In Good Time
He did not notice the steady darkening of the room. He had done this often, so often that it seemed as if his hands did not need the rest of him anymore, to do their work. Still, as important a task as this should not be left to such a chance, and a quickly muttered "lumos" softly lit the room. He forgot about it, instantly.
It was a delicate process, smoothing the wood. You had to work with it, you couldn't fight its natural inclinations. Made it temperamental. Oak today. A fine, strong wood. He spent the day pondering its secrets. Oak. Hardwood. Sturdy. Not the heart of an oak, though. This was branch wood. He smiled. Not for the hardhearted, then. He liked this, thinking of those who'd wield these wands. His wands.
The wandmaker paused. He lifted the wood, measuring, and ran his fingers over its shining surface. Smooth as glass. He balanced it on the end of one finger, and it leaned a hair's breath to the left. He didn't frown, just set it down on the table and began again. He rubbed the fine, fine sand over the wood, again and again. Long ago he stopped wondering why such roughness made the wood so smooth.
He lifted the wand again. The wandmaker couldn't tell you how long it had been, because there was no time here, in the cottage. Only the wands. If pressed, he could probably conclude that he'd finished three since the year's first snow. But what did it matter, after all?
A perfect balance. He did not smile. There was no reason to be pleased. He was only assisting the wood in becoming what it should be. There was no satisfaction, finishing this step. There would always be more wood, more wands.
For the wandmaker, who used to be Harry Potter, it was time for the core to make itself known.
"Ron! Save Ron, Harry!" Hermione screamed, flailing helplessly in the air..
"No! Save Hermione!" Ron shouted back, face red.
Harry looked back and forth. Hermione or Ron? How could he decide this? How could the universe be so monumentally cruel as to leave this up to him?
"Yes, Harry Potter," that smug voice. "What will you do? Pity I have your wand. Very poor planning, on your part."
"Harry!" Hermione screamed again. "Please, please, save Ron!"
"No!" Ron bellowed.
Harry was desperate. "Let them go. You can have me, instead."
Voldemort considered this. His old rival, a mere dozen steps away, was an opportunity too good to pass up. And yet…. "I could have you, and them too, if I wanted. But not, I think, today. The aurors will be arriving much too quickly for me to really enjoy you. A true shame you had the foresight to alert them before you set out on your little rescue mission. I should have time for my escape though, as you‘ll be busy." And with a wave of his hand, Hermione and Ron began to plummet towards the cold, cold stones.
Harry's heart broke. The seconds slowed to minutes, and his screaming friends were falling too fast. He could not save both, but if he ran, he might save one.
But he didn't. He tackled Voldemort instead.
He woke, still shaken from the dream. So long ago, it had been so many winters. The wandmaker stood, and decided that now was as good a time to be awake as any. Hermione…sometimes he struggled with his memory for the sound of his own name, but theirs were always within reach. Ron….my first friends.
He went to his worktable. The cores looked up at him, and he passed his hand over them. It stopped above the unicorn hair. He smiled. Excellent, with oak. For a girl. A gentle girl, though unwavering. And…Slytherin, yes. He cleared off the other cores, their wand would come. There would always be more wands. He placed wood and core together on the table's surface, and considered. The wood would need softening. A potion was in order.
"Why can't we use a charm to soften it? It wouldn't take so long." Harry complained, uninterested in this pointless craft. How could anything be important, when he had killed his best friends?
"Wand to make wand, boy, is that it?" The master had asked him. "A charming idea, but whence would come the first?"
Harry shrugged, angrily. "Well, now that we have some, why can't we use a charm?" Unwilling to back down.
The master looked at him with the sereneness of a wandmaker. "Many reasons. Many, many. Magic cannot make more magic. Magic cannot sustain. It is a brief flash, a ‘lumos!' to light the dark, and then it's done. Patience, patience for a wand. It must be coaxed, it must be awakened. Slowly, not jolted. No, wand cannot come from wand."
For the first time since that winter, Harry met his eyes. "But why," he asked, "do we need wands at all?"
The master smiled at this. "A question so few ask. Before there were wands, magic was rogue, weak. Unfocused, it could not be controlled. It happened, or it didn't, and was more a hindrance than a gift." His hand brushed the wand materials lovingly.
"Then it was discovered that some magical creatures amplified it. It was stronger, much stronger, and it worked every time. But it was too strong, and it worked too well. There were deaths, terrible deaths. More was needed. A barrier, if you will. Wood was chosen. The first wands were simple, creature hairs tied on sticks. Thus grew our art, the noble and most ancient art of wandmaking. And each wood, each core, has a soul of its own." The master's eyes were loving, as they settled on the wands. "Patience, patience. Remember, patience is the key to all things."
And remember he did.
He walked over to his shelves, so neat and orderly, and looked for the proper bottle. Light green, he thought, would be best. A temporary softness, and slow dry. Yes. But the light green bottle was empty.
Empty? He thought. Yes, I finished it, four wands ago. Willow and Griffin‘s Mane. A wand made for a boy, a kind boy with a fierce heart. A Hufflepuff, he thought. Yes.
He walked across the room to the desk, and composed his letter. Remembering something important, he walked to the corner, and grabbed a handful of gold out of the pile. Not bothering to count, he dropped it in the envelope, and opened the window. A nameless owl flew down from a nearby tree and took the letter. It didn't need directions, they only ever went to once place.
No matter about the potion, the wandmaker considered. He could wait. There was always more time.
The letter was on Snape's desk when he awoke. It startled him, as they always did, seeing his name in that familiar script on the envelope. He opened it, and the gold poured out, as usual. Too much, but it would do him no good to send some of it back. It would only return the next day, with no letter. He gave up trying years ago.
He unfolded the parchment. More, the light green, please. That was all it said. Not that it needed to say any more. Snape smiled. Years ago he thought the world would be a better place without all those social niceties. He never thought he would have missed them. Potter's, especially.
At first, the letters had been longer. Answers to questions Snape long ago stopped asking, mostly. He was almost sorry now, that he had burned them, his last connection with the children. After the war ended, he had given it up, all of it, swearing off teaching forever and going into business for himself. He had been pleased, at the time, with the thought of never seeing another child as long as he lived.
No more pranks. No more whining. No more foolishness to deal with, accidents to fix. No more petty, senseless rivalries. No stupid Gryffindors, know-it-all Ravenclaws, dim Hufflepuffs, or backstabbing Slytherins.
No laughter, either, careless and young. No smiles. No bright expression when one of them finally did something right. Not that he'd ever been an actual part of any of that, but he'd at least been there. It had been a part of his world. They had been things he hadn't even known he had, let alone thought he'd miss.
The Potter boy.
Disappeared after the last battle. Left Voldemort's corpse in the Great Hall of Hogwarts, while aurors fought with death eaters outside the gates. When Severus saw that the great and powerful dark lord had been dispatched by having his head bashed repeatedly against the stone, he had laughed until he cried.
That had been all it took. Inelegant, even for a Gryffindor.
But when Severus saw the other two bodies in the room, he thought he understood.
The first letter had come later, perhaps by five years. Amazing that he should find Potter, when he was probably the only wizard in the world not looking. Spitefully, he told no one. The letter was a list of required potions, and the key to a Gringotts vault. Upon inspection, the vault appeared to contain a small fortune. He took the cost of the potions, and mailed the key back with them.
When the next request came, the key came back, and there was a small note. Keep the key, it read. And do with the gold whatever you see fit. I don't need it. They keep sending more, for the wands.
Suspicious of this good fortune, Severus ignored the vault. When the potions requests kept coming, along with more gold, he decided that Potter had actually been sincere. Thrilled with his windfall, he planned how to spend it. For years he thought about it. Then he forgot about it, for more years. Then when he remembered, he donated all of it to charity. He understood now, that he didn't need it. They kept sending more, for the potions.
Potter's wands had grown famous, over the years. No one knew who made them, just that there was something…better…about them. They could not be made to order, just appeared in the shops at random, via owl. No note. No trademark, save quality. The shopkeepers sent gold back, with the owl, fearful the wandmaster would take his business elsewhere if they tried to cheat him. Severus suspected they needn't have bothered.
Why me? He had written Potter. Why order these things from me? Why give this gold to me?
Because, said the reply, you're the only one likely not to care. There was no arguing that logic, and Severus accepted it. The letters kept coming, for years. Usually, there was only a list of potions, but occasionally Potter sent a comment, or an observation. As they were so rare, Severus paid attention. He was curious about the man Potter had become.
Eventually, he had taken to writing long letters back, though the ones he received never increased in length. He wrote descriptions of his cottage. He included instructions on potion making. He described current events in wizarding society. He sent his thoughts on everything under the sun. Snape knew he was starved for company, but did not think Potter would mind him pouring out his heart. If he even read the letters.
He dumped the gold into the pile in the corner, and gathered the ingredients needed for the ‘light green' potion. "Honestly, Potter," he whispered. "Even Longbottom would have been able to brew this."
More winters passed, as they always did. The wandmaker had lost track of them long ago. They blurred together, after that first winter, the one he spent in the forest, before the wandmaster had found him.
He was pleased with this wand. Fifteen inches. Ebony. This one would be special, he knew, and he must take extra pains with it. Ebony, he reflected as he worked it with sand. A wood with secrets, many secrets. Uncommon, for a wand. This was old, old ebony. Trunk wood. Not branch wood, but not heart wood either. The wandmaker mused over this. Not black hearted then, this wandwielder, but dark. This is no tool for a child.
He tested its balance. On any other wand, it would be perfect, but not this. This would be a wand like no other. The sand again, then, for a few more hours. Then he'd see.
The ebony was smooth and flowed like water. Perfect, perfect. The wandmaker allowed himself a moment's pleasure. This would be his masterpiece. The cores now. He found he was excited, thrilled to see the finished product. But he wouldn't ruin it by rushing. Patience, that was the key. He passed his hand over the cores.
It stopped on Dragon Heartstring. Yes, that made sense. This wielder would have the heart of a dragon. And yet…and yet…it wasn't right, somehow. Long years of silence had taught the wandmaker to listen to his inner voices, and he passed his hand again. It stopped again, on witch-raven feather. Ah. That was right. A mixture.
He nearly smiled. Witch-Ravens. A circle of dark witches, long ago, had been transfigured into Ravens. So the stories said. And from them are descended Witch-Ravens, those caretakers of the forest. Always watching, protecting those creatures who cannot protect themselves. Other stories claimed the witches were not dark, that a grave injustice had been done. The wandmaker may have believed this, had he chosen to give the matter any thought at all.
This feather had waited a long time, before being chosen. A gift from the witch-raven of his forest. Not a gift often given, and thus a rare ingredient of wands. The wandmaker was pleased, though he thought he should have known, beforehand.
The ebony needed no softening. It should be hard, that was as it was meant to be. He knew this, and selected the red potion for soaking. Just long enough to make it amenable to the cores, he thought. Just enough to catch its interest. Still, he thought there would be time to twist the cores, and have them ready before the wood was done.
There had been no letters for months. No letters to him, and no wands to the shops. Severus had noticed this, and worried. Then he grew angry, that Potter should cause him to worry. It wasn't as if he was a boy any longer, and Severus his schoolmaster. It had been over thirty years since those days, Severus realized, startled at this. Thirty years?
There had been many, many letters to and from Potter, in those thirty years. How had Severus never got around to telling him? How had he avoided that most easily avoidable of topics for so long? ‘You did the right thing,' had been the start of countless, crumpled and burned letters. ‘They would have wanted to be together,' or ‘You saved the wizarding world, by killing him,' had been the end. But he could never get the phrasing right, and he had been unwilling to send such a letter unperfected. And so he had put it off, for thirty years.
Not as long as it sounds, to a wizard. But still…a tenth of my life, perhaps, he thought. He stirred his cauldron with a vengeance. Too much time, yet not enough. For there was time left, ages of it, and he was so tired of this solitary life. He growled, displeased with this feeling of helplessness, of being lost. He stirred with just a bit too much force, then, and over went the cauldron.
He dove away quickly enough to avoid serious injury, but the worktable, and everything on it, was a loss. Furious with himself, he took stock of the damages. His cauldron, various stirring utensils, some semi-valuable ingredients…and his wand, ruined.
He paused, no longer angry. Well, he thought, I shall have to get that taken care of immediately. And he left.
The wandmaker, sat, waiting. His ebony masterpiece had been finished, ages ago, and he had made nothing since. He would, eventually, but now was not the time. Timing is very important to a wandmaker. First, the owner of his masterpiece must come and claim it. It would not do to mail it away, like it was nothing.
Besides, the wandmaker was curious. He would meet this person, this worthy one. He had seen no people since the passing of his master, and it was time again.
There was a shadow at the doorway, and Harry rose. "Hello," he said, his voice rusty from decades of disuse. "The wand is on the table. I've been expecting you, you know." He peered at the figure. He knew this person! It was the potions person! He briefly felt the sensation of forcing a rusty hinge in his mind, and then the name came. "Snape."
The figure looked at him, his long hair mostly gray now, harsh features just the same. But there was a new softness to his expression, a smoothness, perhaps. Like a rock worn by a river, over time. The wandmaker smiled, a real smile.
Potter did not look like he expected. Though he knew, logically, that Potter was no longer a boy, he had always pictured him as that not-quite-filled-out child, with the too-wide eyes and soft hands. He had grown into himself, Severus noted. His hair was still messy, though no longer completely black, and his hands were rough with work. Severus liked these changes.
He followed Potter's gesture to the table, and gasped at what he saw there. "That wand…" he began, but got no farther.
The wandmaker nodded. "Yes. I made it for you." There was a pause, a remembrance. "Professor."
Severus tore his eyes away from the magnificent wand. "None of that," he said. "Or I shall have to call you ‘Wandmaster.'
A shake of the head. "No. I am not the master here. My master died, many winters ago."
Snape nodded at this. "It had better be ‘Harry' and ‘Severus' then."
"Harry," he tried his own name on for size. "The last time I heard that name…it was on Hermione's lips."
"That was long ago," Snape confirmed. "Maybe you should take it up again."
Harry thought about this. "Yes." He agreed. "It's time."
Severus went to the wand, and reached out, then hesitated.
"It's your wand." Harry said. "Pick it up."
Unable to refuse, Severus did so, reverently. He waved it, experimentally. A flash of light, and the suggestion of black wings. He smiled. "With this," he said, "I could become more taken with foolish wand waving." He turned to Harry, and looked him in the eyes. "There must be an exchange."
Harry did not deny this. "Perhaps you could teach me…how to use asphodel, and wormwood." He smiled.
"Not enough." Severus decided. "For this, I will teach you all I know."
"I would like that." Harry said.
"It will take years," Severus warned.
Harry smiled, and so did Severus. "There is time."