Title: The Reward of Patience
Age-Range Category: One
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Severus Snape, Eileen Snape (mentioned), Tobias Snape (mentioned)
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
Summary: A young boy finds the promise of a bright future hidden in the pages of a book.
The boy wore ill-fitting clothes that hung off his too thin frame. The shirt was long enough to reach to his shins and too big at the neck so that it always showed one of his lean shoulders. His dark eyes seemed too big, but that was caused by the dark shadows of leeriness and fatigue under his eyes. Although he was still very young, he had lost the usual carefree innocence of a child. He seemed wary and twitchy, as if being afraid that someone could come into the small, dingy kitchen and scold him, or worse, throw him out. He knew that if one of his parents found him then, being scolded or thrown out was not really the worst that would happen. But he was used to being shouted at or hit, and sending him off to his room without supper was no threat either. (Proper meals were irregular at best and he went hungry often enough, even if there was something to eat.)
He was kneeling on the floor in a mess of broken glass and paper. He was very lucky that there were no leftovers mixed in the debris, but the the waste had been just collected this morning. His father had started drinking early (or maybe he had started late but finished the bottle in the morning). When he had found no more booze he became angry as usual and shattered the bottle before staggering out. The boy cared not where his father had gone to - either to sleep off the intoxication or to continue drinking somewhere else.
He pulled the torn pages and scraps out with his fingers, carefully avoiding the shards but at the same time not minding if he got nicked by the sharp edges. A little pain could not deter him. He worked with silent determination. Once he had the paper on one pile, he stood up to fetch a dust pan and brush. He swept the shards together and put them back in the rubbish bin. The he put the bin back into the corner beside the sink from where he had pulled it. At last he gathered the paper in the too big shirt he wore. When he got back into his room, he hid the scraps in the secret spot behind the bottom drawer of his wardrobe. (He has found the place by accident, when his favourite pair of socks had vanished as if by accident from the drawer. They were his favourite because they had no holes and were warm and fuzzy. He had at last pulled the drawer completely out and found the socks in the gap behind.) It made no sense to try to reassemble it now, without any glue. But he could wait.
In the end he settled on nicking a few short stripes of sellotape at a time, every few days. The first time, he had taken a very long piece but it had gotten tangled up and it had been so difficult to get the two sticky sides off each other again. But now with every new strip of tape, he took out the torn paper from its hiding place, sat down and tried to put the pieces together. It was especially complicated because he couldn't read yet. But he knew he would succeed. He knew that the words which were hidden in the squiggles, circles, and lines would teach him later, once he had learned to read them. Now he just tried to find shapes of paper and print that fit together. It was a puzzle game - one he never tired of.
It took him weeks to finish it, although it didn't matter to him. He had attached the spine but since he had used so much tape to get everything back together that the pages had bulged and the book wouldn't lay flat. So he used an old shoelace to tie it around the cover and keep the book closed. (He had gotten a thorough walloping for that, but he didn't care. It was worth it. And his shoes had gotten too small anyway.)
He still couldn't read it, but he had asked his mother to teach him. It was not easy because she didn't have much time. She had to work to help earn money - and would he shut his big mouth and be grateful that they cared enough for him to feed and clothe him. Sometimes, even when she did have time, she didn't have the patience. She looked harassed very often, mostly even more so when the month drew to an end and he asked her for a piece of bread because he was hungry. She would look at him then, a funny look in her eyes, draw him close (not quite a hug, but a squeeze to his arm or shoulder). Then she would sigh and pull out an old newspaper and read the words to him. She even had the stub of a pencil for him to try to write. More often than not they were interrupted by the father and they were shouting at each other again ("Out boy, I don't want to see your filthy hide!" - his father - "Go to your room." And unsaid: Keep quite, don't anger him. - his mother). He would hear things being hurled and crashing and shouting. But he had patience, so he waited and learned what he could.
The day he could finally read the title was one of the most joyful and brilliant in his whole life. He felt satisfaction that his patience had been rewarded at last. And from this day on a new world had been opened up to him that no one could ever take away. He would continue to learn and in the end, just like now, he would succeed. He narrowed his eyes and read out, in a hushed and awed voice: "Magick Moste Maligne - by Hereward, Son of Godelot". It didn't make much sense, but he just had to continue to try and learn more and he would understand the book's secrets. He would be knowledgeable and strong, and they would stop pushing him around and screaming at him. Everything would be good then, he simply knew it. Severus smiled.