“Are you coming, Sev?” Lily asked from in between two bookshelves in the library.
“Yeah,” he replied, sounding a bit annoyed. “Just give me fifteen minutes.”
“Alright,” she said with a sigh. “I’ll wait for you down in the courtyard, then.”
“Okay,” Severus replied, not looking up. At the moment, Hogsmeade was not very high on his list of priorities. He moved a long finger to follow a sentence in the potions book that he was using.
Hornbeam roots work as catalysts in noncorrosive potions while they stop reactions in potions involving antisemerial ingredients such as lavender, billywig stings and knotgrass.
Severus frowned. He simply could not make sense of that. After puzzling over it for a moment, Severus became aware of someone standing to his left, watching him. He looked up sharply, brushing his long back hair from his eyes.
“Can I help you?” he asked the older Slytherin.
“Perhaps,” Avery replied, pulling out a chair and sitting unceremoniously. “I hear you’re the best at potions.”
“One of the best, yes,” Severus said stiffly, thinking of Lily.
“We don’t count Gryffindor mudbloods in our tally,” Avery replied with a sneer.
Severus swallowed, wondering if Avery could read his thoughts.
“We are in need of some... difficult potions. Can you brew them?” Avery asked, lowering his voice and leaning forward.
Severus thought for a moment. “Difficult as in restricted?”
“Yes,” Avery replied, raising a brow. “Is that a problem?”
Severus always loved a challenge. And he had always hated rules. “No.” He returned to thinking about the original question. “It depends on the potion. There are quite a few I could brew, yes.”
“Say I give you a book, you could mark the ones you can do.”
“Okay,” Severus heard himself agree. “But if they’re restricted, I won’t have the ingredients to brew them.”
Avery waved a hand dismissively. “It isn’t an issue.” He stood abruptly, withdrawing a thin, battered book from his pack and setting it on the table. “Come down to the common room at two o’clock tomorrow morning. There are some people I want you to meet properly, if you’re going to be working with us.”
“Am I?” Severus asked, overwhelmed by the speed with which this was moving. He had no idea what he had just agreed to.
Avery put his hands on the tabletop and leaned down to whisper to Severus, “I think you’ll like it. We can give you the power you’ve always dreamed of. We can make you popular, successful, respected, feared. We can give you glory.”
A chill ran down Severus’s back. Those words had struck at his very core, offering his deepest desires. In a quiet voice, he responded, “And can you teach me how to read minds?”
Avery drew away with a grin. “That and so much more.”
“I’ll be there.”
The scene morphed from the library to the Slytherin common room and Snape stood in the shadows, remembering how he had felt. Reliving it like this, he could remember his every thought. Only now, he wished that he had not thought that way; he wished that he could change what had happened on this night, the night where the end began.
Severus was pushed roughly into the chair that sat in front of the fire. He was then surrounded by three older boys, two of which he recognized as Avery and Mulciber. With their backs to the fire, the flickering flame framed them with an eerie glow and Severus forced himself not to fidget.
“Did you bring the book?” Avery asked.
“Yes,” Severus replied, offering it up.
Avery accepted it and started leafing through. He looked up after a moment and gestured to the other two. “This is Mulciber and that’s Crabbe.”
Severus looked at the two who stared at him with mild disdain.
“He’s a fourth year,” Mulciber complained to Avery in a whisper that carried.
“He’s the best potion maker in the school,” Avery replied.
“I thought you said I was the best,” a shrill voice said from across the room. Severus turned as a fifth year whom he had seen around the common room stalked over. Her curly dark hair was wild and it half obscured her pout.
“We need you for other things, Bella,” Avery replied. He seemed to be their leader. “Or do you not want to be involved anymore?”
“No, I do,” she replied quickly. Bellatrix gave Severus a long appraising look. Her lip turned up slightly and she turned to face the fire, arms crossed and head high.
Avery continued flipping pages. “You can really brew Parvalli’s Potion?”
“I think so,” Severus replied. In truth, he was afraid he had over-exaggerated his skills. Anything that he thought he could figure out, Severus had marked. He hoped that he hadn’t gotten himself in over his head.
Avery looked impressed and Bella shot him a look. Crabbe cleared his throat.
“Are we taking him with us?” he asked.
Where? Severus wondered, beginning to panic. He kept his face a carefully blank mask, however; a skill that he had learned to protect himself for when his father yelled at him.
“No, not yet,” Avery replied, apparently annoyed with his foolishness. “He has to prove himself first.”
“He’ll have to when we take him,” Mulciber pointed out.
“He has to prove himself to me,” Avery replied sharply. He shut the book and handed it back to Severus. “I’ll get you the ingredients for Weedosoros and Parvalli’s Potion. Brew them and meet us here next Tuesday at the same time. That’s a week from now.”
“What happens then?” Severus risked asking.
Avery considered him in the light of the fire. “You said that you wanted power, correct?”
“Yes,” Severus breathed instantly. You’re worthless, Severus’s father’s voice echoed in his head. You’ll die miserable, you little- Severus shook himself. “More than anything,” Severus added. He would prove his father wrong.
Avery grinned and Mulciber looked strangely approving. “We’ll introduce you to the people who can help you get it.”
Severus believed him. He couldn’t wait.
Avery straightened. “That is, if you have what it takes.”
In that moment, Severus knew that he would do whatever it took to earn their approval. He pushed his misgivings aside and rushed headlong into the unknown.