John Kramer tilted his head slightly as though waiting for his reaction.
"Make Your Choice."
Snape stared at the man sitting behind the table, unable to believe what he was hearing. Slowly, his gaze fell to the syringe on the table, and then back to John Kramer, who raised his eyebrows questioningly, silently asking telling him to make the decision.
Snape lowered his wand, firstly because it was far too obvious that John Kramer was not intimidated by it, and secondly because he couldn't think of a single threat to hiss at Kramer. It was not as though Kramer was trying to hide anything. He had done quite the opposite. He had given Snape all the facts and had put him in a situation where he alone could make the decision.
Eyeing Kramer suspiciously, Snape drew the chair close to him and sat down. He was now face to face with Kramer.
"Who are you?" said Snape.
Kramer pondered on his question for a few seconds.
"I'm not a wizard, Severus,' he answered, seeming to have guessed what Snape had meant, "I am a muggle; a normal human being with no extraordinary power. The media has christened me as the Jigsaw Killer, or Jigsaw. But come now, what does that matter to you?"
Snape frowned. He had heard of the Jigsaw Killer. Rumours of this psychopathic serial killer had even reached the ears of the wizarding world, which was normally happily oblivious to the happenings in the muggle world. He wondered whether to trust his word. Snape wasn't the trusting sort, but in the even that what Kramer had said was true, Snape only had a few minutes more to live.
He had to make a choice, and he had to do it quickly. But he was quite unwilling to make his choice based solely on Kramer's word. He craved more information. Assurance. And he would get it…
"I've heard of you. You're a madman…" said Snape.
Kramer smiled, his white teeth showing.
"I'm a madman?" he replied softly. "Who is it that had Lily Evans, the woman you claim to love so much, very much within his reach, and yet allowed himself to lose her because of some selfish, hollow belief that some are superior to the rest? Who is it that didn't realize his mistakes before it was too late? Who is it, that through poor moral decisions, lost the one person who, ironically, would have been your salvation?"
Snape gripped his wand tight, his knuckles white. He wanted nothing more than to wipe the sneer of Kramer's face, but he resisted the impulse; each and every word Kramer had said were true.
"Now you tell me Severus, who the madman is."
Snape glared at Kramer, and yet under all the rage and fury and guilt, his mind pushed him on.
"You say you're not a murderer?" Snape said, choosing his words with care, "what about the people back there?" He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder, indicating Malcolm Sedgwick and the Lily Evans imposter, "what about them?"
"Their lives depended on the choices you made," said Kramer smoothly, "I warned you, in both occasions Severus. Had you heeded my warnings, they would have lived."
Snape pondered on his next question. He wasn't just asking random questions. He wanted to see whether John Kramer was the ally he claimed to be. He wanted to know whether to trust him.
It was no secret, even during his Death Eater days, that Severus Snape was an expert in reading people, in seizing them up. He had a natural gift for it, and that coupled with his skill in Legilimency had proved to be priceless, and it was certainly helping him now.
"And if someone survives a game of yours?" Snape ventured.
"Then they are instantly rehabilitated," replied Kramer, with much emphasis on the word instantly, "they deign to appreciate their blessings and savour even the smallest things in life."
Kramer looked at Snape curiously.
"Forgive me Severus, but I see no connection in your questions and the fact that you have approximately six minutes more to live."
"On the contrary John," Snape replied, attempting to sound pleasant, "I want to see whether you are worthy of my trust." It was half-true.
"I assure you again that this syringe will save your life, Severus." Kramer said. It seemed as though he was none the wiser about Snape's attempts to venture into his mind.
"Has anyone survived your tests?" Snape said, ignoring Kramer's words.
"That is not important." Kramer said, the iciness evident in his tone. He glanced at his watch.
"Your time is almost up, Severus. Make your choice." He glanced at the syringe on the table and then at Snape.
Snape closed his eyes, various visions racing through his mind. He saw John Kramer talking to a pretty woman with dirty blonde hair in what looked like a clinic. He saw Kramer behind his desk, sketching the blueprint of the Iron Cross he had woken up on. Now John Kramer arrived at Gordric's Hollow and donned on the Pigface mask.
Snape felt dizzy as Kramer's thoughts and memories flashed through his minds eye. He searched frantically for the correct one. The thought that would free him. And there it was.
The contents of the syringe that lay before him.
It was the antidote. And he had mere seconds to inject it into himself.
Snape's eyes flew open. Kramer was still eyeing him questioningly. Snape grabbed the syringe, rolled up his sleeve and injected the antidote into his bloodstream.
Panting, Snape pulled out the needle of the syringe and threw it aside. It seemed that he had been saved.
Across the table, John Kramer smiled.
"Congratulations Severus, you are still alive."
Glaring at Kramer, Snape realized that he was now in control of the situation. He stood up, his wand raised.
"And now, you pay for what you have done."
Snape felt no guilt. He wasn't about to kill Kramer. Just stun him and hand him over to the muggle authorities along with evidence as to his true identity.
"I suspect you will be very sorry for your actions." Snape said coolly.
Something was wrong. His mouth was numb. His whole body was numb.
"I'm afraid that once again, you're under a mistaken impression Severus." John Kramer said, chuckling.
"What-?" Before he could complete the sentence, Snape's vision blurred and he collapsed to the ground unconscious.
John Kramer looked down at the unmoving figure of Snape, a slight smile across his lips.
The night was rainy. John Kramer sat alone behind his desk in his workshop as the heavy rain pounded away outside. A large, reel to reel tape recorder sat on the desk next to a microphone and a set of blueprints. He had a red file open and was immersed in its contents, which included a few notes and close to a dozen black and white photographs, most of them depicting a woman in her late twenties as she went about into a shop or into her apartment building. There were also copies of her criminal records.
There was a sudden pop, and Albus Dumbledore materialized in front of him.
"Have you no manners, Albus?" said John without looking up from his file, "please, do have a seat."
"Thank you," said the wizard, smiling as he sat down facing John.
"Well?" John lowered the file and looked inquiringly at Dumbledore.
"He is in shock. Still in the Hospital Wing, but recovering." Said Dumbledore, eyeing the tape recorder with mild curiousity.
"And would this be your next test subject?" inquired Dumbledore, now looking at the contents of the open file sitting in front of John, trying to read the name upside down.
"Yes." John said in short, making no attempt to close the file. It seemed as though she wanted Dumbledore to see what she woman had done.
"Oh dear," Dumbledore said shortly, staring at the pictures. "How unfortunate…"
"It was her choice to be what she is, Albus." Replied John.
"But there are certain places she could go to try and recover." Dumbledore suggested mildly.
John let out a short laugh, shaking his head.
"Places where she can hide when the police comes by"
Dumbledore accepted the jibe with a light smile.
"Regarding Severus," he said, finally getting to the subject he had wanted to talk about. "you think he is ready?"
John looked thoughtfully at Dumbledore.
"Yes," he said at last, "his mind is ready."
"And his heart?" ventured Dumbledore quietly.
"I don't deal in the matters of heart, Albus, as you full well know. That is, as they say, your department," he said with a slight smile.
"Indeed." Dumbledre smiled, his eyes twinkling behind his half-moon glasses. "And I must say I'm quite impressed by the way you managed to resist Severus' legilimency. It's impressive how you managed to show him only what you wanted him to know, and hide the fact that the syringe that contained the antidote also contained a considerable portion of sedative."
"You're omniscient as ever Albus." Said John.
"Oh I just like to keep an open mind," replied Dumbledore, "and I'm certainly aware of how good you are in anticipating the human mind."
John inclined his head in acknowledgement.
"Well then." Dumbledore sprang to his feet, "I believe our business is over."
"Yes" John got to his feet as well.
"Thank you for taking your time and energy to fulfil my request." Said Dumbledore, bowing.
"Not at all," said John politely. "he proved to be an interesting Test Subject."
Dumbledore smiled, nodded one last time.
"Until we meet again."
Before John could answer, he vanished with a small pop.
John sat down again, sighing. With a slight shake of his head, he pressed the rewind button on the recorder, intent on listening to the message again.
Once it was done, he pressed the play button, and with his face on his hands and his eyes closed, he listened. His own voice, heavily distorted, issued from the two reel tape recorder
"Hello Amanda. You don't know me but… I know you…. I Want To Play A Game…"
Author's Note: I would like to thank each and everyone who reads and reviews my first fanfic that was published on this site . Rest assured, I will continue to publish more fanfics. It's not over. Far from it. I thank dmur446, DeathSidhe, RebeccaRoy, Sakura Lisel and 666-HyuugaNeji-999 for their reviews. Thanks a lot!
Disclaimer: The characters in The Test Subject belong to J.K. Rowling and to Lionsgate Entertainment. I have no claim whatsoever over the complex and intriguing characters they have created.