The Sugar Quill
Author: Rachael DuBois (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: One Minute  Chapter: One Minute
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

One Minute

One Minute

 

12:04 pm.

 

Tick.

 

Tock.

 

Tick.

 

Time is precious when confronting deadly curses.  Tick.  It is so easy to become lost in the riddle of a curse, or become ensnared in it.  Tock.  Life will slip right through the fingers of the careless or unmindful.  Tick.  The clock is running.

 

Snape looms over the hospital bed where Katie Bell lays.  She is still trying to scream, although she has already lost her voice, and she thrashes violently against the sheets.  It is a natural instinct to want to stop the pain first, especially if the victim is still awake enough to scream. 

 

This is a trap.  It is a waste of precious seconds when even a minute of hesitation may be too long. 

 

Snape has never fallen for this trap.

 

“Be still,” he commands with all the authority he possesses, and though she still twitches, she stops shaking the bed until it rattles.

 

Tick.

 

Tock.

 

Observation is always the first step in treatment.  It is not a waste if you have to get it right the first time.

 

He pulls off her glove to inspect her hand.  Some curses attack the point of contact, degrading skin and bone like some horrible flesh-eating bacteria, but Katie’s hand is undamaged.  He glances at her glove and finds the small hole on the index finger.  The brevity of contact may be the single fact that saves her life.  If he can act quickly enough to stay its course.

 

Snape hold’s Katie’s hand in his own.  Her fingers are cold, her nails are a purple-blue, and her skin blanches to pressure for far too long.  He pushes her sleeve up to her elbow and notes the blue veins standing starkly against her pale skin.  He counts the pulsations at her wrist and finds they are weak and much too fast.

 

Tick beat.  Beat.  Beat.  Tock beat.  Beat.  Beat.  Tick beat.  Beat.  Beat.

 

Eyes are the windows to the soul.  Katie’s are screwed shut but Snape pulls them open with long, yellow fingers.  Her blue eyes dart from point to point, but her pupils are wide and unchanging and he knows she does not see anything.

 

Peering into her eyes, he looks for memories that might lead him to the curse.  He has to tease away thoughts from her obsession with pain.  Time and life slide away (tick, tock, tick).  He admits surprise to discover that she wants to die.  It is a rare curse indeed that not only kills but convinces the mind to desire death. 

 

He frowns and loosens the red and gold scarf at her neck to find the artery.  With each pulse (tick) and between the pulses (tock) he feels the ebb and flow of life and death.  He feels he is getting closer to the source and his lips curl into a smile.

 

She stops trying to scream without her voice now and her breaths are coming in shallow pants.  Time is running thin, but Snape does not rush.  It is a trap to rush and become tangled in your own processes.  Instead he leans forward to listen to the puffs of air from her mouth.

 

It ought to sound like life in someone so young, but instead the noise is harsh and raspy, and he can smell death coming, like sulfur, or maybe something else.  He pauses to place the scent.  It might be important.

 

Tick.

 

Tock.

 

Tick.

 

It is.  Monkshood was once a common ingredient in potions used by scorned lovers for revenge.  Snape nods to himself.  Of course this curse could be capable of convincing a young girl to want to die.  An enchantment of passion is most persuasive, and the hardest to remove once it has penetrated the soul.

 

He follows the arteries back until his hand hovers an inch above her heart and then listens with his eyes closed.  He must find the root, the place it has lodged, before he can dispel it.  He smiles and black eyes snap open.  He has found it, wrapped around her heart.  With each beat it spreads further into her body, devouring as it goes.  It is raw and angry, and the passage of hundreds of years has done nothing to assuage this.  Then there is something else that spasms and makes it worse.

 

He prods the mass gently and is not surprised to find it squeezes the heart even tighter.  It will not be removed easily.  With eyes closed again to better feel what cannot be seen with the naked eye, he traces the tendrils that snake toward her brain.  He pulls on the strand, trying to reason it back to its root, and recognizes the spasm that propels delicate barbs even further into Katie. 

 

Perhaps Dumbledore is right.  Perhaps love is the strongest of all magic. 

 

Tick.

 

Tock.

 

A curse like this does not respond to the usual tricks.  It will not respond to reason for it has none.  It is blind with rage and unrequited devotion and its sole desire is to kill.  Every attempt to dislodge it will only drive it further in and if it is cornered, it will lash out with all its anger and hate.  Katie will be consumed, for even if her body were to survive, her mind may already be lost. 

 

This is a fight few would attempt and one even fewer could hope to win.  It is not a sense of arrogance or pride that leads Snape to draw his wand and prepare the incantations in his mind, nor a sense of compassion or sacrifice.  Good and evil have no part in his actions here.  There is only the challenge and the win that must be forced. 

 

As he has felt before every such duel, this was the one he was born for, the one he was meant to overcome.

 

There is nothing beyond the quiet panting and the ticking second hand.  His wand ready, his mind’s eye seeing nothing but the enemy ahead, he enters into battle.

 

And he will win.

 

Tick.

 

Tock.

 

Tick.

 

12:05 pm.

//
Write a review! PLEASE NOTE: The purpose of reviewing a story or piece of art at the Sugar Quill is to provide comments that will be useful to the author/artist. We encourage you to put a bit of thought into your review before posting. Please be thoughtful and considerate, even if you have legitimate criticism of a story or artwork. (You may click here to read other reviews of this work).
* = Required fields
*Sugar Quill Forums username:
*Sugar Quill Forums password:
If you do not have a Sugar Quill Forums username, please register. Bear in mind that it may take up to 72 hours for your account to be approved. Thank you for your patience!
*Comment:
The Sugar Quill was created by Zsenya and Arabella. For questions, please send us an Owl!

-- Powered by SQ3 : Coded by David : Design by James --