Chapter Nine - Page 525Mature

Severus’ eyes darted round the dungeon, but there was no one else to be seen.

   He counted to five, willing himself to be calm.  His heart was thumping painfully hard, but at least the ice in his stomach had melted a bit. 

  He swiftly crossed to Potter and knelt down beside him, he felt for a pulse on the unmarked side of Potters neck. 

   He was alive, but his pulse was dangerously slow and weak.

   At that moment, a ghostly head popped round the door.

   It was Nearly-Headless-Nick, the Gryffindor Ghost, so-called because of how poorly he had been beheaded when he was alive.

   ‘Sir Nicholas!’ Severus cried, relieved, ‘Please!  You must help me!’

   ‘Of – of course, Mr. Snape!’  Nick cried, and he was gone.   

   Severus had learnt in one of the Dark Arts books how to heal wounds, but that spell had only been for regular cuts and scrapes.  Vampire bites might be needed treating beforehand.  Best leave the complicated stuff to Madame Pomfrey-

   There came a tinkle of glass from the floor.  Peering past Potter’s docile form, Severus saw a tiny, glass vial roll out of Potter pocket.

   Picking it up, Severus saw that it was one of his own, and to his surprise, it was still full.

   Why hadn’t Potter used it yet?  Maybe he had planned on using it before doing his homework, so he could cheat and get full marks.

   The label had been torn off, but Severus knew at once what it was by its gold colour:  Felix Felicis, also known as Liquid Luck.

   It had taken him six months to make.  Six months of labour and careful precision.

   If the potion failed, Potter might bleed to death before Severus could find anyone, but if it succeeded, his arch-enemy would not only live but have good luck for hours.

   Severus groaned, uncorked his precious potion – ‘I hate you,’ he said, shortly - and poured it into Potter’s mouth.

   He gently massaged Potter’s throat so that he swallowed, and waited.

   Potter suddenly arched and smoke poured from his mouth and nostrils.

  Severus reeled back in alarm, wondering what was wrong with the potion.

  The smoke drifted straight up, but Severus went on staring at Potter.

   Then, in the space of seconds, the colour glowed in Potter’s cheeks.  His chest ballooned as he breathed in, deeply.  Severus breathed out too, seeing the potion was working after all, but he was puzzled by Potter’s reaction.

   Slughorn had never mentioned Felix Felicis having any side-effects.

   Just then, Nearly-Headless-Nick returned with Professor McGonagall and Madame Pomfrey.

   ‘Explain yourselves at once!’ McGonagall snapped.

   Potter pointed at Severus.

   ‘He did it!’ he said.

   It was all that Severus could do to not strangle Potter before he was floated up to the Hospital Wing, on a levitating stretcher, by Madame Pomfrey.

   The moment they were gone, Severus launched into the true version of what had happened, leaving out the part that Potter had chased him down, and saying he had just come down to find him here.  All the same, he felt it sounded suspicious him coming down to the dungeon while everyone else was at the feast.

   Professor McGonagall knew it too, and she raised an eyebrow.

   ‘But why did you come down here in the first place?’ she asked, ‘I mean I know you’re a hard worker, Snape, but this is ridiculous,’

   ‘I wasn’t working, Professor,’ Severus said, ‘I just thought I lost something down here,’

   ‘Ah, well, in that case Potter was very lucky to have you around,’

   Very lucky,’ Severus replied, stiffly, hiding the empty vial behind his back.

  

   The story that Potter was in the Hospital Wing, having been bitten in the dungeons, spread worry and suspicion through the school.

   Severus could barely walk to class without people trying to trip him up, and although the Gryffindors weren’t so stupid as to think he’d really bitten Potter, they still made any excuse to insult him.  The Hufflepuffs, meanwhile, were convinced Severus was guilty, as some of them swore they had seen Severus drinking blood.

   Severus was heartily sick of explaining it had been Soothe-U from Madame Pomfrey, and if anyone wanted proof, they should ask her.

   ‘No one wants to believe the unpopular boy’, he said, bitterly.

   Severus thought this was going a bit far, as he knew that Felix Felicis had restored Potter’s blood and there was no reason for him to still be up there.

   ‘Potter’s milking it!’ he told Lily, angrily, as they played Exploding Snap together.

   ‘You could see he was fine the moment Madame Pomfrey arrived.  He’s faking it so that people carry on at me!’

   ‘I know he is,’ Lily said, patiently, ‘But he’s secretly as scared as the rest of us,’

   She leaned forward and spoke in hushed tones, so no one would hear.

   ‘Did you see anyone?  Was anything else in the room at the time?’

   ‘Nothing,’ Severus answered, but something in Lily’s voice made him nervous.

   ‘You still believe it wasn’t me, don’t you?’

   ‘’Course I do,’ Lily said, and suddenly she smiled, ‘it was a selfless thing you did, giving him your potion.  Particularly after he stole it,’ 

   Severus smiled back.

   He had let Lily in on his collection, because he couldn’t stand being the only one who knew what had happened on Halloween.

   Lily hadn’t been angry with him for breaking rules, and admitted that she would have done the same.

   ‘Honestly, Sev, if I were clever enough to make Felix Felicis, I wouldn’t have fiddled around with vials, I’d have nicked the cauldron,’

   Severus laughed.

   ‘You coming to this afternoon’s Quidditch match?’ Lily asked.

   Severus’ smile died at once.  ‘Not exactly,’ he muttered.

   ‘Why not?’

   ‘It’s Gryffindor versus Slytherin, and I bet Potter will say he’s fine the moment he hears he has to get his big head on a broom,’

   ‘Aren’t we a ray of sunshine?’ Lily said, grinning at him.

   ‘Sunshine?’ Severus repeated, quietly, and then an idea flashed into his brain.

   ‘Sunshine!’ he cried, ‘Lily, you’re a genius!’

   He leapt off his chair and gave her a hug before running from the room.

   ‘You go to the match!’ he called over his shoulder, ‘I have to do some digging!’

   He leapt over people’s legs as they stuck out to trip him, dodged a random Curse from Black, and ran straight into Professor Binn’s class, which was empty. 

   He went to Binn’s desk and was pleased to see that the Guild of Dragons book still lay on top.

   Severus heaved it open and skim-read the pages, searching.

   He was sure he had heard Binns mention sunshine from here some point, and then he found it.

   ‘The Guild of Dragons was a family of vampire slayers, well-known for their inventive methods at killing them, which included the Perfringo Curse, and Liquid Sunshine,’ he read aloud, excitement pumping through is veins.

   Unless Severus was mistaken, Liquid Sunshine was a potion.

   At that moment, the door swung open and Lily came into the classroom.

   ‘What are you doing?’ she asked.

   ‘I thought you were going to Quidditch,’ Severus said.

   ‘I was, but it looked like you’d found something more interesting,’

   She moved round the desk so they could the book.

   Severus smiled at her profile; he wasn’t fooled.

   ‘You just don’t want to watch Slytherin lose because of Felix Felicis,’ he said, smartly.

   ‘Oh alright, you win,’ Lily admitted, going pink, ‘But what is this?’

   She tapped the Guild of Dragons book.  Severus showed her, but for some reason, Lily didn’t seem as excited by the Dragons now as before.

   ‘Surely nothing in Binn’s classroom is worth coming to at Quidditch?  And why did you run off when I said “sunshine”?’

   ‘You reminded me of this,’ Severus answered, pointing at a page.

   Lily read the sentence. 

   ‘Liquid Sunshine.  What’s that?’

   Severus looked at the page again, and sure enough, he was right.

   Next to ‘liquid sunshine’, was printed for ingredients list, see page 594.

   They heaved over a heavy wad of pages, to the end of the book.

   They found the list halfway down and Severus’ eyes widened in astonishment.

   It was the most difficult-looking potion he had ever seen, and he understood now why the Dragons were famous.

   ‘Butterfly wings, daisy roots, ladybirds, goldfish scales, we can get them out of the students’ store cupboard,’ Severus read.

   ‘Oh no, look!’ Lily said, reading on, ‘Ashwinder Egg and wool from a Golden Fleece, they’ll be in the private stores,’

   ‘I’ve got a signed note of permission from Slughorn,’ Severus shrugged, ‘what’s the problem?’

   ‘All the Ashwinders hatched months ago,’ Lily replied, ‘in Professor Kettleburn’s lesson,’

   Severus tried not to look so pleased with himself.

   ‘What?’ Lily asked him, twigging.

   ‘I kind of ... pinched one,’ he was grinning now, and his cheeks were rose-red.

   Lily looked at him, and started giggling, which set him off.

   When they had stopped, Severus wanted to ask her something he wouldn’t ask anyone else to do.

   ‘Would you like to make the potion with me?’

   Lily looked stunned.  ‘What!’

   He nodded.

  ‘Oh, I don’t know, Severus,’ Lily was looking worried, ‘It’s a really advanced potion – I mean, don’t get me wrong,’ she said, hastily, ‘I’d like to, very much, I think it looks fascinating.  It’s just that ... well ... I’m good enough,’

   ‘’Course you’re good enough,’ Severus said, ‘you’re more than good enough,’

   There was a rather embarrassed pause as they looked at the floor, their faces glowing identical shades of puce.

   In the silence, Severus could just make out the Quidditch commentary as it drifted in through the window.  Gryffindor were well in lead now their score was being doubled by Felix Felicis. 

   When he looked back, Severus saw Lily copying down the ingredients and the instructions list.

   ‘Let’s go!’ Severus said when she was finished.

   They hurried from the room, nerves jangling and hearts thumping, eager to get started on their secret potion.

   They fairly ran through the castle, ghosts drifting silently past on either side.

   There were hardly any students about, as everyone was at the match.

   At last they reached the shadowy, stony corridor that led to the dungeons.

   ‘I’ll get the things from the student store-cupboard,’ Lily said while Severus went into the private stores.

   It wasn’t hard finding the Golden Fleece wool.  Its golden lustre stood out a mile among the boxes of glistening black beetles’ eyes and bowls of slimy frogs legs.

   When Severus entered the Potions classroom, he found Lily with the assortment of things on a desk top.  But Lily wasn’t making attending to the ingredients, she was peering round the back of door Severus had come through.

   ‘What’s that thing on the floor?’ she asked, pointing.

   Severus pushed the door shut and looked.

   Something silvery was lying in the corner.  He picked it up.

   It was somebody’s cloak, small enough to fit him, and a very nice one it was too.

   ‘I wonder whose it is,’ Lily said, thoughtfully.

   ‘I’ll hand it in to McGonagall later,’ Severus said, absently folding the cloak up and leaving it on Slughorn’s desk.

   They spent half an hour preparing the potion.  But there was something satisfying about cutting and crushing everything with precision.  Despite Lily saying she wasn’t as good as Severus, he let her do as much work as him.  He had to correct her methods a couple of times, but by the end, the potion looked exactly as the instructions said at this stage, blue-black, with tiny, twinkling dots.

   ‘I can’t believe we just did that!’ Lily breathed.  ‘It looks fantastic!’

   ‘We’ve got a long way to go yet,’ Severus reminded her, washing his hands at the stone basin, ‘It has to stew for three months, and we have to stir it clockwise three times,’

   ‘How often?’ Lily asked, as they, carefully, carried the cauldron out of the room.

   ‘Noon, every other day,’ Severus replied, as he wedged the private store door open with his foot.

   ‘Noon!’ Lily cried, ‘that’s cutting it a bit fine, isn’t it?  We’re going to have to nip out during classes,’

   ‘We’ll manage,’ Severus reassured her, ‘Just say you need the toilet, no one will mind.  Then, on the last day of the last month, we add more Golden Fleece, stir it clockwise five times and anti-clockwise once, over a heat, drop in the Ashwinder egg, and we’re done,’

   Lily goggled at him but Severus was feeling confident. 

   They hid the Liquid Sunshine in the far corner, and then went back upstairs, feeling pleased with themselves.

   The sound of distant cheering reached their ears, signalling the end of the Quidditch match.

   ‘Everyone will be partying when they get back to the dormitory,’ Lily said, ‘Potter will be gloating about this for a week.  I don’t think I can throw up for that long, can you?’

   Severus grinned at her.

  ‘I’m just going to put the book back,’ he said, ‘see you later,’

   Back in Binn’s classroom, Severus scanned over some of the pages, looking at the old, moving illustrations, mostly of the Dragons posing or slaying - 523 - 524 – 526 -

   Wait a minute!

   Severus flicked back a page, and he wasn’t mistaken.  Page five hundred and twenty five was missing.

   He quickly caught up with Lily and told her.

   ‘A page is missing?  But who would take it and why?’

   ‘I’m not sure,’ Severus muttered, ‘but I have theories,’

The End

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