Pre-fic A/N: Clearly, everything belongs to JKR and I'm just borrowing with good intentions, etc. (a.k.a -- please don't sue me!). Also, special thanks to everyone who has made this story possible, including my Sugar Quill beta-reader/moral support-giver, Ozma; my best friend, Jenna, who has somehow tolerated listening to me babble about this story since its inception; and Deedee, whose encouragement and illustrations (see my website!) rock. Please note that this story is Rated R for language, violence, and some sexual situations. Please don't read it if you think you might be offended! Otherwise, I do hope you enjoy! :)
Severus: A Portrait of the Potions Master as a Young Man
By Daphne Dunham
Prologue: A Snape is Born
"Severus," Darius Snape murmured thoughtfully as he looked down upon the infant suckling at his wife's breast. "Stern, severe, uncompromising. A fine name for a Snape. A name to embody all that we are – all that he will grow up to be. And do."
A quizzical expression on her face, Circe looked up at her husband. "All that he will do?" she questioned, her heart skipping a beat at his vague but threatening call for action.
Darius looked at her and nodded with self-assurance. "Of course, love," he replied with that cruel smirk of his. "I'm going to teach him everything I know. He's got to defend the family name, after all. Take pride in being a member of one of the few Pureblood families left. He'll be valuable to The Cause someday, I'm sure. Tom will be most pleased."
Circe was silent a moment. "Perhaps he won't like your politics, Darius," she said softly, hesitantly.
Darius looked down at her sharply, his dark hair swishing about his ears and a displeased glimmer in his black eyes. "They were your politics, too, not so long ago," he reminded her in a menacing tone. "And if you know what's good for you, you'll make them your politics again."
Circe didn't need reminding, though; the events of her past were fresh enough in her memory. She'd been very popular at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and she used her status as a Pureblood to her every advantage. As a child, she and her Slytherin friends had played tricks on Mudbloods at the school constantly – sabotaging their potions in class, hexing their textbooks so they read backwards, and the like. She particularly remembered how she and her cousin Olive Hornby had mercilessly teased Myrtle Hodges, an especially sorrowful-looking Muggle-born with the most hideous glasses she'd ever seen; Myrtle had died mysteriously soon afterwards, and even then, Circe hadn't felt the slightest bit of remorse for her cruelty.
She'd met Darius Snape at Hogwarts. He and his best friend, Tom Riddle, had been interested in politics at the time. They were conservative, pro-Pureblood, brilliant, and had their eyes set on the Ministry of Magic. After Hogwarts, though, their plans had changed: Tom had gone abroad, and Darius and she had been married. Circe's family had been thrilled with the match, as with Darius' name came all the manner of respect and wealth that she was expected to marry into. After all, Circe was a Lestrange as well as the namesake and distant niece of one of the greatest sorceresses of all time. Consequentially, she owed it to her family to marry well.
It didn't take long for Darius to start to rise through the Ministry ranks. He was too talented and too ruthless a wizard not to. He was a respected man: Assistant Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic, and as a politician's wife, Circe knew she was expected to be loyal to her husband as well as his career. It was difficult to be supportive, though, when Darius started receiving strange letters from abroad – letters from Tom – Voldemort, as he preferred to be called. Suddenly, Darius was talking about something called The Cause. He had grown increasingly irritable, withdrawn. He spent countless hours in his study, reviewing what he said was politics, but she knew was really Dark Arts, and plotting. He refused to tell her what exactly Voldemort was planning, but she knew it involved radical actions to purify the wizarding world – things like denying Mudbloods admission to Hogwarts and raiding Muggle villages. Needless to say, their schemes would not be approved by the Ministry, and consequentially, Circe was tentative in her support of her husband's activities.
And then Severus was born – Severus Ewan Snape, to be precise. Circe had wanted to have a child for years to no avail, and becoming a mother had changed her somehow. Made her softer, more tolerant, more gentle. The moment he was born, she'd fallen madly in love with her dark-eyed, soft-skinned son, and suddenly she didn't care so much about the natural superiority of Purebloods; she didn't care about The Cause; and she certainly did not care to see Darius use Dark Arts. She only wanted what was best for Severus, and as Darius seemed increasingly driven by his anti-Muggle mania, she wasn't so sure anymore that he and his political agenda were part of that equation.
It terrified her to think of Darius poisoning her innocent son with his hatred and affinity for Dark Arts, and every time her husband alluded to teaching Severus – to grooming Severus – to follow in his footsteps, Circe grew increasingly uneasy. She secretly vowed not to give Darius any more children to corrupt, and she even half-hoped that Severus would be a Squib so Darius couldn't teach him, but she strongly suspected he wouldn't be – not if his heritage had anything to do with it.
Circe nodded sadly at Darius' threat and turned back to the infant in her arms. She caressed his pale, plump cheek, and as she looked into the glittering dark eyes of the beautiful little child – her beautiful little Severus – she knew she'd give up anything to protect him. If need be, she'd give her life to shield her tiny son from harm, from evil, from his own father.