Chapter 1

It was a dark and stormy night. They sat around the kitchen table, waiting nervously. Molly Weasley kept shooting uncertain glances toward the door while Black nonchalantly leaned his chair back, for all appearances having not a care in the world. Lupin looked at him reprovingly, but was ignored. Mad Eye Moody coolly sipped at the coffee Molly had thoughtfully made for the Order. (He had quickly tested it for several well-known poisons beforehand, of course.)

Finally there was a sound at the door, a muffled voice muttering a password then the swish of robes as the person hurried to get inside.

"He's back," Dumbledore said unnecessarily and Molly hurried to make more coffee. They stood as the man entered the kitchen, pulling of his hood to reveal long, wet hair.

He looked at them all coolly.

"I'm in," he said shortly and accepted the cup of coffee Molly offered him.

Black snorted in disbelief.

"What, Lord Voldemort just accepted you back into the fold, just like that? Excuse me if I find that hard to believe. He has to know you betrayed him if you're not in Azkaban right now."

Snape sneered at Black.

"Of course he didn't accept me, 'just like that.' However, I wasn't the only one to get out of going to Azkaban. He's displeased with all of us, but willing to accept us back, after a relatively mild punishment."

The last word provoked a concerned sound from Dumbledore and a response from Lupin.

"Punishment?"

Snape glanced at him.

"That doesn't matter," he replied dismissively. "What matters is that I am in, for now, and that I can be useful, unlike some people."

The last comment was directed at Black who growled at the implied insult and looked ready to respond before Lupin placed a warning hand on his shoulder.

"Not now Padfoot."

Moody leaned forward on the kitchen table, his blue eye whirling excitedly.

"Well, come now. What can you tell us?" he said, moving on quickly before Lupin could ask again about the punishment. Neither Lupin nor Dumbledore appeared particularly mollified by Snape's casual dismissal.

"Not much for now," Snape reluctantly admitted, running his fingers through dark wet hair that threatened to cover his eyes. "Voldemort is concentrating on gathering his Death Eaters, rewarding the most loyal and punishing the ones he feels has betrayed him. However, he is giving all a second chance."

He glanced at Dumbledore.

"He wants me to spy on you and report back to him on any of the Order's activities I may be privy to. I have told him that you still do not trust me much. He is not entirely pleased by that. I cannot give you much more information at this time. My meeting with him was more of an initiation than anything else. He will start his real plotting in time."

"Well that's real helpful," said Black sarcastically.

"Shut up," Snape hissed. "At least I don't sit around and mope all day like a worthless cur."

"Gentlemen, that's enough," Arthur Weasley intervened. "I think that pretty much concludes this meeting doesn't it?"

He shot a questioning look at Dumbledore who nodded. Snape ignored Black and swept out of the room and, ignoring Lupin and Dumbledore's requests to stop for a moment, didn't stop moving until he reached his rooms at Hogwarts.

Once there he hurried to his bathroom and stripped off his wet and dirty robes.

He looked at himself in the mirror, naked except for an amulet that hung round his neck. A tired looking pale man in his mid 30s stared back at him.

He took off the amulet and set it on the sink.

He looked into the mirror again. A much younger man stared back at him from the glass. There were finger-shaped bruises on his hips and dark marks on his neck. He still bled a bit from several bites on his chest and neck. He touched one of the bites and winced.

He turned from the mirror and opened his bathroom cabinet, revealing rows of jars and vials, most obviously for hospital use. Running his finger across the rows he selected two vials and quickly downed the contents of both. The clink of the two vials hitting the bottom of the waste bin seemed loud in the small bathroom. He turned back to the mirror. The bites and bruising on his hips were visibly fading already; they would be gone before the night was out. He touched the marks on his neck. They were a different story.

He looked at himself in the mirror again. It was unnerving to see such a young face staring back at him. He fingered his longer hair for a moment before moving to the shower. He was still sticky and sore from Voldemort's... satisfaction earlier. But he would not think about that now. The water was hot and it steamed up the bathroom, fogging the glass of the mirror.

After he finished his shower, he got out and toweled himself dry in the bathroom, pointedly avoiding looking at himself in the mirror.

But he had to pick up the amulet. He stared at it in his hand. Then, he crumpled, still naked, to the bathroom floor. He stayed that way for twenty minutes, tears running down his face, not making a sound except for the occasional gulping gasp for air.

Then he rose, washed his face, and put the amulet on. He sneered at his reflection in the mirror and went to his bedroom to dress.

TBC?

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