END OF ALL THINGS
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.
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.
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
“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,
“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.
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.
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
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.
They responded simply and quietly, and, after a brief pause, the Dark Lord
uttered the incantation.
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.
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
“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
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.
whispered the Dark Lord, rising from his silver throne and approaching the
Hogwarts professor. “Is the Malfoy heir close to succeeding?”
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
“Severus, you —”
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.”
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.