The man in the pinstriped suit cleared his throat and looked around uncomfortably. In appearance he looked exactly like all the other passengers jostling past him on the crowded platform, but in essence he knew he was far from fitting in with them. They were freaks, the lot of them, with their cloaks and spells and bubbling cauldrons. And now his one and only son was about to join their ranks.
“Well, Severus…” The man tried, before stumbling over his own tongue and falling quiet with a frustrated, surly glare. He seemed at a loss for words to describe the bitterness he felt. What could he tell his son, who was barely his son anymore and had broken off almost entirely from this world to join one that he would never be part of? Why, only a few minutes ago had his son, Severus, led the entire Snape family eagerly to walk through a solid brick wall, and emerge whole and healthy on the other side. This sort of thing, Tobias Snape was not used to. And he didn't like it one bit.
Severus sighed and spared a small parting glance at his silent father before turning back to his mother. He would not be sorry to leave the poor man and memories of the unpleasant things that had passed between them, but for his mother he could not help but feel the kind of love appropriate for a son his age. She was a Prince, from a household of honorable wizarding blood, and her name, at least, would be of some worth where he was going. She was all that would matter to him now.
The Hogwarts Express spewed steam onto the platform, clouding Severus’s view of his mother. The warning bell sounded in his ears, signaling the soon departure of the train.
Eileen Prince leaned down toward Severus and brushed the greasy hair out of his face lovingly. “Hold your head up high, Severus,” she whispered only for him to hear. “I know you will do great.”
Do great, mother? Severus thought with slight contempt. You know I will do more than do great…I mean to be great.
But Eileen was not a woman who appreciated such thoughts. She simply did not understand the conviction with which her Severus pursued greatness. If she had understood it, and felt that way herself, she would not have married Tobias Snape.
So instead of upsetting his mother in their last moments together, Severus merely smiled. “Gryffindor?” he asked of her.
Eileen Prince blinked back tears and reached to squeeze her only son’s hand. “Gryffindor,” she whispered back.
Beside them, the scarlet train began to inch forward. Severus wrapped his arms around his mother only fleetingly before yanking a door open and leaping into a train compartment, dragging his luggage in behind him.
Panting, standing with his back to the door inside the corridor of the moving train, Severus felt a leap of joy tickle his insides.
This day, when Severus Snape would finally get a chance to start his life anew, was too long in coming. He had known about Hogwarts and only dreamt of the opportunities there since before he had entered Muggle grade school. The children there were so insultingly inferior to what he knew he would one day become that despite his pride, he made no effort to fit in. Of course, it meant a lonely childhood, but physically it made no difference. Severus was just as awkward and gangly as the next eleven-year-old boy.
Now Severus preferred not to turn back to the door and acknowledge what was surely his mother, waving through the window and crying into a handkerchief.
Mentally, it had made all the difference. There was a hatred building up inside this little boy’s heart, made from years and years of stoic suffering as the Muggle children, in all of their painfully ignorant glory, taunted and teased his eccentricities shamelessly. They knew nothing of the world, and yet for no valid reason they saw Severus as their inferior. He longed to scream, to yell at them, to explode and reveal his secrets of an unknown power and an unknown place, where he would rise to the top because of his mother’s name…
But he couldn’t. He knew that Hogwarts and the wizarding world relied on the ignorance of Muggles for existence. It had killed such a proud boy to bite his tongue and bear the ridicule with no more than a peep.
Severus dragged his luggage down the train, peeking into compartments for an empty spot, preferably next to a pupil of his own age.
If he had learned nothing else in his six years at Muggle school, he had learned to value power, in any form. If one had power, the possibilities were infinite. Power understood what was important in life. It wouldn’t matter how much money your father earned, or how many girls sent you Valentines on Valentine’s Day. It wouldn’t matter, in the end, who your friends were, or if you had any. These things were trivial to power. Power could work for anyone, regardless who they were or what they had. Power could work for Severus, even if nothing else could.
To learn the way the world worked, to subtly manipulate it until raw power fell into his hands, and to use it to correct every injustice, every abuse he came across…that was what Severus Snape had come to Hogwarts to do.
And Eileen Prince had unknowingly offered him the perfect place to start.
Years before Severus had received his letter his bedtime stories consisted only of Eileen’s memories from Hogwarts. She had told him everything he wanted to know about the castle, the grounds, the classes, the Houses, from her own experience. She had been in Slytherin House, but always spoke of her own House with a little more contempt than the other Houses.
It was not until a week after his own letter came that Severus began to wonder why this was so. It had taken him another two days to think over how to phrase such a question to his mother. “Which House is the best one?” he had asked her instead. “And don’t say Slytherin just ‘cause you were in it,” he warned.
Eileen had laughed. “Oh, all the Houses are just as well. It depends on what you want, Sev. Ravenclaw is fine for those who think the solution to every problem can be found in a book. Hufflepuff is fine for those who think there are no problems in the world.” Severus snorted.
“Slytherin…” Eileen continued. “Well, they would rather sit around and demand that others find the answer to their problems.” Her voice was bitter.
“But you’re not like that, mum,” Severus prodded innocently.
“I know,” Eileen sighed. “Originally, Slytherin was for those who valued power, and worked to get it no matter what the odds. Once, when I was a little girl, I had a spirit like that. But sometimes Slytherin doesn’t work that way, and eventually I lost the will to fight it.”
Severus nodded, understanding more than he wished to let on. “And what of Gryffindor?” he asked.
“Now, Gryffindor,” Eileen’s eyes shone, “was always the grandest House at Hogwarts. I think all the other Houses were jealous to a certain degree. I don’t think there was a wizard who didn’t ever, deep down in their hearts, wish they were a Gryffindor.”
Severus shook his head in disbelief. No House was that grand. “I’m serious,” Eileen insisted. “If I were to pick a House for you, Sev, that would be it. Gryffindor has always had the most influence at Hogwarts, and that leads to great wizards,” she whispered. “Besides, Albus Dumbledore, who was the head of that House back then, is one wonderful man.”
“You wish you had been a Gryffindor, mum?”
Eileen sighed and smiled a little. “Who knows? I wasn’t. But now I’ve got you and your Daddy and I’m as happy as I can be, Sev.”
Severus didn’t believe her. And in the excitement of packing and leaving for Hogwarts, only one part of the conversation stuck in his mind. He now knew what he needed to know. Gryffindor was where there was power to be had. He knew that if Slytherin was a second-rate House, there could only be one choice for him.
The days after had passed in a blur of scarlet and gold glory.
He wandered farther down the train, looking for Lily Evans, the little redheaded girl who lived down a few streets from him, in the good part of the neighborhood. She had always looked down her nose a little at him, but he had never minded in his love for her. She had gotten a letter as well, and Severus had been delighted. They spent hours in the woods, talking of the magical wonders that awaited them.
They would both be Sorted into Gryffindor, he was sure.
A pack of older boys was coming up behind him in the corridor of the train, and Severus tried to move aside to make room for them to pass. His trunk, however, was too large to move completely. Its corners grazed the passing boys’ legs painfully, causing them to glance over at him.
“Well, look here,” a first boy’s voice exclaimed gleefully. Severus looked down at the ground through his curtain of greasy hair. He did not see the boy’s face, and he hoped that the boy could not see his either.
“Why, it’s just a little grease monkey,” a second boy laughed. “First years are getting smaller all the time, I tell you.”
“Ah, shut your gob, it’s only been a few years since you been a first year, little brother,” yet another voice said. “Lay off the little kid. Look at him, he’s shaking in his boots.”
At this Severus looked up defiantly. He wasn’t afraid of anyone, let alone a few cowardly bullies. This was not what Hogwarts was supposed to be about. This was not what he had come for.
The last boy who had spoken was a tall boy, already dressed in robes of royal blue and bronze with a prefect’s badge pinned on his right side. So he was a Ravenclaw, at least a fifth year, Severus thought.
But despite being a prefect, under the intense scrutiny of his friends, the tall boy couldn’t help but look down his nose at the scrawny first year standing before him. “Your trunk’s in my way, kid,” he growled. “Why don’t you find a compartment and sit down?”
“Yes, quick, kid,” the first boy mocked. “Before I move you and that piece of junk out of our way myself.” He aimed a kick at Severus’s tattered trunk with the worn cover, and the other boys snorted contemptuously.
Severus’s face burned bright red with humiliation for the first time as he suddenly became acutely aware of how shabby and abused his trunk’s outward appearance looked. No matter that it held his clothes and belongings just as well as a brand new trunk. No matter that it meant all the more to him because it had belonged to his mother, a Prince. These boys could not possibly know that, but what conclusions they could draw from the trunk’s worn exterior hurt more than what they could not.
It had been the same way at Muggle elementary school. The Snapes had never been the richest family in the neighborhood, however hard Tobias Snape worked toward it. The Snapes had had their fair share of bright prospects, Severus supposed, but from inherent bad luck nothing had ever come of it.
They were happy as they were, though Severus knew Eileen Prince could’ve done better. Tobias Snape was undeserving of her.
The Snapes lived in a little cottage at the end of a calm, quiet cul-de-sac, with a small stretch of riverbank allotted to their property as a backyard. It wasn’t much to look at: the Snapes called it cozy, but there were whispers as others called it shabby. His classmates had never really come to visit more than once, when they came that first time to look around contemptuously at his humble abode. And after that fateful first time, all they could see in Severus was the mended hole in his parka, his blue jeans a bit too short for him, the tatters in the soles of his trainers. It angered him to be judged so, even as he lost any friends he could have made. Mostly he had kept to himself, anyway.
It was what Severus Snape had come to Hogwarts to get away from, again. His entire former life of inferiority, whether justified or not, could be erased here, starting with this train ride.
Once he was in Gryffindor, he could and would be the best. As a Gryffindor and a Prince, no one could stop him.
“Diggory, you’re scaring him speechless,” the prefect boy snapped, bringing Severus back from his thoughts. “Just get out of the way already, kid,” he said to Severus. “Don’t ask for trouble.”
Severus grabbed his trunk and began to haul it down the hall toward the direction from which the boys had come. The boys continued down the hall in the opposite direction. “Grease monkey!” one boy called back over his shoulder to the hoots of the other boys, but Severus ignored them. He had better things do to, such as finding Lily Evans.
There…In that compartment, a flash of brilliantly red hair. Severus stopped to look in through the translucent door. Before he could reach the handle, Lily’s voice floated out.
“Can’t you two please just leave me be?” she was pleading, with more than a hint of annoyance snapping in her tone.
“But Evans, don’t you wanna be friends with us?” A taunting, unfamiliar voice. Severus peered in but could only see the shapes of two dark heads and one red one.
The red blur scooted further away from the two dark ones, who were sitting near the door. Severus heard Lily Evans cry out with frustration, and could stand it no more. Who were the strange boys that dared taunt his friend? He turned the doorknob and entered the compartment, still dragging his trunk behind him.
“You’re disturbing my peace, Potter,” Lily was saying frostily. “Go away.” She didn’t hear Severus enter.
“Ah, but unfortunately for you, there aren’t any more seats anywhere else,” the boy who had spoken before said, grinning.
The other boy looked up as Severus entered. “And unfortunately for us, too, it seems,” he sneered, looking him up and down with his nose wrinkled like he smelled something foul.
Lily finally looked up. “Severus!” she exclaimed, relieved. “Come sit down. How are you?”
“You know him, Evans?” the second boy asked, nose still wrinkled. “He's obviously undeserving of your company,” he added smoothly with a grin.
“This is Severus,” Lily snapped. “And you’re not one to talk about who’s undeserving of my company, Black. You’re the ones who are unwanted here, not him.”
The first boy stuck his hand out, and cautiously Severus reached out to shake it. “James Potter, Quidditch boy extraordinaire,” he said easily.
Severus couldn’t help but snort. James Potter quickly retracted his hand and stared at him unhappily. “You questioning my Quidditch skills, Snivellus?” he asked dangerously.
It was Potter’s friend’s turn to snort as Lily flushed a vibrant shade of pink. “Nah, Potter, I’m questioning his hygiene. So, Snivelly, how many times a year do you wash that gorgeous mane of hair? Twice?”
Severus felt uncomfortable standing, so he sat down across from Potter’s friend, not waiting for a handshake from him. A blush burned a brand across his cheeks. The arrogant git. Black, Lily called him? Well, that explained it all. Princes, Blacks, they were all from the same lot, and Eileen's family was not a pleasant one.
“So you’re a Black, are you?” Severus tried. “My mum probably knows yours. She’s a Prince,” he emphasized the name, feeling somewhat important despite himself. But if it was possible that Black’s expression became even darker as he surveyed Severus, it happened then at the mention of his family name.
Potter smirked, not noticing his friend’s anger. “Your mum’s a prince?” he laughed at Severus. “Doesn’t she know only blokes can be princes?”
Black elbowed Potter in the gut, hard. “A Prince, you idiot, like a last name,” he growled. “And I ain’t a Black if you ever saw one. Me and my mum don’t get along so well, so you’d best not mention her again,” he snapped at Severus. Potter glanced at Black, perplexed, but didn’t ask any questions.
“Voila, James Potter and Sirius Black,” Lily muttered unhappily from her seat by the window. “Now can you make them leave, Severus?”
Potter cowered against Black, whimpering. “Ooh, ooh, Snivelly’s going to come get us,” he cried while Sirius Black shook with laughter.
Ignoring the scene and remaining as dignified as possible, Severus crossed the compartment to sit next to Lily. Immediately, Potter stopped whimpering and his eyes shot daggers at Severus’s turned back. Neither Severus nor Lily noticed as the compartment became quiet again.
“So, what House do you want to be in, Lily?” Severus asked curiously. He had never asked before, but in light of his recent talk with his mum, he wanted to know. Potter and Black stopped to listen to her response.
“Well, I don’t really know, Sev. You told me that the Sorting Hat picks for you, doesn’t it?”
Severus nodded. “Yeah, it does, but I guess maybe if you hope enough you’ll get the one you want. I sort of want to be in Gryffindor,” he admitted quietly. It was the biggest understatement of Severus’s life. He needed to be in Gryffindor. He had to be in Gryffindor. There was just no other choice.
“Do my ears deceive me?” Potter cried. “Snivellus wants to be a Gryffindor?” he mocked.
Words of cruelty that surprised even Sirius Black began to stream out of Potter’s mouth, fueled by his anger that Lily Evans would chose this greasy little boy over his own company. James Potter, Quidditch boy extraordinaire, had been cast aside for Snivellus, the amazing grease monkey. How embarrassing it was.
“Gryffindors are supposed to be brave, honorable, and proud,” Potter declared. He shot a second glare at Severus, glancing at Lily out of the corner of his eye, looking for the redemption and admiration that was sure to follow his wittiness. “Although I suppose anyone who would dare come near you before your yearly bath could be considered brave,” he added lightly, like an afterthought.
“And I suppose you’re just cut out to be a Gryffindor, Potter,” Lily snarled, tears beginning to form in her eyes.
Potter didn’t notice. “Gryffindor doesn’t need a Snivellus like you sniveling all over the place. Gryffindor is for people who have the potential for greatness.” He puffed out his own chest. “There’s no room for Snivellies.”
Severus opened his mouth. He closed it. He clenched his hands into fists, and unclenched them. His body had gone entirely numb, and he couldn’t feel Lily’s comforting hand on his shoulder. Spots and blurs began to appear before his vision as he struggled not to blink, lest the water in his eyes spill over onto his cheeks.
So that was it, then. He had been a fool to think that things would change. It would always be people like Potter and Black and Evans who would grasp the spotlight, and the glory, and the power. There was no room in Gryffindor for Snivellus.
The armor around his heart, which had cracked open a bit to admit the bit of sunshine that was Gryffindor and Hogwarts, slammed shut again, as cold as ever. He vowed never to open it again. He had been hurt one time too many.
Lily was silent. Severus looked out the window at the bright English countryside as Potter and Black were distracted by the arrival of another boy, whom introduced himself as Remus Lupin. Severus did not bother even to look at him. He could tell by his exchanges with Potter and Black that Lupin would be a Gryffindor, as well.
Severus Snape could never be a Gryffindor. But if it was people like Potter and Black and Lupin that belonged there, he would be happy and proud to be a Slytherin instead. He was a fool to think that things could change. It was time for Severus Snape to take control of his own life, and he could do it as a Slytherin. One more of life’s disappointments couldn’t bring him down.
As far as anyone else would ever know, Severus Snape never wanted to be a Gryffindor.
A/N: This one-shot's totally unlike anything mainstream about Snape...the idea really sprung up out of nowhere! I hope you liked it, though. Please leave me comments and opinions with a teeny review!
The beautiful/amazing/wonderful/awe-inspiring chapter image is by Ladywolf at TDA, who does the best graphics in the world.