|skitty_kat (skitty_kat) wrote,|
@ 2010-06-11 20:48:00
|Current music:||big bang theory|
Fic: The Mystery of the Missing Miss (4/4)
The Mystery of the Missing Miss
A Snupin Holmes Mystery
Word Count: 3011 (this part) 11498 (total)
Summary: A new case for wizarding detective Severus Snape: a missing girl. Elopement, abduction or maybe murder? Follow him and his trusty companion, Doctor Remus Lupin, as they find trouble on the streets of Victorian London.
Warning: may contain deductions that Adam West’s Batman would find a step too far.
Beta’d by the ever marvellous and eagle-eyed drachenmina.
Dedicated to the lovely red_day_dawning
He stalked back and forth on the rug while we awaited the results of his analyses. That poor rug, once a rather decent piece of carpeting gifted to me by my old friend Sirius Black, has seen more than its fair share of use over the years it has lain in our rooms. Snape’s feet alone have worn a perfect trail from end to end and its once intricate pattern has been scattered with wolf hairs from my full moon nights. I often suspect that Snape knows the identity of the gifter – never a man he has liked, I am sad to say – and has treated the unfortunate rug accordingly. I dread to think what awful concoctions have been spilt across its fibres – some of the stains still smoke on occasion.
‘I believe I know which ritual Voldemort will be attempting,’ he mused aloud, turning neatly on a heel at the end of his track.
‘You do?’ I said with surprise. I was still none the wiser. ‘Do enlighten me.’
‘Your opponent had chalk on his sleeve,’ he said. ‘See, the dust has been transferred onto your own clothing.’ He trailed a finger across the front of my jacket, tracing a line of white powder I had not previously noticed. ‘This suggests to me,’ he continued, hand still resting against my chest, ‘that there has been some preparation for what they are planning. Only two of the rituals we have identified as possible require preparatory rituals involving chalked symbols – used, incidentally, to centre power onto the sacrificial weapon.’
I made a disgusted noise at this. He chuckled before moving away to check on his experiments.
‘For all that you claim to know the Dark Arts, Lupin,’ he tossed back, ‘you certainly shy away from their practicalities.’
‘You said you had isolated one ritual,’ I said, ignoring his comment, ‘but so far you have only reduced it to two.’
He was silent for a moment, tapping some piece of glass apparatus irritably with one finger. This apparently did not produce the effect he wanted as he exhaled a loud huff of air. Lip curled, he stalked back across the room to pace the rug once more.
‘A rash,’ he said suddenly. ‘Mr Goyle had a distinctive rash on his left hand, which indicated that he has been handling a potent concentrate of hemlock recently – Dagworth’s famous recipe, at a guess. The only one of our possible rituals that requires this is Bendith y forwyn yn.’
I started. ‘That’s the one that must be performed at half moon, “at such time as the moon is neither wax nor wane but balances midway between.” That’s tonight! The victim must be sacrificed at the exact moment the moon is fully risen.’ I hastily checked my pocketwatch against my trusty almanac. ‘Great Merlin’s ghost! It’s less than two hours to moonrise. We need Voldemort’s location now. Miss Weasley is in mortal danger!’
‘Peace, Lupin,’ chided my companion, though he still strode the rug in agitation. ‘I am not about to allow Voldemort victory over me yet.’
Of course, he saw it as a battle of minds, not an innocent girl in peril. ‘But the young lady may die!’ I protested.
‘One cannot rush the process!’ he snapped, turning to glare at his cauldron.
We remained that way for some time; I fuming in my chair and he with his back firmly in my direction. His narrow shoulders were tense, bunched up towards the slender neck, and he shifted occasionally from foot to foot. A boiling tube began to steam and he levitated it to tip its contents into a beaker of clear liquid. Colours began to form in the solution, brief bursts of quickly diffusing spirals.
‘Yew,’ said Snape contemplatively, ‘and holly. Also, I think, yes – see the blue edge to that one – oak.’
‘Yew, holly and oak?’ I repeated. ‘You’d be hard pushed to find all those together round here.’
‘Yes, well that was hardly a surprise,’ said Snape, giving the concoction a brief stir with a glass rod and watching the colours swirl again. ‘I told you that the mud was not from the city streets.’ He turned to regard me, one eyebrow raised.
I took his bait. The man loves to explain to an audience, and that audience is usually me. ‘So where did it come from?’
He bared his teeth in a grin. ‘The yew instantly gives us a general idea – most in keeping with the ritual, in fact. I imagine the poetry has not escaped my adversary; indeed, he always seemed to thrive on such drama.’
I pondered for a moment. The key theme of the ritual was eternal life through … death. ‘A cemetery?’ I suggested.
He nodded like I was a particularly keen pupil. ‘Correct. And only one cemetery in London has both the other two trees.’
I sighed. ‘Enlighten me,’ I told him wearily, ‘I fear I have rather neglected my studies in burial ground topiary of the London area.’
‘For shame, Lupin,’ he scolded me, I hope in jest, ‘it is a fascinating topic. Our target tonight, however, is the cemetery of St. Dismas. I fear, though, that apparating will alert our enemy to our presence sooner than would be prudent.’
I leapt up. ‘But that’s some forty-five minutes away even by cab. It’s outside the city! We have no time to lose!’
We seized our cloaks and hurried out onto the street. Only two hansoms were available at that hour and we were just climbing into one when Snape gave a sudden shout and leapt out again. Despite my protestations he ran back inside the house to emerge some minutes later with a rather large bag in one hand.
‘No time to explain,’ he said breathlessly. ‘Driver, carry on!’
Of course, the length of the cab journey gave him plenty of time to explain but naturally he wouldn’t, contrary and frustrating man that he is.
It was agreed that we would split up on arrival at the cemetery but beyond that Snape would say little. He remained staring out of the window, occasionally flexing his fingers as though keeping them supple for some purpose, silent until we were beyond the outskirts of the city where buildings gave way to scrubby farmland. St. Dismas was an odd little wizarding cemetery, and I could see why Voldemort chose such an out-of-the-way spot for his awful ritual.
Snape had the driver stop some way from the place, sending him away with more than enough payment and leaving us to walk the rough path to the iron gates. They loomed as only the gates to a burial ground can, tall and imposing in their task of separating living from dead.
It was already growing dark, the sun a half-remembered glow away to the West. The moon, thank heavens, had not yet risen but I knew she would be creeping above the horizon in no short time. The sky was clear above us and a few stars had already made their evening debut.
Striding beside me, Snape was a shadow come to life; a nightmare of darkness with a bone-white face set in an expression of intense lucubration. I felt a chill shiver scrape down my spine in that moment. I am not one to find Snape intimidating, though I see why others frequently do, but he becomes alarmingly single-minded when engaged in the pursuit of the man he sees as his nemesis. Lord Voldemort – just the name is enough to bring a hardness to my companion’s dark eyes and a rigid tension to his jaw. I will never forget that awful time when both men entered the legendary Horcrux Cave together, leaving me to wait in agonies not knowing whether either would walk out alive. Snape has never told me the details of that battle, though he exited first.
We trod the stony path in silence, climbing the hill towards the forbidding gates that we had seen from the road. Before we reached them Snape gestured me to the left as we had previously agreed, to find a more unobtrusive way in. He vanished away to the right, immediately lost to sight. I followed my orders, creeping along the redbrick boundary wall as silently as I could manage. In the fields to my left a pheasant barked suddenly, startling me. I have never been particularly fond of the birds in any case; eaten raw they tend to stick in your teeth and it is never pleasant to wake the morning after spitting feathers.
Heart pounding, I slipped through a gap in the wall and into the cemetery proper. Gravestones staggered across the grass at various angles. A few stone angels loomed above them in poses of melancholy, enlightenment or solemn prayer. I walked carefully among them to where I could hear the low sound of chanting.
A cold fist gripped my stomach as I saw Miss Weasley laid out on the ground like a pagan sacrifice, which I suppose she was intended to be. Dressed in a simple white gown she wouldn’t have looked out of place at a Druidic ceremony. I gritted my teeth but didn’t charge in as every instinct urged me to do. Snape had been most emphatic that I was to wait. What for he didn’t specify, naturally, but merely told me that I would know when the time came. He has something of a controlling side to his nature that I am not sure I am altogether fond of.
As it was, I could only watch as Lord Voldemort, clad in sweeping black, intoned his Dark magic. His two henchmen, our recent brawl opponents, stood to either side. The pull of the moon was growing; she would soon be showing herself in her silver glory and Voldemort’s plans would be almost complete. I had almost resolved myself to make a move and hang the consequences when I noticed something unexpected: the ritual was faltering. I could see Voldemort stumbling over his words as something else interfered with the ritual magic growing among the gravestones. I clutched my wand tighter as I began to feel the magical interference myself.
Not feel, I suddenly realised, but hear. Quiet and subtle tones were drifting through the evening air, matching their pitch to Voldemort’s own voice but detuning slightly, offsetting the intent of his words. I confess it took me some moments before I recognised it for what it was – the maddeningly familiar sound of Snape and his violin. Even as I arrived at that conclusion I made out his shadow behind the wing of a stone angel, melding with the shadows as usual. The shape of his bow could just be seen moving against the darkening sky.
Voldemort was growing angry as his carefully planned ritual was continually undermined by what I presume he still saw as forces unknown. His voice rose louder and louder until it rang out across the otherwise silent cemetery, declaiming his dark purpose to cold stone and bare sky alike.
‘Vita aeternam dona eis et lux perpetua luceat eis…’
Snape’s playing rose too, becoming quite distinct whereas before it had been on the edge of hearing. The moon began to peek above the brow of the hill behind him. If the ritual were to be interrupted now Voldemort would not have a chance for at least another lunar month. The question was: could Snape put him off enough to force him to abandon it?
‘Dies irae, dies illa … solvet saeclum in favilla…’
Voldemort, still chanting fortissimo and with his eyes fixed on Miss Weasley’s prone and pale form, gestured to his henchmen to move. They blinked stupidly for a moment before catching on to the idea. Crabbe lumbered off in the wrong direction but I watched in horror as Goyle headed straight for Snape’s hiding place. My friend, so intent on his playing, would surely have no defence if he were to be able to continue his task. I drew my own wand and wordlessly stunned Goyle, sending the man crashing to the ground. Voldemort faltered mid-word and Crabbe turned in my direction. I exchanged a brief, vicious flurry of hexes with the burly henchman. By the time he was unconscious and I was laid out rubbing a sore spot on my leg, the rite had been well and truly broken and the face of its perpetrator was creasing in fury.
Before I could bring my wand up again in Snape’s defence Voldemort had begun his own offensive. With a green flash, the angel at Snape’s back exploded into tiny fragments. My heart leapt into my mouth with fear.
As the ringing in my ears faded, though, I realised that his playing hadn’t stopped – rather, it had changed its tone. Whereas previously he had continued a careful if dissonant counterpoint to Voldemort’s chant now he segued into his own melody, one which vibrated with power. The dust slowly cleared around him, revealing his elegant black-clad figure with the curved edge of the violin cradled against his neck.
Snape gave no outward reaction, his concentration seemingly on the strings and the constant movement of his long fingers as a low and eerie melody resonated from his instrument.
With a sneer, Voldemort raised one hand languidly and pointed his wand directly at my friend. I raised my own but too late; a burst of light announced a curse, shooting like a flaming bullet towards Snape. He didn’t even look up, though his fingers blurred to play a brief ornamentation to his tune. The curse exploded harmlessly into sparks about two feet from him, illuminating his face as the curse burned out with an eerie gleam. His eyes flicked up to issue a challenge to his nemesis – a look that was disturbingly similar to the one that has enticed me to bed many a time.
Voldemort snarled and cast another curse at Snape, following it with another and another but never hitting him. I could feel the magic charge building up in the air as Snape countered the attacks with increasing tempo and rising pitch. The cemetery was as bright as day as magic clashed fiercely between the two men. I could only watch, open-mouthed as the battle took place.
Lightning was crackling around Snape, flashing in weird and occult colours. His playing got faster and more frenetic, skittering right up the scale as his fingers pressed white-tipped up to the end of the fingerboard mere inches from the end of his nose. I could have sworn sparks flew from the very strings of his violin and arced up to join the lightning storm. Voldemort had both hands extended; face contorting as he yelled ever-worsening curses at my friend. The air itself was thick with magical discharge as Snape’s playing reached the edge of human hearing.
I began to crawl across the ground to where Miss Weasley lay insensible. She was a little way from where the magical battle was taking place but would have been defenceless against any rogue spell. I intended to move her to a safe place but as I reached her side a mighty crack sounded behind me, reverberating through my skull and rattling my teeth against one another. I turned in time to see a massive bolt of lightning leap from the sky to earth itself on the buzzing strings of Snape’s violin.
The world went white and suddenly silent around us. I threw myself over Miss Weasley, tasting tin on my tongue as the unleashed magic went wild. Pressure slammed down on me and I’m fairly certain I blacked out.
It was quiet when I came round. Miss Weasley was still unconscious. I checked her vitals and found she was healthy. She would probably have a headache on awakening but I had more pressing matters to attend to.
Voldemort was gone when I stood and a large scorch mark marred the grass. Snape lay at the edge, sprawled on his back with the violin still clutched in his left hand. I waved smelling salts under his nose until his eyelids fluttered.
‘Lupin?’ he asked, gazing up at me blearily.
‘Who else?’ I helped him to sit up. ‘That blackguard Voldemort’s gone at least.’
‘He’ll be back,’ said Snape, not looking particularly perturbed. He blinked as he focused on the violin in his hand and, bizarrely, a laugh broke from his throat. ‘It worked, Lupin! I told you there was a combination to be made of the two! And what a combination!’ He broke into cackles.
I was concerned he was lapsing into hysteria so pulled his face up to examine his eyes for any concussion. There seemed to be none but he batted my hands away before I could make a full examination.
‘Honestly, Lupin, I have no need of your medical services. I assure you I am quite well.’ His face took on a suddenly melancholic look as his attention fell to his instrument. ‘I fear the same may not be said of my poor violin.’
The thing did indeed seem to have come off worst. The strings could only be described as fried, strands fraying in all directions. A great crack spanned the entire back from end to end, jagged and gaping.
‘We’ll put it up on the wall,’ I told him. ‘I’m sure you can purchase a new one.’
He stroked his chin with long fingers. ‘Maybe. I have been pondering the implications of different instruments using the same theory. Imagine the destructive power one could wreak with, say, a set of bagpipes!’
There was a gleam in his eye I didn’t like. It was the kind of gleam that promised that something was going to get out of hand. Besides, despite being the staunch Scotswoman that she was, I still didn’t think our landlady Miss McGonagall would approve of Snape experimenting with bagpipes in her house.
‘Perhaps you should perfect the technique on the violin first,’ I said, placing my arm around him.
Merlin only knows what that man would do without me.
Thank you all for reading.
Ooh, look, bonuses! (by way of apologising for the delay)
Because there's a Sherlock Holmes illustration with Holmes stretched out decorously on a chaise longue. And I love a chaise longue. Sherlock's surely been shagged on a chaise longue...
Part of the inspiration for this story was the recent comic book series Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs. Zombies. It's epic. And you know, they did use mummy parts for 'medicines' etc. Thus:
Lupin's probably yelling something about 'Do you really need that canopic jar?'