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Chapter 13 : Work Experience
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The following morning, the potioneer took him outside and showed him round the garden, pointing out and naming many of the different plants. Then they returned to the office, and he sat at the desk. He allowed Severus to sit next to him and see what he was doing, as he picked up his quill and started scribbling calculations. Severus realised how much theory was required to devise a new potion.
Every so often, Etor would take another sheet on which were written a list of ingredients with quantities and would add something. At one point he seemed to reach a break, and explained to Severus what he was doing. "Every ingredient has certain properties, and the key to a successful potion is to combine the properties that you want in the correct proportions. For example, the mandrake acts as a painkiller and sedative, but an overdose may be fatal. In order for this potion to be effective, I must consider exactly how much mandrake should be added to optimise effectiveness but minimise the risk of ill effects. I also have to calculate when it should be added, how long it should brew for, and what form it should take - sliced, crushed, or just the juice. And I must do the same for every ingredient in the potion. So it is no wonder that it takes a long time to develop one potion."
"And you have to consider what happens when you combine different ingredients?"
"Indeed. Some complement each other, others may nullify each others' effects or even combine to produce a poison. And the effect varies depending on the stage of the process and the state of each ingredient when it is added. This becomes so complex when potions involve a large number of ingredients that experimentation and testing is the only way to determine whether the combination planned has the expected results."
Severus thought of something else. "And does the type of cauldron affect the potion?"
"Yes, the type of metal may react with the ingredients. For example, I have found that silver cauldrons affect potions containing Aconite, so avoid them for this potion. Certain processes must be carried out in crystal cauldrons, which are almost entirely inert, while a brass cauldron tends to be sufficient for most processes. That is what I use for the preparation of most of this potion."
Silver... something occurred to Severus. "But isn't the only remedy for werewolf-inflicted injuries silver powder and Dittany? So the silver could be beneficial..." Etor stared at him in astonishment.
"Why didn't I think of that? You may be onto something there. I'm not sure anyone's ever considered making use of the cauldron type to affect a potion, but that is an excellent idea. So the silver may be beneficial, not harmful-" He pulled a scrap of parchment towards him and started scribbling down notes. "Usually the cauldron affecting the potion is to be avoided. But controlling the amount of silver transferred could be difficult- silver powder, as you said! It isn't a normal potion ingredient, but you have to try new things. The problem could be making it mix properly, but silver reacts with Aconite..." He was scribbling fast, then put his quill down and sat back. "Fancy a visit to Diagon Alley?"
An hour later, they had apparated into the street and Etor was hurrying in the direction of a large Apothecary. The shopkeeper seemed a little perplexed at their request, and pointed out that he only stocked potions ingredients and why did they want silver powder anyway. Irritated, Etor left again. Another shop caught Severus' eye, and he pointed it out. A medical store.
They had to ask, as it wasn't out on display, but the shop assistant produced a large jar of silver powder and asked how much they would like. "All of it," replied Etor, to her obvious astonishment. However she didn't ask questions, and the left the shop a few minutes later several Galleons worse off. "This had better be worth it, Severus," said Etor as he held out his arm for the boy so they could apparate back.
First, the potioneer ran a series of diagnostic charms on the silver and recorded his results. Growing increasingly happy, he jotted down more calculations. He glanced up at Severus with a grin. "It seems to follow the usual rules, so we can proceed to a test." He had Severus put on his school lab coat, while he pulled on his own, before entering the potions room. Though it appeared "we" meant that he would be carrying out the tests while Severus watched from the doorway.
In the potions room, Etor took a small brass cauldron and lit a fire beneath it. Into a small amount of water he added Aconite and silver powder, stirring and murmuring incantations over it until the mixture smoothed to liquid. Bottling it in several small crystal vials, he tested it with many of the delicate instruments and also a series of what must be diagnostic spells. Severus watched from the doorway as the potioneer bustled around in a way that indicated his level of experience and jotted down notes.
Etor seemed fairly happy, but repeated the test. He turned to Severus with a grin afterwards. "This should work nicely. It's not a normal ingredient, but it follows the same rules for calculations." As he tidied up and cleaned the equipment he'd used, he explained many of the procedures. Severus listened keenly - he hadn't realised that devising a potion was quite this complicated.
A very quick meal, then they were back in the potions room and Etor was producing more Aconite and silver mixtures. That took the rest of the day, but in the end he held one up. "You see this one is clearer than the others? The test results indicate that it is also the most effective. I have been varying proportions and brewing times, and also the spells used." He continued the explanation over lunch, going into more detail about the procedures and about the method which had produced the best mixture.
The following morning was another theory session, as Etor reworked calculations. "Don't worry that you've given me more work - I already knew I was missing properties and the proportions weren't perfect. And when you've done this as often as I have, you get used to restarts and running these equations.
The afternoon involved more tests in the potions lab, adding the silver-Aconite mixture to other combinations of ingredients and testing the resulting solutions. In fact, that was the structure of the next couple of weeks. Gradually increasing the number of ingredients in the mixture, reworking the method whenever something didn't work.
Then they were ready to test the full recipe. They went outside to harvest some ingredients from the garden, including a mandrake. Severus had handled them near the beginning of the year, so was surprised by the lack of ear defenders. After all, this was a fully grown mandrake and so its cry could be fatal.
The lack was explained when Etor cast a few spells, including "silencio", before lifting it from the ground. It was in the shape of a very large baby, and its mouth moved indicating that it was trying to scream. A bolt of red light, a stunning charm, struck it and it fell limp. Etor cleaned it with a jet of water from his wand and carried it in while Severus followed with the rest of the ingredients.
Then Etor got out his notes and began to prepare the ingredients, as a cauldron half-full of water began to heat over a magical flame. The first ingredients to be added were those which needed long brewing times, including the mandrake. The potioneer whispered something, and a jet of green light flew out of his wand and struck the mandrake.
"The Killing Curse. Have you heard of the Unforgiveable Curses?"
Severus stared at the man in shock. "Yes, in the paper recently. Use of any one will earn a life sentence in Azkaban."
"Use of any one on a human being. Yes, what's been happening recently is nasty. But the mandrake may look like a baby but it is still a plant. The Killing Curse causes instant death, with no symptoms, as I'm sure you've read. It is the kindest way to kill the mandrake, which is semi-sentient. I am not inclined to start cutting it up while it is still alive." That made sense. Animals were killed all the time, for food, and the mandrake was a bit like an animal. They needed to kill it somehow, and this was the kindest way. As Etor said, better than chopping it up while it was still alive.
Severus had thought that the Animagus potion was complicated, but this was worse. Surrounded by three different cauldrons, all in use, Etor levitated ingredients from the workbench into them. His notes floated in the air in front of him, along with a large clock. He had to stir the correct number of times at the correct speed, control the level of heat produced by each fire, and combine the different potions at exactly the right moment.
There was a loud bang and a flash of light. Etor instantly produced a shield charm to protect them, and as the smoke cleared they could see the remains of the large cauldron. He cast a long string of spells, explaining each to Severus and allowing him to try. As he said, this was pretty much school and besides underage magic in houses occupied by adult wizards was not monitored. The spells were important to any potioneer, dealing with any harmful remnants of an exploded potion.
Once everything was tidied up, Etor decided that they had done enough for the day. He sent Severus to make dinner while he wrote notes on the explosion and figured out the cause. Severus was just serving it onto two plates when an owl tapped on the window. He recognised it as Remus', and checked the date. The full moon was tonight!
As he'd guessed, it was Remus reminding him of the transformation tonight and asking whether he'd be there. He'd be going to Hogwarts as usual. Etor walked in and saw the owl, and Severus took the opportunity to explain that his best friend was ill and he'd been asked to visit, so could he use the floo after dinner? He'd be back in the morning.
Etor was always relaxed, unless he was working, so after eating quickly Severus took a handful of floo powder and said quietly "Hospital Wing, Hogwarts". There was no sign of anyone, but a glance out of the window and he saw the nurse accompanying a boy down the grounds towards the Whomping Willow. He left at a run.
The moment he was outside he shifted, still running, into lion form. The lion could move faster, and shot towards the tree. He saw the branches freeze and Remus hesitate for a moment, looking around with a combination of desperation and disappointment. Then delight as he saw the lion hurtling towards him.
"Sev! I thought you weren't coming!" Severus shifted back.
"Sorry! Lost track of time. Only realised it was today when I got your owl. Exploding cauldron..." Madam Pomfrey had the same baffled expression as usual when dealing with the pair of them. "Work placement with Etor Damocles, the potioneer." He explained quickly
"Come on, get in there both of you. You can catch up later." She shooed them in, Severus back in his Animagus form, and they followed the familiar passage to the Shack.
Once Remus was ready, he turned round to Severus and hugged the lion. "I got so worried then. Can't face another night without-" The lion licked his shoulder comfortingly. Annoyingly, he couldn't say anything in this form and he'd promised to remain a lion until he was out of the Shack. Although he knew he'd get some warning of Remus' transformation, enough to shift into lion form.
Remus looked so happy to see him, he felt guilty about leaving his friend alone. But if they succeeded with this potion, it would make Remus' life so much easier! The boy tensed, letting out a sharp breath, as the pain began. This time Severus held him down gently until the wolf lay still under his paw. Then he let Moony up, and the usual games began.
In the morning, they weren't impatient to leave the hospital wing for once. They sat on beds, talking about their holidays so far - or at least about Severus'. Severus wasn't sure how much to say; but he couldn't not tell his friend, not really. "He's inventing a potion to help werewolves with transformations." Remus stared at him.
"Really? What does- how does it help?"
"We're not sure of the details. It wouldn't prevent the transformations, probably, but it should help mentally. All sorts of plants we don't see in Herbology, with different properties. Mandrakes, too. They restore the mind, or something like that. There are some ingredients to reduce pain, and we're experimenting with adding silver as it helps with werewolf bites and scratches. But don't get your hopes up yet - Etor tried the first full brew of a new recipe today and the cauldron exploded. And it is unbelievable complicated, I doubt many people could brew it."
Remus still looked happy at the idea. "It doesn't matter how long it takes. Anything at all to help with transformations - not everyone has such amazing friends, and ones who can manage the Animagus process. They need that potion. And if it saves more people from being bitten..." It wasn't just for him that he wanted it, but for all the other werewolves.
"Well, first the recipe has to be sorted so it doesn't explode. Then there's testing, and Etor'll have to find volunteers, which could be difficult because there are all sorts of complicated laws and anyway most werewolves wouldn't want to admit it..."
"I could try it."
"What? It's dangerous! This is a new potion, and while the theory may make sense all sorts of strange things can happen when ingredients are combined-"
"Someone has to try it. Why not me? I'm a werewolf, aren't I?"
"Do you really want other people to know?"
"No, but I'm on the register and it's worth it for this potion. He won't tell everyone, will he? Tell him when you get back."
"I'll tell him I know a werewolf, and explain some of it at least. But he wouldn't let you. You're not of age yet."
"Oh, well see if there's any way I can help. I know a lot about werewolves, you know." That was a valid point - Remus' information could be really useful.
"I'll tell him, and he can at least ask you questions or whatever, I suppose."
"Good. By the way, Dad's trying to get tickets for another match - Appleby Arrows against Barnton, just another friendly but still... Do you think you can get away?"
"Of course! Just tell me when, if he gets the tickets. Etor'll be fine with it."
"OK, great. I'll write and let you know." They said goodbye then Severus took another handful of floo powder and went back to the house in the hills. He'd timed it well, as Etor was sitting down eating breakfast.
"Morning, Severus. How's your friend?"
"He's alright now." Severus loaded his plate and sat down before taking a deep breath. "He's a werewolf. I told him about the potion, just the basics, and he said he'd like to help in any way. Like if you have questions about what transformations are like, or anything." Etor chewed a piece of bacon slowly before answering.
"A werewolf? It was full moon last night, wasn't it? But why visit when he's transforming? Surely it would be better to stay well away."
"For a human, yes." Severus stood up and found a space before transforming. Etor choked with surprise as the boy became a lion and paced around to him.
"What- you did it? You're an Animagus, already?" He reached out a tentative hand to touch the lion's mane, to reassure himself that it was real. Backing away again, Severus shifted back.
"Not long after the party - you know, Slughorn's party. The Slug Club or whatever he calls it. We had a whole-school snowball fight and afterwards I could just tell that I was ready." He sat down again, eating a forkful of baked beans. "I went to see Professor McGonagall, like you suggested, and she couldn't refuse to help or I'd have done it on my own. Then she took me to register. I've been keeping Remus company ever since - that's why I decided to do it in the first place. Werewolves only attack people, except for food, and he gets on well with the lion."
"A snowball fight... I don't suppose that would work for me?" They both laughed.
"I don't think so. I found out my form when I was still in the potion trance. Maybe if you took the potion again, it might work, but that could be dangerous. McGonagall or Dumbledore would know more than me."
"Take the potion again. I might do that, one day. Once I've finished the Wolfsbane potion. It drives me mad, Severus. That shadow, just out of sight all of the time. Hiding round the corner, taunting me-" He sighed, and Severus could tell the shape was haunting him.
"Remus wants to help, if he can. He'd like to test, when you're ready to do that, but he's my age."
"By the time it's done he may be old enough. Potions take a long time to develop, you know. If you hadn't suggested the silver, I would still be trying to figure out why the numbers didn't add up. I hope I'll finish it within my lifetime, but if I don't at least I'm teaching you some of it so you can carry on the work. Provided you're willing to devote your life to a goal you may never achieve."
Being a Potioneer wasn't an easy job. You could go unrecognised, if you never managed to make that one big breakthrough. Etor had produced a new healing potion and revised the recipes for several others, so he'd managed something. But it would be so easy to spend a lifetime on a potion like the Wolfsbane one and never finish it.
Could Severus do that? Yes, actually, he thought. A life creating potions. He had the patience, and he was careful. It was fascinating, even if he never earned any recognition.
"Invite your friend over some time - whenever, it doesn't matter. I can ask him questions, anyway, check some facts which I had to get from old records. Borrow my owl, then come over to the study." He disappeared, leaving Severus to write a quick note and tie it to the huge long-eared owl's leg. In the study he found Etor surrounded by files, flicking through them and jotting down points. "Severus. Sit down and give me a hand. I want anything written in green ink, OK? If in doubt, ask me." He waved his wand and another chair like his own appeared. A sheet of parchment, quill and black ink, and he hovered a couple of the smaller files over.
Severus found the files fascinating. The significance of ink colour soon became clear - green for facts, black for calculations, red for issues, and purple for any conclusions drawn. The notes were beautifully laid out, with plenty of space around them, easy to follow. Severus found himself understanding better the processes which had gone into developing the potion so far.
Remus came over the next afternoon, through the Floo with his father. Severus could see Etor visibly holding himself back, stopping himself from bombarding the boy with questions until he was sitting down comfortably. At last he felt he allowed himself to take out his parchment and quill and start working down the list of questions he'd prepared.
Remus did his best to answer, though he faltered several times when he had to describe something he did his best to forget. The pain of transformations, and how it felt to be locked away in your own mind with no control. Severus almost intervened several times, but he knew Remus wouldn't thank him for it. But all of these details, on a personal level, not just facts but Remus' own experiences and feelings.
Were all of these questions really necessary? How could they relate to the potion? Severus guessed that Etor must have a link, or he would not be asking them. And actually, he realised the sutbtle details required. Remus said his human self was locked away and could only watch during transformation. Etor asked him whether he had access to all or only some of his senses, whether he could try to move but was overpowered or was locked away, and whether he had normal or wolf vision, and all kinds of questions like that.
Remus said that he had no control over his body, but could still sense everything. He saw in different shades all the time, but especially as a wolf. Blues were more prominent, reds less visible. He could see colours that others couldn't, beyond blue. Etor nodded, understanding even if Remus didn't. At a query, he offered a quick lesson on the nature of light and the different wavelengths. There was value, apparently, in studying muggle science as well as magic. Remus could see light with shorter wavelengths, beyond blue and into ultra-violet.
He had trouble focussing on distant objects, but could see nearby ones easily. His peripheral vision was excellent, and he could pick up on motion easily. Details were clear, colours less so. He could pick out shadows and highlights where others didn't seem able to. He had better night-vision than other people.
In wolf form, this became more pronounced. He could see clearly in the dark, and could pick out different levels of shadow. Colours were vague, and it was hard to tell the difference between green and yellow, orange and red. The wolf noticed some colours more than others, especially red, but he could see them all.
Sounds were clearer all the time, his ears being very sensitive. More so when transformed, and Severus nodded agreement. It was the same for him as an Animagus. His sense of smell, too, could pick up on the smells generated by strong emotions. Fear especially, but also confidence and attraction. He liked simple food, because otherwise he was overwhelmed by too many different smells. His wolf senses were attracted to the smell of meat in particular, and he found he liked it more than anything else. Particularly rare steak, without too much seasoning.
Yes, the wolf seemed to affect him all the time not just at full moon. He felt the effects more immediately before and after, building up then dying down again. Did he ever feel the wolf presence there when he hadn't transformed? No, although there was a part of him which behaved a little like a wolf. Which got angry easily, and was protective. Pack instinct, encouraging him to follow orders from superiors and assert dominance over inferiors. He worked hard to suppress it.
Was the wolf aware of his presence during full moon? That wasn't something Remus had considered before. He'd always assumed that it was but it ignored him - it was his own body the wolf was invading. But it wasn't, was it? Maybe the wolf wasn't aware of him at all, or maybe it just about noticed him but assumed that it was part of itself. Like he did with the wolf when he was a human. Maybe the wolf was actually a separate consciousness, but he only noticed enough to make him think it was the Lycanthropy affecting his tastes and emotions. Maybe the wolf kept some human nature like he had his wolf nature.
So was the wolf another consciousness, locked away most of the time in an unfamiliar body, helplessly watching? Remus felt a little sorry for it, knowing how that felt. It only had one night of freedom each month. But at least he didn't rip his body apart when he was in control, unlike the wolf. And he was here first, anyway. Before the bite, the wolf hadn't existed.
Etor finished his questions and thanked Remus, leaving Severus to make a quick meal. He sat re-reading his notes until called to eat, and afterwards let Severus had over the Floo powder while he disappeared back into the office. Severus considered washing up, but remembered that Etor could use magic to deal with it. He slipped quietly through the door to watch in silence as the Potioneer worked through notes again making changes and adding passages.
He gestured that Severus could sit next to him, and returned to his work. He had the list of required properties, and was doing calculations on a scrap of parchment. "Here, check this." He shoved a page over, and Severus read it. He wasn't sure what the numbers meant, but he could do the sums.
"This one. I got 2.718." He'd needed his own piece of parchment, and he'd done it a few times but got the same answer every time. "You had 3.142." He assumed that three decimal places must be a suitable degree of accuracy, as that was what Etor had worked all the others to. The older man pulled the sheets back with a frown, re-did the maths, and changed his own answer.
"That's right. Clumsy error I made in the second line down - wrote a minus instead of a plus. Good thing you spotted that, or I'd have been wrestling with the wrong number for ages." He stopped and explained the meanings of most of the numbers to Severus - they'd been calculated from samples of chemicals produced by different animals, and the results of a lot of tests. He had to find similar situations to those identified and pick out the relevant numbers.
"Actually, while Remus was answering my questions I ran a few diagnostic spells to find out level of brain activity, hormones, etcetera. They only work properly if the person being tested is unaware of it, to get normal levels. I'd like to see him as near to the full moon as possible, on each side, although I already have quite a bit of data for transformations. St Mungo's have done quite a bit of research, and I have the connections to get access."
Having taught Severus one of the calculations required and given him the numbers, he let him have first try at one. "To check properly, you'd be making sure I'm using the right numbers, but one thing at a time. I'll show you how to identify them later." They settled back to work, Severus' quill scratching until Etor rolled him a pencil. That made the working quicker.
"1.618. That's for the silver, isn't it?" Etor had finished one calculation just after Severus finished his, and he paused to check. He got the same result, so he had the boy write the number in his table. It was very satisfying, to really be involved in inventing a potion. Even if it was only plugging numbers in a formula, it was making a difference. And what job didn't involve repetition? Compared to some jobs, inventing potions wasn't too bad.
A/N: I can't update as often as I did at first, but I am still writing. I found this a tough chapter to write, trying to think of how a potion might be invented. Well, for it to work, surely science would have to be involved.
The numbers towards the end are all common mathematical constants - e, pi, and phi (the golden ratio). They bear no real relevance to the story, I just couldn't resist putting them in.
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