Severus was in bed, a pillow held tightly over his head to block the noise out. The screaming and crashing wasn't new, but since being away from it, he found it harder to swallow. If he was any of his housemates, he wouldn't be cowering in bed. His dingy bed had been a fragile haven since he was big enough to hide in it from his father. Now, he felt more childish than anything, and he wanted to blame his mother deep in his heart, for marrying such a man and having a child. Never being born would have been an improvement over witnessing Eileen's daily beating courtesy of the worthless muggle she was shacking up with. Another crash, another scream, and this time Severus answered with a cry of his own, a cry of frustration and guilt. What would Lily think if she found out he didn't help? What would she say? He remembered the look she'd given him when she saw the old burns on his arm when he'd rolled his sleeves up without thinking.
The pity had made him sick to his stomach, and he vowed that when he returned home, he wouldn't be a victim. Unfortunately, Tobias was bigger and meaner than Severus' memory had let on, and confidence fled out the window the second he'd stepped across the threshold and seen the hateful man, "Look who's home from the bloody circus," he muttered, dropping his spent cigarette into his empty bottle of lager.
"Sev got perfect marks," Eileen said, forcing a smile and patting her son on the shoulder. Her ring finger looked as if it had been broken while Severus was gone.
"That's brilliant," Tobias muttered, looking at his son with eyes that made Severus cringe, "How much bleeding money they give you for perfect marks, Mr Wizard? You're still trash, now get in the kitchen and bring me a drink you Nancy."
Snaps had skulked into the kitchen like a robot, controlled by someone else as he fetched his father's drink, ignoring the scowl Tobias gave him upon his return, "Severus, please put your things away," Eileen said softly, banishing him to his room as usual. Whether she was protecting him or just as put off by his presence, he never knew for sure.
Despite all of the hate and fear and guilt, Severus couldn't bring himself to move from his bed, that night or any other after. He'd endure as he always had and maybe-just maybe-returning to Hogwarts would erase the wounds of summer break. Soon, the screams quieted to crying, and then muttered conversation. Tobias was likely spouting his usual nonsense. "I love you too much. It's the stress of being out of work. I'm trying to quit drinking. It's just that boy." Severus could recite them from memory, but it made him feel sick. He wondered if Slytherin wasn't the right house for him after all; he was not particularly virtuous, and he was certainly not brave.
Lily was faring better at home, as usual. Her parents had their concerns, but were practically glowing with pride at the news of their daughter's perfect marks while Petunia fumed every time they mentioned Lily at all. At dinner on the second evening, the older Evans girl finally snapped, "Why don't you invite that greasy freak to dinner?"
Lily scowled but their mother Rose stepped in, "Petunia dear, apologize to your sister. I don't like that word in my home."
"Listen to your mother," their father Charles chimed in without looking up from his book, taking a bite of food as he turned the page.
Petunia bit her tongue, "Sorry."
Lily smiled at her mother who gave her an expectant look, "So what about this boy we've been hearing about?"
Lily opened her mouth to speak but her sister interrupted, "He's so poor he can't even rub two nickels together. You should see how he dresses, and I don't think he ever bathes. I've never seen a greasier person in my life!"
Lily's face turned red and her mother intervened, "Petunia dear, your sister has been given this gift, and I know you are having a difficult time and feeling left out, but-"
Petunia leapt to her feet, tears in her eyes, "You don't know anything!" She cried before running upstairs.
Rose reached over and patted her daughter, "Don't worry, love, she's just having a little bit of jealousy. She was right about one thing. You should invite that boy over, one day when Petunia's away with her friends. We would like to meet him."
Lily smiled, "Thank you, mum, I will."
"Wouldn't that be wonderful, Charles?"
"Listen to your mother," he muttered.
"Oh Charles!" Rose scolded, prompting him to look up, "I wish you wouldn't read at the table; your nose is always in a book, every time I turn around."
Charles turned slightly red and chuckled, "I'm sorry dear," and set the book aside, "Where's Petunia?"
As Rose scowled at her unaware husband, Lily thought about what her friend was up to, and whether they'd run into one another over break.
"I don't like you being there alone, Narcissa."
"Lucius, I'm not going to Durmstrang," Narcissa said, "It's too far."
"They don't take Mudbloods," Lucius said, "It's safer."
"It's dreadful!" she protested, "I'm likely to freeze to death or be eaten by a polar bear!"
Lucius didn't comment on her sarcasm, "I think you are making the wrong decision, but it is yours to make."
"I want to go and finish out a Slytherin anyway," Narcissa said.
"You're sure you want to go without me?" Lucius asked, "Seventh year is a lot of responsibility, Narcissa."
"If you can do it, so can I. Being at Hogwarts without you isn't exactly like a job at the Ministry."
Lucius sighed, "Alright well joke all you want, but I know what a soft heart you can be. Being a seventh year is about keeping the little monsters under you in check."
"Lucius," Narcissa said, "You're just like your father."
"What's gotten into you?" Lucius asked, scowling.
Narcissa folded her arms, "It's time to get our priorities straight," she said, "Is the downfall of Gryffindor worth the downfall of Slytherin? Or is the glory of Slytherin worth leaving Griffindor alone?"
"That isn't your only option."
"It is," Narcissa argued, "Have we won a single house cup since we started here? It's because we've gotten away from the true spirit of Slytherin. We aren't idiot bullies; we are cunning and willing to do anything to win." She sighed, "I guess maybe that's too much for some of us."
Lucius pondered for a moment then shrugged, "Fine, do it your way. Tutor the others and if a Griffindor gets out of line, employ underhanded tactics to fix them."
"That's why I'm going out with you," Narcissa said, sitting beside him, "Your deviant wit."
Lucius smiled and kissed her, one of the real reasons Narcissa stayed.
July went the same as it usually did, hot and miserable, making it hard to linger outside even when Tobias was at his worst. August came in just as harsh, and Snape was sitting in the playground where he used to meet Lily, reading one of his less animated schoolbooks when she came upon him, "Severus," she said as if relieved, "Where have you been?"
Severus watched as she sat beside him, dressed in muggle clothes as he was, though hers were more weather appropriate, "I've been at home," he said, knowing she wanted more of an explanation.
"Why not come out before now? And why are you wearing a sweater? Aren't you burning up?" She asked.
"No," Snape lied, casting aside her motherly concern, "Why all the questions?"
Lily folded her arms, "Is it your father?" she asked. Snape froze with panic but said nothing, his face blank, "Does he hurt you?"
Severus stood and picked up his book, "If you're going to ask stupid questions I'll just go home," he snapped defensively.
"No," Lily said sadly, "I'm sorry. Don't go. My mum told me to invite you to dinner sometime. She wants to go with me to Diagon Alley too so maybe we could all go together."
"I already have my supplies," he said, "But maybe I'll go with you and make sure you get the right books."
Lily smiled, "And dinner?"
Snape glanced in the direction of his home, "Tonight?"
"I guess. She didn't tell me when exactly. Are you alright?"
Severus almost snapped again, but reminded himself that she was his friend, his closest and maybe only friend, "It's only another month," he said.
Lily moved closer and hugged him, resting her head on his shoulder without saying anything. He didn't pull away, "I wish I had an owl, then we could write at least."
"My mother's owl doesn't carry letters often. He's old," Severus said, "We could leave letters here."
Lily smiled, "That's genius."
"Have you heard from Remus?" Snape asked.
"No, but maybe he's busy, and he didn't exactly say he would write," Lily said, "Maybe the other Slytherins got to him."
Snape shook his head, "Not Remus, he isn't like them," he said, "He'll write eventually."
"Severus, when we're old enough, you could live with me," Lily said.
"Where would we live?"
"A big flat right smack in the middle of the city," Lily said, "Where there's always noise and lights and no one would call us freaks because everybody is different."
Snape smiled, "Alright."
"And we can go to concerts. I'll take you to see Rod Stewart and John Lennon and the Rolling Stones-"
"What about the Beatles you always talk about?" Snape asked.
Lily sighed, "It doesn't look like they're getting back together, but there are plenty of fish in the sea."
Snape mused silently, "I'd like that," he said.
"In six years then, it's a deal," Lily said.
"Damn it, Eileen, where is dinner?!"
Snape watched his mother rush about the kitchen, terrified and hiding it as best she could, "Almost done, Tobias!" Her gaze passed over her son and then settled there, "Go on now. Your father doesn't want you moping about the kitchen."
"A friend invited me to dinner, mum, from school," he said, "You're burning the-"
"Oh Merlin!" She hissed, turning back to the stove, "Get out before he comes looking!"
Snape didn't wait for another prompt, he was out the back door in an instant and running from that terrible house. He ran all the way to the park, almost colliding with Lily in the low light, "Severus! Is everything-"
Severus nodded, "Lets just go," he said, looking over his shoulder as if a boggart had been after him.
"Petunia is off with friends," Lily said as they walked, "She's been insufferable ever since I got home."
Snape listened silently, letting her small talk take away the fear of what waited for him back home, the man that was slowly making life unbearable as a month had stretched to seem longer than their ten month term at Hogwarts. He imagined that students like James and Remus thought the opposite, their vacation filled with safety and laziness. Lily, too, perhaps felt this way although she was far from the academic mediocrity of James Potter, a boy that made Snape wonder if his parents weren't baboons.
The Evans home was nice, cozy, a mansion compared to the Snape house, falling apart and home to more than a few mice. The Evans home smelled like desserts, like love and a mother who cared enough to sweep the floor or wipe down the kitchen counter. Lilly's parents were just as pleasant as their home, smiling and gentle and so like Lily that Snape's defenses lowered. Lily's father shook his hand, which threw him for a loop, having a man reach out with no intention of hitting him.
Thankfully, there was little time to talk before dinner was ready, and Lily answered most of her parents questions for him. As they ate, however, conversation wandered down roads less pleasant, "Severus, Lily tells us you live nearby. Who are your parents?"
Lily looked at Snape but he held his emotions in check, "Tobias and Eileen Snape, sir," he said, "They are usually very busy."
Charles nodded, "Are they... magical as well?"
"My mother is. My father is a... a nonmagical person," Snape said.
"Lily said that you might be joining us when we go to pick up her school supplies," Rose said, "Will your parents be taking you?"
Snape shook his head, "I already have supplies," he lied, "Lily asked me to go, for fun."
"We'll be glad to have you," Charles said, "Of course."
"Charles, will you help me with the dishes? Lily, why don't you show Severus around the house dear?"
"Yes, mum," Lily said, leading him away.
"There's no need to say a word," Charles told Rose, "I know exactly what you're thinking."
"Did you see the bruises on his arm? Oh, Charles we have to do something," Rose urged.
Charles carried the dishes from the table into the kitchen, "Maybe this trip will give us a chance to assess the situation. There's no reason to get involved until we know the right people to call. Do wizards call the same people?"
Rose turned on the sink, leaning against the counter, "How terrible to have magic and still not have the money or motivation to take proper care of a child."
Charles wrapped his arms around his wife, "It'll be alright, love. We'll find a way to fix it."
"This is your room?" Snape asked, "It's massive."
Lily laughed, "It's the smallest one. Petunia's is bigger but hers is painted green. Can you believe you wanted to be in Slytherin?"
Snape was busy examining a snow globe as he answered, "My mother was in Slytherin. I thought they would be more accepting of me than any other house, more academic."
"Are you happy that we're in Gryffindor?"
Severus paused, turning around. He hadn't really thought about it since he'd been sorted, or what the Sorting Hat had told him. He was bullied some, but it was just teasing, gentle and stupid jeering from Potter mostly. The way the Gryffindors and Slytherins treated Remus, Snape considered himself lucky, "I'm glad we're in the same house, and Gryffindor feels... nice."
Lily seemed pleased with that answer and she sat down on her large canopy bed, "What do you think Remus is doing?"
Snape shrugged, "Maybe vacationing with his family? He didn't really mention any plans," he said.
"Outside of snogging Narcissa Black," Lily muttered.
"He said that?" Severus asked, surprised.
"Well, no, but you've seen how he looks at her," she said.
"They're in the same house," Severus said with another shrug, going back to exploring the trinkets on Lily's bookshelf.
"She's older than us by five years, and she's rude," Lily said, "She's never been particularly kind to me. What about you?"
"Well she never chased me around the castle trying to kill me."
"You know what I mean!" Lily said.
"Why would anyone want to snog," Severus muttered, "Its dreadful."
"It won't be dreadful when we're older," Lily faltered.
"I'm never having a girlfriend," Severus said, "It's a waste of time." He turned to see Lily scowling, "What?"
Her expression changed to neutral and she turned started to play with her hair, "What what?"
Before he could answer, Lily's mother had stepped in, "Hello," she said, "Severus, would it be possible for you to join us on Friday?"
He glanced at Lily who smiled and shrugged, "I suppose so," he said, "I don't have anything else to do."
"That's lovely," Rose said, "I'll bring up some tea. Lily? Door open, dear."
"Yes, mum," she said sheepishly.
Once she was gone, Snape looked at her, "Door open?"
Diagon Alley was very busy, full of young witches and wizards buying what they needed for Hogwarts and just a bit more. The Evans family was entranced, but Snape was not, never fond of large crowds, "I want an owl, Mum, not one of the school owls. I want one of my own," Lily said.
"Does Severus have one?" Rose asked.
Severus looked up at the sound of his name, but Lily answered for him, "He uses the school owls too."
Charles smiled when Rose looked at him, "We'll see, dear," he said, patting Lily, "Books first, yes?"
After an hour of gathering books and supplies-Snape's jaw dropping at the amount of money Rose and Charles spent without batting an eyelash-Lily noticed that her father had managed to sneak off. They found him outside holding a pair of cages. A red owl-almost identical in color to Lily's hair- n one and in the other, a black owl with a striped belly that almost looked like a hawk. Snape mused over how the Evans had bought their daughter two owls until Charles handed the black and white one to him, "There you are, Severus."
Severus stared up at Charles, his mind a jumble, "This is..."
"Yours," Charles confirmed, then added a small white lie, "They were on sale."
The little owl cooed and brought Severus back to himself, "Thank you," he said, for he knew nothing else to say. His father usually grouched when anything was given to Snape and his mother usually warned him against telling his father, but not so with Charles. He simply nodded, patted Severus' shoulder and walked away with the family, Lily talking excitedly about names for her new ginger owl. Severus smiled and followed, an odd feeling of warmth coming over him.
A/N: As always, thanks for reading! Recently my pal kreoff210 updated her Houses fic too so if you're into the premise of this fic you'll love it's sister written by her. Don't forget to Review if you like it!