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Ourobouros – Chapter 1.

Severus Snape's magnificent nose was posed precipitously over a tea-cup. He sniffed. He drank. And just as he was relaxing back into the curves of the settee, and wondering idly whether or not it was really necessary to keep pets in the foyer (and deciding that while they did add a certain amount of drama, they were probably more trouble than they were worth) his employer stepped into the room. He was, Severus mused, growing much older, frailer, limping a little - not that you'd notice if you didn't know him well, but yes, it was there - but then, the events of the past years could take a toll on anyone's abilities. Nonetheless, as the older wizard descended into the chair across from him, Severus noted with mute satisfaction, that his eyes –his ancient, glittering eyes – twinkled just as brightly as they always had.

"Severus, my boy." He said "Would you like a lemon drop?"

"Good God." Replied Severus "You'd better be careful, people will think you're turning into Dumbledore."

"I rather think the reptilian nose might give him away." Replied a stately brunette who entered carrying a fresh pot of jam.

"Bella!" Said Voldemort. "And strawberry jam, too. Beautiful. You've outdone yourself, really – Severus, tell Bella she's outdone herself."

"If murder and decapitation fail to work out, I'm sure you have a promising career in catering." Sneered Severus.

"Cheeky monkey." Replied Bellatrix, as she swept over to Snape and bent down, lightly kissing his forehead. "We've missed you. We really have. It's not healthy, staying cooped up in those dungeons all the time, I think it must play havoc with your psyche. And frankly, I don't like what it does for your hygiene, either."

Severus pouted into his teacup.

"Oh, don't pout, Sevvie. You know you'll always be my favorite underling. I just wish you'd get out sometime, plot a little, wreck a little mayhem, pillage a village, it's chicken soup for the Slytherin soul. I don't see how you can stand Hogwarts..."

"Well, I'm isolated. That does help."

"Still. Children. Beastly brats, never liked them even when I was a child. I think you should kill them all and eat them."

"Now, now Bella..." Murmured Voldemort. "Severus doesn't mind his work, he's very good at what he does, and it allows us a marvelous link into..."

"Oh!" Said Severus, waving a hand dismissively "Don't worry about it, I think the same thing two, three times a day, really. Did I tell you about what Neville Longbottom did last week..."

"I hated his mother." Muttered Bellatrix, as she rearranged the pyramid of petit fours, poking a sprinkle off a frosted petal with a fingernail.

"He almost killed another student. Again. Let a fly crawl into his potion, which serves to turn it into a very powerful draught..."

"Just hated her. Horrible woman. Frank, too. I mean these petty little bourgeois, anti-intellectual nye-kulturi... so Gryffindor..."

"You know." Replied Severus, twisting to face Bellatrix directly, "If you hadn't gotten all feisty with them, Dumbledore wouldn't feel so paternal towards Neville, and he wouldn't persist in putting him in my class. I have you to blame for this, really."

"Sorry." Said Bellatrix. She looked pensive for a moment. Then she giggled. "No. Really. I'm sorry. For your sake. I mean it. Very poor taste on my part."

"For the moment, I will accept your apology."

"How awfully generous of you."

"Bella." Said Voldemort, laying his raspberry coated scone down on the edge of his plate "Come sit. You've been hovering around all afternoon. Come here." He patted his cushion, the protruding bones and sinews of his hands glinting dully against the china.

"I can't. I'm meeting Narcissa. We're going shopping."

"I thought you hated Narcissa." Replied Voldemort.

"I never said that."

"You said she was a mealy mouthed illiterate twat." Replied Severus.

"Well, I never said I was fond of her, either. But she's not disagreeable, she just doesn't speak. I like Lucius. But really, it's so hard to find any kind of female company when you're a Death Eater... I don't know if you noticed but there's a decided gender imbalance."

"There is in Slytherin house, too." Replied Severus. "It's interesting. Perhaps something to do with female feelings about power?"

"Well, there isn't any Uberfraulein prototype."

"Probably because Nietzsche hated women." Replied Severus. "I'm sure he'd have let you go, though. You're such a nice little house-frau, you do such lovely, lovely teas.

"You know." Replied Bellatrix, as she gathered up the train of her robes and began gliding towards the door, "You're running the serious risk of not being my favorite underling anymore."

"Perish the thought!" Replied Snape.

"Bella?" Called Voldemort "Do you think you could make it back in time for a late dinner? Midnight munch? You can bring your husband, if you like. I could make something myself, maybe a nice omelet? There's so much I need to go over with you."

"Rudolphus is away...somewhere... and I don't know if I can. After shopping I've got a traitor to deal with, I'll see how it works out. It shouldn't take too long. I'll try. I'll really try."

"Oh! That's right." Voldemort exclaimed, snapping his talons. "I meant to ask. After you get done with him, could you chop off his fingers and bring them back? Nagini has gotten to be such a finicky eater lately."

"Of course."

"You're an angel."

"One with major indiscretions." She replied, and then, with a quick stride she crossed the room and gave Voldemort a determined kiss on his reptilian slit of a nose. "I have to go. Really. I'll try to be amazingly quick; I should make it by about 11:00."

Voldemort flickered his forked tongue over her hand before she swept out of the room, shutting the iron slab behind her.

"She's adorable, isn't she?" Asked Voldemort. "I mean, and a very competent Death Eater..."

"I've always wondered," Said Severus, pouring himself a fresh cup of tea. "What exactly is your relationship with her?"

"Oh, my dear boy. If I only knew." Voldemort shrugged. "It's actually a good point she brought up, about the gender imbalance, it's been one I've been meaning to talk over with you."

"Well, I think certainly something could be gained by having more females enter into our society. No need for us to be labeled as misogynistic along with everything else. Did you have anyone in mind?"

"Well, actually, it's a student of yours."

"No, no, don't take the Parkinson girl, I know Lucius may have mentioned her, but believe me, it's a terrible idea."

"Oh, no, not her at all. You know a Hermione Granger, don't you?"

Snape was silent.

"She's quite brilliant, from what I'm told. Could help in the planning stages of things, even if she didn't want to get involved in brute force. Not everyone really has wherewithal, no offense intended, naturally."

Snape remained silent, his fingers clutching his teacup with increased vigor.

"It would be quite a coup, too, don't you think? Harry Potter's little friend succumbing to the lure of the Death Eaters... I mean, you know I love publicity... but no, it's not just that, I think she'd be excellent."

Snape's still silent frame was growing rigid.

"Bella would like her. I mean, you must see the parallels between them, both intelligent women secondary and loyal to a very powerful man – warriors, really – and besides, don't you think she must be terribly repressed? I mean, well, I suppose she is a Gryffindor, but she never is really allowed to exercise her own talents, she's always overshadowed by Harry or the other one. And she's already revered an agreeable figure by the media. She'd really put a friendly face on the Death Eater skull. She could re-vamp our whole image. It's a good idea, don't you think?"

Severus's teacup went back to its saucer. "I think, my Lord, I think we need to... to talk about this."

"You don't like it? Is she not what I'd hoped? Mentally defective?"

"No, no, she's talented, I grant you. But she's... she's enormously Gryffindor."


"I don't know, my Lord, that you ever quite grasped the subtleties – or I should say the blatant nature - of the Gryffindor mentality."

"No? Well, I am so terribly Slytherin. Perhaps not. I feel almost certain you're about to explain it to me, though. Before you do, could you pass one of those cupcakes? With the rainbow frosting."

Severus passed a cupcake.

"You see, my Lord, they do want to win, but they want to win in such a way that everyone will admire them. And they want to be loved by everyone, not just by an elite few. If you were explain to her that history could be re- written after our victory, that she would be remembered and beloved by progeny – if not by her peers – it would make no sense to her. Likewise, they're not really... they wouldn't appreciate the whole notion of an elite society. They don't group people the way we do... to us, obviously, people are amusing or tedious, to them there are these ludicrous categories of 'good' and 'bad' with very little grey area in between, it's part of what makes them such repellant people."

"But she's a reader, isn't she Severus? Reading can breed a whole host of agreeable sins, moral relativism among them."

Snape chuckled, and took a long draught of tea. "Yes. Yes, that is true. But what she reads... Hogwarts: A History isn't exactly giving her any insights into the infinite layers and complexities of the human soul."

"Then toss her some Chekhov and tell her to get cracking."

"That's an idea, but I think there might be more difficulties to it. Our public relations, for instance, have always left something to be desired."

"Well, we do kill people, Severus. It occurs to me that we really do kill an awful lot of people. Not, of course, just to be rebellious as the press is so inclined to make out. I like to believe, myself, that we've never killed anyone who hasn't posed a direct and immediate threat to either the wizarding world at large or at the very least to the well being of our followers."

"Of course not. But you'll have a very difficult time making the girl understand that. Bear in mind that her perception of us has come to her courtesy of a fifteen year old boy of middling intellect."

"Such a pity about that. I tried to get through to him last year, you knew that, though. The most it ever did was panic him that I got happy when my followers came back from that hellhole – I mean, of course I was happy, how could I not be... I'm sorry, Severus. I mean, we do need to kill the Potter boy, he could destroy the movement, and that will take time...but I digress."

"Well, I think it's more than that, every group of freedom fighters does kill people. It's probably more the prejudice allusions that would give her pause, she's a mudblood, you know."

Voldemort raised the remains of his eyebrow.

"Some of the finest people I know are muggle borns. Myself, for instance."

"Yes, but no one remembers that about you. Which we can credit to Lucius, I'm afraid, the whole pureblood notion has spiraled wildly out of control."

"Well, I do endorse a policy of separatism between muggle and wizarding culture, and think the mixture of the two only puts both groups in danger. You've always felt strongly about that, too. And the only way to really separate the two worlds is to stop the admission of more muggle borns into the wizarding schools. It's not that I view them as a lesser race, but I certainly see the inevitable outcome of meshing the cultures as resulting in their being dragged into some wizarding dilemmas which, as muggles they have no capacity to deal with. Can't you just sit down and explain that to her nicely?"

"I really wish I could. But I don't think things are quite that easy."

"Severus, I'm really quite set on this. She'd be a great asset, for quite a lot of reasons. You could always seduce her, you know."

Severus looked absolutely horrified.

"Joking! She's seventeen. I can't believe you think I'd, well... not that you're not a Byronic hero, but, well, that would be perverse. Although if you wanted, I wouldn't pass moral judgment on you – far be it from me, I leave those pretensions to Dumbledore. It's not as though she couldn't find you appealing, you know, your love life is always a little stagnant, but many women have overcome their initial aversion to unattractive men, and in their eyes the greasy hair becomes glossy and sleek..."

"I... no. Never."

"It's not altogether a bad idea, though. Be nice to her. She's probably a little lonely. You're a little lonely. You're both brilliant. You're stuck in a castle with no intellectual equals. It might make for a fine friendship...and after you got to know each other you could explain our real agenda, and what fuzzy, charming people we are. Maybe we could send her a cake. Do you think she'd like a cake?"

"Maybe. Not any time soon."

"Oh, good. And do give her some Chekhov, I think it helps. Now, you probably have to run along. And if Dumbledore asks, we raped a lush mudblood. And we drank blood, not tea, blood. Out of a mudblood's skull."

"As always. And if it's not too much bother, would you mind?"

"Crucio again, Severus? You know, that's really so much more a Bella thing. Seriously, even if I were a madman I wouldn't do it all the time..."

"I think it adds a certain element of realism... and it's because I wouldn't rape the mudblood like the rest of you savages."

"You're almost too noble. Alright. Crucio."

Severus twitched convulsively on the marble floors. Voldemort looked decidedly squeamish.

"Alright." Said Voldemort. "That's enough. Get up. You're alright? Come give me a hug."

The two men embraced, in a masculine, but heartwarming fashion. Snape began limping off towards the door.

"And Severus?" Voldemort called. "I'll have you know I was the original lemon drop aficionado. They're muggle, you see. Loads around the orphanage. Loads."