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The Dark Magic of Egypt by loony86

Format: Short story
Chapters: 7
Word Count: 8,011

Rating: 12+
Warnings: Substance abuse

Genres: General, Humor
Characters: Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, Voldemort, OC

First Published: 02/21/2006
Last Chapter: 09/13/2006
Last Updated: 06/30/2013


Severus Snape is helping the Dark Lord by brewing a potion which ancient Egyptian Dark Wizards invented. Or is he? Albus Dumbledore is sure Severus is on his side. Then again, he might not yet have chosen a side. Or, at that, he might never choose. *** This story takes place before HBP but contains HBP SPOILERS. *** Enjoy reading! ***

Chapter 1: Summer Holidays by Order of Lord Voldemort
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A/N: Lots of thanks and flowers go to my beta reader meridith, who helped make this story readable and, I hope, enjoyable.

It was a hot summer’s day on the plateau of Giza, the sun was burning down on crowds of tourists. A girl, about eight or nine years old, with an ice cream cone in her hand, and her mother, were walking towards the Sphinx.

An eight year girl with an ice cream cone dripping down her hand was walking toward the Sphinx with her mother.

The girl excitedly pointed toward the Sphinx and exclaimed, “Mom, look! There’s the Sphinx! It’s gigantic!”

Pointing excitedly towards anything, of course, is not the best of ideas when you have an already half melted ice cream in your hand. The ice cream cone brushed against the black cloak of a man standing nearby, leaving a smear of sticky vanilla ice cream behind. Severus Snape (for that’s who the man was) turned on his heels, and fixed his cold black eyes upon the mother and daughter, making both feel uneasy at once.

The mother apologised: “I’m terribly sorry, Sir, my daughter certainly didn’t mean to cause you any trouble, but everything here is so new and interesting to her and – “

She was, however, cut off in mid-sentence by Snape, “Never mind, (he did not at all look as though he didn’t mind...) “Although you should have taught your daughter some manners.”

With that, he turned and went away, and irritated look still on his face. As though he had nothing more important to do that mess around with Muggles! When no one was watching, he cleaned his cloak with a flick of his wand.

Two days – or rather nights – before he had met with the Dark Lord in a private place in England.

On a bench between a few trees and bushes, Lord Voldemort was waiting for him.

“I want you to understand,” the Dark Lord told him, “that this mission is of the greatest importance to our cause. You will use your summer holidays to take a trip to Egypt.”

“What do you want me to do, my Lord?” Snape asked.

“You will meet with an Egyptian wizard who is loyal to me. He will introduce you to your task.”

“Why me, though?”

“Ah, you would rather not?” the Dark Lord asked wryly. In a stern voice he went on to say, “I can’t do it myself, I am needed here.”

’And your appearance would scare any Muggle away,’ Snape thought.

“And you are“, Lord Voldemort continued, “my trusted right hand.“

“I am of course honoured, my Lord,” Snape answered, mock-bowing. Although I won’t ever believe it.

“Well, then get going! You are an annoying creature, Severus, did you know?”

“I know, my Lord, and I always considered that to be the reason why I am your “trusted right hand,”” Snape replied with a smile, which the Dark Lord returned.

And so, one day later, Severus Snape had apparated to Egypt and was now searching this Muggle packed patch of desert for an Egyptian wizard he didn’t even know.

He was still annoyed about Muggles in general and a certain girl and mother in particular, when a man passed slowly by. He was rather young, small, wiry, and had light brown hair. He was dressed in a set of wizard’s clothes of a brownish colour.

As he approached Snape, he whispered: “Follow me.“

The man went on without looking back, and Snape decided to follow because he could not make out any signs for a trap. This could well be the contact he had been told to meet.

The man walked towards some small souvenir stands, finding a space between them that was unobservable from around.

He pointed to an old Coke bottle lying in the dust, “This is our portkey.”

“Where will it take us?” Snape asked.

“Straight into a chamber of the Great Pyramid. The Muggles haven’t yet found it. I will tell you everything you need to know once we are inside,” the other man answered.

Both of them touched the portkey together and disappeared a second later. When the magical translocation device had done its job, Snape looked around and found they really had dematerialised in an ancient stone chamber. The walls were covered with very old writing and a few, just as old, pictures. The small room was empty except for one torch lighting it rather badly.

“The next thing we do is go to – ," the young wizard started, just to be interrupted by Snape.

“Go nowhere until you have explained a thing or two. First of all, who are you?”

“My name is Scarabaeus Betelgeuse,” he replied, “and you are Severus Snape? The Dark Lord told me you were one of his most trusted servants.” he continued, barely able to hide his curiosity.

“That is possible. So what is it he wants us to do?”

Scarabaeus was clearly surprised as he answered, “He didn’t tell you?”

“Maybe I just want to test you.”

“Or maybe you really don’t know!”

“Or maybe you forgot what your task is because you don’t really care,” Snape suggested, sneering.

“No! Oh, OK, I’ll just bore you and tell you everything you already know, all right?”

“That might indeed be a wise idea.”

“What we are looking for is an ancient potion,” Scarabaeus answered, then looking at Snape as though this simple reply was supposed to make him jump for joy.

“Really?” Snape said, “Now that helps! There can’t be more than a few thousand potions that were known to the ancient Egyptians! So would you mind being a little more specific?”

“Yes, of course, erm, I mean, no, I don’t mind. The effect of this potion is most extraordinary. It enhances the magical abilities of whoever drinks it. Just for a few hours, though, as far as I got it. I’ve always been rather bad at anything to do with potions, and not overly interested either,” he apologised, “Well, anyway“, he went on, somewhat unsettled by the look of disdain that Snape shot him, “of course we cannot find the potion itself, but a recipe for it. We know that it is somewhere within the Great Pyramid, and that we can use a Summoning Spell to get it. But before we can do that we have to break several protective curses around the old papyrus scroll. The first layer of spells was rather easy, we already got past that, but what lies behind has already cost the lives of two others working on it with me. We also feared that an attempt to go on might destroy the scroll.”

“I’ll need to know exactly what kind of spells you already encountered,” Snape demanded.

“That is no problem. We protocolled it all carefully. The parchments about that are in our main base of operations, straight through that wall,” Scarabaeus replied, pointing to the wall on his left hand side, “It works just as platform nine and three quarters, you can just walk through it. That is, if you happen to have a Dark Mark on your arm. Otherwise you’ll get stuck right in the stone,” he explained, smiling.

“That should not be a problem," Snape answered, strolling casually through the wall.

Chapter 2: Breaking the Spells
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The room that Scarabaeus Betelgeuse had called their “main base of operations" was larger than the chamber they came from. Rolls of parchment and quills were scattered on a table. The room was illuminated by a magical band of light that ran the entire way around the walls just beneath the low ceiling.

“Amazing, isn’t it?" Scarabaeus remarked while pointing at the lights, “This is an ancient light device we discovered here. Took us a while to find out exactly how it works, though."

“Most amazing" Snape replied wryly, “so which part of this parchment jungle will I have to dig through?"

"Erm, basically…well, all of it." Scarabaeus hesitated uneasily, then hurried to add, "Of course not all of this is really relevant, but the important parts are not, well, not all in one place."

The notes were even more chaotic than he had feared. It was a sad fact that the Dark Lord had to fall back upon third-class wizards to get the assistance he needed.

Three hours later the two of them had managed to assemble the information Severus needed to proceed with the spell-breaking.

“As I see it," he said, “you have broken through the Muggle protections so far, and we still have to deal with the enchantments that were set up to hide the papyrus from wizards."

“Yes, that’s the impression we got." Scarabaeus replied, “Depressing, thought, to think we are just a bit better than the average Muggle."

“It would certainly depress me," Snape agreed, already absorbed in the parchments.

“This magical shielding," he broke the concentrated silence about an hour later, “appears to have a centre where it is far stronger than on the edges. It seems you tried to penetrate it right in that centre, which was apparently not successful. We should now try the outer edges of the protection."

“Kind of sneak up from behind?" Scarabaeus asked, “I like that idea!"
“I believe you do," Snape retorted, sneering.

He now started muttering several spells that Scarabaeus had never heard before. They all sounded rather complicated, and he couldn’t think what effect they might have. After some time Snape stopped, shook his head and said, “We’ll have to make some drawings on the ground, the spells alone seem to be too weak. Get some chalk or something like that."

“We got chalk here somewhere," Scarabaeus replied, starting to search one of the drawers of the table; all of which seems to be stuffed with magical items at random. “What kind of patterns shall we draw?"

“It is known that of old certain circles, runes and other symbols, drawn while speaking the correct incantation, can make a spell stronger. I won’t explain the whole pattern to you, it’s rather complicated, but you can help."

“Ah, and here’s the chalk!" Scarabaeus exclaimed, “So what can I do?"

“Try to draw a circle, as close to perfectly round as you can, and speak ‘detego rem arcanam' while drawing it the whole time.

"Detego rem arcanam," Scarabaeus tested the spell, “I’ve never heard of that one before."

He started carefully drawing a circle on the ancient stone floor, repeating the incantation over and over. Ridiculous as this might have looked for a Muggle, he fulfilled his task diligently, glad to be of importance after all. Meanwhile, Severus Snape started on the runes within the round chalk line, and an hour later the floor was covered with difficult symbols of all kinds.

“That’s it now," he said, getting up from the floor, “I will try the revealing spell again."

Closing his eyes, he concentrated again and muttered something under his breath. He then stood silent for a moment, as though listening to something only he could hear.

“I think I’ve got it," he finally said to Scarabaeus, then held out one hand and spoke, “Accio papyrus!"

For some time nothing happened, and Scarabaeus already grew nervous. What would the Dark Lord do to him if the protecting curses killed Snape? But after a few minutes the stone wall shifted a bit, allowing something to pass through and land on Snape‘s hand. It was some kind of earthen vessel.

“So the recipe we were looking for is in that thing, and we can just take it out now?" Scarabaeus asked excitedly.

“Well, I wouldn’t ‘just take it out‘ exactly. I suppose there is some kind of poison inside the vessel which has to be neutralised," Snape answered, “But for that I will need quite a number of things you probably don’t have here. I will take the whole thing back to England."

“Well, I suppose that’s a good idea," Scarabaeus said disappointed, “I hope you’ll let me know how it all went on?"

“That will be for the Dark Lord to decide. But if the potion in the recipe works, he will certainly be very grateful to you."

Back outside they said goodbye and Snape apparated back to his small house at Spinner’s End.

He put the earthen vessel with the papyrus on his table, then fetched parchment, ink, and a quill and started writing:

My Lord,

with the support of Scarabaeus Betelgeuse I succeeded in retrieving the papyrus scroll you need. I will now go to Hogwarts because there I have the best chances of getting everything I need to brew the potion itself. I expect to give you the details in a personal meeting.


Severus Snape

He rolled up the parchment, spoke a short sealing spell and tied it to the leg of a brown owl which had already been waiting. “Take this to our master," he told the owl and opened a window to let her fly out. Then he sat down again and wrote a new letter:

Dear Albus,

I expect to arrive at Hogwarts tomorrow night. I need to talk to you as soon as possible.


Severus Snape

After the second owl had taken off he made himself comfortable in his armchair, summoning a glass of old elf-made wine, and laid back with a satisfied smile on his face.

Chapter 3: Geister and Goblins
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“Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans!”

The great gargoyle swung aside as Albus Dumbledore, who stood waiting at the bottom of the spiral staircase, said, “That’s the seventh time for today, Peeves. Don’t you ever get tired of this?”

“I’ll get tired of trying all the names of those sweets as soon as you get tired of changing the password three times a day, Headmaster.”

“No, you won’t.”

“Yes, I will.”

“No, you won’t, because you never do. You kept opening and closing the entry for half an hour last time.”
“Always ducking out of the way of the things your protection spell kept throwing at me.”

“You didn’t have to duck away, you’re as transparent as a ghost. Things fly straight through you.”

“Oh, but Headmaster, consider my situation! These are the,” Peeves drew a grimace, “summer holidays!”

“And there’s no one around you can play your tricks on except for Hagrid and me, I understood that much. You could, on the other hand, just do something useful.”

“You know I cannot. I’m me.”

“Well, yes, that much is certain,“ Dumbledore remarked dryly, “Now look here, Peeves. I’ve got quite a lot of work to do, but I think Professor Snape will return tomorrow. Why don’t you bully him for a change?“

“But Headmaster, you know that Professor Snape is perfectly boring. Especially for anyone who is not afraid of being killed, turned into something nasty, or whatever else he always threatens people with. He’s no fun!”

“Then why don’t you consider him a challenge?” Dumbledore suggested, then went up the staircase again shaking his head in amusement.

Peeve really does test his nerves sometimes, but on the other hand, he could not possibly tell the ghosts and the poltergeist to leave the castle. They belonged here. ‘Professor Snape is perfectly boring. Especially for anyone who is not afraid of being killed, turned into something nasty, or whatever else he always threatens people with,’ Dumbledore thought. How little Peeves sometimes knew about people…or could Peeves possibly be afraid of Snape in some irrational way? However he, Dumbledore, certainly was not. It was always hard to explain your trust in someone to others without giving away secrets you had promised to keep. But still, he absolutely trusted Snape. Whatever he seemed to be like, he would never betray him. ‘Let’s see what he will tell me when he arrives,’ Dumbledore thought, always curious to gain new pieces of information to fit into the big puzzle labeled “Lord Voldemort’s Doings”.

Meanwhile, Severus Snape was doing some shopping in London. He had purchased several ingredients for potions in Diagon Ally, but then had turned down to Knockturn Alley in an attempt to avoid seeing too many of his students. Stopping every now and then for a short chat with someone he knew, or to take a look in a shop window, he slowly made his way towards the end of the alley; where the shops grew constantly shabbier and more suspicious looking.

“Severus, my old friend! Is it possible?” Snape turned to see who this submissive voice belonged to: it was an old goblin he remembered having met what seemed to be ages ago. The creature had been of some personal help to the Dark Lord and was ever since of the opinion that it belonged to the inner circle of the Death Eaters.

“I haven’t seen you for quite a time. I thought you left London years ago?” Snape said.

“Well, I have, but I found it difficult to live so far away from... well, just about everything,” the goblin replied. Yes, Snape thought, you’ve always found it hard to bear the thought of anything important going on without your ugly nose inside it.

Aloud he said: “Is there anything in particular you want of me? For if not...“

“Oh, yes, there is something indeed. But nothing I want of you; rather the other way around.”

“I can’t think of anything useful you’ve ever done for me,” the wizard remarked.

“And just like always you underestimate me. I have“ – he took a careful look around – “something to sell.“

“And what would that be?” Snape asked, slowly losing his patience.

“Powdered hippogriff talons, cut off and finished with all the proper incantations.”

“Show me“, Snape demanded. The goblin took out a small wooden box with rich ornaments, and opened it as though revealing a great secret. Inside was a very fine light grey powder.

“This is, as you will know, a very rare substance and can be used for many potions, especially for those the ministry does not, well, approve of“, the goblin advertised his powder.

“How much would it be?”

“Hmm, for you, let’s say five galleons?”

“Too much,” Snape said while handing back the box and turning to go.

“Wait!” the goblin shouted, “Two galleons!”

“Sounds better,” Snape said, “I’ll take it.” He handed the goblin the gold coins and carefully stuffed the wooden box away in his cloak.

“It is always a pleasure to make business with a good friend, isn’t it?” the goblin added.

“Indeed it is,” Snape replied. He turned and went back up the alley. He didn’t see that the goblin, whatever his criteria, had expected a better treatment. And he did not see the Kneazle that crossed the Alley a few feet behind him. He would apparate just outside Hogwarts, then start working on the potion for his master.

Outside of Hogwarts, the weather was pretty cool and wet for a summer’s day. The sky clouded and a light rain had just started falling down when Snape apparated to just outside the gates. He pulled his cloak a little closer and hurried up towards the great old castle. Due to the summer holidays he didn’t meet anyone on his way through the entrance hall and down to the dungeons. He put the things he had brought onto a table in his classroom. He took a deep breath, and then went off again to see Albus Dumbledore.

At the entrance to the headmaster’s office Snape met Peeves, who was apparently in a bad mood.
“It’s ‘Chocolate Frogs,’” Peeves said.

“The Headmaster changed the password?” Snape asked slightly surprised.

“And not just once,” Peeves replied, “Professor Dumbledore is being cruel to me, you know.”

”Oh, what a poor creature you are,” Snape sneered, then went on, “Chocolate Frogs!” The door swung open and Snape went up to Dumbledore’s office. He rapped on the door three times and was politely asked in.

“Good evening, Severus,” Dumbledore greeted him and motioned for him to sit down, “Did you meet Peeves?”

“Well, yes. He was the one who told me the new password. And he told me you were being cruel to him.”

“He found it amusing to open and close the door to my office. I suppose I should have punished him in some way, but you know why I don’t. Well, then,” he changed the subject, “What can you tell me?”

“I found out that the Dark Lord is working on some kind of potion which he hopes will make his magic even stronger. I cannot give you details yet, but I wanted you to know that there’s something going on. He’ll probably have tests being run right now.”

“That’s worrying indeed. You will have to keep informed about his progress of course. But we also need all the information about the potion itself so we can get or develop some kind of antidote. Do you think this potion is as strong as Voldemort hopes?”

“I can’t tell you. I’ve not yet had the chance to take a look at the recipe,” Snape replied, “but it is possible. We are talking about a bit of magic the sorcerers of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs developed.”

“I suppose there’s little we can do right now except investigate,” Dumbledore said, “Try to get as closely involved as you can.”

“I had planned to do so anyway. The Dark Lord considers it an inner-circle-only-project, so any nosing will be dangerous.”

“I know, Severus, and don’t believe I like giving all those jobs to you. But right now you are the logical, and come to think about it, the only choice for a spy,” Dumbledore answered. “You will of course get any help you need.”

They talked about a few other things before Snape went back to his rooms to finally start working on the potion itself. He knew he probably should have told Dumbledore everything he knew, but then again, he didn’t want Dumbledore to take any action too soon. He preferred controlling things himself and not having anyone interfere. Not even Dumbledore, or, at that, Voldemort. And right now, he definitely had some plans of his own concerning this Egyptian potion.

Chapter 4: The Kneazle Knows How You'll Decide
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Back in his classroom, Severus Snape placed a locking charm on the door and put a strong oil lamp on one of the tables. He had never liked this classroom particularly much. It was so full of memories, memories of his days as a student. In his seventh year he had been so sure he would never have to see this school again from inside, and it was easy to hate the place in which he had suffered. Easier than searching for reasons. He sighed; he had sworn to himself never to come back to that life, and when he had entered the room almost sixteen years ago as a newly appointed teacher, he had stood on the threshold for minutes, shuddering. The years between school and school had been terrible, but coming back to Hogwarts had not been a happy experience either. He tried to shake those thoughts off, telling himself they were just the result of a long day. That they had nothing to do with the decision he had to make.

Snape fetched the earthen artefact that contained the papyrus. Maybe, he thought, the papyrus is long rotten, or has been taken out, or destroyed... He banned those thoughts from his mind and set to work. He tried some simple unsealing spells, but all they earned him were a few burns on his hands as the ancient vessel reflected his spells. When he had proceeded to far less easy spells and didn’t get any better results, he finally decided to give the library of Hogwarts a chance to be of assistance.

In the summer holidays, the castle of Hogwarts was almost like a normal (though, of course, magical) castle. No students, no shouting, laughing, or running. Just old stone walls and portraits, halls and rooms and moving staircases. At times like these, even Snape could appreciate the beauty of the ancient building. Lost in thoughts like these, he found himself at the door to the library; it was locked, and he assumed Madame Pince wasn’t present. He opened the door with his key and, lighting a lamp, headed straight for the Restricted Section. The rest of the library was not likely to offer anything of real use to him.

Meanwhile, and far away, the Dark Lord was reading a letter.

Most Honoured Lord,

I offer my apologies for addressing you so boldly. I am aware of the fact that I am only an ordinary goblin who is not worth one minute of your precious time. Nonetheless, I am also your loyal and humble servant, and I feel I have something of importance to tell you.

I was in London yesterday, attending to some business in Knockturn Alley. There, I met one of your most trusted Death Eaters: Severus Snape. I had the chance to do him a favour by selling him powdered hippogriff talons of a most excellent quality. That is, of course, nothing that has to interest you at all. I only want to make sure that you know I was spying on Mr Snape. When he turned and went away, a Kneazle crossed the alleyway nearby. You are of course aware that Kneazles sense trustworthiness in people and avoid those who cannot be trusted. Or so it is said, at least. We know, however, that Kneazles only trust those people who work against us and are trustworthy in other ways; your no less trustworthy servants have undoubtedly often encountered a hostile attitude from Kneazles. This particular Kneazle, however, was not avoiding Mr Snape. I am, as you must be aware, not trying to suggest that he might be anything else than loyal to you. I know he is on your side and will always be. I think we must nonetheless keep the behaviour of the Kneazle in mind. There may be a way to make your Death Eaters undetectable by Kneazles: Maybe it was a new breed of Kneazle, or maybe Mr Snape found a way to fool Kneazles without even knowing he did.

Again, I apologise for taking so much time from you, and I sincerely hope I have been of some assistance.

Your most humble servant

The letter was signed with an unintelligible scribble.

For a short while Voldemort seemed to consider what the goblin had written. Maybe Severus was not... No, that thought was ridiculous. He had plenty of evidence that Severus was loyal to him.

“You know, Nagini,” he said to his pet snake, “if this goblin creature has some open business with Severus it’s none of my concerns. And if it really believes any of this – well, it should just tell me directly and see what happens. Don’t you think so?” Nagini, coiled up at her master’s feet, hardly reacted, and the Dark Lord threw the goblin’s letter into the fire. Yet the thoughtful look on his face didn’t vanish entirely.

“Ah, here we are!” Amid several piles of old books (some of them were moving of their own account) stood Snape, an open volume in his hands. It was a large heavy book, bound in very old black leather. The pages were already so much yellowed that the writing wasn’t clearly visible any more in some places. Fading golden letters on the spine of the book announced that it was about “Neutralising Stubborn Sealing Spells with Dark Magic”.

Snape left the library with the ancient book under his arm, replacing the books he didn’t need into the shelves with an Arranging Spell.

Hardly an hour later, Snape held the papyrus with the potions recipe in his hands. It was written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. That was no surprise, of course, and Snape had already fetched a dictionary and the necessary symbol charts. He sat in the classroom translating the papyrus until – it was almost morning – he could finally lock the papyrus and a parchment with the translation safely away. The potion sounded horribly complicated, even to him. He knew it would take days at least to brew it, if not weeks. The good side was, of course, that there were also uncounted opportunities to change the effect of the potion, to make it yet a little better... or to accidentally mess it up...

Chapter 5: Peeves Again
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A/N: Thanks to Dave for his help with Scarabaeus. Without him, I still wouldn’t have updated – for lack of a plot. And another cookie to Meridith once more for all her betaing work – she read and corrected the whole story so far.

Seven Thirteenths of a scale of powdered Ridgeback claw.

Three stirs clockwise.

Seventeen drops of Unicorn blood.

Wait one minute.

Two stirs counter clockwise.

Wait two days.

And that was just the beginning of the brewing process, Snape thought. This Egyptian potion would take a lot longer than he had estimated, especially with the changes he would have to make.

He didn’t yet know what exactly he could do. Of course, if he just left out one step of the instructions, the potion wouldn’t work anymore. But the Dark Lord would never believe that that was an accident. He also couldn’t make all possible improvements because Dumbledore would find out. No, he would have to find something very, very subtle – either way.

Snape took up his translations of the papyrus again. According to the notes, he would have to add two bezoars to the potion in two days.

This struck him as very unusual. Nowadays everyone knew that one bezoar neutralised poison while adding more of them could have unwanted side effects. Admittedly not everyone knew it, but it was still true.

Maybe this had not been known to the ancient Egyptians… Snape decided to try it with one bezoar. The potion could only get more powerful by that.

He fetched a quill and made a note about it on the parchment.

Suddenly a glass of ink came flying out of nowhere and missed the cauldron only by inches. It shattered on the floor, sending splashes of black ink in all directions.

“Peeves!” Snape hissed menacingly.

“Oh, Professor! I didn’t know you were working!” Peeves said, trying to sound innocent.

Snape scowled at Peeves and stepped over to his cauldron to clean up the mess. Peeves still swooped around the room just below the ceiling, but he made a point of not throwing anything else.

The poltergeist went into a dive over Snape’s desk and tried to catch a glimpse of the parchment lying there. He had barely read a few lines when the parchment rolled up on its own account.

Clearly nervous now, Peeves floated away from the desk.

“Professor,” he inquired cautiously, “why would you want to make that potion better?”

“What’s it to you?” Snape asked back. “And why don’t you go running to Dumbledore and tell him?”

“What if I do?” Peeves asked a little frightened.

“Well, I couldn’t keep you, could I?” Snape replied silkily and with a malevolent smile.

“I don’t think the new portraits should go to the third floor, Albus. The Minister will want to see them in a more prominent place,” McGonagall pointed out to Dumbledore. They were sitting in his office and enjoying a cup of tea.

“True, but on the other hand –“ Dumbledore stopped in mid-sentence.

“Headmaster! Headmaster!” Peeves shouted as he flew straight through the door into the circular room.

“Peeves! What’s the matter with you? And why must interrupt the Headmaster like that?” Minerva inquired indignantly.

“I’m sorry, but it’s important. Headmaster, Snape is working for You-Know-Who!”

“Of course he is. You know he’s our spy, Peeves,” Dumbledore answered gently.

“No, no! I mean he’s really working for the dark side!”

“How did you get any such idea?” McGonagall asked.

“I saw it!” Peeves exclaimed, “You told me about this Egyptian potion, Professor Dumbledore. Snape is working on a way to make it better.”

“But Albus, you said Severus would sabotage the potion,” McGonagall worried, “What if…?”

“It’s okay, Peeves, I’ll take care of this. You can go now,” Dumbledore said to Peeves. The poltergeist let himself drop through the floor, but he was clearly not happy about Dumbledore’s reaction.

When they were alone again, Dumbledore said to McGonagall, “I don’t think so, Minerva. I suppose Severus is just working out all possible options for how the recipe can be changed.”

“Yes, that’s possible,” McGonagall admitted reluctantly, “but I still think you are a bit too trusting about Severus.”

“I have reasons, Minerva, very solid reasons.”

“You always said so, yes…”

“I’m not going to share these reasons, not even with you. They are too personal. Minerva,” he said with a consoling smile. “Why don’t you just trust me with this?”

“I do trust you, Albus. You know that’s not the point. With all due respect; if Severus is spying for us, he manages to deceive You-Know-Who somehow. That’s not an easy feat. Why should he not be able to lie to you as well?”

“You are perfectly right. He probably could. But he doesn’t. I’m sorry, Minerva, but I can’t explain this to you. Not yet, at least,” Dumbledore said and took a sip of tea. “Now, as for the portraits…”

Minerva sighed; she had always wondered if you had to have a difficult personality to be a great wizard.

“Nagini, I’ve been wondering,” Voldemort said, stroking his pet snake gently, “When we get this potion… You know, my dear, it will make me a lot stronger and more powerful. I can do anything. What do you think we should start with? Immortality… Ruling the world… Oh Nagini, I’m in a philosophical mood today… Unlimited possibilities…”

A knock on the door interrupted his musings.

“Yes?” Voldemort said.

The door opened, and Snape entered the room.

“Good evening, my Lord,” he said.

“Good evening, Severus. Any news?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. There might be a way to make this potion work at all, and there’s also a remote chance to even improve it a bit.”

“That’s wonderful! How long will it take?” Voldemort wanted to know, his eyes gleaming.

“That’s the bad part. It could well take several weeks. And I will have to go back to Egypt, I didn’t find all the ingredients here,” Snape replied.

“That’s a pity. We will have to wait, then…,” Voldemort added in Nagini’s direction.

“Dumbledore might suspect something. I think he still trusts me, but I have no idea exactly how much more our relationship can take. I may have to work yet more slowly.”

“Not a problem. Just do it as fast as you can, but don’t risk too much. I want this potion,” Voldemort said.

“Of course, my Lord,” Severus answered and left with a bow.

There was a minute of silence after he had gone, and then Voldemort turned to Nagini once more.

“Do you trust him, dear?”

Nagini didn’t answer. She just slithered a little closer to the large fireplace.

Chapter 6: Back to Egypt
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Snape was working on the ancient potion for the Dark Lord again. The instructions he had to follow now were annoying. There seemed to be no point at which the potion could be sabotaged properly. It could of course be messed up at various places, but that would change its colour and smell. Voldemort would instantly notice that something had been manipulated.

There was only one way. And a certain Goblin would prove useful after all: Snape could use his powdered Hippogriff talons for his plans.

But he would also need something else for these plans, something he could only find in Egypt.

He fetched some parchment, ink and a quill, and wrote,

Dear Mr. Betelgeuse,

I shall apparate to Egypt soon because our Lord needs your help once more. To complete the potion he requested, I must get another rare ingredient that I could not find anywhere in London. You should be able to get it for me though since it was first discovered in your country and is still being used a lot in Egypt. I expect to arrive at Giza tomorrow.


Severus Snape

Soon after, an owl started the long flight from Hogwarts to the land of the pharaohs. Its owner, on the other hand, decided to take the rest of the day off.

Giza was sweltering with heat when Snape apparated there the next day. He found Scarabaeus in the “main base of operations” in the Great Pyramid, just as he had expected.

“Oh, good morning, Mr. Snape,” Scarabaeus looked up from an old papyrus he was studying. “How is our Master’s potion coming along?”

“Fine so far, but I need one more thing to complete it,” Snape replied.

“Yes, you said so in your letter, Sir. If you had told me what it was I could already have got it for you…”

“I couldn’t risk putting that into a letter, could I? What I need are seedlings of Pharaoh’s Root.”

“Oh! That’s a fantastic plant! Did you know it can strangle an adult once it’s fully grown? And it’s also– ” Scarabaeus was getting excited, but Snape interrupted him.

“Yes, I know. I just need seedlings though. They’re harmless; apart from being a bit poisonous, of course,” Snape explained a bit impatiently.

“But-,” Scarabaeus started, but didn’t continue.

“But what?” Snape asked.

“But won’t the seedlings make the whole potion poisonous?”

“I hope you’re not suggesting that I want to poison the Dark Lord?” Snape asked dangerously.

“No! No, of course not! You know I’d never – “

“Good for you. And if you need to know: the poison becomes perfectly harmless if it’s being boiled. Now, where can we get the seedlings?” Snape inquired.

“They were classified as Dark Magic, so it’s illegal to buy or sell them. But I know a merchant who deals with all sorts of magical stuff, legal or not.”

“Where can we find him?” Snape wanted to know.

“Well, I thought that whatever you’d need, it would be tricky to get. So I asked the merchant to come here,” Scarabaeus answered.

Snape seemed a bit surprised by Scarabaeus’s sudden display of independent thinking, but asked, “What’s his name and, well, background?”

“He never gave us his name. We usually refer to him as ‘The Merchant’, and that seems to be okay with him,” Scarabaeus explained. “And as for his background – as far as I know, he’s a loyal Death Eater. He helped us with some of our operations here in the pyramids.”

After a short pause he added, “He should be here any minute now.”

Scarabaeus was right; only moments later, a man stepped through the wall. He wore a long cloak and some kind of traditional Egyptian headgear that made it difficult to make out any facial features at all.

“Good morning, Scarabaeus,” the merchant said in a hoarse voice.

“Good morning, Merchant,” Scarabaeus replied, and then went on, “Meet Severus Snape. As I told you, he needs something from you.”

“That’s true,” Snape said, “I need seedlings of Pharaoh’s Root.”

“Not a problem, Mr. Snape. I have them on stock. Can I owl them to you?” the merchant asked, “I keep these things in Cairo.”

“Yes, I suppose that would be okay. Send them to Hogwarts School.”

“To Hogwarts?” the merchant asked curiously.

“Is that a problem?” Snape asked back.

“Why, of course not. Erm…how do we handle the payment?”

“I can give you the money as soon as Mr. Snape confirms to me that he received the seedlings,” Scarabaeus offered.

“Fine then. It’s always a pleasure to make business with you,” the merchant said and went back through the wall with a bow.

The next morning an owl flew through the halls of Hogwarts down to the dungeons, a little package tied to its leg.

The ancient instructions didn’t mention Pharaoh’s Root, but it was clear to Snape that the plant would do nothing to improve the potion. It wouldn’t do harm either, though.

Powdered Hippogriff talons, on the contrary, would make the potion completely useless. It would turn bright blue instead of dark green and taste like blood orange juice.

But if the two substances were mixed together before being added to the concoction, they’d have a most interesting effect.

The potion would be dark green, as desired. And it would strengthen the drinker’s magical abilities the way it should. It would, that is, if the drinker could get it into his system, allow it to circle in his blood.

But that would never happen. Snape smirked to himself at the thought of what his little mixture would do to the Dark Lord.

In a small bowl, Snape mixed the powdered talons and the seedlings, which he had cut into tiny pieces. Then he added a few drops of dragon blood because it was known to tie magical substances firmly to one another. Strictly speaking, that wasn’t even necessary. But Snape didn’t want to risk anything.

A few more ingredients would need to be added, but the potion was finished the same day.

Lord Voldemort sat in an armchair by the fire, a piece of parchment in his hands. He had a very content look upon his face. Nagini was once more rolled up at his feet, resting her head against his legs.

“Oh my dearest Nagini, victory is close,” Voldemort said dreamily.

Nagini hissed something, as though in reply, and Voldemort answered, “Yes, this is a letter from Severus. He says he had to make some minor changes to the recipe, but the potion would work now. He wants to come here tonight, my dear.”

Again Nagini hissed and wriggled as though in discomfort.

“No, dear, I shouldn’t think so. I know what this brew has to look and smell like. Even if he wanted to fool me in some way, I’d know it,” Voldemort said absentmindedly, stroking Nagini’s head.

Chapter 7: Why Potions Might or Might Not Work
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Snape filled some of the potion into a large flask and left Hogwarts Castle to visit Lord Voldemort. When he arrived at the Dark Lord’s house, Voldemort was already waiting for him, trying hard to hide his impatience and anticipation.

“Good evening, Severus. You have the potion?” he asked expectantly.

“Yes, my Lord, it is finally finished,” Snape replied with a hint of pride in his voice. He put the flask onto the low table next to Voldemort’s favourite armchair by the fire.

“I assume you want to try it straight away, my Lord?” Snape asked with some irony.

“Yes, most definitely, Severus,” Voldemort answered, then added, “I hope for you that it works and really makes me stronger.”

“It will work, unless there was something wrong with a certain ingredient I had to use,” Snape assured him while he fetched one of Lord Voldemort’s expensive wineglasses and poured some of the darkly shimmering green concoction into it.

“One glass of this mixture is already enough to achieve the maximum possible effect. It will last for several weeks before it starts wearing off,” Snape explained as he handed the glass to Voldemort.

Voldemort took the glass and slowly lifted it to his lips. At first he just sniffed at it to see if it smelled the way it should. Apparently it did, and the Dark Lord took a sip of it, then another, and finally he greedily drained the glass to the last drop.

Then he put the glass back onto the table and waited.

Almost a minute later, Snape finally asked, “Do you feel anything yet?”

“No, not really,” Voldemort answered.

“Try doing some wandless magic,” Snape suggested.

Voldemort held out his left hand and tested it, “Accio candle!”

The big solitary candle on the mantelpiece began to rock and then it flew into Voldemort’s outstretched hand.

Snape shook his head, “You were able to do that before, weren’t you?”

“Yes, indeed. What’s wrong with your brew, Severus? Shouldn’t I have been able to summon the candle faster, or with less effort?” Voldemort inquired. He was clearly disappointed, and that was a dangerous state with him.

“It is as I feared, then,” Snape commented cryptically.

“And exactly what is that supposed to mean?” Voldemort asked threateningly.

“I had to add some of the very rare seedlings of Pharaoh’s Root to the potion. Otherwise it would have been too strong.”

“What do you mean, too strong? Would it have enhanced my powers more than you wanted to?” Voldemort inquired, narrowing his eyes.

“Of course not. It would have killed you.”

“What? But – why?”

“Because, in order to be able to drink the potion in its strong form, a person must… well, they need to have a complete soul in them,” Snape explained.

“What rubbish! Who would want such a potion?” Voldemort exclaimed.

“The ancient Egyptians believed very strongly in these things. A complete soul was, for them, necessary to find eternal life after they died.”

“Well, I’m not planning on dying. So you added Pharaoh’s Root, and the potion got a little weaker. But how can it have got so weak that it doesn’t have any effect whatsoever?”

“It didn’t. You see, I added just very little Pharaoh’s Root, and that could never have caused the potion to become that weak,” Snape explained.

Voldemort took a deep breath to calm himself.

“We’re going in circles here, Severus. Now, why do you think it didn’t work?”

“It’s a very rare effect. You must know that I bought Pharaoh’s Root of the highest quality. But it still had some substances in it which, together with your incomplete soul, caused a chain reaction. In other words, you just can’t absorb the potion into your system.”

“Is there anything we can do?”

“The only possibility would be very, very pure Pharaoh’s Root, without any traces of bacteria, viruses or anything else in it. I’ll keep searching for something like that, of course, but…” Snape shrugged.

“But what?”

“But I don’t think it’s possible to find such seedlings of Pharaoh’s Root. Now, if you still had at least half of your soul in you, it would be easier…”

“Don’t you start criticising my lack of soul now!” Voldemort said testily.

“Of course not, Master,” Snape couldn’t quite conceal a smile.

“Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier?” Voldemort wanted to know.

“I thought the seedlings had been sufficiently pure,” Snape said, “and I didn’t want to bother you with what-ifs.”

“How nice of you,” the Dark Lord sneered.

Back at Hogwarts, Snape went to his rooms first. He decided to tell Dumbledore the next day. He knew that he had had a rather narrow escape. Luckily, Lord Voldemort didn’t know too much about ancient magic.

Snape congratulated himself to the brilliant idea of blaming Pharaoh’s Root and Voldemort’s soul when the real reason was so much simpler – Pharaoh’s Root and Hippogriff talons. Voldemort could hardly stumble across the truth in any old book. Horcruxes were used only very rarely, and therefore most souls, even evil ones, were basically complete.

Snape went to bed feeling very relieved, if a bit exhausted. Of course Lord Voldemort had attempted to use Legilimency. And of course he had only found faked memories.

Early the next morning, Snape went up to Dumbledore’s office to meet him and McGonagall. He knocked.

“Come in,” the Headmaster called from within, and Snape entered.

“Good morning, Minerva, Albus,” Snape greeted them and sat down. “I have good news.”

“Let’s hear it, then,” McGonagall demanded.

Snape told them the whole story – the same story he had told Voldemort. Only that this time, he said that the chances for the potion not to work had actually be a little higher.

“Still you were taking chances,” McGonagall interjected, “There must have been a surer way to spoil the potion.”

“You think it was just a coincidence, and I actually wanted it to work?” Snape asked bluntly.

Of course, McGonagall denied that, but it was quite obvious that Snape hadn’t been so very wrong about her thoughts.

“Now, Minerva, I think there really was no way to ‘spoil it’ without Voldemort noticing,” Dumbledore remarked.

“If you say so, Headmaster,” McGonagall said a little stiffly, then added, “I have to go now, Albus, I still have a lot of work to do before the term starts.”

“Of course, Minerva,” Dumbledore replied and walked her to the door.

When she was gone Snape said, “She’ll never believe anything I say, will she?”

“I can’t blame her. Your report wasn’t all too convincing, you know?” Dumbledore replied.

“I think I should go now, too,” Snape answered and got up.

“Severus?” Dumbledore said when Snape had already opened the door.

“Yes?” Snape turned back.

“Seedlings of Pharaoh’s Root alone can never have that effect on any potion. No matter their quality, and no matter the condition of the drinker, or of his soul,” Dumbledore said, his eyes sparkling conspiratorially.

Snape smiled. Then he turned and left the Headmaster’s office.

A/N: Thanks to you all for reading the story to the very end! I feel very honoured to have such nice readers as you. :) The main goal of this story was to show the mechanics of the relationship between Severus and Albus. In other words: To find out why the heck Albus trusts Severus when no one else has any proof that he’s on the “good side”. Of course, all that might turn out to be completely AU if Severus really is loyal to Lord Voldemort. But I hope that’s not the case. Bye to you all, and I hope you try one of my other stories. =)

A real lot of thanks, hugs, flowers and cookies go, once more, to my beta reader Meridith! And also to Dave for helping me out of a writer’s block concerning Scarabaeus.