Requiem: a Mass for the dead; a Mass of the Dead


Kingsley Shacklebolt frowned. Kingsley Shacklebolt didn't do "no".

"What do you mean, no?" he asked. "I thought that you would jump at the chance to—"

"Jump at the chance to what?" Severus Snape demanded, crossing his arms over his chest and somehow managing to look even taller by doing so. His cloak billowed, and if Shacklebolt had been a superstitious man, he would have taken it as a warning.

"You expect me to jump at the chance to murder the majority of my acquaintances for the last twenty years?" Snape continued, his voice a hiss of disdain. "My days of espionage are over, Minister. I have no wish to visit them again."

"Not espionage," Kingsley said, refusing to back down in the face of the other man's intimidation. "Assassination. Please. Sit." To prove that he wasn't uneasy in the other man's presence, Shacklebolt seated himself behind his desk and gestured to the guest chair.

Snape sneered and remained standing. "Assassination? You've taken one too many trips to Circe's Amusement Park if you think that I have more of a taste for assassination than I do for espionage. I'm certain that you haven't forgotten my last foray?"

Minister Shacklebolt winced at the reminder of Albus Dumbledore's death. "That was different," he said softly. "This time, you'd be sanctioned, though secretly, by the Ministry. There would be no questioning of your motives. No threat of prosecution." He paused. "No guilt."

"Do not presume to judge my emotions," Snape hissed, and Minister Shacklebolt again felt the disconcerting suspicion that the wizard had actually grown taller in his anger. From the vantage point of his seated position, the impression was even more disturbing.

"My guilt, or lack of it, and potential to feel it is not to be bandied about in any sort of discussion," he ordered, and Shacklebolt found himself nodding, if not precisely against his will, at least against his better judgement.

"And what of your own personal culpability?" Snape demanded. "Are you willing to order clandestine killings and to hide behind the agent of destruction?"

"You misunderstand," Shacklebolt said, Snape's accusation having served to bring him back in control of himself. "Sit, and I will explain."

Snape's eyes narrowed. The why should I? was clearly implied by his defensive posture.

"To hear me out places you under no obligation. And as you are a man who prides himself on making prudent decisions based on the most information possible…"

The two wizards engaged in a heated battle of glares until Snape lowered himself into the guest chair, arranging his robes with an almost vicious flick of his hands.

"You will, of course, be Obliviated if you choose not to agree to the arrangement I am offering."

"Of course," Snape agreed. And, he added to himself, he might actually allow the Obliviate to work.



Six months later...

He slouched in the hard-backed chair, one hand securely palming his wand under his cloak, the other absently tracing the outline of the pitch of the melody of the music being coaxed from an ancient Muggle phonograph.


Mozart's Requiem, to be exact. A Mass for the dead, composed only shortly before Mozart's own death. Even as a child, Snape had appreciated the irony. Respected it.

The phonograph and record had belonged to his paternal grandparents. On the rare occasions that Severus had been allowed to visit them (they'd sent for him for one week each summer), he'd spent his time indoors, reading and listening to music. Upon their deaths, he'd shrunk their belongings and placed them in storage.

Until now.

Severus felt his magic tingle, a warning that Dolohov had returned home. He heard the wizard tread heavily on the floor below him, most likely pouring himself a stiff drink. Forcing his breathing to remain slow and steady, Severus waited. Twenty minutes later, he heard the heavy footsteps pound their way up the steps, and Snape shook his head at Dolohov's lack of precaution. He'd not cast a single spell to see if his wards had been breached.

Of course, Snape had made certain that there wouldn't be anything to detect, but still. It was just plain shoddy behaviour for a Death Eater, be he a former Death Eater or not.

He heard the sound of a door closing and water running. Dolohov was preparing for bed. Most likely a night of troubled sleep, Severus surmised, glancing at the array of potions on the bedside table.

Perhaps Dolohov would be relieved?

No matter. Remorse or no, Dolohov would die before his head touched the pillow.

The unpleasant jolt was not unexpected. Dolohov had opened the bedroom door and stepped into the room.

It was done, even if Dolohov didn't yet know it.

"Greetings," Severus said softly, enjoying Dolohov's panicked start.

"Who's there?" he demanded, drawing his wand and peering into the dark corners of the room. Dolohov cast Homenum Revelio, but his wand merely sputtered, as if it had been dipped in water.

"You'll find your wand rather useless," Snape said, standing and flicking his wand at the candle on the bedside table. "But you needn't worry. You won't be in a position to need a wand ever again."

The music swelled, but Dolohov didn't appear to hear it. Instead, he stared at Snape, his expression more defeated than surprised. "I knew they would come for me one day," he said, lowering his wand and walking unsteadily to his bed. He sat down on the edge and dropped his useless wand on the pillow beside him, his hand shaking. "I never expected it would be you."

Severus indulged in the tiniest of snorts. "Yes. To be truthful, I never expected it to be me, either."

"How will you do it?" he asked after a moment of silence. "Avada Kedavra? Or something more exotic? Poison, perhaps?"

The record skipped, but neither man noticed.

"It's already been done," Severus said, his tone even. "The moment you crossed the ward I placed on the threshold of your bedroom, your life force began to drain away. You have perhaps ten minutes."

Dolohov laughed shakily and wiped at the sweat beading his forehead. "Keyed to my blood signature, I suppose?"

Severus shook his head. "Your Dark Mark."

Dolohov shuddered. "Ten minutes, you say?"

Severus inclined his head slightly. "Less, now."

His shoulders sagged and his eyes slipped closed. To Severus' confusion, his lips moved in soundless words. A tremor wracked his body, and Dolohov cried out, his words becoming louder. The names of people he'd killed, atrocities he'd committed… The list went on until Severus felt compelled to ask, "Do you seek forgiveness at this late hour?"

Dolohov's recitation of crimes continued. "No," he finally said, gripping the bedclothes and twisting them as his blood burned. "Not forgiveness. Only mercy."

Severus forced himself to watch as Dolohov's body convulsed, stiffened, and ultimately ceased.

Mercy, indeed.



Three months later...

Premeditated murder, he decided, was not any easier the second time.


Not murder. According to Shacklebolt (title be damned—if the man wanted his respect, he could bloody well stay out of his life for once!), the deaths of the former Death Eaters were assassinations, not murders.

He wondered idly if the Ministry's intel was valid (a covert uprising in the planning? Really?), and if it even mattered. The current administration wanted to be rid of Death Eaters, once and for all. If there was an actual crime on the books, so much the better. If they could be spared the bother of a trial, better still.

Shacklebolt, he decided, was well on his way to becoming a half-decent Dark Lord himself. Not that Severus cared either way. His years of being under the thumb of two very different masters had taught him that he was, above all, adaptable.

Frustrated with his maudlin ruminating, he turned his irritation on an easier target. Rodolphus Lestrange kept later hours than Dolohov, and Snape was tired of waiting for him. Didn't the man know that he was tardy for his own execution?

The brief tingle he felt as Lestrange crossed the outer wards was welcome (perhaps it did become easier the second time?), as was the fact that Lestrange was apparently anxious for his bed. He crossed the threshold to his bedroom only seconds later, irrevocably setting in motion his own demise.

"Snape!" Lestrange exclaimed, and Severus realized that the man had been drinking. Not enough to render him insensible, but certainly enough to lower what few inhibitions he possessed.

As the curse required a full ten minutes, the situation could yet prove… interesting.

But Rodolphus didn't even attempt to raise his wand against him, and Snape realized that he was almost disappointed. It wasn't that he particularly relished making a wizard's magic impotent—it was observing their reaction when they realized that the magic they had always depended upon was no longer available to them.

And wondering if he would handle it with more grace than they.

As it was, Rodolphus' face was the picture of wonder, an expression that Severus had never known him, or any other Death Eater, to wear.


"I am honoured," Lestrange said, and fell to his knees in front of Snape.

Snape, for his part, had anticipated the possibility of a wide range of reactions. Joyous acceptance had not even made it onto the list. He stared in silent disbelief as Rodolphus raised both his arms, as if to the heavens.

"I come to join you, my Lord," he said, eyes closed, face tipped to the ceiling. "I will sit with my wife and brother at your side, and glorious shall our reign be. The mortal world passes away, and with it, my outer shell. I come to you, my Lord, content to spend eternity basking in the glow of your glory."

Lestrange either didn't feel the effects of the curse, or chose to ignore them, but Severus could see his muscles clenching and sweat rolling off him. Rodolphus didn't even acknowledge his last breath, and his pledges continued, undisturbed, until his life force was rained completely from him and he fell to the floor, his expression of glorious rapture still firmly in place.

It was, perhaps, even more disconcerting than if he'd begged for mercy, Severus thought as he carefully shrank his phonograph, tucked it into his pocket, and Disapparated.



Six weeks later...

Severus amused himself by leafing through the parchments on Crabbe's desk. The usual correspondences between a wealthy wizard and his investments. The exceedingly raunchy and stomach-turning correspondences (what was he thinking, leaving a paper trail!) between a wizard and his paramour. The legal documents outlining the sale of his Squib daughter to a Muggle couple unable to have children.

"I believe you will find," Severus said when Crabbe entered the study, "that the Ministry frowns on the selling of children. Especially those children whose lives were somehow concealed from the Ministry from birth."

"And I believe you'll find that wizards who meddle of the affairs of others seldom come to a good end." He heaved his solid bulk further into the room, and Severus was uncomfortably aware that ten minutes could very well be long enough for the brutish man to inflict an unwelcome amount of pain.

"Your daughter turns eight next month," he said. If he had expected this reminder to soften the man, he was sorely mistaken.

"She is dead to me," he said, his voice devoid of expression. "There is no place for her in the Magical world if she has no magic."

"You do not believe that she has a place in your home? In your heart?" Severus questioned. He pictured a young girl, fully cognizant of the fact that Magic existed, being thrown into a foreign world and left to fend for herself as she adjusted. Would it be worse, he wondered, to be raised in a Wizarding home, unable to perform Magic and shunned for it, or to be raised in a Muggle home, aware of Magic but unable to prove it or perform it?

"I believe," Crabbe said, sounding weary as he sat down heavily on a sturdy chair, "that Magic is all that matters. Whether or not you have it. How much you have. What you're willing to do with what you have." He reached for a glass of water on the table beside him, but it slipped through his shaking fingers before he could drink.

"I believe," he whispered, falling to his hands and knees on the floor, "that I would do more than sell my own child if it would keep the Magic of our world stronger. What have you done?" he whispered as his life drained away.

"I believe," thought Snape, as he tucked the contract into his robe, "that I am making our world a better place. One person at a time."



Three months later...

Three months. Three months it had taken him to pin down the last person on the list with which Shacklebolt had charged him. And where had his search finally led him? To a barren wasteland in the wilds of Bulgaria. His robes were still damp, despite the application of several drying charms. The house, or cottage, he'd finally located was, at least, weatherproof. He'd expected no less, after all, from Parkinson. The man had sacrificed much for the Dark Lord, but he'd always appreciated his creature comforts.

As he flicked his wand in a now familiar motion and murmured dark words, he wondered if this, the fourth and last time, would be the easiest. Would he feel relief, he wondered, when the deed was done, or would he feel a pang of regret that his list had not been longer?

But it was a dangerous train of thought, he realized. Because who knew who would have shown up on a longer list? He'd not had an emotional attachment to any of the victims he'd been assigned (Lestrange had been tolerable in his youth, but marriage to Bellatrix had not done his sanity any favours), but Severus knew himself well enough to know that he would have been unable to approach Lucius Malfoy with equanimity. Though Malfoy had schemed with the best of them, Severus had always found the man utterly transparent, and had therefore enjoyed his company.

But that was neither here nor there. Also, Severus reminded himself, there was nothing to say that his was the only list. He was just sentimental enough to hope that Lucius would be left off all lists, and pragmatic enough to be grateful that he wasn't on his list.

And, of course, there was nothing to prevent a carefully worded Owl from reaching him.

Resolved, he slipped into the relaxed, but hyper-vigilant state that had become second nature. The music from his childhood, music he'd listened to in a home happier than his own, filled the room.

And then the drama began for the fourth and final time. Parkinson entered the cabin, swearing as he shook the rain from his cloak.

"Bloody Bulgaria," he muttered. "Worse weather than Scotland."

"Which begs the question of why you would choose to relocate," Severus said, causing Parkinson to whirl and draw his wand.

"Your magic won't work," Severus informed him, running his fingertips along his own wand resting in his lap.

"How did you find me?" Parkinson demanded, remaining in front of the closed outer door.

Severus raised a thick, black brow. "With great ease," he informed him. "I merely researched the locations with the highest Wizard to Muggle ratio, and then focused on the most secluded ones. Bulgaria, with its proximity to Durmstrang and predilection for the Dark Arts, was at the top of the list. And your movements were not as concealed as you might have hoped."

It was a blatant lie. Parkinson's movements had been annoyingly difficult to track. It wasn't until Severus had "made friends" with one of Parkinson's mistreated house elves that he gained any information of importance. And even that information had had to be carefully strained to filter out the misinformation the elf had craftily slipped in amongst the valid information. It had been most vexing as well as time consuming.

But Parkinson didn't need to know that.

"These places are getting harder and harder to find," Parkinson complained, sitting down in a chair opposite Snape.

"Rustic cabins without benefit of charm or indoor facilities? Really? I would assume there to be many," he sneered.

"Rustic be damned," Parkinson spat. "There are no Mudbloods within a hundred kilometre radius, and no Half-Bloods in eighty. This was the best I could do, aside from moving to one of the Poles. Had there not been Muggle research stations on each of them…"

"You're living in squalor to avoid the presence of Muggles and Muggleborns?" Severus asked, amused in spite of himself. Parkinson, who made a practice of denying himself absolutely nothing, was living in a one room cottage where he was obligated to void his bowels in the bush.

Unbelievable. This was the sort of Wizard Kingsley wanted eliminated?

"Don't be daft," Parkinson said scornfully. "This is temporary. I can't very well build an opulent mansion without rousing the Ministry's suspicion, now can I? Even the current administration would cotton on to that far too quickly. No. As more of us arrive, we'll expand gradually. Stay under the radar."

"More of us?" Severus questioned, feeling a touch of relief that perhaps Shacklebolt's list had not been primarily fueled by petty vindication.

"Pure Bloods," Parkinson said proudly. "There's a few of us tired of the new administration's policies. Figured we'd make our own community. A community set apart, so to speak."

"Ah," Severus said, understanding immediately. "A rather exclusive community, I take it."

Parkinson shrugged, or rather, grimaced. The curse had been activated on his arrival and was now settling in nicely. "Obviously. And I'm sorry to say that you don't meet the criteria."

"Not to worry; I'm not planning to stay long," Severus assured him. "I judge another three minutes will be sufficient. Out of curiosity, I must ask." And he did need to ask. He needed to know that Parkinson's death was justified. "You planned to enforce exclusivity exactly how?"

"Fatal blood wards at the perimeter," Parkinson answered, his face turning purple as his breathing became laboured.

"Ah," Severus said. "Yes. I've found blood wards rather effective myself. For instance, the minute you crossed this threshold, your Dark Mark was detected and, shall we say, denied admittance."

Parkinson slipped from his chair and fell to the rough floor, his life force drained. Severus took a moment to wonder if Parkinson would be content in the afterlife. There was, after all, a good chance that wherever he ended up there would be a Muggleborn or two to keep him company.


One month later...

Miserere nobis

He held the concert billing in his hand as if to shield himself. Muggle attire invariably left him feeling exposed and irritable, though some would argue that the irritability was inherent rather than circumstantial.

But he hadn't been able to resist. A performance of Mozart's Requiem was worth a little exposure and irritation.

Wizarding and Muggle concerts, he discovered, were not so very different. People dressed in their finest, some attending due to an actual appreciation of the music, others attending for the sole purpose of seeing and being seen.

For perhaps the first time in his life, Severus was able to place himself in the first category.

Moving smoothly to his seat, he congratulated himself on having had the foresight to purchase not only his own seat, but the ones on either side of his, as well. It was not, perhaps, strictly practical, but as the additional privacy was bound to add to his enjoyment of the concert, he thought it one of his more inspired ideas.

The concert began, and the strains of the Requiem filled the hall. He'd had no notion of the difference between recorded music and a live performance. A live performance, he realized no more than two measures in, was exactly what it claimed. The music literally came to life, pulsing around him and becoming so much more than individual vibrations at specific pitches. It dazzled his senses. When he closed his eyes, the multi-coloured lights on the back of his eyelids throbbed in time with the music. When he opened them, for a second he could have sworn that the music had taken an actual physical, visible form.

It was magic.

When the last strains died away and the intermission signalled, Severus did not stand to applaud as the others had done. What could a mere response of rising to his feet accomplish? Surely it could not communicate the profound effect of the music on his soul.

"It's indescribable, isn't it?"

Severus scowled as an impertinent patron had the audacity to claim the seat next to his. "I beg your pardon, Miss—"

"Granger," she supplied cheerfully. "It's good to see you, Professor. However, I must say that I believe I misled you. I find that, indescribable as the music may be, I cannot help but try."

Severus sighed as he recognized the girl. He should have known that his evening would be somehow ruined. The girl was attractive enough, he admitted grudgingly to himself, but she was pathologically incapable of keeping her thoughts to herself.

"I know that the music and text are focused on death," she said, "but I've always maintained that this Requiem is the most uplifting music I've ever come across. One can't help but feel the raw power, the inevitability, and the stark beauty of death. Are you familiar with the verse in First Corinthians, sir? The one that asks, 'Where, oh death, is your sting?' I feel it in this music, but it's the good kind of sting, if you know what I mean."

To his utter astonishment, he did know what she meant. He would never have used her exact words (or if he did, he would never use them aloud), but her analysis resonated so closely with his own that he could not find it in himself to cut her down.

Instead, he asked, "What brings you to the symphony, Miss Granger?"

"Oh," she said vaguely. "It was on my list."

The world stopped.

"Oh, shit," Severus breathed. He'd been a fool. An absolute, sodding fool. His had not been the only list. He was not the only assassin conscripted into service.

And his name was on Miss Granger's list.

The worst part was, he'd brought it on himself. Mozart had died in the composing of his own Requiem. It only stood to reason that Severus would die from his association with it, as well.

"Oh, shit, indeed," Hermione agreed.

"You are aware, then, that I have completed my own list?" Severus questioned.

Hermione nodded. "I was not to target you until you did."

Of course. It was a genius stroke on Shacklebolt's part. With the assassins assassinated, potential for blackmail and other unpleasantries was dramatically reduced. It did beg the question of—

"Yes, I'd come to that conclusion myself," Hermione said, and Severus had the unpleasant sensation that, along with assassination, the girl had added Legilimancy to her list of skills. "I've no doubt that as soon as you are taken care of, I will appear on someone else's list." She sighed. "You try to do someone a favour…"

Severus had always hoped that he would have the dignity to "go softly into that good night," but he found instead, most surprisingly, that he was curious. "How will you do it?" he asked. "A poisoned potion? It would be delightfully ironic, and most likely quite tidy."

"What?" she asked. "Oh. Yes. A potion. I did consider it briefly."

"But you decided against it?" He was still curious, damn it!

"Hmm. I suppose if I'd had any inclination of going through with it, I'd have spent more time considering it. As it is, though, I haven't seriously considered bringing about your demise since your unfortunate remark about my teeth."



Slipping her program into her purse, Hermione stood and waited for him to follow. He did so, too intrigued by her words to be bothered by the fact that he was trailing after her like a well-trained puppy.

"I hope you don't mind missing the second half," she said as she wove her way through the congested foyer. "It's Mahler, and though he has his place, I find I'm not in the mood."

Severus, having never even heard of Mahler, shook his head. When they were out of sight, she took his arm and Side-Along Apparated him to a small and cluttered flat. Once she had moved aside three books and a teacup, she motioned for him to take a seat.

"I've no intention of killing you, Severus, and I hope that you can say the same of me."

He nodded. Murder had its place, but it was neither wise nor even desirable in this case. But he had to ask. "Why not?"

Hermione kicked off her shoes and curled up in the corner of the sofa. "The only reason I can determine for you to be on my list at all is that you have a list. And that's just abuse of power."

As if assassination weren't abuse of power. But it seemed prudent to let this observation pass as she'd agreed to not kill him.

Even though he was fairly certain he could outwit her if she did try.

Still, it was better all around if he didn't have to constantly look over his shoulder.

"Do you know where I work?" Hermione inquired, digging her toes into the sofa cushion.

"No," he said shortly. "I confess that I have not followed what is no doubt your meteoric career path."

"Don't be that way," she chided, her feet edging even closer to him. He glared at the polished toe nails, but they did not retreat.

Most vexing.

As was the shade of pink she'd chosen to embellish her nails. Honestly. What sort of assassin wore pink polish on their toes?

"Very well," he said with a sigh. "Where do you work?"

"I'm so glad you asked!" she said, beaming. "The Department of Mysteries recruited me shortly after the Final Battle."

It didn't surprise him. Miss Granger had the rare ability (aside from his own, of course) to both think and solve problems. The DoM had probably had to fight several other divisions in the Ministry to secure her.

"I don't mind telling you that the Auror department has been abuzz with a new killer. Someone they're calling the Angel of Death."

If he were more like Lucius Malfoy, he would have preened. As it was, he merely looked down the length of his nose as if to ask, "Yes? And?"

"It was the music, you see," she explained. "It's how I figured out who the Angel really was. And how I found you."

Was she trying to trap him into a confession? Were they not past such shenanigans?

"Don't be that way," she chided. "I'm only telling you because it's so very interesting. The Angel of Death," they both paused to sneer at the moniker, "plays Muggle music before killing wizards. Wizards who have been known to be, shall we say, unfriendly, to Muggles. And Muggleborns. It's why they suspect a Muggle killer."

He blinked. A Muggle killer? Really? That was what the Auror department had come up with?

No doubt Potter had been promoted.

"The DoM was called in because of the sound waves left behind."

Sound waves? Left behind? What on earth was she on about?

"We haven't been able to explain it fully yet," she admitted. "When the Aurors investigated the crime scenes and checked for residual magic, they picked up the music. Scared the pants off them," she said, smiling just a little. "I suspect it had to do more with the combination of your Dark Mark blood ward—nice work, by the way—and the heightened emotions in the room." She shrugged. "Really, we're just guessing. The point is, the music did lead me to you. There aren't many Muggleborns or Half-bloods that would even be aware that Mozart existed, so I knew that I was looking for someone of intelligence. When you appeared on my list, it all fell into place."

"I...see." Why in Merlin's name was she telling him this? Did she expect a pat on the back? A "well done!"?

"Anyway, my point is that I think you and I have the potential to get on quite nicely."

That was her point? Perhaps it was good that she was willing to tell him; he'd never have guessed in a million years.

"I mean, I think that we won't necessarily kill each other when we flee England."

"When we—what?"

"Severus. You're already on one hit list. I'm most likely on another. Do you really think England is safe for either of us?"

Well. When she put it that way.

"What makes you think that we're better off together than on our own?" he asked.

She shrugged. "Two heads are better than one when you're trying to outrun the Ministry. And you have to admit that we're suited to each other. If you're going to be on the run, don't you think it should be with someone with whom you can hold a conversation?"

Should it? He'd never considered it.

"We have similar skill sets," she pressed. "Potions. Charms. Transfiguration. Arithmancy. And, dare I say it, critical thinking?"

"Not to mention assassination," Severus said drily.

"There is that," Hermione agreed. She paused. "I recently came across some information on South America."

"Did you?" he asked. "How...worldly of you."

"Hmm. There's a fair bit of political restructuring going on there at the moment. Their Ministry is stretched rather thin. Lots of opportunity for persons of a certain skill set."

With the area in upheaval, he was fairly certain which element of their skill set would be put to the most use.

Severus contemplated the effect of the sun on his wardrobe.

It was a small price to pay to be left to live in peace.

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Author's Notes

Characters from the Harry Potter series are the property of J.K. Rowling. They are used without permission and not for profit.

Written for Week 2 of The Maple Bookshelf’s 2013 Summer Challenge: The War of the Words. Prompt: assassin. Bonus Situation: listening to classical music. Many thanks to my editors, the lovely ladies who take time to make my writing better even when their own lives are hectic.

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