AN: Bolded text comes directly from canon.
Disclaimer: I own nothing Harry Potter related. I'm making no money. Please, powers-that-be, leave me alone to play with my thoughts.
Chapter One – The Fate of a Child
He walked across the tiled entry room, boots clicking as he made his way towards the door. As he entered, he cast his eyes immediately downward—to gaze upon the Dark Lord without permission was to ensure immediate suffering, be it Cruciatus or something even more despicable. He had no wish to lose blood today. Scanning the floor for the Dark Lord's shadow, he made his way towards the windows at the end of the hall. Upon seeing his Lord's feet, he prostrated himself, knees bent, forehead touching the ground, palms flat to the floor.
He remained in this position for an interminable period of time. His back ached, his knees became stiff, and he had lost most of the circulation to his feet. He knew it would take everything in his power to stand without falling once his master gave him permission to rise.
The minutes dragged by; a grandfather clock in the corner mocked his pain, the second hand clicking for every two beats of his heart. He focused on slowing his heart, knowing he was doing his body no favors by allowing his blood pressure to remain this high. A few silent, deep breaths calmed his quaking heart, and he tried desperately to remember that this was just how the Dark Lord operated; fear was a powerful commander. He refused to be afraid.
Eventually, the sibilant voice of his master rang out. "Rise, Severus. Join me in appreciation of this marvelous view."
Snape arose slowly, willing his body not to cramp or spasm. He risked a quick glance to the clock. Twenty-nine minutes had passed since he entered the room. Only twenty-nine minutes. It had felt like hours.
He walked to his master's side, his knees protesting, his back screaming.
"You sent for me, My Lord?" Severus still did not look at him, but focused his eyes instead at the view. The full moon rose over the edge of the outbuildings in the distance, and he shivered slightly; the full moon still had the ability to instill him with a small amount of fear. Snape could feel the other man's eyes fixed on him, and it made him even more uncomfortable.
"Severus, are you happy?"
Snape blinked. He was caught so off guard by the question that he actually dared to look his master in the eyes. He breathed a sigh of relief when he realized that the Dark Lord merely looked back at him with amusement.
He had no idea how to answer the question. His first instinct was to sarcastically respond, "And just when have I ever been known as being happy?" but he quickly thought better of it. The other man's eyes went from looking amused to irritated.
"Of course, My Lord. You have provided me with an adequate laboratory and a steady income. What more could I ask for?"
The Dark Lord's face lit up; if there was anything the Dark Lord liked, it was being praised.
"How would you like to continue having the ability to brew and earn a respectable living, while also becoming an invaluable asset to me, Severus?"
That question surprised him even more than the last. He knew that he was important to the Dark Lord. Some of his potions had earned him great respect amongst his brothers. But invaluable? Malfoy was invaluable; Bella was invaluable. He was just Severus Snape, half-blood extraordinaire to be sure, but not invaluable. It was just the opportunity he had been hoping for.
"I will do whatever you command of me, My Lord, even without the luxury of brewing or an income. It is most gracious of you to offer both."
The Dark Lord bestowed a rare smile upon his servant. Snape's stomach clenched in both fear and joy; it was the first time he'd even been shown such regard.
"I have received intelligence which implies that Horace Slughorn may be retiring from Hogwarts in the coming year. I wish for you to go to Dumbledore, Severus, and apply for this position."
Snape couldn't believe the request. He knew better than to voice his reservations to the Dark Lord, but he definitely had them. How could he teach at Hogwarts so soon after graduating? All of the professors were… old. Most of his former housemates were still there, and the new students enrolled since his graduation would certainly be the siblings of his peers. How would he gain their respect? How would he have any sort of authority as a professor?
"Furthermore, I wish for you become Head of Slytherin house."
Head of Slytherin house? He was sure his master had lost his mind. Had Bella slipped him something again? Only Bella could get away with something like that without getting blasted to Hades and beyond.
He finally managed to cough out a response. "Sir?"
It was the best he could muster.
The Dark Lord laughed, a harsh, grating noise that would frighten a small child. "Yes, Severus. You must do this for me. It is time for me to take the next steps in my plans, and I will need loyal followers. I need you to infiltrate the school, and you must groom appropriate children for my ranks. This will be most easily done from within your own house—but do not be so blind as to think that my servants shall only come from Slytherin."
"My Lord, not to question your judgment, which I know is sound, but how will I make Dumbledore trust me? As you know, I was never one of his… favorites. The man acts like Slytherin is synonymous for evil, Slughorn excepted." Snape gave a wry sneer at this, remembering all of the times he had been given detention for defending himself while the perpetrators had gotten off scot-free. "And besides, Slughorn would never recommend me for the position; his ego is still bruised from my performance on the NEWTs." Snape thoroughly enjoyed remembering the look on Slughorn's face when his professor had realized Snape had achieved the only perfect score ever on a Potions NEWT.
"Slughorn's opinion of you is irrelevant. You will do what you must to ensure this happens, Severus. I need you in this position if my plans are to come to fruition. Do not fail me."
Severus swallowed hard. "I will not, My Lord. When do you wish for me to meet with Dumbledore?"
The Dark Lord crossed the few steps to stand directly in front of Snape. "Why, Severus, tonight of course. My plans cannot wait. You'll find him at Hogwarts."
Knowing better than to question any of this, Snape took a step back, then bowed deeply. Rising, he paused before departing. "Shall I report back to you tonight, My Lord, or shall I return tomorrow?"
"By all means, Severus, go home, and get some rest. It has already been a long day. However, please return for breakfast, my boy. Narcissa makes the most delectable croissants."
Snape inclined his head once more in acceptance of the invitation before turning on the spot and Disapparating to the edge of Hogsmeade.
He landed a little hard and stumbled before righting himself. "Sure," he snorted, "Narcissa makes the most delectable croissants. More like the labor of five house-elves ensures a perfect breakfast, or else Lucius kills one."
Snape stamped up the path, enraged. He knew better than to Apparate directly to the castle. Without this walk, there was no way he would be able to get his emotions under control. Teach, indeed! If there was one thing he hated more than a child, it was an entire castle full of children. He had no idea how he was going to be able to pull this off, let alone get Dumbledore to acquiesce to the idea. But knowing his bodily well-being was on the line was an intense motivator, and he trudged up the hill to the castle with purpose.
While it had been a clear night at the Malfoys, it was dreary in Scotland—the sky was grey, and a cold, wet drizzle seeped into his clothing. The rain did absolutely nothing to improve his mood. He flipped up the collar of his cloak, protecting his ears from the howling wind. The anthropopathic quality of the rain was not lost on him, and he sneered at whatever games God was playing this ill-fated night.
It was only as he crested the last hill and saw Hogwarts looming in the moonlit night that he realized he had no way of entering the gates. Before he could figure out a solution, a voice boomed from the edge of the Forest.
"Severus Snape? Is that you?"
Snape grimaced; only one man cast a shadow that large. "Good evening, Mr. Hagrid. How are you tonight?"
Hagrid looked at him, confused, but not in a negative way. He had always shown great kindness to Hagrid; it never hurt to make friends with those in service positions. "Y'know, just keeping an eye on the dog while he does his business."
Almost on cue, King, Hagrid's old Great Dane, bounded out of the woods, raising his front paws to Snape's shoulders before placing wet, slobbery dog kisses on his face.
Snape tried not to scowl.
Hagrid let out a series of whole body guffaws before wiping his eyes with a large handkerchief. "He seems to remember yeh, Severus. I reckon he'd still love one of those sticks you used to conjure for him."
Snape rolled his eyes. Yes, those sticks. The only way he could keep that blasted dog from licking him to death had been to conjure large toys and throw them as far away as possible. He quickly conjured a rather large one, throwing it towards the groundskeeper's hut.
Hagrid smiled as he watched his dog bound away. "So, Severus. What brings you back?"
"I had heard there may be an opening on staff next year. I thought I might try to talk to the Headmaster about employment. Would you be willing to walk me to the castle?"
"Well, I'd love to, Severus, but 'e's not there. Gone ter the Hog's Head tonight."
Snape scowled, not looking forward to spending time in such a… hole. He quickly righted his features. "Would you like to come and share a pint, Mr. Hagrid?
"I'm sorry, I can't go with yer, Severus. I need to tend to King, of course. And call me Hagrid; you're no longer a student, and I never much liked the 'mister' on any account."
"Thanks, Hagrid," Snape said, attempting to look as pleasant as possible.
Hagrid smiled one last time before turning and walking off, yelling after King.
Snape readjusted his collar and began the walk back to Hogsmeade, lost in thought. If he really were to be forced into working at Hogwarts, having Hagrid on his side would be invaluable. Everyone knew the Headmaster trusted Hagrid implicitly, and once Hagrid was loyal to someone, his regard never wavered. If Hagrid trusted him, that would mean something to Dumbledore.
He entered the Hog's Head soaked and surly. He immediately walked to the bar, slapping down a Sickle and demanding an Irish whiskey, straight. Aberforth looked annoyed, but complied. He used the opportunity to aurally take in his surroundings.
His collar was still up, and his hair came down over most of his face, shielding his identity from anyone seeing him from the back. It gave him some anonymity to sip his last drink as a relatively free man. Well, as free as any Death Eater can consider himself.
He began to take in the sounds and smells of the bar. The scents of unwashed bodies and stale beer were nothing to dwell on, so he began listening to snippets of conversation. Given Dumbledore wasn't at the bar, he could only assume he was at one of the many dark corners or tables in the dank room. He heard a young couple arguing over rent, an ugly man trying to convince a floozy to come home with him, and a curmudgeon giving a soliloquy about fighting in the Great War… the last of which made little sense to him. The Great War, really? They just let anyone into this bar these days, Mudbloods too apparently.
However, he did not hear the voice he was required to seek out this night.
"Aberforth, is there a room upstairs where I might go to freshen up decently? I don't need it for the night; I just want to clean up and dry my clothes."
Aberforth glared at him. Snape knew he needed to be nicer if he were to get any sort of response from the man. He threw another Sickle onto the bar. "Please, it wouldn't take more than a moment."
Aberforth, still scowling, growled slightly. "Fine. Up the stairs, second door on the left."
Snape attempted a smile. "Thank you… sir."
He rose from the bar, clutching his whiskey in his hand, and ascended to the second floor.
The upper hallway was dimly lit; wall sconces each held a single candle every few feet. He quickly moved to the room, casting a quick drying spell over himself before just as quickly leaving the room. He knew that if Dumbledore were not downstairs, he would probably be enjoying the privacy of an upper room. The first door on the hall was slightly ajar, and golden light poured from the room. Quietly, he approached the door, hoping to ascertain whether the Headmaster was present in the chambers.
A familiar voice wafted through the din, and Snape began to listen closely.
"So, other than your familial relations, in what way are you qualified as a Seer?"
Seer? Why in God's name would Dumbledore be interviewing a Seer?
"Well, my great-great-grandmother Cassandra taught me everything she knew about palmistry and scrying. I've even been known to dabble in augury when the mood strikes me."
"I see," Dumbledore paused. "I'm sure this is an unnecessary question, but are you aware of any of your prophecies coming true, Miss Trelawney?"
"Of course my prophecies come true, Headmaster. I wouldn't be much of a Seer if nothing I foresaw came to fruition. Why just this morning, I read in my tea leaves that I would have a rather fortuitous meeting with an important man tonight!"
Snape heard the Headmaster snort softly, almost in annoyance. "Miss Trelawney, we've had this meeting scheduled for over a week…"
"Yes, sir, but the tea leaves told me it would happen."
Snape rolled his eyes. Great, another 'seer.' He wondered how long this blasted meeting would take; he did want to take his master's advice and get some sleep. And get dry.
"Well, Miss Trelawney, I believe we've conversed enough—"
"But, sir, we've barely spoken. Surely, there are more things I could tell you! Let me gaze upon your palm!"
"I'm sorry, Miss Trelawney, but I do not feel that you would be suitable for this position. I'm sorry for taking up this much of your time."
He heard a chair scrape across the floor—Dumbledore was leaving. As quickly and quietly as he could, he slipped down the hall to the second room before he could be caught eavesdropping.
The sound of glass breaking stilled his walking—was the woman pitching a fit? A strangled moan kept him frozen in place—it was not a pleasant sound. It was the woman's voice, but tilted on its side—deep, husky, and in pain.
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...
"Oi, Snape! What're ya loitering up there for? I charge by the hour for those rooms. Don't make me take two Galleons from you by force!"
Snape cursed. He'd missed the rest of what she had said. A prophecy? About the Dark Lord? The power to vanquish him? Surely the Dark Lord could not be vanquished.
He heard a sharp thud on the other side of the door. Sneaking a peek as he walked by, he saw her body convulsing on the floor. Dumbledore was crouched over her, checking her vitals, attempting to quell the shakes that wracked her body. He conjured a Patronus, sending it to Hogwarts for the Healer.
Dumbledore is buying this? Snape wouldn't have put it past the woman to fake it, but the quick glimpse at Dumbledore's face let him know that Dumbledore was taking whatever this prophecy meant very seriously.
Snape descended back into the bar to Aberforth glaring at him once again. Is the man never happy?
"I apologize, Aberforth. Here you go, for your troubles."
He tossed a Galleon onto the bar and walked out, marching down the street in anger and frustration. On the one hand, he had heard a potentially true prophecy, at least as far as Dumbledore was concerned. Prophecies had a way of coming true if the recipient put actions into motion based on the belief of its validity. Yet on the other hand, he had failed to even speak with the Headmaster, let alone procure the teaching position. He had two options: return now with at least some information as a consolation prize, or return home and hide from the situation. As he planted his foot to spin in Disapparition, he was having difficulty making the decision.
He landed on the front lawn of Malfoy Manor, brain swimming, body tingling alarmingly. He knew the penalty for approaching the Dark Lord without summons, and he was not looking forward to the punishment. However, how much worse would it be for him to keep this information from his master, even if it were just the next morning? He made his way up the walk, pausing to kick one of the peacocks in frustration.
The door swung open, and a house-elf met him, shaking and cowering.
"Yes? What is sir needing?"
"I need to speak with the Dark Lord, elf."
"But, sir, the Master's Master is sleeping now. I is being punished if I summons him."
"You 'is being punished' if you do not follow my orders, elf!" Snape bellowed.
Shaking even harder, the elf disappeared with a crack. Within a minute, he was back, his hand over a curse burn on his forehead.
"Sir is to be going to the drawing room now." The elf moved aside to allow Snape entrance.
As Snape walked by the elf, the creases and mud spatters left his bedraggled cloak. Snape cast a sharp look at the elf, an eyebrow raised in question.
"I is not wanting you to be hurt too, sir. You is usually nice to us. I is wanting you to be safe."
Snape was surprised. House-elves never did anything without being asked, certainly nothing to protect those they weren't sworn to.
"Err… thanks… um…"
"Dobby, sir. My name is being Dobby!"
He reached the drawing room, steeling himself for Cruciatus or worse. He opened the door and went through the same motions as before: eyes to the floor, scanning for the Dark Lord's shadow. Before he could take one step, his master interrupted the ritual.
"I was asleep, Severus."
A Slicing Hex slid through the air, striking his left thigh. Snape sank to the floor, stifling a scream. Blood poured from the gash.
"I believe you should be groveling, Severus." Before Snape could kowtow, the Dark Lord cast Imperio, forcing his head to strike the hardwood floor with a hollow thud.
His leg throbbed. He could feel his pulse in the open wound, and he was sure he was losing a great deal of blood. He felt his body bear crawling towards his master and did not have the energy to care.
"Did you procure the position, Severus."
He managed to grind out a breathy "No."
His body flopped over like a turtle stuck on it shell. His limbs curled inward, blood gushing in spurts in time with the waves of pain wracking his body.
"Oh, now, look what you've done Severus. You've bled on my favorite robes."
A Blasting Curse lifted his body, arcing it through the air before slamming it against the wall. He felt two of his ribs crack, and he was sure something was wrong with his lower vertebrae.
As his body hit the floor, he prayed for unconsciousness. He was not afforded the luxury.
The Dark Lord stalked him like a tiger; he made his way slowly through the room, eyes trained for any movement from his kill.
Even if he could, Snape knew better than to move—any sudden movements would surely mean his death.
"Now, Severus, I'm sure you have a perfectly good reason for rousing me from such a lovely dream. I assume you knew waking me with news of your failure would not be met well; so please, enlighten me as to what could be so incredibly important."
Snape spat, ridding his mouth of spit and blood. He attempted to sit, but a flick of his master's wand kept him immobile. He managed a whisper. "I heard a prophecy concerning you, My Lord."
Snape's hair had fallen over his eyes, so even if he wanted to see his master's reaction, he could not. The quick escape of breath from the other man was all the confirmation he needed to know his master had heard him.
"A prophecy? Certainly you know I hold no store in prophecies. Explain."
"When I arrived, Cassandra Trelawney's great-great-granddaughter was meeting with the Headmaster and interviewing for the position of Seer." He spat again, trying to banish the bitter iron taste of blood from his mouth. At the angle his body laid, he was afraid of choking. "Dumbledore was not happy with what he heard, and he made to leave. Suddenly, her voice changed timbre, and she spoke of you. I watched and saw Dumbledore's reaction; he believed it. After the prophecy, My Lord, she fell, her body convulsing inhumanly. I know of no such potion or spell that could create this sort of response. I believe I witnessed a true prophecy." He had spoken too much and accidentally inhaled spit and blood. He began coughing hard, trying desperately not to vomit from the exertion and the pain.
With a flick of his wand, the Dark Lord lifted him, hanging him mid-air. He stared directly into Snape's eyes.
"Do not blink, Severus."
A force entered his mind, a knife-sharp, piercing presence. It was sinister, and it did not mean him good. Suddenly, it felt as if his brain were being split in two.
Mind rape. He's raping my mind.
I most certainly am, Severus. It felt as if the Dark Lord were putting his brain in a vice, slowly squeezing it until it threatened to explode.
The events of the night played out in his brain: his anger at being told he would teach at Hogwarts, his interlude with Hagrid, his night at the Hog's Head.
As suddenly as he entered, the Dark Lord departed his mind, a sensation that left him feeling broken and emotionally drained. It was as if there were a hole in his head and something he needed to survive was leaking out. His master ended the spell, and his body hit the floor once more, his right tibia snapping. He felt the skin on his right shin tear as the bone punctured through skin and muscle. It was too much. He began to scream, baying like a kicked dog.
The Dark Lord began to laugh. It was an ugly laugh, full of malice and hate. The low, pealing laughter continued for eons, and Snape felt as if he could go crazy just from listening to it.
His master finally stopped, and the room became deathly quiet.
"I believe you have a child to kill, Severus."
Severus groaned. The only thing he was good for right now was dying. And bleeding. There was no way he could possibly kill anyone tonight.
"Yes, My Lord."
"Meet us for breakfast tomorrow, as requested. I will have your instructions ready by then."
The Dark Lord made to leave the room, pausing as he approached Snape's body. With a self-satisfied chuckle, he kicked his servant's prone form, landing his foot over his left kidney.
"Oh, and, Severus. Never again think that you have the right to be angered by any of my requests. You will become a professor at Hogwarts. And you will be happy."
The Dark Lord left the room, and Snape lay on the floor, limbs akimbo, sobbing. Every part of his body felt as if it had been ripped in half, and he was becoming lightheaded by the blood that refused to stay in his body.
"Dobby," he croaked.
Dobby appeared by his side in an instant.
Everything in the room shifted, spinning in a vortex of pain and misery. The last thing he remembered seeing was large green eyes looking into his, the immense orbs swimming with tears, before he finally lost consciousness.
Ridiculously lengthy author's notes: Special thanks for this entire fic go out to clairvoyant, tonksinger, dickgloucester, aurette, and dragonhideboot, without whom I would have never had the motivation, courage, or expertise to finish this story after over two years.
This story was inspired by a feed G-d knows where at this point, involving lulabelle, redskyatnight, and a scad of other SSHGers talking about how certain tropes in fandom were getting overused. As you will see in my next chapter, I am attempting to turn one of those particular tropes on its head.
This story is complete and going through edits. It is about 16 chapters long, depending on how I decide to divide it.
This story will be canon compliant. I'm dead serious.