Disclaimer: All recognisable IPR owned by JKR and her assigns. The rest is mine.
Firstly, I'm so sorry it's taken so long to update. Our house was flooded in the storms in December and I lost my laptop (amongst other things). It's been a complete nightmare. Anyway, we've now relocated and backup has restored most of my plans and chapters and I'm back on track. So – onward!
Secondly – belated happy new year to you all. May you be happy and healthy and may 2014 be kind to all of us.
Warning: M/M. Don't like, don't read.
It is September 1997. Lupin is with the Snowdon Pack helping to set up one of the safe houses for Muggle-borns. Snape has been summoned to the Dark Lord and meets Liva Tofana, an Italian Apothecary, who has joined the Death Eaters and produced a poison specific to werewolves called Slivered Silver.
"Slithered Silver," sang the Dark Lord. "For the filth in Snowdon."
Snape's mind raced. A poison which could kill the whole pack – Lupin included! But why was Idris no longer sought? What had happened about the twin cores? Had the Dark Lord surmounted the problem? Secrets! Snape could not afford to be excluded. He had to take the chance and be curious.
"What of the half-breed wandmaker, my Lord? You no longer require him?"
The Dark Lord sneered, a look of supreme triumph glinting in his blood-red eyes.
"I have discovered a better way."
Chapter 116: Genesis
A better way? A better way of what? Defeating Potter? Overcoming the twin cores? Snape's mind reeled with questions. Idris had always been the focus for the Dark Lord obtaining a more powerful wand. What way could be better? He would have to speak to Dumbledore.
Even as he planned, he moved smoothly over to Livia Tofana, an Apothecary of such distinction that – under other circumstances – Snape would have been enthusiastic to make her acquaintance in person, even with her dubious reputation. It was known (although never proven by the Italian Ministero) that Tofana's speciality was poison. Her talent for abstract means to dispose of one's enemies was legendary and Snape had no doubt that if she had invented a werewolf-specific poison, it would be lethally effective.
He had to be careful. He needed to know what she had developed and whether there was an antidote. Could he get a sample even?
"Madam Tofana," he said silkily. "It is a great honour to make your acquaintance."
The witch's eyes were warm and welcoming. Snape was not fooled for one second.
"Professor Snape," she replied, inclining her head. "There is much I think we can achieve together. Our Lord has told me of your selective poison. I understand that you progressed a great deal but lost your researches in the mêlée of Professor Dumbledore's … demise. Perhaps," she bestowed a ravishing smile upon him, "you will allow me to assist you?"
Her voice was like honey, her tone mellow and reassuring, her words only slightly accented. Snape was sure, had he been attracted to women, she would be ensnaring him as they spoke. But he could dissemble as well. He had no doubt that the Dark Lord expected Snape to fall under the witch's spell. He inclined his head and bowed slightly.
"Assist me? I would be delighted," he said, noting the Dark Lord's nod of approval and wide, unpleasant smile. "If I may, Madam Tofana -"
"Please! You must call me Livia, and I will call you Severus – it is a fine Roman name, after all." She smiled seductively at him, her body seeming to lean gracefully towards him as her eyes roved over him. "There must be Italian ancestry in your wizarding line, I think," she said, in a considered tone, as she looked at his nose and hair. Snape had no intention of pointing out that his nose was a gene handed down from his very British, northern, working class father. "But I do not recognise the name of Snape," she added, coquettishly.
"On the Prince side," Snape said quickly, seeing Bellatrix itching to interrupt with the news of his Muggle father. "My mother's name was Prince."
"Ah," Livia breathed, nodding knowingly. "Principe! An old pure-blood name."
Snape heard Bellatrix snort with derision behind him but the Dark Lord silenced her with a hiss and a wave of his wand.
"It is my wish that you work together to achieve my great plans. Too long have I expected Severus to carry the weight of expectation whilst others - less worthy - do nothing for the cause."
Bellatrix cowered from the Dark Lord and Snape wondered how she or her family had transgressed this time. The question didn't linger. He had to capitalise upon his current status of favour. Snape understood the mercurial nature of the Dark Lord and knew just one false step could see him consigned to the status of pariah, like Lucius Malfoy – his wand shattered, his blood status worthless, his prestige tarnished like cheap gilded alloy.
"It would be a great honour," said Snape, his eyes roaming to the phial she held in her hands. "Such a prize indeed."
"Ah yes," murmured the Dark Lord. "Severus has a particular interest in the suffering and death of these beasts."
"My Lord honours me in remembering."
The Dark Lord chuckled. "Such memories, Severus!" His eyes met Snape's own and Snape wondered momentarily if the Dark Lord would bring him low with Legilimency before this new initiate just to demonstrate his power. The memories of his fear of the werewolf were easy to summon, from his terror of his discovery of teenage Lupin transformed in the Shrieking Shack to the battering he received from Idris, and he pushed them forward in the desperate hope he would not be debased.
The Dark Lord held Snape's suppliant gaze but his intrusion in Snape's mind was brief. Clearly, Snape's suffering was not required today. The Dark Lord's smile spread slowly.
"Severus has more reason than even the most discerning wizard to despise the half-breeds, Livia. Even when some have their uses, they are burdensome."
"Has Greyback displeased you again, my Lord?" asked Snape, wondering if that werewolf would also become a victim to the poison.
"The half-breed has his uses - but he is presumptuous," the Dark Lord hissed as he twisted sinuously towards Livia. "He is under orders to keep his distance. It does not do to let a beast think he is one of us."
Snape knew Greyback had been granted Death Eater robes of which the brute was obscenely proud. Had he still been pressing for the Dark Mark again, as he had done before? The Dark Lord would never work his blood brand into a creature he considered less than human. Perhaps, Snape would be able to capitalise on the Dark Lord's annoyance.
"He serves your purpose, my Lord," Snape sneered, "but he still seeks to pollute wizarding blood with his own – by one means or another."
The Dark Lord laughed throatily. "I know it. Once his purpose is served, he will be exterminated. I may even let you cast the curse." The Dark Lord paused and held Snape's gaze again. "I have no doubt you will be Livia's most willing and eager associate."
"Most willing indeed!" murmured Snape, allowing his delight to be apparent, even if his motivation was shrouded in deceit.
"Then we have much to discuss, Severus." She held out her hand and Snape bowed and touched his lips briefly to her hand. Her scent was seductive. He had no doubt she had imbibed an Attraction Potion prior to this meeting; he recognised the base oils subtly disguised with roses and sweet spice to resemble exotic perfume, but this nose of his could not be fooled. The question was whether he should let her know. He quickly decided it would be counter-productive and merely smiled instead. Let her think he was not her equal.
"Might I suggest we meet at Hogwarts after the full moon? My notes and laboratory are there."
"I should be delighted. First, we rid ourselves of the half-breeds, then the Muggles."
Snape made a small bow.
"It is a shame, Severus," smiled Livia, "that I did not know of your interest before the poisoning on Snowdon commenced ..."
Snape felt his blood turn to ice in his veins and time seemed to slow down in his shock. But he kept his voice steady. "It has already begun?" He looked to the phial still in her hand.
"Oh yes," murmured the Dark Lord. "Our agent has been in place for months now. A bespoke spy, courtesy of Greyback. This," he gestured to the phial, "is for those in our midst when the time comes."
A traitor in the Pack! A werewolf Turned for this very purpose. Snape's whole being seemed to scream to run – run to Snowdon and save Lupin! But his sense, Occluded safe from the Dark Lord's intrusion, held firm. He could do nothing to help unless he had information – blundering in without knowing the constitution of the poison could kill rather than cure. He could just hope a bezoar would do the trick – but he knew it would not if Livia Tofana had developed the poison. It would be multi-layered, ingredients interacting with spells, well concealed traps for the unwary.
He had to know more. He had to play to her arrogance to want to tell him more.
"I don't deny that I am intrigued, Livia," said Snape silkily, standing tall as if about to depart. "I shall work out the method and trick of it before we meet."
Livia's brown eyes sparkled, and Snape knew she had picked up the challenge.
"The delivery is not difficult. Their food stocks have been contaminated," she said dismissively. "However, I don't believe you will be able to unravel the trick of it. No bezoar can undo it. Even if I gave you this phial, Scarpin's Revelaspell would not assist you."
"Indeed?" Snape peered at the phial enquiringly. "You believe I would be unable to detect the additional component?"
Livia's lips quirked into an unpleasant smile of condescension. "I do. Whilst the silver sickens them, it is an ancient Dark curse which will be the miséricorde to deal death to the beasts. Our Lord advised me on it." She bowed to the Dark Lord who smiled at her in turn, but Snape knew now she would want to crow about the Potion. Now it was for Snape to ensure she told him all he needed to know.
"I am hardly ignorant of Dark curses -"
"Ah, but this is a rare and arcane curse, way beyond any standard Apothecarial study!"
Snape knew she was rising to the bait now; she just needed a little more needling.
"But there was talk they have a wizard Healer. He will know how to counteract -"
"I knew of that and it will avail them nothing! The curse woven into the fabric of the poison will ensure the full moon will destroy them all. Magic against magic!" she snapped triumphantly.
There it was!
"Magic against magic," murmured Snape, his stomach churning. He had heard of this curse and knew of no counter-curse. The curse turned magic in on itself – one's own and any magic applied in healing. "The Contra Curse," he said, struggling now to keep up the pretence of admiration. "Why – that is fiendish!"
"Yes," the Dark Lord almost chuckled, "it is fiendish." He drew himself level with Livia, and looked on her as if he wished to consume her. "Everything I expect of my followers and yet ... I so rarely receive." The Dark Lord turned his gaze on Bellatrix, still Silenced and panting heavily, clearly maddened with jealousy. Under other circumstances, Snape would have revelled in her distress but for now, he could think of nothing but securing the information he needed. "Are you impressed, Severus?"
"Deeply, my Lord. This means that Livia must have a deep understanding of the genesis of the Lycanthropic curse to use it against itself."
"Ah, so you do know the curse!" Livia was caught up in her own cleverness now. She wanted to brag and the Dark Lord wanted her to show off her talent. It was all Snape could do not to beg her to tell him.
"I have never worked the Contra Curse," Snape said, choosing his next words carefully. "And I had thought the origins of the Lycanthropic curse were lost in the mists of time."
"To those who know not where to look," murmured Livia.
"How then did you find it?" Snape did not hide his eagerness now, only his panic. How had they discovered what he and Lupin had spent months researching to no avail? But it was not Livia who answered.
"Those who study true Darkness and do not shy away from the power it brings can divine what is necessary," said the Dark Lord. Then he made a dismissive gesture, indicating that Livia was to explain. Livia stood back, crossing her arms, her long, delicate fingers resting on her upper arms, clearly delighted to tell the tale.
"It is an ancient story, shrouded in myth, in that greatest of civilisations, Mesopotamia, on the banks of the Euphrates river. The first dynasty of Uruk was governed by Gilgamesh two and a half thousand years before the birth of the Christ child. The Sumerians believed Gilgamesh to be a demigod but - of course - he was, in fact, a great sorcerer.
"A powerful sorceress, Ishtar, desired Gilgamesh greatly although she had many admirers of her own. One such was a lowly shepherd Lykos. She encouraged him to give her gifts and make sacrifices to her in the mistaken belief that she was a goddess. She tired of his obsession with her and, thinking to amuse Gilgamesh and impress him with her skill, she transfigured Lykos into a wolf whereupon his own hounds had killed him. Gilgamesh forever spurned her for her cruelty. This much is generally known from the great tablets of Sumerian civilisation."
Snape nodded. He had read of this myth before but it did not explain the magic underlying the curse of Lycanthropy. Livia moved to the leather inlaid desk of walnut and picked up a clay tablet, stroking its edges with reverence as she continued, her voice now filled with awe.
"However, what is not generally known, for we have become too constrained by Muggle notions of good and evil, is that Ishtar had called on her father, the greater moon Necromancer Sîn, to assist her when she transfigured Lykos into a wolf-demon, not a mere wolf. Gilgamesh, in a great duel of sorcery with Ishtar, restored the shepherd to life. He could not undo all of Ishtar's transfiguration but he managed to contain it to the time of the full moon. That was the price – for a price must always be paid to bring life from the realm of death – spark from dust."
Snape's eyes fixed on the cuneiform tablet Livia held. Could this be the true genesis of the Lycanthropic curse? Did it originate in Necromancy, the Darkest of all arts communing with the dead and the death dimensions? The twisting in his stomach seemed to tighten even more.
"May I?" he asked, his throat dry in fear. Livia smiled and handed over the ancient tablet.
"It is one of a Ternion," she advised as pointed to two other tablets on the desk. "They must be read together."
"Remarkable," Snape muttered as his eyes devoured the cuneiform markings. His mind couldn't translate as quickly as he would have liked, but he could always make use of the Pensieve when he returned to Hogwarts. He quickly scanned the other two, tracing the markings with his fingers, even the cracks of age running through the tablets in an effort to familiarise himself with them.
"It has such poetic symmetry, does it not, Severus?" murmured the Dark Lord. "In meddling with what he had considered a great evil, he wrought a cursed life on the man he purported to save and condemned multitudes of men and women to half-lives to this day" The Dark Lord laughed, a hollow, mirthless sound.
Snape managed a half smile in response. "It is truly extraordinary," he said, trying to keep his tone level. "So I understand: the silver poison works by weakening and sickening them so they seek remedies but no magical remedy can be applied as it will augment the effects of the Contra Curse?"
"Correct. But the beauty of this is that the strength the beasts derive from their curse will ensure that the poison's effect is amplified at the full moon – magic working against magic. The cursed time will take their spark back to dust."
Snape's mind was in turmoil as he ran from the Apparition point through the gates of Hogwarts, the sun already setting on the horizon. From his summoning at midnight, he had been in conference with the Dark Lord and Livia through the early hours onward. He had had to summon all his skills of deceit to make it through a seemingly interminable day of information-gathering.
And some of this was the very information he had so dearly desired in his hope to find a cure for his beloved but to have discovered it as part of a plot to kill those werewolves unsympathetic to the Dark Lord was a terrible blow. That the curse was Necromantic in origin was a truly shocking revelation and one he had no time to come to terms with. Lupin hadn't been exposed to the poison as long as the Pack, but he had still been exposed.
And then Snape stopped in his tracks with a single realisation.
There could be no Wolfsbane.
He would have to spend the full moon with Lupin without Wolfsbane and unable to use any magic to help him -
Like a ghost of a memory, the scars on his midriff seemed to burn.
- or to protect himself. He shook his head at his own stupidity. He couldn't use his wand against Lupin anyway, but he could use magic on himself. And it would all be moot anyway if he couldn't find a cure!
It was a just over a week until the full moon and he had to prepare – somehow. But how? He had a Dark Arts library of his own but he knew he didn't have the answers in those books – he knew them cover to cover after all.
He sped to the Headmaster's office and immediately began to riffle through Dumbledore's library of books, pulling out volume after volume, grunting in frustration.
"What is it, Severus?"
Snape ignored Dumbledore, still searching as his heart pounded, only vaguely aware of the calls from other portraits in the office as more and more tomes were flung to the floor as Snape's desperation grew.
"Headmaster? What troubles you?"
"What ails thee?"
"Let us assist you!"
Snape whirled around to Dumbledore's portrait, his eyes wild with mounting panic. "Where are they? Where?"
"What, Severus? What exactly are you looking for?"
"The Dark Arts books you used to have here? All the ones you removed from the library? From Black's library too! Where have they gone? Albus! Where?"
Dumbledore held Snape's gaze over his painted glasses. "Why do you need them? Has Tom asked for them?"
"The Dark Lord has left the country!" Snape waved at the portrait spastically.
"Gone where? Do you know? Tell me, Severus. It may be important."
"He's not my concern," Snape barked. "Just tell me about the books! Remus's life depends on it!"
"They were Summoned from this office," said Phineas Nigellus. "After Dumbledore departed, I saw them fly out of the window."
"All of them?" cried Snape, looking around wildly, a vague recollection of missing books coming back to him.
"Every one of them," Vulpus confirmed.
"Severus, speak to us," insisted Dumbledore. "Why is Remus in danger?"
Snape sank to the dias step, his head dropping into his hands as his panic finally consumed him and his breath came in rasps.
"Not just Remus. The whole Snowdon Pack."
Snape pressed the heels of his hands against his closed eyes as he fought to calm himself, cursing himself for his loss of control. He hadn't slept in two days, he reminded himself. He needed to calm himself – and deal with this.
Finally, his breathing eased and the portraits waited, most leaning forward in their chairs expectantly. Snape inhaled deeply and dragged his fingers through his hair in an effort to compose himself. He had some of the finest minds at his disposal here: he must make use of them. He stood and lifted his eyes to look at Dumbledore directly, whose own eyes were filled with concern.
Quickly and without embellishment, Snape told them of revelations made by the Dark Lord and Livia Tofana and no-one spoke until Snape finished with, "... so I wanted the Dark Arts books for something – anything – that can help."
Then, as if on some unspoken cue, most of the portraits began to speak culminating in a crescendo of theories and speculation. As the cacophony became almost unbearable, Snape roared, "Silence!"
The silence that descended on the room felt thick with tension.
"If you please, let us discuss this in an orderly fashion," said Dumbledore. "First, we must unravel the layers. Poison – Silver activate – Contra curse."
Vindictus Viridian was first to speak. "First, the poison must be dealt with but not with a Potion because the magical elements will exacerbate the Contra curse. We know a Bezoar cannot assist us because of this."
At this point, Dilys Derwent interjected, "Iodine to counteract the silver!"
Of course, thought Snape. Tincture of iodine as used by Muggles as an antiseptic, but alchemically, iodine was the counter to silver.
Viridian leant forward. "Yes! If we can procure a sample of the poison, we can formulate the proper percentage parts required to annul the silver!"
"I may not be able to obtain a pure sample, but I could obtain some poisoned food, I'm sure."
"And thou canst find remedial elixirs concocted without sorcery," chimed in Phyllida Spore.
"Muggle medicaments use no magic. They may work to reduce the symptoms of poison," suggested Dilys. "If you can identify the poison and the maladies it will cause, I will bespeak medicaments from the hospital for your use."
"Thereby reducing the damage done before the full moon, yes!" exclaimed Snape, knowing Dilys had portraits not only in St. Mungo's but also at the Royal Hospital of St. Bartholomew in Spitalfields, where Healers had been in attendance since the twelfth century (although, since the Statute of Secrecy, the position had been concealed).
"If the poison can be counteracted by the time of the full moon, they may be able to withstand their transformations," added Dumbledore. "It then becomes a matter of tackling the Contra Curse itself."
"Do you know anything of it?"
Dumbledore stroked his beard. "I have read ancient scrolls referring to it. I know that it is a blood curse but more than that, I do not know."
Here, Snape knew the Headmasters could not help him. If they did not have that knowledge now, it could not be gained by the dead. He felt the sharp pang of loss as he remembered how Dumbledore had helped them unravel the Thrall, bringing his prodigious skills to bear on their calculations. But perhaps they would have the knowledge of where he could find the arcane knowledge he needed and, one by one, each made suggestions of where such knowledge might be found.
The free-flow of ideas no longer overwhelmed him as each component took him closer to a solution and he drank in the contributions, scratching notes on a piece of parchment. He couldn't help but curse Sirius Black's memory for distracting him from the Black library books on soul magic before Dumbledore had taken them and he certainly couldn't try to obtain those books through his usual resources – the Dark Lord might come to hear of it.
"If I may?" asked a querulous voice as the exchanges gradually petered out. Snape turned to listen to the portrait of Armando Dippet. "Why do we care about preserving werewolves?"
Snape's eyes narrowed. "Be careful," he hissed. "The next time I carry acetone, you best hope none spills on your portrait when I pass."
Back in his quarters, at least he could now plan. The portraits had given him much valuable information from each of their own fields of excellence. He had always thought their oaths to serve the Headmaster were little more than a mythological adornment of Hogwarts. As he spread out his notes on his desk, he knew he had been wrong – they were a magnificent resource.
He began to pack his apothecary bag. He took a small supply of emergency Potions although only he and Alphard could make use of them because of the Contra Curse. Then he Summoned all the iodine in both his personal and the school's stores and packed them carefully. Then he called for Tippy who appeared with a snap.
"Professor Snape," she said, bowing low.
"Tippy, I have urgent errands for you, and it is vital that each is carried out as quickly as possible. I am going to the encampment in Snowdon now but I will call as soon as I can to instruct you. In the meantime, if there is any trouble here, come to me."
"Yes, Professor Snape. Tippy knows the place," she confirmed, bobbing her head.
"Very good." With that, Tippy Disapparated and Snape finished packing his bag then pulled out the mirror, calling breathlessly to Lupin.
Lupin answered, his own face ashen, his expression stressed.
"Severus," he breathed. "I was just about -" Lupin stopped speaking as he looked at Snape's dark eyes glittering with fear. "What's wrong?"
"I need to come to the Pack. I have to speak to Idris and Alphard. And you. I need to see you."
"I'll speak to them, but now's a bad time. There's sickness throughout the camp. Angharad had a terrible labour in a Muggle hospital and -"
"I know about the sickness," Snape interrupted with a snap. "That's why I need to come right now. It's a cursed poison! And no-one – I repeat, no-one – can use magic!"
Seth Moore, with his sandy hair and burnt umber robes, Apparated within feet of the perimeter of the wards of the Snowdon Pack. He saw no sign of the usual look-outs but, within seconds, Lupin and Idris appeared. Snape noticed that Lupin walked close to Idris, as if to support him. And it quickly became apparent why.
The Alpha's steps were uncertain and a thin film of perspiration stood out on his skin. His eyes were bright with fever and his shoulders hunched over as if it pained him to breathe. Snape's eyes snapped to Lupin. He didn't look ill like Idris, but he was pale and drawn. Snape frowned: he had only been with Lupin two nights ago and he had been – well – vigorous. The poison was clearly fast-acting – they would have to work fast.
Snape walked quickly to meet them.
"Well met," rasped Idris, and then he coughed, stretching out a hand and clasping Lupin's shoulder until the coughing passed. "Ye are welcome."
With those words of invitation, Snape and Lupin walked with Idris through the ancient wards.
A/N: Shout out to littleisle, SeverusMyLove, Smurny, keske, Lupinesence, ObsidianCharm, fan girl 666, i'manerdforallthingsHP, SnapePotionsMistress, constantinexfreak, lysmachine and Atenea217.
For those who want to know what happened with Angharad's labour, it's told in Chapter 19 of 'Old Friend'.
Please read and review.
Hello to faves & alerts.