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  #1  
Old January 14th, 2004, 5:28 pm
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Fourth Year
 
Joined: 5252 days
Location: In Snape's vivarium
Reflections

Reflections
or: An Afternoon in Little Whinging


This is my first try of a fanfic, after a couple of rewritten HP scenes on the "Snape's POV" thread, so please be gentle. It takes place in the summer holidays after OotP, and contains lots of spoilers. Be aware of this if you haven't read the book yet.

There are a couple of suggestions from other CoS-Forums members (thanks to Inkwolf, muggleguest, jordmundt6) and threads incorporated here. I can't say yet which ones for it would spoil the story, but don't worry, I intend to acknowledge them in the end.

Disclaimer: Neither Snape nor any other of J.K. Rowling's characters, places, or other creations are mine. This story is meant for the sole purpose of entertainment, not profit. No infringement of copyright is intended.

I hope you enjoy the story, and would be really happy and grateful if you could leave feedback. Thank you!

(Thanks to whizbang121 for the help about the links!)


__________________
"We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. [...] Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open." (Dumbledore - GoF, Bloomsbury, p.627)

Proud member of the Severus Snape Appreciation Society (SSAS)
Check out my Snape fanfics at Flourish&Blotts, Reflections and The Red Light of the Sun
Also check out: Greetings from Down Under and An Unusual Patronus

Last edited by Serpentine : January 14th, 2004 at 8:12 pm.
  #2  
Old January 14th, 2004, 5:54 pm
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Fourth Year
 
Joined: 5252 days
Location: In Snape's vivarium
1. A Window to the Past


"Here's your tea, Severus. Strong and black, as you like it."

Arabella Figg arrives with a steaming pot, accompanied by one of her cats - the white one, I've never bothered to learn all their names. The distinctive scent of bergamot wafts up as she pours the hot liquid into my cup. Earl Grey, my favourite - she prepares it every time when I visit her. Too bad that she is a squib, she would have made quite a Potions mistress.

Today I need something stronger though. "Do you still have that bottle of Ogden's you mentioned the other day?"

"Sure, I still have it. Why, do you want any?"

There are good questions, bad questions, and useless questions. This one definitely belongs to the last category. "No, I'd just like to kindle the flames in your fireplace with it. Of course I do."

She looks shocked for a moment, but then gives a low old-lady chuckle and walks over to her mini-bar. "Oh Severus, honestly. For a moment I really thought you were serious." She puts a half-full bottle of Ogden's Old Firewhiskey onto the table, before proceeding to add some sugar to her own tea. I give her an appreciative nod and pour a generous dose of whiskey into my tea. Under ordinary circumstances I wouldn't spoil such a divine Earl Grey like that, but these are not ordinary circumstances.

Arabella seems to notice that too. "Has the Potions Master of Hogwarts suddenly changed his habits? I don't recall you ever taking anything but pure black tea. Something must be troubling you."

I don't answer. I just pick up the spoon, normally unused during my visits, and stir in my cup of tea for a long time. She is tactful enough not to interrupt, she just waits patiently, stroking her cat and watching me. Finally I take up my cup, take a long, deep sip and sigh blissfully.

Then I put the cup back with a clink. "Arabella ..." I begin, momentarily at a loss for words. "Igor Karkaroff is dead."

She gasps faintly. "Oh Severus." In a moment she leaves the cat alone and sits next to me, putting her hand gently onto my shoulder. An overly sentimental gesture I'd normally brush off at once with a sneer, but right now the touch feels strangely reassuring. "It must be terrible for you to lose a friend and mentor."

Oddly enough, her cat rises as well and decides to settle down in my lap. Usually her cats are intelligent enough to keep clear of me. This white one stands out stark against my black robe, I bet it'll leave white hair everywhere.

Feeling awkward, I slightly shake my head. "Igor had his flaws, and quite a few of them," I mutter. Not the least of them being his cowardice, which made him avoid anything that looked like an offense to any influential family - even if it was to support me against their spawn. Which made him come to me whining last year each time his Dark Mark stirred, and which made him flee at the end of the Triwizard Tournament instead of facing his fate like a man. He didn't even leave instructions for the Deputy Headmaster of Durmstrang, putting his own school in turmoil for the rest of the year.

But still, he taught me so many valuable things that I wonder where I'd be now without his knowledge. And he came to me to ask for help, and I gave it - even if grudgingly and in secret. Was that really only a year ago? Musing I slowly begin to stroke the cat, and am rewarded with a vibrant purr. "It feels somehow ... strange ..." I say quietly, "to know that I'll never see him again."

Arabella squeezes my arm, and I put a hand upon hers and return the gesture. "How did it happen?" she asks gently.

Ah, that's the part I'd rather not remember. I try to word it as carefully as possible. "They caught him somewhere in Norway and brought him back here. The Dark Lord wanted to deal with him himself, but in a way to make an example for all the others." I shudder inwardly - of course it's illogical, but somehow it feels as if it had been an example for me. "There was a meeting, and ... eventually Karkaroff was killed."

Her eyes widen, then close for a moment. "Oh Severus ..." she repeats, and I feel her hand squeezing my arm again. There's no question, she has understood what I have left unsaid. Her cat looks up at me, kneading the cloth of my robes with its paws, and seems to purr even stronger if that's possible. Almost inaudibly, Arabella asks: "How?"

I take a deep breath. "Don't ask", I say very softly. "You wouldn't want to know."

She looks down, then slowly nods in acknowledgement. "And you?"

I turn to look at her, disconcerted. "What about me?"

She peers at me sideways, for a moment looking remarkably similar to an owl, but her face still manages to convey concern. "Do you think you will manage?"

"Of course I will", I reply, feeling slightly irritated. "The Dark Lord can't possibly know about me. My mind is shielded better than you seem to think."

"I wasn't talking about your Occlumency skill, Severus, and you know that." Her gentle reprimand makes me regret my harshness almost at once. "I do", I admit with a sigh. "But I really don't want to talk about it right now."

"As you wish." She smiles reassuringly, getting up again. "I'd just like you to know that my door is always open for you, Severus. Talking does help, you know - sometimes more than magic ever could. So if you should ever need somebody to listen, remember the old squib here in Little Whinging, will you?" Another smile, and this time I return it, as good as I can. "Thank you. I will remember it." As long as she remembers that an actual soul striptease is out of the question for me.

"Have you already told Dumbledore?" she asks, and I nod. I'm aware that I will have to recount the story at the next Order meeting, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. Then she asks about Bagman, and I tell her that he is still at large but has been sighted in Puddlemere. Fool, you'd think he were clever enough to avoid Quidditch pitches while being on the run.

The rest of my tea has cooled down in the meantime, but I drink it anyway, and Arabella pours me and herself another cup. The cat still purrs as I keep stroking, but the sound is getting fainter - I guess it's falling asleep on my lap. Funny, it doesn't bother me as much as I'd have thought.

The conversation shifts to her friend Griselda Marchbanks, whose last mission to the goblins with Bill Weasley was a breakthrough. The new goblin leader has finally managed to convince them to join our side, and even sent some of them to take over the guard posts in Azkaban left by the Dementors. I'm not keen to know what they intend to do with the Death Eaters found guilty of killing that goblin family a couple of months ago.

Unfortunately, for Griselda herself the meeting was less of a lucky stroke. The goblin leader beat a club over her head, she's currently lying in St Mungo's - for the second time this summer, after his predecessor tried to get rid of her by violence. It takes me some time to calm Arabella down, and to make it clear to her that what he did is a proposal in the goblin style. Absurd as it sounds, the guy must really fancy the ancient Professor Marchbanks.

Then I proceed to tackle the next important subject. Important in a different way, of course. Sipping at my tea, I ask casually: "And how is our eternal hero next door, Mr. Potter?"

--------------------------------

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__________________
"We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. [...] Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open." (Dumbledore - GoF, Bloomsbury, p.627)

Proud member of the Severus Snape Appreciation Society (SSAS)
Check out my Snape fanfics at Flourish&Blotts, Reflections and The Red Light of the Sun
Also check out: Greetings from Down Under and An Unusual Patronus

Last edited by Serpentine : January 16th, 2004 at 12:45 am.
  #3  
Old January 18th, 2004, 2:13 pm
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Fourth Year
 
Joined: 5252 days
Location: In Snape's vivarium
2. Two Sides of the Mirror


"Harry?" She sighs. "The Dursleys don't treat him much differently than usual. There was some improvement at the beginning of the summer holidays, apparently because of their reception at the station, but meanwhile they have returned to their old habits. This morning I saw Vernon make him mow the front lawn and weed the flowerbeds, and a couple of days ago Harry had to climb the roof to replace some tiles Dudley and his friends had broken with their rugby ball."

"Well, I guess the exercise will do him good," I say evenly. She shoots me a glare, and I glare back. "Don't look at me like that, Arabella. If he had any problems with it, he could easily complain to any of his numerous friends and guardians. I gather that is what he's been told to do, and he does have an owl. Or are you going to tell me that these muggles have managed to poison it?"

"That's exactly the problem." She sighs again. "No, not poison, Severus", she adds, seeing my raised eyebrow, "it's that he doesn't complain. He hardly even talks more than he has to. Now that he knows what I am, I had expected him to come over as soon as possible and grill me with questions about the Order, his parents and anything he could think of. But there was nothing. Nothing." She takes a sip of tea and shakes her head. "Harry has completely withdrawn into himself. The death of his godfather must have thrown him more than any of us have expected."

"And as usual, he blames it on me." She opens her mouth, but I cut her off. "There's no need to deny it, I've heard it already. To be honest, I didn't expect any different." Not anymore, after his breach of trust and invasion of my privacy.

"Try to understand him, Severus," she pleads. "I know that you didn't like Sirius, and that you don't like Harry either. But you should have seen him. The boy is suffering."

"He could have had it differently if he had put more effort into his Occlumency lessons", I snap, "or if he had deigned to come to me before rushing off to save the day. Son of his father indeed! Without his useless hero-complex he wouldn't have run into the trap, and his beloved godfather would still be alive." The cat stirs on my lap, and I give it some absent-minded strokes.

Personally I don't claim to deplore Black's departure, actually it rids me of one of my problems. One hateful scowl less to face at Order meetings, one less to act as if I were less valuable, trustworthy or even human than any of the others. It is a heavy blow for the Order though to lose his strength as a fighter. He was one of the best wizarding duellers, and I as his former punching-ball should know. D@mn the man for being just as rash as his godson.

But as long as there's no corpse proving Black's death, the Ministry officials refuse to acknowledge it as a fact. Ministry red tape, as usual - and Shacklebolt's abilities are wasted in the prolonged hunt of a dead man. The only advantage is that as long as Black is still considered to be alive none of his relatives can inherit his house, so it remains accessible to the Order. And this time Lucius is not in a position to do anything about it.

Arabella pours the last of the pot into my cup and rises to prepare some more tea, but I motion her to sit back down again. I won't stay much longer anyway, I have an appointment at the Hog's Head later this evening. Aberforth expects me with some fine bezoars, and if I don't turn up he might well sell them to any of the crackpots hanging out at his so-called pub.

"I know that Harry has made mistakes," Arabella tries again. "But he's only fifteen - well, almost sixteen," she corrects herself. "Once you were that age yourself."

"May I kindly ask you not to remind me of that?" I say in a low voice. That time was among the most dreadful of my life, and that is saying something. "If you're about to rub my nose in Black's attempt to kill me, just say so, and I'll vacate my presence at once."

"Calm down, Severus", she says in a soothing voice, and I feel the purring sound from my lap growing stronger again. "I didn't mean to offend you. But You-Know-Who has been trying to kill Harry every year since he arrived at Hogwarts."

I snort - that's exactly why I didn't want him to go there in the first place. Potter could have stayed with his relatives, safely protected, and got the necessary training here, instead of showing his Jamesy face around at Hogwarts and endangering all the other students on the way. But of course the final decision about any student has to rest with the Headmaster.

Arabella ignores my input. "He's been through so many trials with his relatives, had to fight off You-Know-Who again and again, and now his godfather has been killed in front of his eyes. If that is not enough to feel with the poor boy, I don't know what would be. You really ought to see him."

"I keep seeing quite enough of Potter in class, thank you very much," I reply caustically. Not to mention in the Occlumency lessons between Christmas and Easter, but there's no need to tell her that. I was mistaken to begin to trust the brat, I know that now. And yet, for a short time I had been able to get an insight into the boy, into his memories and experiences that are so similar to my own. Who knows what could have developed if ...

"You know, Severus," she says suddenly, eyeing me shrewdly. "Sometimes Harry almost reminds me of you."

I halt in mid-movement, the cup halfway raised to my lips, and cover up my startlement with a pronounced glare. "Rubbish!" I snap, knowing better deep inside. Cursed be her knowing smile. If I didn't know that Arabella is a squib, I'd almost think she has used Legilimency on me. Do squibs have any kind of power that normal wizards don't? The idea makes me shudder.

I drain my cup and gently push the cat off my lap. "Well, I'll have to leave now, Aberforth is waiting. Thank you for your hospitality, Arabella, and for your tea. It was ... acceptable."

"Oh, I'm honoured. An 'Acceptable' from the Potions Master himself is bound to be an actual 'Outstanding'." She chuckles. "And thank you for bringing along the murtlap balm for Mr. Tibbles."

"It was a pleasure," I say quietly. The cat has been run over by Potter's cousin on his bicycle, but is now well on its way to recovery. "I assume this white furball of yours has a name as well?"

She rewards me with another smile. "That would be Snowy. He must like you, he doesn't sleep on everybody's lap ... Come on, Snowy, say good-bye to Severus."

Talking to cats, my goodness - I hope it isn't contagious. The white cat sits up on the sofa and blinks at me. I sigh and give an indefinite nod, brush the white hairs off my robes and take my Invisibility Cloak off the coatstand. Taking care to be completely covered, I fasten the clasps and pull the hood down. Arabella takes her watering can, opens the door and walks out with me. "See you, Severus", she mutters into thin air before she proceeds to water her roses. "Good bye, Arabella", I answer and am gone.

--------------------------------

It isn't over yet...

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__________________
"We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. [...] Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open." (Dumbledore - GoF, Bloomsbury, p.627)

Proud member of the Severus Snape Appreciation Society (SSAS)
Check out my Snape fanfics at Flourish&Blotts, Reflections and The Red Light of the Sun
Also check out: Greetings from Down Under and An Unusual Patronus
  #4  
Old January 22nd, 2004, 9:37 pm
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Fourth Year
 
Joined: 5252 days
Location: In Snape's vivarium
3. Mirror Images


I'm well ahead of time for the meeting in Hogsmeade, a timely glance at her grandfather clock has told me that. So why not make use of it for a walk around the place? Avoiding a sprinkler - the drops bouncing off would indirectly betray my presence -, I set off. Luckily the road is almost empty, most of the locals seem to be bustling around in the garden or enjoying the afternoon sun. A pocket-mop of a dog raises its head and gives me an odd look, but a glare of me reminds it to mind its own business.

I cross the road, passing what is probably the only muggle car in motion at the time, but it doesn't really improve the view. Both sides of the road are lined with white houses, complete with a brown roof, a brown front door and a patch of lawn each. Unlike wizard houses they all look alike, distinguished only by a number and one or another shrub. Even the flowerbeds seem to contain the same species of flowers. I wonder how Arabella manages to keep herself sane, living here must have the same effect as taking the Draught of Living Death on a regular basis.

The dullness of the surroundings turns my mind inwards, and unbidden recollections of last night float back to the surface. Igor, my former mentor, struggling in the arms of his captors and frantically looking for help. Igor kneeling before the Dark Lord, pleading for his life. An endless cacophony of screams coming from the writhing figure on the ground, hardly human anymore. The tension throughout my own body, my hands sticky with sweat, my throat tight and tasting of bile, my eyes burning with something I can't determine ... grief, guilt, helpless anger? I'm unable to tell, even now.

I pull my Cloak tighter around me - funny, the air shouldn't be that cold on a sunny day like this! - and resolutely push the memories back down again. I am not Karkaroff, I remind myself. I have never been, and last night is no exception. It's the Order I am doing all this for, not just myself, and the Order can't afford me to blow my cover.

Anyway this is nothing to be dealt with right now. I have arrived at a signpost, and one of the roadsigns reads "Privet Drive". With a flicker of amusement I notice that it is covered with owl droppings. Always a sure sign of a wizard or witch living in the neighbourhood, and with the famous one who lives here, I can't help being amazed that the sign is still legible.

I turn and walk down that road, past even more of those nondescript muggle houses. This has nothing to do with Potter or even sympathy for the little twit, I keep telling myself. Just curiosity, and perhaps an opportunity to get an update on The Brat Who Isn't Dead Yet. Perfectly logical reasons.

And just as I am thinking that, there's one white house in the row jutting out ever so subtly - not because of anything exterior, but because of memories that are not my own. A tree, and a flash of a boy sitting in it and a dog barking below. A brown roof, and a flash of a boy on top of it and two adults yelling from the ground. A brown door, and a flash of a hammer nailing the letterbox shut. I take a glance at the number, as if it were necessary, but it's the right house indeed. Number four.

And there's Potter, washing a big muggle car - or is it him? The skinny boy is wearing clothes far too wide for him, washing silently with a distant look on his face. He doesn't bear much resemblance to the arrogant, mouthy student I'm used to see at Hogwarts. But the face, the glasses, the green eyes, and the tousled hair are definitely Potter's. As I take a closer look I'm surprised at the expression in his eyes. Not the expression of one under Imperio, a spell I know he can throw off, but quite similar. He's grieving about Black, I recall, and the treatment of his relatives doesn't seem to make it better. Have I ever looked that vulnerable when I was younger, or that forlorn? That ... empty? I certainly don't now, not even after last night. Time has taught me to conceal my emotions, sometimes even from myself.

Suddenly there are noises and voices down the road. Glancing behind me I see a group of cyclists, approaching swiftly. Potter looks up for a moment and resumes his washing - so it doesn't seem to be important. Then someone calls out: "OY, POTTY!" Something red flies past me and bursts on the car with a splash, and at once Potter and the car are covered in dirty water. I whirl around - the cyclists are streaking past, jeering and laughing, and only now do I recognize Potter's fat cousin among them. The cruel laughter echoes through my head, and all of a sudden it's not theirs anymore but a laughter I heard more than twenty years earlier. "Who wants to see me take off Snivelly's pants?"

But I'm not Karkaroff. In a split second I have my wand out, shielded from sight by my Cloak, and a select little spell sends the hindmost of them flying. Nasty little things, those oil puddles. His mates crowd around him chattering, but they're not my concern. I turn back to Potter, but he seems oddly unconcerned. He just takes his dirty glasses off, pulls a handkerchief out of his pocket and begins to wipe silently.

The front door is pulled open, and a beefy man with a lot of moustache appears. "You, boy!" he snarls, "what is that racket supposed to ..." Then his gaze shifts to the car, and his face takes a deep purple colour. "ARE - YOU - INSANE?" he bellows and strides over to the still wet and dirty-faced Potter, jabbing his finger alternately at him and at the car. "What has ridden you to ruin my new company car, boy? Do you want me to look ridiculous in front of my colleagues? Clean it again AT ONCE!"

"But Uncle Vernon", the boy protests, and a gleam of the Potter I used to know sparks to life in his face. "It wasn't me, I was almost finished cleaning when..." The fat man - Mr. Dursley, I understand - cuts him off.

"Don't you start with 'but's!" he snarls. "Clean the mess up you made and wash the car again, I want to see every single screw shining before six o'clock! Understood?" He glares at the boy, and suddenly the mutinous look on Potter's face is gone again. "Yes, Uncle Vernon", he says tonelessly, picks his bucket up and walks over towards a tap in the garden. Dursley turns back towards the door, looking very smug, and closes it behind himself.

I can't believe it - all this sounds to me as if I had heard it before. Nothing about muggle cars and screws, of course, but the tone of voice and the attitude behind it are so familiar that it hurts. Twenty-six years vanish into nothingness as I hear the booming voice in my mind.

"Severus! ARE YOU INSANE? Get off my racing broom AT ONCE! Didn't I tell you to keep your fingers off it? Go back to the old broomstick from your grandmother!" - "But Father, it's no use, really. It was already broken when it arrived, half of the twigs are missing and I ..." - "Don't you start with 'but's, boy! I don't want you to break anything valuable when you fall off again. You take your grandmother's broomstick and that was it! Understood?" - "Yes, Father."

I haven't heard that voice for a long time, and won't ever hear it again but in my memory, yet it still makes me grind my teeth. Without a conscious decision my feet start moving, and I step into the garden. Potter returns with his bucket and looks up as I sneak past him, a slightly confused expression on his face, but then picks up the sponge and starts washing the car. I cast a quick glance down at myself, but my Cloak still covers me snugly.

The closed door is not really a problem, and even in locations with underage wizards the Ministry doesn't watch minor spells as closely as it should. But what about Potter's guard? None of them have been in sight so far, and another look around still doesn't show me any. Either they are wearing Invisibility Cloaks as I do, or they are simply not here. There's only one Order member who would leave his post while on duty, and I might even have an inkling where Mundungus Fletcher would have gone. If it's him, he'd better say his prayers that Arabella doesn't find out.

It's a risk, but a calculated risk. I approach to one side of the door with my wand - a muttered Alohomora, a click, and the door is open. I push it open just a crack, glide in, carefully close it again and wait.

--------------------------------

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__________________
"We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. [...] Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open." (Dumbledore - GoF, Bloomsbury, p.627)

Proud member of the Severus Snape Appreciation Society (SSAS)
Check out my Snape fanfics at Flourish&Blotts, Reflections and The Red Light of the Sun
Also check out: Greetings from Down Under and An Unusual Patronus
  #5  
Old January 27th, 2004, 12:08 am
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Fourth Year
 
Joined: 5252 days
Location: In Snape's vivarium
4. Through the Looking-Glass


But nothing happens - the guard seems to be absent indeed. If I were still a genuine servant of the Dark Lord, I could have killed Potter with ridiculous ease. I check on him through the window, but the boy is still busy with the car.

Suddenly there's a loud crack outside. It's Fletcher indeed, and from the sound of it he still hasn't learned to Apparate properly. I'll have to take him aside for ... ahem ... a little chat about guard duty. We've seen the result of his idiocy last summer, and he well deserved his thrashing with catfood tins. But Fletcher seems to need something more lasting than that to remember his duty. Roots, for instance.

Fine, time to take care of Dursley. Potter's memories serve me well to find my way in the house, and I find the fat prat in the living room. Sitting in an armchair, some sports magazine on his lap, and there's a wisp of smoke coming from a table covered by his large body. What a lovely afternoon idyll. Smirking I lean against the doorframe. "Good afternoon, Mr. Dursley", I say softly.

The effect is amazing. His head spins around to my direction, and seeing nobody he jumps up, dropping the magazine and looking around frantically. His other hand is holding the cigar he's been smoking - what a pity, I should have waited a moment to speak up. It would have been amusing to see him swallow it.

My chuckle must be irritating him. "Who are you?" he demands. "How did you get into my house? And..." a note of uncertainty creeps into his voice as he puts his cigar into the ashtray, "where are you?"

Three questions, and each of them is useless. "Firstly, that's unimportant, secondly, that's unimportant too", I say idly. "Thirdly, I'm over here at the door." At that his tiny eyes swivel around at once, bulging at the sight of nothing. "But that's unimportant as well, "I add with a smirk. "Don't try to see me there, you can't."

Fear and anger are visibly warring in his hairy face, turning it alternately purple and very pale - an interesting sight indeed. "You're ... you're invisible? But why?" Stating the obvious, and I'm invisible because I'm in the mood to. Then something dawns on him, and for a moment fury is winning over in his face. "You're one of ... them, aren't you?"

"You mean a wizard?" I reply silkily, now standing next to the crockery cupboard. Again his eyes swivel around and try to focus on empty space, terrified. Ah, I had almost forgotten how amusing muggles can be. "Congratulations, a good guess for once. I might almost be tempted to attribute points to your house." He doesn't understand that one, but then again, he isn't supposed to. "But if I may tell you something, your questions are all missing the point."

His face takes a deep purple colour. "I'll call the police!" he bellows, "no, my wife will! She's here too, you don't stand a chance. Petunia, PETUNIA! Call the police, NOW!"

Trying to threaten me, are we? From the tea table I have a good look at his eyes, and they betray the blatant lie. "She isn't here at all," I say, giving my voice a dangerous edge. "You'd better not lie to me, Dursley."

Suddenly his large body gets in motion, he tries to get to the door and escape. With a couple of quick strides I intercept him there, grab his collar from behind and slam him against the door of the crockery cupboard, so forcefully that it rattles on its hinges. "No, you won't," I hiss into his ear. "I'm not finished with you yet, muggle."

His face is very white with fear, and from the sight through the cupboard doors I can't really blame him. They are wooden with would-be glass panes, and its backside is covered with a mirror - to make it look bigger than it is, no doubt. Behind the dishes it shows Dursley pressed against the doorpanes, nose and moustache flattened at the glass, his eyes very wide. But from the person pressing him there there's nothing visible at all, even my hand at his collar is covered by his own fat face and neck. It must be scary indeed.

"I know who you are", he whispers, and I raise an invisible eyebrow in interest. "You're his godfather, aren't you? The escaped murderer they showed on TV ... Black? Sirius Black?"

Oh, so dear Potter has neglected to tell his relatives about the death of his godfather? An unexpected bonus. "Would you want me to be him?" I ask silkily, and he shakes his head in terror. "Good. Then let's just pretend I weren't, shall we?" His eyes grow even wider in fear if that's possible. He's obviously convinced that I am who he thinks me to be.

"I'll call the police", he repeats, but it's more a whisper than a real threat. "Do by all means, Dursley," I encourage him smirking. "Do tell them that an invisible wizard is threatening you. They might even be impressed enough to move you elsewhere. What do they call these big white houses, lunatic asylums?" He gives a low sob instead of an answer, and I'm content - now he might be ready to listen at last. Time to talk business. "You haven't asked me the one question that matters yet," I say very softly. "Why I'm here."

"For the boy", he mumbles, and it isn't a question. Brilliant, he got it. He does seem to have a braincell after all. "He's outside in the frontyard, take him if you want, I don't care. Just let me go, please." Oh well, I take it back - the muggle doesn't have any brain. If I weren't aware about the ancient magic protection, I'd be very concerned about Potter's safety in this place. To deliver the One with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord to the next best stranger, honestly.

"The boy will stay where he is", I snarl, jerking at his collar and pressing him back again. Then I lean down to him confidentially. "I have just been witness to a most peculiar scene," I breathe into his ear. "Potter was washing a ridiculously huge car when a group of cyclists threw a balloon full of dirty water at him. And you know what, Dursley? Your foolish son was among them." He starts to sweat, and I push him again for good measure. "And then you come along and make the boy wash your braggart car again." The fat dolt winces but cannot escape, and now I turn my voice into a hiss that any student of mine would recognize as a sign of imminent detention with Filch. "I gather things like this have been going on all along? Ever since you took him in?"

"I ... I ..." The muggle is positively panting, and I loosen my grip at his collar just a bit to give him air. Well, the question was rhetoric anyway, I know that they have. "Why is he washing your car anyway? Shouldn't you be doing it, or better still, that overgrown pink pumpkin of your son? Merlin knows you could both use the exercise." Disdainfully I prod his bacon hips with my wand. "Potter would be better off doing his holiday work for school. Pray tell, why isn't he doing it?"

"He doesn't have any!" the fat prat claims, but this time I don't even need to look into his eyes to know that he's lying. I have given Potter a long essay to do about bezoar-based antidotes, and my colleagues haven't failed either to give the students tasks for the holidays. "Wrong answer, muggle," I snarl. "Haven't I told you not to lie to me? Now let's try again. Why isn't he doing his holiday work?"

--------------------------------

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Last edited by Serpentine : January 27th, 2004 at 2:50 pm.
  #6  
Old January 31st, 2004, 6:08 pm
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5. Refractions


A defiant look appears on the moustached face in the cupboard mirror. "There are more useful things to do for him than your stuff!" he blurts out. "It's all locked safely away. He's not allowed to do anything funny here! You weirdos may be pampering him with all the attention he gets, crazy birds, visits and everything, but I won't have anything of that madness in my house, you understand?"

I can't believe my ears. "Are you telling me that you keep him from his homework, and treat him like you do, because he's magic?" I ask slowly. He has the cheek - or the foolishness - to snap "Yes, I am!"

So. They punish him for being what he is, a wizard. Another bout of familiarity. "Well, it's more the fact that he exists, if you know what I mean..."

Curious what this evokes in me. I used to have, and to some degree still have, a similar attitude to Potter - kick the rulebreaking pest out of school, a boy declared a universal hero just because he failed to die at the Dark Lord's curse doesn't need any special treatment. Now though I have to fight a strong urge to use an Unforgivable on the fat idiot, no matter which one. The irony is not lost on me, and the rational part of my brain can't help being amazed at this change of mind.

I press the fat fool flat against the cupboard, jab my wand into his back and mutter a spell, and he yelps - more in shock than in pain I assume. "You will, at once, give him his spellbooks back and let him do his holiday work, muggle", I hiss through gritted teeth, "or I won't guarantee for your life and good health. And I recommend to do so quickly. I'm not exactly a sweet-tempered choirboy, you see, and now I'm getting really angry."

His hairy face has turned very pale, and the glowing spot at his back convinces him to agree. Of course the heat of Lumos is about as dangerous to him as one of those so-called lightbulbs, but why spoil the fun by telling him? I haul him off the cupboard and, wand at his back and the other hand at his collar, direct him out of the living room.

As suspected it's the cupboard under the stairs, nothing new there - except the big security lock which Dursley unlocks now. The cupboard opens and yields, among some muggle sundries, a stack of spellbooks and a cauldron covered by a rumpled Invisibility Cloak.

"Leave the door open, and put the lock and the key here onto the table", I snarl, and the fat muggle is quick to obey. "From now on you will give him free access to all his magical things. You will refrain from abusing him for your own daily chores, get him clothes that fit his size, and treat him decently. This is valid for all three of you. I might come back some time to check on him, invisibly of course." Like hell I will, but it'll do as a threat. "And should I ever catch you treating him any differently than your own son, you'll never know what has hit you. Have I made myself clear?" He looks terrified, and his big moustache bobs up and down with his fervent nod.

A glance through the window shows me Potter still busy with the car, and snatching lock and key I tell Dursley to call him in to change his wet clothes first. This is met with a faint resistance. "Why let him spoil even more of Dudley's clothes, the sun can dry ... ah!" I give him a stab with my glowing wand.

"I beg your pardon, Dursley?" I hiss. If he makes me run after Potter with a goblet of Pepper-Up Potion just because the brat is catching a cold, the fat fool is as good as dead. "Did you say you want me to come back tonight?"

"Of ... of course not, sir", he mumbles, now meekly following my push towards the front door. He opens it, clears his throat and utters in a rather high-pitched voice: "You, boy!"

"He's got a name, muggle", I whisper as Potter looks up, but decide not to press the point. "Now tell him to change his clothes and do his homework, and that you'll be delighted to take care of the car yourself. The cupboard is open and he's free to use everything in it."

"Er ... get inside and change your clothes," he squeaks. "And then ... and then you'll do your ... your homework. The cupboard is open and ... and you're free to ... to use everything in it." Potter's hand with the sponge comes to rest in surprise. "And what about the car?" he asks. Dursley seems reluctant to answer, so I give him another sharp prod with my wand. "You'll be delighted", I prompt him sotto voce. He flinches and repeats: "You'll be delighted ... er, I'll be, to ... to take care of it myself."

Potter looks rather doubtful, but finally lets go of the sponge. "If you say so, Uncle Vernon ..." The muggle just keeps standing there. "Off you go! Nox!" I hiss, pocketing my extinguished wand and pushing him forward. Potter keeps looking in my direction, a confused expression on his face. Dursley walks over to him - walks instead of rolling, amazing - and thrusts the sponge into the full bucket. "Get inside", he whispers to Potter, "else he won't leave."

The green eyes behind Potter's spectacles light up at that, and he makes a tentative step forward. "Professor Lupin?" he asks disbelievingly. "Mr. Weasley?" Hardly, Potter, they're both far too nice. His uncle grunts, deepening into his work. "Your dratted godfather, boy. Smells like a drowned corpse, if you ask me." I can't help smirking at his muttered insult of Black. Obviously he's never been close to an actual drowned corpse, or he wouldn't mix it with the scent of recently prepared murtlap balm still hanging in my clothes.

But Potter's eyes are growing very round and wide, and the expression in his eyes is turning into something I have never seen directed at me: disbelieving joy, and something close to adoration. "Sirius?" he chokes. "Sirius? But you can't be ... I've seen it ..." He takes some more steps towards me and screws up his face in concentration, issuing a barely audible whisper. "Who are you?"

I'm unable to push down my unease - he's actually looking at me. Not at the estimated height of Black, who was taller than me. Potter's eyes are locked with mine through the hood of my Cloak. How is he able to perceive me? Well, it's not really me he perceives, but he must be sensing something of me. He can't be a Seer, or can he?

Briefly I debate to clear up his delusion, but decide against it. I can't reveal myself here outside in a muggle street, and even so I can easily imagine the change in his face at the sight of his most hated teacher, the one he now blames for his godfather's death. It'd be a rerun of his father's and Black's reaction at the sight of me. Snivellus - unworthy to be appreciated, unworthy even to exist, deserving only to be done away with. I'm not sure if I can bear any more surges of familiarity today.

I turn and silently prowl away. Potter takes a whiff of air as I brush past him, tilts his head in confusion and follows my movement with his gaze. "Whoever you are", he says finally, and I look back at him. His voice is very quiet. "Thank you."

For a moment I stand rooted to the spot. Words I'd never have expected, least of all from him - and they leave a glowing trace in my mind. I let out a breath I wasn't aware to be holding. Then I resume my silent pace and leave the garden. For a last time I turn to see him disappear in the house, and with a soft pop I Disapparate.

--------------------------------

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"We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. [...] Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open." (Dumbledore - GoF, Bloomsbury, p.627)

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Last edited by Serpentine : January 31st, 2004 at 11:00 pm.
  #7  
Old February 18th, 2004, 8:56 pm
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6. Frosted Glass


The street turns into a whirl of shapeless colour, and comes into focus again. But this time it's a dusty pathway behind a hut that clearly hasn't been inhabitated for years. The Shrieking Shack, Hogsmeade. I take off my Invisibility Cloak, fold it carefully - no need to rumple the fine cloth as teenagers seem to be wont - and conceal it inside my robes. Then I put back on the black cloak I left here before my visit to Arabella. I take a glance at my watch, draw up my hood and set off to the Hog's Head.

I arrive just in time. The small pub is halfway full, but the barman spots me immediately as I enter and nods discreetly towards a nondescript door at the backside. I nod back, give him an equally discreet sign to wait just a minute and push my way between the other visitors towards another door. Arabella's tea is among the very best, but it still has certain side effects.

As I come back and turn to the previously indicated door, I have to push my way again among the dodgy-looking visitors - some with shabby cloaks stained with cheap firewhiskey, others with broad-rimmed hats or shrouded in hoods, and one is even muffled in something that looks suspiciously like an oversized winter cloak with shawl. My lips are curled in a sneer, and it isn't even feigned. Crackpots. But then again, that's the usual public hanging out in Aberforth's pub. I don't claim to like the dingy place, but it's a good place to get a cheap drink and catch up with the current rumours. Besides his clients aren't likely to mind some minor inconveniences, such as misty glasses, dirt, and a constant smell of goats.

A smell which is even more prevalent here, in a small room connected to the backyard where he keeps them. A couple of minutes later the barman joins me, a bulging pouch in hand, and spreads the contents out before me.

To the untrained eye the bezoars would seem to be just unsavory lumps, looking distantly similar to unripe potatoes - but they're anything but. These putrid stones are the most powerful ingredient for antidotes, and Aberforth provides only the best quality. Better still, he has devised a method to magically coerce the brittle stone out of the goat's stomach without killing the animal, enabling it to start producing the next stone. True, in the beginning his experiments cost many a goat its life, which is why the press hounded him years ago. But what are diffamatory articles to an eccentric barman who can't even read?

I examine the bezoars closely and from time to time scratch the surface of one with a fingernail, each time leaving a trace of a rich emerald colour. More than satisfactory, as expected - there's a reason why I've been buying them from him for years, and it has nothing to do with his brother being the Headmaster of Hogwarts. I decide to take the whole batch and put a stack of galleons onto the table. Aberforth counts the coins and locks them away, while I scoop the stones back into the pouch and pocket it.

We leave the room, and he treats me to a drink outside at the bar. On the house of course, after all I'm his best customer. I accept only a butterbeer, have him pour it into my own glass and settle down in a private corner. Igor still lingers in the recesses of my mind, and the encounter with Potter has left me with a new sentiment I'm not sure yet what to do with - but the dash in Arabella's tea was quite enough for today. I've always preferred to drown problems of that kind in work rather than in alcohol. Madam Pomfrey has asked me at lunch to refill the potion stocks in the hospital wing, and I intend to begin this evening. I make a mental note to add some Dreamless Sleep Potion for myself, my supply is running perilously low.

As I take the first swig of my drink, a cloud of stale tobacco overlaid with a heavy oriental scent makes its way to my nose. It is accompanied by a shapeless but seemingly feminine figure, and out of its heavy black veil emanates a muffled voice. "Evening, Severus. Long time no see, eh?"

Irritatedly I turn around - the voice and smell are unmistakeable. But as I look at Mundungus Fletcher I'm torn between rage at his daring to come here after his absence at Potter's house, and mirth at his appearance. He turns up here only in disguise since he's been thrown out for misbehaviour, and with the reputation of the Hog's Head that's quite an achievement. You'd think his tobacco would give him away, but the goats must have afflicted Aberforth's nose.

"Why, Miss Fletcher! What a surprise. You look perfectly ghastly this evening." His obvious discomfiture makes me smirk. "Shhh," he utters, peering at the barman at the other end of the bar. "Not so loud, if 'e 'ears my name 'e kicks me out again."

"I must have forgotten that", I reply with a shrug. "But you do look ridiculous in these rags. Besides the last meeting was only a week ago." Then, taking another swig: "No guard duty today?"

"Just finished for today", he answers cheerfully. "Moody's taken over." I seem to have hit the right moment, I think. Had I arrived there half an hour later, Moody would have caught me at the door. At least with the paranoid ex-Auror Potter will be safe. "Listen, Severus, my throat's dried out. Wouldya buy me a drink?"

"No, I wouldn't", I say coolly. "Get one yourself for once, and don't tell me you can't afford it. So I take it there was nothing noteworthy?"

"Not really." He sidles towards the bar and raps the counter, points at the steaming glass of another customer and then at himself. Aberforth just nods gruffly, he's had stranger guests before. Soon Fletcher returns to my table with a firewhiskey and tries his best to slurp out of the dirty glass without lifting his veil.

"Now that you say it", he says pensively, "the muggle must've had a streak of kindness today. Comes out all of a sudden, sends the boy back in, and washes the car 'mself. Never done that before. 'Arry was so surprised that he stood 'round daydreaming for a minute before trudging in. Odd, that. But not really dangerous, if that's what you mean. They'll be back to normal soon, they've been before."

A streak of kindness, and daydreaming. So that's what it looks like to him when an unseen visitor turns up in Privet Drive. Moody would have been far more observant - and Fletcher's last phrase touches a new string in me that reverberates in my mind. "Hmm. By the way, where did you pick up this ... obtrusive perfume? Flirting with Petunia, or have you been at Ali's again?"

His reaction says everything. He flinches and whispers: "Blimey, I ... how d'ya know?" I snort. "Come on, Fletcher", I say in a low voice, "you smell like an entire bazaar, and your protege doesn't live in Arabia. You do know that flying carpets are still illegal in Britain, don't you?"

"I 'ad a very good business opportunity", he says defensively. I feign not to have heard him. "My, my. I wonder what dear Arabella thinks of your sloppy attitude to guard duty, not to mention your fabulous new scent. A whacking with catfood tins would be almost compassionate. Maybe I should just ask her, what do you think?"

"Don't!" He sounds almost desperate. "Don't tell 'er, please. You can't do this to a fellow Slytherin, can you?" I survey him coldly, eyes narrowed. "Can't I? Let me see if I got you right", I sneer. "Last summer you wandered off on your watch to buy stolen cauldrons, put the boy's life at stake and with him the future of wizardkind. Now you do the same again, and expect me to do as if nothing had happened?"

Fletcher swallows, then swallows again. "But nothing 'as 'appened", he says in a small voice. "'E was alive and well when I left 'm with Moody." He has a point there, but just because it was me instead of a genuine Death Eater. "This time nothing has happened", I correct him softly. "The next time you neglect your duty, you might just as well find him dead at your return. And all you'd have to explain it to the Order would be 'a very good business opportunity'. Do you really want that to happen?"

"No, I don't." He sighs. "Won't 'appen again. Really", he adds when I raise an incredulous eyebrow. "I get your point, t'was a mistake. Please don't tell Figgy 'bout it. It'd kill 'er, and she'd kill me." She sure would, but the sequence is a feat of logic. Then he straightens his back, as if taking a difficult decision, and mutters: "Wouldya 'ccept a carpet for your silence, Severus? A flying carpet of your own choice. Persians, really nice ones, all of 'em 'andmade and good quality."

I really have to fight to keep my face straight. Always the businessman, even now. "To my utmost regret, Fletcher, I'm not interested in your carpets", I manage. "But there's something else you could do for me. Strictly confidential, of course." Fletcher's attention is fully focused on me now, his firewhiskey stands forgotten on the table.

--------------------------------

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Proud member of the Severus Snape Appreciation Society (SSAS)
Check out my Snape fanfics at Flourish&Blotts, Reflections and The Red Light of the Sun
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Last edited by Serpentine : February 19th, 2004 at 12:52 pm.
  #8  
Old February 27th, 2004, 11:10 pm
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7. Stained Glass


Casting a swift glance around, I lower my voice and give him a quick outline of what I want. He doesn't need to know more than that, and even so I can see the curiosity grow in his eyes. I do my best to discourage him of useless questions, giving an edge to my voice and putting on my trademark scowl. Fletcher gets the hint and doesn't ask. Only in the end, right after giving me his current guard schedule (the guards are rescheduled every week, I'll have to pay close attention to them at the next Order meetings), he can't refrain from a comment. "If I didn't know you better than that, Severus", he mumbles pensively, "I'd almost think you've come to like 'm."

I glare at him in indignation. "That's utter nonsense", I say acidly. "He certainly wouldn't have been my choice for the war, but if the twit is supposed to turn the tides, so be it. And if these muggles insist on standing in the way, it's their own fault." I'm well aware of that odd sentiment inside me glowing up again, but I'm fairly sure now that it isn't sympathy for Potter. Irritation to see muggles kick around a budding wizard, the knowledge how it feels to be treated that way, and a fervent desire to make them stop and see him safe - by force if necessary. But certainly not sympathy.

A look at my watch tells me that it's almost dinner time. I drain my glass and remind Fletcher for a last time not to forget his promise. After returning my glass to Aberforth I take my leave and head towards the castle.

Dinner is a quick business, I'm hardly aware what I'm eating - but that's quite normal when my mind is occupied elsewhere. Even needling Minerva about Quidditch doesn't hold its usual appeal tonight, and after one or two half-hearted tries I give up and focus on my upcoming tasks. Snake fangs and horned slugs should still be on stock, hellebore essence and asphodel too, and my moonstone order arrived only yesterday. But what about frog brains and sneezewort? Pomona Sprout has enough sneezewort in the greenhouse, but without frog brains I won't be able to start tonight. The bicorn horns can wait, they won't be necessary yet - but it'd be wise to visit the apothecary in Diagon Alley soon. Come to think of it, it wouldn't do any harm to check the classroom cupboards for a full shopping list.

As I rise and push back my chair, Dumbledore catches my eye. The blue eyes behind his half-moon spectacles are twinkling, and he gives me a smile... a broad smile of approval, I realize. Slightly surprised, I raise an eyebrow in question. How does he know what I intend to do, or why? But I should know better than to expect direct answers from Dumbledore. He just smiles mysteriously and winks at me. Then so be it, I think - if there's anybody I don't really mind knowing it's the Headmaster. Respectfully I incline my head, give the rest of my colleagues a curt nod and stride down to the dungeons.

I walk past my classroom and my office, straight towards my laboratory. The cauldron from this morning, now cleaned out, still stands at its place, and the faintest whiff of murtlap still hangs in the air. Apart from that there are no noticeable traces of my morning work left. Good old house-elves - and contrary to certain students they wouldn't dare to steal anything. The threat of clothes is enough to keep them at bay.

As I'm reaching for the bezoars in my cloak, I touch something heavy and metallic instead. Dursley's big security lock, with the key still in it. There are quite a few scratches around the keyhole - obviously Potter has tried to pick it the muggle way, but since his things were still in that cupboard under the stairs it must have been in vain. An idea makes me smirk, and I put a discreet charm on the lock so it can't be picked by magic either. My private cupboard of potion ingredients seems to be a favourite target of nosy students, but this should keep them off.

I put the bezoars into the cupboard in my office and take the ingredients for tonight's potions out. Yes, there are barely enough frog brains left to begin straight away. Moonstone, boomslang skin, unicorn horn, dragon scales... that should be all I need at the moment, so I shut the cupboard with the new lock. The rest is yielded by the classroom cupboard. Two more cauldrons, mortar and pestle, a set of knives and a measuring beaker, and I'm ready to begin.

The Boil Cure Potion doesn't really test my abilities, being easy enough even for first-years, but it's a quick first delivery for Madam Pomfrey. The Dreamless Sleep Potion is a tad more complicated, but I've committed the recipe to memory long ago, and now I could brew it blindfolded if necessary. Dragon scales, asphodel, heighten the flames, hellebore essence, unicorn horn, stir counter-clockwise, ground moonstone... two ounces only, the rest is for the third potion. I wipe the inevitable sweat away with a sleeve, brush a strand of hair aside - and catch sight of my half-bared left forearm. The Mark is hardly visible even when you know it's there, I rather feel it etched into my flesh... but it's like a deja-vu of Igor thrusting his under my nose, burning dark, more than a year ago. Furiously I shake my head, pull the sleeve back down and tip the valerian into the cauldron. Oh yes, I'll definitely need this draught tonight.

The Dreamless Sleep Potion is simmering peacefully and the Boil Cure Potion freshly bottled, as I turn to the third cauldron. The frog brains have now taken a deep purple colour, which means that they've been soaking in the infusion long enough. Time to add more water and the dittany leaves. Uncut though, for in this special potion they aren't supposed to relinquish their powers as quickly as they normally should. Firstly these powers would later be lost in the condensation, a process which demands certain modifications in the original recipe in order to work correctly - that's why it's only advisable for true masters of the subject. Secondly this concoction is not meant for a wizard or witch, so I have to be even more careful with it than usual.

I can't help feeling that it's only a second best solution. Unfortunately there is no draught I know of that turns the drinker more sympathetic towards somebody else, and without being immodest, my knowledge in the field of Potions is fairly vast. If there were such a potion, I think with a humourless smile, the Dark Lord would be far easier to deal with. But as things are, this one will have to do.

I add the sneezewort and the ground moonstone and lower the fire to let the potion simmer. A swift glance at my Dreamless Sleep Potion... yes, half an hour to go and it'll be ready. I open the door to my adjacent office and scan the shelves of my library.

Of course it doesn't look like a library, Transfigured as it is. I have a reputation to uphold in front of the students, and some items in it are best left alone for different reasons. But almost all these nasty-looking pickles are actually books. The jar of newt eyes is a file with preparatory exercises, questions and answers for NEWT exams, the jar of owl claws is a similar file for OWL exams, the shrunken heads deal with mental sciences like Legilimency and Occlumency (Potter wouldn't have bothered to read them though, he doesn't even read his Potions book), and the pale yellow poison dart frog is an encyclopedia of poisons and antidotes. Few of my colleagues know about this library, and none of the students. Good thing too, for it's another precaution against thieves. My collection of "Martin Miggs the Mad Muggle", for instance, would cease to be complete before long. But who would dream of stealing a container full of mud maggots?

However, this time I'm not looking for a book. I stretch to the top shelf and take down a jar with a fat pink toad in it. A fitting choice of Minerva's, I think as I un-Transfigure the item into a sharp black quill. The Headmaster has entrusted it to me after Umbridge was forced to leave Hogwarts. Of course I was more interested in her job than in her quill, and told him so - but I'm not oblivious to the amount of trust he's putting in me. Few others would give a Dark item to an ex-Death Eater for safekeeping, and I'm determined to prove myself worthy of his trust.

This is different though. With all the memories it brings up I'd rather work with something other than blood, even though as an ingredient it can be powerful. Hair for example would be fine, but I don't have any hair of Potter, and am not foolish enough to assume I could get any of him unnoticed. So it'll have to be dried blood. At least this time the purpose of Umbridge's quill will be a good one, and I feel confident that Dumbledore would approve... suddenly the memory of his smile at dinner strikes me. Probably he has already approved.

It turns out to be a lengthy and painstaking endeavour to charm the dried blood out of the quill, and I have to halt in mid-work to take the Dreamless Sleep Potion off the fire. After bottling it I return into my office and work on. At long last the dish in front of me contains a small heap of brown dust, and another charm divides it up into several tiny heaps and a single bigger one. Potter's, obviously.

I Transfigure the quill back into a pickled toad and put it back onto its shelf, then carry the dish into my laboratory and wipe the tiny heaps into the fire. The bigger one is the only one I need, the others could be used against these students if left lying around. Then I sweep the remaining powder into the cauldron. The draught boils up with a hissing sound and turns a fiery red, but when I begin to stir it calms down and darkens to a smooth burgundy colour. Taking out the ladle I cast a last glance at the potion before covering it for the night, and in spite of the late hour I feel a tired smile of content spread over my face. The first step is done.

--------------------------------

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"We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. [...] Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open." (Dumbledore - GoF, Bloomsbury, p.627)

Proud member of the Severus Snape Appreciation Society (SSAS)
Check out my Snape fanfics at Flourish&Blotts, Reflections and The Red Light of the Sun
Also check out: Greetings from Down Under and An Unusual Patronus

Last edited by Serpentine : March 25th, 2004 at 12:47 am.
  #9  
Old March 25th, 2004, 12:36 am
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Location: In Snape's vivarium
8. A Drop of Emerald


Hours later I drift out of a blissfully empty sleep as there's something tickling my nose. Half-dazed I shake my head, but the tickle refuses to go away, and with the motion I notice something smoothly shifting its weight on my chest. I open an eye, and groan in exasperation at the sight. What would be even more bloody wonderful than being woken too early in the morning? Exactly. Being woken too early in the morning by a poisonous snake sitting on your chest and flicking his tongue at your nose.

"Bugger off, Mephisto", I snarl. "You know exactly that my bed is out of bounds for you." But the slender green creature doesn't bother to leave his place. They say that snakes don't have facial expressions, but this one clearly manages to look smug at his accomplishment.

"Get moving", I hiss, "you have your own vivarium. That's where you belong." As I raise a hand to push him off my chest, the boomslang backs away and hisses back at me, his throat widening slightly. Just a friendly warning, but it's quite enough. As a wizard I may be more resistant than muggles - I heard that for them a boomslang bite can be lethal -, and I have a full stock of antidotes near. Yet I find it a highly unenjoyable experience. Mephisto isn't really aggressive and has bitten me only once so far, in a fright, but the bloody mess his bite left was only one of the inconveniences.

So I try a different tack. "If you don't move soon I fear you won't get any breakfast, Mephisto", I say softly, putting my thumb and index finger together in a suggestive oval shape. "No egg for you. No fresh, warm, delicious egg." His small head follows the motion of my fingers, and in his shining brown eyes I can almost see his tiny mind working. Finger and thumb... oval... egg-shaped... egg... With a smirk I part thumb and index finger slightly, and the imaginary egg in his mind cracks open, letting a creamy yolk stream out. His forked tongue darts in and out, in and out, and in a sudden smooth movement he uncoils and glides off my chest.

Now at last I can rise, and I do. "Why, thank you for the permission to leave my own bed", I say pointedly, and this time he doesn't resist as I pick him up, just coils around my arm while I carry him to his spacious vivarium. How has he crept out this time... ah, there's a long branch leaning against the glass, covering about half the height towards the upper rim. I don't recall putting it there, according to the traces he must have dragged it there himself. I do appreciate his above-average intelligence, but at times it's more of a bane than a benediction, especially when coupled with his curiosity.

"You're almost as bad as Potter", I tell him sternly as I place the branch at the far end and put the green beauty back into his vivarium. "One day you'll end up in a cauldron, and I won't be there to save you. What will you do then?" Mephisto doesn't answer, of course - he just slithers towards his favourite place on the thickest branch and looks up at me expectantly. "Oh hell," I sigh. "Get your darn egg then."

I throw on a cloak and head towards the near kitchen, taking care that the boomslang stays where he is. The castle hosts mice aplenty, but it's the hunting ground of Mrs. Norris, and I don't fancy Filch coming after me with a dead cat. So from time to time I let Mephisto hunt baby acromantulas in the Forbidden Forest. That has brought Hagrid to my doorstep once or twice, but I find it better to have them picked off early than leave them to grow up and hunt students down.

It takes me only a minute to return with a fresh egg, and as the snake digs in I am free to complete my morning ablutions. A shower and a shave later I feel almost human again. I climb into a fresh set of black clothes, and a quick glance assures me that Mephisto is now curled up on a Lumos-charmed stone, dozing contentedly after the rich meal. After leaving my private quarters I put the customary wards in place - to keep adventurous students out and an adventurous snake in -, and stride towards my laboratory. Time to bring Madam Pomfrey her first delivery and to get my own breakfast.

On the way back from the hospital wing to the Great Hall I go over my schedule for today. The main part of my special potion is almost completed - the part before the condension, that is -, but there are still a couple of ingredients left to add, and I'll have to think about a way to keep the doses constant at all times. Then there's the Order meeting this afternoon, and I need to bring a Wolfsbane Potion along, it's that time of month again. Speaking of which, a visit to the apothecary in Diagon Alley might be necessary first.

I take my place at the half-occupied High Table, and after tasting my Earl Grey send the tea back. It's far too weak again and as savoury as dishwater. By now the house-elves really should know my taste. As I take a roll out of the basket an owl swoops down to me and drops the Daily Prophet on my plate. After getting its pay it takes off again, and I leaf through the Prophet.

Today it doesn't report anything noteworthy on wizarding politics, so I skip to the sports page, and a sudden broad smirk spreads over my face. Falmouth Falcons vs. Montrose Magpies, 200:210 points. Well, Minerva's favourite team has still won the match, but with the reputation of the Magpies that wasn't the aim of our bet anyway. A galleon for each goal the Falcons manage to score against them... that means twenty galleons for me, the old miser shouldn't have been so overconfident. Tough luck that the Magpies' Keeper was knocked off early by a well-aimed Bludger. I turn around to gloat at her, but Minerva hasn't arrived yet. Never mind, I'll see her at lunch or during the Order meeting at the latest.

After breakfast - two rolls with bitter orange marmalade and an Earl Grey fit to tar roads with - I head down to the dungeons. As I thought, I'm running out of aconite. I pick up parchment and quill and begin to jot down the other supplies I need to refill.

It turns out that most of the ingredients I'm low on can easily be refilled from our own greenhouses, from the Forbidden Forest, by Hagrid, or by Mephisto. So the list for Diagon Alley remains a short one. Good, Minerva will be pleased. The bookkeeping of Hogwarts is one of her responsibilities as Deputy Headmistress, and my expenses for Potions ingredients are one of the few possible reasons for arguments with her. Apart from Quidditch and Potter, of course.

I send a house elf to Pomona Sprout and another to Hagrid, each with a list and the admonishment that I want the requested items to be in my office after an hour or else a very good reason if they aren't, lest they both suffer my displeasure. Then I throw on my travelling cloak, take a collapsible cauldron and leave the castle. Halfway on the road to Hogsmeade I cross the border of the Hogwarts grounds and Apparate to Diagon Alley.

Compared to the relative quiet of Hogwarts during the holidays, Diagon Alley is a maddening bustle of activity. There aren't many kids around yet, a fact for which I am duly grateful. A visit to Gringott's provides me with the necessary pecuniary supplies, and as an afterthought I change some of my money into muggle currency. At leaving the bank I steer clear of the entrance to Knockturn Alley, avoid the temptation of Flourish & Blotts and finally arrive at my destination.

The portly apothecary is serving another client as I enter the shop, but gives me a brief greeting before returning to the old hag in front of me with a jar of Flobberworm mucus. The hag pays and leaves, and the apothecary briskly moves to my side of the counter. "Good morning, Professor Snape. What can I do for you?"

I raise an eyebrow in mock surprise. "I thought it was obvious, Mrs. Jigger - I'm here to be sold Potions ingredients. But if you could owl the Seeker of the Wanderers a pair of glasses it would be appreciated as well, I suppose. Oh, and good morning to you too."

Belladonna Jigger is originally from Wigtown, but knows me well enough to not take it wrongly. "A Quidditch rulebook for the Falcons would be even more appreciated, I guess", she retorts, "not least by each of the other teams of the League. They are infamous for their rough play, you know."

"They know the rules very well, Mrs. Jigger", I say silkily. "The art is to use them to their full extent, and to break them only when the referee isn't looking. That's why all the best Slytherin players end up playing for the Falcons." Taking out my list I add: "But that's not why I'm here. These are the ingredients I need. Scarab beetles, armadillo bile, snake fangs, lacewing flies... you'll see that they are mostly things that are easily used up. Do you have them on stock?"

The dark-haired witch takes up the list and scans it. "Scarab beetles and armadillo bile? Didn't you refill these on your last visit already?" I give her a smirk in reply. "That is correct. Yet it seems that the proportion of dunderheads among the students is rising steadily from year to year. There's nothing a Wit-Sharpening Potion could do about it."

The apothecary snorts in disbelief and proceeds to put the requested ingredients onto the counter. Four bicorn horns, a string of dragon scales, a jar of bats' spleens... Then she hesitates, a beaker with a greenish liquid in her hand. "Are you quite sure that half a pint of Glumbumble fluid will be enough?"

"More than enough", I answer. "The next exams aren't due before next summer, and I doubt that there will be many cases of hysteria before school has even started." She nods and places the last item on the counter, a parcel of tightly-packed dried leprechaun wings. "That would be fifty-eight galleons and three sickles. Receipt as always?"

I nod in agreement, putting the money on the counter and the purchases into my cauldron. "For the bookkeeping. I don't want tomorrow's edition of the Daily Prophet to report the sudden decease of one of your customers at the hands of the Deputy Headmistress." Mrs. Jigger chuckles. "Nor do I", she says, handing me the requested piece of parchment. "I wouldn't wish such a fate to any of my clients."

The remark puts a grim smile on my face - I know of some who would, at least to me. "Give my greetings to your husband. Is he still writing?" Her eyes light up at that. "Oh yes, Arsenius is still busy with his book", she replies, "and it will be ready soon. They say that Healing Draughts of Ancient Egypt should hit the bookshelves in November." I make a mental note of that, yet another reference book from a Potions colleague to look out for.

After putting the last jar into my cauldron I turn to leave. "Have a nice day, Professor", she calls after me, "I hope to see you in our shop again soon." I turn around at the door, hand at the doorknob, and raise an eyebrow at her. "I hope not", I say with a half-smirk, patting my full cauldron. "But any day without students is bound to be a nice day. Have one yourself, Mrs. Jigger." Then I step out to Diagon Alley and Apparate back to Hogwarts.

--------------------------------

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Proud member of the Severus Snape Appreciation Society (SSAS)
Check out my Snape fanfics at Flourish&Blotts, Reflections and The Red Light of the Sun
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  #10  
Old April 29th, 2004, 8:53 pm
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Serpentine  Female.gif Serpentine is offline
Fourth Year
 
Joined: 5252 days
Location: In Snape's vivarium
9. A Garnet Gem


Right after my return I head down to my office. The house-elves are already there, one loaded with plants and roots from the greenhouses, while the other keeps cringing and wringing his hands over a half-filled sack. Both are shooting me pleading looks.

"Blonky is so sorry, Professor Snape sir", the house-elf with the sack sobs. "Professor Hagrid sir didn't give all the items to Blonky Professor Snape sir requested. Blonky insisted that it was terribly important, but Professor Hagrid sir said it was always terribly important with Blonky and he couldn't take anything from his dear darlings every time Professor Snape sir wanted him to and..." With an outcry he throws himself at my feet. The other house-elf looks up at me out of her tea cosy, her face a curious mixture of supplication and apprehension. "Please Professor Snape sir, don't punish Blonky too hard. Tibby has seen that Blonky has brought more than half of the items on your list, and the deliveries from the greenhouses are all there. Professor Hagrid sir has been rather testy with Blonky recently, but if you want Tibby to go and try again Tibby would be happy to oblige."

The prostrate elf sobbing onto my shoes reminds me forcibly of a similar but far more uncomfortable situation. "Up with you, Blonky," I snarl, concealing my awkwardness. For Merlin's sake, I'm not the Dark Lord. "What did Hagrid refuse to give you, and why?" Blonky gets to his feet in a hurry. "Salamanders and a murtlap, Professor Snape sir. Professor Hagrid sir said the salamanders were breeding in his fireplace, and the new murtlaps were too sweet to take any out of the lake and chop them."

I let out a groan of exasperation. The breeding salamanders are understandable, but Hagrid must be the only one in the world to find purple jelly-bags with fangs and tentacles sweet. At least the ingredients from the greenhouses are actually complete. "What is this?" I ask sharply, going through the other ingredients. "Four Jobberknoll feathers? I thought I had ordered at least thirty. Does Professor Hagrid have a problem with my handwriting, or has he forgotten how to count?"

"Blonky doesn't think so," the elf answers, cleaning his nose with the pillowcase he's wearing. "Professor Hagrid sir gave Blonky those feathers that had fallen out themselves and were sticking to the nests. He said he wouldn't pluck the poor birds and perhaps hurt them."

"Professor Hagrid sir can count himself very lucky that this is not an emergency case," I mutter under my breath. Admittedly the half-giant has helped me out a few times when I returned late at night under certain... circumstances, and I'm grateful for it. Yet there are times he drives me up the wall. "What else is still missing? Flobberworm mucus, leeches, horned toads...?"

"They are all in the sack," Blonky squeaks eagerly, and Tibby nods in agreement. "Professor Hagrid sir finds them boring, Professor Snape sir." Indeed. Thank Merlin for small favours. "Tell Hagrid," I say slowly, "that in two weeks time I expect the missing items to be here in my stores, unless he wants me to come over and take care of them myself." I add a nasty smile for effect. "He will be surprised what can be got out of his dear darlings when you set your mind to it."

Blonky nods quickly and darts towards the door, but I grab him at his pillowcase. "Not at once, you fool", I snarl, "and not you. You are headed to..." I rack my brains and finally give up. "To wherever you house-elves hang around when you're not busy in the kitchen." His eyes widen in astonishment. "And the punishment?" he blurts out. "Your punishment is to take a rest", I hiss. "And you get my meaning. No irons or oven doors, if you do it again the Headmaster will hear about it."

He wanders off half-dazed, and I turn to the remaining elf. "Tibby, you will deliver my message to Hagrid, but get Blonky a clean pillowcase first. That snotrag he's wearing is a disgrace." A wide smile appears on Tibby's face. "Gladly, Professor Snape sir", she replies and hurries after her mate.

With a slight sneer I proceed to putting the fresh ingredients where they belong - those I'll need very soon onto my desk, the rest into the classroom cupboard or into my private store. Then I take out some more of the available ingredients and carry the whole lot into my laboratory. Yesterday's potion has matured well, its burgundy colour has deepened and turned more opaque. I relight the fire under it, fill another cauldron with water, arrange my ingredients and equipment on my working space and begin.

Soon the to-be Wolfsbane Potion is happily bubbling on its fire, and the other potion has been simmering long enough to acquire the necessary overall temperature to continue. With a last stroke of the knife I finish chopping the aconite and sweep lavish amounts of the green mass into the boiling cauldron. Then I return to the other side of my working space, pick up the crushed leprechaun wings and pour the tiny pieces into the dark-red fluid, along with a handful of dried melissa leaves. I stir clockwise, stir counter-clockwise, until the faintest herbal scent begins to emanate from it.

Satisfied I turn my attention back to the Wolfsbane Potion and add a hint of ground scarab beetles before stirring it as well. Now there should be a silvery mist rising from the cauldron... yes, there it is. I take up the big bottle of armadillo bile and, still stirring with the other hand, with an experienced flick out of the wrist I add one, two, three dashes to the greenish-blue liquid. It turns a violent green, and without pausing in the movement I lower the fire with my wand, sharply change the stirring direction and pour the dishful of powdered bicorn horn into it. The draught wells up with a loud hiss, but I keep stirring, stirring patiently until slowly the sound becomes softer and finally dies out. The liquid has acquired a very dark shade of brown by now, almost black. I take out the ladle, set the fire low enough for a silent simmer and allow my stirring arm a brief massage. I glance at the clock and feel a momentary surge of pride that I've hit exactly the right moment to reach this stage, even without regularly checking a watch. Besides it's soon time for lunch.

The other potion is almost ready for the condension, but I'm torn whether to be glad about it or not. It is imperative that the doses remain constant at all times, and it would be foolhardy beyond measure to have them take care of that themselves. Besides a bit of camouflage could be useful, but which one? Well, I'll have to think about that later. First things first, so I tip the coarsely cut scurvy-grass into the cauldron and send two drops of Glumbumble fluid after it. Come to think about it, more might be necessary... With a smirk I add two more drops of the greenish treacle, vanishing into the rich deep-red fluid, and the herbal scent grows a tad more intense. The condension will have to wait until I find a feasible solution for the camouflage and the doses. I extinguish the fire under the cauldron and put the potion into a stasis, so it looks like frozen burgundy cream. The Wolfsbane Potion still has to simmer for another hour, which should about fit the lunch-break.

This time Minerva is present at the High Table. I take a seat next to her and notice that she looks rather worn out - she was absent at breakfast, I recall. My first suspicion is that she has spent the night over lesson or Quidditch timetables for the next school year. Her reaction to my gentle taunt about "wasting time on unteachable children" doesn't confirm it though.

"First off, Severus, I thought we had agreed to disagree about the teachability of our students", she reprimands me, but the remark lacks its usual acid. "Secondly, it had nothing to do with Hogwarts business. Dedalus informed Albus on a rather short-term basis that he has caught the Fluttering Flu, so I volunteered to take over his nightshift." Order business then, or to be more exact, guard duty. "I wasn't aware that you would even sacrifice your sleep for the snotty brat", I sneer - but I can't help thinking of his last words to me yesterday, and the odd new string in me vibrates again.

Minerva scowls at me. "Anyone in the Order would willingly stand guard for the 'snotty brat'", she shoots back. "Present company excepted." I straighten up at that, offended, and narrow my eyes. "How very right", I say in a deceptively soft tone. "Present company excepted, and for good reasons. If you should ever feel the urge to be completely at the beck and call of a raving madman every other night, just let me know. I'm game for trading places if you are."

She looks quite taken aback at that. "I'm sorry, Severus - I didn't mean to imply that your sacrifices are less vital for all of us than they are. I just..." She rubs her face tiredly. "Probably it's the lack of sleep, I'm not your age anymore. But I shouldn't have vented it on you like that." She gives me an apologetic look, and her eyes tell me that she really means it. "For once I'll let it pass", I say silkily, "under the condition that it won't become a habit." Cutting my roastbeef into neat square pieces I add: "I hope that there was at least something fishy that was worth wasting your night for. Did the Prophet's ratpack pay a visit to our shining hero, or were there just these mousy relatives of his?"

She swats my arm but doesn't quite manage to suppress a smile under her reproachful frown. "Whatever you may think, I do not spend my guard time searching the dustbins for catfood", she retorts. "Not even when it turns out as uneventful as last night. At eleven p.m. all the lights were out, and stayed out until the morning." She sighs, and suddenly all her seventy years show on her face. "Only Potter's light stayed on longer than that. Apparently they allowed him to do his homework at least, and he's trying to catch up with it before they change their mind. It wouldn't be the first time... I wonder why Albus wouldn't let us reveal ourselves and step in whenever they do such things to him, the poor boy just won't ask for it himself."

"As far as I remember his orders were to attract as little attention as possible", I say in a casual voice, turning my own attention to the potatoes. "It's just a wild guess of course, but maybe wizarding folk appearing out of nowhere in a muggle area and hurling spells and insults around are just a bit too obvious." She smiles wryly. "Of course, but there must be other ways...", she replies with a pensive look. "Perhaps", I say disinterestedly. "By the way, did the owl with today's Daily Prophet reach you this morning?"

Her grimace really looks a sight. "Don't remind me of that", she answers sourly. "The bird must have flown all the way up to my rooms, it might as well have pecked a hole into my door if I hadn't opened it in time. And before you ask the next question..." She pulls out her moneybag and counts fourteen galleons onto the table. "Here's your prize. Remind me not to repeat that foolish kind of bet, or at least kindly try not to goad me into it again."

"Fourteen?" I ask, raising my eyebrows. "The Falcons made twenty goals, Minerva." But she puts her purse away, her face set. "And the Magpies made six in turn", she retorts. "The last time I checked, twenty less six were still fourteen. End of debate." She is an old miser. Just to make a point I take out the receipt from the apothecary. "I thought I'd let you know that I have stocked up my stores in Diagon Alley, in addition to Aberforth's delivery", I say silkily and push the piece of parchment over to her. "You'll be pleased to hear that it was slightly less than last time." She takes the receipt, and her eyes widen at the sum. "That must be about the only positive thing in it", she sighs. "Well, at least you use our own sources too and take care that the hospital wing is always properly stocked."

"I wouldn't dream of doing otherwise", I reply with a smirk. If only some students were as aware of the costs of their thievery. We keep chatting over dessert until eventually I have to get moving. "I'm sorry to say that, Minerva, but I have business to attend to in my laboratory now. This afternoon at four o'clock?" She nods in agreement, and I push my seat back and take my leave.

The time passes rapidly with the last preparations for the Wolfsbane Potion and for a bowl of Burn-Healing Paste, and before I'm aware of it it's almost four. I fill a goblet with the smoking potion, push the cauldron with the rest aside so the house-elves won't spill it in my absence, toss a black travelling-cloak over my robes and stride up to Minerva's office. She is already prepared, wearing a tartan muggle costume, and on our way off the Hogwarts grounds I catch sight of her smile at my outfit. I glare at her, and only at the very last moment - as always - I Transfigure my clothes and the goblet before we Disapparate.

--------------------------------

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__________________
"We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. [...] Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open." (Dumbledore - GoF, Bloomsbury, p.627)

Proud member of the Severus Snape Appreciation Society (SSAS)
Check out my Snape fanfics at Flourish&Blotts, Reflections and The Red Light of the Sun
Also check out: Greetings from Down Under and An Unusual Patronus

Last edited by Serpentine : May 5th, 2004 at 2:44 am. Reason: Gah, I can't count!! :p Quidditch scores and a cutie
 



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