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Chapter 9 : All Because of A Letter
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She spent half the movie hiding her eyes whenever the score came on that meant Jaws was hunting a new victim and once she even jumped right into Severus’ lap, when the shark came up out of the water with all its teeth showing to swallow a girl whole.
“Whoa!” Severus yelped, one minute he was watching the shark attacking and the next he found himself with an armful of squealing teenage girl. “Lily, Lily it’s just a movie!” He hugged her then, unmindful of the spilled popcorn all over his sneakers.
“Oh my God, Severus!” she whimpered, burying her face in his shoulder. “That damn shark . . .”
“Shhh . . .it can’t come out of the screen,” he murmured, stroking her fiery hair, struggling to keep from grinning. Normally he didn’t care much for sensational horror flicks, but any movie that made Lily jump into his lap was all right in his book. “It’s over, you can look now.”
“Okay,” she peeked over her shoulder and breathed a sigh of relief. Then she blushed and started to climb out of Severus’s lap. “Uh, sorry . . .I don’t mean to act like a scaredycat or anything, but just the thought of a shark coming after me like that . . .I may never swim in the ocean again . . .”
He pulled her to him. “It’s not real, remember? Stay here.”
“I’m all right now, Sev.”
“And what about next time the shark eats someone?” he teased. He shifted so she was sitting more comfortably on him. “This way all I have to do is hold you, little oracle.” He inhaled the sweet spicy fragrance that clung to her hair and sighed in bliss.
“You really don’t mind?”
“Not at all,” he whispered in her ear, then he kissed her playfully.
“Severus! Watch the movie!”
“I’d rather watch you.”
She giggled and kissed him back. “You’re unbelievable, Snape!”
“That’s one way to put it,” he smirked, cuddling her into his shoulder. Merlin, but he could hold her like this forever. Too bad the movie only lasted two hours, he thought wistfully.
Lily nestled deeper into his embrace, delighting in the feel of his arms about her, all sleek and sinewy. With him holding her, she feared nothing, not man-eating sharks, or dark curses, or even the one they called Voldemort. Severus, despite not being as athletic as James Potter, made her feel safe and protected and most of all, loved.
They watched the rest of the movie that way, only moving back to their original positions when the lights came back up.
* * * * * * *
The rest of July passed in a whirlwind haze of work and dates to the movies and the local diner and walks in the park together. It was the perfect summer, and certainly the best one either could remember.
Even Petunia had changed her attitude towards Severus after over a month of working with him, and seeing that he was a decent worker who did things quickly and competently and treated her sister like a royal lady, never groping her or begging her to shag him, the way her own boyfriend sometimes did. It was odd, but for all the difference in their backgrounds, a tiny corner of Petunia’s heart envied her little sister, because Lily’s boyfriend was not overbearing and demanding and knew how to treat a girl right.
Sometimes Vernon treated her like an object, pawing her, and making demands on her that scared her, for she did not want to have sex before she was married, too many other girls did and then the guy ended up dumping them afterwards. Petunia had vowed to never let that happen to her, and so she kept refusing Vernon’s overtures. As a result, Vernon was grouchy, and lately he had been avoiding her, which once would have devastated her, but now made her just shrug her shoulders.
But she would have thought nothing of Vernon’s behavior, assuming it was typical of all adolescent males, if she had not seen the way Severus was with Lily. Not that the two did not quarrel on occasion, for both had flashfire tempers, but their quarrels were brief and usually did not last more than a day before they apologized and made up. Unlike Vernon, who was still sulking over her latest refusal to do it in the backseat of his new convertible.
“Don’t you understand, Vern? I want our first time to . . .be special, to mean something. Not just . . .going at it in the backseat,” she had tried to explain last week.
“You just like to play the tease, Pet,” he had sulked. “I know your sort. Lead a guy on and then put on the breaks.”
“I am not like that! Why can’t we just go out and enjoy each other’s company, you know, go to dinner and a movie, like we used to? Why does everything have to be about sex all of a sudden?” she cried angrily.
“Ha! That’s a joke! You won’t even let me cop a feel, Miss Ice Princess.”
She glared at him. “Last time you did that, Dursley, you nearly ripped my dress off. You need to learn some self control. I’m a lady, not an animal.”
“You’re an infuriating pain in the arse is what you are!” he had shouted. “Fine! I’ll leave you be, if that’s the way you want it, Miss Evans! Maybe you should have joined a convent.” Then he had hopped in his brand new cherry red convertible and drove off.
Petunia had stared after him, blinking sharply, hurt and angry. Maybe I should have, since I can’t seem to muster up any enthusiasm for my own boyfriend when he kisses me anymore. Then she had walked back inside, shaking her head and dabbing her eyes on her sleeve.
It was odd, but there were times she envied Severus, because even though he was poor and lived with an alcoholic father, at least he had Lily, who loved him just the way he was. Would she ever know a love like that?
* * * * * *
Severus had just arrived home from work that afternoon to find a chicken casserole and a loaf of bread out on the table with a note from his mother telling him she wouldn’t be home until after nine, her boss had her brewing late this evening, and he should eat the casserole for dinner.
Severus did so, leaving enough for Tobias and Eileen, then carefully washing his plate and fork in the sink. He wondered where his father was, it was now after five, and then he recalled this was Friday night, which was poker night down at the Black Bull, and he probably wouldn’t be seeing Tobias either until later that night.
Which was fine with him, then he could get in some precious study time with his new potions book he had just purchased, he had given his mother most of last week’s paycheck to exchange so she could pick it up for him, it was called Advanced Elixers and Drafts for Serious Potion Makers by Almardeen Asphodel.
He promptly curled up on his bed with the book and proceeded to lose himself in it, until he grew thirsty and went downstairs to get himself a drink.
While he was pouring himself a glass of juice, he heard a cautious hoot and a tapping from the kitchen window. He spun about, then carefully unlatched the window and let in the large brown owl that hovered there, a letter tied to its feet.
Severus quickly undid the letter and then fed the owl a piece of chicken snitched from the casserole. “All right, best you get going, my father will have a bloody fit if he ever saw you,” the young wizard told the owl, gently stroking its feathers. “Thanks!” he called as the owl took wing and then vanished into the night.
He took the letter along with the glass of juice over to the kitchen table and sat down to read it. He recognized the loopy handwriting and the stag and chevron seal as the Black crest, which told him the letter was from Regulus.
He carefully opened it, and slid out the heavy creamy parchment.
Just wanted to write and see how your summer’s been so far. Mine’s been pretty good, all things considered. Mother and Father seemed happy to have us home, that is until Sirius started a major fight with Mother over going to the Malfoy’s ball. It’s one of the big social events in the pureblood calendar over the summer, anyone who’s everyone goes to it, they host it every year. Elysia and Sulla Malfoy always invite us, and I don’t know what the hell was up with Siri this year, but he flat out refused to go, told my mother that he wasn’t going to mingle with supporters of You-Know-Who, that’d he rather die than do that, and he didn’t see how she could expose her kids to that kind of thing and still call herself a mother.
There was more, but I won’t bother writing it, let’s just say it was damn nasty, and Mother ended up slapping him one for speaking that way to her, and said he was a disgrace and to get out of her sight. My father just stood there, shaking his head, not saying much, and Sirius stormed up to his room, yelling he was going to stay with Potter for the rest of the summer.
Then Mother turned and yelled at my father, wanting to know why he didn’t say something to his son, or discipline him or something. Dad just mumbled something like, “What d’you want me to do, Walla? He’s too old to spank, and grounding him doesn’t work either. I’ll talk to him later, when he’s calmed down some.” Then he went into the library with his firewhiskey decanter, and when he does that, he usually ends up sleeping in there, passed out on the settle.
I feel bad for him, he’s always caught inbetween Mother and Siri, like a bone inbetween two jealous dogs. I couldn’t stand being in the same house with anybody after that and I took my broom and went flying, even though it gives Mother fits when I fly at night—one of her cousins crashed and died that way when she was a girl. But I had to do something.
So now Sirius is gone to Potter’s house for the rest of the summer and I went to the Malfoys’ ball like always, not that I really wanted to go, mind, but I did it to make Mother happy. And this time I wasn’t bored to death watching people dance and get drunk like always.
Because guess who else was at the ball? Cindy Graves. And we danced all night and I had a smashing time, except for when Lucius dragged me into the billiard room and tried to get me to attend some damn pureblood club of his again. The Iron Masks or something like that. I hate those kinds of things, but he wouldn’t leave me the hell alone, so finally I said yes.
I know what you’d say if you were here, Sev. “Never trust Lucius. He’s a viper waiting to strike.” I know.
But I figure, I’ll go to one damn meeting, and if I don’t like it, I’ll leave.
But I was wondering, would you like to spend a week at Grimmauld Place with me? Cindy doesn’t live near me, so all we’re doing is exchanging letters, and I’m kind of sick of my own company.
So just thought I’d ask, since I know you don’t like spending all that much time at home with your dad and all. Send me an owl if you want to come, I’ll tell Father and he can Apparate you. Or you could take the Knight Bus, though Mother says that’s only if you’re desperate.
How are things between you and Lily Evans? Have you gone out yet? Did her father allow you to date her? Hope everything is going well.
I’ll see you next week, or next term. Either way, have a good holiday, mate!
Severus set the letter down and started to make himself a cup of tea, for he had forgotten to close the window and the kitchen was now a bit chilly. He waved a hand and the window shut itself, but no sooner had he done that then he heard a strident pounding at the front door of the row house.
“Goddammit! Where the bloody hell are my keys?” a slurred familiar voice cried.
Severus groaned. “What the hell is he doing home at this time of the night?”
Then he looked at the clock on the wall, it was hanging a bit crookedly, and saw to his astonishment it was nearly eleven o’clock, he hadn’t realized he had been reading so long.
Again came the sharp pounding and the irascible voice of Tobias growled, “Blast it and damn it! Eileen! Severus! Come and open the bloody door!”
Severus was tempted to just walk away and go upstairs, but he knew that if Tobias ended up finding his keys and opening the door himself, only to discover Severus had been home, he would be in huge trouble. Sighing, he picked up the letter and walked towards the door, unlocking it just as Tobias lifted his hand to slam it again.
The door flew backwards, nearly knocking Severus sprawling.
“What the hell took you so long, damn it?”
“I was upstairs,” Severus answered quietly.
Tobias walked in, his eyes bloodshot, reeking of smoke and beer, his work shirt stained with what appeared to be mustard. The Bull usually served pretzels and mustard along with a pint. He glowered at his son, who backed away quickly.
Then he spied the parchment in his son’s hand. “What’s that? A love letter from your girlfriend next door?”
“No, sir. Just from a friend.”
Tobias’s eyes narrowed. “What friend? From that queer school? I thought I told you, boy, you’re not allowed to get any mail from there.”
Severus cursed his slip of the tongue. He knew better to admit that he got mail by owl post, Tobias hated to be reminded that such things existed. “Sir, it’s only one letter . . .” he began.
Tobias lunged, grabbing for the letter, and Severus jerked away, yelling, “No! That’s mine!”
“Give it here! I told you once before what would happen if you told anyone from that damn school where you lived,” Tobias snarled. He grabbed Severus’s wrist and wrenched the letter from him, then marched over to the fireplace, lit a match and burned the letter to ash.
Severus watched with bleak bitter eyes. At that moment, he hated his father more than ever, for stealing away every little thing that made him the least bit happy. Except Lily. She alone Tobias could not touch. He started to leave, intending to go upstairs and hibernate in his room, away from his father’s temper, but Tobias was not minded to let his son go so easily.
“Get over here, you lying sly bugger! You need a good lesson in manners, Severus Snape.”
Severus went pale. He knew what those words meant. “No. It was just a letter.”
Tobias sneered. Then he moved, lunging at his son. “When I tell you to come here, you do it, boy!”
Severus flung an arm over his face, knowing it was useless, but trying anyway to mitigate some of the punishment.
Tobias’s hand cracked into the side of his head, and he gasped as sharp pain flared through him.
Frightened as he was, Severus also felt angry, for the mere existence of a letter was no reason for Tobias to go off the deep end. A small voice in the back of his head taunted bitterly, You can stand up to bully like Kent and punch him out, yet you can’t stand up to your own father, another drunken bum? Shame swirled within him then, because he knew that he ought to do so, but he was terrified, this was no mere boy, but the demon of his childhood, and he knew defiance would only bring him more pain.
Even so, he could not quite master his anger, and it caused him to act rashly and blurt out, “Why can’t you just leave me the hell alone? Why?”
It was the absolute wrong thing to say, he knew it before the words left his mouth.
The next thing he felt was Tobias’s fist, slamming him into the wall.
“I’ll teach you to talk like that to me, you little bastard! You forget who’s in charge here, you spiteful ungrateful brat!”
Severus tasted blood in his mouth, and his head throbbed from where it had cracked into the wall. He swallowed hard and slumped down onto the floor. Merlin help me! But I am so dead.
His father grabbed him by the hair, yanking him up from the ground, and then cracking him across the face again.
By then Severus’s face hurt so much that he hardly knew which was up or down, and he didn’t bother struggling when his father removed his belt.
Instead he made himself slip away, deep into the recesses of his mind, where he could no longer feel the pain of his battered face nor the whipping that followed.
* * * * * *
Eileen arrived home at midnight to discover her husband snoring upon the couch, an empty bottle of Scotch tipped over on its side next to the couch. She cast him a disgusted glance and moved to right the lamp that had been knocked over on the end table.
It was then she came across the still form of her son, lying bloodied and battered upon the floor.
“Dear sweet Merlin! Severus!”
I know, another cliffy! But I have to catch a plane to Virginia tomorrow, so I can't write anymore tonight. I'll update when I can.
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