AN: My first ever fanfiction and the first story given to others to read. I would really like feedback, as long as it is constructive ;) If you find any wonky grammar or oddly used words, please let me know, english is not my first language.

The idea to this story I got from a story I read on here, some time back. It was "The Slytherin Law" written by The-Girl-Who-Wrote-This. And as the story would not leave me alone I started to write a version of my own.

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Ultimatum

Severus Snape, Potions Master and teacher at Hogwarts, was on his way back to the school. He was only limping slightly and was oddly relieved and concerned at the same time that he was back so soon. It was still dark, only the middle of the night and not the early morning hours he was expecting to be struggling his way back to the castle doors and to the infirmary.

He was relieved because he was still alive. His death was one of the possible outcomes of the stupidly brave but necessary endeavour he had undertaken tonight. And the concern... well, the things that were spoken this evening in the last hours were definitely a reason to be concerned. He sighed as he finally reached the big doors into the castle. The grounds were empty, no sign left from the masses of people and the commotion that accompanied the last task of the blasted tournament that brought back what should have stayed lost.

He opened the doors and stepped into the entrance hall, composing himself on the way back up to the Headmaster's office. Briefly he contemplated to go to his quarters and change out of the Death Eater robes first, but time was of the essence, and if he hoped for a few hours of sleep tonight, than he had better not dwadle.

"Candyfloss" Albus and his ridiculous passwords. Warily, Severus stepped on the spiral staircase and contrary to his normal behaviour, he waited until it brought him up to the door to the Headmaster's office. A short knock and a friendly "Come in" later, Severus stood inside the warm and cosy circular office.

"Severus, my boy! I did not think you would be back so soon." surprise was colouring Albus' face and voice. "Did you need to run? Are you hurt?" Concern was the most prominent emotion in the blue eyes, but Severus was almost certain he could also see some calculating in their depths. And there he was again, the manipulator behind the grandfatherly fa├žade. The man that pressured him with guilt into working as a spy, the man that never failed to remind him of his errors and his losses.

"I am quite fine, Headmaster. No need to worry." Severus took a moment to look to Minerva, who was sitting in a chair by the desk and was looking really tired. Besides her, the office was empty. She looked up and seemed relieved to see the Potions Master.

"Can you tell us what you learned this evening?" Dumbledore motioned for Severus to take the other seat in front of his desk.

"Mr. Potter's description of the Dark Lord, was accurate.", he sat in the offered chair. "He does not look human anymore. As I learned, this is the result of a mistake made by Pettigrew during the preparation of the potion that was used this evening." He declined Minerva's silent offer of tea and sat back, trying to get more comfortable. "The Dark Lord wants me to find the error and a cure to rectify the damage done. He told me to stay here till the end of term, and stay with him after that. I was not told anything else."

"Nothing more?" Albus seemed disappointed by this brief report "He did not speak of his plans? You did not see any of the others? Where does he stay?"

Before Severus could start to answer, Minerva rose from her chair "I will go to bed. I can't help here, and we have to care for the students."

She brushed her fingers over the shoulder of her younger colleague "I'm glad that you are well." With that, she left the office, closing the door softly behind her.

Severus breathed deeply. "I have seen none of the others. And the Dark Lord did not speak of plans that did not concern me. He may have accepted my explanation... at least enough not to kill me on the spot. But I do not think that he trusts me completely at the moment." He pinched the bridge of his nose and rubbed his closed eyes. There was a headache forming. "We meet at Malfoy Manor. But I doubt that he will stay there. There were not many words spoken. It will take time to get his trust once more. I am glad that I could leave His presence alive." He sounded tired, almost as tired as he felt.

"I will have to prepare for my stay away from the school. We will see if I will be able to gather worthwhile information in the next weeks. But now I will go down to my quarters and will try to sleep a little." He stood and nodded in the Headmaster's direction, spun on his heel and limped out of the door.

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The first thing Severus did down in his quarters was to get out of his Death Eater robes, tossing them carelessly over a chair. He sank down in his favourite chair opposite the fireplace, lighted a fire, and summoned one vial of a deep purple potion to his hand. He broke the wax seal and knocked the potion back. It tasted foul, but the tremors almost immediately lessened. Over the months as the Dark Mark became darker and darker again, he had decided to stock up on doses of his anti-crucio draught. Now he was glad he had found the time to do so.

He let his head sink back and closed his eyes. What should he do? There was an oath to protect Lily's child. There was Dumbledore and his guilt trips. There was a returned Dark Lord, whom he had not seen this sane in all the time he had known him.

There were not many options. And there was even less time.

He had told Albus only a fraction of what had transpired between the Dark Lord and himself in Lucius' manor. The Dark Lord said that he was almost certain, that he had lost Severus' loyalty that night he killed Lily Potter. That he understood the reasons of why his potions master stayed with Dumbledore and why it was so easy for him to get a trusted position with the Order of the Phoenix. Severus let his hand glide through his black hair.

It seemed that the Dark Lord did suspect that he had been actively working for the light in the last war. That his loyalty was with the light and not the dark any more.

He did not tell Dumbledore that his spy had a date of expiry. That he had until the end of August to come to a decision. Go to the Dark Lord, take a potion that would render his Occlumency useless, and than let the Dark Lord wander his mind. Or stay away, declare that he was no longer loyal, and be a hunted man.

Neither of this options was one he would chose. But not to chose was impossible. He did not want to die. And both options would lead to his death. Either because he would break his oath to protect Lily's child to the best of his abilities, or because he would be hunted as a traitor. Like Karkaroff, the coward that ran.

Maybe there was still hope, though. The Dark Lord only cast the cruciatus curse once. And he had been talking very logical and clear. No grandstanding, no detours or mad jumps between topics. A declaration he intended to win Severus fully back, that he trusted him enough to brew a cure for him. Maybe there was hope, that it was possible to go back to the dark, while still protecting that blasted Potter brat.

Severus groaned, thinking on this more tonight would not help him. There was still a week of school, and he would have to prepare for his "holidays", there was much to do, and he would not get all done that needed to be done, if he denied himself the much needed sleep.

He got up and padded over the carpeted floor to his bedroom and the connected bathroom. A hot shower would do him good.

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At the same time, in another part of the country, a white peacock was peacefully strutting through a beautiful garden, watched by the crimson eyes of the recently resurrected Dark Lord Voldemort.

He held an empty potions vial in his hands, idly spinning it between his fingers. That was the second pain relief potion he had taken that night. Hopefully he would not need to continue to take one every few hours.

There was a knock on the door, and he spun around calling "Come in" as he did so.

The door opened, and Lucius stepped through, bowing deeply once he was inside the study.

"Tell me. what is the reaction to Potter's report in the Ministry?" Voldemort asked and watched the current Lord Malfoy with interest.

"Fudge is in denial. He will not believe that Potter is telling the truth. He told me what Dumbledore tried to make him do." The blond Lord's face morphed to a smirk. "To Remove control over Azkaban from the Dementors, to send envoys to the giants, tell everyone. He even told me, that Snape showed his arm in his face, forcing him to step back." Lucius face got cautious at that, but the nodding of his Lord's head showed him that this was no news to him. "I do not think that there will be a problem from this side in the next time. They are all in severe denial. And as the saying goes, there is no one as blind as those that won't see."

"How does he explain the death of this other boy? Diggory?" asked Voldemort, cautiously sitting down in the plush seat behind the desk and setting the empty vial down in front of him.

"He claims that one of the monsters in the maze of the last task got to him."

"What about Bartemius? Any word about him?" He was getting tired again, he needed to rest soon. But first he had some questions to asks and tasks to give out.

Lucius was standing, trembling slightly, in front of his own desk and tried to not show his pain, fear and weariness "He left the castle right after Potter came back. He deemed it too dangerous to stay, too big a risk." He shuffled his feet "I got a floo call from Benjamin Nott, saying that he arrived there a few minutes ago."

"Very well", he closed his eyes for a moment, just a few orders and he could lie down until morning. "I want information about how many witches and wizards are currently living in Britain. Get me the expected size of next year's first year class at Hogwarts. How many of the children will be from muggle homes? How many married couples are there, that are capable and likely to get more children in the next years? Every bit of information you can get on the status of our population" He waited for a nod before he continued "Begin to research old laws, and all you can find about conditions to take up the mantle of Lord Slytherin. And if there could be a possible way for me to integrate myself with the 'law abiding citizens' of this fine country."

Lucius seemed perplexed for a moment about his last comment and the sarcasm in the last words, but bowed again "Of course, my Lord. Am I allowed to get help from one of the others?"

"Yes. I want this information as soon and as fast as possible. Try to stay unnoticed." Voldemort stood once again. "Call an elf to show me my rooms."

"As you wish my Lord. Tally!"

A young elf in a crisp white pillowcase with the Malfoy crest embroidered on it popped into the study and bowed to both wizards. "How can Tally helps her master?"

"Show our Lord to his rooms and get him everything he might need or ask for."

At this order Tally bowed again, so that her long ears brushed over the parquet "If Masters Master would follow Tally."

They all left the study. Voldemort to rest and hopefully sleep, despite the pain that was sure to resurface soon, and Lucius to distribute the orders for information-gathering to the others. He was sure that the information about the next first-year class had to be somewhere in his papers. The number of possible candidates was send to the governors every year around this time.

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First published: 3rd of October 2015

last edited: 21st of April 2017

Thanks to Jordre and Jake for helping to improve my spelling!