Title: And Bitter Almonds Too
Author: Notus/Rebecca/Charisma notuslethe
Rating: PG-13 for alcohol use and scathing Snape tone
Author's Note: Based on Picasso's "The Absinthe Drinker" The guy just screamed Snape at me, and I had to comply.
Summary: In which nothing happens. And everything does.
Marijuana was used for medicinal purposes because of the THC contained therein. THC managed to lessen nausea, induce hunger, and cure seizures, among other things. The battle to legalize marijuana waged throughly in most parts of the world. California in the United States was known for its constant raids and generally ‘stoned’ image of the local populace. Still to date, the drug known by many monikers continues to provide stones of disagreement and pathways of rebellion.
The above debate did not reach into marijuana’s sister, absinthe. Used heavily by a myriad of artists, including Degas, Hemingway and Wilde, absinthe soon gained a notorious reputation for inflicting horrible characteristics. Frequent drinkers of absinthe went into ‘absinthism’ and became inclined to self-mutilation, depression, and suicide. While the world outlawed absinthe, Britain continued to allow the substance. Absinthe went underground for some reason or other, most likely because it had been so perilously close to extinction, but had since the ‘60s been steadily climbing back into popularity.
It was not, then, unheard of to find an occasional dark figure slumped over a bottle and mug in some shadow corner of the pub scene. Even in the Wizarding world. Outlets were to be found for all follies of life and alcohol was one of the safest means available. Butterbeer served a quiet buzz when consumed in high quantities, but Madam Rosmerta knew that when a young man asked for only a mug, it weren’t her famous drink to be consumed. She’d stroll by the table, peering to ensure the man was conscious and comfortable. Only when he had snarled that her presence was highly unnecessary did Rosmerta fling up her layered skirts and shuffle back into one of her myriad of bars. He was far to out of the will o’wisps to be politely comfortable anyway. She didn’t need to endanger herself.
Leaving the mug but keeping a hand gripped around the clear bottle, the man who had sent shivers of discomfort through the majority of guests Apparated with a loud crack.
The house was in shambles. It was expected, given the nature of the owner and the usual state of distress that owner endured. A myriad of rust-colored tiles were either haphazardly strewn about the roof or crushing the earnestly growing meter-tall weeds. Shutters were broken eyes to the house, one nearly meeting the tiles in the semblance of a flowerbed, and somewhere a pathway of mottled flagstone provided the direct course to the entrance. Only the door was unaffected by the atrophy of time; thick cherry wood not allowed painted and large brass handle winking charmingly in the dying light.
Despite the appalling condition of the outside appearance, enough Aversion Charms coated the house to make even animals naturally negated to magic keep a mile-radius away. Clearly, the house was meant for no one to notice, no one to visit, no one to even acknowledge the existence of a small flat in the middle of what was left of England’s woods. And yet here he stood, watching, waiting even, wary of what could be contained therein. Only the bottle of absinthe was any true comfort. He knew the anise and wormwood and vodka that had been poured into it. They were his.
Two and a half days passed before the other showed up. Apparently ‘lying low’ had been taken to mean ‘not even be there.’ And the old man was wily, for the tired and scarred face that opened the bright cherry door was shocked. For all their pomp in years of schooling, the scene felt rather like the bodice rippers his mother would read him while she cooked.
Silence was the most prevalent greeting, until the dark-haired man couldn’t contain himself and set upon his gaunt face the faded remains of a smile.
"I didn’t expect a shindy, but come on Moony-"
The aptly -but disgustingly- named man said nothing as his fellow choked on his playful words. They stared, but the smaller of the two was shifting nervously and he never could contain any of his emotions.
"Listen, Remus, I would’ve owled you, but I wasn’t supposed to talk to anyone-"
"Would you like some tea?" And that seemed to be the right thing to say as Black heaved a large relieved sigh.
"I would very much like some tea," he breathed, words uncharacteristically shaky.
Snorting, the man watching from a comfortable distance poured out a comfortable amount of absinthe and took his leisure in drinking it. No need to rush.
It only took him two hours after dawn to finally approach the door himself. He could feel the half-dead man like a tic in his cheek sleeping somewhere up the stair as a spindly-fingered hand made three light raps on the cherry wood. A few moments passed with no indication that they’d been heard. Frowning and frustrated, he knocked harder and pulled away when his knuckles smarted; no need to invest any more energy than was necessary in this menial and quite frankly superflu-
The door creaked open to show a haggard face that lit up with unfamiliar surprise. "Severus? I.... what...." He sucked in a breath and the emotion fell from his shoulders to the ground in a graceful swirl. "How lucky I am to have your acquaintance so quickly after our last parting. What did I do to warrant such a visit?"
He would have sneered, but there became a permanent fixation of that particular expression on his face, so there was no sneer so much as a falling back into the normal view of himself. "You have done nothing. However, due to particular conditions that you have obtained, you have been deemed necessary."
Eyebrows twisted, a heavy lean on the wooden frame of the door. "Necessary? For what? I hardly believe that I am of much use for anything Severus."
"While I am usually inclined to agree, Lupin, presently the situation has changed." He glanced behind him, attempting to be subtle but remembering that that particular tactic never worked for him. "Perhaps Order business should not be conducted where ears of any kind may hear."
"Ah yes. Come in Severus. Order business you say? I haven’t heard anything from it..." He ahha-ed gently, glancing up and shaking his head as he motioned the figure in black inside.
"Perhaps the lack of information is due to some deficit,"Severus ground out.
"Severus," Lupin said sharply, if there had been enough strength for a sharp beyond soft pencil lead. "There is no need for fisticuffs so soon. Would you allow at least an hour before the fighting starts?"
"I’ve come here by Dumbledore’s request. There are many things I must do before the Order headquarters are located and moved; I cannot waste time here." He wrinkled his nose distastefully, noting the strewn clothes, the broken glasses, the actual clods of dirt that littered the floor. Even Lupin, who had always seemed a particularly tidy werewolf, had succumbed to the innate desire of disorder.
"I shall attempt to cause you no delay, Severus," Lupin said, not without humor fogging the edges and a faint taste of mockery. He ignored it as he had done when the consequences for fighting back had become too great.
"Very good. Now, have you managed to procure a decent place for potion making?" he asked, voice very much doubting that it in fact had been done.
"In the back," Lupin said, pointing with a low arm. "I began clearing out space with the vain thought that I could begin brewing the Wolfsbane potion."
Severus scoffed. "Your talents in Potions have always been lacking. The only thing you could manage would indubitably kill you simply by inhalation."
When Lupin smiled, it was proof that Severus had become too comfortable. He tossed up his robes gruffly and left the room where Lupin was half-smiling. Entirely too comfortable.
He hadn’t emerged from the room until he felt the half-corpse man straggle down the stairs and collapse in the kitchen. It was then that Lupin met him partway, eyes flickering and hands wavering, ushering him into a room that had been hastily and badly made into a boarding room. Severus had no belongings, hadn’t thought he’d stay that long, and little need for a bed. Sleep had never been a companion, or even an infrequent visitor. It was more an unwelcome guest that appeared at your door one night, begging for entrance.
The irony was not lost.
Instead of sleeping, as one was likely to do after an entire day of cleaning charms and dragging potion materials, Severus carefully strained the herbs that had been sitting for four days in the 151 rum and added wormwood to the vodka he’d gleaned. The rum was a special find, considering it gave the absinthe its green tinge that always made him feel as though it were more authentic, as though the vodka absinthe was somehow less real. The angelica root, hyssop, and other ingredients looked almost like tea leaves at the bottom of a cup. He cocked his head to read them, finding nothing other than vague lines or broken waves. Divination had never been an accurate practice. He had poured the rum absinthe over two cubes of sugar, then a single drop of cyanide. The bitter almond taste worked well with absinthe and sugar and making even his drink potentially lethal was invigorating. Cyanide poisoning was highly incurable and the few seconds he had taken a drink after realizing that he’d put in more drops than he should... those were the few moments he had felt alive again. He hesitated after the one drop, wondering if perhaps today he could withstand two, three, four... fifteen. But he lowered the eyedropper and screwed the lid tightly shut.
The quiet row didn’t start outside until he was sure to be asleep.
Lupin had always done well at keeping his voice low, a muffled liquid that poured through the thin cracks around the door. But Black was an idiot and held no volume lower than angry cacophony.
"You’ve nothing but tea Moony. Nothing! Earl Grey, Green, Cham-cham-"
"I don’t care what it’s called. I’m starving - I haven’t eaten in..."
"Sirius. Calm down. I’ll Apparate out for whatever you want."
A huff. "That’s not it. I - do you smell that?"
"A sickly, unwashed smell, and musty like-"
"A guest came while you were sleeping. He said it was Order business."
"He? Oh Remus. No. If you say that it was- If you- No."
"It’s only for a few days Sirius. Just until he’s finished with the potion."
"No," and the voice became scathing, harsh, and normal. "I’m not letting him stay in this house."
A slight pause and things had became worse. Severus could remember that pause. His mother would pause before she said something in a deadly quiet voice and then his father would start with the physical aspects of the argument. Ah yes, this was too familiar.
"Considering that this is my home, and distinctly not yours, Sirius, whomever wishes to stay here can and will."
"Of course. Sirius hasn’t been ‘round for fourteen bloody years, why not exclude him from everything! He’s been constantly near-death while everyone else’s been outside havin’ it easy!"
"Easy?" Quiet. Deadly quiet. "You think it’s been easy?"
"You think it’s been easy to know that everything you believed in was false? Everything you still believed in was wrong?"
It was then that Severus stopped listening. He didn’t care much for what the ensuing argument would contain. Something akin to personal attacks, maybe even tears, then some comfort that was empty and misleading. It would happen again, it always did, and no amount of reassurance would end that.
His absinthe had spilt, the green tinged one, and he was halfway bent to pick it up. But most of it was gone anyway.