Chapter Four, Part Two: A Potion's Master and a Familiar
Cyrus had just finished breakfast and as he was getting up from the table the fireplace erupted in green flames and two wizards appeared before him. One of the men was Uncle Lucius, but he was with a strange looking man the boy had never seen before. He had a stern, narrow face and a pair of the darkest eyes he had ever seen with pupils that appeared as miniature wells of vibrant black ink. There was a curtain of greasy black hair pushed to the very edges of his vision and a hooked nose that looked as though it had been broken several times. The man stood in a supremely confident manner but kept his hands folded in front of him and didn't budge until Lucius spoke to the boy.
"Aw, Cyrus! I'm glad to see you," he greeted him while shooting Bellatrix a glare and finished sarcastically, "I hope your morning has treated you well? Aunt Bella hasn't over worked you I expect?" Lucius believed her to spoil the boy to no end while he was at the Lestrange Manor. Draco and Cyrus were certainly spoiled enough at the Malfoy's but even he thought the personal elf, pool, and library at age six was a bit over the top.
Cyrus had already gotten up from the table and was halfway over to Lucius before his uncle had finished the question. He ignored his greetings almost entirely and started to jump up and down to exclaim childishly, "I'm fine Uncle Lucius! Is it true? Are we getting my wand today? Are you coming with us! Can we go now! Please...! Can we go-"
Lucius reached out his arm and ruffled Cyrus's hair before interrupting in a casual manner, "Calm yourself Cyrus... We'll leave soon I promise, but first I want you to meet someone important. Draco has already met him and its your birthday tomorrow, I think its time you two get know each other as well." Lucius paused and gestured his hand towards Severus before continuing gently, "Cyrus, this is Severus Snape. He is a professor at Hogwarts and a close friend of mine, but more importantly he is your and Draco's Godfather and someone I trust. He is a fine man and has your best interest at heart as my child. You and Draco will be starting school in a few years and I want you to become acquainted with one another... He'll be coming with us today to help buy supplies for your upcoming lessons."
Cyrus looked up at Lucius and then over at the strange looking man. Anyone in the room could see the joy surface in his eyes, he didn't know him yet but to hear that he had a Godfather and another person that cared for him in life was a profound moment for the child. He didn't have any living relatives other than Sirius and another addition to his god-family was welcomed in his life, as long as Uncle Lucius approved of the man at least.
Bellatrix looked enraged but was trying to keep yourself in check. She was unsure about Snape and didn't like the fact that Lucius had just named him Cryus's Godfather, particularly without informing her. Bella thought the man had either played both sides near the end of the war or he had done what very few wizards were capable of doing and had actually tricked Albus Dumbledore. The first impulse in her mind was that the man was a traitor only looking out for himself, but she wasn't entirely sure and still stared at him with more vitriol than curiosity. It was puzzling, her speculation was rampant but she also thought there had to be a good reason why Lucius named him Godfather. In any case, she restrained herself from going on rampage out of sheer curiosity and held her tongue.
In truth, Lucius only trusted him because he thought the man to be much like himself and had a same general view of the world. They had both immersed themselves into the Dark Arts at a very young age and there was no apparent reason to him why Severus would immediately alter his beliefs, he never knew him to be a coward or indecisive in his following. Lucius believed he had not only proven to be a loyal death eater during the war, but also proved that he was just as cunning, ruthless, and ambitious as himself. He respected the man for being able to dupe the old goat and thought that even if he were still pretending to be Dumbledore's spy, there wasn't a big difference between that and claiming to had been under the imperius curse. Severus had been sly enough to evade capture without any assistance and to the Head of the Malfoy House this was a noble trait. Lucius considered him as one of his best friends during the war and as far as he knew they were both still very much alike. To him, the potion's master could be a good influence upon both Cyrus and Draco while at Hogwarts and could protect them from any of Dumbledore's meddling or interference.
The professor took a step forward and put on a pleasant face, or as much of one that he could manage. When Lord Voldemort had fallen he had taken with him one of the only connections to humanity, if not theonly, that Severus ever had in his life. He was quite detached from society and didn't have much care for many people, in fact he despised most people. One could almost go as far as calling the man sadistic, his need to learn the Dark Arts not only stemmed from the fact that he carried Dark blood but from the need to protect himself against others. However, it seemed that there had been a few adverse effects on the man's childhood from the bullying he endured and his studies in the Dark Arts began evolve because of this. Furthermore, not only could he be boarder-line sadistic but quite petty as well. Since his childhood bullies were of the Gryffindor house, one of his few goals in his dreadful existence was to make the life of everyone who belonged in that house a living hell. His daily activities now were mostly comprised of potion making, studying Dark political matters, and pursuing lifelong biases when not reporting to Dumbledore or visiting Nicholas Flamel to pick brain on whatever had recently caught his interest.
By now he had learned many of the mistakes he made in his life and realized that he had used his studies for a need to have the same power over others that people such as James and Sirius had over him. Severus started creating Dark Spells such as his now famous 'Sectumsemptra' at an early age along with many potions that were considered to be poisons by most of his peers. The path he took during his school years corrupted him and eventually lead him to people such as Lucius Malfoy and Lord Voldemort. Dark magic consumed him entirely and he ended up joining the Dark's cause because he felt that he belonged there and had built a loyalty for their beliefs. The Dark blood his mother passed to him had given him a refuge and a pack in the wizarding world that he felt loyalty for and could automatically claim as his own, they were of his own blood and studied the same magic.
It wasn't until after Lily's death that he became concerned with political ideology. The only person he ever cared for didn't abandon him because he simply called her a 'mudblood' one day, but because she couldn't forgive him for the fundamental ideals he came to follow. Snape and Lily never spoke after Hogwarts and after her death he felt as if she had left him on the world totally alone and unforgiven. He thought about leaving the world himself after her death but months of heavy contemplation told him that he would be leaving his life unfulfilled. Severus needed Lily's forgiveness before his soul could rest, he wouldn't be able to let go until he could find solace in her memory.
Lily's death motivated him to reconsider his political convictions and study what he had followed for so many years. She had told him before the end of their friendship that the crowd he began to associate with over the years were vile and that he was becoming a mindless follower. Severus came to understand why she left him now in more depth and wanted forgiveness, but he didn't know where else to find it but in the beliefs that she had apparently left him for. Once she died, Severus started to put in the type of study he should have put towards his actual principles and political convictions before coming to acknowledge them as true and joining Lord Voldemort.
Dumbledore had only allowed Severus to switch alliances and join the Light when he heard of who the prophecy referred to for two simple reasons. First, the old man had a soft heart for love and felt like his feelings for Lily were truly stronger than his commitment to the Dark's cause, even after the war the Headmaster became convinced that Severus had finally 'seen the Light.' Secondly, he had no one in the Dark's ranks at the time to feed him inside information and this was something he was desperate for.
At the end of the war Severus began to speak with Nicholas Flamel and formed an immense respect for the wizard. He started to discuss a number of subjects with him that he never genuinely cared for or put much thought towards. Due to his detachment from most of society he was enabled to coast through life without regarding others for who they truly were. Snape didn't acknowledge this much to himself but he discovered in his contemplations and meetings with Flamel that his views of the world were superficial at best. After several months of discussion and the readings of many philosophical texts recommended by both Nicholas and Dumbledore, he found that he never truly believed many of the things he grew up preaching. His perspective on mudblood inferiority or the need to wipe out muggle-kind had changed dramatically, and on other issues as well such as methods of interrogation by the Light or the illegality of many Dark potions he believed to be useful. At the end of his studies, he still felt like the same wizard but his political convictions emerged as a lighter shade of 'Dark' than most of his colleagues during the war. He began to feel as though Lily would see him as a reformed man today and would forgive him if she were alive, which instilled a touch of pride in him. Still, he kept telling himself that her absence from the world was because of his doing. It was something he was unable to forgive himself for and is what drove him to a selfless life of devotion in the beliefs that he and Lily could champion together after her death.
The common ideals that they could now hold together radiated a warmth in a once cold and dormant soul, it represented a deep connection to Lily Evans. The only way he could ever feel the energy and passion her presence emitted after her horrifying murder was to pursue these ideals they could stand together on today. For this reason, along with the fact that Nicholas Flamel's presence had put him at ease, he was comfortable working for the leader of the Light, Albus Dumbledore. Snape knew that the man was too meddling for his own good and had age old bigotries he would never change, but he also knew that he was very persuasive and could be useful when his manipulations were tempered. He was also obligated to spy for Dumbledore until the Dark was defeated to the old man's satisfactory under the original agreement that saved him from Nurmengard. Even so, he had access to information many others didn't and used this as an opportunity to work both for and against the Headmaster.
His overarching ambition was for the Dark to have a place in the wizarding world along with the Light, but he feared total domination by either. He didn't want muggleborns to be at risk of subjugation or to provoke a war against an innocent world that they did not fully understand, nor did he want his own kind to be subjugated by self-interested and bigoted idealists. Severus's mission was clear to him now, he wanted to give the Dark a fair shake in wizarding society but wanted to prevent another attempt at domination, or worse the creation of another Dark Lord that would inevitably lead them to it. Lily's death had transformed the potions master from a detached man with few political principles to a wizard who was willing to die for the ones he came to believe in, both in his name and hers.
Snape swallowed a lump in his throat and looked down at the boy, he was grateful that Dumbledore had not yet heard the whispers of Cyrus Black. He had been told about him years ago by Lucius and knew that Dumbledore would discover the boy sooner or later. If there were anything unique in him at all then he would rather discuss it with Nicholas before the Headmaster came bumbling his way to get his hands on the child. Flamel was the only wizard he was ware of that could either stop him, dissuade him, or convince him that someone else was better suited for the job. Severus knew that his worries could very well be for nothing though, the Dark was in a desperate situation and they cherished all the talent they had remaining. It was true that most young dark witches and wizards left after the war were of powerful parents but Snape still believed it to be unlikely that the boy would be anything special.
When he first heard of Cyrus he hated the fact that Lucius had named him Godfather to Sirius's nephew but had no choice. If he refused it would be the equivalent of slapping the aristocrat in the face, and as a double agent he couldn't do that. He didn't want anything to do with Sirius's nephew, but once he had considered the matter for a while he thought it might be an excellent opportunity for revenge. Cyrus was the last remaining heir of the Black family line and Sirius wouldn't be able to set eyes on him until he was at Hogwarts. The fact that he would be his Godfather and main influence at Hogwarts right under Sirius's nose game him immeasurable satisfaction. Dumbledore had handed him the job of Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor over Severus without a second's thought, which only fueled Severus's hatred for the man further.
When Dumbledore discovered that the Malfoys would never let Sirius Black into the Dark ranks he became slightly confused. He knew that the Dark only rarely accepted back those who had abandon them, but he believed as the last remaining Black he would be one of the special exceptions. Upon finding out that this wasn't the case he became deeply saddened by the decision he made all those years ago, Fawkes had only shed tears twice since then and he was no closer to finding the rest of the hallows than he was before the war. Nonetheless, he stashed Sirius away for a later use and put him on the Hogwarts staff despite Snape's outbursts. Now that Snape knew of Cyrus Black though, he was quite pleased that Sirius would be at Hogwarts.
Just as he looked down at the boy he opened his mouth to speak, but the boy quickly interrupted him. Normally the professor would be aggravated by an interruption but he was too determined to gain this boys trust to be anything other than cheerful at the moment.
"You're my Godfather?" Cyrus asked in wonderment. He was still getting over the fact that he had a Godmother and a Godfather now. Unable to quell his excitement he asked hurriedly, "Will you be coming with us to get my wand Mr. Snape?"
Snape's lip curled ever so slightly before saying in his usual monotone voice, "I am not sure... but yes, I am your godfather Cyrus. Your brother Draco calls me Uncle Sev, you are welcome to address me in the same manner if you wish..." he paused at seeing disappointment scarcely written on his face before slowly stating in an explanatory fashion, "Buying potion ingredients will take a bit of time and your Uncle Lucius thought it best if we're not there long. However, I do understand that it is your birthday, is it not?"
Cyrus didn't say anything but nodded his head gleefully.
Snape was following what Lucius had told him earlier and continued, "Perhaps you wouldn't mind an early present then? I have a busy schedule tomorrow and may not be there for much-"
"A present? No sir! I wouldn't mind! Can we-"
"A present! But I haven't even-" Bella began impulsively before Lucius cut in.
"AFTER, his wand Bella dear... " Lucius growled tirelessly, resisting the urge to sigh in exasperation. He was surprised she was taking it as well as she was but didn't want her to make a scene of anything. Snape and Cyrus needed to get to know one another eventually and this was a great opportunity for them. The potions master could mingle with the parents of whatever student that he pleased for the most part, but he couldn't be seen with Bellatrix and Lucius for extended periods of time. They were well known followers of the Dark Lord and no one wanted their kid going to Hogwarts thinking that one of their children's professors might be a former death eater. This is one of the reasons both Snape and Lucius wanted to arrive in Diagon Alley before it became crowded, Severus was already under enough scrutiny by both parents and students and it wasn't necessary to give them any more reasons to be suspicious.
Bellatrix reigned in her temper at this but didn't like the idea of Snape strolling away with Cyrus somewhere, she could trust very few people with the boy and Severus Snape wasn't one of them. It looked like she wanted to say something else but it was nearly eight o'clock and Lucius didn't want to waste anymore time, before she could even begin to open her mouth he spoke firmly, "Cyrus, you and Severus will meet Aunt Bella and I outside Gringotts when you are done. I haven't any galleons on hand and we have a meeting to schedule that concerns you..." He didn't want to explain anything to the boy just yet but noticed a hint of confusion in Cyrus's eyes and gently reassured him, "It's nothing to worry over, I'll discuss it with you later. Now... Bella, Severus, if you are ready?"
Bella and Snape both nodded as Lucius extended a gesture towards the fireplace. Cyrus took Uncle Lucius's hand in his and waited for Bellatrix and Snape to floo their way to the Leaky Cauldron. Bellatrix gave Severus one last glare of disgust before she left in a green flame but the Potions Master only smirked in amusement as he followed her. After Severus vanished in the fire place Lucius stepped forward with Cyrus and threw in a handful of green powder as he clearly exclaimed "Diagon Alley" with an inkling of excitement in his voice.
Cyrus and Lucius arrived at the Leaky Cauldron and saw Bellatrix and Snape already walking to the back of the grummy looking joint. There wasn't anyone in the place at this hour except for Tom, the owner, who was weaving his wand through the air and flipping chairs upright and off the tables to prepare for customers. Lucius gave a nod of respect to the frightened looking man and made his way to the back door along with Cyrus. Out back they saw Bellatrix and Snape waiting for them in silence and walked towards the odd pair. Without waiting another second Lucius took charge with a commanding tone and took out his wand,
"Cyrus, when I open the gate I want you and Severus to walk out first in front of us. We'll follow behind at a distance and meet you at Gringotts in about an hour's time. I don't want you giving Professor Snape any trouble, understand?"
"Yes, Uncle Lucius" he responded impatiently.
Lucius nodded in satisfaction and turned to face the red brick wall with his wand. He began to tap several random stones on the outer edge of a brick that was narrowly protruding from the rest of the them and in a few seconds the bricks in front of them began to unlock from each other one by one to reveal the entrance of Diagon Alley.
Severus twitched his eyes down at Cyrus and signaled that it was time to go. This was normally an occasion in which he might take Draco's hand, but he couldn't bring himself to extend the same gesture to his other godson. If the boy was anything unique at all then it would helpful to garner his trust, but this particular boy was a Black and Severus hated all members of the Black family with no exceptions. Regulus was the only person he didn't have to restrain himself from cursing in his days, but he didn't necessarily like the man either and he could only dream of choking the life out of both Sirius and Bellatrix. To be playing the role of Godfather in this child's life was a horrifying scenario for him. He could only hope that the boy wouldn't turn out to be anything like his miserable relatives, it would be difficult enough to treat him with any decent courtesy and wouldn't be able to stand another typical Black.
They both walked forward together with only a few inches of separation between them while Cyrus began to take in the sights around him. People would cower away and gawk when Lucius and Bellatrix went out in public so the boy was only able to come here a couple of times every year. To see other witches and wizards crowding the streets along the narrow walls of quaint village shops towering above was always an impressive spectacle for him. Diagon Alley had numerous windows of display with brooms, prank equipment, random magical instruments, unique books, rare potion supplies, magical telescopes, and a variety of other interesting exhibits that the boy was instantly drawn towards. However, he had not seen the shop he was most attracted to for nearly two years. The store appeared as a small two-story wooden cabin crammed between a bakery and a bookstore with a variety of magical creatures inside.
It almost seemed to exude a magnetic pull towards Cyrus when he had first passed by it with his uncle but Lucius didn't have time to go in and told him the only reliable familiars were owls and rats, neither of which he had use for yet.
As they passed the first couple of shops Severus decided it was time to get to know the boy a little bit. He wanted to know of the rumors he had heard and was also mildly interested in his upbringing with Lucius, but for the time being he didn't come across as nosey either. His job today was to make the boy happy and perhaps accumulate an ounce of trust in their visit together. Severus broke their silence and without looking at the boy he inquired, "I take it that you have been here on several occasions, correct?"
Cyrus shrugged his shoulders a little bit and said casually in his boyish voice, "Mmm... I don't think Aunt Bella or Uncle Lucius like coming here much, they say it's full of nasty mudbloods and muggle-lovers. I've only seen it a few times really..." he finished with a hint of disappointment.
"I see..." Severus uttered through gritted teeth. He wasn't the least surprised, but to hear these sentiments so offhandedly and at such an early age was bothersome. He wondered what else Lucius and Bellatrix had implanted in his head but didn't want his first impression with the boy to be tarnished by nosey questions.
After a brief moment of silence he thought about what he should ask and continued his investigation. "You'll be starting your studies soon, perhaps there a few books that might catch your interest?" Snape asked.
Cyrus looked in the air and hummed to himself thoughtfully. He didn't know how to approach the man and was waiting for him ask a more open question so he could inquire about familiars without coming off as rude.
When Severus saw him he added carefully,"I will be teaching you potions this upcoming year...as well at Hogwarts. Perhaps I could give you a head start in the area if you are interested?"
Cyrus looked up at him and said cautiously but in his usual polite manner, "Thanks Uncle Sev, maybe...but I have a library that I've started to read now and... well, I already have a lot of books I haven't started..."
"Indeed..." Severus said trying to hide the disdain from his tone. 'Of course the brat has his own library,'Snape thought to him self. 'He probably has his own flying carpet and squadron of elves for all I know.'
He couldn't help the hint of sarcasm in his next question and asked, "I expect you have a broom?"
Cyrus just nodded his head and didn't think anything of his godfather's new tone. He knew where he wanted to go and thought it was best to ask the man before he had to reject anymore generous offers from him They passed a few more shops and Cyrus spoke up with enthusiasm and asked,
"Uncle Sev... I saw a shop with anim-" he narrowed his eyes before continuing "magical creatures, a while ago, do you think we could go there?"
Snape looked down at the boy with interest and asked, "Possibly...What creature is it that you are you interested in?"
Cyrus shrugged his shoulders again and spoke hopefully, "I've never been inside before... Maybe an owl... I'm not sure, can I look around?"
Snape thought for only a few seconds, it wasn't necessarily the type of gift he was hoping to get Cyrus. He had wanted to get the boy started on the right track in at least one area before Bellatrix and Lucius taught him everything they knew about it. Any subject at all, the Dark Arts, Potions, Transfiguration, Herbology, even Charms and Ancient Ruins would be taught in its most destructive form during Cyrus's childhood education. Still, Snape knew an animal familiar would be a memorable gift from him as his Godfather and were usually reasonably priced anyway, he had no reason to deny the boy.
"Very well then... If that is what you wish, we're not far now," he said and finally overcame his pettiness and took the boys hand as he began walking at a swifter pace. They went past several shops until they turned a corner at an intersection with a grand memorial to Harry Potter in the middle of the road. Severus could feel Cyrus tighten his grip and see his other hand ball into a fist as his pace began to accelerate, he could only imagine what he was told about Harry Potter.
After around ten minutes of walking they arrived at the two story shed with a sign over the top that stated 'HAN'S AND FRED'S MAGICAL CREATURES' and walked into a place that smelled of old cedar musk. The store was more spacious then it initially appeared from the outside and it was separated into two sections upon walking in. One section of magical creatures on the right side of the room was full of owls, cats, and toads while the other side had rabbits, rats, and snakes. It didn't take more than a few seconds before Cyrus bolted to the left side of the shop in eager anticipation. He didn't know why, but he felt captivated by these creatures in an instant and never even bothered to give the creatures on the opposite side of the room a thought.
The left side of the store was split in two by an aisle that lead to a back room full of glass aquariums, designating three sections. Cyrus walked over to the rats on the far left first and noticed a decorated Chinese symbol hanging above them from the ceiling and small tags attached to every cage. He was intrigued by what he saw and picked up one of the tags to read what it had to say. It read:
The rat is a brave and courageous creature who does not mind taking on large responsibilities. They are intelligent, stealthy, calculating, crafty, quick witted, and posses extraordinary instincts that enable them to see hidden paths and avenues that others cannot. Rats are also known to be survivalists and have a knack for coming out of dangerous situations alive and well.
Magical rats have two uses for witches and wizards. First, it will carry your notes and small parcels within manor or castle walls to your desired destination or individual. Secondly, rats do not have to be bonded to wards to penetrate them like other creatures or charms, such as an owl or the patronus. This unique creature is able to go long distances to guarded fortresses and camps undetected to deliver letters or charmed objects that are able to pass through protective wards. Rats will take longer to deliver messages, but if your mission or career requires stealth and secrecy then the rat is your familiar. It is proud and selective but not overly so, if the creature deems you worthy of its service it will acknowledge your presence and you may continue in its purchasing.
Cyrus was enticed by the rat and oddly respected the creature, but he still couldn't find any uses for it. Hogwarts was years away and as of right now the only friend he really had to send messages to was Draco, who was more of a brother and someone he lived with most of the time. He looked over to find Uncle Sev and saw him staring at a medium-sized grey rat with green eyes. The creature had just started to come out underneath a pile of wood chips to look at the greasy haired professor, it was an amusing sight for Cyrus to see man and rat staring each other down but moved on to the rabbits. They were all curled in nests of hay at the corner of their crates and appeared a bit larger than normal rabbits with more powerful hind-legs. Still, he wasn't sure what they could possibly be capable of and picked up one of the tags. It read:
The rabbit is a sophisticated, stylish, and expressive creature that is serene and friendly in nature. They are known to be lovers of their home and are highly organized, self-disciplined, and artistic. If given a job they are likely to work behind the scenes and stay out of sight.
Magical rabbits have one purpose. Give a rabbit your magical garden as a home and watch it flourish into a beautified, thriving, and even intimidating landscape if chosen by the right familiar. The charming rabbit will not only enable you to grow healthier plants and brew more potent potions by keeping pests such as gnomes, flobberworms, and billywigs away from your garden, but they will also allow you to procure uniquely protective and territorial plant species to defend your home from unwanted trespassers. If your garden rabbit is powerful it is likely to invite many more of its kind and at your bidding, extend its home. There are a few of these creatures that have even been known to produce colonies that expand to hundreds of acres, creating perimeter defenses that will act as secondary protections to wards. The more powerful magical rabbits will choose the more powerful witch or wizard and acknowledge his or her presence by shaking its tail.
He put down the tag with a wide eyed expression. 'Acres of protection by magical plants? This is a magnificent creature...' he thought to himself. Cyrus wanted his Uncle Lucius to get one for the Malfoy Manor but told himself that he'd deal with the rabbits later, he wanted to visit the snakes now. The back room of the shed had sparked an innate interest when he first walked into the store and he wondered what it was about the serpents that lured him towards them. Cyrus had never seen a snake before but had always felt a certain affection towards the creature. He could discern a bright red poster on the wall outside of the room of snakes and began to read what it said. It stated:
The serpent is a private, cunning, powerful, and moderately rare magical creature that is acutely aware of its surroundings. It is known to be highly protective and possessive, and is considered to be one of the darker creatures still legal today. The creatures are also famous for being overly proud, unreasonably selective, vain, and vicious in nature.
Serpents are used solely for protection and will guard you, your possessions, and your home from harm or theft with its life. However, customers should be aware that it is rare when these creatures choose a witch or wizard as a companion. Being unreasonably selective and proud, the serpent does not respond well to most humans and is usually harmless when they do find a suitable companion. Nevertheless, the few chosen by one tend to wear them as symbols of power and respect. Do not be discouraged or frightened by their behavior if they ignore or snap at you, this is typical conduct from a serpent. Please notify the staff if a snake familiar selects you.
Cyrus continued to read the poster over again and stopped at the words 'powerful,' 'protective,' and 'vicious.' These words held his eyes like magnets and couldn't peel them away until he thought he heard something strange. He believed he could detect a strangled voice coming from the back room and suddenly turned away from the poster to make his way down the hallway. His step was hesitant while he approached the room but there was no fear, instead he felt an odd welcoming sensation of discovery beckoning him nearer to the serpents, as if his deepest and most primal nature was just now being revealed to him.
The room was similar to the rest of the cabin with dusty wooden floorboards and walls, except this one was filled with three sections of glass aquariums. Each group of aquariums had signs above them on the wall listing the type of snakes sold under their section. Under the first section there was a small girl with dark brown eyes and bangs of short black hair that went half way down her neck. Cyrus saw that she had pretty face but with a stern air of aristocratic superiority like himself. She looked as if she wanted to approach the first section of snakes but was afraid, they were all glaring at her in an aggressively coiled posture from the corner of their aquariums with daring eyes that told her not step forward.
He looked up at the sign above the aquariums the girl was trying to approach and noticed that all the serpents were completely harmless with species such the as the garter, rough green, and corn snake. It was disappointing to see such a display of powerless serpents so Cyrus moved on to the second wall with aquariums and looked up at the sign. These creatures were a bit more powerful and full of smaller to medium sized Ball pythons and boa-constrictors, along with a few snakes of mild venom as well. As the boy stepped towards the aquariums some of the snakes started to move forward with tilted heads and curious gazes. The girl under the first section looked over at Cyrus in wonder at seeing this but pouted angrily when she turned back to her own set of snakes, who were still glaring at her in their corners.
More snakes began to move forward towards Cyrus but he still didn't see any interest in these creatures, none were very powerful and thought the other wall might be more impressive. He turned to see the third sign and it had a list of far more powerful snakes such as the Indian & Egyptian Cobra, the monstrous Australian Brown Snake, the Tiger Snake, the Inland Taipan, and various other deadly serpents that caught Cyrus's interest. Upon reading this he darted towards the third and last wall of aquariums and began observing the peculiar snakes within their respective corners.
The snakes didn't seem to mind his sudden advance towards them but none budged from the coiled positions except for one. A Scarlet King-snake had began to slither towards him as he came near its aquariums but before it moved any further the strangled hissing voice Cyrus had heard just minutes ago screeched,
"Ssstay put!... sservile ssskin-traitor!"
Cyrus jumped back a step at hearing this voice again, but he was able to discern who spoke and what was said this time. 'Magical snakes can talk?' he thought to himself in surprise, 'it didn't say so on the poster...'
Still astonished, he turned to the rattle snake that spoke and wondered if it could understand him. He faced the serpent and spoke up, "You can ssspeak? I didn't know tha-"
Before Cyrus could finish the question he shot up his hand and cupped his mouth as if he had just swallowed a billywig. What he heard coming from his mouth was English, but it was accompanied with deep breaths of hissing. The girl across the room couldn't discern the human language coming from his mouth herself, but her eyes shot up wide and gaped at the boy with an incredulous expression chiseled into her young face.
The other snakes began looking at each other in reassurance of what they had just witnessed while Cyrus took his hand from his mouth and recollected himself. Within a few breaths of recovery, every snake in their compartment began to slither forward to greet him.
"You ssspeak the parsel language!" a Burmese Python hissed excitedly.
Cyrus wasn't sure what to say, he had never heard himself hiss before and he wasn't aware that talking snakes existed. He felt confused and looked at the python to stutter, "I-I-" before stopping himself at noticing the hiss again. His mind didn't know how to compute the information and just wondered how many other people could speak the 'parsel language.' It was a fascinating moment for his young mind and he carried on cautiously, "I think ssso...Can you underssstand me?"
Every snake hissed in excitement at hearing this and began to slither forward in their aquariums to form an audience. A death adder ignored the boy's question and quickly asked in an encouraged voice,"What type of familiar isss our ssspeaker ssseeking?"
This was easy for Cyrus, he answered with a resolute demeanor, "I want a familiar that isss powerful..."
The death adder elegantly spun around its tree branch within its cage before jovially responding, "Aw... there are many powerful familiarsss in thiss layer, but it isss I that am mosst powe-"
A spitting cobra cut him off and slithered to the edge of its aquarium,"Do not lisssten to thiss foolissh ssserpent massster! For I am the mosst powerful of usss all, there is no disspu-"
Yet another serpent interrupted its brethren and hissed, "Vile sscoundrelss! Thessse are liesss ssspeaker! the russell viper glowered at his two companions before it turned its eyes back upon her speaker and finished proudly, "My venom iss the mossst deadly among usss masster."
"Liesss!" still another serpent intervened.
Soon, a chorus of hissing burst from the entire side of the wall nearest to Cyrus. There were accusations and insults flying every direction and little was understood over the racket. Each snake had its say and many snapped at each other through the glass walls of their aquariums trying to prove who the fiercest serpent among them was. It was such a thrilling experience for Cyrus that he nearly forgot he was able to speak to them for a moment and was about to tap on one of their aquariums before he heard a booming hiss of "Sssilence!" issued from above him. The cobra on the top right shelf had come out underneath its rock in a commanding presence with its hood extended.
In no time at all the room was quiet enough to hear a fairy's breath. Every snake in the room had instantaneously focused on the raspy hiss issued from the top corner.
It was a black Indian Cobra with a red underbelly and beaming red eyes along with a design of emerald diamonds on the back of his hood instead of the traditional two-eyed pattern to fool predators.
"Ssserpent child... what iss the name of our sspeaker?" the cobra asked respectfully with an ever present sinister rasp.
The snake appeared to be a leader of some sorts to the boy, he was glad to be making some progress now and replied "Cyrus Black," in a confident manner.
"Very well sspeaker," the cobra replied in a satisfied tone. "You wissh to know of the most powerful ssserpent, I am Tyranicusss Ssevincore...Ssevinss iss preferable if you pleassse. I come from a great line of sserpentss, it iss I that reign in thisss layer and it iss I that have been given the title asss mosst powerful among uss,' he looked menacingly at the other snakes around him as he hissed his claim with a drop of shiny jet black venom trickling down his left fang. Cyrus noticed that no one dared to challenge his authority now and when the snake had everyone's attention he went on in his imperious hiss, "I can sseparate the powerlessss from the powerful and the liarsss from the truth tellersss... If you ssso dessire, I will take the life of your enemy or petrify the weak minded by revealing my true eyesss. I am your rightful familiar, massster."
The other snakes hissed madly in evident jealously but said nothing to provoke the cobra. Cyrus was examining Sevins in awe, he appeared majestic but also deadly and aggressive with his bright red eyes and underbelly. There was no way to accurately determine its length in the coiled position it was in, but if he had to guess he would say it to be around six feet. This was the familiar he wanted, not only did he seem to exercise dominion over all other serpents in the room but his listed abilities were of a great value to him as a 'speaker.' Cyrus still wasn'tfully aware of what being a speaker meant and he didn't know if all magical snakes could communicate with witches and wizards, but he planned on asking his Uncle Sev as soon as he could show him Sevins. He could hardly contain his jubilation now and wanted to show his new godfather as soon as possible.
The boy looked up at Sevins and asked hopefully,"Isss thiss what you wissh?"
"It would be an honor my ssspeaker," Sevins answered humbly.
Cyrus smiled and glanced over at the snobby looking girl to ask her how to reach the aquariums on the upper shelves but noticed that she was still gaping at him. She had neared back towards the door looking too frightened to speak but he noticed a folded foot ladder that he had missed on his way in leaning on the wall she was next to and rushed over to it. The sign on the door said to notify a staff member if a snake had recognized a familiar but he was too anxious and the crackpot rule didn't mean anything to him anyway.
The girl inhaled sharply when she saw him sit the ladder down on the corner of the third wall near the cobras and vipers. Prior to mounting the ladder Cyrus looked up at Sevins and said,
"If you are my familiar...Will you protect me and my family Ssevinss? And do you ssswear to not harm anyone I do not assk you to?"
Sevins looked slightly surprised for a cobra and responded, "Of courssse ssspeaker, I will do anything my masster wisshes of me."
At this, Cyrus stepped up the ladder and slowly lifted the top of the aquarium with a steady hand. Sevins didn't move as Cyrus cautiously moved his hand towards the cobra and waited for his familiar. Once his hand was lowered into the aquarium Sevins flickered his tongue a few times before slithering up the boy's arm and gracefully resting himself over his shoulder's while wrapping his lower body around his waist. Cyrus felt a sense of security and protection from the cool reptile as it slithered itself around his body and he couldn't hep but feeling a more confident air around him.
A he was about to walk out of the room the girl stopped him at the door and finally broke her silence. Cyrus expected her to have a snotty tone before she opened her mouth but it was quite innocent.
"I'm Pansy" she said looking at the snake hesitantly, "What's your name?"
Just over her shoulders Cyrus could see Uncle Sev in an intent conversation with a staff member with a grey rat in his hands. He wanted to hurry up and sneak over to the rabbit section as well before his Godfather was done with the him. There was nothing to stop the man from allowing him to get a gift for his Uncle Lucius, but he thought it would be hard enough to convince him that it was alright to let him keep an Indian Cobra as a familiar. To Cyrus, having Sevins and a rabbit already in hand seemed like it would discourage the potions master from denying him.
He turned to the girl and said proudly, "Cyrus Black," before he turned to walk out the door without another word. It was rude but he didn't ever think he'd see the girl again and she would only keep him from getting his Uncle Lucius a rabbit, which was something Cyrus felt he should have after reading its tag.
He saw that his godfather's back was still turned and talking to the owner about his rat as he approached the rabbits. Noticing that he was still unseen, he turned to his familiar and hissed, "Ssevinss, we need to find a sssuitable garden rabbit for my uncle. It can help protect usss."
Sevins looked at Cyrus with doubtful eyes and said slowly, "Very few of thesse creaturess are known to be powerful masster...none will be worthy..."
Cyrus glanced down at his familiar with a humorous look before he halted and began observing the rabbits. To him these creatures provided a protection his family could use, and might have been able to use years ago. He remembered the raids on the Malfoy Manor during his childhood as aurors looked for convicted families on the run, documents that could be used for evidence, or other items such as banned magical instruments that they claimed were hidden about the house. Lucius would often come home after several days of being in a holding cell with a swollen face and robes tattered to rags. They had no usable evidence to pin on the man after he bought out nearly half the Wizengamot, but the Light was willing to bend rules to get answers and they ultimately did what was needed to be done to win the boy's entire family, past and present, had known no other life than constant fear and assault since his birth. Cyrus wanted every possible measure to ensure that his loved ones would never have to endure that pain again, Dark magical creatures seemed to be a source of powerful magic that was rarely relied upon.
As they passed by each cage he noticed that the over-sized garden rabbits all appeared frightened and backed away at the sight of his familiar. He viewed this as a sign of weakness from the creatures and moved on before giving any of them a chance. One by one he rejected their presence in a moment's notice and went on to examine the next rabbit. It was an unsatisfying experience for the boy, he was nearly done looking at the lousy rabbits after five minutes and not one of them gave a single sign of being unique or powerful in any way. Cyrus was about to turn around and leave when he heard his familiar speak.
"Massster! I sssensse a rodent!...It isss of worthy power.."Sevins rasped mystically and shot his head up to look around in all directions for the rabbit he sought. It was a brief few seconds before he identified the target in the middle of the room by extending his body his body in its direction and anxiously snapping, "Over here masster! The rabbit you ssseek!"
Cyrus looked over to where Sevins was stretching his body towards and saw several infant and adult rabbits huddled closely within a circular pin that was presumably a pair of mates with their litter. Both parents seemed uncomfortable as he neared the pin and were watching the boy and his familiar intently. The mother's fur was snow white in color while the father's was of a smokey grey hue, and with the exception of one kit that was all black in color, their offspring were also white or smokey grey. Cyrus was sure he knew which one Sevins was speaking of and instinctively shot out his arm to let him slither down and rest his head near his hand as he reached out towards the huddled mass of fur.
By this time Snape had finished purchasing his rat and had just found Cyrus as he was reaching for the infant rabbits with a deadly serpent wrapped around his arm. He nearly dropped his rat cage when he saw the cobra's head hovering inches above the boy's wrist and had to recheck his vision to acknowledge the reality of what he was seeing by closing and reopening his eyes several times. Even in the wizarding world, handling a venomous snake like the cobra was unheard of. Cyrus was unaware of his godfather's presence and continued looking down at the rabbit family while his hand hovered above them. It appeared to Severus that his hand was moving on from each rabbit after having seen it tremble at the sight of what had to be his new familiar. A part of the professor wanted to impulsively rush over to Cyrus and save him from the serpent but his feet were nailed to the ground in utter disbelief at how the cobra was behaving. The professor was entranced, not only was the boy handling the cobra but he was somehow willing it from attacking the scrumptious baby rabbits perfectly within its striking distance. There was only one person that he had ever known in his lifetime that had such an affinity with serpents and he was also the only wizard that could ever strike fear into his heart. 'It...it's impossible..' the professor thought frantically to himself, while doing nothing to hide the obvious fright in his cold eyes. Snape was feeling the Dark Lord reach out from his very grave and shaking the foundation on which he stood, rewinding horrendous memories of bloodshed and torture that he had long since suppressed.
Cyrus's hand was now over the all black rabbit, it was the last one and he believed it was the creature his familiar was referring to. There was no other in the room quite like it, both her eyes and fur were jet black and she didn't flinch when Cyrus's hand stopped above her. She tilted her head upwards slightly to see the serpent on the boy's wrist but stood her ground and seemed quite apathetic. Nothing in her eyes represented fear or trepidation, only acceptance. When he withdrew his arm she began to slant her head to the side in interest and soon twitched her tail in what seemed to be approval. Her parents looked as though they wanted to intervene as Cyrus moved in to scoop the kit into his hands but glanced timidly at Sevins instead. The rabbit fit nicely into Cyrus's palms and she glanced at her new owner as he picked her up with even darker eyes than his new godfathers. At the moment he stared back into the rabbit's gaze he was instantly reminded of his Severus and looked up to see where he was and saw the pair of eyes he was reminded of. Snape's face was unfathomably paler than usual and it was clear he was having a difficult time articulating the words coming to his mind.
Cyrus was aware of his godfather's shock and cut to merrily reassure him, "Don't worry Uncle Sev, he's my new familiar! He said he wouldn't harm family or friends..." The boy seemed to believe that his godfather would discover he was a speaker at this and that everything would be explained. He didn't understand the weight of his remark and looked down at the rabbit he was holding to ask hopefully, "Uncle Sev, may I get the rabbit for Uncle Lucius's manor as well...please?"
Snape took a minute to regain his composure but gave a faint nod before he even set his eyes on the animal. He didn't have a care in the world for garden rabbits at the moment, his worst fear had just been confirmed and the reflection of terror traced onto his face was more evident than ever. Memories of Lord Voldemort were creeping back into his mind now but knew what to do and wanted to leave the store as quickly as possible He called for the owner on the other side of the room and gestured for Cyrus to follow him to the exit while he tried to regain control of his mind.
They had been in the shop for nearly half an hour and now that he was aware of the this shocking discovery, he wanted to hurry and make one last stop before returning the boy to Lucius and Bella. Not only did his parsel abilities represent one of the most powerful and destructive types of magic, it was also only possessed by the Slytherin bloodline. For a Black to possess such powers was beyond mysterious for the potion's master. He would have never believed it if he didn't see it for himself but the rumors he had heard had not just been inflated tidbits of truth or complete lies this time around, this boy was a fascinating and unique case of study for this ability alone. It was an exceptional discovery for his first day with him and he believed that if he played his cards right it could be his first chance to encourage his godson on the right path. Snape knew that Lucius and Bella would rummage through Lord Voldemort's personal library to no endand give the boy all the books they could possibly find on subject once they found out he was a parselmouth. Now was potentially his best opportunity to influence Cyrus's education on the matter, which became a great area of concern for him upon seeing his familiar.
Parselmagic did not exclusively focus on the Dark Arts and destructive forces, but held other branches of magic such as Parsel charms and potions that most of his 'predecessor' never cared to learn. He became aware of this knowledge through Nicholas Flamel and hoped that once he shared it with the boy he would see what other types of magic were capable of and be drawn towards them instead of immersing himself into the Dark Arts. Though the Dark Arts were a magic that ran through Cyrus's veins, under the wrong guidance such as Bellatrix's or Lucius's, it was an addictive force that lead to a life of power craving and a perspective defined by absolutes. It was true that the Light was just as uncompromising, hypocritical, and ruthless in its methods as the Dark, but Snape was fearful of what another Dark Lord would mean. Not only could another one possibly lead the Dark into extinction in England, but he might bring about the same reign of terror they had just defeated. Severus found himself in a position of conflicted responsibility now. His mind desired a final peace and feared the rise of another Dark Lord or a repeat of massacre, but his soul still demanded justice and inevitable war. The fact that his godson, Cyrus Black, was potentially endowed with the power to force wizarding England back into the depths of bloodshed was a nightmare that he could only approach with extreme caution.
As they approached the exit Snape already had the exact amount of 33 galleons counted and was ready to ignore the owner's astonishment altogether. Over fifteen minutes was spent on getting supplies for his rat and he didn't want to waste another second trying to explain to the owner why an Indian cobra was contently wrapped around his godson's shoulders either. He extended a hand as the owner's eyes identified the familiar wrapped around Cyrus's shoulders and was going to gasp in fright but was stopped as the bag of galleons dropped in his hand. Snape curtly thanked the owner as he grabbed Cryus's hand with a fearful eye on Sevins, and then said in the most intimidating voice he could muster "The boy is under my protection Hans, he will be fine. Good day."
It was a very awkward and brief encounter but Severus had a talent for intimidating others into silence, as he often did with his students. They could hear the flabbergasted man yell after them about a cage as he closed the shop door but the owner made no effort to run after the threatening potion's master. Cyrus was bewildered now at seeing how his godfather reacted to the situation. He knew it would be a surprise that he could talk to his familiar but he didn't believe it warranted such behavior from his godfather, or the owner of the store. Questions were forming in his mind while they neared the main street of Diagon Alley but before he could articulate any of them Severus exhaled heavily and spoke in a solemn tone, "Hide your familiar under your robes and do not speak to each other in public. Is that clear? We have one more stop before we meet with your Aunt Bella and Uncle Lucius."
Cyrus, who had been practically forced out of the shop within a minute of seeing his godfather, was rarely as puzzled as he presently was but nodded obediently. He left the Lestrange Manor with an eager anticipation for his wand and now his head was spinning with questions he wasn't sure how to ask. 'Maybe there aren't many speakers...' Cyrus thought, 'But why must I hide Sevins?' It was strange that he could unconsciously speak a language that belonged to serpents, but didn't understand why it mattered if others heard him or not. 'Would everyone think I'm weird?' his thoughts rambled on.
Nothing seemed to make much sense to him but after the moment's pause he sent a bone chilling sensation up his godfather's body by hissing his orders to his familiar. Sevins was not pleased with the commands or the greasy haired man giving them, but he obeyed his master and sluggishly slithered under the boy's robes.
By now Snape had conjured two small pieces of parchment and a charmed turkey quill that began scribbling a message on the pages in midair. Cyrus looked up at Uncle Sev and rapidly thought of the first question he should ask, hardly caring for what the letters had to say. He was happy with his new godfather for allowing him to keep his deadly familiar and was even more grateful that he bought him the infant garden rabbit, which appeared impressively fearless to the new world around him while sitting in his hand. Cyrus didn't know if he could confide in the man, but he felt like he could ask him the questions burning inside of him and finally spoke up.
"Uncle Sev..." he started cautiously, "the snakes at the store told me I was a 'speaker.' Does that mean some wizards can't speak with them?...Can you?"
At once, Severus's thought's were yanked from Lord Voldemort at hearing this and held in a rare chuckle. The boy's innocent curiosity towards a discovery that would likely make headlines of every major wizarding publication across Europe, if anyone were to find out, was rather amusing to the potions master. He lowered his voice so that only his godson could hear him and muttered, "You are a parseltounge Cyrus. I will explain this to you when we are in private, it is not a conversation you want overheard. It will... frighten most wizards."
It took a few seconds to sink in but Snape could see the gleam in the child's eyes and the smile that began to curl in his lips after he said this. The tinge of amusement that overcame him previously vanished as remembered how he had discovered Cyrus's parseltounge abilities. He had found the boy standing over the pin of rabbits and using his familiar coiled around his arm to select what Snape now presumed to be the most powerful creature among them. He had used fear as a technique to eliminate the weak, the same method Lord Voldemort himself was accustomed to employing on his own followers. He seethed angrily as he imagined Cyrus's childhood with Bellatrix and Lucius and the twisted perspectives that they ingrained in his young mind. The turkey pen scribbled furiously as it finished the second letter and Snape grabbed them both, folded them into a pocket sized note, and gave them to his rat that he had just let out of its cage. The grey rat took the notes into his mouth, which were hastily addressed to Lucius and Flamel, and ran down Snape's leg to a nearby sewer gutter they had just passed. Cyrus had hardly paid attention to his godfather while lost in his thoughts and jumped to ask him what they were doing as he saw the Leaky Cauldron's door not far in front of him.
"Why are we back at the Leaky Cauldron?" he asked curiously. "Is there something you need here Uncle Sev?"
"There is something I have for you Cyrus, you will see it soon enough." Snape replied and grabbed Cyrus's hand as he headed towards the Leaky Cauldron.
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