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Chapter 30 : Tangled and Trapped
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-Don't scream, don't scream, don't scream,- he had said then, and said now; the words spilling from his mouth without his thought. Playing his part.
The Mind Reader stood beside him, watching.
"No?" The monster asked, coming closer, a hand on the bed, leaning toward him. "Did I not make enough of an impression?"
Dubhán hadn't really known what 'impression' had meant and he remembered the way the boy had scoured over the words while he had made them keep looking.
"You made an impression," the boy had finally said. He had deemed it safe to repeat the word back, although he still hadn't really known what it meant.
"Then why weren't you dreaming of me?" There was a bemused cruel sort of laughter at the edges of the monsters voice that had not matched with his ugly appearance.
"I didn't want to play with you," he had said and the sharpness would have cringed at the childish words if he had known the difference. Inside their head the sentiment behind the words had been fierce, and not yet really knowing about human language, that had been what he had gone on.
The monster had smirked.
"When we play next time, it will be for real," Voldemort had said, rising and heading for the door, "and you will scream for me."
The monsters hand was on the knob. The words in the boys head.
-Don't say it. Don't say it. Don't say it!-
But he had, just like before, just like now.
"No, I don't think I will."
They had seen the monster turn to look at them; red eyes and meanness. Then the boy had feinted and he had been plunged into darkness alongside him.
They emerged from the darkness into a small dirty room. The ground was packed dirt. Three walls were made of magically enhanced fabric, the third magically created metal. Dubhán was seated on a bed that was really just a low wooden table. His feet were bare, his face was dirty with a thumb print on his cheek, and his hair mussed. He could not remember the boy ever being like this...
-What are you doing here?- He asked them, balancing his head on the caps of his knees, arms wrapped protectively around himself.
The Mind Reader didn't seem startled in the least, but he jumped at being recognized.
-Looking for you,- the Mind Reader murmured, looking around. -Why are we here?-
-Do you know where here is?- Dubhán asked. He reached out a hand, and his sharpness came to him without a word. His fingers curled into the fur of the wolf.
-A very deep part of your mind, obviously,- Snape murmured, walking around the small cell. It was not the answer Dubhán had been seeking, and so Snape turned to him and shook his head in answer.
-Then he's never thought nothing of you,- he said, simply. He carded his hand through his sharpness' fur.
Snape laughed - deep and rumbling and full of hate.
-I assure you, the Dark Lord has often thought nothing of me.-
Dubhán shook his head.
-He thought little of you, maybe. Maybe you escaped before he thought nothing - but you weren't around him when he thought nothing of you, or you'd know where we are.-
-We're in a holding cell,- Snape said, half to clarify and half to show that he did know. -Why are we here?-
-I was here once - for real,- he said, and he wiped at his face, smearing more dirt. Snape marveled at the detail that the boys mind conjured in his head; wondering if it was the persistence of childish imagination or some talent the boy had. -I'll be here again, won't I? Except this time, there won't be a third chance like you said. This time, he'll have untangled us and he will hate me like he hates everyone, and he will put me here.-
Snape paused as he often did when confronted with a situation he felt ill-prepared to deal with. A caring adult would carefully reassure him using words like 'safe' and 'don't be afraid', but Snape was not a caring man at all and he had never been able to look a child in the eye who was afraid of someone and tell them not to be.
-You are more intelligent than I thought when I said that,- he said instead, forcing himself not to sneer. -It is true. It will not be as it was before. You will not save yourself by the means you saved yourself last time.-
Snape still did not know what it had been like for the child, but small things like the boys health and intelligence and the fact that the Dark Lord had obviously desired these things to remain or else he would not have ordered an expensive previously-thought-to-be-impossible potion to be made, told him enough.
The boy looked up and untangled himself so that his legs dangled in front of the bed. His hands were pressed onto the hard wood, and his body was leaning forward with a desperate expression upon his face.
-What will save me, then?-
-You. This time it will be you who will save yourself. You will decide if what you have to do will be worth it.-
There was a frown etching itself onto the boys face, as if he were recollecting something.
-If I'm dead - he'll hurt her. I'll do anything not to die.-
-Then why are we here?-
-What do you mean?-
-You pulled away. Why are we here if you're still interested in fighting?-
-That is what you have been doing for the last four years, is it not?-
The boy frowned again and there was something like respect shining through his eyes; not because Snape was respectable, but because he had said things those closest to him did not dare voice and feel the truth in.
He nodded and the boy nodded.
-Then when you see him again you will do what is necessary to fool him.-
-How do you know I can?-
Snape looked around. Looked at the wolf sat on it's hind legs as it stared at him, looked at the metal of the door and the magic of the fabric walls.
-Because, if you hadn't already than there would be no reason for this place to exist.-
The child nodded again.
-I'll show you how to get out,- he said kindly, and stood from the bed. His bare feet made little impressions on the packed dirt as he made his way to the door. It opened beneath his fingers and he strode into the narrow hallway outside. He turned left and Snape was startled to find that there was actually somewhere to go. A 'safe room' inside of ones head was common among people who knew how to protect their mind, but they were usually just that - a room. The depth and complexity of the boys safeguarded mind were more complex than he had seen in a long time. Suddenly he knew why Geoffrey had hidden the boys talent.
-Be quiet or you'll wake them,- the child whispered, as he led him through the narrow hallway. Snape did not understand until they passed by the next cell. A small boy was huddled in the corner, whimpering. There were others - many others - who slept or stared sullenly at them or cried into their hands. It wasn't until they were almost at the door that Snape actually heard any words.
"Hey kiddo!" Someone said, and he turned to see a man trying to stretch his hands through the bars to grab at Devlin. "You shouldn't be here. Isn't it funny? You're there and I'm here and he doesn't even know!"
-It's not funny,- Devlin said, but that was all he said, before he was unlocking a heavy bolted door, and Snape was out into the world beyond. He half expected the meadow, but it was more dirt and more tents that met his eyes instead.
-Where are we?- He asked, stepping into the sunlight camp.
-My battleground,- the boy said, looking side-long at him through the dirty fringe of his hair. There was no noise here and walking through what should have been a bustling place (he was sure of it), made him feel as though he were dreaming. He made his eyes roam around, memorizing.
The boy led through the camp until finally they had reached the end. There was a large tent set up at the back, the flaps closed.
-Don't go in there,- the boy said, when he noticed him looking. -He's in there.-
Even in a dream or the boys mind, Snape did not fancy facing Voldemort - and so he walked past the tent until they felt a prickling on their skin - warning them that they were approaching the edge of the wards.
-How will we get out?- Snape asked, knowing by now that every aspect in this child's mind was built on logic and reality. The wolf came up from behind him - silent still - to stand next to the boy at the edge of the wards.
-We sneak out,- the child said, as if this was perfectly logical. If they weren't in the deepest recesses of the child's mind he might have thought better than to tell him this, or show him this, but this deep in everything felt like the rightful part of a dream and one did not so much question things such as trustworthiness. It probably did not hurt that the boys own wolf had brought him here. He glanced at it again and wondered why it was silent now.
The boy bent low to the ground. Out of a pocket that shouldn't have fit it, he produced a wand. The boy was murmuring, his voice soft and slippery with a secretive serpentine edge. He watched, but of course he did not understand. The boy was speaking another tongue - the tongue Potter used to get him invaluable venom from beasts no wizard in his right mind would normally touch, the tongue Voldemort used to order his snake to devour a victim. The boy was a parseltongue. Outside of the child's mind, when he went to sleep, he would look back and wonder how something that had obviously been left from Voldemort had traveled through Potter's blood to the boy.
There were no alarms. No sound of shattering glass. Instead there was a mere second that the outline of a small door glowed as Devlin cut the wards.
-Come on,- the child said, motioning Snape to get on his knees. Snape followed him through, his body more nimble than it would ever again be with the weight of reality upon it.
They entered into the meadow and the boy stood up. The sharpness raced in the amber grass, as if it had never seen anything better, and the boy laughed and raced after him, shrieking in the way only a child could. His clothes were no longer dirty rags but a cape made of dragon hide and boots the same, an expensive linen tunic, and crisp trousers; he looks like a boy someone valued instead of the boy someone thought nothing of.
He came to stand before him, breathless.
-You can leave from here, I should think,- he said.
-I would think,- Snape replied, puzzled. -Will you be alright?-
The boy tipped his head, as if he could sense that Snape was not a man meant to care about such things. For a moment he looked like his grandmother, who would give him that look only to deny reality and shower him with smiles that he did not deserve.
-Yes,- he said, but there was no smile waiting for Severus and he simply nodded. He was a man now. He had made his choices. No one would look at him as Lily had when they were children. He pulled himself out of the boys mind.
The boy was sipping at his tea when he lifted his head off the table, gasping for breath. His green eyes lingered on him and Snape marveled at the color change.
"Are you alright?" Potter asked, half-rising from his chair. The boy hadn't moved. His features were tight and controlled; the weight of reality seemed to make him much older.
"Fine," he said gruffly, pushing Potter away and stumbling to his feet. He glanced once more at the boys unsmiling face. "I have potions to brew."
"I should think you could show yourself out from here," the boy said, tipping his head just enough to make sure Severus knew he had been cognizant too - or perhaps the boy was trying to figure out if Snape recalled as well. Either way his response probably did not fulfill the boys wishes - he swept out of the room.
He was sitting at the top of the stairs, in another pair of ridiculously bright sleep clothes, waiting for her. He can hear him. With anyone else, they wouldn't expect him to know, but he knows, because he hears everything just the same as him.
"Go away," he said. Geoffrey sighed, but continued down the hall towards him.
"What are you doing up?" He asked and when Dubhán glanced towards his face it was to see the expression he expected. The expression that he had worn every time Dubhán had padded into the shared sleeping quarters in the middle of the night in his slippers and cloak. Dubhán wasn't coming to him, though and the expression made him want to growl. He wasn't the little boy anymore and he wasn't the Dubhán either - he was yet again something different. He knew he was pushing at Geoffrey the way he had pushed at the memories of his parents all those years ago, embracing Voldemort's disgust because they hadn't been able to help him. Desires were worthless things that just made you hold your breath and wait; Dubhán had learned there was no time to wait.
"Go away," he said again, harsher.
"Tell me what you're doing. I know which room Potter sleeps in."
"You're not my keeper anymore," he said, disdainfully. He felt his chest ache for Geoffrey even as his mind told him to push harder. No one here liked him. Grandfather did not like him. What use was he to Dubhán in this game?
"No," he said, slowly. He came closer. Leaned his body against the upper banister and looked down into the hallway. "I'm not. It's freeing rather than limiting how I interact with you, Dubhán."
"Shut up." He moved his eyes back to the front door.
"You told the Auror's something Potter didn't expect. I overheard Sirius talking to him about it."
"They shouldn't talk around you."
"I'm a prisoner. Don't worry; they will kill me if they think I have means to get information to the Dark Lord."
"I won't feel bad about it if they do," he said, the ultimate push. He twisted his face into something cruel to keep the sobs inside. His chest pulsed.
"You're not like him, you know," Geoffrey said, his elbows supporting his body on the rail, eyes ahead rather than on him, voice that casual tone that always meant he was trying to tell Dubhán something that Dubhán ought not know. Although Dubhán supposed no one really controlled what he should and shouldn't know, anymore. "The oldest Death Eaters - they say he was always like this. There was something different about him from the beginning."
He resisted the urge to point out that he had never met a child like himself before. It was a rather limited argument since the last time he supposed he had really regularly 'met' children was when he was six.
"I spent four years trying to figure everything out about him I could," Geoffrey said, still too casually, still too calm. Dubhán failed and looked, but Geoffrey was stronger - his eyes were still ahead of him.
"No one understands him like me," Dubhán said firmly, because it is like his scars - not exactly pleasant but credit for something he gone through and come out of successfully.
"I wouldn't make such a claim, so quickly," he said, very softly. "Potter's actually been in his head, afterall."
"What do you mean?"
"I heard Black and the Werewolf talking about it - Potter sometimes has visions as if he is Voldemort - not dreams. These things happen."
Dubhán had never heard of such a thing, but he didn't like how close it came to being tangled up in Voldemort's head. That was his place. He did it for a purpose. It was supposed to protect him. If Potter was all tangled up in Voldemort's head but...
He knew it wasn't the same. He couldn't precisely point to why it was different, but it was. Potter might have tangled himself up in Voldemort's head, maybe, but it was Voldemort that had tangled Dubhán.
"He doesn't understand him. He didn't understand the plan wasn't his."
"Have you actually talked to Potter about Voldemort? How can you know, unless you do? There are things even Voldemort doesn't understand about Potter - there was a-" he leaned closer, his lips barely moving, "prophesy about them."
His head whipped around to stare at Geoffrey.
It was at that moment that the front door opened. Geoffrey slipped into the hallway again. Alexandra entered into the downstairs hallway and Dubhán sat frozen, new thoughts zooming around in his head.
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