Death Before Dishonor
Chapter Three: Risks
Apparated, heart racing. He never
prayed, but at the moment he was sorely tempted. Dumbledore, you had better have succeeded… Upon seeing
him, Wormtail jumped, which the Death Eater took as a good sign. Scowling, Snape snarled, “Where’s the boy?”
not here,” Pettigrew squeaked.
Snape thundered, inwardly singing the praises of Albus Dumbledore. That old man never ceases to astonish me. Now he just had to keep himself alive.
winched as Snape stared at him.
Although he’d been properly…chastised for his late return to the fold,
Severus Snape had quickly regained his old position in the Death Eater
hierarchy: third only to Lucius Malfoy and Voldemort himself. His efficiency and coldness had made that
possible in an unbelievably short amount of time that he knew many of his
fellow Death Eaters despised him for, but no one brewed potions as quickly or
flawlessly as Snape, and few could kill with so little care. Once again, he had proved that while the
Dark Lord was partial to the heartless, he especially favored those who acted
without any emotion at all.
though, pitiful and miserable creature that he was, had just learned that being
emotionless still left him with one hell of a temper.
Dursleys are gone…Severus,” Wormtail stuttered.
me that,” he snapped. “Where?”
know?” Snape mocked him.
know what?” Lucius Malfoy had Apparated into the room with a pop and had
heard the last sentence.
turned lazily toward his old classmate, letting irritation and a hint of fury
color his features. “Potter’s relatives
are gone, Lucius,” he replied. “And so
is the boy.”
flinched again at the fury on Malfoy’s face, but Snape stood his ground without
fear. Such was his trademark. They never suspected him, because he showed
no fear—not even to Voldemort. Or, at
least no more than he had to, anyway.
Potter?” Lucius demanded.
sometime yesterday,” Wormtail whispered.
“I did not see them go…”
watched Lucius’ mouth drop open. It was
one of the few times he had ever seen the smooth-talking Slytherin at a loss
for words, and he knew that Malfoy’s mind was working anxiously at how to
deflect the blame from himself, the highest ranking Death Eater assigned to the
silence, though, other Death Eaters were appearing: Crabbe, Goyle, Nott, Macnair,
and Avery. They stared from Malfoy to
Snape and to the cowering Wormtail, knowing something was wrong, but afraid to
ask. However, as the stillness
stretched forward, Wormtail spoke, mistaking Malfoy’s silence for hesitation.
was nothing I could—”
“Crucio!” Snape did not even tell him to shut up. He just lifted his wand and let the curse
fly without any of the anger or glee the others would have demonstrated. The act was vintage Snape the Death Eater,
but slightly painful for a man who might have regretted it had he allowed
himself to feel.
the others shuddered quietly as Wormtail writhed upon the ground, screaming,
and left there longer than Malfoy would have made him suffer. Finally, Malfoy cleared his throat.
You’re going to wake up the neighbors,” Lucius said with more amusement than
admonishment in his voice.
scowled, and waited a split second longer before releasing Wormtail from the
curse. “Ask me how much I care.”
strides, he reached Wormtail’s side.
Grabbing him by the shoulder, Snape dragged the whimpering Death Eater
to his feet. He dragged the other
forward, spitting his words out with contempt.
“Let’s go, Wormtail.”
the other sobbed.
“You get to
tell our Master about your failure,” Severus snarled.
Wormtail’s face close and breathed the words right in his face. “Oh, yes.
Your failure, your explanation.
You really want to argue with me?”
he turned away from the shivering Death Eater.
“Shall we, Lucius?”
“Indeed.” Malfoy did not look happy, but at least he
agreed. “The rest of you will accompany
murmurs, but not of disagreement. The
only one amongst them who ever dared disagree with Malfoy was Snape, and he had
started this whole thing. Personally,
the Hogwarts Potions Master had no pity for any of the lot; they had chosen
Voldemort. They could deal with his
inevitable temper tantrum.
misery loved company.
hours later, Snape found himself alone with Voldemort, a situation he liked not
at all. He was shaking slightly, but
trying to control it; pain was nothing he had not encountered before, and the
present amount was far less than he had experienced the day before, after
failing to convince Dumbledore to walk into a trap of the Dark Lord’s
making. Voldemort had not expected
success, of course, but that hadn’t made the punishment any lighter. In fact, Severus wondered momentarily if
that had only made it worse.
The Dark Lord had dismissed the
others: most, as incompetents, and Lucius was off to see what he could discover
of Potter’s whereabouts. Wormtail, of
course, was still on the floor less than ten feet away from the Dark Lord and
his servant, but he was finally unconscious.
While Snape still felt no pity for him, he knew that the other’s present
state was a blessing. His own
experience of twenty-four hours before was nothing in comparison to what
Wormtail had just been through.
“Dumbledore…” Voldemort hissed
quietly. “How do you suppose he knew,
“I am not sure, My Lord,” Snape
replied carefully. “But I believe that
he received a letter from Potter…” He jerked his head contemptuously in
Wormtail’s direction. “That fool was
not as careful as he should have been.”
It was also a very good thing that
Dumbledore had shown him the letter that Remus Lupin had forwarded to him, the
letter where Harry told Black of his suspicions…hopefully, as the Headmaster
had said, it would give him enough evidence to deflect suspicion completely
“I see…” Snape waited silently for
Voldemort to continue, concentrating on controlling his breathing and appearing
like nothing more than a loyal Death Eater, devoted to his master’s plans. He wasn’t especially concerned for his own
safety—he knew that he’d be found out eventually, and was equally certain that
when that day came, he would die in agony—but he was worried about
betrayal. His own betrayal. Having forsaken Voldemort years before for
Dumbledore’s cause, he could only fear for what information the Dark Lord might
torture out of him. And he could only
hope to do some good while he was still alive.
“So he is at Hogwarts.”
“No, My Lord,” Snape replied
honestly. “He was not there when I
left, and I doubt he is now. Dumbledore
did not retrieve the boy himself. He is
currently meeting with the Minister of Magic, and could not have done so. I do not think Potter is with him, My Lord.”
Snape shivered as cold red eyes
burned over him, and made an intensive study of the toes of his own boots. “I do not know, My Lord.”
Voldemort hissed, and Snape braced
himself for pain that never came. “Go
back to Hogwarts. See what you can
learn from that Muggle-lover when he returns.”
“Yes, My Lord.”
“Dumbledore still trusts you,
“Impeccably, My Lord,” Snape
replied, letting a sneer creep into his voice.
“He believes I am a changed man.”
Voldemort laughed, and Snape was
glad that he could not read minds. I
am a changed man. “Good…good…” the
Dark Lord smiled. “Lucius tells me that
you were a tad…overenthusiastic earlier this evening?”
Snape bowed his head. “I live to serve, Master, and am
disappointed when others do not do the same.”
“Very well.” Another chuckle. “Go.”
Snape knelt to kiss the hem of Voldemort’s
robes and then made his retreat.
“Harry?” Sirius bent over his godson, wishing that it were not still dark
outside, but knowing that they had to leave.
They had spent the night in a Muggle hotel after he’d transfigured both
his and Harry’s clothing into something Muggles would wear and transfigured
their brooms into inconspicuous suitcases.
Fleeing from the law had given Sirius a healthy respect for keeping up
appearances—and a rather strong basis of knowledge about the “normal”
world. Hell, he could even have used a
telephone if he really wanted to, and would have managed not to let even Vernon
Dursley realize that he was a wizard.
Running from the law, though, had
also taught him that getting an early start could mean the difference between
freedom and prison—or, in this case, the difference between life and
death. Gently, he shook the boy
“It’s time to get up. We have to go.”
Harry’s eyes suddenly popped
“Yep.” He smiled slightly.
“I thought I dreamed about you
coming…but I guess I didn’t, did I?” Harry grinned and sat up. “The look on Aunt Petunia’s face when you
made the phone shrink…”
Sirius grinned. “I thought about making your cousin shrink,
too, but then I realized that I’d be doing him too much of a favor.”
They laughed together, but after a
few moments, Harry sobered. “Can I ask
you a question, Sirius?”
“Would you have really killed
them? The Dursleys, I mean?” Harry
He’d known this was coming;
fortunately, though, the truth was what Harry wanted, and needed, to hear. “No,” Sirius replied softly. “I couldn’t take away the only family you
have left, Harry. Even if they are as
miserable and disgusting as the Dursleys.”
“Oh. I’m glad to hear that.”
“That’s because you’re better than
them.” Sirius met his godson’s gaze,
and kept it. “I’m capable of killing,
Harry, but not without good reason. But
I won’t let them hurt you, either.”
“Thanks,” Harry said softly.
But he was rather quiet, and Sirius
looked at him with concern, afraid that there was something he wasn’t seeing,
and very much afraid that there were perhaps several very good reasons to keep
the Dursleys out of Harry’s life.
Permanently. He sat down next to
his godson on the hotel room bed. “Are
you all right?”
“What about that?” he asked,
gesturing at the still evident bruise on Harry’s right cheek.
“It’s nothing. Not a big deal.” Harry shrugged, and as Sirius studied him, he realized that Harry
wasn’t lying. Harry really didn’t think
it was a big deal at all.
“Does he hit you often?” Sirius
“Sometimes,” the boy admitted. “Usually only when I make him mad. Which is a lot.”
A frightening thought occurred to
Sirius. “You know that’s wrong,
right? You realize that isn’t what a normal
family is like, don’t you, Harry?”
“Sure,” Harry replied quietly. “I mean, I guess so. I’ve never really had a…normal family.”
The sadness in the boy’s voice made
Sirius’ heart contract. He’s just a
child… Without conscious thought, Sirius wrapped his right arm around
Harry’s shoulders. But Harry tensed at
the touch, and Sirius looked down at him with concern. “I’m not going to hurt you, Harry,” he
whispered. “I would never hurt you.”
“I know.” Big green eyes met his own, then, after a moment, wavered
slightly. “I’m just not used to…you
know, people hugging me.”
No, I don’t know. Not like you do, anyway. Sirius hesitated for a moment before asking,
but he had to. “Has anyone ever?”
Finally, Harry relaxed, leaning his
head into Sirius’ shoulder. “Once,” he
mumbled. “Mrs. Weasley, after the
“Oh, Harry…” Sirius trailed off, at
a loss for words, so he just wrapped his other arm around his godson and hugged
the boy. He heard the sorrow in Harry’s
voice, and knew that there were inescapable demons in his past—no matter how
strong Harry Potter was, he would always be haunted by Voldemort’s return and
what had happened that day. Worse,
Harry had lived the summer alone, separated from his friends and anyone who
could or would understand, which had to make coping even harder. Sirius knew that Dumbledore had talked to
Harry at length about what happened, and had managed to mostly convince the boy
that Cedric Diggory’s death wasn’t his fault, but he knew Harry would always
feel the pain of a death he could not prevent.
And he knew that there were some
scars that mere eyes could never see.
For long moments they sat together,
silently, wrapped up in each other’s arms.
Harry didn’t cry, and Sirius hadn’t expected him to, but he felt the
tenseness leave the boy, and felt Harry truly relax for what was probably the
first time in months. Sirius never knew
how long they held one another before Harry spoke.
“You know,” he said softly, “the
Dursleys aren’t my only family.”
“What?” Sirius stared at him.
“I have you.”
Author’s Note: Please review…even if you hate it. I know FFN has been down for a while, now, so I’ve posted several
chapters at the same time. Please let
me know what you think. Thanks! ROBIN