The dungeon at Hogwart's School of Magic lay serenely unaffected by the early summer's heat and haze as Severus Snape labored at his cauldron. Professor Snape was adding to an increasingly complex series of ingredients and recording his results. With another school year completed and the students gone for the summer, he had time to pursue a research project close to his heart: an improved potion for broomstick motion sickness.
It was not widely known, but Professor Snape suffered horribly from broomstick motion sickness. Mercifully, Potter had never discovered how close to vomiting his hated Potions Master had come during his only stint as Quidditch referee. Since he was a child, Severus Snape dreaded having this weakness revealed in a public manner, and painstakingly avoided any activities involving broomsticks. He even went to far during his student years as to openly deride Quidditch and it's star player, James Potter.
It had been easier to let James Potter and Sirius Black assume he was jealous of Potter's riding skills rather than give them further ammunition for their cruel taunts. Severus had spent many restless nights imagining the name Vomitus joined to the despised Snivellus. As early as his first year at Hogwart's, he understood that it was better to let those two label him an arrogant git than expose a chink in his emotional armor.
But now, in the cool tranquility of his dungeon office, Professor Snape meticulously shaved slices of fresh ginger into the gently bubbling cauldron, stirring counterclockwise three times after each addition until he was satisfied with the result. The ginger was followed by cinnamon sticks, African coffee beans and a pinch of St. John's wort. Soon the deserted dungeon halls were filled with the most delicious scents.
Harry Potter would have been surprised to see Severus Snape smile as he settled back into his armchair, feet propped on his desk. He would have been even more astonished to hear Prof. Snape humming snippets of the muggle composer Beethoven's Ode to Joy. He was quite satisfied with the deep amber color of his potion and was now patiently waiting until it simmered to completion.
He rose quickly at the sound of a knock on his door. "Headmaster! Please come in. Won't you take my armchair? " Severus managed to hide his curiosity at seeing Albus Dumbledore in his chambers. Whatever the reason for his visit, Severus was pleased to see the old man smiling, particularly after the shocking events that lead to the reemergence of Voldemort through the treachery of a trusted staff member.
"Whatever are you brewing, Severus? Whatever it is, the smell is intoxicating. I followed my nose to the source, and here you are. I was certain you had taken up baking in your leisure time", Dumbledore said, smiling. His eyes twinkled mischievously behind his half moon glasses.
Snape smiled ruefully. "No, Headmaster, just a new remedy for an old problem."
Dumbledore's blue eyes never left Professor Snape's face. He inhaled deeply, his crooked nose catching every aromatic nuance. He mused half aloud "Ginger for motion sickness, and I believe cinnamon is efficacious in the treatment of vomiting, yes, and the wort is a calmative but I confess I am puzzled by the addition of coffee. A stimulant, perhaps?"
"Coffee has been used to treat vertigo, Headmaster." Snape looked down at his folded hands.
"May I ask for whom this potion is intended?" Dumbledore's inquiry was gentle, but his eyes continued to search Snape's face.
"The potion is for me." Snape continued to examine his hands. After a few moments, he looked up and returned Dumbledore's gaze. "I have suffered from motion sickness all my life. Riding a broom makes me physically ill, it always has. This is my latest attempt at a remedy. Quite frankly, I'm puzzled, Headmaster. I thought you knew this."
Dumbledore considered this revelation for a few minutes. "And yet you volunteered to referee that Quidditch match. Why?"
It was a reasonable question.
"Why not? Someone was trying to kill Potter, and I suspected Quirrell because of his odd behavior. This seemed the best way to prevent him from making a second attempt." Snape hesitated briefly. "And… I wanted to repay the life debt I owed Potter's father, much as I might have detested him." He looked into Dumbledore's eyes, unflinchingly. "I very much doubt if you know what it's like to owe a life debt to someone who's made your own life a living hell. That obligation has finally been put to rest."
"I see. And what of Harry, Severus?"
Professor Snape frowned. "It won't end here, Headmaster. We both know this. What you feared has happened, and so it begins. The Dark Lord will most certainly find another set of willing hands to help him grow stronger. Potter will have to be protected at all costs. It infuriates me that he refused to apply himself in my class to anything useful this year, but my personal feelings will have to be put aside."
"Like you put aside your aversion to the broomstick?" Dumbledore smiled.
"Yes, exactly" Snape rewarded the elderly wizard with one of his rare grins.
"Then I have a suggestion, if you agree. Why don't you drink a dose of your excellent potion and I will gather up Madame Hooch, and Minerva and a few broomsticks and we will take a long leisurely spin around Hogsmeade on this fine summer afternoon. You'll have to test your remedy sometime, why not now amongst friends?"
Snape nodded assent.
"Excellent. That's settled, then."
As he left the office Dumbledore murmured something so softly Professor Snape wasn't quite sure he heard correctly. He thought he heard the headmaster say: "You are a good man."
It turned out to be a glorious afternoon.