Interlude: This Conspiracy
At this time of year, the ever-present chill of the dungeons soaked into the bone, refusing to leave. The heat of the roaring fireplace in the Slytherin common room did nothing to thaw Severus Snape’s icy skin concealed beneath his voluminous black cloak. Simply another thing to tolerate in this place, Severus thought bitterly as he rubbed his arms in vain.
After all, sitting on a hard couch in the wee hours of the morning deep in the bowels of the school was not high on his list of favorite activities. Not to mention waiting for someone who, as the minutes ticked by, seemed less and less likely to show up. Just like him to leave me, the kowtowing fourth year, expecting him at three in the morning if only to know for a fact how much I am in his power.
The teenage wizard surveyed the room with a customary curled lip. The beryl-colored candles on the stand nearest him gave off thin curls of smoke, the tendrils of gray reaching upwards, twisting and corkscrewing in the frigid air. Almost everything in the expansive room was tastelessly expensive and mismatched from the many different generations of Slytherin patrons, from the vintage black couch he was seated on to the animated tapestry of The Fall of Salazar Slytherin draped above the fireplace. Severus watched Salazar imprison the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets and cast out of Hogwarts before turning away with a sigh of disgust.
To say that Snape was unhappy at Hogwarts was a piteous understatement. Then again, he had come to realize over the years that the likelihood of Severus Snape, the wretched child of Eileen Prince and that man, being happy anywhere was miniscule at best. Although the boy had a multitude of magical talents and proved the weakness of his half-blood heritage wrong at every turn, he knew that all his classmates would ever see in him would be a gaunt, awkward-looking boy with greasy hair, a prime target for putdowns and abuse from a certain pair of Gryffindors. At the tender age of fourteen, the blackness of a lifetime of hostility and disenchantment burned steadily behind Severus’ eyes.
But that was before Lucius.
As if in answer to the silent mention of his name, Lucius Malfoy materialized from the shadows of the pillared entrance of the common room, striding down the stairs with a proud gait. Giving Snape his customary smirk, he settled himself on the burnished leather couch opposite the underclassman, throwing his feet carelessly atop the exquisite glass coffee table between them.
The older boy rested his pale blue gaze on Snape, as if taking him in completely: his awkward, ramrod-straight sitting position, the long, spindly fingers digging themselves into the folds of the couch, and the intense scrutiny that was meeting Lucius’ own. A low chuckle rumbled in the seventh year’s chest as he broke his staring match with the greasy-haired boy.
“Lucius…” Snape started, ending his own careful silence.
“What was that, Snape?” Lucius warned, his silky voice dangerously quiet.
“Mister Malfoy, sir,” the boy bit out, gritting his teeth at Malfoy’s blatant abuse of seniority.
“Yes?” Malfoy drawled, his lip curled in a satisfied sneer at Snape’s sulky grimace.
“I was simply wondering why you called me here, in the middle of the night. Is there any news of…of him? This…Dark Lord you told me of?” He risked a genuinely interested look at the blond boy as Severus nervously swept his stringy hair out of his face.
“I am glad to affirm that there is. He has arrived in Muggle London tonight; Rosier and Avery are already there. Narcissa just received contact from them and is presently transferring their coordinates to McNair and Rookwood,” Lucius related, his eyes glinting with malice yet unreleased. “Too bad those of us trapped in this sham of a school can only work from the inside,” he sighed, actual wistfulness in his voice.
“You people seem to have everything under control,” Snape said silkily.
“’We people’ could become your people, Severus.”
Snape could not help but give a sharp intake of breath. Does he mean…wait a moment – now? True, Lucius has taken me under his wing these past few months, but…for it to come to this…
His swirling thoughts came to a screeching halt. Visions swam before his eyes: his filthy Muggle father, begging for mercy at his feet, trying to wash Severus’ boots with his shameful tears; his mother, finally free from the prison her own home had become, looking on him with gratitude and pride rather than numb recognition; respect and reverence from his peers…
How could he help but feel drunk with power?
Deciding to ignore Malfoy’s annoying little superiority complex, Snape managed to get out, “Lucius, I…”, before the older boy silenced him with a raised palm.
Snape creased his eyebrows concernedly as Lucius whipped around, eyes darting from corner to corner of the common room. “You, whoever you are,” Lucius called, raising his voice as much as he dared in the dead of night. “Show yourself!”
A girl stumbled out of a corner, about sixteen years old, eyes as wide as dinner plates at being discovered. Her matted, curly black hair was a disorganized mess, spilling over her shoulder and trailing down her back. Her robes fit her quite well in all the right places, as the two teenage boys could not help but notice. Her pale, china-doll face was marred by a few painful-looking scratch marks and panic-filled eyes darted between the two wizards. Allowing the initial moment of shock to pass, the girl’s eyes hardened as she shot her hand swiftly into her robes for her wand.
“No, no. No need for that, my dear,” Lucius purred, arms out and palms upturned in a sign of peace. Severus turned sharply to the older wizard, his wand drawn at pointed at the newcomer. Lucius ignored the question in his eyes as he spoke to the girl. “What is your name?” he said more a bit more firmly as he stood and approached her, his eyes soft, even welcoming.
“Bellatrix. Bellatrix Black,” the girl answered steadily, eyeing him warily.
“Ah, look what we have here. My beloved Narcissa’s dear little sister. I’ve heard so much about you.” He reached out and took a curly strand of charcoal hair between his fingers, making Bellatrix flinch as the distance between them closed all at once. “Is it true what she said about you being held back from attending school because of your…how shall I put this…issues?”
Cheeks aflame with embarrassment, the witch jerked her hair away from Lucius’ admiring fingers and scratched her face savagely, the ragged fingernails blemishing her fair skin. “And what would you know about that, Malfoy?” she spat as she turned her gaze to his once more, challenging him. “Not like this place was worth the wait. Full of mudbloods and blood traitors,” she hissed, her eyes burning with unfathomable hatred.
Snape and Lucius exchanged a meaningful look. “Quite the clever little minx, you are,” Lucius turned back to Bellatrix, smirking lasciviously as he took in her disheveled appearance. “Hiding in the common room while we boys were talking. I didn’t hear a peep, did you, Snape?” At this he turned to Severus who shook his head dumbly, still trying to keep up with Lucius’ little charade.
“Just how much did you hear, Bella?” Lucius asked softly, a hint of menace in his voice.
“Oh, just everything. Every little detail about what you, my sister, and all your little friends are planning to do in London tonight with You-Know-Who. And it looked like you were about initiate Snivellus here into your little club. But what were the names of those other men you mentioned? Rookwood, Rosier, McNair, Avery…?” She let the question trail off, a smirk on her lips and blackmail in her heart.
Snape turned as white as a sheet and Lucius hesitated for a moment, his hand frozen in midair on its way to stroke the girl’s hair again. “Why don’t you take a seat over there by Snivellus, love?” He gestured grandly to where Snape sat, disgruntled and scowling at Lucius’ use of his cruel nickname. Guided by Malfoy, Bellatrix seated herself, surveying Severus through narrowed eyes. Lucius leaned in conspiratorially, his face finally hardening into a pained look.
“Name your terms.”
“I want to be one of you, whatever that means. I’ve heard whisperings of the Dark Lord in our family. He will accomplish what we never could have dreamed of doing on our own. He will make the unworthy kneel before him. In other words, Malfoy, I want in.”
A slow smile crept across Lucius’ face and the depraved gleam returned to his eye. This probably worked out better than we could have hoped, with this girl’s drive, Snape thought, exchanging a look with Malfoy. Lucius clasped Bellatrix’s and Snape’s arms in his own.
“Agreed, my dears. The Dark Lord will be pleased.”
A/N: I really enjoyed writing this one. Don't get me wrong, the Marauders are great, but I have a special place in my heart for Slytherins. How well do you think I captured them? I want to hear your thoughts! The wonderful chapter image was created by smile06 at The Dark Arts.