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Chapter 5 : A Collie Cometh
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June 1st, 1993:
I haven't felt much like writing lately, been under the weather with a bad cold and the weather outside has been stormy, which always plays hell with my sinuses this time of year. You might not think a Potions Master like myself would be prone to sinus infections, but the fact is, we work with so many substances that can be abrasive or destroy lung tissue that we're more susceptible than most to sinus and respiratory ailments. I always keep several potions on hand to deal with colds and coughs and all that damn rot. But this cold snuck up on me unaware, I wasn't really paying attention to my health since Gabriel died, and as a result I developed a bad head cold and had to dose myself silly with Sinus Cordials and Decongestion Drafts till I was ready to smother. Then I spent the next few days brewing more to replenish my stock.
So it's not till this evening that I've felt well enough to pick up my quill again.
September 1st, 1971:
Gabriel whined and scratched at the door of his cage, which was right in front of my feet. "Hush, boy!" I ordered softly. "You're not allowed out on the train. Now quit making a fuss before the conductor or prefect or whoever's in charge here comes and kicks us off!" I thumped the top of the cage with my hand and said sternly, "Quiet!"
Gabriel whimpered once more in token rebellion before he settled his great head upon his small forepaws and peered out the cage door. I reached in and scratched his muzzle gently. "Good boy!"
"Aww, poor baby!" Lily murmured, kneeling on her side, the cage was inbetween our two seats in the compartment, and she too pet my collie through the cage wire. Her owl, Cosmic, chirruped loudly from her cage on Lily's seat. Lily had just purchased her from Eeylops Owl Emporium a week ago, when me and Mum went with her to Diagon Alley for school supplies. Cosmic was an ebony speckled owl, meaning she had black feathers with little white specks on them, like stars in the night sky. She was a small owl, only a foot and a half high and at first Lily had wanted to call her Groovy. It took me two days to convince her not to, because wizards would never get the reference and think she was odd. "Groovy" was an expression Muggle kids used to describe something cool. I didn't know what the wizard equivalent was, because despite having a witch mother, Mum wasn't up on modern phrases, and since I lived in a Muggle neighborhood I had no chance to learn current wizardspeak.
Lily took my advice and agreed to name her owl Cosmic, which was yet another familiar Muggle expression, but also a word wizards should know. Mum had told me that a lot of purebloods went to Hogwarts and not all of them were tolerant of Muggleborns. Especially outspoken bright ones like Lily. So I resolved to try and look out for her as best I could, like we had always done.
Gabriel stopped pawing at the cage and went to sleep, I had had the devil of a time convincing the Head Boy that I was allowed to take my dog with me, until I showed him Dumbledore's letter, than he shut up and let me be. He wanted me to put Gabe in the baggage car, alone, with all the other luggage, but I refused. "My dog's not a trunk, and if he's not with me, he'll start howling. Really loud. Do you want to listen to howling the whole ride? No? Then let him stay with me."
"He's a really good dog," Lily added helpfully. "He won't be any trouble."
"All right. It's your funeral though, if he causes a ruckus."
So Gabe was allowed to remain with us in our compartment—in his cage, even though he hated it.
"I can't wait till we get there!" Lily said excitedly, she had been paging through her Charms text, trying to figure out how to cast a couple of basic incantations. "What House do you think we'll be Sorted into, Sev?"
I had thought a lot about that, I guess it's the first thing most kids think of after they get their letter and school stuff. The four Houses all have different things to recommend them and flaws as well. Of them, the two biggest rivals are Gryffindor and Slytherin, though Mum told me that wasn't always the case. Once Gryffindors and Slytherins were friends and friendly rivals, the animosity started when Tom Riddle (later known as Voldemort) came to school and started up the old pureblood supremacy thing again. Of course, everyone knows what he became, and because he turned to darkness and took a lot of other wizards with him, Slytherins developed a reputation for evil. It was unfair, since there were dark wizards in all the Houses, not just Slytherin, Mum says evil knows no boundaries of class, or race, or House. Mum was a Slytherin, and she certainly wasn't evil, or anything like it. Nor was she prejudiced, despite being from an old pureblood family. They'd disowned her for marrying my dad, and she hadn't seen them since. Sometimes I wondered if she missed them, or maybe she was glad to get away from them. She never really talked about the Princes and I never really asked, since I didn't want to know people who'd kicked my mother out and forgot about her. See, that's the bad thing about Slytherins, they get stuck up on pureblood versus Muggle, and forget that we're all human beings, magical or not. And they're proud and ambitious and smart, though not just book smart, but street smart. They also had cool House colors—green and silver.
I loved the color green, it was soothing and reminded me of growing things, plants and herbs, and it was the color of new life. It also went well with my dark hair and my other favorite color, which was black. Green was also the color of Lily's eyes. Silver was a good color too, it wasn't too showy, and it was considered a sacred and holy metal, one that repelled demons and undead and werewolves. I also liked snakes, and was not spit scared of them like some people were. They performed a great environmental service by eating the toads and mice and rats and insects, keeping us from being overrun by the nasty vermin. Yes, some could be poisonous, but a snake would leave you alone unless you stepped on it or disturbed its home, it wouldn't actively hunt you, like a lion.
The lion was the Gryffindor symbol, because Gryffindors were supposed to be brave and wanted the king of beasts on their banner. Bravery was overrated, in my opinion. Having courage didn't make you a better person, and Mum always said too much courage made you reckless and prone to getting yourself killed. Gryffindors were also loud and opinionated and most of them couldn't keep a secret to save their arse. Even their colors were showy—red and gold. Red was the color of the uniforms of British grenadiers at Buckingham Palace, but I had never liked red personally. Too bright. I hated it when people stared at me. Same thing with gold. Gold was a metal associated with kings, and I guess Gryffindors had a high opinion of themselves because of it. I didn't think I would fit into that House.
Ravenclaw was another possibility. The Ravenclaws were the bookworms of Hogwarts and they loved studying and research above all else. A Ravenclaw could forget food if they were immersed in a particularly thorny object of study. They were great inventors of new magic and lacked the prejudices of either Slytherin or Gryffindor. Their colors were blue and bronze, bronze for the eagle on their House crest. Now I could definitely see myself there. I loved books, loved learning, and could study with the best of them if need be. I could see myself as a Raven, and Lily also.
Hufflepuff wasn't bad either. They had a badger as their symbol, a fierce animal. Their colors were yellow and black and the only thing that bothered me about this house was the fact that its members tended to be thoughtful and rather too friendly. They were also hardworking and loyal, two qualities which I had, but I wasn't too trusting and not very social either. Mum had said all the Hufflepuffs she knew were kind and sweet and always eager to help, sometimes too eager. And they liked to hug. A lot.
Now I don't mind getting hugs from my mother, or even Lily sometimes, but I wasn't the touchy feely type at all. And I didn't go around hugging strangers. Matter of fact, the only people I'd ever hugged was Mum and Lily. And I was a quiet type, I hated crowds, and I also had a rather sharp tongue and a temper to match. I'd gotten that from my dad, unfortunately. So I didn't think Hufflepuff would be a good choice for me either.
"Sev! You're woolgathering again!" Lily shook my shoulder. "Earth to Severus!"
"Huh?" I blinked. "Oh, sorry. Umm . . .I think I'd probably be Sorted into either Ravenclaw or Slytherin."
I started to expound upon the merits of both Houses, and just as I was telling her Slytherin's good points, the door to our compartment swung open and three boys peered in. The train had not yet left the station, as we were still boarding all the students—it took a long time before everyone was settled—and I looked up, startled, to see who had so rudely barged into the compartment.
"Oi, have you got any room for a few more?" said one boy, he was good-looking, with hair that stuck up all over his head and glasses, wearing expensive robes and a gray jumper and trousers that looked custom made. Pureblood with loads of Galleons, I thought.
His buddy next to him was also dressed to the nines, and he too was a pretty boy, dark hair with a wave to it, bright brown eyes, and a smile girls probably loved. Another one of the pureblood money set.
The third kid didn't seem to come from that class, he looked more ordinary, but there was something that set my teeth on edge about him. He was small, with a rat-like nose and squinty eyes and he had mousy brown hair. He was dressed in decent robes and all, but something told me he didn't have the trust funds the other two did. He looked up at the one with the glasses and there was a weird expression on his face—like he was staring up at a hero or a big shot actor.
Humph! An arse-kisser, I thought with a silent sneer.
"No, sorry, we're full," Lily replied politely.
I figured they'd leave then, but when they remained staring at us and Gabriel in his cage, I pointedly turned and said to Lily, hoping they'd take a hint, " . . .like I was saying, Lil, if you're Sorted into Slytherin you'll be among some very talented and ambitious—"
"—evil dark wizards, like You-Know-Who," put in the one with the glasses. "You don't want to get Sorted into that House, doll." He flashed Lily a patented smile. Then he glared at me. "You a dark wizard? Or just a snake-lover?"
"What's it to you?" I snapped. His arrogant attitude was really ticking me off. "Not all Slytherins are dark. My mother was a Slytherin, she's an apothecary now—"
"Does she work in Knockturn Alley, for Borgin and Burkes?" demanded the prig.
I balled up a fist. "Listen, you bloody arsehole, don't you talk like that about my mother, or I swear I'll shove your wand up your damn arse, got me?" He was bigger than me, but I wasn't about to let any privileged snob talk like that about my mother.
"Oooh, what a dirty mouth he's got, eh, James?" cried the rat-like one. He waved a finger at me. "Somebody ought to wash out your mouth."
I gave him the finger. Normally I wouldn't have used such language, especially with Lily there, but the little rotter had just insulted my mother!
"I'd like to see you try, you little piss-ant," laughed James. "You try and hex me and I'll send you crying home to your mummy, right, Sirius?"
Sirius nodded. "Slytherins suck, and I should know, since my family's all come from there."
"That's a terrible thing to say!" Lily cried. "Why don't you all leave?"
"Why don't you come with us? You don't need to hang around a slimy snake like him."
"I don't need to hang around a pack of ignoramuses who wouldn't know a decent person if they tripped over them," Lily snapped, her eyes blazing. "How dare you say that about Severus' mum? Eileen Snape is a wonderful person, kind and smart and if that's the sort of witch Slytherin turns out, I'd be proud to be in that House!"
"Huh? Ignoramus? What's that?" asked Rat Boy, scratching his head.
"You are," I replied. How could someone this stupid be attending Hogwarts? Didn't they have standards or something? Or did people get in based on who their family was? It was something I'd never considered before.
"Hey, look, a dog!" the idiot exclaimed, having only just noticed Gabe's kennel. "Hey, boy!" He went to thump Gabriel's cage and I grabbed his arm. "Oww! Leggo of me!"
"Leave my dog alone!" I ordered.
Gabriel woke up, hearing the tone of dislike in my voice, and started to bark angrily.
"Ahhh! A vicious brute!" yelped Rat Boy. He stumbled backwards, even though any idiot could see Gabriel couldn't get out, and landed flat on his cowardly arse. God, but he was pathetic! He practically crawled behind Sirius and James.
"Hey, bringing a dog to school is against the rules, Snivellus!" Sirius cried, coining my most detested nickname.
"Typical Slytherin, always breaking rules," mocked James.
"He's not breaking the rules," Lily defended before I could speak.
"Is too! Don't believe everything he says, Red. Slytherins lie all the time," Sirius said.
"My name's not Red or doll! It's Lily! Lily Evans!"
"Evans? That's not a pureblood name. You must be Muggleborn then," Sirius declared.
"So what if I am? Does it bother you?" Lily growled.
"No, but it does explain why you were listening to this little greaseball here," James said loftily.
Gabriel was going nuts inside the kennel, barking furiously. I had never seen him act like that with anyone before, usually he was very friendly with strangers, especially kids. Which told me something. These three were trouble. My collie was a very good judge of character, and he clearly didn't like any of them. Then again, neither did I.
"You'd better hush that dog up, Snivellus! Or else you and him are going to end up walking back home to whatever dark hovel you crawled out of." Sirius sniggered. He went to peer into the cage. "What kind of mutt d'you got in there, anyhow?"
"That's not a mutt! He's a pedigreed collie!"
"Oh, right. Tell us another one, Snivellus!" James hooted. "You can't even afford decent robes, like you could afford a pedigreed dog! What a pack of lies!"
"It isn't! Gabriel won Best Junior Collie and Best of Breed at the Manchester dog show!" Lily told them.
"He tell you that, Red?"
"He didn't need to tell me, Prig, I was there. I saw it all. I even took a picture." Lily glared at them. "Now go and bother someone else, you're upsetting the dog."
Gabriel was trying to chew through the mesh now and his barking was bringing some other people to our compartment. Damn! "Get out! Now!"
"Make us," taunted Rat Boy from behind the two other boys.
I'd had all I was going to take from them. My temper exploded. And when that happened now, my magic reacted. I felt a hot burning behind my eyes and suddenly all three of them were shoved violently into the corridor and the door to our compartment slammed shut and locked.
"What's going on out here?" demanded the prefect I had trouble with before.
"That greasy kid in there cast a hex on us and we weren't doing anything but looking at his dog," lied James.
"And it tried to bite me!" added Rat Boy.
"All of you clear out of here and find a seat." The prefect ordered. "Now!"
Everyone, which was about nine people, obeyed.
Then the prefect banged on the door to our compartment. "Hey! Unlock this door! No compartments are allowed to be locked on this train!"
Lily went to open the door while I calmed Gabe down. "Sev, it's stuck! It won't open!"
Oh great! My magic had caused the door to lock, but I didn't know how to undo it.
"What spell did you cast?"
"I don't know. I just got mad and it happened."
"Firsties!" the prefect pulled out his wand and cast a charm that unlocked the door. Then he walked in and frowned down at us. "Look here, Mr—what's your name?"
"Severus Snape." I answered.
"Snape, you can't go around hexing people whenever you feel like it, it's against school policy, and I warned you what would happen if you didn't keep that dog quiet."
"It wasn't his fault," I cried angrily. "Those other kids, James and Sirius and whoever the other one was, they came in here and started with me!"
"They insulted his mum and wouldn't get out when we told them to leave." Lily defended. "That's why Gabriel was barking."
The prefect looked like he didn't believe a word we said. "That dog doesn't belong at school, and note or no note, I'm lodging a complaint with the Headmaster against it and you, Snape. You're a troublemaker."
I remained with my mouth open. Me, a troublemaker? I had done nothing except defend myself.
"Now keep that dog quiet or else!" The prefect left, and I worried the whole rest of the ride to school what would happen if Dumbledore changed his mind and told me to send Gabe home.
June 1, 1993:
That was my first meeting with James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew, who would later be known as the Marauders. We detested each other on sight and never stopped. I learned later that the annoying prefect was named Barnaby Pickens, he was a distant cousin of James Potter, a Gryffindor, and so inclined to take his relative's side. Neopotism, such a joy to practice!
Dumbledore did not tell me to take Gabriel home, thank heaven. I don't think I'd have survived my first year there if it wasn't for Gabriel. The Sorting was abysmal, Lily ended up in Gryffindor and I was Sorted into Slytherin, like Mum. I was stunned. How could this have happened, me and my best friend Sorted into rival Houses? It was a living nightmare.
When I had gone up to be Sorted, people started muttering because Gabriel was walking beside me, off his lead. He sat down next to the stool while I put the Hat on and gave it a suspicious growl when it cried, "SLYTHERIN!" But other than that, he behaved, and my new Housemates thought he was a great dog and everyone, especially the girls, wanted to pet him. Gabe ate up most of the attention, but soon it was too much and he retreated beneath the table to lie across my feet.
I had received another letter from the Headmaster before I left for school, and he had told me that after the feast I was to visit the gamekeeper, Rubeus Hagrid, and he would help me arrange things for Gabriel while I was in class. After I had told my prefect, a tall blond aristocrat named Lucius Malfoy, what I needed to do, he dismissed me with a wave, and handed me a map of the castle and the grounds, so I could find my way to the dungeons, where we Slytherins had our common room.
"Remember, Snape, our password is runespoor fangs, now hurry up and get going, lights out are at ten, no exceptions."
It was eight thirty now. "What about my trunk?"
"It's already in your room, don't worry about it. House elves took care of it. Move it!"
This time I obeyed, and we headed out of the castle, Gabe trotting happily at my side.
He sure was glad to be out of that kennel, and he was smiling his signature collie grin as I walked down the path towards the gamekeeper's cottage.
Hagrid, Gabriel, Fang, and I hit it off immediately. Hagrid was delighted to have another wizard dog-lover here and Fang was overjoyed to have a playmate. So was Gabe. My collie loved other dogs and hated it when I dragged him away from them. Fang and Gabe started chasing each other across the lawn, though my dog was far faster than the boarhound. Collies are naturally agile and can turn on a sixpence, since they were bred to herd sheep.
Hagrid agreed to watch my dog while I was in class, and to feed him dinner, if I would leave his food at the hut. I was pleased to do as he asked. "Don' worry about a thing, Severus. Me an' Fang will keep Gabe company till you can be with him again. We're glad to help. Fang's been lonesome without another dog t'keep him company."
"Thanks again, sir. I have to go, I have curfew," I said, whistling my collie to my side.
Gabriel came, reluctantly.
"Hagrid, Severus. Jus' plain Hagrid. Sir's fer professors, which I'm not."
"See you later, Hagrid," I called and then we left the hut.
Gabe was sulking, and I stroked his fur. "Stop that. You can see Fang tomorrow, and play all day with him while I'm in class. But right now we've got to get back to the castle before I'm late."
I hurried up the path, Gabriel trotting beside me, his plumed tail wagging. It was almost a quarter past nine.
"Sev!" a voice called out from the shrubbery. "Sev, it's me, Lily!"
Gabriel burst into the shrubbery and his tail started wagging like crazy.
"Hey! Quit licking me!" giggled Lily, and then she came out from behind the plant.
"Lil, why are you lurking in the shrubbery?"
"Because I didn't want anyone to see me sneaking out," she said guiltily. "I'm supposed to be in my room, unpacking, but I just had to see you . . .oh, Sev, what are we going to do?"
"Do? About what?"
"About the fact that you're in Slytherin and I'm in Gryffindor with those dunderheads!" she wailed. "I hate them and now I'm stuck with them for Housemates."
"Lily, there's nothing we can do," I said sadly.
"Are you sure? Maybe I could ask the Hat to-to ReSort me or something? I don't want to be enemies with you, Sev!" She looked on the verge of tears.
"The Hat can't do that. But Lil, listen to me. Just because our Houses are rivals doesn't mean we have to be too. I mean, you're still my best friend, no matter what. Right?"
"Yes, of course. But what if . . .what if they tell us not to be friends?"
"Who? The professors? The prefects?"
She nodded, biting her lip.
"That's not going to happen. I think the professors want us to be friends with people from other Houses, and as for the prefects, all they care about is if we follow the school rules and don't lose points for our House. They can't tell us who to be friends with, and if they do, just ignore them. I'll always be your friend, Lil. Always."
"Me too, Sev," Then she threw her arms around me and hugged me.
I rolled my eyes. Girls!
We headed back to the castle, Gabriel frisking beside us. As we came into the Entrance Hall, we were met by a stern witch wearing a tartan shawl and a green robe, it was Minerva McGonagall.
"Oh! Hello, professor!" Lily squeaked.
"And what, may I ask, are you two doing outside at this time of night? You both ought to be in your rooms, unpacking."
I thought quickly. "Err . . .I had to take my dog for a walk, Professor. He's been cooped up in a crate the whole train ride and Lily just wanted to come with me, that's all." I indicated Gabriel, who was sitting alertly by my feet.
"Your dog? But Hogwart's policy doesn't allow—ah, so you're the one Albus told us about, the student with a dog for a familiar. You'd be Severus Snape, correct?"
"Yes, ma'am. And this is Gabriel. Say hello, Gabe."
Gabe, responding to my silent cue, immediately offered a paw for her to shake.
McGonagall was charmed. "Thank you! Pleased to make your acquaintance." She gently took his paw and shook it. "What lovely manners he has!" She stroked his broad head, her eyes suddenly far away. "You know, I had a collie when I was a little girl. He was my father's, helped him herd sheep on occasion, we McGonagalls have always been shepherds, and Jock was a champion herder. He could find any sheep that strayed, and us too. Once, I was three, I wandered outside and got lost in a rain storm, and Jock found me and brought me home on his back. Such a braw bright dog he was! I shall never forget him."
She wiped a tear from her eye. "I was nine when he passed on, and I never had another dog since. Only cats. Your collie reminds me of him very much."
Gabriel licked her hand.
He had made yet another friend, and a lucky thing it was, because about a month after school started, the Marauders began their persecution of me, and by extension, my dog as well.
But right then all I knew was that my dog was proving a great ice breaker, and McGonagall sent us off to my common room without taking any points and I reached it before curfew, met my Head of House, Horace Slughorn, who also was happy to welcome my collie to Hogwarts, and then he told me to get my uniform set for school and go to bed.
When I finally got to my room and got out my pajamas, and fixed my clothes for tomorrow, it was already lights out. I had no time to sort through my things or write to Mum. I barely had time to use the bathroom before I got into bed, all my other roommates were asleep, and I had Gabe sleep on my bed across the bottom, so I could burrow my toes in his fur. He never minded, and the dungeons were chilly. By the time Lucius came around to do a bed check, I was asleep, and a red-gold collie was lying on my feet, watchful and alert.
Which was where he would be for the next twenty years. Yes, he lived to a very great—almost impossible age—for a dog, but more about that later.
My cough has returned with a vengeance, and I cannot properly hold a quill while I'm gasping for air, so I shall have to continue this tomorrow.
I set down my quill, coughing hard, and turn to fetch some more Cough Elixir from my nightstand when I hear a tap at my door.
"Dad, you sound like you're gonna keel over," my son informed me, poking his dark head around the door. "Have you been taking your potions?"
"I'm taking one right now, Mr. Nosy." I told him. I summon the potion to me and swallow it, grimacing at the taste. "Happy now?"
He grinned at me. "You've been in here all afternoon. What're you writing, a book?" He came in to peer at my journal.
"That's my private journal," I began.
"You're writing a book about Gabe!" he exclaimed. "Can I read it?"
"When it's finished."
"When will that be?"
"I don't know. Now, it's time for me to make supper."
"Good, I'm starving."
I steered him gently away from my desk. "Go, go and set the table," I ordered.
"Okay." His eyes fell on the spot near my desk where Gabriel used to lie. "I miss him. Even after a month, I still look . . ." he trailed off, his eyes filled with tears.
I gave his shoulder a squeeze, but otherwise didn't say anything about his crying. He was thirteen and touchy about being caught crying, it was unmanly. "I know. I still look too. A month isn't so long. He was here when you were a baby, it's only natural you would still remember him."
"Yeah." He quickly swiped a hand across his eyes. "I won't ever forget, Dad."
"Nor will I." I shut my journal.
"What are we having for dinner? And please, not chicken soup again!"
"What's wrong with my chicken soup?"
"I'm sick of it. It's all you've been making for three days!"
"I was sick, you can't expect me to cook a full course meal when I'm half-asleep."
"I could have made something."
"Something edible?" I countered. "I think not."
He made a face at me. "If you make chicken soup again, I'm going to hurl."
"You do like to complain, don't you?"
"So? I'm a teenager."
"Brat!" I gave him a light swat on the bottom. "Quit being cheeky and set the table."
He rolled his eyes at me. "Sir, yes, sir!" he gave me a mock salute.
I turned away to gather the ingredients for a salad and hamburgers, thinking that it was because of Gabriel that I had my son, but that too is a tale for another time.
Well, what did you think of this part?
Yes, I deliberately left out the name of Severus's son. That will be revealed later.
Next: More to come with Sev and Lily's schooldays, the Marauders, and Gabe!
Please review and let me know how you're enjoying this, it really makes my day.
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