A/N: Hi! Sorry it's been an extra week since I said I'd update, but my parents decided to extend our holiday for another week, so I actually only just got back, yesterday
A/N2: Ok, I was planning on getting this up last night, but I was watching the news about the London riots (actually now the England riots). As I was abroad, I missed it when it started, but I was absolutely appalled last night. I don't understand how people can be so mindlessly violent – they're destroying people's livelihoods, there's so many businesses been looted and houses on fire, it's scaring me and I don't even live in London! (I live about 30 a 30 mins drive away). I hope the police are able to better when it undoubtedly starts again for the 4th night, tonight. It was nice to see the Londoners (and people of Birmingham, and Liverpool) working together this morning to try and fix up their communities, I just hope tonight doesn't mean it's all gone to waste.
Anyways, don't want to end up writing an essay, so on to the story!
"Spinner's End," Remus read.
Snape looked up. Why was his home in the story? Did something happen to him there?
Many miles away the chilly mist that had pressed against the Prime Minister's windows drifted over a dirty river that wound between overgrown, rubbish-strewn banks.
Draco wrinkled his nose. Snape looked at him, wondering what he would think when he discovers it's his home town.
An immense chimney, relic of a disused mill, reared up, shadowy and ominous. There was no sound apart from the whisper of the black water and no sign of life apart from a scrawny fox that had slunk down the bank to nose hopefully at some old fish-and-chip wrappings in the tall grass.
But then, with a very faint pop, a slim, hooded figure appeared out of thin air on the edge of the river. The fox froze, wary eyes fixed upon this strange new phenomenon. The figure seemed to take its bearings for a few moments, then set off with light, quick strides, its long cloak rustling over the grass.
"I wonder who it could be," Hermione wondered aloud.
"Me too," Harry said, frowning, "I have no idea what's going on here."
With a second and louder pop, another hooded figure materialized.
The harsh cry startled the fox, now crouching almost flat in the undergrowth. It leapt from its hiding place and up the bank. There was a flash of green light, a yelp, and the fox fell back to the ground, dead.
"Death eaters, then," Sirius said.
"Poor fox!" Hermione said, "It wasn't doing anything." She had never had much of an interest in animals, but she really disliked it when people treated them badly.
The second figure turned over the animal with its toe.
"Just a fox," said a woman's voice dismissively from under the hood. "I thought perhaps an Auror — Cissy, wait!"
"Narcissa," Sirius spat.
Draco looked confused. What was his mother doing in such a dump? And the other person must be Bellatrix, she's one of the only people who still call her Cissy. Well, except for a few others, such as Snape and his father, but the book said it was a woman.
"I wonder who the other person is?" Ron wondered aloud.
"Another Death Eater, I suppose," Sirius guessed.
Draco smirked, knowing he knew something the others didn't.
But her quarry, who had paused and looked back at the flash of light, was already scrambling up the bank the fox had just fallen down.
"Cissy — Narcissa — listen to me —"
The second woman caught the first and seized her arm, but the other wrenched it away.
"Go back, Bella!"
"Bellatrix," Sirius growled.
Harry looked down, thinking of that day, seeing Sirius fall backwards into the veil. Bellatrix was the reason Sirius was dead… returning to the past brought up a lot of memories. But there was a lot worse to come, so he knew he would just have to deal with it. This is what he is here for – to stop Sirius and all those others from dying, and to defeat Voldemort faster. They will do it, there was no way they could fail..
"You must listen to me!"
"Not everyone worships you," Sirius said. He didn't like Narcissa much either, but if it came to a fight between the two, he would want Narcissa to win. Whilst Bellatrix was actively involved in the Dark arts, Narcissa's ties to Voldemort were only due to Lucius Malfoy.
"I've listened already. I've made my decision. Leave me alone!"
The woman named Narcissa gained the top of the bank, where a line of old railings separated the river from a narrow, cobbled street. The other woman, Bella, followed at once. Side by side they stood looking across the road at the rows and rows of dilapidated brick houses, their windows dull and blind in the darkness.
"He lives here?" asked Bella in a voice of contempt. "Here? In this Muggle dunghill? We must be the first of our kind ever to set foot —"
"Who lives there?" Hermione said, "Do you know?" she asked Harry.
"I have an idea," he replied, but did not expand.
Snape sighed to himself. He disliked dealing with Bellatrix – her obsession with the Dark Lord meant that she tended to distrust others, and she didn't believe that Snape was on their side. It was hard to deal with her sometimes, she could be observant. He wondered how the others would react if there was an argument between himself and Bellatrix over which side he was on. He knew they would be convinced by his argument that he is on the Dark Lord's side, of course they would… he had rehearsed that story so much, that sometimes he almost believed it himself. He knew it wasn't true though – he would never respect, or agree with the Dark Lord's aims – especially after Lily.
But Narcissa was not listening; she had slipped through a gap in the rusty railings and was already hurrying across the road.
Bella followed, her cloak streaming behind, and saw Narcissa darting through an alley between the houses into a second, almost identical street. Some of the streetlamps were broken; the two women were running between patches of light and deep darkness. The pursuer caught up with her prey -
"Pursuer and prey? That's just Bellatrix all over," Sirius scowled. Ron and Hermione didn't say anything, they didn't really know anything about Bellatrix other than the fact she escaped from Azkaban, and she tortured Neville's parents. She didn't sound very pleasant at all.
Harry wondered what Sirius reaction would be to find out it was Bellatrix who killed him.
"just as she turned another corner, this time succeeding in catching hold of her arm and swinging her around so that they faced each other.
"Cissy, you must not do this, you can't trust him —"
"Don't trust who?" Hermione asked again, but no-one replied, as they didn't know either – except for Snape, who wasn't going to tell them, and Harry, who wasn't sure his idea was correct. "Why can't they use names?"
"The Dark Lord trusts him, doesn't he?"
"The Dark Lord is… I believe… mistaken," Bella panted,
"Wow," Ron said, "Death Eaters actually have their own brains? I thought they just went along with everything You-Know-Who said."
"Of course they do, Weasel," Draco argued back, "you're hardly one to talk about brains."
Remus continued to read, ignoring them arguing. They may not have wands, but he did not want to see a big argument. They were only on the second chapter, after all. It would take forever to get through both of the books.
"and her eyes gleamed momentarily under her hood as she looked around to check that they were indeed alone. "In any case, we were told not to speak of the plan to anyone. This is a betrayal of the Dark Lord's —"
Draco was confused. His mother was betraying the Dark Lord's trust? Why would she possibly want to do such a thing?
"Let go, Bella!" snarled Narcissa, and she drew a wand from beneath her cloak, holding it threateningly in the other's face. Bella merely laughed.
"Cissy, your own sister? You wouldn't —"
"She can hardly talk," Sirius spat, "after what they did to their sister."
"They have another sister?" Hermione asked. Draco looked up, he knew that he had a third aunt but he knew nothing about her except for her name, and that she was a blood traitor.
"Yes, my dear cousin Andromeda. She's got disowned for marrying a muggle-born. She's Tonk's mother."
"Really?" Hermione asked, "You're related to Tonks? And the Malfoys?"
"Yes," Sirius replied, "All of the pureblood families are inter-related. Perhaps that is why dear Bella is so crazy," he added as an afterthought.
Hermione pulled a face. That seemed so weird to her, how they could all be related…she wondered if Ron and the other Weasley's were related to the Blacks or Malfoys? She made a mental note to look it up later.
"There is nothing I wouldn't do anymore!" Narcissa breathed, a note of hysteria in her voice, and as she brought down the wand like a knife, there was another flash of light. Bella let go of her sister's arm as though burned.
"Good," Sirius said smugly. He hated Bellatrix so much.
But Narcissa had rushed ahead. Rubbing her hand, her pursuer followed again, keeping her distance now, as they moved deeper into the deserted labyrinth of brick houses. At last, Narcissa hurried up a street named Spinner's End, over which the towering mill chimney seemed to hover like a giant admonitory finger. Her footsteps echoed on the cobbles as she passed boarded and broken windows, until she reached the very last house, where a dim light glimmered through the curtains in a downstairs room.
She had knocked on the door before Bella, cursing under her breath, had caught up. Together they stood waiting, panting slightly, breathing in the smell of the dirty river that was carried to them on the night breeze. After a few seconds, they heard movement behind the door and it opened a crack. A sliver of a man could be seen looking out at them,
Everyone was silent, waiting to see who it was. Another Death Eater, most likely. But then why would Bellatrix say Narcissa was betraying Voldemort?
- a man with long black hair parted in curtains around a sallow face and black eyes.
"Snape," Sirius growled, glaring at said man, as Ron pulled a face. "Should have guessed, really."
Draco wondered what his mother could be doing, seeing Snape in secret? But he was relieved at the same time, if she was only talking to Snape, then she couldn't be betraying the Dark Lord, as Snape also worked for him. He smirked, how naïve of the Order and Dumbledore to think Snape was on their side. He frowned slightly, remembering the description. Why did Snape live in such an awful, and Muggle, area?
Narcissa threw back her hood. She was so pale that she seemed to shine in the darkness; the long blonde hair streaming down her back gave her the look of a drowned person.
"Narcissa!" said the man, opening the door a little wider, so that the light fell upon her and her sister too. "What a pleasant surprise!
"Severus," she said in a strained whisper. "May I speak to you? It's urgent."
Hermione made shushing noises to Ron, who had opened his mouth to speak. She was too curious to miss anything Remus read now.
"But of course."
He stood back to allow her to pass him into the house. Her still-hooded sister followed without invitation.
Snape frowned. Bellatrix had absolutely appalling manners, he never liked her much, not even when he had first joined the Death Eaters, all those years ago.
"Snape," she said curtly as she passed him.
"Bellatrix," he replied, his thin mouth curling into a slightly mocking smile as he closed the door with a snap behind them.
Sirius didn't know what to say, who would he want to come out top in an argument between Bellatrix and Snivellus? He hated both of them, it surprised him to hear they did not like each other.
They had stepped directly into a tiny sitting room, which had the feeling of a dark, padded cell. The walls were completely covered in books, most of them bound in old black or brown leather; a threadbare sofa, an old armchair, and a rickety table stood grouped together in a pool of dim light cast by a candle-filled lamp hung from the ceiling. The place had an air of neglect, as though it was not usually inhabited.
Draco almost frowned again. Why did Snape's house sound so awful? His must be a pureblood, didn't his parent's leave him the family home?
Snape watched Draco slightly frowning at the description. He knew that the boy must have assumed he was a pureblood, perhaps living in a manor somewhere nice, not in that neighbourhood. He had to admit, it did not sound nice – however, when he was a child the mill was still working and the area was a lot more prosperous.
Snape gestured Narcissa to the sofa. She threw off her cloak, cast it aside, and sat down, staring at her white and trembling hands clasped in her lap. Bellatrix lowered her hood more slowly. Dark as her sister was fair, with heavily lidded eyes and a strong jaw, she did not take her gaze from Snape as she moved to stand behind Narcissa.
"So, what can I do for you?" Snape asked, settling himself in the armchair opposite the two sisters.
"We… we are alone, aren't we?" Narcissa asked quietly.
"Yes, of course. Well, Wormtail's here,
Sirius and Remus growled, making Draco and Ron jump. "Stupid little rat," Sirius growled. Remus forced himself to read, otherwise the memories would come flooding back…
Snape wanted to scowl, but did not let himself. He hated the rat, it was all his fault that Lily was dead. He couldn't imagine having to live with him.
"but we're not counting vermin, are we?"
Draco didn't really know what to think, he knew that the man was on his side, but he really despised him. He was always trying to wiggle out of everything, to him he seemed nothing but a coward.
He pointed his wand at the wall of books behind him and with a bang, a hidden door flew open, revealing a narrow staircase upon which a small man stood frozen.
"Good for nothing…" Sirius muttered under his breath.
"As you have clearly realised, Wormtail, we have guests," said Snape lazily.
The man crept, hunchbacked, down the last few steps and moved into the room. He had small, watery eyes, a pointed nose, and wore an unpleasant simper. His left hand was caressing his right, which looked as though it was encased in a bright silver glove.
Harry stared at the book, unsure of how to feel. This man had as good as murdered his parents, and put Sirius in Azkaban for 12 years…but he remembered seeing the man strangle himself with his own hand and die in front on him…no-one deserved that.
"Narcissa!" he said, in a squeaky voice. "And Bellatrix! How charming —"
"Wormtail will get us drinks, if you'd like them," said Snape. "And then he will return to his bedroom."
Wormtail winced as though Snape had thrown something at him.
"Wish he had," Ron muttered.
"I am not your servant!" he squeaked, avoiding Snape's eye.
Everyone felt a little confused, unsure if they preferred Snape or Wormtail.
"Really? I was under the impression that the Dark Lord placed you here to assist me."
"To assist, yes — but not to make you drinks and — and clean your house!"
Harry smirked to himself, thinking of the irony. The man who betrayed his parents working for the guy who tried to save them - well, his mother, at least. That must be why Snape is treating him so awfully, he realised. It felt strange to know Snape's true loyalties when he could see the others trying to work it out – except Sirius, who seemed set in his beliefs that Snape is a Death Eater.
"I had no idea, Wormtail, that you were craving more dangerous assignments," said Snape silkily. "This can be easily arranged: I shall speak to the Dark Lord —"
"I can speak to him myself if I want to!"
"Coward," Sirius said.
"Of course you can," said Snape, sneering. "But in the meantime, bring us drinks. Some of the elf-made wine will do."
Wormtail hesitated for a moment, looking as though he might argue, but then turned and headed through a second hidden door. They heard banging and a clinking of glasses. Within seconds he was back, bearing a dusty bottle and three glasses upon a tray. He dropped these on the rickety table and scurried from their presence, slamming the book-covered door behind him.
Snape poured out three glasses of blood red wine and handed two of them to the sisters. Narcissa murmured a word of thanks, whilst Bellatrix said nothing, but continued to glower at Snape. This did not seem to discompose him; on the contrary, he looked rather amused.
"Why does he look so amused?" Hermione wondered.
"The Dark Lord," he said, raising his glass and draining it.
"Death Eater scum," Sirius said, in a stage whisper. "Why is he – well, both of them – here again, Harry?"
Harry sighed, he didn't want to give too much away. "They're important in this war, too. I think they deserve to know what happens as much as we do."
He didn't want to give away Snape's part in protecting them, that would come up later, and he wanted to give Draco a chance to change his actions, earlier that he did, anyway.
The sisters copied him. Snape refilled their glasses.
As Narcissa took her second drink she said in a rush, "Severus, I'm sorry to come here like this, but I had to see you. I think you are the only one who can help me —"
Snape held up a hand to stop her, then pointed his wand again at the concealed staircase door. There was a loud bang and a squeal, followed by the sound of Wormtail scurrying back up the stairs.
"My apologies," said Snape. "He has lately taken to listening at doors, I don't know what he means by it… You were saying, Narcissa?"
She took a great, shuddering breath and started again.
"Severus, I know I ought not to be here, I have been told to say nothing to anyone, but —"
What could it possibly be? Draco wondered, and why hasn't his father been mentioned yet?
"Then you ought to hold your tongue!" snarled Bellatrix. "Particularly in present company!"
'"Present company?'" repeated Snape sardonically. "And what am I to understand by that, Bellatrix?"
"That I don't trust you, Snape, as you very well know!"
Sirius, Ron and Hermione perked up at that statement, wondering what he would say. Remus wasn't sure what to think, Dumbledore said he trusted him, and that was good enough for him.
Narcissa let out a noise that might have been a dry sob and covered her face with her hands.
Snape was worried, he may not agree with the Dark Lord's aims but Narcissa is a good friend of his, and is only involved with the Dark Lord because of her husband. The only thing that would get her so worked up is if something happened to Draco, which concerned him, he hated others getting dragged into the war.
Snape set his glass down upon the table and sat back again, his hands upon the arms of his chair, smiling into Bellatrix's glowering face.
"Narcissa, I think we ought to hear what Bellatrix is bursting to say; it will save tedious interruptions. Well, continue, Bellatrix," said Snape. "Why is it that you do not trust me?"
"Why would anyone," Sirius wondered aloud.
"A hundred reasons!" she said loudly, striding out from behind the sofa to slam her glass upon the table. "Where to start! Where were you when the Dark Lord fell? Why did you never make any attempt to find him when he vanished? What have you been doing all these years that you've lived in Dumbledore's pocket? Why did you stop the Dark Lord procuring the Philosopher's Stone? Why did you not return at once when the Dark Lord was reborn? Where were you a few weeks ago when we battled to retrieve the prophecy for the Dark Lord? And why, Snape, is Harry Potter still alive, when you have had him at your mercy for five years?"
Those are good points, Remus thought to himself.
Stupid double-crossing spy, Sirius thought. He couldn't understand how Dumbledore trusted him – but, a small voice in the back of his head said, those were some good points …why?
Hermione frowned. Harry must have invited Professor Snape here for a reason…and Dumbledore trusts him…perhaps Bellatrix was right, and Snape was on their side? But that couldn't be true…
Harry wondered how Snape would answer the questions. Bellatrix was right, but that just sounded so wrong to admit. How could she see through the lies that Voldemort didn't?
She paused, her chest rising and falling rapidly, the colour high in her cheeks. Behind her, Narcissa sat motionless, her face still hidden in her hands.
Ron cringed at the image.
"Before I answer you — oh yes, Bellatrix, I am going to answer! You can carry my words back to the others who whisper behind my back, and carry false tales of my treachery to the Dark Lord! Before I answer you, I say, let me ask a question in turn. Do you really think that the Dark Lord has not asked me each and every one of those questions? And do you really think that, had I not been able to give satisfactory answers, I would be sitting here talking to you?"
Harry couldn't help but think that was an excellent point. Snape would not be there if Voldemort wasn't happy with his explanations.
"I know he believes you, but…"
"You think he is mistaken? Or that I have somehow hoodwinked him? Fooled the Dark Lord, the greatest wizard, the most accomplished Legilimens the world has ever seen?"
"Dumbledore is the greatest wizard," Sirius said loyally. He may be annoyed at the Headmaster for keeping him shut at Grimmauld place, but he was still the greatest wizard of the era – there was no way Voldemort could take that place.
Bellatrix said nothing, but looked, for the first time, a little discomfited. Snape did not press the point. He picked up his drink again, sipped it, and continued, "You ask where I was when the Dark Lord fell. I was where he had ordered me to be, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, because he wished me to spy upon Albus Dumbledore. You know, I presume, that it was on the Dark Lord's orders that I took up the post?"
"Is that true?" Draco asked. He had assumed Snape had taken the position due to his skills in potions.
Snape nodded, but did not elaborate. He didn't want to risk anyone finding out his true loyalties. It was almost like his and Dumbledore's secret.
She nodded almost imperceptibly and then opened her mouth, but Snape forestalled her.
"You ask why I did not attempt to find him when he vanished. For the same reason that Avery, Yaxley, the Carrows, Greyback,Lucius"— he inclined his head slightly to Narcissa — "and many others did not attempt to find him. I believed him finished. I am not proud of it, I was wrong, but there it is… If he had not forgiven we who lost faith at that time, he would have very few followers left."
"He'd have me!" said Bellatrix passionately. "I, who spent many years in Azkaban for him!"
"Where you wasn't much use to him," Snape countered, "especially without the other Death Eaters to break you out."
Draco and Hermione both took note of his phrase 'the other Death Eaters', rather than 'us'.
"Yes, indeed, most admirable," said Snape in a bored voice. "Of course, you weren't a lot of use to him in prison, but the gesture was undoubtedly fine —"
Snape smirked a little at his future reply.
"Gesture!" she shrieked; in her fury she looked slightly mad. "While I endured the dementors, you remained at Hogwarts, comfortably playing Dumbledore's pet!"
"Not quite," said Snape calmly. "He wouldn't give me the Defence Against the Dark Arts job, you know. Seemed to think it might, ah, bring about a relapse… tempt me into my old ways."
I wish he had took the Defence position, Ron thought, at least he would have only lasted a year…he would have been long gone.
"This was your sacrifice for the Dark Lord, not to teach your favourite subject?" she jeered. "Why did you stay there all that time, Snape? Still spying on Dumbledore for a master you believed dead?"
"Hardly," said Snape, "although the Dark Lord is pleased that I never deserted my post: I had sixteen years of information on Dumbledore
Sirius growled. Snape's answer to Bellatrix's questioning had him convinced that Snape is, and always has been, a Death Eater.
to give him when he returned, a rather more useful welcome-back present than endless reminiscences of how unpleasant Azkaban is…"
"But you stayed —"
"Yes, Bellatrix, I stayed," said Snape, betraying a hint of impatience for the first time.
Wow, Harry thought, it never took that long with me, when I messed up in potions.
"I had a comfortable job that I preferred to a stint in Azkaban. They were rounding up the Death Eaters, you know. Dumbledore's protection kept me out of jail; it was most convenient and I used it. I repeat: The Dark Lord does not complain that I stayed, so I do not see why you do.
"I think you next wanted to know," he pressed on, a little more loudly, for Bellatrix showed every sign of interrupting, "why I stood between the Dark Lord and the Philosopher's Stone. That is easily answered. He did not know whether he could trust me. He thought, like you, that I had turned from faithful Death Eater to Dumbledore's stooge. He was in a pitiable condition, very weak, sharing the body of a mediocre wizard. He did not dare reveal himself to a former ally if that ally might turn him over to Dumbledore or the Ministry. I deeply regret that he did not trust me. He would have returned to power three years sooner. As it was, I saw only greedy and unworthy Quirrell attempting to steal the stone and, I admit, I did all I could to thwart him."
Bellatrix's mouth twisted as though she had taken an unpleasant dose of medicine.
Ha, Sirius thought. Wait…that made it sound as if he was on Snape's side, which he certainly was not. This conversation with Bellatrix is really sowing his true colours…
"But you didn't return when he came back, you didn't fly back to him at once when you felt the Dark Mark burn —"
"Fly?" Ron questioned. Everyone shrugged.
"Correct. I returned two hours later. I returned on Dumbledore's orders."
"On Dumbledore's —?" she began, in tones of outrage.
"Think!" said Snape, impatient again. "Think! By waiting two hours, just two hours, I ensured that I could remain at Hogwarts as a spy! By allowing Dumbledore to think that I was only returning to the Dark Lord's side because I was ordered to, I have been able to pass information on Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix ever since!
Sirius growled for what seemed like the hundredth time. He just could not stand spies, or traitors…
Consider, Bellatrix: The Dark Mark had been growing stronger for months. I knew he must be about to return, all the Death Eaters knew! I had plenty of time to think about what I wanted to do, to plan my next move, to escape like Karkaroff, didn't I?
"The Dark Lord's initial displeasure at my lateness vanished entirely, I assure you, when I explained that I remained faithful, although Dumbledore thought I was his man. Yes, the Dark Lord thought that I had left him forever, but he was wrong."
"But what use have you been?" sneered Bellatrix. "What useful information have we had from you?"
"My information has been conveyed directly to the Dark Lord," said Snape. "If he chooses not to share it with you —"
"Burn," Ron said, then looked confused. He wasn't sure who he wanted to come out on top.
"He shares everything with me!" said Bellatrix, firing up at once. "He calls me his most loyal, his most faithful —"
"Hmm," Harry said thoughtfully.
"What?" Remus looked up from the book.
"That's what Crouch Jr. said. I have a feeling he's said that to quite a few people," Harry explained.
"Does he?" said Snape, his voice delicately inflected to suggest his disbelief. "Does he still, after the fiasco at the Ministry?"
What? The three adults and Draco thought.
Draco was concerned for his father, had he run into some sort of trouble with the Ministry, that made him fall out the dark Lord's favour?
The Death Eaters at the Ministry? The three adults thought, that must mean something happened with the prophecy… They all glanced at the Harry from the future, wondering if he had heard the prophecy. Remus made a mental note to ask him, if it doesn't come up in the books.
Harry noticed the adults glance at him, and wanted to sigh. He's going to have to tell them about the prophecy, if it doesn't explain it when he told Ron and Hermione about it.
Hermione noticed the exchange between the adults. The weapon must be in the Ministry…that must be why Mr Weasley was in there when he was attacked…
"That was not my fault!" said Bellatrix, flushing. "The Dark Lord has, in the past, entrusted me with his most precious — if Lucius hadn't —"
"Don't you dare — don't you dare blame my husband!" said Narcissa, in a low and deadly voice, looking up at her sister.
"Ooh, drama," Ron, who had missed the hint about the Ministry and Death Eaters, snickered.
"There is no point apportioning blame," said Snape smoothly. "What is done, is done."
Snape wanted to snort. He blamed himself for the Dark Lord finding about the prophecy, and for her death, so that statement seemed a bit ironic, coming from him.
"But not by you!" said Bellatrix furiously. "No, you were once again absent while the rest of us ran dangers, were you not, Snape?"
"My orders were to remain behind," said Snape. "Perhaps you disagree with the Dark Lord, perhaps you think that Dumbledore would not have noticed if I had joined forces with the Death Eaters to fight the Order of the Phoenix? And — forgive me — you speak of dangers… you were facing six teenagers, were you not?"
"Six teenagers? Who was it?" Hermione asked.
"Well, I'm guessing it was you three," Sirius said.
"And Ginny, Neville, and Luna," Harry added.
"Luna? And Neville?"
"Yes," Harry said, "they really proved themselves that night."
"They were joined, as you very well know, by half of the Order before long!" snarled Bellatrix.
"Oh, good," Sirius said, relieved that the kids would not be alone against the Death Eaters. "Wait, is that when … when I died?" he asked Harry.
Harry looked at him for a moment, "Yes."
"Oh…would you mind telling me how? Was it…was it painless?"
"Bellatrix," Harry snarled. "You were duelling in the Department of Mysteries. Bellatrix hit you with a curse, I'm not sure what it was but you…you feel backwards, through the veil." He looked down. He was going to sit with Sirius and have a long chat with him when they have a break, he decided.
"Through a veil?" Hermione and Ron asked, and Draco thought, but the adults all understood.
"They study a lot of things in the Department of Mysteries, Hermione," Remus explained, "Most of it we don't know about. But I believe that is the veil, behind which is Death. They've been studying it, but I'm not sure what exactly about it they are studying."
"And, while we are on the subject of the Order, you still claim you cannot reveal the whereabouts of their headquarters, don't you?"
"I'm not the secret keeper, so of course not," Snape sneered.
"I am not the Secret Keeper; I cannot speak the name of the place. You understand how the enchantment works, I think? The Dark Lord is satisfied with the information I have passed him on the Order. It led, as perhaps you have guessed, to the recent capture and murder of Emmeline Vance, and it certainly helped dispose of Sirius Black, though I give you full credit for finishing him off."
Remus growled, but it was not a quiet growl like how Sirius had been growling to himself. It was a full, animal growl, showing the wolf within upon his face. He had already lost all of his best friends, he wasn't going to let his last best friend die. He would get Bellatrix for this, (even though it hasn't happened yet), if it's the last thing he did.
He inclined his head and toasted her. Her expression did not soften.
"You are avoiding my last question, Snape. Harry Potter. You could have killed him at any point in the past five years. You have not done it. Why?"
"Wow, she's dense," Ron said, and Harry snickered. "Even I understand that Snape's not stupid enough to do that."
"Have you discussed this matter with the Dark Lord?" asked Snape.
"He… lately, we… I am asking you, Snape!"
"If I had murdered Harry Potter, the Dark Lord could not have used his blood to regenerate, making him invincible —"
"You claim you foresaw his use of the boy!" she jeered.
"I do not claim it; I had no idea of his plans; I have already confessed that I thought the Dark Lord dead. I am merely trying to explain why the Dark Lord is not sorry that Potter survived, at least until a year ago…"
"But why did you keep him alive?"
"I hardly kept him alive," Snape said, although he knew this wasn't true at all, "I just didn't kill him."
"Have you not understood me? It was only Dumbledore's protection that was keeping me out of Azkaban! Do you disagree that murdering his favourite student
"I'm not his favourite student," Harry said modestly.
"Oh come on, Harry," Ron said, "You get away with so much stuff, anyone else would be expelled by now."
"I suppose," Harry mumbled. His thoughts on the Headmaster were jumbled, especially after the betrayal near the end of the war…he wondered how the other's would react to him having a part of Voldemort's soul.
might have turned him against me? But there was more to it than that. I should remind you that when Potter first arrived at Hogwarts there were still many stories circulating about him, rumours that he himself was a great Dark wizard,
"Really?" Harry said, completely surprised. "I mean, after the whole Chamber of Secrets thing, I know there were rumours, but when I first arrived at Hogwarts?"
Ron frowned; he didn't remember any rumours from first year.
"There were," Hermione confirmed sadly, "I remember Lavender talking about it in first year. But by the time I was friends with you, the rumours had died down, so I didn't see any reason to mention it."
which was how he had survived the Dark Lord's attack. Indeed, many of the Dark Lords old followers thought Potter might be a standard around which we could all rally once more. I was curious, I admit it, and not at all inclined to murder him the moment he set foot in the castle.
"I would never do such a thing," Harry said in outrage. It made him think though, about how the sorting hat said Slytherin was his path to greatness…if he had been sorted there, would the rumours have not died down? Would people actually think he was a dark wizard? The thought seemed so alien to him.
"Of course, it became apparent to me very quickly that he had no extraordinary talent at all.
"That's not true!" Ron said in outrage, and Hermione nodded.
He has fought his way out of a number of tight corners by a simple combination of sheer luck and more talented friends.
"You can't say that's not true," Harry said. This speech reminded him of his own speech when Ron and Hermione suggested he should start up the DA.
Snape frowned. There was no way Potter was being modest.
He is mediocre to the last degree, though as obnoxious and self-satisfied as was his father before him.
"What?" Sirius and Ron said at the same time.
"Severus," Remus said, looking up from the book. "You have to understand that Harry is not his father. He is his own person."
Snape just looked at him. Remus made a mental note to talk to him after the chapter, somewhere more private. There must be a way to get him to understand.
I have done my utmost to have him thrown out of Hogwarts, where I believe he scarcely belongs, but kill him, or allow him to be killed in front of me? I would have been a fool to risk it with Dumbledore close at hand."
"And through all this we are supposed to believe Dumbledore has never suspected you?" asked Bellatrix. "He has no idea of your true allegiance, he trusts you implicitly still?"
"I have played my part well," said Snape. "And you overlook Dumbledore's greatest weakness: He has to believe the best of people. I spun him a tale of deepest remorse when I joined his staff, fresh from my Death Eater days, and he embraced me with open arms — though, as I say, never allowing me nearer the Dark Arts than he could help. Dumbledore has been a great wizard — oh yes, he has," (for Bellatrix had made a scathing noise), "the Dark Lord acknowledges it. I am pleased to say, however, that Dumbledore is growing old. The duel with the Dark Lord last month shook him. He has since sustained a serious injury because his reactions are slower than they once were. But through all these years, he has never stopped trusting Severus Snape, and therein lies my great value to the Dark Lord."
"What?" Ron said, "What happened?"
Harry sighed, "Maybe I should tell you the full story. I will at the end of the chapter, I think it's almost finished?"
Remus checked how many pages were left, "yes."
Bellatrix still looked unhappy, though she appeared unsure how best to attack Snape next. Taking advantage of her silence, Snape turned to her sister.
"Now… you came to ask me for help, Narcissa?"
Narcissa looked up at him, her face eloquent with despair.
"Yes, Severus. I — I think you are the only one who can help me, I have nowhere else to turn. Lucius is in jail and…"
What? Draco gasped. His father was in Azkaban? How…? Well, they're reading into the future for a reason…if the others are going to use it to their advantage, then he could certainly use it to his, too. He would keep his father out of jailand make sure he knows everything that has happened.
She closed her eyes and two large tears seeped from beneath her eyelids.
"The Dark Lord has forbidden me to speak of it," Narcissa continued, her eyes still closed. "He wishes none to know of the plan. It is… very secret. But —"
"If he has forbidden it, you ought not to speak," said Snape at once. "The Dark Lord's word is law."
Narcissa gasped as though he had doused her with cold water. Bellatrix looked satisfied for the first time since she had entered the house.
"There!" she said triumphantly to her sister. "Even Snape says so: You were told not to talk, so hold your silence!"
But Snape had gotten to his feet and strode to the small window, peered through the curtains at the deserted street, then closed them again with a jerk. He turned around to face Narcissa, frowning.
"It so happens that I know of the plan," he said in a low voice. "I am one of the few the Dark Lord has told.
"He told you?" Sirius asked. Was Snape really that high up in his ranks?
Snape did not answer. He had a feeling that he did not actually know what the plan was, he was only
Nevertheless, had I not been in on the secret, Narcissa, you would have been guilty of great treachery to the Dark Lord."
"I thought you must know about it!" said Narcissa, breathing more freely. "He trusts you so, Severus…"
"You know about the plan?" said Bellatrix, her fleeting expression of satisfaction replaced by a look of outrage. "You know?"
Sirius looked annoyed at thinking along similar lines to Bellatrix.
"Certainly," said Snape. "But what help do you require, Narcissa? If you are imagining I can persuade the Dark Lord to change his mind, I am afraid there is no hope, none at all."
"Severus," she whispered, tears sliding down her pale cheeks. "My son… my only son…"
Draco looked up suddenly. What about him? Was he finally joining the Dark Lord's ranks? He wasn't sure what to feel about that…He sympathised with the Dark Lord's aims of course, but he wasn't sure he actually wanted to work for him - self-preservation is a Slytherin trait, after all.
"Draco should be proud," said Bellatrix indifferently. "The Dark Lord is granting him a great honour. And I will say this for Draco: I can see he isn't shrinking away from his duty, he seems glad of a chance to prove himself, excited at the prospect —"
Hmm, Draco thought. It seems that in the future he has made up his mind.
Narcissa began to cry in earnest, gazing beseechingly all the while at Snape.
"That's because he is sixteen and has no idea what lies in store! Why, Severus? Why my son? It is too dangerous! This is vengeance for Lucius's mistake, I know it!"
Ah, Draco said. That makes a lot more sense. He was to be replacing his father in the Dark Lord's ranks.
Snape said nothing. He looked away from the sight of her tears as though they were indecent, but he could not pretend not to hear her.
"Emotions are no indecent," Remus said softly, before continuing to read.
"That's why he's chosen Draco, isn't it?" she persisted. "To punish Lucius?"
"If Draco succeeds," said Snape, still looking away from her, "he will be honoured above all others."
Everyone wondered what Draco's task could be. What task could a 16-year old do?
"But he won't succeed!" sobbed Narcissa. "How can he, when the Dark Lord himself —?"
What? Draco thought, I've been given a task that not even the Dark Lord can do…? He must be doing it for revenge, then. He shuddered at the thought of being given an impossible task, and who knows what would happen if he fails…
Bellatrix gasped; Narcissa seemed to lose her nerve.
"I only meant… that nobody has yet succeeded… Severus… please… You are, you have always been, Draco's favourite teacher… You are Lucius's old friend… I beg you… You are the Dark Lord's favourite, his most trusted advisor… Will you speak to him, persuade him —?"
"The Dark Lord will not be persuaded, and I am not stupid enough to attempt it," said Snape flatly.
"Wish he would," Sirius muttered to himself, "then we'd be one Death Eater down."
"I cannot pretend that the Dark Lord is not angry with Lucius. Lucius was supposed to be in charge. He got himself captured, along with how many others, and failed to retrieve the prophecy into the bargain. Yes, the Dark Lord is angry, Narcissa, very angry indeed."
"Then I am right, he has chosen Draco in revenge!" choked Narcissa. "He does not mean him to succeed, he wants him to be killed trying!"
Everyone wasn't sure what to feel. They didn't really like Draco, but did not want him killed by the Dark Lord, either.
Harry sighed. It must have been so hard for Draco during 6th year, he couldn't imagine what it would be like to be forced to do a horrible task with the threat of your family being killed if you failed.
When Snape said nothing, Narcissa seemed to lose what little self-restraint she still possessed. Standing up, she staggered to Snape and seized the front of his robes. Her face close to his,
"Ew," Sirius said, pulling a face.
her tears falling onto his chest, she gasped, "You could do it. You could do it instead of Draco, Severus. You would succeed, of course you would, and he would reward you beyond all of us -"
Snape caught hold of her wrists and removed her clutching hands. Looking down into her tearstained face, he said slowly, "He intends me to do it in the end, I think. But he is determined that Draco should try first. You see, in the unlikely event that Draco succeeds, I shall be able to remain at Hogwarts a little longer, fulfilling my useful role as spy."
"In other words, it doesn't matter to him if Draco is killed!"
"The Dark Lord doesn't care how many people die for him," Snape said. This confused Draco, why was Snape speaking against the Dark Lord?
"The Dark Lord is very angry," repeated Snape quietly. "He failed to hear the prophecy. You know as well as I do, Narcissa, that he does not forgive easily.
"Prophecy?" Hermione asked. "What's this about a prophecy?"
Remus sighed, unsure whether he should tell her.
"It's what the Order have been guarding this whole time," Harry said, before Remus had decided.
She crumpled, falling at his feet, sobbing and moaning on the floor.
"My only son… my only son…"
"You should be proud!" said Bellatrix ruthlessly. "If I had sons, I would be glad to give them up to the service of the Dark Lord!"
"I'm glad she never had kids," Sirius said. He couldn't imagine Bellatrix looking after small children…. They would end up even worse than her!
Narcissa gave a little scream of despair and clutched at her long blonde hair. Snape stooped, seized her by the arms, lifted her up, and steered her back onto the sofa. He then poured her more wine and forced the glass into her hand.
"I could do with some of that," Harry muttered. He didn't realise returning to the past would be so stressful, and bring up so many memories…
"Narcissa, that's enough. Drink this. Listen to me."
She quieted a little; slopping wine down herself, she took a shaky sip.
"It might be possible… for me to help Draco."
Draco was even more confused. So, the Dark Lord had given him some seemingly impossible task, and Snape was trying to help him? Part of him wanted to be angry, if he was given the task, he would do it himself – he wouldn't let Snape steal his glory. But another part of him was scared at the idea of being given a difficult task, and would be glad to have Snape's help in completing it. He wondered what part his future self would listen to.
She sat up, her face paper-white, her eyes huge.
"Severus — oh, Severus — you would help him? Would you look after him, see he comes to no harm?"
"I can try."
Try, Draco thought. Maybe this means he will say he will help, but then he won't. But do I want him to help…? If I manage to succeed alone, I'd be honoured above all others, Snape said…
She flung away her glass; it skidded across the table as she slid off the sofa into a kneeling position at Snape's feet, seized his hand in both of hers, and pressed her lips to it.
"If you are there to protect him… Severus, will you swear it? Will you make the Unbreakable Vow?"
"An unbreakable vow?" Hermione said, "That's serious."
"This just proves he's a Death Eater," Sirius said, "He is making an unbreakable vow to help a Death Eater. There's no way he'd do that if he is on our side, as Dumbledore believes."
"He might not, though," Remus said. Snape looked up, and they stopped their conversation. He hated it when people talked about him as if he was not there.
Harry sighed for what seemed like the hundredth time, he did make the vow…this will surely
"The Unbreakable Vow?" Snape's expression was blank, unreadable. Bellatrix, however, let out a cackle of triumphant laughter.
"Aren't you listening, Narcissa? Oh, he'll try, I'm sure… The usual empty words, the usual slithering out of action… oh, on the Dark Lord's orders, of course!"
Snape did not look at Bellatrix. His black eyes were fixed upon Narcissa's tear-filled blue ones as she continued to clutch his hand.
"Certainly, Narcissa, I shall make the Unbreakable Vow," he said quietly. "Perhaps your sister will consent to be our Bonder."
"I agree with Sirius," Ron said, glaring at Snape, "That is all the proof I need."
Hermione and Remus still looked conflicted, however.
Bellatrix's mouth fell open.
Snape smirked at the mental image.
Snape lowered himself so that he was kneeling opposite Narcissa. Beneath Bellatrix's astonished gaze, they grasped right hands.
"You will need your wand, Bellatrix," said Snape coldly.
She drew it, still looking astonished.
"And you will need to move a little closer," he said.
Snape mentally shuddered at the thought of Bellatrix being so close to him.
She stepped forward so that she stood over them, and placed the tip of her wand on their linked hands.
"Will you, Severus, watch over my son, Draco, as he attempts to fulfil the Dark Lord's wishes?"
"I will," said Snape.
Snape knew he would have anyway, he wouldn't let Draco do whatever it was himself. He hated not being able to actively discourage him or others from the Dark Lord, however. Occasionally a student would talk to him about joining the Dark Lord, and he knew that many of the older Slytherins from prestigious families were to be taking the mark soon, but there was nothing he could do about it but watch.
A thin tongue of brilliant flame issued from the wand and wound its way around their hands like a red-hot wire.
"And will you, to the best of your ability, protect him from harm?"
"I will," said Snape.
A second tongue of flame shot from the wand and interlinked with the first, making a fine, glowing chain.
"And, should it prove necessary… if it seems Draco will fail…" whispered Narcissa (Snape's hand twitched within hers, but he did not draw away),
Harry picked up on this, but no-one else seemed to be paying it any thought,
Snape was frustrated, he wanted to know what the task would be..
"will you carry out the deed that the Dark Lord has ordered Draco to perform?"
There was a moment's silence. Bellatrix watched, her wand upon their clasped hands, her eyes wide.
"I will," said Snape.
Bellatrix's astounded face glowed red in the blaze of a third unique flame, which shot from the wand, twisted with the others, and bound itself thickly around their clasped hands, like a fiery snake.
"That's the end," Remus said. "Who wants to read next?"
"I will," Hermione said, and Remus handed her the book. "The next chapter is called 'Will and Won't.'"
As with the last chapter, I didn't really find this chapter very interesting - it seemes really repetitive, to me, but I hope I've put in enough comments to make it sound alright :)
For the question I asked last question, i had a lot of people guessing Harry/Luna which suprised me, I didn't realise it was a popular pairing? It does sort of make sense to me, I suppose. But that's not who he's with :) As I said before, it's going to be slash, so it can't be Luna, or Ginny, or anyone else like that. I've had a few people ask for me to change this and make it canon pairings but sorry, I'm not going to change it. There's plenty of other stories like this with Harry/Ginny, so you can always read them if you don't like mine :) Also, who Harry is with isn't really going to be a major part of the story, just occasional bits here and there, and when they find out. Oh, and I may possibly change the epilogue..
Ok, question for this chapter: Do you listen to wizard rock? If so, what's your favourite band/song? I think my favourite is 'Bravest man I ever knew' by the Ministry of Magic, it's just awesome :)