WARNING: This is a slash story, which means it contains male/male erotic content. If you're not of legal age or are offended by such material, please go find something else to read.

TITLE: Redemption
BY: Adrienne
EMAIL: ar895@ncf.ca
PAIRING: Snape/Voldemort
RATED: R, for VERY serious themes, references to rape, child abuse and drug addiction. Very strong angst.
CATEGORY: Drama/Angst
SUMMARY: Snape leaves Voldemort and seeks Dumbledore's help
DISCLAIMER: None of these characters belong to me and no copyright infringement is intended.
WARNING: Past references to M/M non consentual relationships.


Dumbledore watched the students milling about the front hall between classes as they avoided the man standing arguing with the caretaker. None of them liked to get too close to Filch at the best of times, but the man arguing with him was, if possible, more repellant.

He was tall and skinny, dressed in robes that were once very fine, but now were limp and dirty. His long black hair hung in tangled, unwashed ropes nearly to his waist, mostly covering a sallow, thin face. He had his arms wrapped around himself, and he trembled violently. He could have been anywhere between twenty and fifty.

"I need to see the headmaster." The voice was shaky, but there was something in it - power? despair? - that held Dumbledore's attention.

"Headmaster's a busy man."

"I need to see him. It's vital."

Filch didn't waste anymore time arguing with the man. He went to grab the collar of the robes and found himself being backhanded into the wall.

"Don't touch me." The whisper could be heard throughout the hall. "I need to see the Headmaster. Now."

The students cowered. Nobody defied the caretaker. And nobody laid a hand on him, far less backhanded him so casually into the wall.

Dumbledore narrowed his eyes. The dirty, dishevelled young man was a very powerful wizard, to be able to physically move someone the size of his caretaker without a wand. There was no way that he could have done so without magic.

Filch glanced carefully at Dumbledore and Dumbledore nodded slowly. He would speak with the man.


"Severus?" Dumbledore's silvery eyebrows climbed his forehead. "Whatever are you doing here?" Dumbledore tried to keep his tone light, but he was inwardly appalled, having finally recognised the young man. This was his former pupil, Severus Snape? This shaking, pathetic shell was the proud, fierce student who had intimidated most of his classmates?

"I need to talk to you," Snape said, in a voice that shook nearly as much as he did. "I need you to listen to me."

"I will always listen," Dumbledore said gently, waving him to a chair, although he wondered if the chair would survive the consequences of having those filthy robes touch it. Snape shook his head and started to pace.

"Lily and James Potter are going to be killed," Snape said without preamble. "Halloween. Voldemort knows where they are and is planning to hit them."


"You heard me."

"How do you know this?" Dumbledore sat down slowly. Snape, fumbling, undid his left sleeve and displayed his arm.

"Oh, Severus..." Dumbledore knew the Mark.

"He asked... He ordered me to go along." Snape gave what might have passed for a laugh. "He thought I might be able to get Lily to open the door."

"And you refused?"

"I'm in no condition to go on a raid," Snape said, wrapping his arms around himself. "Thank God," he muttered, as an afterthought.

"What do you want me to do?"

"Do? I want you to stop it," Snape said wildly. "Protect them, just as you always have."

"I meant, for you?"

"Me?" Snape looked at him as if he had completely lost his mind. "What does it matter what happens to me? Just do something. Warn them at least."

"Have you warned them?"

"James Potter is not bloody likely to believe anything I say. He'll believe you."

"And I am to believe you?"

"Fine," Snape snarled. "Ignore me. Let them die."

"I don't intend to do either," Dumbledore said quietly. "I just want to know why you're here, telling me this."

"Because you'll listen to me," Snape returned. "You've always listened."

"I'm still listening," Dumbledore replied soothingly. "What have you done, Severus? What have you become?"

"Your worst nightmare," Snape whispered. "A torturer. A murderer. A Death Eater."

"And if I call the Aurors when I contact James and Lily?"

"So be it. I'll be dead soon anyway."

"Why are you here?"

"Why does it matter?"

"Why are you here?" Dumbledore asked again.

"Because he betrayed me." The fierce whisper was accompanied by a glitter of madness in blazing black eyes.


Dumbledore said nothing for a long time, while his erstwhile visitor prowled around the room, seemingly unable to sit still. Severus was ill, very ill, that much was plain. Always pale, his skin was now sallow and unhealthy looking. He had never passed though a podgy stage while growing up, but he was now so thin that he looked transparent. And the trembling was troubling. Snape had never been physically strong, but his iron will had always masked any weakness. Now, the struggle to stay upright, to talk normally was plainly evident. Yet, the magic in him was still strong, as strong and dangerous as it had been when he was a student.

Dumbledore picked up a quill and wrote for a moment. Rolling the note, he rose and gave it to his pet phoenix, Fawkes. Fawkes rose in a flutter of golden feathers, and burst into flame, disappearing. Severus, he noted, didn't appear to notice; in days gone by, Severus had been very fond of Fawkes.


"Poppy." Dumbledore let the school nurse in with a smile. Rosy, bustling Poppy Pomfrey smiled back.

"What can I do for you, Headmaster?"

Dumbledore said nothing, just transferred his gaze to the young man still pacing. Snape was bent over, his breathing laboured and harsh.

"Is that...?" Poppy's face wrinkled, searching for remembrance.

"Severus Snape."

"Whatever happened to him?"

"I don't know, exactly. Can you find out for me?"

Poppy squared her shoulders. She remembered Snape vividly; he was not the easiest patient she'd ever had.

"Severus?" She kept her voice soft and approached carefully. "It's Poppy Pomfrey. Will you let me help you?"

Dumbledore noticed that she did not even attempt to touch him. He suspected her wary approach had nothing to do with his repellant appearance. Snape tried to straighten when she came near, but couldn't. He seemed to be in agony.

"I can help, Severus," Poppy was saying calmly. "Will you let me?"

"No. Let me be."

"I cannot," she responded softly, moving closer until she could touch him if she chose. "You know me. I can't leave someone in pain. I promise I won't touch you more than I need to. Will you let me help?"

A long, long silence; then Snape nodded slowly. Poppy put her arm carefully around him and led him out. Dumbledore frowned, not sure why she was so careful to ask his permission to help. She usually bullied the students who had to be treated by her and she didn't seem to be afraid of him.

Dismissing Severus from his mind for the moment, since he was in Poppy's more than capable hands, he turned his attention to the information Severus had brought.

Could he trust it? Was Severus telling the truth? From the Mark on his arm, he was in a position to know what Voldemort was doing, but was he here doing Voldemort's bidding? Voldemort was more and more powerful now, gaining allies in the most unlikely places.

The Potters were a logical target. James, captain of England's national Quidditch team, knew so many people and was very forthright about his opposition to Voldemort. His opinions held enormous sway over the sports mad segment of wizarding society. Lily, Muggle born, was living proof that wizarding blood was unimportant. She was the darling of the press, impressing them with her intelligence and her devotion to James. The new baby merely enhanced her value. She was the epitome of loving wholesomeness.

Voldemort wasn't blind to the enormous influence that the Potters had on the part of the wizarding world that cared little for politics. Dumbledore wasn't, either, and had precautions in place to protect them.

Severus had said that Voldemort knew where they were. Was this a ruse to get the Potters out of their safe hideaway? Or were they really in danger?

He wanted to trust Severus. His charms against untruthfulness had not gone off when Severus had made his startling announcement, nor had his own finely tuned instincts. Yet, the Potters were safe where they were. They had an absolutely trustworthy Secret Keeper; he would never betray James.

He decided to warn Lily and James, but take no further action. They would be safe; Severus did not know about the charms protecting them and Voldemort could not find them. He was sure on that.


When Poppy returned to his office several hours later, Dumbledore was surprised to see her shaking with fury.

"Is something the matter, Poppy?" he asked her. "Did Severus do something to upset you?"

"If I ever get my hands on You-Know-Who, I'll tear him apart with my bare hands," she snarled and Dumbledore had to suppress a laugh at the fierce look on her normally placid face.

"Why? I mean, we all feel that way, but why in particular?"

"What he did to Severus..." Now the anger was dissolving into tears.

"What did he do?" Dumbledore asked quietly, putting his arm around her and drawing her to the sofa.

"The Cruciatus curse," she whispered. "I can't heal him magically until the effects wear off a little more. And I can't give him any potions, either."

"Whyever not?"

"If any more magical energy goes through him, he'll die from it. He's halfway there already," she said.

"And the potions?"

"He's addicted to something, Albus. I'm not sure what. He's in severe withdrawal and I don't know enough about it to know what to do." Poppy shook her head. "He refused the sleeping draught and the pain relievers. He knows ever so much more than I do about that sort of thing, so I had to agree."

"So what can you do?"

"Nothing, except make him as comfortable as I can until the magical energy grounds and the withdrawal symptoms subside." Poppy sighed. "He's prowling around one of the private rooms with the Bloody Baron keeping an eye out for him."

"But he will be all right, won't he?"

"I'm not sure, Albus. He's malnourished as well. If he can bear the next few hours, I can make him better physically. It's his mental health that I'm most worried about." Poppy twisted her hands. "You do know about what his father did to him, don't you?"

"His father?"

"Oh, dear." Poppy twisted her hands harder. "I promised I wouldn't tell anyone, but I told him to tell you. I thought he had, or that you had figured it out."

"Poppy, what are you talking about?"

"Severus was abused, Albus. For many, many years. By his father," Poppy said quietly. "He tried hard to hide it, but to me, the signs were pretty clear. Fifth year, after Easter holiday... You recall when he came back?"

"Vaguely." Dumbledore looked for the memory, but it was not forthcoming.

"He was in a foul temper and put his hand through the window on the train," Poppy clarified.

"Yes, now I recall."

"When I bandaged him up, he finally admitted to me what had been happening to him at home. He had injuries that were... difficult... to explain. He begged me not to tell anyone. He was terrified that anyone would find out. So I promised I wouldn't tell, if he promised to come to me if he needed anything."

"Dear God." Dumbledore was shocked.

"I wouldn't say anything now, but it's happened again."

"Julian Snape is dead. He was murdered..."

"Voldemort isn't," Poppy said, lifting her chin. "Severus told me a little about what has happened to him since graduation and none of it is pretty. He's hanging on by a thread, Albus."


Dumbledore was deeply upset. He prided himself on knowing everything about the charges under his care, and to miss something like this.... To miss the signs that one of his students, one he knew fairly well, was being abused at home, well, that was a great blow.

Poor lad, he thought, shaking his head. He recalled Severus as being a solitary boy, not fond of people or of being touched. He recalled, as well, how disturbed he had been to find that the young man had arrived at Hogwarts knowing far more about magic than most of the seventh years did, specifically the darker aspects. School had been almost too easy for Severus; he had been brilliant in all of his classes.

Dumbledore went to his files and found Severus' school records. The pattern was there. Very high marks on midterms and assignments, then a sharp drop at the finals. A sharp drop just before returning home for school breaks. Damn. The signs were there all the time. Were there others?

With a heavy sigh, he went to his Pensieve and took a quick look.


Beginning of term. Severus, sorted into Slytherin. A painfully thin, pale boy with an attitude.

Middle of term. Severus cursing Sirius Black after being teased. Despite the twisted look of hatred, a normal looking boy. He had, Dumbledore had to admit, reason to hate Sirius.

End of term. Severus, quiet and studious, personal hygiene shot to hell.

Forward to fifth year, middle of term. Severus, laughing with Rosier and Wilkes, a long flow of waving black hair being the envy of the school.

End of term. Severus, writing the History of Magic exam. His hair was limp and unwashed, in tangled knots.


Dumbledore withdrew from the Pensieve. It was as if, prior to returning to Snape Manor, he was trying to make himself as physically repulsive as possible. He recalled now the teasing that he had taken, with supreme indifference, about his looks. Only in the middle of terms did he take any care or pride in how he looked.

Severus had never been a particularly handsome child, but neither had he been ugly. He had the misfortune to inherit Lyssa's magnificent, if overlarge nose, but in most respects, he resembled Julian.

Julian Snape. He had been murdered eight years ago in a vicious attack by Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Severus had been seventeen, and newly graduated from Hogwarts. Dumbledore had attended the massive funeral, but Severus had not. Lyssa told him, without much emotion, that Severus had disappeared. She didn't seem to care where he had gone.

The only other information he had about Severus was a small notice in the Daily Prophet that Severus Snape, sole heir to the Snape fortune, had received his Master's certification from the College of Apothecaries, Alchemists and Magical Brewers. He had been nineteen, the youngest Master of the College in nearly two centuries.


At dinner that night, Dumbledore kept looking around at the happy faces at the various tables. Who else had he failed? Who was he failing now?

"Albus?" Minerva McGonagall looked at him curiously.

"Yes, Minerva." Dumbledore forced himself to pay attention.

"Are you all right? You seem distracted."

"I had an odd visitor this afternoon."

"Ah, the one who attacked our caretaker. I hope you sent him on his way with a flea in his ear," Minerva stated. She meant that literally; a magical flea that buzzed incessantly was a suitable punishment.


"No? You let some filthy, violent maniac into the castle where he could attack the children? Albus..."

"The children are in no danger, Minerva. He merely wanted to speak to me."

"And where is he now?" Minerva asked suspiciously. "You and your strays..."

"It was Severus Snape, Minerva. He came here to tell me something."

"He couldn't send an owl?" Minerva's lips tightened. Obviously, she remembered Severus all too well. She had forever been separating Snape and Black, forced to take points off her own house as often as from Slytherin, due to the fights they'd have in the halls. "Where is he now, Albus?"

"In the hospital wing. Poppy is taking care of him," Dumbledore replied quietly. "He's very ill, Minerva. I won't turn a sick man from my door."


After dinner, Dumbledore went to the hospital wing to see his former student. Poppy met him at the door.

"The worst of it is over for now and he's lying down. He still won't take anything, but I did coax him into a nice, hot bath a little while ago."

She led him to the private room, where Severus was in bed. He was curled into a ball, with covers tightly drawn around him, but his eyes were open, fixed unseeingly on the wall in front of him.

"Severus? Are you feeling any better?" Dumbledore asked, as Poppy went to the other side of the bed, with a comb in hand. She sat down and picked up a long, wet lock of hair and patiently began trying to untangle the knots in it. Severus didn't seem to notice.

"When are they coming?" Severus' voice was very, very small.


"The Aurors," Severus replied. "I'll tell you as much as I know before they get here."

"I haven't called the Aurors, Severus."

"You should."

"They'll send you to Azkaban and all of Poppy's excellent work will be for nothing."

"I am a Death Eater. You should call them."

"If you really want to be arrested, I won't stop you from calling them yourself. However, under my own roof, I will do as I wish."

"Why won't you call them?"

"I don't think I'll answer that at the moment," Dumbledore replied gently. "You asked me to listen to you. Is there anything else you wish to say?"

"Not really. I just wanted to warn you."

"Why?" Dumbledore asked softly. He reached out to stroke Severus' forehead, but a thin hand shot out from beneath the covers, knocking his hand away.

"Don't... touch me."

"As you wish." Dumbledore exchanged a glace with Poppy, who was placidly untangling another strand. "What have you done, Severus? Tell me what you have done."

"I bolloxed everything up. That's what I've done."

"Tell me."

"It's not a very nice story."

"Tell me anyway."

Dumbledore was braced for the worst bits, but even he could not help but wince at some of the parts, especially at the even, calm tone that Severus used to relate his adventures. And he was very startled at how much Severus was willing to tell him. It was as if he had nothing to lose and, thus, nothing to hide.

Having heard about the abuse from Poppy, he managed to keep calm as Severus related the years of abuse at his father's hands.

"... Mother knew, but she never did anything about it. I think she was just so relieved that Father had found someone else to torment that she couldn't risk saying anything. Not that she would have been believed any more than I would have been," Severus said quietly. "I made a thousand plans to stop him myself, but I could never bring myself to do any of them."

"Is that how you knew so many curses when you arrived here?"

"Yes." Severus nodded slowly. "Father never cared what I read or what I did, so long as I did what he wanted. I used to practice on mice and the like."

"When did you learn the unforgivable curses?" Dumbledore was genuinely curious. They were deceptively simple, but the magical energy needed was phenomenal.

"About nine, I think. I'd tried before that, but all I did was give myself a headache," Severus replied. "The Avada Kedavra was the easiest. It's quick. The others are not easy to watch. The loss of control, of dignity... No, I'm not fond of those."

No, you wouldn't be, Dumbledore thought. He bit his tongue to force himself not to ask how he got hooked up with Voldemort. He had to let Severus tell his own story, in his own way.

"I only used the Cruciatus once. When I killed him," Severus said suddenly.


"My father."

Dumbledore winced and Poppy went still, comb in hand. Both of them remembered the circumstances of Julian Snape's death.

It had been gruesome, even by Death Eater standards. The man's tongue had been bitten out, and his genitals sheared off with a razor. Then he had been cursed with the Cruciatus Curse, and left to thrash in pain until he bled to death. He had been fully conscious when he died.

"I don't have any regrets about that."

Perhaps it was the flat, emotionless tone, or the words, but Poppy dropped the comb and fled the room. Dumbledore forced himself to stay.

"Voldemort offered me two things. One was my father's death. Right after that, I was given the Mark," Severus continued, his voice going very soft.

"And the other?"

"He said he... cared... about me. For me." Now the voice trembled. "He told me he loved me and I was foolish enough to believe him."

Dumbledore felt a rush of decidedly mixed emotions. He deeply pitied the man before him, and felt a curious contempt. How could Severus be so blind? Within the mixture was small measure of disgust. He knew how charming and how ruthless Voldemort could be, and it appalled him that he would use Severus that way.

Recalling now the taunts about sexuality that Severus had ignored over the last two years at Hogwarts, he was fairly sure that the relationship had not been platonic.

"It was wonderful for a while," Severus continued. "He helped me find ingredients for my potions and I managed to pass the Master's exam in much less time than I had believed possible. I had little to do with the others then. I was too busy working on potions for him and for my exams."

"So what happened?"

"I got my master's licence and he decided it was high time I took a more active role." Severus bit his lip. "Margaret Shallows and Helena Destrier."

"And they are?"

"Two girls who had stumbled across some very damaging information. He wanted to teach them a lesson. I went, with my old friends Rosier and Wilkes. They wanted to torture them. I killed them before they could suffer too much," Severus admitted slowly. "Voldemort was... upset. He... demonstrated the power of the Cruciatus curse and exactly how long it usually takes to break someone with it. When his little experiment failed to break me, he punished me in a different fashion and I found myself back in the same damned situation I had joined him to get away from."

Dumbledore said nothing. Severus took a long, deep breath and seemed to get himself back under control.

"I spent three years making potions for him. Three years of doing exactly what he wanted me to do. Three damned years before I left," Severus said, in a tone filled with self loathing. "I didn't care anymore. About anything."

"Then?" There had to be a 'then'. There always was.

"In those three years, I was never asked to do more than make potions. They were not harmless, but I didn't kill or hurt anyone, not directly. Then he asked me to kill again, since I seemed to be so fond of it."

"Did you?"

"I took some money out of my Gringott's account and disappeared into Muggle London. It's easy to do," Severus replied. "That was two years ago. I didn't see Voldemort until three days ago."

"So you escaped."

"Not entirely," Severus corrected. "The Mark burns when he calls us. The pain is... intense. My newfound friends introduced me to some things that took away the pain. All of it. For the last two years, I've done nothing but try to recreate the drug and spend a good deal of money buying the Muggle version. I never have succeeded on synthesizing anything quite like heroin."

Dumbledore listened, with an increasingly grave expression as Snape described nearly two years of addiction on the streets of London. Dumbledore had heard of such things, but there was little of that sort of social problem in the wizarding world. Narcotic potions were very difficult to make and easily counteracted. Not so with the Muggle versions, and wizards were peculiarly susceptible to those drugs. Thankfully, few wizards ever encountered the seamier side of Muggle life. Few could pass well enough not to be found by the Ministry and have it fulfil its mandate to return strays to the fold.

Dumbledore looked into the black eyes that were still not looking directly at him, seeing the hollow despair in them. He could tell that Severus wanted to return to that life, that his entire being was screaming for more of that evil Muggle potion. He swore to himself that he would keep Severus here if he had to Bind him for the next year, and break the chemical hold.

"What happened three days ago?" Dumbledore asked, having to restrain himself from reaching out.

"I was running out of money," Severus admitted. "I could make some money mixing some potions or doing little magics, but not nearly enough. So I went to Diagon Alley, to Gringotts. I must have been followed back; I wasn't paying as much attention as I should."

"Voldemort found your hiding place."

"Yes, and he was monumentally unimpressed. With the place and with me." Severus shifted, to curl himself into an even tighter ball under the heavy quilts. "He said he wanted to give me a chance to redeem myself. That he would overlook my youthful rebellion. All I had to do was go to Godric's Hollow and coax Lily into letting me into her house."

Dumbledore went still. Godric's Hollow. Dear God.

"I wasn't supposed to kill them myself. I was to hold them until he could do it himself." Severus gave a hollow half smile. "I think he hates James as much or more than I do."

"And you refused."

"Not exactly. I was... sick. I hadn't been able to find my supplier... I could barely stand up," Severus admitted slowly. "He looked at me and told me how pathetic I had become. How weak and useless. He said he wasn't going to kill me for disobedience, that I was doing a fine job of destroying myself on my own. He merely gave me a few things to remember him by."

Like the most pitiless and painful curse known to mankind, with rape thrown in for good measure, Dumbledore thought.

"He was right," Severus continued softly. "I am of no use to anyone."

"Why did you come here? Why did you come to tell me about James and Lily?"

"I had so many ambitions, Headmaster. I was going to do so many things with my life," Severus whispered. "I thought that, at least, I could do this. My life is over. Whether it's Voldemort or the Aurors or the drugs, I won't live much longer. James tried to save me once. I thought I'd return the favour. I came here because you're the only one who's ever listened to me. Who's ever believed me."


There was nothing more he could do. Dumbledore sat behind his desk and thought. James didn't believe that there was any particular danger. Lily was concerned, but she was not especially worried, either. Both of them had assured him that their Secret Keeper was totally trustworthy, that Voldemort had no way of knowing for certain where they were. Even if he did, there was no way for him to break the charm without the connivance of the Keeper. And that would not happen.

Dumbledore was torn. The Keeper would rather gnaw off his own fingers than betray James and Lily, but, then, how did Voldemort know they were at Godric's Hollow?

Severus could not tell him. For one, he didn't know any more than the little bit of information Voldemort had given him. For another, Severus had stopped talking altogether. After the long, painful confession, he had lapsed into silence, refusing to acknowledge him or Poppy at all.


Halloween was a huge celebration at Hogwarts, but Dumbledore was worried.

"Albus, what is the matter with you?" Minerva caught him after breakfast. "You always love Halloween."

"Minerva..." Dumbledore sighed. "Minerva, there's a chance that the Potters are going to be attacked today."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I recently received information that Voldemort was planning to attack James and Lily."

"From where?"

"I can't tell you that." Dumbledore shook his head. "I don't know if its reliable, but..."

"Sirius Black would never betray James like that," Minerva said positively. "He's wild, but he'd never do that. Your informant is just making mischief."

"Perhaps," Dumbledore agreed. "Yes, you're probably right."

Dumbledore knew all about the intractable hatred between Severus Snape and Sirius Black. Severus wasn't stupid; he knew all about the kind of charms that could be used to protect the Potters. And it didn't take a genius to know who James would pick as a Secret Keeper. Sirius Black was James' best friend and had been for most of their lives. Even Remus Lupin wasn't as close.

Severus had hated James and his friends all through school. Was this a rather bizarre way to get back at them for that unfortunate incident in their fifth year?


The owl arrived during dinner. Dumbledore knew exactly what it was going to say as soon as he saw it, and his heart sank. it was a hastily written message from Sirius Black, telling Dumbledore to get there immediately.

Dumbledore rose and left the table. Walking quickly to the nearest fireplace, he went directly to Godric's Hollow. The sight that met his eyes was heartbreaking.

The Ministry was already there with the Quick Response Team. They didn't have to wait for an owl and could respond immediately.

"Professor Dumbledore." One of the Aurors stood hastily, dusting his robes as he did so. "It's a miracle."

"What happened? Are James and Lily...?"

"It's the damnedest thing." The Auror was smiling broadly. "I'm afraid James and Lily Potter are dead, but..."

"Dead?" Dumbledore felt a rush of rage. "How can you smile about that?"

"Because You-Know-Who is gone as well," the Auror explained. "We got here while he was still here. He hit the Potters, then tried to hit the little tyke there. He screamed and he was gone."

"Gone?" Dumbledore felt his heart lighten, even in the midst of his grief.

"Vanished. Gone." The Auror grinned. "We'll all sleep easier tonight."


It took ages for Dumbledore to figure out what to do. The celebrations caused a horrible amount of confusion. He could do nothing to stop them, even if he wanted to. They were spontaneous, a reaction to the joy of having the heavy yoke of Voldemort's power lifted.

In the midst of the celebrations, he managed to get young Harry sorted out. Poor little lad was an orphan now, both of his parents killed in the last, savage attack. He lost count of the number of high level wizards who apparated to the site, to gaze on the child who had somehow survived a direct salvo from the Dark Lord himself and survived. The Boy Who Lived.

Finally, he handed the child over to Sirius Black, who was uncharacteristically subdued. He was the child's godfather, after all.

"I can't take him for a few days," Black had said, his blunt words belied by the gentleness with which he held his now sleeping godson.

"We'll have to place him with his mother's people," Dumbledore corrected gently.

"I can take him. It's just that there's something I have to do first," Black growled.

"How did he get past the charm, Sirius?"

"I'll explain the whole story, but there's something I have to do first."

"Very well." Dumbledore nodded. Black loved James and Lily fiercely; he needed to bleed off the anger and grief. "Still, Sirius, I think young Harry will be better off with his mother's family."


"Look around you, Sirius." Dumbledore waved toward the crowd, yelling and firing off sparks. "Harry will never get a moments peace in the wizarding world. He will always and forever be allowed to do whatever he wishes because of this night."


"I don't want to see James and Lily's son spoiled rotten, made useless from too much fuss and attention. I doubt you do, either. He'll be back when he's ready, after he's had a normal childhood." Dumbledore touched Harry's forehead gently. "I'll owl Minerva for the address of Lily's family and get Hagrid here to help you take care of Harry. Hagrid's quite foolish about babies and he'll keep the crowd away."

Black agreed reluctantly.


Dumbledore was far too busy that day to pay any attention to anything but the amazing news that Voldemort was gone. The Ministry wanted his advice on everything, and the celebrations were getting quite out of hand. Muggles were beginning to notice the fireworks and the owls, as everyone in the wizarding world went mad with joy.

Dumbledore himself was not immune to the joy, but it was tempered with sorrow for Harry and his loss. What a bitter blow for a child scarcely a year old.

It wasn't until he had placed Harry with his relatives in Surrey, with Minerva's help - meddling old witch - that he had time to think about what Severus had told him.

Severus had been right. He had known it was going to happen and it had happened. How had Voldemort gotten that information?


It was very late when Dumbledore got back to Hogwarts. He was a little uneasy about the Muggles that he had placed Harry with, but he had little choice. Sirius Black, for all his good intentions, was not a suitable parental figure.

"Poppy, where is Severus?" Dumbledore looked around the room where Severus had been staying.

"I'll show you." Poppy's lips were folded tight with worry. She led him through the school, down to the dungeons, past the labs and to a portion of the castle that was currently not being used.

Under a torch sconce sat Severus Snape, his back to the wall and his knees drawn up. He was holding his left arm with his right hand, and was rhymically banging the back of his head on the rough stone wall. There was a faraway, vacant look on his face.

"Early last night, he left the hospital wing. He looked like he was in pain. He ran down here and started screaming," Poppy told Dumbledore, not taking her eyes from the man on the floor. "It was awful. Then he just... stopped. Then he started doing that."

"He's been here all day?" Dumbledore frowned.

"No, of course not," Poppy replied. "I had to hit him with a spell him to get him to stop. And I got him back upstairs as soon as I could. However, as soon as the stupefy spell wears off, he's back down here."

"And you couldn't hit him with anything stronger?"

"Like what?" Poppy snapped back. "He's a much stronger wizard than I am, even in that condition. He throws off spells like nothing I've ever seen before. I even tried to physically tie him down, but he escaped out of that, too."

"Did you confiscate his wand?"

"Albus, he doesn't have a wand. He hasn't had a wand since he got here," Poppy informed him smartly. "Where he learned to do magic without one, I don't know, but he can. And does."

"Hm." Dumbledore looked at the figure on the floor. "Have you talked to him?"

"I talked until my voice gave way," Poppy replied. "He won't talk to me. And I had to go back upstairs because there have been some burns with the fireworks."

"We've been watching." A thin voice sounded from behind them, and they turned to see four ghosts hovering nearby. Sir Nicholas, the Fat Friar, the Grey Lady and the Bloody Baron were all there, looking as concerned as ghosts could look. "You must help, Headmaster."

Dumbledore thought for a moment, then knelt by Snape's side. He reached out a hand and placed it on the thin shoulder. Snape shuddered and moved sideways, away from the touch. At least the banging stopped.

"Severus?" Dumbledore kept his voice soft and gentle. "He's gone, Severus. He won't hurt you anymore."

"No," Severus spoke suddenly, startling Poppy. "No, he's not."

"Look." Very carefully, Dumbledore reached for his left arm and pulled at the sleeve. "Look at your arm."

The underside of Snape's forearm was thin, and ghostly white. Without a blemish. The Mark was gone.

"It's there," Snape whispered, swiftly covering his arm. "I can still feel it."

"There is no Mark there, Severus. Voldemort is gone," Dumbledore said steadily.

"He'll be back. Mark my words, Headmaster. He will be back."

"He was defeated tonight," Dumbledore said quietly. At that, Snape seemed to perk up a bit.

"James and Lily... They're all right, then?"

"No." Dumbledore winced. "They were attacked. They did not survive. The child... He stopped Voldemort and the curse rebounded."

"They're dead?" The bewildered look was heartbreaking.


Dumbledore watched as Snape let his head fall forward, arms up as if to protect himself. The thin shoulders started to shake and Dumbledore knew he was crying. He looked up at Poppy, at a complete loss. Strangely enough, she was looking much less worried. He rose and went to her.

"What can I do, Poppy?"

"He's crying, Albus. That's a good thing," she said soothingly. "I can take it from here."


The news awaiting him when he returned to his office after helping Poppy get Snape back to the hospital wing was not good. Not good at all.

Sirius Black, the trusted Secret Keeper of James and Lily Potter, was the one who had betrayed them. After handing little Harry over to Hagrid and lending his motorbike, Black had confronted Peter Pettigrew, one of his oldest and dearest friends, and killed him in a street duel. Twelve muggles died in the attack and Black was in custody, awaiting trial.

Sirius Black had betrayed his best friend. Sirius Black was a Death Eater, a follower of Voldemort. Dumbledore shook his head. Severus' confession saddened him, but had not shocked him as this news did. Had he failed Black as well?

Black had not been the sullen, withdrawn boy that Severus had been; he had been well off, popular, with a loving family and lots of friends. Dumbledore always thought of Black as being a Hogwarts success story, along with James Potter. Those two were the shining examples of what a Hogwarts education could produce, model Gryffindors, embodying all that Gryffindor could and should be. It was a huge blow to know just how flawed his judgement had been.


The aftermath of Voldemort's downfall was gruelling. Dumbledore had to hand the keys of the school to Minerva McGonagall, since he spent fully three quarters of his time at the Ministry. He had to attend nearly every trial.

Before the trials began, he went to talk to Severus. Severus knew how Voldemort operated, and could fill him in. He hoped that he could find some way to keep Severus out of Azkaban; he had left Voldemort of his own free will. His father's death was clearly self defense; no court would convict him for destroying the untouchable monster his father had been. The deaths of the two girls was more troubling, but if he testified for the Ministry, perhaps he could be granted immunity.

Severus had been sitting on the windowseat of his room, staring out the window when Dumbledore came in. He was dressed in clean robes and his long hair was brushed out into waves flowing down his back. Although dressed neatly and well groomed, his skin still held a sallow cast and he was far too thin.

"An order has been put out for your arrest," Dumbledore told him gently. Severus did not turn from the window.

"I know."

"Would you be willing to tell me what you know?"


"Can you give me names?"

"Malfoy. Crouch, junior. Karkaroff. Lestrange..."

"Lestrange? Anita or Alun?"

"Both of them. Avery as well." Severus finally turned to face Dumbledore. He looked much, much older than his twenty five years.

"Sirius Black?"

"Black?" Severus looked startled.

"Have you not read the reports?"

"No. I... can't. Not yet."

Dumbledore told him about Black and the attack on Pettigrew. Severus nodded, strangely calm.

"I knew he was a murderer ten years ago." The bitterness bled through the soft voice. "So did you."

"That was..." Dumbledore broke off, abruptly halting his automatic defence of Black's escapade of a decade ago, when he had led Severus to meet up a werewolf. Black had not meant to harm anyone, he was sure of that. Then again, he was sure that the Potters were safe with Black as their Secret Keeper. Yet another failure of judgement. And another way he had failed the young man in front of him.

"Follow the money," Severus said into the growing silence.


"Follow the money," Severus repeated softly. "If you want to know how an organization operates and who's involved, follow the money."

"Of course, but..." Dumbledore replied. "Where am I to find that information? Where do we begin?"

"Gringotts." Severus picked up a bit of parchment on the windowsill and handed it to Dumbledore. "Many of the records are there. Here's my permission to look at them."

"Your permission?"

"I gave Voldemort access to some of the money I inherited after I murdered my father." Severus said calmly. "Only a tiny amount, of course. Most of the fortune is tied up in trust funds and property and the like, but there was enough liquid assets to provide a healthy amount of seed money. Follow that and you'll find out most of what you need to know."

"How much money?"

"Eight hundred thousand galleons."

"Eight hundred thousand?"

"Voldemort underestimated the extent of the fortune." Severus shrugged. "He saw the house and the grounds and assumed that most of the money was tied up in that."

"Out of curiosity, how much did you inherit?"

"All told? I'm not sure. Millions. I haven't looked at the financial statements lately. Of course, once I go on trial, the money is forfeit. It goes to my cousin Alex, who will do his level best to waste as much of it as possible before passing it on to his brood of spoiled offspring. Still, it will take a generation or two before the fortune is tapped out."

Dumbledore wondered cynically if that fortune was part of the reason why Severus had been recruited by Voldemort.

"I'm quite certain that Voldemort knew I'd inherit when my father died, so long as I didn't get caught." Severus gave a half smile, as if reading his mind. "Nobody ever did want me around without knowing about the money."

"I'm quite sure that your talents were part of it." Dumbledore protested. "You're a powerful wizard."

"I used to be." Severus shifted uneasily. "If you have the time, Headmaster, I can give you as some information on the structure of the Death Eaters."

Dumbledore was astounded at the wealth of information Severus provided. He had a decided talent for observation and in making educated guesses. Armed with that information, and using his own talents for cunning, he easily convinced the Ministry to drop all charges against Severus. A hefty bribe in the guise of a fine for using an unforgivable curse in self defense, and Severus was cleared. The Ministry was too eager to get their hands on the information to quibble about one man, and they were human enough to be impressed by wealth and breeding.

Severus didn't seem to care much about the reprieve or that he got to keep his inheritance.

"You're free and you're not destitute," Dumbledore told him cheerily. "That has to be worth something."

"I never was destitute. I just had a minor cash flow problem," Severus commented idly. "Money never has been and never will be a problem for me."

Dumbledore reflected that Severus was probably right.

"What do you intend to do now?"

"I don't know." Severus shrugged. "Go back to London, maybe."

"No." Dumbledore shook his head. "You can't go back there."

"I can do whatever I damned well please."

"I forbid it."

"You have no right to forbid..."

"You owe me, Severus." Dumbledore was commanding, immoveable. "You owe me and I will collect on the debt."


Severus stayed at Hogwarts, although virtually no one knew he was there. He had taken to wandering around the unused parts of the castle, far away from the students and teachers, fighting off the effects of his addiction.

Dumbledore let him wander as much as he liked, as long as he didn't leave the school grounds. Severus was still physically very weak and it didn't take much persuasion on Pomfrey's part to make him promise to stay until she gave him a clean bill of health.

After Snape managed to scare the pants off Filch - almost literally - Dumbledore prudently decided to let the staff know that they had a guest. He had meant to tell them gracefully, but Filch took the lead at the staff meeting.

"Headmaster, just what do you intend to do about that vampire in the dungeon?"

"Vampire?" McGonagall rose halfway out of her chair, alarmed.

"There is no vampire, Minerva," Dumbledore said soothingly. "You remember I told you that Severus Snape wanted to talk to me?"

"You mean he's still here?"

"He's still far from well, Minerva. Argus, I'm sorry that he startled you..."

"Startled me?" Filch snarled. "No, Headmaster, he didn't startle me. He attacked me."

"Attacked?" Now Dumbledore was alarmed.

"Mrs. Norris was taking her evening constitutional and she noticed something strange in the dungeons," Filch said, enjoying the full attention of the assembled teachers and staff. "I went to take a look-see and there was this vampire. He was doing some kind of ritual with a very small torch and I could smell incense burning."

At this point, Madam Hooch let out a smothered laugh.

"It didn't happen to be an incense sacred to Mars, did it?"

"As it happens, yes." Filch glared at her. "I did pass incenses, you know."

"I'm sure you did." McGonagall was starting to smirk. "Do continued, Argus."

"Well, I couldn't let this go on, now, could I?" He rubbed his hands together. "The vampire turned on me, but I was willing to fight him. No undead creature was going to get the best of me in my school."

"Vampires have supernatural strength, Argus. You're very brave to take on a vampire," Hooch put in. Filch preened.

"This one didn't. I tackled him to the ground easily," Filch said proudly. "If it hadn't been for his magic..."

"Magic?" Dumbledore leaned forward. What spell did Severus use? Obviously, it wasn't the killing curse, since Filch was still here.

"The bastard hit me with a very localised burning spell. Right through my workpants," Filch said angrily. "While I was trying to put the fire out, he hit me with half a dozen spells, including a Memory charm, so I wouldn't remember what he looked like. He's a vampire, Headmaster. Only vampires can cloud your mind without using a wand."

"There is no vampire, Argus." Dumbledore sat back, relieved. "We have a rather shy guest in the castle and I daresay he didn't want to be bothered."

"Argus, Severus Snape is your vampire," McGonagall added, in a crisp tone. "You recall him, don't you?"

"Antisocial, nasty little piece of goods? Hexed damned near everybody in his class?" Filch asked, in an approving tone.

"Ah. You do remember him," Dumbledore said brightly. "He's staying here for the time being."

"Wasn't he under arrest by the Ministry?" Hooch asked, with a frown.

"He was cleared of all charges." Dumbledore assured them.

"What about the ritual?" Filch asked suspiciously. "Just because he's a former student doesn't mean he isn't a vampire."

"He's not a vampire, Argus." Pomfrey spoke up rather impatiently. "He does, however, smoke. That was the incense you smelled. Tobacco. He isn't doing anyone any harm."

"Albus, what happens when a student comes across him?" Flitwick asked. "If he would hex Filch..."

"As we all want to do at times..." McGonagall murmured into her teacup.

"... He may not hesitate to harm a student."

Dumbledore steepled his hands. He knew Flitwick had a point, but he didn't want to let Snape leave. He knew that Snape would seek out the life he'd been leading prior to coming here. And that bothered him a great deal.

He had failed Severus in many ways; he could not fail again. Of he could save this student, then he could save those who would follow Voldemort if - or when - he came back. Yet, he could not put the students in danger.

Snape was dangerous. He knew that. The power that he had, even in this weakened, depressed state, was immense; greater than he had seen in any wizard since...

Damn Voldemort. He had seen what Dumbledore had not; the great power within Severus Snape. He had the potential to be one of the greatest wizards of his generation. He had the talent, the drive and the intelligence to be a threat, so Voldemort had coopted him at a very young age, preying on his insecurities and vulnerabilities.

Had Voldemort been afraid of Severus? Was that why he hadn't tried to kill him? Was that why he tortured the poor lad, so the anger and fear would prevent Severus from turning against him?

Dumbledore closed the staff meeting, promising rather half heartedly to do something to protect the students.


He found Snape in one of the unused towers, sitting on the casement of the window, smoking a cigarette.

"Filthy habit, Severus," he warned.

"One among many, I'm afraid," Snape replied, flicking the end out the window and incinerating it in the air. It made a pretty, if brief, display.

"Have you done much magic in the last while?"

"Some." Snape shrugged. "Not much."

"Did you leave your wand in London?"

"No. I left it behind when I left Voldemort. I haven't really needed it anyway. Potions don't require a lot of wand waving."

"Yet you still can cast spells."

"Yes. I've always been able to. I wasn't allowed a wand until I came to Hogwarts." Snape lit another cigarette, flicking his fingers to conjure a small fire on his fingertips to light it.

Dumbledore masked his surprise. He could count on the fingers of one hand the number of wizards who could do more than the smallest of magics without a wand, himself included.

"You never did in school."

"Not where anyone could catch me doing it, no. Besides, a wand does make things easier."

"Are you feeling better?"

"Marginally. I don't get the shakes as much."

"Do you still crave the...?" Dumbledore wasn't sure how to ask delicately, so he let the question trail off. Snape looked at him with unreadable eyes.

"I suspect I always will," he said quietly. "Especially when this starts to crawl." He gestured to his left arm.


"It feels like it's moving under the skin. And I can see it sometimes, like a shadow on my arm." He paused for a moment. "I don't think I'm hallucinating. I've done that and this isn't the same."

"You think he's going to come back." It was not a question.

"I know he will. He used to tell me about all the plans he had made to live forever."

Dumbledore didn't really want to think too much about the circumstances where Snape would have heard about Voldemort's plans; the thought of their pillow talk was truly disgusting.

"What are you planning to do now?"

"You mean when you let me out of this place?" Snape threw the cigarette out the window, again incinerating it as it fell. "I don't know. Lay low until the trials are over. I suspect I'm about as popular with the Death Eaters as I was in school."

"Will you go back to brewing potions?"

"Who would trust a drug addict around potions?"

"I would." Dumbledore spoke softly. "Poppy could use some potions for the kids. You can make those without even thinking. You owe her a great deal, Severus. Would you consider making her life a little easier?"

"Won't Professor Lully object?"

"Raymond believes making Pepper-Up potions is an insult to his professional expertise."

"Moron. No potion is beneath a proper Potions Master."

"Which is why he isn't one and you are."

"Do you really trust me in a lab, with all the ingredients around me? Narcotic potions aren't as deadly as the Muggle drugs, but I have used them in a pinch."

"Can I trust you?"

"I don't know."

"I'm willing to give you a chance. I don't think you'll let me down." Dumbledore nearly winced at the look Snape gave him. For the first time since returning to Hogwarts, the young man gave a genuine smile and stood straight. He fancied he could see the moment when the loyalty that Severus had given to Voldemort transferred to him; the moment it was clear that he trusted Severus.

Would he be able to worthy of that trust? He had failed this young man many times, from the moment he arrived at Hogwarts to the day he left to return to the hellhole that his homelife had been. He hoped he could live up to that trust. And to the trust that the other bright, troubled boys and girls had in him.

An idea went through his head and he shook it, trying to dislodge the thought.

"You know where the labs are. Get a list from Poppy of what she needs. She'll give you the password."


"You're insane, Albus," Minerva stated, with conviction.

"Am I?"

"Look, I know Lully has been hanging onto his job by the skin of his teeth, but are you sure he'll be any better?"

"The Board has already agreed to putting Lully into early retirement and to letting me hire someone who holds Masters certification with the College."

"And have you mentioned exactly who you have in mind?"

"Not exactly, no."

"Severus Snape is, by your own admission, a drug addict..."

"Recovering drug addict."

"Homosexual, a murderer, a torturer and a former Death eater." Minerva continued without acknowledging the interruption. "Have I left anything out?"


"He's never taught a class before, he does not have a teaching certificate and he's only twenty five," Minerva added. "And you want to give him full Professorship of Potions."

"He is the youngest Potion Master in two centuries."

"I don't doubt his qualifications in the field, just his suitability to teaching."

"I was also going to make him head of Slytherin House. Raymond is letting them run wild."

"Head of Slytherin House?" Minerva choked. Dumbledore watched the expressions cross her face as she thought about it. "Yes, Albus. I think that's a fine idea."


Poppy's potion stores were coming along nicely. Poppy herself was ecstatic about having her own in-house potions maker, one who knew exactly what he was doing. Dumbledore watched from the doorway as Severus carefully decanted something-or-other into one of the single dose vials that Poppy preferred.

He was looking much better, Dumbledore thought. Still too thin, still rather sallow - an aftereffect of the unhealthy lifestyle Severus had lead for the last few years - and his teeth were distinctly yellow from the copious amounts of tea and smoking, but he no longer looked like a tall, black scarecrow.

"Was there something you wanted, Headmaster?" Now that he was working after a fashion for the school, Severus was scrupulous about using the title.

"I want to talk to you about something." Dumbledore went in, noting the changes in the potions lab. Lully was inclined to theatricality and the place often looked like a mad scientist's lab. Severus worked neatly and without waste. He knew that Severus was as fond as the next man of showing off, but when it came to his own potions, the professionalism was uppermost.

"What about?"

"Your future."

"Yes, I meant to ask you about that." Severus capped the last vial and wiped his hands on a clean towel. "I have to go to Diagon Alley sometime soon. Some of the stocks are getting low and I really do have to buy myself some proper clothes and such." He was wearing Muggle clothes, worn and slightly tattered.

"You also need to buy yourself a wand, even if you don't really need one."

"That, too."

"There's something else I want you to do."


"Enroll at the Magical Studies Institute. Preferably the one in York."

"What? Why?"

"I'd rather not have you living in London next year. I'd prefer that you were closer to here."

"I meant why enroll at MSI?"

"To take a teaching certificate."

"Why on earth would I want a teaching certificate? I already have certification to take on apprentices. Not that I want to."

"That won't give you the qualifications you need to teach here," Dumbledore explained. "Professor Lully is retiring after this year. I want you to take his place."

"Me? Teach potions?"

"And head up Slytherin House."

"You're insane."

"Please, Severus, try to be original. Minerva already called me that."

"I don't understand."

"I want you to teach potions because you're one of the best potion makers in England, if not the world. I would like Hogwarts students to graduate with the best education we can provide," Dumbledore said, turning serious. "You're an alumnus. You know how the school functions. And a year at MSI will put you into an academic environment for a year while you get better."

"Okay, the potions position makes a certain amount of bizarre sense, but Head of Slytherin?"

"Severus, since you came here to tell me about James and Lily, I've had my nose rubbed into just how badly I've failed you."

"You haven't..."

"Let me finish, please." Dumbledore held up a hand to forestall any comments. "I've been thinking about it ever since. I'm basically a happy person and I've had a happy life. I know a great many things, but there is something I don't know and I don't know if I can ever learn."


"I can't truly understand the depth of pain you've experienced. Such experiences are totally alien to me, and, thus, I cannot see it. I can see the best in almost everyone. I cannot see the worst. I can't understand the kind of pain that makes choices such as you have made seem not only palatable, but desirable," Dumbledore said softly. "The most fervent of Voldemort's followers were the Slytherins of your year and I find myself quite bewildered as to what he could possibly offer them. I used to think it was greed or selfishness, but it isn't, is it?"


"What is it, then?"

"Power." Snape spoke equally softly. "For some, that's all it is, the sheer desire for power. For most of us, it's the only way we can find to protect ourselves. To keep the pain away."

"I've never encountered the kind of pain that makes a person blind to the pain of others."

"It's hard to concentrate on someone else when all your attention is focussed on surviving," Snape said quietly. "And, maybe, if the opportunity presents itself, to find something that gives a little pleasure. Inflicting pain is pleasurable when you're drowning in it yourself. Even when you do it to yourself."

"I can't understand that." Dumbledore shook his head. "You do."

"A lesson I learned at my father's knee," Snape returned steadily.

"The Slytherin children were brought up to believe in Voldemort. Many of them have been scarred by loss, if not by uglier experiences. I need you to watch out for them, if you are willing."

"Not just Slytherins, Albus. All of the children are affected."

"Which is why I need you here. I need you to tell me when my foolish optimism and my blindness is creating another Severus Snape. Or another Sirius Black."


"Since Professor Lully retired at the end of last year to concentrate on his research, it give me great pleasure to introduce Professor Snape, who will not only be teaching potions, but taking over the post as head of Slytherin House." Dumbledore waited for the lukewarm applause to die down and glanced at Severus, sitting several places down the teacher's table.

Despite a year of hard study and his past experiences, Severus looked completely in control of himself. He was dressed in the expensive clothes he favoured as a student - layered, impeccably tailored and in black - and he had cut his hair to shoulder length. Unfortunately, the shorter hair emphasised its tendency to turn limp and greasy at the slightest provocation, including brewing potions, but all in all, he was pleased with the new professor.

If - or when - Voldemort returned, he would not find Slytherin House or any other house easy pickings for followers. They had hard work ahead of them to keep the children away from temptations like Voldemort, as well as a thousand lesser temptations. With Severus by his side, he had a constant reminder of how easy it was to fail these children. And that he could redeem those failures.