A/N: For those of you who are at all familiar with my work, this is indeed a continuation of Silver Shadows, set about three years after The Man Who Thought Too Much. For those who aren't, this is the story of Severus Snape's Death Eater years, from the summer he leaves Hogwarts to the night of Voldemort's downfall. The story is largely relationship-centred, although the actual pairings will be too numerous and complicated to list right now. Primary focus, however, will be on Severus Snape/Lucius Malfoy. Expect political idealism, snark-fests, complicated relationships, raw emotions and stylised sex. But there's only the idealism in this instalment.
Disclaimer: All characters and the general concept of wizardry as used in this piece are the property of JK Rowling and Warner Bros. I just like giving them a little more exposure.
~* All Our Yesterdays *~
'And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death'
~ William Shakespeare's Macbeth
Prologue: In which Severus Snape becomes a Death Eater
Severus Snape's knees are beginning to hurt. He has been motionless on them for nearly ten minutes now and can feel the muscles starting to seize up. He's forcing himself to concentrate on the little things like this; they take his mind off the big ones.
He doesn't know where he is, because he was blindfolded before being taken there and still is now, only able to imagine his surroundings. A constricted chorus of whispers and murmurs, of boredom grappling with curiosity but overbearingly of impatience, hisses and slurs around him, words unintelligible but one or two tones familiar and hence he assumes himself surrounded by Death Eaters. No sense of movement registers in front, nor behind, nor to either side, so he assumes himself immediately encircled by empty space. The held breath of expectancy that hangs in the air tells him the Dark Lord has not arrived yet, as equally does the lack of fearful respect Severus' soon-to-be master usually commands.
It's cold here. But at least I'm dressed for it, which was more than I expected to be. Ceremonial green and silver is better than nothing at all, which is what I couldn't help but expect. I wonder where Evan is? Has he been done already? Is he standing watching me? I wish Lucius had told me what this is going to be like. Sworn to secrecy. But for all he could keep his mouth shut he couldn't hide the discomfort in his eyes when he looked at me and realised I would be next. He didn't want me to do this, and at the same time he did. He wanted the ends without the means, I think.
You spent hours trying to persuade me to join, Luci. You pleaded a very convincing case. Of course you did, I wouldn't be here otherwise. At times you spoke dispassionately, as though reciting whatever argument had been tried on you, and these were always the arguments that never appealed to me. When I told you so, you laughed, and said they hadn't worked on you either. That you were just hedging your bets, that you wanted me to join so badly you were just trying anything. I'm willing to believe you, I think, if only because of the fire in your eyes when you told me everything thathad convinced you. Everything that convinced me to go to the Lord for the first time.
I was sceptical. Still am, in no small part. I love you, Lucius, but it doesn't follow that I trust your judgement unquestioningly. You can be shortsighted at times, blinded by promises of quick gratification. I wanted to know what sort of life I was setting myself up for. You were so twitchy, Luci, before I went to see him; it almost made me laugh. You came up with a list a mile long of everything I should and shouldn't do, should and shouldn't think ('because I swear, Sev, he can read your mind'). Then Lestrange came in, and called you an idiot. I seem to remember that you hexed him for it.
So protective, Lucius. I'm not sure whether to be touched or insulted. I would have thought you'd believe me more than capable of looking after myself, and if you don't, you should, but at the same time I like that you worry about me. Are you worrying about me now, as you stand there in your mask? Will you want to jump forward and stop him when he burns the mark into my arm? You needn't, Lucius, I'm here for a reason and prepared for the worst.
I opened my mind when I went to see the Lord, sat calmly, demurely, a blank canvas. Allowed him to do his best to convince me that this was indeed the path I wanted to follow. He was hardly inspiring. He was bombarding me with tried and tested reasoning that would probably have worked on anyone else, but not on me. I sat, and took it in, and nodded in all the right places, then threw caution to the winds and asked him what he really wanted, why he was really doing this. He stared at me, shrewdly, and then told me. I wasn't expecting him to.
He talked of power, Lucius, just as you did so convincingly. The power that should belong to the best and the brightest, the greatest thinkers and sharpest minds. I smiled dryly, asked him why he'd bothered to recruit Crabbe and Goyle. I remember the way his laugh sounded, a little affected and almost nervous, and the way in which in that precise moment, he looked at me and seemed to re-evaluate his entire opinion of me. He never answered my question, but then I suppose it was a little rhetorical.
It was this that caught you, wasn't it, Luci? Appealed to your ego and its vaulting ambition. It appealed to me, too. But if he had stopped there I don't think I would be kneeling here now, just turned nineteen years old, waiting to make either the best decision or worst mistake of my life. This is too big to depend on a little ego stroking. He knew, of course, that he wasn't going to get me like this. So he pulled his chair closer to mine, tweaked the intensity of his voice and spoke in earnest yet controlled tones of a realignment of justice. Told me that wizards like me, and you, Luci, he named you, and himself have suffered and will suffer at the hands of rigid, narrow morality. He described in soaring rhetoric my plight, the prejudice I have undergone born of an uptight, archaic Gryffindor code that dictates the greater good to be in the service of others. When for daring to believe in my own talent, for being so audacious as to serve at any time my own interests I have been condemned.
I don't doubt the Dark Lord has considerable acting talent. Nor do I doubt that he pulled out all the stops to get me, the look of poorly concealed triumph in his eyes when I said yes told me how much he had wanted me to join. But I won't deny that it got me thinking. Why is it always the stupid, the blindly loyal, the humble and the hard working, the ordinary who survive life better than anyone else? Because they are safe. Because they want nothing for themselves and everything for others. Because they will serve at your side and at your feet and contribute to society. Because they do not dare to assume that they deserve better. I am dangerous, because I have the audacity to recognise my own superiority. I need to be suppressed, because I believe there is power in the world that I should be able to lay claim to. I am derided, because I have talent and ability that I believe society should recognise and doesn't. I deserve more. Why should I be condemned for trying to attain it?
It's something to believe in, at least. That something has to change. And there was a bitterness in the Dark Lord's voice that not even his carefully practised charm could conceal, and it makes me believe that a part of him feels the same way. That Tom Riddle lived through Hogwarts and wondered what warped system of logic gave the idiots around him the right to get away with murder. However much it may have been exaggerated for the benefit of a cynical sixteen-year-old with an abnormally strong concept of justice.
So, this is it, then. I will make my oath and stretch out my arm, believing we can change the world. For better or worse. But better never means better for everyone. It always means worse, for some.1
A hush, sudden and almost tangible, settles on the waiting Death Eaters, followed closely by the sound of the sweeping and crumpling of robes. Severus knows the Dark Lord has entered; his followers have knelt before him and Severus hears the approach of footsteps. Although he cannot see he raises his head nevertheless, and is greeted with the familiarly affected laugh, pitched a little higher than he remembers. A swish of a wand, and the blindfold is removed.
Severus cannot take his eyes from the Dark Lord, although he wants to. He wants to look around the circle of masked Death Eaters he can see behind the Lord and out of the corners of his eyes, to search for any sign that Lucius is kneeling there. He thinks he would be able to recognise him, masked, robed and all. He would look for the effeminacy of his body, the way he slouches slightly to the left when he's been standing up for too long, the position in which he holds his hands and how he looks when he's breathing.
But his eyes are riveted on the figure before him, his gaze held against his will. The Dark Lord's eyes unnerve Severus, virulent green shot through with tendrils of scarlet. Severus doesn't like to think how this scarlet snaked into his eyes, what spell or charm they proved the side effect of. The ageless man has changed since Severus first met him, all of three years ago. His good looks are approaching cadaverous, jet black hair offsetting shadows in the concaves of white skin, rendering his fine bone structure all the more startling. The smile is still versatile, flickering from rakish to conspiratorial through frighteningly dangerous, but Severus notices now as the Lord curves up his lips that sharply pointed fangs are showing through. Still smiling, the Dark Lord releases Severus' gaze and turns to his followers.
'Death Eaters. Rise.' They obey, unquestioningly, and Severus chances a glance at them for any sign of Lucius. In a second he thinks he may have found him, but in the shifting and shuffling of robes he forgets which one it was, and with a swirl of black robes Tom Riddle, Lord Voldemort, recaptures his attention.
'Tonight, my loyal followers,' he begins, smile curving charmingly across an impassive face. 'Tonight we are gathered to welcome two newcomers to our fold.' The smile quirks strangely at its corners. 'Assuming, that is, they are to prove themselves loyal.'
The metallic echoes of the Dark Lord's voice settle on the silent Death Eaters and Severus feels suddenly alone; every eye is fixed on the commanding presence before him and Severus can't help but feel that they should be looking at him. He can see, now, that the Death Eaters are not gathered but congregated, drawn to a decrepit church to worship a depraved God. Lord Voldemort, Tom Riddle, promises so much as he stands, smiling so strangely; he embodies to Severus the individual, his rights, to power, to selfishness.
'Stand.' It was never going to come as a request. Severus stands, stiffly. Voldemort cocks his head to one side, looking him up and down with the same unshakeably strange smile.
What he sees: male, six foot one, nineteen, thin, angular, overlong nose, black hair to his shoulders, compellingly attractive without being remotely good looking, faintly ridiculous overlarge green and silver ceremonial garb that makes him look skeletal.
What he really sees: the conquest he's been wanting ever since his first conversation with young Malfoy.
And thus it begins.
'Severus Snape.' A nod of acknowledgement, though none was required. 'You know why you are here.'
'Yes, my Lord.'
'Then tell us.' Severus is a little taken aback, and it shows. He wasn't expecting this. Voldemort's smile remains infuriatingly calm. He gestures towards the Death Eaters. 'Tell them.'
'I am here, my Lord,' Severus begins, and then stops. A flicker in his eyes comes and goes, and a bland smile touches the corners of his lips. 'I am here, my Lord, because I believe in the superiority of wizardkind. I am here because I believe it to be a cause worth fighting for. I am here because I wish to demonstrate my loyalty to you, my Lord, and the beliefs you put to me so eloquently. I am here because I wish to fight at your side.'
He didn't want the Dark Lord to believe him, not really. A good thing too, because he doesn't. But Severus knows what he wanted from this, and thinks he has achieved it. He wanted to show loyalty, of course he did; if he didn't he wouldn't be kneeling there, He hopes now, suddenly a little nervous, that it showed through somehow, in a twitch of his face or a lilt of his voice. What he also wanted, of course, was to show this figure of pomp and circumstance, of ritual and ceremony, that all this pageantry just amuses him. That of course, master, he'll keep up appearances, yet that he was never caught by the gloss and spin but rather by the substance. He doesn't want to be underestimated.
The Death Eaters are nodding surreptitious approval around him but Lord Voldemort remains impassive and Severus feels his breath catch in his throat, feels a tension close in around him. Tom Riddle knows, though, what Severus just tried to say. He just doesn't want to tell him yet. Better to make him sweat, learn that this quiet, half-concealed derision will not stand here. In a way, though, the Dark Lord cannot help but respect him, and in a similar way this small show of individuality in the face of collective submission puts him even more in Tom Riddle's favour. At least he now knows he hasn't recruited a complete set of vacantly suggestible minions.
'Well, Severus, who am I to refuse such a wish?' Severus visibly relaxes and Lord Voldemort smiles at the proof of the power he can exert. Severus kicks himself for being so damn obvious. 'Before I grant it, however,' says the Dark Lord, voice disarmingly languorous, 'you should know exactly what it is you have wished for.'
There is a movement, impossibly fast without being flustered, and Severus finds himself on his knees without having any idea how, a wand pointed directly between his eyes. He does not feel threatened, nor does the situation seem to him violent, merely as though a minute happened in a second, as though the Dark Lord wrinkled a moment in time for his convenience. What Severus can feel is the power radiating from the man before him, searing the air and enveloping both. This, now, is real. Severus conceives in an instant the magnitude of what he is about to do and then the conception dissolves, leaving behind the comfort of having once understood and a lingering feeling of acceptance. Calmly he kneels there, power singeing him around the edges, looks straight up into scarlet-shot eyes and, with a strange and nagging sense of destiny, offers himself up.
'You know, Severus, that in joining us, you must be prepared to perform any task you are set, unquestioningly.'
'Yes, my Lord.' With a half-smile.
'And you are willing to make this vow?'
'Yes, my Lord.' With a touch of sarcasm.
'You will wound for us.'
'Yes, my Lord.' Unwaveringly.
'You will maim for us.'
'Yes, my Lord.' Unconcernedly.
'You will torture for us.'
'Yes, my Lord.' With a spark of sadism in his eyes.
'You will kill for us.'
'Yes, my Lord.' Warily, as though he wasn't expecting to be asked.
'You will not let feeling or emotion obstruct your devotion to us.'
'Yes, my Lord.' Guardedly; he doesn't like the way this is going.
'Then, if you were instructed to kill a friend, a loved one, a relative to further our cause – you would do it?'
There is a pause; Severus doesn't want it but it comes beyond his control. He knows, now, which one is Lucius, because he can feel his eyes on him. And oh, it feels like treachery, but he knows the right answer.
'Yes, my Lord.' Voldemort looks long and hard at Severus, an unpleasantly knowing smile curving one corner of his mouth. Severus can see him thinking it, this is his weakness. Everyone has one. To Voldemort, however, that there is a weakness is unimportant. All that matters is knowing what it is. The tall, black robed man nods absently, as though to himself, and steps back from Severus with an air of finality. The radiant power that surrounded him shimmers and pulses for a moment before dissipating, and Severus feels strangely light.
'Then stand, Severus Snape.' Severus Snape duly stands. ''Your arm.' Voldemort grips his hand with the skeletal clutch of death, and it's all Severus can do not to gasp in pain. Needles of green light begin to stab out from between their clasped fingers. 'Swear your loyalty, as my Death Eaters are my witnesses.'
'I swear, my Lord,' Severus says, breath coming a little too fast. 'I swear my loyalty to my Lord and his followers.' Voldemort's grip tightens, and Severus' knees falter. 'Until the day of my death.'
'Hence, Severus, to me you are magically bound.' With a smile in all but feeling, Voldemort releases Severus' hand, slowly. The needles of green light remain in the air and melt into threads, shifting and writhing. Severus watches, spellbound, as they weave the shape of the Mark he first saw in Lucius' arm, all of a year ago, but made of a light of such icy brilliance he senses that if he touched it, he would be burned to a crisp.
It happens in a matter of seconds. Voldemort cries archaic words to the rafters and Severus sinks to the floor in pain beyond that which he has ever felt before; the skin at his wrist is boiling, rippling, melting and the pain blinds him, paralyses him, and then, in a second, it's all over. Severus is left on the cold stone floor with the tingling aftermath of agony flooding his body and feeling as though he's forgotten how to breathe. He looks at his arm; the Mark glows a faint, malevolent green.
'Death Eaters. Welcome Severus Snape to our fold.' Two Death Eaters behind Lord Voldemort part, creating a space that Severus is evidently meant to fill. He stands, looks down at himself. His robes are now black; he touches his face and finds it masked. He walks, legs a little unsteady, to merge into the circle, slipping into the gap opened for him. As he does so, the Death Eater on his right touches his hand, briefly but deliberately.
'Bring the second.' Severus looks back at the scene playing out before him, startled from the slight relief that had come with familiarity. Now, though, the figure frog-marched through a gap in the far side of the circle is familiar, and it doesn't bring relief.
Severus stares at Evan Rosier and wonders why all he wants is for it to be someone else.
A/N: 1 Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
Credit for the interrogation should really go to George Orwell, being as the format is very loosely based on O'Brien's testing of Winston and Julia in 1984.