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At Great Personal Risk by academica
Chapter 3: The First Years' First Test
Severus didn’t get a wink of sleep the night before the train ride to Hogwarts.
He leapt out of bed at the sound of his mother calling him for breakfast, nearly knocking over his trunk, which had been packed for a week but checked and double-checked multiple times over the past twelve hours. His clothes for the day, a faded white t-shirt and an aged pair of jeans that he was pretty sure were a size too big for him, were laid out on his dresser, folded tenderly by his mother in a last act of comfort before his departure for Hogwarts. He didn’t want to seem too eager, however, so he left them for the time being, heading downstairs in his pajamas.
“Morning, sweetie.” His mother smiled, putting a plate of French toast in front of him.
“But we had our big breakfast yesterday.” He pointed out.
“Well, today is a special day.” Mrs. Snape countered softly, opening the refrigerator. “Would you like grape juice or pineapple?”
“Which one is better for the nerves?” Severus began cutting into his meal.
“Hmm… the pineapple. It’s infused with the Draught of Peace.” She poured him a glass. “Do you remember what that potion does?”
“It calms you down, of course.” Severus poured some maple syrup onto his toast, taking a bite. It was delicious, but he worried that maybe his stomach was too unsettled to finish the full helping.
“Well done.” Eileen smiled, putting the rest of the pineapple juice away and placing the glass before her son. She took a sip of the grape juice in her own glass.
“That one’s easy, Mum, it’s in the name.” Severus smiled despite himself.
“Morning, you two.” Tobias came down the stairs, wearing his work uniform. He poured a glass of pineapple juice, not caring what the secret ingredient was, merely interested in getting it down.
“What are you doing dressed?” Eileen asked, confused.
“I told Herman I’d come in today, help pick up some of the slack, get some overtime.” He explained. “It’ll help us out at Christmastime.”
“Can’t you wait to go in until after Severus leaves?” His wife pleaded gently.
“No, I’m sorry, I told him I’d be in at 8:30, and it’s already ten after.” He glanced at his son. “Besides, Severus is a big boy. He doesn’t need me to help him find his way, do you?”
“No, I suppose not.” Severus said, resigned. After a moment of thought, however, he started to think it was for the best. Tobias, a Muggle, would hate being surrounded by babbling wizards.
“Oh, all right.” Eileen picked up a clean plate. “I’ll put some of this away for you. We can’t eat it all, not with just the two of us.”
“Sounds lovely. Thank you.” Tobias kissed his wife on the cheek, patting Severus lightly on the back. “Have a good term, son.” With that, he turned and exited through the front door.
“Well, are you ready to go?”
Violet Evans hadn’t really wanted a child at all. She and her husband were struggling to make ends meet as it was, and having to save up for Lily’s Hogwarts education had stretched their budget uncomfortably. Still, at least Lily didn’t ask for anything extra, preferring to keep mostly to her room or sit out alone in the garden. This gave Violet plenty of time to fight with Robert, her husband. He was currently passed out in their master bedroom, sleeping off what was sure to be a record hangover, and this turn of events left Violet to escort Lily to the train by herself.
She looked impatiently down at the girl and her trunk.
“Yes, Mum, all packed.” Lily bit her lip, speaking quietly but respectfully.
“Good.” Violet checked her watch. It was a quarter after ten, time to leave.
As they got further from Mill Town and closer to Kings Cross, Lily began to see other witches and wizards in full magical dress. She smirked to herself, wondering what the Muggles thought, and she and her mother joined their ranks as everyone headed to Platforms Nine and Ten. Pulling her trunk close behind her, she watched as a boy with brown hair rushed straight at the barrier, passing through it cleanly. She did not glance up at her mother for confirmation before trying it out herself. She got to the other side, turning around to find herself alone.
It was now ten-forty. Lily made certain that her bags were received and put away, and then she climbed aboard the train, finding an empty compartment without much trouble. She sat down, pulling on her sleeves with her fingertips and wishing she had brought a book, at least something to drink. She had no idea how long the ride to the castle would take.
Suddenly, her compartment door opened. A familiar-looking boy with sleek black hair and dark eyes stood there, looking just as clueless as she felt. “Are you sitting with anyone?” He asked.
“No.” Lily said cautiously, but she had nothing to say that would keep anyone else out.
The boy took the seat across from her, remembering suddenly that he’d left the door open. He got up to shut it, pausing and looking at her. He’d been a bit rude. “You don’t mind me—”
“Yes, you can take it.” Lily said, trying not to snap impatiently.
“Okay.” He said, taking his seat again and waving at a dark-haired woman who was blowing him kisses from the other side of the window. The two of them sat there in silence until eleven, and when the train began to move, the boy leaned forward slightly, clearly intending to speak.
“I’m Severus Snape.” He offered.
“Lily.” She muttered, looking up at him. At least he was friendly. “Evans.”
“Oh, okay.” He fell quiet once more.
“Are you a pureblood?” She asked rudely.
“No.” He admitted. “I’m a half-blood.”
“Oh.” She looked down. “Better than nothing, I suppose.” She murmured under her breath.
“Haven’t I seen you before?” He interjected, clearly oblivious to her last comment.
“Yeah, I think I saw you in the Apothecary.” She replied.
“Oh, yeah, right.” He cracked his knuckles idly. “You like Potions?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know much about it, really.” She glanced up into his eyes, finding an odd sort of comfort residing there. They were the kindest she’d ever seen. “Ollivander said my wand’s good for charm work, though.”
“That’s cool.” He brightened a bit.
By the time they reached the castle, Severus and Lily’s conversation had covered a variety of topics, the latest being House preferences. Severus wanted to be in Gryffindor, having heard nothing but positive things about it, while Lily preferred Slytherin, like her mum and dad. Both of them were beginning to soften toward one another, having found kinship in the fact that they were both only children from an impoverished section of Muggle London.
When the train stopped, they got off and retrieved their things, crossing the lake in tiny rowboats with the rest of the first years. Professor McGonagall was waiting at the top of the stairs in the castle’s foyer to greet them. She instructed them about the sorting, which was old news to everyone but the Muggle-borns, and then she led them through double doors into the Great Hall.
Lily took in her new environment while she waited for her name to be called, looking around at the professors, the brightly candlelit room with its starry ceiling, and the hordes of older students. In front of her, “Black, Sirius” grinned as he was accepted into Slytherin. A moment later, it was her turn, and she stepped up and sat on the stool before slipping the hat onto her head.
Hmm… what to do with you… The hat spoke audibly, but everyone stared at her instead.
“Slytherin.” Lily whispered firmly.
No offense, my dear, but I don’t see a whole lot of cunning in here. Not a great deal of bravery, either, I’m afraid… that only leaves two choices. I’m sure Filius would love to have someone with a potential for charms in his house, but I sense a talent and patience for gardening here, and I think you’ll be highly valued by Pomona.
Lily glanced out at Severus, who was watching her intently.
Is that loyalty for a friend I see? The hat purred. Yes, that confirms it. “HUFFLEPUFF!”
Lily practically tossed the hat to the next student, moving past a few snickers from students in Gryffindor and Slytherin as she made her way to the Hufflepuff table. A couple of students clapped for her, and others greeted her with a warm smile and light clap on the back.
Hufflepuff? Are you kidding me? Mum and Dad will disown me… Lily sighed, turning her attention back to the sorting and hoping that her new friend would wind up there with her.
“Lupin, Remus”, who looked a bit ill, was sorted into Gryffindor. She saw the boy with the brown hair she’d followed onto the platform step up, and he was sorted into Ravenclaw. A small boy named Peter Pettigrew found his home in Gryffindor, and a pair of red-haired twins were placed in Ravenclaw. Perhaps Hufflepuff is even less popular than I thought, Lily said to herself.
Finally, after a few more students had come and gone, emerging from under the hat with new homes, it was Severus’s turn.
He situated himself on the chair, bracing himself for the outcome.
Ah, yes, the object of the redhead’s affections.
Severus looked at Lily, blushing visibly. A few of the other first years smirked at him.
Well, well, look at you, my boy. Slytherin would be quite lucky to have you, but I see a different kind of intelligence here, a drive to learn for the sake of learning. I’ll say… “RAVENCLAW!”
Severus hopped off the stool, smiling at the Ravenclaw students as they welcomed him into their fold. He waved at Lily, but she didn’t move, finally offering him a fake smile at the last minute.
Down the table, a girl with light blonde hair was staring at him, watching without his knowledge.