It was third period, and the students were working away at the quiz I'd set them. Nineteen factual questions, and one essay question. And sometime during the allotted half-hour, I fell totally and absolutely asleep, and didn't wake until the bell rang for fourth period.
I jolted awake and found twenty pairs of bright eyes staring at me in amusement: they hadn't even moved to grab their books.
"All right, turn them in," I said irritably, and scrubbed at the drool at the corner of my mouth.
"Out," I growled -- in credible imitation of Severus -- and they sobered quickly and fled, leaving the quizzes behind on their desks. "And I'll know if you cheated," I shouted after them.
Not that I would. And I'd have to apologise next class for being so rude.
I pulled together my things, ripped the scrolls from the desks on my way to the door, and stumbled to my office, where Goyle was already waiting for me. I dumped the stack on my desk and collapsed in the chair. Goyle reached for the quiz key to begin on the factual answers, and I pulled the top scroll off to start on the essay.
The words were blurring in front of my eyes.
Goyle froze, his hand poised over the next quiz in the stack.
Severus was right. I was on the verge of collapse, even with Goyle's help: five months of late nights marking, working on the currency issue, and alternately worrying about and/or soothing Severus was taking its toll.
I dropped the scroll back on the pile and pulled out some note paper, scribbling as I gave Goyle his instruction.
"First, I need you to deliver these to Bigelow and Ramsey -- Bigelow should be in Potions and Ramsey in Arithmancy, I think." (They were the two Sevenths with practicals that I was scheduled to meet with next period.) "Tell them if Friday is bad, we'll have to go next week instead. And then you're to come back and mark these bloody things. By yourself."
"Yes, Mr Goyle, you are going to mark every last one of these, including the essays, until you have to go to supper. And if you wish to come back and work on them later, that's fine with me -- if not, we'll finish them Friday. I'm knackered, and I'm going home and going to bed."
And with that I shoved the notes into his beefy hand and headed for the door.
"But the essays --" he began, panic-stricken.
"Gregory, you know what I expect by now. The little beggars are Firsts, for God's sake, and not an Einstein or Shakespeare in the lot -- I'm certain you can handle it. Just put a tick mark beside anything you honestly can't decide about and I'll look at it later." I backtracked to the bookcase, pulled out the OED, and tossed it on the desk. "There's the dictionary. There's the red pen," I said, grabbing it and thrusting it into his free hand. "Have fun, and wish me sweet dreams."
I left him with his mouth agape and his (singular) eyebrow practically touching his (low) hairline.
I took a two-hour nap, skipping supper entirely, and woke immensely refreshed and not at all concerned about how Goyle was making out with the marking.
I think you've got that impression by now. I just wanted to reiterate it.
I was curled up on the sofa and working on my third mug of hot chocolate -- supplemented by nibbles on a square of mediwizard chocolate I'd found in the back of the medicine cabinet, left over from last year from when Severus was ill (it was still good as a sweet, though the medical efficacy was evidently reduced) -- when Severus stormed in through the door that now connected our rooms.
He headed straight for the wine -- my last bottle. He'd finished his last bottles of brandy and whiskey weeks ago.
"Where were you at supper?" he threw over his shoulder at me.
"Asleep. Blissfully and unrepentantly. I fell asleep in class third period so I left my marking to Goyle and came back here to nap."
He grunted -- the husband was a bit surprised, though apparently the Deputy Head could care less that I'd been derelict in my duties -- and strode over to the fire, glass in hand, and started when he saw what I was working on.
"Is that medichocolate?" he said in outrage. "That's a bloody waste, you know --"
"You can wipe the glower off your face -- it's last year's," I said serenely. "Poppy said it was of no earthly medical use, now. Although I am getting a bit of a buzz. Probably the caffeine."
"You'll be awake all night," he said severely. "And technically there's far more theobromine than caffeine."
When stymied at one angle of attack, find something else to complain about. Severus was a firm believer in that little-known adage, or perhaps it was an unwritten Slytherin Directive.
"Noooooo, I'm still pleasantly sleepy. I think the milk is counteracting the caffeine. What's put you in such a filthy mood?"
"I don't want to speak of it," he muttered, and sat tiredly on the other end of the sofa; I barely had time to pull my feet out of the way.
"New house rule: if you're going to inflict your temper on me, I get to know the cause," I said airily.
"My rooms, my rules," I stated decisively. "Your rooms, you can behave however you like."
"Technically they are our rooms," he said pointedly.
"Not as long as the marriage is still secret, they're not. And you realise I'm giving you a perfect excuse to behave like an arse under certain conditions -- I'd take it."
He sneered at that, but gave up the fight with a muttered, "Bloody harpy."
Oooo, I'm moving up in the world: he usually reserves "harpy" for Minerva.
"Assertive harpy, if you please," I said good-humouredly. "And to quote someone, it's your own fault then, isn't it?"
He shot me a pained look; surprisingly, even in his present temper he apparently wasn't willing to go so far as to say he was sorry for marrying me, even to irk me. He just settled himself deeper in the cushions.
I let him brood for a few minutes, and then prodded his leg with my toes. "You know you'll need to talk about it at some point, and I won't be happy if you suddenly decide you need to at one in the morning. Might as well spill it now. It's the Elixir, isn't it?"
"Yes," he admitted with a sigh. And promptly fell silent again.
"Well? I take it Almeida's made no progress."
"He bloody well has. He identified the first ingredient, and extrapolated the likely properties and identity of the second -- an orchid -- just two weeks ago." He took a deep breath. "And two days after that, the field workers located the plant and Apparated it to his lab. He finished the brewing last week."
I bolted upright. "Then what's the problem? Does it --"
"That's just it. It doesn't work. He's been doing clinical trials on lab rats for a solid week, and it's bloody useless. No effect at all."
"Could he have the second ingredient wrong?"
"Not likely, and he allowed for hybridisation or variations in the plant. His Muggle equipment is so sophisticated he can duplicate the properties and make minute changes to the composition. No luck."
"And it's not the incantation. That was the one straightforward thing in the whole bloody mess. No, we're vastly off the mark on this; probably an error in my early research," Severus admitted viciously, with considerable self-loathing. "We'll have to start all over again, from the beginning. Our only hope is that Gerhardt still hasn't figured out the missing ingredient."
"I doubt you made an error. Unless you did it subconsciously, at the time."
He shot me an irritated look: my remark was close to ascribing good intentions and motives to his younger self, which he still vehemently denied.
"You went over it all last spring, didn't you?" I guessed. "Did you find any errors then?"
"No," he admitted. "But it doesn't work. The rats are still dead as can be when hexed, and half the time the gods-damned stuff produces an explosion that would put Longbottom to shame."
"What works on rodents doesn't necessarily work on humans, does it? Or vice versa, rather. Or both. Has he tried chimps?"
"Do you have any idea how hard it is to find chimps for experimentation these days?" he asked dryly. "The Wizarding World has its own bloody version of the animal rights movement, you know. Granger will probably be its president someday."
"Oh, never mind," he said, irritably waving my Goyle-like interrogative grunt away.
"No, really, what do you mean? I thought you felt Granger was pretty level-headed."
"Now, yes, but fourth year -- your first -- she acted like a blithering idiot, don't you remember? Went activist over the House Elves and started that asinine society for their 'protection'. Even went on a hunger strike and refused to eat anything prepared by the Elves, gave Minerva fits worrying about her. SPEW, I think she called it --"
I nearly did, into my hot chocolate --
"-- Society for the Promotion of Elvish... Workers. Or Welfare, whichever it was. Had buttons made up --"
Oh, my God, that's what they were --
"-- a manifesto and dues, everything."
I totally lost it, then.
"I hadn't bothered to ask -- it was around the same time as the whole Potter Stinks business," I finally gasped between hiccoughs. "But the Elves love it here. And I've seen their quarters. Far better than human scouts in colleges or servants in the great houses."
"Some houses, at least. You wouldn't want to be a Malfoy Elf. But Granger didn't bother to do her research, as you have --" he sat upright suddenly, and stared at me and the mug in my hand suspiciously as another fit of giggles racked my body. "How many of those have you had?"
"Two," I admitted, "-- no, three, that's right, this is the third one. That would be three. Very soothing -- it's a pity I didn't believe Albus about it before now. Why?" And I lifted the mug to drain the dregs.
He lunged at me and caught my wrist, removed the mug and my glasses, and stared at my eyes. "Your pupils are dilated," he accused. "How much of the medichocolate have you eaten?"
"Just the one square, and I didn't even finish that. Why, what's wrong?"
"You," he said repressively, "are under the influence."
"Oh, bollocks, I'm just relaxed --"
"Precisely. Stoned, in the common parlance. Pupils dilated, giddy to the point of perkiness -- which I have never observed in you before, so don't claim it's normal -- I'll wager you're hungry, just about now."
"Come to mention it, I do feel peckish," I admitted.
He picked up the remains of the medichocolate and nibbled on it assessingly, and then shot me a triumphant look. "I don't care what Poppy said, this is still viable. Good gods, woman, you may as well have ingested an ounce of cannabis." He tossed it back to the table in disgust and sat back at the other end of the sofa.
I'm ashamed to say it, but I couldn't care less, and decided to push my luck.
"If memory -- very distant memory -- serves," I said in my sultriest voice (not very), "there are other side effects that could prove entertaining." And I ran my toes up along the outside of his thigh and hip, and was headed inward for the kill before he woke himself up from his fascinated shock and grabbed my foot to still it.
Fascinated because a) he'd never seen this side of me before (well, not outside the bedroom, at least) and b) I think he was actually considering letting me seduce him, no matter how inept and silly I was at the moment.
"I have never taken advantage of an inebriated woman, and I'm not going to start now," he said loftily. (Only after a significant pause wherein he discarded the fascination, I was ridiculously happy to note.)
"First time for everything," I said with a grin (which totally ruined any remotely seductive qualities I possessed, I'm sure). "Who better to take the plunge with than me?"
"I prefer to think that any ecstatic pinnacle you reach is entirely my doing, thank you all the same," he said dryly. "Not to mention the hope that you'd be sober enough to remember it in the morning."
"Spoilsport," I sulked, and reached for the mug -- which he promptly swooped for and put out of my reach.
"Give that back," I said with a glare.
"It's for your own good," he retorted smugly. "You're going to have the Hades of a hangover tomorrow. You should never, ever mix viable medichocolate and cocoa. There are documented cases of deliberate overdoses."
"Are you telling me Death by Chocolate is an actual medical phenomenon?" I asked warily.
"Death by medichocolate certainly is. Probably the plain variety as well, in sufficient quantity."
"Oh, damn. There goes that fantasy about entirely covering you in chocolate sauce."
His face turned a delicate shade of pink.
I wasn't at all averse to provoking him tonight -- if I could push him far enough, he'd at least give me a good snog, if only to shut me up. "First you deny me my conjugal rights," I moaned, "and then you take my only other consolation from me. Ô, hélas," I intoned, launching into my best Sarah Bernhardt impersonation, complete with gestures, "Théobroma, mon ânge, mon amour, je t'aime plus que le monde entier; je suis désoleé --"
"What did you say?"
I lifted the back of my hand from my eyes to peer at him. "'Cocoa, I love you,' more or less. I thought you knew French? I'd have used the Greek if I knew it, in keeping with the botanical --"
He pushed my feet off his lap and shot up, leaned over me, and grasped my chin in his hand. "Say it again," he commanded, eyes very dark and hooded (which did nothing to dissuade me from my amorous mood).
"Théobroma, mon ânge, mon amour, je t'ai--"
"Theobroma," he muttered. "From Theobroma cacao, cacao bean: Theobroma, the food of the gods."
I'm afraid that given my condition it took several long moments for the implication to sink in.
"Oh, you're joking. It can't possibly be --"
"Not a primary ingredient, no. But a stabilising and delivery agent, yes. It's sometimes used as that for pharmacological purposes, to make a substance more palatable." His eyes were bright and intent, now. "And the Aztecs used the bean as a form of currency," he added in non sequitur. He pulled me to my feet and gently shoved me toward the bedroom. "Get dressed. Thick socks and thick-soled shoes, long sleeves and high neck, and a kerchief for you hair."
"Now, woman. Two minutes."
Oh, Good God, he's not going to --
I heard him call for Dobby as I scrambled (as best I could, given my now undoubtedly stoned status) to pull something suitable on.
"Dobby, do the kitchen elves use cocoa or cacao beans for the desserts?"
"Both, Master Snape. Headmaster Dumbledore was having us use very good ingredients, sir, only the best --"
"Bring me two pounds of the beans, then; forget the cocoa."
"Dobby will try, sir," the Elf squeaked, "but supplies is very low now because of --"
"Yes, yes, I know 'because of.' Just bring me whatever you can."
I heard Dobby pop out and back in shortly.
"Two pounds, Master Snape --"
"That's all, Dobby -- Miranda --"
I staggered through the door, still pulling my shirt over my head, and he grabbed my hand and wrenched me through the door to his rooms.
We didn't head for the classroom, though. He went to the far end of his bedchamber and pulled aside the single tapestry in the room, and tapped the wall with his wand: a door shimmered into existence.
"Private laboratory. On the other side of the storeroom -- my private stores, not the student stores." He lit the many sconces in the room with a flick of his hand.
It was huge; everything one of the world's most brilliant potions masters could desire in a lab, short of modern muggle equipment. Cauldrons of various sizes had their own dedicated burners, and a long preparation table stretched along one wall, bearing mortar and pestles, cutting boards, knifes -- some rather wicked, ceremonial types as well, it appeared -- a still, and tons of glass beakers and pipettes.
There were also rats. Scores of them, in little aquariums, and of all shapes and sizes. But they were all alike in one respect: they were all old. Very old, in fact -- ancient in rat years, I'm sure.
Thank God it wasn't chimps. Viva PETA.
"Over here," he muttered, pulled a stool over to the counter, drew a scale over to him, and set about weighing out the beans into three equal portions and pouring them into mortars.
"Severus, this is mad," I stammered. "I may be high, but I'm not crazy --"
"Think, Miranda," he said feverishly. "It makes perfect sense in terms of the metaphor. The Elixir would have been delivered in Theobromas, the food of the gods. But by the time the cacao bean had been disseminated to the general population as a currency and product, it had become divorced from the Elixir, semantically speaking." He stopped briefly to jot some notations in a journal. "The cacao is the stabilising factor. Almeida was probably very close with the batches that exploded."
"But how is it prepared? At what point in the process do you add --"
"That's what we'll determine now. There are three logical possibilities -- the active ingredients added to an infusion of cacao, unroasted cacao added to the ingredients, or roasted."
He pushed me down on the stool and put the pestle in my hand, and then pulled over a spirit lamp and a shallow pan and proceeded to roast the third batch.
"Not a potions student, here," I said wryly, and with a sigh he put down the pan and took the pestle back from me.
"What do you think you do with it?" That damned sardonic eyebrow was at full extension.
"Insert tab A in slot B?" I said, returning as much sarcasm as I could. "Of course, not with the instruments I'd hoped I'd be using tonight --"
He blushed again (Twice in one night -- I'm getting better at this), and then took the pestle and demonstrated, with exaggerated patience, "Crush. And then grind. It may be pasty due to the fat content."
I grumpily took the pestle back and went to work: he watched me, hawklike, for a moment, and then moved back toward the spirit lamp -- and stopped, and stepped back behind me, putting warm hands on my shoulders.
"Dear Fool, if this works, you will undoubtedly get all the attention you deserve until you're sick of me," he murmured. "And I'll keep you mildly, gloriously drunk on medichocolate for the rest of our days, if you like. But work first." He punctuated the last with a gentle kiss on the nape of my neck, and went back to his own part of the project.
Well, I couldn't stay irked with him after that.
"Good God, Severus, you're likely to blow us up," I noted as a final objection.
"Thank you for the resounding vote of confidence."
"I don't mean that --"
"It was harmless to Almeida. Well, relatively."
Bloody wonderful. He had to add that.
Severus had already started infusing the beans in the first cauldron, and was efficiently and gracefully chopping and blending other things on the far side of the room. I know I've said it before, but it really was fascinating: his movements were absolute precision and speed wedded to delicacy and economy of movement. I watched him surreptitiously as I slogged away. The chocolate high was beginning to wear off, though, and I was getting sleepy...
...until he carefully opened a jar and the unmistakable stench of fermented tree frog venom filled the room.
"Be back -- need to use the loo," I said faintly, and abruptly left the room; he was so involved in what he was doing he barely grunted.
I stumbled to the toilet -- his -- and was violently ill for ten minutes, losing whatever of the cocoa and chocolate that was left in my stomach. Then I staggered to the medicine cabinet, hoping for bismuth or something to settle my stomach, and mouthwash.
It was empty save for his cut-throat razor, shaving mug, toothbrush and jar of toothpaste.
What fecking type of bloody Potions Master has an empty sodding medicine cabinet?
When I could move without the room spinning, just to be bloody-minded and return the favour I used his toothbrush. (I washed it thoroughly after, and pointedly left it on the sink. If he couldn't get the hint, he deserved the surprise.)
He was at the stool starting on the third batch of beans when I finally returned; a pall of smoke hung in the room, and the first cauldron, though undamaged, had been shoved onto an empty burner.
"Lost it, did you?" he said dryly, without even glancing at me. "Serves you right. At least you're sober now."
"Thank you very much for the sympathy," I growled. "It was the bloody frog venom, I'll have you know. The first one was a bust?"
"Thought so -- your eyebrows are singed."
"Slight explosion, but then these are smaller batches than Almeida was brewing."
He didn't seem at all fazed by it.
"Shall I --"
"No, I'll finish this quicker than you. Fetch yourself a dragonhide apron and gloves from the cupboard," he said with a jerk of the head in the right direction. "You'll need to add the cacao to the mixture for me on my mark; I'll be busy stirring and performing the incantation."
"I thought this just exploded. Is it caustic, too?" I asked as I obeyed him.
"No idea, actually," he mused. "The infusion wasn't, but straight bean might be, though it's very doubtful."
"How have you managed to survive to such an advanced and exalted age?" I demanded.
His mouth twitched. "Instinct. It's the one place it's served me well." He finished with the mortar and carefully scraped the remaining paste clinging to the pestle into it. "Well, the second place," he added softly and slyly.
"I'm going to ignore that, given that Minerva may shortly be scraping what's left of us off the walls," I said repressively.
He set the pestle down, moved the mortar out of the way, turned on the stool, and leaned back against the counter, suddenly looking very, very tired.
"You were right, you know," he admitted.
"About running out of time." He ran potion-stained fingers through his hair. "I know Albus had hoped to see Potter well into his Seventh Year, before it came to this."
"He may well rise to the occasion, you know. He has before."
"Luck," Severus said succinctly. "Bloody, great heaps of luck. He's simply not prepared for something of this magnitude."
"Not on his own, perhaps. But he isn't. On his own, I mean. He has Minerva and you, and this, and his friends."
He snorted. "Potter accepting help from that greasy git, the evil Potions Master? Not bloody likely. And he'll never know about this."
"But won't you --" I froze as the idiocy of the thought struck me. "No, you can't possibly publish, can you?"
"No, of course not. Almeida and I have already discussed it, not that we needed to. No, we will destroy all the records and research -- Gerhardt's as well, if we can locate him and Obliviate him. And the blasted Elixir can fade back into legend."
My disappointment for him must have been written on my face, because he shook his head grimly.
"I saw what Albus went through to protect the Philosopher's Stone from Voldemort, Miranda --"
Holy shite, it was here? I knew what it was, of course -- it was legendary even in the Muggle World. I opened my mouth to ask, but he cut me off with a raised hand.
"-- I helped him with the safeguards, in fact -- and I'm not willing to agonise over this to that extent. No, the glory in this is in the doing, not in the recognition. I'm not willing to waste any more of my life on it than I already have." He hesitated, and I think he had more to say; but he finally shook his head and rose stiffly from the stool, holding out the second batch of beans, neatly heaped on a cutting-board.
"Tie your apron, and let's get on with it, then," he said tersely.
It was a close thing, but I managed not.
"Iron and copper aren't unstable in and of themselves, are they?"
"No, it's the magic which was used to bind them," he said absently, intent on sprinkling.
"I didn't know there were volcanoes in Guatemala," I murmured.
"Apparently there were once," he said dryly. "The mine lies under an ancient sacred site; presumably it was dedicated to producing the ingredient for the Elixir. It's not yet been discovered by Muggle archaeologists -- Velasquez found a reference in a Wizarding archive."
The potion frothed and sputtered a bit, and then slowly settled into an unpromising-looking, dingy grey sludge.
"Unlike many potions, the ingredients must incorporate on their own," he said. "Any attempt to stir at this step inevitably caused an explosion."
"What's next?" I asked as he crossed the room to a small forcing-frame.
"Next is the Phoenix orchid, by its common name." His lips twiched upward. "A heretofore unknown variant of Stanhopea, which Almeida promptly named Stanhopea albiensus phoenix."
He withdrew a lovely, graceful specimen and placed it on the work table, well away from any potential spatters from the cauldron. It was white, with streaks of scarlet and yellow spreading outward from deep in the blossoms' throats, and with pendulous, wasp-like projections. He gently removed one of the blossoms, and moved to the cauldron; then plucked each petal from the stamen and dropped them in, allowing each to settle before adding the next.
"This was another sticking-point," he murmured. "Most highly-reactive potions require a measured amount of any given ingredient, but this is different. It appears to require a whole blossom, regardless of size or number of petals -- and they can vary considerably from plant to plant, for some reason."
"Yes," he said, setting aside the stamen. "There is a similar variety already discovered in Nicaragua, but it has a different colouration and slightly different chemical properties. Purely ornamental, no magical or medical use."
The Elixir frothed again as he added the last petal, and then it stilled and went transparent, with a slightly milky tinge.
"I take it someone's told you of my 'no foolish wand-waving' rule?" he asked wryly as he drew his wand from his sleeve.
"Hooch, of course."
He snorted. "It would be. She had the worst Potions marks in fifty years, until Longbottom came along -- though he comes by incompetence honestly. She was simply too bloody lazy and Quidditch-mad. Many of the simpler Potions don't require it, it's true -- but more complex ones require the brewer's power, and it's not a matter of a swish and flick. I'm going to begin an incantation, and I want you to scrape the cacao into the cauldron at my nod -- slowly. And keep the board close to the surface."
He took a deep breath to centre himself, held his wand over the cauldron, and began chanting -- not in Latin, but a language totally unfamiliar to me: probably an ancient Meso-American tongue.
I can't possibly reproduce it here, and it wouldn't be wise to, in any case. But I can tell you what began to happen. The hairs on my arms and the back of my neck began to prickle, and the air was suddenly charged with the now-familiar weight of magic being called. And there was no doubt, given its intensity, that Severus was nearly as powerful as Albus Dumbledore; I had to press against it to keep from stepping backward.
Severus' power was different, though. Albus' had been sharp and tart, slightly stinging to the nostrils. Severus' was more subtle, more mixed -- more pleasant, in a way, and it slid over the senses the way a very good, pure chocolate would over the palate: smooth and silken, with just the right sweetness, but a tinge of bitterness lingering.
It was also undeniably darker than Albus'. I probably shouldn't have been able to tell the difference, but for my familiarity with Severus' nature and nearly daily exposure to him: or perhaps Conligabimus Aeternus had made me more sensitive to his magic.
In any case, it certainly brought home to me just how powerful and potentially dangerous was the man to whom I'd yoked myself.
Suddenly, without pause in his chanting, he nodded -- and I began to add the cacao to the Elixir, slowly but steadily, watching his face as much as possible to gauge any approval or disapproval of my pace or form (they must have been fine, for he gave no sign otherwise). And when I'd scraped the last bit from the board, I stepped back and watched as he dipped his wand in the Elixir, gave three clockwise stirs, and then finished the incantation and withdrew the wand.
We stared into the cauldron, Severus putting out a cautionary arm to push me back in case it exploded: the liquid suddenly turned a dull brown, burped once, and thickened into mud.
"We appear," he said dryly after a disappointed pause, "to have concocted an incredibly exotic toffee."
That was quite a good reaction, all things considered. I'd expected a tantrum.
Instead, he tiredly shut off the burner, moved the congealing mess to the back row, and fastidiously cleaned his wand.
"One more," he muttered, "and then I'll admit to being certifiably mad, and you may feel free to have me placed in St. Mungo's."
He brought the next cauldron up to a simmer as I retrieved the last batch of beans, and we began the whole, tedious process all over again. It went exactly the same -- save it was more of an effort for him: it was the third time he'd had to do this, and sweat beaded his brow with the effort and concentration
But there was one important difference. When he'd finished the potion shuddered slightly, contracted in on itself, and then suddenly flattened and took on a transparent, golden hue, rather like a syrup, with an iridescent blue sheen over the surface.
Severus grabbed a pipette from the table, cautiously pulled a bit of the potion up the stem, and deposited it in a test tube, barely breathing: he examined it in the light of the nearest torch.
"Looks promising," he muttered. "But only one way to find out."
He strode over to the rat cages and pulled one aside, gently offering its elderly occupant the end of the pipette.
The rat sniffed cautiously, licked at the pipette, and then backed away as convulsions began to wrack its body --
-- and then with a final shudder it suddenly straightened, and I could see that it looked like an entirely new rat. Young and healthy, fur glossy and eyes sparkling with health.
"Not there yet," Severus cautioned me, and crossed back to the work table, drawing an ebony box toward him, unwarding it and undoing the hasp. Inside was a wand, very like his own -- but it was different, somehow. Malevolent.
"My other wand," he softly explained, refusing to meet my eyes. "The Ministry knows when the Unforgivables are cast, and can trace the curses back to the wand that cast them. The Death Eaters have two wands, one reserved for... illicit use, so if they are under suspicion Prior Incantato will not reveal anything untoward."
He finally looked me full in the face, and I managed to nod my understanding.
He looked so... comfortable with it, the carved ebony hilt nestled into the concavity of his hand, resting loosely between his relaxed fingers.
I did not want to know what that wand could tell me of Severus' past. Of the near past, in fact. I've no doubt he'd had to use it last year, before he was exiled from Voldemort.
He turned to the caged rat, raised the wand without ceremony, and casually, almost negligibly, whispered "Avada Kedavra."
A flash of sickly green light erupted from the wand and engulfed the rat and its cage. And when my vision cleared I could see that the rat had stiffened -- and then it shook itself off, stretched, and began quite matter-of-factly to clean its paws.
Neither one of us could speak for a very, very long time. And when I could, the first words out of my mouth, delivered through nearly hysterical giggles, were, "But the third bowl was just right."
Back to BNW Index
I am NOT against the animal rights movement!!!!!! Opinions expressed in the text belong to SNAPE, NOT ME.
My beta is insisting it should be "scout or bedders" in the colleges -- which may make sense to Brit readers, but is clear as mud to any Yank readers unacquainted with, say, Gaudy Night and who do not usually have the benefit of waitstaff or advanced custodial staff in their dormitories. "Bedders" would have distinctly funny overtones, in fact. Once again I choose to compromise accuracy for readability.
The second wand may be controversial, but I really can't imagine how else the Death Eaters manage, with the possible threat of Prior Incantato. They can't all be adept at wandless magic, at least when it comes to the Unforgivables. A second wand would be the equivalent of using an unregistered handgun to commit a crime. So somewhere there must be a dark counterpart to Ollivander.