The Sugar Quill
Author: K. A. Flower  Story: Bete Noire  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Title: Bete Noire

Disclaimer: I do not own Professor Dumbledore, nor do I own Severus Snape (although I wish I did…).

Author’s Note: Bête noire [Black Beast] -- Something or someone particularly detested or avoided. This is a companion piece to Into the Terrible Night, while it by no means requires you to read it. I simply wrote this because I have my own speculations on what happens to Severus Snape on the night of June 24th. Enjoy.  Thanks to Teri for her help in the early progresses of this story and to Zsenya for her invaluable grammar/spell-checking of the story.

 

***

In this darkened night,

I tread upon weary souls;

And block out the stars above,

And what they may behold.

 

Bệte Noire

 

***

 

 

So tired...limping up the gravel entryway...so much pain...towards the large oak doors that meant solace and safety...everything became inconsequential in little more than three hours...and only one person that could possibly understand how he felt. Severus Snape dragged himself into the Entrance Hall, slammed the doors behind him and glared across the abandoned entryway. The possibility of anyone being out after the night's events was slim to none, yet Severus still couldn't shake the feeling that something else was and could possibly go wrong -- other than the unnatural pains coursing through every sinew, every fiber of my body -- and therefore still held his wand in front of him.

 

After the mysterious and alarming discovery of Barty Crouch Jr., Severus thought nothing else would suprise him. Potter, he thought callously, is damn lucky to be alive tonight. He couldn't help himself -- although he loathed the boy, his father and father's former friends as well as everything Gryffindor stood for, responsibility for the outcome of the third task weighed heavily on his mind. Albus knew what he, Severus Snape -- the greasy, cynical Potions master and head of Slytherin house -- must do. And Severus found himself paying dearly becoming a Death Eater in the first place.

 

Funny, he contemplated, I never remember the Cruciatus curse hurting so badly...

 

Normally, the corridors of Hogwarts would not have seemed so long and quiet to Severus. Yet as he stumbled toward Albus’ office, it seemed to play with his senses. Everything was in pain, and his vision began to blur slightly as he reached the stone gargoyle and blurted out the password in a knot of spittle and blood -- 'Chocolate Frogs'. The revolving staircase appeared before him and proceeded up to Albus’ office.

 

A dim light was cast across the room -- its source came from the fireplace, where dying embers crackled in the grate. It was the most welcoming feeling Severus had had, considering where he had just come from. Albus, who sat behind his desk with a somber yet pensive look on his face, stood abruptly when Severus entered.

 

"Oh my," Albus murmured as he came around his desk and laid a strong hand upon Severus' arm. He steered Severus toward a sofa by the fire. "Stay here. I will return." The Headmaster then left through a door by his desk, his midnight blue robes billowing behind him. However, Severus couldn't sit up -- the pain had spread all throughout his back and arms now; his legs were practically useless at this point. Without another thought, Severus lay back against the armrest and closed his eyes, drifting off into unconsciousness.

***

 

His cape swirled around him, casting dark shadows along the corridors as he swept towards the Entrance Hall. In his left hand, he clutched his wand, shuddering slightly as a tingling sensation swept through the Dark Mark. In his right, the blasphemous curse of a mask that sent him out on this mission -- something that, after the first disappearance of the Dark Lord, made him think that the mask would never be used again. However, he was wrong, and thanked his lucky stars that he didn't burn it.

 

Severus knew what he might face upon meeting the Dark Lord again -- inscrutable pain or death. He looked forward to neither of them. He was now out amongst the velvety black of twilight and the full moon lingered in the air, toying with the shadows -- they seemed to swirl around him, taunting him. As if they know what will happen to me in a moment's time.

 

He passed the winged boar gates and paused, watching the waves roll across the lake as a slight wind lashed at the trees. The mask seemed to become cold in his hand as he raised it level to his face. "The thing you hate," he murmured idly, placing the mask on his face. With a flick of his wand, he Disapparated, and allowed the mark on his arm to guide him.

 

The world around him suddenly popped into focus -- there were many statues looming underneath long limbs of a tree that had a wide berth. Several large stones seemed to sprout up from the ground and it took Severus a moment to realize what he was seeing. A graveyard. He was vaguely aware of someone watching him from behind, yet something held him back. One of the statuettes -- an angel with a young face and doe-like eyes -- had a chunk of its left wing missing. Several of the headstones around it were charred with hex marks, some were still smoldering. A battle -- Potter must've come this way.

 

"Severus Snape," said a cold voice behind him. Severus instantly recognized the voice.

 

"Lucius Malfoy," Severus replied acidly, turning around. Only, there wasn't just Lucius -- at least ten other robed figures had followed him to where Severus had appeared. The silence that fell upon them was eerie and thick with tension.

 

"I think you are a bit late for this evening's events...The Dark Lord isn't pleased at all, Severus,” said a nasally voice. Walter Avery, Severus thought, clenching his fists. Avery approached him from behind Lucius, a slight sneer on his face. "Good to see you back. Of course, you really have no choice, do you?" Some of the Death Eaters laughed, some scowled. ***Are they still wearing their masks? If so, then he can't see them scowl. Always too thick, weren't you Walter? Might want to watch what you say....

 

"I see that you are still too small minded to think before speaking, Walter. Nothing, indeed, has changed." Avery's sneer flickered before he drew his wand, pointing it at Severus' chest.

 

"The Dark Lord wishes to speak with you -- in private," he said calmly as the crowd of Death Eaters slowly parted. Not far in the distance, Severus could see more cloaked figures encircling a large tombstone. There were ropes strung around its base, as though something had been tied to it. A massive snake slithered around its base, its eyes locked on Severus. "Move along now, Severus. He isn't very -- how should I say this? Patient this evening."

 

His breath caught in his throat as his eyes locked on Voldemort for the first time in thirteen years -- skeletally thin with red, narrowed eyes. His dexterous fingers flexed over his wand as though Voldemort was waiting for the chance to wrap them around Severus' throat. The other Death Eaters around him parted, staring through their black masks.

 

A loud squawk! woke him from his daze: Albus had returned carrying a steaming goblet and a rag, his eyes blazing. Severus knew he didn’t look well – he felt as though he had been keel hauled and locked in shackles for days on end. After receiving the goblet – Pepper-up Potion – and drinking every last drop, he took the rag from Albus and began wiping the spittle away from his mouth. Fawkes, Albus’ phoenix, drifted quietly over to him and settled upon his knee. The bird surveyed him quietly before big, pearly white tears cascaded down its face and onto Severus' many wounds. Albus had moved into an armchair close by the fire and a tray filled with teacups and saucers sat slowly revolving upon the table.

 

“If you had not wanted to go I…would have understood. Quite clearly, in fact. The Dark Lord is someone who I don’t think many of his followers were looking forward to seeing,” Albus said quietly, stippling his fingers together and leaning back against the chair, his face etched with worry. The Pepper-up Potion was slowly working its way through his tendons as his vision slowly became clearer.

 

Severus scowled, setting the goblet down with a heavy thunk upon the table beside him. “I was ready. Prepared. I just didn’t realize…or, at least didn’t remember….” He coughed dryly, clasping the rag against his mouth as his rib cage heaved. He was ready. Severus had been prepared since Potter’s first year that something would happen with the Dark Lord. But his memory was wearing with age, and he had forgotten just how painful the Dark Lord was.

 

“So, The languorous, acrid Professor Snape returns.” His voice was smooth – it seemed as though it flowed through Severus’ blood – as if he was inside him. Severus froze, quickly hiding the shiver of terror. However his thoughts strayed. You aren’t quite as ready as you thought you were. “I see that you are easily wary of you master, Severus.”

 

Death Eaters let out small breaths of laughter as Voldemort’s red eyes grazed over Snape. “You arrive to my side late. Thirteen years late, Severus.”

 

There was no trace of his lip-less smile; no sense of sarcastic humor. His eyes had narrowed in their snake-like way leaving barely a slit of red. Snape involuntarily flinched. This isn’t as easy as you thought it to be. Voldemort flicked his wand and silver cords looped around Severus, pulling his arms tightly to his sides – his wand dropped carelessly to the ground leaving him helpless. The Death Eaters around him laughed mirthlessly, holding onto their abdomens for support. But Voldemort did not laugh. Instead, he flicked his wand – a jet of green sparks shot towards the Death Eaters and they stopped abruptly.

 

“You laugh,” Voldemort said quietly, turning his face up to the air. “But you reek of guilt…and fear.” Many of the Death Eaters shuddered. “Severus here is merely a by-product of circumstances, as all of you will, in some time, be.” The silence pounded against Severus’ ears as Voldemort leveled his wand and turned his eyes back onto him. “By the way, Severus, do you wish you had appeared here now?”


“Crucio!”

 

Severus shivered, wrapping his arms tightly over his chest as the heat from the grate encompassed him. It had been thirteen years since he’d felt the Cruciatus Curse. Everything was on fire and he found it hard to breathe even now, nearly two hours after he’d been tortured. Nothing, however, could make Voldemort’s cold, red eyes disappear from his vision, where they drifted in and out of sight. Albus appeared abruptly at his side and laid a hand on his shoulder – he winced slightly and Albus sighed.

 

“If you’re ready to tell me what happened…”

 

Severus took a deep breath, glancing at the fire. “The Dark Lord wasn’t pleased at all by my late showing. But I know for a fact it would have been worse had I not gone,” Severus began, placing the rag on the coffee table beside him and reclining in his seat. Albus sat in an armchair beside his and listened intently as Severus closed his eyes.

 

Voldemort lifted his wand, looking at Severus in a strange way. “You disappoint me, Severus.”

 

Severus was kneeling on the ground now, his head bowed. The mask had fallen from his face as he twitched and jerked helplessly on the ground, leaving his already pale face to go deathly white. “I must admit…sir…I’m not as…young as I …was.”

 

Voldemort chuckled, gently flicking his wrist and flinging Severus against a tombstone. It took a moment for Severus to realize the significant of the granite surface, but the words Tom Marvolo Riddle stuck out to him like a sore thumb. He bowed his head – Well Potter, looks like you found out more than you’d like to have about the Dark Lord.

 

“A Professor? And for one of my sworn enemies? Tsk tsk, Severus. I thought head Potions researcher at the Ministry was top notch for you already.” Some Death Eaters chuckled warily while others just shifted in their places. “However, I must ask myself – why would one of my highest ranking officers remove themselves from the Ministry and work for a Muggle-loving fool of a man?”

 

Severus had worked on this answer since he first left the grounds of Hogwarts. With a grimace, he lifted his head and looked at the Dark Lord. “I knew you weren’t dead, my lord. Most everyone knew it, or at least the smart ones did. However, the Ministry was in disrepair and with all the commotion, I thought it would be best to leave before things got worse.”

 

The other Death Eaters had gone quiet, listening intently to what Severus was saying. A few even nodded – Severus recognized Macnair and a few others agreeing with Severus. “I had many options for where I could work – my resume and knowledge are extensive in the field of potions. That was when I noticed Hogwarts was looking for a new Potions Master.”

 

Voldemort was smiling now, his wand lowered into a position that wasn’t a threat to Severus anymore. “Continue, Severus….”

 

“Anyway, I applied – and was awarded with the job almost overnight. After all, it was during the school term. Little more than a year later, I was instated as Head of Slytherin House.”

 

“Youngest head in a century, correct?” Voldemort asked quietly, his face turning into a malevolent grin. Severus could almost feel the gears working in the Dark Lord’s head. “Tell me, Severus – does the Headmaster hold you in good faith?”

 

Before Severus could answer, however, he was hit by another blinding red flash and a hundred unseen knives were stabbing him. It was lifted as abruptly as it was put on him, and Severus was left gasping for air.

 

“Would you like me to repeat myself?” Voldemort asked, his face a cold and pale mask. His wand was still raised, although it was held loosely in his grip.

 

“I told him…that you did,” Severus answered quietly, taking a sip of tea that the Headmaster had proffered to him. “That you had the strictest confidence in me. He believed me, set me under Cruciatus again, then asked me more about the students.”

 

Albus had steepled his fingers together in thought, watching Fawkes the phoenix preen his feathers. “I assume that he asked about Harry, then.” It wasn’t a question.

 

“Yes, he did. I told him that the Gryffindor brat was exactly as his parents were at his age, going around and getting himself into trouble. He asked about Granger and Weasley, too, as well as his holiday arrangements.”

 

“And?” Albus asked gravely, reaching down for his teacup and taking a small sip.

 

“I told him that he would most likely end up at the Weasley home, as been his previous arrangements.” Severus shivered. His muscles still ached and he could feel a distinct throbbing in his temple. Looks like Headache Potion tonight…on top of the Sleeping Draught.

 

“Very well then. I already knew Harry would not be venturing to the Weasleys home this year.”

 

Severus hung his head. Eight times. Eight bloody times. His body would not stop shuddering and he could taste bile at the back of his throat. But the Dark Lord was not done with his questions. In fact, it seemed as though they would continue on through the night.

 

“I’m surprised at your perseverance, Severus. In fact, I expected you to be begging for mercy.” The Death Eaters laughed mirthlessly, some holding their stomachs. Voldemort, however, continued on. “You will be very valuable then, Severus. Indeed, there is not another potion-brewer I can think of that has as much competency or exactness as you do. Also, your position at Howarts most definitely changes your standing.”

 

This silenced the circle. Lucius Malfoy stepped forward, a sneer clearly seen beneath his white mask. “My lord, may I ask what, exactly, his standing is?”

 

Voldemort’s wand pointed threateningly at Lucius and he backed away into the crowd. “That is no one’s information but my own.” The Dark Lord approached the tombstone, looking at each of his Death Eaters in turn. “All of your standings are known only to me.”

 

He sniffed the air again, frowned, then paced around the stone, his snake slithering at his heels. “I feel that this meeting is over…for now…but first, a last lesson…”

 

“Impendius!”

 

As soon as the words left the Dark Lord’s mouth, Severus could feel the hair stand up on his arms. No…. He knew that curse well…he had bestowed that curse on many victims of the Dark Lord. It worked as it sounded – it made everything in that person’s life inconsequential. IT brought out their fears, multiplied thousand fold. The one time Severus had received it, he had instantaneously regretted getting on his Uncle Avilis’ mood. The curse was torquing his muscles now, slowly making its way into the blood stream where it would be carried to the brain. There was nothing more left to do, but wait.

 

Time stopped – his vision began to darken around the edges…narrowing into a vortex…and before he could stop himself…

 

“NO! NO NO NO!”

 

He could hear Voldemort’s evil laughter, feel the twitching of the dozens of cloaks surrounding him. And then it began…

 

Severus sat, glaring into the flames. He could feel his eyes burning, both from the heat and the fact that he hadn’t blinked. Albus sat, watching him somberly, his eyes sad and soft. His eyes had lost their twinkle once Potter had gone into the maze; he found that he wanted, at this moment, more than anything, to have that twinkle back. But there was nothing. The noble Headmaster lowered his eyes before he spoke. “And I would assume…”

 

“The most horrible moments of my life. It was as though a Dementor was standing beside me – my parents, the ‘noble’ heritage I had come into, her…”

 

He almost choked on the last word, holding his head in his hands. It was not something he wished to remember, especially that night…that horrible night…. Albus simply nodded, relaxing back into the chair. “I realize that this is a very premature assumption, or rather, suggestion…do you believe that Voldemort has welcomed you back into the fold?”

 

Severus thought briefly about the torture he’d endured. Am I granted the rights of every other Death Eater? He most certainly had paid – dearly, he might add – for his late coming. Yet…

 

“I can’t be sure…at least, not now. I’ll have to go back again when he calls upon me,” Severus answered shortly, picking up the cup again and draining the rest of it in one swig. His shivers were beginning to abate him, as was the pain that had flared in his muscles. But the visions…they weren’t about to leave. His Dark Mark was still tingling slightly, making his left arm twitch convulsively. “I saw Pettigrew.”

 

His insides writhed as he spoke the words – Black…and Lupin…and blasted Potter and his little minions…they were right. He rarely admitted that Black and Lupin were ever right, which was rare in his own eyes. But oddly enough, he found himself not surprised that Pettrigrew would turn to the Dark Lord. Albus nodded gravely before standing.

 

He moved towards his desk, turning around to motion for Severus to follow him. “Sit, please.” Albus went around, reaching for a drawer and pulling out a scroll. Severus sat warily, easing his aching joints into the chair before reaching for the scroll that Albus had proffered to him.  “This scroll contains every single member of the Order of the Phoenix. Names that are crossed out are people who have perished or cannot act, names in green are people who are active now…names in yellow are people who have yet to be briefed on the situation at hand while names in red are people who have been banned from the Order.”

 

Severus nodded, unrolling the scroll and reading it to himself. The names that he remembered immediately jumped out at him from the page…Joseph Alapalos, Meina Alapalos, Sirius Black, Arabella Figg, Marcemius Figg, Mundungus Fletcher, Filius Flitwick, Julia Glideron – Alapalos, Evan Longbottom, Medina Longbottom, Remus Lupin, Argil Vertinemian, Minerva McGonagall, Jolene McMurphy – snape, Peter Pettigrew, James Potter, Lily Potter, Laguina Sprout, Severus Snape, Arthur Weasley, Bill Weasley, Molly Weasley, Adam Gabriel Welsch…the list was loaded with names, including many people he had gone to school with as well as most of the staff of Hogwarts. However, he noticed how his name shimmered in purple. The Headmaster noted his focus. “In the event that this list is intercepted and is not wiped of the information beforehand, your name will only appear for two people – yourself and me.”

 

“Argil Vertinemian…the bastard,” Severus hissed, almost crumpling the paper. Vartinemian was a Romanian-born, Durmstrang-raised pureblood who had been very close to being Voldemort’s right-hand man if it hadn’t been for the Dark Lord’s downfall. Argil had been sentenced to life in Azkaban, but had died three years into his sentence. “I could never forgive what I saw come out of him….”

 

“He is gone now, Severus,” Albus said lightly. “But I’m sure you can see all the strike-outs of names….”

 

As the Headmaster dawdled on, Severus noticed one name that had been put into green almost before his eyes…So, Black was able to get into her house alive…gone soft after all these years, she has…. He was able to pick up the end of Albus’ sentence.

 

“…I need you to find more leaks within the circle, Severus. As well as a few carefully place allies in Knockturn Alley. Also, a few more people in the Potions Research Office couldn’t hurt…You were rather impressionable there.”

 

Severus nodded, placing the scroll back on the Headmaster’s desk. Albus looked at him quietly over his spectacles before saying, “Bear in mind, Fawkes is the one who chooses who enters. But I trust your judgement, Severus.”

 

The Headmaster seemed as though he was going to say something, and Severus didn’t realize what it was to be about until he noticed that his concentration had drifted. The mask was lifted – and for the briefest flicker of a moment, Severus knew the Headmaster could tell exactly what he was thinking. The older wizard thought better of saying anything, however, and instead stood once more. “I do believe it is late,” he said, looking amiably at a clock on the wall whose hand had pointed to, “aren’t you tired?”. “We’ll talk about this more tomorrow, Severus. I’d advise you to go and see Madam Pomfrey about a sleeping draught, as I don’t think you’re in any condition to brew one yourself.”

 

I could brew one in my exhausted, half-arsed sleep, Albus, he thought gratingly to himself. But he simply nodded, murmuring a half hearted, “Goodnight.”

 

***

 

The walls of Hogwarts buzzed with anticipation, and it was never the good sort. The long walk through the deserted corridors made the darkness of the night close around him and it took only seconds for him to realize that there would not be anyone out. Not on this night. Down the stairs…past the Great Hall…through the doorway leading into the dank, cold dungeons…his home…. A few more paces and he came face to face with the door to his classroom. The old oak door, with brass fittings, was shut tightly. He flicked his wrist, murmuring ‘Alohomora’ under his breath before stepping inside and locking it behind him. A few more paces and he came to his office. In the far corner was a large oak cabinet, which carried nothing but vials of potions – Endurance elixir, Pepper-Up potion, Dizzying draught, highly volatile and explosive …Ah, relief…. It was the most powerful sleeping and pain relieving draught he had. It was in a small, crystal phial, labeled on the side in his small and elegant script – From years of Father’s calligraphy trainingthe bastard ­­– labeled the vial Verdimillious. A small, clear-red mixture filled the phial halfway. A single drop and I’ll be out for twelve hours, at the least. Before he drank, Severus changed into his nightshirt and lay back against the bed. He tipped out a drop into the cap, raising it to the light.

 

“Here’s to another war…and another reason to live.”

 

He tipped the cap back, quickly screwed it back on the phial and made a face as he swallowed. Delicious curls of sleep began to overtake him immediately. His eyelids became lead as did his other limbs. The phial was placed jerkily on the nightstand beside him before he was in a deep sleep.

 

//
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