A New Beginning
Harry arrived at King's Cross feeling unusually cheerful, more so than he had in a long time. There were no particularly horrible memories connected to this place, so he was at peace walking through the station. The air was still a little cool from the morning, and a few lazy clouds drifted through the sky. Even the people walking around seemed especially happy. Instead of walking with their heads down and looking judgmentally at his two owls, they held their heads high and regarded his birds with pleasant interest.
This time Harry knew exactly where to go and what to do. He pushed his cart along, just passing the ninth platform. He saw only a few Hogwarts students, none he could recognize, but then again it was only half past ten. Harry had wanted to come early to wait for Snape and Lily, to ensure that they would be able to be in the same compartment.
He stopped right next to the brick wall between platforms nine and ten and leaned against it casually. He slid through into Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, where a scarlet train was waiting for passengers. The station wasn't that crowded yet, but there were still a considerable amount of people bustling about. Birds screeched, cats meowed, and luggage carts squeaked noisily. Voices rose above the collection of sounds, happy when reunited with friends, sad when family was left behind.
Harry quickly scanned the crowd but saw no sign of Severus. From what he remembered from Snape's memories, Lily and Severus should arrive around the same time. He moved away from the entrance and waited. After only another five minutes, The Evans family appeared through the brick wall. Harry wondered vaguely how Muggles could go through the barrier. It must be that they could only go to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters if they knew of its existence, or that only Muggles who were part of a family with a magical person could enter.
Lily spotted Harry and waved, grinning. Petunia looked at Harry with an eyebrow raised, and whispered unsubtly to her sister, no doubt about him. Lily stopped to listen, then waved him over. Harry's grandparents (Mr. and Mrs. Evans) also stopped.
"Jacob, these are my parents, and my big sister, Petunia!" Harry, or Jacob, smiled pleasantly at them. When he met Petunia's eyes, she blushed and looked away looking flustered. Interesting, Harry thought in surprise. Why so flustered? Especially after how she's treated other people with magical abilities, namely my mum and I. It was clear that she must see Jacob as attractive, or something.
It was a lot easier to read the emotions of younger kids than those his own age, which was proving to be an advantage.
"Nice to meet you," Harry/Jacob said politely. Petunia was still watching him, but he pretended not notice. Lily's parents were obviously transfixed by him, most likely because they had only met the official that visited their home to tell them about the wizarding world.
"Now, how did you two meet?"
Mr. Evans had directed the question to Lily, but Harry was a more experienced liar, so he invented, "We just talked a little bit at Diagon Alley. I saw her at the flower shop." It wasn't too far from the truth, but her parents seemed very protective, and he wanted it to seem like it wasn't a big deal. If they knew Severus, and approved of Lily's friendship with him, then maybe he wouldn't have had to lie, but he was still a stranger. Her spending time with two strange boys was probably not as acceptable as one passerby. But they didn't know about her friendship with the Severus…at least it didn't seem like they did.
Speaking of Severus—Harry glanced over and saw that he had just entered the platform. Lily seemed to notice this, also, but didn't wave. Eileen seemed to have made a better attempt to look presentable than when Harry had last seen her, but compared to those around her she still looked hastily thrown together. Harry felt his stomach twist as he realized her long sleeves and high collar, despite the summer weather, must be concealing bruises. Severus met Harry's eye and the corner of his mouth twitched up briefly. Harry returned the gesture, hoping the memory charm had worked, that Snape hadn't suffered Tobias' fury because of his actions.
Not wanting to stick around too long, he cleared his throat and said, "Well, it was nice meeting you, Mr. and Mrs. Evans. See you on the train, Lily. Bye, Petunia," He flashed his most dazzling smile at Petunia, who blushed furiously and mumbled something in response. Harry left them to say their goodbyes and hovered nearby. He didn't want to meet up with Snape quite yet, just in case it would damage the way Lily's parents thought of him. And besides that, he was busy watching what was happening between Lily and Petunia.
In Snape's memories, the two sisters had an argument that ended with Lily breaking down and crying. Petunia had called her a sister a freak to cover up her jealous feelings. Now, they simply hugged; it seemed Petunia was deeply distracted by Harry. He had gone along with her interest in him with the hope that she would be too busy with her own thoughts to yell at Lily, and it had worked.
He realized that this was the first event he had seen and changed directly. Of course, there was the bridge incident, as well as the simple act of meeting the two kids. But there had still been the possibility that that had always happened and Harry had just left '71 for some reason.
Now, he had proof that he could change what had happened in the past. This newfound fact excited him, but also made him uneasy. He could make things worse by meddling in the past. He had to be careful about what he interfered with.
Lily said a last goodbye to her family, who started heading back to the brick wall, and went over to Jacob. They waited for Severus' mum to bid him a curt farewell before joining up with him.
"Let's go find a compartment," Snape suggested, his face flushed with an excitement that could easily match Lily's.
She and Harry nodded and they found the nearest entrance to the train. Kids were bustling about the hallway, scrambling with luggage and trying to find open cabins. Harry looked into one to see if it was vacant and saw that James and Sirius were sitting there.
Harry froze with a strong feeling of déjà vu. The boys both sat on one end, just like they had originally. Only this time, Lily and Severus were not going to meet them.
"You can sit here if you want," Sirius offered, shrugging. He already had a casual handsomeness at age eleven, which the laughing girls in the compartment across them seemed to notice.
James nodded in agreement, looking indifferent. "Yeah, we don't mind."
"Er, no, I'm with my friends already," Harry replied quickly, voice shaking slightly, and followed Snape and Lily. He managed to control his emotions, pretending they had been complete strangers, not two people who were going to die. It was difficult, since they looked so much like how they would when they were older. At least they had both been kind to him. He was dreading the first time he would see his father bully someone. What if they made fun of…him? He was old enough to defend himself—it would be like a four-year-old trying to pick on them—but the difference was it would be his dad. For his own father to pick on him…that would be unbearable.
The trio found an empty compartment toward the end of the train. No sooner had they put away their suitcases and sat down then another person appeared in the entryway. Someone who Harry vaguely recognized.
"Oh—sorry, I'll check another—"
She turned to leave but Lily interjected. "It's okay! You can sit with us!"
The girl looked uncertain. "Are you sure?"
They all nodded, and the newcomer sat down in the empty spot next to Jacob. Harry still couldn't quite remember where he had seen or met her. He studied her, trying to place his familiarity. She had dark skin, and also was quite small, appearing a couple years younger than the others. Her curly black hair fell past her shoulders, and she pushed it out of her eyes uncomfortably as they all stared at her, waiting for her to speak.
Then, after taking in her appearance, Harry realized she had been the girl who he had seen (and judged) at Diagon Alley. He felt a little guilty, but how she had appeared to himself then was the same as she appeared now: gloomy, quiet…all qualities he associated with a Slytherin.
"So what's your name?" Lily asked politely, having always been less judgmental than Harry.
"Raven Faralyn." She looked around at her company for the first time. Her eyes lingered on Jacob a little longer than they did for the others. "And you are…?"
"My name's Lily Evans." Harry noticed for the first time that Lily was holding the flower from the day before.
"I'm Severus Snape."
"And I'm Jacob Walker."
Raven looked from Lily to Jacob. "Are you two Muggle-borns?"
"Er, yeah," Harry answered, slightly taken aback.
"I could tell by your names, that's all," she replied, noticing the look on his face.
"Oh." Harry thought she had a similar appearance to Snape's barn owl Luna when she looked at him, it was like she saw straight through to his soul. Of course, this shouldn't be misinterpreted for Harry liking her. He wasn't going to have a crush on anyone here; it made him uncomfortable to imagine it. Everyone in his year was much too young, he wasn't staying long and besides, there was Ginny back home. Harry tried not to think about Ginny too much, it just made his chest contract painfully. Even though he felt distanced from her back home, that was different from not being around her at all.
"So, Raven," Lily started, fishing for a topic. "Where are you from?"
"Around London. I live with my parents. Both of them were in Slytherin at Hogwarts…"
So she would be in Slytherin, then, unless she was anything like Sirius. Harry half wished he hadn't guessed her placement correctly, wanting an example of when stereotypes weren't reliable.
"…but I don't know where I'll get placed."
"I want to be in Slytherin," Snape put in eagerly. "You should be proud if that's where you go!"
Lily looked at him, surprised, since he had never shared this desire with her. At the same time, she didn't know the history the house had. Harry was looking at Severus in exasperation, while Raven was considering him with an expression of mild surprise.
"You know the reputation Slytherin House has, right? The bad kind of wizards that have come from that house?" It was Raven, not Harry, who asked this. Harry was surprised that she had this view on Slytherin, let alone felt like sharing it with Severus.
Snape didn't answer, and Lily looked between the two. She was interested to hear what the girl had to say, knowing nothing about it herself. Harry wondered if she had any hidden opinion that it would make sense for him to be put in Slytherin.
"If power is what you want, to prove yourself, there are other ways to do it. I wanted to be in Slytherin house for a while. When I was young, and my father told me stories of great wizards who came from that House, the things they achieved…back then, I didn't think that it was bad, the things that many did to get what they wanted. But then I changed my mind. I didn't want to be tempted from that sort of thing, and I thought about the great things in the other houses."
She was making a pretty long speech for someone they had just met, for someone who seemed too shy to ever talk this long to strangers.
"Hufflepuff, the house of friendship, loyalty, and kindness. Ravenclaw, the house of the intelligent, the sharp-witted. Gryffindor, the house of the brave and strong-minded." She paused. "You know, even though I've just met you, the last house I would put you in would be Slytherin."
"Not you, too!" Severus burst out.
Raven raised her eyebrows and turned to Lily, who shook her head, then looked at Harry, who subtly indicated that the first had been him. Raven turned back to Severus, now looking indifferent.
"Okay, it's your choice, I guess."
Her final statement made Harry feel a little guilty, but he got over the guilt quickly—it was for Snape's own good. At least Severus appeared to be thinking hard, staring furiously out the window. Raven had pulled out a book, and Lily was looking between them awkwardly.
It touched Harry that Raven was concerned, but he doubted that what she said had a significant effect on him.
"So Lily, did you get to see the flower glow like she said it would?" Harry asked conversationally, leaning back in his seat. The flower, currently, was giving off enough light so that its edges looked blurred slightly.
"Yeah," Lily began dreamily. "It's wonderful!" Snape turned his gaze away from the window to look at her, his hand still propping up his head casually. Although his body language indicated he was relaxed, his hungry eyes sent a very different message.
"I'll have to show it to you guys when the moon is at its brightest…well, if you're in the same house, I guess."
Raven looked up from her book. "Who gave it to you?" Her eyes flickered momentarily at Severus, who was studying her intensely. Harry glanced at Raven, then back at Severus, wondering how obvious it was that he liked Lily.
"Oh, Severus did," Lily answered, and gave him a quick smile. He returned it faintly.
"Hm," Raven said, and Harry could've sworn it sounded like she had just decided something. "Well, it's nice. Have you two—I mean three—known each other long?"
"Sev and I have known each other a while, and we recently met Jacob. I don't think any of us known any other wizards, or witches. Have you? You know a lot about Hogwarts, it seems, er…"
"Yes, both my parents are wizards. My family are all—or mostly—Purebloods."
And Pureblood too? She doesn't seem like she'd be Slytherin anymore, but her background certainly fits.
"My mother hosts a lot of gatherings, with all Pureblood families, though often I…choose not to join them. The Blacks, for example. The first time, they were fine, but after a while…one of the sons, Sirius or something…"
Harry felt a jump in his stomach at the name. He was surprised that she would have met him, but if she was a Pureblood…
"…he's in our year, I believe. I never got along with him. Most of the children of these families are…ah…stuck-up. And nearly all of the families have been in Slytherin house, so that's kinda why I gave up wanting to be sorted there."
Raven looked back down on to her book and began reading again. Harry glanced at the page she was on; it was filled with small print and looked too complex for an eleven-year-old. She glanced at him and he looked away.
No one said anything for a while. Everyone managed to preoccupy themselves with different activities, until the candy trolley arrived.
"Anything from the trolley, dears?" The kind witch asked, pushing the cart to a stop at their door. She was the same woman, just younger than Harry remembered.
Raven shook her head, so did Severus, but both Lily and Harry nodded and stood up. She put her flower delicately on the luggage rack and got some pocket change from her small purse. Lily was intrigued by everything the cart had to offer and took extra care in choosing the most interesting candies within her budget. Harry, however, bought at least four of everything, all for about one Galleon. He carried the load down and dumped it all on the space between him and Raven.
"Dig in, you guys," he said, and tossed a chocolate frog to each of them. Snape looked like he couldn't accept it, probably because Harry had already given him an owl and (if Snape's suspicions were correct) a Galleon. More importantly, he saved his life, and became his friend despite the things that may ward many others away.
Raven handed hers back, saying awkwardly that she didn't care for chocolate.
Severus opened his wrapper, and the chocolate frog immediately hopped onto his lap. He tried to catch it, but it wasn't until his third attempt that he snatched it and popped it into his mouth.
Lily was prepared for hers and she caught it immediately. She ate it in one bite, so it didn't suffer, and sighed with satisfaction.
"Mm, it's really good!" She exclaimed, examining the card that came with it. "Hey! How's she moving?" Harry smiled, remembering his first experience with moving pictures, while Severus explained it to her. Lily was amazed, as he had been, that the people in the pictures were animated. Then she realized something.
"When I drew pictures…as a kid…sometimes they would move. I can't believe I didn't remember until now! They scared me, so that must be why I never really have been an artist…Is that a sketchbook?" Raven had pulled out a pad of paper and a pencil from her rucksack.
"Er, it's nothing, really." She hastily closed it.
"C'mon, I want to see! Please?" Lily begged. Raven sighed and opened it to the page she had been working on before. For an eleven year old, it was decent. It was a drawing of a young girl, halfway shaded, smiling up at them. She blinked periodically, and her eyes moved to survey the compartment.
"It's really good…" Lily said in an awed voice. Snape nodded mutely, but Harry could tell he wanted her praise and attention directed at him, not Raven.
While Raven continued sketching, the others went through the candy stash. Harry was glad that they had something to talk about, since Lily and Severus had never had any of the treats before. Raven didn't eat anything, but the others sampled everything and discussed each treat.
"Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans?" Severus picked up his box, and Lily did the same, looking curious. Harry had to be the only one of the three to have tried them before. Though, he noticed Raven had smirked slightly while drawing, so she had probably knew of them too, but chose not to say anything.
Lily opened her box first and ate a murky green bean. The look of pleasure that lit up her face indicated she had been lucky with a normal-flavored one.
"Mint!" She exclaimed, and ate another just as Severus did. They both coughed in surprise and spat out the candy.
"Eugh! It tastes like rotten tomatoes!" Harry laughed at her disgusted face, and she flashed him an annoyed, but amused, look. "What about you, Severus?"
"I think it's…" He was steadily turning greener. "…vomit."
Lily moved out of range. "Are you okay?"
Severus nodded, but didn't convince any of them. It was amusing to Harry, but Lily was concerned. Harry ate a bean, which turned out to be cherry, then set aside his box.
They let Severus ride it out as they tried some cauldron cakes.
"I hope the food at Hogwarts is this good," said Lily happily, using the back of her hand to wipe some chocolate off her face.
"Yeah," Harry agreed. He couldn't wait. The cooking wasn't world-class, but it was familiar.
Lily looked thoughtful. "I wonder what school will be like compared to Muggle school. I haven't looked through my books at all, since I just got them yesterday, but from the titles I can guess some of the subjects." Harry nodded in agreement as she continued. "I wonder what I'll be good at. Maybe I won't be good at anything! But Sev told me Hogwarts is the best wizarding school, so I can't fail at everything, right?"
"You'll be fine. Do you want to try some magic right now?" Harry asked, and pulled out a book he had brought, The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1), by Miranda Goshawk. Lily looked at it, curiosity lighting in her familiar green eyes.
"Okay! We're allowed to, right?"
"'Course. Er, well, I think so," Harry replied, trying to sound like he didn't know more than anyone else would. He flipped through the book and found a familiar incantation.
"This one's called the Hover Charm. It seems kind of tricky, but I think we'll manage." Harry remembered someone saying Lily was good at charms, so this shouldn't be too difficult for her. He passed the book to her, and Severus, too, who had thankfully recovered. He read the directions while eating a cauldron cake to get rid of the taste the bean had had. Raven even tucked away her book and pulled out her wand to participate.
"How about we try it on this?" Harry picked up the least dangerous item in the cabin, the package that had once contained a chocolate frog. He handed it to Lily and she balanced it on her knee.
Lily tried first, pronouncing the incantation exactly right, but her wrist movement was slightly off. "Wingardium Leviosa!" The box shuffled a bit, but didn't rise. She tried again, but it yielded the same results. She reread the book, her spirits clearly falling. After several more times, the best reaction she had gotten was tipping the box onto its side.
Harry pretended to consult the book for tips, then said, "It looks like you need to back off on flicking your wrist, otherwise there's nothing else that you're doing wrong."
Lily nodded and concentrated, her face scrunching up in determination. Harry smiled faintly at her expression.
The box rose into the air and she laughed excitedly. "I did it!"
They all clapped. Severus beamed and told her he knew she'd be a great wizard. There was something in his voice like relief; no doubt he wanted her to go against the prejudice that Muggle-borns were not equal to Purebloods, even if he did not fully believe this himself. Not wanting to steal Lily's glory, Harry pretended to struggle with lifting the box, eventually getting it on his tenth try. Snape levitated his on his eighth, the same as Raven. Harry wasn't surprised about Snape's luck; different people had commented on his extraordinary abilities as a wizard. He had expected Raven to do well also, since she seemed unusually smart. Harry was amazed on what the three accomplished, and by seeing how they did on just this one spell realized how intelligent they were.
The four tried some other spells, from transfiguration to more charms, but most of them were too hard, so after a while they gave up. The school books were pushed out of the way, as well as the many candy wrappers. It was only four o' clock, so they still had several hours left before they reached Hogwarts.
Raven had a pack of Exploding Snap, so she taught them how to play. They spent an hour with the game, but eventually got bored. Harry won the majority of the games (he couldn't help himself) and Lily did okay…it was just Raven and Severus who weren't that great.
"I'm awful at cards," Snape muttered, having been stifling his frustration at failing at the game for the entire time. Harry suspected he didn't have much experience with playing games, that Lily and him had probably only played cards a few times together.
"It's okay, Sev! You'll get the hang of it! I can help you practice at school—" Lily faltered, the thought of being separated because of the sorting striking her.
Raven studied them. "Even if you guys are in different houses, you can still be friends."
Snape nodded gloomily. Harry couldn't hold back a disbelieving snort. He tried to cover it up with a cough, but Severus noticed and glared at him threateningly. Harry tried to look bored with his reaction and turned to Lily.
"So…Lily…tell me about your family. I thought your parents were pretty nice." Partly he wanted to know about what his would-be grandparents had been like, partly he asked just to keep an argument from arising.
"Yeah…well, my dad works at a product development company, and my mom stays at home. And then there's Petunia…" she glanced at Severus. "…who's older than me and she's, er…fun." Fun was a stretch, Harry thought. Although, he respected her loyalty to her sister and nodded in agreement.
"Well, what about you?" Lily asked. Harry had already planned out his family and was prepared for the question.
"My mum and dad work full-time, and I'm an only child. I don't know of any other wizards in my family, but I wouldn't expect my parents to tell me about any, 'cause they don't really like magic and stuff."
Harry realized he had probably been a little too open about saying this, but eventually they were going to share the darker parts of their lives, so he might as well do it now. Since Lily and Jacob both already knew about his father disliking magic, Severus didn't bring it up. Raven looked like she had something to say, but her opportunity left her and she returned to sketching.
"Hey, Raven, can you draw me?" Lily asked, not being able to help herself stare at the sketchbook.
Raven shook her head, but halfway through realized that Lily was not going to take no for an answer, so she grudgingly agreed. Harry noticed she used a pencil instead of a quill to draw, and thought this was pretty unusual.
The picture Raven was currently working on was nearly done, so she quickly shaded the last bit and flipped to the next page. She smoothed out the paper and drew a very basic oval. She marked the placements of Lily's eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. As she continued—it was a very timely process—Severus watched, trying to act casual. Harry could tell he wanted the drawing to look every bit as beautiful as Lily. If the drawing didn't meet his expectations, he'd probably give Raven specific instructions on how to make it better.
While Lily held still for Raven, Harry decided to zone out. He gazed out the window absentmindedly, allowing thoughts he had been ignoring before to present themselves.
Is what he was doing wrong? He changed two huge things all in one day, first by preventing Petunia from yelling at her sister, then not sitting with James and Sirius, and meeting Raven…there was no doubt that the future was different now. What if, for his sake, he was killing people? Harry didn't know if the ripples he made could cause tsunamis, and it made him sick to think that trying to help people would only make things worse.
He must have looked pretty green, because Lily asked him, "Jacob, are you feeling alright?"
Harry nodded and tried to cover his frown with an unconvincing smile. When Lily looked back at Raven's drawing, he let his smile fade. He had the sudden desperate urge to grab his suitcase and find his Time-Turner, to tell his past self not to go back in time. The notion was even more appealing at the thought of seeing Ginny, Ron and Hermione. He'd learned his lesson—to appreciate the things he had—so couldn't he leave? But if he stopped himself from going back in time, he would lose the memories.
Unless…unless he gave all of the memories to his past self so he wouldn't even need to go back in time! The idea was so brilliant any doubt he had was stifled. If something disastrous should happen, he'd stop himself from going and give his memories to his future self, so any mistake he could fix later. Although Harry still had reservations, his temporary relief allowed him to move on.
The Sorting Hat. His main concern was not that it would announce he was an impostor—that seemed unlikely—it was whether he was doing the right thing. The Sorting Hat makes no mistakes when it places a student in a house. It can see everything in that person's mind, and Severus was no exception. The hat could see that Severus loved Lily, maybe even anticipated that Snape would always eventually make it to the good side. It had taken all of this into account while placing him.
Still…Harry glanced over at Severus. He was grinning; Raven had finished the basic structure of Lily's face, so her lightly sketched mouth was now smiling up at him. Harry took in the scene, willing it to convince him he was making a good decision. If, even with his guidance, Severus didn't get into Gryffindor, this time Harry would know it wasn't meant to be.
Harry watched the sun move down toward the ground in silence. It was beautiful, in a sad way, and brought a feeling he couldn't define. Maybe it was a sudden large understanding for the world that was impossible to put into words. It made him desperately sad, but also peaceful. He was content with watching the sun's journey for a while, until Lily's exclamation broke his thoughts.
"Wow, for me? Thank you!" Harry saw that it was a flattering, simplified image of Lily just before she tore out the drawing and handed it over. Severus tried to seem nonchalant as he peered at Raven's creation. Harry could now only see it upside down, but could tell that the penciled version of Lily was laughing.
"Really good job," Severus managed, almost shyly.
Lily nodded in agreement. "Thank you! It's amazing!" She studied it for a little while longer, then set it beside her, on top of all her schoolbooks, which rose above all of the trash. Noting the state of the compartment, she suggested, "Maybe we should clean up. I don't know how soon we'll get to Hogwarts, but we aren't using most of this anymore."
Harry glanced at Severus, then back at her. "How about you two go the bathroom to change while we clean up and get into our robes, too." Raven and Lily made eye contact and shrugged. They rummaged through their suitcases and each pulled out a set of robes. When they had gone, Severus and Harry started straightening up. The two piled empty wrappers in the corner, pocketing any candies that were left over. Harry put his books back, as well as Raven's sketchbook. He placed the picture of Lily carefully in her bag, which was Severus had straightened up the rest, so they both changed quickly. Lily and Raven came in just as the two had finished. They were thrilled to be in wizard's robes, and that was clear without the excitement being voiced.
By now, the sun was just above the horizon, casting a warm glow into the cabin. The sky was a soft orange color, which made Lily's dark hair seem lighter, and filled Snape's hollow black eyes with light. The four watched the sun dip below the horizon, leaving the sky hot with its dying flames. Witnessing simple things like a sunset made Harry feel small and insignificant, not to mention out of place. When was the last time he had seen a sunset? The ordinary, but spectacular sight of it made him homesick, thought he didn't understand why.
The train was only dark for a moment before the lights inside turned on. The color outside deepened to a dark blue, reducing the outside terrain to a rough black blur. No one talked leading up to when they arrived at the station, but somehow the slowing down of the train snapped them out of their trances.
"Well, this is it," Harry said, when the train had come to a complete stop. Lily smiled and stood up, as did the other three. Far ahead of them, Harry caught a glimpse of his father laughing with Sirius. His heart wrenched at the sight for a number of reasons, but he decided not to dwell on it and concentrated on his new surroundings.
It was dark outside, but with the help of the lanterns, the path was visible through the night. A couple first years gasped at the sight of the school in the distance, and, as always, Harry felt a familiar warmth spread through him, despite the cold of the night. This was his home. And he never had a proper seventh year anyway, right?
A younger version of Hagrid gathered all of the first years and brought them down a narrow path that Harry knew led to the lake. Sure enough, just as he remembered, there were boats docked by the shore. It was truly a magnificent sight: the black, glassy expanse of water cut through the trees and mountains, leading up to the great castle that sat above its edge. Everyone gasped at the stunning view, cutting through the still of the night.
"No more'n four to a boat!" Hagrid called as everyone eagerly headed toward the little boats. Severus, and Lily both clambered into the one closest to them. Harry went to join them, but for some reason, Raven hung back. She looked awkwardly around at the other canoes, but they were filling up fast.
Harry backtracked and asked her quietly, "Aren't you coming with us?"
Raven shook her head. "You don't need to…to be nice to me." She started forwards toward a sullen group of stragglers.
She turned to face him. "Because—because I know I'm going to be put in Slytherin, and you guys are all going to be in Gryffindor, or at least not in the same house as me."
"You don't know that!" Harry looked around. "It doesn't matter. The other boats are full. Let's go." Raven hesitated, looking around to make sure he was telling the truth, then followed him silently to the boat. He couldn't figure out what she was so concerned about, they had already sat as a group on the train, and it wasn't a big deal.
On Hagrid's shouted command, the fleet of boats began sailing forward across the lake. It was perfectly silent, except for the occasional light sound of water lapping against the boats. The air was becoming steadily more chilled, and more and more stars began peeking out of the sky. Everyone looked up in awe at the castle that towered above them, lights gleaming in the windows.
The boats docked and the new students crowded around the rocky shore until all of the first years had gathered. They all wordlessly walked up stony steps to the castle. Hagrid knocked loudly on the huge doors, and immediately Professor McGonagall opened them. Her stern face was exactly as Harry remembered, minus a few wrinkles.
"Thank you, Rubeus. I will lead them the rest of the way." She ushered them in, and as soon as they entered, the silence was broken and excited whispers broke out. The high ceilings, enchanted staircases, and moving portraits overwhelmed them. It truly was a spectacular sight, even to Harry, who had seen the view many times.
I'm home, he thought in disbelief for a second time. Harry couldn't help sharing a grin with Severus. He felt the smile more deeply than he had in a long time.
The buzz of hundreds of voices could be heard from where Harry knew was the Great Hall. The professor led them away and explained Hogwarts to them, just as she had done so many years ago. Except, he was with a whole different group of students, and while he appeared to be eleven, he was seven years older.
As soon as the Professor left, the expected apprehensive conversations broke out. As Lily and Severus exchanged guesses about what the sorting would be like, Harry and Raven hung back.
"Do you know about the sorting?" He asked her.
"Yes, my father told me about it. Do you, too? I don't want to spoil the surprise."
"Yeah, I know what happens. I read about it somewhere. At least it's not a test, right?"
Raven nodded mutely and looked up in slight surprise as ghosts burst out of the walls, deep in discussion. Harry didn't react, maybe he should've acted at least a little surprised, but no one would notice him over the confusion and screams. He wondered if the ghosts like to do this annually: scaring the heck out of the little kids, but acting as if it was no big deal.
Finally, the ghosts noticed the timid first years.
"Ah, new recruits! I hope you will be in Hufflepuff!" The Fat Friar exclaimed. He retained an optimistic smile even after this statement was met with snide mutters of those who will no doubt end up as Slytherins.
Professor McGonagall came back out and ordered the ghosts to join the other students in the Great Hall. As the spirits floated away, she organized the students into a line and told them to follow her. Harry was behind Severus, eye level with the space right above his neck (or what was his neck beneath his long dark hair) with Raven behind him.
There were more gasps as they entered the Great Hall. It was extravagantly decorated as usual for the first day of term. Heads turned toward the incoming eleven-year-olds as they surveyed the room in awe. However, Harry wasn't looking at the thousands of candles suspended in the air, or the enchanted ceiling like the rest of the. He was scanning the staff table, picking out familiar faces. There was Professor Slughorn, Professor Flitwick, Professor Dumbledore—Harry froze. He hadn't thought about the Headmaster at all. He wished he had before, to offset the shock he was in now. Out of everyone else, Dumbledore looked most similar to what he would look like in twenty years, which didn't help his pain.
Harry couldn't believe he was actually tearing up in front of everyone. He forced his gaze away from the incredible man, the one who had taught him so much, who had protected him even when Harry didn't know. He was just another person to add to his growing list of people he wanted to save.
While Professor McGonagall organized the new students and briefly explained the sorting process, Harry looked for more familiar faces. There was Hagrid (Harry's spirit lifted), Professor Sprout, and Madam Hooch. The other teachers he didn't recognize, but at least the main ones were familiar.
His attention was caught again by the Sorting Hat, who was just preparing to sing:
"I am the famous Sorting Hat,
I've been around for centuries
Sorted many just like you.
Gryffindors and Slytherins.
I'll do my best to place you,
Don't fret about where I choose—
Be proud of your house, for each is unique:
Maybe you are a Hufflepuff,
Home to the friendliest of folk,
Who never abandon their friends.
Perhaps you are a Ravenclaw,
Where your thoughts are highly prized
And only the cleverest are chosen.
Though, there is of course Gryffindor:
Where the brave and loyal dwell,
Along with the daring and good-hearted.
Or perhaps you belong in Slytherin,
The home of the ambitious and cunning,
Those who can overcome all obstacles.
No house is better than another,
Each are different, yes, but none superior—
So don't be shy! Try me on!
And remember: my choice is always true."
The hat was giving him every sign that its choice was final. Through the applause, Harry was struggling with one troubled thought: when the hat had placed Severus in Slytherin, had seen everything about Snape. Surely it had known about his capacity to love, how he would end up on the good side. Or did it?
The noise died down and Professor McGonagall stepped forward again, holding a roll of parchment. "When I call your name, you will place the hat on your head to be sorted." The hat waited on the stool, which overlooked all of the nervous children.
The Professor called the first name, one Harry didn't recognize, and the girl went forward to be sorted into Slytherin. Harry knew there weren't going to be many people he'd know; his parents had him when they were twenty, younger than the parents of most students he knew. However, he could see the blond head of Lucius Malfoy at the Slytherin table, wearing a prefect badge.
Soon the names reached the E's, and Lily was up. "Evans, Lily," She walked quickly to the stool. Harry glanced at Severus, who was staring at her, frozen. Harry could tell Severus knew that she was not going into Slytherin. The hat hardly skipped a beat for Lily; it sat on her head for only a moment before proclaiming "GRYFFINDOR!"
Harry could almost hear Snape's heart drop to his beat-up shoes. His face fell and the light was put out in his eyes. Lily gave him a sad smile, which he tried to return. His face twitched in vain, just making his grief more pronounced on his already solemn features.
Now was Harry's last chance to save him. He took a deep breath and shuffled closer to Severus.
"Listen," he began in undertone. Snape sighed and slowly turned toward him. He glanced at Professor McGonagall, who narrowed her eyes at them.
"When you put on the hat, you can ask it to put you in Gryffindor. It will listen to you." Harry continued quickly. The Professor suddenly shushed him, so he was forced to stop talking. He would've anyways; "Faralyn, Raven" was called next.
Raven walked steadily up to the stage and put the hat on. Being close to the shortest of the first years, the hat slid well over her eyes. She remained impassive until something the hat had communicated to her made her blink in surprise. Then its mouth opened and it yelled: "GRYFFINDOR!"
Raven's face lit up brilliantly and she went over the Gryffindor table next to Lily, still smiling broadly. Harry thought she looked over at the Slytherin table with a look of triumph. She must have really not wanted to be placed in Slytherin, maybe in the way that Sirius didn't want anything to do with his family.
After what seemed like no time at all, "Snape, Severus," was called. For a moment, Severus was rooted to the spot, but he regained his senses and shakily took a few steps forward. Then he fearfully looked back at Harry.
There was no mistaking what Harry said. He mouthed the words, "For her," and glanced toward the Gryffindor table where Lily was now seated.
Severus, for the first time, seemed to honestly take Harry's advice into consideration. Maybe it was because he had thought, somehow, Lily would be placed in Slytherin, or that in the end it wouldn't matter because they'd stay friends. Or maybe he thought he wouldn't mind terribly to be separated. Now, having felt the actual despair when she was put into the house he had so many prejudices about, he was torn.
Severus walked up to the chair, sat down, and carefully placed the hat upon his head.