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Chapter 3 : Of Candles and Ouija Boards
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After I had cremated Gabriel, I had created a sort of memorial to him upon my mantel. First was the urn, then I had placed a picture of him running about the yard during the autumn, when his red-gold coat was set off to a burnished sheen by the red, gold, and orange foliage. In addition to the picture, I also had a small votive candle, similar to those used in churches, that I lit every night before I went to sleep. The two items were inside his dog collar, which I had saved. It was one I had made as a nine-year-old, using a leather-making kit. Inexpert as it had been, it had nevertheless lasted a lifetime. It was of three different shades of leather, a deep brown, a mahogany brown, and a light brown, and they were braided together and capped with leather ties. It was old and worn now, but I recalled how it looked when it was new, and how proud I had been when I'd put it and his dog tags on him the first time.
I stroked the cracked leather and smiled. Then I looked at the candle, and that in turn reminded me of the disastrous incident that had occurred when I was nine, when Lily and I had tried to make our own candles for a summoning ceremony. It had all started with Petunia and her friends, Macy and Andrea . . .
October 29th, 1969:
Lily and I were in her backyard, tossing a Frisbee for Gabe to fetch, it was one of those crisp October afternoons, where all the leaves had changed and piles of them fell all over the yard. It was Petunia's job to help us rake them up, but two of her friends had shown up and she had abandoned her chore to go and gossip with them or whatever girls did. Lily and I managed to rake all the leaves into a large pile, but then Gabriel jumped in it and scattered them all over again when we played fetch with him.
I groaned. "Now look what you've done, Gabe!"
The collie wagged his tail, not understanding why it was wrong to race through the crisp leaves.
"Just leave it. Let Tuney handle it, she was supposed to be raking anyhow," Lily said dismissively, taking the Frisbee from Gabe's mouth. "Let's go inside and have some cider. Mum has some warming on the stove. She always makes it around Halloween time."
I followed her into the house, I had been a guest in the Evans' home ever since we'd met in the park that day. There were ginger spice biscuits on the counter, we helped ourselves to them and cups of slowly simmering cider. Then we started to talk about Halloween, and going trick-or-treating. I never had much money for a costume, so I usually went as something simple, like a zombie or a ghost. This year, however, I could get a real costume, and I was going as Dracula.
"What are you going as, Lil?"
"A trapeze artist. Mum took my old gymnastic uniform and sewed sequins on it and dusted it with glitter. I already have tights and old ballet shoes that we can re-do. Mum was going to go shop today for a fancy cape like the one we saw Melina Starflyer wear in the center ring at the circus last month."
The circus had been great and Lily had said afterwards that if she hadn't been a witch, she would have wanted to be a trapeze artist. I had liked the elephant and dog and tiger acts the best, the animals were awesome.
"Sounds cool. Where should we go this year?" We always planned our route, based on who gave out what sweets and how far we had to walk.
"I think we should start with Mrs. Coates house this year. She gave out the big bars of Cadbury Crunchies."
"Right, and then there's Mr. Adams' house and he gives out candy apples." I reminded her. They were homemade and excellent.
Just then we heard squeals of fright from the den.
"Oh, it moved!"
"Did not, Macy. You're just seeing things!"
"Am not, Andrea. I swear to God, it moved over to the 'H"."
"Let me see that thing!"
"You dimwits!" Petunia's voice echoed scornfully through the house. "Don't you know you need to use a Ouija board on Halloween night, when all the spirits are awake and able to cross over."
"You do? Who says?"
"My little sister is into all this occult stuff, she thinks she's a witch, and she said that Halloween is a time when the gateway between the living and the dead is open. That's when black witches use ceremonies to summon up the dead in rituals."
"Oooh! Sounds really creepy!" said Macy. "Can your little sis summon up ghosts?"
"I don't know. Her and that Snape kid are both nuts. But I read in this magazine that in order to call the dead you need two thick black candles made according to this recipe."
Lily and I exchanged glances. "What recipe?" I mouthed.
Lily just shrugged. "I don't know," she whispered in my ear. "Let's go find out."
She walked into the den and I trailed her, Gabriel beside me.
"What are you all doing?" Lily asked.
The three were sitting around a Ouija board with a pointer trained upon the letter 'H", looking both scared and disbelieving. Petunia looked up and scowled at us. "Beat it, weirdos. And take the mutt with you."
"He's not a mutt!" I snapped, defending my dog.
Gabriel was sniffing curiously at the Ouija board. He sneezed then shook his head.
"Oooh what a beautiful collie!" squealed Macy, she was a skinny girl with long stringy blond hair. She reached out to pet Gabe, who licked her hand.
"What's her name?" asked Andrea, she was a brunette who had a bob, also petting my dog.
Gabe just ate up the attention.
"His name is Gabriel," I corrected.
"That's a pretty name. Like an angel," said Macy.
"Enough with the dumb dog!" Petunia said disgustedly.
"Hey. Is it true that you know black magic?" Andrea asked Lily and me.
Lily snickered. "No."
"Well, do you know how to raise the dead?" asked Macy.
"What do we look like, necromancers?" I asked, rolling my eyes. "Please!"
Gabriel chose that moment to sit down . . .right on the Ouija board.
"Get that blasted dog out of here!" Tuney shrilled. She could have put a cat in heat to shame and she sure was as bitchy as one.
Her friends didn't seem to mind though, they just laughed and kept petting him.
"Gabe, come," I called and my dog rose and came to sit at my left side.
"Lily, you and Snape are always brewing up stupid fake things," Petunia said, her eyes shimmering with anger and something else . . .jealousy. Unlike her friends, she knew magic was real."Can you make candles?"
"Candles?" Lily repeated.
"Yes, you know, the things you light and use in jack-o-lanterns? We need candle for the ritual."
"What ritual?" Lily asked.
"The one where we summon up dead relatives. I want to summon up our great-grandmother, she sounds interesting. I need these candles for the ritual." She thrust a piece of paper at Lily. I peeked over her shoulder and saw the article was titled "How to Create Midnight Candles to Summon Those From Beyond the Grave! It's Easy!
Lily stared at Petunia with wide eyes. "Tuney, you shouldn't . . .summoning up the dead is a bad idea. They don't like to be disturbed."
"So what? They should expect to be disturbed on Halloween. Can you make the candles or not?"
Lily read the recipe. So did I. "Yeah, I guess. But why can't you make them?"
Petunia shrugged. "Because I don't feel like it. Besides, you're always bragging about how you two little warlocks can brew anything in Snape's kitchen. So prove it."
I was getting sick and tired of her attitude, so I said, just to shut her up, "Okay, we will."
"Good! Have them ready by Halloween. Or else we'll summon up some ghosts to haunt you!" Petunia cackled.
I snorted. Between the three of them, they might have been able to summon up a dust mite. "Now I'm really scared!" I mocked.
"Beat it, Snape! And take your mutt with you."
I made a face at her. Honestly, when she got on her high horse, she was unbearable!
"Be nice to him, Tuney! Or else you can find someone else to make your candles." Lily snapped.
"Fine! Will you please leave, Mr. Snape?" she said in mocking politeness. "And do take your hairy canine with you."
Lily and I left, retreating to the haven of the backyard and the play house there. Mr. Evans, whom I rarely saw, since he usually worked when I came over, had built it himself for Tuney and Lily.
Together we squished inside the little wooden house, it had benches built into the wall and pillows and a small table. We both read the recipe for the candles.
2 blocks of beeswax, melted (12oz)
A handful of powdered ash
A pinch of elder bark
2tsp of ground cloves
A sprinkling of mold
Two drops of narcissus essence
String for wick
Stir well all ingredients and let come to a boil. Pour into candle mold with wick and let cool. Light on Halloween to summon those spirits you wish to commune with.
"Yuck! Mouse blood," Lily wrinkled her nose. "Do we have to put that in?
"No. This isn't like a real spell, Lil. It's a fake Muggle one. It won't make a difference if we leave that out since it won't work anyway."
"Yeah. I mean, if it did work, then we would have this book in the wizarding libraries, right?"
"Right. Only Tuney's dumb enough to believe it'll really work."
"So . . .can we make the candles at your house?"
"Yeah. It doesn't sound too hard. I have an old cauldron we can use, it'll fit on the stove." I said, since neither of us could make magical fire for our cauldrons yet. "I'll get half the ingredients and you can get the other half."
We divided up the ingredients, I would supply the wax and the ash since I had lots of that kind of thing at home, because we had a fireplace and Lily didn't. And Mum used wax a lot to seal her vials when she finished extra batches of potions. I also had ground elder bark and a candle mold. Lily would bring the cloves, the string, the narcissus essence, and the mold.
Mum would be working tomorrow, so we could make the candles then. She had a mid-shift tomorrow and afterwards was going to pick up my costume from the Halloween shop—she had put it on hold. Everything was set. It should have been an easy project, I thought. Instead, it turned out to be a huge blunder.
October 30, 1969
7 Spinner's End:
I waited until Mum had left for work and I had cleaned up my room and the den, since those were my chores that day, besides taking care of my dog, before I went over Lily's house to tell her to come on over so we could start making the candles. I had everything set out on the counter, just like I did when I made potions with Mum. Gabriel was lying on the floor under the kitchen table, licking up the crumbs from lunch.
Lily opened the door as soon as I rang the bell.
"Is everything ready?' she asked.
"Yes. Did you get everything?"
"Right here." She had a shoebox beside her foot. "Mum, I'm going to play over Sev's house!" she yelled over her shoulder.
"Okay, Lily! Just be home for supper!"
"I will! See you later!"
Off we went to my house.
We followed the recipe and dumped everything into the pot, and I turned up the burner on high. "Go open the window," I ordered Lily, while I stirred the gross mixture with a long handled stirrer I had brought up from the potions lab last night. "I don't want my kitchen to smell like this nasty sludge."
While Lily went to open the window, I stood on a chair and stirred the cauldron. The wax slowly started to melt and I wrinkled my nose. The stuff smelled foul and my eyes began to stream. I started to cough.
Gabriel whined and pawed at his face. Clearly this stuff was making him sick too. Nothing I'd ever made had ever smelled this bad before.
"Sev? You okay? That stuff smells awful." Lily said, coming to stand next to me.
"Tell me about it." I said, then I started coughing again. The stench was like burning wood and rotting leaves and it was utterly disgusting. My eyes were hurting so much I could barely see. "Lily, get me a wet cloth." I ordered. I couldn't tell if the wax was hot enough, I thought it would start to bubble like a potion and was waiting for it to happen.
Lily handed me a wet dishcloth. I mopped my eyes.
"Want me to take a turn?" she asked.
I hopped down from the stool and started cutting the string and putting it in the mold. My eyes still burned and I went into the bathroom to wash my face.
I could hear Lily start coughing too as she went to stir the sludge.
"Sev? What's it look like when it's done?"
"I don't know," I called back. "Wait till it bubbles."
I stuck my head under the faucet and let the water run into my eyes.
I heard the phone ring.
It rang twice, and then I heard Lily pick it up from the stand in the hallway, since we had no phone jack in the kitchen.
"We're making it right now, Tuney! Yes, now let me get off the phone, we have it cooking on the stove!"
That's it, you tell her, Lily! I thought, removing my head from the water and drying my face off with a towel.
All of a sudden I heard Gabriel start barking like crazy. He barked and barked and I knew that something was wrong. I ran out of the bathroom and down the hall.
"SEVERUS! The kitchen's on FIRE!"
Lily was screaming, standing in the doorway of my kitchen, staring in horror at the stove, where fire was shooting up from the cauldron and this thick black smoke was billowing up to the ceiling.
"Holy shit!" I gasped. How had this happened? "Lily, what the hell?"
"I don't know what happened, Sev!" she was bawling. "All I did was talk to Tuney, I w-was only gone a few minutes and when I came back . . .it was on fire! We need to call the fire department!"
"Call!" I cried.
Then I heard my collie bark again and I screamed, "Gaby! Where is he?"
"Sev, he was in the kitchen! He was asleep on the floor!"
"No!" I screamed. "Gabriel, come!"
I could see my dog, he was backed up by the window, barking frantically while the fire spread across the ceiling.
I didn't think, I just ran in there.
The kitchen was full of black smoke and as soon as I entered it, I was overwhelmed by the terrible stench and started coughing and gasping. But I managed to make my way over to the dog and tug on his collar. "Come on! We . . .have . . .to get . . .out . . ."
But the collie refused to go anywhere near the kitchen entrance. So I tried to heave him out the kitchen window. "Gabe, jump! Jump!"
He was barking and I finally got him to calm down enough to obey me. The window was barely wide enough for him to get through and I had to shove his hind end out.
"Sev. Where are you? Sev!"
Lily! She was still in the house. "Get out, Lily! Get out!" I shrieked.
"Gabe, go get her!" I ordered, then doubled over, coughing uncontrollably.
Gabriel raced away. I learned later than he had burst through the screen door and dragged Lily out by her shirt tail.
Right then, I was half-passed out from the smoke and I just barely climbed out the window. I landed on the grass and then I knew nothing more until a day later, when I woke up in hospital, and found my mother hovering over me.
May 26th, 1993:
The doctors said I was very lucky, that the stuff we had added to the candle wax had mixed together and formed a toxic smoke, which was why my eyes had been burning and stinging while I'd stirred. The wax had spontaneously combusted because it had reached a flashpoint, which happened because we didn't know how to test it for the proper temperature. It turned out we should have used a candy thermometer, but since the recipe didn't say that, we had no idea that wax didn't bubble like a potion, it just got hotter until it ignited.
I had to get oxygen for two days and my throat was very sore and I could only eat Jello and ice cream and drink water for three days. Mum burst into tears when I finally opened my eyes, she told me I could have died.
The fire department had put out the fire before it had spread, and the only damage had been to the kitchen ceiling and part of the counter. But for weeks afterwards, that part of the house smelled like burnt mold. Lily and Gaby were fine, though Lily had went to the hospital also and gotten checked out.
Thanks to Tuney we had missed Halloween, my house had almost burnt down, and I almost died.
After three days, I was released from the hospital and Mum came home. Lily had taken care of Gaby while Mum stayed with me, and as soon as the car pulled up in the drive, he flew out of Lily's house and jumped all over me, licking me and making a strange sort of crooning noise. To this day I cannot describe exactly how it sounded, it was a unique noise that he made when he was very happy, a cross between a whine and a growl. I went down on one knee and hugged him. "Hey, Gaby. I missed you," I whispered, my voice was still not up to snuff.
"Come inside, Sev." Mum said, after she had thanked the Evans' for looking after Gabriel. "You need to take some potions and then take a nap."
I didn't want a nap, I wasn't tired, but I also knew it was a mistake to argue with my mother. She hadn't said anything while I was in hospital about the fire, but I knew she had to be furious. I was probably going to end up grounded for the year.
Lily ran out of her house and hugged me as I was walking up the steps. "Oh, Sev! Are you going to be all right? I was so worried!"
"Yeah. My . . .voice is just . . .it's hard to talk. . . from the smoke . . ."
"Oh. I'm so sorry. Mum said . . .she said we never should have tried something like that alone . . .that we were very foolish and we were lucky not to have died! I told her that it was Tuney's idea to make the candles to use with the Ouiji board and now she's grounded and so am I. Till December. And Mum spanked us too."
"Sorry," I said, wincing. Though I was sorry I had gotten Lily in trouble, I didn't really feel sorry for Petunia, who blamed both of us for her stupid idea, according to Lily, and she had gotten spanked both for being irresponsible and for saying that she wished my house had burnt down so I'd move away from here.
"Lily, dear, Sev needs to rest. Come by tomorrow afternoon and see him. He'll be out of school for a week." Mum told her. "He needs time for his voice to heal."
"Okay, Mrs. Snape. I'm really sorry about everything!" Lily said, her green eyes filled with tears.
Mum hugged her. "Child, it was a very stupid mistake and thank Merlin you both lived to tell of it. I hope you've learned your lesson and it's over and done with now."
Lily cried a little into her shirt and then she left to go home.
Mum herded me and Gabriel upstairs to my room. Then she told me to change into pajamas and she fetched the potions from her lab.
She gave me a Lung Repair Cordial, a Breathe Ease Elixir and a Sore Throat Soother. All of them tasted God-awful, and afterwards I felt sort of sick and sort of sleepy. Mum made me lay down and before I knew it, I was asleep, with Gabriel lying across my feet, like he always did.
The next day, after a second round of potions, Mum tore strips out of me for being so irresponsible and reckless and asked how I could have been so foolish as to try something like that unsupervised? I can still hear her saying, "How many times have I told you, Severus Snape, never ever make a potion or cook anything or use the stove when I'm not home? You know better!"
"Sorry. I didn't mean it. . ."
"You nearly died! You nearly died!" She shook me hard and then she started to cry.
That made me cry too, as the seriousness of what had almost happened finally sunk in. I hugged her and sobbed more apologies.
When we finally quit bawling, she said, "You're grounded for a month, young man! I'd turn you over my knee too, but I think the fire punished you more than I could have. But if you ever do anything so foolish again I'll make sure you can't sit down for a day."
"I won't, Mum."
"I love you, Sev." She said then, stroking my hair. "And I couldn't bear it if I lost you."
"Love you too."
Gabriel whined and licked us both on the hand. He hated when we were upset. "Or you either, you big beast!" She ruffled his fur. His ruff was finally growing in, and he was starting to look like a grown collie now.
One near death experience and an almost-burnt house had been enough to teach me the value of obeying the rules when it came to making potions or candles or playing with fire. Unlike some Gryffindors I could name, I learned from my mistakes. Lily came over every day after school to bring me my homework, for which I was very grateful. I had read all the books I had and needed something to keep me from going crazy.
She also bought me three books, as a get well gift. They were dog stories I had never read before. Two were by Albert Payson Terhune—the classics Lad: A Dog and Gray Dawn. The other was Eric Knight's Lassie Come Home, about the famous Yorkshire collie.
I still have those books, they are now worn and dog-eared from being read so much, but Lily's inscription is still legible on the flyleaf of each of them. Get well soon, Sev! Love, Lily. They have a place upon my bookshelf and every so often I will take them out and re-read them. And the kitchen still has the large black stain upon the ceiling over the stove, Mum left it there to remind me of my folly, which to this day I have never forgotten.
Well, how do you like Sev and Lily's childhood so far?
I know some of you probably will think Sev was nuts to run back into the kitchen to try and save his dog, but I would have done the same for one of my pets, because I am a crazy animal lover.
The candle incident I described really happened to a neighbor of my sister's, her teenage daughter and friend were trying to make candles and set her house on fire. Thank goodness no one was injured and the fire department was right across the street, so no real damage was done. Apparently, according to the fire department, there are a lot of accidents involving candle wax by novice chandlers.
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