The Sugar Quill
Author: Murasaki99 (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Clouds Over Snow  Chapter: Chapter Two: The Doctor Is In
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Clouds Over Snow Chapter 2. The Doctor is In

2. The Doctor is In

Over the course of the summer, Dr. Eregion settled into the life of Hogwarts as if she had been there for years. Madam Pomfrey gave her quarters in one of the towers above the infirmary. During the day she could be found in the clinic with Madam Pomfrey, attending to anyone who had an illness, and going over the supplies. When there was need, they would journey to Hogsmeade to make house calls to the wizarding community. Once word spread of her location, the doctor was sometimes summoned to Saint Mungo's to assist the staff there. Severus became used to seeing her about in the castle or on the grounds. Dressed in simple robes of pale aqua-green, she was a distinctive form. When not on call she could often be found in the library reading some of the old volumes on magical medical cases or riding her spotted horse over the countryside surrounding the school. The Wild Hunt, at the request of Dumbledore, returned to their normal haunts. Several weeks passed quietly and July turned into August.

Severus flipped through a potion-spotted book, keeping half an eye on the heavy cauldron that boiled thinly near his desk. The smell of sulfur and skink tails combined to make the air in his office stifling, but he ignored it.

"Students will be back in three weeks and have I found anything new yet to keep the seventh-years out of trouble? Hah!" He marked a page in triumph with a flick of his wand. A breeze of clear air entered the room and he looked up to see Dr. Eregion peering in at him through the half-opened door.

"Good Day, Master Snape. Will it disturb your work if I enter?"

Severus looked at her in some surprise. He had never seen the healer in the basement halls of Hogwarts. "Not at all. Do come in."

She moved into the chamber, leaving the door ajar, which served to draw out the fumes that had gathered during his potion brewing. She looked around in curiosity at the tall shelves filled with ingredients and completed potions. Potions in all the colors of the rainbow, in bottles tall, squat, faceted, and plain; they crowded the shelves from floor to ceiling. Jars of pickled screwts vied for place with canned jubjub eyes. Tins marked "Mummy Dust" sat beside laquered boxes labeled "Caution - Ashwinder Eggs".

Severus checked his cauldron quickly and gave the magical stirring spoon a poke; it stirred a little faster. When he turned back to Eregion, he found the doctor looking at him with a calm, quizzical expression on her brown face. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your company, Doctor?" He gestured at the cobweb-hung recesses of his office. "It cannot be for the amenities."

Eregion smiled at that, teeth flashing whitely for just a moment, then she sobered. "I need a potion brewed, Master Snape. Professor Sprout said you would be the person to consult on this."

"Professor Sprout?" Severus considered this reference for a moment. "What sort of potion were you wanting? Is the infirmary pharmacy out of boneheal or sleeping draughts? I believe Madam Pomfrey usually acquires standard medical stock from the apothecary in Hogsmeade, or from Saint Mungo's." He glanced at his bubbling cauldron, but the product seemed to be progressing well on its own. With a word, he banked the fire underneath and left it to steam.

"Yes, I know Master Stilwell in Hogsmeade normally supplies all of our medical stock here at the school, but what I require is not normal medical stock." She gazed thoughtfully at her hands, touching the long fingers together lightly before her. "I require a potion that has not been brewed for long ages of men."

"Do you, indeed?" A gesture of his wand served to close the door to his office. Severus sat on the edge of his desk, folding his arms across his chest, still holding the wand. He eyed Eregion suspiciously. "You are not wanting anything illegal, are you?" His voice dropped a tone, becoming much darker. "There are any number of potions that have not been brewed for ages - and for good reason. Many of them are hideously perilous. Knowledge of them is dangerous, as well; the minions of Voldemort are eager to collect all such forbidden potions and will stop at nothing to acquire them."

Eregion looked at him, sitting upright like a man on guard, holding a wand in lieu of a sword and once again her sober face lightened for a moment in a smile. "No, Master Snape, it is no potion for harm, quite the opposite. The brewing of it has been lost and I feel that it is time to return it to use, given the situation at hand. I wish to have some on stock in our infirmary against any future need." She opened her outer robe and rummaged in an inner pocket, drawing out a handful of dried leaves. "Here is the main ingredient."

She passed the dried leaves to Severus who handled them carefully, turning them over and inspecting them closely, then sniffing at them delicately. Even long dried they had a faint, clean smell. "What are these? I'd say Mentha piperita[1] , but I know it would not be correct, the leaves are far too long."

"In the common tongue we speak it is called 'kingsfoil'. In the old language it was known as Athelas."

"Athelas. Have you the recipe for this potion?" Severus was becoming interested. A truly new potion was a rare thing. The smell of the dried herb had convinced him that the main ingredient was not in and of itself harmful, which lessened his worries that Eregion might have ulterior motives.

"I do indeed." Eregion drew a slip of parchment from her robes and gave it to him. Severus unfolded it and quickly scanned the list of ingredients and the instructions, his keen face thoughtful.

"This appears to be a simple decoction, with the leaves of Athelas being brewed after first soaking." He glanced up at Eregion over the parchment, dark eyes narrowing.

"You have a question."

"Yes. This recipe could be followed by a first year student, or by yourself, since I assume that you are competent in the basics of potion brewing. Why ask me to make it?"

"It is not simply a matter of throwing the correct ingredients into a cauldron and brewing tea," Eregion chuckled softly. "If it were, I could indeed make it myself, as you say."

Frowning Severus dropped his gaze back to the instructions. "What is so difficult then? Your recipe says, 'first take the soaked leaves of Athelas into your hands and breathe on them, then place them in water just off the boil…' really, Doctor, anyone could do this."

"Let me see your hands, Master Snape." Eregion held out her own hands in invitation.

With a shrug, Severus held out his hands to her, and she took them and turned them so she could see either side. Her fingers traced delicately over the surface of his potion-stained skin in a way that somehow felt intimate, as if she could read both mind and heart by the simple act of touch. Severus shuddered inside but before he could snatch his hands away, she released him gently.

"I was right. I knew it when I healed your hand, when we first met. You can make this potion."

"Will you please explain why I can make it, and not yourself?" he asked with some asperity, tucking his hands into the sleeves of his robes.

"Athelas was an herb created to serve the ancient kings. Other healers such as myself might find it useful, but only the king's hands could release the full power of the herb." She looked at him expectantly.

Severus rolled his eyes skyward and took a deep, steadying breath. "Doctor Eregion, last I looked, I wore no crown, nor do I stand in line to inherit one."

"Ahh, the external trappings are irrelevant in this day and age, my good Master Snape. The kings of yore are long gone, but their bloodline lives on, in the blood, body, and bone of their many descendants. Quite a few of them live on these fair isles. Many are muggles. And some are wizards. And then there are the very few who understand the subtleties of herb-lore and potions. Like yourself. Please Master Snape, do try." She leaned forward in urgency. "I could indeed brew the potion as described in the recipe you hold, it is hardly beyond my skill. But it would simply be a sweet-smelling tonic to cleanse the air in a foul room. To make the Potion For the Lifting of the Shadow, the hands of the king - or his descendent - are needed. Will you not try? Many people who may otherwise die this year might live, if you succeed."

"Potion For the Lifting of the Shadow?" he murmured, looking again at the parchment, the dour lines of his face becoming deeper as he thought. He raised his eyes to meet her pale gaze. "You must understand that my hands are not… clean. The potion may not meet your expectations." The confession came slowly, painfully. "I have something of a past, you see."

"It seems I have more faith in you than you have in yourself. All I ask is that you try. And believe this; the ability is as much part of you as the color of your eyes. No person, no deed, no matter how dire, can remove it from you." She did not seem the least bit worried by his oblique reference to his years as a Death Eater.

Severus knew when he'd been outmaneuvered. "Very well, Doctor, I will do my best. Come by tomorrow, after lunch. I should have some results by then, whether positive or negative."

"I will, and thank you." Eregion gave him a formal bow and left, closing the door behind her.

Severus stared at the barrier blindly for a minute, then looked again at the recipe, his mouth forming a pained scowl. "Potion For the Lifting of the Shadow. Brewed by me." Rubbing his left arm absently, he sank into his chair, pondering the vagaries of fate and the blissful ignorance of itinerant doctors.

Footnotes

1. Mentha piperita - common peppermint. An herb used to aid digestion and clear the sinuses.

Grateful thank-yous to my local beta-readers Judi and Kat, and A.L. Sauveterre.
-Colleen (aka Murasaki99)

Further disclaimer: This non-profit fan-fiction is not meant to infringe on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, either. All his stuff still belongs to him (and his heirs).
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