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!

0Likes
0Comments
3833Views
AA

33. Sound and Fury

Days passed. Flat on his back in a narrow cot in St. Mungo's prison wing, Arthur marked the passage of time only by the shifting light and gathering shadows on the ceiling, the antidote for his petrification delayed by the severe depletion of mandrake stores during the war and a growing season hampered by an unnaturally rainy spring. Light flared and light faded, each moment swallowed by the next in an interminable stream. Trapped in a state of suspended animation, he needed neither food nor drink, only hate to sustain him; and though Arthur learned to sleep with his eyes wide, the only dreams that came to him were the words—he's alive!—and visions of a single face: He-Who-Should-Be-Staked, Severus-bloody-Snape, now newly human and beyond harm's reach. Free as a breeze, while I lay here like a bookend!

Molly and the children came, went, and never came back again.

Rita, however, never left his side and never tired of telling him how he would come back to the world as a hero. "Everyone knows how you risked life and limb to save Sybill, snatching her from the jaws of death—well, fangs in this case," she said to him one day, her emerald silk sleeve billowing out as she brushed a lock of hair from his face. "He's here, Arthur, but I don't know where they're hiding him. I've scoured every inch of this place." She started to say more, but the patter of feet and swish of robes stopped her.

"Peonies? Don't you think the scent's a bit overpowering?" He heard her ask someone.

"I can make them odorless, if you prefer," a wheezy voice answered.

"Yes, do," Rita said. "By the way, how long have you been an Attendant? I don't ever recall seeing you here before."

"I'm a Helping Hedgewitch, a volunteer," the old woman answered. "Rose Hugo."

"Rose, is it? Funny, I've never heard of your group. Do you all have to wear that uniform?" she laughed at the shapeless brown robe and white scarf draped as a wimple.

"Yes, mum."

Rita's sharp perfume wafted over Arthur; he felt her breath in his ear. "Oh, did I mention; the Granger girl refused to appear for questioning. I can't believe some still think she's an innocent victim. My sources say, she's been spotted in—" A chair creaked; silk hissed. "Why are you still standing about, woman? Can't a couple have a moment's privacy!"

Innocent my arse, he thought, although her absence from his upcoming proceedings (whenever they might be), gave him a tremendous sense of relief. Sybill couldn't remember, no one would count the word of a Squib, and Hagrid's reputation made him an unreliable witness. He wasn't sure what the others had thought they'd seen, only that he'd find a way around them in due time; but without Hermione's testimony, it was a case of Minerva's word against his. Arthur liked those odds. His body warmed at the thought.

Footsteps shuffled off. The room dimmed.

Time passed.

"See what Rose the Helping Hedgehag brought today. Isn't it lovely?" She leaned over to tickle his face with the frowzy head of a Queen Anne's lace. The chunky silver charms on her bracelet felt cool against his cheek. "I know you're probably sick of hearing it, but I can't thank you enough for your sacrifice and neither can my readers! Singlehandedly, you've made the night safe for wizards again. You're a hero! Believe me, Arthur; those who know the truth want you reinstated..."

He stopped listening after that. So, Kingsley'd sacked him. Kingsley, whom he'd counted among his closest friends! A door creaked. Someone else entered his room, a swath of white loomed in his peripheral vision, and a scent wafted over him. Patchouli. Was that a flower? Yesterday there'd been phlox or was it peonies? Eyes wide, Arthur sank beneath a cloud of scent.

Today her blouse matched her eyeshadow: chartreuse. Molly always liked that color. Molly...

Light flared; light faded. Time flew away.

"Wake up, sleepy head." He felt a slight pressure, fingers, tightening around his, but could not reciprocate, no matter how hard he steeled himself to do so. Not for the first time, he wished Minerva's body-binding curse would have rendered him completely insensible. How maddening the lilt of a single voice, the sound of footsteps in the hall! Perhaps that was the real curse, he decided, before drifting off again.

Wand-fire flashed in the rain...two silhouettes rose on a column of pure lightning...He's alive, he's alive! Not for long! Avada—

Totalis!

The dream always ended the same.

The next time he surfaced, someone was squeezing his hand. "A banner day, darling! They finally have your antidote! Once you're well, we'll start working on that novel!"

"That's enough, Rita," Kingsley's voice boomed outside Arthur's line of vision. Then, to someone else, he said, "Please, go ahead."

"Lucky he froze with his mouth open," said a deep voice, just before pair of wide nostrils containing a great deal of black hair appeared over his head. "Now, you just hold still; this shouldn't hurt a bit, Mr. Weasley." Chuckling at his own joke, the Healer suspended what looked like a small, copper oil can in Arthur's sight line. Once he'd positioned its metal spout to his satisfaction, he began squeezing the handle.

Mandrake potion, oily and bitter, sluiced over his tongue. A curious lightness spread over him at first, but then the antidote seeped into his windpipe. Fearing he was about to drown in his own cure, Arthur rolled over, gagging.

He'd rolled over!

With an excited whoop, Rita descended on him. "Welcome back to the world, Arthur!"

"The man's just been unfrozen for the first time in months. Let him be," Kingsley said.

"Months?" Arthur bolted upright. While Rita plumped his pillows and propped him up, he gazed about his room for the first time.

Room? Cell was more like it, only with whitewashed walls. To his left was a small, wooden table. A squat vase filled with wilted daisies sat atop it. An unpadded, armed chair sat in front of the table, and on the wall behind the chair, a barred window framed a sky that almost matched Kingsley's robes. "Months, you say," he said again, hoarsely, now noticing that the door to his room also had a wired glass window set in it.

"Tomorrow's Samhain," Rita said, settling down beside him. Today she wore a tight green suit and had a brooch made of peacock feathers pinned to her lapel. Her lips and cheeks were rosy, but dark circles ringed her eyes.

"October," he echoed, as he reached up to stroke her face. "You've stayed with me all this time?"

"Yes, she's been a regular martyr to your cause," Kingsley said, inching closer to the foot of the bed. "How are you feeling?"

Arthur stretched; he rubbed his arms. "A bit stiff, but well enough to stand trial, I suppose."

"About that..." He cleared his throat. "Since no one knew when you would be well again, I convened the Wizengamot in your absence. After reviewing the allegations and finding most of the 'evidence' circumstantial at best, they decided to commute your sentence."

"That's fabulous news, Minister!" Rita practically bounced off the bed and would've given Kingsley a bear hug, had he not stopped her with a stern look.

"No. I've not finished. Your commutation is contingent upon certain conditions." He strode over to the chair but did not sit. "Due to the serious injuries you sustained in your rescue of Sybill Trelawney, a mission during which you killed co-conspirators Greyback and Snape in self-defense—"

"Killed? But Snape's still alive! He's still free!" Arthur spluttered.

"It's absolutely essential that those in our world believe that Severus is dead. Rita's done a marvelous job of shaping public opinion. Now, since you are unable to carry out your duties as Head of Magical Law Enforcement, you will be reinstated as Curator in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department. Your expertise in that area is indisputable, Arthur."

"Curator?" The word soured on his tongue.

"Be grateful you have a job at all. You've no idea the lengths I've had to go to on your behalf." Robes swishing, Kingsley sank into the chair.

"I don't see any of this sitting well with McGonagall. How did you buy her silence?"

Kingsley sighed. "As I said before: conditions. Mind you, what I'm about to say is strictly off the record," he said, looking pointedly in Rita's direction. "In the matter of your destruction of Miss Granger's personal property, I was forced to concede—well, let's just say a certain compromise had to be reached." His hand waved in midair for a moment, but then fell to his lap. "Minerva's fervidness on the subject was most formidable. In the end, I had no choice but to confiscate your wand for the remainder of your life. I'm sorry." He looked pleadingly at Arthur.

"Damn her," he said.

"Oh, don't look so dour, Arthur it's only your wand! Why, wizards live with the loss of much worse every day! I don't like it any more than you do, but if any of that other business with Trelawney or Snape could be substantiated, you'd be French kissing a Dementor right now! And while your position is not ideal, it does have its advantages."

"Advantages?" Weasley stared at him, gob-smacked.

"Straight away, I can think of two: the ability to move freely between the mortal and magical worlds, and the fact that a man can't die twice in one—" He stopped as an elderly witch bustled in with a vase brimming with marigolds and geraniums.

"Don't you people ever knock?" Rita snapped. "And we'll be leaving soon, so you can take your weeds elsewhere."

"My apologies," she mumbled, backing away. No one noticed how her hands tightened around the fluted glass vase or how, once in the hall, she hid around a corner and listened. 

"Any news of where they've hidden him?"

"Somewhere in the midlands," Rita said. "I'll know more by tonight."

"Wherever he is, Hermione will be with him. I'll bet she's Turned him already," Arthur said in low voice. "How am I supposed to fight two vampires without a wand!"

"Arthur, are you absolutely certain Hermione's a vampire?"

"I shot her, Kingsley—by accident, of course. The blood loss alone should've killed her but by the time I found them in the forest, her injury had completely healed! Severus did that and more besides. You didn't see them, the way they..." He shuddered. "I don't know enough wandless magic to defeat the pair of them! I need backup!"

"I can't risk it. We're 'three on a match' as it is. This your mess, Arthur. I'm counting on you to clean it up," Kingsley whispered. "No loose ends this time: no mistakes and no witnesses!"

The Helping Hedgewitch didn't wait to hear more. With a speed belying her years, she ran down the corridor and slipped through a fire door. Once inside the gloomy stairwell, which only a few staff members used to access the upper floors, Hermione dropped the old age glamour that allowed her to walk in daylight without suffering severe burns and let her wimple fall about her neck like a scarf. Although Olga had assured her that her sensitivity to sunlight would lessen over time, Hermione liked the anonymity her magical disguise afforded. The shapeless robes also helped conceal another condition, one that had shocked and surprised her at first: an unmistakable thickening and swelling in her midsection.

That, along with the ability to feel time in the rise and fall of each day's light, and not needing to sleep every night gave her a great deal of time for reading and research. She'd searched for a cure for vampirism at first, but  found nothing in Olga's private collection. Still unwilling to resign herself  to Severus' fate but unsure of where to look for clues, Hermione turned her attention inward, focusing on the even more astonishing new life that was steadily growing inside her. Now, almost four months after what she'd taken to calling the "Second Siege" at Hogwarts, Hermione had begun to actually appreciate the powers that came with her new life. Correction: unlife. That's what Severus had called it.

Severus. The thought of him made her heart wrench. She'd taken to going out at night, walking the streets, eavesdropping on others' thoughts, ever hopeful for a clue to his whereabouts. Now he was in danger again—real danger! As long as Severus lived, Weasley wouldn't stop hunting him and Olga wouldn't tell her where he'd gone, no matter how hard she pleaded. Nor could she ask Harry for help. Not that he wasn't sympathetic to her plight, he was, only from afar. Too far "afar." According to his last letter, he planned to stay in Romania until Christmas. Bitterly, she wondered just how sympathetic he would be in closer quarters.

Closer quarters...this new thought struck her like a thunderbolt. Help, however grudgingly given, was better than no help at all. Why hadn't she thought of it before? Picturing the familiar domicile, which had once served as both meeting place and former sanctuary, Hermione turned on her heel and vanished.

Moments later, when she materialized inside Grimmauld Place, Hermione was surprised that she didn't have to search high and low for its caretaker or coax him from his cupboard. He met her in the hall, as though he'd been expecting her all along.

"Mistress Succubus," Kreacher said, drawing out the last letter of each word. "Come to quench your thirst?"

It was an improvement over Mudblood, she decided. "No, Kreacher, but I do have a task for you. A rather special one. Well, it's not a task, exactly, it's more of a secret mission. That is, if you're up to it."

"Kreacher lives to serve the House of Potter." He turned, motioning for her to follow and muttering something under his breath about half-bloods and bloodsucking fiends.

The parlour at Grimmauld Place was just as dingy as she remembered and worse for the dust that blanketed every stick of furniture, turning the couches a sickly shade of mauve and the wallpaper a flat, depressing grey. Even the windows hadn't been spared, their smeared panes making the room all the more dark and dismal. After settling on the velvet upholstered piano bench and releasing a small cloud of fug, she said, "I hate to be a bother, Kreacher, I know how busy you must be, keeping the place up while Harry's gone but it's just so important, I couldn't entrust it to just anyone. I'm sure you understand." While Kreacher dragged a small stool from the fireplace corner, she glanced at the piano and grimaced. Keys weren't supposed to be fuzzy. 

Ears twitching, he climbed atop the stool he'd set opposite her and said, "Kreacher is listening."

Here goes nothing, she thought. "Remember the time you found Mundungus Fletcher for Harry?"

"The thief!" Kreacher shook his fist and made a low growl in his throat.

"I know that he was in the magical world when you found him, but I was wondering, Kreacher: could you do the same thing—find someone—in the human world?"

He cocked his head and narrowed his eyes at her. "Kreacher can enter the human world. Who does Mistress seek?"

"Severus Snape."

Ears drooping, the ancient house elf bowed his head. "Master Snape is dead, killed by the Dark Lord."

"No, he's not dead. He never was." Then Hermione told him everything that had happened to Severus, including her would-have-been-death at Weasley's hands. "He's being released from hospital today, but I overheard him plotting to kill Severus with Rita Skeeter and the Minister for Magic. Severus is in terrible danger, Kreacher. I need you to find him!"

"Kreacher liked Master Snape. Master Snape always had a kind word for Kreacher." Huge, salty tears rolled down his cheeks and splashed on the rug. Hermione stared, stunned by the depth of his emotional response. He wiped his nose with the hem of his threadbare tunic and then looked up at her. "Does Mistress want Kreacher to bring Master Snape here?"

Hermione took a deep breath. "Actually, I had hoped that you could stay with him. Protect him."

He shook his head. "Kreacher cannot serve a human master."

"But he's powerless!" Hermione slid off the bench and knelt before him. "Please!" In her haste, she did not notice that her robe had opened, revealing her unmistakable baby bump.

"It is forbidden, Mistress. Kreacher is very sorry that he cannot help Master Snape." Moaning, he began to shred one of his floppy ears with his ragged fingernails.

"Stop. Please." Hermione grabbed the offending hand. "Then just find him, Kreacher. Find him and report back to me." 

Kreacher raised his arm, snapped his fingers and vanished.

Thinking he would return soon, Hermione waited, listening to the clock's slow tick and the sounds of passing cars on the street. Severus was out there, somewhere. She only hoped Kreacher would get to him in time.

An hour passed; then another. Hermione flung herself from the bench with an exasperated huff and started pacing the length of the long room. Finally, she looked at the pattern she'd made in the dust on the Persian carpet.

It was a lemniscate.

An image of a ghostly dragon rose in her mind. Only this time, she'd be the one leading him, setting him on the path with no end, no beginning. Did he still think of her? Did he still want her? Was she strong enough? Every time she lay to rest, she could feel his touch, his kisses, and the tug of his fangs as he drank her blood, every stolen moment they'd shared, shivering her to her bones. Thrusting her arm out, Hermione whispered, "Expecto Patronum."

A spectral otter appeared at first, swimming around the chandelier. As it dove, a larger shape burst through, dispersing it: a winged dragon with glittering scales. It opened its mouth in a silent roar, spewing rings of smoke.

Time slowed to a crawl; still Kreacher did not come. Hermione looked at the clock. Almost seven. Olga would be expecting her soon.

The sun's last orange rays faded into dusk. Finally, Kreacher returned, wearing a nightshirt two sizes too large.

"You found him!" Hermione rushed over to the old elf. "And he freed you!"

"Master Snape tried to free Kreacher, but being human, he could not," he said, gathering the garment's capacious folds about him lovingly. He'd slipped it on over his filthy sackcloth tunic. The slit down its front reached past its hem and its ruffled sleeves, frayed at the ends, gave him the appearance of a shrunken evil clown.

"So you...spoke to him?"

He nodded solemnly. "Master Snape made tea. He told Kreacher many things."

"But when Olga told me our world was closed to him, I thought that meant he could no longer see magical beings." 

"He remembers," Kreacher said, slowly. "Memory is a kind of magic, Mistress, only very small." He rubbed one of the nightshirt's worn sleeves against his face. "So soft!"

Hermione clenched her fists. What other lies had Olga told her to keep them apart?"What did he say?"

Kreacher looked up. "He had two messages for you, Mistress. The first concerns his location: he resides in the house of his father."

"His father's house? And exactly where is that?"

Kreacher beamed, revealing a set of the most crooked, unkempt teeth that Hermione had ever seen. Teeth weren't supposed to be furry. "In plain sight. He said it would come to you in time."

"But he doesn't have much time left! Did you tell him that?"

He nodded. "That is his second message for you, Mistress. He said he does not fear death."

"Where is he, Kreacher? I must know! Don't make me use these." Curling back her upper lip, she flashed her canines.

"Cokeworth, Mistress! In the midlands." He backed away, cowering. "His father's house is on Spinner's End!"

"Thank you, Kreacher. You've been a tremendous help." Hermione rose, unwound the gauzy scarf that served as part of her work uniform, and draped it over his shoulders. "Here. You've earned this. Be happy in your life as a free elf."

Floating lanterns were already blazing when she appeared outside the gift shop in St. Mungo's foyer. Olga was waiting too, pretending to peruse a book display in one of the shop windows.

You know. Her voice curled inside Hermione's head.

You lied to me!

To protect you. Turning, Olga beckoned Hermione to join her at the window. I hear your cries for him, I know where you walk at night, and now, you present your face to the world. Foolish girl! Your enemies are not blind!

"Then you know what I have to do. Not all of us got off this easily," Hermione said, indicating the poetry books bearing Gilderoy Lockhart's name and the title, Just Remember I Love You. Below it was a picture of him kissing a blushing and bespectacled, but pleasantly flustered Sybill Trelawney.

"Their love is like the autumn leaves." Olga shrugged and tucked her hands into the folds of her long, white sleeves. Then, turning from the window, she started down the foyer, towards the entrance to the Behavioral Wing. "What you would attempt is extremely dangerous."

Hermione followed. "But it can be done! I might not be able to restore his magic but I can Turn him back."

"Not without great risk. You are aware that no female vampire can carry a child, are you not? It is impossible and yet..." She nodded at Hermione's belly. 

"So...how do you explain it then?"

Olga bowed her head. "After a great deal of thought, I fear that he has given you more than just his Dark Gift. It is the only plausible explanation for your condition. This power, which protects the child inside you, is all that allows life to flourish in an otherwise dead womb. Power, that should you be successful in your endeavor, will recognize and return to its true master at great expense. Immortality is never free." She stopped. Her gold eyes locked with Hermione's. "Have you counted that cost?"

Until now, she hadn't, but if there was a way to safely reclaim Severus, she would find it. Hermione squared her shoulders and said, "Olga, the only thing I fear is an eternity without him."

 

 

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...