Severus Snape sat on his bed, his knees drawn up to his chin. He was twirling his wand listlessly in his hand, though every so often, he would point it towards the ceiling at an irritating fly that had landed there, and the fly would fall, dead, onto the coverlet. He had been thoroughly miserable since he had seen Lily walk out of the playground with that Muggle a week ago. She had been laughing and joking with him, whereas only a few minutes before she had looked sad and desolate.
His heart had leaped in his chest when he had first glimpsed the thick red hair protruding from under a woollen hat and realised who it was entering the playground. Finally, she had come! He couldn’t believe it. He had been coming to the park and the little copse at the end of the road every day since he had arrived home, just in case she was there. He hadn’t really had much hope; they hadn’t spoken since the summer and she hadn’t so much as glanced at him all term, but here she was, sitting down on the swings! Surely she had come here for a reason. She looked so morose, Severus wondered what was wrong.
He had so nearly emerged from the bushes to talk to her, but before he could, the Muggle with the ridiculous hair and the leather jacket had vaulted over the gate and made a beeline for her. Lily didn’t seem to notice him until he spoke, and she jumped in surprise. Severus had expected her to bristle with anger and demand that the boy leave her alone when he started spouting ridiculous lines, just as she used to do to Potter when he fawned over her, but to his shock and indignation, she blushed and smiled coyly up at him. He had never seen her smile like that at a boy before. And then she had left with him, laughing at his jokes and blushing at the compliments.
Severus had stared after them in indignation, regretting that he had not taken his chance to speak to Lily while she was alone. For a fleeting moment, he thought about following them, but decided he wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. She could go gallivanting around with filthy Muggles if she wanted, he couldn’t care less, he told himself firmly. And so he had gone home and hadn’t left its confines since. His mother had raised a wispy eyebrow at the presumably bad-tempered look on his face when he crossed the threshold, but she hadn’t said anything. She just left him alone, as she usually did these days. Ever since his father had died two years ago, his mother had retreated into some sort of shell. Severus didn’t mind much. He had never been one for cosseting and meaningful conversations, but he had hoped she’d claw back a bit of pride after the death of the man who had oppressed her for years. He hoped she’d make attempts to rejoin the magical community, but she had refused.
He sat up abruptly and strained his ears. He was sure he could hear someone talking downstairs. That was odd in itself; he and his mother rarely had visitors now that he was no longer friends with Lily. Yes, there it was again. There was definitely someone else in the house who his mother was talking to. He began to edge himself off the bed with the idea of creeping onto the landing in order to discern who it was, when he heard footsteps on the stairs.
From the light sound the steps were making, Severus guessed that the person did not want to be heard, and he tightened his grip on his wand and slid carefully off his bed, his heartbeat increasing slightly. There was a knock at the door. This surprised him; burglars and assailants did not stop to knock at their victim’s doors. He crossed the room and opened it, peering out. On the other side stood a broad, thick-set man in long, jet black robes that were stretched taut over his barrel-chest.
‘Severus,’ the man said in a low voice, a smile spreading over his rather pudgy face. ‘May I come in?’
‘Who are you?’ Severus said, still clutching his wand and wondering what on earth was going on.
‘Ah,’ the man said, glancing nervously over his shoulder back down the stairs. ‘You do not remember me? We met once, some years ago, in Hogsmeade. You knew my brother, Rabastan, at Hogwarts, though he was a few years above you.’
‘Rodolphus Lestrange,’ Severus said, relaxing his grip on his wand somewhat. He remembered the meeting, which had taken place in his third year, though, as Rodolphus has kept his hood up the entire time, Severus thought it was unreasonable to be expected to remember the features underneath. He stood aside and allowed Rodolphus to enter and closed the door behind him. He could still hear voices downstairs and wondered who else was there.
Rodolphus walked in, looking around the bedroom with an unreadable expression on his face. He did not sit down, rather he just stood in the middle of the room. Severus could feel his eyes boring into his back while he shut the door. He turned to face him, his expression guarded.
‘What’s going on?’ Snape asked when no explanation for Rodolphus’ appearance seemed to be forthcoming. ‘Why are you here? Who else is downstairs?’
‘I’ve been sent to talk to you, Severus,’ Rodolphus said. ‘They’re the diversion.’ He nodded towards the floor, and Severus took it to mean the people talking to his mother.
‘Sent? By who?’
‘The Dark Lord,’ Rodolphus said, watching Severus’ face carefully with his beady eyes. ‘But you knew that, already, didn’t you? A boy of your intelligence...’
Severus tensed, his heart fluttering in his chest. He clutched onto his wand once more, but this time, it was not out of fear of attack. He could tell that Rodolphus was trying to flatter him. Really, it was incredibly obvious, but it didn’t matter. ‘The Dark Lord sent you to me?’
‘Of course!’ Rodolphus laughed quietly. It was almost a purr; he seemed to realise he’d snared Severus’ attention. ‘He knows exactly who you are.’
‘What does he want from me?’
‘The Dark Lord seeks your hand in friendship, Severus,’ Rodolphus said. ‘He can offer you many opportunities... a wizard of your talents will be highly useful to him. I know where your sympathies lie, my brother told me of your... views. Do you wish to serve him?’
‘I do,’ Severus breathed. He couldn’t quite believe he was having this conversation. For years now he had followed... he had dreamed, but it had only been that. Yet now, here was his representative, telling him, Severus, that the Dark Lord himself wanted him. But surely he wouldn’t want someone like him, someone with a parent like his father...
‘You have noble blood in your veins, Severus,’ Rodolphus said as if he could read Severus’ mind. Immediately, he narrowed his eyes. Severus never liked people knowing what was in his thoughts, and he viewed Rodolphus with a new suspicion. ‘The Dark Lord can overlook your, ah, inferior connections for the purity of your mother’s blood. You are the last of the Princes, Severus. Your blood is highly desirable.’
Severus didn’t know if he quite believed this, but the Dark Lord would not have sent one of his servants to him if he did not want him. Surely that meant he would be willing to overlook his half-blood status if Severus would play up his mother’s pure-blood.
‘I will leave you now,’ Rodolphus said. ‘Think about what the Dark Lord can offer you, Severus. He will not accept you until you are of age, but he sees no harm in gauging interest early. He wants us to be loyal to him, and loyalty can only grow over time. Think about what I have said.’
With that, he swept out of the room, and Severus heard him head back down the stairs with the same lightness of step as before. They evidently did not want his mother to know of the Dark Lord’s interest in her son. Severus would prove part of his loyalty now and not tell her of Rodolphus’ visit. But he was intrigued in what they were saying to her. With a much more studied step, Severus moved towards the door and stole down the stairs to see if he could hear anything of the conversation between his mother and the Death Eaters. Voices floated along the hallway, and Severus crept closer to the kitchen door, which he found ajar. He peeped through the crack.
He could see his mother sitting at the kitchen table, her back to him. Seated opposite her was a thin, grey-haired man and standing behind him, leaning on the kitchen units was a younger man with a cruel, twisted face. They were both wearing the same long black robes. Severus assumed Rodolphus was standing near the door, out of sight.
‘Opposition to the Dark Lord is slowly being crushed,’ said the grey-haired man sitting at the table. He had a rather reedy sort of voice that matched his appearance. ‘I take it you saw the Daily Prophet last week, Eileen?’
‘If you’re referring to Cuthbert Finch, of course I did,’ came the soft, hollow voice of his mother. ‘However, my answer is the same, Nott. I will not openly support the Dark Lord. Not now...’
Severus knew she was referring to the shell she had crept into, and for a moment he was disdainful of her pathetic apathy, the way that she was so absorbed in herself that she wouldn’t do a thing to support the Dark Lord’s cause, even though she, more than anybody, had reason to fight for him. The Death Eaters didn’t seem too concerned at her rejection; Rodolphus was telling the truth, the conversation with his mother was only a diversion to get to himself. The man called Nott was getting up.
‘I don’t know how you can stay in this hovel, Eileen,’ he said, peering out of the window at the street.
His mother seemed to take offence at this. Severus knew she had been cut off from her wealthy family without a Knut, and he was pleased to see a small manifestation of pride as she sat up straighter.
‘We can’t all be as wealthy as you, Nott.’
Nott gave her a weak smile. ‘I was not referring to the lacklustre surroundings, my dear. There can’t be another wizard for miles.’
‘There’s a Muggle-born girl who lives the other side of the village with her family,’ Eileen said defiantly.
Severus’ heart leaped into his mouth as he saw Nott whip his head back around to her. The man with the twisted face had stood up straighter, and was looking across the room, presumably at Rodolphus, a nasty glint in his eye. Dread filled Severus. What were they going to do? He guessed how they must feel about Muggle-borns.
‘Well, we must get going, Eileen. Goodbye,’ Nott said abruptly, giving a quick smile to his companions as they moved across the room. Severus did not like this. Why had his mother been so stupid as to talk about Lily?
‘Goodbye,’ his mother said as she ushered them out of the front door. As soon as it swung back into place with a thud, he burst into the room.
‘What did you do that for?’ he shouted, his heart beating wildly.
‘Severus!’ his mother exclaimed in surprise. ‘Have you been eavesdropping?’
‘Forget that!’ he yelled. How could she have been so thoughtless! ‘You told them about Lily!’
‘So what?’ she said, evidently unaware that she had done anything wrong.
‘So what? THEY HATE MUDBLOODS! Can’t you imagine what they’re going to do now?’
He felt a thrill of satisfaction as her face fell and she clapped a hand to her mouth.
‘I’ve got to go and see if she’s okay,’ he said, throwing a last look of contempt at his before he threw open the door and sprinted out.