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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5. In Ars, Veritatem

Part I

While London's fog lifted, morning came late to the Highlands, dragging her feet and trailing her misty skirts through the mud. High in her new apartments, Minerva gazed out the turret's long window over the grounds. This was terrible weather for the workers: mortar wouldn't set, varnish wouldn't dry, and all that waterlogged wood was a nightmare in itself. She sighed. "I don't care how many spells they would've used, today's just not a good day for repairs inside or out." As she scanned the buildings below, great hulks of stone wrapped in fog and shadows, uneasiness crept upon her. "I can't ever remember a spring so dank and dreary," she said, rubbing her arms. 

"Damn the weather. If you ask me, the sooner you set the castle to rights, the better," said a soft voice from higher on the wall. "Once word gets out, they won't come back at all." The honorable and extremely-late Headmaster Archibald MacNabb tipped his tricorne. "Dwarves are a superstitious lot."

"You're right, Archibald: I didn't ask you." She left the window and returned to the settee, but neither its cheery tartan throw nor her dining companion, who was just now rubbing her tongue with a corner of her shawl, could lift the fug that had settled over her. "What on earth are you doing, Sybill?"

"I feel like I'fth sthwallowed a cat."

Minerva settled stiffly next to her. "I'm surprised you can feel anything at all."

"That firewhiskey's a deadly quaff. In my day, a real lady wouldn't have touched the stuff." MacNabb drew a lace handkerchief from his sleeve and dabbed a spot beneath his nose.

"It'th not the firewhithskey. I alwayth fell like thith after I've had a premonithion." She looked up at him. "Why wouldn't they come back? Wath it something I thaid?"

"You said that Professor McGonagall wasn't the rightful Headmistress. Well, not with those exact words, but that was the gist." He waved his handkerchief at the portrait of Snape that hung high on the wall behind Minerva's desk. "I've been anticipating his response, we all have, but there he sits, mute as a stone with a stare to match." 

"Not...Headmistress?" Sybill gawped at him. "Why ever not?"

"Not while the last one's still at large. I'm no seer but I could've told you the same thing," he said. "And don't give me that look, Minerva. While she was diving deeper into her cups, it was all you and Hagrid could talk about." He settled into his throne chair with a flourish. We portraits like to listen as much as we like to talk but we see things too, don't we, friends?" Around him, the former Heads of Hogwarts murmured in agreement.

"That's enough, Archibald," said Minerva.

"If what you're saying is true, then where's Severus?" Sybill twisted her shawl. "If he's here and he's alive, why is he hiding from us?"

"Why have all the spirits gone? What makes the moon weep and blood run cold? When does a dragon supplant a doe?" Archibald smacked the chair arms so hard his gilt frame rattled. "Are you third eye-blind, woman?"

Sybill pondered this a moment. Then her myopic gaze, magnified behind her thick lenses, widened with her gasp. "Voldemort hexed him! Dark magic should die with its caster but his didn't, and now Severus is out there, wounded and alone. Oh, we have to find him!" Sybill sprang from her seat and ran to the door. "Oh, I can't wait to tell Mr. Filch the good news!"

"Find him? Yes and when you do, drive a stake through his heart and seal his ashes in a silver urn!" Archibald called after her. "Foolish woman. After all, I never said he was alive."

Minerva glared at him. "Your accusations are getting tiresome, Archibald, especially when you haven't a shred of proof."

"Do you think we portraits—all of us, mind you—were put up just for show? We've been watching Master Snape mix his special brew for over twenty years. If that's not proof..."

"No, you mustn't say any more!" Helga Hufflepuff shrieked from the opposite wall. "We are bound by the wishes of the Headmaster! To break our vow to him would doom us all!"

"Him!" Minerva spat.

"His wishes are as damned as he is! A tincture of Asphodel and Aconite to quell the undead appetite. Isn't that right, Sir?" MacNabb gnashed his teeth at Snape's portrait. "You see, he does not refute me! His very silence substantiates his guilt. He's nothing more than a bloodsucking ghoul!"

Helga dissolved in tears. Ever chivalrous, Phineas Nigellus Black slipped into her frame to comfort her.

"Sybill's predictions are often flawed. If they weren't, over half of our student body would be dead by now. She was simply overcome by grief." She turned to the portrait. "Tell them, Severus!" But when his likeness continued to stare stonily into space, she shivered and turned away.

"He doesn't have to speak, Minerva. He's already shown himself for what he is," MacNabb huffed from his frame. "The proof is in the Patronus."

 

 Part II.

Argus Filch lay in his Infirmary bed. Eyes closed and still muzzy headed from his sedative, he listened to the gears click-click on the tower clock. Gears, because the old timepiece had lost its hands and much of its face in the skirmishes. While its metal heart stolidly counted down the day, turning the great wheels within wheels that formed its iron carapace, gusts of wind whistled through its broken spaces. 

One of these errant breezes now whispered to him.

Argus listened, letting it tickle the hair in his ears. It spoke comfort to him, sharing a secret in a voice that was low and soft...and so familiar! Still caught between dreams and waking, Argus smiled; he nodded. The voice asked him to complete two tasks. Important tasks. Jobs only he could do. One of these, the relocation of a particular object, was easy enough, while the other, more time intensive, had to be accomplished in stages. 

Moments later, when Professor Trelawney burst into the room, Argus obeyed the wind in his dream and lay completely still. The second stage of the larger task was about to begin. The familiar voice on the wind had something it wanted to share with Sybill. It wasn't a secret like the one it had just shared with him but it a gift—the kind that would keep on giving, regardless of the wishes of its recipient.

The wind's gift, wrapped in a whiff of green smoke, was a single word. One that would make Sybill go wherever it wanted her to go and know only what it wanted her to know: Imperio.

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