In the late seventies, on a rather large and conspicuous hill outside of Hogsmeade lay, stretched like a drugged cat on a furry green dinner roll, the sprawling and ridiculously large estate of the Malfoy family. In the basement worked an industrious and high strung young man by the name of Severus Snape.
He bent over a cauldron, a green light emanating from its contents. Thick goggles protected his eyes, as he worked with rather nastier-than-normal stuff. The upper half of his long black hair was pulled away from his face with a silver clasp, leaving the rest trailing down his back in a fetching and bishounenesque manner.
He lit his cigarette with one hand and poured a vial of silvery liquid into a pressure slot with another. "I am an antichrist," he sang softly to himself, "and I am an anarchist, a doo-doo doo doo dah do..."
There was a knock at the door.
"What?" he barked through his cigarette-pursed lips as he filled a beaker, emptied a vial, filled a vial, cleaned a dish, and mixed a few things together.
A mousy woman with extremely thick circular glasses and gigantic puffy black curly hair by the name of Myra Psue entered. She wore a black robe over a curvy, stout body. She held a slip of yellow parchment, looking distressed.
"Severus, you're not supposed to smoke in the lab"
"My lab," he replied, not bothering to look up at her. "What've we got?"
She shook her head. "He's lost his mind, I swear. The guy studies the Dark Arts for what, twenty seven years or something, and he thinks we can get this for him in two days."
He took the parchment from her. "Infusion or distillation?"
"Infusion. With distilled helbagrout."
He paused. "Thats horse shit."
"Yes. It is." She sat at a table, resting her face in her hands. She rubbed her eyes, her temples. "I was hoping to sleep sometime this week."
"Wait. He wants THIS is two days? Are you quite sure?" He examined the parchment closer, as though he may have missed something.
"That's horse shit."
"You said that."
" It will be repeated, I assure you." He grumbled and flicked his cigarette.
She jumped. "Severus, for fucks sake, don't ash on the product!"
"I'm not ashing on the product, I'm ashing significantly away from the product."
"You should really stop smoking. You'll ruin your lungs."
"Myra, I work among sulfurous fumes all damn day. Why not help the process along?" He adjusted his goggles, pushing them up on his nose."Two days. This is a joke. It takes at least five." He took a drag off his cigarette and adjusted his goggles again. "Can you get Barty down here? Have him tell He Of The Ridiculous Time Limit we need some high grade kitchenware, and fast, or he's bloody fuckled." He fiddled with his goggles again, finally taking them off to adjust the headstrap. His eyes were red and tired. He shook his head. "This is horse shit."
"A man true to his word," Myra said with a flourish. "Issue number one, I don't think it's wise to go in and start demanding things of the Dark Lord He gets huffy. Issue number two, you've got rings around your eyes, lab rat. Those goggles make you look like a bug."
He lit another cigarette. "Issue number one, you're right, make a pit stop at Lord Malfoy. Issue number two, go fuck yourself. If you want to burn your eyes out with acidic vapor, be my guest." He took a drag and began setting up for the upcoming task, then gave her a piercing look.
Myra raised her eyebrows. "Fine, Scuba Snape, I'll see what I can do. I'm going to Knockturn. Would you like me to grab you an air tank and some fins while I'm topside?"
"Fuck off. Oh, and could you see about getting some grindleweed? Were running low."
"Of course. Im going to McCaligula's too, you fancy anything?"
He gave a wayward glance. "You eat there? And you're telling me to quit smoking?"
She shrugged. "Its food."
"In a purely technical sense."
"Take it or leave it."
He thought for a moment. "Ill have a Hammy. With pickles." She gave a brief salute and headed out the door. "And some salt and vinegar chips!" he called after her. "And a pack of Devil's Owns!"
"Don't push your luck," she called back.
He looked at the parchment again. Shook his head.
Myra returned forty five minutes later and tossed a paper bag in Severus's direction. He caught it without looking up, reached in, removed the sandwich, extracted the cigarette from his mouth, took a bite, chewed, swallowed, and put the cigarette back in his mouth.
"You're welcome," Myra said, pulling on her gray lab robe.
He chewed thoughtfully. "This is turkey."
He glared at her. "This is a turkey sandwich."
"Are you quite sure?"
"Myra, speaking from years of experience applying and identifying substances of various sorts, from a professional standpoint, I feel I can be relatively certain that this is a turkey goddam sandwich."
She shrugged. "I ordered ham."
He continued. "A turkey sandwich suffering from a lack of pickles, I believe, and the bag in which it came is utterly devoid of cigarettes."
She huffed. "I don't believe in assisted suicide."
He rolled his eyes.
She raised her eyebrows. "Didn't mean to ruin your day, Jesus."
He glanced at her. "Jesus? Thats a Muggle expression. How uncouth."
"Actually he's a Muggle deity. Once you pick up using his name in vain its a really hard habit to break."
"You'd best break it. Lord Malfoy would come thundering down upon you if he heard you talking like a full-blown Mud."
She sighed. "Between you and me, Severus, Lord Malfoy can eat me."
Severus raised an eyebrow.
"Here's the extra Grindleweed you asked for." She threw another bag at him which he snatched expertly out of the air. "I asked him, very politely, about the new kitchenware and he promptly turned into a bitch. I wanted to say 'Look, you dried up old turd, we're the potionmasters, okay? Don't go telling us what equipment we need, just shut your mouth and foot the bill.'"
Snape mixed the contents of two vials together. "You didn't say that."
"I said I wanted to say it."
"Said, wanted to say, same difference, get to work! We need a mixture of commilingus and detourche! Hurry, hurry!"
Myra rose from her seat and started digging inside a cabinet for the proper materials. "By the way," she said, "whatever became of the turkey sandwich that so upset Severus Snape? Its gone! He ate it! Jesus, did you even breath?"
"I was so hungry I would have eaten a goat."
He held a beaker up to the light and waved his wand at it, uttering a quiet incantation. It let out a brief huff of pink smoke.
"Or my sandwich, which you always seem to mistake for a chaser. A chaser very clearly marked 'Myra' and placed -"
"Later. We have to work. You did get the equipment, didn't you? We need a Cromley High Speed Distillator. There's no way were getting this done in anything near two days without one."
"I know, Severus. Malfoy ordered it. He's having it apparated this evening."
Snape let out a low whistle and rubbed his thumb and forefingers together. "You must have given him an above average blow job."
She gave him a look of utter disgust.
"I just don't know any other way a woman manages to get such expensive things out of a man," he said.
"I think it has more to do with the Dark Lord having his hand wrapped firmly around Malfoy's testicles than it does with me. Trust me, I barely managed it his time. I thought his head would explode."
He turned, grinning at her.
"Oh, bloody you," she cried.
"You walked into that, my dear."
"I know, I know. Leave me with my pride. The old fart has the money. He may as well use it to buy us toys instead of that little prat Lucius."
"I hear that," Severus said.
"It's beautiful," Myra breathed, touching the chrome distillator that now hummed away in the corner. She ran her hand along the rim, bent down to have a look inside.
"It would be more beautiful with your head out of it," Severus snapped. "We've still got a ton of work to do. No matter how efficient that thing is, it's not going to get us our potion in two days."
She reluctantly removed herself from the machine. "Right. I know. What next?"
Severus cleared his throat. 'An infusion of mariseed and goldenwort, excuse me, elmwort. No, red elmwort extract." He tapped the butt of his cigarette to his temple.
She nodded and set up the proper tools, the reached behind her. "Could you hand me the saline solu- thanks. You might want to boost up the hood in a second, this stuff is rough."
"Mmm. Just tell me when."
He glanced at the hood, an airtight pump closet that sucked the poisonous fumes from especially smoky potions. He slipped the goggles back over his head and adjusted the lenses, then opened a book. He flipped through the pages, studied an entry, then went to the poison cabinet. He smirked at a coma inducing draught. "Wouldn't that be nice," he muttered sourly.
"What be nice?"
"Nothing," he said. 'Sleep."
Myra said a brief incantation over a serum. The liquid changed from a watery purple to a slimy, crawling black sludge. She gave it an approving nod and poured it in the cauldron. "Sleep," she said, "would be a delicious joy. But that's life under the Dark Lord. What do you do, we get great benefits in this industry."
Severus huffed. "If you're referring to the money and power, I haven't seen any. All I see, day in and day out, are these basement walls and your nitwit face."
He paused, looking at her. "Your nitwit face and your gigantic head."
She cast him a brief glance.
"Your head," he began, leaning upon the table and lighting a cigarette, "defies gravity by the very fact that it stays perched atop your neck. It's huge. It's like looking at an asteroid on a toothbrush."
Myra's face reddened. She vigorously shook a vial and mixed it with another.
He took a drag. "Quite a remarkable phenomenon, really, this head of yours. Floating there like a...a..." he made a summoning gesture with his hand, as though looking for the correct word. "A great fuzzy black Snitch, yes."
She glared at him but said nothing. He took a step closer.
"Or, perhaps, like the independently mobile pubic hair of a giant - "
"Shut it, you fucking git, before I jam this vial rack up your ass," she growled.
A look of satisfaction crossed his face.
A little while later, after she had cooled, Myra asked Severus what he supposed The Dark Lord would do with the potion.
He was looking at a bottle of a milkish liquid., flicking it with a long fingernail. Particles moved at the bottom. The solution had gone over.
"Fuck my cock," he muttered.
"The dogweed serum has gone over. We'll have to send Barty to get some more."
"Did you say 'fuck my cock'?" she asked incredulously.
He paused at the expression on her face. 'No."
"Yes you did. Just now."
"I said no such thing." He turned partially away from her to check a dial.
"You said 'fuck my cock.'"
"So what? Shut up and work, will you, we're wasting time."
She laughed. "Who says that?"
"Quiet! Work!' he snapped, thrusting a pair of potions at her.
She snickered and took them, shaking her head. 'What a prat you are." She sighed. After a moment, 'You never answered my question. What do you think he's using this for?"
Severus shrugged. "Assassination. It kills in larger doses, though administered a bit at a time it's quite effective for torture ... causes a most unpleasant burning and cracking of the skin. Given with a clover-based balm it makes peeling back fingernails fifty times more painful. Mixed with carrionweed and given in a dropper it'll dissolve the eyeball into a white, veiny foam. Saw it done once, actually, amazing to watch. Yet it's so versatile, add some vodka and you have a very effective decongestant. Lovely thing." He shook his head in amazement, his eyes alight.
She smiled at him. "Fuck my cock."
"Lordy, I always walk in at the best moment," came a voice from the door. They looked up so see young Barty Crouch Jr., arms folded, looking stern. He wore his robe open to reveal tiny orange gym shorts, sport socks pulled up to his knees, and a white t-shirt bearing a picture of an ice cream sundae that revealed a thin line of midriff. He tucked his blonde hair behind his ear. "Lord Malfoy sent me to check your progress. He wants to know if the dist-ill...e...thing...that thing, whatever that is - " he pointed to the Distillator in the corner "-if it was working well for you."
Severus crossed his arms, giving Barty a sour look. "Yes, it's fine, give Lord Malfoy our thanks."
Myra sighed. "Barty, you'll catch your death of cold running around in that little outfit. Severus, could you turn on the hood, we're going to need it in a minute."
"This?" Barty pointed at his shirt. "Isn't this great? I saw it at Vanishing Vintage, and I was just like, ice cream, yay!" He wiggled a bit. "Everyone likes ice cream."
"It's a cute shirt," Myra admitted.
"Oh, it would look better on you, though, you have those sweet boobies. It's yours if you ever want to borrow it."
Severus snorted again, louder. Myra threw him a cross look.
"Thanks sweetie, I'll keep that in mind," Myra said from behind Severus, who was staring coldly at Barty. There was a sizzling sound. "Severus, any time now with the hood. I'm almost at peak reaction, here"
"Right," he grunted.
Barty clucked his tongue once at Severus. "What are you looking at?"
"Nothing. We need you to fetch a new bottle of dogweed."
Barty bit his lip and smiled.
"Severus," Myra repeated.
"That all?" Barty asked coquettishly, twisting his hair around his pinky.
A barely restrained look of disgust flashed over Severus's face. "Quite all, thanks."
"'Kay. Oh, um..." Barty paused at the door, looking a bit forlorn. "If you see Lucius, could you, um, tell him I'm looking for him?"
He glared at Barty.
"Severus!" Myra exclaimed as the sizzle grew louder, "I'm peaking here!"
Barty pouted at Severus, running his thumb along the elastic band of his shorts. "Please?"
"Get out of my lab, you filthy little pouf!" Severus exploded.
"SEVERUS!" Myra yelled.
Barty jumped up and slammed the door behind him as yellow smoke began to fill the room.
Severus coughed. "What the-?"
"The HOOD!" she shrieked. "Turn on the hood! We'll be poisoned!"
She dashed across the room with the fuming potion as Severus grabbed for his wand, aiming an activation charm at the pump closet. From the other side of the room he heard a sputtering. He could just barely make out Myra shoving the potion behind the glass door. She was hacking.
"Merlin's blood!" she coughed, "you fucking *hack hack* amateur. If I had known you found *hack* Barty *hack* that distracting..." She felt around for the vent latch. "Are you trying to *hack* kill us?"
Severus tried to reply but choked on the foul air. Myra managed to open a vent and he heard the first few words of a clearing charm. The sputtering from the corner grew even louder. Myra finished the charm and the room was clear of smoke, leaving only a sulfurous odor behind. Severus lit a cigarette.
"Did the infusion survive?" he asked cooly.
She was hunched over a table, both palms flay upon it. Her eyes watered. "Are you smoking?" she asked, aghast.
"Did the infusion survive?"
"I can't believe you."
Yet another sputter from the corner of the room.
"I asked you a question, Myra."
She narrowed her eyes at him, coughing. "Go check it yourself."
He stared at her for a moment, then lowered his cigarette. "I think you should," he said softly. 'You could use the experience."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
He took a few quick steps until he was right in Myra's face. He looked livid. "I have more experience with Potions, and the Dark Arts in general, than you do or ever will have. Don't you ever, ever, call me an amateur, or I'll show you just what an amateur is. Try to keep in mind, Myra Psue, that you are my assistant."
"Oh, that is such horse shit Severus, you know as well as I do-"
"-that you are my assistant. You are assistant Potionmaster. Vice. Potionmaster."
Their noses were nearly touching, the smoke from Severus's cigarette curling like a decaying hand above their heads.
"Technically," she spat.
Severus opened his mouth to reply, give a cutting last remark, when the sputtering became obtrusively loud. "What the bloody hell is that?"
As if on cue, the Cromley High Speed Distillator emitted a low moan, coughed, and shut down.
Myra and Severus blinked.
"No..." they said in unison.
"Can you fix it?"
Severus slid himself out from underneath the Distillator. He sat on the floor, leaning against a cabinet, brushing his hair out of his eyes. "No, we need a new one. The fumes from the infusion must have damaged it somehow."
Myra shook her head. "This is not good. Lord Malfoy nearly had an aneurism when I told him how much the first one would cost. This'll get us black - marked as liabilities."
Severus snorted. "I wish it were as simple as just the Distillator. The last of the helbargrout was in there. It only blooms every six years. We have to make a synthetic helbargrout, that'll take about seven hours, and then you have to sweet-talk Lord Malfoy into getting us a new Distillator - "
"-why do I always have to do do the sweet talking?"
"Because he wants to fuck you. All in all this is going to put us fifteen, sixteen hours behind schedule. We're buggered." He gave Myra a salute. "Nice knowing you."
She began to bite her nails. Severus winced, watching her.
"Maybe…maybe we can talk to the Dark Lord...tell him the situation...I mean, shit happens, right?"
Severus looked at her for a moment and burst out laughing. "Do you remember the Arithmancy Guy who was late with those charts? I heard the Dark Lord ate his testicles." He gave a grim snort. "Give me a cigarette, will you?"
"No. We need to think."
"I need a cigarette to think."
She gave an exasperated sigh and threw the pack at him. They were silent for a moment, Severus smoking, Myra biting her nails, Severus wincing at Myra biting her nails.
His eyes suddenly cleared. When he looked up his expression was not one of relief.
'What?" Myra asked. "Have you got something?"
"Lucius," he replied.
Lucius Malfoy sat on the green couch in the far left corner of the lab. The couch was usually reserved for either Severus or Myra's eventual collapse. Severus had awaken many a morning with the lines from the corduroy embedded in his cheek. But now a smug blonde boy in his young twenties lounged upon it as though it were a throne of the highest order. His arm was slung across the back. A creak emitted from his dragon skin pants as he crossed his legs.
Lucius licked his lips and smirked at Severus. "So," he said, "what's so urgent that I have to be called from whip practice?"
Myra was across the room pretending to work. Severus saw her tilt her head slightly to better listen to the conversation.
"I need your help," Severus finally said. It was a hard admission for him.
Lucius grinned. "Imagine that. I heard you had a bit of an accident down here."
"How did you know?"
"A little Barty told me," Lucius replied with a flip of his hand.
He leaned forward, all creaking pants and black silk shirt, balancing his elbows against his knees. There was a sparkle about his hand - a single serpent's eye diamond engagement ring. He shook his platinum locks out of his eyes with a brief movement of his head.
"So what do you need fixed, Snapey-loo?"
Severus's jaw locked at the name. Lucius knew he hated it. It was borne of a rather embarrassing incident at Hogwarts many years previous.
"Let's try to keep this short, I don't have a lot of time. I need a some helbargrout - "
"Not very easily obtained right now. It's going to cost you."
Snape took a breath to steady himself. "Some helbagrout, and a new Distillator."
There was a pause. Lucius's eyebrows rose. He smiled and sat back, stroking his chin. Severus never allowed his black, glittering eyes to leave Lucius's watery blue ones, hoping to intimidate the young prince into giving him a reasonable deal. This was not to be achieved. They both knew who had the better hand.
"Well well well," Lucius said smoothly, "We do have ourselves in a pinch, don't we?"
Severus didn't reply.
Lucius made a great show of considering the deal, his eyes raised to the ceiling in "thought". Severus knew Lucius already had the price in mind.
Finally Lucius spoke. "I can get you these things, but I have a request to make of you. Or rather, a proposal."
Severus crossed his arms, waiting.
"Actually it's something I've wanted to discuss with you for quite some time now. How fortunate that I finally have an opportunity." A look of earnestness came over him. It was chilling.
"Severus, I want you to go back into business with me."
He started. Blinked. "Business?"
"Don't be coy. We ran quite a racket back in our Hogwarts days. You made it, I sold it."
Across the room, Myra cocked her head.
"You produced some of the best metamorphine I've ever had the pleasure of putting in my arm," Lucius whispered savagely. "Don't you remember the night I swore I knew what it felt like to be the roof? That, my dear Severus, is what we call good shit."
Myra looked over her shoulder at Severus, amazed.
A sour look crossed Lucius's beautiful face. "What are you gawking at, you fat cow? This is private business."
"Leave her be," Severus snapped.
Lucius rose a perfect blonde eyebrow.
"I'm glad you enjoyed my...handiwork, but I can't do that anymore. You have to realize that working for the Dark Lord takes up all of my time - I can barely sleep, much less make shipments for you on a regular basis." He lit a cigarette.
Lucius gestured to the wrecked Distillator in the corner. "That pile of junk over there seems to be saying you can. Listen. You can hear it."
Lucius leaned forward, putting his hand on Severus's shoulder. The other hand he formed into a beak with his finger and thumb, which he made "talk".
"Hi, Snapey-loo. This is the Distillator. I'm a fucked up piece of trash that's going to cost you your job and your life, so I think you had better get off your ass and make Lucius some drugs. Comprende?"'
Lucius smiled at his hand. "You're a persuasive little bastard."
"Why thank you," the hand replied.
"No no, thank you, gorgeous," Lucius said back. "There, see. That's how it is. We'll split the take, say, thirty seventy until such time as I deem fit."
"I'm not doing it for any less than forty," Severus balked.
"You're hardly in a position to argue," Lucius's hand said.
"Lucius-" Severus began.
"I can get you what you need within the hour. Or you can rot. Do we have a deal?"
Severus was silent, too tired to fight him. "Fine. Fine, we have a deal. Just give me some time for the first batch, I have to finish this potion in a day and nine hours."
"Of course," Lucius said, extending his hand. Severus reluctantly shook it. "A pleasure, my friend. Glad to have you back on the team." He smiled. "I don't know about you, but I'm going to get some new boots."
"With the cut I'm getting I won't be able to afford new boots," Severus spat.
Lucius laughed and patted Severus on cheek. "You're funny. Always were a charmer."
The door burst open to reveal a panting Barty Crouch. His sport socks had fallen down to his ankles. He held up a vial. 'Here's your dogweed! I brought it as fast as I - Lucius."
"Hi Barty." Lucius got up to leave, giving Severus a parting nod. "Come now, let's go upstairs, you can make me smoothie."
Barty's expression brightened as he handed Severus the dogweed and followed Lucius out.
Myra turned to Severus and began to speak. 'Metamorphine? That's-"
"Not a word, Myra" he said. "Not a word."
The Distillator and the helbargrout were delivered within the hour as promised. Severus didn't allow himself to think of the price had paid for it. Metamorphine was such a good drug because it was extremely difficult and time-consuming to produce. It was now guaranteed he would never see the sun again.
Seven hours of solid work. He felt the hours tick by like a blade nicking at his neck. There was too much to do and not enough being done. He was exhausted, wired, so on edge that Myra had all but stopped speaking to him for the sharpness of his retorts.
He tried to steady his shaking hand as he filled a vial. Mentally sifted through a baffling number of computations. Couldn't keep anything straight. A sour ache of frustration throbbed in his chest.
There was a tug at his robe.
Severus jumped. Before him was Dobby.
"Don't startle me like that, you rodent!" he spat.
Myra glanced over. "Oh look, it's the Bludger," she said coldly, with eyes undone by stress.
Dobby cowered, his thin arms covered his huge head. "Not again, Miss Psue! Oh no, me is not Bludger, Miss Psue, no no no. Me is Dobby. Me is a good house-elf. Me is-."
"We know what you is," Severus spat. 'What the hell do you want? Make it fast."
"Such language! You is a bad Snape - "
"Wrap it up, fuckwit," Myra said.
"The Taskmasters is telling me to give Mr. Snape this, sir." He handed Severus a slip of parchment and quickly left.
He opened it.
"Oh god. You're kidding. What've we got?" Myra asked, rubbing her eyes.
Severus crumpled the parchment and stormed out of the lab, slamming the door behind him.
He burst into a horribly lit room where black robed witches and wizards moved silently but efficiently, filing and sorting task requests for each of the Death Eaters. A long line of rather bored looking people standing outside Processing waited to fill out request forms. Across the one moldy window was a string of black and white letters that read "HAPPY H LLOWE N".
It was May.
He had entered the Taskmasters Office.
"Who ordered the sleep draught?" he demanded loudly. Conversation stopped as about thirty heads turned his way. He focused on the Woman Behind The Counter. Everyone knew who she was but no one seemed to know her name. She always lined her lips just outside of their natural limit, unknowingly creating the illusion of a very thin mustache. She had jowls.
She gave him a bored look. "What was that, hon?"
"I want to know who sent down the order for the goddam sleep draught."
"Yes, just now."
"Let me check." She shifted through a stack of parchment. "Hmm. Says here it was a Mr. Grindow Holland." Her eyes suddenly flew to the back of the line. Instinctively he tracked her line of sight. A figure was pushing through the line, trying to leave the room. Severus's eyes glinted, suddenly feral.
He charged up to the man, seized him by the collar, and slammed him against the wall.
"Are you Grindow Holland?" he hissed. Spittle landed on the small, bald man's cheek.
"Did you order the sleep draught?"
"Y-es, yes, I did. I can explain."
"It's for my - my wife. She's having trouble-"
Severus pulled against the man's collar and shoved him back against the wall."Listen to me, you useless, pion piece of shit," he growled, "You go back home and tell your wife that I have a deadline. I have things to do. I won't be interrupted because some simpering bitch can't get her beauty sleep. Tell her to drink some warm fucking milk, I'm. BUSY."
Holland's jaw bobbed wordlessly.
"Can you HEAR ME?" Severus shrieked. "Am I making myself PERFECTLY. FUCKING. CRYSTAL. CLEAR?" He shoved the man against the wall with each word.
Severus glared at him for a moment, then released him. Just as the man took a breath of relief Severus raised his hand in a sudden motion, as though he were about to backhand Holland across the face. The bald man flinched.
Severus gave a single nod.
He looked up at the silent crowd of people in the Taskmaster's office, staring at him.
Not waiting for a response, he turned on his heel and swept out of the room.
"Where the hell did you run off to so fast?" Myra snapped upon Severus's return. She was stirring two cauldrons at once while watching a mixture that threatened to boil over. "What was that?"
"Nothing, I took care of it," he replied, pulling his goggles back on with a savage jerk and reducing the heat on the boiling mixture. He took over one of Myra's cauldrons, which she gladly gave up. "Did you skim this for yeast residue?"
"Of course, what do I look like to you?" She rolled her eyes.
"Don't start. Just don't bloody start."
She started to reply, but someone opened the door to the lab. The creak made both of them jump.
"Helleeeeuw!" exclaimed the platinum blonde head of Narcissa Vontaine. She stepped fully into the room, all smiles and woodchips, her hair done in a neat and solid pile atop her skull. The glitter of her ruby earrings emphasized the blinding white gleam of her teeth. On one hand gleaned a single serpent's eye diamond in an engagement setting.
"Oh God," Severus heard Myra mutter. "It's the Thing."
Narcissa smiled as she descended the small staircase to the lab floor. "Hello there Severus, and, um..." her eyes fell upon Myra, "...Severus's little friend. I ran out of facial regenerator and Lucius told me you had some extra lying about, so I thought I'd come down here and offer to take it off your hands. So I can put it on my face." She laughed in a high squeal, as though she has just made the funniest little joke in history.
Severus clenched his jaw, trying to retain his calm. Had it been anyone else he would have slammed her face into the wall, but he knew well that Lord Malfoy considered Narcissa as his daughter.
He rubbed his eyes. "Facial regenerator? Of course. Myra, could you please fetch that for Miss Vonatine?"
"Soon to be Mrs. Lucius Malfoy," Narcissa giggled, waving her ring at Myra, who shook her head as she unlocked a cabinet and began to dig on the lowest shelf. Severus began to stir the cauldron again, flipping pages in a potions spellbook, trying as best he could to ignore the glimmering princess before him.
"Oh Severus," Narcissa sighed, "I look just awful today, don't you think?"
He bit the inside of his lip. Hard. "You're as lovely as always, Narcissa."
Her eyes lit up. "Really?"
"Oh. Yes. Definitely." He filled a beaker and turned some more pages in the book.
"Oh, come now. I've got such awful skin and my hair's all out of place. I'm an absolute terror!" She looked at the floor, then raised her eyes in a coy and vulpine manner. "You don't really think I look as lovely as always, do you?"
Some of the contents of a beaker spilled as Severus poured it. "Shit," he muttered.
Narcissa looked a bit taken aback.
"Yes yes," he said, then glanced quickly up at her. "You're a sight to behold."
"You think so? Honestly?"
He put the empty beaker down on the table a little too hard, glaring at her. "Yes, Narcissa, you are a flawless vision of crystalline, unchangeable beauty. You're a china doll, Aphrodite herself, the breath of spring after a long and frigid winter. Your very presence would induce a long-dead corpse to rise again to admire even for a single second your awesome and unequivocal perfection."
There was a pause. Her jaw fell slightly agape, hand held over her heart. "Severus, that...that was the most wonderful thing anyone has ever said to me. I'm...I...I had no idea you were so..." her eyes trailed along his chest and shoulders, played on his face, "poetic."
A scowling Myra pushed past Severus, nearly shoving the bottle of facial regenerator into Narcissa's chest. "Here," she barked.
"Oh, thank you." Her eyes lingered on Severus for a moment before she turned to Myra. She cocked her head as though admiring a curious insect. "Dear, you look a touch puffy under the eyes. When I get like that I use a coconut meat compress for about fifteen minutes." She lowered her voice to a secretive whisper. "It works."
"Thanks for the tip," Myra said dryly.
"Of course dear, I'm always here for those in need. Well, I best be going. Thank you again." She gave a slight nod and a cool smile. "Severus."
"Narcissa." He had turned back to his cauldron, absorbed in a book.
Myra crossed her arms and glowered at him. It took him fully forty five seconds to notice.
"Tell me you didn't mean all that."
He snorted. "Don't be silly. There are few things I wouldn't say to get her to shut up. Back to work."
Five and a half hours later.
The beaker fell out of focus, into focus.
Severus shakily mixed it with an ammonia solvent.
He took a small black pebble from a nearby jar, dropped it in, waited for the fizz.
Out of focus.
There was a sizzling sound. Throbbing yellow blur.
The beaker was fuzzing over.
"Shit," Severus muttered. He reached down for the dragon hide gloves that were usually hooked to his belt and found them missing. He patted his robe's pockets - nothing but the feel of the instruments he usually kept there, the circular hardness of a small scale, the nub of a thermometer. A wave of exhaustion moved through him.
He looked about for them and spied them on Myra's hands. They were flat on the table before her, between them an empty vial. Her head lolled ungracefully to one side, eyelids drooping. She rocked forward slightly in her seat.
He slammed his hand on the table. "Myra!"
"Jesus!" she jumped, her eyes wide. "Christ...did I fall asleep?"
He shot her a look of pure venom.
"I'm sorry Severus, I just -"
"I haven't slept in days either, but you don't see me crashing, do you now?" With that he turned to another cauldron and slammed his shin against a table leg. Hard.
"Bloody bugger!" he cried, hunching over the leg. .."
"I'm fine, leave me alone. Bloody fucking table."
"Just jumped right out at you, didn't it?"
"Exactly. Check B Cauldron, will you, for film? Bugger."
She did. There was none. When she looked back at him her face folded into an expression of sympathy. "You look as tired as I feel," she said softly. Severus detected an undertone of maternity in her voice. He was too exhausted to resist its odd lull, and the determined visage he wore fell. He couldn't get up from the floor. He ached.
He looked to the couch. The soft, green, inviting couch. Sleep on me, it purred, bury your face in my pliant, breast-like pillows. I want you, Severus. We need each other.
"Oh God, yes," he said.
His head snapped. "Nothing at all. No, no, this won't do, Myra. This won't do. We have to remain awake." He watched her for a moment as she weaved on her feet, nearly fell. "Awake, awake, AWAKE!"
"Mrg. Ug. Stop yelling." She held a hand to her head, used the other to balance herself on a table.
He rose, with some, effort, to his feet, looked at her, then limped to a cabinet.
"What are you doing?"
"Drastic times," he said, pulling a few bottles out of the cabinet, "call for drastic substances."
"What are you making?"
"A little concoction I made great use of in my later years at Hogwarts. The testing is quite intense in the Seventh year. Requires one to stay awake. If one is studious. It's a stimulant commonly referred to as Hype."
She watched as he combined the three ingredients into a jar and stirred them with a glass mixer. Together they turned a swirling purple gray. From a drawer underneath the table he took a circular brass mold, about the size of a tennis ball. With a click a small hole opened in the top. He poured the concoction in, sealed it, and placed it on the table.
His wand tapped against it with a sharp little "clink".
"Hyperious!" he said.
There was a crisp sound, something instantly solidifying. The brass mold clicked open a crack; Severus opened it the rest of the way to reveal a white globe with the consistency of talc. This he placed in a bowl and crushed into a fine dust. He removed a small capful, dumped it on a glass plate, and with a separator carefully arranged it into a precise and perfect line.
He looked at Myra, bags under his eyes. "Do you want to go first or shall I?"
She held a cuticle torn finger to her mouth, hesitant. "I ... er … what are the effects of this?"
"It's a stimulant," he replied impatiently.
"I know that, but...how does it make you feel?"
She gave him a pleading look.
He sighed. "Sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, accelerated thought. Other than that it's different for everyone."
"What is it like for you?"
He paused. "Well...when I was a student I always made sure only to use it when I could be alone to study. Otherwise I'd get distracted."
"Hype makes me...a bit chatty."
Half an hour later Myra wore Severus's goggles, leaning over Cauldron C, two beakers in each hand, controlling a heat petal with one foot, working a pressure pump with the other, her wand held precariously, like a cigarette, between her index and middle finger. Her hands shook slightly. She chewed her lip, her tongue, stuck the pink end out of her mouth, pulled it back in.
"Fuckity fuck fuck fuck," she said. Her jaw vibrated slightly. "Fuck. Fuck-fuck. This isn't coming along fast enough. Severus. Fuck."
Severus wasn't listening. He giddily slit a live mouse from anus to throat and poked around for its heart. 'Once Siruis, may he r - r - rot in hell, was wandering the school campus as that mongrel. M-most likely to show off to his little Gryffindor clique, may they die of syphllis, to show that he could d-do it. He was b-busy being pet and doted up-pon by a group of first year girls, looking so proud with those doggy dogy doggy eyes. Have I t-t-told you this story? I informed the girl that this was a p-professor's dog named Tender Lumpling, and that it might be best if I were to secure him to a t-t-tree in case the Professor was looking for him. He couldn't revert, every one in the courtyard would s-s-see him! He had to stay there till nightf-f-fall. Oh, it was glorious, Myra, g-glorious. Are you listening to me?"
"Fuck. Shitfuck," Myra replied. She stirred both cauldrons at once, tapping her foot. She looked at her watch. "My God."
He happily mashed the warm mouse heart in a bowl with crushed sage and and quail egg. "You know, I gave some serious thought to p-purchasing a rifle and hunting down 'Prongs' - I could make it look like a mere hunting accident. Rid of b-bloody James Potter and it would be c-c-ompletely legal. 'Just huntin' d-deer, sir!'"
"Severus-" she bit her lip and hopped a little.
He poured the mixture into the cauldron. It fizzled and sent off a sulfurous stink. "I c-c-could have done Sirius too...b-but sir, the dog attacked me, I had to cut off it's head!"
"This isn't fast enough! Look at my watch!"
"Oh d-dear. You're r-right." His teeth chattered.
"We'll run out of time! The Dark Lord will kill us! I'm not going fast enough, you're not going fast enough! We need more Hype!" She rushed to the table and took another capful of powder. She sloppily spilled it on the glass plate, looking at Severus. "Hurry!"
It was two in the morning and a deafening sound was pounding from the basement of the Malfoy Estate. Barty Crouch Jr. was found, roused, and sent to discover its source. As he got closer he realized it was music... drums ...coming from the lab.
There were words.
Here comes Johnny M again ... with liquor and drugs, and the flesh machine ... he's gonna do another strip tease ...
Barty cocked his head, pulling his satin nightshirt close around his body. The potions door loomed before him. Hot air blew out from under it, warming his toes.
Hey man, where'd you get that lotion? I've been hurting since I bought the gimmick...of something called love, yeah something called love, well that's like hypnotizing chickens...
Beneath the music he heard two voices, talking, animated, bouncing back and forth like a tennis ball. The Potionmasters, babbling like two teenaged girls. He reached for the hot doorknob. He turned it and opened the door. What he saw astonished him.
Thirteen cauldrons burned at full heat in a ring around the lab, making the room unbearably hot. Books of spells lay strewn haphazardly about the place, empty beakers turned on their sides, broken glass. Symbols and incantaions were written on every available surface - chalkboards, walls. The empty husks of ten disemboweled mice were in a pile on a counter; Barty gasped and jumped away from them.
Well I'm just a modern guy ...
In the middle off the room now stood some sort of...contraption. Beakers and burned and cauldrons and pipes, all hooked together into a baffling maze of glass and stone. Substances boiled and bubbled, traveling from pipe to pipe, beaker to beaker. From behind it he heard the gabbing voices of Severus and Myra. He saw her step out from behind the contraption, wearing nothing but a modest camisole and pair of thin white shorts, her hair in a lopsided poof on the side of her head. Every muscle in her body was tense, her teeth gritted. She held numerous bottles and bounced on the balls of her feet.
"Cobra's blood, I know, I know, I know, I know..."
"Reads f-f-f-f-fifteen thousand...we n-n-n-need need need a bl-l-l-oody Sarus, M-Myra, go."
She rushed off - ran - to a cabinet. Severus emerged from behind the contraption, hunched, wearing an undershirt that revealed a thin yet firm frame, and long, thin black pants that tied at the waist. His hair had been twisted into a wiry knot at the nape of his neck., around which hung three pairs of goggles. He busily mixed things together in one of the many vials connected to the contraption. His foot tapped to the music. His teeth chattered. His eyes were afire.
"Um," Barty said, loud enough to be heard over the music. Severus jumped.
"W-w-w-w-what!" he yelled . 'What? What?"
"What!" Myra called from across the lab. "What are you whatting?"
"What?" he replied to Myra.
"Did you say what?"
"I said what what! Why?"
They held each other's gaze for one furious moment, then both turned to Barty.
"WHAT!" they demanded.
"Lord Malfoy wanted you to turn the music down," he said quickly. "That's all. I'll go. Um...what is that thing? No, nevermind, I'll go."
"We invented it," Severus suddenly gushed. He shook all over, eyes red. "We inv-vented it. It's b-beautiful." He mixed three things together, grabbed something out of a little cage, threw it squealing into a cauldron. "We INVEN-N-NTED it. It's beautiful. So sh-hut your mouth. We could make m-money off this. Lots money off this. So. So. So. So." He twitched, eyes wet and sharp.
Myra suddenly rushed Barty, shaking him by the shoulders.
"Baaaaaaaaarty! We made that. It's the best thing since a Distillator. A new cycle system. It gets everything done ten times as f-fast." She took his face in her hands. "Everything is clear, B-Barty, so clear, you don't understand-" her eyes were full of sweat, the edges of her lips turning blue. She pushed his eyebrows up with her thumbs. "The world is in my head, Barty. everything...that was out there...is in here...oh god. Oh god. It's too much. Oh god."
She suddenly threw her head back and let out a cry, a terrible, wrenching sob.
"Stop t-t-t-that!" Severus yelled. He held three vials and beaker, all which were shaking. The veins in his neck pulsed, his face a deep vermillion. "B-arty, you sodomy-r-r-riddled nancy, g-get out of my l-l-ab, or I'll sh-ove this ent-t-tire cy-cle system into your willing r-rectum, which I'm s-sure wouldn't p-pose pose much of a ch-challenge." Some of whatever was in the beaker spilled over his hand.
Myra sank to the floor, her arms around Barty's legs, sobbing.
"You have to turn off the music!" he yelled back, wide-eyed. "Lord Malfoy!"
"SILENCIUS!" Severus shrieked into the lab, and all of a sudden it was deathly quiet. No sounds but the bubbling cauldrons and Myra's heavy sobs.
"Are you okay?" he asked Myra.
"I need more," she moaned into Barty's shin.
"Do w-w-what you have to do," Severus replied. He rubbed his nose, then looked longingly at a glass plate on a counter. His eyes flashed to Barty, and in a quick motion threw a beaker at him, which exploded against the far wall. "GET OUT!"
In a panic, the boy wrenched the sobbing Myra off him. He ran out and closed the door in just enough time to see her stumble over to the counter and lean her face over the plate, Severus close behind.
Seven hours later, at nine in the morning, there came a triumphant shout from the lab, followed by a high pitched, awful wail.
At ten, a pair of delicate white hands stroked a cashmere blouse.
"This," purred a low, silken voice, "is exquisite."
The same hands ran through long, straight black hair, shaking it back into place. The fall of hair down the white, smooth back was like an oil slick on an alabaster floor. The ends passed his hips, just barely brushed the taut curve of his black vinyl - covered ass. An ass like a young girl. Lucius bit his lip.
The dark angel before him turned, holding the blouse to his chest. He smiled with his perfectly shaped lips, the corner of which was dotted with some of the dark eye makeup he had let run down his face in gray tear-trails.
"What do you think?' he asked Lucius. "Does it make me look fat?"
He moved his hips a bit, and smiled. His voice was the slightest bit muffled. Blocked.
"Of- of course not, my Lord," Lucius stuttered. "Nothing-"
"Of COURSE it doesn't make me look FAT! I'm the DARK LORD. EVERYTHING looks good on me. We all know that." He sniffed and began to laugh a bit. "Don't we now? Hm? I want to hear you say it, Lucius, precious, you slick little twat. Say it!"
"Say what, my m-master?"
"Say everything looks good on me," he sneered.
"Everything looks good on you!"
Voldemort smiled. "Yes. It does. Because I am the Dark Lord."
From out of the shadows emerged a freakishly tall, thin house elf. He had a long face and a dour expression. He bowed to Voldemort, holding out a sumptuous blood red velvet robe. "My Lord, the Potionmasters have arrived with the requested mixture. Shall I make ready?"
"Yes, thank you Martino. And grab me the dragon hide hat as well."
"The one with the blue gecko streak, my Lord?'
"No, Martino, the one that goes with this. What on earth are you thinking?"
"I apologize, my Lord. I shall flog myself at the nearest convenience." He bowed and faded back into the shadows.
"Dry old fellow," Lucius commented.
"Quiet. I have more respect for him than I have for you."
They stood outside the door to Voldemort's main chamber. Severus had a death grip on the opulent, bejeweled silver flagon that contained the potion. If he dropped it, he would put his wand into his mouth and perform a Sudden Projectile Spell.
Next to him Myra weaved on her feet, barely conscious. With a joyous shout he had shakily poured the very last of the finally-finished potion into the flagon. Myra has collapsed to the floor, heaving, moaning that everything was in her eyes and her evil couldn't get out. Her evil, her evil, she wouldn't stop talking about her evil. Finally he had yelled at her, declaring that they all had evil, and she would get to know his personally if she didn't get the hell off the floor and get dressed.
She had stumbled to her feet, and her face had made Severus's heart skip in alarm. Ghostly white with blue lips. She couldn't stand for very long, and she soon fell again to her knees. He had given her a restorative, but not a very strong one. He wasn't a healer, and he had no idea how much Hype she had taken - a strong restorative might have worsened her condition. He had had to dress her, pulling her thick robe on over her bare shoulders, the thin camisole, against which pressed rather voluminous breasts.
"Quite an im-impressive rack you h-have there, Myra," he had said.
"Shhh. Shhh, you, shhh," her teeth chattered. "Need more Hype."
"I think not," he whispered, clasping her robe about her neck.
The restorative seemed to have worked fine - she was now hyper-aware, eyes wide and unblinking, back rigid - but it could go at any time. She was awake but barely conscious. He himself was on the verge of collapse. He thought with near fetish of the green couch.
On the way to Voldemort's chambers, he has seen Narcissa in front of a mirror licking her arm. He stared for a moment, brow folded, before the guard moved him on.
The guard bowed to them and opened the door to the main chamber. There Voldemort sat, on a throne of gilded skulls, his legs thrown over one arm, his elbow resting on the other. He wore dreadfully thick and velvety red robes, and a dragon's hide cowboy hat with a single huge vermillion feather poking out of the band. Lucius was at his side.
The Dark Lord greeted them with a huge, toothy smile.
"Hello babies," he grinned. "What have you brought Daddy?"
Severus knelt before him. Myra remained standing, dazed, unaware of the dark look Voldemort gave her. Severus pulled at her robe. She stumbled to one knee.
He held out the bejeweled flagon. "The potion you requested, my Lord. I only hope it meets your expectations."
The flagon was removed from his hands by the tall house elf, who took it to the corner and poured it into a ruby goblet.
"My expectations?" Voldemort sniffed. "You took far too long."
"We have delivered it in two days, sir, as was ordered."
"When I say I want something in TWO days, I want it in ONE! You must go beyond the call of duty for your Lord, you insolent prick. Don't expect any great praise from me. On time is too late." He seemed to be about to say something else, but he suddenly released a loud, unceremonious sneeze.
"Bless you, my Lord."
Voldemort narrowed his eyes at Lucius, pointed his wand, and uttered, "Cruicio."
Lucius fell to the floor, contorted with pain, mouth open in a silent scream. Voldemort regarded him with a dark smirk, then turned to Severus and Myra.
"Says 'bless you'. Can you believe that? It's gesundheit!" he screamed at Lucius. "As though that little git could bless me. Imagine." He rolled his eyes as the elf delivered the goblet. "Thank you, Martino. Could you do me a favor and give Lucius a little kick in the side, if you have the chance?"
"My legs are like pine needles, my Lord."
Voldemort considered this. "That would make it even funnier, though, wouldn't it? Ah well. Another time then, if you're not in the mood."
Severus looked at Lucius, who flipped on his back, spasming like a suffocating fish. A cold dribble of fear worked its way down his throat. If the potion was of less than perfect quality, he was sure that was what he would be doing in a moment.
Myra chose that moment to fall flat on her face.
"What on earth is wrong with that one?" Voldemort snuffed.
Severus tried not to panic. "Exhaustion, my Lord."
Voldemort pointed his wand at Myra. "Awake."
She leapt to her knees. "My LORD!"
His eyebrows raised. "I would throw a Critatious at you, but you really look like hell," he said, then sneezed again. "Wow. Have you tried a coconut compress?"
"Gesundheit, my Lord!," Myra yelled, as through responding to a drill sergeant.
He gave her a nod. He sniffed, long and hard, a legendary sound that filled the chamber. Lucius flipped on his stomach, tearing at his white-blonde hair, pants creaking.
"Ugh, God, let's get this over with. Martino?"
The elf delivered a shot glass filled with clear liquid to Voldemort, who snuffed out a thanks. "You took far too long with this, ugh. God." He dumped the contents of the shot glass into the goblet.
Severus blinked as he realized what the clear liquid had been.
No, he thought.
Both he and Myra watched, entranced, as Voldemort downed the contents of the goblet, then winced, wiping his mouth with his hand. "Oh, this tastes bloody awful." He sucked a deep breath in through his nose. "But...my sinuses are clear. Well then. Good work. You're dismissed."
Severus and Myra remained on their knees, disbelieving.
"You may go," Voldemort said. "LEAVE!"
They were escorted out by the guard.
"Severus," Myra whispered, stumbling over her robe. "Severus, I'm going to cry."
"Shhh," he replied.
She suddenly grasped his hand, squeezed.
"Come now, Martino," they heard Voldemort says before the door closed. "Just one little kick in the ribs? For me?"
Severus saw Myra back to her room. He made sure she collapsed onto the bed, not the floor, before he left to shut down the lab completely. He felt oddly light. The devastation probably wouldn't hit him until he'd had a good sleep. He planned to sleep for days. Weeks.
He lit a cigarette and let the sweet nicotine rush through his veins.
When he got to the lab, Dobby was there, waiting for him with a roll of parchment.
"From Mr. Malfoy," the house elf said.
Severus opened it.
Need first batch day after tomorrow. creditors. you understand. thanks.
The roll of parchment fell from Severus's hand to the floor. After a moment, he joined it.
And the noonday sun rose, blazing, over the Malfoy Estate.