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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36. Where Journeys End

Weasley went after Severus in a heartbeat. Catching up, he grabbed him roughly by the coat sleeve and spun him around. "Don't even think of running away. I'm not afraid to use my wand or this." He opened his coat slightly, allowing Severus to see the butt end of the revolver.

"A gun, Arthur?" Although he willed his features into an inscrutable mask, his stomach was busily tying itself in knots. Either weapon on its own would have made his captor a formidable adversary, especially against an unarmed opponent.

"Keep your voice down—and keep moving!" Steering him by the elbow, Weasley urged him forward.

Staring straight ahead, Severus trudged on, his mind already forming a plan, desperate in its inception and deadly if it failed, but one that didn't hinge on Hermione's intervention. That is, if she came at all. He knew that she would, though part of him still hoped that she would not.

The pavement became uneven as they neared the fish kiosk and its owner had set out the day's garbage. Pretending to catch his boot on one of the black plastic bags, Severus stumbled and fell, skinning his palms raw.

"For the love of Merlin, get up!" He reached for Severus but the sound of screams and rapidly approaching footsteps stopped him. Two women, both wearing waitress uniforms, hurried to meet them.

"What happened, sir? Are you alright?" one asked, as she knelt beside Severus.

"He's bleeding," said the other, who grimaced over her friend's back before turning to Arthur. "Do you think he hit his head?"

"Oh, he's fine. He's just had one too many Halloween spirits," Weasley said, yanking Severus up by the back of his coat. "I should really get him home. Beautiful night for a stroll, isn't it?" He tipped his hat to them. "Ladies."

A nervous glance passed between the women. Both shot Weasley odd looks and gave him a wide berth before scurrying on their way.

Sighing, now bleeding, Severus resumed his forced march but when he reached the gate to the park, instead of turning in, he kept moving forward.

Once again, a cruel hand pulled him back. "Your house is this way."

"But the place I mentioned earlier, there's a cemetery..." He gestured down the street.

"Where Hermione's lying in wait? Do you really think I'd let you lead me into a trap," Weasley harshed in his ear. "I have a fiery reckoning planned for her, once I've finished with you."

"But the police will be locking the gates soon," he said, wary of the shadows that crouched at the edge of every lamplit pool.

"Then we'd better get moving. What's the matter, Snape, afraid of the dark?" Weasley unsheathed the pistol and poked him in the ribs. "Go!"

The two men veered left and passed beneath the arched gate, one of them mindless of the makeshift memorial ringed with crime scene tape. With Severus leading, they moved swiftly through the shrub gallery and out of sight, stopping only at the gazing pool, when an air raid siren wailed, signaling curfew.

"What in Merlin's name was that?"

"It's how they start the Halloween parade, of course." While Weasley squinted up at the sky, he dipped his hands into the water and quickly scrubbed them, careful to worry new wounds as well as an old one. When finished, he shook his hands dry. "Honestly, Arthur, I thought you knew everything about Muggle customs."

"Shut it—and stop dilly-dallying!"

Once they left the gazing pool, the crackling of dead leaves beneath their feet became almost deafening. They walked on, shoulder to shoulder, neither speaking for what seemed a long time. As the woods thickened and closed in, the uneasy feeling of being hunted fell over Severus again. I know you're here, he thought. Come on! Slowing his pace as much as he dared, he squeezed the finger he'd cut on the sardine tin. Blood spattered against the leaves.

"Getting tired? You'll have plenty of rest, soon enough."

The business end of the pistol urged him to quicken his pace.

"Murder leaves a mark, you know."

"Well, you'd know all about Dark Marks wouldn't you?"

Ignoring him, Severus continued, "Not a mark you can see of course, but a heaviness that you carry long after the red deed's done: a stone in your heart, a sinker in your soul. Its weight will never leave you and over time will crush even the—"

"Enough," Weasley snapped. "When you try to sound like Dumbledore, I can smell the lie in every word. You—you of all people—you have no right!"

"He asked me to kill him, Arthur. I did it out of love," he said, drawing out the last word to maximize its annoyance potential. "Speaking of which, what does the lovely Molly have to say about your latest hunting expedition?" When Weasley only glared at him stonily, he said, "Oh, so she's no longer aware of how you spend your nights or with whom. You can blame that on me too, if you'd like: tell her that you fell under another's thrall while you were stalking me like some latter day Van Helsing."

They rounded a corner. The swing set came into view. Its metal supports gleamed dully in the lamp light. Now, Weasley rounded on him, blocking his path. "It is your fault! It's all your fault! You could have stopped the war and saved so many lives! You could have saved my son! Instead, you used your powers for yourself, you selfish bastard!" He jabbed Snape's chest with the pistol barrel. "I should kill you right here—right now!"

"So do it," Severus said, spreading his arms wide. As he did, a shadow, deeper than the surrounding darkness, stole through the trees.

"No. I want to see you suffer. I've been planning this for months." Weasley lowered his gun. "You're going to have a little accident. Poor Severus, pining over your lost powers, your ruined career..."

"Which one: professor, Death Eater, or vampire?" Severus glanced at the woodlot again, but saw nothing but calligraphic tree limbs and mist. The first flakes of snow started to drift slowly down.

"Left with nothing, all hope destroyed, the only option left for you is suicide."

"How pathetic," he scoffed. "Now I see where your children get their deplorable lack of imagination."

"Don't you say a word about them!"

Arthur's fist slammed into his nose and sent him staggering into the swings. One of the seats caught his legs, neatly toppling him. As he struggled out of its chains, his face streaming blood, he heard something moving in the bushes. Something large. Something solid. Then a hand fisted his hair and jerked him away, making him grunt.

"Get up! I haven't got all night."

"And if I should refuse to go along with your little scheme?"

"I assume you remember a little thing called the Imperius Curse. Shall we?" He motioned towards the footbridge with his pistol.

"I admire your thoroughness, Arthur," Severus said, making no move to staunch the flow from his nostrils. "It seems you've planned for every contingency."

All but the one that stepped out of the bushes behind Weasley: the tatterdemalion queen wearing the ragged remains of a black trench coat and a crown of cockleburs in her matted hair. What Severus saw next nearly made him gasp. Following Petunia, holding her hand, and wearing a loose sweater coat that barely concealed her rounded abdomen was Hermione.

A look passed from one woman to the other, a silent communication and a pact formed by two vampires from the same Sire. Then Hermione nodded and Petunia began slinking forward.

Wand in one hand and pistol in the other, and completely oblivious, Weasley spread his arms in a grand gesture. "No witnesses and no survivors: it's almost perfect. The only thing missing from tonight's festivities is Hermione. I really thought she'd be—"

"Hungry."

Weasley froze. "What was that?"

"I didn't hear anything."

"What are you playing at?" Weasley shook his pistol at Severus. 

"Hungry!" This time, the raspy voice was louder.

Arthur turned towards the sound too late: Petunia sprang at him with her claw-like hands flexed and her monstrous incisors bared. Caught over-armed, under prepared, and too shocked to rally with a hex, Weasley screamed as she crashed into him. He fell backwards, accidentally discharging the pistol as he did. The first two rounds went high. The next pinged off the swing set.

"Arthur, meet Petunia Dursley, the vampire I never intended to create. I believe you already know her companion." Really, Hermione, I didn't. I had no idea. I'm so sorry. It wasn't much of an excuse or an apology. He glanced helplessly at her.

I wanted to come sooner. That is, I did but when I found Petunia, well, I couldn't just leave her,  Hermione whispered inside his head. She's so lonely and confused, Severus. She has no idea what she's done: she doesn't even know what she is! We talked about it. She made a decision. 

"Snape, you bastard! You've been planning this all along!" Weasley screamed, struggling to free himself. Then, he saw Hermione. "And you! That Dark Magic inside you will never see daylight!" Another shot rang out. His aim, truer this time, grazed Hermione's arm, tearing a hole in her coat and his next shot, which hit Petunia in the shoulder, did nothing but make her tighten her already lamprey-like hold on his jugular. "Incendi-incendi-oh-oohh!" Instead of setting his aggressor alight, the flash from his wand ignited the dead leaves around him. Screeching, the two rolled in and out of burning clumps of foliage.

Hermione vanished. Reappearing at Weasley's side, she kicked the gun out of his and snapped his wand like a stick. "There. Now it's almost a fair fight. Immolatus!" A crimson jet streaked from her fingers and flames erupted over Petunia's back. Greedily, hungrily, they climbed, framing her head in a fiery halo.

Falling victim to the same spell, Arthur's hair and clothing quickly burst into flames. Weakened by Petunia's attack and trapped beneath her, he could do nothing but witness the fate he would soon share. Countless sores erupted over Petunia's face and bare legs. Hissing and sputtering, they spattered him with their sickly yellow contents.

Hermione started away, pulling Severus with her. "Let's go!" Retreating to a safe distance near the footbridge, they watched Arthur make one last lunge for his pistol. As his fingers curled around it, Petunia exploded, spraying him with blood and viscera, and impaling him with pieces of bony shrapnel. One of the fragments slashed his neck. Blood spurted from the wound. Gurgling, flesh blistering, face contorted with rage, he looked up at Severus and Hermione. Hand trembling, he raised his gun.

"Hermione, get down, he's going to—"

"No, he's not. He's never going to hurt anyone ever again." Hermione walked over to where he lay, looked him in the eye, and said, "Goodbye."

Nodding, as if he were either agreeing or following a command, Arthur Weasley put the gun in his mouth and blew out the back of his skull. His body contracted into a fetal position and a wall of blue flame engulfed him.

Hermione stood over the conflagration, watching in silence. More snowflakes drifted down, catching in her long hair. "I'm not angry with you anymore, you know," she finally said. "This came as a bit of a shock, though." Turning to him, she ran her hands over her belly.

He went to her. "Kreacher told me."

"I tried to hide it. I wanted to tell you myself. What a blabbermouth!"

Gathering her close, Severus said, "It was the only thing that kept me going, that kept me strong."

"Your blood trail was brilliant, by the way. Ooh!" Hermione pulled away, gasping.

"What's wrong?"

"She kicks like a mule." Giggling, she placed his hand on one side of her bulge. "All you power: right there, safe and sound." Then, sobering, she looked up at him and said, "We are going to have to wait, you know."

"I don't mind."

Snow fell in earnest, whirling about them. Now, a chorus of shouts erupted from the nearby tenements: "Fire! There's a fire in the park!"

"Where will we go now?" Severus asked.

"As long as we're together, does it matter?"

Soon, sirens split the night, and police and emergency crews converged on the blazing woodlot, creating a macabre carnival atmosphere with their rigs' colored lights and hulking equipment. Crowds of curious onlookers soon followed. In all the excitement, no one noticed the couple walking away from the inferno.

Hand in hand and without a backwards glance, Hermione and Severus left the past in ashes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ * \\* Noctem Aeternus *// * ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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