Title: The Tenant
Language of the original: Russian
Link to the original: http: / www. diary. ru / ~ 67917011 / p109030475. htm
Translator: Emily Waters
Genre: Horror, darkfic, necromance, humor
Characters: Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Snape's dead body
Warnings: Character death, OOC
They found Snape's body in the beginning of July. The weather was unbelievably hot those days; I could hardly credit that England was capable of it.
"The house is on the outskirts of town," Katie said. "He must have Apparated there and crawled into the cellar."
"He died in the Shrieking Shack. I saw it with my own eyes."
"Well, he's there now," Katie said, shrugging her shoulders.
"Odd that we never found him until now."
"Well, an old lady, who was half-paralysed, owned the house. She died recently. Her next of kin came to take a look at the house – and here we are."
"The body is in bad shape, I take it?"
"For Merlin's sake, Harry. It's Snape we're talking about, not Snow White. And it's been nineteen years. What do you think is left of him by now? The bloke just about died himself when he found the body."
"Oh, yes. I'd sell the house, if I were him."
"I meant Snape."
Katie gave a Gallic shrug.
There really wasn't much left of Snape. The locks of black hair and shreds of his robe had dried up, sticking to the skeleton.
"Yup, that's him," I said.
"Where should we take him?"
"I don't know. He didn't have any relatives."
"I don't know," said Shacklebolt. "We can't decide. Some say he's a hero, others, a villain. We need to make a decision whether to bury him with all honours appropriate, or... just bury him."
"I don't think he cares now. Just find a quiet cemetery and let him rest."
"You keep him for now."
"What am I going to do with him?"
"Let him stay as... material evidence in someone's office."
"Are you insane?"
"Hey! Watch your tongue when you speak to me. I'm the Minister of magic, I'll have you remember. Listen, Harry, put the body in a sarcophagus – the one behind the cupboard in my office, or rather, your office. Just keep him for one day. I'll work something out."
Naturally, nobody wanted to share the office with dead Snape. I had to take one for the team, as always.
We cleared the wall farthest from my desk and placed the sarcophagus there. The body didn't smell.
Hermione came over, looked at Snape, and pitied us both.
"It's only for one day," I said.
"Of course," she replied, and began to talk about Humblebee's case. "We couldn't figure out what sort of poison was used on him. He died quickly, but he did suffer quite a bit..."
I nodded. The crime scene looked nasty even in the pictures. It was a good thing the magical pictures don't capture the smells.
"The house is on the outskirts. You can take the Floo – or drive."
That much I already knew.
"The wife has alibi?"
"She was with her girlfriends in London, never out of sight. At the presumed time of death, she's been absent for more than a day. In this sort of heat, bodies decompose fast, but when we arrived, rigor mortis had just set in."
"And the bloke who called us in?"
"Humblebee's employer. He firecalled him to find out why Humblebee didn't show up for work – and saw the body lying right in front of the fireplace."
"Who else was in the house?"
"No trace of anyone else. There was only one glass."
"I do think Humblebee would have chosen a more pleasant way to go. Besides, we never found the vial with the poison."
"All right," I said. "We'll be working on it."
"And what about him?" Hermione pointed to Snape.
"And he'll be resting."
A week went by. Snape's body was still in my office. I began to get used to him. I even started talking to him – discussing the current cases. Asked him why wives are such nags from time to time (even though I suspected that, even if he could answer me, he would have nothing to say on the matter). Sometimes, it seemed to me that he was listening.
At noon, Hermione dropped by and we went out for lunch.
The sun was shining brightly, like a brand-new copper nail that'd been hammered right into my forehead. The pub smelled like smoked herring. If we hadn't left early enough, I'd have vomited my guts out much like the late Humblebee.
"How's your tenant?" Hermione asked.
"He's still with me. I don't mind him. He's quiet."
"Kingsley isn't planning to take him, is he?"
"He probably decided that Snape and I are going to be together forever, in sickness and health, and all that rot. Let him be, he doesn't bother me."
"That's not right, Harry. We should bury him."
"You know, his entire life had been royally messed up. Things didn't change much for him with death, it seems. Fate, I reckon."
The heat was so intense that something shifted in my mind. I grabbed the wall for support. The street was swimming before my eyes...
... then contours of all the objects around me acquired some sort of surreal precision. The edges of the houses momentarily came into focus, blazing with the sharpness of razor blades.
Hermione was holding me by the shoulders. Then she took my face in her hands and looked me in the eyes.
Does that woman take me for her spouse? I took a step back, hoping that the expression of obvious displeasure on my face would inform her of my dislike for physical contact.
"Harry, are you all right? Do you need a glass of water?"
"I think not. The faintness won't linger; I presume it was a mild heat stroke. There's no cause for concern."
"Let's go find a shade and sit down, somewhere on a patio in a cafe..."
Did she think I had nothing better to do than sit somewhere on a patio with her? Still, I decided it was unwise to discourage her tender impulses. After all, she could be quite useful at times. I looked around.
Flourish and Blotts. New arrivals! Only here.
People, engaged in the noble business of book-selling, could have been more clever about advertising. Only here – indeed, after all, they are the only bookshop in the entire wizarding London.
"If you have no objections, I'd like to check out the bookshop."
You'd think I offered her to jump into a serpents' nest.
"What, exactly, do you find so surprising? I haven't been here in a while, and I doubt that I ever gave you cause to doubt my literacy."
She looked stunned, but there was nothing I could do about it. There is no shame in admitting that I truly do not understand how women's minds work. As far as I can tell, the female thinking is spasmodic and chaotic, the nearest analogy I can come up with is was one from Muggle physics - Brownian motion, the seemingly random movement of particles suspended in a fluid.
Nonetheless, her choice of books was met with my approval. Hermione wasn't stupid, and if she kept better company, she could probably amount to something. I picked up De proprietatibus rerum by Bartholomew the English. An amusing book, and I always wanted to have it.
In the doorway we crossed paths with Narcissa Malfoy.
"She's grown old," said I.
"She looks great for her age."
"She looked better twenty years ago."
"So did we."
"Why, yes. Especially after you fixed your teeth."
The air was dry. It held the smell of something from last year. Something like mildew.
"My head hurts," I said.
Hermione glanced at my scar.
"No. Just a migraine." I slapped the side of my head. Pain was stick inside like a defective cork in a bottle, and I found myself wishing I could just make it pop out.
"You need rest."
"Don't think I'll get any." I looked at the book I'd just bought. "Hey? Is this in Latin or something?"
"Of course. Why did you buy it?"
"Honestly, I have no idea."
"Go home, Harry. We'll manage without you for the rest of the day."
"I'm fine. Really. It's just the bloody heat, that's all."
The scar wasn't hurting. All was well.
Later in the afternoon I had a visit with Humblebee's widow. The case was going badly. It was my duty to find the murderer – and I wasn't succeeding. Humblebee had retched his guts out and died, and I couldn't find the one responsible. I thought wistfully that I should take up drinking – like George. It helps take your mind off things for a while, so they say.
Eleven in the evening. I was still in the office. I missed dinner, and I knew there wouldn't be any leftovers – the boys eat like a pair of dragons, and Lily's appetite is something else, too.
Suddenly, a small scratching sound came from the sarcophagus. Mice, I thought, and went to chase them away, but there were none. There was only Snape, his empty eye-sockets staring at me, and the dead smile greeting me with all of its thirty-two teeth.
I petted his skull and shook off the black strand of his dry hair from my fingers.
"That bloody case, Snape," I complained to him. "Why does everything have to be so difficult? You're lucky, you know. Just resting without a care in the world..."
Suddenly, my head was flooded with pain. I nearly fell – and steadied myself by grabbing the first thing I could reach. The 'first thing' made a cracking sound – that was Snape's hand, smooth and bony. It turned in my fingers and returned the handshake. I promptly pulled away.
I needed to go home, but I was in no shape to Apparate. Nearly blind and barely able to walk, I somehow ambled towards my work desk, took out headache pills, and downed them with a glass of warm water from the pitcher. Then I lowered myself in the chair and waited.
It took a while for the pill to start working. Or maybe it only took a minute, it was hard to tell. Sometimes, time has a mind of his own.
Something was scratching inside the sarcophagus. Must have been mice – there was nobody else here. Only me, and I wasn't scratching anything.
The silence in the office was absolute – everyone had gone home by now – and maybe that's why I was hearing all sorts of weird noises. Or maybe – it was Snape, I thought, drying up and falling apart. Then I thought, well, what if Snape sort of... had a backup plan, just like Voldemort? How did he come to be in that cellar, where we'd found him? Why did we find him so late?
Snape could have easily had a backup plan, I thought. Snape always had some sort of plan.
Nonsense. Stupid nonsense like that comes to mind when you're all alone in an empty building.
The pain was gone.
I came up to the sarcophagus to say goodbye.
"Night," I said. "See you tomorrow." For some reason I took his hand.
His hand turned and gripped mine.
No, I didn't.
There was no handshake. Snape's bony digits lay on my palm, immobile, dry, and slightly rough to touch.
I stroked his head.
Something shone in the empty eye-sockets.
I jumped away.
No, I didn't. I stood still.
There was no shining of any sort. Snape's eye-sockets were black and empty.
Dead, dead, he is completely dead. Why can't I leave?
Home, I muttered, I need to go home, but I kept standing there, looking at the proverbial Snow White, and the dead man's grin seemed to grow wider, and wider, and wider...
"Harry, are you here?"
I lifted my head from the papers. What sort of nonsensical question is that? Did she think I was going to say I wasn't here?
"I fell asleep at my desk. When I woke up, it made no sense to go home."
"Ginny must be worried sick!"
"I highly doubt that. If the fact that she didn't attempt fire-calling me is any indication, you needn't be concerned about her reaction."
Hermione stared at me in the most irritating manner.
"She must have thought you stayed with Ron and me. Harry, where are your glasses?"
"I found them bothersome. I used the Acies Maximus spell to correct my vision. Highly effective."
"But... you've never used it before…"
"I didn't know how. Is there a problem?"
"No... just... it's just odd, that's all."
Her stuttering was infuriating, to say the least. Why on earth was she here, and what did she need?
"Do you need anything?"
"The journalists are here. They're asking for any news on Humblebee's case. I wanted to send them away, but decided to check with you first."
"Well, there's nothing to talk about. The case is elementary. The wife is to blame. She added the Calliatus poison to the wine, and afterwards used the Frigus Giledus spell to preserve the body's freshness and create an alibi for herself."
"The body was already tested. Frigus had been used on it. I have no doubts that my version about the use of Calliatus will be corroborated as well. It doesn't take an Auror to realize what's going on. All one needs, really, is a potions textbook and a brief course on elemental magic. If I'm not mistaken, the course was taught in school."
"But you never attended it!"
"You, on the other hand, did. Truthfully, I admit to being surprised. You are more clever with that; I can only attribute your slowness in the matter to your husband's bad influence."
Hermione gaped at me like a landed fish.
"The journalists are still here," she muttered. "Should I speak to them?"
"I believe my command of the English language is sufficient to manage that task without an interpreter."
I headed towards the door and stopped before exiting.
"Grang – hm… Hermione?"
Well, now, that's much better. I like it when she simply follows my lead.
"Do contact Shacklebolt for me. I want this body gone. Today."
From now on, I won't be needing it.