Chapter Eleven: The Disorderly Knights
Severus Snape walked down the street outside the tournament hotel holding the traditional box of expensive candy in his hand, then quickly Apparated to the front door of the gentlemen's club. With any luck the boy had figured out what sort of evening his teacher had planned, and would be far too embarrassed to ask questions later.
He entered the place. For two Knuts he'd abandon his meeting with Karkaroff and have that sort of evening for once, but with the Dark Mark on his arm hinting at a summons soon, he doubted he would have the chance. He didn't mind risking himself, but gambling with the Weasley boy's welfare at the same time bothered him.
But what if Igor was in the same situation he'd once been in? Voldemort's reappearance had caused many to rethink their priorities. Dumbledore had risked the school by allowing him to teach there in the first place.
Snape walked over to the hatcheck area. He was about to pitch the candy, a traditional gift in this area of the world to signal one's availability to an escort, in the waste bin. Then he changed his mind. Someone may as well enjoy it. "Here," he said to the girl behind the counter. "She didn't show up, and now it's too late. You might as well have it."
She smiled at him and took the box. Then he wondered if she knew enough English to understand what he'd said. He supposed it didn't really matter.
He sat down and counted all the ways things could go wrong. Karkaroff might not show up. Well, he really wouldn't mind that one at this point. Karkaroff would show up and want to talk. Karkaroff was being held as a hostage. Karkaroff was going to lead him into a trap, either willingly or unwillingly. That seemed to cover most of the alternatives.
The thin black robe and the Death-Eater mask were in a pocket on the inside of his dress robe. It was a possibility that a meeting would be held for tonight, and Karkaroff the main entertainment. Snape ordered a brandy and just stared at it. He would give Igor one hour to show up, and then he would go back to the room. Or perhaps he would buy a ticket for the revue and enjoy the show. It had been a long time since he had spent a whole evening away from responsibility.
Then his left arm began hurting again, which ended that train of thought. He took one sip of the brandy, which was worth almost as much as he had paid for it, and left his table as if looking for the toilet. Once in the dark hall away from the main room, he swiftly covered up with the darker robe and held the mask in his hand. People were going into a room at the back one or two at a time. As Snape observed them from the shadows, one man stopped and put on an odiously familiar white mask before entering.
He followed, though he walked stooped over trying to disguise his height. This would be the first time he would be in a full meeting of the Death-Eaters. His interview last summer with Voldemort, arranged through Malfoy's good graces, had involved only the three of them. He'd spent a week after it in the infirmary at Hogwarts recovering from his attempt to explain his absence from the first gathering where Voldemort had murdered Cedric Diggory and nearly killed the Potter boy. There had been other, smaller gatherings he'd managed to attend. It was strange how Pettigrew had been at none of them, despite Potter's insistence that the former Gryffindor had been instrumental in helping Voldemort regain his body. He'd tried to ask about the little rat, but had paid for his insistence with pain. No doubt Potter still wants everyone to believe the dog is innocent, he thought.
The back room was poorly lit; one small lamp burned near an exit, but that was all. Snape eased himself into a seat and let himself slump over. As far as he could tell, only a dozen or so men were sitting down so far.
Then he saw the short, balding man with no mask and a silver hand. Damn! Potter was right about Pettigrew! And wasn't that an annoying thought! Knowing Sirius Black might be telling the truth after all did not fit his normal world-view.
Even from here he could feel the kind of magic the rat's silver hand could wield. He would have to be careful. When he and the Marauders had made Hogwarts history by their feud with each other, he'd always discounted Pettigrew. Though the rat was by no means a Squib, and helped provide his friends with eyes and ears, Snape had never worried about Pettigrew's ability with hexes or any other offensive spells. But he suspected things were different now.
"I wonder if he'll take the bait?" said a man's low voice not far away. It sounded like the elder Goyle.
"Igor said he would. He's here for the tournament, isn't he?"
Ah yes. Where there was a Goyle, there was always a Crabbe. And somewhere in the background, a Malfoy to tell them what to do. Where is Lucius tonight? Snape wondered. He thought his old 'friend' had a game earlier this evening.
"Serves the snake right if he does show up. Why should we have to be the only ones that have to listen to Wormtail brag on about killing the Potters and framing Black for it? Yes, it was a great thing, but it was fourteen years ago."
"You'll smile and nod like everyone else if he does."
Snape grimaced. Neither man was bright enough to make that kind of thing up even if they knew he was listening. Potter had been right about his godfather all along. How aggravating.
"Someone saw him in the front room tonight," continued Goyle. "It might cause trouble if we have to go get him from there."
"Not if our Lord summons him properly," said Crabbe. "Malfoy said he's been disciplined pretty thoroughly. But we can go to the hotel if he's trying to duck out again. If we can grab the boy at the same time, so much the better. Malfoy wants to have a talk with the brat."
That chilled Snape's blood. He had to get out of here now, knowing what Lucius was capable of. Arthur Weasley's youngest son would make quite a hostage against the Ministry official.
Another Death-Eater entered the room, probably Malfoy by the way he walked. Snape sent out a quick spell to check the wards, and found the room was guarded against Apparating in or out. Why hadn't he brought a portkey for Hogwarts? More to the point, why hadn't he made sure the Weasley boy had one?
The Dark Mark in his arm ached again. The pair who had been sitting near him were gone. Then Crabbe and Goyle reappeared, this time dragging forth a terrified Igor Karkaroff. All right. That means the option for tonight is Karkaroff is here, unwilling, and this is probably a trap. Snape was glad the back room was so crowded now. That made one individual harder to track.
The two men dumped Karkaroff in the chair right next to his, a coincidence that Snape found highly suspicious. They already know I'm here, he thought with a chill. And if I wait till Voldemort arrives, I'll be the evening's entertainment.
Fortunately the people around here were still talking among themselves. He leaned over and whispered, "Karkaroff." If Igor could move under his own power, there was a chance they could escape.
Igor's eyes glittered as he looked at Snape. "He said I'd have a chance to redeem myself," the former head of Durmstrang said. Suddenly a knife appeared in his hand.
Snape barely turned sideways in time to take the blade in his left shoulder instead of in his chest. He pushed himself back. As he stood up, he seized the edge of Karkaroff's chair with his right hand and tipped it over with Igor still in it.
Then he took out his wand and began clearing his way to the door. The closeness of the quarters worked for him, rather than against; the Death-Eaters were unwilling to destroy each other just to get him. If they chose to pursue him in public, where even Muggles could see, he was in serious trouble anyway.
There had been no attempts on anyone at the chess tournament. That was no guarantee, considering what had happened last year at Hogwarts, but he had to get back to the hotel for the boy's sake.
His left arm was going numb. Snape briefly wondered what kind of poison was on the knife, but it didn't matter if he didn't get out of here. Since Igor's attack had been made before Voldemort's arrival, he could always claim he was the victim of a private vendetta.
In fact, it was clear much of the crowd had no idea what was going on, and was interfering with the attempts of those trying to capture him. He sent hex after hex after the men in his way, with the occasional sharp elbow or quick kick at those not moving fast enough.
Now only two people stood between him and the door. Naturally they were Crabbe and Goyle, who had learned long ago how to work together to subdue anyone at Malfoy's pleasure.
It was time to do the unexpected. He hit one with a potent Jellylegs, while subjecting the other to a brisk Imperio, and commanding him to open the door, then guard it against anyone going after him. It would take even Lucius a couple of minutes to counteract it, and that might be all he needed.
Snape burst into the hall. He removed the mask and thin over-robe and put them back in his dress-robe pocket. He hoped he'd never have to wear them again. Naturally the Dark Mark chose that moment to ache again, reminding him that he would never be free. He smiled grimly to himself, wondering what the Dark Lord would think once he arrived and discovered that the elusive Potions Master had escaped once more. Oh, I'll pay for it, he thought, his smile fading. But not tonight.
He began searching for another way out of the building. As he turned a corner, the hat-check girl stood in the hall.
"Are you all right? What's going on in there?" she asked.
"Probably nothing much, now," he said. "Is there another way out of here?"
"This way," she said, and pointed to a door
He wondered if this was still another trap, but went that direction anyway. "Thank you," he said, and discovered he was in a lot back of the club. He hexed the door to stay closed, then Apparated back to the hotel. He didn't know the building well enough to land in a specific room.
Snape felt hot and dizzy despite the cool air outside. Yes, there had been poison on Karkaroff's knife, and he thought he knew which kind. He'd better get back up to the room and use the antidote before trying to get Weasley back to Hogwarts tonight.
Ron heard muffled noises in the bathroom, as if someone was in pain. He grinned to himself. When Mum and Dad went out, every once in a while Dad overdid it. To think of the story he could carry back to school if Snape had done the same!
The bathroom door was half-open, which was a surprise. The Potions Master had his shirt off and was trying to treat a slice in his left shoulder. Ron shuffled closer, hoping the green look to the cut was just an effect of bad lighting. There was a scrape on the professor's jaw, too, as if someone with a ring had tried to break it.
"Mr. Weasley, since you are already awake, perhaps you can help," Snape said briskly. "Go into my room, look in the closet, and bring me the black satchel. Pick it up only by its handle or you will regret it."
Ron felt reassured by the Potion Master's tone of voice and did as he was told. Snape's room was far neater than his own, and the closet full of robes much better than Ron had ever seen the man wear at school. The satchel was on the floor of the closet right next to the shoes.
He gingerly picked it up and carried it to the bathroom. Snape waved his wand over the lock and the satchel popped open. Ron leaned forward. The wound on his teacher's shoulder really was turning green. That couldn't be good. Besides, Snape was covered in sweat, and the room wasn't that warm. Ron avoided looking at the horrible black tattoo on the professor's left forearm, though he wondered where all the other scars on the back and chest had come from. Harry was right. Snape had come here to do more than play chess.
His teacher swiftly pulled everything out of the satchel right-handed. "You may as well learn something tonight," he said. "Obviously, there was poison on the knife that caused this wound. Now we can both learn what kind and the proper antidote. This will not be on any test in class, but since you're a friend of Potter's you may need to know this anyway."
Ron relaxed a bit. It couldn't be that serious if he was going to be lectured on it. Snape was right, though. He did need to know this kind of thing. "Of course, sir."
"Once I was away from the fight I tried to let it bleed a bit, since I wasn't sure it was poisoned at the time, and I wanted to prevent infection. Unfortunately, the knife probably went too deep for that to help much. Whatever the poison is doesn't seem to be working fast, which is good. One of the antidotes I brought should work on the cut itself, and another to take care of what I've already absorbed internally."
Ron was fascinated. "What kind of poison do you think it is?"
"Oil of trenner root is often used in Eastern Europe," Snape said. "Since Karkaroff is the one who stabbed me, I suspect he used that one. The symptoms I've been having so far are consistent with it, too. The antidote that goes on the skin is in a paste form that is spread on top and is rapidly absorbed that way. I also need to drink three ounces of distilled roseapple root." He pulled a small green box and a dark bottle out of the group on the counter.
Ron opened them both, since it was clear Snape didn't have the use of both hands just now. Under his teacher's directions, he spread the paste on the cut and wiped his fingers on a wet towel. Then Snape drank the potion after Ron had measured out the correct amount.
The cut turned darker under the paste, and the green area got bigger instead of smaller. "Is it supposed to do that?" Ron asked.
"Hmm." The Potions Master's eyes flickered for a moment. "Interesting. The paste is supposed to turn my skin back to its normal color. I wonder, did he use serpent tongue instead?"
"What's that? A kind of snake venom?" Ron remembered what Harry had said about Nagini, the huge serpent that his friend had seen with Voldemort last year.
"Not really. It's made from a rare plant found by the Caspian Sea. It has similar symptoms to trenner root, but works faster and reacts badly with the antidotes I've just used." Despite the calmness of his voice, Snape's face was turning ashen.
"What is the antidote for it, then?" Ron was beginning to feel frightened.
"Nightingale oil. And it doesn't have anything to do with nightingales, either, but with the tree they like to nest in. It's an ornamental once found in gardens during the time of the caliphs."
"Like the Arabian Nights, then?" Ron asked. He knows more weird stuff than Hermione does!
"Precisely. The relevant point is that I don't have any. Let me see what else I've got. I may be able to substitute something else for it. At the very least I can test it and make sure it's not something else entirely." The professor's mouth tightened as he checked through the various bottles and other containers. "I don't see anything so far?"
Ron didn't like his teacher's color at all now. Wasn't an emir like a caliph? It couldn't hurt to ask about this nightingale oil. "I'll be right back," he said, and took off. Besides, if Rafi was really a genie maybe al-Hadoud's servant could find it.
"Where do you think you're going?" Snape said, though his voice didn't sound good.
Ron was out of the room and knocking on the emir's door before anyone could stop him.
Rafi answered and let Ron in. "Now, what can be wrong this late at night?"
"Someone's been hurt. He got a knife slash on his left arm," Ron said, pointing to his own. "It's not me, okay? But the knife had poison on it, something called serpent tongue, maybe, but he put the wrong antidote on it and it didn't work."
Rafi's eyes went wide. "We need not wake the emir for this," he said. "It is a wonder this person is still alive. I am glad you came to me, though."
Ron was really worried now. "He said something called nightingale oil might work. Is there any around here? He's not looking good."
"There is none here. But I can search one of my master's palaces for it, and the potion he must drink along with it. I shall return." Rafi dissolved into his bottle.
Ron stood there, hoping it wasn't going to be too later. Judging by what Rafi said, Snape could die. Now he had a moment to think, he wondered how his teacher had gotten hurt in the first place. Just a knife wound could have been a bar fight getting out of hand-both Bill and Charlie had a few stories about those that Mum and Dad hadn't heard-but poison on it sounded personal. Especially a poison that reacted badly to the antidote that Snape had with him. That sounded like someone who knew the Potions Master well enough to use his own expertise against him.
Then the genie appeared with a couple of bottles in his hands. "The small one has the oil," Rafi said. "That must be spread on the wound and the skin around it. The larger one must be drunk. He cannot use any other potion for pain with it, no matter how much he wishes to."
"What is the other potion? He'll want to know," Ron said as he took the bottles.
"It is tincture of flowering melotis," the genie said. "It will counteract whatever else he has taken. Its effects are unpleasant, but necessary."
"Thank you, Rafi!" Ron left, and soon was knocking on the door of his own room. He wished he'd remembered the key!
After a few moments, Ron said, "It's me, Professor Snape," and knocked again. What was he going to do if Snape couldn't open the door?
At last it did open. The Potions Master was there, his shirt still off, and breathing heavily. "We need to leave for Hogwarts," he said.
"Rafi found it!" Ron said, holding up the two bottles. "You'd better use this stuff first." Even he knew it was a bad idea to go through the Floo network when you were feeling sick.
Snape moved to let him in and closed the door. "What is it?" he asked.
"He said the potion in this bigger bottle will counteract the antidote, and the stuff in the smaller bottle goes on the wound. He said you couldn't take any pain potion with it, though."
The Potions Master sat down wearily in the bathroom again. Ron opened the vial with the nightingale oil in it and put it on the cut. Snape didn't say a word, but his face tensed as bubbles came out of the wound and spread over the skin. The green coloring began to retreat, though, and the cut itself didn't look as bad as it had before. Then Ron opened the second bottle. His teacher sniffed it first, and grimaced. "Yes, this is melotis. Rafi is right, it is unpleasant." He drank it anyway, though for a moment it looked like Snape was having trouble keeping it down.
The Potions Master began to shiver. Ron fetched a heavy robe from the closet. "Bandages in the bag," Snape said quietly, waving away the robe.
Ron found them and put one over the cut once it was done bubbling. Then he helped Snape get the robe on. "Professor, I could fix that scrape on your face."
"Really?" Snape looked doubtful.
"I fix them at home all the time when Mum isn't around. It's just a charm, so it probably wouldn't affect either potion any."
"You must be behind on your reading again. But I doubt some playground chant would actually do much, so go ahead if you really feel you must." A glint of amusement reached the professor's eyes.
Ron felt embarrassed, but wasn't going to give up just because of that. He knew it worked. It certainly had on his brothers, and especially on Ginny. He focused on the scrape on Snape's jaw and said,
"Don't tell Mum and don't tell Dad,
Now it doesn't hurt so bad.
Now the scrape has gone away,
Shake hands and get back to play.
"Now we have actually have to shake hands, sir, or it won't work."
The Potions Master raised one eyebrow but offered his right hand. Ron took it in his own, surprised at how hot it felt, and shook it. At first it didn't look like the charm was going to work, but then the discolored jaw faded till it became its normal sallow color.
Ron yawned. He felt really tired now.
"Tell me, does your family even get a letter about underage magic during the summer?" Snape asked, fingering the now-healed jaw.
"Not since Fred and George," Ron said through another yawn.
"Somehow I am not surprised," Snape said. His voice sounded a bit stronger. "You had best get some sleep, Mr. Weasley. I will be up for some time, and we can go to Hogwarts in the morning."
Ron wanted to ask his teacher if he had any games left, but was too exhausted to worry about that now he knew Snape probably wouldn't die tonight. He stumbled to bed and was asleep before he hit the pillow.
Snape put on another robe and sat down in a chair in the outer room of the suite. He'd taken tincture of melotis once before, and knew he was in for a long night. While in the chair he could brace his still-numb left arm and read something to distract himself from the pain.
He had been surprised by the Weasley boy's resourcefulness and clear thinking. He was annoyed at having to be grateful, but things could easily have been much worse without the boy's presence.
It had been a mistake to go to that meeting. When he was by himself he could take such risks, but not when he was responsible for somebody else. If Voldemort had showed up, he would probably still be there and possibly in no shape to go anywhere.
There would be consequences for his hasty departure tonight, of course. But he wouldn't have Weasley to worry about, though if the next meeting was at New Year's, he might have Draco. He would have to talk to Dumbledore and have some tasty tidbit of disinformation to feed to the Dark Lord to convince Voldemort that his services were still of value. Fortunately, he hadn't said anything to Karkaroff besides his name.
Strange. The pain this time wasn't as bad as the last time he'd used an extract of melotis, though that had been only a small sample taken as a test. Perhaps it was being absorbed by the other poisons in his body, though according to the texts that interaction was supposed to make it worse. At least his jaw didn't hurt. He didn't remember being hit there, but hadn't been surprised to see the marks on his face when he'd gotten back here. No doubt that was why the girl had asked how he was.
Dumbledore had told him about the Gryffindor Trio learning some basics of medical magic from Madam Pomfrey, but Snape had no idea they'd had any talent for it. But then, Molly Weasley had been in training as a mediwitch when she'd quit and married Arthur Weasley instead. The boy's charm had worked as neatly as one from a professional.
He felt his eyes drooping, and stumbled towards his bed. He hadn't really expected to sleep tonight, but wasn't going to turn down the gift. The wards on the room were strong. He'd renewed them just before leaving for the meeting, and the racket they would make if someone tried to break through them would certainly wake the Weasley boy, if not him. They could Floo to Hogwarts in the morning.
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