To all of the people who think that Snape's mother must have been a darling, sweet, and innocent angel. Read book six a little more carefully.

For clarity, the 'he' refered to is Severus Snape. Tobias Snape is always refered to as 'his father', never 'he'.

##

He can see her through the fumes that cling and sigh in the heavy air. Her eyes are narrowed, chipped and weathered from exhaustion, determination, and something deeper. Her mouth is pinched, and the smoke cannot hide the hard lines in her pallid face.

He holds the ingredients out one by one to her silently, watching her movements as the muggle clock murders the seconds by the stained and blackened wood wall. Her fingers are crab-like, angular and rough, skittering wth cold precision over the cauldron.

"When?"

"Not yet."

"Soon?"

She does not answer.

##

It is dark, and they are screaming at each other again. He hides in the corner, too afraid to run to his room. He would have to stand up for that, and the stretch of frayed carpet before him is open and wide, a forbidding battlefield pitted with shells and corpses. He could be seen and shot down if he crossed it.

He hears her curse his father for a filthy muggle, and he stiffens, waiting for the sound of his father's fist against her head.

Later he brings her a sodden cloth and helps her to wipe the blood from her face and hair. He asks her why she doesn't use magic to defend herself. She looks at him, and her eyes are bright against the bruise of her face.

She does not answer.

Slytherins are more subtle than that.

##

His hand is too small-his mother's wand feels awkward in his six-year-old palm. But he clenches his fist tightly and narrows his black eyes and repeats carefully his mother's intonation. His very first spell is a curse. He watches with fascination as pustules bubble beneath the praying mantis' shell-like skin, rupturing the creature from inside. It writhes, insectile arms twitching and scissoring until suddenly it slices its own head off.

He stares at the mantis's corpse for a moment, and then looks up at his mother. She is watching him carefully, kneeling down with him on the dirty floor.

"It works on people, too?"

She smiles now, a white grimacing flash of teeth.

"It works on father, then?"

She does not answer.

He knows without her saying anything.

His father wouldn't dare to beat him now.

##

His father does not notice the small alteration in flavour of his morning porridge. They are poor, after all, and cannot afford to throw away everything that the mice get into.

They are all used to numbing their senses.

This porridge in particular helps. He watches from the corner of the room as his father eats. He has turned eight, and his mother is teaching him anatomy. He is a quick learner, and he practices each morning by watching his father, and imagining how each bite is slowly liquifying his insides.

They say that if a toad is placed in a pot of cool yet slowly heating water, it will sit contentedly in place until it dies.

His father doesn't even notice the slowly creeping pain. He's been close to the bottle for years now, after all, and his liver is already melting into pate.

Potions are such beautiful things.

His mother walks over to the table with a cup of strong coffee in her hand, the black liquid nearing the colour of her wrist and left cheek. She asks his father how he is feeling.

His father grunts quietly and does not answer.

Severus smiles.

He knows it won't be long before the silence is permanent.