Author's Notes: My apologies on the formatting for the previous
chapter. I'm not quite sure what
caused that. I hope this chapter
turns out looking better.
I would also like to mention that none of you should pay me any
money for this story. Much as I
would like to have some money, I would be arrested and I wouldn't like that.
1 through 21 September 1971
1 September 1971
Severus Snape was wearing black the first time he crossed the
threshold of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Everyone was wearing black, of course. It was mandatory.
But Severus, eleven years old, was wearing black. For his mother.
She'd been dead four months, but he could still hear her voice, if
he tried -- low and quiet and sad, even when she was happy. "You're a wizard, Severus. You're the last of the Princes, and
someday you will go to Hogwarts."
Now here he was, and she had not lived long enough to see it.
"The Entrance Hall is amazing," she'd said. "There are huge main doors that
the house-elves keep so well oiled you can open them with one finger. There's a marble staircase that shines
so clearly you can see your face in it, and when it's full of people the room
rings with all the echoes, even though there are tapestries on the walls to
muffle the noise."
All these things were there, just as she'd said. While other frightened first years
looked warily around at the unfamiliar space, he barely afforded it a glance. He knew this place. It had always more real to him than the
dingy, miserable house at Spinner's End.
Looking around at his new fellow students, he could hear her say, "It's
strange at the very beginning, when you don't know which house everyone is
in. After the Sorting, it's
easier. You know where you stand
Try as he might, however, he couldn't hear her say, "This is
why I left the wizarding world to marry your father." She'd never said it, and it was too
late now to ask -- not that it mattered anymore. Whatever she'd left for, she'd helped him to come back. And here he was at last, home.
He knew Dumbledore immediately. He'd been a Head of House when Severus's mother had been a
Ravenclaw, and had been old then.
Now he was headmaster, seated in the middle of the High Table and
smiling as the crowd of first years hesitantly entered the Great Hall. Severus caught his eye, but didn't
smile back. It rarely occurred to
him to smile. Instead, he studied
the Headmaster's face with a sharp, perceptive glance that often startled
adults, wondering what this legendary teacher made of him -- skinny, pale,
Muggle-raised, defiant, eleven.
The Sorting Hat took a long time to decide with him. "My, my," it said into his
ear. "Certainly interesting
-- brave enough for a Gryffindor, bright enough for a Ravenclaw, dedicated enough
for a Hufflepuff, ambitious enough for a Slytherin. What am I going to do with you?"
Do what you want with me, Severus thought at it. I'm not afraid of you.
"I can see that.
Yes, indeed. Not one to be
beaten at anything, are you?
Proud, very proud. Proud of
your power, and your self-reliance.
Anger, too -- though that's to be expected, when you've lost
someone. That anger gives you
strength. Better to let you use
that -- SLYTHERIN it shall be."
Slytherin, he soon discovered, was all about power -- who had it,
who didn't, whose bloodline trumped whose. It was the first thing Slytherins worked out among
themselves: who was who in the thorny and complicated mess that was wizarding
genealogy. As soon as the feast
started, Rololphus Lestrange faced him and demanded, "Who are you?"
"Severus Snape," Severus shot back. Schoolyard power games were nothing new
to him, although in primary school it had been about size and money instead of
Rodolphus paused for a minute, going through his knowledge of
family names. "Muggle-born,"
he decided at last.
"That's all you know."
"If you want to argue bloodlines . . ."
"I want to be left alone. Unless you want your precious bloodline running from your
Severus feigned swinging a punch at the other student's face, but won
the fight before he even made contact because Rodolphus flinched. He'd discovered that to be a good
strategy: force the enemy to show cowardice. Once you showed cowardice in a neighborhood like Spinner's
End, your life was over. Slytherin
house was no different.
There were, however, other houses in Hogwarts.
2 September 1971
He first met Gryffindor house in the Potions dungeon, the first
time he ventured into that most intriguing workspace. They seemed somehow brighter than the Slytherins -- perhaps
because of the red-and-gold crests on their robes, or perhaps it was because
they lived in the sunlit easternmost tower of the castle. Then again, perhaps it was just the way
they behaved to one another.
Slytherin interaction was all about vying for power -- who was the
highest born, the most talented, the most clever. Gryffindors didn't seem to need a hierarchy at all. Instead, their conversation was more
along the lines of, "Do you mind if I sit here?" "Ever done any Potions before?" "Oh, are you left-handed? Here, let's switch chairs." "Do you like being
underground like this? I don't." Where the Slytherins sought to
establish rank, Gryffindors looked for compatible personalities.
Which wasn't to say there weren't a few of them who knew how to
play the games the Slytherins played.
One of them, a moderately tall, broad-shouldered boy with black eyes and
hair, became a little too animated telling a story to his lanky friend and
bumped into Rodolphus's desk.
"Hey!" Rodolphus demanded. "Who do you think you are, shoving into people like
The boy raised his chin in confident defiance. "I think I'm Sirius Black."
That caught Rodolphus off guard. "Black?"
You have a problem with that?"
Rodolphus swung around to the best friend, unwilling to challenge
the noble and most ancient house of Black. "And you?"
"I'm James Potter."
Now Rodolphus had someone to bully. "Not like Charles Potter?"
"Guilty as charged," said Potter cheerfully. "And if you have a problem with my
father I'll happily curse your feet into your ears."
"Will you? I'll
have you know that I am a Lestrange."
"I don't care if you're the Queen of Sheba. How are you at Hexes?"
A fight was imminent -- not a duel, since despite the big talk on
both sides it was generally understood that neither boy could produce a Hex any
more than he could Apparate out of Hogwarts -- but a fistfight, at least. It was averted by a girl slipping
inside and inquiring, "Is this where Potions class is?"
"Yes, you found it," said a mousey-looking boy who'd
already taken a seat.
She readjusted the bag over her shoulder, which made her lean sideways,
and clutched the book she was holding closer to her chest as she combed her red
hair back behind her ear. "A
door back there disappeared when my back was turned, and I'd thought I'd be
wandering around in that corridor until dinner."
"Who are you?" Rodolphus demanded again. He was beginning to sound like a broken
"I'm, um, Lily Evans."
"Related to Albert Evans?"
"No. I'm not
related to anybody magical -- I only knew there really was such a thing as
magic last month."
Rodolphus exchanged a glance with another housemate, Mordred
DeLombre. Severus saw them do it,
and saw her see them, as well. It
was clear she knew she'd done something wrong, although she had no way of
understanding what. He expected
her to shrink tighter inside herself -- she was obviously nervous and probably
shy -- but, to his surprise, the unspoken threat that rippled through the room
seemed to have the opposite effect.
She stuck out her chin, and her green eyes gleamed with a sparkle the tiniest
bit too bright to be light reflected from the torches.
"So you're Muggle-born, then?"
"Yes, that's right."
The booming greeting was followed through the door by a vast stomach,
which was followed by Professor Slughorn, the head of Slytherin house. "Good afternoon, good afternoon .
. . let me see, you would be the Gryffindor and Slytherin first years, would
you not? Is everyone here?"
"The rest of the Gryffindor girls aren't here yet," she
"Yes we are!"
Four girls, breathless with laughter, came stumbling inside and into
"And there's, um, that one kid," said Potter, snapping
his fingers in an effort to remember the name. "R-something . . . Raymond, Rubeus, no -- Remus! Yeah. He wasn't feeling so good last night, so he went to the
hospital wing. Remus
"Well, we'll bring him up to speed when he's ready to rejoin
the land of the living. At any
rate, welcome to Hogwarts, and welcome to Potions! Let me just call the roll quickly, and get to know you all a
bit. Black, Bellatrix?"
"Another beautiful Black daughter. Though I must say you don't look a thing like your older
sister. A lot of your father in
you -- a dear old comrade of mine, and you look as though you'd been dyed in
the same vat. The Black complexion
. . . it's practically legendary.
And evidenced in your cousin, too -- Sirius?"
"In Gryffindor, it seems. Well, your fair cousins will miss you, but the Sorting Hat
always has the last word.
"Splendid, splendid . . . DeLombre, Mordred? Wonderful old continental family,
DeLombre, not many in England these days, but I went to school with your grandfather
. . ."
It was the same game Lestrange was playing, Severus realized, only
more jovially phrased. Slughorn
exclaimed in delight about any student connected with anyone he knew and
thought well of, spending much more time reminiscing than actually taking the
roll, and passed with a mutter over those who made no particular impression.
By the time he got to the girl, she'd figured out the game. She had no connections to flaunt, no
family name to hold before her like a shield -- but she had the sense to
compensate for the handicap with sheer boldness. When Slughorn asked after Evanses to whom she might be
connected, she looked him straight in the eye and announced, "I'm
Muggle-born, sir," in the same voice she would have used to announce that
she was the Empress of Persia.
When Slughorn got to Severus, he seemed uninterested and was moving
on to the next name when suddenly he seemed to remember something and skipped
back. "Snape . . . I'm trying
to remember . . . someone's youngest daughter married a Snape, oh, it must have
been thirteen, fourteen years ago . . . Prince, Eileen Prince, that was the
one. Not your mother, by any
"My late mother," said Severus, in a defiant, sulky and
slightly threatening tone, like a rattlesnake warning off a potential
"Well, that's a shame, indeed it is. She was a good girl, and quite
talented. It was such a tragedy
when she married that fellow and seemed to drop clean off the face of the
earth. But here you are at last,
and I'm glad to welcome a Prince back to Hogwarts, even a half-Prince."
"Thank you, sir."
Now move along and torment somebody else, why don't you?
Once the ordeal of the roll was taken care of, Slughorn started
into the dull and tiresome business of the first class -- rules, curriculum,
grading, et cetera et cetera.
Severus tuned out. He wasn't
here to worry over paperwork and record-keeping: he wanted to make
potions. He'd already found his
other classes tiresome beyond expressing.
It was all wand-waving and muttering and fuss over pronunciation, too
loud, too showy, for his taste. Potion-making
seemed much more quiet and mathematical.
This was something he might actually like.
At long last, when the lecture on nothing was over, Slughorn put
up the instructions for a simple, mild sleeping drought. He spent far longer than Severus
thought he needed explaining every step, clarifying the ingredients and
explaining every technique in detail.
He said nothing that wasn't in the first chapter of the textbook. If the other students hadn't bothered
to read the material beforehand, that ought to be their loss.
"Any other questions?" Slughorn asked at last.
No, please no, Severus prayed.
"In that case, I leave you to it. You have thirty minutes."
We would have had forty-five if you'd sped that lecture up, he grumbled inwardly
as he headed for the store cupboard.
Everyone else was heading there, too, which resulted in a bit of a
The box of yearling oak roots was on the highest shelf of the
cupboard. The redheaded girl, who'd
been sitting nearest to the cupboard and was thus one of the first there,
stretched up to her full height and was only tall enough for her fingers to
nudge the box sideways.
James Potter reached over her head and pulled the box down,
offering her one of the small, gnarled roots. She took it with a smile and a bright, "Thanks."
He took one for himself, then passed the box around -- from one
Gryffindor to another to another.
That was unacceptable.
If the Gryffindors decided on the first day that they could set
themselves before the Slytherins, there would be no end of it. Severus pushed through the mess and
snatched the box as it was going from the smallest of the Gryffindor boys to
the darkest of the Gryffindor girls, a one Jessie Fitzpatrick.
"Hey!" said Potter.
Severus turned a vicious glare at him as he took a root and passed
them on to Rodolphus. Potter didn't
say anything else, but it was obvious that her very much wanted to. Ignoring him, Severus returned to his
seat with his materials and set about brewing his very first potion.
He was doing magic.
He could sense it growing in his cauldron almost from the very first
step. So much for all his father's
shouting, all his scheming -- Severus was doing magic anyway. If he let himself, he could still
remember the fight between his parents when he was five, started because
Severus had accidentally turned himself invisible to avoid being punished for
some misdemeanor. In all fairness,
it must have come as a shock to trip over an invisible child on the floor. But even the most generous,
disinterested observer, which Severus wasn't, would have thought Tobias Snape's
subsequent behavior unreasonable.
He couldn't seem to bear the realization that his wife had kept secrets
from him, and that his son would someday be a being infinitely more powerful
than himself. So even though
Severus was now safe from his father's anger, able to display and glory in the
magic that was part of him, he still instinctively turned to the silent, secret
magic of potion-making.
There was nothing mysterious about it, nothing vague: just clean,
simple instructions, one after the other.
It took patience and precision.
Difficult, perhaps, but not impossible.
At least, so he thought.
He was one of the few of that opinion. All around him, rather than working in the silence of
concentration and focus that he felt the work merited, people were whispering
and muttering, knocking things over, making noises of frustration.
Throughout the room, potions were turning every color except the
gray-green shade Professor Slughorn had described. People were muttering their confusion and comparing work,
wondering what had gone wrong. Professor
Slughorn, after letting them suffer a while, began moving between tables,
discussing one potion at a time and explaining what their mistakes had
Severus really didn't see the problem. The directions had been perfectly, even annoyingly,
explicit, and his potion was sea-green and graying by the minute. He felt a momentary twinge of
regret. His very first potion,
perfect. It was something he
should have been thrilled about.
But all the emotion he could muster was dread -- he'd had absolutely no
desire to be the center of attention, and there was little chance that Slughorn
would leave the matter at a quiet 'Well done.' It was somehow a bitter irony that Potions, of all subjects,
should be taught by a loud, blustering, showy professor.
"Well bless my soul!
Do you mean to say you've brewed a perfect potion on your very first
Severus looked up.
Professor Slughorn was nowhere near him. He was near the door, where the Gryffindor girls were
clustered, and was looking down into a cauldron filled with gray-green potion,
then up into the astonished and pleased green-eyed face above it.
"Well done, very well done indeed! That's nothing short of prodigious, that. I see we have reason to expect very
great things of you, Miss Evans.
Yes, very great things indeed."
"Thank you, sir," she answered, blushing pink.
"Full marks, and five points to Gryffindor. Everyone, if you please, put a sample
of your potion in one of the bottles in the cabinet, label it with your name,
leave it on my desk, and straighten up your work stations."
Severus did all these things promptly and efficiently, grateful
for the chance that would put his reward for his work in a note-ledger instead
of before the class. If he had
talent, which it seemed he did after this exercise, it would be better to keep
it quiet for the time being. His
father had taught him that, if nothing else.
His dying mother appeared in his memory, and hot anger flashed
through his veins as though his blood was boiling.
He rose, slung his bag over his shoulder, and made his way quickly
out of the room as the class ended -- at least, that was his intention. This plan was hindered by two hands
that landed on his shoulder blades and shoved him into the wall.
"So you think you can just shove Gryffindors around?"
He whirled, dropping his bag on the floor and drawing his
near-useless new wand. James
Potter, in a high temper, had done the same.
"It appears I can," Severus shot back. He pushed Potter back, harder, with all
the power of his deceptively skinny arms.
"Watch out, James," said Sirius Black, a cheerful but
vaguely cruel smile on his face. "Judging
from the look of his nose, I'd guess he's been in plenty of fistfights. Then again, maybe his mum just dropped
him on his face when he was little."
"With a face like that, I'll bet she did it on purpose,"
James answered. A ripple of
nervous, vindictive laughter answered this remark.
Severus felt his offending face go hot and red with humiliation
and hated. Panic and fury cut off
any part of his brain that could come up with a reasonable solution to his
dilemma. In thoughtless
desperation, he tried what had always worked before: feigning a punch to make
Potter didn't flinch.
So Severus hit him. And
Potter hit back.
Within moments, they were locked together in a blind, ferocious
struggle to damage any part of their opponent that presented itself. The pain of Potter's beating was
terrific, but Severus was too furious to care, and too disoriented to retreat
even if he'd wanted to. People
were shouting all around him, his ears were ringing, stars were exploding in
front of his slitted eyes, and when he was slammed into a flat surface he
pushed himself off of it to continue the fight without pausing to consider
whether it was wall or floor.
Through the jumble of noise came one particular cry of, "Get
. . . no . . ." and felt another hand plant itself in the middle of his
chest and push. "Get off, you
stupid . . . aaahh!"
Potter fell back, and Severus did likewise. The redheaded Gryffindor girl stood
very still between them, her hand over her face.
"Oh my gosh, I'm sorry," Potter gasped. "Are you okay?"
"Let's just go to class," she said, and her voice was of
someone a heartbeat away from losing her temper. The Fitzpatrick girl darted forward to put an arm around
her, and when she pulled her hand away everyone could see the bruise already
blackening around her right eye.
The other girls clustered around her, and they all moved off,
talking in hushed voices, she gingerly touching the injury.
Potter, blushing scarlet in his embarrassment, turned a vicious
glance on Severus -- as if it was somehow his fault Potter had
struck the girl. After all, she'd
been facing away from him: Severus had no way of knowing who or where she was,
in the thick of a fistfight.
Still, it had been regrettable.
She was going to have a rough enough time at Hogwarts, Muggle-born as
she was, without being battered black-and-blue by such a loudmouthed boor.
Come to think of it, he had problems enough without being beaten
silly by James Potter as well.
"Had enough?" Potter shot at him.
Severus glared. "I've
had enough of making a public spectacle of myself. But if you care to continue this discussion later . . ."
"Count on it."
Severus picked his bag up, refusing to wince again as the strap
hung over a new bruise upon his shoulder.
He was pleased to see that Potter had no such self-control, and hissed
as he bent down to retrieve his bag.
The Gryffindor boys all left in a cluster. The Slytherins left as well, without
clustering or conversation. Rodolphus
Lestrange passed him with a contemptuous glare; Bellatrix Black with a superior
smirk. The only sign of sympathy
he received from any of his classmates was from Kirrian Hawthorne, a
brown-haired boy of about Severus's height who seemed taller because he carried
himself so straight. He smiled a
very little, with the left corner of his mouth, on his way upstairs. Severus followed last of all.
There was no time to lose.
Before Potter decided to make good his threat, Severus had to be ready
to defend himself.
4 September 1971
"Are you doing that for fun, or do you have a bet with
someone that you can make your eyes fall out before the end of term?"
Severus looked across the Slytherin table at Cassandra Zibetti,
who'd paused in her breakfast to tease him.
"Reading is a better use of my time than talking to you,"
"He's got you there," said Bellatrix, chuckling.
Severus turned his attention back to his book, a volume entitled 101
Basic Combat Charms. Even something as
relatively simple as this was about as clear as mud to someone who'd only been
studying magic for three days, but determination and a dictionary of
spell-casting terms were seeing him through. It would have been easier in some study environment where he
wasn't interrupted every five minutes, but so far he hadn't been able to find
one. The castle was labyrinthine,
though -- surely he'd be able to find someplace quiet and private.
The dining hall certainly didn't count. The moment Cassandra turned her attention away from him, the
post owls made their entrance.
Various birds landed the length of the table as they found their
intended recipients, upsetting dishes and scattering feathers everywhere. Severus wasn't expecting any mail and
wasn't disappointed when he received none, but next to him Kirrian Hawthorne
smiled as a barn owl alighted on his empty plate and dropped a letter into his
lap. It was a Muggle envelope,
sealed with glue instead of wax or magic, and bore a postage stamp. The lettering on it was large and
Mordred DeLombre reached across the table and snatched the
envelope. "Are your parents
retarded or something?"
Kirrian grabbed for it, but Mordred was too quick for him. "It's from my little brother,
stupid. Give it back."
"Why should I?"
"Because if you don't," said Severus, not looking up
from his book, "I will get annoyed, and then I will do something to you."
"Like what, Slimeball?"
Mordred yelped as Severus's new spell left a sting, like an insect
bite, on his hand. He dropped the
letter, which Severus snatched and shoved at Kirrian. "Like that, for example."
"Thanks," said Kirrian, cutting open the envelope with
his butter knife.
Severus scoffed. "My
actions were not motivated by a desire for your gratitude." He stuck his wand back in his pocket
and bowed over his reading again.
"Do you always do that?" inquired Kirrian.
"Talk like you're being scored, and big words are worth
Severus raised his head, blinking a little in confusion. Why would anyone use short words when
there were larger, more precise ones at one's disposal? "This is how I talk. If you object, stop speaking to me."
"Well, thanks all the same."
"Don't mention it.
The plates and serving dishes vanished, and with a
nearly-unbearable noise of scraping benches the entire school left the tables
to go to class. Severus shoved the
book into his bag and followed Rodolphus, who was the largest of the Slytherin
first years and thus the best able to make headway in the crowd.
Just as they passed the constricting doorway and emerged into the
more navigable Entrance Hall, somebody shoved him from behind. Unprepared, he went sprawling forward
onto his hands and knees, and books spilled out of his unfastened bag. Students maneuvered around the mess,
stepping carefully over books and quills, but no one bent to pick anything up.
Severus glared up at James Potter, who was passing him with a
broad grin. "What do you
think you're doing?"
"Pushing Slytherins around," Potter answered. "Have a nice trip."
Seething, Severus grabbed his wand, but before he could cast a
spell a Hufflepuff prefect barked, "Hey, first year! No magic in the corridors!"
Laughing, Potter exchanged high-fives with the Gryffindor Black
and was soon lost in the crowd, leaving Severus to pick up his belongings and
rush, late, to Transfiguration.
9 September 1971
Severus had been worried that the classroom might be locked, but
to his relief the handle turned easily.
Careful not to make a sound, lest someone passing in a nearby corridor
discover where he was, he slipped inside the Potions dungeon and closed the
door behind him.
Now that classes were completed for the day, the room was empty
and quiet. The rows of rectangular
tables stood silent and bare, the cupboards were closed, and Professor Slughorn
had removed his papers and books from his desk. The chatter of the torches and a distant, hypnotic dripping
sound were all he could hear.
No one seemed to come down here after classes, preferring to study
in their houses or in the library or Great Hall. Severus had tried to do the same, but the eternal noise of
whispering, rustling pages, scratching quills, and scraping chair legs proved
too much for his concentration.
Here was a quiet, safe place where he could study, unworried about some
new prank, jibe, or assault from Potter and Black. Even if they thought to look for him down here, there were
no prefects to chide or crowds of students to laugh.
He set his bag down on the table he usually occupied during class
and looked around. He could make
potions here, too, for practice.
There were no locks on the cupboards. A set of shelves in one corner held rows of number-two-sized
cauldrons -- probably projects the upper classes were working on, left here to
age between periods. There was a
door behind Slughorn's desk, which proved, on further investigation, to also be
unlocked. It led to a room that
might have once been an office -- there was a desk shoved into one corner, and
a fireplace big enough to be connected to the Floo network -- but it seemed to
be storage now. Most of the
cabinets and chests here were locked, which suggested to Severus that they
contained something dangerous and interesting. The few that he could open contained packets and bottles of
what looked like more potions ingredients, but their labels were faded,
battered, or missing entirely.
Satisfied with his explorations, Severus returned to his table and
spread his work out across its entire surface, organized and accessible. This would be his sanctuary, his own
unique space to be safe and focus on what really mattered -- his schoolwork,
his research, and his potions. No
one would find him, here in the sheltering darkness in the very depths of the
Which was why it was such a shock when she showed up there.
21 September 1971
He entered the dungeon with his attention focused on the book in
his hand, not bothering to look up as he dropped his bag on his usual
table. It took him a long second
to realize that there was a rustling of fabric that was out of rhythm with his
own movements. The realization was
so sudden that he jumped and dropped the book, although she'd done nothing
abrupt to startle him.
She was at a far table, her sleeves rolled up and her red hair
tied back, preparing ingredients and putting them into neat little piles next
to her cauldron. The redheaded
Gryffindor girl -- her name was escaping him. She raised her head as she heard the book hit the
table. "Hey, Severus."
That was all she could say?
After strolling into his sanctuary and settling in like she owned the
place, she didn't have the courtesy to apologize, or to manifest even the
slightest embarrassment, for politeness' sake?
Apparently not. She
went right back to chopping rosemary without any sign of chagrin.
He stared for another moment, astonished at the absolute gall of
the girl. Had Potter sent her, to
spy on him? Unlikely -- she didn't
take orders from him, the way the rest of the Gryffindors did. More likely she'd come down here to
find some opportunity to offer him her pity.
If she dared, he'd curse her all the way up to the ground floor.
But she didn't.
Instead, she lit the fire under her cauldron and started making her
potion as if doing so in that dungeon was the most natural thing in the world.
Fine. She was welcome
to try to force him out of his refuge.
He picked up his book and pulled out parchment, quill, and ink. He could wait her out. It was a matter of seeing which of them
cracked first, under the strain of the tense, uncomfortable silence. It was only a matter of time. She'd leave.