Author's Notes: Huge thanks to my beta, Malory. Written for Curia_regis for teh hp_gen fest in 2009.
Young People for Progress
Sunday 3rd May, 1998 Harry Potter died in the early hours of this morning and, with him, everything I have been working towards. I kept this journal in the hopes it would document my true allegiance when the time came. This seems a little futile now. * A visit from LM. After four months in the dark, there is a very dim glow in the distance. A path has been cleared in front of me and, for better or worse, I have little choice but to follow it.
Harry Potter died in the early hours of this morning and, with him, everything I have been working towards. I kept this journal in the hopes it would document my true allegiance when the time came. This seems a little futile now.
*Saturday 29th August, 1998
A visit from LM. After four months in the dark, there is a very dim glow in the distance. A path has been cleared in front of me and, for better or worse, I have little choice but to follow it.
Over a year has passed, and I still cannot bring myself to be comfortable in the headmaster's office. I sit in the chair, spread my hands flat on the desk, stretch out my legs under the desk – but nothing I do removes the feeling that I am sitting in another, better man's chair. I am careful not to show this discomfort on my face, particularly not to the man sitting opposite.
Lucius Malfoy has changed over the last three years. Still handsome, and with the same long curtain of ash blond hair, but what had been an attractively angular face now looks thin. Gaunt, even. His grey eyes are dull and they have dark smudges beneath them. The hands folded in his lap are as pale as his shirt sleeves. His mouth still turns up at the corners in that polite Malfoy socialite half-smile, determined to keep up appearances even as I scowl in return. "More tea?" I ask in a gruff tone, incongruous with the social niceties of the cosy-clad tea pot and delicate china service.
"No thank you," Lucius replies, eyes studying me carefully. "You know why I'm here?"
Raising an eyebrow, I try to guess whether or not the question is loaded. "I know why you're at the school. I'm not certain why you and I need to have a conference about it. The Dark Lord made it quite clear what's going to happen. He orders, we follow."
"That is the way it should work, yes," Lucius agrees, smoothing out a crease in his expensive-looking tailored robes. I fiddle with my own hem under the desk, where Lucius cannot see. There was always something of the residual prefect about Malfoy that makes me feel oddly inferior. Flashing white teeth in a smile that doesn't meet his eyes, Lucius continues, "but I think this will be somewhat more complex than the Dark Lord appreciates. I just wanted to be assured I have your complete cooperation. We are, after all, old friends you and I... I wouldn't want to step on any toes."
I raise an eyebrow at that. "Consider my toes un-crushed. Do what you like, my opinions on the matter will make no difference either way."
Lucius' eyes glitter, and I can't tell whether it's the sun's reflection off them or the remains of the assertive man he used to be. "Be careful, Severus. You almost sound like one of them." Lucius nods to the folded paper on my desk. The picture shows a miserable looking Weasley being taken away for questioning. The Prophet says questioning, but I don't think there can be much doubt that the man in question will be very lucky to see daylight again. "We should be in this together. A united front, the children will respond to that."
"Mmm," is all I can reply. I pour myself another cup of tea, and wish I had some whisky to sweeten it. Aching for a drink at eleven o'clock; Father would be proud. "Are you intending to be a permanent Hogwarts fixture, then?" I ask eventually.
Lucius even shrugs elegantly. "I don't think that's necessary. I'll make an appearance at the Welcome Feast, address the troops, as it were. I want to make a special effort on the Gryffindor House, I think they're going to be the hardest to reach. Most of the Slytherins come from good families, they're already..." he pauses to find the right word.
"Indoctrinated?" I supply.
"Quite. I'll see how I'm received, and perhaps we can meet again afterwards?" I incline my head in acquiescence. It's depressing that a part of me looks forward to having the company. "Until Monday, then, I'll take my leave." He stands when I don't say anything, and fusses for a moment putting on his cloak. I remain seated, swirling the contents of my tea cup. When I look up I realise he's been watching me, and I inwardly berate myself. I'm slipping. "Look after yourself, Severus," he says by way of parting words.
It isn't until he's ducking into the fireplace that I think to respond, "Give my best to Narcissa." Lucius pauses, nods his head once, glancing back at me, and then he is gone in a puff of green flames.
Monday 1st September The latest plan has been put into action, and I will go down in history as the Headmaster who let it happen. Another nail in my damnation-bound coffin. LM was eloquent as a man could be on the matter. I didn't envy him one iota.
The latest plan has been put into action, and I will go down in history as the Headmaster who let it happen. Another nail in my damnation-bound coffin. LM was eloquent as a man could be on the matter. I didn't envy him one iota.
Are the students subdued, or is it just my outlook on the matter? Welcome Feasts used to be raucous, joyous occasions. The teenagers before me look jaded, as though each of them has fought a personal battle and lost. I daresay a lot of them have. It is my job not to share their dejected expressions, to show at least a glint of the triumph I am supposed to feel. It is easier, somehow, with Lucius beside me. He is, at least, diverting. He can talk about old gatherings and schooldays with a vigour my memories don't possess. We don't talk about the last three years, about anything since the night with the prophecy. Recent history seems to be a sore point for both of us.
The main course vanishes, returning to the kitchens in Hogwarts' depths, and a hush falls over the crowd of students. They – we all – are following a script based on the pattern of past events. This is the moment for the Headmaster's address and, following my own cues, I stand and pause for silence. But there is already silence, so I continue.
"Welcome back to another year at Hogwarts. Hopefully we can expect this year to be somewhat less eventful than the last. Mr Filch has added to his substantial list of banned items, any toy, figurine or icon relating to Harry Potter. Any such item, if found, will be immediately confiscated, and fifty house points deducted." I glare at the Gryffindor table, and catch the eye of Potter's erstwhile girlfriend, eyes red-rimmed but brow determinedly set. I quickly look away again as I continue, "A full list of banned items is available on Mr Filch's office door. I recommend that first years make themselves accustomed with its contents.
"We are also fortunate enough to be welcoming an addition to the teaching staff. I am pleased to once again welcome Professor Grubbly-Plank to the Hogwarts staff, taking over as permanent Professor of Care of Magical Creatures.
"Now, we are very lucky at Hogwarts to be a main base and testing ground for a new youth organisation." I try to arrange my face into a smile, but am certain it doesn't work. "Without wishing to take any fire from my good friend here," I rest a hand on Lucius' shoulder and grip, "I think you will all find it a very promising opportunity, after the various confusions and disruptions of last year. Please lend your full attention to our esteemed guest, Mr Lucius Malfoy."
A polite smattering of applause follows, almost drowned out by whispers. Lucius seems quite pleased with this reaction. If nothing else, he has their attention. With a genial smile, he raises his hands to make a 'hushing' motion and leans forwards conspiratorially promising a shared adventure to all and sundry. For the first time, I see why the Dark Lord placed Lucius at the head of this operation. Over forty, but still handsome and rich, and with a beautiful family. He is what every student wants to be. A figurehead of their possible futures, if they would only do as he says.
Now his hand is on my shoulder, sharing the physical intimacy we had agreed upon as a sign of strength between our two organisations. I can feel the warmth of him through the wool of my teaching robes. "Thank you, Professor Snape, and I promise not to take up too much of you time. I remember all too well how tedious these speeches are when there are slices of hot apple crumble waiting for you down in the kitchens.
"Having a son here at Hogwarts told me a lot about the nature of life at Hogwarts today." Lucius smiles at the Slytherin table, possibly recognising a few of Draco's old friends. "His last year, as many of you will also remember, was incredibly disrupted. A lot of confusing things were happening in the world, from which your headmaster thought it was best to shelter you as much as possible. But after that final night, when so many of your colleagues stayed to fight, we – that is, the school board of governors – saw that the time to keep children and adults separate has come to an end. You are all growing up so fast. While it would be nice for us old fogies to keep you young and innocent as long as possible, I'm sure that you all feel you're old enough to be given a glimpse of the adult world. You want a chance to make a difference to the way things are run, a chance to see for yourselves why we grown ups do things the way that we do.
"Therefore, we have all put our heads together and have come up with a sort of club, called Young People for Progress. Anyone is welcome to join, and we will be organising activities, events, speakers, all sorts of interesting bits and bobs. In return, all we ask is that you sign a declaration. Now, this sounds very pompous and important, but it's only a simple thing, stating that you will do your best to support the establishment and be the best witch or wizard that you can be – something I'm sure you all do every day, regardless of whether it's written on a piece of paper or not.
"Now, I promised to be brief, and I'm sure I can smell that crumble, so I won't go on any more. But I will be around for the next two days, while your school schedule is being organised and everything settles into its routine. If you are interested, I will be sitting at the staff table during meals, please do feel welcome to approach me. Or if you're a bit shy, you can see your Heads of House, and they will pass on your name to me and answer any questions you have. Are there any questions?"
Silence. Then one tentative hand raised at the Ravenclaw table – predictably – from a very small little girl. "Yes?" Lucius asked.
"Can the first years join, or just the older kids?" she asked in a surprisingly steady voice, considering three hundred heads, some of them glaring mutinously, had swivelled in her direction.
"We are happily welcoming anybody who wants to join. And, in fact, particularly the younger students, as this could be a perfect opportunity for you to leap straight into adult wizarding life, and make lots of new, like-minded friends at school outside of your house and in other years. So yes, certainly the younger students may join. And I hope I'll be speaking to you personally in the next couple of days." That was perhaps laying it on a bit thick, I think, as he smiles genially and the young girl blushes. "Well, if there are no more questions, let us carry on with the feast. Enjoy your dessert, everybody," Lucius finishes, and sits once more.
The tables fill with all number of tarts and puddings, jugs of custard, bowls of fruit. As though by some miracle of pudding prescience, an apple crumble materialises squarely in front of Lucius. He beams, and helps himself to a large slice. I shake my head, carefully avoiding Minerva's piercing gaze. She has been trying to catch my eye since Lucius first turned up. There will be a confrontation, but I surely can't be criticised for wanting to put it by as long as possible.
Tuesday 2nd September MM has registered her displeasure. I agree with her on every point but, of course, cannot say as much. My feeble arguments
MM has registered her displeasure. I agree with her on every point but, of course, cannot say as much. My feeble argumentssound feeble, even to my own ears. I resort to the old maxim: It's out of my hands.
"You have been saying for years that you want to promote inter-house relations and reduce the rivalries. We finally come up with a solution that might just work, and this is your reaction? A hissy fit?" I can't look at her as I say it, and stare instead out of the window. Beneath me, Lucius is walking with a gaggle of fifth year girls. This stunt has been more successful than even The Dark Lord had predicted. "This organisation will unite all four Houses behind one cause."
"Behind one man, Severus. That is my objection," her voice quivers with barely restrained anger. It was a mistake letting her stew. "You're creating an army for Voldemort."
"How dare you use his name in front of me?" I demand, swivelling and baring down on her. It has been a long time since I used intimidation tactics on anyone but a student, but there is no longer any point in restraint. Glaring down at her, crowding her, easily half a foot taller, and snarling as I speak, "Of course that is Lucius' purpose, he is making no secret out of it. And there is nothing wrong with that. You should get used to it. You lost." We lost.
Anger and fear compete within her, I'm certain. She won't back down, but neither can she justifiably fight back. Her principles battle with her survival instincts, and I am satisfied, after the last three years, to have a compatriot in ethical dilemmas. "Be grateful I have maintained your position at this school. Outbursts like these do not make it easy."
Minerva swallows, and something glimmers in her eyes. I think, just for a split second, that she suspects our similar positions. "I will not cooperate," she mutters.
"We do not require your cooperation. This organisation is beyond the school. We're just a recruiting ground."
She is silent for a long time, long enough for me to return to my desk and re-establish my thinning veneer of self control. "Thank you for registering your concerns, Minerva. That will be all," I say softly. She sniffs indignantly, but leaves regardless. What else could she possibly say? She is powerless. We all are.
Wednesday 3rd September The full reality of this little experiment struck me today, seeing rows of children, for all the world identical, all smiling proudly at their Death Eater leader. Some of them fought for The Order at the Battle. There were even Gryffindors. What have I allowed?
The full reality of this little experiment struck me today, seeing rows of children, for all the world identical, all smiling proudly at their Death Eater leader. Some of them fought for The Order at the Battle. There were even Gryffindors. What have I allowed?
Roughly a quarter of the school's populace in one room. We were going to hold this first meeting in an unused classroom, but had to move to the Great Hall. All of the first years, I'm sure of it, and most of the second and third years. Very thin on the ground toward the older years, but Lucius assures me they'll come along. At breakfast, a small fleet of owls deposited green packages before all of these children. An activity pack of political propaganda. They contained the declarations – a conveniently magical promise to follow the Dark Lord, worded as a pledge to be a good witch or wizard – and small insignia badges, tiny glinting Dark Marks, which glitter all around me now. As one, they raise their right hands to their foreheads in salute to their leader.
"It's the sodding Hitler Youth," I mutter under my breath to Lucius, who beams beside me.
His smile falters, for just a moment, and he glances askance at me. "The what?"
I look at him. Of course, he wouldn't have been the type to pay attention in Muggle Studies. "Nothing. It's a pleasing turn out."
His smile is assured again, and he nods.
Saturday 20th January, 1999 The YPP youth leader frightens me. A spy in my own school. Perhaps I should talk to Lucius about her.
The YPP youth leader frightens me. A spy in my own school. Perhaps I should talk to Lucius about her.
A soft knock at the door. I close my journal, returning my quill to its ink well. "Come," I say, leaning back in the chair that doesn't feel like mine.
The door opens immediately, and in walks the YPP democratically appointed Youth Leader. A pretty fifth year girl, tall but with a certain grace, eyes and hair both dark. Her robes are impeccable, like all of the YPP, with the green Dark Mark insignia glinting highly polished on her lapel, the red circle surrounding it signifying her leadership. She holds in one hand a manila file, and walks confidently right up to my desk. She smiles distractedly. For the first couple of weeks, she had attempted to charm me, the way that people like her and Lucius always manage to charm others. Unfortunately for her, I am strangely immune to the smiles of sixteen year old girls. "Good afternoon, Professor," she chirps.
"Good afternoon, Miss Vane," I reply. "What do you have for me today?" No one told me that a youth organisation would be such a drain on my time. Miss Vane takes her position very seriously, and does not appreciate the few occasions when I openly belittle it.
"We, the YPP, have requested permission to form a duelling club. Mr Malfoy thinks it's a wonderful idea. We have appointed an instructor who thinks he knows enough to teach us the basics. Perhaps, when some of us become more advanced, a teacher would take over."
"A student instructor?" It sounds like a recipe for disaster. "May I ask whom?"
"Zacharias Smith. He's a Hufflepuff, but he's shown enough skill to warrant an agreement from the rest of us. And he's got the best DADA marks in his year."
Zacharias Smith. So much for Hufflepuff loyalties. "I want to speak to him myself before agreeing to this. I have student safety to consider."
"Of course, Sir. I'll see to it," she demurs. That item is swapped to the back of her file, and she moves swiftly to the next item. "We've been trying something in Slytherin House, and would like permission to make it school-wide."
"Oh?" It becomes harder and harder to fain interest with each of these little meetings.
"A poster campaign in the Slytherin Common Room, promoting the YPP. A lot of Slytherin students are already members, but we found an increase in productivity following the poster campaign. Students doing better in their studies and in sporting events, trying harder, and a few additional sign ups."
I hold out my hand, and she passes me a sheet of parchment. Her likeness is a good one, and whoever drew it has a talent. Miss Vane looks out of the page into the distance, an expression of triumphant hope etched on her very pretty features. Behind her stands Lucius, an encouraging hand on her shoulder. Above this picture, bold letters read, 'The Future is in Our Hands' and beneath, 'Young People for Progress: One of Us, or One of Them?' I keep hold of it as I ask, "You don't need my permission to put up posters in common rooms. Just get one of your students in each house to put them up."
She shifts imperceptibly. "There have been ... obstacles."
I'll just bet there have. One in the shape of a tabby cat, I'll not doubt. "This really isn't a matter for my attention, Miss Vane. If you put up your posters, and they are then taken down by students, that would suggest they are not being successful, and you should try something else."
We both know the students have nothing to do with it, but Romilda Vane does not argue. I am pleased to see I still have some control in my own school. "Was there anything else?"
"You refused our request to have a Yule Ball," she says, unable to keep an accusing note from her tone. I raise an eyebrow in response. I had rather hoped this would have been laid to rest, at least until the end of the year. Apparently not. "I have been in correspondence with Mr Malfoy, and he agrees with me that it would be a good opportunity for right-thinking teenagers to get together socially. We have our lives after school to think of." Every so often, she comes out with such precocious bits of nonsense that can only be parroting Lucius' propaganda. "He wants to hold a party at Malfoy Mansion, and has asked that you give permission for select students to attend. He wanted me to give you this."
She passes an envelope across the table. It is blank but sealed, and I remove from it a single sheet of parchment, which I scan quickly:
'Dear Severus, Come, let the girl have this one thing. It's good for her to see she can make a difference. And the ball is a good idea, one of her better. Consider, we have the future of our race to consider. A gathering which Narcissa, Draco and I can oversee with very little inconvenience to you, will ensure that purebloods are introduced to purebloods, and trim off the surplus. With your monster of a Muggle father, you, of all people, surely can't disagree? Let me know. Lucius
Come, let the girl have this one thing. It's good for her to see she can make a difference. And the ball is a good idea, one of her better. Consider, we have the future of our race to consider. A gathering which Narcissa, Draco and I can oversee with very little inconvenience to you, will ensure that purebloods are introduced to purebloods, and trim off the surplus. With your monster of a Muggle father, you, of all people, surely can't disagree? Let me know.
Ten years, now, since Lucius last pulled that card. It was a mention of my father that finally got me to take the Dark Mark. Why ever didn't he go into politics? I glare at Romilda Vane, because she's there and I can. "Did you read this?"
"No, sir. Mr Malfoy said you and he were friends, and that he thought he could persuade you."
"Did he, indeed?" I fold the parchment over. The girl cannot help show her interest in it. I slip it into my journal, away from prying eyes. There are few people who know my blood history, and I prefer to keep it that way in the current climate. "I am still not happy about this. It makes the YPP elitist and leaves out other students who might enjoy such a gathering. Certain as I am that is not the YPP's intention, it is nevertheless the result."
"Such students could join the YPP, we'd gladly welcome them," she argues, growing more petulant.
"I'm sure you would," I respond. "I will speak to Mr Malfoy. Is that all?" She nods. "Very well, off you go."
She closes her manila file, probably disappointed with our meeting's results. "Thank you, sir. Enjoy your weekend."
I sneer as I re-open my journal. The world was a better place when people said what they thought.
Wednesday 24th January, 1999 Someone has been breaking through my wards. What's more worrying, I'm almost certain they have succeeded. Nothing is moved or removed, but it doesn't feel right.
Someone has been breaking through my wards. What's more worrying, I'm almost certain they have succeeded. Nothing is moved or removed, but it doesn't feel right.
A rush of green flames heralds Lucius' arrival. I am attempting to organise NEWT moderation for Transfigurations theory papers, and so do not look up. Lucius is used to me, and sits in the opposite seat, waiting patiently. "Help yourself to some scotch," I mumble, flicking a wand at Phineas Nigellus' portrait. It swings forwards, and reveals a small drinks cabinet behind – a piece of Transfigurations work of which I am rather proud. I hear Lucius stand, and can imagine the smirk on his face as he moves towards the glittering glass shelves.
Scribbling my signature on the bottom of a final form – the final form of the day, not my career, I am sorry to note – I look up to see Lucius pouring himself a cognac. Trust a Malfoy to help himself to the good stuff. "What are you drinking?" he asks, automatically taking up the position of host.
"Fire Whisky, please. In a decent sized glass."
Lucius pours, glass on glass clinking from across the room. Nigellus scowls from his portrait, but I know he's only angry that he didn't think of it first.
"You're here about this dance nonsense," I begin, in no mood for pleasantries.
"Yes," Lucius says, equally direct, "Romilda says she's been having some trouble persuading you."
Lucius knows my reasoning, but is clearly choosing to pretend I can have no possible argument. He returns, placing a tumbler before me, half-filled with fire whisky. I take a sip, enjoying the burn in my windpipe, the temporary absence of air from my lungs, the watering in my eyes and the pleasant numbing blanket that is cast over my mind. "You haven't been here for the previous social gatherings, disastrously organised by staff. The Yule Ball was a hormone drenched shambles. Slughorn's Christmas party attempted to be more select, but was gate crashed unashamedly, and the nonsense of the brats finding 'dates', the drama it caused in classes. Grades dropped, which is ludicrous. An easily distracted breed, teenagers."
"That aside," Lucius sidesteps my arguments neatly, "young people need to blow off steam. They can do it in your classrooms, or they can do it at my house, far away from you and your school. Come now, Severus. Surely you can't object to my relieving you of some of your burden for one night?"
"You make it sound worryingly attractive," I say, almost smiling. A younger me would smile, might even chuckle, at the sight of an old friend sipping cognac, lounging in a chair looking temptingly relaxed. I wish so hard that I could look like that, that I could slump in my chair and rest my head and smile. "I really don't think it's a good idea."
"Severus," there is a bite in Lucius' voice now, and I start to realise he is taking this quite seriously. "You agreed to be compliant."
"And you agreed not to tread on my toes," I reply, more brusquely than I had intended. I stretch my lips, and I suspect that, with the aid of the fire whisky, what graces my lips is as close to a smile as I have come in years. "Let's not argue about something so trivial. If your organisation is so hell bent on this thing, then it will go ahead eventually, and I have no power to stop it. I am looking out for my friend, because I think he doesn't appreciate the realities of what he's proposing. If you're absolutely sure, send Romilda along with the invite list, and I will sign off the paperwork."
"Thank you, Severus. That's all I needed to hear." He drinks again, Adam's apple bobbing as he swallows. "You don't mind if I stay to finish my drink?"
"Of course not," I reply. My own drink is finished, tumbler sitting empty on the desk in front of me. Stomach acid rises in my gullet, and I swallow it back down again. I rub a hand over my face and feel the stubble of an unshaved chin. My eyes are burning. I haven't slept properly in weeks.
"Are you alright?" Lucius asks. "Romilda says that you've been working hard. Not too hard, I hope."
"You have your little cadet spying on me now, do you?" My eyebrow rises. The moment the question leaves my lips, its plausibility strikes me hard. What a perfect little mole she would be, checking up on her headmaster and reporting back to her true controllers. "I'm fine. The change in government has created a lot of red tape. Working through it is a challenge, but I am pleased to be in an office instead of a classroom." Lucius is perfectly calm, swirling the contents in his glass and seemingly content just to listen. It occurs to me that his endeavour has been successful, more so than the Dark Lord had originally planned. Perhaps Lucius has managed to rise in the Death Eater ranks again. Conversely, I have been left to my school, undisturbed but for the minor interferences of working alongside the YPP. "Lucius, if you knew anything about a plot against me, would you tell me?"
His face shows surprise, but I cannot tell whether or not it's genuine. "Of course. Why would you think such a thing? The Hogwarts regime change has been seamless."
Nodding, I wish I had another drink. Raising one hand, I silently summon the whisky bottle and pour generously. "Still. I have been a spy for a long time. My ... instincts are still sensitive. Things don't feel right."
Lucius chuckles, and places his own empty glass on the table. "Too many years watching your back, Severus. It's made you paranoid."
"Perhaps," I concede, taking in a mouthful of fire whisky and wincing as I swallow. "I'm sure someone has been breaking into my office," I whisper, voice strained by the strong liquor.
Lucius leans forwards and takes my glass, placing it next to his own. With a sweep of his wand, they are Banished. "You need a good night's sleep. Don't worry so much. Your biggest concern at the moment is exam timetabling and next year's admissions." He moves towards the fire place, and throws in a handful of Floo Powder. As the flames change to green, he turns back to bid me goodnight. "This is a kind of retirement for you. Enjoy it, for heaven's sakes! Good night, Severus."
"Good night, Lucius," I reply. But he has already vanished into the flames.
Thursday May 3rd, 1999 The YPP meeting with the Dark Lord today. RV is quite the little Death Eater. The Dark Lord salivates over her like an adolescent. He can barely wait to get her into the Ministry, where she can really do some damage.
The YPP meeting with the Dark Lord today. RV is quite the little Death Eater. The Dark Lord salivates over her like an adolescent. He can barely wait to get her into the Ministry, where she can really do some damage.
A row of teenagers, barely suppressing their excitement. Miss Vane is there, of course, and Smith glows from his success as a duelling instructor. Then there is Vane's appointed Deputy, Astoria Greengrass. Lucius personally greeted her on her arrival, making me wonder if the arrangement between her and Draco is more than just a rumour. The two other boys head clubs of some description, they have something to do with the running of the YPP. I do my best not to get involved in the mechanics of it. It is bad enough watching the results, turning a blind eye to the steady segregation of the Muggleborns, to the posters that have become more and more a part of the Hogwarts corridors. Lucius stands beside me, but we do not talk. It is important to his image that he be seen as separate from Hogwarts' dowdy headmaster. Our institutions are co-operative, but entirely separate, and the Dark Lord likes to keep it that way.
The flames in my fireplace flash green, and an excited hush falls on the YPP representatives. Lucius smiles genially, and it is all I can do to keep from rolling my eyes. From my fireplace steps the Dark Lord, resplendent in elegant black robes, wasted pale face masked in the shadow of his hood. It has been agreed that the normal formalities are dropped for now, lest it should intimidate these promising young minds. We wait, and the Dark Lord approaches. We shake hands, like I would with any other man. Except his hands are cold and emaciated; they make the bile rise in my throat. Still, I part my lips in my version of a smile. "My Lord," I greet him, then step aside for Lucius.
"My Lord," Lucius murmurs, turning to the students, "I would like to introduce you to Romilda Vane, the youth leader of the YPP, and her deputy Astoria Greengrass. And these three gentlemen are Zacharias Smith, Malcolm Baddock and Graham Pritchard. They are in charge of some of the activity clubs the YPP have organised."
"I am very pleased to meet you all at last," the Dark Lord hisses from beneath his hood. Romilda glances at Astoria, her eyes bright with excitement. Astoria responds less enthusiastically, clearly feeling the fear it is only sensible to feel in such a creature's presence. "Lucius has told me much about your activities, and I am very pleased. Such an organisation has made it possible for me to see the possibilities of our world's young people. It is very clear to me that you will be our leaders of tomorrow. The future of our world rests on your young shoulders, and it is very important to me that you all be trained to understand the full reality of that. I can see, between you young people and Mr Malfoy, that this dream of mine is becoming a reality." He pauses. I imagine his greedy red eyes looking over the leaders of his young army, the people who will expand his leadership, take it to Europe, to America, and see that it is eternal. "Miss Vane, Lucius tells me you have a question?"
Miss Vane swallows and takes a step forward. She tries her charming smile, but has no way of telling whether or not it is effective. Her hands knot behind her back, and she tries very hard to push down any signs that she is both excited and terrified. "My Lord, on behalf of the YPP and my colleagues here, let me first say how honoured we are that you would come to see us in person. Your support of the YPP means a great deal to us, and we're truly awed by your presence."
The Dark Lord puts out a hand and rests it momentarily on Vane's bare arm. A sharp in take of breath, and only a moment of flustered breathing, before she returns to her senses. "Our question. Our question – that is, the one thing we all wanted to know – you have said in your manifesto of political neutralisation that you require compliance from the populace. That is, in bringing the truth to people, you require only their physical or outward appearance of loyalty to your cause. But it strikes us, my Lord, that such a requirement is unfair. Unfair to those of us who are truly loyal to your cause, who would die for everything you stand for." So earnest. So depressingly, heart-crushingly earnest. "So our question – why do you not punish those who only pretend loyalty, just as you punish those foolish enough to stand in your way?"
I am almost certain she glances at me.
"An excellent question, Miss Vane. For the time being, it is necessary to accept followers where I can take them. This war has produced numerous casualties on all sides, and the survival of our species in its purest form has always been my prime objective. As time passes, and the new way of life becomes the standard, I daresay laws and ... requirements will change also. For now, they have no alternative. They can follow me in their hearts, or they can follow me in their actions. Both have the same end, and neither is harmful to me or to the cause. Those who prove themselves will always be furthered, my dear, you need never fear that. But we require the man-power, as it were. And perhaps, in time, those who began by following the wrong path will turn in the right direction."
She is not entirely satisfied, but knows better than to say as much. "Thank you, my Lord."
Saturday May 5th, 1999 I am not paranoid. My office has been turned upside down. Nothing has been taken, but they can't have left it like this if they didn't find what they were looking for.
I am not paranoid. My office has been turned upside down. Nothing has been taken, but they can't have left it like this if they didn't find what they were looking for.
I should have heard them coming. That is my first thought as I begin to wake. A wand tip digs sharply into the back of my neck. Ribs broken, and possibly a wrist fracture, though I cannot properly assess the damage, tied up as I am. One eye swollen shut. The other glances around the room, too dark to see anything but shadows.
"I should have known better than to trust you, Severus," that hideous, high pitched voice says from somewhere in the darkness. "At least one thing has come from this betrayal. Miss Vane has proven her point quite aptly."
That charming smile of hers is triumphant now. I see a flash of her white teeth as she steps past me, handing a small, black leather book to a figure that must be the Dark Lord. My journal. A copy.
"Compliance is all very well. But disloyalty can be painful. Betrayal can harm a cause, work away at it from within." He draws closer, removes his hood, and glares at me with soulless red eyes. "Even when there is no hope of a different life. Your path was clear and easy, and you still couldn't bring yourself to be content."
"Lucius..." I begin, certain that my old friend will vouch for me.
"Honestly, Severus," it is Lucius behind me, Lucius' wand digging into the nape of my neck, "Don't even try it. You have made your bed, I suggest you lie in it. Alone. As usual."
I swallow, and from somewhere deep within myself I manage to find a grain of self esteem. Just when I thought it was all gone. But there is something within me that gives me the strength to raise my chin, grit my teeth, lend venom to my voice. "Kill me," I tell them, clearly.
"Romilda. Perhaps you would do the honours?"
There is a moment's silence.
"What?" she asks. She is no longer earnest. She is uncertain, afraid. She is the child she should have been all along.
"That isn't necessary. Do it yourself," I tell him.
But the Dark Lord is handing Vane his wand. "No one will ever know, and you will prove yourself truly loyal. There is a justice to this, my dear. The loyal child killing the wolf in our midst. You know the words, and I am sure you know the hate that pushes them on. Kill him for me, and I can assure you a lifelong position at my side."
"You don't have to do this," I mutter, looking her in the eye. I try to look behind me, at Lucius, but his wand tip is insistent and won't let me turn my head. "What do you think he promised me, Miss Vane? Why do you suppose I entered his service?"
"Shut up," she tells me coldly. The wand is steady in her hand as she advances on me. "You lied to all of us," she whispers, "I saw it in your journal. You're a half-blood. Your father was a Muggle. You grew up with Muggles. You're no more like me than a Mudblood."
"And that warrants my murder? That warrants splitting your soul?"
"Shut up!" she commands again.
The hand that rests on her shoulder is parchment white and skeletal. "Do it quickly, Miss Vane, and it will be all the easier."
I close my eyes. I don't want to see hatred flood her eyes when she does it.