Snape suppressed a shiver as the cold wind blew his hair back. At least, he blamed the shiver on the wind. He stood in the darkened forest in a line of Death Eaters who couldn’t see him. Couldn’t see him now, that was. They could see the young Snape and, in fact, couldn’t take their eyes off of him.
“Severus Snape,” Voldemort said in a low hiss. He paced in front of Severus, who was kneeling on the cold ground, with slow deliberate steps. Voldemort’s face was pale, his eyes bloodshot. Severus wondered idly what he looked like when he had been normal. If he had ever been normal. “You have waited long for this day, haven’t you?”
“Yes, my lord,” Severus replied, eyes on the ground.
“Are you ready to take your place among my closest followers?” the Dark Lord asked, eyeing Severus.
“I am, my lord.”
“Look at me, Snape,” Voldemort commanded.
With reluctance, Severus raised his eyes to meet Voldemort’s. He had be anticipating this; fearing this. Severus had spent many long hours practicing Occlumency to the point that he hoped it was undetectable. He knew that Voldemort would sift through his memories for it only made sense. How else could he be assured Severus was trustworthy? It was not that which caused Severus concern. He was more worried that Voldemort would find the feelings he had for a certain muggle born. In this company, that revelation could be disastrous.
The issue was that she permeated nearly every one of his memories. It would take all of Severus’s skill to manipulate what Voldemort saw to the point that he remained ignorant.
Severus knew that toying with the Dark Lord was taking his life in his own hands.
The moment Severus’s eyes met the intense ones of the Dark Lord, he was forcibly transported back into a memory. Steering ever so gently and hoping that it was undetectable, Severus found himself in his house as a child. His father, a muggle, drank deeply from a rust colored glass bottle.
“Freaking witch,” he muttered, looking at Severus’s mother. “Freak wife, freak son,” he said, slurring his words. “Worthless. All that magic and she won’t even get-got me my li-quor. Waste of space, I say. ‘Ear that, boy? Space of waste.”
To distract from the fact that he was a half-blood, Severus instilled the memory with hate. He made it seem as if his father was the one who made him begin to hate muggles, a feeling that he supposedly still exhibited today.
When the Dark Lord seemed satisfied with that memory, it switched to another: Bellatrix finding the curse in Severus’s notebook and testing it out on a Gryffindor. Luckily, Voldemort was impatient to get through the memories and essentially skipped past the dialogue where Severus had shown his misgivings. Voldemort merely saw her find the spell and the Gryffindor collapse in a puddle of blood. It was enough.
After going through a few more tense moments and a few close calls when Severus’s mind strayed to Lily, Voldemort released him.
“Do you swear to be loyal to me and only me? To do as I say?” Voldemort demanded immediately.
“I do,” Severus replied.
“Hold out your left arm,” the Dark Lord commanded.
Severus did so. Voldemort jerked back his sleeve and pressed his wand to the pale skin of Severus’s forearm. Severus gritted his teeth and hissed in pain as his arm burned as if on fire. He tossed his head back and raised his eyes to the sky, willing it to stop. When at last it did, Severus looked down at the fresh black form of the Dark Mark. The snake twisted in and around the skull, tongue flicking over his skin. Severus felt sick, whether from the lingering pain or from seeing the tattoo writhe on his skin. He tried to hide his disgust. At the moment, all Severus wanted to do was to get home and smear some pain relief salve on the thing.
“Congratulations,” Voldemort said, offering a hand to help Severus to his feet. “Make the Death Eaters proud.”
“I will, my lord.”
The other Death Eaters closed in, welcoming him to the group. Severus simply looked at them, dazed and a little overwhelmed. Malfoy, having already been initiated, stepped to his side.
“If the meeting is over, I would request permission to escort Snape home. I have a mask he can borrow,” Malfoy said, addressing the Dark Lord.
Voldemort waved a hand to say he didn’t care and Malfoy grabbed hold of Severus, apparating him to a dimly lit house.
“Have a seat,” he said, gesturing to a chair.
Severus did so gratefully as Malfoy disappeared from the room. His head spun and he closed his eyes for a moment, grateful for the dark silence. When footsteps returned, Severus sat up and tried to look attentive, ignoring the shooting pain in his arm.
“Here,” Malfoy said, thrusting a mask at Severus. “It was my first. I’ve upgraded.”
“Thanks,” Severus replied, though it didn’t come out as very sincere. Really, he sounded a bit sarcastic.
Oddly enough, Malfoy seemed sympathetic. He patted Severus on the shoulder. “You ought to go home and get some rest. Hard night.”
“Does it get better?” Severus asked desolately, looking dejectedly at his arm.
“What, the pain? It’ll go away in a day or two.”
“And the rest?” Severus asked.
“Definitely gets better. You’re past the worst, assuming you don’t screw up,” Malfoy said with a grimace that was less than encouraging.
Severus stood, ready to apparate away. “Thanks for the mask.”
Malfoy merely nodded. Severus disposed of any more pleasantries and simply apparated home. He immediately located the salve of which he had been thinking. Moving to the table that took up most of the kitchen in his small apartment, Severus propped his arm up. Smearing the salve across the Dark Mark, relief spread instantly in the form of cool balm. Free to think more clearly now, Severus stared at the black figure, still moving on his skin. His thoughts wandered, drifted and so did mind. Slowly, Severus fell asleep there at the table, the last image in his mind that of a snake and skull moving in a savage harmony.