Public Agendas and Private Hells
Disclaimer: None of the recognizable characters and settings in this story belong to me. They are all the property of J. K. Rowling. I do not attempt to make any monetary gain from their use. This story exists purely for the enjoyment of myself and any and all who wish to spend their time reading it.
Author's Note: This story, taken with the two, which precede it, "Is A Picture Worth 1000 Lives?" and "The Ever Twisting Path", constitutes a totally alternate universe set of circumstances for these characters. The imminent arrival of Book 5 in the series will no doubt throw new light onto the characters of Severus Snape and Remus Lupin and take them in totally new directions from those proposed here. Some characters may disappear entirely from canon, while others may be radically altered from the way we know them now. Therefore my stories will have to stand or fall on their own. This story in particular is much darker and more painful than its predecessors. Thank you for your time and attention. I hope you enjoy the story. Do leave a review and let me know.
This story follows quickly on the heels of "The Ever Twisting Path". It begins in mid-September of what would be Harry Potter's 6th year at Hogwarts.
Chapter One: The Last Day of the Rest of Her Life
Under a green canopy in the bedroom of their dungeon quarters, Evangeline lay contentedly in the big bed and watched her husband get dressed. She stretched languidly and practically purred with satisfaction. Just a short time before he'd kissed her awake and proceeded to start her day off in the most enjoyable way possible, by making love to her. The touch of his sensuous lips on hers, of his elegant talented hands on her body, always made her heart sing with joy. No one made her feel the way Severus Snape did; no one else ever could. Such a wonderful start to her day brought back sweet memories of the recently past summer spent largely naked and in his embrace. Any time spent in his arms was to be savored, already she was feeling deprived of his presence beside her as she watched him layer himself in black armor and get ready to face the world.
Suddenly reluctant to let him leave her sight, she sat up and slid out of bed, her toes curling slightly as they touched the cold stone of the floor. Letting this spur her on to fleetness, she flew quickly across the room to fling her bare arms around Severus before he could escape from the comfort of their bedroom into the chaos of another morning at Hogwarts school.
"It's not time for breakfast yet, Severus. Where are you off to so early?" She murmured as she snuggled into the small of his back.
He placed his arms over hers and squeezed her lightly. "Albus wanted to see me first thing this morning. I'm not sure what about. I told him I'd be there before breakfast, so I really need to get going, Evangeline."
The Potions Master slid around in his wife's embrace so he could see her face not to mention her enticing body. Sighing with frustration, he tried to remove her arms from his waist. It was always hard to pull himself away from her, but he knew he shouldn't keep the Headmaster waiting. Something in the way that Albus had spoken to him last night convinced Snape that whatever the elder wizard wanted would be important, and he wouldn't like it very much.
Snape let his eyes trail down his wife's body one last time, making note of her tousled warm brown hair and smooth flushed skin and the fact that at almost five months along, she was finally beginning to show her pregnancy. He still smiled inwardly as he remembered the splash she'd made at lunch just a few days ago, when her condition had finally become apparent to everyone in the school.
As Evangeline had made her way up the aisle between the banks of students, heading for the head table, a hush had fallen over the crowd in a long undulating wave. Every head had turned to her and every mouth had fallen open in succession as she made her progress through the room. Then as one, every set of eyes had turned to stare in open-mouthed awe at him as he sat at the head table awaiting his wife's presence.
It was a moment he'd been anticipating and dreading since the start of the new school term, but when it finally occurred, the response had actually been rather amusing. It was quite a sight to have the entire student body all doing their best imitation of a glassy eyed fish at the same time. Without a word being said, every student in the school had gotten the message loud and clear. The much hated and feared Professor Snape was shortly to become a father, and they were all going to have a front row seat to watch the show.
Now, as his eyes caressed the gentle swell of Evangeline's abdomen, he smiled and relented in his attempts to leave her side. He found that he couldn't help but slide his arms around her one more time, to hold her warm body close against his for one more lingering kiss before facing yet another tedious day. As their lips met he suddenly felt a cold shiver of foreboding run through him as if this kiss should be savored as a talisman against the overwhelming darkness that inexplicably seemed to be yawning before him. He mentally shook off such unsettling thoughts. Apparently he had more misgivings about what Albus might want of him than he'd thought. If he didn't watch out he'd find himself reading tea leaves and making foolish pronouncements of gloom and doom like that idiot Sybil Trelawny!
"I really should go, Evangeline. I'll probably see you at breakfast…if not, then at lunch." He smiled down at her and gave her one final squeeze.
She caressed his face gently and relented in her attempts to keep him with her. "All right, Severus, but your ploy of last night isn't going to work forever, you know. As much as I always enjoy making love with you, you can't continue to put off important conversations by getting me so deliciously distracted. Sooner or later, we need to spend some time talking about the baby. I'm about halfway through with the pregnancy now. We need to decide on a name, or names, I suppose, since we don't know whether it's a boy or a girl, and we need to make some decisions about how we're going to manage putting a third person into this rather small space."
Snape looked uncomfortable. "I know Evangeline, but my meeting with Albus is not merely another means to put you off. I really do need to see him. We'll talk about these things this evening, I promise."
"The prospect of becoming a father is scaring you more and more the closer it comes, isn't it?" she asked quietly. Sure with a sudden pang of concern that she knew what his reluctance to address the subject really meant. Their strong emotional bond made hiding their feelings from one another almost impossible. Both of them were finding that this bond of emotional honesty had some drawbacks as well as its many advantages.
He sighed. "I'll admit it's daunting."
"Are you sorry that…"
"No." He placed his hand gently over her mouth to cut off her question. "No, Evangeline. I'm not sorry that you're pregnant. I just feel a bit inadequate to the task of fatherhood. I didn't have the greatest role model to look to in my own father, and nothing in my experience has led me to believe that I'll be particularly good at this. I don't want to let you or the baby down, not ever."
She smiled gently at him. "You couldn't possibly let me down, Severus. I don't have any experience at this either, you know. We'll have to learn together. You'll be a wonderful father, you'll see."
His smile held a trace of sadness as he gazed at her. "I hope so, but we'll have to talk about it later. I don't want to keep Albus waiting." He bent and kissed her again.
As their lips met once more, Evangeline also felt an unsettling shiver go through her as she sensed Severus' uneasiness, and felt more reluctant than usual to let him leave her side. Not sure what to make of the feeling, though, she plastered a smile onto her face and kissed him quickly again before releasing him and walking beside him to the door of their quarters. "Okay. I'll look forward to seeing you at breakfast in a little while then. I hope whatever Albus wants won't take up too much of your time. When you do have a stray minute, think baby names, okay?"
He nodded in agreement. "I promise. I hope Albus doesn't want too much of my time, either. I have a rather full day today as it is."
Then with a final quick kiss, he opened the door, went out and strode up the hall in a swish of billowing black robes and disappeared out of her sight.
But neither Snape nor Dumbledore appeared for breakfast or lunch.
Evangeline sat next to Remus Lupin at the head table during the end of lunchtime and brooded. Most everyone had come and gone from lunch, but there'd been no sign of the Potions Master. Where could Severus be? What could Albus have wanted from him and why would it have made him uneasy? She hadn't laid eyes on him all morning. Not since he'd gone out their door before breakfast on his way to meet with Dumbledore.
She turned her eyes up the table to where the Headmaster usually presided over meals in the Great Hall. His chair, too, sat annoyingly empty. No answers were to be found there. She sighed in frustration and a dark frown settled over her features as she pondered over the unknown uselessly. Suddenly she became aware of her name being spoken in a tone of voice that seemed to crave an answer.
The distracted witch turned her head and found herself looking into the concerned eyes of Remus Lupin. "Is everything all right, Evangeline? I don't think you've heard anything I've said for the past five minutes, at least."
Feeling apologetic, she forced a smile. "I'm sorry, Remus. You were telling me about your letter from Eleanor. I must've drifted off for a moment. You really should go and visit her you know."
Lupin gave her a bemused look. "That's what I was just saying, Angel. I'm going to see her next weekend. We had such a nice time when I visited her over the summer, that I've been rather eager to get another chance to spend time with her."
Evangeline smiled warmly. "That's wonderful, Remus. I always thought you two would hit it off, if you got the chance to really get to know one another."
"Well, you were right." His smile faded. "Now, tell me what's gotten you so distracted."
Worry lines crept back onto her forehead. "I'm not sure. Severus left early this morning for a meeting with Albus. He didn't seem to know what it was about, and he seemed a bit worried about it. Before he left, he told me that he'd see me later at breakfast or lunch, but I haven't been able to find him all day. I haven't seen Albus, either. I'm about ready to burst into that sanctuary of his and demand some answers, but it's probably nothing and then I'll look like an overly hysterical wife."
She rubbed a hand over her rapidly expanding waistline. "Pregnancy really does seem to be affecting my moods and my judgment. Even little things seem like major problems. I'm sure I'm just over reacting, pay no attention to me, okay?"
He smiled encouragingly. "Don't worry. I'm sure everything is fine. Albus must have had something that he needed Severus to do, and it's just kept him too busy to find you and tell you about it. I'm sure you'll see him this afternoon…certainly at dinner."
She nodded. "I'm sure you're right. He has a late afternoon class. I'll just catch him after that. I have to go now and see Filch. He has some paintings that he found in storage that he wants me to look at to see what can be done for them, if anything. I guess they're in pretty bad shape."
Lupin raised an eyebrow. "Has Filch forgiven you and Severus for the creative way you made use of the castle over the summer?"
Evangeline blushed. "That's a tactful way to put it. How do you know what we did to the castle over the summer?"
He grinned. "When I first returned to Hogwarts before the beginning of term, I stumbled over Filch fixing up something or other and grumbling to himself about his "Happy Honeymooners". He was happy to have a sympathetic ear to fill with his woes, I think."
Evangeline looked embarrassed. "We probably weren't very nice to poor Filch. I imagine we created a lot more work for him than he'd have had over the usual summer."
Lupin nodded. "It did sound that way, but don't feel too badly. I got the impression that he found some of it rather amusing. He did seem to enjoy describing the look on Minerva's face when he showed her how you and Severus had redecorated the Gryffindor common room."
Evangeline smiled. "Yes, poor Minerva. She was a bit annoyed over that for a few days."
Lupin laughed. "Yes, I imagine so. I wish I could've seen it." He pushed his chair back. "Well, I've got a class to get to, so I'll see you later. And don't worry. You'll see Severus soon I'm sure, and he'll tell you what Albus is up to now. He has to be around here somewhere, after all." With a final smile Lupin left the table and headed out of the Great Hall leaving Evangeline sitting alone at the head table with her worries.
But Evangeline didn't see Severus at all that afternoon.
Her meeting with Filch took quite some time. The paintings he'd found were indeed in very bad shape and were going to require quite a lot of work to restore them. By the time she and Filch had lugged them all up to her workroom, assessed all the work that would be required, and done some initial repairs on them, it was already fairly late in the afternoon.
After leaving Filch to his other pressing work, Evangeline headed down to the dungeon to try to catch Severus after his last class. The students were all pouring out of the classroom as she headed down the corridor congratulating herself on her perfect timing. She turned into the classroom with a smile on her face to find herself abruptly face to face with Albus Dumbledore.
The smile on her lips vanished in an instant to be replaced with a frown. "Albus? What are you doing here? Where's Severus?"
A strange expression flitted over his face before settling into his usual enigmatic smile. "Hello, Evangeline. Severus had to run an errand for me, so I told him that I'd take over his classes if he didn't make it back in time."
Suddenly the temperature in the dungeon seemed to plummet and the first nips of worry began to work their way up her spine. "An errand? You sent him on an errand…out of Hogwarts? Where? What could be so important that you'd send him out of the safety of the castle, Albus?" Her voice took on an accusatory tone.
Dumbledore crossed the room to stand next to her and patted her arm reassuringly. "Don't worry, Evangeline. I'm sure that Severus is fine. I needed to get something rather urgently, and he was the only person I knew who'd be able to find it. It was extremely important or I wouldn't have asked him."
Worry began to nibble harder at the back of her mind. "What did you need?"
He frowned. "I really can't say, Evangeline. It's better if you don't know about it. These are perilous times, my dear, as you're well aware. Everyone has to do his or her part. Severus understands this. I thought you did, too."
Worry now burst full-blown into her heart and settled in cold lumps at the base of her spine. "Where did you send him, Albus?" She felt her throat tighten as she forced the words out.
He hesitated for a long moment, but decided to answer her. "Malfoy Manor."
She gasped in alarm. "Malfoy's! Why on earth would you send him there, Albus? It's not safe for him to go anywhere near any of the Death Eaters!"
"The house is empty at the moment, Evangeline. Draco is here. Lucius is still in Azkaban, and Narcissa is visiting family in France at the moment. Severus shouldn't have any trouble. Don't worry."
Her heart felt like it was suddenly sheathed in ice. "Then why isn't he back yet?" she asked quietly as she focused her attention on Dumbledore's blue eyes.
The old wizard sighed and suddenly looked very anxious to leave the room. "I'm sure he'll be back very soon, Evangeline. Please, don't be concerned. Now if you'll excuse me, there's something important that I need to take care of before dinner."
Without another word, the imposing wizard stepped around Evangeline and swept out the door in an impressive flurry of red robes, leaving her standing there in the middle of the potions classroom in a state of mild shock. She clasped her arms around herself and a violent shiver coursed through her. Severus was gone. No matter what anyone said, she didn't believe that it was safe for him to go to Malfoy Manor. There was no way that house was ever left open and unprotected, no matter who was actually in residence. What could have been so important? She began to shiver in earnest now, fear overtaking worry as the predominant feeling in her mind.
Horrible images ran rampant through her thoughts. How could Albus do this? How could he put Severus in such danger? Why now? When she and the baby needed him so much!
The worried witch ran her suddenly icy cold hands protectively over her slightly swollen abdomen. Without thinking about it she began to twist the wedding band on her finger. Suddenly a tremor of weakness flowed over her like a rush of water from a strong tap. She felt dizzy and lightheaded. Bright lights began to burst randomly behind her eyelids. With a moan she sank to her knees and slowly collapsed onto the floor.
Far from Hogwarts castle, a thin nobbly hand with spindly fingers shook ever so slightly as it dropped a ring of gold and silver into an outstretched claw.
"I told you I could do it, My Lord. It all went as I said it would."
"Excellent," purred a cold voice. "Let's be very sure they get the message. I do so want there to be no doubt. Send our little package at once. Be sure to include this."
The ring exchanged hands once more and the servant bowed low then turned to leave. Mocking laughter followed him as he rushed from the room to do his master's bidding.
When Evangeline opened her eyes again, she had no idea how much time had passed, but she felt oddly unfocused and couldn't explain exactly why. Something felt different…wrong…missing. Once again her attention was drawn to her wedding band. With trembling fingers she reached over and slid the ring off her finger. She stared at it in horror. That shouldn't be possible! The binding magic should hold the ring on tightly. She shouldn't be able to simply remove it. As long as the marriage lasted…as long as they lasted…the rings should remain bound to their fingers, as they were bound to each other. What could it mean? Only one thing that she could think of…only one horrible thing. With a cry of pain and anguish, she hauled her stiff body up off the cold floor and fled out of the potions classroom as quickly as she could manage.
The distressed witch hurried up out of the dungeon and into the Great Hall in a state of panic. She must have been unconscious for some time as dinner was almost over. Heedless of how distraught she appeared, she ran straight through the room heading for the head table, raising heads and creating a buzz of apprehension as she passed. Snape's chair was still empty, but Lupin sat in his and watched her approach with concern. Something was obviously very wrong.
She stumbled up onto the dais and grabbed Lupin by the arm. He pulled her down into the empty chair beside him and stared at her worriedly. Up close she looked awful, pale and trembling with huge eyes that didn't seem to be focusing properly.
"What's the matter, Evangeline?" he asked anxiously.
Others at the table were looking their way with concern as well.
Evangeline didn't seem capable of answering him. Instead she stared at him wordlessly and held out a tightly clenched fist. It took a tremendous effort on her part to open her stiff fingers, but once she did Lupin found himself staring in confusion at her wedding ring as it rested in the palm of her hand.
He raised questioning eyes to hers. "That's your wedding ring, isn't it, Angel? Is something wrong with it?"
Terrified, she nodded and whispered in a strangled voice, "It came off. Remus, it's not supposed to be able to come off. What does it mean? Could something horrible have happened to Severus? Why did my ring come off?"
In her agitation, her voice was rising in volume. Dumbledore rose from his seat and started down the table toward them. Before he could reach them though, another commotion arose from the student body who were all looking up and pointing at the huge black vulture that had just entered the hall carrying a substantial box.
As everyone continued to stare and point and whisper, the stately bird circled the hall once and then dropped its parcel directly in front of Evangeline. She stared at the box with the deepest dread then slowly got to her feet. Without a word she reached out trembling fingers and began to open it. As Lupin, Dumbledore, and the whole school looked on, Evangeline peeled back the wrapping and reached into the box. Her shaking hand came back holding Severus' wand with his wedding ring rammed down over one end of it. She moaned softly. "Oh, no…please, no."
Before either Lupin or Dumbledore could stop her she dropped the wand onto the table and peeled back more of the inner wrapping until she could see what else the box contained. Suddenly she screamed the most horrified and pain filled scream that anyone in the hall had ever heard before as her eyes met the cold empty eyes and waxen features of her husband's face in the box. Her numb fingers traced the planes of his face, brushed the limp hair aside, and touched the bloody edge of his neck.
Evangeline's screams echoed over and over throughout the hall in rapid succession. Bloodcurdling… hopeless…devastated.
A harsh ugly voice screamed, "Murderer!" at eyes filled with guilt. With a shock so great it withered her soul, Evangeline realized that the voice was her own, and the guilt-filled eyes were Dumbledore's.
The two stared silently at each other for a long agonizing moment, and then Evangeline gave a horrid gasp and clutched at her abdomen. Pain twisted through her body in red hot rivulets, searing her soul and plunging her down into darkness and desolation. Like a marionette whose strings had been cut, she collapsed into a heap on the floor, her body convulsing uncontrollably.
Poppy shoved her way through the crowd of stunned teachers to reach Evangeline's shuddering form as quickly as possible. After a brief examination, she looked up with a shocked expression on her face. "I need to get her up to the hospital wing immediately."
Instantly Lupin bent over and scooped Evangeline's body up into his arms, and the two of them raced out of the hall as fast as they could go with everyone's shocked stares following them every step of the way.
The entire population of the Great Hall seemed absolutely stunned then slowly they all turned their eyes to their Headmaster seeking understanding and reassurance, but he didn't seem to have any to give them. Dumbledore seemed rooted to his spot beside the table. McGonagall touched his arm in concern and whispered in a frightened tone, "Albus?"
Her touch seemed to awaken him, and slowly he turned and looked at her with eyes that suddenly seemed to be conscious of every one of the years they'd witnessed on this earth. Without saying a word, he turned away from her and went to look down into the box on the table and gaze with sadness and grief on the face of one more death to be laid at his doorstep. One more of his children gone before their time.