Chapter 12 : A Dreadful Pact
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Walburga was polite to him and not at all snippy or condescending as he had expected her to be based upon Sirius’s complaints, but Sev wondered if that would change if she ever knew the truth about his background. He was just glad Sirius would be gone for the whole summer, for he could see the other boy gleefully informing his mother that Reg’s new friend was a half-blood with a drunken Muggle father.
Tonight’s soup was a creamy lobster chowder, the lobster imported from Maine, it was delicious. The salad was mixed greens with a sprinkling of bleu cheese and almonds in a raspberry vinaigrette dressing and was tangy and Severus enjoyed it immensely. He liked fresh salad and didn’t always get it at home. The main course was scallops in white wine over noodles, fresh rolls, and a side of spinach with roasted garlic. For dessert there was a fresh lemon and orange sherbet with whipped cream.
Severus had to admit that the Blacks ate gourmet food like rich toffs and he had never eaten such wonderful food until that summer. He felt a pang of envy for Regulus and Sirius, who ate like kings every day and night and never had to worry about missing a meal because Mum had to pay the electric bill, or the utility bill, or something like that. Severus savored every bite of each meal and considered himself in paradise.
“I’m going to Floo over to the Malfoys tonight, Mother,” Regulus informed his mother after finishing off his sherbet. “Lucius invited me to that youth club of his and I guess I ought to be polite and attend the first meeting.”
“Very true, Regulus,” Walburga said in approval. “At least one of you remembers the manners I taught you. Attend the first meeting as a show of respect and then if you feel you don’t wish to attend more, politely write a refusal. But I think it will do you good to get out more, Reg. Meet some more young people with good families. Who knows, you may even find a girl that catches your eye.”
Severus nearly burst out laughing at Regulus’s blush.
“Mum, please! I’m fourteen, not eighteen. And I think this is a boys club.”
“Well, dear, that doesn’t mean those boys might not have a pretty sister your age.”
Reg hid his face in his dinner cloth, his ears now bright red.
“Aw, leave off, Walla. You’re embarrassing the kid.” Orion ordered, sounding amused.
“I’m merely suggesting, Orie.” Walburga shook her head. “There’s no need to be embarrassed, Regulus, honestly. You certainly don’t take after your father, do you? When he was your age, he chased every girl over twelve in skirts.”
“Ahem . . .well . . .that was a long time ago, and I’ve not so much as glanced at another woman since I married you,” Orion coughed.
“You’d better not, Orion Arcturus Black, not if you want to keep breathing,” warned his wife, her eyes flashing. “You promised me when we were betrothed that you would remain faithful to me and Merlin help you if you break that vow.”
“Peace, Walla. I have no intention ever of dishonoring you or myself that way. You are all that I need and want.”
Walburga eyed her husband shrewdly, a faint smile playing about her thin lips. “Well, at least you admit it now, Orie.” Then she turned back to her son, who had since stopped blushing like a crimson sunset. “What time will you return from this meeting, Reg?”
“Uh, it could be late, Mother. Like around midnight perhaps, so don’t wait up for me.”
“Very well. I shall have Kreacher wait for you then.” She turned to Severus. “How did you find your dinner, Severus?”
“It was delicious, my lady.”
“Good. I enjoy an appreciative guest. I liked the chowder best, it had just the right hint of sherry, don’t you agree?”
“Oh yes, my lady.” Severus nodded.
“And what will you be doing the rest of the evening, Severus?”
“Reading, most likely. My mother sent me a new potions journal and I haven’t had a chance to read it,” the young wizard told her, his eyes shining eagerly.
“Very good, I wish you a pleasant evening. Orion and I will be going for our evening stroll in a while, you may join us if you would like.”
Severus, who was more intuitive than most boys his age, quickly declined, sensing that the two elder Blacks wished to be alone, and said he would be reading.
The clock on the mantle struck seven-thirty, and Regulus stood up and said, “Well, I’m off. I’ll see you in the morning then.”
He grabbed up some Floo powder and tossed it down, said, “Malfoy Manor!” and then stepped into the emerald flames and disappeared.
Walburga summoned Kreacher to take care of the dishes and then she and Orion also departed, her hand resting lightly on his arm.
Severus heaved a sigh of relief, then went upstairs to write to Lily, as he did every week, and also his mother. Once he had sent the letters off with Reg’s owl, Brighteyes, he settled down with the potions journal and a glass of iced pineapple juice and began to uncover the mysteries of the August issue of elixirs and drafts.
He read for over two hours without pausing, then finished his juice and fell asleep in mid-sentence around ten-thirty. He slept deeply until around a quarter to twelve, when he was awakened by Regulus shaking his shoulder.
* * * * * *
That same day:
Lily woke to the delicious aroma of bacon frying and French toast on the griddle. She yawned, stretched, and hopped out of bed, her stomach rumbling. She paused only to shove her feet into her favorite fuzzy pink slippers, use the bathroom and then she headed downstairs to the kitchen. “Yum! French toast and bacon!”
Petunia turned about from the stove where she was cooking, and said cheerily, “Morning, sleepyhead! I figured this would wake you up if anything did.”
Lily rubbed her eyes. “What time is it?”
“About nine,” answered Petunia, turning back to the stove and flipping the French toast. Two plates were sitting on the counter. “Dad’s already gone off to work and Mum went to the supermarket. And since it’s both our day off, I figured we could celebrate with French toast and bacon.”
“Sounds great to me,” Lily inhaled the heavenly aroma and sighed in sheer bliss. She tucked her auburn hair behind her ears and went to fetch a jug of milk from the fridge and added some Ovaltine to it for a malted chocolate milk drink. Her mother was always after her to drink more milk, that it was healthy, but Lily didn’t like plain milk. Ovaltine was a great invention, as far as she was concerned. She happily gulped down a glass while waiting for the French toast and then poured herself another one.
“Here, Lil. Your breakfast, madam,” Petunia announced, pretending to be some snooty maid with her nose in the air.
Lily laughed at her sister’s whimsical mood and gestured. Her plate with the French toast and bacon floated over to her. Then she summoned the syrup from the pantry and Petunia’s eyes goggled.
“Li-i-ly!” she enunciated, drawing out her sister’s name like their mother did when she was upset with her youngest. “I thought you weren’t allowed to do magic outside of school. Won’t you get in trouble?”
“No, ‘cause I didn’t use my wand, Tuney. And it was only a little charm.” Lily said, unrepentant. Petunia didn’t understand how tempting it was for a young witch to use magic, how it was hard to go for months on end without it. She poured syrup on her French toast and dug in.
“This is really good, Tuney,” she set down her fork a minute or two later. “Tastes just like Mum’s.”
“Really? Guess I got some of her cooking talent,” Petunia said, sounding pleased. She carried her own plate to the table and sat opposite her sister. She cut her food into dainty pieces before tasting it. She smiled. “Wow! It really does taste like Mum’s.”
“Told you so,” Lily said, then finished her plate.
As she was washing up the dishes, she asked Petunia what plans she had for the day.
“Uh, Vern was supposed to come and pick me up, we were going to go for a picnic or something,” answered her sister.
“Oh. Is he going to bring the food? Better make sure it’s an extra large hamper, or else you’ll end up starving.”
“Lily!” Petunia shook her finger at her little sister reprovingly.
“Sorry, but it’s the truth,” Lily said, unrepentant.
“Mum actually made up some sandwiches and pie for me to bring and some lemonade too. I don’t know what Vern is bringing, but he’ll probably get his sister or mother to make up something.” Petunia answered. “And what will you be doing all by your lonesome?”
Lily shrugged. “Relaxing. Maybe I’ll take a bubble bath, or read, or . . .I don’t know.”
“Wait for a letter from sweet Sevvy?” teased her sister.
“So what if I am?”
Petunia laughed. “I wish Verno would write to me as often as Severus writes to you. Sometimes I think he forgets I exist when he leaves here.”
“Too busy stuffing his face,” Lily muttered under her breath. She knew she shouldn’t mock her sister’s boyfriend that way, but there was something about Vernon that brought out the worst in her.
She disliked the beefy teen intensely. He was loud, crude, and loved to show off his money and his fancy car and clothes. He was always looking at other people and trying to best them with money or possessions. He was shallow and Lily hated that sort of person, and he disliked her because she had magic and also disliked Severus as well. And as far as she could tell, he liked Petunia because Henry Evans was a popular man in town, well-respected, and dating his eldest daughter was a feather in his cap. She doubted whether he really loved her sister, he seemed to only love one person—himself. Lily wished Petunia would dump him and move on.
But her sister thought she was in love with the big oaf, and nothing Lily could say would change her mind.
“Well, hope you have a good time.” Lily said, and she meant it.
Petunia pulled out a large wicker hamper from the top cabinet and filled it with the food Polly had made and then filled a large plastic Thermos with ice cold lemonade. That done, she went to the phone to ring Vernon and remind him about the picnic, just in case.
Meanwhile, Lily went out to pick up the paper on the drive, and stood staring at the Snape house two doors down. She knew no one was home, since Eileen worked long hours and Tobias was still serving jail time. She sighed and wished like hell that Severus could come home. She missed him something fierce, more than she thought possible. It was funny, how the absence of someone could really make you appreciate them. Severus had always been there, whenever she wanted to play, or talk, or ask questions about the wizarding world.
His absence was like missing an arm, she would turn and expect him to be standing there, hands in his pockets, his hair hanging in his eyes, peering at her through them with a hopeful look, his mouth quirked in that sweet crooked smile she loved so well.
Oh, Sev! I couldn’t wait for summer to begin and now I wish it were over and we were on the train back to school. I miss you so much! Will you send me a letter today? I hope so.
She had saved all his letters, tying them with a green ribbon and putting them in her trunk. Sometimes she would take them out and re-read them, savoring the fact that he had written to her and her hands smoothing the parchment he had touched.
She hummed to herself as she picked up the paper and went back inside.
* * * * * *
Petunia left with Vernon in his cherry convertible at half past twelve, leaving Lily to her own devices. She decided to read some more of a novel she had purchased a week ago and then look over some of the more advanced potions in the potions book she had borrowed from Eileen. She sometimes had lessons with her on Fridays, if Eileen wasn’t too tired.
She spent a pleasant three hours and when Polly arrived home, helped her put away the groceries and make a snack to tide them over till supper. Petunia came home an hour later, looking rather frazzled, and Polly asked, “How was your day with Vern, dear?”
“Okay,” was all Petunia replied, placing the hamper on the table. “Thanks for cooking, Mum. I’m going up to take a shower.”
Lily looked up from her book when Petunia walked past her room, sensing something was wrong. What did that fat arsehole do now? She knew it had to be something he’d done, for Vernon was always criticizing Petunia, saying she wasn’t as good as his sister Marge or his mother, Miranda.
When Petunia emerged from the bathroom, she still looked rather down, and Lily waited for fifteen minutes before going across the hall and knocking on her sister’s door. “Tuney? Can I come in?”
She opened the door and saw Petunia sitting in front of her vanity, but she wasn’t painting her nails or styling her hair, she was just sitting there listlessly, staring into the mirror. Lily walked over to her and peered at her worriedly. “Are you okay? You seem . . .upset. What went on at the picnic?” she asked. “Did the old walrus complain about the food?”
“No. That was the one thing he didn’t complain about.” Petunia retorted bitterly. “He scarfed down the sandwiches and such like there was no tomorrow. After that I asked him how his job was going and he complained about his father not giving him a raise and whatnot. Then I tried to tell him about my work and all and he . . .” she paused, and bit her lip hard.
“What? What did the bounder do? You can tell me, Tuney.” Lily urged.
“He . . .wasn’t interested in what I had to say, so he just . . .started trying to make out with me. At first I was surprised, I mean it was the middle of the day, in public, and normally he doesn’t do things like that . . .but he was . . .groping me . . . and kissing me—slobbering all over me . . .”
“And I was pushing him and telling him it was enough already . . .I didn’t want to be a spectacle . . .You know how people talk around here, Lil, and the last thing I needed was for some old gossip monger to see us that way and start saying I was . . . .free with my favors or fast or something like that. Dad would have a bloody conniption.” She lowered her head. “And . . .I didn’t really enjoy it, Lily. It was too quick and harsh and I felt . . .used. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. I know it’s not. I’ve seen you with Sev, you look like you’ve gone to heaven after you kiss him. “ Petunia sighed, and reached up with her free hand to wipe her eyes. “So I pulled away when he loosened his hold on me and said I was going home, and he got mad and called me a little tease and I shouted back that if he were a gentleman he would ask first and then we quarreled and he brought me home.”
Her sister looked so miserable that Lily couldn’t resist giving her a hug. She put her slender arms about Petunia’s rather bony shoulders and held her, which she hadn’t done in a very long time, not since she was small. To her surprise, Petunia didn’t draw away, but hugged her close.
“Tuney, maybe you shouldn’t go out with him anymore,” Lily whispered. “I don’t think he’s worth it. I think he’s just using you.”
“I . . .hope not. Because then I’ll have wasted a whole year and a half.” Her sister sniffled. “We’re engaged, Lily, or we will be as soon as he buys a ring, and I thought he loved me, so why do I feel like this?”
“I don’t know. I’ve only ever been interested in one boy, Tuney, and I know him like I know myself . . .I think. Maybe you feel like that because Vernon’s not the one. Honestly, Petunia, I think you can do much better. You’re smart and pretty and you have a decent job, you don’t need his money.”
“I know, but . . .maybe I’ll tell him to stop seeing me for a few months, give it a rest. Then, once the holidays come around, I’ll see if I still feel the same way, and if he behaves himself then we’ll go out again.”
She drew away from her sister, a resolute look on her face.
“That’s a good idea,” Lily said, and gave Petunia a sweet smile. “Maybe some time will cool him off, the bloody baboon.”
This time Petunia didn’t bother reprimanding her sister for calling Vernon names. Instead she laughed along with her, and felt the knot in her chest ease.
Soon after they heard their father come home and then Polly was calling them down for dinner. Afterwards, Lily was sitting in the den, perusing a magazine when she heard a familiar tapping at the kitchen window.
With a squeal of delight, she jumped up and opened the window.
“Hello, Brighteyes! Do you have a letter for me?” she cried, petting the owl. She fed him am owl treat, which she kept in small canister by the window, and removed the letter from his ankle. He hooted thanks and then flew off silently.
She looked at the return address and squealed again. “It’s from Sev! Finally!”
She tore open the envelope and read the following letter slowly:
Sorry I was so slow in answering your last letter, but Reg’s been keeping so busy that I barely have time to breathe. We’ve been traveling about London, seeing various sights, like the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, shooting the rapids on the Thames, and going to plays and once or twice to Fortescue’s in Diagon Alley. We went to a Quidditch match this week and my mother sent me a new copy of Potente Potions. Once I finish it, I’ll mail it to you.
Mr. Black is teaching me some wicked new Defense spells and I can’t wait to show you them. Now maybe the next time Potter tries something, I can knock that smug grin off his face.
How have you been, my little oracle? Have any more disturbing dreams? I hope not, but if you do, you know you can share them with me. I’m counting the days till the end of the summer. Not that I’m not having a good time here with Reg, because I am, and even his mother hasn’t been too overbearing, we’re pretty much allowed to come and go as we please, as long as we let her know where we will be and what time we will be home. But still, I miss you and can’t wait till I see you again.
My mother tells me you’re still having lessons with her, lucky you. Guess that means you’ll have to show me what you’ve learned before school starts. I should be back a week before September, so I can go to Diagon Alley with you and get my books and potions kit and all.
Reg’s gone to some pureblood boy’s association meeting tonight, hosted by the magnificent Mr. Malfoy (ha, right!), he didn’t really want to go but his mum talked him into it, so I’m here alone and finally found a spare minute to write you.
How is your job? Seen any good movies lately? I’m still trying to convince Reg to go to one. Hope you’re making decent money. Tell your dad I’m available for holidays if he needs someone.
Dream of me, Lily flower. Miss you lots.
Lily clutched the parchment to her chest and groaned. Damn, Sev, but I wish you were here. I love you and I miss you so very much!
Still holding the letter to her, Lily went and sat down in a chair, closed her eyes, and imagined that she and Severus were walking hand in hand down by the river, beneath the stars, and then he stopped and drew her close and she kissed him and felt her whole being explode with a thrilling rush of desire. “Don’t stop,” she whispered against his mouth. “Never let me go, Sev.” And he didn’t.
* * * * * *
“Sev! Sev, wake up!”
Severus jerked up so fast that he nearly slammed Regulus in the nose. “Huh? What?” He blinked, startled, then frowned at his best friend. “Hell, Reg, what’s the big idea? It’s midnight, damn it all!”
“Sorry, Sev. But I really need to talk to you.” Reg pleaded.
Severus sighed and sat up. “You know, Reg, I’d hex you if you weren’t my best friend and all.” He rubbed his eyes, which felt as if sand had been poured in them. “Okay, what’s so damn important that it couldn’t wait till morning?”
Regulus sat crosslegged on the end of Sev’s bed, looking like a yoga practitioner, his dark hair rumpled and his hazel eyes frightened. “It’s about that meeting I went to tonight. The Sons of the Iron Mask, they call themselves. Lucius was my sponsor, and there were about twenty-five of boys there, most of them were older than me, either fifth, sixth, or seventh year. Lucius and a couple of others were acting as sponsors to some of them. I think I was the youngest. I saw Avery, Mulciber, Nott, Crabbe, and Goyle there, they were initiates too.”
Suddenly Regulus shivered and mopped his brow, he was perspiring.
“Well, Lucius said that all of us were invited here by him, he was the Senior Initiate, and then he said we were all initiates by virtue of our pureblood status and we ought to be proud that our blood was not diluted by Muggles or half-bloods or Squibs. He talked like that for a long time, and then he said that there was a great wizard looking for a few good men, purebloods like us, to join him. Lucius told us that we would learn spells no one at Hogwarts ever knew, powerful spells, spells that the ancient wizards knew but the Ministry had wanted forgotten.”
Severus frowned. “Reg, what spells was he talking about? Spells that the Ministry bans are usually dark ones.”
“Hang on, I’m getting to that. Then he told us that this wizard could give us jobs that paid well, that would be more than we would ever get on our own, and all we had to do was to agree to follow him and his policies. Right there I was suspicious, my dad told me plenty of times to never sign or agree to anything unless I knew exactly what I was agreeing to, all terms spelled out clearly. But Lucius said before we agreed to anything, we should relax and mingle with each other. There was a table filled with food and drinks, mostly sealed. I took a bottle of pumpkin juice, it was damn hot in that room.”
“Regulus, you’re certain the pumpkin juice was sealed?”
“Yes, Severus, I’m sure,” Regulus said irritably. “I’m not stupid. I only drank a little of it even so, and then I spent the rest of the time talking about Quidditch with Avery and Nott. Neither of them seemed all that concerned over what Lucius had told us. Then again, they never did use their head for much except memorizing Quidditch stats and broom maneuvers. After about an hour and a half, Lucius and some other bloke called MacNair comes and calls us back into the circle and when we come over, Lucius starts chanting this weird incantation over and over. All of a sudden I felt like I couldn’t move, and then it was like I was under an Imperius Curse. I could see and hear everything, but I couldn’t move or react like I wanted to. Everyone else in the circle was swaying and chanting and then Lucius cried, “Come, be a part of the new world order! Join with the rest of us who wish wizards to once again be a force for might and take back the world from these puling Muggles who stole it from us. Magic is the way of the future, the lifeblood of our society, and we should rule, not creep about in shadows, hiding from the Muggles who are blind to magic’s gifts. Come, my brothers, and follow my Lord Voldemort, and taste in the power and glory that is ours by right!”
Severus stared in horror as Regulus continued.
“I couldn’t move, Sev! I couldn’t get away. All I could do was sway back and forth like some bloody cobra mesmerized by a snake charmer. Then MacNair produced a parchment and he went around the circle. He nicked each of us on the thumb with a quill sharpener and made us sign our name to the end of the parchment in our own blood! I fought against it, I did, but the spell was too strong and I . . .I signed too. And after I did . . .” Regulus’s voice broke, and it was a moment before he regained control. “ . . .I felt some of my magic was bound. They stole a part of my magic!"
“Shhh! Calm down, Reg, you don’t want to wake your parents, do you?”
Regulus shook his head. “Merlin help me, no! They’d kill me. You know what they were, don’t you?”
“I know. They were followers of the wizard once known as Tom Riddle. What else happened, Reg?”
“After we had signed, Lucius declared us initiates of the Iron Mask, and gave us some firewhiskey to drink, I almost puked right there. Then he gave us some kind of coin with a mask on it and said whenever we had a meeting, the coin would glow and hum. He told us to keep the coin about us at all times, and gave us a string to hang it on.” Regulus reached into a pocket and pulled out a gold Galleon stamped with an iron mask on the back instead of the Gringotts seal. “I acted all pleased like the other dolts, but I didn’t put it on. All I wanted to do was run away, Sev. I never wanted to be part of Lucius’s bloody club, I only agreed because he was being so annoying. I never thought it was anything like that! What am I going to do, Sev? I don’t want to become a dark wizard! I hate the bloody Dark Lord!”
Regulus’s eyes were wild and he was shivering, Severus abruptly cast a wandless Warming Charm over him and moved over to pat his shoulder. “Easy, Reg. Somehow, I’ll get you out of this.”
“How? Can you dispel a magical contract bound by blood?”
“Not me personally.” Severus said, keeping his voice low and calm. Inwardly, his mind was racing. Who did he know that would be willing to help Regulus that would not feel obligated to report him to Ministry authorities?
“Can your mother do it?”
Severus shook his head. “No. Give me a minute.” Think, Snape! Who is the most influential and strongest wizard you know? An instant later he had an answer. “We’ll go to the Headmaster. If anyone can tell us what to do to break this binding, Dumbledore can.”
“Really? Do you think he’ll help?”
“What have we got to lose? I don’t think he’ll refuse, Reg. You were manipulated into signing that damn contract.” He patted the younger wizard on the shoulder again.
“I feel like such a stupid ass. You told me to be careful.”
“Stop it, Reg!” ordered Severus sternly. He couldn’t abide self-pity, in himself or anyone else. “What’s done is done. We’ll deal with it. Okay?”
“Okay.” Regulus drew in a shaky breath. “Thanks, Sev.”
“For what? I haven’t done anything yet.” Severus snorted. “Look, it’s late, I’m tired and so are you, probably. So why don’t we both get some sleep? I’ll write a letter to the Headmaster tomorrow and see if he’ll meet us at Diagon Alley at the Leaky Cauldron.”
“Good idea.” Regulus sighed. Then he rose, still looking like a lost foundling, and Severus gritted his teeth.
Merlin, but I’m such a bloody puffskein! “If you want to sleep here tonight, little brother, you can.”
“I can? Sev, I’m not a baby . . .”
“Good thing, because I’m useless at taking care of anybody under eleven.” Severus said wryly. “But mind you stay on your own side of the bed, because if I wake up to your foot or hand in my face, I’ll punch your lights out, got me?”
“Don’t worry, Sev,” Regulus chuckled. “I don’t move about in my sleep. Sirius does, but not me. Once I fall asleep, I sleep like a rock, still and quiet.”
“You’d better,” said the other grouchily, then he turned on his side and pulled the covers over his head.
He felt the mattress shift as Regulus climbed on the other side and settle down, and hid a smirk. His threat was bluff, for he knew the bed was so large it could have slept four comfortably, and even if Reg did toss and turn in his sleep, he wouldn’t bother his roommate.
Come what may tomorrow, tonight all he wanted to do was sleep.
Then Severus shut his eyes and tried to find the dream he had lost upon waking, of Lily and he walking along a tropical shore, holding hands and kissing.
A/N: Hope you all enjoyed this one. Things are really heating up, aren't they? Hugs and chocolate frogs to all my reviewers!
Next: Severus and Reg go and speak with Dumbledore.
Also, I have posted a new Sev/Lily story called Where Shadows Go on here that also features a little Harry Potter. It's romance and angst, AU of course! Check it out if you'd like, I'd appreciate it. Thanks!
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