The Black Unicorn

Part 1

By Hephastus


“Mother.” He whispered. The taffeta of her evening gown crinkled. He could smell the skin-warmed scent of her cologne. She and father must be going out later – she only wore that scent on special occasions.

He drifted. But she squeezed him gently.

“Child. My little raven child – what have you been up to?” His eyes focused on her, her eyes were laughing, dark – deep, glowing pools. They shone at him, their warmth was real. “Have you been out playing? There’s a storm brewing out there, it’s too dangerous to be outside.” Her long black hair was pulled up into the coiffure she wore when she and father went out dancing. He could see the glint of light in the emeralds she wore in her hair, cast by the chandelier behind her, up over the stairwell. Her eyes became worried – her delicate eyebrows gathered slightly. “Raven child, what have you been into? There’s mud all over your face, and on your eyes. I’ve told you to be careful…..”

“Mama?” Her eyes looked so familiar, they reminded him of someone, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember whom. She wet her thumb, crouched down beside him, and gently wiped the mud off of his cheek. “You must take care of yourself.” She looked at him, love and worry all mixed together in that still face, her gaze intense on him. He tried to nod his head.

“Yes, Mama.” She receded from him. He was too tired to reach for her. He moved his fingers weakly, but none of his limbs, his arms or legs, wanted to work. They went, trembling, when he tried to move. He grew slowly unaware of his body. His thoughts spun by the inner eye of his mind, and blackness and light came and went, came and went, like a heartbeat.

It was raining. His father’s hand was in his, rough, and tight. Rain was dripping down his broad cloak. The child looked down into the grave. Mud was coursing down into the black maw of earth and around the coffin where it lay in a brown river. The coffin was for ceremony; his mother’s family’s request. He looked up at his father. His face was stricken, withdrawn. The man’s face turned and his father’s eyes looked down the hawk-like length of his nose at the boy, and he felt the resentment.

The vision unfurled and changed. He was outside the door to their bedroom. His mother had some kind of wasting disease; she’d had it off and on, since he was a baby. He wasn’t supposed to be on the landing; he had heard their voices. She was very sick. His father was yelling, but his voice wasn’t right. Then his mother’s voice, too weak. “Hephastus. You shouldn’t look at him that way; he loves you. This isn’t his fault.”

The grave was open, beckoning him, and he went in. He was falling, but he didn’t feel frightened. He had waited a long time for this. He landed and a soft dust of decaying flesh and skin rose in the air around him at the impact. He looked around, here they were; their bones, their skulls grinned at him, silent and reprimanding. Their spirits rose from the remnants of their bodies, bodies and souls he had destroyed, and encircled him, welcoming him in a dead and chilling embrace.


Dumbledore and Fawkes were spending a quiet evening at home. Albus was poring over a rare book regarding arcane transfigurations that a friend had lent him, and Fawkes was preening quietly on his pommel. Dumbledore’s mind prickled, and he looked up. He carefully closed the book shut. Fawkes stopped preening and watched him with a clear, avian eye. Something was very out of sorts.

He moved to the outer entrance of his office and carefully opened the door, his wand and his senses alert. A body – in black robes and very still, was stretched out against the granite pillar that was next to the Headmaster’s door. Dumbledore checked for magical auras or hidden curses, but found nothing. He crouched over the figure, looking down the empty hallway and thankful for the quiet of the summertime. He moved the lifeless black hair out of the man’s face. Blood still trickled, fresh, from the corner of his mouth.

“Severus….dear boy….” Albus’ voice was a bare whisper. He carefully reached over and cradled Snape’s limp head in his left hand, and he opened the man’s left eyelid to check the pupil. It was widely dilated, and – he checked – both were the same size. Blood had caked in both eyes’ tear ducts, and caked on his cheeks.

“Drugged.” Albus whispered. He took a closer look at his head and clothing. His hair was caked with dried blood. His lips were bright red and the ridges of his cheekbones were flushed unnaturally. The man’s breath was too fast and very shallow. Dumbledore stood up, making a decision. Immediately a house elf apparated, with his own particular kind of magic, at his left side. It was Sigmund, his personal assistant. Siggy took one look at the two of them and his eyes widened, but the house elf was staunch.

Albus turned to the elf. “Siggy, what you see here tonight must remain between the two of us. I must ask you for your absolute silence.” The house elf nodded, his eyes solemn. “I will need for you to enlist the aid of 2 of your most trusted house elves. We have several tasks ahead of us tonight; bring them with you when you return. Now, I will need, in my room, hot water, soup, and clean towels; I also need for you to go down to Professor Snape’s private apothecary and bring me back the following items…” Dumbledore described several vials and colors, and Sigmund was off.

Albus stood up and murmured, “Levioso,” and Snape’s body rose from the hard floor. Dumbledore got Snape into the protection of the foyer of his offices, and lowered the other man’s body down. He propped him up against the wood paneling of the hallway as Snape’s knees moved weakly from side to side. His fingers moved on the floor, and his eyes opened. Albus could see the unnatural, too open gaze of the stricken man. He sat down beside him on the floor. Severus choked softly, trying to use his voice, his eyes following Dumbledore’s face. Albus took his head in one hand, and cradled Severus gently, trying to comfort him. He turned and spoke into his office. “Fawkes.” He turned his attention back to the man.

The pain had woken him up. It would get worse, then recede; it would come in waves. He just wanted to sleep, but at least he didn’t mind dying. Let the pain come; he would not kill Dumbledore. And the older wizard was kind; he would release him. He knew he would. The pain rolled over him, waves of sharp, agonizing color cascaded through him, but his body wasn’t reacting as much; he had been drugged too thoroughly, he knew. Dimly, he had been surprised by the demon’s lack of understanding of simple chemistry. Certain potions in combinations with each other had sometimes opposite and negating effects. The numbing quality of the bitter potion was destroying his nervous system; synapses were beginning to shut down. And so too, his mind.

“Dear boy. Don’t move. We’re getting help.” Snape’s legs and hips tried to move. His right hand spasmed over his thigh; Albus watched, worried; Snape panted with the effort of moving his arm. His left arm remained motionless, dead almost. “Severus, don’t move about so…. what has happened?” Albus searched his face; the man’s eyes were entreating him. “What is it?” The struggling man got his hand into his robe pocket, his breathing going too fast, and groped weakly for something; he pulled his hand back out and a dagger, thin and stiletto-like, fell from his shaking fingers and clattered onto the stone floor. His right hand dragged on the cuff of Dumbledore’s sleeve. His mouth worked to make noise.

“Please.” He wheezed the word. He convulsed slowly on the ground at Dumbledore’s feet. His face contorted in some kind of internal pain.

“Severus….my god….” Albus’ eyes grew wide at the implications. The other man panted at the effort of speaking.

“I….tried.....but he won’t….let me……” Snape’s eyes followed Dumbledore. His chest was heaving. “magic…too strong……but,” he paused for breath, “you….can help.…” His hand pawed at the dagger, but his fingers could not work well enough together to pick it up. The man’s eyes pleaded with Dumbledore. “I need….to go home…..”

Horrified, Albus picked up the dagger and put it out of sight. The man’s legs became agitated. “No! No, no…Albus…” Severus began to cry, choking rough sobs that raised the hair all along Dumbledore’s neck. Fawkes had walked up quietly to Albus, turning an impassive eye on the struggling man. “Fawkes…” Dumbledore turned to the phoenix and gently placed both hands under either eye of the bird, and Fawkes wept into his palms, watching the sobbing man. Dumbledore brought his hands carefully over to Severus’ temples. Gently he rubbed the tears over the man’s eyes, his brow, massaging the fluid into his forehead. He tried to wipe some of the blood off of his cheek with a corner of his robe, gently. Severus stilled, his panting grew less. He watched Dumbledore wipe at the caked blood. His voice was clearer. “Release me. I beg you, Albus. I am begging you. It’s too much…” His hand, stronger now, wrapped itself around Dumbledore’s forearm, gripping hard. His eyes implored Albus, but Dumbledore slowly shook his head.

“Severus, I don’t know what has happened, but I cannot…and will not…take your life. My sweet boy. What has happened to you?” Severus closed his eyes, his brow contorting again, and he wept softly, slowly curling into a ball and turning from Albus. Dumbledore kept his hand on his back, growing more and more alarmed. The phoenix’s tears had only softened the symptoms; how long had Severus been drugged like this? Dumbledore thought hard and carefully.



“Yes, I’m here, Severus. You’ve grown into a fine man. I’ve been with you, you know.”

“You…died. You’re dead.” The house had been so empty. There had been no music anymore, after she died. His father had stopped laughing. His father had stopped speaking. And when he did speak, it was snarling a great deal of the time. And then the retreat to the room. Always the retreat.

“I’m dead, but I’ve never left you. This kind man is trying to help you, Severus. Really, sometimes I wonder at you. Such a strange child, and now a strange man. I know you’ve done things you are not proud of, but to waste your life. Don’t come here yet, Severus. There are things left for you to do; it’s very important.”

“Mother, I miss you so much…”

“I’ve been right here, all along. I have never left your side. You will wake, and think this has been an hallucination, but dear child, look in your heart. You will know that I’ve been with you, always.”

The voice swirled away; it had been so real.

His face was smashed against the wall. He had come on Dumbledore’s orders; he had been relieved to have a purpose.

“Shackle him. And make sure you take his wand, you fools.” The voice was thick with authority and assurance. Voldemort sauntered up to him, and gripped his jaw in his large hand. He purred, his eyebrows raising in supreme satisfaction. “I’m so glad you came back, my unicorn. We have unfinished business. Do you remember?” Snape’s skin crawled in horror; he had been sure that Voldemort would have forgotten the entire incident. Severus suddenly strained and twisted between the two Death-Eaters who were holding him as he realized that Voldemort’s intentions were to finish the ritual. Voldemort nodded to the taller, thicker Death Eater. Severus felt the blow in an explosion of shattering light within his skull, and he knew no more.

He woke up; he was naked. His ankle was chained, but he didn’t feel right. His body wasn’t obeying normally, and his vision was blurred. He moved his hands over the bed; the silkiness of satin was under his fingers; the room was dark except for a candelabra that stood, lit, in the far corner. The room smelled musky, cold. A door opened and he heard the rustling of clothing, but he was having trouble lifting his head.

“Hold him down. And this had better not spill, those sheets were hard to come by.”

He tried to raise his head in earnest, but hands held his shoulders and arms down, and another strong hand pried his jaw open. He was having an extraordinarily hard time resisting, and he was trying to resist with all of his will. A dark bitter liquid curled over his tongue and flooded his mouth. Some distant part of his brain recognized the acrid astringency, the poison, recognized its potency, and he gagged and flailed wildly, the rational part of his mind blazing in alarm. Only someone out of their mind would give that potion to another…...

“Don’t choke him to death! I’m going to need this one for a while.” The hands released him suddenly and he rolled weakly to one side, coughing, trying to clear the bitterness from his mouth. Another hand prodded him.

“Here. Drink this. It will clear your palate.” The voice was smug, and there was something else in the voice, he could definitely hear…anticipation? Was that right? He was allowed to drink, then the hand and cup had retreated, and he laid back on the sheets. His alarm left him curiously. Warmth was curling through him; his vision was still blurred but he suddenly felt incredibly warm and comfortable. He relaxed and spread out on the bed. His mind unfurled and bliss took hold of him; everything was so calm, so right. It was like the warmest day of summer. His muscles stretched and he sighed, languorously. He was under a tree, the sky was open and blue and he was sitting on the grass, and Sirius was so close to him; his warm brown eyes sparkled at Severus, his lips were curling and red, his cheeks were flushed from laughter. “Severus, here you are! I’ve waited for you.” Severus reached out a hand to touch his face, to feel the firmness of his body, and Sirius kissed him gently; he smelled like aftershave lotion and smoke from the burning leaves of Fall. His mouth was tender, welcoming. They kissed more passionately, Severus’ hand coiled, almost unbelieving, in the softness of his curling black hair. He pulled away from him with reluctance, joy flooding him. “Sirius! Sirius…I should have said goodbye, it’s so good to see you…” But Sirius was dead, wasn’t he? Then he was fading, the warmth of his skin, his beautiful eyes were retreating. He struggled to think, to understand. The bliss shifted, there was someone else there, colder, harder, much harder, pinning him, panting over him, he could feel something, he wasn’t sure, his world was shifting, a hand, probing below him, something blunt, but very warm, then a hand grabbing his shoulder, he vaguely felt hot breath on his neck, but the bliss was flowing, coursing around him. It was darker now, he was in his own room. It was quiet, so still, and there was the enchantress. He hadn’t seen her in so long. It was so nice to see the old friends. She was beautiful, her gold-red hair was shoulder length and her radiant green eyes were filled with love; she was so young, shy now on his bed. She moved herself over him and took his hand in hers. Her naked flesh was warm. “Severus. I never told you how much I cared for you.” She brought his hand to her cheek and moved her lips over his palm. She bent over him and kissed him, kissed his neck, his throat. His arousal made him close his eyes at the warm pleasure of her, and she reached down and took him inside of herself. A groan tore out of him; she moved over him, her hand clenched in his.

“Esmeralda…..” But she was with the dragons, she had left….hadn’t she? His room, the feel of her over him, began to shift, but he didn’t want her to go, not like Sirius, not again. He felt rough breath over him, felt the spine-jarring thrusts, but his room was back, she was panting over him, rocking him, he held her hips as she became ferocious over his sweating body, he was so close to coming himself, and she was clutching his head, his hair, her body rippling over him. Severus came wildly, he was panting her name. “Esmeralda, Esmeralda……” the dark, protective room, the trembling woman above him, vanished as someone slapped him, hard. His vision blurred, smells changed, he heard far away someone snarling and then the sharp blow again across his face. Someone else was above him; his room had faded completely.

“You little fuck, I can forgive a dead man’s name, but who is this other bitch?” He was slapped again, he felt his teeth tear into his lips, the spreading iron taste of blood. “Who is she?!” He was being shaken, hard. The bliss had retracted, he was growing colder, the weight of the monster above him was crushing his chest, his belly. He pushed away from the creature, his vision not clear, his hands still not obeying. He heard the snarling, the rage, he was struck from behind.


He wasn’t supposed to be in the room. But she had called him. He could still feel the warmth of her love all around him, her hand on his brow; but where was she? The boy crept out of bed and padded down the dark hall to the place he thought she might be. He knew he wasn’t allowed in the room, but he could still feel her all around him, her protection, the gentleness of her. He just wanted to find her again, and his father had said, hadn’t he, that the urn was where she was. She must be in there, then.

He pulled the chair over to the mantlepiece within her old room and stood up carefully. His small hand ran over the smooth silver of the urn; here she was. The engraving read “Phyllida Theodora Snape”, and there was a date, but his eyes were blurring. He missed his mother very much. The chair had wobbled underneath him and he had instinctively grabbed at the ledge of the mantle, but he missed and caught the urn’s base. He had fallen, the urn crashing to the stone floor under the mantlepiece, he heard running and knew his father was going to destroy him. His terror crushed him, he could not move, and he was suddenly covered in a cold sweat of fear. The door had been flung open, his father was there, his eyes on him, worried, angry, but then, as he crouched there, clutching the urn to him, the ashes spilled around him, his father’s face crumpled strangely and he sagged against the wall. He watched soundlessly. He had never seen his father like this. He was making the most horrific sounds. His father had pulled himself into a ball and had covered his face with his hands. The boy’s terror faded to worry, and he went and stood beside his father. He put his hand on the man’s shoulder, very carefully. Was his father sick? “Papa?” The man’s hand suddenly gripped his neck and pulled him to his chest. He could feel him shaking and sobbing. Severus had leaned into him then, his small hands clutching the cloth of his robes. His father was sad, too.

He was awake. He opened his eyes; his mind seemed much clearer. But he was still naked. The floor was cold underneath him; he was shackled, his hands cuffed in iron. It was dark in the room; he could see the bed now, in the corner; the candelabra had been snuffed. He was sore, he ached all over. A door slammed. He saw legs clothed in dark purple trousers. Strong legs. He looked up; his eyes still weren’t completely functioning.

“Stand up. Stand up, unicorn.” It was Voldemort. Snape tried to stand. His legs were still not quite part of him yet. Voldemort grabbed his hair at the nape of his neck and very strongly and painfully pulled him to his feet.

“Who is Esmeralda. Black Unicorn. I very much want to know.” His voice was soft, throaty; if the man’s actions had not proven so vile over the course of years, Severus would have enjoyed the seductive, velvety voice. Instead, cold fear began to coil around his kidneys. Did his own voice even work? He tried to reply.

“I….I don’t know…..” before he could even lift his eyes to the man’s face, he was slapped again, hard, across the cheekbones. It stung. He could feel the swelling in his mouth and remembered the other strikes. Blood started welling slowly again from the ripped flesh in his mouth.

“I think you do know. Is she some student bitch you’ve been fucking? Perhaps a barmaid? Or… she someone you used to know?” The other man’s eyes narrowed. “So tell me.” Severus watched his eyes change, his face settled as he gazed at Severus. The shift in his emotional state was sudden and insane. The man moved closer to him. He could feel the heat of him, smell the burnt smell. “You’re mine, you know. We are bonded now. Don’t you remember that night, Black Unicorn? You took the vows.” The crazed man’s eyes seared into his own eyes, two empty black pools. Severus had seen water like that before, deep, deadly, hiding untold vastnesses of evil, the waters so still above. His legs began a tremor in the cold of the room.

“Yes. I….remember.” Suddenly white pain coiled like a red, snaking brand around his left arm. He jerked, doubled over, clutching his arm. Tears started to his eyes.

Voldemort was too near. The pain receded somewhat and Severus stood slowly again, panting. The mad man was looking at him through half-lidded eyes, his mouth slightly slack. He was aroused, his desire writhing slowly, lazily around him like some heat-maddened viper.

“Who is she. Sweet Unicorn. Tell me. Or I’ll make the pain come back. You know….I don’t want to hurt you, my black prince. You know that. So…” Voldemort moved closer. He kissed Severus’ ear. He kissed his neck. Severus felt his throat begin to constrict. His eyes closed. He prepared himself.

“I must…have been hallucinating. I don’t know who you are talking about.” He had taken Sirius. He had ripped him from them all before Severus could have made his peace, told him what was in his shy heart. In his soul, he made a cold, hard pact: this evil monster could not take the joyous, amber jewel of life that was Esmeralda. He had nothing to live for, he had murdered people, but he could prevent others from being touched by the madman.

He screamed as blinding pain surged up his arm and down his left side. His stomach convulsed and he tried to vomit, but all that came out was saliva and froth. He felt the stone floor slam into his knees as he dropped and the world thankfully disappeared.


“Sir.” Siggy was over by Dumbledore’s bed, removing the unconscious man’s clothing. Dumbledore was poring through several tomes on magical poisons and hallucinogens, and he looked up over his glasses at the house elf. Snape had lapsed into unconsciousness too soon after the phoenix’s tears had been applied. Dumbledore was growing more concerned and he was thumbing through books as quickly as he could. The Elf’s eyes were wide. “Sir, perhaps you’d best come look at this.” Dumbledore placed the book down, open, on the edge of the wooden stepladder and swept over to the edge of the bed.

“What is it?” He looked down at Siggy, and then over to the unclothed man. The left side of the man’s ribcage was covered with black and yellow bruises. But what Siggy was pointing to was the shifting shape of the Dark Mark on the man’s left arm. It was shifting and writhing, not still on the man’s skin. Dumbledore was silent, and held the arm gently in his hand; he tentatively felt around the borders of the mark. He pulled his hand away quickly. “Ah!” he gave a surprised sound of shock. Siggy and Albus exchanged glances, Albus looked grim.

“Master, what does this mean?” Siggy was alarmed.

“The Dark Mark is burning. Voldemort is controlling him, maybe torturing him. But exactly how, or why, Sigmund, I am not sure.” Albus looked down, his gaze serious, at the elf.


It was night; rain poured down, a warm summer evening’s rain. He had his orders; he knew without a doubt what he must do. He moved his legs over terrain that shifted slowly from side to side; it was hard going but the kernel of himself that remained, buried, had made it clear. He had long ago gotten used to the pain. The drugs were accidentally helping him.

He wished that the earth did not move so under his feet; his robes were very wet and kept him from advancing as quickly as he would have wished. He fell down several times; the path seemed to be trying to stop him. His left arm had gone numb days ago, but the pain still coursed down his left side.

He had been conscious when Voldemort had entered him from behind that last night; he had felt the fingers grabbing too hard at the juncture of hipbone and groin, the other hand positioning the madman’s engorged erection; the swiftness of it had made him clench in pain. The monster’s hands had run over his back too possessively; the man’s breathing was harsh in his lust. Severus tried to relax himself to accommodate the jagged, irregular thrusts; the man’s other hand was grasping, convulsing, in his hair. The beast was too fast, slamming into him; his hand tightened in his hair and his head was pulled back sharply as the man spent himself, heaving like a bull.


“You won’t let him find me, will you, Severus?” Esmeralda was wearing the lavender gown from the night before. Her eyes were the color of emeralds; they were outside, walking among the formal rose gardens of the school. She had turned to him and gripped his hand with hers. She smelled subtly of rain on warm grass, and some indescribable scent that made him want to cradle her protectively. But all he could muster the courage for was his promise.

“I won’t let him find you. I swear to you.” He forgot himself, and lingered in her gaze too long.


He woke up in his own bed; was it May? Was it June? His mouth was rough and dry. It was night; the quiet of the evening had settled over his room; only the light from the stars, alone, solitary in the dark ribbon of the night sky, shone into his bedroom. His bones, joints all ached; his ribs stretched painfully as he breathed. He did not remember coming back here. He did not know how he got back. He knew it was almost over, though. The sex, be honest…the rape, had become more brutal. Voldemort had stopped asking him about the woman and the drugging had begun in earnest. He remembered flashes of instances….the teeth in his trapezius muscle…Voldemort’s hollowed out eyes in candlelight……his clothing being thrown back at him…..the ritual, the blood, his semen, the knife, the chalice. He turned over and closed his eyes, pulling his knees slowly up into his chest until his hips ached from the pain. Soon he would be given the task; he knew it. While he could still think, muster the shreds of himself, he must write the letters. The ritual had sealed his fate; the potions were staying in his system longer, Voldemort’s use for him was growing less and less. His heart crumpled in on itself, the layers of protection worn thin, his sadness leaked out of the torn container, began to run, a river of cold grief, like the frozen slush of his soul, fuming and steaming as it touched his burning heart. He sobbed into his hands. His chest shook as he said goodbye to Esmeralda, goodbye, goodbye.


He had done a bad thing. He was on a bed, it was soft and so warm, and he was going to sleep, it felt so good, he was drifting down, down, there had been crushing, monstrous pain, pain so intense that he had been pushed somewhere else, onto the cushioning of the downy bed. There were people with him, but he couldn’t quite tell who they were. He reached out a hand….was it Sirius? Esmeralda? His father? He was too weak to keep his hand outstretched like that. No….it was his mother. He knew the pain was his due; it was his reward for the bad thing he had done.

“Severus. It’s not time yet; my son, you need to get up. I will help you. You need to talk to the kind man. I know it’s very, very difficult, but you can do it. You can give him the key; here.” His mother’s hand was on the back of his head; her touch was light, so gentle, and he felt the glow spreading out from her delicate hand. He forgot he had been bad. The pinpoint of his mind that had run from the rushing pain stepped forward timidly. He swam through blackness, he struggled to reach for her.



Albus dropped the book and was at the bedside in a trice. “Severus. Severus, wake up. Snape, you must talk to me.” Dumbledore had been trying for hours to diagnose the man’s poisoning. He had been able to ascertain that the duration of the drugging was chronic, long-term; that there was more than one poison and one hallucinogen, and that there was some kind of binding curse, but he had no specifics. If Severus did not wake up, he could fall into a coma, beyond magical help.

Albus shook Snape. “Severus, I’m over here. Open your eyes.” The man had ataxia, psychosis, incoordination, delirium, but Albus was starting a slow panic. All hallucinogens, magical and otherwise, caused these general symptoms. He had narrowed the possible hallucinogenic toxins down to species of mushrooms and two rare mixes of potions that incorporated deadly nightshade and henbane, but he had administered two antidotes, one safe, the other with negligible side affects, and the man had not responded at all.

Severus felt shaking. That was normal. He didn’t need to respond. But his mother had said, this time, something about importance. It was important to pay attention. He tried to gather himself.

Albus touched Severus’ cheek gently, his hand had begun to tremble. He knew his part in this man’s undoing, and slowly he had started to piece the scenario together in his mind. “Severus. Severus. Dear boy, wake up. Please wake up.” Snape’s eyes rolled back in his head as his lids tried to open. Dumbledore’s hand stilled on the man’s cheek. “Severus. I’m over here. You can do it, open your eyes, there’s a good boy.”

“Mother.” His eyes were open, dilated unnaturally. A face swam before him, he couldn’t see features, but he relaxed. Perhaps he had died. That would be good. He felt relieved; he smiled to himself.

“Severus. You’ve been drugged. This is very, very important: do you know what you’ve been given? Severus, do you remember? Don’t fade on me. Keep your eyes open….” But his eyes were very tired. He really just wanted to sleep. But his mother had said something about a key. Was this man asking for a key? Was he asking for something?

“What?” Was this the man his mother had spoken of?

“Child, what have you been given? What has ensnared your senses? Severus, this is very important.” It was his mother. He knew the answer to that one. He knew he had been given too much, but he had gotten used to it; he was going to die soon anyway.

“Semen Myris….Myristicae.” Albus was stunned. He didn’t recognize the name. Severus’ eyes closed. His mother may not have heard him. But everyone knew that, everyone knew the names of the herbs and substances, didn’t they? How could anyone make a decent potion? A part of him woke up. The hand was shaking him again. His mother hadn’t been good at potions, perhaps she hadn’t heard.

“Nutmeg. Mama. Nutmeg.” He laid back, he was so tired. So innocuous in small quantities, that fruit. In concentration, deadly poisonous. The side effects vastly outweighed its hallucinogenic properties, unless it was combined with other substances. But still, over time, it destroyed the mind.

Albus ran over to the library, frantic. “Sigmund, do everything you can to keep him awake. It’s very important!” The elf turned to the man, his eyes frightened.

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