Severus Snape is starting his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As he has lived an unhappy eleven years so far at Spinner's End with his terrifying father, Severus can't wait to leave. But Severus' dreams of Hogwarts being a place of safety and wonder are shattered after he is carried off by a winged monster.
Chapter One - The Power of Mr. Snape
It was a dark and grim afternoon this story started. The sun fought for a good view from behind huge, angry clouds that threatened a nasty storm.
The Snape household at Spinner’s End had never been a happy place, but this particular morning, was very unhappy for the youngest member, Severus Snape.
A letter, addressed to him, had arrived from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, informing him that he had a place there, for Severus Snape was a wizard.
His father, however, was a Muggle, better-known as a man with no magic powers whatsoever, and his views on magic were--
‘Horrendous! First your mother and now you!’ Mr. Snape was snarling in Severus’ face. ‘The freak show just had to go on, didn’t it? ... My own son ...’
He towered over little Severus and grimaced at him, as though Severus were a mosquito he was dying to squash.
Severus shrank under his father’s glare and said nothing.
Severus Snape was a skinny eleven-year-old; he had pale skin, large, dark eyes, and shoulder-length, black hair which he could hide his face in completely, when he wished, like a tortoise hides in its shell.
He wore ragged, frayed jeans, with holes in the knees, and a khaki-green jumper that was too long for him. His hands were grubby and cold.
Mr. Snape looked a lot like his son. They had the same black hair, and matching hooked noses. Mr. Snape was gaunt and bony and he often stank of cigarettes.
Mr. Snape’s dark eyes roved from Severus to the Hogwarts letter in his thin hand.
‘Albus Dumbledore?’ he said, roughly, ‘Who’s he?’
‘Headmaster,’ Severus whispered.
‘And Hogwarts is a castle, is it?’ his dad scoffed, ‘Oh yes, I can see it right now: A castle full of hags and wizards swaggering around like they lord it over everyone, cursing people who get in their way-’
He glanced, warily, out the window as he said this, as if wizards might swoop in if he insulted them too loudly. Or maybe he was looking for his wife, for Mrs. Snape wasn’t home at the moment, and a note left on the table read Gone shopping.
Mr. Snape folded the letter up and thrust it in a pocket before yanking the curtains closed. He threw Severus a dark look over his shoulder. Then, without warning, Mr. Snape grabbed both Severus’ arms and forced him into a corner.
‘You listen to me, boy!’ his dad said in a deadly whisper, his face inches from Severus’, ‘You aren’t going to this school, do you understand!’
Severus gasped as his father’s grip tightened, painfully.
‘DO YOU UNDERSTAND!’ Mr. Snape bellowed.
‘Yes, sir!’ Severus yelped. ‘I won’t go! I understand!’
‘And not only that,’ his father went on, cruelly, ‘but I forbid you to learn magic!’
Severus felt the blood drain from his face. His mother had bought all his school books the year before, and he’d been reading them, in secret, in his room.
He’d read The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self Protection by Quentin Tremble so many times that he knew it by heart, and his father would kill him if he found that out.
Perhaps Mr. Snape guessed what he was thinking, for he plunged a hand into his pocket and tore out another letter, except that this one looked perfectly normal.
‘Do you know what this is?’ he asked, brandishing the paper under Severus’ nose.
Severus had to admit he didn’t, but his eyes followed it, warily, all the same.
‘I wrote to your precious school,’ Mr. Snape hissed with a nasty smile, ‘and they forbid students to use magic outside it! That means they’d expel you if you did. But what would dear little Severus want to do with magic outside of school?’ he asked, sarcastically, ‘Ah yes ... Curse his own father!’
Severus swallowed, dryly, and he was trembling as his father’s eyes flashed.
Mr. Snape’s face turned red, and he threw the letter down in a transport of anger.
‘So,’ he snarled, ‘that was your eventual plan! I always knew you’d turn treacherous!’
He slapped Severus hard across the face and Severus felt hot, angry tears well up in his eyes. Mr. Snape raised his hand a second time ... and then appeared to change his mind. One corner of his mouth curled.
‘Ah, I know what you’re thinking,’ he said, ‘you don’t just want to learn magic at Hogwarts: You want to meet people like you, don’t you? You actually thought you’d make friends there?’
Severus’ lip trembled. Mr. Snape scoffed at him.
‘You’re pathetic, you know that? You’re a dunderhead. A nothing!’
He began striking Severus again, insulting him in time to the blows. Severus caught words like ‘loser’ and ‘useless’, but many more times than others, he heard ‘You’re a coward, Severus! What are you?’
Mr. Snape forced Severus to call himself a coward, over and over again, for hours it felt like, finally ending with:
‘And don’t you forget it as long as you live. Now, stay there.’
Leaving Severus shivering in the corner, Mr. Snape went to the fireplace and struck matches until the wood caught and crackled.
Then his father straightened up and pulled the Hogwarts letter out again.
Mr. Snape unfolded it, held it up for Severus to see, and threw it in the fireplace -
Both Severus and Mr. Snape jumped, as the parchment was whisked away from the flames, across the room ... and into the waiting hand of Mrs. Snape had just come home.
She was stood in the doorway, with sunlight framing her silhouette.
What appeared to be an ordinary shopping bag lay at her feet.
Eileen Snape was a slender woman with very long, black hair. She was wearing a black travelling robe and had the sad, exhausted look of someone overworked and underappreciated. Her dark-grey eyes found Severus’ dad’s and they filled with a cold rage.
She had her wand in her hand and it was pointed at Mr. Snape.
‘Take your hands off my son,’ she commanded in a low, dangerous voice, for Mr. Snape was gripping Severus’ arms again.
‘What’s this?’ Mr. Snape demanded, ‘Mummy to the rescue?’
Then his eyes fell on the wand. ‘Put – put that away, Eileen.’
Eileen bared her teeth in answer. She was advancing, slowly.
Severus could feel the room vibrating and the lights flickered and buzzed.
Mr. Snape’s hands were shaking on his arms, but Severus couldn’t take his eyes off his mother, his eyes wide with hope.
‘All our marriage ... all our marriage ...’ Eileen was saying, electricity crackling off the point of her wand and licking along the ceiling.
Mr. Snape yelled and swore at her, savagely.
In a jet of red light, Eileen blasted the kitchen table off the floor, scattering dining chairs.
Mr. Snape threw his arms over his head, and the moment his hold was released, Severus ran into his mother’s arms. She felt cold and thin, but oh so good!
Eileen kissed his forehead, breathing fast in relief.
‘You’re both idiots!’ his father bawled, cowering in the corner, ‘Magic is dangerous! All it does is hurt people – I’ve always said so!’
Severus gaped at him, hardly believing is eyes.
‘You’ll be sorry, Eileen!’ Mr. Snape shrieked. ‘You were always the coward-’
Eileen marched right up to him, Mr. Snape covered his face, and she waved her wand. Beside her, the kitchen drawers spring open.
‘Wingardium leviosa!’ she shouted, making a sharp meat knife magically rise.
It was pointed at Mr. Snape who was sweating with fright.
He raised his hands as if he were at gunpoint, ‘Eileen – please don’t ...’
Severus stared at the scene in horror, his father recoiling in the corner, while his mother loomed over him with a wand and a knife!
‘Call me a coward one more time, Tobias ...’
‘MUM!’ Severus shouted.
‘Darling ...’ she faltered, shocked.
‘Let’s just go!’ Severus pleaded, gesturing frantically.
Eileen looked from Mr. Snape to Severus, and her expression cleared.
Slowly, she lowered her wand; the knife fell with a clatter.
Eileen swept away from Mr. Snape to join Severus near the door.
‘Accio trunk,’ Eileen said, and Severus looked round as his trunk, containing all of his spell-books, came gliding downstairs.
It hovered, obediently, beside them, like a very rectangular dog.
Severus and his mother held hands.
‘I don’t want to find you here when I get back.’ Eileen said, composedly, to Mr. Snape as she handed Severus his coat. ‘I want you gone and I don’t care where. I’m taking my son to King’s Cross Station, and he’s going to Hogwarts where you can’t hurt him.’
She handed Severus the shopping bag and gave him a wink.
‘Let’s go,’ she murmured.
Severus nodded, silently, and didn’t look at his dad as he and his mum left the house, slamming the door behind them.
Severus blinked as he stepped out onto the wet, uneven paving stones.
The storm clouds had lost the battle, and the sunlight was dazzling.
Shielding his eyes, he saw a Ministry of Magic taxi-cab was parked outside their gate.
It looked resplendent against the shabby neighbourhood.
Two Ministry of Magic representatives got out. They nodded to Eileen and loaded Severus’ trunk into the car boot.
His mother got in the back and Severus in with her. The Ministry representatives closed the car doors for them, smartly, before getting in themselves.
‘Mum, why are they taking us?’ Severus asked, curiously.
For some reason, his mother looked embarrassed.
‘Dumbledore wants to be supportive of our ... problem.’ she answered, and Severus knew at once what she was talking about.
‘I thought he loved Muggles,’ he said, coldly, frowning back at the house.
‘Not ones like your father,’ his mother answered, darkly.
As they were driven away, she handed him his Hogwarts letter.
Severus perked up at once, took it from her, and read it excitedly.
First years needed school robes, and a hat, and all sorts of special things, which he didn’t have. He also had another worry.
‘Wait a minute! Term starts September the 1st,’ Severus said, ‘That’s two days away. We’re not going to Hogwarts now, are we? They won’t let us in!’
‘We’re not going today, sweetie,’ his mother said, ‘we’re going to Diagon Ally to get your school robes. I’ve already bought your cauldron and potion ingredients ‘cause I know how much you love Magical Draughts and Potions.’
Severus brightened at this, but he was positively entranced when he looked inside the shopping bag, which had been magically deepened.
It contained most of his school equipment which consisted of a set of brass scales, a telescope (which he played with on the car-journey), and a set of glass phials.
Hours later, when they arrived at Diagon Ally, Eileen thanked the Ministry representatives who drove off with Severus’ trunk.
His mother explained they were taking it to Hogwarts to save them carrying it around.
‘You must remember to thank Dumbledore for doing this for us,’ she told him, sincerely, ‘I already have, but I’d like you to as well. He doesn’t give special treatment like this to all his students.’
‘I will,’ Severus replied.
First, they went into Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, so that Severus could be fitted for his own school robes. He couldn’t stop admiring his reflection.
‘I feel like a real wizard now.’
His mother smiled into the mirror. ‘You just wait ‘til we go in Ollivander’s.’
Twenty minutes later, Severus came out of Ollivander’s, staring at the brand new wand in his hand, thrilled it was his. Mr. Ollivander had told him it was made of elder wood, thirteen inches long, with a core of Thestral tail hair.
He begged his mother to begin practicing, but she shook her head.
‘Can we go to the Magical Menagerie?’ Severus begged, excitedly.
‘What for?’ she asked him, checking their shopping, ‘We’ve got everything.’
‘The letter says first years can bring an animal. I’d like to get one.’
At this, his mother’s face fell. They had already spent rather a lot of Galleons, and the Snape’s weren’t exactly rich.
‘There are lots of school owls you can borrow,’ she said, cheerfully as possible.
‘I don’t want an owl, I want something else!’ Severus told her, longingly.
‘No, Severus, I’m sorry, but we can’t afford anymore,’
Severus hung his head but he didn’t ask again.
They spent the night in The Leaky Cauldron, and Severus read A Beginners Guide to Self-Transfiguration by Emeric Switch. But long after lights out, he lay awake in the dark, thinking. For the first time ever, Severus Snape was worried about school.
What if his father was right? Should he learn magic? Did he have a right to?
‘Can’t you sleep, darling?’ came his mother’s whisper from the bed next to his.
There was a pause.
The concern in her voice made the words spill from him.
‘Am I bad?’
He tried, and failed hopelessly, to keep the sadness out of his voice.
Severus covered his eyes as the light struck them.
‘Your father said that, didn’t he?’ his mother said, solemnly.
Severus nodded, mutely, but didn’t lower his hands. His eyes were wet.
He felt her cool hand on his, and after a moment, allowed her to move them away from his eyes.
‘Listen to what I’m about to say,’ his mother said, gently, ‘because it’s true: You are than my hero. No, I mean it, Severus,’ she said, firmly, for Severus was looking at her doubtfully.
‘Without you, I would have had nothing to keep me going these past eleven years ... Nothing at all ... for eleven years ...’
Her voice trembled and petered out. There was a shocked silence, and Severus’ mother’s eyes shone with tears.
Severus looked at her, and then he climbed out of bed, and gave her a hug.