Title: The Walls Have Ears
By: Vaughn (Vaughn72000@aol.com)
Disclaimer: The plot may be mine, but nothing else is.
Summary: A response to Challenge #272) Snape prepared well for the inevitable day when Voldemort would learn he was a spy. Among other things, he kept a potion stored in a hollowed out tooth, one that would allow him to be awake and aware, but appear dead. Perhaps even astral-project himself? Too bad he didn't tell anyone. What will he learn at his own funeral? Will he wake in time? Can be pre-relationship or established. Can be humor or angst. Or both. :)
I must thank my brilliant betas: busaikko, Cruel Illusion, and MajinSakuko. Any mistakes that remain are entirely my own.
There were many things that I had failed to mention to Albus when it came to my clandestine life of espionage. Some were tiny, insignificant details about the Death Eater revels; after all, Albus did not really need to know how many Muggles were tortured or what methods were employed while doing so. Others were more...survivalist in nature. There were always risks, you see, of a leak. Although the headmaster is one of the most powerful wizards to ever walk the planet, he is not infallible. If you need further proof of that, just ask Sirius Black.
Oh, wait...you can't, can you?
Ah, now you see my point. Let's return to the events which lead to my current predicament, shall we?
Where was I? Ah, yes, my parade of less than stellar life choices. At one point -- quite near the beginning of all this spying business, might I add -- I decided that the chances of my survival were minimal, at best. I still regretted joining the Dark Lord, of course, but that did not mean I wished to be a suffering martyr for my foolishness. Martyr, perhaps, but not a suffering one, if I could help it. Suffice to say, after a year or so of research on successful spying techniques, I discovered the answer I was looking for.
The Lethargus Potion.
Simply put, it was a rather complex potion that actually mimicked the appearance of death. There were drawbacks, and I had to admit that I wished there was a way to shorten the duration of its effects without destabilising its properties, but I found none in the course of my development of it. The potion would render me, for all intents and purposes, 'dead' for seventy-two hours. I would be able to retain my consciousness and my hearing, but nothing else. No movement, no speech, and no sight. No form of magic or potions of any ilk would be able to pierce through its veneer. The magic in the potion would make it appear, to even the most trained eye, that I was no longer breathing. Another positive affect was the impact on my circulatory system: blood would still flow, but in a form of magical stasis.
Rather like being in a coma, at least as far as some Healers would have you believe.
Speaking of Healers, that was the next phase of my ruse. I had to find a medical professional, with...let us just say fewer moral qualms than usual, to perform the procedure I needed. I was able to locate such a person in one of the establishments of ill repute that infest Knockturn Alley. I told him exactly what I needed -- a very simple dental operation -- and waved a small sack of Galleons in front of his face. Of course, due to the amount of alcohol the Healer in question had already consumed by that time, I was a bit uneasy about his ability to perform even the simplest of tasks. Still, he assured me -- in retrospect, I think he was speaking to the Galleons -- that it was one simple spell, and even a drunkard such as himself could not botch it up. We decided to go into a darkened corner of the Alley, and he was true to his word. A quick Memory Charm later, he was back in the pub with no recollection of what had occurred, and I was heading back to my dungeons with a hollowed out compartment in one of my back teeth and my bag of Galleons.
Before you question my morals, I would like to say that being a Hogwarts teacher does not make one a wealthy man, and I have no compassion for drunken fools making deals with strangers in seedy pubs.
In any event, my plan was near completion. I returned to Hogwarts, and using a tiny dropper and a tempered Sealing Charm, encased the proper amount of the Lethargus Potion in my tooth. I had to alter the Charm, you see, in order to have the casing rupture silently and within seconds.
If the Dark Lord ever saw my true intentions, I highly doubted he would give me any time to kill myself. That, and once the torture began, I was not certain I would be in the frame of mind to break the Charm myself.
So you see, I altered the spell to have the Dark Lord break it for me.
How did I do this, you wonder? It was simple enough. Instead of having to use the normal words to break the Charm, I keyed it to the Dark Lord's voice using methods that were so ancient it took me nearly two years of practise to master. There was only one phrase that it rested on: the use of my name.
The Dark Lord has many peculiarities, as most evil yet brilliant people do, and one of them is the use of our names. He never uses our first and last names together, unless we had committed some grave and deadly error. So, when and if he said both of my given names together, I deduced that I would need the Potion.
It turned out that I was correct, as usual.
The fateful day that led me to this state of affairs proved my theory. He called me into his chambers and told me he knew of my duplicitous activities. How, I do not know, but I suspect it had something to do with my trial in the supposedly secure Wizengamot, after the first war. Albus had to reveal my double identity in order to save me from Azkaban, but I always knew that it would come back to haunt me.
As he pronounced my fate, using my full name for the first time in many years, I instantly fell to the floor. The Dark Lord inspected me briefly and declared me dead, most presumably by poison.
To my chagrin, he actually complimented me on my spying methods, and set me as an example of loyalty to a cause, albeit the wrong one.
He ordered Pettigrew to take my body and dump it in front of the gates of Hogwarts, as a message to Dumbledore. The trip was uneventful, save for the fact that Pettigrew is a klutz who could barely navigate a simple Locomotor Charm. My head pounded from the various trees it was inadvertently swung into during our journey through the Forbidden Forest.
If I could have sighed in relief when I felt him toss my body in front of the wrought-iron gate, I would have.
So, now you can see my problem. The wards have been disrupted, and any moment now someone will come and discover my seemingly lifeless body on the cold ground. This potion is meant to fool even the most competent of Healers, and Madam Pomfrey will not be able to tell that I am alive, despite her skills with a wand.
More importantly, no one knows of my emergency plan, save myself and a Healer who has no memory of it.
"Perfesser? Perfessor, is tha' yeh?" came a worried voice.
Wonderful. Of all the people to find me, it had to be Hagrid.
I felt strong yet gentle hands turn me around. After a minute or so, I heard the gamekeeper begin to openly lament my 'fate.'
"Oh, Perfesser...wha' happened to yeh? Oh, no..." he moaned as he picked me up and cradled me to his chest like an overgrown child.
If I was not so surprised by his display of emotion, I would have been mortified at how undignified I must look. With a speed I never knew the half-giant was capable of, he had me in the Hospital Wing, yelling for Madam Pomfrey at the top of his formidable lungs.
"Yes, what is it now, Hagrid? Another one of your creatures, I suppose? I've told you before that I am a Healer, not a Care of Magical..." her sleepy voice trailed off as she gasped,
"Severus! Merlin, what happened to him, Hagrid?"
"I dunno, Poppy! I found him lyin' at gates...I think he's..." Hagrid paused, his sentence finally ending in what sounded like a cross between a sob and a moan.
"Put him down here!" Madam Pomfrey commanded, and I felt myself being deposited on one of the ward beds.
There was no sound but her furious scramble to try and bring me back, in a sense. She checked for every single paralyzing agent she could think of, and only spoke once, ordering Hagrid to go and fetch Minerva and Albus.
While Hagrid was gone, she grabbed my hand and gently brushed the hair back from my face, muttering what sounded like "didn't deserve this" and "so sorry, child."
Between the both of them, I was beginning to wonder if the image I had worked so hard to create and the reputation that I had always fought to maintain had been slipping recently.
When Minerva and Albus arrived, flanked by a now openly sobbing Hagrid, Madam Pomfrey tearfully informed them of my untimely demise. There was silence in the room for a long time, before Minerva quietly asked if Albus and she could have a minute alone with me. As I heard the sobbing sounds fade, indicating Hagrid and the matron's departure, I found myself curious as to what was going to happen next.
Suffice to say, it was not what I expected.
As soon as she must have felt certain they were alone, Minerva tore into Albus with a fervor I had never witnessed before.
Honestly, I never want to witness it again, either. Once I get out of this mess, I decided it would be wise to try and stay on the Deputy Headmistress' good side.
At least as often as my tongue would allow it, anyway.
"This is your fault, Albus! Your fault! Why did you send him back? You had to have known that this would eventually be the result!" she literally screamed.
"Now, now, Minerva. You know how I felt about...Severus. This is not easy for either one of us, you need to--"
Minerva did not let him finish, cutting in with, "I know how you always said you felt, Albus. He was like your son, you loved him, and everything else you spouted on the subject. But," she paused here, her voice sounding like it was going to break, "you still were willing to sacrifice him, and without a second thought. I also have no doubts that you are mourning his passing, Albus."
The room went silent again, and I heard the unmistakable sounds of Minerva's footsteps approaching my bedside. Without warning, I felt a gentle kiss being placed on my forehead as she whispered, "You deserved far more than you ever received, Severus."
As she made a hasty exit, Albus evidently having nothing to say in rebuttal, she paused for a moment and had her last word.
"What I doubt, Headmaster, is your judgment, which lead him to this end to begin with."
With that, she left the room, her footsteps speaking of her anger.
Albus hesitated for a moment before he came to my resting spot. As a last resort, I attempted Legilimency, but to no avail. As Albus held my hand and muttered apologies and lamentations for nearly an hour, I found myself realising that I was in quite a quandary. If I did not figure a way to communicate soon, I would be buried alive.
When Albus finally left me to my own devices, I began to recite anything I had ever read on ancient forms of magic, hoping to find an answer. I was still mentally reciting the passages when exhaustion overtook me at last, and I fell into a dreamless sleep.
When I awoke, I found myself in an uncomfortable position. More notably, it was a coffin. I panicked for a moment before I realised that I was at my own wake, of all things. Thankfully, I had left a will with Albus; Voldemort is a tad bit predictable sometimes, and I had the sneaking suspicion my body would be returned intact, as a message.
More notably, it would seem as if I had been killed in the same way as the Potters.
I had stipulated in my will, among other things, that no preservation methods were to be used on my body. I also requested a two day wake -- immediate burial would have not given me enough time -- and attached ten pages of the longest hymns that I could find, with the specific notation that they all were to be sung at my funeral service.
Voices I did not even recognise paraded by my coffin, all sorrowful and overly kind in their words. Some were former students, which I took a measure of solace in, but the false platitudes were starting to wear thin.
No one speaks ill of the dead at this sort of function; it is part of the human condition. We just cannot bring ourselves to insult someone who has left this plane of existence, no matter how true our words may be.
Have you ever gone to a funeral where a mourner mentioned the times when the dearly departed had taken advantage of them, or had caused them undue pain?
I thought not.
In a way, I had expected this manner of behaviour, however grating it was. What I had not considered was learning of different aspects that I had never even glimpsed before in the people that attended.
I never knew that Professor Sinistra haboured secret desires for me until she muttered them into my ear. Of course, she was 'barking up the wrong tree,' so to speak, but it still caused me to ponder what else I had missed.
I had my answer soon enough.
Almost all of the Order, and even the banes of my existence -- also known as Granger, Potter, Weasley, and Longbottom -- actually seemed to appreciate my 'sacrifice' to the Light. There was one person who was conspicuously absent during the two days of viewing, however.
When Lupin did not make an appearance, I was positive that my long-standing hypothesis was correct: he had known about the mutt's plan those twenty or so years ago.
I was soon to be proved incorrect, as much as my pride refused to admit it.
I did notice something odd after that first day. While I had been asleep, someone had put something into my hand. Upon awaking the next morning, before the second day of viewing was to begin, I could feel an object in my grasp that I was certain was not present the day before. I could not see it, of course, nor could I move my hands in order to obtain a better feel of it. By some luck, the person had wrapped my fingers around it, so I was able to decipher its identity after a few hours of concentration on its shape and form.
It was a ring. Not just any ring, mind you, a Carus ring. Long ago, this sort of ring was given to a beloved, according to pureblood traditions. I could tell by the distinct carving that this was, in fact, one of those rings, but I had no clue as to the identity of the purchaser. The design held the crests of both parties, and my fingers were currently curled around my own.
The other crest would be located on the other side, and I was unable to decipher it.
After the second tedious day, and my coming to the conclusion that I was just going to have to dig myself out of the grave, since it seemed as if the funeral would end about an hour before I regained all of my functions, I had a visitor.
As I was lying there in the darkness, cursing the fact that wizard graveyards were liberally covered with all sorts of magic-inhibiting charms, I became aware of quiet and uneven breathing at my side. Curious, I focused all my attention on its source, to see if I knew this person or not.
As what felt like hours passed, I was about to give up on my mystery companion's identity when he broke his self-imposed silence.
"You will never know now, will you?"
Lupin, I realised. Remus bloody Lupin, who, apparently, could not be content without harassing my corpse.
"I always fancied you, you know. That's the reason Sirius pulled that stunt back at Hogwarts. He figured it out, and that was his misguided attempt to save me from you," Lupin said, with regret clear in his voice.
I momentarily wondered if this was some sort of bizarre dream, an aberration from my overtaxed subconscious mind.
My hopes, however, were soon dashed when I felt his rough hand caress my cheek. If this was a dream, it was an unbelievably vivid one.
Obviously, I was not getting off that easily.
"You were dark, mysterious, and incredibly intelligent. I know, I know," he said with a chuckle, "cliche. It's still all true, though. At first, I was intimidated by you, then I became...fascinated. You were strong, even when James and Sirius ganged up on you. I could never be as honest as you were back then, even now that I am a full grown man. I'm too busy worrying about what people will think of me; I admired the fact that you couldn't care less about that sort of thing. That's why I never told you how I really felt, because I feared you would hate me even more so for it. 'Wonderful,' you'd say, 'Remus Lupin, the bloody gay prat of a werewolf, is in love with me.'"
Love? Did he just say 'love'? Just when I had thought this whole escapade could not possibly get even more bizarre, it had.
"I wanted to...to leave some part of myself with you. I couldn't stand the thought of...you..."
Wonderful. Now the git was openly crying, and right over my casket.
"By yourself, in the cold ground. That's why I gave you the ring. It's a family heirloom, you know, and I had it engraved with your crest. The Lupin crest was the only one on it, you see, since my mother was a Muggle. My father gave it to my mother before they married, and she gave it to me. She always told me to make sure I gave it to the one who truly holds my heart, and no one else."
Here, Lupin gave a hollow laugh. "You are probably laughing at my foolish whim of fantasy right now, wherever you are. But I least I know I made the right decision, even if it was too late."
I felt his hand grasp mine tightly, and he gently lifted it to place a tender kiss on my palm. "Good-bye, Severus."
That night, I blamed my inability to sleep on the gravity of my situation. I told myself repeatedly it had nothing at all to do with the werewolf's ridiculous confession, but he was right, I am an honest man by nature.
And sometimes even I cannot convincingly lie to myself.
As the morning of my funeral dawned, I found myself confused. What will I do when I have my miraculous awakening from the dead?
Do I let on that I heard everything, or do I act as if I have no recollection at all of the days I spent in convalesce?
I surmised that the real question was: what did I want to do?
As the funeral began, I listened wearily to the speakers. After a while, my attention drifted and I found my thoughts dwelling on the most unlikely of subjects.
I do not know for certain when he ceased to be 'Lupin' in my mind, but the fact that I was using an address that I had never used in all the years I have known him told me the answer to my unspoken question.
As the last of the speakers began, I felt the much anticipated tingling begin to spread throughout my limbs. As fate would have it, Albus's tendency to drone on worked in my favour, for once. He went well over the time I had allotted to the lecturers in my previous calculations, and it looked as if I would not have to drag myself though the dirt after all.
As he was going on about the unspoken values of Slytherin House, I managed to get myself into a semi-upright position, much to the horror of the onlookers. As the gasps alerted Albus to the source of the distraction, he spun around, mouth agape as he took in the sight before him.
"What?" I hoarsely whispered, my throat dry from being unused. "Bloody Voldemort rises from the dead every other week, and no one raises an eyebrow."
As I felt sleep coming over me once more, a pair of arms embraced me to prevent me from toppling over as a voice whispered, "Well done, my child."
I came back to reality in the Hospital Wing, listening in amusement to the hushed voices above my head.
"Brilliant...I don't know how he did it..."
"Well, Severus always has been very bright, I just never realised..."
As I opened my eyes to the harsh light, Albus and Minerva quickly ceased their hushed conversation, looking down at me with wide smiles plastered across their faces.
"How do you feel, Severus?" Albus inquired.
"Stiff and sore," I answered honestly.
"We are glad to have you back, Severus," said Minerva.
"I suppose this is better than the alternative, Minerva. However, I would like to be alone right now, if you do not mind," I said, with my habitual grumpiness colouring my tone.
"Certainly," Albus answered, his obnoxious grin growing to an obscene size. "Although there has been someone eagerly awaiting your return."
"Let me guess: Remus," I said, with a barely perceptible hint of a smile.
"Yes," Minerva replied, looking bewildered. She opted not to ask any questions, for which I was grateful, and simply asked, "Should I tell him to come back later?"
After a moment's hesitation, I finally answered, "That will not be necessary, Minerva. Just tell him that now is as good a time as any."