Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, shape, or form, own the Harry Potter name, world, or characters. I'm just playing with them. If you think I actually get any form of monetary compensation for writing this, then I'd like you to realize you have a horrible case of the stupids. Go eat something nutritious, get some rest, then sign back online.

Author's Note: This just rattled around my head and it needed to come out


Before going to Hogwarts, even before the rarely-attended Muggle primary school, Severus Snape discovered the value of words.

Words, he learned early, were weapons. It wasn't just what was said, he gleaned as his mother paid lip service to the man she'd married; it was how it was said. A listless curse had no meaning, but say something forcefully, and the words hung in the air, sharp and angry.

"Witch" was a statement of fact between Severus and his mother. "Witch" was a curse, an anathema between his father and his mother, spat across the room like chewing tobacco by the old man down the street who scratched himself in the mornings.

He learned his first curses from his father, words like cunt, and bitch, and whore. He learned vitriol from his mother, who had "better upbringing" than her husband, and used derision and sarcasm like a surgeon.

He learned rage from his father, towering above him, spittle and foam flying, and icy coldness from his mother, with her haughtiness and pride, chilling the air as she spoke. He found it easier to ignore the rage - that the words ran together, slurred and meaningless, and if you nodded at the pauses you were hit less. The ice was quiet, dangerous, and he learned from the clipped tones. Severus taught himself to read, mostly, and devoured the written word.

As he grew, they became his weapon of choice. Words could not be taken from you – you made them yours. They would serve him, do his bidding. His father could break his arm, his mother could hide her wand, but they could not stop his mind, or his mouth.

Words were something he could grow, plant the seeds of thought with them. Later, he learned how they could be twisted into lies. Lies were too easy to break, so he taught himself to balance on the line. Inflection could be misleading, without the lie.

Eviscerating his would-be playmates became the whetstone on which he sharpened his wit. He didn't do it to be cruel; he tried not to instigate, truly. They were thick, and dull, and stupid, and treated him poorly for his clothes and home. He was willful, and astute, and stubborn. And he did not play well with others. He was defensive and intolerant.

Speaking to Lily, he learned temperance, and reassurance, the gentleness his hard-edged mother lacked. Words like Muggle, that were sharp-edged and hurtful at home, became gentled and kind. "Witch" was breathed into life with wonder, then surety.

He learned patience, restraint, the things his father lacked. He learned to choose what to say and how to say it and whom to say it to.

And then he grew, and as his blood was spilled and his bones broken and his life threatened, he tried reasoning words, defensive words. And finally, he resorted to different words, angry and cutting and snarling.

Curses became dangerous, and he became creative, wielding his words, all of them, mushing them together. He was their master, and they would bow before him, his words, cutting without blood, well, maybe with this one, and he would shape them and reverse them and as his voice changed from a child to a man's he luxuriated in the sound of each crisp syllable.

Words were spells, shining in the corridors of the castle, his home, his domain. Words were power, rattling behind his teeth, surging through his mind.

And then the day when he learned that words were double-edged, and that word hung there, knife-sharp, and it hollowed him, and stole his words.

Silence was a word he was familiar with, and he learned grief and despair and loneliness. Then anger returned, and brought with it pain, and determination. Then there were no words, just emptiness, until he was filled again, crafting his words quietly, creating speeches that could grasp the attention. He stifled the rage, the hurt, letting the ice meld his words together. They glittered in the ink of his quill, burned cold and bright on the parchments.

Magic could be crushed to almost nothing with enough despair. Bones could be broken, flesh stripped. But not words. They were quiet and stole through darkness, secretive or possessive. They were smoothed and flattered, or harsh. They could not be stolen, like a wand, or taken, like a life.

But they were his weapons, and since blooding himself on their age, he knew their bite and he worked with them and not against them. And then, there were no more words. Just a quiet plea.