Chapter 7 - Betrayal

A week passed, and Severus was becoming somewhat desperate. And desperation was not something he knew how to deal with. He'd tried every curse word he knew to get into her quarters, but it appeared that she'd found a password less likely to be stumbled upon. She came to no meals, and she certainly didn't set foot in the dungeons.

He resigned himself to not finding her, and walked to Hogsmeade for the day, knowing the summons would come at sundown. He needed to be on time occasionally. The "I had to leave the grounds" excuse would only keep punishment at bay for so long. No sense in overusing it.

When he arrived, he was surprised to see that the Dark Lord was not alone in his usual place. As the circle formed, he studied the slight, masked form that stood in the center. They were whispering. But perhaps they conversed before every meeting. Severus would have no way of knowing, since he was nearly always the last person to arrive. He stood attentively as always, waiting for the others to arrive. When she took her place opposite him in the circle, he knew it was Manasa. He had never spoken to her, so far as he could remember. She had only joined them since the Dark Lord's return, and his missions were generally spent with Macnair or Malfoy. He thought back on the last meeting, when her lack of information had gone unpunished. Perhaps they would finally find out what her report concerned.

When everyone had arrived, Severus stood impassively with his arms across his chest as he always did. "Severus?" At the sound of his name falling so softly from his master's lips, he knew something was wrong.

"Yes, my Lord," he answered, keeping his own voice the same as it had always been. Strong, but not defiant. That was the key to being a good spy.

"Come forward and kneel before me." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lucius flinch as he stepped forward and did as he'd been asked. He kept his eyes down, not wanting to appear overly bold. Yet he did not bow his head as he did not wish to appear guilty of anything either.

"Manasa?" The Dark Lord inquired in the same tone. "Are you now ready to report?"

"I am, Uncle," came the cold reply.

Severus felt his eyes fall shut of their own accord and snapped them back open quickly. He recognized the voice. How could he not? It had been mere days ago that he'd heard that voice screaming his name. The ploy was over.

He thrust down the feelings of betrayal and hatred that threatened to overpower him. It would be a rather ignoble death to spin around and attack the Dark Lord's niece in the presence of all the Death Eaters in England. At the very least, he would die with dignity.

Manasa slowly walked behind him, studying the eyes of her uncle's minions as she passed them. Some, she recognized, others she did not. She sensed that they were impatient with her silence. Severus was well respected among them, and for good reason. Everyone wanted to know why he was being called into question.

At last she stopped beside Macnair. She had never met the man, though she'd been present the day he was marked. She didn't look long into his eyes before she turned abruptly toward her uncle. "Severus Snape is not the spy, my Lord," she stated quietly.

"What?" he hissed in response, glaring at her over the head of the accused. "You have failed me!"

In three short strides she stood behind the kneeling man, who had yet to betray any emotion. "Then perhaps you should punish us both immediately and disregard the portion of my report that is actually useful?" she offered this option in a challenging voice, and several of the men behind her gasped. No one had ever spoken that way to Lord Voldemort.

There was a tense silence. Severus didn't dare raise his eyes, though he was curious to know what expression his master wore. At various times during the summer he had classified the woman behind him as a Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. Not once had he figured her for a Gryffindor. It occurred to him now that she was above such classification. She was all of those things and none of them. And when he'd said he loved her, he had meant it.

"Very well," the Dark Lord said at last, his voice the same deceptively sweet one that he had used to summon Severus. Manasa resumed her walk around the circle.

"My time in his bed was not wasted, however," she continued in a matter-of- fact manner. Only Severus was close enough to hear the low growl that began in the Dark Lord's throat. He closed his eyes again. An overprotective uncle with proven homicidal tendencies. He might as well have been killed for espionage. He forced his eyes open again as she continued, oblivious to her uncle's wrath.

"As he slept, I sifted through his memories. I had tried to use the Legilimens curse on him while he was awake, but he's too well versed in Occlumency. I saw several events that would, in themselves, mean nothing. But when taken together, and with the knowledge I had that there was indeed a leak, I was able to come up with two possible ways that Dumbledore has been receiving information." She had stopped walking again and was facing her uncle.

"And why has Severus not reported these possibilities to me already?" the Dark Lord asked dangerously, turning his eyes on the kneeling man before him. It was sheer will that kept Severus from swallowing hard.

"I am not here to answer for his stupidity, Uncle. I am here to give my report," she responded smoothly. A flicker of a smile crossed his face as he turned his eyes back to her. She took that as approval and continued.

"Severus has noticed that the Malfoy boy enjoys taunting Potter. Unfortunately so has Dumbledore, and he's kept the boy under close watch. Malfoy seems to be dropping hints, which indicate that he knows something. I would recommend that when school resumes, the Death Eaters not contact their children at all."

"This does not explain our failures this summer, Manasa," he said impatiently.

"No, that leak, I fear, has been entirely your doing, Uncle Tom." Behind her, she heard a sharp, collective intake of breath. No one ever mentioned Tom Riddle to Lord Voldemort. No one except this woman, apparently, as the man they feared simply gazed at her, unfazed.

"Indeed?"

"I overheard Dumbledore and McGonagal talking on the grounds not long ago. They tell the Potter boy nothing, so there is nothing for you to gain from your nightly excursions into his mind. You, however, hold the key to everything we do. He gleans a great deal more from you than we imagined. He has been writing his dreams for the headmaster all summer."

The Dark Lord paced silently before them as she finished speaking. He was rarely wrong about anything, but her theory was sound. It was possible that he, himself, had been the leak all along. There was, however, another reason why she might have reported as she did. He watched her as she resumed her walk around the circle, gazing into the eyes of his Death Eaters. Finally he spoke.

"How do I know that you aren't protecting this man?" he asked, his voice hard and coarse. "You admit that you shared his bed. Perhaps you have feelings for him. Perhaps you are lying to me."

If she had looked at all guilty, he was sure he would have noticed. Instead, she turned to him with a look of amusement on her face and snorted forcefully. "Do you forget to whom you are speaking, Uncle?" She waited for an answer, but received only the skeptical look that meant she'd have to deny it more effectively than that.

She chose her words very carefully as she walked. "Severus is a bloody good shag," she said slowly. She smirked beneath her mask as she stopped in front of Lucius. It gave her great satisfaction to look him in the eye and add, "The best I've ever had, in fact." She could almost see his frown beneath his mask.

Severus heard the Dark Lord growl again and risked a glance upward to see that his red eyes were focused on Lucius. He forced back a smile and lowered his eyes again, thinking for the first time that he might just survive this. Kimber – Manasa, he corrected himself, seemed to be purposely distracting her uncle from the situation at hand.

"But to say I have feelings for him would be absurd. I FEEL it would be a waste to kill a man who has brought us as much information as he has in the last few months. They do not seem to suspect him at all, and we would lose a great deal giving up the advantage he represents." She paused and turned away from Lucius.

"And I must admit that if you kill him I will have a difficult time replacing him." She winked wickedly at her uncle and smiled at his resigned expression. She waited. Her Uncle Tom was not good at admitting he was wrong. Honestly she was surprised that he'd let her talk as long as he had.

It was only a moment before he made his decision. "We will meet here again in a week," he spat, waving his hand to dismiss them. "Malfoy, stay behind."

Severus appeared behind the Hogs Head, still on his knees. He stayed that way for a while, not really daring to believe that he had escaped. Several minutes had passed when he heard a sharp CRACK and turned to see that she had appeared behind him. He stood slowly.

He waited but she didn't approach him. Finally she spoke. "I'm not coming back to Hogwarts, Severus."

He nodded. He had seen her room in disarray, her things thrown messily into her trunk. "Where will you go?"

"Beauxbaton," she replied, still not moving toward him. She couldn't know how he felt about this. Betrayed? Angry? Hurt? It never occurred to her that he might feel grateful. What did he have to thank her for? She had lied to him for nearly three months.

"Will you write?" Severus had not meant to say that. He had especially not meant for it to sound so pathetic. He stared at her expressionless face.

"No."

He nodded again, finally understanding. It had been her mission to find him out. Everything she had said and done had been to that end. He had thought he loved her, but he was beginning to realize that he had never met Manasa at all. The only thing he knew about her was that she was an extraordinary actress. And that she had saved his life tonight.

A moment later she vanished with another sharp CRACK. Although he had not been punished, his trip back to the castle had never felt so long.

Fin