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Chapter 1 : Seven Still
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Unseasonable fog surrounded the dark, crowded streets of London as Severus Snape walked along a wrought-iron fence encircling a small park. The glow of the streetlamps hung heavy in the mist. Severus was in unknown territory, his wand was stowed within easy reach: if this were a test of his abilities, and not the meeting that it had been purported to be, he was prepared. The fog, however—which Severus knew to be the result of Dementor activity, and not the weather, as Muggles like his father might think—was a most unwelcome complication.
He was heading for a row of brick houses, all with white-framed windows caged by iron fences. Number Twelve, he kept repeating in his head, the name of his destination. Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. He did not know who lived at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, but he knew who would be there waiting for him.
He almost missed Grimmauld Place in the fog, a right turn off the road he had been on. The houses were close together, and he came soon to Number Ten...Eleven...and then, inexplicably, there was Thirteen. Severus’ hand twitched towards his wand, feeling an instant rush of paranoia, and he sensed the weight of another body in the air behind him.
The next thing he knew, he was in a dim room, standing around a large wood table with a number of other black-robed figures. Against one wall stood a fireplace that provided the only source of light in the room. The flames gleamed and flickered in the reflection of the glassy wooden tabletop, and on the masks that they all wore. His wand had been taken from him.
Looking around, Severus recognized some of the others without seeing their faces. Avery’s stocky stature gave him away immediately; his shoulders resembled something like the top of a large, rounded boulder. He could tell it was Mulciber who stood directly across from him, for he was wearing the ring with his family crest that he had worn at Hogwarts every day since fifth year. The rest were not recognizable immediately, but there were seven of them in all, just as they had been in the past year at Hogwarts.
He breathed a sigh of relief.
So Potter had not been coerced into joining the Dark Lord. Severus had been afraid of it, in spite of himself—at first he had thought that Potter was too pig-headed and proud to ever compromise his precious morals, but as time passed without a mention of his death in the Prophet, it seemed that perhaps he had been wrong. Perhaps he had finally shown himself for the coward he was, and had agreed to join when threatened. But if he were here now, in someone else’s stead, Severus would know. His blood would boil just from being in Potter’s presence; that, he was sure of...
He had known for some time in advance what was being planned—had even been complicit in it. More than a small part of him had felt immensely gratified by the knowledge that Potter was about to fall so far, so quickly. Severus had happily abided Bellatrix Lestrange’s request for information on whomever Caradoc Dearborn was paying extra attention to, since it meant singling out the person he hated most. The only flaw in the plan was Lily, of course: now that she seemed to have fallen under Potter’s spell, Severus had been concerned that she would get hurt. But her death had not been reported, either, and he supposed that she had wisely heeded the warning he had written to her about staying as far from Potter as she could.
Now that there were only seven here, Severus was relieved. For all he knew, and hoped, Potter was lying dead in the ground somewhere, far from this place, and forever away from Lily.
“Now that everyone has arrived,” a voice said, breaking the heavy silence, “welcome.” Having spoken with Bellatrix on several occasions, Severus recognized her deep, heavy voice. He had, of course, expected that she would be here tonight. She had been their link to the Dark Lord for most of the past year, and had known almost all of them when they had first arrived at Hogwarts, and it seemed fitting that she would be here now.
“You all know why you are here tonight,” she continued, standing at the far end of the gleaming table. “You are here to submit yourselves to the most noble service of the Dark Lord. Tonight, you free yourselves from the trivialities of the world, and from life.”
Severus' impatience swelled quickly. Bellatrix was already getting the slightly fanatical edge to her voice that usually preceded a lengthy sermon on glory and surrendering one's will of the Dark Lord.
“You have already done well in serving the Dark Lord. You have given him information. You have upheld his beliefs in the halls of Hogwarts. Some of you have even helped to purge our world of the unworthy already. For this, you are to be rewarded.”
She paused, and Severus glanced around uncertainly, wondering which of his schoolmates had already committed their first murder. That was not a story they had ever exchanged in the common room.
Bellatrix seemed almost to be waiting to see if any of them would be overcome with some kind of revelatory gratitude, but no one moved, let alone spoke. The door behind them opened, and another robed figure stepped into the room.
“He is here.” Severus did not recognize the man's voic. Beyond Bellatrix, he knew few of the other Death Eaters: Avery’s father, and Mulciber’s, and the Lestrange brothers. He knew there must be many more that he had never met.
“I am aware,” Bellatrix snapped. “Did you think that I could not sense his presence?”
“Bring one to him,” was all the man said in response. Severus felt a rush of anticipation. One of them.
Bellatrix’s hand came to rest on the shoulder of the boy at her right.
“Regulus first,” she whispered reverently, apparently forgetting that the others could hear her.
The two of them swept from the room, tense silence falling in the room. There seemed to be no conversation appropriate for this particular situation. Severus did not mind: he usually found what his fellow Slytherins had to say was self-aggrandizing and petulant. They wore their family names like badges of pride, as if it made them immune to danger. He knew that they had always looked down on him for being half-blood, but it clearly had not stopped him from getting to this point—and, as far as he was concerned, not having the security of privilege would make him all the more capable when it came to serving the Dark Lord.
The fire crackled occasionally in the minutes they sat there. Mulciber tapped his ring against the bottom, apparently ignorant to the waves of irritation being sent in his direction.
Regulus did not return when Bellatrix came to take Mulciber, nor did Mulciber when she came again, this time gesturing for Severus to follow her. He wished that he had seen Regulus and Mulciber after their initiation. Though he would not have admitted it, he felt a twinge of apprehension at walking into this blind.
“Last chance to back out, Severus,” Bellatrix said. “Not that we wouldn’t kill you if you did, of course.”
Her giggles were like flies buzzing around his head in the dimly-lit landing. He made no response, refusing to provide her with more amusement. It was as she said, though: the point of turning back was long past, not that Severus would have considered it in the least. He could not help smirking when she practically shoved him into the room across the landing, no doubt irritated with his refusal to acknowledge her threat. Bellatrix could be so petty.
The room was even darker, the lines of the elegant furnishings and pattern of the wallpaper little more than whispers in the dark. His eyes fell quickly to the chair sitting in the middle of the room, silhouetted against another low-burning fire. All he could see of the chair’s occupant was a black-robed forearm.
Severus held his head high, determined to appear confident.
“My Lord,” he said, “I—”
“Do you not think it wise, Severus Snape, to wait to speak until you have been spoken to?”
The voice was like ice, and powerful as any Silencing Charm. He could think of nothing to say that would make him seem neither weak nor impudent.
“Tell me, Severus Snape: why have you come here?”
“To serve you,” Severus said quickly. “It is my greatest wish.”
There was yet another pause. “Come face me, Severus.”
He moved across the room in trepidation, uncertain if the request was a positive sign or not. When he reached the other side of the chair and looked upon Lord Voldemort for the first time, he was glad to be wearing a mask. What he had been expecting the Dark Lord to look like, Severus could not say, but certainly more man than animal. The flat face and snake-like red eyes that he now looked on made his blood run cold.
“Remove your mask,” Voldemort said. Severus did so slowly, composing himself. He might take off the mask put on him by another, but his own face could become one just as easily.
Voldemort surveyed him for a few moments.
“Bellatrix tells me you have been of use recently,” he remarked. “It was you who provided us with information on Dumbledore’s recruitment at Hogwarts, was it not?”
“Yes,” Severus answered, wondering what Dumbledore had been recruiting for. Clearly, Bellatrix had not told him the whole story.
“She also tells me you have a talent for Potions,” Voldemort said.
How to respond to this statement, Severus was unsure. He knew the extent of his own abilities, but was it smart to boast of them?
“I received an ‘Outstanding’ O.W.L. in the subject,” he replied, leaving it at that.
The Dark Lord nodded thoughtfully.
“Talent, indeed, then. Yet was it not also you who failed to properly brew the poison that Bellatrix ordered you to?”
“It—it was an oversight,” Severus said. “A mistake.”
Severus’ heart was beating more rapidly with every moment that passed. Had Bellatrix sold him out and brought him here for punishment?
“I have no time to waste on mistakes,” Voldemort stated, “much less those who have not the courage to look me in the eye once they are made.”
The aspersion cast on his courage made Severus bristle. No, he had not seen the value in poisoning a group of witless students, but that hardly made him cowardly. It made him smart, cunning—unlike the others who had come here tonight, he did not spend time preening his feathers or drawing unnecessary attention to himself. He felt no shame in looking his soon-to-be master in the eyes and answering for his actions.
No shame, certainly—but regret, he did feel, from the moment he turned his head up. The surrounding room faded behind images of the past. Severus saw himself cowering as a child, saw his father towering over him in rage, relived flashes of the humiliation he had received at school. He knew that this was Legilimency; he had read and learned of it at school. He was supposed to push the intruder from his thoughts, but something told him that Lord Voldemort would not take kindly to being denied anything. He would have to abide his new master, though it was a sensation akin to someone poking around his eyeball.
But then there were glimpses of green eyes and heartache, and Severus could not help but resist, however pointless it was. That, he would not allow anyone else to see, especially not anyone here tonight. As quickly as the invasion of his mind had started, it was over, and he knew it was only because the Dark Lord had allowed it.
An invisible force wrenched him down onto his knees.
“I will not tolerate being used for personal vendettas, Snape,” Voldemort hissed. Severus could only shake his head in response, trying to muster up some form of supplication. “You are here to serve me, and not yourself.”
“I only did what was asked of me,” Severus croaked.
“You give me cause to doubt your intentions.”
“My intention is only to serve you!”
Severus’ head was lifted upward, so he was looking once more at the empty red eyes.
“We shall see,” Voldemort said. “We shall see exactly what you are prepared to suffer at my command...”
The Dark Lord raised his wand. In the moment before unearthly pain tore through him, Severus silently cursed himself for having failed so miserably at not appearing weak.
He awoke to someone nudging him rather roughly in the side. The pain was immense—not just the nudging, though that did nothing to relieve it, but the ache over all his body. It was nothing compared to what he had felt under his new master’s wand, of course, but reminders still dug at every joint. Opening his eyes against the mid-morning light was like a dagger to his throbbing head; seeing his father looming over him only made it worse.
“Where’ve you been?” his father spat.
“None of your business,” Severus mumbled, getting to his feet. He seemed to be lying in the narrow alley behind his house at Spinner’s End, among the trash bins. Apparently, whoever had Stunned him and taken him home had seen fit to leave him here, of all places.
“Out all night at the pub, weren’t you?” The irony might have made Severus laugh, were his father’s tone less aggressive.
“I leave that to you,” he said, getting to his feet.
“What did you say to me?”
Severus glared at the pathetic excuse for a father that stood before him, his fists clenching as he tried not to reach for his wand.
His wand. He felt around his robes, and breathed a sigh of relief when he found it in his pocket.
“Look at you, fumbling around.” His father’s voice was a razor of criticism and contempt. “Your mother must be ashamed of the way you’ve turned out.” His expression changed from disgust to fear when confronted with a wand, as it always had.
“I’m going inside,” Severus said. Cursing and glowering, his father moved enough for him to get past him in the alley, but not enough for it to be a comfortable passage.
He went straight to his bedroom, casting his wand at the doorknob to lock it against any further interruptions his father might want to make. The bed he sat down on was the same one that had stood in his room since he was young. While some things might stay the same, not all did: Severus was greatly changed. His nerves tingling, he rolled back the sleeve of his robes and stared at the inky black skull that was tattooed on his skin.
So it had really happened, then—it was hard to separate what had been delusions caused by the pain of the Cruciatus Curse, and what had actually occurred in that room at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, or wherever they had really been. Now, he could call himself a Death Eater, one of the Dark Lord’s trusted few.
Things will change because of this, he thought as he looked down at the tattoo. He held the power now. Anyone who had looked down on him would now have to beg for his mercy, his leniency...yes, things were going to change.
The days of humiliation by people like Potter and his friends were over. He was not eager to make the mistake of seeking revenge against Potter immediately. It would be too risky. Thanks to Legilimency, the Dark Lord now knew that he had handed Potter to him for selfish reasons. Instead, he would wait. He could be patient, waiting for the timing to be right, waiting for the precise moment when he could take his revenge and still prove unwavering loyalty to his master...
He heard his father shouting downstairs, and his stomach turned. His mother was weak and afraid, but Severus was not. Tobias Snape would know soon enough the order of the world. Before long, when the Dark Lord’s aims were achieved, and wizards took to their rightful place, his father would have to rely on his son. Seeing him grovelling, pleading...that would be justice served for all the years of abuse.
And they were all of them the same, Muggles. They could not help but look down on those who were different from them; their small minds could not comprehend anything beyond the smallness of their lives, and they rejected the unusual in fear of it. Wizards would no longer need to live in secrecy, not once the Dark Lord was triumphant.
In the end, Severus though as he laid back on his bed with a wince of pain, it came back to Lily. She had once asked him why she should be any different from other Muggle-borns, and at the time, he had not known how to answer. He wished now that he could go back to that moment, and tell her that she was different from them simply because she was. She was unmarred by the world she had come from. She was different, and Severus now held the power to make everyone see that. And more importantly, he held the power to make her see that he was different.
Things were going to change.
Author's Note: I just wanted to say that this story is NOT going to be in Snape's POV. The next chapter jumps back to Lily & James.
I would love a quick review if you have a moment!
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