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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13. Questionable Testimonials

"Another development, Minister?" Weasley stumbled out of the Floo in Kingsley's office.

"One of the Aurors just delivered this from the Malfoy estate." He indicated an enormous, burlap-wrapped parcel propped against the wall. "Care for a brandy, Arthur? You're looking a little ragged around the edges. Things must be going well at home." He smirked.

"I was up later than intended and out earlier than expected. Now that the war is over, Molly no longer approves of such activities. She made that point quite clear." After taking a snifter from Kingsley, he nodded at the parcel. "Is that what I think it is?"

"The Malfoys wish to offer their posthumous testimony."

Weasley whistled through his teeth. "Portrait testimony's a dicey business under the most ideal circumstances. Do you think it'll stand up under cross-examination by the Wizengamot?"

"Before subjecting them to the rigors of a trial, let's first hear what they have to say."

Kingsley peeled away the coarse cloth and the protective inner wrapper, revealing a stunning portrait, one that struck a chord of pity in both men's hearts. Younger, blonder, each radiating the unbounded optimism only the mad or madly in love possess, Narcissa and Lucius posed beneath an arbor of moonflowers. A drove of will-o'-the-wisps flitted around them. Flickering in the strands of Narcissa's waist-length hair and the folds of her strapless gown, they sparkled like impossible, miniscule stars. A head taller, clad in black silk, arms wrapped around her waist, a young Lucius gazed at his life mate with untold pride.

"The Eternal Troth, now there's tradition for you," Arthur said, nodding at the tendrils of trace magic that still blazed on Lucius' hand. "I'll bet the Black family insisted." While he thought he saw one of Narcissa's brows arch, Lucius was the first to break the silence of their idyllic, newlywed tableaux.

"Weasley, I might have known you'd be part of this!" Advancing to the foreground, he spat.

Knowing Malfoy couldn't step beyond the confines of his frame but still unwilling to push his luck, Arthur stepped out of spitting range and said, "Hello, Lucius. Death hasn't softened your temperament, I see."

"And you, Kingsley, stop ogling my wife, you plodding, pretentious—Ouf!"

Interrupting his insult, Narcissa clobbered him with her bouquet, covering him in a flurry of blue dendrobium and paper whites. "Stop being so childish! Remember why we're here." Flinging herself past her husband, she said, "Minister, where is Draco? Where is my son? Is he..." Trembling, eyes bright, she fought to finish. "Does Draco know we're...dead?"

"We're still trying to reach him," Kingsley said.

"Try harder," said Lucius, seconds before Narcissa elbowed him in the ribs.

"I am sorry to find us meeting again under such delicate circumstances. I understand, however, that you wish to offer your testimony concerning the event surrounding—leading up to the morning of your...your..."

"The word you're groping for is death, Kingsley: our death." Taking his place beside Narcissa, Lucius Malfoy, an impatient malevolence in magical oils, intimidating even in his final manifestation, said, "To you, a mere word, but to us, an unwanted finality; an ugly reality but reality nonetheless. Just say it, Kingsley: Death. It won't kill you..." His brow arched and one corner of his mouth curved upwards. "Yet."

"Don't be crass, darling," she said, whacking the side of his head with her rare, blue orchids. "Just tell them. Tell them what you told me."

"Yes, Lucius, if you have any useful information in this case, please share it with us," Arthur said. "Who is responsible for your deaths?"

The Malfoys exchanged glances. "We were in the garden, enjoying the last of the night air," Narcissa said. "I'd just gone to fetch some tea. I sensed someone behind me but when I turned to look, I felt a stinging heat and then, a terrible pain. I knew something was wrong—terribly wrong. I kept telling myself that I'd be fine, as long as I could reach Lucius, but I fell after that and then, then..." She shook her head. "Then, nothing." She buried her head in her husband's chest.

Smoothing her hair, he said, "I was somewhat more fortunate, in that I did see the face of our murderer. A face I thought I'd known well but in that moment, transfigured by hate, transformed by inhumanity. I cast the Avada in self-defense but it bounded off him and struck me down instead."

Gasping, Narcissa pulled away from him. "You never told me that!"

"No one can do that." Kingsley scowled. "You're aware that the penalty for lying is incineration?"

Arthur moved closer to the ornate frame. "Who deflected it, Lucius?"

"You believe him? It's impossible!"

"Yes, Minister, I once thought so, too. But then, I remembered that the Avada can only kill the living."

"You're saying you were killed by a ghost?"

"Not a ghost, Weasley, you pitiful excuse for a Pureblood!" Lucius stamped his foot. "A vampire!" Arthur suddenly snapped to attention. "I'd suspected it for some time, of course," Lucius purred, "You'll never guess who it is."

"Severus Snape." Thunder stolen, Malfoy's shocked stare was all the confirmation Arthur needed.

"You knew?" he spluttered.

"We've also suspected him for some time now, but lacked concrete evidence—proof," the Minister stammered.

We? Weasley shot him a withering glance.

Paling, Narcissa said, "Then this—our death—is some form of revenge because he died instead of Draco?"

"He's not dead, Cissy."

"Whatever he is, he's not going to stop until he—" The bouquet fell from her hand. "Please, Arthur, stop him! You have to stop him before he finds Draco."

"I will." Turning to Malfoy, he said, "That's why you hired Greyback to hunt him down, isn't it? He's the only creature Snape couldn't turn."

"I never said anything of the sort." Malfoy sneered at him.

"Because an attack by one would kill both?" Kingsley nodded.

"Not death; a fate far worse to endure and brilliant in its simplicity. If I'd engineered a coup to eradicate two, useless creatures—which I'm not saying I have, mind you—a scenario involving a werewolf and a vampire in combat would be a bargain at any price. Save your bonfire for Snape. What I told you about our deaths is true." Running his hand over the carved silver frame, he said, "Besides, I'm rather fond of it here. Life without depth suits me."

"Any ideas on where we might find Greyback?"

"Must I do everything, Weasley? Eternal rest, indeed." After a long sigh, he said, "If, as you've said, there's a reward for his capture, he'd be forced to keep a low profile: no snatching. Now, were I to hazard a guess—and mind you, this is pure speculation—I'd think Greyback would fall back on another, more lucrative habit of his: running contraband."

"We've scoured Knockturn Alley." He shook his head.

"Of course you have. The one place where thugs and Death Eaters would turn a creature like him over in a heartbeat," Lucius said, looking down his nose. "Now, step outside your investigative box and look in. Because he can't stray too far from his lair, Greyback would require a similar situation in his buyers. Not merely those who need his services as much as he needs their business; those who, because of the circumstances surrounding their limited mobility, would gladly offer silence in exchange for ill-gotten goods: a captive clientele." Smirking, he watched revelation's dawn break over Weasley's face. "Not the best plan, mind you, but again, one inspiring in its sheer simplicity. Wouldn't you agree?"

Arthur smiled and said nothing. A simple plan, yes...there was no question about it. Not for him. Not anymore. 

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