by Kathryn A
A meeting of minds. (companion piece to Rationalization)
Notes: Written as a birthday fic for jedibuttercup. Thanks to Mistral for brainstorming and Jonathan for brainstorming and alpha-reading.
The first time Snape ordered a potion ingredient that Anya didn't recognise, she lied, saying that it wasn't in stock. There wasn't a second time.
It wasn't the sting of failure that motivated her (though it did sting). It wasn't just that he was an important customer (though having the Potions Master of Hogwarts as a client was indeed a coup). They were reasons enough to get her started, but once she began looking into advanced Wizarding potion-making, she made a startling discovery: she could do this herself. It was magic, and she could do it. It didn't matter that she was no longer a demon, that she was mortal, that she wasn't a wizard: she could brew potions. And she was good at it.
People were confusing, but potions were straightforward. Ingredients had properties that one could look up and research. Techniques could be practiced and honed. If you dropped a Klizkin feather into a cloud-pillow brew just as the first bubbles formed, the potion would turn lavender; it was repeatable, reliable, comprehensible. It was something she could control, something she could understand. Unlike people.
She subscribed to the leading potions journals, and noticed Snape's name in them; sometimes as the author of an article, but more often in letters to the editor, which were as scathing as they were erudite, though all clothed in cold and superficial politeness.
It was understandable that Mr. Bobblewort failed to mention whether he was using Indian or European Sandalwood ash in his potion. However, the two species have distinct but subtle differences, due to their different growing conditions. It may not matter for the cruder potions, but I was under the impression that his article was intended to illuminate techniques for advanced potion brewing.
Anya tapped her pen thoughtfully, and added a note to the bottom of the invoice for Snape's current order.
Professor Snape, You may be interested to know that I have recently aquired a source for African Sandalwood. I have found it somewhat rougher than Indian, but with a stronger Fire aspect than European Sandalwood. Please let me know if you would be interested in a sample with your next order. Sincerely,
A. C. E. Jenkins,
Proprieter, The Magic Box
Miss Jenkins, Thank you for the African Sandalwood sample. You were correct about its Fire aspect, but it is inaccurate to say that it is "rougher" than Indian Sandalwood. The more precise description would be "coarse-grained". I am certain you will keep this in mind in the future. Prof. S. Snape
Potionmaster, Hogwarts School of Wizardry
Professor Snape, I am afraid that my source for Platypus Spurs has dried up; the Australian Customs Office is too efficient. However, I can offer you whole Cane Toads for half price. Their poison glands have similar properties. You may be interested in the enclosed article from the Australasian Potions Monthly on "Brewing with Cane Toads". Sincerely,
A. C. E. Jenkins
Miss Jenkins, The article was both vague and misleading, though I admit there were some interesting techniques for ingredient substitution. I deduce that the isolation of Australasia has forced their potion-masters to improvise frequently due to the difficulty of aquiring certain ingredients. I have enclosed further comments on the article, which you may be interested in perusing. Prof. S. Snape
Dear Professor Snape, I much regret that I cannot assure you of the quality or the provenance of the Mexican Zeffa Berry powder which you requested. If you have any way of telling whether the samples I have procured are genuine, I would be grateful for your help. Sincerely,
Miss Jenkins, This is what you must do... First, test the colouration by mixing the powder with water. It should be a blackish-purple, similar to blackcurrant juice. If the mixture dissovles completely, then you have berry juice powder rather than whole berry powder. Berry powder will produce a black precipitate. If the mixture is cloudy, or the precipitate is not black, then the mixture has been adulterated. Second, the flame test: put a pinch of the powder on a ceramic tile, and insert in a fire source; the flame should turn purple. Also, the residue should be a golden colour. Third... Professor S. Snape
Professor Snape, Thank you for your invaluable help. I'm afraid that the Mexican Zeffa Berry powder turned out to be blackcurrant powder. That's one supplier I am not going back to. Though the Suppurating Boil paste that I applied to his final bill should make him think twice about doing that to anyone else. What a fool. If he tries that with someone less generous than I, he'll end up as a greasy stain on the sidewalk. Sincerely,
Dear Miss Jenkins, Satisfying as it may be to imagine suppurating boils on your former supplier, the method is both innacurate and unwise, not to mention lacking the true satisfaction of seeing one's victim suffering in person. Inaccurate because the man could well have a secretary who deals with his correspondence, rather than himself. Unwise because, until he actually is a greasy stain on the pavement, you have left yourself open to retaliation, since the origin is traceable back to you. Even if you are capable of defending yourself, those around you may not be so capable. Sincerely,
Professor S. Snape
"How dare the man presume to advise me about vengeance?" Anya said, her voice rising with every word. "Who does he think he is?"
She slapped the letter down on the bench and stalked off to do inventory. Half an hour later, the soothing knowledge of a store well-stocked had calmed her down. She picked up the letter again and re-read it. Okay, he had a point. She was mortal now, not an immortal demon who had dealt out vengeance rather than receiving it. Now she had to factor "I could possibly die" into the equation, something she wasn't used to at all. Not to mention that when she'd been a vengeance demon, she could just vanish after the job was done. Fine. She'd be more careful next time.
Next time... She paused as the implications of that percolated through her brain. Next time. Snape, unlike almost everyone she'd been associated with since she became mortal, had not told her that she ought to be nice. He hadn't said that vengeance was wrong. He understood.
Anya smiled, and put the letter away in a safe place.