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A Brush With The Void

June 13, 1992, 2:55 PM, Halls of Hogwarts

Severus Snape

Through the halls, he walked. Groups of students parted from his path, his angry gaze enough to strike fear into their feeble hearts.

Severus paid no attention to the children left in his wake, for he was too preoccupied with the subject of his thoughts: Adam Clarke.

In truth, he did not know what to make of the strange boy.

Adam was an enigma, and a dangerous one at that. He had committed a senseless murder, and yet Severus somehow knew that the boy posed no threat to the students at the school.

The teachers would have noticed if something amiss were to happen; a student murdered, or gone missing was certainly a noteworthy event, after all.

That wasn’t to say the boy was keeping his nose out of trouble, of course.

This morning, Severus had taken the time to question his remaining Prefects again about the months-old incident involving Draco and Clarke.

He had, of course, heard of this altercation in passing some time ago, but since nothing had come of it, Severus had been more than happy to forget the whole thing had ever happened.

With recent events, however, he felt the need to investigate it a little further, which ended up confusing the man even further.

By all accounts, Clarke had seemed to be in a foul mood, but the boy only cast a Shield Charm to ward their spells off. He did not retaliate or fight back. He was content to simply walk through the students as if they hadn’t even been there.

Severus would have thought that to be an impressive display of magic for a child, had he not witnessed the boy’s true potential in his duel against Professor Quirrell.

What was truly impressive, however, was the boy’s self-control. If he were to be honest with himself, Severus wasn’t sure if he would have been able to leave his tormentors alone.

The face of his nemesis, James Potter, appeared in his mind’s eye, and Severus curled his lip, banishing such thoughts away.

He focused his mind on Clarke’s duel with Quirrell.

Adam had been aiming to maim and kill, that time— a far cry from what he’d shown when dealing with his fellow students.

This behavior was really strange to him, but also familiar enough that it made him want to cringe at himself.

How can he be able to kill an Auror without needing to think about it? Has he always been this way? He’s only eleven, and his caretakers never noticed anything untoward about the boy. Snape thought, shaking his head. No dead animals, no mistreated peers, no unexplained accidents save a few doors slamming randomly.

There had been no signs at all; if anything, the signs had pointed to the very opposite: a kind, thoughtful, quiet boy with a gifted mind.

By their reckoning, Clarke would have likely found great success as a Muggle businessman, or a scientist. All of the world would have been his stage, even then.

Had Severus been correct about his wild theory? Was Clarke fully cognizant of every moment of his life, including his formative years?

Perhaps, that trauma was the reason why his behavior was so erratic at times.

Honestly, Severus had no clue, but that was the point of this venture.

I want to hear it from him before I pass judgment. Severus thought, going up the staircases leading towards the Hospital Wing.

He wasn’t sure whether this would work, but he knew that going over his head and telling everything to Dumbledore would push the boy away. Clarke might have been Voldemort’s enemy, but that didn’t necessarily make him an ally to either him or Dumbledore.

Soon, I will know everything. He thought, seeing the entrance and hurrying for the last leg of the trip. For better or worse.

He entered through the door, seeing Poppy checking over a student whose teeth had grown to be about three times their size. “Madam Pomfrey.”

“Professor.” Poppy said, not even looking his way as she tutted at the boy, a Third Year Hufflepuff, one who liked to use one Zonko’s product too many in his Potions Class. “Just what were you thinking, Mr. Richards?”

The boy opened his mouth to answer, but froze as he saw Professor Snape’s approach. Severus joined, sending the boy an expectant look. “Um…”

Poppy shook her head and forced a vial in the mortified boy’s hands. “Drink this now, and go over to the bed over there. I’ll be with you shortly to assess the effects.”

He stared down at the Potion, and then back at her.

“Well?” Poppy said, her voice raised as she pursed her lips.

Scared, the boy downed the Potion in a single gulp before scurrying off deeper into the Hospital Wing.

Poppy exhaled, showing the man her incredulous face for a second before she smiled. “There’s always one or two at the end of the year.”

“Indeed.” Severus said, gesturing at the small case of vials floating behind him. “I’ve brought the Potions for Potter’s Cruciatus treatment.”

She lit up at that. “Thank you, Severus. I’ve been meaning to pick your brain on the topic, as I had never covered it with any real thoroughness.”

“Yes.” He said, his lip curling with mild disgust at the very prospect of explaining this. “Detailed effects of Cruciatus exposure is not something one encounters very often in a textbook due to the… nature of the spell itself.”

Madam Pomfrey winced, realizing that she was likely overstepping. “I… I apologize, Severus. I did not consider…”

But Severus shook his head. “Think nothing of it— your own Potions regimen would have achieved the overall same result, if only over a longer period of time and at reduced efficacy. I have provided you with the list of ingredients and instructions for my own modified Potions, should you wish to brew them yourself. You are certainly capable.”

At that, she smiled. “High praise coming from you, Severus.”

Snape only responded with a dismissive shake of his head. “This is where I will be leaving you. I must have a word with Mr. Clarke. Is he able to receive visitors?”

At that, he saw the same look that anyone had whenever they spoke of the boy: it was a mix of confusion, exasperation and interest.

Unbelievable. Is this child an enigma to all who cross his path?

“Yes, he is.” Poppy said after a moment’s thought. “Do not pressure the boy into speaking with you, however. He needs to rest.”

This is too important to delay. Severus thought, but nodded all the same. “Of course.”

“Come.” She said, leading the way. “He’s just over here, and is already receiving a visitor.”

Snape only raised an eyebrow in response, but the woman didn’t see it. “I can’t imagine anyone save you and the Headmaster know of the boy’s…”

He stopped as he saw Clarke and the Potter boy sharing a meal. “Ah. I see.”

“Yes.” Poppy nodded as they approached. “My other patient.”

The two boys quieted down as they noticed Severus and Poppy’s presence.

“Madam Pomfrey.” Clarke greeted before staring at Snape with mismatched eyes of black and milky white. “Professor Snape.”

“Mr. Clarke.” Severus said, controlling the surprise that threatened to appear on his face with the expertise of a veteran stoic. “Mr. Potter.”

“Sir.” Harry greeted back with an unsure nod.

“I would like a word with Mr. Clarke. Alone.” Severus said, his tone leaving no way for an argument. “Mr. Potter, if you’ll excuse us.”

“No— I don’t…” Harry started, and Severus resisted the urge to throttle the child.

Must a Potter always get in my way?

But Adam shook his head. “It’s fine, Harry. I’m sure this won’t take long.”

“Right.” Harry said, but he didn’t sound particularly convinced by this.

“See you later?” Adam said, giving the boy an encouraging nod.

Harry returned it, before glaring at Severus and stomping away to his own bed. Madam Pomfrey threw a warning look at Severus as well, before also returning to her duties.

She’ll be a little busy with both Potter and Richards. Snape thought, his hand reaching for his wand.

Clarke stared at the boy’s retreating back for a few more seconds before he turned his eyes back towards Severus, and then to the wand held in his hand. “Privacy?”

Severus only nodded, closing their section off with a series of curtains before moving his wand in the pattern of an ear. Muffliato.

“Hard to learn that spell?” The boy said, his eyes lighting up in a certain familiarity that Severus couldn’t place— almost as if he knew that Severus would be using this particular spell.

Now, it wasn’t an unknown spell, by any means; Severus had taught it to many of his comrades, both current and former, but a child his age had no business recognizing it.

It was before his time.

Maybe it was possible that Severus was reading too much into such an innocuous statement, but then again he didn’t really know what to think when it concerned this boy.

Clarke always knew far too much for someone in his position and behaved in far too erratic a manner to be able to be categorized.

“Difficulty is in the eye of the beholder.” Severus said.

Clarke smiled at that, though it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Isn’t it supposed to be ‘beauty’? Though, I suppose the first word can be substituted with anything in that particular saying…”

Severus gave a noncommittal hum before the two descended into a short silence.

“I assume you have questions.” Clarke said, looking at something below the curtain behind Snape. “But it seems Harry is far too curious for his own good.”

Snape followed Clarke’s line of sight before hiding a scowl and moving towards the privacy curtains.

He slid them open, startling Potter with an angry glare that made the boy scurry away without a word.

He heard a chuckle from behind him as he closed the curtains again. “That was great. You really do hate him, don’t you?”

Severus turned to the other child, pursed his lips and opened his mouth before closing it. Now that he was here, he felt a little more unsure about this course of action.

Still, there was no better alternative, and so he soldiered on. “Let’s stay on the relevant matter, Mr. Clarke. Your… extracurricular activities, for example.”

Clarke shifted for a moment and Severus saw a glimpse of the ebony wand held in the boy’s hand. “I see.”

He was ready to fight, it seemed. Even when confined to the infirmary, he will still fight if he needs to. Does he think that he can get far even if he somehow manages to best me in his weakened state?

Severus tensed at the sight, but the boy continued as if he didn’t see it. “And I take it you’re here to… Well, definitely not reporting me, or you would have already told the Department of Magical Law Enforcement— or the Headmaster at the very least.”

“You don’t deny it.” Severus said, once again smothering the feeling of surprise. The boy truly was the most erratic person he’d ever met.

“Deny what?” Clarke said, playing ignorant.

“You know of what I speak.” Severus said, his anger rising at the boy’s behavior.

“I’m afraid I don’t.” Adam said, shaking his head.

“I believe the words were along the lines of ‘I killed Auror Turner’, were they not?” Snape pressed on. “Or did I mishear?”

“You might have.” Adam said, though his eyes narrowed with determination. “You were quite addled from snake venom by that point.”

“Except the snake which bit me was a cobra; elapid snake venom can cause a litany of symptoms. Not a single one of which, however, involves hallucinations of any sort.” Severus shot back, smiling a little when he saw the boy’s sudden unease. “It pays to study these things, Mr. Clarke. Now—”

“Then let’s get to the point, Professor Snape.” Clarke cut him off, his eyes flashing with anger and impatience. “What is it you hope to find here?”

“Answers. The truth would be preferable.” Severus shot back, taking a step forward and looming over the boy. The two made eye contact, long enough for Severus to point his wand. “But I see I won’t get that any other way. Legilimens!

The world around them twisted and blurred away, replaced by the boy’s recent memories. He felt the boy’s mental pressure exert itself around him, but Snape pushed through. He needed to get to the bottom of this, and while the boy was naturally gifted at controlling his own mind, he clearly had never experienced something like this.

You just stay the course, Adam. There’s no tellin’ what ye’ll be able to do.”

“We have to go after them!”

“It will take me considerable time to study this spell in depth.”

“Spell elements? Solid, water, gaseous… void.

Snape stopped, feeling his entire mind shake with the power of that word. He felt the boy’s resistance grow. In a few seconds, he would be cast out of Adam’s mind, whether he liked it or not.

So, he pushed forward, still. Show me what this void is.

He wouldn’t have been able to say exactly when, but the precise moment Severus knew that he might have gotten in over his head was from the sudden, shuddering wave of sensation that raced through his mind at the point of contact with… whatever this was.

It swept over his consciousness with the subtlety and strength of a wrecking ball, shattering through the world’s illusions and carrying him away in its infinite grasp.

At some point, he realized that his sight of the real world was completely gone, not in its usual safe space of his mind.

With a hint of worry, Snape reeled as he felt his senses expand, contract, twist and turn. He saw himself as a young child, an old man and a corpse. He saw countless people living and dying under the light of the Sun, and then he saw the Sun’s death, igniting the cosmos with one last hurrah before obliterating the final remnants of his people. Through it all, he heard a melody so serene and yet so chaotic that he was filled with equal measures of infinite despair and hope.

Severus did not have time to ponder any of this, feeling his mind come to a boil as it began to suffer through the increased sensory input.

Somehow he knew that this… sense expansion would kill him if he stayed in much longer. He needed to leave, to get out, but he couldn’t figure out how.

The Void…”

No. Get out. I must leave. Severus thought, even as he felt the mental representation of his body morph into a creature of true horrors, with eyes blinking open and closed on every inch of him. Too many points of view. I cannot.

He closed and focused his mind to escape once more, feeling this energy brush against him again, promising him eternity and yet he knew that it was oblivion. He could not stay here, he had to—

As fast as it had come, the pressure disappeared. Severus did not know how much time it took him to come back to himself, but the first thing he noticed when his true senses returned was that his legs were hurting from standing up too long.

He blinked many times, seeing the real world before him as if he was still in a dream.

“Professor…” He heard Adam’s voice say in a quiet, gentle tone. “You’ve returned. I was afraid that this would happen.”

Severus blinked twice more before he took a breath. His chest swelled with air, providing sweet relief to his tired and worn body. He opened his mouth to speak, but the words came out slurred.

“Take your time.” Adam said, and Severus felt a small pressure nudge him backwards. He fell into a chair, his legs screaming with relief.

Time continued to pass as the man regained more and more control of himself.

I’m… back at the Hospital Wing. I’m truly back. Severus thought, unable to control his shock. He had thought he’d been stuck in that hellscape forever.

What was that? That… Severus stopped, looking around again like he didn’t believe he was in the real world. This must be a trick…

He closed his eyes and checked his mind, clearing them of any thoughts. He didn’t want anything to do with whatever this was. Whatever it was that had just barely touched his senses had almost sent him into insanity— and yet, Clarke seemed to thrive in its presence.

What is he? He thought with no small amount of trepidation as his eyes raised to look upon the child, once again.

Adam Clarke looked just as frail as he had not seconds before, and yet Severus could not stop the shiver of terror racing through his spine.

“It was a good try, Professor.” Clarke said, regarding his looming presence with the same fear one would display when faced with a newborn kitten. “I’ll admit; if you were at a hundred percent, I’d likely have more trouble keeping you out of my head. But then, I suppose I’d be at a hundred percent, as well…”

You don’t need to worry about that, because I will never touch your mind again, Adam Clarke. Snape vowed, though he didn’t say anything out loud.

“So, it’s the truth you wanted?” The boy continued as if Severus hadn’t almost died from his attempt to invade the boy’s mind. “That’s all?”

Severus was about to speak, but Clarke began shaking in his bed with suppressed laughter before wincing from one of his injuries.

“The truth…” Clarke said, his face losing its smile as he stared at him with those accursed eyes. “A dangerous thing to ask for, that. Will you regret what it is that you will eventually find? So reckless…”

“What… are you talking about?” Severus said, trying to keep himself under control.

“You tried to hide it, but I felt your emotions before you retreated.” Adam said, blinking once. “You saw it. You felt it.”

Severus kept his mouth shut, not willing to even bring up that thing’s presence. He didn’t even trust his voice, at the moment. Thoughts of questions that needed answering were now the furthest thing from his mind.

“There is no point denying it.” Adam, however, continued. “You felt it brush up against you— expand your senses.”

Severus did his best not to react, but Adam seemed to be looking right through him as he was able to accurately assess his mental state.

“I understand your confusion and fear.” Clarke said. “It does not do for the living to know the true nature of infinity.”

“Infinity?” The word came out before he could stop himself. “The living?”

“Infinity.” The boy repeated, nodding. “Everything— or I suppose you could also call it nothing. It is both; a harmonious union full of discord. It is the truth, and it also is a lie. It is the life of every living creature in the multiverse, and yet it is also every single death. It is a bottomless chasm, but it is also a void without depth. That’s what I have come to call it, you see; the void.”

“I…” Severus said, feeling a shiver at the almost-reverent way the boy said that word. “I don’t understand.”

“I don’t really understand it, myself.” Adam said, taking a deep breath. “I suppose it was insanity to assume that no one would eventually find out, one way or another. I’m just glad you didn’t die in the process, I suppose.”

Snape shook his head and raised his wand again, doing his best to keep his fear under control. “Explain.”

But Adam only tilted his head. “I don’t owe you an explanation.”

“Is that a fact?” Severus said, raising his voice as he felt his anger bolster his shaken confidence.

But it was not to be.

“Prophecies.” Adam said, cutting through the man’s new wave of ire and attempt at intimidation. “Are like the strands of a harp. Every time they’re strummed by the hands of fate, you’re chained down in their inexorable tangle. You can understand those, at least.”

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… Severus recalled the one event that ruined everything for him.

“Are you saying that this is what’s supposed to happen? That everything leading up to this point was predetermined?” Severus said, getting a hold of himself. “That’s preposterous.”

And yet, even as he spoke those final two words, even as the still-fresh memory of the void began to fade, he knew them to be false.

“Maybe for you. You never could see past the limits of your own perception.” Adam shook his head, staring at something above Severus before checking himself over. “I see. How fitting indeed. I am unbound by the threads, then?”

He had absolutely no clue what the boy was talking about, but he couldn’t help but feel another shiver of fear and unease sweeping through him.

This boy… no, he’s no boy. He can’t be allowed to live. Snape thought and readied himself to attack the child. He’s no child. He’s an abomination.

“You want to kill me.” Adam said, reading his intent well enough. “What do you think that will accomplish? Do you think I’m here to destroy the world?”

“You don’t belong here.” Snape hissed, no longer caring that he’d lost all control.

“Ah.” Adam smiled. “So you understand that much, at least. No. I have already lived before I inhabited this body. I suppose it would be similar to what your old master did.”

“Then you leave me no choice.”

“Severus Snape, the arbiter of justice, is it?” Adam smirked, finding something very amusing in the man’s attitude, but Severus did not budge. He kept his wand trained on the boy, readying to utter the two words that would annihilate him.

He would figure out how to make it seem like he died in his sleep. A few Memory Charms on the Hospital Wing’s occupants, a few choice Potions introduced into his system that counteract each other after a certain time, and he could make it seem as if the death was a delayed effect of a curse cast by the Dark Lord.

“You could probably kill me and get away with it. You have the skill for it, no doubt.” Again, Adam cut through his thoughts, predicting them with ease. “But then you’ll never get the chance to see her again.”

Her? …Surely not. Snape thought. And yet…

Having had a brush with that energy, he no longer knew what was possible, and what wasn’t.

He lowered his wand.

“…I’m listening.”

Adam Clarke— or whatever hellish demon was inhabiting the child’s body— smiled. Then, he began to speak.

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