Severus settles in. Petunia brings an unexpected dinner guest.
Petunia had brought her boyfriend Vernon Dursley. He and Snape looked at each other with instant, mutual dislike. Severus had never met anyone who reminded him so much of James Potter. It was nothing to do with appearance. In fact, it was hard to imagine how two boys could look more different. Vernon was large and beefy; Potter was small and slender. It was more an indefinable air of a privileged, self-satisfied bully.
Dinner was an ordeal. Vernon talked incessantly, mainly about himself, but he kept throwing unexpected asides at Snape.
"Of course, Smeltings is a progressive school, but we still think Latin is an important part of an English gentleman's education. Do they teach Latin at that school of yours, Snape?"
Snape had only a few seconds to consider his answer. If he said no, he would be admitting to Dursley that he was not an English gentleman. On the other hand, if he said yes he might be caught out. The Latin he studied at Hogwarts was very different from public school Latin. He decided to play it safe. "No, not really," he replied and took a large mouthful of food.
Lily gave Severus a quick smile. He thought that he might be safe, but a few minutes later Dursley was boasting, "The science labs at Smeltings are some of the finest in the country. We put the older public schools to shame. What about you Snape? Do you take science at your place?"
"Yeah, sort of," Snape mumbled.
"What are you taking? Physics? Chemistry? Biology?"
"A bit of everything, kind of."
Mr. Evans tried to steer the conversation in a safer direction but Vernon could not be deterred. "So what do you study at this school of yours?" he asked Severus, pointedly.
Severus took a large mouthful of food and chewed it slowly while he tried to think of a response. Finally, Mrs. Evans saved him.
"Severus and Lily go to a special school. They don't really take regular subjects. It's a bit hard to explain. Anyway, Lily's Head of House said she's doing very well and we're very proud of her."
At last, dinner was over. Lily excused herself and said that she would start the washing-up. Severus immediately offered to help. Mrs. Evans nodded with approval. In the kitchen, they shared a silent look of relief. Severus opened the dishwasher but Lily said no. By washing the dishes by hand, they were able to stay in the kitchen until they heard Vernon saying goodbye.
"I thought he'd never leave," Lily sighed.
"Care for a walk before bed?" Severus asked, hopefully.
"No, I'm too tired."
Severus went to his room and got out one of his books of Dark Magic. He read himself to sleep, imagining the effect of each curse on Vernon.
The next few days passed pleasantly. Petunia was seldom in the house. Severus and Lily decided it was best to get their holiday homework done right away, so they spent most of the morning working together in the kitchen. When they got tired of work, they listened to Lily's records or played Muggle board games. In the afternoons, they walked around the neighbourhood. Severus was surprised at how many magical people lived behind the plain Muggle exteriors of the town. A grocer sold potion ingredients under the counter and an elderly pigeon-fancier ran an Owl Post Office.
There was a tea shop in the high street that looked just like Madam Puddifoot's in Hogsmeade. They stopped for coffee. Severus heaved an involuntary sigh of relief when he found that he had enough Muggle money to pay the bill. All in all, he decided, the summer was getting off to a good start. When he got home, he overheard Mrs. Evans arguing with Petunia.
"Mum, I don't want to take Lily and her friend to the youth dance. He gives me the creeps. Besides, the dance is just for kids."
"Petunia, I insist. The boy is our guest, you have to do something to help entertain him."
The invitation came at dinner.
"Severus, there's a youth dance at the village hall on Saturday night. Vernon and I are going and we'd really like you and Lily to come along," Petunia said, as her mother looked on.
Severus was impressed despite himself. Had he not overheard Petunia earlier, it would have been hard to tell she was lying. If Petunia were a witch, she would definitely be a Slytherin.
"Yes, that sounds like fun,"Lily replied. Severus could see that her enthusiasm was genuine.
"Er, I'd like to but I don't know if I've got anything to wear," Severus stammered.
"Don't worry. It's very casual. You can just wear your jeans," Lily said.
"Well, that's settled," Mrs. Evans said. "I'm sure you'll all have a wonderful time."
On Saturday night, Petunia brought Severus and Lily to the parish hall. The room was dark and recorded music was playing. Petunia deposited Severus and Lily in chairs in a corner of the room and went off to find Vernon.
Severus sat watched the crowd. Muggle dancing looked simple - just stand in one place and jerk around like you had Doxies in your pants. Lily was looking at him hopefully. If only he could work up the nerve. After they had sat through several songs, a pimple-faced boy asked Lily to dance. Severus left the hall for some fresh air and wandered down to the river bank He heard voices. It was Vernon and a friend drinking from a bottle in a paper bag. They saw Severus.
"Who's the greasy looking kid, Dursley?"
"He's not from around here. He's staying at Petunia's. Goes to the same school as her sister."
"What school is that?"
"He wouldn't say. It's some sort of weird special school. They don't seem to take regular subjects."
Vernon's friend turned and looked at Vernon earnestly.
"Dursley, you and I have been mates for a long time, so don't take this the wrong way. You must know what 'special school' means? It means a school for kids who aren't right in the head. Are you really sure about Petunia? I mean, that kind of thing does run in families."
"There's nothing wrong with Petunia, and everyone else in the family is normal. Lily must have been damaged at birth or something," Vernon replied.
Severus burned with shame and anger. This fat Muggle was insulting Lily. How could he just stand here and do nothing? On the other hand, he had no wand, there were two of them and they were both bigger. He was a prudent, calculating Slytherin and not a hot-headed Gryffindor. He stood for a moment and contemplated his options. Then he was noticed.
"What's your name, kid? I forgot it," Vernon's asked.
"Severus Snape. Snivellus. I bet that's what they call you at that freaky school of yours."
That was Potter's nickname! How could he have known? All his Slytherin self control vanished and he swung his fist wildly in Vernon's direction. Vernon side-stepped the blow, grabbed Severus by the scruff of the neck and pitched him face-first into the shallow mud at the edge of the river.
Severus crawled out and wiped the mud from his face. He was soaked and would have to go straight home. He tried to think of an excuse to give to Lily's mother. Suddenly he felt a rush of warm wind around him and he was clean and dry. Lucius Malfoy was standing there with Crabbe, Goyle and Narcissa Black. Vernon and his friend were frozen solid with looks of terror on their faces.
"The Dark Lord gave us the night off, so we thought we'd pay you a visit," Goyle said.
"Of course my parents would have invited you, but that fool Slughorn never told us," Malfoy said. "He seems to have a ridiculous idea that I would be a bad influence on you."
"Why would he think that?" Crabbe said, flashing what looked like a tattoo on his forearm.
"You look like you need a drink, Snape," Malfoy said. "In fact, we could all use a drink."
He flicked his wand and conjured a tray with five glasses. There was butterbeer for Severus, mead for Narcissa and firewhiskey for Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle. Severus drank gratefully.
Malfoy pointed his wand at Vernon and his friend and said, "Now let's have some fun. Imperio!"
Snape watched in fascination and horror. He had seen Malfoy use dark magic many times, but never an unforgivable curse. Malfoy played with the two boys like puppets. He made them dance with each other, crawl and kiss his feet and, finally, wallow around in the river like hogs.
"Make them strip naked," Goyle suggested.
"Not tonight, we have a Pure Blood lady with us."
"Oh, Lucius, you're no fun," Narcissa complained.
"We'd better get going," Lucius said.
"Aren't you going to Obliviate them?" Snape asked nervously
"Don't worry. They'll just think they had too much to drink," Malfoy replied. There was a loud crack and Malfoy and his companions were gone.
Severus returned to the hall. A slow waltz was playing. Lily met him at the door. "There you are, I've been looking all over for you," she said.
As they entered the hall, the music stopped and the lights went on.