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Chapter Twenty-Four: Initiations and Inquiries

Snape felt the sensations of dream and subconscious; vaguely he was able to understand that he was indeed dreaming and for a split second wondered if he might actually be remembering something else before he became fully submerged in the events playing themselves out before him...

//A house stood before him and a blonde young man stood next to him, gazing as he did at the muggle-like yet foreboding structure. "Why here?" Lucius muttered thoughtfully to himself and his companion. "Father once described the ritual; it's usually done outdoors- the more elemental the surroundings the better."

"If Lord Voldemort wishes to explain himself, I'm certain that he will," Severus responded, just as thoughtfully. "Perhaps he has a special purpose in mind, or perhaps we will be traveling to your elemental plain from here." Severus himself was nearly overcome with curiosity. Such a sense of power could belong to only one place; a place owned and dominated by Lord Voldemort. He burned to see the inside, to learn more about the man he so respected by analyzing the structure... to browse the extensive library he was certain to have. But although Lord Voldemort seemed somewhat fond of Severus, he was certain that this wouldn't be an occasion during which he would have the opportunity. This was business. His destiny awaited him tonight.

The two couldn't help but shiver a little as they passed through an almost palpable barrier that surrounded the house; they knew that if they had not been permitted to enter it would have likely done something entirely unpleasant to them. Before entering the house Severus and Lucius glanced at each other- a last opportunity to both reassure at the same time they measured each other up for possible hesitation or second thoughts. Being true Slytherins and having the experiences they did, neither of them paused again before entering and finding the room where they were instructed to meet the others.

"Ah, Lucius," the rich voice called. "Severus. How good to see the two of you." The room they found themselves in was bereft of furniture apart from a thick oak platform which looked to be a part of the wooden floor around it, located at the opposite end of the large square room.

What came as a surprise to the young men is that there were no more than eleven other Death Eaters and Voldemort himself. They had come to understand that Initiation nights were attended by most if not all of the followers, and this group represented only a small fraction- although after he included Lucius and Voldemort himself which brought the total to thirteen, Severus knew that he was in for a very interesting initiation that night.//

Harry felt his sleep grow restless and disturbed before he suddenly woke, the burning of his scar increasing to a pained crescendo. Clamping a hand to the scar and struggling to sit up, Harry turned to check the blurred form on the bed next to him. Severus was breathing heavily as though under some heavy strain. Groping one handed for his glasses and calling loudly for Madame Pomfrey, Harry jammed them onto his face just as Severus' gasps became a scream of pain.

By then Madame Pomfrey had nearly materialized from out of nowhere, passing Harry's bunk with a quick glance at him to measure his condition before moving to tend to Severus whose unconscious body was arched in agony. Harry's scar still hurt him like the blazes, but there was no way he was going to distract the nurse from taking care of Severus first. Besides, it was quite possible that Harry's own pain was stemming from Severus', a conclusion that the highly competent Pomfrey seemed to come to as well as she carefully tried to waken him.

Reaching an arm beneath Severus to support him, Madame Pomfrey settled her other hand upon his forehead as she chanted a quick charm and then called to him. "Severus- wake up!" She moved her hand from his forehead to reach for Severus' left arm, frowning grimly upon the revelation of the Dark Mark's turning black and emitting a large amount of heat. "Severus!" she called again before sending another charm spiraling into him, one that Harry deciphered as a shielding coolness. As Severus began to slowly respond, Pomfrey gave a sigh of relief and called Harry over.

Rather than wasting time with an explanation, she indicated the table between the bunks which held the pitcher of water and glasses, gave Harry a packet of powder and instructed, "Fill a glass with that and the water, drink half of it, and help me give Severus the other half. Only after Harry had begun to do so did she add, "Albus tells me that the two of you have become linked, and that you've helped to heal him before," she briskly said as she gestured him to approach Severus' bunk opposite her. "He's caught in this dream until it plays out- which means that it is likely a memory. We need to help him ride it out with a minimum of pain." As Harry drank she positioned Severus so that they could feed him the potion without drowning him and noted, "The potion will dampen the worst of the pain and stop the feedback loop. Good boy," she added as Harry brought the glass and assisted her.

Once the potion had been consumed by both, Harry found that he could breathe easier- his scar was subsiding, and Severus seemed to be able to manage as well, falling silent once more apart from the quiet gasping from someone dealing with lingering rather than immediate pain.

Madame Pomfrey settled Severus back down, brushing gently at his cheek before regarding Harry with a sad glance and rising to escort him back to his own bunk. "I'm sorry to see you both hurting like this," she murmured in a gentler tone than her customarily efficient one, "But at least you don't have to go through this alone any longer. Either of you," she added with a pointed gaze between the two wizards. "If you both can just accept the help from each other..."

Harry furrowed his brow as the concerned nurse drew the covers up to Harry's chin. "I'm trying, Madam Pomfrey," Harry quietly replied. "I want to help him... but because of what happened to him..." Rather than saying aloud what he didn't want to think about, he trailed off and looked at Severus who seemed to be resting quietly again.

"There are a lot of challenges to get through, the least of which will be from yourselves," Pomfrey sighed. While she seemed fond of Harry, she acted more protective of Severus in her efforts to get Harry to understand. "It took a long time before Severus accepted that I wouldn't ... use my knowledge of him against him should he come to me for help. Albus, Minerva and I have been hard pressed to keep him in one piece since he first came back to us." With a sudden study of Harry's expression, she measured how well he was coping, lightly brushing at his scar which had faded from the irritated red it had been before. "You'll do well. Now get some rest and build up your strength. I'm having lunch for you sent up here in an hour, and I'll want to check you both over after that horrible experience."

"Thank you, Madam Pomfrey," Harry responded, both for her care and for her words.

Seeming aware of both meanings, she smiled and left the private ward with a whisper of her robes behind her.

Surfacing into consciousness, Severus breathed deeply before opening his eyes to the brightness of the Hospital Ward walls. Sunlight streamed in from the windows, and a youthful voice piped up from a bunk next to him. "Severus. Are you feeling better?"

"I'd be able to answer that more easily if I knew what condition I was in before," Severus muttered. Struggling to sit up, Severus got his elbow under himself and turned to look towards the voice. "Oh. Harry," he muttered to himself before sighing. "I suspect that I'm feeling much better now considering where we are." Falling back upon the pillows, Severus lifted the sleeve of his left arm and scowled at the Dark Mark.

The young but tired voice continued, "Madam Pomfrey said that you were likely having memory recollections rather than dreams; she tried waking you and couldn't." Severus decided then that Harry must be continuing with the tradition of upholding Gryffindor Bravery, although it was mingled with a bit of information and the lack of a demand for information in return unless he offered it freely.

Severus transferred his scowl upon Harry, but it wasn't focused enough to do any damage. "You might say that," he muttered, drawing his sleeve down again. Rather than not replying further and giving Harry more time to concentrate on the aura he'd once claimed he could see, he'd give him the information he wanted, and see how he dealt with it. "I was recalling my initiation as a Death Eater. And the steps that Voldemort took afterwards to further control me."

"Oh," was Harry's faint reply.

"You're looking faintly green around the edges," Severus observed with a smirk. "Hardly a flattering color for a Gryffindor."


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