Chapter 11: The Surprise
The month separating me from my trip to Hogwarts was nearly over.
I had been counting down the days on my self-crossing calendar, only 11 days until I would be on the Hogwarts Express on my way to a wizarding school with Lily by my side.
Tomorrow would be the day Mother took me and Lily to Diagon Alley and we were both waiting with great anticipation and excitement. Lily had not let her Hogwarts letter leave her side since Professor Dumbledore had given it to her and explained that it had been lost in the muggle post.
Lily and I had spent every afternoon together. School was an obstacle as Lily still had to go to a muggle school. Mother withdrew me from school as soon as I could read and write. I picked her up from school every day and walked her home. We spent every minute we could together.
That day I had organised a picnic in our clearing which we named The Evans and Snape Riverside Lookout. It was my big surprise to get her even more psyched up for tomorrow (a weekend).
As always, I was sitting out the front of the school on a park bench. I was running over the plan in my head, my arm resting on the back rest of the chair. Everyone was late out that afternoon.
‘Come on Lily,’ I muttered.
After about 5 more minutes of waiting, I saw Lily’s red hair appear in the middle of a crowd of students. I stood up and waved at her. When she saw me she grinned apologetically and waved back. She turned back to her friends and waved to them before running across the grass towards me.
‘Hi!’ She was breathless when she reached me. ‘Sorry! We were held up by the teachers handing out forms for some excursion I won’t even be here for!’
‘That’s alright. I’ve got a surprise planned for you this afternoon.’
‘Oooooooh! Really? What is it?’ she asked, her green eyes bright with excitement.
‘Well if I told you I would ruin the surprise, wouldn’t I?’
She made the growling noise in her throat that she does when someone else is right but she doesn’t like it. I pulled a black piece of cloth out of my pocket and tied it around her eyes like a blind fold.
‘What’s this for?’ she asked me, sounding frustrated.
‘Can you see anything?’
‘No. If I could I would punch you in the stomach,’ she said. ‘You know I hate blindfolds!’
‘Oh come on, Lily! Be patient. Come on!’ I grabbed her hand and led her off up the road.
‘Help! Help! Someone please help! I’m being kidnapped.’
‘Lily! Shhhh someone might hear you and take you seriously!’
‘Alright. Fine.’ We walked for another couple of minutes in silence. ‘Are we there yet?’
‘No. But we could go a lot faster if you would just cooperate.’
‘Whatever, I think I’ve been doing just fine,’ she joked. She pulled her hand out of mine and marched off in the opposite direction, nose in the air but a grin spread wide across her face.
‘Lily! Watch out!’
Too late. Lily marched straight into a tree on the side of the footpath. She staggered backwards and I caught her in my arms. She lifted the blindfold a little to look into my face. She was beaming. Unable to control ourselves, we began to laugh and collapsed on the ground.
‘Can I take this thing off yet?’ she asked when we calmed down.
‘No. We’re nearly there. Just keep walking.’
It fell dark just as we arrived at the edge of the clearing. She untied the blindfold and revealed her green eyes, gasping as she walked slowly into the middle of the clearing and turned in a circle to take in the beauty of it all.
The street lights shone through the trees, illuminating the colours of the meadow daisies. At the edge of the clearing was a turned over box with a red blanket thrown over it, serving as a makeshift table. Lily walked back to me with tears in her eyes. She threw her arms around my neck and gave me a long hug.
‘Oh… It’s beautiful. Thank you.’
I took her hands and led her over to the table, sat her down and I sat on the other side. I then brought out my feast that I had prepared; tinned spaghetti, toast, fruit, salad and chocolate biscuits.
We ate until our bellies were full and we felt tired and bloated. Then we lay on our backs looking up into the trees. The clearing looked even more beautiful from lying on the ground. The streetlights gave the clearing a magical glow and it was the perfect thing to get Lily really excited for tomorrow.
‘Thank you soooo much, Sev! This is beautiful! I wish I could just freeze time right now!’ She held her hands up in front of her face like she was taking a picture with her mind. I could see by the expression on her face that she was trying to take in everything and remember it.
The next day, I walked to Lily’s house and picked her up. We walked together back to my house, chatting excitedly about what the day might hold.
We arrived at the front door laughing about something or other when the door flew open revealing Tobias looking stormy. His eyebrows were hanging so low over his already dark eyes that they were cast into shadow, making them look even darker. We froze and ceased laughing at once but he didn’t even look at us. The front steps were so narrow that we had to lean backwards over the metal railing to get out of his way as he stormed past us.
‘And don’t come BACK!’ We heard Mother yell from somewhere in the house. Lily raised her eyebrows but she didn’t seem worried. I guess she was sort of used to it now. I smiled at her reassuringly.
We walked through the door and met Mother in the kitchen. She looked pretty calm so I supposed that was a good sign.
She handed Lily the flower pot that contained the Floo Powder and said ‘Ladies first!’
Lily looked at her incredulously as she took flower pot. She stared down at it and swallowed deeply.
‘Mother! Lily has never travelled via the Floo Network before,’ I said, barely stopping myself from snorting.
‘What? Oh, of course not! How silly of me! You go first then, Severus and show her how it’s done.’
‘Okay.’ Taking the flower pot from Lily, I went through the motions as Mother explained them.
‘Take a nice big pinch of the powder like that... just like that,’ Mother said, gesturing to me. ‘And step into the fireplace –’
‘The fire place?’ Lily exclaimed.
‘Yes dear, but it is quite safe – I can assure you of that. Now you say the name of your location very clearly and drop the Floo Powder into the fireplace as so,’ she said. She gestured to me with her hand and so I did as she had told Lily.
I gave Lily another reassuring smile and then, ‘DIAGON ALLEY!’ I yelled clearly and dropped the powder into the grate below my feet. Emerald green flames swallowed me and I saw my living room zip out of sight. As I span out of control, various living rooms flashed before my eyes until I came to a sudden stop in mid-air. Then I dropped and slid on my back out of the fire place onto clean, pink and white tiles.
I stood up slowly, looking around me. This isn’t right. We were supposed to end up in Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. This was most certainly not a store for selling robes. I seemed to be in a sort of restaurant. There were outdoor tables with pink and white striped umbrellas shading the occupants. Every umbrella was stamped with a large FF. I wondered vaguely what that stood for. As I observed my surroundings, I noticed that every one of them was eating a different ice-cream.
‘Are you going to order an ice-cream, son?’ I tensed, startled by a voice behind me. I turned slowly and saw a balding man with a kind face smiling at me. He was wearing a pink and white striped apron.
‘Um… no sorry. I… don’t think I’m in the right place you see.’
‘Oh yes, there’s been a couple of you today – lads who have had the Floo Network play up on them.’
‘What’s wrong with it?’
‘Yes. Or so I’ve heard.’ He winked at me. ‘Can you keep a secret?’
I nodded solemnly.
‘The word is the Ministry is losing control of the Network,’ he said raising his eyebrows at me with anxiety written all over his face.
‘Losing control?’ I said much too loudly.
‘Shhhh… yes, losing control. Everyone says it’s because of…’ he hesitated, ‘You Know Who.’
‘No… I don’t know who. What are you talking about?’ I was starting to get a little bit worried. The Ministry never lost control of anything.
‘Are your parents muggles?’ he said quietly.
‘No my mother is a pureblood. Why?” I asked, feeling defensive.
‘Oh… well… she must have decided not to tell you… so I have no business telling you if she hasn’t.’
I felt slightly betrayed by this man but his point was a good one. He could get himself into trouble if Mother ever found out that he had told me about this ominous person of which he was so scared. Apparently the whole wizarding world was as well.
‘Okay. I understand. I should be going now, though. I’ve got to go to Madam Malkin’s robe shop.’
‘Before you go… a free ice-cream just for you.’ He set about making it and when he was done he handed it to me and asked. ‘What is your name, son?’
I was not supposed to talk to strangers but I supposed that he seemed nice enough so I said, ‘Snape, Severus Snape.’
‘Well here you are then, Severus. Be on your way now. That’s a good lad.’
I started towards the door but as I reached it I heard a loud crash behind me. I spun around quickly but the man hadn’t jumped or started he was just looking straight ahead as if he hadn’t heard.
I heard a coughing and I crept closer to see what the sound was. I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw the back of Lily’s head and her long red hair as she backed out of the fireplace.
‘Lily! You ended up here too!’ I exclaimed.
‘This is a robe shop?’ she asked incredulously. She glanced around the store. ‘Where are the robes?’
‘This is an ice-cream parlour called Florean Fortescue’s Ice cream Parlour,’ the man said. Then he added, ‘I’m Florean,’ with a wink.
‘Nice to meet you, Florean,’ she said, politely. Then she turned to me, ‘I thought we were supposed to be in a robe shop.’
‘We are,’ I said nodding my head, ‘but there’s a problem with the Network apparently.’ I added in a whisper, ‘I’ll explain later.’ When she nodded her head, some hair fell into her face and she brushed it out of the way.
‘Ice-cream? I thought you said your mum had all of the money.’
‘She does. Florean gave me a free one.’ I smiled at her as she stared enviously at the ice-cream piled high over the edges of the paper cup.
Florean had obviously been preparing Lily one as he handed one over the counter and said, ‘For the little lady.’ And winked… again.
‘See you later, Florean,’ we called over our shoulders as we hurried to the door. We didn’t get far. Another crash sounded from behind us and we spun around.
‘Well hello, Mam,’ Florean said brightly. ‘Free ice-cream?’
‘No thank you Florean. I’m not sure why I ended up here. I was supposed to end up in –’ I recognised Mother’s voice.
‘Madam Malkin’s?’ he asked, smiling knowingly.
‘Yes.’ Mother said, a question in her voice.
‘Two kids just passed through here saying they were supposed to be there,’ Florean shrugged indifferently. He peered through the cloud of dust at us. ‘Ah, they were actually just leaving. Do you belong to them?’
Mother appeared out of the dust, brushing ash from her robes. ‘Oh yes, they’re here with me,’ she said, glancing at us and looking back at Florean. ‘I wonder why the Floo Network isn’t working. That’s never happened before… has it?’
‘No Mam,’ he said quickly, ‘but…’ The rest was lost as Florean bent over and whispered in Mother’s ear.
‘Oh really?’ A slight smile spread itself upon her lips but was quickly tightened to a smirk as he continued. ‘I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you.’
As I felt a crease forming between my eyebrows, we said our goodbyes and left the shop.