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One of the reasons Voldemort had always felt inclined to trust Severus Snape was that, when he was caught doing something apparently treasonous, he never launched into explanations right away. He would wait until he was asked for them – sometimes enduring up to sixteen Cruciatus Curses in the interim. You never heard sniveling excuses or protestations of innocence from Severus Snape. It was as though he felt completely confident that you'd see the logical explanation in the end, and, until you did, he was happy to humour you by getting tortured.

Well, not happy, perhaps – but he never screamed, or begged for mercy, like the rest of Voldemort's followers.

This time, of course, the screaming was being done for him by the exhaustingly shrill Valance girl – so much so that Voldemort was compelled to pause in the act of torturing Severus to cast a Silencing Jinx on her.

He took a deep breath and flicked his tongue out, as though tasting the sudden silence, and finding it exactly to his liking.

"How do you suffer that creature, Severus?"

Severus looked up. He had fallen to his knees. His jaw was clenched, and his face was chalk-white, but there was no other emotion in his hard, black eyes. "She has her uses, my Lord."

"I'm more than usually aware of it," said Voldemort. "She has a crush on you, Severus, did you know that? That is how I came to find you here. Emotions cause palpable ripples in this place. Anyone with an ounce of magical blood can feel it. Her girlish emotions were easy to follow. They led me here like a trail of sentimental bread-crumbs."

He paused to examine the Valance girl. She had stopped trying to scream, and was staring at the ground with a kind of dull horror.

"A foolish girl," he added, with another malicious flick of his tongue. "Dumbledore, of course, would say that such emotions make you strong, but you and I, Severus, are aware that they only make you obtrusive."

He raised his wand again, and Elsa flinched, but it was Severus who received the Cruciatus Curse. He was still on his knees, but he lurched forward as though he'd been punched in the stomach, pressing his forehead to the grass, digging his fingernails into the dirt. All he did was inhale, Voldemort noted, when he was in pain. Sharp little inhalations that took the place of screams. Voldemort wondered vaguely when the boy allowed himself to breathe out. He would like to be there when it happened.  

"You know, you're doing very well, Severus," said Voldemort conversationally, raising his wand. He could see Snape's hunched shoulders sinking, see the tension receding from every bunched limb. "Most people are sick after two or three Cruciatus Curses. Bella likes to see them rolling around in their own vomit, but I could understand it if you found her sense of humour rather crude. Especially now."

Severus said nothing – either because he was unable to, or because he thought it went without saying that he considered Bella's sense of humour crude. Perhaps he considered her entire existence crude. The two of them were certainly quite different in the way they suffered the Cruciatus Curse: Bella 'endured' it with moans of appreciation.

"I will get straight to the point, Severus," he went on, in a tone of extreme boredom, "because victims of the Cruciatus Curse have been known to swallow their tongues, and I am so looking forward to hearing your explanations. This is Madam Pomfrey's coma, is it not?"

Once again, there was no rush. Some men might have hurried into their explanations, if only to forestall another Cruciatus Curse, but Severus took two or three steadying breaths before he replied. "Yes, my Lord."  

"What an intoxicating spell," said Voldemort, breathing deeply through his slit-like nostrils. "This world is much more malleable than the waking one. I can change aspects of its appearance with barely more than a thought, but the magic underlying all these appearances is strong and ancient and has an unbendable purpose of its own."

He glanced back at the smouldering remains of the elder tree, which was charred and broken-open behind him, like a half-peeled banana skin with no banana inside. Carved into the bark, and only slightly blackened by the fire, was the word 'Resurgam'. "We must discover what that purpose is," he hissed softly. And then, turning back to Severus, he raised his wand again. "You came here because I told you that the one who can awake from this dream will awake to immortality. Lying will not do you any good now."

"It is not my own good that I wish for, my Lord."

"Whose then?" Voldemort hissed. "Your mudblood's? Madam Pomfrey's? Dumbledore's? I knew his influence was poison, Severus, but I did not suspect he was capable of breaking your spirit like this – turning you into one of his sniveling, selfless martyrs. Did he even pay you the compliment of offering you a reward? Or did he work on your mind, and that curiously inconsistent thing he calls a conscience? I could understand you being enslaved by the mudblood. Sickening as she is, she could at least offer you pleasure. But Dumbledore offers nothing: neither knowledge, glory, wealth, nor power. He holds out the promise of a quiet conscience, but he never allows it to stay quiet if he thinks you can still be of service to him." Voldemort shook his head languorously. "I expected better of you, Severus."

"I'm honoured, my Lord," said Snape, and Voldemort was surprised to see him actually seeking out eye-contact. Strands of greasy hair, now soaked in sweat, were getting in his way, and either he didn't have enough strength to push them back, or he didn't want to provoke him with any sudden movements.

Well, since he was being offered an insight into the boy's pitiful mind, Voldemort didn't scruple to take it. Weakness always interested him, especially the kind of weakness he himself had never suffered from.

The familiar jolt as his pitiful defences were knocked aside, and then a cascade of images: Hogwarts corridors, laughing students, a hook-nosed muggle in shirt-sleeves who gave off palpable fumes of hatred and alcohol. But Severus seemed to be concentrating on a particular memory, offering it up for Voldemort's inspection. Blood splashing darkly over an ancient spell-book. Both the blood and the writing were sucked down into the paper, until the book's pages were tantalizingly blank. And then, rising to the surface of the parchment like a lost city, rows of looped, silvery handwriting.

"You have the Light Mark, then," said Voldemort. "Hardly unusual among Dumbledore's followers."

"Unusual among Death Eaters, however," the boy whispered, drawing ragged breaths with a grimace of pain. "I wanted to make up for my failings… I knew a wizard with the Light Mark and the Dark Mark could retrieve the prize for you..."

"You expect me to believe that you came into this dream seeking only my glory?" Voldemort demanded – but with more hesitancy this time. There was no guilt in the boy's mind. Voldemort could taste guilt. Sometimes, he could even see it shining, like beads of sweat, on his victims' skin. Severus Snape was frightened, but not guilty. His thoughts didn't take the shape of someone who'd been caught out – merely someone who was hurrying to catch up.

"And my glory in your eyes," said Snape stubbornly, through gritted teeth. "I don't care how I appear to other people. Least of all him. He tricked me…"  

This time, Voldemort reached for the memory, without waiting for it to be offered.

It probably hurt him. The boy drew a shuddering breath as he sensed the intrusion. And his defences couldn't be lowered – they were naturally there. The mind couldn't help but resist Legilimency. It automatically pushed the intruder back. But Voldemort ripped through the resistance with authority. So the boy would get a headache – perhaps lose a few of brain-cells. Severus had quite enough of them in any case.

He saw Dumbledore in his office, apologizing, but not quite convincingly enough. So the old fool had wanted to brand the boy with a Mark of his own. A wise move but, mingled as it was with all his high-minded talk about self-sacrifice, woefully hypocritical.

Tantalized, Voldemort dug deeper, letting the images flow past his mind's eye with relish. What a collage of hate the boy's mind was – and so much of it directed against Dumbledore… even some against the mudblood, who was willful, and difficult to control, and who didn't watch her impetuous mouth in public.  

He saw school-boys laughing, taunting, jeering, putting their filthy, ink-stained hands on his property. He saw the interior of more libraries than could really have been healthy for a seventeen-year-old. Severus was always hiding in shadows – always being overlooked – always being hexed and jinxed and laughed at – until Dark Magic gave the half-starved boy a taste of power – of consequence. There was his loyalty. It wasn't selfless, but Voldemort would have been highly suspicious if it was.

He would follow dark magic, and dark magic would always lead him to the Dark Lord. The boy wasn't stupid. He made alliances where he could hope for benefit. He was not Dumbledore's fool.

"Very well," said Voldemort, putting his wand away. "But I prefer loyalty to initiative, Severus. I believe I've had occasion to speak to you about that before."

The boy, though still pale and sweaty, gave him the shadow of a smile. "But why compromise, my Lord, if you can have both?"

  
It was a land of baking heat and packed red earth. Fissures and cracks crisscrossed the ground like varicose veins. Grains of sand blew about in the restless wind, and insinuated themselves everywhere – into your eyes, your nostrils, the gaps in your clothing – as though they were very slowly and very patiently trying to flay your skin off.

Poppy and Morry were standing on a cliff-top, overlooking a vast desert plain. They reached for each others' hands, but made no other attempt at communication. Neither of them had any explanations or comfort to offer, but that had always been the way, throughout their relationship. They stayed together simply because neither could stand to be alone in their bewilderment.

And it was comforting to see the sun, despite the fact that it was beating down on them without mercy. Even a sky which threatened imminent death was better than the cotton-wool-wrapped horizons of Mapledurham.  

Down on the plain, in the full glare of the sun, an old woman was sitting on a throne of skulls. But it wasn't the skulls that captured the observer's horrified attention. Life had already been lost there. In the old woman, however, it was floundering, receding – not to mention baking – in the hot desert sun. Next to her, the skulls looked positively wholesome.

If you had to begin somewhere, you would say - and you'd be understating the matter severely - that the sun in this place had not been kind to her skin. It was cracked deep with wrinkles. In fact, her skin had sagged and split so much that her eyes didn't seem to be in sockets anymore; they just peered out from two deep-set wrinkles, one on each side of her nose.

It was a horrifying sight, but Poppy had seen a lot of horrifying sights, and she knew how to put a brave – or at least, a blank – face on it.

The old woman was beckoning to them, so she could evidently still see through those cracks in her folds of skin.

"I think she wants us to go down there," said Poppy lightly, brushing sand out of the corners of her mouth.

"Mrs. Snape told us not to listen to the old woman."

"And do you trust her?"

Morry gave an irritable shrug. "Not particularly, but does that mean I have to trust old women sitting on thrones of skulls? If she'd wanted to attract visitors, she could have chosen some less macabre furniture."

"Perhaps she didn't have much choice," said Poppy, again in a rather far-away voice.

"What, the only building materials she could find were skulls? Skulls don't just materialize, Poppy. At any rate, not without the other bones you usually find in a human body. Or perhaps she set those aside to make herself a nice three-piece suite?"

"I think this is a symbolic landscape," said Poppy, ignoring him. "I've read about them. There are some healers who can open up a window into a world that sort of symbolizes their subconscious. It's hostile and inhospitable, because Mrs. Snape is hostile and inhospitable - ,"

"She did make us tea," Morry interrupted, smiling at Poppy's antipathy for that woman.

"My point is," Poppy went on, "that, even if it isn't a very nice place, I don't think anything in here could kill us, because Mrs. Snape didn't want us to die."

"That's a piece of logic worthy of a Gryffindor," said Morry, with a cheerful grimace. "The fact that she didn't want us to die there and then does not mean she's against the idea of us dying in principle. And I don't think many nice women would have a subconscious like this."

"You think Mapledurham is part of my subconscious," said Poppy with a twisted half-smile. "So what does that say about me?"

The old woman was beckoning more insistently now. She had frizzy wisps of white hair that stood out around her head like a dandelion clock. Captured in all that hair, the sunlight gathered and glared around her head like a halo.

"I'm going down there," said Poppy. "If she's only a symbol of Mrs. Snape's subconscious, what's the worst she can do?"

"The worst things Mrs. Snape could possibly imagine?" Morry suggested.

"Come on, Morry. She might need our help."

"Oh, that's your answer for everything," he grumbled, following her down the path of packed, red earth that led onto the desert plain. "And it's a good answer, but you fail to take the subtleties into account. She might need our help but not want our help, like your dead-eyed muggles in Mapledurham. Or she might be the sort of person who shouldn't have help."

"There's no kind of person who shouldn't have help."

"What about the ones who are trying to strangle their children? You're happy to lend a hand there, are you?"

"Oh, shut up."

They had reached the woman now, and she was beaming. It made them both wince in sympathy for her dry, over-stretched skin.

"Hello, my little ones," she said, in a voice that was as cracked as her skin. "How nice to see some real, flesh-and-blood people in this place."

Both Poppy and Morry tried to avoid glancing down at her chair.

"What's your name, my dear?" said the old woman, stretching out her claw-like hands to Poppy.

"Poppy Pomfrey," said Poppy, submitting herself to the searching hands, although she was aware that Morry had grabbed her elbow – presumably so that he could tug her back if the old woman made an attempt to snatch her away.

Poppy tried to communicate with a glance that he was being impolite, but stopped, because the old woman had reacted to her name in a very curious way. Her mouth had dropped open – and, again, they both got the horrible feeling that this expression would wrench her skin to breaking point.

"Poppy Pomfrey?" she repeated, glancing down at the row of skulls which formed the left arm-rest of her throne. "Goodness gracious me. I hadn't expected to see you so… young."

Poppy tried – unsuccessfully – to avoid following the woman's gaze. She had seen lots of skulls in France – half-buried in mud, usually, or half-covered in flesh. The ones in the old woman's chair were very tidy by comparison. The sand-flecked desert winds must have polished them. The sun glared off them. And if they were only symbols, then there was nothing to fear, was there? Except that a skull was seldom a symbol of something innocuous, like a love-affair or a hangover.

"And what's your name, Madam?" she asked, trying to manufacture a smile.

"Idris Mulligan," said the old woman – and, fragile and emaciated though she was, she still managed to stick her chest out with pride. "I've been here a long time. A long time. But perhaps you don't know where 'here' is?"

"We think it's some kind of symbolic landscape, Madam" said Morry cautiously. "A representation of Mrs. Snape's subconscious, or something like that?"

Idris Mulligan tilted her head to one side, as though she was scanning the sentence for falsehoods. "Yes, that's a reasonable explanation. Particularly the 'or something like that'. I like that."

"I think Mrs. Snape put us in here to keep us safe," Poppy ventured.

"My dear," said Idris Mulligan, "if she is presenting this world to you as a safe haven, then the place you come from must have been truly terrible."

"Oh, it was," said Morry, ever the charmer. "Horrific!"

"Ah? Well, that doesn't surprise me," said Idris Mulligan with an arthritic shrug. "Most earthly places are hives of filth and corruption. But please do not think of my humble abode as a step up. And what can I tell you about your de facto hostess? Mrs. Snape, I mean?" The old woman gazed at them for a few moments, and then her expression cleared, as far as a face so beset with wrinkles could ever be said to clear. "Do you know the story of the Red Queen from Through the Looking-Glass?"

"She didn't have a story," said Morry. "She just had a couple of scenes."

"Only from Alice's perspective. To Alice, the Red Queen is just a bit-part player, but, to the Red Queen, she's the heroine. Her story was going on before Alice arrived, and it continued long after Alice left. Would you like to hear it?"

"Alright," said Poppy warily.

Idris Mulligan rubbed her desiccated hands together. "Marvellous!" She leaned down, as if she were telling a fairy-story to a group of wide-eyed children, and whispered:

"The Red Queen, you see, wanted to be somebody. She wanted to get somewhere. But, because she was muggle-born, the world took no heed of her. It moved along without her, and she had to run all the time just to stay in the same place. She soon realized that, if she wanted to get somewhere, she would have to run even harder. So, for a while, she did. She went to school and studied, read books on Healing Magic, and pretended she didn't want the pretty dresses or instant job-offers that were served up daily to her pure-blood peers. She persuaded herself that she would rather work hard for her success. How could she feel proud of her accomplishments if they were just dropped into her lap?

But, after a while, she got tired. The road was so long, you see, and she'd been running so hard. And she thought: if the world was constantly moving along without her, maybe she could get where she wanted to go by standing still and waiting for it to arrive from the other direction. So, one day, she stopped, dug her heels in, and started to wait. She waited so long that, after a while, she began to pounce on the other runners who tried to jog past her. She had disappointed herself, and lost all hope of catching up, so she didn't want anyone else to reach the finishing-line either. She's still standing there, you know, waiting for the finishing-line to come back past her, but it's a mere technicality now. She can't remember why she even wanted it in the first place. She doesn't want anything anymore."

"And that's where I come in," Idris Mulligan added in a sing-song voice, trilling triumphantly. "I was a real person before I fell into this world. But, if you stay here long enough, you start turning into a symbol. This place makes you its own. And somehow – doubtless through my distaste for the disgusting, material world, and my reputation as the Queen of the Dementors – I came to symbolize her despair. There were others in here too when I arrived, but, one by one, she began to sacrifice them to me. I watched them drop. Vultures picked their bones clean. Until I had the place all to myself."

She turned to the arm-rest of skulls, and passed her hand tenderly over the one at the very end. "This one was her big-sister," she said.  

Poppy stared at the empty eye-sockets in horror. "How did it happen?"

"In the case of Petunia, envy. Her child didn't die. Lily grew to hate her for her good fortune. The others, too, got taken by various different kinds of hate. Lily Snape is a mistress of variety. And she hates me too, but I'll never leave her."

She drew in a dry, rattling breath, and continued to stroke the skull of the woman she had identified as 'Petunia'. "I always win, in the end. I took Lily's husband, and I'll take her. He didn't even need a Dementor. He was his own Dementor. That restless mind wouldn't stop replaying the scenes of past agony – past humiliations. And, when their baby died, that was the end. He thought it was because of his curse, you see. When he was still a foetus in his mother's womb, she drank unicorn blood to keep him alive, and misfortune dogged his footsteps – and the footsteps of his wretched mother – ever afterwards. He lost his little baby, and saw that the baby's death had destroyed Lily – had eaten her up from the inside out. He thought the only way to save Lily was to end the curse by ending his life. After all, the curse knew that he loved her. Wherever he went – whatever he did – he couldn't stop loving her. Even if he shrouded his love in fumes of alcohol and Occlumency, the curse couldn't be fooled. The curse knew his heart. His only option was to stop that heart from beating. He was a Slytherin, and an immensely clever one, so you can imagine the tortured logic which led him up to this conclusion. You can't shake a Slytherin from a point of logic, especially not when logic has combined itself with love. So he drank a whole vial of Misericordial. He didn't want his wife to find a mangled corpse. He didn't want to distress her any more than was necessary, can you imagine? She hated him for that above all!"

Idris Mulligan blew a speck of sand off poor Petunia's skull, and sat back in her chair luxuriantly.  "But it didn't work, as you have no doubt gathered. What it did was sponge up the last dregs of hope Lily had lingering at the bottom of her heart. And she became a monster. You might not know this yet, Poppy Pomfrey, but monsters beget monsters – much more effectively than kindness begets kindness. One night, a filthy muggle beats up his pregnant wife; he drives her to murder a unicorn; that murder drives Severus Snape to kill himself; and that killing drives Lily Snape to become a mass-murdering Death Eater. It's like a line of dominoes. There's no way out, ever. She knows that now.

Some people would use it as a parable to convey the idea that violence always originates from muggles, but I know better. The man who beat his pregnant wife could have been a wizard. He could have been anyone – wizard or muggle, man or woman, young or old. We all have it in us, and it only takes a little thing to bring it out."

She turned her slit-like eyes towards Poppy. It was difficult to gauge any expression in that mass of wrinkles, but her tone of voice, when she spoke again, was mockingly courteous.

"You're going to go the same way, my dear. At first glance, you'd think there's nothing which could possibly unite you to that despicable muggle. You think you are civilized – compassionate – but those are just roles you're playing out because you don't understand yourself yet. It's already begun. You're already furious. The horrors you've seen – the ingratitude of those you tried to help – they're all germinating inside you like some kind of monstrous child. And then, years from now, other people will be listing you and your actions as one of the stepping stones that led to their own doom. There's only one way to escape the cycle, and you know what it is."

Dimly, Poppy felt the pressure of Morry squeezing her elbow, pulling her back. She must have taken a step towards that horrible woman. "Mrs. Snape said don't listen to the old woman," he repeated softly.

Idris Mulligan chuckled, evidently pleased with the way Poppy had lost control. "That's marvelous!" she said, clapping her hands together with a horrible, dry rustling sound. "We're already half-way there! You can be angry with me, all you like, my dear. Hate me just like Lily does – although I doubt your heart could reach the same pitch of hatred as hers – it doesn't make any difference! There's only one escape, and you know what it is now."
Finally continuing from Tea and Sympathy [link]

Sorry it's taken so long to update!

This is also a kind of companion-piece to 'Notes on the Bad Guy' [link] where Lily is first likened to the Red Queen.
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:iconjustbecause62:
JustBecause62 Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm trying desperately to avoid saying 'Poor Sev' with each one of these chapters, because it was mentioned at one point that he'd rather be dead than be pitied, and I don't want him to die! :noes:

She has a crush on you, Severus, did you know that?

:D That's gotta be awkward, especially considering Elsa is 8 and Sev's 17. Admittedly, though, they'd make a pretty good pairing if they were closer in age (and if Lily hadn't already taken full command of Sev's love and loyalty).

And Idris Mulligan is terrifyingly shrewd here. Of course, it might work out in Sev's favor that Pomfrey now knows about the unicorn, but then again, it may not. :hmm:

Anyway, gotta go keep reading. :sprint:
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2012
:giggle: I always think 'Poor Sev' after each chapter too! But you're right, of course, he wouldn't like it, so instead let's think 'How manfully and impressively Sev is handling all these troubles!' ;) He'd be dead keen on that!
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:iconjustbecause62:
JustBecause62 Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Yes! :D
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:iconpolkadotpeony:
polkadotpeony Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2011
Oh my goodness. So I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Sev getting tortured. I hate that he has to endure such pain, but I love that he is so incredibly strong, and faces it with such perseverance. He is my hero. :)

Oh my goodness, I loved your explanation of Occlumency, how Severus manipulates it and shuffles it around so that Voldy only sees certain things, and that Voldy is too pride-full to dig deep enough to see the damning evidence that Snape is not his. See this is what pissed me off about the movie, I HATED that Harry didn't say a work to Voldy about Snape. In the book it's awesome, he tells Voldy that Snape was never his, that his entire downfall is because of Snape. It's so awesome. Voldy needs to know that before he dies! He needs to know that Snape outsmarted him! That love does win in the end!
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2011
:nod: I know! Voldemort's death was really anticlimactic in the movie anyway (it doesn't happen in front of everyone - there's no real confrontation - he just looks puzzled for a few minutes and then turns into a load of confetti!) but I so wanted to see Harry publically revealing Snape's allegiance, because that's practically the only recognition that Severus Snape gets in the story. Warner Brothers broke my heart! :crying: (Of course, they'd broken my heart before that numerous times by messing up my favourite books, so my hopes weren't high! ;))
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:iconshyfoxling:
shyfoxling Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2011
Yikes, this was a scary one all around. I don't like what that old woman is saying at all, mainly because she's surely got a point. (And I forgot that one of the things hopefully averted in the boggart-Lily line is that Severus is supposed to kill himself!) I was definitely sweating along with Severus in the first part, too. He's pretty good, to manage to come out of that one mostly intact (and with what passes for Voldemort's faith in him mostly intact, too).
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2011
Thank you! :hug: I find Idris Mulligan scary too - and even scarier because she seems to be talking sense so much of the time! :fear: She's like an articulate Dementor! And that whole bit about Sev being convinced he was dragging his loved ones down just by loving them - I know from personal experience that that's one of despair's most cruel and cunning arguments! Mean old Idris Mulligan! ;)
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:iconloyanini:
loyanini Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2011
This was wonderful and poignant! I love the comparison to The Red Queen and the exposition on Lily Snape. Definitely an interesting idea. I just hope it doesn't actually happen DX Sev has the light mark yes? Lily Snape's husband didn't right?
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2011
Absolutely! Lily Snape's husband didn't have the Light Mark, and that will lead up to another important difference between the two Severuses that I can't tell you about just yet! ;) Thanks so much for the comment, I'm really happy you enjoyed this chapter! :hug: :) Sooo glad it's the weekend - I finally have some time to devote to writing the next chapter!
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
:omg: :faint:

This is fantastic, but I can't write a proper review now, as I'm quickly borrowing someone's laptop (and having a difficult time with the mouse anyway).

:clap:
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2011
Yay! Thank you! :hug: :heart: I have a bad relationship with laptops altogether. I can't write on their little scrunched-up keyboards and the touch-pad mouse thing never does what I tell it to! :faint: Am not very computer literate, I fear!
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
I love the calm way you write Voldemort. And your Severus; His thoughts didn't take the shape of someone who'd been caught out – merely someone who was hurrying to catch up. Simply perfect.

The reappearance of Idris Mulligan is very chilling, but a great source of insight into poor Boggart-Lily.

This is beautifully written, as always. I hope this doesn't sound in any way patronizing, but after beginning to re-read this story on fanfiction.net, I've realized just how much better your writing has gotten -- and it was amazing to start with! Now, however, it's just mind-boggling. :wow:
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2011
Thank you! :hug: No, that totally doesn't sound patronizing - I'm really happy to hear that I've got better! In fact, it will help me to bear that in mind, because, whenever I'm in a bleak mood, I always look back at old chapters and think: "this is much better than anything I could write now, I'm totally going downhill." But I mustn't trust my thoughts when I'm in that kind of mood, and your words will help me to argue with myself!

I did notice, when I was looking back at the old chapters, that the perspective used to hop about a lot. I was trying to tell the story from everybody's point of view at once, which was just greedy of me! ;)

I wonder if it would be easy to spot my recent additions to the old chapters. I reckon this bit I added to 'Vengeance' is particularly characteristic of the style in which I write the story now:

The errant curtain of hair fell across her eyes again, and she made no move to push it back. For Severus, it seemed like the final curtain on everything. That's it, it said. The show's over. You can hang on to your ticket stub – for all the good it'll do you – but please clear the theatre, because we have to get ready for the next show – starring Roger Davies as 'The Second Quidditch-playing Moron to Ruin your Life'.

:giggle: I was stupidly pleased with that! :blushes:
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
As well you should be. :nod:
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:iconnegracamada:
Negracamada Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2011
Hmmmm. Interesting! I wonder if this development will change the relationship between Snape and Poppy in the future.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2011
Oh, yes, I hadn't thought of that - maybe she'll be nicer to him now she's heard about his curse and his depressing future! (Also, the fact that Morry looks just like him might soften her attitude towards him too! ;))
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:iconancatdubh:
AnCatDubh Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2011
shit, I started reading the latest chapter instead of the first one I hadn't read. I'm such a DA n00b :D just enough time to read about the 16 cruciatus... You're a bit voldemortish yourself are you not? :D you slytherin!
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2011
:rofl: I do that all the time! DA's confusing like that. It seems like the deviation at the top of the stack is all there is! Actually, though, the previous two chapters are set way back at the beginning of the story (I'm trying to tie up the loose end of the Dark Snitch for posting the story on ff.net) so this probabably was the next one chronologically (if that makes sense! :faint:)

P.S. Hope I am graduating from Hufflepuff to Slytherin! ;)
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:iconancatdubh:
AnCatDubh Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2011
Do you consider yourself a hufflepuff then?

I didn't really understand your explanation (and I pretend I'm a ravenclaw, what? :D) actually now rereading it I do. It should be interesting reading these two chapters, because by now I think I've forgotten what happened at the beginning of the story... Maybe I should start from the beginning again :D (I have absolutely no memory for stories for some reason. I'm starting my first reread of HP and realise I have no clue what is supposed to be going on lol, and as I was telling vizen reading philosopher's stone feels like reading a strange fanfiction now).
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2011
I was sorted into Hufflepuff by an evil online sorting quiz! :( But I'm starting to come round to the idea. After all, the Gryffindors are too showy, and the Slytherins too unsentimental for me (and no WAY am I clever enough to be in Ravenclaw! ;)) so Hufflepuff is probably just about right: a house for soft-hearted people who just like a nice cup of tea!

You know, I have no memory for old stories either. My boyfriend just started reading a book that I read three years ago, and he keeps talking about characters and events that I have no memory of whatsoever! I guess it's a good thing, because it means every time we read a book, it's like reading it for the first time, and we can get just as excited by the plot!

Actually, a lot of the beginning of my story has been re-written now (only from 'Vengeance' to 'Blue Satin' 'cause I'm slow), so if some bits seem new to you then it's not because you have a bad memory!
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:iconshyfoxling:
shyfoxling Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2011
and no WAY am I clever enough to be in Ravenclaw! ;)

Oh blah! With deft turns of phrase and poetic metaphor like you can produce? Pull the other one!
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2011
:hug: :giggle: If I could write down every conversation before I spoke it, the Ravenclaws might let me in! ;) Put me on the spot and I talk the most unbelievable rubbish!
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:iconshyfoxling:
shyfoxling Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2011
Ah, well you just need that long climb up to our aerie common-room - it gives plenty of time for l'esprit d'escalier. ;)
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:iconloyanini:
loyanini Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2011
Noooo stay in Hufflepuff with me! There's no one else in here D:
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:iconancatdubh:
AnCatDubh Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2011
sure there are loads of hufflepuffs (especially if you count all the closet hufflepuffs pretending they're in slytherin :D)
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2011
:rofl: Ha ha, don't worry, I'm not ambitious enough for Slytherin really! I just like to sit around with a cup of tea and dream about Severus Snape! :blushes: :heart:
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:iconloyanini:
loyanini Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2011
yay! you can join me ahaha.
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2011
This chapter had me kinda grinning as Snape was playing Voldemort for a fool... even as he's being tortured.

Some of the stuff Severus is doing though seems to suggest that his Occlumency has gotten stronger. Sev was basically showing him not only select memories, but he was now sharing his feelings with him completely out of context of where those feelings came from. IS Sev now able to take his own memories and stick a 'lense' on them for Voldemort to view? I mean, if LV can see the conversation where DD congratulates Sev for getting the mark... that would normally be a death sentence, but it seems you have Snape cloak all these memories with 'appropriate' feelings so LV accepts them.

Also, he was able to show him a memory of Lily (I presume it was the one where they were arguing recently) and attached hatred to it, while blocking away all the love associated with it. Cause when you wrote that chapter, I got the impression that Sev was irritated with her, but he was still feeling his oh so unique brand of mad love :P So is Sev now able to pick out any memory and pick out which emotion he wants to associate with it depending on who's in his mind?!?! It's an extremely subtle trick, and I imagine one that would be insanely hard to pull off... for anyone other than a paranoid bastard ;)

It's kinda funny because LV keeps thinking he's breaking through Sev's defenses..... is he purposely putting up a 'fake' defense for LV to breakthrough so as not to make him suspicious to the real defense that's going on ?

Wow.... I think a lot about this don't I ;)

Keep it up!

-Sam
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2011
Woohoo, good questions, you’ve really got me thinking about how Sev practises Occlumency! (On a related note, apologies in advance for the length of this comment! ;) And apologies if it's irrelevant too, I just felt an overwhelming need to write a lecture about Occlumency as I see it!)

I think Sev's Occlumency is more misdirection than defence. He’s able to shuffle his memories so that certain ones float to the top, and give the impression of being the uppermost things on his mind. Voldemort – being a guy who acts on all his desires and carries out all his threats – wouldn’t understand that the thoughts which are uppermost in Sev’s mind are actually the less important ones. So I guess Severus can’t block Voldemort from seeing the incriminating thoughts or feelings, but he can overshadow them with darker thoughts and feelings.

I think he constantly practises associating his good memories with bad ones so that, every time he has a nice moment with Lily, he concentrates on a time when Potter attacked him or his dad beat him. If every good memory has a negative pair, and he learns to associate the good one with the bad one, then he can sort of flip the good one over whenever Voldemort reaches into his mind to show its dark underbelly.

(Obviously, this approach is not going to make him a very happy man, but I guess he’s learned to prioritize concealment above happiness these days!)

The good thing about the misleading trail Sev presents to Voldemort is that it isn't lying. He really does hate Dumbledore, he even resents Lily, because she doesn’t look after herself – so he can use parts of his real feelings and make out that they are the only ones which are there. It just involves giving free reign to a particular part of his personality (the part that's resentful and exasperated with everybody, which is pretty much the dominant part most of the time anyway! ;))

I’m not sure why I prefer to think of Occlumency as misdirection rather than actually blocking a mental intrusion. I guess I assumed that Voldemort would get suspicious if he couldn’t see Sev's motivations and memories. I also think it’s a more creative skill - and more indicative of Sev's intelligence and imagination - if Occlumency is about creating a misleading trail. Also, I quite like the idea that the facts are there, and Voldemort could get at them, if he wasn’t so content to go with the simplest explanation!

I definitely agree that Sev's getting better and better at Occlumency. (Although he’s used to hiding the tender parts of his personality behind a mask of exasperation, because anger is pretty much the only feeling he’s not ashamed to show!)

As for the instinctive defences that Voldemort thinks he's breaking through, I don’t think they're fake. I think it’s just impossible to lower your mental defences enough to let somebody freely into your mind. It’s like letting the doctor give you an injection. You know he’s doing it for your own good, and you intend to co-operate, but you still can’t help flinching (or I can’t, anyway! ;))

Anyway, sorry, long and silly... :blushes:

Lucy.
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:iconmelorik:
Melorik Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2011
No no, this is very good. I like long essays.

The question now is... where does Sev go from here? I mean, it's not like in Canon where he doesn't have Lily so associating everything with a bad memory wasn't that difficult.

Here however, assuming that him and Lily try and make things work (and I imagine they will), how long can Sev keep it up? We already know from the previous chapter that he can't quite associate sleeping with her as a negative. You pretty much described that memory as being a refuge for him in the future when things get tough (as if they're not tough enough already).

Will Lily have to learn to understand this about Sev and make compromise, or will Sev have to sometimes compromise on his memory associations... or maybe both?

Is the the Occlumency that Sev is using, the Occlumency that his peers are thinking of? or is the Mozart of mental defense and is inventing a whole new way of practicing Occlumency?

THe reason I ask this, is because it seems that LV is used to brute forcing his way through his opposition, and he expects Occlumency to be about blocking intrusion. He doesn't seem to suspect at all that it can be used as a form of misdirection. It's quite funny that Sev is able to best him not by overpowering him, but by misdirecting him. Talk about brains over brawn :P

So if he can do this now, but at the same time he wants to be happy with Lily... will Sev have to learn how to actually hide away certain memories (temporary forgetfulness while in the occlumency state maybe?).. or maybe even fabricate completely false ones with illusions and pass them off as real?

There's a lot of possibilities, so I'd love to hear your thoughts as to where he can grow from here.

Cheers,

Sam
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2011
Oooh, I dunno. You'r right, there's so many possibilities I can't even decide (and sometimes I can only figure out which direction the story's going to take when I'm actually writing it!)

Obviously, his inventive way of practising Occlumency will make him a bit distant and difficult to deal with in his relationship with Lily. But then, he always sort of hangs back during happpy moments anyway, for fear of looking stupid! There's something about his personality that prevents him from ever truly melting into the moment (although it's happened a couple of times during this story, where his happiness or his anger has been too overwhelming to resist). But Lily is used to dealing with his distant moments and his difficult personality. And, fortunately, her own personality is so messed-up that she always needs to be helping someone in order to feel worthy, so maybe this kind of compromise will suit them both! ;)

Things are always going to be difficult for them, I think, but they've come such a long way in learning to understand each other that it makes me hopeful for the future of their relationship. And all they really need in order to be happy is to have irrelevant, teasing conversations with each other. I mean, where your love is as sweet and innocent as that, you ought definitely to stick with it! ;)

I think Sev's way of deluding Lord Voldemort has definitely put a whole new twist on the science of Occlumency! Maybe I can have him and Dumbledore discuss that in a later chapter. I really appreciate your comments, because they always make me think about things in more depth and give me ideas for the future! :hug:
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:iconflameofthewest7:
FlameoftheWest7 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2011
Poor Severus!! It's horrible to imagine him aching in silence under Voldemort's curses (especially when you know in the course of the story, it has happened quite a lot!) I always love the visions of an Occlumency trip, and you wrote Snape's so expressively. He has endured so much!

You really have such an intuitive sense of metaphor for your characters. The Red Queen's story gave such a poignant picture of the weariness that follows striving to overcome rejection. Great work, as always!
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2011
Yay, thank you! :hug: That's such a perfect summary of what Lily's feeling, 'the weariness that follows striving to overcome rejection'. I'd probably turn into a bitter Death-Eater too if I was her (although I tend to find the darker characters more interesting, so I'd probably be drawn to the Death Eaters a lot earlier on in my career! ;))

Sorry Severus has such a hard time in this chapter (although, he was in bed with Lily a few chapters ago, experiencing the natural opposite of the Cruciatus Curse, so I guess it balances out! ;))
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:iconvictory-gin:
Victory-Gin Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
You know, I really adore your creativity. The 'running to stay in the same place' aspect of the Red Queen is a wonderful metaphor for Lily and you illustrate that perfectly. This brings up the problem of her losing her magic. She's doing a good job of staying above water, but I wonder how long she can keep a smile on her face in light of her circumstances. (Though, I imagine a few intimate moments with Sev are good for therapy.)

So, I'm wondering, is Idris Mulligan already making herself at home in Lily's subconscious?
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2011
:w00t: :hug: Thank you! Yes, poor Lily - now that she's lost her magic, I expect envy will be an even bigger part of her life! (Although, as you say, a few intimate moments with Sev couldn't hurt to cheer her up! ;) They'd certainly cheer me up!) Idris Mulligan might already be making her sinister presence felt, even in the young, not-yet-hate-filled Lily. Hopefully, we'll get to catch up with her in the next chapter (If I can get my ass in gear and actually write it!) Regulus needs to visit her, and try to poison her and, oh dear, there's so much still to do! :faint:

Thanks again for the comment, it's great to catch up with you! :hug:
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