A Woman's Intuition
“So, there she was asking me to make a sacrifice on her altar before we got to the next base, and I knew right then and there it was time to cut my losses.”
Riley was just finishing his first beer and was beginning to lose the tension he had been carrying around all afternoon, much to Graham’s relief. “Cortez, you have got the worst luck meeting girls.” Riley teased one of his fellow soldiers.
“Man, I swear it’s just this town. Back home, I was all rico suave, you know. The girls here are bad luck.” Cortez insisted after telling the guys about his latest attempt to pick up a co-ed at a party, only to find out she worshiped Elvis, literally.
“They’re not that bad.” Riley insisted with a silly grin on his face, his mind clearly on his favorite blonde.
“So Riley, why don’t you tell us about the time you and Buffy met?” Graham asked, even though he’d heard the story a dozen times before.
“You mean during the laryngitis thing?”
“Nah, the first time.” Graham grinned as Riley blushed.
“Right, at the book store. I was looking for that psych manual for the freshman psych course, and I heard two girls talking the next aisle over. They were clearly freshmen, and I so didn’t want to have to deal with that.” A couple guys agreed with that statement. “One sounded really smart, and the other one, not so much, and I wouldn’t have paid attention but they were standing right in front of the section I needed to get to. I was about to go around the corner and interrupt them to get my books, when I hear one tell the other ‘I’ll get that.’ The next thing I know, piles of Walsh’s texts are falling on my head.” A couple of guys started laughing, the beer making the story sound funnier than it was. “Wait, I haven’t even got to the funny part.”
Graham started coughing. “You alright, Graham?” Graham ran his hand under his throat, but Riley assumed that meant he didn’t need help with his choking. “So the funny thing is…”
“Oh, what’s funny?” A light voice came from directly behind him.
“Buffy!” In his attempt to scoot back and turn around to see the familiar face behind him, Riley managed to tip over his chair and fall on the floor.
At that, all the guys at the table cracked up. “Is that the big funny? If so, I gotta confess boys, I don’t get it.” Buffy rolled her eyes at the soldiers’ antics. “So, um, Riley, what happened to coffee at nine?”
Riley set his chair back up. “Nine? It’s not that late yet, is it?”
Buffy glanced at the clock above Willy’s bar that showed five minutes until nine. “No, you’ve got five minutes, but I don’t see how you’re going to get from here to my dorm in five minutes, unless you run a lot faster than I know you can.” She said with a wry smile.
“Doh.” Riley winced. “I would have called?” Buffy arched her brow at that. One of his friends threw in a “Ooh, Finn’s in the doghouse now!” for good measure.
“Hey wait a minute; you’re not at the dorm either. What are you doing here, five minutes before we’re supposed to meet?” Riley suddenly realized the error in Buffy’s logic.
“I’m here because I need to get information. Besides, I would have called.” Buffy shrugged, perfectly willing to use the excuse she wasn’t willing to accept a minute earlier.
“What sort of information? Is there something wrong we could help with?” Under the Initiative’s new and very cautious leadership, the soldiers spent a lot of time being bored with paperwork, so any lead they could get from Buffy would be a good thing in Riley’s eyes.
“I don’t think it’s anything big.” Buffy glanced at the other guys at the table. If the problem was in fact wizard related, the last thing she wanted was to break the shallow truce they had by leading the army guys straight to Giles. “Just a possible sighting of Snow White and the seven dwarves.”
“Oh, of course.” Riley knew better than to press Buffy for details on slaying matters. If it was really important, he’d have Willow translate Buffy-speak later. “So, do you want to go get coffee now? I can settle my tab.”
“Okay, I just need to have a quick talk with Willy first.”
Buffy ignored the inappropriate comments from the soldiers that didn’t know better as she strode up to the bar. “Hey Willy, got a minute?” Buffy smiled wickedly at the bartender.
“Slayer, how nice to see you.” Willy glanced around nervously. It was still too early for the majority of his clientele to be around, but a visit from Buffy was never good for business.
“I don’t suppose you’ve heard from anyone looking for a key?” She asked with the practiced naivete of her valley girl upbringing.
“Um, we might have some keys in the lost and found. Whatcha lookin’ for?” He pulled a shoebox out from under the bar, and absently shuffled through it. Willy figured this was some kind of a setup, but had no idea where the slayer was going with this.
“Oh, you know, something shiny?” Buffy realized she had no idea what kind of key she was looking for, only that whatever it was, it was important to the munchkin demon and therefore she should probably find it first. Giles and his brother seemed to think it had something to do with ports and wizards, but she wasn’t so sure they were right.
“Shiny?” Willy gulped.
“Yeah, something that maybe a goblin or troll might find interesting?”
“Sorry, I don’t got anything like that.” Willy set down the shoebox and stared at the slayer. What was she doing, looking for goblin keys?
“Are you very sure?” Buffy leaned over the bar.
“Yeah. I’m pretty sure.” Willy added a “please don’t hurt me!” under his breath.
“Well, pooh.” She muttered, sliding back down off the bar. Willy drew a sigh of relief; it looked like his lucky day. “You’ll tell me if you find a key, won’t you?” Her words were sweet, but her eyes were definitely threatening.
“Sure thing.” Willy said, looking anywhere but at the slayer.
“Good.” Buffy smiled. “Okay, Riley, I’m ready to leave when you are.”
“So what thrilling potion will we be working on today?” Lily said, strolling in one minute early so Severus’ normal comment about being late was stopped short.
“It’s a bit of a surprise.” Severus was just finishing pulling out the required supplies from Jigger’s cabinet.
“Ooh! I like surprises.” Lily set down her bookbag and joined Severus at the workbench at the front of the class. “Well, unless they involve masks. I can’t believe they haven’t caught those guilty wizards yet. What happened to that family is just awful.” Lily shuddered.
“Yes well, this surprise does not involve masked wizards, so hopefully you will be slightly less inept than our aurors appear to be.”
“So what does this do?” Lily looked at the instructions sheet, and started by filling her cauldron a quarter full of water. The recipe looked short, so hopefully they would get out of there early. With OWLs just a month away, she needed all the extra study time she could get.
“Honestly, not much. I chose this more to see whether you were competent at handling these ingredients. At least you can now handle filling a cauldron with water I see.”
“Har-de-har-har.” Lily rolled her eyes.
“I’m being serious. That was an improvement over last month.” In fact, in his private thoughts, Severus considered Lily just about on par with the rest of her classmates, thanks to his tuteledge, but he wasn’t about to let her get too proud.
“Well at least I’m learning something.” Lily picked out a marble-sized gray stone from the jar and placed it on the mortar Severus provided. “I can’t wait to let Rupert know you can teach an old dog new tricks.”
“What do you think you’re doing?” Severus asked watching Lily pound away with her pestle.
“I’m crushing my bezoar. What does it look like?” Lily blew a strand of hair out of her face. “It’s step two.” She had barely made a dent on the chalky ball after two minutes of steady pounding.
“If you do it like that, it’ll take half an hour. Do it like this.” He took the the pestle and bezoar from Lily. Rolling the stone around in his fingers for a minute, he finally settled on an angle and set it in the mortar. With a quick tap, the stone shattered into the gray powder she needed.
“How’d you do that?” Lily asked with awe.
“Every bezoar has a sweet spot. Just feel around for the soft dip, and then pound it straight on… Why are you laughing at me?”
“I’m not laughing at you. Please ignore me now.” Lily chuckled.
“No, I insist on knowing what you find so funny.”
“It’s just you’re fingering the ball … and talking about the sweet spot… and pounding.” Lily blushed.
It took Severus a moment to catch on. “You have a dirty, dirty mind.”
“I’d blame your muggle upbringing, but I’m guessing this is MacDuff’s influence.” Severus fished another bezoar out of the supply jar. “Here it’s your turn to molest the balls.”
“Thanks I think.” Lily picked up the small stone and began rolling it around in her fingers. “Great, I feel like a pervert now.” She muttered.
“Just wait until we have to infuse the saffron. It’s quite… kinky.” Severus nodded toward the jar of crinkly red threads.
Lily snorted. “Why Severus, I’m shocked. You have a sense of humor. Why have I never seen this before?”
“Most of the time, my humor is too sophisticated for the likes of a lowbrow Gryffindor.” Severus haughtily replied, trying not to smile. “Now, are you going to crush that bezoar or wait for it to decay naturally?”
Lily turned her attention back to the stone. “Huh.” Lily muttered, sensing the sweet spot for the first time in five years of potions. She carefully whacked just that point and was a bit surprised that the stone shattered for her. She poured the powder into the cauldron and went on to read the next step. “So is that soft spot thingy something else Jigger mentioned our first year that just so happens to never appear in the books?”
“Sadly, no. Although, why, I don’t know. I think he takes sadistic pleasure watching Gryffindors waste half the class chipping away at rocks.”
“Maybe he doesn’t know that trick.” Severus arched his brow at the naïve comment. “Or maybe he likes to watch Gryffindors suffer.” Lily reluctantly admitted. She quickly added the clementine extract then winced as she saw the next step. Titrations were always a pain. “So if Jigger didn’t teach you, how did you know how to do that bezoar thing?” She asked, hoping to get Severus talking. She found it a bit creepy the way he tended to lurk when she didn’t distract him with questions.
“Ah, that’s actually a funny story.” Severus watched over Lily titrating the essence of murtlap into her cauldron. “I was probably around four at the time. My father was working on, well, I don’t remember what, and my mother wanted to help him. However, he insisted she should watch over me instead. So she set me to the task of crushing bezoars, thinking it would keep me out of trouble. Well, my father, who never really liked having others in his dungeon and just barely tolerated mother most days, would have none of it, so when she was nosing around his cauldron, he showed me how to shatter the bezoars thus taking away my mother’s stalling tactic.” The corner of Severus’ mouth twisted up in what passed as a wistful smile. “Mother was so furious when she found me in that pile of powder, but she couldn’t get mad at me because I had just done what she’d asked.”
“With an upbringing like that, it’s a wonder Rupert turned out so normal.” Lily chuckled.
“That was well before my mother met Mr. Giles.” Severus’ cold tone indicated the conversation was officially over.
“Oh.” Lily realized belatedly that Severus and Rupert had different fathers, and that somehow she had insulted the dead one. “Wow, so you’ve been around potions all your life.” Lily tried to fill in the awkward silence, glancing up at Severus to make sure he wasn’t too angry.
Severus, however, felt no need to alleve the girl of whatever guilt she felt for bringing up his father’s death. After two minutes of uncomfortable quiet, he finally snapped. “It’s turning yellow. You need to stop the titration.”
Lily was already putting away the essence of murtlap. “Yeah, I kinda noticed. You don’t have to be so rude about it.”
“If I was being rude, I would have said that you were four drops over what should have been the end point, and in the OWL exam that would have dropped you a grade level, but as there is no hope whatsoever of you passing, there really is no reason to draw attention to yet one more of your mistakes.” Snape finally looked up from the cauldron to meet Lily’s eyes. “Telling you to stop was really the nicest thing I could say.”
“Aargh! You are so frustrating.” Lily scowled.
“Is that so?”
“Yes that’s so! I was barely over the endpoint, and that’s because it’s hard to see something change from clear to yellow in a black cauldron. They should really make white cauldrons if they want you to see colors change.” Lily defended her actions.
“White cauldrons! What nonsense!”
“It’s not nonsense. Just because it’s a muggle-born’s idea, doesn’t mean it’s a bad one.”
“Casting a color change charm on a cauldron would have negative effects on any potion, and therefore it is a bad idea by its own merits, regardless of your birth. You need to add the saffron now.”
“Well maybe you shouldn’t use a cauldron then.” Lily countered as she picked three red threads from the herb glass. She added the first to her cauldron and stirred clockwise three times. “Why can’t you use glass or something clear, so you can actually see what you’re doing?”
“That’s ridiculous.” Severus watched as she added the next thread and stirred counterclockwise three times. “Who ever heard of glass cauldrons?”
“They use them in muggle chemistry all the time.” Lily added the last thread, and stirred three figure 8s, before taking out her wand. “There the potion is finished. Happy?”
“Aach!” Severus shouted, causing Lily to freeze as she was about to wipe her wand off on her sleeve. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Cleaning my wand.”
“Cleaning my wand, she says.” He mimicked. “Are you a special type of idiot today? You don’t take a wand out of a potion and just wipe it off on anything, especially if you don’t know what that potion is. It could be highly corrosive and burn all the skin on your arm.”
“The most corrosive thing in that is the orange juice.” Lily rolled her eyes.
“Clementines are actually a type of tangerine, not orange, but you’re right. However, it is a bad habit to wipe your wand off on any surface. For example, the potion you’ve made here is actually a rather dark red hair dye that would probably permanently ruin your shirt. A wand cloth should have been on your list of first year supplies. It should have come in the box you bought your wand in. I suggest you bring it to class in the future.” Severus reluctantly handed over his square of felt that had been charmed for maximal absorbancy with minimal side-effects.
“You had me make red hair dye?” Lily asked as she wiped her wand off on the offered cloth. She knew better than to provide excuses for doing things the non-wizard way.
“I thought it appropriate.” He glanced at her head.
“Why would I want to dye my hair red? It’s already red.”
“Yes, well, the way you overdid the murtlap, it would go for a more strawberry-blonde now… not that that would be a vast improvement in your case.”
“You’re a very strange boy, Severus Snape.” Lily was about to cast the cauldron cleaning spell, when Severus stopped her.
“I don’t think you really want to do that.”
“Actually, I have an ulterior motive for asking you to make that potion.”
“Really?” Somehow the idea of a Slytherin with an ulterior motive didn’t surprise Lily one bit.
“Yes, I need you to bottle that up and give it to Lupin.”
“What? Why would he want red hair dye?”
“It’s for the upcoming quidditch match. He mentioned that the Gryffindors always try to out-do the other years in house spirit, and that he was thinking about possibly using red paint this year. While I’m never one for encouraging your house, I do think he has a point in having to show up the sixth years. Here, I’ve written a letter to go with it. Just make sure nobody else sees you give that to him. I’d hate for the other years to catch on.”
“Wow, Severus.” Lily accepted the letter. “That’s surprisingly nice of you. I didn’t realize you were such close friends.”
“Yes, well, apart from the freak that is Rupert Giles, Slytherins don’t consider interhouse relationships something to be proud of.”
“Did I hear my name?” A voice called from the doorway.
“Is it already an hour?” Lily glanced at the Rupert, who was grinning back at her.
“No, I’m early. I was desperate for an excuse to get out of my meeting with Martha, so I said Severus needed my help in potions.”
Lily snorted. “Yeah, right, like Severus would need your help.”
“Hey, I’m helpful. I can fetch things from the storage cabinet while he does the hard stuff. So what sort of wonderful potion did you make today?”
“Red hair dye,” Lily said, carefully bottling her creation. “Will he still want it if it has too much murtlap?”
“I was joking about the strawberry-blonde.” Severus answered with just enough scorn on his face to make it impossible for Lily to tell if he had been lying or not. “It should be suitable for the intended purpose. Now leave; you’ve wasted enough of my time.”
“Alright. Thank you.” Lily grabbed her bag, the potion and the letter from Severus and headed out the door. “Bye Rupert.” She smiled coyly as she passed the friendlier Slytherin.
“Bye, Lily.” Rupert grinned as he watched her leave. As soon as she was done, he closed the door and went over to Severus’ bench. “So, red hair dye.”
“I wanted to make sure she was competent at titrations.” Severus answered the unasked question.
“Would this be the potion that smells like oranges?” Severus didn’t answer, but the smirk on his lips was answer enough. “This is the potion that Gran loves because it not only keeps her hair colored, but also girlishly long and styled in curls for a full day. Am I thinking of the right one?”
“Yes you are.”
“Brilliant.” Rupert grinned.
“I rather thought so.” Severus said, picking yet another feather out of his robe. “I know we rather overdid the hair dye two years ago, but then, I thought they had overdone the spontaneous feather charms three years ago.”
“I suppose all this reviewing for the OWLs has made everyone a bit nostalgic.” Rupert mused.
“That’s one theory.” Severus scowled. Even a month after the class photo he was finding feathers in his bag. “Speaking of theories, I would like to test something out. Can you please go into the closet and fetch an empty glass bowl as well as a silver cauldron? Oh, and if you happen to have one of Quentin’s letters on you, may I borrow it? Parchment doesn’t reflect as well as muggle paper.”
“Do I even want to know what this about?”
“While working with Lily, I had an interesting idea on how to refine the determination of titration points. If one was working on a reflective surface as opposed to an opaque surface, detecting changes in hue might be easier. Of course, it won’t work for potions that must be completed over heat, but for something like Buber’s Broth it might help.”
“Ah. Sounds positively thrilling.” Rupert said from the storage cabinet. “I’m glad you’re getting something out of working with Lily, even if it is just having more dungeon time to think.”
A/N: Real life is about to intrude big time, so it might be a couple weeks before another update. Sorry.