Title: In Elegant Solitude
Fandom: Harry Potter
Disc: HP belongs solely to JK Rowling. I own Homer the Honda Odyssey
Summary: Severus receives birthday wishes from an unlikely source.
Timeline: During HP3: PoA
Notes: Written for Fan' for her birthday. This was previously only found on my LJ, which lamentably went Flocked. I'm reposting it here in case anyone hasn't seen it and wants to.
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He piled the shaved moonstone and crushed madder root to one side of the cutting board, giving his wand a swirl to stir the smoking cauldron. He knew without smelling, without the necessary tests, that it was perfect. It was always perfect, smooth and pure. Here, in the dungeons, creating the potions he so loved, he could pretend there was nothing but the chop and sliver, the measure and stir. No complications, no frustrations.
Out there, however, he had to be a teacher, the feared teacher, the absolutely, positively most feared teacher. That had its own balm, he had to admit, but still. He appreciated the sanctuary that Dumbledore provided him in Hogwarts, and he knew that the children were lucky to be taught by a true potions Master, not just a standard educator. However, the miserable little vermin were everywhere, demanding and rebellious. He couldn’t get away, though his house was better than all the rest: privacy was respected above all else. Even they were still adolescents, though, claiming the right to be adults when they had no fundamental concept of what it was to be alone.
Yes, alone- the bane of adulthood. You leave the hallowed halls and are thrust out into the naked solitude of responsibility. It was enough to whither the most fearless heart, if they were smart enough to realize what was coming.
As he had.
Choices, choices, always leading down rough and dangerous paths, but he knew what he was getting into, dark marks and dark revels. After all, it couldn’t be worse than where he’d come from- Black and his merry band of sadists. They could turn even the least miserable day into a looming pit of despair.
A real gift, he supposed. They certainly had had a future in the torture of vulnerable minds. What a marvel some of them ended up the poster children of heroic defiance, dying in the name of what was pure and true. Even now, Remus was still bucking the system.
He had to give this current incarnation of the Defense of the Dark Arts teacher credit, as he swirled the few remaining last minute ingredients into the wolfsbane potion. A weaker man would have given up, hied his shape-shifting tail off to more tolerant climes, like Morocco or Cleveland. But he stayed and tried to make a difference.
In the end, it was the same. Remus would fight; he would lose; he may or may not survive. Remus would have the support of Dumbledore, of that atrocious Potter and his appendages, Weasley and Granger, and the students loved him. But in the end, as despised as Snape was, as beloved as Lupin was, they were the same. Alone.
It had a sort of poetic irony, that on this day in particular, he was making a potion for the only man in the school that could possibly understand. It made him awfully hard to hate- to hate for doing nothing when a word would have sufficed, for touching the brilliance that only teenagers in their full, oblivious prime could manage. So many long years of hate and it came down to this, a steaming chalice waiting for a drinker: possible salvation for another month more.
Snape wondered if anyone would come and offer him a magic drink to make it all go away, even for just a little while.
But the door remained obstinately closed, the world on the one side, Snape on the other. As it had always been. As it would always be. He added a sprinkle of powderized pixie wing and settled down to wait. The laboratory was cool and dim, the shadows dancing at the corners of his vision. If he were a fanciful man, which he was decidedly not, he would have imagined fairy godmothers or other creatures waiting to grant his wish. But they were mere shadows, wrapping the eaves in trailing black ribbons.
A soft knock, tentative and afraid of rejection. Lupin’s shaggy, tired visage peeked around the corner, and Snape’s heart gave a painful twist at all that had been and all that would never be. “Professor Snape?”
The professor in question grimaced. “Remus. Do come in.”
“Is it ready?”
“Drink up.” Snape handed the chalice over two-handed, careful not to spill a drop.
Remus tilted an eyebrow. He gave a sniff and shook his head. “No chance of pumpkin flavor next time?”
Snape growled, black eyes narrow. “Charming as always, Remus.”
Swallowing quickly, the werewolf stuck out his tongue, “Bleeehhuuerg. That’s just awful.”
“I do it on purpose you know, the hopes that you’ll drop dead of the flavor alone,” Snape deadpanned.
Lupin blinked, then shook his head. “Oh, Severus, you never change.”
The sharp retort died on Snape’s lips. Was it true? Was he fated to be the same forever, trapped in black-clad misery? He wasn’t sure, but the introspection was too painful to consider. He kept those thoughts wrapped in a chrysalis of jet, hard and unyielding, and he certainly wasn’t going to shatter it over one casual comment. He sighed, flicking and swishing to clean the cauldron and chalice of any remnant of the potion.
“Perhaps not. But perhaps the unthinkable will happen and I’ll teach class tomorrow in Dumbledore’s favorite fuchsia robes and sparkly dunce’s cap. Stranger things have happened.”
The sandy haired teacher chuckled. “Thanks for the potion, Severus.” He turned, hand on the door. “And Happy Birthday.”
Snape blinked in shock as the door shut behind the other professor. No one had wished him happy birthday in years. He didn’t even know how Remus had found out-- probably Dumbledore, the old meddler. Unexpected, but not unwelcome. Stranger things indeed, he sniffed to himself.
Staring at the rows and rows of jars and tins, Snape fingered the parchment with the list of potions to make for Poppy. No point in wasting the day, after all. Things to chop, potions to make. Snape pulled out the next set of ingredients and focused on the task at hand, content to be left alone in elegant solitude.