do you feel in me...
The house on Leicester Street came into view as Severus turned the corner, his bag hitched over his left shoulder. It wasn't a house really; it had been at one time, but now it served as shared housing with small flats in it. Six families shared the small kitchen, bathroom, and washroom in the crowded building. He never told anyone where he lived, not that he really cared what the other children thought of him, but he didn't want another reason to be beaten up. From the corner he could see the clotheslines that Mrs. Brown used to dry her clothing.
Severus always told himself his mum and dad did the best they could, but he knew it was a lie. The Snape family had once been powerful and feared, rich as the Malfoys even. That was a long time ago though, and Severus was resigned to the fact he and his family name had fallen as far as a pureblood could fall.
Leicester Street was his proof. They hadn't always lived there. Up until he was five, they'd lived in an old, decaying cottage that had once been the quarters for the Snape caretaker when the manor was still in the family over a century before. His dad had needed to sell the cottage three years before and that was how they'd ended up living with half-bloods and squibs on a dirty London street.
Severus wiped his nose against his ragged robe sleeve, studying the slight sheen of blood. They always went for the nose; it was a large target. He didn't know how many times it had been broken at this point. He didn't even bother to get it healed by the school mediwitch anymore. At eight, he knew more than enough healing spells if he felt like healing it himself.
The closer he got to the house, the slower he walked. The last thing he wanted to do was go inside to find his father drunk again, a combination of last night's hangover and today's drinking keeping him home from work. His mother would probably be hiding in the tiny bedroom nursing a black eye or a split lip. If he was lucky, his father would have gone to work and actually brought home some of the money before he got drunk. Severus knew better than to hope for that.
Severus sat down on the broken front steps, his bag on the ground in front of him. He knew he could sit out here for awhile before either of his parents even noticed he should be back from school - if they noticed at all. He hoped that they wouldn't.
Severus dug in his bag and took out his battered Latin book. Latin was comforting. Latin was magic. And magic was freedom.
The front door opened and Severus turned quickly, a smile breaking across his face when he saw Mrs. Brown standing there looking down at him.
"Severus, dear," Mrs. Brown sat down next to him, putting an arm around his shoulder and giving him a squeeze. "I thought I heard you out here. I was afraid you would have been upstairs already."
Severus shook his head and leaned against the older woman. "Wasn't ready to go inside."
"Probably a smart idea," her voice was quiet as she said that and Severus knew that meant his parents were fighting. "Come into my rooms. I've some biscuits and tea ready."
Severus put his book back in the bag and nodded mutely. Mrs. Brown always tried to occupy him during his parents' fights. She would catch him when he got home from school and feed him tea and biscuits until the shouting died down. When he came home with black eyes and bloody noses, she would heal them with a gentle hand. Sometimes, late at night, Severus wished that he could live with Mrs. Brown permanently.
Her eyes twinkled as she opened the door to her rooms. She lived underneath of them in what had once been a large family room. Her husband had died long ago fighting in the war against Grindlewald. Or so he'd heard. He rather suspected her husband had died fighting for Grindlewald judging by the books Mrs. Brown had on her rickety bookshelf.
"Take off your robe, dear," Mrs. Brown said as she ushered him to the couch. "Let me take a look at that bloody nose."
"It's fine," Severus said quickly, wiping his nose once more before shrugging out of his robes. Underneath he wore a button-down shirt that had once been white but had turned a dingy grey over the past year. His trousers had been repeatedly lengthened and were starting to fray at the hems. "Honest."
"What did I tell you about fighting back?" Mrs. Brown fussed over him anyway, taking out her wand and tapping his rather prodigious nose.
"I always get in trouble when I fight back," Severus whinged, his voice suddenly thick because of the spell to fix his nose. "The teachers always blame me."
"You need to fight back anyway, Severus." She cupped his chin and forced him to look her in the eye. "I taught you those spells so you could protect yourself against them. You don't want to appear weak, do you?"
Severus shook his head, feeling cowed by her gaze yet again. She was a powerful witch in her own right. He knew that the day she put a wand in his hand and taught him dark curses. He was afraid to ask how she'd ended up on Leicester Street like the rest of them.
Her expression softened and she patted a bony knee. "Let's get you some biscuits. You're too thin for my liking."
Severus watched her bustle around the tiny space. Her room was so much cleaner and nicer than the one he lived in. His mum didn't care much for housework, thought it beneath her. Typical pureblood attitude, Mrs. Brown had once said with a shake of her head. Around her, Severus tried not to act like a pureblood.
There was a crash above and Severus looked up quickly. Mrs. Brown stopped moving for a moment before darting across the room to turn on the WWN. Music filled the room, blocking the sounds of fighting from above. Silencing spells didn't work in the building - too many odd wards left by previous inhabitants - or else she would have shielded him that way.
Severus looked down at his hands, picking at his left thumbnail with his right. He thought idly about running away from Leicester Street and trying his luck on Diagon Alley as a street urchin. He certaintly had the clothes for the part.
"Here we go," Mrs. Brown's smile was too forced at this point and Severus couldn't even meet her face. With a sigh, she sat next to him and put her arm around Severus's shoulders again. "I wish I could take you away from here. This isn't a place for a child."
Severus leaned against her and closed his eyes. "Can we go now?"
"I wish we could, darling." Mrs. Brown's voice was soft as she spoke. She kissed the top of Severus's head firmly as he rested against her breast.
The music on the wireless changed to an upbeat tango and Severus lifted his head, smiling now. He leaned forward to get a biscuit, chomping on it happily.
"Today in school, we learned about dragons. Did you know there are ten different kinds of dragons?"
Mrs. Brown visibly relaxed and picked up her cup of tea. "No, I didn't."
Severus nodded solemnly. "When I grow up, I want to be a dragon handler."
"I thought you were going to be a curse breaker," Mrs. Brown said with a smile. "And an astronomer."
"I can be a lot of things," said Severus loftily. "Wizards live for a long time."
"You can do anything," Mrs. Brown's voice was firm. "But always remember to pick the winning side."
"What happens if you don't pick the winning side?" Severus picked up his cup of tea, swinging his legs.
Mrs. Brown looked around the room for a moment before shaking her head and smoothing her hand over his hair. "Don't you worry about that, love. I know you'll do the right thing."
The music changed again and Severus jumped to his feet, laughing now. He held out his hand to her. "Lady Brown, would you do me the honour of this dance?"
"Why Master Snape." Mrs. Brown rose to her feet. "I'd be honoured."
Severus smiled happily and rested a hand against her waist, folding his small hand around her much larger one. She smiled down at him, her hand on his shoulder. With practiced ease, he turned her around the room to the sounds of Strauss's Blue Danube waltz filling the room.
Upstairs, Severus's mother screamed. For once, her son didn't hear.
Severus's knee jumped nervously under the table, his fingers twisting greasy strands of his hair together as he waited impatiently for his turn. It felt like hours had passed since Avery stepped into the room to meet with the Dark Lord and become a member of his inner circle.
Severus turned to look over at Lucius Malfoy, the older man leaning against a mahogany bookcase filled with books that Severus could never dream of owning. Lucius looked smug and satisfied, his sleeves rolled up to display the skull and snake mark on his left forearm.
Severus inhaled slowly and forcibly stopped himself from displaying another outward sign of nervousness. A slow smirk slipped across his face as he looked at Malfoy.
"Have I a reason to be nervous?"
"Only if you're scared," Lucius said as he moved closer. "All you have to do is prove your loyalty to him. It's not hard, Severus."
Severus licked his lips and peered at the door again. "How?"
Lucius laughed, placing his hands on the table in front of Severus and looking him in the eye. "You'll just have to wait and see."
The door opened finally and Avery, looking pale and sick, stumbled out, clutching his left arm. He leaned against the wall, his eyes closed. Lucius moved away from Severus.
"Be a man, Avery." Lucius grabbed his arm and pulled him away from the wall. "You're a Death Eater now."
Avery opened his eyes and met Lucius's sneering gaze. "Just get me a drink, Malfoy."
Lucius laughed and moved over to the recessed bar. Almost as an afterthought, Lucius gestured at Severus and then the door. "Your turn."
Severus rose to his feet, smoothing down his fading robes. They had been darned earlier in the week by Mrs. Brown, but they still looked shabby next to Lucius and Avery's fancy robes. He turned the handle and stepped inside the small room.
Severus looked around the room, but didn't see anyone to match the gravely voice that seemed to echo around him. The fire flickered, casting long shadows over the room, making it even harder for Severus to see the Dark Lord.
"You have received your NEWT scores?"
"Yes, my Lord," Severus said quietly, forcing himself to stop searching for the source of the voice. "I am aware that you are in need of a Potions Master. I believe that I could fulfill that post."
"What was your score?"
Severus looked confused at that. Lucius had promised that he wouldn't be turned down; the Dark Lord had been watching him for awhile. What did his NEWT score matter in the end?
"Outstanding, my Lord."
The air seemed to shimmer in front of Severus's face and a moment later a tall form coalesced a few feet away from him dressed in a long black cloak, the hood pulled over his head.
"I must ask one more thing of you this evening, Severus," the man drew back his hood to reveal a skeleton-like face with red eyes and a flat nose. Severus forced himself to not react to the horrifying image in front of him. "Where does your loyalty lie?"
Severus knelt before him, his head bowed. "With you, my Lord."
A thin hand pressed to the top of Severus's head. "We shall see."
Severus felt a tugging behind his navel; a portkey. A moment later he landed hard on his knees on cold pavement, the Dark Lord standing beside of him. Severus lifted his head and felt a chill run down his spine. Leicester Street.
"Stand up, Severus." The Dark Lord's voice was commanding and Severus rose to his feet. "This is where you grew up, living amongst squibs and half-bloods. Does your heart burn with hatred for this place? Or does it beat in fear that you could end up here again?"
Severus could see a clothesline strung across the backyard, garments blowing in the breeze. He shivered and shook his head. "I do not like this place."
"I need loyalty in men, Severus. I need to know that you will not question an order given to you." Cold fingers grabbed his chin, squeezing hard. "Do you understand?"
Severus nodded quickly. "I understand, my Lord."
"There is a witch that lives on the first floor. I believe you know her well." The Dark Lord let go of his chin and began to glide towards the house. "She is a half-blood who married a well-respected pureblood, sullying the good name of Brown. Her husband paid for his transgressions with his life. Now it is her turn. You will kill her tonight."
Severus felt his heart turn to ice and his feet stop moving. "What?"
The Dark Lord turned to him, his red eyes glittering unnaturally in the low light. "I demand loyalty. Show me that you are loyal."
"If I may, my Lord, perhaps I should kill my parents for you. This woman means nothing to me."
"You dare lie to me to protect a half-blood old witch?"
Severus lowered his gaze, staring at the steps that led into the house. "No, my Lord."
"Prove your loyalty, Severus, and I will give you the world. The name of Snape will have meaning again and you will be the most powerful Potions Master in the world."
The words trickled into Severus's brain and down his spine, warming him with promises of power and glory. Mrs. Brown with her gentle hands and supportive words were so far away. He felt drugged with a desire for power that she had never been able to give him. Spells, no matter how dark they were, could not protect him any longer. Her love could not protect him any longer.
Severus raised his hand and opened the door with a flick of his wand. Moving slowly, the Dark Lord close behind him, Severus walked into the small room he knew all too well. The bed in the corner was occupied by a sleeping Mrs. Brown, the couch waiting with blankets and pillows he knew were laid out in case he came back that night.
He stood over her and peered at her sleeping face, the lines and wrinkles smoothed out into a gentle expression of contentment. She slept so easily, so unafraid. He could just kill her like this, kill her in her sleep so she didn't know what was coming.
Severus closed his eyes when the Dark Lord gave his order. He reached out a hand and shook her shoulder gently. "Mrs. Brown?"
Eyelashes fluttered briefly before she opened her eyes and peered up at him sleepily. A smile crossed her face, the lines around her eyes crinkling.
"What's the matter, Severus?"
A light flared up behind them and Mrs. Brown looked in that direction, her expression one of fear when she saw the man standing behind Severus. She looked back at Severus quickly.
"You don't want this, Severus. Please, darling. Just walk away."
"You don't know what I want," Severus said through gritted teeth, pressing his wand against her throat with a shaking hand. "You're just a filthy half-blood who tried to move past her station in life. You have to pay for that."
Mrs. Brown's expression grew shuttered at that. "And you are the one who will make me pay?"
She moved slowly as she climbed out of the bed, standing before him with her arms spread, her palms facing out. "I am unarmed, Severus."
"You are never unarmed. You forget that I know you," Severus's voice shook with emotion he couldn't understand much less name. "I know how powerful you are."
"I was not powerful enough to save you." She reached out a hand and cupped his cheek gently. "Power isn't everything."
Severus pushed her away roughly, half-throwing her back on the bed. He raised his wand again, his arm steady this time. Mrs. Brown didn't try to move, just stared at him with unblinking eyes until he could take it no longer and the words came out before he could stop them.
Severus closed his eyes against the green light and fell to his knees in shame and guilt. Mrs. Brown lay unmoving on the bed, dead by his hand. A week earlier he had sat on the floor next to her bed as she darned his robes to make him presentable to meet the Dark Lord. She had supported his decision, pressed a kiss to his forehead and promised that she believed in him.
"Very good, Severus. You have done well tonight."
Severus lifted his head, his vision swimming as the Dark Lord hovered over him. The voice told him to push back his sleeve and he did, exposing his left forearm. A wand was touched to his forearm and in a rush of pain and hatred, the Dark Mark was burned into his skin, his loyalty proven with her death.
Back at Malfoy Manor, Lucius plied him with expensive brandy and tales of what they all would become. Severus nodded in the right spots and smiled when necessary. Rosier, Wilkes, and Avery carried on Lucius's high spirits, none of them noticing that Severus was most definitely not in the same room with them.
He was lost in a small room in a dingy house, dancing to music on the wireless with a smiling witch.
Severus moved quietly through the small house, picking up toys along the way and depositing them in the nursery toy box. The girls were messy and careless with their possessions; when he was three he knew better than to leave his toys out. Of course, Severus thought as he put a stuffed dragon in the toy box, he refused to raise his children like he had been raised. Chitra would have his hide if he even tried to punish the girls that way.
The house was quiet in the middle of the day. Chitra always took the girls down to the stream to swim after dinner when the sun was pinned high in the sky. She claimed it was the best way to tire them out as well as get them exercise. Severus deferred to the wisdom of his wife on matters such as that.
Even four years later, Severus still got a little thrill when he thought of Chitra as his wife. After Voldemort disappeared, Severus thought he would rot in the dungeons of Hogwarts, serving out the rest of his time under Dumbledore. But Chitra had stolen him right out from under Dumbledore's nose. They had married only a month after she left the Defense Against the Dark Arts position to pursue her private research again.
Severus peered out of the nursery window, seeing the laundry fluttering in the dry breeze. Beautiful saris hung next to his own black suits next to tiny dresses. With a smile, he turned away from the window and strode through the house to get the afternoon tea ready.
Two cups of spiced tea and two cups of spiced milk sat on the table with a small assortment of biscuits when Chitra and the girls came back from the stream. Amala was in Chitra's arms, one of her chubby thumbs firmly in her mouth. Amara bounced alongside of her mother before zipping over to Severus and demanding to be picked up.
Severus swung her into his arms, kissing her forehead lightly. "How was your swim?"
"Good, Papa. Mala's tired 'cause she swam too far." Amara settled in his arms, her small body snug against his own. She smelled like brackish water and dirt.
"Oh dear." Severus walked over to Chitra, Amara balanced on his hip. He placed a gentle kiss on Chitra's lips before kissing Amala. "Perhaps it's time we had our tea and took a nap."
"That sounds like a lovely idea, pyar." Chitra settled in one of the kitchen chairs with Amala on her lap, the little girl's hand tangled in her long hair now. "Let go, darling. You've tea to drink."
Severus chuckled and handed Amara her cup of spiced milk, casting a Impervious charm on her clothing. Their control over cups without lids was still tentative at best and so far this summer Severus had washed many small outfits with streaks of spiced milk dried onto them. It was easier to think ahead and use the charm.
The girls grew sleepy from the spiced milk and the long afternoon swim, curling into their parents' arms and dozing off while Severus and Chitra finished their tea and spoke softly about potions. She, while not an expert at making potions, found their use to be fascinating when combined with her own field - the Dark Arts. She was one of the few who had been able to resist the lure while studying them.
The nursery was bathed in soft light, the sun filtered through the gauzy curtains over the windows. Severus gazed down at his children as they slept with a soft smile on his face.
Severus jumped slightly when a hand touched his waist. He looked over at Chitra, her dark eyes alight with mischief. He chuckled and took her hand, allowing her to lead him out of the nursery and down to their own bedroom.
Chitra's delicate hands undressed him, pushing his white shirt off his shoulders. His hands mimicked hers, unwrapping her sari to reveal brown skin and her small breasts. He ducked his head to tease her rosy nipples with his tongue, relishing in the small moans she made.
Severus held the curve of her hips in his hands as she rose above him, her hair streaming down her back in shimmering waves. Chitra looked down upon him, her skin flushed and her lips kiss-bitten red and Severus fell in love all over again.
"I wish you didn't have to leave, pyar," Chitra said quietly in the silence of their bedroom, her head resting on Severus's stomach. "Christmas is too far away."
Severus carded his fingers through her hair, the sweaty strands getting tangled in his hand. "I need to work so I can take care of my three girls."
"I know." Chitra kissed the pale skin of his stomach before sitting up and stretching her arms above her head. "I just wish it didn't have to be that way."
Severus sat up as well, pressing a hand between the valley of her breasts, feeling the heat rise off her skin. She met his eyes, one hand cupping his jaw lightly, drawing him into a kiss.
"Christmas will be here before you know it. I will write the three of you everyday."
Chitra trailed her fingers over his left forearm, tracing the dark mark that lay quiescent for now. She met his gaze and nodded seriously. He covered her hand with his own, covering the mark.
"I will always come home to you," Severus said softly, seriously. "This is where my heart lives."
Chitra laughed softly, leaning forward to kiss him teasingly. "It better be. I've lived at Hogwarts and it's a lonely place."
"So that's why you didn't stay," Severus teased her gently. "And here I thought it had something to do with gaining access to the original manuscript of The Hammer of Witches."
Chitra looked dreamy. "That was a beautiful manuscript."
"Only you would find a manuscript about German methods of torturing witches beautiful," Severus drawled, climbing out of bed and offering Chitra his hand. "Let me do your hair. It's a mess."
Chitra took his hand, allowing Severus to set her gently on her feet again. She reached for his discarded robes, pulling it around her shoulders before padding over to the wireless and turning it on. She danced slowly over to the vanity, the robes swinging open over her small frame as she swayed her hips.
Severus watched her dance across the room wearing his robes, the sun shining on her tangled black hair and her face glowing with contentment. A waltz played softly in the background as he sunk his fingers into her hair, carding it by hand before even touching a brush.
Outside the laundry rippled in the breeze, catching his eyes and reminding him again of the first woman he had fallen in love with. Silently he promised himself that Chitra's fate would not be the same as Mrs. Brown's.
Severus slapped his palms firmly on his desk, letting out a sharp cry as he forced Potter out of his mind for what felt like the hundredth time that night. His eyes ached and his chest burned with the shame of what Potter had seen. The mingled sounds of his daughters crying, Voldemort's voice, and Strauss's waltz echoed in his head even though Potter had been forcibly ejected.
Potter's jaw was clenched and his arms crossed over his chest. "I want to do it again."
"Do you enjoy causing me pain that much?" Severus asked through gritted teeth.
Potter raised his wand, a terrifying glint in his green eyes. "Yes. Legilimens!"
Severus forced himself to not fight the Legilimens, allowing Potter into his mind. As always, Potter went for memories of his family - his parents, Chitra, and the girls - and Mrs. Brown. His curiosity had been peaked a month before when Severus hadn't been able to keep a memory of Mrs. Brown dancing with him in her living room buried beneath banal thoughts.
Slowly but surely, Potter was getting closer to the awful memory of Severus killing her to prove his loyalty to Voldemort. He dreaded the moment when Potter made the connection between the woman who doted over him and the woman he killed.
This time though, Potter went after memories of Chitra. These memories were bittersweet, making something clench in his chest that was akin to sadness. He hadn't seen the three of them since Christmas of 1994. Fear had sent Chitra and the girls back to India to stay with her parents.
Severus dug his nails into his palms as Potter watched him propose to his wife, fear in that Severus's voice as he was faced with the idea of losing her. Not the most romantic of proposals, her standing in front of a trunk, packing away boxes and him in the doorway panting for air after running from the other side of the castle. A moment later she was in his arms, repeatedly saying yes.
A flicker of satisfaction coursed through Severus. Yes, Potter had seen his bollixed up proposal, but he had also seen Chitra accept. Potter's view of Severus as an unfeeling monster had been slowly ruined over the past few months by the sight of Chitra and the girls obvious adoration of him.
Potter pulled back, retreating instead of pushing Severus so far he repelled him against his will. He sheathed his wand and just looked calculatingly at Severus.
"What are you looking at, Potter?" Severus rubbed his arm, forcing himself not to show any more weakness.
"That was the defense classroom."
"Your powers of observation amaze me," Severus said dryly. "Your point?"
"Why doesn't your wife teach here anymore?" Potter moved closer, resting the palms of his hands against Severus's desk.
"Her field isn't Defense Against the Dark Arts," said Severus simply. "She studies the Dark Arts."
"Well that explains why she would look twice at you."
Severus's nostrils flared and his eyes narrowed. "You have no right to speak to me that way. I am your professor."
"That's right, sir. You are." Potter tilted his head slightly. "How does it feel to know that the student has surpassed the teacher?"
"You arrogant little brat," Severus spat out. "When will you learn that power isn't everything? Hasn't chasing after the Dark Lord taught you anything?"
Potter laughed hollowly. "That's rich coming from you, sir. You're nothing but a lackey, never more. I wonder if your kids know that you are nothing but a lapdog for both the Dark Lord and Dumbledore. Maybe that's why they doesn't want anything to do with you."
Severus's wand was up and out, a hex on the tip of his tongue, something painful and disfiguring that Severus had just been waiting to use on Potter. But the brat was faster and Severus found himself attacked again, brought to his knees with the severity of Potter's rage.
Distantly he could hear Potter crowing over his success, but Severus was lost deeply in one of his most painful memories, Potter lording over every moment from sitting in Lucius's parlor to the moment in Mrs. Brown's flat that had haunted him for the last twenty years. He screamed, a harsh rent, in the silence of the dungeons as Voldemort congratulated him.
And then Potter was gone and Severus was slumped on the cold dungeon floor behind his desk, gulping in air, his skin chalk white. A wand was pressed up against his throat and he lifted his head to see Potter's horrified green eyes staring down at him.
"You killed her." Potter's voice was full of disgust. "She loved you and you killed her."
Severus reached for his wand but Potter kicked it away. He collapsed back onto the ground, looking up at him with a glare. "Congratulations, Potter. You've found the monster under the bed and it's the greasy git you've always hated. Would you like a prize?"
Potter dug his wand into Severus's throat. "Does your wife know how quickly your loyalty will shift when you are offered a hint of power? Does she know that she married a murderer?"
Severus glared up at him, refusing to answer the brat. Chitra knew he had done terrible things, but he had never told her about Mrs. Brown. Potter snorted and pulled his wand away, shaking his head.
"You can't even be honest with the woman you claim to love. You are nothing more than a piece of trash. And guess what, Snape?" Potter leaned in close, his teeth bared. "Trash gets thrown away. There's nothing more I can learn from you."
"Get out! Get out!" Severus shouted at him, spittle flying from his mouth. "I don't want you to set foot in this room ever again, you arrogant little prat!"
Potter kicked Severus's wand again, sending it skittering across the room. A moment later the door slammed, rattling the jars on the walls. Severus pressed his hot cheek against the floor, his stomach squirming and twisting. Tomorrow he would go see Chitra and the girls, Dumbledore and Voldemort be damned.
Severus pushed himself off the ground, feeling hollow and dead inside. He picked up his wand, replacing it in the sleeve of his robe. With a grunt of pain, he straightened his robes and walked out of his office, his head held high and his heart empty.