Disclaimer: I'm just playing around in the wonderful world created by JK Rowling. She's not to blame for anything I make her characters do in this story.
Author's Note: This is the third story in my Horcrux series. It is not necessary to read The Wand and The Locket before this story.
I would like to thank my wonderful beta readers Whimsy and Jo Wickaninnish.
This story is dedicated to Whimsy, my beta reader, motivator, inspirator and co-founder of M.U.S.T.
The small sitting room was dark and silent. It was past midnight, yet the owner of the old, cramped house was still awake, sitting in an armchair, caressing a goblet filled with red wine. A single candle lit the ancient tome that was lying open on his lap. A long finger reached out and turned over the page, the parchment crackling slightly before silence returned.
A sudden knock on the door startled the man into movement. With a flick of his wand, the book closed and flew back to the bookshelves covering the wall, dust settling upon it so that it looked as though it hadn’t been touched in years. With another flick, more candles flared up. The man walked to the door and opened it.
“Bellatrix,” he stated, his voice betraying no emotion. “I had not expected you.”
“Just a friendly visit, Severus,” Bellatrix replied, pulling off her cloak and smiling at the man in front of her. “We are on the same side after all.”
Severus Snape raised an eyebrow at this, but he gestured Bellatrix towards his sitting room without another word. He conjured a second goblet, filled it with wine and handed it to Bellatrix, who sat down on a ragged sofa and raised her glass.
“The Dark Lord,” she said.
“The Dark Lord,” Severus repeated.
After a moment of respectful silence, Bellatrix grinned widely at Severus, her eyes glittering.
“I just completed an important mission for the Dark Lord,” she announced gleefully.
“Really,” Severus said calmly, taking a sip of his wine.
Bellatrix’s smile wavered. “He told me specifically that it was incredibly important and that he didn’t trust anyone but his most faithful followers with it.” She paused, looking shrewdly at Severus. “I suppose he could have asked you, too.”
Severus’ eyes bored into hers for a moment, and then he said, “Thank you.”
Bellatrix’s slightly insane grin returned. “But he asked me, and I did well, yes I did. I even refrained from torturing them first, because he had told me to avoid attracting attention at all costs. So I simply killed them. He will be proud of me.”
“I’m sure he will,” Severus said. “Who did you kill, if I may ask?”
Looking happy as a child, Bellatrix replied, “A couple, I think they were called Waterhouse or something. They lived in a small house in the wizarding part of Bristol.”
“No, she was pure-blood and he a filthy half-blood.”
Severus refilled their glasses. “Then why did the Dark Lord wish for them to be killed? I have never heard of them before – did they do something to offend him?”
Bellatrix laughed shrilly. “I don’t ask before I kill, Severus! It must have been that she dared to marry a disgusting, worthless, slimy half-blood.”
Severus nodded solemnly. “The Dark Lord knows best. We should not question his motives.”
When Bellatrix had left, Severus sat back in his chair and sneered at his goblet. So Bellatrix trusted him now, didn’t she? Unlike the last time she had visited, she had now come voluntarily to his house to gloat about her latest murder, with no reservations whatsoever. In fact, unless Severus was very much mistaken, she had unwittingly handed him a vital piece of information.
He let out a cold, short laugh. It was utterly ridiculous that the Dark Lord would order someone killed for marrying a half-blood, though Bellatrix was too short-sighted to realise it. She had not even realised that she was telling this preposterous story to a true half-blood, the son of a witch and a Muggle.
Naturally, being far from dim-witted, Severus had realised at once that something was amiss. There was no one called Waterhouse in the Order of the Phoenix, nor had anyone going by that name openly defied the Dark Lord, and neither Mr nor Mrs Waterhouse held a top position at the Ministry. The fact that the Dark Lord wished for this murder to be kept quiet only served to raise Severus’ suspicion.
There was more to this than met the eye, and he, Severus Snape, was going to find out what. He had, after all, promised Dumbledore.
“You did the right thing, Severus.”
He was at Hogwarts, pacing the Headmaster’s office while the clear blue eyes of Albus Dumbledore were fixed upon him.
“I have told you before,” Dumbledore continued, “that nothing is more important now than gaining trust, which is exactly what you achieved.”
Severus turned around sharply as he reached the wall. “I achieved nothing of the sort. Bellatrix still does not trust me.”
“She will,” Dumbledore said, confidence so clear in his voice that Severus almost believed it. Almost.
“You answered all of her queries,” Dumbledore went on, “and you did something quite contrary to her expectations – something she thinks only a loyal follower of Lord Voldemort would do. A few more nudges in the right direction and she will trust you, Severus.”
Severus glared at a portrait on the wall that was snoring loudly. “I do hope that those other nudges do not involve Unbreakable Vows. I’m not inclined to take yet another one.”
“You will do what is necessary,” Dumbledore calmly said.
Severus resisted the highly childish urge to shout a denial, for he knew that Dumbledore was perfectly right. Instead, he threw a deathly look at one of the portraits that had dared to open an eye.
“You haven’t explained to me, however, why it is necessary,” he said, turning around and heading into the other direction once more.
“I have explained to you my theory about Lord Voldemort’s –”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Albus,” Severus snapped. “You cannot seriously believe that the Dark Lord told Bellatrix about that.”
Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and smiled. “I do not believe that, Severus. However, I do believe that it is hard, even for Lord Voldemort, to keep an enormous secret like that, especially while the war progresses and he becomes more and more intent on protecting his secret.” He paused, and Severus nodded curtly to show that he was listening.
“You told me yourself, Severus, that no one spends more time in Lord Voldemort’s presence than Bellatrix Lestrange. She is therefore the most likely person to pick up subtle hints that Voldemort cannot help but let slip.”
Severus snorted. “Bellatrix picking up subtle hints? You cannot be serious.”
Dumbledore smiled again. “Oh, I do not think she will be aware of it. That is where you come in, Severus. Once Bellatrix trusts you, she might just tell you anything, including some detail, perhaps, that does not quite add up. Not something obvious, but I rely on your sharp mind to pick it up and act upon it, so as to find out what is behind it. It might the first step towards the destruction of Lord Voldemort.”