It was almost midnight and a stormy evening at that, but of course it was. His life couldn't resemble a Muggle horror film any more if he tried. He had no one but himself to blame, too, and that needled.
Severus pulled his cloak closer around him and closed the gates to the school behind him, scowling at the rain hitting him in the face. It was truly much too cold and miserable out for September. On any other night, he would be in the middle of preparing for the next day before earning a broken sleep in a cold, hard bed. This night, however, was a Wednesday and Wednesdays always meant a meeting with the bane of his existence. Surprisingly not Harry Potter, though the boy does cause enough trouble to be in second place for the title.
No, Severus was meeting with the Dark Lord that evening. If ever anyone deserved the honor of being called the bane of Severus’s existence, it was that monstrous and revolting creature he once pledged his loyalty to. How could he have been so stupid? Any Slytherin of worth never pledges himself to be used by another. Never mind the fact that he’d been pressured into service by his new friends at the time, the same friends he cannot even look at without sneering now. Gods, his past was one horrible choice after another, wasn’t it?
Severus shook himself out of his heated thoughts and tried to focus on something more calming so he didn’t end up splinching himself while apparating. It was no surprise he settled on Lily. When Severus arrived in front of his destination, he took a moment to ground himself, to remember what she’d said to him two days before the Dark Lord had found her. He hadn’t seen her for so very long and then he had only showed up to tell her he had sentenced them all to death. There had been tears in his eyes. He had been so miserable, he hadn’t cared that Potter had watched him cry.
“Severus, I know you didn’t know it was Harry he wanted. There’s nothing else I can say about that. Just promise me something. Please.”
“If anything ever happens to James or me, I want you to promise me you will do everything in your power to keep Harry safe. No matter what. If I must die, I will accept it with a smile if it means he will still be alive when it’s over. Promise me. Please, Severus. Promise me this. He is my son.”
He does this for her son. The little twerp. Right. Good. Game face on.
“You’re on time,” Lucius announced minutes later, breaking into his thoughts. Severus looked up and nodded sharply. When Lucius turned and began walking away, Severus finally fell into step with the man.
“How are you and your wife?”
“Narcissa has been talking about wanting another child.”
Severus’s brows rose. “Is that really the wisest decision right now?”
“She is insistent.”
“Have you given in to her demand?”
“You know I have never been able to tell her no for too long.”
“You have, then.”
“I didn’t necessarily say that.”
“But you hinted at such.” Severus scrubbed his forehead and muttered, “this all will blow up at any moment, Lucius.”
“I am aware… and there are ears everywhere around here,” Lucius murmured and then raised his voice back to a normal level. “Maybe you can come ‘round the house tomorrow and try to talk some sense into her. The Dark Lord will want all of his servants to be in peak condition for the battle.”
“Not that he needs any of us,” Severus replied confidentially, though perhaps louder than he needed. After all, around here, someone was always listening. Best make sure they didn't strain themselves eavesdropping. “He could singlehandedly win the coming battle without breaking a sweat.”
“I appreciate your confidence, Severus,” Voldemort hissed, surprising Severus and Lucius with his sudden presence. “Won’t you join me in my chambers?”
Lucius bowed to Voldemort and slowly backed away while Severus inclined his head once and apprehensively followed behind the evil bastard. What he’d been sent to do tonight was more than risky. It was nearly suicidal. One false step could end him and the entire mission. Naturally, though, he only appeared the picture of calm. He’d had years to practice hiding any sign of emotion at all and he was relatively confident his mask wouldn’t fail now. It couldn’t.
“I have missed you, my lord,” Severus remarked respectfully, kneeling in front of the ornately carved high back chair the sadist was sitting in. “I am honored to be in your presence this evening.”
“You may stand,” Voldemort returned. “I have been told you have formulated a plan to get the boy here without compromising your position at Hogwarts.”
“I have indeed, my lord.”
Severus sneakily pulled in a deep breath and nodded. “I realize you may not like it to begin with, my lord, but there are many benefits to the plan of which I am about to speak.”
“Do not speak in riddles, Severus.”
“I propose we approach the boy’s family.”
“They are Muggles,” Voldemort said slowly, disgust etched deeply into his every facial feature. “Have you forgotten such information? No, Severus, I refuse.”
“I have not forgotten, my lord. I have spent a very long time thinking about this plan, going over it repeatedly. It is foolproof. We approach the boy’s family and tell them we are distant relatives of some sort to the boy. The uncle will not even ask for proof, because he is a stupid Muggle. From what I have gathered, if we were tell him that if he brings Potter directly to us that he will never again have to deal with the brat, he will be exultant. He will jump at the opportunity with no thought. That fat oaf would be more than delighted to rid himself of that pestilence once and for all. Indeed, he may even enjoy watching Potter die.”
“I count you as my most loyal servant, Severus, so why would you bring me a useless plan?” Voldemort turned away from Severus, nose in the air. “It’s disgusting. I will not deign to think of it any longer.”
“My Lord, think of the positives.”
“I am clearly repulsed. Why do you continue speaking?”
“For your sake, my lord. They are necessary to draw him in. Potter may not like his family, but he would never suspect them to be loyal to your cause to eradicate him from this earth. Once in their care, he will have dropped his guard completely."
“I’m going to wretch. I begin to doubt you, faithful servant.”
“I remain unchanged. However, how easy would it be? Potter would be shocked if his own relatives brought him to you to be finished off, once and for all, as he deserves. He may feel too shocked and betrayed to have the wits to try and fight you at all. He will be at your total mercy.”
Voldemort curled his lip in a pleased sort of way, no matter that it left his audience feeling a little sick. The image was comparable to that of a dead cat trying to scare the wits out of humankind with a ghostly hiss issuing forth from its cold lips.
Well, no. It was worse.
“I begin to see the brilliance of your plan, my dear Severus. You must return to that hellhole of a school now, but we will plan his demise tomorrow night.”
Severus bowed his head. “Yes, my lord.”
Still bowing his head reverentially, Severus backed up to the door and smoothly entered the hallway. With the door finally closed behind him, Severus shuddered and looked around for Lucius. He had to walk down three corridors before he found him.
“How did it go?” Lucius asked, interested, though a bit coldly. Severus surreptitiously glanced around the room and noticed a few distorted shadows by the window. Nodding minutely, he chose his words carefully.
“It went exactly as I had hoped. The Dark Lord could not be more pleased with my plan.”
Lucius sat up. “He truly went for your ridiculous plan?”
“Since our lord has chosen to go through with this plan, Lucius, I would not call it ridiculous unless you wish him to hear what you think of his plans… for that is what it is now.”
“I would not. You make a very good point. I spoke before I thought and I apologize.”
“It is quite all right,” Severus replied and again glanced over to the windows, pretending to gaze outside rather than trying to sense who was over there. Giving it up, he turned his eyes back to his friend. “I must be getting back to Hogwarts before the rain worsens further. When would be a good time for me to speak with your wife?”
“If you can manage to pull yourself away from your classes,” Lucius said sarcastically, sporting a thoroughly amused look only Severus could see, “I’m sure we both would enjoy your company for lunch.”
“I believe I may be able to get away. That is, of course, if none of my students manage to kill themselves and I’m being questioned by the Ministry.”
Lucius chuckled. “It’s a good thing you deal mostly with our little Slytherins, then, isn’t it?”
“Yes. I’ll have no worries from them.” Severus paused and cleared his throat. “Anything to pass on to your son?”
“A letter from his mother and a word of advice from me.” Lucius pulled a thick letter and a scrap of paper from his cloak pocket and pushed it across the table. Severus promptly scooped them up and tucked them into his inner jacket pocket for safekeeping. “Also, tell him I wish to meet with him this weekend for lunch. I’ll be taking him to London so clear that with the school tomorrow if you would.”
“It would be my pleasure.”
Severus and Lucius gave each other one last look before parting ways, Lucius strolling to the liquor cabinet on the other side of the room and Severus going out the French doors to apparate. When he was once more standing in front of Hogwarts, his shoulders stooped and his steps slowed. Sinking to his knees in the mud, he felt like he was being suffocated. It was a long time before he could make himself stand, Lily’s words repeating over and over his head.
“…promise me you will do everything in your power to keep Harry safe… keep Harry safe… keep Harry safe…”