Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter NOR any of his friends NEITHER any of his enemies. It's hard to admit, but when I'm done with them all, I have to return them to Joanne K. Rowling in an original wrapping and unharmed.
I make no money, I mean no harm.


Checkmate
The Proposition


The darkness was complete with the only exception of a thin line of light coming through the small window just below the ceiling. Rebecca pulled the small girl she was holding closer and reached out to caress her brother Charlie who had dozed off by her side. It wasn't his fault they ended up here. He had been the one to come and tell her about a group of first years who had decided to wander off into the Forbidden Forest just when Dumbledore's funeral had been over.

The wrong decision to go and find them without alarming a teacher had been hers.

They had been captured by Death Eaters not long after finding the first years and getting lost in the forest together. Since then, they had been kept in this cell - or cellar - for sixteen days. During the days, the small window gave just enough light for them to recognise each other. During the nights, the darkness was... complete.

A few children raised their heads when the locks on the door rattled. The girl in Rebecca's arms stirred, stretched and sat up. Rebecca stood up and felt Charlie join her. She pushed him behind herself. So far none of them had been hurt - but that could change.

The door opened and the cell was suddenly full of light. All the children were awake now, some stirring in confusion, some staring at the short figure that had appeared in the door.

"Rebecca Garthy?" the man asked.

"That's me," Rebecca answered. Her voice was rough and she was surprised it worked at all.

"Come here," the man ordered. She looked at Charlie, silently telling him to stay calm. He was just fifteen, but the rest of them were twelfe, and until she returned, he was the oldest among them.

She climbed the few stairs to the door and the Death Eater pulled her roughly through the doorframe. Maybe he though she was moving too slowly, maybe he just wanted to be rough and she hadn't given him any other reason.

They were in a cold corridor lit by torches. It led to an entrance hall, Rebecca remembered, and continued somewhere deeper around a corner. Another man was waiting in the corridor and Rebecca felt her blood freeze in her veins.

He was tall and thin, had a pair of red eyes and no nose that could be called a nose. This must have been He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself. Rebecca suppressed a shudder when he looked at her.

"Rebecca," he said in a high, hissing voice. His eyes seemed to be piercing through her - in fact, she was sure he was roaming through her mind right now. She felt the slight tingling that indicated a Legilimens visiting and she hoped her Occlumency was good enough to keep her secrets secret.

"Voldemort," she managed when the tingling ceased. She regretted her cheekiness immediately. She was willing to bear his ire for herself, there were, however, seven children and her own brother in a cell just two steps from her.

But Lord Voldemort didn't seem to be offended. His face changed and it took Rebecca acouple of seconds to realise he was smiling at her.

"Rebecca," he repeated almost friendly. "There is something I wish to discuss with you." Rebecca waited for him to continue.

"Erm... yes?" she enquired when he didn't.

"Yes, Master!" the Death Eater behind her barked and prodded her between her shoulder blades. She bit her lip halfway through the yelp of pain, determined not to give him the satisfaction of showing her discomfort.

"Wormtail," Voldemort said in what Rebecca supposed to be a mild voice. The man behind her backed away from her.

"I have a proposition for you," Voldemort said to Rebecca. She forced her arms to stay at her sides rather than fold at her breast defensively.

"What kind of a proposition?" Voldemort stepped closer to her and took hold of her elbow, turning both of them away from Wormtail.

"There is a servant of mine I reckon you know. Severus Snape. He has become very... moody lately and I would like to make him feel better."

Rebecca contemplated this, sorted her thoughts out and dared to look directly into those red, inhuman eyes.

"And you need me because...?"

"Because I am not a young, pretty girl." Rebecca stared at him. He couldn't mean... "As I know Severus," Voldemort continued, "he likes these things better if the girl in question does them willingly."

"Willingly," Rebecca repeated dumbly, not quite believing her ears.

"We could make it a magical contract, to ensure both sides keep their end of the bargain."

After a minute or so, Rebecca managed to string a sentence, "And your end of it would be what?"

"As a token of my good will, I will let the children go freely," Voldemort offered.

The willing part of the deal must have been really important. From the right point of view, it was reassuring - a beastly man, a monster, wouldn't need his partner to give him consent to his actions, would he? But she still wasn't persuaded. Was there any way this could be a nasty trick? Rebecca's mind started cataloguing spells and charms that could possibly be used against her if she agreed with this.

"All of them?" she asked to gain some time.

"All eight," Voldemort confirmed at once. "I will make a Portkey to send them to whatever location seems appropriate."

There was probably very little use for eight children for Voldemort, but still... couldn't he put her under Imperius and be done with it?

"I'll make the Portkey myself," she said resolutely. Something flicked through Voldemort's eyes, but the quality of the emotion behind the flicker Rebecca couldn't guess.

"I believe I have more practice with making Portkeys," Voldemort said unsurely.

"I'll manage." Rebecca held her hand out.

Three seconds later she realised where the trouble lied.

"Oh, come on," she snapped impatiently. "What can I do? I just barely passed the defense O.W.L.s - and it wasn't because I would be that good at the practical part. Maybe if I concentrate hard enough, I'll get rid of a few red capes." That brough a new expression to Voldemort's face, and once again, Rebecca found herself unable to interpret it.

"Wormtail, lend her your wand," Voldemort ordered. The Death Eater seemed to be surprised, but obliged. Rebecca fished a brass phial out of her pocket. She paused.

"Just to make this sure," she said. "You want me to bed Severus Snape, sleep with him and make him as relaxed and happy as I manage in exchange for the eight children down there to get home?"

"Yess," Voldemort hissed, eyes fixed on the wand in her hand.

She turned the phial into a Portkey and primed it to go off in three minutes. She threw the wand back to Wormtail, who caught it clumsily, and opened the door to the cell.

"Everyone get hold of this," she ordered and threw the phial to Charlie. The children gathered round him. "Make sure you're holding it - it's a Portkey. Charlie, you..."

"You're not coming?" Charlie cried out, eyes already wet. A smart boy, her brother was.

"Not right now. Make sure Mum gets her medicine, will you?" Charlie nodded. His lips began to tremble, but he held back the tears and chided everyone who didn't seem to hold the phial firmly enough.

"I'll be fine," Rebecca said just before they all disappeared. If she made her job well, they would appear on the Hogwarts grounds, just before Hagrid's hut. There would be someone at Hogwarts they could turn to, even now, in July, she was sure of it.

As she turned back, a spell hit her and she staggered. When she wanted to complain, she found out her voice was gone.

"I find it crucial you wouldn't mention the details of our little agreement to Severus," Voldemort explained.

And how the hell am I supposed to get the man to talk to me, Rebecca thought sourly.

"Now, to the details..." And again, Voldemort grabbed her elbow to lead her around. Rebecca was surprised her skin hadn't crawled away from the spot his fingers were touching. But, she mused, there was the hope she had been looking for - Voldemort didn't know everything. He certainly couldn't read her mind if he believed she was sacrificing herself. He got it all wrong.


The first time Rebecca met Severus Snape was at a funeral. Her mother had told her and Charlie it was a funeral of her distant cousin Eileen who she had been very close with during their school-time. She hadn't explain why Aunt Eileen had never come to see her friend during the last few years - as long as Rebecca remembered - and when asked, she had become sad and hadn't responded.

The tall, pale man at the coffin, Rebeca's mother whispered to her children, was Eileen's only son Severus. He was a teacher at Hogwarts, she continued, Rebecca would meet him again in a few months.

Rebecca scrutinised the man after that. He didn't look to be much fun to be around, but then, it was his mother's funeral - people usually weren't joyous over their mother's death. She looked him in the eye after the ceremony and felt sudden urge to make him smile. The funeral, however, didn't seem to be the appropriate occassion, and Rebecca decided to take her chance on the quest in three months, after starting her first year at Hogwarts.

From that day, Rebecca was looking forward to the beginning of the school term with impatient passion reserved to children. Her enthusiasm was so infectous her younger brother, freshly eight by then, demanded to be allowed to come with her at least for a few days.


A/N: Warning: this is silly. Don't expect much depth or anything. Also, don't expect much dark themes - there is some violance later, but no more than you can watch daily in the news.