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wilting. by frostedteardrops
Chapter 1 : One.
 
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In the knot of fate there be three strands:
One of a black wing weaving made,
One of the blackthorn heart of a maid,
One not to be found in the Morrigun’s hand.


Severus Snape licked his chapped lips nervously, his tongue running across his teeth in apprehension. He could feel his heart beating in his chest, hammering against his rib cage.

Lucius gave him another prod in the side. He pointed to the cards. “You lost, Severus. You know what that means.” A wicked chuckle escaped his lips. “A truth and a dare. Answer the question.”

Severus’s eyes darted around nervously, flitting between Muliber and Avery, his fellow new pledges.

“Answer the question.”

The tension in the isolated corner of the Slytherin common room was thick in the air, crackling from being stretched so thin, threatening to spill apart any second. Severus looked at his cards, and mumbled, “Lily.”

“What was that?” said Lucius loudly, causing Severus to look up defiantly.

“Lily. Lily Evans.”

The older Slytherins burst into hearty guffaws. “The little red-headed Gryffindor girl?” sneered Dolohov disapprovingly. “The Mudblood?”

Jugson looked at him, conspiracy dancing in the fierce flames behind his eyes. “This is going to be a hell of a lot of fun.”

Panicked, Severus looked at them. “No!” Silence took over the room.

Lucius rotated his head with precise, measured movements to stare at the brash boy in front of him with greasy hair and a hooked nose. “Did you say something?”

Severus gulped. “I--I just--don’t do anything to her--”

“That’s for us to decide, not you--” began Jugson, but Lucius held up a hand to silence him. “That’s enough.”

He looked around contemplatively, checking to make sure that there weren’t any Prefects in hearing vicinity. “Let us proceed to the dare part.” Lucius leaned forward, pressing his face close to Severus’s, his breath causing a shiver of cold to pass through the latter, his face becoming even more menacing.

Avery couldn’t help but let out a terrified squeak, and Dolohov rounded on him with a glare. “And what did you have in mind?”

Lucius smirked, a strangely becoming expression on his perfectly featured face. He grasped Severus by the neck of his robes and pulled him forward. “Listen well.” Receiving a satisfactory nod, he said, “The North tower. Where that old hag Augustina teaches Divination. You know the room?”

Determined to join the elite group of students, despite his fear, Severus nodded briefly.

Lucius grinned. “There’s a locket there, in her office. It’s got a striking snake on it. Big piercing fangs.” He paused to let his words sink in. “Crazy old bat claimed it had dark magic, and took it. Well, it’s mine. And you’re going to get it back for me.”

Severus looked around at Mulciber and Avery, but their eyes betrayed no symbols of support. Internally he sighed. Being a first year really sucked.

“Consider it done.”

And that was exactly how Severus found himself cloaked in his signature black a mere quarter hour later, mounting the stairs to the North tower. Alone. Each foot fall echoed off the damp stones, taunting him, mocking him. Adding to his misery.

The climb seemed to take an eternity, yet simultaneously was over too soon and he found himself in front of Professor Augustina’s office door. He slipped his wand out of his pocket, tapped it against the lock and whispered, “Alohomora.” The door swung open easily with nary a creak.

Taking a deep breath to brace himself, Severus stepped inside the office, surprised that it was lit with a dozen or so candles located on a ledge circling the room. He shuffled over to the desk nervously, for the top of it was covered with quills, ink bottles, and other random artefacts.

Breathing out slowly, Severus eased open the first drawer on the right hand side, figuring that he might as well start somewhere. Alas, nothing but spare parchment. The second drawer proved unworthy as well, as it yielded nothing but old letters with broken wax seals.

The third however, gave him what he desired. Grinning in triumph, Severus pulled out the locket and breathed loudly through his nose, whistling in surprise. It was very well crafted; but then again, what else could be expected from a Malfoy?

Revelling in his victory, Severus shoved the drawer shut and stood up abruptly. A little too abruptly. It seemed to happen in slow motion, but as Severus straightened up, his hand had accidentally knocked into one of the artefacts perched precariously on the edge of the mahogany desk. He was helpless to do naught but watch as a beautiful, perfectly formed blood-red rose encased in glistening, multi-faceted crystal glass turned one solitary cartwheel in the air before hitting the ground. Time stood frozen for barely a moment, then loud sound waves were emanating as the casing smashed.

“Oh crap!” he muttered, thoroughly beginning to panic. Severus looked around, and spotting nobody, bent down to see if there was anything left to salvage. “Damn,” he murmured, gently lifting the rose from the broken glass fragments. Amazingly, its petals remained pure, unscathed.

He was fingering the delicate petals when all of a sudden he felt a gnarly hand clasp hard onto his shoulder. His head whipped up, and he inwardly groaned. “P--professor, I can explain--”

“Child,” said Augustina, her voice uncharacteristically raspy. “Child flirting with death, playing with fire, jousting with danger. Half of blood, half a Prince, flirting with death; careful, child. Careful.” Her eyes seemed to roll upwards into her head, and her body gave a violent shudder as though rocked by a spasm.

“My dear boy,” said Augustina, her voice returned to her regular dreamy soprano. “What are you doing here?”

Surreptitiously, Severus slipped the locket into his robes pocket. “Er--”

Luckily, Augustina’s attention was quickly diverted to the rose he held. “No,” she whispered, staring in horror. Severus, who was still rather bewildered by Augustina’s strange behaviour and words, could barely rouse himself to react.

“Child! Do you not know what it is that you hold? Rose of unrequited love, rose of bad omens, rose de la mort.” She shook a withered finger at him. “This does not bode well, not at all.” Receiving no reply, she continued, “Look, child! Look at it now.”

And Severus did. What he found was a dry, wilted corpse of a rose, shrivelled beyond recognition. He had to swallow twice before being able to speak. “What-- I do beg pardon, professor, but what do you mean?”

Augustina, however, had released his shoulder and turned away. She waved her wand and the rose was replaced back in its original casing, as though nothing had happened to it. “Here. Take this, and go.”

Severus tried to hand it back to her. “Really, Professor, I don’t--”

“Take it!” she hissed, staring him deep in the eyes. Her face softened. “Take good care of it, Severus. The future--your future--may depend on it.” She peered down at him one last time before swishing out of her office.

Thoroughly puzzled, Severus exited the office as well, only to be accosted right away by Lucius and his posse.

“Did you get it?” Dolohov challenged.

Wordlessly, Severus handed over the locket.

The older boys let out giddy whoops. They took turns clapping him on the back, congratulating him on a task well done. But Severus could not take part; the rose concealed in his robes was troubling him greatly, as was the bizarre prophesy that Augustina had made, and he vowed to do some research later.

“Good work, Half-Blood Prince,” sneered Lucius Malfoy, and Severus’s blood ran cold. 

Half of blood, half a prince. 




A Brief Note: This was written for a fountain pen's banner challenge. The quote from the top of the page as well as the phrase, "Careful, child. Careful" comes from Nancy Springer's I am Morgan le Fay. The characters are property of JK Rowling. 
Critiques are greatly appreciated. 
Chances are, this will be a three-shot, so two more chapters to come in the near future.







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