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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23. The Uses of Enchantment

"He's gone completely mad." Trembling, Minerva stared at the door. 

Hermione barely heard her. "Harry gave the map to Ginny for safekeeping. She knew how strongly he felt about Severus, how I felt, I can't believe she would do something like this." She stared at the glowing sigils over the door, stunned by the betrayal.

"What's this map Arthur was going on about?" Minerva laid a hand on her arm. "Are you sure he wasn't bluffing?"

"It's called the Marauder's Map," she said, leading the professor back to the sofa. "It shows the location of everyone who's in the castle or on its grounds—well, at least those places its makers knew about when they plotted it. Harry's father and his friends made it. Now that Mr. Weasley has it, he'll use it to hunt Severus. We have to warn him!"

"As impressive as that sounds, Severus would never allow himself to be outwitted by a mere child's toy. Why, a simple cloaking spell—"

"The map is impervious to all concealment spells—well again, the ones James and his friends knew about at the time—but even someone wearing an invisibility cloak can't outsmart it. It also doesn't distinguish between the dead and the living, so ghosts and vampires appear on it, too."

"Does it track their movements?" Minerva indicated the portraits.

"Don't be ridiculous! That spell is far beyond a child's ken." Salazar sneered down from his gilt frame. "Instead of wittering on about some poorly enchanted scrap of parchment, you should be focusing all of your energies on this." Indicating the barrier, he made a sweeping gesture with one hand. "Now this, this is magic elevated to an art form. Lends the room a rather cheery glow, don't you think? Especially up here, where it's often so terribly gloomy."

Flinging herself from the sofa, Hermione stomped to the middle of the room. "I'll show you exactly what I think," she said. Whipping her wand from her sweater, she aimed its tip at the largest symbol over the door.

Throughout Weasley's visit, the portraits had kept silent. Now, some of them began whispering and exchanging furtive glances. Only Phineas Nigellus Black stopped smirking long enough to say, "I wouldn't do that if—"

"Reducto!"

The pronged whorl exploded. Spewing flames of blinding red and gold, it wavered over the door, the sharpened radii emanating from its spiral warping and undulating as if buffeted by an unseen current. Then, much to Hermione's utter astonishment, instead of extinguishing, the sigil began to multiply, its radii sprouting branches and tendrils that blossomed with even more extraordinary cyphers. Lengthening, they stretched out and about their neighbors, looping and entwining into the dazzling swags of a forbidding, glowing garland.

"Most helpful of you, Miss Granger. Stretching out his arms, Salazar wriggled his fingers before one of the still-flaming symbols. "Do stop before you roast us in our frames." A wave of murmurs followed his statement.

"As I was about to say before your outburst, provoking the barrier only makes it stronger."

"As much as I hate to admit it, he's right, Hermione. Obice Inexpugnas is, as its name suggests, completely unassailable."

"If cast correctly, yes," Phineas remarked dryly from his lofty perch.

"Are you saying that Mr. Weasley cast it wrong?" Hermione asked.

"I'm merely saying that charms are devilishly tricky things. In this case, one must know exactly where and upon whom he is casting his net."

"Back in my day, protective charms were the sole province of the Headmasters."

"In mine as well, Salazar, provided one was the true Headmaster, of course." Phineas nodded to him.

"I thought we'd put that particular argument to rest," Minerva said crisply.

"What you laid to rest came back to bite and in more ways than one," he said, sniggering. "My, my, the things one sees simply by hanging about."

"If you haven't anything constructive to offer, Phineas—"

"Wait, are you saying that you know how to reverse it?" Hermione asked, but her next thought squelched what small hope she might have had. Even if he did and she could, Mr. Weasley would spot her the moment she left the chamber.

"What I'm saying is that there's always more than one way out of a room."

"I need answers, not riddles." She turned away, bristling beneath his laughter.

"Giving up so soon? Pity."

"Pay no attention to him." Skirts swishing, Minerva headed to the smaller table, where she began moving cups and dishes from the brunch tray. "Two can play this tracking game. Oh, yes, this should do nicely," she said, lifting the now-empty tray to eye level. "There's a pitcher of water over there with the liquor decanters, Hermione. Please, fetch it for me."

As she did, Salazar said, "You seem to know quite a bit about this charm, Black."

"It's quite a nasty piece of work, one of my best, actually. Glad you like it."

Hermione's hand stopped over the pitcher. Her head shot up. "Yours? Then you must know how to undo it. Tell me how."

"I've told you twice already. Really, Miss Granger, one can see why you weren't sorted into Slytherin."

She headed to Minerva with the pitcher, mentally recounting his words. There was more than one way out of a room, maddeningly unhelpful that, but then, he'd also alluded to something else: a certain specificity in the casting of the charm. After handing over the pitcher, she turned to him. "Where exactly did Mr. Weasley fail when he cast the barrier?"

"He cast it over everything he saw: every obvious egress, every space he thought he knew." He smiled, waiting for this to sink in.

"Well, you can move in and out of your frame," Hermione said. "Could you get a message to Severus? Do you know where he's hiding?"

"I know where his real portrait hangs but it's not good for my pigment down there. Water and oil, you know." He shuddered.

"His real...?"

When realization didn't dawn swiftly enough in her eyes, he folded his arms and clucked. "Flooded with the dungeons, glug-glub. Are you sure you're even a witch at all?"

"But I stayed there! Are you saying that Snape's apartment and my room..." She turned to Minerva.

"I can't speak for Severus, but your room didn't exist until last night," she said, nodding.

"But the Room of Requirement was destroyed! Mr. Filch told me!"

"And you believe a Squib? You really are hopeless, Granger," Salazar scoffed. "This castle was built on a site of mystical convergence that channels ancient, powerful, and feral energies. That power suffuses its every stone. It is what shields the castle, heals it, and allows it to grow. It cannot be contained."

"The barrier doesn't recognize the room and the room doesn't appear on the map. Brilliant," Hermione said, brightening. "Of course, if Mr. Weasley's watching, he'll still see me disappear."

"In which case, he'll abandon his search and return here. Oh, I can't wait to see the look on his face when he finds you've escaped," Minerva twittered, one hand fiddling with her brooch. Then, her face darkened; her hand dropped. "What I am saying? Hermione, you're about to put yourself in terrible danger. You've seen for yourself how obsessed Arthur's become."

"You'll be watching on your map. If you see anything wrong, you can always send a message through one of the portraits." After throwing Phineas a pointed glance, she started up the stairs that led to Minerva's bedroom. "Besides, Severus will protect me."

"But you don't know where he is!" Minerva called after her.

"I don't have to," Hermione said from the upper landing. "He'll—the castle will take me to him."

After watching her go, Minerva took up the pitcher and poured a thin layer of water into the silver tray. Then, waving her wand over it, she began the incantation:

"Aquae exsurge...Fluctus revelare..."

As she repeated the words, the water rippled and then, surged forth, some of its waves turning to clear ice as they climbed upward, forming themselves into the castle's innumerable walls and corridors. Others, spreading outward over the edges of the tray and spilling across the table, froze into a miniature glassy topography of the grounds.

Fascinated by the spectacle, many of the former Headmasters crowded into nearby frames for a better view. "Gods, you're so easily impressed, the lot of you," Salazar sniffed, although his own eyes never left the coffee table. "Any fool can see it's empty. Why's it empty?"

"Ssshhh!" A fat witch nudged him with her elbow. "She's only just started."

Ignoring them, Minerva continued: Aquae exurge...Fluctus revelare...Revelare vivos et mortuos...Aquae exsurge...revelare omnia...Omne nomen...

Slowly, pinpricks of golden light appeared. In the castle's highest tower, a cluster glowed brightly.

"Ooh, look, it's us!" The fat witch squeezed Salazar's arm.

"I could see better without a running commentary, Bathsheba," he snapped.

"I'm just saying, it's nice to be included. There's Minerva, right there—ooh, and that one must be Hermione!" She pointed to a solitary spark hovering above them all.

"Quiet, woman! She's about to go through," Phineas said.

All eyes watched Hermione's tiny light flit through Minerva's bedroom. When it reached the far wall, hoarfrost blossomed, forming a door to a room that didn't exist. After entering the guest chamber, it began pacing the length one wall and back again, as if pleading with the castle to open the path that would lead to Severus. Its glow, which was dim at best, now began flickering as it stopped at a spot where a fireplace had been the night before. As it floated there, the wall suddenly curved outward, like a pair of massive clumsy arms. Wrapping Hermione in its embrace, the wall drew back, taking her along with it, but extinguishing her spark as it did. A collective gasp filled the room.

"No, no!" Minerva rushed to the stairs. "Hermione? Hermione, answer me!" When only silence replied, she returned to the enchanted model. Sweeping her wand over the miniature Hogwarts, she began the incantation again:

"Aquae exurge, fluctus revelare...Revelare vivos et mortuos...Aquae exsurge, revelare omnia...Revelare vivos et mortuo—

"Revelare Hermione!

"Revela—

"I said: show me Hermione this instant!" Minerva stabbed her wand at the icy room. When nothing happened, she sank down on the sofa. "I was afraid something like this might happen," she said. "I can understand not being able to Severus—the water in the tray acts like a mirror—but Hermione—Hermione should be..." Suddenly, her face grew as ashen as the clouds outside. "Oh, I don't like this. I don't like this at all." As if in agreement, the wind moaned down the chimney.

"I'm sure it's just a minor magical hiccup; no spell is perfect. She's probably fine," Salazar said, craning his neck around Bathsheba's considerable backside. "What's Weasley up to? Have you spotted him yet?"

Minerva scowled as she scanned the floors. "That's strange. After all his bluster, I thought he'd go straight to Slytherin, the parts he could wade through, that is, but he's not in the castle at all, he's..." She stared at the speck with Weasley's name above it as it glided through the great Rune Stones. Far below them, a large spark floated motionless inside a hut at the foot of an icy slope. "It looks as though he's headed to Hagrid's," she said, but then, the Arthur-colored light, having made it halfway down the hill, veered in the opposite direction. "No, he's not, he's...I'm afraid I'm going to need a larger map." Wand in hand, she rose and headed to the end of the coffee table. A third recitation of the incantation produced a perfect replica of the Whomping Willow and beyond it, the land rolling softly towards Hogsmeade. Her confusion grew as she watched him navigate the passageway, but soon gave way to horror when he entered the Shrieking Shack.

"Well, what do you see?" Phineas, who'd made his way to Salazar's frame, called to her. "Step aside, so we can all have a look, won't you?"

A smudge near the center of the main room marked the final resting place of Fenrir Greyback. In the corner by the door, a spark bearing Sybill's name fluctuated wildly, behaving just as Hermione's did moments before her disappearance. Fists clenched, indifferent to the objections of the former Headmasters, all of whom were now jockeying for a view, she glared at the tableaux in the little room, her righteous indignation causing sections of the map to melt, releasing a ghostly vapor that wrapped its tendrils about her. No wonder Arthur had been so unconcerned about Sybill's kidnapping, in all probability having arranged it himself. She didn't know how he'd managed to engage Greyback's services or how he could live with himself in their aftermath, but as his words came back to haunt her, his ultimate intention became all too clear: Full moon tonight...Werewolf against vampire: that would be some death match... "No, worse than death," she murmured.

The Whomping Willow imploded in a slushy heap, turning the edge of the coffee table into a waterfall and raising more protests from the gallery. "What is it, Minerva?" Phineas rapped the frame, startling her back to the moment. "Did Weasley find Severus? Is he dead?"

"Not yet." Only now, after all that she had seen, she suspected Hermione shared odds in that fate. Not if I can help it, she thought grimly.

"What in Merlin's name do you think you're doing?" Phineas asked as she aimed the tip of her wand at the glowing barrier charm.

"Proving I'm the 'real' Headmistress. Hexpungio!" Her wand whined as it slashed through the air, neatly extinguishing every glyph and sigil. "Arthur wants a fight; I'd hate to disappoint him." Turning on her heel, she vanished with a loud pop before Black could utter another word.

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