Title: Red Serpent (1/12)
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: Beta'd by the lovely drachemina. Also posted at my IJ, with illustrations.
I forgot to put this on the last chapter (haven't posted in a genfic area in ages) but this is a SLASH fanfiction. There will be somewhat graphic male/male relations. You have been warned.
For all the pursuers cared, the man could have been a dog; a dog to be hunted down, put down and sent down to wherever his maker judged him fit to go. He was, one could observe, a hunter turned to hunted. A ragged predator who had met with a pack of others and been found wanting.
The Moscow streets were empty. A wash of rain had covered them earlier in the evening and was still gleaming in places; a dirty orange, city gleam that served to darken the shadows. It was an oily gleam that sickened the eyes and siphoned colour from the world, not that much colour was ever evident in these grey roads save the familiar red. The hunted man ran through the seeping patches of light, shadows dragging at his feet. His pursuers knew where they were going and there was no telling for him how many were behind. There was darkness of varying shades everywhere. He glanced round desperately, eyes blurred with sweat. Too many corners, doorways and alleyways; too many hiding places and potential traps. He feinted right before leaping off left, the balls of his feet pounding on the stones. The narrow road he chose was, thankfully, devoid of people. The man took another look over his shoulder, assessing the state of the chase a little more rationally now the danger was not all round.
He was a man best described as dangerous. A tall frame was encompassed by lean muscles and carried with the posture of a man who knew everything that strong body could do and would willingly do it. Grey eyes looked out from under a thick comma of black hair and would just as happily look through you as at you. His mouth would, after inspection, be described as cruel thanks to the mocking tilt it often adopted. Cruelty was most often disguised by a wide grin, though it never fully went away. The man was ruthless and proud. The tilt of his chin was enough to show that. Currently, however, fear was pulling at those handsome features. The mouth tightened, the eyes narrowed and the chest heaved with hurried breaths. This man knew what it was to be the predator and now knew the fear of the prey. Behind him was the pack and their teeth were bared. They had turned the corner too and were howling their pursuit. No guns were fired; they had been told to take him alive.
The river glimmered at the end of the street, a sinking darkness below the surface reflection. A step into there would mean disorientating cold and an uncertain fate. It could be an escape or it could be death. The man was not ready for that much of a gamble yet, not while his legs still had strength. He went left along the side of the river. The puddles were deeper here where the road was more uneven. He splashed through them. So did his pursuers, though it seemed from the sound that they were falling further behind. He allowed himself that trickster's grin but it slid from his face as he realised that footsteps were also coming from in front of him. He cursed. The pack was clever.
Two figures emerged from the darkness ahead, both large and intimidating. The street was too narrow to get around them easily and the reach of their arms promised to be inconveniently long. Chance was that one of them would get a hand on him and then it would be all over and the pack would descend upon him like hounds on a fox and with far less mercy. Hunted eyes darted from side to side as he ran on; the river on the right with no bridges within distance and dark brickwork to the left, repeating and repeating until suddenly a shadow seemed darker than the rest. He dodged towards it and was more than relieved to discover that it was a dark little alley. Blackness surrounded him and he welcomed it gratefully. Darkness could hide him.
Shadows, however, are not picky as to who they hide. A sudden flash of light from a torch blinded him and made him stumble. Even as his hands came up to shade his eyes a massive figure loomed in front of him and seized hold. It was over in moments when the pack rounded the corner. They fell on him with ferocity. 'Alive' did not mean necessarily unharmed. In a short time he was unconscious and being carried off to meet his fate, which was to be a cruel one.
Sirius Black had been betrayed.
West of that deception, the darkness was already sidling in. Autumn was doing its best to stay bright but the shortening days were all too noticeable. A chill breeze sent dry leaves skittering and dancing down the grey London street, against the warm lighted shop fronts and into corners to swirl meaningless patterns with the gathered dust. The outdoor traders had long since packed up, the discarded petals and paper bags of their trade left to join the whirling.
Lupin turned up the collar of his brown coat as he crossed the road. He was of middling to tall height and utterly indistinguishable from the office workers and shop assistants who surrounded him. He had brown hair, brown eyes that crinkled just a little at the edges and a just-noticeable pale scar on the bridge of his nose. A tightly-furled umbrella sat in his left hand. His air and demeanour spoke of an earnest civil servant; five day week and perhaps model trains at the weekends. Anyone would pass him by without a second glance.
Smiling faintly, he entered a building whose discreet brass sign proclaimed it to be iUniversal Exports/i. A brief nod to the receptionist and then he was in the lift at the back of the foyer. It had smooth stainless steel sides unblemished by buttons but took him swiftly upwards nonetheless. Seconds later, he was stepping out onto the deep red carpet of the headquarters of British Intelligence.
The secretary to the head of the Secret Service looked up with a smile. Percy Weasley, serious and officious behind horn-rimmed glasses, was a red-headed barrier between M and the rest of the world.
'The old man's waiting for you, Lupin,' he said. 'Serious business.'
'Thank you, Weasley.'
Lupin hung his coat on the old coat stand in the corner – God only knew how long that had been there – and pushed open the familiar padded door. It clicked shut behind him, sealing the room for complete privacy.
The head of British Intelligence has always been a mysterious figure, masked behind the enigmatic epithet of M. It is a title and responsibility handed from man to man among the hidden, twisted corridors of the British Secret Service. The man who greeted Lupin, Sir A- D-, was tall and white-haired with a divertingly genial smile. He played boules on the weekends and enjoyed chamber music but his work was done hidden away in his office, organising and manipulating affairs of state both near to home and a world away. His wizarding connections and practices were even more secret but had helped make his tenure as head of British Intelligence one of the most successful ever. His handful of wizard secret agents – grouped together as MI7 (Magical Intelligence, not Military, but the distinction between was unnecessary when dealing with the muggle services) – were his proudest achievements. Papers which passed under those fingers transformed to actions miles away. M was a powerful man and a devious one, not that it showed in those clear blue eyes. He regarded Lupin with a twinkling and paternal gaze.
'Good evening, Remus. How are you?'
Lupin sat opposite him. 'As well as ever. Yourself?'
'The same.' Necessary chitchat concluded, M pushed a file across the desk. 'I have a job for you.'
'I didn't think you'd invited me for tea and cakes.'
Lupin opened the file. The face that gazed up at him was handsome, with thick hair above a serious pair of eyes. There was a charismatic cast to the face that Lupin guessed would be much more pronounced in person. The lips were full but the mouth had a cruel twist, almost but not quite disguised by the man's smile. Lupin read the name on the file: Tom Riddle.
'He's a Russian citizen,' M told him.
'With a name like Riddle?' asked Lupin. 'A defector?'
'His father was English. That's why he wants to move here, so he says. But we don't want him.'
'Of course. A powerful one at that. Let him in over here and there's no telling what he could get up too. He's a clever, if twisted man and he has the gift of convincing people. Give him a room full of nice, ordinary people and he'll have them marching on Parliament within a week. And he's not alone either; he runs his own organisation, it seems, known as the Death Eaters.' M raised an eyebrow. 'His choice in names alone should be enough to show his lack of taste.'
Lupin pulled a face with half a smile.
'He's also a wizard,' M continued, 'and, again, a powerful one too. Given time we'd have a fully-fledged Dark Lord on our doorstep and that we most emphatically don't want. We let him gain the merest toehold here and we'll never be rid of the man.'
'I see why we don't want him. Can't we just refuse him entry without the subterfuge?'
M's face turned a little more solemn. 'We suspect that he has some sort of back-up plan for that inevitability. Rumour is that he's already bought some sort of mansion or castle up in the north, which smacks of confidence. I don't believe he will take no for an answer. The little we learnt last time we sent someone out told us a bit about what sort of man he is.'
'The last time you sent someone, sir?'
'We sent Black out there last month,' said M gravely. 'We found what was left of him three days ago. Wrapped in a curtain, of all things, and dumped in the Moskva river.'
Lupin shuddered. 'That's too bad, sir.'
'He was a good agent,' said M.
'He was a good man.'
'We need you to carry on where he left off,' M continued, pulling another file from his desk drawer. He passed it over. 'It seems there is a defector among Riddle's ranks and he wants to talk to us.'
Lupin opened the folder. A photograph stared back at him, black eyes blank on the print. The man had a long thin face, framed with hair that was too long to be fashionable and too unkempt to be vain. Lupin's eyes were drawn to the nose, which dominated the face like a canker. He wondered what it would look like in profile; whether it would be Roman and noble or simply crude and ugly. The face scowled at the camera with unconcealed disdain and suspicion.
'Severus Snape,' M told him. 'He's the man you'll be meeting in Moscow.'
Lupin flicked through the pages. Severus Snape, born of an English father and Russian mother, had grown up in poverty in a small village out on the Russian plains. At some point during his teenage years he had left the village, and his mother, to move to the city. He had been a clever boy; one who should have done well in the Communist system, where a poor background should never hold anyone back. And he had done well. Lupin remarked on it as he flicked through the young Snape's employment records.
'He is brilliant,' said M. 'Extraordinarily clever. But he's nasty too. He was promoted quickly all right; he reported his superiors for their indiscretions, minor or otherwise. And while they got hauled off he got their jobs. Not one for making friends, this Comrade Snape.'
'How did he end up in Riddle's organisation?'
'Came under the influence of one Lucius Malfoy. Snape's a wizard – we think his mother may have been a witch – and Malfoy was probably the first to approach him about using his magic for "better things." Malfoy comes from a family of old money and old magic but they managed to survive the revolution. Abraxas, Lucius's father, was a cunning old stoat who knew which way the winds were blowing on that one. Lucius is one of Riddle's inner circle; one of the most trusted. He came across the young Snape, saw his potential and recruited him.'
'For the glorious cause of Tom Riddle?' asked Lupin, his tone derisive.
'Couched in the appropriately revolutionary terms, yes. Snape was, at least, something of an idealist. If he'd been there in 1917 he'd have been at the forefront of the revolution shouting "Death to Capitalists". He's got the sort of intellectual mind that discussed Marxism with Lenin in the times before the October Revolution. So given the chance to really do something suited to his intellectual and magical capabilities Snape jumped at the chance.'
'Changed his mind now, has he?'
'Several years under Riddle's command haven't agreed with him, shall we say. And he's clever enough to have worked out that Riddle is up to much more than he lets on. I'm afraid that youthful idealism rather gave way to a rather jaded adult outlook.'
Lupin flicked through some more pages. 'So we've got a disenchanted - what did you call them? - Death Eater who's too clever by half. Does he know much about Riddle's operation?'
M nodded. 'Apparently. Though he's understandably cagey about whom he tells.' He sighed. 'And for some reason he really didn't get on with Black when we sent him out there.'
'So if we don't get on I could end up dead?' asked Lupin, raising an eyebrow. 'I don't like those odds, sir. If he takes a dislike to me...'
'Then you'd better make sure he doesn't, Remus. We've considered this one very carefully and decided that you're the best man for the job.'
'What's he getting out of helping us?'
'A free ticket here and a British passport. Most of all he wants out of Riddle's organisation. It's the kind of thing that once you're in there's no getting out again.'
'Except in a long box.'
Lupin skimmed the rest of the file. There was not much more to learn. Tobias Snape had been a sailor who, washing up on some Russian shore, had ended up in the arms of Yelena Knyaz, the daughter of a formerly aristocratic family (the words 'possible magical lineage' had been scrawled in the margin). They had had a son, Severus, but before he had reached his teens the boy's father had left the country and left behind both wife and son. The man lived up in the north of England now, in one of the poky little mill towns that dotted that area of the country. The son had never made any attempt to contact his father leaving Lupin to assume that whatever Snape wanted to move to England for, it was not a family reunion.
'He said that he'll find you,' said M. 'We've told him your sign. You can expect him within the first few days.'
To be continued...