|Scene Title||Dark Room, White Knight|
|Synopsis||Severus asks Voldemort to make sure the captive in the basement is a mudblood. Surprise, surprise, she is not.|
|Location||Riddle House: Voldemort's Study and Dungeon Room|
|Date||Feb 12, 1996|
|Watch For||Shadow gets his first crucio. Elegant plans.|
WARNING: THIS SCENE CONTAINS GRAPHIC VIOLENCE AND DESCRIPTIONS OF INJURIES. RATED HARD-R. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
The skies around Riddle House seem to be perpetually covered in some kind of misty grey misery. This evening, an unseasonably warm wind off the sea has brought freak thunderstorms to several parts of the island nation. Flashes of lightning illuminate a ground still covered with snow and frost. Spurts of hailstones mix with the wind and thunder to provide an eerie kind of music. It fits the melancholy of this house, so long steeped in death.
It fits the melancholy of the creature at the window, too. No longer in possession of enough humanity to be called a man, he nevertheless remains very male. Broad shoulders that are almost always drawn back in a King's regal bearing look slumped and narrow, one colorless forearm braced against the side of the window as he stares out into the night. The still and stoic image is ruined a moment later by a wince. Not even the hail and thunder together can drown out the screaming. Always before he has been able to ignore it, but tonight it is as if the very air is charged, crackling with tension and energy and a strange sense of foreboding. It does not bode well for his mood.
The thunder, loud and low, rings in Siobhan's ears until she can't hear her own screaming anymore. Her world is small, now. She does not remember what it was like to feel no pain. Her captor lost almost all his precious specimens, so she must pay the price. She must replace them all. Questions pour into her ears - how how how how how… She has seen what her own body looks like on the inside. There is no way to control the mouth like that. Her only recourse is the Occlumency she learned oh so very long ago now. Her entire self - thoughts, ideas, feelings, language, all of it - is locked tightly in layers and layers in the back of her own mind. The creature on the operating table is no longer Siobhan Noble, but a wild thing covered only in her own blood and screeching in the language of the merfolk.
Rarely does Severus Snape enter this master's domain unsummoned. However, he knows time is more precious than even his nerves at this point. He strides in, some of the decision of earlier worn like a mantle. He is respectful but unyielding. "My Lord, if you have a moment, I need to speak to you." He keeps his eyes lowered, dual reasons for all he does.
Perhaps there is something more to learn, but Shadow is not learning it here. Information is not forthcoming. All of the others, all his treasures, spoke reams of information when he tortured them. This one seems to have found a way to avoid it. He cannot abide this. So, tonight may seem about information gathering, but for the dark-souled Shadow, tonight is pure torture. He holds the wand steady, lips in a thin line as the curse just pours from him again.
Arching up off the table, Siobhan strains against her restraints as the strongest muscles in her back all seize up together in a twisted rictus. The motion stretches open the gash across her abdomen, shifting her insides in a wet way that makes her want to vomit even after the spell is released. Despite the wounds, despite the agony, there is no gushing of blood to let her die; only a slow ooze trickles - weakening her still further. Just as she can see the ragged edges of muscle twitching - as if to induce the stomach they no longer surround to expel the last bits of bile that are left - there's an addition of electricity to the air around her and inhaling through her broken nose, she would swear to smelling the sea over her own gore and filth. It's enough to make her smile. Looking to her tormentor, she tries to tell him that he's pushed too far this time, that she is finally dying; finally out of his reach. The series of harsh screeches and high-pitched creels that come out, however, very likely mean nothing. Letting go, she relaxes against the table and gives up control, her magic flooding outward to seek what it can almost feel.
Rubbing one hand against his other arm, the creature that once was Tom Riddle glances over his shoulder at the interruption. He doesn't need to; Snape's voice has become almost as familiar as his own over the years. One more harsh scream makes him tense, but the following silence is a blessed relief - even if it does make the air seem to thicken and pulse. "What is it, Severus? I have no patience for trivialities, today." Even his voice sounds tired. There is no pomp and circumstance, tonight.
"My apologies, My Lord." Though Lord Voldemort has said he has no time for trivialities, Severus decides to ask a leading question anyway. "Another Mudblood?" He lifts his head just a little, not enough to meet the man's eyes, but enough to look beyond him toward where the screaming seems to be based. "I had heard a rumor, My Lord, and I felt I needed to have it confirmed or denied. I do not normally listen to such unfounded tripe, but should this rumor even hint of being true, it could cost us more than I believe we could bear to lose." Severus holds his breath. He feels like the peasant before the king, awaiting the scepter to rise — or fall.
Shadow, optically and magically gauging every single reaction this woman has, tilts his head inquisitively when she relaxes, even slightly. "What caused that reaction, hmmm?" He whispers, voice soft and dark. He looks to see if there are any physical changes. He misses the magic reaching toward the door. For now.
Shifting from his leaning stance against the window, the Dark Lord cracks his neck - the motion accompanied by far too many little snicks for a human neck - and glances over at his familiar. The large serpent is just as restless as he, slowly undulating in endless coils over the floor by the fire. "Yes," he answers the first question shortly. "An experiment that could prove invaluable in battle." Or so he has been told. Rolling his shoulders, the lean and powerful wizard begins to pace - slowly, regally, with his hands clasped behind his back - only to glance at his spymaster with narrowed eyes. "I could use the entertainment," he responds after a long, searching stare. There are ways to enter the mind without using words after all. It's a good tool to throw the opponent off-balance if they never know which glares contain more. "What is the latest madness I must endure?"
The sounds of thunder and hail seem so quiet, now. So very far away. Exhausted and depleted beyond measure, Siobhan lets her eyes slide closed, the smile of utter peace still twisting her lips. After days of endless agony, she'll welcome death. There is no white light nor rush of sound, but she can smell the sea. She can feel cool water brushing against the base of her skull, soothing her. If death means her mate, this wild thing will welcome it with open arms. This acceptance frees her sunshine and spurs it on, the gentle warmth radiating out in all directions as if the broken woman on the table were a tiny sun. It passes the door, the ceiling, the floor, the walls. It bleeds out into the wood and stone, soaking some of this melancholy place with her warm and simple peace.
"I heard a rumor, My Lord, that the very screams you hear are not the screams of a filthy Mudblood whore or bastard, but that it may indeed be pure scion of an Ancient and Noble Family. Perhaps their only scion." Severus leans forward a little. "It would be a poor lookout for us to allow harm to come to those families who have members among our very ranks." It is not the case, but it damn well could be, as careful as Shadow is being about the blood status of his guinea pigs. "One version of the rumor included at least one member from our very own Slytherin house." He allows his face to become frustrated. "I am, by nature, very protective of my Snakes, My Lord, as you well know. If there is a chance that one of my charges is among those being harmed, I must attempt to do something, even if I do not wish to bother you on such a … quiet evening." He senses the sunshine nearby, and his heart breaks at his inability to rush to her side, to fuel her fire, or to cool it. Through a heroic feat of iron will, he keeps the heartbreak from even showing in his eyes.
Shadow cannot have her dying on him. "No. You're not allowed to die. I haven't learned what I need to." He begins to cast light healing spells on her: enough to keep her at the knife's edge of life and death, but not enough to give her back any sanity or coherence. Her reactions will tell him what he needs to know. The rest is immaterial. She can't go breaking things on his head again.
The frustration in his face makes Siobhan laugh. With her eyes closed, she can't see the grisly way it makes the blood shimmer and dance on her skin. The healing spells start to pierce through her cocoon of peace and freedom, bringing the reality of her agony more into focus - enough that her face crumples, a low keen of misery escaping her torn lips even as the broken fingers of one bound hand clench into a misshapen fist. And yet, despite the pain, the sickness, the insanity … she can still smell the ocean, still feel the edges of cooling waters as her magic leaps forward to twine with its mate. The combination of pain and euphoria is exquisite agony, bringing her mind just that much further from the realm of sanity.
Lord Voldemort pauses in his pacing, bracing his forearms against the back of his 'throne' in a lazy, languid pose. Resting his chin on his wrists, the second-most powerful mage of his time considers this information. For the first time in a very long time, there is less of the teenager-obsessed madman and more of the charismatic leader that first drew the wizarding elite to his side. "My Shadow knows the lines he may cross." What remains unspoken is the 'and those he may not'. "You were right to bring this to my attention, Severus. A charge such as this would be grievous, indeed… However," he straightens and looks 'down his nose' at one of his oldest servants. "I can prove these rumours false. Come." Unused to the idea that one of his servants would so openly defy him, the Dark Lord spins on his heel, robes flaring out behind him as he strides with purpose and command toward the corner of his dungeons where Shadow is permitted to do his … valuable work.
Severus follows with only an uttered, "Yes, My Lord." His hand remains on his wand. Not because of danger from Voldemort, but because he has no clue what kind of things the bastard has done to his mate. He purses his lips, and steels himself for the hardest thing he's ever done.
Shadow growls at the laugh, and pauses in the healing. However, when she keens, he chuckles softly himself, as though they were discussing the weather over tea, instead of exposing her inner soul with magic and torture, and returns to the task of keeping her just alive.
Tom knows these hallways like another man - a happier man - knows the contours of his lover's body. It takes him no time at all to navigate the maze of stairs and passages that take them to exactly where he intends them to go. The door at the far end of the hallway is thrown open with a flourish. "There, you see, Severus? No scion of our House here." And yet, when the Dark Lord turns his gaze from his servant outside the room to the one inside it, even he is given pause.
Tom Riddle - from his earliest memories to his full adult power - always prided himself on the subtlety of his persuasion, the fact that he could bend a mind, a body, even a soul to his will without even so much as a scratch. Truly a serpent-child, he finds beauty in pain that comes from superior intellect or artfully-dispensed power, not through brute force. To him, the sight of the creature on the table is a tragic waste - though not for conventional reasons. Her face is broken in several places, swollen and bruised. Her right shoulder is dislocated and stretching the skin at a grotesque angle. The right wrist is broken, the fingers of both hands snapped into misshapen positions as well. She is left no dignity - not even rags - because it would interfere with the gash splitting her frame from navel to sternum. Whatever magic has been used on her keeps her insides from spilling out, but it doesn't stop the slow ooze of blood that trickles down the outside of her hip. There is another incision - smaller and rectangular - in her left thigh, showing an entire section of femur to be simply … missing. As if magic's source might possibly be inside the very marrow of her bones. She writhes in a slow kind of pain and her eyes - trying to focus on the change in her tiny world - are glassy and wide, pupils completely blown. Inhaling deeply, he cannot quite identify his sense of unease, but there is magic attached to this victim that smells … irritatingly familiar. A spasm of pain makes her twitch her broken wrist and a flash of emerald catches his attention. With terrifying swiftness, his voice becomes like ice. "David," he purrs in a record-breaking loss of temper, "Would you be so kind as to introduce your guest? I don't believe I've had the … pleasure."
The closer they get to the room, the more tense Snape becomes. His Master may consider it to be because he does not get along at all with Shadow. However, the truth of the matter is that he is very worried what his magic may decide to do. He keeps a steel wall around it, even reaching in for memories that will freeze some of it a little bit. There is a risk here, greater than any he has yet faced. However, the new-found resolve in his core from his recent meetings seem to fuel something in him. He will succeed.
Shadow is surprised. He has spent most of the time down here doing as he pleases with no oversight. It was one of the reasons he loved working with the Dark Lord so well. However, when his 'boss' appears, and with that half-blood scum in tow, Shadow inwardly snarls, but puts on the face of the obeisant. "My Lord. This is a surprise." He oozes politeness and propriety. "And Snape." There is a slightly less pleasant tone to his voice, but only just. It's as though they have not arrived in a room full of torture and horror, but at a home of gentility and safety. "This is one of my test subjects, My Lord. I cannot always remember their names." He knows it's a failing ploy, but it is a ploy that must be tried.
"That was the wrong answer, little shadow." Voldemort hisses out a sibilant spell, producing his wand of yew from within the folds of his robes and for the first time leveling a Cruciatus as his most secret; his most valued. "Perhaps that will revitalize your memory." There is a snideness to that comment that is almost funny. Stepping to one side, the Dark Lord nods toward the broken creature. "Is she the source of the rumour, Severus?" The question may very well be surprising; Lord Voldemort does not lightly admit to a mistake. Just now, however, he seems entranced by the tiny ring of silver wrapped tightly around what used to be the ring finger of the victim's right hand.
Incoherent and screeching plaintively in broken mermish, the girl on the table grits her teeth against the pain, though her sunshine magic finds its focus in its mate and envelopes him in heat and light and love.
Shadow growls through the pain, and then he straightens up. "I believe her name is Siobhan, My Lord." He hopes that is plenty to pacify him, but not enough to get himself in trouble. He cannot believe that his Lord threw a cruciatus curse at him.
Severus blinks. "My Lord, I had a Slytherin who graduated last year with that name. She became the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in September. I had been spending time with her to speak to her of my views, in a careful, planned … " He pauses, the sunshine reaching toward him and wrapping him tight. It's difficult — extremely difficult — to hang on to the ice and steel in the presence of the sun's rays. His magic screams at him to let it free, to blend with the bright rays, even though they are overlaid with blood, pain and madness. They are still his mate. He allows a small tendril to twirl carefully around a single ray, then draws it away again, hopefully before either man notices. It is suffused with love and worry. It may not be enough, but it's all he has to give right now. He realizes he let his words trail off, and focuses on the men in front of him again. "… conversion. She would have been a coup. Her whole family is Light, but she has been ostracized on all sides for her serpentine ways. She was ripe for the change. Now, however, should she survive…." He, with the hardest effort he's given thus far, schools his face into a sneer for Siobhabn's state, and continues. "She will immediately run gamboling into the care of the Light and never consider the legacy of her House." He risks much by ranting thus in front of the Dark Lord, but it is a calculated risk.
The games in the Mad King's court are fickle indeed. It wasn't but mere months before that Snape had been nothing more than an out-of-favor tool who had depleted his range of usefulness - Shadow the most favored, the most trusted. It is ironic, then, that Shadow is the one bent over in pain and Severus is the one to whom the Dark Lord turns. Garnet eyes are thoughtful, conniving, planning. "She is the one you used to buy your way back into that fool's good graces." Never let it be said that Tom Riddle is slow of wit. "David," he sneers the name toward the other man. "You will wait in the empty wing of the house until I decide whether or not I want to look at you again." Because the cost of this lie could be very high, indeed. "Severus, come to my study once you have salvaged what is left of this … Siobhan. A means must be procured to correct Shadow's error." And with one more aggravated stare at the girl's right hand, the Dark Lord spins on his heel and pushes past Severus. The sounds of several - probably expensive - things breaking upstairs does not bode well for his temper the rest of the night. Or week.
With a - hopefully unseen - face pulled at Snape, David mutters a sullen, "Yes, My Lord," and slinks off to the empty wing to read, plot and determine what to do to get back at Severus Snape.
Severus nods, keeping his face impassive and his mind clear. "Yes, My Lord." He bows his head as the man leaves, and turns toward the table. He waits a long moment for the men to leave, sends a tendril of magic to make sure they are gone, and then releases the locks on his magic. He lets the magic flow from his wand and from his fingertips. He begins to speak softly. The words may seem like nonsense, as they are a recitation of things he's done while she's been gone. However, they form a soothing background to the magic attempting to heal, reattach, seal, replicate. He pours potions from his pockets into her mouth, waiting long enough between each to see their effects. It will take a long time, and most of his stamina, but Severus Snape will heal his mate, infusing his magic and love around every tender scar.
This voice is familiar. This voice is safe, it means warmth and affection and something stronger, deeper, more raw and primitive. The magic that washes over her is like soaking in a hot bath after a long day. His murmured litany is answered by a soft creeling sound, deceptively smooth for mermish. One sound repeated again and again and again, as if she has only it to cling to. It's broken up by whimpers of pain as broken bones are knitted together, as out-of-place-joints are re-aligned, as gashes heal and even at the tender growth of new bone in her leg. Her body is - and likely always will be - covered in scars. It is no longer smooth and perfect. Even her magic is battered and beaten - a dying giant the color of blood, so dim it risks flickering out forever. In the end, her pupils are still blown and she cannot say anything except the monosyllabic creel she keeps repeating, but when the restraints are loosed, she can and does roll to her side, shivering and curling into the source of everything good in her new, tiny world.
Severus remains for as long as he can, continuing to hold her, touch her bare skin carefully, and speak words of encouragement, love and affection. He checks the hall, finally deciding to leave a magical sentry outside while he tidies up the room, trying to remove any traces of Shadow's presence. Perhaps when she becomes sensate again, she will feel more human.
Siobhan soaks up the too-short moments of warmth and affection, finally burrowing deep into the robes draped over her and inhaling deeply of his scent. The transfigured bed - small and spartan though it may be - is at least cleaner and softer than the blood-soaked table it had been. Finally, finally, with his hand touching the side of her face, she falls completely out of consciousness and into the deep slumber of a body under stress. Though just a tiny bit of sunshine winds around his wrist bones like a soft, warm bracelet.
Lord Voldemort is not known for his patience. Despite knowing the extent of the girl's injuries - and how much of an effort it would be just to keep her alive - he is already pacing the floor of his private study, Nagini tracking his movements with her head as she soaks up the heat from this fireplace, too.
When Severus sees her fall asleep, he smiles, the first smile to touch his face in days. He sighs, twining a small bracelet of his own water like a little glowstick tube around her wrist, setting a small warning in it. If she wakes unexpectedly before he leaves, he'll know. It also will explain the touch of her magic on him. He leans over, kisses his mate on the forehead, and turns, allowing the sunshine on his wrist to detach but not completely dissipate. He trudges slowly back up to the room where his master awaits. Entering it, he nods, his respect and sighs. "It is done, My Lord. I have done what I can." He remains in a bowed position for a long few seconds then raises his torso, careful to keep his head lowered. "She will survive, however, her body will be littered with scars."
Snape's entrance is given a hard stare. Tom notes the change in silhouette and barks out a harsh and chilling laugh. "A conjured blanket wouldn't do?" His tone is openly mocking, but the serious nature of their predicament soon wipes the mirth from his inhuman face. "And her mind?" Because that will make the difference between one plan and another, for certain. "Which family does she belong to?"
Severus looks down again, Voldemort's humor hitting closer than he can allow the man to know. "I am, my Lord, as you have noted, often excessive in my tasks." He hopes it is enough to cover his slip. "And she is one of my Slytherins." His reply to the next question is not as lighthearted. "She is a Noble, My Lord. Of Balmorrow. Her father, Sir Michael, is an esteemed member of the Wizengamot. She has several brothers." He runs a tired hand down his face. "I am unsure of her mind. Perhaps with time she will recover most of her faculties, though she will carry scars there as well." As they both know extremely well.
The monster pacing behind his desk snorts with mocking laughter. "Yes, you always did wish to be the white knight, didn't you?" Not that anyone would be able to see where he pulled that from - Snape isn't exactly the 'shining armor' type, after all. "With the family home at Torchwood Estate, correct?" That is food for thought. "Sir Michael refused to offer his support, but he was surprisingly … genteel in his refusal." He actually thought about it - agreeing with some points and debating others with a skill and thoughtfulness that had made an impression on the young Mister Riddle. He had been unused to seeing such self-possession from a Gryffindor. "I am sorry it was his daughter caught in the web." Not necessarily sorry that it happened, mind. Just that it happened to her. "His influence spreads across many arenas." Which means this will not be an easy thing to ride out if handled wrong. "Tell me she is as yet unmarried." Which may be the creepiest thing he could possibly ask.
"She is committed to an American man of some means, my Lord. It is a recent thing. Her parents arranged the match." Severus is so glad to be able to mention Jake, or at least the man she's promised to. It is a great cover. "Yes, milord. Torchwood. Sir Michael is an extremely well-spoken man. I have found him to be one of the more tolerable members of the family, beyond, of course, our guest." The comment about Severus being a white knight makes him flush just slightly. "Yes, milord. High aspirations indeed." There is a self-deprecating hint in his voice, so that if the Dark Lord would rather take the .comment as a slam to himself than an honest remark, he may.
Sharp crimson eyes drill holes into Snape's, studying expression as well as posture and maybe even brushing against the very surface of his servant's mind. Folding his arms over his chest, the Dark Lord leans against the fireplace mantel, studying his only current human companion. "I am curious, Severus." He waves one long-fingered hand dismissively. "Tell me how the knight in shining armor plans to save the princess and the situation this time." Yep, because - as Lucius learned well - being on top comes with perks … and cons. This … would probably count as a 'con'.
"One option, milord, though not the only one," Severus begins, carefully. "Is to arrange the situation to look like she was somewhere where she didn't belong. Either somewhere only … Mudbloods would go, or something of that nature. A second option might be to expose a Death Eater as having grabbed the wrong individual on accident, or, if you have another purpose, on purpose. That individual would be blamed, and repercussions would fall on his head. That is a less preferred option, of course, but it does exist. The injuries could be explained away as a foiled rescue attempt — Professor Noble has been known to act a little like her more impulsive brothers from time to time. And as the other … subjects escaped on the night of a full moon, perhaps she was mauled attempting to assist them to safety." He wracks his mind, far behind his occlumency shields. "At the moment, I cannot think of another idea, but more may occur to me when I have not spent hours expending my magics and strength on healing."
Gaze turned down to stare into the roaring flames, the creature who used to be Tom can't help the warring sensations of agitation and clarity. It makes him more fidgety than usual. "Werewolf scars never fully heal. For this to work, she would have to agree to leave the scars - to never heal them away or have them healed." And just at this moment, he's not sure what would make a woman who'd been brutally tortured in his basement agree to anything that would help him out of the mess it caused. "If that detail can be achieved, however, there is no reason that a rogue pack of wolves couldn't hold the young daughter of a wealthy family for ransom with an exchange to be made in the Ministry's own Department of Mysteries… You will be free to tell that old fool the entire tale - the whole Order can hear that I told you to bring them this information, because she is from an old pureblood family but because of the family's long history of affiliation with the forces of Greater Good in our world, the help would not be accepted … straight from the serpent's mouth, so to speak." Kill two or three birds in the process, too.
Technically, the scars would only have to last as long as the general public's memories… which is not long at all. Or, perhaps, even Voldemort's lifespan which Severus hopes is also short. He nods, accepting the task. "If I can convince her to agree to this, that it means her freedom, she may be amenable." If the carrot does not work, the stick usually does. Severus inwardly marvels at the planning ability of the man who wooed himself and most of one-quarter of Wizarding Britain's youth to his side for decades. "That covers many bases, milord, and is an elegant plan." He isn't afraid to speak that marvel out loud, since it is sincere. "By your leave, I shall implement it."
Lord Voldemort offers a single sharp nod in response. So mote it be. And at that point, normally it's the cue to disappear as quickly and quietly as possible. Going an entire evening with the Dark Lord and escaping without a single Cruciatus has got to be a ten year record at least. But Tom stops that expected escape with one raised hand. "Severus? Try the carrot, first." He doesn't know why he says it. It actually irritates him. Nevertheless, it has been said. Turning around and pacing back across the room to his bookshelf, Voldemort runs too-long fingers over the spines, finally pulling out an old leather-bound book that has no title - only an ourobouros marks its cover.
Lines indicate room change.