Give Me A Place To Stand On…
Chapter 1: Secrets
"Is Daddy a wizard, too?"
The little boy looked at his mother questioningly.
"No, dear," the woman sighed. "Daddy isn´t a wizard."
"But you are a witch?"
"Yes. I´m a witch and that´s why you´re likely to be a wizard."
"Why don´t you ever do magic?" his nearly black eyes were full of doubt. "Isn´t a witch supposed to do magic?"
Eileen Snape smiled. A clever little boy she had, he was quick on the uptake for his five years. If she ws lucky, this wasn´t going to be as difficult as she had feared. "I don´t do magic because Daddy can´t. It´s not nice to remind people of their inabilities."
"Can you show me magic?"
Eileen hesitated. "I guess I can. But only once." She drew her wand and pointed it at the potatoes in the sink.
The boy watched in amazement as they started to wash and peel themselves.
"Wow!" he cried when the last potato had found its place in the pot on the stove. "I hope I am a wizard! If I am, we can do all the work for Daddy and he needs not toil in the cold anymore."
Eileen knelt in front of her son and held his shoulders. "Listen to me, Severus," she said urgently. "Your Daddy mustn´t know if you´re a wizard. He´s so proud of you and he´d be very disappointed if you were more like me than him."
"But I am more like you!"
The boy was right. He had his mother´s dark hair and eyes, her pale skin, the uneven teeth. The only trace of Tobias Snape was the long nose. Eileen smiled sadly. Had he inherited his father´s features and her nose, he´d be a handsome boy. Sometimes fate was cruel.
"This is something completely different."
"You must be more careful." Eileen collected the pieces of the cup and threw them into the dustbin. "He nearly noticed!"
"I´m sorry, mom. I was frightened."
Eileen could tell that the boy still was, as he sat at the kitchen table, crouching to make himself even smaller than he was.
"You must control your fear, or it will control you! It will give away your secrets!"
Severus nodded. The past two years had taught him how much his father despised magic, for his parents had a row every time his father found a trace of it in the house. The boy had shown first signs of magic himself only months after he had learnt he probably would. Like with all wizarding children his magic was triggered by emotions and , as life at the Snape family home wasn´t too happy since Tobias Snape had lost his job, in Severus´ case mostly fear.
"Next time he starts a row, I want you to go to your room."
"Severus, who´s supposed to read this?" Miss Jones handed back his homework with a sigh.
The other children giggled.
"You´ll write it again. And this time you´ll choose an acceptable size for your letters."
The boy sighed inwardly. He was going to need a new notebook sooner than he´d thought.
"Can´t your parents afford a decent haircut?"
The blond boy laughed and the others followed his lead.
Severus backed away.
"You´re a freak!" The blond pushed the smaller boy and Severus fell on his back. He was often teased because of his long hair.
"Severus!" This time he was saved by his mother. The boy stumbled to his feet and hurried to join her.
"Your hair again?"
The boy nodded.
"They don´t know anything. Many wizards wear their hair long and it softens your features a bit."
They both knew that the boys were right. They couldn´t afford a different haircut, but admitting it wouldn´t make things better.
"Oh, sorry! Good morning!"
The girl nearly ran into him. He stepped back to let her pass through the door first.
"Thank you! Hurry up, Severus! We´re late!"
He smiled. He´d never have guessed that Lily Evans, the most popular girl in their class, even knew his name. A moment later he hurried up the stairs after her. If they were lucky, they´d make it to the classroom before Miss Jones.
"Mum, I did magic at school!" His voice was barely a whisper.
"What? How could you!"
"I was angry. Sorry!"
"Tell me exactly what happened!"
"Billy Web teased me during the break and everybody laughed at me. When we were painting after break he didn´t stop and I got really angry. I knocked his water glass over and spilt the water on his painting."
"Did anybody notice it was you?"
"No, they all thought he had knocked the glass over himself. Miss Jones told him off."
"You were lucky." Eileen sighed. "Come with me." She led the way to the attic.
Severus followed her hesitantly.
"Don´t be shy, come here." Eileen rummaged in an old trunk.
Severus stepped nearer to have a look. There were old books and clothes in the trunk. The boy´s eyes widened when his mother produced an old wand.
Severus did as he was told. The wand produced a couple of colorful sparks.
Eileen nodded contently. "It will do." She carefully closed the trunk and led her son back to the kitchen.
"Your problem is that you have no control over your magic," she explained. "What I will try is to give you some by teaching you some easy spells. Keep in mind that you´re not supposed to know any before you go to Hogwarts. So this has to be our secret."
"What is Hogwarts, mum?"
"The wizarding school you´re going to attend when you´re old enough."
"Where is it? I can´t remember seeing it before."
"You haven´t seen it. It´s far from here. In Scotland."
"In Scotland! I can´t go to a school in Scotland!"
"Why is that, Severus?"
"I can´t leave you!"
Eileen smiled. "You will like it there. But it will be years until then. Let´s start with this now."
She spent the next hour explaining to her son how to hold the wand.
"Mum, what happened to you?"
Eileen opened the door just wide enough to allow her son in.
"Come in and be quiet," she whispered.
Severus followed his mother to the kitchen. He knew better than to talk in the entrance-hall, from where his voice could be heard upstairs. It was not before he had closed the kitchen door that he repeated his question.
"I stumbled," said Eileen averting her eyes from her son, hanging her head so that her long hair covered the bruise on her cheek.
"You aren´t a good liar, mum." A statement. The boy knew. "Why don´t you use magic to defend yourself? I understand that you don´t want to conjure food or clothes, but why do you let him hit you?"
"You don´t curse a person you love, Severus. Would you use magic against me?"
"No! But you wouldn´t hit me. You don´t hit a person you love."
Eileen sighed. The logic of her eight year old son was simple and brilliant at the same time.
"I don´t need you to tell me whether I´m drunk!"
Severus hid under his blanket in his dark bedroom. His parents had been shouting for hours. First he had cried a little, but then he had remembered that the shouting was good. As long as he could hear his father shout, he knew his mother had no fresh bruise.
Finally it came; the sound he had learnt to dread more than anything over the past months. His mother´s outcry of pain.
Later Severus could not tell what made him do it. He was up in a moment and hurried downstairs.
His parents were in the living room. Eileen tried to back away from her husband, but there was little space in the small room. Tobias went after her in cold fury, ready to strike again. Again. She was bleeding from her lip.
Severus knew that his father was beating his mother, but he had never seen him actually do it. He only saw the bruises in the morning or sometimes when he came back from school.
Neither of his parents saw the little boy stand in the doorway and watch how his mother took another blow. The look of torture on the beloved face broke his rigidity. With some quick staps of his bare feet he positioned himself between father and mother.
"No, dad!" His voice was firmer than he felt. He fixed the man, whom he hardly had seen sober in the past months and prepared himself for the first blow.
It didn´t come.
Tobias Snape scrutinized his son´s face for some moments, then murmured something which sounded like ´not beat babies´ and made his way upstairs on unsteady feet.
Severus wasn´t sure why beating children was worse than beating women, but as long as his father´s drunken logic spared him and his mother further violence, he was not going to question it.
"Didn´t I tell you to stay upstairs, stupid boy?" Eileen was angry. "What if he hit you?"
"He didn´t, mum."
"You didn´t know that beforehand!"
Severus spent this night in his mother´s arms on the living room sofa. From this day on he stepped between father and mother whenever it was needed.
Eileen kept reminding him that this wasn´t going to work forever, but only as long as Tobias considered him a baby.
Severus shrugged. He´d find another way to protect his mother when the old one didn´t work any more.
"I don´t know why this doesn´t work!" Severus was frustrated. He had worked on the spell he had found in his mother´s old book for some days to no success.
"Show me what you´re trying to do."
He showed her.
"I said some easy spells! You´re trying to use your wand as a knife!"
"I could help you in the kitchen."
"Why don´t you take a knife and cut these potatoes then?"
"It´s more fun with the wand!"
"Use the knife!"
Severus obeyed reluctantly. His mother watched him with a smile.
"It´s the wand movement," she explained when he had finished his assignment. "Come here, I´ll show you."
It was July and the Snapes were working in the garden. Tobias had found a job and tried to stay sober. Taking care of the chickens in the small coop in the backyard diverted him from his longing for beer and stronger beverages.
Eileen was busy with her vegetable and herb patches. Severus – now eleven and no longer a primary school kid – helped his mother. Especially the herbs were interesting, for his mother kept explaining what they were used for in potion brewing, refering to potions as herbal teas for her husband´s sake.
Life was rather pleasant when Tobias had a job, although Severus knew by now that his father never kept his jobs long. The boy had learnt to enjoy it as long as it lasted. He didn´t notice that something was wrong until his mother whispered "Oh my god." The reason for her uneasiness became clear very quickly for a barn owl landed on the boy´s shoulder and stretched out its leg. Severus untied the letter it was carrying quickly and the owl took off again. The boy tried to hide the letter in his pocket but it was too late.
"What was that?" cried Tobias angrily.
"I got a letter," piped the boy.
"A letter carried by a bird? What sort of people send letters by bird?" The answer seemed to come to Tobias Snape of its own accord. "You told me he wouldn´t inherit the hocus pocus!" he shouted at his wife accusingly.
"Pssssssssht! The neighbours!" Eileen tried to calm her husband down.
"I don´t care about the neighbours! I want to know why my son gets hocus pocus letters!"
Eileen tried to shoo her husband into the house. She managed with Severus´ help. "I assume it´s his Hogwarts letter," she said.
Severus examined the wax seal and nodded.
"Your son is a wizard and he was accepted to Britain´s best wizarding school," Eileen explained in a neutral tone but her eyes gave away her pride.
"You signed him up for this school without my permission!"
"I didn´t do any such thing. If he was accepted it means they had his name down from his birth on."
"From his birth on? They knew he was a wizard brat from the first day on? Anyway. He won´t go. My son doesn´t need hocus pocus."
"He has to go. If he doesn´t learn to control it, he´ll hurt people sooner or later."
This day Tobias Snape got drunk beyond reason. The next day he lost his job.
Over the next few days Severus witnessed some especially fierce rows between his parents. Although Eileen usually bowed to her husband´s decisions, she stood her ground when her son´s education was concerned. As Tobias refused to pay for ´hocus pocus´books, she tried to figure out other ways of providing the boy with what he needed for Hogwarts.
Soon it became clear that Severus was going to keep the old wand (his mother´s first) and that he was going to wear his mother´s old school robes. He also got most of the books he needed from her old trunk.
Nevertheless there were some things the boy needed new, such as some potion ingredients, which could not be taken from the herb patch in the garden, and the charms book, for a different book was required on his book list than Eileen had used in her school days.
Eileen started feeding the family from the vegetable patch, saving the money her husband had given her for food for Severus´ school things.
Tobias was furious and their rows became even more violent. Severus offered to his mother to stay at home more than once, but she would not hear of it.
One day in August, Eileen Snape took her son to Diagon Alley to get what he needed. They went to Flourish and Blott´s first, where the woman purchased a very old and battered copy of the required charms book. While his mother searched the second hand book shelves, Severus looked at the shelves loaded with new books in amazement. There must be millions and millions of spells in all those books! Never before had he been aware that there was such a wide range of magic. He knew that his mother kept some spell books in the attic, he had seen them when she got his wand down, but the amount of information on magic provided in the book shop came as a surprise.
The walk to the apothecary´s was overwhelming. The boy had never been to Diagon Alley before as his father didn´t like magic and his mother rarely had the money to buy magical items. There were shops with broomsticks in the windows and equipment for wizarding sports. Shops with sweets, shops with animals. Severus knew that some of the pupils at elementary school had cats and dogs as pets, but the shops in Diagon Alley sold toads and owls as well as cats, but no dogs.
The apothecary´s itself was fascinating. The shelves were loaded with jars and bags of things which Severus had never seen before. There were glass bottles with red liquid, seemingly blood.
Eileen Snape bought what the boy would need. The shop assistant looked annoyed when she started listing the things she wanted instead of buying a whole starter kit.
On their way back to the pub, which held the entrance to Diagon Alley, Eileen and Severus took more time to look at the shops and the witch explained some of the items in the windows to the boy. Before leaving Eileen bought a small ice-cream for her son, a gift which the boy didn´t enjoy as much as he should have for he knew that his mother had spent her last pennies (knuts, he reminded himself) for it.
"Finally back?" Tobias´ voice was full of accusation, his tongue heavy.
"Take your things upstairs, Severus." Eileen handed the boy the parcels she was carrying and Severus rushed to his room to place them into his trunk obediently. It was his mother´s trunk actually, but she had moved her things out and now it was to be his. Carefully the boy stroked his initials on the lid of the trunk. His mother had removed the EP only yesterday to replace it with SS. He smiled.
The peace of the moment was broken by angry shouting from downstairs. Severus sealed the trunk with a spell his mother had tought him – they could not risk a drunken Tobias rummaging in his school things for they had no money to replace what might be damaged – and hurried downstairs as quickly as possible.
"I will teach you gadding about while your husband stays hungry!" Tobias slapped Eileen before Severus could step between them. "What did I marry you for if you don´t even carry out your most simple duties!"
Eileen took another slap.
"Dad!" Severus tried to move between his parents, but Tobias had grabbed Eileen´s hair and there was not enough room between the two adults for him.
"To the kitchen, where you belong!" Tobias dragged his wife by her hair all the way. When he let go at last, a thick tuft of black hair remained sticking to his sweaty fingers. Eileen whimpered in pain. Obediently she started peeling potatoes.
"Potatoes again!" Tobias shouted. "I´m tired of it. I´m not a pig. A man needs a chunk of meat now and then! You deny food to me to buy hocus pocus things for the brat!" He slapped Eileen´s head from behind.
"Please, calm down, love."
Severus had no idea how his mother could call the raging man ´love´. He wondered whether there had ever been love between these two people in the past. And whether it had been his fault that it ceased to be. Was his father mad at his mother because she gave him a wizard son instead of a muggle son?
"Severus, please go to the park for a while. I need to talk to your father alone."
"Just go, dear."
Reluctantly Severus left the house and set out for the near park.
Severus didn´t return home before nightfall. His mother had asked him to leave and if she thought that having him out of the house was going to make things easier, he was going to stay away as long as he could. Finally the boy was driven home by hunger and – truth to be told – also a little fear of darkness.
Eileen waited for him with a meal of potatoes and a cup of tea.
Severus scrutinized her face. He couldn´t make out new bruises. "Are you OK, mum?"
"He didn´t ... ?"
"No. He calmed down quite quickly after you had left."
"He doesn´t want me in the house any more?"
"Nonsense! He loves you and he is proud of you," Eileen stroked her son´s hair gently. "He just has a hard time coping with the fact that you are not like him. Every father wants his son to be like him."
"I´m a disappointment to dad."
"You´re not. It´s just that you´re less like him than he thought."
In the morning of September the 1st Eileen prepared a lunch package for Severus. She advised him to be a good boy and hard working student and hugged and kissed him good-bye in their living room. First Severus was puzzled for he thought he´d have to go to the train alone, but then he understood that his mother wished to say good-bye without nosy onlookers.
To the boy's surprise Tobias was sober for once and said his good-byes in an unsteady, tearful voice. The man advised his son to be good as well, but also to not forget his muggle dad. Severus promised not to and asked whether his father would like him to write although he´d have to send the letter by bird. The question touched the older Snape so much that he fell on Severus´ neck sobbing.
After some more minutes Eileen helped Severus disentangle from his father and said it was time to go.
Severus held onto his trunk with one hand and onto his mother´s arm with the other. He felt a meanwhile familiar sensation behind his navel and seconds later they stood in a quiet cul-de-sac near King´s Cross station.
Eileen told the boy to wait and went for a trolley. She helped Severus hoist his trunk on it and led the way to the platform.
Severus took in every detail of the place. It was crowded with people in what he knew to be wizarding clothes, but also many in an odd assortment of muggle clothing. There were also some, who had done an excellent job concerning their muggle appearance.
Eileen laughed when he pointed this out to her. "They´re probably muggles. I told you some witches or wizards are born into muggle families. And the halfblood´s parents won´t have difficulties with muggle clothing either. Look at me! Do I look like a witch?"
Severus obediently scrutinized his mother. No. She didn´t look like a witch. She´d have passed as a muggle easily.
"Let´s find you a seat now," suggested Eileen.
Severus nodded. There were so many children. More than at his whole old school. Who was he going to sit with? Who would tolerate his presence?
"Come, don´t be shy," Eileen smiled and led the way towards the train.
Severus followed his mother to one of the carriages. He felt a bit nervous for he knew she´d be leaving soon and he would be on his own afterwards. To his surprise the witch suddenly changed her mind and headed for the next carriage.
"Come, quickly," she smiled. She made a beeline for a big man in a chequered muggle shirt.
Severus wasn´t able to keep pace with his mother. When he caught up she was shaking hands with the man, who seemed slightly familiar to Severus. Where had he seen him before?
"Mr. Evans," the witch said, "how pleasant to meet you. You´re bringing your daughters, I assume?"
Mr. Evans? Not Evans like in ´Lily Evans`? Severus searched his memory. Was it possible that he had met the man at his old school? An image of the man waiting in front of the school building entered his conscious mind. The man´s next words answered Severus´ question.
"Only Lily. Petunia isn´t a witch. Ah, and there´s young Severus. I take it, he is a wizard?"
"It came so much as a surprise to us, when Lily got her letter. She´s the first witch in our family."
It was unbelievable. Lily Evans, the most popular girl in his old class, was a witch. A muggleborn witch. His mother had told him how blood status was considered very important to some wizards, but he could not see how any pureblood witch could outdo Lily Evans.
"I wasn´t surprised. Seeing that I´m a witch, I was well aware of the fact that my son would possibly be a wizard."
She didn´t mention how much she had hoped he wouldn´t be. Severus knew she´d have prefered a muggle son, though she never had worded her wish.
"Do you need help with his trunk? He can sit here with Lily."
"Thank you so much, Mr. Evans. I´m relieved he can sit with your daughter, to be honest. He doesn´t make friends easily."
Sit with Lily? This was a bad idea. Lily had never talked to him before. He couldn´t see her tolerate his presence. She´d probably send him away and tell the other children that he was a freak. So much for a fresh start.
"They´ll both be better off, if they can start together." Mr. Evans heaved the second trunk into the compartment.
Both better off? Severus couldn´t see how Lily always-surrounded-by-friends Evans would have a better start with him sitting in her compartment than without. Well, there was nothing he could do about it at the moment. He´d have to sit there at least until their parents were gone.
"Ah, Lily, dear." Mr. Evans beamed at his daughter, who had finally managed to come to him. "Look, whom I have met." He pointed at Severus, who stood quietly beside his mother trying hard to refrain from getting himself tied to her apron-strings. "You´d never have guessed, that one of your old class would be here, would you?"
To Severus´ surprise Lily smiled at him warmly. He returned the smile as he didn´t know what else to do or say.
After some moments the steam engine gave a whistle and the adults prepared to leave the train. The Evans hugged their daughter, but Eileen Snape only removed a fluff from her son´s shirt. Though they had said good-bye at home, Severus wished she´d hug him, too.
The two children waved to their parents when the train started to move. Soon they went around a bend and Severus couldn´t see his mother any longer.