After dinner, the students were led to their common rooms by the prefects.
Severus found himself being led along a stone corridor, but soon they reached a dead end. Severus looked, sleepily, at everyone else, and the green light made them all appear zombie-like.
‘Serpent,’ Lucius said, and the wall in front of them slid to one side, revealing the Slytherin common room within.
Just then, someone poked Severus, hard, in the back of the head.
He wheeled round and saw that it was Peeves again, sniggering at him.
The other Slytherins pushed into the common room, quickly, to get away from Peeves, but Lucius approached with his wand out.
‘If you don’t stop being a nuisance, Peeves, I’ll fetch the Bloody Baron!’ he barked.
Severus, however, was watching Peeves, thoughtfully.
He had worked out a way to get his revenge on Potter, and his friends, without going anywhere near them.
‘It’s alright, Lucius,’ Severus said, ‘he’s not worth the hassle.’
‘Aren’t you coming in?’ Lucius asked as he went through the gap in the wall.
‘In a minute,’
Lucius looked like he wondered what Severus was up to, but didn’t ask.
‘Well, be quick, Severus, they’re all going to bed soon,’ he said.
The wall slid shut and Severus looked up at Peeves.
The Poltergeist broke into song:
‘Severus Snape, people say he’s a bore! He knows nothing fun, and he makes them all snore! But Peeves he knows best ‘cause he gets-‘
‘Gryffindor,’ Severus interrupted.
‘What was that?’ Peeves asked, righting himself, ‘Does Slitherus Snake think he’s musical?’
He blew a loud, wet raspberry.
Severus folded his arms, calmly.
‘I know about poltergeists,’ he said, ‘you’re not actually ghosts but the very spirit of chaos,’
‘Why, thank you.’ Peeves replied, bowing.
‘And I have a request for you,’ Severus said.
Peeves swooped until he and Severus were face to face.
‘A request? Now you have my full attention!’ the poltergeist grinned, tapping Severus’ nose with one, long finger.
Next morning, at breakfast, the school owls swooped in to deliver the mail.
Severus went on munching his cereal without expecting anything-
‘Look, Sev!’ Lucius said.
Severus followed where he was pointing.
His mouth fell open as a large, dark, fluttering shape had arrived with the owls, and to his horror he realised it was heading straight for him.
The Slytherins gasped and ducked as it swooped near, and finally it landed, weightless, on Severus’ shoulder.
Severus stared at it in amazement.
It wasn’t an owl, but a large, black bat with a long nose, round eyes, and diamond-shaped ears.
What was more, it was gripping a letter, addressed to him, in its mouth.
Severus took the letter and opened it at once:
I hope you had a good first day, but please write back ASAP, telling me everything.
In case you’ve been worrying about me, I can assure you that your father has left home (Severus let out a long, low breath). Things are very different now I can clean the place with magic, and everything’s much nicer (Your room was full of dead flies I’ve been dying to get rid of for months)
Severus read this part with a rather twisted smile; he had zapped down those flies himself with his wand, imagining each one had his father’s face.
Looking forward to hearing from you. Keep out of mischief and work hard,
Love from mum xxx
P.S. The bat doesn’t have a name yet as she’s yours. I hope she’s cool enough.
Severus goggled at the P.S, delighted.
He had a pet bat!
He stroked the bat with one finger, and she gazed back, intently, with those dark, round eyes.
‘Yeah, you’re cool enough!’ he breathed and she crawled up to lick his face.
He decided to call her Mute, because she was so quiet, like him.
Severus wanted to write back so he got a quill and parchment from his bag-
‘Please write back ASAP, telling me everything’ she had said.
He stopped, abruptly ...
Severus looked at the Gryffindor table.
Potter was muttering with the others, and the Gryffindors were throwing him dark looks.
He bit his lip.
The last thing Severus wanted to do was tell his mother he had been teased on his very first day, but then his eye fell on Lily who was waving, merrily.
He waved back and then started his letter:
Hogwarts is fascinating! I didn’t get to talk much with the other Slytherins as they seemed more interested in filling their faces (the food’s great) – but I’ve made at least one friend already. His name is Lucius Malfoy, he’s a fifth year, and he said I was cool. He’s also a prefect which I think is cool too. Have you heard of the Malfoys?
Love Severus x
He folded it up again and handed it to Mute, his pet bat. Mute gripped the letter, took off, silently, and was gone.
‘What have we got this morning?’ one of the Slytherins asked, tucking into bacon.
‘Double Potions with Professor Slughorn,’ Severus answered at once, ‘Ugh, I hope his teaching skills are better than his surname,’
‘It gets better,’ a girl with wild, black hair said, moodily.
‘What do you mean?’ Severus asked.
‘See for yourself,’
She held up her time-table for him to see.
Severus closed his eyes: They would be working with the Gryffindors.
Potions lessons took place down in the dungeons, so first thing after breakfast, Severus found himself heading down a narrow, stone staircase.
It was cooler and darker down here than in the rest of the school, but Severus found it soothing rather than depressing.
‘It’s like an underground cave,’ he wondered, aloud, earning himself odd looks from the others.
As they entered the classroom, Professor Slughorn greeted them with a broad smile.
Slughorn was a plump wizard with a huge moustache, and he looked like he spent plenty of time enjoying parties.
Shortly after the Slytherins had filed in, the Gryffindors arrived.
For some reason, all the boys looked very tired and irritable.
‘Come in, one and all, and shut the door, please,’ Slughorn said, ‘Now, pay attention, for I want everyone to pair up,’
Severus looked at Slughorn in horror.
Pairing up would mean working with a Gryffindor!
Severus shot a hand into the air.
‘Please, sir, I find I work best alone, will that be alright?’ he said.
‘Not to worry, Mr. Snape, I’m sure that Mr. Potter will be more than capable of giving you good advice,’
Severus lowered his hand, seething on the spot.
Giving Slughorn the idea he needed Potter’s advice was not what he had intended.
A growling Mulciber had paired up with a quaking Pettigrew.
Lily, meanwhile, was with Lupin, but her back was turned, so Severus couldn’t see how she felt about this.
‘I’ll give you good advice, Snivellus,’ Potter hissed so that only Severus could hear him, ‘Don’t be so cowardly next time you get your own back!’
Everyone was busy getting out their scales and ingredients so Severus did the same.
Potter clanged his cauldron down onto the desk.
Severus was not to be intimidated.
‘Thanks for the tip,’ he said, coolly, ‘Although I’m sure I won’t need it, I have no idea what you’re talking about.’
‘Peeves!’ Potter spat, and Severus saw the dark shadows under his eyes.
Slughorn got them all trying to make a Draught of Peace, but the way Potter was going about his hellebore, he felt sure it was likely going to be a Draught of War.
‘-only got four hours sleep because he kept throwing things at us,’ Potter hissed, barely reading his potions instructions as he worked, roughly.
Severus however, carefully read the instructions, and followed them, precisely.
He concentrated as he adjusted the Bunsen Burner, only stopping when he was satisfied it was exactly right.
‘I don’t see where I come into this ... misfortune-’
‘You told Peeves to do it!’ Potter spat, fuming as much as the Bunsen Burner. Severus fought to hide his smile.
‘See!’ Potter scowled, ‘You did, didn’t you?’
‘Less talk, more focus, please, Mr. Potter,’ Slughorn called, reproachfully.
Potter grimaced and waited until Slughorn moved on to inspect Lupin and Lily’s cauldron.
‘Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t,’ Severus replied, casually, ‘you can’t prove it,’
‘I could tell someone,’
‘What? The boy you so kindly gave your napkin to at dinner so he could avoid humiliation in front of his new House mates? Why would I do such a thing?’
‘Who cares? I could go to Dumbledore!’
‘Mr. Potter, I said concentrate. One point from Gryffindor,’ Slughorn said, sternly.
Potter turned crimson just as the Draught of Peace went sea-green.
‘Mr. Snape, that looks excellent!’ Slughorn said, excitedly, ‘Gather round and look everyone! Mr. Snape’s potion looks exactly as it should! Exactly!’
As everyone clambered to admire his potion, for the first time, Severus felt glad that all attention was upon him. Potter was shaking with silent anger.
‘Now, all we need is a brave volunteer to try it,’ Slughorn said, ‘no need for alarm. The worst that can happen is it’ll make your hair stand on end for a few hours,’
‘Maybe Potter should try it, sir,’ Severus suggested, ‘That way, if my potion fails, there won’t be any difference,’
The Slytherins laughed, loudly. Lily hid her grin behind her hand.
‘Give me that!’ Potter snapped.
He snatched the spoon from Severus’ hand, dipped it in the potion, and swallowed.
The class watched with baited breath, and after a few seconds, Potter’s scowl melted away into the tranquil expression of a perfect Draught of Peace drinker.
The Slytherins broke into applause, but none louder than Slughorn.
‘Well done, Mr. Snape! Very well done indeed! Twenty points to Slytherin. What a superb start!’
At that moment, the bell rang, signifying the end of class.
‘Everyone pack away now, quickly, and er – Mr. Snape?’
Flushed by his own success, Severus looked at Slughorn.
‘Will you meet me back here at the start of break-time? I’d like a word,’
‘Of – of course, sir,’
Severus’ heart was beating a samba. He had never felt so brilliant in his life, and he grinned at Lily.
She smiled back and gave him a wink.
As everyone packed their bags, Severus overheard Black trying to convince Slughorn to give Gryffindor points too, as Potter had helped make the potion.
He listened with a satisfied smile to Slughorn’s reply:
‘I would have done, Mr. Black, but Mr. Potter neither concentrated nor contributed much to that potion. Off you go now, or you’ll be late, and Gryffindor will lose more House points!’
Their next lesson was Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall.
At the start of the lesson, McGonagall impressed them, greatly, by turning herself into a tabby cat and back again.
They applauded loudly, and were all very excited at the idea of becoming Animagi.
Severus, however, was positively transfixed.
He had been looking forward to becoming an Animagus as much as Potions, and his determination wasn’t swayed when Professor McGonagall said it took years to master.
Wanting to show his enthusiasm, Severus paid rapt attention.
They had each been given a pin, which they had to turn into a match.
By the end of the lesson, Severus was one of two to successfully transform his at all.
‘Congratulations, Mr. Snape, and Miss Lestrange,’ McGonagall told them, beadily,
‘Ten points to Slytherin,’
The wild-haired girl, Bellatrix Lestrange, held up her palm for Severus to hi-five.
He returned it, feeling pleased.
When the bell rang for break-time, Severus’ was desperate to find Lily and share all the morning’s excitement, but Slughorn was surely waiting to talk to him.
At once, Severus headed for the dungeons. But as he wondered what this could be about, he was struck by a terrible thought.
What if Slughorn had overheard the matter with Peeves? Could he be in serious-
‘Oi, Severus, I’m talking to you!’
Severus jumped and looked back up the stone stairs, to see Lucius Malfoy.
He was carrying a flat, shiny box.
‘Oh, hello,’ Severus said.
‘You were in your own little world there,’ Lucius smiled.
Severus shrugged, mutely. He could spend hours day-dreaming, he was alone so much, but chose not to tell Lucius that.
It wouldn’t be cool at all.
‘I just wondered if you fancied a game of wizard’s chess,’ Lucius said.
He opened the box in his hands.
Sure enough, emerald and silver chess pieces looked up at Severus.
The knights were shaped like serpents and they hissed at Severus, their little fangs glistening.
Severus would have liked to play, but he really had to go and see Slughorn.
Slughorn was at his desk when Severus entered, and there was another chair, presumably for him, standing in front of it.
Feeling apprehensive, Severus sat.
Slughorn looked at Severus with a raised eyebrow.
‘I’ve been speaking to Professor Dumbledore about this morning,’ he began, ‘I was watching your every move, young man. I saw it all,’
Severus hung his head, guilty, his hair flopping over his face.
He was going to get a detention, he just knew it.
‘Such deliberation ... such purpose ...’ Slughorn was saying with narrowed eyes.
‘I’d never seen such-’
Severus couldn’t take it anymore. ‘It wasn’t just me, it was Potter, he-’
‘Don’t give that boy credit for your hard work,’ Slughorn said, seriously, ‘You made a perfect Draught of Peace, Severus, and you made it alone. I saw you!’
Severus blinked, and as he understood, he reappeared from behind his hair.
‘I – guess I did, didn’t I?’ he ventured, timidly.
‘There’s no guesswork about it,’ Slughorn answered, ‘you paid attention, you worked hard, and you won House points. Now, what if I told you that no first year has successfully made the Draught of Peace since I started teaching here? Exactly,’ he said, as Severus’ eyes grew enormous.
‘Now, both I and Professor Dumbledore have agreed that special talent deserves a special reward. You have permission to continue Potions, outside of classes, using ingredients from my private stores. I will supervise you, in case things get out of control – accidents or similar - but you can learn any potion you like,’
The longer Slughorn spoke, the more entranced Severus became, but his last few words were exhilarating.
Any potion you like.
‘You may not always be able to use your potions mind,’ Slughorn said, ‘as some of the more advanced ones can be harmful,’
‘I understand, sir,’ Severus said, quickly, now on the edge of his seat, ‘I can’t wait!’
Severus stared at the floor, his head buzzing.
‘Run along now, enjoy the rest of your break,’ Slughorn said, happily.
Severus left the classroom more oblivious to his surroundings than when Lucius showed him his chess board.
Any potion you like ... Good boy ... He was good ...
Before he knew it, Severus was outside in the Court Yard, where he spotted Lily, sitting on the edge of a fountain.
‘How are you?’ she asked as he ran up to her.
‘Never better,’ Severus answered, beaming, and he meant it.