A/N: Sorry if the whole idea of Snape as the 'big bat from the dungeons' is someone else's pet phrase; if you were the first to use it let me know and I'll credit you. As far as I know though, it's in widespread use across the board. Anyway, hope you enjoy this chapter – if you do, please read and review! My writing style's a bit rusty from lack of use, so please let me know what I can improve. Anyway, with no further ado… Enjoy!
The eleven year old twisted a strand of her long, dark hair around her finger as tears streamed down her face. It should have been raining; in books it always rained at times like these. At funerals. Instead, the sky was merely overcast. 'It should be raining.' The pale man beside her muttered, startling her out of her thoughts. She glanced at him, but he didn't even seem to realise he had spoken. Her eyes flicked back to the silk-wrapped body lying at the front of the modest crowd. As she watched, the cloth was swept aside by the wind and she gazed for a moment on her mother's face before the wind dropped and it was covered again. She was alone in this world now. Beside her a voice whispered 'Goodbye, Aunt.' As if on cue, bright flames leapt up and when they receded, a black granite tomb was all that remained.
She stood there in that dismal graveyard for hours after all the officials had gone. She had nowhere to go now, no-one to turn to. 'Cousin?' She tore her eyes from the grave at last to find the pale man beside her again. 'Ready to go?' She'd only met him today, or at least if she had met him before she must have been too young to remember. But her mother's will was magically binding; since the death of her sister some years previously, she had entrusted the care of her daughter to the nephew she hardly knew. The two families hadn't spoken since the younger of the two women had scandalously married a Muggle. And the one-night stand which had led to the forlorn orphan girl now standing in the graveyard had done nothing to improve relations between the two families.
Now she looked up into her cousin's dark eyes and took a deep breath. 'I'm ready.' He offered her his hand and she gripped onto it tightly. As they left the cemetery together, it began to rain.
The house was beginning to become familiar now. She knew the floorboard that creaked outside her cousin's room; more importantly, she knew how to avoid it. She could map the rooms in her mind as she crept through them in the dark night. But it wasn't home; not yet, not really. It wasn't even as if she was staying there; tomorrow she was moving again, thanks to that stupid owl. She wondered how long it would be before anywhere felt like home. Slipping into the study, she curled up with a dog-eared old Defence Against the Dark Arts book, straining to read it in the minimal light from the window. Before she had reached the end of the page, she had fallen asleep.
Her cousin crept to the doorway and allowed himself the smallest of smiles at the sight. She hadn't slept in her own bedroom for three nights now. At first he had resented the little girl who was intruding on his space, taking up his rooms in his house. Soon, however, he had grown quite fond of the studious youngster. She'd been beginning to get her spirit and sense of humour back, and she was quite affectionate at times. He was a little worried about her; she didn't seem to trust him yet – every time he reached out and thought he'd won her over she would push him away. But it had been a mere six months since her mother's death, and that affected a child. He'd been older than her, a fifth-year when his own mother passed away, and it had sent him right off the rails for a while. He was sure that being with kids her own age, rather than cooped up with him as she had been all summer, would do her a world of good.
Only hours later, he helped the little girl on to the train and stood back, blinking hard at the sight of her, already dressed in her new uniform, clutching a small cage and blinking back at him. "But why do you have to look different?" She whispered as he gave in and gathered her into his arms for a last hug. "So that people don't get jealous of you for having such a great cousin." He muttered. She laughed at that. "You're silly. And blond hair doesn't suit you." He smiled. "No. I'll see you soon, then. Be good and be safe, alright?" "I will. I don't think the train will hurt me." It was his turn to laugh. He gave her a final hug, stepped back and closed the door as the great scarlet steam engine began to pull away. He watched, waving, until it steamed around the corner and out of sight, then turned on his heel and was gone.