Chapter One: Decision.

Mudblood.

That was all she was. Just another Mudblood.

He hated them. Mudbloods and especially those in Gryffindor. Most of all, he hated Potter and his swooning followers.

How could a person be blinded by the good looks and Quidditch skills so easily? How could a person not see the sheer vanity and disgusting cockiness that emitted from Potter's every strut?

Why could a person not understand that there were so much more than such paltry attributes? Why could no one appreciate another for what he was? Why could no one accept him?

He wiped off a hot tear threatening to roll down his cheek as he sat alone on his bed. He heard the happy cries and shouts of the students outside the castle. He refused to show anyone that he was hurt. He had shown his vulnerability as always at home. . .

Enough! He shut out his mind resolutely of the memories he had no wish to return. Enough! He vowed never to be affected by them.

Yet a dimwit would know that Potter had succeeded in humiliating him back at the field. They had all laughed. No one had cared to help him. They had stood by, watching him suffer. So be it. After five years in Hogwarts, he knew better to seek genuine assistance from another. No one liked him and he was moved by none. If his hopes had been lifted before when a person showed minute friendliness toward him, they had been swiftly crushed when he realised that they were merely seeking to use him for his academic prowess.

No more. He would never trust anyone nor befriend anyone ever again.

He snatched his books angrily and clutched them to his chest. These were his only companions. They did not mock him nor caused him pain. They were his confidant and guardian, taking nothing from him but giving everything they possessed to him. Knowledge, that was all he needed to survive in this cold-hearted, bleak world, he thought disillusioned, where people kicked you simply because they were bored. He defied the philosophers and soul healers who claimed that a human lived in society because he needed interaction. He did not require human contact. He would harden his heart that none may penetrate it. In time, the still heart would be destroyed and all unnecessary emotion perished.

He had the strength and cunning. He was a Slytherin! He would hold his head proud and view Potter and Black with detached disdain. Yes, he knew he could do it.

And if someone accused him of coldness and arrogance, so much the better. No one had treated him respect and compassion. Why should he behave any differently?

A treacherous thought winded into his brain. *Ah, but she has defended you more than once, has she not?*

He scowled in impotent rage. To be saved by Lily Evans, to be relieved by a Mudblood. . . How could a Slytherin stand the humiliation? What would the other Slytherin fellows say? It was almost as though he were in her debt. Worse, he grudgingly admitted to himself that he admired her. For a Mudblood, her magical powers sometimes surpassed those of a pureblood. She was also level-headed enough not to succumb to Potter's supposed charms like so many other empty-headed females in the school. She was shrewd to expose Potter as the conceited person he truly was. If only she were not a Mudblood!

He had never wholly known about Mudbloods until he entered Hogwarts. In desperation, he seized and loathed them with a fiery passion that astonished even himself. Being in Slytherin, he felt all the more justified for his attitude. He avoided the fact that such prejudices were ungrounded and petty. He needed, wanted something to cling to, a focal point to show his own direction as he risked being lost in the wilderness, a conviction to grasp at when he found himself regarded no more than a git to be swatted away. He had to believe he was not the lowliest of wizards. He had often prided himself in his supreme knowledge and deft hand in Potions and Charms, particularly the Dark Arts. They were his protection and the source of consternation among his peers. If Potter had honour and challenged him to a duel, he was prepared and certain he was able to blast Potter into ashes in less than six exchanges of spells and hexes.

Oh, how he hungered for revenge.

'Severus?'

He jumped visibly at the sudden invasion of his introspection. Hastily wiping his whole face and arranging his clothes, he turned to face Professor Albus Dumbledore stonily. 'May I help you Headmaster?' He was absurdly gratified to note that his voice was low and steady.

Dumbledore sat beside him. He fought hard not to flinch when the Headmaster touched him on his shoulder. He had never experienced physical gentleness in his childhood or youth and had come to the conclusion that he would not receive it.

To his chagrin, he saw that his reaction to the kindly gesture did not escape Dumbledore. He saw the old wizard's eyes dim and a flash of resentment spread across him. Dumbledore was one of the few who did not view him as an oddball. He gritted his teeth at the unwelcome remembrance. Initially, he had reached out to Dumbledore like a drowning child, desiring approval and a father figure. It had not taken him long to know to whom Dumbledore's preferences lay. His disappointment overwhelmed him occasionally. Dumbledore was just another old man biased toward his Gryffindors.

'Severus, I have spoken to James and Sirius. It was. . . incorrect on their part. I have told them to apologise to you.'

He merely nodded. As usual, Potter and Black were left unpunished, and they would cast the insincere apology during dinner in the Great Hall like a worthless rag.

'Severus, I had hoped that all of you would be on amicable terms by now.'

The fool.

Dumbledore's eyes were filled with unexpected compassion and guilt that he had to turn his head away toward the windows. No, he must not be swayed. He resisted the urge to fling himself on his bed and weep in Dumbledore's sight. His back was tensely rigid.

He heard the professor sigh.

True. What was there to say that could possibly heal his wounds and comfort him?

He waited for Dumbledore to leave. Only then did he allow himself to relax. He froze when the door opened once more. This time, it was Lucius Malfoy who stepped in.

'Snape. I knew I'd find you hiding here.'

He spat immediately, 'I'm not hiding! I'm studying!'

Malfoy shrugged nonchalently. Settling himself on his bed opposite his, Malfoy said casually, 'Really Snape, you have to practise disguising your emotion or you'll never be able to persuade anyone of what you say convincingly.'

'You just like to listen to yourself talk.'

He did not like Malfoy, or the other Slytherins if truth be told. He found them as conceited as Potter and they neglected important studies such as the subtler arts of Potions and Arithmancy, concentrating on the more showy fields like those of Charms. Nonetheless, they were competent at what they did. And they left him alone to his antics most of the time.

He controlled himself and used a personal tactic that he had honed over the years and had not failed him.

He drawled silkily, to all appearances bored. 'What do you want Malfoy?'

He saw approval lit up in those grey eyes and felt ridiculously pleased but did not reveal it.

Malfoy replied him in the same manner, 'Potter and his gang will not leave gloating after what they've done to you. I'll make sure of that.'

Using Crabbe and Goyle, no doubt.

He simply repeated, 'What do you want Malfoy?'

'Dear, dear, quite prickly today, aren't we?'

He did not rise to the bait. He waited for Malfoy.

Malfoy spoke patiently. 'It is a waste no one sees you for the intelligence and your many talents Snape. You should leave for a better world, where real wizards revere you and treat you as an equal.'

'Do you intend for me to work in the Muggle world?' he retaliated sardonically. Nevertheless, his curiousity was piqued.

'Nonsense.' Malfoy paused for dramatic effect. Intoning conspiratorially, he asked, 'Have you heard of Lord Voldemort?'

The name was familiar. He inclined his head in the affirmative.

'Excellent. You should know he and my father have formed an alliance ever since I was in first year.'

'Indeed?' Polite interest.

'Yes. They have decided that they have been ruled by fools for too long. There will be a new order. They plan to accomplish this seemingly formidable task,' Malfoy leant forward eagerly, 'They will succeed Snape. Soon, what magic forbidden for fear of abuse can be used again, and the wizarding world will be rid of the filth it is being filled with.'

'Filth?'

'Mudbloods, halfbloods. . . Those who do not deserve to share our resources, history and culture. They will be segregated, and suitably. . . banished to the ranks they belong to.'

He was fascinated by what he heard. He began to crave for this order which could bring confusion and useless bureaucracy to an end.

Malfoy continued, 'My father and Lord Voldemort have heard about you Snape. So, I am hereby instructed to extend an invitation to you as one of the youngest members in this organisation. We shall work together. You should think it an honour Snape. These wizards are not easily impressed and you happen to fall in the minority category.' Finishing, Malfoy raised his hand.

He was deeply tempted. Here, outside Hogwarts were two powerful men who had heard of him. Not only that, they recognised his merits and wanted him to help them. All of a sudden, there was a goal in life, a truly ambitious goal to aim for. He did not have to fret about finding work after graduating due to his dysfunctional family background.

He said carefully, 'And if I refuse?'

'I will Obliviate you and we shall part ways. Be warned, that you've always been under relative protection in school at my command. The Slytherins, at least, do not attack you. But if you decline this generous offer, I'm afraid even that veil will be removed.'

He smiled enigmatically. Staring into Malfoy's eyes, he took the other's hand. 'Very well, we have a deal.'

Malfoy laughed, 'Wonderful. Now let's discuss how we're going to pay back the Gryffindors for what they've done to you.'

He grinned. Let the serpent strike back at the lion now.