The Many Uses of Monkshood
It was astonishing how fast time was passing by.
Snape was lying on the Shrieking Shack's floor. He could feel the cold wooden floorboards, smell the dust. But he could not move. Voldemort had gone away, so had Nagini. And Potter was now also mercifully absent. Snape was alone. He would die alone, here in the Shack. He'd wished for a different ending, but he no longer felt strong enough to protest. He had taken certain precautions, of course, yet Nagini's poison apparently was very powerful. His eyes were closed, but he thought he knew that everything around him was becoming lighter, like a cool break of dawn.
"Well, those kids took their time, didn't they?" said a gruff voice to his right.
Snape in his immobilized and yet somehow elevated state was aghast. Not in his worst nightmares had he imagined meeting Alastor Moody in the afterlife. How did he deserve this? He was a war hero, a martyr even!
Moody's characteristic gait resounded in the floorboards. "That's some nasty bloody mess," Snape heard him say, "still, Arthur survived an attack such as this one, so why do you look that much like a goner – say something, Snape!"
Snape could think of many things to answer Moody's prompt, such as asking him how he had survived being hit at an altitude of more than 1000 feet by a killing curse, losing his wand, and dropping off his broom, all at once. Had the intelligence about Moody's death been deliberately false? And if so, which side had put it in circulation? Where did Moody's loyalties really lie?
But Snape's lips would not even twitch. He felt Moody draw nearer, and then his hand on his chest. Suddenly, the other man was very close to his face and made a sniffing sound. "Very clever," Moody said, and Snape felt the auror's warm breath on his cheek, "it's the Draught of Living Death."
Moody lives, Snape thought sluggishly; and so do I. Apparently, this is not the afterlife, yet. Snape noted that Moody's presence deprived this realization of its cordial part. Not that Snape had ever been very cordial about life, but still…
"I need help with this," Moody said matter-of-factly. "Expecto Patronum!"
If Moody gave his Patronus instructions, he kept that to himself and did it in silence. After a moment, Snape felt a piece of cloth being pressed on the wound in his neck. His mind drifted until he heard another person entering the Shrieking Shack.
"Weren't you supposed to stay grounded a little longer, Alastor? Who blew your cover?" The new person's voice sounded awfully familiar. It was much like Dumbledore's voice – but that couldn't be, could it?
"I myself did," grumbled Moody. "I had to keep an eye on Snape here."
"So, this is Severus Snape?" asked the man with the Dumbledore-like voice. "Good gracious! He looks like something the cat dragged in."
"Snape's a dunderhead when he's on his own. Are you finished with staring at him, Aberforth? Did you bring what I asked for?"
Aberforth?, shrieked Snape's mind, Aberforth the innkeeper?
Aberforth huffed. "Do you think I'm a pharmacist? And there's a battle going on at Hogwarts, in case you haven't noticed. It may be difficult to supply what you requested."
"But this here looks like he's going to die on us! We can't have that. Not until after debriefing, anyway."
"Slughorn said he's going to handle it."
"You told somebody else?" Moody shouted, "Are you mad? What if he's a bloody impostor?"
"Come on, Alastor - "
A loud crack stopped the argument. "Professor Slughorn is sent Winky to fetch potions", a high-pitched voice slurred. "He is sent Winky to fetch potions from Hookey's place."
Apparently, Slughorn had sent a house elf to that one corner in the dungeons where they kept Hookey the Elf's statue. Snape had always, albeit reluctantly, obeyed the odd custom of placing Grand Wiggenweld Potion and blood staunching tinctures there. To him, it was just some kind of superstitious first-aid-kit for potion masters – but in that castle, one could never know for sure. Never had Snape imagined that one day it would indeed pay off. Wiggenweld Potion would erase the effect of the Draught of Living Death quickly, which was what Moody wanted. And it would heal his neck wounds.
"Quick now," Moody urged, "let's take him to the pub."
"Winky is saved coward Headmaster's life," slurred the high-pitched voice. An elf's hand grabbed Snape's left wrist, and he was hurled away in a booming twist.