Vespertine

Got Love? Whether it’s unrequited, extramarital, obsessive or completely otherworldly, this fic’s got it covered. Contrary to public opinion, Severus Snape didn’t die at the Battle of Hogwarts. Although he’s not exactly “alive,” he is on a mission to possess the very thing that eluded him in life: love. While love might be the best revenge, it’s never easy. When murder and madness are part of the mix, desire has teeth—and this kind of love really bites!

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35. Chatham Park

Gods, what a racket! It seemed as if every hour on the hour, they'd driven by the house, blasting the same message on the patrol car's loudspeaker: "Effective immediately, a sundown curfew is in effect for all Cokeworth residents under the age of eighteen. Repeat, after sundown, no children under age eighteen allowed on the streets. Have a safe and happy Halloween." When the Coppers left off, a miniature horde of monsters, clowns, and faerie princesses picked up, banging on the door, demanding tricks or treats, all determined to collect as many free goodies as possible before darkness forced them back inside. Having nothing to give, Severus had decided to wait them out.

By half-three, when the shadows began to lengthen, and the knocks and whoops finally fell silent, Severus shrugged on his long coat and stepped outside. Two mothers hurried past, shooing a gaggle of grease-painted stragglers home, but he saw nothing unnatural lurking about. Jack-o-Lanterns flashed fanged grins or screamed silently from nearby stoops and plastic ghosts danced in the wind. After locking the door, he headed down the dim alley beside his house. Spinner's End was just one row of homes built on a maze of switchback lanes and streets.

Avoiding the main thoroughfares and sticking to the alleys gave him an almost straight route to the now-infamous park, which was also the shortest way to the chemist's. He guessed he had about an hour of daylight left. If he hurried, he might make it home by dark.

Familiarity had its advantages and Severus reached the small footbridge at the Spinner's End side of the park in no time at all. Here too, the Coppers had left their mark: signs tacked on either side of it advised residents about the curfew in bold, block letters and warned that the park now closed to all foot traffic between sundown and sunup. Severus hurried across, his footsteps echoing hollowly against the boards.

As he started into the park, no joggers in neon warm-up jackets and matching headbands huffed and puffed past, no Walkman-wearing dog walkers scolded their charges or scooped their droppings into nearby trash bins, and the small swing set, which usually teemed with children on the weekend, looked terribly forlorn with only the wind to push its red plastic seats. Except for an old woman who sat knitting on one of the wooden benches near the play area, the park was completely deserted, as barren of life as the trees whose dry leaves littered the walkway. She did not look up at his approach and Severus rushed by without giving her a second glance.

Although there was still light without, beneath the interlacing limbs that formed a long and skeletal archway over the main path, murky dusk prevailed, an unnatural twilight that seemed to amplify the crunch of every leaf or snap of every stick tenfold. Although his were the only footsteps that sounded against the paving stones, Severus knew that he was not alone. "Is that you, Hermione? Are you there?" he whispered, peering through the tree trunks.

No one answered. The wind hissed, branches groaned, and the lights that flickered on either side of him emitted a ghostly hum. Unable to shake the feeling that someone or something was watching, carefully monitoring his progress, Severus quickened his pace.

Soon, the trees thinned and he passed a gazing pool whose waters sat silent and unlit. Here, more paths spread out, weaving their way through a gallery of shrubs that had been pruned into twisted, abstract shapes. Now shrouded in burlap to guard against the frost, they loomed over him, casting long and sinister shadows.

Beyond them, Severus could see hear the rush of passing cars and see a pair of tall, iron gates. As he drew nearer, an area cordoned off with yellow tape, and ringed with bunches of flowers and votive candles caught his eye. Here, he stopped to catch his breath at the impromptu altar of remembrance constructed by friends and neighbors. The girl from the paper, this was where she died, so close to the street, to help, to life. Why hadn't she cried out? Then his eyes fell on an envelope atop one of the bouquets. At least now, she had a name: Ivy Morris. Bowing his head, Severus whispered, "I'm sorry, Ivy. I never meant to create the creature that killed you."

A few yards from where he stood, the wind whipped a pile of leaves into a dervish.

Not wanting to see what else might rise with them; Severus hurried through the gates and walked briskly down Chatham's main street, ignoring the sandwich vendor's cart and the aroma of fish and chips from a nearby kiosk. Hunger gnawed at his stomach and though he'd eaten nothing all day, Severus suddenly found that he had no appetite. Now, dusk was falling fast, the air thickening, imbuing everything with a drowsy, dreamlike quality. A dream that would fast become a nightmare once the light faded. He glanced at the clock on a nearby bank's sign. Its red numbers proclaimed the hour neither wrong nor right, but simply 4:06.

The sun would set in thirty minutes. Bugger. He was not going to be home before dark.

The chemist's was just two doors down but as he passed the electronics store, something startled him and made him stop. Beyond the bank of blue TV screens, a transparency hovered on the glass, a living ghost, a byproduct of his newly installed soul, and an unpleasant reminder of the frailty of his all-too human condition: his reflection. Because he was only a man—helpless, haunted, and soon-to-be hunted. He knew he'd been living on borrowed time ever since his unfortunate transfiguration and a passing patrol car, blasting its curfew message, only underscored just how fast time was running out for him.

A car's backfire made him jump in his skin and the wind rose, tearing at flags and awnings along the street. As Severus started away, a portly man, hunched against the cold, tipped his cap as he bustled past and said, "Good evenin', Rev'rund."

Reverend? Severus nodded his greeting and then turned to catch his reflection again. In his long, black coat and matching trousers, he certainly looked the part. Static suddenly replaced every picture across every TV screen and something jabbed him in the small of his back.

"Reverend? That's rich."

Not a backfire, then. Turning from the window, he found himself face to face with another ghost, one wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a dark brown canvas coat. "Arthur. Let's get this over with. I know just the place." Motioning for him to follow, Severus squared his shoulders, turned his back on Weasley, and slowly, began walking back towards Chatham Park.

 

 

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