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Chapter Eight
A Talk With Sev

The seventh year Potions class was rather surprised when they noticed Harry willingly going up to the Potion Master's desk.  Everyone knew that the pair didn't get on during Harry's first four years at the school, so it was a rather shocking development.  What was even more surprising to the watching students was the gobsmacked look that appeared on their teacher's face after the Boy-Who-Lived told him something.  To them, Snape was a cold hearted individual who never showed even a hint of human feeling.  When they saw his mask of contempt and indifference slip and show such a vivid emotion, they realised something was up.  When said Potions Master stood up abruptly and ordered them to pack up and leave, the gossip started to fly around.  After all, it wasn't every day Severus Snape lost his cool.


Striding down the corridor with Sev, Harry wasn't quite sure what to think.  He had been surprised at how astonished his friend had been when he reeled off the antidote to a simple Dark Arts potion.  It was one of the things the four time travellers had studied in the past, so he knew how to make the counter potion flawlessly.  It was one of the most useful draughts, as it countered not only the Infierno Poison, but also a lot of substances concocted with similar ingredients.  He found the fact that the knowledge of it had been lost rather disturbing.  In the age of the founders, it was common knowledge, as it was so versatile.  The fact that no-one these days could brew it was a little disconcerting.

Harry had stood back and watched in amusement as Sev had stood up abruptly after his little revelation.  The older man had extinguished the flame under the sludge he was trying to brew before ordering everyone out of the classroom and hurriedly putting his ingredients away.  The rest of the class had sent Harry curious looks before scrambling to clear their things away, the Ravenclaws complaining the whole time about not getting to finish their work.

Once the pair was alone, Sev had gestured for him to follow and swept out of the dungeon classroom, locking it on the way out.  Harry now found himself several feet behind the almost sprinting Potions Master as they made their way to the headmaster's office.  Harry tried to ask what was going on, but Sev simply sent him a sharp shake of the head before continuing on his way.  When they finally reached the stone gargoyle, Sev shouted out the password and jogged up the moving staircase, knocking urgently on Dumbledore's door when he reached the top.  By the time Harry caught up, the headmaster had called for them to come in and Sev had pulled the heavy wooden door open.  The pair nodded to the old wizard before seating themselves in front of his desk and taking a few deep breaths.  Once they were calm, Dumbledore held up his usual dish of sweets and offered them to the new arrivals.

“ Lemon Drop, gentlemen?”

Severus gave him a withering look before stating their purpose for being there.

“ Harry knows the antidote to the Infierno Poison.”

The dish of Lemon Drops fell to the floor with a loud crash, but the headmaster didn't seem to notice.  Harry watched in amusement as the older man gaped at the pair seated before him.  Severus also found his reaction rather satisfying.  After all, it took a lot to surprise Albus Dumbledore.

“ Y-you're sure?” the old man stuttered, “ You're not thinking of a different potion?”

“ I know what the Infierno Poison is, Sir,” Harry confirmed, “ It's not like I've never made it myself.  I don't get it, though.  Sev said something about the antidote being lost.  I don't see how that is possible, when it was widely used and simpler to make than the poison itself.  Surely some record of it has survived…”

“ None that we know of,” Severus said with a sigh, “ We don't know why the knowledge was lost, we just know that it was about seven or eight hundred years ago.”

“ Well, that explains it, at least it does if it's seven hundred years, or even six hundred and fifty.”

“ Why?  I'm not sure when it was, but the last record of it was in 1189, but it could have been made after that and not written about.”

“ The only thing I can think of after that that could explain it would be around the mid 14th century.”

“ And why would that be, Harry,” Dumbledore asked with interest.  Harry gave them both incredulous looks.

“ Well, think about it.  What happened around that time that could be the chief cause of the mass loss of knowledge?”

“ Well, there were several minor skirmishes, a goblin rebellion…” Sev said.  Harry rolled his eyes at the apparent gap in their historical knowledge.

“ Did either of you take History at any point?”

Both professors puffed up at that remark and they each sent the boy reproachful looks.

“ Now Harry, I don't appreciate your tone.”

“ Sorry, headmaster.  It's just that….I thought you knew everything…”

“ I know a lot, Harry, but I don't know everything.  Now, can you please enlighten us?”

“ Oh, right.  Well, in the mid 1300s there was a period known as The Great Mortality.  It was a period when the bubonic plague was ravaging the earth.  It is less well known than the Great Plague of the mid 1660s, but was more disastrous.  Starting in Asia, it spread to Europe quickly; leaving a third of the population dead after it had run its four year course.  During that time, whole communities were wiped out, and those who lived dedicated more and more of their time to studying nursing and healing.  The magical world was hit as harshly as the Muggle world, if not more so, causing an increase in the study of medimagic.  More traditional occupations, such as Potions Mastery, became less popular, as the potions required for medimagic were brewed by the healers themselves.  A lot of knowledge was lost at that time, as many took the information to the grave with them, and others simply did not have the apprentices to pass it down to.”

“ How do you know all this?” Sev asked in astonishment.

“ During my time on the age of the founders, I was placed in Ravenclaw House.  While I was there, I developed a love of learning, so I read as much as possible.  Surely you remember that from your fifth year, Sev.  Whenever I wasn't teaching you, doing homework or fighting battles, I could usually be found studying.”

“ That's true.  I always thought that was for your assignments.”

“ It was, usually.  I spent a lot of time reading up on topics mentioned in class because I found them fascinating.”

Dumbledore thought this would be an appropriate point to break the conversation and cleared his throat.  The pair turned to look at him, Sev with an eyebrow raised, and Harry with an expectant look on his face.

“ I'm sorry to disturb this fascinating and informative line of conversation, but I believe we have an antidote to discuss.”

“ Of course, headmaster, I just wondered though….”

“ Yes?”

“ What's the big deal about the Infierno Poison?  It seems a rather…random…and obscure potion to be concerned about.”

“ Harry, it's one of Shirley's favourite potions.  He likes to use it to torture Muggles and wizards alike.  It is always used when dealing with traitors, as it is an incredibly painful way to die,” Severus explained.

“ So, you mean to tell me that Voldie uses this often?  And you never knew the cure?” Harry asked with dawning horror.

“ That's why he likes it so much,” Dumbledore said, “ He knows that once it is ingested, there is nothing the victim can do to stop it.  They know that the poison takes forty eight hours to take effect, and that it causes an incredibly slow death.  The mental torture is sometimes worse than the physical torture.  Severus has been trying for years to find an antidote, without success.  You can understand then why we were so surprised that you knew.  If we had thought to ask you in the forties or even the seventies, many lives could have been saved.”

Harry contemplated feeling guilty, but soon dismissed it as ridiculous.  Yes, many lives could have been saved, but it had been they who had not thought to ask.  If he had been aware of the situation, he would have volunteered the information.  It would also have messed with the timelines too much if he had saved the lives of those afflicted with the poison.  As he mulled it over logically, one stray thought came to the front of his mind.

“ Um, Professors?”

“ Yes, Harry?”

“ Did no-one think to look in the library at Domus Corvus Corax for the antidote?”

Neither had an answer for that.


Later that afternoon, after a rather lengthy discussion with the headmaster, Severus and Harry found themselves firmly ensconced in the private rooms of the Potions Master.  Harry was sipping on a glass of warm butterbeer, and Sev was nursing a glass of port.  Neither spoke for the longest time, each lost in his own thoughts.  Eventually, Harry broke the silence with a safe subject.

“ I miss the dungeons, you know.”

Sev raised one eyebrow in amusement and a small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.

“ That's never the Great Harry Potter missing the Slytherin realm.”

Harry shot the older man a withering look before explaining himself.

“ Sev, please don't call me that.  It's strange, you know?  In my first year, the Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin so badly, but I wouldn't let it.  I pleaded with it not to put me there, to put me somewhere better.  All I had heard since learning about the wizarding world was that Gryffindor was the best, the noblest House, and that all Slytherins were evil Dark Wizards.  Ron, my first ever friend, was insulted by Malfoy, who I watched be placed in Slytherin.  I never thought I'd find myself missing the place.”

“ You were almost sorted into Slytherin?”

“ It's not that hard to believe, really.  I wanted to prove myself to everyone.  To live up to the fame, the title I had been given for something I couldn't even remember.”

“ I suppose that makes sense.  How did you find the other Houses you were in?”

“ It's the strangest thing.  In my first year, the Hat thought I would do well in Slytherin, but by the start of my fifth year, it placed it as the last choice.  I think I've changed a lot in the last seven years.  As a little first year, I was easily manipulated by those around me.  I wanted to live up to my parents' reputations as good Light wizards, and I did whatever I could to prove that they could have been proud of me.  Gryffindor was just a step in that direction.  I found when I was placed in Ravenclaw in the time of the founders; I fit in a lot better.  I learned to like learning and gained a great respect for knowledge.  My other personality traits kept me from becoming the perfect Ravenclaw, though.  I wanted a life beyond books.  Hufflepuff helped me with that.  I saw the world through the eyes of the House considered the weakest of the Hogwarts four.  I saw what they had to deal with, and gained a healthy respect for them.  They may seem weak, and made up of a mottled group, but they are loyal and determined beyond even the bravest Gryffindor.  Then there was Slytherin…”

“ What did Slytherin teach you?”

“ That even in the darkest of places you can find your true friends.  Slytherins aren't evil, just misunderstood.  Much like all Dark wizards.”

“ That's true.  Do you think it did you good, changing Houses so much?”

Harry thought about it for a while before trying to explain how he felt about it.

“ I'm glad I did it.  It gave me insight into different types of people, which I think I needed.  The only trouble is, I don't feel comfortable in Gryffindor anymore.  They all have such strong prejudices, and I think I've changed too much to ever be fully accepted there if I just act like myself.”

“ Harry, you should always be yourself.  If they don't accept you, ignore them.  After all, you only have one more year to go.  I'm sure you'll survive.  I mean, you managed to survive everything else life has thrown at you, so this should be easy.”

“ Sev, promise me something.”

“ What?”

“ Don't leave me.  If things get really bad in Gryffindor, please don't abandon me.”

“ What makes you think I would?”

“Because I'm Harry Potter.”

Severus gave his young friend a long look before nodding his head slowly.

“ You don't have to worry, Harry.  You were always there for me, and I'm fully prepared to return the favour.”

“ Thank you.”

The pair drifted into silence for a while, Harry sipping on his butterbeer and Sev refilling his glass.  Eventually, Harry asked his friend something that had been bothering him.

“ Sev, what's Umbridge's story?”

Severus gave him an amused look and rolled his eyes in a very child like manner.

“ Why do you want to know about her?”

“ Well, she looks like a toad for one thing, you don't see that every day.  And she seems too false.  I know she's been sent from the Ministry to keep an eye on Professor Dumbledore, but what does she actually do for them?”

“ Well, as far as I know, she's a Ministry drone with enough ambition that she finally wrangled herself a place on the Wizengamot.  How she managed that, I will never know.  As for the toad comment, I should be taking points for insulting a teacher, but I think, just this once, I'll let it slide.”

Harry sent the Potions Master an amused smirk before taking another sip of his drink.

“ Do you like her?” he asked casually.

“ No.”

“ Why not?”

“ Because I don't exactly get on well with the Ministry.  They have this habit of wanting to send me to Azkaban.”

“ Well, you don't have to worry about that, Sev.  I'll never let them take you to that awful place.”

“ Don't make promises you can't keep.”

“ Sev, it's a promise.  If they even try it, I'll sort them out good and proper.  I know what happened.  I'm familiar with the circumstances.  If they won't listen, I'll make them listen.”

“ You can't wage war on the Ministry…”

“ If I have to, I will.  They're a corrupt organisation that has been allowed to get away with far too much.  I believe that revolution is in order.  As soon as the situation with Voldie is sorted out, I'm going to delve a little deeper into the situation and see what I can dig up.”

“ Harry, that's a big task.”

“ I know, but I believe we need someone in control of the wizarding world that is at least half competent.  Fudge is an idiot if he believes that there is no threat from Shirley's forces.  And Voldemort would enforce the people using terror.  Neither is suitable for the job.  I'm not suggesting a monarchy or an autocracy, just a better system than we have now.”

“ I agree, but you're going to need help.”

“ Are you offering?”

“ Yes.”

“ Good.”

At that moment, their conversation was interrupted by a loud squawk from the corner of the room.  Harry leapt to his feet, reflexively taking up a fighting stance.  Sev chuckled a little and stood, moving over to where the noise was coming from.  As he stopped in front of the wall, Harry spotted a small grate that appeared to have something trapped behind it.

“ Sev, what's that?”

“ It's an owl chute.  As we're in the dungeons, and therefore there are no windows for the post owls to enter through, old castles tend to have inbuilt owl chutes, which are long pipes leading outside.  The owl simply enters the chute and I open the grate at the bottom to retrieve the mail.”

“ Clever.  Who's the letter from?”

“ I'm not sure,” Sev said, looking at the name written on the envelope, his brow wrinkling as he saw what it said, “ Harry, it's for you.”

“ For me?  Who would be sending my mail to the dungeon

“ I don't know.  You'd better open it and find out.”

“ Do you think it's cursed?”

“ I don't know.”

Harry tentatively took the letter from Sev's outstretched hand and looked at it closely.  It didn't look like it had been tampered with, but it was impossible to tell for sure.  Taking out his wand for extra focus, Harry started checking the parchment thoroughly for curses, hexes, jinxes and poisons.  When he was sure it was safe to open, he pulled the thick yellow parchment from the envelope and opened it up.  Harry scanned the content and his eyes widened when he got to the bottom of the page.  Sev watched in curiosity at the boy read it over three more times before slumping into a chair.  When he couldn't take the suspense any longer, he sat down opposite Harry.

“ Well?”

“ Well, what?” Harry said in a dazed voice.  Sev grew concerned at Harry's tone.

“ Who's it from?”

The Boy-Who-Lived looked up and straight into the older man's eyes.  Sev was shocked to see silent tears spilling down his cheeks.

“ It's from my Aunt Heather.”

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