Incident at Uijeongbu
The wad of parchment burst into flames. Another flick of Severus' wand sent it flying across the lab. Trailing orange sparks, it hurtled through the empty classroom like a comet. A crowd's distant cheering accompanied its spectacular disappearance into thin air. Severus glared up at the window. An entire afternoon wasted and nothing to show for it! He'd started with such high hopes, determined to be the youngest wizard in Hogwarts' history to enter Eclectic Elixirs. Professor Dumbledore only allowed a handful of seventh year students to take his advanced potions class during the spring term, and ever since returning for his fourth year, all Severus could think about was adding his name to that exclusive roster. Oh, that would wipe the smug look off James Potter's ugly mug—and Lily would be so impressed! Just picturing her sweet face made him smile.
Of course, when he'd told her what he was going to do, swearing her to secrecy, her reaction hadn't been one of excitement at all: 'That's a N.E.W.T level class and you haven't even taken your O.W.L exams yet. Why, we've barely mastered Polyjuice with Professor Slughorn! It sounds dangerous, Severus. Promise me that you'll be careful. You will promise, won't you?' And then, she'd squeezed his hand. Even now, he could still feel the pressure of her soft little hand in his own. Once he'd made the roster, he'd hold her hand every day. He'd walk her to all her classes and at night, they'd sneak out to sit by the lake and watch the stars.
Of course, none of that would happen, unless he passed the entrance exam. It had seemed simple enough, at first: all he had to do was concoct a perfect Tempus Mutato, a potion that altered time. 'A year will be sufficient. You'll find everything you need right here,' Dumbledore had said, as he handed each of his prospective students a piece of parchment.
The very one he'd just incinerated.
Time travel, what a ridiculous concept! He couldn't think of any part of his past that was worth revisiting. What was the use in going back, if one wasn't allowed to change anything or even use magic! Dumbledore had made that last part quite clear.
Sleet pinged against the window, its rhythmic patter taunting him: You can't do it...you can't do it!
Parchment or no, failure was not an option. Severus shuffled over to the storage shelves to collect his ingredients once again. Only five components were required—five!—six, if you counted the water, and all of them ordinary. Unlike some magical mixtures, Tempus Mutato needed no complicated incantations chanted at key points during its assemblage and demanded no special techniques of its maker. Mix, boil, go back in time: really, it was that simple.
So why wasn't it working?
Ignoring the dungeon's chill, Severus rolled up his sleeves. "Seventh time's the charm," he said, filching a fresh cauldron from a nearby desk. By now, he'd memorized the recipe and as he prepared his ingredients again, he intoned the name of each one as reverently as a monk at vespers: "Two measures of ruethorn bark, triphillium root and oneiroweed, ground to a fine powder..." He snatched up his mortar and pestle, grinding his teeth in time with his endeavor. "Fine powder, right...Three drops of belladonna tincture, four drops extract of bedlam seed...Got them...Combine all ingredients in a bath of spring water and mix thoroughly," he said, upending the earthy-smelling mixture into the cauldron's dark belly. Then, he proceeded to whisk the gritty mess into a whirlpool. "Cover and bring to a boil over high flame, until liquid is reduced by half and has attained a golden color and correct viscidity." The slam of an iron lid echoed off the walls of the chamber. The soft fwump of conjured flame soon followed. "Well, that's everything," he muttered, wiping his hands on his robe.
This time, instead of hovering over the cauldron, he pulled a stool next to it and put his elbows on the station. As he cradled his head in his hands and stared across the murky classroom, he remembered something else Professor Dumbledore had said when he set the assignment: 'To travel the past requires a strong tether in the present.'
A tether...had Dumbledore been cautioning him to stay on task or suggesting he tie himself to a chair? Maybe he'd been hinting at an intangible hold to the Here and Now? But what? How? Severus sighed. Maybe Lily was right.
Another roar from the Quidditch pitch added insult to injury. Gryffindor and Hufflepuff were battling it out in the semi-finals. The winner would play Slytherin in next week's championship. Lily would be there today...Lily, with her warm eyes and hair the color of firelight, rosy-cheeked and crowned with frozen diadems, sitting in the stands, laughing and cheering...His face clouded. Lily, watching James—waiting for James! Always James, James, James and never, ever, no matter how hard he tried—
She never will, so never mind, said the sleet, tapping on the windowpane.
The cauldron's cover rattled. It hadn't done that before. Still shaking with rage, Severus removed it and peered inside. "I'll show you, Potter," he spat. "I'll show you all!" So caught up in his anger, Severus barely noticed when a bubble burst, splattering his robe. He didn't see what happened to the ragged fringe on his scarf when it slipped inside the cauldron, how quickly its green and silver threads dissolved in the seething mixture, only that the elixir suddenly turned a buttery color and smelled like the earth after a warm summer rain.
All his other attempts had produced a mush that smelled like dirty feet. Now, the tremble in hands replaced with excitement, Severus extracted the liquid with a glass dropper. Even when he transferred it to a small phial, he could still see the tiny striations within it, shades of gold on gold that continued to swirl. "By gods, I did it! I really did it," he cried, mesmerized by his creation. "I can't wait to show Lily!"
Of course, there was only one way to find out if it really worked, and although Dumbledore had instructed him to taste only a drop if he actually completed the potion, Severus threw caution to the wind, downing the contents of the phial in one swallow. It tasted like honey, with just a hint of Butterbeer. "Take that, Potter," he whispered.
Unseen hands grabbed him from behind and pulled hard. The floor lurched, and then, its flagstones started rippling, undulating like waves of a strange but solid sea. Then the room began to spin, the roar of a thousand voices filled his ears and the light dimmed down, coalescing into a single pinprick star. Before Severus could scream for help, oblivion overtook him.
When he finally resurfaced, he was lying on his back on hard ground and cold...so cold! He tried to sit up, only to find himself trapped, hedged on all sides by a crushing wall of winter. He couldn't move, couldn't even open his eyes. Their lids felt like slabs of stone. Loud whizzes and whistles, followed by staccato pops filled his ears. Overlaying these was another sound, a measured swooshing, like the beating of a mechanical heart.
Those must be fireworks, he thought, but the last time we had them was after Quidditch finals two—no, three years ago! I'm even further back in time than I thought! I need to hide...have to get back inside the castle before anyone sees—
Something heavy landed nearby, spraying his face with stones. Overhead, as the mechanical beating became louder, the wind rose, whipping him with coarse strands of long grass. These aren't fireworks, they're...Snape forced his eyes open, but a dark hulk blotted out the sun. It roared over him but then, turned and descended. It touched down in the field near him, setting off another volley of staccato blasts. As his mind dimly registered helicopter, he heard the ping of metal ricocheting off metal. Severus moaned.
"Hurry up," an unfamiliar man's voice boomed. "Let's get him loaded!"
Hands surrounded him: rough, dirty, hands that tugged and jostled, and then, lifted. Something screamed past his ear. They ran towards the helicopter, passing a man in a drab green uniform seconds before his throat erupted in bloody geyser that sprayed all of them with gore. Snape's stomach heaved. He closed his eyes and groaned, "No more, please…let me go."
"On my count," said the man. "One, two...three!"
"I wa—need to...go...Just let me..."
A hand squeezed his shoulder and another man said, "Don't worry, kid, you're gonna be a-okay." Although he spoke English, Severus could not place his accent. Before he could ask, the man drew thick straps across his legs and chest, binding him tightly to a metal plate. The aircraft lurched as a metal grate slammed over him and bolts clicked into place. "All clear," the man hollered, "Take her up!"
More explosions followed their ascent, carrying acrid smells: oil, copper, and charred meat. Then, the nose of the helicopter dipped slightly and as they barreled into burning cold, the wind tore at his face. With only the engine's rough purr and the beat of black wings to measure the distance between memory and dream, the battlefield fell away.
The sharp tang of rubbing alcohol and iodine stung his nose. Head throbbing, Severus turned away from the smell, only to discover a gentler assault on a nearby table: eggs, coffee and toast. His stomach grumbled and his throat ached. I must be in the Infirmary. Another, more sobering thought soon followed: I blew up the lab. Everything else was a dream! Carried on a current of burbling voices and the rustling of starched cotton, Severus surfaced, expecting to meet Dumbledore's stern countenance and receive an even sterner lecture on the proper handling of potentially volatile potions, as well as a string of demerits for Slytherin. Wondering how many windows he'd broken with his last attempt at the potion—Lily was right, the task had been beyond him—how he would pay for the damages, and most importantly, how to keep his mother from finding out, Severus opened his eyes.
This was most definitely not the school Infirmary.
The far wall of his room, made of heavy canvas, was the color of sunbaked mud. So was the ceiling, which was kept aloft by wooden poles. Sheets hung on either side of him divided the sleeping quarters into narrow queues. Someone in the one next to his was moaning in what Severus only hoped was the throes of a nightmare.
"Hey, sleepy head, glad you're awake! We saved your seat at the war, while you were away," said a man with tousled black hair at the foot of the bed. Grabbing a low stool, he pulled up next to Snape. Beard stubble stippled his chin and dark crescents bloomed beneath his eyes. His t-shirt matched his pants: a faded cotton whose color might have been green, and both were peppered with bloodstains, splashes of iodine, and a few other colors that Severus didn't want to consider. Over these, the man wore a red chenille bathrobe. Like the rest of his outfit, the bathrobe had also seen better days.
"War? Where am I? Who are..." Snape's head protested loudly as he struggled to sit up in bed. A protest the thick wad of gauze wrapped around it did nothing to improve.
"Whoa! Easy does it there, kiddo!" Steadying Snape's thin shoulders with one arm, the man reached behind him with the other and adjusted his pillow. "One crack in your noggin is enough." Taking a clipboard from the foot of the cot, Bathrobe Man scanned it and then, looked up. "Says here, you have a concussion—a real doozy. What's the last thing you remember before your lights went out?"
It seemed like something standing very far away in the fog, at first. "Oh, I was...Uhm…" Bedsprings creaked as Snape shifted on the cot. "I remember a crowd...and Lily. I wanted to make her proud, so I...I drank a potion…"
"Lily, eh? Strange name for a Geisha. Next time you're on leave, stick to whiskey, kid. Trust me, those 'potions' of theirs will get you every time. You're lucky you're not on a slow boat to Shanghai right now."
"Is that what happened to you, too?" Snape asked.
Bathrobe Man's head shot up. "Me?"
"Did they steal your clothes?" Severus asked, indicating the bathrobe.
The man burst into peals of laughter. "Oh, this?" he said, when he could finally catch his breath. "I was wearing it when the nice men from the draft board trapped me with their butterfly nets." Extending his hand, he added, "My name's Pierce. Dr. Benjamin Franklin Pierce from Crabapple Cove in the beautiful State of Maine, You-Ess-of-Aye, but you can call me Hawkeye. Everybody here does."
"You look awfully young to be a soldier."
"Where am I, Sir—Doctor Hawkeye? What is this place?"
"This?" Making a sweeping gesture with open arms, Hawkeye said, "This, my friend, is the four-oh-double-seven mobile army surgical hospital. American owned and operated, and conveniently located at the corner of plague and pestilence in beautiful downtown South Korea."
"South Korea?" He'd read about this conflict in Muggle Studies. "You mean, like the one in the Korean War?"
"The only war in town." Hawkeye slowly nodded. "Welcome to Uijeongbu, Severus. Mind if I ask you a few more questions?"
"Korea...Wow, it's all so real!" He hadn't meant to say that last part. Trying to regroup, he rubbed his head. "Oh...ow!"
Hawkeye clucked. "Yeah, your head's going to feel about three sizes too big for a day or so, but don't worry. I've ordered something for that and I'll try to make these questions easy ones."
"So, where are you from?"
He almost said Hogwarts School of Wizardry, but he couldn't tell Hawkeye the truth. "Uh, England. Spinner's End: it's near London," he said.
"Ah! Jolly Old England! Land of tea and crumpets, God Save the Queen and Winston Churchill! That explains your accent," said Hawkeye. "Next one: how old are you, really?"
"I'll be fifteen next month."
"Fourteen." Pierce's face sagged. Eyes clouding, he looked away. "They get younger every day." He rubbed his face, scribbled something on the clipboard, and then looked back at Snape. "Do your parents know you've enlisted?"
"It's just my mother and—no, no," Severus cried, tugging on one of Hawkeye's sleeves. "She'd kill me if she knew! You won't tell her, will you?" Then, reality hit him and his grip slackened. He'd really done it: he'd traveled back in time—and not just one year, but over twenty. His mother would be about ten years old right now.
Hawkeye shook his head. "Your secret's safe with me. Just promise that you'll do it eventually—and by 'eventually,' I mean that you'll write to her before you leave. Deal?"
Hawkeye squeezed Snape's arm. "Good! Okay, Severus, last question before breakfast and this one's worth a million pounds: what unit are you with?"
Snape shook his head. "Unit?"
"Regiment? Battalion? Militia? Whatever the kids in Spinner's End are calling a group of soldiers these days."
Snape's cheeks burned and he suddenly found his ragged cuticles extremely interesting. "I...Uh...I'm sorry, Dr. Hawkeye, but I don't think I belong here at all."
"Who does? This is hell with rats, bad food, and hot and cold running dysentery."
"No, you don't understand. I'm not really a soldier." Forcing himself to meet Hawkeye's gaze, Severus said, "You see, sir, I think I'm kind of… lost."
"That's nothing to be sorry for. In fact, it's a relief. It would've been pretty hard for you to fight in a suit and cape, anyway."
"My school uniform!" Looking down, Snape was horrified to discover that it had been replaced with grayish cotton pajamas. "Where is it?"
The tent's wall rippled and then, a door along its far wall opened. Dr. Pierce looked up and smiled. "Ah! Here's someone who can tell us."
"Good morning, Captain Pierce. I have our John Doe's belongings right here, washed and pressed to order."
The figure approaching the cot, while stout, was unmistakably female, although the voice issuing from the lavender chiffon dress and matching wide-brimmed hat was decidedly male, as were the hairy arms protruding from its puffed sleeves. Snape's jaw dropped, his mouth forming the universal sign of silent befuddlement.
Hawkeye beamed. "Perfect timing, Klinger. Young Severus here was just asking about them. And if I may say, you're looking particularly lovely this morning."
The Lavender Lady curtsied. "Flattery will get you everywhere, sir."
"Everywhere but home," Pierce quipped. "Severus, this is Corporal Klinger, our company fashion plate. But don't let the dress fool you: he's not as easy as he looks."
After setting the pile of clothes at Snape's feet, Klinger took something out of the cape. "Someone must've stolen your wallet and ID, but I did find this. Thought you might want to have it."
"My wand!" Severus gasped. "Yes! Thank you so much Mrs. Klinger—Corporal—ma'am?"
Hawkeye put his head in hands. His shoulders heaved.
"Go ahead, laugh! At least he shows some me respect," Klinger said, flouncing down beside the pile of clothes on the bed. "I like you already, kid. So, are you really a magician?"
He hated being called a magician but then again, no one besides Lily had ever told him that they liked him before. Nodding, Snape said, "Something of one, yes."
"That's great! You know, my Uncle Omar was a hypnotist back in the Vaudeville days! He used to call himself the Toledo Wizard and—"
"He could make you think you were a chicken, so when he stole your wallet, you couldn't turn him in," Pierce said.
Ignoring him, Klinger said, "Hey, once you're feeling better, maybe you could put on a little show for us."
Before Snape could answer, something metal crashed behind the tent wall. The canvas shuddered.
"You can't go in there, sir. You're not sterile," said a boyish voice.
"Get out of my way, you little rodent or I'll sterilize you with my trigger finger," another voice harshed.
"Klinger, Dr. Hawkeye, is that more of the war?" He tucked his wand beneath the covers.
The two men exchanged uneasy glances. "Bad news travels fast," said Klinger.
"Like the wind—or in this case, breaking wind." Hawkeye patted Severus' shoulder, whispering, "Too bad you aren't a real wizard, then you could make us all disappear!"
The swinging door banged open and two people stumbled through. The first was an armed officer with small shifty eyes. Clinging to his coattails was a pint-sized soldier, whose wire-rimmed glasses swung precariously from one ear.
"Don't worry, kid, we'll take care of him," Klinger whispered.
"Get off me, runt or I'll have you court-martialed for assaulting an officer!"
"Radar, I think now would be a good time to call your mother," Hawkeye said.
"My mother, sir," the boy said, readjusting his hat and glasses. "But it's after midnight in Ottumwa."
"Your other mother, Radar."
Hawkeye motioned to the door. "Mother Henry?"
The boy looked very confused for a moment. Then, his eyes widened. "Oh! Right! Yes, sir!" Turning too quickly, he crashed into the swinging door. "Rats! Oh, Geez—gee whiz!" Then, he was gone.
Rising, Hawkeye said, "Colonel Flagg! To what do I owe the dishonor?"
The man hitched up his pants. A large pistol sat in a holster near his left hip. "I'll ask the questions here, Pierce. Out of uniform again, I see. And you," he said, pointing to Klinger, "you're a disgrace to this man's army!"
Klinger puffed out his chest. "Colonel, I'll have you know this ensemble is imported! Special order—all the way from London!"
"It's true, sir," Snape said, "My mother has the same outfit, only hers is black."
Flagg glared at him. "You'll speak only when I tell you to, pipsqueak." Then, turning to Hawkeye, he said, "I'm here on official Intelligence business."
"CIA, CID, or E-I-E-I-O?"
"Joke all you want, Captain but my sources say you're harboring an enemy spy." Flagg paced at the foot of the bed. "He was flown in last night, pretending to be wounded."
"Wounded and in a MASH unit? Well that certainly narrows the field," said Pierce.
"He was wearing a black cape and a suit."
"The Phantom of the Opera?" asked Pierce, placing his clipboard over the pile of conspicuous clothing.
"He's a yellow menace, a Pinko mole and a master of disguise."
"Well, Colonel, I'm afraid you've come all the way out here for nothing. No one here but us red, white, and blue Americans."
"I see what you're hiding there. Hand it over, Pierce!" Flagg ripped the cape from the bed, sending the clipboard flying.
"What? That old thing?"
"Fraternizing with the enemy, just as I suspected," Flagg muttered. Then, fixing Snape with a bitter gaze, he said, "Get up! You're coming with me!"
Pierce blocked Flagg's path. "Oh, no you don't! He's my patient, and he and his cape are staying right here!"
Klinger shifted position, shielding Severus behind him. "Don't worry, kid, we won't let anything bad happen to you," he said.
"Get out of my way!"
"Look at him, Flagg," Pierce said, as he wrestled with the colonel. "He doesn't even look Chinese, for crying out loud!"
"Precisely. He doesn't look anything like himself, so of course, he is!" Tapping his temple with his index finger, Flagg said, "I told you he was a mastermind. He fooled you all but he doesn't fool me."
"No, you do a swell job of that all by yourself," said Pierce.
Peering around Klinger's back, Severus said, "I'm not what you think I am, and I'm not going anywhere with you!"
"We'll see about that." Flagg drew his pistol and pointed it at Klinger. "Stand down, you cross-dressing Pinko lover or I'll blast you to smithereens!"
He couldn't let anything happen to his new friend. Severus' hand shot out of the covers before he had time to think. Shoving Klinger aside, flinging himself only inches away from the pistol's bore, he leveled his wand at Flagg and screamed, "Inflecto Contra!"
A jet of blinding light erupted from the tip of the wand. It struck Flagg, enveloping him in thick tendrils of swirling green. The gun flew from his hand.
At the same time, the door to the Post-Op ward opened and Henry Blake charged into the room. The flying gun hit him squarely in the chest. Shocked and terrified, the Lieutenant Colonel bobbled it in his hands before finally flinging it into the dirty linen hamper with a disgusted shriek.
"Whoa, kid," gasped Klinger, whose hat brim had not weathered Flagg's almost-attack and now drooped below his chin. "That was some trick!"
"Uh huh," was all an equally confounded Hawkeye could manage.
Severus, however, did not reply.
"What in Hades' blue blazes is going on in here? I want an explanation right now—and would someone please pick Colonel Flagg off the floor," Blake spluttered.
Flagg said nothing. Arms and legs flailing, back arching, he looked someone caught in the throes of a soundless seizure.
"Do you hear me, Flagg?" Henry tugged at his shoulder.
"D-d-d-don't touch me," he whimpered, his voice having lost all of its former bluster.
Pierce and Blake exchanged confused looks, and when Hawkeye knelt beside Flagg, he only curled deeper into himself. "Sam? Sam, look at me. Henry, help me roll him on his back, would you."
"No," screamed Flagg. "Don't touch me! Don't look at me!"
"Sorry, but we're doctors. Touchy-feely's what we do. Ready Henry? On three: one, two—"
"Heavens to Murgatroid, that's the worst disguise I've ever seen!" Henry made a long whistle through his teeth. While Flagg's tear-stained face stared up at him, a chin length bob and fringe of jet-black bangs now framed it; and the pair of large, uneven breasts made his uniform seem two sizes too small.
"Get away from me," he shrilled, his voice growing higher with every word. Then, scrambling to his knees, Flagg pointed at the cot and said, "He did this to me, that stupid kid! It's all his fault!"
"What kid?" asked Henry, pointing to the empty cot.
Hawkeye only shrugged. "I didn't see any kid. Did you see a kid around here, Klinger?"
Snape's clothes still lay strewn on the end of the bed. Klinger plunked himself down on top of them and said, "Uh, nope. Not a one, sir!"
"He was right here and you know it!" Flagg pounded the bed frame with her now-tiny fists. "He pointed his stick at me! You all saw him!" Her voice trailed off into pathetic sobs, while her pendulous breasts heaved with every chocked moan and hitch.
"Sorry, Samantha, but I'm blind in both enemy eyes," Pierce said.
"Hoo-Dogies! This looks like one for Sydney," Henry clucked.
"Or Weird Tales magazine," said Hawkeye.
"Hawk, where do you think the kid went?"
"Probably hiding, Klinger, and can't say I blame him. He'll come out when he's ready."
"Hey, Hawk? How do you explain the...?" Klinger waved an invisible wand.
Slapping him on the back, Hawkeye said, "Ah, the answer to that question is a mystery! One with a two drink minimum and a five dollar ante."
"It's a little early for Poker, don't you think, Captain?"
"It's always Poker o'clock somewhere," Pierce sagely replied.
The moment he'd cast the spell, the same dreadful cold he'd felt in the Potions lab swept back over him. At the same time, a force began pulling him, reeling him in, as if an invisible fishhook had imbedded itself in his heart. Instead of falling, he was now sliding, very straight and very fast, through a blur of space and time. Snape felt like he was going to be sick.
Speed and motion ceased when he landed on something hard.
"This is remarkable, truly remarkable," said a familiar mellow voice. "Ah, you're back!"
Severus opened his eyes. He was lying on the wide, cool slabs of the Potions Lab. Professor Dumbledore's face beamed down at him. He didn't know how he'd done it, only that he was home—he was finally home! Outside, sleet still pinged against the windowpanes but the light was lower. "It's still Saturday?"
"It is, indeed, Severus. Welcome back," Dumbledore said, staring and Snape's bandaged head and vintage, army-issue sleepwear. "It looks like you've had quite an adventure, my boy."
"I have, Professor! You won't believe where I've been! I can hardly believe it, myself!" Breathlessly, Snape recounted being air-lifted out of a war zone, regaining consciousness at an American army hospital in the middle of Korea and the kindness his strange but wonderful new friends had shown him.
Wisely, he omitted the part about Colonel Flagg, the gun, and the charm he'd used to disarm him. Inflecto Contra… He'd never heard of it before today, and Snape made a mental note to research its effects as soon as possible. Could he replicate it when not under duress? Were there other disarmament spells? Then, another thought struck him: What if he were the spell's creator? Enchantment overtook him, flinging open another door upon another dim and uncharted vista. This journey's winding path would not lead him to the past, however, but to the future: his future.
"Severus?" Dumbledore's soft voice called him back from the brink of possibility.
"I'm sorry, professor, I was just thinking..."
"About the war? The officers? Well, it's only natural that you should, Severus. It's very mature of you, as well. Again, I am most impressed." The professor laid the phial on the table and clasped his hands in his lap.
"They were so kind to me, Professor, and they didn't even know me—what I was—at all. For the first time, I felt like I...belonged. I think, if I'd stayed, we'd have been..." The word stopped in his throat. His eyes watered.
Dumbledore stroked his beard. "Friends?"
"Yes. Although we were together only a short time, I was...I was..."
"You were what, Severus?"
"Haah-haa—happy. I was really happy." Tears trickled down his cheeks. Embarassed, Severus turned away.
"Then you must hold on to this memory, Severus, for a fond memory is like a rare and precious jewel, a treasure to hold in your heart throughout all time. Keep it safe, Severus; you might need it in the days to come."
"I feel a little sick to my stomach, sir. Does the potion always make you feel this way?" Severus wiped his nose on his pajama sleeve.
Picking up the phial again, Dumbledore softly replied, "I honestly couldn't tell you, Severus, for you see, no one's ever managed to brew a successful batch of Tempus Mutato before today. We will have much to discuss in Eclectic Elixirs next term."
"What? No one? Not even you? You really mean it?"
"I must say, Severus, using Miss Evans's cauldron was a most inspired choice of tether on your part. I don't believe a student has ever interpreted that piece of advice quite so literally." Dumbledore patted him on the back.
"Lily's cauldron?" At the mention of her name, Snape snapped back to attention. He couldn't wait to tell her about his potion—his potion!—and his adventures at the 4077th M.A.S.H. Alone with her, he would leave off nothing. How proud she would be! Smiling sweetly, she would squeeze his hand, call him her brave soldier, and lay her head on his shoulder. And if, by chance, his lips just happened to graze her soft cheek…
Dumbledore intruded on his reverie. "Lily's, yes. She was at the Quidditch game today and had quite a bit of excitement of her own. Poor girl slipped and fell from the topmost stand during the game. If James hadn't swooped down to catch her when he did…" Clucking, Dumbledore shook his head. "He caught her and the Snitch, besides. Slytherin is going to have some stiff competition for the Cup next week."
James...The name was an ice water bath over the tender flicker of hope in his heart. Potter! Why did that simpering idiot Potter always have to ruin everything! Snape balled his hands into fists. No matter how hard he tried, no matter how good he was, some things never changed!
The officers at the 4077th never saw Severus Snape again.
Colonel Flagg's symptomatology, along with its equally compelling alterations in physiognomy, was attributed to extreme hormonal imbalances precipitated by combat fatigue—at least that was the official psychiatric diagnosis, and if Dr. Pierce thought otherwise, for once, he kept his opinions to himself. Flagg eventually recovered from his strange affliction but not before Dr. Sidney Freedman sent him to a sanitarium in Tokyo.
Much as Severus had suspected, there was no record of Inflecto Contra in the library's archives. Although never able to replicate it, by his sixth year, he did refine another defensive charm, one spectacular in the depth of trauma it inflicted: Sectumsempra.
On a blustery November day the year after that, while reading An Illustrated Companion of Muggle History, Albus found a surprising photograph. While validating a certain pupil's talent and experience, the picture also instilled in him an untold sadness (and if truth be told, more than a little dread). In it, Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger of the 4077th M.A.S.H posed with his fellow comrades outside the hospital's main surgical tent. He wore a tattered, striped scarf and a long, dark cape, whose Slytherin House insignia was clearly visible. Sinking back into his favorite armchair, Professor Dumbledore stared at the photograph for a long time. Wind rattled the mullioned windows and in the fireplace, a log collapsed with a long serpentine hiss. "A tether to the present…Oh, Corporal Klinger, what a fool I was, thinking it was only Lily," Dumbledore murmured, his tears dripping on the book's glossy pages. "Now that the eye of war stares unflinchingly upon our world, Severus has joined an army, too. An army of sorts..." Holding the open book against his heart, shifting his gaze to the gathering storm outside the window, he said, "I only hope the part of you still living in him will prevail and send him safely home."