Chapter 10 : Transformation
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Christmas approached and the holidays began. As always, Severus went to stay with Remus. The tiny house on the edge of the village seemed to forget its run-down nature and come to life, as the two boys forgot the pressures of school and became children again. Two days before Christmas, the snow fell and they woke to a world blanketed in beautiful white. And, being boys, they immediately ran outside and stirred up the perfection. Remus' transformation had been three days before, so he had pretty much recovered, although he still had to be careful.
The holiday passed quickly in snowball fights, igloo building, games of Exploding Snap and Wizard's Chess, and playing with Remus' Snitch Snatcher set from the previous year. Again, Severus found a satsuma in the bottom of his stocking, and again Remus refused to explain further than the word "tradition". Presents were similar to the previous year - mostly sweets and essential items including Severus' special soap.
But the biggest presents were tickets for a Quidditch match, to watch the Appleby Arrows play the Chuddley Cannons. It was only a friendly, but it was the first that either boy had been to. Severus had never been given the opportunity, and until starting at Hogwarts Remus had been unwilling to go out in public. So they looked forward excitedly to the trip.
The stadium was almost empty - it wasn't even a tournament match, and it was at the Cannons' ground so few of the Arrows' fans bothered to go. Games against the Cannons tended to be rather one-sided, the result very predictable. This was no exception.
Severus didn't mind the quiet. OK, the atmosphere was pretty dead, but he wasn't overwhelmed by his enhanced senses. Actually, he'd become pretty accustomed to them in the four months since he took the Animagus potion, but he still preferred to avoid crowds. The Lion preferred to walk alone - or at least only in a small pride.
He and Remus watched eagerly, leaning forward in their seats to gaze at the players. Both shared the senses of wild animals (Remus had his Wolf, although it was rather less welcome that the Lion), so they could keep up with every movement. The result was as predicted, but it was their first time watching professional Quidditch so it was exciting anyway. And the Arrows' victory may have been predictable but it was still a victory. Actually, a wipe-out. The Appleby seeker catching the snitch was more of a mercy than a winning stroke - the Arrows won by 760 points to 40.
Their arrival at Hogwarts was greeted with a fresh fall of snow. They watched the first-years playing outside, running around and ducking snowballs. Most of the older students decided - reluctantly - that they were too old and responsible for such games. Obviously, "responsible" was not a word one could apply to James.
He and Sirius took advantage of the Saturday afternoon free from lessons to organise a whole-school snowball fight. Somehow, Severus and Remus managed to get themselves coerced into joining in. They automatically split into groups, largely by house and year although there were some crossovers. The second-year Gryffindors all ended up together, with Sirius immediately taking the lead and setting everyone to building a snow fort. Job done, they made snowballs at full speed and stacked them behind the wall ready to throw.
As soon as their team was done, James yelled "Go!" at the top of his voice and started lobbing snowballs. A few of the teams yelled back protests that it was unfair, especially the older Hufflepuffs, but he shot them a grin and stuck his tongue out. A snowball immediately hit him in the face.
By the time he'd managed to spit out the snow, the snowball fight was in full swing. There were no rules - some people asked whether getting hit meant you were out, but no-one wanted to have to stop playing and it would have been impossible to enforce. Snowballs flew everywhere, from every direction, as the game descended into wild lobbing.
James was catching every snowball that came his way. Some of them exploded over his glove, but others held together well enough for him to chuck them back. Strangely enough, the best made and most accurate were coming from the seventh-years. They were hiding behind their own snow-fort, but Severus got the distinct impression they weren't actually being thrown by hand. And they didn't seem to be being bombarded.
Wanting to test his theory, he gathered some snow and threw it hard in that direction. It was right on target, but seemed to drop to the ground just before it hit. He grabbed Lily's arm - she was next to him - and pointed it out. A small frown, then a sly grin - an expression he'd never expected to see on her face.
As she outlined her plan, the whole group listened intently. Then, at her instruction, they threw snowballs hard in that direction. She watched where they scattered, taking a careful mental note, then divided the team. By this point, many of the others had noticed the seventh-years and appeared to have joined forces with the second-years.
One group immediately ran off up the hill, disappearing round the side of the building. Another group headed for the Quidditch stadium. The rest continued as though nothing had happened, throwing snowballs in the traditional manner and dodging the ones whizzing towards them.
Then there were broomsticks passing overhead, diving at the seventh-years, and snowballs were flying from above as well as in front. The group looped to pick up more ammunition before resuming the attack. And at the top of the hill, more figures appeared. As they set the giant snowballs rolling, the fort team charged out from behind their defences and launched a full-on attack.
Caught with danger coming from every direction, the seventh-years had no choice but to turn their wands on the giant snowballs. To halt them, they had to abandon their shields, and in a moment the others were through. The huge spheres ground to a halt, settling on the slope, but the seventh-years had no choice but to surrender under heavy fire - they were surrounded, with no retreat.
Severus flung wildly, feeling the adrenalin coursing through him. The Lion roared with delight, loving the excitement. Or was it him? Both - he was the Lion! Something felt right inside him, like he'd suddenly figured everything out. And maybe he had! He could feel the Lion at the forefront of his mind, ready to take its own form whenever they were ready. He was in human form at the moment, but was that his natural shape or not? Was he a human or a Lion? Or both? It was a very confusing state of affairs, but it felt right.
Actually, he'd been nearly there for a few days now. The first day of term, Lily had run up to him with a hug. James had ruffled his hair and made some stupid comment, and the Lion has stirred in his chest. Lion and him, both angry and jealous and protective. Only Lily's calm disinterest had kept them from bonding completely that day, although he wasn't sorry that she had reacted like that. For her to take James' stupidity any other way... It wouldn't have been worth the early bonding between him and his Lion.
But the excitement of today had done it. The thrill of running and dodging. The competitive side... and seeing Lily with hair flying wild as she laughed at the thrill. Ducking to scoop up snow and throwing with all her might. Brushing off the odd hit, although he felt a flash of rage every time one struck her. Then her grin as she took control and led them to victory. And he had become the Lion.
By common consent, the snowball fight was over. Only James and Sirius carried on, throwing at each other as well as lobbing into the crowd. Severus managed to catch up with Remus and draw him away from everyone else, around the corner of the castle. "Remus, I'm ready!"
"Sorry, what?" Severus kicked himself - that was an appalling explanation. Of course Remus couldn't know how he felt.
"My Animagus! I'm ready to transform!"
"Really? How do you know?" Remus' excitement was mixed with concern and disbelief.
"I just... do. You'd know if it was you - it just feels... right." Seriously, this was so hard to explain!
"Wow! So what are you going to do?" At least Remus was accepting. Had to be, with his condition and the way he'd been brought up as a result.
"Err... I guess go see Professor McGonagall."
"What? I thought it was a secret. She'll be so angry, she might not let you transform."
"No, she can't. She knows I'd just do it away from her. I'm ready, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Wasn't from the moment I took the potion, but I didn't want anyone trying." He suddenly realised that Remus didn't know about his conversation with Damocles, so he explained everything. Remus was especially excited at the idea of the potion he was developing, and had mixed feelings about Severus' work placement. It was an amazing opportunity, but the holidays would be lonely.
"So I want McGonagall there when I first transform in case anything goes wrong, and so I can register afterwards - yes, I'm going to register. There's no need to hide it, even if I shouldn't have started on my own this young it's not illegal - I checked." Remus had to admit that having the Transfiguration professor on hand during such a risky procedure would be a good idea, so he accompanied Severus to her office. Severus knocked and entered alone, feeling rather nervous now.
"I'm ready to become an Animagus."
"What? You're... twelve?"
"Thirteen last Tuesday."
"You may be talented, but it is far too early for you to even begin to contemplate such a procedure. It is immensely complex and rather dangerous, certainly beyond the level of even the most talented second-year. Even the initial potion is beyond your abilities. What put such an idea in your head? Such a decision requires careful consideration and I would not even contemplate guiding anyone under-age through the procedure." She appeared rather flustered, adding to Severus' nervousness. But the Lion in him was brave. He thought of Remus.
"Actually, professor, I mean I'm ready to transform." He cut across her protests. "I made and took the potion last summer, and today something suddenly told me I was ready. You know what I mean, I'm sure." As an Animagus herself, she did. She stared at him open mouthed.
"But... that's impossible. You're so young. You wouldn't even dare." Her voice was weak suddenly.
"Actually, I would dare. I'm a Lion, you see." Once again, her mouth fell open. He was getting a bit tired of this, even if it was entertaining. "I wanted you to be there when I first transform, to help me... just in case. And to ask you how to register." Her mouth opened and closed like a goldfish. Really, this was getting a bit wearing. It wasn't that big a deal, really.
"But... why?" Actually, that was a reasonable question. He supposed he would have to answer.
"Remus. I've done a lot of research into werewolves - yes, I guessed. I asked him, and he said he remembered you watching him as a cat on his first full moon here. He says he felt no impulse to hurt you, like he would for a human. And, as a lion, I would be able to control him to a certain extent. Hopefully keep him company so he doesn't hurt himself so much."
"But... staying with a transformed werewolf... is dangerous. We couldn't possibly allow..." Here it was, the "allow" argument. He sat back in his chair.
"If you don't, there is a good chance I will be unable to resist the temptation to do it anyway. I would like you to be there when I first transform, but I have read enough that I know the procedure." She didn't have a choice after that, and she knew it.
"I would strongly advise you against this, but if you must you will do it with me." She finally seemed to have pulled herself together. "When would you like to try?"
"Now, please." He didn't want to wait. She didn't look surprised at that.
"Very well, Mr Snape. Now, you may have read a great deal but I will explain the procedure properly before you attempt to transform. You will wait until I give you permission, understood?"
"Yes, professor." He could put it off for something so important. He was well aware of the risks and was being as cautious as possible. He listened intently as she explained the concepts in full, giving him a rather better understanding than he'd had before. He was very glad he'd come to her - even if he did have to deal with the questions, at least he would be safer than if he attempted it alone.
Before she started, she had raised her wand and a silvery shape had darted from its tip out of the window. He'd noticed it but not asked - she wouldn't try to stop him transforming now. There was a knock on the door and Professor McGonagall magically opened it. Professor Dumbledore entered and shut the door behind him, moving his wand and casting some non-verbal spell before he spoke. "So, what is going on?"
"Mr Snape here brewed and took and Animagus potion last summer. He just came to see me to tell me that he is ready to transform - he at least has the sense not to attempt it alone. Snape, Professor Dumbledore guided me through my transformation and knows more than me about the process."
"Why did you do this, Severus?" The old man sounded, if anything, disappointed. But also a little impressed.
"To keep Remus company at full moon. I want to stop him from hurting himself so much." Severus explained defiantly, although he was nervous inside.
"You wish to stay with a werewolf at full moon? You do realise how dangerous that would be? Your friend Remus would not want to put someone else in so much danger - it is unfair on him. How would he feel afterwards if he bit you?" Severus had to admit that Dumbledore had the best argument so far, but he could answer.
"Dangerous for a human, yes. I wouldn't even consider it normally. But for a lion?"
"A..." Dumbledore was impressed. "You do know your form. A lion - yes, that fits..." He sighed. "Professor McGonagall, how far have you got with the background? Actually, just carry on."
"Are you sure? You know it better than me." It was funny, hearing the strict Transfiguration teacher talking like this.
"Go on, I'll speak up if you miss anything." He conjured a squashy armchair and sat down, twiddling his wand between his fingers while Professor McGonagall continued her lesson. Finally she stood and shifted instantaneously into a tabby cat. Dumbledore held out a hand and the cat rubbed its head against it, allowing him to stroke her back for a second. Severus would never have dared to do that.
She paused for only a moment before stalking back to the desk, transforming as she did so. She sat down. "You'd be surprised how pleasant that feels when you're a cat. And it's perfectly acceptable to be petted. Stroking a lion is less common, unfortunately for you. Your form is more conspicuous than mine, and more threatening, but also stronger. Better suited for what you have in mind." They were going to let him stay with Remus! "Now, are you ready to attempt the transformation?"
Was he ready? In some ways. But now it was about to happen he had to admit it was a little frightening. He didn't want to try until he felt ready, not just physically but psychologically. "You may take as long as you want. Ask any questions."
"Does it hurt?" The one thing that had been bothering him most, apart from whether he would succeed. Many people would have been embarrassed about asking that question, but he wanted to know everything.
"The first time? Yes. Perfectly normal, so don't panic and try to halt the transformation. That actually hurts more. But it is painful. After the first few times, transforming feels natural and is completely painless." He'd already known that from his reading, but had wanted to check. Oh well, it would be worth it. He felt calm, ready.
"May I try?"
"When you're ready." The office was large, and she directed him to a space (Dumbledore had to vanish his armchair). Both teachers took out their wands and they stood at opposite ends of the space. Professor McGonagall had Severus practise the pronunciation of the spell, and made sure he knew how to change back, before he tried for the first time.
Nothing happened. Professor Dumbledore now spoke up, coaching Severus carefully in the perfect pronunciation and state of mind he should be in. The boy raised his wand again and spoke the incantation, and this time as he finished he felt the lion rear up inside him...
Then his body felt like it was being ripped apart. Every nerve was on fire as his cells rearranged themselves. He wanted to scream, but his throat was changing too and he couldn't get the sound out. He did not allow himself to fight, surrendering to the sensation. If anything were wrong, one of the professors would halt the transformation. They wouldn't let anything happen to him. And he would manage this, for Remus.
The pain vanished and he was lying on the floor. His body felt strangely heavy, especially his head. He stood, somehow naturally suited to this new form. But then this was the shape the Lion knew. He flicked his tail and stretched, feeling the muscles. Head held high, he took his first steps. The teachers watched, impressed, their wands still in their hands but no longer raised.
He felt the urge to roll so he did. It felt good. Then he turned his attention to the humans. Or rather, human. There was a small tabby cat rubbing against him, and he licked the top of its head gently. It was most certainly not the kind of thing he would do usually, but the cat seemed to want him to do it. After all, they were both cats. He was just bigger, the king of cats.
The human crouched down and held out a hand to the tabby, which stretched and purred when he stroked her. The lion would not have welcomed such a motion, and Dumbledore knew it. Severus chose to come to him. He pressed his head, with its magnificent mane, against the tentative hand, allowing contact. Given this permission, the man worked his fingers into the mane. Severus felt a shiver run along his spine as a hand moved across his soft pelt. The tabby was right - it was a pleasant sensation.
Petting was only with permission, of course. He was a lion, a king, and he was proud. He held his head high as he sat on his haunches. The tabby shifted back into a human and made a large mirror appear, which he turned to look into. This was the first time he'd seen the lion since he had taken that form in his potion-trance. Except for in his dreams, and then he had been the lion. His fur was sleek, his mane dark and regal, and his face stern and handsome. Big amber eyes, smooth nose, and ears peeking out from the mass of hair. He turned as much as he could, looking at himself from every angle.
Professor McGonagall rummaged in one of her desk drawers and took out a camera. She took one picture of him before putting it down. "Now, Severus, you will have to change back." She took out her wand again as he returned to the space. He thought the charm with all his might, all his lion's strength, then he felt a strange sensation and he was growing upwards. The magic died away and he stumbled as he resumed his human body. "Wow! That felt amazing!"
"Impressive, Severus. Now I believe it is past dinner time - we can eat here, as we have a visit to make afterwards." Severus racked his brains, but couldn't think what that might be. He was so absorbed with thoughts of his first transformation that he couldn't remember much else.
Dumbledore summoned a house-elf which brought them their meal. Severus suddenly realised how hungry he was and wolfed it down, accepting thirds and fourths. "Don't worry, a big appetite is normal after big magic. And you are very young, so you need to replace the energy." Dumbledore reassured him, and Severus finished his meal without feeling guilty.
They had him transform again, this time without the spell. This was the usual way of transforming which could be used after the first time. It was basically the same method he had used to change back. He had to imagine himself in his other body. He shut his eyes and stood there concentrating. Suddenly there was a rush of magic and his body was rearranging itself. A weird sensation, but not really painful.
He took a couple of minutes to enjoy his form before changing back. It got easier every time. "Ready to register then, Mr Snape?" Of course! That was it - the Animagus registration. At Professor McGonagall's instruction, he took a handful of floo powder and threw it into the flames.
"Ministry of Magic." Elbows tucked in, he whizzed through the network until he stumbled out into the biggest room he had ever seen. The floor was polished dark wood, the ceiling peacock-blue and decorated with continually shifting gold symbols.
Wizards and witches bustled around, few noticing of the thirteen-year-old boy who stood looking rather baffled by one of the fireplaces. First McGonagall then Dumbledore stepped out of the fireplace behind him, brushing off their robes. They did get a few respectful nods, and people began to look. McGonagall led Severus away, ignoring the stares and whispers.
She took him to a desk where an old watch-wizard sat reading a copy of the Daily Prophet. He looked up as they approached. "Dumbledore! McGonagall. What brings you here? With a student, too."
"We are paying a visit to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. This is Severus Snape."
The old man looked searchingly at the group but got no more explanation. "Your wand please, Mr Snape." Neither teacher said anything so Severus did so. It was placed on a pair of golden scales, and a receipt came out. The paper was pinned to the wall. Severus' wand was returned to him.
"Would you like to see mine?" asked Professor McGonagall.
"Oh, no need. We know you both well enough."
"Then should Severus at least have a badge?" She was very businesslike, and Severus was glad she was there with him. Dumbledore was humming to himself a few feet away.
"You don't have one already?"
"No, we flooed in. It is easier from Hogwarts, you see."
"Oh, well then." The watch-wizard was clearly nervous of the Transfiguration professor. "Erm, reason for visit?"
"Could you leave that blank, please?" McGonagall requested in a tone that invited no questions. The watch-wizard moved his wand in a complex pattern and a small metal badge appeared on the desk. He handed it to Severus. It only showed his name, and he pinned it to the front of his robes. Then McGonagall led him to a lift, Dumbledore trailing behind.
"Level Two, Department of Magical Law Enforcement." A smooth female voice purred as the lift stopped and the golden grilles slid open. Severus was taken along a corridor, and he did his best to read the labels on the doors as he passed. Auror Office, Wizangamot Administration Services, Hit Wizards...
"Evening, Albus. What brings you here?" A smart ministry witch paused in the corridor.
"Hogwarts business, this time." Professor Dumbledore answered. Dumbledore's first name must be Albus! There was something strange about finding out a teacher's first name, thought Severus.
Suddenly McGonagall turned off through an open door. Inside was comfortable seating, with a desk at the end of the room and doors on each side. They went straight up to the desk. "Good evening, what can I do for you?"
"Snape here needs to register." A slightly shocked expression, but the witch was well trained and put her smile back up almost immediately.
"Of course, professor." She let them through a door on the right, into a small office occupied by an official-looking wizard. McGonagall indicated that Severus take the seat in the centre, while she sat on other chair in front of the desk. Dumbledore conjured himself another armchair at the back of the room, sitting and relaxing. Severus was rather more nervous.
"Good evening, my name is Albert Brown. I will assist you with your registration today."
"Thank you, Mr Brown. Severus is here to register as an Animagus."
The very boring-looking wizard actually reacted to this. Clear disbelief and confusion flashed across his face. "An Animagus? Really? I thought..."
"What else might it be?"
"Sorry, I thought probably werewolf. It is the only usual explanation for someone so young. Surely he's too young to complete the Animagus transformation?"
"An understandable mistake. Severus, would you demonstrate?" Severus pushed his chair back and stood, moving back a little to give himself space. The transformation came easily now. The lion circled. He sat on his haunches, staring down the man. He growled slightly before standing and shifting back in one fluid motion.
"Err, very impressive. Right. Full name?" Severus supplied most of the details, Professor McGonagall filling in others. He shifted again so that his distinguishing features could be identified and recorded. After a couple of hours of tedious form filling, he signed the bottom of the page. "We need a parent's signature for minors."
"I will do that." Professor McGonagall insisted. She silenced his protests with a look Severus knew well. "He is in the care of the school." Her tone invited no questions, and very nervously Mr Brown allowed her to do it. She signed on the line, and he signed the bottom, then he tapped the paper with his wand and it vanished.
"You are free to go now."
"Thank you, Mr Brown. I would appreciate it if you kept the details of this quiet." McGonagall led Severus out of the office, nodding to the witch as she passed. Back in the Atrium, they found a fireplace and flooed back to the school. "Please sit, Mr Snape." Her businesslike demeanour was gone, replaced by the kind head-of-House. "Well done today. If you ever need help, come and find me." She offered him a slice of cake, which he accepted. Dumbledore had already left.
"Thank you, Professor. For everything." She held the door open, telling him to go straight to bed. He realised just how tired he was.
"I will, Professor."
A/N: Well, Severus is obviously rather more responsible that James and Sirius, even if he does do things his own way. Bravery does not necessarily mean taking unnecessary risks, and Severus has his priotities right. Staying alive is more important than not getting in trouble.
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