A woman’s voice shrieked back at him, “Oh no, don’t think you can shut me up that easy. I’m not keeping him here just so he can see you waste away like that.”
Severus could hear them from the landing. He had just finished his homework, and had been ready to come down for dinner when he heard the harsh voices from the kitchen. He saw their long shadows cast on the wall. They were fighting, again. And this time it was about him. A letter with his name on it had arrived earlier that day and obviously they were arguing about its contents. He had not seen the letter itself, just the envelope, which bore a crest that was very familiar to him, one he had been hoping to see since the day he had learned he was a wizard. The admission letter from Hogwarts. As he went to open it, his father had snatched the letter from his fingers and he knew better than to argue with him.
Now, however, his parents were discussing the letter and he was anxious to hear what was being said. He sat down right at the top of the of the stairs, which ended just above the kitchen door. His hands firmly gripped the spindles of the stairs and his head was up against them, like that of a prisoner who was trying to look through the bars. From here he could hear every word they were saying.
“You don’t seriously think I am gonna let him become a freak like you and send him off to that school,” his father yelled. Severus was shaking with fear. All his hopes he had pinned on getting away from this place and going to Hogwarts. He did not want to think of the possibility that he had to stay here.
“At least he wouldn’t have to become a bum like you. Or is that what you are afraid of, your son actually making something of his life?”
“I’m telling you, he ain’t going. And what I say goes. I am the man of the house.” In the shadows on the floor Severus could see the raised fist of his father. Another shiver went down his spine. He knew exactly what his father was capable of when provoked.
His mother, however, was not that easily impressed. “And what kind of man might that be? You are a failure, a loser. You never even lift a finger around here, even though you are home all day.”
“I’m looking for a job during the day,” his father bit back.
“From behind the telly? You just lie there on that couch and won’t even get up to get your own beer. Last time I looked, I was the one bringing in the money here. You haven’t had a job in the last two years and even before that you never lasted anywhere more than a couple of months,” she replied. Severus could feel the tension between his parents building.
His father snarled sarcastically, “Oh yes, the sainted Eileen. Taking care of her little boy and that good-for-nothing husband. However does she do it? Well, I’ll tell you, ladies and gentlemen. She is a cheat and worse of all she is a witch. Now I know that most of you men have called your wife a witch at one point in your lives, but I bet that she never turned you into a dog and put you out in the cold at night.”
“If you weren’t so adamant on behaving like one, that would have never happened,” his mother retorted. There was a cold, cruel hint of pleasure in her voice.
“So it is my fault, huh? The only reason I married you was because you were pregnant at the time with that mutt. I did my duty and instead of being grateful, you’re hell bent on making sure I will pay for that every day for the rest of my miserable existence.”
“Like there is anything to be grateful for. I do the work around here, making sure there is bread on the table and when I am done I get to cook, vacuum, polish, wash and do everything to clean up after you. You treat me like a slave. My life is one big misery because of you. And all you can do is drink and bemoan your life. You’re like a big kid and I don’t need two of them. You worthless bastard,” she spat at him.
Severus felt his eyes starting to burn, but he was not about to give into it. Showing emotion made you vulnerable, his father always said, and used this as an excuse to give the boy a beating. He had learned not to cry a long time ago and to keep his face devoid of emotion.
“You were only too happy to marry me back then, desperate of what your father would do if he found out,” his father now shouted.
His mother’s voice was cold as ice. “Yes, well that was the biggest mistake I ever made. My dad was a ray of sunshine compared to you … and he’d be proud to see Severus going to Hogwarts.”
“I will never permit him to go to that school, do you hear me?” his father now shouted again. A cup was smashed in the process. He was losing the argument, which made him a dangerous man. He was like a bomb that was about to explode.
His mother had noticed this as well, but instead of stepping down, she continued. “I heard you and I say he is going. You are not the only parent he has. I’m not letting you hurt him even further. He’ll be safe at Hogwarts, and who knows, maybe he’ll even get some normality back in his life,” his mother answered back, sounding cold as ice.
Back at the top of the stairs Severus was quietly cheering at his mother for sticking up for him. He had been dreaming of Hogwarts for so long now, but more than that he was dreaming of getting out of this house, which was so devoid of happiness that even the weeds in the back garden refused to bloom.
“Never,” his father breathed. “No son of mine is going to that school." Severus could hear in his voice that he was reaching boiling point.
Suddenly there were more crashing sounds coming from the kitchen and Severus knew that his father was charging at his mother before he heard her scream. He was afraid that his father was strangling her, evaporating his chances to get away from here, and ran down the stairs.
Halfway down he stopped, hearing his mother’s voice again. “Stay away from me, Tobias.”
They had moved to the other side of the kitchen and Severus could now clearly see their faces. His mother looked frightened, as his father staggered at her, but she now tightly held her wand out in front of her.
“Don’t make me hurt you, Tobias” she whispered, which made him back away. He knew the power of her wand and he didn’t want to feel its effects.
Then his father simply turned around. “I’m going to the pub,” he said, walking out of the room, his mother’s wand still pointed at him. Severus quickly ran back to his room, but was too late to escape his father’s gaze.
“Listening in on us like some common snitch, aren’t you, boy? Get down here and I’ll show you what happens to boys like that.” His father violently kicked the sideboard, creating a dull but intimidating bang that sounded through the whole house.
Severus leaned against the inside of his door, praying he would not walk upstairs, for he knew this would mean he would get another thrashing.
“Keep your hands off the boy,” a threatening voice said from the kitchen.
Severus heard some mumbling before the front door slammed shut, meaning his father would not be back tonight. He breathed a sigh of relief and turned round to go downstairs.
In the kitchen his mother was violently throwing the pots and pans around in the kitchen. “Severus, dinner is nearly ready,” he heard her say. It sounded shaky and he anxiously tried to look into her eyes to see her mood. She still looked enraged and he just hoped she would not take it out on him. It scared him because when she was like this she was just as unpredictable as his father, and he carefully tiptoed around her, setting the table without saying a word.
“Come on, eat up,” she said, almost throwing the plate in his face. Cautiously he started eating.
“Your father is a worthless bastard and I will not see you become like him, do you hear me?” she said out of the blue. Her face was turned towards the window.
Severus nodded, frightfully afraid to make a sound. She would not hit him, but her snide remarks could sting just as hard.
“After the summer holidays you are going to Hogwarts, so at least you will be out of here,” she said shortly. She sounded like she was glad to be rid of him, or so Severus thought. But then again, so was he. “Now, Hogwarts is not your typical school, not like you are used to here. It is the place where I learned how to do magic and it seems they want you too. Make me proud of you … and do not make the same mistakes I made. Make sure you get into Slytherin; they are noble and earn respect. You’ll make connections there that will help you for the rest of your life, if you don’t blow it. And don’t ever mix with Mudbloods; they are liars and not worth the trouble.”
His eyes were down on his plate and he could feel her eyes burning into his back. Thinking of Lily, he did not know how to react. She was a so-called Mudblood, but he could not find any fault with her. But his mother was not likely to listen to his plea and would sooner scold him for making contact with her in the first place. He took a deep breath and swallowed hard before answering, “I promise, Mum.”
Thanks to my beta, Logical Quirk