Severus didn’t know how much longer he could deal with this: the risk, and constant danger; the anxiety. At times, he was convinced Voldemort knew the truth. It seemed impossible to mislead him for this long. Surely, Voldemort was just playing along, biding his time, until he decided to kill Severus, the traitor. Every moment Severus spent in the company of Voldemort could very well be his last. It was not a particularly enjoyable experience.
And now he was exposing himself to that again. He lengthened his strides as he approached Malfoy Manor. There was no one outside besides him—and several peacocks. These weren’t ordinary peacocks. They were a strange albino variety… their beady red eyes followed him, though the rest of their bodies remained unnaturally still. Severus quickened his pace to a jog the rest of the way to the mansion. The giant doors parted before him and he slowed again, entering cautiously.
The doors closed behind him, and the sound echoed in the large entrance hall. Severus strained his ears, until he was sure he heard voices coming from down the hall. They couldn’t all be here already… Lily couldn’t have held him up that long… Severus hurried in the direction of the voices, hoping the strange acoustics of Malfoy Manor weren’t deceiving him. Fortunately, he soon came upon the meeting room.
There was a long, narrow table in the center of the room, surrounded on both sides by sober-faced, dark-clothed Death Eaters. They glanced to him, their reactions ranging from surprise to relief to disapproval. At the head of the table stood Voldemort himself. His presence gave the impression that the room lacked oxygen. It didn’t help that Voldemort’s dark eyes—which glowed slightly crimson in the light—were boring into Severus’s.
It was all instinct now. Severus focused his gaze just above Voldemort’s eyes, and kept his mind as blank as possible. It seemed, at times, that that was all he could do. Put up his weak defenses and hope for the best.
“Thanks for joining us,” Voldemort said, his cruel smile affecting the sound of his words.
“I apologize, my Lord,” Severus said, bowing his head slightly. “Dumbledore kept me—”
Everyone turned toward the indignant sound, which, unsurprisingly, had been issued from Bellatrix Lestrange. Her arms were folded across her chest and she positively radiated self-assured superiority.
Voldemort gave a rough approximation of a patient smile to his favorite little Bella.
“Bellatrix,” he said in a pleasant tone, “you know that Snape has to keep Dumbledore’s trust…” He turned away from the scowling Death Eater and back to Severus. “You have kept his trust, haven’t you?”
“Oh, yes,” Severus answered coolly. “He trusts me more than ever.”
Voldemort clasped his hands together like a gleeful madman. Which, Severus supposed, was precisely what he was oftentimes.
“Perfect,” Voldemort said in a low voice, nearing a purr, or, more accurately, a serpentine hiss. “You have served us well.”
Severus made the mistake of meeting Voldemort’s eyes for a split second. He realized why Voldemort was such a talented Legilmens. It wasn’t his magical ability, though that certainly helped, it was the hypnotizing quality of his eyes. It was very difficult to look away, no matter how frightening they were. Finally, Voldemort turned away. Severus took a seat, next to Lucius Malfoy, and across from Bellatrix who had always been rather conspicuous about her distastes. Today was no different—she glared at Severus with a burning intensity. He only smiled warmly back at her every time they met eyes, quite enjoying the little game.
Voldemort, pacing back and forth at the head of the table, addressed the large group.
“As I was saying earlier, I have successfully killed the Potter boy.”
Severus tensed as dozens of eyes fell upon him.
“And thank you, Severus,” Voldemort continued, “for telling me of the prophecy.”
He cleared his throat. “Of course. It is my greatest honor.”
“As it should be,” Voldemort said approvingly. “For now… I am invincible.”
A hush fell over the room. Not that it hadn’t been quiet before, but now no one breathed, or tapped their wands against their legs, or shifted in their seats. Everyone seemed somewhat unsettled by the announcement. Except for Bellatrix, of course. She appeared ready to jump for joy. What a strange sight that would be, Severus thought in amusement while he appraised the dark, deathly serious woman across from him.
“And that means that we are invincible. The hard times are over. The enemies are defeated. The Order of the Phoenix is all but destroyed. They have no rallying point now that their false-savior, the boy, is dead. No hope. No chance.”
Severus felt as if a weight had been dropped on his shoulders, crushing him to the ground. Of course there was no chance… he had always known that. Then why was it so depressing to hear it out loud? Severus caught himself—his thoughts were drifting into dangerous territory. He redirected them. He was a loyal Death Eater… not a double-agent who was on a Horcrux Hunt with the ultimate goal of killing Voldemort.
Suddenly, he realized that Voldemort was looking at him. He quickly sealed off his mind—it felt somewhat like putting his head under water, or plugging his ears. That was how he knew it was working. With renewed confidence, he waited for Voldemort to address him. Severus found he knew what Voldemort was going to say a second before he did—like the tables had been turned. Like Severus was the Legilmens.
“I left the Mudblood for you, Severus,” Voldemort said. “The girl. She is very lucky to be alive… Make good use of her.”
“Thank you, my Lord,” Severus replied, neither his voice nor his facial expression betraying any emotion, although he was boiling inside. These were the times when he almost enjoyed himself—when he was completely in control. It was empowering; an adrenaline rush like no other. He met eyes with Voldemort, and he could feel his mind being penetrated. But Voldemort would only see what Severus wanted him to see. And that meant a whole host of fake memories and thoughts that Severus kept at the ready; little snippets of Severus being a good little Death Eater.
Apparently satisfied, Voldemort left Severus’s brain alone to discuss other matters.
“Lucius, Narcissa,” he said suddenly.
They both jumped visibly. Narcissa in particular was even paler than usual—her blue eyes were round.
“Yes, my Lord?” Lucius said quietly. Severus, being so close to him, could hear how uneven his breath was.
“It’s the first time we’ve all gathered here in quite some time, isn’t it?” Voldemort continued.
“Uh, yes, I believe so,” Lucius said unsurely, as if it was a trick question.
“I’m sure it’s been over a year…”
Lucius nodded slowly. Narcissa was perfectly motionless, resembling a porcelain doll more than ever.
Voldemort sighed in clear frustration. “Your son. I haven’t yet seen him.”
“He’s sleeping,” Narcissa squeaked. Severus saw Lucius touch her leg under the table in an obvious effort to get her to shut up. She obliged.
“We’ll take you to him,” Lucius said, standing up. Everyone else cautiously followed suit, and Voldemort went eagerly to Lucius’s side.
“Come along, everyone. A new pureblood is invaluable in this day and age.”
As the Death Eaters began parading down the halls, Bellatrix yanked her husband aside and whispered in his ear—probably something along the lines of; we need to make a whole bunch of little pureblood babies so I can be the Dark Lord’s favorite again!
Severus couldn’t help but smile to himself—it seemed exactly the kind of thing Bellatrix would say to poor Rodolphus.
After a long trek through Malfoy Manor, they came to a dark, spacious rom. There wasn’t much in the room, besides a strange, antique-looking cradle. It didn’t look like a comfortable place for a baby, what with its wrought-iron legs and bars.
“He’s sleeping,” Narciss said helplessly as they gathered around the cradle. Her plea was ignored.
There was a sleeping toddler in the cradle. He looked perfectly healthy despite the paleness of his skin. The thin hair on his head was bleach-blond; nearly white—much like the hair of an elderly man, though much shinier and silkier.
“His name is Draco,” Lucius said, his eyes moving between his son and Voldemort. The latter was looking at little Draco with a disturbing hunger in his eyes. Without asking permission, Voldemort reached his thin, spidery hands toward the baby. Narcissa’s small cry of protest was ignored.
Draco’s eyes fluttered open at that moment, and he, understandably, began to cry—loudly. Voldemort didn’t attempt to hide his distaste. In fact, he drew his wand.
“Silencio,” he said. Tears continued to roll down Draco’s blotchy cheeks, but his sobs went unheard.
Severus sighed in relief, in unison with Narcissa and Lucius. Voldemort had killed one baby recently—what would prevent him from doing it again?
Voldemort and his Death Eaters formed a line to take turns holding the sufficiently silenced Draco. Severus, thoroughly disgusted, snuck away, out of the room. He soon realized how unfamiliar he was with Malfoy Manor when he found himself quite lost in the labyrinth of corridors. He had been trying to get back to the entrance hall… maybe if he retraced his steps... was he going in circles? That portrait looked familiar…
Many wrong turns later, Severus was in a rather small room. Small for Malfoy Manor, anyway. Or maybe it was all the stuff in the room that made it feel cramped. Severus thought that if the Malfoys were to spread out everything in this particular room, dispersing it throughout the mansion, their home would feel less… depressing. Severus really wasn’t interested in snooping—it was just Lucius Malfoy’s possessions, anyway—but this room appeared to have been furnished exclusively by Borgin and Burke’s. Every object was darker and more sinister than the one next to it. Curiosity getting the best of him, Severus began to examine the artifacts upon the desk. There were glass eyes, a creepy mask—it’s eyes seemed to follow him, something that looked very much like an instrument of torture, and a very peculiar little book; leather-bound, old and dusty. It was only peculiar in that it was entirely ordinary, and therefore stuck out among the rest. Eagerly, Severus opened it. His head stopped instantly.
The book, in an elegant script, proclaimed itself to be the diary of Tom Riddle. Without thinking, Severus pocketed it and hurried out of the room.
Was he imagining it, or was the book a few vital degrees below room temperature? It had a faint pulse, too… or, perhaps, that was his own heartbeat. He increased his speed in the narrow, unfamiliar hallway and barreled around the corner—running smack into someone coming from the opposite direction.
“Severus?” said a soft, tremulous voice. It was Narcissa.
“Oh, I was just… going to the bathroom,” he said unconvincingly.
Narcissa didn’t seem to notice or care. “You’re lost, aren’t you?” she asked with a faint smile.
“Yeah,” he admitted. “Good thing I ran into you.”
She began leading him down the hall. “To be honest, I still get lost sometimes. I mean, this place is so big… I don’t see why we have to live here—why we can’t get a nice little house in the country somewhere…”
Severus had a sinking feeling in his stomach as Narcissa’s voice grew more and more hysterical. He didn’t know how to deal with an emotional breakdown… He sympathized with Narcissa, even liked her—she was downright pleasant compared to a certain sister of hers—but that didn’t mean he wanted to comfort her. His recent experiences with Lily had taught him that women are very… fragile sometimes.
Narcissa had stopped and was leaning against the wall, still facing away from him.
“And when Draco starts walking,” she continued, “he’ll wander off and get lost and we’ll never find him…”
She choked on the last word and buried her face in her hands. Severus timidly patted her shoulder, seeing no other option.
“Are you alright?” he asked quietly.
“Of course I’m not alright” she snapped, whirling around.
He drew back, startled. She fell back against the wall again.
“I just…” she continued, “I just can’t take it anymore.”
Severus gulped. “What can’t you take anymore?” he prompted kindly.
“All of it!” she cried. “All of it… I can’t… I can’t…”
Suddenly, Narcissa’s face became impassive and blank, as if sealed off. The redness of her eyes was the only clue to any emotion. Severus realized that this was how she survived.
“Sorry,” she said stiffly, before leading him back to the entrance hall in silence.
* * *
Severus left Malfoy Manor the first chance he had without being suspicious. He Apparated back to the forest where he and Lily had been camping. The diary felt heavy in his pocket and he was still on an adrenaline rush from having stolen it. Of course, it was unlikely it was a Horcrux, but it had belonged to Voldemort at some point… It had to have. How many Tom Riddles were there, anyway?
The tent was still there, just where it had been. His excitement mounted as he approached it.
“Lily! Lily!” Severus called.
She ducked her head out of the tent, her wand at the ready. He grinned.
“It’s me,” he said, holding his arms up defensively. She, for some reason, looked surprised to see him. Then he remembered what had gone down between them just before he’d left hours ago. She must’ve assumed he wouldn’t come back. This gave him pause, but only for a moment. There were more pressing matters to attend to.
Severus pulled the diary out of his pocket and thrust it at Lily.
“Look what I found!”
She didn’t seem impressed as she appraised it. “A book?”
She gave him a questioning look before opening the diary. Severus watched as her eyes widened—she read the words over and over before glancing up to him.
“A Horcrux?” Severus supplied. “It might be.”
“Well…” Lily said, flipping through the pages. Then she set the diary down on the ground and drew her wand. “Reducto!”
The diary was completely unaffected by the spell, though it was blasted up into the air. It landed on the grass several feet away, perfectly intact.
“That would’ve destroyed an ordinary diary, wouldn’t it have?” she said slowly.
Severus was only able to give a brief nod, before she was hugging him while bouncing up and down in excitement. He was knocked off balance and they tumbled down onto the ground, side by side.
“Oops, sorry,” Lily giggled, dusting herself off. She was grinning broadly, like she used to, back when they were in school. She had been so happy… and Severus had ruined that for her.
She seemed to notice his serious expression.
“What’s wrong, Sev?” she said. Her eyes were so bright and green that he temporarily lost his train of thought. Severus quickly came up with an excuse for his sobriety.
“I don’t want you to think it’s going to be like this,” he said.
“Like what?” she asked, reaching to brush a leaf out of his hair.
Severus drew in a deep breath. Did she not understand what kind of effect she had on him?
“I don’t want you to think this is going to be easy,” he explained.
Lily rolled her eyes. “I know that.” She paused, deliberating. “But we have already found two Horcruxes. There are only four left now.”
Severus couldn’t help but smile at her optimism. He decided to let it go for now. Truth was, they were making excellent progress.
A/N: please, please, PLEASE leave a review! Next chapter will be Sirius’s POV. We haven’t heard from him in a while, so I promise I haven’t forgotten! But how could anyone forget Sirius?! –Jenni
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