A/N: Chapter 18! This story isn't dead yet! Hang on people – I'm still in the process of recovering my routine after my time in that muse-destroying job!
I'm sorry this chapter's a bit short, but I'm still writing the next scene, and it's quite a bit longer than this one, so they're better split up. When I post it, you'll see what I mean. ;o)
Please review so I can see if you're still interested!!
He was almost afraid to turn around.
There was a possibility, a small possibility, all those years ago – one tiny window of time where it could have happened – and it had. Lupin had tried to convince himself that the boy had picked up Harry's scent from being in his house, yet as the days wore on, the scent had remained as strong as ever. He shook his head. And he had known. He had known Harry's scent had never conformed to the family scent. This never raised alarm bells in his nose, but why should it, when the visual was convincing enough?
Well, there was the price to pay for assuming anything in the wizarding world. But this cost wasn't his. No wonder Snape had been sulking even more than usual.
He shook his head and sighed bitterly. Well, he knew now, he knew now.
"Oh, Lily..." he murmured, only to turn and be startled to find a pair of dark green eyes staring at him. He stared back, hearing the breath catch in his throat.
Merlin... Lupin's mouth went dry. The boy's voice sounded nothing like it used to. Yet...
Harry managed only a brief smile at his friend before his face crumpled with emotion. Tears filling his eyes, threatening to fall, but Harry refused to blink and let them. He would be strong. He would...
But once Lupin's face cracked and the weight of his arm was around his shoulders Harry felt a great pressure welling up, and he could hold his tears in no longer.
The oppressive silence was broken only by a faint bubbling sound, and the constant drip, drip of condensation running down the cold stone walls.
Severus Snape fumed, then fumed some more. Never enough privacy when he wanted to be alone. Always that meddling old fool reminding him of who he was – where he was.
He stared down at the mess of glass shards and spilled fluid, which had been a half vial full of pulverised baboon heart, before Dumbledore's sudden rude trespass into the fireplace had caused him to shatter it.
"Reparo," he hissed, flicking the restored glass and contents back up into his hand.
He was no babysitter, and wouldn't be used as such. If the boy chose to throw himself out of a window and break his legs again – well, that was fine by him.
He would do the bare minimum he was asked for – no more. He would take the boy for a little family visit – show him exactly where his 'father's' tomfoolery landed him. Oh yes. And if Dumbledore dared to expect any more after this...
Snape twisted his mouth into an ugly smirk. Well he'd just prove to the Headmaster how big a mistake he was making in trying to manipulate him into looking after the brat. He would spare the boy nothing about his father's condition – and he was hardly going to dress up and put on an act for him either. No – that would be yet another secret Potter would have to keep from his friends...his Professors...everyone.
He would know who Potter really was, and Potter would know who the man masquerading as his father really was. It was only fitting that Potter should have a share of his frustration with the Headmaster's ridiculous, secret plot.
Snape tilted the bowl and watched the pieces of baboon heart slither slowly into the cauldron. His expert eye observed closely as the brew gradually thickened with each vicious sideswipe of the stirring stick.
It had taken near two weeks on the low simmer with over seventy different ingredients, ranging from Nightshade roots to Galingale, Broom, Charlock, shards of one particular animal bone, powdered pinch of another. Tufts, seeds, droplets, pips, boiled, simmered, distilled, scorched, ground, dried. Some common, some rare, a few endangered.
Begrudgingly, Snape had to admit to himself that he had enjoyed the challenge.
Severus eyes' flickered over the long list of ingredients - just three more left to add now. In potion making the most volatile additions were always left until last. Snape turned over to the final page of the crumbling instruction pamphlet and frowned. This potion was so dangerous he was still reeling as how Dumbledore trusted him to brew it anywhere near Hogwart's grounds, let alone inside the castle itself.
But then there was the pressing need for secrecy, and Hogwarts in mid-Summer was virtually deserted and therefore ideal. He was currently four floors below ground level in the deepest known dungeon chambers Hogwarts had. They were so deep in fact as to actually be below the surface level of the lake, and because of this the chambers were often a foot deep or more with foul smelling water, and therefore useless for storage. The heavy air and damp chill down here was such that Severus often found his breath misting around him.
Three ingredients. Chameleon skin to aid the fluency of the change – Wyvern blood for the permanence of the metamorphosis, and finally Human blood (or any other select animal blood – if you wished) for the realisation of the final form.
Chameleon skin, unfortunately, was very volatile, not to say highly explosive if used incorrectly. Snape didn't store it in his potions' store for the simple reason that if any student got hold of it and made a mistake in brewing, Hogwarts could say goodbye to its foundations.
Wyvern blood was obtainable, but only through very select circles. Snape had been in contact with the Potions Professor of Durmstrang, and she had slipped him information of a possible contact in the German Alps. It had turned out supply of blood was by request only, and there was a wait of two weeks per order, so Snape had had to time his brewing precisely.
That left...his brother's blood. His jaw stiffened slightly. Human blood was one of the darkest ingredients he could use; dabbling with it had destroyed and corrupted many a weaker witch or wizard. Some had even been foolish enough to use the blood on themselves without first subjecting it to curse and disease checks...
Snape's lip twitched slightly with amusement. He himself hadn't collected human blood for any sort of potion for over seventeen years. One aspect of his past that Dumbledore tactfully chose to exclude from his Death Eater trial.
The final three ingredients were all too risky to store inside Hogwarts for any length of time (not to mention two of them being topmost on the banned list of potion ingredients in British wizarding schools since the times of Grindlewald, due to their dark associations.) so he had to go out on a special errand the day he meant to use them.
Snape completed his hundred and twelfth stir and removed the stirrer carefully. His bitter sneer widened as he watched the cauldron's content gradually darken from orange red to deep blood red as it stilled.
Blood, blood blood. It was all about blood.
His eyes glittered in the dim torchlight. Blood made no difference when hatred existed.