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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10. Little Friends

 

Part I

They wouldn't wake up! Why wouldn't they wake up? They'd been struggling with the immensity of their burden, counting each second with silent regrets, the enormity of her absence tangible as scent. She couldn't bear it. She'd flown into their arms, covering them in kisses. Home, Mummy's home! They'd been so surprised to see her: their eyes just about popped out of their heads. Hadn't she laid their fears to rest? Only moments ago, they couldn't stop screaming for joy; now, they wouldn't budge. "Vernon dear? Dudders?" Vernon lay splay-legged on the couch, staring glassily at the ceiling, his mouth frozen in silent awe. Neck twisted at an odd angle, her son slumped in a nearby armchair.

After everything she'd been through for them, to get back to them! It made her head ache just to think about it, especially the part about how she got into such straits in the first place. There'd been a horrid little room and in it, a horrid little man whose head looked like an onion. There'd also been a younger man who smelled like kippers. The young one dumped her on a bare table, exposing her in a most indecent manner and then, spraying her with a hose. A hose! As if that weren't enough, Onion Head cut her from stem to sternum and put her most precious parts in pickle jars.

When they'd finally finished mucking about her insides, Fish Breath sewed up her big slit with an upholstery needle and black twine. "The least they could've done was use pink," she said, running a finger down one branch of the Y incision. Once she'd ripped out that nasty, black twine, it'd practically healed itself!

Fish Breath had poked about her naughty bits and made tasteless remarks. She hadn't liked that one little bit. She told him so, too—sat right up and took him to task. Oh, the look he gave her then! He wouldn't be pulling that stunt any time soon.

That's when the whispering started. First came the whispering and then, the hunger.

She sucked the blood from her fingers and then, from a splotch on her coat. No, not hers...So fierce in her intention to return home, she'd arrived without a wearing a stitch. She looked at the man on the couch and the boy in the chair. Perhaps it belonged to one of them.

Her teeth hurt. She ran her tongue over them, paying particular attention to the two that felt peculiarly overlong, awakening as she did, the voice she'd heard before: her Inner Whisperer. Closing her eyes, Petunia listened to its soft and soothing cadence. Oh, it was so nice to have this constant companion, this little friend, despite its single-mindedness of intention. Truly, it only ever said one thing, a word repeated like a fervent mantra: Feed!

 

 Part II.

Not far from where Petunia wrestled with  her inner daemon, Sybill woke before daybreak, cotton-mouthed and muzzy-headed. She sat up and hugged her knees. As she did, enchanted wainscoting winked on, although its cheery orange did little to lift her spirits. It wasn't fair; she didn't belong here. She didn't understand why Mr. Filch lied to Minerva but the fact that she'd taken his word over hers was a betrayal she just couldn't countenance. She could taste it, thick and bitter at the back of her throat. She'd done exactly what she'd set out to do—find Severus—never imagining the reward for her initiative would be a lockup in the barred-window ward.

Was she locked in? Sybill threw back the bedcovers. Someone had taken her clothes, replacing them with a light tunic and matching pajama pants, both sporting the St. Mungo's seal. A long robe lay draped across the foot of the bed. She sat up and slipped it on. On the floor, she found a pair of Chinese slippers that fit perfectly. Just the thing for one who didn't want to break away barefooted—and break away she would. She had to get out, back to Hogwarts and Severus. She find him, take him to Minerva and he'd make her see reason. If only he weren't so far away! She'd have to hail the Knight Bus...

She crept to the door, which opened easily, and peered down the hall. Either way she looked, empty. So far, so good! Emboldened by her plans, careful to make no sound, Sybill followed it to its T-shaped intersection. Windows along this wall overlooked a large courtyard. Hurrying along, she soon found an exit.

The yard closest to the hospital was ill lit, deluminated with bleary lamps and the flickering of charmed window flames. An arbor with a pagoda roof sat in the midst of the grassy, fog shrouded strip, while an iron fence and thick hedges ringed its perimeter. Cautiously—there'd be some form of surveillance in place, of course—she made her way to a large oak tree that grew by one corner of the fence. She'd never climbed a tree in her life, but how hard could it be, really? The way its branches forked and spread at such even intervals, it practically begged her to climb it. She placed one foot on a burl, grabbed the lowest branch, and was just hoisting herself upward, when a man with curly blond hair popped out from behind the tree.  

"Do you know me?"

Sybill shrieked and fell back, landing on her bottom in the wet grass. "Of course I know you, Professor Lockhart. You startled me," she said, staring up at him, "You shouldn't jump out at people like that. I could've broken my neck!"

"Not trying to run away, were you?" Beaming, he helped her to her feet. "You can't, you know and believe me, I've tried. The whole place is charmed and alarmed to protect us from the world outside." He waved at the hedges.

"But I have to get out," she said. "I'm not supposed to be here."

"There's a bench just over there. Why don't we have a sit down and you can tell me all about it," he said, linking an arm through hers.

"I don't know what good it would do," she said, as he pulled her along. "No one believes a word I say. No one! Not even people I've known and trusted all my life. They're the ones who betrayed me, left me in this place. They all swore he was dead—still do—but I found him and he's alive! If I could only get out of here, I could prove it."

"Sounds positively intriguing." He patted the bench. "I'm told I'm a great listener and it's not every day one makes two friends before breakfast."

"Two?"

"My little friend." Lockhart's hand disappeared into his robe pocket and returned cradling a large, black beetle. "I found him over by the fence," he said.

Sybill laughed in spite of herself. "What's his name"

"Name?" Lockhart shrugged. "Doesn't matter, I'd only forget. That's why I'm here, you see." He tapped his head with one finger. "Tight as a sieve. But it makes me a great keeper of secrets," he said, stroking the beetle's back. "Awfully hard to spill the beans when you don't remember where you put them. So, tell me about this friend of yours, this latter day Lazarus. Why did everyone think he was dead?"

"Professor Severus Snape," she said. "You knew him. The two of you taught at Hogwarts." And then she told him everything about Severus: his tenure as Headmaster, his role during the war, everything she'd been told about the phony memorial service and the prophecy she'd been given. By the time she'd finished, light had begun to seep into the hem of the eastern sky. "I combed the castle, well, what parts I could, but found nothing until last night. That's when he flew in, right through the window. He wasn't a ghost either, but as real as you and me. He came back for me," she said, eyes misting. "I wish he'd come for me now!"

"Absolutely fascinating tale! Perhaps he will." As Lockhart patted her hand, the beetle crawled out of his hand and scurried away, down the bench and into the grass. He wanted to ask her more but the breakfast bell sounded. "Best not wait on an empty stomach. The omelets here are excellent." Rising, he extended his hand. "Off we go! Uh...what did you say your name was, again?"

"Sybill." Sighing, she followed him inside.

The beetle flew away through the fence. Alighting in the alley beyond the hedges, it assumed human form, one that was decidedly not male. "Did you get all that," Rita asked her Quick Quotes accomplice.

The feathery pink pen bobbed its nib.

As she started to leave, someone stepped out of the shadows and blocked her path.

"Hello, Arthur. Here to befuddle me, are you?" She tossed her curls.

"That was quite a performance you gave at Hogwarts," he said.

"Acting always was my second love, not that I have to tell you that." She winked at him. "So, what brings you out before sunup—Molly kick you out of bed again?"

"Did she say anything useful, Rita?" He cocked his head at the fence.

"She confirmed your suspicions. Well, all but the most toothsome of them." Gliding over, she started circling him, tickling his ears and chin with her pen. "Even though the only creature capable of changing its Patronus is a vampire, outing that will take the work of, shall we say, more practiced hands." Hers slipped inside his coat. "Many, many hands."

"Rita, please!" Flushing an even deeper crimson, he pulled away.

She laughed. "Oh, come on, Arthur. You want to catch a vampire, I want to bring a killer to justice."

"I think we agree they're one and the same." He smiled.

"Then why not have a good time while we're about it?" Leaning in, her glossy lips brushing his ear, she whispered, "I think you'll find me a most generous collaborator."

"That still leaves us with what you're going to put in print today," he said.

"It'll make a juicy sidebar to the Malfoy piece. I'm sorry but I can't stall it any longer," she said, shrugging. "Instead, I'll leave you with an interesting tidbit, one that won't be in that article: someone cast an Imperius Curse on poor Sybill—an unusually strong one." Before he could ask, she tapped her nose. "Beetle. Each Unforgivable Curse has a signature odor: sulfur, swamp gas, and roses. Hers was more gunpowder than garden party." With that, she turned on her acid green stilettos and disappeared.

"You never cease to amaze me, Rita," Weasley said.

 

 

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