Chapter 15 : Diagon Alley
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At breakfast time the following morning, Severus felt more like himself. He'd been confused for a second when he woke up and discovered that his body wasn't human. He clearly didn't spend enough time in lion form - when he thought about it, he only really transformed at the full moon. At Hogwarts he had to be careful, because unlike McGonagall's cat the lion was rather noticeable.
He was tempted to stay in lion form, but decided against it. He might transform again later. Human again, he realised he was still wearing the clothes he'd had on yesterday. They smelt of the muggle machinery, so he took them off quickly and threw them into a corner. He'd take them down to the washing later.
Today was a brewing day. Etor had woken up early and when Severus came down he was already in the study. Yawning, Severus took his time eating his breakfast then did his best to make sure the kitchen was tidy before looking for something else to do. The study door was closed, which meant he shouldn't disturb.
The sun was shining, so he wandered outside. He considered doing some weeding or something in the garden, but as he didn't know all the plants there and Etor hadn't asked him to he decided that would be a bad idea. He might dig up something important, or accidently disturb one of the many plants that fought back.
The hillside and valley below were deserted as always. There was no-one to see, so Severus transformed again. He would always be more human than lion, but he'd like his lion form to feel natural too. Besides, he felt more free. He leapt up the hillside, only a little way but until he was above the level of the house. The area might be deserted, but to appear on the sightline at the top of the hill would be tempting fate.
He lay down, resting his head on his paws, and lazily watched the birds wheeling in the sky above. He liked being a lion, and it was perfect for looking after Remus, but seeing them soaring on the wind he couldn't help but be a little jealous. Actually, he wasn't jealous really. He didn't enjoy flying on a broomstick, and the body of the big cat was both strong and agile. It was their freedom he envied, while he had to take care to avoid being seen.
One of the birds was different from the others - larger, slower, and flying below them. Severus watched it idly, enjoying the warm sun on his fur. Yes, he was glad he wasn't a bird. They only had feathers. The funny bird looked lopsided, and it was coming straight towards him. An owl. What was it doing out at this time of day? And didn't it know that it should be afraid of cats? It did seem a bit wary, stopping to perch on a rock a little way away. It seemed torn and slightly confused, edging forward then jumping back again. Playing a game?
There was something attached to its leg, and Severus' human side stirred. He'd been seeing with a lion's perspective, something he felt rather proud of. Still, now he'd noticed, he would have to go and see what the letter held. It was probably from Remus, maybe about that quidditch match. He pulled himself to his feet and took two steps forward before the owl's fear reminded him to transform.
The envelope was marked with the Hogwarts stamp. Severus had forgotten that the new book list would be sent out. The owl was still rather wary of him - unsurprising, as it had just seen him transform from a big cat into a teenage boy. He held it gently as he took the letter, trying to make up for the stress he'd caused it. It flew off as soon as he had the envelope.
Sure enough, it was the list of books he'd need for third year. Also in the envelope, a small sum of money, the fund from the school to pay for his equipment. He would have to visit Diagon Alley. Hopefully he could arrange to go with Remus, maybe before visiting for a few days. He'd write once he'd spoken to Etor.
The back door opened and the potioneer wandered out into the garden. He saw Severus almost immediately and waved, and Severus waved back before scrambling down as fast as he could. Etor straightened up when the boy joined him and saw the letter.
"Book list. I was going to write to Remus later and see if we can go to Diagon Alley together some time before the end of the holidays."
"Next Thursday would be a good day. If all goes to plan, I should be observing the deterioration of the potion over time. If not, I'll make it another computer day or something. You needn't come again."
The cauldron exploded again that afternoon, but Etor said that it was because he'd added the Bubotuber Pus six seconds early. These things happened, and it was a reminder of the need for care in potion making. Severus personally felt that a potion requiring that level of precision lacked practicality - if Etor Damocles was struggling, what chance did anyone else have? Severus doubted that Etor wanted to spend the rest of his life making potion for werewolves, and even if he did what about after he was gone? Severus resolved to work on his brewing skills.
After two failed attempts (fortunately the silver was not added until later in the process so was not wasted), Etor decided that it was too late to try again. If he did manage to pass that stage, the potion would need constant attention until at least four in the morning. Instead he dug out an old recipe and let Severus try, using a few new techniques. At one point, Severus had to handle two cauldrons simultaneously, which although nothing compared to the full moon potion was far harder than it looked.
By the time Severus flooed to Remus' for the trip to Diagon Alley, Etor had managed the potion. He'd asked Severus to do some tasks in the garden, explaining very clearly what he wanted, and shut both the laboratory and the study door. He'd started immediately after breakfast, and mid-afternoon he emerged triumphant. After that there were no more brewing lessons, as even just fumes from another potion could potentially affect the experimental one, but Severus was allowed to look at it and watch from the doorway as Etor tested hundreds of samples in different ways.
Testing the deterioration of a potion over time was interesting at first, like everything, but quickly became dull. There were so many tests, each carried out once or more each day, and Severus knew the purposes of very few of them. He knew how a couple worked, but they were simple ones involving muggle chemicals and printed colour cards coated in clear plastic. At least spells could be used to help identify exactly which shade it was, so it wasn't entirely muggle-style.
By the time Thursday arrived, Severus had heard as much as he could stand about atoms and electrons and quarks. Muggle chemistry was interesting, but there were limits. It worked, and that was what mattered. He'd hinted at that opinion, and Etor had said that it was clear he wasn't a Ravenclaw. Severus didn't see that as a bad thing. If being a Ravenclaw involved worrying about pointless facts and wasting time fussing over how things worked, he was glad he was a Gryffindor and could just get on with things.
Both boys were happy to see each other. Severus enjoyed his placement, but the lessons in muggle science were wearing him down. Remus had been lonely with just his parents for company. He'd coped before Hogwarts, but since then he'd grown accustomed to Severus being there for him to talk to.
The atmosphere in Diagon Alley was one of fear. People walked fast and spoke quietly. They passed the boarded up windows of Mr Mallowmarsh's Sweetshop. Severus had never been in, not having money to spare, but he still averted his eyes. The shop hadn't closed through lack of business. At Etor's home on the hillside, they were tucked away from the outside world. Etor liked it like that, as it saved him from distractions, but Severus realised that in the time he'd been away the Death Eaters hadn't stopped.
The boys popped into Madam Malkin' first to be measured, dropping off their robes to be adjusted. While they were waiting they bought the books from a second-hand store, and stocked up on potions ingredients. Severus also bought a basic cauldron care kit, which Remus thought strange as they usually just cleaned cauldrons by vanishing the contents, but Severus had seen the care Etor took of his equipment. Knowing just how sensitive the full moon potion was, he could see why it was important.
Back in Madam Malkin's they waited for their turn to try on and pick up their robes. There were several students there, with worried-looking parents, waiting or getting fitted. A red-haired girl stood on a footstool being fitted, and when she stepped off she turned around-
"Lily!" She looked up and they locked eyes.
"Sev!" One of the shop assistants was standing next to her looking impatiently, so she gave him an apologetic smile before going to pay. Once her new robes were folded and packed into a bag, she started to walk over to him. After a few steps, she ran the rest of the way with free arm held out and they embraced. It was an awkward hug, as both were carrying bags of shopping, but Severus didn't care. Lily gave him a small peck on the cheek, and he kissed her back.
Lily seemed to remember that she was in the middle of a shop and stepped back. "Erm- Hi, Remus." They were all glad when Remus was called forward to try on his robes. Severus was next in the queue and, seeing the other shoppers staring at her Lily said she'd wait outside. Severus stepped up onto the stool and one of the assistants checked the lengths. The chest and shoulders had been widened and the hem let down as far as it would go. (Madam Malkin always allowed wide hems on her robes, including at the cuffs, for the younger students. They grew very quickly and it was common to have robes adjusted instead of buying new ones.)
"Sorry, but that's as long as we can get it. You'll need new ones next time." Severus checked the money he had left and decided to buy one new set. He'd been thinking about proper potions overalls like Etor's, but had never really expected to be able to afford them. School robes were more important. They were second-hand, but students his age grew so fast that they were in good condition. He'd be lucky if they lasted the year, considering the rate at which he was going up.
Lily was practically bouncing up and down in the street as she waited impatiently for them. "Done?" Severus giggled at the way she was acting, and she scowled.
"Where are your parents?" Lily's parents might be wary of magic, but they didn't usually send Lily out shopping on her own.
"Muggle shops, getting 'Tuney school stuff. She made a fuss about the fact that they both come with me usually, so they both went with her instead. We're meeting later in a cafe opposite the Leaky Cauldron because she doesn't want to come in anywhere magic." Although she tried to hide it, it was clear that she was hurt by the way Petunia acted about magic.
Remus was hanging back, staying with his parents as Severus and Lily talked. "I need to get more owl treats for Hermes. Are you coming, or shall we meet later?" Severus was tempted to say meet later and spend the time talking to Lily, but he also wanted to stay with Remus. And Remus' parents looked worried at the idea of splitting up.
"We'll come too. Coming, Lily?" The owl shop was cramped so Hope stayed with Severus and Lily outside while Lyall took Remus in. Apparently Lily's holiday had been pretty boring, and Severus got the impression Petunia hadn't made it easy. Lily didn't really want to talk about it, and Severus was very happy to describe what he'd been doing.
Lily listened, fascinated. She was good at potions too, although Charms was her best subject. She laughed when Severus complained about all the muggle science Etor insisted on teaching him and sounded envious of the brewing lessons he'd had. Severus didn't say much about the full moon potion - Etor had warned him about patents and people stealing ideas. Only people he trusted and who needed to know were told. He'd never let anyone else see as much as Severus had.
When Remus came out again they set of down the street, and although Severus wanted to wander slowly and look in all the shop windows the others encouraged him not to dawdle. It was dangerous enough for Remus, Lyall, and Severus. Hope was a muggle and Lily muggle-born, and it was best to remain inconspicuous.
They bought ice-creams and sat inside the shop eating them, close to the bar. There was safety in numbers, as the Death Eaters seemed afraid to act openly in front of wizards. As for their leader, who called himself Voldemort - Severus started to say the name and was hushed by Lyall. "Not here - you don't want them to notice you. Anyway, the ministry have been coming down hard on people spreading rumours. It's best not to talk about You-know-who, and if you must don't use the name. Have you not heard any of the news?"
Severus had been pretty cut off from the wizarding world in general since he'd left King's Cross with Etor, so he hadn't seen the news. One day in Diagon Alley was giving him a good impression, though. When Lily changed the subject, he went along with it, and the conversation turned to speculation about who would be the new Defense professor.
As soon as Severus had scraped the last of the chocolate sauce from the bottom of his bowl, they paid and left. Lyall refused to let Lily go to the muggle cafe on her own, so the whole group crossed the road outside the Leaky Cauldron. Her parents were already waiting there, and when Severus saw Petunia he hung back. When Remus and his parents followed Lily in, he had to go too, but he tried not to meet Petunia's eyes. He knew she disliked him, and he had to admit he hadn't been nice to her. Dropping that branch... he hadn't thought, and he'd regretted it as soon as he saw Lily's face. And he shouldn't have opened those letters.
The Evans' joy at seeing Lily was quickly replaced by surprise at the number of people she had with her. They recognised Severus, and Petunia scowled at that, but the adults in particular were unfamiliar. Mr Evans stood up, and Lyall immediately introduced himself. "Lyall Lupin. My son knows your daughter from school. The boys wanted to walk back with her." He leant closer. "These are dangerous times, and it's best if she doesn't wander around alone." He added the last bit in an undertone, so that the other customers couldn't hear them.
Mr Evans paid for the drinks he and his family had just finished and led the way out. Hope introduced herself to Mrs Evans on the way out, and they talked quietly as Mr Evans led the way to an almost deserted square where they could stop and talk without being overheard. "Lily said that it was your people, and they're targeting us. She should be safe.
"They also target people with parents like you - in our society, some people care a lot for who your relatives are. Most of us don't care, but the dangerous ones almost always do."
"Is it safe? Sending her back?"
"The school is the safest place around - the headmaster is the one person You-know-who fears."
"And what about us? Is 'Tuney in danger too?"
"We are all in danger. Muggles are just in passing. They seek out muggle-borns. But if you give me your address I could pop round later and set up some wards to protect your house. The best defence is other people - there's safety in numbers." They moved away a little, and Severus could no longer hear them. He saw Mr Evans whisper something in Lyall's ear, then the two men shaking hands and turning back to their families.
Lily was looking at Severus with wide eyes. "What was all that about?"
"Remus' dad was explaining to yours what's happening now. I think he'll go round later and set up some protection. He was warning them that you shouldn't go around on your own." Severus whispered the answer in her ear, then as she left kissed her on the cheek. "See you at King's Cross." He ignored Petunia, who was watching him sulkily.
The two groups split, Severus and the Lupins returning to the Leaky Cauldron. Remus held his mother's hand, her other arm linked through Lyall's. They appeared to be a normal happy family, but Severus saw that they were protecting her. Lyall's hand was never far from the pocket where he kept his wand.
From the Leaky Cauldron they took the floo to Remus' house. Lyall seemed to relax, and Severus realised how tense he had been. The atmosphere in Diagon Alley would induce fear in anyone. Hope bustled out to the kitchen and returned with a big slice of cake for each boy. Severus hadn't had anything like that this summer - Etor obviously didn't spend much time baking - so he enjoyed it all the more. Between mouthfuls, and not caring too much for manners, the two boys discussed playing a prank on their dorm-mates. Their biggest fear was that James and Sirius would certainly retaliate, and they could see it escalating quickly.
Finally Severus asked about the Quidditch match, and Remus' face fell. "Cancelled - they've had a few attacks on players and even a bit of chaos at the last Arrows game. Most of the games are going ahead, but they cancelled a lot of the friendlies. The tickets for big games are really expensive and you know what crowds are like."
Severus understood. All the sights, smells, and sounds could be totally overwhelming. Interesting sometimes, but they made it impossible to concentrate on the game. "OK. The potion's coming on nicely - Etor got a batch brewed up and he's testing. You would not believe how complicated it is - how many cauldrons he blew up-"
The idea that a top potioneer blew up cauldrons just like they had as first-years made them both laugh. Severus picked out all the funniest events of the holiday, realising that Remus was feeling down, and he left Remus laughing. It was not long now until the start of term, and Etor might want to talk to Remus again before that, so either way they would meet again soon.
It was a shock to Severus when he stepped from the fireplace into Etor's kitchen and saw the potioneer sitting at the table looking glum. His "hello" didn't get a response, and slightly unsure of himself he hesitated with his armfuls of bags.
"Potion won't keep - becomes toxic if stored for too long. Distribution would be nearly impossible, and it might even turn toxic inside the body." Severus hesitated, unsure of what to say.
"Can you test whether that happens? Without feeding it to an actual werewolf, obviously."
"Yes, but I'll need another batch and you know how long that stuff takes. Some of the ingredients are expensive, too. Chances are this'll never be used, so is it even worth it?"
"You've done most of the work! It would be a waste to give up now. Even if it does turn toxic in the body there must be - I don't know - an antidote that they could take when it starts to go. Standard Formula antidote, or even a beozar." Etor looked up.
"What do you know about Standard Formula? That isn't covered until NEWT level."
"I was reading. I think I know how it works, though I've never actually tried it. Anyway, if it works werewolves will want to use it. They need it - transformations are horrible! You never saw Remus before I transformed, you've never seen his scars. If he gets out he'd kill someone and he would have to watch without being able to do anything. Can you imagine what that would do to him?"
Severus cut across Etor's protests. "Don't you dare give up, not now. Even if you only help one person, save one life, or stop one person from being bitten, isn't it worth it? And you could get to more people than that - everyone who knew would want it."
"It's too complicated. Hardly anyone could make it, and it couldn't be transported."
"St Mungo's could run a scheme where they get all the werewolves together before the full moon and hand out doses of the potion. They make one big cauldron full and share it out."
"Nice idea, but its impractical. What if it failed? St Mungo's don't want a whole load of transformed werewolves running round the hospital - there are so many vulnerable people there."
"Stop finding excuses. If it works, I will learn to brew it and make it for Remus and any other werewolves who come. You'll be helping at least one person. You've done most of the work, so finish the job. However long it takes."
Etor laughed, pushing his chair back. "I'd be useless without you, Severus. I'm going to miss you when you go back to Hogwarts. You'll have to write to keep nagging me about getting on with it, and send me any more strokes of genius. Grab yourself some food then get along to the lab."
"What are you planning to do?"
"Teach you Standard Formula."
A/N: Almost all my reviews have been requesting more Snape/Lily so I'm trying to follow that suggestion. I wrote my first attempt at Romance and posted it (1st chapter of Patronus), and I'm planning on a bit more, so I'm gradually getting into it. Takes practise though.
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