The band has a fortnight-long debate when Modesty tells them to pick a name, as she has arranged their first gig for late February. Severus rejects anything with his name in it out of hand. Harmonia's suggestions are fantastical and unusable. Dougal's are boring and even more unusable. Aspasia offers no suggestions of her own, but has plenty of commentary on everyone else's. Gil dislikes anything he considers too "Dark," but Modesty reminds them that they are trading on Severus's reputation, and they might as well own up to it.
On the other hand, no one is going to buy a record by the Unforgivable Curses.
Finally, three days before the show, an exasperated Modesty tells them they're not leaving until they settle on a name, any name.
"Why don't you name us?" Aspasia asks. "You're the expert, right?"
"I'm not in the band."
"So you don't have any ideas, either," Aspasia says. "We might as well ask Luna." She gestures to Harmonia's daughter, who Harmonia now brings to rehearsal as often as she doesn't.
Luna looks up from a drawing she is doing that appears to be of the band, if they were hippogriffs, and regards them with her large, pale eyes.
"What do you think we should name the band, Luna?" Harmonia asks in the silence that follows.
"Nox," Luna says, like it's the most obvious answer she'll ever be called on to give, and goes back to her drawing.
"Nox," Modesty repeats. "I like it. It's dark without being, you know, Dark, it suits your sound, it's short, it's memorable, it works. Any objections? No? Good. Nox it is." She steps aside to clear the way to the door. "Okay, you can go." As the members of the band that has just been dubbed Nox start to leave, Modesty adds, "Except you, Severus Snape. I need a moment." Aspasia stops walking. "In private."
Aspasia looks at Severus and waits until he has nodded before she leaves. Modesty watches her go with an expression that's about equal parts amusement and disdain. Then she walks into the room, sits down on one of the chairs along the wall, and studies Severus for a moment.
"I should have asked this weeks ago," she says, finally, "but . . . first show. Do you think you're ready?"
"Of course," he says, dismissively.
"There's no 'of course' here. You've never done this before."
"The music is – "
"I'm not worried about the music," Modesty says. "If the music wasn't ready, I wouldn't have booked the gig. I'm talking about you. You've never performed in front of an audience before, and you're the leader. You're going to have to, well, lead. You have to give the performance people are expecting from the lead singer and guitarist."
"I lied to one of the most powerful wizards of all time, to his face, and lived to tell the tale. I think I can handle singing for a handful of witches and wizards in a pub in Cardiff."
"This is not as easy as you think it is," Modesty says. "I just want to make sure that – "
"I can handle it."
"All right," Modesty says, standing again. "At least it's only Cardiff."
That first show is a disaster. Oh, the music is good, and the band is fine, but the show is a disaster.
"We just never found our groove," Dougal says, afterwards. He's very politely not putting the blame where they all know it lies, with Severus. He hadn't had any idea how to present himself or them, how to engage the audience, how to keep the show moving along.
"It's only Cardiff," Modesty says the next morning when Severus arrives at the shop. "Don't beat yourself up. And clear your schedule. For the next two weeks, you're with me. I'm going to do what I should have done in the first place."
"And what's that?" Severus asks.
"Make you do your homework. Seriously, clear your schedule, Severus Snape. Evenings and weekends for the next two weeks are mine."
Spring – Winter 1987
Modesty proceeds, over the course of a fortnight, to drag Severus to concerts across the length and breadth of Britain, with exactly one instruction: "Watch and learn."
The bands are all Muggles. They go to tiny pubs with tinier stages, they go to stadiums packed with thousands of people, and everything in between. If Modesty needs tickets, she simply Confunds some Muggle into handing his over. She's remarkably good at picking people with good seats.
After each concert, she asks him what he liked, what he noticed, what he remembered. Severus begins piecing together a public persona for himself, a person to be on stage. It's not all that different, he decides, from Hogwarts, or being a loyal – and then disloyal – Death Eater. It's not even that different from being Lily's best friend, and only ever her best friend. He just hides whatever doesn't fit, and shows people what they want or need or are willing to see.
He likes some of the music a great deal, but Modesty shakes her head when he proposes actually using one of the songs they hear. "You record Muggle music," she says, "and at best you're a novelty act, at worst you're a joke. I don't have either in mind for you."
"Why, then, have you brought me to all Muggle concerts?"
"Well, one, there are a lot more of them, and two, this wasn't something I wanted you to run into your old classmates while doing. Just listen and learn."
So he does. And he writes reams of music, playing each morning with the ideas he heard the night before. (Being inspired by Muggle music, Modesty allows, is fine.) Some of the songs are good, some are just experiments with a particular style that ultimately doesn't suit him or Nox.
At the end of the fortnight of concerts with Modesty, he goes back to the band with a stack of new material and a much clearer idea of what he wants to do and how.
Their second show, three weeks later in Hogsmeade, is a vast improvement on the first.
By summer, Nox has a following. People are actually going out of their way to hear the band play. Severus begins to recognize faces that crowd up close to the stage, wearing t-shirts that are the same shade of mauve as Severus' guitar, emblazoned with the band's newly designed logo. They learn the words, they sing along, they yell out requests.
By fall, there's an album. People are buying it, though Severus has to take Modesty's word for that. His days of being able to hang around Kneedel and Toneahrm, watching the customers, are rapidly coming to an end. It's impossible to listen to the WWN for more than twenty minutes without hearing "Lilah." He receives a congratulatory letter from Slughorn, bright and smug and currying.
By winter, the graffiti has begun to appear, first in Knockturn Alley and then all around Wizarding Britain: SNAPE IS MERLIN.
For the first time in his life, Severus is popular. People want him around. They admire him. They envy him. They cater to him. The same people who wouldn't meet his eye in the street a year ago seek him out. The fools fall for the persona he projects, and forget about the man projecting it, and he doesn't actually have a problem with that.
He comes home one evening to find a half dozen people waiting at the door to his building. He has his wand out instantly; that's generally not the sort of thing you want to see in Knockturn Alley.
"It's him," one of them squeals, and he very nearly hexes her before he realizes that the party is entirely made up of witches who don't look old enough to have left Hogwarts yet. They're all wearing Nox t-shirts. One of them holds out a small brown book and a quill and rather breathlessly asks, "Mr. Snape, may we have your autograph?"
It's the first time, but not the last. It takes Modesty's intervention to extricate him from a knot of particularly determined fans one afternoon.
"Well," she says, once they're back in his flat and the door is closed, "it was time for you to move, anyway." She's eyeing the damage one of them did to her hair with a frizzing hex.
"Take care of it, would you?" he says.
Take care of it is rapidly becoming his response to any problem he doesn't want to bother with himself. Sometimes Modesty grumbles, but she also takes care of whatever it is. In this case, though she objects that she knows almost nothing about where to live in England, she finds him a perfectly serviceable house outside York in three days. It's light and airy, unlike any place he's ever lived before. And there's a large room on the ground floor that the band can use to rehearse.
He misses almost nothing about his cramped, dismal Knockturn Alley flat, except the slight protection it afforded him from Aspasia. Now that he has a proper house, she seems to think that he wants her in it.
He doesn't. The truth of the matter is that while he doesn't dislike Aspasia, he doesn't really like her all that much, either. She isn't the person he dreams about, even when she's the one sleeping next to him. She wasn't ever going to be someone he gave serious consideration to, or planned a future with. She was just . . . convenient.
Frankly, these days there are a lot of other girls who are convenient, just as attractive, and who come without the Gordian knot of emotional strings attached to Aspasia. He doesn't flaunt these "conveniences," but he doesn't take any great pains to hide them from her, either.
Instead of taking the hint, though, Aspasia just keeps trying to worm her way further into his life.
"Sev?" she says one morning, after a night when he couldn't be bothered to think up a reason she shouldn't come over.
"Don't call me 'Sev.'" There's only been one person who has ever called him that – there's only been one person who has ever been allowed to call him that – and Aspasia doesn't come close to being her.
"Why don't you ever write a song about me?" Aspasia asks.
"Hmmmm," Severus says, rather than telling her that he has written two: "What You Won't See" and "You're Not Her." Severus thinks they both have potential, but they're clear-eyed and cutting depictions of Aspasia, cruel and unmistakable about their subject. He doubts they're what she's hoping for.
"I wish you would," Aspasia says.
"Maybe someday," Severus says, getting up and leaving her still lying in his bed.
9 January 1988
The situation with Aspasia carries on, neither improving nor worsening, until Severus's twenty-eighth birthday.
"Pretend you're surprised," Modesty whispers, when Harmonia arrives at rehearsal that day with a cake for him.
"That probably will not be difficult," Severus says, as Harmonia tends to make cakes flavored with things like curry and sausages.
"Licorice and dirigible plum," Harmonia says, holding the cake out to Severus. "Luna helped."
"Please thank her for me," Severus says, reflecting that it could have been much worse; a month earlier, Dougal got a cake flavored with haggis and marmalade.
"None for me, thanks," Dougal says, and Severus suspects he remembers that cake. "Trying to watch what I eat."
"I'll have some," Gil says.
Harmonia is cutting needlessly generous slices for all of them when the door swings open and the final member of Nox comes breezing into the room.
"Sorry I'm late," Aspasia all but sings, not sounding very sorry at all. "I got held up at the salon. Happy Birthday. What's the cake, then?"
Severus looks up from his plate to the woman who is nominally his girlfriend, and a second later his slice of licorice-and-dirigible-plum birthday cake lands at his feet with a wet plop.
Aspasia's hair, which has been blue as long as Severus has known her, is now a garish and unnaturally deep red. Severus doesn't have to pretend to be surprised – he's stunned.
And then he's angry.
"Don't you like it?" Aspasia says, when the silence has gone on too long. "I thought – "
"I know what you thought," Severus says. "It doesn't suit you at all."
Though, truthfully, it does. It is, after all, her attempt to cast herself as the woman actually wants.
It's also a mockery.
It's an insult to Lily's memory.
Everything he has ever done with Aspasia has been an insult to Lily's memory.
Severus sets down his empty plate and walks out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
He leans against the wall in the hallway, eyes closed, willing his pulse to slow back to something like normal, trying not to remember his father's saying something like that to his mother, the one time she dared to change her hairstyle.
He can hear the rise of voices from the rehearsal room, though he can't make out what anyone is saying. He doesn't even look over when he hears the door open and then quietly close again.
"Sent you to clean up her mess, has she?" he asks, without looking over, knowing it's Modesty even before she speaks.
"You all right?" Modesty asks, in that concerned American way she has where she actually expects an answer about how he's feeling.
"I want her gone," Severus says. "Take care of it."
"No," Modesty says.
He waits for the usual grumbling and objections, insincere and easily dismissed, so he can tell her that he appreciates everything she does, and she can sigh and agree to do whatever it is he wants. But that's all she says. Just no.
"'No'?" he asks.
"I'm not going to break up with your girlfriend for you."
"Fine," Severus says. "Then just fire her. I don't want her in the band, either."
"Sending me to clean up your mess?"
"If you say 'I told you so,' I will curse you into next month."
"Any other day, and I'd like to see you try," Modesty says. "But I would prefer not to embarrass you on your birthday. At least not any more than you have already embarrassed yourself. And I did tell you Aspasia was a bad idea."
Severus's fingers close around his wand before he stops and considers her. He has no idea if she's bluffing or not – he's never had any reason to see Modesty use any advanced defensive, or offensive, magic. She's been perfectly competent at the spells he has seen her use. Maybe she really is that skilled a witch. And even if she's not, cursing her is probably about the worst move he can make here.
Instead, he waits her out. Modesty doesn't like silence, and left in one, she will speak to fill it.
She sighs. "I'll do it this once. Once. Call it a birthday present. And because you have no idea how to handle this. So for her sake, I'll do it. But you have to do me a favor in return."
"Oh? And what's that?"
"Don't screw any more members of your band."
February – July 1988
Aspasia's scathing, tell-all interview – given to Rita Skeeter, naturally – appears in Witch Weekly in early February. Severus finds it to be about half-true, at best, but even allowing for hyperbole, he doesn't come off especially well. Not that he expected to. Modesty wouldn't tell him much about her last meeting with Aspasia, beyond saying that it was "taken care of. Oh, and Aspasia says to tell you that you're a knob. I'm only about seventy percent clear on what that means, but I think I agree with her."
He expects Modesty to be upset about the interview, but she seems more or less wholly unconcerned. "I've never exactly been marketing you as a paragon of good behavior, remember? Get back to work."
A few days later, Modesty brings a woman named Lorelei Trill to audition for Nox. She's older than Severus, with a plain, slightly horsey face and stringy blond hair. Severus wonders if Modesty has deliberately picked someone she thinks he's unlikely to find attractive. If so, she has achieved this goal admirably.
Lorelei is an excellent harpsichordist, though. She fits in well with the other members of Nox, and has an easy-going and cheerful disposition. Severus isn't surprised to learn she was a Hufflepuff.
Through the spring, it appears that Aspasia's departure has caused no more than a brief ripple. They rehearse and play a few small shows, experimenting with the way the harpsichord changes their sound. Severus decides he likes it better than Aspasia's steam organ, and he doesn't think that's just because of his much diminished opinion of Aspasia. It's subtler, less fairground jollity.
In July, Modesty starts booking larger venues, and suggests that they get to work on the next album. Severus brings in the songs he wrote about Aspasia back in their days of being semi-together.
He's halfway through playing "What You Won't See" for them when Gil stops him.
"Really, Severus, don't you think you've humiliated the poor girl enough?" he asks.
The room gets very quiet.
It's Modesty who is left to rush into the silence. "Gil, nothing's decided yet for the album. We're just trying things out tod—"
"No," Gil says. "No, Modesty, all of you," he says, with a gesture that neatly omits Severus, "I'm sorry. You're wonderful, talented people, and it's been a privilege working with you, but this isn't what I want. So, thank you, for everything, but I'm done. I'm out. Keep the drums. I'll never get that damned mauve off."
He walks out of the room before anyone can stop him.
Modesty stands to follow him, but Severus holds a hand up to her. "Don't bother. If he wants to go, let him go."
What else can be expected from a Gryffindor, after all? Severus has never known one who could handle not being the one in the spotlight.
"We can find a new drummer," he adds.
"Have it your way," Modesty says, and sits back down.
Dougal and Lorelei exchange glances and retreat to the corner to talk, in hurried whispers, about something.
Harmonia says mildly, "I thought you used metaphor very effectively in that song, Severus."
"Thank you," he says, but his eyes are on Dougal and Lorelei.
So, he notices, are Modesty's.
Dougal and Lorelei seem to come to some kind of agreement, because he nods, and then she nods, and then he turns back to the room.
"We weren't going to do this yet, but I think it might be time. Lorelei and I have been talking about maybe striking out on our own. Pursuing a different style of music. This really isn't the right scene for us."
He holds his hand out to Severus. "It's nothing personal, just not the professional direction we want to head in anymore. No hard feelings?"
Severus hesitates for a moment, because no matter what Dougal says, it feels personal, especially coming right on the heels of Gil's departure. But, fine. If that's what Dougal wants, fine. Severus accepts the offered hand. "Good luck to you, then."
Three months later, when he receives the invitation to their wedding, he sends his regrets. And when, three months after that, he receives a copy of the album of folk music they've released, he doesn't even listen to it.
August – December 1988
"So we have a few open places in the band," Severus says, a week after the near complete exodus from Nox, in Modesty's Diagon Alley office.
"What band?" Modesty demands. "You don't have a band any more, you have a tambourine player. And as talented as Harmonia is, a guitar and a tambourine do not a band make."
"Well, what do you suggest, Modesty?"
"Change of plan. Congratulations, Severus Snape, you're now a solo artist. We'll hire back up musicians, and when you drive them away, no one will think anything of their having moved on."
"And what about Harmonia?"
"Harmonia can play tambourine for you if you and she like," Modesty says, as though she doesn't really care one way or the other, which she probably doesn't.
"Now," Modesty continues, sounding briskly American, "we both have a lot of work to do. I have to find some musicians for you, and you need to get writing. We need something absolutely brilliant for your solo debut. I expect you to have the number one single this Christmas. So go come up with something that will impress me. Oh, and not another song about your lost redhead, please."
Severus walks out of her office without another word, quietly seething. There are days he realizes he doesn't actually like Modesty all that much.
So she wants to be impressed, does she? And on a subject other than Lily? All right, he'll impress her. And if he insults her along the way, well, he'll be curious to see which of those things matters more to her.
Severus walks back into her office the next day, without knocking on the door or greeting her, and drops "Bad Idea" on her desk.
Modesty picks it up, her eyes scanning down the page, and then hands it back to him.
"Play it for me."
Severus sits down in the only other chair in the room and plays it straight through, his eyes never leaving Modesty's face. There's no way she doesn't know what – or who – it's about, but the only reaction he gets is a short nod when he's done. "Yes, I think that will do nicely. We'll need a very good drummer, and some kind of keyboard, I think. Possibly a violin. We can lead with it as a single, and follow it up with the album," she says, making notes on the parchment in front of her.
"Was there anything else you needed this morning?" she adds, without looking up at him.
"It's a pity you were raised in America," Severus tells her.
"And why is that?"
"You'd have made an excellent addition to Slytherin House."
Modesty looks up from her notes. "Yes, I probably would have. Friday at two, then, to record it. I'll let you know if I can't find suitable musicians before then. Tell Harmonia, would you, if you want her there?" She turns her attention back to the papers on her desk.
"No violin," Severus says, "but I want a cello. See you Friday."
"Bad Idea" is a colossal hit, bigger than anything he did with Nox except "Lilah." (He's privately glad of that fact – he doesn't want Modesty to be better than Lily in any way, not even that one.)
He finds that he likes being on his own. He's just Severus Snape, not the lead singer of Nox. There's no dealing with a set sound, no need to work a damned bagpipe into the arrangement of everything he writes. The only constant is Harmonia. The other musicians come in and out as he wants them to.
He likes the professional and personal freedom of it. He doesn't even have to pay lip service to other people's opinions, except Modesty's, and he has to admit that Modesty is right far more often than she's wrong about his career. She has a good ear, for both the music and the market.
And she's still there to take care of all the things he doesn't feel like dealing with, like the WWN and the Prophet and all the magazines. The album gets glowing reviews, and sells quickly and well. Shows sell out almost faster than Modesty can schedule them.
"The WWN wants you for their special live show on Halloween," Modesty says, in early September. "The offer's good, I think – "
"I already have plans," Severus says.
"What? No, you don't. I make all your plans, remember? I'd know if you had plans for Halloween."
"I'm not available," he says. "Don't bother asking again."
Modesty rolls her eyes and sighs, and moves on to a report on album sales.
Two months later, she tells him that she has booked a live Christmas Day special for him on the WWN. There's almost a challenge in it, like she's expecting another objection. Severus merely nods. He's happy to perform on Christmas. It gives him an excuse not to go to Spinner's End.
Besides, Christmas doesn't belong to Lily the way Halloween does.
January – July 1990
The triumph that is 1989 continues into 1990. Modesty starts talking about making plans to tour America, break into the market there. But first, she says, he needs another album.
They start recording in early summer, and finish in late July. On the day they finish the last track, Modesty produces a bottle of champagne, which he and she and Harmonia drink while they play it back. Severus doesn't think he's written anything on the level of "Lilah" or "Bad Idea," but the songs are collectively the strongest group he's put together. There's no weak track, no song simply there as filler. Luna dances around the room, though admittedly, she does not appear to be dancing to the music they're listening to.
Severus leaves the house in a good mood, that evening, to meet with a particularly enthusiastic and beautiful "convenience." He gets back late, six hours later, and finds Modesty sitting on his front steps.
He doesn't think she's turned up at his place unannounced since that New Year's Eve, nearly four years earlier. For one brief, wild moment he thinks she's there to lecture him on the company he keeps again, and then he gets a good look at her face.
"What's happened?" Severus asks, as she stands.
"There's been an accident," Modesty says. "Harmonia was experimenting with a spell, and it went really, really wrong."
"How badly is she hurt? Is she at St. Mungo's? What does she need? "
"She's dead, Severus. She died instantly. I'm sorry."
Severus stares at her, then sinks down onto the step she was sitting on a moment before.
"Now, the Prophet wants a comment from you. Other people may as well. About Harmonia, and working with her. And I think you should consider dedicating the album to her. There could also be a memorial concert, of course, especially if there is some cause you know she supported, as a bene—"
"You disgust me," Severus says.
"Her body isn't even cold, yet, Modesty, and you want to talk about statements and dedications and benefit concerts."
"This is what I do. I manage your career."
"Yes, you're very good at making a living from other people's talents."
"Careful, there, Severus Snape. I might start thinking you care about someone other than that redheaded ghost of yours. I'll issue a statement on your behalf. And I'll be in touch with the funeral arrangements."
She reaches the edge of the yard and Disapparates before he can collect himself enough to reply.
Severus goes into the house and sits holding his mauve guitar for a while, but for the first time in years, he can't find words or a tune. Finally, he settles for getting gloriously drunk and falling into bed.
Harmonia's funeral is well-attended, though the crowd is a not entirely comfortable mix of the Lovegoods' odd, bohemian friends and people Harmonia knew from the music scene. All the former members of Nox are there, and they all greet each other civilly, even Severus and Aspasia (if only just barely).
Severus tries to hang back, stay on the edges of the throng, but Luna finds him. She takes his hand and drags him around to the other mourners, introducing him as "Mum's friend, Severus, who plays the guitar." It's a relief when it's over, and he decides that he can skip the lunch at the Lovegoods' house afterwards without causing comment or offense.
He is almost to the churchyard gate when someone says, "Severus. A moment?"
There are very few people he'd actually stop for right now, but unfortunately, the speaker is one of them. Severus stops, and turns to face Albus Dumbledore.
"Walk with me," Dumbledore says, indicating a path that runs around the outer edge of the cemetery.
They walk in silence for several minutes, until they are far enough from the remaining mourners that they can't be overheard.
"Ten years ago today, Lily's son was born," Dumbledore says.
Severus's eyes narrow. "I trust you understand, Headmaster, why I am not sending the boy a card."
"This time next year," Dumbledore continues, as though Severus has not spoken, "he will be preparing to come to Hogwarts. So it is time, Severus, to keep the promise you made, and help me protect him in the coming years."
"Horace is retiring. I find myself in need of both a Potions master and a head of Slytherin House. I think you will do admirably for both. And this will give you a year to get accustomed to things as a professor, before he arrives."
"And if I've changed my mind?" Severus asks, angry at the Dumbledore's presumption, at his bringing this up here and now, of all places and times.
Dumbledore fixes him with sharp blue eyes, staring through those half-moon spectacles. Severus feels all of thirteen years old again. Even before Dumbledore speaks, Severus feels like he's been deflated.
"And have you?"
"Then we shall expect you no later than the fifteenth. Thank you, Severus."
Severus nods, turns on his heel, and stalks out of the churchyard.
3 August 1990
"What do you mean, 'you're done'?" Modesty asks, three days later, looking across her office at him like she thinks he's gone mad. "Done with what?"
"All of it," he says. He's standing by the window, looking out over Diagon Alley. He can just see the sign for Kneedel and Toneahrm from here. "I've accepted a position at Hogwarts."
"Hogwarts?" Modesty repeats. "Doing what?"
"Teaching? And just what the hell qualifies you to teach Potions or anything else? You're a guitarist."
"No, I'm not. I'm a man who used to play the guitar."
"This is insane," Modesty says. "You want to walk away from an amazingly successful music career to teach a bunch of snot-nosed, pimple-faced, hormone-ridden children how to brew potions. Look, I know you're upset about Harmonia, but – "
"This has nothing to do with Harmonia."
Modesty is silent for a moment. "Then it has to do with her. The girl you've been singing about all these years."
Severus turn back from the window but doesn't answer her.
"It's Lily Potter, isn't it?" Modesty asks.
"Don't call her by his name," Severus snaps.
For a moment, the room is so quiet that he can hear the man in the office next door coughing.
"That was a 'yes,' then, I take it," Modesty says.
Severus stays silent. He won't confirm it. Not even to Modesty.
"This is insane," Modesty says again. "She's dead. It's one thing to use her as some kind of muse, but it's entirely another to throw your whole life away on her. You can't impress her, you can't make her happy, and you certainly can't still win her away from him. All you can do is get over her. The way she obviously got over you."
Severus has his wand out and aimed her in an instant, but the curse is only half-formed in his thoughts when his wand arcs across the office to her hand.
"I wouldn't," Modesty says quietly, offering it back to him. "You won't win."
Severus takes his wand and turns for the door.
"Don't do this, Severus," she says. It might be the first time she's ever called him by just his first name. "Please."
"Don't worry. I'm sure you'll find someone else whose talents you can live off of."
"And what do you want me to do with the album?"
"Do whatever you like with it. Good-bye, Modesty Moss."
14 August 1990
The night before he leaves for Hogwarts, Severus walks into York. He turns down side streets, wandering until he finds the kind of shop he's looking for.
The Muggle shopkeeper looks like she's getting ready to close up, but she's polite enough when Severus sets the guitar case on the counter and says he'd like to sell it.
She opens the case, and her eyes widen a bit. "I've never seen a guitar this color before. Where'd you get it?"
"I found it in my father's flat when he died. I don't play the guitar, so I don't need it."
She lifts it from the case and examines it. Severus knows enough about Muggle money to know that the first offer is insultingly low, that's she's expecting him to come back with one that's ridiculously high, and then they'll haggle to a point in the middle.
Instead, he simply agrees, thanks her, and walks out of the shop.