The Sugar Quill
Author: Ransom (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Dark Chrysalis  Chapter: Chapter One: Through a Glass Darkly
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Dark Chrysalis

Dark Chrysalis

The following is a work of fiction based on characters created by J.K. Rowling. I have

 not received compensation for this or any contribution based upon Ms. Rowling’s work

Chapter One: Through a Glass Darkly

                “I’m tellinyeh, Severus, you’ll be wantinter test that concoction o’ yours before yeh try it out on summat so…eh…ambitious, I’m thinkin’.”

            Severus Snape, a Slytherin sixth year, looked up at Hagrid with a sinister grin. “Dear man,” he said as he caressed the lip of a rather large, pretentiously ornamented flagon, “there really is no need to lecture ME on the potential dangers of a swelling solution when applied to a creature such as this.”

            “I’m jus’ sayin’ that professor Dippet may not see the humor in this little stunt yer cookin’ up an’ I’m beginninter wonder jus’ how many times Professor Dumbledore’ll keep standin’ up fer me when things like this happen righ’ under my nose.”  Snape, however, had stopped listening. The picture in his mind of a 50-foot high Hippogriff charging the Quidditch pitch with Gryffindor 50 points ahead, and the look on that James Potter’s face when he came face-to-face with it was far too pleasing for him to worry much about the consequences. Still, being the pragmatist that he was, he decided that it might be better to wait until Hagrid was a bit further out of the loop before striking. The match was still a day off and who knew what a fifty-foot high Hippogriff would eat? Thinking aloud, Snape posed that very question and he could swear that as Hagrid walked away he muttered something about a Slytherin git.

Up in the castle, James was enjoying his regular Friday morning off. At the same time Hagrid and Severus were discussing the repercussions of blowing up a Hippogriff, James was sitting in his favorite chair in the Gryffindor common room dutifully polishing his broomstick and eagerly anticipating leading Gryffindor to victory the following morning. Suddenly, he heard a familiar voice outside the portrait hole and it was growing more agitated by the moment.

            “MARZIPAN!”

            “No, no, that’s not it either,” replied the Fat Lady. “Oh dear we are persistent, aren’t we?”

            “RIGOR MORTUS!”

            “Now that was just macabre, you silly little man. Why don’t you go back to your own common room and cool off a bit?”

            Snape pulled his wand, “Now you listen to me, you old sow!”

            “Good heavens!” the Fat Lady gasped, completely aghast at Snape’s unprovoked display of gaucherie. 

            The portrait hole creaked open. “The password,” a rather impish voice of a well-known Gryffindor prefect uttered from the other side, “is archipelago.”

            “Not for long…” said the Fat Lady still looking down at Snape with utter disdain.

            “That’ll do, mum,” a much more collected James Potter said as he opened the door, letting Severus pass.  The Fat Lady uttered something about “riff-raff” and the door closed, abruptly, behind them with a loud thud.  Heading back to his comfy chair and broomstick, James addressed Severus. “Take it you got my owl, then?” 

He had, indeed. While Snape was walking back to the castle he was nearly pummeled by a large barn owl carrying an arrogantly large sheet of parchment and several very large dung bombs.  After a quick charm to remove the stink, Snape unrolled the parchment and written in the very center, almost too small to read in the failing light, was a bit of advice from his good friend James:

Better be sure your chasers have enough deflating draught.

Seeing how skilled they are at passing the Quaffl,e it could

take a few tries to hit an enormous Hippogriff, after all. –JP

            “I can see that meddling lout still can’t keep a secret if his life depended on it,” Snape said.

            “You refer to Hagrid, yes?” said James, still sitting with his back to Snape. “Dear Severus, I don’t need to consort with anyone to know what you’re up to. You’re painfully predictable – always have been. Still, maybe I should’ve left well enough alone. Would’ve been great fun, I expect.”

₪₪₪₪₪₪

            After lunch, Snape headed off to Defense Against the Dark Arts with Professor Bane. It was always an interesting class for the Slytherins, most of whom were already rather adept at many known curses and counter-curses before ever setting foot inside Hogwarts. Snape was rather infamous for knowing more curses as a first year than the average fifth year student and his cunning in a duel was impressive to say the least. After that day’s lesson, which Snape found un-stimulating as usual, he was headed to the library to check out the books from the restricted section professor Bane had signed for. Along the way, he ran into Peter Pettigrew, heading in the opposite direction for Herbology.

            “All right, Severus?” Peter called out, quickly doubling-back to walk with Snape.

            “Good morning, Peter.”

            “Severus, I just wanted to thank you for helping Remus and me in Potions last week. You’re right. It was a rather easy concoction but well, you know us…spend too much time goofing off and too little time paying attention we do.”

            “I helped you,Snape corrected him. “You helped your furry friend. Potions is a precise art, Pettigrew. You and Lupin seem to think it’s like baking a cake or pouring a cup of tea. Still, I’m always willing to help where I can,” Snape said with just the right amount of irritation in his voice. “At least you don’t outright ask me to do your homework for you. Goodness knows I get enough of that.”

Peter Pettigrew was one of the few people in Snape’s life who ever seemed to see through that sour disposition. He knew that what Severus really meant to say was, “You’re quite welcome,” and didn’t seem to take offense to Snape’s somewhat curt reply. 

            “Severus,” Peter continued, “there’s a Hogsmeade visit this weekend and I think it would be nice –”

            “Thank you, Peter, but I really don’t think that a day with the four of you would prove to be very enjoyable, what with James and his petty insults and…”

            “I do believe you read a bit much into James’ witty repartee, Severus, and if you’d just –“

            “Just what, Peter?” Snape spat back, his eyes just slits now and burning with fury. “Forget about how he bloody near killed me last year?”

            “Oh dear, we’re on about that again, are we?”

“I can accept your part in that as being as passive as you claim, as you’re the only one of that elite little clique of yours to ever exhibit the first sign of contrition, but that James Potter has earned an enemy who will not be swayed by any half-hearted apologies wrapped up in smarmy little insults. My disaffection for him will carry over to his sons and his sons’ sons, Peter. Make no mistake about that!”           

Peter Pettigrew was the closest thing Severus Snape had to a real friend his sixth year at Hogwarts. Before the little stunt of theirs, Snape had even found somewhat of a connection with Sirius Black but it was all soured by his disdain for James Potter – realized early on, intensified by that certain prank admitted over and over again to have been poorly thought out – and that something about Remus Lupin that Snape never quite trusted even before he learned Lupin’s dark little secret.  It was almost a year since Snape had gone out following Lupin and Madam Pomfrey into the forest at Sirius’ behest and through that entire ordeal only Peter Pettigrew seemed worthy of Snape’s forgiveness since his role in the prank honestly was non-existent in the first place. The others, with the notable exception of James - whose attitude toward Snape had always been sour - had spent ample time trying to make amends but it became all too apparent that Snape was determined to hold onto his grudge like a sack full of galleons.

₪₪₪₪₪₪

            The following day’s Quidditch match was a crushing victory for Gryffindor. There was hardly a seeker in the wizarding world that could stand up to James Potter. There was no doubt James could have played for England, but it was well known that he had other plans, involving in no small part one Lily Evans whom he had fancied ever since she knocked him in the lake their first trip across the lake to Hogwarts. Today, instead of his normal victory lap, James decided to try something a bit…different.  At the end of the match, he went blasting straight out of the stadium and reappeared moments later, riding on the back of a very large Hippogriff, beating it gently with his broomstick like a riding crop. He steered the Hippogriff over to the stands where he caught Snape’s eye and yelled, “Not the fifty-footer you’d imagined, but it’s the best I could pull off inside a few minutes.”  With that, he and the Hippogriff took flight back out of the stadium. James returned the hippogriff safely back to his paddock, as well as his normal size. Lily watched the entire display with disbelief, and was left shaking her head over her boyfriend’s display. If anyone had had more than enough of all this than Snape, it was Lily.

The morning after the match, James had to struggle to keep his focus on his porridge and away from the daggers being shot at him from the vicinity of the Slytherin table. Snape never took his eyes off James, even as he salted his porridge and sugared his eggs, and it was clear to James that just a few meters away his death was being planned in lurid detail.

“Just how long do you intend to let this go on?” asked Lily, in a very accusatory manner.

                “Lily, dear, you know it’s all in g -”

                All in good fun, yes,” she replied, mimicking his tone. “You know he doesn’t see it that way.”

            “That’s part of the fun, isn’t it?  The brooding little git…” James replied and nearly covered the table in front of him with porridge as Lily kicked him hard in the shin. “What was THAT for?” he said, gritting his teeth.

            “Do I need to give you another one as a means of explanation? This little game of yours has played itself out. I’d have thought you would have seen that last year…”

            “Oh, don’t bring that up again. There’s no way Sirius or I would’ve ever let anything - ”
            “I know that and you know that. Clearly, Severus doesn’t know that and it’s high time you and your mates ate a little bit of humble pie.”

As his shin kept throbbing, James came to a decision. That afternoon he determined, as loathsome as he found him to be, he would have a chat with Severus and attempt to make amends. “Amends,” he had told Lily, sternly, “Not ‘friends’,” and she conceded that it was a start.  The Gryffindors had double Potions with the Slytherins and as expected, opportunity knocked.  James knew deep down that there are lines that need not be crossed and it was time to try to see a way to peace between the Marauders and Severus Snape once and for all.

Professor Simms droned on and on about Abyssinian Shrivelfig for what seemed like days. Finally, he let the students loose to practice for the remaining minutes of the class. James slid his cauldron across the table and sat down next to Snape.  Cautiously, tentatively, and having screwed up enough nerve to down a large helping of Lily Evans’ famous humble pie, he stared down at his cauldron and spoke to Snape.

“Do you know why I wouldn’t play you in Wizard Chess that time you asked me to during our first year?” James asked.

“You’re breaking my concentration, Potter,” Snape spat back.

“Bollocks, Snape, you could whip this stuff up with your eyes closed. Do you know why?”

Poor Snape seemed to have suffered a swift bout of momentary deafness as he peeled his shrivelfigs. He never even flinched at James second, even more irritating inquiry. 

“I declined,” James continued, “because I feared the likely humiliation I would suffer at the hands of such an intelligent and cunning opponent.”

Snape gave a dismissive grunt and kept peeling.

“I also knew that you weren’t like so many of the other first years. I remember thinking that you didn’t really fit in Slytherin and, well, you do manage to get along better with certain of us Gryffindors…or I should say you did.  Before - ”

“Before several of you plotted my death.”

Severus…come on now, mate, are you going to hold that over our heads forever? Do you honestly think -”           

“Does it matter what I think?”

“It does to me…and to Remus and Sirius, as well.  We all do so miss your company,” James lied, “and we all wish that we had made some better decisions.” It was true enough that James and the others at least recognized the wrong in what they had done, and James reminded himself of that as he continued. “Still, if you’ve determined to harbor a grudge, I suppose that will be your cross to bear. There are just so many times I can say I’m sorry and just so many ways to try and lure you out of your shell. Pettigrew’s offer stands. We’ll save you a place at our table at the Leaky Cauldron. If you’d like to join us, feel free. We all would like to be able to make amends. We are not your enemies, Severus. You have yourself to occupy that particular role.”

Snape, however, had already made his decision.          

₪₪₪₪₪₪

Late that night, in the darkness of the Slytherin Sixth Years’ dormitory, one restless student was contemplatively pacing the floor over and over again.  Among his many quirks, Severus Snape was known not to sleep much and took quite the liking to wandering around the castle and grounds at night. He was clever enough to either not get caught or come up with a reasonable explanation when he did so punishments were rare. Complicating matters further was his utter disdain for rule-breaking. He felt compelled to explore the Forbidden Forest while at the same time loathed the fact that he was doing so.

Later that night Snape emerged from the dungeons. He decided that rather than risk the perils of the Forbidden Forest he would explore the castle a bit, perhaps take a route he hadn’t tried before. He thought it would be interesting to see if he could find his way back before breakfast.  As it turned out, Snape did succeed in finding a part of the castle he’d never been in before but nothing could have prepared him for what was about to happen. Off in the distance a faint, tinny sort of noise could be heard.

Tink, tink, tink, tink

It was getting closer. Snape stood perfectly still in the shadow of a large suit of armor, but the noise continued.

Tink, tink, tink....CRASH!

That was a lantern, Snape thought. Looks like I’m not the only one having a midnight stroll.

He feared that he might be about to run into a prefect or a teacher but what he was hoping for was to catch Lily Evans and James Potter stealing a little midnight snog (it wouldn’t have been the first time). What he found instead when he rounded the corner was far more curious. Indeed, someone had knocked over a lantern; the smell of the burning oil was now thick in the corridor. Snape looked around cautiously but eagerly. Much to his disappointment, however, there wasn’t a student to be found.

Now a new sound caught Snape’s attention.  Squeak…squeak, squeak.

 Lumos,” Snape whispered, the tip of his wand now giving off just enough light for a bit more detailed investigating.  Suddenly, Snape located the source of the squeaking. Perched on a high window sill, with no business being there whatsoever, was a large grey rat who was, at that very moment, surveying the wreck.

“How on earth did you get up there?” Snape asked the rat, feeling rather silly for doing so.  The rat squeaked and pointed its snout at the floor. “Did your owner leave you here? Need a hand getting down?” Snape was feeling sillier by the second. The rat jumped at Snape and grabbed hold of his robes. Snape grabbed the rat around the middle and dropped him gently onto the floor, away from the broken shards of glass. “All right then. Off you go.”  Snape fully expected the rat to scurry off in the direction of the nearest dormitories but it kept on in the same direction Snape was heading and Snape’s curiosity got the best of him.

The rat led him down a long corridor and into a room with a door so small Snape needed to crawl through. The room beyond was empty with the exception of a mirror placed right in the middle. Snape wondered how it ever got in here, being that the door he just crawled through was the only way in or out and the mirror was much larger. He then remembered where he was, mentally chastised himself for being so stupid and brought his thoughts back around to his curiosity about the mirror. The rat sat in a far corner watching as Snape tried to decipher the inscription on the mirror’s frame:

Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi

As he was laboring over the inscription his attention was suddenly drawn to the image in the mirror.  He saw himself, slightly older, dressed in fine velvet robes, mixing potions. He had an assistant whom he couldn’t recognize who was gathering ingredients and, when time allowed, counting large piles of galleons and stashing them in an enormous chest.  The image blurred for a moment and there he was shaking hands with…was that? It was! He was shaking hands with the Minister of Magic! The scene blurred again and he saw himself at that present moment, stunned expression and all. Suddenly, though, Snape turned on his heel and started running away from himself. “Wait!” Snape yelled.  The Snape in the mirror looked back at him and beckoned him to follow. Snape watched as his reflected self ran out of the castle, through the grounds, past Hagrid’s hut and into the Forbidden Forest.  Off in the distance he saw a shimmering orange light like a bonfire and his reflected self kept running. Now, however, instead of following himself in the image, the Snape in the mirror began getting smaller and smaller as he ran further away toward the orange light. “Wait! Please! Come back!” Snape pleaded but moments later, the only image that remained was of himself, standing in front of the mirror in real time. He sat down in front of it for a long moment trying to make sense of what he’d just seen when it occurred to him. The inscription!

            “I show not your face but your heart’s desire

            He hadn’t a clue when it had happened, but the rat had, at some point, made its exit.  Snape crawled back out of the tiny door and made his descent back into the dungeons and the Slytherin dormitories.  He was never seen by any teacher or prefect, and he was reasonably certain that the rat wouldn’t turn him in.  He lay awake until dawn, wondering why the mirror thought his heart’s desire was to run into the Forbidden Forest when it came to him at last. What he desired wasn’t simply to run into the forest, but rather it would be found in the forest. Snape determined at that moment to return to the mirror again the next night and the next and the next if needs be until his reflected self let him see more; until certain questions were answered. He would discover the solution to this mystery.

//
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