Many thanks to my beta-reader, Ara Kane, for all of her time; her feedback is invaluable. In addition, I thank Wendelin the Weird for reading my first chapter, and being so encouraging and helpful.
Dumbledore's Legacy to the Half-Blood Prince
Chapter Two: The Beginning at the "End"
mytabSnape strode through the rooms at Spinner's End quickly and with purpose. The dust on the floorboards swirled into the air as he moved from room to room. He summoned a few well-thumbed books and his travelling potions kit with a quick jerk of his wand. He knew he would be away for most of the day at the Prince mansion. Stepping into the room that Wormtail had used, Snape checked the Imperviatus spells on the windows. What a relief it had been when the Dark Lord called Wormtail to leave the "End".
mytabPacked and ready, he allowed himself the luxury of stepping out into the small back garden and taking a few breaths of the cool July morning air. As he did so, Snape noticed a glint of reflected light on the ground amid the tangled weeds. By peering at close range he was able to identify a small piece of torn and twisted chicken wire. Wire from a bird coop. Mina's coop. He could almost feel the smoothness of her feathers beneath his fingers, the warmth and rapid heartbeat on his palm. The kestrel had been his only pet as a child. His mind was unwillingly wrenched back to that time.
* * *
mytab "Severus!" Eileen felt anxious and tired as usual. She could see her son through the kitchen window. "It's getting late!" The six-year-old waved at her and turned back to the weeds with renewed speed. Eileen was worried that his father would be angry if the gardening wasn't finished.
mytabEileen Snape was a woman who looked much older than her thirty-five years. Her dark hair was pulled back too tightly, and her heavy, pale face looked like a mask. She was scrubbing the floor in quick automatic strokes with painfully reddened fingers. She knew her boy needed so much more than what he was getting, but she was just so tired; it was just too much. It was all just too much.
mytabShe knew she hadn't always been like this, so empty. Why couldn't she seem to make decisions or remember things? Eileen wearily pushed her hair out of her eyes and thought, "What happened to me?" The feelings of vagueness and exhaustion seemed to grow worse each year. When she tried to force her mind to the past, it flinched away in terror. She knew there was something about that school, that Hogwarts, that had scared her so badly she had shut the door on the wizard world.
mytabEileen knew she had once been a clever scholar at Hogwarts, highly praised for her Defense Against The Dark Arts research essays, and the Captain of the Gobstones club. She had been an ambitious girl and decided that her path to success would be through research and the study of the Dark Arts defenses. When Eileen wasn't winning at Gobstones, she always had her nose in a book - often an ancient tome from her parents' mansion. But beginning in her second year at Hogwarts, her studies were interrupted. She developed a deep, and ultimately deadly, crush on a sixth year boy in her own House of Slytherin. Tom Riddle.
* * *
mytabAs Severus continued to pull the weeds, his attention was irresistibly drawn towards his bird coop. He still wasn't sure how it had happened but somehow, overnight, his few boards and wire, joined together with five bent nails, had metamorphosed into this creation. It was nothing fancy, but to Severus it was a palace. The coop was straight and strong with a roof, walls, and a door with a two-way flap. The bright nail-heads outshone the new chicken wire, and the flap moved freely under the pressure of Severus's small hand. He still could barely look at it for fear that it would disappear. Mina seemed to like the coop after regarding it for several minutes with her head first cocking one way, and then the other.
mytabHe loved seeing her circle the house as she came down to perch on the roof of the coop. Mina had been visiting him since last fall. He had been walking home from school along the sluggish creek and she had screamed "Kee, kee, kee!" from her perch in a stunted oak. He shook with fright, and looked around wildly for the boys that had shoved him earlier that day. And then, amazingly, she flew down onto his arm. He was shocked and barely took in her brown checked plumage and the distinctive stripe below her eye. He felt the warm pulsing weight of her on his arm, gently stroked her feathers with his fingertip, and was drawn in by her large, intelligent, bright eyes. She seemed to trust him.
mytabWhen his father drove into the garage, Severus automatically looked up with alarm and fear, which intensified as Tobias Snape emerged and walked along the path from the garage to the kitchen door. Fortunately, his father vanished into the kitchen without even looking at him. It was as if Severus didn't exist. Last week, he had walked into the garage to get a broom for his mother and had been startled by seeing his father at his workbench. Severus wanted to say something interesting or smart, but his mind was blank and he finally stammered out a few words in a faint voice. His father had glanced up, and then away in disgust.
mytabSeverus's face felt hot with shame as he hurriedly finished his weeding and headed towards the house. It seemed that the only time his father really looked at him was when he was angry. Severus always felt so stupid around him - sometimes he even felt that he couldn't move properly, as though his muscles were stiff and twitchy. He would desperately try to rearrange his face into a neutral pleasant expression when his father was around, but it seemed that there was nothing he could do to avoid the frequently snarled "Get that look off your face!"
* * *
mytabTobias wasn't an uncommon man, but he was an angry one. He blamed his wife for keeping him in this stinking town, and his manager at work for not promoting him. His son was such a disappointment, so scared and silent, a little sissy. So he lost his temper sometimes. He hated the way they looked at him. He didn't hit Eileen and Severus often, but it was a different story with Tobias's verbal poison; he spread it liberally like butter on both his wife and his son.
mytabTobias's violence was unpredictable, based on some strange circadian rhythm in his psyche. The first time Severus had felt its effect was at one year of age. Eileen was in the bathroom, and Tobias had placed Severus on his baby blanket on the floor while he watched his favorite cricket team play. When Severus crawled off his blanket and knocked a brass vase over with a resounding clang just as the Lincolnshire Lions scored, Tobias snapped. Severus's interest in the rolling vase in front of him was forcibly ended. The red imprint of Tobias's hand remained on the baby's skin until the next day.
* * *
mytabThere was a fourth member of the Snape household - baby Eve. She had been born just two months ago to an exhausted and wan Eileen and a disgusted Tobias. Severus had expected to dislike this baby based on the shrill noises and horrible smells of other babies he had seen, but as soon as he saw this tiny pink creature in his mother's arms, he was interested in spite of himself. The first day after Eve's birth was loud and long, with his father yelling over the baby's cries, and his mother crying with that hopeless sound he hated more than anything. Late that night he crept in to see her, to really look at her. She turned her head and looked at him with the roundest, bluest eyes. And he was done, lost in that pure gaze. He had to disguise his interest to his father, who seemed to be infuriated by Severus's behavior towards the baby. When he heard his father's heavy tread coming up the walkway from the garage, he found some other occupation quickly.
mytabAs Severus came in the kitchen door from the yard, a little grubby from the weeding, he heard yelling in the front room. "How many times have I told you to have dinner ready when I get home?" His father was standing on the worn carpet, yelling at his mother.
mytabNormally, Severus would slink off to his room in the back and try to block out the sounds with his bedclothes, but he heard the baby crying. He went into her room and on tiptoe, leaned over the crib slats to wiggle a ragdoll for her. She turned her head towards him and her fingers curled around the toy.
mytabThe light in the nursery darkened as his father entered, filling the doorway. Severus turned quickly in alarm and tripped over the frayed edge of the carpet. His father grabbed him by the arm and shoved him a few feet into the corner of the room.
mytab"Can't you even stand on your feet by yourself? Always in the way!" his father roared as he stood over Severus.
mytab"I... I..." Severus's throat was tight and, to his horror, he felt the tears begin to come.
mytab"Please Tobey, please..." Eileen begged, as she followed Tobias into the room.
mytabTobias turned to her and sneered. "This is the type of son you have given me...a weak sniveler, a coward, who can't even speak properly. And you! I give you a good home, I work at that bloody office all day, and I come home to this...a lazy wife and two crying brats!"
mytab"Tobey, I'm sorry, just calm down..." Eileen's plea was cut off.
mytabTobias screamed, "Don't tell me to calm down, you STUPID woman!" She cowered back in fear as he raised his arm. The noise in the small back bedroom increased as Evie began crying again in fright. Severus stayed in the corner of the room, trying to stifle his deep sobs. Unfortunately, this was a night like many others.
mytabLater that night, well after the silent meal, Eileen was checking on Severus in his bed. She tucked in the faded coverlet snugly, and smoothed his black hair away from his face. She murmured a few comforting words as she gazed at her son's face. He started to tell her about the rolling dive Mina had executed earlier that day, but then noticed her blank expression. He knew it was too late. She had left him to retreat back into her vague, empty world.
* * *
mytabSnape angrily shook his head to clear it of his memories. Why was this happening, after he had successfully blocked his mind to these memories for so long? The last time he had thought of his childhood was during Potter's Occlumency lessons a year ago. That ungrateful brat...those useless lessons had been such a waste of his valuable evening hours. Snape kept his mind firmly on his hatred of Potter because it was easier than remembering what had transpired at Hogwarts a week earlier.
mytabAnd with the slightest of movements, Snape turned in place, vanishing with a subtle pop.