A/N: OK, this was originally intended to be just a one-shot, but so many people wanted to know what happened after Severus returned to Voldemort that I've added on to it.
In case you were wondering, the title translates into "Always Your Servant." Take it for what you will.
As always, thank you so much to all of those wonderful people who took the time to read and review. Your comments and interest are very much appreciated. Much appreciation goes to Verity for sitting up with me on ICQ while I wrote this.
Part 2: Usquequaque Vestri Vernula
"Arise, Severus," the cold high voice pierced him. Anger and frustration rolled off of the Dark Lord in waves, roiling and crashing furiously over the man before him.
Severus rose to his feet, carefully averting his eyes. He allowed the tiniest bit of fear to seep out of him. There was no use feigning a sense of courage he didn't feel. He should have returned the first instant he felt the Dark Mark burn. That was what a loyal follower would have done. Now all he could do was wait for his master to decide if he should live or die.
"I have yet to decide your fate, Severus." The long skeletal fingers traced almost lovingly down the side of Severus's face. Unexpectedly, the Dark Lord's gentle hand lashed out, his nails raking the man's cheek, leaving long scratches to slowly well over. "I am not entirely convinced of your allegiance. You have kept me waiting, and now I have doubts of your loyalties."
Severus was now looking into the fiery red eyes staring at him from the snakelike face. He could feel the touch of the other mind on his own, examining his thoughts one by one, looking for any hint of deceit. The deft touch discovered the desire for power, the thirst for blood and the hope of acceptance. A feeling of relief that his tedious days tutoring inept children in Potions would be soon over slowly drifted to the forefront of Severus's mind. Surely his Master would find something more fitting for his most loyal and forward-thinking servant?
"Oh, I have plans for you, Severus Snape, great and glorious plans." The long fingers continued their gentle touch, mirroring the one on his thoughts. "Do I detect a flicker of fear, Severus?"
"I would be a fool not to fear you, Master." Severus forced himself to remain steady.
The Dark Lord struck without warning. The delicate fingers on Severus thoughts turned brutal, as if his mind was being shredded. Voldemort tore at his mind with all of the savagery of a werewolf attack. Images of despair at the loss of his master, disgust at playing Dumbledore lapdog, dislike for the children who were the spawn of those who had defied the Dark Lord, and a desperate longing for the Dark Arts swirled about in a furious whirlwind. All gave evidence of his loyalty to the Master whom he had served so patiently and fully. Voldemort dug deeper and more brutally into the other man's mind, scouring the dark recesses of his mind, searching for any weakness or shred of disloyalty. At last the Dark Lord's lust for the truth seemed to be satisfied. He released Severus, who was no longer able to stand upright. The Potions master sank to his knees, once more bowing before the greater power before him
"Once again, you have proved yourself worthy of my trust, Severus. Stand before me and tell me what you know."
At the command, Severus gathered his waning strength and slowly rose to his feet. He drew a deep breath, knowing that he should be grateful for the ability to do so. "Even though I knew that you would be displeased with me at first, I was forced to wait to return. That old fool was constantly at my side, monitoring my every move. I had no choice but to continue to masquerade as his one of his most loyal staff members. And Igor, in spite of my advice to Apparate to you and tell you of my delay, ran like the coward that he truly is. Had I known that he was going to flee, I would have killed him on the spot."
Severus paused, waiting for some type of reaction from the Dark Lord. When he realized that he wasn't going to be punished, he continued with his story.
"My only hope was to gain any information that might be of use to you. Then the Potter boy reappeared, much to my distaste. He announced to Dumbledore that you had returned. At that moment, I knew that I had to find a way to return to you as soon as possible. My intent was to turn to Barty Crouch."
"You knew that Barty was there all along?" the Dark Lord asked. Once again Severus could feel the subtle connection between them, as the Dark Lord sought out any hint that his servant was lying.
"Not at first," Severus admitted reluctantly. "I became suspicious when certain ingredients were missing from my Potion stores. All of them were ingredients for Polyjuice Potion. I wanted to find away to be sure of his identity; however, I could not come up with a way to do so." A regretful expression clouded his pale face. "Once I learned for certain that Barty was posing as Moody, it was too late."
"Barty foolishly allowed his emotions to run away with him, and he made a critical error that revealed him to Dumbledore. I had no choice to but to follow along as the old man's loyal pet. Once Barty was discovered... " Severus drew a deep breath before delivering news of Barty's fate. "Fudge, that blustering idiot, ordered the Dementor's Kiss. Barty is gone, his soul sucked out. He is no more."
It was Voldemort's turn to show remorse; his most loyal servant, gone. The younger man had done the one thing that he had needed most: Barty Crouch, the younger, had managed to send the boy to him, to enable his master to return to his full power.
"There is one thing you must know, Master," Severus continued quietly. "The Ministry does not believe the boy's story. They are ignoring everything that the brat said. They have decided to conceal your return from the wizarding world. No one knows that you have returned, my Lord."
Voldemort's face became triumphant. "My return is not believed?"
"They fear you so much that they will not see what they do not want to see. As far as they are concerned, your return is nothing more than a spoiled little boy seeking attention. And by the time they realize the error it will be too late to stop you."
A high-pitched laugh erupted from Voldemort. Great waves of elation burst forth from him, causing Severus to shudder. There was no one to oppose the Dark Lord, no possible way for him to be hindered.
"Ahh Severus, you were correct to wait, to lie low. Does the old fool suspect you?"
A cunning look crossed Severus's face. "The old man considers me to be entirely in his service. He wishes me to spy on you again. You know, of course, that I will bring you as much information as I can. He trusts in me. He believed in my remorse for everything that I had done in your service. He still believes that I grieve the death of that Mudblood, and that I will do everything in my power to keep her son alive."
"You will return to him, Severus. Tell him everything about this meeting that you think will serve to unnerve him further. I want him to fear me. While powerful he may be, he has grown old and weak, and when he is no more, there will be no one to stop me. Return to the school, Severus. I shall summon you soon."
With a deep, reverent bow, Severus kissed the hem of his master's robes a final time. Concentrating on the point just outside the wards guarding the school, he Disapparated from the graveyard.
Later that night, Severus Snape sat in the presence of Albus Dumbledore. It was late, and he was exhausted beyond words, but the old man had insisted upon seeing the interview with the Dark Lord repeatedly in the Pensieve.
"He believes you to still be his loyal servant then, Severus?" the old man asked, for what seemed to be the hundredth time. He was pacing back and forth behind his vast and cluttered desk. The phoenix, sitting bright-eyed and alert, was intently observing their every move.
"He does, Headmaster. His trust in me is as complete as I could have ever hoped it to be." Severus rubbed his eyes wearily, longing for the opportunity to return to his rooms, to fall across his bed and sleep. Finally sleep.
Dumbledore ceased his pacing before turning to face the Potions master. There was a hint of triumph in those twinkling blue eyes. "You have done well. By once more being his most trusted advisor, you will have access to most of his plans. You will be able to gather information vital to his downfall."
"Bear in mind that he never tells any one of his followers, no matter how loyal or trusted, all of his plans," Severus reminded him, a touch of discontentment in his voice. "There may be a great many things I will not be privy to, sir."
"But Severus, without you, we would know none of it at all. Anything that you can uncover for us will be helpful. There are no words to describe how much I appreciate the risks and burdens that you are so willing to take on again."
Dumbledore smiled at the younger man, who was half falling sleep in the chair before him. He remembered the distraught youth that had come to him, tearfully explaining what he had done, warning him that Lily was in grave danger, pleading with him to somehow find a way to protect her. He remembered holding that same young man as he had wept for the loss of a woman whose life had ended because of his foolishness. Severus had promised, no... had sworn, to do everything in his power to protect her son, to atone for his youthful stupidity. "Go to bed, Severus. You have done all you can for tonight. All we can do now is wait."
The younger man staggered from chair, over to the fireplace, and Flooed back to his quarters. Once securely in his own room, he finally allowed his guard to relax. No one saw the twisted smile creep across his face as he stared into the darkness. No one knew of his true loyalties... No one could ever guess what really went on in the mind of the man who danced for both his masters in turn. His ambitions were his alone, and thus they would remain, until the time was right.