Character: Snape, Lucius, Wormtail, Voldemort
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 900 words
Summary: Severus Snape returns to the service of the Dark Lord.
Note: Originally written for a drabble contest at hogwarts_elite. Second place winner.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Severus hurried along the road to Hogsmeade. The meeting would have broken up by now, it was too late to join the circle but he knew where to go. His mind was reeling with what he'd just found out. He never thought this would happen, and at the same time he had... hoped it would? It was a strange dual state of mind -- Severus hadn't liked it for the past fourteen years. He hurried past the train station and into the Three Broomsticks, nodding at Rosmerta and giving her a significant look. She hurried to the back door and opened it for him. He murmured a quick thanks and waited for her to close the door behind him. Concentrating, he Disapparated, hearing the familiar cracking noise as though it came from his own head.
A moment later, he was standing outside the wrought-iron gates of Malfoy Manor in Wiltshire. He tapped the gate three times with his wand and a bedraggled house-elf materialised beside him almost instantly.
"Yes, Sir?" it squeaked.
"Severus Snape, here to see the master of this house," Severus said, and the house elf Disapparated.
Not a minute later, the gates swung open and he walked through quickly, the heels of his travel-stained boots clicking on the cobbled pavement. It was a rather long walk to the manor proper, and Severus slowed down, taking in his surroundings. Narcissa's magnolia trees were no longer blooming; last time he'd been here they were giving off a fresh, almost cloying scent that always reminded Severus of Narcissa. She was in her third year when he'd come to Hogwarts, and she'd always smelled of magnolias.
Severus' train of thought was interrupted by the voice of Lucius Malfoy.
"You weren't there."
"I couldn't get away, as you well know."
"The Dark Lord thinks you have abandoned him."
"You can attest to it that I haven't."
"Yes. Unfortunately, I was unable to speak on your behalf before we had to disband. Potter's escape was... unfortunate. We had to leave quickly, lest Dumbledore gave chase."
Severus nodded. "I have to see him."
"Naturally." Lucius reached into his pocket and handed him a slip of paper with an address written on it.
"You are his Secret Keeper?"
Lucius smiled thinly. "Yes."
"Thank you, Lucius."
"Good luck, Severus."
Severus concentrated on the address he'd just memorised and Apparated there.
He was standing in front of a stately mansion somewhere on the coast of Finland. The Apparition was difficult across such a large distance, and Severus knew he'd have to rest for at least a day before Apparating back. He decided not to dwell on the fact that he may be too dead to Apparate in several hours.
He walked up to the door and lifted the heavy iron ring that hung in the middle, letting it drop. It fell with a loud thud, and he immediately heard footsteps behind the door. It opened a crack and he was looking down into the ratlike face of Peter Pettigrew, whose wand was poking out of the door as well.
"S-S-Snape. I didn't think you'd have the nerve to sh-sh-show up," Pettigrew rasped.
"Let me in, Pettigrew. I've come to pay my respects to the Dark Lord."
Pettigrew snorted, but opened the door further and admitted him. Severus swept past him without another look. Wretched, pitiful creature.
He walked along the dark corridor, heading for a room at the end where the flickers of a fire were dancing on the doorframe. He approached the door, keeping his mind carefully blank.
"Severus, so glad you could join me. I'm about to pay my last respects to a snivelling traitor, and your presence is most needed."
"Master, if you would let me speak first, I can prove to you that I have not betrayed you." Severus said, bowing.
"I suppose I can let you speak. Come closer."
Severus did so, using everything he'd ever used in Occlumency as he walked up to the Dark Lord's red armchair.
"Look into my eyes, Severus."
He lifted his head, brushing his hair out of his face. Red slits bored into his eyes. Severus didn't even hear the incantation, and then the Dark Lord was inside his mind.
Severus was ready. He made no detectable attempt to block the Dark Lord, and he allowed him to see exactly what he'd wanted him to see: Severus going to Dumbledore under false pretenses, maintaining contact with Lucius, nursing the hope that the Dark Lord would return one day. That was really the purpose of his dual mindset. He'd taught himself to dread his return and hope for it in equal measure. Though it didn't do much for his own peace of mind, it was serving him well now.
After what seemed like an eternity, the foreign presence in his mind was gone. A heavy silence filled the room and Severus judged it as a good sign; he wasn't wrong.
"Despite all appearances, you have remained my faithful servant. This pleases me greatly. Bartemius told me you were firmly on Dumbledore's side."
"He was disguised as the Auror Moody, my Lord."
"Yes, and he was under strict instructions not to reveal himself to you."
"You even fooled him. I must say I am impressed, against my will."
"Thank you, my Lord. Your praise is beyond anything I could have ever asked for."
"Why didn't you come when I called?"
"I was inside Hogwarts grounds, Master."
"Ah. Why didn't Bartemius come with you?"
"He is dead, my Lord."
"Very well. You shall stay with me for a few days, Severus. I could use some intelligent company."
Severus bowed again, and asked to take his leave. He had succeeded. He was back in action.