Please note I do not own Harry Potter or Snape or even Lord Voldemort. This is based on situations and characters created by the Master JK Rowling. Thank you JK and don't sue me!!

The Return by Waddiwasiwitch

"Are you prepared?" asked the Headmaster.

"I am" I simply replied. Was that really my voice? I wondered how I sounded so calm when my insides were in turmoil. I swept from the room. My heart was in my mouth and I felt that sickening sensation that only visited me in my nightmares this past thirteen years. He was back now and there was to be no escape for me. The walk seemed to take forever. My left forearm was burning black and had been since shortly before the Potter boy had returned to Hogwarts. That foolish child had been so lucky but it meant that the Dark Lord would be even angrier on my arrival. I knew exactly what to say but the main question was whether I was going to get a chance to say it. Then I suddenly realized that I had reached the gates. I was already late so it could not hurt to get what could be my last glimpse of the magnificent castle. I surveyed the castle and all its splendour. Despite the many unhappy times I spent there it was still the only place I truly felt at home. I turned away. I could not afford any more sentimentality. I opened the gates and made sure my Occlumency shields were in place. I touched my Mark and within moments I was transported to a graveyard full of masked figures. My heart was racing even further now and beating against my Adam's apple.

"Severus Snape, I am surprised that you left the safety of that muggle-loving old fool," said the Dark Lord in his cold high voice. I trembled slightly as I turned to face him. He looked angrier than I had ever seen him. No doubt Potter's escape had only served to strengthen his wrath. I fell on my knees before him. Oh how I hated grovelling and how I despised fawning to that monster. However it was not as much as I hated myself.

"My Lord." I began but he silenced me with a wave of his wand.

"Crucio"

My limbs thrashed about and I could hear screams escaping my lips. I was going to die. I knew it. Then as suddenly as it started it stopped. I lay sprawled on the ground and I was twitching uncontrollably. The after effects of the spell were still ravaging my exhausted body. I breathed in deeply and made to stand up but before I could do so a foot connected with my chest. The Dark Lord.

"Do not stand up until I tell you to do so," he hissed venomously. He looked around at his band of Death Eaters.

"This" he announced gesturing towards me "could have been any one of you. Any one. Let it serve as an example to you all." He motioned for me to get up, which I did immediately despite great difficulty. He turned to Lucius Malfoy who was standing a few feet away.

"Lucius you brought this man into our fold. While he showed his mettle and worth prior to my ah disappearance, I need to know if you still deem him trustworthy" he asked. Lucius looked over at me. I could tell that he was enjoying having a say in my fate.

"I do my Lord. He has continued his association with our family" he sad with a nod. I would be in his debt now if I was to survive. He would not be slow in asking for favours in return. The Dark Lord's red eyes bored into my own. He searched my mind for treachery but he found none.

"Very well. I will speak with you later, Snape" he said, "You will have one chance and one chance only to convince me of your allegiance". He stepped into the circle of Death Eaters once again.

"My friends you have all let me down since and during my absence. But being the benevolent lord that I am, I am offering you all a chance, one that will not be extended again. Should any spy or traitor be found within my ranks, a long and painful death will be their reward."

He paused a moment as if to stress his threat and I did not miss the pointed look in my direction. Then he added, "Now you may leave except of course for you, Snape". The sound of the departing Death Eaters filled the graveyard. Once they all had left the Dark Lord turned his attention to me.

"Severus Snape, I did not expect you. Last time I saw you, you were doing Dumbledore's donkeywork. You dare return". He turned his macabre face towards me. I registered the return to the use of my first name. It seemed that perhaps he was somewhat bemused by my actions and not quite as angry as he would have the other Death Eaters think.

"My Lord I admit that I have been remiss in my loyalty" I said quietly, "As for the episode with Quirrell I regret that you did not reveal yourself to me. I most certainly would have obliged you if I had known. At the very least I would not have hindered Quirrell."

"And what of today?" he demanded.

"Today I would have come sooner had it not been that I believed that it would be your wish for me to continue to ingratiate myself with and convince Dumbledore that I was no longer loyal to you. That way I could maintain my post as spy at Hogwarts. All I worked for these past thirteen years would have been wasted otherwise and I believe I could offer valuable information."

"Come now Severus. Dumbledore before the Wizengamot has vouched you for. You continued to work for him and have had Potter at your mercy these past four years. You even intervened when Quirrell tried to knock the little snot off his broom. Those are not the actions of a man loyal to me!"

"I admit I thought you defeated. I stayed with the old man because he kept me out of Azkaban and I had a comfortable position as Potions Master. Besides it is just as well that I did, my Lord, if you pardon me saying, as I have fourteen years of information to give you."

The Dark Lord let out a mirthless laugh.

"You have little fear Severus. You ought to be terrified" he said shaking his head and giving me a calculated look that I did not much like being on the end of. It was a gamble but he seemed to be amused. I knew he did not entirely trust me but the prospect of a spy on Dumbledore was too good to resist. It would never do to let him see just how afraid I really was.

"On the contrary, my Lord." I replied "I am afraid when I have cause to be. Although I have let you down I wish only to serve you."

"Ah Severus" he said wrapping a paternal arm about me, "I always had high hopes for you. You remind me of myself in my youth. Such intelligence and potential despite being let down by those whose care you were entrusted to."

I was nothing like him. I managed to maintain my composure despite the revulsion that I felt.

"You flatter me, my Lord." I replied inclining my head respectfully, "I could never hope to deserve that praise. I am only glad to be of service to you, my Lord."

"So the old fool is adamant that you are to be trusted?"

"Yes, my Lord. The Headmaster believes me to be entirely repentant and he believes that he now has a spy in your fold" I said snorting derisively. His lips twisted into that chilling smile of his.

"Well, well, Severus. You have been busy. I presume that is your explanation for your delay" he said nodding in approval, "I thought as much once you showed up." He looked me straight in the eye.

"After all surely you are not stupid enough to try and outsmart me?" he challenged.

"Of course not, my Lord." I replied.

"I should hope not, for your own sake." he said with a malevolent gleam in his red eyes, "If I ever discover that you are betraying me, I will personally ensure that yours is a painful death. Unlike Dumbledore it takes a lot more than words to convince me of someone's loyalty."

"I would not expect anything less, my Lord"

"In any case I believe that a reminder may be beneficial."

He raised his wand once again as I braced myself.

"Crucio" he shouted.

I once again found myself being thrashed about. It seemed to last longer this time. He had a point to prove. Just when I feared I would slip into unconsciousness he broke the spell. He turned on his heel.

"Never forget, Severus. My wrath is one that you do not wish to live with."

Just then I heard the faint pop that signalled his departure. I lay panting on the ground for a few minutes before I could muster the strength to get up. I felt sick as if I was about to vomit. I stumbled over to a large boulder and sat down. I would end up splinching myself if I attempted Apparition in this state. I decided to use the time to reflect upon our meeting. It had gone better than I had feared. I was returning to Hogwarts after all and the Order had their spy in place. The Dark Lord was no fool but was giving me the benefit of the doubt. I had expected the Unforgivable but he could not refuse information on the Headmaster and the Order and of course my Potions skills. I would have to be careful. It seems that I will be skating on thin ice for the foreseeable future.