't blush or pull a silly face or mention that no child is born with infinite wisdom. Something in his cold stare makes McGonagall's mind tick over.
"Severus," she says again.
Dumbledore makes no move to dissuade her or tell her off.
"Severus Snape." She can tell there is a stupid look on her face but there's nothing she can do to wipe it off. "But of course." She stares up at Dumbledore with delight. "You used to call him your saviour." She isn't interested in going into any irony carried within that memory. "Perhaps," she says, "he can be our saviour too?"
Dumbledore would nod with approval, she knows, if he could.
Snape is sitting on a wooden back chair, his head in his hands. Every so often they turn into fists at his ears and his knuckles go white, and he lets out an enraged roar, before slipping into silence again. He hasn't moved from the chair for over an hour but no one is brave enough to do anything about it. McGonagall is the only one in the tiny room with him; the rest of the Order stand crowded around the small window outside.
"Severus," McGonagall finally begins in a low voice, but before she can continue, Snape stands, picks up the chair and hurls it at the wall. The wood splinters into a million pieces and the impact sends shudders through the beams of the structure.
"You had -- nothing. Nothing," Snape thunders. "I was it. I was all you had."
McGonagall adjusts her hat, but doesn't trust herself to speak.
"My priceless position in the inner circle of the Dark Lord himself had all but ensured your victory." Snape looks like he doesn't know whether he wants to laugh or to rip McGonagall's throat out. The crazed look in his eyes suggests the latter and McGonagall takes a step backwards. "Everything was resting on my being there and everything had been sacrificed to ensure my place. Albus Dumbledore gave his life to this effort and now his sacrifice has been made worthless because of your inadequacies as a leader and as a thinker. You don't even understand what you've done, you insufferable cunt--"
"I will not be spoken to in such a way, Snape!" McGonagall snaps, without thinking.
"Potter," Snape continues on without so much as a blink, "is a mediocre wizard at the best of times -- certainly nothing compared to the sickening power the Dark Lord can summon on a whim," Snape spits, his thin lips slick and frothy. "You do not have the numbers, you do not have the talent, you don't have the will or resolve or perseverance--" Snape breaks off to let out another enraged roar that makes him seem more animal than man. "You had absolutely no chance of winning except for me! I was the spy! I was the secret weapon! I was the worm in the apple, I was the needle in the haystack, I was the ticking bomb in the crowded hall -- I was your LIFE!"
McGonagall considers herself a strong woman but she has begun to shake without shame. There is something about Snape -- usually so exquisitely calm and controlled -- frothing, screaming and sweating, the whites of his eyes and the points of his teeth shining ferociously, that is so incomparably terrifying.
Snape shakes his head and suddenly seems to shrink in on himself, shaking his head back and forth, back and forth like an abused child trying to deny what has happened.
"It takes so much out of you to spy," he says lowly. "I have given so much of myself for this war. There is nothing left except the need for it to be over -- and now it is." He looks up slowly and fixes his dark beady eyes on McGonagall. "And you don't even realise." He laughs softly. "You old bat," he says flatly.
The former Head of Gryffindor fingers the wand in her hand, rolling it between her fingers. There must be something she can do. Her mind is blank. She feels suddenly, crushingly, like an old woman.
Snape cocks his head to the side, examining her carefully. "Can you feel the walls closing in around you?" he hisses, taking a predatory step towards her. "Can you hear the bodies being stacked up outside? Can you feel everything darkening, ending, converging?"
"It isn't over yet," McGonagall says, in an effort to sound stern.
"Oh, but it is. Everything is falling in around you," Snape says, his voice taking on mocking quality, "and you haven't even realised yet."
McGonagall swallows. "I have," she says, her voice cracking.
Snape sucks in a breath, clenching his teeth and his fists. "Then," he says, "what possible reason could you have to throw away your last spark of a chance?"
"You-Know-Who has invaded Potter's mind."
Snape freezes and McGonagall feels like the whole world is holding its breath.
"It's the only possible explanation."
Snape continues staring at her. McGonagall keeps her eyes as hard as possible.
"The only possible explanation?" Snape repeats. McGonagall nods and Snape's mouth twists into a deformed smile. "You, madam, have gone completely insane. That is the only possible explanation."
"I will not be dismissed in such a way, young man," McGonagall says in a steely voice. "If you aren't prepared to listen to what I have to say, then you have permission to visit Potter yourself."
"Permission? How kind."
"It is the reason we chose to -- 'make all of Albus's sacrifices worthless' by inviting you here, after all," McGonagall says acidly.
"I don't quite remember being invited," Snape retorts. "I remember a snowy owl arriving right in the middle of a meeting of some of the most dangerous criminals in the world clearly identifying myself as their enemy--"
"What would you have had us do, Severus?" McGonagall snaps.
"What about Albus?
"Albus is dead, as well you know--"
Snape snarls. "The portraits, woman!"
"There are no moving portraits of Albus."
"He had none commissioned and in his will it is clearly stated that he refuses permission to allow any to be done posthumously. He has told us," McGonagall says, her tone getting slightly sarcastic, "that death is the next great adventure, and to leave any part of himself behind would be like forgetting to pack something in your suitcase."
"You lot, you're all as bad as each other--"
"So you see, Severus, we do not have contact with anyone whose Legilimency skills outdo that of You-Know-Who."
Something like triumph flashes over Snape's face. "Except me."
McGonagall inclines her head. "Except you."
Snape flicks his head and scratches his chin, momentarily distracted from his anger by the idea. McGonagall tries not to hold her breath.
"All we ask," McGonagall says carefully, "is that you visit Potter and use Legilimency upon his mind to ascertain, once and for all, whether or not the Dark Lord is possessing him."
"And if he is?"
McGonagall steels herself. "We will take the appropriate action."
"And if he isn't?"
There is a long pause. "We will have lost a vital spy in their ranks and gained one in ours. For if it isn't Potter feeding the information to the Death Eaters--"
Snape waves his hand irritably. "I understood your meaning perfectly, thank you." He walks slowly across the room, his thumb and forefinger squeezing the top of his nose. He stops, his eyes closed. "There's no need for me to visit Potter."
"Has the Dark Lord already told you of his plans?"
Snape nods and McGonagall's jaw tightens. "I knew it wasn't Potter--"
"--and he made absolutely no mention of any plans to use Potter's mind as a vessel for espionage."
McGonagall opens and closes her mouth a few times. "And you're convinced the Dark Lord tells you everything, are you?"
Snape stiffens. "He does." He sneers. "Well, up until this particular moment in time."
"I see," McGonagall says witheringly. "I hadn't realised you were the Dark Lord's closest confidant--"
"Well, it wouldn't have been very helpful if I were only an underling, would it?" Snape snaps.
McGonagall gives a long-suffering sigh and fixes Snape with an intense glare. "You might as well see the boy now that you're here."
Snape stares at her incredulously. "Is that so? Was that your plan, then, to completely ruin every single thing I had tried to attain in my life and bring me down to so low a level that I no longer saw any option but to blindly obey you in your course of madness?"
McGonagall lets his words mull around the room awhile.
"More or less," she replies stiffly.
"He's completely bonkers," Tonks whispers, shivering in the cold.
"He's not so bad," Lupin replies, moving closer to her. "He's had a tough life. And a particularly rough time of it lately."
"He'll probably kill Harry, y'know," Tonks says in a conspiratorial voice and Lupin snorts. "No, seriously. He'll just walk in there and blast his head off."
"Snape's not going to kill him, you silly girl," Lupin murmurs, wrapping his woolly arms around Tonks's small frame. "That's what I have to believe, anyway. Snape's our last chance on this one -- you understand that, yes?"
"Yeah, I get it."
"As soon as Harry goes, we're gone, too."
Tonks nods and pulls Lupin closer. "We might be gone anyway," she whispers. Lupin looks down at her with a frown.
"What do you mean?" he asks softly.
She shakes her head and buries it into his neck. "I always think about -- about how much it would totally suck if our side won but I still managed to get myself killed, y'know?"
Lupin puts his hand softly under her chin and lifts her up to look him in the eyes. "Would you rather survive in Voldemort's reign?" he murmurs.
"If you were there, maybe," she says back, fluttering her long eyelashes.
"Silly girl," Lupin repeats into her ear.
"But I feel like -- like it's going to happen, y'know? Like my days are numbered."
"Don't say that," Lupin whispers urgently. "Don't you ever say that."
Tonks takes a shuddering breath against Lupin's scratchy jersey.
"Hey. Hey," Lupin says, bringing Tonks's face back up again. "You won't die as long as I'm around. Yes?"
Tonks sniffs, her doey eyes flicking tears collected in her eyelashes. "Yes," she whispers back and clutches Lupin as hard as she can.
"He spends most of his time in the oldest cell," McGonagall says, walking briskly. Snape doesn't have trouble keeping up. "We've tried to convince the boy to stay somewhere else, but he insists upon that room. It's the only one we couldn't manage to get the horrible stink out of, which upsets many of the members of the Order, especially the boy's friends. There are bloodstains and carvings everywhere -- Potter insists he finds them interesting but I can't possibly imagine why--"
"Was Sirius Black in that cell?"
McGonagall frowns, her clipping heels echoing down the corridors. "That occurred to me, too, but there's no record of Black ever being held in that cell. He never made any carvings, as far as we know, and he was a relatively quiet prisoner."
"And this is your current place of residence?"
"Yes." McGonagall rounds a corner, Snape swiftly in tow. "It has superb magical dampeners and the strongest Anti-Apparition wards in the country, aside from Hogwarts itself. It took us months to work them into allowing selected members of the Order through and still only one or at the most two at a time. It's a nuisance, but it means that we'll not be facing any unexpected organised attacks any time soon."
"Always a bonus."
They continue on, side by side, for a while. Left, then right. Right again. Down, down. Deeper and darker.
"And you have no qualms about living in a maximum security prison?"
"I prefer to focus my attentions on the 'maximum security', Severus. This is a war, you know," she says, sounding a little indignant. "We have to do the best that we can to remain protected. Some of the younger ones here -- they're still only children, really."
"Indeed," Snape says, mocking McGonagall ever so gently. She chooses to ignore him. "So, what have you told the boy?"
"Very little," McGonagall sighs. "He is aware of your position as a spy and he is under the impression that the pressure became altogether too much for you, and you're retiring to our side for the remainder of the war."
Snape frowns. "You could have made me sound less elderly."
McGongall glares. "Potter laughing at the idea of you in an elderly care facility is preferable to him continuing to brood on your position as a traitor and murderer. Today, he has been told, is a chance for you to establish a sense of civility towards one another, and also a chance for you to test his skills in Occluding."
"Which are next to none."
McGonagall inclines her head. The two lapse into silence one more.
"It will take some adjustment," Snape says finally.
Snape blinks as if he didn't realise he'd spoken aloud. "Fighting from this side of the battlefield," he clarifies eventually.
"You'll no longer have to keep such tight control over what you say," McGonagall says, her eyes scouring over Snape's face. "Something of a relief, I should think."
"Yet, is that so certain? Someone around here is informing the Dark Lord of all your plans."
"Our plans, Severus."
"Your plans," Snape repeats. "Someone here is feeding information directly from the lips of the Order to the ears of the Dark Lord. That hardly qualifies as a situation in which one can 'speak freely'."
McGonagall purses her lips. "I'm hoping that will be resolved within the next few minutes," she says tightly.
"You're hoping the Dark Lord is possessing Harry Potter's mind," Snape repeats, staring at McGonagall as she walks. The former Head of Gryffindor's cheeks darken into a crimson red and she flexes her jaw.
"Well, it would certainly explain a great deal," she snaps.
"I see. It would be convienient for you if the Dark Lord were possessing Harry Potter's mind."
"Not as such," McGonagall snaps hotly, rounding a corner with particular ferocity. "Here we are," she says shortly.
Snape rounds the corner and stops suddenly, eyeing the enormous metal door -- complete with rusting bars -- with fascination. CELL #00001 is printed on the door in large, bold and ominous letters. "I see Potter has turned into a wild beast in the duration of my absence."
"He likes the dark," McGonagall says in a strange tone.
"I'll leave you to it, shall I?" she says, raising her eyebrow. "I'll be waiting in the holding area with bated breath."
"I surmised as much," Snape replies and watches as McGonagall spins around and begins the arduous ascent with none of the frailty or reluctance of an eighty-year-old woman, though her limbs were brittle and her blacked hair streaked with grey. "Won't you stay with us?" he calls sarcastically.
"Prepare to be terrified, Severus Snape," she call back to him without turning around.
Snape waits for more of an explanation but nothing is forthcoming and within a moment McGonagall has rounded the corner and is out of sight. He snorts and turns around to face the door. He sets his jaw and puts his hands up to grasp one of the metal bars, slowly pulling it back...
...to find one Harry Potter: sitting, looking extremely comfortable, at a round stone table in the middle of the room. It is set for two, and there is already a steaming cup of tea in front of an empty chair.
Snape hesitates for only a fraction of a second.
"Expecting someone?" he asks, stepping in and slamming the door shut behind him a little too loudly. Potter doesn't jump -- in fact he barely seems to register Snape's entrance at all -- and Snape is a little disappointed. Five years and -- nothing?
"Just you," Potter says, sounding amused.
"Ah," Snape says. "I see your circle of friends hasn't gotten any larger since I last saw you."
"You're hardly one to be talking about, ah -- circles of friends." There is enough of an edge in there to make Snape raise an eyebrow. He is slightly perturbed at Potter's cool and detached manner.
"May I sit?" he asks mockingly and Potter extends a graceful hand towards the table.
Snape stalks over to the table and pulls the chair back as far as possible and sits down. He picks up the teacup and raises it first at Potter and then to his lips, where he steadily pretends to drink.
"It wouldn't have worked, Severus."
He nearly ingests some tea in his surprise. "Excuse me?"
"Your plan. It would have failed." Potter chuckles lowly. "There's no way you would have fooled Him."
"If you're referring to the Dark Lord--"
"--then I'd advise you not to speak as if His Name were in capitals."
"I--" Snape pauses, then forces himself to chuckle slightly. "You'll not succeed in baiting me, Potter."
"Oh. How unfortunate."
There is something oddly unnerving in the way Potter speaks -- leveled and controlled, every word weighed down with implications and double meanings. Every word laced with the slightest threat, yet the slightest hint of teasing. Snape identifies with a twist of fear who it reminds him of -- certainly not a young brat with enormous glasses and a bird's nest of black hair.
"He always suspected. It was only a matter of time before He disposed of you."
Snape quirks his lips. "Never one for small talk, were you, Potter?"
"Never saw the point, myself."
"I see." Snape places his cup down and rubs his hands together. "I'll admit, I was expecting something a little more -- explosive from you today."
Potter smiles slowly. "Were you?"
"A healthy dosage of self-righteous ravings, coupled with bitter, hormonal tears and ill-formed death threats, perhaps, yes -- but certainly not tea."
"You don't like tea?"
Snape smiles a little despite himself. "I do."
"Good," Potter says. "I'm glad."
The two sit in silence for a moment. Snape casually slips into Potter mind, taking a sip of his tea.
"So soon?" Potter asks with relish. He places his teacup down and laces his fingers across his lap. "Well, if you must."
Snape doesn't say a word as he strides stiffly into the holding area. McGonagall looks up from her book and is silent too, for a moment, trying to allow Snape to take a moment to digest. She can almost see the thoughts turning over in Snape's mind -- Merlin knew she knew exactly how he felt.
"So," she finally says. Snape collapses into one of the armchairs.
"That is not Potter," he says, closing his eyes. McGonagall hums her assent. "Not unless he has finally gone round the bend, which isn't entirely out of the question."
"Is talking with articulation a sign of insanity?"
"It is for Potter."
"Did you use Legilimency on him?"
Snape shakes his head slowly. "The first time, I slipped in carefully and there appeared to be nothing out of sorts. Inane thoughts about Ginny Weasley and after the war. Angry thoughts about Albus and myself. Vague annoyance over the meal served at lunch."
"How calm and reasonable for a young man at the center of a war."
"Precisely," Snape muttered. "The next time I slammed in with full force and hit the hardest mental block I have come across in some time."
McGonagall stares at him. "He used Occlumency against you?"
Snape nods. "Perfectly. Not a trickle of a thought came through. Not one."
A drip of water can be heard in the background. "I suppose that seals it, then."
Snape cracks open an eye.
"Well, it can't be Potter occluding you," McGonagall says.
"Such faith your saviour," Snape murmurs.
"Did you detect any hint of the Dark Lord?"
Snape nods his head. "In every word he spoke."
McGonagall swallows. "What about in his mind?"
"Not yet," Snape mutters. "But I will."
When he arrives at Cell #00001 the next day and pulls back the door, Potter is crying. He is curled in a ball in the corner of the room looking every bit the lonely child and nothing at all like the murdering psychopath Snape has spent all morning preparing for. Snape's various plans -- ranging from telling Potter everything and trying to get him to force the Dark Lord to the front of his mind, to pushing Potter up against the wall and stroking his cock until every single mental defence falls away -- dissipate into thin air.
"Go'way," is all the speaking Potter manages. Snape takes a step forward and slowly reaches out his mind, but without eye contact there is only hair and vague thoughts of resentment.
Potter snaps his head up. "Snape," he says, sounding surprised. "What are you doing here?"
Snape shifts his weight from one foot to the other. "I'm here to test your Occlumency skills."
"You're -- you're here to stop it."
Snape narrows his eyes. "I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about."
"You're here to make it all go away, aren't you? To take it all away--"
"I'm not here to do anything of the sort."
"You are," Potter insists, clutching at the wall and slowly pulling himself up. "You are," he repeats, looking slightly hysterical as he smiles through his tears. "You're here to make it all go away--"
"Control yourself, Potter!" Snape snaps.
"God, finally -- I knew they'd get someone eventually -- I knew they wouldn't just leave me here to rot all alone!" Potter starts stumbling towards Snape, who takes a step backwards. He glares at Potter and slips easily into his mind.
Desperation -- anguish -- crying. Filth. Dirt. Voldemort -- lurking around every corner. Death and destruction -- Snape. Dark and strong and powerful -- hard. Lean. Strong. Protection -- absolution. Snape sitting on the chair, not drinking the tea. Snape kneeling at his feet, murmuring. So strong. Snape's hard arms, wrapped around him, squeezing. Crying. Snape crying -- black tears. Voldemort.
Snape's eyes widen at the mish-mash of thoughts in Potter's mind, but before he has a chance to reply Potter is in front of him -- on him. grabbing at him, pushing him, pulling him down to the ground in a desperate effort to touch him.
"What on Earth are you doing?" Snape hisses as he crashes to the ground, completely taken aback. Potter tumbles down after him, his hands on his robes and in his hair, on his face and on his legs.
"You're going to save me," Potter murmurs, his eyes wide and almost empty.
Safety. Protection. Relief. Snape -- not Voldemort. Snape.
"Potter, get off me--"
"I won't," Potter says almost angrily, "let you go this time. I won't."
"You've gone insane, Potter, cease and desist immediately--"
"No," Potter protests and suddenly with fumbling hands he grabs Snape's outer robes, pulling them apart and frantically starting to undo the buttons of Snape's tunic robe.
"Potter," Snape says in horror, grabbing Potter by the hands and wrenching him away, "what are you doing?!"
"I want --" Potter says, fighting Snape with all the strength of a furious and fit young man, "you to hold me. I want to touch you. God, I--" Snape realises with a start that he has started crying. "I don't know what I'm doing -- God, I can't stop--"
Snape grabs Potter's face and stares him hard in the eyes, pushing with his hardest force through to Potter's mind.
Snape growls and tries again.
He stares in shock at Potter, who wrenches out of his grasp and wriggles his hand past Snape's belt and into his trousers to clutch at his semi-hard prick.
"You're raping me, Potter," Snape hisses, furiously struggling to get Potter off him. Potter stares down at him with mournful, desperate eyes.
"I can't stop," he hisses and a tear falls from his eyes, splashing on Snape's cheek. "God, I can't stop--"
And even though they are green, bright and hopelessly desperate, Snape feels a knot of terror twist in his stomach as he stares back into the eyes of the Dark Lord himself.
Snape stares down into the murky, swirling water, vaguely registering that water one cleans oneself in should be clean itself. He takes a handful and splashes it over his face, rubbing at his eyes and cheeks with a vigour he hasn't felt in a while.
He looks over to the tiny photograph on the floor.
"Everything is turning to dust in our mouths, Headmaster," he mutters.
Snape can imagine Albus's furrowed brow. "Indeed, Severus. It is quite the conundrum."
Snape shakes his head with a sigh and covers his face with foam. He picks up the razor blade, slowly shifting so that he is standing in front of the mirror, and lifts the sharp edge up to his neck. His hand shakes, ever so slightly, and his clenches his teeth. The face in the photograph smiles then frowns, smiles then frowns. He slowly places the blade right up against his flesh and scrapes.
He pauses. The white foam stays pristine and fluffy. He breathes a sigh of relief and begins the process in earnest.
One. "For being born," he says thickly to his reflection.
Two. "For being a sickly child."
Three. "For your insolence as a teenager."
Four. "For your first taste of blood."
Five. "For liking it."
It is a ritual. One stroke for every sin and every fatal mistake he has ever made in his life. On good days he lets falling in love and becoming a teacher slip through -- on bad days, he relives every single painful memory of his past.
Twelve. "For not being able to control your perversions."
He can't remember when he started the ritual -- only that he's never visited the Dark Lord without first having completed it.
Fourteen. "For killing the only person who ever gave you a second chance."
Fifteen. "For not even flinching."
He knows he has nicked himself somewhere and a small area of foam starts to turn pink as it mingles with the blood.
Seventeen. "For the blood on your hands."
This time a pause. "For the atrocities you will commit against Potter."
Albus frowns disapprovingly from the photo frame.
The small collection of books saved from the rubble of Hogwarts library and the various houses of the Order members could be described as meagre at best. Snape isn't even sure there is a spell quite like the one they are looking for, but when Lupin, McGonagall and Hermione had come to his bolted bars that morning and asked for his help with research, he couldn't quite think of an excuse quick enough to get out of it.
"There is not one word in any of these books that could possibly be of any use to us," Snape spits, slamming the tome he is currently reading shut.
Hermione frowns, flicking a page in irritation. "If we could somehow trap Voldemort while he's in there--"
"In where? Harry's head?" Lupin looks sick.
"I'm sure I read something about it ... I mean, he has to be getting in somehow, doesn't he?"
Snape narrows his eyes. "A mind is not a house. There is not a door to let people in and out."
"I know, I know," Hermione says dismissively. "But say there was ... we'd just have to shut it, wouldn't we?"
"You cannot just agree to something and then immediately contradict it in your following sentence--"
"Hermione might have a point, you know," Lupin says, sounding tired.
"Of course she has a point. I was merely stating--"
"Yes, thank you, Professor. I understand." Snape has never been so politely interrupted before.
"I'm absolutely certain I've come across the solution before," McGonagall says, furrowing her brow in concentration. "Dealing with possession and mind-control was still in the curriculum when I was a student -- that was a very long time ago now."
Snape stares at her. "How incredibly helpful."
"What we need," Hermione says, glaring at Snape, "is some sort of spell to trap invaders."
"There's a spell here," Lupin murmurs almost inaudibly, "to 'Ensnare Spirits that Maketh Afflickshins of The Minde'".
"The Dark Lord isn't a spirit," Snape points out, but is ignored.
"The Castore," Lupin reads aloud, "conjures the mindeforce upon the Victym whom the Castore believes hath the habite of kuntaining evil Spirits, whereupon the Victym's eyes glow red in moste instinces, and in sertun cases, as if on fyre. The castore mey, at this point, be satisfyed that all evil Spirits are kuntained within the Victym's minde, and caste the Ending Spelle."
"That sounds promising," McGonagall says.
"Aside from the fact that it sounds like you have to kill the person to get rid of whoever is possessing them," Hermione says sarcastically.
Lupin and Snape carefully avoid looking up.
"Miss Granger," McGonagall begins, but stops as a look of shock stretches across Hermione's face.
"No!" Hermione shouts, leaping up from her chair. "You can't be serious."
"The Prophecy was open to many interpretations, Hermione, and one always was that Harry would have to die to be rid of Voldemort forever," Lupin says soothingly.
"Well, find another interpretation, then!" She looks between the three with pleading eyes. "You can't just sit here, calmly discussing the murder of your friend!"
"I'm sure Potter himself has prepared for it," Snape says. "Perhaps he even wishes for it."
"Harry doesn't want to die!"
"He may, when he realises what it will do for the greater good," McGonagall adds.
Hermione stares at her three former Professors' calculatingly calm and reasonable expressions and bursts into tears.
When Snape slips down the cool stone steps to Cell #00001 for the third time, he is prepared for a sobbing Potter, clasping at his robes and demanding apologies and absolution. He is also prepared for a cool and calculating Potter, sipping tea with his pinky finger outstretched and his eyes glittering with forbidden knowledge. Whatever the case, he is most certainly prepared for the ghost of the Dark Lord lingering in Potter's subconscious.
What he is not prepared for is a Potter who is almost completely bald.
Snape stops and stares at the pale, mottled skin and prickly bits of hair where Potter has missed a spot. His head is completely littered with bruises and odd shaped scars. The lightning bolt on his forehead no longer stands out, but blends into the crowd of shiny, smoothed and stretched skin.
"Potter," he murmurs. "What have you done?"
Potter clenches his teeth and his eyes water slightly. "Something is inside my head," he hisses.
Snape swallows, an odd pang going through his chest.
"I know that's why you're here, you know," Potter continues. "I'm not fucking stupid."
Snape is at a loss for words. "Indeed."
"And I know that no one is going to tell me anything about it. Never mind that it's my fucking head, or my fucking life, or anything like that. You're just going to work away like busy little bees until you come up with a solution -- what are you going to do, blast my head open and hope whatever's in there will fall out?"
A mental image of Potter's head falling open and Voldemort sprawling inelegantly on the floor graces Snape's mind and he tries hard to keep a straight face. He's a sick man. He knows it.
"What has given you the impression that something is inside your head?"
"Blackouts," Potter says. "People acting really strangely around me. Not knowing, at any given time, how I'm going to react to a situation or what I'm going to say or how I'm going to feel..." Potter trails off. He takes a shuddering breath. "I know it could be Voldemort," he says bluntly.
"And I know you don't want me to know that because you want to keep track of him as long as you can and as soon as he realises that I know he'll probably just stop, especially now that he knows whose side you're really on and how good your Occlumency skills really are..."
"I wouldn't say that those are the exact thoughts the Dark Lord is currently entertaining about me at this time," Snape says.
Potter lets a small smile grace his face at the same time as a tear gathers in his eye and escapes down his cheek. He looks away and bites his lip, running a hand over his porcupine-like scalp.
"I know," Potter says in a barely audible voice, "that you might have to kill me."
Snape's eye twitches. He says nothing.
"You can, you know. Kill me, I mean. If you have to."
Snape rolls his eyes.
"I know you think it's all over for us, anyway," Potter says loudly. "I know you think we're all doomed."
"And how do you 'know' this, exactly?"
Potter shrugs. "I just do. I know a lot of things. Like about your shaving ritual before you visit Voldemort and about your resistance to both the Imperius Curse and the Cruciatus curse and how your father used to beat you and my father used to tease you about it--"
Snape's voice echoes around the small cell.
Potter flinches, then shrugs and turns away. "It's kind of strange, knowing so much." He pauses a moment. "Not knowing where it comes from is the strangest part, but knowing all of these details is just -- uncomfortable." Potter sighs. "I guess that's how Dumbledore must have felt, huh? Strange. And -- kind of rude."
Snape flicks a hair out of his face and grinds his teeth. "That's rather an odd way to look at wisdom," he says.
Potter shrugs again. "I guess."
"Your information is a result of your connection with the Dark Lord. Albus's knowledge was due to a -- superior intellect. I do not believe he felt guilty about it."
Potter scratches his head and sighs. "There still may have been times," he says softly, "when he knew things he wished he didn't."
Snape pauses. "Undoubtedly."
"I'm -- sorry," Potter says awkwardly, after a time. "About what I did."
"'What you did'?"
Potter frowns. "I -- forced you. Into doing -- things. With me." Potter blushes profusely. "I remember."
"Ah," Snape says. He lifts his index finger up to his mouth and trails it lightly around his lips, seemingly subconsciously. He'd thought about this a great deal the previous night. He knows if he plays this right, he'll have Potter hard and moaning in no time, his mind wide open to any attack.
Not even Voldemort could control a mind during the onslaught of complete arousal.
"It has always been a talent of mine to avoid obligation, you realise."
"Oh," Potter says, confused.
Too subtle, Snape thinks, angrily.
But a look of comprehension slowly dawns on Potter's face. "Oh," he says, looking shocked.
Snape smirks. "Oh, indeed."
Potter's gaze slips from Snape's face to trail down his body and then snaps back up again. Perfect.
The room seems thick and muggy. The darkness becomes suggestive.
"I might hurt you," Potter whispers.
"I might hurt you, Potter," Snape murmurs, taking predatory steps until Potter is backed up against the cold stone wall.
Potter lets out a whimper. "Please."
Snape smirks and raises his hand up to Potter's face, slowly slipping into his mind.
Arousal -- fear -- excitement. Snape, on his knees in front of Harry, swirling his tongue around Harry's cock. Dumbledore's face as he flies off the battlements. Guilt -- fear -- horror-- arousal. Snape, hot and sweaty and groaning deeply as Harry nips and bites at his neck. Snape sneering at Harry on his first day at school. Anger -- resentment -- arousal -- need. Snape with long, pointed fangs, advancing on Harry with a dark cloak, a glint in his eyes and straining prick in his trousers. Hermione and Ron with perfectly matched looks of horror. Guilt -- anger -- love -- confusion. Harry with his hand wrapped around his cock -- Snape's hand. Snape's hand wrapped around his own cock. Snape on top of him, thrusting into him, muttering obscenities into his ears -- filthy little boy, so tight. Hot arousal. Snape bent over a ragged rock as Voldemort fucks him from behind -- shock. Arousal -- fear -- agony. Dead bodies in piles, pain in his scar, fear and betrayal -- the cold stone walls of Azkaban, Sirius...Snape. Sirius and Snape, moaning and fisting each other's cocks. Pain -- anguish -- arousal -- guilt -- Voldemort's glinting eyes, Voldemort's scaly skin, Voldemort's oozing mind...
Snape growls and takes a step closer, pinning Potter to the wall with his pelvis and tries again.
Nothing. He grinds his hardening prick into Potter.
"Let me in, Potter," he hisses.
"I can't," Potter whimpers. "Please..."
Snape runs his hands up Potter's chest and tweaks his nipples hard at the same time as he makes a circular motion with his hips, stifling a groan as his cock makes the most delicious friction against the hardness in Potter's trousers.
"Fuck," Potter gasps, "just -- fuck, need to come..."
"Let me in, Potter," he repeats, making quick work of the button on Potter's trousers and slipping his hand to grasp Potter's cock tightly. Potter moans uncontrollably, thrusting into his hand with unabashed need.
"Nnnngh," Potter gasps, licking his pink lips ever so prettily as he loses control. "Yeah, fuck me, Snape--"
"Open your mind," Snape hisses.
"God -- I can't, I can't, I can't," Potter chants. "Fuck, don't stop, don't stop -- so close --"
Snape lets out a guttural groan as Potter's wildly bucking hips start grinding against his cock.
"Do you want me to fuck you, Potter?" Snape whispers harshly into his ear. "Take you and claim you until you're screaming for more?"
"Fuck, yes," Potter sobs and comes into Snape's hand, and with it comes an onslaught of passion and power, and the tail ends of the Dark Lord as he slips gleefully back into the corners of Harry's mind.
"I suppose this is the best we have," Snape says at last, massaging his temples. "Now that we know the Dark Lord is most definitely in there..."
Lupin's chin starts to quiver and he slumps down, headfirst, onto the table.
"What the matter with you?" Snape barks.
"You are suggesting killing the closest thing Lupin has to family," Hermione hisses. "I'd say that's a pretty big matter."
Snape raises an eyebrow. Hermione crumbles. "Tonks is missing," she whispers.
"Don't worry," Lupin grunts tightly from the depths of his jersey. "I know she's dead."
Hermione's face pales and every thing that isn't bone starts to shake and crumple.
"And you're not worried by this?" Snape asks. "Lupin, you're more disgusting than I thought--"
"I'll be joining her soon enough," Lupin says softly. He laughs morosely. "We'll have a celebration when Harry arrives."
Snape meets Hermione's eyes over the table. He has nothing to say to that.
"Is this the plan, then?" Hermione demands, laying her hand on Lupin's back, tears streaming down her face. "Is this it? Is this the end of it all? Saving wizardkind by murdering my best friend?"
McGonagall clears her throat. "Severus will visit Potter one final time, to ensure everything is in order, then he will report back to us." She looks at Snape across the table. "Then, yes. That is the plan."
"How long has Snape been in there?"
"Bout an hour."
The various members of the Order are standing huddled outside Cell #00001.
"What d'you think he's doing?"
No one answers.
"I can't hear anything. Are the walls soundproof?"
Hermione shakes her head. "They wanted to make sure the prisoners could hear the others' suffering."
"Charming," Kingsley says in a deep voice.
"Did you hear that?"
"Yeah, I heard--"
"What the hell--"
"I'M GOING TO KILL YOU, SEVERUS SNAPE, FOR EVER DARING TO BETRAY ME--"
"Is that Harry?"
Suddenly the door to the cell bursts upon and Snape strides out, his robes whipping out behind him in a whirl. "If any of you were in doubt," he hisses.
"COME ON, SEVERUS!" the voice bellows from within the cell, enraged and inhuman. "COME AND FACE ME LIKE A MAN! HOW LIKE THE SNIVELLING SNAKE THAT YOU ARE TO SLITHER AWAY INTO THE DARKNESS! SUCH A COWARD!"
A bead of sweat from Snape's head drops onto the stone ground as he pounds his feet away as quickly as they will take him. The others stand mutely at the door, staring at his retreating back as he storms away.
"I'LL NOT STOP UNTIL I CAN TASTE YOUR BLOOD ON MY LIPS, SEVERUS SNAPE! IT DOESN'T MATTER TO ME IF EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD ON THIS GODFORSAKEN EARTH DIES - I WILL FIND YOU!"
Kingsley steps forward and hastily slams the door shut.
McGonagall holds Ginny to her breast as she sobs.
"I will enter in there. I will cast the spell. If his eyes flicker red, I will kill him, and this will all be over."
The room is silent.
"Do it," Hermione hisses.
Snape nods his head and spins on his heel.
The door clangs loudly behind him.
* * * * *
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