JK Rowling's characters and Wizarding Universe are all uniquely hers. Plot, new characters, new magical terms and abilities etc. are my intellectual property. If you want to borrow then please kindly ask.
ALTERNATE UNIVERSE. If you are looking for strict Canon or even a slight deviation from Canon you won't find it here.
Summary: The war has carried on well past Harry Potter's 7th Year. Snape is on the run from Voldemort and the Ministry of Magic, both of whom will stop at nothing to silence him. He finds unexpected refuge in the most unlikely of places.
The Man Who Came In from the Cold
Chapter 016: Allons-y! (Let's go!)
It was no small miracle that Esmé didn't kill herself or someone else with her driving. Her heart raced several miles per minute as she roared from St. Helier to her sister's house, finally pulling up the back drive shortly past midnight. Voldemort might as well been on her tail she was so reckless. To her dismay it had begun to snow again, and from what she'd heard on the radio another blizzard was on its way. She and Sebastian definitely needed to leave in the early morning.
A feeling of dread washed over the young woman as she jumped out of the 4x4, slamming the door behind her. Both her sister's house and the outbuilding where Sebastian lived looked deserted – maybe it was because of what Sasha had told her earlier. Most farmers wouldn't stay up very late if they could help it since they were up before dawn. There was still work to do here, after all. Everyone was probably in bed, she reasoned. Even D'Arcy was fastidious about getting a good night's sleep, despite his recent behaviour to the contrary.
Still, it was quiet, dead quiet, and more than a bit unnerving. But before she could think about what to do next, there was the sound of crunching. Not prepared for anyone being out and about, she tried to determine the direction the noise was coming from. It was difficult since the wind had picked up and the snowfall was getting increasingly heavier.
'Esmé?' came a familiar voice through noise.
'S…Sebastian?' she blurted out impulsively.
Without thinking, she started to run before he confirmed who he was. They must have both been running, as they seemed to meet somewhere in the middle of the distance that had separated them.
'You're early!' Snape said with a smile, quite taking Esmé by surprise.
'I…I heard about the storm…wanted to get back so I could take you home,' she mumbled in his ear as he hugged her.
'I couldn't sleep… Come – let's get inside where it's warm…' he said, wrapping a long arm around her and pulling her close.
They hadn't even been in the house for five minutes before they were locked in a passionate kiss. Esmé hadn't really been convinced that she would find him here, and Snape hadn't been entirely sure that she would come back. There was so much each wanted to say to the other about the short time that they'd been forced apart; but there weren't the words. There was only that kiss – and the way they held each other.
Esmé broke their interlude by reaching into her shoulder bag and pulling out an envelop, handing it to him silently. Snape looked at it and then at her. His eyes rested on the envelop again as she turned on a lamp.
'Joyeux Noel,' she said hoarsely as he pulled out the very real French passport and identity card it contained.
Snape shook his dark head in disbelief as tears of relief streamed down her face.
'How on earth did you…?' he asked incredulously as she bit her bottom lip.
Esmé had turned it over and over in her mind about what to say. She wanted to tell the truth; she wanted to end the lies between them on both sides. But she just couldn't do it… And because she couldn't do it there wouldn't be any way she could convince him to leave with her for good… this was all so hopeless…
Just then they were interrupted by a knock at the door.
'Everything will be alright,' Snape murmured before giving Esmé another quick kiss.
He jumped up and crossed the room, opening the door to Christiane.
'I thought that was you…' she said none too irritably as she stormed into the room and stood over her sister.
'By all means, come in!' Snape snapped.
'You are so selfish, Chris! YOU ARE SO DAMN SELFISH!' Esmé shrieked.
'So I heard!' Christiane replied darkly. 'We can discuss what you really think about me and Gill some other time – this really isn't the right moment for you, now is it!'
Snape looked at Esmé, searching her face for answers.
'Ah – timing. Yes, I do remember your obsession about the right time for everything. Except in this situation, there really isn't any right time, is there? The end result is still the same. You'll stroll out of here on your high horse regardless.' Esmé answered coldly.
'That's not fair and you know it!'
'Yes, you've waited a long time…God knows how many times we'll all have to listen to that old chestnut!'
'I have, dammit! And you know it Esmé! You of all people!'
'Even after everything that I have tried to get into that thick head of yours…'
The tensions that had been growing steadily erupted into the mother of all arguments as the two sisters fought each other.
'STOP! I HAVE HAD ENOUGH!' Snape roared as he stood between them and pushed them apart. 'What in blazes is going on?'
'You selfish BITCH!' Esmé screamed. 'It's bad enough I had to find out by going home but how could you not tell Sebastian, of all people! He deserves to know! How could you do this to him Chris? How? Of all people HE NEEDS TO KNOW!'
'Well isn't that the pot calling the kettle black – my dear little sister!'
Esmé froze for just the briefest of moments like a deer caught in the headlights; and this did not pass unnoticed by Snape.
'D'Arcy and I are engaged. He is getting a quickie divorce and we will be married in the summer,' Christiane explained without breaking a sweat. 'The ancestral D'Arcy estate will be our new home and we will move into the manor house as soon as it's ready for us, in about a month's time. He's got construction crews and architects working around the clock, 24 hours a day…'
'So… the rumours which reached my ears not so long ago were indeed true,' Snape said darkly. 'I had wondered when you would see fit to discuss these matters with me!'
'You knew?' Esmé sputtered. 'But how…? I only found out by accident myself.'
'Every servant and tenant of D'Arcy knows!' Snape growled dangerously. 'And his recent appearances in St. Helier with his mistress did not pass unnoticed – as was intended. Of course, Jeri being Jeri and D'Arcy being the pillar of the community that he is, no one would dare speak in public about it…It's been a hot topic of conversation behind closed doors here for the past few days. D'Arcy wasn't as discreet as he should have been when he made his arrangements and neither are some of the people in whom he places so much faith!'
'Why didn't you say something?' Esmé asked.
'I wanted your sister to have every opportunity to tell me herself, especially given the fact that I was about to spend the holidays in your company. D'Arcy is not likely to keep me on here any more than I really want to remain given the change in circumstance. But I was suffering under the illusion that she would see fit to inform me before your return! Despite any misgivings, I at least thought her fair. I can see that my willingness to trust her to do the right thing by me was nothing less than delusion on my part!'
'You will still come, won't you?' Esmé asked. 'You don't have to stay on Jersey have options, Sebastian – with me.'
Christiane looked at her sister in horror. 'You mean for him to go back with you – for good? Have you lost your mind!' she interrupted. "He's almost old enough to be your father! What it is with you and this papa fixation…!'
'It's not really your business, certainly no more than this disastrous situation with D'Arcy is mine!' Esmé interjected.
'You know why!'
'What exactly is your objection!' Snape snarled as he stepped closer to Christiane. 'Your attitude towards me has completely changed and I am entitled to know why!'
Christiane glared at her sister and said nothing as she barged past her and out the front door.
He was tempted, Merlin knew he was so sorely tempted to use Legilimency; but Esmé didn't deserve that even though her sister definitely did.
'You really didn't know, did you?' Snape asked as he stroked her long hair away from her face.
'No. I found out tonight through Chris' best friend back home. That's why I came back early; I thought if she knew then surely you had to…and I thought… I was worried…'
'You were concerned that I might not be here when you returned.'
Esmé nodded, blinking back hot tears.
Snape didn't reply as he took her into his arms and held her tight. All of his questions about the passport and identity card were pushed to the side momentarily.
'I…had concerns myself,' he muttered after turning off the lamp and helping her up.
They went upstairs to the sleeping loft, each certain that this would be their last time doing so. Both undressed hurriedly, eager to be in each other's arms once again.
His mouth sought hers in the darkness once they were in bed. Slowly he worked his way downward, caressing her nipples with his tongue and nipping them gently. There was a trail of wetness as he moved further south, kissing and licking the most private part of her body. Esmé began to thrust against his tongue uncontrollably and cried out for him. Snape moved upwards and entered her slowly, letting out a low groan as he felt her tighten around him. They found their rhythm and bit by bit the slow boil percolated into an intense heat that rendered them lost to anything but their mutual pleasure. The former Potions Master hit that blessed spot which caused the young woman to clench tightly around him, pulling him deeper and deeper as he thrust harder and faster.
'Esmé…' Snape moaned. 'Oh God!'
He cried out and shook hard as his seed spilled, filling her and covering his manhood in hot stickiness. He was so tempted, Merlin he was so tempted to make love a while longer. He was a wizard, after all. They could carry on for another few hours – but Esmé didn't know what he was and this was not the way for her to find out, if she was ever to find out. He'd been battling with the devil on his left shoulder about it since she left for France.
Snape finally pulled out and rolled off of her, willing his body to calm as a Muggle's would. He had thought about so many things while Esmé was gone. He couldn't tell her what he was and what he'd done. The only certainties were that he was not ready to lose her and he did not want to hurt her either. He could feel heat once more as she began to pleasure him with her mouth. He felt himself getting hard once again and it was a battle of wills as his body responded to her ministrations while his mind protested against it.
'We should stop…' he murmured tensely. 'We should leave before daybreak and we need to get some rest. This storm will be a raging blizzard by late morning.'
Esmé crawled up the length of his body and settled her head on his shoulder.
'Do you always have to be so practical?' she asked through a contented sigh.
They began to kiss and touch each other again.
'Are you sure…' Snape began.
'Yes, I am. Let's just get to Bayeux and enjoy Christmas. We can think about what to do after that…'
'You're insane – do you realise that?'
'I could say the same about you, Sir…'
Snape didn't answer as he pulled her closer, lost in thought. Esmé fell asleep within a few minutes, but he was wide awake thinking about how his life and luck had completely changed – and praying silently that the worst was over.
Snape and Esmé rose at four-thirty. Both had quick showers and talked about what needed to be packed over breakfast. He hadn't seen fit to try and make the outbuilding a true home, never really believing that he would end up spending a significant amount of time there. By five-thirty they had his things packed and were headed towards St. Helier.
They had a somewhat tense discussion about his new identity and the variation in Ardéchoise accent from that of Normandy. Fortunately, the differences weren't that significant and if he'd spend a great deal of time in another region and living outside of the country it was bound to have been affected. It was no different to the change from the common Northern English accent of the Black Country that he'd had until his fifth year at Hogwarts. His speech had radically changed in manner and tone because of his desire to ingratiate himself with the elite who would have looked down on a working-class boy like him even more than they had done.
'So how did you manage this, Esmé? You didn't say.' Snape asked quietly as he fingered the treasure in his coat pocket once the discussion about his accent died off.
'An old friend. He's very well connected.'
'Ahh – hence D'Arcy's comments about the company you keep…'
''Zact; he feels justified in his judgments of we lesser mortals. But I do have a lot more common sense than I'm generally given credit for – especially by people who don't know me at all.'
'This…friend... He must be a very close one to have done this for you.'
'He is – and you'll meet him…' Esmé sighed through a frown as she pulled into the ferry terminus.
The snow was falling thick and fast and it was difficult to see where she was going. Before Snape could question her further, six men surrounded their car. A burly man appeared by her window, shining a light that was too bright.
'Passports and identity cards please…' he asked after she rolled down the window a bit.
'Both?' Esmé asked quizzically as she rifled through her shoulder bag. She guessed he was from Marseille given his accent.
'You must not have heard…'
'No – we haven't. What's going on?' Snape asked smoothly in French with distinctly Lyonnaise accent.
Esmé resisted the impulse to look at him and hoped her face didn't betray her astonishment. She'd heard of people who were fast learners, but this was something else. Still, his life did depend on this…
'There's a situation in the British Isles. They've got a Level Four security situation – something to do with home-grown terrorists and the like. There's talk of riots, criminals running loose… they've got a sun-down to sun-up curfew on the mainland, the Outer Hebrides and the Channel Islands. Jersey's the only exception because of the alliance with France.'
Snape remained silent as he handed Esmé his passport and identity card to give to the officer. The man looked at both closely and then had one of the others walk around the car. A light was shone at Snape who didn't blink as the man gave him the once-over after looking at the documents for a few moments.
'Britain is sealed off; she is now on lockdown. Only under specific circumstances will travel be allowed,' The second officer said as he handed Snape his papers back and a pamphlet. 'This is the information you will need; take time to read it carefully.'
"We shall indeed," Snape replied with a nod.
The first officer slapped the top of the roof and directed them onto the ferry.
Esmé and Snape began to comprehend just how dangerous the situation really was. Despite the heavy snow it was apparent that the terminus was swarming with officers. But only Esmé knew that these were no ordinary police or immigration officers, these were Bastille Guards.
There were two more checkpoints, two more rounds of questions. Cars were randomly targeted for full inspection and the occupants were having all bags checked. Being French meant it was less likely that they would have to endure a hardcore inspection. That wouldn't have been the case in the first war; but things were different know, very different. Just how different neither Snape nor Esmé was to know just yet.
'Something isn't right about this, about any of it,' the former professor thought to himself.
One thing he felt certain of was that it had everything to do with the world he'd left behind. Snape glanced at Esmé, sensing the stress he was under no illusion that she had to be feeling. She handled herself well, though. Yet he did feel responsible because she had taken on so much – and it was all because of him. He wanted to convince himself that it made no sense why she was going to such lengths for a man she really didn't know. But it made just as much sense as why he hadn't fled when the rumours about her sister and D'Arcy surfaced.
They were approved for boarding as the sun crept over the horizon. There were bits of conversations that reached their ears and it made for disturbing news. House-to-house inspections were beginning to take place; any English who were not legal residents would be dealt with accordingly. Esmé had been right to return earlier than planned. There was no mistaking that if they had not become involved, Sebastian would have found himself deported back to England given his lack of papers. Snape didn't dare think of the consequences to his life if that had happened.
Esmé drove into the bowels of the ferry and turned off the ignition. She started to speak and then noticed that even here, the guards were all over. It seemed that they might even outnumber the passengers allowed to travel. She looked over at him, and Snape noticed how pale and drawn she looked. He pulled down the cushion rest that had been up so that their two seats became one; Esmé slid into his arms and held him tightly.
They didn't dare speak until they passed through French immigration at the other end and were on the way to his new home.
It was snowing as hard in Northern France as it had been in Jersey, so there wasn't much for Snape to see. There seemed to be an unspoken agreement between he and Esmé that they needed to get behind the relative safety of their own front door before entering into anything approximating a conversation. He did note that Esmé seemed to live in a valley outside of the ancient medieval city and she didn't have any immediate neighbours.
He peered out the window as they made their way slowly down what appeared to be a back road of some sort. It might as well been late afternoon it was so dark out. The overcast morning was made worse by the blizzard. The former Potions Master couldn't help but think how similar this was to his arrival in Jersey, except this time he was going to something and someone – and with an identity that offered him protection.
Snape glanced at Esmé as she navigated her way towards her house and into the garage. From what he could see it was a typical colombage native to the region. Such houses were generally very old and highly sought after by ex-pats and locals alike. She certainly seemed to have done quite well for herself despite the hardships she'd been through.
Within a few minutes her car was unpacked and she was showing him around the house. They walked down a small hallway on the ground floor and Esmé pointed out her small office and the washroom which contained just a toilet and washbowl. They walked by a locked door and she remained silent.
'And there…?' Snape asked.
'Oh, just a storage room – the floor in the attic isn't strong enough to hold much…' Esme replied blithely as they sailed past it.
They walked by a large window and Esmé pointed out the expansive garden and orchards that lay in the distance, all covered with a heavy blanket of snow. In total she had almost five acres of land with an option for five more.
They crossed the main hallway to the wetroom where their things were waiting.
'So – this is our house…' she said casually as she led him back upstairs to her bedroom, their bedroom.
They began to talk about the land and what she'd done with it so far, which wasn't very much. It was a welcome distraction from the events of the past few hours and the situation with her sister. Esmé wasn't a big fan of what Snape realised was Muggle medicine; she preferred natural remedies and wanted to have and extensive herbal garden, amongst other things. The former professor recognised instantly that she was talking about Herbology. Herbology was Herbology regardless of whether it was Muggle or Wizard; it was merely the plants that one worked with that were radically different. Still, there was some overlap.
'Even D'Arcy has an interest in Herbology,' Esmé said. 'I think he had some ideas about setting up greenhouses, but madame wasn't particularly keen…'
'Ahh – when I was at their home we had a brief discussion to that effect. I have a strong interest in it myself – and it seemed as though their might be some opportunity to enter into an arrangement with him in that regard. Your sister seemed to have a passing interest as well.'
'Yes – he sees the potential to make a lot of money by setting up an herbal medicine business. He could do quite well for himself – and especially with the right partner… Chris is interested in it, but she's quite rubbish when it comes to the practical side of things.'
'I don't think he had a partnership in mind. I would have been his employee, nothing more.'
The conversation changed to how they were dividing the space in the closet and the chests of drawers. Within an hour of his arrival, Snape was completely unpacked and seated in the living room with a mug of tea and two pains au chocolat. Esmé opened the doors of the large ornate armoire that housed the television, video and DVD players and a games console in the top half.
'I just want to check the news…' she sighed as she checked the time and turned on the televion.
She selected France5 and took a seat next to Snape. They watched for just over an hour, but there was no mention of the events in Britain and the Channel Islands and what was going on with the Ferries.
'Strange…' Snape muttered occasionally through swallows and bites of his food.
Esmé flipped through several other news reports, all of which had absolutely nothing on the situation.
'It might as well not be happening as far as the rest of the world is concerned…' Esmé said taughtly.
She could only think that she needed to talk to Christian sooner rather than later. Almost on cue, the phone began to ring. Esmé got up and picked up the digital handset that was in a drawer of the chest that served as her coffee table.
'Allo? Thank God it's you! Yes… I got back a few hours ago…' she said in rapid-fire French.
She got up and went to the kitchen, feeling Snape's eyes on her as she left the living room.
Snape sat tensely – not sure why he was filled with discomfort though he reasoned that this was Esmé's home and she had a life that had nothing to do with him. She was entitled to her privacy and to not include him in ever single aspect of her life. But he still was bothered – and he realised it was because she'd managed to get official French documents – and because of the connection that had to have brought it about. He wasn't a gambling man – but he was willing to bet that the person with whom she was speaking in such hushed tones was his latest saviour.
He was beholden yet someone else – and didn't like it.
Surely there would be a price to pay for this?