Snape instinctively melted into the shadows of the dark cellar in which the group of Death Eaters stood. Though he knew that they couldn’t see him, laying low was ingrained in his brain. Eventually, he eased his mind with logic and stepped forward to better witness what was happening. Snape wished that he had known then what he knew now; perhaps then things would have turned out differently.
“Did you bring the potions?” one of the figures rasped hurriedly.
“Yes,” Severus replied.
“Don’t speak unless spoken to, don’t ask questions and address Him only as ‘sir’ or ‘my lord’,” he instructed Severus, Avery, Crabbe and Bellatrix, all of which had met up at the end of summer at Malfoy’s instruction.
“Who’s ‘he’?” Severus risked asking.
“Don’t ask questions!” the Death Eater snapped.
Severus found out soon enough. A nearly silent gust of wind accompanied the appearance of a tall, would-be handsome man. That is, he would be handsome if it were not for the bloodshot, shrunken eyes and pallid complexion. Paired with the malicious expression on his face, the overall effect was very menacing. Severus could only assume he was the Dark Lord himself. He gulped and forced the discipline on which he had spent all summer working into place.
The man strode forward and paced in front of the line of newcomers. With every echoing step, Severus’s heart beat harder, though his face betrayed nothing.
“You’re back, Avery,” Voldemort said in a low hiss. “I had my doubts.”
Avery stood ramrod straight and didn’t reply. Bellatrix, however, spoke up.
“I couldn’t wait to return, my lord.”
The dark man turned his attention to her. “And you are?”
Bella looked hurt. “Bellatrix Black,” she replied. “I came with Avery last year, sir.”
The Dark Lord made an indifferent sound and caught sight of Severus. He stalked towards him and Severus had to force himself not to flinch. The man’s odd eyes studied him for a long moment before snapping to one of the other Death Eaters.
“This is the new one? The potions prodigy?” he asked with a sneer at Severus.
“Yes, my lord.”
“He is a child,” the Dark Lord shouted. The Death Eater flinched.
“He has brought the potions you asked of him,” he replied in a placating tone.
Voldemort’s head tilted toward Severus with interest. “Is that so. Give them to me.”
Hands near fumbling, Severus withdrew the potions and placed them into the Dark Lord’s colorless hand. He held them up to the light, studying them. Then, he uncorked the first and sniffed it. He nodded in approval. “It seems correct. Veritaserum. Well, let’s test it, shall we?”
A few of the gathered members laughed. The Dark Lord grinned wickedly and Severus wondered who they were planning to test it on.
“Well?” the Dark Lord demanded, staring at Severus.
“Me, sir?” he asked, clarity dawning.
“But of course,” he replied with a horrible smile.
Severus gulped and stepped forward. With unexpectedly strong hands, Voldemort grasped Severus’s chin and poured the potion into his mouth. Just before the haze of truth took over his mind, Severus remembered reading a line in an old potions book about occlumency allowing one to fight Veritaserum. With nothing to lose, he gave it a try.
Snape watched from the wings as his younger self was questioned about his blood status, views on the blood status of others and other sometimes vicious questions. Reflecting upon it now, he was not entirely sure how he had passed this part of the test. Voldemort must have been in dire need of a good potion maker back then for Snape was sure that had a newcomer answered with the same answers at a meeting now, they would be executed. Snape remembered his occlumency as good enough that he was able to hide the fact that he was best friends with a muggle born and that he wasn’t a die-hard pureblood supremacist. As he watched himself manage to give passable answers, Snape wondered at what they would have done had he failed the test.
When Severus came out of his stupor, he found himself sitting on the floor as the Dark Lord spoke with his real Death Eaters. Avery offered him an arm and Severus took it gratefully, using it to pull himself up. After a few moment of clearing his head, the Dark Lord realized that he had come to.
“Ah, you’re awake?” he said, stalking over. “You’ve passed...for now.” Voldemort turned to his followers. “Who would like to see this...child complete the second part of his test?”
Some laughed and some jeered but all seemed excited to see it happen, whatever it was. It was not encouraging.
“Bring her in,” the Dark Lord commanded in a sharp rasp.
With a bang, two of the Death Eaters heaved open large double doors to make room to levitate in the barely conscious woman. Severus’s stomach twisted and he felt sick.
“You believe that muggles are filth, correct?” Voldemort asked Severus.
In a quiet voice, he replied. “Yes, my lord.”
“Then give her the second potion.” The liquid Cruciatus curse. The Dark Lord offered it to him and with masked reluctance, Severus took it.
Severus stepped forward and knelt beside the woman whose eyes were staring up at him, disoriented. Severus was sure that she had done nothing to deserve the level of pain that he was charged with inflicting. Severus stared into her eyes, trying his hand at nonverbal, wandless legilimency for the first time. He simply had to get a message across for this to work.
You must pretend to be in horrible pain for both our sakes.
Severus stressed this message and she looked at him in confusion. He could only hope it had gotten through.
“Get on with it,” one of the Death Eaters growled.
Slowly, Severus uncorked the bottle and forced her to drink. Instantly, her screams shattered the silence, a horrible unearthly sound. She writhed on the floor and Severus’s breath caught in his chest. What if his modifications had not worked? Knowing that the potion would most likely be given to someone as means of torture, Severus had used a complicated process to brew pain relief potion within the Crucianius Concoction. Until now, he was certain of his success but was this muggle really in pain or simply a good actor?
Heart racing, Severus looked around at the laughing and jeering Death Eaters. The Dark Lord himself had a horribly approving smile on his face. In this regard, he seemed to have passed. Looking back down at the panting muggle, she stilled and ceased screaming after several long minutes. Severus legilimized her again and, much to his relief, found no pain but an overwhelming sense of gratitude. He ended the connection before it became suspicious. Standing, Severus moved away.
“Severus Snape,” Voldemort hissed. “It seems you have passed, for now.” He spun on his heel to pace on the cold stone floor. “Once you’re out of Hogwarts,” he said with a sneer, “I think I can find a place for you in my ranks. Continue to serve me well until then and you shall be rewarded.”
Severus stared back at him blankly. “Thank you, sir.”
“Avery,” the Dark Lord snapped. “He is your charge. Do what you will.”
Avery half nodded, half bowed.
“Leave now, all of you,” Voldemort commanded. “If I wish for you to return, you will know.”
“Yes, my lord,” they all echoed.
All at once, four Death Eaters stepped up behind them and grasped their robes, apparating them to where they had met beforehand. The hooded figures disappeared immediately upon their release, leaving Severus and the others standing in the middle of a darkened street.
Avery turned to Severus. “It seems you’re in.”
Severus never saw the woman again.