The thick red curtains had been drawn against a
dark night when the DuBois family sat down to dinner. Rachael sat across
from her brother and accepted the bowl of potatoes Julia passed
her. “Thanks, Mum,” she murmured. Cassandra was chattering animatedly,
the diamond on her left hand twinkling like the crystal in the chandelier above
“I’ll wear any color you choose,” Rachael replied
to her. “It’s your wedding, after all.” Julia looked up and opened
her mouth, so she quickly amended, “Except yellow. Because yellow really
does nothing for my complexion.” Appeased, her mother passed the salad.
“Not that I have any say in it, but I liked the
blue,” Thomas told Cassandra, gazing at her adoringly. Cassandra lit up in
“That’s settled, then,” she announced, and
finally noticed the roast on her plate. “Thank you for having me to dinner
on such short notice, Mr. and Mrs. DuBois,” she said.
“You’re family now, darling,” Julia told
her. “And, please, it’s Julia and Edward.” Rachael’s father was busy
chewing, but he raised his glass in agreement.
“Gravy, please?” Thomas asked and Rachael
obliged. The room was quiet for a moment except for the chink of silver on
“Mum,” Rachael asked suddenly, “do you remember
“Of course, dear. She stayed for Christmas
one year. Very sweet girl, as I recall.”
“Wasn’t she the one I tried to terrorize all
holiday?” Thomas asked with interest.
“You tried to terrorize all my friends who stayed
over,” Rachael retorted as Cassandra smirked. “I ran into her today while
running errands in Granada.” Rachael chased down a loose pea and speared
it with her fork.
“How is she, dear?” Julia asked.
“She seems okay, I suppose. She requested a
list of purchases.”
“That’s lovely,” Julia replied in a tone intended
to remind Rachael that business was not an appropriate topic of conversation
for a family dinner. “We can discuss it tomorrow morning.”
“She married the banker, didn’t she?” Edward
“They have a two-year old now.”
“I thought she hated kids?” Thomas asked.
“No, you’re thinking of Marian.” Rachael
almost didn’t continue, and she looked down at her roast as she did. “I
think Anna’s a Death Eater.”
The announcement was met with silence. When
Rachael looked up from her plate, she saw her family exchanging significant
looks. “What?” she asked.
“Darling—” Julia began hesitantly.
“Don’t mince words, mother,” Rachael said
“Dearest, you know we support your decision to
help Albus Dumbledore by working with a former –er—one.”
“We all support the Headmaster,” Thomas said
Julia nodded. “But sweetheart, this is the
third time this summer that you’ve come home claiming you’ve . . . well,
encountered another one.” As Rachael opened her mouth to protest, Julia
looked to her husband.
Edward cleared his throat. “We just want you
to be careful, Rachael. Accusing people is risky business.”
“Professor Dumbledore believed me about the other
“Rachael,” Cassandra said tentatively, “don’t you
think it’s a bit of a stretch for Anna? I mean, she lives in Spain.”
“I’ve thought of that. But you weren’t
there. You didn’t hear the way she talked!”
Julia frowned. “Darling, I know you mean
well, but couldn’t you have made a mistake? You don’t know her very well
now, do you?”
“Rachael,” Edward interrupted gently, “it really
won’t do for you to continue suspecting all of our clients.”
She gaped at him. “Dad, our clients are
among the wealthiest in the Wizarding world. That means old money and old
bloodlines. Of course they’re going to be suspects!”
“Yeah, but you’ve started jumping at
shadows. Anna Hampton? She’s got a kid, for Merlin’s sake,” Thomas
Rachael rounded on him angrily. “Well maybe
if you got your head out of the clouds for more than a minute at a time you
might pick up on these sorts of things in addition to actually closing a deal
She knew at once she’d gone too
far. Cassandra’s cheeks turned pink and Thomas’ eyes widened in anger.
“Enough!” Julia commanded. Thomas glanced at
his mother and swallowed his angry retort. Cassandra continued to glare at
Rachael. “Watch your step, young lady,” Julia warned sharply.
Rachael stabbed visciously at a roll. Her
family had been hesitant to believe her before, too. It wasn’t
fair. Dumbledore believed her, and that ought to be enough. She could
feel the concerned looks of her family as she lavished butter on her
roll. “Shh,” she heard Thomas say to Cassandra soothingly.
“Rachael,” Julia began gently.
She was saved from having to look up when the
house elf appeared next to her chair with a letter.
“Marsky is sorry to interrupt, but a letter has
come for Ms. Rachael, and is marked important.”
“Thank you, Marsky,” Rachael said and hastily
snatched the letter. She scanned it and frowned. “Sorry, mother,” she
said briskly, rolling the letter up. “My potions consultant is in need of
“A delivery? At this hour?” Edward asked.
“Apparently,” she replied as she
rose. “Cassandra, lovely to see you again. Don’t wait up for me,
mother. I may be late.”
She swept from the room with only a pinch of
guilt for not apologizing to Thomas. It really wasn’t his fault that his
client list had slowed recently. It was even less his fault that he was
madly in love with his fiancée. Rachael still didn’t feel it made up for
their accusations that she couldn’t handle herself anymore. Her work for
Dumbledore was not interfering with her grasp on reality.
In her study, she unlocked the top desk drawer
with her wand and pulled out a gray pouch. Opening it carefully she
checked that the contents were still intact and summoned her traveling
cloak. It was indeed unusual to have appointments at this time of
night. If it hadn’t been the perfect excuse to avoid her family at an
awkward moment, it would have been infuriating to be ordered around in such a
She Apparated directly outside the door to his
labs. It was rude, but so was summoning someone in the middle of
dinner. She tossed the door open, announcing, “I’m here,” and let it fall
shut loudly behind her.
The thin man with greasy black hair didn’t even
glance up from his cauldron. “Do not barge in here like that again,” he
said in a low voice.
“Mr. Snape, I do not meet with clients at this
hour under any circumstances. It is highly irregular to rearrange a
meeting on such short notice.”
“Nevertheless, Ms. DuBois,” he said, looking up
for the first time, “there are sensitive works being done here, and I’ll not
have you ruin them to fulfill your taste for dramatics.” He turned back to
Rachael frowned. A taste for the dramatics
indeed! With a purposefully exaggerated flourish, she produced the gray
pouch and set it on the work bench. “Your requested ingredients, Mr.
Snape. And may I ask what prompted this late night call?” But the
apothecary had swooped down on the pouch and pulled the crystal vial from
it. He held it up to the light of his shimmering cauldrons to examine
“You got this from Giralde?” he asked.
“Yes, and it wasn’t cheap, either. Warn me
next time if I’m going to have to carry a small fortune with me.”
Snape paid no attention to her sarcasm as he
gently lowered the vial and crossed back to the fire. “Giralde is world
renowned for the most potent rendering processes. To pay the going rate
for lesser products would be an insult.”
“Well, now I know,” Rachael said, still a bit cross,
and pulled out a stool from under the bench.
Snape glanced up sharply as it scraped across the
floor. “There is no need for you to stay, Ms. DuBois.”
She scoffed. “I am not your courier, Mr.
Snape, to jump at your beck and call. You wanted to move tomorrow’s
appointment to tonight. I am amendable, but I want my books before I
He waved an irritated hand toward a bench across
the room. “They are finished. Load of rubbish, except the top
one.” He pulled a silver knife from his belt and proceeded to cut thin
slices of lovage.
Rachael drew her wand and summoned the
books. When the stack of five had settled on the work bench, she opened
the faded and cracked cover of the one on top and pulled out several sheets of
parchment. Tilting them to catch the dim light better, she began to look
over his critical review of the books she had found.
“Wouldn’t you rather do that where there’s better
light? Or anywhere else at all?” Snape asked without looking up from
“I prefer to go over reviews with the consultant
present in case I have questions. For instance, what does ‘sinmer in
“What?” he asked, exasperated.
“This,” Rachael replied and pointed out the
“That’s ‘simmer in rose oil’—it’s a medicinal
drought that needed correction. Didn’t you ever study Potions?”
“I got a N.E.W.T. in Potions. But I never
studied unintelligible writing.”
He slammed down the knife with such force that
Rachael jumped. “If you must stay here, you must do so in silence. If
you cannot do that, I cannot allow you to stay. I have work to do
Normally Rachael did not prolong her visits to
Snape’s apothecary, but tonight she was anxious to avoid home for a
while. She quietly turned the parchment over and focused on her
work. A moment later she heard the knife resume its cutting.
Usually, she found it relaxing to wade through a
detailed analysis of the Potions books she hoped to sell. However, the
hiss of ingredients entering the cauldron became more frequent and she found
herself more and more distracted from her task. For a while, she just
watched as his dark silhouette moved against the yellow flames while he
worked. A gentle, silver vapor began to rise from the surface of the
cauldron. She imagined she could see pixies in the shapes it formed.
Rachael shook her head to clear it. She
suddenly realized that Snape might be able to answer some questions for
her. “I met an old friend today,” she said hopefully. Snape tipped a
pale liquid into the mix and did not acknowledge her.
“Her name is Anna Villa. She invited me to
her house, and we talked for a while.” Rachael ran a hand along the spine
of a book absently. “I was wondering if you knew if she was a Death
Snape stiffened visibly for a moment before
returning to the smooth routine of his work. “I am not privy to the
loyalties of all the witches you may happen to meet.” His tone carried a
finality, but Rachael wasn’t satisfied.
“But surely there aren’t many women? Perhaps
you do know her.”
Snape turned, and in the dim light she felt rather
than saw his glare. “I do not know more names than I have already confided
to the Headmaster.”
“No, I didn’t mean—” She hadn’t realized she
was insulting him.
The vein on his temple stood out on his oily
skin. “You should go now.”
She rose, quickly pulling parchment toward
her. “Please, Mr. Snape, she used to be my friend. I haven’t spoken
to Professor Dumbledore yet, and I only wanted to know—”
“I asked you to leave.” His voice was ice.
Rachael gathered her books with trembling hands
and the words spilled out of her. “She lives in Granada and she has long,
“A housewife?” It came as a whisper, almost
to himself. Then, a low chuckle. Rachael had never heard the dark man
laugh before, and she did not like it.
“She is,” Rachael said, breathlessly.
Snape returned to his cauldron, and tapped the
flames until they turned blue. Since he wasn’t ordering her out again,
Rachael stood frozen, hoping he might say something more.
“Your friend may be a Housewife,” he said softly
Rachael wasn’t sure how to reply to
this. “Well, yes, she is. She has a daughter—”
“I mean,” he clarified, “one of the Housewives of
Granada. A group of women.” He paused. “Death Eaters.”
“Do—does that mean you know her?”
Snape shook his head. “Only by
reputation. Very talented witches,” he said with what could have been
envy. “They are favorites, for their devotion and tendency for success.”
Rachael tried to swallow, but her mouth was
dry. “She must be one of them.”
Snape shrugged. “If you say so.”
“But—she has a daughter. How could she
become something like that when she loves her daughter?”
Snape’s lip curled into a sneer. “Every man
has his reasons. His price.” He scraped flakes of nutmeg into a bowl.
Before she could stop herself, the words tumbled
out again. “What was your price?”
She knew he was going to throw her out
again. It would be even worse this time. But instead he tipped the
flakes into the cauldron and began to stir. His mouth twisted into another
smile. “You want to know my reason?”
Unsure, she nodded. She took a step
closer. The silver fumes formed butterflies now.
“Do you know what this is?” he asked with a
careless wave to the potion in his cauldron. She had to admit that she did
He picked up the vial of erumpent fluid and
examined it again. “I didn’t think so. It isn’t taught at
Hogwarts. At least, not under the current Headmaster. I wouldn’t
expect you to recognize it.” He indicated the vial. “Do you know, at
least, what this is used for?”
“Exploding potions,” she replied.
“Correct. It also has other uses, when
certain force is needed.” Carefully he uncorked the crystal and tipped two
drops into the potion. It hissed and boiled violently, and Snape quickly
recorked the bottle. He watched the cauldron carefully until it had
“Erumpent fluid shouldn’t be mixed with lovage,”
Rachael said, recalling a long ago class.
He smirked. “Perhaps someone did earn a
N.E.W.T. after all. And why not?”
“It generates hallucinations in the drinker.”
“Precisely. Feelings of euphoria, beliefs of
strength and abilities not actually owned.” He paused to stir it
again. “There are some potions where such a side effect is exactly the
“You’re making euphoria?” she asked tentatively.
“Not quite,” he said softly, his dark eyes
glittering. He grasped a silver blade and extended his right hand over the
cauldron. “Now, Ms. DuBois, pay careful attention. This is the
She understood only when silver flashed and it
was too late to stop it. She raised a hand, but he had already drawn the
knife across his palm and was counting drops of blood as they fell.
“This is Dark Magic,” she protested in a whisper.
Snape waved his wand and the wound on his hand
healed instantly. “Everything not rightfully earned has its price.”
But she didn’t hear him. The potion had
become very still. She caught a glimpse of a reflection on the surface,
and she wanted to see it again. She wanted to know what it was, to take it
in and make it part of her. The reflection called to her with something
she hadn’t realized she needed.
Only then did she realize she was Petrified and
standing much closer to the cauldron than she remembered. Snape was
laughing again. He unfroze her and she backed away, frightened. “What
He was watching her closely now, and she didn’t
like it. “That, Ms. DuBois, is Fame.”
“Fame?” She just wanted to get out of
there. She fumbled with her books and looked around for the exit.
“Yes, Fame. The hallucinogen is so strong it
affects not only the drinker but also those close to him. You inhaled only
the fumes.” He tapped a long, yellow finger to his lips. “Imagine if
you had tasted it?”
She stopped stacking her books abruptly and
stared at him. What if she could taste it? “Is this why you went to
You-Know-Who? To make Fame?”
He snarled. “Fame is nothing, girl! Do
you still not understand?”
She glared at him and did not reply.
“Fame is nothing,” he hissed sharply. “But
to the one who can bottle it, there is power that makes all fame pale in
comparison.” He extended his hands to the fire, his right hand perfectly
She watched him for a long moment with the fire
flickering odd shadows across his face. It was hard to believe that this fiercely
intense man was the same awkward boy a year beneath her at school, but for a
moment she thought she could understand him and she shivered. For him, of
course it would have been about power.
“Why did you change your mind?” she asked.
He started, as though he had forgotten her for a
moment. “What do you mean, change my mind?”
She frowned. “Well, Dumbledore said—”
“I changed my allegiances, which is something
altogether different.” He pulled a tray of glass bottles from a shelf and
Rachael tried not to look at the potion in the cauldron.
“Does the Headmaster know that you still make
this?” she asked quietly.
He only looked at her with that unfathomable
expression and did not answer. Finally, “It is time for you to go, Ms.
She found she was more than ready to leave by
then, but as she tucked her books under her arm, she had to ask, “How do I save
Snape looked up at her, surprised. “You
“But what she’s doing is wrong. I can’t let
her keep going like this.”
“You aren’t letting her. She made this
decision on her own.”
“But you came around. You must be able to
tell me how I make her change her mind.”
Snape scowled and turned back to his
work. “Until she decides the price is too high on her own, there is
nothing you can do. Good night, Ms. DuBois.”
With her books firmly under her arm she opened
the door. A last glance back at Snape showed him bottling Fame without a
glance in her direction. She closed the door softly and Apparated home.
A sliver of moon was sinking below the tops of
the trees that lined the pathway to the front door. The air still held a
hint of warmth from the unusually sunny day, and Rachael realized she was very
happy to be going home.
The light in the front sitting room was on and
spilling onto the porch when she opened the door. Rachael smiled and shook
her head as she stepped into the archway to the cozy room. “I told you I
would be late, Mum,” she called.
Julia looked up from the book she was reading, as
she had every night that Rachael or Thomas came home late. “Who says I
stayed up for you, darling? I haven’t been able to put this book down
since dinner.” She drew her feet up and patted the sofa next to
her. “Did your meeting go alright?”
Rachael set the books on the end table and curled
up next to her mother. “Sort of, I suppose. He’s a very hard person
to get along with.”
Julia smiled and stroked her daughter’s
hair. “I don’t think Dumbledore would have asked you to meet with him if
he didn’t think you could reach out to him.”
“Perhaps,” Rachael mumbled. She watched the
flicker of flame in the oil lamps over the mantle. “Mum, I was right about
“You’re sure, dearest?”
“Pretty much. He seems to think it’s
“Ah,” Julia murmured, and Rachael caught a
fleeting look of sadness cross her mother’s face. She squeezed her
mother’s hand and smiled.
“It’ll be okay, Mum. You’ll
see. Someday this will be over.”
Julia looked as though she was thinking of
something far removed from the present conversation, but her gaze came back to
her daughter. “Of course, Rachael. I’m sure it will.”
Rachael yawned and sat up. “I’d better get
to bed. I have an appointment tomorrow in Bristol at eight.” She
stood and took up her books again. “I’ll apologize to Thomas
tomorrow. Is he still mad at me?”
“I think we’re all more worried for your safety
than anything else, darling,” Julia said as she opened her book again.
Rachael sighed. “I’m careful, Mum. As
careful as I can be, given the circumstances.”
Julia gave a small, wan smile. “And that, my
dear, is why I stay up at night reading.”
It wasn’t until Rachael was crawling under the
covers in her apartments that she realized Snape had been wrong about one
thing. There was something she could do for Anna, and that was to not
believe that this was the end. Anna had been a good person
once. There was always hope.
As she drifted off to sleep with these thoughts,
the splinter of moon dipped below the horizon and starlight alone was left to
twinkle through her window.