June 10, 1992, 2:20 PM, Halls of Hogwarts
Almost there. Severus thought as he continued to limp forward. He cringed, feeling Voldemort’s magic spiking as Adam’s body began to wake, once again. “Filius!”
“Stupefy!” Professor Flitwick said and Adam’s body stilled, at once.
They stood there for another long, tense second before nodding to each other and continuing their journey to the Hospital Wing, with both Harry Potter and Adam Clarke floating behind them.
“Come, Severus.” Filius encouraged his fellow Professor. “We’re just about there. Just a minute longer.”
Severus would normally have glared, but he was too tired, too much in pain to care about his pride.
Instead, he increased his pace. The Potions that Potter had given him were likely to run out any second now.
Pride? Severus thought. What pride? To be laid so low that I was forced to be saved by not only one, but two children in the span of an hour— one of which is Potter’s accursed brat… How pitiful.
And yet, he also felt thankful that they’d saved his life, which only served to make his self-loathing worse.
He turned his gaze to Harry Potter for a moment before looking ahead. The boy had been nothing but tiresome the entire school year, picking fights with Draco and his friends— just like Potter senior.
And just like James Potter, Harry had saved Severus’ life.
Must I be so cursed that I have to suffer through this indignity again? Severus wanted to scream with the frustration he felt, but he was too controlled for that, even if he weren’t so exhausted.
What instead came out was a light huff, taking the very edge off of his roiling anger. He couldn’t wait until he had some time alone so that he could vent.
“Professors!” A voice came from ahead of them and Severus turned his eyes away from Potter to see Clarke’s friends, Anthony Goldstein and Su Li.
“I’ll go tell Madam Pomfrey that they’ve come back.” Su said before going back inside.
Severus resisted the urge to snarl as the remaining child tried to rush them at the sight of the two floating, unconscious bodies behind them.
“None of that, Mr. Goldstein.” Professor Flitwick said, his tone far more sharp and firm than the boy had ever experienced before. “We need to get the two boys checked, now.”
“Yes, sir.” Anthony gulped and nodded, stepping aside.
He watched with an anxious gaze as his two friends floated past him, looking like corpses to the world around them.
Severus ignored the small pang of pity that arose within him and passed the threshold of the Hospital Wing, feeling like he was ready to collapse at any second. He forced himself to stay awake, however.
His gaze swept over the premises, passing over Granger, Weasley and the various Fifth to Seventh Years before finally resting over Professor McGonagall.
The woman had grown a few shades paler than he was accustomed to seeing, and that drove a chill up his spine.
She hid the severity of her injury from me so that I would leave her. Snape realized, sharing a look with Professor Flitwick before Madam Pomfrey burst forth from behind one of the curtains.
Severus took in her somewhat frazzled and anxious demeanor just as she noticed them.
“Merlin!” Poppy said, her eyes widening for a single moment before they landed on the two children. “Come, now.”
“The children first, if you please, Madam Pomfrey.” Professor Flitwick said, though it seemed to have been unnecessary, as the Mediwitch had already passed the two men, quickly waving her wand over the two boys and setting them down on a bed each.
“Don’t let Mr. Potter touch Mr. Clarke.” Severus made sure to say when he noticed the two boys had almost crossed each other in their flight paths. “That’s how Mr. Clarke got the burns on his hand.”
Poppy paused for a moment to check the severe third degree burns on the boy’s hand. “My word… Potter did this?”
“It was—” Professor Flitwick said before stopping, not knowing quite how to word his statement.
“A burst of accidental magic.” Professor Snape finished, licking his lips and inwardly snarling at the fact that he had to bail a Potter out yet again. “I am not sure if the magic yet lingers under the boy’s skin, so it would be best if they do not make contact with each other.”
“I see.” Poppy nodded in a way that made the two men think that she didn’t really understand what it was that they were talking about, but she recovered well. “You two, find yourselves a few beds as well; I will get to you in a moment.”
“Chairs will suffice.” Severus said just as she was about to turn away. “As both Headmaster Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall are otherwise indisposed, it will fall to the remaining Heads of House to keep the school under control.”
Poppy opened her mouth to protest, but Professor Flitwick raised his hand, shaking his head at the woman as he did so.
“I’m afraid Professor Snape is correct.” Flitwick said. “Though the crisis is over for now, we cannot shirk our responsibilities; especially not now. The children—”
“Will be kept safe.” An old man’s voice came from the door. Severus felt some shock and relief course through his body as he turned to see the man he’d been hoping to see ever since this pandemonium began.
“Professor Dumbledore!” Su almost yelled in surprise, making Severus wince.
Albus Dumbledore stepped into the Hospital Wing, looking none the worse for wear.
Something’s off about him. He’s tense. Severus thought, before pushing the thought to the furthest corner of his mind. “Headmaster. You’ve arrived.”
“Too late, it seems.” Dumbledore said as he took a few steps into the room, standing by the distraught Su and Anthony.
After what they’d been through, Severus was just glad that they weren’t crying. He didn’t think he had the patience to deal with that right now.
“Children.” Professor Flitwick said. “Perhaps some rest in the Ravenclaw Tower is in order? You’ve been through enough, today.”
“But, sir…” Anthony turned to the tall man with pleading eyes. “We can’t just— We can’t leave our friends!”
“And you are not.” Albus finally spoke, placing a hand on the two children’s shoulders and showing them a slight smile to set them at ease. “With Madam Pomfrey here, they will all be under the best of care— as I’m sure you already know.”
He gestured at their own partly-healed injuries with a knowing look. “Run along now. Your friends will be just fine.”
The two kids turned their heads to Professor Flitwick, who also gave them a nod.
Severus’ gaze moved from the two Ravenclaw children. who were leaving as slow as they could manage without annoying any of the teachers, towards their friend, Clarke. Considering that the Dark Lord inhabits the boy’s body, still… I’m not so sure that Mr. Clarke will be ‘fine’.
Dumbledore moved to stand beside the two men. He took in their exhausted and fairly injured states for a moment before he spoke.
“Tell me what happened.” He said, wasting no time.
“He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” Professor Flitwick said, wincing in pain as one of his many wounds began to flare up. “He’s been possessing Quirinus all along. How we did not see it…”
Dumbledore looked around, and Severus assumed he was looking for Quirrell. He turned his gaze back to the two. “I assume that Quirinus did not…”
Snape nodded, confirming this. “But there’s even worse news.”
Albus turned his gaze to Potter. “Harry? Has he been…”
But Severus shook his head. “No. Clarke.”
That seemed to give the old man pause. “That is… concerning. But you managed to defeat him and banish him out of the boy’s body, then?”
Snape felt his lip curl and forced his features to stay even. “We did not. He is still in there.”
“Mr. Potter did subdue him, Headmaster.” Professor Flitwick said as he gestured at the Boy-Who-Lived, as well as the awful burn on Clarke’s hand. “We had been defeated, and…”
Severus’ mind whirred as Flitwick began to give his recollection of the series of events that led to this moment. As he watched Pomfrey fret over the boy, Severus allowed himself a single moment of rest, to cope with everything that had happened.
Now that the crisis had mostly passed, he began to wonder about what he should do.
Clarke has clearly admitted to committing murder. Severus thought. My next action should be simple. I will…
But as he took in Professor Flitwick’s worried face, Severus stopped himself.
Clarke had indeed killed someone, but the boy had also saved Severus’ life, as well as the lives of many people today— both wizards and muggles. Surely that counted for something? Severus’ hands weren’t particularly clean, but he’d been given a chance, had he not?
He felt Voldemort’s magic stir from within the boy and snapped his wand at the child with no hesitation. Stupefy!
The jet of red light struck Adam in the head just as he rose with a bright red glare. Adam— no, Voldemort— fell back down into the bed, the impact causing the wood to creak.
“What is the meaning of this!?” Poppy got in the man’s face, and Severus met her outraged gaze with cool indifference. “Stop!”
“I would also like an explanation, Severus.” Came Dumbledore’s stern voice.
“It must be done to keep all of us safe.” He said by way of explanation, but that seemed to inflame the woman even more.
“Safe!?” Madam Pomfrey looked like she was two steps away from throttling the man where he stood. “He’s an unconscious child. What threat could he be that requires you to Stun him while he’s still asleep?”
“Severus is right.” Professor Flitwick confirmed, looking uncomfortable to even have agreed with such a drastic course of action. “That boy… Adam is not in control of his own body. It is true that Mr. Potter defeated him, but the Dark Lord still resides within Mr. Clarke. Perhaps… perhaps for good.”
“A full possession… How?” Dumbledore breathed; his face was struck with grief, but he collected himself with both grace and determination.
“Has the boy shown any sign of resistance to the invasion?” Dumbledore said, speaking quickly. “Anything at all?”
“Oh, yes.” Professor Snape said, nodding. “At several points, I witnessed the Dark Lord stop in his tracks, as if he was being distracted. Especially towards the end, when Mr. Potter was dueling him, he froze— long enough for Mr. Potter to be able to subdue him; there can be no other explanation.”
“Then, there is hope, still.” Dumbledore said as he approached the child, placing a hand upon his forehead. “Though… the thread grows thin.”
“How many times have you struck him with the Stunning Charm?” Poppy re-entered the conversation, looking none-too-pleased, but resigned to this situation.
“Four, so far.”
“Four!” Poppy repeated, taking a step back in shock before she began to hover around Clarke. “That is three too much— you’ll kill him!”
“I am aware of the risks.” Severus said as he lowered his wand. “But there is no choice. If we allow the Dark Lord to roam free, it could spell the end for all of us.”
“I will restrain him accordingly.” Albus said. “And hope the worst doesn’t come to pass.”
A moment passed before the headmaster turned to Poppy. “Madam Pomfrey? Might you be so kind as to provide our two Professors with beds, as well?”
“I—” she said, gulping before she turned to the two teachers. “Of course. Yes. This way.”
Yes. Severus thought as he finally allowed himself to let his guard down.
He sagged and stumbled over to the right. He managed to stop himself from falling to the floor by holding onto a bedpost. Severus gathered himself, using the last dregs of his energy to follow the mediwitch to the bed he sorely needed.
Yes. Severus thought again as he was made to lay down and quickly began to lose himself to the oblivion of unconsciousness. Clarke has much bigger problems to worry about for now. I’ll consider the matter when I next wake.
The last thing he saw before he fell asleep was the white of the bedsheets.
The Depths of the Abyss, Road to Lifeland, Time: Unknown
I stared down at the steadily shrinking lighthouse and said a small goodbye to Alzalam before turning my gaze ahead— or is it above?
“This realm is too strange.” I said as we flew through the abyss. “Up, down, left, right… you can’t even tell what’s what. Gravity isn’t even pulling us to the tower, but it’s clearly underneath us.”
“Or perhaps we are the ones below it?” Helena said. “The world of the dead is fascinating. I almost regret not passing on.”
~This is not Deathland.~ Absol said, her airy voice feeling like a gentle caress. ~This is Abyss. World Between. Veiled Lands.~
“The Abyss…” I repeated her words as I spied the swirling auroras slowly setting themselves in our path. “And the world of the dead is the void?”
~Yes. No. Not sure.~ Absol said all three statements in very quick succession. ~Human words are confusing.~
I patted her neck. “It’s all right, Absol. I get confused a lot, too. For now, let’s just stay away from those auroras. They are… some kind of poison.”
~Yes.~ Absol shuddered for a moment and adjusted her flight path. ~Purple wavy monsters hurt.~
“Monsters?” I said with some surprise. “I thought they were just part of the weather.”
“I had assumed that, as well.” Helena said, looking upon the massive auroras with a mixture of horror and awe. “That they are alive…”
~Not alive. Not dead. Mass of threads.~ Absol explained, and I wracked my mind to understand her thoughts.
Thestrals did not think like humans at all, and it was more and more apparent to me every time I got the chance to speak with Absol.
“Threads?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
~Severed threads of fated life. Left to rot.~ Absol said, and I felt a chill go up my spine.
“So that corruption I banished from the tower…”
~Yes.~ Absol confirmed, nodding her head at the closest aurora. ~Over there. It tries to block the path to Lifeland. Angry.~
I swallowed, nodding as I made up my mind. “Then take us straight through that storm.”
“Zero.” Helena said.
“No, Helena.” I replied. “No more running, remember?”
“You…” Helena’s grip tightened around me. “Don’t be foolish! To go through that storm is suicide!”
But I shook my head. “Every second Voldemort inhabits my body, it degrades— that’s not even considering the damage he’s subjecting it to by forcing it to fight despite being wrecked.”
“That doesn’t mean that you should be throwing your chances away with such a reckless plan!” Helena said.
“Who said anything about it being reckless?” I said, smiling.
“Look.” She let go of me with one arm and extended it towards the auroras. “They’re not leaving any room to fly through. They weren’t moving like this when I first came.”
“Yes.” I said, frowning a little. “It must be the work of the corruption that plagued the lighthouse. But it’s fine. I’ll still break through, no matter what.”
“Zero…” Helena said before she lowered her arm and wrapped it around me.
“We go forward to home, or we go forward to our unmaking.” I said, eyes narrowing with fatalistic determination. “But we go forward, Helena. Absol!”
~If you die, then I will eat you, friend.~ Absol declared even as she shifted her wings, changing our direction towards the heavy mass of auroras.
“I believe you.” I said, and it was true: Absol was not the sort of creature to joke around. She would one-hundred percent eat me if I died.
I wasn’t sure whether that was touching, morbid, or even possible— this world wasn’t exactly the material plane— but then I didn’t have the time to ponder anything else, as I felt Absol’s speed increase.
“Once more, unto the breach.” I said as we moved into the storm of auroras.
Absol let out a chirp of challenge and bent her wings slightly, diving downwards before opening them and taking us to the left, avoiding all of the storm’s particles with the sort of supernatural, expert flying I had come to expect from her.
She passed up through several gaps before taking us deeper through the storm, too fast for any of the outer auroras to react.
“Incredible!” Helena said, her warm brown eyes alight with wonder. “At the risk of repeating myself, you are a wonderful flyer, Absol.”
~I know.~ Absol said, blunt as always. ~But not sure if I can go through that.~
Ahead of us, I could see that the auroras had compacted themselves further, making it harder to go through.
“They’re bunching up.” Helena said, voicing my own thoughts. “Behind us, as well.”
“They’re trying to trap us.” I said, drawing my wand. “But they can’t hold us here.”
“Absol.” I cut Helena off. “Time for us to shine. Don’t hold anything back, you hear? One mistake and we’re done.”
~Can say same to you, friend.~ Absol said. ~Don’t slack off.~
I smirked at that. “That’s what I like to hear.”
“So, what’s the plan?” Helena said.
“These auroras… Severed, corrupted threads, whatever you want to call them— they’re close enough to spirits that I think I know how to counter them.” I said as the auroras continued to come closer and closer to us.
“Yes.” I said, raising my wand up high and drawing it in a series of spirals, speaking as I did so. “Corrupted spirits are still just that— spirits! Odgovor!”
Three translucent, silver chains burst forth as we entered through the aurora “tunnels”, once more.
The tunnels were far more narrow, and far less predictable as before. Still, Absol showed her mettle, accelerating more and more the smaller the tunnels became— until we were met with a dead end.
Still, I smiled, bringing my chains back and reformed them into the shape of a still flame.
The first spell I learned. A cry to banish all of the darkness and bathe the world with light.
The silver chain-flame brightened into a white so bright and pure that it hurt to look at. At once, the light struck at its enemies, and I saw that the auroras shuddered and drew away, throwing their entire swarm into disarray.
“Now, Absol!” I cried, but I didn’t need to: she had already seized the opportunity and was soaring through the confusion, bobbing and weaving her way through the gaps left in the purple and black miasma.
By the time the swarm was able to reorganize itself in any meaningful way, we had already made it through most of the storm.
There was no time to celebrate, however.
~Final wave.~ Absol said. ~Prepare.~
“Let them come.” I said, transferring the spirit-light-chain to my right hand while I conjured another chain with my left, forming it into a chain-sword. “Together, Absol!”
She screeched with excitement as the swarm finally reached us. Attacks began to come from all sides, but Absol and I met the challenge head on.
We soared through the storm, dodging past tentacles coming from above, below, left, right, front and back.
What Absol couldn’t maneuver around or dodge, I struck aside with my blade, while my light-chain forced the auroras to remain in their somewhat disorganized state, allowing us to move forward.
“Almost there!” Helena said, pointing towards what seemed to the end of the storm, before her breath hitched. “Look.”
I batted away another three miasma pseudopods before turning my attention to what Helena had seen. “What…”
My eyes narrowed. “The corruption.”
Ahead of us, the aurora blocked the exit passage, entering through the tunnel to meet us head on.
“I know.” I said, bringing both of my hands together. “This will either make or break us. Absol! Fly forward and spin us!”
Absol screeched again and drove us forward, bending her wings to maximize her speed as she began to twirl.
We’ll tear you apart! I thought, focusing on nothing but the aurora ahead so I didn’t get a case of vertigo. Strong enough to pierce the heavens.
“Odgovor! Lumos Maxima!” My chains morphed once again, forming a bright, massive spinning point at its end just as we crashed into the aurora.
We heard the high pitched shriek of the corruption even as the chain tore through it like a sword through wet paper, sending an uncountable number of strange, energy strands flying every which way.
Within seconds, we burst through the end of the storm, leaving the large mass of auroras behind us.
“We did it.”
“Nothing but clear skies ahead.” I said
“That was—” Helena’s voice came from behind me. “How did you know that it would work?”
“I didn’t.” I said, canceling the spell and blinking the spots out of my eyes. “Damn, that was too bright. I hope I don’t get a headache.”
~You are a weird human.~
“Maybe you’re right, Absol.”
“Then…” Helena said. “I don’t understand. You seemed so sure we would make it.”
“I had faith, Helena.” I said. “Faith that we would make it to the other side. And here we are.”
~Yes. Lifeland is up ahead.~ Absol said. ~We won. I won’t eat you, friend.~
“Thanks, Absol.” I said, squinting ahead. It was a bit hard to see, since I still had spots in my vision, but as we got closer to it, it became apparent.
It was a bright white, diagonal tear in the very fabric of this world. “A rift. I guess this is it. We did it.”
“Yes, Zero.” Helena said as the tear pulsed, twice just before we entered it. At once, the world shifted into a long tunnel, and I found myself floating away from my two companions as I saw the path fork into two.
~You return.~ Absol said as the distance between us began to increase. ~Don’t struggle. You go fight so-called Death-thief now. Just follow tunnel. Don’t forget.~
“Don’t forget?” I said in confusion at the two, before realizing that this was where we would be parting ways. “Oh. Time to fight Voldemort, I guess. Wish me luck.”
“You won’t need it.” Helena said, raising her hand to wave at me as both she and Absol reached their turn. “But good luck!”
I took a deep breath, feeling the tunnel’s pull growing stronger and stronger with inexorable purpose.
I didn’t know how, but I knew that this meant that I was drawing ever closer to my body in the real world.
As if sparked by this realization, the tunnel morphed into an abrupt end, displaying the image of what I thought was the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts.
I had only a second to absorb the imagery before I burst through the image and felt myself collide with my real body.
All went blank.