The Lond Road to Damascus THE LONG ROAD TO DAMASCUS

by Morrighan

DISCLAIMER: The Harryverse belongs to J K Rowlings, however much I covet it. I have added all manner of weird and wonderful things to it.



Friday February 21, 1975, evening.

There was nothing at all remarkable about the man who entered the Wand and Winkle just before six o'clock. He was short, but not particularly so, stocky and muscular, wearing smart - but cheap - business robes, and carrying a glossy dragonhide briefcase. Just another travelling salesman, and since the Wand and Winkle was situated at the heart of Aberdeen's business district sales reps were hardly a rare sight.

In fact it is doubtful whether anybody would have noticed even if there had been anything unusual about him. The Wand and Winkle was the only wizarding pub in Aberdeen, on the crossroads between Fine Alley and Turm Inn Alley, and at six on a Friday evening it was packed, as all the workshops, warehouses and factories turned out their staff for the weekend. The man bought a pint of malmsey from the bar, and then glanced round as if looking for a free table. There wasn't one - the pub was full of wizards and witches in their work robes, laughing and talking and generally letting off steam after a hard week's work.

He saw what he was looking for almost at once. The young man (more of a boy, really) was sitting alone at a corner table, an untouched tumbler of nettle wine in front of him, ignoring the chatter around him and absently making a rayed sun out of a ring of spilt butterbeer on the table.

"Mind if I join you?", the stranger said, and sat down, ignoring the unfriendly look the boy gave him. Examined at close quarters, the child was a distinctly unappealing sight. His skin was pale and waxy with a slightly yellowish tinge, his black eyes, permanently wary, darkened into hostility at his approach. His hair was slightly too long, limp and greasy, as though he used too much Sleekeazy and not enough shampoo. The stranger held out his hand. "I'm John Travers, commercial traveller for Gladrags Wizardwear."

The boy gave him a look which said very clearly 'go away and leave me alone', but shook the outstretched hand and answered: "Severus Snape. I'm at Mrs Skower's." Travers nodded. Nothing in his face showed that the boy's name and trade were already known to him.

"Skower's! So you're a bit of a whizz with potions, then." The boy nodded sullenly. "That's quite a coincidence, you know, Severus. A mate o' mine's looking for a potioner to do some freelance work for him on the side. It'd be lucrative work. You wouldn't be interested, by any chance?"

"What kind of work?" The boy was suspicious. Nothing wrong with that, these were suspicious times.

"Oh, just a bit of specialised brewing - it's nothing mysterious. He's after a couple of quite rare preparations you can't find in most potions shops."

"He should try Madam Zabini's in Knockturn Alley. She stocks most of the more unusual stuff. And what she doesn't have, she can make." Travers made no indication of his satisfaction. Knockturn Alley! So his sources had been right. The kid may have been just nineteen, but he had one foot in the shadows already. This was going to be easy. Sweets from a baby.

"Nah - my mate prefers to deal privately." He leaned forward, looked the boy straight in the eye, noting the way he baulked from his gaze. "So, what do you say? Interested?"

"I might be," the boy said warily, "but I'd want to know more first." Gotcha, Travers thought.

"Like I said, just some of the more unusual brews. Just for private use, and not in large quantities.."

"Such as?"

"Oh, he gave me a list," Travers said, carefully casual. He searched various pockets, finally producing it from a pocket in the sleeve of his robe. The boy took it and read it through. As he read the list his eyebrows shot up so much that they almost met his hairline. Many of the potions were on the Ministry's 'Controlled' list, and several were 'Class A' illegal. But he didn't try to raise the alarm or get his wand out, merely handed the parchment back to Travers. Deliberately misinterpreting the boy's dumbfounded expression, Travers added "He said many of them are a bit on the tricky side - that's why he's willing to pay so high. But maybe he'd be better with someone more experienced." The nettled look on the boy's face told him the shot had hit home.

"Oh, I can do all these, no sweat," the boy said. "Tell me more."

* * *

Letter, dated Wednesday February 26, 1975, from Ezekiel Porlock, Head of Security to Electra Nott, sent through the usual channels.

I received with interest your letter of the 22th inst., and can certainly give you the information you require.
We have investigated your potential recruit, and our findings are as follows. L.M. tells me that his father was Tiberius Caligula Snape (now deceased), of whom you know, and his mother was born Kezia Salomon, of a prominent Israeli pure-blood family (a Benjaminite, according to the genealogies). The subject is the second of three siblings. He has an older brother, Nero, who has recently started his own business in Carne Alley. He is known to pay us a protection fee, but otherwise takes no interest in our activities. There is also a younger sister, Agrippina, currently a sixth-year student at Durmstrang. I.K. does not consider her a possible candidate for us. The subject lives alone and, as far as we can tell, is not in contact with any members of his family.
My own newest student was a close friend of the subject at Hogwarts, and considers him to be a potentially valuable recruit. In addition to his expertise with potions, he has by all accounts an encyclopaedic knowledge of hexes and their uses. He is considered to be intelligent and self-disciplined, but not particularly sociable. As for other qualifications, my contacts at the Ministry tell me that he has a clean Apparitions Licence and no criminal record or outstanding debts. He is an Associate Member of the Institute of Brewers, Potioners and Apothecaries.
There are a few possible difficulties that I would ask you to bear in mind. There is a history of mental instability on the mother's side of the family. The subject has apparently shown no sign of it, but it is well that you be on your guard. There is also by all accounts a marked obsessive streak in his character: again, a potential matter for concern. Most worryingly, my student tells me that the subject had a brief liaison with a Mudblood girl at Hogwarts when he was fourteen. Though he apparently exhibits the proper contempt for outsiders, it may not run as deep as the master requires. If I were you I should certainly check on this before you proceed.
I trust that you will inform me if you and Travers decide to go ahead with this recruitment so that we can make the necessary arrangements.
I hope this is of use to you, and I remain, dear madam, your most attentive servant,
Ezekiel Porlock

* * *

Sunday January 31, 1976, dawn, somewhere dark.

The boy stood at the entrance of the cavern, tense as a bowstring, adrenalin racing through him. The chamber before him was huge and echoing, hewn out of black rock. A row of torch brackets lined each side, two dotted lines of light in the blackness, but their flickering light merely served to intensify the shadows they created. Not that there's much to see anyway, he thought, in a poor attempt at nonchalance.

He stared hard at the circle of dark figures before him. All robed in black, masked, hooded. The boy wore no mask or hood, and it made him feel naked, vulnerable. That, of course, was what they wanted. It was very cold, and he was nearly shivering. No doubt that, too, was deliberate.

The circle parted, and two figures walked towards him. Electra Nott, John Travers. He recognised them even under the hoods and masks. His mentors.

When they reached him, they bowed to him, and he returned it, a little more awkwardly than he'd meant.

"Ready?" Electra asked, almost silently. He nodded slightly. Travers clapped him lightly on the shoulder.

"Go on, then." Travers muttered.

And as they fell into step, he walked hesitantly towards the circle, where for the first time he would meet Lord Voldemort. It seemed to take aeons.

There had been tests, of course, of knowledge, of skill, of reflexes, and other tests more subtle for purposes he could only guess at. If he had not passed them he would not be here now. But then, Electra Nott had been a very thorough teacher, and her pupil extremely keen.

He was within the circle now, and the distance that had seemed so great was now too little. Within a very few steps he was standing before the Dark Lord himself, and prostrating himself before him.

"Rise." He did, and behind him heard Electra and Travers do the same. He looked carefully at the floor. "So," the voice was a gentle sibilant hiss. "You crave admittance to the circle of the Death Eaters."

"I do."

"Has he passed the assigned tasks?"

"He has." Electra's voice. Flat and emotionless.

"Does he meet all our requirements?"

"He does." Travers, stolidly.

"Good. Look at me, child. Look into my eyes."

The boy looked up, hastily suppressing a moment of dread, and met the Dark Lord's eyes. His gaze was held for a few seconds. "Well enough. Then you are ready to be branded, if you have the nerve."

For the first time, the boy noticed the brazier that stood behind Lord Voldemort, next to a long oak table. It burned with pale green flames. One of the circle broke ranks, and walked to the brazier, carrying a long-handled implement with the symbol of the brand at its end. The boy saw it thrust into the brazier, saw the brief burst of silver sparks as the brand touched the flames. He watched in silence, forcing himself to remain motionless.

The brand was removed from the fire and held out to the Dark Lord. The boy watched him bring out a knife, and press its blade slowly into the pad of his thumb, reaching out so that a single drop of blood fell on the surface of the brand. The blood sizzled on the heat of the surface, loud and strident in the silent hall, like the hissing of a thousand snakes. The head of the brand started to glow a vivid white, and as he watched, green and silver sparks flew from it.

For the first time, he doubted; for the first time could not control his suppressed fear. This would be irrevocable. What was it going to do to him?

"If you wish to withdraw, this is the last point at which you may do so," Lord Voldemort said smoothly, as if he read his thoughts. "If you do not wish to join us, speak now, and we will let you go back. Think carefully: this is the last chance you have to change your mind. Are you willing to continue?"

"Yes," he answered aggressively, and in defiance of all propriety looked the Dark Lord in the face, uninvited. "Only a fool would go back when such things lie ahead. Count me in."

In the silence that followed he could almost feel Electra and Travers exchanging glances behind him, and the sudden stillness of the Death Eaters in the circle around them. The Dark Lord held his gaze with unblinking intensity, and he could feel his heart thumping wildly. Well that was stupid, wasn't it, Severus? he thought to himself.

And then, into the silence, Lord Voldemort started to laugh.

"Most impressive. We can surely expect great things of this one, Madam Nott. Let him be branded."

Electra and Travers led him to the table, and sat him down in the only chair, at the table's head. Electra rolled up his left sleeve to the elbow, and she and Travers held his arm flat to the table, palm upwards, exposing the soft, pale skin on the underside of the forearm.

The boy watched nervously as the Death Eater who held the brand moved forwards, until he held the glowing thing poised above his forearm. If you scream or faint or anything I'll never speak to you again, he told himself fiercely. He set his teeth firmly together, just as the man thrust the brand down onto his bare skin.

The white-hot metal of the Dark Lord's symbol bit painfully into the soft skin. The boy gave a cry, quickly stifled. He tried to flinch away from the heat, but Electra and Travers were holding his arm so firmly that it barely moved.

The brand was pressed deeper, and the sinews and muscles of the arm burned like fire. He clenched the muscles of his jaw more tightly. I've had worse, he reminded himself. When he'd been thirteen he'd had a scrap with Nero, who had ended the fight triumphantly by throwing him into the fireplace. Now that was pain; this is a mild inconvenience, he tried to tell himself, but he couldn't make himself believe it, because that had been then, and this was very much now. His arm was shaking uncontrollably now, and he was dimly aware that his mentors had tightened their grip on the wrist and elbow.

The brand was still pressed into his arm, still cutting down into the flesh. He shut his eyes. It would surely -

As the brand hit bone, fire flooded through him, body, soul and mind. For an instant he was the brand. He would have screamed now if he could, but he could not even breathe as the heat of the brand consumed him.

He felt the brand withdraw, and as if a light had been extinguished the pain vanished. He felt his mentors release his arm, and let himself open his eyes to stare blankly at the dark mark on his forearm. He was - everything felt - different. Clearer. He could see clearly around him, in spite of the dark, and if the hall was still bitterly cold he could no longer feel it. He carried on staring at the dark symbol on his arm, until some slight sound behind him reminded him that the ritual was as yet uncompleted.

The boy rose stiffly from the chair, cautiously unclenching his aching jaw muscles. He turned cautiously to the Dark Lord and made obeisance to him.

"You are now a servant of Lord Voldemort, and a part of the fellowship of the Death Eaters. Welcome. I trust you will serve my cause faithfully."

The boy prostrated himself on the floor before his new master, and thanked him with an unfeigned sincerity, before taking his place in the circle among his new colleagues.

* * *

"You did it very well, you know. You impressed him," Electra said to him afterwards. "That's not necessarily a good thing."

"Oh?" He was startled.

"You've caught his attention. He'll be watching you now. I hope you can carry on impressing him."

The boy smirked, and it was not a nice smile. "If I can, I will."

In the years to come some of his comrades came to call him 'the perfect Death Eater'. Most of them never discovered how wrong they were.

PART 1: Koyaanisqatsi

Thursday November 27, 1980, 11PM. McKinnon's Cafè, Fine Alley, Aberdeen.

Ailsa McKinnon leant against her sitting room wall, wondering whether the scene before her would go away if she closed her eyes. She did not try it: she suspected that if she did something terrible would happen. They're going to kill us, she thought dazedly, George and me and the bairn. She put one of her hands on her stomach, and felt her unborn baby kick. Hush, Flora, keep still, and everything will be all right. We're just waiting for the Hit Wizards to come and rescue us. Everything will be fine. We'll be okay.

How had it come to this? It had been such an ordinary day. The café had been busy, as usual, with the usual crowd of workers from the nearby businesses and workshops, craftsmen talking shop, secretaries swapping gossip, salesmen comparing sales targets. Everyone was talking as though You-Know-Who couldn't touch them. It was as if by pretending everything was normal that the chaos and disorder of the world would magically vanish. Until tonight she and George had been able to connive in the deception. But not now, oh, not now.

It had been a normal evening, too. They'd talked over dinner about the baby, made plans for the future: where the nursery would be, how they would be able to look after her and carry on running the café, which of them she would look like. They'd fallen to arguing about possible names for the child when she came (they knew it would be a girl). George had a superstitious fear of giving a child a name before its birth; Ailsa had privately already named her: Flora, for her grandmother. A sweet name, and it felt right.

She'd gone to bed early, tired out by the day's work, and by the extra weight on her feet, and slept like the dead, while George had stayed up to do the café's accounts, when she'd been awoken suddenly by a loud crash from the living room.

She'd looked up from the bed to see a robed, masked figure aiming a wand at her. That had cleared her head quickly enough, and she had reached instinctively for her own wand on the bedside table, just as a second masked figure apparated beside her, its gloved hand closing firmly about her wrist, as it casually pocketed her wand with its other hand.

"Bring her through," the first figure had said tersely. Ailsa had noticed with a jolt that it was a woman's voice, and thought irrelevantly: they sent a woman? Does the Dark Lord observe the niceties when waking women at midnight, then?

The Death Eater who stood next to her had pulled her roughly out of bed, and followed her out of the room, his wand held to the side of her head, his arm crooked around her throat, half choking her. Everything happened with a kind of awful clarity. She noticed the quiet hissing of his breathing, the way he was forced to shorten his steps to accommodate her pregnant waddle. She could feel the leanness of the arm around her neck, the way the sinews cut into her throat even through the thick robe, and the faint chemical smell that hung about him, as though he worked in an apothecary's shop.

He had released her in the doorway of the sitting room, carefully keeping her covered with his wand. "Stay there. Don't move." His voice was cold and passionless.

And so here she was, watching her life spin out of control as she leant against the wall, forcing down the scream that wanted to escape her.

Their tiny sitting room looked as though a whirlwind had swept through it. The writing desk in the corner had been overturned, and one of the masked figures, a short squat figure, was flicking methodically through the papers in it, crouched on his haunches beside the mess. The chair that normally stood beside it was also on its side, one leg wrenched off. The remains of a vase lay shattered in the hearth, and the freesias that had filled it had been scattered amid the broken china. She itched to go and sweep up the broken pieces of china, as if by that simple action she could restore some sense of order and balance to her invaded world.

There were four of them. Four. To kill a pregnant woman and a crippled man. Cowards.

The man who had woken her, the apothecary, was standing in the doorway to the sitting room, blocking the room's only exit. His wand was still pointed at her, even though she was unarmed and, at eight months pregnant, no threat to anyone. The crouching figure discarded the papers and stood up, bringing his wand out. He was the shortest of the four, but thickset and muscular with huge fists - a Quidditch Beater's build, Ailsa thought. The woman was standing by the fireplace, close to another man, the tallest of the four, who hung back slightly. All of them had their wands out, and aimed at her husband, George McKinnon, who was standing in the middle of the room, leaning heavily on his crutches, his face chalk white and terrified as he stared from one to another of the creatures who had taken over their world.

"Ailsa! Are you okay? They haven't hurt you, have they?" His voice was panicky.

She assured him that she was fine, wondering how she could sound so calm.

"Silence." That was the woman. "Are you expecting any visitors this evening? Any disturbances?"

"N-no," George had quavered.

"Are you sure?" The apothecary, his voice smooth and suave.

"No. There's nobody."

The Beater laughed. "What's a couple more corpses between friends, anyway? It's all the same to us."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't say that at all," the apothecary said. There was a note of sickening enjoyment in his voice that made Ailsa shudder.

"What do you want from us? We're no threat to you."

"No? Yet little birds have been telling us that you are in with the Dumbledore crowd."

She'd watched her husband swallow nervously. Stay calm, George, she had implored silently. Don't let them under your skin. He swallowed nervously again, but said nothing.

"Perhaps you'd care to tell us about it, Mr McKinnon." That had been the woman again.

She'd watched him take a deep breath, and lean more heavily than ever on his crutches. "I'm saying nothing," he said, with a kind of pathetic bravado.

Oh George, don't be so stupid. Prevaricate, play for time, tell them half-truths. Anything to buy us time.

"Very well. Crucio."

She watched the crutches slip from his hands, and he fell, awkwardly, hitting his head against the desk. He was screaming, writhing on the floor. Ailsa started towards him, and the apothecary shoved her roughly back towards the wall, jolting all the breath out of her. Someone must hear, she thought desperately as she gasped for breath. There must be someone out there. Someone who can help. But there wouldn't be. Fine Alley was the industrial area of Aberdeen, and only a handful of people lived there after office hours. None of them near the McKinnons' café.

The woman stopped the curse; George stayed where he had fallen, shaking uncontrollably, and looked up at Ailsa with tears in his eyes. She'd looked back down at him, willing him to be brave, knowing that it would probably be futile.

"So. How about telling us about Dumbledore, then?" That had been the Beater.

"'S nothing to tell," he said, shakily. "He's a headmaster, not an Auror."

"Come now, Mr McKinnon. You know better than that. We know you're passing him information, and we have a pretty good idea what else you're up to. It wouldn't hurt to tell us a few things. Wouldn't you rather have a quick death than a slow one?"

"I don't know anything. Nothing at all."

The woman had nodded her head towards the fourth member of the party, and he'd hesitated, and then stepped forwards, towards Ailsa. The apothecary stepped away from her, just as the fourth man said the single word: "Imperio."

It felt strange; it felt very strange. Some part of her mind was still watching as she obeyed the his instructions. The apothecary handed her back her wand, and she took it, weighing it in her hand, before speaking the single word "Crucio", and watching as her husband began to scream again. She could feel some part of her mind bewildered, aware that something was wrong, but it was powerless - most of her mind simply followed the instructions, couldn't, or wouldn't disobey. Just obey orders and everything will be fine.

And it would have been fine, until he lowered his wand and the world suddenly became real again. George was lying on the floor, in a curious twisted position, trembling. Blood was pouring from his nose and ears, and he was looking at her with hollow, horrified eyes. Accusing eyes.

"Ailsa?" he'd whispered, and she'd covered her face with her hands and started to cry, tried to turn away from him. "It's okay, Ailsa, I love you. I know it's not your fault." He grasped his crutches, and somehow forced himself onto his feet, even though he was still pale and shaking. He nearly collapsed as he stood up, and had to put all his weight on the battered wooden crutches to keep himself upright.

"So are you going to tell us about Dumbledore, then?" The apothecary, standing in the doorway again.

"Never!" he shouted. He was crying. "Damn you, what have you done to us? Leave us alone, we'll tell you nothing."

"Maybe you'd like us to start torturing your wife, then. I'm sure that would jog your memory. We could even get you to do it for us," the Beater taunted him.

"Damn you!" he shouted again, although there were still tears running down his face. He grabbed one of his crutches with both hands and swung it at the Beater like a club. The Beater evaded it easily and then casually pulled the crutch out of his hands. His withered legs, unable to support his weight, gave way under him, and he collapsed onto the floor again. The Beater kicked out viciously at his ribs.

She felt the apothecary grab her by her hair and pull her forward until she was standing almost over him. "Tell us, McKinnon, or I swear I shall torture your wife." He laughed, a hollow, snide laugh. "I expect it will be most instructive: nobody's ever researched the effect of the Cruciatus curse on foetuses before."

"No!" Ailsa would have given anything to unsay the word, to keep her fear hidden from her tormentors, and more importantly from her husband. Oh, no. No. Oh my child, I'm so sorry.

George met her eyes again, and there was defeat in them, and bitterness, and a terrible darkness she'd never thought she'd see there. She felt as though some deep part of her had just died. "Okay. I'll talk," he said dully.

And he had talked: told them everything he knew, in a dead, miserable voice that made Ailsa's heart ache, and she wept silently for him as he told all their carefully buried secrets. We mustn't blame him, Flora. He loves us. He doesn't want to see you hurt. The baby moved restlessly inside her, and she put her hand on her stomach again. Keep still, little one. Don't be afraid. Everything will be all right. The Hit Wizards will come and rescue us. Everything will be all right. She repeated it like a mantra but it didn't seem to help. Everything will be all right.

George's voice was droning away: she didn't want to hear it, tried to force her attention elsewhere, and it fell on their four tormentors. When the Hit Wizards arrive, they'll want to know who they are. They'll need descriptions.

The woman. She seems to be in charge. How tall? Six foot? No, less - but not much less. She's English, but Northern, I think. Maybe Lancashire. She doesn't talk like a young woman, but she's not old. Forties, fifties maybe. She speaks like she expects to be obeyed.

The Beater. He's my height, so five-eight, but very muscular. He walks around in a kind of half-crouch, like he's ready to attack at any possible moment. He talks like a Londoner.

The apothecary - Six foot tall, very thin, with a cold voice. He's got this weird stalking walk. And that smell, like an apothecary's shop. I'm sure I've seen him before.

And there's the other one, the one who made me- No. Don't think about that. Look at him. Describe him. She looked more closely at him, trying not to hear her husband. He's the tallest -- much taller than the others, he slouches slightly. He acts like an outsider. It was true. The other three had acted like a long-established team, instinctively picking up each others' cues. But he wasn't part of it - a cat on strange territory. He wasn't even English - she remembered the voice that had given her instructions in her head, and it had sounded East European - Russian, or possibly Polish.

She turned her attention back to the apothecary. Where have I seen him before? He doesn't work at West's or Cauldwell and Smethley. Where else. Maybe a hospital or a potions workshop. Potions- Oh my God, I know him, I know who he is.

She looked at him again, and it was so clear, now that she could see it. He worked just round the corner from the café, at Skowers on Turm Inn Alley - something in Research and Development, she thought. She remembered that he'd even come into the café that lunchtime to buy a drink and a sandwich. To see the lie of the land, no doubt.

Other memories. He'd been in George's year at Hogwarts, in Slytherin, a year above her own. He was part of Lestrange's crowd, and kept getting into fights with Sirius Black and James Potter. She still couldn't remember his name, but when the Hit Wizards came, they'd be able to find it out. It gave her a fragile kind of confidence, knowing that she had something to tell them.

The sudden silence forced her attention back to George and his tormentors.

"And is there nothing else?"

"No. Nothing."


"Yes." Poor thing, he sounded desperate. If there was only something she could do-

"Perhaps this might jog your memory." The Beater raised his wand again. "Crucio."

No. Not again. Haven't you done enough to him? She moved impulsively towards him, and this time the apothecary did not stop her. George was not screaming any more, but convulsing, shuddering, and as she reached him when he grew still, and she watched his face pale from a flushed red to dull grey.

"Looks like it didn't work," the apothecary remarked.

"Weak ticker," the Beater agreed. He kicked out again, this time at George's head, and Ailsa heard the dull snapping sound as it broke his neck. Ailsa stared down at his body, feeling empty and drained and hopeless.

"Forget him. We've still got another one here." The woman was facing her, now, looking straight into her eyes. "And perhaps you know something your husband forgot to tell us."

She faced Ailsa across George's body. Her voice was low and soft, almost intimate. "So what do you know?"

Ailsa said nothing. The men were also silent, as if by some unspoken agreement they had decided to leave her to their leader.

"Tell me. It'll make things easy for you. We might even let you live." The woman's voice was deceptively gentle.

Another silence. Ailsa looked down at George, the pitiful broken body, and remembered his compassion, his gentleness and his humour, and felt suddenly calm and strong. This is for you, George. She looked straight up into the eyes of the tall woman facing her and began to speak.

"All I know, that you do not, is the difference between right and wrong. Torture me, kill me if you like, it doesn't matter, because I will still be a greater person than you - however poor or low-born I am. Even a happier person, because I have done the best I can for those around me. I have loved, and have been loved, I have given generously, and others have given to me. What is right is important to me, more important than danger or pain."

"These are tired cliches," said the woman, sounding bored.

Ailsa turned to the three men. The outsider turned away to avoid her gaze, looked out of the window, as one might turn from an embarrassing beggar. "And you. How can you do these things and live with yourselves? How can you look the world in the eye, knowing what you are? Give it up, for your own sakes. Nobody is forcing you to do evil, or to be evil, except yourselves-"

The apothecary interrupted her first, his voice low and angry. "You dare say another word - !"

The beater laughed, unworried. "Keep your breath to cool your porridge, girlie. Not that you'll be needing it much longer."

The outsider interrupted from beside the window. "Hit Wizard patrol. Four men. They're just passing the Wand and Winkle, coming this way."

The woman turned and looked towards the window, and Ailsa grabbed the sudden, unexpected chance. With a wild, uncoordinated swipe she knocked the woman's wand out of her hand and ran for the door.

She was within two paces of it when the apothecary neatly kicked her feet from underneath her. She fell heavily, sideways, the fall knocking the breath out of her.

"Just get rid of the little cow and let's get out of here." the apothecary said harshly.

"Yes." The woman picked up her wand calmly as the apothecary hauled Ailsa roughly to her feet, and she watched in disbelief the last moments of her life. It all happened so slowly - the woman approaching her, wand outstretched, the three men watching silently, the wand - the tip of the wand coming to rest against her swollen stomach, and the words, the two softly-spoken words that she knew would kill her.

"Avada Kedavra."

For an instant, there was a flash of blinding brilliance - light and motion and sound and pain - and the scene around her shone with frightening vividness, burning itself on her retina. And yet by some miracle, in the millisecond before the curse struck she had time to think perfectly clearly: I'm sorry, Flora. I love you.

And then there was nothing.


Reposted to take advantage of the new chaptering system, with Prologue & Part 1 combined. It means that I've had to lose the reviews I originally got for Part 1 (though I've kept copies of them, & continue to be eternally grateful for them.)

This all started way, way back when I made the mistake of writing down a rather nifty idea for the conversation between Snape and Dumbledore when Snape switches sides. It got a bit out of hand & before I knew where I was I had about 50 pages of incomplete and rather sketchy Snapefic. Then the thing got into difficulties, and I started another fic (Staff Meeting) by way of distraction, and then another one, and another one... Still, at least this one's now going somewhere.

I've corrected the date thing since the 1st posting - for which many thanks to Doc Cornelius.

A few notes:

Electra Nott is my invention - the Nott in GoF is her brother. Electra, of course, was the woman in Greek mythology who incited her brother Orestes to kill their mother and her lover in revenge for murdering their father (which was partly in revenge for his having killed Electra's older sister). Sounds like a proper Slytherin family to me.

The name Kezia (Snape's ma) was the name of one of Job's 3 daughters in the Bible. (Be grateful: I could have called her Jemima or Kerenhappuch instead.) The other Snapes are all Roman Emperors, except Agrippina, who was an Emperor's wife. There are no prizes for guessing what kind of business Nero Snape owns.

The woman, the Beater, the apothecary and the outsider are, respectively, Electra Nott, Travers, Snape and Karkaroff, in case I've been too confusing. It's not exactly relevant any more, but Ailsa and George McKinnon were a Gryffindor and a Ravenclaw respectively. I can't write any of the Scots accents but they're supposed to be Scottish.

Oh, and if I've got it right, Koyaanisqatsi is the Navajo word meaning 'world out of balance'.