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Title: Artemisia Absinthium
Author: [info]iulia_linnea
Pairing: implied Lucius/Severus
Rating: PG-13
Warning (highlight to view): For chanish and hallucinatory elements.
Word Count: 2440
Summary: Severus knows about Artemisia absinthium; unfortunately, he knows precious little about Lucius Malfoy.
Disclaimer: This work of fan fiction is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made from (and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by) the posting of this fan work.
Author's Note: Written for [info]eaivalefay after taking "laundry drabbles" prompts. Prompts: "temperature," "ivory," and "startled." Thank you, [info]luckybrans, for giving me a description of the taste of absinthe.



Bored and nervous, Severus stared into the green liquid and watched as an ivory cloudiness spread out from the ice cube that Lucius Malfoy had just dropped into his glass.

"You never drink absinthe neat, Snape."

"Why not?"

Leaning dangerously close, Malfoy whispered, "Because she has teeth."

"W—who does?"

"The little green fairy, of course," the older boy said, gracefully sauntering off to speak to one of the other Slytherins he had invited to his rooms.

It startled Severus that he could still feel Malfoy's breath on his ear—and that he was hard. He shifted in embarrassment and wondered at how the temperature seemed to have risen.

Why am I even here? he asked himself, taking a large swig of his drink—and choking.

"She has claws, too," Bellatrix Black said, giggling as she materialized before him.

Severus spluttered. "Gah! It tastes like . . . like burnt menthol!"

"That's because you're not doing it right."

"I don't see you drinking any."

"Prat," Black said amusedly, taking Severus' glass away and beckoning him to follow her to the table with the absinthe bottle and accessories on it.

Severus, who was as surprised that one of the Black sisters would speak to him as he was that Malfoy would, obeyed her.

"Hold the spoon with the sugar cubes over the top of your glass," she instructed, handing him one filled with ice, "and then pour the absinthe over the sugar."

"But I don't like sugar."

"Do you like choking?"

Severus did not respond. Instead, he carefully balanced the glass and spoon in one hand, and reaching with the other for the bottle.

"Well, go on."

"Allow me, Miss Black," Malfoy replied, smoothly relieving her of the bottle and pouring the absinthe for him. "Now then, try it again—just a sip this time," he urged, his voice low and inviting.

It made Severus' cock throb. What am I doing here? he asked himself again, locking eyes with Malfoy as he carefully sipped his drink. "Oh . . . that's—"

"Nice?" Black interrupted.

Without taking his eyes off of Severus', Malfoy purred, "Do leave us alone."

Severus heard Black's giggling subside, and then the noise of the other guests faded against the sound of the walls melting. He felt himself grin stupidly then, but could not find it within himself to care.

"Yes, that's what the sugar is for," Malfoy explained, coaxing the glass and spoon from Severus' nerveless fingers and leading him past the molten portraits and shiny green lights to a darker, more secret place.

"Wh—where . . . ?"

"Oh, it can be anywhere you like, Snape. It's your hallucination," Malfoy replied, his voice oddly matter-of-fact.

"C—can it be the b—bed?" Severus asked, watching the lights converge upon Malfoy's coverlet and sink down into the satin.

He did not know why he asked.

"My, aren't you advanced?"

"What? Yes, oh," Severus replied, shaking his head. "What were you saying?"

Malfoy laughed, and so did some of the others, but not, Severus realized, at him. His vision sharpened, and he saw that the portraits were exactly where they ought to be, the walls were solid, and there was no bed.

I'm still standing exactly where I was, he thought, disappointed and confused but evincing neither emotion.

"You were telling me about the similarities between Fire Bright Elixir and absinthe. Don't you remember? You've been discoursing at length."

I have? "Oh. I've bored you."

"Not at all, Severus."

Severus frowned.

"You did enjoy your sip, didn't you? You've forgot that you offered me your name."

"I . . . I did?"

"Come," Malfoy replied, throwing a companionable arm over Severus' shoulders. "I've some books in my room that might interest you."

"Books?"

"Banned ones," Malfoy promised, leading Severus away. But before they reached the door to Malfoy's bedchamber, he called, "Accio absinthe!" and leaned down to whisper, "Perhaps another sip will persuade you to share what you were dreaming about, hmm?"

Bewildered, Severus said, "I . . . I like to read."

"I'm certain you do. That's why you're here."

Severus' eyes fixed on the green satin coverlet and he started as Lucius closed and warded the door behind them. His mouth went dry.

"It is?"

"Well, in part," Malfoy said, removing his robes. "Please, make yourself comfortable. The first book is . . . large. It will take both of us to hold it, and sitting next to each other when it's so hot . . . ."

"Oh, of course," Severus said, hastily removing his robes and sitting down next to Malfoy on the bed.

"Now then, here's your glass, and here's mine. Shall we toast?"

"To b—banned books."

"Excellent. To banned books," Malfoy replied, touching his glass lightly against Severus' and then sipping from it. "Go on. It's not polite to refuse one's own toast."

Severus frowned and looked up at the crash of voices. What the . . . ?

"If you're not going to eat that, I will," Bellatrix said, picking up Severus' neglected toast. "Couldn't you even butter it, Snape?"

But . . . I was just . . . .

"You know, if you can't handle your liquor, you really shouldn't be drinking."

"Be nice, Bella," Narcissa Black said. "It was his first time."

Severus shook his head, realizing as he did so the mistake he had just made. "Oh, that—"

"Hurts?"

"Yes," Severus groused.

"You don't have to be so rude, you know. I was just asking," Narcissa said, turning away to talk to her older sister.

Damn.

"Have you followed it, yet?" someone asked behind him.

Severus turned to see Malfoy standing there—and no one else.

"But . . . where did everyone go?"

"They were never here, Severus," Malfoy said, walking toward the High Table. "You're still in your dream. Find her. She wants you to follow her," he continued, before walking through the table and disappearing.

Looking around, the First Year thought, Right. They're playing a prank on me. Follow what? The fairy in the sodding absinthe bottle? But that's

Just then, a green blur rushed past him, and Severus turned his aching head unsteadily to follow its progress.

He said this was my hallucination. Perhaps that means I can— "Stop!" he commanded the fairy, for he was certain the blur was the fairy, and, much to his relieved surprise, the creature obeyed.

It hovered in the center of the now-cleared hall—the tables and benches had all dematerialized—and Severus could see that the fairy was actually a tiny glittering snake with wings.

"Do you speak?"

The creature's beady eyes merely stared at him.

"Do you bite?" Severus asked, approaching the "fairy" and reaching for it. "Ow!"

Hissing, the being began to dart above him in the air, its green trails making some sort of figure, and Severus, infuriated, began to chase the thing, which led him toward the points glasses and then—a slow darkness crept over and through him or he became it or it was just part of him; Severus could not sort it out and then—he was through the wall.

There were books everywhere. They sat, dusty and unopened, on shelves that stretched as far as Severus' eyes could see, and then that feeling he had felt for Malfoy crashed through his body and sang in his mind and he knew: they were for him.

These books—this knowledge, it's mine!

"Well," Malfoy drawled, his hip pressing into Severus' warmly, "it could be, but you'll have to earn the right to use it."

"W—what?" Severus asked, looking around to find himself in Malfoy's bedchamber again. "How?"

"I'm glad you're so . . . eager. I think it's important to understand what one's friends desire, don't you?"

"Lucius, I don't understand. What's happening to me?"

"I don't think I gave you permission to call me that, did I?" Malfoy asked, grabbing Severus' left hand and pulling it away from the book.

"I'm bleeding!"

"It bit you, didn't it? You got greedy. The fairy doesn't like to share—at least, not with rude, impatient little boys."

"I'm not a little boy!" Severus exclaimed, jerking his hand away from Malfoy and adjusting his robes as he stood up. "And I'm not going to let you make a fool of me one moment longer."

The sound of clapping surrounded him then, and the room dissolved into green mist. When the mist had evaporated, Severus found himself in the Hall of Books again, only this time, the shelves were empty.

Almost.

High above him, hissing happily, was the "fairy."

"It's all mine, boy," the being said, "but I do share with those I deem worthy. Are you worthy?"

"Y—yes."

"You don't sound certain."

"But I am. I am certain! Please, couldn't I just have one?"

"What would you do with it?"

"W—well, I'd read it!"

"What good is knowing something, anything, without also making use of it?"

That's a good question, Severus thought, biting his lip to keep himself from saying anything stupid before he had worked out an answer.

"Tell me," the creature asked, pushing itself off its perch and swooping down to land on another, lower shelf, one at eye-level with Severus, "why did you accept Lucius Malfoy's invitation? Why did you drink from the bottle? Why did you follow me?"

"I wanted to know."

"Yes, but what did you want to know?"

"E—everything?"

"Is that possible, do you think, for one mortal wizard to know ‘everything'?"

"Well, I—"

"Surely, there are limits to human understanding. It would take more than a lifetime to read all of these," the being said, as the books re-materialized.

"You're right, of course, but I could read one of them," Severus said, feeling desperate to touch the books, but not daring to do so.

"Your restraint does you credit, but you're lying to me. You don't want just one. You want them all. You want the knowledge more than you want Lucius Malfoy."

"I . . . I just want him to like me."

The being laughed. "You're too young to understand what I mean."

"I am not!"

The creature hissed and sped off his perch to fly through Severus—through his pelvis—and a familiar hard twinge of pleasure made the boy gasp.

"You're no different than the rest of them. Your body still thinks for you more than your mind."

"I WANT A BOOK!" Severus thundered, turning quickly to follow the green trails until he thought he could tell where the "fairy" was going to be and reaching out for that spot. "Ha!" he cried, triumphantly capturing the being. "I've got you! I know how this works. I know what you are!"

Struggling angrily, the creature spat, "What? What am I?"

You're a thujone-induced hallucination, but Malfoy said you were mine, so— "You're a genie, and now I've caught you, I get one wish!"

"Oh, very good. You are studious. I suppose you ran all the way to the library after you got your invitation?"

"I already knew about Artemisia absinthium! And anyway, you're stalling. I caught you. I want my book."

"There are other forms of worm—"

Severus, feeling sleepy and cross, shook the creature. "Stop it! I'm tired of this game. I want my book!"

"Let me go, and you may have it."

"Right. I'm not stupid. If I let you go, all of the books will disappear," Severus asserted, tightening his grip.

"Ow. Do you mind?"

"Wh—what? Oh, sorry," Severus mumbled, releasing Lucius Malfoy's hand, which was holding one half of a very large, worn-looking book.

They were in the bedroom again, and Severus' mouth felt sore.

"You really do like to read, don't you?"

Severus blushed and looked down at the engraving on the pages before them. "What's that?" he asked, his heart quickening. It looks like the symbol the fairy was making before.

"It's why you're here. It's the Mosmordre."

"‘A sign of those who would defeat death'," Severus read.

"Yes," Malfoy said, rising from the bed and drawing on his robes. "It's a fascinating tome, Severus. You're welcome to borrow it. It's clear to me that you've . . . the proper temperament for the study of many advanced subjects."

"But how will I return it to you, Malfoy? You're leaving Hogwarts soon, and it's such a big book that—"

"I shouldn't worry about that. We've drunk together now. We've . . . got to know each other a bit better. I know we'll have much to discuss as you continue your studies."

Severus felt a rush of gratitude wash over himself that was so strong he had to shut the book and clutch it to his chest to steady himself. "D—does that mean we're friends now?"

Malfoy smiled. "Do you wish to be my friend, Severus?"

The book in his arms seemed to pulse with power, and Severus hesitated, staring at Malfoy's perfect mouth without quite knowing why he felt drawn to it.

"Severus?"

"Yes! I mean, yes, of course. I'd like that very much. And thank you for the invitation. I've enjoyed our evening," he said formally, as he stood up.

He still was not at all certain what he was doing talking to Lucius Malfoy, and he half-expected to wake from whatever dream he was in, bookless and alone, before he could seek the knowledge he held.

The Seventh Year beamed at him and handed Severus the now-closed bottle of absinthe. "There is still some left. Keep it. Drink from it from time to time—but never tell anyone else what you see when you do. Promise me."

"I . . . I promise, Malfoy."

"‘Malfoy'? Severus, you wound me! I thought you wanted to be my friend."

"But I do!"

"Than you must call me Lucius, of course," the older boy asserted, clapping an arm around Severus' shoulders and guiding him back out into the sitting room.

No one was there.

"Where'd the others go?"

"What others?"

"Weren't there others?"

"I think perhaps you should drink a little less next time, friend," Lucius said, cheerfully showing Severus to the door of his suite. "Tonight was all about you."

And then the door shut behind Severus, and he found himself in the Slytherin common room. The fire was but embers in the hearth, and the room, empty. It was later than he had imagined.

"There were others," he said, hurrying off to his dormitory. But I don't care, do I? Lucius Malfoy wants to be my friend, and he loaned me a book of magic! he thought, hastily setting the bottle of absinthe on his desk and throwing himself across his bed so that he could settle in for a long read.

And so enthralled was Severus by what he found within the book's pages as the night died that he failed to notice the green blur that pushed itself out of the bottle, slithered down the glass, and then licked at the invitation sitting next to it until it was nothing but ash.