Chapter 19 : Rising from the Ashes
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He wasn’t often in a good enough mood to do so, but when he wasn’t arguing with his professors and getting into trouble with his friends he liked to write home. His mother was lonely; his father worked most of the time and wasn’t in the mood to be a husband when he returned home in the evenings. Besides, his mother could never talk to his father about her real passion—magic. She would be pleased with his recent developments, particularly those in their shared pet subject, Potions.
He told her that his grades were good, as usual, and that he was a little nervous about his upcoming N.E.W.T. exams but not nearly as scared as everyone else seemed to be. He mentioned that he recently made a new friend. He made a point to say that he had been spending more time with Lily. A familiar name would cheer her up.
It was nice having someone to whom he could tell the truth, or at least most of it.
He walked away from the Owlery, realizing that he’d missed breakfast but not feeling much like eating anyway. He had about fifteen minutes to go until History of Magic, his first class of the day, and he needed to go back to the common room and retrieve his textbook, as well as a bit of parchment to doodle upon when he decided he could no longer listen to Binns’s droning. He turned into the Great Hall, intending to take the staircase down to the dungeons. Suddenly, he found his path blocked.
Severus looked up into the faces of James and Sirius, and his good mood vanished.
“You’re in my way,” he said slowly, carefully lacing each word with bitterness.
Sirius frowned at him, and he opened his mouth to deliver a sharp retort. However, James lightly elbowed his friend in the side. He looked as if he were having trouble holding his own tongue. The next word out of his mouth was more shocking than any creative insult.
“Sorry,” he murmured. He moved out of the way. Sirius remained a moment longer, as if to emphasize the effort to Severus, and then he too continued along the path between the Slytherin table and the wall.
It took Severus a few moments to find his feet. He had never heard James utter an apology to anyone, least of all him. A mere ploy to secure Lily’s favor, he thought with a smile. It would never be successful; to his knowledge, Lily hated James as much as the first time she met him, and would she not inform her best friend if her mind ever changed? If James’s desperation kept him out of Severus’s way, the latter wouldn’t complain.
He was still smiling when he made it down to the Slytherin Common Room, where a steady flow of students alternately entered after breakfast and left for early classes. Severus headed upstairs, where he found Mulciber and Avery still asleep. He gently shook their shoulders and reminded them that class would be starting soon, and then he collected his book and some parchment, along with a fresh quill and inkwell, and packed his bag for History of Magic. When he came back downstairs, he noticed Regulus sitting by himself next to the empty fireplace.
“Good morning,” he said, nodding to the boy.
“I suppose so,” Regulus replied, returning his smile. “You seem more pleasant than normal.”
“Very funny,” Severus answered, returning to his usual sarcastic tone briefly. “I have nothing to complain about so far today, and I think my reaction is appropriate.”
“What are your plans for the afternoon?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I’m just curious to see how long this pleasant mood will last.”
Severus shook his head, adjusting his bag on his shoulder. “If you must know, I’m supposed to be meeting with Lily. I want to see if she wants to keep studying for N.E.W.T. exams over the summer, since our houses aren’t far from one another.” He paused, not sure if he wanted to continue. “And—”
“I—” Severus lowered his voice. “I think I’m going to tell her how I feel about her.”
“Really?” Regulus replied, visibly surprised. He couldn’t help but smile a little. If it worked, his friend would finally be happy. If not, well, at least he could see the deal he’d made with Lily truly put to the test.
“I’m sure she already knows. I mean, she’s very smart. But I just think that if she… responds positively… it would make studying over the summer much more fun.” Severus blushed slightly.
Regulus nodded. “I think you should.”
“Yeah. Things have been going well since Christmas, right? I think you’ve waited long enough. You’ve given her space. I can’t see why she’d turn you down now.”
“I—I hope you’re right,” Severus answered, clearing his throat. If he didn’t hurry up and conclude the conversation, his friends would come down and overhear them, and then he’d never see the end of their teasing. “Anyway, I need to go to class. Even Binns will notice if I’m more than ten minutes late.”
Regulus smirked. “You know, sometimes I secretly wish some of our teachers would fall gravely ill, at least long enough to postpone an exam. All hope is lost on Binns.”
Severus returned the expression. “See you around, Black.”
“Tell me how it goes,” Regulus said, watching the boy go. Then again, Severus wouldn’t have to say a word. Either way, there would be a new rumor soon enough. He settled back into his chair, closing his eyes and trying to get a few more winks of sleep before he had to force himself up to go to Transfiguration.
Severus found Lily in the Great Hall after Charms that afternoon. She had just bitten into a sandwich, but she took a drink of water and swallowed the piece when she saw him walking over toward her.
“Hey,” she said, glancing around to see if James and the others were close by.
“I was thinking about taking my lunch outside today. Do you want to come?”
“Do you think the teachers will mind?”
“I saw a few other people doing it. I think it’s okay, since the year’s almost over.”
“Okay.” Lily stood up, carrying her sandwich with her, and walked along with him toward the door. They emerged into bright sunlight. She automatically looked for a tree under which they could rest, but Severus kept walking past the trees. “Want to stop by the lake?” she offered.
“Could we take a walk instead? It’s nice after having been in class all morning.”
Lily couldn’t dispute that. She walked next to him, taking small bites of her sandwich since she had nothing with which to wash her meal down. Still, it had been a good idea to go outside and enjoy the nice weather, and her lunch was pretty good so far.
Severus took a bite of his sandwich, chewed it slowly, and then swallowed. “How have your N.E.W.T. study groups been lately?”
“We’re finished meeting for the year. We—” Lily paused, not wanting to bring up a party to which present company had not been invited. “We decided that we’ve worked hard enough for the year and we can just pick things back up in the fall.”
“Actually, I was wondering if you wanted to meet with me over the summer and keep working on it—you know, since we can walk to the park and study there.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” Lily replied. “Do you think we could use the extra practice?”
“You never know what they’ll put on those tests.”
Lily thought for a moment, chewing a bit of her sandwich as she did so. She hadn’t spent much time alone with Severus since their reconciliation at Christmas, and the thought made her feel a little nervous. Being alone with James made her jittery too, but this was different somehow. Still, Severus seemed to be honest in his intentions. “I suppose so. But let’s take a break until after exams for this year, at least.”
“Not a bad idea.” Severus finished what remained of his sandwich. “Are you nervous about those? I heard McGonagall is going to put a lot of Conjuration on the test this year. Apparently last year’s class of sixth years came up short on those sections.”
“That explains why we’ve had to practice Aguamenti so many times that I can cast it in my sleep,” Lily grumbled. “I mean, it’ll be all right. Of course it’s easier to cast when you have an object right in front of you to transform, but we can do this, too.” She paused, taking another bite of her lunch. “I’m actually more worried about Slughorn. I was sort of hoping he’d have a bit too much Firewhisky and let slip some ideas about what would be on his final at our last Slug Club meeting, but he was as tight-lipped as ever. I feel like I’ve learned so much this year. I don’t know where to start.”
“I can definitely help you with Slughorn’s test. I’ve been keeping really careful notes on what we went over this year. I’ll copy them out for you if you want.”
“Oh, that’s okay. I can copy them myself if you’ll just let me borrow the book.” Lily finished her sandwich, tossing the last couple bites of crust out for the birds.
“Actually, why don’t we just meet up in the library? We can work on it together.” Severus paused, turning and looking at her. “I think it would be nice if we could spend some more time together. I hardly see you anymore. I—I miss you, Lily.”
“I miss you, too,” she said, but it did not feel the same as when she was a little girl and they had spent more than a day apart because her family was traveling or his was falling apart at the seams again. No, it was that sick sensation, one that made her wish she hadn’t eaten her sandwich as fast as he did or that she’d just stayed put in the Great Hall and had lunch with Celestine and Ellery.
Then, before she realized it, he moved forward and kissed her. It must have only lasted a split second, the extent of his adolescent bravery, and yet Lily’s cheeks stung with embarrassment for long minutes thereafter. Someone could have seen, she thought, but then they would also have seen the horrified look on her face, and the shocked way in which he kept saying her name, begging for any sort of response. “Why did you just do that?” she finally sputtered.
“I—I just thought—things have been better.” He looked like he wished he could implode right there on the spot. “You have to know how I feel about you, how I’ve always felt about you, Lily… you feel nothing for me, after all our time together?”
“I feel something, but… it’s confusing… and I don’t like it,” she answered, refusing to meet his eyes. She stared at the lake, wondering why it took so long to come to this. She must have looked like a trapped animal, but no one came to her rescue.
“Don’t say that, please,” he said softly. “I’m sorry, I thought my timing was right, but if it’s not just me who feels like something is there between us, maybe we can fix it.”
“No, we can’t.” Lily sighed, finally looking back at him. “It’s James. We’re—”
The expression on his face was unfathomable. “What?” he asked breathlessly.
“Nothing’s official. We’ve been seeing each other on and off for the past couple of months. It’s…” Lily bit her lip. “It’s not really serious, if that makes you feel better.”
“How can you be with him after everything he did to me, Lily?”
“He’s different now.”
“So am I!” he said in a demanding tone, causing a few students nearby to look up. “This is about what I said last year. I knew it, I knew you would never forgive me, no matter how many times I’ve apologized and tried to make it up to you—”
“Keep your voice down,” she interrupted, frowning.
“That’s it, isn’t it? Nothing I do will ever be enough for you,” he snapped back at her.
“You were a good friend,” Lily replied, and her voice became firm. “But that has to change now. I won’t be subjected to—well, to moments like this. I really think it’s best if we both try to move on, especially now that James is… in the picture.”
And then she turned, folding her arms tightly against her chest and moving quickly back toward the castle. She couldn’t look at his face or pay attention to anything he called after her, and she didn’t want to see anyone, not her friends or James and especially not Regulus Black. She had never in her life felt like more of a coward.
Relief washed over Severus like a wave when Rosier’s arm burned after dinner.
The small group of Slytherin boys moved quietly toward the forest, where those who could Apparate would carry along those who could not. Severus formed a small circle with Mulciber, Avery, and Regulus, being careful to avoid the persistent gaze of the last. He knew the boy wanted to know what had happened with her—Severus realized it now hurt to even think of her name—and he wasn’t ready to face that yet. Instead, he closed his eyes and focused hard on the task at hand. After all, the rate of Splinches increased with every additional body tacked on for Side-Along Apparition.
When their feet touched ground again, they stood in Diagon Alley. As Severus followed the others to the entrance to Knockturn Alley, he tried to block Lily out of his mind. He had been practicing submerging his mind after having learned of an advanced magical practice called Occlumency. It would be useful to know this magic if he were ever captured by Aurors; as with all of his studies, Severus had spent long hours reading and practicing, and he was confident that soon he would be able to drown his own thoughts and feelings well out of another wizard’s reach. With them, hopefully, she would perish—at least the girl that lived inside his head. For now, the wounds she left were too fresh. He needed a temporary distraction.
The five students joined a few other people, all of them older and wearing black robes that touched the ground as they walked. Severus glanced back at Regulus, who had forgotten to remove the patch from his robes again, and motioned at him as a reminder. He supposed that he would be given a set of proper robes when he became a real Death Eater, though he had no way of knowing when he’d be chosen. Of course, there was the caveat that he would be deemed unworthy and killed instead, but Severus wouldn’t consider that. He’d worked too hard to avoid it.
They drifted into Borgin and Burkes, down the shadowy stairs toward the basement. At the bottom of the staircase, a thin Death Eater was waiting with the tip of her wand lit. Her exposed hand, tipped with blood-red nails, gave her away as Bellatrix Lestrange. Without saying a word, she opened the door to let them through. Behind her was a circle of people in identical robes, all of them standing silently with lit wands. Severus and his friends entered quickly and filled the few empty spaces.
They all stood still for a few moments longer, wandlight flickering as in an eerie ritual. Severus listened intently for any sign of movement; he thought he could almost hear the exhilarated pounding of Regulus’s heart next to him, along with the restless shuffling of his feet. Eventually two Death Eaters at the back of the room parted and the Dark Lord stepped between them into the center of the circle.
“I apologize, my friends, for the uncomfortable surroundings. Lucius Malfoy’s manor was raided by several Ministry authorities this afternoon, and they left him with a subtle hint that it would not be the last time they paid him a visit. Naturally, I decided to move the meeting here. Fortunately, Mr. Borgin was willing to cooperate without the help of the Imperius curse or his colleague Mr. Burke.” Voldemort gestured to a broad-shouldered Death Eater standing across from him, smiling briefly in approval. Then, his expression faded to one of dire seriousness.
“We are gathered tonight to welcome several new members into our fold. The wizards of whom I speak have already put into motion extravagant plans that will leave no man, woman or child in doubt of what our power can accomplish. Soon, thanks to the efforts of those like these faithful men, we will all rise to our true positions at the very height of wizarding society, where we will rule with iron wands. But first, we conduct a proper ceremony to celebrate our new initiates.”
The figures in long black robes moved forward in unison, forming a smaller inner circle between the younger followers and those who would become real members. Then, Voldemort gestured to the last man to stop moving. “Antonin Dolohov, who intends to dispatch of the Prewett twins, blood traitors who deserve not to breed.”
The man removed his hood, revealing dark hair and empty-looking eyes rimmed with sleeplessness. He met the Dark Lord in the middle of the circle, where he pushed up his left sleeve and exposed the pale flesh of his arm. Voldemort grasped it hard, causing Avery to jump slightly in his place next to Severus. As they watched, Dolohov’s face contorted in pain, though he dared not make one sound about it, and his arm glowed bright green. After several long moments, Voldemort let go and took out his wand; with it, he shaped a black mark on Dolohov’s forearm, filling the air with a sulfurous odor and causing Dolohov to grit his teeth tightly. When he was finished, the green hue faded in slow waves, seeping into the lines of the tattoo. Then the magic vanished, leaving only the snake and skull as a sign of its presence.
“Next, Chadwick Travers,” Voldemort said, and Dolohov moved slowly back to his place as a shorter man moved to stand before the Dark Lord. “He claims to have begun working on a plan to dispatch of the MacKinnon family, who seem to have adopted a new tradition of sullying their bloodline further with each generation. Remember to get the youngest of them, Travers, or else they might marry outright Muggles with no magic at all.” A few people in the group laughed, including Regulus, but they fell silent as soon as Voldemort grasped Travers’s arm. The recipient of the mark looked as if he was going to cry throughout the process, but he did not let a single tear escape his watering eyes, and before long his initiation was complete.
“Finally, we have Augustus Rookwood,” the Dark Lord said. “He is not content with assassinating individuals or families. Instead, he intends to bring the Ministry down from the inside out.” Rookwood stepped forward, and Snape stared at him, wondering how anyone could be so foolish as to attempt to spy on the Ministry. He’s bound to get caught eventually, when his oversized ambitions finally meet up with him. If Rookwood doubted his promise, though, there was no way to see it on his stony face. He received his mark without flinching and took his place beside the others.
“We have other business to discuss this evening,” Voldemort said now. “But I want to pause momentarily, in case there are any others among you who wish to make the same commitment these three men have undertaken.” His eyes fell upon Regulus as he continued. “Rest assured that you will find yourself among a crowd of fellows who are braver, wiser, more loyal, and more ambitious than any Hogwarts student. Bear in mind, however, that I will only accept those whom I deem fit for my service.”
The room fell silent again, and the breathing of the two boys standing on either side of Severus became quite shallow. The seconds stretched out like a painful eternity for him, considering that at any moment Voldemort might move on and take away the chance to join for anyone else that night. It was risky to be so bold, and Severus had never taken a risk he hadn’t carefully calculated and examined from all angles.
As Voldemort turned his back, no doubt preparing to speak up again, his words returned to Severus. I have to set myself apart. This is the first step toward becoming the man I am really meant to be, and no first step is ever easy, is it? Quietly, he cleared his throat and stepped shakily forward. “I want to be initiated, my lord.”
Everyone turned and looked at him, and Voldemort stopped. He turned back around in time to see Severus remove his hood. “You, Severus Snape, wish to be marked?”
“Yes.” Severus could feel an odd energy filling his veins. More than anything.
“And you believe you are up to the task.”
“I am a skilled wizard. All of my fellow students and acquaintances gathered here tonight will admit to that. Yours is the only cause I find worthy of my talents.”
“You seem to be quite single-minded,” Voldemort mused.
“Yes, and I swear my allegiance to you alone,” Severus replied. “Please, my Lord.”
“Very well,” the Dark Lord said. “But what can you offer me, aside from knocking knees and unsteady breath?”
“Anything,” Severus replied, forcing himself to lock eyes with his master.
“Ah, a clever tactic.” Voldemort paced halfway around the circle, addressing the others now. “Rather than select a single mission, the completion of which could render him disposable, Mr. Snape has elected to bend to my various whims.” He stopped, looking back at Severus. “You are young and energetic, and yet by all reports you possess prodigious talent. You will be a dangerous asset indeed.”
He reached out for Severus’s arm, and grasped it tightly when offered to him. The Dark magic that turned his arm green burned like acid, seeping into the skin the way water would if he were soaking in a hot bath. When Severus thought perhaps he couldn’t take it anymore, the Dark Lord took out his wand and etched a fearsome-looking skull with a snake’s body into his flesh. After a moment, the burning ebbed away, sinking deep down into his bones, his veins, and his cold, hardened heart.
It was done.
As Severus joined the circle, standing next to Lucius Malfoy, he noticed his friends looking at him with wonder. Would any of them be brave enough to offer themselves to Voldemort tonight? Apparently not, for the Dark Lord moved now to a different topic. Still, Severus was confident that one day they would feel a pull inside and come to join him. They were not as bright and had more to lose than he did, and thus they would need more time to arrive at the correct decision.
His eyes fell upon the Dark Lord, the mysterious man in whom he now placed all of his trust. Tonight meant that he would never be second best again, for his newest obsession would surely be impressed by his ever-growing body of talents. He would appreciate the efforts of a young man trying to master the Dark Arts. It was only logical. Unlike her, Severus mused callously. Now I can finally forget her. He was on the path to greatness, and he couldn’t wait to leave Lily behind in the dust.
Unfortunately, this news was not the sort of thing to write in a letter to his mother.
Hello, hope you enjoyed this chapter! As many of you know, I love working with Severus as a character, and it was both daunting and exciting to really focus on him here and draw his storyline with Lily toward a closing point. I’m definitely interested to hear what you all thought of his transition to becoming an official Death Eater, so please let me know in a quick review before you go!
The next chapter will mark the end of this story. We should be back to the original perspectives of the main characters, Regulus and Lily, for the finale. I haven’t started working on that chapter yet but I’m very excited to write it.
Just a note I wanted to make—Chadwick is an English name that means “warrior,” which I thought was appropriate for a Death Eater rising to fame.
As always, thanks so much for your kind support so far, dear readers! :)
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