Set after HP&tGoF
Disclaimer: Well, duh. Not mine.
This chapter has been edited and reposted on 11/17/06.
Severus Snape sat at the beaten circular table in the Order of the Phoenix's pitiful 'war room'—the worn back parlor of 12 Grimmauld Place. Dumbledore had spent the summer gathering 'the old crowd', while Severus had spent it worming his way back into the reunified Death Eaters. The last had been surprisingly easy, which left Severus even more on edge. He'd had to hear numerous retelling of the Dark Lord's 'duel' with the Potter boy from the point of view of the dozen or so Death Eaters who'd witnessed it. However, he had nothing but speculation on the mechanics of the Dark Lord's return. Neither the Dark Lord nor Wormtail were particularly forthcoming about the ritual, and the boy lacked the magical acumen to truly explain what had happened. From what he had explained of the ritual, however, it really shouldn't have worked, certainly not as well as it had. Something was niggling at the back of his mind, but he couldn't pin it down.
Other members trickled in. Arthur and Molly Weasley and their sons Bill and Charlie, Mundungus Fletcher, Minerva McGonagall, and of course the two Marauders.
For now, Severus and several other members remained veiled behind Albus's powerful Charms, listening quietly as the others reported. Even Severus had no idea who the Headmaster's other spies were, or even how many he had.
After several hours, most of the Order was dismissed. Only a handful of the most trusted remained, including McGonagall, Black, Lupin, and the Weasley parents.
Albus unveiled Severus and the weary man lowered himself into a seat, sipping at the hot tea Molly poured for him.
Albus said gravely, "Severus has some puzzling news for us." He gestured for Severus to explain.
Severus said flatly, "The Dark Lord has some how located or created an Heir, and plans assume the Lordship of the House of Slytherin." His hands shook as he cradled his teacup and took another sip. He had watched torture and rape with equanimity, yet this left him shaken for some reason he could not fathom.
Black broke the silence. "What the FUCK?! Where did he find an Heir?"
Dumbledore spoke wearily, "Slytherin is an Ancient and very secretive family. My sources have only been able to locate speculation from the contemporaries of the various Slytherin Lords and Heirs. We can tentatively conclude that the Heir must be magically powerful. There have been both Lords and Ladies of Slytherin, so gender is no qualification. If Voldemort has located a potential Heir—and this is by no means definite—then he will be able to become Lord Slytherin, and inherit all that that title entails."
"Er…what is that, exactly?" Arthur asked tentatively.
Dumbledore smiled wearily, "That is another mystery."
Severus added, "The Dark Lord seems to believe it is something very significant that he as only the Heir of Slytherin doesn't have access to. Or at least that is the impression he's leaving. He is planning to perform the Rite of Claiming sometime in the next three months. It must be performed at the Slytherin Family Seat, but he is keeping that location secret."
"Figures," Black muttered. Everyone else nodded their agreement.
"Where did You-Know-Who learn all of this, anyway?" Molly asked.
"I believe he may have found documents in the Chamber of Secrets when he opened it as a student at Hogwarts," Albus said.
Lupin frowned. "Why would Voldemort let slip this information? Surely we won't be the only ones hunting for this Heir."
Surprisingly, it was Black who replied. "The fact that Voldie's just an Heir, rather than Family Head, is a major block to recruiting, especially in the really old, powerful families." Now Severus understood the reason for including Black on this portion of the meeting. Rebel though he was, Black was steeped in the traditions of one of the most Ancient, Dark, and Noble families in Europe.
Straight-backed and determined, McGonagall said crisply, "What sort of allies would those be?"
Black shrugged. "Don't ask me." He added, seeing McGonagall's pursed lips, "Amazingly enough, after twelve years in Azkaban and a year as a fugitive, I'm a bit behind on the gossip." Seeing several guilty expressions, he relented, though his eyes still held a certain malice. "Lord Slytherin is a very impressive title, especially to your old, Dark families. Keep a watch on those little, isolated communities. 'Lord Voldemort' won't mean a tinker's damn to them, but they may listen to Lord Slytherin. The Llewelyns have always been traditionally aligned with Slytherin, and they've been the major power in Cymru for centuries. Wales," he added, seeing some blank looks. "The scions of House Slytherin have always been very active, and helped a lot of people. Many families will remember those debts."
Severus added, "With the Slytherin Lordship on the horizon, it does seem as though many powerful people are becoming more amendable to his overtures. At one point, students who Sorted Slytherin considered themselves—proudly—liegemen of the Slytherin Family. Lords and stewards made it a habit to cultivate this by offering financial and legal aid, and actively networking on behalf particularly talented graduates. Those favors are remembered."
Albus said, "Hopefully, this will all become moot if we can find away to intercept this Heir or prevent this Rite. Sirius, do you have any thoughts on what this Rite may entail, or who the Heir could be?"
Black rubbed his bristly jaw thoughtfully. "Good ol' Mum was sure that the Slytherin line had married into the Black line at some point—through somebody's bastard get, most likely—but she said the same things about Merlin and the Loch Ness Monster. The Heir could surface in any old family. Hell, Voldemort crawled his way out of a Muggle orphanage."
Arthur said, "So we should start looking at the darker families for candidates?"
Black shook his head, "Not necessarily. Slytherins have, as a Family, been drawn to power, Light or Dark. If you really need some criteria, I'd look at old families that produce wizards and witches of above average power reliably. Especially those families in which unusual magical gifts or magical creature heritage runs."
"What qualities might the Heir require? Slytherin, especially ancient Slytherin, is a dark-inclined Family. What do dark families usually require in Heirs?"
Everyone looked at Black. "What?" he said.
Severus snapped irritably, "You are the Black heir, are you not? What were the criteria?"
Black stuffed a biscuit in his mouth. "Dunno," he mumbled through the crumbs in his mouth.
"How can you not know?!" Severus nearly shrieked.
Black shrugged. "No one ever told me. The house picks."
"The house?" Arthur said.
"Yup. It decided I was the Black Heir when I was 13. Mum was pissed. She wanted it to be Regulus. When I came back after the Tri-Wizard debacle, it acknowledged me as Lord Black."
"So you're telling me that the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black has a piece of haunted, near-condemned real-estate pick and choose the family head?" Severus said caustically.
Black shrugged. "Insanity runs in the family." He ate another biscuit. After swallowing, he said, "What makes an Heir is very personal to each family. It depends on what the family wants to preserve and encourage in their line, and by what method the heir is chosen. Slytherin was rumored to have a powerful guardian spirit—maybe even a deity—as a family patron. Voldy will have to take the Heir to the Ancestral Home and petition the spirit or whatever to recognize the Heir, and thus elevate him to Lord Slytherin."
"Can we stake out this ancestral home and wait for him to show up?" Molly asked.
Albus shook his head. "Not even the other three Founders knew where the Slytherin Family Seat lay. The Slytherin family was old and powerful even then."
Severus lay down in one of the musty-smelling beds in a small bedroom on the fourth floor. He was exhausted, yet filled with the same restless, jittery sort of nervous energy that had prevented him from sleeping all summer. Yet again, he felt himself slipping into restless dreams, rather than peaceful sleep.
"The potion is ready…Father." Severus was, even years after being reunited with his Father, secretly filled with joy every time he said the word. His father was powerful and intelligent—even brilliant. Handsome, charismatic, yet ruthless. His father stepped up behind him, and peered into the cauldron of shimmering, inky black potion. "Well done, my son." A long-fingered hand rested briefly on his bowed head.
Severus snapped awake, shaking his head to clear of the oddly real dream. His father had been nothing like the dream figure. Sebastian Snape had been a short, rabbity man. He'd died when Severus was only 7. All he really remembered the man saying was, "Yes, dear," whenever his mother made one of her imperious announcements. He'd never said anything unkind to Severus, but he'd certainly never said, 'Well done,' or indeed ever referred to him as his son.
"Perhaps a remnant of a past life," he sneered mockingly to himself.
Thanks for everybody who took the time to review ch. 1 the first time around!
K: Thank you so much for your many helpful suggestions. I hope you take the time to give me such thoughtful critiques on all of my chapters! hint hint
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