Title: A Prince Family Tradition
Beta Reader(s): leela_cat
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): child abuse/neglect.
Summary: Severus' mum takes him to Diagon Alley on his fifth birthday to observe an old Prince family tradition.
Severus Snape sat up in his bed, rubbing his eyes sleepily. His room was still dark and cold, and the last thing he wanted to do was leave his warm bed. In the gray light seeping around the drapes, he could see that his mum had left some clothes at the end of the bed. On top of them was a small box wrapped in green paper. It was then that Severus remembered today was his birthday. Crawling out from under the blankets, he danced on one foot as he hurried to get his jeans on.
After he finished dressing, Severus carefully carried the wrapped box to the kitchen where he could hear his mum moving around. He stepped into the room, keeping a tight grip on the green box as he looked around for his father. The lump on his head was still sore from where Da had hit him the night before, and Severus didn't want to do anything wrong today. His mum looked over at him from the stove, and gave him a smile as he slipped into his seat. Severus could still see the red mark Da had left on her cheek last night, too.
"That's a good boy," his mum said, setting a plate of toast in front of him.
Severus looked around quickly, but didn't see his father's things, so he set the present on the table before reaching for a piece of toast. Taking a careful bite, Severus grinned at his mum, even though he didn't like to show that he'd lost his two front teeth. His mum sat down across the table from him, smiling back.
She leaned toward him, speaking quietly. "Your father is having a bit of a lie-in today, so you need to eat up, Severus, as I have something special planned for your birthday."
Severus nodded, chewing as fast as he can, washing it down with the milk his mother gave him. His mum was wearing a long dress that was different from what she usually wore. Her eyes looked red, like Severus' did when his father told him how disappointed he was in him, and he knew she'd been crying. Severus hated it when his da yelled at his mum, especially when they both got smacked. Severus narrowed his eyes. He hadn't cried last night when Da smacked him and he was determined not to every cry in front of him ever again.
"Severus, why don't you open your present?"
Swallowing his mouthful of toast, Severus reached for the box and carefully unwrapped it. Inside was a wool scarf that had green and silver stripes, with a snake on one end in the shape of an "S". It felt soft. Severus smiled as he rubbed it against his cheek.
"Here," his mum said, taking it and wrapping it around his throat. "It's a Slytherin scarf, from a school for little wizards called Hogwarts. Slytherin is the name of the House that all clever, cunning students go into."
Severus brushed his fingers over the snake emblem on the scarf. "This was yours?"
She brushed a hand over Severus' hair. "Yes, it was mine, and now it is yours. Hurry up, and wash up, so we can go."
Severus washed up quickly and ran back to the sitting room. His mum was waiting for him, draping a cloak around him, instead of his jacket. The cloth seemed to pool around his ankles and Severus really liked the way it swirled around his ankles. His mum led the way out of the house and Severus followed, yawning. The sun still wasn't up, and no one was around as Mum walked down the street to the alley by the play park. Severus watched in amazement as she took her wand from her pocket and stuck it into the air. She only ever took it out when she was making her potion, and then only if his father wasn't around, because he hated it.
A huge purple bus appeared out of nowhere, screeching to a stop in front of them, and Severus jumped back in fright. A funny looking man stepped out and talked to Mum as Severus edged to the side, trying to get a look inside.
"Severus! Come along!"
Severus scampered to stay close to his mum, only just grabbing the rail of a bed as the bus seemed to jerk sideways and then forward. Mum pulled him onto the bed where Severus clung tightly to the headboard, still trying to figure out why there were beds on a bus. He swallowed hard as his stomach lurched with the bus. A gentle hand patted his back.
"This is the Knight Bus, a special bus for witches and wizards who need to get someplace quickly. Although, they do provide the beds in case you decide to ride around for a bit." Mum told him and Severus rolled over, still clinging tightly to the headboard. "It's going to take us to a place called Diagon Alley in London. You were there once before, but you were just a baby, so you probably don't remember."
Severus swallowed, not sure his toast would stay in his stomach if he opened his mouth, and nodded. He didn't remember going anywhere. His mum and da didn't go anywhere together and his mum only went out when she took Severus to the market. His father went to the pub down the street almost every night and came home pissed. Severus tried to always be in bed when he came home anyway, as his da was really mean when he'd been drinking.
"Your father doesn't like it, Severus, but you are a wizard, and I'm going to start teaching you about magic. When you're eleven, you will attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, just like I did, and you're going to be ready to be at the top of your class when you go."
Severus knew he was different, that he made things happen sometimes, especially when he was scared or angry, but he didn't know he was magical. "I'm a wizard? That's why things…happen?"
Mum had told him about witches and wizards and all about the wonderful things magic could do, but he hadn't really believed what she told him. If Mum was a witch, why'd she let his da hit her like he did?
"Your father isn't fond of magic, mind, so this will have to be our secret, Severus." Her voice was sharp and Severus looked at her, nodding quickly. "Your Wizarding heritage includes some of the most noble of the pure-blood families, the Princes. We're related to the Blacks, the Malfoys, the Notts, and others, whose children will also be in Slytherin with you at Hogwarts."
Severus nodded, even though he didn't really understand what his mum was talking about. The bus bumped and jerked, moving sideways sometimes, and Severus didn't know whether to be scared or fascinated. He snuck a look out the window as his mum kept talking about magical families. Flinching as the bus almost hit a bridge, Severus closed his eyes and carefully pressed against his mother.
Learning that he was a wizard wasn't really surprising, Severus thought, as he let himself relish the hand that patted his shoulder. His mum wasn't one to give him hugs very often. He could feel the magic inside him; he just hadn't known what to call it. Severus knew it was there when he got angry, swirling inside him, but it also tried to comfort and help Severus when his father was angry. Maybe his magic helped him to duck the flying fists as often as he did.
The purple bus skidded to a stop and Severus followed his mother off, holding on tight to anything he could because his knees were still shaking. A dark looking building loomed next to them, and Severus hesitated for a moment before running to catch up. Stepping inside, his nose picked up the pungent smells that the lack of lights hid and he couldn't help but screw up his face at the odors. He hated pubs and what they did to his father.
Severus was thankful when his mother hurried through the room, past the largest fireplace Severus had ever seen and out another door. There was nothing but a small courtyard with a brick wall, which Mum tapped her wand on, and Severus watched in amazement as the bricks rearranged themselves to allow them to enter. His eyes grew wider as he stepped onto a cobbled roadway, the sun shining brightly within. Groups of people dressed in bright clothes walked along in front of a row of shops, and all of them, men and women, were wearing dresses like his mum.
A group of children ran past them, weaving in and out of the grownups, some dressed in trousers and others in dresses. A small creature that Severus recognized from his mum's book of magical creatures as a house-elf hurried behind another group of people. Severus had loved looking at the books hidden in the back of the bookcase, but he'd never thought the pictures inside were of real things, even if they did move. So many of the things Mum had told him about took on a new meaning now that Severus knew they were real.
"This is Diagon Alley, Severus," Mum said proudly, standing beside him. "This is the heritage that you get from me and my kind. My family didn't like me marrying your father and thought to cut me off from all this, but as a wizard, this is your heritage and your right, too."
Severus looked around in amazement. Everything here seemed so bright and colorful, nothing like their dark, drag home or the neighborhood. His eyes darted back and forth, trying to take in all the wonderful things, very glad that with his new cloak, Severus seemed to fit in better than he would have in his jeans and jumper. A blond boy with a pointed chin swept around him, followed by a tall man who stopped when he saw Severus' mother.
"Eileen? Is that you?" The man reached for his mum's arm, and Severus watched warily.
Severus' mother stiffened. "Abraxas, yes, hello."
The older boy stopped as his father smiled and patted Mum on the arm. His cold, gray eyes looked over Severus who glared back, refusing to glance away from the look that made Severus feel small.
"Yes, my Lucius will be attending Hogwarts in the fall. His mother won't hear of him going to Durmstrang, and his tutors assure me that they will be able to fill in the gaps of his education."
"It's Severus' fifth birthday and we're heading to Ollivander's for his wand." His mum put her hand on Severus' shoulder and squeezed. "Prince family tradition, you know."
"Ah, yes, absolutely! It's a tradition that most of the pure-blood families still follow, my dear." The man nodded his head in agreement. "Too many of the old ways are simply being ignored, too many of them are being brushed aside by fools influenced by Muggles…"
The man seemed to like to talk, Severus decided as he listened for several minutes, before growing tired of it. The other boy seemed to be interested in every word his father said, so Severus ignored him as he looked around. A group of children was gathered in front of a shop, laughing and pointing at something in the window. A boy with messy black hair, about Severus' age, tugged his father into the shop. Severus watched enviously as the father laughed and patted the boy's head, before his fingers wrapped around his son's hand.
"Yes, I remember my father's tirades, Abraxas," Severus' mother said as she pushed him forward." We must be going, but it was good to see you."
Severus scrambled to keep up with Mum as she held onto his shoulder, walking briskly through the crowds. There were shops selling all kinds of things, including robes, which Severus gathered were what all the grownups were wearing. Another shop was selling all different sizes of cauldrons and from another Severus could hear the hooting of owls. A huge white building stood in the middle of the block, and Severus could see several short creatures wearing scarlet and gold uniforms.
"That's Gringotts, Severus, the Wizarding bank run by goblins. You'll have a vault in there, some day."
Severus looked back at the brightly clad goblins, they did have a clever look about them, especially their eyes, he thought. His mum finally stopped in front of a narrow building, Severus stepped up to read a sign in gold letters over the door: Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C. Mum reached back and tugged on his sleeve as she turned the doorknob, a bell tinkling somewhere as they stepped into the tiny place. Looking around, Severus could see stacks of long, narrow boxes, shaped rather like the building he thought. The boxes lined the shelves and the countertop, and were stacked along the wall.
"Good morning," a soft voice said, startling Severus. "Eileen Prince, ah, yes, eight and a half inches, birch and unicorn hair, quite whippy."
Severus looked up into the strangest eyes he'd ever seen. Wide and pale, they made the hair on the back of his neck stand up and he couldn't help taking a step back.
"Hello, Mr. Ollivander," his mum said briskly, sitting down in the only chair in the room. "This is my son, Severus Prince Snape, and we are here to get him his first wand."
Those misty eyes never left Severus' face, and he briefly wondered if the man could read his mind. Dropping his eyes to the floor, Severus watched the tops of the man's boots as he spoke.
"Following family tradition, I gather." The man stepped away. "Happy birthday, young Severus, and now, if you'll extend your wand arm so that I might get your measurements."
Glancing up, Severus saw that Mr. Ollivander had a measuring tape with silver markings on it. He held out his writing arm as Mr. Ollivander set it to measuring him before moving off among the stacks of wand boxes. By the time he returned, the tape was measuring the distance between Severus' eyes, and headed down towards his nose. His mum cleared her throat and the tape jumped back into Mr. Ollivander's hand, disappearing back into his pocket.
"Here, ten inches, birch with phoenix feather, springy, give this it a wave."
Severus took the wand in his hand, feeling an odd vibration in it, and flicked it as he'd seen his mum do with hers. A shower of purple sparks spewed angrily from the end and Mr. Ollivander made a clicking sound with his tongue as he took it away. The next one was snatched away by Mr. Ollivander before Severus could even wave it properly as the strange old man mumbled to himself.
"Rather powerful, your son, madam," Mr. Ollivander told his mum as he dug another box out from beside the chair she was sitting in. "Most intense magical energy I've felt in the Prince line in many a generation."
Blowing a layer of dust off the top, he turned back to Severus, a small smile on his face. "Here, this is ebony with a dragon heartstring, eleven and a half inches, and just supple enough, try it."
The instant Severus wrapped his hand around the wand, he knew it was the right one. Warmth spread through his fingers and spread up his arm as if seeking the very center of him. His heart fluttered with excitement as he lifted his hand and flicked it like his mother did over her cauldron. Green and gold sparks lit the inside of the shop, illuminating the stacks of wand boxes and the delighted smile on his mother's face. Severus grinned, truly feeling special for the first time ever.
"Yes, I believe that is definitely a good match." Mr. Ollivander sounded pleased as he took the wand from Severus and put it back into the box. "Six galleons, please."
His hand still tingled from the feeling of the magic flowing through it, and Severus suddenly realized how lucky he was to be a wizard. All the unbelievable things that his mum had told him about were real, changing mice into teapots, people able to change into animals, and potions that could do all manner of brilliant things! Severus wrapped his arms around himself, holding his newfound knowledge close.
His mum pulled a black bag Severus had never seen before from her pocket and dumped out a small pile of strange looking coins. She counted out six gold ones and handed them to the man, before scooping the rest back into the bag.
Mr. Ollivander handed Severus the box with his wand. "It's a good wand, my boy, and it will serve you well. Ebony is known for its protective properties, among other things. A good wand for potion brewing and such."
"Severus already helps me with my brewing," his mum said, making Severus feel warm inside. "Thank you, Mr. Ollivander. Now I think Severus might enjoy a trip to Fortescue's."
Severus hugged the box to his chest as he followed Mum out of the shop. He knew that his father would never look at him with pride like his mum's friend had looked at his son, nor would his da ever smile at him and wrap his hand around Severus' like the messy-haired boy's father had, but with this wand, Severus knew he'd prove himself. Severus vowed to study hard even before he went to the special magic school, to learn as much from his mother as he could. He wanted to be better than the blond boy or the messy-haired boy.
More than anything, Severus wanted to make his mum smile at him and tell people how wonderful he was, something he knew his da would never do. It didn't matter that Da would never know, or that Severus would have to learn in secret, because Severus was going to be the best wizard ever.