Disclaimer: The characters, Hogwarts, names of spells, whole wizarding world, etc all belong to J.K. Rowling. I don't own any of it except the plot… so no suing and even if you did, good luck collecting from an impoverished college student…

Summary: This takes place in Harry's 5th year at Hogwarts. The dark mark returns very strongly. Snape and Harry find themselves in trouble with Voldemort but I don't want to give away too much…

Rating: PG-13. There will be violence but really not too bad. No slash.

Chapter 1

Severus Snape woke with a start. Pain was searing through his forearm. He looked across his bedroom in the dungeons of Hogwarts to the grandfather clock that faced his bed. A beam of moonlight spread itself over the face of the clock. A quarter to four. He grasped his arm as another surge of pain coursed through it. Gingerly, he got out of bed and dressed himself.

Grabbing his wand from his bedside table, he pocketed it and left his chambers.

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Albus Dumbledore arose the next morning with a yawn. He looked over to his bedside table that contained a perch for his phoenix. "Good morning, Fawkes, he said smiling. Turning his gaze toward the window adjacent to his bed, he added cheerfully, "Rather beautiful day out, isn't it?"

The old wizard got out of bed and made himself presentable before heading toward his office to collect any mail that had arrived over the night. But to his surprise, he found that new mail wasn't the only thing that was waiting for him in the room.  

An exhausted looking man was pacing in the middle of the room. Upon noticing the elder man entering the room, the weary man looked up and stopped pacing promptly.


A look of concern flashed onto Dumbledore's face as he surveyed the man's pale, sleep ridden face, but was gone almost as quickly as it had come. His voice sounded rather cheerfull as he greeted the younger man, "Good morning, Sevrus. What brings you to my office at such an early hour on this splendid Saturday morning? Not a troublesome student, I hope?"

Severus looked down as he spoke. "No, Headmaster. I'm sorry to bother you so early."

"Nonsense, Severus. I'm sure that whatever matter you have come to discuss is important."

Severus looked back up. "Yes, Sir, quite important."

Dumbledore strode to his desk and sat down in a large chair behind it. He motioned for the young man to have a seat across from him. The dark looking man walked across the room and took the seat obediently.

Absently, Severus began to rub his arm where it had been throbbing since it had woken him up. His eyes were glued to his lap. This was not a subject that he had ever wanted to visit with anyone again.

Dumbledore noticed the motion and folded his own hands together on top of his desk. The site of this man looking so uncharacteristically vulnerable brought his memories back to when this man was a student of his, sitting in the same chair, almost fifteen years ago, in trouble, again, for hexing another student.

Severus made no indication that he was going to begin the discussion. He looked rather caught up in his own thoughts in Dumbledore's opinion. Taking the blunt approach, Dumbledore cleared his throat and inquired, "Has the mark returned?"

Looking up suddenly, as if being shaken from a dream, the young man nodded slowly. Dumbledore's expression sobered a bit. He held out his hand and Severus reluctantly rolled up his sleeve and put his arm in it with this wrist facing up so the headmaster could see the mark.

Severus diverted his eyes from both his arm and the man holding it. The markings on the arm held memories that he didn't care to revisit.

 Dumbledore, conscious of the inner turmoil that his former student must be feeling at the moment turned his attention to the trembling arm in his hand. His eyes stalled at the scar on the wrist. He remembered that night all too well. The painful emotions of almost losing one of his students flooded back to him.

Pulling himself out of that memory, he drew his eyes up to the middle of the forearm, he saw the mark. It was unmistakable. "I see," he said in a weary voice.

Severus took his arm back and hastily pulled the sleeve back down to cover the arm. "It happened this morning. I woke up a few hours ago and came here straight away." His black eyes faltered back to the blue eyes of the man in front of him. "He's gathering them again."

Dumbledore stood up. "Please come with me."

Severus got to his feet awaiting any further instruction but none came. He followed Dumbledore out of the man's office. A few minutes later he collected the courage to speak. "Where are we going?"

"To the infirmary," the older man said as if that was the obvious answer.

Severus stopped in his tracks. Sensing this, Dumbledore stopped as well and turned to face the younger man.

Severus spoke first, "Sir, please."

"Severus, you are obviously in pain and you would do well to get some rest," he said indicating the man's hand wrapped around his arm.

Looking down, the potions master shook his head, "I'm fine. I can make a sleeping potion." The last thing he wanted was more people knowing even if it was the school nurse who already knew more about him and his past than he was pleased about.

As if he could read the man's mind, Dumbledore spoke, "She has never betrayed your trust before, Severus. What makes you think that she will now?"

For a moment, the potions master hesitated, trying to come up with a reasonable argument to the headmaster's statement or at least an excuse but nothing came. Finally he nodded and followed the man to the hospital wing.

                                *                              *                              *                              *                              *

Severus was standing in the middle of a room with beds lining the walls still clutching his arm. The headmaster had gone to fetch the head nurse, Poppy Pomfrey. He didn't want to be here. He didn't want yet another one of his mistakes spread open in front of another person.

He was pulled out of his thoughts when he noticed Pomfrey swiftly gliding toward him with a bottle containing a white substance. The headmaster was only a few paces behind.

She pointed to a bed close to him, "Sit there, Severus."

The man submissively moved to the indicated bed. In his past experience, he has found that this nurse was not someone that he wanted to cross. He watched as she shook the bottle a few times before opening it.

"All right, dear, pull back your sleeve," she said gently.

Severus took his hand away from his arm and began rolling his sleeve up. Pomfrey's eyes lingered on the scar lining his wrist. She remembered that night, trying desperately to get the bleeding to stop. Severus, unlike the few that she treated before for slitting their wrists had actually done it correctly. Well, if that's what you would call it, she thought. It had taken what seemed like and eternity to stop the bleeding.

Shaking her head, she turned her focus to the matter at hand, the mark. She had never seen it before but she it when she saw it. Tilting the bottle, she let the contents spill out and cover the skin.

Severus hissed in pain and clenched his fist.

"I'm sorry dear, it takes a moment to cool the wound," she said sympathetically. She could only imagine what it had taken for Severus to turn his back on the Dark Lord. He had suffered greatly because of it in many ways.

Severus only nodded.

Smiling, Pomfrey decided to change the mood and get the man to think about something else. "What, no sarcastic retort?" she said in a mock-shocked voice.

Severus looked up, a tiny hint of a smile playing on his lips, "Sorry, too early."

"Well, while you're in the mood to be so cooperative, Severus," Dumbledore spoke in a half entertained, half serious voice, "why don't you stay and rest a here a bit."

Before the man could argue, Madam Pomfrey had agreed.

"He was up very early this morning, Poppy. I found him waiting in my office this morning. He doesn't look as if he got much sleep last night, does he?"

Pomfrey again, agreed with the headmaster.

"At least speak as if I am here," Severus said in an annoyed tone.

"Ah," Dumbledore smiled, "It sounds as if our Severus is back."

Severus only scowled. He knew it was pointless to argue with these two when it came to his health. After some past events, they had become quite annoyingly inquisitive when it came to his wellbeing.

Madam Pomfrey got up and went to a cupboard that was filled with various potions and ointments, many of which Severus recognized as he had made them.

Severus looked to Dumbledore, the look of concern has returned to his face. "Headmaster, what are we going to do?"

Dumbledore put a hand on the man's shoulder. "You are going to get some rest. I will inform the ministry in a few moments. Tonight, I will call a staff meeting." For a moment, he hesitated. "I think they need to see it, Severus. Many will need proof before they accept this. Fudge is still acting as if nothing is wrong."

Severus frowned, but nodded resolutely. He didn't want to show anyone. He just wanted to hide and fall out of existence. "When?"

"After dinner tonight, I think." He gave a compassionate expression, "I am deeply sorry Severus."

Pomfrey came back with large bottle and a goblet in her hand. "Here we are, sleeping potion," she said as she poured some of the bottle's contents into the goblet. Giving the contents to the man, she added, "You'll have to drink it all, dear."

Sighing, he took the bottle and drained its contents.

The world faded away from him into balckness as his body slumped to the bed and he fell asleep. Pomfry and Dumbledore arranged him in a more comfortable position and took off his cloak and shoes.

Madame Pomfrey spoke to the headmaster as she pulled a blanket over the sleeping man. "Albus, what is going to come of this?"

Dumbledore sighed. "I do not know, Poppy. I must inform the ministry. I will take some extra precautions with the security of the school. But for now, without Cornelius' help,  that is all we can do."

She nodded her head with a look of annoyance on her face. After Fudge's outburst in her infirmary at the end of the last school term she had a deepened dislike toward the man.

"Poppy, when he wakes, please send him to my office."

"Of course, Albus," she said as she busied herself with the sleeping form next to her, arranging the blanket and pillow and brushing strands of hair out of the man's eyes.

With a nod, the old man left the hospital wing and started toward his office with a thoughtful look in his eyes. 

                                *                              *                              *                              *                              * 

After dinner that night, members of the Hogwarts teaching staff had gathered in Professor Dumbledore's office. However, Dumbledore was not yet in his office. Some of the professor's were making polite conversation with their colleagues while others were standing or sitting with nervous expressions on their faces. It was an odd occurrence that Dumbledore called them to meetings with little notice and not a word of the subject of the meeting.

All conversation ceased suddenly when Dumbledore walked into the office with Professor Snape, looking very pale, following him.

Some of the professors eyed the two curiously. Minerva McGonagall, however, looked very concerned at Severus' condition. She had spoken to Madam Pomfrey earlier that day and had heard about the morning's events.

Dumbledore passed through the mass and proceeded up to his desk while Severus lingered with the anxiously awaiting crowd.

McGonagall made her way through the professor's, courteously greeting or nodding to many who she passed. Finally, she reached the pale looking man. "Severus," she began cautiously, "I've spoken with Poppy."

Severus frowned at the news but McGonagall continued. "Are you feeling all right? Perhaps you should be resting."

"I assure you that I am fine," Severus said in his normal silky voice. McGonagall gave him a scrutinizing glare. "Really, Minerva," she was one of his few colleagues that he was on a first name basis with, "I'm fine. In any case, I need to be here. I assume that you know what this is about then?"

McGonagall's lips thinned slightly. "Yes, I-"

But the conversation halted as Dumbledore began, "Good evening and thank you for coming on such short notice, I do apologize for that, but I assure you that this meeting concerns a matter of the utmost importance." He paused and looked around the room. Many of the faces were quite solemn and seemed as if they knew what he was about to say. "As many of you might have guessed, Voldemort is regaining his strength." He paused again as many shudders and murmurs ran through the crowd. "Our minister of magic, Cornelius Fudge refuses to realize this. I, however, believe it is best not to hide the truth any longer. We are here to protect the children behind our walls and bring them safely into the world." Many among the crowd were nodding in agreement while others still looked skeptical. "As I know that many of you are shocked by this news, and the outlandishness nature of it, I will offer you proof of this claim," motioning to Severus he continued, "As you will see, there is little reason to deny this claim. Severus, if you please."

Severus made his way to the front of the crowd. His face was considerably paler than before. He had hidden his past from most of these people. Really, only a handful knew. Swallowing, he began to roll up his left sleeve and turn is arm so that they could all see it.

Gasps flew at him from every direction. He didn't bother looking up. He knew that many would be appalled at him and worse, many would pity him which was what he dreaded the most. He had made his own decisions and he had control over his life.

Severus quickly pulled the sleeve down once he thought that everyone had seen it and turned back to watch the headmaster as he continued his speech.   

Raising his hands to quiet the mass and waited until the noise died down before he spoke again, Dumbledore continued, "Please, I know that you must all be worried, confused, and perhaps angry. However, I will ask you to continue on as you have been. There is no reason to live in fear. I only ask that you be alert and watchful of your students. It is of their safety that we should be concerned."

"Now, I know that you all must have questions but I will ask you to save them until a later time as I have a matter to attend that cannot wait. It is getting late and you all have classes to teach in the morning."

One by one, the witches and wizards left the room through the spiral staircase. Only two remained: Severus and McGonagall.

Severus stood unmoving where he had shown them the mark. His eyes were cast down toward his feet. He looked up when his felt a hand on his shoulder. McGonagall was giving him an encouraging smile. He tried to return something of a smile back to her, but his lips couldn't seem to form one.

McGonagall surveyed his expression. His eyes were hollow and empty. His skin was paler than normal and was now hinting at a green tint.

A second hand made contact with Severus' other shoulder. Dumbledore with another encouraging smile.

"Thank you, Severus," he said kindly. "I think they grasp the seriousness of the situation now."

Severus only nodded.

McGonagall sighed. "Come now, Severus. You look like you could use some rest. I'll walk back with you to your chambers."

"An excellent idea, Minerva," Dumbledore said cheerily. "Some rest would do us all some good."

Severus remained silent as he and McGonagall made their way to his bedroom. He only broke the silence to thanks her for escorting him.