Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 260

Severus Snape was coming back from gathering potions ingredients, which meant that he rather inconveniently had freshly harvested moonlilies in one arm (in a basket, naturally), and had still-cheeping chiggers in the other (in a jar, so they didn't fly or burrow away - or into his skin, which would be more inconvenient). So, naturally, he dropped the chiggers on the ground when his left forearm started to burn.

First, he cursed a blue streak, while stamping his feet and staring at the fleeing vermin. Those are going to be hell getting out of the dormitories. Snape smirked - by sheer fortune, he was closer to the Hufflepuffs dormitory than the Slytherins. Maybe I'll tell Pomona in the morning.

Gently setting down the moonlilies, and charming them with a delicate notice-me-not charm (The entire hallway would still smell of the deceptive fragrance, but if students hadn't learned to beware bewitching substances... he'd rescue them in the morning).

Snape strode towards his office, wondering what in heaven's blazes had gone wrong. There were so many things to choose from - had Lucius finally overstepped, or made it clear to the Dark Lord that it was a game? If the latter, they were both in big trouble. Dragon-sized you might say.

Or maybe the Dark Lord wanted to celebrate - perhaps he'd captured an Order member, or a dozen muggles for a Dark Party (everyone got just as stinking drunk as a Light Party - Snape should know, but the sexual festivities were a good deal less consensual).

Inside his office, he donned the Death Eater mask - glad that his school robes would pass for somewhat-hurried Death Eater attire. As he strode out one of the "secret" tunnels, he transfigured his robe into a long cloak - it was just tinkering, but still vital.

As he reached the edge of the Forbidden Forest, Snape sniffed the air lightly - stepping outside the borders of Hogwarts was dangerous in the best of times, he needn't fall prey to a centaur or a werewolf. At his age, that would be humiliating. The air smelled crisp and clean, so Snape stepped out and spun on his heel.

With a clap like Thunder, Snape appeared in the outskirts of the Manor. Great, striding through shite again, Snape thought darkly,* Guaranteed to improve my mood.

Snape mentally locked down all his emotions, hiding everything - even the impatience, beneath the dark waters. On the strand, Snape constructed his sandcastle - what he wanted the Dark Lord to see today, down to how much he despised Dumbledore and his reverberating hatred of James Potter and Sirius Black - that reverberated on Harry Potter until the boy's skull rang with the hatred and the well-deserved vengeance.

Snape's eyes and ears were alive, using his peripheral vision and straining his ears to find any company. It was empty, at least out here. The Dark Lord had grown complacent since His Return. Snape remembered a time when there would have been guards, even in the most warded of Manor houses.

Pettigrew was there to greet him. Because of course he was - Pettigrew couldn't possibly leave and do something useful, could he? He was a spy, but one who crawled and crept into small crevices. Snape had a thousand uses for the man, if only he could be trusted. Pettigrew couldn't be trusted for anything - not the Dark Lord, the Light, the Dark, not Lucius, not Snape - there was plenty of ambition in the snivelling man, but the fear tended to run over everything, and he'd bend to the person closest to him at the moment. Please don't kill me! was his motto.

Snape gave Pettigrew a curt nod as he strode by, leaving Pettigrew to call after him, "He's in the blue room." Snape kept his smugness behind his Occulumency. A good sign, that - The Dark Lord gave punishments in the Throne Room (really, a winecellar in the basement, but the lack of natural light meant the spots would hit the Dark Lord, leaving the rest of them in shadow, or vice versa, as he pleased.).

Snape entered the Dark Lord's presence, which felt like entering a basic* miasma, where your entire self would erode in time. Snape knelt on one knee, before humbly saying, "My lord." Was it a new assignment?

"Severusss..." Lord Voldemort said, "Today I felt something most curious indeed. Out of the mind of Harry Potter, I felt a deluge of emotion."

Snape, still kneeling, looked up at the Dark Lord, and spat, "He is a Gryffindor, sire." His voice radiated assurance and smugness as he continued, "Their emotions run amok quite easily I've found." Beneath his mental ocean, in the muddy unconscious, his mind scrambled for any sign of what had happened. There was nothing, he learned, as he looked down at the mucky sand... spread flat on the oceanfloor.

"Do you, perhaps, know what might have caused this emotional outburst?" the Dark Lord inquired, those blood red eyes boring into Snape's black eyes. Snape held his gaze steady - to do otherwise was certain death.

"I do not, sire." Snape responded, "I could have caused it, surely enough, as could Draco Malfoy - who the blasted Potter brat considers his rival." Naked lies, Snape thought, deep in the ocean's dark depths. Malfoy doesn't know enough about Potter, not really - Potter's easy to rile, but this? I could have done it - hell, I could have broken him... but...

"Fool that he is," The dark Lord said, without specifying who he was talking about. "Do you think Malfoy might have caused it?"

"No sire," Snape said, lifting his lip in a sneer, "Malfoy wouldn't poke Potter without backup, and I was supervising Crabbe and Goyle at the time." What in blazes was Potter up to now?

"If you're certain, Severus, then I needn't summon him here."

"That might be noticed, sire. I am confident in my assessment."

"Find out, for me, if you can," The dark lord said, in his vastly-foreshortened mercy.

"I shall, sire." Snape said.

"Very curious, that a stripling boy might manage..." The Dark Lord broke off, "Standing order: keep the boy alive. He interests me." Shite.

"As my lord commands," Snape said, bowing until his neck was parallel to the floor.

"You are dismissed." The dark lord said.

Snape stood and stalked off, keeping his determination at the forefront of his mind. It was only as he apparated to Hogwarts, that he peeked beneath his darkling ocean again. The Dark Lord doesn't know why Potter had an outburst. But he looked! Snape froze at the thought, mind whirling. How?

Snape strode towards Hogwarts with one thought in mind: wringing the truth out of Potter, howeverlong it took.

[a/n: Snape's supposed to be reporting to Dumbledore. Bad Snape.

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Bets on where Potter is right now?

The dark lord is far from pleased, but he's being natively curious, which is one of those Slytherin traits. (you know, cunning. Which is really kenning, the older form, that strives for true knowledge - Heinlein's grok if you will).]

*black humor.

**like lye