|skitty_kat (skitty_kat) wrote,|
@ 2009-03-02 08:38:00
|Entry tags:||fic, red serpent, remus lupin, severus snape, snupin|
Fic: Red Serpent (3/12)
Title: Red Serpent (3/12)
Warnings: death, destruction, sex, violence, torture and a gratuitous explosion or two. Yikes.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and associated characters belong to JK Rowling. James Bond was created by Ian Fleming.
Word Count: 2685 (31881 overall)
Summary: Remus Lupin is a spy, one of British Intelligence's finest, and this may be his most deadly mission yet. Armed with only his native wit and courage and assisted by the enigmatic and magnetic Severus Snape he must penetrate deep into Communist Russia to bring down the powerful Lord Voldemort.
A/n: This fic contains illustrations, set in the appropriate places within the text. Love to drachenmina for the fabulous beta.
Chapter One: M's Man - Chapter Two: A Bar With A Reputation
They met for dinner as arranged. At seven in the hotel lobby Lupin found Snape in one of the worn red velvet chairs, encircled in smoke. He stood smoothly as Lupin arrived and straightened his tie. It was black, though not a black that quite matched the jacket. His shirt was a pale grey; the sort of grey that used to be white but has gone grubby with age and infrequent washing. Lupin suddenly felt a lot smarter than he had when he had dressed himself earlier. His brown suit was not exactly new and was a little floppy with wear but was a lot better than Snape's.
'I booked a table,' he said, 'and I dare say my company will foot the bill.' He smiled at Snape, though he wasn't really sure why.
Snape fairly sneered back. 'Just as well. I don't think mine would.'
The meal was fairly simple to Lupin's tastes. According to Snape, though, it was at least a little better than where he usually ate. Their talk was of little consequence, ever aware as they were of the possibility of eavesdroppers.
By the time the main course came Lupin had learnt that Snape did not like to talk about his parents and, if given the chance to visit England, would certainly not look to meet up with his father.
'It was probably the best thing that bastard ever did, leaving,' Snape said, spearing a potato with a deftly wielded fork.
He told Lupin a little about the countryside where he had grown up, though his words were edged with such bitterness that Lupin was almost sorry he had asked. Young Snape had been more than glad to leave behind the country for the precision of the factories and the neatness of the city.
'I had never left the village before,' Snape explained, 'and the city was like nothing I'd seen. My father - rot his soul - occasionally told us about the cities and towns of England but only when,’ he snorted in derision, ‘cheerfully drunk so he never made much sense. He wouldn't talk about them when sober or angrily drunk, which was his usual state when inebriated. Still, I supposed they had to be better than where we lived because he left us readily enough to go back there.'
Lupin made a sympathetic noise but Snape ignored him.
'The factories - they were something else. Great industrial symphonies composed for percussion.’ His hands conducted grandiosity in the air with long, slender fingers. There was the rhythm of a piston, the smooth line of a conveyor belt and the bass rumble of machine in the movement. ‘Huge-scale - or so I thought at the time, anyway - mass production. Everything turning out the same in an endlessly repeating pattern. Safe and orderly.' He laughed harshly, hands dropping to the table. 'But then, of course, you look closer and see that it's not as in order as you think and it is run by idiots.'
'Most things are like that once you look close enough,' commented Lupin.
Snape raised an eyebrow. 'Even your British government?' he asked in a low voice.
Lupin chucked. 'Oh, of course.' He leaned closer to keep their conversation confidential. 'They may be a lot of fools at times but they're our fools and if we don't like them we can just vote another set in.'
'Ah, democracy,' Snape said. He smiled and bent towards Lupin. 'Not a system I will argue with if it produces such fine men as you.'
Lupin jerked back and Snape laughed. A waiter came by to remove their plates and Snape insisted they at least look at the dessert menu. It was not often, he confided to Lupin after the waiter had gone, that he was treated to dinner.
'As I recall you invited yourself,' said Lupin dryly.
'You don't get anything if you don't grab for it when you can,' Snape countered.
'That's quite a depressing life philosophy.'
'Only if you let it be. Besides, there's nothing wrong with depressing philosophies. Haven't you ever read any Russian literature?'
'Can't say I have.'
'Uncultured Englishman.' Snape gave a faintly haughty sniff. 'I shall have to educate you, I see. Never mind; I'm sure I can make even Tolstoy's epics seem a walk in the park.'
Lupin looked up from the tablecloth to see Snape's eyes, half-veiled by eyelashes, on his. His elegant hands were folded under his chin as he regarded Lupin. A corner of his mouth turned up at the examination.
'Must you look at me like that?' Lupin demanded.
The other side of Snape's mouth mirrored its twin. 'Yes, I must,' he replied. 'What do you suppose everyone here thinks we are meeting for? This is hardly the best of hotels.' He leaned across the table, one hand encroaching onto Lupin's half. 'Would you rather they knew the truth?'
Lupin opened his mouth to snap out a reply but was surprised into silence by a foot gently rubbing his ankle. Snape leaned back into his chair with what was rapidly becoming a smirk and continued to caress Lupin's leg under the table. Dessert came and was eaten in silence, Lupin quickly moving his feet back and away.
They ended the meal with darkly bitter coffees. Snape stood as soon as they had finished, almost but not quite brushing Lupin's hand as he did.
'It would be nice to take a walk, don't you think?' he said, more for the benefit of anyone listening. His eyes were alight with amusement as he looked at Lupin, though it showed nowhere else on his dour face.
'I suppose it would,' Lupin agreed.
They walked from the restaurant together, Snape just a little too close. Once they had collected their coats from the cloakroom and were out in the cold night air Lupin turned on Snape.
'Must you be so brazen?' he asked, perhaps a little more venomously than he intended.
Snape laughed. 'Brazen? Oh, I like that word. I'll take it as a compliment.' He slid his arm through Lupin's, pulling him closer to whisper in his ear. 'And yes, I must. Do not forget your position here is delicate. Better, surely, a filthy homosexual than a dead spy.'
Lupin snatched his arm free. 'No wonder Sirius didn't get on with you,' he muttered.
'And look what happened to him.'
Lupin gave Snape a disgusted look and they carried on in silence. Rows of buildings passed with little to distinguish them in the darkness. Few people were out; even fewer once Snape led them down narrower streets with plentiful alleys. The breath of the city was in these branchways; old, a little fetid and betraying an illness. The city breathed quietly at night; all her parts sleeping or quietly pumping away, enough to keep her alive. Her heart beat enough electricity to keep the roads lit and clear while her brain dreamt enough to set parts twitching in occasional nightmares.
Snape stalked along like some predator of the night, greatcoat billowing like dark wings and glowing cigarette end providing a devil's eye. He scowled, but that was nothing unusual. Lupin was beginning to wonder if that was merely his default expression. Snape caught Lupin looking and raised an eyebrow. Lupin looked away hurriedly and didn't look again. He was, therefore, taken by surprise when Snape suddenly grabbed him and shoved him into the side of an alley.
The wall was cold and unforgiving as Lupin was pushed against it. Snape wrapped himself round him like some great snake, coiling around and taking hold. His hands cradled Lupin’s head.
‘One of them is coming,’ he informed Lupin in a whisper, ‘if he stops to talk try to keep your face in my shadow. And at least hold me as if you are enjoying it.’
With a jerk of his head akin to the darting move of a striking snake he pressed his lips to Lupin’s. They were dry, Lupin discovered, and not altogether unpleasant. When he opened his mouth Lupin could taste the cigarette Snape had been smoking a few moments before. His arms came up to hold the other man.
‘Really, Severus,’ a voice drawled in Russian, ‘do you have to do that in public?’
Snape pulled his lips away from Lupin’s, keeping his head between those of the Englishman and the interrupter.
‘It’s such a lovely night, Lucius,’ he replied. ‘Why should I not enjoy it as well as I can?’
‘I’m sure the police would be interested in the information were you to take your enjoyment further.’
‘I’m sure your wife would be interested in certain information, were I to take that to her.’
Malfoy’s face screwed up and he spat on the floor by Snape’s foot. ‘You disgust me,’ he hissed, turning on his heel and marching off.
Snape brought his face to rest alongside Lupin’s. ‘One of our lord’s most trusted men,’ he informed him, ‘and arrogant with it. But we fucked once and he doesn’t want his wife to know.’
‘Was he any good?’ Lupin muttered back, his hands moving restlessly on Snape’s waist.
‘No.’ Snape’s lips curved into a smile. ‘Fumbling is, I think, the word to describe it. Too proud to admit he didn’t know what he was doing and certainly not going to let me show him what to do.’
Lupin snorted. ‘Has he gone?’
Snape turned his head to gaze down the street. ‘Yes.’
‘Good.’ Lupin shoved Snape off him. ‘Let’s get on with this.’
'Of course,' Snape drawled, straightening his coat.
He glanced down the alley they were at the mouth of. It disappeared into darkness far quicker than Lupin was comfortable with. The rank smell of it seemed to lie across his tongue and push down his throat; a vile taste of unclean poverty. It was like a fetid breath of warning before brickwork teeth closed with a snap. A rat scampered out of the shadows and darted past them, brushing over Lupin's toe. He drew his foot back instinctively, disgust crossing his face before he stifled the reaction. Snape chuckled.
'Plenty more like him around,' he said. 'This way, I think. It's best we stay out of sight now.'
He headed straight down the alley, black coat quickly vanishing into the waiting shadows. Lupin followed more by the sound of Snape's boots on the ground than by sight. It was an overcast night without a moon and no streetlamps to expose the hidden little alley. Occasionally they would pass a lighted window and Lupin would catch Snape's distinctive profile in the dim glow but for the most part the journey was in darkness. Lupin very consciously did not think about the occasional squelches beneath his shoes. A couple of things squeaked as his feet touched them and he kicked them away hastily.
Several turnings and alleys later - which he diligently memorised as they went along - they came out onto a road. Lupin blinked in the light, quickly glancing from left to right. There were no vehicles in sight, only filthy tracks where they had passed along furtively themselves along at some previous time, no doubt eager to be gone. Only a few people were about, walking hunched against the cold. None of them seemed to pay any attention to the two men standing there. Snape flicked his cigarette to the pavement and crushed it out beneath his boot.
'That is his place,' muttered Snape, indicating an unremarkable building on the other side of the road.
It was one of the older buildings in the city; not a concrete box with less soul than its designers, but not the most ornate either. A red star was set above the door but no sign denoted the building's purpose. No one would look at this place twice, thinking it just another paper-pushing governmental office. In any case, no one would ask questions. Questions were dangerous.
'We'll go in the back way,' said Snape. 'I have no good reason to be there, particularly at this hour. And you have no reason at all.'
Lupin simply nodded his agreement and followed. Snape turned directly left out of the alley and headed up the road until they were some distance from their destination. Only then did they cross the road and head back into the dark backstreets. Lupin was starting to wonder how Snape knew them that well. In a little time they were slipping in by a back door ('the one the cleaners use,' according to Snape) and creeping down a utility corridor.
'Where are we heading?' whispered Lupin.
'The conference room,' replied Snape. 'It's where all the most secret meetings are held and very few people are ever allowed in. If there's anything to discover, it'll be there.'
'Have you ever been in there?'
Snape was pale, Lupin realised, paler than usual. Nervous, he supposed, though it wasn't betrayed in any other way. There hadn't been so much as a tremble of a finger the whole time, just a waxy pallor under the lank strings of hair. Given the consequences, of course, Lupin realised that the man had good reason to worry. He, Lupin, was just a spy; Snape was a traitor.
The utility corridor ended in a door, which Snape opened a crack and peered out of before opening it further and motioning Lupin to follow him.
'There's never usually anyone around at this time as far as I’ve seen,' he said softly. 'Come on.'
He led Lupin quickly to a padded door. Lupin was reminded of the door to M's office and supposed what happened behind both was fairly similar really. Snape indicated an unlit red bulb above the door.
'If anything was going on in there it would be on,' he said. 'He hates to be disturbed.'
He still opened the door cautiously, though, peering through the gap before opening it fully and beckoning Lupin to follow him. They had only just closed the door behind them when footsteps approached from around the corner in the corridor they had just left. It was more than one pair of feet too, judging by the sound. Snape's head whipped up in sudden alarm.
'They're coming in here,' he muttered. 'There's nowhere else down this way.' He spat out a word Lupin didn't know. It sounded like a curse.
'Is there another way out?' asked Lupin, glancing about. He couldn't see anything useful.
'Quickly!' hissed Snape. 'In here!'
He grabbed Lupin's shoulder and hauled him through a drab-looking door in the corner of the room. It was a broom cupboard, Lupin managed to see just before Snape pulled the door shut and the light was gone. There was little enough room for one person, let alone two adult males. Lupin stood as far back towards the wall as he could but it didn't help.
'Do you have to hide?' he whispered. 'There's not much space.'
'It would be very suspicious if I were to be discovered just casually 'hanging around' in there. It's strictly for the inner circle only; an honour I have not yet achieved.' He shifted slightly against Lupin. 'Of course, if they are to have a meeting this could be a fortuitous coincidence. We may hear something to our advantage.'
'Doesn't stop it being damned uncomfortable,' muttered Lupin, wishing that the other man was not quite so close. It simply was not decent.
'Afraid you'll catch something?' Snape whispered back with a sharp edge of sarcasm. 'Be still. If you knock something over we'll be the proverbial rats in the barrel.'
Lupin saw the sense in that at least and stopped trying to make room for himself in the tiny little space. It was tall enough for the both of them but narrow. Snape had his back to the wall to the right of the door while Lupin, in an effort to avoid the brooms and mops leaning against the opposite wall, was standing about as close to him as it was possible to.
'Not a sound now,' Snape warned in a low whisper, 'they're coming in.'
Chapter Four: Small Spaces and Close Encounters