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Prelude by Sigune [Reviews - 7]


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This story was entered in the Sycophant Hex: Spring Faire Festival under the General Story: First Wand.

The criteria is below:

Summary: One of the most important 'rites of passage' in any witch or wizard's lives is receiving their first wand. We've seen how Harry received his, but what about all those other characters? The wand chooses the wizard, or so Mr. Ollivander says, but why?

Rules:
1. You may choose any canon character and write a story about them receiving their first wand.
2. Harry may not be used since we have already seen him receive his first wand.
3. You can either write a one-character story based on the challenge, or you may write about multiple characters each receiving their first wand.
4. You must adhere to all that is known in canon about wands. Example: If you choose to focus your story on Hermione, she must receive the wand that she has in canon (thirteen inches, vine wood, dragon heartstring core). The same applies to other characters we know about (i.e. Ron, either of Harry's parents, Cedric, Krum, Fleur, and Hagrid).






PRELUDE: THE SEEDS ARE SOWN


Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth. (Matthew 13: 5)


When Severus received his Hogwarts letter in July 1971, his father gave him a long and thoughtful look. Then he said, “You and I need a word, son. I have some important things to say to you.”

Stephen Snape took his son to Hyde Park for a walk along the Serpentine, as if what he wanted to say had better be spoken out in the open. It was an agreeable summer’s afternoon; the park smelled of freshly mown grass and flowers, and if it had not been for the distant din of the London traffic, Severus could have forgotten they were actually in the middle of a vast city. The weather was hot and dry, and sometimes father and son had to screw up their eyes against the whirling dust swept up from the paths by a sudden warm gust of wind. The water of the winding pond glittered; children were playing on the shore and shouting; people were basking in the sun or having a picnic under the trees, where they had to ward off impudent squirrels begging for their share. Stephen Snape eyed the scene rather wistfully. Severus wondered why.

They walked a while in silence, side by side, and nothing happened apart from Stephen buying his son an ice cream without even being prompted. That was strange, Severus decided, and he actually began to feel apprehensive.

“So,” Stephen said finally, stopping in his tracks, “you have been called to Hogwarts. How do you feel about that?”

“Happy,” Severus answered truthfully between two bites of ice. (He always ate his ice rather than licking it; he liked the feeling of the cold lumps sliding down his throat and making him shiver and squint.) “I’m going to learn magic.”

“Yes,” his father agreed. “But are you sure that is what you want?”

Severus did not reply immediately. He was a little puzzled by the question; he had never given the matter thought. From the moment he had manifested his first sign of magical power, it had seemed obvious that he should cultivate it. How could there be questions about his becoming a wizard? He had been born one.

“You do have a choice, son,” his father said. “You’re not obliged to go to Hogwarts, or any other magical school. You can choose not to study magic.”

“But why should I not want to, Papa?” the boy asked. He had quite forgotten his ice cream and was reminded of its existence when a sticky blob lodged itself on his left hand. He wrinkled his nose, annoyed, licked his hand clean and quickly ate the rest of the sweet. When he looked up again, he was almost made uncomfortable by the sheer intensity of his father’s gaze.

“You are so young,” Stephen murmured, more to himself than to his son. “And already you have to make such a fundamental decision.” He shook his head as if to clear it.

“When you were five,” Stephen resumed, “I proposed that you go to a Muggle primary school. Your mother objected to the idea, but I insisted. Do you know why?”

“Because you wanted Mama to take a job instead of teaching me?” Severus guessed boldly. He knew quite well his parents argued about his education. Sometimes when they had a shouting match in the kitchen he could hear it in his bedroom.

Stephen smiled bitterly. “No,” he said. “At least, that was not the main reason. I thought … I did not want magic to be the only thing in your life. You see – a child born of a witch and wizard is almost certainly magical. I knew when you were born that one day you would come into magic and that when you turned eleven you would receive a Hogwarts letter. But – you are more than just your magical talent. You have other things to offer. And I wanted you to realise –”

He sighed. “I am not expressing myself very well, am I? What I wanted to say is: I had a word with Mr Simkins, and we looked at your school reports and the assessment tests they made you take, and we came to the conclusion that you are very gifted in several fields and that you could be anything you choose to be if you apply yourself to it. You have more than average intelligence. You are good at maths and English and science and history – well, at almost everything.”

“Except gym,” Severus muttered darkly. He had less than fond memories of those particular classes.

“Except gym,” Stephen conceded. “Mr Simkins reckons you could study whatever you want and then go on to university – where gym will not be a requisite,” he added with a smile. “Now, what I want you to understand is this: when you decide to go to Hogwarts, you will limit yourself to the study of magic. That will be all there is, all you are rated upon. Your other capacities will not matter. You will cut off other roads forever, because you will fall behind on the subjects Muggles deem valuable. And I am worried that – that maybe you will find wizarding unsatisfactory, but by the time you do, it will be too late. Do you … do you understand what I mean?”

Severus frowned. “I don’t think I do, Papa,” he confessed. “Don’t you want me to be a wizard?”

Stephen’s expression was one of melancholy. “I know this will sound quite unbelievable to you now, son, but maybe being a wizard is not all it is popularly made out to be. You see, my fear is … I have noticed – and so has Mr Simkins – that you find it difficult to cope with failure. You seem to want to be the best at everything.”

“But that’s good, isn’t it, Papa?” the boy asked. “Mama and you want me to have good marks, don’t you?”

“Of course we do,” Stephen said, “we are very proud of you, and ambition is fine. But what are you going to do if you find that you are not as good at magic as you were at maths and English? You will have thrown away what you did well in exchange for something mediocre.”

Severus looked up at his father with anxious eyes. What was he saying? “Do you think I will be a bad wizard?” he asked slowly, fear creeping into his voice.

Stephen sighed again. “It’s too early to make a reliable estimate of what you may or may not become – your power is only just budding. But that in itself is … You were seven when it showed itself. Your mother, by comparison, was two.”

Severus took a step away and clenched his hands into small fists. His bottom lip had started to tremble and he had to concentrate very hard to stop it. “Mama says the moment doesn’t matter,” he said defiantly. Pitting his parents against each other had become something of a reflex in situations where either one said something he did not want to hear. “She says I will grow. She says I’m from a family of great wizards.”

His father looked pained and more than a little irritated. “Mama would do well to remember from time to time that you’re my child too. Whatever else you may be, you’re at least half Snape, and the Snapes, I’m sorry to say, don’t qualify as great wizards. Honest, competent and hard-working, yes. Great, no. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I don’t want you to set your hopes up to high or do rash things because you have unrealistic ideas about swishing wands. Magic is not the answer to all your prayers, and the Muggle way of life is not nearly as despicable as wizards and witches would have you believe. – Listen to me! I think it highly likely that you have all it takes to make it without magic, whereas if you choose the wizarding way you will end up just as frustrated as your father, in a petty job working for petty money and being bossed about by petty people. And you don’t want that kind of life, take my word for it.”

By now Severus was on the verge of tears. His father was cruel – cruel and mean. How could he begrudge his son a life of magic and spoil his pleasure at the prospect of finally going to a wizarding school where at least he would not be a little freak anymore? Why did he suggest he was not good enough to be a magician? Who said Severus was a carbon copy of his father? He wasn’t – he wasn’t at all. Besides (but his father should not know) he was already studying curses, hexes and jinxes under his mother’s tutelage, and she was very pleased with the progress he made. He knew hundreds of spells by heart, had practised their pronunciation and the wand movements that accompanied them (admittedly with a wooden kitchen spoon), and had acquired some insight into their anatomy. He yearned for Hogwarts and daily training and for the moment he would have his own wand. He could not ignore the tingling in his fingers and the warm glow that spread through his body when he whispered those mysterious words he found in mouldy old tomes; no sum or fraction or dictation or writing exercise had ever given him that. He could not possibly choose a calculator over a wand; the proposal alone was too absurd. Nothing, nothing could compare to sorcery.

“Are you all right, son? I didn’t mean to upset you.” His father seemed a little taken aback by his sullen sadness. “I just wanted you to be aware of your options and to consider them.” He touched Severus’ cheek in a clumsy attempt at pacification. “Just – think about what I said. You have time yet. All right?”

Severus refused to nod or in any other way acknowledge his father’s words. He was silent on the way back home and would not take the seat next to Stephen on the underground train. He stood during the entire and fairly long journey, gripping a pole to support himself, his jaw set and his face dark, a stubborn frown on his forehead.

When they came home his mother was sitting at the kitchen table, beaming, the Hogwarts letter in her hand. On seeing her son come in she opened her arms wide. “My little wizard!” she called out, and Severus ran towards her to be enveloped in a tight motherly embrace. He inhaled a whiff of Mama scent – some faint lilac from her perfume, the strange herbal stuff she used on her hair, a dash of whatever she had been cooking (onion pie?) and a teensy bit of something else he could not place – it reminded him of Papa but it wasn’t quite the same.

“What do you say, dearest,” she said, “shall we go to Diagon Alley tomorrow to buy your school things? I should think it is high time you got your own wand. I can’t wait to know what it will be!”

“Surely that wand can wait another month,” Stephen’s gruff voice came from the doorway. “There’s no need to hurry things. He’s not allowed to use it outside school anyway.”

Septimia Snape kissed her son’s ear. “Let him grumble,” she whispered. “We’ll get our way in the end, won’t we, darling?” Severus smiled, his heart again at rest.

With Mama everything was so much simpler and more satisfying. Witching was the most natural thing in the world, and curiosity was to be encouraged, and all forms of magic were legitimate objects of study. No fascination was morbid and no desire far-fetched. Mama told stories about the great deeds of witches and wizards irrespective of their allegiances; a beautiful Dark curse was as admirable as one that gave blessing, and a craftily thought-out scheme with disastrous consequences could be quite as masterful in its way as one that saved a nation. When she talked she opened up great vistas of endless wonder, of uncharted territory, of excitement and discovery, of power and possibilities beyond imagining. Severus knew they were no idle words. Very often she would take her wand and conjure cold flames, or exotic flowers, and once even a tiny star that fitted in the palm of his hand; or she would do spooky things with herself like becoming all misty or transparent and float on the air. Whenever she did anything like that, Severus could physically feel the power radiate from her, and he wished nothing more than to be like her himself. She said he would be, one day; in the universe she painted there was a special place that was his by right. He had only to claim it. And how could he even consider not doing so? The paltry mundane held no lure comparable to this. In the wizarding world, everything was possible.

Surely his father could not be surprised that after a few weeks’ waiting, just to humour him, Severus walked down Diagon Alley with his mother, both carrying several packages holding black school robes and a black pointy hat and a standard pewter cauldron and, best of all, books. They had sundaes at Fortescue’s just for the sake of dramatic tension and then made their way towards Ollivanders for a wand.

The dark, narrow shop was very dusty on the inside; Severus and Septimia sneezed in unison and giggled. They looked at the untidy and seemingly endless stacks of rectangular boxes that filled every conceivable surface of the shop. Severus itched with anticipation.

From the back of the shop, an old wizard with a mane of white hair appeared.

“Septimia DeQuincey,” he said by way of greeting. “I remember you, and your wand, of course – blackthorn and dragon heartstring, eleven and three quarter inches, whippy, very suitable for the Darker work. And in the meantime you have become Mrs…?”

“Snape,” Septimia said. “Good afternoon, Mr Ollivander. This is my son Severus. He will be going to Hogwarts next week and he would like one of your excellent wands.”

“Naturally,” Mr Ollivander concurred, subjecting Severus to a thorough examination. He had wide eyes with very pale, silvery irises and his stare was piercing. Severus eyed him a little suspiciously.

“What hand do you use for writing, young man?” the wandmaker enquired, digging up a tape measure from a pocket in the vest he wore over his grey robes.

“My right.” Severus held out his arm; Mr Ollivander released the tape measure and it went about its work quite independently.

“But in what hand do you normally hold your wooden spoon, dearest?” Septimia asked from behind him.

“My – left.” Severus looked at her over his shoulder. “But…”

“He’s left-handed, Mr Ollivander,” his mother interrupted. “He goes to a Muggle school where they will insist that children write right-handedly, hence the confusion.”

The tape measure continued its work with zeal until its owner told it to stop. Severus did wonder how the size of his nose related to the kind of wand with which he would eventually end up, but he did not dare to voice a comment for fear of appearing stupid.

“Well,” Mr Ollivander said, turning to his piles of boxes, “let us see what we can do for you, Master Snape. Will you follow in your mother’s footsteps or rather in your father’s – Stephen Snape that must be – elm and phoenix feather, seven inches, very solid; but I doubt that is quite your style. Try this: cedar and phoenix feather, ten inches, combative.” He handed Severus a beautiful dark wand.

“Shall I cast a spell?” Severus asked avidly.

“Certainly not!” the old wandmaker replied firmly. “I won’t have untrained wizards hurling spells in the vicinity of my precious merchandise. A simple wave will do, thank you.”

Severus gave the wand a jaunty swish.

“Very nice wrist movement, Master Snape, but quite ineffectual,” Mr Ollivander murmured as he snatched the wand away. The next five followed in quick succession. “Try elderberry, dragon heartstring, ten and three quarter inches, fiery. – Nothing? Pity. Yew and dragon heartstring, ten and a half inches, quite destructive – no, no, no. Here – hawthorn and phoenix feather, ten inches, perfect for hexing… Ach. Well then, elm and phoenix feather, nine and three quarter inches, sturdy and reliable – no, I didn’t really believe it would. Try holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches, nice and supple; definitely not, thank you …”

None of the wands produced any effect whatsoever, and Severus became rather unsure what exactly the wandmaker was expecting. How could he see which would work if he was not allowed to try a spell? The wands that had been selected sounded good enough, especially the long dark ones; he was sure he could make them do something interesting with a small incantation. But Mr Ollivander was clearly not as easily satisfied. There was a pensive frown on his face, and he disappeared behind the counter, where mother and son heard him move boxes and mutter, “Hm… Maybe… It’s possible… It doesn’t happen to me often, for sure, but it’s possible… Age catching up with me, perhaps…”

He emerged again with in his hands a very old and extensively gold-decorated cardboard box. “I think I may have been mistaken about you, young man,” he said. “A bit unpredictable, aren’t you? Here, see what this one does.” He took the lid off the box and produced an elaborately turned little wand of a creamy hue. “Birch and unicorn hair, nine inches, very pure, for creative magic and healing. Give it a swish.”

Severus looked at the dainty thing with distaste. “I don’t think…” he objected, but Mr Ollivander mercilessly pressed it into his hand.

As soon as he touched the wood, Severus knew this wand was the right one. It produced the tingle in his fingers that he had come to associate with magic, and as he reluctantly waved it, it gave off a radiant stream of silver sparks. “Can I – can I use this … thing … for cursing?” he asked, although he thought he could guess the reply. His brow clouded.

“You can use it for whatever you want,” Mr Ollivander remarked dryly. “But some things will work better than others. It is, as all my wands, excellent, when properly used.”

“I don’t think I like it,” Severus said wilfully. “Can I try another one? This looks like a girl’s.” He quickly placed it on the counter to distance himself from it. “I don’t want this one.”

“Well, I am afraid your preferences are irrelevant to the matter. The wand chooses the wizard and that is it.” Mr Ollivander picked the wand up and more or less forced it on the boy. “This is the wand that fits you best. Accept it.”

Severus glared hatefully at the silly strip of wood, willing it to burst into flame so that he would be obliged to buy another. How could it belong with him? He detested the sight of it. Burn, he thought. Disappear.

“You ungrateful boy!” Mr Ollivander snapped when he saw a faint glare develop in the air around the wand. He snatched it back from Severus’ grip, his pale eyes ablaze. “It is fragile. You will make me sorry about having to sell it to one such as you, who will no doubt be careless with what should be your most prized possession.” He did not take wand vandalising lightly, it seemed.

The wandmaker turned towards Septimia, who had been looking at the scene in amazement. Undoubtedly she, too, thought the match of wand and young wizard most bizarre. “It is a first-rate wand, perfectly balanced and an unusually elegant piece,” Mr Ollivander explained to her in the tone of one connoisseur addressing another. “It is one of my earliest creations. I made it in 1890, when decoration was all the rage, hence the turning. I was rather hoping it would favour a nice young witch, but there you go.” He sniffed; apparently he judged his customer as unworthy of the wand as the young wizard judged the wand unworthy of himself.

Severus’ cheeks burned; he blushed scarlet with rage and shame. Fragile. Pure. Healing. Elegant, so help him God. What was he supposed to do with it – put it in a display case and let his teachers admire it? How was this useless thing going to get him where he wanted to be? How was it going to help him win duels and crush his enemies? There must be a mistake. There were thousands of wands he had not tried. Surely it could not be true that only one out of all Ollivander’s stock worked for him, and that it should be this sissy piece of Victorian ornament? It was ridiculous. Why did Ollivander not let him look for himself? And what was all that nonsense about wands choosing wizards – how could an inanimate object reason or feel or … or whatever conscious choice required? Besides, he thought rebelliously, nobody could oblige him to pay for something he did not want, could they? He could simply walk out of the shop and go looking for a better wand somewhere else.

He took heart, and when he was quite certain his voice would not tremble, he told his mother calmly, almost casually: “I really don’t want this one, Mama. Can we please go to another shop? I’m sure I’ll find a suitable one somewhere else.”

But to his dread Mama, for years and years his dependable ally, proved treacherous at this moment of truth. She shook her head and for once looked stern and stony.

“Mr Ollivander is the best wandmaker in the British Isles and even beyond,” she stated quietly. “There is nothing wrong with this piece and it is obviously right for you – I could see it with my own eyes. Now don’t lie to me and don’t be childish. Take the wand and learn to be happy with it. I shall buy you no other. Is that understood?”

“But maybe with my right hand…?” Severus did not give up that easily and braved her eyes. This was far too important. “I can do things equally well with both my hands. Please, Mama, let me try!”

His mother seemed to be mellowed somewhat at his frantic squirming to get out of what he considered a tight spot. A faint smile spread along her lips. “You would salve with one hand and chastise with the other, is that it?” she murmured, stroking his hair. “Very clever, darling, but it won’t do. You cannot have it both ways, remember that.” She pulled him close to her and kissed his forehead despite resistance on his part (he really would not be kissed if he did not get his way), then paid a scowling Mr Ollivander seven Galleons, sealing her son’s fate.

Once outside the shop again, Severus buried the offensive magical tool at the very bottom of his largest bag, under his robes and hat. He felt like crying his heart out, but he was in the middle of a busy shopping street and people would stare; he would only embarrass himself and feel even worse for it. Because he had to vent his feelings somehow, he started to walk very quickly, taking advantage of his childlike stature and leanness to steal past adults and disappear among the crowd. He took a perverse pleasure in hearing his mother panic slightly as he slithered from her view. “Wait, Severus!” she called. “Oh, come on…” She was taller than he and faster, but hindered by a cauldron and a few pounds of books; she would not catch up with him easily. She was bumping into people, at any rate – he heard grumbling voices and faint outcries and her own apologies at intervals, “Excuse me”, “Sorry”, “Pardon…” He gloated in silence and hurried on blindly in the direction of Knockturn Alley. He knew she did not think it safe there. Let her worry; it would serve her right.

Swiftly rounding the corner of the dark alleyway, Severus came into violent collision with someone. He suddenly found his nose pressed against robes of brown velveteen and his limbs entangled in the wide folds of a light tweed cloak.

“Ouch!” the wizard exclaimed. “Watch out, young man.”

He was a young man himself – a good few years older than Severus, who only reached an inch or two higher than his elbows, but still. He had very clear blue eyes and thick coils of long black hair that hung down to his middle, and with his picturesque little moustache and goatee he seemed an unusual cross between a wizard and a musketeer. There was something vaguely familiar about him, though Severus could not quite put his finger on it; he was certain he had never met the man before. Stranger still was the expression on the wizard’s face as he held Severus by his shoulders at arm’s length and studied him.

“You must be…” the stranger began, but he interrupted himself by looking up at the approaching sound of running feet.

“Oh thank God – Severus…” It was his mother, relieved at finding he had not entered Knockturn Alley after all.

“Madam Snape,” the wizard greeted. He let go of Severus to give Septimia a small bow. “What a happy coincidence that I should meet you here.”

“Yes, isn’t it?” Septimia said, a little out of breath. “Severus, meet Mr Lestrange.”

“How do you do,” Severus said coolly. There was something about the man’s tone that bothered him.

“How do you do,” Mr Lestrange replied pleasantly. Then he added, “You don’t look very happy today.”

“We had a small incident at Ollivanders’,” his mother explained in his stead. He wished she would not. “Severus did not get the wand he had expected.”

“Ah, that happens,” Mr Lestrange said suavely. “I can sympathise with the situation. A similar thing occurred to me at the Hogwarts Sorting Ceremony. Fancy anticipating Slytherin, only to end up in Hufflepuff.” He smiled and made a funny movement with his dark eyebrows.

Severus’ eyes widened with undiluted horror. The Sorting! He had not considered that yet! What disasters were still in store for him? Would Hufflepuff soon be added to his utter disgrace? It could not – must not be!

“Well, that won’t happen to my boy,” his mother answered his unspoken thoughts. “He is a clear-cut Ravenclaw if ever I saw one, just like his Mama. – But we mustn’t keep you any longer with our chatter, Mr Lestrange. No doubt you have business to attend to.”

“Ah – indeed,” Mr Lestrange said, and he looked at the tips of his shoes. “Good afternoon then, Madam Snape, Severus.” He bowed again and sauntered off. Septimia chuckled at his retreating figure.

They flooed home by means of the Leaky Cauldron’s fireplace. (Only his mother ever used Floo powder; his father greatly disliked that way of travelling because of the soot, and maintained the Underground was really the more sensible alternative. Mama did not mind the spinning and the dirt at all – it was one of the few points on which Severus was inclined to disagree with her.) Severus immediately ran upstairs to his room. He sat on his bed, immobile, with his new school things still wrapped on the floor around him, unable even to bring himself to leafing through the books he had been so eager to read. He did not show himself again until he was called down for supper. In the kitchen he had to withstand the challenge of his father’s acerbic remarks. If he managed, he only did so because he was sufficiently numbed.

“So,” Stephen said with sarcastic gusto, “how fares our apprentice wizard? You seem less than enthusiastic, if I may say so. Wand a bit disappointing, was it? How long?”

“Nine inches,” Severus mumbled listlessly.

“Ha! Mediocrity beckons,” his father observed. “I did warn you, I seem to recall.”

“Stop it, Stephen,” Septimia scolded quietly while dealing out generous helpings of mashed potato. “Length isn’t everything. It’s skill that counts.”

Stephen snorted. “Really. I know a woman who thought otherwise before her son came home with a very average wand. I find that truth is very flexible when it concerns the apple of your eye. It won’t do him any good, you know, all your sugar and spice. You keep promising him things that are far out of his reach – it will hurt when he discovers he can’t get them, and it will be your fault, woman.”

“And I think it would be a good start if you didn’t discourage your own son from the beginning,” Septimia snapped. “Can’t you be a bit supportive? All you ever do is criticise – it would drive anyone up the wall. Severus must do as his nature dictates.”

“His nature, or you?” Stephen snarled.

As his parents’ voices rose, Severus willed his mind to go blank with practised ease. It was a tried and tested method to shut them out and it helped him to bear their arguments with relative equanimity. He calmly emptied his plate, carried it to the sink when he had finished, did his own dishes and retired to his room while Stephen and Septimia’s food grew stone-cold.

Severus’ mind was always solving puzzles. It happened that he fell asleep mulling over a riddle and woke up in the morning with the answer. His mind, it appeared, was never inert, even when he was not consciously exercising it. Sometimes this annoyed him – perspicacity could be a burden. But more often than not, it protected him against shocks and unpleasant surprises. So, during the last days of August, his brain worked along two tracks. One part mechanically did what it was trained to do: absorb, memorise, catalogue, and classify the information it received from new school books. The other digested the events of the day he acquired his wand. All that had happened seemed unreal – as indeed he wished it was; but he knew instinctively that there was a meaningful pattern to it. Little snippets, impressions, scents, images whirled around in his head like pieces of a jigsaw. Not all of them fell into place because some were part of a much larger whole; but by the time his school trunk was packed, Severus was ready for what was to come.

When on 31 August, at night, his mother climbed into his bed, settled behind him and wrapped her arms around his body, it was no less than Severus had expected. She had done the same when he was very small and afraid of the dark or too ill to be alone. He had taken comfort from her presence then, but now his foreknowledge made that it no longer meant anything.

“Severus? Are you asleep?” she whispered.

“Not anymore,” he muttered.

“Sorry, my darling,” she said, hugging him. “But I really need to talk to you before you go. What I wanted to say … About your birch wand … You mustn’t feel so harshly about it. There is more to great magic than just cursing, and much that doesn’t even require a wand. There is very sophisticated mental magic, for example, and subtle potion-making. Maybe you will find that is where your talents lie.”

“Great,” Severus grumbled. “The first seems as if it’s unlikely to be an impressive weapon, and the second sounds like cookery. Very exciting, all of it.”

“Hush,” his mother said. “You’ll learn their value quickly enough. What I mean is that your wand points you in a certain direction, and it might be wise to pay heed to it. You will discover possibilities that hadn’t occurred to you before. What you think of as your weaknesses now may well be bent into strengths with a little creativity. Promise me you’ll give it thought.”

“All right,” he sighed. “I’ll do my best.”

“I knew you would,” she said. She was silent after that and just held him tight. Of course there was more; she could easily have told him these things on the way to King’s Cross.

“Why are you really here, Mama?” he asked. He had already figured out the answer, but he felt the need to hear it from her own lips. He wanted her to condemn herself.

“Tomorrow is an important day, dearest,” she whispered. “You are going away from me for the first time. I must entrust you to other people. I must let go of you.”

“But I’ll come back soon. I will always come back.” His voice was emotionless; he tormented her on purpose; it was no more than she deserved.

“Severus…” She hesitated.

“You won’t be here anymore, will you?” he asked softly. “You prefer to be with that fancy Mr Lestrange, don’t you?”

“I’m not sure … Your father and I … I’ll do my best to bear … But how – how did you …?”

“Having a dumb wand doesn’t make me stupid, Mama. He was all funny around you. And I have a good nose. You had his smell on you when you came home from work. I recognised it when I bumped into him in Diagon Alley.”

“My clever boy.” Her words sounded a bit muffled. She stroked his hair and kissed the back of his head. “You don’t need me to think for you anymore. You’re not my little child; you’re my fine son who sets out into the world and carries a wand of his own.”

Severus did not say anything, nor did he respond to his mother’s tenderness. It was insignificant, and a cowardly sugar-coating of her abandonment. But his eyes were dry and there was no ache: in his head, the leap into the unknown had already been taken.

_______________________



A/N:
Many thanks to my splendid beta Charybdis, kind but firm guardian of standards :-).

This story was inspired by JKR’s site update about wands. According to the Celtic system she uses, Severus Snape should have a birch (beth) wand.

NOTE: The publication of HBP has unfortunately rendered the characters of Stephen and Septimia and several story elements AU. Because Purity has been very long in the making, I prefer to let this part stand as a one-shot and rewrite the rest of the story from the beginning. It will be posted under another title.

Prelude by Sigune [Reviews - 7]


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