The Sugar Quill
Author: Dark Princess  Story: Harry Potter and the End of All Things  Chapter: Chapter One
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HARRY POTTER

HARRY POTTER

and the

END OF ALL THINGS

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

The night of Friday, March 16th, 1997, was extremely cold. Little light covered the grass of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, making it nearly impossible for someone who did not know their way to make it to the castle doors. Of course, no one was outside on this frigid, cloudy night; no one, that is, except a lonely man, one whom had made this very journey many times in his adult life. Limping along and slightly favouring his left leg, this pale man with shoulder-length greasy, black hair was dressed in long, black robes. He was painfully making his way through the many dark and foreboding trees to the large front doors of the stone castle, the memory of where he had been still fresh in his mind’s eye.

 

***

 

Small amounts of light penetrated the heavy shadows of the large run-down room of the Riddle House. The sun had set several hours ago, and the half-full moon did not help to illuminate the dust-covered area.

           

Only four figures were in the silent room, and all were dressed in black, making it even more difficult to distinguish them from the shadows. Three of these darkly-robed figures stood before the fourth, their heads bowed low as the fourth glared at them with his scarlet gaze, a gaze that was burning intensely in a way that clearly showed his extreme displeasure at the trio assembled before him.

           

“I set you three a task,” the scarlet-eyed figure whispered. “It was a simple task to capture a single, teenage girl, and yet, you three still manage to fail me.” A low and quiet laugh escaped the Dark Lord’s mouth as he surveyed his trio of Death Eaters. These three were supposed to be his most skilled and powerful supporters, but they could not manage to kidnap one young and blood-traitorous witch. The idea of their appalling incompetence would be quite amusing in a way if it was not so imperative that he have the girl.

           

One of the three figures stepped forward, though seeming somewhat hesitant as he moved closer to the Dark Lord. Still, the Dark Lord said nothing, and the figure, gaining a bit of confidence by taking his Master’s silence for acceptance, spoke.

           

“Forgive us, My Lord,” he said, for the figure was indeed male, “but the girl was far better protected than our contact had previously told us she would be. Now that our information has been corrected, I am sure that the plan will succeed.”

           

For a moment, no one spoke, and a horrible silence fell over the figures in the dark chamber. Even the wind, seemingly responding to the tense situation, ceased; the sound of a tree’s branches scraping the nearby glass window suddenly stopped. Finally, the Dark Lord rose from the throne-like silver chair he had been occupying and calmly made his way forward to the trio of Death Eaters, stopping only when he was inches from the nearest figure, the one who had spoken.

           

“I expected you to succeed the first time, Eridanus,” the Dark Lord said, his voice almost deathly quiet and scarlet eyes burning into the black-robed Death Eater. “But you did not, and failure is not tolerated.” A yew wand, thirteen-and-a-half inches in length, was slowly drawn forth from the deep inside pocket of the Dark Lord’s long, black robe. As he pointed its tip at his follower, an evil grin briefly crossed his pale face.

           

Crucio!” he hissed.

           

Eridanus fell to his knees as the curse tore through his body. No scream passed his lips, though a slight whimper managed to escape his control. Neither of the other two figures made any movement to cease their fellow’s punishment because they knew that that was the way of the Death Eaters. Also, they knew the same treatment was awaiting them as soon as the Dark Lord finished with Eridanus, for they were also supposed to have ensured the operation’s success, but had failed.

           

After only a few moments, the Dark Lord lowered his wand, leaving Eridanus, with blood flowing from a gash across his right cheek, kneeling on the dust-covered floor and gasping for air. He turned his scarlet eyes to face the other two remaining figures in the room.

           

“Bella, Severus,” he hissed. “I entrusted you both with the success of this mission as much as I did Eridanus. Therefore, do either of you have an explanation for your utter failure?” Though his eyes were no longer burning as intensely as before, the barely-suppressed anger was still quite apparent in the Dark Lord’s voice.

           

Both Bellatrix Lestrange and Severus Snape had been Death Eaters for many years. They knew it was pointless to argue, pointless to try and give any reason or excuse for the plan’s failure. No matter what either of them said, they would receive the same punishment as Eridanus.

           

“No, Master.” They responded simply and quietly, and, after a brief pause, the Dark Lord uttered the incantation.

           

Crucio!”

           

It could have been worse. Eridanus, Snape, and Bellatrix knew that fact for sure. Had the three of them been newer or lesser Death Eaters, they each surely would have been killed. Still, none of them would have asked to be hit with the Cruciatus Curse, which was enough of a punishment to deal with at the time.

           

Once several hours had gone by, the exact number of which none of the tortured Death Eaters recalled, the Dark Lord lowered his wand once again, this time leaving three Death Eaters kneeling and bleeding at his feet. Turning around slowly, the Dark Lord headed back to his chair. As he sat back, his scarlet eyes glaring forward, he spoke to his followers, all of whom had managed to rise from the manor’s floor.

           

“I want that girl,” he said. “Bring me the Weasley girl.” As the three bowed low and turned toward the room’s only exit, a single and plain-looking wooden door on the opposite side, the Dark Lord continued in a deathly whisper. “And do not fail again.”

           

With that final threat, Eridanus, Bellatrix, and Snape headed to the exit. Once Bellatrix and Eridanus had left, the Dark Lord spoke again, stopping Snape in mid-step.

           

“Wait a moment, Severus,” he said. Snape froze, his right hand still on the wooden door, keeping it open, and turned slowly back around to face the Dark Lord.

           

“Yes, Master?” he said.

           

“The boy,” whispered the Dark Lord, rising from his silver throne and approaching the Hogwarts professor. “Is the Malfoy heir close to succeeding?”

           

Snape hesitated briefly before replying, but the hesitation was long enough for the Dark Lord to sense his reluctance to answer. That could only mean that the boy was close to failing. “I cannot say, My Lord. He will not tell me of his plans.”

           

The Dark Lord simply nodded his head, somewhat in a motion of understanding. He knew the boy would not succeed; the boy was never meant to succeed. “I want Dumbledore dead, Severus,” hissed the Dark Lord, his eyes radiating hatred and burning into the professor. “I want him dead by the end of this school term, and either Draco or you will accomplish this task.”

           

Snape did not respond immediately, thinking the Dark Lord had more to say. When he did not continue, the Hogwarts professor gave a quiet and brief reply.

           

“We will not fail you, My Lord.”

           

“You had better not,” hissed the Dark Lord. “You had better not.” With a quick wave of his right hand, the Dark Lord dismissed Snape from the room. And, once he was alone again, the Dark Lord went to the large glass window and stared out at the dark night sky. Night’s darkness was his sanctuary. The weather seemed to acknowledge the Dark Lord’s horrible mood. Harsh, crisp wind picked up in intensity, sending the tree’s branches scraping against the glass window once again. A giant roll of thunder crashed as a bright bolt of lightning flashed across the night sky, and though a storm seemed imminent, no rain fell.

           

Meanwhile, Severus Snape exited the old Muggle manor and immediately encountered the crisp and bitingly-cold winds. He pulled his long, black cloak tighter around his shoulders and, as he Apparated away, Snape began the process of composing himself and closing his mind, for he knew it was imperative that Dumbledore not be able to realize his true loyalties and motives. At least, not until the time was right. The lone Hogwarts professor knew that both his and Draco’s lives depended on that fact.

           

He would not fail his true Master.  

 

***

           

Severus Snape was only a few feet from the large oak doors of Hogwarts when the doors opened, seemingly on their own. It was not until they had opened further that Snape saw the older man with long silver hair and a beard to match standing in the entrance hall. The new figure suddenly came sweeping out, running forward quickly to catch Snape before he fell upon the stone steps. Snape had thought he could make it to his chambers before he collapsed. Apparently, the Cruciatus Curse had done more damage than he had originally thought. The Death Eater was also not fully prepared to deal with the headmaster, resulting in his hesitancy as he moved forward. Fortunately, the headmaster took it for pain.

           

“How many times did he do it?” asked the headmaster in a voice barely louder than a whisper, his blue eyes seeming to radiate pity for the darkly-robed professor, an emotion that Snape detested. There was no need for Dumbledore to explain who he was. Both men knew the answer already.

           

It was somewhere around four in the morning, and by this time, the two men had made it through the long deserted corridors and up the marble staircases to the hospital wing. Snape had originally tried to tell the headmaster that he would be fine and all he needed was some rest, but Dumbledore refused to listen, voicing his belief that the professor was injured far worse than he usually was, and that Madam Pomfrey should check for any internal damage. The professor did not argue for long, both because he was exhausted and because giving in to Dumbledore on this account would help to maintain the headmaster’s trust in him. 

           

Madam Pomfrey had come running toward Dumbledore when the two men arrived, hastily pulling a cardigan over her pale blue nightdress. She was, at this moment, down in the dungeons to retrieve the tray of potions that Snape had set out almost six hours ago when he felt the Dark Mark burn upon his left arm. Once the matron had exited the hospital wing, Snape turned to face Dumbledore, intending to answer the headmaster’s question with a least a portion of the truth.

           

“I’m not sure, Albus,” said Snape. “The first few curses were, according to him, because I was late. I told him the information he had requested, though, and either it wasn’t enough, or one of the other Death Eaters had put him in a foul mood, because he started with the Cruciatus Curse again. My mind finally lost track after the first dozen blasts or so.” Snape shut his eyes as a ragged breath tore at his lungs. 

           

As soon as he began to cough up blood (which the injured professor had not anticipated), Madam Pomfrey came back into the room, her hands carrying the large silver tray, which was piled high with many potions in different coloured vials of all shapes and sizes.

           

“Professor Snape!” exclaimed Madam Pomfrey. “Good lord, here, take this,” she said as she handed a small red vial to him. Snape sat up as best as he could, reluctantly accepting the pitying assistance of Dumbledore, and swallowed the bitter-tasting potion in one, quick gulp. “Now, Severus, you really should stay in bed. Whatever you were doing has injured you horribly, and you have a fair amount of recovering to do,” said Madam Pomfrey as she lifted the tray of potions off the bedside table, taking it back into her office.

           

Once Dumbledore was sure Madam Pomfrey had left her office and gone back to her sleeping chambers, he began to question Snape again. “All right, Severus,” he said, “what happened this time?”

           

If only you knew, thought Snape. Unfortunately for the headmaster, though, Snape did have the strength to maintain his Occlumency shield. The potion he had just taken increased his mental strength even more, ensuring that, even if Dumbledore had tried, the headmaster would not be able to breach the Death Eater’s defences.

           

“Eridanus and Bellatrix were there,” said Snape. “The Dark Lord was angry with them for some reason, though I arrived too late to discover exactly why. All I could gather was that an operation they were supposed to be leading failed, though precisely what operation I do not know.

           

“When I arrived, the Dark Lord requested the information, and I gave it to him. Like I said, either it wasn’t enough or he was still angry with Eridanus and Bellatrix, because the information did not please him as it should.”

           

A brief pause followed Snape’s explanation, during which neither man spoke and a heavy silence fell over the hospital wing. Dumbledore, however, did not allow the silence to go on as far as the Dark Lord would have. “Voldemort should not have expected you to know any more information than what you were supposed to report tonight,” the headmaster whispered.

           

“I know, Albus,” replied Snape. Time to draw on a weakness, he thought. “It’s possible the Dark Lord is getting suspicious of my loyalties.”

           

Dumbledore looked down at the man lying on the bed before him. One of the headmaster’s many internal debates raged in his mind. If Voldemort is beginning to suspect Severus, a part of him whispered, he would not reveal anything of value to him. It would be pointless to risk his life. However, the other half of his mind shouted its arguments just as strongly. What if Voldemort doesn’t suspect Severus? Dark plans and secrets can still be revealed. This very battle, as well as many others, had been fought inside Dumbledore’s mind since the beginning of the Second War, almost two years ago. It was nothing new to the headmaster.

           

“Severus, you —”

           

“Don’t start, Albus,” interrupted Snape, clutching at his chest as a fit of coughing tore at his lungs. Time to play my best card, he thought. “I knew the risks involved and I chose to go back for the Order. I am not going to quit . . . at least not yet.”

           

Dumbledore sighed before he replied to the other professor’s statement. “It is your choice, after all, Severus,” he said. “But if the danger is becoming too great —”

           

“I’m staying in the game, Albus. I have to.”

           

With a final look down on the beaten, but not quite broken, professor, Dumbledore nodded, the same pitying gaze that penetrated and aggravated the Death Eater shining in the headmaster’s eyes. Dumbledore wearily exited the infirmary, his thoughts on the single man in the hospital bed.

//
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