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Chapter Forty-Two: Bolstering and Brewing

Harry left the doors to Severus' room and his own room across the hall open as they had discussed, taking a quick turn around his new chambers before throwing himself lengthwise upon the couch to further recover from the shock and to relax a bit.

The chambers themselves were surprisingly cozy; the theme was one of polished dark wood together with stone, and tapestries and rugs which cut down the chill of the dungeons. The furniture was attractive without being ornate and managed to be comfortable at the same time as Harry found when he started to drowse on the couch in front of the fireplace.

Thoughts of the elder Malfoy and Snape together as kids in Hogwarts drifted through him, followed by the realization that they would probably have known each other as Death Eaters and apparently continued their ... friendship as adults now. He couldn't ignore the warmth in their voices during parts of the exchange, and the amount of trust shown in the words. Unless the two were speaking in the strangest code he'd ever heard of, Malfoy wasn't entirely what Harry had thought. A facade perhaps? And if the elder Malfoy was that way, it might be possible that Draco was different as well. Maybe even other people, too.

Ron said once that a Slytherin never changes its colors, but between Severus and the possibility of the Malfoys, that idea was being proven wrong.

Harry must have dropped off, as the next thing he knew Severus was knocking on the door frame just on the inside where stone became wood. "Wake up, Harry. It's time for lunch, and the Headmaster would like us to join him in the Great Hall for the occasion."

Wiping at his eyes to clear the sleep away, Harry got up and politely murmured out of habit, "Just a moment please, Professor," as he forced himself to move at more than a shuffle to get to his bathroom. Some water splashed on his face and a readjustment of his robes made him more presentable than he'd been just out of sleep, and he returned to follow Severus soon after.

Severus was quiet again as they walked down the halls, and while that peaceful calm appeared in his aura as it had earlier on the way down, it was now mingled with nostalgia and sadness. The trip out of the dungeons passed in silence.

Harry raked his brain for a subject to break the silence and perhaps even lift Severus' spirits. "Will we be creating that potion after lunch then, Severus? Is it a potion that can be finished in one day?"

The questions seemed to make Severus irritable rather than cheered, but at least a portion of the sadness ebbed away into the background. "The potion requires two nights and two days for brewing, not to mention a certain plant which must be fresh and specially harvested. Fortunately the time is right for the harvesting tonight, however there is a limited amount to be found during this time of year in the Forbidden Forest. It will be one of the ingredients that Lucius will need to acquire for me once I've sent him this first batch." Continuing on, Severus muttered almost to himself, "In the meantime, if he calls Lucius tonight or tomorrow night when the potion isn't yet ready ..." trailing off with a scowl of self recrimination.

In a continuation of his attempts at cheering Severus, Harry suggested, "Maybe the Centaurs will be around tonight. They might be able to tell us if there's another place in the Forest where the plant can be found."

Grasping the handle of the door to the Great Hall, Severus muttered, "They hesitate in dealing with me at all. I was lucky to gain their assistance one night in finding the amount of plant that I did."

"They hesitate?" Harry asked more quietly as they passed through the doors into the Hall. "Do they threaten you, or do they avoid you?"

With a brief scowl, Severus gave the impression he wanted the conversation ended as he muttered, "Avoid," and turned to greet Dumbledore.

Crossing the hall, they found that the Headmaster had the table arrangement similar to how it was during Christmas. One table contained place settings although it was somewhat smaller and with only six settings. "Ah, Harry. Severus. Good of you to come. The others should be joining us momentarily."

Severus nodded briefly and took the chair to Dumbledore's left after the Headmaster had made a brief gesture to it with a small smile. Perhaps feeling protective, Harry took the seat to Severus' left. "Who else is here, Headmaster?"

Smiling over at Harry, Dumbledore replied, "Minerva, Filius and Argus. Minerva and Filius have been outside working on Hogwart's wards, and Argus is preparing the school for the next year. Ah- there they are now," he exclaimed when the doors to the Hall opened again. As the three tired looking adults settled themselves at the table, Dumbledore summoned forth a hearty meal. Greetings were exchanged with surprisingly pleasant feelings, even Mr. Filch who restrained himself from glaring at the sight of a student's presence during the summer once Severus murmured something about getting him a supply of a cleansing potion tomorrow evening.

Curious, Harry swallowed his roast chicken, turned to Severus and asked, "What about the other one? You said it would take two days."

Severus glanced over, framed by colors of irritated surprise. "Do you believe that I cannot handle brewing more than one potion at a time, Harry?" Startled and curious glances settled upon the two as Flitwick and Filch absorbed Severus' usage of Harry's first name.

Harry blinked and tried to look sheepish and repentant. "I just never thought of doing that. I'd probably get the ingredients mixed up."

"That is why you separate them." Shaking his head at Harry's apparent hopelessness, Severus speared some green beans, "It is all a matter of timing- as you should know from the years of Potions classes you've had already." With a smirk, he added, "From the looks of most of the students, it is perhaps prudent for them to learn how to properly treat a house elf."

Harry couldn't help but ask, "How come?"

Severus snorted, "Because they're going to need one if they're going to have cooked meals without poisoning themselves."

"A good point," Harry admitted with a rueful chuckle.

Dumbledore spoke up with dignified amusement, as though the time in the Hospital Ward hadn't happened, "Now you two, eat up. We could use your help with the wards this afternoon."

Frowning, Severus replied, "We are going to be occupied with some brewing until the night after next, and again hopefully before another day has passed. Afterwards we will be more able to contribute."

"Brewing?" Dumbledore inquired. "What potion?"

Pausing only a moment, Severus sighed, "Along with Argus' mixture will be the preparation against the Cruciatus."

"I see," was Dumbledore's grave reply. He traded glances with Minerva, "Very well, then. Do keep me advised, Severus."

Without looking at Dumbledore again, Severus muttered, "All right."

The rest of the meal passed peacefully on the whole, and Harry soon found himself grinding dry materials together with a mortar and pestle back in Severus' laboratory. Apart from preparation directives for both potions, Severus worked quietly with Harry, his aura one of almost meditative contemplation. With smooth and efficient gestures, Severus set up two caldrons and collected the ingredients for each on separate tables to be prepared and added to each. Fires were lit under both cauldrons, and Harry noticed with interest that they were at different levels of intensity.

As though he were murmuring to the items he was preparing, Severus' voice was a quiet undertone to the flicker of flame and the sound of knives on chopping boards, the scrape of pestle on mortar, the splash and gurgle of liquids, and lastly the slow and thickening boil from the cauldrons themselves. Harry sighed. Brewing potions was somewhat relaxing, he decided, at least more relaxing than stressing about the new prophecy, the powers that be and/or trying to untangle Severus' mental intestines. At least, as long as they weren't brewing in class.

As it grew toward evening, Severus set aside the ladle he'd been using and spoke the first words to Harry that weren't instructions on the potions. "These can both stew for a while. It's nearly sunset and time to gather the fluxweed."

"Fluxweed?" Harry put down his own ladle with a thankful sigh and a stretch of his arm. "I thought that had to be gathered at the full moon. It's past that now."

"Oh, so we /have/ been listening in Potions class once in a while, have we?" Severus smirked, but briefly. "The particular use I put it to requires it to be picked after the full moon rather than on it. This is rather unusual, I know, but then so is this potion."

Accepting the basket that Severus handed him, Harry grinned back, "Well then, let's go!"


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