Title: Red Serpent (12/12)
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: 2100 (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: Love to drachenmina for the fabulous beta.
Further notes: I didn't think I needed to say this but as this work of fiction is intended as an homage to Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. In keeping with this aim the action takes place in the mid-twentieth century and, as such, will contain views and morality appropriate for that time.
I am so ridiculously sorry for the wait on this chapter. I just completely forgot, I'm afraid. I posted it all on livejournal and insanejournal ages ago.
Chapter Twelve: An Unexpected Pair of Boots
Lupin did not see Snape for some time after they returned from Scotland. The man had needed medical care for one thing, and then there was the standard procedure of the Service for dealing with defectors.
Snape had asked, while they sat wet and breathless on the cold Hogwarts stone waiting for the backup Lupin had called, what was going to happen to him. Lupin hadn't answered immediately. He knew what awaited Snape in the coming weeks, maybe months, and he didn't envy him it in the slightest. The Russian would be taken to a pleasant little private house where his comfortable room would be painstakingly wiretapped for every sound. There would be questions too, day after day after day of them from the Service interrogators while recording tape whirred nearby. Not just the men from the Service either; the Ministry would have their own inquiries and so would the Muggle intelligence service. Each interrogation session would be transcribed and examined in every detail, however minor, to evaluate any contradictions arising from the repeated questioning. They would be looking to catch Snape out, waiting for him to make the slightest misstep. It would be a hard, arduous process.
'They'll ask you a lot of questions,' Lupin finally responded, somewhat lamely.
Snape's answer had been a snort, accompanied by a push of his shoulder into Lupin's. Lupin, looking at the deceptively hardy figure beside him, came to the conclusion that Snape would probably manage just fine. The man wasn't an idiot, after all. He could probably outthink most of the Service interrogators any day of the week. His problem would probably be keeping a close rein on his tongue to avoid pissing off the interrogators too much. Snape was just the sort of person who could get on the wrong side of someone like Alastor Moody, if he came under the grumpy eye of the seasoned interrogator.
There was nothing Lupin could do about that. Snape had been driven off in short order after Lupin's backup had arrived. He didn't even glance back at Lupin as he was escorted into the back of a car. Lupin had returned the favour. He wasn't some lovesick idiot. Besides, he had a keepsake of Snape in his pocket. Sharp, stiff paper edges brushed his fingers as he slipped his hand in. He couldn't let anyone else get their hands on those photographs and their extremely incriminating nature. He would have to dispose of them himself when he returned home.
Weeks later, he still hadn't brought himself to do it. The photos lay hidden in his flat, sordid content still as lurid as when they were taken. Lupin would occasionally take them out with the intent of destroying them once and for all but somehow unable to. He would shove them back in their plain envelope resentfully, but not before heat had curled within him in seductive coils. That chilly hotel room in Moscow seemed further away with each day but the photographs could take him back there as suddenly as a finger-snap. Occasionally his mind would drift to what he'd wondered about on his first evening in Moscow, before he had even met Snape. The following adventure had only convinced him that Snape would be an asset to the Service, if indeed it was M's plan to recruit him. He rather expected M would think so too, even if Snape disagreed. M would have something to hold over Snape if that were the case, Lupin thought grimly. He knew how useful M found that sort of leverage. Snape would have to comply or M could send him back to Russia where Lupin didn't doubt he'd vanish quicker than one could say 'traitor'.
Lupin's routine returned to its day-to-day humdrum; the paperwork, the dinners alone and the drinks in quiet bars. He no longer took any women home with him. They didn't excite him in the same way they used to, didn't set his heart pumping and breath quickening. They would press against him, all soft skin and plump breasts, and he would be unmoved. Frustrated by his apathy he would leave early, resigned to another night on his own in what now seemed an impossibly quiet and lonely flat. The closest he had come to inviting a girl home had been when he met Dora Tonks, a very independent and modern woman.
'The people round here are a bunch of boring tossers,' she had said, standing by him at the bar. 'The women are just so bloody vacuous and as for the men. Pah! If I have one more chartered accountant or civil engineer trying to convince me that he's a top scientist, a big cheese in the business world or a spy I'm going to bloody punch them. You're not going to try and convince me you're a spy or something, are you?'
Lupin had smiled. 'That's the last thing I'd do,' he said entirely truthfully.
Her lips quirked. 'Well, so you're not a bragging idiot then. What do you do?'
'I work for the civil service. Frightfully dull, of course, but it pays the rent and allows me to buy drinks for attractive women.' He caught the barman's attention. 'Speaking of which, what can I get you?'
'Aren't you the smooth one,' she said, genuine amusement in her voice. 'Pint of cider for me.'
He ordered the drinks, raising an eyebrow at her. She grinned unapologetically.
'I can't see the point in trying to come over all feminine when what I really fancy is a pint. I've never been a fan of little girly drinks. Not enough to them.'
'Why pretend to be what you aren't?' he had agreed, feeling just a little hypocritical. 'My name's Lupin. Remus Lupin.'
They talked for most of the evening, ensconced at a little table in a corner. Dora proved an engaging conversationalist; bright, witty and passionate. She put forward her opinions without apparently considering what her conversational partner expected or wanted her to say, leading to spirited and good-natured arguments that amounted more to verbal foreplay than anything else. Even so, Lupin felt something was missing; perhaps it was that he had to lie about his employment. It was concealing part of him. He had never been bothered by this before in all his dalliances with the beautiful women but now he was after something more intellectually stimulating than a quick shag. The realisation stunned him a little. Dora was certainly more intelligent than his usual but he still wanted more.
'This bar, for example,' she said, wiping her top lip with the back of her hand. 'Everyone here is pretending to be something they aren't. They're trying to look richer or sexier or just, you know, better. And what's the point?'
'So they can end up in bed with someone else who is doing exactly the same as they are?'
She laughed. 'That's a typical male view. Not everything is about sex, you know.'
'Then I must apologise on behalf of my gender,' Lupin said, 'because in this situation it is. Look at that chap by the bar; the one with the blond curls and the rather affected manner.' He indicated the subject with a tilt of his head. 'He's not dressed up like that for meaningful conversation. He's dressed to attract, though I do have to question his taste.'
Dora twisted in her chair to examine the man, lips quirking up at his idea of style.
'Whatever it is he's after,' she said, turning back, 'I say it's mostly to do with insecurity and dissatisfaction. He obviously doesn't like who he is most of the time or he wouldn't be trying to look like someone else now.'
'I expect so,' Lupin agreed, 'and if he appears more sociably acceptable he is more likely to find someone willing to sleep with him.'
'You're not going to let that theory go, are you?' she said, eyes dancing with promises.
'I see no need to.' He leaned back in his chair. He could have her tonight, if he wanted. 'After all, why have you come here tonight?'
'For fun,' she answered. 'And yes,' she fixed him with a gaze, 'that might include sex. Depends what I'm in the mood for and who's around. You; you've got it on the brain, haven't you? Something on your mind - or someone, perhaps?'
Lupin's thoughts stumbled, tripping over black hair and pale skin. He took a long swallow of his drink, pulling himself back to England and this busy bar.
'How could I think of someone else when I have you in front of me?' he managed.
'Oh, you are an absolute gentleman!' she said with a laugh. 'That's what I like about you, Remus Lupin. You're a nice bloke. Too few of them around, these days.'
He pulled away at that. He was not a nice man, no matter what he appeared. He did horrible things for Queen and country. He was, quite literally, a monster. He had killed and remembered the instance of each killing he had committed, even those under the influence of the wolf. No woman deserved to be close to that. Besides, he was too old for her too; too old and too dangerous.
There was that, and the fact that he strongly suspected he was only physically interested in her for the boyishness of her slim figure and her mannish independence.
He had made his excuses and left, going back to a chilly flat and a large Firewhiskey. It became the pattern of his nights until the missing piece that he had only just begun to realise wasn't there came back.
It was a Wednesday afternoon, unremarkable in its wind and rain, that it did. Lupin, unsuspecting, returned to his flat after work. The paperwork had been as officious and dull as ever, and the people too. Lupin stepped in his door and shrugged off his dripping coat, hanging it in the hallway to dry itself out. He pulled off his shoes, filthy with the muck of London streets, setting them beside the other pairs in his hallway. An unexpected pair of boots sat in the way, bringing him up short. He stared at them. No burglar would have such consideration for the carpets and he wasn't expecting guests, particularly not ones who would let themselves in. The only other person who had a key was his cleaner, Mrs Figg, and they were not women's boots.
Lupin crept through his hallway and peered round the doorway into his lounge. Nothing missing here; his chair and table with the empty glass still sat where he had left them the previous night. He stepped into the room. There were a few things out of place, he realised, but still nothing missing. His book, left carelessly upside-down last night was now front cover up. The Firewhiskey bottle was on the table, though Lupin remembered it being on the floor before. A closer look at his bookshelves revealed that they had been examined and now seemed in a rather neater state than usual. Even the magical books on their concealed shelf had been moved about. Lupin took this as further confirmation that this was no burglar but increased his curiosity as to this mysterious guest. Finding nothing further in the lounge, he headed back into the hall with a hand close to the pocket where his wand was.
The smell first caught his attention, a gentle waft of it crossing his nose. At once familiar and unfamiliar it took him a few moments to identify. It was cigarette smoke, but not his brand, and with the smell of it came the ghost of the taste rising from his memory: dry smoke, cheap vodka and the bitter taste of the man himself.
Lupin turned on his heel and headed for his bedroom without hesitation.
Snape was reclining on Lupin's bed in shirtsleeves and stockinged feet. A lit cigarette dangled between two fingers. As Lupin entered Snape was knocking the ash from the end into the ashtray beside the bed. He looked up from hooded eyes.
'Your people finished with me,' he said casually. 'They said not to go far. You don't mind?'
Lupin paused just long enough that he saw a little insecurity slip into the assured black eyes before he took the cigarette from that long hand and stubbed it out. He leaned down until his lips just brushed Snape's.
'Not at all,' he breathed and kissed him. The jigsaw pieces of his life had slotted into place and at last the pattern was clear.