Fear the Fire Does Sow
Authored By Musedepandora
Dedication: To my dear mother, who this story was written for and shares my love of J. K. Rowling's character, Severus Snape. Happy Birthday!
Warning: This is an R rated piece of literature for the activities implied. If I actually chose to describe these events it would have warranted a higher rating. None are overly graphic. Death Eater activities are not benign in my mind and thus are not so in my writing.
Disclaimer: Fear the Fire Does Sow is a piece of fan fiction, written due to the authoress' love and respect for the works of J. K. Rowling. I claim no ownership of her characters of Severus Snape, Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore, Lucius Malfoy, or the concepts and histories of the world they were created in. I do claim the creation of my original characters.
Archiving: Just let me know where to find it.
Use of my Original Characters: If I did it to Rowling, why not do it to me? I would like notice that you are doing it though. A simple email would be appreciated.
Summary: Memories of the past blur with the horrors of the moment. Severus Snape's present echoes that of nights past, never to escape who he was, merely fighting to survive. This life of espionage offers neither glory nor absolution.
The streets were empty, the night had fallen, and a gentle breeze whispered about the trees. A lone man stumbled down the dusty road, his swagger influenced by fatigue, despair, and bottle.
He walked past an old, rustic barn paying it little thought, his mind engulfed amidst visions of pleasure and pain.
An explosion, sounding as the popping of a cork out of a champagne bottle, filled his senses. The man shook his head and turned, watching as shards of glass and splinters of wood flew into the air, circling a moment before hitting the ground.
He stood for several breaths, watching in a distanced manner as the debris rained about him.
"RUN!" The man turned at a woman's scream.
He again shook his head as he saw a petite woman running his way, robes flourishing about her tiny form, shadows, dark devils, chasing upon her heels.
"Damn muggle, move!" she bellowed as she took a hold of his arm and pulled with all her strength.
The man stumbled about his own boot-clad feet as the woman pulled him in one direction, his mind in another. His grand weight brought the smaller woman to her knees, as well. He heard her gasp in horror as her hands began sweeping the dusty ground, searching with desperation for something amidst the glass and splinters.
"Looking for this?" a man's voice asked.
The shadows were about them, taking on human form, faces white and unfeeling, hard as masks, which he would've sworn them to be. One stepped forward as the voice spoke, bent and retrieved a twig, the shape of a baton, from off the dusty ground. The woman sat back upon her heels, her breath ragged, hair whipping about her ashen-stained face.
"You can't run forever. We'll find you, and you'll be made to pay," she warned, a hate and hope in her voice.
The shadows had the audacity to laugh.
"My dear woman," another scoffed, "we aren't the ones running."
End of Prologue
Again, he found himself in a dark room. Candles, as red as the blood running cold through his veins, flickered their light upon the grayed walls, stone floors, and shadowy figures. The darkness pressed in upon him and he hid in its comforting embrace.
A soft feminine whimper called from behind. Severus chose not to turn. There was a throaty moan and hiss. He smelt the putrid stench of burning flesh and swallowed the urge to rise and leave.
It was far too late for that.
As if sensing his thoughts several voices laughed from above, the mockery floating down the staircase as a door opened upon it and a shaft of light fell and was consumed by the greater darkness.
Two more had entered the room.
Their steps were light and accented with the swish of robes. One was humming to herself, as she was lost to the world. The other curled her arm around her sister's waist.
The Rogue twins.
If he remembered correctly, as he always did, they were lucky enough to claim an aunt in Azkaban. Claudia Clandestine was her name. She was such a beautiful woman, with such a handsome mind. Claudia had always been full of potential . . . and she knew it.
Like he, she had walked the thin gray line of espionage. Yet, where he had walked it for others, she had walked it, as with everything, completely for herself. It had ever been a pleasure to work with her.
"Professor," the voice was neither a question nor a greeting, merely a sign of her presence. He had no need to raise his eyes from the papers before him as her voice was unique and no one filled every word with meaning as she could.
Severus heard the sharp tap of her stiletto boots and the hissing of her cloak as it trailed upon the dungeon floor.
Professor Snape could feel her presence as she circled behind him, running a hand across the desk on her way. Disturbed papers crinkled, indignant at her intrusion.
"It doesn't matter," she whispered into his ear and he tried to bat her away.
Claudia only laughed.
A glass appeared before him, the chiseled crystal capturing a candle's flame and breaking it into its base components. He took the offered champagne from Rayna's hand. Severus saw no sign of her sister, Christa.
The young woman smiled and fell to her knees before him, placing her hands upon his thighs. Her dark hair framed a dusky face and swollen lips.
"Long time, no see," Rayna cooed, teasing the fabric underneath her touch. "It's nice to see you away from your classroom."
"I see you have changed little, Miss Rogue," he spoke in a tone echoing one's past. The woman's hands stilled.
"I could say the same," she sneered, before looking away a moment. When her eyes returned, he saw firelight reflected there. Her hands were more insistent as they pressed onward, Rayna's face looking up to him, offering him a flirtatious smirk, "Change is so over-rated."
Claudia held a decanter of wine up for his inspection.
"No," he answered simply, turning from her and gazing out the window.
Night had fallen upon them. The grounds were empty and the Forbidden Forest loomed in the distance. This night, as many of those past, held a quality of darkness about it that felt cold and empty to the soul.
"Still afraid I'm going to poison you?"
He turned and smiled at the commanding visage of the woman behind him. Snape gave her no answer, save a raised eyebrow, folding his arms across his chest.
"Well," she smirked and sat in one of the armchairs beside her bed, "a little poison can be a good thing."
"Afraid I'm going to poison you?" The woman asked, indicating the champagne.
He raised the cool crystal to his mouth and greeted the bitter taste with enthusiasm. Severus placed the glass aside with a sigh.
"No such luck." He murmured, taking a candle from the side table into his grasp. Hot wax spilled over and slid down to meet his hand. It burned a moment and he took a perverse pleasure in the sting.
Rayna laughed hollowly, reaching out a hand to his face.
He caught it about the wrist. She raised a satisfied brow to the gesture. It fell as he turned her hand over, exposing the palm. Rayna clenched her fingers in expectation.
"Open them or I will," Severus ordered, holding the lit candle above her hand.
Her fingers tightened a moment before they slowly unfurled.
"You were always such an apt pupil," he murmured, tilting the candle. Hot wax dripped like blood down upon her palm. She hissed appreciatively at the sensation.
"It's past curfew, Miss Rogue. I hope you have a decent reason why you're out of bed, say . . . murder . . .I'd hate to have to dock points from Ravenclaw, needlessly."
"Yes, professor." Though she feigned courage, he heard her voice falter. Snape rose his eyes from the ground beetles before him.
The sixth year girl lingered near the door, which he noticed was closed behind her.
"Which would be?" he questioned, dusting the beetles into the boiling cauldron.
Severus heard the rustle of her cloak settling upon the floor. He warily rose his eyes to the young body displayed across the room.
"I see it's cold in here." Professor Snape looked about the table for the Abyssinian shrivelfig. "Perhaps, you should put back on your cloak, Miss Rogue."
He heard the girl take a raspy gasp. She swiftly snatched her cloak from off the floor. Rayna began stuttering a mixture of excuse and accusation as she threw the fabric upon her body.
Snape rose a hand, the simple gesture halting her words. He sent her a meaningful glance, "You were never here."
"Thank you, sir," she mumbled, quickly heaving open the heavy dungeon door and slipping out it.
He heard her shoes slap against each step as the girl made her escape. Professor Snape brought the cauldron to a low simmer.
Severus placed the candle aside.
"I used to daydream about you as a girl." Rayna closed her hand into a fist, splintering the dried wax in the process. He released her wrist and pushed the girl away so she sat upon her heels. "It was the power in you. It's the delicious power I still see in you."
"You peer through the eyes of a child for her teacher, Miss Rogue." His eyes strayed from the woman to her sister who sat across the room. "It is the taboo that has always excited you."
"And you," she murmured.
He ignored her and watched as her sister began running her hands over the stone wall before her. Christa was chanting slowly and languidly. She threw back her head and raised her hands to her face. A figure stood beside her. He placed a kiss upon the young woman's forehead, handing her a dagger.
"I've seen nothing to arouse my interest in little girls, and you have never been special, though you'd wish yourself otherwise."
"I'm not a little girl any more." She placed her hands upon his knees. "You could teach me much. I see it in you and . . . I have the desire . . . to learn."
"Yes," He tore his eyes momentarily to look down upon her. "You're no longer a naïve girl . . . but a naïve woman, and I still see nothing of interest."
Rayna made a sound of disgust as she rose from her knees, her hands clenching into fists. She took a calming breath before sighing. The woman smiled down on him. "Your loss."
"You're jealous!" Claudia laughed as the four walked down a vacant street under the cover of night and mask.
"I'm no such thing," he rebuffed indignantly.
She turned to him and though he could not see her face, he knew she sported a patronizing smile. "Oh, yes, you are."
"I am not going to fight with you over such a ridiculous idea."
"He's jealous," Snape heard another wizard remark.
"It's your choice, Severus," Malfoy's satisfied voice stated as he walked lazily before them, his hands behind his back, gripping his wand. His hood was drawn back in a bold gesture, his blonde hair shinning silver in the moonlight, though his face was still obscured. "Come with us, or stay behind . . . it's your loss."
"One would think your loyalties are wavering, Snape," Claudia said in a teasing manner. "Don't tell me you've become a muggle-lover."
"My loyalties remain where they always have." He continued in a threatening voice, "Never question them again."
"Then are you coming?" he heard the other wizard ask.
"Yes," he uttered so low that it was hardly audible.
"Splendid," Malfoy remarked.
Claudia began to sing a nursery rhyme into the darkened night; she had become quite fond of it in times of late, always being one for the dramatics.
"Harvest moon shine down upon the three.
Pyre's flame begin to grow.
With threat of doom they turn to flee.
Fear the fire does sow.
Turn from the others,
They broke the dance.
Without their brothers,
They took their chance.
One by one,
Consumed they were,
'Til only one
Was left to burn."
"I wondered if I would see you tonight." Malfoy took a seat across from Severus, adjusting his dark robes so they sat regally about him. "You've been sparse lately."
Snape reached out and retrieved his champagne.
"Every time I begin to doubt you, you miraculously choose to appear." Lucius watched his hand as it pet the leather armchair, teasing the smooth texture and exploring every inconsistency in its making.
"Shame on you for doubting me, Lucius." Snape paused, bringing the glass to rest between his hands. "You know as well as I, that these are uncertain times and we both play in precarious positions . . . I come when I can."
"Yes, it is a thrill to walk the line, is it not? To see how far you can fall, to see others do so in your midst, and yet to cheat the odds?"
"Play with fire and expect to be burned, Lucius." Snape looked away a moment before returning his eyes to the other, "Yet, when left with nothing else, why not try to harness it, catch and swallow it?"
Malfoy raised a pleased, pale eyebrow at the thought.
A woman screamed.
Christa lay upon the ground, her hands out to her sides and her robes sprawled about her form, lifted and exposing generous thigh. She moaned and writhed upon the cold stone floor.
Smeared upon the wall in the woman's blood was the Dark Mark. Rayna whispered with a man to the side, sparing her sister a glance before returning to her conversation. A wizard stepped forward and retrieved the bloodied dagger from the floor beside the witch. He wiped it clean on her robes before approaching Malfoy and offering it to him. Severus saw that the handle was wrought in the form of a snake, its mouth open, fangs bared, ready to strike. Its jeweled eyes caught the firelight and winked at Snape before being placed down upon Lucius' thigh.
Christa moaned again and he would have claimed the woman to be crying out in pleasure, which she very well could have been.
"It had been my hope that they would serve as Claudia did," Malfoy muttered, turning from the scene in a disinterested manner and hiding the dagger in his robes.
"As I've learned, blood isn't everything," Snape said and Lucius sent him an appraising eye.
"Please!" The man cried, upon his knees, "Please, I have a wife! Kids!"
Snape closed his eyes for a moment with the flash of green light. When he opened his eyes, he saw Malfoy step over the limp body of the wizard upon the ground, one of many littering the neighborhood street. There was a deathly silence that chilled even the most hardened of souls.
A fellow Death Eater pulled back his hood and removed the pallid mask, looking at the cloaked figures upon the dirt road. Claudia did the same, taking a heavy, satisfied sigh as she turned her face to the sky, breathing in the cold night air. Malfoy kept his mask and hood where they were, hiding away near the shadows, finding meaning there.
"What did you say?" Claudia Clandestine asked the wizard who had been muttering, his eyes looking everywhere yet never focusing on a specific body. "What did you say, Marcus?"
Again, a silence as the Death Eaters present turned on their own.
"This isn't what I signed up for," the man admitted, placing a hand over his mouth. He looked as if he was about to be ill. Severus took a step away from the scene, his eyes warily following his fellows' movements. Many turned to the others, their masks sparing no emotion, their wand hands twitching in a disconcerting manner. "These are no muggles, no mudbloods. They are as pure in blood as I am - as you are, Claudia."
"Obviously," At Lucius' all too familiar tone, Severus turned from the scene and began to walk away from the others, "blood isn't everything, Jasper."
Snape closed his eyes with the momentary green flash, and walked on from the sound of another body hitting the hard ground of Lotus Drive.
A wizard placed a hand on Lucius' shoulder, bent, and whispered in his ear. Malfoy listened intently to the man, with a satisfied smile spreading across his face.
"I should return now." Severus placed the empty glass aside and rose from the armchair. Lucius waved the other away, his eyes rising with Snape. "We don't want them to become suspicious."
"Yes, yes, of course. Dumbledore . . . always sticking his nose where it doesn't belong." Malfoy's smile twisted as he propped his chin upon a hand. He sighed and sent an eye over the dark wizard before him. Snape had to stifle the compulsion to shiver, placing a sneer upon his face in its stead. "He has his thumb on you. Perhaps, it is time to make your true allegiance known."
"I can serve better where I am now," Severus objected, folding his arms across his chest.
Lucius said nothing but fixed a distressing gaze upon him, using the armrests to push from the chair and stand before Snape. Malfoy took a step closer until their bodies almost touched. Severus watched, exuding an air of impatience and disinterest, as Lucius searched his face.
"Come with me." Malfoy turned, his robes whipping about him, slapping against Snape's calves in the process, as he made for the stairs. Severus gave a disgusted growl before following; Christa's moans faded in the background with the low murmuring and laughter.
"Come with me." Minerva McGonagall looked both ways down the corridor before climbing the stairs from the dungeons. Torches flickered from their positions upon the stone walls, contrasting and defining the surrounding shadows that festered there.
"What is the meaning of this, Professor?" He hissed, following her in a huff.
She turned on him and her eyes searched the very walls that felt to be closing on them.
"Days are darkening. We find we can trust no one. Albus has called an emergency meeting of the staff. He's not even trusting the owls with the message; it's all by ear. Oh, he sounded grave this evening." She rose a shaky hand to cover her mouth. Her eyes returned to Snape, an all-too-familiar terror in them. "Severus, I fear we shall loose this war. And . . . what then?"
Severus followed Lucius down a wide corridor and into a study. The rooms were foreign to him, as he'd never been to this particular house; it belonged to another just-enough-but-not-too-important Death Eater, more than willing to lend one of his homes to the cause and perhaps, in return, the chance to receive a little on the side.
There were no windows in the dark room. The very air had a still, dead taste to it and the furniture was draped in a thin film of dust. Grand bookcases lined the walls, though many of the shelves were left empty.
Lucius walked behind the old oak desk, sure to touch his dark robes to nothing, and began to peruse the selection of books there. He hummed to himself, running his fingers over the tattered and faded bindings.
"How to Enchant a Toad: A Witch's Guide to Seducing Mr. Right," Lucius began to read the titles aloud as his finger slid over the texts. "The Modern Witch's Spellbook by Sarah Lyddon Morrison - Psht! Sounds like a mudblood to me. Ah, here we are: Cloak and Dagger."
With a sure motion, he pulled the book from the shelf and shuffled through the pages. Upon page sixty-five, he stopped.
"Password?" an old woman's voice croaked from the pages.
"Fear the fire does sow," Lucius answered before clapping the book shut. Severus turned at the creaking and scratching of wood against stone.
A door he had not noticed when he'd entered the room was opened beside an unimpressive fireplace. Shadows bled out upon the floor, dancing into the room. Lucius swept across the expanse and made a show of the door, a gesture for Snape to proceed him.
The smell of ash greeted him as the door swept open into the spacious room. A great fire filled the grand hearth taking up much of one of the walls. There were no windows into this chamber, no escape.
A figure, dark against the backdrop of flames, turned. His wrinkled face was etched with worries and his eyes bore a liveliness filled with wearies and hope. The headmaster seemed to wake from his thoughts and gave a smile to the two.
The door shut behind him.
Five figures filled the stark room. Two were kneeling upon the stone floor, bound with their hands behind their backs and heads covered in dark sacks. By their clothes, he knew one to be a witch, one a muggle.
Chairs were pulled forward, once again the scratching of wood against stone.
As Severus expected, Lucius took a seat and motioned for Snape to join him.
With a flick of the hand, two of the Death Eaters stepped forward and removed the sacks. The muggle looked around blankly for a moment, before allowing his head to droop, a twitch running through his body every few moments, an after-effect of the Cruciatus.
Snape next turned his eyes to the woman.
"You recognize her. Good." Lucius appeared pleased with himself.
Patricia Moore: yes, he recognized her. It had been years, and they had taken their toll upon her face, but he would not soon forget the Auror.
Hours felt like days. Severus found himself bound to a chair, his wand hidden from view. Yet, he found that he cared little, if at all.
The pain, it was all that mattered as it racked his body.
"Miss Moore," he heard Dumbledore object and the pain was taken away and he barely found the will to breathe, "if you will, I'd like a moment with him."
The petite woman made a bow of acquiescence. He heard the tap of her heels as she walked away. Relief washed through him at the sound.
"Severus . . ." With the Headmaster's voice, Snape rose his head and peered through the sweaty hair that fell across his face. Albus reached out and pushed the hair behind his ear, before lifting the wizard's chin so he could look down into Snape's eyes. "Why?"
"I want her alone." He heard the convincing depth and need in his own voice, and for a moment, doubted his own intentions.
"Of course," Lucius smiled, "in due time."
Snape gave a nod of understanding before returning his eyes to the witch. The woman's eyes met with his own and she dared not say a word.
"But first," Malfoy made a show of the muggle. The man twitched, whether at the wizard's words or as an after-effect, Snape couldn't tell, "a little entertainment of another sort."
"We've known for quite some time that there was a Death Eater amongst us," Dumbledore spoke gravely as he stood before the wizard. The brightness of the flames made it difficult for Snape's eyes to focus upon the other. "But I knew it would not pay to act rashly, an opportunity would come, in due time.
"I admit that I wondered if it were you, Severus. I had hoped that it wasn't, but then she came forward."
"Who?" Snape cringed at the croak that was his voice.
"Does it matter?" Albus asked, turning from him and facing the hearth.
Finding he could not lie, Severus answered truthfully, "Yes, if I'm going down, I'm taking her with me."
A silence filled the room, save the crackling of the fire.
"Professor Clandestine," the headmaster answered, without turning. "She gained word that there was a traitor among us and came to my office. It tore her to betray your trust so, but she said that she could not let you keep hurting innocents. With her help, we've seemed to have weeded out those that would bring our fall."
"Claudia," Severus hissed.
"Yes." Dumbledore turned slowly, peering down through his spectacles. "Is there something you wish to tell me, Severus?"
Even without the drug-induced desire filling his body, he would have told the trut. "Yes, Headmaster, there is."
The last scream echoed in the small room. A silence followed; then the Auror began to cry. Severus turned as he heard Lucius sigh.
He appeared bored, examining his nails as his hand clenched his own knee. Malfoy made a show of awaking from his tedium and looking about the room. "That's it?"
The other wizards laughed at the little statement. Snape gave a slight twitch of the lips that could have been the makings of a smile. Laughter would have sounded more forced out of him than anything else.
"Well," Malfoy rose from the chair and straightened his robes, "I suppose I shall leave you to it."
He walked over to Patricia and placed a hand upon her cheek. Lucius' fingers played over her ear and into her auburn hair. He yanked back her head and she gave a squeak of pain. As Lucius began to whisper in her ear, Severus could see the emotions play out in her eyes: pain, fear, disgust, hopelessness . . .
Lucius pulled back from the woman and smiled down on her, his hand lingering upon her temple.
She drew away and spat blood upon his robes.
The slap rang loudly within the walls as the woman hit the floor.
Malfoy held his palm a moment, rubbing where it had made contact with her jaw. He looked distastefully down upon his soiled robes and gave a growl.
"I would . . ." Lucius began to threaten, raising his hand to the woman again before he caught himself. He closed his eyes for several moments, before a twisted smirk graced his lips, "but she's for you."
The others left the room and Malfoy lingered in the door, "I do hope you appreciate this, Severus. Rarely am I so giving."
With that, Snape was left alone with the Auror and corpse.
Albus stood beside the firelight silently for an immeasurable amount of time.
"You're smarter than this, Severus," the old man murmured, his back to the wizard. "Was it illusions of grandeur that led you to Voldermort? Power? Anger? I doubt your belief in the depravity of the wizarding bloodline or muggle matters. It was always below you."
A log spit and burst into flames within the hearth.
"Knowledge," Severus paused to look away, fighting the Veritaserum, "And the power that came with it. There was an occult feel, a brotherhood, Us against the world. I saw in Them an opportunity to hide away in their strength and learn the secrets there. As you know, I have always fancied the dark arts. I had felt oppressed - by the ministry, by the rules; ancient ways, dark though many were, were there, waiting to be made use of. Without the rules and ethics governing Us, there was a mass of delicious knowledge just waiting to be discovered, to be brewed, to be harnessed. I did not agree with many of Their canon beliefs but as long as that did not interfere with my intellectual quest then I cared little, if at all."
With the question answered, he fell silent. Veritaserum urged him to answer direct questions directly with all due truth, no more, no less. Yet, he felt he had to continue, he needed to explain himself. If he was going to bare his soul, it was going to be on his own terms.
"In the beginning," Snape resumed and Dumbledore turned, apparently surprised as well at his continuation, "it worked as I planned; little was asked of me, as I restricted myself to the outskirts of the cult. But I quickly devoured all of the secrets there. With the promise of more, I soon found myself immersed in The Movement. By that time, it was all I could do to keep myself from drowning in the depths there.
"There's a paranoia in the higher levels that is fatal to tempt. A word out of place, a moment of hesitation, is taken as a threat. I've been striving, like many others, merely to survive this."
Dumbledore waited a moment, in case there was more to come. Severus pressed his mouth into a tight line and looked away from the great wizard before him.
He heard Miss Moore's shoes tap upon the floor as she approached from behind. Severus felt her hands clamp down upon his shoulders, nails biting, her breath hiss in his ear.
"Yes, you're just a bloody unfortunate soul who meant no harm yet found himself too deep in the midst of a shitty situation." The Auror's voice dripped with appall and sarcasm. "Bullshit! I've heard it before, Snape. I've also seen your work. You deserve no less than Azkaban, the lot of you!
"You've committed murder in cold blood. Left children motherless, wives widowed. You've instilled a fear in every witch and wizard's heart that is utterly contemptible. You're a black plague and will be dealt with no better than such. I do hope you appreciate that."
"I never expected absolution," Snape ground out between clenched teeth, bent and bound upon the chair.
"Severus," Albus waved the witch away as he walked forward and bent before him, his hands resting on either side of Severus' knees upon the wooden chair, "Tell me that you regret your actions, both that have brought you pain and pain to others. Do you feel any remorse?"
"By god, yes." Snape closed his eyes in the attempt to forget the faces, but where he should have found comforting darkness, all he saw was an emerald light, "I don't remember the last time I laid down to sleep and didn't hear their screams whispering in the dark . . . Who ever knew that a whisper could sound so loudly . . . There is no rest for me anymore, I doubt there ever will be.
"And she's right, I deserve far worse –We are all deserving."
"That may be. But your death or imprisonment helps the suffering little . . . I know of your past, Severus; I know what you've endured. I also know you are not heartless . . . what if I presented you with an opportunity at some semblance of redemption, of meaning?" Albus asked, looking to the Auror over Severus' shoulder.
Severus rose slowly from the chair, turning to settle his hands upon its backrest. He stood many moments, studying the cracks and flaws in the ancient stone floor as his mind worked the situation. He knew what was needed.
"I don't want to die."
Severus turned at the broken voice.
"I know . . ." The woman's shoulders were slumped, her back bent forward, hands bound from behind, and her face tearstained, "we're supposed to be ready to die, ready to give our lives, but-but this doesn't serve anyone. There's not going to be anyone who'll say that I gave my life for theirs. I'm not ready to die for that. Not like this, I never saw it like this."
"It serves the cause." The words tasted cheap even as he spoke them but Severus hoped they brought her some sense of comfort. Miss Moore nodded her head in understanding, and defeat. "You understand," Snape circled behind the woman, stepping over the muggle on the way, "that this is a test. I can't save you. Even if I tried, it'd only get myself killed, as well as sundering all we have worked for. The greater good is served by maintaining my cover."
The woman did not even try to turn, instead casting her eyes upon the floor, "I understand . . . if you're truly serving the greater good, and not your own." Her head rose and she cast her gaze upon him over her shoulder, "Are you?"
Starlight broke through the heavy forest ceiling and speckled upon the ground, littered with grayed twigs and dead leaves. A silvery mist blanketed the forest bed, rolling about Severus' ankles as he stood behind a tree, his wand held securely in his left hand, waiting.
The crickets' chirp ceased and a dark squirrel rustled from above. Snape closed his eyes in expectation as he heard the familiar hiss and swish of robes.
Opening his eyes, he pushed away from the tree and turned to face the woman.
Claudia Clandestine stopped, her robes flowing about her at the unexpected movement, rustling the dense mist. She raised her chin in a defiant manner. He watched as her fingers played over the handle of her bag, itching to drop the satchel, or perhaps gain access to its contents.
"Severus," the woman purred, "Such a pleasure," her voice deepened with a raise of an eyebrow, "as always."
"Claudia, there's a fine line between vixen and trollop," Snape said, calming his wand-hand as it wished to cast a half dozen Unforgivables.
"Don't be nasty, Severus," the woman gently chided. Her knees bent slowly as she placed the bag upon the ground. "Haven't you heard? No? All's fair in love and war."
Snape snorted, "Love's a fallacy and all those suffering it, fools."
Claudia smiled and began to walk towards him. Severus stiffened.
"Then if not through love, then through war, I claim justification." The woman stood before him, her wand in hand though held to her side in a mirror image of Severus' own. Her lips parted in a salacious manner as she confidently placed her hand upon his chest. She gently rose upon her toes and pressed her lips to his own. He offered no resistance as his free hand snaked behind her back to tighten the embrace. Severus never closed his eyes, instead watching as shadows appeared from between the trees, wands ready. Claudia moaned as she pulled away.
The woman smiled upon him in a disconcerting manner. He watched warily as she rose a hand, a finger smearing away a trace of lipstick from the corner of his mouth. "Don't scowl, love, it's never been personal . . . for any of us."
"It's always about you, Claudia, for you. Don't think that Voldermort doesn't see that. He's just using you until you become too large of a threat."
Claudia had the audacity to laugh at his words. "We're all using each other, Severus! It's part of life! It's who we are! And those who don't . . . well, there's not much to say about them."
"Redemption in itself is a selfish concept, Miss Moore," Snape answered, placing his hand at the base of her neck; he felt as she shivered. "With that in mind, I serve myself, but our objectives are the same."
"The end of Voldermort," the woman whispered almost reverently.
Severus' thumb began to gently caress the length of her neck. Miss Moore drew a shaky breath. Snape bent down to kneel behind her, his other hand rising to join the first.
"Just," His hand began to apply pressure, causing Patricia to whimper, "remember to breathe. Just breathe."
Severus pushed the woman away and fished a vial out of his sleeve. Claudia rose her wand in a blur, watching his movements closely.
"Relax, Claudia. Just cross your ankles and wait 'til I'm finished." He rose an eyebrow as he uncorked the vial with his thumb. Severus rose the potion to his lips, eyes ever on the woman before him. He swallowed half of the midnight-blue liquid in one gulp before he replaced the cork.
Her eyes widened, as they warily slid between the vial and his face, "What is that, Severus?"
"As you know, I work closely with many deadly herbs and potions. Over time, I've developed a sort of immunity. It's very strong, I'm quite proud of it." Severus paused and rose the remaining potion, "It only takes half the standard antidote."
The woman fully extended her arm towards him, wand steady. "Hand that over, Snape. Any tricks and I swear . . ."
Snape appeared unperturbed, "Weren't you listening, dear?" He didn't wait for the witch to continue. "You'd need twice this amount. If you kill me, as you were obviously attempting to threaten me with, then you'll never get the proper dosage."
Claudia thought for several moments on her options, slowly her wand began to lower. Finally she looked back to him, with utter contempt, "What do you want?"
"Among other things, to know you'll never draw another breath, to see you broken, and redemption," he murmured, twirling the antidote in a haphazard manner between his fingers.
"Of course, it's always about you, Severus." She continued at his pause, a satisfaction in her voice, "Redemption is a state of selfishness. Take comfort in the fact you're no better now than you ever were. You're no better than us – in fact, at least we know what we are and are not repentant."
"Give me your wand," he ordered between clenched teeth. She twirled the slender object back within her fingers, handle extended.
He hid it between the folds of his cloak, along with the small vial.
"Traitor," the woman hissed. Severus snatched forth and twisted one of her arms behind her back, wand pressed into the middle of her back.
Half a dozen Aurors stepped out of the shadows, Patricia Moore amongst their numbers, a twisted grin painted upon her face, echoing the façade of her brothers.
Claudia screamed and kicked in frustration. "You bloody, fucking traitor! When Voldermort . . ."
A wad of cloth was forced into her mouth. The woman growled as magical rope was twisted tightly, in a painful and vengeful method, about her wrists and ankles.
Severus allowed several of the wizards to take her from his grasp and press her upon the ground. She twisted on her belly as a snake, growling as she fought with all her rage.
Miss Moore hit Claudia upside the head as she straddled her back, attempting to subdue the witch. A wizard climbed behind her to straddle Clandestine's knees.
Snape turned to leave. A wizard stepped before him, intruding upon his path. The other held out his hand before him. Severus reluctantly handed over Claudia's wand. The wizard tucked away the wand within his belt. Snape attempted to retreat but he met an outstretched hand once again, asking for more.
"What!" he snapped. The wizard did not even flinch.
"There never was a poison," Severus scoffed. He heard Claudia scream from upon the forest bed. Several of the Aurors looked to him skeptically, most restraining the crazed witch.
Severus decidedly approached the woman, bending down beside her, taking a handful of her hair into his grasp and turning her head so the woman's eyes peered into his own. Her eyes were so dark, so deep; he found himself wondering how many found themselves trapped there.
"Traitor?" He hissed back, "You are one to speak, Claudia. At least I know what I am and am repentant."
Severus released her and stood, straightening his robes as best he could. Claudia screamed and convulsed with a strength stemming from her strongest emotions: hate, desperation, and anger.
"God damn it! Someone get him out of here!" Patricia ordered, flattening her petite form upon the witch's shoulders, a hand clenched around the woman's neck, pressing her face into the dirt.
Snape turned as he felt a strong hand tighten upon his shoulder.
"Time to go, Severus . . . now." Professor Dumbledore insisted, his eyes stern upon him. Severus inclined his head in acquiescence. Dumbledore's hand encouraged Snape to proceed him back to the school. The old man stayed behind for several more minutes, during that time Claudia's screams grew silent.
Patricia clutched at the fabric about her knees and half-scurried half-pulled herself into a corner, beside the only door in the room. She placed a hand against the wall, as if to cling to its strength. With a breathless whimper, she hid her face in her knees, her hand falling from the wall to cover the back of her head.
Severus stood and repositioned his robes. With a sigh, he withdrew his wand. His steps sounded muffled to his own ears. Patricia's face turned to him, blotchy from her screams and tears, bloodied from the night's beatings, and scarred from nights past.
He stood above her and felt a power taint his blood as the woman panted below him. Her eyes were beyond tears and filled with pain and terror, a terror he put there. The power was intoxicating, and easily corrupted.
Patricia took a long shaky breath before she found her feet and stood, leaning heavily upon the wall. Though her body appeared attractively weak, her eyes still spoke of her strength, still spoke to him of the night. They were so deep, so dark.
"I need something from you, Snape." Miss Moore pushed back further into the corner. The woman threw her head back a moment and swallowed. Her head slumped to the side, against the cool stone as she continued, "I have a brother. I-I need you to tell him . . . tell him that I was wrong, and that I'm sorry, and that I love them. Will you, will you tell him that?"
Snape merely nodded his agreement, swallowing unconsciously.
"Thank you." The woman closed her eyes, scrunching them with such an effort it felt painful. "Are you going to do it now?"
Though she could not hear him, he nodded once again.
Patricia allowed a sardonic smirk, "Going to count to three?"
The smirk quickly disappeared. Severus pointed his wand directly at the middle of her breast.
"Stupi . . ."
"No!" The woman opened her eyes and faced him. "That's the easy way out. I thought we agreed against that. We were going to do this the right way, make this worth something, make them believe. Just do it, but don't think me so weak as . . . Just do it."
"All right," he reluctantly agreed, tucking his wand away within his robes, "Take a breath, Miss Moore. It'll be over soon."
The woman nodded and swallowed back tears, closing her eyes for a moment before she opened and fastened them on his own.
Malfoy turned in the chair at the scrapping of wood against stone. He held in his hands a text entitled The Modern Witch's Spellbook. A smile graced his face as he peered over the pages.
The Auror's limp body was strewn across the entryway; her eyes open and gazing dimly out of the small room upon him.
How sweet, Severus liked to pose them afterward. Lucius admonished himself for not noticing that earlier. What an endearing quality. He would have to remark upon it in the future.
Speak of the devil . . .
Severus stepped over the woman and entered the room. He took a moment to wipe blood from his hands upon his robe, straightening them as an after-thought. This caused a rise out of Malfoy, rarely was Snape so messy.
Snape stood and fidgeted with his cuffs before clasping his hands behind his back. The door slid shut slowly behind him, the woman hidden from view behind the thick wooden door. Once closed, its lines disappeared into the wall.
"Ah, that's better, isn't it?" Malfoy finished the sentence with a smile before closing the small book and tossing it onto the desk. A little shower of dust sprung from the action. Lucius rose from the desk in a flourish of robes, tightening his lips into a line. He continued in a mock berating tone, "I'm waiting for a thank you, Severus."
"Thank you, Lucius."
Malfoy held out his hand. Severus walked across the room, his shoes slapping against the stone floor, robes whispering about him. Snape stopped abruptly just before the desk, reaching out and grasping Lucius' hand. He bent and kissed the ring upon his smallest finger, bearing the Malfoy family crest.
He released the hand swiftly, but not so as to be particularly insulting. Lucius smiled to him, rubbing the blessed finger between his index and thumb.
"If there is nothing else . . ." Severus prompted, standing with his arms folded across his chest.
Severus hated that little display, Malfoy knew that, and it made it all the more pleasurable.
"Yes, of course." Lucius turned and rounded the desk, running two fingers lightly upon the surface, rustling old papers, riddled with dust and little else, on the way.
Snape turned to leave, quickly crossing the room, and grasping the doorknob.
"I want to see you again soon," Malfoy called, examining the dust gathered upon his fingers.
He couldn't help but allow a satisfied smirk as Severus refused to reply, opened the door, and left with his usual haste. He always seemed touchy afterwards, luckily it had faded over the years. Of course, it became less charming as well.
The room fell quiet as the door closed. Candle flames flickered through the room with the sudden whisper of breath. His eyes instinctively sought out the hearth, finding no fire there, he sighed disappointedly. As his eyes began to search the room without meaning, an idea came upon him.
A satisfied grin broke across his face, eyes shinning with excitement. Humming a fond lullaby to himself, he quickly crossed the room, to the book upon the desk. His hand played over the spellbook's cover momentarily before snatching the text beside it.
He flipped through the pages, the sheets objecting to the rough manner they were touched. Finally, the last was turned.
"Password?" the voice croaked from its depths.
"Fear the fire does sow."
The door opened slowly and there the Auror laid, her eyes beaconing, hand outstretched in an enticing manner.
"Why, hello, my dear."
It was unfortunate that Severus had departed so soon. Dumbledore had a particular gift for ruining their indulgences, which were becoming of more and more importance as the nights passed. It was such a thrilling occasion watching Snape's flair for puppetry, such a pleasure. Yet, there was always the promise of nights to come, and Lucius was not about to waste the potential of the one before him.
Where does the blind man search for the light, knowing only darkness? Finding truth in a sea of falsehoods, fibs, and good intentions, he does not always choose what is right. For what is right, none can say. He must merely stay afloat in the drowning weight of the world, find peace in his darkness, and use the sight of others when it is the easiest way. We all use each other, grasping, scratching, fighting, and drowning, in the quest merely to survive. It is who we are. And those who don't . . . well, there's not much to say about them.