Chapter 4 – The Long Road Back from Hell

Author's Note:  All unrecognized characters are original.  When I thought of this chapter, my original character worked very well with it.  She is from my other fics – Enigma's Love, A Broken Bridge Between Two Houses, and The Black Rose and many others.  All of these can be found on my profile on ().  The Rite of Dedication is taken from Italian Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi.

            Dumbledore truly did have an idea for how to use Severus' almost forfeited life.  He gazed down at his former student without disdain or pity but almost hope sparkling in his eyes.  "Severus, come back tomorrow night just before midnight.  There you shall find your answer for what path your life will take."

            Severus was undoubtedly relieved that he still had one soul that he could trust but he did not know why he had to wait for his redemption that he so willingly sought.  "Why not sooner, Albus?  Is the one day meant to be punishment for my crimes?" he asked with fear in his voice at the answer.

            "No, my dear boy.  Not in the least," Albus reassured him as he put a gentle hand on his shoulder.  "I need the day to find someone who can help me.  A new path is what you seek but before you can go down it, you must complete one last trial and tomorrow night is when you face this challenge."

            As his hands shook to the point where he could not hide it, Severus whispered a truly heart felt 'thank you' to the headmaster as he felt his last bits of composure crumbling faster than he could reign them.  Dumbledore could see how his former student was failing fast and needed a helping hand to get through the night.

            "I invite you to rest here for the night, Severus.  I doubt you could make the trip back to your home tonight in the state that you're in.  Stay in one of the empty staff rooms and try to sleep.  You look like you need it and you will need your strength for your rebirth tomorrow night," Dumbledore said as he helped Severus to his feet and called for a house elf to take him to a spare room.  "Severus, use tomorrow's day to think about the gift you are about to receive.  Not many get a second chance in life."

            Severus nodded as unshed tears of gratefulness welled in his eyes.  A second chance…a new life almost to start over with…what more could he ask for.

            He dutifully followed the house elf into an empty room where he could sleep for the night.  He thanked the elf as it left him alone in the bedroom where all he would have is his thoughts.  Severus stripped off his clothes, not even looking at his left arm so he would not have to be reminded of what was about to happen.  He laid down on the soft bed and let his body sink into the soft mattress and let his mind think it was happier times so he may actually get some sleep on this night.  He closed his eyes and a few tears fell from beneath his lids as he was trying to relax.  Severus had not slept a full night in months and hardly at all within the last week.  He was exhausted but his body would not let him rest until he let himself purge his emotions.  And with that, he gave up the fight and let himself cry the bitter and painful tears he had been trying to hold back until he cried himself to sleep.

            The next day, Severus was reluctant to awaken and face his so-called judgment.  The warmth and comfort of the bed was too inviting to leave as he knew that no person would want to even come near him anymore.  He was a traitor and despised in the wizarding world.  A life of isolation and devoid of human contact was better than not having any life at all.

            He watched the entire day pass by from that bed.  Deep in thought and contemplation, Severus wondered what he would be facing come midnight.  It could be anyone and Merlin knows who Albus would be digging up.  All Severus hoped for was that it would not be someone who would not want to kill him.

            Shortly before eleven, there was a polite rap at the door.  Severus crossed the room and opened the door with a shaking hand.  He sighed with relief when he saw it was Dumbledore on the other side and not someone taking him to Azkaban.

            "It's time we go Severus," Dumbledore stated calmly.

            Severus gathered his cloak and dutifully followed the Headmaster.  "Going to give me any hint to what I'm in for here?" he asked as they walked.

            "I can't for I have no idea myself.  I have only seen this done once before and it didn't go quite as planned," Albus said, not calming Severus' fears in the least.

            The pair of wizards walked to a great Oak door that very few had ever seen in Hogwarts.  Just the mere sight of such a great structure could strike fear into even the most hardened of wizards.  Dumbledore pushed the door open with only a few taps of his wand to an even greater sight on the inside.

            The enormous doors swung open effortlessly on their own to reveal a darkened chamber with only a scarce number of torches on the wall.  Severus walked in with Dumbledore, opening his senses to take in everything around him so he could prepare himself.  Once they were safely inside, the Oak doors slammed shut behind them.

            Now with the doors closed and subsequently locked, Severus could hear the breathing of the others who surrounded them.  He couldn't tell how many but he could sense that there were quite a few.  He looked to Dumbledore for an explanation.

            "Witnesses, Severus…required by the dictates of the ceremony," Dumbledore stated as he guided the younger wizard to a white circle on the floor.  "But don't begin to try and figure who they are.  All you can know is that many among them to not think too highly of you right now."

            Every moment through this ordeal, Severus was getting more and more anxious and by now he was almost to the point of being sick to his stomach.  "Can we please start this, Headmaster?  I don't know how much more I can stand," he pleaded.

            Dumbledore made a quick glance to his pocket watch and nodded silently to Severus.  Then he turned his gaze to one of the darkest corners of the room and motioned for someone to come forward with his hand.

            Severus watched in fear as he saw the shadows move and begin to slink towards him without a sound.

            "A Dementor?!" he cried.  "How could you send a Dementor for me?"

            Dumbledore stopped the being from moving any closer as he approached Severus to calm him. 

            "It is not a Dementor, my dear boy.  This is an ancient ritual and I needed an expert in Ancient Magic," Dumbledore explained as he motioned for the being to come forward again.  "It is merely someone from your past."

            Severus watched as his heart leapt into his throat as the figure came closer and closer to him, stopping only at the edge of the circle painted on the floor.  He opened his mouth to say something but could not find his voice as the figure moved like it was removing a hood.  Two hands, pale as a winter's snow emerged from the darkness to push the fabric from its head.  Even with the faint light of the few torches, Severus could tell that they were a woman's hands, delicate and tender.

            Then everything started to add up in his mind before this creature completely revealed themselves.  A woman with pale skin and a Cloak of Shadows who is an expert in Ancient Magic…it could only be one person.

            "Domenica Knight…" Severus whispered as he straightened up to receive a painful blow.

            "It's Lupin now, Severus.  Take heed to remember that," she stated in a deadly tone that could have even made the darkest Death Eater quiver as she pulled back the hood of her cloak to reveal herself.  The dark haired former Gryffindor Lioness could be very threatening when she wanted to be and at this moment, fear was her desired effect.

            Severus almost lost complete control of his breath as Dumbledore gave the signal to start.  Domenica pulled a long, thin sword with the Hogwarts crest on its hilt from her cloak and set it at Severus' throat.  The look in her eyes was cold and serious, not the warm gaze that he usually saw in her eyes when he could call her friend.

            "Are you ready to come back, Severus?" she asked him as she looked him dead in the eye.

            Severus nodded and handed his life over to his closest and only friend.

            The room then went silent as Domenica began the ritual.  She held the sword right at Severus' neck as she began to speak.  "Do you enter this circle freely and on your own accord and swear your undying loyalty to the Coven or run upon this blade if you ever betray them?"

            "Yes, I do," he replied solemnly.

            With Severus' acceptance, Domenica removed the blade from his throat and turned towards the fireplace.  With one small gesture of her hand, she pulled a stream of flame from the hearth and had it encircle them along the white circle on the floor and the winds of the flames entrapped them inside of it.

            "Kneel Severus…" Domenica commanded as she set the sword on his shoulder.  Severus seemed hesitant to move, almost paralyzed.  "I would take heed of my instructions, Severus," she threatened.  "I may be a former Gryffindor but I can be just as dangerous as those damn Death Eaters you are betraying right now so had better damn well listen to what I am going to say."

            Severus then acquiesced and knelt down at Domenica's feet and bowed his head in complacency.

            "Now then, Severus…we have a situation," Domenica started, almost beginning a lecture.  "We find ourselves at an impasse.  Here we are surrounded by people who want to see you dead for being a traitor and I am the only one who will stand by you…as your friend, even though I am one of the ones who suffered the most when your former master killed Lily and James.  They were like my family, Severus, and little Harry was my children's closest friend.  Now he lives in an absolute hell and Sirius is in jail.  Remus and I have to live with that every day of our lives and we only wish that there will be one day in which we can make Harry happy once more.  Now I am willing to bring you back from the Hell you sent yourself to but there is a price.  You have to swear absolute loyalty to the side of Light.  If you betray us in any way…EVER…you won't go to Azkaban, you will be killed in the vilest way.  I assure you, Severus, that if you go against us again, I will not take joy in ending your life with this blade.  You have been and always will be my friend.  Now then, do you accept these terms as I have given you?"

            Severus looked up into her eyes, at his friend and knew she was telling him the truth and if he wanted to live he had to accept it.  "Yes…every word…" he whispered.

            Domenica withdrew the sword and stepped away from Severus' pathetic form on the floor and began the ritual of the Rites of Dedication.

            "I kneel beneath the same moon that all the witches of old have knelt before.  And I am one with them in this sacred light.  Hear me O Diana, goddess of the Moon, Queen of all Witches, for I bear the symbols of the Old Religion.  Hear me then and think yet for even a moment upon this worshipper who kneels before you.  For we have heard the Strega's story, and we believe the words of the Holy Strega.  When she spoke of your beauty in the night sky, when she bid us seek and find you above all others.  Here as the Full Moon shines upon us, receive him, O Diana.  Receive him as your child and grant him the powers of those who follow you.  For we believe in the gifts of Aradia which you promised to all who follow in the Old Ways.  Diana, beautiful Diana, Goddess of the Moon and beyond, Queen of all witches, goddess of the dark night and of all Nature, if you will grant me your favor then I ask a token sign from you.  Let there be heard the sound of a dog, the neigh of a horse, the croak of a frog, or the call of a bird.  In the name of Diana, so may it be," Domenica stated as she cast the ritual and made the mark of the Pentagram on his forehead.  Then Domenica received her sign, Severus collapsed on the floor in exhaustion with tears streaming silently running down his cheeks.

            She then released the Circle of Flames and the lights rose in the room to reveal nearly one hundred witches and wizards, all with mixed looks on their faces.  Severus lay at her feet as Domenica knelt beside him to comfort her friend who was obviously in need of it. 

            "What do I do know?" Severus asked quietly, wondering what Albus and Domenica had in store for him.

            Domenica looked up at Albus with an idea that was not completely out of the round of possibility.  "Albus, Hogwarts needs a new Potions master and don't you think Severus would fit the bill?" she asked.

            Dumbledore looked down at the broken Severus on the floor and gave him a warm smile.  "Yes Domenica, I think Severus would be a valued edition to the Hogwarts staff.  Now we would have two professors from your class, you as Ancient Magic and Spells and Severus as Potions.  Yes, that is a far better course for his life."