CURSED INHERITANCE

1.Mark of the Dark Wizard

(July 24th, 1995)

'Severus' said Dumbledore, turning to Snape 'you know what I must ask you to do. If you are ready...if you are prepared...'

'I am' said Snape.

He looked slightly paler than usual and his cold, black eyes glittered strangely.

'Then, good luck' said Dumbledore and he watched, with a trace of apprehension on his face, as Snape swept wordlessly after Sirius.

After leaving the hospital wing, Potion Master went quickly towards the dungeons. His black robes fluttered like enormous wings. His gloomy face didn't express any feelings but the eyes were concentrated as if Snape watched closely a mysterious goal and calculated how to achieve it.

He reached his office, closed the door and put a blocking spell on it. Then he approached a glass-case full of his most precious potions in the coloured bottles. He chose on of them but didn't raise it. Instead, he turned it 180 degrees. Without any noise a thin crack appeared in the back part of the case. Snape touched it with his wand. The back glass disappeared and a small niche opened in the wall behind. There were some scrolls of parchment, three grey phials, a broken horn of the unicorn and some other horror looking stuff, no doubt connected with the powerful Dark Arts. Snape, however, took a metal chain with a black, spider-shaped locket on it. Its short legs, curved into one direction, made it looking like a swastika. Snape watched the locket with a real disgust but he took the chain and put it on the desk. He turned to the case and from under the parchments he pulled out a white mask. He put it into his pocket, closed the glass-case, lit a candle and sit down at the desk, watching the locket.

'So it happened' he said quietly 'A moment has come to use it.'

He reached for a chain and moved it closer to the light. Black surface was smooth and glazy. Snape was watching it, lost in thoughts.

'My pass to the Death Eaters' he smiled ironically 'May it proves worth its price.'

He put the chain on and hid it under his robes. He got up and approached an extinguished fireplace.

'Incendio' he muttered.

Light flames shot out. Snape took a small box from the shelf.

'I am ready' he whispered 'I has been ready for four years...'

He opened the box, he took a pinch of the powder and scattered it into the fire. The flames turned blue. Severus rolled up his left sleeve. The Dark Mark, although not so bright as in the moment of Voldemort's rebirth, was still well visible. Snape touched the mark with his wand and called silently into the flames:

'Lucius!'

For a moment nothing happened but suddenly a masked head in a large hood appeared in the fire.

'Severus ...?!'

'Yes, that's me' whispered Snape 'Is that true? Is that true that he ... that our Master... came back?'

Malfoy's head was silently staying in the flames.

'Tonight I felt my Dark Mark burning' continued Snape, his voice trembling with excitement 'Like before ... like in the times when our Master called us. I couldn't believe that. Did he come back?! Tell me!' he almost shouted 'Did he ?!'

'Loyal Death Eater answers his master calling without considering what is possible and what is not.' said Malfoy at last. His voice was icy and full of contempt 'You disappointed me, Severus. For all these years I believed you were a loyal servant of Lord Voldemort. I believed that when the day would come, we would answer his call together, as before.'

Snape was looking intently into the fire, strained.

'But today' said Malfoy 'I didn't find you in a Dark Circle. You didn't join us, the ones who stayed faithful, when our Master, Lord Voldemort, came back.'

'So it IS true !' whispered Snape, his voice full of satisfaction 'After all those years... he came back...'

'If I were you I wouldn't be so glad' Malfoy interrupted, sneering 'I am not the only one you disappointed. Lord Voldemort noticed your absence. And he doesn't forgive the traitors.'

'I'm not a traitor !' hissed Snape, his eyes glittered darkly ' You know it well. You must have forgotten what my matters are. In Hogwart, right under Dumbledore's nose. How do you think' he asked ironically 'would I explain my sudden disappearance? And just after Potter had disappeared.'

'Potter!' snarled Malfoy 'He escaped. Lord was furious. Did he come back to Hogwart?' he asked, this time in a friendlier manner.

'He did' said Snape calmly. He felt that now, when he knew something Voldemort didn't know, he started to dominate. He smiled gloomily. 'Some interesting things happened in the school that Lord would be glad to hear about. I'll tell him everything and he surely understand why did I delayed my arrival.'

'May your information is really worthy' said Malfoy harshly 'I wouldn't expect a nice welcome. Lord wasn't satisfied with us. He told we had let him down' Lucius' voice quavered a bit.

'Where is he ?' asked Snape 'I will go there immediately.'

'Potter didn't tell, where he had met the Lord ?' asked Malfoy suspiciously. 'Of course he did !' Snape smiled cynically 'But I don't think any of you were waiting in this cemetery to face a whole party of Aurors.'

Snape's black eyes glittered with a vindictive satisfaction. He was sure that just after Harry's escape all Death Eaters Disapparated. Even Dark Lord has not been prepared yet to start an open fight.

'You don't think I'm going to tell you, where he is' said Malfoy with irony 'As long as he does not forgive and trust you, I will not do that.'

Snape's pale face twisted with fury.

'You fool!' he barked 'When he knows...'

'Wait, Severus' Malfoy was very calm 'I will not tell you, where he is. I will take you there. Let's meet in the same place as usual, in half an hour.'

He disappeared. The flames turned to the previous colour. Snape smiled with a gloomy satisfaction.

'So far everything is shaping up according to my wishes' he said quietly 'But a real trial is still before me'.

He stepped up a great wooden chest with metal fittings and raised the cover. On a very top there laid an old broom. He took it out and drew his hand over the stick. The broom was shabby and obviously weren't used for a long time. Snape, however, didn't bother about it. He put out the candle, pointed his wand towards the fireplace and said: 'Nox.' The room got plunged in darkness. Snape threw on a long cloak with a hood, jumped on the broom, flew to the small window near the ceiling and opened it. Under the new moon the school grounds were completely dark. Without a sound, like an overlarge black bat, Potion Master rushed to Hogsmead.

After ten minutes he landed on the edge of the village, hid his broom under a bush and Disapparated. In a split second he was miles away from Hogwart, on the yard of an old, abandoned house. The house he was born in and spent his early childhood, brought up by his Muggle grandmother. Snape shivered. He hated this house but always something attracted him here. That's way they made it a meeting place in their group of Death Eaters.

Snape controlled his watch. Ten minutes left. As for Malfoy, he will be very punctual, as usual. Severus put on white mask and hood. He sat on a stone, the only remnant of a broken bench, and sank in gloomy thoughts.

Suddenly he heard a silent voice 'Pop'. He raised his head and saw a hooded figure approaching him. Snape stood up.

'Hello, Lucius. On time, as usual.'

'And you are always first' said Malfoy venomously 'I told Lord that we would come. He is expecting us and especially you. He announced a special welcome' he added with a sneer.

Snape made no comment though he felt a cold thrill on his back.

'Well, I expected something like that' he thought 'I knew Lord would like to punish me. But I bear it. I have to. And the...when I tell him everything... 'Let us go!' he said to Malfoy.

Lucius pull something out his pocket. It was a human skull, so small that it must have belonged to a child. He looked at his watch and moved the skull towards Snape.

'It's a Portkey. In a minute it will take us to the new seat of Lord Voldemort.'

Snape put his hand on the skull. Seconds were passing. Suddenly a horrible force tore him away from the ground and sucked into a roaring whirl.

When he felt the ground again, he was standing on the stone floor. He raised his head and realised they were in a large, dimly lit hall of an old castle. Malfoy move one step forward and bent in a low bow.

'It's me, Master' he said "I brought him.'

Snape followed his glance. In the far end of the hall stood a dark obsidian throne. Severus felt his mouth drying. On the throne Lord Voldemort was sitting, looking at him with his red eyes full of rage and cruelty. Snape fell down on his knees.

'So finally my devoted servant has arrived' a cold voice spoke that made Snape shudder 'Servant too cowardly to answer my call immediately.'

'Master' began Snape, rising his head 'Let me explain...'

'Crucio!' roared Voldemort.

Severus fell on the floor, twisting in pain. Every nerve of his body was burning, shining red circles were blinking under his eyelids. Voldemort observed his victim with cruel satisfaction. Malfoy moved back and stand motionless, face turned towards tortured Snape.

Dark Lord lowered his wand. Snape was lying motionless for a moment, then slowly began to get up. Voldemort was looking at him with a mischievous twinkle and just when Snape raised his head, he cried:

'Crucio!'

If Snape thought nothing can be worse than the pain he suffered, he was wrong. No one has ever cast on him two Cruciatus one after another so he didn't know that their power will merge and torture will become almost unbearable. He desperately tried not to cry but he couldn't stop horrible, bestial moan.

Voldemort got up and lazily went towards Death Eaters, his wand still pointing at Snape. He leant over tormented wizard and tore off his mask. Snape's face, usually so pale, now was grey-blue, twisted in expression of terrible pain. Blood was dripping from his mouth.

Lord smiled with a real pleasure. He lowered the wand. Snape's body trembled and stiffened. Voldemort kick him but Severus didn't move.

'I suppose I had overdone my little punishment' Dark Lord smiled venomously 'Well, I must admit I'm a bit disappointed. I expected Severus to resist longer.'

He looked scornfully at lying Death Eater and turned to Malfoy.

'Did he say what had happened at Hogwart?'

'No...' answered Malfoy.

'Well, sooner or later we will know. My faithful servant...'

'He is dead.' somebody whispered from the floor.

Voldemort turned around and stared at Snape. Wizard was still lying on the ground, breathing heavily.

'What did you say ?' asked Voldemort with disbelief.

'Barty Crouch Junior is dead' repeated Snape with effort 'He was kissed by a Dementor, brought by Cornelius Fudge.'

Voldemort looked livid.

'How did they denounced him?' he barked.

'He revealed himself' explained Snape 'When Potter came back and told us about your rebirth, Master, Crouch completely lost his head. He took the boy into the castle and this made Dumbledore suspicious. Then, under Veritaserum, he told us everything.'

'Not everything' said Voldemort with a mysterious smile 'Nobody, even the most faithful servant, knows all the plans of Lord Voldemort. Anyway,' the red eyes glittered coldly 'his mission was dangerous from the very beginning. Barty knew only what he could have known not to reveal his master's secrets to his enemies. What's a pity' he said with no grief 'A spy in Hogwart was very useful...'

He looked thoughtfully at Snape who has already rose to his knees.

'That makes me think about you, Severus' said Voldemort ' I heard different rumours. Some said you had renounced me and confessed' Dark Lord's eyes glittered sinisterly 'that even before my downfall you had been Dumbledore's spy. Others claim ' he proceeded, giving silent Malfoy a quick glance 'that at heart you still remain a faithful Death Eater. You answered my call, with delay, but of your own free will... Point for you. This traitor Karkaroff simply run away...but I will find him.' he smiled vindictively 'However, Dumbledore seems to trust you if he let you be a teacher at Hogwart. So, be so kind and explain me, what is a truth. And it would be better to convince me...' he added sinisterly.

'Master' said Snape, excitement shining in his cold black eyes 'I've been waiting for this moment for years...since you have appeared in Quirell's body...'

'You liar !' yelled Voldemort 'You think I've forgotten ?! You did all your best to stop me with Philosophers Stone. You threatened Quirell, you wanted to make him confess...'

'Yes !' interrupted Snape with fanatical expression on his face 'Since I have known the truth, my only goal was to allow my master to leave a body of this stuttering fool and use the one of his faithful servant...' he bowed with respect.

Voldemort stared at him hostilely.

'Do you really think I'm going to believe this fairy-tale...?' he drawled silently.

'Master, I realise these all can seem impossible' said Snape hurriedly 'But let me explain... As I have already told you, I've been waiting for a moment when I would be able to tell you everything. EVERYTHING.' he repeated emphatically.

Voldemort didn't say a word looking darkly at Snape.

'You've been told I had been Dumbledore's spy' proceeded Severus 'That was truth... but not completely' he added with a cunning smile 'Yes, I visited him one night, a year before your downfall. I suggested I would pass him information from the Death Eaters. A told him that I couldn't bear killing and torturing anymore and I wanted to come back on the good side. And Dumbledore' he laughed sneeringly 'believed me. Since that time I really have informed him about all our activity. To confirm my loyalty, I even warned him of your plan to kill the Potters.'

'So that was you who told him' muttered Voldemort 'That explains why they performed Fidelius Charm. I must admit it would have thwarted me if I hadn't had my own spies on the other side' he added, looking again at Snape with dislike.

Severus, however, seems not to be confused.

'I anticipated that' he said calmly 'I knew there was a Death Eater near the Potters. That's why I thought I could warn Dumbledore without detriment to your plans.'

For the first time this night Voldemort was surprised.

'You anticipated?' he asked in disbelief 'You knew about my spy?'

'I suspected someone was passing information from Dumbledore' said Snape 'Unfortunately, I was wrong about the person. For all those years I believed, like all the others, that Sirius Black was your spy.'

'Sirius Black' Dark Lord laughed sneeringly 'He was an idealist and he couldn't have been useful for me. I wish he had rot in Azkaban...but it can still happen. From the other hand,' he added with a strange smile 'if he hadn't escaped from the prison, we wouldn't talk to each other today and who knows how long would I have to wander as an immaterial ghost. 'Yes' he continued, watching of surprise in Snape's eyes 'If Black hadn't escaped, my servant wouldn't abandoned his haven in Hogwart and wouldn't have found me in the dark woods of Albania. Wormtail !' he called.

Something moved in the back of the hall and from behind the throne a short bolding man peeped out.

'Pettrigiew' whisper fascinated Snape 'So it was truth... And I didn't believe him, even today...'

'Did you meet Black tonight ?' asked Voldemort sharply.

Snape nodded.

'Yes, he came to Hogwart after this whole confusion with Potter. Dumbledore had invited him, he believes Black is innocent.'

Pettrigiew, who were approaching them tottering, heard the last words. He shivered but he didn't dare to speak without his master permission. Voldemort noticed that and laughed savagely.

'Our Wormtail is still afraid of his old friends. He run away from them so fanatically that he finally met me.'

Peter crouched humbly. Dark Lord looked at him with mixed contempt and disgust, and turned to Snape.

'It was all very interesting, Severus, but still one thing is not clear to me. The most important one!' he said strictly 'Why have you never informed me about your plans? I would expect that a double agent will use his information somehow. But you...'

Snape's eyes glittered and a triumphant smile twisted his thin mouth.

'Master' he said with excitement 'We reach the point. Now I'm going to reveal you my real aim. I didn't collect information about Dumbledore. I wanted to KILL him !'

Voldemort stood motionless with deep amazement on his face. Malfoy gasped. Pettrigiew looked at Snape as if he had just announced the end of the world and moved two steps backwards.

Several seconds had passed before Voldemort spoke again.

'You wanted to kill him?' he asked softly.

Snape nodded.

'But how? To kill Dumbledore...it's not a piece of cake.'

Snape smiled with satisfaction.

'Poison' he said briefly 'Morsanguis. Made up by means of powerful Dark Arts. It takes 11 months and 6 day to prepare it. It kills in a moment, there is no antidote. One drop in a wizard blood is enough to kill him. Potion was to be ready on a Christmas Eve in 1981. If not Potter...'

He shook his head, his face twisted in rage. Voldemort cast him a searching glance.

'Why did you want to kill Dumbledore?' he asked, his red eyes burning.

Snape straightened up, his face assumed proud, severe expression. He slowly reached for a chain and got it out from under his robes. He took the spider-shaped locket in two fingers and raised it.

'Here is the reason' he said solemnly 'My inheritance. And my revenge.'

Voldemort fixed his eyes on the black locket, totally bewildered. Red eyes wandered from a metal spider to triumphant Snape. He slowly held out his hand and grabbed the chain. He turned the locket about as if to find some particular signs on it.

'It's Aranus' he said at last and looked attentively at Snape 'How did you get it ?'

Snape's black eyes glittered proudly.

'I inherited it from my mother, who got it from her father a year before his death' his calm voice sounded almost solemnly 'This is a mark of my house. And of my grandfather, Grindelwald.'