THE NATURAL ORDER OF
Timing can make or break a
potion. Brew too long,
delicate ingredients may be spoiled. Fail to brew long
and the result could be a foul and useless--or possibly worse than
useless--mess. Snape checks the clock.
Now should be
just right. He adds a dollop of gizzard of harpy, and the
begins to giggle. He adds a pinch more; the giggle deepens
thick guffaw. Just half a grain more and the laugh is now a
full-fledged cackle loud and raucous enough to startle the black cat
beside his feet. Perfect! He
tosses in the
third finger of a thrice-dead zombie; the cackling boils itself down
and is gone. Now there is only the bubbling of the
and the ticking of the clock.
Snape tosses the leftover gizzard down to the cat at his
It's no good when it's more than twenty minutes old. By then
blood has begun to congeal. The cat gobbles it gratefully,
around his ankle and politely purrs in request for more.
"That's it," says Snape. "After we're done, you can have
you want. A whole flock of them if you like. We all
The cat meows--a dissatisfied sound--but returns to his spot on the
floor. He was lying with forepaws atop an open book of
runes. He scans the end of the right-side page, flips the
over with a paw, and begins at the top of the next.
Careful to avoid the cat, Snape steps over to his ingredients' shelf
for the final one. Tears of will o' the wisp: he locates the
phial up near the ceiling. He waves it down to settle gently
his palm. He checks the level. It should be just
The cat meows sharply.
Snape spins, sending his hair flipping madly and almost dropping the
little bottle on the floor. Remus stands in the
wearing yesterday's clothing, which hangs--if possible--even more
poorly on him today than it did then.
Snape's eyes shoot to the cat and then back at the doorway.
"Remus." He stretches the name out on his tongue.
brings you down here? It's not yet your time of the month."
Lupin's lips are still flushed from their recent excesses. On
left ear, a trail of ruddy bite marks can be followed as they wend
their way down to the angry purple splotch not quite
the rumple of the threadbare collar that he wears. Where last week his
professorial robes might have added extra cover, now he sports only the
patched gray sweater. His robes, like most everything else he
owned, are already packed.
"I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you, Severus." Lupin's precise diction
stumbles awkwardly around the question, like a boulder found
unexpectedly blocking one's path during a pleasant amble in a
park. "This morning was my last class, you'll
don't know exactly where I'll be staying or when I might next visit, so
I wanted to say good-bye."
"Now is not convenient. I'm in the middle of preparing an
potion for analysis for the...finals." Despite it all, Snape amuses
himself with his careful choice of words that ironically allows his
improvised lie, in a manner of speaking, to be true. Not that
matters, but he finds it clever all the same.
"I might help," Lupin tries. "Even though I've never been good with the
fussy bits of potions, I'm not bad at following directions.
Mostly, I just wanted to spend this time with you." He offers
The cat pricks up its ears and emits a rumble that could not be called
"I'm expecting company." Snape keeps his voice frosty; it's not
difficult, of course, but it surprises and annoys him that it hurts.
Lupin's face closes in. "Oh. I see." It's the voice
of one who has come to take rejection in stride.
Of course Remus won't argue with him, but Snape might have liked a
little stronger protest. Snape focuses his legilimency and is
reassured and once again reminded that there is more beating in the
heart of Remus Lupin than meets the standard eye--and not only under a
Remus shoves his hands deep into his pockets. "I'll leave you
it then." He hesitates. "Or, perhaps I might return
later? My train is not until tonight."
With the cat listening, Snape knows the safest avenue is to say
"no." For all its power, occlumency can be rendered useless
split-second by the tiniest lapse of wayward tongue. But to
mind rushes the memory of animal passion: heated pawing; sticky sweat
soaked up by magic by the sheets; the rasp of curly hairs
his skin; passionate clutches that held too hard and too long; the wild
thrusts, imprudently rough and deep; the frantic pants of desires
dangling just barely out of reach or thwarted; the unfettered howls of
climaxes violent and soul-wrenchingly deep. He
the moments after when wizards could be just men, touching, holding,
kissing, loving as if nothing else existed in the world. He
remembered wishing that that moment could last forever, thinking that
there must be a spell somewhere to make it so.
Perhaps Remus is not the only one to go a little mad sometimes. Snape
makes his choice. "You're out of Wolfsbane. You should take
with--if your plans are so indefinite."
"That would be nice."
"But Professor Sprout tells me the current crop is ripe for
harvest. It could be picked to-day."
"It would be nice," Lupin starts carefully. "If you have the
"I don't. " Snape cuts him off. The his voice sinks to a low
slither, the one that charms or hypnotizes if he wills it to be
so. "You, however, seem to be newly freed of
responsibilities. Return tonight; we'll...pluck it together
whip something up."
Lupin chuckles. "I suppose it's the least I can do. How long
will it take? My train is at nine nineteen."
"All night. I trust that's not a problem. You are
leaving so abruptly. It seems the least that you can
Snape licks his lips suggestively as the words slide out between them.
Lupin nods. "I'd like that. They'll be another
tomorrow." He steps over the cat and toward Severus, his lips tipped
Severus turns away. Lupin's face drops, puzzled.
Snape addresses his rack of ingredients, but his voice rolls low and
suggestive. "You might want to get some rest before
Tonight's exercises will be...strenuous. I would hate
to...exhaust you... prematurely."
Lupin leaves. The cat yawns and settles down again to his
book. Snape turns back to his brew.
A cold draught blows, and two Death Eaters apparate not far from where
Lupin had just been.
"Almost ready," Snape says, in answer to a question not yet
asked. He poises the glass phial in over the cauldron and
pauses. He turns dark eyes up to a set behind a
is a sensitive step. You may not want to stay.
He marks the word with a hiss on the final s, "have been know to
The visitors exchange a side-long glance. "How long?" one
Snape tosses his hair. "Tomorrow. Maybe the next
day." The lie spills out easily, like so many others before
but this time he does not know why. "It's a complex
one--hundreds of ingredients. These things cannot be rushed."
"Wormtail needs it as quick as you can get it done. He says
without it taken in advance, flesh, blood and bone will be only flesh,
blood and bone."
"Rush this potion, and we three might find that Voldemort is not the
only wizard minus one corporeal body." Snape eyes them
The Death Eaters grumble, but disapparate all the same.
Snape remembers the glass phial in his hand. His muscles are
clenched from holding it much too tightly. If it weren't
it surely would have burst. He studies the little thing,
deceptively innocuous in itself, but the final step to a potion that
will change the world of wizardry forever. His cramped
groan in protest as he removes the cork.
He adds a drop. Foul black smoke puffs out nearly choking him in its
own rancidity. He incants the words; the brew sparkles
clear an crisp and clean as if drawn from the Fountain of Eden
Snape decants it carefully, guarding his skin from the smallest
drop. It wouldn't do to immolate himself this way on the
the their ascent to supremacy.
The sleeve of his robe falls back as he tips the cauldron. On his
forearm, his still has bruises the shape, the size, the scent of
Remus's hands. He pauses mid-pour and reflects how
grand, sweeping course of the millennia of history, a handful of days
can change so much. Had Remus come to him before Voldemort
would it all be different now?
But he didn't, so it isn't. Remus is leaving once again and
therefore what will be soon will be. Snape finishes decanting
needed brew. He stoppers it carefully and places it up high,
behind a high-order invisibility spell---then he adds a second just in
case. With special care he cleans the cauldron and
everything neatly away.
His job is done. Everything is in place, and yet something
at him as wrong. Despite all of his long years, it is nothing
can exactly place. If he had to name it, he thinks that it might be