Age-Range Category: One
Characters: Severus Snape, Eileen Prince, Tobias Snape, Lily Evans, Petunia Evans
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): LGBT slurs; implied domestic violence between spouses.
Note: I like something Laverne Cox said: "Sylvia Rivera warned us about becoming a movement that was only for white, middle class people." She was talking about how dysfunctional the LGBT community is, but it's a healthy warning for any space, including Harry Potter. It's no fun to limit Snape as a cis gay man. This story, Aegris, is based off the idea that Snape may be a trans woman. The book Eileen Prince reads is Pragmatism by William James, published 1907. Lastly, thanks to [withheld] for planting the idea; and, [withheld], my faithful editor!
Summary: Severus, at nine years old, meets Lily Evans. He is not in love, but he is strangely drawn to her.
To Spinner's End, which lay rotting in The Midlands, the end of industrialism had not been kind. Severus Snape had never seen the textile mills which now lay abandoned to the east of his home, but his mother had told him that it had been good here, once.
It was often said that, yes indeed, their silly town of Cokeworth had sold textiles to Britain and as far as France; though this was no longer true. The Snapes did keep "good blankets" in their closet upstairs and sometimes Severus touched his mother's carefully folded shawls, but he thought no more of the place Spinner's End used to be.
"Mother," Severus repeated, but Eileen did not look up. His mother was young but didn't look it, a no-nonsense sort with bruised eyes and sometimes bruised other things.
She could have been a lot prettier, he later said of her, if Spinner's End had not culled her into its fog and fumes. Here, she remained at the kitchen table, an addition to their murky surroundings, staunchly absorbed in a nondescript paperback.
An hour ago, Eileen had left the living room to make lunch, but there had been no telltale banging of pots or pans. Severus had waited until his stomach ached. Now, he reached out to tap her on the shoulder, touching that familiar sweater she never took off. She did not react.
With a long look back, Severus examined the can of tuna which sat forgotten on the counter. A dirty can opener lay in the sink and he picked it up, not bothering to clean it. He wrestled it around the can's edge. When it did not pop or hiss, Severus squeezed the grip until his hands hurt.
"Give me that," a voice behind Severus said as firm hands took the can opener away. A second later the lid hissed and Eileen quickly removed it, making the movement effortless. "Boys shouldn't be in the kitchen except to eat," she muttered in his direction. She fished out mayonnaise from the fridge and bread from the breadbox. "Ten minutes is too long to wait, is it?"
Severus frowned and looked at the clock. "An hour -" he started to say.
"No, don't talk back to me, child. Patience is not a gift given to boys, and apparently neither is silence."
Still frowning, Severus pulled the kitchen door open to leave. "Sorry, Mother."
"Where are you going? Come here," she growled. "Page 54. Don't think you'll get off that easy."
He could not hide his smile from her as he trailed back into the kitchen. Her chair was still warm, Severus noticed as he scrambled into it and gently picked up her used paperback. It was a thin book - thinner than he had first thought. It fit in his small hands well enough. "Page 54?" he confirmed as he thumbed the pages.
He glanced up, and a nod was his only answer. It was a book about pragmatism, Severus noticed as he began to read aloud. Shortly thereafter, he received a tuna and mayonnaise sandwich, and a coarse palm absently petted his hair and cheek.
"'What is reached in the end may be better or worse than what was proposed, but it is always more complex and different…'"
It was early summer. Severus squated outside an old textile mill, directly under one of its broken windows. He could hear laughter from inside the building - there was no park on this side of town, and sometimes children came here to play. He himself often read in the dilapidated office upstairs, but today he had been chased out.
"Where'd Billy no-mates run off to?" Someone shouted, and a rusted door banged open. Severus' head snapped up.
As their footsteps grew louder, Severus shrunk into himself. "Billy!" They shouted in sing-song. "Come out, come out!"
If they caught him, they would not be kind. Severus picked up a rock and threw it as hard as he could. It knocked against a tree planted near the front of the building, and fell into a bush.
"Hear that? He's there!"
Severus waited for a moment, their footsteps pounding through the building, slapping the pavement like a rolled newspaper slapping his father's hand. Then he ran home, book tucked under his arm.
His mother had left the front door unlocked. Severus took the stairs to his room and dropped into his desk chair, breathless.
He didn't reply, instead resting his head against the cool wood. It was an old desk, with an array of scratches and notches that were too small for his finger to fit in. It had been his Muggle grandmother's sewing table before she had gone to the hospice.
"Severus," his mother said, now at the doorway. "What are you doing there? Sit up properly."
In return, she frowned. "Your last name may be Snape, but you are a Prince. Hold your chin up," Eileen chastised.
Severus puffed his chest out, his expression shuttered. He had to be a Prince, he resolved.
"You're a smart boy," his mother continued, unbothered by the frosty response. She picked up the book Severus had thrown on his bed. "I see you reading my books. It's high time you read someone else's, in a school."
"I already know I'll go to Hogwarts in two years," said Severus waspishly, holding his mother's gaze. "I know that I'm different."
She shook her head. "There are all sorts of different. I've taught you the things I can, and now you will go learn the things you should. There is a private school in the next town, and they are accepting students for the upcoming term."
Severus' face pinched. "It's for Muggles, isn't it!" he accused. "I will never go to a Muggle school."
"It is for intelligent boys, and you'll go," vowed Severus' mother. She didn't stay to reason with him, nor to watch his eyes become glassy and his hands viciously scrub at them.
"Boy, come here," a voice ordered. Severus and his mother looked at each other, her wooden spoon paused over a pan of liver. He hesitantly set his book down.
"Well, go on," his mother urged. She stared after him as Severus entered the living room.
His father sat in a massive, ugly recliner, unwashed and smelling sour. His work boots had been toed off where he sat. The radio by his father's elbow was chatting in a crisp monotone, until a thick arm reached over to snap it off. Severus shrunk in on himself.
"I said, come here!" The man growled louder, closing his newspaper and grabbing Severus by the scruff. Severus stumbled and the calloused hands let him go.
"What have you done to this boy, Eileen?" his father demanded, eyes never leaving Severus'. "Keep on like this, he'll be a pantywaist - one of those nancy types, you hear me?"
"My name isn't Nancy," Severus forced out, his voice hollow.
In reply, his father looked harder at him. "Your mother is sending you off to primary school, so there will be none of that homeschooling nonsense. You understand? Things are expected of you. You are a Snape, and Snapes keep their noses to the grindstone in this town."
Again, the rough, stained hand reached for him. Severus flinched.
"Have a bother with your pot and pan's hands, do you?" Tobias picked up Severus' hand. "Feel the difference, boy. Hard work is the difference. So long as you don't come out a pansy, you'll have these hands."
Then he grabbed a fistful of Severus' long hair, which hung limply against his shirt. "What's this, Eileen?" he shouted. "Can't give the boy a proper cut? Come on, then," his father told him, wrestling himself out of the recliner.
Severus followed his father to the toilet, the stone inside his stomach growing heavier with each step. He cupped his hair in his hands as if to ward off harm.
From the medicine cabinet, his father held aloft an electric shaver. It was a horrific thing, white with notched blades. Large hands dug its plug into the wall socket.
"We'll have you looking right for it. Went to that school myself - fit place for a strapping boy. Can't have you looking like a girl there, can we." He paid no mind to the way Severus worried his bottom lip. "Alright, up you go," Tobias said, pointing at the toilet cover.
"I don't want to," Severus told him, and stepped back. He pressed himself against the wall.
The bathroom light cast strange shadows on his father's face as he stood in the doorway. "Boy," he said in warning.
Then the light bulb popped, throwing them both in darkness. Broken glass fell into the sink, and Severus ran.
"BOY! What have you done!" The shaver was forgotten as Tobias grabbed onto a pale arm.
"Mother!" Severus cried out as he tried to yank his arm away. "Mother!"
The next morning, Severus quailed in the space between his desk and bed. It might have been a quiet morning - a dog barking, a couple passerbys - if it had not been for his parents' raised voices.
He rested his head against his forearm and inhaled the smell of sunlight on old wood. His ears rang.
"Let your child have his hair, let him be," his mother stressed.
"You think it's normal, a boy like him?" Tobias demanded. "He's got your genes, Eileen - too many of them."
"You are a Muggle," Eileen snapped. "Clearly your interpretation of normal isn't relevant."
There was a sharp clap, and both parents fell silent. Severus pulled himself off the floor and wrapped his scarf around himself. He did not look for his mother's reddened cheek as he fled the house.
The park was a long way off. It was the farthest away from home he had ever gone unaccompanied. With that thought, Severus' feet numbly carried him there.
He passed by rows of houses which all looked the same - brick and mortar, depressed into the ground. Eventually the road narrowed until it was a dirt path with two tire tracks. Then, it was only a line of dead grass showing him the way. He reached the far side of the park, with an old tree and swing set.
Severus sat under the tree, staring at the pond and beyond it, to the cheerier side of the playground. He had forgotten his book.
"We have to play on this side, Lily," a horrible voice said from the swingset. "It's for your own good."
"Who's that boy?" someone interrupted. Then a girl with beautiful red hair appeared before him.
The streets were dark as Severus picked his way home that night. Someone's porch light came on behind him, so he quickened his pace, small feet slapping on brick.
He recognised everything about the street. Still, he wished he did not recognise a thing. If it were daylight, he could remain in the park as long as he wanted. With Lily.
Inside the house was quiet, his parents already in bed upstairs. Severus pushed the front door closed and locked it. Then he picked his way up the steps, into his dark room with the desk and the bed.
His mother had laid out a spare blanket, but it made the room no more comforting. A small part of him wished he wouldn't have to return here at all.
After Severus had taken off his coat and scarf, he contemplated the ceiling from his bed. His current read lay on the floor, in sight but forgotten, as he thought of the girl with red hair smiling at him. He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them next his room was filled with light.
The next afternoon, Severus returned from the park with a daisy on his lapel. Reverently, he took and carefully arranged it in the middle of his favourite book, where he crushed it tight against the pages until it wouldn't fall out.
"You're beautiful," he imagined himself saying to Lily. It was a hollow echo in his barren room, but it might have sounded different were she here.
"Who are you talking to?" His mother appeared in the doorway.
Severus looked up and blushed. "No one, mother," he told her. "I was…" He held up the book, still in his hands. "Reading aloud."
"I've bought your school clothes," Eileen said, hardly glancing at the title. "Wait here."
A moment later she re-appeared with a small stack of trousers and dress shirts. "Go on, then, let's see them," she said, and laid out her demands on Severus' bed.
The trousers were alright, though far from new, Severus noticed as he climbed into them. He took off his scarf only for a moment, to expose his thin chest. Then, as soon as he had buttoned a shirt, he grabbed his scarf again.
"Put that thing down," Eileen demanded. "Let me see you properly."
They stood in front of the mirror, staring at his reflection. His mother smoothed out the wrinkles on his shoulder. "Thin shoulders you have," she muttered, but Severus was not bothered by it. It made his hips look wider, he thought as he examined himself.
"You look like a girl," his mother accused, pulling his hair back with indelicate hands. "Don't you want to cut this?"
"No," Severus replied firmly, and she let his hair fall against his shoulders.
A boy with black eyes and thin arms stared at him. He looked harsh and lonely no matter which way he turned, and for once it bothered him. He had neither Lily's smile nor pluck.
"Do you think I would look good with red hair?" Severus asked without thinking.
Eileen let out a harsh laugh. "You have the hair of a Prince," she insisted, and there was nothing more said of it.
She picked up the trousers she had brought and arranged them in his closet. "Your father is having his friends over tonight, Severus," she told him as she worked. "Be a good boy and say hello when they arrive."
She nodded and left him alone.
So it went, Severus spent the rest of the afternoon in seclusion. He leafed through one of his grandmother's books - it was a manual for a sewing machine they didn't have. In the sunset hours his father arrived home with a bang, and robust voices echoed up the stairs. Severus kept reading.
Dinner was served at six. It was a humble spread, Severus noticed as he passed the dining table. His mother was in the kitchen, turning off the oven.
"Have you washed up?" she asked. He nodded. "Fine. Go ask your father and his friends what they'd like to drink."
His father's faction was spread out in the cellar around a table of green felt, red playing cards scattered across it. Severus remained in the doorway.
"This your boy, then?" a gruff man asked Tobias, and they all turned.
"Dinner's ready," Severus announced.
"Scrawny bit, isn't he," the second man muttered, setting down his hand. "Fold. Two and half stone, he looks like. Me family eats that much in a day, Tobias."
Tobias absently tapped his cards. "He'll grow," he told them. "Not a proper Snape if he doesn't. But I won't lie, this size is economical. Raise five quid." Two chips were dropped into the center.
"Are you expecting intermediate or full-size?" asked the third man, and all four laughed. Severus stared at them.
"Boy's not a car, is he?" the second man replied. "What's his name then?"
Tobias gestured for Severus to answer, and he shyly told them. "Mother wants to know what you'll drink with dinner," he added.
"Beer, o' course!" the first man roared, but the second still had eyes on him.
"Come here, Severus."
Severus went around the table, past his father. "Leave him be, Thom," Tobias muttered as he examined his cards. "Your call."
Thom gestured Severus closer - close enough to smell his sweat and cologne, and the familiar scent of a long shift in the factory. "I've a boy about your age," he was saying. "Though a bit more round about the middle here. D'you have a girlfriend?"
"No," he replied flatly.
"But you've got your eye on a girl, I know," Thom replied with confidence. Reminded of Lily, Severus blushed as a dark secret bloomed in his chest.
"Is that so!" teased the first man. "My, but they start young, don't they."
"Got to start somewhere," Thom replied, "else they'll end up alone, like you. So, you've got a girl, have you? You'll have her in the end, a good man always does. Know anything about cards, Severus?"
In reply, Severus shrugged.
"Tobias!" the first man laughed. "He's got a poker face already, you old fox."
"Good, fine. Now take these," Thom whispered, and shoved his cards into Severus' hand. "Take a good look at them. An' now, see, your father's got a hard winning streak. Gotten a bit cocky, he has." The other two murmured in agreement, and Thom's next words tickled the hairs near Severus' ear. "Look at him, look at him. Now this bit is important. Do you reckon he's bluffing?"
Severus examined his father. Tobias filled out his chair, long days of hard work visible in his arms and hands. He was not an indulgent or hasty man, his beer sitting half-empty at his elbow, but Severus was drawn to the way he was tapping his cards. Sometimes his father did that with the radio dial, just before he turned it to something better… a last-chance kind of tap.
"Is he bluffing?" Thom asked again, insistent.
In answer Severus took three chips and dropped them on top of Tobias'. The realisation that he had spotted his father's unease bloomed ugly in his chest. He wanted to laugh and yell at him.
"You're letting the boy waste your money, Thom?" The first man accused.
But Thom wasn't bothered. "Your son raised you two and half quid, Tobias. What's it to be?"
A strange disquietude passed through Tobias, and Severus imagined a ghost floating through him. His eyes never left his son's. "This isn't a pissing contest, Thom," Tobias growled, and set down his hand. "I fold. Come on, then, dinner's on."
"I've won!" Thom smiled and dragged the chips towards himself.
"Alright, lads, upstairs," said Tobias, and they all stood.
Remembering his mother, Severus collected the beers and carefully followed them to the steps. When he reached the landing a strong hand squeezed his shoulder, and Severus looked up.
"Don't let me catch you downstairs again," Tobias told him, and reclaimed his beer.
The summer was in full bloom when Severus was invited to Lily's house.
It was a humble thing, though nothing as bleak as his own home. There were flowers on the kitchen table - petunias, soaking in a clear glass. It smelled like sunlight and spices. Lily pulled him through the kitchen, into her room.
"These are my stamps," she said, pulling out a thick, worn envelope from her bookshelf. She dumped the contents onto the floor. "I even have one from Spain, I'll show you."
Severus pushed open her closet. "What's in here?" he demanded.
"Just clothes," said Lily, looking disinterested. "Anyway, Daddy helps me collect stamps. Sometimes he brings them from work."
Hesitantly, Severus picked up a long coat - much longer than he had ever owned - with scalloped edges and small toggles.
"I don't like that one. My grandmother gave it to me."
"I like it." He unapologetically examined it.
Lily was still on the floor, organising her stamps by colour. "I like the flower ones the best," she was saying.
There was a knock on the door. "Lily? I saw your shoes by the door. Who's this?"
It was, no doubt, Mrs Evans. She was wearing a smile and a summer dress, and for a moment Severus thought she had come to sell them a vacuum cleaner or shampoo. Perhaps she worked at the corner shop downtown.
"Mum, this is Severus Snape," Lily informed her. "He's the boy from the park."
Mrs Evans smiled. "Severus, how do you do," she returned kindly. Severus stared at her. "Shy?" She asked when he didn't reply. "Oh, but he's a doll. Lily, why don't you come help me make tea in the kitchen. Hmm?"
"I will in a minute," Lily agreed.
It was like listening to an advert on the radio. Severus stared at Mrs Evans until she left, with a wink and nod in his direction.
"I'll make sure she gives us some biscuits too," Lily excitedly announced. "You can look at my stamps while I'm gone, Severus - you'll like them."
"The magical world doesn't have stamps," he returned dryly.
Lily paused by the door. "Really?" she asked, sounding doubtful. He wanted to tell her about it, but she was already leaving. "I'll be back soon," she promised.
Severus pushed the door closed after her and unbuttoned Lily's coat in front of the mirror. It was a tight fit; still, he liked it. He looked at himself in the mirror, the long coat hanging to his knees. It swung nicely when he turned, the clatter of teacups comfortably far away. He hesitantly smiled at his reflection.
When Lily returned with a tea tray, Severus was examining her stamp collection. The closet door was firmly closed.
The last day he ever spent at Lily's house happened several days later. They had managed to sneak into Mrs Evans' bedroom, where they giggled madly as they riffled through her heels.
"This one," Lily was saying as she picked out a red pair.
Severus pushed his feet into them, watching as they swallowed him up. He couldn't lift his foot without it slipping off, so he slid them across the carpet to the mirror.
"Why are you always looking at mirrors?" his friend asked as she slid next to him.
"I know why," Lily tried again, "you -"
"I need my scarf," he decided. "It's the right colour for the shoes." A moment later he returned with it and slipped into the red shoes again, admiring himself.
"I know another way to wrap a scarf," Lily started to say, and then the bedroom door opened.
"What's all this hoopla?" a booming voice asked from the doorway.
"Daddy!" Lily smiled and unsteadily turned to face him. "We're trying on mum's shoes!"
A cold, panicked chill drove Severus to step out of the shoes. He looked at the floor. Mr Evans laughed. "Your new friend isn't shy, is she?" he teased.
Lily laughed. "Severus is a boy, daddy!"
The trench of ice water inside of Severus grew into a pool. Mr Evans' frown agitated the water, a rock thrown into a still pond.
"A boy!" Mr Evans rumbled. "Where's your mother?"
"She's gone to the grocer." Distress crept into Lily's voice, as if she too found herself frozen.
Within minutes, Mr Evans had sent Severus home with a less than polite goodbye. He was not invited inside anymore.
The next morning, Severus woke sweating and cold. He dressed in the dark and walked unsteadily to the park, where he waited on the swings. Eventually, a long time after the sun rose, Lily came.
"Hi," she said, and sat on the next swing. Severus said nothing.
"I told them that it was my idea," she started again, swaying unhappily. "I told them that I forced you to."
There was no one else in the park. Perhaps it was too early, Severus decided, though he didn't know the time. His parents had likely been awake for hours now. Still, he hadn't heard the factory toll for end of day.
His stomach growled. "I'm hungry," Severus heard himself saying. Lily did not know what to do about that, either. She shrugged and looked at her hands.
A breeze picked up, swiping at his short coat. Severus had forgotten his scarf today. "I know I'm different," He growled, kicking at the dirt. "Muggles, your father and mine, they don't understand anything. Muggles are stupid pigs."
"My father isn't a stupid pig."
"They all are!" Severus shouted. He scooped up a rock and threw it as hard as he could. "I can't wait till we're off at Hogwarts. I never want to see any of them again!"
The sky stared back at him. "I'll be a great wizard," Severus vowed. "I'll…"
A quiet voice interrupted his thoughts. "My father says that you'd do better as a girl. That way, boys know where to stick it."
"What does that mean?" he asked.
Lily shrugged, and started to swing properly. "I don't think he realises we have toys. I don't like playing with sticks."
"You'll like your wand, though," Severus told her. "When you get your own. This old man in London makes them - he made my mum's as well. I'm going to see him and choose mine in two summers."
"What's he like?"
"Old," he explained. "His face is literally a prune."
Muggle school let in on the first of September. Severus' mother walked with him to the public rail that morning, where they waited on a half-hidden bench. Damp moss squished under Severus as he sat down, waiting to be taken somewhere far from Cokeworth.
"You'll take the rail today, but starting tomorrow you'll bicycle," his mother was saying. "Only if it snows, you'll take the rail over. Here is the fare, put it in your pocket."
He took the Muggle coin from her outstretched hand. It was heavy and foreign in his palm, and he knew that his mother had not come by it easily.
"Thank you, mother."
"Stand up, let me look at you."
Severus dropped onto his feet and stood there, staring at his mother. She adjusted his scarf with firm hands. "You look like a wizard," she said, admiring his long winter coat. "A true Prince. My grandfather wore a coat like this."
"Wizards wear long coats?" he asked, surprised.
"Of course." Her tone was dismissive. Still, Severus smiled.
In the distance they could hear a rumbling sound, then a shrill whistle.