The Astronomy tower at midnight. Be there and bring your broom.
Even without a signature, Severus knew who the note was from. His palms broke out in a cold sweat and doubt blossomed in his mind. After providing Avery with the potions he had requested a little over two months ago, Severus had heard nothing and thought that perhaps they had decided not to “take him along”. He was beginning to believe that was a good thing. Now, the sweat on his hands curling the thin parchment, Severus realized that he had been wishing this moment would never come. There was no way to back out now, however.
With a sigh, Severus leaned his broom against the wall beside his bed. He grabbed his thickest cloak being that the snow was just beginning to melt and wrapped himself in it. Falling asleep in the cloak, Severus slept fitfully until his alarm spell woke him, but no one else, at a quarter till midnight.
Breathing heavily, Severus forced himself to calm. He thought back to the few pointers that Avery had given him on occlumency and legilimency and tried to implement them. He had read several books and had practiced hard, finding a refreshing clarity of mind in working at something so determinedly. Feeling his spirit still, Severus picked up his broom and set off.
Severus was not the first one to the Astronomy tower but, rather, joined the four who had met him in the common room months ago.
“Ready?” Avery asked, an excited gleam in his eye.
“Yes,” Severus replied, voice echoing the confidence that he didn’t feel.
“We’ll fly to the edge of the apparation barrier and Malfoy will meet us there,” Avery said, mounting his broom.
The others followed suit and soon they were off into the night.
“Won’t an alarm sound?” Severus hissed to Avery, flying next to him in the dead silence.
“Malfoy is disabling a section in the barrier before we get there,” Avery replied.
“He can do that?” Severus asked.
“Yes, now stop asking questions,” he snapped.
Severus quieted and didn’t speak again until they landed next to the blonde haired man that Severus recognized from his first year. Lucius Malfoy looked him over with mild disdain.
“This is the new one?” he asked.
“Yes,” Avery replied.
Malfoy’s skeptical look didn’t fade.
“He’s already brewed two of the hardest potions I could find. They’re perfect,” Avery said.
Somewhere deep inside, Severus glowed at the praise and felt touched that Avery stood up for him. Nevertheless, he could not help but feel that he shouldn’t have ever spoken to him that day in the library.
“Were those the potions you had me deliver to the Dark Lord?” Malfoy asked of Avery.
“Yes,” he replied.
Malfoy looked approving in the dim light. “He was most pleased. He said that should he pass our test, he would offer him a position in the ranks.”
“Test?” Severus found the voice to ask.
Malfoy grinned and grabbed Severus’s arm. In a split second, they were somewhere else, sucked through space and deposited in a sinisterly decorated room. A fire glowed in the hearth but somehow it seemed to suck warmth from the room rather than radiate it. The light was low and yet Severus could make out several hooded figures standing around. He couldn’t see their faces.
One by one, Malfoy returned with Avery, Crabbe, Black and Mulciber. When they were all present, one of the figures stepped forward.
“This is the one?” he rasped in a low voice.
“Yes,” Malfoy replied.
There was a moment of tense silence and Severus could feel appraising eyes upon him. The figure stepped closer and jabbed a slip of paper at Severus.
“The Dark Lord wants you to brew these two potions,” he said in a commanding voice. “After you do, you will present them to him at the next meeting. There will be your test.” The man turned to Avery and the others. “The Dark Lord will induct you at the same time. You have already passed the test. Now go.”
Severus kept his face carefully blank, whether by his own intentions or by the paralyzing fear which he was currently exhibiting. He nodded once. The figure stepped back and Lucius grabbed his arm again, instantly apparating them back to the outskirts of the Hogwarts grounds. While Severus was waiting for the others to arrive, he read the slip of paper, mouth going dry. Crucianius Concoction and Veritaserum were the two potions which he was tasked with brewing. Veritaserum wasn’t the problem; though it would take him a month, Severus had read over it several times and was actually rather eager to test his abilities, seeing as it was one of the hardest potions to brew. On the other hand, Severus knew that Crucianius Concoction was essentially liquid Cruciatus curse. He swallowed hard. And as if the Cruciatus curse was not bad enough, it was more potent when concentrated into a potion. It would take him six months to brew, regardless of his own feelings about the matter.
When Lucius had returned, Severus hung back for a moment, letting the others walk to the edge of the barrier.
In a low voice, he asked, “What is my test going to be?”
“I don’t know,” Malfoy replied. “Brewing those is certainly part of it.”
“But I’m not...I won’t have to give anyone the potions, will I?” Severus asked, trying not to let his misgivings shine through in his voice.
Malfoy looked at him. “It would not be unexpected of the Dark Lord to have you administer one of your potions, no.”
Severus kept his face straight as he turned forward and pondered that. What had he gotten himself into? Moreover, what had he gotten his poor anonymous victim into? “What was their test?” he risked asking.
“Something much worse than yours.”
Severus felt sick to his stomach.
Watching this unfold once more, Snape felt the urge to heave. He couldn’t help but let his mind wander to the first Death Eater that he attended, and Snape shivered at the thought of that night. Feeling the Pensieve’s pull towards that memory, Snape almost let the scene melt into that fateful night but resisted. He had to reinforce himself with some sort of mildly positive memory before jumping to one so dark as that which he thought of now. Closing his eyes, Snape thought of Lily.