Source: a quote from my "The Most Unkindest Cut of All", specifically:
"Of course Severus dealt with all of our potions—the other idiot we had working in the labs blew up Headquarters time after time. And when Severus went to Hogwarts to teach, we had to move five separate times due to explosions in the first year…"
Characters: the Death Eaters: featuring Severus, Lucius, Voldemort, and one unfortunate alternate potions master (a terribly unimportant OC)
A/N: please note that while this fic takes place in the same universe as "The Most Unkindest Cut of All", it is a much lighter story. The characters' personalities are the same, but we've lost the "angst", "horror", and "tragedy". It's humor. Not to be taken seriously. The story should be taken in a very lighthearted mood.
I find that this story's tone is best if the narrative parts are read in the same tone as the narration on "Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy" film. At least, that's the voice I had rolling through my mind when I wrote them.
WARNINGS: some swearing. A handful of obscure, HP parody references. And parts of it read like a nature documentary. Also, property damage. Lots of property damage.
Five Separate Times
The Headquarters of the Dark Lord of the end of the 20th century is notoriously hard to locate. This is the expressed opinion of the (mostly incompetent) Ministry of Magic's Aurors, the (somewhat more competent) Unspeakables, the (occasionally competent) Order of the Phoenix, and even some of the Dark Lords minions themselves.
Dark Lords, being what they are, have always been dreadfully difficult to find, even for particularly good finders. However, as one slowly begins to understand, there is a certain randomized element to this particular Dark Lord's moving Headquarters—one that ties the Ministries most competent arithmancy models into knots and renders the Dark Lord's location completely unpredictable.
The main reasons for the difficulty of locating the Dark Lords Headquarters are as follows:
1. The Dark Lord has resources. In short, he has servants with great prestige and money and lofty manors tucked away into private, hidden parts of the countryside where no one thinks to look. And he has a lot of them. A greater part of the purebloods of Britain support his cause; and while not all of them are willing to offer their homes up, there are still a dozen or so small castles available at the drop of a pin for the Dark Lord to "take over", so to speak.
2. The Dark Lord has spies. In fact, he has infiltrated a great majority of the Ministry, and thus he has a bit of a heads up whenever a few overzealous (that is to say, competent) Aurors decide to raid a specific pureblood manor in search of Dark Artifacts (Dark Artifacts which may or may not include a certain Dark Lord).
3. The Dark Lord is paranoid. For very good reason, what with half of Britain out to kill him. The result of this paranoia? His Headquarters are so extremely warded that it put the ancient Egyptian pyramids to shame. Not to mention the spells, illusions, deliberately deceptive rumors, and all the other protections the Dark Lord has erected around his chosen base.
And yet, every one of these protective measures has its weakness, its little element of predictability. The model makers of the Ministry should be able to predict where the Dark Lord is on occasion. The Order of the Phoenix should be able to find/track/uncover the Dark Lord's Headquarters from time to time. Hell, the Dark Lord's own minions who have been abroad for a while should be able to locate their master with some accuracy.
The one small, subtle, and always overlooked reason as to why the Dark Lord's Headquarters is the hardest place to find in Europe begins very simply.
It begins with an explosion.
The resounding blast reverberates throughout the Dark Lord's Headquarters. Stones shift, dust falls, corridors quiver, Death Eaters careen into walls, portraits squawk, priceless heirlooms smash into the ground, house elves shriek, and the Dark Lord's enormous stack of paperwork flies off of his desk and lands on the floor in complete disarray. The candles, fortunately, remain in place.
Lucius Malfoy raises his head from the manuscript he has been perusing and exchanges Looks with the other two members of the Dark Lord's Inner Circle who also happen to be in the library. This, he thinks, is not good. The Dark Lord had been in a terrible mood for the entire week and the last thing they need is for him to tip over the balance. And, as the most responsible (sane) member in the Inner Circle, he is in charge of "keeping the peace", as it were. Explosions that shook the whole of Headquarters? Not "keeping the peace". With a sigh, he goes to investigate, absently noting that Antonin Dolohov and Augustus Rookwood follow him.
The hallways are silent, even as heads peer around doors trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Upon seeing Lucius, most of the Death Eaters go back to what they were doing, secure in their knowledge that the explosion is someone else's problem. Lucky bastards. A few individuals, showing both the curiosity and self-preservation instincts of a typical Gryffindor, join the Inner Circle as they investigate.
Heading towards the main hall, Lucius sees Bellatrix near the top of the stairs. The woman is clearly livid, her hair nearly standing up on end as she crackles with outraged and magic. Spotting him, she opens her mouth to begin a tirade, but a muffled stream of noise from the dungeon entrance cuts her off. Indistinguishable at first, the thudding bang! of the lower dungeon doors bouncing off the walls as they are forcefully thrown open allows it to ring clear.
It sounds suspiciously like curses. And death threats. And a continuous stream of insults so far out of the league of most of the Death Eaters' vocabulary that they are oblivious as to even the most general meanings, though they can make an educated guess based purely on the tone and venom of that voice.
The ranting is abruptly cut off, and in the once more resulting silence, Lucius and Bella exchange a wary glance. Vague sounds of spell fire echo up next. A duel perhaps? But between who? Then, a high-pitched shriek, a skidding slide, and a solid thud. It sounds very, very suspiciously like a body. Oh dear. They turn as one to peer down into the main hall.
The upper dungeon doors burst open, releasing clouds of choking green smoke. A figure scuttles backwards, crablike, out of the now open doors. It takes a moment for Lucius to identify him as the resident potions master—a middle-aged bigot and elitist who has 'no equals' (how he wound up serving under the Dark Lord no one knows). Stalking out of the smoke after him is a tall, rail thin, extremely pissed off teenager. Just shy of nineteen and one of the younger Death Eaters, Severus Snape should not be anywhere near intimidating enough to turn an arrogant, well-established potions master into a quivering mess. This does not change the fact that Peters is nearly in tears with fright and that Severus appears to be contemplating the best way to cleave his body into optimal potions ingredients.
Lucius casts a quick glance at Bella, who is staring at the scene with an expression of horror and reluctant admiration; she is most likely livid at this young upstart's upheaval of an established system, but cannot deny Severus's obvious intimidation skills. More importantly, she appears to be too drawn by the drama playing out in front of her to pay him the slightest attention. Which is good, because Lucius? Has no intention of getting in the middle of this altercation, regardless of his supposed responsibilities to "keep the peace". No, he is going to stay right where he is and pity the poor fool who woke the instincts in Severus that turned him from an intelligent, snarky wizard into a ferocious predator.
Large predator, he reminds himself, watching as Severus almost literally chews out the other potions master, Like a dragon. A vicious, possessive mother dragon who has just witnessed some idiot disturb her (well, his) lair and baby—in this case, potions lab. He will take whatever consequences the Dark Lord deals out later; six more years of dueling experience or not, there is no way that he is going to get between Severus and his 'prey'.
"Tell me," Severus's deceptively light tone hisses through the hall, "What happens when you combine a defective Erumpet potion with Alihotsy?"
"I d-don't k-k-know," Peters blubbers, sensing the danger in the tone. Severus's face hardens back into annoyance.
"That much is obvious," he sneers, voice dripping with contempt, flicking a hand in the direction of the still smoking dungeon. Peters, to Lucius's disgust, skitters backward as if putting even more distance between himself and Severus will help the situation.
It doesn't. Stalking forward, Severus begins a blistering commentary on every single mistake that Peters made on the latest experiment. Lucius, never the best at potions, loses track of the diatribe within the first few sentences. Glancing over to where Augustus and Antonin are is lurking by the doorframe—the cowards—he reassures himself that even those who received an O on the potions NEWT have no idea what Severus is ranting about. Ten sentences in even Peters, who is still blubbering, begins to look a bit glazed and bewildered.
A sharp crash from the dungeons momentarily halts the remarks and Severus apparently decides that mess in the lab is more worthy of his time than an incompetent potions master.
"If you ever set foot in MY lab again, I will take great pleasure in testing how the potions guild's new skinning and dicing curse works on humanoids! And then I will use what is left of your remains in the organ-liquefying poison that the Dark Lord ordered me to make which you just destroyed!" He finishes with a snarl at the limp mess formerly known as the Dark Lord's senior potions master. No one, rather notably, argues with his possessive claim of the lab.
Severus whirls around on the spot and storms back into the smoking dungeons, cloak billowing, and leaving Lucius and Bellatrix staring after him.
Silence one more descends upon headquarters.
And from that day forward, Severus Snape's Potions Lab was officially labeled as off limits. Never to be entered again by any outsider (an exception is made for the Dark Lord—on rare occasions). After all, no one has a desire to be turned into potions' ingredients, or whatever punishment Severus felt was deserving of the crime.
Thus, things at headquarters return to normal, with only the average, every day screaming of tortured prisoners, servants, Death Eaters, and the like.
That is, until the Dark Lord has the brilliant idea to send Severus Snape to teach at Hogwarts.
The first move:
The explosion catches Lucius completely by surprise. Severus's reign as dominate (and only) potions master for the last year had ensured that at least there were no manor-threatening catastrophes from the potions lab (the same could not be said about the food; every Death Eater and affiliate had learned, usually the hard way, to not accept any edibles from Severus unless they wished to experience hallucination, illnesses, pain, and various other aliments). However, with Severus back at Hogwarts it appears that the devastating explosions have returned. Lucius races towards the dungeons in an attempt at damage control.
After spending nearly three hours cleaning up the mess, a dripping, rumpled, burned, exhausted, and decidedly pink-haired Lucius Malfoy heads towards the Dark Lord's office to give a report on the…situation…and to begin the preliminary arrangements to move to a new location. He does not appreciate the many snickering Death Eaters he runs into along the way. Several rounds of curses later, his mood is slightly improved, his reputation re-intact (despite the honest-to-Mordred sparkling pink hair), and he continues on to the Dark Lord's office.
The damages? The destruction of twelve boxes of extremely important (and delicate) artifacts, a quarter of the library (mostly replaceable, fortunately), the main and secondary staircases in the mansion, and all of the Dark Lord's completed paperwork from the last three months. The Dark Lord was NOT happy.
The second move:
Lucius is a little more prepared this time: the priceless artifacts are packaged with extreme care as far from the dungeon as possible, anything containing paperwork is located on the highest floors (again, as far from the dungeon as possible), and the labs are warded with the best experimental potions wards that money can buy. This does not negate the necessity to change locations again since the extremely acidic remains of the failed experiment eat straight through two floors, six high class (and enchanted) safes, innumerable family heirlooms of the unfortunate owners of the abode, the foundation, and—most problematic—the central warding stones.
(This is ironic considering that the warding stones are enchanted to prevent this exact sort of thing from happening. If they could just figure out how to recreate these destructive accidents deliberately, then the war would not be nearly as difficult!)
The third move:
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
This one actually catches the Dark Lord directly as he enters the current manor that they are inhabiting, thus sparing Lucius from a follow up investigation and the (inevitably painful) report. After hearing second hand accounts of doxies, Cornish pixies, a reanimated pickled crocodile, and no less than three inches of liquid covering the floor that, upon skin contact, caused any medical spell cast on the unfortunate individual to register several embarrassing sexually transmitted diseases, Lucius firmly decides that he does not want to know.
The fourth move:
Lucius doesn't even bother to investigate this time. Instead, he closes his eyes, pinches the bridge of his nose, and lets out a deep sigh.
"Rabastan, pack up the library. Antonin, make sure all of the delicate artifacts are ready for transportation. Augustus, please inform my wife that we appear to be relocating yet again and check for available properties…if anyone is willing to host headquarters anytime in the near future. I will," he grimaces, "inform the Dark Lord that we have another…situation."
Ignoring the snickers of the vastly amused individuals who are secure in the knowledge that they are not responsible for the problem, Lucius storms out of the living room towards the Dark Lord's office.
"We need a new potions master," he mutters to himself, "We need one desperately. Even Severus's 'unknowing test subjects produce are the most unbiased tests so of course I put it in your food without warning you, how else am I supposed to get unbiased data' is better than this!" He spends the rest of the (unfortunately short) trip contemplating the various appeals he can make to the Dark Lord to reclaim their one competent potions master from Hogwarts. Somehow, he does not think that it will take much convincing by this point.
(The Dark Lord does reject his suggestions, admitting (somewhat despairingly) that Severus's work at Hogwarts is irreplaceable. He agrees to begin to look for (yet another) new potions master, but for now they will simply have to make do. Lucius merely grimaces again and begins making contingency plans for the next inevitable explosion)
The fifth move:
A shaking rumble resounds throughout the manor. In the privacy of his study, the Dark Lord abandons all pretenses and drops his forehead to the tabletop with a groan.
A/N: This is the universe where the Dark Lord mopes about all the paperwork that's generated in trying to take over the world; where Lucius Malfoy rolls his eyes at his companions' antics; and where it's entirely possible to witness Severus Snape ranting at a 2000 year old basilisk and winning.
Alihotsy: a magical tree whose leaves can cause hysteria and uncontrollable laughter (HP wiki).
Erumpet potion: highly explosive when touched by outside source (HP wiki)
(Edited April 2015)