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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...

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