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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.

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