Privet Drive was, by all standards, very normal. Normal people lived in uniform, normal houses and went to their normal jobs in their normal cars. The houses were all the same normal beige color, and the children all ran about with their bikes and scooters and ice cream cones, playing normal children games. All, that is, except for one.
While the other children of Privet Drive laughed and joked and played the summer away, one small child at Number 4 Privet Drive could always be seen watching enviously as he worked in the garden, or white-washed the shed, or raked the lawn. He was a thin child, almost five years old, with an untidy mop of black hair and big green eyes like chipped sea glass. His clothes were ragged and baggy and his bare feet were dirty and scratched.
"Trouble , he is," the neighbors whispered. "Tried to kill his uncle and aunt. An orphan, you know. His parents were a bad sort."
"I try my best with the lad," the child's uncle, Vernon Dursley, would often say down at the pub. "But he's wild and unruly. A bad influence on my little Dudley."
"Impossible to teach manners," Petunia Dursley, the boy's aunt, would sniff. "Dirty, like an animal. Bites, too."
"Yes," the neighbors agreed, averting their eyes when Vernon would cuff the boy about the head or Petunia would swing a frying pan at him. "He needs discipline."
During the day, the boy would be given a list of chores to do. At night, he would be locked inside the cupboard under the stairs, his bedroom. If he was lucky, his aunt would toss a scrap of bread or some stale crackers in the cupboard too. And late into the night, when he would finally fall asleep, the boy would dream.
"Severus…"the voice called, faint and melodic. "Sev….Harry….please…"
Severus Snape jerked awake, sweat soaked and panting. The very faint scent of honeysuckle lingered in the air, haunting him. He sighed, brushing his damp hair out of his face with a shaky hand and leaning back against the pillows, his heart hurting.
It certainly wasn't the first time he had dreamed about her, but most of his dreams about Lily were nightmares. He heard her screaming, begging for her life before a sharp green light flashed…..but this dream was very different. This dream made it seem like Lily was trying to tell him something.
"Impossible," he scoffed, turning and drawing the covers over himself. "The dead don't speak."
"BOY!" a booming voice bellowed as the child jerked awake. "Make breakfast. Now!"
Dust drifted down as his uncle placed a well-aimed kick at the door for good measure.
The child sighed, reaching around for the crooked, scratched spectacles he wore. Slipping them on, he blinked a few times in the blurry dark before slipping out of the cupboard and into the kitchen. His aunt gave him a disdainful look from the kitchen table, where she was sipping her coffee.
"Wash your hands first," she ordered crisply.
The boy obeyed, scrubbing his hands under the hot water until they were red. He then pulled out several frying pans and a carton of eggs and rasher of bacon and began cooking. He had to stand on a small wooden stool to reach the top of the stove, but his actions were quick and precise, clearly well-practiced.
"Mummy!" a chubby five year old wailed, coming into the kitchen. "I want pancakes!"
Vernon flicked down his newspaper and aimed a sharp look at the boy cooking. "You heard my son, boy. Make some pancakes."
"With chocolate chips!" his cousin added.
The small child cooking narrowed his eyes, but moved his stool to the pantry and retrieved the necessary ingredients for the pancakes.
"What would you like to do today, Dudley?" he heard his aunt ask her son.
"Does Daddy work?" Dudley asked, slurping his orange juice nosily.
"I'm afraid so, my lad," Vernon said genially, ruffling the child's blonde hair. "It's just you and your mother today."
"Can we go out for ice cream?" Dudley asked eagerly as his cousin placed a plate of steaming pancakes in front of him.
"Of course, darling," Petunia murmured as the smaller boy placed her plate in front of her as well.
"Yeah!" cheered Dudley, taking a huge bite of pancake, chocolate already smeared across his face.
They chatted amongst themselves while they ate. The smaller child stood nearby silently, his own stomach rumbling as he watched.
"You," Vernon barked, snapping his fingers at the boy. "Dishes. Now."
Silently, the tiny child moved forward gathering up the dirty plates and silverware, barely flinching when Dudley kicked him, chortling.
"You have a list of chores to do," Petunia informed his crisply as he began scrubbing the plates. "I expect them to be completed by the time Dudley and I return, or you will be sleeping outside tonight."
"And don't even think about stealing any food," Vernon rumbled, casting the boy a disgusted look. "I won't allow a freak like you to take food out of my son's mouth."
The child rolled his eyes, and his uncle caught the action. With a growl, he picked the little boy up by his throat and slammed him against the wall. His face turned a mottled scarlet color as he glared balefully at the child.
"YOU WILL NOT DISRESPECT ME, BOY!" he roared, slamming the child against the wall again. "I TOOK YOU INTO MY HOME, FED YOU, CLOTHED YOU. YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A WORTHLESS FREAK, BUT WE TOOK YOU IN OUT OF THE KINDNESS OF OUR HEARTS!" Spittle coated the child's face and blood dripped down his cheek from a gash on his head.
With a grunt of disdain, the large man flung the boy onto the tiled floor and lumbered away, breathing heavily. Petunia peered down at the child, her mouth pursed.
"Clean up the blood on the floor before it stains," she said, turning away. Dudley wandered over and kicked the boy in the ribs.
"Don't you be ungrateful!" he admonished, kicking his much smaller cousin again. Petunia put her hands on her son's shoulders.
"Come along, Dudders," she said, stroking his blonde hair. "Go get dressed so we can go get ice cream. Perhaps we can stop by the toy shop as well, hmm?"
Dudley giggled, nodding enthusiastically, and together mother and son left the kitchen, leaving the tiny boy to pull himself up and blink blood out of his eyes. He slowly and stiffly stood, and then he finished the dishes.
Severus tossed and turned in his sleep fitfully.
"Severus…" the voice floated around him like wind chimes, "my son…please…Harry…Severus…"
He jerked awake, the smell of honeysuckle again in the still air of his bedroom. He sighed as he flicked his wand and lit a nearby candle, rubbing his face wearily. It was the fourth night in a row that Lily had haunted his dreams.
"What are you trying to tell me?" he asked the dark and silent room. There was no answer.
He leaned back heavily. In the dreams, Lily kept mentioning Harry. Harry, he recalled, was the name of her and Potter's son. The Boy-Who-Lived. He snorted. How old would the child ne now? Four? Five?
"And probably already spoiled and arrogant," Severus muttered resentfully. :Just like his bloody father."
Without warning, his candle was extinguished, and the smell of honeysuckle briefly grew stronger. Severus blinked.
"Lily?" he called into the darkness, feeling at once hopeful and foolish.
There was silence.
Severus sighed again. "I'm going mad," he muttered, pinching the bridge of his long nose.
A very faint laugh, so soft he wasn't sure if it was real or not, echoed in his ears.
"You want me to check on your bloody son? To make sure he's being treated like a proper prince?" he growled into the silence. "Fine. Fine, I'll go see the brat. Happy?"
With a gust of wind, his candle relit and the smell of honeysuckle faded. Severus leaned back despondently.
"I AM going mad," he groaned.
The boy shifted in his sleep, the sweet, delicate scent of honeysuckle enveloping him. His pale face, mottled with bruises, scrunched up as he heard the gentle words being murmured as though into his ear.
The sound Dudley gleefully stomping on the stairs above him jolted him awake. He blinked blearily, honeysuckle still filling his nose.
"Oi! You! Wake up! Mummy says you gotta make me breakfast, and I am hungry!"
The little boy scowled, annoyed that his nice dream had been ruined. He shoved on his glasses and left the cupboard, entering the kitchen. His aunt and uncle were at the table, drinking coffee and reading the paper, as usual.
Dudley smirked at him, his blue eyes sparkling. "Make me pancakes!"
The smaller boy's emerald eyes narrowed slightly, but he retrieved his wooden stool and began looking through the pantry.
"Hey," Dudley said, poking him painfully in the back. "Why don't you talk? Are you stupid?"
The child gritted his teeth and ignored his cousin, grabbing the pancake mix and dragging his stool to the stove.
"I'm talking to you!" Dudley said, pulling his hair so the little boy was facing him. "Look at me when I talk to you! It shows respect, right, Daddy?"
"That's right, my boy," Vernon said absently, his small eyes scanning the business section of the paper.
Dudley pulled his cousin's hair again. "Maybe that's why nobody wants you," he suggested. "'Cuz you're stupid and ugly and smelly and skinny. Maybe your mummy and daddy killed themselves 'cuz you were such a disappointment!" He chortled, shoving the smaller boy against the stove.
The boy's eyes blazed with anger and he breathed heavily. A strange feeling began building inside him and in the air around him. Oblivious, Dudley poked him again.
"Freaky freak," he taunted. "Gots no name 'cuz he's so stupid!"
The tingling feeling grew heavier, and the boy's tiny fists clenched.
"Stupid, stinky freak!" Dudley sang, giggling,
With a bright blue flash, Dudley flew across the room and slammed into the table. All the electricity in the house flickered and plates flew off the counters. Dudley began to wail, heaving great racking sobs and both Petunia and Vernon leapt to their feet, faces pale.
Petunia scooped up the chubby, crying five year old and cast a fearful look at the boy. Vernon, however, had a murderous look of rage in his piggy eyes. He began unbuckling his belt, ripping it off of his large body as he advanced on the little boy, who looked as surprised as the rest of them by what occurred.
"HOW DARE YOU!" Vernon roared, spit flying. "HOW DARE YOU USE THAT…FREAKY, DEMENTED NONSENSE IN MY HOUSE! HOW DARE YOU HURT MY SON! YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE BASTARD!" He swung the belt at the child, the buckle catching the boy across the face.
Crimson blood dripped down the tiny boy's face, his emerald eyes filled with shock. Vernon grabbed the child by his hair and threw him into the hallway, where he hit the banister of the stairs with a crack. He stalked toward the crumpled heap of a little boy, raising his belt again and bringing it down hard.
"I WILL BEAT THE FREAK OUT OF YOU BOY, OR YOU WILL DIE FROM IT!" Vernon growled, cracking the leather belt across the trembling form again.
"YOU WILL RUE THE DAY YOU WERE BORN! I WILL…" Vernon was cut off by the front door flying open. Dumbfounded, he stared at the pale man with the glittering black eyes and billowing black robes as he stalked into the foyer.
"Oh, I'm sorry," the man sneered, locking eyes with Vernon. "Is this a bad time?"