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"I know it was you." Lestrange said neutrally though his eyes flashing dangerously. Severus saw Lestrange's fingers twitch for his wand, but he didn't grab it. His eyes flickered to Lily and immediately picked up on her confusion. Not knowing what Lestrange was going to do, Severus murmured quietly just to her, "I'll meet you in the library in ten minutes?"
Lily hesitated. "Sev…"
Severus bit his tongue and exhaled before uttering a quiet, "Please?"
Caught off guard, Lily blinked and nodded. "Yeah, sure. See you later."
Severus watched her leave the room. After she left, he took out his wand and quickly brought up a few privacy spells. Making sure that his spells were solid, he turned to Lestrange who'd been watching him with concealed fascination. "And what do you know?" he asked.
"Well, I know you don't trust me and Lucius after you saw Nott's Dark Mark last year. I know you went to Dumbledore and that's why he came after me today and interrogated me. You think I cursed Thorne."
"You're being absurd," Severus responded evenly. "I haven't even spoken to Dumbledore."
"You're being absurd." Lestrange sneered back at him. "I know you talked to him."
"Lestrange," Severus stared at the other boy before saying his words slowly and enunciating them clearly. He was a master at lying. He fluffed up with pride on the inside. If there was one thing besides potions that he was good at, it was deceiving people from the truth. "I really didn't talk to Dumbledore and I don't think you cursed Thorne."
There was a long pause as Lestrange absorbed the new words.
"Oh, okay. That's good then. Because I didn't curse him." Lestrange frowned slightly. "I don't know why everyone thinks I went after him. Even Lucius thinks I did but I didn't. I mean, I guess I can see why. I lost my cool but I didn't curse him."
Severus started. What? This wasn't adding up. Lucius would definitely know if Rabastan hexed Thorne and if he thought Rabastan hexed Thorne then he probably had…except his Legilimency skills were telling him differently.
Rabastan was clearly telling the truth. He didn't curse Thorne.
"Then who did?" Severus wondered out loud before he could stop himself.
"How would I know?" Lestrange replied his tone becoming slightly colder as he picked up the accusation in the tone. "I don't follow Thorne around. All I know is since I snapped at Thorne on the pitch the other day, everyone thinks I hurt him."
"And you really didn't?" Severus clarified.
"No!" Lestrange snapped. "I didn't! I'm getting accused for no reason! I swear, just because I'm Slytherin and pure-blood, Dumbledore thinks the worst of me."
"Oh…ah…" Severus stopped. He was completely at a loss for words. He had really believed that Rabastan had something to do with it. But now that he was face to face with the older boy, he could see that it was not the case. He had been wrong. He responded carefully. "I think Dumbledore suspects you because of your ties to Nott and his ties to Lord Voldemort."
Rabastan blinked at him and his lips curved into a small smile. "'Ties to Nott and his ties to Lord Voldemort.'" He repeated. "Dumbledore doesn't know anything. He thinks just because we're Slytherins, we've already got our name down to serve him."
"You don't?" Severus raised an eyebrow skeptically. There was a long pause and Rabastan frowned and shook his head.
"Perhaps. But I haven't promised him anything." Rabastan gave Severus a small smirk. Severus didn't acknowledge this and Rabastan's smirk grew wider. "Sorry I messed up your moment with the redhead girl."
"We were hardly having a moment," Severus muttered.
Rabastan's smirk grew wider. "Whatever you say." Then he left without another word, leaving Severus slightly dumbfounded and the privacy spells broken. Rabastan didn't curse Thorne but yet, he had a foot in Voldemort's world. He shook his head, determined to find out the truth. He was wrong and there was no way in hell he was going to leave without the truth now.
"Sev, what are we doing down here?"
"I'm trying to find out the truth. If there's any place at Hogwarts where I'll learn it, it'll be down here." Severus said calmly for what felt like the millionth time. "Rabastan said he didn't curse Thorne but I someone had to have cursed him. People don't just fall ill like that out of nowhere. It's not a coincidence that he got into a fight with Slytherins and then ended up at his deathbed."
"Sev," Lily protested. "It doesn't make any sense. Why would a Slytherin hurt another Slytherin? I mean, your House just kind of stays together and fights with everyone else not each other."
"Yes, that is what Slytherin normally does," Severus concurred. "But we when there's a black sheep, we kill it—example?—Thorne."
Lily went silent. It had been two days since his talk with Lestrange and Severus was still feeling an uncomfortable nudge in his side warning him. He'd told Lily everything that evening of this talk with Rabastan, knowing she'd want to know what was going on.
The two continued to sneak through the dungeons to where the refurnished room for the older Slytherins was. Severus and Lily were, of course, taking the longer route around the labyrinth-like dungeon corridors than was necessary but Severus wanted to keep his cover—he didn't want anyone to realize he was there. Even though he said the room was for all the upperclassmen, the room really only belonged to Lucius and his friends who had paid for refurnish the dirty abandoned classroom. Rich snots! He thought.
It was nearly seven at night and Severus knew the older boys would be there. Repetition and habituation were weaknesses.
And sure enough, as they turned the last corner, he heard muffled voices. Casting a spell, which allowed him to hear everything in the room as long as he held his wand to his ear, he began to eavesdrop.
"— see Elena Graham today? She looked like a puffy—"
Severus didn't continue listening to that conversation wishing he had those Weasley ear-things that helped heart through doors and rooms. Too bad they weren't invented yet. They were definitely easier than the spell he was using. He searched again for a relevant conversation. Topics like girls, food, family and Quidditch were popular. It wasn't for a while until he heard something that pertained to him.
He also found out which Slytherins were in that room. Milton Hayes, Joseph Bole, Rabastan Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy.
"– finish that essay for potions?"
"Haven't even started it. It's not due until Friday." And voice responded.
"You could always pay for that Snape boy to do it for you," someone said lazily, suggesting there was alcohol in the room.
Snape scoffed mentally at that idea. Yeah, right! He glanced over at Lily to see her giving him a challenging look as if to say "if you take that offer, I'll kill you." He smirked at Lily and her facial expressions. He returned the look that told her he wouldn't accept the money or do the homework.
"Or you could just do it yourself, Hayes, or are you too stupid to?" a voice—female this time—sneered. Severus was caught off-guard by her voice. He had sworn that it was only those four in the room. He hadn't counted for her.
"Relax, Narcissa," Hayes nearly slurred. "I was only joking but you can't deny it. He's a smart one."
Severus tensed slightly, bracing himself for whatever they were going to say about him and what lies they were about to tell and what rumors were about to spread.
"He's only a second year and he knows things he shouldn't. It's unnatural." Joseph Bole said.
"That's why The Lord is interested in him. He's a smart one." Lucius acknowledged, repeating Hayes words from before. "He's gifted."
"A gifted half-blood, the w-world should be so proud," Hayes mumbled.
"Well, he does have a Prince lineage," Narcissa pointed out, her voice turning incredibly icy. "Even if he's a half-blood."
"Speaking of, 'that half-blood,' how did that talk go? Is he still on our—oh sorry, I meant—your tail?" Bole asked.
"He put up some sort of privacy spell around us when he was talking. I felt it break when I left and it wasn't a weak little ward, it was a strong, heavy one." Rabastan paused. "He thinks we're connected to Lord Voldemort. So no. I wasn't able to dissuade him."
There was a short silence and Severus and Lily held their breaths, afraid that they'd be heard if they took a breath. Severus mentally cheered. He'd been right. Something was going on here.
"He is a smart one," Lucius said dryly after the silence had ended, restating his earlier words. "What did you say?"
"I might've hinted I know him and I've talked to him," Rabastan said. "And despite what he says, he did talk to Dumbledore and he thinks I cursed Thorne."
"Which you basically did," Bole grunted.
"He's right." Lucius said quietly. "You still played a part."
Severus pressed his ear closer to his wand, desperate not to miss a single word. He felt Lily shift nervously and the two of them shared a look with each other. You were right, Lily mouthed to him. Severus bit his tongue.
"Shhh!" Rabastan snapped. "I didn't do anything! I merely said—"
"The wrong thing to the wrong person," Lucius interrupted.
"Doesn't matter now." Narcissa interjected. "Severus can think whatever he wants to. He won't have any proof. None of us cursed Thorne. End of story. The subject should be dropped before we start making ourselves look obvious. End of story."
Severus grit his teeth. He wanted to kick Narcissa out of the room. She always seemed to be the reasonable one with a brain in her head. And right now she was the reason why he wouldn't get any more information.
The room was quiet again and without warning the door sprung open. Severus quickly disabled the spell, grabbed Lily's hand and dashed away from the room's door and out of sight before Narcissa could see him.
He heard her shoes fading away on the cobbled stones towards the Slytherin dormitories. From the opened door he heard Bole speak.
"I think I'm also going to head back to the dorm. I'll take Hayes back. See you later."
A drunk Hayes and an annoyed Bole trudged out of the room and back to the Slytherin dorm. Severus waited until they were far away until he dared to listen into Rabastan and Lucius's conversation without getting caught.
"—idiot!" Lucius hissed. "Do you want everyone to know?"
"They already know!" Rabastan snarled.
"And if you keep talking about it then everyone will know!" Lucius snapped furiously. "So shut up!"
"I don't understand why everyone thinks this is my fault. You said just as much to 'Dolph as I did." Rabastan grumbled underneath his breath so quietly that Severus wouldn't have heard it unless Lily hadn't gasped and mouthed "Dolph" to him.
Dolph. Finally. A name. Severus felt a savage triumph.
"Shut up!" Lucius exploded, losing his composure. "You have to stop talking about this! How stupid are you?"
"You do not tell me what to do, Malfoy," Rabastan spat. "He did not put you in charge!"
"He wouldn't have put you in charge if He knew what a mess you'd make," Lucius countered.
"I am not making a mess out of this!"
"Keep your voice down!" Lucius hissed. "If you haven't noticed, you've already attracted the attention of Snape. Maybe you weren't paying attention but he's a very capable wizard. Therefore, you should be extra careful not to arouse suspicion. You are failing. You are making a mess out of this. You had a simple job: keep your head down and you couldn't even do that!"
"Oh yeah," Rabastan replied snidely. "And how's your job going? Last time I checked, you hadn't even started it."
"My job is going fine," Lucius replied tightly. "And I'll be talking to Him later this week about it."
There was a long silence.
"I'm not talking with you about this. I'm going back to the dorm." Rabastan muttered furiously and burst from the room and stormed back to the Slytherin dorm. Severus waited with Lily until Lucius had finished putting a few charms on the room to lock it, hide it and secure it and headed back himself.
Finally, when both of them decided it was safe, they breathed. Severus worked on calming himself. He hadn't realized he was trembling and that his heart was beating faster than ever.
"We didn't get caught," Lily said with relief. "There were so many times I thought we were going to get caught."
"Yeah," Severus agreed.
"Do you know who this 'Dolph' person is?"
"It's a nickname," Severus answered. "His real name's Rodolphus Lestrange, brother of Rabastan. He's married to Bellatrix, Narcissa's sister."
"Huh," Lily commented. "Small world."
"In the pure-blood world it is," Severus muttered, still thinking about what he'd heard from Rabastan and Lucius. "There's all that inbreeding and exclusiveness."
"Speaking of pure-bloods, you lied to me," Lily mumbled.
Taken aback Severus moved back to look at her. He blinked in confusion. "What? When have I ever lied to you?"
"I asked if it mattered being muggle-born and you said no." Lily sniffed. "You lied though. It does matter. Blood matters."
"What?" Severus said in surprise again. "It doesn't matter! Being muggle-born is no different that being a pure-blood."
"No, Severus, people still care." Lily mumbled softly.
"No, some people still care," Severus corrected his voice becoming stern. "Lucius, Rabastan, these Slytherins, they're from ancient families and they have traditions—"
"So I'm ruining the tradition?" Lily wailed.
"No!" Severus quickly said. "The traditions they have are old and out of date. Cousins shouldn't marry cousins but in their world it's still okay. Listen to me, Lily. Very few people, compared the whole Wizarding community, believe in what Voldemort believes in. Very few people care about blood ties. It doesn't matter."
"You say blood doesn't matter but V-Voldemort has dedicated his life to blood purity." Lily wept.
Severus was at a loss. Where the heck did this come from? She was in Gryffindor, not Slytherin. She was surrounded by people who didn't care about blood purity…the only reason why she'd care about blood purity would be if she cared about Severus's friends' approval…which would mean she cared about Severus's approval.
"Voldemort's crazy," Severus said instead, praying it'd help. "His ideologies are aimed for crazy people who live in the past millennia. Blood really doesn't matter, Lily, not to me. You're top of the class and you're muggle-born. You're a very smart and very talented witch. You don't see anyone else worried about it? No one in Gryffindor cares and no one in Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw cares either. And you want to know something? There are some Slytherins that don't care either."
"Sure," Lily rejected.
"No seriously," Severus insisted. "There are even some muggle-born Slytherins. Really, the whole idea is absurd. Don't listen to it."
He put his arm around her and let her lean against him. I love you so much, please don't cry.
They sat like that, Severus holding Lily in a protective manner while she collected herself, for a while on the damp dungeon floor. It had already been late when Lucius and Rabastan had left and they'd been sitting there for a while.
"I'm sorry for being stupid," Lily said quietly.
"You're not stupid." Severus gripped Lily's hand and gave it a soft squeeze. I love you he thought.