DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Chapter One: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Snape
AN: This was supposed to be a humourous fluff piece, but it seems to be developing into an angsty drama. Oh, well. You write what you know.
Severus Snape picked up the chamaeleon tongue with the silver pincette and carefully lowered it into the bubbling cauldron. A sizzling sound was heard and an oily rainbow spread out across the surface of the liquid as the tongue sank beneath the surface and dissolved. A faint smile snuck across the Potions master's features, then disappeared just as quickly as he concentrated on his task again.
The tiny lab was dark, the only light being the bright spot trained on the surface where Severus was working. It was three in the morning, a time when no one in his right mind should be working on a delicate task that required such enormous concentration. Precisely the reason why Severus was doing it at this time.
It was a very Dark potion that Severus was brewing, and no one was to know that he was working on it, not even Voldemort. He'd sealed himself into his personal potions laboratory deep beneath the derelict house at Spinner's End, far from prying eyes, ears, and minds. At Hogwarts, one never knew when Peeves would burst in and upset a shelf of basilisk eyes. And the lab which the Dark Lord kept ready for him to use at an undisclosed location was constantly liable to be monitored by the watchful tongue of Nagini.
It was definitely a risk for him to be trying to keep something like this from his Master, but a man had to have something for himself. He wasn't even sure whether he would use the potion once it was finished, but the work itself was a welcome respite from the intellectual stunting he experienced as the Potions professor at Hogwarts, as well as his own personal way of thumbing his nose at Voldemort's maniacal desire for control over every aspect of his followers' lives. If Severus hadn't been able to keep a small part of his existence to himself, even if it were something as banal as concocting mixtures of organic matter, chemicals and magic, he would surely have gone insane by now.
Perhaps his fear of being discovered was what was making him so nervous. That or the five doses of No-Sleep he'd taken in order to assure that he remained alert. Best hurry and finish up, he decided. Although a potion like this couldn't be hurried. Timing was of the essence. He gave the cauldron a single stir with a glass rod, in order to make sure that the tongue had disintegrated completely. A myriad of indigo, forest green, and crimson rainbows dappled the slick surface of the potion.
And now for the final ingredient. Snape carefully hefted a small, round mirror in his palm and then slammed it suddenly down onto the stone counter, being careful not to cut himself. He checked the shards meticulously for blood before dropping them into the solution as well. Now to wait. He set the hourglass timer for seven and a half minutes, and then leaned back on his stool, stretching his tense shoulders.
If all worked as planned, he would have replicated Dr. Jekyll's potion. Oh yes, Jekyll had been very real. And a wizard. Of course, the recipe was not Jekyll's original work; he had stolen it from the German genius, E.T.A. Hoffmann, a fantastic theorist who had never intended for the potion to be put to Dark use. But what a wonderful elixir he had invented: it would suppress completely the weaker side of a man's dual soul, allowing either pure good or pure evil to emerge. Hoffmann believed that his potion would be a cure-all for the violence that plagued his society: if every person with criminal tendencies would be dosed with it, all evil would be suppressed. His great error, of course, was that he was a naive philanthrope who believed in the basic good of all mankind. Unfortunately, it is all too often the opposite nature that thrives in a man's heart, struggling against the restrictions and social mores that prevent a descent into anarchy.
Snape suspected that Voldemort had taken the concoction at some point himself, for how else to explain his utter disregard for human life, his complete lack of conscience? It certainly would make it easier to survive within the ranks of the Death Eaters if one did not have to worry about burdening one's conscience. Snape's uncomfortable reason for brewing the potion was thus as a last resort for himself: if he were unable to bear the inhumanity and degradation of his service to the Dark Lord any longer, he would take the potion. It was a coward's way out, he knew, but he could not yet fathom taking his own life. He had too much of an instinct for self-preservation for that.
Suddenly, Snape felt a burning, itching on his left arm. He hissed in annoyance. He was being Summoned. A more inopportune time could scarcely have been chosen. He checked the timer. Four more minutes. He was torn: Apparate immediately and scrap the potion? Or make Voldemort wait four minutes and take the consequences... There had certainly been occasions in the past when he had appeared more than four minutes after the Summoning signal had been sent out; when he had been in the middle of a staff meeting, for example. He would simply say that he had been detained...but then what would detain him at three o'clock in the morning? It had to be something that would hold up to a mind probe as well. Well, a half truth would have to do. He wasn't going to abandon this potion at this juncture. He quickly threw on his Death Eater cloak and mask, then hovered over the cauldron, tapping his fingers impatiently against the worktop.
It seemed an eternity before the last grain of sand settled on the mound in the bottom of the hourglass. At that precise moment, Snape snatched up the vial he had previously made ready and skimmed off just the oily rainbows skittering on the surface. He'd dispose of the remaining black fluid later. Then, pocketing the securely stoppered vial, he stepped off his stool and disappeared with a hollow pop.
"Apologies, Master. I was delayed."
"What could possibly have delayed you at this hour? Nott here has just tried to convince us that he couldn't find his cloak in the dark." Voldemort indicated a heap of moaning robes on the ground.
"I was in the middle of brewing a potion, Milord."
"A potion?" Voldemort's voice evinced interest, although his lizard-like face did not allow such fine expressions of emotion.
"Yes, I considered that it would be a shame to abandon the potion in the midst of brewing it, considering the cost and rarity of the ingredients."
"Money and material possessions are nothing to me," Voldemort replied harshly. "Crucio!"
Although he had expected it, Snape nonetheless was driven to his knees by the impact of the Curse. He let out a strangled sound that would have been a scream of pain if he had been able to breathe.
"And did you finish it?" Voldemort asked immediately when he ended the spell. "Is it something that we ought to know about?" His tone was now both greedy and suspicious.
Snape gasped for air. "No, Milord. I left it and rushed to your side when I realized how long it was taking." He had originally intended to say that he had finished the potion but that it had failed, but this now seemed the more prudent lie.
"Show me!" Voldemort commanded, approaching Snape and jabbing at him with his wand.
Snape raised his head from where he sat huddled on all fours and forced himself to look into the baleful red eyes, preparing himself for the invasion...
There was the bubbling cauldron--breaking the mirror--the Summoning--the indecision--watching the hourglass--Apparating. It should be sufficient, he thought, and indeed, Voldemort lowered his wand.
"What potion was it?" he snapped.
"What, Milord?" Snape had understood the question perfectly well, but was now trying desperately to think of what other potions required broken mirrors...and was drawing a complete blank.
"What is the name of the potion you were working on?" Voldemort asked with little patience evident.
"It... It was an experiment, Master," he said, trying to calm his breathing. "As I said, I broke it off."
Again Snape writhed against the pain that burned into every nerve ending in his body. It went on longer this time, and he almost blacked out from lack of oxygen before he was finally released.
"You were about to tell us what potion it was...?" Voldemort prompted.
Black and red spots danced before Snape's eyes. Two of them might have been the Dark Lord's eyes. Or flecks of blood invading his vitreous humour. It was hard to tell.
"Milord..." he gasped, drawing a ragged breath through his ravaged throat. A potion...any potion...he couldn't think... "Wolfsbane..." he whispered, half in a daze. He'd brewed a batch just a few days ago for Lupin. He could show Voldemort that memory...
"Wolfsbane does not need a crushed mirror! Crucio!"
Every single muscle in Snape's body went into an extended cramp as a result of the overstimulation of the nerves. He felt his heart stand still. And then he lost consciousness.
When he came to, he was still lying on the cold stone floor. The other Death Eaters were standing at silent attention, impassively awaiting orders. All except for two, who were huddled near Voldemort, murmuring quietly together. Snape tried to roll onto his side. Everything hurt.
"Milord, he's still alive," someone said.
The two Death Eaters and Voldemort all turned to look at Snape squirming on the floor.
"How convenient," Voldemort commented. "Perhaps you can enlighten us as to the exact nature of this potion." He held up a small glass bottle identical to the one into which Snape had decanted his potion earlier. "This wouldn't be the one you were working on earlier, would it?"
Snape groaned. They must have searched him while he was out. How incredibly, unforgivably stupid he had been, to take the potion with him.
Voldemort came over and knelt down beside the other wizard. He bent down very close and held the vial directly before Snape's prominent nose. "What is this, I wonder, that you were willing to die to protect it?" he breathed into Snape's ear.
It would do no good to deny it; he would be killed if he withheld the truth, now that Voldemort had the evidence in his hands. It was only a matter of time before one of the others was able to run an analysis on it, come up with its true nature. He would likely be killed if he told the truth anyway, for his earlier attempt at duplicity. His only hope was that the Dark Lord still needed him for some task, and so would let him live a little longer.
"Master, it was...meant to be an experiment," Snape managed to croak out. "I...am afraid...inferior product...not ready for use."
"Modesty has never become you." Voldemort's flat features spread into an approximation of a leer. He straightened up. "Get up," he commanded. "Help him up!" he barked into the round, and instantly Snape felt hands picking him up, heard someone cast the Reviving Charm, felt energy coursing through his abused limbs and invigorating his pain-dulled senses.
"And now, drink!" Voldemort thrust the unstoppered bottle toward Snape, who recoiled into the bank of Death Eaters supporting him.
He couldn't... If he drank it, he would turn into a monster, a Hyde, driven by animal lusts, unrestrained by human scruples; another Voldemort.
The self-appointed Dark Lord gloated lasciviously at the unfortunate wizard. "Do you need any help?" he asked hopefully.
Snape grimaced and took the potion with a shaky hand. If he was going to do this, he would do it of his own volition.
"Bottoms up, my boy," Voldemort encouraged him with a dry chuckle. Someone prodded him in the back.
Snape eyed the scintillating silvery liquid. There was always the possibility that he would be allowed to take the antidote later. He never considered that he could have made a mistake in his brewing, never noticed the tiny red mark on the heel of his hand where a sliver of glass had cut through the three layers of skin and allowed a miniscule drop of blood to escape. He never in his wildest dreams expected...
Grimly saying goodbye to his previous life, his only regret being that he had been unable to fulfill Dumbledore's last task for him, he downed the potion. For a moment, nothing happened as Voldemort and the other Death Eaters watched him expectantly. Then, a fire not entirely unlike the Cruciatus Curse in its intensity began to split apart his insides.
He screamed and fell to his knees, his head falling back into his neck as the other wizards moved away from him. It felt like someone was reaching into him, forcing him apart, pulling and wrenching... It occurred to him, in his last moment of lucidity, that this might be what Lupin felt like at the full moon, and he didn't envy him one bit.
"How very curious," was the first thing he heard. "I wonder, do they retain their magical ability? Or are they mere golems?"
Snape sat up and tried to clear his head. He had a massive headache. He recognized instantly where he was, though, remembered the Cruciatuses, the potion... The potion! Had it worked? He tried to see if he felt any different. He didn't feel like rushing out and killing people. That was good... Or not! Oh Merlin, what if the potion had had the opposite effect on him, turned him into some sort of saint... No, definitely not. He smirked to himself at the thoughts that arose in him. But what was it then... Something was definitely different. He felt somehow pure, uncluttered, focused... It was then that he noticed that he was stark naked. He looked around, wondering what had happened to his clothes...and saw nine other Snapes doing exactly the same thing.
AN: Well, it's not exactly a totally original idea, but I hope to make it different and interesting enough to warrant reading. And yes, Hermione will be playing a major role. Just wait and see!
This story was inspired by "An Army of Snapes" by ladyofthemasque, archived at Ashwinder. Hers is much funnier and has more lemony goodness than mine.