Chapter 32 : Chapter Thirty-Two - Severus
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I woke with a start an indeterminable time later. The past few minutes or so, I had felt a brush against my sleeping thoughts, as though something was trying to gain access without waking me. The only good thing about my present situation was that I was on my most vigilant guard, though I had not expected anything to come of it. The Death Wish had effectively banished me to my father’s tomb in an attempt to make me join him for eternity, and I thought that was the end of the matter. However, now that I was fully awake, I felt a foreign presence immediately that had my protective magical boundaries screaming for attention. Somehow, I was no longer alone.
“Who’s there!” I commanded, standing up and summoning my light to me once more. A quick visual sweep of the space revealed nothing, but then I noticed that the strangeness lay not with something the light could reveal. Near the opposite wall was a patch of shadow that would not clear no matter how brightly I increased the strength of the light. Seeing the inexplicable darkness made my right hand itch for my wand. To conserve energy, I reduced the magical light to a mere candle flicker. I sat back down and kept a wary eye on the patch of shadow.
The assault came so suddenly and strongly that it nearly broke through my mental barriers. As it was I regained control only at the last moment and repelled the invading force with all of my might. Jumping to my feet again and watching the patch of shadow, I saw it swell for a moment before it receded to its previous size. Then I heard words. I say this because it was not a voice that spoke them. Voices do not sound like the scrape of iron against shale.
Your defences are impressive, though they do not accomplish what you wish. They merely reveal the depth of your power. It will be delectable breaking you.
I heard the metallic words not in my mind, which was still strongly bulwarked, so it must have been with my ears.
“Who are you!” I called out.
Who? Who indeed … That shall be up to you, of course, the words replied icily. But the more polite response would have been to identify yourself first. Who are you to be in my home? An old acquaintance of the deceased, perhaps? Feeling nostalgic and desiring a walk down memory lane? If that is the case, I shall most happily oblige you.
The words faded with a grating hiss that sounded disturbingly like laughter. The area of shadows swirled and grew until it was as tall as I was standing. The darkness compounded until it was thick, black and bubbling like boiling tar. Then it abruptly fell away, and a figure stepped out. Though I was doing my best to remain calm and strong, my magical light was quavering from the amount of will I was expending on my mental protection. The trembling light cut through the darkness to reveal what looked like a half-decayed corpse stumbling towards me. Though the ravaged features were indiscernible, the clothing it was dressed in was not. I glanced quickly into the sarcophagus and was actually much more disturbed to see that my father’s body was still there than I would have been if it had been moved and reanimated as the apparition before me.
“This is what he looked like when I moved in … Hopefully he had seen better days.” The words now came from the apparition’s rotting mouth, though the “voice” was still the same metallic scraping.
“Perhaps you knew him when he was this Septimus Snape person, eh?” the voice said. Completely unbidden, an image of my father looking as he had in my childhood, haughty and proud, rose out of my memory. The apparition’s next attack unfortunately came at that exact same moment. Thinking about my father for that single instant had raised the old childhood emotion of equal parts hatred and terror and had momentarily weakened my defences. The unknown being was only able to glimpse that brief mental picture of my father before I slammed shut the walls of my mind once more, but it had been enough.
“Ah … More like this, then?”
The corpse-figure turned disjointedly on the spot, and in an instant I was staring at a perfect likeness of my father. I struggled with all of my might to force down the panic that had risen up the back of my throat the moment I saw those cold, hard eyes. Though it was slightly disturbing to see my father seemingly in the flesh once more, I was a grown man and not so weak that the mere sight of him would bring me this sort of fear. The fear came from the sudden knowledge of what I was dealing with.
I was completely sealed in with a Revenant.
Revenants are one of the most dangerous Dark creatures in the entire world. Though they do not possess the razor-sharp fangs of a chimera, the violent, brute strength of a dragon, or the poisonous sting of a manticore, they have a power even worse: they are completely self-conscious. Revenants know exactly what they are doing, and when they perform an action, it is with full knowledge of the resulting reaction.
An evolutionary twist on the Dementor and the Boggart, the Revenant has the singular power of invading the minds of its victims to torture them into madness. Whereas Dementors devour their victims’ happiness, Revenants are sustained by the supreme suffering of humans. Revenants hold the power to change their shapes at will, though usually into something the victim fears, as with a Boggart. Creating a double assault on both the visual and mental fronts, the Revenant’s goal is to keep the victim alive for as long as possible to extract the most sustenance from forcing him to relive his worst memories over and over. And this was what I was now facing. Without a wand.
I took a full measure of the visage before me. The Revenant had had only that one glimpse of my father to go on, but it had recreated him perfectly. From the expensive clothes that were nevertheless slightly shabby from constant wear, to the signature sneer of displeasure, my father now stood before me, in essence, alive again.
Dropping the linen shroud from me, it’s voluminous folds suddenly becoming more of a hindrance than an asset, I stood to my full height.
“It will take more than a parlour trick such as this to break me,” I sneered in return.
The Revenant smiled cruelly and raised an eyebrow. “Ah … You fancy yourself brave, do you? Oh, but, you’ll have to pardon me; I don’t have the voice quite right yet, do I? I’m sure it will come soon. It’s only a matter of time until I can start dining on those delicious thoughts of yours.”
It looked around itself and continued in its hollow, harsh voice, “What we need in here is some light so we can truly see each other.” It clapped its “hands” once, and the tomb was suddenly filled with a bright light that was blinding to me after being in the near darkness for hours. I shielded my eyes with my hand until they adjusted. The Revenant waited patiently with its hands behind its back. Once it realised I could see, it spun theatrically and looked at its reflection in the polished granite wall.
“I must say that I’m seeing a certain resemblance here …” it said, turning my father’s body this way and that, as though it were trying on a suit in a store. It smoothed down a few invisible bumps in its long, black hair before turning back to face me. “An old family member, perhaps?”
I remained silent and stood with my arms crossed. This was certainly going to be a problem. I highly doubted my father had planned on this, but he would have been most pleased if he could see me now while he looked up from Hell. I suppose at this time I should have started to feel hopeless terror over my most likely imminent death, but I was too busy trying to keep a firm grip on the present to worry about the near future. I was unsure how long I would be able to sustain my mental barriers, but that was the key to how long I would survive. If the Revenant truly wished, it could turn itself into a werewolf or hippogriff and simply rip out my throat. However, the odds of that happening seemed unlikely. This Revenant appeared to have been waiting for prey for quite some time and would not want to waste me. As long as I kept my wits about me, I was safe.
I sat back down and wrapped myself in the shroud once more. The Revenant was right in that meaningless brave gestures from me would remain just that. My only hope now was to keep my strength up until help arrived. I had to keep acting like I had been before the Revenant awoke. If I thought that I was doomed, then I certainly would be.
The Revenant seemed slightly dismayed with my sudden withdrawal and paced aimlessly around the tomb. Besides that single glimpse of my father, proving to the Revenant that I had known the tomb’s owner at some point before his death, it had nothing else to go on. It could not torment me and bring forth mental tortures until it knew what would work. So, I sat as comfortably as I could and focused all of my energy on keeping my magical barriers steady and solid. When I grew thirsty, I pressed my mouth against the trickle of water on the wall. What I really needed was food, but that was not available. Ignoring my cramping stomach, I picked a spot on the floor to focus on and meditated, ignoring the Revenant who sat on the edge of my father’s sarcophagus and watched me silently.
I wondered how it had been able to take up residence in my father’s tomb without me being aware of its presence before now. It was true I only visited the property once a year, and then it was always at the opposite end where my mother’s grave was situated. I supposed that even if there had been any signs of Dark magic when I walked past here to get to the house, I would have written them off as an after-effect of the Death Wish curse. In truth there could have been signs, but I was so adamant in ignoring the curse that it was likely I simply blocked them from my notice.
Though I tried my hardest to remain focused, thoughts of Avrille would occasionally force their way into my mind, as aggravated at being ignored as she would be herself. Every time these thoughts surfaced, I shoved them brutally back into the deepest part of my memory. If the Revenant wanted to truly drive me mad, then Avrille would be the key.
Hours passed. I dared not sleep now, and the bright light would have made that impossible anyway. Whenever I felt light-headed from hunger, I filled my stomach with water instead. I maintained my vigil, my strength and power seeping slowly away like grains of sand falling one by one through the pinch of an hourglass, as the Revenant circled me like a vulture.
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