A Single Day


The young boy grumbled in his sleep and turned over, wincing at the groan that came from the old worn springs of his antique iron bed. He buried himself further under the threadbare covers, hoping the annoying dream would go away.

Severus, wake up!”

Severus' eyes flew open, but his body didn't move a hair. A delicate, familiar hand shook him and he relaxed a little. Mum.

He sighed in relief. At least it wasn't him.

Chills ran through Severus at the idea of his father and he turned over as quietly as he could. His attic room was small; so small it would have been cramped for anyone much larger than a small child to reside in. A small, dirty window set into the sloping roof let in some dim light. His mother had to duck when she came in and his father never bothered after the last time he had hit his head on one of the low-hanging beams. Unfortunately, you could still reach the bed from the drop-down stairs and more than once his father had come home drunk and had roused Severus with a long arm from the trapdoor.

“Your father thinks he's been called into the factory to look at a broken machine,” Eileen Snape said quickly, her pale face a mask of worry and her beetle-black eyes darting around his small bedroom as if she were expecting someone to creep out of the shadows. Her thin porcelain fingers plucked nervously at the sleeves of the dark blue house dress that hung limply on her thin form. “Your grandmother is sleeping. We don't have much time.”

“What's going on?” Severus yawned and stretched his arms. He'd been getting cramps in his limbs at night and his mother had told him he could be finally having a growing spurt and soon would have to move into the house. It wasn't something he was looking forward to.

“You're going to Hogwarts whether that daft father of yours and his hell-beast of a mother like it or not,” she hissed as she flipped the thin bedclothes off Severus, exposing his small body to the chill air of the attic room, his light skin prickling in response.

Severus paled and his eyes widened at the very idea. “I can't! He said I couldn't go!”

“Yes, you can, and you are!” Her mouth was set into a firm line and her eyes were flashing angrily. “I will not have an uneducated fool for a boy!”

“He'll kill you,” Severus whispered, terror rising in his voice.

His grandmother had no tolerance for magic, but at least all the heavy-set, steely-haired matriarch ever did was sneer at her daughter-in-law and grandson. She had once been vocal about it, but since the fainting spell she had suffered last year all she did was bare her yellowing teeth at Severus from her ancient paisley chair in the den and glare at him from ice blue eyes that might have one been considered pretty when she was a young woman. Her bony, gnarled hands clenched her dirty blue lap blanket tightly, as if she thought Severus was going to snatch it away at any moment.

This hurt him for some reason, but he couldn't put his finger on why. He didn't like her, but he had no reason to steal her blanket.

His father's tolerance level, on the other hand... Severus never really knew what his father was capable of and wasn't sure he ever wanted to fully find out.

“I'll handle your father.” Eileen had a determined look on her face Severus had never seen before and her eyes flashed with anger even though her hands were trembling. “Quickly now, gather your things.”

Severus leapt out of the rickety iron bed, wincing as it squeaked loudly, and stood before her in a faded black shirt that had once been his fathers with a panicked look on his face. “I don't even know what to do! Where to start!”

“You helped Lily pack, didn't you?” His mother shook her head, but smiles in spite of her exasperation.

“Well, yes, but there are things I'll need that I don't have!” Severus spluttered. “She had books and a wand and--”

“Don't worry about that now.” She interrupted him. “Just get your favorite things. He'll be sure to damage anything you leave behind.”

Severus felt anger well up inside him at the thought of the worst of his father's tantrums. He had destroyed all mothers books while she and Severus had been at the grocers, knowing that if the pages were dissolved with a powerful acid couldn't be repaired like they would have been if he had just torn out the pages.

I'm going to have a normal family, Eileen!” Severus' father had roared at her when she had gotten back and had completely lost it.

He probably hadn't been expecting the curse that had hit him after that. His back suddenly arched in pain and he had flung up one of his arms wildly, hitting the old black curio cabinet behind him and breaking one of the panes of glass. His eyes had rolled up into his head before he had collapsed to the ground after that and Severus' mother had bustled him away to bed early.

Severus had stared at his father on the floor as his mother had carried him by. Severus' heart had felt lighter for a moment, but for a second he locked eyes with his father and felt truly scared.

That night he heard his mother uttering spells quietly outside his bedroom door, but in spite of the protections Severus had bolted the door to his room anyway.

After that day, Severus' mother taught him some simple spells with her wand. ”When you get your own wand it will be easier,” she had insisted, in spite of Severus' father's insistence that he wouldn't hold with any 'foolish wand waving' in his home.

To his mother's delight, Severus was proficient in almost everything she attempted to teach him. 'You defend yourself well,' she had said proudly. 'Don't worry about potions. That will come with time. The simple healing potion you know how to brew will be sufficient for now.'

He had scowled at the murky brown potion in front of him that was supposed to be a bright green. It wasn't his fault the beetle shells didn't grind well when they were still damp. Even she had said they should be dried out for a week beforehand, but they hadn't had a week. They'd had an afternoon.

That had been several years back and now his mother was shaking him awake so he could take flight like the silent dark owls that came at night for her after his father had drank himself to sleep in his favorite chair.

Severus pulled his nightshirt over his head and stood before his mother in a pair of worn gray underpants. She shook her head at him.

“Severus, when will you learn to separate whites instead of just throwing everything into the wash tub together?”

He shrugged at her as he cast his eyes about the room. “What am I supposed to wear?

“I have my old school robes for when you get there,” she said quickly. “They'll be big, but I think they'll do for now. Don't forget to pack your black trousers. You might want them. I'll write a letter for your Head of House so they'll know what's going on with your supplies.”

Severus threw on his best pair of dungarees, a soft black t-shirt that his mother had gotten from the secondhand store on their half-off day, and a dark brown windbreaker. Then he went to the small bed and pulled out a worn, brown leather trunk from underneath it.

His mother packed his clothing quickly with a broad wave of her wand as Severus rushed around the tiny area gathering his favorite things from odd, hidden-away places. Then he crawled on his hands and knees to get to the furthest point of the slanted roof. It was a place so low only he could reach and it where he kept his most important of things: his old, worn stuffed tiger. He piled everything in the trunk, making sure the tiger was on the top in a comfortable position and they quickly latched the trunk closed with thick leather straps and heavy brass buckles.

“I gave your grandmother a mild sleeping potion in her tea,” Severus' mother whispered quickly as their fingers worked at their task. “It won't work as well as it should because of the medication she takes for the aches in her hands, so be quiet. Carry your shoes.”

She flicked her wand and the trunk levitated a few inches off the floor. It took some maneuvering to get it out the trapdoor, but after a few thumps that made Severus' heart leap into his throat, they were creeping lightly down the hallway on their way to the den and the fireplace to freedom. Severus felt the rough carpet through his thin socks as they tiptoed by the small bedroom where Severus' grandmother slept, her heavy snoring filling the air and Severus felt as if even his breathing was too loud.

“How do I get there?” Severus whispered fervently as his mother closed the door to the den with a small click and he sat on the trunk to pull his gray canvas shoes on. “They left last night and they're probably still sleeping in their hotel room.”

“You're not going with the Evanses,” his mother explained as she guided his belongings up to the fireplace. “I made arrangements with a school friend. They'll make sure you get there all right.”

Severus looked at the fireplace and felt his stomach sink. He had only traveled through the Floo network once and had found the whole thing had made him nauseous.

“Get in, Severus.” His mother's eyes darted around the room, as if she thought his father would appear and stop them. “Here, take my wand.”

“But you'll need it!” Severus had whispered as loud as he dared as she pressed the dark handle into his palm.

“I'll be fine.” His mother made a face at him as she drew a small bag out of the pocket of her house dress. She opened it and Severus saw the brown powder that would allow him to travel.

He screwed his eyes tight, one hand clenching his mother's wand, the other holding onto the handle of his trunk with white-knuckled fingers.

He felt her kiss him on the forehead before the powder hit his legs and heard the woosh of the green flames of the Floo network leaping up around him.

Malfoy Manor.”

Severus felt his stomach lurch as he spiraled through magically folded space. When his feet finally hit the ground at his destination he stumbled and fell forward, straight into something soft and fuzzy. He felt hands on his shoulders, steadying him on his feet.

He gagged at the sudden stop, but managed to keep what little was in his stomach down, and opened his eyes.

They bugged as he took in the sight of the ample bosom that he had fallen into. The curvy, creamy-skinned, plump form was clad in a black velvet dress and when his eyes slowly rose to her face she smiled warmly at him. She had light, curly blond hair and a high forehead; large blue eyes twinkled at him, and the dimples in her cheeks seemed to be dancing as she smoothed his hair down.

A tall, stern-looking man stood behind her. He wore black robes with pleats so sharp Severus wondered if they were enchanted. His short white hair and severely groomed mustache reminded Severus of the military and the stern frown plastered on his face gave Severus the distinct impression he was being sized up.

Severus felt the blood drain out of his face as his eyes flickered to the bosom he had fallen into. He hoped the man wouldn't whip him too badly.

“Oh, you poor little dear!” The woman crushed Severus to her bosom again, his arms flailing uselessly at his sides. “You look half-starved! And so pale! Doesn't he look pale, Abraxas?”

“Mother! Stop trying to smother the poor boy!” Someone let out an irritated sigh.

Severus looked past the woman to see a teenage boy with short blond hair identical to his fathers looking at her exasperatedly. Severus was pleased to note that although his dark green robes were pleated, they were nowhere near as formal-looking as the man beside him.

“Well, we'll just have to feed you a little something before you two set off,” the woman said, ignoring her son and tucking her arm around Severus.

“I'm Lucretia Malfoy.” The woman said as she scuttled Severus out of the large room. “You'll be accompanying my son, Lucius, to the train Hogwarts,” Mrs. Malfoy rattled on, “but you don't need to leave for a while yet. Plenty of time for a snack!”

Severus' eyes tried to take in as much of his surroundings as he could without looking pie-eyed. Half of the small house on Spinner's End could have fit in this enormous room. The dark wood paneling tried to give it a sense of comfort, but the furniture looked as if no one ever used it. There were no frayed edges, the cushions on the black velvet chairs looked stiff, and there were no bum prints to be seen anywhere. The wood floor had been polished to such a shine Severus wondered if it was coated in something.

They proceeded down a long wood-paneled hallway decorated with large portraits of stern-looking, light-haired people in decorative gold frames. One portrait raised an eyebrow as they passed and Severus gasped at it.

Severus noticed the men of the family trailed behind Mrs. Malfoy in a resigned fashion as she marched through the house, but they didn't look put out, they looked as if they were used to this sort of thing.

Severus was bustled into a large dining room with an impossibly long, dark wooden table and at least twenty hand-carved matching chairs around it, their seats generously padded and covered with a brown and gold brocade.

This room seemed to have been designed to be the perfect size to give a sense of hospitality to the room, in spite of the long table. Severus' mother mentioned spells like this whenever she noted that he'd be outgrowing his attic room soon, but his father had growled that there would be no alterations and Severus could just learn to sleep somewhere else in the small house.

Each of the four walls around the table had a tapestry mounted on it:

The one behind Severus' seat featured a serpentine Asian dragon, frolicking in a field of wheat, it's white scales seeming to glint in the fabric sunlight. A wizard sat astride it, waving his blue pointy hat. The picture was so detailed Severus wondered if it was a photograph at first, or something magical, but as he walked by it to seat himself he saw the tiny stitches that created it and he realized the tapestry was the result of incredible patience and talent.

The tapestry that was on display at the foot of the long table was a large brown oak tree with what looked like words written on the multi-colored leaves, but it was so far away it was impossible for Severus to make any of them out.

The tapestry across the table from Severus depicted a white-haired wizard in armor standing atop what looked like some sort of mossy hill; he had a silver helm with a purple ostrich plume tucked under one arm and was holding a wand aloft with his opposite hand. People dressed like peasants seemed to be gathering at the foot of the hill and getting to their knees; their thin arms raised up to the wizard.

The one that sat behind the head of the table was a field of hundreds of different kinds of flowers, each bloom more bright and beautiful than the next. Severus didn't recognize a single flower on the tapestry. He wondered if they were all magical.

The floor of the dining room was covered in a plush burgundy carpet, so deep Severus felt like his feet were sinking into it. To his relief, the plain white table settings were clustered at one end of the table rather than spread out over the immense table.

Mr. Malfoy settled in at the end of the table. With Lucius on his left and Mrs. Malfoy on his right. Severus sat down gingerly at the setting next to her, remembering to drape the thick linen napkin across his lap like his mother had shown him. Upon sitting, he became instantly afraid of breaking anything or tipping anything over. What he had thought were plain white plates were now revealed to be paper thin porcelain and the silver tableware gleamed so brightly Severus didn't want to put his fingerprints on it. Where his mug would normally be at home, a tall crystal goblet sat full of crystal clear water.

Mrs. Malfoy beamed down at Severus as she picked up a small silver bell near her goblet and shook it, causing a high pitched tinkle to ring out.

Severus jumped as a small, dirty creature with large, floppy ears and a long, thin nose popped into existence near him. It was wearing a rag that once might have been a pot holder and it looked as if it hadn't bathed in days.

“Polly, our young guest is famished,” Mrs. Malfoy said with a sad shake of her head that caused her blond curls to bounce around her round face. “Please bring us something that will fill him up properly.”

Severus couldn't imagine why she was talking to this thing so nicely, it surely didn't belong in a place like this. It seemed like it was wrong somehow, but the small creature snapped it's fingers and disappeared as quick as it had appeared. Severus tried not to look as bewildered as he felt.

“Now, tell me what your mother has been up to,” Mrs. Malfoy said as she smiled down at Severus, here blue eyes dancing with mischief, as if she were being let in on a secret. “She always was such a clever witch.”

Mr. Malfoy cleared his throat and she threw him a dirty look over her shoulder.

“My dear, seeing as we are taking the boy to Hogwarts I'd say she doesn't do much witchery anymore.” He tilted his chin down and gave her a pointed look.

She turned back to Severus with a look of shock on her face as she examined his guilty expression. “Is this true?”

“Well, after the books were gone she didn't have much to read anymore.” Severus said uncomfortably and he tried not to wince at the sudden change in her expression from concern to stunned disbelief.

“Her books? Gone? How could that have happened? She loved those books! They had all sorts of protections on them!” She glanced back at her husband who was listening on, expressionless.

“Father lost his temper one day and destroyed them,” Severus said and he jumped as food began to appear on his plate. He stared at the piles of sausage, eggs, and potatoes, and fought back the urge to grab his fork and begin stuffing his face.

More plates of delicious looking and smelling food started appearing on the table as he continued to stare at it all. Wide crystal platters were piled with different sorts of fruits, some Severus didn't recognize. Large silver bowls held various breakfast meats; jars of marmalades and jams scattered over the table and a clay bowl brimming with different types of breads sat near him.

Severus felt his mouth water. He had never seen so much food on one table in his life.

When he realized there was a stony silence at the table he tore his eyes away from the food to look at the people around him.

Lucius looked shocked, Mrs. Malfoy looked horrified, but Mr Malfoy, Mr. Malfoy looked furious.

“Eat, darling,” Mrs. Malfoy managed to force out with a smile that looked more like a grimace.

She glanced at Mr. Malfoy and as Severus' dark eyes eyes met Mr. Malfoy's bright blue ones, he felt almost like he had a headache coming on. Then his brain started to feel an uncomfortable flickering sensation.

He tried to stop it, but couldn't. Scenes from his life began flashing before his eyes and he began seeing things he wished he had been able to forget.

His father's fury when Severus had tripped over the iron grate in the street and had dropped the marbles he had received for his birthday. Severus remembered the feeling of helplessness he had experienced as he had watched the marbles, glittering like the paste jewels they used in the annual pantomime, rolled away from his scrabbling fingers and disappeared down the grate.

The whipping that had followed for not respecting the things his father had worked so hard for. Severus couldn't sit or lay down without pain for a whole day, even after his mother had applied her special salve.

The night he had caught his mother healing her broken nose in the bathroom. After she was done she had waved her wand to clean up the blood: a motion done so easily it was obvious this wasn't the first time and wouldn't be the last.

A very small Severus crying a corner with a sprained wrist, his parents arguing over him. His mother pulling out her wand and the fear and rage in his father's face. “You will NOT hurt my boy, Tobias!”

Severus laying in his bed at night, hearing his mother cry as she waited for Tobias to come home the first night he didn't.

Severus' flight from Spinner's End this morning.

Suddenly, as fast as it had happened, the visions stopped. Severus felt slightly dizzy.

Mr. Malfoy rose from the table, a strange look on his face. “I apologize, but there's something important I must attend to.” He gave his wife a small nod and she said nothing as he bent at the waist to give her a short bow before he retreated from the room.

She had a worried look on his face as he left, but turned back to Severus and tried to soften her expression. “Would you rather have some fruit, dear?”

“Oh, no!” Severus said quickly as he picked up his heavy silver fork. “This looks go good, I don't know where to start!”

He licked his lips and speared a bit of potato onto his fork.

She gave him a satisfied look as he popped it into his mouth and then she rubbed his back for a moment.

Severus looked up at Lucius as he chewed and the other boy was watching him curiously.

Severus tried not to stare back at Lucius as the boy watched him eat. Lucius just watched him and picked at a small plate of fruit. Severus supposed they had already eaten a proper meal earlier in the morning and he felt uncomfortable at the idea that all this fuss was just for him. He thought that maybe Lucius was annoyed at him for popping in and making himself a burden. Surely the older boy had better things to do besides watch a first year.

Severus decided that if they had gone to any trouble it would only be proper to show he was grateful. Severus tucked in, not knowing when his next meal was going to be. He knew Hogwarts would give him dinner, but he wasn't sure about anything in between. When he was done filling himself he burped heartily.

Mrs. Malfoy chuckled at this and gave a look Severus couldn't decipher to Lucius, though she didn't seem to be repulsed by the burp.

“Excuse me,” Severus said embarrassedly. He felt his cheeks burn.

“Nonsense,” Mrs. Malfoy said warmly and he knew she meant it. “You've just eaten enough for five boys your size. If you didn't burp I'd wonder if you were going to explode later.”

Lucius chuckled and shook his head. “And if you didn't eat that much she'd try to shovel it in anyway.”

Mrs. Malfoy ignored her son and rose from her seat. “Now that you've been properly fed, I suggest you and Lucius take a walk around the estate for the remainder of the hour so your food can settle properly. He can explain some things about Hogwarts to you before you leave. It wouldn't do to have you arrive at the school completely clueless.”

“Of course, Mother,” Lucius said politely as he stood and gave his mother a short bow.

Severus stood as well, remembering to take his napkin off his lap before it fell to the floor. He also gave a bow, not knowing if that was what he was supposed to do, but thinking 'better safe than sorry.' “Thank you for the food. It was very good!”

“Of course, dear,” Mrs. Malfoy said with a smile that tried to look reassuring, but Severus got the sense that everyone had been a bit shaken by learning about Severus' home life. “You may come any time you like. And your mother as well. I'd like to see her again. She doesn't write as often as she should.”

“I'll tell her right away!” Severus said excitedly. If witches and wizards started calling on his mother maybe his father would be less inclined to have any of his tantrums. “As soon as I can write to her!”

Mrs. Malfoy chuckled and glanced at Lucius. “The rose garden is blooming. I'm sure Severus would like to see it before he leaves.”

“Of course,” Lucius said politely with a look that suggested that no one was interested in the rose garden besides her. “Come on, Severus. Time to get your last breath of freedom before school starts.”

Severus felt like laughing. Going to school was the biggest taste of freedom he had ever had.

Mrs. Malfoy gave Severus another suffocating hug before releasing him to Lucius, allowing the boys to leave the dining room and down another long hallway with moving portraits of witches and wizards in antique robes on one side and large picture windows on the other.

“Do they all move?” Severus asked Lucius as a picture of a large blond lady in white fur-trimmed robes and a diamond and emerald tiara looked down her long, pinched nose at him. The small brown dog she was holding silently barked at him.

“Most of them,” said Lucius with a snort. “They usually talk as well, but father's hit most of them with a muting spell. He was tired of unwanted opinions.”

Severus spied a lush rose bush with large, fat pink blooms out of one of the windows as they passed it. He assumed they'd be going out the heavy wooden door nearby, but he turned out to be wrong as Lucius strode by it, his shoes clicking on the hardwood as he went.

Severus followed him curiously as Lucius continued down the hall and made a left when it ended at the corner of the building.

“Where are we going?” Severus finally asked as they passed an open door. He looked inside to see a cozy-looking den with dark brown leather furniture arranged around a small stone fireplace and large wooden bookshelves full of heavy-looking books with leather spines.

Lucius turned quickly and smirked at the younger boy as he came up short and nearly stumbled. “Why wander about in the garden when we can get in a game of Quidditch before we leave?”

“What's 'Quidditch?'” Severus asked.

Lucius examined Severus with narrowed eyes. “What did you just say?”

“Er...” Severus shrugged apologetically at Lucius. Apparently he had said something wrong. “I've never heard of it. What is it?”

“It's only the best Wizarding sport in the world!” Lucius said haughtily. “Do you mean to say you've never even heard of it?”

“That's what I just said.” Severus drew himself up and crossed his arms defensively. “How do you play it?”

“Well, first you have to have the proper equipment.” Lucius frowned at the small boy. “And a good broomstick, of course.”

“Like curling?!” Severus began to laugh. “You've got to be joking!”

“No!” Lucius snapped as if he had been insulted. He walked over to the wall and pointed at a portrait. “Like this! On the backs of broomsticks, not on ice!”

Severus looked at the portrait in wonderment and blinked at the men zipping about on broomsticks. “I've never seen anything like it.”

“So you don't even know how to fly?” Lucius rolled his eyes. “Well, we'll have to fix that. It wouldn't do to have you fall on your face your first time out.”

Lucius started off down the hall again, Severus nearly having to jog to keep up with Lucius' long-legged stride.

Finally, after several twists and turns through the Manor, the older boy opened a heavy wooden door leading outside and Severus blinked as the bright sun blinded him.

Lucius walked through the door and strode across the lush green lawn that hugged the foundation of the Manor, the sunlight glinting off his white-blond hair. Severus followed the older boy as he made his way to a small green shed with a red tin roof that sat near the edge of the lawn, under an oak tree.

Lucius unlatched and pulled open the old wooden door before walking into the shed. Severus peered in after him and found Lucius and staring at a row of broomsticks, all mounted and labeled on the wall. He finally selected one and turned to face Severus, handing him a light broom with black pointed bristles and a tan handle.

“You probably won't get the basics down, but at least I can teach you how not to kill yourself,” Lucius sighed and shook his head in disbelief as he left the shed. The boys walked to the center of the lawn and Lucius showed Severus how to mount his broom properly. “Now get a good grip. It's not going to hold onto you, you know.”

Severus was shaky at first, but he managed to hold on as Lucius taught him, and slowly rose into the air.

“You're a fast learner,” Lucius said coolly as he watched Severus shakily touch down for the third time in a row. “There might be some hope for you.”

“Gee, thanks.” Severus scowled as he got off the broomstick, his feet sinking into the soft grass.

“Have you given any thought to what House you think you'll be sorted into?” Lucius asked, trying to sound casual and failing miserably.

Severus thought he sounded a bit like Mrs. Perkins, the busybody of Spinner's End and alarm bells went off in the back of his head. Mrs. Malfoy might be his mother's friend, but Severus knew nothing about Lucius and wasn't sure if he should be trusted. It seemed like he had already said enough about his home life.

“Mother says I'll probably be a Slytherin because that's what House she was in.” Severus carefully said as they walked back to the green shed to put the brooms away. “But I usually do very well in my lessons so she thinks I have a slim chance of being in Ravenclaw. Apparently one of my great-grandfathers was sorted there as well..”

“There's more to it than just family line,” Lucius snorted as he unlatched and pulled the shed door open to return the broom. “The Sorting Hat looks into your head to see who your really are. The face you never show to the world.”

Severus eyed Lucius warily as the older boy placed the broom back into it's mount on the wall. What was that supposed to mean? “Is it ever wrong?”

“I doubt it.” Lucius snorted as he turned around and walked out of the shed, stopping to latch the door tightly shut. “There's not much to it. Ravenclaws tend to be scholars, Gryffindors are idealists, Slytherins make things happen, and Hufflepuffs get in the way.”

Severus found himself growing very nervous. What if he was sorted into Hufflepuff?

“Do you usually do well in your classes?” Lucius asked as they walked across the lawn.

“In regular school, yes.” Severus shrugged. “My charms are all right. I hate potions, though. I never get it right.”

“Well, Professor Slughorn is an excellent teacher,” Lucius reassured Severus as they approached the manor. “I'm sure he'll be able to help you out with that.”

As Lucius and Severus wound their way through the halls of the Manor and up the steep marble stairs to Lucius' room, Lucius barraged Severus with questions about his opinions about politics, which Severus knew nothing about; athletic accomplishments, where it was decided that Severus could climb a tree faster than anyone in his neighborhood; what types of books did he read (far east mysteries and westerns); and other seemingly meaningless things that Severus was sure weren't as meaningless as Lucius wanted them to appear to be.

The finally reached a door with an “L” carved into it and inlaid with silver. When Lucius opened the door, to Severus' surprise, the room wasn't nearly as lavish as he had expected.

The room was large with a high ceiling, but mostly empty. The gray walls reminded Severus of the institution his mother had worked in when he was younger and he shivered. The iron bed was nearly identical to his own, but Severus noted how new and solid it looked. It probably didn't squeak when Lucius rolled over or poked him in the back with springs. The bedding that neatly covered it was stark white and looked warm. A small white nightstand sat near the bed, a large leather-bound bible sitting on top of it. The floor had a plain gray carpet laid out on it, but it was just as plush and lavish as the one in the dining room had been.

A white desk had been pushed up against the wall, under a small window that overlooked the rose garden and a white wooden chair was tucked away neatly underneath it. A squat bookshelf sat to the left of the desk, but instead of being full of books as Severus had expected it would be, it only had three books on it's shelves and they were thin volumes at best. On the opposite side of the room a small, wardrobe fashioned of bare wood was nestled into a corner.

“This is your room?” Severus asked, bewildered, then he blushed at his rudeness.

“Father doesn't think it's healthy to have distractions when one is studying,” Lucius said, a hint of bitterness to his voice.

“I know what you mean.” Severus snorted. His father used the same excuse to lock him up in the attic with a book when he didn't want to bother with him.

Lucius studied Severus for a moment before he bent down to pull a black leather trunk with a large silver “M” embellished on it. When he undid the locks and opened it, Severus could swear there was a pit inside.

“What's that?” Severus asked in awe as he stepped up to the trunk. He looked in and couldn't see the bottom.

“You've never seen and Undetectable Extension Charm before?” Lucius asked haughtily, an amused look on his face. He pulled a long, slender wand out of his sleeve and waved it at the wardrobe. The doors swung open, revealing what looked like a small room filled with clothes, books, odds and ends, and all the normal sorts of things one would find in the room of a teenage boy.

“No,” Severus said as he stepped back. He wasn't sure he wanted to stand that close to the trunk. “How big is it?”

“As big as I need it to be.” Lucius waved his wand again and several pairs of trousers whipped out of the wardrobe and folded themselves before flying into the trunk. “I won't keep it this big. Once everything is inside, I'll shrink it up to fit.”

Several white shirts came dancing out of the wardrobe and disappeared into the trunk, followed by a parade of robes of all sorts of designs and colors. Lucius paused and turned to look at Severus, his eyebrows furrowed. “You have all your things in a Muggle trunk?”

“How many things do I really need?” Severus asked, bewildered. “I know my books and things are going to be sent to the school so I just packed some clothes and... stuff.”

He saw no reason Lucius needed to know about his tiger.

“Ah,” Lucius said as he flicked his wand once more. Cardboard shoe boxes and hat boxes flew through the air, followed by some smaller wooden boxes, brushes, scarves and underthings. “Well, I'm sure you'll be fine.”

Severus felt uneasy as Lucius shrunk the inside of the trunk to a more reasonable space. Severus could see the top of pile of neatly packed things now. Lucius was taking so much it made Severus feel as if he were completely unprepared for the school year.

There was a noise in the hallway and Lucius gave a sigh of frustration as his mother bustled into the room.

“You're just packing now?!

“It only takes a minute.” Lucius rolled his eyes as his mother strode up to him and started fussing with his robes. She let go of Lucius and eyed Severus critically. Lucius gave his mother a look as Severus gave a little start at the glint in her eye. “Mother, stop it!”

“Well, he's going to a wizarding school! He should be in robes!” Mrs. Malfoy ignored her son and reached for the white, twisted wand hanging at her side.

Lucius put his hand on his mother's arm. “Don't.”

Severus didn't understand the exchange of expressions that followed, but in the end, Mrs. Malfoy had lowered her hand and scowled at her son. “He doesn't have to show up looking like a Muggle.”

“We'll be changing soon enough and even pure-bloods show up in Muggle clothing for the train ride,” Lucius said exasperatedly.

“Not anyone from any decent families, I hope,” Mrs. Malfoy's left cheek twitched as if the very idea unnerved her.

“It's the style, mother,” Lucius sighed. “Must I remind you of the ridiculous haircut you wore when you were at school?”

“It's not the same thing!” Mrs. Malfoy snapped.

“It certainly is!” Lucius father interjected from the hall way. “You looked silly with that hair and I thought I told you to leave him alone!”

Mrs. Malfoy looked from her husband in the door frame to Severus to her son. She glared at Lucius for a moment before letting out a growl in frustration and storming from the room, pushing past Lucius' father. “Victory rolls weren't silly! We had just won the war, if you don't remember!”

“Well, the enormous scar on my leg does remind me now and again,” Mr. Malfoy said hotly as their voices faded as they walked away and back down the hallway. “And most people's rolls weren't half as tall as they were!”

She said something back to him in a snippy tone they couldn't quite make out and Lucius snorted and shook his head. When Severus turned to look at him their eyes met and Severus couldn't contain himself anymore. He started giggling.

Lucius tried to look annoyed, but was soon chuckling as well and shaking head.

“Do they do that all the time?” Severus asked as Lucius opened a drawer in the desk. He reached in up to his shoulder and started rummaging around.

“They're on their best behavior today, if you can believe it.” Lucius seemed to have found what he was looking for and was trying to maneuver it out from under everything else.

“How are we getting to the school, anyway?” Severus asked as Lucius pulled what looked like a black wooden cigar box out of the drawer.

“We take a train.” Lucius opened the box and smiled at it's contents before tucking it inside his trunk.

“What kind of a train?” Severus asked suspiciously.

Lucius laughed as he walked back to the desk. “It's not a Muggle train, if that's what you're asking. It's clean and the snacks are good.”

“The snacks are free?” Severus asked hopefully.

“Sorry, no,” Lucius shook his head and frowned as he rummaged around in the desk again. This time he came up with a black leather book bag which he tossed into the trunk before closing it.

“Ah,” Severus said as Lucius waved his wand and the trunk rose in the air.

“You'll be fine.” Lucius reassured him. “I'll loan you a Galleon. You can pay me back whenever.”

“Thanks.” Severus felt relieved, even though he had no idea what on earth a Galleon was.

They left the shelter of Lucius' room and wound their way back around the Manor to the room Severus had arrived in where Mr and Mrs. Malfoy were waiting for them.

“Now, here's some money to get you through the year,” Mrs. Malfoy bustled over to them as soon as they entered the room, her wide eyes full of worry. Mr. Malfoy rolled his eyes and shook his head behind her back.

Mrs. Malfoy pressed a small silk bag into Lucius' hand, but instead of thanking her, he furrowed his brows when his mother handed Severus a much larger bag.

“What's that?”

“Well, we've missed his last ten birthdays,” Mrs. Malfoy said innocently, startling Severus with the revelation that she had been around for at least one of them. “I had to make up for time.”

“There's fifty bloody Galleons in there?!” Lucius was incredulous.

“Watch your mouth!” Mr. Malfoy said sharply.

“It's probably more than he has in the world, so you shut it!” Mrs. Malfoy snapped at her son who seemed to know when it was a good idea to do so. Her expression softened as she looked back at Severus. “This should be enough to get you all the things you find you might want when you get to Hogwarts. Now take out a few and then tuck it away into your trunk for safekeeping.”

“Er--” Severus didn't know what to say. This was probably more money than his parents had. If he could only figure out a way of getting it to his mother without his father knowing about it. He really didn't have words for what he felt so he said: “Thank you very much. You're very generous.”

He had heard his mother use those words when one of their neighbors had brought by a basket of baked goods for the holidays. The neighbor had been very happy at the response and they had eaten like kings for a week.

Mrs. Malfoy seemed pleased and gave Severus another of her stifling hugs. This time he was prepared and he turned his head so he could breathe a bit.

When she released him she grabbed hold of Lucius and held him tight, tears in her eyes. Severus took the moment to take a breath and to bustle away to his trunk and away from Mrs. Malfoy's abundant bosom.

“Oh good grief, mother! I'll be back for Christmas!” Mrs Malfoy sniffled and nodded before she released Lucius who immediately started smoothing down his now rumpled robes.

“Of course you will, dear.” She looked like she was going to pounce again, but Mr. Malfoy came up behind her and put a hand on her back and she took a step back. Instead she took a steadying breath. “We'll be sure to miss you.”

“Try not to get into too much trouble this year,” Mr. Malfoy warned sternly. “I don't want any more owls from the Headmaster.

“It was that stupid Hufflepuff's fault,” Lucius grumbled. Severus gave Lucius an interested look since he was behind Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy so they couldn't see him.

“I don't care who's fault it was,” Mr Malfoy said sternly as he seemed to get a firm grip of the fabric at the shoulders of Mrs. Malfoy's robes. “I care that you're the one that took the blame for it. Be more responsible in the future, Lucius.

“Yes, sir.” Lucius sighed, but his father seemed to have been placated.

“Now, look after Severus,” Mrs. Malfoy said as she reached into her robes and pulled out two red bags. She turned around to look at Severus and Mr. Malfoy let go of her robes, presumably because he didn't think she was going to attempt to smother anyone again. “Owl me if you need anything, and here's some lunch for the train. I don't think it's good to eat from that cart. It's nothing but garbage.”

“Yes, Mother,” Lucius said with another sigh, but this one seemed to be far more content as he took the bag she was holding out to him.

She reached up and bent him down so she could kiss his forehead and she patted his cheek before moving on to Severus. “The same goes for you, young man.”

“Yes, mum,” Severus said obediently as he put the bag of Galleons into his trunk and re-buckled it. “Thank you for everything.”

“It was nothing, dear. Write whenever you want.” Mrs. Malfoy kissed him gently on his forehead as she handed him his own bag of food, which Severus immediately tied to the belt loop of his dungarees.

“Study hard,” Mr. Malfoy instructed firmly to both of the boys. “We'll be seeing you before you know it.”

Lucius and Severus assured him they would and then managed to jam themselves and their trunks into the fireplace, Severus crouched atop his to save space.

“We don't normally Floo with this much.” Mr. Malfoy said as he held a bowl of Floo powder out to Lucius, and the older boy held onto Severus shoulder before taking a handful. “Next time we'll get the big fireplace hooked up to the network.”

Severus goggled for a moment. This wasn't the biggest fireplace in the immense Manor?

The Leaky Cauldron!” Lucius announced as he dropped the powder, and they were off in a burst of green flame.

Spiraling and spinning through space, Severus caught glimpses of the views from other fireplaces. Children playing with what looked like marbles, a witch humming as she made herself a cup of tea, what looked like a basement. He felt secure feeling Lucius gripping him firmly, more than he had the other times he had traveled by Floo. The few times he had done it with his mother she had instructed him to hold onto her skirts and he was always worried he would lose his grip.

With a thump and a jolt forward, Lucius and Severus found themselves in the large fireplace of a cheerful pub. Witches and wizards, more than Severus had ever seen in his life, were talking and laughing while seated at round wooden tables, basking in the golden light emanating from lanterns with amber panels . A middle-aged man with light hair that once may have been red polished a silver goblet behind the bar.

“I think we should get a couple pints before going off, don't you?” Lucius asked Severus who was dizzily climbing down from his trunk. “After all that I know I could use one.”

“I'm not old enough,” Severus reminded Lucius, taken aback at the boys' suggestion. What type of trouble could they get into in the Wizarding World? His mother had told him about Azkaban, but he didn't think they'd toss you away for a pint. Could he get expelled before the year even started?

“That's gotten about easily.” Lucius snorted. “Someone's probably ordered for us already. Come on.”

They wound their way through the crowd and around the back of the pub to a small booth that was occupied by two boys about Lucius' age. The area was mostly concealed and the booth had several empty chairs pulled up to it as if several other people had been there but were now gone.

“Malfoy!” A cheerful voice rang out.

“Gentlemen,” Lucius bowed and the boys laughed.

Severus thought they appeared to be quite merry. They had a pitcher in front of them and several pint glasses scattered about. It looked

“Who's this, then?” A stocky boy with with thick, curly blond hair and light blue robes gave Severus an appraising look, taking in everything from Severus' shirt to his dungarees to the lingering gaze at his worn shoes.

“Severus,” Lucius said as he sat down in an empty seat. “Taking him to Hogwarts. Our mother's were friends.”

“Oh, right-o!” The other boy, a cheerful-looking, thin lad with short brown hair, a long nose, and thick gray robes nodded vigorously as he poured out two amber pints from the pitcher and set them down in front of Lucius and Severus.

Lucius took a long drink before he set it down and wiped the foam from his upper lip.

“Mother give you one of her famous send-offs?” The blond chuckled as he looked at the receding level of Lucius' glass.

“Both of us.” Lucius let out a sound like he had a pain. “No one was granted mercy.”

“Drink up.” The dark-haired boy gestured at Severus' glass. “After that you deserve it.”

Severus tentatively took a sip from the glass. He made a face. This was what his father spent his time drinking? This was where the food money disappeared to?

Severus was heartily irritated. If something was going to cause this much trouble it should taste good.

“Not to your taste?” The older boys exchanged grins with each other.

Severus shrugged noncommittally. For some reason he wanted these boys to like him. Perhaps their mothers knew his as well. “Given a choice, I probably wouldn't take it.”

“Well, the boy knows what he likes.” The blond was gazing at the backside of a red-haired young witch who was scrubbing a nearby table.

“I'll go get a Butterbeer.” The brown haired boy smirked and shook his head at the blond before rustling around in the pockets of his robes and getting to his feet.

“I don't mean to be any trouble.” Severus shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He wondered if he should have pretended to like it.

“No problem at all.” Lucius said as he returned a wave across the pub to a young girl with a long brown plait down her back. “Rabastan owes me enough money that he can afford to get a Butterbeer or two.” He looked at his blond friend. “Where's Rodolphus, by the way?”

“Coming in with Antonin Dolohov. They've been working on some project the past few weeks and they rented a flat in London.” He shrugged. “Something to do with a new Reducio potion.”

Lucius put his palm to his forehead as if something pained him. “Didn't we tell them that using Reducio for acne is a bad idea?”

“Of course we did. One shrunken chin and two shrunken noses should have stopped them, but it didn't.” The blond chuckled and took a drink from his pint.

Lucius rolled his eyes. “They're lucky they haven't shrunken their brains by now.”

The brown-haired boy, who Severus now knew was Rabastan, returned to the table with a tall amber bottle in his hand, which he placed in front of Severus. “Drink up. Thor lived on the stuff until his fifth year.”

“I did not.” The blond boy snorted. Severus wondered why Lucius had given his name, but hadn't introduced him to the others.

“You would have if you could have,” Rabastan chuckled as he picked his pint glass up again and took a swig.

“Maybe.” Thor grinned at him.

Severus took a small sip with some trepidation and was pleased with the buttery warm sensation that came from the bottle. His eyebrows went up and he took a bigger drink.

“Told you.” Rabastan smirked into his glass.

“So, Severus, tell us about your family.” Thor said in a laid back tone. Rabastan perked up and it didn't escape Severus' notice.

Lucius cleared his throat and the other boys looked at him. “Severus is a half-blood, but his mother was a Prince.”

The other boys made noises of recognition, which put Severus at ease, but he was even more relieved when they soared off into a conversation about Quidditch and it's World Cup which had just happened the week before. He would have hated to try to make conversation with older boys he felt the need to impress without knowing more about their culture.

He took another long drink from his bottle and began to relax a little as the older boys' conversation rattled on. It wasn't as if he were going off to Hogwarts alone, he reasoned with himself. Lily would be there and Lucius had been told to look after him.

Severus furrowed his brows at the thought. He was eleven, a year younger than his father had been when he had started working to support his parents. That was practically grown. He didn't really need looking after. Someone to answer questions for him, sure, but to say he was so helpless he needed looking after was just insulting.

“What's wrong, kid?” Rabastan was looking at Severus curiously.

Severus ground his teeth for a moment before looking at Lucius and frowning. “I don't need looking after. I'm not a dunderhead.”

Thor snickered as Lucius raised his eyebrows and looked amused. Rabastan blinked before he snorted into his drink.

“What?” Severus asked, suddenly self-conscious.

“Looks like you're a bit sensitive to the stuff,” Lucius nodded at the bottle.

“Like a house-elf.” Thor chuckled as he picked up his pint glass.

“And surly.” Lucius looked amused. “I know you don't need looking after. Mother's just--”

“There aren't any words for your mother,” Thor laughed, his blue eyes twinkling. “Last time I left she tried to smuggle me a tin of biscuits.”

“It'll wear off soon,” Rabastan reassured Severus. “You're pretty small so we should have known better. Have you eaten?”

“He was at my house, that's a stupid question,” Lucius snorted as he lifted his glass to his lips and took a deep drink that left only a few inches of brew in the bottom of the glass. “And she packed us lunches.”

“Well, at least you won't get sick, then,” Rabastan shook his head as he poured more amber liquid into his pint glass. “It wouldn't do to get us docked House points before the year's even started.”

Thor shrugged. “Wouldn't be the first time.”

“You can get sick from this?” Severus frowned at the bottle.

“Well, if you're sensitive you never can tell, but if you got sick they'd come looking for us and we've probably had a few too many,” Thor explained.

“That's the part where getting docked House points comes in.” Rabastan sighed as if defeated.

“We should get going,” Lucius said as he examined a silver filigree pocket watch. “You two have had quite enough and I want to get there in time to get a good compartment. Thor, will you get Tom to call us a car?”

Thor left the table and Severus finished his bottle of Butterbeer quickly, noticing Rabastan was looking at him thoughtfully. After a moment, Thor hurried back to the table. “One of the cars is on it's way back from the train station. If we hurry to the curb we can claim it.”

“Well, go!” Lucius waved him off. “We'll get your things.”

Thor grabbed his pint glass and swallowed what was left in it in one long gulp before hurrying off through the crowd, avoiding several collisions and managing to pinch the bottom of the red-haired barmaid on his way out the door.

Lucius and Rodolphus gulped down the rest of their pints quickly before gathering their things. Rodolphus pulled a short brown wand out of his robe sleeve and pointed it at their trunks. They quavered for a moment before stacking themselves and levitating a few inches off the floor, ready to float behind them as they made their way through the busy pub. When they got to the door, Lucius had to transfigure wheels on the bottom trunk so they could get them out to the curb without being too obvious to Muggles.

When Severus opened the door of the pub for the older boys (he figured it was the least he could do for not having to haul his trunk anywhere) he noticed there was a long black car already waiting at the curb for them. Thor was already inside and waving merrily.

“Everyone goes to the train station like this?” Severus goggled at the car. He'd never seen anything like it close up and had certainly never thought he'd ever get to ride in anything like it.

“Most people take the Knight Bus or a Muggle taxi,” Rodolphus explained as the driver, a older man with scraggly gray hair and a face like a dried apple, struggled to get the trunks into the boot of the car. “But Thor can use his family's account to pay for a car so we usually get one.”

“Ah,” Severus said somewhat uncomfortably. Were all wizards rich? Was it just Muggle-borns that weren't?

Severus noticed the boot had been transformed into a quite large area, much like the things in Lucius' room. He suddenly wondered exactly how inconspicuous they were, standing on the street in wizarding robes, piling in far more items than any compartment on a car had any right to have in it.

“Come on!” Thor grinned from the back of the car. “We can throw fire crackers at Muggles on the way there!”

“Not out of my car, you won't!” the craggy-faced driver scowled. “I know it's not Muggle baiting, but it's close enough to get me a fine and I'm not doing it! You can't behave yourselves, you can walk. I don't care who your fathers are!”

“Don't press your luck,” Lucius said warningly to Thor as boys piled in the backseat.

Severus scooted over and tried to caress the buttery, white leather upholstery without being too obvious. When he had settled in next to Thor, Rabastan on his other side, he found his short legs barely allowed his toes to brush the plush carpeting on the floorboard. He liked the way that even the tips of the fibers slowed down the swinging of his feet, as if they had no wear on them at all.

The driver helped them put their bags on metal trolleys once they had departed the car, Severus leaving somewhat reluctantly, and soon the boys were strolling through the bustling station and on their way.

“Can you imagine walking through here with an owl?” Rabastan snickered and pointed out a small red-haired boy in Muggle clothing with a pretty woman Severus assumed was his mother. They had a his trunk on a trolley, just like Severus, but balanced on top of the trunk was a large brass cage with a brown owl inside.

Severus looked at Lucius and the others, getting looks of their own as they strode through the station in their robes, and tried not to snicker.

“Did your mother tell you how to get to the train?” Thor asked as they approached Platform 6.

“No,” Severus said, somewhat embarrassed that his father had thrown the letter into the fire as soon as he had seen it. “I saw Lily's letter, but it seemed all wrong.”

“How so?” Rabastan smirked as they passed a group of giggling girls in Muggle school uniforms.

“Who's Lily?” Lucius asked a little too quickly.

“Lily lives near me and her letter said Platform 9 ¾,” Severus said warily. He watched for Lucius' reaction.

“Is she from Wizarding stock?” Thor asked as he narrowly avoided running over a little old lady wearing a lavender cardigan and a hat heavily laden with enormous silk flowers.

“Her parents are Muggles, if that's what you're asking,” Severus said defensively as they walked past Platform 7, not garnering as many stares as they had before. Perhaps these people were getting used to seeing people in robes walk by the closer they got to their destination.

“Ah,” said Rabastan lightly. “So we wouldn't know her parents.”

“No.” Severus felt a bit ashamed of himself. He needed to stop being so defensive. Rabastan hadn't meant anything by it.

“Well, her instructions weren't wrong,” Lucius cut in as they approached the area they should be going. “It's a platform just for the school train. You can only get to it if you know how.”

“How do you get through if you don't know any wizards?” Severus asked curiously as he looked around to see if he could spot Lily.

“I don't know, but I hear they make some sort of arrangement for them,” Lucius said as the boys began lining their carts up. “Now, watch as Thor does it.”

The older boys tried to appear casual, but Severus watched as Thor peered about nonchalantly before heading straight for the brick barrier between Platforms 9 and 10. He expected the boy to crash his trolley, but instead he disappeared.

“What?” squawked Severus. “How am I supposed to do that?”

“It's easier if you close your eyes the first time,” Rabastan suggested as a small boy in blue robes zipped up and through the barrier.

“I have a better idea,” Lucius suggested. “We can put my trunk on top of his and he can hold onto the back of my robes as we go through.”

“But your trunk is bigger,” Rodolphus protested.

“But mine has a lightweight charm on it and his doesn't,” Lucius said under his breath. “Which one do you want to lift?”

Rabastan grumbled, but helped Lucius move the black trunk on top of Severus'. “I'll go after you two. In case something goes wrong I'll still be on this side.”

“There's nothing to it,” Lucius reassured Severus, who was feeling very nervous. “Gather up the back of my robes so you don't step on them. Then close your eyes.” Severus gripped the heavy material at the back of Lucius' robes and closed his eyes tight as he felt Lucius shift his grip on the trolley they now shared. “Now just walk behind me.”

They walked forward, Lucius leading and Severus following blindly behind when Severus suddenly heard a shift in sound, as if he had gone from one room to another.

“You can open them now.”

Severus opened his eyes and was stunned at the sight before him. Witches and wizards of all sizes and ages were bustling about on the platform: children saying goodbye to their parents, old friends meeting up with each other after the summer holidays, the occasional parent lecturing someone about future behavior and grade expectations, but all of that was ignored by Severus as he stared at the sight before him.

He knew they would be taking the train to Hogwarts, but what a train.

Severus had always loved trains. The tracks near his house had lulled him to sleep as a baby with their click-clack sound and he had learned to tell the time of day by the pitch of the whistle he could hear in the distance when he was playing with Lily.

But this was like a train like no other he had ever seen. It sat gleaming on the tracks ahead, it's red paneling cleaned to a shine and the brass fittings were polished so bright they seemed to be slivers of sunlight set into the incredible mechanical beast. It looked like something that should be in a museum, not something in use.

But a working train it was, and Severus would get to ride in it today. He felt positively giddy.

“Do you like trains?” Lucius asked, chuckling at Severus' goggle-eyed expression. “I was so excited to ride it the first time I thought I was going to burst.”

Severus chuckled and they began to walk towards Thor, who was standing next to the girl with a long brown braid that Lucius had waved to in the Leaky Cauldron. Rabastan came through the barrier next and as they approached, the girl said her good byes to Thor and scuttled away.

“What was that?” Rabastan asked Thor with a chuckle.

“Nothing.” Thor blushed but the other boys didn't press him. “Let's get our trunks where they need to go.”

Severus followed the others to an area where people were dropping off their belongings and he helped Lucius unload the trolley, nearly getting smashed by his own trunk. When they were done, Severus stopped a moment to watch the men in robes that matched the train load trunks onto a baggage car with a flick of their wands.

“Well, we're off to find a compartment for ourselves,” Lucius told Severus as Thor and Rabastan scanned the crowd for faces they knew. “Go exploring if you want to. We'll probably be in the same place for the whole trip.”

“Except for you,” Thor teased.

“That's just at the very end.” Lucius rolled his eyes and Severus wished he knew what the others were talking about, but he didn't want to appear as clueless as he felt. “That doesn't count.”

“At the end of the trip, the first years are gathered together so they can cross the lake in boats,” Rabastan explained. “So we can't go with you, but after the sorting we may see you in the Great Hall... or not.”

Thor and Rabastan started snickering to each other as if they were in on some sort of secret joke, but an icy stare from Lucius stopped them cold.

“I'm sure if my mother was friends with his, the Sorting Hat will sort him accordingly.” Lucius said with a tone of warning in his voice.

“Of course it will,” Thor said innocently.

“Well, I'm going to try to find Lily,” Severus said as he looked around, trying to spot her. He wasn't sure he was liking the way the conversation was going with the older boys and it made him feel uncomfortable, but he recognized that Lucius was sticking up for him and that somehow it meant something. “I'll catch up with you later.”

“Undoubtedly,” Lucius said with a small smile as he nodded to a black-haired boy with a long, thin nose and rich, scarlet robes who was dragging his trunk up to the large pile of luggage. “Well, if you don't catch up with us on the train I'll see you at Hogwarts.”

“All right,” Severus agreed. “Thanks for everything! Your mum's very nice.”

The older boys laughed and they said their goodbyes before Severus left them to wander down the platform and get a better look at the beautiful train that sat on the tracks before him. It didn't seem to have the same smell Muggle trains had and Severus was curious as to what made it go. When he made it up to the end of the platform, up near the front of the train he was disappointed to discover there was no way of seeing how it went, for the entirety of the engine was completely covered in shiny red paneling.


He turned at the sound of a familiar voice and grinned. Lily was barreling down the platform to get to him, her fiery red hair dancing behind her and her pink skirt flaring as she ran. Her crisp white shirt was already becoming untucked and her new shiny black Mary-Janes slipped on the worn wooden platform a little. The small gold necklace her father had given to her as a present for the school year glinted at her neck.

Severus began to wave at her, but was stopped as she crashed into him, hugging him with all her might. He could smell the familiar scent of her mother's laundry detergent still clinging to her. “I thought you couldn't come!”

“Mum snuck me out this morning,” Severus wheezed as he tried to regain his breath. “Been at a friend of hers being stuffed with food.”

“Well, that's lucky then!” Lily grinned. “Now we won't be alone!”

“I've met a few people,” Severus admitted. “The son of mum's friend and a few of his mates, but they're a lot older than us. I think they're nearly ready to leave school.”

“Ooh, are they nice?” Lily asked.

“They're a bit snooty, honestly.” Severus rolled his eyes. “And that dumb kind of snooty where they think you're clueless.”

“I wonder if Hogwarts has a snooker table,” Lily said evilly. “I'll show them stupid.”

Severus chuckled at her. “I'm not sure they allow pool sharks in the school, but I'll be sure to ask.”

“Snooker isn't pool,” Lily said hotly.

“I don't think anyone will care after you clean them out.” Severus snorted as they turned to walk back down the platform. Suddenly he looked around. “Where are your parents?”

“They're taking care of some last minute things with the Muggle relations representative from the Ministry.” Lily shrugged as tabby cat trotted by with a live rat in it's mouth, a small blond girl in pink robes scrambling after it. “Things are a little confusing for them right now. It's a lot to take in.”

“Where's your sister?” Severus asked. A small boy wearing a green tie ran by, an older boy chasing him with a frustrated look on his face.

“Still at the hotel.” Lily shrugged. “Said she was feeling awful. I think she was crying last night.”

“Maybe she ate something that upset her stomach?” Severus guessed and Lily nodded as if that were a possibility.

As they reached a car with traveling compartments Lily thought it was a good idea to stay on the platform and wait for her parents, but Severus convinced her to go with him in search of a compartment while they were still available. Lucius had made it sound as if they would be snatched up quickly and students were starting to fill the platform. After some debate, they decided to board the train.

“You can still still see the platform from the window. When we see your parents we'll just yell for them and they can walk up to us.” Severus had reassured her.

They nervously boarded the train and began exploring for an empty compartment to settle into. Thankfully, the people that had boarded seemed to be crowding into the small compartments in groups, so there was more room left than Severus thought there would be.

“What about this one?” Lily gestured to an open compartment, a cozy place with two cushioned bench seats covered in leather and a wooden table that could be pulled down from the ceiling to sit between the benches if they wanted to have one.

“Looks as good as any,” Severus agreed. When he got into the compartment he looked out the large window and laughed. “No wonder you wanted this one, we can see your parents from here.”

Lily went to the window as Severus slid the compartment door and latched it before pulling the privacy shade down.

When he got to the window he saw Mrs. Evans, a small woman with blond hair and a worried expression scanning the platform for her daughter while Mr. Evans was involved in what looked like a very serious discussion with a white-haired wizard in green robes and a tall pointed hat.

Severus and Lily unlatched the center pane of the window and called out and waved furiously until they finally caught Mrs. Evans' eye. She began towards them with a look of pure relief on her face.

“Oh, Severus!” Mrs. Evans called out as she bustled through the growing number of people crowding the platform. Mr. Evans' eyes following her path and giving the children a small wave as he saw them and continued talking to the wizard. “You made it! I'm so glad you're able to go, I feel so much better about Lily going off to school if she has someone she knows with her.”

“What's dad talking to that man about?” Lily asked as if she were afraid to know the answer.

“How to go about getting an owl,” Mrs. Evans said casually as she rifled around for something in her white leather handbag.

Lily groaned. “I said we should look into them when we were at Diagon Alley.”

“Not for you, for us,” Mrs. Evans said testily as she was jostled by a group of giggling girls.

“For you?” Lily looked surprised. “What do you need an owl for?”

“Because if we wait for you to write we might hear from you before Christmas,” Mrs. Evans snorted as she pulled her wallet out of her purse. “We want to be able to write to you without waiting for a school owl to arrive.”

“That makes a lot of sense,” Severus interjected before Lily could say anything. “Especially if you want to send any packages or anything.”

He nudged Lily with the toe of his shoe and she gave him a funny look, but stayed silent.

Mr. Evans soon approached the train, wiping his forehead and looking as if he were under a lot of stress. “I think we finally have some sort of arrangement. We'll be getting some sort of communication within the week.”

“Well, thats a great deal of worry gone,” Mrs. Evans said, but her husband didn't look as if he had stopped worrying at all. She opened the coin purse on the back of her wallet and pulled out several gold coins. “Now, here are a few Galleons. I know most of your things will be provided for, but you might need some spare money for things you might want.”

“It should hold you over until Christmas, at least.” Mr. Evans chuckled as Lily took the Galleons and tucked them inside a pocket on her skirt.

“Thanks,” Lily said. Then she looked up at her mother's face. “Oh, mum. I'll be back before you know it.”

Mrs. Evans had started sniffling and her husband blinked hard as he put an arm around her.

“She'll be fine.” Mr. Evans consoled his wife gently. “Severus will be looking after her and he's sure to let us know if anythings wrong.”

Mrs. Evans looked up at Severus and he nodded at her reassuringly. He suddenly felt quite good about himself, having been told to look after Lily. It was like she was a princess and he was a knight.

Then he had a thought that somewhat deflated him.

“Um... if you get too worried you could always go talk to my mum,” Severus said awkwardly.

Usually he didn't want his friends' parents to meet his, but with all the time he spent with Lily, the meeting of their mothers had been inevitable. It had gone well, as far as meetings had gone. At least Severus' father had been off to the pub so there hadn't been any unpleasantness.

Severus did note that Mrs. Evan's eyes had lingered on the bruise on Eileen's face when she wasn't looking. That was when she had started asking Severus over for supper more often and inviting his mother around for tea. Eileen had never taken her up on the offer, but Severus had been allowed to. It cut down the food bills, after all.

“That's a very good idea,” Mrs. Evans said, her smile turning a bit stiff. “Maybe I should.”

“Anytime between six and three is good,” Severus said quickly as the whistle for the train blew and the platform suddenly became a flurry of activity.

Dawdling students began throwing their trunks into the community pile that was getting smaller by the moment as the wizards packing them began moving considerably faster; parents gave last minute teary good-byes to their children as they tried to hurry away to insure a good seat; Severus and Lily heard loud, mad scrambling in the hall as people fought for space and were suddenly glad they had latched the door to their compartment; the sound of workers on the train and the platform shouting last minute things back and forth to each other.

The conductor stood on a small platform near the engine and called for everyone to board and Severus felt his heart leap into his throat. He was actually going to get to ride a train! And not just any train, quite possibly the greatest train ever made!

After more good-byes and more crowding to get on the train, the whistle blew twice and they finally started to move.

Severus and Lily waved furiously at Lily's parents, her mother bursting into tears as they pulled away and Mr. Evans wrapping his arms around her and whispering soothing words. Severus thought it a strange thing for someone who wasn't a mother to do, but Severus could tell she had been comforted by the way she leaned into him.

He and Lily stopped waving as they got further away and finally Severus closed up the window and latched it as Lily sat down.

He turned to look at her and she appeared to be turning green.

“What's wrong?” Severus asked nervously. “Did you eat an enchanted candy? Is the train making you ill?”

“What?” Lily asked, her voice confused and cracking a bit.

Severus gave her a look of understanding and sat beside her. He reached out and took her hand gently.

“I'm probably the only one on this train happy to get away from home.” He let out a cynical bark of a laugh that sounded far too bitter than anyone his age should be able to make.

“I sincerely doubt it,” Lily said as she wiped the stray tears away that had been forming in her eyes. “Not everyone's parents were so understanding when they got that letter, I'll bet.”

Severus was quiet for a moment. He had it bad at home, he wasn't doubting that, but he had never thought of others like him. How Hogwarts could act like a haven a haven for those that needed to escape.

“What are you looking so serious about?” Lily asked him.

“Nothing.” Severus shook the thought out of his head. “Hey, Mrs. Malfoy packed me a lunch. Want to see what's in it?”

“Sure,” Lily said, perking up a bit. “I was so nervous this morning I couldn't eat much.”

Severus untangled the red bag from his belt loop, thankful the diversion had stopped Lily's crying, and peered inside it. His eyes went round as he stared in, his face a mask of complete astonishment. “Blimey!”

“What is it?” Lily asked as she leaned over to see what he was making so much fuss over. Her mouth formed an 'o' shape as she goggled at the contents of the bag.

Mrs. Malfoy must have truly thought Severus was starving if the contents of the bag were any clue. There were tightly wrapped containers, glass bottles, small packages tied with twine, assorted fruits, and something that looked as if it might actually be a smoked ham.

The bag contained more food than his parent's pantry did in a month.

“How did all that get in there?” Lily whispered in wonderment.

“Some sort of space-altering charm. They seem to be popular.” Severus reached in the bag and brought out something bundled up in linen. He squeezed it and frowned. “This doesn't feel like food.”

“Open it up,” Lily encouraged.

Severus quickly undid the wrapping and let out an exasperated laugh as the contents fell out.

“What is it?” Lily asked as she tilted her head to the side, looking at the jumble of gray fabric that had fallen to the floor.

“Robes.” Severus started giggling. “Mrs. Malfoy didn't think it was proper to leave for a wizarding school wearing Muggle clothes.”

“But there were plenty of kids wearing Muggle clothes on the platform.” Lily frowned.

“I know,” Severus folded the soft robes neatly and placed them on the seat next to him. “Nice lady, but she seems a bit old-fashioned.”

Lily Lily snorted before tentatively reaching into the bag and coming out with another parcel, this time it was something small wrapped in waxed paper. “This could be food.”

They opened it and were pleased to find a corned beef sandwich on homemade bread. It was slathered with mustard and had crisp lettuce and a fresh slice of tomato on it.

“This is incredible.” Lily said as she took half of the sandwich and took a bite. “How did she get it together so fast? You're never going to be able to eat all the food in there!” Lily peered in the bag once again and shrugged. “Maybe there's a place to put food once we get to the school. Like a refrigerator in the dorm or something.”

“There's no electricity at Hogwarts,” Severus said as he opened the sandwich to see if anything else was on it. Once it had passed inspection he started eating it.

“What do you mean there's no electricity?” Lily asked, a horrified look on her face.”What do they use for lights?”

“There are candles and torches and other magical ways of lighting areas,” Severus said, quickly reassuring her. “It's not going to be dark, don't worry.”

She gave him a rueful smile. “What are we going to do if we're in different Houses?”

“That won't happen.” Severus snorted, his mouth half-full of food. “We're too much alike.”

There was a rattle at the door and Severus stood up and unlatched the door. It really would be unfair to lock anyone out with so little room on the train.

He slid the door open to see an older boy in green robes that looked like looked like a taller, thinner, red-haired Rabastan. The boy looked at him with a quirked eyebrow as a tall, dark-skinned boy with oiled black hair, a neatly trimmed black goatee, and heavy-lidded brown eyes lined by dark, thick eyelashes peered over his shoulder.

“Oh, sorry. Thought you might have been someone else,” the red-haired boy said casually as he looked at Severus and Lily appraisingly. “What are you doing in there, anyway?”

“Eating lunch. Are we not allowed to have the door locked?” Lily asked innocently.

The older boy peered at Lily and his eyes narrowed as he saw the red bag. “Where did you get that?”

Severus felt his spine stiffen. He wasn't going to let a bully have his way before they had even got to the school. This was his lunch and he was sharing it with Lily! “Mrs. Malfoy gave it to me. What of it?”

“You know the Malfoys?” The dark-haired boy looked surprised..

“I came with Lucius.” Severus said. “Are you Rabastan's brother? I think they may have been looking for you.”

“Yes, I'm Rodolphus Lestrange and this is Antonin Dolohov,” Rodolphus said with a hint of surprise to his voice. “Have... we met before?”

“No,” Severus said as he shook his head. “You just look a lot alike. I'm Severus Snape and this is Lily Evans. My mother was a Prince.” Severus thought he sounded completely stupid for saying that, but it seemed to be the way people knew each other in the Wizarding World.

“Pardon me?” Antonin looked confused.

“The Prince family. Remember?” Rabastan rolled his eyes as if Antonin should know this. “Offshoot of the Black family.”

“Hmmm...” Antonin looked a if he were trying to recall something but failing. He shook his head. “I'll probably place it later.”

“Well, off to find Lucius and that infuriating brother of mine. They're probably not far from each other.” Rabastan looked down the corridor and nodded a greeting to someone Severus couldn't see from where he was standing in the compartment. “Hope to see you both in Slytherin.”

Severus and Lily gave their good-byes to Rabastan and Antonin before the older boys took off down the corridor and Severus closed the door and relatched it.

“What was all that about?” Lily asked as Severus returned to his seat beside her. She opened the bag and peered inside it, rummaging around for a few moments before she pulled out a green glass bottle. She squinted at the level of liquid in it before setting it down on the seat next to her.

“I have no idea. They all talk to each other like they're nobs.” Severus shrugged and made a face as he sat down next to her. “But mum never mentioned her family being well off. You think that'd be the type of thing she'd mention.”

Lily snorted as she pulled a round wooden container tied shut with twine out of the bag and set it on the seat beside her. “Why would she?”

Severus looked surprised. “What?”

“Well, she left this life behind to be with your da, didn't she?” Lily said as if Severus were daft. “Not to say that it was an entirely bad decision, but...”

Severus was silent as he undid the twine and opened the container. He would usually be delighted to find potato salad, cold and creamy, with a small silver fork fastened to the inside of the lid. He unfastened the fork and took a bite of the potato salad before setting it down and picking the rest of his sandwich up again. If he had made a mistake as like his mother had, he'd hardly want to go back home again so everyone would make fun of him. “I guess she did. But Mrs. Malfoy acted like she'd been around for at least one of my birthdays.”

“That's funny.” Lily shrugged as she polished off her half a sandwich and balled up the waxed paper. “Well, maybe they fell out of touch later. You don't know. Your da might have done something stupid.”

Severus chewed thoughtfully. “When isn't he doing something stupid.”

“Good point.” Lily jostled the bag around, causing a series of muffled thumps and then reached in, nearly up to her elbow, before rifling around and finally grabbing something.

“Hungry?” Severus laughed as she came up with a peach, which was strangely unbruised for being in a sack with so many other things.

“I'm sorry,” she said guiltily. “I shouldn't be pawing through your lunch.”

Severus snorted as he set the bottle down. “There's probably enough to feed ten people for a month in there. Go ahead.”

Lily took a bite from the peach and grinned at him as juice ran down her chin. She laughed as he scrambled for the bag.

“I don't see her as the type not to pack a napkin,” Severus chuckled as he rummaged around in the bag, noting a parcel of oranges and what looked like a tin of biscuits before he found what he was looking for: a stack of neatly folded linen tied with a green ribbon.

“Thanks,” Lily giggled as he undid the ribbon and handed her the napkin. She started wiping her face and hands and she got an odd look on her face.

“What?” Severus asked.

“I'm not sticky anymore.” Lily frowned as she looked at the linen napkin. “It's like it did more than just wipe the juice away.”

“It probably did,” Severus said excitedly. “I bet we're going to see a lot more things like that from now on!”

Lily grinned at him widely as she handed him the peach so he could take a bite from it as well. She wiped herself clean as he sunk his teeth into the ripe fruit.

“Oh, this is so good!” Severus exclaimed, his mouth full of sticky sweet juice. “How do you think they did it?”

“Did what?” Lily asked.

“Get fruit without brown spots?” Severus asked as he greedily took another bite.

Lily was strangely quiet for a moment. “Maybe they grow them at home and they don't have time to get banged around in a cart.”

“That's probably it.” Severus nodded as he chewed quickly and took another quick bite before handing it back to her.

There was another knock at the compartment door and Severus took the napkin and wiped himself clean before rolling his eyes and getting up to open the door again.

“Who is it?” Severus asked in a funny voice, causing Lily to giggle at him.

“I'm sorry, is this a private compartment?” A muffled voice came through the door at them.

Severus looked back at Lily and she shrugged. He opened the door to find a boy standing in front of him . The boy wasn't much bigger than Severus was and had mousy brown hair and a faint white scar slashing across one cheek.

Severus eyed him coolly before stepping aside to let him in.

“Thanks,” the boy said, his voice full of sincere gratitude. “The other compartments seem to all be so crowded.”

“Yea, we got tipped off so we snagged one.” Lily grinned at the boy as Severus relocked the door and sat back down. “I'm Lily Evans and this is Severus Snape.”

“Remus Lupin.” The boy ran a hand through his scruffy hair. “What year are you?”

“We're first years,” Lily said as Severus finished the peach. “Are you?”

“Yes.” Remus looked intensely relieved. “I didn't even know if I was going to get to come at all.”

“Me neither,” Severus said. He was right! There were others like him, escaping their homes for the safety of Hogwarts! “I don't even know what I'm going to do for books.”

“Really?” Remus looked mildly surprised. “I had books, at least. My mother was going to use them for instruction if I had ended up being home-schooled.”

“So your mother's a witch?” Lily changed the subject as she saw Severus' face begin to fall.

“Both my parents went to Hogwarts,” Remus said proudly. “They were Ravenclaws.”

“My mum was a Slytherin,” Severus muttered embarrassedly as he pretended to be interested in the countryside you could see passing by out of the big window. He blinked in surprise as he saw a cow go by.

“My parents are Muggles.” Lily shrugged as Severus got up to look out of the window.

“My dad told me just being from a magical family doesn't mean you get a step up,” Remus said reassuringly as he looked at the red bag curiously. “Is that a Lunchbag?”

“Well, it does have food in it,” Lily said hesitantly

Remus tried to stifle a chuckle and got to his feet to better look at the bag. “It is! You can keep loads of food in there and it'll stay good for a long time.”

“What are you looking at?” Lily asked Severus, who was staring out the window.

“Cows.” Severus said with a shake of his head and a strange smile.

Lily rolled her eyes at him.

“Cows?” Remus looked confused.

“Look at them. They're all just walking around. And this field is huge.” Severus shook his head in amazement. “It's not like there's any big house out there or anything.”

“Is he alright?” Remus asked Lily out of the corner of his mouth.

“He's never been out of the city before.” Lily giggled.

“Ah.” Remus nodded wisely. “My father said the trip is quite relaxing if you get bored. I think that means he used to sleep on the way.”

They all scooted towards the window, pulling down the small table between the bench seats and putting the Lunchbag on it before settling in to watch the scenery pass by.

“How many wands do you think there are?” Lily asked suddenly; after they had managed to count five cows, thirteen birds, and endless sheep.

“What, in the world? I dunno,” Severus said, peeling his eyes from the window and looking at her. “As many as there are wizards and witches and then enough to stock a shop.”

Remus barked out a laugh. “That's probably a good estimate for Britain, but there are other wand makers in the world.”

“There are?” Lily asked, her eyes wide with wonderment. She pulled her wand out of a pocket sewn into the lining of her skirt and examined it.

“Sure there are!” Remus exclaimed as he pulled his out and rolled it across the table at her. “Did you think all the wizards in the world came to Diagon Alley to get their wands?”

Lily looked to Severus, who shrugged at her before pressing his face to the window again.

“I never really thought about it.” Severus said as he watched the scenery go by. “Mother says there are other schools as well, but Hogwarts is the best.”

“Yours is neat,” Lily said, examining Remus's wand. “I mean, they're all neat, but yours is different.”

“Different how?” Remus frowned as he leaned over to look at the wands.

“It has something in the handle.” Lily pointed to a small spot on his dull brown wand.

“Oh, yea.” Remus looked a little uncomfortable. “It think it's a piece of bone or something.”

“I wish I had something pretty on my wand.” Lily remarked as she looked at her own, light colored wand. “It's just plain and white.”

“Well, white isn't very common, is it?” Remus pointed out.

“It isn't?” Lily looked surprised.

“I haven't seen very many of them, and I've seen a lot of wands.” Remus said a little proudly.

“What about you, Severus?” Lily asked. “Have you seen many wands?”

“Not many.” Severus confessed, finally pulling himself away from the window to sit beside Lily. “Didn't really have a chance to.”

“Your mum didn't have a wand?” Remus looked surprised.

“Of course she did,” Severus scowled at Remus as he pulled his wand out of his pocket. “This is hers.”

“Oh, an heirloom wand!” Remus exclaimed. “They can be tricky, but they're supposed to be something else.”

“What do you mean?” Lily asked.

“Well, our wands are new, so they're like new workbooks. We have to do all the exercises. His is like the answer key. It already knows the spells, he just needs to catch up with his wand in terms of learning.” Remus nodded at Severus' wand. “If it's more than a few generations old they can get really powerful. Too unpredictable for a beginner.”

“Well, it's only been through my mum,” Severus said as he examined his wand. “I'm pretty sure it's safe.”

“Well, I doubt she'd give you a dangerous one,” Lily said with a chuckle. “She seems to like you enough to not try to blow you up your first time away from home.”

“Gee, thanks.” Severus smirked.

“You knew each other before you got your letters?” Remus furrowed his brows.

“We live near enough to each other,” Lily said vaguely. Severus was thankful she didn't point out she was from a nice neighborhood and he was practically in the slums. “Severus is the one who told me I was a witch.”

“Well, that must've been a surprise!” Remus laughed.

“Well, I could already do some things,” Lily admitted. “But I didn't know why.”

“Scaring the other kids, were you?” Remus asked with a sly smile.

“Mostly her sister.” Severus snorted as he opened the Lunchbag again and poked around.

“Are you the only one in your family, then?” Remus asked. “A lot of times even if the family's all Muggle, siblings will all be able to do magic.”

“Not in ours.” Lily said firmly.

“Hey, do either of you play Exploding Snap?” Remus asked as he began digging around in his robes as if he were looking for something.

What's that?” Lily asked nervously as Remus pulled out a pack of cards and slid them out of their colorful box.

“It's like regular Snap, mostly,” Severus explained reassuringly. She always was nervous if she felt she weren't prepared for something, especially if the word 'exploding' was used. “The rules are the same, but the cards are enchanted for effect.”

“Oh, good!” Lily seemed to instantly cheer up.

Remus doled out the cards as the train rolled through the fields and they played on until there was a rap at the door and a voice called out offering drinks and food at affordable rates.

Lily and Severus declined, but Remus pulled a pouch from his robes and went to the door to haggle over prices.

“It's a shame you've never seen any Wizarding treats,” Remus said as he returned to the table, opening his arms and spilling all sorts of candies over the hard surface.

Colorful packages offered up treats Lily and Severus had never heard of before: Chocolate Frogs, Licorice Wands, and cauldron cakes; Every-Flavor Beans, Caramel Knuts, Marshmallow Mice, hot ginger candy that promised to make the eater breathe ginger scented smoke for a short period of time, and many, many others.

Lily thanked Remus profusely as she opened the corner of a box of Marshmallow Mice to peer in at them; then shrieked in surprise as a white candy mouse poked it's nose out at her.

Remus slammed his hand on the top of the box quickly. “If you let them get out we'll be chasing them all over.”

“What? Really?” Severus ripped open a packet of chocolate frogs and deftly caught it as it leaped out. He examined the frog. “They keep moving like they're alive even when you're eating them? Gross!”

“No!” Remus laughed, but then turned thoughtful. “Well, I bet they would if you ate them fast enough; but they only have one good scurry or jump in them. If they get away and get under the seats I don't want to go looking for them.”

“Good point,” Severus agreed as he bit the head off his now non-wriggling Chocolate Frog and examined the card of Ptolemy that had fallen out onto the table.

Remus showed Lily how to release a single candy mouse and catch it without letting the whole box go while Severus poked through the pile of candy taking an inventory of what Lucretia Malfoy considered to be junk food.

He decided she was probably right after close examination and mused over this as he waved a licorice wand curiously, wondering if it would do anything and then shrugged when it didn't.

Lily held up the Marshmallow Mouse to examine it once it had stopped moving. It was a marshmallow the size and shape of a mouse, dusted in powdered sugar, with two blue bits of crystallized sugar for eyes and a small pink crunchy bit for a nose. She examined it before she bit into it, revealing a bit of strawberry jelly inside.

Severus and Remus laughed at her expression.

“Oh, that's disgusting,” Lily tried to scowl, but it was clear she thought it was funny as well.

“But they taste good, don't they?” Remus asked with a wide grin as he offered one to Severus.

They sampled other candies; devising a rating system as they went: licorice wands were nice, yet normal; Bernie Bott's Every-Flavor Beans were downright hazardous; Strawberry Sphinxes, a candy that made the person solve a riddle before the box would open, were more trouble than they're worth until Severus realized you could just tear open the opposite side of the box.

By the time they had each taken a Fizzing Whizbee they had started hearing the noises of people out in the corridor exploring compartments and greeting other students they knew. Once or twice someone rattled the compartment door, but continued on upon finding it locked.

“We're lucky we got a spot early,” Severus remarked as they looked out of the window to make out a small town in the distance, the church steeple standing out white against rolling green hills behind it near the edge of the heavier wooded area that they seemed to be entering.

“Do you think we should open the door?” Lily asked in a worried voice. “Maybe some people don't have seats at all.”

“I doubt it at this point,” Remus shook his head and the brown fringe dusted his forehead. “Mum made it sound as if the train would be able to make more room if it really needed to.”

“How does that work?” Severus asked as he turned to look at Remus.

“Not sure,” Remus grinned widely as he folded his arms behind his head. “As long as I don't have to set the enchantments I don't really care.”

Lily had laughed and Severus had chortled. The children spent the rest of their trip discussing the different types of wands they had seen; rules of Quidditch; and what little Remus and Lily remembered of their schoolbooks over several games of games of Exploding Snap.

After some time, there was an authoritative rapping at the door that made them all sit up straighter on impulse. Remus hopped to his feet quickly and unlocked and opened the door.

Lucius Malfoy was standing there, his black school robes resplendent on his well-formed body, a badge shining on the breast, and one perfect blond eyebrow arched with suspicion at Remus.

“Hi!” Severus called out and Lucius coolly looked past Remus to Severus where his expression changed to one of recognition.

“Oh, there you are. I was starting to wonder where you'd gotten off to.” Lucius' eyes darted back to Remus where he looked him up and down. “I don't believe I know your friends.”

“Remus Lupin.” Remus held a hand out to Lucius and Lucius took it somewhat stiffly.

The older boy smiled but it didn't quite reach his eyes. “Lupin. Yes, I do believe I do know of your family. It's good to see you, quite good indeed. I'll be interested in seeing where the Sorting puts you. Hope to see you in Slytherin!”

Remus looked pleased, but somewhat taken aback. “Thanks. Both my parents were Ravenclaws but you never know where you'll end up, I suppose.”

“Of course.” This time the small smile he allowed himself softened Lucius' face and he released Remus's hand to look at Lily. “And this is?” He looked as if he were bracing himself for a bad smell.

“Lily Evans,” Severus said quickly. “I told you about her.”

“Of course,” Lucius said with a short bow in Lily's direction. “Miss Evans.”

Lily blushed furiously and glanced at Severus quickly.

“Well, we'll be stopping soon. Everyone else will be getting to the castle by carriage, but you're going to go up separately,” Lucius instructed them. “When you get to the castle your things will be waiting and you'll be given an area to change into your school robes. If you aren't used to changing clothes in public, I'd suggest you get used to it quickly.”

“What, everyone together?” Severus blurted out, his cheeks turning hot as Remus shifted uncomfortably.

Sure, he'd been swimming with Lily before, down at the public pool. That was almost like changing, he supposed, but there was something quite different between swim trunks and underpants.

“There are separate arrangements for boys and girls.” Lucius chuckled. “Don't be so nervous.”

Severus let out a little nervous laugh and Remus a sigh of relief as Lucius backed out of the compartment so he could continue on the length of the train.

“Well, I'll be seeing you up at the school,” Lucius said cordially. “I'll be interested to see where you're sorted. Good luck.”

He waved his wand and the compartment door slid shut and relatched itself, to everyone's surprise.

“No wonder no one cared it was locked if anyone can open and shut it,” Remus chuckled as he returned to the seat.

There were a pounding of feet outside as students raced around trying to find each other. Sometimes people shook the door to their compartment and shouted out names the three of them didn't recognize, but they just called out that the person that they were looking for wasn't there and they were left alone.

A few hours later the sky was starting to grow dark and the three of them sat by the window watching the forest go by as the train whisked through it. Remus said he thought he saw something out in the thickness of the trees, but as hard as they might try, neither Lily or Severus was able to see anything besides the canopy of leaves and shadow.

An inviable loudspeaker signaled a five minute warning in the conductors voice and Remus suggested they join the others out in the corridors.

Lily looked at Severus and he nodded at her as he took a deep breath. As he slid across the seat he felt thankful for her. She understood him. Knew how hard it was for him to be in that close contact with people and she let him decide for himself if he was ready to do something like pack himself into a corridor with hundreds of excited people.

They made their way out, Lily squeezing Severus' hand in excitement as they felt the train slow down and Severus found himself grinning. He found he didn't even mind the crush of people much as the doors opened and they spilled out onto a wooden platform, as long as Lily was holding his hand.

They followed a call for the first year students and they found themselves standing in front of a giant of a man with wild black hair and a full beard. He was waving a lantern and grinning merrily at them. His enormous long brown coat looked like it was made of pockets and his shoes were the size of skateboards.

“C'mon now! Firs' years this way!” The man's voice thundered over the bustle of the students as he made his way to a steep path that led away from the platform.

Severus felt Lily squeeze his hand tight as they made their way down the path and he held onto her firmly. He felt her pat the hand holding hers gently and he knew she felt comforted by him in the darkness.

They came around a turn and Severus and Lily both gasped as the path opened up they saw Hogwarts for the first time. It sat across an ebony lake that seemed to sparkle in the moonlight like something out of a dream.

The castle rose out of the blackness like something out of a fairy tale, it's towers shooting up to meet the sky and the many windows glowing with a warm golden light.

“See, I told you it'd be well lit,” Severus whispered in Lily's ear and she giggled and squeezed his hand in excitement.

“Now, don' yeh be getting' carried away!” The man said warningly. “No more than four in a boat or yeh'r in for trouble!”

Severus and Lily scrambled for a boat and were joined by a tall black-haired boy and a girl with long blond hair that fell in ringlets down the back of her robes.

A command was barked and the tiny boats left the shore and began to make their way across the vast lake to the castle.

Severus tried not to laugh as Lily periodically grabbed his arm and shook him in excitement as the castle drew nearer. Finally they made it to the face of the cliff Hogwarts was perched upon and they ducked under a curtain of creeping vines as their path wove them through a tunnel underneath Hogwarts itself.

“Where are they taking us, the dungeons?” Lily joked in a shaky voice and Severus chuckled at her in an evil tone.

He knew she was trying to be brave and he thought she was doing a very good job of it. He wondered if this was one of the tests to find out if you were brave.

Finally, they reached their destination and they struggled to leave their little boats without getting their feet wet as they gathered on the rocky shore. Remus rejoined them as they were led up a path and finally they came out onto a grassy area near the base of the castle where they paused to wait for everyone to catch up.

After they had regrouped, and after what Severus thought was a pause for dramatic effect, they were led around the side of the castle to an immense set of wooden doors with heavy black hinges and large iron knockers fashioned in the shape of matching gargoyles on each of them.

The giant man knocked and the door swung open easier than a door that size had any right to. A tall, slender, black haired witch in dark robes and a pointed witches hat stood there to greet them.

“Welcome to Hogwarts!” She reminded Severus of his old school librarian, a stern woman that brooked with no nonsense. “Come in, come in!”

They clamored into the entry hall and Severus felt his face break into a smile as he took it all in to the sound of other student's gasps.

The immense room had a bare stone floor, the flagstones so tightly fitted together it only could have been done by a master mason or by magic. Large brass torches set into the walls burned brightly and illuminated the room in a warm glow. The ceiling was so high it had been swallowed up by the darkness above and the sound of the other students in a room off of the entry way echoed around them. A wide staircase led up and Severus couldn't help but wonder how people saw their way around at night since the light didn't seem to follow the stairs.

“I am Professor McGonagall and I will be introducing you to the ways of our school. Now, before we go in to join the other students, I will go over some of the things you should expect. You will take part in the Sorting Ceremony before you are seated with your House, a tradition that has gone on since the school was first founded.”

Several people fidgeted and looked nervous under the cool, appraising gaze of the dark-haired witch, while others smirked as if they thought the process was trivial.

As Professor McGonagall went on to describe the House system and how points effected one's standing with the House Cup, Lily leaned over to Severus and whispered frantically: “What if we're not in the same House?”

Severus shrugged. “Then we only have some classes together instead of all of them. It's too late to panic now.”

Lily pouted. “But I want to live with you. It would almost be like we had our own place or something.”

Severus chuckled at her as the witch went on about the Houses and he heard someone whisper that everyone in their family had been a Ravenclaw and they'd be damned if a manky old hat was going to tell them otherwise.

Soon they were divided up by the sexes and shown to two small rooms where their luggage was waiting for them and they were instructed to change into their school robes.

Severus and Remus stayed back somewhat, then looked sideways at each other as they realized they couldn't get around changing in front of the other students. Remus was the first to take a deep breath and proceed forward bravely into the room with the other boys.

To their relief, none of the other boys seemed thrilled about the arrangement either and seemed to be trying to look anywhere but each other.

Severus changed as quickly as he could, trying to use his trunk to block himself from the view of the rest of the room, but he couldn't help glancing at Remus. His eyes quickly darted away, but he couldn't help but notice the long white scars that crisscrossed the whole of Remus's body.

Severus was horrified. His father's beatings were brutal, but they had never left scars like this. He wondered what horrors the other boy was escaping by coming to Hogwarts.

This place truly was a haven.

Soon they were rejoining the girls and then they were proceeding into the Great Hall, ready to be Sorted and seated with the rest of their classmates.

They all wanted to seem confident as they entered the Great Hall, but it was hard to appear cool when everyone was staring at the ceiling, or rather the lack thereof, and murmuring to each other in wonderment. Severus thought there had to be a ceiling, but part of him wondered if they were sitting in a courtyard that had an invisible repelling dome over it.

“Is it real?” Severus felt Lily's breath brush his ear as she whispered to him and her fingers clutched at his arm.

“It's all real,” he whispered back. “We're really here.”

They were led to the front to the room, up onto a raised platform that had a wooden stool with an old brown wizard's hat on it set up in the center of the platform. Behind the stool was a long table where witches and wizards Severus knew must make up the staff of Hogwarts were sitting, their eyes sizing up the crop of new students.

Then they all jumped as the Sorting Hat started talking:

As summer starts to die, and winter starts to grow,
The students come, to fill their heads,
Where knowledge doth now flow.

Brave Gryffindors learn loyalty, the stronger they will be;
Smart Ravenclaws will study hard, in this we all agree;
Fair Hufflepuffs know teamwork well, nestled deep within their dens;
Ambitious Slytherins truly learn what darkness lurks in the heart of men.

And as the coldness overtakes us, and we retreat inside,
We always should remember, not all have a place to hide.
The wind will whistle louder, the howling wolves creep close,
The common man does shiver, while the nobles share a toast.

So study hard, and learn what's best,
Build your Houses well,
Prepare for the winter, brace for the cold,
And pray for the spring, for you never can tell.

There was murmuring throughout the hall as the hat fell silent and many eyes went to a wizened old wizard with long white hair and beard sitting at the center of the long table. His eyebrows were furrowed and he looked grim.

“What was that?” Lily asked Severus who shrugged in return.

“I don't know.” Severus was worried. “I'm not sure it was supposed to do that.”

“Well, it wasn't the best song, was it?” A tall boy with tight black curls and a turned-up nose sniffed. “My father said in his day it remarked on each House's Quidditch teams and then everyone lost all their money when it turned out to be wrong.”

“'Doth now?'” A girl with a severe blond bob sniffed. “What on earth was that about? That didn't even sound right. What kind of a school is this?”

Professor McGonagall frowned at the hat for a moment before glancing at the old wizard. He looked very serious, but gave her a small nod and she turned to face the students and cleared her throat as she picked up the old hat. “Addicus Abbot!”

A tall, thin boy with lank brown hair began walking toward the witch and the Hat that would determine each of their fates. He moved a little slower than Severus would have expected by his over-long limbs, but when he sat on the stool, he clearly had a nervous look on his face.

The boy sat there silently for a few moments before a split near the brim of the Hat opened and it announced: “Ravenclaw!”

Applause broke out in the Hall, but none was louder than the boys and girls seated at a long table decorated with a blue table runner trimmed in bronze.

The witch lifted the Sorting Hat off they boy's head and he grinned widely as he made his way to the Ravenclaw table, his cheeks blushing a deep shade of red.

“Matthias Able!”

Lily clutched at Severus' hand and they made excited noises as Matthias Able was sorted into Hufflepuff, followed by Helga Adams into Slytherin and James Addison into Hufflepuff again. When a small brown-haired boy, Kerry Beaker, was placed under the hat it seemed to take quite a while for the hat to decide before it called out: Gryffindor!

“Do you even think you'll be able to sleep tonight?” Lily whispered to Severus.

“Not a wink.” Severus smiled at her widely, an action that made his face sore, as if he didn't do it as often as he had today.

They giggled and whispered their excitement to each other, but soon enough they heard, ”Lily Evans” and Lily let go of Severus' hand to walk forward to the stool and the Hat.

She sat on it nervously and looked up and the witch lowered it onto her head, but she managed to glance at Severus before it fell over her eyes.

The Sorting Hat took a moment deciding where to put her and Severus found himself holding his breath in anticipation.


The Hat was removed and Lily leaped to her feet, grinning at Severus before practically running to the table that sported a burgundy table runner trimmed in gold.

The Hat made it's way through several other students, all of them looking nervous and several looking ill.

When the hat called out: “Remus Lupin!” Severus watched Remus take a deep breath before he walked across the stage. The Sorting Hat had barely touched his head before it cried out: “Gryffindor!”

No one could have more astonished than Remus, but Severus noticed that he stood a little taller than he had when he first approached the little wooden stool.

Remus grinned before before practically running towards Lily and the rest of Gryffindor.

It seemed to take forever, but finally the Sorting Hat finally called out: “Severus Snape!”

Severus could hear his heart pounding as he walked across the stage to the stool. It seemed to take forever to reach it and he felt a little faint as he sat down and felt the Hat sliding over his crown, slipping so far down over his head that he felt as if he were being nearly engulfed by it.


Severus tried not to jump as he heard a voice in his head.

Smart, but you'll hardly fit in with Ravenclaw, will you?

Severus frowned at the Hat's words. He didn't want to be in stupid Ravenclaw anyway.

I know your heart lies in Gryffindor, but I think you would go even further in Hufflepuff. The Sorting Hat's words echoed in Severus' head.

“You're joking! I don't get in the way!” Severus whispered urgently as he heard Lucius' words echo in his head and his heart sank. The hat seemed to feel the same way about him that his father did.“I want to go with her! I'm brave, too, aren't I?”

Indeed you are. But you are also more loyal than you could ever imagine. The hat seemed to mull things over. You're also very smart. I can see that. You also take great risks for the sake of others. You possess a great well of bravery within you, but it hasn't been fully examined yet. However, you also have a trait that most Gryffindors do not possess. Something that makes you stand apart from them.

“And what's that?”

The ability to avoid getting caught.

Severus had to chuckle at this. It was always Lily that was getting caught when they were doing things they weren't supposed to.

The hat chose this moment to sort Severus while he wasn't arguing with it: “SLYTHERIN!”

“What?!” Severus squeaked as booming applause thundered through the Great Hall.

This was your first lesson in how to take advantage of an opportunity. The Sorting Hat chuckled as Professor McGonagall lifted it off Severus' head and the boy sat there with a shocked expression.

He looked to Lily and Remus at their position at the Gryffindor table. They was smiling and clapping as enthusiastically as the Slytherins: Lily's red hair reflecting the light from the floating candles lighting the Hall and and Remus' fist punching the air in excitement.

Severus grinned at her and jumped off the stool the Slytherin table where Lucius had made a space for him. He was suddenly glad he hadn't been sorted into Ravenclaw like his mother thought he might have been. At least in Slytherin he was with someone he knew.

Severus flinched at the pats he received on the back as he sat at the table. Strange people touching him always made him nervous. His mother and Mrs. Malfoy were different. They were mothers. Thats what they did.

“It looks like you have something in you after all, Snape,” Lucius whispered into Severus' ear as he settled in. “You've found your place and it's with us. We'll have to keep an eye on you.”

Severus beamed at Lucius and the older boy looked proud of him. “I hope I'll be able to do well.”

“Don't worry,” Lucius reassured him as another first year approached the wooden stool to get sorted. “I'm sure you will. You belong with us and I can already see you have great potential.”

“Really?” Severus asked as the newest Hufflepuff jumped off the stool to thunderous applause.

“Absolutely,” Lucius smiled widely, the candlelight glinting off his perfect white teeth. “Just stick with us and you'll see just how far you can go.”

The sorting was soon over and the last student had finally been seated when the Headmaster, an old, cheerful looking wizard with a long gray beard, came out and gave them a start of term speech explaining the rules of the school and what the glass hourglasses at the back of the Hall meant to them.

When the feast started and the food began appearing on the tables throughout the hall, Severus felt his face go slack. He had never seen so much food in his life: bowls of apples, peaches, and pears; pots of different kinds of butters and jams; mountains of assorted breads and rolls; vegetables and meats and potato dishes of all kinds ran down the length of the table.

Severus doubted the small grocer near his house had ever had that much food stocked, even during the holidays.

In spite of having eaten at the Malfoys and on the train, Severus found himself reaching out for an orange to munch on.

As everyone else dug in, he sat back and looked around the Hall. The older students were catching up on what they did over the summer; the teachers were eating at the head table, gesturing to the full tables and eating merrily among themselves; Lily was talking to a blond girl that looked a few years older than they were; and for the first time in his life, people seemed pleased to have him on their team and had unquestioningly accepted him as one of their own.

Maybe his mother was right. This was where he was meant to be. Among his own kind and with Lily nearby.

For the first time in his life, Severus Snape was completely content.