Age-Range Category: One
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Severus, Eileen, Tobias
Beta Reader(s): H
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): Implied/non-graphic domestic violence and abuse.
Summary: Severus is only nine, but he's old enough to know that he hates his father.
Severus hides behind the tatty armchair, his hands covering his ears while his mother and father scream at each other.
It's the same every night, and Severus often wonders how it would be to have parents that love each other. He hears the boys at school talk about their fathers with admiration and praise and love. Severus is only nine, but he's old enough to know that he doesn't love his father. He hates him, in fact.
Severus hates the boys at school, too, who call him names; slimy Severus, stinky Severus, snot-nosed Severus. Severus knows he's better than all of them, because he's magic and they're not, but he has to keep it a secret.
Eileen gave away her secret, and now her husband beats her for it.
Severus flinches when he hears the unmistakable sound of a hand slapping against skin, and then the screaming stops as heavy footsteps thud up the stairs. He finally deems it safe enough to crawl out from his hiding space, and he sees his mother holding a trembling hand to her reddened cheek.
Eileen is not a pretty woman, not by any means. Her skin is pale and sallow, her body is too bony, and her hair is greasy and lank. But when she turns to Severus and smiles, he thinks that she's the most beautiful woman he's seen.
"Severus," she calls out softly. "Come here."
Severus goes to her, and allows himself to be enveloped in her crushing hug.
"My poor boy," she murmurs. "My poor, sweet boy…"
"I hate him," Severus hisses. "I hate Father."
His mother releases her hold of Severus to fix him with a stern glare. "Do not speak about your father that way!" she scolds. "He's the man of this house; you have to respect him."
But Severus will never respect his father, and in these moments he can't respect his mother, either.
Severus glares at his father as he comes into the kitchen.
His mother is by the stove, her back stiff as she stirs a pot. Her husband says nothing as he sits at the table, unfolding a newspaper and straightening it out with a shake.
"Come here, Severus," Tobias tells him. "I want to see how your reading is coming along."
Severus ignores him, clenching his jaw.
He continues to glare, even as his father fixes him with a stern look.
"Do not ignore me, boy," his father growls. "Come and sit beside me."
"No," Severus hisses. "I don't want to be anywhere near you."
Tobias slams his fists on the table, making both Severus and his mother jump. His voice raises as he stands and turns on Severus.
"How dare you speak to me like that! Do I need to teach you manners, boy?"
Severus recoils backwards as his father raises his fist towards him, but his mother's arm reaches out to stop her husband before he can make contact.
"This is not your place!" his father yells at Eileen, shaking her off violently.
But the momentary distraction is enough to stop Tobias striking Severus, and instead he simply grabs Severus's wrist and forces him to his chair at the table.
"Now," Tobias says, voice strained calm. "Read me the article."
Severus does, while his mother returns to the cooking. His father nods now that everything has gone his way, and in the peace they almost seem like a normal family. Almost.
There is a knock at his bedroom door.
Severus doesn't answer, but the door opens anyway. His father stands in the doorway, a smile plastered on his face.
"I'm sorry if I overreacted yesterday," Tobias says. "But you know how I feel about you respecting me. I'm your father; you have to do what I tell you."
Severus stays silent, and his father sighs.
"I understand that you're upset with me," his father continues, "but it's my job to keep you in line. I know I got a little rough, though, so I've got you a present to apologise. Will you come with me, Severus?"
His father phrases it as a question, but there is only one answer that Severus can give.
Severus doesn't have the energy to argue, so he wordlessly stands and follows his father down the stairs. Tobias leads him outside, to the little patch of garden they have behind the house which is overgrown and filled with weeds.
And there, propped against the fence, is a bicycle. The paint is chipped and the handles are rusted slightly, but it looks to be in working condition. Severus knows his parents would have never been able to afford a brand new bike for him, but he's surprised to see even a second-hand one.
"Every boy needs a bike," his father says, clapping a hand on Severus's shoulder which makes him flinch. His father laughs awkwardly at Severus's reaction, and pushes him towards the bike.
When Severus looks back, his father is gone.
Severus pedals fast, zooming away from his house. His parents are arguing again, and he can't stand to be in the house any longer.
He cycles to the nearest field, a small patch of green nestled between two factories which have most of their windows broken. There are clusters of trees on the field, and a creek at the far side of it. It's nothing special, but the kids in the neighbourhood don't have anywhere else to go.
As Severus cycles, he hears the sound of bikes behind him, better bikes.
Some boys from his class zoom past him, their tyres screeching as they break in front of him. There are five of them, and they trap Severus in.
"Hey, Snot-Nose," one of them taunts. "Nice bike; did your granddad dig that out of a ditch for you?"
All of the boys from his school are poor, but Severus is one of the poorest so he's at the bottom of the heap.
"I bet we could beat you in a race, easy," another boy chimes in. "Up for it, Stinky?"
Severus nods. "Try me."
The boys are off without a warning. Severus frantically cycles behind them, but his bike is older and slower than theirs. But then his magic kicks in, and without even meaning to Severus is shooting past the boys without any difficulty.
Severus feels free, and he pedals and pedals until he can pedal no more.
He finally stops, climbing off his bike to sit by the creek. He is alone, and he doesn't know whether it feels peaceful or lonely.
It is not too long before he hears voices coming towards him, the voices of girls.
Severus turns as one of them approaches him, and he is met by the sight of auburn hair and emerald green eyes. The girl smiles at him, and she looks kind.
"Hello," she says. "My name's Lily. What's yours?"