Chapter 43 : Chapter Forty-Three
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She ignored the cries of protest from the people behind her and tried to catch the eye of the welcome witch. “I need to find my husband,” Camilla began. “His name--”
A harassed-looking witch with mousy brown hair and glasses raised an annoyed eyebrow at Camilla. “Go to the back of the line.”
“Please, he was brought here and I have to find him,” she pleaded, brushing her tangled hair away from her face.
The witch pursed her lips. “Go to the back of the line and wait your turn like everyone else.”
“Listen,” Camilla snarled, reaching across the desk and grabbing the witch by the wrist. “I need to find my husband. Now!”
The witch--Helga, as it was stated on the front of her robes--wrenched her arm away and glared at Camilla. “Who do you think you are? I should have you thrown out of here!”
Camilla gripped the edges of the desk and stared down at the witch. “I think--” She began softly, every word dripping with venom. “—that I am Severus Snape’s wife. And I think that if you don’t tell me where he is, then I will have to curse you!”
The entire lobby gave a collective gasp at the sound of his name. Helga’s eyes became as wide as saucers as she stared, open-mouthed at Camilla. She began fumbling through several rolls of parchment. “Er…yes, he—he is being held—I mean kept--” She swallowed slowly, looking up at Camilla. “What I mean to say is that you will find him on the third floor.”
“Thank you,” Camilla said, running toward the lifts, every eye following her with fearful wonderment.
She entered the first lift she could find and pressed the number three what felt like at least a hundred times before the doors closed. As the lift began to ascend, she took a lock of hair and absentmindedly began chewing on it.
She wished someone could tell her what was going on. All she had received was a hurriedly scribbled owl from Jon, saying Severus had been hurt and taken to St. Mungo’s. He didn’t say what had happened, only that he was ‘still alive.’
She pushed the number three again and willed the lift to go faster. Tears began to burn in her eyes as she imagined what could have happened to him. She only hoped that she wasn’t too late…
The lift doors suddenly opened, revealing a large plaque that read: “Third Floor: Potion and Plant Poisoning.”
Camilla swallowed and slowly exited the lift. She stared at the plaque and shook her head. Poisoned? He’s been poisoned?
She turned and hurried down the narrow corridor, desperately searching for someone in charge, someone who could tell her what was going on, but there was no one in sight. She quickened her pace and flew around the corner, running face-first into a plump, short old witch with a sour face.
“Watch where you’re going,” she hissed, brushing past Camilla. As the woman headed for the lifts, Camilla could hear her grumbling under her breath. “Imagine keeping a known Death Eater here with my grandson. The Ministry will hear about this.”
“Excuse me!” Camilla cried, running toward the witch.
She turned around slowly, eyeing Camilla with a great deal of disdain. “And what do want now? Would you like to knock me down as well?”
“You said they’re keeping a Death Eater here,” Camilla began, trying to catch her breath. “Do you know where?”
The witch’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”
Camilla thought for a moment. The bitter old hag would not be likely to divulge Severus’ whereabouts if she knew his wife were the one asking. “I’m a reporter for the Daily Prophet. I agree with you that this is quite the scandal. I would love to…er…take a closer look.”
The witch glanced up at Camilla for a moment. Smoothing her blue curls with a stubby hand, she straightened up and whispered, “Room 309. I haven’t had a look at him yet, but from what I hear, he may be dead soon, so you’d better hurry.”
Camilla’s heart skipped a beat. “Th-thank you,” she muttered, before turning to sprint down the adjacent corridor.
She had just passed Room 302 when she heard it. A loud, tortured scream was coming from the end of the hall. There was no mistaking it. She knew to whom the voice belonged.
“Severus!” she cried, flying down the hallway, tears blinding her vision. And for the second time that night, she ran straight into someone else.
After catching her breath, she looked up into the soft brown eyes of her old friend. “Jon!” She threw her arms around his neck and sobbed into his shoulder.
He rubbed her back and said, “God, Camilla, I’m so sorry.”
“I’ve got to see him,” she said, pulling away from Jon and staring down the corridor behind him.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Jon said as another scream pierced the air.
“Severus!” she cried, pushing past Jon.
“Don’t, Cam,” Jon urged, grabbing her around the waist to pull her back. “Let the Healers work.”
“Let me go!” she screamed, fighting desperately to disentangle herself from Jon’s grip.
“Cam, please! You don’t want to see what’s behind that door.”
She struggled to pry Jon’s arms off her, but he was far too strong. She let out a frustrated scream and collapsed back against him. Two wizards in lime green robes came rushing toward Jon and Camilla, their wands raised.
“What in the name of Merlin is going on here?”
Jon relaxed his grip for a split second, long enough for Camilla to break free and sprint toward the double doors at the end of the hall. She ignored the shouts of protest behind her and flung herself into the room.
Time seemed to have slowed down as a dozen pairs of eyes registering surprise and curiosity became fixed on Camilla as she tumbled into the room. There was a group of witches standing at the far end of the room with parchment and quills in hand, apparently taking notes. The rest of the Healers were gathered in a circle around the bed in the center of the room. They looked up for only a second before a gruff voice muttered, “Get her out of here.”
One of the witches at the back of the room laid down her quill and parchment and approached Camilla with a condescending smile. “You’ll have to wait outside, dear.”
Camilla ignored the witch and approached the bed slowly. She could not understand why there was no sense of urgency in the behavior of the Healers. They all seemed to be standing around the table, observing their patient with detached, almost scholarly interest.
Camilla squeezed in between two wizards and peered down at the bed. A small cry escaped her lips at the sight of him. He was lying face up on the bed, looking as pale as the sheets he lay on. He was thrashing back and forth and mumbling incoherently. Beads of sweat covered his forehead, and as Camilla pushed through the crowd to get closer, he began to scream again.
“NO! Don’t hurt her! Take me instead! Camilla!” His eyes rolled back in his head and his body began to convulse.
“Severus! I’m here!” she sobbed, laying a hand on his cold and clammy cheek.
A tall, imposing wizard took Camilla by the arm and pulled her away from the bed. “Madam, you need to leave now.”
“That’s my husband!” Camilla cried, wrenching her arm away. She began to move toward the bed, but the wizard grabbed her from behind, pinning her arms to her sides.
Camilla screamed and struggled to free herself.
Suddenly the door flew open and Jon entered, looking livid. “Let her go!”
The wizard released his grip and shoved Camilla toward Jon. “Get her out of here.”
Jon took her hand and led her out of the room. She could hear the Healer muttering an incantation to seal the double doors from any further intrusion.
Once outside, Camilla felt her legs begin to give way. Jon caught her and led her to a nearby chair. She collapsed into it and began to weep softly. “What the hell happened to him?” she whispered.
Jon pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. Camilla looked up at him. He looked very tired, as if he’d lived a lifetime in just one night. She couldn’t imagine the things he had seen and, if she were honest with herself, didn’t want to.
“He was poisoned, Cam.” Jon leaned back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling. “See, it wasn’t enough for him just to die. They didn’t want him to go quickly. They wanted him to suffer. And I’m afraid they succeeded…”
Camilla sat for a moment, staring dumbly at the floor. Her heart skipped a beat as Severus began to scream again. “Why is he screaming like that?” she asked in a hollow voice.
Jon shook his head. “I’m not sure, Cam. I think that potion—whatever it was they gave him—is causing him to hallucinate. He’s seeing things that aren’t real, things he fears. He keeps yelling about someone hurting you. No one can make any sense of it.”
She bit her lip and stared at the warded double doors, tears silently rolling down her face.
“I’m sorry, Cam,” Jon whispered, taking her hand and squeezing it.
The weight of the horrible news finally proved to be too much for her and she began to wail. Waves of sorrow broke over her, strangling her, boxing her in until she felt like she would suffocate under the burden. The realization that she could lose him tonight was too much for her to take.
“I can’t! I can’t!” she howled, jumping up from her seat and desperately searching for the exit. Her vision was blurred by her tears and it felt as if the room were spinning. She clutched her chest, feeling the air leave her lungs as Severus resumed his anguished cries.
“Cam, are you okay?” Jon was behind her, holding her arms, keeping her on her feet.
“I have to go. I have to get out of here,” she panted, squeezing her eyes shut. She suddenly felt nauseous. The need to escape was becoming exceedingly more urgent as each minute passed.
He slipped an arm over her shoulder. “Okay, we can go up to the fifth floor and get you some tea.”
Camilla nodded blankly and allowed Jon to steer her toward the lifts. He pushed the button and smiled down at her. “Don’t worry,” he said gently.
She let out a bitter laugh. “Yeah, no problem.”
“Sorry,” he muttered. “I don’t really know what to say right now. How to make it better…”
She glared up at him, her voice suddenly turning cold. “Why don’t you say what you usually say? My husband is worthless and I shouldn’t waste time even thinking about him, right? I’m sure you’re delighted to see him this way. It must give you so much satisfaction to see him suffer.”
Jon blanched. “What kind of a man do you think I am? The man you love is in there suffering, dying, and you think I’m sitting back and enjoying it?”
“You never liked him, Jon. You made that perfectly clear.”
“No, I didn’t,” he admitted. “I still don’t particularly like him. But I was wrong about him. He loves you. And after what he did tonight--”
Jon paused as the lift doors opened to reveal a young man with messy black hair and unmistakable green eyes standing next to a redheaded girl who was dabbing her eyes.
“Harry,” Camilla said, her eyes widening in surprise, “what are you doing here?”
Harry Potter stepped off the lift, turning to give a weak smile to his companion, who took his hand and followed him into the corridor.
“Where is he?” Harry asked, his voice sounding hoarse. There was a tortured hollowness in his eyes as they met Camilla’s. She knew instantly that he had lost someone he loved tonight.
Camilla pointed at the room from which the heart-wrenching cries emanated. Harry walked purposefully toward the door, Ginny Weasley trailing behind him. “Harry,” she said in a small voice, “don’t…”
He stopped at the double doors, his shoulders slumped. He clenched and unclenched his fists as he listened to Severus’ howls.
“Harry, let’s go,” Ginny urged, taking his arm.
Harry moved closer to the door and inclined his head to listen.
“What are we doing here?” Ginny demanded. “After everything that happened tonight, I’d think this would be the last place you’d want to be.”
Harry didn’t look at her; he kept his eyes focused on the door when he said, “He saved our lives, Ginny. If it weren’t for him, I would’ve never been able to get to Voldemort. Now it’s finally over.”
Ginny let out a bitter laugh. “Yeah, he saved us. But he couldn’t save Hermione, could he? And what about my brother?”
Harry stiffened. His fists were clenched again as he turned to look at Ginny. “That’s not his fault.”
“No?” Ginny’s hands were on her hips now; her jaw was clenched in anger and Camilla could see the tears brimming in her eyes that she was trying desperately to contain. “He murdered Dumbledore, Harry. Have you forgotten that? Maybe if Dumbledore had been there, none of this would have happened…”
Harry turned back to the door and gripped the frame. “No one’s forcing you to be here. Maybe you should just go home.”
The redhead looked taken aback. “You don’t want me here?” She suddenly sounded deflated and small.
Harry sighed, letting his head hang. “Go, stay, do what you want. But I’m not going anywhere.”
Ginny’s nostrils flared slightly, but she said nothing. She turned and, with a flip of her red locks, marched to the lifts.
Severus was screaming again and Camilla’s nausea soon returned. “Please, Jon,” she implored, covering her face with her hands, “I can’t take much more of this.”
Jon pulled her close to him and began to turn her toward the exit and then suddenly stopped dead. Camilla looked up at him. He was staring at Harry, who was standing in front of the double doors, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open.
“What is it, Harry?” Camilla asked.
“I think I know how to save him,” Harry said quietly. He no longer seemed aware of Camilla and Jon’s presence.
Camilla exchanged a look of confusion with Jon. “What are you talking about?” she asked.
“I’ve got to go,” Harry muttered, running toward the lifts.
“Wait!” Camilla called.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Harry said from inside the lift. As the doors began to close, he added, “I hope I’m not too late.”
Several hours earlier, Severus found himself looking into a pair of icy blue eyes he had hoped to never see again. Bound tightly to a pillar in a dark and eerie corner of the Department of Mysteries, he was helpless to prevent the events that would soon unfold. He could only hope that he had given Potter enough time.
Narcissa circled him, her hood drawn up over her face. “Severus Snape--” she began, “traitor, murderer…” She paused for effect, leaning close to whisper in his ear. “…and, I must say, a dreadful excuse for a lover—what shall I do with you?”
Severus eyed her, a slow smirk spreading across his face. “It’s a pleasure, as always, to see you, Narcissa. Who should I thank for giving you the boils?”
Narcissa’s hands flew up to her face. “Your wife,” she hissed.
Severus’ smirk grew into a grin. He felt a sudden surge of pride for his wife. She couldn’t cook or make a potion to save her life, but she had enough talent to turn a beautiful woman like Narcissa into the monstrosity that stood before him.
He felt a sudden pang of regret when he realized that he would probably never see Camilla again. He was going to die. He knew that now. He had made peace with his own mortality years ago. But that was before her. Before this vibrant, beautiful, and incredibly stubborn woman inserted herself into his life and refused to let go.
She loved him. After everything, after the lies, the betrayal, the long absence, she still loved him now, possibly more than ever. Why had he ever been arrogant enough to believe he deserved her? Now she would become a widow because she had been foolish enough to love someone like him.
“Do you know where we are, Severus?” Narcissa asked.
Severus glared at her, but did not reply. He could guess what was studied here, but preferred not to think about it. Various sharp instruments hung from the ceiling, the room was permeated with an unnatural feeling of hopelessness and despair.
“Well,” she continued, a malicious gleam in her eye, “I believe this is where they study human pain, Severus.” She looked around in appreciation. “It’s no small wonder they keep this place a mystery. I doubt the Wizarding world would approve of wizards performing such experiments on each other.”
“Rather barbaric for such a delicate woman as yourself, is it not?” Severus inquired.
Narcissa smiled. “Oh, I don’t intend to use any of these.” She ran a finger over the hanging instruments, causing them to clang together like cymbals. “But I’m sure that after time, you will find them extremely useful.”
Severus rolled his eyes. “Dispense with the dramatics, Narcissa, and do what you came to do.”
“As you wish, Severus,” she said pleasantly, retrieving a vial of glowing green potion from the sleeve of her robes.
Severus stared at it, his eyes growing wide in fear.
“I assume you know what’s in this vial?”
“Of course,” Severus snapped. “I invented it.”
“Indeed, it is an ingenious concoction. You should be proud of such an accomplishment,” she said, holding the vial up and swirling the potion around. “Imagine a potion so full of Dark magic that it makes your deepest fears come to fruition. At least in your mind, that is.”
“I’m well aware of the effects,” Severus snarled.
“I wonder what it is you’ll see,” she said thoughtfully. “I know if it were me, I would see my sister being murdered.” She pulled out her wand and aimed it at Severus.
He writhed in pain from her well-aimed Cruciatus Curse. She lifted her wand and grabbed a fistful of his hair. “What did you do to her?”
Severus winced. “Your sister is fine.”
“Liar!” Narcissa shouted, raising her wand again. “You will pay for what you did to her.” She uncorked the vial and tightened her grip on his hair, pulling his head back. “I could kill you right now, but I would rather watch you suffer. You are about to die a slow and painful death, going mad from the hallucinations of your worst fears.” She pried open his mouth and poured the potion inside. “I, for one, can hardly wait.”
A/N: I warned you things would get bad. : ( Thanks for reading and reviewing. You all are the best!
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