The Taming of a Hebridian Black
At times like these, Snape despised his chosen profession.
Unfortunately, the potion that Albus required to protect Hogwarts once the Potter brat arrived was dependent on personally gathered ingredients, especially since Albus had informed him that he was the primary Order member responsible for keeping an eye out for the brat while he was at the castle. "You have best access to those who might wish him harm," the old bastard had said. "The warding potion should be tied directly to your magic."
Snape grunted. More aspersions against his snakes. Yes, they could be devious and dangerous, but look at what had happened to the vaunted Gryffindor fellowship. Results more deadly than any Slytherin plot. Black had betrayed Potter and sent Lily to her death, just as surely as Snape had.
Azkaban is too good for the bastard. Snape refused to acknowledge that his own Albus-made prison was easily as soul-sapping.
God, he needed a cigarette. Carefully lowering his collection bag to the rocky ground, he chose a craggy stone overlooking the valley, sat, pulled out his makings, and expertly rolled a fresh fag.
He was high enough that he should come across one of the little monsters any time now. In addition to the rare and protected full-size Hebridean Blacks – all relegated to reserves these days – Skye was famous for their tiny black cousins, whose scales were coveted by Potions masters and Goblins around the world for their impervious nature. Pound for pound, Miniature Hebridian Black scales were more valuable than gold, their potency against evil intent unparalleled. Too bad the potion requires the entire hide, he reflected bitterly. I could have used a bit of the readies.
He breathed in another lungful of fragrant smoke and released it in a slow, hoarded stream. Sheep grazed below him, dirty white wool thickening for the upcoming winter. Idiotic beasts. Raised to the slaughter, just like his generation and all those upcoming, if they couldn't defeat the Dark Lord –
He whirled at the sound of claw scraping stone.
It was a Miniature Hebridian Black, all right – the tiniest that Snape had ever seen. Six inches at most, but obviously fully grown, with the iridescent wingtips of a mated male. The magic would be especially potent, and once again Snape resented that the potion would be used to protect the by-product of his most hated enemy. A potion made with this particular specimen would have been strong enough to have protected Lily even without the Fidelius.
The dragon's golden eyes whirled, and it half-spread its wings in a threatening gesture, like a cat puffed up, poised to strike. It hissed, a spout of blue-green flame indicating just how hot its inner fires burned.
Snape slowly reached for his wand. A powerful containment spell would obviously be needed for an ingredient this powerful. Added, alive, to his potion, it should offer Hogwarts protection for centuries, not just during the Potter brat's school years. He'd never seen such a valuable animal in his life.
The dragon hissed again, its eyes darting between his face and his hand…
…Except, it wasn't looking at his wand hand, stretching towards the slender piece of wood. It was looking at his left hand, in which he still held the smouldering cigarette. Snape watched as the tiny dragon nervously shifted in place, then started as it lifted its delicate wedged snout high in the air, obviously scenting something that attracted it.
The smoke from the fag?
Cautiously, Snape raised the butt to his lips and took another drag. He allowed the smoke to escape from his mouth in a steady stream.
The Black crept forward a few steps until it was directly in the stream of smoke, then its eyelids drooped and fluttered and it made a strange, crooning noise.
Snape's eyes widened. He'd heard himself make the same noise when he'd been forced to go too long without a cigarette.
The little beggar was addicted to the smoke.
As he continued to smoke, the dragon crept nearer until it had attached itself to his robes. An involuntary start from Snape made it rear and hiss, golden eyes whirling faster as it challenged him, then, as Snape once again froze in place, it relaxed and continued to savour the smoke.
When Snape finished the cigarette, he remained quiet, dropping the still-glowing butt to the ground. The dragon followed it, dangling from his robes, claws dug in so far he could feel them scrape across his knee under the heavy fabric.
The dragon suddenly flamed, incinerating what was left of the cigarette and releasing the last of the tobacco into a harsh, minute black cloud. After the smoke dissipated, the dragon turned its glowing eyes back on Snape, obviously demanding another.
"Right, then. But I'll have to roll it," he warned.
The dragon launched off his knee when he moved, alighting on a rock nearby and watching avidly as Snape rolled a new cigarette.
Pausing, Snape had an idea. It would be dangerous. It would be stupid.
It would be such an utter rush of power.
Trembling slightly, he addressed the tiny black beast. "Just the tip. That's all." Then he raised the unlit fag to his mouth and held it between his lips, leaning forward.
The dragon tilted its head. It crept forward, climbing his robes until it was perched directly below the cigarette. A blue flame erupted from its mouth and then it crouched, its eyelids drooping as Snape inhaled.
Well, the little beggar had flamed half the fag, but with practice, he was bound to get better, Snape reflected.
He blinked and looked at the dragon. He couldn't seriously be thinking…
…Of course he could. He'd never had a familiar before, and this particular one would be the envy of anyone, even Malfoy. Easily more valuable than any of Snape's other possessions. The beast was small enough to hide in a pocket. Dragons liked caves and darkness.
On the other hand, the potion.
The thought of sacrificing the dragon's life for Potter's son revolted him.
As he finished the cigarette, he thought furiously. No one would know if he substituted less valuable Horntail scales, easily available on the seamier edge of Knockturn Alley. It wouldn't weaken the potion that much. It simply wouldn't distinguish evil intent amongst the inhabitants of the castle. But that shouldn't matter. Anyone that Albus approved to enter Hogwarts should be harmless anyway, and the potion would still ward against those not authorized to enter.
Snape would have to keep it secret, of course. Albus's thrice-blasted phoenix would sniff it out; phoenixes were like that, poking their beaks into everyone else's business. But the little Hebridian Black would hold its own, and Albus could hardly point fingers about rare and valuable animals kept as familiars.
He stretched his wand hand towards the dragon. Its eyes opened and it looked up at him consideringly. Then it stretched its neck towards his finger and opened its mouth. Tiny, sharp fangs gleamed like miniature swords in the weak light of the Scottish sun. A snap, a drop of red blood eagerly lapped away, and the dragon allowed Snape to cup it in his hand, the bond complete.
"I think I shall call you 'Lighter'," Snape said, carefully stroking its soft black scales. The name tickled his dry sense of humour, and it would allow him plausible deniability if he should ever slip and mention the dragon by name in front of others.
The dragon snorted grey smoke and relaxed into his touch.