This was inspired after reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the chapter where we see Snape's side of the story in the pensieve. Well, every story has two sides...
The table was long and the room was cold. At the other end, there was a fire burning in the grate, but its' warmth did not reach this end. It was soaked up by the occupant of the sole chair at this huge table, the chair at the head of the table. The occupant spoke in a cold, high voice.
"You said you had news, Snape."
The young man with the lank, greasy hair at the other end nodded. He had not yet taken his travelling cloak off. "Yes, my Lord. News which may cause you some concern."
"Really? What do you imagine could concern Lord Voldemort?"
"There has been a prophecy made," Snape began. "A prophecy concerning ... your defeat."
The red eyes at the other end of the table flashed, and a thin pale hand made a darting movement to the wand protruding slightly from an inner pocket of the lavish dark robe. "My - defeat, Snape?" Voldemort asked, dangerously.
"It was merely a prophecy, my Lord. I am sure that there are steps that can be taken to ensure it is not fulfilled." Voldemort said nothing, and after a few seconds, he nodded. Snape took a breath. "I was in the Hog's Head at Hogsmeade, as per your orders. Dumbledore came in, he was shown to a room at the back. I followed, discretely, of course, and began listening."
"And what did you hear, Snape?"
"Dumbldore was interviewing some witch for the post of divination teacher at the school. He seemed sceptical of her. They hadn't been going long, when her voice changed. It was such an abrupt and total change, that I may have ... made a noise."
"Were you discovered?"
"Not immediately. It was a short time before the barman caught me and hustled me inside - time in which I heard the prophecy being spoken."
"And what were the words of the prophecy?"
"'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'," Snape quoted.
"That is all? There was nothing more?"
"I believe the woman repeated it once I was inside the room, nothing new - she seemed quite oblivious to mine and the barman's presence until she finished."
Voldemort smiled grimly. "And Dumbledore? His reaction?"
"He was furious. The barman was bawling that he'd caught me eavesdropping, Dumbldore stood, waited for them both to shut up, then ordered me to be escorted off the premises."
"And you left?"
"I considered it my duty to report this development to your Lordship at the earliest opportunity," Snape replied.
"You were fortunate that I was here to report to."
"Yes, my Lord."
Voldemort smiled again. There was nothing pleasant about it at all. "This witch - she has the job?"
Snape considered for a moment. "I believe, after what happened, Dumbledore would be foolish to not offer her the position."
Voldemort considered this for a short time. Then, "I believe I know to whom the prophecy refers. I will ... consult ... the memories of my other followers, and make sure. We will meet again at the new moon - all of us."
"Yes, my Lord. Thank you."
"In the mean time, Severus, I believe there is another teaching post at Hogwarts available - Defence Against the Dark Arts. I wish you to apply for it."
"You will obtain a post at the school, to better keep an eye on our tall friend with the long beard - and the seer, of course."
"I understand, my Lord."
Voldemort waved a lazy hand, dismissing Snape.
Voldemort looked down the table. "It appears I have to thank you, Severus - you are a most useful eavesdropper."
"Thank you, my Lord," Snape said, to a low background chorus of chuckles.
"And how is your new job suiting you?" Voldemort asked.
"Regretably, the post has already been filled," Snape replied. "There are no other vacancies at Hogwarts, at the moment."
Voldemort's thin smile faded as he nodded microscopically. "No matter. You will apply again next year."
"Yes, my Lord."
"As to the thing about which we spoke - I was correct in my initial thought."
"The Potters," Voldemort almost hissed.
There was a visible stir around the table.
"Those idiots?" someone asked, half under their breath. "What have they done now?"
"Nothing, yet," Voldemort replied. "I mean to see that they continue to do nothing."
"My Lord?" Snape asked again. "Do you ... you mean to ... kill them?"
"Of course. I cannot permit them to live. None of them."
Snape nodded, and leaned back in his chair. Voldemort looked around the table.
"Find them for me. Locate them, and report back. I will deal with them myself."
There was a murmer of mild surprise from around the table.
"Before that, though -" Voldemort held up a hand to silence the muttering. "I require a service from one of you."
"It is what we are here for, my Lord," Bellatrix husked, leaning forward. A ring glittered on her finger.
"Bellatrix, for shame," Voldemort chided, almost mockingly, "what would your new husband think of your eagerness?" He indicated the man next to her with his head.
"It is an honour for any of us to serve you, my Lord," the man replied.
"Indeed. But you in particular, cannot provide this service," Voldemort smiled. "I require an Elf."
Instantly, Regulus Black sprung to his feet. "My Lord," he said, "the ancient and noble house of Black puts its' resources at your disposal. I will summon my family's Elf immediately."
Voldemort raised a hand. "Not so quick, young Regulus. You will go to him, instruct him to obey me, and send him here, in ten minutes."
"Yes, my Lord. Of course."
Voldemort's hand twitched in a gesture of dismissal, and Regulus backed away, turned, and left the room. They heard the crack of his disapparition. "Some tasks must be completed before others," Voldemort said. "You have your tasks, I ... have mine. You will begin your searches for the Potters tomorrow. Remember, I will deal with them myself." He stood, and the other Death Eaters followed suit. The Dark Lord walked to the fireplace, waved a desultory hand in the direction of the doors, and gazed into the flames.
As the rest of the Death Eaters filed out, Snape remained behind.
"What is it that you feel cannot be said in open council, Severus?" asked Voldemort. "We surely have no secrets, here?"
Snape came round the table, and knelt. "My Lord," he began, "I crave a boon."
"A boon? Severus, Lord Voldemort rewards those who serve him well, as you have done. What is your desire?"
Snape hesitated. "Desire itself," he managed.
Voldemort craned his head to better look at the kneeling man. "Explain."
"The Potter woman - Lily. I have desired her for many years. If it weren't for Potter," he spat the name, and trailed off.
"Ah - yes, he has been troublesome, hasn't he? But what is it you want?"
"My Lord. If it is possible - if it can be done - spare Lily Potter."
"So that you can have her?" Voldemort chuckled. "She is a mudblood, is she not? Why would you desire such a thing, Severus?"
"A heart can lead in many strange ways, my Lord. Sometimes, it is best not to fight it."
"But surely, a woman of blood would be far more appropriate than a mudblood."
"The prophecy concerns a newborn child, my Lord. Her death is not required to ensure your victory. One night is all I require."
Voldemort smiled. "Indeed, it is as you say. If she is not foolish, she will live. Now get up - I have a private matter to attend to with Black's Elf."
"Thank you, my Lord," Snape said, rising and moving swiftly to leave. Voldemort stopped him at the doorway.
"Your friend, Pettigrew."
"Potter's friend, Pettigrew," Snape corrected, without turning.
"You have spoken to him again?"
"Not since our last meeting," Snape replied, turning.
"But he progresses well?"
"I believe, another few conversations in the right company, and he will be amenable to joining with us."
"Arrange those conversations. He could be very useful. Very useful indeed." Voldemort turned back to the fire. Snape left.
Snape was the last to enter the room. He sat next to Pettigrew in the only available seat. Voldemort was staring at the fire again. He was silent for two minutes, then, "Still no news of the Potters? I am disappointed. It has been nearly a year."
"I suspect that Dumbledore and the Order are hiding them," Lucius Malfoy spoke. He had grown even more confident since the Dark Lord had given him a gift with instructions for its' disposal last month. The gift wasn't a patch on the gift he'd given his sister-in-law a few months earlier, but he was still proud to be tasked with looking after it.
"That much," Voldemort turned and strode to his seat at the head of the table, "is obvious." Voldemort didn't sit, but rested his fists on the tabletop and glared at the nervous young man next to Snape. "Wormtail - why do you not know the whereabouts of your schoolfriends?"
"I-I-I only see them at Order meetings, my Lord!" he managed. "There is no time for more than brief hellos before Dumbledore calls to order."
"Surely you must visit?" Voldemort hissed. "Or they you?"
Wormtail shook his head frantically. "No, my Lord! They virtually disappeared as soon as they knew they were being hunted! Only Sirius has any contact with them of any length - other than Dumbledore."
Voldemort sat, his flat features furious, red eyes glowing. "Severus! What about you? How is Hogwarts?"
"Bearable," Snape replied. "The Defence Against the Dark Arts post has been filled by someone other than myself, again. I think Dumbledore may be wary of letting me turn theory into practice with the students. He appointed me as Potions Master instead - Professor Slughorn retired."
"And the seer?"
"Ensconced in a tower, rarely comes down. Her name is Trelawney, from a notable line of seers, I believe."
Volemort nodded. "As you can't hex the mudbloods, you can at least poison them," he muttered.
"I'm sure they'll be quite capable of poisoning themselves - most of them, anyway."
Voldemort chuckled, which allowed the rest of the table to chuckle as well. It died quickly as Voldemort glared around the table.
"Find. Me. The. Potters," he hissed.
Snape strode out of the gates of Hogwarts, his long legs taking him away from the castle and out of sight into the darkness quickly. There was still a commotion at the castle - the spectators would be being questioned by Ministry wizards trying to establish who saw exactly what, and no-one could still really believe what had happened anyway. Snape stopped in the shadow of a tree trunk. He closed his eyes, breathed deeply twice, and conjured a mask over his face. It had been nearly thirteen years since he had last worn it. He disapparated.
The graveyard was empty. He stayed where he was. There were signs of a duel. He waited. He didn't have long to wait. There was a crack! beside him, and Wormtail appeared, brandishing a wand. "Snape!" he gasped.
"Pettigrew," Snape acknowledged him.
"The Dark Lord is very keen to see you, Snape," Wormtail told him. "To the house! March! And keep your hands where I can see them!"
Snape raised his hands and walked in front of the jabbing wand towards the manor house overlooking the graveyard and the adjacent village. The door opened as he approached. Lucius Malfoy shut it after them, and led them upstairs to where Lord Voldemort waited. Snape dropped to his knees. "Master," he said, head bowed.
"You dare call me 'master'?" came the familiar cold, high, voice. "Look up," there was no refusing the command in those two clearly enunciated syllables.
Snape raised his head and removed his mask. Lord Voldemort looked deep into the kneeling man's eyes, his wand never wavering from Snape's throat. After a long, long time, the Dark Lord relaxed and leant back in the huge armchair he was occupying. There were only two other Death Eaters in the room, apart from Malfoy and Wormtail, and there was a huge snake curled in front of the fire.
"So, Severus," Snape let a brief glimmer of hope spark inside him with the use of his first name, "you came back."
"Of course, my Lord," he said. "Could I have done anything else?"
"Tonight, there were three people who once called themselves Death Eaters at Hogwarts. You are the only one to come to me when I summoned you. Why?" The wand still had not altered its' aim.
"I believe Karkaroff has fled. He fears your anger - he sold many of our fellows to the Ministry to save his own skin from Azkaban. He left before the Mark was cold, at a run, with an empty bladder."
Snape's world briefly became one of pain. He hauled himself off the floor and heard Voldemort's voice. "He does well to fear our wrath. He will be found. He will die - by many, slow, painful inches. As will you, if I find you have ... defected?"
Snape understood the question. His knees were killing him, but he didn't dare move. "My Lord, your standing orders to me were to spy on Dumbledore at Hogwarts. If I left for your side before the hubbub had died down, I do not think I would have a job to return to."
There was another moment of utter pain. He looked into Voldemort's eyes. The corners of the Dark Lord's mouth twitched. "And so you bring me information, in the hope of saving yourself some pain. We shall see. Tell me something."
"Pass on some of this information that you have been gathering."
"The Ministry does not want to believe that you have returned. I ... have trouble believing it myself, but I have more evidence to work from. Dumbledore believes you have returned, and is already making preparations."
"Recalling the Order of the Phoenix," Snape clarified.
"And the Ministry?"
"Fudge - Minister for Magic. He is a comfortable middle-aged man, who does not want the world to change."
Again the pain. "I could have found that out from anybody."
Snape gasped. "Barty Crouch!"
The pain abated. "Go on."
"Moody - revealed himself as Bartemius Crouch Junior after Potter returned to Hogwarts with the body of Diggory and the Triwizard Cup. He took Potter to his office, when Dumbledore ordered Potter to remain at his side. Dumbledore ordered me to accompany him, with McGonnagall, to Moody's office. We had to blow the door in - Crouch was just about to kill Potter. He was Stunned, and Dumbledore ordered me to administer veritaserum. He told us everything. Your plan, my Lord, was a shining example of your genius - if I had but known..."
More pain. It lasted a second.
"Fudge had a Dementor kiss Crouch!"
A pause. Then, "Why?"
"Fudge was scared. He doesn't want to believe you have returned. He is trying to hush it up even now. He is obstructing Dumbledore. Crouch cannot now give evidence."
"But Potter can."
"Potter told all he knew to Dumbledore after we had removed him from Crouch's office. I think he expected your return, but perhaps not so soon. Dumbledore believes him - Fudge does not want to believe Potter or Dumbledore. And the press has not been kind to Potter over the past year."
"Yes. Wormtail has read me some articles. I am well-informed as to what is going on in our world. It may prove useful. But now, Snape," (the kneeling man swallowed), "I have an important question for you. Three years ago: The Philosopher's Stone was at Hogwarts, as was I. Why did you prevent me from acquiring it?"
"I was not aware of your presence, my Lord," Snape replied. "I saw only Quirrell - vain, ambitious, greedy, unworthy Quirrell. If you had revealed yourself to me, I would have been most eager to assist, not hinder. Alas, you were in no position to trust me - and so I lost you a prize."
"You did indeed, Severus." There was pain. Lots of it. It lasted a while.
There were six figures in the room. There was a distinctly chilly atmosphere.
"So, Severus. What has Dumbledore been up to?"
"Working in mysterious ways to bring you down, my Lord. He has not confided anything in me, of course, but his actions seem to be vague, directionless. In the week since the battle at the Ministry, he has not made a definite plan to counter a possible next move. He seems more interested in pursuing a new interest in Muggle history."
"Is that all?"
"Your duel at the Ministry weakened him, somewhat. He is not as young as he was, and I believe you pressed him harder than he expected."
Voldemort smiled. "Good." His face darkened. "That fool Lucius! Incompetent. We must hope Draco takes after his aunt rather than his father."
"You have given Draco a task, my Lord?"
"Yes. He is to kill Dumbledore. You will be in a prime position to assist him."
"He is an arrogant young boy, my Lord, he may not want my assistance."
"If he does not take what is given, he is a fool. It will be fitting punishment for his parents' incompetence."
"Indeed, my Lord."
"Rowle, Greyback, Alecto, Amycus -" Voldemort indicated the other figures in turn. "You will be there at the kill. If Draco requires supplies, or needs someone to remind a supplier who is in charge, you will arrange it."
"Does the Malfoy boy have a plan, my Lord?" asked Snape.
"He assured me that he would come up with one," Voldemort replied.
"How very wise of him," Snape replied.
Snape burst into the drawing room. Draco was there, as was his mother. The Carrows, Greyback and one or two others that had been at Hogwarts that night were already there too. "He is dead, my Lord," he told the figure in the centre of the room at once.
Voldemort smiled. "I know. You are not first with the news, Severus. You are the most welcome bearer of it, though."
"Thank you, my Lord."
"I have heard very little of the night's events. Tell me."
"I was summoned from my office by Flitwick - he told me there were Death Eaters in the school. He wanted my assisatance in repelling them." That raised another smile. "I Stunned him and ran for where I knew Draco would be heading - the top of the astronomy tower. It was common knowledge that Dumbledore had left that night on one of his many hobby trips - with a Dark Mark over the castle to welcome his return, where else would he return to? The Order, and some students, were in the corridors, making things, ah, difficult. I ignored them and went straight for the tower. Draco was at the top, he had Dumbledore at wand-point, but did not seem quite ready to kill him yet. Dumbledore seemed injured from his jaunt. He asked me for help. I administered it. After all, the swifter our getaway, the sooner we could report the good news to your Lordship, and the less entanglements there would be with the Order."
"So, you killed Dumbledore, and then fled the castle?"
"Yes, my Lord. Potter followed us. I believe he was fighting in the corridors."
"You left him alive?" Voldemort's voice was dangerous.
"You ordered that no-one but yourself was to finish him," Snape replied. "Potter still awaits your unique attentions, my Lord."
The small room on the first floor of Malfoy Manor was big enough for two people - one to sit, one to stand. Snape was standing. Nagini was curled uncomfortably close to his feet.
"I have met Fletcher. The Order is making arrangements for a safe house for Potter after his birthday - as is the Ministry."
"Mundngus Fletcher," Voldemort muttered. He glared at Snape. "Do you trust him?"
"About as far as I can throw him," Snape replied. "He's easy to deal with, though. Firewhiskey loosens his tongue, a memory charm tightens it back up again. The Order may not trust him completely either, but he hears a lot that they don't tell him. He's reliable - he's too stupid to make things up."
The table in the drawing room of Malfoy Manor was full again. It had been for the past few weeks, ever since the second mass-breakout from Azkaban. Tonight, though, some of the seated figures were sporting bandages.
"Nothing, my Lord. I am sorry."
"I believe I was chasing the werewolf when the real Potter was spotted. I tried to come at once, but there were four of us so close, there was some confusion. The trail of the broom we were pursing stopped in mid-air."
"Disappeared! Another barrier! Damn them!" Yaxley snarled.
"It matters little," Voldemort said. "It was the real Potter I followed at the end. He is in a safe house, and will undoubtedly be moved to another before daybreak. We will just have to wait and see what the Ministry turns up." He turned to glare at Yaxley. "On that subject, I killed Moody. You and Dolohov see to the body. And then meet Rowle to discuss exactly how you are going to arrange our little surprise for the Order."
"My Lord, surely you would want to organise that yourself?"
"No. The big surprise is to be dealt with by Bella, as it will undoubtedly involve her ... ex-neice at some point. I will discuss with you the final moves at the Ministry in a little while. In the meantime - Wormtail, bring up the wand-maker. I need," Voldemort withdrew his wand from inside his robes, "to ask him some questions."
"You said you had news, Snape?"
"You will remember, my Lord, that the Sword of Gryffindor was willed by Dumbledore to Potter?"
There was a muttering around the table. They didn't need to antagonize the Dark Lord by mentioning his two biggest annoyances right now, he was in a bad enough mood as it was.
"Of course," said Voldemort.
"Some of Potter's friends, have tried to steal it from my office. They were very ingenious about it. They were caught and punished, of course, but ..."
"But what? Continue, Snape."
"My Lord, I am in two minds as to what to do. On the one hand, if it were to be sent to Potter, we might be able to use it to locate him. On the other, if Potter gets hold of it, he may use it to rally opposition to your rule."
"Things are not prepared for dealing with Potter right now. Have the sword moved to somewhere safe, where it cannot be stolen by misguided children."
"The only place I know that is more secure than Hogwarts is Gringotts. My vault is not particularly high security though - an artifact of that value..."
"Enough!" Voldemort's gaze swept the table. "Bella! The Sword of Gryffindor will be placed in your vault - I know that is secure. You will return to Hogwarts with Snape and collect it, and deposit it in your vault immediately." He stood. "And now, I have business to attend to. As do you all."
The room emptied, until finally, there was just Voldemort standing there, staring into the fire, his snake curled next to him on the hearth rug.
© Brian Wakeling. All the characters and settings of the Harry Potter universe are © JK Rowling