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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31. Mutatis Aeternum

"You sanctioned this vampire hunt, Minister. I hope you're pleased with yourself." Minerva glared at Kingsley over her half-moon spectacles.

"Severus was a person of interest in the Malfoy murders. Arthur had my full support to bring him in for questioning, but Minerva, I swear I had no idea that he would take things so far." His hands fluttered as he shifted in the ramrod-backed, unpadded chair someone had conjured opposite of what once had been Dumbledore's desk. He felt like a naughty boy awaiting punishment: nervous and slightly sick to his stomach, conditions he attributed to the lateness of the hour, the dual summons (one of them a Howler) that had driven him from his nice, warm bed, and the unnerving emptiness of the Headmistress' quarters. Except for her desk and their chairs, there wasn't a single stick of furniture in the entire room. He wanted to ask why her accommodations now resembled an echo chamber, but had a sinking feeling that a certain wizard would figure prominently in her response.

Kingsley ran through the ever-lengthening list of offenses in his head: the use of at least two Unforgivable Curses with the intent to commit murder, the actual murder of a known felon, unauthorized use of wards, conspiracy, kidnapping, assault...he sighed. To make matters worse, there wasn't a single thing he could do now to justify Weasley's outrageous actions for the "common good." No apology, no matter how sincere, could mitigate Arthur's actions, and attempting to do so would probably get him hexed into next week by Minerva.

A glance across the table told him she'd do it, too.

Please say something, he silently pleaded, but silence prevailed. Then again, he decided, enduring an awkward silence was preferable to being turned to stone.

Except part of him had done just that, in a manner of speaking: Kingsley had lost all feeling in his posterior.

This, he was certain, had nothing to do with the night's devastating news and everything to do with his chair. A chair that looked perfectly normal, but now seemed to be shrinking by increments. He wondered if Minerva had hexed it specifically for their meeting or if it was a castoff from the Albus Dumbledore Collection of Cursed Office Decor. One of its legs was shorter than the other, which made it teeter at the slightest movement; and its position, dangerously close to the edge of the dais, made him feel as though he were going to go heels up at any moment.

He looked up from his troubled thoughts to find the Headmistress still glaring at him. Oh, dear... He cleared his throat, screwed up his courage, and said, "On behalf of the entire Ministry for Magic, Minerva, I would like to extend my most sincere apologies for the appalling manner in which you and Miss Granger have been treated."

"And Hagrid, Mr. Filch, Sybill Trelawney, Olga Lavatska, and Severus Snape," she said stridently. "Especially Severus, or have you forgotten him already?"

"N-no Minerva, I assure you I have not," he stuttered, knowing his cheeks and the tips of his ears had turned as red as coals. He could feel them burning. The chair rocked suddenly and Shacklebolt scooted forward to the edge of his seat, only to find himself in another uncomfortable position, this time, with his knees wedged beneath one wing of the great gilt-covered phoenix that served as the desk's decorative front piece. Feathers weren't supposed to be so sharp. "I have removed Arthur from his position as Head of Magical Law Enforcement and you have my solemn word that he will be punished for his misdeeds. Severely punished. To the full extent of the law," he said, pounding the desktop for emphasis.

"I should certainly hope so," Minerva sniffed. She poured herself a cup of tea.

"He is on his way to a holding cell as we speak."

She nearly dropped her cup. "A holding cell? I hope not one in the Ministry." She said the last word as if she'd just swallowed a mouthful of gall.

"No..." Kingsley squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. Again. "Azkaban." The lie made his stomach do a little flip. "In light of his recent actions, I believe Arthur is a danger to the wizarding community, a potential flight risk, and quite possibly deranged."

"Working on his insanity defense already?"

Kingsley threw his hands in the air. "I have stripped him of his rank and arrested him, Minerva. Really, what more would you have me do, draw and quarter him in the castle courtyard?" Her eyes remained steely, but one side of her mouth twitched. Determined to seize the slim opportunity, leaning in, he said gravely, "He's going to Azkaban, Minerva—Azkaban! He'll be clapped in shackles, enjoy a robust diet of bread and water, and all the Dementors' Kisses he can dodge—all that before he stands trial before the Wizengamot. Isn't that torture enough?"

"Yes, you're right, of course."

Although he had no intention of sending Arthur to Azkaban, he couldn't afford him taking any more liberties in the Ministry's name. Murder, conspiracy, and skullduggery: Oh, my! Rita Skeeter was going to have a field day with this—that is, if she wasn't already. He wondered just how much Weasley had leaked to her during their after-hours encounters. If that trail of deceit ever found its way back to him, he'd never survive the scandal!

"Oh, don't look so browbeaten, Kingsley! Apology accepted. Brandy?" Minerva conjured a decanter and snifters.

"Please." A bottle would do. He rubbed his temples. Infamy, he decided, much like late night calamity, didn't suit him. Grateful for the reprieve, as well as the generous glass she now handed him, Kingsley did his level best to appear relaxed. Not an easy task, given that his assigned seating was now squeezing and pinching his ample thighs, but with a little wriggling, he did finally extricate his pudgy knees from beneath the blasted phoenix.

"I wanted to commend you on your rapid marshalling of a medical response team tonight," he said. "How did you manage to summon a Senior Healer on such short notice?"

"Olga—Madame Lavatska supervised Professor Trelawney's care at St. Mungo's," Minerva said, daintily plucking a finger sandwich from a pile on a nearby tray. "Would you care for another sandwich?"

One mouthful of that unidentifiable meat paste had been more than enough for him. "Thank you, but I'm fine." He took a large swallow of brandy.

"Olga and I are old friends, you know, former schoolmates, actually." McGonagall nibbled at her sandwich.

"Indeed?" Shacklebolt glanced nervously towards the door. "How much longer do you think it will take?" A sudden knock at the door answered his question.

"Enter." Minerva waved her hand and the stately doors swung open.

"Headmistress." The elderly Healer smiled as she stepped inside. "I always knew you'd have the title someday, Minerva, but never could have foreseen the circumstances under which that appointment would be conferred." The smile faded as her gaze lighted upon Dumbledore's still slumbering portrait.

"Nor I, Olga." Minerva conjured a padded chair next to hers and patted its seat. "Please, won't you join us?"

"I cannot stay long. I still need to examine Miss Granger. Given the delicate nature of the assessment, I would prefer to meet with her privately." Swiftly, almost noiselessly, she ascended the stairs to the dais with a grace belying her years and took a seat.

"In what way delicate?" Kingsley asked, while Minerva poured a cup of tea.

"Certain allegations surfaced as the Aurors were removing Mr. Weasley from the premises. I would be remiss in my duties if I did not."

"So they were lovers! Arthur was right!" Kingsley jumped in his seat, banging the table.

"Arthur was wrong about many things, including Miss Granger's reputation," Minerva's hand trembled as she reached for her cup and saucer. "Olga, how are the others?"

"Yes, how are they, especially Severus?" Shacklebolt interjected a little too eagerly.

"Mr. Filch has a broken nose and multiple lacerations. His summer pneumonia's concerning, given his age, but I'm confident that a bronchial tonic and a few days of rest will set him to rights. He's lucky. Miss Trelawney wasn't as fortunate, however." She smoothed a wrinkle in her robe. "In addition to her were-transformation and the effects of the Imperius Curse, she sustained multiple fractures, lacerations, and a severe brain insult. So severe, she has no recollection of tonight's events, no concept of time or place. She cannot even remember own name: all memory, gone." Olga passed her hand over her face. "Tabula rasa."

"Poor Sybill." McGonagall shook her head.

"But, Madame Lavatska, won't her amnesia resolve once the swelling in her head subsides?" Kingsley asked, feigning concern. Things would go better for Arthur if Sybill couldn't remember certain details. He took a nervous sip of his brandy.

"Hers is one of the worst cases of traumatic amnesia I've seen since the Gilderoy Lockhart case. I only hope hers will be considerably less publicized." She glared pointedly at him. "Like the former professor, she will require extensive hospitalization and rehabilitation, quite possibly for the rest of her life."

"How dreadful!" McGonagall gasped.

"Pity." Kingsley nodded. Good news for Weasley, then.

"Since she was already an established patient at St. Mungo's, I have transported her back by Medi-Floo."

Minerva's eyes watered, her voice quavered, and one hand flew to the brooch at her neck as she said, "And Severus, Olga? What is his condition?"

"Grave."

"You mean he's going to die?" Kingsley leaned forward in his seat.

"Don't be ghoulish!"

"Worse than death, his fate," Olga said. "Physically, his injuries are minor: he is young, healthy, and his body will heal quickly. Ethereally, however, he is devoid, empty: no longer a vampire and no longer magical."

"Not magical? How?" Shacklebolt echoed. Minerva began to sob.

"The were-venom, of course. Whenever there is a fluid exchange between a werewolf and vampire, a migration or transfer of soul results. The werewolf has an excess of souls, while the vampire has none. Both beings exist in a constant state of unnatural imbalance. When they connect," pausing, she interlaced her hands together, "balance is forcibly restored. Unfortunately, the soul that infuses the vampire cannot differentiate magical from demonic energy: both are displaced. As a result, there is not a shred of numinous energy left in Severus. Unlike Sybill, however, he remembers—he remembers everything."

"I must see him at once!" Moaning, Minerva rose.

"He is not in the castle. I transferred him for his own safety." She clasped her hands in her lap. "Once he has healed, he is free to go."

"Yes, I think that's for the best," Minerva said between snuffles.

"Free? For the best? Are you both stark, raving mad?" Shacklebolt spluttered. "Severus Snape is a criminal: a serial murderer, a fugitive from justice, and a vampire. He must stand trial for his crimes!"

"Being a vampire is not a crime, Minister," Olga replied icily, eyes glinting. Then, regaining composure, she said quietly, "And nothing will ever restore him to his former powers. He will live out the rest of his natural life as a mortal: a Muggle. Such a waste!" She shook her head. "I am truly sorry, Minerva."

"But his crimes," Kingsley began.

"We have no grounds to hold him, unless I am incorrect in my understanding of Magical Law, Minister," Minerva said between sniffles.

"No, you're quite right," he said, crestfallen. "We can no more send a Muggle to Azkaban, than we can petition their courts to try him for his wizardly crimes. Damn!" He pounded the arm of the chair.

"Then it's settled." Minerva daubed her eyes with the corner of her linen napkin.

"Yes," Shacklebolt sighed. "Perhaps exile with an intact memory will prove a more rigorous torture than any at the Dementors' hands. Having to live with that loss, the knowledge of it, and his complicity in it, over time, could drive him mad..." Trailing off, he contemplated a vision of Snape homeless, destitute, and unhinged. The Death Eater-turned-Dungeon Bat brought low, crushed beneath the Wheel of Justice. He smiled.

"Your compassion in the face of this tragedy is overwhelming, Minister," Olga muttered.

Somewhere, a clock chimed the third hour of the new day.

"It's late; I really must be going. Thank you for your services, Madame Lavatska. Minerva." Kingsley pried himself free from his now much-too-small seat and bowed to them clumsily. Robes swishing, he limped to the fireplace on legs he could barely feel.

"You'll have to apparate. I'm afraid we're out of Floo Powder," said Minerva.

"That's fine. Oh, before I forget, Minerva, there is just one more thing." Turning back to her, he said, "In light of everything that's happened tonight, I trust you are going to reconsider Miss Granger's return to Hogwarts?"

"Surely, you can't be serious, Kingsley." Rising, she leaned across the desk. "Hermione Granger is one of the most gifted witches Hogwarts has seen in over half a century!"

"Arthur said that she was naked. With Severus," Shacklebolt countered darkly. 

"For a ritual, Kingsley! Blood magic, as I explained upon your arrival."

"He's still her professor, Minerva."

"Former professor."

"Ritual or no, certain assumptions could still be made," he said snidely.

"That remains to be seen," Olga said, bristling.

"Then I suggest you see to it, Madame Lavatska!"

"Granted, it is a thorny situation, Kingsley, but to destroy Hermione's reputation on the basis of Arthur Weasley's baseless accusations is reprehensible!"

"Baseless or not, the question of impropriety—conduct unbecoming a student and a Prefect at that—still remains. Corrective measures must be taken."

"It's vile, Kingsley!"

"It's rubbish!" Olga spat.

Opening his arms in a grand gesture, he said, "We find ourselves tonight on the brink of another war, one that will be waged not only in the halls of the Wizengamot but also in the court of public opinion. It is not a suggestion, Minerva, it is a risk we simply cannot afford to take."

"We?" Olga rose, sallow-faced. Looking down her beak-like nose, she clipped, "You are punishing the innocent to save your precious reputation! Not Weasley's, not the Ministry's, but yours, Minister, destroying a young woman's life to hide your own collusion in these events." She jabbed one, long finger at him. "Yours are not the actions of a leader, but a coward!"

"How dare you accuse me, woman!" Shacklebolt spat. "You, who would blithely allow a murderer to go free! I'll have your license!"

"Try and you'll hold nothing but the wind." Squaring her shoulders, Olga said, "You forget, Minister that I am a member of the Carpathian Consulate and have diplomatic immunity in this country."

"Then I'll have you deported!" Kingsley's face burned livid.

"If you make the slightest attempt to do so, then I shall tell the authorities how you conscripted Greyback's services to facilitate the kidnapping of Sybill Trelawney and conspired with Arthur Weasley to capture and kill Severus Snape."

"That's preposterous!"

"Your face betrays you. Preposterous or not, appearance, as you say, is everything! The question of impropriety, of conduct unbecoming a member of the Ministry would remain. Even if the Wizengamot defended you, I doubt your reputation could stand cross-examination in the harsher court of public opinion." She shrugged. "As above, so below, eh, Minister?"

Stung, he glowered at Minerva. "This doesn't end here." Pulling his robes about him with a snap, he vanished.

"Please, tell me you're not going to expel one of your brightest students."

"Unlike you, I am bound to his authority. Oh, Hermione, Hermione!" McGonagall buried her face in her hands and cried.

 

 

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