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Strange Things...

So, weirdest shit the other day...

I'd just gotten in from my lunch break -- Fortescue's, actually -- on Sunday afternoon, when this kid comes in -- I recognised him, which meant either he was horrible in potions or a trouble-maker or something, and he did in general seem a bit annoyed. He came in, but kind of dawdled, carelessly distracting himself with the teas and candles until the rest of the customers had gone, and then came up to the counter.

I had to admit, I was curious, but the otherwise sour fellow immediately brightened as he made his way towards me, the last customer's bell ringing behind them. "Hi," he greeted -- for a forced smile, it was decievingly charming. "Your sign says you do Wolfsbane -- how far in advance do you do those orders?"

Well, that was a first. Most of my -- err, most of the customers that requested Wolfsbane did so discreetly, through owls. They were very shy about their condition, and understandably so. Someone so... ah... bold? Is that the word? Caught me by surprise.

"Erm... it takes about two weeks to brew, actually, with my recipe," I replied. "So, yeah. I could have one done for you by the next cycle." Was that the right terminology? I think it was... I hadn't started on this month's wolfsbane potions yet.

The fellow grinned. "Marvelous. My name's Artemius Baxby -- as in, Healer Baxby? The lycanthropologist? We've been looking for a good supplier that makes actual quality Wolfsbane Potion -- better than the crap they donate for charity. You think you can make about..." The fellow smirked. "Twenty potions a month?"

I'm quite certain I gaped. "Ah, um... Yeah, I - I could. Although... I think I'd need..." Damn. That's... that's a lot of Wolfsbane. It'd take a lot of gold to get that -- the kind I didn't really have at the moment. Although... "About half of it upfront -- for supplies. Um, just for the first batch, though." Wow. Twenty... twenty batches a month. I... Wow. I couldn't even THINK about how much gold that would be. "After that, just pay on delivery. Although..." I gave a grin. This was insanely awesome. More than I could have ever dreamed... But I could scarcely owl twenty potions to... wherever they belonged. "With that many potions, you might have to come pick them up personally."

"That's not a problem," he replied. "On both accounts. How much are we talking here? For 18 potions."

"Erm..." My mind went blank as I looked down -- ah, my receipt book! I pulled it out, looking in the back. I usually charged a good 50 galleons, but in bulk, I could bring the price down a bit.

And yet, I remember that I'd made a rule not to do bulk -- the main reason for which was that if anyone found out about a potions master who was brewing Wolfsbane, they would report it to the Ministry -- some people don't necessarily agree with the idea that werewolves can be spending their full moons in peace, their neighbors completely unaware that the contagious monster sleeps only a pair of walls away. Now, politically, they can't tell me to stop making the stuff, but they can force me to brew potions for the Werewolf Support Unit -- demand far more than I could supply. Not to mention paperwork and becoming a slave to the cause, something I preferred to quite simply avoid -- more so now with my name no longer one tainted, but one belonging to a supposed dead man. I frowned. I looked up at the fellow, but his eyes were watching the storefront -- despite his apparent showmanship, he was bothered about something, and I have to admit, I'd never heard of a Healer Baxby before. For someone with -- damn, a dozen and a half lycans! -- they must keep quiet. But even Lupin had been very thankful for the alternative to the "charity crap", as this fellow put it, that the Ministry provided. If they would be willing to pay out of pocket for good Wolfsbane, it must make a hell of a difference.

"Well, I can make you a deal -- 45 galleons each." Brewing in bulk would make it cheaper, and even with that slim margin of profit, I would make a whole lot of gold. "But, it has to be very hush hush, if you understand?"

The fellow -- Baxby, had he said? -- beamed. "Yes! Of course! In fact, I'd be quite happy if you didn't say I was here. We try to keep ourselves out of publicity's eye -- lycanthropy being rather unpopular and all. But, we can do that! You said half up front?" I did some quick numbers in my head -- half of 18 was 9 x 5 -- 450 galleons now, and then 360 later? "How about 360 now, 450 later?" I offered. 360 was plenty to start them.

"That works for me. And do you take checks?" he asked. Whoo, we were actually doing this? Wow...

"Erm... Yeah. Yeah, I do."

"Alright." He pulled out a check and penned out the offer. "Although... do you mind if I postdate this for a couple days? I'll have to put the funds in the account, y'know?" He gave a grin. He seemed genuinely pleased with the offer. I have to admit, I was, too.

"Completely understandable," I replied, nodding. I watched him, scarcely believing it was true. He carefully tugged it out of the book and handed it to me with a smile.

"Pleasure doing business with you, sir," he said, holding out his hand to shake.

"Likewise!" I replied, grinning, and I took it. We shook, and he gave me a big grin.

"Until they're finished, then." He nodded and strode out, myself fighting not to wave goodbye.

There's been a stupid grin on my face since.

Paranoia Founded

 They're gone! Yay!

I know, I know. That sounds kind of... harshish... unfeeling. But really. Hogwarts kids kind of creep me out -- with the news apparently out that I'm alive, I've been rather on edge all day yesterday, and even today. Black cloaks are starting to freak me out, and my fingers keep itching for the Polyjuice I have stashed in the back room -- and I'm always itching for it, but now I'm actually justified, which makes it all the more worrisome. I still haven't told Tacey about the, ah... Leak, I guess you could call it. To be honest, I've kind of just... stayed home. Tried to pretend nothing's wrong, live out the rush again. But today, there were literally only seven people that came in! :D Golly, I was so happy to have some peace and quiet. Mind, it won't be so quiet for the next two weeks as students realise that they really DO need that asphodel or whatever. But after that, business will die back down to the usual, which is very reassuring.

As it is, I'm going to try and turn in early tonight -- being a fugitive death eater and murderer and such that isn't actually dead and all.


Curse It All


*Sighs!* Finally, August has crept through -- it's the 29th, and in a few days, school will finally start again. FINALLY. And then this craziness will be done. Mind, some of the universities have already started, but all of the Hogwarts students keep coming in -- I've had the book bloke over seven times, now. He just shows up with a half a dozen of the books I always orders -- he doesn't even try and swindle/barter/haggle with me anymore.

Last week was Robin's birthday -- a Friday -- and I had him pick a place to hang out for the day. To my surprise, he picked a music shop -- a little out o the way from pretty much anywhere, it was kind of homey, in that old, country kind of way; they had all kinds of things -- including a polifilari, a rather obscure Wizarding instrument kind of like a poor attempt to make a piano portable. The one they had was tuned but, although I experimented with it a bit while Robin bounced about, it lived up to its infamy for being terribly difficult to play. The fellow said he'd had the damn thing for thirteen years, and I was the first one who recognised it, but I (unfortunately for him) wasn't interested. Robin picked out a rather handsome guitar case for about four galleons. The folks there were mighty friendly, and I have to admit, I enjoyed the anonymity. Robin, in turn, enjoyed the spoilings, and then we went back to his place for dinner.

The party was the usual -- the Weasley/Potter/Hall clan all in one home, eating too much food and carrying on. I noticed my dad talking to Potter a little bit, and I'm fairly certain I felt the boy's eyes my way, so I just avoided them both. I was there to relax, after all, and since Tacey was busy working, I was kind of by myself, trying to enjoy the party without any drama ensuing. Marigold asked me about said lovely lady, but when I informed her she was working, she kind of left me be. Considering, things went rather well, up until we were doing the little musical epilogue that seems to be oh-so-popular in Becca's home, when an owl popped in.

Oh, yeah. New paragraph. You know what that means?


At the time, poor Robin fumed a bit -- it was "birthday greetings" from his father in Azkaban -- the goddamned nerve! -- and promptly ruined the festive aura of the night. Robin went upstairs to his room, and with no birthday boy, everyone kind of scattered. I tried to wait around to see if I could find out what'd been said, but it didn't happen. Monday, though, Solomon comes by the shop and informs me.

Apparently, word has gotten out about my survival.

Not that I'm too terribly surprised. Tom, the arsehole, is horrible at keeping secrets -- always has been. And, although he's far from the sharpest blade in the block, he's clever enough to figure me out. I suppose all it would have take was for him to be in a bit of a divulgitory mood with the right kind of character. Lucius Malfoy, Mr. Burke, any former death eater, really, any potions master (and he works for a damn apothercary, so really), or -- my personal favourite -- the weasels. Or at least, that's what I call them. Kind of useless people, really, in their own right, but they're like the professional middlemen of the area. Mundungus, Rufus, Rusty, Donnovan -- I could go on and on. They sneak and snicker about until they "find" something valueable, and then trade it off. I'd disposed of many a dark artifact by depositing it in the hands of a weasel and letting it walk away. And since the weasels are damn good at keeping their hands clean (figuratively, anyway -- in the sight of the law, I mean) it means that whoever is stupid enough to deal at the end of the weasels gets to be the dumbass who's my new scapegoat. In all honesty, it amuses me, but at the same time, they're all scum, but at least they're honest scum -- they do what they need to do to get things done. They don't hide behind loyalties, and in a way, I respect that. At any rate, they're a right sight smarter than I am, in that sense. I seem to have a fancy for getting myself in over my head. :P

Anywho, apparently the family has been informed that I'm a mad death eater out to kill them. In a way, I'm curious as to whether or not she's told my dad the letter, or even explained my part in the war (okay, parts -- but if I was to say one, I'd say "dumbass follower/sheeperson/hopeless romantic with way too many issues to think straight" or something along those lines) and see who all will panick. As it is, I kind of hope nothing changes, because my poor little neices and nephews really don't need to have their childhood ruined like that. I mean... Carrie is enough. I don't think I could stand it if the rest of them look up at me with haunted eyes like that. I think that, if it should come to it, I'm just going to leave England again. Mind, this means I won't be able to come back, but I might be able to find someone who doesn't know me who can get me some identification work done or something. Maybe live my life as a Muggle or something. It would suck, but I could do it.

Damnit, no, that won't work. I wouldn't be able to do potionmaking anymore. But there are only so many wizards who can brew the shit I can brew! Damn it all!

*sighs* Why do people have to ruin my life?


Blue Moon

Full moon was this week. Which means I sent off my wolfsbane potions, via Barney, and I have to say -- not paying shipping costs really helps. I mean, I do have to wrap the damn things about fifty times to make sure they don't break in transit, but not having to weigh it or rent an owl and pay postage and all of that other shit that you have to do when you use local post really helps. Barney made his deliveries, and I awoke this morning to a small collection of bags of gold. It makes me very happy and warm and fuzzy on the inside, and after emptying them, I had Barney send them back with a thank you note. I've got six of them going at a time, now -- god forbid I ever become deathly ill and am unable to make them one month. I think this place would crash, which is upsetting.

Turns out the reason Tacey's been so chummy with Marigold is because they're secretly plotting for the wedding. I don't know why I'm so surprised, and also why I didn't think of it meself. As it is, I find my fingers itching to find out when the date is so I can go tell McGoogles. :D How I adore Minerva. I so want to hear her scream on that day. It's unfortunate that the potions master does all the potionmaking in Hogwarts. I'd love to have her come by the shop one day. :D I'm being mischeivous.

In other news, life is going well. The shop is stuffed at the moment and I'm managing this small entry little by little. As it is, I suppose I ought to keep my eyes on the crowd -- watch for wandering hands and the like.

I'll talkatcha later,

5th Aug, 2001

So, birthday this weekend. Tacey was horridly heartbroken she couldn't join me on taking the girl out for her birthday (I think I heard her snickering at me as she left -- I think she did it on purpose) but I did take her out for lunch -- she was most delighted to see we were going to Fortescue's for lunch -- I'm certain her siblings told her of this -- but seemed a little disappointed by the fact that they actually did have real food there, but I remedied that with the ice cream after. We wandered Diagon Alley, chattering about mostly nothing - or, rather, she chattered, I tried to listen - and we went into Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, which I hadn't really gone into as of yet. Ronald was there, and greeted us - me, a bit reluctantly, but he seemed very happy to see Harriet. She was having quite some fun with their silly glasses -- I had to admit that I was rather decently amused by the Umbridge dolls -- when I made the casual request of ideas for gifts for Harry Potter. Ron seemed genuinely surprised, but did make a few recommendations. Pumpkin licorices and fireworks -- but then, the fireworks are apparently a best seller just in general -- and I have to say, for good reason. The Weasleys have some of the best ones I've seen in a long time, and I used to have an acquaintance from China that would bring over really good ones for holidays. I ended up getting one of their very nice sampler packs for Harry, which was wrapped at the shop itself. We dropped it off at my shop, and then I told her that I had a very special surprise for her -- she pestered me all the way, asking over and over what it was, but I just kept saying 'it's a surprise', and flew on. It was kind of amusing, although a little annoying at the same time. Oh, and then she started guessing -- THAT was funny. Her ideas were far more random than I thought was possible, until we arrived at the dancing store she was going to, and the squealing... god, the squealing. She ran about the place for about an hour, but I'd told her to pick only one thing. As I'd expected, she got something frilly and pretty -- a dress that did look rather lovely, although it's kind of strange to watch Harriet -- here is what will be a third year in a few weeks and not only am I one on one with her, she's actually my relative. It's very strange, and slightly unnerving, what with my usual habit of keeping distance with young ladies for an obvious reason, but she's a very cheerful girl, and not immodest, which helped very much. The dress cost quite a bit more gold than I'd intended, but the salesman seemed very pleased -- cheeky man. There were also a pair of toe slippers that she was eyeing considerably, and I finally got the nerve to ask her the difference between those and what I'd bought for her last year. APPARENTLY, what I'd bought were basic practise shoes, but the toe shoes were professional tailored for the dancer, and being professional shoes, I filled in the blanks, they're more expensive. Joy.

We went back to my shop to pick up Harry's gift -- and to meet up with Tacey, who was running a little late -- complication with a tea or something, she said -- and we went off to Becca's, showing up a bit more than ten til, which was pushing it, but Harriet happily ran upstairs to change into whatever garb she'd had set out that morning. We went out back, informed the lot of what was going on, and for some reason Molly went running into the house as if we'd said the house was on fire...

Mara practically jumped me, and I was pestered as to where we went, while Tacey slipped off to talk to Marigold. I managed an introdcution with "Teddy Lupin" -- who looks an awful lot like his father when he isn't changing his face like his mother :lol: -- and Luna Lovegood was there. My sister says they're 'pre-engaged', whatever the hell that means, and they were admittedly very gooky in love like. Golly, do Tace and me act like that? Yech... Oliver Wood was there, doing surprisingly well for himself. He seemed a bit nervous about the fact that I was talking to him, but afterwards seemed a bit flattered. He was a gifted Quidditch player, and captain -- even if he was on Gryffindor :lol: . I told him how much trouble he'd given me, trying to pick players that could beat his tactics -- up until McGonnagal found Potter. I don't think he caught that it was a friendly joke, and in general seemed a bit bothered by my attentions.

Apparently, Becca decided to do a big, fancy dinner party, and when I say big, fancy dinner party, I mean a BIG & FANCY dinner party. She even used these old fashioned rules for seating protocol, which I can only imagine was a pain in the arse. I ended up next to Mara and Tacey, though, so I was content, as well as some of the friends that I hadn't had the opportunity to meet before.

The food was... interesting. A very ecclectic collection, but nothing to rival the strange menu at one of my nephews' birthday parties. The one with the "horseheads". And this time I mean 'intersting' in a good way: there was this really yummy, creamy, pumpkin antipasto (apparently Potter is a fan of pumpkin -- I'll have to remember that), a fancy italian soup, which was equally yummy, a spinach and raisin salad, chicken and more noodles, tilapia -- which had mustard and raspberry and honey and a good deal of other things that made each mouthful a pleasant adventure, a lovely sorbet and of course, birthday cake, which was chocolate mint -- it was a very yummy, but very full meal, and I have to admit, I was insanely stuffed.

In the living room, gifts; as expected, everyone seemed rather surprised about me giving Potter a gift. Doubtless Becca thinks it was her daughter's idea. I didn't bother to inform anyone of the contrary. Another musical entourage was sprung up -- my father found a book of sheet music for one of her ballets, so she quite happily went and got my gift -- I have to admit that I was suitably smug -- and gave us a dance.

It took quite some time for everyone to finally tire out -- which was amazing, seeing as we were all completely stuffed -- and we all slowly left -- Tace and I staying for quite a bit, as I couldn't get her to stop chattering with Marigold whatever I did. I'm not sure if it's because they were really getting on or if she was just trying to bug me. Either way, I humoured her. We were one of the last ones left, but we finally left and managed to crawl home before we completely passed out.

In a more business sense, that dress was EXPENSIVE as HELL. Like, a whole Wolfsbane Potion expensive. Like, "I'm not going to do that one again" expensive. I really wish Becca'd warned me. I had to give the guy a check, and I HATE giving out checks. I wonder how Potter feels about his present costing about an eighth of his compadre's? :lol:

As it is, I have some inventory that needs to be done -- textbooks and all that. I just finished my dinner, and I'm going to keep on doing this little stuff while business is slow (because the customers are still eating, too) and see if I can't get some stuff scratched off my list of things to do before I get to bed.

I'll talkatcha later.


22nd Jul, 2001

So, my beloved sister came about yesterday. She kind of waited in the background until all of my customers were gone -- it is the busy season. I suspect she's been avoiding me, but quite honestly, I don't mind. It gives me nights to do extra inventory and sales things -- I have a shipment of books coming in at some point in the next few days -- but I do sort of miss the little ones. As it is, with my father and his family over there, I'm not liable to actually invite myself over. As it was, that usually means she has something "important" to talk about, which in this current situation, I believed was a good tongue lashing -- not something I needed, as I assure you, Tacey did something very similar.

:: Flashback ::

I sighed. It had been a good day. "Yes, Becca, how can I help you?"

She was nervous, twisting her hands, staying across the counter from me. I'm fairly certain I was tapping my finger impatiently against the counter. "Um... Well, I guess I owe you an apology...I should have told you Dad was coming, but I was afraid if I did that you wouldn't come..."

I sighed. Goodness. Even worse. An apology. She was so miserable when she was forcing herself to ask for forgiveness. "It was going to happen eventually." It was true -- I'd been putting it off, but now that Tace and I were getting married, it was about the time, I suppose. It just... caught me by surprise. I gave her a very pointed look and added, "Although you really ought to have told me." That way I would have been able to come to grips with it and get all that nasty hatred out of the way and found my sociable side. But, no. She didn't. The fact that he''d gone and remarried and procreated again made it even harder... "And that he had family, Becca. It's bad enough I have to face him, but that he's moved on? It kind of hurts." It makes me wonder how long he waited after Mum was gone to go dating again, and that's just an unfair thing to ponder on altogether.

And now, she was mad. Ye gods, this will take a while... "It's been twenty-five years, Sev. Why shouldn't he have moved on? I have. The only person who hasn't moved on is you."

I glared. She really didn't want to know why I hadn't moved on, spending countless years in a repetitive song and dance -- Potions, Potions, Potions. Slytherin duties. The dozen or so Quidditch games. Holiday balls. Hogwarts responsibilities. Not to mention playing fetch for that damned bastard all the time. And then the Dark Lord returned. And I had to add spywork and the Order to my juggling act. Forgive me if the years flew by so fast that I was never away from under that man's thumb, and then had to deal with the impending doom of Potter's offspring coming to Hogwarts! I was left a bit preoccupied. I didn't have the time to move on. I wasn't allowed to. And now that I do, I am trying to make the best of it! A new home, a new life, a new love! I'm doing my best, damnit!

And then, just as if to spite me, she dredges up past from even BEFORE Lily Evans-Potter. REALLY nice!

"He killed my mother. Forgive me if I am a bit squickish at the idea of him even touching another woman." And it really is a disturbing thing to think about. I do wish she would take that into consideration. I mean, Tacey didn't know the whole story, but Becca did.

She gave me the most incredulous look. "You don't seriously believe that, do you?"

Duwha...?! Okay, I'm mistaken, obviously.

Gods... How can she really not understand this? She's my sister for gods' sakes. "Becca...I wonder how much you really remember about Mum and Dad."

She apparently didn't see how that mattered, so instead changed the topic. "Sev. Were you there when she died?"

What?! "As a matter of fact, I was!" Every weekend, damnit! It was one of the few luxuries of being of age, and I had squandered it, according to some, by mourning over my dying mother. "And do you know how much it killed me?!" How much it killed me that, no matter how often I visited, how much I tried to give her any semblance of strength, she merely got weaker and weaker...

"Then you know Dad's not the one who killed her," she answered decisively. "She was sick and she couldn't keep fighting anymore."

"Yeah? Well, when the life you're fighting to keep isn't worth living, you don't fight so hard," I replied. He'd seen countless people survive cancer. It merely required a kind of strength and fighting spirit, that apparently she didn't have.

"She had cancer, Sev. She didn't will herself to death," Becca argued. Gods! I can't believe we're having this conversation. This is exactly what I was avoiding with Potter! And now she's gone and brought up Dad! "She was all excited you were graduating from Hogwarts, remember? She wanted to be there."

Yeah, I remember telling myself that. That she would live to June, at the very least. God, how it killed me when she didn't... "Apparently not excited enough..."

"You were her favorite, Sev." Oh, gods, no she didn't... "That's why Grandmother Prince took me, even though I wanted to stay and you wanted to go." No, it was because I insisted you go, you thick woman. I would be able to handle Dad. He didn't need another victim -- you were better off somewhere else. Yeah, I would have given anything to get out of there, but I was the strongest one at that point, and I was going to stay and fight... "Mum didn't want to lose you. She wanted to be at your graduation more than anything. I went and saw her a couple weeks before she died and she was arguing with one of the Healers who told her she wasn't going to be able to get out of bed...she said she'd be damned if she would miss your graduation just because they were too incompetant to find a lump before it spread."

And yet... I remembered that. She'd told me the same thing -- boasted that she'd told Becca as well. "Yeah...she told me that, too." It had given me hope. Only to have it dashed later...

"Then how can you possibly think she wasn't excited enough about being at your graduation to make it?!" Gods, and now she's screaming at me?! I am not putting up with a dramatic episode and another tongue lashing just because she's in the mood for it.

"Look," I replied, blankly. I'm not doing this. "What do you want?"

She sighed in frustration. "I didn't come here to argue with you, Sev." Yeah, you came to apologise. And yet, here we were. "I came to remind you that Harriet's birthday is at the end of the month--she'll be thirteen--and she wants you to come to her birthday party."

As if I didn't know that. Does she really think I'm thick? I kind of know when Potter's birthday is. And that her own daughter happens to be born on that already momentous occasion is a mere coincidence in the favour of young Harriet. "Yes, it's a joint birthday party with Harry Potter"--I groaned. I knew this. She was kind of very friendly with the Weasley-Potter clan, and they showed up to most of the childrens' birthday parties, why not do the same as they probably had for many years before I'd arrived and do another joint party? --"and yes, Dad and Marigold and Tabitha will still be there." Well, I'd suspect so. I'm sure they're staying until the wedding -- whenever that is. Hopefully very soon. I felt a glimmer of hope and a spark of happiness at that. Ah, the wedding. Chaos, but the Honeymoon after... "But Harriet really wants you to be there...she's been telling all her friends about her incredibly awesome uncle who tried to give her the perfect present for her last birthday, and she wants them all to meet you."

She's really trying to guilt trip me! As if suddenly springing my father on me -- lessee, two weeks ago? -- was going to make me forget about my dear neices and nephews! "Yeah, kid's party. I'm aware. It's also next weekend. I kind of don't forget that date." Yeah, the birth of your unrequited love's child with your bitter rival. "It's one of those things that is kind of ingrained in my skull for some apparent reason." I hoped she would recognise the sarcasm as I gestured to said body part for good measure. "July 31st." Like a curse on my life. "Just like its cousin in October!" Where said unrequited love died defending said whelp. "I won't forget." Ever. For now and forever and for eternity. "And I plan on kidnapping said child for her birthday, so I don't get told by her siblings how crappy my birthday gift is this year." Damn bastards... It was my first birthday. Not my fault I apparently bought the wrong thing...

Becca frowned, confused. Oh, were they kind enough to not say such a thing in front of their mother? "Who told you the gift was crappy? Carrie? It was perfect and she loved it--she just couldn't use them to dance with."

Then what good is it?! That still confused the fire out of me. I thought toe shoes were what you danced in, but apparently not. As for the child... it was all a bit fuzzy. "To be honest...I can't remember." I looked away, a bit embarassed to admit: "I hadn't learned their names yet..."

"It doesn't really matter. Anyway, I'm sure she'll be happy to spend the day with you." Of course she would. She loves me. They all love me. I'm their wonderful Uncle Sebby. What's not to love of a Potions Master who has tons of gold again? "And, look, when you come, for her sake do you think you could be civil? Or for Mara's sake. A lot of tension and hostility, especially between people she loves, makes her confused and upset."

She really thinks I'm thick, doesn't she? Like I don't know how to be cordial. I do know how to be cordial. Hadn't I proved that before? But only with the proper preparation. If she doesn't want me to be a dolt and a horrid little person, she needs to warn me when things like this come up BEFORE they happen. "You'll warn me before you bring up another ghost of my past?" And I do mean that. They're horrible to deal with, and the older they are, the longer it takes. Lily had taken me a life's servitude. Dumbledore had taken me two years. But then, I'd lived with those decades. My father had been a bit hidden compared to all that. I'd been content to forget he existed. Now that he was back again... I would have to face him, granted. But she didn't need to just pull off a bandaid that had been placed over that wound for a very important gods damned reason.

As it was, she grinned. "I promise you won't have to deal with Grandmother Prince until right before the wedding. How's that?"

Damn, the Princes. I smirked. That's what I was talking about. The crazy family. I rolled my eyes. Hopefully they wouldn't be so hard to deal with. "Thanks."Actually... "I think the Princes are going to be fun enough for their own week of chaos."

She gave a mock groan. "Oh, Lord, I don't even want to think about it. They can stay with you."

What?! I can't house the Princes here...! There are...! Actually, how many of them are still alive? It might not be so bad as I might think...

Either way, Becca laughed at my probably gaping expression. "You know, I feel like I should buy something to justify taking up so much of your time, but I'm a bit strapped for cash this month."

I waved it away. "Don't worry about it." It was nice of her, but it wasn't her fault that my workplace and my home happened to be the same building. "As it is, I wouldn't recommend an owl. I don't know how well Barney would do with the little ones." Him and Lillith already didn't get along -- I'd hate to see a young one missing a finger on account of my snappish owl.

Becca shuddered. "No, thank you. My house is enough of a zoo without adding more animals to it."

I laughed, knowing how crazy the house can get with just half of the kids running around. And then I thought of Carrie. She really hates my guts... And her comment wasn't too out of place. "I do apologise for my behaviour. I..." I looked away again, a bit ashamed. "It's been a while, y'know?" It's been a while since I had to face that man, and I surely hadn't forgiven him enough to think that he ought to have earned a chance to move on.

"I understand," Becca replied softly. "I should have told you... But like I said, I knew you wouldn't come," -- I rolled my eyes. I would've come, I just would have... postponed it until I was ready -- "and he wanted to see you. Every time we've written or spoken over the years, he asked about you...and when I told him--when I thought--when we all thought you were dead...You know, he came to the memorial service."

This was the first time she'd mentioned the service. I mean, I'd gotten wind of it, but... I hadn't managed to find someone willing to talk to me about it. But that Dad was there... Well, that made me wonder a bit more.

"Did he really?"

She nodded. "Really. It was a funeral without a body, and he told me that if we ever found your body, to let him know, and he would make all the arrangements to have you buried near Mum."

"That's, ah..." Golly, what do you say to that? "That's nice of him." I actually thought to my own mother's grave, and I realised I hadn't been there in some time. But, her birthday was next month. I'll have to pay her a visit. Maybe take Tace to see it... "How was the ceremony, by the way?" I had to admit I was curious. "I mean...who did it? Where was it? What...what was it like?"

She looked off into the distance as she tried to remember it. "It was...hard. It wasn't really a big deal--the Ministry didn't want to do anything--" Figures. Bastards. "--but those of us who knew the real you, got together and held a memorial service around Dumbledore's tomb. McGonagall and Flitwick were there to support me...they were really the only ones who remembered I was your sister...and Slughorn delivered a eulogy about what a brilliant student you were...and Harry spoke about what a great man you were."

I scoffed. "Slughorn, eh? Bastard..." He was probably proud to do it -- honoured even. I smirked. He hadn't been shy to admit that I'd made his shelf, once he'd arrived and seen how I'd become a very good Potions Master that, even though I only accepted the highest calibre of students for my Advanced Potion-Making class, still managed to get a full room. "He seemed to think i would go somewhere..." Well, I made it to his shelf, anyway. And took his spot when he retired. But, that also made me curious... "So... does this mean I have a tomb on the Hogwarts grounds somewhere?" Golly, that sounds like a fun scavenger hunt, I thought to myself. Let's look for slimy smarmy Snape's grave so we can piss on it. How I'd love to find it and get a ward on it to magically take away five points from their house if they stepped on my grave. Hehehe! That would be funny!

She punched me in the shoulder to bring me back to life. "No, you doofus. Like I said, there was nothing really official. It was just a private memorial service, and we put a double wreath on the tomb--one for Dumbledore and one for you, kind of interlocked. That was McGonagall's idea...she said your lives and destinies had always been intertwined. Actually, I think she got the idea talking to Dumbledore's portrait in the headmaster's office, but..."

I snorted. Dumbledore would think of something like that. Watch out, people might have thought we were lovers, after his posthumous biography! "Ha! Bugger..." I bet he had a twinkle in his eye as he suggested it. I wonder if he knows I'm alive yet... I wonder if I have a portrait? But Minerva... She was just like me. Dumbledore's man, through and through. I can't tell you how many private sessions the three of us had, being the in such high offices as we were. Minerva and I got really close over the years. Mind, we kept the house rivalries strong... "But, yeah. she would." More than a little close, actually, more than once... Ha. But that was neither here nor there... "She's a sentimental type..." I stopped counting all the tiny portraits she has of her favourite students -- the best ones she says she has in her private quarters. I wonder if Potter's pictures in there yet -- she might put it with Lily's, knowing her...

And then I thought of that little bottle she keeps on her desk for the bad days...

I looked up at Becca with a devilish grin. "And you let me know when Minerva's invite goes out. I have special ink for her."

"Should I be worried?" she asked, already amused.

My grin widened. "You ever seen a cat animagus' reation to catnip?"

"Severus!" Although she was trying to scold me, she was also laughing quite understandably. I, also understandably, beamed at my own mischeivousness.

Ah, the magic word. As if it were a summons, Lillith appeared at my counter, looking up at me expectantly. I grinned and scratched her on the head. "No, none for you. Sorry, love."

Becca smiled at her. "What's her name again?"

"Lillith, actually," I answered. "I have no idea where she came from." It was still a puzzlement of mine.

"She's got beautiful green eyes,' she noticed. I wondered if this was really the first time she'd met my cat, and I realised it was.

I nodded. It was one of my favourite features. And the fur. It was very soft to the touch. "I'd like to say that's why I named her that, but that was someone else. She turned up one day and disappeared, then came back a couple days later with a green collar with a blank tag and 'Lillith' embroidered on the collar. She adopted me, and she's been good luck for me..." Lillith purred, moving about under my hand, enjoying my attentions.

My sister smiled. "I can see that. You're happy, you're healthy, you're engaged to be married and your shop is doing well. I'd say it's no more than you deserve after what you've been through since Lily and James were killed."

"Yeah..." But it isn't very nice to put it that way. So blunt and obvious. Kind of kills the hopeless romantic in me. "It makes me wonder if it isn't lily herself, wishing me on...eating bits of my lunch." I laughed. Lily did like to steal things from my plate from time to time to bug me. And quills. She had a habit of sucking on them... "But...that's just one of the odd things in my head when I'm in here by myself."

"If she was, she'd have left when Tace came back into your life, because you wouldn't have needed her anymore."

I looked up at her. "You think that's true?" Because quite honestly, I don't. Lily is something I'd never not need. She's been an angel and a ghost most of my life, yes, but her memory kept me alive more often than I cared to admit.

But she nodded. "Of course I think that's true. When I moved in with Lily and James for a little while after Reggie died, we used to talk about you sometimes in the evenings when Harry had gone down for the night and we were waiting for James to come home. She worried about you as much as I did, even if you weren't really friends anymore."

"Well, golly. I'd have loved to have known that." All the nights I spent wandering Godric's Hollow, knowing I'd never find her home, never be able to look at that beautiful smile... And yet I told myself that she was there, and she was close. It'd brought me comfort after a hard night. All the times I wished I could have asked her forgiveness... "I always thought she still hated my guts." It still haunted me from time to time, being unable to gain her forgiveness before she passed on.

Becca shook her head. "Lily wasn't like that."

It was too true, she wasn't... I know I'd told myself that numerous times.

"Oops. I've gotta go...it's past lunchtime and I promised Ellen and Naomi we'd go on a picnic today. So...I suppose I'll see you next weekend?"

I nodded. "Of course. What time should I be by to steal little Harriet away?" I still can't believe she'd think I'd make my neice suffer because of that bad dinner party.

She hesitated. "Well, the party isn't until six-thirty--it's a 'grown-up' dinner party, Harriet's really excited about it--so I guess any time before that."

"Before lunch, then," I decded. "Elevenish good? Oh, and--where can I get the kind of dancing things she likes, needs, fiends over?"

"Er...there's a shop called Dancia International on High Street in London. Harriet's school has a contract with them."

I smiled.  "Marvelous. I figured Zimmerman's might be lost on her..."

She seemed dubious. "Zimmerman's? Isn't that a menswear shop?"

I nodded. "Suits, coats, yeah. Not for little girls. It's where I've gone for most of my birthday excursions, if you've wondered where they've come from." I laughed. There were lots of Zimmerman coats there by now.

She laughed as well. "I know. I recognized the cut of the suits."

I nodded. "They're a favourite of mine." I've been wearing Zim's for longer than I could remember.

"And don't let Harriet hear you calling her a little girl...she'll be thirteen, after all," she warned

"Oh, well... excuse me."

"You're excused," she said with a laugh. "Sev, I really do have to get going...see you on the thirty-first, okay?"

"Sure thing," I answered, waving her goodbye. Lillith watched her leave with idle curiousity, but left thereafter.

:: Flashback ends ::

So. I now have a shop to go to for Harriet -- one more thing solved! Now, I just have to go find it, and figure out the best way to get there. I'm probably going to stoop to a really sad level and pick out something for Harry, too. It makes the evil in me squick, but it seems only fair that, since I'm going to a join birthday party, I should give both birthday kids (people?) persons a gift, especially since I can't claim that I don't know Potter. That would be really hard to get past this blossoming tumor I think they call a conscience. It's getting in the way nowadays. :P

Oh well. Here come more customers. I'll talkatcha later,

~The Half-Blood Prince

I Hate Being Right.

So, Becca invited me over for dinner tonight, right? Not too out of character, as I'm getting to know my nephews and neices rather well, which is very nice. But, she said she had someone coming in for the wedding, and kind of quickly invited me and Tace over around seven. By itself, a little nerve-wrecking, but then, it's in-laws. Most of which are supposed to have me as dead. So...
:: Flashback ::

I remind Tacey of this (she gave me a reassuring kiss -- a nice and long one, I might add, which did very much reassure me (read: made me forget why I was complaining) because she's a very good kisser, which is probably her way of saying, "Yeah, I know, sweetie. But you'll do fine!" because she knows I'm worrywarting) as we're at the door, and then I knock, a bit nervous about who it might be, and a little excited at seeing someone I haven't seen in years that will be so excited about my engagement, they might forget what a miserable bastard I've been for the last god-knows-how-long?, way too many years. Shy opened the door and let me in -- I think, looking back, that he looked tense, but I kind of pushed Tace in in front of me, probably reassuring her that everything was going to be okay, and then next I see Becca. I recognised her expression as apologetic and "Please don't kill me." Not out of character, seeing as it's family and could have been a cheek-pinching aunt or something. Next is this golden haired angel of a woman who I've never seen before, who quite quickly comes to greet us. Tacey, being in front of me, holds out a hand, but she waves it away and envelopes her in a hug, which Tace reluctantly accepts with a nervous laugh. A girl comes behind her, and she's introduced as Tabitha. I introduce myself as Severus, and Tacey as, well, my fiance Tacey -- insert big grin here, and we both kind of blush -- and Becca seems to be waiting for something.

And that's when I spot him. He had been hovering by the kitchen, but now reluctantly came forward. I inherited my father's height and hooked nose -- I couldn't miss him. His eyes weren't black and beady like mine, but a hazel the colour of rum or scotch. His glare was dark and vengeful, though, and after catching my breath in my throat, I echoed the same.

The nerve of him. I knew it was Becca's idea, for sure, but still. That he actually came into this house with my sister's children - yes, that was honestly my first thought - was appalling. I looked back at Tacey, who was now talking with the woman -- Marigold, she added -- and introducing my father.

"Yes, and this is my husband, Tobias Snape."

"Yes, this is my father," Becca added, smiling politely for Meredith and Tacey, but when her eyes locked with mine, I think I saw her jump. I tapped into her head for a moment - honestly wanting to know why she would do this? - and I got a flash of my father, with Ellie. My father, at Ellie's funeral. My father, at Reggie's funeral. My father, holding twins. And another child. And another child. And another child... Births, the occasional birthday or Christmas, even his own wedding, and the birth of another child -- this one with her holding it with awe and him explaining, and then, the girl before me. The horror that flooded through me was mixed with revulsion at the repeated visage, as guilt stabbed me in the gut, twisting inside me, so as I didn't forget it.  That was supposed to be me. But those eyes were not black. They were amber. I turned back to my father, and he was decidedly ignoring me, shaking hands with Tacey, smiling lightly towards her, a kind fondness in his eyes. That was the final straw. If I was stunned before, I was furious now.

"Tacey," I warned. She stopped, surprised, and looked back at me. I saw her, too, gasp -- apparently my fury was evident. I held out my hand to her and she reluctantly took it. I held it to my lips, letting the scent of her calm my fury -- god, I could have killed someone if I wanted to, right then. And I did. And, being dead, I would have gotten away with it, too. Mind, her or Becca would've been blamed...

I recall moving myself in between Tacey and my father, not wanting him anywhere near her, for the love of all that was sacred. To his wife - what business that man had touching another woman... - I turned with forced kindness. Was she as foolish as my mother? Wooed by his musical talent, height and tall voice (as I'm sure Tacey had been by me, as far as I could tell -- they were redeeming features) so much as to ignore his violent, drunken rages? I could only have so much respect for a woman like that. Becca had been trapped, but my mother... I'd promised her I would help her, and I would've done anything in my power to help her get away from him, but she hadn't listened... I fought the frustration down as I bowed lightly to my... half sister? He had no right to procreate! She was pretty, like her mother -- maybe one day she would be able to outive the curse of her patriarchy. I could only wish such for the poor girl.

:: End Flashback ::
Yeah, I was right about it being Dad. I really hate being right. It kills me, it really does. I mean, seriously. It's painful.
:: Flashback ::

I could hardly breathe throughout dinner. It was the least I could do to listen to the dulcet tones of my beloved darling -- who, though very unnerved, performed spectacularly amongst her new in-laws, much better than myself. Becca mediated a bit, keeping the conversation moving, and keeping food on all the plates -- both my father and I avoided looking at each other, though I kept an eye on the bastard through reflections on the silverware and serving utensils -- old brass things that I'm sure Becca rarely used normally. The eldest twins came in occasionally for family matters -- Becca had them eating/entertained in another room, having gotten over the excitement of company, I suppose, and whatever else Becca had to do to keep her children from encountering a murderous Snape -- Tobias or Severus -- but for the most part, it was just us. I was scarcely paying attention to the conversation, until it turned to something that might actually prove important to listen to:

"You have such wonderful children, Becca," Marigold was saying. "You and your husband must be very proud of them."

"Don't know us," Mara replied, taking a plate back into the kitchen. Marigold turned to Becca.

"Simon Peter...isn't around much," she explained. "I mean, he wasn't around much before, but..."

Tabitha looked at Andrew. "Why couldn't your daddy be here, anyway?" The girl liked to sprout out wih questions that I personally thought were getting increasingly annoying -- such as when Tacey had gushed abou the spa adventure with Becca, and Tabitha had asked why they would get into a mud bath. But, this one was a fair enough question.

Becca answered for her children: "He's in A--in prison just now."

My father set his glass down so hard he made the table rattle. We all looked at him in surprise - yes, even I looked at him - and the anger on his face was rather familiar as he pushed away from the table and stormed out of the room.

"Good riddance," I heard myself muttering before thinking, and as soon as I realised I'd said it aloud, I sheepishly looked to Tacey, who was horrified. I glared at my food again, not wanting to see her look at me that way -- but it haunted my mind. It wasn't fair, that that bastard had to come into my life and ruin things when they were going so well...

Tacey leaned toward me, and looked very angry. "Sev, what is the matter with you?" she hissed. "What on Earth has got you two so mad at each other that neither of you will eat, let alone look at each other?"

I looked to her -- I couldn't stay mad when I looked at that pretty face. And the way it was contorted in frustration was actually quite cute -- and then at my father's plate, which appeared to be in a similarly mushed up state as mine.

"Is everything okay, Mama?" Sol asked, helping his mother back into her seat.

"She gave a weak smile. "Fine. Tabitha asked where Simon Peter was, is all."

"I can see where you get your miserable personality from."

"Caroline Elizabeth!" It took Becca's scolding for me to realise the comment was made towards me, and I snapped towards my niece, whose eyes were in tears. I was a bit shocked by the strange outburst, but I think I heard Tacey hiding a laugh and turned to her, too, but she was decidedly not looking at me.

Carrie excused herself, as Sol tried to comfort Becca.

"It's not your fault, Mama. I think she's just a little... confused."

Becca sighed and looked down at her dessert -- I looked at mine, and found it to be a monstrously huge slice of god-knew-what. "No, it is my fault. I should have known something like this would happen." She looked up at Marigold. "I guess when I said that Dad and Sev ddin't get along, it was something of an understatement."

"I guess so," Marigold agreed.

Tacey, my dear Tacey, tried to smile, although I felt a jab of her fork which made me curl up into myself again. For some reason sticking my tongue out at her seemed like a real bad idea at the time.

"So, Marigold... How did you and Tobias meet, anyway?"

Marigold smiled. "Now that's a story..."

:: Flashback Ends ::
As I suspected, she met him as a drunk. Which means she knows how bad he can get, and she's still foolish enough to be with him. A bit like Tacey, in that respect. Who in their right mind dates a Death Eater, I still haven't figured out. Anyway, so she was a singer at a bar, and they happened to be there at the same time -- him drinking, no surprise -- and they started talking. If anything, it's because music is what made him start drinking, and it's probably about the only thing that would pull him out of it. Apparently, his glorious stories of his days as a composer, musician, songwriter, living muse, whatever, wooed him -- like I said. That damned voice. I've been told it's "lusty" and "like velvet", but either way, apparently chicks dig it, just not always enough to... over look things like a Dark Mark. But apparently, it is that good. Or good enough to cover the scent of alcohol on my father's breath.
:: Flashback ::

I don't know why, but I just couldn't seem to hold my tongue. "Still drinking, then?" I interrupted. I hadn't really told Tacey much about my father -- I kind of avoided him as a topic of conversation, so she was a bit shocked at that question, but Becca seemed to have the decency to be embarassed about it.

"No. He quit three years ago," she answered. "Tabitha was taking violin lessons through the school--we hadn't really said anything to Tobias, he could handle the jazz music I was singing in the bar, but classical music sent him over the edge--and she was using one of the school violins. She had a concert about mid-way through October and he came, which surprised both of us, and he just sat there and listened and didn't say anything, so we didn't say anything either. But on Christmas morning, he gave Tabitha a violin he had picked out himself, and he told us he'd been going to Alcoholic's Anonymous since the concert and hadn't had a drink in ten weeks. He still goes every week, and he'll be three years sober this October 15."

AA. I kind of knew what that was like -- me and Karkaroff had had a few of our own pirvate DEA meetings, if you can call them that. And alcoholism isn't something you just quit -- it's an ongoing problem. Just like my ruddy Dark Mark. If some miserable Death Eater decided to set it off one day, it would, and it would hurt like hell, and I would be summoned there, which is infuriating to ponder about by itself.

Although... Lily had been my anti-drug, as it were. My father's was always his music...

"Has he... by chance written either of  you a lullaby?"

Marigold gave me a strange look. "Now that you mention it...he has been writing a lullaby, but it's not for either one of us. He's calling it 'Ellie's Lullaby'."

I am sure my face fell. Ellie Snape... and Ellie Black. Two souls I had lost. There was a commemoration in the works for them both, and the writer of that commemoration was now outside, hating my guts as much as I hated his.

In a way, we both blamed each other, and ourselves. I blamed him for my mother's death, and he blamed me for Ellie. But he'd tried to be there at the last moment for Becca... which was more than I had done...

"Was that your mother's name?" Marigold asked softly

"And our sister's," Shy replied.

:: Flashback Ends::
Apparently, my father has gone sober, and is writing music again. Tacey and I managed through the night, eventually coming to a nervous, polite acquaintance with Marigold and her -- as I told Tacey later -- incessantly nosy child, but my father didn't return, so we went home, lest he be forced on the street all night. In a way, I shiver at the thought of him so close to me after all these years, and yet, I'm releived that, maybe, time can heal some of our wounds. Even if I have to moderate through Tacey and his wife, I think I could survive my father in town for my wedding. At least, I hope so.
~For Always, Most Sincerely Yours,
Severus Snape, the Half-Blood Prince
 I'm sure Ms. Granger's got her essence by now. For some strange reason, I feel some kind of secretive smugness about the whole thing, which is very odd. Like I'm some sort of guilty pleasure she didn't want to be seen indulging. Might just be the whole professor-smart student intrigue, but it has me curious. I mean, why was she so nervous, and why did she avoid my question? I mean, I've seen her at social gatherings with my sister, but we've not had any real contact. Almost like she's avoiding me. And in fact, she did seem rather anxious the entire time she was here.

She made a mudblood comment, however, which concerns me. Perhaps she has a bone to pick with me. As it is, I'm wondering what will happen next. Women do so confuse me.

As did Becca last night, for example. She came under the pretence of getting Mara a new tome to rifle through -- not unreasonable, but she was decidedly inattentive to the book, and didn't even say anything when I didn't charge her for it -- I'm not sure if she was humouring me, or had something on her mind. As it was, apparently she had something on her mind.

:: Flashback ::

"Say, Severus. You remember a couple days ago you dropped me a note? About the wedding?"

I frowned. "What wedding?"

She blinked. "Err, yours?"

I grinned. "Oh, that one?" She glared at me. "Yeah, I know. What's your point? Do you have invitations for me to go through or something?"

She smirked. "No, not quite. But, I do have family coming in for it. Why don't you bring Tacey and get introductions done and what not?"

"Sure thing," I replied, and she gave a very evil grin. I frowned. That was not a good grin. "Say, ah, who is it, anyway?"

"Oh, just... cousins or something," she answered, picking up her book and turning away. Lack of eye contact -- what was she thinking? Why was she leaving...?

"Becca..." I warned.

"My place! Saturday night! Be there at seven!" she added from the door.

"Becca, who is it?!" I cried after her, but she ducked out with a silly wave.

I cursed, feeling very much like I was being tricked. By my own sister, no less. Who was it?

:: Flashback ::

I think she has a surprise for me or something. I'm wondering if it isn't an Irish cousin or something that I haven't seen in aeons. I heard one of them is a quidditch player for Ireland's national team, but that might have been some time ago. Still... a quidditch player is exciting enough to not tell me, right?

If I sound doubtful, it's because I'm trying to convince myself it's not a certain hooknosed bastard who I really don't want to encounter ever again for the rest of my life, wedding or no wedding.

Ye gods, don't let it be my father.


A Curious Encounter

 Well, I had an interesting visitor today. After sending an owl off to Jerry, so I can stock up on some more books for the school shopping season, I was lounging about in the shop -- doing the Daily Prophet's puzzle. I don't read the blarney and rubbish in them anymore, but someone had left one in the shop a couple days ago, so I've been picking at the puzzle when the shop is empty. And, guess who showed up out of the blue?

:: Flashback ::

"'Tasty last name of Weird Sisters' bagpipes musician,'" I read aloud, muttering to myself. Nearby, Lillith was sitting, trying to be inconspicuous with her listening, but keeping her ears cocked and attentive. "I believe... 'tasty' would be a reference to Crumb, yes?" Having been one of Dumbledore's most trusted advisors, I was responsible for doing important things like... making sure the band arrived in time for the Yule Ball. They each had their innane quirks and requests, and were all shut off into a sectioned off part of the dungeons. Meaning I was the one that they bugged if they had need of anything. I became fairly... intimate?... with them all. But then, that kind of gave the impression that Ienjoyed their company. As it was, the clue fit, so I scribbled it in with the ball point pens I had picked up last time out at Zimmerman's. A bit fancy, and expensive, but the trick was, after all, convenience. The bell rang out and I looked up to see my customer, and found myself frozen as I realised who it was.

She was looking dead at me, and she bit her lip, before quickly turning to hide behind a shelf. She stood there for a moment, her bushy brown hair as frizzy as ever with the rain outside. I watched, curiousity peeling panic's frozen hands off of my mind, and decided to wait. I heard a huff -- or was that a deep breath? -- and then, she made her way to the end of the aisle, and once more faced me.

Her eyes were the same brown as I recalled, though the freckles on her nose and cheeks were more pronounced, and a darker skin tone was prevalent than I remembered. She had mentioned family in France, however, and it was considerably sunnier there than here.

"Can I help you, Miss Granger?" I said, not really thinking, just more relieved that I could speak. But then, I recalled the comment... "Or is it Mrs. Weasley?" I gave her a soft smile, hoping it wouldn't disturb her too much. Hermione Granger had been one of the cleverest witches I'd had the opportunity to teach in my many years at Hogwarts. I actually looked back on her in fondness -- when I wasn't muttering with exasperation aboug her insistence on learning Longbottom's lessons for him.

Did I detect a bit of a blush? "I was wondering if, perhaps, you had some... essence of asphodel? I'm out at the moment, and the apothecary down the way only has it in beginners' kits." She was sheepish, to be sure, and her eyes left my face to look instead at whatever might be on my counter -- a jar of hard candies caught her attention, since she was so eagerly giving it away.

"I'm afraid I don't," I replied regretfully. "Of all the things in the world, I am absolutely dreadful at essences. They take way too long to do, and I frankly don't have the patience for them. But, if you like, I can get some for you."

"Oh, a recommendation would do," she replied quickly, looking back at me. I think she was a little frightened to be with me again.

I shook my head fondly. "I'm not sending you to Knockturn Alley. It's shady, and not the sort of place a young witch like yourself ought to go."

"Why, because I'm a Mudblood?" Her voice was a dark accusation, and there was a seething hatred in her eyes that looked all too familiar.

It had a bit to do with it, but it's not like I was a Legilimens or anything. "No, because you're one of the Golden Trio," I answered instead, my lips curling at the name. Her blush returned. "I tell you what. If you'd like, I will fetch some for you and owl it to you. You'll have it by tomorrow, if that's acceptable."

"I..." She looked defeated. "I suppose that will do." She looked a little ashamed about her comment. In truth, when she looked back up to me, I could see herself berating herself for being so stupid -- a shame she talked to herself like that. She was the cleverest witch of her age. "What would I owe you?"

I frowned. "Just a tick." I pulled open one my drawers and found the inventory list for the apothecary in Knockturn Alley. His essences were... nearly a galleon. "Sixteen sickles," I replied with a grin. Bad business, but if it got Hermione Granger -- no, Weasley -- into my shop, she'd be a wonderful return customer. I ought to go get a nice collection of essences, though. I'd probably get them cheap enough in bulk.

As it was, she gave me a suspicious eye -- probably knowing that it oughtn't cost so little. Nevertheless, she pulled out the silver coins and I gathered them and dropped them into my register. I scribbled out a reciept and passed her a returning customer card. She took them both, but held the card curiously.

"What's this?" she asked.

"Returning customer card. 10% discount on future purposes." I grinned. "Do come again."

She didn't seem to know what to say. She furtively shoved it into a pocket and stalked out -- I wondered if her husband knew she'd come here, especially by herself? Still, even Lillith peeked out of her little hidey hole to watch her go. When she was gone, she looked at me curiously, as if sensing that something important had happened.

:: Flashback ::

None other than Hermione Granger! Of course, I did recall hearing that she was married, now, to Ronald Weasley -- I saw that one a long time coming. They fought like an old married couple, they did -- but curiously, she didn't confirm nor deny it. She came in asking for some asphodel essence. Personally, I never had a problem getting it because so many kids would bring in their potion kits and leave it behind, I always had way too much of it lying around. I'm going to pick some up later, I think, and owl it to her. It gets kind of slow around here 'round dinner time. 

Well, that's all for now, I guess. Actually -- that's Becca at the door. I'll go talk to her, and then go get Ms. Granger's things.

Always Yours,
~Severus, the Half-Blood Prince

30th Jun, 2001

Well, I got an owl from my landlord today. It's a bit prompt, but he says that, since I've managed to actually pay regularly for an entire year, and at the right amount, and on time, I've managed to get him out of debt. He's lowering my rent to 200 galleons! A very pleasant surprise, let me tell you. That means I have an extra 50 galleons in income every month, as well as all of the new wolfsbanes. I'm bloody filthy stinkin' rich! I'm assuming he waited until the last second to see if he couldn't have me mail him the extra one last time, as rent's due tomorrow. Poor bugger. He means well. I think I'll send him the whole 250 one last time, for old time's sake. I'll guess the reason it was so high was so that I could cover the debt accumulated from the time the place was uninhabited, but now I'm actually taking care of it. I've also not bothered asking him for troubles around the place, and merely fixed them meself, so it's almost like my money's going in a black hole, but it's good to know that there is actually some bloke out there who's taking care of things. I should invite him to whatever small get together we have for the wedding -- it'll prolly be not much more than me and becca and whatever stragglers of family she can gather for my side, and in a way, I'm grateful. I'm hoping honestly that Tacey wouldn't be adverse to a simple elopement, but I'm certain I wouldn't hear the end of it from Becca. She'll prolly manage something, knowing her.

As it is, I'm thinkin', as it is July next month (or tomorrow, really. I can't quite believe it that the year has gone by so quickly...) I'm going to call that booksalesman -- I have his card in here from the last time he was here.

But blimey, look at this place! Downstairs, in the main shop area, I've lots of shelves and such (most of which I have repaired myself, over time -- charms to hold it together, wood from Gerald (chopped uncaringly from various bits of furniture, even an occasional wardrobe) when it didn't -- that hold teas (lots of peppermint and variations thereof, courtesy of Tacey. I dry it and package it, she grows it), soaps (of all sorts -- although the vanilla mint and fruit scented ones are a favourite with the young ladies), candles (I personally have a mint and vanilla and sugar one that I started making 'round Crimbo time that I'm rather fond of. I keep it upstairs and burn it when I'm done with nasty potions. It helps keep home seperated from work), lotions, and small potions -- the sleeping potions and fancy potions (as I call them -- technically they're love potions, but they don't really work THAT well, to call it love) and plenty of cured and dried and treated herbs, which sell insanely well. I have my wolfsbane and polyjuice and Amortentia and other stronger, more valueable potions and textbooks in the back -- my door has a charm on it that keeps it locked to all but myself and Tacey. Becca hasn't noticed, as there's not yet been a reason for her to go in the back without me. I suppose when Mara is big enough to help me (I think I'm going to hire her as an apprentice next summer, since she's still a bit to small to work with the biggest cauldrons quite yet, and potionmaking will be one of her prime responsibilities) I'll have to rewrite the spell to add her in, but for now, it gives my home a bit of added security. The shop itself is also locked down during the night in a similar fashion, so that Tacey can come and go as she pleases. Although it takes a bit to write, the spell itself only takes a moment to work. I ought to start selling my skill as a Charmsman during the off-season... That sign is still back there, but I've put so many posters over it, it kind of blends into the wall now :lol: . I still wonder what it is whenever I pull down one sales sign and put up another, but I haven't done anything with it yet.

As it is, the upstairs is what makes me exceptionally proud. As I had predicted, the coffee table expired some time before the holidays, and I got a rather nice cherrywood one that I got from Gerald and polished up. Tacey added a doilie (if that's what it's called) and it usually has a book or our tea things on it. The sofa is still there, seperating the sitting room from the dining room (under which I pulled my little trick) while the armchair has surprisingly survived. It's a lot sturdier than it looks -- the sofa doubly so. And I can attest to its hardiness after having slept on it for a while.

I got a small dining table -- because, remember, I'm comparing this to Hogwarts and my sister's table -- that has a set of chairs for it -- mix matched, but at least all the same colour of wood. Again, Gerald.

The office desk is now cluttered in papers and ledgers and you, when I'm not using you, and the bookshelves have my cheatbook and my recipe books -- including the copy of my Advanced Potion-Making. Mind, most of the recipe books are similarly scribbled on, and Tacey once recommended me just writing an entire single grimoire for all my recipes, instead of jumping from one book to the other for the one I wanted. It's not a bad idea, but I haven't had the time, frankly. Maybe in November,when things get quiet again. I'll have to keep my eye open for a way to construct such a monstrocity of a book, but if Hagrid could find his Monster Book of Monsters, I'm sure there's one that I can use to make a Monster Book of Potions. In fact... that's a very clever name. I think I shall entitle it that and quite reasonably get it published -- ie, copied. If nothing else, I'm sure Mara wouldn't mind one, and she may very well need a copy of it, so she doesn't have to chase after me to find all the recipes I use. Again, a new chair, although this is one that I actually became fond of sitting in while at Tacey's home, and since she never used it, she slipped it in one day.

The bathroom is considerably less barren, and now has a multitude of towels -- I had mentioned to Tacey I didn't have much once, and next thing I now, they're appearing out of nowhere. Most of them she smuggles in, I think, although I've picked up a couple as I see them. I think it'll be one of our quirks -- having too many towels. I might have to start getting rid of some of them, they're filling up the closet. I have a shower curtain, this one decidedly not transparent -- when the first one broke, I picked one up and didn't realise it was transparent until I put it up. Tacey found it amusing, but when it finally retired -- not due to old age, I assure you -- we got something less... disruptive. There's no decor to speak of, but there is a constant supply of soap and shampoos and such from the shop, so if I ever smell funny, it'll be because of a failed experiment. In fact, we found out that blueberries are a bit too potent for that sort of thing.

The bed is... disheveled at the moment. It very often is. But, it's very comfy. And very hardy. It's taken some abuse, it has, and it's oh, so wonderful to sleep on, compared to that horrible sofa. We've a lovely duvet, as well, that  just leaves you so warm in the morning, you scarcely want to get up. Mind, I have a horrid alarm that goes off, and the clock is in the hall -- where I can see it, but where I have to physically get up to turn it off. The kitchen is cluttered with my coffee pot, a tea pot, some china for tea, a set for about six (so I don't have to do dishes right away), and the table is still strong, although I now have another pair of chairs there for regular use -- the kitchen is more casual, and is where Tacey and I usually dine, but we dine in the Dining Room for fancier dates, as with my proposal. My candle -- the one I mentioned before -- is the centerpiece there. There's also a small cupboard in the corner that Lillith has claimed for herself. Why cats like hiding in small corners, I don't get, but I've humoured her and put a blanket and pillow in there.

All in all, there's not much to it, but... it's a great improvement. Not bad after a year, yeah?

All My Best


Severus Solomon Snape

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