lavivi: scan from Hellsing manga of Integra and Alucard (Severus does triumph)
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My more recent exchange - second year with [livejournal.com profile] less_for_you. The prompt I received asked for potion-making in a different setting, such as during the summer, and lots of technical detail.

{Improvisational Chemistry}

The underbrush tickled her ankles and calves as Lily walked through the woods, carrying a wooden board under her arm and a heavy sack and towel over her shoulder. The June day had felt unbearably stifling in her house with the air conditioning out and Petunia's voice shrilling higher and higher in her complaints, but under the trees and out of sight of people and buildings, the air seemed much more bearable.

Arriving at a small, familiar clearing, she spread the towel out before sitting cross-legged on it. From the sack she took a cauldron the size of a medium-size Muggle mixing bowl like her mother had in the cupboard, an iron stand for the cauldron, a bundle of tools wrapped in a cloth, a plastic box, and two water bottles. She nestled the cauldron in the stand in front of her, opened the box, and folded her hands under her chin as she pondered its contents. Two and a half ginger roots, a full vial of powdered moonstone, a fairly large tin of murtlap tentacles, a package of nettles, another vial of salamander blood, and small but nearly equal amounts of wormwood and asphodel. It was quite an assortment, and after all the preparation to come here, Lily couldn't for the life of her think of a potion only utilizing these ingredients.

For a while she experimentally placed different groups of ingredients together before her on the towel, struggling to run through her memorized recipes. If only she had refilled her belladonna, she would have had half a dozen choices of interesting potions....

The sound of steps, as quiet as they might have tried to be, broke her attention. Lily did not move at once, but lifted her eyes slightly, waiting until she could see Severus approaching. He did not try to hide, but came forward slowly – and not just slowly, she thought, but with a discernible amount of hesitation in his movements. Well, it was justified.

When he reached the clearing, Lily straightened to lean back against the tree as she looked up at him, her hands open in her lap – as clear as an invitation as she would give him.

Severus sat down guardedly, his back against a tree opposite the clearing. His eyes were narrowed above his large nose, emphasizing his unsmiling lips, but his hands too were loose in his lap.

They looked at each other across the clearing, Lily lost in contemplation, until Severus broke the silence. "What are you brewing?" His voice was oddly flat, sounding unfamiliar without any edge.

Lily looked down at her materials. "I don't know yet. Not sure what I can."

He raised his hand, hesitated, then moved forward, crossing the space between them to the other side of her cauldron, inspecting her assortment ingredients. After a moment, he said, "Hm."

"Yes."

Severus abruptly leaned back, frowning at the bottom of her cauldron. "Disregarding, for a moment, this merely being ahypothetical potion-brewing situation" – the sarcastic tone had returned, yet without the poisonous personal touch – "were you intending to practice the arcane Muggle skill of building a fire by hand?"

Lily raised her eyebrows. Never breaking eye contact, she reached into her short pockets, held up a lighter, and flicked it on.

Severus' lips twitched unmistakably, though nothing else in his expression changed, but her own lips turned up in response.

"Well," he said, his voice lighter, "in that case, the ginger, moonstone, and nettles should make a good receptive base for anything else."

"For what else?"

His fingertips lightly rolled the asphodel over. "It would be...interesting...to see how the salamander's blood and this combined."

"Hm," she said, tapping her finger on the lighter. "Yes. Interesting."

They looked at the asphodel, and then Lily picked up one of her water bottles and pointed it at Severus. "You'll owe me new ingredients for this pointless wreck of an experiment."

He smirked, the devilish expression old and familiar. "I'm not forcing your hand or stealing anything. It's your own choice and prospective loss."

She scowled even as she unscrewed the cap and poured the water into the cauldron. "Get me some twigs."

He brought a handful to her from around the clearing, and after piling most of them beneath the cauldron, she lit a few in her hand and poked them beneath. Within a few minutes this produced a successful, tiny blaze, and Lily felt a great sense of accomplishment.

Severus took one of the knives from her bundle to chop the ginger roots, crouching close over her cutting board. His pale fingers pinched the root as he moved the knife quickly but meticulously, slicing and dicing the ginger into even pieces. It fascinated Lily to watch him in a new setting, the bright and sweltering woods instead of the cold, dim dungeon.

He used only half a root, so Lily added what seemed to be a reasonably proportional amount of nettles - hm, she had neglected to bring a set of scales, but Severus didn't complain – and after a few minutes of stirring, added a few pinches of moonstone dust. The potion's surface began to shimmer, the color seemingly clear beneath, but tricky to tell.

"So what do you think?" she asked, toying with the vial of salamander's blood.

He rubbed his hand across his glistening forehead absently, frowning as he always did at potions. "Usually, the use of salamander's blood with this sort of base needs to be offset with fluxweed, lovage, or some other type of flora with similar properties. As we are without, and only have the much more potent asphodel as a substitute...I say we put the asphodel in first and add the blood as soon as it disintegrates."

"So says the potions prodigy."

He caught her eye at that; she smiled, and though he didn't quite reciprocate, she recognized a look in his eye which she could almost call affectionate. It was the first snap of connection they had felt in a long time.

The asphodel dissolved almost at once, and Lily emptied the vial after it; at once the potion began to boil more violently and produce heavy clouds of dark smoke, entirely obscuring the surface. Lily had learned a hard lesson years ago about putting her hand in smoke produced by volatile or unknown potions, so she leaned away from it to see Severus instead of waving it away.

"I wonder what on earth this could do."

He shrugged, also leaning sideways away from the cauldron. "It could be a cure for dragonpox for all we know. That would be extremely unlikely, but not impossible."

Lily rummaged in her box of remaining ingredients. "What do you say to a tentacle or two?"

"I wouldn't advise it." Severus suddenly lunged toward a bush, pulling back with a squirming black and yellow catepillar. "This seems more appropriate and in the improvisational spirit of this concoction." He placed it on the board, took the knife, and sliced its head off without further ado. Lily couldn't help a slight grimace, but said nothing as he tossed the still-twitching body into the smoke over the cauldron. She had hardly begun to stir it again, however, when the smoke abruptly ceased, and she saw the potion had stopped boiling and returned to a clear color. She looked at it, then Severus.

"That's a little unsettling," she said finally.

He had become still, watching the cauldron with his thumb and knuckle of his forefinger to his mouth.

"I'm not sacrificing any more good ingredients to this thing," she informed him, closing the box.

Finally he dropped his hand, one shoulder jerking upward in a shrug of resignation. "Fill that empty vial so we can analyze it later."

"How do you want to do that? I didn't bring gloves."

He threw her a scornful look. "Why does a Gryffindor need to worry about gloves?"

She restrained the urge to reach across and push him. "I don't want to be rushed to St. Mungo's because this eats my fingers."

"Merlin forbid." He rummaged in her bundle of tools before extracting a pipette, charmed against the effects of any potion, and squeezed it full to release in the vial, which Lily held steady.

"What do you want to do with the rest of it?"

He shrugged again indifferently, capping the vial. "See how it reacts with the local vegetation?"

Lily sighed, dousing the fire with more water from her bottle, then used her towel to pick up the cauldron and tip it gingerly into the grass. The grass immediately shriveled, withered and brown for an instant before it vanished with a hiss; within seconds, the bare ground beneath had turned into a dry flat surface not unlike a desert. "Do you see this?" she exclaimed. "And you said I didn't need to worry about gloves..."

"No, what I said was an observation on the prevalent attitude of your housemates." Severus approached to stand next to her. "You should wash everything out right away."

She scowled; the idea of returning home so soon was unwelcome. "I'll take it down to the creek to rinse them out. You can help me carry stuff."

He was surprisingly compliant, picking up her supplies without even a mutter. Lily eyed him before leading the way to the creek. He probably still felt guilty about what had happened after O.W.L.s – as he should. They had only had a couple brief conversations after the night he came to Gryffindor Tower, when she had nearly sent him away, but ran back after him at the last minute. She had thought a lot about that since then, wondering if she had done the right thing. It hadn't solved any of their problems; they still weighed just as heavily on their relationship. He had called her a Mudblood before a crowd of people, and she knew he wouldn't cut contact with Malfoy, Rosier, Wilkes, or any of the others. But he had been – and still was – so sorry, she had seen it in his face that night. When he came begging to Gryffindor Tower, all pride gone, desperate and past caring what anyone thought. Even with the thick heat now, she had goosebumps remembering it. It had been years and years since she had seen him so vulnerable.

And what could she do? They were best friends; he had introduced her to magic, had been her principal support through her first two rough years at Hogwarts. She didn't know where they were headed, not when he kept with the kind of crowd that would like to snap her wand in half, if not more, and she didn't know why he couldn't see that, if she meant so much to him. It was a bewildering contradiction: he could show on one occasion so much devotion to her that overcame all his sneering indifference and other pretenses which he kept up the rest of the time, yet his choice of friends and hobbies contradicted all of that every other day. Lily had struggled with it all year long, but when she finally tried to go through with what she thought was the best choice, breaking off her friendship with him – she just couldn't do it. She had stepped back inside the common room and so clearly seen his face as she had just left him, and knew that it would never leave her – she couldn't live with it.

She had wondered, too, after that night, seeing him more open and emotional than he had been nearly that entire year – wondered at what that was, after all. Why he cared so much about her when he so clearly preferred a different set of friends with a different set of values and hobbies. She had begun to suspect, uncertainly and unwillingly – but she couldn't avoid it now, after watching him today. Severus would be very difficult about this, and she didn't know what to call it, let alone how he felt about it or what he might call it, if he were even conscious of it himself.

They reached the water, and she kicked off her sandals to wade into the murky brown water, washing out the cauldron and utensils Severus handed her. He crouched on the bank out of the water's reach, his lank black hair half obscuring his face. Sev, she thought, Sev, Sev, Severus. Hers. That's what he had shown her that night. And looking at him now, huddled down in his dark clothes and worn shoes against the green life behind him, she knew why she hadn't been able to let him go, why she could never abandon him to those around him.

With that realization, she straightened. "Come here, Sev."

He looked up, frowning as he squinted at her. He was always frowning – but not the night he came to Gryffindor Tower, and she wanted to smooth out his forehead and see if she could find again what was beneath when he looked at her.

Lily held out her hands, palm up. "Come here, Sev. Please."

He stared at her, frowning and motionless, and finally reached to untie his shoes. He pulled off his socks and began to roll up his pants when Lily scooped her hands together and flung a double handful of water at him.

"You're taking too long!"

He jerked back from the water like a cat, but less gracefully, losing his balance and falling onto the wet sand behind him. He blinked at her again in astonishment. Lily bit her lip, trying not to laugh; he simply looked ridiculous when he wasn't snarling and seeking retribution for whatever sort of slight. Instead, she lifted her hand again, droplets falling from it as she beckoned.

He got to his feet and waded into the creek, soaking the bottoms of his pants. Lily took his hands, slowly and deliberately, pressing his fingers – how were they still cold in this heat? – as she looked in his face. He wasn't frowning anymore, but his expression was still somewhat guarded, troubled with uncertainty.

Lily lifted his hand, pressing his fingers against her cheek to pass some of the warmth from her face to him. He said nothing, but she had begun to recognize what she had seen that night outside her tower. She brushed his fingers across her lips, and heard his breath hitch. He was very close to her.

She moved nearer still, leaning her head forward until their foreheads touched, and she could see nothing but his black eyes, losing the full scope of his expression. His nose was against her cheek, and she moved her head slightly to kiss the side of it, where it joined his cheek, and then dragged her lips lower to find his.

Severus seemed to sway unsteadily, like he might step back, and Lily took hold of his bony thin shoulders, holding him to her. The back of his shirt was warm under her hands, and she pressed her lips to his, moving and searching for a reaction.

At last he understood, and his mouth suddenly responded, opening and pushing back so she steady herself in the mud to keep from losing balance. She felt his hand on her waist, awkward but holding, and his other pushed more aggressively into her hair, tangling in it. She shivered then, under the June sun with the water swirling around her bare feet, and their kiss was a promise of belonging, loyalty, and perseverance.

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lavivi: scan from Hellsing manga of Integra and Alucard (Default)
lavivi

April 2009

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