The Torture of a Bad Conscience
– CHAPTER ELEVEN –
The Torture of a Bad Conscience is the Hell of a Living Soul
"Tracey!" I yelled, voice shaking in fear and alarm.
No. She can't be dead. Please don't be dead. I need her. I love her. A terrible thought diffused into my mind. It was me. It was my killing curse. I had done this. No!
I sunk to my knees. She can't be dead. I crawled up to her, tears stinging at my eyes. I could not see straight. It was Riddle. Riddle had done this. Not me, Riddle. What difference did it make?
"Tracey," I said huskily. "Tracey. I love you, alright? I've said it."
I stared down at her still face. Her eyes were wide, her mouth a small 'o'. I lifted her into my arms and cradled her head. Her skin was cold. Tears fell unchecked onto her smooth, pale face. Calm down. I need to calm down and think properly. Occlumency was useless.
"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY DAUGHTER?"
My eyes flicked towards the doorway where Mr. Davis stood, fury emanating from his every syllable. He brought his wand down like a knife and I felt the wind knock out of me. The next thing I knew, I was flying backwards and slammed against the wall. I cried out as my back screamed in pain.
Davis bent over and muttered a few spells over Tracey. He lifted her wrist and checked her pulse. His relief told me all I needed to know. She was still alive.
I felt my face flush with a cruel mix of embarrassment and gratification. How could I be so stupid? She was not dead. Of course she wasn't. The curse wasn't strong enough. I tried to move, but even the slightest movement sent fresh waves of excruciating stinging through me.
I looked around desperately for my wand. It lay within stretching distance, under the edge of the dining table. I took a deep breath and slowly stretched my arm. It was too far away. I had to move myself. Preparing myself for the flood of pain, I leaned forward. I tried to block out the thudding anguish and leaned forward even further.
My beloved wand was closer and closer to my outstretched hand. It was like trying to catch a snitch. Closer, closer. Just one more stretch…
My heart sunk. A green slipper had appeared and kicked the wand away. There was no way I was going to reach it now.
"You have some explaining to do, Potter."
I was forced back against the wall. This time, I could not move at all. It was as though I had been cemented in place. I glared up at Davis, my hatred for him rising with every passing second. How dare he? Howdare he?
"I have tolerated your presence in this house because of my daughter. Now I find that there has been an attempt on her life. Give me one reason why I shouldn't execute you right now." He drew closer to me, his wand poised like a snake before striking its prey.
What could I do? My eyes flicked around the room. I needed something, anything. But even if there was something, what could I do with it? I was stuck. "If you wanted to kill me," I said in a hoarse whisper, "you would have done it by now."
"Why would I reward you with a quick death?" He dug his wand into my chin, his eyes swimming with wild rage.
I stared helplessly at my wand, lying around listlessly, too far away to help. Or was it? I had only once used my wand without touching it, and that was only a Lumos spell after a particularly bad Riddle memory. "If you take my life, yours is forfeit."
He removed his wand from my chin and flicked it briskly upwards. I bit my lip. My heart felt as though an invisible hand was squeezing it. I couldn't scream. I couldn't give that disgusting worm the satisfaction. I clenched my eyes shut as it worsened. I was sure it was going to burst. Suddenly, the pain was relieved and I felt very sick.
"So, Potter, what were you saying?"
"Kill me and you will have to answer to Voldemort," I whispered. Every breath was painful. I had to save my energy. I glanced over at my wand and with every fibre of my being willed it towards me. There was no change.
"Have I not warned you not to speak his name?" said Davis, shuddering with ire. "Now face the consequences." He muttered something and moved his wand in a circle. There was a flash of blinding purple light.
I screamed. It was almost as though a gargantuan dog was biting chunks out of my side. I yelled until my voice was hoarse. The white hot agony was threatening my consciousness. My vision was dimming. Anything was better than this. Let death take me, I thought, anything to escape this. As before, it was suddenly released.
"I wouldn't want you to miss the party, would I? The fun has only just begun."
I blinked rapidly. I had to keep consciousness. My body was twitching. It must have been an after-effect of the pain. I mustered all the energy I could and focussed on my wand. Maybe I was hallucinating, but it seemed as though the wand had twitched.
"You'll wish the Dark Lord had killed you before I'm finished with you!" Yes! My wand was slowly turning towards Davis. My neck almost broke under the force of a painful blow from the man. I could not break concentration. Not now.
I mustered all the concentration I could, ignoring the torturous agony. I took a sharp, rasping breath and shouted, "STUPEFY!"
Nothing. Before I could even contemplate the ramifications of failure, a jet of red light burst out of my beloved wand and arced through the air. It struck Davis in the small of the back. As he collapsed, the spell holding me in place was released and I fell to the floor.
Despite the pain, despite my shuddering muscles, I smiled. It had worked.
Wincing, I crawled towards my wand. As my hand grasped around it, I felt the relief instantly. Breathing uneasily, I patchily cast the only pain-relieving charms I knew. It was enough to be getting on with. After shakily pulling myself up to my feet, I walked over to Tracey's unconscious form. I lifted her pale hand and felt her pulse. It was a little slow, but otherwise fine. Why was she so cold, then?
My attention reverted back to Davis. He would pay for his actions. There was no doubt in my mind. I would make him rue the day he laid his wand on me. But I would not let the opportunity to get information pass so readily under the veil of retribution. Finally, it was time for me to get some answers.
I rushed through the ground floor corridor and burst into the potion's lab. The air was notably thicker here, though there was no visible steam. The walls were lined with glass cupboards full of small, labelled vials. On the stone floor were four cauldrons, all of which appeared empty. I snatched a handful of empty vials from one of the cupboards and approached the cauldron furthest from the door.
"Show me the truth," I whispered, holding my wand over the rim. In the blink of an eye, the cauldron was filled with the colourless truth serum. I filled all the vials and placed them in my pyjama pockets. All except one.
I returned to the dining room to find that nothing had changed. Right down to the enticing breakfast, it was exactly the same as I left it. Wasting no time, I strode over to Davis and forced his mouth open. Three drops of Veritaserum were placed carefully onto his limp tongue.
Davis opened his eyes. His face was slack, his gaze unfocused. I knelt before him, so that our faces were level.
"Can you hear me?" Davis' eyelids flickered.
"Yes," Davis muttered. I smiled weakly – the potion was working. But I needed to test it.
"What family did you buy this house from?" I asked, careful to speak clearly and keep my wand within reach.
I paused and thought for a moment. There were so many things I wanted to ask. "Have you had any contact with the escaped prisoners?"
"Does it have anything to do with the Dark Lord?"
My breathing quickened. "Explain."
"The Dark Lord and his most trusted servant conducted the escape. He was of the opinion that surrounding himself with his Inner Circle once more was a key objective, especially after the failure of last year."
"The failed infiltration of Hogwarts. The plan was to place one of Master's servants as the Defence of the Dark Arts professor. However, Moody was inaccessible." Voldemort had tried to get an inside man at Hogwarts? That seemed a remarkably risky plan for a man with no body.
"How did they escape?"
"The Dark Lord's influence stretches far and wide. The Head Guard was a friend of his at Hogwarts." I gasped in pain as the face of one of Riddle's friends came to the forefront of my mind. "Before the Ministry officials could react, the ten were miles clear of the prison." I frowned. The plan seemed so simple it was absurd. Had Dumbledore never kept a close on eyes on the careers of Riddle's classmates?
"How long have you been reporting to the Dark Lord?"
"He summoned us for the first time in December. Before that, it was only his most loyal servant who knew of his location."
"Your master has managed to insure his life. Tell me about what he has done to Slytherin's Ring to achieve this."
"The Dark Lord keeps his secrets secret."
"But you must know something about his Horcruxes?" I said, taken aback by the void of information. Davis looked at me blankly. I started to get annoyed. "Surely you know that he has split his soul?"
"He has told us nothing. However, I assume that he has entrusted his most loyal supporters with the protection of valuable artefacts." I leaned forward, not daring to believe it. This was the best news I had heard all year. But it did not make sense. Tom Riddle did not trust anyone but himself. Why would the adult Voldemort be any different? Had the effects of the Veritaserum worn off? Was he lying?
I decided to change tack. I had to use the information that couldn't lie. The Pensieve.
"Where do you keep your Pensieve?"
"In the bottom drawer of my desk. The password to access it is 'Tracey Susan Davis'." I blinked at the sentimentality and imprudence of the password. I had a horrible feeling that he was lying again. Either that or I had given him more credit than was due. I stunned and bound him just in case.
My feet led me onto the well-beaten path of the corridor. However, this time, the journey was short. I stopped outside the double doors of Davis' study and entered.
The room was exactly the same as my last encounter with it, down to the last fibre of rich red carpet. I kept my eyes away from the grand portrait with great difficulty and approached the desk. I did not know why I was so wary of the portrait; there was nothing he could do.
I rested briefly on the throne-like chair and gasped. I sunk into a perfectly comfortable position and a rush of warmth spread through me like a soup on a cold winter's day.
"Comfortable?" drifted in the powerful voice of the former Minister.
"Perfectly," I said curtly.
There were three drawers, made of the same opulent mahogany as the rest of the table. Bordered around each of them were beautiful calligraphic engravings of the finest gold. I ran a finger along it. It felt both rough and smooth under the touch.
"There is no way in without a password," said Archimedes the portrait with a hint of disdain. If, as I suspected, the password was false, there was now the gloating of the portrait to deal with.
"Tracey Susan Davis," I said, hand still on the top drawer. At first, nothing. Then, the golden script began to glow. The lettering began to merge and move towards the centre. Soon, all that was left was a golden rectangle. How was I supposed to open it? As if it had heard my question, the gold sunk into the wood and carved out a hollow.
I resisted the temptation of turning around and sending a smug look at the former Minister's portrait. Placing my hand into the hollow, I found a small platform to take a hold of. The drawer came out surprisingly smoothly.
"Where did you learn that password?" I pointedly ignored him. Inside the drawer was a single object. While the runes were slightly different and the stone marble, it was undoubtedly a Pensieve.
I wrapped my hands around it. The cold, smooth surface sent shivers down my spine.
"Don't touch it!" I turned to face him for the first time, leering in annoyance.
"Or what? Are you going to come out of that painting and save your pathetic relative?" I registered the shock on Archimedes face before turning around. I wouldn't let a wretched portrait ruin this for me, the goal of my summer holiday.
I bent over and looked into the Pensieve. I suddenly realised I had no idea how to conjure memories. Legilimency was out of the question. Not only was the Pensieve an inanimate object, but there was nothing to focus on. After all, there were no eyes. What was I even looking for? Probably some sort of conversation between Voldemort and Davis, if such a thing would be placed in a Pensieve.
I pulled out my wand and prodded the surface. The surface of the silvery stuff inside the basin began to swirl very quickly. I bent closer. The silvery substance had become transparent; it looked like glass. I looked down into it, expecting to see the stone bottom of the basin – and saw instead a small, dark room.
The fire was the only source of light in the room; it was casting long, spidery shadows upon the walls. There were two men in the room. I could make out one – he was wearing a long black cloak, and there was a bald patch at the back of his head. I bent over lower, so that my breath was steaming up the transparent surface of the Pensieve and my nose was threateningly close to touching it. The other man was standing near the door, his face covered by a shadow. The balding man was bending over a pile and robes and was putting the chair, which held it, into place.
I leant even closer, tilting my head, trying to see what was in the bundle of robes. The tip of my nose touched the strange substance into which I was staring. Davis' office gave an almighty lurch and I was thrown forward and pitched headfirst into the basin. But my head did not hit the stone bottom. I was falling through something icy and black; it was like being sucked into a whirlpool.
And then suddenly I found myself standing on a rotting hearthrug. A sudden movement by my leg caused me to jump. Curled up beside me was a gigantic snake, at least twelve feet long, with a diamond pattern running down its length. Was it perhaps Nagini?
A short, balding man with greying hair, a pointed nose and small, watery eyes was eyeing the snake with a mixture of fear and alarm on his face. The other man, I realised, was wearing the white mask. The mask of the Death Eater.
"Do you see my Death Eater standing there, Wormtail?" said a voice from the bundle of robes. It belonged to a man – but it was strangely high-pitched, and cold as a sudden blast of icy wind. The watery-eyed man, presumably Wormtail, twitched his head towards the masked man; presumably Davis, considering this was his memory.
"Y-yes, my Lord."
"One day, you may hope to equal him in power and stature." There were traces of Riddle in the voice; enough to leave no doubt that it was Voldemort who was somehow under the cover of the robes. "If you do as you Lord asks, he will in turn reward you." Wormtail muttered something unintelligible, but his face conveyed an undertone of envy.
"'I found you!' Come now, Wormtail, would you have returned to me had you not heard of Black's escape? It was cowardice, not unwavering loyalty, which led to your search for me. I am astonished I remain relatively unharmed following your clumsy care. However reluctantly, you did return to me, and Lord Voldemort will not forget."
There was a look of vulgar hope in the eyes of Wormtail. I instinctively pitied him to a point where I wished to put him out of his misery. "Y-You're not going to punish me for last year?"
"You were given a simple task. You failed to perform even this pathetic mission and thus ruined months of planning. For that, there will be punishment. The time is not now to discuss this, however. A wizard better than you is waiting on us and it would not be polite to keep him waiting. Leave us."
Wormtail was now certainly resentful and said, "But, my Lord–"
"There will be no arguments." His tone was relatively light before, even humoured. These words, however, were laced with icy venom. "I see the dissent in you. Remember, Wormtail, that enrolment in this family can only be overturned at the moment of your death."
"Y-Yes, my Lord." Without any further hesitation, he scuttled from the room.
"Theodore, my slippery friend," said Voldemort quietly. "Do you see what has become of me? Do you see what has become of the greatest wizard of all time?"
Davis stiffened and stepped forward uncomfortably. He peeled off his mask. "Master, you are looking better," said Davis, a hint of unease I had never heard in his voice.
"Liar! I have assembled my most loyal of Death Eaters and still I have no body. It is with great hope that I turn to my loyal Wizengamot member."
Davis had not moved, but his eyes widened ever so slightly. "I have tried convincing the Wizengamot to alleviate Dumbledore's power over the boy, but–"
"No, Theodore, I did not summon you for matters relating to the Wizengamot." Davis blinked in surprise and relief. "I turn to my loyal Death Eater now for a far more furtive matter. This mission is of utmost importance. There are to be no mistakes."
"Anything, my Lord."
"You know of the ring I placed in your care. I trust it is still safe?"
"Of course, my Lord." My heart beat slightly faster. Here it was. The information I had been craving for weeks.
"Your primary objective is to keep it safe. My spy at Hogwarts tells me Dumbledore has been investigating my past. That pestilent Muggle-lover may one day discover its location. Thiscannot happen."
"I understand, my Lord."
"Your secondary objective is both simple and immensely difficult. Word has reached my ears of a relationship between your daughter and Harry Potter." I gasped at the unexpected mention of my name. "Why did you not tell me of this?"
"I was unaware of the relationship until very recently, my Lord. Even then, I assumed you were not interested in Potter's love life."
"Never assume, particularly concerning the affairs of your Lord. Any relationship of Potter's is of significance; it represents a weakness. The boy himself is well protected, as are close friends of his. However, new sources of love are not. Moreover, if the girl in question happens to be the daughter of a Death Eater of mine, I expect the information to be made known to me with the utmost haste."
"I apologise, my Lord."
"Further apologies for your blunder will be unnecessary. Your secondary objective is twofold. Firstly, I want Potter at your residence during the summer. He is an orphan living with relatives whom he despises. For this reason, you will not need to push your daughter. She will come to you with the proposition, and you will accept, on the condition that nobody outside of herself and Potter know.
"Once there, you will be no less civil as you would ordinarily. You will not give him any hints; his natural curiosity will lead him to me." I stared at the bundle of robes that was Voldemort.
"I don't understand, my Lord."
"I scarcely expect you to. Follow my instructions exactly and you will be rewarded above all others. Fail me, and I will be displeased. If my ring is damaged, the punishment is your life. You are dismissed."
As Davis put on his mask and swept from the room, I looked up and wondered how to escape the Pensieve. Suddenly, I felt myself rising into the air; Voldemort's room dissolved around me; for a moment, all was dark, and then I felt as though I had done a slow-motion somersault, suddenly landing flat on my feet in what seemed like the dazzling light of Davis' sunlit office. The stone basin was shimmering on the table in front of me.
The contents had returned to their original, silvery white state, swirling and rippling beneath my gaze.
Davis was in direct contact with Voldemort. He knew where one of the Horcruxes was. Veritaserum was not cracking open the information. Maybe I wasn't asking the right questions?
"It will take force of will to break him." I turned my head. Archimedes the portrait was wearing an unfathomable expression. I frowned. Was that advice? Or a warning?
There was no time to contemplate. The stunner could be removed any second. I ran my tongue along my dry, cracked lips. I strode out of the room. I was resolved. The information will be leaving his lips no matter the consequences.
The dining room was much the same as I had left it. Tracey was lying in a crumpled heap. I felt a twinge of guilt. In my obsession with the Horcruxes, I had forgotten about her. She seemed to be regaining some colour and her chest was slowly rising and falling in a steady rhythm. For that, I was glad.
To my relief, Davis was still unconscious. Feeling no remorse, I wrenched open his mouth and forced four more drops of Veritaserum down his throat.
"Do you know the location of your Master's artefact?"
"Where is it?"
Davis' eyes bulged and he began shaking slowly.
"WHERE IS IT?"
Davis' shuddering became progressively more violent. Blood trickled from his lip. How? How was he resisting the curse?
I stared at him, hardly believing it. All I could hear was the pumping of blood in my ears. I needed that information at all costs. I drew my wand.
"How many times have you met with Voldemort?"
Then, "how many times…don't say his name." The Veritaserum had failed. I glanced down at my wand. There was only one option left.
Resistance is futile…
"One last chance," I said quietly, staring at my quivering wand. "Where is it?"
Davis cold eyes bore into mine. He tried to struggle against the restraints I had placed on him. Deeming it futile, he blinked slowly. "Why would I tell a pathetic orphan?"
I flicked my wand, sending a cutting hex at the man. It struck him across the cheek. Blood trickled from the gash. Davis smiled. His tongue roamed out of his mouth and intercepted one of the crimson drops. "Come now, Potter, even you can do better."
I stayed calm. I had to focus on the objective. I sent a choking hex at the Death Eater. His mouth hung open and his eyes seemed to pop out of his head. I stopped it before any serious injury could be incurred. He took long, raspy breaths and coughed stridently. It was no worse than he what would have done to me, I reassured myself.
"Not bad, but nowhere near good enough."
I thought of taking a limb, but dismissed the idea almost instantly. Either the shock would render him useless or I would be sick. The Imperius Curse was of no use, he was too strong. I settled on a bone breaking curse to the leg. He screamed in agony.
"YOU CAN END THIS! TELL ME WHERE IT IS!"
Davis had turned a sickly colour and had his eyes half-closed. "Are you…going to keep barking…little dog," he wheezed, "or are you…going to bite?"
There is no good or evil…
I had to get the information. I had to focus on the ends, not the means. I somehow knew it was going to come to this, the moment I entered the room. I raised my wand. I looked Davis in the eye. I needed him to squirm with excruciating pain. I needed him to feel the ultimate pain.
I watched motionless as he screamed and writhed wildly. I waited a few seconds before lifting the curse. "Tell me where it is," I said calmly. Strangely, I felt nothing. No guilt, no vindication, nothing.
"Never," said Davis, voice barely a whisper.
I held the curse for at least a minute. His usually pale skin was slowly reddening. His screams were hoarser. His pupils seemed to be disappearing into his head. I lifted the curse.
"Just tell me the area. There'll be no memory for your master to find."
"C-can't…can't…" Davis was having trouble breathing. I had to strain to hear him now. I still felt no remorse.
Davis' mouth hung open but no sound escaped. I suddenly had an idea. I was sure it would work. While he was under the Cruciatus Curse, there was no way he could resist an attack of Legilimency, no matter how weak it was. I took two steps towards him. I would give him one more chance. The curse was lifted.
"Tell me." Davis was twitching uncontrollably, his blood-shot eyes focussed over my shoulder. He sealed his shuddering lips shut in one final act of defiance.
I grabbed his chin and forced him to look at me. I looked deep into his dark eyes. His pupils grew wider until they engulfed the light of the dining room. There were a whirlwind of memories spinning out of control. I saw flashes of countryside, fleeting rays of sunshine and glimpses of grand buildings. Since he was desperately trying to protect the memory I was looking for, it would make it easier to find. Sure enough, I caught a glimpse of a crooked road sign. It was travelling slower than the others. This must be it.
A sleepy village lay at the foot of a grassy hill. Almost out of place was a grand building, expelling grandeur. I knew this place! Where was the sign? I caught another glimpse of wood and turned instantly towards it. It was the sign!
I knew where it was! Riddle Manor! It made sense. Of course Voldemort would have his Horcrux hidden in the last place anyone would look.
"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?"
I instantly withdrew. I blinked as my eyes readjusted to the blinding sunlight of the dining room. Tracey had awoken. She looked from me, wand in hand, to Davis, seemingly unconscious but still twitching remorselessly.
"You don't understand, Tracey..." Her eyes welled up. She ran to her father and fell to her knees.
"You've killed him!" she shrieked, angry tears running down her face. "You've maimed him!"
"What have you done?" she cried. She looked up at me with fear, horror and disgust.
The incantation died on my lips. What was I doing?
"Get out," she said, hatred etched into every line of her face.
Did I just try and kill her?
"Let me exp–"
I needed to leave. I had stopped myself once from making a grave mistake, who knew what would happen next time? Then there was the issue of destroying the Horcrux.
I took one last look at Tracey. She was holding her father similar to the way I had held her not one hour ago. She'll realise she's wrong once she calmed down. She would come looking for me, armed with a begging apology.
Holding that thought dear, I resolvedly marched out of Davis Manor for the last time.