An Axe to the Gut
A feeling of immense, powerful dread swept over Professor Severus Snape as he sat in the Great Hall, awaiting the arrival of this year's crop of first-years. He hated this bloody ceremony every year; it always reminded him of how insignificant and small he had felt on his own first day. He, with his greasy hair and old clothes, had not looked the picture of decency at all. He had been made fun of endlessly, and bitterness swelled in his heart as he remembered the jibes and barbs spat at him.
And that bitterness, and who he had been made fun of by, brought him back to the present. This year ... this year would be the absolute worst by far. He would have to try hard not to lose control as he watched this year's new students walk into the Great Hall. He had no doubts that among them would be a boy with a strut in his step and a confident, cheecky smile on his haughty face. The thought of it made him sick. But there was one feature on that face that he could not, and would not, think about. Not until the time came, at least, and then he would have to force even more raw emotion down.
Professor Quirrell, the man to the side of him, tried to make conversation, but Snape sneered at his babble. There was something very odd about him, and if it was the last thing Snape did, he would find out the other man's secret. That turban he wore looked completely ridiculous, and Severus had a feeling his stutter was covering up something. Why does Dumbledore hire such incompetent fools? he wondered, clenching his fists under the table.
His hollow black eyes swept around the hall, and he saw the nauseating sight of all the happy students who were greeting friends and exchanging stories of their pathetic summers. Their faces were lit with joy, and Snape wanted nothing more than to take a hundred points from each of them, the Gryffindors in particular. He stared scathingly at the Weasley twins, who were making faces and causing others at their table to burst into raucous laughter. Snape's sneer grew even more pronounced as he watched their inane, asinine banter.
Suddenly, the doors opened, and in marched Minerva McGonagall, a line of terrified, jittery first-years trailing in her wake. Without being able to help it, Snape's eyes analyzed each one.
And then, he saw him. And it was exactly as he'd imagined. There he was, laughing and talking quietly with a redhead who could only be another of those dratted Weasleys. Potter. Harry Potter. The same face, the same pathetic mess of hair, the same nose, the same strut in his step he remembered James having ... He felt the bile rise in his throat. It was as if Snape was seeing his own school days all over again.
The hall watched, transfixed, as the first-years stood at attention. Whispers permeated the hall: "Harry Potter. Is he really here this year?" "Where is he?" "What does he look like?" "Is that him, right there?" "Wow, the famous Harry Potter is at Hogwarts!"
Snape wanted to shake the lot of them. Harry bloody Potter does not deserve to be admired by all of you snivelling lot, he thought furiously. There were so many sheep in the wizarding world; there were enough to fill thousands and thousands of fields. They did nothing but bleat, going along with whatever the status quo was, and it made him feel disgusted. If only they knew the truth about famous Harry Potter. If only they knew that it hadn't been him who had saved their narrow, puny little world, that it had been ...
Don't go there! he told his mind furiously. Don't, don't, don't go there!
He watched numbly as the Sorting started and the students were placed in the house they would inhabit for the next seven years. He noted that "Malfoy, Draco," was placed in Slytherin, just as Snape knew he would be. Draco Malfoy. A clone of his father as well. Snape knew that if Lucius had done his job correctly, Draco would wander down the slippery slope of a path that Severus himself had wandered down.
Then, it came. "Potter, Harry," McGonagall said. Snape took deep breaths, his heart pounding as the whispers began again, words of awe that Snape only wanted to mock. The look on his face right now, he thought snidely, would even send the Dark Lord running for his sanity.
The Sorting seemed to take a very long time. The stupid boy's probably having a long conversation with the hat, telling it how much better he is than an inanimate object, he thought with hatred pounding through his veins. Of course he'd be doing that. He's just like his arrogant, bullying, toerag father.
Finally, the hat shouted, "Gryffindor!" and Snape felt a vicious sense of satisfaction that he had been proved right. Of course the boy was in Gryffindor. He was a Potter, after all. There was no other place he could go, except the house of the people who thought the sun rose and set on them every day, the mindless drones who followed the bullies because they thought it was only right. Slytherins, after all, were like insects; it was fine to trod on them, to swat them, to break them. Oh, yes. Gryffindors could get away with anything in this Godforsaken place.
When the Sorting was eventually over, Dumbledore stood up and started his mindless babble. Thankfully, it didn't last long, and the feast finally arrived. Snape merely picked at his food, emotion roiling around in his stomach. When he did take a bite, the food tasted like ashes. He felt as though he would be ill.
And suddenly, it happened, the thing he had been dreading for the past ten years, the thing he hoped he would never have to see, not on this particular face. He felt eyes on him, and, helplessly, unwillingly, feeling as though every pore of his body ached with the motion, he turned to face the stare.
And there they were. Lily's eyes, Lily's beautiful, mesmerizing emerald green eyes on the wrong face. The face that had filled his school days with nothing but endless nightmares, the face who had spat out the nickname Snivellus along with many other jeering taunts as practically the whole school looked on and laughed, the face who had smiled in glee as he'd taken the one thing in this whole, miserable world that Severus Snape had ever loved. Those eyes didn't belong in that face! Harry Potter had no right to have Lily's eyes - they belonged to Lily and only Lily. And Lily was dead, dead, dead, dead, dead. The last time Snape had seen those eyes they were wide, wide, wide and staring, staring, staring lifelessly right through him, the remains of tear tracks on her beautiful, porcelain face.
And from that moment on, Severus Snape knew that the next seven years were going to be torture of the worst kind. His appetite completely gone now, he put down his fork and sat back, nothing but anguish in his heart and bitterness in his soul. It hit him like an axe to the gut - this spoiled, rotten boy was all that was left of his Lily.
And that would be the way it was now.