Author's note: I started writing this during NaNoWriMo 2009. Not sure how often it'll be updated or when it'll be finished.
It was not long after she'd made her confession that Tobias Snape raised his hand to his wife for the first time. It wasn't as if he'd never suspected there was something different about Eileen Prince from the day they'd met, but his long dormant suspicions were confirmed in the worst way when his young wife confessed that she had passed her "gift" down to their only son, a fact she'd known since Severus was born and of which Tobias had only become aware when the boy had accidentally made his father's favorite shirt burst into flames. The shirt had burned his fingers, but later that night Severus found the pain paled in comparison to watching his mother cower in a far corner of the parlor screaming for her husband to stop the first of what would be many beatings. The blisters had healed quickly; the memories remained burned in his mind forever.
The six-year-old learned several lessons that night. Through his father's yelling, he found out that "freak" and "bastard" were closely associated with this new status, "wizard." He cried and soiled himself as he watched his mother bleed. The next day, he learned that his new sister would never come and he would never have another sibling. Severus also learned his mother would do anything to protect him, but never raise a hand or wand to protect herself, whatever the cost. This was the most difficult lesson to accept. But it was one he had to learn again and again. It was the source of a pain that never went away.
He was quite clumsy those first few years. Fits of temper usually accompanied the unruly bursts of magic that manifested. She, in her own way, was the opposite of his ugly clumsiness. She possessed the simple beauty of a child who'd been well-loved since birth. Bright green eyes opened wide over a face of blushing porcelain. Full pink lips tilted over straight teeth in frequent smiles and contagious laughter. Waves of red hair caught the wind as she danced around the playground, her sister trailing after her as a fading tail followed a brightly streaking comet. Severus knew there was magic about her. Before he knew her name. Before, even, she had spoken to him in that peculiar way she had, with her nose scrunched and her mouth twisted to one side, just before voicing a thought he hadn't yet been able to form into words. Lily Evans had in her the power to make the world stand still. One glance at her smile and Severus forgot that things like loneliness and hunger existed. There was only her. And that was enough to make the world seem like a different place. A better place.
After that first day on the playground, he'd been reluctant to return home. As the sun set behind the trees, he found himself following the girl and her gangly sister to a two story Victorian three blocks from his own house. From there, he watched as she went inside. His eyes followed upstairs as a light went on in one of the bedrooms. The curtains were closed, but he could sense her presence, and wondered if she could sense his. Long after darkness had fallen over Hart street, Severus walked away from the house, wishing, not for the last time, that he could stay.
A sharp slap to his face woke him from reliving his memories of her that day. Absently, Severus raised his hand to the stinging skin; the pain faded almost as quickly as it had flared up. A familiar scowl settled on his face, mirrored from the face in front of his.
"What were you doing out at this hour?" Tobias Snape was a formidable man even when he wasn't shouting and this quiet, controlled tone almost always spelled the beginning of one of the Bad Times. He glared at his silent son, grabbing the boy's collar to bring their faces inches apart. The fabric scrunched under his grip, the worn seams stretching near their breaking point. "Answer me, boy! Your mother was worried sick about you." He glanced at Eileen out of the corner of his eye. She stood silently in the doorway, watching her husband. After a few more seconds of silence, he released Severus with a small shove and headed towards the boy's mother.
Tobias turned, a small smile forming on his thin lips. "Oh, you've found your voice now, have you?" He grabbed Eileen's arm and dragged her into the room. She whimpered briefly, but didn't struggle. Tobias stood her next to their son. "Do you see what you've done with him, being so easy on the boy?" He pointed at Severus. "Probably gone soft in the head from all the coddling you've given him. No matter, I've found a way to make him want to mind me."
One eye on his son, Tobias grabbed his wife roughly and squeezed her arm until she cried out. "Seems the only way to get through to the little bastard these days," he said. He turned his son. "Your precious mum doesn't want me giving you what you deserve, so she'll have to take it for you." Scarcely a beat had passed before Eileen received a sharp slap in the same manner her son had minutes before. Harder. He hit his wife until she snapped her head away, crying as blood began dripping from her nose. The slaps became punches, moving from her face to her chest and stomach. Several forced Eileen to double over before Tobias froze in place, his arm arced high above his head as he prepared to hit her again. His breathing stopped short as sharp waves of pain radiated from the center of his chest. He released Eileen and watched as she ran to her glaring son, enveloping him in a hug before grabbing the child and running up the stairs.
He hadn't killed his father, Severus knew that much. It would take more than one heart attack to kill someone with that much evil in his blood. But he'd hurt and it had felt good. Almost as good as the way his mother's arms felt around him now, her tears soaking into the ill-fitting shirt he wore. Her hair had come out of the tight bun at her neck and fell around her shoulders, enveloping her son in the comforting scent of the flowery shampoo she used. Severus accepted her reluctant thank yous and whispered half-hearted admonishments in silence. They were both safe, for now. That, and the promise for the future he'd felt on the playground, was all he needed.