Chapter Twelve: A Cold Reunion
They had just pulled out of Hogsmeade when Lucius entered the compartment in which Lily and Severus were riding. The older boy looked disparagingly at Lily before turning to address his young friend.
"We're all just a few doors down," he said silkily, "just in case you decide to seek worthier company."
"I like my company just fine, thanks," Severus responded sharply. "Appreciate the offer nonetheless." Lucius snorted before casting one last loathsome look at Lily, then swept into the corridor.
"He - is - such - a - git!" Lily said through clenched teeth.
"He's not all bad," Severus argued.
"Thanks for what you said, though," Lily added softly.
"I meant it," he said honestly. "You're my best friend, Lily. I'm not going to let anyone treat you like that. There's no reason for it."
"Severus, are you really friends with him?"
"Of course I am. What kind of a question is that?"
"I just meant - I mean, he's got these ideas about Muggle-borns, and I'm just afraid -"
"What? That he'll rub off on me?" Severus interrupted angrily. "Lucius is all talk, Lily. I don't agree with him, and he knows it. He hasn't done anything to make me think he'll actually act on his words."
"Alright, alright," she conceded in the face of his anger. "Forget I said anything about it."
"Fine," Severus said shortly, his mood becoming increasingly darker as they grew nearer to London. He was not relishing going home, even with the thought of Lucius' party. Sebastian had told him his mother was as 'well as could be expected'. What had he meant by that? Was she in some way permanently damaged? A cold feeling settled in the pit of his stomach as the skies began to darken.
"I expect we're nearly there," Lily said softly. Severus looked up at the sound of her voice, startled to see that she'd been crying. "If I don't see you before you go to Malfoy's party -"
"Don't be ridiculous," Severus interrupted. "Of course you'll see me at least once over the next five days! What, do you think I'm going to hole myself up with my family?" She laughed softly.
"I thought you were still angry," she said apologetically. "I didn't think you'd want to-"
"Lily, I told you before - you are my best friend. I will never be angry enough to avoid you." She smiled a genuine smile, then pressed her face against the glass as the train began to slow.
"There's the station!" she cried with excitement. Severus knew how anxious she was to see her parents again, and he had to admit that he was equally keen to see them. As soon as the train had pulled up to the platform, Lily and Severus hefted their trunks through the doors. Having secured a compartment near the front of the train, they managed to disembark rather quickly and grab trolleys for their things. Severus caught sight of Lucius and his other friends swarming around Mr. Malfoy, and he gave a hesitant wave at the group. Most returned it, though rather stiffly, causing Braeden to turn in interest. He acknowledged Severus with a terse nod, and the boy returned it nervously. He began to wonder if Lucius should have bothered persuading Braeden to allow him at the party, and the hollow feeling inside of him continued to grow. "I don't see your parents," Lily said suddenly, bringing him out of his reverie. He craned his neck around the throngs of people, then frowned as he realized she was right.
"Probably don't want me to think I'm welcome," Severus muttered. "If they're not here, we'll see them when they have to get through. Let's find your folks." She quickly agreed, and they made their way over to the queue which was forming to go through the barrier.
"I wonder if they've brought Petunia?" Lily questioned as they advanced slowly through the queue.
"I sincerely hope not," Severus grumbled. "That's all I need - seeing her prune of a face as well as my father." Lily giggled as Severus stepped up to go through the barrier, but it was cut off as he passed through and exited between platforms nine and ten. He spotted Rose and Albert immediately, thankfully minus Lily's older sister, and headed straight for them. A moment later, Lily joined him, and they were both caught up in hugs from Rose.
"Oh, we missed you so!" Rose declared, squeezing Severus so tight he couldn't breathe.
"Mum, you're choking him!" Lily chided, prying her mother's arms from her friend and settling into her own embrace. Severus grinned at Albert, who extended his hand.
"Good to have you home, Severus." He glanced at his wife, then leaned over so that his mouth was next to Severus' ear. "Between you and I, Petunia's not exactly the same type of company the two of you are." He stood again, giving Severus a conspiratorial wink. After the greetings had been exchanged, Albert glanced around the platform. "Parents not here yet?" he inquired, not bothering to hide the anger in his voice.
"No, I expect they'll be along any minute," Severus said quickly.
"We'll just wait with you until they come, then," Rose answered immediately.
"That's okay," Severus replied hurriedly. He knew if his parents came face-to-face with Albert and Rose, one of the Evanses would speak their minds about his treatment, and it would only create more trouble.
"Nonsense, lad. Isn't a problem at all. We have loads of catching up to do!"
"Yes," Rose chided gently. "You haven't written us once, the entire term."
"I - I've been busy," Severus attempted to excuse himself. "Professor Melison, he's the Potions professor and my Head of House, he's been impressed with my potion making skills."
"Yes, Lily's told us you're getting top marks in most of your classes," Rose said approvingly.
"Professor Melison told me just before break that he'll allow me to study some of his advanced books," Severus revealed, relishing the praise.
"Excellent!" Albert exclaimed. "Well done, lad." Severus beamed. Maybe coming home wouldn't be so bad after all.
An hour later, the foursome were still waiting on the Snapes. The snow and winds had begun twenty minutes earlier, and they were soaked to the skin and freezing. The last of the other students had long since gone, and Severus was acutely aware of the stares of the station workers as the four of them huddled against the partition.
"Well," Rose said brusquely, looking around one last time. "I think it's obvious they're not coming."
"Come on, then," said Albert tightly. "We're going home. We'll drop you by your place, Severus." As he followed them to their car, Severus said nothing. He was thinking that it had most likely been Silias' plan all along to have the Evans bring him home, but hadn't wanted to bother to ask them. It seemed like something he would do. He'd probably even be angry that it had taken Severus so long to return. With a sigh, he helped Albert heave the trunks into the car, then climbed into the backseat with Lily. The atmosphere inside the vehicle was electric, with Albert and Rose talking in low tones so as not to be heard over the radio, and Lily and Severus doing the same in the backseat.
"I thought he told you to come home," Lily whispered.
"He did," said Severus flatly. "He didn't forget. I'd wager 20 galleons this is one of his 'maybe it'll teach him a lesson' bits."
"What lesson are you supposed to get from this?" Severus shrugged.
"That I'm not a priority in my parents' lives?" he suggested bitterly.
"Do you want to be a priority to them?" questioned Lily with a smirk.
"No, I suppose not," he replied absently.
He was still thinking of Lily's words when they pulled up in front of her house. What did he want from his parents? He knew he'd never receive love, but was acceptance too much to ask? He thought back to the conversation when they'd first gotten off the train. Rose and Albert had seemed genuinely glad that he was doing well in school. What would his parents have to say about it? Would they even care? Did he really expect them to? Did he even want them to? His mind was in turmoil as he bid goodbye to Lily and Rose and followed Albert over to his own house. The desolate look of the place did nothing to ease his apprehension as they mounted the front steps. Severus reached out for the doorknob, only to bring his hand away sharply as he received a jolt.
"What is it?" asked Albert, concern clear in his voice.
"The doors are locked," replied Severus, shaking his hand in an effort to eradicate the stinging pain. "And he's put a stinging hex on the knobs." Albert's mouth settled into a firm line.
"So they aren't at home, then?"
"It appears not," responded Severus stiffly. "I'll just sit out here, Albert, you can get back -"
"I wouldn't dream of it!" cried the man. "It's dinnertime, and you've not eaten anything since you've left school. You'll come on back to our place and get a proper meal in you."
"Father wouldn't be happy if I'm not waiting here," argued Severus. "I'd best stay put."
"Nonsense," repeated Albert firmly. "You're getting a meal, and that's final." Severus sighed as he was forcefully led back across his yard and into the Evans' kitchen. Arguing with Albert seldom resulted in anything less than the man getting his way. Stubborn as Severus was, it was nothing next to Lily's father's resolve. Rose looked startled when they came in, but asked no questions as Severus took the chair in which Albert had directed him. Lily shot him a questioning look, but also remained silent. As Rose served the dinner, Severus quietly thanked her, then began to eat as quickly as he could. If he knew his father, he'd be home before long, wondering why he'd been kept waiting. Within minutes, he had finished his dinner, and excused himself to leave.
"I've got to," he responded quietly when Rose questioned his speedy departure. "They're most likely home by now." As he walked from the room, he heard Albert's voice carrying through the house, though the boy had no doubt it was unintentional.
"They bloody well knew he'd be coming on that train today! Why, in heaven's name, weren't they there?" His pace quickened as he neared his house, relaxing slightly at the sight of his trunk. Perhaps they hadn't returned yet, after all. As he reached the door, it was cracked the tiniest bit, and his heart sank. Mustering his courage, he hefted his trunk and walked in through the door, expecting to be assaulted by his father at any moment. To his surprise, he made it past the living room and to the foot of the stairs without any problems. With one foot on the stairs, the sound of a glass being set down from behind him made his body and heart stop.
"Where have you been?" The cold, low voice emanating from the darkened living room chilled Severus to the core, and he turned slowly around to face his father. Silias was seated in his armchair next to the doorway, a glass and a bottle of what appeared to be brandy by his elbow. "I asked you a question, boy."
"I- I was over at Lily's," stammered Severus, silently cursing his weakness. Why couldn't he ever keep his voice steady around him? Silias snorted.
"Hanging about with that mudblood still? I expected you would have learnt otherwise, now you're in Slytherin."
"You expected wrong, then." responded the boy, turning back around. "I'm going to unpack my things." In a flash, Silias was next to him, his rank breath blowing onto Severus' neck.
"Why didn't you wait at the station?" Silias hissed in his ear. Severus' rage began to surface.
"We were there for an hour after the train arrived!" he exclaimed. "Where were you?" His trunk fell to the floor with a bang as his father grasped his arm.
"School has done nothing for your insolence," Silias observed as he began to drag Severus towards the door. Severus managed to throw his arm off, his eyes glittering with hatred.
"Don't bother," he snarled. "I know the way." His response was rewarded with a backhand before he was shut into the basement.
He slept very little that night, thinking over his folly of returning home. Sitting on the faded quilt with his back against the stone wall, he realized that Malfoy party or no, he would have been better off in his dormitory at Hogwarts, alone. The only good thing he could think of was that his father had gone relatively easy on him, considering his past punishments. This made his mind wander to other possibilities. Perhaps this wasn't his entire punishment. Perhaps Silias fully intended to do something more - characteristic - before the week was out. His thoughts were so focused on this idea that he did not realize it was morning until he heard the sound of the window being forced open.
"Hullo, Lily," he said dully, without moving.
"Hullo yourself," she said sharply. "Are you going to leave me up here all morning, or could you find it in yourself to bring me the ladder?" With an irritated grumble, he complied, setting the ladder in front of the window, then resuming his position against the opposite wall. "You couldn't have seen your parents for more than five minutes last night," she commented. "How did you end up down here already?"
"It was more like three minutes, and I suppose I am down here because my father wishes to remind me that he's still got the upper hand. Either that, or he's reminding me what a greasy git he still is." The two of them remained quiet for a moment, each of them seething with anger towards Silias.
"How long do you suppose he'll keep you down here?" Severus shrugged.
"What difference does it make?" he asked wearily. "When he's through with his fun, he'll let me up. He hasn't been able to reign supreme over me for months, and now he's making sure I don't forget he still can."
"You don't think -" she broke off, as if she didn't want to finish the thought.
"I just thought," she said quietly, "that he may keep you here during Malfoy's party. All he'd have to do is tell them you were ill or something equally as pathetic." Severus stared at her in shock.
"But he told me to come back, in order to go!" What if it had all been some elaborate scheme to punish Severus once again? What if his father had brought him home so that it would appear that Severus had backed out at the last minute? Then his father would attend the party, just as he'd been wanting to for so long, and he'd get the added bonus of torturing his son. Severus looked up at the ceiling with aggravation. This was definitely not a good start to his holidays.
A/N: I know, this chapter is really short...Thanks to all those who have reviewed thus far! It makes my day to get that little e-mail saying: review alert! :)
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