Chapter 1 : Seven Still
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Author’s Note: Thank you to readers of Once Defied for returning for the sequel, and welcome to new readers! Since this is a story that follows canon as closely as possible, and has very little in the way of OC plotlines, it’s not necessary to read Once Defied to jump into this one. It may be helpful in terms of contextualizing these first couple of chapters to at least read the last few chapters of that story, but I will try my best to subtly recap the events so new people aren’t lost. :)
Happy reading! And reviews are highly, highly appreciated.
Unseasonable fog surrounded the dark, crowded streets of London as Severus Snape walked along a wrought-iron fence that encircled a small park. The glow of the streetlamps barely penetrated the mist, and they seemed to float above him like eerie orange orbs. 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 flaw in his defences. He had considered using a Supersensory Charm, but with all the people and homes nearby, the resulting noise would have made it impossible to hear anyone approaching. Instead, he had to rely solely on his own eyes and ears, and his ability to move as quickly and quietly towards the end of the street as possible.
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.
The street he was on ended at the last row house, and he turned right. The first was Number Ten...he passed Eleven...and then, inexplicably, there was Thirteen. Severus’ hand tensed toward his wand, feeling an instant rush of paranoia, but he was able to do no more than that before he lost consciousness.
He had no idea how much time passed before he regained his senses, but when he opened his eyes again, 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 shiny wood 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 that ring with his family crest that he had worn at Hogwarts every day since fifth year, when his father had given it to him. 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. He knew Potter was a coward, regardless of the appearance he projected. Perhaps he had capitulated when threatened, Severus had thought. But Severus would know if he were here now, in someone else’s stead. His blood would boil just from being in Potter’s presence; that, he was sure of...
A part of him had felt immensely gratified by the knowledge that Potter was about to fall so far, so quickly, for he had known for some time in advance what was being planned—had even been complicit in it. Severus had happily abided Bellatrix Lestrange’s request for information on whomever Caradoc Dearborn was paying extra attention to, since it meant pointing the wand at 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, just like everyone else, Severus had been concerned that she would be targeted as well, or become an incidental victim. 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, for she had been their link to the Dark Lord for most of the past year. She 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. She too was wearing a mask, but her posture belied the ceremoniousness that Severus knew must be splayed across her face. “You are here to submit yourselves to the most noble service of the Dark Lord. Tonight, you free yourselves from what fetters you to the trivialities of the world, fully committing to achieving his aims.”
Severus fell impatient quickly: Bellatrix was already getting the slightly fanatical edge to her voice that usually preceded a lengthy sermon on glory and surrendering to the will of the Dark Lord.
“You have already done well in serving the Dark Lord: you have given him information, and you have upheld his ambitions in your years at school. Some of you have even helped to purge our world of the unworthy already, demonstrating your commitment. For this, you are to be rewarded with the Dark Lord’s trust.”
She paused momentarily, and Severus found himself looking around uncertainly, wondering which of his schoolmates had already committed their first murder. That was not a story they had ever exchanged amongst themselves in the common room.
Silence fell again, and it seemed almost as if Bellatrix was waiting to see if any of them would be overcome with some kind of revelatory gratitude for their great luck, but no one moved, let alone spoke. The door behind them opened, and another robed figure stepped into the room.
“He is here.” This voice was a man’s instead, but Severus did not know whose. Beyond Bellatrix, he knew few of the other Death Eaters: there was Avery’s father, and Mulciber’s, and the Lestrange brothers, but Severus 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 now, for he knew that the man must mean one of them.
Bellatrix’s hand rested on the shoulder of the boy at her right.
“Regulus first,” she whispered reverently, almost as if she thought that no one else could hear her.
The two of them swept from the room, the same tense silence falling among those remaining. Though they had all known each other for years, there did not seem to be any conversation appropriate for this particular situation. Severus did not mind: he usually found what they had to say self-aggrandizing and petulant. They wore their family names like badges of pride, as if it made them less likely to be killed or injured. 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 of the table several times, until his companions began to shift irritably at the noise. Someone’s shoe scraped against the floor, and another person coughed.
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 irksome 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 feeling a smirk form on his mouth 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 dark like the first, though now his eyes did not need time to adjust to make out the elegant furnishings and patterned wallpaper that surrounded him. 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, intelligent, and capable.
“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 Severus had ever experienced. He could think of nothing to say: apologizing seemed a mark of weakness, and so he waited wordlessly.
“Tell me, Severus Snape: why have you come here?”
“I have come 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 human. The white 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, but not before ensuring that any trace of shock was gone from his face. 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 recruitments, was it not?”
“Yes,” Severus answered, though he had not known that Dumbledore had been trying to recruit Potter. Clearly, Bellatrix had seen fit to withhold information from him, probably out of spite.
“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. Severus realized that his heavy robes were causing him to sweat.
“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 for his mistakes, 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 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 was better than that, and he certainly felt no shame in looking his soon-to-be master in the eyes, and being accountable...
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 stop this from happening and push the intruder from his thoughts, but something told him that Lord Voldemort would not take kindly to being pushed from anything. He would have to abide it, let it pass.
But then there were glimpses of green eyes and heartache, and Severus could not help it. That, he would not allow anyone else to see, especially not anyone here tonight. Lily had to be kept safe, and people such as the ones in this house would like nothing more than to put him in danger. As quickly as the invasion of his mind had started, it was over, and he was staring at the ground.
He was pulled to his knees by a spell that wrenched his robes down and forward. The Legilimency had disoriented him, and it was difficult to stand up.
“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 assist 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 just 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, as the Dark Lord now knew that he had handed Potter to him not with the intent of providing him a new servant, but of having someone else eliminate his enemy. 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...
The days of his father scorning him, too, were over. 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 of dominance, 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 their trivial daily lives, and they rejected the unusual in fear of it. Wizards would no longer need to live in secrecy or fear of spurning, not once the Dark Lord was triumphant.
In the end, however, as Severus lay back on his bed with a wince of pain, it came back to Lily. If only more Muggles could be like her: accepting, open, empathetic. She had once asked him why she should be any different from the other Muggle-borns he came into contact with, 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 different. 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: Yes, I know, two of these in one chapter. :P Anyway, this will be short. 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.