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.”?