Too Deep - Chapter 25
One of the things I admit has changed is my characterisation of the Dark Lord Voldemort and I intend to explore this more in some of my new content in this New Year. I like how I end this chapter and feel it is fitting to how I portray my characters. Enjoy, and Happy New Year! ~ SS19
Escaping the castle had been easier than Severus had perhaps contemplated, though the shadows in the quiet corridors seemed to stretch and accommodate him far more easily than they had before. There was only one place he could go, now. There was only one place he could belong, and although the chapters of his life were still jumbled in his mind, he sensed that such belonging would never be satisfying or fulfilling. But this was all he had now.
Riddle Mansion appeared deserted, and indeed Severus knew there was no gathering or calling tonight. Absently he pondered whether the Dark Lord already knew the tidings Severus would bring him, for he had snakes in many, many places who whispered to him. He still wondered why he felt so little, why he felt the same, and different, all in the same moment. He needed to…
Even that sentence had no completion, no clause to finish it and make it whole. He did not know what he needed to do, now. He did not know who he could seek advice from; he was a murderer now, and not just any murderer.
He was a murderer who had enjoyed it.
Severus did not know what that made him, this new definition, beyond the one thing he had never wanted to be.
He moved towards the closed living room door. A murderer who enjoyed it…did not knock. He pushed the doors open to the makeshift throne room the Dark Lord inhabited for the majority of his waking hours, not surprised to see that he had company kneeling beside the marble throne.
Bellatrix looked up at the intrusion and hissed, angrily, jealously, in Severus' direction. Severus' derision was evident in the returned glare. More lazily perhaps, more dangerously even more so, the Dark Lord rose to his feet. "Where are your manners, Severus?" His hand was moving to his robes, to where his wand would lie, just begging to be used.
"I must speak with you immediately, my Lord. It is of the utmost importance. Alone." Severus did not flinch when the wand became visible, and instead, he took three steps nearer to Lord Voldemort and the crouching Bellatrix. The Dark Lord considered him, seeing this out of character behaviour and not knowing how to react to it. Severus was always polite, always cautious, always at a distance, wary, watching, waiting. "Leave us, Bellatrix."
A howl of indignation from the witch. "My Lord!"
"Still useless, then, Bella?" Severus' words were sharp and amused and had the desired effect; insanity's grip on Bella was strong and she jumped to her feet, going straight for her wand, but Severus saw only an insignificant pawn and did not need his wand to send her sprawling back against the wall and into an undignified and not necessarily conscious heap. "I did say alone."
Voldemort eyed Severus. "Perhaps not just your manners, Severus. What is this that you must speak of, and be hopeful that it is something I wish to hear."
Severus straightened his back, surprised at how relaxed his shoulders were. Usually, the Dark Lord would cause feelings of considerable tension and fear - but now - "Albus Dumbledore is dead."
Although Voldemort had given him this mission, in exchange for Severus' life, it was clear that he had been expecting the younger wizard to fail. The surprise was evident, though masterfully covered eventually by stoic intrigue. "Indeed? I admit, Severus, I find this…difficult to believe."
Severus took two further steps forward and as he did so, the light from the nearby fireplace cast less of a shadow and more of exposure onto his face. Voldemort saw the blood, and now his stoic intrigue was slipping, and Severus knew he wanted to show victory. This was what the Dark Lord had craved, for so long, after all. "He is dead, my Lord."
"By your hand?"
"By my hand."
"Lies!" Not so unconscious then. Bellatrix forced herself to her feet, 'Do not believe him, my Lord, Severus Snape is a traitor in the pocket of Dumbledore and would never be able to accomplish such a feat that even the extraordinary Dark Lord could not." She fell silent when Voldemort held up a hand, "If Severus is telling the truth, it will be easy to discover, Bellatrix - just the same as if he is lying. However." Voldemort's head tilted, serpent-like, "Severus seems different."
He was more aware of the blood now. He knew what the Dark Lord wanted, and what else did he have to risk now? He offered the memory with the emotion genuine and true…for there was very little to show. He knew the Dark Lord was interrogating the image but he saw precisely what Severus had seen - Severus kneeling by the dying wizard, pulling his hand away from the wound so that the blood flowed freely, waiting until the hand was loose and the movement was no more. He knew the Dark Lord sought evidence that this was fake, constructed, lies.
But as it was not, there was no evidence to find.
"Bella. Verify this information. If true, summon the Inner Circle. We must move if this is true." Voldemort moved nearer to Severus this time, not bidding him to come forward, "You stink of blood, Severus. It rather suits you." His eyes regarded the streak of red on a very pale cheek. "But if what you say is true, then you have something to give me."
Severus inclined his head. The silence in the room - he had never understood the metaphorical cutting it with a knife but now he did, for it was thick and heavy and poised and he could imagine the knife moving through it - Bellatrix too was under its spell. He retrieved the prize Lord Voldemort had sought for so long and offered it to him.
Voldemort observed Severus' bloodstained hand and the grey wand he offered to him, that which he craved, above all other weapons - the wand - Dumbledore's wand. He closed the gap to take it, but before Severus could fully draw away he gripped the other's chin between two fingers, forcing him to hold the gaze. "You are different, Severus."
Severus regarded him.
Voldemort held him a moment longer before releasing his fingers and taking the wand. "Clean yourself up. You will be present at the gathering this evening when Bellatrix has verified what you have told me."
Severus departed, followed swiftly by the suitably cowed Bellatrix, and Lord Voldemort was left alone with the weapon of his greatest enemy and a rising, growing, increasing, burgeoning, budding sense of…
Severus had felt nothing when he had killed Dumbledore, and not just mortally wounded him, but stayed to watch him die to ensure there was no survival, in fact, ensured there could be no survival. Voldemort had to admit himself surprised, he had assumed Severus would fail in the mission and he would have to kill the traitor who had spied on him for so long.
He assumed that the Severus he had tortured and wounded and humiliated would break under the pressure, and that would be the end of the younger wizard's chapter in Voldemort's quest for power. It would have been a shame, of course, and Voldemort in his most private of moments would have regretted it, for the other had potential and he would have been partially responsible for the waste of that potential.
He had never considered the alternative.
He had never truly considered that Severus might actually be successful.
There was something else, too.
Bellatrix's words, spoken with passion and with no thought for their potential offence, lingered. Severus had not bowed when he had departed. Anyone else, anyone else at all, Voldemort would punish for such impoliteness.
"Would never be able to accomplish such a feat…"
What could the Dark Lord Voldemort do about that, now?
"That even the extraordinary Dark Lord could not."
How could he expect Severus Snape to bow to him now when he had killed the one wizard that Lord Voldemort truly feared? And if Severus was capable of that…