JK Rowling owns Severus Snape and the Harry Potter universe. I don't intend to steal from her -- I just find her characters very interesting to write about. :)
Severus Snape wasn’t always such a cold, vindictive man. At one point in his life he had been a very happy child. Well, ‘happy,’ perhaps wasn’t the right word for his childhood, but he always maintained an attitude of perseverance no matter what the problem and found a childish delight in the simple things of life. The gentle kiss of a butterfly’s wings as it settled upon his palm, the exquisite realm of possibility that appeared every time he opened a book and inhaled the familiar musty smell, the sound of tinkling glass that was his mother’s laughter….
'Was his mother’s laughter' was entirely too true a phrase for young Severus in the austere, forbidding Snape Manor. Lessander Snape – never “Les” except to his close friends that always wore black robes and smelled of an unusual tangy, coppery scent that Severus had been unable to put a name to for many years – was a stern, domineering, and sometimes incredibly cruel taskmaster. Severus’ earliest memory of his father was one in which Lessander had cornered his wife in the library and was lambasting her about allowing the house elves to neglect their duties.
'What were you thinking, Eleanor?' his father shouted, spittle flying from his lips to fleck to porcelain skin of the woman who was shrinking into the tomes as well as she could.
'Lessander, I-I only wanted to tend to the roses myself, w-while the sun was out—'
There was a sharp slap and Severus’ mother gasped softly. 'Don’t make excuses for your stupidity,' Lessander hissed angrily.
Severus, from his perch in the upper balcony, saw his father’s lips curl, exposing sharp teeth, and the wildly erratic pulse of a vein in his neck that was visible even from far above.
'You are not to leave this house unless I permit you to. If you are seen acting like a foolish bint in our front garden people will talk,' his lips drew back even farther. 'People do not discuss the Snape family behind closed doors!' He spat the last sentence with such venom that Severus’ mother began to choke on the great, gasping sobs she had been stifling.
'Oh, do stop your sniveling, you pathetic woman!' Lessander snarled, and then swept from the Library with a flourish.
Directly below Severus’ secret perch, Eleanor Snape’s knees buckled and she collapsed to the floor, burying her face in her hands. Severus came quickly down the spiral stair that led to the upper portion of the library and dropped to his knees in front of his mother’s quaking form, tentatively reaching out to touch her back.
'Mummy?' he asked, his little boy voice even higher with worry. 'Mummy, don’t cry. Please don’t cry,' he repeated the mantra until she looked up into his face, her eyes red and puffy but no longer filled with tears.
'Oh, Severus,' she whispered, touching a trembling fingertip to his cheek. 'Your father doesn’t mean to be so frightening. H-he just gets so angry, sometimes.' She gave him a long, brave look then got to her feet unsteadily. 'Up you go, darling. You have lessons in half an hour; why don’t you go to your room and dress for them.'
Severus had passed the rest of the day as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He was soon to find that it would become a very familiar act. While Lessander often beat Eleanor, Severus himself would remain untouched for many years. He flourished in all of his private lessons, but the potions tutor noticed immediately the proficiency Severus displayed at brewing even some of the more complex potions that he would not have learned until at least his third year at Hogwarts.
Hogwarts. The night Severus received his Hogwarts letter was the night his father first struck him. Eleanor Snape was absolutely adamant that Severus attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry while Lessander firmly wished for him to attend Durmstrang. That night Severus’ parents had the biggest row he had ever seen.
At first Lessander seemed not to believe Eleanor as she spoke boldly (though with a slight tremor) against his decision. When he realised that she refused to back down, his normally quietly acerbic tone exploded into a roar that seemed to shake the entire manor.
He once again backed her into the library, sliding his wand from his trouser pocket to his sleeve. Though he knew he had the opportunity to begin casting curses or hexes, he had always preferred to begin with physical force. He pinned her against the wall and took his first swing.
As Severus rushed into the library to see what the commotion was he heard a sickeningly wet crunch as his mother’s cheekbone gave way. She made a muffled sound of pain and Lessander’s eyes glittered, the corners of his lips pulling back into a humourless death grin as he drew back to strike her again. This time a trickle of blood dripped from each of her nostrils and she panted for breath, her arms straining to keep herself upright. Lessander seemed amazed to find that she still stood, propped against the shelves and clutching on for dear life. His eyes narrowed as he brought his foot around in a swift kick to her shins and she crumpled with a weak cry of surprise.
Severus drew in a sharp breath and his father turned around. Spotting Severus he bantered in a jovial tone, 'Ah, son! Come to see your worthless mother put back in her place?' he punctuated his question with a feral grin and a hard kick to Eleanor’s ribs.
Severus’ mouth was dry and he seemed to be incapable of looking away from his mother’s crumpled face. His legs carried him closer to her body against his will. His father smirked, a light spray of blood speckling his right cheek, as Severus looked from him to the shallowly breathing form of his mother, slumped across the floor.
'So, how about it? You want to take a go?' Lessander asked, his breathing quick with excitement. Severus tried to unstick his tongue but found it quite firmly affixed to the roof of his mouth so he just shook his head jerkily. Lessander’s smirk soured and his thin lips bowed into an unflattering scowl.
'No?' he breathed, tongue darting out to catch a bead of sweat that rolled to the corner of his mouth. 'Perhaps you’d like to join her, then.' He reached out lightning-quick and shoved Severus hard in the chest. Caught off guard, Severus stumbled over his mother’s outstretched arm and landed across her midsection. She didn’t make a sound.
'You are your mother’s son, aren’t you, boy?' Lessander spat, approaching the tangled mass of son and wife looking for all the world like a tiger stalking its prey.
'F-father—' Severus choked out, scrabbling for purchase in the slick mess of blood that had come from his mother’s face.
Lessander grasped him firmly by his long hair and yanked his head back. His wand slipped from the concealed sleeve pocket and the tip pushed agonisingly sharply into Severus’ windpipe. 'Yes… son ?' he hissed dangerously, the wand pressing forward another centimetre.
'P-please…don’t d-do this….' Severus gasped. 'I-I’ll go to…to Durmstrang… please ….' He gave a strangled wheeze as his father pushed harder on the wand.
'You, boy, will not be going to Durmstrang. Your…mother…has contacted Headmaster Dippet at Hogwarts School-of-Witchcraft-and-Bloody-Wizardry and they have put your name in their ledger. Durmstrang…cannot…accept…you…now!' At each word he twisted the wand. Severus choked.
'I’m s-sorry, Father! I’m s-so sorry! Please…just stop !' he gasped, seeing spots in front of his eyes. He nearly fell forward when his father removed the wand from his throat and he quickly rolled off his mother’s back. He lay on the ground, gasping for breath, his throat burning with stomach acid that wanted to come up.
'Boy!' his father shouted, causing a searing white light to burn through Severus’ skull. He slowly got his head to jerk up so that his father could look into his tear-filled eyes.
'You will not disappoint me.' Lessander hissed, and then swept out of the Library just as he had done before. Severus lay panting on the floor for several minutes then dragged himself to his knees and rolled his mother onto her back. Her face was a bloody mess of hair and bits of broken teeth and her breathing was very shallow. Severus snapped his fingers shakily and ordered the house elf that appeared to fetch a mediwitch with all his remaining strength. Then he collapsed into a heap next to his mother’s nearly still form, the room going dark.
He assumed that must have been when Dumbledore appeared.