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Chapter 9 : True Lion
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Chapter 8: True Lion
And so, that summer, Severus and Remus began to brew the potion that would begin the development of Severus' animal form. They were allowed to use the cellar, having told the adult Lupins that they wanted to practice their potion-making. Severus was glad he was good at potions - this was the most complex thing he had ever done, and he was extra careful at every step as one tiny error could prove fatal.
The first potion was good, but a tiny bit too light. Severus vanished it, although they had spent a week working on it, and Remus realised that he really was taking this seriously. He wouldn't drink it unless it was perfect. So they started again. Remus' parents were fine with their long disappearances and strange hours - they knew that Remus was responsible and wouldn't do anything dangerous. Or at least they thought they knew.
The second potion was also vanished, being a little too thin, but it was third time lucky. Severus did every test three times or more before he confirmed that yes, it was right. They waited until evening before he took a goblet up to their room - vanishing what was left in the cauldron - and swallowed it down. Remus watched in concern, but the grimace of disgust was followed by a reassuring smile and both boys lay down to sleep.
Severus closed his eyes and found himself in a strange forest. He had read a lot of accounts of this, so he sat down and waited. Remus, meanwhile, didn't sleep but glanced at his watch and noted the time. He couldn't possibly sleep while Severus was in this trance. The hours passed until eventually he drifted off. When he woke, Severus was still asleep but now he was murmuring softly. Remus leant close but couldn't make out the words so he sat back and watched helplessly.
Every so often he glanced at his watch. Two hours had passed, then three, then four, then five, then six. The hour hand ticked onto the seventh hour just as Severus stirred, and Remus sat up quickly. Suddenly, he was wide awake. "Did it work?" he asked eagerly.
Severus yawned and stretched, feeling exhausted - he hadn't been asleep properly, but in a special trance. He had seen visions, and had been plunged into them, and they had been real enough for him to interact with them. Lily had skipped in and out of them, sometimes threatened and sometimes threatening him. He had used his wand to blast away her attackers, and when he didn't have a wand he had physically kept them off before grabbing Lily and carrying her out of harm's way.
When Lily attacked him, he held her off gently and tried to reason. She wouldn't listen, and tried to hurt him, but he refused to fight back. Then she had been replaced by Remus - Remus in danger, then charging at Severus. And he was no longer in human form, but transforming into a wolf. He writhed on the floor, howling as his body rearranged itself, and Severus stepped closer hoping to help. Then the wolf leapt up and launched itself at him, and he had no choice but to drive it off with magic.
Then he was in a corridor, and Remus and Lily were walking towards him holding hands. He felt sick with what he suddenly realised was jealousy, and he stared at them in shock. Lily smiled, but it was directed at Remus, and Severus slipped past them and fled. He loved Lily! It took this vision to make him realise how much he loved her.
There were more visions, some of them of her and him. He treated her gently, protected her. But still she pushed him away suddenly and shouted at him before storming from the room in tears. He lay crying for a minute, before pulling himself together and leaving the dormitory. To see Lily in James' arms. A hard swallow and he moved past them, leaving through the portrait hole.
He was back in the forest. In front of him stood a wolf and a badger, but more animals lurked in the trees behind. A mouse scurried and an otter splashed in the nearby stream. Then he was back in the vision, and this time he was alone in a dark forest. It wasn't like the one with the animals - this one felt threatening. He waited, tense, for something to happen. Nothing did, and he decided to get out of the forest.
He came to a narrow bridge of rock over a crack which reached down seemingly forever, disappearing into inky blackness. On the other side - Lily! He stepped onto the bridge, placing his foot down carefully, and slowly he began to walk. He stood upright, his arms out to help him balance. There was a dark shape behind Lily - she was in danger. Forgetting the plunge below, he started to run, and Lily morphed into Remus but still he ran. He didn't seem to be getting closer.
Then the bridge cracked, and he fell. Faster than he had ever imagined was possible, towards the black nothingness below. He was afraid, but kept calm. His wand was in his hand again now, so he turned it on himself and cast the charm. "Wingardium Leviosa!" The swish and flick was difficult from this angle, so it took two attempts. Then he was rising as fast as he had fallen. He was afraid that he might go too far, or crash into the remains of the bridge, but Lily/Remus was still in danger.
The forest was back, and the badger and wolf were still there. But they had moved back. Other animals had appeared, forming a ring around him, and there were birds in all of the trees around him. An eagle, a kestrel, an owl... In the stream were all kinds of fish and water creatures whose names he did not know. Then there was a tiger, a panther, a leopard, and a little grey cat with bright green eyes.
The wolf had been joined by a big black dog and a little terrier, and beside them stood a doe and stag. Then all manner of other creatures. In front were gathered on the ground the small animals - the mouse, a snake, a squirrel, a rabbit... Severus looked round them. He hoped his Animagus would be one of the large ones, as then he could better keep Remus company. A fish would be... inconvenient. And Remus had apparently killed mice when in wolf form.
He waited anxiously, knowing that his Animagus form would define him absolutely. It would tell him who he really was - was he ready to know that? But it was too late now - he had already taken the potion. And he wanted to do it for Remus. How long would it be otherwise before Remus' injuries were too serious for Madam Pomfrey to heal?
He expected more visions, but they didn't come. He sat on the ground and waited. The animals appeared to be waiting too, but he didn't know what for. He looked around them but couldn't identify which one might not yet have arrived. So he waited.
Suddenly there was a flurry of motion as the circle of animals parted. Severus stood up ready for whatever it was that would come in. Hopefully a wolf or a large dog, to really keep Remus' wolf company. But any large land animal would be fine. A big bird, at a pinch. But the animals wouldn't have needed to move for a bird or fish, and the space they had cleared was bigger than a mouse would require. So he stared forward, looking for his first glimpse of his Animagus form. Then he saw it.
A black-maned lion, padding silent and proud between the ranks of animals. Towards him. And Severus knew that this was the one. He was a lion. Brave, proud, strong and independent. The king of cats. The lion paced forward, majestic with powerful muscles rippling beneath the sleek coat. It stood in front of him, and a breeze ruffled the mane. The dark colour was unusual but beautiful. Severus gazed with a combination of awe, delight, and pride.
Suddenly everything went black, then he was looking from a different view. His eyes were lower, and he saw everything in a colour range. He could hear things he had never imagined to exist. But it felt normal. He stood on four feet, feeling the powerful muscles beneath his fur. He had claws, and he could extend and retract them at will. His mane was heavy on his head and neck, but he was strong enough to carry it. He shook himself, feeling all of his new body. He had never felt so alive.
The lion turned and walked from the circle of animals, which was already dissolving. Severus' human body had disappeared, but it didn't worry him. Something told him that nothing had gone wrong. Alone, he began to run, galloping across the ground with all the force of his mighty legs. He wove between the trees effortlessly until he found himself at the foot of a grassy mound. He leapt up as it became rocky, moving to the top. Then he stood and looked across at the world that lay before him.
He opened his jaws wide and roared, revelling in the feeling. He was master of all he surveyed, the mighty king of the forest. He was a true lion! Then the lion lay down to bask in the light of the sun. His eyelids drew heavier and he rested his head on his paws to sleep...
"Oh yes, it worked." He smiled at the memory.
"A lion." Remus gasped in awe, begging for a description. Severus was happy to oblige - he remembered every feature of the creature that was him. He described the black mane, the glowing golden eyes, the rippling muscles and soft-treading paws. Remus listened with mouth open. He forgot his concerns. He would have a companion! A lion such as this could handle the wolf.
Suddenly both realised something. "Gryffindor!" They remembered the House emblem. A lion. The sorting hat was right, though Severus. I am a Gryffindor. Not a Slytherin, not a Ravenclaw, not a Hufflepuff, but a Gryffindor. And it might have cost him his family, but he couldn't have gone against his nature. Although perhaps- When he joined Gryffindor he had not been a lion. But a year in the house had shaped him, made him who he was. He was glad - he was proud to be a lion.
And pride was one of the traits that had given him this form. But when he thought about it, he had not been shaped so much. He had always had the Gryffindor inside him, but he had only now had the chance to show it.
The next stage of the Animagus process was to become one with the animal. This step took time - it was something that began as soon as the form had been identified and could last anything from days to years. He hoped that his development was on the short side, but he could accept it however long it took. It would be worth it for the lion.
He could, and did, speed it up with meditation. Every night before sleep, and every morning if he woke early enough, he spent sitting silently with his mind filled with nothing but the lion. So the lion began to enter, and he started to think more like a lion. Protective of his friends, but independent. Proud, strong, and powerful. Every move was deliberate, carefully planned. He found himself hearing more acutely, and seeing in slightly different shades. His night vision was better.
All of his senses strengthened, as did his reflexes. Then he discovered that he could fly. He could feel every vibration of the broom under him and could subconsciously measure the speed and direction of the wind. His reactions were faster, and he saw things before the others. He could hear when there was someone or something behind him. And as he became more lion he became a better flyer. And flying let in the lion. So he flew whenever he could. He used either a school broom or Remus' and flew alone.
His movements became more catlike. He stepped carefully and deliberately, feeling his muscles tense and relax with every movement. In the morning he stretched like a cat, and he shook himself slightly when he was wet or upset. He became calmer, which helped in lessons. All of his new skills proved especially useful in potions, and Slughorn allowed him extra private lessons on Saturdays. He was proud of his best pupil.
The little scroll of parchment wrapped in a purple ribbon was handed to Severus by one of the new first-years. It was an invitation to a party Slughorn was holding that weekend. He asked his friends and found that Lily had one too, but none of the others. James and Sirius were hopeless at potions, and Remus was good but not good enough. Not were his parents sufficiently famous, a good thing otherwise they would have been unable to hide it when Remus was bitten.
Lily confessed that she had been before - Slughorn had taken a shine to her early on. Apparently the gatherings were boring but good for getting connections. Most of those there would become important in whatever field they chose. And Slughorn knew enough people that he could find the right student a job anywhere, from the Ministry to a league Quidditch team. He'd been teaching for a long time, and the "Slug Club" had been going on for nearly as long, so he knew a lot of people.
Severus and Lily went together to the party. Slughorn greeted them at the door, welcoming them in. He was very merry, keen to introduce them to everyone. Eventually he got distracted and they were able to escape. They drifted, feeling slightly out of place, trying to see someone they recognised. Who wasn't famous.
"Enjoying the party, then? Good, good..." Slughorn bustled past, heading for an old acquaintance. Fortunately he didn't wait for an answer. It wasn't too bad, but they didn't really know anybody else and they weren't sure how to introduce themselves to the witches and wizards who appeared in the Daily Prophet every few weeks.
Plus it was busy. Severus' heightened senses meant that he struggled to cope - he was still adapting to normal life. Oh well, at least it might push him closer to his Lion - they both felt the same way, after all. Lily didn't have the senses of an Animagus to cope with, but she still seemed a little overwhelmed. That made Severus feel less concerned about his own state.
There were so many smells! Not like the potions lab, where he could pick out every ingredient and even what state they were in (freshly harvested, sliced, partially cooked, or brewed into a potion). He could smell a potion and tell all the ingredients that were in it. But that felt healthy and natural. Here, he was surrounded by food and perfume, both cheap and expensive. The food on offer varied from the normal to the exotic, creating a baffling and rather disgusting mixture of scents.
And the people. They all had their own individual scent. With the students this wasn't so noticeable - they all had similar smells, at least within houses. First years varied from seventh years, but there wasn't the variety. These wizards and witches came from all different backgrounds and led vastly different lives - diet and lifestyle - so it was unsurprising that they smelt different.
Lily noticed his expression and pulled him into a small room off the side. It was empty, and the noise and smells were weaker. He breathed deeply, calming the panic that had risen almost unnoticed. She watched him in concern. "Are you OK?"
"Yeah, just a bit..." Now he realised how Remus struggled to answer questions like this. What could he say? No, I'm feeling rather overwhelmed because I'm becoming an Animagus so my senses are stronger than yours and everything smells funny. Suddenly he noticed her scent properly. They'd never really been alone together. She smelt of parchment, and ink, and potions ingredients, and also of trees and sunny fields of wild flowers... He pulled himself together quickly, seeing her looking at him.
"Do you want to leave early? We can if you like." He was very tempted. But the Lion didn't like that. He didn't run away, especially when there wasn't even any danger. Actually, he could use his new senses - instead of just using sight, he could build up a proper picture of everything. It would help him connect to his Lion.
"I'm alright now. Shall we go back in?"
"If you're sure..." She followed him back in to where the party was in full swing. The cacophony of scents hit him the moment he stepped in, but at least he was expecting it this time. Now he let himself read the scents, allowing the Lion part of his brain to process them into a coherent picture. This wasn't too bad, actually - he couldn't stand it for too long in one go, but he'd get used to it with practice.
They wandered aimlessly, occasionally grabbing a drink or snack from one of the smartly-dressed house-elves. Severus used his enhanced sense of smell to get a deeper picture of everyone he passed. He'd never realised how much someone's scent said about them. Suddenly he caught a familiar and pleasant whiff, and in a moment the Lion had identified it. Or was it him? He wasn't sure.
Potions. The sharp tank of smoke from a fire, then all kinds of different ingredients. Some he recognised, some he didn't. And a metallic scent, and the smell of polish. He looked for the source, and saw a middle-aged man. The appearance fitted the smell. He wore dress robes like everyone else, but apart from that he didn't seem to pay much attention to his appearance. Beards were popular, but he had only a hint of stubble. His hair was short and his clothing close-fitting. As was convenient for a potioneer.
Now Severus needed an opening. And for once, Slughorn's exuberant nature was of some use. "Ah, Severus my boy. Have you met Damocles here? One of my best students, did wonderful things in a cauldron. Etor!" The potioneer spun around at Slughorn's call, and Severus only had a moment to wonder at the strange name before he was being introduced. "Etor, this is Severus Snape, my best student at the moment. By the end of seventh-year he'll be rivalling your brilliance! Never seen such an effective Swelling Solution in all my time here..."
"Er, that's... second year, isn't it?"
"That's right, memory as sharp as ever I see. This lovely young lady-" Lily turned rather pink and barely managed to hide her scowl- "Is Miss Lily Evans. An all round exceptional student." Etor shook hands with both.
"Etor Damocles - it's Greek, by the way. My parents moved here when I was five. They wanted me to go to Hogwarts, you see. It's the best wizarding school there is, of course, and they wanted me to have a proper education. I was always good with potions." He was starting to ramble, but Severus found himself liking this new acquaintance. He'd known from the smell that he would, to be honest.
"Pleased to meet you. So you're a potioneer?" Slughorn had drifted away already, apparently considering his work of making introductions done.
"Yes, it was the only subject I was really good at when I was at school. Herbology was alright, but charms appalling. I never found transfiguration particularly easy either. Shame, I always wanted to be an Animagus. Brewed the potion - hardest thing I've ever done - but it wouldn't accept me. Could never get in the right state of mind - I found out my form, but couldn't connect properly. It's still there, trying to join up with me, if you see what I mean. But then you don't know the process for an Animagus transformation, do you?" He ground to a halt at last.
"Well actually, I've done a lot of reading on it so I know most of the details." Obviously Severus didn't mention the fact that he was experiencing the process himself. Lily didn't see anything strange in him saying he'd read about it - he was always reading, after all.
"Well, reading is nothing like the real thing. I can tell you, having that animal there is really handy. It enhances your senses a little, you see. So frustrating, though - it's there but I've never quite managed to make out the shape. Just a shadow. Sometimes I think I can tell, then it disappears back into shadow." He sounded so wistful, and Severus was worried. Would that happen to him? Would he spend the rest of his life haunted by a shadow of his Animagus?
But no, he already knew his form and by the sound of it that was a stage Etor had never reached. He could feel the connection deepening. He changed the subject. "So what are you working on at the moment? If it's not a big secret." Lily had been called away by Slughorn to talk to some witch or other. Looking around, Etor led Severus into a quiet corner where they could speak in private.
"Well, I don't want to publicise too much yet but I am currently investigating the properties of Aconite. In certain communities, it is said that it makes werewolves less vicious. I am trying to develop a potion to enhance those properties and hopefully render werewolves harmless. But it is slow, painstaking work that will take many years. I am still working on the principles and chemistry behind it at present."
Wow! That would be the answer to all Remus' prayers. And fascinating work! "Sir, would there be any chance of me assisting you during the holidays? At least observing, seeing what you do. A career as a potioneer is something I am very interested in." He did his best to sound polite as well as keen.
"A placement... I can't say that has ever occurred to me before, but it could be very helpful. Alright, this summer if you are still interested you can come and assist me." He held up a finger to pause Severus' thanks. "You will be mostly cleaning cauldrons, fetching and carrying, and doing all manner of odd jobs. Nothing with my actual work. I am working, not teaching, but you may observe. And I warn you, it is not particularly exciting. This potion may take decades to develop. It may not be completed in my lifetime."
"Thank you so much, sir! I just love everything to do with potions, and I... enjoy learning." Etor laughed.
"No need to be ashamed of that! Although most kids treat it as a bad thing. I will enjoy working with you, I think." He gave Severus a wide grin. The boy felt a little confused to have his request granted, and so quickly. He liked Damocles - the Greek was simple and practical, even if he did talk a lot.
Etor suddenly frowned slightly. He led Severus out into one of the small chambers off the main hall and cast a spell at the door. "You know I said I took and Animagus potion? Well, it heightens my senses. I can smell things normal people can't and- there's something strange about you. Something not quite human - more refined, more alert. This is going to sound really bad, but I have to ask. Especially with your interest in my potion..." Deep breath. "Are you a werewolf?" Severus resisted the temptation to laugh. After all, he'd asked Remus the same question though following slightly better evidence.
"No! Don't worry, I'm not offended." He reassured Etor, who looked embarrassed.
"But... the strange smell..." His confusion was clear - obviously he had convinced himself that Severus was a werewolf. Severus decided that he would have to trust this new friend - at least he seemed to be a friend - with the truth.
"I took an Animagus potion. I am currently bonding with my Form." Surprise and awe greeted that announcement.
"But... you're a second year. You mean you brewed the potion? And it worked?"
"Over the summer. It took a seven-hour trance, apparently - my friend watched over me.
"And you found your form? Do you know what it is?" Definitely awe.
"Yes, at the end of the trance it appeared." Now it was jealousy, mixed with awe. Severus could smell it. He could also smell confusion and curiosity. Etor seemed unsure whether it was acceptable to ask the question. "A lion, with a dark mane." Damocles stared open-mouthed.
"You managed the potion, at your age? Did you have help? Your teachers know..."
"No, actually." He hoped he'd judged Etor right. He didn't think the man would tell. "Only one friend knows, the one who watched over me in my trance. If the teachers knew, they wouldn't let me try, and I need to do it for... I have an important reason." He might trust Etor, but he wouldn't tell Remus' secret without permission. Particularly not to someone he'd only just met.
"So what are you going to do about registering? You know it's a legal requirement..." Severus hadn't considered that before. He'd been too consumed by actually managing the transformation.
"I guess I'll tell one of the teachers, probably Professor McGonagall - she's an Animagus, of course. Ask how to get onto the register. By that point it'll be too late to stop me. It is already, really, but she might not see that. I might attempt my first transformation in front of her so if anything goes wrong she can help. I'll decide when my Lion is ready."
"That's a good idea, just in case. You probably won't be ready for years anyway, but it's best to have everything planned in advance. That's important in potion making. You have to know every step, and have all of your ingredients ready. As I'm sure you know." He waved his wand at the door again and walked towards it. "Severus?"
"See you in the summer." Severus allowed himself a big grin. An entire summer learning to develop potions! And one which would help Remus so much! He would miss staying with the Lupins, but he could still visit them. And this was too good an opportunity to miss.
He found Lily and they left the party together. It was late and the others weren't in the common room. Severus found them already in bed, and he changed quickly. They were asleep, or at least didn't acknowledge him coming in, so he got in bed and went to sleep, still thinking of the next summer. The Lion was contented. But its presence seemed vague, blurring into... his own consciousness.
A/N: Yes, I destroyed the Marauders in this story. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs... I was hardly going to make Severus a rat! Severus' Animagus is a lion - so who saw this coming?
Also, I know the outline of the plot but I'm not sure about sub-plots - I have a few options. What would you like? A little romance? (I've been putting it off because they're a bit young) - Severus/Lily, James/Lily, Peter/Greta, or other pairing? Or a brief look at another character - Peter or Gaspard, or any other? Or pranks? Let me know - I can't decide.
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