Darkness was nearly upon him as Professor Snape made his way through the forbidden forest to join the conclave of death eaters. He paused, hid amongst the shadows, and watched as several death eaters began to arrive. He looked amongst them and was shocked to see so many, considering all that had happened since the Dark Lord’s unexpected departure thirteen years ago. He sighed, emerged from his spot within the shadows and took his place amongst those already assembled.
Thirteen years. I can not believe it has been thirteen years since. . . . A rustling of the trees caught his attention as those assembled turned to peer into the darkness. The all but forgotten red eyes appeared in the shadows, nothing more could be seen. Snape watched in awe as the once great Lord Voldemort half walked, half slithered into the center of those assembled. After a quick look around, he began to speak.
“Well, well,” the Dark Lord stated. His voice, carried by the wind, echoed through the group and into the shadows of the forest. “It’s so nice to see so many of my faithful and loyal followers have decided to return.”
His snake-like smile and red eyes made Snape shiver. He watched as their renewed Lord slowly retreated back into the forest and motioned for all to follow. Amongst those assembled, were many fathers of students in his very house. He nodded his head in greeting to several as he joined the group and followed amongst them. Silence was all to be heard as the crescent moon shone brightly above them.
A whisper on the wind caught his attention. He slowed as others began to pass him. Was someone calling his name? Surely not. He quickened his pace to catch up to the others who were now winding their way down into the opening of a dark cave. One of the last to enter, the cave's entrance mysteriously sealed as the last death eater walked through.
“Ah, Severus,” came the voice he spent years trying to forget. "It's so nice of you to join us.”
He turned to face his former master. “Good evening, my Lord.” He stepped forward and took a seat amongst his colleagues. Having trained for years, his mind immediately began to block out all outside thoughts. He tried to look indifferent as the others continued to find their places amongst themselves again.
The Dark Lord took a seat in the hollowed out trunk of a tree magically conjured up for him in the center of the cave. Professor Snape glanced from the corner of his eye to see all the dead spiders lying around the floor of the cave. Apparently, the spot had been pre-selected for a specific purpose but for what, he was not entirely sure. His nerves began to surface as the cold stare of his former master cut through his eyes like hot daggers. Blank space. White nothingness. He continued to occlude until the silence was broken by the Dark Lord.
“Tonight, I welcome you all,” he began as leaned forward in the make-shift thrown to get closer to his followers. “For those of you who could not make it to my reincarnation party let me say, you did miss quite a festive occasion.” He paused as a few of the death eaters began to cheer. After a few moments, the crowd quieted and he began again. “It is so nice to see all, or almost all, of my followers are still with me.” He stood and placed his hand on the shoulder of the closest death eater for support. “I know it must have came as a shock to some of you,” he stated as he began to walk amongst them in the center of the circle. “For others,” he began as he glanced toward the spot where Severus sat. “I hope it was not.”
Snape sat quietly amongst the group. His mind continued to focus on nothing as the Dark Lord walked slowly back to his side of the circle. He held his breath as his former master bent down to face him eye to eye.
“Severus,” he whispered as the others looked on with complete interest.
“Yes, my Lord,” he replied staring straight into his red eyes. He continued to occlude as he felt his mind being read.
“I have been informed of your new position at Hogwarts.” He stood, turned and walked back towards his make-shift throne. He sat and leaned back, turning his snake-like head towards the professor. “Potions Professor and Head of Slytherin House. Tell me, is this true?”
“Yes, my Lord,” Snape replied. He glanced around the circle to see Lucius Malfoy’s wide grin.
The Dark Lord continued to watch him as he addressed the others of the group as well. “So I take this news to mean you are working for the great Albus Dumbledore?” he asked, slightly unnerved. "Then how do I know you can still be trusted?”
There was an awkward silence as Snape thought for a moment. His biggest fear before the Dark Lord’s downfall was being discovered as a spy. Now upon his return, those forgotten fears were beginning to resurface. He knew of the consequences if anyone, especially those working for the Dark Lord, ever found out about his double life. His answer was critical. He continued to occlude as he blurted out the only answer he could think of. “You know where my true loyalty lies, my Lord.”
The silence was almost deafening as those assembled waited for their leader’s reply. “Very well,” the Dark Lord acknowledged as he glanced around the group. “This is excellent news.” The snake-like smile was almost unnerving.
Excellent news? I’m afraid to find out the true meaning of this meeting. A breeze deep within the cave caused his attention to wain. An eerie feeling came over him as if he were being watched. He glanced around, trying to peer into the darkness. Suddenly, without warning, Aileana’s vision from earlier that afternoon began to break through his mind barrier. He blinked, shook his head and desperately tried to occlude not knowing why the vision was coming through now. He blinked once more and glanced up to his former master and then around to the others, hoping no one had noticed.
“I have been informed by Lucius,” he paused and waved his hand in Lucius’s direction. “With all the excitement surrounding the Tri-Wizard Tournament and my unexpected return, this has been quite an eventful year at Hogwarts.” Several other attendees nodded. Snape quickly glanced around, watching the reactions of those assembled. “The end of the school year is nearly upon us!” the Dark Lord shouted. Snape glanced up at the right moment to catch his eye. “The perfect time to begin my plan,” the Dark Lord whispered as he turned to stare at Severus.
Snape glanced away and continued to occlude. What could he be talking about? What plan? His thoughts quickly raced back to the student he left injured in the hall. Could this have something to do with Miss O’Meara? The shouts of the others assembled shook him to his core as he continued to concentrate on nothingness. He failed to notice the red eyes of the Dark Lord watching his every move.
“The details of this plan will be made aware to all when the right time has come.” He stood and walked to Snape, stopping in front of him once more. “In the meantime,” he stated as he pulled the Professor to his feet. “It is time to inform you of your next assignment, Professor Snape,” he whispered so the others couldn’t hear.
“What is it you wish of me, my Lord?” Snape asked, still occluding. “Has it something to do with Harry Potter?”
“No,” the Dark Lord replied as he motioned for the professor to follow him. He slowly walked to the entrance of the cave. With a flick of his wrist, he unsealed it, walked out and waited for Snape to follow. “News of your new position at Hogwarts shocked me, Severus.” He continued to walk as Snape obediently walked behind him. “Yet this will no doubt be an asset to my plan.” He laughed, causing the trees to shake. “Your role in this great plan of mine is far more important than dealing with that blasted Potter!” He continued to walk, further and further away from the cave. “There are others already assigned to that task.”
Snape sighed and made a mental note to remind Dumbledore later. As much as he had to deal with “the boy-who-lived” throughout the school term, he was glad it wasn’t his assignment to follow him around all summer. He preferred to have as much time away from the dreadful boy as possible. He reminded him so much of James. . . and Lilly.
“Severus,” he began again as he continued to lead the potions master deeper into the forbidden forest. “I am counting on your access to the school to bring me the information I seek.” He stopped and faced the professor to where they were looking eye to eye. “Two years ago, my plan for returning to full power was almost a success. Had it not been for that blasted Potter, it would have worked!” His eyes were turning a deeper shade of red. “This plan of mine is fool-proof,” he whispered. “It is my vision to take-over Hogwarts and turn it into a school exactly how my family had envisioned it: full of pure-bloods. And finally be rid of all those who are unworthy of learning magic.” He turned and continued walking, leaving the potions master to follow him.
“What information do you need, my Lord?” Snape asked, as he quickly rushed to catch up.
“There are students I am keeping an eye on. Students who are important and are needed for my plan to succeed.” He stopped short, almost causing Snape to run into him. “Each of these students have particular qualities I am searching for. Qualities that will be of utmost importance to my fam- . . . ah future." He waited for acknowledgment from his servant before continuing on. “Several students have already been seen and questioned. However, we are all still investigating others,” he stated as he began to walk again. “I want you to keep an eye over these students and everything else that happens at the school the next few days. Inform me ONLY if anyone begins to get suspicious.”
“Yes, my Lord,” Snape stated as he continued to follow. "But I don't understand. . ."
“One more thing,” the Dark Lord interrupted. He motioned for complete silence as he led the Potion Master even further into the woods. They came upon a clearing; the same clearing as he saw in Aileana’s vision. Upon closer inspection, he noticed two death eaters guarding something or someone sitting by a tree. He followed his former master as they walked closer to them. His mental barrier began to break once again, almost causing him to trip.
He glanced ahead as the figure close to the tree jumped up and began to run towards him. It was Aileana. She must have been taken again. Damn that Minerva!
“Silence!” the Dark Lord shouted as he pulled his recently regained wand out of his robe pocket and pointed it toward the girl causing her to pause in her tracks. Snape caught her eye as she glanced over to him, silently pleading for help.
Not a word. He stared into her eyes. If I can receive her visions, perhaps. . . He glanced away from the girl back to the Dark Lord, still holding his wand in the girls direction. Not a word. He thought it again. He sighed as she glanced from him to the Dark Lord and sat back down.
“You know this student, do you not Severus?” he asked as he looked from one to the other.
“I do my Lord,” Snape replied, not looking at either. “She is in my house.” His eyes caught hers as she turned to face him. For the first time, he noticed her arm. She was still holding it close to her and by the look on her face, she was still in pain.
“You’re one of them!” she shouted as she put her head in her good hand. “I should have known!” She began to cry as she stared back at the professor. “Wait until Dumbledore finds out,” she almost whispered.
“Silence!” the Dark Lord shouted over her. He pointed his wand at her again. “Ava . .”
“No, my Lord!” Snape shouted, as he grabbed for the wand and pulled it from the Dark Lord's hand. “It would not be wise.” Snape began to occlude once more as the Dark Lord turned to face him. “If she possess such a quality as you speak of, it would be foolish to kill her now.”
The Dark Lord grabbed his wand back from Snape as he twisted his wrist until he was on the ground in pain. Snape glanced back at the girl, who was now watching in horror, as he was hit with a spell and knocked into a nearby tree.
“Hey!” Aileana shouted as she stood up.
He was prepared to be hit with another spell when the Dark Lord quickly turned his wand on her. “Crucio!”
Helplessness overcame him. He could do nothing but watch as she fell over in pain. The Dark Lord instantly hit her with another curse, followed by another. After the third or fourth, she fell silent. Oh, let her be alive.
Snape glanced up to meet the Dark Lord’s stare as he turned to face him. Silently, he walked closer to where the professor fell against the tree. “Never disrespect me again!” he whispered as he bent down to eye level. Snape flinched as the Dark Lord pulled another wand from his cloak pocket. “Go!” he shouted as he threw the wand towards him. “Take her and her wand with you.” He glanced back to the now lifeless body laying nearby. “It would be more believable if she was found by you.” He turned to face the professor, bent down and grabbed the front of his robes raising him to his feet. “Remember your assignment, Professor Snape,” he whispered as he eyes became even more crimson. “Don’t report back until you are called upon,” he stated as he glanced back to the girl. “And keep a close eye on this one,” he demanded. “I believe she may be hiding something.” His red eyes glared at the professor. “If she is still with us, that is,” he stated as his snake-like smile crept back onto his face. His eyes turned a deeper shade of red as he pinned Snape against the tree. “And make sure she says nothing to Dumbledore.”
“Yes, my Lord,” he replied half out of breath. He watched as the Dark Lord joined the two death eaters and ascended through the forest to rejoin the others at the cave. After waiting a few minutes, he cautiously began checking for broken bones only to find none. He stood, steadied himself against the tree and glanced back towards the path that led to the cave. Slowly, he walked to where she lay motionless . He gasped as he knelt down beside her and a sharp pain shot through his arm down from his shoulder to his wrist. He checked her pulse and her breathing. Upon closer inspection, he released the breathe he was holding. Just knocked out from the pain, thank Merlin. He sighed of relief. Imagine the paperwork had she. . . .
He looked around for anything that could be used as a port key and found a rather large stone. This will do. He pulled out his wand which, thankfully, was not broken and began to examine her. He lifted her left arm by her wrist, careful not to touch the mysterious mark, for a closer look. This is definitely beyond my expertise. He pulled her up by her good arm into a sitting position and leaned her up against the closest tree. He cast a spell on the stone, placed her wand in his cloak pocket and then carefully lifted her into his arms. He winced as the weight of her head hit his left shoulder. She is heavier than she looks. He grabbed the stone and instantly the world grew dark again as they port keyed to the main gates of Hogwarts.
The crescent moon cast an eerie light upon the castle causing Snape to shudder. He shifted her weight again as he walked through the gates and into the main hall. His own injuries were becoming bothersome now as he stepped a few feet further into the corridor. He glanced around for any of the school ghosts who might could have helped but found none. His attention turned back to his student so badly injured. It was too dangerous to take her to the hospital wing. If anyone began asking questions. . . His only option was to seek help from the headmaster. He needed his opinion on what the mark could be as well as his advice on any kind of potion that may help. Plus, it was vital that Dumbledore receive a full report about the night's events as soon as possible.
His decision made, he walked towards the fireplace in the main entrance, stepped inside with the still unconscious Slytherin student, and grabbed a handful of floo powder. “Professor Dumbledore’s office!” he shouted as he threw the powder into the fire. He sighed as the familiar green light shone around them both. For now, he was home.
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