Disclaimer: Mrs. J.K. Rowlings is the sole owner of all things Harry Potter. I am merely borrowing them and promise to return them…for the most part…unharmed.
Chapter 1: A Trek Into the Woods
Dudley Dursley pounded ungracefully through the woods outside of his boarding school with three of his thickest, most trusted colleagues at either side. The moon was casting a silvery glow on all inhabitants of the woods on this quiet, crisp night of Halloween. Instead of heading into town to steal candy from small children who were trick-or-treating, Dudley and his gang had decided to spend the evening tracking far greater game.
"Pass me another cigarette," Dudley bellowed not to quietly to the equally thick individual to his left.
"I've only got one left," his friend, Niles, whined in reply.
"All the better to give it to me. Wouldn't want ya to end up getting pounded, would we?"
Niles handed over the last cigarette and threw the package down on the ground while Dudley and the others laughed at his misfortune. A thick arm slammed into his chest and pulled him out of his reverie.
Dudley pointed to a clearing not too far ahead and took up residence behind a nearby tree. He pointed for his groupies to do the same. A tall, thin man was walking quickly across the clearing with a package under his arm. The focus of their attention: Headmaster Bramley. Dudley and his gang caught the man wandering through the woods on several occasions while they were hanging out drinking or getting high. On this particular occasion, with video tape in hand, they decided to follow him on his journey. "Blackmail can, after all, have wonderful advantages around test time," Dudley had been quick to point out.
Dudley turned on the camera and zoomed in while the four held their breath in order to hear what was being said.
"Professor Bramley. How nice of you to join us." The speaker was a tall, blonde man carrying a rather expensive-looking walking stick.
"Mr. Malfoy," Bramley spoke quietly. "I trust you came alone?"
The blonde man, Malfoy, chuckled lightly. "Of course, of course. Business as usual, I see. I trust that you brought the papers."
Bramley handed the envelope over to Malfoy and stepped back. "It was no easy task acquiring these, you know. Not just everyone has access to this sort of information."
Malfoy raised his eyebrows. "Yes, well, who would suspect a muggle headmaster at a muggle school of consorting with wizards?"
Dudley heard the man laugh lightly. It sent a chill up his spine. There was something familiar about the clothing that the Malfoy man was wearing. Something that reminded him of…Harry. Suddenly, coming out to the woods in the middle of the night on Halloween didn't feel like such a smart idea. "We'd better go," he found the voice to whisper to his friends.
"Nah, man, this is just getting interesting," Jeff snorted. "Bramley believes in wizards! This'll be great fun when we show it to everybody."
Dudley nodded and swallowed hard. Great fun.
"When can I expect payment for my services?" Bramley questioned. It sounded brave enough, but Dudley knew that the man's voice was shaking.
"Payment. Ah, yes, payment. Of course. How about I treat you to something wonderful? After all, it is Halloween."
Bramley took another tentative step back. "Now listen here, Mr. Malfoy. I did everything that you asked of me. I don't want any trouble"
"Bramley, have I not given you everything that you asked for and more? Don't worry. You're safety is assured." Malfoy handed over a bag of what Dudley could only assume was money. "But along with your reparations, I wish also to make you privy to what happens to those who oppose us."
"Yes, you see, I did come alone, but," Malfoy's statement was cut short by several popping sounds as others appeared in the clearing. Bramley was dumbfounded. His eyes wide with terror. "But now the others are due to join me. Tonight is a special night. We are inducting several new…members…of our society in a ritual that will take place in this very spot. My own son will be joining in the festivities. I am simply asking you, politely, to stay and watch."
The Halloween feast was well underway. For most, the room was filled with excitement, laughing, and general warmness. For others, and not just others at the Slytherin table, the room held more tension than many would think tolerable. Draco looked at his pocket watch and took a deep breath. It was time, and his father would be waiting. He nodded to Crabbe and Goyle and rose to leave the great hall…An action that went unnoticed by everyone except a certain Potions Master who was already feeling a familiar burning on his left arm. With a curt nod toward the headmaster, Severus Snape slid unnoticed out the back door.
All of the Death Eaters were assembled in the small clearing. It was the night of induction, and Severus wondered briefly what task the new inductees would be forced to perform to prove their loyalty to the Dark One. The thought made Snape's stomach turn.
"Come forward, all those who profess their loyalty to my cause," Voldemort bellowed in the midst of the crowd of black cloaks and white masks. Ten young figures stepped forward and knelt before him. "This is an honor. To be chosen to call yourselves Death Eaters is not a call to be taken lightly. If there is any doubt in your young minds as to your position among us tonight, you may chose to step back now." There was a pregnant pause before the hideous voice continued. "Very well. I see we have representatives from each of Dumbledore's little houses this year. Very good indeed. You will each earn your rightful place tonight despite your houses. You will learn power. You will learn to control those around you. You will have the world at your fingertips…But first you will prove yourselves worthy." Voldemort snapped his fingers and one of the masked men threw a terrified young woman into the middle of the group of inductees. "Who among you will be the first to demonstrate your power before me?"
Draco watched with bated breath. His father would not tell him of all the details of the induction, but he had been raised in an exclusively Death Eater home. He knew better than to jump upon the first opportunity that was raised. Always know the competition.
Dudley watched in almost a dreamlike state. His video camera was recording everything. He could hardly believe how horrible these people were! His parents were right. Their kind were pure evil. Maybe with his video he'd be able to expose them all. "Freaks," he thought briefly as he watched a beautiful girl with straight black hair step forward to the big snake-like man in the center.
"I would be honored to be the first, my lord."
Voldemort grinned devilishly. "An eager one, and from Ravenclaw no less. Tell me, do you have a great thirst for knowledge?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Then you shall have it. Show me what you have to offer in return."
The young Ravenclaw held her head high. Her eyes were emotionless as she waved her wand over her head and shot sparks at the defenseless woman on the ground. Her scream didn't last long as her body incinerated shortly thereafter.
"What the heck?" Niles grunted.
"Shhhh," Dudley commanded. They were in trouble if they were found out, and they were in too deep to run away now.
Snape lowered his gaze. There was nothing that he could do for the victims. Trying to stop a number this large would not only be foolish, but also deadly. He could only hold his ground and give his report to Dumbledore afterwards. The sickening display that would follow would only get worse.
"Very impressive indeed. Now behold my power." With a point of his finger, the Ravenclaw was on the ground fighting back the scream that wanted to tear from her throat. He relented his hold on her when she did not scream. "You learn quickly. But never forget who is the strongest here, child." She nodded and slipped back into her place in the circle.
"Don't look so afraid. Only one will suffer here tonight. You each shall show your loyalty to me this night. Yes. But you will each have the same target. For you see, we have a traitor in our midst."
Snape's breath caught in his throat. Surely there was not another… Two hands grabbed each of his arms and jerked him forward in the crowd. He was slung ungraciously to the ground before the dark lord.
"Severus Snape, remove your mask." Snape did as he was told and stared unwaveringly at the man before him. "I see no fear in your eyes, Severus. You either very foolish or very brave." Snape remained silent. His tongue had gotten him out of many situations, but he had a sinking feeling that his luck had finally run out.
"I will say only this. Severus Snape, you have been labeled a traitor. You were once one of my most trusted. My most faithful. Yet here you grovel like the scum that we seek to eradicate. They are too weak to wield power and they sympathize with those who have no power at all. What do you say to these charges?"
Snape stood and held his head high before his peers…and his students. These were going to be his last words, so he may as well make them noble. "Unlike the serpent who stands before me, I do not grovel." The small statement was enough to infuriate the man. One well placed hex shot Snape into a tree. The impact busted the tree in half and knocked the wind out of Snape.
"Tear him to pieces! That is your task!" Voldemort growled. "But don't kill him. If you kill him, you will suffer a fate far worse than death." Voldemort kicked Snape in the jaw and pulled the man up to face him. "Death is too good for you, Snape. I know you secretly long for it. It will be the one luxury that you cannot afford. You will be stripped of that snide dignity you hold so dear instead. And when you have no dignity…no will left to continue…Then you shall be exposed to the world for what you really are."
Draco Malfoy tried to control his breathing. This had not been something that he bargained for. Voldemort's voice cut through his thoughts. "Young Mr. Malfoy. Your father has long proven himself a loyal lieutenant in my ranks. It is now your turn to prove yourself worthy of the family name."
Draco's father stepped up behind him. Pride in his eyes for the first time Draco could remember. "Make me proud, son."
Draco nodded, wand in hand, and walked up to his professor. Snape's eyes bore into his for but a moment. "Go ahead, Mr. Malfoy, make your Master proud."