He could feel Potter's eyes on the back of his neck almost the moment he took his place at the table.
"Pass it down to Snivellus. Snivellus, why are you a greasy freak?"
Though he knew somewhere in the back of his mind that it was very normal for small children to pretend things, Severus had never considered himself to have much of an imagination. Reaching for a chicken wing, he grimaced against the ripple of whisper floating down his end and feigned deafness.
"Shhhh....Snivellus, why are you a greasy, disgusting freak? Pass it down."
If he played surprised and hurt they might be satisfied and leave him to his own for the rest of the night. Usually, when the taunting was only mild, they could be abated in that way, just like Father, just like the boys in town and from the Muggle primary he had gone to when he was a much smaller boy.
The head beside his own was fair and wavy, the voice unnaturally soft. Lupin, he realised, and balled his fists beneath the table. Long fingers twisted odd patterns into the edges of the scarlet tablecloth; Lupin leant in close so that his own feathery head merged with Severus's curtain of dirty black. He cleared his throat nervously.
"Sni - Snape?"
Despite himself, despite two years of hearing the same jokes from the same tormentors, two years of making himself deaf, Severus found a burgeoning hope beginning to blossom in his chest like a sponge dipped in a glass of soapy water before the washing and wringing out. Lupin was decent and called him by his name, his real one. Lupin looked him in the eye when they spoke and not at his nose. Surely Lupin, of all people -
"Ehm, Snape, why are you such a di - a greasy freak?"
Just like that it died. Any hope Severus had once had in the only Gryffindor besides Lily to have ever spoken to him as if were something better than greasy, slinking little Snivellus Snape melted as quickly as ice cream in an African desert. All at once he felt stupid and furious, the familiar dull red creeping into cheeks that were all too well accustomed to it and burned like a newly lit candle to the skin.
"Dunno," he said quietly and stabbed his fork into a plate of roast with vehemence.
It was a silly sort of thing to be upset over, Severus realised. Nothing he had not heard before, from many different people, in many different places and many different ways. Hidden as he was behind the same hair that was the butt of those jokes, Severus did not see the queasy, pained expression in the eyes of the boy beside him. After all, he reasoned viciously, tearing out a chunk of muffin with his crooked teeth, Lupin was only human, and Snivellus Snape had never belonged in Gryffindor to begin with.