Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his world belong to J. K. Rowling. This is for fun, no copyright infringement is intended.
Author's note: Matrimonial violence will once more be mentioned, consider yourself warned. And since this is the last chapter I'd like to say thank you for reading, big, big thank you for your reviews and I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did writing it.
Time frame: Marauder era, start of their first year.
- King's Cross railway station, London
The tall, hook-nosed man who had bumped into her father didn't even bother to return his apology. Instead his already angry face grew only angrier as his gaze fell on the plain, black pointed hat sitting on top of her trunk and he gave her such a dark look that Lily involuntarily turned her head and stared after him as he strode away at a brisk pace. Startled by the inexplicable contempt and pain in those hard eyes. She really did not understand what she had done to him. A gentle hand on her shoulder brought her back to the present and as she looked up quickly she was reassured by her mother's smile.
"Come now, darling, watch where you are pushing that trolley."
Lily nodded obediently, smiled back and leaned forward against her heavy load. Over her and Petunia's heads Mrs Evans's eyes met briefly with those of her husband, and they exchanged a look and an almost imperceptible shrug as if to say 'Oh, well. People.'. And with that the incident was forgotten.
It was a quarter past ten and King's Cross was swarming like a beehive so Mr Evans kept a firm hold on his older daughter as he continued squeezing his way up the line of platforms. Behind them Mrs Evans once more placed a directing hand on the handle of the heavily laden trolley. With good reason because Lily could not resist temptation and was more craning her neck and staring around than paying attention where they were going. She thought she had never seen that many people in one place before. There were Japanese tourists following a guide with raised umbrella, guards in shining uniforms looking very important or slightly stressed, a poor dog navigating his path doggedly in the wake of a family of five, men and women dressed in fine business wear and of course lots and lots of trolleys, laden or empty, standing in the oddest of places and forming a bizarre obstacle course. Her father had to raise his voice to be heard over the constant noise, echoing under the high roof.
"... seven ... eight ... nine and ten. Here we are then."
Finding a relatively quiet spot a bit to the side they gathered together and eyed the ticket box and barrier between platforms nine and ten with very different feelings. Petunia decidedly grumpy, Mr and Mrs Evans slightly anxious and Lily with an odd flutter in the pit of her stomach.
So this was it. The moment she had been waiting for since her eleventh birthday when this strange little man who had introduced himself as Professor Flitwick had appeared in the middle of their living room with a flourish and a bow and presented her a heavy envelope made of yellowish parchment. Her whole world had turned upside down that day, in an exciting and wonderful way, and not only because all of them had jumped up screaming with surprise. No, she - Lily Evans - was a witch and invited to come to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and there learn all about magic and the magical world. An honour and an unexpected pleasure and reason for ceaseless ramblings every day ... and yet now she found herself strangely torn. Suddenly what had been like an exciting dream seemed almost frighteningly real. More real than during her visit to Diagon Alley with the professor. More real than the moving pictures in her new textbooks. More real than the pointed hat on her trunk or the smooth wood of her wand, carefully packed away in the extra bag with the black school robe she intended to wear later.
"Well." The voice of her father nearly made her jump out of her skin. "I'm not sure if we - er - non-magical people are allowed through so we should probably say goodbye here ... what do you think, love?"
He cast a questioning glance at his wife who agreed with some hesitation. Lily looked back and forth between them and swallowed; the odd flutter in her stomach growing alarmingly. She returned the hugs she received in (for her) unusual silence, nodded mutely to the last minute admonitions she got ("be good - listen to your teachers - do NOT touch anything you do not know"), said obediently goodbye to her sister when asked to do so ("Bye" - "Bye"). And before she knew it she stood facing the very solid-looking barrier with her trolley, and her parents and sister off to both sides watching for the opportune moment. She suddenly wasn't sure at all if this had been such a good idea.
She started and threw her father a wide-eyed look, feet frozen to the ground. Mr Evans made shooing gestures with his hands, eyes on a pair of approaching teenagers.
Lily took a deep breath. Looking forward again she gripped the handle of the trolley harder and pushed, got it moving, sped up, the barrier still looking terribly solid, and then - remembering some advice the strange little professor had given her - closed her eyes, lowered her head and broke into a full run. A few seconds she just kept running ... and running and just as she was beginning to hope... CRASH!
Lily staggered backwards at the sudden impact and unexpected yelp. Her eyes flew open and widened to the size of saucers at the sight of an enraged-looking woman in a long green dress, fox-fur scarf and a tall hat with what seemed to be a stuffed vulture on top shaking a big red handbag at her.
"Can you not look where you are pushing that trolley, girl? Really, children have no sort of manners these days! Running around and assailing unsuspecting people..."
The rest of her tirade was lost on Lily for she had turned her load, scrambled to pick up her hat and bag from the ground and beat a hasty retreat to the right, stumbling like dazed through a dazzling mass of robes in blue and emerald and every other colour one could only think of. People were screaming and yelling, toads were croaking, cats mewing, owls screeching, tiny and not so tiny children were running everywhere followed by angry parents. Trunks and bags were piled in disorderly heaps, and above all that a huge scarlet steam engine was belching up dark clouds of smoke. She started trembling. It was just and simply too much.
Lily Evans was normally a rather cheeky child - too cheeky for her own good, as some would say - but for once she was completely out of her depth.
Anything Professor Flitwick had told her had vanished straight from her head. Shrinking lower and lower behind her trolley she shuffled on along the edge of the crowd in a state of shock, jumping and looking around wildly every time voices rose close by. Faces turned grimaces, the screaming colours were drowning her, the unfamiliar noises pierced her ears. Panic-stricken shying away from any towering figure turning her direction she hastened on without aim or purpose, blinking against tears forming faster and faster in her eyes.
She wanted her mother. She wanted no longer to be a witch. She wanted to go to that boarding school together with her best friend Claire, at least there they would be delivered in the safety of a group of other new students and shown through the buildings and treated to special songs and speeches and... That was the moment her gaze went through a gap in the milling people and fell on a small, dark-clad boy about her age, standing with his trolley at the back of the platform. She stopped dead and stared at him, her previous despair forgotten.
He was pale, even sickly so, with a nose to be pitied for and greasy black hair falling down on his shoulders just like the lead singer of her favourite rock band. The one whose picture her mother had taken one look at and immediately ordered her to get off the wall. She instantly liked him.
Carefully making her way through the crowd parting them Lily sidled up to the boy as close as she dared and positioned herself a bit to his left. From there she watched him curiously. If this was an appointed meeting place for first-years they seemed to be early for he stood all alone with no adult close enough to belong to him, tugging somewhat impatiently at the point of the obligatory hat he held in his hand. Noting that he was already wearing his black school robes she hastily pulled her own out and slipped them on, fighting a bit with the unfamiliar garment. But after she had smoothed it out she immediately felt better, less out of place than in her - what was the word? ah, yes - 'Muggle' clothes. Inching a bit closer still she rested her elbows on the trolley and prepared to wait with new confidence.
- Platform Nine and Three-quarters
Severus pressed his thin lips tighter together and glowered angrily at the crowd milling by.
It wasn't fair. This should have been HIS big day. The day he went to Hogwarts to become a real wizard. Instead his parents had had to start one of their fights yesterday evening and the end of it was that his mother had refused to go out with a black eye - even if he had seen her conceal worse and easily when she wanted to meet friends for tea. And then she had insisted it was necessary he put on his school robes right away although she knew his father would hate taking him like that. The whole journey to London they had received funny looks, making father's expression so angry from embarrassment that he had hardly dared to glance at him let alone say anything to break the grim silence.
Giving his hat an especially vicious tug Severus abruptly felt guilty for blaming his mother for his disappointment. She was his MOTHER. The only one who took care he knew how to behave as a proper wizard and not be laughed at in the wizarding world since his grandfather refused to acknowledge more than the barest existence of his half-blood grandson. His father just didn't understand; how could he, he was only a Muggle. If he was a wizard too everything would be easier. Then there would be no reason for him to hit her. He would know the counter-jinxes when his mother raised her wand and he would never - it was just so embarrassing when ... to see... As usual Severus's mind shied back from this confusing train of thought.
Severus was a child. He did not know that he was but a pawn in an undeclared war between two people who had allowed circumstances and gossip to taint what they had once thought bright and wonderful. He did not know how thin the line was between love and hate; did not understand that you could despise what you want or need what you look down on. He was eleven years old and knew more curses than most would when they reached majority, and not one of them he had looked up in a book.
Abruptly realizing he was being watched Severus looked round and glared at a small, red-headed girl who had taken position to his left. Unfortunately she seemed more curious than impressed and for some unknown reason this fuelled his aimless anger.
Jamming the hat resolutely on his head Severus threw his weight against the trolley handle and pushed through the crowd, speeding up when he noticed the girl doing the same. She walked faster too and so he increased his pace some more, looking back over his shoulder only to see her following determinedly. Dodging around people they reached the train nearly at a run, Severus by now with a hurting neck from turning so often, she slightly breathless with effort. And both oblivious to the amused glances shared behind their backs. To get his heavy trunk off the trolley and up through the first available door almost proved too much for Severus's scrawny body but he managed by sheer stubbornness just as two fathers jumped forward to give a hand. So they helped the girl instead. Severus only rolled his eyes.
He nearly gave up after one look into the narrow corridor, packed with students, but since the girl was still behind him and there was no real choice anyway he lowered his head and started making his way down the length of the train as good as possible. What was not very good. He was buffeted and jostled from all sides and once nearly lost his front teeth to the unintentional elbow of a tall sixth-year who turned at the wrong moment, yelling at him as if it was his fault. His trunk seemed to catch constantly on small edges of the walls or shins or heels, drawing pained curses down on him. Soon he was sweating and sniffling for his nose had started running embarrassingly but he did not dare stop and search for a handkerchief. On top of that the girl was still following him persistently and had it considerably easier in his wake; much to his annoyance. Yet his pride would not allow him to ask for help. Stubbornly ignoring his burning hands and shoulders he trudged on until he finally found a nearly empty compartment somewhere in the middle of the train. Nodding breathlessly to the two boys of maybe twelve or thirteen who had taken possession of the seats on the left side, he quickly wiped an offending drop off his nose before starting the trying task to get his trunk around the corner.
"Hey, you." The voice made him pause halfway through the door and look up. "You can't sit here. This compartment is full."
Severus glanced uncertainly at the luggage racks - the right one definitely empty - before looking back at the two older boys. They held a struggling toad between them and were regarding him coolly. He hesitated. Part of him wanted to turn heel and leave, however, the unpleasant prospect of a new trip through the stuffed corridor won out, and he opened his mouth in protest. The bigger boy of the two beat him to it.
"It's full for a Snivellus like you."
A hot wave of shame and anger washed over Severus as he stood rooted to the spot, answering their challenging stares mutely. And absolutely unable to decide what to do. With the years he had slowly got used to being considered unnatural because of his clothes and hair and mother in his previous school and neighbourhood - that was only the opinion of Muggles after all and didn't count as she had assured him every time he came home in tears, swearing he would never ever go back out. But he was entirely unprepared to meet the same derisive treatment here; in what she had always told him to be the world he really belonged to. The next moment any decision was taken out of his hands.
"What is going on here? You, first-year, you can't block the corridor like that! Get on in."
Startled Severus turned to the authoritative voice and had to lay back his head to look up at the impressive, much older boy with a shiny silver badge with a P on his chest.
"He can not sit here," the bigger boy from the compartment said again quickly, "We are waiting for some friends."
He was obviously making that up as he spoke and the older student seemed to think so too for he narrowed his eyes dangerously.
"A third-year should know by now to come in time," he told the two other boys brusquely before giving Severus a commanding shove and drawing his wand. "Go on in and sit. Here, I'll take care of that..."
Somewhat terrified Severus watched his trunk soar up into the luggage rack, having no idea how he should get it back down later. Then he ducked quickly and hurried to the empty window seat because the girl's trunk and bag zoomed past and settled on top of his. The boy with the badge beckoned her impatiently to step in too and then walked off, not without a last stern look at the two unhappy third-years.
As the girl climbed on the seat beside Severus the bigger boy muttered something nasty about arrogant Ravenclaw prefects but thankfully the steam engine in front chose this moment to whistle piercingly. The boys jumped up, forced the toad in one of their pockets and joint the throng in the corridor. The cheerful noise of farewell rose to a new level and not long afterwards the Hogwarts Express started pulling out of the station with one last long whistle. Rumbling and shaking and puffing up huge clouds of smoke he gained speed while students scrambled back into their chosen compartments and settled in only to hop up not much later and start wandering about.
Severus had pulled out his beloved copy of Advanced Potion Making and amused himself with looking up any potion which used parts of toad as ingredients. He studiously ignored the two third-years whispering between themselves as well as the red-headed girl fiddling with her hat and the landscape flying by outside.
The new peace didn't last long, or so it seemed, before a new commotion in the corridor drew the boys back on their feet. Together with half of the train if the dull vibration going through the floor was any indication. The girl followed them curiously after a short sideways glance in Severus's direction, asking in a timid voice what was happening now. The boys, who seemed to have found back to a more amiable mood, explained about the arriving food trolley and then on about the different types of sweets when they discovered that the girl was Muggle-born, helping her to pick some and pay in the right way.
"Those Chocolate frogs will BE chocolate, won't they?" The girl sounded a bit wary after she had sat down again and made first experiences with Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans.
"Oh yes, don't worry." The smaller boy laughed. "But they have cards in them, see? To collect. My father has a complete set of Most Famous Quidditch-Players but at the moment they are doing Magical Beasts And Monsters. Go on, open one..." The girl shrieked. "Hey, you are lucky; an Acromantula on the first try I keep getting only unicorns for ages now."
Severus bent deeper over his book and tried to block out the chattering voices. The small purse '...with real money to buy something off the trolley...' his mother had handed him just this morning was still tickling seductively in his pocket but he would rather have swallowed his tongue than stand beside those boys and sift through the food. For a second he though of the paper bag with his favourite cream toffees from the little shop at the corner of their street his father had slipped wordlessly into his hand before he had practically pushed him through the barrier between platforms nine and ten. But of course it was simply impossible to eat Muggle sweets here; he would never live that down. So he swallowed the saliva watering his mouth and stubbornly pretended to read as the two boys - they turned out Hufflepuffs - explained this and that about Hogwarts to the girl hanging on their lips ... but after some time he too was listening closely.
This lesson about the wizarding world ended abruptly when the compartment door banged open once more and a noisy group of other third-years greeted the two boys enthusiastically. One could have thought they had all suddenly gone deaf with the ruckus they made and while most of the giggling and laughter took place out in the corridor, some words floated back in with perfect clarity.
"...see the boy in the corner? Did you see his nose? Did you see his hair? Boy, I pity anybody after him in the alphabet the Sorting Hat will be dripping with grease..."
Severus's whole body stiffened painfully as something cold and ugly balled up in the pit of his stomach and grew, taking his breath away. He could no longer see the pages in front of him. He could no longer think of anything but the wand in his pocket and his frustrating lack of knowledge of how to wield it even if he knew the words. But one day. One day he would. The soft clearing of a throat right beside him made him snap round defensively.
A long moment he stared down at the small palm offering him a Chocolate frog and then up into startling green, almond-shaped eyes. The girl smiled shyly.
Refusing with his most haughty look Severus turned his back on her and stared grimly into his book, trying with all his might to stamp out this tiny spark that suddenly warmed him deep inside. Yet somehow he failed miserably.
It would still take long years for him to learn that some things were indeed unbreakable ... if only by choice.
And in the end he would have chosen many times.
The end ... or rather the beginning.