Title: How Always Began
Age-Range Category: One
Characters: Severus Snape, Lily Evans, Tobias Snape, Eileen Prince
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): The normal angst associated with an unhappy Severus.
Summary: A chance meeting with a young Lily Evans changes the course of Severus Snape's life.
Bored and tired of playing by himself outside, Severus quietly made his way into the house, closed the door as gently as possible so as not to attract his mother's attention (his father had sent him outdoors with implicit orders not to get underfoot because his mother was busy preparing supper and had already had her fill of ungrateful brats for the day) and sat before the huge portrait set atop the fireplace mantel.
Where the day before a large dusty old beat-up clock had sat, now a large portrait that looked entirely out of place within the small dingy house on Spinner's End, replaced it. No matter that it didn't belong amidst all the squallor, it was beautiful, and Severus Snape had seen far too little beauty in his life, therefore he found himself enamoured with this gift and couldn't get enough of it. His mother had already told him to keep his distance lest he do something foolish and ruin it… as if Severus would dare get close enough to allow that to happen.
Within the ornate frame was an image of the largest house Severus had ever seen—six huge white columns propped up a second floor, and there were three chimneys. The sky framing it was a pristine blue, with large, fluffy clouds dotting the sky. It was a scene not unlike the Christmas cards that Severus's great uncle, his mother's father's brother, sent his parents each December.
But as breathtaking as the scenic view was, what had Severus wholly entranced was the family standing before it, smiling, their hands wrapped around one another: a mother, father, and two little girls who looked to be near Severus's age.
In all of Severus's six years, not once had he and his parents been the subjects of a photograph or portrait, and if Severus had ever seen his parents smile, he was unaware of it.
He had thought that was normal—he'd never known different—but two weeks past he had seen a family walking in the city centre, and they had been talking to each other in hushed tones as they smiled.
The mother had even smiled at Severus.
Then this scene in the portrait.
Severus longed to be a part of either of those happy families.
"What are you doing inside, Severus? Didn't I tell you to stay outside until your mother called you?" groused Severus's father from the doorway leading from the kitchen.
Reluctantly, Severus turned his head and looked into his father's mean, cold, blacker-than-coal eyes, and nodded. He wanted to say that he wasn't underfoot, that simply sitting by himself, looking at a portrait surely was doing no one any harm, but he daren't unless he wanted his father to whip him, and he most definitely did not wish for that.
Especially because it was likely his father was already in a fouler than usual mood—he normally stayed as far from the kitchen as possible unless he was starting trouble with his wife. This being the state of affairs, Severus knew if he dared challenge his father he would surely get a whipping that would stay with him for a while, so he reluctantly stood and made his way to the front door. Fortunately, his mother chose that very moment to yell from the kitchen that it was time for Severus to wash up and get ready for dinner and that their company would soon arrive.
Sighing, Severus shuffled into his bedroom and frowned at the clothing laid out on his bed. It was his smartest outfit, but Severus was no fool; the pants were a size too small and the jacket a size too big. And the shirt looked like something his cousin Mary might wear (he knew it was probably hers). Usually it didn't bother him—being poor—but tonight it did, and as he donned the uncomfortable clothes he wiped away one or two stray tears. He had long ago accepted his lot in life, but he didn't like to be reminded of it, and this night there was no way that wouldn't happen.
Ten minutes later Severus stood beside his mother, trying his best to hide behind her as his father opened the door and greeted their guests. Severus's hold on his mother's apron tightened.
Before him stood the perfect family. No, they were not wearing their Sunday finest, and they did not look as carefree as they had in the portrait, but there was no denying that they were everything Severus's family was not.
As the seven of them sat down to supper, Severus did not speak a word. He nodded once when the kind-looking lady thanked him for finding her family's portrait in the field behind his house, and he let out the briefest of laughs when the girl called Lily said she wished she could come over one day and climb the big oak tree in their front yard, but too many stares from the girl called Petunia, and a wary look from the posh father had Severus wishing they would leave.
But not really, for when they left they would take the painting with them, and Severus wasn't ready to part with it quite yet. Looking at it had somehow calmed his tumultuous mind and soothed his tortured soul. It had given him hope that somewhere out there, there were families that loved their children and saw something more in them than another mouth to feed.
All too soon, though, the time came for the Evans family to leave. Severus watched, from his place behind his mother's back, as the man carefully picked up the portrait and nodded to his wife, who handed his father something. Severus couldn't see what it was, but the look in his eyes was all Severus need see to know that it was money.
"Thank you, Mr and Mrs Snape. My wife has been bereft since the portrait went missing a fortnight ago. It gladdens my heart to know there are kind, honest hardworking people such as yourselves in this village. I honestly despair at what society is coming to in this day and time."
At prodding from his father, Severus joined him as they walked outside with the Evans family.
"It was nice meeting you, Severus," said Lily, her green eyes and red hair glowing beneath the early evening sunset. She smiled and it was a thousand times brighter than the one in the portrait. Severus smiled back.
"It was nice meeting you, as well, Lily," he replied, hoping he had used the correct grammar. His father would surely let him know if he hadn't.
Then the family of four were gone.
Severus reluctantly followed his father back into their house and glanced at the now empty mantel.
"I saw the way you were looking at her, Severus," said his father as he set the clock in its former place. "It would do you good to remember just who you are and who she is. She would never be seen with the likes of you. Now, you should go help your mother do the dishes. If she needs me, I'll be out back working in the field."
Severus glanced up at his father and then returned his gaze to the clock as he nodded sadly.
Yes, he did know who he was.