Author's Notes: Thanks to Big Momma for beta-ing, and to a host of people who shall remain anonymous on the nature of the abusing father. They know who they are, and they have my grattitude. Ten points to whoever spots Umbridge's Mum before she's revealed properly in the next chapter! Please, please review. I'm really enjoying writing this, and it would make me happy to know that those who read it enjoy it, too!
March 3rd, 1965
"Why can't I play downstairs, Mummy?"
Estrella Snape looked up from her book and smiled at her son. "Daddy's talking about some very important business, Severus. He doesn't want us getting under his feet."
Severus nodded and continued playing with his truck from his position, sat on the bare floorboards. Estrella took a moment to look at her son. She had always been the baby of her family, so had no previous experience with children. The thing that had surprised her most was how quickly Severus grew. It seemed only yesterday he was an eerily silent baby who only cried in the presence of stranger. Now there he sat, a five year old boy with his father's wiry frame and his mother's soot black hair, which was now long enough to cover his ears and fall in his eyes. She had used every method of persuassion she could think of to persuade him to let her cut it, but the child was resolute - and any parent of a wizarding child knew better than to force any matter!
"Mrs Snape, Ma'am?"
The timid, squeaky voice pulled Estrella from her reverie. "Yes, Pokey, what is it?"
"You're needed upstairs, Ma'am." Pokey lowered her voice to a theatrical whisper. "Things is being bad with one of the paintings."
Estrella put down her book with an exasperated sigh and stood. "That bloody Lucinda Snape portrait again, I'll bet. When will that girl realise she has to be cleaned every once in a while or no one will be able to see her at all. Whoever painted her should be positively hung!" Estrella stepped neatly over her son and out the door. Severus listened as her brisk footsteps were carried further and further away.
Severus returned his attention to his truck. His Grandmama (who he usually didn't like very much) had bought it for him, and it was very clever. When you told it 'go', it would go. When you told it 'left', it would turn left. When you told it 'stop', it would stop. There were a lot of other commands it understood, but Severus had not yet got round to exploring those. It also didn't seem to matter how quietly you said the instruction, it would still hear and understand.
"Go," he commanded imperiously. The truck trundled off in front of him.
"Left," he whispered, and it immediately turned to roll towards the door.
"Stop," he murmured even more quietly.
But the truck kept on running out through the door.
"Hey! I said stop!" Severus stood and ran after the truck as it drove itself down the corridor towards the stairs. "No! Don't go down there!"
The truck, however, did not seem to be listening and toppled over the top stair, crashing all the way to the bottom. Severus stood at the top and peered anxiously through the bannisters. The door to the drawing room was ajar and Severus could hear the low rumble of his father's voice. If he was very quiet and very quick, maybe father would never know.
Holding tight to teh bannister he slipped down the wooden staircase, keeping close to the rail so the stairs wouldn't creak. His bare feet made no sound as he padded closer to the truck. The voices became clearer, more recognisable - his father's and another, more gravelly voice he recognised as belonging to Tiberius Malfoy, his father's friend.
"A young man - well, young compared to most politicians. He seems to have the right idea, though. The first from the Ministry to speak out against the Mudbloods, but his backing's growing. You should look into it, Claud."
"Thank you. I shall."
Severus bent and picked up his truck, frowning at his father's conversation. Mummy had told him that Mudblood was a dirty word he shouldn't use. Maybe that was why he wasn't allowed to play downstairs today.
"Well, I must be going. I left Emily with Lucius and he can be quite a handful sometimes. Well, boys will be boys!" The door to the drawing room creaked open and dim candlelight spilled into the hall. Severus froze, the truck dropping from his fingers to crash to the floor.
"Speaking of boys, how's your lad getting on?"
Severus turned and scrambled up the staircase.
"Oh," replied Claud, "he's ... right here, apparently."
The boy stopped half-way up the staircase and slowly turned to face his father.
"You were told to stay upstairs today, boy. What are you doing down here?" Severus lowered his head, breathing quickly but staying silent. "Well?" his father thundered.
"Best be off, Snape. See you at work."
Claud nodded over his shoulder, waiting until Tiberius Malfoy had left before shouting, "Estrella! Get down here, wench and be quick about it!" His voice softened dangerously as he straightened to his full height. "Come here, boy. Tell me why you were eavesdropping."
"I wasn't, Sir, I-I just-"
"Get - Down - Here!"
Severus walked slowly back down the stairs. He balled his hands into fists in a vain attempt to stop them shaking. His eyes shone but his features were carefully schooled into a blank mask and he kept his head lowered.
"Why were you downstairs?"
"I-I ... I just ... my truck..."
"My truck fell down the stairs and I came down to fetch it. I'm sorry, Father. I didn't hear anything. I didn't mean to make you cross."
The tall man crouched down until his eyes were level with Severus'. The child risked a glance at his father's expression and was shocked by the untamed fury in his eyes. "You are a dirty lying brat, Severus, and I won't condone liars in my house."
"Claud?" Severus dared not move, but breathed a little more easily at the sound of his mother's voice. "What's wrong? I heard shouting."
"Your son has wantonly flouted my rules and has decided to start spying on his own father." He turned an accusatory gaze on his wife. "You were supposed to be watching him. Where were you?"
Estrella Snape came to stand beside Severus. "Pokey needed me. That portrait was acting up again."
"Why didn't you take him with you?"
She frowned. "You know what she's like. I wouldn't wish dear Lucinda on anyone, let alone my own son."
Mr Snape breathed very heavily. "The fact remains that the boy has lied. He has broken the rules. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's someone who doesn't play by the rules. He has disobeyed his parents. He must be punished." Claud Snape's eyes took on a vaguely crazed look. "Severus, come with me."
Severus frowned and looked up at his mother, his eyes pleading. He didn't know where his father was going to take him, but he was reasonably sure he didn't want to go there.
"Claud, please tell me you're not planning on what I think you're planning," Estrella said softly, slowly starting to move in front of her son.
Claud Snape ignored his wife. "Severus, do not disobey me again, you will only make matters worse."
"Claud, I can't let you put our son in there." She pushed Severus behind her.
"I said, come with me!" Claud reached quickly around his wife in an attempt to grab the boy. Severus jumped backwards quickly and tripped on the stair. At the same time, his mother pushed Claud's arm away, screaming at him to leave the boy alone.
Mr Snape brought his hand up in a swift under-cut, hitting Extrella squarely under the chin. There was a sickening crack as her teeth smacked together and she fell back with the weight of the blow, her head slamming against the wall. Her mouth opened in a silent scream as her hand slid into her hair and came away bloody.
Severus lay on his back on the stairs. His dark eyes filled with tears and he started to crawl towards his mother. "Mummy?" he whispered, reaching out for her. "Mummy, don't go. Don't go to sleep. I need you!"
Estrella's blue eyes slowly closed, her hand dropping into her lap.
"Come with me, Severus," his father growled. The tall man lunged, this time easily catching his son unawares and grabbing his arm as tears leaked down the boy's pale cheeks. Claud walked quickly with Severus trailing behind in his grasp. They swept through the kitchen and down the cellar steps, Severus stumbling every so often before being dragged back to his feet. On they continued, through the shelves containing Claud's wine collection. In the dim light every bottle seemed full of blood.
Eventually they reached the far wall of teh cellar, where there was nothing but grime and spiders and a rusted, wraught iron door.
Claud crouched down and gripped his son's shoulders. "Do you know what lies behind this door, Severus?"
Severus sniffed loudly and glanced at the object in question. "No, Sir."
"It is the place where naughty little boy and girls are put. It is a place for liars and children who disobey their parents." Claud stood and pulled a lever on the door, letting it creak open. "Carry on behaving as you have today and you will become very much acquainted with this room." Claud placed a firm hand between Severus' shoulder blades and pushed him into the room, slamming the door behind him.
Severus' lip quivered as he heard the locks clunk into place. He stared into the near-total darkness. Hazy light seeped under and around the door, bathing the room in eerie shadows. He could see that the room was not big, but it was filled with odd shapes and the earthy smell of must and grit. He moved to the door, small fingers sliding along the joining crack, trying to wriggle into it.
"I wouldn't do that."
Severus froze, then turned quickly, eyes scanning the darkness. "Who's there?" he demanded, even as his voice trembled.
"I tried it once. It hurt. It was bad of me to do it."
Severus turned slowly to the source of the voice. "Who are you?" he asked again. "I can't see you."
A dim silver light began to shine from the right hand wall of the room. It seemed to shine from the wall itself, illuminating that side of the chamber. A shadow blocked some of the pale light, a sillhouette of a child about Severus' age. "I am Purcell Snape. Your ancestor."
Severus frowned as the figure became clearer. "Purcell Snape is dead. His picture hangs in the library. He's a lot older than you there." Severus could now see the other boy clearly. He was dressed in a plain black tunic and had long, wavy brown hair. His prominent nose held a light dusting of freckles but his eyes were cold and black.
"Only children are allowed here, stupid." This voice was harsher and unmistakably female. A second sillhouette grew clearer. "The children who were left here for hours on end. The cruel ones. The wicked ones. The ones too weak to tell the truth." A girl with sunken black eyes and curled brown hair, older than Purcell, scowled at him from the silver wall. "Our childhood selves are trapped here. With every punishment we grew clearer in the wall, while the wickedness weakened in ourselves." She smiled nastily. "By the time I was sixteen there was nothing left of me.
"And I died in here."
Severus shuddered. "But I haven't done anything wrong."
"Of course you have, dear," said a third sickly, high-pitched voice. "If you hadn't, you wouldn't be here. You must be lying to us. Wicked boy."
Lucinda grinned savagely. "Evil child!"
Whispers of the many trapped children chorused, echoing around the stone chamber.
"Evil! Wicked! Liar! Evil! Wicked! Liar!"
Severus turned away from teh wall, breathing heavily, but the voice did not stop. As his breathing came quicker and became more panicked, he dropped to the floor, tears streaming into the dirt but too scared to make a noise.
Lying on the dusty floor, the roar of many children's voices echoing in his ears and a sideways view of Lucinda Snape laughing at him would, in later life, be one of his first and most hated memories.
Claud looked down at his wife as her eyes started to open. a single trail of dried blood led enticingly down the side of her neck, slipping below the line of her dress. Her eyes widened with fright as they focussed on him. He sighed and crouched down beside her, cupping her head gently. He whispered into her ear, "I will not tolerate insubordination from anyone in this house, Estrella. I didn't want to hit you. You made me. You just wouldn't let me decide what's best for my child. I know what's best for him, I'm his father. And you coddle him so. You should have just let me punish him without any fuss, without driving me to..." Claud sighed again. "Just apologise, and we'll forget all about it."
Estrella blinked away the tears that were threatening to fall. She breathed deeply and looked sorrowfully into her husbands eyes. "I'm sorry, Claud. I won't disobey you again."
Claud smiled, stroking his wife's hair. He kissed her temple tenderly. "That's my girl. My beautiful star."
AN: Please, don't forget to review!