Chapter Seventeen - Spinner's End

The Dark Lord had gathered his most loyal minions around him, swishing his dark robes he looked at each of them in turn, his red eyes flashing. On either of his side stood Severus Snape and Bellatrix Lestrange, both craning thier necks to look up at him.

The Death Eaters were gathered in Snape's Study, the curtains drawn and shadows engulfing them but for the flickering fire in the corner.

'My Death Eaters, I have gathered you here to make an announcement,' The Dark Lord said, his crude mouth twisting into a cruel smile. 'At last, I have the final Horcrux in my care, beyond reach of Harry Potter: the boy who (with many accomplaices more powerful than him), has searched, found, and destroyed my others.'

A murmur arose amongst the Death Eaters at this, but with a single flash of the Dark Lord's eyes around the room, silence fell once more.

'It is with the help of my most Loyal Death Eater, the recently widowed and aggreived Bellatrix Lestrage; and my most Trustworthy Death Eater, Severus Snape, who has endlessly been tempted by Dumbledore to join forces against us, but has remained eternally trustworthy to his true friends and allies throughout.. For in the darkness, we shall find light...'

An applause erupted from teh DeathEaters, Bellatrix beamed up the Dark Lord, devotion etched on every corner of her face. Snape was looking into the fire with a determined interested expression on his face.

The Dark Lord held up the horcrux, now wrapped in an emerald silken cloth. peeling the material away and letting it drop to the floor, the Dark Lord slipped the armband onto his own forearm and flexed his fingers.

'This, he said, the fingers of his left arm tracing the little woven heads of the coiled silver snakes, 'Is the arm-band of Salazar Slytherin, touchable only to those who are a parsel-mouth, like I, destroyable only by descendents of Salazar Slytherin, like I. Ah yes, Lord Voldemort thinks of everything, he never forgets...'

It was now that he turned to either side of him, looking at both Bellatrix and Snape in turn. '...For Lord Voldemort always rewards those who pay him thier service.'

Snape drew his eyes away from the fire and fixed them on the Dark Lord's red, snake-like eyes.

'Lord Voldemort has many minions, But the Lord Voldemort needs second governers, those to... oversee that the rest of us are doing our job properly.' The Dark Lord looked around the room now pointedly at several of the Death Eaters hwo hadn't been doing thier job so well; the Malfoys and McNairs in particular. 'These two Death Eaters I need... have to be the most trustworthy, the most loyal... the most... devoted. And that is why I have chose both those who have again and again payed tribute to the Dark Lord, and never wavered in thier service. I have chosen Severus Snape and Bellatrix Lestrange to be my... watchers, if one were to call it that'

The room again erupted into polite applause, a couple of jealous Death Eaters scowled.

'And now, I dearsay Wortail has baked some biscuits for us.. Wormtail, you imperdinent little git! Have the tea ready!'

Bellatrix and Snape glanced at each other,

Snape began quietly and carefully, 'Wormtail is currently in the bottom of a pit at the-'

'He followed us to the castle! He attacked us!' Bellatrix interupted impatiently. 'Broke my wand! he deserves to rot in that pit!' Her eyes flashed to the Dark Lord pleadingly.

An eerie silence passed through the room as the Dark Lord weighed this in his mind.Finally he let out a cruel laugh.

'Very well, although I daresay with his ratlike tendencies he will worm his way out of this, with those small, furry friends of his. And it is, after all, only the rats that want him. He is a traitor to all but the rats. Yes, yes, alright. This meeting is adjourned, though, sadly, without tea or biscuits.'

Several Death Eaters dissaperated immediatly with the Dark Lord. Several more lingered for a few seconds, then followed. Finally it was only Lucius, Draco, Bellatrix and Snape left.

Lucius and Draco looked a lot more worn than usual, both thier lank, blonde hair tied back with dirty ribbons, thier once-beautiful and exceedingly rich robes torn asunder, roughly patched in places.

Lucius turned to Snape. 'We're on the run at the moment,' Lucius mumbled, 'What with the ministry after us, its hard to stay in one place for long. Our Manor is being watched... they're not even letting Narcissa leave... intercepting letters... (he looked like he was about to cry), I am asking that you place take Draco into your hospitality at Spinner's End, for a week or two... I have a... task to complete for the Dark Lord.'

Draco's face looked sour as he glanced down his nose at the room. 'But father, I don't want to stay in this peice of-'

'-I'd love to have him here.' Snape grinned, showing his pointy yellowed teeth. 'Now that Wormtail has left us, there is another spare bedroom to be used.'

Lucius sighed in releif. 'Well then... see you.' And with a swish of his cloak, he was gone.

Draco was reading A Book of Dubious Magic Spells, which he put down promptly when Snape shot him a 'Don't touch my stuff' expression.

'Well I do suppose that you are staying in this... this place too, Aunty Bella?' Draco adressed his Aunt as though no one else was in the room.

Snape, who had been lingering by the door, turned slightly and paused.

'The Dark Lord has released me, Draco.' Bellatrix answered demurely. 'So I am now free to roam as I wish. However... (and here she shot a private look at Snape), considering that I really don't have much choice of where to stay, and, whether he likes it or not, my nephew still has a lot to learn on the Cruciatus curse, I may ask to stay...'

Snape's lips curled into a smile. 'Ever as you wish, Bellatrix.'

And with a bow, he left the room.