Story summary: Set six years after the Goblet of Fire, and almost a year after Voldemort has been defeated. How has the wizarding society changed as the aftermath of the war? How are people coping with the world around them, and with the past? Why are Sirius Black and Severus Snape sleeping in one, four poster bed?
Thanks: My thanks go to Kalena, who suffered my outbursts of creativity patiently even though it wasn't her fandom, and who has been the most wonderful friend, cheerleader, and mentor. The story wouldn't have been written if it weren't for her.
The most wonderful beta readers: Thanks to Tracey for careful continuity check, well-thought suggestions, and detailed grammar and style help; to Emcee for British English help and a thorough grammar surgery; to Johanna for helpful pointers and canon watch; and to moj, who gave the story the first reading. As I'm not a native speaker of English, I needed a lot of help to weed out grammar, spelling and stylistic mistakes. There are undoubtedly many still left. If anything catches your eye, please let me know.
Feedback: If you read the story and liked it, or didn't like it, please let me know. It's the first story I've ever written--your feedback is very important to me. Contact me at thetaeridani @ yahoo.com
The title of the story has been inspired by the following poem by Anthony Weir:
My bones were formed by sorrow
And it's a cheerful and optimistic story, don't run away!
Shade More Than Man
Sirius Black strode along the corridor down to the dungeons and tried to prepare himself mentally for the conversation. It wasn't going to be easy or pleasant, but it had to be done. Whatever else he had become, he was not a coward.
He stood outside Snape's quarters and waited politely for the detection charms to notify the host of his arrival.
Maybe he's not in, the traitorous whisper supplied eagerly from the back of his mind. Sirius stifled it quickly, and wiped his sweating face with his hand. Suddenly he was trembling again, his heart pounding desperately in his chest, a suffocating ambivalence of fear and rage coursing through his soul. He wanted to howl; it would help to let it all out in a mindless sound of hopelessness--but men didn't howl, and he was still a man. Instead, he leaned his head on the cold stone of Snape's door and took a long, shuddering breath. Soon, it won't matter. Soon.
"Black." Only Snape could infuse one short word with such rich layers of indifferent dislike and detached disgust. He was standing in the open door and coldly surveying Sirius' mangled appearance.
"Severus. May I come in?" He managed to collect himself and get his voice to sound almost normal.
Snape merely raised his eyebrow.
"I need to speak to you. It won't take long." That small despicable part of himself was whispering urgently again, maybe he won't let me in, maybe he won't talk, then it won't be my fault. He pinched the bridge of his nose to cover the panic.
Snape, evidently resigned to the intrusion, gestured him in and closed the door. They sat in the dilapidated, sunken armchairs, facing each other. Snape, Sirius noted, looked curiously like a porcelain statue, his face blank and white and unmoving.
"You wanted to talk."
"Yes..." He swept his hand over his face again, forcing himself to coherence, subduing the unreasonable wave of panic that solidified his guts and made it difficult to breathe. "Severus, I came to apologise for what I did to you back at school. For telling you to follow Remus."
"For trying to kill me." Snape's voice was hollow, restrained.
"No! No, I didn't. I never wanted to hurt you, not like that." That was why he had come, the real reason. Not for forgiveness--soon, he wouldn't need that--but to explain. Erase at least a small bit of the hurt he'd done. "Severus, please try to believe me. Whatever nasty little pranks I played on you, I never wanted to hurt anything besides your pride..."
"That's why you tried to feed me to a transformed werewolf. I see..." Snape said, with the familiar, sarcastic twist to his lips.
Sirius took a deep, shuddering breath, images from that horrible day six years ago assaulting in his mind again... or was it nine years... no. No, that was more than 20 years ago, you idiot. Keep it together, at least long enough to explain. He released the air with effort and grasped for the words he had prepared so carefully, now all forgotten.
"This isn't easy to explain..."
Snape didn't let him finish. "No, it's perfectly easy to explain. You made me go alone to the lair of a rabid, blood-hungry Dark creature, but it was all just for fun, wasn't it?" A hint of bitterness belied the ostentatious mockery of Snape's voice.
"HE WAS MY FRIEND!!" Belatedly, Sirius realised he was yelling, and made an effort to keep his voice down. "It was REMUS, Severus. I played with him. We rolled on the grass and growled... I licked his fur and he licked mine. He never tried to hurt me when he was a wolf. I couldn't believe that he would. He was the nicest, most polite and self-conscious boy I've ever known, and I simply... wasn't able to believe there was a beast in him. I knew that; I had been told that he was dangerous, but... all I ever saw told me differently and I simply couldn't... I was a boy, Severus! And he was my best friend, not some nameless Dark creature from the Forest. It was all so unreal then; I wasn't able to understand the reality of danger and death until much later... we used to sneak into the Forbidden Forest for fun, for Merlin's sake!"
He was out of breath, blood pounding deafeningly in his ears again. He swallowed and tried one more time; he owed Snape this explanation, and he was going to pay his debt.
"All I wanted was to scare you. You were such an insufferable know-it-all back then. I wanted to show you the secret you had no idea existed! Severus, please don't think I'm looking for excuses. I was much worse than an idiot back then. I'd never even stopped to think what you'd do with the secret once you knew it... I was so convinced everything would turn out just like I wished..."
"How... Gryffindor. Friendship and loyalty before reason," Snape said, leaning forward, his eyes glittering strangely. "A prime example of what a 'think with your heart' attitude will bring about. May I ask--why did you actually find it necessary to explain it to me just now?"
"I didn't want you to think I ever wanted you dead." Sirius answered simply. That earned him another raised eyebrow, and he felt his temper flare again. "Well, I didn't! You were always making such a fuss over this, over how I thought you no better than dog food! All I wanted was to see you pee in your pants when you saw him... I was going to be right behind you, I wouldn't have let you get hurt. And I actually thought that once you knew, it would make you one of us, somehow, and that you would be decent enough not to reveal Remus' secret. That you would have to be on our side."
"You wanted me to be, what, a friend?" Incredulous. "Why? Because I helped you with Potions once or twice? Or," Snape sneered, his lips twisted in an ugly grimace, "did you want to make me your own pet project, like James with that... Pettigrew?"
Sirius decided there was no point discussing that or trying to convince Snape. He had come here to deliver his speech, and that was done. Whether Snape felt better about it or not was really beyond his reach now. He shifted in the uncomfortable chair, rested his elbows on his knees and rubbed his face.
"Look. I did a horrible thing. It cost me my friendship with Remus. My stupidity almost killed him too, or worse. Ultimately, it put me in Azkaban, because he was ready to believe I was capable of killing a friend. If you need revenge, remember I spent the last..." how much? how long was it? "... couple of years reliving that horrid night over and over again, along with the night I found James and Lily." The howl threatened to break free again. I can't stand it anymore.
Snape was watching him curiously now, his long white fingers steepled and a strange expression of fascinated interest on his usually unreadable face. Sirius thought Snape was probably cataloguing the red-rimmed eyes, gaunt face and shabby robes of his guest and wondering whether the description 'raving madman' applied. Well, it did.
"Did you actually come here to make me feel better, Black?"
"Yes!" Yes, he understood finally. Good. He could go. No more of this humiliation.
"Mm." Snape got up suddenly and swept by Sirius. "Would you like some tea?"
"What--?" Sirius, who had already started getting up, fell back again. The chair creaked in protest and wobbled dangerously as he twisted to see what Snape was doing. His host was just pouring hot water into two teacups.
"Tea?" Without waiting for an answer, Snape put a steaming mug in front of him, adding sugar and milk. Not wanting to destroy the fragile peace they had somehow achieved--although how and why was beyond his understanding--Sirius swallowed a sip and leaned back into the chair.
They spent a few minutes drinking in silence, until Sirius felt the need to talk again. Something Snape had said tugged a thread in his mind, something about misguided loyalty.
"You said... it was Gryffindor stupidity to think with your heart. That's how he managed to get me to switch with him, you know. I failed in exactly the same way, twice," he said bitterly.
Snape frowned for a moment. "Pettigrew...?"
"Yes. He was... talking about always being left out, about being too weak to really make a difference in the war. He kept saying he was of no use to us. I wanted... I thought it was a great opportunity for him. He was a natural at hiding and keeping secrets, after all. He could transform into a rat and go into hiding if someone threatened him... I was so bloody naive."
"It seems to me that the mistake to trust him was James', from the very beginning" Snape observed mildly.
Sirius didn't have an answer for that. He shrugged and wondered if this was when he should leave.
"Tell me, did you give an owl to that Weasley boy after you ran from Azkaban?" Snape asked in a tone of mild interest.
Owl? Severus was even weirder than Sirius remembered. "Yes, I did. Why? Did the owl hurt someone...?"
"Mm. May I ask why you went to the trouble of buying a pet for a complete stranger?"
Bewildered, Sirius strove to explain. "What else could I do? The boy had lost his pet in such an ugly, confusing and terrifying way. Remember, he had his rat for a long time. That... that thing slept in his bed. He carried it around and cared for it. It was all I could do to find him another animal to try to take his mind off this abomination. I thought another rat would be a bad idea, a reminder... So, an owl," he finished awkwardly. Why was he explaining it, anyway?
Snape nodded to himself, and cast Sirius a strange, expectant look, as if searching for something in his face. Sirius managed to notice that Snape’s eyes were almost completely unthawed, now... but it was getting darker and quieter, and the room was spinning slowly around him. Without a struggle, he submitted gratefully to the numbing sleep.
//He was standing in suffocating darkness, alone and helpless. James and Remus appeared, smiling, and winking. Then suddenly they transformed into white, gleaming skeletons that grinned widely at him. He fought to scream, but didn't manage to get the sound out of his throat. Someone put a hand on his arm and it was Snape, reaching to remove his frozen porcelain mask, revealing a scared young boy's face, horrible and bloody... He flailed and flailed, wanting to run but his legs wouldn't carry him...//
Sirius woke with a muffled scream, tried to get up, and fell back on the bed, exhausted. Where am I? A small, round room, one tiny window near the ceiling letting in yellowish, miserable light. Musty smell of old walls and old furniture... Right, the dungeon. He tried to get up again and found he couldn't, although he was able to move freely in the bed. He realised, idly, that the encroachment on his freedom didn't bother him at all.
"I see you are awake." Snape was standing in the doorway, holding a stoppered vial. He looked as cold and collected as ever, though the short, white sleeping shirt ruined the air of severity to a great extent. He had, Sirius observed muzzily, very nice legs.
"How are you feeling?"
"Numb." Sirius tore his eyes away from the translucent sleeping shirt and tried to focus. "Why am I in your bed?"
Snape muttered something noncommittal and uncorked the vial. "Here. Drink this." Sirius opened his mouth and swallowed the bitter, stinking fluid without even a token resistance. Realisation blinked suddenly through the haze.
"You dosed my tea."
Snape smirked smugly. "Indeed. A veritable greasy bastard, as you were certainly going to point out."
"What did you just give me?" Does it matter?
"Powdered Vandal Root, passionflower, Goat Weed and Skullcap, augmented by weevil's snout extract and the fermented spleen of a blind eel. And don't ask me what kind of weevil; it's a proprietary potion that I'm going to patent soon."
Fermented spleen--! Sirius felt his stomach try to crawl up his oesophagus and gulped with difficulty. He was sure his expression said clearly that he would not ask.
"Why what?" Snape had evidently decided to be difficult.
Too weak to fight, Sirius spent some time watching the fascinating patterns of lichens on the dungeon's ceiling. His eyelids were heavy and his mind was blissfully empty. "How long is it going to last?"
"Until it wears off and I give you another dose. Now, eat." Sometime during his daze, Snape must have summoned a tray of food from the kitchens. Sirius felt his throat constrict slightly at the thought of eating, and turned his face away.
"Later. Severus, why did you sedate me with this goat bane potion and--"
"Goat WEED! Goat weed, you insufferable idiot! Can't you remember anything you've learned? Goat's Bane is highly poisonous; it's a variety of aconite!" Severus wound down slowly from his fit of temper. He hadn't changed at all, it seemed; Sirius had a flashback to the time Snape had been forced to tutor him in Potions.
"Goat weed," he acquiesced. "Why?"
Severus twisted his mouth in an unpleasant grimace and sat down next to the bed. "It was obvious," he began, choosing words cautiously, "that you were on the verge of some kind of a breakdown yesterday. During our conversation, I was able to ascertain beyond doubt that you were suffering from Soul-Rot--your uncharacteristic need to make peace was perhaps the most striking evidence of that. Given your impulsive nature, I concluded that it would be best to restrain you. Temporarily."
Sirius blinked slowly and returned to watching the ceiling. "Soul-Rot?" he asked finally. That sounded ugly.
"After Azkaban, it was only to be expected!" Snape answered sharply. "It's astonishing you managed to survive for so long, let alone retain your sanity. Have you received any medical help at all?"
"When? First, I was an escaped criminal, then there was war... And I don't think... I think it wasn't that bad before. I had those flares of temper..." Snape's expression showed he remembered them clearly. "But it wasn't that bad. I wasn't expected to..."
"To what? Think?" Snakes, that git was as nasty as ever. Still, Sirius couldn't muster enough energy to be angry.
"To fit in. To be an adult. To behave... normally." There. He had said it. "Later--I didn't ask for help. I don't want to end up at St. Mungo's."
"So you've decided to kill yourself instead?" Snape's cool, sneering demeanour was a bit artificial.
"Not kill, no..." Sirius sighed and wondered how to say it. "I wanted... to do what I did in Azkaban, when the despair became unbearable. I decided that since I make a poor man, I could at least try to be a decent dog." Snape raised his eyebrows, indicating he didn't follow. "I decided to achieve Final Transmutation."
"Final transmutation? But you'd need a Philosopher's..." Snape frowned, and then understanding hit. "Animagus! You are talking about becoming an animal!"
Snape seemed agitated. "And how is that different from dying? Would you care to explain? Have you thought about what it would mean to Lupin? To Potter's son?"
Sirius swept a hand over his face and sighed. How to explain that blissful oblivion to someone else? "I've already told you I'm not very close with Remus anymore. Anyway... I think he'll understand. As for Harry... He's actually getting along with Remus quite well. Remus had always provided better guidance to the boy than me. I can't even deal with the fact that I have an adult godson... how could I be a father to him?" It was difficult to force words through his constricted throat. "Last thing he needs in his life is the burden of a madman."
Snape fell silent for a long while at that. Finally, he got up and pushed the tray at Sirius. "Eat. Or the house elves will iron their ears."
Sirius ate quietly, grateful for the change of topic. He felt calmer than yesterday--Severus' potion, whatever weevil was mutilated for it, seemed to be doing a good job. Had he ever brewed a potion that wouldn't work?
"Can you transform now?" Snape asked suddenly.
Sirius reached inside himself and tried to change. It didn't work. "No. What did you do to me?"
"The charms on this bed--I got them from the Weasley twins. Fred and George. They seem to be as effective as they promised."
Despite everything, Sirius felt himself smile. "You buy your charms in joke shops?" Unexpectedly, Snape smiled back.
"Not many people know that 'The Prankster' was only a front for a research laboratory that provided Aurors with quite a lot of... shall we say, ingenious magical devices during the war. Since the gentlemen spent their seven years at Hogwarts specialising in disarming protective charms, setting traps for unwary teachers and sowing general mayhem... well, they had enough experience and wit for that job."
"I don't think I've ever met them. The charm's quite a piece of work." He tried to move around in the bed, testing the bounds. "It's rather comfortable."
"I should hope so." Snape said with a suffering expression.
"Hmm. Where did you sleep?"
"In a chair."
What a martyr. "You could have slept in the bed with me. There's enough room for two," he said. The bed was huge--a heavy, ancient device with four posts and a curving headboard, probably hauled from some old storeroom at Hogwarts.
"So that we would both be unable to get up in the morning? Thank you, but no. Besides," Snape added primly, "I didn't want to catch fleas."
The mockingly childish retort made Sirius smile again. "I don't have fleas. I told you, I'm a decent dog."
"Is it difficult? The Final Transmutation?" Curious, Snape moved the chair closer to the bed.
"No, the other way round. It's difficult to avoid it, at a certain stage. That's why Animagus study is restricted and controlled so tightly. Once you... lose the grip on your human mind, the transformation becomes irreversible."
"We had an Animagus incident here a few years ago," Snape said. "It involved a seventh year, Draco Malfoy--your godson might have mentioned him. It took weeks to remove the whiskers."
"What did he do?"
"He didn't like the animal he was transforming into. He tried to stop it and got stuck in the middle." Did Snape snicker? "You see, the poor boy got to be a ferret..."
Sirius smiled companionably but didn't understand the reasons for Snape's strange hilarity. "He didn't like ferrets? Wanted to be something else?"
"Oh, you had to be there..." Snape collected himself finally. "Let's say he had reasons to dislike ferrets."
"Was he Lucius' son?" Sirius wondered what kind of a child that uptight prick would raise.
"Yes. Fortunately he didn't have his father's... dedication."
"Still, to waste so much work and study--illegal study--just because you didn't like the animal... it's weird." Sirius thought back to the times of the Marauders, researching, painstakingly exercising, cautiously testing... Nostalgia swept over him, and he cleared his throat to keep his balance.
"That's Draco. All about appearances." Snape smiled fondly. He must have liked that boy. Good at Potions, no doubt. "I understand the exact kind of animal is chosen by an Animagus himself at some subconscious level? Would you mind telling me how you ended up being a dog?"
"I always liked dogs... and I think I had a right personality for one, maybe." He decided to ignore Snape's smirking. "And partly, I think it's because of my name--I always liked Astronomy..." Snape's face turned politely blank. "Oh, even you must get out of this dungeon and see the stars sometimes! Sirius--the Dog Star?"
"Ah. I see. Potter was what, a stag? How very fitting."
"I wonder what animal you would be," Sirius said maliciously.
"If you mention a vulture, I'm going to hurt you." This time, he got the joke, remembering Harry's and Remus' tales and letters, and snickered along with Snape. It was so good to talk with someone who knew who he was, back then, before prison. God, he hadn't seen Lupin for so long...
"I need to pee," Sirius said gruffly. He had spent the previous day dozing off, and, embarrassingly, couldn't remember going to the bathroom. What time was it, anyway? The tiny window let in a gray, depressing light. Early afternoon? "Hey! You hear me?"
Snape looked up from his book distractedly. "Then pee. The bed will clean itself."
"I WILL NOT PISS IN THE BED!" If anything, Snape seemed faintly amused by his outburst. "Severus, have mercy!" he asked plaintively, trying not to whine.
"Oh, all right." Snape got up with an air of suffering. "Hold on." He disappeared for several minutes, leaving Sirius to wonder whether he had just moved somewhere else to read in quiet. Then he returned and told Sirius to get up. The charms had been deactivated, it seemed. Sirius slid his feet to the floor and tried to stand up. His knees buckled, though, and he would have fallen if Snape hadn't caught his arm.
"... Sorry," he muttered, chagrined, trying to fight off the wave of dizziness. Shaking his head only seemed to make it worse. His eyes wouldn't focus on the same spot.
"Your body needs time to get used to the potion," Snape explained. "After several days, you'll be able to function normally, although I wouldn't advise flying or casting complicated charms."
Snape slung Sirius' arm around his shoulder, walked him to a small bathroom, and helped him sit down on a large toilet bowl. He was, Sirius thought dimly, a very efficient caretaker.
"Do you think you can manage by yourself from here?" Snape asked bitingly. Sirius simply nodded, too tired to counter the jibe. Snape regarded him for a moment, frowning uncertainly, then left the room.
Sirius peed, then, still sitting on the bowl, reached towards the wash basin to wash his hands and rinse his mouth. The bathroom was small and cramped, with a big antique brass bathtub standing proudly on four enormous lion paws. He rose up cautiously and tried to get in the tub, falling and banging his elbow on the sides. Snape, alarmed by the noise, stuck his head through the door to see Sirius sitting huddled in the cold, empty tub.
"I'd like to take a bath," he explained, unnecessarily. Snape muttered something and opened the taps, filling the tub with deliciously warm water.
"Do you need me to wash your back?" The question was probably devised as another taunt, but Sirius decided to take it at face value and nodded. Snape grimaced and sat behind him on the brass rim. Sirius felt the scrape of a sponge on his back; six times clockwise, rinse, soap, six times anti-clockwise... His head grew heavy and he leaned it in on something warm and pliant that turned out to be Snape's thigh. Snape looked worried for some reason; he continued with the washing, though, thorough and systematic as always.
Sirius didn't remember how he got back to the bed.
When he woke up the next day, he was ravenously hungry and his mind was much clearer. A delicate chiming could be heard from the other room. A charm going off? Apparently, because soon, Snape came in, yawning discreetly and buttoning his robe.
"You're up. How are you feeling?"
"Hungry. Less confused." Sad. Hopeless. Anxious. The false sense of quiet and balance had disappeared along with the daze. Sirius shifted on the bed and tried to focus on more important things. "I'm sorry for stealing your bed for another night. I'll be going, if you could please fetch my clothes."
"You aren't going anywhere." Snape looked unhappy about something. "I reduced the dose last night, because it had a disturbingly strong sedative effect. I can see now that the despondency has returned."
"Well, you can't keep me addled forever. I don't need..." A keeper. Your help. Anybody. Sirius felt the dark despair close in on him in whirls and clamped his mouth tightly. He had to get out of there, before he made a complete spectacle of himself. Even as he thought that he realised, disgusted at his weakness and cowardice, that he didn't want to go. He wanted to stay in that safe, stone burrow, curled around himself. COWARD! sneered something in him nastily, and he tried to get off the bed. Couldn't. With a sickening sense of relief he realised the charms were back in place. He felt disgusted with himself.
"The potion isn't supposed to be 'addling' you. It's a side effect; quite unpleasant, but unavoidable in the early phase, I'm afraid. The potion works by augmenting your internal defences against gloom and anhedonia. Your first reaction was promising but you're too exhausted to sustain this dose. You look emaciated. Surely you haven't been starving?" Snape had his worst lecture face on. Sirius felt a wave of resentment.
"Well, not all of us landed a cushy job at Hogwarts after it all went to hell," he snapped angrily, without thinking. He'd been eating what he could find as a dog, mostly. It was enough to keep him alive, and he surely wasn't emaciated.
Snape seemed unperturbed. He raised his eyebrow in that immensely irritating fashion of his and stared, making Sirius feel guilty again.
Sirius cleared his throat and looked at the ceiling, avoiding that stare. "However highly you think of yourself, Severus, you can't make me a better man with one of your potions. Once you stop feeding me with it, the reality will come back. It's a waste of time."
Snape sat down and regarded him silently for a while. When he spoke, his voice was... less cold. "You don't understand what is happening, do you?"
"Oh, please, enlighten me," Sirius retorted sarcastically.
"I told you the day before yesterday that you are suffering from Soul-Rot."
"Never heard of it." All he understood was that Snape meant some embarrassingly mental condition.
"Another name for it is Black Grief or Heart's Death." Snape waited for a moment, obviously to see if these names were more familiar to Sirius, then went on. "The afflicted suffer from persistent sadness, waves of uncontrollable fear, intense sense of guilt. Worst of all is that they can't see the difference between reality and the emotions brought about by the disease. They believe themselves inadequate; think they are a burden to their friends and family. They either stop eating properly and slowly wither away, or take their own life in an effort to end the misery, because it seems like the only logical choice they have..." Snape's voice trailed off. He was staring into the fireplace, his face a stiff white mask once again. After a while, he continued. "Such drowning in one's own grief can be precipitated by natural events--for example, a great loss, or a profound shock--or, like in your case, induced magically."
Sirius chewed on this for some time. "Are you saying I'm heartsick? Like some girl?"
Snape glared at him. "I'm saying that the Dementors carved a hole in you through which they sucked all that could have helped you fight them! Self-esteem, happy memories, sense of purpose--everything. Do you remember how you were before Azkaban?"
Young, something sobbed inside him. He didn't reply.
"You were proud. Full of yourself. Happy. Bristling with energy, laughing at everything. Charming those around you whether they wanted to be or not."
He thought about it. Memories were washed out and blurry; only the painful ones stood out clearly. Perhaps he had been all these things. What did it matter? He was supposed to be an adult now. The only results of his happy personality were that one of his friends was dead, and another was now a stranger. He didn't want his 'charm' back, if this was what it caused.
"The sense of purpose," he said finally. "They couldn't take it away from me. The Dementors. First there was Pettigrew, and later, when the war started, there was always something to be done. Now... I don't know what to do now."
"That's what kept you together for the last six years, then. I wondered..."
"And for thirteen years before that. Yes. Still... Severus, don't think I'm not grateful for your help..." He wasn't. The feeling of dependency was debasing and frightening. "...But I don't see how we could arrange... I mean, there are expenses, and I mentioned I don't have a job..." He felt ugly crimson flush his face, and swallowed with difficulty against the humiliation.
"What are you blathering on about?" Snape frowned in confusion.
"I'm saying," he managed through gritted teeth, "that you can't keep me here like some pet project."
"Ah." Raised eyebrow. "I see. Well, I could make arrangements for you at St. Mungo's..."
"... Or owl Lupin..."
"Well, that doesn't leave us with many choices, does it?" Snape rose.
"Why are you doing this, Severus?" he asked quietly. "Please..." Please don't let it be just pity.
"I mentioned I'm going to patent my potion, didn't I? I can hardly do so without presenting reports from tests on a human subject."
Oh. Oh. He should have known. All Severus' pets had ended up as guinea pigs sooner or later.
If you are curious about the potion ingredients Severus mentions, here's an explanation of where they came from. Please do not try to make your own potions using them unless you've completed your education at the O.W.L. level at least, and in no circumstances ingest any of these ingredients without an explicit permission from your mediwizard.
Vandal Root is another name for Valerian, a herb that has been used to treat insomnia, stress-related anxiety and nervous restlessness for thousands of years. It is a compound of many over-the-counter sleeping pills. See a picture.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a herbal remedy for insomnia, seizures, and hysteria, as well as other health problems related to anxiety and nervousness. It looks like that.
Goat Weed is a less popular name for St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), the 'Nature's Prozac'. It was once thought to rid the body of evil spirits, and now is used as a natural antidepressant. It's bright yellow flowers look like sunshine.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) has been used as a mild relaxant and as a remedy for anxiety, nervous tension, and convulsions. Severus was wise enough not to mention that the herb was at one time a popular remedy for rabies, and therefore earned itself a name of 'mad dog weed''. See it here.
Goat's Bane (Aconitum Lycoctonum) is a poisonous plant with pale yellow flowers, also known as wolfsbane. It doesn't look very inviting.
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