The Sugar Quill
Author: Christina Teresa (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: For the Love of Hufflepuff, Part 1: Death Eaters, Inc.  Chapter: Chapter 1: The Burning
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Chapter One: The Burning

A month after Snape left Hogwarts, Professor Balin invited him to his plush manor house in Dorset to meet his 'old friend'. By this time, Snape knew the identity of this mysterious friend: Lord Voldemort, the most powerful Dark wizard the world had ever known. Or so he had heard. Snape knew enough about the history of the Dark Arts to know Voldemort wasn't the first wizard to make that claim, just the latest. Certainly, the deaths caused by him and his Death Eaters had the wizarding world in an uproar, but Voldemort would have to be much more than a murderer to gain his allegiance.

Snape was met at the door by a house-elf wearing a strip of cloth around its middle. The creature was trembling and looked like it was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The house-elf led him through the hall and into the library. Along the way, the thick smell of incense mixed with sickening sweet perfume assailed his nostrils. He could have sworn he heard the chattering of at least a dozen people. Snape was more than a little annoyed. Balin didn't tell me this would be some sort of Death Eater mixer. If he did decide to join Voldemort's movement he didn't want an audience.

"I-I t-tell M-master you is w-w-waiting." The house-elf pointed to the divan shakily and disappeared.

He didn't sit, but preferred to look around while he waited. The shelves were filled with magical texts of all kinds, but there were more volumes devoted to the Dark Arts than he had ever seen before. By far the most arresting object in the room was an old Muggle painting. He could tell it was a Muggle creation because the picture didn't move. Two men in robes were standing over a woman who was strapped to an iron chair covered with spikes. She was screaming. The fact that the picture didn't move made her agony all the more disconcerting.

"Like it? A friend had it sent over from Italy. Thought I'd get a kick out of it."

Snape jumped when he heard Balin's voice in his ear. How could I have let him sneak up on me like that?

His former professor chuckled. "I didn't frighten you, did I?"

"Not at all." Snape quickly regained his composure. "The painting-- it's very... interesting." He preferred a nice, clean curse to the dirty, hands-on approach of medieval Muggles. "But it seems like it would be awfully messy."

"The Inquisition's methods were crude, to be sure," Balin gazed at the picture appreciatively, "but one can't help but admire their ingenuity." He spread his arms wide. "So, what do you think of my humble home?"

"It's very nice." Too nice. "How can you possibly--?"

"Afford all this on a teacher's salary? Just a few wise investments added to the fact that I bought the house for practically nothing when the previous owners," he paused and grinned wickedly, "died unexpectedly."

Snape started to ask if this was one of the fringe benefits of serving Lord Voldemort when the pair was joined by a woman-- a flawless, brown-skinned beauty with long, dark hair and large black eyes. She was exquisite. He never knew women like this existed. She embraced Balin and kissed him playfully on the mouth. She was smiling, but that warmth did not carry to her eyes.

She regarded Snape with a bored expression. As she scrutinized him more carefully there was a barely disguised look of revulsion on her face. Balin whispered something in her ear and suddenly she was smiling again.

"Severus, this is Isela," Balin said, "she'll entertain you while I see to other matters."

Isela took him by the arm and gazed at him seductively. Snape felt a wave of terror wash over him. "What about Lord Voldemort?"

"The Dark Lord is occupied at the moment. Isela will bring you to him when it's time." Balin patted him on the shoulder. "Enjoy yourself, Severus."

"Do not worry, Rupert," she said, "he will." She led him through the grand house, casually chatting about the latest news in the Prophet: the Muggle killings by the Death Eaters. She spoke with a charming, cultured Spanish accent. Her black silk robes were sitting well off her shoulders, exposing the curve of her ample bosom. They finally settled in a decadently furnished room where a few other couples were lounging and talking intimately. He recognized some of the faces as former Slytherin classmates. So, I'm not the only one Balin recruited.

He just sat there, looking about nervously, not having the slightest clue what to do with this beautiful woman sitting next to him.

"You are very shy," Isela said finally. She had one arm draped around his shoulders. She was running her other hand over his leg. "Or maybe you do not like girls. Perhaps you would prefer a beautiful boy? We have several that are most accommodating."

"No!" he said quickly, "I-I like girls. It's just that I never..."

"I find that difficult to believe," Isela said in a tone of voice that made it clear it wasn't difficult to believe at all. "You need to relax." She handed him a drink offered by the jittery house-elf he had met earlier.

He sniffed it suspiciously. "What is it?"

"You are the Potions expert-- or so Rupert says-- you tell me."

He took a sip. "Mandrake and Pulmeria." One a calmative and the other an aphrodisiac. "It's in a sweet alcohol base I don't recognize."

"The Muggles call it champagne."

Snape regarded her with surprise. He thought Voldemort's movement was strictly anti-Muggle.

She shrugged. "Even they occasionally stumble across something useful." She pulled his hair back from his ear as he drained the glass and placed a soft kiss on his neck. Then she ran her tongue along his jaw line, sending waves of pleasure through him. She kissed him on the mouth, at first gently then more deeply. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer.

After many minutes had passed, Isela withdrew slightly. "That is much better," she purred. She rose and took him by the hand, bringing him to his feet.

"Is it time to see Lord Voldemort?"

She glared at him, clearly insulted. "Soon. I have not finished with you yet."

His head buzzing from the drugged champagne, he followed her upstairs to a sumptuous bedroom.

Isela was certainly the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and she definitely knew what to do with her voluptuous body, but there was something in her caresses that seemed wanting. What do I know? Maybe this is what it's supposed to be like. Severus found his thoughts drifting to another girl. She wasn't as physically attractive as Isela, but she had a quality this woman lacked.

"Lily!"

He felt his body tense and relax. Then he felt a sharp, stinging pain on his cheek. Isela had scratched him so hard she drew blood.

"How dare you call out another woman's name! You are very lucky Balin wants you in one piece. I have killed men for less than that." She scrambled out of bed and threw on her robe. "Get up. It's time to see the Dark Lord."

He started to explain that he hadn't meant to say Lily's name out loud, but thought better of it. Utterly humiliated, he rose and dressed in silence.

*

Isela led him downstairs into a basement room that had been converted into a dungeon, undoubtedly at great expense. Torches in silver sconces hung from the stone walls and hundreds of candles in silver holders further lit the room. The floor was a mosaic tile pattern of a skull with a snake coming out of its mouth. Snape had heard about Voldemort's infamous symbol, but he had never actually seen it.

Balin was there. So were two masked wizards guarding a terrified, young Muggle woman dressed all in white with a crisp, white cap on her head. As overwhelming as all this was, it was nothing compared to the creature sitting regally in a bejeweled chair in the middle of the room. When Snape laid eyes on Lord Voldemort for the first time, his breath caught in his throat. Voldemort had two arms, two legs and a head, but beyond that it was hard to believe he was human. His skin was pale and scaly, glistening like a snake's. His eyes were red with mere slits for pupils.

Balin approached the pair and immediately noticed the nasty scratch on Snape's face. "I thought I told you to play nice," he hissed at Isela.

Isela regarded Severus with pure loathing then glowered at Balin. "He is alive is he not? I only hope he proves to be of more use to our Lord than he was to me."

Snape was grateful that his former professor didn't seem interested in hearing the details. Balin took him by the arm and presented him to Voldemort.

"My Lord, this is Severus Snape, the Potions expert I told you about." Then Balin whispered in Snape's ear, "bow!"

Snape did so, awkwardly.

"He seems rather young," Voldemort said.

"But very talented, my Lord," Balin replied.

Isela slinked towards Voldemort, cat-like. "My Lord, I have spent the last hour with this boy singing your praises and telling him of the joys of my service to you." She seductively ran her hand across his chest and shoulders.

"Enough, whore!" Voldemort grabbed her hand and removed it from his person. "I can smell what you've been doing for the last hour and it had nothing to do with singing my praises."

A visibly frustrated Isela huffed and skulked away to the other side of the room.

Snape couldn't help snickering. He was beginning to like Voldemort already.

The Dark Lord sighed in regal annoyance. "Rupert, you are one of my most loyal servants--"

Balin bowed his head. "Thank you, my Lord."

"You have brought me more new followers than any other, but you and your little pet," he regarded Isela with contempt, "would do well to pay less attention to pleasures of the flesh. It demeans our true purpose."

"And what is your true purpose?" Snape asked.

Voldemort smiled, obviously pleased with the question. "Purity and power." He picked up an ancient book sitting on a stone altar next to him. Snape recognized it as the Infusco Diabolus.

"I see you're familiar with this most sacred volume." Voldemort beckoned him closer.

Snape nodded. "The Infusco Diabolus is the oldest Dark Arts text in existence." A copy sat in the restricted section of Hogwarts' library. It was protected by a password he was never able to discover. Curiosity piqued, he took a few steps toward the Dark Lord.

"No one knows who actually wrote it, but it has been attributed to the great Dark wizard, Salazar Slytherin, himself." Voldemort held the book in one hand and touched it with his wand. "Relinquo Espero!"

The book opened to a page covered with ancient writing in an obscure language Snape didn't understand, but what was unmistakable was a stylized, medieval version of Voldemort's Dark Mark.

"As you can see, I respect our traditions. I have taken as my symbol the oldest and most powerful of all Dark magical symbols. Forgotten by fearful wizards, our honored traditions have been pushed aside and relegated to the shadows. And where has this gotten us? The Ministry of Magic cooperates with Muggle governments. Once respected schools of magic regularly admit Mudbloods into their ranks. Wizards and witches couple with Muggles, producing half-breeds." His grotesque face contorted with rage. "Such actions defile us all. They make us weak. Don't you agree, Severus?"

"Yes, my Lord, completely." The infiltration of Muggle-born witches and wizards was making them weak. Lily was Muggle-born. And what did his infatuation with that Mudblood witch get him? He touched the scratch on his face. Nothing but pain and degradation. "I wish to join you, my Lord," Snape blurted out suddenly.

Voldemort smiled and rose from his chair. "Excellent. There's just one little thing you must do for me first." He turned to the two masked wizards and waved his hand. Each wizard grabbed hold of one of the Muggle woman's arms. They dragged her to the center of the room and threw her down to her knees roughly, causing her to cry out.

"This Muggle's job is to nurse weak Muggle's back to health. She helps deliver their babies and comforts their dying. Her compassion towards her kind is an abomination." Voldemort locked his snake-like eyes with Snape's. "Kill her and prove yourself worthy of my Mark."

Severus drew his wand, but hesitated. He was as spiteful and vindictive as the next Dark wizard, but in the past he'd cursed people who had irritated him or wronged him in some way. This woman was a Muggle-- that should have been enough to make him hate her, but for some reason he was having trouble mustering up the emotion necessary to do the deed. Distracting him further was the Muggle woman's constant murmuring. It almost sounded like a spell of some kind. Whatever it was, she kept repeating it over and over again. He could only just make out the words:

"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee..."

"My Lord," Balin said nervously, "the boy is inexperienced in these matters. He's been locked away in Hogwarts under that fool Dumbledore's nose."

In the seven years Snape had known him, this was the first show of anxiety he had ever seen in his former professor.

"...Holy Mary, Mother of God..."

"Well, then, Rupert," Voldemort replied with an evil, snaky grin, "you must show him how it's done."

Balin, obviously pleased to be of service, drew his wand and pointed it at the woman.

"...pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. A--"

"Crucio!"

The woman was dragged to her feet as if she were a puppet controlled by invisible strings. Her right arm and then her left were pulled behind her back until her arms popped out of their sockets with a sickening sound. But that was nothing in comparison with the sound of her screams. Balin, on the other hand, was laughing with delight.

Isela, now standing on the other side of Snape, drew her wand as well. "Crucio!"

The woman was now being pulled in two different directions. Snape wondered with morbid curiosity if they were trying to rip her in half. Suddenly, the woman in white caught Snape's eyes for a split second. The message she was trying to convey was undeniably clear: Kill me!

Before he was even aware of what he was doing, Severus pointed his wand at the woman and boomed, "AVADA KEDAVRA!"

The woman dropped, dead, in a twisted heap onto the stone floor.

Balin turned on him angrily. "I wasn't finished with her yet!"

"That is the second time tonight you have finished before others have had their turn," Isela said petulantly.

Snape felt his cheeks burn. He was really beginning to hate this woman. "I'm sorry, I got carried away."

"Think nothing of it, boy," Balin said in a fatherly way, "with more practice you'll learn how to prolong the act-- of torturing and killing, I mean."

"It was much quicker than I had hope it would be, but it will do for now." Voldemort glanced at the two masked wizards. On cue, they dragged the woman's dead body away. He turned back to Snape. "On your knees."

Severus did as Voldemort ordered. Isela roughly pushed up the left sleeve of his robe then moved away from him.

Lord Voldemort stood over Snape and drew his wand with a dramatic flourish. Then he pointed it at his exposed forearm. "EXURO MORSMORDRE!"

Blinding green and red light shot from Voldemort's wand and burned into Snape's flesh. At first, he just felt as if his arm were on fire, then the explosive heat spread to his entire body. Suddenly, every part of him was violated by the darkest evil imaginable. No part of him was spared. The evil enveloped his very soul.

It took every ounce of will he had not to faint. When he managed to focus his eyes again, he looked down at his arm. The Dark Mark, ugly and red, was there where it would be for all time. It still burned. The pain was excruciating. With Balin's help, he managed to rise to his feet.

"Welcome, Severus," Voldemort said, a satisfied smile on his face, "you belong to me now."

***

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