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FIC: The Art of Shuddering in Fear (PG-13)



Title: The Art of Shuddering in Fear
Age-Range Category: One
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Severus Snape, Tobias Snape, Lily Evans
Author: lyre_flowers
Beta Reader(s): Tuesday November, Inkfire
Rating: PG-13
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
Note: I shamelessly borrowed elements from different folk and fairy tales. Most prominently, the general theme is from Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's Children's and Household Tales, more specifically The Story Of The Youth Who Went Forth To Learn What Fear Was.
Summary: Once upon a time, there was a little boy. His hair was black as crows' feathers and his eyes a glittering jet black that spoke of bravery and boldness. Never had the boy shuddered in fear.



Once upon a time, there was a little boy. His hair was black as crows' feathers and his eyes a glittering jet black that spoke of bravery and boldness. He was but a little boy, just shy of seven years old, though he was tall for his age.

Indeed, the boy was quite tall, but he was slender to the point of being thin, his chest bony and his arms frail. Yet his black eyes spoke of courage and cunning, and his stance was that of a man unafraid.

The boy's parents were simple people. They lived in the village, quietly, ordinarily, and not a single person alive had ever seen them accomplish an extraordinary feat. Their boy, however, was something else entirely.

The boy was not afraid. He knew no fear.

In the village they whispered in hushed tones, between half-closed doors and in shadows behind stables, that he was other. He unnerved them.

Never had the boy shuddered in fear. Never had he shrunk back in disgust from a spider or a snake. Never had his eyes betrayed an emotion but calm contentment.

//

One day, even his own father had enough of the boy's unmoving stance. He sent him to apprentice with one of the village's farmers. That farmer was also responsible for ringing the church bells at midnight, a skill which he taught the fearless lad.

After three weeks, when the farmer thought his young apprentice had mastered the sufficient skills, he decided to heed the boy's father's advice to finally scare some sense into his charge. As the boy went to ring the bells inside the dark church tower, midnight resounding in the night's tense silence, the farmer dressed in white robes. He shone in the dark night. Even the village dogs shrunk into corners at his approach.

The boy, surprised in his bell-ringing by the farmer impersonating a ghost, took one calm look at the intruder. Then, with deliberate care, he pushed his little hands into the white cloth, sending the farmer tumbling down the wooden church steps.

Upon sunrise the next morning, the village awoke to a very smug and still unafraid boy, and the broken leg of one of their best farmers. Yet, the boy had still not mastered the art of shuddering in fear.

//

Tales are as tales go, and news always did travel fast. The tale of the fearless boy of seven travelled far and wide, reaching the neighbouring villages in a mere matter of weeks. From the whole country, curious visitors came to dwell in the village inn in order to catch a glimpse of the boy who was so resoundingly other than anything they had ever seen.

One day brought a strange little girl into the village. She was small herself, veritably tiny, with a frail face framed by red locks.

"Witch," the villagers whispered. "Surely she must be a witch."

And the smith, who was reputed to be a very clever man indeed, added thoughtfully: "Surely she must have come to finally claim young Severus for her mate."

However, the strange girl just smiled and disappeared into the woods. She played on the playground, although village children gave her a wide berth. Even the dogs never strayed in her direction. Cats seemed to follow her wherever she went, strutting proudly in the wind her shifting dress produced.

The boy, young Severus, thought the girl was beautiful.

"Beautiful," he murmured when he sat next to her on the swing.

She smiled back.

"Different," she argued.

//

It was around that time that the boy found the second ghoul under his bed and the first Boggart in his wardrobe.

The Boggart was greatly confused by young Severus' courageous attitude. First he tried turning into a spider, then into a hair in the soup, then into fire, then into the boy's dead mother. But the boy just stared on, mildly amused.

When his lips finally twitched at the Boggart's increasingly desperate attempts to disconcert him, turning into a shiny pink mirror and a sparkling owl and an undulating spider's web, the air seemed to condense. Finally the strange creature imploded.

Yet, the boy had still not mastered the art of shuddering in fear.

//

A few weeks later, the boy was still very much engrossed in the red-haired girl and her beauty. He had taken to aimlessly wandering around in the forest, wistfully thinking about the one who seemed to be so like him.

His smile drew a mischievous visitor. A small black horse suddenly appeared next to the boy, nudging his arms.

The boy looked at the horse. Something in his mind told him to mount the strange animal, to take this chance to escape the narrow-minded village, wherever the wind and this horse might take him.

Away the black horse took him. Faster and faster he rode, his black hair waving and his stinging eyes weeping as the sharp wind howled by.

Faster and faster the horse went. Soon, the village was out of sight and they were deep, deep into the fields of barley and rye, then into the moors. Hedges and forests drifted by. Hay, sticks and stones chafed the boy's knees.

No amount of shouting, however, would deter the black horse. It accelerated even more, running straight for the next forest.

Branches, tree trunks and thorns cut through the boy's skin. His voice was hoarse and his hands stained with blood, but still he felt nothing but a perverse joy.

Gradually, the black horse slowed until it came to an abrupt halt in the middle of a deserted country road. Shaken by the sudden stop, the boy slipped off the horse's back.

When he looked into the strange animal's eyes, the boy thought he saw a sort of grudging admiration there, but when it turned and fled through the moors, all that resounded in his ears was mocking laughter.

Yet, the boy had still not mastered the art of shuddering in fear.

//

Fall turned into winter. Rain fell, and still the strange girl remained.

The villagers had long since stopped gossiping about the fearless boy and his red-haired companion. Those weren't the days when a community could still burn a witch at the stake and be done with it. There would be repercussions.

It was in the dead of winter that the boy first heard a tentative wail outside his door. It was a haunting mourning that quickly grew louder.

Bravely the boy opened the cottage door and looked outside. There she was. Dressed in white flowing rags, her face ashen and her hair coal black, she wailed, loudly and shrilly, disturbing the peace of a perfectly quiet December's night.

The boy knew the wails announced death. Old people's whispers claimed that those cries could render a person insane, could even kill a healthy man in a matter of seconds.

Children would sometimes, half in jest, talk about such a woman. "Black Annis is out to eat children tonight," they would murmur.

Yet, the boy had still not mastered the art of shuddering in fear.

//

January came in wisps of dry air and heavy snowfall. The boy turned eight, and his red-haired friend had prepared him a unique surprise. She had invited him into the hut she had built near his father's farm, begging him to sit by the fire. And indeed she must be a witch for she gave him a drink of herbs and fox fur which made his head feel fuzzy and his eyes close.

"Happy birthday, Severus," she said.

An hour later, his eyes still closed in herb-induced sleep, she pressed an innocent kiss to his lips. Then she took a bucket of water and emptied it over the boy's head.

What a Boggart, a púca and a bean sidhe had not accomplished, the red-haired witch did: Young Severus awoke with a start, spluttering, shaking and shuddering.

//

Yet, the boy had still not mastered the veritable art of shuddering. Only much, much later would the boy learn what fear truly was.
Tags: author: lyre_flowers, category: one, type: fic
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