Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Induction :: 05 :: Pain and Obsession

05 • Pain and Obsession

Sunday, 17 November 1996

Haze was looking around with wide eyes as Severus led him into his quarters. This was not, strictly speaking, the done thing, but Haze had made his plea for additional lessons, and Severus saw every reason to handle them in the privacy of his own rooms. Especially, he thought triumphantly, as Albus could not enter the rooms of the staff members without being let in.

And of course, Albus did say Severus could do whatever it took, even if he hadn’t been referring to anything other than Occlumency. Severus was willing to allow that Albus probably would extend that particular statement over any private lessons, given a little nudge and a reminder that potions tutoring meant that Haze had a viable excuse, should anyone ask, for spending so much time in his company.

Glancing back to make sure the boy was behaving himself, Severus crooked a finger at Haze and swept off through the door to his lab. Now that he had Haze inside the safety of his quarters, he felt oddly like humming. Severus pointed at a stool and snapped his fingers, and the boy immediately went to it and sat down, hooking the heels of his shoes on the rungs.

“Now, as I usually spend this time making potions to replenish the infirmary stocks, or in experimental work, you shall assist me. Given that a variety of potions is used above stairs, I am quite sure I can start you off with something fairly simple, and we will work up from there. As some of these are taught in first year, I am quite sure you will have no difficulties to begin with.”

Severus turned away from his shelves and placed a variety of ingredients on the well-worn table, noting as he did so the rapt expression on Haze’s face.

“As I know you have your map with you, and you would not like it to be damaged were there an accident, I suggest you remove your robes and place them back in the living area before we get started.”

Haze nodded and hopped off the stool, disappearing through the door and returning in time to see Severus drop a book on the table as well. As Haze moved to sit down again, Severus said, “I have taken the liberty of providing you with a text so that you have the ingredients list and instructions at hand.”

Severus moved back to the shelves and started plucking jars and phials off them. “You will work at that table, and start with a boil cure potion. As we have several hours before lunch, you have time to make plenty of samples. Though, if you get bored with that, you can attempt making quantities of burn-healing paste.”

He placed his selection on a different table and looked at Haze again. “If you have any questions or need my help if something goes wrong, just say so. Are we clear? Good. You may begin.”

Severus kept a careful eye on Haze as he worked, taking in his careful perusal of the text before placing the necessary ingredients in an arrangement that probably only made sense to Haze himself. Everything else was carefully slipped onto the shelf under the work surface.

After Haze had successfully completed one cauldron of the boil cure potion and bottled the results, taking the time to neatly label them, he spent a few minutes looking at his work table with his head cocked to the side. Then he nodded and rearranged the surface again, and began on a batch of burn-healing paste. Severus stayed quiet through all this, wondering what the boy was up to.

Some time later Haze finished the paste and transferred the results to wide-mouthed, low jars, labeling them as well. Severus arched his brow, stirring his own, much more complicated potion, and waited for the boy’s next unvoiced decision. After staring at the work surface again for a minute, Haze looked up at Severus.

“Sir?”

“Yes, Haze. What is it?”

“There wouldn’t be any problem with me doing both at once, would there, sir? There’s room enough here.”

Severus tilted his head to the side and said, “If you think you can manage both simultaneously, I see no reason to object.”

“Thank you, sir.”

By the time lunch rolled around, Severus noted that Haze had produced enough of both concoctions to last months, if not well over a year. As both had a shelf life of several years if properly stored, he made no comment on the quantity. Gesturing to the boy, he swept out of the lab and back into the living area, knowing that Haze would follow him.

Crossing to a different door, he pushed it open. “Through here is the bedroom. Inside is the entrance to the bathroom. I’ll ring for lunch while you’re washing up. Is there anything in particular you crave?”

“Anything will be fine, sir, really.”

Severus nodded and set about ordering, taking his turn after Haze had emerged and was seated on the couch. Once both had their plates filled and they’d started to eat, Severus decided it was time for a friendly chat, not that he normally condoned such practices, never mind friendly ones.

“After we’re finished eating, I’ll take a look at what you’ve done this morning. If your work is up to standard, I’ll arrange to have them delivered to the infirmary.”

Haze looked up from his plate and smiled.

“It is up to you if you’d like to continue this afternoon with more potions, or if you’d rather go off and do something else before your Occlumency lesson.”

“Oh, no. I’d prefer to stay here, sir, if that’s all right. For the first time I felt like I could do something right with potions.”

Severus nodded and lunch continued on, punctuated with light conversation revolving around what Haze perceived as his deficiencies when it came to potions in general. While Haze was finishing up his meal, Severus went back into his lab and checked over the results of the boy’s morning efforts, and was satisfied to proclaim them more than suitable for delivery to the infirmary.

Perhaps the boy was a candidate for NEWT classes after all, but it would take many more sessions in the lab before Severus was truly convinced. In his opinion, the quantity Haze produced was of little concern; if he made far too much, that was fine, and far too little was also agreeable. What mattered was the time spent, his growing confidence, and the hours spent under the influence of Severus’s personality and designs.

The boy’s trust had been given to him willingly, serendipity perhaps, but it was nonetheless fortunate. The more time Severus spent being gently commanding, and demonstrably trustworthy, the deeper that conviction would sink, all without Severus having to employ underhanded methods. And for the most part, it would be an honest trust.

He wasn’t quite sure why it was important to him, but it was. Some small part of him danced in the back of his head at the idea of Haze extending that trust. Perhaps it was simply because he was one of the few who had. Severus shook himself out of his thoughts when the boy’s presence impinged his awareness.

“You did very well this morning, Haze. I’ll be pleased to deliver the fruits of your labor above stairs. Since you appear to be faultless with those two, perhaps you would like to try your hand at sleeping and calming potions this afternoon? Or anything you find in that chapter.”

“Does this mean you’ll tutor me, sir?”

“Do not get too far ahead of yourself, Haze. I won’t make that decision until I’ve watched you work for at least several sessions. Only then will I bestow or deny your request.”

“Oh.” The boy seemed a little lost for a moment, then brightened. “I’ll just get started then, sir.”

“Mmm,” Severus uttered. “Anything you need can be found on the shelves. Clean cauldrons are underneath as you can see. Again, if you have any questions or concerns, simply say so. You may begin,” he said, and was amused to see that Haze immediately started flipping through the text on his table, and having apparently found what he was looking for, moved swiftly to the shelves to gather supplies.

Again he kept a discreet eye on the boy as he handled himself and his current charge, his face creasing as he started to notice lines forming on the boy’s forehead, as though he were in pain. A pain, Severus noted, that Haze didn’t even seem aware of thus far in his current state of focus. As an hour passed by, the lines deepened, and Haze was occasionally rubbing his forehead absently, his fingers lingering over that infamous scar.

Severus was beginning to get quite worried when Haze’s actions showed a marked decrease in speed as his attention was more and more often taken up by whatever he was experiencing, until finally the boy winced and bit his lip.

“Haze, leave off what you’re doing and extinguish the fires. You and I need to have a little talk,” he commanded.

The boy looked up, startled. “Sir?” he asked uncertainly, but did as bidden.

“Go sit on the couch, Haze,” Severus said as he pulled several completed potions from a cabinet, then left the room after his student. Taking a seat in the armchair adjacent to the couch he angled himself and took another look at the boy.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were in pain, Haze?” he asked, watching as the boy’s hand automatically rose to his scar and rubbed.

“I . . . I guess I didn’t really notice it, sir.” Haze gave him a strange look. “It’s not that bad,” he offered. When Severus arched a brow he said, “Really, sir. It’s like . . . when you have a mild headache, something you can easily tolerate? You tend to just ignore it, not even realize it’s there, sir.”

Severus raised both brows in a quick show of interest. “Yet your scar is obviously bothering you, Haze. Is this coincidence, or is the Dark Lord involved?”

The boy looked confused for a moment, then intense. “It prickles,” he admitted.

“And do you sense anything odd? Pressure on your mind perhaps?” Severus ventured leadingly.

“Well, now that you mention it, sir. . . .” Haze trailed off for a moment, his now tilted head and expression reminding Severus quite strongly of a bird eyeing something. “It feels like rain—no, fog. Mist?” Haze looked up, puzzled.

Severus rubbed his own forehead with one hand, digging at his temples with thumb and fingers in circular motions. “I am well aware that you will probably not be able to recall this the way I’d like, but I want you to think back to the dreams you were having last year. The long hallway, the door at the end.” He paused, and Haze nodded, still mystified. “The Dark Lord was sending those dreams to you, correct?”

Haze nodded again.

“He was being, for lack of a better term, sneaky. Slipping into your mind, subtle in his actions.”

Haze went through a quick change from suddenly raised brows to suddenly narrowed eyes.

“Now, as I said, I do not expect that you’ll recall how that felt, and by that I mean how it felt as he initiated the dreams. But I must wonder if that is what he’s up to at the moment. Your description of fog or mist seems oddly . . . relevant, even if it is a peculiar time of the day.” Severus shot a meaningful look at the boy, and was rewarded with a sharp nod.

“However, you feel nothing but some degree of pain. A prickling in your scar,” he stated. “If that scar is indeed the source of your connection, then the defenses currently in place seem to have the effect of cutting off whatever access it has, or should I say had, to your mind.” Severus tilted his head again. “Does that sound like it fits?”

After a moment Haze nodded.

“I’d like you to keep those thoughts in mind. Even if you are to all accounts closed off from him, you are still affected. I will have to update Dumbledore. . . . Haze, any time your scar prickles or hurts, you will tell me. We will then be at least aware that something has probably happened, or will shortly. It may be that he will become frustrated or angry at his lack of success, and change his tactics.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now, would you like something for the discomfort? Or would you like to continue in the lab?”

“Maybe just a little something, sir. But I’m all right, really. I’d like to get back to the lab.”

Severus handed over a vial. “One small sip. That should be enough to help without impairing you. No, go ahead and keep it handy.” He stood, saying, “Come back to work once you feel normal,” then disappeared through the lab’s door.

He made short work of disposing of the now ruined potions, and checked to see that his own was still simmering gently. When Haze stepped into the room, his face fell at the sight of his worktop, then hardened in an expression of resolution and determination as he began again.

By the time another hour or so had passed, Severus was feeling rather fidgety and unsettled. The logical part of his brain likened it to an addictive going too long without the source of his obsession. As he stirred and fussed over his potion on auto-pilot, and kept a sidelong eye on Haze, outwardly calm and in control, he found himself once again comparing the boy to his long-dead father.

Though shorter than he remembered James being, the boy was exceptionally like him in looks overall. The same messy hair that brought to mind a welter of memories, the same finely shaped face, though with a touch of Lily’s fiery sweetness, and the same wiry build. The eyes, of course, were purely Lily, and made it easier for Severus to make that small dissociative leap from one man to another.

James wouldn’t have remembered. A memory charm took care of that problem. Yes indeed. Arrogant and cocksure, it was one less thing to remember to use in his torments. But this boy, Haze. . . .

Severus blinked and glanced down at his potion. It was ready. With sure hands he banished the flame and left it to cool, then looked over at Haze and spoke. “When you’ve finished that lot, come on out. That’s enough for one day.” Then he swept off to his bathroom and washed up, coming eventually to settle on the arm of his chair by the fireplace to wait for the boy.

When he finally came in and took a seat on the couch, Severus immediately said, “Haze, go under,” and the boy obediently dropped into a trance. After commanding him deeper several times in a row, Severus went back to his lab to check over the boy’s work, nodded in satisfaction, then went back out.

“Haze, open your eyes. That’s right. Good. Haze, you look warm,” he said, casting a cooling charm on himself, and urging the fire higher, taking care to use his wand behind his back where Haze couldn’t see.

“You’ve been very productive today, and you’ve obviously decided you want to get into my NEWT potions class.” He slid down into the chair. “I asked you once before if it bothered you when people compared you to your father, Haze. Why don’t you tell me about it.”

Haze shrugged and ruffled his hair. “I don’t know. I never know . . . what people see. Like Remus and Sirius? Who do they see? Did see. Me or my dad? Am I really so much the same that there’s no difference? Am I really such a lousy bastard that any day now I’ll start tormenting people simply because I can? But he couldn’t have been all bad. I mean, mum married him.”

Haze let out a deep sigh and slouched. “It was already so hard just being Harry Potter, you know? People seeing what they wanted to see, expecting so much from me, when half the time I hadn’t got a clue what was going on, and just did what I thought was right. And then, out of nowhere, suddenly there’s Remus, not that I understood anything then, not at first. And Sirius. I was so happy to think, for those few moments, that I’d be free. And then Peter escaped and it was all gone, stolen away.”

Haze shifted sideways and stared into the fire. “Later on, listening to people talk, and wondering again. How could they be so good, and yet such gits. Mrs Weasley accusing Sirius of treating me like James. I loved him, but did he love me, or a memory? I hate thinking things like that, I really do. And I’ll never know. Maybe Remus. I guess I’d have to ask, wouldn’t I.”

Severus thought it interesting that Haze never once brought up Severus’s own treatment of him, or his accusations and recriminations. “Free of what?”

“The Dursleys,” Haze replied morosely.

“There were”—and here Severus grimaced—“some very good qualities in your father,” he said supportively, then backtracked to say, “But you had to dig deeply to find them.”

Haze shrugged again.

“You look warm, Haze,” Severus persisted.

“It is rather hot in here, isn’t it,” replied the boy absently, moving a hand to pluck at the front of his shirt.

“Do feel free to get more comfortable, Haze. I surely won’t mind. What about your mother, then?”

Haze scratched the back of his neck and said, “What about her? I know very little. Nobody ever seems to want to talk about her. Sure, I’ve got pictures, but that’s not saying much. And only the one memory of her.”

“Memory?” Severus inquired.

The boy glanced over at him briefly then resumed his study of the flickering flames. “Didn’t anyone tell you?” When Severus didn’t respond he said, “I’m surprised. It’s the dementors mostly. Every time. Just like on the train that year. All that screaming, and later on, the bright green light. Her begging Voldemort to take her instead, leave me to live. Persisting until he couldn’t take it. And then she died. Just like that.”

After a pause he said, “Somehow I doubt Voldemort will ever tell me why he told her to stand aside. You’d have thought he’d be pleased to kill a muggle-born.”

“Perhaps,” murmured Severus. “Do you feel guilt over their deaths?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I didn’t kill them. He did.”

“Quite so,” Severus agreed. “A commendable attitude, Haze.”

The boy made a noncommittal noise and sat up, swiftly pulling his shirt over his head and dropping it on the floor before laying back into the embrace of the couch and fanning himself with a lazy hand.

Severus grinned. “How about Cedric? And yes, it is terribly warm in here. Let me see about adjusting the fire,” he said casually, using his wand to force it hotter. He smirked when Haze didn’t even comment on seeing the flames leap higher.

“Cedric? He shouldn’t have died. Voldemort called him the spare, you know,” Haze said in confiding tones. “I wish I’d done things differently, but I thought, if we both win, that’s okay. It’s still a Hogwarts victory, and Cedric didn’t mind sharing.” Haze shifted position again, laying his head on the arm of the couch and stretching out one leg, letting the other slide off the side so his foot rested flat on the floor.

“And guilt?” Severus prompted.

“No, no guilt. I did at first. He kept telling me to take it, I insisted he took it. Neither of us would back down. Under different circumstances, it might be funny. Then I suggested we both take it. There was no way I could have known what would happen. Eventually I got over it. I wasn’t the one to kill him, so I refuse to take blame.”

Haze cleared his throat. “It’s really hot in here. Is it just me?” He glanced over at Severus again.

“I am fine, Haze. But as I said, feel free to make yourself comfortable. What about Sirius?” he asked, wondering if it was a mistake to broach a much more recent wound.

“A lot of things went wrong there,” the boy replied, pausing to toe off his shoes. “I thought it was all my fault at first. But it’s not.”

“How so?”

“How could it be? I’m not saying I don’t have a part in the blame, but it wasn’t all me. Small things, over time. Little decisions, or large.” Before Severus could prompt him again he said, “Like Dumbledore. He refused to even look at me all that year. Wouldn’t tell me why, never told me his suspicions. Just said, do this, do that. If he’d said something, I wouldn’t have believed the dreams. Like Sirius himself. If he’d just told me what he’d given me, and let me know it was safe, I’d have opened the mirror, and used it.”

He paused again, starting up when Severus made a quiet noise in his throat. “Did you know, all those Occlumency lessons I took, they made my scar hurt badly. It was like they stripped every defense I could muster. Every time, every night I tried to clear my mind, and every time I was dragged into dreams and visions. I guess I was stupid. I can’t remember if I said anything. So it’s my fault, too. But not entirely.”

“Indeed. You seem to have a very mature outlook on all this, Haze.”

The boy snorted. “I’m not a child. People might wish to keep me one, but I’m not. I can’t be, seeing what I have. Feeling what I have. Dumbledore may think it wise to shelter me in the darkness of ignorance, but he’s quite wrong.”

“No,” agreed Severus. “You are far from a child, Haze,” he said, eyes lingering on the boy’s now damp chest. “Not a child at all.” He blinked. “In fact, perhaps it’s time for something more adult. Haze, the last time I let you reward yourself, you became frustrated. Why?”

“Because it wasn’t right,” came the simple reply.

Severus’s brows shot up. “Why wasn’t it right?”

“I couldn’t feel things well enough.”

“Is that so. Then I expect you might wish to learn how to do things properly. Hmm?”

“I would, yes.”

“Then I suggest you remove the rest of your clothing. You look far too warm as it is, and clothing will only get in the way.” Severus sat there and waited to see if he would.

And he did, rolling off the couch so he could unfasten and shrug down his jeans and kick them away, then remove his socks and shorts. Haze stood there, naked, staring at Severus expectantly. “What now?” he asked without a trace of guile.

Severus closed his eyes briefly and inhaled, letting out his breath in a long, slow exhalation before opening his eyes. “Lie back down on the couch like you were. That’s right, foot on the floor. Very good, Haze. You know how you feel when you’re rewarded, Haze? There’s another way to go about that, something you can build up from the start, fanning the feelings until you can’t bear it. And then, just when you think you’ll die from so much pleasure, it almost is like dying. Some people even call it the little death. It’s a pleasure so intense it’s almost painful, Haze.”

Keeping his eyes on the boy he said, “You know how the last times you’ve rewarded yourself, you felt the urge, the need, to use your hand, Haze? Why don’t you do that now, just soft strokes, gentle fingers. That’s right. Good boy, Haze. That feels good, doesn’t it. Mmmm. I’m quite sure that you’re feeling the urge to do something more, maybe stroke harder, or maybe even explore with your fingers a bit. That’s right. I see that you’re closing your eyes, Haze. You must feel very good indeed do be doing that. Go as slow or as fast as you need, you’ll know what to do.”

Severus continued to speak softly, not much above a whisper, though he doubted very much that Haze was registering his words with any degree of coherence. The boy’s hips were arching off the couch, aided by that one foot pressed hard against the floor, and twisting slightly as his hand continued to stroke and squeeze, his other arm flung back over his head. Haze’s actions quickened, the movements of his hand becoming stronger and surer, and his shadowed face was twisted in what could have been mistaken for a grimace were you only to see that one part of him.

“That’s right, give in to the sensations, Haze. Build them up, higher and higher until you can’t stand it any longer,” Severus whispered harshly, his own chest heaving with hitched breathing. “You’re almost there, aren’t you, Haze. So close to that pinnacle of pleasure. You can feel it intensifying, centering under your hand, leaking out to the rest of your body. That’s right, Haze, give in. Let it peak, now. Cum for me, Haze. Finish your reward.”

A second later Severus let out an exultant, “Yes!” in a thick, strangled whisper.

*

“Haze, wake up. You nodded off,” Severus said with languid amusement. “It’s dinner time. Are you hungry?”

The boy yawned and stretched, then nodded sleepily.

“I’ll just order something, then. And after we eat, we’ll move on to your Occlumency lesson. Agreed?”

“Yes, sir.”

Over dinner Severus brought up one of the things he’d been wondering about. Wondering, because to his knowledge, it was and had always been, impossible to lie under the influence of veritaserum. So he broached the subject with Haze, making it known that he wondered if the kind of defenses Haze had erected were of a type, mentally and visually, that could in fact do the impossible.

Haze, for his part, looked interested in the idea. Then again, Severus knew why the boy trusted him, so it came as little shock when he asked if he could offer himself up as the test subject. The only oddity about the entire exchange was Severus’s realization that it may well be only Harry Potter who could pull it off. Then again, it might depend entirely on hypnosis. But, those conjectures would have to wait.

After an hour spent repeatedly attacking Haze’s mind, he called for a rest.

“Now that we’re both worn out, what is your assessment of the past hour?”

“The battery, as you term it, has its good and bad points, sir,” replied Haze.

“Explain.”

“The first time it’s fine. Unless I’m mistaken, you paused longer than normal when the attack reflected, and that’s good. But then the battery is drained, sir.” He paused and flicked his eyes toward Severus.

“I know there’s more there, so out with it.”

Haze gave Severus a small smile, shrugged, and said, “Muggles have different kinds of batteries. Some you just use and throw away when they’re drained. Others can be recharged, sir.” He glanced over again, possibly to gauge Severus’s reaction. “I mean, it’s not like I’d expect to get hit repeatedly with Legilimens in a showdown, but . . . since I can’t use the energy from the attacks for very long to strengthen my defenses, I may as well switch to siphoning them into the battery. Or at least at that point. Just in case.”

“True, you could. Though as you pointed out, it might be a meaningless gesture. On the other hand, there’s no reason not to try, if only to see if it works. However, I do suggest you increase the capacity of the battery you’ve established. What slows me down for a hand span of seconds may not make the Dark Lord so much as blink. For that matter, you could consider adding a perimeter alarm to all this.”

“I’m not sure I understand, sir.”

“All right. Up to this point, you’ve been able to successfully maintain a defense against intrusions into your mind, and keep doing it against repeated attacks. This is good and well. You have also succeeded at the task of reflecting an attack, and magnifying it on the return. This is also good and well. Add to that the fact that your scar is no longer the Dark Lord’s personal entrance into your head, though it still serves as some kind of a warning of activity.”

Haze nodded.

“It is entirely likely, though we have no real way of knowing, that the Dark Lord’s attempts thus far have resulted in him acting as though trying to grasp smoke. He may well have no idea what’s gone wrong for him, since your mind is not shielded in a fashion common to those who master Occlumency, or are even training in it.”

Severus rubbed his chin, and throat, and said, “However, as much good as all those things are, there are things we could try which might serve to further confuse him, even if we aren’t sure of the exact results. So long as the integrity of your defenses remains sound, it should not matter though. As for the perimeter alarm, consider this—there are spells, wards, enchantments, which when placed on or around an object will warn someone if it is touched. Correct?”

Haze nodded.

“Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assume, for the sake of theory at least, that the same could be done to your defenses. Except, in this case, the intent is not to warn you. Your scar can already serve that purpose. Hypothetically speaking, your defenses could be expanded to do two things beyond what they already handle. One is to warn someone like myself if an intrusion is being attempted. Two is to induce a real sense of confusion in the Dark Lord.”

Severus glanced over. “Rather like casting a Confundus charm on him. His mind attempts to touch yours, and your defenses not only have him grasping at fog, but induce it. You see?”

Haze grinned, then sobered. “Yes, but as you said, there’s no real way of knowing, sir. And I can keep you out, but. . . .”

Severus tilted his head. “I understand. Which is why we will continue to have these lessons, you will continue to practice at making them stronger, multi-faceted, and reflexive. The only way to know is to try, though the ultimate test will not be for some time, I’m sure. Until then . . . well, here we are.”

“Sir, what about other things?”

“Such as?”

“Other defense, sir. Knowledge, practical applications thereof. I’m sure that the standard curriculum here at Hogwarts is fine for the average person. But I hope you’ll forgive me when I say that given what I’m expected to do, what’s offered normally falls short of the mark.”

“I would have to speak to the headmaster about that. In the meantime, I want you to consider the potential of your defenses when you’re working on them. Visualization can be and is a very powerful tool. You’ve been using it to excellent effect already, so you know that to be true.”

Seeing Haze nod, Severus moved on. “As far as potions goes, we shall see. Do you still have your potions texts?”

“I don’t, actually. Since I wasn’t going to be taking the class I saw no reason to bring them this year, sir.”

Severus waved his hand negligently. “When you arrive for your lesson on Wednesday evening, I’ll provide you with some. Since you’ll be handing in your assignment, you can go over potions for the second hour. You’ll also need to determine just how much of your time you’re willing to give up to it, so I expect to see you appear with something detailing exactly when you’re free, even if you normally use it for homework or relaxation.”

“Yes, sir. I will.”

“Good. I’d expect just as much devotion to potions if I tutor you as you give to Occlumency, understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’ve done well today, Haze. I’m quite pleased with your progress. Now run along and assure your friends I haven’t killed you and stuffed you in a dark hole somewhere. Pleasant dreams, Haze.”