Severus Snape hated Autumn. For him, it had particularly bad connotations. The first day of school, for example, held its own special kind of dread. Such as the humiliation of turning up in tatty, second-hand clothes, whilst everyone else showed off their new shoes and pristine uniforms. And then, the inevitable jeers and bullying, which resulted in isolation and yet more bruises. Not to mention the dark, chilly nights. And being forced to eat his mother’s disgusting casseroles, made from meager scraps of meat and served with a bland mush of vegetables. The nauseating reek of boiled cabbage seemed to permeate the whole house during Autumn. Sometimes, it felt like it had saturated his very being. The smell of fear. The smell of failure itself.
But above all, Severus hated Halloween the most. For him, it ranked alongside Christmas as his most despised festival. His mother always got tearful at the memories of her magic, which had faded long ago. His father got agitated and angry and the reminder of his wife’s “unnaturalness”, and of the “freak” son he’d sired. And Severus bore the brunt of both of their frustrations, usually by witnessing a screaming argument which would result in injuries to both he and his mother. Halloween in the Snape household, therefore, was always filled with horror.
This year, his mother was putting a brave face on things, but she still looked pale and drawn. Severus himself had one thing to be cheerful for, however. He had asked his mother if he could go guising with Lily for Halloween and, to his complete surprise, she had said yes. Severus was not looking forwards to the prospect of knocking on stranger’s doors dressed in crude make-up, but the chance to spend time with Lily would more than make up for his discomfort. Plus, there was a chance that he might be given some chocolate. Severus couldn’t remember the last time he tasted chocolate.
Severus’ mother seemed to be trying extra hard this year to make this Halloween different for her son. She hadn’t cried or drawn any attention to herself, and as a result her husband had forgotten what day it was. She’d even roughly hewn a turnip into a jack-o'-lantern for him to take, hiding it in the rubbish and smuggling it to Severus on his way out. And so, with turnip in hand and heart filled with hope, he set off to meet Lily.
Severus made his way through the rubbish-laden alleyways that were his gateway to the softly shorn, privileged area of town in which Lily lived. He smoothed down the hair on the back of his head as he approached the glowing lights of her house. It was his first trip to the front door, and he was unsure of his welcome, especially if Tuney answered.
He lifted his hand to knock, suddenly ashamed of his homemade costume. Mother had made him dress as one of the old gods, Cernunos, the god who was swallowed in the belly of the great earth mother, to be reborn in spring as the Green Man. The papier-mâché stag horns sat askew on his head, the rough tunic, made from Mum's cast-off chenille dressing gown, dyed brown to approximate the skins in which the god dressed, all made Severus more self-conscious than he normally was. It was a singularly stupid idea for him to want to go guising with Lily. Mum never understood the difference between Muggle traditions and wizarding ones, and Severus didn't have words to explain them. He had wanted to be something dashing, like a pirate, but Mum gave him a religious costume from her childhood. It was just his rotten luck she would remember that part of the wizarding world but lose her magic.
He shifted nervously from foot to foot before he finally knocked. He slipped his hand into the pocket of the dressing gown, rubbing away the ache of cold in his knuckles as he waited impatiently for someone to answer.
Lily opened the door swathed in her winter coat, obscuring her costume. She rushed out, carrying a small cauldron and a canvas sack, laughing back to her mother, "I'll be careful, Mum! Besides, Sev is with me."
She giggled as she grabbed his arm, propelling them both down the walkway, halting when they reached the river. "Turn around Sev. I need to put on my costume."
Severus complied with ill-grace, listening to the sound of the autumn wind through rough grass. She tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned to see her in the Muggle interpretation of a witch, complete with grizzled hair and wart-covered nose.
He was horror struck as Lily walked across the bridge, making her intent to visit Severus' house clear. He followed her, a sick feeling in his belly. Lily spent no time dithering about knocking. Mum answered the door and Severus cringed. Halloween was never good for him. He didn't know why he thought this year would be different.
Mum looked Lily up and down and said, "I'm so glad you chose Cerridwen. I think it goes well with Severus' Horned-god." His mum pulled out the chocolates she had scrimped for, placing them in Lily‘s cauldron. “Off with you two now.” As Lily pulled Severus down the steps to the sidewalk, his mum said, “And Severus, no cheek. I’ll hear about it!”