Harry Potter and his world belong to JK Rowling.
"Professor?" Hermione called into the empty office, her voice echoing off of the cold dungeon walls. She frowned - he was generally here after his third class of the day, grading papers and planning for the next day's assignments. However, his body was not settled in his armchair, his head bowed over the stack of papers as it usually was. She peered into the stock room, knocking on the heavy wood to alert him of her presence. He still was nowhere to be found and she was slightly disconcerted. Hermione placed her bag on top of a work table, determined to wait until he came back, pulled out her History of Magic textbook and began studying the pages intently.
After half an hour of waiting she was beginning to get restless. Hermione stood up and walked around the perimeter of the fairly small room lined with wooden cabinets and shelves. She opened up a glass-paned cabinet and pulled out one of the jars. There was a pickled fire slug inside, floating in a thick green liquid, and she replaced it carefully before picking up another jar with a similar organism inside. She moved through the cabinets, finding cauldrons stacked within each other which ranged from styles in pewter to brass, and then bottles upon bottles of ingredients which included lovage, Jobberknoll feathers, and sneezewort, arranged in alphabetical order and in neat, measured amounts.
Hermione opened a cabinet behind Snape's desk and was surprised to see a small Pensieve, the silvery thoughts floating within the liquid, swirling and glowing as if they had only just been added. After looking around to make sure no one else was there, she took the large stone basin into her hands and lifted it onto Snape's wooden desk. She heard the dull thud as it hit the table. Despite having read many books about their function and how to use them, Hermione had only received a first-hand account from Harry. He had described the cool sensation of his face in the water, and as she leaned over, a little frightened of what would happen, she could feel herself falling down, as Harry had.
She landed stiffly on her feet and looked around the room, instantly knowing where she was. The tall shelves of the Hogwarts library towered over her, dusty and leaning in exactly as they always did. A few Hufflepuffs sat around a table a few feet from her, but they didn't notice her presence. It was strange, for as she turned around parts of her vision became fuzzy. There were entire areas which she couldn't see at all. Walking around a bookshelf, she found a small, thin girl who she faintly recognized perched on a stool with her legs crossed, dressed in what she guessed was a very old fashioned set of Ravenclaw robes. She wore a long grey skirt which went down past her knees, white socks and black shoes, a white blouse with bronze buttons, and a bright blue cardigan. Her black hair was twisted back in a bun, her black eyes scanning the yellowed pages of the book on her lap. Hermione quickly noted that the page she was on explained how to brew an elixir to induce euphoria, which was quite advanced magic for someone who looked like they were only in their third year. She watched as the girl flipped the page and the book slipped out of her lap, landing on the floor with the front cover lying open. Hermione recognized the book at once, for before the girl could snatch it back up, she glimpsed a tiny scrawl of cursive which read "Prince" in the upper margin. As the girl closed it, Hermione viewed the clear lettering Advanced Potion-Making on the binding. Her heart leapt and, as everything grew faint, she tried her hardest to memorize the face of the girl reaching for her book, which she now knew was the face of Severus Snape's mother.
Everything turned black, and then Hermione immediately felt a cold wind whipping around her body, snow pelting her face and landing in her hair. She realized that she was now outside of London on a winter evening and saw a woman standing in a narrow alleyway. To her surprise, the woman was a matured and beautiful version of the school girl, now digging through her purse. Suddenly, two men rushed past where Hermione stood in the frayed vision and knocked the woman into the brick wall, grabbing for her purse. Hermione's hand was on her wand, but before she realized that she could be of no help in a memory another man who was walking by quickly wrestled the bag from one of the thugs and yelled at the other.
"Get away from th' lady!" he ordered, glaring at the two men with icy blue eyes and a cold stare. Hermione's heart lurched again as she was being pulled away, noticing the way the woman stared at her savior with admiration, and then aware of his lank brown hair, stooping physique and, mostly, his prominent hooked nose….
The location changed again, and the woman from before appeared again, now arguing with a graying middle-aged lady who was dressed in a fine green silk dress, standing in the plush living room of a well-to-do family.
"He's a Muggle, Eileen," exclaimed the elder, "who you haven't even told that you are a witch! You can't throw away our family's history for a Muggle!"
"I can prove to you that he's a good man. He's different than the others!" She wrung her hands unhappily, her dark hair trailing down her back and adding to her feminine beauty despite her pained expression.
"You can find a decent wizard to marry. Even… even a Muggle-born!" she cried, waving her hands in desperation. "But Muggles won't… they don't have the capacity to understand our world. Even if he could accept you for who you are, it will always be something that he doesn't have, he won't be capable of. You are a brilliant witch. Why would you want to spend your life with someone who will always be holding you back?" Eileen's mother was furious, but at the same time terrified for her daughter and the choice she would inevitably make.
After a few moments, Eileen closed her eyes, her pale face visibly strained, tears forming at the creases of her eyes. "I will only ever love him," she declared resolutely, turning from her mother and leaving the room.
"Eileen!" her mother shouted after her, but everything faded away.
There was a glimpse of Eileen and her fiancé at the altar inside of a church, only a few people in attendance at their wedding. The vision came and went quickly, and then was pitched into blackness again. A man was shouting, "You are wrong, woman. Magic is not real!" A door slammed from another direction, and Hermione turned around, trying to make out an image, but there was nothing visible. A woman's stifled cries came from behind her, but Hermione still could not see.
After a few more moments, she found herself standing in a small bedroom with a dark bed, short dresser and large closet, the walls a plain white and with no ornamental fixtures to make it seem as though anyone lived there. There were cobwebs in the corners where the ceiling met the walls, and she felt that it was an altogether grimy place to live.
A much thinner and unhappy Eileen came running into the room, her eyes red as if she had been crying for some time. She opened up her closet, pulled out a small chest from beneath a pile of boxes, her name "Eileen Prince" carved onto the side in neat cursive. She knelt down next to it on the ground, her dress dingier and messier than it had been before her marriage. Eileen was opening her old Hogwarts trunk, her hands shaking as she picked through her old, frayed textbooks, her neatly folded Ravenclaw robes, a cauldron laying on its side and stuffed with old socks, a set of solid gold gobstones, and then last of all a long, black, elegant birch wand which she ran her fingers over. She began sobbing, wiping the tears from her eyes and flicking the wand into the air, watching as a light shone out of the end, flickered, and then went out. Hermione immediately felt saddened; she had heard of witches and wizards losing their power…. How could life ever be the same if she herself lost the ability to perform magic?
Eileen, with great concentration, cast a Disillusionment Charm over the objects before her, making them disappear from sight, locked her trunk, shoved it back into the closet, and hid her wand in one of her drawers. The heavy-browed man with dark hair strode into the room, his entire body in a state of rage.
"I knew," he began, in a thick northern accent, "I knew tha' you were strange from th' beginnin'. But this magic nonsense…. Don't tell me tha' you actually think it's real?"
She looked up at him as she knelt next to the dresser. "I… I was born into a magical family. I went to school for it, to train. I'm a witch, Tobias."
He stared at her with hatred in his eyes and raised his hand, bringing it down with such force against her cheek that Eileen cried out at the harshness of the slap. Eileen's hand immediately reached to cradle where his blow had connected, and whimpered slightly. "Enough," he fumed quietly. "Enough. You're a heathen, and a liar. I will not hear about this magic again." He left, and Hermione immediately understood what had drawn Eileen to him in the first place had turned against her. She had been a small, thin girl, needing and wanting someone to take care of her, and when she had met Tobias he had seemed like the perfect protector. She hadn't realized that his strength would turn against her, that he would become a monster….
They faded before the room reappeared, this time a little grimier and darker than it had been. Tobias was nowhere to be found and Eileen was lying in bed, her back supported by pillows and a nightdress. There was a small white bundle in her arms. Tears welled up in Hermione's eyes, for cradled next to her breast was a small baby who could not be anyone but an infant Severus Snape. He had a wealth of black hair, his cheeks a bright pink and his little tongue sticking out as he slept.
"I hope, for your sake, you aren't a wizard," whispered Eileen, laying a kiss on his soft forehead. Hermione stood looking over her shoulder, unable to comprehend the fact that a man such as Severus Snape had once lay in the arms of his mother. She could believe even less that he had come from such a family.
The memory changed and the family was now in a downstairs room of the same small, cramped home. A little black-haired boy was crying in a corner, and Eileen was standing over him to shield him from his father.
"How does he always manage to know what I am thinkin' of? I can list a string of numbers in my head and he can guess them all. Sometimes I'll be sittin' in my chair and he'll appear out of nowhere when he couldn't have been in the room before me. It's not natural, Eileen!" he yelled, daring her to make the explanation he knew she would.
"He's a wizard, Tobias. He was born one," she sobbed, trying to be strong for her son but faltering under the oppressive glare of her husband.
"No…. You can continue with your sickness, but you can' make him a 'wizard' too."
"I can't help it, please!" she cried, falling down to her knees as Tobias stepped towards her, his hand raised again. Eileen flinched as he leaned down, ready to hit her, but his hand stopped in midair before it touched her, impeded by an unseen force. He panicked, backing away, only to find his son's little frightened but intimidating black eyes upon him. Tobias turned to the front door, opening it and slamming it behind him.
Eileen turned around and threw her arms around her small, scrawny son, drawing him closer. His arms wound their way around her neck as well as he sought comfort. "Severus, Severus… I wish I could have told you. I wish I could have given you more…" she wept. He could not have been older than four, his thin face which bore a remarkable resemblance to his mother's burrowing into her neck as he ached to be comforted. There was already so much similarity to his older self, his nose taking shape, his lank dark hair which hadn't been cut recently, his yellowed skin from staying indoors for too long, his deep black eyes framed by heavy brows….
Eileen and Severus faded as the room changed. It was a smaller bedroom than the one Eileen and Tobias slept in, with a little bed and a thin Severus sitting on top of it, a few years older than he had been in the last memory. He was tucked under the covers, a flickering candle sitting on the bedside table to light the room. His mother sat at his side, her arm wrapped around him as she read from the first year's Potions book, Magical Drafts and Potions, which lay open in his lap. It was obviously the copy Eileen had used as a student, judging by how worn the cover was. The look on Severus's face was intent and focused as he took in the information.
After a while Severus's mother stopped reading, closed the book, and had him lean his head against her chest as she stroked his hair. "Would you like to learn how to make potions, someday soon?"
Severus, despite how tired he was, perked up at the thought before quickly becoming dismayed. "Won't Father be angry?" he asked in his high infantile voice. Hermione stepped closer before sitting down at the foot of the bed. It was so strange to be in the room with them without them noticing. She could have reached out and touched Eileen's hand if she had wanted to.
"Yes, Severus, he would be very angry. But you and I, we can hide things like this if we really wanted to. A potion can be easily disguised, not like spells or charms can. He would not know any better, and would probably think it's just soup on the stove. But we'll know better," she said, smiling down at him, tugging at his ear playfully. He turned to look at her, putting his hand up to his ear and smirking in order to hide a grin. His smile was what Eileen was hoping for; Severus seemed to be a very solemn child.
"Mummy, why don't you ever do any magic?" he asked.
Eileen drew away slightly, as though thinking about how she would explain, before pulling him closer. "Well, sweetheart, your father doesn't believe in magic."
"But… if it's real, why doesn't he believe in it?"
"I don't know, love. He was brought up in a place where magic isn't thought to be real, so I think it's hard for him to accept it. He also might be angry that he can't do magic, and I can."
He was silent, before adding, "But you don't do magic anymore. Why would he still be angry? And if he will always be angry, why don't you just do magic anyway?"
She smiled fondly at his cleverness and responded, "It's complicated. But once you go to school you'll be able to perform as much magic as you want without worrying what your father thinks."
"I'll go to Hogwarts in four years, right?"
"Yes, you will." She paused, looked around the neat but dusty room, and said, "But right now, it's time for you to go to sleep." Eileen stepped out of his bed, put the book on the bedside table, kissed him again, and tucked him in tighter.
She moved to leave the room, at which point Severus exclaimed, "Mummy, you forgot to put out the light!" Eileen turned, feeling a little ashamed for forgetting, before a smirk which was identical to her son's formed on her face.
"No matter," she said, waving her hand in the direction of the flame. A strong gust of wind blew out the candle, the smoke calmly rising from the burnt wick. Severus, pleased with his mother's hand magic, smiled and turned into his pillow before Eileen shut the door.
The scene changed again. Eileen was sitting on a chair at the kitchen table and Severus was standing at the stove, bits of leaves and berries in his hands, a cauldron brewing before him and the Potions book open beside him as he read. The room shifted and Eileen was now coughing in her bed, a hand over her heart and looking paler than ever, the handkerchiefs at her bedside table stained red with blood. She had completely withered away…. If she had once been beautiful, no one would have known. Severus stood in the doorway, not wanting to disturb his obviously weak mother but hoping to see if she was okay. Then, there was a glimpse of a playground and Severus, not looking well cared for, talking to a young girl with bright red hair.
His mother's bedroom came back into view, Eileen still lying in bed and Severus entering, now older than before. He ran towards his mother, a thick scroll of parchment in his hand.
"An owl pecked at my window so I let him in, and he gave me this!" he exclaimed.
"'Mr. S. Snape, The Smallest Bedroom, Spinner's End,'" read Eileen, wearily. "Well, it's addressed to you. Open it." She coughed and watched his face light up with glee as he read his acceptance letter out loud. Time must have passed for although they were in the same room as before and Eileen looked no better than she had, she was sitting on the ground and bending over her Hogwarts trunk, bewitching the name on the side to read "Severus Snape" and going through what was inside after removing the Disillusionment Charm.
"Well, it's a good thing that the school books haven't changed because I kept all of mine. You're just going to have to use them because I only have a few sickles which will buy your robes. Oh, it won't be so bad," she said as she noticed his disappointment. "You're brilliant enough. You probably already have them all memorized, even the more advanced ones." Eileen turned to her dresser, pulling her wand out from underneath a stack of shirts and cradling it before handing it to her son.
"Take it, Severus. It's birch, about twelve and a half inches long, and the core is dragon heartstring."
"But, Mother, it's your wand!" he exclaimed.
"We don't have the money to buy you your own, and besides, I can't use it here," she said simply. "It wouldn't have a true owner if it was just sitting in my dresser drawer, waiting for someone to use it. It had no other options, so, in a way, it has chosen you, as wands often do. Now, give it a swish." He did, and Eileen watched as golden ribbons shot out of the end and flittered back down to the floor in a heap.
Hermione blinked and she was standing at Platform Nine and Three Quarters, the scarlet Hogwarts Express hissing as it warmed up to leave. Amongst the mass of students she noticed with a shock a few faces she had only known through pictures, or as adults. Sirius Black walked right past her, his parents pulling his trunk, and then a scrawny James Potter, a little farther away, stood by himself next to a large cage with a screech owl inside, looking through the crowd for his parents. She saw the girl with red hair from the faint memory before and a realization hit her. It was Lily. She was waving at Severus, who stood near Hermione. His mother was there, her face white and bloodless as she bent to give her son a kiss goodbye. Tears were in her eyes, and Hermione could only imagine how terrible it must have been for Eileen to see her only child, the only one she loved, leave for school.
The hectic mass of people in the train station around her shifted and she found herself in the silent boys' dormitories decorated in the green and silver of Slytherin House. Severus, much older than when she had last seen him, sat alone on his bed, his body shaking. Hermione reached down to comfort him but her hand went right through his shoulder. She instead leaned over, reading the piece of parchment in his hands.
Mr. Severus Snape,
We are sorry to inform you that your mother, Eileen Prince Snape, was brought to the Ministry of Magic to undergo a court hearing earlier today and has been found guilty of attempting to murder your father, Tobias Oran Snape. He was found unconscious last night in his house located in Spinner's End after Mrs. Snape had fled and hidden in a nearby inn. He was treated for poisoning at a nearby Muggle hospital and will recover. Because of her actions, Mrs. Snape was sentenced to five years in Azkaban Prison. However, because of her frail physical and mental health, she has instead been placed into the Janus Thickey Ward at St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries to undergo long term treatment for her sicknesses. Once she has recovered, she will be transferred to Azkaban Prison for the remainder of her sentence. Visitors are welcome by appointment, and we will continue to update you on her condition as she progresses.
Severus stood up, Hermione now realizing his true age and height. He had to have been in his sixth or seventh year. He turned around, so furious and upset that he didn't know what to do. "I hate you!" he bellowed at no one in particular. Hermione was alarmed when he took the lamp from his bedside table and threw it to the ground, watching the glass break into pieces on the dungeon's stone floor. He kicked the table, watching it fall on its side, and then picked up a book on Complex Transfiguration, tearing out the pages in anger and ripping the binding. "How could you…? How could you let yourself be caught?" he cried, his deep voice cracking as the book slipped from his hands and fell to the floor.
Hermione watched as he sunk back down onto his bed and began sobbing loudly, his hands covering his face as he rocked from side to side. She knelt down next to the bed, her knees touching the ground, unaffected by the table or shards of glass which lay there. She had never seen him so vulnerable, so full of despair that she could not help as an overwhelming feeling of grief filled her as well. As his mother had lost him, so he had lost her. Hermione could only imagine the circumstances. How could Eileen have spent any time with her terror of a husband, as sick as she was, without eventually going mad?
After a long time he sat up and turned to the other side of his bed, digging through his trunk. He fished out his copy of Advanced Potion-Making, opening up the cover and staring at the neat cursive of "Prince" which stained the page. Finding a quill and an ink well, he slowly scrawled, "This Book is the Property of the Half-Blood" directly above and in front of his own mother's "Prince," taking care to match his own handwriting with his mother's, which had always been similar as she was the one who initially put a quill in his hand and moved it within her own to teach him his letters. He flipped through the yellowed pages, his tears dripping off his curved nose and spattering against the instruction sets and illustrations. Hermione could see the beginnings of the massive amounts of tips and substitutions he would eventually write into all of the pages. However, it must have been early in the year, for most all of the pages were full of white space except for the occasional spell or tip that had been written in his mother's own script.
She could sense the wheels turning in his head. He would refrain from associating himself with his father's last name, at least in his own mind, for his father was the one who had refused to acknowledge his wife's magical skill and identity. It was his fault that Severus's mother was so ill, that she was trapped in a world that was not her own and never would be, that she had been so abused and unhappy her whole adult life even when with her son, whom she loved more than anything in the world. And now Eileen was the criminal, even though her husband had hurt her far beyond what was repairable. He would spend one night in the hospital, but she would spend years recovering from a life of abuse.
Hermione saw someone moving in the shadows to her right, past the bed. She stood up, trying to make out who it was, before Severus Snape in his adult form materialized out of the darkness. She stared at him, watching him stare back, before she realized with a jolt to her stomach that the scenery hadn't changed. His adolescent self was still sitting on the bed, sniffling, and Hermione's head snapped back to the Severus which had just appeared, her face blanching and then turning a bright red. She had been caught.
"Time to go, Miss Granger," he snarled, grabbing her elbow and jerking her upwards. Her stomach turned as she was pulled up and out of the Pensieve, landing back into her feet, which she realized hurt painfully from how long she had been standing there on the hard flagstones. Severus Snape's face was whiter than she'd ever seen it, and his voice seethed with so much anger he had difficulty controlling it. "What could possibly possess you to go through my private cabinets, you stupid girl! How dare you touch what isn't yours? Do you not know that a student isn't allowed into a teacher's office without permission?" She made to open her mouth, but shut it promptly, trembling harder than she could ever remember trembling. "Of course you do, but you decided to take special liberties with me and my things, didn't you? DIDN'T YOU?" he bellowed, swooping down closer and standing over her, his face slightly flushed but hard as stone, his black eyes penetrating hers, and she knew that he could instantly see everything that she had seen.
She turned away, dry sobs racking her body. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she choked, sorry about looking through his memories, sorry for everything they had contained, sorry that he hadn't told her about his past earlier, and sorry most of all that she had never cared to ask what it was that had turned his heart into stone….
"Out… Get OUT!" he yelled, pointing towards the door. He watched, fuming, as she tearfully grabbed her bag and open book, running out of his office to escape his wrath and leaving him alone. His head was bent over the Pensieve, staring blankly into its depths before sighing deeply, sadly, picking it up and putting it back into the cupboard, locking it with his wand as his hands still shook with anger.