Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 6

On Friday Afternoon, Dumbledore arrived, and wouldn't you know it, the first thing Snape said was, "This will be fairly boring, I'm afraid, Albus. Torture's on Tuesdays and Thursdays." And Snape smirked - something Harry was sure Dumbledore would interpret as "of course, i'm not torturing the poor lad." Dumbledore had rather a history of thinking the best of people, after all. At least Harry's arms had stopped shaking - about an hour ago, which Snape probably had timed to the minute (so that Dumbledore wouldn't see actual evidence of torture).

Yesterday had started early - which was to say, Snape had actually let him sleep in until false dawn. Upon waking and seeing the horizon, Harry's stomach turned. Any particular kindness from Snape was an illusion - and this one in particular boded ill. In three minutes, Harry was standing, teeth brushed, and looking remotely presentable (for a man with a single set of clothing, who had turned it white with sweat yesterday*).

"Have you ever endured the Crucio?" Snape asked, in a deceptively mild voice. Snape was many things, but mild was never one of them.

"Yes, Sir." Harry Potter said firmly, his eyes widening slightly at the question.

"Today, I will provide an opportunity for you to learn how to endure it effectively. It is your choice, I will not force this on any man." Snape's hair flowed over half his face, neatly obscuring any expression - did he plan it that way, or was it just long habit?

"What will this entail, sir?" Harry Potter asked, suppressing a wry smile about Harry Potter of all people learning patience, "And why would I wish to learn this?" There, the question he had wanted to ask, but asked second, so as not to sound quite so petulant. Or stupid. Harry rather thought Snape disliked stupidity more than petulance, if Draco Malfoy was any indication.

Snape nodded, his black eyes revealing nothing, as his eyes raked Harry from toe to head. "You'll have the sack again. Move it 100 yards, under the Crucio. Even Death Eaters tend to assume that using the Crucio is enough to render one helpless. I have learned, through long experience, never to be helpless if I can help it."

Harry Potter looked at Snape, remembering that James Potter was a good deal of the reason for Snape's reluctance to be helpless. Not that Harry was any more likely to bend over and take it, as it were. "Sir, all those times when I saw you twitching under the Dark Lord's Crucio - you were just pretending?" A distracting question, the answer already known, but it gave Harry a bit of breathing room to consider what the hell he thought he was doing.

"Indeed. An advantage is hardly hidden if everyone knows about it."

"I'll learn. Let's get started, sir."

If Harry had thought Tuesday was bad, this was ... loads worse. Of course, Tuesday hadn't been temporary. That was one benefit of the Crucio - afterwards, his muscles still functioned, his bones were still whole. Under the crucio, it was a struggle not to soil oneself, let alone stand (or, in Harry's case, crawl). Again and again, Harry Potter tried, sometimes doing a bit better, sometimes, a bit worse. His world had shrunk, until pain was everywhere,and nowhere, red ghostly blurs dancing in front of his eyes. "Sir! Sir!" Harry asked, his voice clear and firm - he needed a break, but wasn't going to get one if he seemed weak. Heroes aren't weak Harry could hear Snape saying, followed up with, Your choice, now live up to it.

"Yes, Potter." Snape rapped out, seeming cross without the substance behind the semblance.

"How did you learn this, sir? Who taught you?"

"A mirror spell, and the determination to pull it off." Snape said coldly, his usual purr absent entirely from his voice. Harry Potter was momentarily speechless - that could have killed him, driven him insane. If only he knew how to cancel the spell, and he was suffering from it... Harry saw for a brief moment the desperation on a younger Snape's face (was it a memory, surfacing? Harry didn't know...).

"Crucio" - and the world dissolved in pain again.

Harry Potter waved goodbye to Dumbledore, as he set about running around the wood - entirely unordered to. It seemed Dumbledore and Snape had business, and Harry didn't need the temptation to eavesdrop. He focused on the spell of the day, thinking that at least yesterday he had manage to send a hex, even if it wasn't quite the desired one - turning Snape's face into some sort of scaled monstrosity had not made the man any easier to deal with.

*sweat dries with all sorts of white crystals on your skin. If you ever work hard enough to do so, it's a great body-cleanse. Tho I'm never quite sure where the ammonia comes from...?

[a/n: Review if you like, I hope you're enjoying my plot diversion. And I've got another one coming after this one... (why? why not? nobody seems to mind). Don't be disappointed if some of these interludes are completely not plot related - and please let me know if you're getting bored. Snape said that Potter needed forging, so Potter's getting some good hard... training. Yeah, that's what we'll call it.]