By Alicia Flint

A/N: AU, extreme slash, OOC (But since it's AU, I can do that)

Disclaimer: Not mine, J.K. Rowling's

POV: Harry Potter

Pairing: Multiple

Description of AU: Lord Voldemort has defeated Harry Potter in a great war and now, all of the students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry are being held in the dungeons, awaiting execution. Severus Snape has switched sides yet again at the last minute and is now working devotedly for Voldemort.

I. The Beginning

We sit waiting in the foyer, leading to the Great Hall -- All bony and dirty from days of neglect. The Hufflepuffs all weep and sob, blowing their dripping noses onto their tattered robes. Little Colin Creevey is trying to stand tall, trying to emulate me, but his slight frame is trembling. The Gryffindors, for the most part, are too exhausted to be frightened. We are ready for this entire thing to end -- To end in a flash of green light or by another means. We are walking towards death but we are not afraid.

Lucius Malfoy steps out onto the foyer and his nose wrinkles in disgust. I would imagine that we must smell atrocious. A pile of our wastes had accumulated in the corner of the dungeons by the end of six days -- A sizable lump of dung with rodents burrowing into the filth. Neville Longbottom had wet his pants once during the night and the smell of dried urine is still upon him. I can smell it now as he edges closer to me, not wanting to be alone in this moment.

"The time of judgement for you all is near," Malfoy announces, staring at me in particular. "You shall step forward into the Great Hall where you will stand before our Master, Lord Voldemort, and await your sentence."

Lucius Malfoy retreats back into the Great Hall for a moment, just enough time for Ron to whisper, "If they think that I'm going to bow before that high and mighty arse . . ."

The doors fly open and we stand before the congregation. The Slytherins sit the all four tables, clad in their informal black robes. Proud parents sit next to their children, beaming at their little Death Eaters. The children smirk knowingly at us -- The bedraggled outcasts. A few of the pureblood Ravenclaws also sit at the tables, heads bowed in shame. I do not look upon them with hatred -- What choice did they have?

We approach the High Table. No longer does Albus Dumbledore sit in the Headmaster's Chair, now Lord Voldemort resides there -- Strumming his slender fingers against the table in anticipation. He is much different now -- Sable gray hair falling over his eyes in a youthful show of nonchalance, his arched cheekbones playing against the candlelight. I find him entrancing but horrifying in the same moment. He is the embodiment of evil.

And the embodiment of our salvation.

"Some shall be saved tonight," he states, rising to his feet. His stance is relaxed at the moment. There is no one to command, no one to impress. He is sentencing the rotting carrion, that is all. It puts me slightly at ease.

"Some will be saved and others shall be sent to the dungeons for execution."

A Hufflepuff whimpers. She will be dead by the end of the evening.

"Before the sentencing, there are a few words I would like to say." Many fidget -- They are impatiently waiting for death. I stand there, somewhat relishing being in this man's presence now that my scar no longer burns at his very glance.

"When I decided whom I would keep and whom I would destroy, I did not look at whether that individual was a mudblood or a pure-blood. I have defeated all of my opponents and the wizarding world is in my hands. I need intelligent, charismatic young men and women within my ranks. If I can find that brilliance in a Muggle-born, so be it."

Lord Voldemort picks up a long list -- A death sentence to many.

"Owen Cauldwell shall serve as a herbology assistant."

A young Hufflepuff steps forward. He is one of the few without tearing eyes. He stoically makes his way to one of the tables and sits down next to Pansy Parkinson who smiles at him -- A smile, which reads, "Welcome to the ranks, Hufflepuff boy."

"Cho Chang shall serve as a correspondent."

Cho breathes out a sight of relief and happily steps forward and sits down. She beams at all of the Slytherins surrounding her. I wonder why I ever fancied her.

"Padma and Parvati Patil shall serve as astronomy researchers."

The twins won't be separated. I flash Parvati a grin as she walks past me. She gives me a weak attempt at a smile. She looks nauseous.

"And Hermione Granger will serve as an assistant minister."

"It's a position of prestige," Ron whispers to Hermione. She reaches to twine her fingers in his but he shoos her forward. She glances back at him, pain clearly readable in her eyes but he only waves good-bye to her. She sits down and buries her face in her hands.

I will soon be dead. I never expected anything more. Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, executed in the Hogwarts holocaust.

"There are six more among you who will be saved," Lord Voldemort smiles. It is an uncaring smile but it still sends a pulsating shiver through me. "These six chosen shall be carefully trained by my own Szajha and shall . . . service me. My Debutantes . . ." The word is said with such a sense of whimsy and nostalgia that I wonder what the job is exactly.

"Step forward as I call your names," he says. "Colin Creevey."

The petite boy is petrified by the sound of his own name. I gently nudge him forwards and he takes a few steps into the open space between the High Table and us. Voldemort's smile brightens a little.

"Justin Finch-Fletchley."

The curly-haired Hufflepuff shyly steps forward, his friends patting him on the shoulder and telling him that everything will be fine -- Just fine.

"Seamus Finnigan."

Seamus takes a deep breath and tries to keep his composure. He steps forward and takes his place next to Justin.

"Neville Longbottom."

Neville, on the other hand, looks as though he's about to fall over in a dead faint. Dean Thomas lays steady hands on the boy's back, trying to keep him standing. Neville just stands there for a moment -- Not stepping forward, not running for the door in a hopeless retreat. Voldemort's eyes narrow in confusion. Then Neville takes a few shaky steps forward before Seamus grabs hold of his hand and pulls him the rest of the way.

"Ronald Weasley."

Ron blanches and his freckles stick out garishly. He looks at me and swallows.

"It'll be fine," he reassures me. I suddenly understand. He feels guilty that he's been spared and that I won't be.

"I'm glad for you," I reply gripping his hand tightly. He smiles and some of the color returns to his cheeks.


Ron, plucky in the face of danger, strides into the open space, crossing his arms against his chest and looking at Voldemort with a definite challenge in his eyes. I'm momentarily afraid that Voldemort will land the "Crucio" curse on him. Instead, Voldemort simply looks amused -- Amused and a bit intrigued.

"Harry Potter."

The name is called out and for a moment, I don't realize to whom the name belongs to. Then little Dennis Creevey pokes me in the ribs and whispers loudly, "That's you!" All of the other Gryffindor students nod in verification and I stagger up into the line. I've never seen Ron look so happy in all of the time I've known him. My eyes drift over to Voldemort whose pupils are widely dilated. I catch a whiff of the scent wafting off of the man and suddenly, the room seems so heady and the air seems so thick. I sway on my feet slightly but Ron's arm latches around my waist and catches me before I blackout.


The damp chill of another dungeon greets me when I awake.

The other five children crowd into a corner, holding each other close to keep warm. I notice, almost immediately, that we have been stripped of all our clothes. A light flush rises to my cheeks but I realize that it's very petty of me to be embarrassed at this moment. After all, we are trapped in a life or death situation. Why should I be worrying about who sees my naked flesh?

"That bloody bastard took my best pair of trousers," Ron huffs. Justin curls up tightly into a little ball by Ron's side -- His head shoved into the nook of Ron's armpit. "He took my bleedin' trousers and I am beyond pissed."

At that moment, the grate of the dungeon swings open and a slew of Death Eaters stand before us. My imagination flits over a variety of worst case scenarios.

"On your knees, children," one of the ambassadors hisses and none of us hesitate, not even Ron. "Show respect for the Szajha."

The sound of heels clicking on the stone floor greet my ears as someone enters the room.

"Why hasn't anyone cleaned them?"

I assume that the voice belongs to the Szajha. The voice is smooth yet definitively cold. It is a voice that I know that I have heard before -- Somewhere.

"My apologies, Szajha. We will attend to that immediately."

"I should hope so." The Szajha's voice holds a twinge of disgust and I'm glad that my face is hidden in the stone floor because another fierce blush overtakes me. "When you're finished with them, rub their backs with salve and bring them into the Room of Acca Larentia. They need to be branded."

I hear Justin sniffle slightly. Hufflepuff.

"That is all."

The sound of heels clicking on the floor and, once again, the Szajha is gone. Rough hands grab my limbs and pull me up from the floor, along with the other five. We're dragged down the halls and, at once, thrown into a large cleaning chamber. The showerheads that stick threateningly out of the wall suddenly release rough jets of water. Neville yelps.

Bars of soap slowly rub the dirt and grime off of my body. Looking down at my flesh, I am shocked to find how many open sores I have accumulated over the past few weeks. Some of them are beginning to scar over healthfully. Others are beginning to sap with pus. One of the Death Eaters, armed with his wand, walks around to each of us, healing our sores and smoothing out scars -- Turning our skin into flawless planes. Someone washes my hair -- Pulling at it this way and that, trying to wrench all of the grease from it. When that's finished, I feel an edge being pulled down my leg. I look down to see a razor being dragged down the expanse of my calf. The black hair that has accumulated there comes off easily, leaving naked, girlish skin in its wake. I am shocked but I voice no protest. My arms and chest are shaved in the same manner. Some words are muttered by a Death Eater -- A spell of some sort. I don't recognize it though.

Soon after that, the water stops flowing. Warm oils are massaged into our flesh, eliminating any odor that has seeped into our skin. A cool salve is spread onto our backs and we are given short robes to wear.

We are ready.


The Death Eaters lead the six of us -- Still damp -- out into the hall and down a series of long corridors. After what seems like an eternity, we reach a small door, carved from white pine. One of the Death Eaters produces a key and the door is opened.

The vastness of the room automatically overtakes me. The cool marble walls rise above my head for what seems like miles and the room is astronomically large -- Twice the size of any Quidditch field. Everything in this room is designed in pure white and gray -- Not a hint of color anywhere. Our attention is automatically drawn to the center of the room where a rampant downpour is in progress. A curtain of rain falls all around a high standing platform.

"The floor isn't wet," Seamus whispers to me. "Look. The drops are disappearing before they hit the ground."

"It's to avoid flooding."

A voice from behind us forces us all to turn around. A young man, clothed in a white tunic, stands before us. His face is cherubic but something about him seems harsh and slightly jaded.

"I can take it from here, gentlemen," he says with a nod of his head and the Death Eaters automatically leave us. For some reason, this makes me uncomfortable.

"The Szajha loves rain," the young man continues. "Unfortunately, having an actual rainstorm in here would create a terrible mess, so we perform it magically instead. You must be the Debutantes?"

"I suppose so," I respond bravely, ever the Gryffindor. He smiles cordially.

"Welcome to the Room of Acca Larentia. I believe introductions are in order? I am Aquarius and I will be at your beckon call for the remainder of your stay here. It is my duty to cater to the whims of Debutantes."

I would have to be deaf not to notice the bitter tone to his voice.

"I'm Ron Weasley," Ron says, stepping up and extending a hand to Aquarius.

"I'm sorry but I cannot," Aquarius says, politely declining his hand. "It is not my place to touch a Debutante. The honor is reserved for only for the Death Eaters, the Szajha, and, of course, Lord Voldemort himself."

I'm extremely puzzled but I, like the others, decide not to question.

"The Szajha will see you now," he declares and walks briskly towards the rainstorm, the "Debutantes" in tow. When we reach the torrent of droplets, the sound is deafening. Aquarius has to shout to be heard.

"You will proceed up the stairwell and into the Szajha's quarters. There you will be appropriately branded."

He bows and stands to the side, allowing us to pass. I approach the downpour and the rain begins to curve to the sides, forming a door. I look at Aquarius curiously.

"We wouldn't want you drenched for the Szajha."

I pass through the cleared area and emerge on the other side, facing a wide staircase. Ron and the others follow soon after me.

"God, this is bloody twisted," Ron gasps, looking up the staircase. A pavilion stands at the top, sheer curtains cloaking it from the outside world. I lead the way up to the pavilion, with all the caution instilled in me by years of war -- Carefully, one step at a time, until we reach the top. We all exhale simultaneously when we reach the pavilion -- A shadow sits within.

"Come in, if you please."

I am the first to enter the pavilion, shoving the sheer material to the side. I see the Szajha clearly for the first time and, unfortunately, I am a bit less than surprised.

"I thought it might be you," I say under my breath and a slight smile overtakes the corners of his carefully painted lips.

Professor Snape sits on a mound of pillows in the center of the pavilion, looking much different than the last time I laid eyes on him. Mounds of jet- colored curls are piled up on top of his head in an effort that must have taken all morning. Deep charcoal lines his eyes and his lips are stained vermilion. A robe the color of India ink clings to any assets that he might possess, lacing up at the bodice and flaring out at the waist. His sallow skin is caked a brilliant alabaster but his nose remains the sole condemning feature. It is the dirt stain on the whitest of linens.

"Bloody hell!" Ron whispers under his breath, eliciting an arched eyebrow from the Professor.

"My sentiments exactly, I assure you. Imagine the shock I received when I learned that you were to be the new Debutantes."

"If you don't mind my asking, what is a Debutante exactly, Professor?" I ask, wondering the exact meaning of this word which I have heard spoken with reverence, delight, shame, and hatred.

"I am not referred to as 'Professor' in this terrain," he says, plucking a cigarette from the diamond-encrusted container next to him and lighting it. "I am usually called the Szajha. You may call me Severus, if you wish." He takes a long, luxuriant drag on the cigarette and Neville whimpers. Poor child. This must be his absolute worst nightmare.

"I will answer your question but first, let us begin with the branding. It will take a few days time as it is and, I have to admit, I wish to get it over with as quickly as possible."

"I wish to be the first then," I say, stepping up to the mound of pillows.

"Good," Professor . . . Severus smiles, his voice taking on a smoky quality that makes me shiver. He snaps his fingers and, automatically, a series of servants come running into the pavilion. They are all young men, garbed in white tunics like Aquarius. They have a disturbingly sterile aura to them, like the ancient eunuchs in the harems. They hold bottles of ink and one of them presents Severus with a penknife. He snuffs the cigarette out and takes the penknife into his hands.

"Take off your clothes," he commands, pricking the tip of his finger with the blade. I am suddenly flushed with embarrassment. Something about the thought of standing in front of Professor Snape, completely exposed . . .

"Don't hesitate, Harry. I assure you that we'll come to know each other far more intimately." It is a promise that scares me half to death but I manage to untie the robe and let it drop to my feet. He examines every inch of my form and then nods his approval. He pats the pillow in front of him, beckoning me to come. I take a step forward but Ron holds me back.

"Oh bleedin' hell, Harry, don't!" Ron says, loud enough for Severus to hear.

I shove Ron's hand off my shoulder with a comforting look in his direction.

"I'll be fine," I whisper and I continue on my journey up the mountain of pillows to receive the Mark. At last, I stand right before Severus.

"Sit there with your back towards me," he says, patting the pillow in front of him again. I do as I am told and, automatically, I feel thighs clamping around my hips. A heated whisper in my ear -- "You're going to try and run. We all try and run at first."

"Not me," I respond, practically spitting in the man's face.

"I have to say, Harry" -- He dips the penknife into a container of black ink -- "That's the first genuine hostility I've seen from you since Lord Voldemort conquered the wizarding world. You've been taking your defeat surprisingly well. Now, hold still."

The penknife clips into my back and almost immediately, white pain flashes through my body. It's a heated, desperate pain that makes a cold sweat break out on my body. I try to lash out at Severus . . . I try to run . . . But he holds me down firmly.

"Don't try and fight it," he whispers, his hands trailing down my chest. I relax into his touch and gasp for air. "If you try and fight it, the pain will drive you mad."

"What should I do?" I ask, resting my head on his shoulder, trying to recover from the pain.

"Remain strong and come to enjoy it. After all, Harry, this will probably be the last time you feel pain."

I sigh and sit up straight again. I nod, consenting the continuation of the branding. The penknife bites into my flesh time and time again. I sit there for hours and eventually the pain becomes a stimulating irritation. I come to welcome the sting and the heat. Eventually though, the pain stops altogether and I don't know whether to be relieved or disappointed. A cool lotion, smelling of mint, is rubbed into my back and, for a few moments, I just sit there while Severus holds me in his arms.

"What is a Debutante?" I ask him, feeling this intense desire to simply fall asleep with my head against his chest.

"A Debutante is the epitome of intellect, culture, etiquette, sexuality, and beauty," he responds, brushing my hair back, away from my face. "We are the centerpieces of empires." He sweetly kisses the top of my head.

"I never knew you could be so maternal," I smile, looking up at him. He looks exhausted from his efforts. No doubt he is as tired as I am but five young boys await the Mark so we cannot simply fall into the abyss of slumber together. "Something has changed between us . . ." I say suddenly. "I hated you more than anything."

"Don't question it," Severus says tersely. "Many things will change. You will find that all the things you took for granted are not as they appeared to be."

"You hated me."

"I didn't," Severus said softly. "Stop making assumptions. You know nothing, Harry. Absolutely nothing."

I flinch slightly when I realize that he's right.

"Now send one of the others up here and try and get some rest."

I get up and stagger down the mountain of pillows. My back burns from the heated mark and from the cooling lotion.

"Someone else go up there," I command before collapsing onto the floor and into sleep.


When I awake, I notice that everything is disturbingly silent. I sit up to find that the other five have all left and that, now, I am alone. The soft sound of feet shuffling against marble prove otherwise. Severus emerges from behind a dressing screen looking much more familiar to me now. His hair is dewy and limp and the make-up has been removed from his face. He looks more like the stern Potions Master than the commanding, yet oddly gentile, Szajha. The only thing truly different about him is his hair. Where once it fell around his shoulders, it now cascades down his back to flick around his upper thighs. He climbs onto the mountain of pillows, pulling a cotton sheet over his form.

"Care to join me tonight?"

I don't know how I can refuse. I automatically come to his side, crawling under the sheet with him. There is something juvenile about it but there is also a definitive undertone that even I pick up on.

"Who went after me?" I ask out of pure curiosity. "To receive the Mark."

"The Creevey child," Severus responds. "Colin?"

"Yes," I smile. "His name is Colin. Do you honestly mean to tell me that you've been referring to him as Mister Creevey for so long that you've forgotten his first name?"

A slight rose tint rises to Severus' cheeks.

"That boy emmulates you, Harry."

"I'd have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to notice that."

"Then Finnigan -- Seamus Finnigan -- went. He was brave, acting like a true Gryffindor. You would have been proud."

"Why am I the only one left behind?" I ask suddenly.

"You were the only one passed out on my floor," Severus says, his voice hinted with that familiar acidity. "And you were the only one whom I wanted to stay."