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
3246Views
AA

2. The Serpent and the Dragon

The tomb had been mended but not without a scar. Sybill Trelawney traced the fissure with her fingertips. The bluish crack began in the shadows beneath its domed lid and sliced though the sigil of the Deathly Hallows that had been inscribed on the stone's pale face, breaching its triangle and circle, but stopping short of its center mark. Water dribbled down Sybill's arms and beaded her hair. It had been raining all day and by the look of the sky in the west, low and glaucous over the mist-shrouded lake, it would rain again. She sighed. It had done nothing but rain since the battle ended over a fortnight ago; the heavens washed clean the land, while Professor Dumbledore lay in his evergreen bower. She rested her head against the stone. "Poor Albus, safe and snug, but now, no longer alone. Why didn't you say something then? Why won't you now?" A hand on her shoulder startled her. 

"Here now, Sybill. That won't do."

She looked up. For such a hulk of a man, Hagrid could step through the forest as daintily as a doe. "I just thought that he or one of them might speak to me." One hand indicated the cenotaph behind Dumbledore's tomb. Girding three of its sides like a low retaining wall, slabs of polished grey stone honored the Fifty Fallen, magical creatures, and finally, the staff and students who had lost their lives at the Battle of Hogwarts. Bouquets of wildflowers, many now wilted, dotted the dark earth along the memorial's base. "There should be so many ghosts in the castle now, yet the halls are empty and silence prevails. Don't you think it's strange?"

"Well, even dead folks gotta adjust, that'd be my guess. They just need more time is all." When she left the tomb to ponder the names on the cenotaph, he followed.

"But even Sir Nick and the Baron have gone off." She looked up at him. "You know something's wrong when one of them won't venture an opinion." When he started to laugh, she warned it away with a shake of her finger. "And something is wrong, Hagrid. It's as if they're afraid of something. All of them."

"Now, Sybill, it won't do to be dwellin' on that just now." Leaning in, he whispered, "The rest of our group's well within earshot and you know how some of 'em get when you talk like that."

"Are they? How can you tell?" Sybill squinted into the fog. "All I see are shades of grey, each moving against the other, soundless and insubstantial as...ghosts." She pulled her dark shawl about her shoulders but the movement only accentuated the sharpness of the collarbones that jutted like a pair of skeletal wings beneath the scooped neck of her dress, a deep green that made every tendon in her neck stand out in bold relief.

"Well, the dead might be quiet but the livin' are making enough ruckus for 'em both. Snappin' twigs and slippin' on stones: I'd know that pair of hob-nailed boots in the dark. An'if you listen real close," he said, cocking his head and cupping one ear dramatically, "you can hear those bright bits jingle on the Minister's robes. He's right fond of flash and tinkle our new Minister is." He winked at her.

"Hagrid, that's disrespectful. Those are cultural talismans!" She tried to sound stern but a corner of her mouth twitched.

"Beads and baubles and shiny threads?" Hagrid gawped at her.

She shrugged. "Spells can be sewn as well as said."

"Well, I had one of them talismans on my house last year, it were supposed to protect me from fire. Fat lot of good it did. Half me larder went up in smoke and the roof still leaks like a sieve."

"At least you still have a house." She wanted to say more, but the sound of clicking boots and the burble of voices stopped her. The mists parted and Headmistress McGonagall stepped through their filmy veils on the arm of Kingsley Shacklebolt. The two made an odd pair: one corseted in stiff bombazine and the other resplendent in flowing eggplant brocade robes. When she saw the sequins and trinkets that edged his sleeves and dotted his cap, Sybill giggled behind her hand.

"It's not often one sees the two of you together or in such high spirits," McGonagall said as she approached, the crispness that edged her tone a warning for them to adopt decorum more suitable to the occasion.

Nodding stiffly, Kingsley said, "Nice to see you, Professor Trelawney. Ah, Hagrid! Is everything ready?"

"Ready as it'll ever be."

"I do appreciate your standing in at the last minute," McGonagall said. Behind her, Poppy and Arthur Weasley emerged from the mist.

"Least I could do," said Hagrid. "He set quite a store by Severus, old Argus did. I'd have hoped he'd come back to himself by now."

"How is Mr. Filch, Poppy?"

"Sedated. He should sleep through the night and not give you any trouble. Still..." She paused to brush a cluster of needles from her skirt, then looked up and said, "It doesn't feel right, leaving you like this."

"I don't know what we would have done without you, but now your family needs you more." Minerva patted her arm. "Hagrid will be here until the morning; after that, Sybill and I will be more than capable of handling things on our own. Won't we, dear?" She favored the professor with a pointed glance.

"Molly's with the children," said Arthur in a loud voice, although no one had asked. "She said it would be for the best." He nodded, a man trying to convince himself of the impossible. "Said they'd been through enough already and she didn't want them followed, hounded by—Ha! I knew it! Look there! I told you this would happen." He stopped and pointed at a spot over the lake. "Something's moving out there."

"Yep, I see 'em, too," Hagrid said, smiling and waving as Harry and a very ashen-faced Hermione swooped through the fogbanks and landed on the lakeshore.

"You promised me you'd stay at the Burrow," Arthur spluttered.

"We promised we wouldn't be seen," said Hermione breathlessly.

Hagrid laughed. "Come now, Arthur, you didn't think you'd keep them two away, did you?"

After they'd made their way to the rest of the group and exchanged greetings, Kingsley said, "Well, now that we're all here, shall we commence?"

"It's a shame; we're so few," Sybill said as she surveyed the group. "Still, eight's a fortunate number, one of profound, mystical significance." Her eyes watered as she sniffled.

"Truth be told, probably eight more than he would have wanted," said Hagrid.

"And some would say, more than he deserved," Arthur huffed as he joined them. Harry and Hermione exchanged a weary but knowing look.

"Who, Arthur?" Minerva regarded him narrowly over the tops of her spectacles. "Those fond of speaking before they think, perhaps?"

"I'm merely restating a public sentiment." Arthur swept an arm over the group. "We've all heard it, Minerva. Don't say you haven't."

Her narrow look turned glacial. "Then why bother to say it at all?"

Harry opened his mouth but Hermione squeezed his hand so hard his bones cracked. However simple a gesture, the message conveyed was quite clear: Don't.

"As I've said before—"

"Repeatedly, yes."

"—the catacombs would've been better. They're safer and much easier to guard."

Skirts swishing, she rounded on him. "They're also underwater as of this morning, Arthur, in case you'd forgotten. No. Severus' will was quite clear about the location of his final resting place and I will not deny him that. Nor will you." She shook her finger at him. "It's what he wanted."

"I'm not trying to deny him anything," he said, face reddening to the tips of his ears, "but when news of this gets out—and it will..."

"Arthur, we discussed this." Kingsley's tone cut the dampness like a straightedge. "Now is not the time to argue amongst ourselves but join together to mourn a colleague and fallen hero."

"Snape a hero? My son was a—my son..." Weasley started to splutter, but when he saw the pained looks that crossed Harry and Hermione's faces, he tried a different tack. "Yes, of course you're right. Forgive me, Minerva. I only meant that the castle wards have been weakened—some broken altogether—and there have already been incidents of trespass. You told me so yourself."

"Let them come. I'm sure Severus anticipated that particular posthumous contingency and has something quite spectacular in store for those who would dare to defile his tomb. A wizard's last spell is often his most potent."

Sybill stared into the forest that rose behind Dumbledore's sepulcher. A bat flew out of the trees and disappeared over the lake. She shuddered. "Is it a nice spot, Hagrid? Do you think he'll rest? Sometimes, I swear I still feel him—his presence."

"Come along, it's going to be dark soon," Minerva said sharply. "Hagrid, would you do the honors?"

"It's this way." He led them to a large, low-hanging evergreen bough and then lifted it, showering the ground with stray needles and water droplets. "I cleared a path as best I could but there's still plenty to trip you up, so watch yer steps."

One by one, the mourners stepped through. Weasley, who was last in line and behind Harry, paused at the entrance. "Are you absolutely certain that no one saw you leave or followed you?" he whispered.

"Hermione cast a cloaking charm before we left and dropped it only after we saw the lake. No one knows we're here, I promise you. Now, hurry or we'll be late," Harry said in a low voice as he ducked beneath the bough.

"I hope you're right." Arthur cast a nervous look behind him but then followed Harry.

The branch concealed a small glade amidst the massive tree trunks, a space girded by exposed roots and carpeted in needles. These crackled softly underfoot, releasing a spicy, but somehow still sinister scent. In its center, encircled by floating lanterns of green and silver, and draped in a standard bearing the Slytherin crest, was a long, low oblong made of rough, dark stone. Unlike the lakeside tomb, its lid was flat and its sides unadorned.

At the sight of it, Sybill moaned and hid her face in her hands. Arthur came to her aid, slipping a protective arm about her shoulders. As he guided her closer into the viewing space, he commented on the beautifully colored lanterns and then, the thread used to embroider the ceremonial drapery. "Just look at the scales of that snake, would you, Sybill; such infinitesimal stitches! That's spun silver in the banner if I'm not mistaken, truly remarkable workmanship."

"It was a gift from the Malfoys." Minerva tossed her head and sniffed. "Lucius insisted. Can you believe it?"

"I still can't...can't believe..." Sybill trailed off, sniffling. She slipped a hand into her sleeve, which only made her to want to cry all over again. Why, at the time she most needed one, why was she always without a tissue? She daubed her nose with a corner of her shawl.

"Here Sybill, there's a dear." This time Poppy came to her aid, flourishing a small but serviceable handkerchief. "You and Molly have been in my thoughts," she whispered around Sybill to Arthur. "You'll tell her, won't you?"

"She's at the cottage with the children."

"You two are the strongest couple I know, Arthur." Poppy touched his arm lightly. "She'll come around. Why, you've been together for what now, twenty-five years?"

"Twenty-nine next month." He looked away.

"Eternity..."

Poppy looked over at Sybill. "What did you say, dear?"

"There!" She indicated the crest. "I've never seen the Slytherin snake do that before; it's always been represented as the letter 'S' but the tail, the stitches—look!" Her hand trembled over the spot where the letter should have ended.

"I'd hoped we'd avoid a scene today," McGonagall whispered to Kingsley. Gliding over, she elbowed past Weasley. "Yes, it is quite clever workmanship. Don't you think so, Miss Granger?"

But Hermione's gaze was on Trelawney, who'd taken on a dazed look and now, began to sway. "Eternity..." she said again in a low, drawn tone.

Minerva continued, her voice growing shriller with each word, "See here, Sybill. The body doesn't end with the letter but the scales blend with the background, becoming almost invisible as the body curves back upon itself. The serpent, swallowing its tail, forms a—a—"

"A lemniscate," said Hermione, finally breaking her silence.

"Exactly so and as Sybill observed earlier with our number, this is yet another symbol for eternity," said McGonagall, one hand worrying the brooch at her neck, "one representing the endless cycle of the seasons—life's continual renewal."

"The Eternal Return," Sybill intoned dully.

Kingsley shot Arthur a nervous glance.

Poppy pulled at her arm. "Why don't we step back now, Sybill? I think our new Minister would like to begin."

"No." Pitching forward, pushing the drape aside, Sybill prostrated herself across the top of the tomb. "It spoke to me," she said in a voice whose curious vibrato was hers yet not hers, and grew louder with each word. "'Hollow,' it said. 'Hollow!'" She smacked the lid with the palms of her hands. "He does not sleep! He is not here!"

Light waned and wind soughed through the tree limbs. Arthur hurried to Kingsley and after a brief but heated discussion, the two disappeared behind one of the large tree trunks.

The Malfoy's memorial banner shot over Sybill's head, where it unfurled and burst into flames. Sparks showered down but Sybill, still captive in her trance, continued to sway. "The moon will weep and blood will run! He does not sleep. He is not here! He. Is. Not. HERE!"

"Hagrid, help me!" Minerva cried. As the two of them dragged Sybill away, the flames twisted and separated, forming a single word over Snape's crypt: Traitor.

From behind the group came another blinding flash. "Severus Snape's death a hoax! My sources were right!" Rita Skeeter's voice boomed. She sauntered into the glade with a photo-drone on one side and a Quick-Quotes Quill on the other. "Ooh, and who do we have here? Harry Potter helping Hogwarts newest Headmistress hide a notorious war criminal!" The pen scratched furiously, while the camera zoomed into position. Another flash blinded all but one of the mourners.

"Reducto!" One word from Hermione and the flying camera exploded.

"Get out of here, you harpy." McGonagall raised her wand.

Unshaken, Skeeter tossed her unnatural platinum curls. "Now, there's no need for that. By the morrow, however, everyone will know the truth." As she began to back away, Arthur Weasley reappeared with two men in Aurors' robes, although neither of them looked older than Hermione.

"Take her to the edge of the grounds and confiscate her quill," he said.

"Abusing your new position already, Arthur?" Skeeter sneered at him. "You're no better than Yaxley."

Hermione stepped forward. "That's not enough!" Her Confundus Charm rendered Skeeter vacant-eyed.

Weasley waited until the Constables bore Skeeter away and then, he turned on Hermione. "That was terribly reckless of you. It won't last, you know."

"Long enough." She crossed her arms. "By the time it wears off, Harry will be out of the country." 

"I told you that something like this would happen." Then, shaking his fist at Minerva, he said, "I warned you too, but you wouldn't listen. None of you ever do."

Minerva looked about the glade. "Arthur, what have you done with Kingsley?"

"I took him back to the Ministry, of course, although I'm sure it's not what Snape would have wanted"—he glared at her. "I think it's time we all went, too. I mean it, Minerva. As Head of Magical Law Enforcement as well as your friend, I'm declaring these proceedings officially over."

"Did something happen? Is the service over already?" A confused Sybill looked up at them. The letters over her head sparked once more, before spluttering out.

"Yes and 'twas a very moving ceremony," Hagrid said, helping her up. "Now we'll head back up to the castle and have us a little refreshment, what do you say?" Nodding weakly, Sybill allowed him to lead her away.

"Not too much refreshment, Hagrid," McGonagall called after him. "I don't want to find her weaving about the corridors in search of ghosts." Then, under her breath, she said, "I'm surprised she hasn't fallen and broken her neck."

"As I said, considering what's just happened, I think it would be best if we all—"

"Yes, yes, Arthur, alright," she said crossly. "If you would be so kind to escort Poppy to her home, it's just outside Lost Whistle Bridge, I will see Mr. Potter and Ms. Granger to their respective domiciles."

After exchanging a tearful goodbye hugs, Poppy extended an open hand to Arthur. "Have you ever even been to Wales?"

"I'll just have to let you imagine it for both of us," he grumbled, and after a final caution to the rest of the group to be safe, clasped her hand and disappeared.

Silence fell with the night. For what seemed a long time, the three stood at the tomb, heads bowed, each paying their respects. As though following a wordless command, the floating lanterns broke formation, gathered over the stone lid, and coalesced into a single tongue of pale, green flame. As it licked upward, a shape, pellucid and white, spiraled out. It hovered over the stone, an apparition ghostly scaled and luminous eyed. Then, to the amazement of all, it stretched its transparent wings, opened its fearsome jaws, and said:

Shall I lead you on?
Let me show you a path with no end and no beginning.

You, who do not know the sound of one hand, cling
Too tightly to the sound and the dust.


Let me lead you on
I will show you the path without end, without beginning.

 

"An impressive spell and appropriate sentiment; he was a Slytherin to the end," McGonagall whispered through her tears. "Well done, Severus."

"No, don't you see? It's..." The words caught in Hermione's throat. "It's a Patronus."

"That's impossible," Harry said. "Snape's Patronus was a doe, like my mother's; everyone knows that."

"Unless he changed it." Hermione turned to McGonagall. "Professor, can a wizard change his Patronus?"

"No dear, no wizard can," she said. "Nor have I ever heard of one altering after death. I expect it's something that held a special affinity for Severus, although we'll never know for certain. It, much like the best of him, will forever remain a mystery." Her voice quavered. "I'm afraid this is where I must leave you. Unlike Mr. Weasley, I trust that both of you will find your way to your respective homes. Be well, both of you." Before the two could say another word, she dissipated like smoke in the wind.

"That was certainly abrupt, don't you think?"

"She looked exhausted. What do you think it means?" Harry asked, edging closer to the tomb.

Hermione stared at the dragon. "No idea. It is beautiful, though."

"Do you think there's any truth in what Professor Trelawney said?"

Hermione snorted. "Trelawney's daft and she'd probably been drinking. The one night we're here to honor Professor Snape, she has to make a spectacle of herself, raving about empty graves and bloody moons."

"One of her predictions came true," Harry said. 

Ignoring him, Hermione said, "If she's even capable of producing one at all, I imagine Trelawney's Patronus is a bottle of cooking sherry."

"What's gotten into you? Are you channeling Snape's spirit, now?" Wide-eyed, he stepped back. "You sounded just like him."

"I'm sorry, Harry. That was mean of me." She looked away. "I'm just angry; angry at Sybill for robbing him of his last honors, angry at Ron for being such a stubborn arse, and most of all, angry at myself."

"You saw Snape's wounds that day. We all did." Harry slipped an arm around her. "There was nothing more we could have done."

"I still can't believe we just left him like that." Tears trickled down her cheeks and splashed against the stone.

The phantom dragon collapsed upon itself. Where it had been only a moment before, eight lanterns now hovered. In turn, each began shrinking into a tiny speck and winking out.

"I guess that's our cue to go," said Harry. "I've got to get an early start tomorrow."

"Promise you'll write to me. I want to hear everything about your internship," Hermione said, hugging him.

"Every day, promise—I imagine Romania's just divine in summer." He laughed.

"It beats London."

"Accio Firebolt." In seconds, his broom appeared at his side. "Are you sure I can't give you a lift home?"

"One flight today was enough. You know I prefer apparating." She kissed his cheek. After watching him rise over the treetops and out of sight, she turned back to the glade.

A forest orb, green and brittle bright, wafted out of the trees, drifted over to Hermione, and hovered expectantly. For just a moment, she could have sworn she saw Snape's face appear in its eerie glow. "I'm sorry we left you all alone. In the end, what you told Harry saved all our lives," she said. "You will always remain in my thoughts. Goodbye, Professor Snape. Rest in peace."

The light flickered but did not fly away.

Hermione closed her eyes, turned widdershins, and imagined home. In a heartbeat, she was gone. 

She was gone but the light remained.

Time passed; owls hooted, tendrils of mist threaded through the trees, and the breeze loosed small showers from the evergreens, but no one returned. Only then, did the light transform itself into another shape: a man whose cloak seemed woven from the night itself and whose wounds had healed without a scar. With footsteps that left no impression in the earth and made no sound, Severus Snape made his way to the rough dais that resembled a sacrificial altar more than a final resting place in a tree lined hollow.

Hollow: of all her predictions, why did that one have to be true? A smile, jagged and terrible as it was brief, flashed across his face. Jagged and terrible because of what he had always been but cleverly concealed, and brief when he realized what he now had to do. Once Sybill remembered her premonition—and she would—she wouldn't let it go. Like a dog with a bone, she'd gnaw at it: every image, every word.

The moon will weep and blood will run.

Severus ground a piece of the burned drapery into the dirt. Was this his prize for a life spent serving two, equally murderous masters, his earthly reward for leading a secret life—riding two brooms with one arse: a blackened standard and a prophetic betrayal?

A wave of cold rage crashed over him and the dark hunger—red hunger—he'd suppressed for so long now reawakened with a vengeance. Boiling in his loins, coursing like a current, it surged through every fiber of his being. As he had once before, Snape let it flood him, consume him, eclipse him. Blood would run; he'd make sure of it! No longer would he deny his true nature; no longer would he serve anyone's interests, save his own. No longer bound by mortal law, he would take all things that had been denied to him in his past life, his false life! No longer bound by death, he would become its dealer, meting it out in his own time and on his own terms.

Fangs flashed in the gloom, as his lips curved into a cruel grin. Severus knew exactly where and with whom he'd begin.

 

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