Professor McGonagall didn't like me working on this alone. She'd said that sometimes when people first transform that they find the experience too overwhelming. Like getting transported to Fairyland, she'd said. But I just couldn't focus with Ron and Harry watching and giggling at me in the Common Room. And even the girl's rooms were surprisingly loud with doors banging and people whispering in the halls until bedtime. So I'd snuck away from the Christmas party to an alcove near the front door of Gryffindor Tower to meditate.
Professor McGonagall had told me that so many people are not able to become animagi because they're only open to big handsome animals like lions or tigers or bears. Who wants to spend months of work only to discover that one's inner animal is a leech or maybe a gopher?
But I wasn't in it for an ego boost, I just wanted to know how the thing was done. I'd gone through the dictionary of animals from aardvark to rhinocerous. Now I was meditating on the Ss. Somewhere in this dictionary I would find something that felt right. I took my shoes off and got comfortable, stared into a little hand mirror for a minute so I wouldn't forget who I was, crossed my legs and shut my eyes. I said the words and ran my mind through the now familiar warm-up meditation ritual. Then I started feeling things out. Salamander?. ....no. ...Salmon?......no. Scallop?. ....no. ....Scorpion?.....no. ...Seagull?.....no. .....
It took forever but I didn't care; I wanted to get through the Ss tonight. ..........finally....Snail?.....no.
Oh! Oh, my god!
I looked in the mirror. I was a snake! Eeew! But I couldn't help feeling delighted that I'd finally done it. I looked again at my reflection. I was brightly coloured in red, yellow and black stripes. Rather pretty, actually. Wow, I look absolutely poisonous! How cool!
And then I saw a movement in the mirror; there was something behind me. I whipped around, tasting something delicious on the air, and I looked in the direction of the taste. Something hot and furry, its blood strangely visible to me, glowing warmly through its fur...I grabbed it in my jaws and choked the life out of it...and then it was gone.
...Oops. Well, that was gross. I wonder if that mouse will still be in my stomach when I change back...
And then I tried to change back .....and couldn't. Aaaaaagh!
Professor McGonagall's teachings slid through my brain. Form follows function. Mind over matter. Never eat the food of Fairyland else you won't return for seven years. Don't do this alone. Oh, no!
I knew Professor McGonagall was still at the Christmas party. Somehow I had to get to her. Somehow I had to get help. Seven years! I slithered out the front door of Gryffindor Tower and wriggled as quickly as I could to the Main Hall.
It's snowing! The paving stones were freezing and wet and my slithering got slower and slower... Oh yeah. I'm a cold-blooded reptile! Oh, noooo! But before I froze to death, footsteps approached and then stopped next to me. Hagrid's voice, miles above me boomed, "Eeek! A snake!"
"It's a Scarlet King snake. Not poisonous although it's colouring does mimic the extremely venomous Coral snake. Red and yellow...maybe it's a Gryffindor familiar?" That was Professor Snape's voice.
"Well, if it's a Gryffindor familiar, I'd better take it to Professor McGonagall." And Hagrid picked me up, by the tail which was uncomfortable, but his hands were blessedly warm. Yes! I'm saved!
"I wouldn't. She's had a few too many Christmas schnapps with Albus. I don't think she'll appreciate you dropping a snake on her tonight."
"Aah," said Hagrid, "Well, I've got a little aquarium up at the house-"
Snape sounded appalled. "-I've seen your reptile coffin! Give me the goddamn snake! I'll give her to Minerva tomorrow."
Nooooooo! But Hagrid was giving in. "Her? You can tell?"
"Only girl snakes have those cute little twisty tails."
Snape thinks my tail is cute? I was handed over. Snape held me gently in hands that were much smaller and much cooler than Hagrid's and they said their farewells. Then Snape looked me in the eye. "You are in a whole heap of trouble. Only a Gryffindor snake would go outside in winter. No proper Slytherin familiar would be so stupid. I should have let Hagrid stuff you into his miserable cold glass box."
I wasn't going to get a more opportune moment than this. I stuck my little forked snake tongue out at the nastiest teacher in the school. Blaaaaaaattt! He raised his eyebrow at me and stuffed me into the pocket of his robe. Warm! Finally! And hopefully Professor McGonagall will be able to help me tomorrow.
I could hear Professor Snape talking to himself as he entered the dungeons and walked down the stairs. "What a waste of time! Just because he would hate being a hermit doesn't mean that I can't find it great fun! Christmas parties suck. I could have been running another experiment; now it's too late!"
You talk to yourself. And to snakes. You're nuts.
He pulled me out of his pocket once we got to his flat in the dungeon. I swiveled my head, looking around and around. White walls. Bookshelves. Ordinary-looking oak furniture. Not what I was expecting. "What?" he said to me, "Looking for the piles of gnawed human skulls? So sorry, they're in the wash."
Why am I not surprised that you're snide even to defenceless little animals...
He carried me into another room and tossed me on a bed. He walked around the bed, muttering and quickly sketching a design in the air with his wand. Then he lit the fire in the fireplace and left. The fire looked inviting, so I thought I'd slither over and warm up, but I couldn't slide off the bed. The unfamiliar spell he'd cast had walled me in. Darn!
Professor Snape returned after a while. His hair was wet and he was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt with Snakes Rule emblazoned over a big green snake. I wished I was back to being human again just so I could snicker at it. He sat down on the bed with a teacup and saucer and an arcane-looking periodical.
I'd never seen him in muggle clothes before. He never even rolls up his sleeves when Potions class gets messy. The faint shadow of the mark on his naked arm reminded me why. Would he cover it back up if he knew I was really a human?
He doesn't know who I am... I don't want to stare. I looked at the alchemy journal that he was flipping through instead. ...It is really quite interesting.
I felt cold again, but I wasn't about to warm up by him. I curled the end of my tail through the handle of the teacup that he had set down on the bed. It felt just like a hot water bottle. Oh, perfect! I twisted forward trying to get a better viewing angle at the text he was reading while holding onto the teacup with my tail. Professor Snape seemed to find my efforts amusing. "A snake that can read. I think not."
I hissed and nodded my head furiously. I can, too!
"Well, if you say so, Miss Snake. But I won't believe a snake can read this article faster than me. You must be skimming the difficult bits."
Well, that was true enough. Slightly chastened, I looked back at the previous page, which made him chuckle. He picked me up and draped me over his knee so I could have a better view of the journal. "Too bad Hagrid found you first," he said. "Pity you're not green, too. If you weren't dressed in Gryffindork colours I'd be tempted to keep you. Missing snake? Nope, haven't seen it. No, I've had this snake for years. So sorry, guess you'll have to buy another familiar. Hahahaha!"
Snape sounded like a naughty little kid when he laughed. Actually he sounded like Ron. I looked up at him. I'll bet you earned detentions all the time when you were a kid. IF you ever got caught... which you probably didn't...