Author's Note: This is my first completed Harry Potter fan fiction so reviews would be most welcome, good or bad. Thanks to my beta AccioSeverus for her help.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of the Harry Potter Universe.Before Hatred
Severus loved Christmas with all the glittering candles and shining paper. Everything seemed more vibrant at Christmas time. People always laughed a little louder as they dressed in their best robes to go caroling and partying. And best of all, his father was usually either too drunk or too busy socializing to notice his gangly, sallow-complexioned son. It was a rare moment of peace for Severus that did not come from hiding in the basement with his potions books.
Fidgeting a little as he waited in the front hallway for his parents to come down, Severus caught sight of himself in the mirror. His shoulder length jet-black hair was pulled neatly back into a tail at the nape of his neck by a black velvet ribbon. The collar of his dark green dress robes was pulled open slightly to reveal a high collared black silk shirt underneath with tiny silver buttons running in a neat line right up to his chin. Well-polished black boots peaked out from under the hem of his robes. The effect was a little somber for a ten-year-old on such a festive occasion but it would have to do since it was the only way to hide the bruises on his shoulder and upper chest.
Sighing he twitched the collar of his shirt straight again, making sure the fingers of the bruise that ran up his neck were well hidden before he picked up the bouquet of flowers and the small gift for the host and hostess of the party he would be attending. A soft footstep on the staircase behind him made Severus turn. On the stairs was an elegantly beautiful woman that Severus almost did not recognize as his mother.
Smiling he watched as she floated gracefully down the stairs, her dark crimson dress pooling on the white marble of the stairs at her feet. The dress was a simple yet elegant off the shoulder design that emphasized his mother's tall slender frame. A string of dark gems wound through her hair, pulling the curls off her neck. Without the candlelight, the gems in her hair would have been unnoticeable, as it was, the sparkling reflections made her seem more ethereal than usual. She was beautiful, Severus realized, but ever so fragile.
"Well, my son," Vivienne Snape asked with a smile, "What do you think?"
"You'll be the most beautiful one at the party, Mother," Severus replied as he started up the stairs to offer his mother an elbow.
"Flatterer," she accused him with a playful pat on his cheek.
"Where is father? Isn't he coming?" Severus asked as he led his mother down the last few steps.
"He will be along later," Vivienne replied as she took the black cloak her son handed her.
Severus eyed his mother as she slipped the cloak around her shoulders. If he had not known her so well, he would not have noticed the slight wince as the cloak settled across her back nor the slight reddening of her eyes that suggested she had been crying recently. Chewing his lip thoughtfully, Severus debated pressing the issue but it was only likely to make his mother cry again or even worse forbid him from going to the party. This was the first year Severus's manners had been deemed sufficient to allow him to attend the party his parents had been invited to and Severus was not about to allow the opportunity to slip through his fingers. Without another word, the two walked out of the house.
Severus brushed the light layer of snow off the shoulders of his cloak as his mother rang the doorbell to number 12 Grimmauld Place. From inside Severus could hear the sounds of music and laughter. Bouncing eagerly on his toes, Severus could not wait to join the party. His mother smiled down at him briefly before turning back toward the door. A middle-aged witch dressed in a forest green robe with silver embroidery at the hems eventually answered the door.
"Vivienne!" she exclaimed with a smile that never touched her eyes, "I was beginning to wonder if you were going to make it after all."
"We got a bit of a late start," Vivienne replied with a small bow of her head in silent apology.
"Well, never mind that. The Malfoy's have not arrived yet either so you have not missed much," the woman said ushering them inside.
Severus found himself in a narrow hallway facing two black-haired boys and a man with a few gray strands in his black hair. All three were dressed in festive, holiday dress robes in colors that Severus found himself slightly envious of. From the familial resemblance, Severus guessed the two boys were the man's sons. Before he could get a closer look at the two boys, the elder of which seemed to be about Severus's age, the witch was speaking again, forcing Severus to turn his attention back to her, giving her his full attention, exactly as his parents had drilled into him.
"Just give your cloaks to Kreacher and we'll make the introductions so you boys can get back to the party," she said, flicking one bejeweled hand in the direction of a groveling house-elf
Severus quickly helped his mother out of her cloak before slipping out of his own. Glancing down, he saw the house-elf standing nearby with his head bowed and arms extended. Severus had heard of house elves before but the Snape elves had all been dismissed shortly after he had been born so he had no idea how to actually treat an elf. Cautiously Severus held out the cloaks to the elf, hoping it was the right thing to do. The elf glanced up briefly but took the cloaks without a word before disappearing with a pop. Severus blinked at the now empty patch of floor before his attention was drawn back to the adults around him. It would never do for his father to learn that Severus had been lax in his manners at any point tonight.
"Now then, Vivienne, I'm sure you remember my husband, Claudius," the woman said gesturing to the man, "and these are my boys, Sirius and Regulus."
"This is my son, Severus," Vivienne replied as she gently pushed her son forward.
Remembering his manners, Severus stepped forward and bowed to Mrs. Black holding out the flowers, "It is a pleasure to meet you, ma'am."
Mrs. Black smiled and raised the flowers to her nose briefly as Severus turned to her husband. "Mr. Black, thank you for inviting us this evening," Severus said with another bow as he handed the older man the small gift.
"Thank you, my boy," Claudius said. "Sirius, why don't you show Severus around. After all, you two will be housemates next fall when you start at Hogwarts."
With that the adults walked into the drawing room leaving the three children facing each other in the hallway. Severus stared shyly at his shoes wondering what he should say. He had never spent time around other children without his parents there to remind him of proper behavior before.
"Well he's not much to look at," Regulus said with a sneer, "All gangly, and pale. Maybe he's a vampire."
Severus felt his cheeks flush at Regulus's comment. Before he could say anything, there was a sharp smack followed by a grunt of pain from Regulus. Severus glanced up just in time to see Sirius withdrawing his fist from his brother's stomach.
"Leave him alone!" Sirius snapped at his brother. "He's a guest."
Regulus grumbled something that Severus couldn't quite make out, but when Sirius raised his hand again and glared at his brother, Regulus shrugged and ran off down the hall toward the stairs. Sirius watched his brother charge up the stairs before turning back to Severus.
"Sorry 'bout him. He's a bit sour because he's not allowed to stay up for the party," Sirius said with a shrug before extending his hand. "Sirius Black, pleased to meet you."
"Severus Snape, likewise," Severus said as he shook Sirius's hand.
Severus took the opportunity to take a covert look at the boy standing opposite him. Sirius was shorter than Severus by a good four or five inches though he was broader across the chest and shoulders. Sirius's outer dress robes were made of dark blue velvet with holly leaves embroidered along the hems in a dark green. The shorter boy wore the robes thrown open at the front to reveal a high collared white dress shirt with gold buttons and black trousers tucked into ankle-high black leather boots. With Sirius's unkempt though obviously freshly washed hair, the overall effect was a little roguish will still managing to remain within the bounds of proper etiquette. Severus was rather surprised his parents had let Sirius get away with such an ensemble.
"Come on," Sirius said as he started to drag Severus up the stairs. "I managed to swipe a case of butterbeer from the kitchen and a bunch of the treats from the party downstairs. You can share them with me an' James when he gets here."
"Who is James?" Severus ventured.
"James Potter," Sirius answered promptly. "He goes to the same wizarding elementary school as me. You'll like him."
"Oh," Severus said.
Severus knew of the Potter family of course, they were an old respectable, wizarding family. He had overheard his mother saying something at tea one day about the Potter's not socializing like they used to since most of the family was killed during the fight between Grindelwald and Dumbledore. Before Severus could follow that train of thought any further, he found himself dragged up the stairs by the energetic Sirius who didn't seem to be able to stop talking.
Severus's mind was still trying to catch up with his body when he found himself hauled into a large room on the third floor. The chaos of the room stunned Severus into immobility for a moment. From the doorway he stared at the clothes scattered over the floor, the unmade bed and the clutter of papers, quills and inks on the desk. Posters of different Quidditch stars raced around the walls making the room seem even more chaotic.
"Oh, sorry 'bout the mess," Sirius said when he realized Severus was still standing in the doorway. "Mum and I had a huge row about it this morning. I was supposed to clean it up for the party, which I did, she just wasn't counting on it getting dirty again so quick."
Sirius's grin was infectious and Severus found himself hesitantly smiling back at his new friend even though he was slightly horrified by the way Sirius openly flouted his mother's wishes.
"Well come on in and close the door behind you," Sirius said as he slithered under the bed.
Severus heard a couple of grunts from under the bed before Sirius was slithering out again with the promised case of butterbeer clutched in his hands.
"Just as promised," Sirius said with an impish grin. "And we don't have to share with Regulus either."
Severus did not know what to say in response so he silently accepted the butterbeer that was offered to him.
"Not much of a talker are you?" Sirius said as he popped the caps of the bottles. "Well that's okay, Mum says I talk worse then a magpie so we'll probably get along just fine. Cheers."
The bottles had barely touched before Sirius was zipping off across the room again. "Wanna play a game?" he asked.
"Okay," Severus replied as he swallowed a mouthful of the butterbeer. He wasn't quite sure what to make of the stuff. It wasn't like anything he had ever tasted before.
"How about Exploding Snap? That's always a good one," Sirius said as he pulled a pack of cards out of his desk.
"I've never played," Severus said wincing slightly, hoping his new friend would not hate him for not knowing the game.
"What!" Sirius exclaimed as he spun around in surprise. "Never played Exploding Snap!"
Severus winced mentally; this was it then, the end of his first friendship. Sirius's next words surprised Severus though.
"Well, we'll just have to fix that," Sirius said as he dragged Severus into the middle of the room. "Sit down here and I'll teach you."
With that, Sirius shoved everything toward the edges of the room until he had a clear space for the game. For the next several hours, the two boys played Exploding Snap. Sirius, of course, did the lion's share of the talking, but that was quite all right by Severus. He was just happy to have a friend that wasn't going to turn on him just because he couldn't do something right.
Today was the best day ever. Severus thought to himself as he wandered through the Black household, a small smile gracing his lips. He and Sirius had played together for hours before Sirius's mother had called them down to join in the holiday feast. All through dinner, Sirius had stayed by Severus's side, telling jokes and quietly mocking the adults around them. Severus had been hard pressed to mind his manners and not laugh at the antics of his new friend.
Severus had been rather disappointed when the meal ended and his mother had taken him by the hand to introduce him to some of the other families at the party. Sirius had given him a sympathetic look as he followed his mother into the parlor. It had been a rather boring hour of introduction after introduction, from the Malfoy's to the Lestrange's to the Crabbe's and Goyle's, all the prominent pure-blooded wizarding families seemed to be present.
By the time Severus and his mother had made their way around the room, Severus was heartily sick of being asked what subjects he thought would be most interesting at Hogwarts the next year. Severus had thought all of his mother's friends already knew he had been studying potions almost before he could pick up a broomstick. His mother was so proud of his talent that she spoke of little else when she had company over for tea. He knew an interest in potions was a little rare in a child his age so perhaps they simply wanted to be sure he really knew what he was doing and his parents were not giving him credit he was not due.
Either way Severus was glad to finally escape from the parlor and had immediately gone looking for Sirius, hoping to play another game of Exploding Snap. Mrs. Black had intercepted Severus before he could make it up the stairs. She had told Severus that Sirius had gone with his father to pick up a young friend from another wizarding family, but that they should be back in a few minutes. Patting his head with a smile, Mrs. Black had returned to the parlor, leaving Severus to his own devices until Sirius returned.
Severus knew Sirius must have gone to pick up James. Briefly Severus wondered what Sirius's other friend would be like. Sirius had said James would like Severus, which made Severus happy since he would then have two friends. It was these thoughts that had brought a smile to Severus's face as he started to wander through the rooms on the lower floor of the Black house. Shaking off his daydreams and wandering thoughts, Severus opened the door next to the parlor. Shelves and shelves of books lined the walls, all decorated in festive colors and streamers that glittered in the candlelight. Severus felt his jaw drop in awe as he stepped into the room.
Running his fingers along the spines of the books, Severus read off the titles, impressed by the sheer number of Dark Arts books. Eventually he picked out one of the books that seemed to relate to both Potions and Dark Arts and carried it over to the fire so he could read better. Settling himself beside the fire, he opened the book and began to read, quickly losing track of his surroundings.
A delicate cough interrupted Severus's concentration. Suddenly he realized there was a pair of delicate white slippers standing just before him. Looking up slowly, Severus's eyes wandered over the green and silver embroidery on the hem of the white velvet dress robes to the tiny hands encased in white gloves clasped primly before their owner. Raising his eyes further Severus found himself gazing into the crystal blue eyes of a rather pretty girl, her pretty face framed by the cascade of blonde ringlets that were artfully arranged by a string of diamonds.
Severus was aware of another, slightly older girl, with night black hair and pale green robes standing in the room as well. Rising quickly to his feet, Severus bowed to the girl in white, trying to hide the blush he knew was creeping across his face.
"Forgive me, my Lady. I did not hear you enter," Severus said, keeping his eyes on the floor. "Severus Snape at your service."
"Narcissa Black," the girl replied. Waving a hand at her friend she continued, "My sister, Bellatrix."
"It is a pleasure to meet you," Severus said primly.
Narcissa raised one hand over her mouth to cover a giggle. Severus could feel himself blushing even deeper at Narcissa's laughter. He knew he wasn't much to look at or very charming but she could have at least not laughed at him for it. Biting his tongue Severus struggled to contain his emotions as he looked for a safe topic.
"Are you Sirius's sisters?" Severus asked, figuring that talking about family at least would be a safe topic.
"No. We are only cousins," Narcissa replied, smiling up at Severus.
Severus found himself fighting off another blush as he looked down at the girl before him and completely at a loss for words. The little angel seemed to sense his discomfort and took pity on him.
"Mistletoe," she said with a giggle and gestured to something over Severus's head.
"Huh?" Severus said as he turned to look up. Sure enough there was a sprig of mistletoe on the mantel just over his head. Turning back to the girl he asked, "What of it?"
"Well," Narcissa said as she stepped toward Severus, a sly smile on her face. "That means I have to kiss you."
"No you don't," Severus said hastily as he tried to back away from the angel turned demon in front of him.
He wasn't quick enough and Narcissa had him cornered. Before Severus had even taken a step away from her, she was standing on her tiptoes, one hand planted on his chest as the other snaked around the back of his neck. Severus was stunned as she leaned forward and kissed him soundly on the lips. Dimly he was aware of a small thump as she dropped her heels back to the ground, using her arm around his neck to bring his head down as well, keeping their lips locked together.
For one panicked moment Severus's brain shut down on him as he tried to process the fact that there was a pretty girl with her arms around his neck and her lips pressed to his. Instinctively, Severus brought his hands up to her shoulders. Taking a firm grip, Severus tried to push Narcissa away from him but she was worse than a barnacle with the way she held on.
Severus was starting to see stars from the lack of oxygen when he heard footsteps coming down the hall toward the library. He recognized Sirius's voice talking excitedly to his unknown companion as they neared the library door. Severus sighed in relief, knowing that Sirius would save him from the unwanted advances of Narcissa.
There was a sudden flash of bright blue light and Narcissa cried out in pain before collapsing just as Sirius and a dark haired boy wearing round glasses walked into the room. Sirius's eyes swept the room quickly taking in his cousin Bellatrix moving across the room toward her sister, Narcissa, who had collapsed on the hearth at Severus's feet with her robes slightly askew and the panicked look on Severus's face. A scowl darkened Sirius face as he stalked across the room toward Severus, leaving the other black haired boy standing in the doorway with a confused look on his face.
"What did you do?" Sirius growled as he stopped an arm's length away from Severus, his fists planted on his hips.
"I…she…" Severus stammered helplessly as he gestured to himself and Narcissa.
"Well what happened?" Sirius snarled, obviously having little patience for Severus's stammering.
Severus shook his head mutely as he tried to force a reply out in the face of his friend's anger.
"I saw it all," Bellatrix interrupted as she looked up from where she had placed her sister's head in her lap, her dark eyes flashing with hatred as she looked at Severus. Bellatrix pointed at Severus. "He tried to force himself on my sister."
Severus was too stunned at Bellatrix's unfounded accusations to do more than stare at her in silence.
"How dare you!" Sirius shouted as he grabbed Severus's shoulder. "She's only eight."
Severus barely managed to suppress a groan at the sudden pain that shot through his arm from where Sirius's vice-like grip had crushed Severus's already bruised shoulder. Severus could not think through the pain. Instinctively he brought his hands up to protect his face. As if on cue Sirius's fists were there lashing out at Severus, striking him rapidly on the chest and shoulders. Sirius's fists did not hurt nearly as much as the blows Severus had received from his father, but Sirius eventually struck one of Severus's old bruises.
The taller boy bit his lip to keep from crying out, but he could not prevent the tears from springing to his eyes as his knees gave out. Severus collapsed on the hearth next to the book he had been reading earlier. Fighting through the haze of pain, he realized somebody had restrained Sirius.
"Let me go, James!" Sirius shouted at the black haired boy holding him.
"He's down, Sirius," James said as he pinned his friend's arms to his sides, "You wouldn't want somebody to think you had no honor for kicking a sniveling wretch like that when he's down, do you?"
"You're right," Sirius said, calming slightly before he shook off his friend's hands. Stalking over he loomed over Severus. "James is right, you are a sniveling wretch. Maybe that's what we should call you, Snivellus, the sniveling wretch. Listen good, Snivellus, I never want to see your face come near my family again. Do you understand me?"
Severus could only stare up at Sirius in mute silence. He could not believe that the boy who had taught him to play Exploding Snap just that afternoon was now staring at him with such hatred and loathing. Severus had not even done anything wrong, but Sirius wouldn't listen to Severus's side of the story.
"Well?" Sirius snarled, nudging Severus rather harshly with one booted toe, "Do you understand me, Snivellus?"
Mutely, Severus sniffled slightly running a hand over his bleeding lip before finally nodding. Sirius stared down at Severus for several long seconds before turning on his heel and striding away. James glared at Severus for a moment as well before turning to follow Sirius out of the room. Severus groaned and buried his head in his hands. Today had been one of the worst days of his life.
A rustling of cloth beside him brought Severus's head back up. He watched as Bellatrix rose with her sister's arm slung over her shoulders. She looked down at Severus, her face cold and emotionless. The two stared at each other in silence for several long minutes. Severus could feel his hatred for this girl who had so blatantly lied to her cousin slowly rising in his chest, choking off his breath. Abruptly Bellatrix freed a hand from holding up her sister and drew a handkerchief out of her pocket.
"Here." She said tonelessly as she dropped the handkerchief into Severus's lap. "I'm sorry I lied, but you had to know what he's like. My cousin would have betrayed you at the drop of a hat. Better you learn that now before you get too attached to him."
Severus felt his eyebrows rise in surprise at her words. His eyes followed the two girls as they shuffled across the room but he no longer saw them. His mind slowly replayed the last few minutes as he thought about Bellatrix's last words. She was right, he realized. Sirius was supposed to be his friend and he had not even allowed Severus to tell his side of the story. Scowling Severus stood up started to search for a mirror so he could clean up the damage Sirius had done to his appearance. At least he could still enjoy the party, even if Sirius and James hated him.
Before Severus had even gone two steps, his mother and Mrs. Black strode into the room. Vivienne took one look at her son's bleeding lip and rumpled clothing. Her brows lowered as she crossed the room taking Severus's face in her hands and turning it so that she could see it in the light. Vivienne's lips compressed into a thin line as she raked the unruly lengths of her son's hair off his face, her fingers tightening briefly over the bruises on Severus's shoulders, a silent warning.
"What did I tell you about fighting?" Vivienne asked, her voice cold and dangerous.
"You said not to do it," Severus whispered, a sinking feeling in his gut.
"And yet you have bruises that tell me you have been doing just that," Vivienne said, releasing Severus with a small shove that sent him stumbling backward.
"Mother…" Severus started.
"Don't even try it," Vivienne said, holding up one hand, palm out, toward Severus as she rubbed the fingers of her other hand over her forehead. "You have just ruined a very pleasant evening for myself and your hostess. Your actions have brought shame to the Snape name and you have disobeyed me. There is no excuse you could offer that might mitigate your punishment. Get the cloaks. We are leaving and your father will hear about this as soon as he returns home."
Severus stared at his mother for a moment, realizing that she wasn't even going to let him try to tell his side of the story. A sharp glare from Vivienne sent Severus scrambling out of the room in search of the house elf. As he ran past the stairs toward the kitchen, he heard Sirius and James laughing.
"Snivellus is busted!" Sirius crowed, setting the two boys off into another fit of laughter.
Severus glared at them before turning his back and stalking into the kitchen. Kreacher was only too happy to fetch Severus and his mother's cloaks. All too soon Severus found himself standing back in the hallway, his head bowed as his mother bid goodnight to Mr. and Mrs. Black, thanking them for the invitation and apologizing for her son's rude behavior.
If it hadn't been for his mother's tight grip on his arm, Severus might have tried to justify his actions, but in his heart he knew there was nothing he could do. If his own mother would not listen to his side of the story, how could he possibly expect anybody else to? As his mother marched him out the door back to the beating Severus knew he would get from his father for his insolence tonight, Severus realized something. He hated Christmas. All the bright decorations and the false laughter, it was just a cover for all the black-hearted people who would try to betray him the first chance they got.
Bellatrix slipped quietly into the darkened room just below the attic. Closing the door behind her, she leaned against it as she peered into the darkness. As gracefully as a stooping hawk, a shadow detached itself from the wall. A stray beam of moonlight reflected off shoulder length pale white hair for a moment as the boy crossed the room toward her.
"Is it done?" Lucius whispered as he placed one palm casually on the door beside Bellatrix's head.
"Yes," Bellatrix replied, her breath catching in her throat briefly. "He has been isolated."
"Good, " Lucius purred. "Father believes the boy has the talent to become a Potions Master, and with talents like that, the Dark Lord wants the Snape heir brought into his service. When my father calls in the debts the boy's father owes, the Snape fortune will vanish. Penniless and alone, the boy will be easily swayed to the Dark Lord's side when the time comes."
"Of course," Bellatrix agreed.
Her heart hammered in her chest with excitement at Lucius's nearness. She had finally managed to catch the eye of the only heir to one of the most prestigious pureblooded families in the wizarding world. And all it had taken was destroying the budding friendship between her cousin Sirius and the young heir to the Snape family. It was a simple thing and Bellatrix found that she had quite enjoyed doing it. The pained anguish on Severus's face when his supposed friend had betrayed him. Oh yes, Lucius was well worth it, Bellatrix thought to herself and I will finally best the beautiful Narcissa at something. When we are old enough, Lucius will take me as his wife now, not her.
"You have pleased me today, Bellatrix Black," Lucius whispered into her ear. "Continue to do so and I shall see you rewarded well."
And then he was gone, leaving Bellatrix alone in the darkness, her heart still pounding with his scent in her nose. Oh, yes indeed. Just wait until Narcissa finds out that I've won the most eligible boy in our generation. Bellatrix thought to herself with an evil smirk, never realizing that Lucius had played her as easily as she had played Severus and Sirius.