Welcome, one and all! I'm back and Darker than ever! Insert as many light strobes and streamers as you wish.
This is the sequel to my story Enveloped in the Darkness. I would strongly suggest reading it first.
Let me set this chapter up, shall I? In this first chapter, we see the immediate aftermath of Harry and Voldemort's exploits at the end of the former's first year at Hogwarts. It is written from the perspective of Severus Snape.
The chapter is a bit short, but it is very similar to the first chapter of EitD; it should set everything up nicely.
Can you predict what will happen next? Leave me a review. If you come close, I'll give you a cookie or something.
Enjoy. And follow this story on Twitter at BrigadeEitD while you're at it!
EitD2 Chapter 1: And so it Begins
Awful. Terrible, actually. Complete and unrepentant stupidity.
Severus Snape marked the parchment with a caustic, scrawled "D" for Dreadful.
The early morning was bitter and cold. He had gotten a few hours of sleep last night, but now sat in his chamber's living area, grading papers in near darkness by the early morning hearth. Did the lack of light hurt his eyes, you ask? Please. He was a wizard.
He was also a wizard that did not want to be grading papers, necessarily – hell, he got enough of the pubescent miscreants during the day. However, he was up at this ungodly hour – and if you asked him based on his own experiences, there was no god to forsake this hour – simply because he knew he would be called upon. And soon.
It was all just a matter of time. And no, not by the Dark Lord.
The timing of Cornelius Fudge's decree to submit all of the former Death Eaters in Azkaban to the Dementor's Kiss was incredibly coincidental. His Lord was just fine with taking advantage of coincidental happenings, though. And by that coincidence, Dumbledore had left the castle unguarded.
His Lord had sought to capitalize on his fortune. Potter, of course, had almost ruined all of it.
Severus crumpled a particularly poor essay with one hand and threw it into the fire. He refused to read another word of it; the student would receive nothing for the assignment.
What had Potter been thinking? Running around like a Niffler in search of shiny objects…it was appalling behavior from one in His Lord's service. If Severus had not been there to sort everything out, Potter would have been unsuccessful.
Potter was…Severus frowned harshly. He was very much a Potter. There was certainly no doubt about that. Severus did not dare to open up his emotional Pandora's Box regarding the Potter family; he had locked all of those emotions away long ago: hatred for the father…love for the mother. Potter was arrogant in part, quick tempered, but still one of his more favored students. The boy did his work diligently and turned in fair essays – exceptional essays, actually, when compared to his peers. Potter's brewing was skilled enough for a first year student for Severus' expectations. Severus was hard on the boy, however, and he did not plan to ease up. The boy possessed incredible power and a personality to match. Severus was not so foolish as to dismiss that.
He looked down. His Dark Mark was back – blacker than ever. Severus eyed it emotionlessly.
He had never been the type for sentimentality nor for lying stock in past deeds. It allowed Severus to make the best decisions for himself nearly every time. As for turning down a Dark Lord with Harry Potter at his side? No, he was not suicidal.
However…Severus had made his decision before he had been cognizant of their alliance. Fear prickled at his neck as he remembered the night His Lord had revealed himself:
Severus' head cracked the stone harshly and two arms pinned him to the unforgiving wall. Black spots swam within his vision.
It was whispered right next to him and Severus flinched violently. "M-my Lord – "
The hands disappeared for a moment before a fist crashed into his mouth. His head smashed into the wall once more and Severus fell to the floor, covering his mouth.
Red eye's peered crookedly at him through the darkness. "Why the long face, Severus? Here, let me help you up…"
A force slammed into him and Severus heard his ribs crack under the pressure. His body was launched across the room and his leg crumpled against the wall. Just as soon as he had gathered his wits, a force came stomping down on his ankle.
"My Lord! P-please! No more – I-I beg you – "
"You beg for mercy? From me? Severus, how long it must be if you have forgotten that lesson…"
"I have information for you! I have never left my post at Dumbledore's side, just as you had ordered of me –"
A vicious hand grasped him around the collar and hoisted him into the air. "And you believe that that is what I wanted? Severus, you are no fool! You took the easy way out, like so many others! And now, Lord Voldemort is back, through His own merits, and you cower like a mutt before me. How proud you must be…"
"I-I have no excuse, My Lord. I have no defense."
"Of course you don't," Voldemort spat. "You were always one of my favorites, Severus. Young and talented. I had assumed that I could trust you. Clearly I was wrong…"
Severus, as Voldemort had said, was not fool. He had to act. Quickly. He clutched his master's robe with trembling fingers. "My Lord, please allow me the opportunity to earn your trust back. I-I cannot truly express my remorse. Please, My Lord. I am your servant once more."
He dared not look. He dared not breathe.
Relief washed over him like cool water, soothing the scalding fire of the red eyes above him.
"You will have one task. One chance. You fail me, Severus, and I shall kill you. I will have no place in my new world for failures…"
"Of course, My Lord. I will not fail."
A dark, menacing chortle. "So sure of yourself, Severus. Even at my feet, you display an arrogance that has proven to be the mortal flaw of many witches and wizards. They see themselves as powerful, you see. Only the powerful can judge power, my servant. And you are not nearly as powerful as you'd like to think."
"Not powerful, My Lord. I am simply desirous to extend my life and eager to serve."
"Yes…" Voldemort drawled, scoffing derisively as Severus looked up. "And it is in that order with you, as it always has been."
His body rebelled and his soul seared in anguish. Severus thrashed in the throes of the spell's power. No one could cast it more potently than His Lord. No one else could break a man with one spell.
Severus' head fell limply to the floor as Voldemort finally relented. His dark hair matted together in front of his face, hiding the tears that were produced from the curse.
Voldemort sighed softly.
"You do this to yourself, Severus. How much easier would life be if you straightened out your priorities? No more suffering, no more anger…simply my favor. I admire you so, Severus. I understand you…and you have tools that most of my servants would kill for. So why must you fight me? Why must you fight your destiny at my side? If you had been the servant you once claimed to be, neither of us would be in this situation. Me, in another body. You…in pain, at my feet. It could have been different. It can be better…"
"W-what do you require of me, My Lord?" Severus struggled to say, not bothering to look up. A blue vial was lowered into his vision.
"Do you know what this is?"
Runespoor Venom. "Y-yes, My Lord."
"Good. You will incorporate this into your lesson plan for the first year students."
"But…I beg your pardon, My Lord…but why?"
A hand gently pulled his hair back, until he was seeing red.
"Because, Severus…with this, we shall catch ourselves Harry Potter," Voldemort whispered triumphantly. And Severus listened to His Lord's plan.
"Severus. Are you awake?"
Severus glanced up from his grading expressionlessly. "I am. I could not sleep."
Dumbledore sighed slightly, his beard shaking in the green flames of the hearth. "I wish I could say the same, my friend. Unfortunately, I have been awake all this time. Would you be willing to come to my office? I'm afraid my knees have no patience for the floor this morning."
"Very well," Severus marred one more paper with a "D" for Dreadful before standing. "The password is the same, I presume?"
Setting the stack of parchment aside, Severus rose onto his toes and arched his back. He heaved a heavy breath and scooped up a handful's Floo.
In a rush of green and a sharp lurch, Severus found himself in the Headmaster's office. It was amusing, really. Albus has such silly passwords for the gargoyle placed outside his office, but the passwords to his Floo were much more…profound.
"Please, take a seat," Dumbledore beckoned to one of the four plush chairs in front of his desk. "Minerva, Pomona and Filius will all be joining us momentarily, but first…I am sorry, Severus, but I must ask – "
Severus knew what he wanted. Wordlessly, Severus wrenched the sleeve of his robe up past his elbow.
"Ah…" Albus peered down gravely at the mark. "So it is as I feared. Do you have any recollection as to when…-"
"Past midnight," Severus replied simply. "Only a few hours ago. I have not slept since."
"And has he summoned…?"
"No," murmured Severus. "It…concerns me. I would have expected him to summon the Death Eaters immediately. This course of action not only leaves us ignorant, but I'm ashamed to admit that I fear for my own life."
Professor Dumbledore sighed softly, seating himself in his own chair. "Severus, you are safe as long as you remain at Hogwarts. However, I…I am not sure how it has come to this. I have examined every bit of the third floor as well as the passageway underneath and it has all been wiped clean. Voldemort has gotten the best of us."
"Perhaps it was a follower," Severus proposed quietly. "I cannot imagine how the Dark Lord was able to procure the stone without a physical body. It's…it's unthinkable – "
The corner of the Headmaster's lip quirked upwards, causing his beard to twitch. "I am not surprised in the slightest that Tom was able to get to the stone. No…what puzzles me is that he was able to take it. I had hoped that we could at last corner him. I am very confident in my magic, Severus, if you'll allow me a moment of egotism. There was no way around the spells cast on the mirror – Voldemort took the stone without any intentions of using it. And yet…he has a body once more."
"He must have had help."
"Yes," Professor Dumbledore tipped his head. "I must agree with you. Nevertheless, I still find myself at a loss of how Voldemort was able to obtain the Philosopher's Stone."
They sat in silence for a moment. Severus glanced up at the portraits of all the former Headmasters and Headmistresses of Hogwarts; funnily enough, they were all awake and alert.
"Oh goodness, Severus, I'm sorry; would you like anything to drink whilst we wait?"
"Coffee," Severus replied shortly. "Black, please."
"Naturally," Professor Dumbledore hastened to prepare the two wizards' drinks.
The silence was not uncomfortable but it was certainly tense, weighed down with the heavy thoughts of both men.
"Harry will need to be notified."
Severus started. "I beg your pardon?"
"Harry Potter," Dumbledore smiled grimly, setting Severus' drink in front of him. "I regret having to involve the poor boy so early, Severus, but he will be one of Voldemort's biggest targets. Harry needs to know."
Severus frowned. "So soon, though? I have no qualms with telling Potter, but we are yet to have a plan. Surely it would be more helpful to have an idea of how to proceed before we inform the boy?"
Dumbledore was silent. "Plans can change, Severus. Indeed, surely they will. But knowledge…it is power. I have all the confidence in the world in Harry. Can you say truthfully that you've taught a more talented young wizard in your time here at Hogwarts?"
"…No. I cannot," Severus averted his gaze. "Potter has done well. Highest grade of my first years in Slytherin. And of course, that discounts the….lessons the two of you had."
"A fantastic pupil if I do say so myself," Dumbledore's eyes shone. He examined his clasped hands for a moment. "Asking Harry to match Voldemort's magical prowess would be foolish; however, we can give him the tools to defend himself. For now, that is enough."
A sharp rap on the door cut their conversation short.
Minerva McGonagall led Filius Flitwick and Pomona Sprout into the Headmaster's office. Severus eyed them all in silence; he could see the redness of McGonagall's eyes as she sat stiffly in her chair. He would not smirk outwardly, but a shiver of accomplishment ran through him. His spells had been successful…just as he had known they would be.
"Good morning, Minerva, Pomona, Filius," The Headmaster nodded to the Heads of House. "I apologize for waking you all so early. I'm afraid that I have some bad news for you all."
"What is it, Albus?" McGonagall said tiredly. Severus merely sipped from his goblet.
"As you all were aware, I left the school yesterday to speak at the Ministry," Dumbledore started. "Minister Fudge had snuck a bill through the Wizengamot that required a swift resolution. And while I was away…
"Minerva," Dumbledore sighed. "Did you notice anything amiss yesterday evening? Anything at all?"
McGonagall blinked, her eyebrows bridging together slightly. "Not at all, Albus. Severus and I were forced to deal with a potions mishap in the dungeons, but that was all that really happened last night. At least that I was aware of."
Dumbledore looked directly at her for a moment, saying nothing. It did not take a Warding Master to figure out what was happening, Severus thought.
"I see," said Dumbledore. "Last night…the Philosopher's Stone was stolen."
Pomona's hand shot up to her face. Filius squeaked, and Minerva's shoulder sagged. Severus tilted his head down.
"I…I don't understand, Albus," Pomona cried. "How did it happen? The stone was supposed to be unobtainable!"
Dumbledore's thumbs were massaging the backs of his hands. "Quite frankly, Pomona, I do not know. My initial scans were fruitless. That does lead me to believe one thing, however…
"Severus," Dumbledore's eyes found his own. "Would you please expose your forearm?"
Wordlessly, Severus did as he was told. He fought the urge to roll his eyes at the gasping and shocked expressions from his peers.
"H-He's back," Filius whispered timidly. "How did this happen? We did not even see this coming!"
"No," Dumbledore frowned, looking at the mark once more. "No…we did not. Severus has not been summoned, however, which may be more concerning than anything else. Voldemort is not without a plan, it seems. It is troubling."
McGonagall pursed her lips. "And what is our plan, Albus? The students must be notified! Their parents as well! We cannot leave them defenseless."
"My dear, while that would certainly be ideal, what proof do we have other than the mark on Severus' arm?" Dumbledore replied simply. "I am not sure that would be enough for most witches and wizards; remember how horrible the first war was. Voldemort was nearly – he was unstoppable. No one knew who to trust or who was a Death Eater. Do you not remember how many of our own betrayed us?"
"Surely the Minister would want to prevent another war, right?" McGonagall argued. "We could nip this thing in the bud before it even began! All it would take is the Minister believing us – "
Severus scoffed harshly. "This is a man that sentenced every Death Eater in Azkaban to the Dementor's Kiss, I'll have you know."
Every eye in the room turned to him, most in shock, but Dumbledore's in surprise.
"I have sources," Severus defended, sneering at them all. "Did you think I would not know about this, Albus? My source informed me yesterday evening."
"Not at all, my friend," Dumbledore said quietly. "I am merely amazed at how soon the news found you."
"Was that why you were at the Ministry, Albus?" Filius questioned.
"Indeed," Dumbledore frowned. "That was a bill that I naturally had to oppose. I spoke with Cornelius on the matter yesterday. Not only is such a decision in bad taste, but it is also a foolish action on the Minister's end. I tried to persuade Cornelius of this."
"And how did that go?"
"…Not well, I'm afraid," Dumbledore frowned. "Those Dementors are such vile creatures. Even if the witches and wizards involved made poor choices, the Kiss is never the solution."
McGonagall frowned. "At least the Death Eaters in Azkaban will be unavailable to You-Know-Who. It should slow him down at least a little bit."
Severus said nothing. Indeed, it seemed that no one knew what to say at the moment. He could appreciate that. Two major revelations before breakfast were two too many. However, they all sat about feeling sorry for themselves. They were all massaging their bruised egos. No one could steal the stone, they had said! It was simply not possible.
The Dark Lord always found a way. So Severus sat silently, enjoying the bitter silence.
A large, tawny owl flew through an open window, startling everyone for a moment. Severus repressed the urge to smirk when the bird clipped Filius' ear, causing the part-goblin to utter some less polite words.
Dumbledore untied the morning newspaper from the owl's leg, levitating a treat for the winged creature out of his desk. Dumbledore's phoenix made a noise of discontent from its golden perch. Dumbledore chuckled softly before levitating another for his own pet.
The chuckle died immediately upon gazing at the front page of The Daily Prophet.
"Albus?" Pomona asked. "Albus? What is it?"
The Headmaster shook his head slowly. Instead, he adjusted his half-moon spectacles upon his nose and read aloud:
PRISONERS BREAK FREE
Mass Breakout of Death Eaters at Azkaban
By Patrick Fairview
A mass breakout of prisoners occurred early Sunday morning at Azkaban in the North Sea. The fugitives all had one thing in common – their connection to the former terrorist group known as the Death Eaters.
"Awful news," Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge said in a statement to the press Sunday morning. "The Ministry is still in the process of investigating the breakout. Unfortunately, we have nothing to present to the public at this time. However, we urge each witch and wizard to keep on the lookout for suspicious persons and behavior. We will be increasing our direct Floo connections to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement over the next few days as well as increasing our on-duty Auror staff."
The breakout was first reported at 2:41 am Sunday morning by the jailer staff on guard. By the time the Aurors had arrived, the breakout was finished and the suspects were nowhere to be seen. The Auror office could not be reached for comment, but reports of explosions and broken walls have reached The Daily Prophet.
According to Minister Fudge, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is currently in the process of interrogating the Dementors who were present during the breakout.
The list of Death Eaters who escaped from Azkaban include the likes of Bellatrix Lestrange, Antonin Dolohov, Augustus Rookwood, and Sirius Black. Each were convicted of multiple murders and sentenced to life sentences in Azkaban.
Stay tuned to an emergency Evening Prophet for more news on the breakout.
Silence. Deafening silence.
"And so it begins…" Severus muttered darkly, sipping his coffee. And so it would.