A/n: This story was written in September of 2007 and found last week when I was going through my old notebooks. I re-read it, thought it had potential, and did some minor touch-ups on it for style and grammar's sakes. Then... I debated whether or not to post it, because it's been so long since I wrote anything at all that it might be weird to post again! But a few people over on KF read it, liked it, and encouraged me to show it to all of you. So here we are. :)
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
On the Run
Severus was running.
At the moment, he didn't know nor care where he was going, but he was running as fast as his eleven-year-old legs could carry him, and they seemed to be on autopilot. All that mattered was that he got away from the house as his mother had instructed when she had slipped into his room and less than gently shaken him awake.
"Go on, get out before he comes up here," she had hissed, out of breath. Severus had begun to complain, but she'd cut across his words before they'd even left his mouth. "Go on, go!"
"Go! Come back at dawn. He should be calmed down by then."
His mother's words and harsh tones reverberated through his head as if somebody had smashed a gong next to his ear. Situations like this had occurred in the past—his father going on rampages fueled by liquor and general dissatisfaction with his life—but Severus had never had to climb through his window and run off alone before. What if something were to happen to him? What if he were attacked by wolves or—or kidnapped? What would his scowling parents do then?
How pathetic, to live in a house and not have a place to call home.
Or, even more pathetic—how could he be so used to arguments that he no longer had to sit through them? He had been sleeping like a rock when his mother burst into his room, covered in a cold sweat and shaking head to toe—
So engrossed in his dark thoughts that he was not watching where he ran, Severus gave a loud shout as his bare foot collided with the cement curb. He then hopped stupidly on one foot, gasping, for a few moments until the pain subsided a bit, then turned around and sat on the soft grass beside the road. His dark eyes scanned what he could see of the surrounding area. The trees around him, still leafless from wintertime, seemed to wave their arms in a menacing way; Severus shuddered and looked away from them, towards the swing set. It was the park, where he had sat only two years ago with Lily Evans, but he couldn't stay here now.
The trouble was, it was two in the morning and he really had no place to go. Sleeping outside was really not an option, because while he might be able to protect himself from anything that would want to hurt him (with the exception of, it seemed, his father), he didn't have a way of keeping warm in the cold spring night. His eyes drifted over to the swing set. A pleasant laugh seemed to sound in his ears, and an idea crept into his reeling mind. Why didn't he…?
But no, he couldn't. Not at two in the morning, and not with his emotional state being as it was; a lump had long since developed in his throat, but his desire to save face was stronger than his urge to cry. Less than anything did he want Lily and Tuney to see him have a breakdown.
'But where else is there?' asked the hopeful part of his brain—the part that feared the dark and longed for a safe place to stay.
Severus sighed. He might as well walk to her house, as much as it pained him and put a damper on his pride to do so. Sighing, he clambered to his feet. The walk would not take long; he merely hoped that Mr. and Mrs. Evans wouldn't mind.
He began to pace down the deserted road, solemn-faced and shaking with cold, trying not to allow a pang of fear to creep into is stomach. Because fear meant vulnerability, and Severus Snape could not afford to be vulnerable. A strong gust of wind blew, rustling those trees that had made him so uneasy. Severus took one look at them and took off running, not to stop until his bare and dirty feet were safely on the Evans's doorstep.
When a very groggy and confused Mr. Evans opened the front door of his quiet home, he saw Lily's friend, that awkward, scrawny boy from a few blocks away, standing on his stoop.
His brows furrowed, Mr. Evans asked, "Severus? Is everything alright?"
Severus opened his mouth to reply, still panting slightly, but he then realized that he had been in such a hurry to get somewhere that he had forgotten to make up a story about why he was there. He felt the blood rush to his face in a wave of embarrassment.
"I'm sorry to bother you, but I was… my parents were… she told me to run." Severus trailed off, unsure of what to say, and uncomfortable—as well as saddened, he realized—that he had to say it.
Mr. Evans took in the image of the boy as he stood. An oversized gray shirt on thin arms, red shorts not long enough to wholly cover knees that almost knocked together in the spring's midnight chill. When he exhaled, his breath was visible even in the darkness. Scratching his mussed red hair and yawning, Mr. Evans opened the front door.
"Come on in, Severus," he said in a tone that disguised his parently concern. He glanced quickly over his shoulder into the house and whispered something that Severus did not hear. "You know you're always welcome here. Mrs. Evans will fix a spot on the couch for you to camp out."
Grateful beyond all possibility, Severus thanked the man before him and stepped into the house. Though he had been here many a time over the last two years, it still struck him as odd to see such a strange place, even more so in near pitch-blackness. Not a single magical object was in sight, not a moving picture nor bewitched clock to be seen. In the middle of the entrance hall stood Mrs. Evans, clad in a nightgown, slippers, and a bathrobe. Her brown hair hung limp over her shoulders, unbrushed. Both of the Evanses looked beyond exhausted in the light of the one lamp that was on; Severus felt a wave of guilt wash over him for having ever come here. Perhaps he would not sleep at all, and instead leave as soon as daylight would permit him a safe trip home. Lily and her sister needn't ever know he was here, and if their parents didn't have the mind to keep it a secret, he would lie.
Nevertheless, he didn't protest as Mrs. Evans fixed him a spot on the couch and offered him something to eat, which he politely refused before his grumbling stomach gave him away. Mrs. Evans laughed quietly—so much like her daughter's laugh, he noticed—before walking off to the kitchen with her husband, leaving Severus on the couch in the dark, alone. Severus didn't bother to stifle a yawn as he lay back on the soft and bouncy cushions of his makeshift bed. He wasn't alone for long, however, because a minute later somebody appeared in the room's doorway, opposite the kitchen. A somebody whose pink nightgown was just showing signs of her growth spurt—it ended just too short at her knees, leaving exposed a pair of skinny shins that are so typical for young girls. Her hair must have been in a bun before she went to sleep, but now it hung on the side of her head like a fiery tail, haphazard.
"Severus? What're you doing here so early in the morning?"
Even in the dark, Lily's bright green eyes seemed to sparkle. Her voice was hushed; she knew that she was not supposed to be about at this hour.
Severus shifted slightly beneath his pile of blankets as he rose to a sitting position. How was he to tell Lily that he had been forced to run away from home? He was just contemplating the answer when both he and Lily heard whispering voices drifting from where Mr. and Mrs. Evans stood, out of sight, in the kitchen.
"…but we can't just him go back to that place, Todd; it can't be healthy. Can't we get the authorities involved?"
"You know I wish we could, but we can't interfere with their lives. They have magic, and we're defenseless against it," said Mr. Evans. He sighed. "The boy is alright, and that's all that matters for now. We can worry about what to do later."
A pause ensued. Finally Mrs. Evans spoke. "Okay. I'm just going to bring him this, and then we'll go back to sleep. We can talk about it in the morning."
Lily and Severus, who had been listening intently, both jumped at the sound of a plate being picked up off a table.
"Mum!" Lily gasped, and before Severus knew what was going on, she had dropped to her knees and disappeared beneath the table.
Severus let himself fall back into the blankets again and closed his eyes just as Mrs. Evans reappeared in the room with a plate of toast in one hand and a glass of water in the other. He wished to be awake to thank her for her kindness, but he wanted desperately to speak to Lily as well, so he feigned sleep. A few tense moments passed, in which Severus swore that he could hear his heart hammering in his chest. In the end, though, Mrs. Evans seemed to believe that he was sleeping (perhaps it was the drool that Severus had allowed to dribble from the corner of his open mouth); she set the plate and glass down on the coffee table. Then she turned away, clicked off the light, and walked into her bedroom with Mr. Evans in tow. Severus waited until he heard the bedroom door close before opening his eyes. A second later, he heard a scrambling sound and a dull thud as Lily hit her head while trying to get out from her hiding place.
"Ouch!" hissed Lily through clenched teeth, rubbing her head where she had bumped it. She recuperated quickly enough and scrambled onto the foot of Severus's couch; he sat up and tucked his legs in to make room for her.
"So," she began, slowly. "I take it your parents got in a fight again?"
Severus looked down at his thin hands, which were clasped together in an subconscious sign of his discomfort. "I guess so. I was sleeping when my mum came into my room and woke me up. She nearly pushed me out the window—didn't even have time to get on some shoes or change my clothes," he said, plucking at his oversized gray shirt with his forefinger and thumb.
"That's awful!" Lily whispered. She shook her head and her disheveled red hair came loose from its elastic altogether. "But remember, Sev; in September, we're going to school together to learn magic!"
Severus could almost feel the excitement in her voice, and felt her genuine concern for him, her wishes to make him feel better.
Many a time, the pair of them had wondered aloud about what school would be like, for though Severus had a bit of background knowledge, he still had no real experience in the "real" Wizarding world—besides of course the occasional visit to London. The very thought of he and Lily escaping together from the place where he lived was more than enough to wear his emotional barrier thin. Horror settled upon him, in that same spot where sadness and fear already sat together; a tear had slipped from his eye and rolled down the side of his face. The darkness was suddenly an accommodation rather than a hindrance.
Despite his best attempts at keeping his mouth shut, her expectant silence lead him to breathe, "I can't live like this."
His voice was strained, his throat tight. It was as if opening his mouth and admitting his shame were going to pull the plug on any sort of composure Severus might have been clinging to. The feeling of her bright green eyes, searching for him in the dark, didn't help. Nor did her reassurances.
"You won't have to," she said kindly, unable to hide her excitement behind her concern, though the latter was present also. "Soon we'll be able to start over at school, and you'll only have to go home in the summertime. Just think, Severus! You and I can go to Diagon Alley together and buy all our stuff, and then we'll go on the train together and—are you okay?"
Severus nodded and wiped at his eyes with the heel of his hand, unable to speak.
"Are you crying?"
Lily's incredulous, eleven-year-old tones only made him feel worse, and for some inexplicable reason acted as a catalyst towards a downward spiral. She'd never seen him cry before. He'd never allowed it to happen in front of her. Through their few years of friendship he had seen her cry a handful of times—more often than not with her sister as the root cause—but he had always somehow managed to keep a straight face in her presence, no matter how bad things at home got. Yes, she had seen him saddened before, but being forced to run away from his own home and knowing that nothing could be done about it was something else. Something new and horrible, something that took his feelings to the next level, into near-despair. So he cried, quietly, and hoped that she couldn't tell. And, his ever-confusing situation with Lily being as it was, her concern for him was both frustrating and endearing at the same time.
Once she realized that Severus was, indeed, crying, Lily became determined to help him. She began to talk excitedly to him as he wiped the tears from his face, reassuring him that everything was going to be all right in the end, that they would be best friends no matter what happened in his family, that she considered him braver than any boy she'd ever met. It was all too much, really, for the boy who had been hoping not to see her at all in his temporary refuge. He could feel the last strings of resolve stretching, snapping, gone. He covered his pallid face with his hands so that she could not see him weep.
"Ah, Sev, it's okay," whispered Lily. "Everything's gonna be all right."
With that, she shuffled over to where he sat, threw her arms around his neck, and very nearly knocked them both off the couch as she pulled him into a close embrace. At first, Severus was too surprised to react. He tipped sideways and steadied himself, all too aware that he had never been this close to her before. Her nightgown was made of soft silk, her scent was light and clean and made him think of better times, more pleasant situations. In his chest he felt a swelling and a collapse all at once. The combination of emotions—fear, shame, sorrow—came spilling out in a flood of tears and quiet gasps. Severus had never realized that a scrawny eleven-year-old boy could feel all this at once. But he let it happen. He let Lily hug him from where she knelt before him, let himself return the hug, running his thin hands along her back and finally wrapping around her waist, where they stayed until he regained control of his breathing and the tide of tears ebbed away. It was comfort as he had never experienced in all his short years, and was something that he thought would not happen again any time soon.
When she released him after what must have been minutes, Lily didn't move back to where she had been sitting. Instead, she sat back and crossed her legs so that their bare knees were touching, and Severus could see from her dark silhouette that she was wiping her eyes.
"Thanks," he rasped in a low voice, wiping the remnants of fallen tears on his shirt.
"Don't mention it," she replied, also strained. "We'll get you out of here before Tuney wakes up, and she'll never get to find out."
She took his hands, and held them in the space between the two of them on the couch. They both sighed.
"I wonder if life is this dramatic at Hogwarts," Lily said, thinking aloud.
Severus felt himself smirk. "I hope not, or else I don't think I want to go there so bad after all."
They both laughed softly, keeping in mind that the rest of the house was dead silent. After a short while she told him that they'd better get some sleep, and that she would wake up extra early to make sure that she could see him off before Petunia awoke. As much as Severus admired her response to all of his chaos, he did not expect to see her in the morning. If got any sleep at all, it would be in short fragments, and he would fold the blankets and be gone as soon as the sun shone bright enough for him to slip out the front door. But he thanked Lily again for her understanding, and apologized for intruding at such an hour as this.
"Don't worry. I don't mind, Sev," she said, unable to help herself from leaning across to hug him once more. "Your dad might be crazy, but at least you'll always have me."
He didn't say anything, but he returned her hug with equal gusto and told her that she'd better go back to bed. He wasn't certain about many things, but he had been listening. And he believed her every word.
A/n: Thanks for reading! Crit is welcome but not necessarily encouraged (as it usually is), as I wrote this nearly two years ago and like to think I've improved on my own since then. Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this little tidbit, and thanks again! :)