July 20, 2007. In a few more hours, the book will go on sale in the West Coast area of the U.S.A. By this time tomorrow, I will have the answers to my questions. ---------------------
In the meantime, here is my call on the question of who was “that awful boy”.
“And what the ruddy hell are dementors?”
“They guard the wizard prison, Azkaban,” said Aunt Petunia…
“I heard – that awful boy – telling her about them - years ago.” - OotP, chapter 1
That Awful Boy
Severus Snape, age 15, dumped the contents of the glass jar onto the battered and scarred dining table. Coins tried to roll off, but he expertly caught them. The paper bills he carefully unfolded before he counted out the lot, writing down the total on the back of an advertising flyer.
The small pile of paper and the large heap of small coins represented all of his labours of the summer, doing chores for the neighbors who were no better off than he and his mother. Spinner’s End was a poor place indeed, but he had worked hard, and often had been paid fairly. Now it was time to budget for the school year.
He would have to go to the bank and trade for some Sickles for the Knight Bus (allowing for the goblins' cut), to get back home from his trip to Diagon Alley, and to get him to the Hogwarts Express, and back home after school ended. (He would stay at the school during the winter holidays to save money.) There had to be some for him to take the Knight to Diagon Alley next summer. He still had saved from the past school year enough Wizarding money for this school-shopping trip to Diagon Alley.
He looked at the school list of necessary supplies. He knew that he could get cheap parchments and quills at the pawnshop on Knockturn Alley. Half of the books on the list were the same ones his mother used. The potions ingredients he would have to buy at the more expensive apothecary shop in Diagon Alley – it would not do for his lessons to be spoiled by low quality ingredients.
He still needed clothes – there was a second hand robe shop for his school robes in Diagon Alley, and he could get the rest in a used clothing store in Muggle London.
Even after all the subtracting, there was still a small sum left over. Severus toyed with the coins as he debated, and then, made his decision.
The Knight Bus dropped him off at the end of the street, across from a playground, and then disappeared.
Severus panicked. He should have called first. Maybe no one was home. Maybe she already had company, and couldn’t spend time with him. He had used the last of his Wizarding money, and would have to take the public transportation to London. What if he didn’t have enough for the trip and his school supplies? He would have to go to his Head of House for charity, as he had his first three years.
There was no backing out now. He walked up the sidewalk to an address he had found in a phone book in the town library. Severus brushed the hair out of his eyes, and rang the doorbell.
Petunia answered the door. She stood in the doorway and first stared, and then glared at the awful boy who stood in front of her. His black hair was long, straight, and greasy-looking. He had a big nose, and his clothes looked very worn, and they didn’t fit. He gave her a small smile – his teeth were crooked. But the worst of all was his eyes: They were so dark as to seem to have no irises.
“What ever you’re selling, we don’t want it,” she said tartly, as she prepared to close the door in his face.
Severus spoke quickly, “IsthiswhereLilyEvanslives. Lily Evans. She here?”
Petunia hesitated and was ready to say, “No,” and slam the door, but her sister showed up instantly instead.
“Severus! You sly Slytherin! What are you doing here? Come in, come in.” She pulled him inside past her furious sister. “Mum, Dad, I’ve got someone here from school.”
Her parents came quickly and welcomed him in, sat him on the couch, and, before he knew it, Severus had a cold glass of lemonade in his hand, Lily sitting on an Ottoman across from him, and her parents sitting in chairs next to her. (Petunia still stood sullenly by the door.)
He was bombarded with questions. How was his summer? Where was his home? Were his parents magical? What classes was he taking? Who was his favorite teacher?
And would he like to stay for dinner?
The feasts at Hogwarts School were huge and varied, but none ever compared to the simple meal he ate with the Evans, flavoured with their kind attentions. (Petunia went to another part of the house to pout.)
After dinner the parents pushed Lily and Severus back to the parlour room to visit as they did the dishes. (Petunia sat behind a huge magazine in the corner easy chair, pretending to read while she listened.)
They talked about school, and about the Wizarding world. Lily went to her room and returned with one of her strange newspapers. The people in the newspapers’ pictures were always waving and moving about.
Lily pointed to something on the front page. “I saw that name there, and I don’t know what it is. It looks like she’s going to a prison or something.”
Severus looked at the news story. “She is. It’s the Wizarding prison, called Azkaban. It’s an awful place. Dementors guard it.
“And Azkaban is guarded with powerful wizards?”
“No. Creatures called Dementors.”
There was a pause. “Dementors. They sound awful,” Lily said.
Just then the parents returned from the kitchen with desert, and the four continued to visit, until the summer sky turned dark, and Severus said he had to get going.
Petunia came when she was called, and stood silently and sulked as the rest of the family wished him Godspeed.
The Muggle bus stop was the same as one for the Knight Bus. The last city bus pulled away as he ran to catch it.
The nearby playground was brightly lit by the barely waning moon. He slept under its bushes that night. Early the next morning, he caught the first bus that went by. A few hours later and he was in Diagon Alley, exchanging his money, making his purchases.
He saw someone familiar; he was one of the school’s bullies. Lupin was sitting at an outside table at the ice cream parlour, his face was bruised and one hand was bandaged. Severus was shocked that anyone could be so battered and be out in public. He almost went over to talk to him, when he spotted more bullies: Pettigrew, Black and Potter, looking at a window display of the latest racing broom.
Severus decided that this was not the place nor time to find out what had happened to Lupin. And besides, if the bullies picked on one of their own, what was that to him?
After all of his adventures, Severus still had enough to get a cup of soup at the Leaky Cauldron before he took the Knight Bus back to Spinner’s End.