Written for: The 'As Summer Ends' challenge on the LiveJournal community, first_order.
Prompts: Severus Snape; Listen to me
"Listen to me, Severus! You are not like them! You are strong. If you weren't, you wouldn't have held out this long."
Seventeen-year-old Severus Snape worried at the cuff of his robes, avoided looking the headmaster in the eye. His fingernails were chewed down to the quick, and he curled his fingers under so that Dumbledore wouldn't see. He hated being here. He'd never been able to say 'no' to an authority figure, though. He was a coward. Deep down, he knew that. If he weren't, he would have walked out the front doors a long time ago and never looked back. He was afraid, though. Afraid of what was out there. Here, at least, he knew what to expect, even if it meant sleeping with one eye open and eating with his back to the wall.
"But you're seventeen now. People will be wanting you to take your place in society. It has come to my attention that a certain group of witches and wizards has extended an invitation to you. You don't need to join their club. There is another way. Another ... club, if you will."
Ah, that was the way of it. Now things were beginning to make sense. He hadn't really understood why Albus Dumbledore cared what crowd he ran with. He'd left him pretty much to his own devices for the past six years, anyway, and even Snape had to admit that he hadn't always chosen the most wholesome of company. But now it appeared that Dumbledore wanted Snape for his own organization. He wondered with just a bit more interest now, whether Hogwarts' headmaster also wanted to take over the wizarding world, shape it to his own beliefs. Everyone said that Albus Dumbledore was the most powerful wizard alive today. No one really knew much about Lord Voldemort, not even his disciples.
"If you wanted, I could introduce you to some of the other members. I think you'll like them."
Snape didn't like anyone. Not even Lily Evans. He worshipped her, yes. But he didn't much like her. It wasn't important to him to like people, or to be liked. What he really wanted was to be left alone. If only everyone would just leave him alone.
"Like you, they are interested in doing what is right. Standing up for their principles."
Snape didn't really think he had any principles. He wondered what 'principles' even were. And of course, what was 'right' depended on which side you were on. That was the first tenet that any Slytherin learned.
"I'll leave you some time to think about it. This is a very important decision, Severus. I cannot impress that upon you strongly enough. There will be an informal gathering this weekend. I should like very much to bring you along. No one will expect anything of you."
Snape squirmed inside. The trap was set. He knew he had to walk into it. It would make him feel safe. He didn't want to be caught.
"Saturday at seven o'clock then?"
It was a date that Snape never kept.