Chapter Twelve: Recollection and Rejuvenation
Harry crouched over Snape's trembling form which was curled up into a fetal ball, his arm cradled protectively against his chest and his features creased into silent agony. His lips started to move, choking out words that were difficult for Harry to hear. ".... no.... I can't .... I don't remember ... Please, no ... I've lost my memory ... I speak the truth ... Why do you do this? ... "
Finally, Harry couldn't take watching Snape without acting. Perhaps out of an instinctive desire to offer comfort, to help him somehow, Harry reached out to touch Snape's side, careful as ever to avoid contact with his left arm. He was startled but somehow not entirely surprised to suddenly hear Snape's voice magnified as he cried, "I don't understand!" ... and in the distance, another voice with sibilant and unpleasant overtones.
/Oh, you will understand soon enough, Severus./ The sound of the voice gave Harry another instinctive reaction to hide himself from detection, but his wish to help Snape kept him in contact with his arm. With that wish Harry felt himself grow calm, almost as though he was suspended in a bubble, shielded from danger. The voice continued, /I'll be sending Lucius to fetch you and the person with you- then we shall see about your memories. In the meantime.../
The wash of sensation that hit Harry inside his bubble was enough to make Harry break contact and throw him a few feet away from Snape's curled up form. The waves of power that emanated from Snape's body were like heat and felt just as painful from the sound of Snape's harsh screams. Harry shook his head as though to awaken himself further then moved back towards Snape, knowing he had to take action once more.
Again instinct seemed to take a hold of him, and Harry approached Snape's head where it was tucked in, his face hidden from view by his knees. Kneeling hunched over Snape, Harry wedged his hand in to rest against his feverish forehead and moved his other hand to cradle the nape of his neck. Slowly, Snape's choked sounds of pain decreased, and while the trembling didn't disappear it too grew fainter.
Harry felt something else within him stir, shifting forwards as though flowing from him... seeking out and filling the invisible rents and gaping holes that were slowly revealing themselves in the aura of the body before him. Holes that were already swirling with a malignant darkness that was increasing the damage, widening the existing rents and causing others. It was almost like a faint after-image that could only be seen when one concentrated and looked in a particular direction. Almost like groping in the dark for a wall one expected, only to find it a few feet further than imagined. A sense of alien familiarity... and one that wasn't quite right. Changed from what Harry knew it should be, and he wasn't able to register how he was aware of it. He just knew it needed to be repaired.
First he had to get rid of the immediate cause...
The influx of acid that had formally been burning his nerves was slowly tapering off, as though someone had started to close the pipes the acid was coming through and open drains to let it out of him. Soon he was no longer drowning in the stuff, and there was a new sensation- but one that wasn't entirely new somehow. Warmth hovered near him, uncertain and hesitant before there was a small contact upon that which had been flayed. With that one touch, that area no longer burned.
Despite the soothing touch, he retreated out of the need to withdraw from the rest of the overwhelming burning, the confusion and frustrated helplessness, the need to think and understand what happened.
But as he withdrew, he felt something of the warm presence follow.
//Severus stepped into the wide expanse of the Malfoy Mansion foyer with Lucius, the Malfoy's house elves having taken charge of their trunks inside the carriage. "Nice place you have," Severus murmured with dry humor to the blonde at his side.
"It suits me well enough," Lucius returned with a smirk. "It's been in the family for generations, of course." A gesture at the framed parchment which magically recorded the Malfoy's genealogy demonstrated without words the centuries that had passed in the halls of stone and polished wood, lavish with tasteful tapestries. "Follow me to the guest rooms; you have time to freshen up before we meet my parents and their guest for dinner."
Without outward comment, Severus followed. His mind was another matter, his curiosity lashing out at the possibilities of the mysterious someone Lucius had alluded to a few times previously that year.
Dinner was a formal affair, taking place in the dining room no less lavish than the rest of the mansion. Lucius' parents were charming in a cold, deliberate fashion. The other guest in the manor was a man that Severus found intriguing; he exuded a magnetic charisma without arrogance, and his conversation proved him to be an intellect to reckon with. Chiseled features framed eyes that were dark and held something within them that he couldn't put his finger on.
Despite his interest, Severus kept his own spoken conversation to a minimum, preferring to use the opportunity to listen and measure up the people and the occasion behind the dinner.
Soon after the meal he had expected that Lucius' parents and their guest would retire to the Library for after dinner drinks and conversation, but he didn't expect for him and Lucius to be invited as well. The stranger who had been treated with the utmost respect during dinner only smiled faintly at Severus' surprise before escorting Mrs. Malfoy into the Library with Mr. Malfoy leading the way.
As the group settled into the various chairs and couches by the fireplace, the guest being given the chair of honor which was the central seat of the cluster and gestured for Severus to take one of the chairs by his side. Severus sensed Lucius sitting next to him while the charismatic man smiled, "I've heard much about you already from Mr. Malfoy and your father."
Taking his cue from the behavior he'd witnessed thus far, Severus toned his voice to politeness. "I'm sorry, sir, but I cannot say the same."
"Ah, yes. Not entirely unexpected and certainly nothing you should be concerned about. You may call me Mr. Riddle." The hand extended to him was framed in finely crafted robes that at first looked black, but at closer glance were actually a very deep green. Severus shook the capable hand firmly, but not overly so.//
And there his memories ended.
The warmth paused as though in observation before it slowly flowed around him, through him; warmed molasses rather than acid. He felt the damaged areas within him that remained, but they no longer pained him as he floated suspended in the warm presence. Finally the presence began to withdraw from him, leaving him behind in the cold, urging him to follow. It was so familiar- as though it was a part of him that was taken away, yet one that he had never touched. Although he was reluctant to do so, he finally emerged with the desire to learn what the warmth was.
The warmth continued to retreat and he reached for it.
Harry opened his eyes and shook his head once again as though awakening from a dream- this time not one of his own. The body on the ground before him stirred slightly, first with a quiet gasp of relief and afterwards with a word croaked from a voice hoarse from screaming.
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