Chapter 11 : Potions and Secrets
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Harry looked from his book to his stomach, which was emitting loud rumbles. He set aside The Animagus in You and got up from the couch to head into the kitchen.
Harry had had a pleasant morning in the tiny cottage for once. He had received letters back from his two best friends, which was a change. He hadn’t heard from anyone all summer except Dumbledore. Sirius was out taking a walk (in dog form of course) so there had been no arguing with Snape. Snape had been in the kitchen since breakfast, working, Harry suspected.
His guess was confirmed as he walked in. The kitchen table had a medium-sized cauldron on top of it, a strange silvery potion brewing in it. Snape had his back to Harry as Harry walked in to find something to eat. He could hear something being cut up and guessed that his professor was preparing ingredients.
Harry scanned the pantry for something to eat. From the looks of it, it seemed another trip to the grocery store was in order. He pulled out a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and walked over to the kitchen counter. Snape had returned to the cauldron and was now stirring in ingredients. Harry watched him for a moment before turning back to his sandwich in progress.
“When did Black leave?” asked Snape all of a sudden, causing Harry to jump slightly. He turned around and saw his professor seated at the kitchen table, a book open next to him.
“Uh…he left a little before the post came,” said Harry as he closed the peanut butter jar. He walked back to the pantry and returned the bread and jar.
“And he’s not back yet?” said Severus as he looked back down at the book.
“No,” said Harry. “Should he be?”
“Post came four hours ago. He’s usually not gone so long. I would have though he’d be back by now.”
Harry thought for a moment while he chewed his sandwich. True, Sirius wasn’t usually gone so long, but he had been cooped up more than usual. Maybe he had just lost track of time.
“You don’t think anything happened to him, do you?” asked Harry as he sat across from Severus.
“As long as he stayed in dog form,” said Severus without looking up, “he should be fine.”
Harry nodded as he continued to eat. He looked from Snape to the cauldron that was simmering away. The potion inside was no longer silver. It had changed to a dark green liquid with a light green vapor floating up from it.
“What is that?” asked Harry as he stood up and peered into the bubbling pot. Severus looked up and over to what Harry was referring to.
“That is a Verto potion,” said Severus as he looked back down at his book. “It’s for you.”
“To become an animagus?” asked Harry as he continued watching the green liquid.
“Yes Potter,” said Severus, sounding slightly annoyed. “You know, you could help me with it, since it is for you.”
Harry shoved the rest of the sandwich in his mouth and brushed the crumbs off his hands and clothing.
“What do I need to do?” asked Harry thickly after swallowing the food in his mouth.
“You can stir as I add the next ingredients in,” said Severus as he stood back up and walked over his prepared ingredients. “Stir in slow counter-clockwise circles. Can you handle that?”
Harry nodded and stood next to the bubbling cauldron. He began to stir slowly, just as Snape said. Severus watched him for a few moments.
“Good,” he said as he turned back to his ingredients. Harry’s head looked up quickly at his words. Was Snape actually praising him? Did he actually acknowledge that Harry was doing something right? Harry shook his head as he stared back down at the cauldron. His ears must have deceived him. He moved to the side slightly as Severus came back to the cauldron. He emptied a measuring cup filled with a milky looking liquid in it into the cauldron. The potion hissed, emitting a few green sparks. He let Harry stir for a few moments before adding a few more ingredients. Harry continued to stir as Severus turned and grabbed a bottle off the counter. He unscrewed the lid and filled an eyedropper with an inky substance from the bottle.
“Okay Potter, stop stirring for a moment,” said Severus as he set the bottle down. “I’m going to add three drops of this. I need you to stir once in a clockwise direction after each drop. Do you understand?”
Harry nodded. Severus let one drop go and splash into the potion. Harry stirred once, making sure to go clockwise. Snape let another drop go and Harry stirred again. They repeated the process once more and as Harry completed his stirring, the potion began to bubble furiously. Severus grabbed Harry’s shoulder and pulled him back as the cauldron started to hiss and spit.
“You may want to stand back,” said Severus as he pulled Harry beside him.
“Did I do something wrong?” asked Harry as he watched the potion begin to foam and spill over the side of the cauldron.
“No, you did fine. This is normal,” said Severus as he crossed his arms over his chest. The boiling in the cauldron settled and the foaming stopped. Severus walked back to the potion and stirred a few more times before taking his wand and cleaning up the foam. Harry looked into the cauldron and saw that the potion was now an inky gray color.
“Is it done?” asked Harry as he looked up at Snape. The potions professor shook his head as he began evaporating the foam.
“It has to simmer for three hours before the final ingredient is added,” said Severus. “Then it has to be stirred for a while and left to simmer again. It should be done by tonight.”
“What’s the last ingredient?” asked Harry. Snape looked up at him. He knew Harry wasn’t going to like the answer.
“Your blood,” said Severus as he cast his eyes back down at his work.
Harry’s body froze and his left hand instantly covered the scar on the crook of his right arm.
“My b-blood?” repeated Harry. Severus nodded and Harry noticed that he almost looked apologetic about it. “Why my blood?”
If Severus hadn’t felt sorry for Harry, he would have smacked him on the back of his thick head.
“Because you’re the one becoming an animagus, or am I mistaken? It won’t be a big deal. It just needs a few drops.”
The anxiety in Harry’s face lifted slightly. A few drops wouldn’t be so bad. But still…look what a small vial of his blood had already done.
Their conversation was interrupted when a large black dog came in through the back door. Sirius transformed back into his human form and immediately scrunched up his nose.
“What is that smell?” asked Sirius as he pinched his nose with a thumb and forefinger.
“That would be you, Black,” said Severus as he stoked the fire underneath his cauldron. “A simple shower once or twice a week could cure that.”
“Shove it up your ass Snape,” said Sirius as he scowled darkly at the potions professor. “You really are the one to be talking grease head.”
Harry sighed as he walked out of the very noisy kitchen. So much for a nice quiet morning. He returned to his seat on the couch and continued reading. He had read the book completely through and was doing so again, just to make sure he didn’t miss anything. He figured he’d be done in a few more hours and then he could get Sirius into really teaching him. The potion would be completed by then and he’d soon be on his way to becoming an animagus. Just like Sirius. Just like his dad. Harry sighed and shook his head as the noise in the kitchen became louder.
“So where were you?” snapped Snape. “It would be nice if you could tell us where you’re going. You were gone for almost five hours. For all we know, you could have been picked up by the ministry or hit by a car. Personally, the latter scenario would be more to my liking, but that’s not the point.”
“Who are you? My mum? I don’t have to tell you anything,” said Sirius as he crossed his arms over his chest. “And what the hell is that?”
Sirius pointed to the cauldron.
“That is the potion you requested,” said Severus. He paused for a moment and thought about that statement. Had he done something that Black had asked for? He shook his head of the thought and continued. “It’s Harry’s Verto potion.”
“Ah, so that’s what smells.”
“No, that’s still you,” said Severus as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a letter. “Now, there is a certain matter I feel I must talk with you about.”
Sirius looked at him strangely before pulling a chair out and sitting with his elbows resting on the table. Severus followed suit and sat across from Sirius, the letter in front of him.
“Now,” began Severus as he unfolded the letter in front of him. “This is the letter I received from Dumbledore this morning. He mentioned some, er – interesting things to say the least. One of which concerns you.”
Sirius eyed him strangely as Severus slid the letter to him. He picked it up, and, instead of reading, stared at Severus.
“Why am I reading this?” asked Sirius with a puzzled expression. Severus just scowled at him before Sirius looked back down at the letter. He mouthed the words as he read.
“Destructive nature?” he muttered to himself as he kept reading. His eyes suddenly stopped scanning the page as he came across one line in particular. His eyes frantically read over the line many times before shooting up and meeting Severus’ own.
Severus took a stab at the part Sirius had read and asked, “When was the last time you saw Cassie?”
“I…uh…the day before James and Lily died,” said Sirius as he continued to look down at the letter. His face grew puzzled and slightly pained as he looked up at Severus. “Where is she?”
“The last I heard, she was living in America,” said Severus. “And that was the spring after the Potters were killed.”
“She must be back if Dumbledore mentioned her,” said Sirius quickly. “I mean, if she’s going to help Harry, then she has to back.”
“Black? Have you heard anything about your sister since you got out?” asked Severus, the usual malice missing from his voice.
Sirius shook his head before resting his chin on his folded arms.
“Well, did you ask anyone about her?” said Severus.
“Yes, many times. No one knew where she was,” said Sirius as he rubbed his temples. “Dumbledore knew she was in America but the letters I sent came back.”
Sirius continued to read the rest of the letter, hoping that there was more information about his sister. His face grew puzzled once more before he looked back up at Severus. Severus returned the puzzled look.
“What?” he asked as Sirius looked back down at the letter.
“You may be able to help him in more ways then you think Severus,” read Sirius. “Your skills in the process of becoming an animagus extend further than potion making. You should share that talent of yours. What does that mean Snape? What are you hiding?”
Severus realized what Sirius was talking about and got up from the table without answering him. Sirius set the letter down and followed Snape into the living room.
“Stop Snape!” yelled Sirius as Severus made for the stairs. “What talent? What is Dumbledore talking about?”
Severus stopped walking and turned around to face Sirius. Harry looked up from his book and turned around, looking over the back of the couch. He saw that Sirius was very puzzled and Snape was very keen on not answering Sirius’ question.
“Why do you think I should tell you?” asked Severus with a sneer.
“Because!” shouted Sirius.
“Well, that’s not a very good reason,” said Severus as he walked towards Sirius, his arms crossed over his chest. “You want to know what talent Dumbledore is talking about?”
Sirius nodded, returning the sneer Severus was giving him.
“Fine,” he said as he continued to look at Sirius. In the blink of an eye, Severus was no longer standing in front of Sirius. Sirius looked around for Severus and all of a sudden, was bombarded by something small and black. He swatted around his face and hit the feather mass back long enough to see what was attacking him. A large black raven was flapping around his head, attacking Sirius’ face with its sharp claws.
“Is that Professor Snape?” asked Harry as he got off the couch and watched the black bird fly around the living room. As if on cue, it landed on the floor next to Harry. Severus was once again standing in front of Sirius, the look on his face the same.
“Does that quench your curiosity?” said Snape as he crossed his arms and looked over at Harry. Harry looked back at him with amazement. Amazement soon turned to shock as Severus flashed Harry a brief smile before turning back to Sirius.
“When…how…wha?” stuttered Sirius as he blinked a few times and shook his head. This caused a wicked smirk to crawl across Severus’ face.
“I learned during fourth and fifth year and finally transformed sixth,” said Severus. “What? You didn’t think that you four bone heads were the only students able to become illegal animagus’ did you?”
“So. . . is that. . .”
“How I spied on you all this time?” said Severus, finishing Sirius’ attempted question. “Yes, but amazingly enough, I never caught you all in animal form.”
“Good thing too,” said Sirius as he shook his head. “You would have ratted us all out and I would have never escaped from Azkaban.”
“But you know Sirius,” said Harry thoughtfully, realization drawing on his face. “Voldemort and the Deatheaters must know about you being an animagus. I mean, Wormtail must have said something.”
“I know Harry,” said Sirius with a sigh. “No need to worry though. I’m being extra careful. I’m not the only black dog in the United Kingdom. Just as long as we’re not seen together, we’ll be fine.”
“Doesn’t matter anyway,” said Severus as he looked back at Harry. “You are not to leave this cottage for any reason.”
“What?” cried Harry. “Why not?”
“I just feel that it’s too risky for you to be seen by any person. You no longer can rely on the ministry for protection. The Daily Prophet reported that a team of aurors has been sent after you. They’ve even taken aurors off of Black’s case and put them on yours.”
Harry looked up at Snape for a few more moments before turning and sitting on the couch.
“I’m never going back to school, am I?” asked Harry tonelessly.
“Oh Harry,” said Sirius as he sat down next to his Godson. “Don’t say that. Of course you’ll go back to school. Pretty soon, everyone will know about Voldemort and Fudge will be kicked out of office. Your name will be cleared and you’ll once again be the savior of the wizarding world.”
Harry turned suddenly and sent a dark look Sirius’ way. Sirius was taken back and grew puzzled.
“What?” he asked as he looked from Harry to Snape and back. Severus merely shrugged before taking a seat in the armchair in the corner.
“Is that all I am to people?” asked Harry as he looked to Severus. “I hate being marked as a bloody martyr.”
“Harry,” said Sirius cautiously. “I didn’t mean it like that. I was only joking.”
“I know Sirius,” said Harry as his tone became less severe. “It’s just that I would rather stay in this cottage for the rest of my life than have to deal with the stigma of being the-boy-who-lived. I didn’t choose to have this happen. I’d much rather have my parents and be a normal kid than be a famous orphan.”
“I know Harry. I’m sorry. I would much rather have James and Lily back over anything else. You know that. I just don’t want to fail them anymore than I have,” Sirius raised a hand as Harry moved to speak. “Don’t worry. We’ll find a way to deal with this. And just think- once you can transform, you can leave the house.”
“Don’t make any promises Black,” said Severus. “You can’t exactly run around anywhere you like. Harry’s right. The Deatheaters must know about you. And you are more distinctive than you think, at least to someone who knows what they’re looking for.”
“So how long will it take for me to transform after I take the potion?” asked Harry, looking at both Sirius and Severus.
“It depends on how hard you work,” said Severus.
“But it won’t take long,” said Sirius as Harry turned back to him. “With your talent and the fact that you now have two people who can help you, I would say by the end of the month, the beginning of August.”
“That’s only two and a half weeks Black,” said Severus. “I doubt he can learn in that amount of time.”
“He’s been working on it for a while now,” said Sirius in return. “Besides, he will have teachers. If not a complete transformation, he’ll at least figure out what animal he’ll transform into.”
Severus sat back and nodded in return.
“What determines the type of animal someone turns into?” asked Harry. “It didn’t cover that in the book.”
“No one really knows,” said Severus. “I believe that there are many factors. Personality, physical features.”
“So is that why you’re a bird?” asked Sirius, feigning thoughtfulness. “A beak for a nose and a pigeon’s brain?”
“And the fact that you smell and enjoy licking yourself would account for you being a dog,” said Severus with a sneer.
Harry simply rolled his eyes as the two adults lapsed into a staring match. If looks could kill, both Sirius and Severus would be dead.
“Anyway,” said Harry, interrupting the contest,” so it’ll be a total surprise when I transform?”
“But after a few tries, you can usually get a good idea of what you are. I mean, feathers, paws, hooves, claws- they all clue you in. Your arms are usually the first to transform. Except your dad,” at this, Sirius gave a bark like laugh. “His head transformed first. I will never forget seeing your dad with a giant stag’s head and antlers on top of his shoulders.”
This caused Harry to smile widely.
“What about you Professor Snape?” asked Harry. “What transformed first for you?”
“Well, if figured I was a bird when my whole body became covered in feathers,” he said. His mouth formed a sort of amused smile as he thought for a moment. “You don’t know how hard it was explaining all the black feathers all over the Slytherin common room.”
This caused Harry to laugh and even Sirius let a small smile escape his lips. The smile on Severus’ face slowly left as he realized it was there. He stood up quickly and glanced briefly at Sirius and Harry as he walked into the kitchen.
“You know,” said Harry after Snape left the room, “he really should learn to let go and have a little fun every once and a while.”
“Snape wouldn’t know fun if it danced naked in front of him,” said Sirius as he folded his hands behind his head. His thoughts drifted back to their earlier conversation and his sister. Sirius stood up quickly. He started towards the stairs.
“Where are you going?” asked Harry as he turned on the couch and watched Sirius walk upstairs.
“I need some answers.”