Shadows of a Soul ~ A joint work by Severitus and Elizabeth Bathory
DISCLAIMER: All unrecognized characters are original. The characters from Harry Potter belong to J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury Publishing, Scholastic Inc., Warner Bros., etc... By no way is this work being used for profit.
Midnight had just begun to chime inside the old castle as Severus Snape exited through the heavy oaken doors. An icy wind bit fiercely at the exposed skin of his face, as if struggling to force him to turn back the way he had come. Hunching his shoulders, he continued down the ancient, crumbling steps; his eyes narrowed in determination. The heavy, black cloak hung about his shoulders did nothing for the cold that was coating the dying grass with a thin sheet of ice. He welcomed it--he welcomed the biting cold and the roaring wind. The numbness quickly claimed his fingers and cheeks, his body growing stiff with the deepening night. But nature's torments were nothing to a man who, even now, headed willingly toward the dragon's hungry maw, ready to tempt fate and death itself once again.
It had been nearly fourteen years since the dark lord had fallen, his Death Eater's fleeing in the wake of his passing. It had been nearly fourteen years since he'd stood before his 'master,' a broken man held together only by the desperation to prove himself to Dumbledore. And now Voldemort was alive again. His followers flocked like flies to a rotting carcass to kiss the hem of his robes. Every feeling of safety, every happiness known by the world in those fifteen years would soon become nothing more than a memory. The Dark Lord would regain his power, again drive the world into the depths of fear and darkness, and there wasn't a wizard in existence who could stand up to him and win. At one time, Albus Dumbledore would have been able to defeat the Dark wizard, but he was older now, and no longer a warrior himself. Voldemort was more powerful than ever before, ready to take the world in a rain of blood and death, and more than half of the wizarding world thought he was dead. Ignorance, though blissful, was the surest way to an untimely death, Severus thought with a scowl.
Fingers, tinged pink by the icy wind, pulled the frayed robes tighter about his thin shoulders as he crossed the icy grounds, boots crunching upon the brittle grass. It was the same path that he'd taken that night, though it had not yet been frosted with the winter's chill. The same rocks, stones, and trees rose up around him in the night, the only witnesses to his silent mission. If he looked hard enough, he could even imagine that it was again that chilly October night, his mind filled with uncertainty as he headed to yet another 'gathering.' He remembered that even then he had been unsure about his place, his mind questioning his own actions and the Dark Lord's.
As he continued into the dark expanse of trees, eyes glazed with thought, the present slowly began to fade away. Memories arose from the depths of his mind, their many flashing images overtaking the wild, twisting path past forbidden things. He remembered that fateful October night, when his eyes had finally opened.
It had begun just the same as any other meeting, within the dank confines of some mysterious, dilapidated building. The silhouettes of many figures in black cloaks stood against the dim firelight, demonic in the fierce red glow of the room. Severus stood in a far corner, clothed in the deepest shadows as his eyes surveyed the room. Although he had often fought side by side with many of the men in the room, he did not trust them. He would have no sooner turned his back on a single one than he would have been willing to place his head between a dragon's jaws. He knew these men far better than he wished too, he'd even gone to school with most of them, and he still hated every single one of them. So why was he here then, standing side by side with men he despised? It was quite simple really--he laid claim to none of the snobbish ideals that drove Lucius Malfoy, or the sick pleasure MacNair derived from death, or even the supremist purposes that Crabbe and Goyle clung to with all of their combined mentality. No, he served the Dark Lord for one reason and one reason alone—for power. He craved it like life itself. To watch another bend helplessly to his will, following his every command as if it were the will of a god, was sweeter than the finest wine.
And it changed absolutely nothing. He understood that now.
No matter how many people he killed, no matter how many men and woman collapsed beneath the power of his wand, screaming for mercy, it would never change the past. What he desired power most for was forever beyond his reach. He only hated that it had taken him so long to realize that fact. Growling quietly, he shook his head and returned his attention to the room before him, noticing for the first time that something subtle in the atmosphere had changed.
An eerie quiet seemed to fall across the room, the fire flashing brightly with a burst of sparks. As if driven by some primal instinct, every dark clad being dropped as one to the ground, frozen in a silent homage to the inhuman creature that had yet to set one foot into the room. It was the same instinct that drove rabbits to their burrows when the fox slipped out to hunt, a sense dedicated to survival in whatever way possible.
The slow click of boots upon stone signaled the entrance of the Dark Lord himself, his tall, dark frame pausing in the doorway as his luminescent eyes surveyed the room with their hungry crimson gaze. Severus kept his head low, his lips transformed into an unconscious sneer as his master stepped further into the room, his dark power reaching out to his followers like a cold breeze.
Voldemort simply stood there for a moment, looking proud and tall as if he was the greatest being to grace the earth. Severus was no longer impressed, no longer completely blinded to the harsh realities of his life. This being, no matter how powerful, was still a man. Keeping his head to the floor, Severus fought to restrain his wildly straying thoughts. No matter his own thoughts or opinions, Voldemort was still his master. He'd pledged an oath and even now bore the mark of his loyalty; it was far too late to be reconsidering such things now.
"Welcome, all of you," the Dark Lord hissed, pale lips drawn into a corpse-like grin. "Tonight, I have some very important news to share with you, news we have been desiring for far too long…." he continued, crimson eyes narrowing with dark amusement. "Tonight, I bring news of the Potter's fate," he said. Instantly, a dull roar of curious voices rose from among the dark ranks, a plethora of pale faces flashing with anticipation. Voldemort's grin turned feral, sharpened yellow teeth bared in a predatory grin.
"At this time tomorrow, James Potter and his precious son shall be dead," he announced, his face twisted with satisfaction. Gasps and whispered voices again rose up from the cloaked figures before him. The Dark Lord only stared on, that odd smile still twisting his lips. At last one lone figure stood up from the center of the kneeling mass, his form bent respectfully as he voiced his question.
"Forgive me, my lord, but what of the Fidelus Charm?" the Death Eater asked, and Severus knew by his voice that it was Malfoy. Instead of the predicted anger, the Dark Lord only laughed darkly and managed to look extremely pleased with something or another. Malfoy sank to the floor, looking just as unnerved by Voldemort's reaction as nearly everyone else in the room.
"Ah, but that is the most ironic part!" the Dark Lord exclaimed, his smile widening, "Their secret keeper…is one of you, my Death Eaters, and like the faithful servant, he came to me the moment the spell was cast," he announced, and smirked under the immediate calls of praise and faithfulness that flooded the room.
Severus remained frozen, his dark eyes widened in shock behind the silver sheen of his mask. The Potters…? An image arose at the very name, that of Lily and James, writhing in agony as Voldemort held them under the Cruciatus, their young son crying piteously in the background. Severus flinched, oblivious to the Dark Lord's hissing voice as it continued to roll across the room. He forced his heart to still its frantic beating, eyes still wide with shock. Consciously, he realized that such an expression was not what the Dark Lord had in mind, but he didn't really care at the moment. James and Lily…these were people he had known, he had spent seven years with under Dumbledore's watchful eye. These were people he knew, faces he would recognize even after they grew cold with death.
And what of their son? The green-eyed boy he'd seen only once in passing was far too young to be killed for reasons he did not understand. A babe had no concept of right and wrong. He could not choose whom to follow in a war. It was true that James and Lily Potter were both powerful and highly influential within the Ministry; but their son was not, and yet Voldemort sought his death. What was the purpose? What was to be gained by the child's death? Oh, Severus had no problem with murder; he'd committed the act plenty of times himself. But, he'd never seen the point in killing for no reason. He, more so than many, understood that a life was not a thing to be taken lightly.
As the meeting drew to a close, no one seemed to notice Severus' unusual detachment. He almost never showed emotion of any kind, no matter the circumstance. It was in that same frame of mind that Severus disapparated from the building, his thoughts strangely focused on thing and one thing alone. The Potters were in danger, and he had to do something about it. As he headed along a familiar dark pathway, the monstrous silhouette of a castle not far in the distance, he frowned to himself. He told himself that he was doing this because he had no choice, because he still owed a Wizard's bond to James Potter, but even then he'd known that there had been more too it. Shaking his head of the conflicting thoughts that plagued his mind, he continued on toward the castle, determined not to give it any more thought than need be. He would inform Dumbledore and his debt would be repaid, and never again would he have to give the matter any more thought.
As the last rays of moonlight disappeared among the gnarled branches of the forbidden forest, Severus Snape at last drew to a pause, memories of the past fading back into the depths of his mind. He stood perfectly still, his expression slowly shifting into one entirely blank of any emotion, eyes once again cold and hard as obsidian. He had a mission, and it was time again to repay his debts to the world. Without another thought, he disapparated into the darkness…