Chapter Nine: Disturbances and Deception
Harry awoke from his already fitful sleep to find Snape twitching in his own disturbed slumber. Deciding to take a look around and listen for their curiously absent pursuer, Harry got to his feet with the aches of one who had just spent a few hours trying to spend the night slumped against a wall.
The path to the shed's door was again lit by the moon which had begun the first night's wane from full. As Harry paused before going inside, he fancied he could hear the distant cries of a wolf and he wondered about the presence of werewolves in upstate New York. Cautiously he peeked out through the cracks in the wood.
The forest was flooded with dappled moonlight and the stars that were visible through the canopy of trees overhead were wondrously bright. The sky was black overhead rather than the navy blue hue that signified the presence of a city or a heavily residential area. Gazing at this tranquil scene, Harry was interested to find himself calm and nearly at peace... aware of the sleeping presence at his back without the brooding anxiety that had so characterized his past interactions with the teacher he was beginning to think of as a man rather than a manifestation of unfairness and hatred towards him. Harry spent some time on an occasional topic of thought for those nights he couldn't sleep. What was the cause behind Snape's reactions?
More recently, he'd learned about Snape's secret work for Dumbledore- he could imagine the pressure of having to maintain his cover and remain so close to someone like Voldemort. The past day was an eye-opener, however. There was definitely more to Snape than even Snape himself might be aware of; the conversation he'd overheard during the reaction between Snape's Dark Mark and Harry's scar...
A cry of distress was uttered behind him, along with movement. Harry spun around and made his way back to Snape who appeared to be having what measured to be a terrible nightmare. Carefully sitting down at Snape's right side to avoid proximity to the Dark Mark, Harry pressed a hand on Snape's chest to keep Snape from moving and causing himself further harm. He tried to awaken Snape, but the man didn't respond, his eyes moving beneath their lids as though in dream or vision.
//Severus awoke from yet another night of restless dreams that shifted from memory as soon as he tried to grasp them. Exhaling and wiping at the fine sheen of sweat that dotted at his forehead, Severus rose from his bed in the dormitory and soundlessly made his way to the bathrooms with the ease of practice in walking without light. A moment's difficulty passed when he came upon one of Crabbe's oversized shoes on the floor, but soon enough he was ensconced inside the lavatory with the company of his dimly lit wand.
Cool water from the sink washed the rest of the dream's traces away and Severus flipped his hair out of his eyes. He marveled again at how the color had recently been darkening to a closer match for his father's hair rather than the lighter brown of his mother's. Regret was there for the loss of something of himself to remember his mother by, but at the same time he felt a quiet pleasure at taking on another of his father's characteristics; so much so that the pace of the change didn't concern him and he shrugged off the curious questions of his dorm mates and the jeers of his fellow students. The self-named Maraders had taken up and spread the rumor that he used hair grease to darken the color and used the idea to give themselves another name to call him; the "greasy git".
Feeling tired but not sleepily so, Severus opted to get a breath of fresh air rather than listen to the sounds of the others sleeping for the rest of the night. There was a window near to the top of the dungeon stairwell that he recently found and occasionally spent time gazing out of. Being caught by Filch would have been a concern of his if it hadn't been for the cleaning potion he had brewed up one time after hearing the caretaker mutter angrily about the resultant ugly stains from the inficio hex which were near to impossible to remove from stone and wood.
Severus was of course very careful to make certain he wasn't among those caught using the hex as its effects upon a body and mind were worse than their effect on inanimate material. In keeping with Slytherin craftiness he also took steps to brew the cleansing potion which put him in Filch's good books - limited as they were.
Reaching the top of the stairs, Severus suddenly grew sleepy and leaned for a moment against the wall next to the intended target of the window... and fell into a trace-like sleep. Under this influence, he took out his wand, cast a nullifying spell in a toneless voice and climbed out the windows to the ground just below. His path across the grass led him straight to the Forbidden Forest and eventually just outside the boundaries of Hogwarts protections where he was met by a cloaked and hooded figure. Without conversation, the figure put his hand on Severus' shoulder and Apparated the both of them to another forested area.
It was here that other figures waited, also cloaked and hooded apart from a familiar looking charismatic man who took charge of the unaware Severus. Walking on auto-pilot, Severus followed the man to one side where the man had Severus recline atop a stone slab and sink into full unconsciousness with a magical charm.
Turning to his followers, the man regarded them with the awareness of just what was required to maintain their loyalty to him. With a powerful voice only subtly altered by his magics, he spoke. "At last the preparations have been completed. We have become aware of this nexus and the potential for its use in the future. Until the time is right, I will see to it that this nexus- this boy- is kept under our control. Through your diligent efforts and my power, this key will be ours to use when circumstance demands it. Until that time it will lay dormant, unknown to everyone, even to himself. The changes being wrought in him will distance him from our enemies and keep him within our sphere of influence. Once he is of age he will become one of us, but he will be our tool to use as needed."
"Remove his wand," ordered the man, quickly obeyed by one of the figures who lingered an extra moment to gaze at Severus before returning to the small group who then moved to encircle the stone slab and the two there. The man produced his wand, cast "Obliviate" and started chanting a complex string of spell words under his breath. A breeze began to stir the area and the robes of all those gathered. The man's wand moved with precise and fluid movements over the younger man's trembling body as he worked. Few words drifted loudly enough to be heard, but they seared themselves into Severus' subconscious; "... excido ... pareo ... dominatus ... teneo ..." and finally, "Obfuscate!"
Darkness swirled into a dizzying whirlpool of thought and recollection... refocusing upon another scene.
A robed man with white hair and beard stood over Severus, gazing at him sadly as the young man slept on a bed located in what looked to be a hospital wing. One hand reached out to gently rest upon Severus forehead, a whispered charm sending Severus further into peaceful slumber.
Further seconds passed when an older woman came up behind the man, her expression stern and disapproving even as she looked to the man for confirmation. "Albus, must you really do this to the boy? It isn't proper; what is to keep us from becoming like Mr. Riddle?"
The man called Albus seemed to grow increasingly sad at those words, but he murmured, "The difference is in intention, Minerva. The thought behind the action. It is for protection, my dear. Protection for the wizarding community as a whole, and for himself as well.
And so Albus began to speak words that seared themselves into Severus' subconscious.
Sunlight streamed once more through the door and walls of the shed, only partially stirring the exhausted Harry awake from where he still sat next to Snape. It became a lot easier to wake up soon afterwards however, when Snape sat up with a gasp of shock but not of overwhelming pain as he pushed past Harry's hand. Or rather, not overwhelmingly physical pain.
There was horror in Snape's eyes as he screamed, "Albus!"
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