Beware of the SPOILERS!

A/N: I imagine I'm not the only Snape fan feeling a little shell-shocked at the moment. I started this fic with no particular destination in mind, but I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out.

Disclaimer: Not mine, hers. Thanks for being such a genius (doffs cap).

Gasping for breath, blood pounding in his ears, Severus Snape sank into a rickety wooden chair and closed his eyes. The enormity of what he had just done had not yet sunk in, as his memories and emotions of the evening swirled around his brain, agitated further by the exhilaration rushing through him after casting the killing curse. The Light would never, could never understand that feeling, that orgasmic mixture of pain and pleasure which the most evil of dark magic ignited within the body. It was as though the stars were coursing through his veins, sparkling with light but burning hot enough to blister the soul.

There was movement around him. Voices. Excitement. Incredulity. Some tentative celebration. Draco whimpering. Then Bellatrix marching into the room and shrieking;

"He did it? Are you sure?"

He smiled to himself, the dark stars twinkling with the thrill of being able to tell her 'I told you so'. But he would not think of twinkling right now, not after having permanently extinguished two particular bright blue twinkles with a puny pair of words. Nor would he lower himself to petty gloating, not at the moment when the world had changed forever, assuring his place in history irrespective of what he did next.

Someone shuffled close to him, breathing nasally and cracking their knuckles. Wormtail. Severus did not bother to open his eyes. The Griffindor cleared his phlegmy throat.

"Master wants to see you, upstairs," he whispered, hovering beside him either expecting a response or trying to read the expression of the man who just murdered the most powerful wizard on Earth.

Snape stood without a word and mounted the staircase, his every movement tracked intently in the sudden hush. As he swept out of sight, he heard the chatter start up again, and the distinct popping of a champagne cork.

The Dark Lord was enthroned in an otherwise empty room, framed by bright moonlight which made it difficult to see him clearly. Severus paused at the door and bowed deeply.

"Approach," commanded Voldemort. His footsteps were uncomfortably loud on the wooden floorboards, his cloak hissed behind him with the furious sound an overheated snake venom-based potion makes just before it explodes. As he reached the seat, the endorphin rush suddenly gave out and left him exhausted from running, cursing, plotting and killing – his knees buckled and he slumped to the ground before the Dark Lord, some deep instinct of self-preservation automatically moulding him into the expected kow-tow of submission.

"I am well pleased with you, Sseveruss," he said quietly. "You have succeeded where many powerful wizards have failed."

Snape realised that he could not have raised his head even if he wanted to, glad his position on the floor concealed the tremors in his legs and lips.

"Without the old man to stand in our way, we will soon triumph over these weaklings who disgrace our glorious heritage," never had Snape heard the Dark Lord sound so happy. Then the voice moved nearer, bending down towards the prostrate figure. "And when tomorrow dawns, Severus Snape will be the most famous wizard on the planet. Your photograph will be everywhere, your name spoken in the hushed tones normally reserved for mine, you will be reviled, cursed and feared. Notorious for the rest of eternity as the man who killed Albus Dumbledore."

Snape swallowed. There was a hint of menace in Voldemort's voice now, so subtly hidden in the friendly tone that not everyone would have recognised it. There was also the vaguest trace of another emotion. Was it…? No, surely not. Not from him…?

"Whom do you serve, Sseveruss?"

"You, my Master, and only you," he replied with conviction, though still unable to look up.

"Above all others?" hissed Voldemort, even closer now. There it was again.

"Above all others."

"How many Dark Lords are there, my viper?" Snape made a superhuman effort to fight letting out a guffaw of shock. Merlin, the Dark Lord was just a little bit scared of him! Voldemort, afraid of a schoolteacher! Well, an ex-schoolteacher. He was instantly on full alert – though this development was one to be savoured for ever, it put him in the most dangerous situation of his entire tumultuous life. He raised his head, looking his master in the eye.

"One, my Lord. There can be none but you."

They stared at each other for a long time without moving.

"At the first sign of insubordination from you, I shall personally bind you rigid and leave you and a copy of The Master-Torturer's Handbook on Potter's doorstep, on a day when Moody has come to tea. Do you understand me?"

"Perfectly, Master."

"Excellent." Finally Voldemort stood and dismissed him with a gesture. He fled.

He did not feel in the mood to join the party. Sounds of merriment floated from inside the house as he leaned on the railing of the terrace, lost in thought, lost in time, lost, lost, lost for ever. It had been a split-second decision. There was no way Albus would have survived. The poison he had ingested had been fatal, the briefest glance had told him so, and surrounded by battle-crazed Death Eaters, it would have been seconds before one of the others finished him off, and with him Severus, who would have then been guilty of breaking an Unbreakable Vow and would have fallen dead on the spot. He gave a snort at the mental image of his own corpse crumpled at the feet of his other master's dead body. How heroic. How Griffindor. But Severus was not a Griffindor.

At least this way one of them had survived.

What now? Would he do the decent thing and attempt to undermine the Death Eaters from within? Or help them track down Potter then take over the world? Voldemort seemed to think him capable of becoming the next Dark Lord, a career move he had not yet considered, but which nevertheless had a certain allure.

At first he thought a chill breeze had suddenly blown in with the dawn, but as crashing depression brought bile up into his throat he realised that one of their soul-sucking allies had been drawn towards the Riddle house by the joy of the revellers. He spun to face the dementor, drifting raggedly in his direction with its revolting scabby hands outstretched. For a second he wavered. That would be a beautifully poetic end. An escaped murderer destroyed by an escaped dementor, both miles from Azkaban and Ministry justice.

Then he remembered what had been sacrificed this night in order to keep his body and soul together, and seized hold of his most uplifting thought.

'The Dark Lord is afraid of me.'

'The Dark Lord is afraid of me.'

'He thinks I will kill him too.' He grinned.

'Perhaps I shall.'

"Expecto Patronum!"

The creature fled into the darkness once more, leaving Severus frozen to the spot in shock, wand still raised, as he watched his patronus swooping around the garden. He had immediately noticed that the white mist pouring from the tip of his wand had not assumed its usual fox form. This patronus had wings. And it did not stay white, translucent or silent.

Severus glanced behind him, terrified lest anyone should see that he had somehow conjured a golden phoenix to protect himself from a dementor.

"Go away," he hissed at it, waving frantically. It ignored him, trilling a mournful song while swooping closer, close enough for him to recognise it as Fawkes. Inconceivable. "How…?" he began, then stopped, realising what had happened. The creature appeared after he anchored his spell in the feeling of joy he would get from defeating Voldemort.

He was not a superstitious man, but some things were not so much subtle echoes from the unknown, more like ringing blows to the skull from an other-wordly hammer.

He glared at Fawkes, who glared right back with eyes as black as his own.

"You meddling pair of old…" he growled, then stopped. Fawkes tilted his head to one side, quizzically.

"Oh, all right," he snapped, taking another look over his shoulder to check for eavesdroppers. "Tell Albus I'll do what I can." The phoenix vanished with a musical popping sound.

Great, just great, he thought, shoulders sagging once more under the weight of the future. Here we go again.


A/N: Slam me if you like, but that's my first response to HBP. I daresay we will all develop our feelings towards the new revelations over time.

Thanks for reading, I know some people will be ready to come back on here for a while.

I'd love a review! Thanks x

PS I'm sure there's already a wealth of supernatural AD/SS out there already, sorry for lack of originality.

PPS Have just updated my profile with lyrics to a song which will not leave my head since I read HBP. It should be visible late today or early tomorrow. x