No Potion Master worth his salt would ever die from a snake bite. Precariously balancing on the side of life, Severus Snape makes a new life for himself in a Post-Voldemort world.
Author's Note: No romance. I don't own Harry Potter. Oops, I just realized how similar this story was to one of my other oneshots.
Warnings: AU, Slight spoilers, Ocs, Definitely Epilogue Non-Compliant, Bad Grammar.
A New Methodology
Sir Faustus Prince was a man of the century, greatly resembling former Headmaster Karkoff if Karkoff had had lived to age. He had offered his guest to sit in one of the luxurious recliners and ordered a house elf to bring some cider for both of them. As they waited, the silence grew, as neither men was inclined to break the uneasy atmosphere. On one hand, Severus Snape found it hard to keep eye contact with his maternal grandfather due to the growing disgust in his heart: before him sat a man who had disowned his daughter for marrying a muggle, a man who had left her to die in the hands of the muggle. If there was any other choice, he would've rejected the invitation to visit the ancestral abode of Prince, a small respectable house sitting by a lonely road halfway between Gloucester and the Forest of Dean. But Faustus Prince had reinstated Eileen Snape back into the family which by association makes Severus a member of the Prince family for the sole motivation of using the family magics to compel the lost grandson to make a social call.
As the family magics lessened their hold on his fiercely occluded mind, Severus Snape wondered with a sinking feeling if he had escaped two masters, the Dark Lord and the Light Lord, only to be trapped in the clutches of his family Lord. He was too tired for more servitude which had dominated the greater part of his life. For the first time in many years, with nothing to hold him back, he had tasted freedom, and it had tasted wonderfully sweet. Severus's mouth twisted in a grim smile as he turned his attention from the fireplace and onto his grandfather. Faustus Prince had his mother's dull eyes, narrow and slanted with years of derision and distrust. His bone structure was Snape's save for the nose. He held himself in that arrogant bearing (again, forcing him to remember Karkoff. Merlin, they better not be any relation,) with pureblood Slytherin airs. It lends itself a hopeless feeling inside his heart – if he has to serve this man... Maybe he should have allowed Nagini's venom to run it's course.
"The moment that the family had heard news of the Dark Lord rising, they ran for to the continent. It was a coward move fit for cowardly people," Prince smacked his lips against the taste of cider and nodded at the house elf who deeply bowed and silently disapparated, "We are a family of England. Our family has found its roots on this soil and it will perish with this soil: we sworn a debt to the land and nothing will be enough to repay the ley lines. That's what I told them and yet they do not listen. I will not have us like mongrels with our tails between our legs running from, if the rumors were true, a halfblood. Us two, you and I, we are the only Princes by blood on England: I have heard news across the channel of another family being established there- leaving us behind. If we don't stay here, our family will be known in history as blood traitors lower than the Weasleys, lower than muggles. But I have a solution, for we are a proud family no matter," he cast a critical eye to the other as he gently placed his glass down, "no matter how far we have fallen."
The fire crackled merrily at their right and gave an overwhelming amount of warmth to only one side of his body, "In that case, Sir Prince, let us be reminded that I am also a halfblood," Severus replied stiffly, feeling vaguely offended but too tired to put his usual amount of vitriol into his sentences, "You have no need of me and I'll take my leave."
"It's not that simple. Sit back down, boy." The elder utilized words laced with power: the family magic roared with a vengeance and forced his knees to bend. After recovering from shock, Snape gave the blackest glare to his grandfather by blood who was not fazed but smirking victoriously. "Rest assured that I will not push you, given your past history, it will take very little for you to crack." His smile grew wider, revealing yellowed teeth and shriveled gums, "I am not that ruthless."
Severus crossed his legs and leaned back against the high chair with his fingers knitted together, waiting for the explanation to come. The man's reaction gave him some breath to think: he did not punish him like the Dark Lord, nor did he take away his freedom like Dumbledore. There was hope.
Sir Faustus Prince leaned forwards, resting his withered cheek on one knuckle, and cleared his throat as he pulled at his high collar, "Our family is falling. The name will vanish with my death and will be dragged through the dirt with our shame. My daughter, your mother, held none of the ancestral gifts, satisfying herself as the club head of Gobstones, of all shames. She had nothing: she represented our pure and ever weaker blood. Average in her studies, showing no modicum of talent in any area of discipline except for discipline itself. Then, without warning, she ran off to marry a muggle." A wrinkled hand grasped the cane and pointed it towards the fire- the antechamber glowed blue and grew warmer. "We were devastated, of course, but tradition states that we must dissociate her from us- she was aware of the consequences. Time passes. You were naught but a small thought at the back of the mind, a burnt mark on our tapestry." He took another sip of cider and smacked his lips again. "Then I hear news of her progeny, a gifted child of Slytherin, a Master of Potions, the Dark Arts, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts, a spell creator. Perhaps what they say about a routine wash of new blood is correct? Perhaps good things do come when your daughter thoughtlessly fell in love with the first muggle to deign to look at her and drugged him with Amortentia." He twirled his cane absentmindedly against the floorboards, "The Potters also held that belief and look at where it has landed them- a child who can produce the Patronus in his third year, simply amazing." Severus stiffened further.
"You called me here for a reason, old man. Speak now or I will leave." He ground his teeth to keep from biting out offensive comments about where the Potters can go.
"Imagine my surprise. On one hand, I heard news of your death and on the other, the magics told me that you were very much alive. I wished to see proof before my very eyes." Sir Prince's gaze snapped up to meet his and focused, "Severus Snape, the man who outwitted two powerful lords of our times. I must say, I am very, very impressed." He snapped his fingers and the same house elf brought forward a small stack of documents, "Now why would you listen to the ramblings of an old man? Because this old man has a request and an offer. Simply put, I am dying. I don't suppose that I have even a month inside of me, but no matter, I have most of my affairs sorted out. The majority of the family wealth had been taken aboard but they left me a meager pittance." Faustus Prince sighed, "My own family."
Severus spread the parchments and skimmed over each one: funeral rites, burial grounds, private property, liquidated assets, letters to other noted houses, the family tree, a will... When his eyes landed on the last sheet, he blanched, "You wish for me to carry on the family name? As Nerva Prince?"
"A name is a name, my boy." The other testily replied before coughing into his hand, "Surely it must be better than Snape, a name that is still very, very fresh in the minds of the young students at Hogwarts. But Prince... a name nearly forgotten? It's an offer of a fresh start. See here, on the fifteenth line. To make the deal more palpable for your tastes, I'll even give you this house and the remaining wealth from my vaults, enough for a reasonable start up fund of whatever ventures you wish to start. The only price you pay is the bearing of the name."
Severus hesitated, "No loose ends?" That name represented everything that he wished he had and hated that other people claimed. As much as he publicly ignored and even reveled in his worse personality traits, he knew that he had inherited his hypocrisy from his mother. He hated as much as he desired, he derided as much as he approved. "What reasons do you have behind this?" He reluctantly asked as he set down the papers and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
In the blue light of the fire, Sir Faustus Prince's eyes were the color of a dimming sunset. Eileen Prince's eyes were the color of a breaking dawn. Severus's eyes were the color of pitch blackness, a result of genetic inheritance from his late father as well as an over exposure to potion fumes. "A name is only a name. But when that name is preeminent, that name lasts forever."
A month later, the Daily Prophet listed one Sir Faustus Prince on the obituaries.
The Potter brat and the Know-It-All ran out of his sight, not even bothering to muffle their footsteps from any ears: between them, there was perhaps the survival instinct of a lucky yet suicidal lemming. The memory extraction technique had been messy on his part for he could feel images leaking out of the side of his brain in the form of white strings. Spots were already dancing tantalizingly at the corners of his vision but he was confident that his immunity, something that he had fostered and encouraged the moment he realized that the Dark Lord did not mind his cobra striking and eating some of the unworthy Death Eaters, would sustain him longer than the average wizard. He had injected little increments into his bloodstream in hopes to build antibodies against the venom. At this moment, those antibodies are the only things keeping him alive.
He weakly reached for his wand lying innocently on the stone floor and held it in shaky fingers, "A-accio." Moments later, a small stone flew out of one of his many pockets and landed in his hand. His body sagged in relief as he bent down to swallow it. A beozar covered an unprecedented range of poisons including cytotoxins, haemotoxins, and neurotoxins- thank Circe.
With his mind at ease that he had a chance of survival, with no strength left, he collapsed onto the cold floor and waited peacefully as a slow fire began to spread in his veins. He felt pain bleeding into his muscles and sinking into his bones. His blood began to boil at the puncture site. His ears were ringing loudly enough that he wasn't sure if he was screaming. His body's magic began rejecting the poison and started it's systematic purge. And then, as if water was washing him into the abyss he dimly wondered how cold ice came to rest on his left forearm.
His eyes snapped open and instinct called him to quickly assess his surroundings. He was alone. The sun was rising to it's zenith. He was drenched in sweat... good. That means that the antidote worked. His cheek was resting in a puddle of his own vomit. He felt weaker than a newborn babe. There was ink dripping down his left forearm... his unblemished left forearm.
He slowly rose, taking into account the many aches and pains from his joints and cursed himself for waiting so long before administering himself the beozar. The floorboards beneath him creaked ominously. He was still bleeding from his neck but a blood replenisher and conjured gauze and tape discouraged continued flow. He wiped the specks of vomit from his face with the back of his hand and grimaced at the smell. He tilted his head back and breathed in crisp air mixed with mold and untouched dust and closed his eyes. He needs... he needs information.
What happened? Obviously the Dark Lord was vanquished by the Chosen One, but what else?
He held himself up with the window trims and felt his knees buckle.
Merlin, could he even apparate in this state? Spinner's End has never felt as far away as it has now.
He'll find a way, he always did.
Coughing, Severus Snape pushed himself through the entrance door and minded the splinters and loose floorboards. He held himself by his own two feet, took a deep shuddering breath, exited the Shrieking Shack, and wandered into the darkness.
To he who once beared the name of Severus Tobias Snape
We suppose that you did not expect us to ignore the mysterious appearance of one Nerva Prince, especially when it is known in our groups that your mother's maiden name is one of the same. We also suppose that you did not expect anonymity from us once you started your owl-catalog business. In fact, we are delighted that you would reach out to us, in your own unique way of not reaching out to us. Damocles, the man whom you are not fond of, was nearly besides himself at the news of your death.
We will keep your secret but require that you keep in contact with us. No one would rather have a repeat of the unpleasant past, yes? How about a meeting of us and you? For old times sake, it'll be nice to see our son again. Fatmir said that you may visit him in Durmstrang: high praise from one Potions professor to another. Our gatherings had not been the same without your insubordinate causticity.
We are glad you are once again contributing to the journals, magazines, and the greater intellectual community of Potioneers. Fear not. Your secret is safe with us.
We also believe that it is high time you find yourself an apprentice.
We raise our goblets to you,
Melissa Greengrass nee Montmorency
Potion Mistress: specialization in order Rosales
Official reincarnation of Maria Prophetissima of Pre-Reformation Era
Dual Head of the Eurasian Potions Guild
A long, long time ago, back when he had a weekly contact with the Guild to assure them that the Dark Lord had not killed him yet, he found Greengrass too overbearing. Overbearing is describing it nicely, the right descriptive word might be dangerously motherly. Not in the Matron Weasley way, but in a way where if Bellatrix ever decided to be a good but psychotic aunt... She kept prodding him into subjugation telling him to "respect his betters," offering small snacks that were laced with poison and he had refused to answer to her orders and had all but curses her pretty little head into oblivion. She was the one to ingrain into him the habit of stuffing beozars into his pockets in case of small accidents. Those were the days.
Nicolas Flamel, the prior Head of the Guild, thought that the pair of them were très drôle.
Accordingly, Greengrass had not changed at all in all those years and (he will only admit it under three hours worth of Cruciatus) it will be amusing to verbally spar with her again and to meet up with his past colleagues. Tossing the letter in the fireplace, he wondered if the Guild politics were still the same. Somewhere in his body, there holds a fondness for the Guild, for they grow on you, like toadstools. Damocles and Fatmir seemed to be doing well and were the first to extend the offer an alliance when he was accepted into the prestigious group. There was no usurp of power save for the replacement for Flamel's death. Or as the letter said, the dual Heads of the Guild, as if one person was not enough to fit into Flamel's notably big shoes.
He reread the last line of the letter. …high time you find yourself an apprentice. The notion made him laugh out loud. Apprentice? Must he find an apprentice from England? Who would be good enough for his standards? Will he have to choose from the dunderheads of Hogwarts? The notion made him shudder. Who will be able to work with a man of his temperament? Who will tolerate his acerbic humor? No one fits the narrow margin.
Well, no, not everyone was hopeless. Ravenclaw has always been a close second on his choices of favored houses because they experienced the same passion for the pursuit of knowledge as he. When they brew, above any other houses (even his own), they reminded him of himself. The students with potential turned into docile monks in meditation when they stood in front of their cauldron with their notebooks on the side, scrawling down every new revelation needed to make a potion better. He could sense minds racing, reaching ever higher to that specific unobtainable perfection.
Of any people outside of Ravenclaw and Slytherin with promise were Wayne Hopkins and Neville Longbottom. The latter was a surprise as his latent abilities were buried so deeply that one had to forcibly pull it out to reveal how talented the clumsy boy was. (The problem of teaching was trying to toe the line between encouragement and hard love: he might have, he admit, given the boy too much of the latter.)
Of all the students he had taught in his long and arduous career, he would say that there were perhaps four that he would have accepted as apprentices. The reasons why he couldn't accept the offers extended from his dual Light-Dark loyalties, and the expressed disapproval from Dumbledore. When the best of his students asked for him to guide them, he was careful to be uncharacteristically gentle when rebuffing them and giving them contacts to a couple of his fellow Potioneers with his letter of recommendation. And then he would proceed to drown himself in Fire Whiskey.
Having an apprentice is a symbol of pride: it shows that the master is good enough for recognition, that he is seen as a mentor by the younger generations, that the master's art will not be lost to the world, that the student will one day meet the expectations of the master, surpass the master and contribute to the world of intellectuals. It's as if having a true child of the mind, if not of matter. Those students of the past wanted Severus Snape. He desires for an apprentice but he's not Snape. Snape is dead. Snape has been dead for some time. Nerva Prince is an unknown in Magical Britain. He must remember that; it's too dangerous to forget.
He has a routine where he would stare into the mirror and repeat thirty times, "I am Nerva Prince."
He has a theory where he said it enough times, he might start believing it.
It hasn't worked yet.
When James Sirius Potter II was nearly four, he overhead a conversation between his father and his friends. Nobody had noticed his little body, lodged into a small cupboard underneath the stairs. From that spot, he had a clear view of everything (though everything would be a bit easier if mum hadn't taken away his Extendable Ear). There was some guilt involved: he knew that he was doing something his parents would frown upon, but the pride and thrill greatly outweighed the initial shame.
Harry Potter greeted his long time friends Hermione Weasley nee Granger and Ron Weasley in the foyer and guided them to the kitchen. "It's been too long, mate," Ron remarked, hanging up his coat and kicking off his shoes, "pity that we can't see Gin. Where are the Holyhead Harpies now?"
"Tallinn, Estonia," Harry absentmindedly said as he prepared the tea, "she'll be back home by tomorrow afternoon. James and Albus Severus really miss her."
"Severus... Urgh," Ron made a face, "Nothing can convince me otherwise that you ate something bad on the night Al was born. What made you call him Albus Severus? Really? Albus? Severus? Do you want him to be the laughing stock of all of Hogwarts? One after a dead headmaster and the other after the dead greasy git?" Hermione kicked him under the table, Ron winced but didn't let the topic go, "What did you do to make Gin agree?"
"Ginny already fell back asleep when the Naming Ceremony started." Harry shrugged as he levitated two small cups to his guests, "I told you before. I don't regret the name, Ron. Severus Snape is a hero who had taken years and years of his life to make up for his mistakes. I've already forgiven him."
"Only because he's dead. If he was alive, I bet it would be a different story," Ron sourly muttered.
Hermione smacked him over the head for his callousness, "Ronald Bilius Weasley!" she cried, "Please think before you open that mouth of yours! I'll have you know that Professor Snape received many accolades in the Wizarding World!"
"For what? Being a git?" Ron asked snidely, already prepping himself for another one of their arguments. "He's a professor of Hogwarts, Hermione, that's not a really big title."
"No! He's Potion Master Snape!" Ron's deadpan expression did not change, "You don't get it do you?" Instantly, the witch deflated and rubbed her forehead, "Of course you wouldn't. Neither would you, Harry. Neither of you follow the scholarly world," She reached into her bag and dug out some worn out magazines. Harry leaned over and saw the proud title Potions Monthly and inwardly groaned: only Hermione would bring this to the kitchen table. "I peruse them in my free time and I found some interesting facts. Right after his death, he appeared in the main article of one of the most prestigious journals in the world! Surely this must tell you something!"
Harry raised an eyebrow in consternation, "There are such things as Potion journals?" He rubbed the back of his neck. Well, it did make sense in a way since there was a muggle equivalent. He just never got around to thinking about it. Hermione, on the other hand, looked like she wanted to scream in frustration.
"He. Is. Huge!" The witched jabbed the magazines with her wand in clear emphasis, "You don't get it, do you? Journeyman Potioneers around the world would give their first born child to see Snape working at a cauldron! It says in this page that Severus Snape was world renown for his incomparable, unequal finesse and technique as well as his revolutionary discoveries which furthered the advancement of reactions and kinetics between creature fluids and herbal extracts." Harry scanned an article and snorted at the third line: He embodies an inhuman elegance, treating with care each of the ingredients so that they may provide optimization in performance for him in return.
"Why do we care, Mione?" Ron irritatedly cut her off, looking a bit green around the edges.
"Read this part! See? The Eurasian Potions Guild was furious when Dumbledore took Snape as a teacher. Not because of the teacher position but because he was too busy to keep in contact with the Guild! As soon as he stepped into Hogwarts, all of his research stopped pouring in. Think about it, Harry, if Albert Einstein stepped into an elementary school and suddenly lost all contact with the greater world, what would happen?" Harry made a noise in comprehension. Ron blinked.
"That's because he was working for Voldemort," Ron corrected Hermione.
"He was spying," Harry corrected Ron who was already ignoring him.
"Now that I think about it, I think I heard Mum once wish that she had Snape's skills. It's pretty weird hearing mum wax poetry about his hands. Reckoned I've never seen Bill that green before." Ron continued on, tugging his bottom lip in thought. "Hey, Mione. Isn't Potions the only mastery that you haven't gotten yet?"
Clearly his words hit a sore spot, Hermione bristled, "The standard is too high! It's not just memorization," she grudgingly admit, "It's a knack for the art. I guess that's why I have these journals here, I'm trying to find that spark that Professor Snape told me I lacked. You have to love it. Vous devez l'aimer. That's what the examiners told me anyways. They parroted Flamel's words right back at me: apparently it's the motto of the Guild."
"...Flamel?" Harry and Ron each did a double-take.
"He was the previous Head of the Guild, before he died." She added, catching the dark look on Harry's face, "History says that he founded the Guild and some claimed that he single-handedly made Potioneers a respectable career choice. It's not that far of a leap from Alchemy to Potions. It reminds me a bit of the muggle myth of how Isaac Newton was so bored of Arithmetic that he created Calculus. So the power over the Guild changed hands. Now there are two heads. One is from Laos and the other is from Britain. I know that the one from Britain is the reincarnation of Maria Prophetissima, founder of the distillation and sublimation techniques." An alchemist who died in 215 A.D., Binns had at least taught them that much.
"There can be reincarnations of people?" Ron doubted.
"Yes, though rarely is it documented since people need to remember their past selves and need to prove it in order to have it finalized." Hermione patiently answered after taking another sip of tea.
"Hmmm. You want us to sympathize with his unfortunate circumstances," Harry rested his elbows on the table and struggled to organize the information. "...I think," Harry mused, "that he was in Hogwarts because of me. His sole reason for his suffering is because of me. That's why he didn't reach his full potential: it's all my fault. Is that a self-centered thought?"
The room paused. Harry's eyes darted between his friends as if watching a tennis match if one of them so much as twitched. Ron wasn't in the mood to say anything and Hermione kept wringing her hands. "Don't think so." Hermione admitted after a long silence, "It seems reasonable."
They sat in the manor of one of the families lost to the passages of time. The window offered a view out to the edge of the mountains. The mahogany conference table was carved in a Baroque fashion. There were stuffed albino peacocks sitting on every corner with their heads high and with eyes replaced by rubies. On the opposite wall of the bay window sat an equally large portrait of naked, blonde nymphs splashing each other in the lake. Occasionally, they would break the fourth wall and giggle and wave to anyone they catch watching them. The Gothic candles gave the room a yellow atmosphere but the chandelier made the room look sharp. The Peverells were known for their eclectic tastes.
At the table sat the eight region heads of the Guild and the dual heads. Each of them wore robes swathed in black save for the back which bore the silver thread outline of the caduceus and the hood which was lined with runes stating the person's name, profession, rank, and specialization. At the end of the table sat Nerva Prince, fighting the urge to sneer in self-defense.
Melissa Greengrass sat languidly at the head of the table, tapping out a small rhythm on the table, with an unholy glee as she watched Sev- Nerva's left eyebrow begin to twitch. "Hello Little One," she cooed, "Did you get the small biscuits of love that we sent you a week back?"
Nerva Prince scoffed, "I fed them to a stray mutt, as I have always done, woman. Did you get the small batch of quiche that I sent back on the return owl?"
"They never tasted better." Greengrass drawled, twirling a length of blonde hair around her finger, "We fed some to Jacques and Fatmir and they said that you added too much cheese. You still haven't visited them, We're sure that will happen soon? Before you break their little hearts? But enough about pleasant gifts, no matter how much we would like to go onto that tangent like old times, we have other more important issues to discuss." She sighed and fanned herself with her hand, "The others here are very impatient, yes?" A small fact about Maria Prophetissima is that officially, she was reincarnated four times. In one of those lifetimes, she served in court as a muggle princess and picked up the habit of speaking first person plural. From her second reincarnation of a young girl in China, she had picked up the belief that abnormally long hair was a status of wealth and beauty: of everyone, only the Malfoy family followed her in that trend. In all of her reincarnations, she had never lost the perpetual wide-eyed look. Neither did her Lovegood descendants.
"Quite," A bald man in his fifties dryly said with a Russian accent. "I would be in your debt if we can finish this business within the hour." Nikolai Rusakov pushed out a thick file overfilling with papers, "The likelihood of that happening would be if a Malfoy ever managed to weasel his way into our ranks." Several hooded people chuckled at the inside joke. Rusakov cleared his throat to bring back order, "Severus Snape... Nerva Prince. Relax boy, you can cut through diamond with that sort of tension in your body. We don't have the information of your whereabouts or your status except for the fact that you are hidden from the public and makes complex potions to anyone willing to pay."
People waited for his reply which sounded unusual, even in his own ears, "I have learned through many trials and errors that I prefer solitude."
"More so then the average man," A redhead murmured and then cursed in Arabic, making other members flinch, "We fear that you suffer from work consumption. In England, you make the potion. In Soviet Russia, the potion makes you."
Someone coughed. "Was that suppose to be funny, Hakim?" Greengrass mildly asked after a beat, picking at her nails.
"No but it was suppose to make a point. The moment Nerva Prince rose from sea foam and into the British ministry archives, he's been sending out papers after papers, discoveries after discoveries, as if he was frantically making up for lost time. His face is inhuman and I fear for the fall." Nerva Prince rolled his eyes at Hakim's typical melodramatics.
"Some of those discoveries were years old. I've never had the time to finalize some theories." Nerva Prince shrugged, "As for the pace, you should expect it, it hasn't changed since I've last seen you."
"As long as he abides by the equal amounts of fresh air as potion fumes, I don't think we have much to worry about." Rusakov let loose a belly-full of laughter and slammed his large palm against the wood, "I recall that huge backlog of research. To some extent, I believe that the Little One is doing it to spite us." No one contradicted him: he commanded that much respect from his peers. The Russian aimed a feral grin at his fellow Potioneers and allowed his eyes to be shadowed by his wild, black hair, "But now that he can spread his wings, I don't have the heart to tell him to slow. At least, not yet, not when he's clearly happy. Perhaps when you are happy, you can accept us as friends and we will accept and take our places besides you as your first true companions."
The accusation was still there and his non-existent social niceties were brought to the surface. Nikolai Rusakov was a man of cold, arrogant, Siberian pureblood with a dash of Neuri in their line. There was a legend surrounding his family, telling a tale where his ancestors assisted in the brewing projects of Baba Roga when muggle hunters had crippled her for a generation. With his background, he knew clearly the location of the line between derision and criticism. Rusakov's words weren't malicious enough to cause an automatic reaction of flinging insults with an atlatl but weren't so hidden as to stir hate within him. In fact, the utter modesty had trapped him in shock. Heat creeping up his collar and caressing his ears, Nerva Prince could feel splotches of color appearing on his face.
"Kolya," A snowy owl on his left clicked her beak, "Let's be simple about this." The bird turned towards Nerva and apologized, "Nikolai still has his tendencies. I will speak for both of us when I say that we hope the words don't offend."
"Engelstad? Were you idiotic enough to get stuck in your animagus form?" He asked incredulously.
The owl sighed and lifted a wing to her face, "Sorry that you must see me in this state, a harmless potions accident, I can assure you. It will wear off within the moon cycle, but until then." The owl gave an anthropomorphic shrug and preened, "I must add in my own two cents to the cause.
"You are family. We are the heads. We see ourselves as your parents, especially when you lack them. We've decided that you've ignored us for too long and we just want to know, to guard you, to help you, anything at all." Everyone else in the room murmured their agreements, each pair of eyes piercing into his soul, but each pair of eyes were warm, as if to say welcome home. "You may see yourself as the despondent, lonely man who sinned. We see a brother who is half ashamed that we are embarrassing to his image and half pleased that we are standing behind him. Do you understand?" Wind managed to sneak through the small cracks of the house, eliciting a howl through the entire manor. He saw the small flames on the candles faintly flickering, giving off a glow that gave each member of the Guild an alarming murderous look. But their eyes were all inviting: from Greengrass's patented 'Lovegood' look on one end of the table to the yellow eyes of Rusakov on the other.
The words of Kirsten Engelstad had hit a bit too close to home. He didn't move, fully aware of all the stares directed at him. This was a message that the Guild has been giving him since he had first graduated from Hogwarts, since he had started the long push and pull patterns of invites and rebuffs. He dimly realized how how much value his stubborn pride has over common sense.
"我觉的如果他不想要我们，那我们就别在试," someone scoffed, leaning back on the chair and twiddling his thumbs.
"We are an extended family, Chantha. We cannot stop." The owl cut off the speaker, "Secrets stay within us: that was part of the pact." Her words rang with power: her siren blood was beginning to show. The words sent goosebumps down his spine and other people in the room also shuddered from the impact. "We are special, we are better than the other disciplines because we love our subject unconditionally. We are people of influential and non-influential ties but we are all one of the same. You give us a name and then you give us another one but you are the same person. A name is just a name. Yes?" The owl turned its head to the side and surveyed the entire room.
After a moment of deliberation, he nodded once more.
The tension in the room dissipated.
"Thank you, Engelstad," Greengrass laughed and clapped her hands, "Little One, you have us and we won't let you run off again. But that isn't the here and now. We still have tasks to finish before sundown." She placed her palms on the desk and leaned over, "Let us begin."
Nerva is a man behind a curtain. To the general public, he is a man with no known family ties.
But he knows how to brew the potions known as the Mungo Five: Flesh-stitch, Essence of Dittany, Blood Replenishing, Skele-gro, and Wolfsbane, all at an unprecedented pace and still churning out cutting-edge discoveries like breathing air. There were rumors that he has an army of house elves which he specially trained to help him. There were rumors that the werewolf packs of all of Eurasia are in his debt. Truthfully, those rumors were all exaggerations: some of the Hogwarts house elves sneakily bonded to him as Headmaster and not to the castle in a bid to stay alive and now were happily preparing the ingredients for him and only one of the Alphas had visited him to personally thank him. He had pulled the Alpha aside and asked him not to visit him ever again, not that he had a thing against werewolves, but a childhood traumatic memory that he can do to live without. There were no hardships after that.
Potions was like learning the secrets to the universe. There were some mathematical parts of the science that past experimenters had only touched upon. His desk was littered with phase diagrams of different extracts and mixtures. He had papers and papers of calculations trying to pinpoint the correct properties of different solutions at different temperatures and then rewriting equations with more flexibility and chances for error margins as he tried to integrate the fact that there were outside elements that can still affect the effects of the finalized potion, no matter how good the stasis charm or the barrier spell was. He had found out that the copper apparent in any type of blood had the effects of reacting unfavorably with even the most mild acidic potions (Muggle university level textbooks had been one of the smartest investments he had made as a Journeyman Potioneer). He learned how fast one cuts ingredients, how fast and in which way one stirs the cauldron, inevitably gives kinetic energy that can be used to either further potion effects or cause the potential energy to convert and allow the whole concoction to explode. There was so much that he had discovered and so much that he had remiss.
He was single-handedly revolutionizing the art of Potions itself.
And the accomplishment did not go unnoticed.
When he is in the privacy of his quarters, in a house sitting on a lonely road halfway between Gloucester and the Forest of Dean, he deflates and sinks into his bed, willing it to swallow him and spit him out into a world where he doesn't exist. The world wouldn't let him stay behind a curtain for long but he would be damned if he showed his face to the public.
He receives daily letters from newspapers and prominent families. The reporters, who merely wanted interviews, weren't as bad as the families and their all-important coat of arms. He had long prepped himself for the inevitable effects of pureblood curiosity, a factor that was always a hindrance to his studies at all points in his life. Lucius Malfoy was the worst of them when he was in Hogwarts. Draco Malfoy was quickly replacing his father in that matter. There were others. Augustus Longbottom had sent out her inquiries and a plead for assistance to help her grandson start his budding genetic chimeric plant business. Neville Longbottom sent out a letter soon after apologizing for his grandmother's behavior. Cecelia Avery's invites for dinner has one too many snide hints of a certain Hogwarts Potions professor for him to relax his guard. The worst was with Shaklebolt's election to Minister, the Wizengamot had once again split evenly on both sides of the Traditionalists and the Liberalists. The Traditionalists, holding most of the pureblood families, had once again sought out his identity. But this time, he managed to ignore the metaphorical questing fingers and burned their letters immediately upon receiving them. As the ashes from the parchment rose into his chimney, the fire whispered the words inked out on paper like muffled Howlers.
What are your political backings?
Do you have patrons?
Who do you support?
What is your history?
What side do you align with?
From whence did you come from?
Who are you?
Nerva Prince ignored everything. In fact, it can be said that he has a mastery in Ignoring and he takes an unholy amount of glee imagining the way perfect pureblood faces twist in displeasure of when things do not go their way.
He has learned in his stay that the secret to life was to appreciate the small things.
The Guild had asked him once in the yearly gatherings what had kept you sane? There was a moment, years back, where he had stopped swirling the dark rich wine in his glass and contemplated his life. He can recall the ever present horrid, disgusting feeling like a dark taint in his head whenever he walked down the halls of his old school of horrid memories, knowing that he was forced to stay, that he was serving two lords of polar sides at war, that the only thing he had to look forward to was more years chained to Hogwarts, Azkaban, or death. He was not a man to be chained and yet he was with double the efforts. There was not much of a life to behold.
Nerva Prince had fallen silent at the question as he reminisced the truth. "Yes," He tested the word on his mouth, it tasted of weakness and confession, "My life has been hard. From my childhood of my disappointment of a family to where I am now and everything in between. From the Marauders I endured years of humiliation without reprieve. No one stood up for me save for one muggleborn and no one cared. No one stopped it until I decided to join the Dark Lord. And the Dark Lord made everything hurt and the worst aspect was it was uncontrollable. With his second rise, we all lived in fear of not living the next day. It was the fear of unpredictability and a mad lord. The mad lord rose and we all feared. The torment changed again when I stepped back into Hogwarts: continuous memories assaulted me every time I looked at Potter and the inequality between houses and how ignorant everyone was to our plight as snakes. Now I know that there are other things besides pettiness. But at the time, the favoritism was too blatant, the teachers were all the same. Nothing changed. I had no one.
"Do you comprehend?" Severus Snape clenched his head and rubbed his temples, still deep in his memories, "With the first rise and the second rise of the Dark Lord, nothing changed. I stared at the battlefield from both sides and saw the ineptitude of any source of hope that we had. Between my first stay and second stay in Hogwarts I saw the same pedestal that Gryffindor stood on as other people hexed my housemates under pretenses of being Dark. And there were times, I admit, where I surprised myself of getting up from wherever I laid. There were times when I checked to make sure that I was still alive as there were times when it got hard to tell. I have long decided that pain does not allow you to live. I had long grown used to the existence of a half-death.
"But, there were those days where I appreciated the small things," He tilted his head back and stared wistfully off into space, all of his frown lines from his face vanished with his peace, "Sometimes I couldn't sleep all night and I'll walk outside alone and watch the sunrise. The best ones were right after a night-storm where the clouds framed the rising sun with the warmest colors I've ever seen."
The room was silent.
"And yet, nothing can dominate my love of standing over a cauldron and being at peace, knowing that my hands can move without me consciously directing them. It's my way of clearing my mind. It's a comfort, do you understand?"
The room understands.
It's always the small things.
My name is James Sirius Potter II.
I am a seventh year student of Hogwarts.
I ask for the honor of becoming your apprentice.
Attached to the owl was a small vial of clear liquid... basilisk venom. It was one of the best offerings that he had ever received in his life. Where on earth the child can even begin to find a basilisk... well, he would rather not dwell on the thought.
The note was written in shorthand, classic supplication method. There was a resume in thick paper hidden in the envelop with two teacher recommendations: one from Flitwick and the other from Slughorn. How in the world of Merlin did a spawn of Potter decide to become as good in Potions to ask for permission to give away years of his life to further learning? In general, Potters were known more for their physical prowess, not mental abilities. He was surprised that the Chosen One hadn't deterred his first born from the discipline for surely he must have told his children the stories of "the Greasy Bat that lives in the dungeons" and how horrendously ugly you would become if you become a Potion Master. Neither Flitwick nor Slughorn were the types to give such glowing reviews of the student if they hadn't seen that spark within them, especially Slughorn, especially in Potions.
He discretely sniffed the original parchment. It was high quality. He noted that the writing had small dots and blots surrounding it like ants. He imagined a miniaturized Potter fretting before he allowed an owl to take the letter. He imagined the miniaturized Potter to have worked tirelessly like many of the other students that he had unofficially taken under his wing over the years. He imagined the miniaturized Potter running a hand through his hair in a Potter fashion only to have it slick to the back like a Malfoy: it was a common side effect of working with fumes of medical potions. It was very hard to envision. Potter working on Potions was about as likely at Granger joining a professional Quidditch team. And with his good luck, James Sirius probably takes after his father and grandfather in looks. And with his bad luck, James Sirius probably takes after his namesake in personality.
He hasn't even met the boy yet. There's no need to jump to conclusions.
Here are the cold hard facts. James Sirius asked for an apprenticeship. He has two respectable men backing his reputation. He is of age and should know how an apprenticeship works: three years of complete subjugation to his commands and three years of relearning independence. Apprenticeships are not to be laughed at like childhood pranks nor can they just be thrown to the side and disregarded like a temporarily interesting folly.
He paced the small room of his study. There were no portraits of him in Hogwarts: his one and only had been burned by the students in rebellion when they forced him to flee, right before the final battle of Hogwarts. Any other visual document of his was when he was a young boy. People change in appearance over time: he was no different. The chances of him getting attacked by someone who knows Legilimency are slim. It's pretty simple to put in the contract a note to forbid the apprentice to share his memories.
Nerva Prince will have to ascertain the boy... (Merlin, he's seventeen!) man's skill through a test.
When he was still young Severus Snape, he had stood before five cauldrons and a myriad of ingredients. His mentor told him to use the same ingredients but make five different potions: one to cure headaches, one to loosen joint pain, one to explode upon contact with blood, and one to act as a slow poison that would kill a person within a day, and one to cause the accelerated growth of skin. Severus Snape had succeeded after two days: he will allot the same amount of time to James Sirius. There's a possibility that the young man isn't talented enough, but at least he'll have a fair chance.
James Sirius Potter II...
He is the first born son of Harry James Potter.
A name is merely a name. Hasn't life taught him that?
Smiling slightly, Nerva Prince begins to pen a reply as he summoned a treat for the owl.
A name is merely a name.
Even if he doesn't succeed, James Sirius Potter represents his high hopes for a future.
But it'll be a cold day in hell when he meets the parents.
Because he sees no reason in showing his face to either one of the parents. Because they are the past. That was it. Pure and simple.
And maybe the Weasley girl will be hurt because she didn't have the chance to apologize after learning that he had kept her from the worst of what the Carrows could be. She had spat into his face many times after he managed to pry off the brother Carrow from her failing body. But he won't care.
And maybe Harry will be hurt because he once again was reminded of the fact that he can't know everything that is not about him. The brat wasn't so much his father as he was his mother, but wasn't so much as his mother as a bitter memory of his imprisonment at Hogwarts and his dual spying for both the light and dark sides, hated by both.
But James Sirius is a name and a name is only a name unless you want it to be otherwise.
There is no reason for history to repeat itself.
He has learned his lesson.
And that is why, two days after the administered test, when Nerva Prince takes long strides down a shaded road through a grove of ash to visit the Peverell grounds where the Guild dwelled, James Sirius Potter dogs his heels.