Title: Brave, like a snake
Age-Range Category: Two
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Severus Snape, Lily Evans, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, James Potter, Sirius Black
Beta Reader(s): My spouse (if catching one typo and saying "it's okay" counts as beta?)
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
Summary: Some judicious blood magic on his death allows a much younger Severus a very unlikely second chance.
The huge red train was, by some mystery of magic, more intimidating at the other end of their first journey to Hogwarts. Steam flowed from its stacks, its sheer size seemed to magnify their distance from London, and from Cokeworth. Severus was not fond of home, but he was fond of some things in it. He was fond of knowing where it was, of having somewhere to hide, even if he didn't have much worth hiding.
Lily seemed to sense his hesitance and she reached for his hand, giving it a slight squeeze for comfort. Severus nodded, acknowledging her sentiment. Thank Merlin for Lily.
"Gryffindor," yelled the Sorting Hat.
Severus hadn't realised how much he had been hoping he and Lily would be Sorted together until he heard those vicious syllables from that vicious hat.
He'd known Mother would be disappointed if he didn't go to Slytherin, yet still he'd hoped that he and Lily both had a chance of being Sorted into one of the other Houses, together. Maybe Ravenclaw, or even Hufflepuff, if they had to, would be possible for either of them. He'd hoped they'd end up together so much that he hadn't even admitted it to himself. If they were together, they would be able to keep each other safe no matter where they both landed. But Gryffindor was hopeless for Severus. It had always been a risk, Sev wasn't stupid. Lily was brave beyond measure, but Severus had hoped that fact she was cunning and bright and clever as well might shine through, and she was loyal too. She was so many good things, it had seemed like there had been chances. Anything but Gryffindor, and there would have still been a chance for Severus too. Severus had read every book on Hogwarts' houses and histories he could find, he knew what Gryffindor meant, and he knew it was never going to be for him.
Maybe he'd known it all along, really. Known that she was brave and fair, most of all. And that he was not. He should have known that she was never really his at all. He should have known that hope was hopeless for a half-blood Prince.
He didn't pay much attention after that.
"Snape, Severus" called the dark haired professor who served as their Deputy Headmistress.
Her name was McGonagall, Severus reminded himself as he approached the Sorting Hat and its stool. Names, like blood, were almost as important as talent in the magical world. It was one of the things Mother told him often. She told him so few things that those she chose to repeat bore listening to.
Severus took his place on the stool and waited for the Hat to pass judgment upon him.
That is when things took a turn for the very odd indeed.
'Good evening, Severus,' said the Hat, in a voice like old honey, and aged silk — a more cultured version of his Father's. Severus couldn't help but shiver. 'I need you to listen to me very carefully, Severus. I do not have long, I am your future, but I am dying and the moment you remove this hat my connection to your timeline will be gone forever. Disintegrated by its own construction. Do you understand?'
He didn't, not really. But he understood enough that he tried to nod, tried to think his agreement toward the Hat.
'Excellent,' said the Hat. 'We are a selfish man, Severus, and I've come back far enough to make this change that I do not know how much else will change from it. As such, I will leave as much of my impression with you as I can, but I have only three pieces of advice before I do something that we may regret for the rest of our existence. Firstly, do not trust Lord Voldemort or his men, he is the one who killed you this time and he will do so again if given a chance, and Lily too. Secondly, don't trust Dumbledore either but let him think you do, it will all come down to Horcruxes and you must be in a position to ensure he sees it when he must. And third, most of all, protect Lily. Always. Choose Lily — do you understand, Severus?'
'Yes,' Severus thought as clearly as he could. This time he meant his agreement, that much he understood. He had always chosen Lily, and he probably always would.
'Good. And, good luck, Severus. We are going to need it, I'm afraid.'
With that parting statement, the Hat spoke aloud in its more usual croaky cotton voice: "Gryffindor," it shouted. And despite the odd exchange Severus was still shocked.
The red and gold table cheered very loudly, seemingly unaware of how unlikely the outcome had been and perfectly happy to have him, as Severus staggered to a place next to Lily. Seeming to sense that they already knew each other the blonde girl who had been almost glued to Lily's side made room for him. A space he had never expected opened at Lily's side and he was both horrified and thrilled at the prospect.
A round nervous boy opposite him risked sharing a smile — Pettigrew, Peter he recalled. Names were important, he had to remember that. Severus gave the boy a nod. He knew the name, now he considered it. Not sacred twenty-eight but his grandmother would not disdain the connection. Of course, that was only if Grandmama Prince would ever chose to pay enough attention to a Snape to know with whom Severus consorted. Highly unlikely.
Severus glanced over at the Slytherin table when he had assumed he would find himself. Then Lily squeezed his hand under the table, looking at him with large green eyes, and said "I'm glad we're in this together, Sev."
Severus looked away from the Slytherin table one last time, and didn't look back.
Severus had been as surprised as the rest of the students when Sirius Black was Sorted Gryffindor instead of Slytherin. They were an old and ambitious family, known for their pride and traditions but not for their chivalry.
It turned out that there was nothing surprising about it. While still being Gryffindor to the core, Black was the epitome of the very worst aspects of their House. He was brash and fearless to the point of recklessness, while still showing the selfishness and cruel sense of humour that his more aptly Slytherin family were known for. Black seemed to lose more house points in a day than the rest of the Gryffindor underclassmen did in a month. By some miracle of breeding he was not unpopular for it, however. Tolerated by the older students, even when he drove their own prefects to take points with his and Potter's constant antics.
Sirius Black and James Potter stuck together as though they'd been Spellotaped. They were utterly uninterested in either Severus or Pettigrew, aside from the occasional borderline insult, but the pureblood pair did sometimes converse with the only other male Gryffindor in their year, one Remus Lupin.
Remus was a half-blood, like Severus, not the only one in their house but the only one in their dorm. It bred a certain familiarity almost immediately. When Remus turned out to be good at chess, and willing to go out of his way to talk to Severus, as well as getting on almost instantly with Lily, something close to friendship seemed possible with at least one of his dorm mates.
Lily shared her room with two purebloods, Marlene McKinnon and Vivacia Selwyn-Figg, and a half-blood named Betty Pace; making Lily the only Muggleborn Gryffindor in their year. Severus had heard his mother commenting that there were more and more Muggleborn witches and wizards every year. Looking around the Gryffindor tower did not support that theory. Severus was aware that this must be difficult for Lily, but he was not sure how to bring it up without making the breadth of the gaps all the more obvious. It made him feel awkward and shy, and maybe just a little bit protective. It was a strange feeling and he didn't like it very much. It kept coming back anyway.
Life settled into an occasionally uncomfortable but generally bland routine. Severus found he enjoyed his classes, despite the fact that the basic content was often familiar from reading his mother's old books. Lily's rapt attention and thrilled reactions made even boring magical theory or the careful dissection for a potion interesting again.
The other children in their classes mostly ignored Severus, Remus, and Peter. But Potter and Black seemed to go out of their way to antagonise every other House against all Gryffindor boys. Despite the fact that they mocked Severus just as mercilessly behind closed doors, in public some kind of House pride overcame them and they mostly ignored him and Peter. Combine that indifference with the fact that Remus, somehow, managed to be friends with everyone, including Potter and Black, and the other students started to see all five of them as a near equal menace.
When the retaliation for different boys' misdeeds got too much, Severus taught both Peter and Remus a simple tripping jinx. Severus had been able to cast the spell with his mother's wand since he was seven, and without one since he was ten. It took Remus no time, but it took Peter longer and his was not as strong. Still, it gave them all enough time to flee and question their own Sorting in the relative safety of their common room.
The reaction of the other students was frustrating, but Severus would have had to speak to make it clear he hated Potter and Black just as much as whichever Slytherin or occasional Ravenclaw they were torturing. He decided against getting involved, declaring himself a neutral party even if it was only in his own head. For a while it almost worked.
Severus waited almost two months before he finally heard back from his mother. He knew his father hated owls coming to the house so he had only written to her thrice in all that time. He had still been disappointed, and somewhat terrified, for her reaction to his unprecedented Sorting. Prince had always been a Slytherin family.
His mother's reaction turned out to be distressing but not in the way he had imagined. She was disappointed, that much was obvious from her missive, but unsurprised, mostly she was disinterested. It made him angry and uncomfortable in nameless ways. It made him want to cry, or hex something. Or run away and hide.
Lily didn't let him. She was good like that.
"Come along, Sev," said Lily, as commanding as an eleven year-old could be. "Potter is being a frightful show-off during flying lessons, and Remus and I will need your help hexing his broom."
Severus smiled at her despite himself. Sometimes when Lily talked to James Potter it made his heart ache in unfathomable ways. It didn't make sense, but neither did dreams about giant snakes and the word Horcrux spinning through his head in the grey dawn light.
Lily didn't ask what was wrong, and neither did Remus for which Severus was perversely grateful. He wasn't sure he had the words even if he had wanted to share the way his mother's letter made him feel. Peter didn't even notice anything wrong, but he played along with Lily's revenge plans anyway.
That was how the Gryffindor prank war of 1971 really started.
It took him almost two whole terms to be certain of Remus Lupin's secret.
The final test was a bunch of blooming aconite which Lily claimed to have gathered in the Hogwarts gardens even though they didn't grow anywhere in bounds. Severus had to beg an elderly house-elf to fetch them from the Forbidden Forest. The elf's obedience made him wonder if it had once been a Prince elf. Made him wonder at the possibilities of a life he would never know, had his mother made a more worthy match.
Severus almost felt sorry for Remus when he started sneezing.
Lily Banished the flowers with a flick of her wand, which was a shame, Severus would have liked to further experiment with their potency, but he understood her protective streak even if he didn't also feel it. At least they had waited until they were alone, on the battlements. The pollen would be blown away with the cool spring winds.
"Please don't tell anyone," Remus begged.
Rightly so, a Dangerous Creature in Hogwarts walls was not only subject to removal but lethal force if it resisted. Severus felt something akin to protective himself at that thought.
"Of course we won't tell anyone Remus." Lily spoke with a confidence that Severus hadn't truly shared until he saw the fear in Remus' eyes and realised they were friends. All of them. He had never had more than one friend before, it had never occurred to him he might have the option.
"How did you figure it out?" When Remus shivered, it wasn't from the cold. "I thought I was being so careful."
"Well, there was the timing of your stays in the Hospital Wing—" Severus found himself trying to explain.
"And the fact you were never in the Hospital Wing," Lily added, interrupting Severus.
"And the name," Severus said, tone dour but with a small smile so Remus could know he was joking should he choose to see it. "If I were a werewolf and I met a boy named Remus Lupin, I suspect I would try and bite you just because of the sheer dramatic irony. Very dramatic creatures, werewolves. Or so I've observed."
Remus laughed, and just like that the tension broke. Lily hugged first Remus, and then Severus; overflowing, as she sometimes was, with verve and the emotion of the moment.
By the time the end of his first year at Hogwarts arrived, the train did not look so imposing.
Lily still gave his hand a small squeeze, and she would be with him all summer. Remus and Peter had promised to write. And even Black and Potter were only mildly annoying when they insisted on joining the other Gryffindor First Years in their carriage for the return journey.
Severus was determined to find out more about the mystery of the Horcrux this summer, despite the limitations of his mother's library. However, the Prince library held some promise, and now that he was confirmed as more than a Squib he might be allowed near his mother's ancestral home — if he was careful and put the case just right.
It wasn't going to be easy, whatever it was, this path his Hat-possessing benefactor had set him upon, but Severus found himself looking forward to it anyway. Lily would help him. It might just be enough.