Severus Snape turning down Edward Cullen's request leads to an unexpected collaboration. Crossover Harry Potter / Twilight, told in Severus Snape's point of view.
, Cross Overs Characters:
Canon Character(s), Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Severus Snape
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
The story is complete in French in six chapters and an epilogue under the title "Le sombre et le scintillant". I'll post each chapter as soon as I've translated it and as my beta as read it over.
1. The Snark And The Spark by septentrion
2. Potion and Portkey by septentrion
3. Alliance in Alaska by septentrion
4. Rumour in Romania by septentrion
5. Manoeuvres in Moscow by septentrion
6. Raid In Russia by septentrion
7. Epilogue - No Solution In Spinner's End by septentrion
The Snark And The Spark by septentrion
Thanks to Ayerf for betaing this for me.
"Can’t you watch where you’re going?” Severus shouted from the cobblestones of Spinner’s End. He was about to continue his tirade but stopped short as soon as he caught sight of the clumsy idiot who made him fall. Under the bright sun of June a … human-like creature was standing. Its skin was sparkling so much that he had to cover his eyes.
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t hear your arrival,” a smooth voice coming from the … creature said. A vampire, Severus’s memory supplied while he was getting up.
“How so, you didn’t hear me? Don’t people of your species gloat all the time about your senses, so superior to the Humans’?”
Now that he was at the same height as the vampire, he could distinguish the traits of its face behind the characteristic sparkling of that species—a species that had managed to live hidden from the wizarding world for thousands of years. This was a prowess they could be proud of. For the rest, they had nothing a good potion or charm couldn’t imitate.
The foreigner, whose hair was in disarray and harboured a weird bronze colour, leaned his head on the side. His frown expressed incredulity and frustration.
“I wasn’t listening to noises. I was searching for your voice.”
Severus smirked. “I’m not senile yet. I don’t talk alone aloud.”
“I wasn’t speaking of that voice,” the other retorted with impatience, but without offering further explanation.
“Sorry, but I only have one voice,” Severus said curtly. Obviously, dunderheadedness wasn’t limited to the human species. Perhaps it went with the ability to think. The vampire interrupted Severus’s musings.
“I’m sorry, I forgot my manners. I am Edward Cullen,” he said, holding out an icy hand. His face had taken an indifferent expression, as if he were trying to be polite, which convinced Severus that he had a favour to ask him.
The wizard glared at the hand. He hated the cold, and those creatures were dangerous, all the more because their skin resisted magic, not unlike the giants’. However, he had heard about the Cullens being the most human among vampires. Above all, the Cullen currently in front of him was standing too close and would be able to grab Severus before he managed to escape. So he took the proffered hand, hoping for the best.
Severus felt rather disconcerted by the way the vampire was staring at him: he was scrutinising him with frustrated concentration. It was a bit too much like the Legilimency sessions he had to endure when he was Lord Voldemort’s servant. The parallel was troubling enough for him to reinforce his Occlumency.
“What can I do for you?” Severus inquired. He hoped to get rid of the visitor as fast as possible, for he was ill at ease in his presence.
The other sighed deeply and shrugged as if he had been renouncing something.
“Could we go to your home? I’d rather have that conversation in a private location.”
The contrary would have surprised Severus, who nodded. “Follow me.”
Once inside the house, the two ... men sat down on the wizard’s worn out armchairs. They remained silent a while, avoiding each other’s eyes. Then Edward spoke. “My family and I have heard about your abilities in potions.”
Severus raised an eyebrow.
“Do you think you could brew potions that would have an effect on vampires?”
Severus raised a second eyebrow as Edward was staring at him.
“What kind of potion?”
Edward’s eyes roamed the book-covered walls, carefully avoiding Severus. What potion could embarrass him so?
“What do you know about my family?” he asked instead of answering the question.
The Potions master’s curiosity got inflamed by the vampire’s avoidance tactic. He was careful, though, to hide his reaction. No need to give the other some idea of how to manipulate him by showing too easily which behaviours and questions got a reaction out of him. So he twitched his lips into a small smile to signify that he had understood the vampire’s discomfort and would not hesitate to use it if the occasion arose.
“You live among Muggles, I beg your pardon, I mean Humans, and you try to remain unnoticed by them.”
“And we manage it thanks to some ... adjustments.”
The wizard kept his face smooth and inexpressive, although he was inwardly jubilant. The situation was very funny. He felt like he was back at Hogwarts, questioning a student caught in the corridors in the middle of the night.
“I suppose those adjustments have become insufficient, or you wouldn’t be here.”
Edward nodded again. His ochre eyes met Severus’s, who suddenly recalled something he had read about the diurnal vampires, as the Ministry called them, whereas the other vampires who, like Slughorn’s friend Sanguini, could only go out at night, were called nocturnal vampires. The article spoke of gifts not unlike magical abilities, like predicting the future or reading thoughts ... Shit! The member of the Cullen family currently seated in front of him was the one who could read thoughts. Severus narrowed his eyes—the only external sign of his internal rage. He grabbed his wand in his pocket. However, the other man did not seem to notice anything and carried on watching Severus with a frustrated expression. The wizard smiled broadly, making him look like the predator.
“I practice Occlumency, you know. Permanently.”
Surprise could be read on the vampire’s face, then understanding.
Silence. The two men gauged each other.
“So, you weren’t born like that. It’s an acquired gift,” the creature mused. “Bella is still unique.” He seemed to like that idea a lot.
But Severus did not care about this Bella. “Let’s go back to the purpose of your visit,” he suggested. “What do you want from me?”
“A potion to reduce the sparkling of our skin,” Edward answered in one breath. If he could, he would probably have blushed. Did vampires have inferiority complexes because of their ‘skin colour’? The Potions master’s suspicious mind came at once to a conclusion.
“So that you could hoodwink the Humans more easily? You have the reputation of being pacifist and vegetarian, but if such a potion were to be found in less benevolent hands? Like vampires drinking human blood?”
Arrogance and defiance appeared on Edward’s face. “We don’t intend to use that potion on a permanent basis. And we are certain that nothing will happen.”
Suspicion and mistrust could be read on Severus’s features. They were so obvious that Edward felt obliged to elaborate his point of view. He sighed noisily. “My sister Alice can see the future. She didn’t see any trouble coming from us using the potion.”
“We need that potion. We’d like to live elsewhere than in cloudy or isolated lands.”
“I’m not bothered that your living choices are limited to those lands.”
“Please. My father is an excellent doctor. Think of all the good he could do if he could settle in Africa for example.”
Severus considered his visitor silently. He was persuaded that he had not been told everything; to be a Legilimens had its advantages. “I don’t think you’re entirely honest with me.”
Edward stiffened. He was so immobile that he looked like a dressed sculpture. Then, abruptly, his shoulders fell and his body relaxed.
“My daughter and her husband have elected to live in Florida, near her grandmother. My wife and I wish to move near her. And Florida is very sunny.”
Severus almost felt sorry for the creature that had so reluctantly let him know one of his deepest desires. Almost.
“Did it ever occur to you that your daughter may have chosen to live in Florida just to put some distance between you?”
The pained expression on Edward’s face told Severus that the vampire had thought about it. Worse, he was probably right.
“But we miss her so …”
“That’s no reason. Such a potion in vampires’ hands, however pacifist they might be, is a danger for the human species.”
“Don’t you trust our ability to keep that potion hidden from our kind?”
“I don’t trust anyone, Human or otherwise.”
The men’s voices steadily rose through their arguments. Their similar stance—their hands tightly gripping their respective armrests—betrayed their mounting irritation.
The door was slammed open by a dark-haired tornado.
“Dad, I have the best marks of my class,” a ten-year-old girl shouted excitedly.
A woman with brown hair streaked with grey followed the child into the room.
“Eileen! Don’t you see that your father has a visitor?”
Said father paled so much that his complexion could rival his ‘guest’s’. “Go upstairs and do your homework in your room,” he harshly ordered his daughter. “Your mother’s going to help you.”
Eileen’s countenance froze with stupor. Then tears invaded her eyes. She turned on her heels without a word and with as much dignity a child her age could muster, but the room’s atmosphere was charged with her pain and disappointment.
Hermione seemed taken aback by her husband’s tone. In fifteen years of marriage he had never talked to her or their daughter so … disrespectfully. However, she had already heard that particular nuance in his voice: fear. A visceral fear, the kind of fear he felt when confronted with a werewolf. She peeked at Edward and a groan escaped her lips. A vampire! Now she understood why Severus was so scared.
“I’m going to see what she’s doing.” She left the two men to go and console their daughter, who was in all likelihood crying her eyes out.
“I wouldn’t have hurt her, you know,” Edward said.
He looked saddened by the scene his presence had caused. Yet comprehension could be read in his eyes, too. Severus remembered that the vampire was also a father, fearing for his daughter’s life, happiness and security, because that was what fathers did: to fear for their children and to protect them. That observation definitely convinced him to not help the vampire. His daughter would not live in a world where those vile creatures could deceive more easily their human prey. Or if it ever happened, it would not be because of him.
“You won’t change your decision, will you?” the vampire asked, resigned.
Severus’s eyes travelled from the door leading upstairs to Edward. “No.”
Edward gazed at the old floorboard, sighed softly, then looked at his host again. “I understand. I would probably do the same, were I in your shoes. Will you nonetheless allow me to give you my address? Just in case you’d change your mind. Or for anything else,” he added after a moment.
Severus nodded. That done, Edward Cullen quickly left Spinner’s End. The wizard climbed up the stairs, his feet heavy. He had excuses to make.
Edward Cullen’s request refused to be forgotten during the next days. It was not that Severus was bored by his newly retired life, what with all those “special” potions he brewed for customers in search of discretion. If only those potions had not lost their mystery in Severus’s eyes. And to create a potion assimilable by vampires … what a challenge.
Two weeks later, he had to give in. He had become distracted to the point of forgetting to return his books to the library; he was dreaming about it at night; he had not made love to his wife since the vampire had left his house. It was unavoidable that he succumbed to the siren’s song of potion creation. After all, he did not have an obligation to shout out on the rooftops what he was about to do. And wasn’t he allowed a harmless pastime like any other retired person?
Potion and Portkey by septentrion
Chapter summary: events will force Severus to rekindle his acquaintance with the Cullens.
Thanks to Ayerf for the beta.
The Cullens are not in this chapter, but it was necessary for the plot.
Chapter 2. Potion and Portkey
Two years later, a very satisfied Severus was in his laboratory in the company of Harry Potter. The young head of the Aurors had just offered his help to his best friend’s husband by giving him a bit of his blood. What he would not do for friends! Severus knew that and knew how to take advantage of it. Of course it did not go off without a hitch; Potter had insisted on knowing what his blood would be used for. Deep down, Severus was aware he would have done the same if their situations were reversed. However, he was very annoyed for being obliged to reveal he was working on a process that would make potions assimilable by diurnal vampires, and that he could not use his own blood because he was diabetic. As for Hermione, she had already provided him with blood samples the previous month. He could not ask more from her.
“What is the interest of creating such a process?” Harry inquired while Severus was putting a plaster on his arm. “Those vampires are already very favoured by nature. I can hardly see what you could improve in them. It’d be like creating potions for giants.”
Severus raised his head. “The question seems valid at first sight. Yet each creature has one or several weakness. For example, the diurnal vampires sparkle in the sun, which forces them to be cautious when they move or to live in cloudy areas, lest the Muggles could spot them. If a potion could reduce their sparkling, they would barely be detectable in a throng.”
Harry frowned. “I don’t like that idea much.”
“I don’t either. For that matter, I have no intention of broadcasting my findings.”
Harry’s curiosity got the better of him. “Isn’t it a waste of time, to create a process that will remain confined to a laboratory?”
Severus answered as he put out his equipment. “Not in this case. I believe that the reasoning leading to create a potion for vampires applies to the creation of potions for other species.” Severus straightened up and headed towards the door, Harry following him closely. “For example, one could efficiently treat house-elves when they hurt themselves at work, or treat a sick unicorn.”
“That must please Hermione,” Harry said with a smile.
“Actually, she was the one to come up with the idea. She thinks that this discovery could facilitate the rapprochement between wizards and magical creatures.”
“Why am I not surprised?”
The two men arrived in the Snapes’ lounge. If anyone had told them, years ago, that one day they would hold a friendly conversation, they would not have believed it. And yet, for Hermione, each of them had made concessions, until they found out that a friendship was possible between them. They shook hands and separated before going to work, Severus in his laboratory, Harry at the Ministry.
After several weeks of gruesome work in cauldron fumes, Severus smiled broadly at the flask of red potion in his right hand. At last he had a sample he could test. All he needed was a subject. Well, that would have to wait. He had promised Hermione and Eileen to take them for a week-end in Paris, and they had to participate to a victory ceremony at the Ministry as soon as they returned. If he added the time needed to pack, to travel, and to sleep, he had to delay his search of a subject by three days. The saying was true: there wasn’t a busier person than a retired one.
The Ministry ceremonies to celebrate Voldemort’s defeat got shorter each year, which is why the night was still young when the Snape family returned to their dwelling, and certainly not dark enough to hide the hole in the roof of the house in Spinner’s End. Severus, Hermione and Eileen stood for a while in front of their house, too dumbfounded by the jet-black void in the middle of the tiles.
Eileen was the first to react. Her pretence at adulthood fled by the window—or rather the hole in the roof—and she took refuge in her mother’s arms. The adults started and jerked out of their trance. Severus sent his Patronus—a lioness—to Harry.
“What are we going to do?” Eileen moaned. She was still hidden in her mother’s bosom.
“We’re waiting for Harry,” Hermione answered.
A bit later a thunder-like crack resounded down in the street. Harry had arrived. The Auror rushed to his friends at once, but stopped as he noticed the state the roof was in. “Shit!” For once Hermione did not admonish him for swearing in front of Eileen.
“We’ve been absent for two hours,” Severus said in an even voice. His spouse was not fooled, though. He was clenching his jaw too tightly to really be that calm. He carried on with his explanation. “We came back from Paris at the end of the afternoon. The house was intact then. That happened while we were at the Ministry.”
Harry was perplexed. “Why not while you were away? The thieves, if they are thieves, would have had more time.”
“Probably because everyone knows we would be at the ceremony, whereas our trip was not public knowledge,” Severus replied.
“It wouldn’t have been too difficult to know about it,” Harry retorted. His eyes never left the hole in the roof.
Severus shrugged, but the gesture held more anger than indifference.
The young man turned to the family. “Do you know if somebody else knows about the … potion?”
“I hope not. I’d just finished my research last week. I only had to test it on a subject.”
Severus started to pace. His dark moving silhouette contrasted with the three others’, who were like statues. His loud breathing echoed the pounding of his shoes on the uneven cobblestones of the street. He violently fisted his hands and his face contracted in a vicious rictus. Without warning, he stood in front of Harry and threatened him with his wand.
“The leak could only have happened when I had the ‘courtesy’ to visit you at the Ministry to keep you updated about my work’s progress. It was just before we left for Paris on Friday. You always had a big mouth,” he hissed.
Hermione unwound Eileen’s arms from her midriff and pushed her daughter behind her. With a couple of quick steps, she reached the two men. “Severus, please,” she begged, “not in front of Eileen.”
Her words seemed to calm Severus a little, for he stepped back. However, his breathing was still as choked and his wand directed at Harry.
“I promise I had nothing to do with that,” the Auror exclaimed, his hands raised as a sign of peace. “You know I’d never do that to Hermione or you. There must be an explanation.”
The trembling of his voice betrayed a deep disappointment, tinged with resentment at the Potions master’s lack of trust in him. The two men assessed each other for another couple of minutes, then Severus lowered his wand. “It pains me to admit that I have to believe you. Your loyalties are so absolute that it’s a flaw of your character.”
Whatever the situation, Severus had mastered the art of turning a compliment into an insult. Harry was so accustomed to it that he did not pay attention and only noticed the essential: the other man still trusted him in spite of circumstances not in his favour. So he answered with a sincere, “Thank you,” before he proposed they enter the house to check if anything was missing. Hermione decided to wait on the ground floor with Eileen while the two men, guided by the Lumos emanating from Severus’s wand, climbed the narrow stairs up to the laboratory, the only room visited by the intruders.
“That doesn’t explain how they could overcome my wards,” Severus noted. “Only Hogwarts and the Ministry are better protected than my house, and only because some of the spells used on those locations are so ancient that nobody knows what they are.”
“This is far from reassuring. Not many people have resources enough at their disposal to pull off such a coup.”
They stopped in front of the closed laboratory door. Severus opened it. In the weak light of the illumination spell and the quarter of moon peeking from behind a cloud, they could see that the room was in disarray: empty vials, parchments here and there, cupboard doors ajar. Yet nothing was broken, and no potion had been spilled. Whoever the uninvited guests were, they had been cautious. What kind of thief took care of leaving their victim’s den in good shape? Someone who knew his way around potions, was the answer Severus’s mind came up with. He rushed to the desk sitting against the farthest wall.
“Merlin’s bollocks!” he yelled, enraged, as he grabbed a wooden box. “They stole my research!”
He threw the empty box against the wall. It damaged the panelling before falling to the floor, unmarred. It was a safe-box, one of George Weasley’s greatest successes. It was supposedly inviolable. Harry had never managed to open one forcibly, and didn’t know anyone who could claim having done so. He felt pity as he watched his best friend’s husband, hunched over his desk. He was clutching the edge of the piece of furniture. His shoulders were shaking with suppressed rage. After several minutes, he calmed down enough to straighten up and turn to Harry.
“Do you have a suggestion, O chief of Aurors?” he sneered.
Harry was not disconcerted. “Maybe. Only a very skilled Curse-Breaker could have penetrated this room and opened your safe-box. To my knowledge, only Gringotts and the wizarding mafia have the resources to do so.”
Harry thought he saw Severus pale when he mentioned the wizarding mafia. Admittedly, the Death Eaters looked like teenagers in a summer camp when compared to that organisation. Except for Bellatrix, of course.
“If the wizarding mafia is involved … What would their intentions be with my process?”
“Let’s go back to Hermione and Eileen. They must be starting to worry, and I’d rather we discuss all of this with her. She’s as concerned as you are and always has good ideas.”
The two men were deep in thought when they returned to the ground floor.
“I’ve sent Eileen to bed,” Hermione announced as soon as she saw them. “And I’ve prepared some tea. Don’t worry, Severus,” she added when she noticed his frown. “I checked the first floor and the bedrooms before. Nothing was touched there.”
Once they were all gathered around a pot of tea, Hermione started. “What did you find?”
Severus stood up and paced on the colour-faded carpet, his hands laced behind his back. “The thieves only took the parchments and the test potion of the process that makes potions trans-species. The roof will have to be replaced, but everything’s intact. I’ve cast a protecting spell in case it rains. We must not forget to recast it every three hours.” His anger had not abated yet.
“Only that? But you have hundreds of Galleons worth of ingredients in your laboratory, some of them are nearly impossible to find.”
“Obviously money isn’t the motive,” Harry said. “Anyway, not immediate and easy money they could get out of selling stuff on the black market. The thieves acted with the long term in mind. As I said to Severus, only excellent Curse-Breakers could get into your house, which narrows the field of research to the goblins or the wizarding mafia.”
“The goblins? As far as I know they’re more interested in gaining the right to wield a wand than by potions.”
“Maybe. The thing is, they’d need to convince their human Curse-Breakers to commit the theft. Not a lot of humans would agree to do that for the goblins. Besides, their Curse-Breakers are hired nearly as much for their morals than for their abilities …”
“But … the wizarding mafia … what would the interest be for them?”
“Yes, Harry,” Severus insisted. “What would the interest be?”
Harry put his empty cup down on the coffee table and turned his eyes to the dancing fire in the fireplace. Then he made a decision.
“What I’m going to tell you is strictly confidential and restricted to the Auror department, on orders from the Minister himself.”
Harry turned back to his friends. Severus was standing behind Hermione’s seat. He was gripping the chair’s back. The couple’s attention was entirely focused on the Auror.
“The mafia has been recruiting diurnal vampires as henchmen for the last few months. Those creatures are very resistant thanks to their very hard skin. They may even be able to go through most magical wards unscathed.”
Severus and Hermione gasped. Indeed, that last information was unknown by the public at large.
“My potion is an anti-sparkling one,” Severus muttered darkly. “If it works, the diurnal vampires will be able to move around in broad daylight without being spotted. I don’t even want to think about all the possibilities, like Polyjuice …”
Silence fell while the two wizards and witch digested the potential consequences of the night’s events. That vampire species, discovered quite by chance ten years ago after the attack of an American wizarding family, was feared by every wizard in the world. The only efficient curses against them were of the Dark quality, and curses like Sectumsempra were known by but an infinitesimal part of the wizarding population.
“I don’t understand,” Hermione said slowly. “Wouldn’t it be a risk for the wizarding mafia to give more power to creatures that already are very powerful? Couldn’t the vampires try and take over the organisation leadership?”
“The risk isn’t as dire,” Harry replied. “Most of those vampires live alone or as couples, and are nomads. They don’t care much about power as long as they can feed. There are a couple of exceptions, like the vampire armies in the South of the United States, but those are more preoccupied by fighting their own kind. The real danger could come from the Volturi. If they ever hear about your process, Severus, I fear a new war could break out.”
The Volturi—the vampires who made the law in the vampire world—were well known by wizards. They had signed a pact of cohabitation with the Italian Ministry of Magic and did not interfere in wizarding affairs. However one did not need to have a degree in psychology to read a strong taste for power on those ancient creatures’ faces.
“Then we must get my parchments back as soon as possible,” Severus concluded. “But how? Where to begin?”
“I suggest first that we keep quiet as long as possible about the robbery,” Harry suggested. “If it were known, the Ministry would have to put an Auror team together to investigate the case. If the mafia is involved, they’ll know about it and would hide their implication even more carefully.”
“Whereas if we act discreetly, it’ll be easier to inquire after Severus’s research,” Hermione finished with enthusiasm. Her smile faded, though, when a thought crossed her mind. “Do we have an idea of where to begin?”
“I think so,” Severus said. A couple of ideas had already come to him. “We won’t start our investigation with the mafia. We’re too well known. Any question on our part would reach their ears at once. I propose that we explore the vampire side of things.”
“Sure. We’re going to be ever so discreet if we go on interviewing every vampire,” Harry said sarcastically.
But Severus looked smug. He walked around Hermione’s armchair and went to rummage through a drawer of a cabinet near the fireplace. He took a white cardboard rectangle out of it. “Not if we’ve got help.” He held out the card to Hermione.
“Oh,” she said. “I had forgotten.”
Wordlessly, she handed the card to Harry. He read: Edward Cullen, Denali Park, Alaska. There was a phone number on the back.
“You know the Cullens?” Harry exclaimed.
“This one came to see me two years ago. He’s the one who involuntarily gave me the idea for the trans-species process.”
“It’s quite notorious that the Cullens and the Volturi don’t exactly get along well,” Hermione added. “It’s a brilliant idea, love.”
The Snapes exchanged a rather intense look. Severus’s black eyes, unusually warm, met Hermione’s loving brown ones. Luckily for Harry, that exchange lasted only a couple of seconds. He felt like a voyeur. As soon as the moment was past, he spoke to hide his embarrassment. “Since we have their phone number, we could call them with Hermione’s mobile phone.”
Severus scowled. “I don’t think so. We may be watched. It wouldn’t be any good to inform our enemies of our decisions.”
Harry was going to protest, but Severus prevented him. “I’m going to pay them a visit as soon as tomorrow or the day after. I know that one of the Cullens can See the future. She’ll see my arrival and will tell her family. I only need a couple of things and an illegal Portkey.”
After another half hour of brainstorming and arguing, the three friends, exhausted, agreed to implement Severus’s plan of action.
“I’ll cover for you about the Portkey. Tell me what time you’re going off, and I’ll create a diversion in the Department of Magical Transportation.”
“Thank you, Harry. I really appreciate the gesture.”
The practical details were settled at once. Severus would leave the next day at the end of the afternoon and arrive at the Cullens’ sometime during the morning. Eileen would Floo to Hogwarts in the morning as had been previously arranged with the school headmaster. As for Hermione and Harry, they would go to work at the Ministry as if nothing were amiss. Harry would go and ask an “important” question to the employee in the Department of Magical Transportation to distract his attention from the charms watching the boundary at the time of Severus’s departure.
On Monday around five p.m., a bottomless bag—charmed by Hermione—in his hand, Severus put a finger on a match box. He felt as if he was hooked behind his navel and hurled into nothingness. He was shaken, turned upside down for several minutes before he could at last put his feet on dry land.
He was in Alaska, and the sun was shining.
Alliance in Alaska by septentrion
Thanks to Ayerf for the beta.
Thanks to Ayerf for the beta.
Chapter 3. Alliance in Alaska
A black bear’s silhouette was standing out against the blue sky. The animal had been surprised by the Apparition of a wizard wearing a coat as black as its own just under its nose. Unfazed, Severus put the bear to sleep and cast a warming charm on himself with a distracted flick of his wand, then he watched the landscape around him. High mountains, low grass and spots of eternal snow were offered to his eyes. The view was really splendid and grandiose. He regretted not having time to play tourist. He took out of his pocket a little round box not unlike a compass. It was a CAB, or Charm to Apparate Blithely. Hermione’s parents had baptised it wizarding GPS. He entered what information he had about the Cullens’ home. Apparition coordinates appeared on his CAB.
Two seconds later he was standing in front of an imposing wooden house sitting on a small plateau high on the south side of the mountain. A field of sedge and other herbs gave the scenery a picturesque feel. A young girl with short black hair, whose pale skin and golden eyes betrayed her vampire nature, was waiting for him at the front door.
“Hello,” she greeted him with a musical voice when Severus reached her. “I’m Alice Cullen.”
She looked sincerely happy to meet him. She held out her hand. Severus shook it, knowing he would have to put his reluctance aside and shake a lot of cold hands before the end of the morning.
“Severus Snape, but I suppose you already know it.”
She beamed at him. Severus repressed a shiver. Those teeth …
“Come in. Everybody’s waiting for you.”
He accepted her invitation and brushed past her to go into the house. She led him to a warm living-room with solid wood furniture. A fire was dancing in the chimney. Sun or no sun, mornings were cold in Alaska. Severus thought it was considerate of them to take his needs into consideration.
Five other vampires were sitting around a broad table. Their faces were grave. Alice introduced each of them from left to right.
“Our father, Carlisle, and our mother, Esme.”
A blond man and a rather petite woman with caramel-coloured hair and a welcoming smile nodded in greeting. Severus responded in the same manner.
“Welcome in our home, Mister Snape. We hope you’ll find your sojourn to be agreeable,” Carlisle said.
“My husband, Jasper.”
Another blond vampire, his hair a different shade than Carlisle, with a guarded demeanour, greeted him. Maybe Severus would not have to touch too much dead flesh, after all.
“Emmett and Rosalie ...”
Alice pointed to a broad shouldered man and a golden-haired woman. The man looked at him like a child eyeing a Christmas gift while the woman’s attitude exuded coldness.
“... who are married. And at last Edward, whom you already know, and his wife, Bella.”
“Hello,” Edward said without looking at him whereas the brunette Bella cast him a timid smile. Thank heaven she kept her mouth closed. Then she reproached her husband for his impoliteness with a withering look.
Alice took a seat near Jasper after she had gestured their guest to sit between Carlisle and Bella.
“Do you want some coffee?” inquired Esme in a friendly voice.
“No, thank you. I’d like, if possible, to explain why I am here without waiting.”
“Of course,” Carlisle answered.
Then Severus expounded how Edward’s request two years ago incited him to create an anti-sparkling potion for vampires and how that potion had evolved into creating a trans-species process which made potions assimilable by non-human creatures. He told them about the robbery of his laboratory the day before.
“We suspect the wizarding mafia to be behind the theft. We don’t know how they could have known about my research since only my wife and her best friend knew about it. They’re both very discreet, and I trust them absolutely. If it were only an anti-sparkling potion, I wouldn’t worry too much. You’re still recognisable as vampires by wizards, with or without such a potion. I fear more how my process could be used. The wizarding world uses all kinds of potions, to heal, to hurt, to take someone else’s appearance, to confound the mind ...”
Severus paused so that his revelation could make its way in the eight vampires’ minds. They had listened to him so attentively that they had remained as immobile as statues while he was speaking. Their presence would not have disfigured the fašade of a gothic cathedral. The crackling fire and Severus’s breathing were the only things to break the silence.
Carlisle spoke first. “If your suspicions are right, the situation is worrisome ... The relations between our two species, I mean between wizards and vampires, are tense already. Did you know that several skirmishes had occurred in Texas?”
Severus shook his head. “No.”
“The fear of an intervention by the Volturi is the only reason why the vampires involved didn’t go too far. However, it’s clear that a vampire army can stand up to a small group of wizards, and even overcome it. I fear that their thirst for power would make them lose their minds if they could put their hands on potions they could drink.”
Carlisle’s fear was shared by everyone if their solemn expressions were any indication.
“I doubt,” Severus resumed, “that the wizarding mafia would consent to sell the process at all. Moreover it hadn’t been tested on a subject yet. Therefore I think things will be quiet for the time being. I’m pretty sure the mafia have under their thumb some Potions master talented enough to finish my work. Only then will the trans-species potions produced by the mafia be available on the black market. I also think that they will use those potions to pay their vampire henchmen.”
Eight surprised pairs of eyes were trained on Severus suddenly.
“The rumours are true, then?” Carlisle muttered. “Some of our kind accept to ‘work’ for Humans?”
“We’re quite sure about it. I don’t know where you’ve heard those rumours, but I’ll ask you not to spread them. The wizarding public knows nothing about them. The British Ministry wish to prevent a general panic.”
“They want to avoid a repeat of what happened in Ireland last year, I suppose.” Jasper alluded to the attack on a coven of three vampires by an angry mob after the bloodless body of a little girl had been found. The vampires had to dive into the sea from the top of a cliff to escape the populace’s anger. No one knew what had become of the vampires since then.
The blonde Rosalie threw her hair back with impatience. “It’s very nice of you to come and warn us, but what do you expect in return?”
A slight smile appeared on Severus’s lips. He appreciated people who did not prevaricate. “Your help to recover my research without alerting the authorities.”
He sized up his interlocutors’ expressions when he made his request. He was not surprised to see distrust and prudence were the predominant emotions, though Emmett, the big vampire, had an excited light in the eyes. He probably was a Gryffindor at heart, ready to throw himself in the first adventure to cross his path.
After another moment of reflexion, Carlisle spoke again. That vampire was the one Severus needed to win over, there was no doubt about that. The others would follow their father’s lead, even grudgingly.
“I thank you for coming to our home to warn us about the danger. However I don’t see how we could help you with the wizarding mafia. We don’t have any connections with that organisation.”
“You can help us—I mean my wife, our friend and me. We decided to start our search in the vampire world so that we wouldn’t tip off the mafia about our intentions. The thieves took with my research a sample of anti-sparkling potion ready to be tested. They’ll need several guinea pigs to make it a finished product. As far as I know, you have a lot of connections in the vampire world. I need you to convince them to answer our questions so that we can trace the person who has my parchments through those vampire guinea pigs.”
Carlisle nodded to show his understanding. The vampire population was not that large. If only two or three of them took part in experiments carried out by humans, or even just ‘worked’ with humans, the odds were good that someone had heard about it.
“If I may,” Alice interrupted, “I believe it’s in our interest to help him. I’ve seen”—that explained why she seemed to be looking into nothingness for most of the meeting—“what would happen if we don’t intervene as soon as possible. In the medium or long term, I don’t exactly know, the vampires will get bolder and start to show themselves in public. Some of them will try to build themselves a kingdom in which the Humans, whether they’re wizards or not, would be their slaves and food stock. The Volturi wouldn’t be able to maintain order even though they would have access to the potions too. The Humans will retaliate by using weapons of mass destruction. Some of us may even die ...”
She abruptly interrupted her description and shuddered. Edward, who must have been reading her thoughts, started and ... paled? No, it was only an impression. Vampires could not lose colours they did not have to start with. It was nevertheless impossible to doubt that he had been profoundly affected by Alice’s vision.
“How can we help you?” he asked Severus.
The wizard had presumed that Edward held a grudge against him because of the anti-sparkling potion and had therefore ignored him so far. But even for vampires, it seemed that some people were more important than pride.
“We have a couple of ideas, but we need your opinion before we make a decision. The wizarding mafia is a well-established organisation in Eastern and Central Europe. The Ministry has proofs of vampire involvement in Mafia activities in Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia. Do you know vampires in those countries?”
Carlisle shared a look with Edward first, then Alice.
“I think it can work,” she answered to his silent question. “But we must not inform the Volturi.”
Carlisle frowned. To hide anything from the Volturi was tricky, especially if anything happened in Europe. He looked questioningly at Edward, who imperceptibly nodded. Carlisle sighed deeply.
“We know two vampires in Romania. Their names are Stefan and Vladimir. Before the Volturi killed all their families, they used to live like kings and rule over vampires and humans alike in their area. They have hated the Volturi for the last fifteen centuries. The Volturi have at their disposal valuable resources and talents that would be very valuable to us, but Stefan and Vladimir are still very influent around the Black Sea and in the Balkans. They’re our best hope at getting useful news.”
Meeting the Cullens had been an excellent idea, mused Severus.
"How are we going to contact them?"
"They can get mail. They have a snail mail address."
The doctor knew how to use sarcasm. He rose in Severus's esteem.
"However, I suggest that we go and meet them in person. I don't want to take the risk of our letter being intercepted."
"We'll need a cover," Jasper intervened. "Our goal must not be too obvious either."
All, Severus included, nodded. From that moment on, there was not a human and eight vampires around the table, but nine plotters – even if Rosalie endeavoured to keep a disinterested air. It was decided that the delegation who would visit the Romanian vampires would comprise Carlisle, who knew them best and was esteemed by them, Edward for his ability to read minds, Bella because where Edward went Bella followed (and one more vampire also meant more security), and Severus because he was the only one able to determine if any document was related to his research or not.
"What about us?"
Emmett had his arms crossed and an expression of rebellion on his face. Carlisle smiled with affection.
"Esme, Jasper and Alice will go to Bulgaria, officially to invest in a country in development. They'll be close enough to help in case we have a problem and will question the local vampires."
Emmett growled, which earned him being elbowed by Rosalie. Carlisle's smile broadened.
"You'll officially stay in Alaska to guard the empty house."
"Carlisle!" Emmett cried.
"Unofficially, you'll go to Serbia to make your own inquiry and come to help us if need be."
"Yessss!" he exclaimed, pumping his fist in victory. His beaming face brought his dimples out. He was really like a big child.
"Emmett, behave, please," Rosalie admonished. Her rebuke lost its effect when she could not prevent the corners of her lips from twitching. For the first time since the previous day, Severus felt optimism prevail in him. He was beginning to feel tired, though. It was only nearing midday in Alaska, but it was getting late by English hour, the one that governed his body. He barely repressed a yawn. His gesture did not go unnoticed.
"I think our visitor needs his rest," Carlisle stated. "Maybe we ought to concentrate on our journey's details so that he can go back home.”
The way the ‘children’ reacted to their father’s statement – straightening in their seats and giving all their attention to their father – Severus imagined he was back in his classroom after he had scolded the students. It was decided that Severus would prepare for his trip to Romania from England, where he would spread the news of his intention to track traces of Dark magic left behind by Vlad the Impaler. He would meet, completely 'by chance', three members of the Cullen family during his trip. They would then decide to travel together to share their respective knowledge about Dark magic and vampires. Severus felt like he was back in time, when he was spying for the Order of the Phoenix. His departure for Romania was fixed for the next Saturday. The Cullens would find him in the wizarding part of Bucharest on Sunday.
Then Severus took his leave of the Cullen family. This time he did not bother with reaching a secluded location to create an illegal Portkey to go back home in spite of Carlisle accompanying him outside. He knew he could count on the vampire's silence. Anyway, he was too tired to go further.
The next five days went too fast for Severus’s taste. Not only did he have to meticulously prepare his trip – thanks to Hermione and her enlarging spells for luggage – act publicly as if he had not been robbed, but he also started to feel too old for that kind of adventure. Of course, adding medicinal potions (against diabetes, increasing blood pressure, etc.) in the ad hoc compartment of his suitcase did not help him with the feeling. And above all he could not forget his vests and warming long johns. His body would never forgive him such absent-mindedness if the nights grew too cold. Oh, and he could not forget to write to Eileen to tell her about his travel and to promise to bring her some souvenirs.
Friday evening, Hermione and Severus were on the sofa in their lounge-library to review one last time the details of Severus’s expedition. Once that was done, Hermione leaned forward and grabbed her spouse’s hands. “You’ll be prudent, won’t you?”
Her brown eyes, so expressive, showed her fear but also the love and trust she had in him. What else could he answer but, “I promise you, Hermione.”?
Rumour in Romania by septentrion
Thanks to Ayerf for the beta and to Duniazade for the information about Romania.
Chapter 4. Rumour in Romania
After a last embrace with Hermione, Severus Portkeyed to Bucharest on a Saturday evening at the end of May. Once there, he quickly left the Romanian Ministry, the architecture of which was influenced by the Communist era, to go to his hotel, the Vrajitoarea Cocosata (unpronounceable according to Severus), where he had booked a room for three nights. The place’s warm atmosphere and quaint style reminded him of the Leaky Cauldron. He read a couple of pages of the book he had taken with him before he tried to go to sleep. This activity kept him occupied for a long time, and dawn was already peeking through the night when, at last, he fell asleep. In truth, he had forgotten how to sleep alone.
Severus woke up late on Sunday. Since he did not have anything better to do, he decided to visit the wizarding area after a light and late breakfast of buttered bread and plum jam. A small lapse in his diet could not harm him, could it? He found in a bric-Ó-brac shop an update for his CAB with all Apparition points in Romania. The shopkeeper, excited to have an English customer, insisted practicing his skills in Shakespeare’s language with Severus. Luckily, the man spoke decent English.
“What brings you to our beautiful country, Mister Snape?”
All hopes Severus may have had to travel incognito one day vanished with that simple sentence. If even a Romanian individual half his age could recognise him...
“I’m interested in Dark magic, as you probably know.”
“Of course,” the other answered while rocking on his tiptoes. “It’s in your biography.” Rita Skeeter’s unauthorised biography had been a best-seller in the entire wizarding world.
“Academically, of course.”
Severus put on a conspiratory air. “I’d like to examine the traces of Dark magic Vlad the Impaler is reputed to have left in this country.”
“Oh, yes. I know everything about it!”
“And,” Severus lowered his voice, “I wonder if diurnal vampires wouldn’t live in Romania. You know those creatures are considered as very Dark?” Which is ironical for creatures that sparkle in the sun.
“It’s very much possible,” the shopkeeper said thoughtfully. “We’re so accustomed to the presence of nocturnal vampires that diurnal vampires would be inconspicuous if they hunted only at night.”
“Exactly. Those creatures’ properties are so fascinating ...” Severus deliberately took a dreamy expression.
“You know, now that you’re speaking of it, I wonder if the vampires you’re seeking wouldn’t live in the area of Mercurea-Ciuc. There’s a very old legend in that part of the country about immobile gods sitting on stone thrones. The inhabitants used to offer them Human blood, according to the legend.”
That legend tallied with the information provided by the Cullens about their Romanian acquaintances. “Thank you very much. I think you’ve just given me a place where to start.” While legitimising my trip there, he added inwardly.
Severus left the shop after a promise to the shopkeeper to tell him about his adventures before he returned to London. It was time for him to head for the bookshop where he was planning to meet the Cullens. He found a couple of interesting-looking books on nocturnal vampires, but alas they were all in Romanian. Some illustrations got his attention, though, and he did not need to feign surprise when Edward Cullen spoke to him.
“Mister Snape! What a surprise.”
Severus turned around. In front of him were Edward Cullen, his spouse, Bella, and his father, Carlisle.
“Mister Cullen. Isn’t the world a small place?”
Since such a meeting between celebrities of the wizarding world was sure to draw attention, the following conversation was everything but spontaneous. It had been meticulously prepared when Severus was in Alaska.
“I see that you’re interested in our species,” Carlisle noted.
“Indeed. My speciality is the Dark Arts, as you probably know. I wanted to measure and study the traces of Dark magic Vlad the Impaler is said to have left in this country. No wizard has written a competent book about the matter until now. I’ve also heard about a legend alluding to diurnal vampires in the area of,” Severus checked the name in his Guide of Magical Romania, “Miercurea Ciuc.”
“You’re speaking of Stefan and Vladimir, I guess,” Carlisle said with a big smile. “What a happy coincidence! We have a couple of business appointments here in Bucharest, my son, my daughter and I, and then we’re going to pay a courtesy visit to our two friends, who happen to live in the area you’ve mentioned.”
Hell, those vampires were good actors, although the girl still lacked practice: her smile was a tad too nervous. It was subtle, but Severus’s talents as a spy did not miss that clue.
“Really?” Severus managed to look both suspicious and interested, one of his best fake expressions.
“Yes, really,” Carlisle answered without losing his jovial tone. “I have an idea. Why don’t you come with us? We leave for Miercurea on Wednesday. We could introduce you to our friends.”
“I’d rather go there without waiting for Wednesday,” Severus objected.
“I fear Stefan and Vladimir are not very ... hospitable to the persons they don’t know. Our presence would smooth things.”
“All right,” Severus conceded after a minute of so-called reflection. “But know that I’m going to take some magical precautions to ensure my safety during our trip.”
“Excellent. Here is our hotel.” Carlisle held out a business card praising the merits of a Muggle hotel. “Come and meet us on Wednesday at ten a.m. We’ll use a rental car.”
“Before we forget, think of buying food for two to three days,” Edward said. “Just in case ...”
“Thank you, Edward,” Carlisle retorted. “But I hadn’t forgotten. On the other hand, you forget that as a doctor, it falls to me to remember that kind of detail.”
Edward and Bella both smiled at Carlisle’s teasing. Then the three Cullens took their leave under the pretext of a business lunch with Muggle manufacturers in search of investors.
On Wednesday morning, Severus stood in front of the Cullens’ hotel at ten a.m. sharp. At the same time a luxurious BMW with tinted windows parked along the pavement right in front of him. The driver’s door opened. Edward, dressed in a long-sleeved suit, wearing gloves, a hat, dark glasses, and a thick layer of make-up, got out to help him with his luggage and to invite him to climb in the back of the car with Carlisle. Severus noted that the three vampires wore very covering clothes because of the beaming sun.
“Couldn’t our journey wait for some hours? It would have been easier to go unnoticed after the sun sets,” Severus said once he was in the car.
“Alice called us yesterday evening, or rather early this morning. She insisted that we set out as soon as possible. She didn’t understand the meaning of all the visions she’s had lately, but it was clear for her that waiting for more hours could signify the failure of our endeavour,” Carlisle explained.
Severus answered with a nod, before he had to cling to his seat belt with all his might: Edward Cullen drove the BMW as if it were the Knight Bus. The landscape flashed past them so fast he could not appreciate its beauty. The wizard’s stomach threatened to scarper away with each turn of the road. Several times he believed the car and its occupants were going to add to the picturesque quality of the Romanian country. And to top it all, Edward Cullen spent more time holding hands with his wife and making eyes at her rather than watching the road. Carlisle guessed his discomfort. “You’ll note, Mister Snape, that the friends we’re to visit are somewhat different from us. They’re very old, and it shows by the powdery aspect of their skin.”
Severus welcomed the distraction with gratitude. He questioned Carlisle about the diurnal vampires, their traditions, ways of life, etc. until they arrived at the foot of an isolated castle in the Romanian mountains. Severus estimated that the trip should have lasted forty-five minutes more at the least. Better not to think about that. So he carefully looked at the mansion standing in front of him as he got out of the car. A quadrangular building, with whitewashed walls, square towers at each corner and slated roofs, was the dwelling of a duo of diurnal vampires. The overall impression was that the castle was shrunken into itself.
In front of the main door stood two vampires. In the spring sun, the black clothes they wore made a harsh contrast with their sparkling faces and hands. They were rather slender and small, with one being blond and the other brown-haired.
“Carlisle, welcome to our humble residence.” The blond greeted them with accentuated English.
“Stefan, Vladimir, thank you for welcoming us in your home,” Carlisle answered warmly.
“Don’t even think of it.”
His burgundy eyes settled on Severus, who felt ill at ease under the scrutiny. He was clearly appraised like an ox at the cattle market. His right hand tightened around his wand.
"The human is with us," Edward intervened. "He's a wizard who's helping us with ... some things."
"Things we'd better keep to ourselves, I bet?" the brown-haired vampire said mockingly.
"That would be kind of you," Carlisle replied.
Being in the minority, Severus kept himself from interrupting, though he detested being spoken of as if he were not there. Bella Cullen did not seem to appreciate the Romanian vampires much either. It was a good sign in Severus's book. It meant the Cullens would be attentive and that he would be protected from their suave-voiced hosts' appetites. Feeling his wand in his hand reassured him a little too.
"But please, come in. By the way, I'm Stefan ..." the blond said, bowing slightly.
"... and I'm Vladimir." The brown-haired vampire imitated him.
The four visitors preceded the two vampires inside, and the door shut noiselessly behind the group. The castle may have been ancient and rather empty as long as Severus could see, but it was well taken care of nonetheless. The wood gleamed, the hinges were silent, and the walls newly plastered.
They were led to a bare room dominated by two very antique and unadorned stone thrones. Stefan and Vladimir sat down on the thrones, while the three Cullens and Severus remained standing. It was no problem for the vampires, but Severus hoped the discussion would not last. Even the Dark Lord – may he rot in Hell – was not as cruel. Most of the time. To crown it all, he was hungry, thirsty and needed to use the loo. The conversation promised to be very long.
"What news do you bring to us?" Stefan asked. "I suppose you didn't take the pain to meet us only out of courtesy."
"We've simply taken advantage of our being in the country for business to come and greet you. This is also the opportunity to hear about the happenings in the European vampire world. But before we go further," Carlisle added when the blond vampire looked like he wanted to speak, "I suggest we let our human friend take care of the needs particular to his species."
Severus cast him a very grateful look.
"Oh, of course. Pray, forgive us, Mister ..."
"Mister Snape. I'll lead you to a room designated to host humans. It has every commodity your species needs. We even keep a functioning latrine."
Severus’s cheeks took a light shade of red when the vampire alluded to his bodily needs. “Thank you,” he simply answered while praying that the Cullens would not leave him alone with Stefan. He had no trust in the creature.
“I’m coming with you,” Edward announced. Once more Severus was grateful to the Cullens. “I think this castle architecture is worth seeing.”
Edward’s excuse did not fool anyone. He had just proclaimed himself Severus’s bodyguard.
As the small group left the room Severus had inwardly baptised ‘throne room’, he heard Vladimir tease Carlisle about his propensity to take humans under his wing. However, behind the jesting, something unidentifiable that made Severus shudder lurked in the brown-haired vampire’s voice. Stefan closed the door, and Severus could not hear Carlisle’s answer. He noticed Edward’s pronounced frown. Obviously, he did not like Vladimir’s thoughts at all.
Severus ceased to speculate on Edward’s dislikes to concentrate on the route leading to the castle ‘human quarters’. He might have to navigate the corridors and stairs alone later, so he memorised them the best he could. The corridors were narrow; not more than two persons could walk abreast, so Edward stayed at Severus’s side while Stefan showed them the way. The latter stopped in front of a door without any other distinctive characteristic than patina of age. Behind it, the room attributed to Severus was as forbidding as the rest of the castle.
A straw mattress and fluffy blankets lay on a wooden bed frame. A wooden, sculpted chest and an Empire chest of drawers, strangely modern in this environment, were the only furniture. A window, too small for the size of the room, let daylight enter on the wall opposite a fireplace that did not seem to have ever been used.
“I hope this complies with your species’ standards, Mister Snape,” Stefan whispered in a falsely considerate tone.
That would do. Let’s hope they would not stay for the night! In the meantime, where were the latrines?
“You’ll find the latrines if you continue along the corridor that led here,” the vampire added. “Young Edward and I will let you have a bit of privacy so that you can tend to your needs.”
The two vampires went out of the room. Severus would never get accustomed to their ability to read his body language with so much accuracy. Their sharpened senses gave them an unfair advantage when confronted with humans, especially Muggles. He stuck his head out of the doorframe, his wand on the ready in case he needed to cast a sudden Sectumsempra. Nobody in sight. He suspected that the two ‘men’ were not far and could hear him walking along the corridor to the latrines. He found them hidden at the far end of a little corridor that ran parallel to the main one. It was nothing more than a small construction propped against the wall of the little fortress. A plank with a round hole in its middle served as toilet. When he looked through the hole, Severus saw that he had to empty his bladder and more into the open space. With an annoyed sigh, he tackled the task at hand.
When he came back into his room, he enlarged the bottomless bag, similar to the one Hermione had the year she hunted Horcruxes, in which he had put away the supplies bought for this trip. He ate some of his supplies. It was not as good as a home-made meal, but he was not going to be fussy. He filled the bowl sitting near a jug on the chest of drawers with an Aguamenti spell so that he could drink and freshen up. Feeling better, he meticulously tidied his things and cleaned the slightest bit of dirt or drop of water he could spot. When he left the room to search for Edward and Stefan, no trace of his spending time in there was visible to the naked eye—unless the eye belonged to a vampire, of course.
“Edward Cullen,” he called aloud.
As if by magic, the two vampires appeared in front of him. Their great speed with short distances was as good as Apparition. The small group returned to the throne room where Carlisle, Bella and Vladimir were making a perfect impression of stone statues. They probably had exhausted all the potentially interesting subjects of conversation.
“The human is ready,” Stefan announced while taking back his seat on his throne.
“Excellent. Now we can get to the point,” Vladimir added.
The two Romanian vampires cast an expectant look at their guests.
“Of course,” Carlisle said in a conciliatory tone. “But before I start, I must insist for this conversation not to reach the Volturi’s ears.”
That remark caught Stefan’s and Vladimir’s attention. Admittedly the Cullens preferred to keep the Volturi out of their business, but that was a common attitude among vampires. Now, the fact that the head of the Cullen family came in person and stressed the point out was most interesting.
“Carlisle, you very well know that our relationship with the Volturi is ... nonexistent,” Vladimir retorted.
“I know, but I’m of the opinion that nothing is obvious if it isn’t said clearly.”
That rejoinder earned him an amused smile, nearly indulgent, from the two elders. Severus thought they were scarier than ever.
Carlisle spoke again. “To involve them could result in giving them a quasi-absolute power not only on our species, but on humans too.” Carlisle held up a hand to prevent Vladimir’s objection. “I know you’re not interested in the humans’ fates, but what would you think if the Volturi entirely controlled your food source?”
“Hmmm,” Stefan and Vladimir made in unison. They were both frowning. They both leaned their heads on the right side in the same gesture.
Severus noticed Carlisle casting a side glance at Edward, who imperceptibly nodded. As for Bella, she exuded absolute mistrust; she was obviously itching to leave the premises. Severus sympathised fully.
“Certain rumours about vampires working for humans reached us,” Carlisle resumed. “Since rumours in our world often cross your path, we wondered if you had heard about it.”
The blond and the brown-haired vampires exchanged a look and shrugged. While they were playing mirror images, Edward nodded again, probably to answer a question Carlisle had asked him in his thoughts. Stefan and Vladimir moved their attention back to their guests.
“There’s no need to beat around the bush, is there?” Stefan asked, pointing his chin at Edward. “He’ll find a way to extract the information from our heads.”
Vladimir sighed noisily and rolled his eyes. “A couple of Albanian vampires may be the ones you’re looking for. Dasar and Jerina are their names.”
“Young and impetuous.”
“They were on their way to Moscow...”
“... to supposedly meet the ‘godfather’. As if vampires needed to be baptised.”
Severus supposed that living together for millennia made it easier for the two vampires to finish each other’s sentences.
“They’re said to have – quite inadvertently – decimated the participants of a meeting of opponents of this ‘godfather’ ...”
“Some greedy pigs, they are,” Stefan interrupted; his disdainful expression let no doubt of what he thought of the young vampires’ lack of restraint.
“... who in turn has invited them to his house in Moscow to reward them.”
Joseph Bouranov was said godfather. Severus knew the name of the ‘brute’ as Bouranov liked to be called thanks to his Knockturn Alley acquaintances. He was a wizard born into a Muggle family of the Russian mafia. He had been educated at Durmstrang and had a reputation to make the late Bellatrix Lestrange green with envy.
“Did they have the Volturi on their heels?” Carlisle inquired. “It’s impossible to keep such a massacre under wraps, and our Italian friends hate publicity.”
“Dasar and Jerina had a companion, Oltan. The poor sod carried the blame,” Stefan sighed. “He’s mere ashes now.”
“Thank you very much for the information,” Carlisle said. “It’ll be very useful.”
“Do you really think that those fools could bring such a chaos in our world?” Vladimir still seemed incredulous.
“Alice is persuaded of it,” Edward declared.
“Well, then, good luck in your chase. Before you go, would you care to join us for a hunting party? It’s always only Stefan and me. To break the monotony would do us a world of good.”
The three Cullens recoiled at the proposition, which brought out a mocking smile on the Romanian vampires’ lips. Really, Severus hated it when vampires smiled.
“Thank you for the invitation,” Carlisle answered with the most extreme politeness. “Alas we can’t linger. Each passing day is crucial.”
“At least let us walk you back to your car. Are those human means of transportation really comfortable?”
Carlisle and Edward maintained a conversation about cars while Bella and Severus followed them. They did not speak, merely shared a look of mutual understanding about their revulsion for Stefan and Vladimir.
The Cullens and Severus climbed back into the car. Just before Edward closed his door, Stefan said to him and Bella, “Will you embrace your daughter on our behalf? She’s such a lovely child.”
Bella barely held back a disgusted shiver whereas the neutral expression on Edward’s face betrayed, in Severus’s opinion, suppressed anger. After all he himself mastered that particular expression.
Edward drove off in a way that reminded Severus of a Firebolt’s take-off. The wizard was grateful to the Muggle who had invented safety belts, even if in theory magic would have saved him in an accident.
“Edward!” Carlisle admonished his son. “Was that necessary?”
The only answer of the younger vampire was a growl. Bella uttered a justification for both of them. “He provoked us by speaking of Nessie! Those carnivores very well know that I won’t ever let them come close to my daughter!”
Edward supported his wife by gripping her hand. Carlisle sighed. “Your reaction will only incite them to provoke you. Don’t you see that they’re terribly bored? Your behaviour amused them.”
It was undeniable that Stefan’s and Vladimir’s dwelling offered little distractions.
“And now, what’s the plan?” Severus asked.
“We go back home,” Edward answered.
Severus choked. “What? Go back home!”
Carlisle sighed again and rolled his eyes. Edward sniggered.
“Edward is joking. He means that we’re going to pretend to go back home, while in reality we’re going directly to Moscow.”
Severus breathed with relief. They had not abandoned him. He had started to realise how precious the vampires’ help in his quest to retrieve his process was. “Do I have to take a Portkey for London so that my return will be duly registered, and then discreetly come back to Moscow?”
A broad grin lightened Carlisle’s pale face. “Your reputation for subterfuge isn’t exaggerated. My family and I can be in Moscow on Friday evening at the latest, even if we take the time to hunt on our way. You’ll be able to spend one or two nights at home.”
Severus nodded. He appreciated having the opportunity to notify Hermione and Harry in person about what he had learned and where else he would go, without the risk for the information to fall in the wrong hands. There was only one drawback in the plan: he had to use several connections to go back to London because there was no direct Portkey for the British capital on Wednesday evenings. It was thus an exhausted Potions master who came back home as the evening started. He told Hermione an outline of his trip, slipped on his pyjamas (nightgowns were very good, but your legs got cold with them) and slept the sleep of the just until the next morning.
On Thursday evening, Harry, who had been alerted of Severus’s return by a Patronus, stopped by after work. Hermione was already home, eager that she was to spend as much time as possible with her husband.
“I think we can affirm the wizarding mafia is involved in the theft of your process,” the Auror acknowledged with a grimace.
“I know. The plan is to get into the place where Bouranov keeps the documents, to take them and to disappear. No one wants nor has interest in setting off an open conflict with the mafia.”
Harry looked dubious. Hermione frowned. “Do you think you could come and go without Bouranov noticing?” she inquired, worried.
“Of course not. What’s important is that the thief’s identity isn’t discovered. I’ll later be able to pretend I had bought my parchments back at an indecent cost on the black market.”
“I’m not sure it’s possible to come up with a better plan with so little time at our disposal,” Harry sighed with regret.
Hermione agreed. Severus was relieved to see that his wife and his friend trusted him enough not to ask more questions. He did not want to tell them that he intended to put the blame on some freshly out of Azkaban bloke. If Severus knew anything about villains, it was that they never believed people at their word. No doubt that Bouranov would want to check Severus’ statement himself and interview whoever the Potions master would claim had sold him the parchments. No, it was better if that part of his plan remained a secret.
While Severus was preparing his secret departure for Moscow, Carlisle, Bella and Edward ostensibly got into the Cullen jet, and discreetly got out of it a bit later. When the plane took off to Budapest and Belgrade to ‘fetch’ the other Cullens, the three vampires were already far North. They stopped long enough to hunt and to be joined by the other family members. The beaming sun of early June forced them to travel by night. So they arrived at the family dacha in Moscow surroundings on Friday late in the evening. Severus joined them not much later thanks to an illegal Portkey. What was one illegal Portkey more on his record?
Manoeuvres in Moscow by septentrion
Thanks to Ayerf for the beta, to Vizen for the information about Moscow and to Potions Mistress for having inspired some of the ideas in this chapter.
Chapter 5. Manoeuvres in Moscow
Severus was not too tired yet since it was only nine p.m. by his internal clock, so he suggested they start to implement their plan the same evening. “The nights are short in this season, and the sun shines every day. It’d be a better use for your inability to sleep”—grimaces of regret showed up briefly on some of the vampires’ faces—“to go and try to glean information.”
The others did not object. It was then decided that Edward, for his mind reading ability, and Carlisle, for his negotiation skills, would go to meet the local vampire community—though that last word was not quite exact since vampires usually lived alone. Alice, Jasper and Emmett would be close, ready to intervene if Alice saw things go awry. Esme and Rosalie would wait in the dacha with Severus. There was just one last detail to take care of.
“Your smell will betray you to our likes, though,” Jasper remarked to Carlisle.
“We can take a shower and spray ourselves with perfume,” Edward offered.
“That won’t prevent you from looking like yourself,” Rosalie argued. “And let’s not forget that our eye colour is telltale.”
Carlisle turned to Severus. “Can your magic help us?”
The wizard considered them one by one, deep in thought. They all had an expectant look on their faces. “I’m not sure. Your skin is spell-proof. I can try, though. If it doesn’t work, you’ll have to use costumes.”
“We have contact lenses, but none are red.”
“I can change their colours. May I?” he asked Carlisle, who was sitting next to him, pointing to the vampire’s blond hair.
“Er, yes,” the patriarch answered. “May I know what for, though?”
“I think I can spell your hair.” He rubbed a lock of Carlisle’s hair between his fingers. “Yes, it should work.” Severus raised his wand. “Do you trust me?”
Carlisle nodded. A flick of Severus’s wand, and he was sporting a black punk hairstyle. Esme put her hands on her mouth out of surprise whereas the rest of the Cullens guffawed. Severus smiled. “I only need to attach a distorting spell on your face, and your traits will appear slightly different from what they are.”
Flabbergasted, Carlisle acquiesced. When it was done, Emmett reacted first. He cracked the heavy wooden table by pounding his fist on it. “Wow, Carlisle. It’s impossible to recognise you, even with vampire eyes.”
Carlisle attempted to keep a straight face, even if the corners of his lips betrayed him. “Can you do anything to mask our scent?”
“I can spell perfumed clothes to modify and overpower their scent. That spell should hold for a couple of hours.”
“It should be enough.”
Another series of wand movements transformed Carlisle and Edward into foul-smelling punks. Severus’s sensitive – for a human – nose wrinkled in displeasure, as well as the Cullens’. When Edward tried to get near Bella, she stepped back.
“Could we make an experiment before we leave?” Carlisle, who had observed his children’s little game, suggested.
“Bella, would you come here, please?”
Bella complied, but was as disgusted by her father’s smell as by Edward’s. Carlisle put a hand on her shoulder. Severus was amused to note that she was holding her breath.
“My daughter, Bella, has an interesting power: she possesses a mental shield, which prevents others from intruding into her mind. She can spread that protection to those around her. I wondered if her shield would work against magic.”
Those vampires did not need to wield a wand with such abilities, Severus thought.
“I suspect,” Severus started, “that she’ll be immune to Legilimency. To simplify, it’s the ability to read others’ minds, but not the way Edward does. She’ll probably be immune to confusing spells, too, but your skin repels spells as a rule, so it’ll be difficult to discern what’s due to vampire characteristics from your particular characteristic, Mrs Cullen. On the other hand, that protection may be very useful for humans who happened to be in your company.” In other words, Bella’s power could protect Severus from certain attacks.
“I don’t think it necessary that Bella come with us,” Edward intervened.
Bella cast him a dark look. Rosalie and Alice rolled their eyes. Severus wondered if himself appeared so overprotective of his family to the world’s eyes. Well, he had no time for introspection.
“Maybe not tonight, since Mr Snape stays here. But when he comes with us, I’ll come too,” she retorted in a tone fitted to petrify first years. Perhaps someone should suggest to Hogwarts headmaster hiring a diurnal vampire to replace the current incompetent caretaker.
“We’ve lost enough time. Let’s go.”
Carlisle went out. Edward followed him after he had shared a last look with his wife. They were worse than newlyweds. The two vampires had planned to go down into the underground, where most of Moscow vampires were said to live, by Pobedy Park station, which happened to be the deepest station too. Actually, Muggles did not know that most fatal attacks in the underground corridors were vampire attacks and wasted their time looking for terrorists and racist groups.
Five minutes later, Alice, Jasper and Emmett went out, ready to help their father and brother if need be. Esme took cards out of a contemporary-looking – in spite of its heavy wooden structure – dresser. Those creatures undeniably had an affinity with natural materials.
“Will you join us, Mister Snape?”
“No, thanks. May I ask you if there is a place where I can sleep?”
“Oh, of course. Follow me. You can use my and Carlisle’s bedroom. Don’t worry,” she added when she noticed Severus was ready to refuse, “we don’t need it.” If she said so...
Esme’s and Carlisle’s bedroom was a total contrast with the room lent to him in the Romanian vampires’ castle. It was not littered with furniture and draperies, not at all, but it exuded a pleasant welcoming impression thanks to the warm colours of the bedding and walls, and to the homely shapes of the furniture. Besides, it connected with a private bathroom and loo. He thanked Esme for her hospitality, put his pyjamas on and fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. He was far beyond the age when he could stay up a whole night after Portkey-travelling and stressing about organising a raid into a cruel and crafty Mafioso’s dwelling.
Severus woke in the early hours, aka much too early. Whispers reached him through the closed door. He inferred from them that the Cullen men had come back from their nightly expedition, so he got up, stopped by the bathroom, and joined the vampire coven in the living-room. Of course, each one of them had heard him long before he reached them.
“Good morning, Mister Snape,” Esme greeted him. “Did you sleep well?”
Severus answered by the affirmative, conscious that the question aimed at making him feel at ease since the vampires could hear him breathe and his heart beat through three closed doors. Esme served him a breakfast she had prepared for him (she cooked well for someone who ate only blood). He quickly finished his meal so that he could listen to the report of Edward’s and Carlisle’s outing. He guessed the others probably had already heard it.
Edward spoke. “As soon as we were in the undergrounds tunnels, we found a trail. It led us to a vampire called Nestor. At first he was suspicious because he was face to face with two unknown vampires. I saw in his thoughts that he was three hundred years old and knew every vampire in Moscow, even though he prefers solitude. Between what he told us and what I got from his mind, we know that a vampire couple freshly arrived in town is housed by humans. This has been a subject for intense gossip, you see, all the more since those two vampires had red eyes.”
Ah yes, the eye colour of human blood drinking vampires, whereas those who only drank animal blood, like the Cullens, had ochre eyes.
“The couple has not been seen since they went in the human’s house. It’d be a big property in Kuntsevo quarter. Nestor didn’t know if it belonged to a wizard or not.”
Kuntsevo was not in the wizarding area of Moscow, but it did not mean anything. However, only very rich people could own a big property in a major city, like, for example, a Mafia godfather.
“I propose that we go on reconnaissance during the day. As a human, I should be able to remain unnoticed.” With the help of a disguise, he added to himself; it would not do to be recognised as he had been last week in Bucharest.
Alice … jumped … up ... down ... again ... on her chair. It was indecent for a centenarian to jump like that, a dazzling smile (brrr) on her face. “There’s no need for that. My Jazz found the names of all the property owners in Kuntsevo when he hacked the computer files of the town.”
Impressive. Moscow was part of the five more secure towns in the world, computer-wise. Severus turned his eyes to the blond vampire, who shrugged as if he did that every day. Come to think of it, it might be the case.
Jasper held out a list to Severus. A name called Severus’s attention like a lighthouse for the survivor of a shipwreck. “Joseph Bouranov appears in this list. It tallies with every clue we have.” Severus raised his eyes. “I’ll still have to reconnoitre the property surroundings. Bouranov probably has put up magical alarms everywhere in the area to alert him about non-Muggle comings and goings. I’d rather have an idea of the lay-out of the place before we devise a plan to take back my process.”
Jasper nodded. Given how all deferred to him about the operation, Severus guessed he was the family strategist. “It’s completely reasonable. I suggest that you go on that mission with Edward. You’ll be able to take care of those magical alarms and traps to prepare their dismantling, and Edward will be able to warn you if anyone approaches or to collect useful information.”
Severus frowned. “Since the sun’s shining, we’ll have to wait for this evening, won’t we?” What to do during the day?
“I’d like to discuss your process with you,” Carlisle said. “As a doctor for humans as well as for vampires, I’m interested in knowing more about your creation and its effects on the non-human creatures.”
The seats around the table were suddenly empty of all their occupants but for Carlisle and Severus. Nobody seemed to be very interested by an academic discussion when they could warm their icy bodies in the sun.
“You see, Mister Snape, I have a theory I’d like to submit to you.”
Severus was always ready for an academic discussion.
“You remember that I explained to you that vampires are creatures who change slowly, be it physically as well as emotionally? Actually, we barely change at all, and when it happens, the result is often permanent. Our bodies are frozen in the state they were in when we were changed. If,” Carlisle leaned slightly forward and Severus slid imperceptibly back in his seat, “a vampire was to drink a potion that would oblige him to change something in his body or his behaviour, wouldn’t that change become permanent as well?”
That question was really interesting. The proof was in the fact that all chairs were once again occupied.
“It’s a very likely possibility.” Severus rubbed his chin, lost in thought.
The ensuing discussion showed Severus to what extent each Cullen had a deep knowledge in all kinds of subjects. Immortality had its perks.
Esme excused herself some time before noon to cook a light meal for Severus. The latter took a vial with a brownish potion in it and swallowed a spoonful of it.
“I have diabetes,” he explained to his hosts, who were watching the vial with worry. “I must take it before each meal.”
“It looks like syrup,” Rosalie exclaimed while Carlisle cast her a disapproving look.
“It isn’t syrup. It’s a potion,” Severus retorted in an acerbic tone.
“I’m sorry,” Rosalie replied, a bit ashamed. “It reminds me of the atrocious medicines my parents made me drink when I was a child.”
“I understand,” Severus answered with a very, very small smile. He too had to swallow atrocious medicines in the past.
Esme put a plate with sandwiches, a glass of water and a couple of pastries in front of Severus.
“Thank you, Mrs Cullen.”
“Please, call me Esme.”
It was impossible to resist the unadulterated benevolence emanating from the mother of the family.
“If you call me Severus.”
She beamed at him. Someone (Edward? Emmett?) cleared their throat. Severus got back to his plate. They all invited him to call them by their name.
His meal finished, the conversation resumed about the potential offered by Severus’s process.
“Would your process allow some potions to be lethal to vampires?” Bella asked. Edward tenderly stroked the lines that had appeared between his wife’s eyebrows. “For example,” she continued, “if a potion could transform a vampire into a human being, the vampire should logically be mortal like the humans are.”
“That potion exists. It’s called ‘Polyjuice’. You add a part of the person you want to impersonate, usually a hair, and you become that person for an hour.”
The locust’s strident song filled the living-room. A fly’s buzzing invaded the ears of the present company. The sun’s warmth rushed through the closed doors and windows into the room. Carlisle’s voice made nearly all of them start. “That process must never fall in the Volturi’s hands. Or of any vampire’s hands.”
Severus agreed. “Not even just any wizard. As soon as I get back my research, I’ll entrust it to the Department of Mysteries of the Ministry of Magic. Once something’s in there, it’s very difficult to get it out. I’m persuaded the Ministry will want to legislate to control its use too. But it’ll be impossible to completely prevent it from being spread. Too many people already had had access to it.”
“It’s the best we can hope, indeed,” Carlisle sighed.
Then the small group around the table organised the reconnaissance mission of Bouranov’s property.
Severus excused himself before the sun set. He needed to rest before the evening expedition, and also an exchange of Patronuses with Hermione.
A long wall capped with broken glass (the good old methods are sometimes the best ones) and of electronic gadgets to detect intruders ran alongside the empty street; empty until two figures appeared on the pavement. Both wore dark clothes, and one of them waved a stick in front of him.
“No trace of magic here,” Severus murmured. Yet he kept his wand in his hand. It was like a dark protuberance on a pale background.
His companion, whose skin was as pale, nearly dazzling in the headlights of a passing vehicle, pointed a direction. “That way.”
Edward let Severus pass in front of him. The two men moved slowly. With each step, the wizard used his free hand and his wand to detect the presence of magic. One kilometre before their destination, he felt something.
“Detection spells. If we go through them, they’ll be alerted that at least a wizard has just entered in a restricted perimeter around Bouranov’s house.”
The nearer they got to their target, the more complex the spells grew, but none were destined to kill or harm. Severus knew all of them, except for the last one, a variant of one of Durmstrang’s wards if he was not mistaken. More than ten minutes were necessary to dismantle that spell.
Edward wrinkled his nose while Severus was working. “Vampires have passed here. Their smell has faded, but thanks to the absence of rain, it’s still there. I estimate that they came here some days ago, probably less than a week.”
They had almost reached the gates when Edward caught another scent. “Another vampire has gone around here more recently. I haven’t smelled him or her before because they came from the opposite direction.”
There were a little too many vampires involved for Severus’s taste.
Edward and Severus stayed away from the gates, for they were guarded by two wizards armed with wands and guns, the latter to fool the Muggles. The vampire listened to the guards’ minds for a while to collect everything they knew about the lay-out of the place while the wizard catalogued as best as he could the spells warding the gates. They were clearly protected with Dark magic. Then the two allies returned to the Cullens’ dacha. For the second time that night, Edward experienced side-along Apparition. He preferred running.
The Cullens were all seated around the table before Edward and Severus had put a foot into the dacha, so anxious they were to hear their scouts’ report.
“To get near the property won’t be a problem as far as the magical wards are concerned,” Severus said without preamble. “To get into the park will be another thing altogether. I suspect the wards on the gates and the surrounding wall are designed to prevent intrusions, whatever the intruder’s species.”
The displeasure that news brought was plain on the vampires’ faces.
“I think I can overcome them, but it may take time. Even up to an hour. Except if Mrs, sorry, Bella’s shield,” he corrected as he looked at the youngest Cullen, “can subjugate them.”
Bella nodded. “Of course.”
Edward refrained from commenting. Anyway, his tensed attitude, from the tightening of his skin around his eyes to his clenched jaw and fisted hands, proclaimed his opinion about his wife’s involvement in their mission. Yet he managed to relax his jaw and to share the news gleaned in the guards’ minds.
“To get through the gates and to enter the property in complete safety, it’s necessary to wear a medallion with a distinctive mark. If we overcome the guards without raising the alarm, we could use their medallions for two of us.”
“Which won’t be enough,” Carlisle noted.
“Indeed,” Edward admitted. “Once in the park, there’s only one sure path to cross it, but it’s invisible. It’s like treading through a minefield; you have to put your feet on exact places or you’re literally swallowed by a fire formed of monsters.”
Fiendfyre, great! One millimetre on the side, and you are a mere memory.
“A small building, protected by Bouranov’s elite guards, is at the far end of the park, out of sight of the main house. The guard who knew about its existence didn’t know more about it, but I think what we’re looking for is there.”
“How are we going to do this?” Emmett asked. He cracked his joints in anticipation.
“It’s preferable if some of us stay behind,” Severus suggested. “Let me finish, please,” he said as Emmett was about to protest. “It’ll be easier to remain unnoticed if there are less of us. And if we fail, someone will be able to take over. So to start, let’s have in mind our main goal: to take my parchments back and any practical research Bouranov may have had done.”
Severus was so accustomed to teaching dunderheads who listened to only half of what he was telling them that he felt somewhat disconcerted by the intense attention the Cullens were paying to him.
“In all likelihood, we’ll meet some resistance on our way. A smaller group is easier to protect with magic. We’ll have less risk to lose someone.”
“Who’s going to come with you?”
Severus blinked. Had he just seen the immense vampire pout like a four-year-old?
“Edward, Bella, Jasper and you,” Alice answered. “And you’ll all come back alive.”
“Thank you, little sister.”
“What about the others? I’m not decorative, you know,” Rosalie protested.
Diplomacy, my friend. “I don’t doubt it,” Severus said. “I think that you and Alice should follow us at a certain distance. Alice so that she can pass her visions to Edward, and you to protect her. Carlisle and Esme should stay here. You can prepare a second expedition if we fail.”
“When do we act?” Jasper inquired. His cold quiet demeanour would never cease to impress Severus.
“If I rest during the day, we can act tonight.”
The blond vampire inclined his head.
Carlisle stood up, his hands propped on the table. “This is it. That way, we’ll be able to be seen in public where we’re supposed to be, you in Great Britain, and us in Alaska, as soon as tomorrow. Good day to all. We’ll meet in this room at nine thirty p.m. to complete our preparations.”
Raid In Russia by septentrion
Thanks to Ayerf for the beta and to Vizen for the informations about Moscow.
Chapter 6. Raid in Russia
Four men and a woman holding a can appeared where Severus and Edward had appeared the previous night. Had they arrived three seconds earlier, Severus would have had to modify the memories of a couple who were on their way home after a lovers’ stroll in the night. Luckily for them, the couple had just turned the street corner.
The five persons wore dark clothes. Their faces’ features were blurred, as if the air was undulating in front of them. But worse was their smell: they reeked of cheap cologne. Severus thought they had no need of being silent since their smell was bound to precede any noise they could make. Well, the vampires had insisted. Since their kind recognised people by their scent, it was essential that they hid theirs in case a vampire enemy came out alive of tonight’s expedition.
Severus and Bella went ahead. After a few tests on Bella’s powers in the afternoon – with Alice’s help to keep Edward away – Severus was certain the young vampire could repel any kind of magic, even the one usually efficient against her species. Since Bella’s power was exerted on mental attacks, and since magic was above all the extension of a wizard’s will, it was logical that she could repel magic. That was Severus’s theory.
Silently, he pointed his wand at the line formed by the first alerting spell they met. It lit up green, like tinsel at man’s height crossing the street. Bella stood next to him, an air of concentration on her face, as if the exterior world did not exist anymore. The three other vampires watched the happenings with interest and a bit of tension.
An invisible form, that Severus imagined to be a hand, grabbed the thread and broke it in its middle. The hand, for lack of a better word, lost its shape, stretched, and little by little replaced the thread by space. Soon a small passage opened in front of the group; they only needed to cross it. Severus took advantage of the spell being immobilised to cancel it once they were past it. If they wanted Alice and Rosalie not too far behind them, they would need to keep the coast clear.
The five companions carried on walking. Severus detected spells, Bella neutralized them, and Severus dismantled them. For the moment, the three other men contented themselves with following and watching with attention and, Severus noted, pride for the last arrival in their family. When they arrived in sight of the gates of Bouranov’s property, Severus felt as if he had run a marathon. As simple to dismantle as the alerting spells had been, they had been numerous and had undermined his strength. He envied the vampires’ tirelessness.
Hidden from the guards’ sight by a corner of the property’s wall, the conspirators waited for Bella to spread her shield on the street before them. That girl’s power was incredible. Once the street was secure, Jasper and Emmett knocked the two guards on duty at the gates. They were so fast that Severus only saw a blur. When they were finished, the guards were trussed up like poultry. He then got rid of the last spells protecting Bouranov’s estate and stood before the imposing iron gate.
Edward whispered, “You’re sure ...”
Severus interrupted him. “Yes, I’m sure! That spell was used by the Death Eaters. The only difference was that the Dark Mark was the key, and not a medallion like here.”
The vampire looked apologetic, all the more since the others overtly sniggered at his insecurity. “I’m sorry. Alice just told me that we’d make it to the far end of the park. Her visions aren’t stable after that, though.”
Ten minutes of intense concentration on Severus’s part followed that statement. Latin incantations as long as the Litany of the Saints and wand movements worthy of a gym course (Severus promised himself to get exercise regularly. Soon.) accompanied said concentration. Once finished, he gently pushed the heavy gate. It creaked slightly, but as no one attacked them, they slipped in through the gap.
“Wait!” Severus exclaimed. “To put your feet in the right places will keep you alive but not from being spotted. You’ve already crossed two alarms,” he reproached Emmett and Jasper, who had already started along the path. The culprits did not seem very contrite by their blunder.
“There’s only one thing to do, then,” Emmett declared, a broad smile stretching his lips.
Severus felt himself being lifted and thrown without warning on Edward’s back. The four vampires took off and Severus closed his eyes. When he opened them one or two seconds later, he was in front of a small concrete building with a closed security door. The two men who were guarding the building, alerted by the wards, were ready for the intruders. Edward barely had time to shout, “Bella!”, probably thanks to one of Alice’s visions. Fortunately, Bella had not released her shield. The Sectumsempra bounced everywhere. There would be a lot of cut wood to pick up in the morning.
Severus resolutely turned his back to the confusion that spread around him. The vampires moved too fast for human eyes, except for Bella, whose main duty was to control her shield. The three other Cullens physically attacked the wizards rushing out of the main house to the building. One, maybe two vampires were fighting on the Mafia side and gave a hard time to Severus’s allies. In spite of his fatigue, he still needed to dismantle the spells protecting the door. Severus achieved his task in the middle of an indescribable bedlam.
“At last!” he exclaimed while turning back.
It was as if he were coming out of a protective bubble. Brutally, the thundering noises produced by the vampire bodies hurled against each other, the whirlwind of imprecise forms created by the moving creatures, and the spell colours slicing through the dark night, almost made his head spin and his balance to fail. He had nonetheless been heard, for he found himself in Emmett’s arms and on the other side of the security door in the blink of an eye.
The vampire did not put him back on his feet but ran instead, so Severus guessed more than saw the corridors and staircases, all painted in white. When at last he was vertical again, he had to lean against a wall, just next to an extinguisher. On the opposite wall, another security door hid what they were here to seek.
“I can hear their thoughts,” Edward said. His eyes widened. “They’d transformed the vampires into humans!” he exclaimed, horrified.
Only then did Severus notice that his ... friends? had not escaped the skirmish completely intact. Their clothes were in tatters, bites gaped here and there on their skin, and Jasper was busy sticking back together three of his fingers. He would have liked to observe the process, but time was scarce.
“They made them drink Polyjuice?”
Edward swallowed. “Yes. They’ve been humans for three days.”
“That potion lasts an hour on humans.” That information visibly disturbed the vampires.
Before he was asked, Severus told them that the door was not protected by spells. He had barely finished speaking when Emmett had destroyed it. Jasper followed him closely and broke the neck of the wizard, who was guarding a human couple locked in a cage with thick iron bars. The room was bare but for the cage, a clock on the wall, and a metal desk covered with parchments wedged under an ink pot.
Severus dashed to the metal desk. From the corner of his eye he noticed that the vampires converged on the cage, except for Emmett who was guarding the door. “Hurry up! The others are coming.”
Severus shrank all the parchments with a wave of his wand and tossed them in his bottomless bag. He would sort them out later. “I’m ready.”
Edward and Jasper already had the two ex-vampires on their back. It was fortunate that Bouranov did not go through the effort of enchanting the cage, Severus thought at the sight of two distorted bars.
“Let’s hurry. Bouranov sent five vampires and two wizards after us,” Edward announced.
The four vampires opened the only available door: the wall. They pulled it down with their fists in a few seconds. Once again Severus was on a vampire’s back, Emmett's, in this case. They very quickly passed through the hole in the wall only to find themselves confronted with a wall of wizards determined to not let them escape.
“You didn’t foresee that,” Severus grumbled.
“Alice’s voice didn’t pass through the concrete,” Edward retorted.
Behind them, the other vampires stepped over.
“We can only go forward,” Jasper reasoned. “Five vampires may be too many for us, whereas Bella can protect us from magic.”
If there is a God that hears me, please take care of Hermione and Eileen if I don’t survive, Severus prayed.
With a furious yell, Emmett charged the line of wizards. From his perch on the vampire’s back, Severus cast the Killing Curse as many times as he could. The fewer witnesses alive after their escapade, the better his chances of survival were. Bella, Edward and Jasper did the same. The five companions managed to create an opening in the line formed by their adversaries, but the other vampires caught up with them in no time. The young man Edward carried had his chest crushed by the impact. The spilled human blood was enough to distract the vampires, who were not accustomed to resisting it. Ignoring the cries of the young man’s girlfriend, the five adventurers and their captive ran away, leaving in their wake the young man’s body. They jumped with ease over the surrounding wall and landed without a noise in the nearby street. Except Severus’s stomach, of course. Soon the small group met Alice and Rosalie. Rosalie threw herself in Emmett’s arms, evicting Severus from his position.
“We don’t have time for that,” Edward complained. “Five of our species are chasing us.”
Severus climbed back on Emmett’s back after he had cast a few spells to deceive their pursuers’ senses, while Rosalie put the woman to sleep by pressing a judiciously chosen spot on her neck with her thumb.
“I can’t use magic until we reach our destination, or else the wizards will be able to follow our trail,” Severus explained.
The conspirators resumed their race until the dacha, where Esme and Carlisle were waiting for them in front of the door.
“You’re all back,” Esme exclaimed with joy. She kissed each of her children with fervour. As for Carlisle, he was already examining the human woman they had brought back with them.
“At first sight, she doesn’t suffer from anything,” he said while taking her to one of the bedrooms, where he laid her on the bed. All the family followed him.
“Her name is Jerina,” Edward said.
Carlisle turned his head towards Edward so fast that Severus swore he heard a whistling. “She became human again? Polyjuice?” he asked Severus.
“I fear so. It seems that my process is efficient.” He shared a look full of understanding with the vampire patriarch. The scientific curiosity had created a friendship between the two men that would probably last until Severus’s death.
“Died during our flight,” Emmett answered. “There was nothing we could have done.”
Before her parents could object to the death of an ‘innocent human’, Rosalie came to her husband’s aid. “Nothing proves he’d have made a respectable human.” When her family eyed her with surprise if not outrage, she added, “When you know how he lived as a vampire, I doubt he’d have improved by changing species.”
“It’s not a reason,” Carlisle admonished her.
She folded her arms, obstinate that she was, and shut up. Severus remembered having seen that expression on Eileen’s face.
“What’s going to happen to her?” Esme inquired.
“I can modify her memories and keep her asleep without a risk until someone takes her back in Albania,” Severus suggested.
Carlisle sighed. “I think it’s the best we can do for her. Thank you very much.”
Severus’s cheeks turned pink at the vampire’s sincere gratitude. “It’s nothing. However, there’s still a detail to take care of before. We’ve been seen, and we didn’t eliminate all of our adversaries, especially the five vampires on Bouranov’s side.”
“Weren’t you all in disguise?” Carlisle asked, flustered at the idea of all those deaths.
“I fear that my spells had been interfered with during the skirmish that occurred after we went out of the building.”
The pleasure and relief one should feel after a successful mission disappeared and were replaced by worry. Without a word, the associates went out of Jerina’s bedroom to sit down around the living-room table. Severus just made a detour by the kitchen to drink a glass of water and to prepare a light meal. Carlisle was about to speak when the magical wards Severus had installed around the dacha set off.
“Five vampires, with five humans,” Edward whispered. “They’re on foot.”
What a pity they did not elect to Apparate directly in front of the door. The problem would have been solved in less than a second, thanks to a couple of wards Severus had installed there. The wizard was hurriedly thinking about a solution to their predicament.
“The first line of traps should hold them a hundred of metres from here. I can fly. From the air, I can take them by surprise and cast spells to confuse and modify the wizards’ memories. I can’t do anything about the vampires, though. The spells would just slide on their skins.”
“There are enough of us to fight five vampires, even if they’re well trained for fighting,” Jasper said decisively.
“What are we waiting for?” The impatient was none other than Emmett, of course.
“Nothing,” Severus retorted. He was heading for the door. “I’m going to attack first. The distraction will serve as an advantage for you, especially since those wizards won’t hesitate to use Dark magic, which can hurt you. But you’ll have to initiate the battle just after my first volley of spells, or I probably won’t make it.”
The determination Severus could read on the others’ faces reassured Severus. He took off as soon as he was outside of the dacha. The eight vampires followed on foot, easily crossing the magical defences set to recognise them. Less than a minute later, they were face to face with their enemies.
The encounter was brief, fierce, and pitiless. Severus was reminded of his years as a Death Eater, specifically of the day they had tried to capture Harry when the younger man had reached his seventeenth birthday. It was clear that their adversaries were trying to capture them alive, in all probability to question them, but were not opposed to the idea of leaving some more scars on his arms and chest. Thank heaven he was wearing an old robe he would not miss. He set foot on the ground before the confrontation ended, when the five wizards were a menace only to themselves.
Four vampires were already in pieces. Rosalie and Alice were busy collecting them and throwing them in a fire whose brightness was paling as dawn arose. Jasper and Emmett were wrestling to the ground the fifth vampire. Carlisle was leaning over Edward’s hand. When he came closer, Severus saw him sticking back in place two of his right hand fingers. On the side, Esme and Bella were watching the proceedings with anxiety.
It was over. He was going to go back home, end the night in his bed, his head on the warm breasts (he did not say comfortable; it vexed Hermione) of his wife. Although that last wish was a bit optimistic since the sun was rising and there was still a couple of things to take care of before he left. The wizards were sent to the centre of Moscow with a Portkey. Their sudden Apparition in front of the Kremlin obliged the Russian Ministry of Magic to turn their attention to the panic created in the Muggle world rather than to the offence committed to Bouranov. Jerina was subjected to the same fate, the difference being her destination: Tirana. Then the Cullens found out or rediscovered how enjoyable travelling by Portkey was. Severus wondered how many of them landed upright. And at last it was his turn. He had barely touched his front door handle when Hermione flew into his arms.
Epilogue - No Solution In Spinner's End by septentrion
Thanks to Ayerf for the beta.
Epilogue. No Solution in Spinner’s End
John Random, the vampire responsible for the assassination of the Woodyard family two years ago, received his punishment yesterday in one of the rooms of the Department of Mysteries in the Ministry of Magic. This case had caused an uproar unprecedented in the wizarding world because of the utter horror that had greeted the Aurors when they arrived at the Woodyards' house. Imagine, dear readers, an entire family, from the grandparents to the breastfed baby, left bloodless in a parody of a family gathering.
It’s comforting to know those creatures can’t commit their hideous crimes against humans with complete immunity anymore. John Random, who was kept prisoner by a very complex spell, had swallowed a glass of Polyjuice and was indefinitely transformed into a Muggle. We, journalists for the Daily Prophet, profusely thank Mister Snape for developing the trans-species process. Without it, we would be at the mercy of those bloodthirsty monsters that are the diurnal vampires.
Now that John Random has become human again, it will be impossible for him to turn into a vampire again, as proved by several experiences these last years. Therefore he will spend his remaining years in Azkaban, closely guarded by the Dementor assigned to him.
Hermione tossed the newspaper on the breakfast table with contempt, missing the jam pot by a couple of centimetres. Her greying hair fluttered around her face. Severus, who had already read the article, subscribed to her point of view. They had vanquished Voldemort and his clique of zealots thirty years ago, only to feel like going back to square one. And to think that Eileen, who was going to finish her studies at Hogwarts in a few months, would have to live in a world where being close-minded was becoming the norm.
“It’s disgusting,” his wife exclaimed. “The diurnal vampires aren’t all bad. That John Random was a psychopath. How he acted had nothing to do with his species! And it’s not their fault if they need blood to live.”
“I know, Hermione,” Severus answered calmly, never ceasing to butter his toast. His attitude was a perfect contrast with the boiling indignation in his black eyes. “More and more of them are willing to embrace the Cullens’ way of life and to drink animal blood. And those who aren’t strong enough for that volunteer to execute criminals. But they scare people. You know how scared people react?”
She nodded. She knew only too well. “Yes. And that fear is reciprocal, if the persistent rumours at the Ministry are to be believed. The Volturi are said to want to reach an agreement with wizarding authorities everywhere in the world.”
Severus sighed but did not say more. The Snapes finished their breakfast in silence. Each time the diurnal vampires made the headlines, Severus was reminded of the events that had led him to the Cullens, who were now family friends. It had started when an Auror (what was his name already?), indebted to the Mafia, had overheard Harry’s and Severus’s conversation about the latter’s process. In retrospect, he had to admit that it had been imprudent to discuss it within the Ministry walls. Said Auror, anxious to save his miserable life, had spilled the beans to his blackmailer. It had resulted in an expedition in Eastern Europe.
As soon as he was back from Moscow, Severus had entrusted his process to the Department of Mysteries, where it had been securely kept since then. Later, the veterinary magical science had been revolutionised, thanks to his discovery. Alas, the Ministry of Magic had also used it for its own goals, specifically the control of magical creatures such as dragons, manticores and acromantulas. Even the Dementors were under control nowadays. It was far from being reassuring when the current Minister was a distant cousin of the Malfoys. At least Severus had been authorised to receive dividends for the use of his process. Hermione and he had agreed to save the money for Eileen.
As far as the Russian Mafia was concerned, the threat was no more since Bouranov had been betrayed by a member of his organisation; he was locked away in Siberia. Meanwhile, Severus and his family had escaped several assassination attempts, but none seemed really serious when compared to what Voldemort and his Death Eaters had done in the past.
Hermione stood up, interrupting Severus’s stroll on memory lane. She looked like she did not want to go to work. He imitated her and drew her into his arms. “What we have done, what we went through, was not in vain,” he whispered in her ear through her hair. “We can’t prevent narrow-mindedness from existing, alas. But if we didn’t fight it, it’d spread like leprosy. The world needs us, Hermione. We must believe it.”
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