FIC: Cloistered, Chapter Nine
Title: Cloistered Author: sioban_parker Translation: from the original French by joanwilder Beta reader: jadzialove Pairing: Harry/Snape Rating: R Genre: AU/AR, Romance, Angst, Drama Warnings: some religious (Christian) content Summary: During fifth year, Harry is stunned to discover that in a previous life he was a novice in a monastery. And that Snape was there with him…
Even among the more experienced monks, there were those who didn't even know what that meant. But of one thing they were certain: invoking the devil was unpleasant and downright perilous. There was danger there—for Harry, for others, for everyone.
Harry regained his aplomb. "That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard in my entire life! I'm not possessed by the devil!"
"That's exactly the answer the demon would give," retorted Brother Walden.
"That's exactly the answer an innocent would give!" Harry shot back.
Lucius stood, drawing himself up to his full height. "If you're not possessed by a demon," he began slowly, "then you are a demon. I can see no other explanation for your fit of madness."
"I'm not mad!"
"Then what are you, Harry Potter?"
Silence fell as Harry wrung his hands. He felt like a beast caught in a trap. He shot a distraught look at the Novice Master, who seemed impassive, but Harry saw his brow furrow. Severus was thinking furiously; for now, he didn't dare meet the novice's eyes.
Harry felt so lost and alone.
As if on the edge of a precipice, he knew that one wrong move could hurtle him into the abyss, just as a shrewd reflex could place him out of danger. He wouldn't let Lucius manipulate him; he would bravely face the peril.
"I know why you're doing all of this," Harry blustered. "Our brothers must know that I was witness to your perversion. I denounced you to Count Cornelius Fudge, and you'll do anything for revenge."
He'd truly intended for that to have an impact on Lucius. But once again, he'd underestimated the blackness of the man's character. The Prior was immune to guilt, to embarrassment, to having a bad conscience. Faced with Harry's naïveté, he simply laughed.
"My boy, we all see the demon at work in your absurd words. You're talking nonsense. You're trying to sully this monastery's highest authority, after God, of course. Be assured that I do not hold you responsible for your sordid accusations. It's the devil speaking with your mouth. Do not fear, my child, we are going to rid you of its presence."
"I'm not talking nonsense!" Harry cried out in fury. "I'm fully in control of what I'm saying! You tried to force me to commit a grave sin with you!"
Harry was inwardly hoping that others would raise their voices in support of him; he knew very well that he wasn't Lucius' only victim, that others, not only novices, had certainly been accosted in the same indecent manner. But no one stepped forward. Fear, or shame, was too strong….
"Why would I have done such a thing?" Lucius cynically inquired, raising an eyebrow.
"Because I…" Harry trailed off.
He couldn't do it; he didn't want to drag Ron's name into the affair. The trap was particularly tricky. But if he refused to implicate Ron, Harry could still apply to a higher authority to decide. "Call for Count Cornelius. He'll confirm that I accused you, well before I had 'my fit of madness,' as you call my simple nightmare."
"His Excellency the Count, whose benevolence and protection we all appreciate here, will certainly confirm that you told him these odious lies. To me, that proves the devil took possession of your soul much earlier than I feared. Your plan was truly cunning! You risked plunging our entire monastery into disgrace in the eyes of the Count; if he didn't furnish us with his moral and financial support, what would become of us, I ask you?"
Lucius made a sweeping gesture with his arms, calling the other monks as his witnesses. The men murmured their approval. Indeed, without the Count's support, the abbey would be reduced to misery, and its members would have to disperse into the world, an especial hell in and of itself for these men. They didn't dare intervene in this duel between Prior and novice. Harry could only guess their opinion by the way they were already looking at him, as if he were an enemy to be feared. His eyes ran over the group in horror. So, no one believed him?
It was then that Brother Remus stepped forward. Harry hadn't even seen him come in.
"I'd like to say something, if the Prior will permit me?"
"Certainly, my brother," Lucius replied courteously.
"Last night, I gave Brother Harry a potion to make sure he would sleep. I examined the bottle earlier today, and I can confirm that this potion was tampered with. I'm convinced that a harmful ingredient was added. That is what produced Brother Harry's strong reaction."
Harry, deeply relieved, shot him a grateful look. However, he didn't dare smile at him. He was still under the accusation of being possessed by the devil. He couldn't show his friendliness too openly for fear of causing serious trouble for his friends. It was fortunate that the other novices weren't attending the chapter and this unjust farce.
"So, you admit that he didn't have just simple nightmares, despite what Harry Potter has tried to make us believe?" Lucius asked as he stroked his chin.
Remus hesitated for a moment (which did not go unnoticed) before he agreed, "Harry didn't have a nightmare; he'd been poisoned."
"But by whom?"
Remus kept his silence. The consequences of a direct accusation must've occurred to him as well, in all its painful clarity, just as it had to Harry. Harry clenched his fists. He didn't want Remus to suffer because of him.
"You have nothing to say, Brother Remus?"
"Contrary to others, I am not a man who accuses without proof!"
Lucius turned toward his wretched partner, Walden. "Tell me, my brother, you whom I know are skillful at discerning the plots of demons. Doesn't the devil have the power to change the taste and even the odor of food he touches?"
"Absolutely, Prior. It's a known fact that the devil corrupts all that he touches, that a refined dish, tasted by him, becomes at once spoiled and rancid, and that the purist water becomes a putrid mud, at that—"
"Thank you, I understand. So, it would be logical that Brother Remus' potion, which was as perfect as all his other remedies, became contaminated when Harry drank some of it. That would explain the changes you've noted, Remus."
Harry understood then that the devil really was present within those walls. He was a threat to the entire community; he was even craftier than the biblical passages described; he was of an unparalleled intelligence and persuasion. His name was Lucius.
Anger seethed inside Harry, more than anger, even—a devastating fury, mixed with an inner bitterness that had been festering inside him for a long time, surged through his veins and pushed up, up, upward until the volcano exploded.
"You're seriously sick, Lucius! You think only of power, of running this abbey just as you like, while scoffing at the religious rules when they don't suit you, not hesitating to crush others. I was supposed to be your entertainment for a night, and you couldn't bear it when the slave rebelled! I was supposed to grit my teeth and suffer in silence. And I finally denounced you, despite those who counseled me to hold my tongue!
"Everyone seems to believe that nothing should be revealed, that one should pretend and hide what they feel. Above all, don't make waves, because we're so protected here!
"Well, no. This fear of the world, this refusal to face proof, this isn't what God wants. He'd never want men to stay cloistered behind walls. It seems as if we're the best of believers, when we're actually the worst! We stay apart from God's other creatures instead of coming to their aid; we think only of our own safety, our comfort, and you, Lucius, you think only of the power you wield. You don't even believe in God—I'm sure of it! It's just another mask for you to hide behind while you satisfy your ambitions."
Harry gestured toward the assembly of monks who were staring at him in terror as they listened to his violent diatribe. "And the rest of you—you're grossly mistaken if you believe your selfish and cowardly actions are pleasing to God. You're in error, all of you!"
Harry took a deep breath, placed a hand over his racing heart, and then continued, "I know why no one in this room dares to speak on my behalf. You're all filled with fear. You're afraid of God, you're afraid of the devil, you're afraid of the outside world, you're afraid of everything and everyone! You're even afraid of me, because I'm different from you. No, I'm not possessed by the devil and you know it; it's an absurd idea that someone suggested just minutes ago. I'm different because I can't bear this life, where one does nothing and is needed by no one, where years pass and paralyze all hope, all desire and feeling. This life might be perfect for some, for those who chose and wanted it, but for those who've been shut up here by force? I believe in God, and I need the strength he gives me. But he never wanted me to lead this life; he didn't call me. I can't live in fear of going to Hell or of displeasing God. I want to be happy while living on this earth!"
Harry had to stop when his voice choked up. Once again, his fragile constitution failed him when he had so much more to say. Since his own brothers were betraying him, he wanted to cry out so they'd hear all that was in his heart. But they were in no condition to hear it, let alone understand….
"He blasphemes! He blasphemes!" shrieked Brother Argus. "Silence this demon!"
Rough hands like talons clutched at his arms and torso, their fingernails scratching his face as they tried to muzzle him. Harry defended himself, but he no longer had enough strength to fight off the attack. Bodies pressed in against him, radiating fear and hate, making it hard for him to breathe. He thought he was losing consciousness for an instant, and readied himself to gratefully welcome the darkness, but his assailants fell back, firmly pushed away by the man who'd shoved through. Harry looked up, his eyes crazed, and recognized Severus.
Severus didn't look him in the face, which Harry could understand. When he'd spat out his contempt for those who'd counseled him to maintain a hypocritical silence, he'd obviously been thinking of Severus. Harry'd been unfair, because Severus had tried to come to his aid during this painful chapter meeting. Harry tried to catch his attention, to lose himself in the man's eyes for a bit of comfort, but the Novice Master turned away.
"The demon possessing this young monk is particularly vicious," Lucius observed calmly. "We must take action before it destroys the divine work within the soul."
The Prior took a step forward, approaching Harry without fear, while the other monks had gradually moved away from him over the course of the meeting. "To calm the spirits of all our bothers who are upset, to banish the evil from within our walls, and lastly, to succor our unfortunate novice, prisoner of the demon, I declare that we must proceed to the exorcism without delay."
The brothers showed their approval by vigorously nodding their heads.
Harry was devastated. He'd tried his best, he'd resisted as much as he'd been able, he'd defended himself passionately, and he'd lost.
And he still didn't know what fate had in store for him.
Lucius was already turning to Walden. "My brother, do you think yourself capable of conducting this ritual?"
"Oh yes, Prior!" He seemed to take great delight in the prospect, like a child who's been promised a toy. He'd not exercised his talents in a very long time, and he was almost hopping up and down with impatience. Faced with Harry's terror, he took pleasure in making an explanation. "We're going to make the devil's stay in your body too painful for him to carry on, Brother Harry. First, to set the stage we're going to submerge you in holy water. Then the torment of fire and red-hot iron will force it to reveal its presence to the light of day, by the inhuman screams that will come from your mouth. You'll see that this alone will afford you some relief. We'll then manipulate your limbs, sometimes stretching, sometimes compressing, to pinpoint his presence in each part of your body. The demon will thus be very anxious to leave. In general, it lets this clearly be known by its screams and begging. But we'll take no pity on it. It will leave, I promise you. You will be rid of it, my brother."
Harry managed the strength—he didn’t know how—to smile. "And after all of these festivities, what condition do you think I'll be in?"
Walden didn't possess Lucius' refined perversity. He truly thought he was working for Harry's good. "I don't know, my brother. At the few exorcisms I've had the joy to attend, the unfortunate victims had been so terribly weakened by the demon's presence in his body, that none of them had the strength to awaken afterwards. But you—you are young. And you will be able to thank us for restoring a pure soul to you."
Harry was torn between sobbing outright and laughing hysterically. "You're insane!" he managed to get out with difficulty. "Never would I allow you…I refuse to submit to this torture. I won't—"
"It's for your own good," Lucius retorted, both honey and venom in his voice.
He gestured to Walden, whose iron-like arms seized Harry to drag him from the room.
Harry fought, struggling violently. Other arms joined in to help Walden, dragging Harry forcefully toward the door. Chapter was over.
The order was not shouted, but still it seemed to carry, to rule over the monks' uproar and Harry's desperate cries.
"What now, Severus?" the Prior demanded impatiently.
"Far be it from me to cast doubt on Brother Walden's abilities, whose enthusiasm for exorcism is well-known. However, I believe it preferable to turn to the exorcist priest from the diocese. He's more up to date on the varied and bizarre forms the demon takes to afflict us. He will know how to most effectively apply the adequate measures. And what's more, he does not know our young novice and will not be inclined to indulge him."
Walden's face fell. Lucius narrowed his eyes in calculation. "But what would we do with Harry while we await his arrival? We cannot allow such a threat to dwell in our midst as if it were nothing…."
Severus shrugged with disdain. "Lock him up in the disciplinary cells. Solitude displeases the demon, as he is not able to exercise his bad influence."
"But of course," Lucius agreed solemnly. "A few days of prayer will better prepare you for this trial, Brother Harry. You will have time to reflect on the consequences of your actions…that is to say, upon the great peril of your possession, and the great fortune you have to be in your brothers' good hands. Go."
Harry was led away. Walden's lips were quivering. Severus calmly pulled his black robes in around his shoulders and took his turn to step onto the courtyard walkway. At that very moment, Remus was in front of him, and pushed him backward suddenly. The healer's eyes flashed with fury and his mouth twisted like a snarling animal.
"You monster! How could you dare do such a thing and claim to serve God?! You're no better than Lucius! You're the dregs of the Order!"
Remus was on the verge of exploding, flexing his hands so his long fingernails threatened.
Severus eyed him from head to toe, inscrutable. "Calm yourself, Remus. You look like a wolf about to bite."
The Novice Master left without a backward glance.
A monk's room, when he wasn't sleeping in a dormitory, was called a cell. Harry looked at the four gray walls imprisoning him and was struck by the irony of the situation. For the first time in his life, he had his own room; he could let go and dream to his heart's content. He could meditate on his sad destiny, remember the good times filled with friends and laughter, even let the tears flow without fear of discovery.
Paradoxically, he preferred to dwell on his bitterness and distress. Cruelly desperate emotions, but he had to allow himself this satisfaction so he didn't have so much regret…regret over the life that would certainly be taken from him.
It did Harry little good that he was not familiar with the ritual of satanic expulsion—he understood perfectly that he'd not come out of it unharmed…if he survived at all. Even if he did, what sort of life would it be? A life of madness, as a paralytic, like an old man. Perhaps it would even be preferable to not survive the exorcism; better that the 'purification' take him away from this place, once and for all.
Harry was terrified. He couldn’t imagine the degree of suffering he'd been promised. Water torture, flame and metal were supposed to pull the demon from him. And if he succumbed, the crackling fire would reduce his body to ashes.
He couldn't pray. He found no solace in thoughts of God, or of heaven, or in the immortality of the soul. He could think of nothing but the pain and the burning sensation he'd endure before it all came to an end. He wished it was all over with, consummated, consumed, that a merciful soul would have the compassion to kill him quickly without pausing to feast on his screams.
The cell door creaked and swung open. Harry lifted his crazed eyes. Was it already time?
The Novice Master entered, his face shuttered as he quickly pushed his cloak to the side.
Harry held back a sob. Why did it have to be him, sent to deliver Harry to his executioner?