the creative empiricist

art, music, science, and herbal medicine - without drinking the kool-aid

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This is a test...
romantic way 2 die
kirinin
...of the emergency fic-posting system. If this were not a test, actual fic would be present.

Actually, this is going to be a kind of present for people who actually follow my writing: it's a Snape-centric fic, the first chapter (rough draft, you can see my notes to myself everywhere.) In any case, it's behind the cut.


Severus climbed the rickety steps to his flat, counting to thirteen and stepping over the slat that tended to throw the unwary. He tore the pink eviction notice from his apartment door without reading it; he doubted it would say anything it hadn’t yesterday, and the day before that. At least he’d beat the storm, which blew and whistled through the cracks in the ancient, weather-worn boards of Hemmel House, and obligingly slammed the door behind him.

There was a tiny chunk of wood that had been nailed loosely to the doorframe for a makeshift latch; Severus turned it so that the wind could not pry the door open. Then, he sank down on the sofa that sat in the middle of an otherwise bare room and put his head in his hands. He checked the date on the pink slip of parchment clenched in one fist, and slumped forward.

If the weather were better, he could fool himself into saying: I will travel to the country, I will sleep under the stars. Never mind he had never camped out in the wild in all of his days. But with the storms predicted to continue well into the week, and winter fast approaching, there was no ignoring the truth of the matter. He smoothed the pink notice and dropped it next to himself on the couch; then, he rose, moving to the corner, where another, finer piece of crumpled parchment rested. He stooped to gather it to himself, and unfolded it with the precision that had made him the best Potions student in his year.

The parchment was thick, and expensive, at least to untrained eyes; but Severus was a good enough student to recognize even a well-done Transfiguration when he saw one. The ink, however, was genuine; thick and soot-black, managed with a hint of copper chloride, and smudged in many places with Severus’s fingerprints.

Severus Snape, (it read)

Both your grandfather and I recognize your difficulty, and are not unsympathetic. However, there is little that can be managed at this time, other than that which we have already done.

Go to your Eugene Slughorn and tell him to find something for you; remind him of what our family has done for his in the past.

Eileen Prince



The war had taken everything from them – everything but the Prince family name and a beautiful ancestral home that was already in a state of inexorable decay. Parlaying that once-prestigious name into Galleons and special favors – as though they would ever manage to pay either back – had placed the final nail in the Prince family coffin.

Like many of her generation, Eileen Prince believed that her family name held all the prestige and power implied by its literal meaning. Severus had even heard her mutter to herself, once or twice, something about Grindlewald’s inevitable return. It was unsurprising that it should slip her mind that it was Horace Slughorn who had taught Severus potions – that Eugene Slughorn had, in fact, been Professor Slughorn’s great-uncle, and Eileen’s own instructor.

Severus cast about for a quill and his good parchment, but of course the latter was still in the boxes; it all was, from back when he’d been certain that this sad little flat would only house him until he found a proper job as an assistant at the Apothecary’s. He managed to locate a bit of parchment that was not too badly crumpled, headed it Professor Horace Slughorn, and then did his Slytherin best to circumvent his desperation with words: I am considering an assistant’s position at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; I have always wanted to gain a Mastery in Potions, and could not hope for a better Master than yourself…

He knew that his professor would see through such blatant flattery. He also knew the lugubrious old fraud was quite fond of it nonetheless, feeling it was a mark of his high standing and no more than his due.

Severus found the Prince family seal in the same small box of stationary supplies, wrapped carefully in an ink-smeared page torn from the Daily Prophet and rolled the mark into a bit of ink to press to the bottom of the page. At best, it might serve to remind Slughorn of any lingering sense of family debt. At worst, it would seem pretentious if not delusional. Still, Severus had no choice but to take the chance.

The last thing he wanted to do now was to go out into the downpour, but time was of the essence. He turned up the collar of his cloak against the wet and cast a careful Aqus expeliarmus on the missive itself.

Hemmel House bordered both Diagon Alley and Knockturn, and its low rates were in account of its poor location, cursed steps, and tiny, cramped apartments. Severus gave the wretched place a two-fingered salute before passing blah blah blah… whatever’s on that strip near Diagon. Before entering the owlery.

Severus slipped inside and batted at his cloak in hopes of shaking off some of the rain, but the charms on the garment were fading, and he didn’t trust his own charm-work well enough to renew them.

The owlery-master looked up when the magical chime called out Severus’s entrance, lip curling up a millimeter in disdain – for his state of dress, the pool of water he was tracking on the scrubbed-wood floor, or in the name of some more personal disparagement. Severus’s gaze refocused automatically to the floor, specifically to his thick, black leather boots and the puddle that marked his progress from the entryway while the middle-aged wizard ahead of him dithered before finally choosing a large, speckled barn owl; the animal eyed the man contemptuously before accepting a missive and a small package. A galleon changed hands, and the large owl flew off into the night.

A galleon, Severus realized with a swooping feeling in his stomach, was more than he had. He needed to deliver this letter – throwing it in the rubbish bin would be equivalent to throwing away any lingering hope of a career in Potions.

He weighed his money purse in his hands and peered inside: five sickles, and one knut. No amount of counting them over would change the sum. He looked up again at the proprietor, who was eyeing him with even more wary distrust than before.

Severus straightened his spine and stepped forward; perhaps it cost more to send a package than one measley letter. He opened his sweating palm to inquire when the door opened again – chimed – and the other wizard’s eyes lit up in unfeigned joy. “Master Malfoy!” he exclaimed.

Severus swallowed and jerked his half-open fist to his chest, hiding the paltry monies inside. He turned smoothly and nodded in greeting. “Malfoy,” he acknowledged.

Lucius certainly appeared to be doing well, Severus noted. The man had his hair swept back with a tendril hanging on each side, as was the fashion for well-to-do young wizards in their twenties; he wore a double-breasted waistcoat, breeches, and finely-turned shoes under his wool cloak, which turned the water so well he refrained, as Severus had not, from so much as releasing a drop as he crossed the threshold. Even Lucius Malfoy’s expression was the epitome of well-bred, surprised delight as his eyes landed on the sodden figure before him.

“Mister Snape, wasn’t it?” Lucius greeted him. “You’d be just out of Hogwarts, wouldn’t you? And are you well?”

Severus flushed lightly. He should think it was quite clear just how he was doing, from his dripping hair down to his plain but servicable boots. All the same, “quite well, thank you,” he replied, because he was well aware it could get worse.

“Master Leedhorn, the man’s positively drenched,” Lucius chided the shopkeeper. “Where’s your sense of hospitality? And if not hospitality, then acumen? The man’s here to do business, after all.” Lucius flicked his wand and Severus was completely dry, head-to-toe – and, moreover, warm, which he hadn’t been in ages. He felt a flush again, this time of gratitude, even as his hair curled haphazardly about his ears.

Master Leedhorn showed no sign he’d registered the rebuke. “What can we do for you today, Master Malfoy?”

Lucius frowned. “Master Snape was ahead of me, and I am in no particular hurry.”

Severus gulped. Marvelous – now Lucius would witness his humiliation if his five Sickles and one knut wouldn’t suffice. His lips firmed as he gestured Lucius forward. “I insist that you go ahead of me. I have not yet selected an owl.”

Lucius nodded. “How courteous of you.” He favored the proprietor with a conspiratory grin. “I should keep an eye on this one, if I were you, Master Leedhorn.”

Leedhorn’s eyes gleamed. “Oho, a fellow Slytherin, is he?” But he still did not so much as look at Severus quite directly.

Another sly smile was his only reply, as well as a pair of Galleons. “See that these reach their destinations, will you? Choose Lightfoot and Ray and Helga.” He thumped the countertop loudly enough to make both Leedhorn and Severus startle, then laughed at the older wizard’s expression. “And place the remainder on Mister Snape’s letter.”

When Severus opened his mouth, possibly to protest, although he was not precisely sure what he would say, Lucius held up one hand to forestall him, eyes suddenly dark and sharp. “One little favor for another.” He turned so abruptly that Severus was left standing in the shop, searching for a ready reply, cheeks burning with the humiliation of Lucius Malfoy’s largesse. His brow furrowed and his fists clenched down hard on the remaining Sickles left to his name and he raced out after Lucius into the street.

“I can’t accept that,” Severus blurted, catching him up on the sleeve.

Lucius turned to face him. “Whyever not?” His blue eyes scanned Severus rapidly, up and down, as though cataloguing just how much the other wizard required his charity. “The Princes have done that and more for the Malfoys over the years.”

Severus was brought up short. Of all places and times for his family name to finally mean something of import!

“The great families never truly die out,” Lucius continued, confidently. “I invest in you now because I expect your value to rise appreciably and rapidly. I have no doubt you’ll return the favor someday, when I’m a little –” The mask of good breeding slipped a moment as Lucius’s bland gaze became more frank. “ – a little down on my own luck. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

“I don’t suppose I could ask you one more favor?”

Lucius paused, laughing. “You are a breath of fresh air, aren’t you, Severus Snape?”

Severus flushed again; it seemed as though he were doomed to feel childishly out of his element before this man. “I’m looking for a job.”

Lucius’s lip twisted. “It is a shame. I recall the Princes as independently wealthy upstarts, a bit of vinegar in their blood – the modern-day equivalent would be the Potters, I suppose –”

The younger wizard barely restrained a flinch at the name of his schoolyard enemy. “As you are no doubt aware, times have changed.”

“For the worse,” Lucius agreed, “if the times have upstanding families like the Princes searching for work. But I may have something after all. A friend of mine needs certain potions made. I remember you as one of the best at school. I’m not misremembering, am I?”

Severus lifted his chin. Despite the fact that he and his obnoxious Potions professor had never gotten along, he knew it was true. “No.”

“Where can I reach you?”

Despite how much Lucius already knew or guessed, Severus was ashamed to admit he roomed at Hemmel House, so… “here,” he said. “Leave me a note at the owlery, and I’ll receive it. I am often sending correspondence,” he lied.

“It may not be anything permanent. Just an odd job here and there. But, I imagine there are other respectable families who recall the Princes. I shall make some discreet inquiries, if you like; see if anyone else should like some potions made.”

“Well, then.”

Lucius tipped his head in acknowledgement and slipped once more out towards Diagon.

Severus jogged back to the owlery and leaned on the counter, ignoring the pool of water slowly gathering there, fleeing his clothing; apparently, Lucius’s charm was either long-lasting or self-renewing. “How much to send a letter to Hogwarts?” he asked the owner.

“What Master Malfoy left will cover the trip,” Leedhorn grumbled.

Severus wondered if Lucius had left more than enough, as it seemed odd that his change should have been precisely the correct amount; but he decided not to push his already fortuitous luck. He left the note and took his five sickles and one knut and placed them back in his pouch. It took them a moment to unstick from his sweaty hands, and they left a red bite in the center of his palm.

Severus dallied for a moment in the doorway, dreading to head back into the dismal weather – he was warm, warm for the first time in days, and wanted to savor it; but he could only pretend to be vitally interested in the fate of his letter – the owl chosen, the twine used to affix it to her leg – for so long. Then it was back through the dark and muddy paths to Hemmel House, through the reeds and disused and misused gated fence and up the creaking stairs and inside, inside…

He mused: even a wretched place such as Hemmel House could bring the feeling of haven, of enclosure, of safe, after one had come back to it every evening for the period of a few months. He began to think that perhaps he ought to unpack – do his best to make the place look presentable. He might be able to scrape the Galleons together for rent, after all. What if someone should need to visit? What if Slughorn wanted to? The place would need to look respectable.

The susurus of the rain lulled Severus into sleep.


He woke to find the rain had turned, overnight, to snow. Even Hemmel House looked charming rather than its dismal, ramshackle self, the snow kindly blanketing all imperfections. This early, there were no witches or wizards at the corner of Diagon and Knockturn: Knockturn business was night business, and best left to darkness.

So when Severus opened the door to his flat and stuck his head outside, there were no footprints in the snow. Muffled sound came from the direction of Diagon proper – shopkeepers setting out their wares. Severus changed into his spare set of robes and moved out into the street, his five Sickles jingling in his purse.

He restrained himself from traveling immediately to the owlery; though he knew the owlery-master opened his doors quite early, he doubted that the hour had come. Instead, he took his five Sickles and moved to Cassandra’s Café, an open-air restaurant. The tiny, trendy tables, complete with umbrella for shade, were closed; but the small seating area inside was bustling with witches and wizards getting a morning cuppa or a croissant. Severus withdrew his coins again and counted them one last time.

Hopefully, Lucius’s friend could manage to give him a paying job, soon; or perhaps old Slughorn might reply first.

Perhaps neither prospect would pan out, but meanwhile Severus was hungry and didn’t see the use in holding on to the Sickles for their own sake. Swallowing, he placed the sickles on the counter.

Cassandra counted them. She didn’t ask what he wanted, for which Severus was achingly grateful; instead, she poured a hot cup of water, poured some loose tea into a tea strainer and set it atop the steaming mug. Then she pulled out a croissant and stuck a thick slab of ham and an egg between the two, pre-cut pieces. “There ye are, luv,” she told him with a sunny grin.

The world appeared to be conspiring on his behalf, again; he knew that his five sickles probably did not account for such a sumptuous repast. He quirked a hesitant smile at the owner, who grinned and winked before turning to her next customer.

“Well, if it isn’t Snape,” a familiar voice caroled.

Severus couldn’t help startling, nearly upsetting his cup of brewing tea. His hand slipped into his cloak pocket to wrap securely around his wand, before he even raised his eyes to view the smirking figure of James Potter.

“Jumpy?” the other young man returned, sticking both hands in his pockets and leaning back against the front counter of the café. “I’m not here to make any trouble.”

As if to confirm his words, Cassandra reached over the counter to hand Potter a mug of his own.

Potter accepted the mug with both hands and toasted it in Severus’s direction. “I’m here for the coffee,” he concluded, tacking on a dazzling smile.

“I’ll just bet you are,” Severus muttered, not releasing his wand for a moment – although managing the croissant and tea with only one hand was becoming awkward. He sidled over to one of the small, circular café tables to set his things down just in case.

“We have coffee here every morning,” Potter continued, as though Severus hadn’t even spoken, and then Severus knew what was to happen next.

At that moment, a slim figure Severus recognized from many hours of study slipped through the door to the café and placed her hand on Potter’s shoulder. “James, ‘ve you -?”

Severus knew the moment her eyes found him, because there was a flash of happy surprise that flitted across her features, followed rapidly by hurt, anger, and an icy cold disdain.

“Oh,” she said. “It’s you.” She squared her shoulders as though determined to be polite. “Hello, Severus.”

Potter cleared his throat. “Well! Isn’t this cozy.” There was a widening, increasingly uncomfortable silence. “Erm – I’ll go and – order you a breakfast, shall I?”

And he turned back to the counter which, while less than two metres away from the tiny café tables, managed to create the impression of privacy. Severus thought it was the first kind thing Potter’d ever done for him. But then, it wasn’t for him, not really, but for the pretty redhead who had begun to examine the small cracks in the ceiling tiles.

“Hullo, Lily,” he returned – somewhat late, but it was a start.

She rounded on him, politeness evaporating. “Hullo, Lily? After six months, that’s what you say to me: hullo, Lily?”

Severus sighed. “Why won’t you tell me what to say so I can say it? I am under the impression this would save the both of us a lot of time.”

Severus caught Potter’s head shaking slowly out of his peripheral vision, but he wasn’t about to take lessons from the other young man in handling Lily Evans. After all, he’d known her for far longer than Potter could ever hope to do; they’d been childhood friends. And he knew her temper burned hot, but it also cooled quickly.

Or at least, that was the way things had been when they were younger. This was the longest she’d ever been angry with him.

Her cheeks turned rosy with fury, her eyes sparkled, and her foot stomped. Severus ducked his head to hide a small, helpless smile: perhaps this made him a ___ fool, but he loved her best when she was mad.

Just as suddenly as the fit had come, however, it departed. The redhead deflated, sighed, and pulled her cloak a bit closer as a new customer entered the Café. “I only wanted to invite you to the wedding,” she said. At his incredulous expression, she snapped. “And you needn’t behave as though you were surprised, or shocked in any way, Severus. We’ve been dating for years, and –”

“You’re eighteen.”

“I’m nineteen –”

“That’s too young to get married – you’re too young to get married.”

Potter was pressed back to Severus’s table, whether he liked it or not; a pair of tittering witches and one businesswizard elbowed their way forward to place their orders. The young man gazed at the pair awkwardly before pulling up a third chair. “That’s what I keep telling her,” Potter interjected. “We’re still young, we’ve plenty of time –”

Lily wrapped both arms around her shoulders. “It doesn’t feel that way.”

Severus watched as they exchanged a Look – Lily insecure with a query in her eyes, Potter echoing her worry in his own. Potter’s arm wrapped up around the redhead’s shoulders and squeezed.

“And so we are,” he said. “Getting married.” He cleared his throat. “Lily’d like it if –”

The redhead sent one slim, freckled elbow into his side.

“We would be pleased if you could come. To the wedding.”

Severus blinked. “Oh,” he replied.

Lily ducked out from under her fiance’s arm. “Oh?”

“Oh – I – when?”

When Lily grinned, her green eyes crinkled, and she got a dimple, but only on the right side of her mouth. She clapped her hands together once in delight and took one of Severus’s limp, cold hands in her own, much to the consternation of both her fiance and Severus himself.

“I’m so glad. I was worried you wouldn’t.”

The simple statement of implicit affection crumbled Severus’s defenses entirely; his shoulders slumped under the sudden burden of pretending to be happy for her. “I will always be wherever you need me,” he muttered, ducking his head.

Lily hugged him impulsively, then elbowed Potter again, who stuck out his hand for Severus to shake.

Severus eyed it a moment, wondering how things had brought him to this pass: shaking the hand of a sworn enemy just to please a Mudblood girl. But he did it in any case, because he desperately wanted to please that Mudblood girl, and keep her happy in any way he knew how. Potter squeezed a bit harder than was entirely natural, but Severus thought this only fair, since he was doing the same.

Then Potter said, with an odd sincerity: “I’m glad you’ll be coming, then.”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Severus said, which was an automatic response and also a lie: he could fill dozens of sheets of parchment with things he would rather be doing than watching Lily Evans become Lily Potter, and jumping into the embrace of the Giant Squid was one of them. “Well, I had better get going. Looking for a job, today,” and there was no reason other than a jangling case of the nerves that he should have said something like that at all aloud.

“Good luck!” Lily told him. “Not that you’ll need it – you were one of the brightest of our year.”

Severus thought that was kind of her to say, considering both her grades and the grades of her – and Potter’s grades had both been higher than his more often than not. As he backed out of the Café, he thought he saw Potter toss him a strangely sympathetic glance, but it must’ve been his imagination. Potter held no sympathy for him, nor anything but hatred. It was his wife-to-be who insisted on playing nice.

Lily, Severus thought as he stood on the stoop of the Café, umbrella’d dining tables folded up like nesting swans, Lily Evans-Potter.

He’d be lying if he said the thought didn’t make him a little sick to his stomach.
There were more witches and wizards out in the wet and muddy street now, chins lifted importantly and eyes focussed ahead – indubitably those headed off to work somewhere in Diagon Alley, or perhaps at the Ministry. Severus wove his way among them, attempting to keep his own head high, gaze steady, and feet from tripping over themselves with nerves; but when he reached the owlery, Master Leedhorn was just turning his sign. He had to stand politely and quietly while the older wizard slowly inserted and turned an ancient brass key into the lock, wait while he shuffled into the owlery, placed away his winter cloak, stoked up the fires, and fed the owls.

Severus finally resigned himself to helping. He had just tossed two more healthy chunks of wood onto the now-roaring fire when Leedhorn settled fussily into his chair behind the counter and finally turned his attention to Severus.

(Consider cutting the above scene and instead just starting here.)

“I’m afraid no letters have arrived under your name,” Leedhorn finally blah blah blah.

Severus meandered about the Apothecary for an hour, and Flourish and Blotts for another hour, and then returned - but still, there was no word from Hogwarts. He returned to Hemmel House frozen and discouraged, hands pink with cold thrust deep in his pockets. He slumped down upon his couch and cast about for what to do next, the wind whistling through the cracks in the mortar as counterpoint.

His resources were entirely depleted. He was going to need to begin selling off some of his family’s things, before the Hemmel House managewizard attempted to claim them for back-rent.

He took in the Prince family seal and frowned, turning it this way and that. He might be able to take it to the goldsmith down in Diagon Alley in order to peel off some of the more decorative embellishments – that might bring him at least five galleons. Then there was the fancy pen-and-quill set. Used, but the ink, pitch-black with a dusting of malachite, nearly filled the well. Severus hadn’t exactly had any formal correspondence over the years. Three galleons, perhaps, he decided, and set it aside.

He’d never kept very much in the way of robes – he had two for everyday use, full of mends, and quite well-worn – and one set of dress-robes, incredibly expensive and cut to his lanky frame. He couldn’t afford to rid himself of these. He knew he might need them; moreover, he might never be able to afford such robes as these again, especially given his current prospects. He folded his dress robes back in tissue paper and placed them back in his pack-boxes.

He withdrew a tiny pocketwatch, inscribed with a ‘P’. Probably silver – if not silver, platinum. His great-uncle had given it to him at his birth, and he’d kept it with him ever since. Severus couldn’t quite manage to part with it.

Yet.

He sorted through his belongings until he had a small pile, the worth of which he guessed to be approximately ten galleons, and walked to Borgin and Burkes, where he sold the bulk of his items for less than their actual value. It was as though Burkes could smell desperation – he eyed the last vestiges of the Prince family wealth, scanned Severus up and down and spat on the floor. “Five galleons, fifteen sickles. Take it or leave it.”

Severus took it, and took his seal to the goldsmith’s shop.

The last time Severus had been at the goldsmith’s, it had been with his grandmother. She and the smith were old friends, though the wizard was of no family of particular note; and often they stopped to chat when she wandered Diagon in search of books or potions supplies.

The inside of the shop was precisely as Severus recalled: a long, waist-high case of enchanted-crystal-enclosed jewelry stood to his right, with soft, charmed lighting set at just the right space to make each piece gleam; the counter turned ninety degrees for a much shorter space, in which Severus knew the smith kept special, handworked pieces. An expensive rug lay on the floor; and a glimpse of an old back-room showed a well-used workshop, small tools and magnifiers spilling out of tin cans, a machine used for stone-polishing sitting back against the wall, dissonant in the face of the sparkling shop.

Though the rug was fine, it was ancient, and dusty – and the velvet beneath the jewels was sun- and spell-faded. The entire shop was dim, and carried the dark, dusty air of a place where time stood still.

The goldsmith there wore old-fashioned work robes, tight at the lower sleeves and waist, and tiny gold spectacles over dark, flinty eyes. “You must be Severus,” he said when the seal came into his hands. He turned it over many times. “You are not thinking to sell this?” he demanded.

“I was thinking that you might be interested in purchasing the gold.”

The elderly wizard peered at Severus over those gold spectacles, his expression frankly disbelieving. “Just the gold?”

Severus fidgeted. “Unless there is something more valuable?”

The goldsmith sighed, and turned the seal over in his hands. “The gold is not what is valuable here, young man. The worksmanship makes this seal worth many times the gold alone.” He handed it back. “I cannot pry it away. As well to ask me to cut a painted canvas in two because you are in need of some scratch paper.”

Severus accepted the seal back with both hands, desperation clawing in his gut. “Maybe – would you be interested in buying the entire seal?”

The smith looked up in mild interest and extended his wrinkled palms to gesture for the Prince family seal again. He turned it over in his hands, squinting at it as he shifted it this way and that. “Well – it does have historical value,” the smith admitted. “I should never be able to sell it, of course, unless it were to a museum.”

“So it’s useless to both of us, then.” Severus swallowed. What could he do with five galleons and fifteen sickles?

“Not so fast, son. I’ll tell you what I will do. I will call around, see if any of the antiquities dealers are interested in such a thing, and then I will let you know. What do you say?”

I say I’m tired of waiting. But he nodded; he had to suppose he’d need the Sickles as desperately in two days as he did today – if not moreso.

“Stop by in one day, maybe two, and I’ll have made the rounds by then,” the elderly man continued, flapping Severus away.

When Severus reached the door, the old wizard’s voice stopped him. “Does your grandmother know you are selling your family’s history?”

Severus paused. “It’s worth more to you than to me.”

“Gold is worth a great deal, young man, and art more than that. You should not sell such a thing until you are down to your last galleon.”

Suddenly more frustrated and angry than he could bear, Severus snapped, “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind,” and slammed the shop door closed with all the force he could muster. (Severus ought to be vitriolic, here.)

It had started to snow again.

He was to be kicked out of his flat today, at noon.

And what was he to do with five galleons and fifteen sickles?

Severus leaned against the goldsmith’s shop door and breathed slowly out, watching his breath mist before him, trying to gain some perspective. He’d finally sent the stupid letter to Slughorn, but what if it were too late? He realized belatedly that he wasn’t certain Slughorn hadn’t gone on to a Potions conference or to visit an ailing relative, or on a holiday to Guam: there was no telling whethere he had even seen Severus’s letter or would.

Sending another letter to inquire about a previous one seemed less than useless.

Suddenly it occurred to him just what five Galleons and fifteen Sickles would buy.




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