Severus watched Hogsmeade station roll into view as the train came to a final rest on its trip towards Hogwarts. He threw his Potions book into his trunk and pulled it towards the door of his compartment.
He shoved it open with his shoulder and ran into someone making their way down the carriage passing the door.
"Ouch!" Atwater stepped back rubbing his shin which had caught on the frame of the door. "Thanks for that."
"Sorry." Severus mumbled, tripping over the boys trunk as he forced his own out the compartment.
He cast his eyes to the floor and proceeded to drag his luggage down the hallway.
"Exciting isn't it?"
Severus looked back to find that Atwater was following behind him right on his tail.
"What Garrick said about Lord Voldemort." He whispered, his eyes suddenly rent of the indifference they held earlier.
Severus gave him a weak smile. "Yes." He turned and sped up, making it off the train and into the crowd of students walking towards the carriages.
"Do you know Avery and Mulciber well then?" Atwater was back or had never left, Severus wasn't sure. "I always thought Avery was a bit of a weasel, but Mulciber's not too bad, a bit up his own backside."
Severus stifled a snort of laughter but didn't look back. "I know them a bit I guess but we're not good friends or anything."
"And you think Garrick's telling the truth then? I mean that he really is... you know... one of them?"
"Looks like it. He's got the mark anyhow."
"I bet he painted it on with Flobberworm snot. Do you really think he'll help us get in though? He's probably just sensing the opportunity to boss us round." He look slightly glum as they dragged their cases to the drop off point and started passing the full carriages.
Severus searched for an empty one, well aware that Atwater hadn't yet left his side. He shifted another awkward glance towards him. "Aren't you going to meet up with your friends or something Atwater?" He asked hopefully.
He shrugged and looked unconcerned. "Don't have any." He answered simply. "And call me Atty. This one looks ok." He motioned to the furthest carriage in the line. Severus pulled open the door and made to step inside but froze with one foot still on the grass.
"Padfoot really, if you want to get on the other carriage with Moony and Wormtail that's fine."
James Potter and Lily Evans were sat inside, Sirius Black was in the seat opposite. Sirius whipped his head round as the door opened and scowled. "Go away Snivellus, this carriage is full."
Severus frowned and then let his eyes fall onto Lily who was looking away from him out the window.
"No it's not, there's plenty of room." Atwater announced behind Severus as he prodded him in the back.
"Not for snakes like you Slytherins there's not." Sirius replied, stretching his arm across the back of the seat and placing his foot on the empty space opposite.
"Let's go." Severus said trying not to look at James' arm that was casually draped on the seat behind Lily's head.
"Nonsense." Atwater didn't move and continued to push on the back of Severus' robes. "Ignore this buffoon and get in." He gave him one hard shove and Severus stumbled into the carriage, he followed behind.
Sirius tossed back his long locks of brown hair from his eyes and gave Atwater a challenging stare.
"Move it or have it cut off." Atwater demanded of Sirius, pointing to his leg that was still resting on the seat.
"My foot was here first." He explained with a cocksure tone.
"I wondered what that smell was." He slapped his foot away and sat in its place. Severus begrudgingly took the seat next to Sirius but sat as far away from him as possible, his shoulder pressing against the glass.
"Do I know you?" Sirius asked looking very perturbed about Atwater's reaction.
"God I hope not." He shot back not even looking at him, busy trying to get comfortable.
Severus settled down feeling very on edge. He stole a brief glance at James and Lily. James was sharing a knowing smirk with Sirius and Lily was looking between both Severus and Atwater, she caught his eye and titled her head at him as if asking for an explanation.
He shrugged and let the smallest of smiles appear on his lips.
The carriages rumbled into motion and made their way towards the castle. Sirius was still glaring at Severus who shot a nettled look back.
"So Snivellus, planning to sacrifice any goats under the blood moon this year? How about perfecting the Cruciatus curse on one of the new first years?" Sirius smiled at James who chuckled.
"Shut up." Severus grunted, keeping his eyes fixed on the floor of the carriage.
"Manners Snivellus." Sirius leaned forward with his hands on his knees and peered at Atwater who was staring back over his glasses looking bored with him already.
"What's your name?" Sirius asked him, once again pushing his long hair from his grey eyes.
Atwater smirked at him and rolled his eyes. "Does that hair thing normally work on the girls?" He asked mockingly. "Just the stupid ones I imagine?"
Lily let out a snort of laughter and even James couldn't deny himself a reluctant grin. Sirius glanced at the pair raising his eyebrows, before returning to Atwater with an amused expression.
"Well I don't know if anyone's told you but Severus here has a pretty unhealthy passion for the Dark Arts. Thinks himself as a bit of a dark wizard. Likes the idea of torture and murder, makes him feel like a big man. Helps him make up for his complete lack of a personality."
"What's your excuse then?" Atwater shot back, casually leaning back in his seat.
"Oh dear Sirius he's really got your number." James slapped his knees and grinned gleefully at his friend who ignored him.
"I just thought I'd warn you. I've not seen you hanging round with old Snivellus before. I'd hate to see you end up like him, all alone with no friends. A greasy old creep."
"Sirius!" Lily snapped at him, trading her grin for a frown.
"Just warning the poor boy Lily." Sirius chuckled.
"You're going too far." She replied shortly. James shifted uncomfortably beside her, placing his hand softly on her arm.
"I don't need your help." Severus finally piped up, feeling his face turning red.
"Hey!" James leaned forward glaring at Severus.
"You can shut up too. You're only staying quiet because she's with you." He pointed his long finger towards Lily scowling.
"That's not true." Lily stammered trying to hide her embarrassment.
"Shut it Severus." Sirius snapped his eyes back onto him with a stern look in his eye.
"Or what? Going to do me in are you? You dirty traitor." He met Sirius' eyes with his temper simmering.
Sirius quickly took his wand from his robes and held it up to Severus' face. "Nah. I won't do you in but how about I make you eat those words by burning them into your face." The end of his wand glowing red menacingly.
Severus kept his eyes on the tip of the wand, knowing he wouldn't reach his in time.
"Is that all you've got?" They all turned to find Atwater grinning at Sirius with a mocking expression.
"Leave it." Severus hissed at him.
"A conflagration spell, is that it?" Atwater also leaned forward to match Sirius and kept his eyes locked on the armed student. "Sirius was it? Well... if you think you're scaring anybody with that pathetic excuse for a wand." He held up the palm of his hand and slowly placed it onto the glowing end of the weapon. It gave out a quiet hiss as the wand burned his skin. "You're sadly mistaken."
Sirius looked slightly unnerved and tried to move his wand away but Atwater merely continued to press his hand firmly onto the burning surface with not a hint of pain registering on his features.
"Don't back out now. Keep the spell going." He goaded. "Or are you all talk?"
"Are you mad?" Sirius looked over to James and Lily, both had sat up nervously in their seats.
"Not mad no... but I'm not scared either." Atwater looked angry now, his large eyes narrowed into slits, dislike etched all over his face. He calmly pushed Sirius' wand away and his arm fell limply onto the seat beside him. A small round burn throbbed angrily on the palm of his hand looking raw and painful.
"Atwater?" Severus went to grab his hand but he placed his other on his arm and softly held him away
"See this?" Atwater roughly took the sleeve of his robe and rolled it up to his elbow to reveal a long line of cuts and bruises that ran the course of his forearm. Some were old and faded some were fresh and unsettling and appeared to be made from something being whipped hard against the skin, possibly a belt... Severus knew the signs. "This is what you get in my house if you spill a phial of dragons blood on your bedroom floor." He pointed to a sore looking bruise under his elbow. "And this..." he let his finger rest on a large burn mark on the back of his hand. "Is for forgetting to clean out my owl cage."
The whole carriage looked at his injuries. Sirius tried to look unfazed but swallowed hard and sat back a little as if to distance himself from the boy.
"So Sirius... if you're going to start jinxing and hexing people, you better make sure it's a good one because you never know when you'll come unstuck and pick the wrong person to mess with." And without another word he snatched his wand from under his robe and pointed it directly at Sirius. "Exanthema!" He cried shooting the spell into his face.
Sirius shouted in agony covering his face with his hands and kicked out. James fumbled for his wand and pushed Lily aside who screamed.
Severus made for his wand again but Atwater had already grabbed him by the collar of his robes, he kicked open the door to the moving carriage and leapt out taking Severus with him. They landed on the mud covered track and rolled over, a mass of robes, dirt and loud cursing.
Severus quickly knelt up and looked back towards the carriage. James was leaning out the door and was shouting at them. They could also hear Sirius' cries of anger from within as James disappeared back inside the moving carriage as it rolled away, Hogwarts castle looming in the distance.
"Bloody hell." Severus fell backwards onto the ground, letting out a huge whoosh of air from his lungs.
"I know." Atwater got to his feet and used his wand to clean the mud from his robes. "That was fun."
"That's fun?" Severus scrambled to his feet staring at him wildly. He followed him in purging the muck from his clothes. "Headfirst out of a moving carriage on the verge of being cursed." He frowned at him, massaging the bruise that was forming on his elbow.
"Please don't be boring Severus. I only did what you should have done." He dusted himself off and started walking down the uneven track the carriage had left them on.
"I would have but..." he wasn't opposed to fighting with James and Sirius, he didn't think it was a bad idea at all but with Lily in the same carriage he knew it would do him no favours. She hated him enough already.
"You're welcome by the way." Atwater said after Severus had caught up with him.
"Oh yes. Thanks for that. Now'll they'll be after me on my first day. Good one." Severus drawled sarcastically.
"Are you always this whiny or is this just a teenage thing?"
The castle loomed large in their eye line as they trudged through the mud, a light sheet of rain was falling now.
"Was all that true then?" Severus finally asked. He had been pondering on it for a while during their silent trek towards the castle before finally letting curiosity get the better of him.
"Is what true?" He asked taking his eyes off the moon above and looking at him.
"The thing you said to Sirius, about your arm."
"Yep." He didn't look away and kept his eyes on Severus as they walked.
"My father. He's always been like it. Over the last few years it's gotten worse but he's always been a rotten bastard."
"Oh..." Severus shoved his hands into his pockets feeling the cold chill of the night air.
"I just have to wait till I'm finished school and then I'm off, no goodbyes, no last words just... gone." He smiled at the thought as they walked. "If Garrick's not lying and can get us in with the Death Eater crowd that would help too. Especially if my father tries to stop me, this way I'll have back up."
"I guess so." Severus was unsure how helpful a group of people similar to Brune Garrick were likely to be but he had to admit the power and fear of being associated with a man like Voldemort did appeal to him.
"So how come I've never heard of you before?" Atwater asked as they arrived at the large iron gates.
"Why should you have?" He replied.
"Well I'm a bit of a Potions boffin myself so it just makes sense I should have heard your name, considering how much old Slughorn likes to brag about his students and his stupid old Slug Club."
He smiled and nodded in agreement. "Well I don't really make a big deal of it."
"Well you should."
"Lily Evans is much better I'd say."
"You know her then?" He asked as they hurried up the stone steps to the castle entrance.
"Not really no." He pushed open the large doors and they headed for the Great Hall. "Well we used to be friends when we were kids."
"And now you're hoping to be a Death Eater, funny how things change isn't it?"
They entered the hall where dinner had already gotten underway.
"We missed the sorting, we weren't that long were we?" Atwater moaned in disappointment.
"And who's fault is that?" Severus mumbled, feeling his stomach groan for sustenance.
They walked past the Hufflepuff and Gryffindor tables both full of chatter and clanking cutlery. Atwater nudged him in the ribs and pointed to one end of the Gryffindor table. James Potter was sat with his usual crowd staring daggers their way. Lupin was busy waving his wand in front of Sirius' face which was covered in very sore looking hives.
Severus couldn't help but let a satisfied smirk dance across his face. James made to rise from his seat but was wrenched back down by Lily who was sitting next to him. She shot Severus a curious stare, she didn't look angry and merely frowned as if she were thinking. He looked away and turned to Atwater.
"You really got him good, didn't you?" He couldn't mask the joy from his voice. It was so rare for Severus to come out unscathed from a confrontation with James and Sirius and he was positively thrilled that this had indeed been the case.
"I was actually going for more of a rash but still..." he shrugged and cast his eyes for a free space to sit.
"Oi you two." Hollace's voice came from the end of the table furthest from the teachers. She beckoned them over with a wave of her hand. She was sitting with Avery and Mulciber both of them looked the pair up and down.
"Where have you two been?" Mulciber asked noting the remnants of dirt on their robes.
"Fell out the carriage." Atwater replied simply, taking a seat next to Hollace.
Avery shot Severus a quizzical look but he nodded with a grin. "It's true." He then told them the full story.
"Ha! I'd have paid anything to witness Sirius getting jinxed. Well done." Avery looked throughly impressed.
"Anyway..." Hollace motioned for them to lean in. "Garrick's asked me to let you know that he'll be issuing us all with tasks to perform throughout the year to prove our allegiance to The Dark Lord and the Death Eaters."
"Couldn't have told us this himself?" Mumbled Severus already feeling rather tired of Garrick's high and mighty attitude.
"He says he can't risk his cover being blown. Not why he's still at Hogwarts. He's taking a big risk even telling us lot." Hollace argued reasonably.
"What was the sorting like?" Atwater asked the group as he spooned mashed potato onto his plate.
"The usual." Mulciber replied jabbing his fork into a piece of sausage. "Gryffindor got most the Mudbloods but we got a few decent looking people, no one of note though. Dumbledore mentioned some old rubbish about Voldemort at the start but just your usual biased nonsense."
Severus looked up towards the teachers table and spotted Dumbledore talking to Professor Slughorn.
"Who cares. Voldemort will have old Dumbledore finished soon enough anyway." Avery said casually.
"I don't think it'll be that easy." Severus pointed out, still watching the head table. "You do realise that if we actually do become Death Eaters there's a good chance one if not all of us might have to take on Dumbledore at some point." Severus said this only just now realising it himself. He didn't agree with a lot of Dumbledore's views on magical heritage but the respect he held for the great wizard still remained.
"Nah. Voldemort will get to him long before any of us do." said Avery feigning indifference.
"I wouldn't be so certain of that if I were you Avery." Severus said. "The Dark Lord's reach is everywhere, he's attacked all sorts of people from the Ministry hasn't he? Aurors, Heads of Departments even the odd Prophet reporter but where's the one place he hasn't touched yet? Hogwarts."
"Maybe he's just biding his time." Argued Hollace but she didn't look so sure. "Anyway that's what we're doing now isn't it. Taking on Hogwarts and Dumbledore, recruiting people for the Dark Lord right under the old codger's nose."
"Too right we are." Avery grinned.
They finished eating and after Dumbledore had bid them goodnight they all rose from their benches to wander sleepily towards their dormitories.
Severus watched everybody file out the hall from his seat, his legs feeling tired and leaden.
"Think that was funny did you?" A voice came from behind his head, it was terse and full of venom. Sirius slammed a hand onto the wooden surface of the table next to Severus. "You just wait Snivellus. Wait till your new bodyguard isn't hanging around and then you'll see what's really funny."
Severus looked behind him and went to retort but Sirius had already turned away and was leaving the hall following James out the door. Resisting the urge to get up and jinx him from behind he too left the hall and turned for the dungeons.
Atwater was waiting for him at the entrance to the corridor leading to their dormitory.
"Where did you go? I thought you was behind us." He said.
"Never mind." He grumbled moodily. Sirius' words were still lingering in his mind and although he was glad for anyone to curse Sirius Black, the fact it had been for his benefit annoyed him. He didn't like to accept anyone's help for anything. He'd always been on his own and to let anyone fight for him made him feel weak.
"I didn't do it for your sake you know? Jinxing Sirius."
Severus widened his eyes in surprise, it was as if he had read his mind.
"He just really gets on my nerves. Strutting about the castle like a Lord, thinking he rules the place, and that James Potter, I've seen him about before, he might be even worse. At least Sirius is up front about it but Potter's just as bad, just as conceited."
"He is isn't he?" Severus smiled and felt pleased with Atwater's observation.
"And then there's that Lily Evans..."
Severus felt a cold knot twist in his stomach.
"Awful girl, so stuck up. Thinks she's above it all, a goody-goody who swans round like she can do no wrong but she's not as perfect as she thinks." Atwater concluded with a satisfied nod.
"Err... yeah. I suppose. As I said earlier I don't really know her all that well." He lied, keeping his eyes trained on the stone floor as they walked.
"Yes, Yes childhood friends turned enemies, I remember." Atwater rolled his eyes and then smirked at him.
They reached the stone wall that was the common room entrance.
"Don't worry I know the password. Fiend Fire." Atwater said clearly, allowing them access.
"So what lessons you interested in this year?" He asked as they wandered down the narrow stone passage.
"Dark Arts probably." Severus replied.
"You're taking Potions too though aren't you? You must be." He asked looking eager.
"Why's that?" Severus asked.
Atwater gave him a wide grin but shrugged his shoulders. "You'll see."