Disclaimer: I'm not muscling in on JK's turf - just gambolling on it, like a spring lamb, having fun working out the literary and psychological puzzles which she is having fun setting us
#2: The Potency of Cheap Music
[In which a Muggle shaman meets Snape in very dire circumstances, and immaterially assists him in getting out of them.]
She thought they had been walking for a long time - difficult to tell with her left wrist (and her watch) twisted behind her and gripped in the bouncer-type's meaty hand, but she thought they must have covered almost a mile by roundabout routes. The rough-walled, natural-looking corridor snaked about and intersected others every few yards, it felt like - there were openings into deep darkness on every side of them, although the light which the man Crabbe was evidently carrying showed the walls to be still a patchwork of pink and grey and creamy yellow-white.
She could have broken free, possibly: she had the impression that Crabbe was perhaps not very bright. But she wanted to go where he wanted to take her, assuming, as she did assume, that that would be to the snake-man's victim. The memory of that terrible hall, with its mingled sounds of agony and gloating laughter, made her feel so hot and dizzy that she thought she might throw up, from revulsion and from pure pity. She was relieved not to have to hear that torture any more, but she felt guilt at her relief - as if, somehow, her listening to his suffering and flinching along with it would have been more respectful. As if it might have brought him some comfort, if he had known. But after all, she was not walking away from him - quite the reverse.
As they progressed, the sound of someone sobbing with pain began to come at them from all sides, directionless and disembodied; growing louder as the Death Eater pushed her roughly ahead of him down the white-walled tunnel, laughing. "He will like to have an audience. And be sure to eat while you are there, so he can see it." One final shove and she stumbled forwards into a room-sized chamber in the chalk and heard him shout something behind her. In one instant of panic she turned blindly as if to try and flee from what was in that room: but the way was sealed by an invisible barrier.
She pressed her hands to her ears, trying to hear her own thoughts. The near-white of the walls was splashed and stained horribly with iron red. An unnatural light suffused the chamber, as if the chalk itself were glowing, and by it she saw a hatchet-faced, black-haired man, naked, emaciated and filthy and with a villainous-looking weeks-old growth of beard, hanging suspended above the ground with his arms wrenched up behind his back. He looked as if he had been savagely beaten over a period of days but he had other and less explicable blows to suffer. As she stared, horrified, her heart thumping in sympathetic panic, spitting lines of force crawled across his skin, probing at eyes, hands, genitals, at every sensitive nerve. She looked automatically for wires - realized that he was not, as she had thought, chained to the wall at his back, but was hanging in midair from - nothing. Caught in a web of artificial lightning he arched his back and screamed like metal tearing apart and his mortal agony echoed back madly within the confined space, until she wanted to scream back at him to stop, just to allow her space in which to think what to do about him.
Then he did stop, it all stopped, the lightning snapped off like a thrown switch and he slumped in his imaginary chains, panting, sheet-white under the dirt and bruising and drenched in sweat. His dark eyes looked glazed with exhaustion, and he had a spectacularly split lip: but when she moved he saw her and said thickly "Please - if you have any pity - finish me before it starts again."
"This isn't the end of it?" she asked stupidly, horrified, and then ashamed to have forced him to speak when it was clearly so painful for him to do so.
"A pause. He has to - let me rest or - heart would stop. Please."
The whole room stank horribly of sweat and urine and dung and vomit, of raw fear and, overwhelmingly, of the metallic, battery-acid tang of blood, which made her own heart try to beat sideways in her chest: but she approached gingerly and tried to work out what was holding him there, two feet above the floor. "Only if that's the only option."
He bared his broken, slightly horsy teeth in a terrible rictus of a smile. "I am - fresh out of options. As they say."
She stretched up as high as she could and tried to slide her own hands between his hands and the chalk to discover what bound him, or to touch his face so that she could at least give him something to drink: but everywhere she encountered the same invisible barrier that blocked the doorway - as if the air itself had become solid.
"I'm sorry - I can't seem to get through this - this - whatever."
As the first lines of light started to crawl across his skin again he twitched like a strung puppet. Raising his drawn face from his chest he murmured "No - get back - He'll punish you too and you haven't the power."
"Oh, is it power that's the issue here?" - but before he could answer the white pain crackled across his skin in earnest, so violently that he bit his own tongue and then hung there crying, suspended in air with the blood leaking out of his mouth, helpless, incontinent and convulsed.
But she was caught on the moment too. "Power, is it?" she muttered, staring up at him abstractedly, and then folded down cross-legged in the middle of the floor, dumping out the contents of her duffel bag and rummaging through them as fast as her shaking hands would allow. Grabbing the flat-topped box, she set it on her knee and began to tap on the lid, her fingertips spread and flattened.
She needed to blank out the mind-shattering voice that pleaded and shrieked and echoed back at her from every side. To make the power come to her she needed to be all cold and in the dream-space, or filled with fierce, martial joy - and the sympathetic panic and nausea which set her own heart racing spelled disaster either way. Biting back the bitter taste of bile she tried instead to concentrate only on the sound of her own drumming. It grew progressively easier to do so as the rhythm built up, and her heart-beat and breathing settled into line with the insistent patter of her hands. Then she was singing softly aloud in the old language, in the Gaelic - "Come on, my love, hu il oro, Keep your promise to me...." - a thumping, pulsing, driving rhythm that grew louder moment by moment, the drum tapping and purring away behind her voice as she stared at the hanging man and tried to will him to hear her under the sound of his own frantic agony.
"...John Campbell, hu il oro, My brown-haired sweetheart...." As the music took her she hung on the dreaming edge between sleeping and waking, swaying gently as the rhythm pulsed and built, pulsed and built, until she could feel the same pulse rippling through the chalk, through the magical otherside of the room itself - that place where matter became thought and thought, matter. "Of leaping trout, hu il oro, Of bellowing deer...." Still tapping lightly with the fingertips of the left hand, she rapped the knuckles of the right against the makeshift drumhead with a sharp crack and snap and she was singing, always singing, the soft and boneless words of the Gaelic bitten out hard and snarling as the man caught in the impossible web of lightning retched and howled and fought against his invisible bonds. "Wet is the night, hu il oro, Tonight, and cold, o hi ibh o -" The fierce music and the hard rattle of the drum twined around and through his echoing torment and danced crazily across the walls, and within the song the wooden ships danced over a rough sea, their banners flying. Swaying and singing, piling the music up fiercer and louder, she slid the indirect and cunning edge of her attention past the prisoner, coaxing the universe to let him see her. "Come on, my love, hu il oro...."
He stared back blindly at her from a vast distance, from the prison of his pain; but as she drove the singing out and out from the centre he was beginning to breathe in rhythm with it, great ragged sobbing breaths whimpering in time with the drum as the white pain crawled over his skin. If she was to help him now, he had to be just a problem she could solve - a pattern to be coaxed into alignment. And she was still riding the music, she was still snapping the old song out biting and precise and leaping up like a hammer, out and further out until the chalk danced with it - "...of high sails, hu il oro, And swift ships, boch orainn o - Come on, my love, hu il oro Keep your promise to me, o hi ibh o - " - until the music washed over and through him and made him a part of itself, and he came away from the wall and fell forwards onto his knees, and further down.
The black-haired man lay on his face, retching and gasping as the song rolled over him, and then made a convulsive attempt to raise himself. She spared one hand from the drumming to catch him by the shoulder and help him to turn over, and then somehow he was sitting up with his back to the wall, shaking like a leaf and trying to lick cracked and bleeding lips.
She fished one-handed after the water-bottle from her duffel, thumbed the lid open, took one fierce swig herself in the split second between verses and then passed the rest to him. He seized the bottle in shaking hands whose nails, she saw at this range, were ragged and bleeding, and drank it down in great eager gulps, his teeth rattling against the plastic: then sank back, staring at her with glittering eyes and still trying to lick his cracked lips.
She nodded to him across a great distance, from the fortress of the music - and then suddenly she could feel a mind pressing against hers, trying the edges of her soul. A mind that went with the eyes: angry, sullen and strong.
She nodded to him again, across the music, and dropped her barriers. The burning mind licked across her memory like brushfire and then he was with her, he was inside the song, chiming in with her line-perfect in a hoarse but still clear tenor which cracked and faltered on the first few bars, and then did not falter at all.
"Coisich a ruin, hu il oro, Cum do ghealdadh rium, o hi ibh o..." - gods, how powerful was he, how powerful were any of them, that he had been able to lift the entire song out of her head and sing it back at her word-perfect in a language which, she was willing to bet, he didn't even speak? As the song reached its end, stuttered an instant and then started on round again, he made a gesture as if tossing a ball to her, which she understood to mean that she should carry the song alone for a moment. She nodded to him and he began to speak softly. Hoarse with screaming though he obviously was, his clear voice still carried to her cleanly under the mutter of the drum.
Gasping for breath, he tried to stay with the music and start the song over again, but she touched her fingers to his bruised lips. "Shush, now - we have enough power to hold our place for a while."
With a bit of complex one-handed fumbling, she transferred the cloak from her own shoulders to his bloodied ones. She hoped, she really hoped, that she was right about the power. For a moment she was afraid that all exits would still be barred to them: but the way was open, and they took the tunnel opposite to the one she had come in by, and reeled erratically into the darkness together.
Coisich a Ruin is pronounced something like CO-SHI-ke-RUN, with the "u" between "sun" and "soon," like the "u" in "Sunni," and all syllables strongly stressed except the third. The translation of the lyrics is as follows; except that Lynsey doubles the length of the song here, extending the run-time to nearly six minutes, by repeating the first verse ("Come on my love...." etc.) as a chorus between each subsequent pair of verses. You'll find out later why she used that particular song, and how song-magic actually works.
N.B. (in response to a query from duj) You will see that the song follows a pattern in which each verse takes the last two lines of the previous verse and adds two more. However, at one point it skips to an entirely new verse. Whether or not it was sung like that in the Hebrides that genuinely is how Capercaillie sing it, and how the lyrics are given on the net - possibly because "Of leaping trout/Of bellowing deer/Wet is the night/Tonight, and cold" doesn't make much sense. I assume that Lynsey would have learned the song from the singing of Capercaillie, as I did - since their version of Coisich a Ruin was the first ever Gaelic single to make the Top 40.
Sample snippets of this song, enough to get an idea of the music, can be found at the musicmp3.ru site under the Capercaillie album Grace and Pride.
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