47 : Soulshadow
Ginny didn't know what to think as she followed Hermione ever deeper into the dungeons, but she knew the girl would use this to get out of telling her at any other time. She had done so before, a few years back, when Ginny had wanted to know about Sirius, after all.
"Lea!" A little girl suddenly called out, running out of the entrance to what Ginny assumed were the Slytherin dorms.
"It's nice to see you too Sara," Hermione greeted the first year, smiling.
"I got a perfect score on the charms assignment Lea!"
"See what happens when you work a little harder?" Hermione asked fondly, sounding just as pleased as the girl. "Could you find Max for me please?"
"What, need an escort Hermione?" Ginny whispered, walking up to her.
"No, I'd just rather get him to agree out here than come in ten minutes from now and rile us up… Max has a tendency to overreact at times I fear."
"Yeah, Lea?" A deep voice called out, soon followed by what Ginny was forced to admit was a rather handsome sixth or seventh year. "Why are you standing out here?"
"I need a favor Max…" Hermione sighed, tipping her head at Ginny.
"She bugging you Lea?"
"No… we need to have a private chat and you know Horris' room is one of the only places people can't listen in on…"
"A Weasley Lea? The Twins are her brothers for Merlin's sake… do you know how many times those two have tried to find this place?"
"She already knows how to get here anyway, doesn't she? And for your information, Harry knew since second year… come on Max… you owe me."
"I'd still feel safer if you'd kindly Obliviate her and push her back toward the Great Hall…"
"Max…" Hermione warned the whining Slytherin; sounding too much like she had once scolded Ron for Ginny's liking.
"Horris is going to be told of this, you understand?"
"I plan to tell him myself Max, but feel free to tell him yourself as well…" Hermione agreed, "now would you take care of the common room for me? Please? I've got transfiguration to finish and this-" she pointed towards Ginny with a tip of her head again, "girl won't let me do it 'till we have this oh-so-pleasant chat."
"So you only bite Slytherin heads off for interrupting your 'homework time' Lea? I'm crushed!"
"I owe this to her Max." Hermione said in a far softer tone, "Besides, her knowing the bits and pieces she's found out Merlin-knows-how is far more dangerous than filling her in at this point. And for the record, just ask Ginny how many Gryffindors got hexed for disturbing my study sessions." She smiled, her serious tone fading again.
"If this turns around and bites us on the ass Lea…"
"I'll take full responsibility and you can tell me the new password at breakfast, k? You can change it as soon as we leave."
"I really shouldn't give in so easily…" 'Max' noted teasingly, crossing his arms once more.
"I'll tell Horris it took me two hours and I barely convinced you even then, you did it only to keep in his good graces and so on and so fourth…"
He smiled instantly, "Make that three Lea and we've got a deal!"
"Male Slytherins have the biggest egos, did I tell you that?" She teased him back,
"Every day it seems you note something to that extent… Ouch!"Horris woke feeling as if a pack of werewolves had decided he would prove a nice meal last night. His entire body ached and everything seemed so… so dark. Was it night already? Merlin his head hurt…everything felt muffled, fuzzy. He sat up a bit on the pillows, trying to regain his bearings as he hoped to rub the fuzziness out of his eyes.
"Rubbing will only make it worse Horris, can you see anything at all?" a voice spoke softly, sounding as if it were spoken through water.
"Dad? Where are you?"
"Right here Horris." his father responded, a hand gently turning him towards the side of his bed. "Can you see anything?"
"Barely." Horris sighed in frustration, knowing he should be able to see better, even in pitch black. Aspian sight should have kicked in by now… it had never taken so long before.
"That means the potion is working… do not touch your eyes."
"What happened? What potion?"
"What is the last thing you remember?"
"I taught the older Asps a new curse and was making sure they knew it before going to the fourth years." He told him, wondering if he had suffered a memory lapse as his father implied. "Then Markus… Oh Merlin! Is Pansy-"
"She is resting Horris, both she and Markus are fine."
"Markus? Did the curse rebound on him too?"
"Then how was he hurt? Dad?"
"Later." His father dismissed his last question, "It is you who we need to concern ourselves with."
"Do you remember when I told you of the dangers of dark magic?"
"That it can change you if you overuse it?" Horris responded, remembering his father's lecture quite well.
"Not exactly. It does not change you as much as leaves a piece inside you."
"Like a bag being filled with coins?"
"More like a funnel. The residue, if you will, does disappear with time, but for most people it does so at an excruciatingly slow pace."
"Yes. Do you remember making the blister potion second year?"
"The one when Dean nearly got his arm burned off?" Horris grimaced, not liking the direction this was headed.
"Yes, that one." his father confirmed. "Do you remember how the instructions directed you to pour the dragon saliva threw a steel funnel with a 5 millimeter tip?"
"Do you recall how wide the tip became once the class ended?"
"Er… four or five centimeters?" Horatius guessed.
"Seven, but the number is not important. The key is that the hole expanded considerably."
"And so everyone of us was forced to buy new funnels." Horris added, nodding.
"Like the Dragon saliva, the residue dark magic leaves can be considered corrosive to the proverbial bag or funnel. If a person becomes gradually exposed to dark magic, using large amounts can fall through the funnel relatively fast."
"And what happens when someone not used to doing dark magic does a great deal of it in a short amount of time?" Horris asked, the ominous feeling he felt amplifying tenfold.
Severus stopped at his son's question, not truly ready to explain it all to the boy. The red had drained from the child's eyes, though the inside remained coated a dark, monotone gray. The green would return, eventually, though Severus doubted it would ever reach the previous brilliance with which his son's eyes once shone. He could already see tiny black rays forming from the now-gray pupil, creating a starburst in the otherwise deadened orbs. Those, Severus knew, would never go away. To anyone that knew what to look for, those nearly unnoticeable black lines would serve as a subtle marker of what the boy suffered, what used to be referred to as the Dark Mark… the original Dark Mark hewn buy dark magic itself. Few looked for them these days, few even knew of them, save for those born to 'Dark' Families. How cynical, for them to be the keepers of all the old wisdoms and traditions most of society has long forgotten…
"Soulshadow." He responded at last, "Soulshadow happens."
"As I've said, the dark residue eats away at the funnel as had the dragon saliva." Severus reiterated, returning to the funnel concept. "While the damage is most evidenced by the increased opening, the saliva corrodes the funnel wherever it comes in contact with the metal. If you continued to pour in more saliva, or if the bottom opening was clogged, the sides would eventually give way as well. While no one can actually overfill his or her 'funnel' with dark magic, a person can collapse it. When that happens, all that was within this funnel is released."
"The funnel protects you from the effects of the substance inside." Severus explained, mentally kicking himself for forgetting to explain what the funnel was for. "I told you this 'residue' from dark magic was dangerous, yes?"
The boy nodded,
"The 'funnel' prevents it from damaging you. Let us rearrange our parallel somewhat… now, the funnel is set directly above a tube with an opening 2 centimeters wide. Around this tube is a wide patch of delicate unicorn hairs. Will all the dragon saliva go into the tube?"
"Now, if the funnel opening becomes clogged and the saliva eats out an area to the side of the funnel, what will happen?"
"It'll fall on the unicorn hairs."
"Exactly." Severus confirmed. "And do you know what would then occur?"
"The hairs would turn black and… and burn?"
"Remind me to award ten points to Slytherin upon our return." Severus praised, smiling. If anyone would have told him that (the boy who was once) Harry Potter would actually remember what happens when dragon saliva meets unicorn hair a year ago, Severus would have promptly admitted said person to the mental ward of St Mungo's.
"Any amount of residue which 'spills' has an effect on the person." Severus continued. "If the amount is small enough, as would be the case if, in our example, the opening eroded past the previously mentioned drain tube, the person slowly turns Dark. He (or she) feels less and less disturbed by pain, suffering, death… the person's conscience becomes lax and indifferent. If a large amount bursts out suddenly, when a funnel wall collapses while filled with residue, the person's system cannot handle the sudden change and goes into shock. This condition is referred to as Soulshadow." He paused, waiting for the question he knew Horatius would ask.
"It happened to me, didn't it?"
"I fainted again, didn't I?" his son moaned, shaking his head, "Thank Merlin Lea didn't see, she'd figure out who I used to be for sure…"
"You did not faint, Horatius." Severus whispered, readying himself to explain the actual syndrome instead of the cause. "When your system goes into shock, the residue gains control."
"What did I do?" Horris asked hoarsely after a moment, a horrified expression overtaking his face, "Is that why Markus-"
"No one," Severus emphasized, "can be held responsible for their actions during Soulshadow. None suffered any long lasting damage and the others were able to sedate you within a few minutes."
"Will be fine come morning." Severus assured him. Would have suffered more would Voldemort have punished him flashed in his mind, though he dared not voice it.
"Draco has already explained what happened to him, and Markus asked to forward his get well wishes to you. He does not blame you Horatius, none of them does." Severus told him, squeezing his child's arm reassuringly. "Right now, all of us need you to rest so that your condition will pass and you can safely return to school."
"It's not over then?"
"No. I brewed a potion to flush the residue out of your system and allow you to retain control, but you are not to so much as think of doing anything remotely resembling a dark curse until further notice."
"Does this mean I just lost all my residual protection?" His son asked after a long silence.
"No. The 'funnel', as you will, will eventually rebuild itself… stronger than before."
"I suspect your protection, though it is really more of a resistance, was already higher than a normal person's. While you did not use dark curses so you did not have any residue before this year, the curses you suffered, the killing curse most of all, made your body resistant to dark magic and thus its residue. Think of it as transfiguring the steel funnel to one less easily corroded."
"So will the new one be even stronger, or will it be like a normal person's, or like that of a person after Soulshadow?"
"Most likely it will become even stronger and quicker at releasing the residue… the 'tube' will widen." Severus theorized, returning to the ongoing example, hoping not to confuse the boy.
"So when do I start teaching the Asps again?" Horris sighed, to which Severus simply shook his head.
"I will teach the remaining curses and Draco has already told me what they still need to work on. You may teach them the 'special tricks', as you call them, at a later date as if the need arises. You are not allowed to do any teaching of such magic for at least a month.
"Not even the Dark Lord can blame you for not teaching while under Soulshadow."
"He'd probably like the idea of a Soulshadow-possessed Alpha…" Horatius snorted indignantly,
"I highly doubt that would be the case." Severus countered honestly, "NO one can control a person under Soulshadow, be they good or bad."
"You'd think he'd like to get his hands on me while I'm Soulshadowed…"
"When a person is 'Soulshadowed', as you call it, they do not merely lose their sense of right and wrong. I assure you, the last thing Voldemort wants is for his Asps to Soulshadow while in his presence… especially you. Soulshadow rids the person of inhibitions, warps their thought patterns, not to mention utterly destroying the concepts of vulnerability and authority. The danger of a person in this condition is so great, that some dark families force the condition onto their children to ensure it will not happen later in life. They rather it happen in a sheltered environment than somewhere the person might release family secrets or even commit crimes the family could not 'brush under the carpet', as it were. The potion I gave you is the second part of that particular procedure actually, used to unfreeze the person's system as soon as possible. "
"It is a family recipe consisting of a total of three potions which greatly shortens the severity and time lapse of Soulshadow. Normally, Soulshadow lasts from a week to as long as three months; with the potions it lasts three days. The first potion induces the Soulshadow and sedates the person, the second flushes the first out to shorten the time the person is actually under the influence of the residue, be it artificial or naturally built up. The third potion helps rebuild the resistance and strengthen it, preventing a reoccurrence under most circumstances. That one you will be taking in a few days, after the one you ingested tonight finishes flushing the entire residue out of your system. It will take slightly longer than three days in your case since it was naturally induced, but by the time school resumes you ought to be well enough to attend."
Severus pushed a few stray hairs out of his son's face as the boy reluctantly lay down to sleep, watching the gray eyes close slowly. Merlin those eyes frightened him, it was as if Lily herself had yelled at him for failing her, her and their child. How could he have missed the warning signs? How could he have let his guard down, especially after everything the boy suffered during the winter months… he had expected Soulshadow then… why had he let himself believe that if the boy did not suffer of it than, that he was somehow immune to the condition altogether? What if it had happened at school, right under Dumbledore's nose? The old coot would rip Horatius away from him the second he found so valid an excuse! And Severus would not have been able to whole heartedly dispute him or truthfully even blame the manipulative bastard… even now he blamed himself for not seeing the signs, for not catching Horatius in time, for telling Horris that everything would be alright, for insinuating that everything would go back to the way things were. The truth, which Severus was presently having great trouble admitting to himself, was that nobody had ever remained unchanged after Soulshadow. No one. The reason people called it that, though the official definition explained it as a temporary condition that most dark wizards suffer, was because it truly casts a shadow on one's soul, changing it. His father had taught him all Severus needed to know about Soulshadow, which was probably the only useful thing the man did teach him. The Snapes were, and are, the only family with the knowledge on how to brew the Shadow Potions he had told Horatius of; and thus posses the greatest knowledge of the condition. As he replayed the side effects in his mind, Severus dearly hoped that Horatius did not have to endure any of them, that him being an Asp could somehow counteract the Soulshadow after-effects.