First Signs of Magic:
Dust motes danced in the air like a cloud of gnats when the
skinny, gangly dark-haired boy dropped onto the couch with a heavy whomp. He let out
an even heavier sigh. Severus Snape was trapped for the summer at his boring
old grandparents' house.
Severus ignored the rules and put
his feet up on the couch, trainers and all. It was the only furniture safe to
touch in this room. He was surrounded by delicate china in blue-white patterns,
ghastly fragile knick-knacks, glass tables on spindly legs, powder blue carpet,
lace and blue chintz. He was smothered in powder blue.
It all smelled like dust. Rot. Aging yellow paper.
Every morning, young Severus had to reintroduce himself to
his grandmother, who promptly forgot who he was. This morning he just gave up,
and played along with whatever name she labeled him with, just to simplify
things. So while he munched breakfast, she nattered on about people he'd never
heard of, called him Danae, and smiled vaguely. How she
could mistake him for a girl, Severus had no idea.
Okay, maybe it was the hair. He swept it behind his ears.
His grandfather, Severus was sure,
was just as mad. But grandfather rarely came out of his lab and ate only at odd
intervals. Severus had been here a month (seemed like
a million years), and hadn't seen his grandfather once in all that time. No one
was allowed in that wing of the mansion that acted as his grandfather's lab.
Severus itched with curiosity. Severus Snape was twelve years old after all,
with a twelve-year-old's sense of adventure.
Unlike his friends, however, Severus Snape had not gone to
Hogwarts' School of Witchcraft and Wizardry last year when he turned eleven.
Because in his twelve years, Severus Snape had not shown a single
sign of Magic.
A Squib. In their family.
He was smarter than any of his friends, Severus told
himself, as he buried his face in the couch. Not that it helped. Severus
slumped and chewed the inside of his mouth.
Severus was glad, at least, to get
away from his friends' so-called 'sympathy.' It was ill-disguised disgust and
he knew it. A Magical cripple that might rub off on them. Never mind that
they'd played together just last year. It would have rubbed off then, right?
Now his family was already keen to wash their hands of him.
Severus was sure that's why he was dumped at his grandparents' this summer.
They said his grandfather wanted to see him. Ha.
The worst had been Severus' mother last Christmas. She had
assured him that he would not be disinherited. Which only told him that he could be disinherited; it was their
legal right. But no, no, Severus would 'always be taken care of.' God. It had hurt, that finality, when
mum as much as told him she had given up for good. Mum had always been so proud
of him. She took her disappointment well. With dignity befitting a Snape.
Severus wanted to break every pasty-blue piece of china in
But he couldn't, so Severus sank further into the
dusty-smelly-over-stuffed couch, in this awful room that smelled of his
Grandmother's ancient lilac perfume. And dust. His stomach roiled. Even the
house-elves seemed uppity. Severus bet they knew he would never be able to hex
them properly. Knew the reason he was here… entombed at Snape Manor, his
family's ancestral home, a place renowned, or infamous, for crazy Wizards and
Dark Magic. And bloody boring for a kid.
Fuck off. Bugger off.
Piss off. Sod off.
Severus folded his arms about himself, and mentally
practiced his swear words for the next time the house-elves offered him so much
as a sandwich. Severus' tongue had always been sharp but in the last year he
had grown vicious. Like a declawed cat, it was the
only weapon he had left.
With no friends and nothing to do, Snape sprawled on the
couch and dozed miserably. Unable, and unwilling, to face his life.
Severus must have slept through dinner, because he was
startled awake to a pitch-dark room, completely disoriented. He sat up,
frightened. At first Severus didn't know where he was, but the lilac-and-dust
smell reacquainted him. Then he wasn't sure when it was. But he decided it was
late. Because he was hungry. Severus
decided not to swear at the next house-elf who came bearing sandwiches, and
even glanced about hopefully. But no elf obliged.
Damn them. Severus sulked. His mother hated profanity, so since that
talk last Christmas he'd taken vindictive pleasure in using it often. Though
mostly in his mind. Then Severus wished he hadn't remembered her. And that
talk. And the reason for it. Insensible sleep was so much better. But the couch
was suddenly uncomfortable and cold.
Severus forced himself off of the couch, and banged his knee
on a glass table. He winced in pain and swore some more under his breath.
The lights in the room ought to have gone on when he needed
them - this was a Wizarding Manor after all. But the house wards had not been
reset to him, to light torches and other lights wherever he went, as they did
in Severus' own home. His grandparents were too far
gone to remember such basic practicalities. And Severus couldn't use magic to
light them, of course. So he was forced to stumble along in the dark, cursing
the unfair universe that took the time to point out yet another weakness.
When he found the main stairs, Severus noticed a crack of
light under the door to his grandfather's wing. His lab. Maybe grandfather was
there. Or maybe… he had just left a light on. Severus' curiosity was piqued
again. Like any twelve-year-old, he couldn't keep his depression in mind when
his attention was caught. If grandfather was asleep -- he had to sleep sometime
after all, and night was the most likely time -- then maybe Severus
could have a little peek. As he approached the door, Severus glanced quickly
left, then right.
There was a faint crackling hum, slightly below hearing
level, coming from behind that door. It teased at Severus. He ignored any
second thoughts; he now just had to
know what that sound was.
Severus tried the door to grandfather's wing, and found it
unlocked. Was it always unlocked? Somehow, Severus doubted it, though he didn't
stop to think why that would be. It opened onto a long hallway. A brighter
light was at the end. Behind another door.
Severus bit his lip and steeled himself. Compared to the
square outline of light ahead, the corridor seemed even darker than the rest of
the house. The square of light left an imprint on Snape's
eyes when he blinked. It was a sight he would remember for the rest of his
This door was unlocked as well. It opened silently.
The Severus' jaw went slack as he
stared up at the tall, pallid man in pale robes, whose ghostly hair stuck out
around him like an aurora. Grandfather didn't seem at all surprised to see
Severus. He merely tilted his head curiously at the boy. Studying him.
Then, silently, he motioned Severus into the room. Severus
shuffled forward the few remaining steps. Just as noiselessly, the tall man
shut the door behind him.
Severus couldn't breathe. He blinked in the sudden light
after the dark of the corridor.
"Severus." The voice was low, and hoarse, as if it
hadn't been used in a very long time. Grandfather spoke Severus' name
hesitantly, as if he had to dig it out of his memory. But Severus hadn't
realised his grandfather knew his name at all. It was a big improvement over
Severus' black eyes were as wide
as saucers. All he could do was nod.
The old man grunted. "I'm always surprised when I'm
right." Which made no sense at all to Severus, but then he was already
confused tonight. So he nodded again.
"Come. Child. Sit down. Have some… biscuits…."
with a wave of his wand a plate of biscuits appeared. "That's what
children like, yes? Hmm? Biscuits?"
Obediently, Severus accepted the plate, and began to sit in
a nearby wicker chair. He watched his mysterious grandfather carefully.
Grandfather seemed much more alert than his grandmother.
"Not there. Sit on the table." Grandfather smiled
stiffly, the corners of his mouth lifted reluctantly, mechanically,
artificially. It didn't look like smiling was something grandfather did often.
The biscuits disappeared, reappearing to Severus'
left, on the far side of a chest-high stone table. Out of reach. Like bait.
Severus looked at his grandfather warily. His eyes shifted from the table to
his grandfather, and back again. Severus didn't move.
Out of the corner of his eye, which he did not take off his
grandfather for an instant, Severus could see they were in a large ballroom
with unmatched furniture scattered about randomly. A lot of the furniture was
covered in white sheets, as though the room was unused, despite the fact that
grandfather had worked here for years.
Tables of all shapes and sizes, delicate ones, sturdy ones,
glass ones, wooden ones… were pulled up into a vague half-circle about the
stone table, and they held various obviously Magical Artefacts.
The room crackled with that same energy Severus had felt or heard before. There
were bits of skeleton that glowed faintly, cauldrons set upon hooks that hung
in midair, suspended above phosphorescent flames that didn't quite touch the
elegant mouldering carpet. There was row upon row of
countless glittering vials and decanters, flowerpots that were used for
something other than plants, stained dishes in that familiar blue and white
pattern, clearly borrowed from the kitchen and never returned…
It was then that Severus noticed the manacles attached to
the stone table. He looked at the biscuits. Then his grandfather. His
grandfather looked completely calm, as only madmen who are utterly sure of
themselves can be.
No… was Severus'
A white ceiling and white walls. White curtains. Suspended
by a metal curtain rod. A plain metal rod. And plain metal rings. Utilitarian.
Sanitary. Hospital… Severus' eyes began to focus, and he struggled to
understand what he was seeing. St. Mungo's?
Above Severus, in that field of white, there was a circle of
frighteningly white hair, wild, rayed out around a pallid face, that held
frighteningly black eyes… naturally deep-set, but hollowed out from years of
neglected sleep. His grandfather. Dr. Eckard Aurelius Snape. Those fearsome
eyes looked… pleased.
As Severus stirred, the hospital
curtains billowed of their own accord. Then they were ripped off the rings, and
flung violently across the room. Moments later a dustbin in the corner
overturned itself with a loud metal clang.
"What did you do?" Severus whispered to his
grandfather. He didn't mean the curtains. Or the dustbin.
Severus' hands were clammy and his heart pounded in his
throat. That crackling feeling he remembered from Snape Manor moved under his
skin now. Alive.
"Perhaps, as a Snape it just took a little more to
scare you, eh?" Dr. Eckard Snape lifted the white-faced boy's chin with a
knuckle, smiling at his family's heir with yellowed teeth. The boy's eyes were
startled and innocent. Huge in that thin face.
Magic released again, knocking over a metal cabinet and
shattering vials in a shimmer and tinkle of glass. Grandfather didn't even
flinch. As though he expected it.
Severus realised, numbly, that he was definitely going to
Hogwarts now. A year behind his friends, but he was going. But he had no
friends anymore. Severus' jaw was set. He would never forget how they abandoned
him because he was a Squib.
"What did you do?" The boy repeated, disbelieving.
Grandfather Eckard Snape, doctor Emeritus, published author
of a ground-breaking Magical Theory that was scoffed at by the Magical
community… and Dark Wizard, Severus now knew… said nothing. His eyes glittered at the terrified boy, who
A picture tore itself off the wall, hovered a moment in
mid-air -- then slammed itself violently to the floor.
Severus' grandfather swept into a chair beside the hospital
bed, surprisingly nimble for his age, his robes billowing. The breeze from him
stank, Severus coughed. Grandfather stank. His breath stank. Like he had not
bathed in years. Which was quite possible. His robes were a grayish, indeterminate colour,
rumpled and as threadbare as a hermit's. Maybe they had a colour once, but were
so old it was gone.
"There is more than one kind of Magic," was all
the explanation grandfather would offer.
He steepled his hands and peered at Severus. Not as one
would gaze at a child out of concern for its welfare. But rather, as though
Severus was a piece of equipment, or an experiment that was going particularly
well. There was a shriek and a crash from the Nurse's station outside Severus'
room. Severus knew without looking that the heavy scrolls of patient lists were
now unrolled and fluttering about the room beyond his.
Severus couldn't help it, and he couldn't stop. Severus had
never heard of first signs that started and then didn't end.
"Dumbledore will manage you," his grandfather said
cryptically, in a thoughtful tone of voice, "though no doubt Albus will
guess what I've done. Yes. No doubt of it." And Dr. Eckard Snape chuckled,
deep in his throat.
Severus stared at the ceiling. He
dimly recalled family gossip, half overheard from the kid's table, that his
grandfather didn't like Dumbledore. Something about a mutual friend, some said.
But he heard the name 'Grindelwald' whispered, and
that got his attention. That's why he remembered it at all. He had scoffed at
his Aunts at the time, but now he believed that grandfather had known the
infamous Dark Wizard. His grandfather really had wanted to see him after all Severus realized….
Then Severus felt a thrill of fear
and anticipation at his grandfather's next words:
"Dumbledore can manage you at School. But, for the
summer, I think it best you come to me from now on. For… private
Severus' friends, his family, all had abandoned him. But
this strange wizard, who cared for nothing but his research and the fact he
needed Severus for his experiment, that cool logic alone could be trusted.
"So you see, Filch," said Professor Severus Snape, completing his
story as he leaned casually against the stone wall of the dungeon outside
Filch's quarters, "I am not likely to hold the usual opinion of…"
Snape pursed his lips around the word distastefully, "…Squibs."
He handed the old Hogwarts caretaker a heavy iron-bound
book. "Don't waste your time with Kwik-Spell lessons and such rot. The
answer - if any answer can be found, since that misguided set of misanthropes
at the Ministry had my grandfather killed - lies here." He tapped the
Filch's eyes glittered hungrily as
he reached for and cradled the book in his arms. He looked at Dr. Eckard
Snape's posthumous and highly illegal unpublished research with the eagerness
of a starving man at a banquet.
"Unfortunately, I have never been able to continue his
research. I don't have time for such matters," Snape continued smoothly,
"but perhaps you might find a minute or two, here and there?"
Filch didn't appear to have heard him. He was already
flipping the pages. Filch nodded absently but it was as though Snape had ceased
to exist. The Potions Master smiled in wry amusement and left without further
Snape strode down the dank stone corridors, musing about his
years with his grandfather. The old Dark Wizard had been a pure scientist, one
who didn't give a damn about the rest of world, Voldemort, or anyone else.
Including his favourite guinea pig, Severus. His bizarre theory, that Muggles
and Squibs were potentially magical, guaranteed that Dr. Eckard
Snape was hated equally by everyone. As much by the Malfoys of the world as the
fools at the Ministry, who were aghast at such an appalling affront to their
A slight satisfied smirk played about Snape's lips. He would
like to see the students' faces should Filch actually succeed and suddenly be
able to perform Magic.
That would be very rewarding indeed.