author's note: As usual, I own the rights to nothing official involving Harry Potter. I originally intended this as the first chapter to "Enemy of my Enemy," but somehow it never got put in. I guess it was a bit dark even for that. I'll leave the dissection of Snape's motives up to you.

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"Now," said Voldemort, "I instructed all of you to keep your ears open for news of any wizards close to Dumbledore who gave birth to sons at the end of July. What have you found out?"

Malfoy cleared his throat. "There have been two boys born to couples who might fit the prophecy – parents who have managed to escape from you on three separate occasions. The Longbottoms and the Potters have both had sons."

"Tell me about them," said Voldemort. "The Longbottoms first."

"The Longbottoms are both from old families, though they've turned blood traitors of course," Malfoy began. "As we all know, Frank Longbottom is an Auror. He was instrumental in capturing Karkaroff, among his recent annoyances. I remember him from Hogwarts, he was a Gryffindor prefect ... good at Herbology, but a rather soft-hearted man. He had the habit of telling off purebloods who liked to demonstrate their superiority. The child's name is Neville. They were so proud when he was born that they put an announcement in the Daily Prophet about it. Fools." He laughed.

Macnair said, "I knew Alice from Care of Magical Creatures class. She was a Hufflepuff. Used to tattle to Professor Kettleburn whenever I was having a bit of fun with the beasts in that class ... I never liked her..."

"That will do," said Voldemort. "I am not interested in your petty reminiscences. What of the Potters?"

"James and Lily got married not long after they graduated from Hogwarts," said Malfoy. "Potter's a distant descendant of one of the old families, I do not recall which ... the name's changed though, it was one of the male-extinct lines. His parents are gone, but he's still reasonably well off. As you know, Potter's been quite the thorn in our side lately. Lily is a Mudblood. Their son is called Harry."

There was a short pause, then Voldemort said, "Is that all?"

"All we have been able to find out, my Lord," said Malfoy, "but we are continuing to listen for more information."

"No one has seen the Potters recently, I believe," said Voldemort.

"No, my Lord. They seem to have gone into hiding shortly after their son was born."

Yaxley spoke up. "If there's two boys who might fit the description in the prophecy, how do we know which it is?"

Bellatrix said, "We should send two parties out, one to each family—"

"No," said Voldemort. "I know which boy it is. It is the Potters' son, Harry."

The Death Eaters looked at each other, then back at Voldemort. "How do you know this?"

"I know," said Voldemort, with a finality that forbade anyone to ask. "You all may go. If you find a hint of where the Potters are hiding, bring me the information at once."

"They live in Godric's Hollow –" Nott offered.

"Yes, I know that much," snapped Voldemort, "but that is not specific enough. I have searched the village repeatedly, in vain. Their home must be protected in a way that prevents discovery. Knowing Dumbledore, I would guess the Fidelius Charm."

"Why not simply destroy the whole village?" asked Goyle. "That way –"

"Brute force does not solve everything, Goyle, though you might lack the intelligence to understand otherwise," Voldemort replied. "I am certain they have set up shields against explosions and the like. Besides, I do not wish to level the entire village. It would be most indiscreet. I said," he repeated, "that you all may go. Begone, you all have work to do." The Death Eaters bowed and vanished into the darkness.

Except for Snape.

"My Lord—" he said.

Voldemort turned to him. "Yes, Severus?"

"My Lord, I ... I would make a request of you." Snape knelt down.

"You are to be rewarded for bringing me such valuable news, Severus. Do not trouble yourself about that."

"My Lord, I – if you would reward me, I have something specific in mind. A small thing, completely insignificant, but it would mean a great deal to me –"

"What is it?"

"My Lord, I assume that when you find the Potters, you intend to kill the boy Harry. And surely you will kill James Potter, too. He has interfered with us for far too long."

"Certainly, Severus. You did not need to ask me about that."

"But, my Lord ... what about Lily?"

Voldemort eyed Snape. "What of her?"

"Please, I would like you not to kill her. Unless it proves necessary. Give her to me instead."

"Why, Severus ..." Voldemort was surprised, a trifle suspicious. "What is the woman to you?"

Snape's voice was dismissive, distant, cold. "Nothing, my Lord. Just a schoolboy fancy. I've wanted her for a long time, but that Potter was always in the way."

"A Mudblood? I'd not have thought it of you!" Voldemort scoffed.

"True. She is nothing really. But she is very beautiful." Snape's voice became colder. "She rebuffed me once. I'd like the chance to ... repay her personally."

Voldemort looked into the eyes of his servant. Almost under his breath, he said: "Legilimens!"

Snape did not resist as the Dark Lord examined his mind. He was loyal; he had nothing to hide. Deliberately, he called up the memories he knew Voldemort was looking for.

Voldemort read old hurts there, anger that had fermented into bitterness and hate. He understood those feelings very well. The Dark Lord found nothing else in Snape's heart, for that was all he had expected to see. At last he withdrew, his expression thoughtful.

"Very well. If she is still alive after I kill the child, you may have her. But I promise you nothing. If she gets in my way..."

Snape bowed low, not meeting Voldemort's eyes. "Of course, my Lord."

"Go, then." The conversation over, Voldemort turned and Disapparated.

Snape remained standing still for several moments. Then he Apparated back to his home, his heart beating fast.