You are viewing a story from harrypotterfanfiction.com


Turning Time: Lily and Snape by Hermionecantsing

Format: Novel
Chapters: 9
Word Count: 77,783
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Spoilers

Genres: Drama, Romance
Characters: Harry, Lupin, Snape, James, Lily, Sirius, OC
Pairings: Snape/Lily

First Published: 08/09/2011
Last Chapter: 11/08/2017
Last Updated: 11/08/2017

Summary:
 





Every day of his adult life, Severus was forced to ask himself one question: What if?

Now, Harry finds himself struggling for the solution, and along the way he's changing the past, the present, the future... and the lives of those around him. 

Everything is going to change, and it starts with the appearance of a mysterious boy...

Banner credit: Althea...Thanks for the amazing banner!


Chapter 1: Water Lily
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

I'm sorry you don't remember your mum and dad in person. They'd be very proud of you. You'll see that you're a spitting image of James, and you've got Lily's smile. You're as bright as they were, too. Anyhow, I hope this helps.

Feel better,

Hagrid.


2 June, 1998.

Harry closed the photo album and sighed, looking around his room. He felt particularly empty today, more so than he had over the past few weeks. It was understandable; he had killed Voldemort a mere two months ago and was still recovering from the shock of the War and the loss of the people he had grown up with.

His life had jolted in a new direction. He was no longer always bent on killing Voldemort and no longer had his home, Hogwarts, which had taken over such a huge portion of his spirit, and his time.

Harry didn't have a problem finding other things to do, however. No, that was not the issue at all—for the first two weeks after the battle he toured locations around the country that had been devastated by the War. He visited those who struggled the most, distributing food and supplies while also giving the wizarding community hope for the future.

Harry managed to avoid the press for the most part, but that didn't stop him from dominating headlines and news articles about every aspect of his life, which became increasingly dramatized. He got hundreds of letters every day: the thanks of people all over the globe. Some were from girls professing their love, others from children who saw him as their idol. He thought the most heartfelt ones were from those orphaned by Voldemort. From parents whose children fought at the final battle at Hogwarts. Those who lost their homes to Death Eater raids. And Muggle-born witches and wizards who lost their jobs, or had to go into hiding.

While Harry did appreciate the thanks he received, he disliked the attention—just another example of his modesty. The letters and newspapers gave him a larger perspective on the huge role he had in the war, but he always redirected praise to the others who had helped. Everyone from Aberforth to the Weasley family were credited for their contributions, as they should be. Still, Harry was considered the hero of the war; the Boy Who Lived had a whole new meaning, one of victory and peace. His name was everywhere. There had even been a broomstick designed in his honor.

This renewed popularity easily earned Harry an apprenticeship as an Auror. He could probably even run for the Minister for Magic in fifteen years or so, and win—but that didn't interest him. For the time being, he had enough money, and wasn't recovered enough to have a job anyway. On days when he wasn't traveling, he was up in his room, poring over letters, newspapers, old photographs. Sometimes he would just sit at his desk or lay in bed, turning a childhood possession over and over again in his hands. Harry knew that he wasn't moving forward, but it was impossible for him to do so. He had been striving for what was normal; a simple life, where every day was not a battle between life and death. Now that he had reached his goal, it seemed as if he was doing nothing fulfilling. The bright side of things should have compensated, if not overcompensated, for the bad side. Harry was still alive. He had saved many people, wizarding and non-wizarding folk alike. He still had a great deal of friends who survived, including Hermione and Ron. This in particular should have been enough for him. Maybe it was the actuality that the three were growing apart that made him more pessimistic than he should be.

For the first month, the trio had remained inseparable, but soon it became clear that it was not the same while Hermione and Ron were together. Harry attempted to bring Ginny into their group, to balance things out, but the dynamics were still different. It was like having a double date, and they would immediately pair off. And just one month after the war, Harry was becoming distant from the new couple. After seven-odd years of being with them constantly, it created a significant gap in Harry's life.

The Weasleys had moved into a new, much larger home with the help of thousands of gifts from the wizarding community to everyone who now lived there—Harry, Hermione, her parents, Luna, her father, and Neville (as well as Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, and Ron, of course). It was a temporary home until everyone got back on their feet and provided emotional support to anyone who needed it.

There was a knock on the door, rousing Harry slightly from his thoughts. By now he could recognize who it was just by the simple rhythm. The sound was even more delicate than usual: it was nearly midnight and everyone else was most likely asleep.

She knew, by now, not to enter if Harry didn't answer. Though, currently, he felt like he could use some company.

"Come in," said Harry, absentmindedly rolling the pencil on his desk with an effortless flick of his wand. He used a quill rather than the pencil to write with, but kept the pencil to remind him of his Muggle upbringing. He had received it from his Aunt and Uncle for his birthday and it was probably the nicest gift they had ever given him.

Ginny slowly opened the door, hesitating a moment before she closed it carefully behind her. Harry couldn't tell what she was thinking by her unusually blank expression. If she had come with good news she would have been smiling. What could be so urgent that it couldn't wait until morning?

Ginny remained unreadable as she walked to his bed and sat down. Harry had the instinct that she was an impostor by the way she was acting, but dismissed the thought. He had problems being too wary sometimes, just one of the lasting effects of the war. Even so, he couldn't help tightening the grip on his wand.

He was just about to ask what it was she had come for when she started shaking and buried her face in her hands.

"Ginny—" he began, taken aback. Her crying was stifled in the effort she was making to be quiet.

Harry had rarely seen Ginny cry, even recently with the deaths of her brother and many others she was close to. She was an incredibly strong person. Because of this, Harry felt weak, knowing that if she continued for too long he would also break down with her.

He pulled Ginny into a firm hug as she continued to cry, wishing he could do more to help, wishing he could say something comforting. Nothing came, so he just patted her on the back, trying to express that he was there for her.

They sat like this for a while—Ginny's flowery-smelling hair pressed into the side of his face, her shaking hands tightly gripping his shirt—until she had mostly recovered. She moved gingerly out of his arms, and wiped her wet eyes with her sleeve.

"I know how you can change this," she said seriously through the aftermath of her tears.

Harry froze, chilled by her tone even though he didn't yet understand what she meant. What does "this" mean?

Ginny elaborated before he could ask to explain. "I mean, I know how you can change how you are. I know you more than you realize, Harry. I can see how lost you are. It's in your eyes. The way you talk—and move, even. How you've become separated from everyone, even when they try to reach out to you. And I'm no exception."

Harry was about to comfort her, tell her that wasn't true, but Ginny stopped him by what she said next: "Most of all, though, I know how to make you see how it should be like this."

"How?" Harry surprised himself at his immediate reaction. Did he know what she was talking about? Who's to say he wanted things to be different? Voldemort was dead. Things were getting better. Still, he found himself curious to know what she meant.

"Time travel," Ginny replied, her brown eyes still trained on his green ones. She searched for a reaction in his frozen face.

But he had no idea how he should react, what to think. How would time travel possibly help him? Was it even possible? The Time-Turners he knew only went back in time by the hour. And what would he do in the past? Would he see his parents before they died? If he went to his parent's time, he might never want to leave. Seeing his parents was such an impossible thought, it wasn't quite registering in his mind. Through all these years he wanted nothing more than to have them alive. The proof was there in the Mirror of Erised! He could literally get stuck in the past. But would that be that much worse than being stuck in the past as he is now?

"Except, Harry, I wouldn't be able to come with you," Ginny added quietly.

Harry stared at her numbly. He didn't want to lose her, too. "Why not?"

"Because I'm happy where we're at now. I think it would be better for me not to, and this is something you need to do on your own." She hesitated. Her hand found Harry's chest and she leaned in to kiss him. These were times when he really felt, where he remembered love, and it depressed him terribly.

They broke apart and Ginny looked away. She tried to wipe the tears that were running down her face before he noticed. "It won't be long for me to wait. I'm just worried about you. If you don't come back in a few minutes I'll find a way to stop you from leaving in the past, okay?"

Harry had yet to fully understand the whole time travel thing, and did not make an effort to now. But, if it followed the theory he already knew, he would end up changing nothing. Everything would end up the same, because the past had already happened—he's already been there. The only question is whether or not he would survive the outcome of the future. Then again, it would be easy to prevent his death. Just to go back a few minutes and stop him. And maybe, whatever he changed would actually change this reality. Which would end up being right, Harry didn't know, but he figured he would be okay either way it turned out. And Ginny must know that.

"I'll be fine. I think this is what I need to keep peace with everyone who's passed. I want to say goodbye." Even as he spoke, though, Harry was realizing how much more he wanted to do, to say, than to just goodbye. There was so much he wanted to change. Although he failed to see how he could change anything. Changing one thing could make the world too different to fix something else, upsetting the delicate balance they had achieved here.

Ginny pulled her gaze away from him and reached down into her pocket. She pulled out a Time-Turner and handed it to him. It had been a while since he had seen one. Except—this particular Time-Turner was different. It had six rings around the center instead of two. Harry, after briefly considering the rare object, could guess why: a regular one could just take him back by hours. This was made for traveling more easily by longer periods of time. The next rings could take allow him to travel by days, then maybe months, then years, then decades…

"How did you get this? I thought all of them were destroyed," Harry asked as he continued examining it. The sand in the hourglass was a bright red, like manufactured blood.

"This one's different. You can go back farther, and go forward within the past—so as long as it's not in the future. I'll tell you about it when you get back. Just…" For a moment, she seemed to debate what to say. "You owe me."

It was not the best thing Ginny could have said to him, because Harry misinterpreted what hidden meaning it might have had. He hugged her tightly.

"Don't worry. I'll find a way to pay you back." She didn't want anything in return apart from his happiness. "I'll be back before you can miss me," Harry added softly. She seemed to want to say she already did miss him. He had retreated into the dark recesses of depression and was so unlike his normal self it was similar to ghostliness. Perhaps she hoped within a few seconds or minutes of her time he would be back to his old self.

Ginny gave him a bag that he recognized to be Hermione's. It was the magical one they had used for their supplies in the woods earlier that year. She cleared her throat. "I—I figured you were going to want to go, so I packed some things for you."

Harry wondered how long she had been planning this. As she explained how to work the Time-Turner and gave him tips, he grabbed things from his room that he might need. Robes, trousers, books, gloves—virtually everything he owned. Luckily, he had both a small stack of Muggle money and a modest assortment of Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts. "…and I wrote down the date and time two minutes from now so you can return as close to when you left as possible." Ginny handed him the note and he dropped it into his bag.

"Anything else?" Harry asked, scanning the room to double check.

"Just this." She picked up the Time-Turner and handed it to him.

He gave Ginny one last look and put the chain over his head. Before he could start to turn the device, she flung her arms around him.

"Be careful," she whispered, and released him, blinking rapidly.

"I will," he replied, and began turning. Today was August 2nd, 1998. He wanted to go to August 2nd, 1971…

Harry appeared in the middle of a field. He jumped in surprise; thunder rolled in the distance and he was immediately immersed in pounding rain.

"Impervius," he muttered, and immediately the rain around him was repelled. He had chosen to visit his mother's home so he could see her—and Snape.

One thing that constantly ate up Harry was the relationship between Snape and his mother. How Snape loved Lily more than anything in the world, until the day he died, and was willing to give up everything he had for her. Not only that, but she had never known. Harry wished Snape had not died, or at least that he'd had the opportunity to die happy.

Harry no longer trusted his character judgement. If he had been wrong about Snape, who else could he have misjudged? He wished he had not been so quick to hate Snape. He wished things were different.

Harry Apparated to Lily's front lawn, which was in an orderly, symmetrical neighborhood that reminded him strongly of Little Whinging.

Harry stood in front of the house, considering his options. He cast a spell above him to block the rain as he thought. He needed to find shelter, and soon. The nearest place was, of course, Lily's home. It was pretty close to impossible for anyone to discover him if he was invisible, so he figured it would be safe to stay. Harry pulled out his Invisibility Cloak from Hermione's purse and pulled it over. He walked up the front steps, unlocked the door with an effortless wave of his wand, and went inside. He was in his mother's living room, which seemed pretty conventional. Only the fireplace was familiar to him—and a few of the pictures on the mantle. Harry quietly stepped over to pick one up. Immediately, he identified one as the very same picture that was in his album.

It was a Muggle photo of a girl standing in a field of flowers. She looked about five from what he could tell, with dark red hair that flowed past her shoulders. She was bending down to pick a flower that matched her white dress. Obviously, the bright, gentle girl he saw in the picture was his mother.

Harry dug around in his bag for the album that held the very same picture. Eventually, after overturning everything in the bag, his fingers grazed the plastic cover of the book. He pulled it out and started searching for the picture. It was near the beginning of the album, among others of her laughing and smiling as a toddler. Harry slid it out of the cover and held it up to compare to the photo in the frame. He was not sure if he had expected something strange to happen, but anyway, nothing did. His version remained the same yellowed piece of print it had been before.

Harry tucked the picture back in its slot and dropped the photo album into the bag. He stood, slowly surveying the simple living room. To his left there was a door, most likely a closet, ahead of him was the kitchen, and next to the kitchen, a flight of stairs going up.

He remembered where the basement had been when he visited—just around the other side of the kitchen. Even now there was almost nothing downstairs, save for a couch and a few boxes full of junk. Harry cast a charm that would alert him if anyone came into the room and settled down in the couch. He pulled the cloak over him as a sort of blanket as well as a disguise. He felt his weariness immediately wash over him. Thoughts vied for his attention in his mind; he couldn't concentrate on one long enough to be distracted. But before long, he found sleep overpowering them…

Harry woke up on his own. The summer sun illuminated the basement, rousing him, so he managed to get up and out before anyone else could do the same.

He decided the safest place he could go was the small forest near their house. As he walked under his cloak, he searched for a book he brought that would help him with an important part of his plan. Eventually, he found Deceiving the Eye: Charms and Transfigurations to Disguise Oneself, which changed colors as he looked at the cover. Harry flipped through it, trying to find spells he could use.

For him to safely meet anyone in his past, he would have to appear his parents' age, (eleven years old). On top of that, he could not look like his father.

Changing one's appearance was easier than copying someone else's. Although, it wasn't exactly legal if one went overboard. Changing small things, a few at a time, like hair style or eye color wasn't as deceptive. And since the spells were not permanent, they were easier to perform. But Harry doubted he could pull a disguise off well enough to be able to attend Hogwarts with his parent's generation. He had not quite ruled it out, as the possibility had tugged at him since he saw the Time-Turner, but it seemed unlikely.

Harry knew that when a witch or wizard is born in the United Kingdom, a magical quill at Hogwarts detects their ability and writes their name down so they can later receive a letter inviting them to the school. Harry would not be on the list. As he came upon a river alongside the forest, he toyed with the idea of fixing the issue. He would either have to find a way to cheat the quill, or—well. That is what he would have to do. To see if he could go back in time to eleven years ago and enter his name. He knew little about it, but if he needed to write the address of somebody's home, do what he needed to do to get the letter.

Harry crossed an old, rotting wooden bridge even though there was another, newer one about a hundred meters ahead. The wood creaked threateningly underneath his feet and he walked faster. Harry thought he heard it splinter by the time he made it safely to the other side, but he figured he had just imagined it. His thoughts quickly were redirected when he found a spell he could use.

It was a simple one—he had to tap his wand against the color he wanted his hair, say, "Mutare Colorem," and it would change to be the chosen color.

The book provided different shades for him, so he spent some time debating the various choices. Finally, Harry decided on dirty blond. He wanted something that would not stand out and was not close to his natural color. He reread the spell and practiced muttering the incantation a few times. Then he took out his wand. On the first try, nothing. On the second, he felt a tingle, then a rush of warmth. He pulled out a mirror to see if his hair had transformed. It worked perfectly—it looked completely real, and his eyebrows had changed, too, which saved him some effort.

Harry continued looking through the book, changing his eyes to a flat gray and extending his eyelashes (this was easier than changing his eyes to an entirely different shape). He changed the pitch of his voice to something more realistic for an eleven-year-old boy. He made his lips slightly larger, his nose straighter (which was significantly harder than the other spells to accomplish), and his hair shorter and more controlled. Once he was satisfied with his new appearance, he prepared for the next step.

This was by far the most difficult part. The charm was toward the back of the book, along with the more advanced spells. It basically took age-reversal transfigurations and combined them to alter one's appearance as a whole. It could not extend life, however. Additionally, more difficult, permanent adaptions were as plastic surgery would be to Muggles: frowned upon for wizards to do, and overuse could make it obvious the person had gone through it. Also, the charm was similar to the Polyjuice Potion in the way that it changed only the outside of the person, leaving health issues intact, or in Harry's case, his poor vision.

Harry could still perform spells outside of school because he would still be technically seventeen—the spell would not reinstate the Trace. It also would not make him immature; his maturity could give him away. But he figured if Barty Crouch, Jr. could pass as Mad-Eye for a whole year with no one noticing, he could pretend to be a kid for just as long.

Another risk with de-aging himself was that if he made even the slightest mistake, he could be permanently disfigured. As he glanced at the risks, he saw that even the incorrect emphasis on a syllable could affect the outcome of the spell.

After studying the multiple steps involved, Harry prepared to perform the enchantment. He would need to do it six times, one for each year he intended to de-age himself. Harry dug through his purse and pulled out a mirror, then took a long, steadying breath.

"Aetas recipere," he murmured, making complicated movements with his wand. Instantly, he began to change. His face gained a little more baby fat, and his skin cleared slightly. Harry felt himself lose some muscle, and the ground lurched a bit closer. "Aetas recipere," he repeated, then over and over until he looked like a typical eleven-year-old. He felt sore all over, as his skin had been pinched and bruised. He had a rounded face with a simple expression, smooth skin, and young, sparkling eyes. He felt he must have shrunk about a tenth of a meter, though it was hard to tell.

Finally, he could remove his cloak. He looked down at his now ill-fitting clothes. At least now he seemed more modest, even poor. He wanted to appear as to Snape he could relate to his situation while not warding off those he meant to impress. In that case, Jacob Walker's (the name he decided for his remodeled self) moderately good looks should make up for his clothes.

Harry also decided both of Jacob's parents were Muggles, that he should identify as a Mudblood (after the war, Mudblood became a two-sided term: wholly offensive or inoffensive and more casual. It definitely depended on the person and the context). He didn't have a choice, really; any wizarding family could be easily traced and he wouldn't stand a chance of fooling anyone. He would wait to tell Snape about his bloodline until he was directly asked; otherwise they probably wouldn't be able to form a solid friendship. And if it worked out well enough between them, he would go to Hogwarts.

As the idea began to grow on him, Harry realized he needed to figure out how to deal with Dumbledore, the Sorting Hat, and Apparating. Dumbledore's magic was far more advanced than his; he would likely be able to tell if Harry had been altered by a spell. The Sorting Hat could read his thoughts, so what would prevent it from announcing that he was an impostor? And if something life-threatening happened he wouldn't be able to easily escape.

Harry at least knew it was possible to get to the Hogwarts grounds through Hogsmeade; it was mostly how he could get into the castle itself.

But he would have all the time he needed to plan it—he had to focus what to do about his mother and Snape.

He wanted them to at least die as friends. Not the broken dislike-versus-obsession it became. At the same time, if his mum didn't end up with James, too much would be different. Harry would have never been born, or he would at least look different. He probably would have been born on a different day, so the prophecy might be about someone else, and—it was too complicated. Harry cursed himself for having the desperate hope that it would have been the same if they had been together. Harry could not kill Voldemort, either, especially not before 1980. The only way everything might still work would be to kill Voldemort before his parents were killed. It would be difficult and time-consuming, even knowing about all of the Horcruxes. Too much of time could change, and he knew very little about time travel to assume everything would work out.

Harry decided it would be easiest if he figured it out as he went along, the way he seemed to go through the rest of his exploits.

He reached the small river that would eventually lead to Snape's house on Spinner's End. Harry just wanted to see it; he wasn't going to see him, he would wait until the right time to do that. He walked alongside the water, occasionally glancing at his reflection. It was strange—each time he saw his now unfamiliar face his adrenaline rushed, as if someone else was right behind him. This distraction delayed his realization that he had reached the town.

Harry saw the sign that read Spinner's End from where he stood, across the street. He knew Severus' house was on the end, so he walked quickly down the road until he reached recognized it. It was lucky the he had some significant detail about Snape's house—all of the homes were identical. This part of town was worn-in, obviously lower class, and the smog from the factory hung in the air. On their particular house, the chimney was worn down at the top, and the window at the top level of the house was dark and cracked. The whole house had a dusty, abandoned look. The only signs of occupancy were the barely audible sounds of arguing and the dim light coming through the blinds of the front windows. Maybe he would have been surprised this was the place Snape had grown up before the fateful night of the 2nd, when he thought Snape was as cold and unfeeling as any other Death Eater. Now he understood how this place must have corrupted Snape.

That was the difference between his mother's death and Snape's death. He hadn't known his mum at all. He had fragments of knowledge of her, and had met her spectral form before he sacrificed himself to Voldemort. Whereas Harry had met Snape, and knew him. Or at least he had thought he had. Both deaths shared the question, "What if…?"

Harry was so immersed in his thoughts he almost failed to notice that an eleven-year-old Severus had run out of the house's side door. He just had barely enough time to pull on his cloak before Snape glanced back in his direction. Harry instinctively held his breath, even though he knew Snape couldn't have spotted him. After watching the skinny, poorly dressed boy awkwardly run along down the cracked sidewalk, Harry started after him.

They quickly reached the forested area by the town. Sun filtered in through the trees, illuminating the forest floor in patches of gold. Harry was amazed at the beauty that thrived in such an ugly place. The polluted air dissipated, transitioning from the bad part of town to the good side, of which Harry could just make out past the trees. It was clearly like a second home to Severus because, even at his quick pace, he could dodge every root and run over the uneven ground as though it were perfectly flat.

Just as Harry ran out of breath, Snape appeared to have reached his destination. It didn't appear significant to Harry—it was just a small space between the trees, just barely big enough for two people to lie out in. Nevertheless, it was clearly a special place to him. The place that the best times of his life would happen. Harry's chest constricted as he watched Snape pick up a few pine cones and twigs and carry them out of the space, obviously preparing for Lily's arrival.

Then Harry's mother came. No one had seemed to have accurately described her beauty, and none of the pictures he had seen could capture how she looked now. Her hair was soft in the sunlight, radiating like warm fire.

And her eyes. As tired of a topic it was, they were a perfect copy of Harry's.

It was no wonder the way Snape looked at her, his face flushed, shyly smiling. Harry wished that he could've known either of the small smiles they exchanged. His long-lived desire for a mother seemed to spike in intensity. Harry couldn't decide if his heart was breaking, or if it was repairing itself. He decided it had broken—these two children were destined to die miserable, pointless deaths.

It was not a good idea to come to here, Harry realized.

Harry thought of the expression, "Some things are meant to be." He now completely disagreed. Voldemort was not meant to be. He led to the death of thousands. He killed people, directly and indirectly—people who loved, people who were loved, people who never got the chance to love. He surely paved the way for new evil in the future. Voldemort was going to die. He hardly deserved to live. Why let one person live at the cost of others?

Harry was so absorbed in his anger he it took him a while to notice Severus and Lily were lying in the grass side by side. Lily was laughing, and Snape was watching her, smiling, with his head propped up by one hand.

"Sev, that is not how it happened, at all! It was the dog, I swear." She had a sweet voice that rolled off her tongue smoothly and deliberately, like honey. Lily rolled over closer to Snape, still facing the sky. Snape was frozen, at first, by the proximity between them. Eventually he relaxed and let his head drop to her level. For a while, they said nothing, just lying next to each other, enjoying the light breeze. Lily studied the sky while Snape studied her eyes. Harry watched them, a bit uncomfortable but curious.

Eventually, Lily turned toward Snape so their faces were mere inches apart.

"What if…" began Lily.

"What if…" Snape repeated quietly, then cleared his throat and repeated more strongly, "What if—what if what?" His voice was similar to how it was as an adult; soft and whispery. Harry moved a bit closer to hear, taking care not to step on any twigs.

Lily's eyes turned downcast, as if regretting saying anything, and she turned away from him.

"N-no!" Snape burst out, and she looked at him in surprise. "What is it?" he continued, more gently.

Lily sighed. "What if I'm rubbish at magic? Because I'm—I'm a…" She flipped onto her side, facing him again.

His face darkened as he realized what she was about to say. "Don't say it," he begged quietly, so inaudibly that only Lily could hear it.

"…Mudblood," she finished, choking it out, as if the word was too huge for her to manage. Then she started crying. For the first time, he saw his mother cry. How ironic, though. Snape didn't want Lily to call herself Mudblood when he himself would in a few years and screw everything over. Harry was surprised he had taught her the word.

"You won't—it doesn't mean…" Snape protested weakly. It was clear he was struggling between his opinion of them and his blossoming love for this girl. So instead of saying anything else, he offered his arms. Lily sat up and entered them.

Harry made the mistake of seeing Severus' eyes, which were determined, sad, and desperate. He looked like he wanted nothing more than to hold Lily in his arms and stay that way until day he died. Because that's what Harry realized he knew, deep down, past his ignorance of his own feelings. Snape would not end up with her, and these childhood moments would not last.

"Thank you, Sev," said Lily, hiccuping, and they broke apart. She looked startled to see that tears were silently running down his face.

Snape angrily brushed them away and stood up. "You will be an amazing witch."

Lily stood up, too, and stared at him until he met her eyes. "I can tell you dislike Mudbloods." He flinched at both her use of the word and the accusation.

"That's not—" Snape began, but Lily shook her head and said, "Don't lie. Please. Can you just tell me why?"

Snape, who seemed to have dealt with too many emotions within the brief time Harry had seen him, thought hard. Although Snape could not find the answer to her question, Harry found it obvious. His father was a Muggle, who was unfeeling and made Snape's life miserable. He was probably the deep-rooted source of Snape's prejudice.

Snape knew he had to answer or Lily would be mad at him. "Well?" Her tears were now completely gone as she pressed him for an answer.

"Trust me. I don't dislike Mud—Muggle-borns."

"Yes you do. You're ashamed to be my friend."

"That's not true! I…" He drifted off, uncomfortably trying to explain himself.

"Prove that you don't hate—"

"Muggle-borns," he half corrected, half finished for her.

His opinion was faltering for her sake, Harry could tell. But saying things, doing things for her sake wouldn't be enough until it was far too late.

"Trust me, I don't," was all he said in response.

Lily considered this. "Fine, I trust you. I just want you to think of this. It's not where or who the person came from, it's the person. Right?"

This could not be closer to how Snape felt about Lily and her being a Mudblood.

"Right." He looked like he wanted to say more, but Lily was getting ready to leave, and he had missed his chance. "You're leaving?" he asked, disappointed.

Lily sighed. "Yeah. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Promise?" Snape stood up, too. Lily hesitated.

"Pinkie promise?" Snape held out his pinkie.

"Of course. I promise." She smiled and they shook on it. Then she turned and ran toward home, only looking back once.

Snape watched her go, expressionless. After she had disappeared into the trees, Snape let his face scrunch up in frustration. His fist tightened and he looked around for something to punch. He cocked his hand, preparing to strike the trunk closest to him, when he stopped. His lips pursed and he lowered his hand.

Harry decided that the sooner he could befriend Snape's, the better. He had at least a few weeks to befriend him. He guessed that in order for Snape to like him, he would have to take it slowly and carefully.

Harry still didn't quite know how to orchestrate his plan, so he decided to play it as he went along. As he tried to figure it out, Snape went past where Harry was standing, invisible, to the river. Harry was right by the wooden bridge that he had crossed before, Snape now just a few meters away. He watched as the boy seemed to spot something on the other side of the river. Snape tried to use magic to pull whatever it was toward him, motioning with his arms, but was unsuccessful. Finally, he scrunched up his face in determination and set off to get whatever he had seen.

Snape had only reached the center of the bridge when there was a loud "Snap!" and he fell through the bridge into the water below. Harry stood frozen in place as Snape struggled to swim. There was only a gentle current, but he was already heading downstream. His untrained magic was only keeping his face above the water, keeping him alive, for now. Snape flailed his arms about, but it was no use.

Harry finally got to his senses and quickly decided what to do.

He left everything but his wand by the riverside and jumped in, swimming easily with the gentle current to the drowning boy. He wrapped his arms around Snape's middle and slowly pulled him to a small beach downstream. It was strange; Harry had never helped Snape directly, let alone held him.

Snape stopped thrashing and lay limp as soon as he was safely on the shore. Harry rolled him onto his back, noticing how unusually still he was. Since Severus' eyes were closed and unable to witness it, Harry coaxed the water out of him with his wand. He let him cough out the rest and regain normal breathing as he pocketed his wand.

"Are you okay?" Harry asked as Snape sat up, still breathing raggedly. Snape jumped in surprise and looked wide-eyed at his rescuer.

"Who—why—" he stuttered as Harry stood up.

"My name is Jacob." It felt odd, lying about something so fundamental about himself. Then, realizing that he probably needed to say something else, he added, "That bridge was bound to collapse any day."

Now that he thought about it, had he already altered the past by walking on it earlier? Maybe it had been that Severus was going to walk on it last, and a storm was going to deliver the last blow. Did that mean whatever he changed here could alter the future?

"Well, I guess I'll see you around," Harry/Jacob said, and walked away from the stunned boy. After he had retreated back into the cover of the forest, he looked back to see what it was that Snape had seen.

His heart lurched when he realized the love-struck boy had seen a water lily, which he now was pulling out of the river. He had unintentionally risked his life to pick a flower that shared the same name as the girl he had a crush on. Harry turned away, feeling extremely intrusive for watching this meaningful, personal moment. He got over it, though—he was only going to need his invisibility cloak a few more times.

He came to the spot where he had jumped in, picked up his things, and headed into the sanctuary of the woods. Harry, as he walked, dug around in the pits of his bag for the Time-Turner. Eventually, his hands closed around the cold rings of the device. He pulled it out and, after tinkering with it a bit, jumped ahead to ten in the morning the next day. Instead of the sparse, white clouds from yesterday, the sky was gray and the air was heavy with the imminence of rain. Despite the weather, when Harry went to their meeting spot, Snape had showed up. Hadn't Lily pinkie promised that she would come, too? The fear of being caught in a storm might have forced her to stay inside. Or maybe her mum wouldn't let her leave the house for some other reason.

Harry could tell Snape was starting to wonder if she was coming, too, because he started looking around awkwardly. He shouldn't have worried, though: it only took another minute before Lily showed up. She was well prepared for the weather, comfortably buttoned up in a rain jacket, a hood pulled over her head. Snape, however, had a baggy shirt and pants.

"You came!" Snape couldn't keep the relief and surprise from his voice.

Lily grinned. "Of course I did. We pinkie promised." She paused, and looked up at the sky. "I felt a raindrop. I would've brought an umbrella, if I'd known you'd need one."

Snape shivered, unsuccessful in his attempts to hide his discomfort.

"Are you cold?" Lily asked.

Severus shook his head, silent, but she had already taken her jacket off.

"Here. We'll share." She wrapped it around the both of them, undoubtedly used to helping him.

Harry thought of his father. Was it right for to encourage the relationship between Lily and Snape? He knew there wasn't really a better way to improve Snape' life, if that's what he decided to do. If the two ended up together, would Harry still exist, or just look different? Obviously his father could find someone else (as far as Harry knew, James was popular, charismatic, brave) and there were many places he would be able to find love. Snape was a different story. But Harry knew plenty of people die without ever being loved. Why should Severus be helped over others? Without Harry, would the Dark Lord's reign be stronger, last longer? Still, he could at least make their relationship less rocky, perhaps try and lead Snape down the right path.

Rain started to fall steadily now, so the two retreated under a large tree, where only a few drops got through. Harry went behind a tree across from them, using a simple spell to keep dry. They stood side-by-side against the trunk, watching the rain crescendo into a downpour.

"Sev!" Lily whispered suddenly.

"What? What is it?" Snape looked around wildly.

"Shh, it's a doe…"

He followed her pointed finger and saw it, too—a female deer that looked surreal through the rain, still, ears perked up. After gazing at it for a minute, Snape turned to Lily. "I think it—it's kinda like you," he said quietly, face flushing.

Lily pulled her gaze away from the creature.

"What do you mean?"

"Because…" Snape, embarrassed, looked away from her quizzical green eyes. Harry saw her study him, realize what he meant, and give a small smile.

"You are too, you know."

Snape started and turned back to her. "Really?" He tried to hide his joy that she had returned his compliment.

Harry stared at them in shock. It had taken Harry a while to decipher what Dumbledore meant when he disagreed with Harry at King's Cross when he was in limbo. He now realized how it wasn't peculiar that they had the same Patronus.

At first, Harry had thought the Patronuses were the same because Snape loved Lily, but he could see how much deeper it was than that. Not only was it representative the happiest times of Snape's life—this moment specifically—but his true personality. He was incredibly gentle, cautious, delicate, and protective. Looking past the rough exterior and his nature in adulthood, it was reflected in his relationship with Lily. There were few people who served Voldemort and loved anyone as Snape did, who showed how much emotion he had.

Lily and Snape stood in the rain for a while, slowly soaking through their clothes. The rain washed out any color Snape's face might have held, giving him a ghost-like appearance. His hair looked wet instead of greasy, but still unusually long and unevenly cut. Lily's red hair stuck to her face and her shoes squished when she shifted her stance. Still, the two seemed to be enjoying just standing there in silence together, letting the rain wash over them.

Then the first rumblings of thunder began, and a hard breeze picked up.

Lily raised her voice above the noise. "We should probably go back home. I mean, I don't think…my parents want company. And probably the same for yours…" Even though she didn't say it out loud, it was obvious her parents wouldn't approve of the strange, poor boy she had befriended. And with Snape's family, they probably weren't fit to have company in general.

They said goodbye, and before they parted Lily added, "My parents and my sister are going to the movies tonight, and, well," she paused, as if embarrassed about the next part, "it's a horror movie, and…I still get a bit scared during them, so I told them I wanted to study instead, so of course they agreed…so if it's not raining, do you want to meet by the tree?"

This must be an example of the occasion where they met twice in one day—when Lily's parents were not around to be suspicious about her being outside too much.

"What time?" Snape asked, eyes glinting eagerly.

"I think they leave at seven and come back around nine," she responded, trying to remember.

"Okay. I'll be there early, just in case." Snape flashed a rare smile.

Me too, Harry thought.

At six o' clock, Snape was already waiting by the tree. It was the same one that Harry had seen in the Pensieve on the night of the battle. It was larger than most of the trees in the small forest, and stood alone at the top of a slope overlooking Lily's street, which was a five or ten minute walk away. The base of the tree had a sort of inward dent, like someone had molded it to have a perfect spot to sit. The stream that ran through the forest ended at a large pond that sat in front of their second meeting spot, and only a few other trees separated the big willow from the outside of the forest. The sparseness of the forest across from the pond gave a clear view of the horizon, where the sun was starting to sink. Harry decided to make another appearance.

Snape was currently reading, so he might not notice Harry if he went too far downstream. His plan just might work.

He went to where he determined to be Snape's edge of vision was, and starting walking from there. For good measure, he attempted skipping a few rocks. Harry failed on purpose, letting the pebbles plop into the water. He turned slightly to see if Severus was watching him. When Harry saw he had indeed captured Snape's attention, he continued his performance. Harry continued failing, letting himself seem more and more frustrated.

Finally, in pretend anger, he kicked a rock into the stream. It was simple, wandless magic to make the pebble skip across the water, bouncing in impossible directions. After it had finished skipping, it flew toward Harry, landing effortlessly in his outstretched hand. He rewrote his expression to be surprised and confused.

Continuing along the river toward the pond, he scrutinized the stone, giving himself an excuse not to notice Snape staring at him.

When he reached the pond, Harry tried skipping the stone again, without the results he clearly expected. He continued walking, searching for more rocks he could skip, until he found one pretty much on the shore, thirty feet in front of the tree. He straightened up, sizing up his pick, when out of the corner of his eye he "discovered" Snape. Harry began walking toward him. When he was within earshot, he said, "You're that guy from before," recognizing him as the kid he had saved just yesterday.

"Yes…" said Snape cautiously.

"Are you alright?"

"Fine, thanks. Er, what was…what was that when you skipped the stone?"

Harry tried to look thoughtful, and he came back to where Snape was sitting. "I don't know…I just kicked it and…" He paused, biting his lip. "Can I tell you something? You might think I'm crazy."

Severus shook his head, most likely already suspecting that Harry was an undiscovered wizard.

"Well, recently…strange things have happened to me. Like—like, last week, I was up trying to work on schoolwork that I was assigned over the summer. My parents had wanted me to finish it by the next day, and I told them I had done it the week after school ended. I thought I could save it until last minute without them knowing. But then they said they were going to read it to make sure. So I had to do it that night. Only…I kept falling asleep.

"That's when it got weird. Just when I was about to fall asleep, I would feel something poking me. My pencil would roll down and hit my hand. Or at least that's what it seemed like. So it was thanks to the pencil that I finished my paper." The story was loosely based on a true experience, except he stayed up late because of the chores the Durselys had dumped on him. Harry searched Snape for his opinion.

"Jacob—that's your name, right?" When Harry nodded, Snape continued, "I…I think you might be a wizard."

"…like, from in fairy tales?" Harry was going against the "don't-tell-him-you're-a-Muggle-born" rule, but by not knowing he was a wizard he may as well be saying it straight out.

Sure enough, Snape looked impatient. "No, like in real life, stupid."

Harry was unfazed, since he expected the least. His acting had been a little too exaggerated. "Wait…are you…one too?"

Severus rolled his eyes. "Yes, I am. So is my mother."

Harry let himself appear confused. "Hang on…neither of my parents are wizards."

Snape was struggling to keep the fact that Harry was an obvious Muggle-born from affecting the way he acted.

"That doesn't matter," he managed. "Anyway…you should get a letter from Hogwarts soon."

"What's Hogwarts?" Harry asked, aware of the limited time that Severus be patient with him.

"A school for witches and wizards."

"Are you going there?"

"Yes. Of course." Snape crossed his arms and looked away.

This was Harry's cue to leave. He said suddenly, as if remembering something, "What time is it?"

"Uh…seven," Snape lied.

"Oh, I have to go!" Harry started back in the direction he came, and then turned back to the wizard boy.

"What's your name?" Harry asked.

"Severus…Snape." He had hesitated on whether to give his last name, which was either a sign of social awkwardness or that he thought it wasn't necessary to tell him.

"Okay, I'll see you around then, Sna—I mean, Severus," he corrected himself, and ran away from the place where he had discovered his abilities.

He took 45 minutes to search the neighboring town and choose one of the houses. Harry had stayed at a quaint little B&B there when he visited his mum's house, since he had other business the next day in the same area. With the memory and image clearly in his mind, he Apparated there to save an hour of walking. Harry explored the area and eventually settled on a small house surrounded by trees. Upon entering, he saw it had basic furniture and a few paintings, but no food or clothing, leading him to believe it was a summer cottage. Perfect. Now he had privacy, but could keep tabs on his supposed parents in case he ever needed them to pose as his mum and dad. He went outside, and by this time, the sun was starting to set.

Just in case he forgot, he recorded the address 509 Loyola Drive on a small piece of parchment. He made sure his stuff was out of sight, just in case, then apparated back to the tree.

The night was magical. As the sun set, Lily and Snape sat side by side, talking in quiet awe. A gentle orange blended into yellows, illuminating the underbellies of purple clouds. Blue was starting to push closer and closer toward the horizon as street lights blinked awake below.

Harry watched the sky rather than the other two, basking in the peace and stillness of the evening. When Lily and Snape got up and started to walk, Harry followed.

When they reached the open field, they started looking at the stars, which were just coming out. The two friends' eyes lit up as they saw a star shoot across the sky.

"Sev! Make a wish! Make a wish!" Lily whispered excitedly, nudging his arm.

Face illuminated by the moonlight, lifted toward the sky, Snape stopped in place. Lily might not know what he wished for, she might not ever know, but Harry did.

Lily watched Snape until he looked down at the ground and continued alongside her. "What did you wish for? Oh wait, you can't tell me. That was…really cool, wasn't it? I've never seen a shooting star, only in movies, but—"

Snape stopped her in mid-speech, looking at her with a surprising intensity. Then he blushed and looked away. The rest of their walk was in silence.

They reached Lily's house, and, thankfully, the driveway was still empty. "See you tomorrow, Sev…" she said, then walked up the sidewalk leading to the house. When she got to the door, she opened it, gave Snape one last smile, then went inside.

Harry leaned against the lightpost and watched Snape begin to walk slowly home. There was something worth saving in their lives, or at least knowing about their lives, and Harry now knew what he wanted to do.


Chapter 2: The Magic Quill
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Harry decided it was a good time to add Jacob's name to the list. He could go back in time to 1960 and add his name. That would make that day, August 4th, his birthday.

He Apparated to Hogsmeade, which was cloaked in darkness. Lights illuminated the street he was on, and a few of the store windows were lit, but those were the only signs of life. He went ahead to noon earlier that day, so he wouldn't need magic to see. Now a few people were out and about in the town, but that wouldn't be a problem, since he was underneath his invisibility cloak.

Harry pulled out the Marauder's Map and unfolded it. He would need it—obviously—to locate the quill and make sure no one spotted him. After checking the map several times over, he saw only Filch and Hagrid on the Hogwarts grounds, with no signs of a quill. Harry had not expected to see it on the map, but it would have helped.

At least he had some idea of where it could be. He remembered Hermione saying something a while ago like, "…yes, and the Deputy Head of Hogwarts sends out the letters to the students recorded in the book. It's all in Hogwarts, a History; I'm surprised you didn't know…" This meant Professor McGonagall dealt with the quill and the book, so it could possibly be in her office. At least Harry had something to work with.

He could enter the school through the Shrieking Shack—the easiest route, since trying to get in through Honeydukes would most likely set off some sort of alarm. After a short walk, Harry reached the fence that blocked off the area surrounding the broken-down house. It was strange being here at this time of year, when there was no one around. It was peaceful, but kind of eerie. He paused, studying the spot where he had scared away Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle in his third year.

Harry had spent considerable time reflecting on his childish rivalry with Draco. He had been very narrow-minded for hating him—there were worse people, and Draco was just acting as he was raised. In the end, he had helped Harry, a sign he was headed in a better direction. Sadly, just like Snape, there could have been a way to help Draco if Harry had seen the situation differently. And, also like Snape, Harry suspected him for every bad thing that happened at school.

Harry was sure Malfoy had tried removing the Dark Mark, but even with the Mark he would forever be notorious for serving Voldemort. Lucius Malfoy had already been sent to Azkaban, but his son and wife were still due for a trial. Harry did no tell anyone this, but he hoped Draco was declared innocent. He didn't voice this opinion mainly because the whole Weasley family hated the Malfoys. Hermione and Luna may have been a little more sympathetic toward Draco, but they didn't always act like it. As soon as Lucius' sentence was announced in the paper, they all were cheering and discussing the things they hated most about him. This didn't bother Harry so much, but eventually they got to the topic of Draco.

Ron had recalled when they first met him. "I hated him from the time I first laid eyes on him. So he barges into our compartment, acting like he owned the place. He insulted us, our magical abilities, told us we had dirt on our noses…" He smirked at Hermione. "Oh whoops, wrong person, sorry." He laughed as Hermione let out a gasp of defiance and hit him with a pillow. It was one of those throw-an-insult-then-kiss moments they often shared. Neville cleared his throat, and the two seemed to suddenly remember that there were other people around them.

Ron's ears turned red and he edged away from Hermione. "Er…well, as I was saying…Oh! Right, Draco. He always had a problem with us. I can't count how many times I wanted to hurt him. When Hermione hit him…Wow. That was bloody brilliant." He gave Hermione a lopsided smile and she returned it, looking pleased. "And there was this one time, in Care of Magical Creatures…"

Harry chose to zone out for the highly exaggerated retellings of Malfoy's actions. What Ron said after a while made him snap back to attention. "But what I still don't get is why Harry bothered to save his life. All he'd been was trouble, what'd he do to deserve it?"

"Because, Ron, he was going to die," said Harry through gritted teeth. Everyone turned to him in surprise; he had hardly spoken that night. "So many people had already lost their lives. Why would we let that happen to someone when we knew we could prevent it?" Harry's voice rose in anger, causing Ron to flinch.

"Whoa, mate, I got it, thanks."

Harry had then made an excuse about being tired and left the room.

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Harry approached the shack and climbed up the few creaky steps that led to the door. He tried opening it, but it wouldn't budge. Harry guessed that it just didn't work, because when he tried unlocking it, it still didn't yield. He used a spell that busted it open with a loud BANG! He jumped at the sound and his ears started ringing. For a moment, Harry stood still, looking around for anyone coming to see what the noise was. There was no sign of movement from the cabins around him.

Harry entered for the first time since Snape's death. Now he could see it as what it really was—just a broken-down, abandoned house. The inside was dull brown, worn from the elements, and rotting. Nothing frightening there.

Though, even if he had gotten over his fearful emotions toward the Shack, he still felt the bitterness of loss. Sirius, his dad, Lupin, and Snape were all linked to this place. Sirius…the strongest connection he had had to his father. His godfather, the man who could have raised him when James was unable to in death. Would seeing him in only a couple days (of his time) give him peace or just make him mourn over his death? Should he save Sirius, too? Would that just make things worse? Would he even be able to?

Harry buried his memories, his pain. Every time ignored his emotions, it just increased the pressure building inside him. One day, the pressure would be too great to bear. All the sadness he had been feeling would overcome him, all at once.

With the sense of loss the Shack brought back, Harry wondered how it would feel when returned to Hogwarts. He could see where corpses had been lined up, he could hear his friends' cries when they had seen him, supposedly dead…

Harry took a steadying breath and crawled through the tunnel. He emerged below the Whomping Willow, which was noticeably smaller than he remembered. It started, almost drowsily, to move its strong branches toward him. Harry quickly prodded the knot at the base of tree and the swinging ceased.

Only Filch and Hagrid would be at Hogwarts at this time of the summer, even if it were a month before school started. With a quick check of his map, he saw he was right: Hagrid was in his hut and Filch was walking toward the front of the school.

It seemed as if everything was going his way; Harry slipped through the front doors unnoticed as Filch struggled past with a load of cleaning supplies. He avoided interception by anything unusual on his way to McGonagall's room, and there weren't any advanced enchantments protecting her door. Though, why should there be? More important things have been guarded by a simple Colloportus Charm.

Professor McGonagall's room was hardly different from what he was used to, twenty years in the future. The desks were still in neat rows, and much of the equipment was the same.

It didn't take Harry long to spot the quill right on Professor McGonagall's desk. Well, at least he thought it was the quill—it was hard to tell since it was plain white, ordinary. What gave it away was the ancient-looking book beside it.

Harry crossed the room to investigate. The book was about four inches thick, bound in a soft red material. Thick, yellowing pages were sandwiched between the front and cover, unevenly placed. If one was not specifically looking for it, the book would blend in with the others nearby. Harry strode to the desk and opened it, wand at the ready in case there were protection spells. Thankfully, his hand did not burn or erupt with boils as he opened the cover.

The first page was from the 1600s; the system either started then or there were different volumes. Names appeared in rows starting with the person's surname, then first name, their date of birth, and current address.

As Harry was looking through it, the quill suddenly lifted into the air. He doubled back, expecting an attack, but the quill was not activating to harm him. The pages of the book magically flipped to about three-quarters through where the names were dated at 1959 or 1960. The quill floated to one of the addresses, crossed it out, and the words vanished. The quill wrote a new address, returned to its inkwell, and the book flipped shut.

Harry opened to the page the quill had been on, where the last name (Tempah, Lauren) was recorded. Harry levitated the quill out of the inkwell, but hadn't a clue what he should do next. If he took the quill and wrote something, it would be in his own handwriting and would have trouble blending in. Harry tried whispering his information to the quill. Nothing happened. He tried tapping it with his wand, but still nothing. Was there a spell he could use that would activate it? Or maybe…he peered at the page again. Could he somehow…take the handwriting of the book, then copy it over as necessary to form his own name?

If Muggles could use copy machines, why shouldn't he be able to find something similar? He had no knowledge of a copying spell, but it was sure to be in the library. Harry decided it would be best to look, so he closed the book, returned the quill, and left the room. He closed and locked it, making sure he covered all of his tracks.

It was strange how the school was almost exactly the same as when Harry attended. The only difference may be there were fewer portraits and perhaps less dust.

Under his invisibility cloak, the portraits could not see him, but they could hear his footfalls. One of them yelled out, "Who's there?" Harry swore and quickly cast a spell to cover the sound. He was relieved, a minute later, when he reached the library. Much to his luck (which was bound to run out any time now), it was easily accessible like Professor McGonagall's. The library was also set up exactly as he remembered, so he knew where the different sections were. Harry kept the Marauders Map open as he grabbed books off shelves, stacking them on the nearest table. Once he was satisfied with his collection, he sat down and began searching.

He had no success with the first few books—Choosing the right quill: Everything you need to know about quills (Obviously not everything, he thought) and Alohomora: Unlocking the Secrets of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Much to his surprise, he found a book in the Restricted Section that could help him: Forging Fonts: Fool Foes for Fun. There was a part that explained how to imitate a print. He just had to tap his wand on the page he desired, say "Teslerium," then tap his quill with his wand. Then, he could write in the same handwriting that was on the page. Harry wrote the details down on a spare piece of parchment and closed the book.

He quickly glanced at his watch (which he now wore on his wrist at all times) and realized he had spent a good two hours since his arrival at Hogsmeade. It would be only another hour or so, as long as nothing went wrong.

Harry put the books back and returned to Professor McGonagall's room. He performed the new spell perfectly. His name blended in with the others, and it seemed unlikely that anyone would ever suspect it.

Harry's journey back to Hogsmeade was brief; he was filled with a new confidence at his success, and would not let anything stand in his way. He traveled back to 1971, then Apparated away. Harry went to the home where he had recorded his supposed current address. Sure enough, when he went inside, a crisp yellow letter was waiting for him. In emerald green print it read:

Mr. Jacob Walker

509 Loyola Drive

Shropshire, England

Harry opened it, delighted that the spell had worked. It was the standard letter, there was nothing that suggested anyone was suspicious of him. He couldn't help grinning at the good news; it was one less thing he had to worry about. Sure, there were other things he'd have to sort out eventually, but for now he could be satisfied that he had accomplished something. Moreover, he was able to go to Hogwarts.

He was just at the peak of his relief and excitement when he noticed a second envelope, which had been half hidden underneath the doormat. He tried to convince himself that it wasn't what he thought it was, that it was just normal Muggle mail. But he couldn't control the sinking feeling of what it might contain. He picked up the envelope, labeled just as the first was. His suspicions were confirmed as he began reading the neat print:

Dear Parent(s) or Guardian(s) of Mr. Jacob Walker,

Because you have not been home, and your whereabouts are unknown, a witch/wizard could not contact you to discuss your son's future. We will attempt to return on 15th August. If you are still not home, we will leave a book explaining the wizarding world to you. It can only be opened by someone of magical ability to ensure its secrecy. We would dispatch a wizard to find you personally, but we are very backed up with other business.

Harry considered this. What did "other business" mean? Dealing with the rise of Voldemort? Other Muggle-borns? Did they suspect him? It wouldn't surprise him if they did, since they couldn't find him! This must be a first: they could find the Dursleys when they were in the middle of nowhere…so wouldn't they know something wasn't adding up? The good news from the second letter was that he could get away without having to bewitch a couple into thinking they're his parents—he'd simply avoid the house on the 15th, and be done.

Harry skimmed the rest of the letter, which held nothing of importance. He stood, considering the situation. Although being an orphan would ideally be a lot easier than pretending to belong to a family, he would never be able to Apparate ahead in time during the summer without someone noticing he was gone. Harry had already committed to at least an entire school year, maybe more, in order to change the past. He pictured himself spending more time than that, coming to the present as an old man. He at least owed a few years of his life to help people, to repay his debt to all the people he had endangered. But that didn't mean he had to stay longer than necessary.

He had to save time in the summer to make up for the age he'd gain during school. That meant being in a day at three hours tops, or preferably not at all. Hopefully, he could spread himself out for no more than five days in his time over the next month. Harry would only spend time becoming Snape's friend, not stalking him and Lily.

He dug into his bag and pulled out a sandwich, eating it quickly. He wiped his hands and got ready before he set off to eleven in the morning on the next day.

Harry made sure the house showed no sign that anyone had been here, then left.

Over the next few weeks, Harry fell into a rhythm. He met Snape, or rather Severus, as he was now used to calling him, right after hung out with Lily. Each day he use a different way to get a bit closer to knowing the seemingly unreachable boy.

One day, Harry brought the acceptance letter from Hogwarts. He left the envelope at home so Severus wouldn't know where he lived.

As Severus was heading home, he saw Jacob running toward him, madly waving something in his hand. "I got it! I got the acceptance letter!" At first Snape was surprised, both to see Jacob again despite their established friendship and because he was right about Harry being a wizard. As he got closer, Harry could see smugness replace disbelief in his impenetrable black eyes.

Harry handed Severus the pieces of parchment, then bent down, hands on his knees. As he pretended to catch his breath from the run, Severus looked over the letter. He didn't seem to quite know what to say, so he waited awkwardly for Harry to recover. It didn't take much longer before Jacob Walker, the hyper, supposed eleven-year-old, was back to his usual happy self. Harry was sampling many different personalities in his attempt to seem younger, but nothing felt comfortable. At the least, he tried to balance Severus' solemnity.

"I'm excited to go to Diagon Alley! Although…my parents are ending up to not like the whole magic thing," said Harry, his tone suggesting he felt guilty for this.

At least the statement seemed to get a reaction from Severus, who seemed frustrated, clearly proud of having at least one magical parent. "Who do they think they are?" He stuck his chin out in indignation. "I bet you they're just…" he trailed off, searching for the proper word.

"Jealous?" Harry finished. "I don't think so. They think it's odd, to be like I am. Abnormal. I can still go, but I can tell they wish I was the way I used to be."

Harry diverted their conversation from pitying his life to "learning" about Severus. "At least…well, your parents are proud that you're a wizard, right?"

Severus' mouth curled in disgust and he looked away. "My dad isn't. He's a Muggle."

He paused, as if ashamed of this, so Harry asked, "Do you not like Muggles?"

Severus looked at him. "I don't like my father," he replied simply, and didn't explain further.

They started walking in silence as Severus continued home. Harry tried picking up where they left off. "My parents don't want to take me to Diagon Alley." He let the statement hang in the air. Another awkward silence ensued. Severus finally found something to say in response.

"My mum is just giving me money, she's not shopping with me…they don't really, I mean…" Severus trailed off, once again self-conscious of his family.

Harry studied his blank face, then gave a sad smile and looked forward. "It'll get better, you know. Even if you have a rotten family, you have someone who cares about you a lot, right?" That was how he, personally, got through living with the Dursleys.

Without meaning to, Snape replied (even though it was a rhetorical question), "Lily." After he said it, his eyes widened in horror. He had revealed her importance to Jacob Walker, his new acquaintance, as though it was a big secret. In a way, it was, because Lily never knew how much Severus cared for her…or had she?

"You're lucky, then. To have her. Make sure it lasts," said Harry gently. Snape looked away, hiding a smile, the genuine kind that only Lily knew.

"So…she's she a witch, too?"

"Yeah," he answered, lost in thought. They said nothing more until they reached Snape's house.

Again, the shame of his heritage washed over Snape at the appearance of his house. "Well…here it is…" he said uncomfortably, and started toward the house.

"Okay, I'll see you around then." Harry waved goodbye and continued walking. As he disappeared from the view of the house, he pulled out his watch. It had the current date and time on it, plus, in the center, a timer that he now started. When it got to 16 hours, he'd rest.

He jumped twenty-three and a half hours ahead in time. It was like clockwork, Lily and Severus. They always parted around the same time, leaving Harry to meet up with Severus.

They were getting closer, day by day. After 5 hours of Harry's time, he and Severus spent about forty-five minutes each day walking around. And by the 13th of August, as Harry could feel himself wearing down from sleep deprivation, Severus asked:

"Would you want a ride to—to Diagon Alley? I think my mum would be fine with it. I mean, we'd travel by Floo powder, but…" Severus didn't meet Harry's eyes.

Harry was taken aback by his offer. It was the first direct sign of kindness shown from Severus to him, not Lily. He was so surprised that it took him a while to respond. "Oh. Oh! Yes, that would be very…very nice," he managed, clearing his throat. "I don't know how else I would get there, honestly," he lied.

Severus blushed at his sincerity.

Harry smiled. The sky was clear, the sun hot but not pressing, and there was a slight breeze. Two squirrels crossed their path, chasing each other up a tree. It was nice just enjoying the weather.

"I hope we're in the same house," said Harry, and even though he knew that Severus wanted to be in Slytherin, Jacob didn't. It was an innocent wish, but one that could end up being controversial. Severus had told him all about Hogwarts, while Harry pretended to be surprised and asked questions at all the right times. He had described the traits needed to be placed in a different house, subtly biased against Gryffindor. He had failed to mention, however, his desire to be in Slytherin.

"Yeah," Snape agreed half-heartedly.

Harry decided to ignore his unenthusiastic, we-don't-need-to-continue-the-subject tone. "I honestly don't know where I'd get placed. Maybe Hufflepuff. But…I think I'd know where you'd be put. Even though I don't know you well."

If he didn't have Snape's full attention before, he definitely had it now. "What one?" he asked eagerly.

"Gryffindor," Harry replied simply, and immediately disappointment shaded Snape's face.

"What? Why? Do I come off as stupid to you?"

"That's not—Of course not. That's not what Gryffindor is." Harry gathered his opinions, planning out what would be best to convince him. "It's not for…arrogant, thick-headed, big-muscled brutes. It's for the wise, brave, and good-hearted. You don't need to be a hero or a show-off with a high ego to be in it."

Severus raised an eyebrow. "How would you know?"

Harry cleared his throat. "Er, which house did you have in mind?" A familiar superior look crossed Snape's face.

"Slytherin," he replied smugly.

Harry looked on him in shock. "You're joking, right? You don't seem the type for Slytherin."

Snape narrowed his eyes at him. "And why not? You're a Mud—a Muggle—so, er, well, you don't know enough about it to understand."

Oops. He forgot about how much he's supposed to know. "I know enough. Let me just tell you this." Severus sighed and looked away in exasperation. "If you want to lose that kind friend of yours, Lily, I think, then go ahead and be happy with Slytherin. But you're better than that. People go bad in that house. You don't need that to happen to you. You're kind, caring—and you're going to be a great wizard." Harry turned, then added, "Just think about that." And with that, he ran away from the perplexed boy.

Harry had been trying so hard to act childish that he had become intolerant and immature. He did truly believe, however unjustly, in Slytherin's inferiority. And while he felt a little bad for snapping at Severus, he hoped that it gave him something to think about. Maybe he would eventually want to be Gryffindor. He just had to convince him.

Harry's watch read 10 hours so far, and he was getting tired. Since the time he had woken up from Lily's house it had probably been 16 hours, and it was exhausting to be constantly walking and Apparating. He went to his new house, looked through the bedrooms, and chose the more comfortable and spacious of the two. He spun the Time-Turner ahead to nightfall to make it more comfortable, then settled into bed.

Harry dreamt of Quidditch. He hadn't ridden a broom in months, so it was only a matter of time before his mind reminded him of it. The dream was kind of vague. He could remember flying with a few other people who had blurry, random features. Harry immersed himself with the familiar swooping sensation, the lightness that was exaggerated by the dream.

When he awoke, he couldn't remember the dream, but ached with the desire to fly. He was tempted to grab his broom, camouflage himself, take off…But he couldn't waste time doing that sort of thing. There would be a chance for that in his first year of school. Or would there be? He had to blend in. Even being above average at flying, whether or not he was ever got on the Quidditch team, would make him stand out.

Dispirited, Harry dragged himself out of bed and put on his glasses, which he had shaped into rectangles to distinguish himself from his classic circular pair. He gathered all of his things, making sure there was absolutely no sign that he had been there recently. He was going to the 16th of August, the day after his home would be visited.

After fiddling with the device, Harry appeared two days ahead of time. Sure enough, when he went to the front room, there was what appeared to be a book bound in manila paper. He grinned and picked up the package. He ripped it open to reveal a good-sized midnight-blue book that read, Everything You Need to Know about the wizarding world. Harry flipped through it, grinning, then went back to the bedroom to put it away.

He splashed his face with water, dressed, and ate, trying to refresh himself so he could concentrate on apparating. When he was ready, he disappeared under his cloak and was gone with a faint popping noise. Harry reappeared by Lily and Snape's meeting place. Luckily, the sound he made when Apparating was never loud enough to be heard over the sounds of the forest.

He was a bit early to meet Snape, so he took the opportunity to walk a few hundred feet away. This way, he'd look less like he knew about Snape's meetings with Lily. Harry took his cloak and wand and put them behind a tree where they were unlikely to be seen.

Soon enough, Snape was headed in his direction, walking alongside the river. He looked a bit sad, his hair droopier than usual. He seemed to perk up slightly when he saw Harry, however.

When they reached each other, Severus greeted him first. "Hello."

"Hi. Listen, I'm sorry about what I said earlier."

"It's fine. But…I still want to be in Slytherin, you know."

Harry tried to hide his disappointment. Even after what he said to Snape, he wanted to be in Slytherin? Did he want to ruin his life?

"Whatever rumors there are about the house…" Yeah. Rumors. Sure, Harry thought glumly. "…it doesn't mean that it'll affect me. And, I can choose whatever house I want." He didn't make any promises, like, "Don't worry, I won't get into the Dark Arts, and I promise not to screw my life up." What he did say was: "Maybe it won't even matter, maybe I won't get to choose."

Harry decided to tell Snape what he knew about the Sorting ceremony. "I read…in the book Hogwarts gave me…that you can choose. Well, sort of. They take what you want into account."

"So I'm guaranteed to be in Slytherin?" Snape asked eagerly. Harry made a small sound of impatience, which he tried to cover with a cough. The sharp-minded boy noticed, unfortunately.

"I don't get it. Why do you want me to be in Gryffindor so badly?"

Harry sighed. "Because," he replied, exasperated.

"Because why?"

"Can we just talk about something else?" Harry decided to drop it.

Snape frowned. "Fine."

"What day would you be going to Diagon Alley?" It was probably not the best time to ask if Harry could come with him, when they were still kind of tense, but at least it was something other than the House issue.

"August 31st." Snape kicked a dandelion that had turned white. Its seeds flew into the air, floating around like little parachutes.

"Isn't that cutting it a bit close?"

"No, my mum'll leave me and then pick me up later. I think she'll take me to Platform nine-and-three-quarters, too. "

"Hm. I don't know what my parents are going to do. What's that Floo Powder you mentioned before?"

Snape briefly described it for Harry. Then he looked somewhat guilty. "I know before I had asked if you wanted to come with me. Since your parents didn't want to take you…"

Harry's eyes lit up at his indirect offer. "Really? You still would let me come with you?" I really should be an actor, Harry thought.

"Sure. And I'm not sure how well you'd manage on your own, anyway," Snape added. He clearly jumped on any opportunity to act superior, since he probably didn't have the chance often enough. It was weird to see such a boy, who was so poorly taken care of, act this…arrogant.

Then Harry caught himself. He shouldn't judge Snape just because of that. He would have to deal with the Marauders, who could show up in a dictionary under the word arrogant. Or so he assumed.

"Yeah, good point," Harry forced himself to say. Snape took it as an honest compliment. As sharp as he was, he was not adept at reading human emotion, or portraying it, for that matter. Sadly, Lily was probably his only friend before Hogwarts, so he had very little social skills.

After ten minutes, Snape had reverted to what Harry was used to—withdrawn, letting Harry control the conversation. He gave his input when necessary, and very rarely when it wasn't. An example:

"So. Who's this Lily person?"

It was almost like cartoon, the way the heat rose in Snape's face. It was weird to see such a pale boy flush with embarrassment.

"Er…Well…W-what do you mean? Nothing, Nobody." His face reddened even more when he saw Harry was looking at him with his eyebrows raised and a grin on his face, conveying he saw right through Snape's claims.

"She's my friend, okay? Drop it!" Snape snapped.

Harry put up his hands. "Whoa, calm down, I was just asking."

Thankfully, they had just reached Severus' house.

"Tomorrow, same time?" Harry asked, trying not laugh at Snape's ridiculous face.

"Yeah," he replied stiffly, and ran up the path to the front door.

The next days flew by. Of course, they were more like hours leading up to the 31st. In total, it was less than a day in Harry's time. It was strange being with just one person for all that time, and it wore him out pretty quickly. It was not long before Harry became very short with him. Now it was Severus—he grew used to thinking of him as "Severus" rather than "Snape"—who weakly controlled the conversation, not Harry. He was so relieved on the last day before he went to sleep, Harry was much more energetic than usual. Severus interpreted this as excitement for Diagon Alley and Hogwarts.

"Yes, yes, do you know what animal you're going to get?" Harry asked, looking longingly ahead for a sign that they were approaching Severus' house.

"An owl, probably."

"Yeah, me too. I've never seen one in real life."

"I've seen plenty, but I don't know what kind I'd want."

"A white one would be really cool." Harry ignored the stab in stomach as he remembered Hedwig. Really? He still had to be sad over his owl?

"I guess."

"I could see you having a black one, if they exist." Harry glanced at Severus' familiar dark ensemble.

"Yeah. That'd be cool." He had an empty look in his eyes.

"You okay?" Harry knew that expression from when Severus was a teacher.

"It's just—I don't think I can buy an owl." Severus looked at the ground. He obviously meant he couldn't afford one, which was hardly surprising considering the state of his home and wardrobe.

"I could buy you one. When's your birthday?"

Severus was shocked at the offer. "No, why would you do that? My birthday is January 9th, that's too far away…"

"Fine, then an early Christmas gift." This was pretty bold, considering they weren't even good friends yet, and who knew whether they'd still be even acquaintances by then.

Severus glowed with happiness. "You'd do that?"

Harry doubted he'd ever gotten such a nice gift. "Course. Just know, you owe me." He felt a jolt as he remembered what Ginny had said to him a few days ago. Owing. Such a complicated, broken concept. He was in debt of so many people, and it seemed he would never, in his lifetime, be able to pay them back. People died for him. Had helped him so much on his quest. What could he do in return? Just buy them owls? Yeah, right.

Severus grinned, walking with a spring in his step (as much of a spring as he could have, he wasn't really the type for skipping, or anything of the sort) for the rest of the way.

Harry trudged along moodily, longing to be home. Later that evening, he collapsed into bed. Being reuinted with his bed was the best thing to happen to Harry in a while. Sleep was such a beautiful thing, he marveled, pulling the covers over himself. He drifted off to sleep, ignoring the thoughts that always seemed to be pressing him.

 


Chapter 3: Medicine
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Harry awoke feeling fully refreshed. He was to meet Severus at his house at noon, and had plenty of time to get ready. He used a spell that was equivalent to showering to wash, ate the one remaining sandwich he had, and re-dyed his hair magically, which was fading back to its normal hue. Harry emptied the contents of his bag onto the floor of the living room and considered the few things he had to deal with before he would be ready for school.

First, he had to figure out how and where to hide things that Jacob Walker would not be likely to possess. That included his Firebolt, his Invisibility Cloak, and his Time-Turner. He couldn't risk losing it. Not that it would be impossible to replace, but he had to be able to access it easily. Wearing the Time-Turner around his neck, as he was doing now, would be too risky. Harry considered locking it in a box and putting a protective charm on it, but that would make it too hard to get quickly. He settled on transfiguring it, at least for a little while, into a framed photo of him as a baby (or what was supposedly him). No one would have a reason to take it, and it wouldn't be suspicious, but unique enough for him to remember.

He wrapped all other things that fell into the suspicious category in two spare sheets from the master bedroom. He put them at the bottom of Hermione's beaded purse, where they were unlikely to be discovered. It was too bad that the bag would be suspicious, since it was feminine, but that didn't matter much compared to how useful it had proved to be.

Second, Harry had to count his money. He had about twenty pounds in Muggle currency, along with nearly 150 Galleons. This would last him at least the year, maybe two, but he had to visit Gringotts in his own time for more money if he stayed longer. He didn't want Severus to think he was as rich as James, so he had to be careful about what he spent.

Harry already had most of the required supplies for school, he just needed to make sure the publication dates were blacked out and the edition numbers covered. There was only one book he had to buy, plus a new, smaller cauldron and potion supplies. Severus would think it was strange for him to suddenly have everything he needed, so he decided to suggest they split for an hour so he could get their owls. Then he could just say he got his supplies along the way. It would be a bit of a stretch, but Severus would never guess the real way he had acquired them.

When he was ready to go, it was a quarter to twelve. Harry grabbed his purse, along with another larger one he could use to hold his supplies. He left his suitcase where it was and Apparated downriver from Severus' house. It was a bright day outside, crisp and still a bit cool from the previous night. An easy breeze swept over the grass, ruffling Harry's (now blond) hair.

He had to admit, he was a little nervous to meet Eileen Snape, formerly Eileen Prince. However, he was still less anxious that everything would go smoothly over the next couple days. He'd had excellent luck so far, and if it kept up, everything would be okay.

Harry reached the edge of the forest and began down Spinner's End. When he reached the Snape house, he couldn't hear any arguing or fighting, thankfully. He knocked on the door, then waited for someone to answer, shifting from foot to foot to calm his nerves. After a few seconds, he heard a muffled voice, someone calling, "He's here!" then footsteps approaching where he stood.

Severus opened the door. "Come in," he said, voice strained, opening the door wider.

Harry entered, feeling out of place. He was inside Severus' house, about to go shopping with him. As friends. If someone during his years at Hogwarts had told him he would one day be friends with Severus, he would have had them admitted to St. Mungo's.

The living room was unkempt, with various things lying about. The furniture was dusty, and the smell of smoke was strong. It may have been more normal for a Muggle home to be dirty, where it took physical labor and time to clean, but simple household messes were rarer in wizarding homes. It took much less work to clean with magic. The Snape family's priorities—which Harry could have guessed before judging by Severus' greasy hair and shabby wardrobe—did not include cleanliness.

There was the sound of a glass being set down and Eileen Snape walked out of the kitchen. She had messy, medium-length black hair that fell partly over her face, which was long, sullen, and pale. She had a nasty bruise over her left eye, and the way she gingerly moved her arm suggested that it was injured. It must have happened recently or else she would've tried to heal it…Maybe Severus' parents had just been fighting. That would explain his unusually tight voice, the unnatural quiet of the house.

Harry remembered Eileen vaguely from Severus' memories, from the brief scene he had glimpsed her husband shouting at her. Even with his own upbringing, it was hard to imagine what it must be like to hear his father abuse his mother and not be able to do anything about it. For a moment, he imagined Severus curled up and crying in his bedroom, listening to crashes and shouts. He wondered if Tobias Snape was somewhere around here, or if he had retreated somewhere else to lose himself under alcohol's influence.

Mrs. Snape looked him up and down coldly, her judgmental stare bearing a likeness of her son's as an adult. "So you're Jacob Walker?" she asked, and he had trouble interpreting it as a statement or a question.

"Er…" Harry began, but he didn't have to reply. The witch, who clearly could care less about his name, his existence for that matter, strode past him to the fireplace. She started a fire with a wave of her wand and retrieved a plastic cup filled with Floo Powder, using her uninjured arm to do so. Eileen expanded the fireplace so they would fit with another flick of her wand. She threw some Floo Powder in, and the flames turned bright green. Without caring to instruct either of the two boys, she took another handful and stepped into the fire.

"Diagon Alley," she said clearly after throwing the powder at the ground. The flames swallowed her and she disappeared.

There was the sound of heavy footsteps, and Tobias Snape appeared in the kitchen. Holding a large whiskey bottle that was nearly empty, the man swayed into the room. He had a stupid, drunken smirk on his face and a crazed look in his bloodshot eyes. Harry glanced quickly at Severus, who had stiffened, his face was hardened with hatred and disgust. Father and son made eye contact.

"Where's Eileen?" Tobias had a hoarse voice, which cracked as he cackled. He swayed slightly as he walked toward Severus, ignoring Harry, who stepped between them. He lurched suddenly at Severus, who pulled Harry aside with him.

Severus' father stood, shaking with silent laughter, and he slowly turned around. He went back to Severus and grabbed the front of his loose dark gray shirt. Harry snapped out of his horror at the dangerous glint in his expression.

Leaning in to Severus' face, Tobias yelled, "WHERE DID THAT BITCH—"

Harry cut Tobias off before he could finish by punching him hard in the face. Then he stared in disbelief at his fist, as if it would hold an explanation for his impulsive behavior. He…had just hit the father of someone he supposedly just met, even though Tobias had deserved it.

Tobias groaned on the ground. While the man struggled to recover, Harry pointed at the plastic cup above the fireplace and motioned for Severus to hurry. After a fearful look at his father, who was regaining his senses, Severus ran over to the fireplace and grabbed a handful of powder.

"You go next. I told you how to do it before, right?" Severus whispered as loud as he dared, his voice shaking slightly. Harry nodded, and Severus hurriedly repeated the steps his mother had taken.

Now it was just Harry and the drunk, who was coming to his senses, swearing loudly. Before the man could stand, Harry pulled out his wand and did his best to erase Tobias' memory of being punched, then stunned him.

Harry looked grimly at the sprawled figure in front of him. He hoped that, in his intoxicated state, Tobias would not be able to piece together that magic had been used on him. Harry, not wanting to stick around, grabbed his bags and stepped into the fireplace.

How can I help Severus' family? he thought as the flames swallowed him. Maybe it's not something I should get myself involved with. Fireplaces flew by as he rushed closer and closer to Diagon Alley. Suddenly, Harry reappeared in a fireplace of a store he didn't recognize. He stood, coughing, in the dust that had sprung up by his entrance. He vacated the hearth and blinked, eyes watering. Severus was standing nearby, looking relieved that Harry had made it out of the house without being injured. His composed face was now giving way to his feelings; he seemed shaken and maybe even scared.

Eileen handed Severus a small, ratty cloth tied up into a sack, probably containing the meager amount of money for the day's exploits. She lectured him on using the money only for what he needed, because that was all he was getting this year, and he nodded, clutching his supply list tightly.

"Well, Severus, I will pick you up here at…six o' clock," his mum said curtly. She looked at both of them briefly, then Disapparated.

Severus and Harry left the store into the bright sunshine outside. The street was packed with all sorts of people, all bustling down the street and in and out of shops. The two boys walked to an open space underneath the awning of a potion supply store.

"Okay, so if you want, we can split up for an hour. I'll buy your owl while you get your robes and wand. Then we'll meet back here."

Severus nodded and looked down, shoulders sagging. "Listen, about what happened…" He trailed off because his voice began to shake.

"It's okay," said Harry hurriedly. "I just hope that he won't do anything like that again."

Harry could feel anger boiling inside him, that there could be people like Severus' dad, that kids could bully Severus without thinking about what he already experienced at home. Why didn't people realize how much it hurt him to be ridiculed? If they didn't regard mental torture as seriously as physical torture, maybe they would need to see every negative word they said burned onto the skin person they make fun of, so they can see the scars they leave. But…couldn't they already see the pain in Severus' eyes?

"Will you be okay?" Harry forced himself to calm down.

"I'll be—I'll be fine." Severus was not convincing in the least, but he seemed to want to be alone so he could recover.

They set off in different directions. Harry weaved his way in and out of the crowd to the Owl Emporium. He was determined to buy Severus the best owl in the shop. Although he knew possessions wouldn't help lessen the pain Severus had experienced, he hoped his kind gesture would.

The Owl Emporium was small and relatively dark inside. There were about fifteen people crammed inside, all trying to get close-up looks at different owls. As Harry scanned the room, he noticed one particularly strange owl.

It was a barn owl. It had a white, slightly heart shaped face, with unnatural blue eyes that seemed to bleed into the feathers around them. Its body was dark gray flecked with white, and it was fairly large. It was quite beautiful in a deadly, mysterious way. The bird, who had been looking straight ahead before, slowly turned its head unblinkingly toward Harry as he approached it.

"Sir?" Harry turned and called to a man in his forties who had just finished helping a mom and a bouncing young son pick out a simple brown owl.

"Yes, what can I help you with?" The man smiled and looked from Harry to the bird he stood in front of. "Oh, yes, a rare mutated Barn owl. Usually the species is a pale color, or brown…but this one is like soot, with blue eyes…" For a moment, Harry wondered if the man would let him buy the owl. "If you are interested, she is eighteen Galleons." The ridiculous pricing indicated he clearly was not keen on giving her away.

"I'll take her," said Harry, pulling out the coins. Mingled disappointment and surprise crossed the man's face for only a moment before he recovered slightly and took the money. After inspecting the Galleons carefully, the man grunted and got the caged owl for him.

"Oh, and also…can I have that white one in the corner? Yes, yes, that one. Thank you…"

Harry left the shop, weighed down by the two cages. It might have been smarter to have bought them toward the end of the hour, because now he had an extra forty-five minutes to carry them.

He bought a cauldron along with some basic potions ingredients, which meant the only thing left for him to buy was the one Defense Against the Dark Arts book. Flourish and Blotts was not too far away, so he headed there.

The store was very lively, though not too crowded, since it was larger than most stores. There were at least twenty Hogwarts students in the store—he could hear snippets of their conversations—"Mum, I know it's not on the list…please? It'll be my going away present!" "Ooh…look, the new edition of Alohomora: Unlocking the Secrets of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!" and—

"Dad, I don't know how that got in there! I swear!"

Harry froze in place and turned toward the voice.

It was his father.

James Potter stood next to an older man who slightly resembled him, most likely his father—he already had gray hair. James was trying his best to appear innocent as his dad held up a thick school book in one hand and a thin one in the other. Harry casually walked over to the bookshelf behind them and heard his father read in a low voice, "116 Ways to Cheat in Class?" He tried to stifle a smile. "You hid this in a book? Really, James. I would have expected you to put in a little more effort."

"Good job, Dad. I'm impressed," said James, trying to hide his disappointment. But then, when his dad turned around to go to the checkout, James pulled a Galleon out of his pocket and hid it casually in his hand. He grabbed another book that was sitting in wait on a shelf nearby, then went over to the counter with his father.

After his dad paid and was pushing through the crowd, James bought the book, one that blended in with the rest of the other standard school books. But by the mischievous look on James' face, he knew it wasn't on the Hogwarts supply list.

Harry was overcome with a renewed sense of excitement. First he had felt awed, then depressed, then too overwhelmed to think clearly, and now he felt light-headed with disbelief. How had he expected he would react when he saw his father for the first time in person? After first seeing his mum and dad in the Mirror of Erised, he realized he wanted nothing more than to have a family.

And now, the excitement was combined with…disappointment. It was similar to seeing his dad in the Pensieve in his fifth year. After that experience, Harry had been devastated at how much of "an arrogant toerag" his dad was. Already, at age eleven, James managed to flirt with all the girls that looked his age on his way out. One could tell where he had walked in the store because he left a trail of severe giggles. Just before he closed the door, James waved to a pack of three girls who looked to be about twelve. They all waved back, then laughed and started chatting animatedly, peeking outside to catch a last glimpse of the boy. Harry still didn't think this made James out to be a complete monster, though certainly conceited. Still, he resented that he could figure out his father's personality simply by watching him for a couple minutes.

Harry bought the book and went back outside. As he walked, he pulled out a bag he had filled with supplies from what he grabbed from his purse. He now had to carry two owls and two heavy bags, and knew this was going to make the day seem longer.

He surveyed the diverse faces in the swarm of people on the street. His white owl hooted, annoyed, as the cage bumped against the jumbled mass of people. Well, maybe it wasn't that unusual, Harry consoled himself as he watched a sullen girl with curly black hair walk next to a sour-faced, middle-aged woman. By her moody complexion…she looked like a true Slytherin. Maybe some people were just easier to figure out than others.

Harry felt a jolt of guilt. He shouldn't label people based on how they appear to passerby. His dad probably had complicated feelings that he wouldn't understand unless he allowed himself to accept there was more than what met the eye. How many times was he going to have to remind himself of that?

Maybe the boy who was waiting under the awning seemed awkward, depressed and poor; someone one would try to avoid, but Harry didn't see Severus that way, now that they were sort of friends. No, he only saw the smile that lit up Severus' face as he came closer, as he held up the beautiful owl that he bought for him.

"Wow, thank you…"

Harry angled the cage so they could admire the bird, which turned its head to look at each of them in turn. Every time it made eye contact with Harry, he felt the back of his neck prickle. It was as though…the bird could see right through him. Somehow the sharp eyes and wise appearance reminded Harry of Dumbledore.

"I've never seen one like this. How did it get to be black?"

The bird now twisted her head toward Severus, who smiled at it, not noticing anything unusual.

"The guy at the store said that it was mutated. I thought she was the coolest owl in the shop, personally."

Harry's new owl, now named Enoch, hooted in protest. "And this one was okay, too," he added, smirking.

"I got you something, too," said Severus, reaching into one of his bags. He produced a rainbow-spiraled lollipop. Harry forced a smile, feeling guilty because Severus had felt the need to buy him something when he had already little money to spare on himself.

"It change colors and flavors as you eat it. It isn't as good as an owl, obviously, but…"

"Wow, this is so cool, thank you! I wish Muggle candy was like this," said Harry ecstatically, unwrapping the lollipop and popping it in his mouth. Severus beamed.

"So, I already got all my stuff…" Harry began, taking the lollipop out so he could talk.

Severus looked at him in mild surprise. "Really? I've only got my robes and wand. Speaking of wand, what does yours look like? Mine's twelve inches, hawthorn, and dragon heartstring, rigid…What about yours?"

"Eleven inches, holly, phoenix core. It was the first one he pulled out, that's why it didn't take that long."

"Oh. Well, I still have to get the rest of the things on my list, if you don't want to come…"

"No, it's fine. Maybe afterwards we can get ice cream? Did you have lunch already?"

"I've never had ice cream before! From here, I mean…And, er, I'm not hungry, so…" Severus trailed off. Harry wondered if the reason Severus was so thin was because he wasn't fed well at home. Maybe it was that, plus the fact that he had inherited his parent's spidery figures.

"Okay, where do you want to go next? Is Lily going to be here today?"

A pink tinge rose momentarily in his pale cheeks. "Yes. Why do you want to know?"

Harry chewed his lip to keep from smirking. "No reason. Let's start to Potage's, it's closest."

They spent another two hours buying Severus' supplies. They went into shops Harry had never needed to go into: secondhand stores with low prices on beat-up books that seemed overpriced for their quality. Severus was surprised at the amount of money his mum gave him; what he didn't know was that Harry had slipped a few Galleons into his bag. If Harry hadn't done so, there was no way he would have managed to afford everything on the list.

Within the approximate three hours they had been in Diagon Alley, the only person Harry had recognized had been James. It wasn't until they went to Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor that they saw another person they knew.

Harry and Severus had just got their ice creams—cookies and cream and a chocolate sundae, respectively—when Lily entered the store. Her mother, a woman with dark hair and large glasses, waved goodbye through the glass and walked away. "Sev!" Lily exclaimed, and headed toward him, beaming. Severus' face relaxed and he returned her smile. "Hi," he said, warmth flooding his usually cold voice.

"It's wonderful here, isn't it? My mum came with me—she's going to Gringotts to exchange more money." She sighed. "I think Petunia wanted to come, but you know her…"

Severus nodded, and Harry did, too, without realizing it, because he also knew what she was talking about. His aunt had been jealous that her sister was a witch and got to go to Hogwarts, and to cover her feelings up, she made fun of Lily and didn't want anything to do with magic.

Harry's mother seemed to notice him for the first time. "Oh, hi!" She looked between the two, taken aback that Severus was with someone other than her. Lily probably thought she was Severus' only friend. "What's your name? Mine's Lily Evans, sorry if I was rude."

And suddenly, for the first time, Harry came in contact with his mother. They shook hands—she had a very friendly, solid grip—then she looked at him expectantly.

Harry mentally shook himself, still feeling a bit dazed. "Er, nice to meet you, my name's Ha—I mean, Jacob. Jacob Walker."

"Nice to meet you, Jacob." Turning back to Severus, she said, "Listen, Sev, my mum is going to meet me back here in two hours, do you want to hang out until then? All my shopping's done."

"Yeah! We're done, too. My mum is picking me—us—up at six, so we have time." Severus was staring at her, a dreamy sort of smile on his face, so Harry cleared his throat loudly to snap him out of it. "Ah—sorry, er, so—" He fumbled with what to say.

"Where'd you get the owls?" Lily asked, oblivious that anything awkward had just taken place. She got in line and the two boys stood on the other side of the divider, continuing to eat their ice cream. As the line moved forward, they continued talking.

"Actually, Jacob gave it—the dark one—to me. As an, er, early Christmas present."

"How thoughtful!" She now looked at Jacob, with an expression of either approval or annoyance, or a mixture of both. "It really is beautiful. I like the white one, too, though. I think my mum is going to get me one. She wants me to write home every week, I hope I'll have time." Lily turned, as she was next in line, and placed her order for a small mint chocolate chip in a cone. She paid, unnecessarily carefully counting out loud, then rejoined them. They sat at the only table outside, which was magically shaded from the sun.

"So, Jacob, have you been to Diagon Alley before? It's my first time, and I know Sev has been here before."

"My parents are both Muggles, so no, never."

"Me too!" Lily seemed very excited at this, so Harry feigned equal interest, smiling and acting pleasantly surprised.

"I was hoping I wouldn't be the only one," she continued, "Sev says there are loads, but I don't know, I was worried this year would be different…" For the first time, her natural confidence wavered, and she seemed almost insecure.

"Why were you worried? What difference does it make if your parents are both Muggles?" asked Harry, torn between his faux naiveté and frustration that she would care about being the only Muggle-born.

Lily hastily changed the subject. "So, what are you guys most excited for at Hogwarts?"

Severus thought for a moment. "I can't wait to learn in general, I guess."

Yeah, learn the Dark Arts, Harry thought bitterly. He could tell it was going to wear him out, knowing the fates of the people around him. "Well, I can't wait for Quidditch."

Severus was just about to ask how he knew about Quidditch when Harry added, "It was mentioned in that book I got, and it seems really exciting."

"Yeah, sure," said Severus, though he could hardly care less. He was only halfway through his ice cream, and although he had enjoyed it, he seemed unable to eat any more. He went into the store to return the bowl from his sundae, scooping a last mouthful on his way in, leaving Harry and Lily alone.

"So, how long have you known Severus?" he asked, starting to eat the cone part of his ice cream.

"Hmm, it's been maybe two, three years? What about you? I never, knew that he was friends with you." That was about as polite she could say Severus had never had another friend without coming across as jealous.

"I met him recently." Severus was just now within earshot, so he asked, "And, I was wondering, what house do you want to be put in? I'm sure he's told you about them, right?" Severus sat down and shot Harry an annoyed glare, which wasn't that effective since he had some chocolate ice cream on his face.

"Hm, I don't know. Gryffindor, maybe. He hasn't told me much about any of them, so I don't really know."

Harry gave Severus a see-what-did-I-tell-you look, and Severus ignored it stubbornly. He noticed Lily was trying to catch Severus' attention, touching her cheek repeatedly, trying to point out a bit of chocolate on his face. Severus was too busy not meeting Harry's eyes to notice. Lily got up in exasperation.

"Where are you—" Severus began, but she had already gone into the shop.

Lily returned with a napkin and said to him, "Sev, you have some chocolate on your face," and bent down to his level. Severus stiffened as she tilted his face to the side and wiped his cheek carefully. "Almost…there we go!" She straightened up and tossed the napkin into a trash bin. Severus was still frozen in place, and Harry was, yet again, hiding a smile. He might as well enjoy it while it lasted; soon he would no longer think being around eleven-year-olds was amusing, just annoying. After all, there was an age gap of seven years. Perhaps Harry would become less mature over time.

"So, where to next?" Lily asked brightly.

As the two boys stood up, Harry said under his breath, "Do it for her." Severus pretended he hadn't heard. If Harry could only convince him to be in Gryffindor, then he and Lily would spend more time with him, and it would be harder for him to get involved with the Dark Arts.

"How about we just walk around?" Harry suggested, and the other two agreed.

Harry allowed Severus and Lily to chat, only half paying attention to what went on around him. It was relaxing to be around all these people in a place that was familiar to him.

Being in a new house and living with the Weasleys was nice, but it made him, for lack of a better word, homesick. What home of his would he be missing? Certainly not the Dursleys, or Grimmauld Place…could it be Hogwarts? But the last time he had stayed there was his in sixth year. He didn't want to analyze his feelings now, so he decided to take a break from his problems and listen to the conversation between Lily and Severus.

"Ooh, look at these!" Lily stopped at a flower stand. Harry was thankful it at least wasn't one of the brightly colored little kid's shops that were nearby. The flowers resembled ones from the Muggle world, but all had some slight magical property that made them different. One flower in particular caught Lily's eye. The flower was similar to a lily, but seemed to be glowing faintly. The manager, who had been eying them, noticed her interest. She came over to the trio and cleared her throat, as if preparing for a lengthy speech.

"Ah, yes, that is a Moon Lily. Aptly named, the Moon Lily feeds purely off of moonlight, and releases its waste in the form of light during the day."

Lily still looked intrigued, so the lady eagerly continued. "The average life span is 5 years, as long as it gets at least 2 or 3 nights of moonlight every week. Now, if it's a particularly cloudy week, there are alternate ways to feed it so that it doesn't wilt…"

While Lily was distracted, nodding along with the information the pony-tailed woman was reciting, Harry pulled Severus out of earshot.

"Are you going to buy it for her?" he whispered, nodding slightly toward Lily.

"Wha—Why?" Severus genuinely seemed to not know.

Harry sighed in exasperation. "Because, she really wants it." Severus looked back at Lily, who was now examining the petals of the flower. "If you want to show her that you care about her…" Severus' eyes flashed, so Harry, sparing himself from a pointless argument, added, "…as a friend, then you should get it for her. Not that just being here with her isn't enough, but she'll have this flower for a while, so…"

Severus struggled with the idea. After another long look at Lily, he mumbled, "Fine." Then he seemed hesitant and defensive again. "And if I don't have enough money, I'm not getting it." He marched back to where Lily was standing and demanded, "How much is the flower?"

"Of course, let me see…the Moon Lily is one Galleon, 8 Knuts…" she trailed off in surprise as Severus set down his shopping bags and emptied his pockets. Harry knew Severus was going to come up short, so he joined the two, bent down to tie his shoe, and placed a Galleon on the pavement. When he straightened up, he saw Severus' shoulders had sagged. In his hand was four Sickles and 12 Knuts. He turned to Lily, who was oblivious to what his intentions had been. She raised her eyebrows questioningly.

"Well, I just—" He saw something flash in the corner of his eye. A Galleon was lying on the ground next to him. Immediately Severus glanced suspiciously at Harry (who had started to look at the other flowers, whistling), then reluctantly picked it up. He counted up the required amount of money and presented it to the manager. Lily gasped in sudden understanding.

"For me? Sev, you don't have to do that!" The manager handed Lily the flower, winked at Severus, and went off to help a young couple on the other side of the stand.

"I wanted to. I could…I could tell you really wanted it."

"Oh, thank you, thank you!" She hugged him, luckily not damaging the flower.

For a moment, Severus stood in shock with his arms still open, but he recovered and returned the embrace. They broke apart, now both grinning, and Lily began admiring her gift. Harry joined them, trying his best to look innocent even as Severus scrutinized him. He seemed to struggle with whether he should be suspicious of Harry or just happy with the result his suggestion.

The three continued browsing different shops and stalls. They stopped mostly when Lily wanted to, and were usually indifferent going into one store or another. However, Harry did have an exception: in the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies was the Nimbus 1000, released in '67.

They all looked in the store, despite Severus' lack of interest. Harry didn't need or want to buy anything, but he still thought it was interesting to see the older models of broomsticks. He might eventually have to get a broomstick, or do something to alter his Firebolt. No one had yet seen a broomstick like his in the 70s, and even if he made a believable excuse to its origins, he would draw unwanted attention to himself.

In the end, no one bought anything besides the flower, but they had a good time. Harry thought Lily was wonderful. She was more immediately likable than Severus or James, and she got along well with Harry. Although, it would have been nice to not know she was going to die for his sake. Harry knew, by the end of the year, he would want to save her life. But that was another thing that would change too much.

Soon, it was five o' clock, and Lily had to head back to the ice cream parlor. To avoid awkward questions from Lily's mom, they split up before reaching the shop.

"Well, goodbye, then, Sev…and Jacob. Let's try to sit together on the train, okay? And, thank you again for the flower." She smiled at Severus, who mumbled, "No problem."

They watched her go, her multiple shopping bags all bumping against her legs. Mrs. Evans (who, Harry realized, was his grandmother) took some of her things and appeared to ask about the flower. Once Lily had disappeared into the crowd, the boys turned around and started heading in the opposite direction.

"Well, she's nice," said Harry slyly. Severus shot him a "watch it" look.

Harry rolled his eyes, then said, "Well, we still have an hour…I guess we could go to a bookstore and relax. I'd like to know more about Hogwarts. And I'm tired of holding this stuff." Harry lifted up Enoch, who appeared to be sleeping. "If that's all right with you…"

"Yeah, sounds good," Severus agreed, his skinny arms trembling slightly from having to carry so much for so long. Harry knew Severus would want to just relax and read; from what he knew, Severus loved books. Plus, it was good for Severus to rest, as he was likely going to become a lot more disagreeable now that Lily was gone.

They went to a store further down the Alley called Tabitha's Tea and Books. It was a cozy place, with a place cleared for eating and reading on the first level and all the books crammed on the second. Both boys immediately headed toward the book section. Severus seemed more of a reader of the two, taking down a huge stack of books within minutes, while Harry only took down a couple. One of the ones Harry chose were Hogwarts, a History, appropriately enough, and A First Year's Guide to Hogwarts, 14th edition.

They found a spot downstairs to read, but by that time they only had twenty minutes before they had to leave. At least Harry might be giving himself an excuse to know some things about Hogwarts—if he needed to give Severus advice, or revealed something he knew about Hogwarts that he shouldn't, he could just say he read it when they had gone to Diagon Alley.

Before long, they had to leave the bookstore. By now, they had nothing to talk about, so they walked in silence. The only thing that was brought up on the way back was Severus' owl. He wanted Harry to hold onto it until they were on the train the next day. He said this was because he didn't know what his parents would think if he brought it home, and it was safer with Harry than with him. Harry agreed, wishing he could put the owl in the purse so he wouldn't have to juggle it with his other things.

It was almost six o' clock when they arrived back at the store they had started out at called "Standard Wizarding Home Supplies." Mrs. Snape had not arrived yet, so they walked around while they waited, looking at the variety of home supplies the store had just to have something to do. After fifteen minutes of this, Eileen had not made an appearance. The two stood in the back, reading, to pass the time. After an hour, there was still no sign of his mum.

Severus was starting to become panicked. "Why do you think she's late?"

Harry tried to reassure him, hiding the pressing dread that maybe his actions had led to her delay. "I don't know, but she'll be fine. If she's not here in ten minutes, let's borrow some Floo Powder and go back ourselves, okay?" They had seen a small sign at the counter that said Complimentary Floo Powder available—just ask.

Severus nodded, but he was still unusually pale. After each minute they waited, his complexion became worse and worse, until finally his mother appeared in the fireplace. She straightened up, brushed herself off, and made toward the exit. She seemed to not notice the two boys.

"Mother?" Severus called tentatively, his original relief replaced by confusion. Eileen turned around in surprise. "Severus? What are you still doing here?"

"You said you would pick us up at six, so we waited here for you!"

His mother sighed and went over to them. "I never said that. Why would I need to come to pick you up? Couldn't you have just gone home by yourself? You're a big boy now." She sounded impatient and glanced toward the door.

"Well, I…" Severus trailed off, confused.

"I have to go buy your father some medicine…for his back pain." Her euphemism was strained, and Severus seemed to know what she really meant. She turned to leave, then, feeling that she needed to give him some sort of instruction, said, "The store has complimentary Floo Powder. I'll see you when I get home."

When she had left, Severus went up to the counter and asked for Floo Powder. Harry couldn't hear any strong emotion in his voice, but imagined that he was angry and embarrassed. He walked into the fireplace, stated his address, and disappeared. Harry uncomfortably switched all of his things to one hand, grabbed some Floo Powder, thanked the man, and did the same.

Tobias Snape was still in the living room when they arrived, more liquor bottles and potions around him from when they had seen him earlier in the day.

"Eileen?" he said in a wobbly, drunken voice. Snape mouthed "go" to Harry. Harry narrowed his eyes at the man, fists clenching, and Snape shook his head warningly.

"You'll be okay?" Harry whispered. Severus nodded and glanced at his dad, who was still staring straight ahead from his position on the couch.

Tobias mumbled an incomprehensible string of words to himself in a slurred voice. Harry didn't attempt to understand, as nothing that this man said was of any significance.

"I'll see you tomorrow at the station, then. Let's try to be in the same compartment, okay?" This was met with another nod. "Okay, bye, then…" Harry crossed the room to the door and left the house, taking another look at the scrawny boy standing in this broken home. Harry was reminded of earlier, about judging people on how they appear to passerby. Well, if someone saw Severus standing among the mess, they might think it made sense that he was there. That, by his appearance, he belonged.

But the difference was this young boy still held on to the values that make life worthwhile. That was the difference between him and the Tobias, who Harry could hardly call a father, who was sitting, wasted, on a beat-up couch.

Harry returned home, got ready for the next day, and set his magical watch to wake him up after six hours sleep. Everything in his house, except the bed he now entered, was just as he had found it only a couple days ago. He left all of his things in the front room, including Enoch and the other owl, which Severus had named Luna. Harry tried not to imagine the bird watching him somehow, through the wall, and focused on what would happen the tomorrow.

Tomorrow was the day that would officially start his temporary life as Jacob Walker. Tomorrow would determine what house Severus ended up in, and maybe who they would all be friends with. Tomorrow as a new beginning.

 


Chapter 4: A New Beginning
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

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 hurrying 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 Severus and Lily, to ensure that they would be able to be in the same compartment.

He stopped right next to the brick wall between the ninth and tenth platforms 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 Severus' memories, he should arrive around the same time as Lily. 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 me and my mum. It was clear that she must find Jacob attractive.

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 had rarely met other wizarding folk.

"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 appeared 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 in the hopes 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 children. But there had still been the possibility that those events had always happened and Harry had just left '71 for some reason.

Now, he had proof that he could change what had occurred 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, paralyzed by 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, especially 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? Harry was old enough to defend himself—it would be like a four-year-old trying to pick on him—but the difference was it would be his dad. For his own father to dislike 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 than 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 Harry, who still had difficulty remembering 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 seemed to him then was the same as she seemed now: gloomy, quiet—both 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. Returning her gaze to Lily, she said, "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 as though she saw straight through to his soul. Of course, this did not mean Harry was interested in her. He would not have a crush on anyone in this time; it made him uncomfortable to imagine it. To start, he was much too old for the students at Hogwarts; additionally, he did not plan to stay long; and most importantly, 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 began, 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 had not guessed her placement correctly, wanting an example of when stereotypes were not 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 that she felt like sharing it with Severus.

Severus remained silent as Lily looked between the two. She seemed interested to hear what Raven had to say, knowing nothing about it herself. Harry wondered if Raven 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 quite a 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 suppose."

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 impacted him significantly.

"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 appeared slightly blurred.

"Yeah," Lily replied dreamily. "It's wonderful!"

Severus 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 all when the moon is at its brightest…well, if you're in the same house."

Raven looked up from her book. "Who gave it to you?" Her eyes flickered momentarily to Severus. Harry glanced at Raven, then back at Severus, wondering how obvious it was that the boy fancied Lily.

"Oh, Severus did," Lily answered, and gave him a quick smile. He returned it faintly.

"Mhm," said Raven, and Harry could have 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 for a while now, and we recently met Jacob. I don't think any of us have known any other wizards, or witches, for that matter. Have you? You know a lot about Hogwarts, it seems."

"Yes, both my parents are wizards. My family are all—or mostly—Purebloods."

And Pureblood, too? She doesn't seem like she would 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 at her book and began reading again. Harry tried to see 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. Lily 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 two Galleons. 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. Severus looked like he wouldn't accept it, probably because Harry had already given him an owl and (if Severus' suspicions were correct) a Galleon. More importantly, Harry saved his life, and became his friend despite the things that might have warded 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 her sketchbook to the page she had been working on before. For an eleven-year-old, it was decent: the illustration featured 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!" said Lily, awed. Snape nodded mutely, but Harry could tell he wanted her praise and attention directed at him, not Raven.

While Raven continued sketching, the others rifled through the cache of candy. 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 out his nausea 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 wizarding 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 school for people like us, 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, only to yield 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.

"Wingardium Leviosa!"

The box rose into the air and she laughed excitedly. "I did it!"

They all clapped. Severus beamed and told her he knew she would be a great witch. 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 struggled.

"I'm awful at cards," Severus 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're in different houses, you can still be friends."

Snape made a gesture between a shrug and and a sigh. 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 unfazed by his reaction and turned to Lily.

"So Lily, tell me about your family. I thought your parents were 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.

"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, because they don't really like magic."

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 Harry 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 staring 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. She had nearly finished the picture she had been working on, so she quickly shaded the last bit and flipped to the next page. Raven smoothed out the paper and drew a very basic circle, then outlined the jaw. 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 Severus would be critical of the sketch if it failed to represent Lily's beauty. If the drawing did not meet his expectations, he might be inclined to give Raven specific instructions on how to make it better.

While Lily held still for Raven, Harry decided to let his mind wander. 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 mask 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 had 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…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 would 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 made no mistakes when it places a student in a house. It could see everything in a person's mind, and Severus was no exception. The hat could see that Severus cared deeply for Lily, maybe even anticipated that Severus 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 was not placed into Gryffindor, this time Harry would know it wasn't meant to be.

Harry watched the sun move down behind the hills in silence. It was beautiful, in a sad way, and brought a feeling he could not define. Maybe it was a sudden large understanding for the world that was impossible to grasp. 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 Raven's drawing was a flattering, simplified image of Lily just before she tore out the page and handed it over. Severus tried to seem nonchalant as he peered at Raven's work. 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, and placed the picture of Lily carefully in her bag. 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 robes, and that was clear without the excitement being voiced.

By now, the sun was just above the horizon, casting a warm glow in 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," said Harry, once 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.

"What? Why would you say that?"

She turned to face him. "Because—because I know I'm going to be put in Slytherin, and you three 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 shouldn't be 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. McGonagall 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 and looked up in slight surprise as ghosts burst out of the walls, deep in discussion. Harry didn't react, maybe he should have 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 daylights out of the little kids, acting as if it were no big deal.

Finally, the ghosts noticed the timid first years.

"Ah, new recruits! I hope you will be in Hufflepuff!" The Fat Friar retained an optimistic smile even after this statement was met with snide mutters from students who had been particularly frightened.

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 had been too preoccupied with the others to consider the Headmaster. 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 Harry's pain.

Harry couldn't believe he was actually tearing up in front of everyone. He forced his gaze away from Dumbledore, the man who had taught him so much, who had protected him even when he didn't know it. The Headmaster 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 primary 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.

Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws,

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 had given 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, it had seen everything about Severus. 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.

McGonagall 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 would 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, pale and 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 faded 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 said, voice lowered. 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 shushed him, so he was forced to stop talking. He would have anyway; "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 to the Gryffindor table and sat down next to Lily, still smiling broadly. Harry thought she looked over at the Slytherin table with a look of triumph. Raven must have really not wanted to be placed in Slytherin, perhaps in the way that Sirius had not wanted 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, "Lily," 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 would 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.

[Quick Author's Note: throughout the years various reviewers have left reviews criticizing the fic/me for being biased against Slytherin. And fyi if you are annoyed by this as well: I'm a Slytherin, and I get where you're coming from. Know that Harry's perspective is not my own and his bias against Slytherin is meant to be a character flaw and presenting this aspect of Harry is not an endorsement of this thought process]

 


Chapter 5: Furry Little Problem
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Harry froze, expecting the hat to proclaim "Slytherin!" But the words didn't come. The hat remained silent to everyone except Severus. It seemed to be communicating with Severus—Harry could only tell by the hardly noticeable changes in its mouth; nothing it was saying was audible. Harry wished he could hear what the problem was, but he had to rely on Severus' reactions to tell him.

In the first minute, Severus shut his eyes tight and clenched his fists in his lap. Then, over time, the nervousness Severus appeared to feel transformed into annoyance, as he rolled his eyes and shook his head slightly. After three minutes had passed, murmuring broke out, then died back down as Dumbledore gestured for them to be quiet. Professor McGonagall whispered, just loud enough so the first years could hear, "He may be a Hatstall; someone who takes five minutes or more to sort. They are very rare, and usually occur only once every fifty years. I was one myself."

Harry wondered if he was the one who had caused this. He doubted that Severus had taken this long to sort in the original timeline. Was Severus fighting for a spot in Gryffindor instead of Slytherin, just as he had as a first year? It seemed so; the boy was now voicing his opinions in a frustrated whisper. Harry glanced at Lily, who gazed unblinkingly at Severus from her seat, features taut with anticipation. Harry could see that her fingers were crossed, resting on the edge of the table before her. Nearby, James and Sirius were snickering at him, having apparently found something amusing about Severus' appearance.

Harry remembered Dumbledore saying, "I sometimes think we Sort too soon…" If Dumbledore said it, then it had to have some significance. If it was true, then there was nothing wrong with what Harry had done and there was a good chance Severus would be sorted into Gryffindor.

It all depended on Severus' choice. Five minutes and twenty-one seconds after the Sorting Hat had been placed on Severus' head, the seam across its front opened wide. Harry held his breath. Ages later, the hat called Gryffindor, and warmth spread back into the Hall.

Harry could breathe again, and he beamed at Severus as he passed by and sat next to Lily at the Gryffindor table. Severus still seemed slightly regretful as he nodded at Harry, then his eyes drifted at the Slytherin table. Only when Lily hugged him did he allow himself to move on.

Harry wondered if this now meant there would be six male Gryffindors, as opposed to the five in his first year. Who was he pushing to a different house? There were—he assumed—only four people in Gryffindor house in the original reality. That might explain why the Marauders adopted Peter into their group, because there were so few of them to begin with.

Harry didn't pay attention to the next couple of names. He was happy for Lily, Severus, and Raven, but his mind was still not at ease. His gaze absentmindedly found the Gryffindor table, where his dad sat, eying his mother. Harry looked away, but his thoughts remained on the sight. How his father looked at his mother now was much different from how Severus looked at her. Of course, Snape had the advantage of knowing her for much longer, so maybe Harry shouldn't judge his dad too harshly. Still, the way James studied her made him uncomfortable.

Before he could think about it much longer, "Walker, Jacob," was called, and he went up to the Hat. When Harry put it on, it made a soft sound of surprise.

"Well, well, well…" it murmured, so only he could hear. "I heard the Professor call up Jacob Walker, not a 'Harry Potter.'" It paused, taking in all the information and memories in Harry's mind, which was a significantly larger amount than the kids who were coming up before him. "You are…very strange. Tampering with the past, but not for your own selfish reasons. And somehow, time has not been torn. Most peculiar…"

Don't tell anyone, Harry thought urgently.

"I was not planning to…You see, I am interested to know how this turns out. I believe you are the first to come to this school under your circumstances. But, to get to the point, you were sorted into Gryffindor last time, and I see no reason to place you elsewhere."

Harry felt the relief even before the Sorting Hat exclaimed, "GRYFFINDOR!" He was glad to get away from the hat, whose ability to see into his mind unnerved him. He was grateful that the hat hadn't kept him as long as Severus, as that would have drawn too much attention. Harry hurried to take a seat next to Snape, whose smile was hard to place as genuine or forced. Raven smiled at Harry from her seat next to him, and he returned the gesture. No one appeared to be unhappy with their placement. James and Sirius were nearby, laughing as if they had been friends all of their life.

"Woodcly, Elena," was the last girl to go up, and the Hat quickly placed her in Gryffindor. As soon as she sat down, an expectant hush fell over the Great Hall. Dumbledore rose and opened his arms to the crowd, basking all of them in the warm glow of his smile.

Harry felt a lump rise in his throat and he tried not to think about the fact that Dumbledore was now passed. So many great memories of this kind of moment, of this man, that it was hard to ignore the ones Harry mourned over, like the night when the man had died.

"Welcome, new and old, to another year at Hogwarts," he began, continuing to look kindly over the students. "I think only two words are necessary before the feast—Dig in!"

Everyone cheered. Harry was significantly louder than the first years around him who weren't sure how to respond to such a brief speech. He felt nostalgic, and couldn't help thinking that it was like Dumbledore was alive again.

The empty plates before them filled, and everyone helped themselves as they animatedly discussed their excitement. Severus looked as though he had never seen so much food at once in his life. His eyes widened comically and he slowly picked up a generous piece of chicken. Lily's eyes glittered as she scanned the countless dishes. Raven looked less enthusiastic than the other three, most likely because she was used to an abundance of food, coming from a wealthy wizarding family.

James reached across the table to the dish in front of Lily, which was filled with steaming pork chops. Harry helped himself to the foods nearest him: steak, potatoes, carrots, and roast chicken. Lupin, who was sitting right of across from Harry, piled three steaks on his plate. Sirius, who sat on the other side of him, raised his eyebrows slightly, but didn't say anything, just scooted a bit away. Peter sat across from Raven, oblivious to Harry's steady glare.

Peter already had ratlike features, and even nibbled on his food like a rat. His quick eyes darted to Harry, who looked away. Pretending to be busy with his food, Harry returned his attention to James. His dad was joking about one of the teachers, causing Sirius to laugh hysterically and a few kids around them to smirk.

James chewed a piece of pork, thinking. He swallowed and said, "I think they should let first years try out for the Quidditch Team."

Sirius raised his eyebrows. "Why, you think you'd make it?"

James shrugged. "I've had loads of practice. Who knows. With muscles like these…" He flexed his arm and grinned at Sirius. He half-glanced at Lily, but she was still engrossed in a conversation with Severus. Harry could see James' brow furrow in childish frustration.

"So what's your name?" Harry looked up. James hadn't asked him, he had asked Lily.

"Er…" Lily was caught off-guard; she and Severus had been in the middle of a conversation. She composed herself. "Lily Evans."

Harry could see through James' politeness; there weren't too many new students, and he should have at least remembered her first name. Lily wouldn't guess that he just wanted an excuse to talk to her, but she might think it was strange that she didn't remember, especially if she knew his name.

"And you're James Potter, right?"

"Yeah." His face showed an increased amount of smugness at the fact that she had remembered his name. Sirius nudged him with his elbow.

"And this is Sirius Black."

Sirius gave her his crooked smile, which he seemed to have perfected. Maybe Sirius was a little interested in her, maybe he developed a crush on her, but never told any of them, especially James. It was possible, since Harry didn't know much about his father's year in school.

"Hey," said Sirius casually, and flipped his hair out of his eyes. Severus, who had been watching them, snorted. Sirius threw him a look that read, "Got a problem?"

"Who are you?" James asked, for the sake of acting like he didn't care to remember it before, with a slight air of a challenge.

"Severus Snape." He returned the tone, eyes narrowing.

James was about to say something else, but thought better of it and smiled a little sarcastically. Being a fellow Gryffindor might give Severus some time before James would drop the act and start to bully him.

James didn't ask for Harry or Raven's name, probably because he had no reason to pretend he had forgotten.

Everyone returned to eating as if nothing had happened. Though the conversations between James and Sirius were quieter than before.

Harry noticed Raven was frowning as she picked at her food. "Hey," he said, trying to sound friendly.

"Hm? Oh, hi." She turned toward him and searched his face for an explanation to why he was talking to her. "Yeah?"

"So…" He searched for a topic. "What do you think?" He looked around the room.

Raven raised an eyebrow, taking a couple seconds to process what he was asking.

"Er, it's really cool, yeah. I mean, it's amazing." She paused. "Our headmaster, er, Dumbledore, he's brilliant. And the building is magical, so far." She smiled a little, and gazed at the glowing candles floating above them. She was usually very articulate, what had changed?

"I think so too. It feels like home, right?"

Raven gave Harry a strange look. "I suppose." She set her fork down next to her plate, which was still half full, and took a sip of water.

Harry bit into another roasted potato and listened to the conversation between Lily and Snape.

"…maybe even better than that time when Petunia ran into—" Lily was saying, but didn't finish because they both started laughing. Severus had an awkward sort of laugh, the kind Harry could tell wasn't used often. A few Gryffindors turned their heads, taken aback.

"Yeah, but what about when we got free candy from Terri's? That was fun."

Lily's face lit up at the memory. "I totally forgot about that day! And that was the morning after all the flowers bloomed!" She paused. "I think this is just like that." Severus smiled and continued eating.

Harry noticed Lupin had been listening to them. Sirius and James were too absorbed in themselves to include Lupin, and Lupin seemed to shy to officially introduce himself. Harry decided he would take the first chance he had to talk to him.

Nearly Headless Nick floated to where the first years were sitting. "Greetings, new Gryffindors!" He beamed down upon each of them, trying to act dignified.

"Hello," everyone replied, less enthusiastically than the ghost.

"I am Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington. Pleasure to meet you all." He frowned slightly at the lack of reaction, but recovered. "You must be proud to be Gryffindors. I remember my first day at Hogwarts—"

"Aren't you Nearly Headless Nick?" James asked suddenly.

Sir Nicholas faltered. "Yes," he answered, annoyed as he always was when he was asked that question.

"My dad told me about you. You can take off your head, right?"

Nicholas grunted in agreement, and it was clear that he wished he had not talked to the first years. Before they had to ask, he tugged his head to the side and it came almost all the way off, as if it was on a hinge. James and Sirius clapped, laughing, and the other first years gaped in awe.

Sir Nicholas glided away, annoyed, leaving them back to chat with each other again. Harry finished eating without talking, but kept an open ear for what the others were saying. After another ten or fifteen minutes, everyone in the Great Hall had finished their food and the plates were magically cleared.

Dumbledore rose again and there was an immediate silence.

"Welcome to another year at Hogwarts." His features crinkled into a pleasant expression. "There are just a few rules I want to go over before you go off to your dorms. Number one, keep in mind that the Forbidden Forest is forbidden, and for a good reason. Number two, there is magic allowed between classes in the corridors, as long as it does not harm or bother others. On a brighter note, Quidditch trials are on the second week of term. If you wish to try out, please contact Professor Hooch."

There were excited murmurs at this; Harry saw James nod and smile at Sirius. He must be certain that they'd make an exception for him.

"Before I send you off to your dorms, let us sing the school song! Everyone choose their favorite tune!"

With a flick of his wand, a golden ribbon shot into the air and twisted into the lyrics.

Everyone in the hall sang with an fervor that rivaled Dumbledore's. Harry could only make out the few voices around him: James and Sirius were extremely loud, belting out the song in what sounded like a sea chanty. Severus was quiet, though he was certainly singing, and extremely off-pitch. Lily wasn't bellowing the song, but he could hear her voice rise clearly, pure and sweet, above those around her. Raven had a pleasing voice, as far as he could tell, but she wasn't singing loud enough for him to hear properly.

Once everyone had finished, around the same time, (there were no Weasley twins to lag behind everyone else in this time) Dumbledore congratulated the students on their "wonderfully passionate cacophony of sound," then sent them off to bed.

The prefects led the students out of the Great Hall and down the hallway. All the first years were yawning and their eyes drooped sleepily. Harry didn't feel tired, probably because his mind was used to less sleep than those younger than him. He had been doing a lot more in the past year than these children had, so just riding on a train and eating dinner was not going to make him drowsy.

Harry tried his best to act surprised at the moving staircases and the twists and turns they made. There were a few times, though, when he, out of habit, skipped a step he knew was fake when the older students forgot to warn them. He had to help some of the more unlucky kids get their feet out. After stopping only a few times, the Gryffindors reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. She was in a rare good mood, beaming at all of them. Once one of the prefects said the password, the portrait swung open, and everyone clambered in.

The common room was a welcoming sight. There was an overwhelming feeling of warmth and comfort, brought on largely by the soft look of the furniture and the fire that burned in the fireplace. Of course, to Harry and the older students, it was familiar, safe.

"Boys' dorms to the left, girls' to the right. Your things should be waiting for you," a prefect with glasses instructed. The students headed off in either direction, some chatting, others trudging off in a sleepy daze.

"Well, goodnight, Severus." Lily hugged him and followed Raven to the stairs, waving goodnight.

Luckily, James didn't seem to have noticed the exchange between Severus and Lily. He was now ahead of them, yawning luxuriously in the middle of a conversation with Sirius. Lupin and Peter were behind Severus and Harry, not yet a part of either of the two groups.

The first years' dorm was arranged in a cramped circle of six beds, each with suitcases stacked on the side. The setup worked out; going counterclockwise from the door, the order was James, Sirius, Lupin, Peter, Severus, then Harry. They each started unpacking at their own pace. James pulled his things out of his suitcase carelessly, while Lupin unpacked slowly and deliberately.

"So, in case you didn't know, my name's Jacob Walker," said Harry in an attempt to break the silence. The Marauders nodded and said "Nice to meet you," at different times.

"I'm James Potter," said Harry's dad with a note of pride.

"I'm Sirius Black." Although Sirius had equal confidence, he lacked respect for his family's name, and his voice tapered off at the end.

"Remus Lupin," the third boy said quietly when Harry looked at him. He hadn't thought about it before, but Lupin was actually good-looking, just in a different way than James and Sirius. They had more rugged, boyish handsomeness, whereas Lupin had a pleasant, traditional appearance. His face was more expressive and kind than the slack, egotistical look of the other two.

"My name's Peter Pettigrew," the fourth, chubby boy said quickly, then went back to unpacking. Harry merely nodded, it was all he could manage, knowing who Peter would become.

"My name is Severus Snape."

James and Sirius snickered, and Severus flushed. Remus was polite, however; he said quietly, "Nice to meet you."

Harry couldn't help looking at each of the Marauders again, hoping that the hazy disconnect he had from reality would clear up soon. Lupin gave Harry a small smile when he glanced in his direction, and Harry returned it quickly.

When they were finished unpacking, everyone climbed into bed and blew out the candles. The room was bathed in moonlight, illuminating the sheets where each person lay. Harry rolled over toward Severus, whose head was just visible, facing the window where the moon glowed in the sky. He wondered if Severus was thinking about Lily and the flower he gave her. He rolled back over and closed his eyes, letting his mind wander…

Harry woke up the next morning, earlier than anyone else. He glanced at his watch—it was an hour before breakfast—and got up quietly. He dressed and freshened up, then headed to the common room. He reached the Great Hall before most of the other students had arrived. Of the students at breakfast, there was the highest percentage of Ravenclaws and the lowest percentage of Gryffindors. Harry was the only first year at his table. The rest of the students were older, either exhausted and yawning or catching up with friends.

The dishes on the table were filled with fresh fruits, variously cooked eggs, baked goods, and breakfast meats. Harry helped himself to hash browns and toast and ate quietly until everyone else arrived.

Lily and Severus joined Harry first, eventually followed by Lupin, Raven, Peter, and finally James and Sirius. The three other first year girls came last, right behind the two boys, giggling. Harry knew by looking at them that he doubted the group they had established would get along well with them. However, Lily must have seen something in them if they had been friends; "None of my friends can understand why I even talk to you," she had said in Snape's memories.

Maybe not becoming friends with those girls would help Severus and her stay close. By the way they looked with distaste at Severus and with interest at Sirius and James proved that their opinions must've had an impact on how she'd felt.

Professor McGonagall went around the table, handing out schedules. Harry looked over his; it wasn't much different from the one he had the last time he was a first year. Today they started in Charms with Professor Flitwick.

"It should be easy, since we did pretty well on the train," said Lily as they left the Great Hall.

The other three nodded. Harry let them talk about the schedules as he remained silent, thinking about what lay ahead. How easy would it be to constantly pretend he was struggling with spells just like everyone else? He was more advanced than probably any other student in the school, with an exception of the seventh years. It'd be annoying to act dumb, or even average, at the most basic of spells. And yet, if he became like Hermione, acing nearly everything, knowing the answer to every question, people would develop an opinion of him—whether it was jealousy, annoyance, or whatever. He would be remembered, important, when he needed to be forgotten, significant only to a few.

In Charms class, it was easier for Harry to not raise his hand when he knew the answer than to perform the spell the wrong way. He realized this when they were given a simple charm that was supposed to spin an object. Harry couldn't figure out how to not do it right without saying the complete wrong words or waving his wand completely wrong. In other words, without acting like a complete idiot. The best Harry could manage was to put as much time between his tries as possible so it seemed like he was taking a while to figure it out, just like everyone else.

On his first try, Harry flicked his wand wildly, causing many around him to snicker. Now he definitely was getting unwanted attention. Harry retried the spell, this time perfectly, partly to draw attention away from himself and partly because it was hard to ignore immature ridicule when he could do the spell better than any of them.

Unfortunately, it seemed like either way he decided to go through school would yield the same attention; either be a genius, and have respect from teachers and peers, but draw more attention and possibly suspicion to himself, or be thick, and face teasing and disrespect.

Professor Flitwick, beaming, hurried over to where Harry was sitting.

"Mr. Walker—correct? Yes, Walker, that was brilliant!"

Harry glanced at his friends, who looked frustrated at their lack of results and the ease in which he had succeeded. He shrank in his seat, guilty from his dishonesty. He had to find a middle ground.

"Thank you, Professor…" Harry trailed off and sighed. His mood improved slightly only when the other three cast the spell correctly a mere minute after him. They all seemed intelligent in different ways: Snape could edit the spell slightly so it was more effective; Raven could easily identify what she was doing wrong and fix it accordingly; and while Lily initially relied on the book's instructions, she then depended on how the spell felt. Harry's new friends might be hard to compare to his Ron and Hermione, but he thought Hermione's learning best matched Raven, while Ron's followed Lily's. Severus was on a whole other plane of intelligence.

Lupin finished a couple minutes after the four had finished, followed closely by James, then Sirius and Peter. Frustration was childishly radiating from James, clear by the angry glances he kept throwing the four. Harry was glad to get away from his annoyed stare at the end of class.

"That was amazing!" Lily nearly skipped beside the others on the way to Potions. Out of that day's schedule it was the only class besides Charms that Harry really thought was going to be significant; both Lily and Severus were excellent at Potions, and Harry would get to have another opportunity to study their talent.

The group walked down to the dungeons, all shining with excitement for what lie ahead.

"Potions…I wonder what it'll be like. A newt's eye, nightshade, that sort of thing, right?"

Harry smiled. "Yeah, probably."

"I hope it's as fun as Charms!"

"Me too," said Snape. Raven and Harry nodded.

They passed the large group of first-year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, who eyed the Slytherins and Gryffindors curiously. A couple of the Slytherins snickered at the two houses, probably aimed at the few scrawny, wide-eyed kids who turned toward the source of the laughter. Harry was relieved to see that James was too engrossed in his conversation with Sirius to notice the other students.

Harry realized he had ended up at the head of the group. He was the most confident in the directions, as he had taken this route so many times before. He dropped back as the class filed into Professor Slughorn's room.

"Welcome, first years!" Slughorn shook the students' hands before they took their seats. He seemed considerably more happy and youthful than when Harry had last seen him.

"Please set up, everyone!" Slughorn's gaze swept the room, surveying his new students. There was a collected thud of books and clanging of scales as the class took out their supplies.

"My name is Professor Slughorn! Welcome to Potions class!" The Professor was brimming with excitement. He launched into an introduction of the class, gesturing to a few samples.

"Now, it's a custom of mine, on the first day, to award a special prize to the student who manages to brew the most exceptional potion in class! Now…" He had a few basic potions set up at his desk. In his most dramatic voice, Slughorn explained that whoever brewed the best potion won an Energy Increasing Potion, a relatively easy-to-make solution that would increase the drinker's spirit and diminish weariness.

Harry purposely missed one of the last steps, allowing Severus to win the contest. Raven wasn't close; she messed up many of the instructions. Lily came second only to Severus. Slughorn was at first tempted to split the prize, but when he tested it, Severus' potion yielded slightly better results than Lily's.

The rest of the day rushed by quickly. Nothing life-altering happened, but Harry did get a better sense of his classmates, specifically the Marauders and his new friends. James was already developing a crush on Lily; he kept glancing over at her every time he did something right in class, hoping she would notice. Harry was thoroughly amused at his crumpled look of rejection when he saw that Lily wasn't paying attention.

Sirius spent most of his time talking to James and charming the girls in class, though he preferred James' attention. Sirius was hard to dislike, despite his ego, though Harry knew his opinion would ultimately change once he saw Sirius bullying people.

For the majority of the time, Lupin remained quiet, though he occasionally cracked a smile at one of James' or Sirius' jokes. He looked even more ill than he had Thursday, but not quite at the same level as he was as a teacher the day before he had to take leave. Harry thought it was kind that he had been adopted into the group before they knew him well.

Peter seemed to have been allowed into the group simply to supply a laugh track. He was constantly cracking up, and while this annoyed Harry, it only boosted James and Sirius' confidence.

Raven was only a little less shy than Lupin. She didn't voice any of her thoughts, but it seemed like she had the same opinion about many things as Harry did. She always rolled her eyes after a particularly loud burst of laughter from wherever the Marauders were sitting in that class. As Harry would gain her trust, however, she exchanged her looks with him.

Harry already had a good idea of Lily and Severus' personality, but he was now getting a better idea of their relationship. Lily was completely comfortable around Severus and oblivious to any discomfort and awkwardness he felt at her enthusiasm and touch. Harry noticed that Severus was a lot happier now that he was away from home and spending more time with Lily.

At supper, they discussed the day in detail. The excitement from the morning had dampened only slightly, mostly because everyone was worn out from the long day.

"Hey, are you okay?"

Harry stopped chewing and looked over at Lily. She had asked Lupin, who had heavy rings under his eyes and was ghostly pale. Lily was naturally concerned about others, so it made sense that she would ask. Lupin looked up, startled, surprised that anyone would notice he was off.

"Er, yeah, fine," he managed. He sank down in his seat a bit under the pressure of the stare of the first years around him.

Everyone listening clearly doubted he was okay, but returned to their conversations anyhow. Lupin glanced back at Lily occasionally after that, but Harry couldn't tell what he was thinking by his expression.

Most of the students went directly to their dorms after eating. Severus and Harry headed upstairs, got ready for bed, then settled down for the night.

Harry lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, reflecting on the day's events. This is it, he thought. I am officially part of this.

Classes quickly passed on Friday. Nothing particularly eventful happened, but many students were beginning to discuss the upcoming Quidditch tryouts. Harry also noted that Lupin looked even worse than he had Thursday—so Saturday or Sunday was definitely the day of the full moon. Harry wondered whether or not he was going to anything about Lupin the next night. He considered his options on Friday evening as he ate. Later, as he lay in bed, he decided that whichever day it was he would use his invisibility cloak and go down to the soon-to-be-named Shrieking Shack just to witness what Lupin had to go through.

Saturday was mild, so Severus, Lily, Harry, and Raven went down by the lake to finish their assignments from Friday. It was peaceful down by the water where there weren't many other people and the weather was calm and breezy. The four worked on their remaining homework, then talked.

Lupin was gone that day. No one had seen him, but everyone Harry asked either didn't know him or said they'd heard he was sick.

He was gone the next day, too, and after finding out that the full moon would be that night, Harry donned his invisibility cloak and set out.

The light was fading outside. The moon was not yet visible, and there was a soft, golden light over the grounds. Harry headed toward the Whomping Willow, taking in the beautiful scenery. He turned and looked at the castle, which seemed even more magnificent when basked in the sun's dying rays.

When he was just out of range of the Whomping Willow, he levitated a stick to prod the knot at the base of the trunk, freezing its branches. Harry strode to the opening at the base, bent over, then slid down the tunnel. He reached the stairs that led to the interior of the shack and paused. He could hear soft crying coming from behind the slightly open door above him, and he felt his eyes prickle reflexively.

Harry cast Severus' Muffling Spell on the Shack and climbed the stairs carefully. He tried the handle of the side door, but it was locked. Lupin sounded far enough away from the entrance, so Harry unlocked the door, opening it wide enough so he could see. Lupin was slumped against the wall on the other side of the room, naked, his breath shuddering. The inside was dark, but Harry could make out his expression.

Lupin suddenly stopped crying and froze. He looked upward, as his body felt the full moon's power. Lupin's body shuddered, and he began to change. Harry knew this might be his only safe chance to go inside, so he quickly entered, locking the door behind him. He decided, against his better judgement, to stay and see what pain Lupin was subjected to; not as though he were watching some circus freak, but to understand and connect with him.

Harry slipped inside and headed upstairs. There was bound to be some way he could watch from the second floor where he was in less danger of being discovered. He closed the door at the top of the stairs behind him and cast a quick spell so it couldn't be opened.

A long, sad howl cut through the night. Harry shivered, the sound ringing in his ears, even after it faded away. Harry spotted a significantly sized crack in the floorboards and crouched down next to it. On the floor below, Lupin raced back and forth, claws scratching on the floor. Then he suddenly stopped, panting slightly. Lupin slowly stood up and sniffed the air. He started toward the stairs, as though he was stalking his prey.

Harry had expected Lupin to eventually realize his presence, but he had failed to research what spell he could cast to prevent himself from having a scent. Lupin seemed to detect where the smell was coming from and started slinking in that direction. Soon he was out of view, and Harry had no idea how fast he would reach the second floor. He drew his wand just in case, and pointed it at the entrance. "Protego." Just after he added the extra protection, Lupin slammed into the door. Harry heard him cry out in pain, as he had expected the door to give. Harry knew that Lupin wouldn't be able to get in, but his heart was still beating quickly.

Lupin begged and whined at the door for five minutes before falling silent. Harry looked back down through the crack in the floorboards and saw no sign of him. He reached into his cloak and pulled out a pocketbook and quill. To pass the time, he wrote about his experiences so far, and made notes about possible plans for the future. He was making a Pros and Cons list about the upcoming flying lessons when Lupin started inflicting pain on himself.

The first cry of pain made Harry jump, and he immediately looked down below at what was progressing beneath him.

Lupin furiously bit and scratched himself, screaming and shrieking as his jaws tore his flesh. Harry had the desperate urge to do something, to stop what was happening. Wasn't there a spell that could help him protect Lupin? If there was one, wouldn't have Dumbledore thought of it? Or did he have a reason for not helping Lupin beyond isolating him? But that would be cruel…still, there seemed to be obvious solutions. Couldn't they make him unconscious when the moon was up? Or would his body automatically fight any spell or potion that could do so, the same way it fought sleep?

Harry thought of a better solution that was a bit complicated. He picked up a few pieces of scrap material lying around in the room, and transfigured them into mice. As the creatures scurried about, Harry racked his mind for the spell that would control them in the way he needed. After experimenting for about an hour under the pressure of Lupin's cries of agony, he had produced a dozen mice.

Lupin's head perked up as he noticed the mouse floating down from above. He snarled and stood on his haunches to reach toward it, but somehow it evaded him. Harry's mixture of spells worked; the mouse was quick, allowing Lupin to chase it, but not catch it. After a while, the curse would wear off and the mouse would change back, then another mouse would levitate down.

He levitated the first mouse and brought it slowly down to Lupin, who snarled and began chasing after it. Then, because he felt there was nothing left he could do, Harry cast a cushioning spell on the hard floor and laid down. He cast another spell to plug his ears from the scrabbling down below, but his conscious was still alive with emotion.

Had he not considered, as a thirteen-year-old, or even a fifteen-year-old, how much Lupin had gone through? It took a huge amount of strength for Lupin to keep living as normal of a life as he could manage, to surpass the agony of feeling alone, as Harry often felt, because no one seemed to understand what he was going through.

Lupin needs to be friends with someone like me, Harry decided, eyes closing.

When Harry awoke, it was five in the morning. There were no more artificial mice left in the room. Harry rolled over and peered down the crack in the floorboards. Lupin was back in human form, fast asleep, curled into a fetal position. He had put his clothes back on, which it seemed had still been torn. He had scratches on his arms and face, red marks pronounced against his pale, sickly skin.

Harry considered how to best go through with his motive. He could start to leave without using the Muffling Spell so he would be purposely discovered by Lupin. Then he would just work it out from there…By exposing his knowledge of Lupin's plight, a bond would automatically be created between them. Unfortunately, it was likely Dumbledore could get involved, and that would bring attention to him, and there was a possibility of the Headmaster figuring out that "Jacob" wasn't who he said he was. But Lupin was more important.

Harry walked downstairs quietly, waiting for the right moment. He hadn't reached the creaking step yet when Lupin spotted him, mouth was ajar in shock. Lupin stared upwards at Harry. His bloodshot gold-brown eyes widened and his already pale face whitened. Neither said a word. Harry thought it was interesting that Lupin didn't automatically bolt at the sight of him.

"You're not supposed to—why…" said Lupin finally in a hoarse voice, which started to shake.

Harry, careful to not startle Lupin, stepped down the rest of the stairs, watching Lupin closely for his next move.

They went for their wands, slowly, at the same time. Then, Lupin's hand stopped in mid reach and dropped to his side.

"I don't know any—any memory erasing s-spells…I…" Lupin broke down and his eyes filled with tears. "Please don't tell anyone!"

"I wasn't planning to…" Harry trailed off, not knowing what to say or do.

Lupin's face was splotchy, but the humiliation of crying in front of a near-stranger had stopped his tears.

"Listen," Harry began, and Lupin looked back at him fearfully. "I didn't mean to scare you—"

"Why did you come here? How did you?" interrupted Lupin.

"Why? Er, because…" Harry searched for an explanation. "I followed you here, actually. I wanted to know what was wrong."

Lupin still seemed doubtful, but he had bigger problems than worrying how they ended up in the shack together. His eyes found the floor and his brow furrowed, searching for a solution.

Harry thought for a moment. "Look, if you're worried, we can talk to Dumbledore about erasing my memory. How about we go back to the castle and see him before everyone wakes up?"

Lupin nodded, but his expression told a different story. He must be tempted to have a friend who knew his biggest secret. Once he knew Harry would accept him, then he would have his first close friend with whom he had nothing to hide. There must have been so much pressure between him and James, Sirius, and Peter before they knew his secret; they had been his only friends and he could easily lose them.

The journey back to the castle felt slow, drawn out. At first, neither made any attempt at conversation, but it was hard to ignore each other.

"Does anyone else know?" It was a decent place to start.

Lupin took a while to respond, clearly uncomfortable. "Only Madam Pomfrey, Professor McGonagall, and Headmaster Dumbledore."

"How long have you…"

"Since I was four," replied Lupin. He averted his eyes.

"Oh." Harry considered apologizing, but thought that would imply pity.

"When I said I wouldn't tell anyone, I meant it, you know." Silence. "I have no reason to, really." Still no reaction—time to go back to basics. "Look, there's a reason I was placed in Gryffindor. I'm loyal to a fault. And my friends trust me. They—they tell me things that they couldn't tell each other, and that's saying something because Lily and Severus have known each other for years." Okay, he was stretching the truth, but hopefully it was worth it to reach Lupin somehow. "I could help you, you know? When people ask where you were, at least you'd have me to help redirect their attention. Give you an alibi. Because I know what it's like, feeling like there's no one who understands you. But you won't have a chance of finding someone until you open up. So I guess this is a good start."

Harry gave Lupin time to process what he had said. When they had almost reached the castle, he said carefully, "Thank you. And it's not that I don't believe you, but I still think we should see Dumbledore."

Harry nodded.

The school was gradually filling with light from the rising sun. They didn't see anyone, not even Filch, on the way to Dumbledore's office. Lupin must've known where it was from seeing him previously; he led the way, a few steps ahead of Harry.

When they reached the entrance, Lupin recited the password ("He gave it in case of an emergency," explained Lupin) and the gargoyle moved out of the way. The two continued up the stairs and stopped at the double doors. Harry tried the handle and the door gave way. Dumbledore must've known they were coming.

The Headmaster sat impressively at his desk. He looked at them from over his spectacles with an expression of genuine surprise.

"Remus! And…"

"Jacob Walker, sir." Harry had an unusual feeling of intimidation sitting before Dumbledore. It was silly to think that Dumbledore could figure out he was lying about his identity just by looking at him.

"Remus and Jacob, have a seat." They sat down in the two chairs he had put in front of his desk for them. "Now, I can assume that Jacob here learned something about you tonight…?"

"Yeah. He said he followed me to see what was wrong. I saw him this morning when he was leaving."

The Headmaster nodded and studied Harry. "So you decided you want to have his memory erased?"

Lupin hesitated. "I'm not—we're not sure. He said he wouldn't tell anyone."

"Do you believe him?" Dumbledore was obviously trying to help Lupin make a decision by himself by providing him the different points to consider. A strategy that might work well on an eleven-year-old, but one Harry could now see through.

"I don't know him enough to—to know if he would keep it a secret." Lupin sighed.

"Did he run away when he saw you?"

"Well, no…" replied Lupin, not looking at either of his company.

"Did he do anything that makes you think he would tell anyone?"

Lupin shook his head, sighing again. "No. I just don't want…" He paused, and shut his eyes. When he opened them again, he said, "I think I can trust him."

Harry couldn't help smiling weakly, though he had known Lupin, in the end, would've trusted him.

Dumbledore nodded. "A wise decision. And Jacob, know that there will be consequences if you share his secret." He took a moment to meet each of their gazes, then said, "Now that that is cleared up, Remus?"

"Yes, sir?"

"I can assume you wish to take the day off to recover in the Hospital wing, correct?"

Lupin nodded. Though Harry thought the boy still looked sick and wounded, the mice had clearly helped.

In the time between Monday morning and Thursday, Harry and Remus (he was getting used to calling him by his first name) mostly talked outside of class, because the other Marauders had adopted him into their group. Nobody else was suspicious of Remus; it was the first time he had transformed at school, and they were told he had just been really sick.

Harry's excitement for the flying lessons far exceeded the rest of his group's. Lily was the only other one out of his friends who was looking forward to it, but Harry knew she wasn't going to have any abilities that'd get her on the team in her first year. Severus hadn't flown before, and he definitely wasn't on his way to become Team Captain.

Harry felt a welcome rush of nostalgia as they neared the Quidditch pitch. Not even Severus' displeasure could damper his happy mood.

The Slytherins were also there. Harry didn't recognize any of them, but figured many were going to end up Death Eaters. The majority glared at the Gryffindors as they lined up, each next to a different broom. Harry quickly went to the broom in the least visible disrepair before the others could figure out where they wanted to go.

Harry looked down at his broom, thinking. Now that he was actually here, it was harder to say that he would pretend to be incompetent. The lure of flying made him rethink his plan; maybe he could just fly normally without worrying about an offer to be on the Quidditch team. After all, he could decline.

"Up!" he commanded, and the broom snapped to his hand. As expected, to his left, Severus was having as hard a time as Hermione had. Lily managed to grab her broom on her second try, even though her voice had wavered.

After learning how to mount and sit, they were finally ready to fly.

"All right. On my cue, I want you all to kick off the ground as hard as you can. Ready? Three…two…one!" Harry swiftly kicked off of the ground and soared above all of them, rising fast. His heart sped up with the thrill and he accelerated toward the sky. When he felt he had reached a good height, he stopped and looked down at his classmates, tiny specks below. Fueled by the rush, he sped toward the ground, pulled up just before he would have crashed and landed softly on the grass. A good number of his peers were gawking at him, dumbfounded. James looked positively furious.

Madam Hooch strode over to him.

The excited feeling Harry had was fading away. How could he have been so careless? He had drawn unwanted attention to himself and probably looked like a complete wanker.

"Madam Hooch, I lost control of the broom, but I managed to pull up before I crashed—"

"You're Jacob Walker, am I correct?" she asked, completely ignoring his explanation as she dug for something in her pocket.

"Er, yes. Sorry, but, like I was saying, my broom got out of control—"

"Nonsense. You have a natural talent for Quidditch, Walker. Unlike anyone of your age I've seen, possibly…" Hooch found what she was looking for and held it out before him. "This is called a Golden Snitch. Now, I'm going to let it go, and when I tell you, I want you to try to catch it as quickly as possible, all right?"

Harry glanced at the kids watching him and shook his head. "No, I don't think I should—"

"I insist." She released it before he could protest further. "Give it a minute," she said, watching it disappear.

Harry had to make a decision. Perhaps his spot on the team was sealed and it wouldn't make a difference if he choose to catch the Snitch. Harry glanced at James, who was whispering to Sirius and laughing. He wouldn't necessarily steal his father's glory; James played Chaser, not Seeker, and not in his first year. But he would be delighted to deflate his father's swelled ego.

He didn't have any more time to think it over. Madam Hooch told him to go, so Harry soared back into the sky. He peered down at the ground, and before long spotted a distant flash of gold. He dove for it, and while the broom wasn't nearly as fast as his old one, he soon had the Snitch wriggling in his hand. He flew back over to Madam Hooch, who was beaming. Some of the Gryffindors clapped.

"Excellent! Such talent! How long have you been riding a broom?"

"This is my first time, ma'am. I'm, er, Muggle-born."

Madam Hooch, was, of course, surprised, but she tried to hide it. "Oh, well, you are quite a natural. Here, let me write you a note…" She took out a pocketbook and flipped through it. Once Hooch found what she was looking for, she closed and pocketed the book and pulled out a quill and a scrap of parchment. She quickly scribbled something on and handed it to him. "I believe she will be in Herbology. Be quick!"

Harry set his broom down and walked quickly to the greenhouses. He now realized he must have seemed like a prodigy. He had six years or so of experience of flying on a team, but everyone was under the impression that this was his first time. If his talent had seem extraordinary then, it would be considered supernatural now.

On his way, he scanned the note, which read, "Dear Violetta, I believe I have found a new seeker for the Gryffindor team. If would mind joining our class outside to see him fly, you might be surprised. Madam Hooch."

Harry spotted the class in the first greenhouse and entered, hoping this would be handled quietly. The students—sixth years, he figured out from glancing at one of the students' textbooks—didn't look up from the plants they were struggling to control. Harry walked over to Professor Sprout, who looked at him kindly. "Yes? Can I help you?"

Harry handed her the note. She read it quickly and scanned the room for Violetta. "Oh! Rosquit, for you." She handed the note to a tall girl in the back, whose strong arms and blue eyes were focused on wrestling a huge flower that snapped angrily at her.

"I'll take this for you," Professor Sprout took her place and pinned the flower down against the table with one hand. With the other, she handed Violetta the note.

She scanned it and looked Harry up and down. "Thank you, Professor. Do you want me to make up the work?"

"No, I think you've gotten the hang of it." Professor Sprout rushed over to a help a struggling student.

"So, Jacob Walker, right?" Violetta said, more to herself. "A first-year? Wow, you must've been pretty good. Private coach? Backyard training?"

"Er, actually, I'm a first-time flyer."

"Damn! Are you serious?" She looked at him, hope flaring in her eyes.

Harry nodded, hoping she wouldn't overreact.

"Really? Wow. You must have that—that something, then. You're the kind of person flying just comes naturally to. From the first time you hold that broom," she got a faraway look in her eyes,"you feel this—this energy! No, this desire. This desire to just fly across the world. That you could take off of the ground one day," she looked across the sky, "and never come back."

Violetta looked at Harry, then laughed. "Sorry, sometimes I do that. I'm a bit of a romantic. With Quidditch, anyhow."

"It's okay. I think…I think that's what I feel when—I mean, what I felt."

Violetta smiled at him. "I thought so. Anyone who's a decent flyer should."

Harry nodded, then cleared his throat. "So, I know nothing about how to play Quidditch."

"All right, not a problem! The rules are simple, but there's a load of other stuff you need to know…" She launched in an explanation that was so detailed, by the time they reached the class she hadn't even started the rules. Instead, she had completely backtracked and started with the history of the sport, thinking it was necessary to know before he learned anything else.

Madam Hooch and Violetta spoke briefly before returning to Harry.

"Mr. Walker, do you mind flying around for a little bit?"

Harry nodded and retrieved his broom. Both the Slytherins and the Gryffindors stopped to watch. Harry mounted the broom and soared into the air, trying to forget that anyone was watching him.

Harry flew as high as he dared, then dove straight down, pulling up at the last second. He shot off in one direction, then turned sharply. He climbed into the air and spiraled, clinging onto his handle tightly. He stopped, catching his balance for a moment as he studied the specks below. He swung around and corkscrewed in the air at the students. There were a few screams, but they died off as he once again pulled up just in time and flew over their heads. Suddenly, his eyes caught the Snitch. Harry had not known they had released it, and it must be a test to see if h would realize without them saying anything.

He urged his broom forward, and gained on the little golden ball. A second later, its wings were beating against his hand.

Behind him, there were a few claps and cheers. At this, Harry felt queasy, but not from flying. Fame had not been fun for him as a student at Hogwarts, and while he was not "The Chosen One" in this generation, he didn't want to go back to anything similar.

Violetta hugged him. "That was amazing!" She swore a few times in her excitement, but stopped when she glanced at Madam Hooch. "Well, Jacob, I'll see you at next week's practice!"

Harry smiled weakly and thanked her. He wondered if he would get a Nimbus like he had in his first year. It was likely, but he knew not to get his hopes up.

Madam Hooch nodded at him before wrapping up the day's lesson and dismissing them. Snape hardly acknowledged Harry after he rejoined the group. Lily beamed radiantly at Harry, and he felt a guilty pang from the fact that he had captured her attention over Severus'. Raven gave him a small smile, then frowned at her broom as though wishing it had been the reason she hadn't done well.

"Wow, Jacob, that was awesome!" exclaimed Lily. Harry guessed she hadn't managed to get very far on her broom, which looked like it had seen better days.

"Thank you! Er, I didn't mean to be a showoff, but—"

Lily blinked. "No, I didn't think you were." Her gaze drifted over Harry's shoulder. "Look at him." The four turned to look at James. He seemed to be talking about Harry by the obvious glances he was throwing as he whispered to Sirius.

"I don't care what he says," said Harry casually, though it wasn't completely true. He couldn't help feeling a little bad, even though he was supposed to be a different person. He knew his father would like him under different circumstances.

"He's just mad you did better than him. He nearly fell off his broom earlier when he tried do something you had done," said Raven. She could probably tell, somehow, that Harry did care what James said.

They returned their brooms and headed to their last lesson of the day.

Everyone seemed to already know about Harry's feat in the flying lessons, and how he was the first seeker of his age in 80 years. This news charged the excitement for the Quidditch season, and stories of how good a flyer he was quickly circulated around the school, growing increasingly exaggerated. His friends remained grumpy for the rest of the day, but at least put in effort into pretending to be nonchalant about his newfound fame.

Lily quickly warmed up to him; she could tell he honestly hadn't tried to show off. She sat next to him when they worked on homework that evening. Half an hour in, she started to sing softly as she started her Potions essay. "Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew, but through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way…" Severus didn't look at her, but Harry could tell he was listening because he stopped writing. Remus also paused, but did glance at her before returning to his work, blushing.

Lily realized the others had been listening to her. She lifted her head back up from her work and stopped singing, embarrassed. "I don't know the rest of the words, sorry. It's called 'My Way.' A Muggle song."

"You have a really nice voice," said Raven. Severus managed a smile in agreement, too shy to compliment her directly.

"Thank you!" Lily grinned at all of them. She was unaware of the effect she had on people, especially Severus.

It wasn't for another hour and a half that the five finished their homework. Remus had finished first and went to help the other Marauders with theirs, though they ended up just asking him for help so he could hang out with them.

Later, after staying in the Common Room for a while, everyone went to bed. After the lights went out, Harry thought about "My Way." The tune gradually calmed him, and his breathing slowed until he fell asleep.

 


Chapter 6: Secrets
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Harry missed his friends. He knew he wasn't off to a good start if it was only two weeks into the year and his chest already ached every time he realized it was going to be another day without them. He tried to think of some way he could see Ron, Hermione, or Ginny, but it would be too difficult. He hoped, at some point, the pain would go away, and they would become less and less focused in his thoughts. Because he wasn't leaving them. They weren't suffering, even Ginny would only miss him for a few seconds, so why should he torture himself over it?

Of course, Harry couldn't help but think of possible solutions to his problem. He came up with a new idea each day, but every idea had a drawback: when he saw them again, he would only miss them more between visits. He would want to come back, and abandon everything he had accomplished.

His stress must have been apparent on the night before the first Quidditch practice that Saturday, because Severus noticed.

"Are you feeling all right?" he asked, his discomfort in expressing concern apparent as he rolled up the homework he had just finished.

"Yeah, I'm fine." Harry also closed his books and glanced at Severus, who had already moved on, having believed what Harry had told him.

Harry searched for something to take his mind off of his friends. "Hey, how about we play Wizard's Chess?"

James had received a special edition version of the game the day before, playing nonstop since class ended. His obsession and winning streak weren't the only annoying factors; the game was twice the normal size, the pieces were twice as loud and swore when they were taken out to the opposite side. To top everything off, the whole chess set was plated in gold. Harry knew Severus wouldn't want to take James on, so he thought he'd give him a chance to play without that competition.

Harry went upstairs and dug out his chess set, the same one he had been given at the Christmas Feast his first year. It was a little worn, so he could say he had bought it secondhand at Diagon Alley.

After he was back downstairs and as he set up the board, Lily and Raven sat down to the left of Severus, curious.

"Can Raven and I play after?" Lily hadn't played a magical game yet but loathed the idea of playing against James, who was clearly getting on her nerves.

"Sure." Harry pulled up a stool and sat on the opposite end of the table.

"White or red?" he asked, facing the white side.

"Red's fine." Severus studied the board. "I haven't placed this before."

"Oh! Right." Harry quickly explained how each piece moved, then offered, "You can go first."

Severus hesitated, surveying his options. "Pawn to E5." And the game began.

Harry thought he had a chance at winning, since he was seven years older. However, somehow, just thirty minutes in, Harry's king was dragged off to the side of the board.

"Wow! Sev, you're a natural!" Lily studied him, her eyes wide.

"I let you win," Harry joked, grinning as he rearranged the pieces. "Go ahead," he said to Lily and Raven, and they took their spots as Harry joined Severus and Lily on the couch.

"I bet, if you practiced a bit, you could beat James. Easily."

Severus straightened with pride. "You think so?"

"Of course. Though, he may not like it if you do."

"I don't care." Severus turned half of his attention back on the board. The other half of him was thinking about the possibility of getting James to shut up.

Harry looked over at the Marauders, who were also gathered around a chess board. James was versing Peter, who was close to losing. Remus caught Harry looking over, then motioned for him to join them. Harry said to the others, "I'll be just a tic," and went over Lupin with the others. None of the other first-year girls were down in the common room, but there were a couple second-year girls hanging around, chatting and keeping an eye on the game.

"What is it?" Harry asked. He crossed his arms and peered at the board from behind Peter.

"Nothing. I nearly beat James in chess, but of course he has more experience…" Suddenly, Remus looked uncomfortable. Eyes locked on the floor, he whispered, "You know I trust you, but you—you haven't told anyone, have you?" He seemed ashamed to doubt Harry's promise to keep his problem a secret.

Harry was just about to reassure him when Sirius, who had just needed a way out of talking to the overeager second-year girls, asked, "Told anyone what?"

Remus paled. Harry, buying himself time to think of an excuse, tried to look like he had just been telling an inside joke and said, "It's nothing."

Sirius raised an eyebrow. Harry expected him to back down—after all, Sirius didn't know him well enough to pry.

Sirius put an arm around Remus, who became flustered a little at his touch. "Remus, c'mon, you can tell me."

"Oh, er, well, in Charms this week…Jacob let me cheat off him." He said the last part of the sentence all in a rush. His face was flushed from the lie and he continued to stare at the ground, as if he really had done it.

Sirius looked disappointed. "Oh. Well, that's not a big deal, I cheated off of James just yesterday in Potions, didn't I?"

James looked up and nodded, grinning. "What you don't know is I was copying Peter, so I think we'll all get bad marks."

The two laughed, and Peter joined in, still getting used to being the butt of their jokes.

"Checkmate," said James lazily, his attention back to the board, and Peter's king was carried off to the side.

James yawned and stretched. "I'm pretty tired…and this is getting boring. I'm gonna go upstairs."

"Yeah, me too." Sirius took his arm off Remus and followed James out.

Peter hurriedly packed up the game and went after them. Remus turned to go, but Harry said, "Do you want to hang out with us?"

Remus smiled shyly. "Yeah, sure."

Harry led him over to where Raven and Lily were engaged in their chess match, while Severus sat silently, deep in his own thoughts.

"Hey guys, mind if Remus joins us?" The three shook their heads. Lily smiled warmly at Remus.

Remus smiled back reflexively at her, then blushed again at her enthusiasm. He sat on the couch and adjusted his hair so it fell over his scars.

"So, I'm not sure if you two have really met, but Remus, this is Severus. Severus, this is Remus."

"Hi," they said simultaneously. Severus' eyes flickered to the scars that ran across Remus' face. Remus must have been able to tell what Severus was looking at, because he abruptly turned away.

Severus also looked away, but his mind was clearly still focused on the scars. Lily continued playing as though nothing had happened and started to tell a story to ease the tension. Ten minutes passed, and the first official meeting between Remus and the others was going well, especially between he and Lily.

Until Lily couldn't hold back her curiosity. "How did you get those scars?" The others looked at his face, glad someone else had asked.

"I, er, I don't want to…" Remus struggled to explain his discomfort.

"Oh. Sorry. I didn't mean to—" Lily reached out to him but he drew back.

"It's all right. I'm used to it." Remus flipped his hair to cover his scars, but he could tell it looked funny and the seconds he felt insecure ticked past. He turned to Jacob. "I'm actually kinda tired, you don't mind if I…?"

"No, I don't, er, yeah, go ahead. See you tomorrow."

"See you." Remus stood up and headed to the dorms, taking the books he had brought to the common room on his way.

There was silence for a minute after he left, then Raven and Lily went back to their game. Lily got over her guilt and managed to beat Raven.

"Good game. It was close," said Lily, grinning.

"Yeah, right. I'm awful at Wizard's Chess." Raven sighed. "You're really good, though. Tomorrow," she nodded toward Severus and Lily, "you two should verse each other."

Lily grinned. "It's on."

Severus smiled back, though he seemed unsure of whether or not he would let her win when they played.

"Well…" Lily stood up and stretched. "…I'm off to bed."

"Me too. G'night, Severus. G'night, Jacob," said Raven.

"Goodnight," they replied.

"See you in the morning, Sev! And see you after Quidditch tomorrow, Jacob!" Lily smiled and followed Raven to the girls' dorms.

Jacob and Severus put the chess set back in its box. As Severus handed Harry a pawn, he asked, "Why did Lupin get mad when we asked about his scars?"

Harry looked at him in surprise. "Well, of course he's going to be sensitive about something like that. I doubt he likes being described as 'the boy with the scars.' He's probably just careful when he makes new friends because he figures you're going to judge him. That's all." He realized it was from experience in which he was speaking—Remus and him were similar in that way. He was simplifying the reason, however, as Remus was also protective of his secret.

Severus gave Harry a calculating look. "You're really good at that sort of thing."

"What sort of thing?" Harry asked, trying to seem naive.

"Reading people. Being able to tell what they're feeling, or why they do…what they do."

"Oh. Thanks. I guess so." He hoped that over time Severus wouldn't become suspicious that the reason Harry could more easily tell how his friends felt was that he wasn't as young as he appeared to be.

Back at the dorm, no one was asleep yet; they were all up, talking. Severus and Harry got ready for bed quietly as the others recovered from their laughter.

Sirius leaned against one of his bedposts, grinning.

"Okay, now do me," said James eagerly. Peter, for once, was not laughing along with them; instead he looked annoyed and frowned at Sirius.

Sirius straightened. "Give me your glasses. For effect." He put them on. "Blimey! You're nearly blind! Wonder what could've done that…"

"Sod off!" James stood and pushed him a little, but smirked. From the bed he grabbed a small container that resembled a mint tin and flipped it open. "Which color?"

"Hm…how about green? I think that's Voice."

"Here," said James, handing it to him. Sirius popped it in his mouth.

Suddenly, his body shuddered and he coughed. "Testing. Testing. 1, 2, 3." His voice had taken the likeness of James'.

Sirius leaned back casually, imitating how James stood. He ran a hand through his black hair, making it stand up in all directions. Then he went on a lengthy, serious rant about Quidditch. For every laugh he managed out of his audience, his confidence inflated slightly.

Harry glanced over at Remus, who was reading, and decided to talk to him about what happened.

"Lily didn't mean to offend you."

Remus started, then put his book down. "I know." He rubbed his temple. "I was acting ridiculous…Can you tell her not to worry about it?"

"Of course."

After barely ten minutes, Sirius' voice gradually became rougher and slightly lower until it was his again.

Peter clapped, grinning. Lupin and Harry followed suit reflexively, while Severus glowered. Sirius bowed and thanked them.

James smiled, but he looked a little annoyed. The spotlight had been pulled away from him, and he wanted it back. "Okay, now let me try you." James got up and Sirius extended his hand. He poured several of the mints into Sirius' palm, the first step of the process, then took them back in one fluid motion.

"Wait! James! You know you can't take more than one at a time—"

James cast him a sly smile and popped the mints all at once.

Sirius gaped as he watched James, waiting for something to happen. At first, nothing did. They were just beginning to relax when James' face contorted and bubbled. His head stretched slightly, and one of his hazel eyes became slightly smaller and brown. His eyebrows grew to the thickness of Sirius', then continued to grow. None of them knew whether to laugh or be concerned, and they just watched in astonishment until the transformation was complete. A mash-up between Sirius and James stood before them, looking sick.

"You should take him to Madam Pomfrey as soon as possible," Harry suggested to Sirius before anyone else began to react.

Sirius nodded and guided James out of the dorm. After a moment, there was an awful retching sound, and Sirius swore loudly. Harry grabbed his wand and quickly went out to help them. With quick swish of his wand, he cleaned the sick. They thanked him clumsily, and continued along down the stairs.

Back in the dorm, Peter and Remus were laughing. Severus grinned, relishing the fact that James was now on his way to the Hospital wing, and that he wouldn't have to deal with either of them for the night.

Later that night, James and Sirius returned from the Hospital wing. It had proved relatively easy to remove the effects of the pill. Everyone was already in bed, but they all woke up from the poorly-attempted-at-being-muffled laughter from the two boys. "It was not worth the ten galleons," one of them said. The other replied, "Well, at least we know now what our kid would look like." They laughed, before shushing each other. "Mustn't wake the kiddies!"

Fortunately, they must have been exhausted, because they drifted off into silence, and Harry fell asleep again.

After what seemed like a minute, Harry woke up to his alarm. He changed, then trudged through the school and to the Quidditch Pitch. It was just him and the captain, Violetta, so she could explain Quidditch to him and teach him one-on-one.

Violetta was already at the Quidditch pitch when Harry arrived.

"Jacob! Hi!" She shook his hand, then stood back and looked out across the pitch.

"Isn't it a beauty?" she said dreamily.

Harry nodded and followed her gaze.

"Well. Let's get started. Do you know anything about Quidditch?"

"Oh, yeah, I read a lot about it after I made the team."

"Practical bloke, are you? When we scrimmage I'll have to put you to the test, then. But for now, let's practice some moves. If you want to change into your uniform, you're number seven." She gestured to the Gryffindor locker/meeting room. "Since I'm ready, I'll just warm up." She mounted the broom she was holding, a Cleansweep, and took off.

Harry watched her for a moment (she was quite good) then went to change. The uniform was slightly different from the modern ones: they were striped with the house's colors, collared, more fitted, and the print was smaller. The pants were a dark gray, and the padding was a standard black.

He skimmed over the rack of brooms and was surprised to see an old version of the Nimbus. It looked brand-new; Harry wondered if it was for him. He brought it outside, briefly tasted the crisp autumn air, then took off.

The air whipped past him as he sped forward. Violetta noticed he had joined her and stopped the dive she was practicing.

"You found your new broom! The team all pitched in to get it."

"It's incredible, thank you!" Of course, it wasn't comparable to his Firebolt, but it was likely better than everyone else's.

"Okay, so we have a few routines to warm up. The first is just to race from post to post and back, then to fly from the post to the center field and touch down, then to the next post…" She explained the basic exercises to him and let him complete them as she watched from above. The warm-ups required little effort, but were fun, and better than the ones Harry had done at his training. When he was done, Violetta was anxious to get him onto more advanced moves. She showed him flying moves to confuse opponents, dodge Bludgers, and even to show off.

Most of the techniques he knew by experience, though he had never officially been taught them. He was glad that Violetta didn't act jealous or suspicious that he was brilliant at the sport without, supposedly, any training. He almost expected her to because it was clear Quidditch was her passion, and she worked hard to get to being the captain of the team.

After a couple hours, Violetta motioned him down to the ground. "That was brilliant! We are definitely going to win the Cup this year! We've been in second place the past two years, since I've been captain…" She pushed past the shroud of self-doubt. "But this time, our team is more experienced, and we'll practice more, and…we have you!" She ruffled his hair and grinned. "So training is every Saturday and Sunday afternoon before dinner, and on Tuesday and Wednesday the same time. And, like you, the Beaters, Chasers, and Keeper all have a private practice this week."

"What position are you?"

"Keeper. I was a Chaser my first year, then a Beater, so this is my first year as a Keeper."

"Really?"

"Yeah. I'm kind of nervous about it. My worst position is Seeker, but my second worse is Keeper. I'm not consistent. I guess I was better than the people who tried out, but barely."

"I'm sure you'll be brilliant," Harry assured her. She sort of reminded him of Ron.

"Thanks. We'll see for sure in a month, I suppose."

They changed in the separate locker rooms and walked back together to the castle. Nearly three hours had passed since they started that morning and they were both starving.

"I'm glad I ate some Chocolate Frogs on the way here, or else I would've passed out by now." Her stomach growled loudly. "Ugh. I could probably eat a hippogriff and still be hungry."

Harry laughed. "Right."

Violetta spotted someone beyond Harry and waved. "Hey! Alice!" She said quickly to Harry, "Well, I'll see you for the next practice! Bye!" Then she ran off to join her friend.

Practices went spectacularly. Everyone welcomed him as part of the family, a family whose talents matched the talents of his teams in his time.

And over the next few weeks, everyone fell into a steady rhythm. The Gryffindor first years were, of course, used to the classes, but it was over these times that they really began to settle into routine. The three groups of first-year Gryffindors were, for the most part, pretty defined. There were the Marauders, Harry's group of four, and the remaining three tightly-linked girls.

It was rare for any of them to socialize with the upper years at first, but as time went on, everyone began to know each other. With most students he was able to link to a weak memory from his time, some whose names he vaguely recognized as part of families from the present.

Some of those people he remembered were in the Order of the Phoenix.

"Alice, come here."

Harry looked up from where he was studying. Shock cut through him. He hadn't seen it before when he was with Violetta. The rounded face, slightly awkward posture, kind but surprisingly strong expression; she was Neville's mother. The similarities between mother and son were unmistakable. But the contrast between the her smile that shone now and the disheveled, mad look she had when Harry had seen her at St. Mungo's was dramatic.

"What is it?" She approached a teenager with curly brown hair. Frank Longbottom. He was more like the Neville of now; more confident, and full of life. An image of the couple, mentally disabled after being tortured, flashed across his mind, and his frown deepened.

Harry felt Severus' curious eyes on him, trying to figure out what had caught his attention, but Harry pretended not to notice.

Alice gave Frank a quick kiss and looked at what he had wanted to show her. It appeared to be a letter, one that was only meant for their eyes, judging by the way they bent over it and kept a wary eye out for potential onlookers.

"What are you looking at?" Severus asked, and Harry turned around.

"Nothing," he replied automatically. Severus sensed this change, but apart from studying Harry's face, didn't mention it.

More and more each day, Harry considered how much he was really helping the group. Lily and Severus were in Gryffindor together, and that seemed to help in many ways. James stayed away from Severus, for the most part, who now hung out with "the good guys."

That's how it seemed, for a short while. But Harry should have known better. If something happened once, there's a perfectly reasonable chance history would repeat itself.

He realized this a week before Halloween.

"What are you doing?" Harry asked suspiciously, and Severus jumped, shoving a book underneath his pillow.

"Nothing," he replied, a little too quickly. He avoided Harry's pressing gaze and tried to think of something that would divert his friend's attention. "Just studying."

Right. Harry wasn't an idiot. There was obviously something Severus was trying to hide. He dreaded the possibility of…well, that wasn't likely.

The week leading up to Halloween gave Harry enough reasons to confirm his fears. Severus had involved himself in the Dark Arts.

He realized that the multiple times over the past month Severus had said he needed space, or to study alone, or claimed James was bothering him…it was just so he could go off and meet with Slytherins.

What had Severus done to win the trust of the Slytherins? Did Harry, or the increased time with Lily, have no effect on him? Did nothing that changed matter anymore? Was everything destined to follow the same path? As Harry struggled to answer these questions, he was also dealing with the ache in his chest over his friends, the feelings that brought him here in the first place, and figuring out where he belonged at the school.

His alternate identity, Jacob, had an aura of maturity and strength that kept the Marauders away from bullying Severus directly. "Jacob" wasn't threatening, but the others could tell there was something different about him. Every time one of the kids said something childish (which happened pretty often), he would roll his eyes, or not laugh along with everyone else. His opinions made sense and he was always the voice of reason, so his friends looked to him for advice.

"Severus, can we talk?" Harry asked that Friday.

Severus continued writing on the scrap piece of parchment he had. "Sure, I guess."

"Okay." Harry sat on the bed across from him. "I know what you've been doing recently."

Severus didn't look up, and his face remained concentrated on his work. "I don't know what you're talking about." He was getting better at concealing his emotions.

Harry sighed. "C'mon, Severus. We're friends. You can't hide these things from me." He hardened his tone. "I know you've been involved in the Dark Arts and you've been meeting with the Slytherins."

Severus knew there was no use denying it, so he became defensive. "So what if I have? It's—it's my choice."

"I know, but you don't understand what will happen if you do!" Severus had no idea how his life would turn out.

"I can make my own decisions."

"Right. At age eleven, you know how to make your own decisions." Now Harry was getting frustrated.

"You're eleven too!" Severus' eyes blazed with fury. "You—you act like you know everything all the time! It's so annoying! You act like you're my—my mother."

"I act like I'm your mother? I'm the only one, then." Harry retorted.

Severus' face flushed angrily. "But your parents think you're a freak! At least my mother took me to Diagon Alley!" Severus thought the insult was pretty good, but he merely continued to exasperate Harry, who reverted back to the voice of reason.

"Say whatever you want. I'm just telling you that you're making a mistake." Harry closed his eyes and thought, rubbing his temple, as Severus calmed down. He opened them again when he heard the scribble of a quill on parchment.

"Listen," Harry continued, while Severus continued to write. "I can't tell you what to do. Because then you won't learn anything. But one day…" The image of Lily defending Severus flashed across his mind. Severus' worst memory. "…one day everything will fall apart because of the Dark Arts. And when it does, you'll wish you'd never got involved. But until then…do whatever the hell you want."

Severus was quiet. Just as Harry was about to leave the dorm, he looked up from his parchment. "Wait!" Harry turned around. Severus asked quietly, "We're still friends…aren't we?"

Harry snorted. "Yeah, but I doubt your new Slytherin pals approve of having two Muggle-born friends."

Severus said nothing, he just watched Harry go. A few seconds later, Harry reappeared in the doorway.

"You can't keep it a secret forever. Sooner or later, if Lily hasn't already found out, I'll tell her. She has the right to know. Besides, if being involved in the Dark Arts truly isn't a big deal, she wouldn't care whether or not you are. And you know that's not the case." With that, he left the room.

Severus wiped his eyes quickly and scrutinized his paper.

Downstairs, James sat with Sirius, across the room from Harry and the others, as Peter rushed to do their homework. Remus read, but he seemed to be doing so just to have a distraction from what they were saying. He probably felt guilty because James and Sirius were doing last minute planning for the next day's Halloween pranks.

Wordlessly, Remus closed his book and went over to where Lily and Harry sat together. James and Sirius stopped talking and watched him. Then they glanced at each other and changed the subject.

"Hello," said Remus, joining them on the floor. He looked immensely tired and a bit sick. "Good game," he said to Harry.

"Hi, thanks," he replied. "What are you reading?"

"Oh, I'm reading ahead in…" He held up his Defense Against the Dark Arts schoolbook and smiled, a little embarrassed.

"Cool. Your favorite subject?"

Remus nodded.

"Yeah, mine too. So, do you want to play Exploding Snaps? The winner of each game gets a Chocolate Frog."

Remus nodded and looked up. James and Sirius were standing behind him, looking more relaxed than they were before.

"We want to play, too."

"Sure." Harry glanced at Peter, who was looking at them hopefully, waiting to be invited over.

Harry sighed. "Hey, Peter, do you want to play, too?"

"Okay!" He got up and accidentally knocked over the small pile of books that was around him. Blushing, he picked up the mess and shuffled quickly to them.

"I hope you didn't wet yourself," James snickered, and he and Sirius laughed.

Lily rolled her eyes. James noticed and stopped laughing. He cleared his throat. "I'll deal."

Harry handed him the pack of cards.

"So, where's Snivellus? And the black girl…Sparrow?" Sirius asked, leaning back on his hands instead of cross-legged like most of the others.

Harry gritted his teeth. "You mean Severus and Raven. They're not here, so you don't need to worry about it."

"Ooh…" Sirius and James exchanged a look. "Severus and Raven, sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then—"

"Shut up," Lily and Harry snapped at the same time.

James raised his eyebrows and was about to say something else when Remus said, "There they are."

Raven glanced at the group and whispered something quickly to Severus. He crossed the room and went up to the dorms while Raven walked over to them, her face glowing with a rare smile. But it wasn't toward them, it was more a smile of excitement.

"Where were you?" Jacob asked casually.

"I…went to get help in Potions. Severus came too, to help me, and to, er, ask Professor Slughorn about doing more advanced stuff, since he's not being challenged."

Harry didn't want to tip off the other, so he went along with her story. "Oh. Okay then. Want to play?"

Raven hesitated awkwardly. "No, Slughorn, er, recommended I reread some chapters five through eight. I'll see you round."

"See you." said Harry, pretending he believed her. Raven's excuse was good, she was doing poorly in Potions, but still, it was more likely Severus had brought her to a meeting with his new Slytherin friends.

Everyone else had lost interest in their conversation. James had already dealt most of the cards. Harry was the only one lost in thought throughout the game, so he didn't have to try to lose each one like he normally did.

"I'll sit this game out," said Harry, and went to the dorms.

Severus was lying in bed, flipping through his Transfiguration book. He looked at Harry questioningly.

"Look. Just answer this question. Did Raven ask you if she could come with you or did you drag her along?"

"I don't know—"

"Come on," Harry cut in impatiently, "All I'd have to do is ask Slughorn if you were there today."

Severus glared at him. "She wanted to come with me. But she told me not to tell."

"She's my friend, too. I want to tell her the same thing I told you."

Severus opened his mouth to reply, but sighed instead.

That night, Harry sat with Raven, hoping he would be able to at least convince her to give up the Dark Arts. "…I told Severus the same thing. But I know neither of you are going to listen."

Raven just looked at him.

"Well, alright then." Harry didn't know if he got through to her—she had been silent the whole time. "Are you going to say anything?"

"I…don't know why I chose Gryffindor," she said quietly, and with a final glance up at him, she walked away.

Chose Gryffindor? Harry thought. She must mean why she was sorted into Gryffindor.

As Halloween approached, Sirius and James could be seen in the common room, huddled, as Peter and Remus dug through books. Harry was nervous for Severus' sake. The hatred James and Sirius felt for Severus became stronger each day, and it was at the point where the threat of Harry defending him had little effect.

Harry convinced himself the pranks would be good-natured, maybe not intended for Severus specifically.

But on their way to breakfast (after waking up and seeing two empty beds in the common room), Harry was proven wrong.

Severus dropped a piece of parchment and rushed back to pick it up. Before he could rejoin the others, a large pot appeared over his head and dumped its contents over him.

Severus yelped and covered his face with his hands.

"Severus!" Lily ran to him. Harry and Raven followed, scanning for James and Sirius.

Lily drew back in shock as she watched Severus' long black hair lengthen. His nose grew until it stuck out between his fingers. Severus whimpered in embarrassment when Lily put her hand on his shoulder.

"Take him to the Hospital wing, and I'll see if I can find James," said Harry to Lily.

"How do you know it was James?" Was Lily defending James or she just hadn't realized the animosity between them?

"You're right, I don't." Though, to Harry, it was obvious. Who else was pranking people? Besides, he knew because of the lack of evidence; the pot had appeared out of nowhere, and no one around seemed to have been controlling it.

And James had an invisibility cloak.

Harry slowly surveyed the area for any clues that his dad was still there. He wasn't expecting to see anything when he noticed a particularly overweight student suddenly trip and fall flat on his face. Harry ran to help him up, partly as an excuse to see if he could hear James. Sure enough, there was a quiet laughing from nearby. It sounded as if there were two people.

So both James and Sirius were the culprits. Harry casually walked in their direction, and heard one of them hush the other, and there was silence.

He strained to hear footsteps, and sure enough, there was the sound of careful feet that didn't line up with the few kids that walked by.

When Harry was parallel with their direction, he jumped to the side and grabbed for the cloak. He was on target. With one fluid motion the two boys were standing, shocked, with their wide eyes on Harry.

"How did you—?" James took out his wand, unsure of what to do. Sirius did the same.

"Can I ask a favor? Severus is my friend, and I don't want you to mess with him. Or anyone else, for that matter." The boy they had tripped watched them from down the hall.

James and Sirius glanced at each other, eyebrows raised.

"Come on. You can't actually be friends with him," Sirius snickered.

Harry looked at him seriously. "Yeah, I am. I can't make you stop bullying him—"

"He deserves it, you know," cut in James matter-of-factly.

"No one deserves what you want to do to him. If only you understood—"

"Understood what? I don't think we like being talked to like this, do we, Sirius?"

Sirius pulled out his wand. "If you don't give us back the cloak and walk away, we'll make you give it back."

"Fine. But if you do anything to him…you'll have to face me."

"Ooh, I'm so scared." Sirius searched for something witty to say. "You're his knight in shining armor, aren't you? He's the damsel in distress."

Harry normally would have rolled his eyes at such an idiotic remark, but the comment stung. That's not how it seemed, did it?

Sirius looked to James for reassurance of his joke's humor, shoulders straightening with confidence when James smirked.

Harry's fingers grazed his wand. "I know he can defend himself. But what's the point in bullying him in the first place?"

This sailed right over James and Sirius' heads. They looked at him like he was the one missing the point. Before they could say something stupid, Harry continued.

"Never mind. Just remember what I said." Harry turned around and walked in the opposite direction. Suddenly, he felt a shock race through him, and became frozen to the spot.

"Thank you, Sir Knight," said Sirius, and they laughed. Harry had forgotten to give them the cloak, and they had done just as they promised.

The boy he had helped up earlier managed to unfreeze him, looking sympathetic. But he didn't know how painful it actually was for them to treat Harry as they had.

James was Harry's father, and Sirius had been the last family he had. Harry wanted to do what was right, but he also wanted to be friends with them. Somewhere below the surface he knew they were good kids, but it would be ideal if they didn't wait until adulthood to show that.

Harry, back in the empty dorm before class, sat down on his bed. He felt a new weight on his chest. His own father didn't like him. Should he have tried to befriend him instead of acting how he did? A rush of anger overcame Harry and he stood up. He kicked his bed frame and threw the contents of his nightstand on the ground.

Harry's anger abruptly turned to shame. He ran a hand through his hair and surveyed the mess, then sighed. He couldn't give up on his father, or his godfather. They would get along eventually, as long as Harry was patient.

"Yeah, definitely," came Sirius' voice from outside.

Harry heard footsteps approaching the dorm. He threw on his invisibility cloak and moved the mess under his bed, just as Sirius and James appeared in the doorway. James stopped in his tracks, hushed Sirius, and stared at Harry's bed.

"What?" said Sirius, impatiently, breaking James' concentration. "C'mon, we'll be late to class."

"I think this is more important, don't you?"

Sirius grinned, and got to work searching through the pile of junk around his bed.

"So, Jacob…"

Harry flinched in surprise, then realized Sirius was talking to James.

"Yeah? What about him?"

"I don't know. He's…weird." More rummaging, then a pause. "Why is he friends with…them?"

"A better question is, why is Lily friends with him?" This had clearly been bothering James.

"I don't know. But, he's almost…older than he is."

"He's older than he is?" James raised an eyebrow.

"That's not what I meant. It's that he acts all mature, all the time. It's really annoying."

"Yeah, I know. Well, we'll see how mature he is when he pisses himself after dinner," James joked, and they laughed.

"But, er, do you think…" Sirius began, slowly, "…we should be nicer to him?" He was clearly uncomfortable suggesting it.

"To Jacob? Or Snivellus?" James looked at Sirius incredulously.

"Jacob!" Sirius replied impatiently, as if Severus wasn't a real option.

"I dunno." James shifted on his feet, annoyed. Only Sirius had enough influence on him to consider it.

Glad he wasn't dismissed, Sirius continued, "He's good at Quidditch—" James made a face, so Sirius added quickly, "—almost as good as you, and he's in our house…" A thought occurred to him. "And he could help you be friends with Lily."

James mulled this over, and his mouth stretched into a grin. "You're brilliant!" He checked the time. "Shit! Let's talk about it on the way to class."

The two left the room, and Harry sat on the bed, still cloaked. He felt better. He had a shot at becoming friends, even though it may be just so James could get to Lily. At least it was an improvement from being bullied by them.

The problem was, if Harry had planned to give Severus and Lily a chance, how would he deal with James?

The day went by quickly. Severus had managed to avoid being pranked again. A range of students had been pranked as the day went on, mostly Slytherins, but nothing too serious. Filch was alerted of the misdemeanors and, because of his incessant interrogations of innocent students, was also a victim of their pranks. Harry was just waiting for the final event, the one stunt that would keep people talking. James hinted at something happening after dinner.

"What do you think of Sev's new haircut?" Lily asked, looking fondly at him. Severus turned red and smiled back.

"Yeah, it's nice." His hair was now short, free from his face, a definite improvement.

"Madam Pomfrey did it when she reversed the potion. She also gave him this bottle of stuff to, er, help his hair." She could tell the topic of Severus' hygiene was sensitive, but he didn't have a parent to teach him about that sort of thing.

There was silence for a moment, then Raven asked, just realizing something—"Where's Remus? Is he sick again?"

Lily nodded. "Right, we saw him, he was in the Hospital wing. They're testing a new potion on him that's supposed to help with the sickness he keeps getting. He looked pretty bad, but we cheered him up by visiting!"

Harry knew how much Remus would have appreciated a break from the solitude, especially by seeing Lily, who the boy seemed to be growing fond of. While they were on the topic of the Marauders, Harry looked around; none of the other Marauders were at dinner. They were no doubt preparing for their attack.

All of the Gryffindor students headed back, as a group, to the common room. Harry, Lily, Raven and Severus lingered at the back, looking out for signs of James, Sirius, and Peter.

"What's that?" Raven whispered suddenly, her eyes focusing on a spot a bit before them, where a shoe appeared to be hovering over the ground.

"It's one of them!" They're under the cloak again, Harry thought.

"Whoever it is, they're going down that corridor." The four, acting casual, followed the shoe at a distance as it made its way down the hall, up the stairs, past a group of Hufflepuffs, and into a classroom. They hesitated when they reached the doorway, but Severus pushed ahead into the room.

"Something's not right…" muttered Harry, and acting on his instinct, he pointed his wand at the lone shoe at the other end of the unused classroom and said, "Accio shoe!"

The shoe soared through the air and into Harry's outstretched hand. "They're setting us up." He ran to the door, but it closed before he could reach it. He tried the doorknob. Of course, it was locked. "Alohomora!" he commanded, trying the door again. Nothing.

"What happened to Lily?" asked Severus, concern tightening his features.

She was gone. But Harry couldn't worry about that now; he had to focus. He surveyed the room again. It wasn't familiar to him, but he seemed to have a distant memory of the location.

There were a few posters with numbers and strange symbols on them…which would mean they were in the Arithmancy classroom.

Hermione had told Ron and Harry (despite their lack of interest) about the Arithmancy classroom entrance. It was one of the doors in the school that had to be tickled in the right spot before it could be opened. A student would have to solve something before the class could leave, but the spot was always the same.

Harry knelt down and searched for a small chink on the door in the bottom left corner. His fingers brushed it lightly, and, with a muffled giggle, it swung open. Lily was outside, resisting an invisible person who let her go as soon as he saw Harry pointed his wand in his direction.

Lily picked up her wand and thanked him.

"Are you okay?" Severus asked urgently.

"Yeah, I'm fine. That was Peter. He was supposed to guard you and send me to the party. But I wouldn't go."

"The party?" Harry asked.

"That's what he said. I guess he didn't want you to be there." Her green eyes flashed mischievously. "Just imagine the look on James' face when we get there."

They made Peter take them to the party, which was in the Gryffindor Tower.

"Password?" the Fat Lady asked.

"Turpis Collectio," replied Lily, and the portrait hole swung open.

They were met with a burst of sound. Music blared, and the room was dim, lit only by a few (stolen) candles. People danced, chatted, and most held gently steaming drinks. Glowing pumpkins dotted the corners, grinning toothily at the partiers. Desserts were laid out on the table before the fireplace.

Harry scanned the room and spotted James, in the center of it all, talking animatedly to a group of girls, who laughed loudly.

"Oi! What are you doing here?" Sirius stopped in his tracks on his way past them, holding two drinks.

"We escaped," replied Severus smugly, before anyone else could respond.

Sirius frowned, then shrugged. "Oh well."

"That was mean!" exclaimed Lily. "Why would you trap them and take me?"

Sirius looked at her, bewildered. "We thought you'd want to go to the party."

"How thick are you?" Lily shook her head in amazement. "I don't want you to bully my friends, and secondly, I would rather marry Peeves than go to your stupid party!"

Sirius looked offended. "Whatever." He stalked off toward James.

"We could go upstairs," suggested Harry, with a wary look over where Sirius was whispering into James' ear. James' face darkened momentarily, then brightened when he saw Lily. He excused himself from the group of girls and headed in Lily's direction.

Lily held her ground and glared at James as he ruffled his hair, trying to pull his expression into a smolder.

"Hey, Evans." James' gaze drifted over the other three before settling on her narrowed eyes.

"Potter," Lily replied coldly. "If you could excuse us, we were just leaving."

James couldn't hide his disappointment. "No, stay! I mean, you just got here. Do you want something to drink?"

"No," replied Lily brusquely.

"Jeez." Sirius was back. "He was just being nice. C'mon, have a Butterbeer. It'll calm you down."

It was the wrong thing to say. "Calm me down? You locked my friends in a classroom and expect me to be calm?" She made a sound of disbelief and marched off angrily, with Raven, Severus, and Harry following close behind.

"Maybe you should quit while you're behind," said Sirius, smirking at James, who smiled after Lily.

"What are we going to do now?" Raven asked Lily as she made her way through the crowd.

"We could visit Remus," suggested Harry. "It's not too late, and he'd appreciate it."

"Yeah, sure." Lily paused and looked around. "Where's Severus?"

After a moment, Raven spotted him. "Over there, by the drinks."

Severus was examining a glass of butterbeer. He held it up in the light, face scrunched up in concentration. His face darkened and he set the glass down, now examining the room. He rejoined the group, eying the room.

"Someone added a potion to the drinks." He emphasized "someone" with extra contempt; clearly he was sure of who did it.

"What sort of potion?" Lily asked, looking cautiously around the room.

"A philtre. I think it's to cause hallucinations, overconfidence, and can make whoever drinks it really happy." Severus studied the room. "It may take a while for the effects to show."

"Well, we're not sticking around to wait for that to happen. C'mon, maybe Remus could use some cheering up."

The Hospital wing was deserted, albeit five occupied beds, and Madam Pomfrey, who came up to meet the four as soon as they entered.

"Are you here to visit Remus?" When they nodded, she whispered, "He's awake. I gave him a potion to ease his pain, so you have just about ten minutes before he falls asleep."

Harry approached the bed first. Remus was lying under a single sheet, sweat glistening on his forehead. He was curled into a nearly fetal position on his side. He shifted over onto his back when he saw his friends, smiling weakly.

"Hello," Remus looked up at them, eyes bright against his tired, shadowed face.

"How are you feeling?" asked Lily gently.

"Fine." Pink rose beneath Remus; cheeks, then his jaw tightened in pain. In an effort to prove he was okay, he pushed himself into a seated position. He brushed a lock of hair out of his eyes and frowned at their varied looks of concern.

"The potion…that would help me…kind of made things worse. But I'm fine."

Lily put her hand on his. "Who gave it to you?"

Remus stared at her fingers. "Dumbledore made it. Anyway, how is the party going?"

Harry glanced at the others. "You're not missing anything. Someone tampered with the drinks, and I'd bet Professor McGonagall is going to tell them off later."

Remus seemed to cheer up slightly at the news. "It must be pretty awful if you left to visit me."

"We'd visit you anyway! But about the party…" Lily told him how James, Sirius, and Peter had trapped them.

Remus shifted uncomfortably. He didn't want to say anything bad about his other friends, but he managed to nod or murmur agreement with Lily's frustration. "I'm sorry about what happened. When I'm better, I'll…" He yawned. His eyes were nearly shut now. "Well, goodnight."

When the others began to leave, Remus motioned for Harry to talk to him. Harry leaned in so the others wouldn't hear.

"The full moon's the day after tomorrow," whispered Remus to Harry, although he had already known; his watch kept track of it. November 2nd, the Tuesday before his first Quidditch match.

"I'll come after dinner then, okay?"

Remus nodded, his face pale, and drifted off to sleep.

By Tuesday, everyone was a little down; Lily had given up on trying to tell a story to a distracted Severus, who gazed over at the Slytherin table. Though James only had a small crush on Lily so far, he was still a bit sour that she hadn't taken to the party. Sirius was cross with his family, who had refused to send him things he asked for because they were still upset at his placement into Gryffindor instead of Slytherin. James had been buying supplies for their various endeavors, and although he insisted that he didn't mind, Sirius felt guilty.

"Hey, Lily." James sidled closer to Lily when he noticed Severus wasn't listening to her. "You can tell me."

"The story? But…it's about you," she replied, raising an eyebrow.

"Oh?" James faltered and blushed, realizing quickly that it wasn't a kind conversation. "Er, then never mind."

Sirius snickered.

Raven wasn't with them. She never ate much for lunch, and probably took this opportunity to go off to a meet up with some Slytherins.

The day went by as usual. Remus wasn't at dinner, the excuse this time was that he was sick but couldn't have visitors, and no one questioned it. Harry drifted from the group when they were walking back from the Great Hall and, when he was certain no one was around, threw on his invisibility cloak.

The sky through the windows was darkening quickly; he had misjudged when to leave. By the time Harry was outside, it was black. He hurried across the grounds, under the Whomping Willow, through the tunnel and to the Shrieking Shack.

Remus had already transformed; Harry heard him growling through the doorway. By transfiguring a piece of stray wood lying nearby into a mouse, Harry got past him and made it to the second floor. This time, Harry had brought the day's homework and a journal to write in before he fell asleep. He also brought a package of meat to throw down the hole in the floor to feed Remus.

After setting up the transfigured mice and finishing his homework, Harry opened his journal. He decided, in an attempt to fill the void the absence of his friends created, he would write a letter to them, or whenever he had time. He wouldn't send it, but writing out how he felt would help him cope.

He wrote about Remus first, because that was what initially came to mind, then about his friends and their problems, and finally about himself. And what he missed.

By the time Harry finished writing, it was midnight. He made himself a comfortable place to sleep, then tossed the meat down for Remus.

That was the last thing he remembered before he fell asleep. And after what seemed like moments later, he was being lightly shaken awake.

"Jacob?" a soft voice above him said.

"Mm? Remus? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. We don't have to leave yet, but, er, how do you do that spell? To make the ground comfortable?"

"Oh, sure. I'll show you." Harry put on his glasses and Remus came into better focus. His clothing was very tattered, but he looked unharmed.

"Here." Harry taught him what to say and how to motion with his wand. Before he'd finished demonstrating, Remus started to cry.

"What's wrong?" Harry asked, shocked and unsure what to do.

But Remus was unable to speak. He covered his face with his hands as he cried, not wanting Harry to see him in the state he was in.

"I—I'm sorry," he choked.

"What for? It's okay to…cry."

"I d-don't deserve to have a—a friend like you. I'm a freak. Nobody likes me, not really. If James and Sirius…if anyone else found out, they—they wouldn't want to be friends with me. Or…or they'd be too—too scared of me to not be friends with me!" He let out a shuddering gasp.

"That's not true," said Harry firmly.

"How do you know?" demanded Remus sharply. Then he looked down, ashamed. "You don't know what it's like…to be what I am."

Harry was about to reply defiantly, but caught himself. "No, I don't," he agreed. "But James and Sirius aren't the kind of people who would abandon you because you're a werewolf. That wouldn't matter to them. It doesn't matter to me! And they're closer to you than I am."

Remus nodded. Then he abruptly looked sick and stumbled forward. Harry caught him before he hit the ground and gasped. There was a growing spot of blood on his back.

"What the hell…?" Harry bent down and pulled apart the back of Remus' shirt along a large rip. There was gash in his back with a piece of wood poking out. "How did this happen…" he muttered, mind working furiously to think of a spell to use to heal him. He realized he didn't know anything effective enough to fix it and moved quickly out of the shack.

He realized Hogsmeade was closer than the castle. If he could get help from someone there…Aberforth.

Harry levitated Remus and blasted out the front door of the Shack. It was cold in Hogsmeade, colder than around Hogwarts. The sky was still dark; Harry's watch read 5:12.

Harry hurried along the street until he saw the Hog's Head. He knocked first, not knowing what sort of protective spell might be set on the building. He knocked again, painfully aware of little time they had.

"Alohomora," said Harry, pointing at the door, and went inside. Immediately, a few candles flared, and a goat that had been lying across the room bleated.

There was a thump upstairs and a man in gray pajamas shuffled quickly down the stairs, wand at the ready. He spotted Harry and drew his wand, but Harry interjected.

"Wait! Aberforth, I need you to help me! My friend is hurt…" He gestured to Remus, who didn't seem to be breathing. "Can you help me, please?" His voice cracked with desperation. "I can't answer your questions right now, we don't have time."

Aberforth looked from him to the floating boy. The resemblance to his brother struck Harry just as it had the first time they'd met.

The goat that had been scared away earlier clomped over to Harry and stood by him.

Aberforth sighed drowsily and approached Remus, eyes locked on the wound. He passed his wand over the gash, closed his eyes, and murmured a string of words that were incomprehensible. The piece of wood lifted out of Remus with a nasty sliding sound. Harry grimaced and clenched his teeth. Not again. He can't die again, he thought. I wouldn't be able to live with myself, even if I could reverse it.

Wordlessly, Aberforth guided Remus upstairs. Harry stayed where he was and waited. He shook with emotion and clenched his fists to staunch his fear.

"He'll live. I put him in the guest room upstairs and cleaned up his back," Aberforth informed him when he returned, ten minutes later, looking shaken. By then, Harry's lip bled from biting it, and his fingernails had carved grooves in his palms.

"Thank you," said Harry, and sat down wearily on a chair that was next to him.

"Now, explain yourself."

Harry studied the younger version of the man, who appeared less aged and had gray hair instead of white. "I'm Jacob Walker. The boy who you healed is Remus Lupin."

Aberforth noted Harry's uniform. "You're from Hogwarts."

Harry nodded. "Dumbledore knows we're out, but he doesn't know Remus got hurt."

"Why were you away from the school this early, anyhow?"

Harry took a deep breath. "Remus is a werewolf. He is taken out of the school for his safety—well, everyone's safety."

Aberforth was surprised, a strange expression on his solemn face. "He won't…transform, will he?" Aberforth glanced upwards to where Remus lay, in bed.

"No. But, anyway, I go with him on the nights he transforms because if he doesn't have anything to attack…he attacks himself. I don't know how he got that wound, though. I was thinking…I could go to the castle and get Dumbledore to pick Remus up later this morning, when he's well enough to be moved."

"Right. Two boys come out of nowhere early in the morning, one of them seriously injured, and the other wants to bolt, saying he'll get his headmaster? We'll send an owl to Albus, that way I can know for sure if you're telling the truth." Aberforth paused. "How old are you? You couldn't be older than fifth year, right?"

"I'm in my first year," Harry responded, puzzled. Did he really seem mature enough for fifth year?

"Really?" Aberforth squinted at him, but a chime from the clock on the wall across them interrupted his thoughts. It was six o'clock.

"But besides that, wouldn't I have already left when I had the chance? I'll be late for class if I stay behind, and people will ask where I was, they'll realize I'm gone."

Aberforth grunted. "Fine. I'm still sending an owl."

"Thank you. And I'll talk to Dumbledore." He glanced at the painting of Ariana, then left the Hog's Head.

Harry ran as much of the way to the castle as he could. He came up with an excuse in case anyone noticed he wasn't there: He hadn't been able to sleep, so he got up early, or if they'd seen him get up in the middle of the night, he'd gone to the bathroom. But if someone had proof against his excuse? What was he supposed to do? He could ask Dumbledore once he got to his office. He had managed to get away last time without anyone saying anything, but he needed a plan for when they became suspicious, just like with Remus. They couldn't be sick or have family emergencies at the same time.

Harry slowed down just before the front doors. He used a few spells to clean up, then he put on his invisibility cloak. Thankfully, the front doors were now opened (it was just past 6:30), so he had no trouble entering.

He hurried to Dumbledore's office, where he took off his cloak, recited the password Dumbledore had given in case of emergency, and leapt up the stairs, two at a time, until he reached the door.

The door swung open as soon as Harry knocked. Dumbledore was at his desk, writing. A plain brown owl was curiously observing Fawkes, who was asleep.

"Ah, Mr. Walker. How was your journey?"

"Er, good." He'd met the gaze of those blue eyes already this morning.

"I hear you have met my brother. I received his owl to inform me of the incident. I plan on picking up Mr. Lupin shortly."

Harry sighed and rubbed his eyes. "I'm sorry for the trouble. I don't know how it happened. The whole point of me being with him…"

Dumbledore met his eyes, the picture of sympathy. "It is not your fault. You did the right thing by going to my brother, though why you chose the Hog's Head, I do not know. Anyhow, without your quick thinking, well…we should not dwell on that." He smiled kindly. "I will ask Madam Pomfrey to help you with a spell to heal wounds. So you will be prepared, if this should happen again."

Harry nodded solemnly and stood up.

Dumbledore spoke before Harry shut the door behind him. "Oh, and Jacob?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Good luck Saturday."

"Thank you, sir."

When he left the office, Harry realized he forgot to ask what he should say when anyone got suspicious of Remus' absence. He decided he would be able to handle it when the moment came.

He had barely walked a minute when James, Sirius, and Peter spotted him from behind. "Hey, Jacob, where've you been?"

"What do you mean?" Harry swore in his head; he had forgotten to put on the invisibility cloak.

"Well, you were gone all night, weren't you?" There were shadows under their eyes—they knew.

"I didn't realize it was that long…" Harry bought time to think of an excuse.

"You didn't realize what was that long?

"That—ugh, I'm going to be sick again…" Harry clutched his stomach and ran off in the direction of the nearest bathroom.

He hoped they bought it and believed he'd just been ill. For improvising, it wasn't that horrid of a performance. But even so…they weren't that thick; maybe they had guessed that the absence of Remus and Harry was linked.

At breakfast, Harry felt as though he could fall asleep right on his plate of eggs and toast.

Lily arrived at breakfast a half an hour later and greeted him cheerfully. "Hi, Jacob!"

"Hey. Where are Severus and Raven?"

Lily's bright mood faded slightly. "I don't know. Are you feeling okay?"

"Just a little tired," replied Harry, yawning.

"Here, Sev gave this to me." She pulled out a vial filled with a yellow liquid. "He has trouble sleeping, and I've been staying up late with homework, so he brewed a bunch of this stuff. Just add a bit to your drink."

Harry gratefully took the vial and added some of it to his pumpkin juice. He downed the glass and instantly felt better.

"Thanks, Lily." He noticed her fidgeting. "What's wrong?"

"Did you hear what happened yesterday after dinner?"

Harry shook his head, a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. Lily was clearly glad to tell someone the story and began in a hushed, hurried voice.

"One of the Slytherins cursed a Gryffindor because they thought they were working against You-Know-Who. Of course, the teachers think it was just a regular fight. 'Cause, you know, our houses get into fights all the time.

Good. It's not about Remus.

A fourth-year boy with sandy hair overheard Lily telling Harry what had happened and leaned in to add to the story. "But it was planned, you see. She was cornered by a few of them, and they cursed her. But the thing is, the last spell their wands had cast was completely harmless—a repairing spell. And there were no other witnesses, so no one knows what really happened." The boy's friend stood up and nudged him to go. Before following his friend to the Ravenclaw table, he added, "They're both in the hospital, but the Slytherins got off with only a baldness charm."

Lily and Harry were silent for a minute. "What do you think about Slytherin house?" Harry asked Lily, hoping she didn't feel like he was questioning her too much.

Lily frowned. "I don't like what they're doing. I've overheard what Slytherins talk about—You-Know-Who. I had no idea who he was until a month ago when Cassandra, a second year, told me about him. About what he does to people. And that all the Slytherins are planning on joining him."

"And you think all of them will? What about Professor Slughorn?"

"But he's older! Well…I guess not all Slytherins, but I haven't heard any of them say that they aren't going to join You-Know-Who."

"Maybe they're just scared. Because you're saying that you think all—or nearly all—of them join Voldemort—"

Lily gasped.

"…I mean, You-Know-Who…so don't you think they might feel pressured into it?"

Lily thought hard. "I guess…" she said slowly. Something dawned on her. "Jacob, you don't think Raven and Sev—that they might want to be Death Eaters? Do you think they wished they were Slytherins? Because, well, Raven's whole family was in Slytherin, and Sev wanted to be in Slytherin until you told him not to be!"

"You should ask him," suggested Harry.

"I will."

The first class of the day was Defense against the Dark Arts, ironically. As their professor got ready to teach, everyone chatted noisily.

"Sev? Can we talk?" Lily asked him.

Severus blinked and nodded. He was standing by the side of his desk, and his hands, which gripped the edge, tightened.

"I want to know if you've been meeting with Slytherins. Or doing the Dark Arts, or anything like that."

"Did Jacob tell you about it?" Severus glared at Harry.

"Jacob? No…" Harry met her glance, then pretended not to listen. "But it doesn't matter. Sev, can you just tell me? Please?" She looked up at Severus, eyes wide and pleading.

"Okay. Yes, I have," he confessed, wanting desperately to look away, but unable to do so.

"Please take a seat, class," Professor Trabet said, patting her short, neat hair.

"Oh, Severus, why…!" Lily stopped because the sound in the room had died down.

For the rest of class, Severus maintained a furrowed expression, and Lily kept glancing at him in concern.

After class, Lily rushed to meet Severus. "Promise me you won't do anything…bad? I can't make you promise you won't hang out with them, but at least promise you won't do what they're doing."

"Okay," said Severus, as if not saying the exact phrase "I promise" would absolve him of guilt.

As Severus and Lily returned to a more casual conversation, Harry spotted Neville's dad and two friends walking in the hallway.

"C'mon, Frank, you know that it wouldn't do any good to pick a fight with Lucius."

"Yeah, at least the prick got his badge taken away."

"That's not enough for what he did to Alice. He's a rotten little…" their conversation faded out of earshot.

Harry was stunned. "I didn't know Alice was the one who was cursed." And Lucius who cursed her. Alice, Neville's mother, is already a target?

Lily was unfazed by the story—for a first-year, it was outside of her world and deep concern. "Yeah. I heard more about what happened today. He could've been expelled, but he told Professor Slughorn she started it, and she told Professor McGonagall he started it, so they just got a warning. He just has a ton of detention, and he's not a prefect anymore. Someone said…" her voice dropped to a whisper, finally acknowledging the seriousness of the situation, "…someone said he told her they would do much worse to her when she graduated, if they could prove she was part of something against You-Know-Who…but that's just a rumor."

"Yeah, a rumor." Harry shuddered.

In November, everyone attended the first Quidditch game, unfazed by the cold and cloudy weather. Even Severus came. Harry guessed it was not just because Lily was going, but also because Severus wanted to show he wanted to stay friends with Harry.

As the stands filled with people, Violetta gave the Gryffindor team a pep talk.

"This is it, everyone. The first game of the season. We have a great team this year…only one new member, Jacob, and everyone is on top of their game." The second youngest player was in his fifth year, and the rest were in their sixth and seventh years. The third boy was in his seventh year, the other four players were girls. It was apparently only the sixth year in Hogwarts history that a Gryffindor team had more girls than boys on the team.

"Just do your best, and have fun!" Violetta didn't want to put pressure on them to win, but Harry could tell she wanted a victory very badly. The whistle sounded outside and the team marched out, gripping their brooms tightly. The audience swelled with cheers as the Slytherins and Gryffindors took their place on either side of the field.

A young Madam Hooch released the Snitch, which flitted away, out of sight. Harry searched the sky for a flash of gold as the captains shook hands, a little roughly. Hooch gave a brief speech to the teams, then, in a flurry of motion and sound, everyone took flight.

Harry could feel the eyes of most of the students as he rose quickly above the other players. When scanning the field, he noticed Dumbledore was watching him, one hand propped under his chin. The Slytherin Seeker idled far away on the other side of the field; Harry couldn't see who he or she was, but didn't think either of them were having much luck.

And suddenly, there was a small movement down at the edge of the field, almost directly under the Slytherin Seeker. Harry casually moved forward, but to the right so he wouldn't draw attention to the Snitch below. He kept his eyes on both the Snitch and the other Seeker; both were gradually moving toward him. And, just as the boy came into view—Lucius Malfoy, apparently able to play—Harry shot in the opposite direction toward the Snitch. The crowd's cheers escalated as he neared the Snitch.

Lucius was right behind him but still too far to have a chance. Harry's fingers closed around the Snitch.

Furious, Lucius dove straight into Harry and nearly knocked him off his broom.

Harry dangled dangerously in the air, only one hand gripping the Nimbus. There were a few screams and gasps, but they died out as Harry shoved the Snitch in his pocket and managed to pull himself up. Then Harry reached inside his uniform, pulled out the Snitch and thrust his fist into the air.

The audience roared.

Harry touched down on the ground, grinning broadly. His team swarmed around him, cheering, some pumping their fists. The Gryffindor Beaters held Harry up easily as he waved at the crowd. The game had been tied—20 to 20—before he had caught the Snitch.

Lucius scowled at him from the Slytherin side of the field, as he was lectured by Madam Hooch for blatching; flying with the intent to collide. Harry was happy to see the baldness charm Alice set on him had worked; Lucius took off his helmet on the way to the dressing rooms and, after the clouds opened overhead, his bald head glinted.

The whole school was alight with the excitement over the game and the unmatched skill of the previously unknown Jacob Walker. If Severus had been around the rest of the day, he would have been thoroughly annoyed by the attention Harry was getting.

James, after brooding for a while, came up to Harry with Sirius at his side.

"Good game, Jacob," he said, like a boy whose mum had forced him to be nice on the playground.

Sirius gave James a look, then said to Harry, "Malfoy's face was priceless."

"Yeah, he looked like he could curse you," added James, with difficulty.

Harry thought back to Alice. It was a mystery to him that Lucius hadn't been suspended from Quidditch for the year. Lucius' father likely had as much influence as Lucius had when advocating for Draco in Harry's time.

"Well, okay, are we done here?" James turned away impatiently.

"Thank you," blurted Harry.

James looked at him strangely before walking away.

As he could shake off his new admirers and his friends, Harry visited the Hospital wing. There were no other visitors, and only two of the beds were occupied.

Madam Pomfrey intercepted him before he reached either of the beds. "Are you here to visit Remus?"

"Him and Alice."

"Oh, you're Mr. Walker, right? The Headmaster asked me to show you how to heal wounds in case of emergency." She eyed him closely. "How did the piece of wood impale him?"

Harry felt a cold surge rush across him. He had come up with a plausible explanation the night before. The spell he had cast to transform wood to mice must not have worked properly. It seemed as though Remus caught one of the mice and after he had eaten it, it transformed back into wood.

"It was my fault. An accident," he replied, not quite meeting her eyes.

"Hm. Well, when you're done, I'll help you." Madam Pomfrey studied him once more, then left to tend to the other patients.

Remus looked remarkably better, almost impatient. Books were laid out around him and he scribbled furiously on a piece of parchment. His face brightened when he saw Harry.

"Jacob! I'm just working on the Transfiguration essay." He put it aside and his smile faded as he registered Harry's somber expression. "What's wrong?"

"I figured out how this all happened," Harry began, pressing his lips together to hold his composure. "The wood I transfigured to turn into mice…you caught one, and ate it, which wasn't supposed to happen, and it turned back into a piece of wood inside you…"

"It's not your fault," Remus assured him, voice low.

"You could've died!" Everyone was taking it much too lightly. Madam Pomfrey glared at Harry, a finger to her lips.

"But I didn't. And look—" Remus pointed to his arms. "I don't have any new scratches."

"Except the huge gash in your back."

Remus sighed. "Listen—I don't blame you, so you shouldn't blame yourself. You've made the mistake once, and you'll know what to do next time."

Harry nodded to pacify Remus. But he didn't understand how scared Harry hd been. "I'm going to see Alice. Have you talked to her at all?"

"Yes, a bit. She's leaving in a couple days. She's really nice. Oh, and I'm leaving in a few hours, after Madam Pomfrey gives me my last dose of potion. I'll see you in the dorms."

"Yeah, see you then." Harry moved down three beds as James, Sirius, and Peter entered the Hospital wing.

Alice was awake, reading a black book whose title was only visible if seen at a certain angle. There was a significant amount of candy and flowers around her bed. Harry noticed a drawing of Lucius, which showed him losing his hair and crying. He would watch it grow back in a mirror, looking hopeful, only to see it drop off when it got to a certain length.

"Hello," said Alice warmly, putting down her book. "Have we met?"

"No, sorry, I'm Ha—Jacob Walker."

"Nice to meet you." She smiled, perhaps misunderstanding his awkwardness.

"Jacob!" A bright voice piped up behind him. Harry turned and saw Violetta approach holding a bouquet of pink flowers. When she placed them in the sunlight, the flowers appeared to dance.

"How do you know Alice?" Violetta flicked her wand and her long blonde hair went up into a tight ponytail.

"I…we actually just met."

"Oh, cool. I've told her how good—no, extraordinary—you are at Quidditch," said Violetta. "Though, not how you beat Lucius today."

Alice smirked. "I'd love to hear that story."

Violetta told her an exaggerated, more dramatic version of the game, and how Lucius handled the loss. "…He nearly snapped his broom, banging it on the ground like an angry troll when Jacob caught the Snitch. Looked like one, too, with his ugly bald head. I swear, he might blind someone with that glare…"

After a few other stories involving their friends and Lucius, Violetta let Harry speak. "What was it you wanted to say to Alice?"

Harry paused, collecting his thoughts. "I wanted to tell you how, er, brave you were. Facing Lucius and joining…well, you know." He flashed back to seeing Alice and Frank at St. Mungo's. Alice couldn't understand fully where he was coming from, that she would be tortured but remain loyal to the Order.

"Thank you." Alice smiled at him, though concern about what he knew was visible in her eyes.

"It was nice talking to you," said Harry, taking a last look at her strong, familiar face before leaving.

Things had changed significantly in the few months since school started. Harry had so many other people's issues and emotions on his plate that he was beginning to ignore his own. His dreams were the only place for him to dwell on the people he left behind in his own time.

The Marauders didn't question Remus and Harry when they disappeared once more on December 2nd. Severus only asked Harry where Remus had gone a couple days before the full moon, when Remus had been too sick to attend class. They used the excuse of a family emergency instead of Remus being ill.

Severus and Raven were gone that evening, along with Lily (who was up in the girls' dorms) and Remus, on the evening of December 2nd. The full moon had risen in the morning and lasted throughout the day, so Harry missed his classes under the excuse that he wasn't feeling well.

"Hey, Jacob," said Sirius, sitting on a chair next to Harry in the common room.

Harry started. Sirius seemed amazingly casual. What had changed? He looked back down in his journal and continued writing.

James walked in, holding two cups, his hair ruffled in all directions, as always. He sat next to Sirius, ignoring Harry.

"I got you a cup of pumpkin juice," said James, holding it out for Sirius.

"I thought I said I just wanted water."

"Well, you can get it yourself, I you want," James snapped.

"Fine." Sirius left in a huff.

There was an awkward pause.

"Do you want some pumpkin juice?" James asked, after staring into his cup.

"Sure, thanks," Harry replied, taking the cup from him.

James leaned forward slightly, eyes locked on Harry as he drank from his cup. Harry tried not to acknowledge this by looking around the room.

"What have you been going these past few months at the same time as Remus?" James asked as Harry set down his empty cup.

"I help Remus when he transforms into a werewolf," Harry answered automatically. His eyes widened. Truth Serum.


Chapter 7: Revelare Viam
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

"I help him when he transforms into a werewolf."

Harry gasped. He looked from the drink to James' stunned face, then bolted out of the portrait hole. With a look to make sure the coast was clear, he pulled his invisibility cloak out of his robes.

Just as he disappeared, James and Sirius came running out from around the corner.

"Who are your best friends?" James shouted, knowing that Harry would be forced to answer if he was within earshot, and they could find him. They didn't expect anything unusual.

"Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley!" Harry shouted in an equally loud voice as he ran in the opposite direction. He tried to cast a Muffling Charm to block out any future responses, but found he was unable to do so. Then, to his relief, he found a hiding place—the one-eyed witch statue. He tapped the statue with his wand, muttered "Dissendium," and got inside before James and Sirius caught up to him.

Harry contemplated waiting out the potion, but figured it would take too long. If only he had mastered Occlumency…he tried saying a lie to himself. "My name is J—J—Harry…" He stopped. What had Severus taught him in the Occlumency lessons? Clear your mind. But he couldn't, not when he'd just given away his friend's secret.

Harry knew he couldn't stand by when James and Sirius had the information. He couldn't modify their memories without risking permanent damage…but he could body-bind the pair until the potion wore off. He left the tunnel, cloak on, wand at the ready.

"I heard something this way!" James called from down the corridor. He sprinted in Harry's direction.

"Are you really…" James paused, Harry hesitated, which gave James just enough time to continue, "…who you say you are?"

Harry had no choice but to answer. "No. Petrificus Totalus!"

"James? Where'd you go?" Sirius appeared, comically shocked when he spotted James frozen on the ground.

"What the—" Sirius limbs snapped together and he fell to the ground before he could finish.

Despite Harry's relief that the information was contained, that James hadn't asked a more revealing question, Harry was nervous. He flipped them over so they wouldn't see him take off his cloak, then waited for the potion to wear off.

"My name is Ha—" he muttered periodically. Ten minutes later, he felt his jaw relax, allowing him to say, "My name is Jacob Walker."

Harry disarmed Sirius and James, pocketed their wands, then released the two boys. They jumped up, staring at Harry, who kept his wand raised.

"It's impressive that you made Veritaserum."

James glared at Harry, eyes narrowed. The expression only lasted a moment, he looked back at the ground, still processing the news.

"I have to take you to Dumbledore. He'll decide what to do, now that you know." The fact hit Harry hard once more…How would Remus react? What if it was too early for them to find out, and they wouldn't accept Remus?

James looked as though he might resist Harry, but knew he wasn't in a position to do so.

The three made their way through the seventh floor corridor and down the staircase. A few students looked at them, trying to assess if they needed help, but James nor Sirius said anything.

When the reached the third floor, James spoke. "I asked you if you were really who you said you were. You said no."

Harry frowned. There had to be a way out of giving the truth. "I said no because…the question was really vague. I said no because I…interpreted it as if you asked if I felt like I acted like my true self, and wasn't putting on an act. And I feel like I am putting on an act. Everyone sees me as really good at Quidditch, and smart, but they don't really know me. That's a guess, I dunno why, exactly."

Was Harry's response too heartfelt? James might have believed him, but it was hard to tell. It was the last thing anyone said until they reached the entrance on the first floor.

The gargoyle gave way to the Headmaster's office.

When they had barely entered the room, Dumbledore spoke. "You may lower your wand, Mr. Walker."

Harry did so and turned to face Dumbledore, this ghost of his past, who studied the odd trio over steepled fingers.

"Sir, they found out about Remus." Harry's voice was solemn, intense.

Dumbledore nodded slowly. "How, may I ask…?"

"Veritaserum, I think."

Dumbledore studied James and Sirius with his piercing blue eyes. "I expected better from you two. The use of Veritaserum is highly restricted in the wizarding world."

"Remus wouldn't tell us! What were we supposed to do?" James caught himself. "Sorry, sir."

"Surely you could have thought of something other than a truth serum."

Finally, the boys looked ashamed.

"Now," Dumbledore continued, standing, "I doubt it will be a problem, but out of respect for your friend, you must not tell anyone."

"What about Peter?"

"Seeing as he is part of your group, it would be hard to keep it from him. However, outside of you four, and Jacob…" The Headmaster paced before them. "People would feel endangered knowing a werewolf is attending Hogwarts. Not everyone would react the same way as you have to Remus' situation."

Harry wondered, how were James and Sirius reacting to this new discovery? They were a bit shaken, but otherwise he would have to wait and see.

"I recommend speaking with Remus. Tonight would be best. This involves him, he can decide what to do. For now, I bid you good night. Thank you, Jacob."

Harry nodded, unable to speak. He held down his feelings so he wouldn't get choked up, or get teary-eyed. Each meeting with Dumbledore was increasingly painful.

The journey to the Hospital wing was dreadfully awkward. Harry only spoke to give them advice. "What Remus feared most was you'd find out and not want to be friends with him. As long as he knows you'll all still be friends, and will help him, even, he won't want your memories erased."

Remus was asleep when they got there. He seemed to be having a nightmare; his face was scrunched up in discomfort and his hands were clenched before him. Harry cast a Muffling Charm so the couple other patients wouldn't hear.

"Remus?" Harry touched his shoulder.

Remus' eyes opened drowsily. "Jacob?" He rubbed his head and looked at his company. "James, Sirius…what's…?"

"Listen, Remus. They gave me this truth serum and I was forced to tell them you were a werewolf. But—"

Remus was brought abruptly out of his post-sleep daze. "What?" He didn't know how to react other than to look worriedly from James and Sirius to Harry.

"We don't mind that you're a werewolf!" said James quickly.

"Yeah, you'd have to be the King of Gits to give a damn if his best friend were a werewolf."

"So you do give a damn, then, Sirius?" James joked. They both laughed.

"Dumbledore said you get to decide how to deal with this," Harry told Remus, who was staring at his hands, face twisting as different emotions struggled to surface.

"Why did you make Jacob tell you about my…problem?" asked Remus, dumbfounded. He had settled on being confused and upset, brown eyes shining up at the three.

James and Sirius glanced at each other. "We knew you weren't telling the truth, you wouldn't tell us what was really going on—"

"There's a reason I kept it a secret! What if people find out?" Remus' voice rose.

James and Sirius were stunned by his outburst. "Well…they won't find out. Your secret's safe with us."

"You don't understand—" began Remus, but Sirius cut him off.

"No, you don't understand. We honestly don't care that you're a werewolf. You could be a—a vampire, secretly a girl for that matter…"

"Now, being a girl is more likely than a vampire. You do have some feminine qualities, Remus," interjected James, grinning.

"Anyway, it's better if we do know because, well, it's sort of hard to keep from us, and we could find a way to help you!"

Remus no longer looked angry, he was just serious. "Fine. I'm sorry. I—I just was worried. If anyone else found out, well…"

"They won't," James promised him firmly.

"Just know—I'll make their lives miserable if they do," Harry assured Remus.

"Well, we won't," repeated James, though his smile held a hint of his annoyance.

"But if you do, just know the consequences." Harry had now turned to James, eyes flaring up.

"Right. I think I already know the consequences." James was more than ready to fight.

"Oh, you do, do you?" Harry pulled out his wand, and James did the same.

"I think you made it very clear when you used that Body-Bind Curse."

"You think Remus should trust you when you forced me to talk?" Harry snapped, his voice rising.

"Oh, shut up, you—" James called Harry something vulgar that was half-masked by a gasp at the other end of the room. Madam Pomfrey shuffled over, took five points from Gryffindor, and made them leave.

"Let him rest, he needs sleep to get better. Shoo." The three trudged back to the Tower, James and Harry arguing, Sirius in tow.

After that night, the Marauders had an unspoken connection to Harry. Unspoken as in, at first, it seemed as though it would not have any effect on the visible relationship between them.

"So, what do you do to help him? Remus, I mean." It was a week later and a few days after the second Quidditch match, which they easily won. It was also the first time one of the Marauders other than Remus himself had talked about his problem.

Harry looked at James. It was like seeing the reflection of his true appearance, his younger self, except for the eyes. He wondered…could they be friends now?

"Er, well, I charm things inside the Shrieking Shack—"

"What's the Shrieking Shack?" James interrupted.

Oh, right. He knew nothing about the process. "It's where Remus goes to transform. There's a tunnel underneath the Whomping Willow that leads to it."

"Why's it called the Shrieking Shack?"

Shit. Harry realized the shack didn't—and probably wouldn't—earn that nickname because of his help. "Er, I don't know why I called it that."

James looked at him strangely, but moved on. "So what do you do?"

"I charm things into mice, or other small animals, so Remus can chase them. But they're also enchanted so he can't catch them." Or at least, he's not supposed to catch them.

James nodded. He seemed to want to leave, but he didn't have a valid excuse.

Remus, Sirius, and Peter joined them.

"We came up with a solution to help Remus," said Sirius, voice low, so the other people who were entering the room wouldn't hear.

"Well, it was Sirius, really, but—"

Peter set down the pile of books he had been carrying with a huff. The top one read Advanced Transfiguration: Long Term Spells, and looked very worn.

"Remus said he doesn't attack animals when he's, you know…so I thought: what if we found a way to become animals? And we read about Animagi."

"I've heard of them before." Harry was surprised they had come up with the solution so fast.

"It's really advanced magic, though." It was Remus who spoke up. "And I thought, well, you're the best in our year, so you could help. I—If you wanted to."

Harry immediately said yes, he'd love to help, but he realized a second too late what the problem was. He did want to help them, make sure nothing went wrong, but his form would be a stag. Like his dad. Would James be suspicious if they had the same form?

Harry couldn't take it back, not when Remus' face lit up how it did.

Sirius glanced upstairs. "Well, we were going to look through the books."

"Right then." James stood up, resenting Remus' compliment to Harry, that he was best in their year. He pushed ahead of Harry and led the other four up the stairs, affirming that he was the leader of the pack.

A week prior to Christmas, Harry had all his gifts figured out. His owl, Enoch, had been gone for a large portion of the year, out on the grounds or in the Owlery. He liked Harry, but hadn't been given anything to do, which Harry could tell frustrated him. Now, Enoch, in his cage, hooted happily at the sight of all the mail.

James received numerous large parcels leading up to the last day before holidays to give to friends, relishing their curiosity. Raven could be seen around the common room with her sketchbook, tucked close to her so no one would see. Sirius' family sent him a mere five galleons, a third of what he asked for. Harry knew this because he spent an entire day muttering and complaining about them all being "…stingy, miserable, and old."

"Are you getting Lily anything for Christmas?" Harry asked Severus, who frowned, annoyed.

His bed was covered in pieces of parchment, various books, and numerous vials. When he was this far into his work, he did not like being bothered. "Yeah, but why do you care? I'm not talking to you about it."

Harry looked back at him just as sourly. "Okay. I'm going to clean up."

"Okay," replied Severus, still invested in the book he was reading. When Harry left, he realized how abrasive he'd been and pounded his head with his fist. "Stupid," he muttered.

Harry washed his face in the sink and studied his reflection. He was now more accustomed to, when he looked in the mirror, seeing the dirty blonde hair, the stark blue eyes, and the place he had decided to put a small, fake birthmark, or sometimes a patch that blended into his skin. His bangs, however, were the easiest way to cover his scar.

Harry ran a hand through his hair and dried off by muttering, "Exaresco." By now, he had memorized the spells to keep his appearance from changing. He waved his wand, acting quickly but carefully, until his no hints of Harry Potter showed through.

James came into the bathroom, looking nervous in the moment before he saw Harry. "Oh. Hi."

"Hello." Harry managed to fit the book into his robes, but James noticed.

"What was that?"

"A book on…dueling." Harry twirled his wand in his fingers in an attempt to intimidate him.

James was not impressed by this explanation. He strode up to Harry and pointed his wand at his chest.

"There is something off about you. And I'm going to figure out what it is." He glared at Harry until he thought he had made enough of an impression, then he lowered his wand and let Harry leave.

Back in the dorm, Harry took his bag out of one of his drawers. I need to make sure he doesn't dig through my stuff. He cast a spell that would only allow access if he said a certain phrase.

"Again?" Harry heard someone behind him say under their breath. James had just entered the dorm.

"I was just leaving," said Harry. His father stared at the drawer, eyes narrowed.

Before James left on the Friday before Christmas, Sirius begged him, "Send an owl, please." Sirius looked back at Harry and Severus and sighed dramatically.

James clapped him on the back. "Of course. See ya, Remus, Peter."

"Bye." The only first years staying behind were Sirius, Severus, and Harry. Raven was invited to stay at Lily's for Christmas. Lily had gotten into an argument with her parents about letting Harry and Severus stay, but her parents said no, with the promise that she could stay at Hogwarts one year and another her other friends could come for the holidays.

Everyone said their farewells, then attended the first holiday dinner. Christmas trees were at every corner of the Hall, bearing an assorted collection of huge ornaments. Dumbledore wore deep green robes and a brilliant smile. The other teachers appeared less stressed and were also getting into a more festive mood.

Sirius was already considerably nicer to Harry, but he ignored Severus, save for the occasional snide remark.

There were a couple fourth years and one sixth year from Gryffindor, with only four additional people from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, so Sirius was stuck with Severus and Harry as company.

"Why didn't you go to your family's place?" Harry asked Sirius, though he knew the answer.

"Because they're a load of evil gits, that's why." After a moment's hesitation, he asked, "And what about you?"

"My parents are Muggles, and they're scared of me." Even his invented life was depressing.

Sirius smiled, then snorted, and soon they were both laughing at their misfortune. It took a moment for Sirius to catch himself and realize they weren't friends, that they didn't like each other, and he went back to poking at his food.

"Have you heard from your parents, Severus?" asked Harry, after losing himself in thought over his and Sirius' exchange. He looked to his right, where Severus slouched in his seat.

"No." He gave Harry a strange look. Of course he wouldn't have.

"Well, we'll make the best of it. The feasts are excellent. Er, so I've heard."

There was nearly a week of awkward, forced conversations, and increased tension between Sirius and Severus. Comments like "Christ, how long has it been since you've touched a bar of soap, Snivellus!" and, "You were gone a while. Not that I'm complaining. Did you make any potions to make you less of a dirty little—"

"Oh, shut up, Sirius," was Harry's endless refrain.

On Christmas morning, Severus got up first, accidentally waking up Sirius and Harry by tripping over the presents at the foot of his bed. In hindsight, it was understandable because Severus hadn't expected gifts, but at the time Harry was not happy at being woken up at six in the morning.

"Ugh, you dumbass," groaned Sirius when he sat up and rubbed his eyes. With the prospect of presents, they couldn't fall back asleep, so the three laid out the gifts on their beds and began to unwrap them.

Harry noticed Severus delicately set aside Lily's sky blue box, saving it for last. Sirius groaned for the second time after opening the box from his parents. Inside, there was a silver-and-green Slytherin scarf, a new pair of long, white socks, and a few expensive white anti-cheating quills.

A moment later, Sirius said, nonplussed, to no one in particular, "Kreacher gave me something."

Harry almost laughed, but he had to redirect his grin toward the broom-polishing kit Lily gave him. It was the same thing Hermione had gotten him for his birthday.

It turned out Kreacher had given Sirius a neatly folded tissue. "At least he folded—GAH!" A spider fell out of the tissue and onto his lap. When it landed on him, it started to swell. Sirius jumped up and grabbed his wand from his nightstand and half-yelled, "Wingardium Leviosa!"

With a lurch, the spider rose into the air. Unable to resist scaring Severus, he guided the spider toward him.

"Suffosi!" Severus had been ready. The spider dropped onto the ground, started to scuttle away, but it slowed as if moving through tar. Soon, all movement stopped and it crumpled on the ground.

There was a very nasty silence, in which Harry tried to ignore the mad, satisfied glint in Severus' eye.

Sirius finally spoke. "Well…I can always count on Kreacher to make my parents seem like saints."

Harry chuckled, remembering the maggots Kreacher had given him as a gift one Christmas. Sirius smiled slightly at the reaction but said nothing.

Harry looked over at Severus, who had moved on to the gift he'd given him. Severus took what was inside—a silver pocket-watch—from its box, where it had sat on soft, purple lining. Although it was intricate and would be useful, he seemed a bit disappointed after examining it.

"Thank you," said Severus, knowing it had costed more than all his school supplies combined.

"You're welcome. I suppose it's an early birthday present, because of your owl, Luna…Oh—and I almost forgot, this came with the watch…" Harry opened one of his drawers and pulled out a small piece of paper. After Harry handed it to him, Severus read the small print softly to himself: "Revelare Viam."

Harry looked down at what Severus had given him, which had absentmindedly opened. It was a small chocolate broomstick. Severus looked over, a bit anxiously, and said, "I added a Draught of Peace, to help with stress and things…and if you're feeling nervous before matches."

"Thanks, Severus." He wasn't expecting a gift from him. Severus' shoulders dropped with relief that Harry liked the gift.

"Sweet!" exclaimed Sirius, holding the newest Nimbus—the same Harry had. "I need to send James an owl!" His face shone with excitement at the prospect of riding the second best broom in the world, outpaced only by the Firebolt Harry had stowed away in his dresser.

Harry spent the last of his money of gifts, so he would have to go back to his time for more money the next night. To Remus, he had sent a letter detailing the list of supplies they would needed for becoming Animagi and a check by the items he had got…which was almost everything, but they might need more supplies after they spent a few months researching further.

Severus was eying another gift, brow furrowed as he examined the large, black device. Suddenly, he blurted, "Oh!" and stowed it back into its box. At this, Harry gave him an inquiring look, which Severus ignored.

Lily and Raven had sent Harry a thick volume titled An Advanced Player's Guide to Quidditch: How to Make the Journey to Professional Teams. On the inside cover she had scribbled a note to him, saying how she hoped he found it useful and Happy Christmas! Raven had enclosed a sketch of Harry, which gave him a small smile that looked…sad. Is that what I look like to her? Or am I over-thinking it?

As grateful as Harry was to spend Christmas at Hogwarts, he wanted Hermione, Ron, and Ginny to be with him. It wasn't as bad as being on the run, as he had been not to long ago, definitely better than the Dursley's, but there was still something missing.

Sirius' pile of gifts included ones from his admirers, which he tossed aside. He had become, amazingly, annoyed by the girls who fancied him.

"'I hope this is useful,'" Severus read quietly to himself. "'Yours, Lily.'" In his palm rested a small, coin-sized object.

"Can I see it?" Harry held his hand out to Severus. For a moment, Severus looked as though he would say no, gripping it possessively, but after a moment he managed to pass it over.

Harry took the object delicately. It was heavy for its size, translucent, with runes carved on its surface. It was slightly warm, but the heat was coming from within.

"It's a protective charm," said Severus when Harry dropped it back into his outstretched hand. He spent a while after gazing outside the window, the charm clenched in his fist.

Harry put the card he had read from Remus aside and noted Sirius' astounding pile of gifts from friends and admirers. Sirius didn't seem self-conscious or sympathetic next to Harry and Severus' small collection; he acted as if he were the only one in the room.

The Christmas feast was spectacular, as always. The handful of people staying behind sat with the Hogwarts staff at one table. Dumbledore, dressed in lavender robes, welcomed them warmly. Harry thought Dumbledore's eyes lingered a bit longer on his, but he knew he had just imagined it.

There were Wizard Crackers placed along the table, which was new to Severus. He opened one, flinching when a sound like a gunshot went off.

Sirius snickered when Severus got a bar of soap. Severus smirked when Sirius opened a Cracker, yelping as two live mice ran from the Cracker into his lap.

This was background noise to Harry. He sat right across from Albus, and they talked through the whole two hours as if they had known each other for years. He thought of this on the way back Gryffindor Tower, and as he lay in bed that night, unable to stop smiling, or fall asleep. It was as though the Headmaster were alive again, and Harry felt content.

Toward the end of Christmas break, students began to trickle back to Hogwarts. Lily lit up the moment she saw Severus. He expected her from the wrong direction, so she snuck up and flung her arms around him from behind. Severus stumbled forward a bit, his pale face quickly reddening. For a split second, he didn't know who it was, but then recognized the small, gentle hands that rested on his chest.

"Lily." Severus truly relaxed for the first time since she had left.

"I missed you." Lily let go and he turned to face her, meeting her eyes, sincere, but in a different way than she looked at him.

"Evans!" James spotted her as soon as he climbed through the portrait hole. "Did you get what I sent you?"

Lily pretended to think. "Oh…right, that. I thought it would be perfect for my sister. I don't suppose you mind?" Severus' mouth twitched into a smile.

James faltered. "Er, no, but I—"

"Anyway, Severus, I really liked what you sent me." Lily reached into her pocket and pulled out a gray, perfectly round stone. Or what seemed to be—there was writing on it, cursive and small: "Lily."

"Oh—you did like it?" Relief flooded his features. "Er, I think I put it in the note, but every Christmas…a new word is added."

Lily's green eyes met his dark ones. "I love it."

James looked livid. The tension was, thankfully, broken by Sirius, who greeted James, beaming.

"Thank you for the book," said Harry to Raven and Lily, who smiled in return. Harry meant it, though he could only have been sincere since after the end of the Second Wizarding War; now he valued sitting down and quietly reading much more.

Harry nodded when they thanked him, but his attention wandered to the Marauders, who were deep in discussion.

"Jacob?" repeated Lily.

"Huh? Er, right…" He tried to remember what she just said. "Ah! Yeah, I'd love to." She had asked if he wanted to stay at her house next year over the holidays.

"And, you as well, of course," added Lily to Severus. "Raven managed to convince my parents."

"Brilliant, thanks." Harry grinned at Raven, who looked down and said something about it being no big deal.

"Hey, Sirius!" A girl in their year, Aluria Vane, waved to Sirius from the table she was sharing with her two friends. Romilda, from Harry's time, had inherited qualities from her mother in both appearance and personality: same dramatic voice, same confidence, and the same black, curly hair.

Sirius didn't verbally respond, but his curt wave was enough to send the group into a fit of giggles.

"They're really getting on my nerves," muttered Sirius to James. "Oh, no, here they come—"

"Happy New Year's," said Aluria, deliberately sounding out of breath. Cheresse Podmore and Florence Tyler came up on either side of her.

"Hello," said Sirius, not looking up. Aluria was surprised by his lack of enthusiasm, but it did not curb her determination.

"I was wondering if you'd all…" she frowned slightly at Peter, who she was less happy about including, and continued, "…like to join us on a walk after breakfast?"

"No, thank you."

"What he means is, we have a ton of homework that we put off," said James hastily.

"Oh, good, so do we!" Both groups were lying. The Marauders had no choice but to follow them to their table with varying attitudes; Harry smirked at the miserable slouch of James and Sirius.

"When did Remus say he was coming back?" Lily asked Harry, pulling him back to their conversation.

"Late tonight. His family wanted him home for New Year's."

The Marauders and the other four stayed up to wait. By one in the morning, Lily, Raven, and Severus had gone to bed, so it was just Sirius, James, Peter, and Harry. Just when Harry was going to leave Remus' welcoming committee, so he could sleep and spare himself the awkwardness, Remus came in through the portrait hole.

"Hello," said Remus, looking as though he would drop from exhaustion at any second. "You didn't have to stay up for me." He yawned widely, and the others followed suit.

Harry was the first to notice new scratches that crept up on Remus' neck and arms, but James was the first to say something. "What happened to your arm? Did you do that?"

Remus pulled down his sleeve. "Yeah…Madam Pomfrey had to mend everything before I could come up here, that's why I'm so late."

"We need to hurry and figure out this Animagus project," said James, looking meaningfully at everyone but Harry.

"Did Jacob tell you what he got me for Christmas?" Remus dug through his pockets and pulled out the piece of parchment. He showed them the piece of parchment with the list of gifts, all needed ingredients for becoming Animagi.

"We should all read the book on becoming an Ani…you-know-what. I'm guessing it'd take at least until…mid third year," Harry told them, a bit disheartened by Sirius and James' obvious effort to be cold to him.

"Whatever, it's too late to worry about it, let's go to bed…" James yawned. None of them noticed the figure listening in from the top of the staircase of the girls' dormitories.

After Christmas, time started to snowball, rushing more quickly to the end of the year. Severus and Lily's birthdays passed, and soon enough, it was February 14—Valentine's Day.

"…a load of rubbish, really," Severus was saying to Lily, frowning at the pink decorations that had been put up overnight in the common room. He looked at a stuffed, heart-shaped toy that was sitting on the table nearby as if it were a dead animal lying by the road.

"Mm," agreed Lily absentmindedly, pretending to listen. She was observing a couple sitting close to each other at a table, working on homework, who paused to kiss. Suddenly, her attention was caught by something—someone—beyond Severus.

"Oh no, not James, c'mon, let's go to breakfast." The two of them snuck out of the room.

James spotted Harry as he crossed the room after Severus and Lily, who had just slipped through the portrait hole. "Jacob! Have you seen Lily?" He held a piece of parchment in one hand, and his hair was even messier than usual. Peter and Remus were at his side, still yawning.

"No, I haven't, sorry. Is that for her?" Harry's eyes flicked to the parchment.

"Yeah. But it's none of your business!" James seemed to find that snapping at people helped with his nerves. He went off to ask someone else, growing impatient.

Harry made it to the Great Hall without seeing anyone he knew. One thing that was familiar, however, was the extravagantly decorated Hall with pink and red ribbons and a steady sprinkle of little hearts from above.

As Harry neared the Gryffindor table, he saw that some of the professors wore heart pins, the others more along the lines of Severus' thinking, who studied the room with slight disapproval.

There were two diapered, singing dwarves already, on opposite sides of the room. Their voices grew steadily louder as they competed with each other, until everyone close to them pressed their hands over their ears, some yelling at them to give it a rest.

Over the din, Lily shouted, "Jacob! Good morning!" Lily slid one of the rose pins on the table into her dark red hair, the other hand clamped over her ear. Her face suddenly tightened in annoyance—Harry thought for a moment it was because of him, but when he turned around he realized the reason.

James strode up to were Lily sat, still holding on to the piece of parchment. He waited for the noise to die down before he spoke.

"Good Morning, Lily, and Happy Valentine's Day." Lily sighed and looked up at him as he continued, "I wrote a poem for you."

"Get on with it then." Lily rested her head on her hand and sighed.

James cleared his throat and read,

"Lily Evans,

You have put me under a spell

With your hair like embers

Picked up by the summer's wind,

And your eyes like a grassy meadow

Where you dance beneath the clouds.

Your laugh is like the rush of a river,

The bubbling of a brook.

You are brighter than the sun

That lights up my day

With one look.

I cannot imagine life without

My dearest Lily."

Lily lifted her head. "Are you serious? That was the worst poem I've ever heard."

Remus blushed and sunk in his seat as James shot a scathing look at him.

"But it's bad in a good way?" James asked hopefully.

"No. Bad in a bad way." She looked at him in amazement.

Somehow, James appeared to relish this defiance. Perhaps he appreciated Lily's spirit. He grinned widely at her, produced a bouquet of roses from his wand tip, and before she could refuse, he handed them to her.

"Happy Valentine's Day!" called James as he strode away, Sirius beside him. They each grabbed a slice of toast from the table on their way out, laughing.

Lily exhaled in exasperation, holding the flowers away from her as if they were poisoned. "Here, he's your friend, so…" She gave the flowers to Remus, who looked down to hide his reddening face.

"It wasn't a truly horrible poem, just mushy, but I couldn't say it to his face. I bet he paid one of his older friends to write it."

Remus breathed in the bouquet's scent. "Actually, Lily," he began, before freezing in place. His pupils dilated and his face relaxed. He stood up abruptly, fixed on something in the distance.

"Are you okay, Remus?" Harry asked, looking up at him.

"Mm, I'm wonderful," he replied dreamily, and walked away in a daze.

"What's up with him?" Lily blinked, eyebrows turned up in worry.

"A Love Potion." Severus soured at her concern. "They added it to the flowers so if you smelled them…" He shrugged his slight shoulders and looked meaningfully at Remus, who slipped into the corridor outside the Great Hall.

"Ugh! James is such an—an…idiot!"

"…arse?" Severus suggested at the same time.

Lily's frustration broke a bit and she smiled. "Yeah, that. I can't believe he'd try to use a Love Potion on me!"

"I can," said Raven and Severus darkly at the same time.

Harry stood up. "We should help Remus, before he does something embarrassing. Someone should get Slughorn."

"I will," said Lily, and hurried off toward the staff table. Severus' lips briefly tightened in annoyance, but the expression disappeared as they left.

Remus must have ran—not walked—to the common room, because by the time they got there, there was already a small group of people gathered around the scene unfolding between him and James.

"But you must believe me!" Remus took James' shoulders, holding him so it was difficult to avoid his watery, sincere eyes.

"Remus, I gave you a Love Potion, that's why you're acting this way! It was meant for Li—someone else!" James tried to wriggle out of his grip, but Remus held on firmly.

"No, I've always had feelings for you!" declared Remus loudly, very far from his normal self. He took James' hand at held it up so everyone can see. "If anyone has a problem with this, with us, then they don't know what true love is!"

James looked positively mortified.

The roars of laughter were now attracting more people to the scene, and the crowd grew to about twenty. Harry felt bad for Remus, though he knew after this was all over James would never give Lily a Love Potion again…if she was lucky.

"Hey, James, when do the effects wear off?" asked a third-year, trying to hold back his laughter long enough to speak.

"In eleven hours…" James groaned, looking queasy as Remus whispered (sweet nothings, no doubt) into his ear.

"Oi, Remus!" Raven broke through the lopsided ring that had formed around the two lovebirds and put a hand on his shoulder.

Remus turned around, surprised. "Excuse me, I—"

Raven Body-Bound him and he fell forward into her arms. Her tiny frame struggled with the weight, but she managed to place him carefully on the ground, face red with the effort.

There was a moment of silence, then the crowd dispersed, murmuring in disappointment.

"Someone had to do something," said Raven to Harry after a second year muttered loudly to her friend as they passed about her being a spoilsport.

"Thanks, er, Ravenclaw." James rolled his shoulders and there was a few loud cracks. "Never knew he was that strong. Animal-like strength, it seems." He grinned at his own joke. "Oh, Professor Slughorn!" Horace Slughorn, dressed in a familiar green-striped waistcoat and sporting his usual walrus mustache. James cleared his throat. "I know this seems bad—"

"Detention, James, and ten—no, five points from Gryffindor." Slughorn seemed reluctant even with that amount, as he was fond of James. "Where's the boy?"

"Over here." Slughorn strode over to where Remus lay on the ground, though, for him, it was more of a waddle. He produced a corked vial of a clear liquid before lifting the Body-Binding Curse from Remus.

James ducked behind the others before Remus saw him. "Where's James? I still have to give him a Valentine's Day gift. Can someone check my breath?" He smoothed his light hair out of his eyes as he looked around.

"He's getting ready. Here, take this, it will make your breath irresistible." Slughorn uncorked the bottle and handed it to Remus, who downed it in one gulp. "Ah, I feel weird. And it didn't taste very good…oh." His eyes widened in shock as the memory of everything that had just happened hit him and he covered his face with his hands.

"Sorry, my boy. It was all in the spirit of Valentine's Day, I suppose." The Professor patted Remus on the back and just barely squeezed out through the portrait hole.

James popped back up. "You're quite the romantic, Remus," he teased, smirking.

"You idiot, why would you try to give Lily a Love Potion?" Remus rubbed his temple.

James shrugged. "It was an experiment. And the results are promising." He grinned at Lily, whose eyes flared.

"C'mon, guys." With that, Lily stalked off, nose in the air.

The rest of the day was filled with tearful love confessions, happy couples, and more pink. The first years, being the youngest, were least involved in the romantic adventures of the older students. That wasn't to say Sirius didn't get a cauldron-full of Valentines over the course of the day. Harry expected James to be jealous, but he just laughed about it and cruelly rated each girl who had plucked up the courage to give him a gift.

They spent most of the day outside to get away from everything, but gathered in the common room with everyone else after dinner.

"'You have put me under a spell…'" said Lily to herself, her eyes drifting beyond her book. It was nearly eight, and there was only a bit more homework to get done. Raven was sitting across from Lily; Severus and Harry sat beside her, and Remus sat at a chair they pulled up at the side of a table.

Remus looked took a breath and said quietly, "James asked me to write it for him. The poem, I mean."

Lily snapped out of her daze and looked at him in surprise. "What?" She thought she had been quiet when she recited the line.

"Well, he told me what he liked about you, and I, er…" he rubbed his neck and avoided her gaze. "…just put it together for him."

For a moment, Lily processed this, then she realized what she had said and earlier. "Oh, no, Remus, I said it was awful, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it, I thought the poem itself was really sweet, but I couldn't say that to James."

"It's okay," said Remus quickly, and his cheeks turned scarlet.

"I swear, if his fat head gets any bigger, he might explode."

Severus, who had been sulking moments before, clearly jealous over Lily's reaction to the poem, smirked. "In that case, you should've told him how sweet he was."

One morning in March, an deep bellow rang in the first year boys' dorm.

"Happy Birthday!"

Harry thought he felt his skull vibrate. He realized, after checking his watch, that it only seemed that loud because it was three in the morning. And, his watch informed him, about 215 days since he first traveled to this time.

"Not now…sleep." James' words were muffled in the pillow.

"This is the exact time you came out of your mother, when you moved through—"

James cut him off. "Give me my first birthday present: Let me sleep."

"Okay, ickle baby James. Sleep tight." Sirius tried to move his face to give him a goodnight kiss on the forehead, but James buried his face in his pillow.

A brief three hours later, Harry dragged himself out of bed to get ready for the day. He had the faint curiosity of what Sirius, Remus, and Peter would give James for his birthday.

He got part of an answer that morning at breakfast. It was all in whispers, but he managed to get the gist of one of the gifts. Remus had made him some sort of potion, per his request, so James could save it for later use. It seemed that Sirius and Peter didn't get him a wrapped gift. Harry could only guess that what they planned to give had to do with Lily.

It was right before dinner, and Sirius was bent over homework at the table in the far corner of the common room. "Hey, Jacob, Lily, Raven, can I talk to you for a minute?"

"We'll meet you down there," Lily told Severus, who nodded.

"I needed help on this homework. And well, Snivellus hates me, so…" Sirius showed them the assignment he was working on.

Harry looked at the parchment, where Sirius had scribbled with obviously no idea what he was doing.

"I think you need to start over." Lily definitely disliked Sirius, but it seemed she wanted to stall to avoid James.

"Where do I start, exactly?" asked Sirius, scratching the back of neck.

"Have you even read the chapter?"

There were hushed murmurs as everyone headed to dinner.

"I may have skimmed it."

"Read it first, then we'll—" They started to turn around.

"No! Er, I think I remember reading it now. Can you explain how this works?" He flipped through the book and found a part in his potions book that had, in fact, challenged most of the students in their class.

Lily and Raven looked at Harry expectantly. "Oh, okay, I'll help." It took about five minutes because Sirius kept interrupting. He was smart, but he never asked for help, he never studied outside of what he absolutely had to study. At least, that's what Harry thought.

Sirius thanked them for the help, but there was something mischievous in his smile.

"I think he may've been up to something…" Harry led them quickly down to the Great Hall. On their way, they noticed people whispering and laughing. Harry didn't bother stopping to ask them what had happened, he just ran the rest of the way to the Great Hall.

He got there and saw Severus sitting down, to him nothing seemed wrong.

But to everyone else in the hall who had turned to look, Severus had forgotten something very important.

His clothes.

Lily and Raven caught up with Harry, breathing heavily.

"What…what's wrong?" managed Lily.

Harry didn't reply, he was already moving toward Severus. Both of the girls stared at him, dumbstruck; Raven giggled in spite of herself.

It wasn't a lot to be thankful for, but at least Severus was still wearing his pants.

They ran up to him, trying to shield him by standing side-by-side. "Severus, put this on," said Harry, taking off his cloak.

"Why? Is everything okay?"

"Oh, Sev, just do it, please." Lily shrank under the increasing number of stares in their direction, the whispers they could now understand. She laid a hand on his pale, thin shoulder, trying not to look below his waist. If she hadn't been so awkward about seeing him like this, she could have counted his ribs.

"Oh, all right." But his eye twitched and he shook his head vigorously. Harry looked around and saw James, Sirius, and Peter, located strategically around the Hall, wands out. It seemed as though they had cast the Confundus Charm, and that this was James' birthday present from Peter and Sirius.

"Severus, fight the spell. Er, let's see, you're supposed to clear your mind," said Harry, hands up as Severus confusedly pointed his wand to defend himself from their attempts. He twitched again, closed his eyes, and was free.

Severus blinked, then looked down. His eyes widened in horror, and he grabbed Harry's robes, swearing. He ran out of the hall, laughter following him out.

James came up to meet them as they hastened after Severus. He was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes.

"What'd you thi—"

"Come one step closer and I'll hex you before you can say, 'I'm a prat,'" said Raven, not Harry.

"Happy Birthday, James," said Lily, and pushed past him, leaving him staring after them, dumbfounded.

Sirius knew about the charm Lily had given Severus for Christmas, and had nicked it right before they had pranked him. From then on, Severus always patted his pocket before leaving the dorms to make sure it was there.

Severus checked out five books on Occlumency from the library after the incident. He had Harry practice on him and was able to master it in three days. Harry had actually improved as well; he could withstand the Confundus Charm and other basic spells of the like. He wouldn't let Severus perform Legilimency on him, because of the risks involved. However, Severus let Harry try more advanced spells, which he conquered in the end.

After studying Occlumency, Harry could tell a part of Severus had been tucked away, pieces of his expression that could only be brought out by Lily.

Soon enough, the end of the year was upon Harry. Of the Gryffindor first-years, only Raven and Peter were still eleven. Exams were coming up quickly, and the professors were increasing the homework load. Severus and Raven continued to lead half-lives of Slytherin and Gryffindor, which Lily chose to ignore.

Harry had been avoiding various curses and hexes for weeks. The Slytherins, in second place for the Quidditch Cup, were determined to take him out before Gryffindor's final match against Ravenclaw. It was only until their practice rights were threatened that they left him alone.

The Ravenclaws and Gryffindors wore their house colors proudly, so the stands were full of crimson and blue.

Violetta went over a few quick points with the team, but it was clear she was counting primarily on Harry to catch the Snitch. They assembled on the field, and both teams nodded to each other as they got ready to take off.

Once the whistle blew, Harry shot in the other direction, eyes raking the field for the Snitch, when suddenly, he felt his broom lurch beneath him. He hung on, gritting his teeth, hands tightened around the handle. He spun, over and over, the world blurring around him, trying not to vomit or lose his grip.

Then there was a moment of calm, and Harry saw, in his still-spinning vision, that the crowd had stood up, and was looking around for the person who was messing with Harry's broom. Some of the spectators were pointing their wands threateningly at the Slytherin end, shouting and swearing. They all knew about Slytherin's attempts to sabotage the Gryffindor Seeker.

Harry used the distraction to quickly speed away, up and up, hoping that if he moved around enough, he'd avoid the curse.

It turned out there was no need, the Gryffindors had called time-out. Harry was flying down to them when his broom shot out beneath from him when he was nearly a hundred feet in the air. He hardly had time to scream as he plummeted down, the ground rushing to meet him… Just before he landed, he felt a tug around his navel and he stopped, a foot from the grass beneath him, before falling with a dull thump.

"Never in my years of coaching…" Madam Hooch helped Harry to his feet. There were angry cries from the crowd, especially from the Gryffindor end. Harry joined his team, who looked shaken.

"Someone's out to get you, Jacob. I'm not sure if we can do anything about it." Violetta's expression was determined, grim.

"I know. Just try to score as many points as you can…they might come after our team, too, and then the game will be called off. I'll try to catch the Snitch quickly."

The team glanced at each other, hesitant. Ignoring their worry, Violetta told Madam Hooch they were ready, and soon they were in the air again.

Harry thought back to the Quidditch book he had received for Christmas as he rose high above the field, trying to remember anything that might help him. He glanced at the Ravenclaw Seeker, who was across the pitch. She's smart, he thought. She knows she can't outfly me, so the only chance she'll have is if she sees the Snitch far away from where I am.

He moved quickly, darting around in the hopes that it would be more difficult to curse him. And then he saw it. The Snitch, twenty feet away. Harry spun in its direction, and it sped up. The chase was on. Everyone in the stands except the Slytherins were on their feet, cheering him on.

The Snitch flitted straight down, but it couldn't shake Harry off. With a final burst of speed, his fingers closed around it.

Students poured onto the pitch, yelling. The Ravenclaws were in various states of disappointment; the Seeker, crying, was comforted by her teammates. But Harry had no time to take this in. Violetta ran to him, beaming, hair windswept. She bent down and kissed him on the cheek, then the mouth; he was too full of adrenaline to be surprised, and then his team lifted him into the air. They were shouting louder than those who had been watching. Harry, grinning at their enthusiasm, couldn't resist pumping his fists in the air.

The Gryffindors crowded into the common room, which was decorated with gold and crimson, with banners hanging to congratulate the team. Harry tried to get back to his friends for a moment of peace and quiet, but was constantly pulled into the center of attention. It was the first time he'd had anywhere close to the amount of attention he got back home.

When the commotion died down, he escaped to his dorm, which had only one occupant: Severus.

"So the Quidditch hero returns."

Harry looked at him, joy running cold. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Severus didn't look up or reply.

"I didn't ask for everyone to act like that."

Severus rolled his eyes. "Right." He looked Harry over, his frown deepening. "Sometimes you're like him, in that way."

Harry marched to Severus' bed. "I'm not like James. I don't bully people for fun. I don't beg for attention. You know, you shouldn't talk about what's right and wrong. Your Slytherin friends were the ones messing with my broom, and you did nothing." Harry scoffed. "I wouldn't "e surprised if you were one of the ones cursing it."

"Stop," said Severus quietly.

"You have no idea how ironic it would be if it really was you, cursing the broom," said Harry to himself, shaking his head. In his timeline, Severus had cast a counter-curse to protect him.

Severus slammed the book he was reading on the bed. "Shut up, okay? I don't need you to treat me like a—like a child. You say we're friends, but that's not true and you know it!"

Harry took a step back in surprise. "Look, you're the one who hardly talks to me anymore. I've always been there, if you needed me." He glanced looked at the book Severus was reading, confirming what he already knew, that it was on the Dark Arts. "If anyone's lost sight of who they are, who their true friends are…it's you."

With Harry's efforts, Gryffindor won the House Cup. After the celebration of the end of the school year, a somber feeling drifted over Harry's compartment.

Harry gazed out the window. He was still unsure of whether he should attend Hogwarts next year. He had written a pros and cons list over the past couple weeks, but each list had the same number of points. He pulled out the slip of parchment and read it over again.

Pros to staying:

Severus is getting back into the Dark Arts and still needs help. I still need to become friends with James and Sirius. I get to go back to Hogwarts for at least another year.

- I can see people who died, like Dumbledore, and Remus, and Lily.

- I can help with the Animagi project.

Cons to staying:

- Maybe it's better if I let history run its course. (Severus seems destined to study the Dark Arts)

- I may never become friends with James and Sirius.

I miss everyone back home. The longer I stay, the harder it will be to say goodbye.

- Someone might find out who I really am.

He felt the lists were balanced, but in his heart, he wanted to stay. Looking around the compartment, he realized how little time he'd had with these people. He hadn't seen them grow up, they were still kids. He wrote down one more pro.

I'll find out if everything was meant to be. And that means peace.

Or at least acceptance. After making up his mind, Harry fell asleep. Hours later, he was nudged awake by Raven. Everyone exited the train, slouching or smiling, sad to leave their friends or excited to see their families.

"I'll see you two at the end of August."

"I'll miss you, Jacob," Lily whispered, hugging him.

Severus nodded at Harry, and, after debating what to do, held out his hand, which Harry shook. "Goodbye, Jacob."

Harry stood out of the way of the bustling people, soaking in the familiar sounds of the station. He saw James welcomed by this mother and father, who ruffled his hair, expressions bright. Sirius looked moody and bitter as he left James' side and meandered over to his mother. She eyed him and snapped at him to stand up straight. Lily's family welcomed her with wide arms and smiles. Even Petunia's stern expression softened a bit. Severus stood several meters away, watching with something like envy.

"Where's Jacob?" Petunia asked, face pink. She looked around and spotted him, waving. Of course, he felt uncomfortable that his aunt fancied him, but it was tolerable from a distance.

Lily motioned for him to come over. He should have expected that his discomfort would increase.

"Hello, Jacob." Mrs. Evans shook his hand, then put her arm around Lily. The top of Lily's head was already level with her mother's nose.

"Nice to see you again, ma'am." He made eye contact with Petunia briefly, who had been staring at him. She blushed and looked at her shiny black shoes. Harry realized she'd made an effort to look nice, probably for him.

"We would be happy to have you for dinner sometime this summer," said Mr. Evans, businesslike.

Harry hesitated. "I'd love to, but my family is going to be away all this summer."

Petunia's face fell a bit, and she stopped fiddling with her hair.

"Well, you're welcome any time. I understand you're staying over the holidays?" Harry nodded, but Mr. Evans was looking beyond Harry to Severus, who wandered away, looking for his mother. "Seems like they get all kinds at Hogwarts," Mr. Evans said, frowning.

Lily followed his gaze and found who he was looking at. "Oh, Dad, that's Severus! He's the other person you said I could invite to stay with us for Christmas. And what do you mean, all kinds?"

"Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you, honey." Still, Mr. Evans seemed to regret agreeing to having him stay over.

Lily and her family waved goodbye to Harry, who went to look for Severus. He saw Remus' mother pull him into her arms, crying a little. The clothes Mr. and Mrs. Lupin wore were old and a bit dusty, but their eyes were bright and kind as they walked with Remus to the exit.

Severus had found his mother, whose face was cast in shadow from the hat she wore. He looked back and saw Harry. They exchanged a tight smile before their view was blocked by the crowd.

Harry weaved his way through the throng of people and out of the station. His owl was drawing attention to himself, and he wanted to find somewhere deserted. He managed to find an alley a block away. No one was there to see a strange boy with dirty blonde hair disappear on the spot, a mysterious device around his neck.

By early August, Severus and Lily had seen each other often, as they had every summer, and it was as though a bridge had formed over the rift that'd grown between them.

Lily waited until her parents had left for dinner with Petunia and her friends ("She won't go, we can celebrate tomorrow, but she won't ruin it for me!") before venturing outside. Severus saw her from his hiding place and started toward her, hands shaking. His face was frozen with fear and a large bruise colored his left eye. The wounds on his arms still burned, and the smell of alcohol lingered on his clothing. He carried a small bag with everything he had managed to grab before his father had thundered up the stairs, cursing over his mother's crying…One change of clothing and his most prized possessions, mostly gifts that Lily had given him. One was the small present she had given him for Christmas their first year of school, which did nothing to protect himself from non-magical harm.

Lily made him pasta as he took a shower. She felt strong, determined. As she ranted angrily about his "awful, absolutely evil" father, Severus ate the pasta, along with the carrots she'd washed and a candy bar she'd saved for him.

After only ten minutes he was crouched over the toilet in the bathroom, puking until his throat was sore.

Lily made more pasta and ran the water so she wouldn't hear the sound of him vomiting.

She gave him a new toothbrush and let him only eat the small amount of pasta she made, some crackers, and water. Afterwards he fell asleep on the couch, and she let him sleep there for about an hour before lightly shaking him awake.

He had never been in Lily's room before. It was clean and soft-colored, with photos of her family and landscapes pasted into a collage on one wall. She had moved everything out from under her bed and had made it comfortable for him to sleep there. He slipped underneath, murmured, "Goodnight," and fell asleep again.

That night Lily lay awake after everyone else had gone to bed. She couldn't fall asleep; she was deep in thought. "Sev?"

A thud, then a moment's pause. "Ow—yeah?"

"Are you okay?" Lily got out of bed and lifted the sheet that hung over the mattress to see him.

"I'm fine," he replied. "I just hit my head."

"I thought that, you can come up here…if you want. With me."

"Oh." There was a longer pause this time. "Are—are you sure?"

"Of course." She stood up, arms crossed over her chest self-consciously.

Severus slid out from beneath the bed and stood, staring at the ground, uncomfortable by the situation and her thin shirt.

"You can take the side by the wall."

He climbed in, moved as far right as he could so his shoulder brushed the wall. Lily got in after him and pulled the covers over them. They faced the walls opposite each other, heads resting on separate pillows.

Severus couldn't think of anything to say, but his heart raced.

"Sleep tight," murmured Lily.

After a few moments Severus could tell she had fallen asleep. He was unable to do the same, so he turned on his back and stared at the ceiling, too heart-wrenchingly aware of the warmth radiating from her side of the bed.

Minutes passed. Lily rolled over and stretched; she was used to having the bed all to herself. Her hand landed on his chest. Severus winced at her touch and memories of what he ran away from rushed back to him.

Lily stirred. "Sorry," she said in a slightly slurred voice. She moved in closer and rested her head on his chest, right over his heart.

"You okay?" He could feel her lips move against his shirt.

Severus pushed away the thoughts of his father. He was safe now.

"I'm fine."

"'Fine.'" Lily smiled a bit; it was the second time he had said that. "Are you cold?"

"A bit."

She draped her arm over him, her hand resting beside his waist. His heart pounded against his chest as a wave of something heated rushed over him.

"I can hear your heart," she said, slowly drifting back asleep.

Severus took a deep breath and sighed, trying to be calm. He reached behind Lily so his arm held her to closer to him, hand on her middle. The top of Lily's head came to his chin, so he could pick up the faint scent of apple in her hair.

"Lily?" said Severus, voice skimming a whisper.

"Mm?"

"I—I like you."

Her head nuzzled on him, and she exhaled slowly. "Me too."

Severus knew Lily hadn't gotten the message. He realized he didn't want to explain, he didn't want to ruin the moment, their friendship. He could never imagine telling her how much he loved her.

Later that night, Severus awoke, confused, at first, as to what had stirred him. He realized, with a pang, that it had been Lily's soft crying. Her fingers clutched his shirt, trembling.

Lily didn't realize he hadn't been sleeping, otherwise she wouldn't have let herself cry.

Lily had to be strong, for him…

Harry had traveled to the end of the summer. He figured Severus would be fine on his own, without him there, since had Lily. The two needed to bond so they could stay friends.

He went to their usual meeting place, hoping to see them before he went to his temporary house to get his school supplies list. As he neared the clearing, he saw Severus lying down in the shade. At first Severus seemed normal, just resting, but as Harry got closer, he realized something was wrong.

Harry panicked. He's dead, he's dead and I couldn't help him, I just made everything worse…Before dread consumed him, Severus moved his head slowly in Harry's direction, his cheekbones shadowed so he looked like a skeleton. Severus extended a hand toward Harry and seemed unable to speak.

"Severus, what's wrong? What happened?"

Severus couldn't answer. His hollow black eyes stared up at Harry.

Harry quickly reached into his bag and searched for the few packages of candy he had collected from over the last school year. He handed them to Severus, who tried to unwrap them but was too weak, fingers fumbling with the wrapping. Harry took the packages back and opened the first for Severus. His guilt prevented him from speaking.

Severus took a while to eat the Chocolate Frog, eyes closed with satisfaction.

After he had licked his fingers clean, he took one look at Harry's concerned expression and burst into tears.

Harry sat down next to Severus and watched as the boy buried his face in his arms, weeping.

It took a while for Severus to recover. When he did, his face was red and streaked with tears, which he didn't bother to wipe away.

"What happened?" Harry prepared himself for the worst.

Severus looked at Harry, then pulled up his sleeve. Bruises and angry red scrapes lined his arms, harsh against his pale skin.

"Your father. Did Lily help? Where is she?"

Severus' eyes welled up again and he blinked. "Not here. She left last week to go on vacation. I said I'd go back home and face my father, that I'd be fine…" His voice was shaky and raspy.

"Severus…you can tell me anything, right?"

Even though he hadn't told Harry everything, he was hiding his crush on Lily, Severus nodded.

"Then can you tell me everything that happened when I was gone. Everything that has to do with your dad. Okay? I'm your friend, and I need to know."

Severus looked into the distance. "My father…" His breath stopped, then returned in short gasps. He crossed his arms over his stomach and squeezed his eyes shut to hold back his pain.

"Does he…abuse you and your mother?"

Severus managed to nod. "But he doesn't just—just hurt us, he also…"

"He also what?" Harry put his hand urgently on Severus' shoulder, who flinched at his touch.

Severus turned away, eyes squeezed shut.

Harry froze. He realized that the abuse had gone beyond hitting and shouting, and a horrible guilt overcame him. "Oh no…I'm sorry, if I'd have known—"

"I don't want to talk about it anymore," said Severus, and looked away.

Harry didn't say anything for a few minutes so Severus could recover.

"Does Lily know everything that he did?"

"No. I ran away from home last month, and she let me stay in her room, but Petunia found out the day before they left and said she'd tell on me."

"You stayed in her room?"

"Only at night."

"And you couldn't have gotten food from her?"

"I didn't think to…I haven't gone near the house since she found us." Severus said "she" with an intense loathing. "Her sister ruins everything."

It had been cloudy that day. If Lily had heard the forecast, the night's events could have been prevented.

Severus woke up to a crack of thunder. Lily sighed after he stirred. They were now so accustomed to sharing a bed that any movement either of them made woke the other.

"Go back to sleep," said Severus. The thunderstorms bothered him, so saying it to her helped.

Lily adjusted herself so her face was even with Severus'.

Severus looked at her closed eyes, then down to her slightly parted lips. He felt an overwhelming desire to kiss her.

The room flashed with lightening, illuminating her features. Suddenly, there was a burst of thunder and his lips met Lily's forehead. She had moved her head at the sound.

And just as she woke up, not at the sound, but at his touch, there was a loud succession of footsteps out in the hallway.

Severus dove farther under the covers and Lily threw her largest stuffed animal on top of him.

The door opened and a scared-looking Petunia entered, flinching at another rumble of thunder.

Lily leapt out of bed and went to comfort her, but Petunia was staring at Lily's bed. She ran past Lily, pulling back the cover.

Lily clamped a hand over Petunia's mouth.

"MMPH!" Petunia struggled under her hand, eyes wide at her discovery. Severus rolled off the bed, just as shocked as Petunia.

Lily kept her voice low. "Severus, get out of here."

Severus nodded and hurried out, not knowing what he should do, or where he was supposed to go.

The present Severus had left out some details, but enough for Harry to get the gist. "I've seen Lily once since then. She said Petunia would tell their parents if she saw Lily with me again. The only thing thing that kept her quiet was saying that you were my friend, and you wouldn't talk to her again if she told." His face changed from despairing to furious, then back again. "I can't wait to get the hell out of here."

Harry closed his eyes, braced against a wave of grief. "It's just one more day. Tomorrow, we go back to Hogwarts."

 


Chapter 8: Prank Wars
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Harry couldn't let Severus go to school in the state he was in. He offered to buy school supplies for Severus and healed him as he slept. He told Severus to go with Lily to King's Cross, and he would talk to Petunia beforehand to make sure she didn't tell on him.

"Look, they didn't do anything, and he had no choice, he wasn't safe at home."

Petunia pursed her glossed lips. "I suppose I won't tell. But only because he's your friend."

Harry sighed, relieved. "Thank you."

"So, you're still coming for the holidays?" Petunia rocked slightly on her feet.

"Er, yeah." Harry couldn't meet her gaze.

"You'll have a great time. We'll decorate the tree, and mum makes terrific mince pies!" She smiled, head tilted a little.

"Petunia!" Mrs. Evans called.

"Coming!" Petunia looked as though she wanted to say something else, but changed her mind and ran back inside.

Later, in the Hogwarts Express, Lily and Severus searched the compartments for Harry, who had arrived early. "Oh, hello, Jacob!"

"Morning. I saved you a spot." He hadn't seen Lily since the end of school; she must have grown nearly two inches. There was something different in the way she held herself, too. Severus looked much better than he did yesterday; the scrapes had toned down, and his formerly sallow skin was now healthy.

A minute after Lily and Severus joined Harry, Remus walked past. He stopped to say hello, fumbling a bit with the conversation and staring too much at Lily. Harry bet he had only talked to his family all summer.

"Oi! Remus!" James stopped when he spotted the group. "Why are you talking to them?" James' voice was a bit lower, but he hadn't grown much compared to Remus. "Morning, Lily," he said, in a much smoother tone.

"You're looking rather big-headed today, James," said Lily, crossing her arms.

"You're looking radiant today, Lily, as always," replied James, leaning in the doorway, grinning.

"Leave, James."

"Okay, okay." James ran a hand through his hair. "I take it you won't want to join us? Where your beauty will be appreciated?"

"James," repeated Lily, taking out her wand.

"I'm going!" He left, taking Remus (who shot the three an apologetic look), along with him.

"Wait up, James!" Peter, who just got on the train, followed them, panting heavily.

Harry checked his watch. "It's five to, I wonder where Raven is."

As if on cue, Raven slipped through the door and slid it closed. "Sorry I'm late, I—"

"…sit with some Slytherins then, I'm not talking to you if I can help it!" Sirius' voice carried into their compartment.

"SIRIUS BLACK HAS A HUGE STASH OF—" began Regulus at the top of his lungs, before Sirius shushed him.

"Fine. You can sit with us." Their voices faded as they moved down the train.

Raven sat down next to Harry. "That was Sirius' brother, Regulus, if you were wondering. He's actually not as annoying as he sounds. He tells me all of Sirius' secrets."

She looked at Severus in surprise. "Oh no, what happened to your face?" She reached out, as if to touch his cheek, which held the trace of a bruise, but pulled it back.

Had Severus not told her about his home life?

Severus turned away so she couldn't see the mark. Raven looked at Harry, confused.

Harry shook his head, signaling to her to drop it for now.

"How do you know Regulus?" Harry asked Raven, and Severus' shoulders relaxed at the change of subject.

"Oh, well, my family's Pureblood, like his, so…My dad's half-blood, Faralyn, and on my mum's side, the Rowle family…"

Severus looked away with disinterest, but Lily leaned forward. "Hang on—are you related to Lester Rowle?"

Raven nodded. "Yeah, he's my cousin."

Lily's eyes widened. "He's so mean! Do you remember that one time—"

"…he hexed a Hufflepuff to think up was down and down was up, I know." Raven sighed. "We have these huge family dinners over the summer, with Lester's family and the Blacks. We're friends with some of the kids, Severus and I, but they act…differently with different people. I do like Regulus, though. He's not at all like Sirius."

Harry wondered if there was any part of Regulus now that was the person he'd be later in life, someone able to betray the Dark Lord.

"Do you think he'll be sorted into Slytherin?" asked Harry.

"Well, maybe Ravenclaw, or I suppose Slytherin; his whole family is in Slytherin, and he wants to be in it, so…" She paused. "Anyway, what did everyone do this summer?"

The four spent the next couple hours talking about their trips; Harry invented a story of what he did, and Severus just told a story about going to the library with Lily earlier in the summer. There was no mention of what happened to Severus. After the four ran out of things to discuss, they read their new school books.

They had changed an hour before the train pulled into the station. The night was cool; Harry could see his breath. Hagrid gathered the first years, and the other students were left to find carriages.

The four found an empty one close by. Lily dropped one of her things and bent down to pick it up, but she was dangerously close to one of the Thestrals.

"Watch out!" Harry pulled her aside and patted the now uneasy Thestral's neck. The creature cocked her head at him, then licked his hand.

Careful not to disturb the Thestral, Harry bent down and picked up Lily's notebook.

The other three were staring at him as if he'd lost his mind.

"Er, Jacob, what was that?"

Uh oh. "A Thestral."

Lily took her notebook back, looking at him with concern. "I don't see anything."

"You can only see them…if you've seen someone die. They pull the carriages."

He climbed into the carriage after Lily, frustrated with them for staring at him and with himself for not thinking.

No one asked who he had seen die. Harry had been prepared to lie and say his grandmother, but now he felt the full force of the truth stifled inside him.

Harry had never felt as strong of a temptation to reveal himself as he did now. He concentrated on the surroundings, ignoring the presence of his friends. He had to force himself to be normal again, repeating in his head what the consequences would be, were they to know who he really was.

It took the entire ride before he looked at Lily, who sat next to him.

"How do you know what they are?" whispered Lily, when she met Harry's glance.

The carriage was coming to a stop.

"I saw them last year and…looked up what it was."

"What do they—Thestrals—look like?" asked Raven, lurching forward in her seat as the carriage came to a halt.

Harry stepped out of the carriage and stood next to the Thestral. He put his hand on the its neck and motioned for Lily to do the same. Raven and Severus hung back.

"They have wings like a bat, and you can see their bones through their skin, which is black, and slick, as you can probably tell."

Lily ran her hand down the Thestral's side, thoughtful. "Who did you see die?"

"My grandmother." It was wrong to say. Cedric. Sirius. Dumbledore. Dobby. And the war in what would have been his seventh year, he had seen more.

The students were brought into the Great Hall. At the staff table, Harry saw a new face—probably the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. He was young, slim, had thick brown hair—looking out of place between Hagrid and Professor Flitwick.

The Great Hall doors opened, shifting Harry's attention. Professor McGonagall entered, leading the huddled group of first years to the front of the room.

Harry craned his neck and spotted Regulus, who was just as tall as Sirius, but not quite as good-looking.

After spotting another familiar face, Harry nearly laughed, though he didn't know what to feel, exactly; it was Gilderoy Lockhart.

Gilderoy had the same light, golden hair, but he was missing the loud confidence from later in life.

"What is it?"asked Lily, trying to see what Harry was looking at, but it was then that the Hall fell silent and the Sorting Hat began to sing.

After the song was finished, Professor McGonagall called the first years up to be sorted.

"Aubrey, Betram." A small, pudgy boy stumbled up to the front and it barely took a moment of wearing the hat before it called, "RAVENCLAW!"

When "Black, Regulus" was called, he glanced back at his brother, shrugged slightly and put on the Sorting Hat. There was no immediate cry of either house, which seemed to confuse Regulus. His face became hard just before the Hat finally cried, "SLYTHERIN!"

Regulus got up and strode to the far table. Sirius muttered something along the lines of, "Good riddance." Raven gave a small wave in his direction, and Regulus grinned widely.

Dirk Cresswell was sorted into Gryffindor and sat down close to Harry.

"Lockhart, Gilderoy." The blond boy bounded up to the stool. The Hat thought for nearly a minute before calling, "RAVENCLAW!"

From then on, Harry only paid attention to the names that were vaguely familiar; Mary MacDonald went to Gryffindor, along with Emmeline Vance, and Dorcas Meadowes went to Hufflepuff.

The rest of the evening wound down until students were led to their common rooms in a sleepy haze.

Harry and Severus went upstairs early to unpack. Harry noticed Severus examine the watch he had been given for Christmas the year before.

"Did you figure it out?" asked Harry, casually tucking Hermione's purse underneath his things.

Severus regarded Harry, jaw tight, before replying.

"Yes, I did; it's another one of your ideas to make me change. It's obviously a trick to make me think I'm on the wrong path. 'Revelare Viam.' It means reveal the way, that wasn't hard to figure out." At the words, the watch whirred softly.

"It's not a trick, it works." Harry gritted his teeth.

"I don't really care. A watch can't tell me what I can and can't do."

"What did it tell you?"

"It doesn't matter."

"It matters to me."

"Of course it does, you're the one who gave it to me."

"If you don't tell me, I'll assume the worst."

Severus passed the watch over in his fingers. "I know you know what it said. It pointed to 'Death,' 'Regret,' and 'Pain,' and whatever other bad ones." He glared off to his right. "I know what you're trying to do."

"Fine, but it's supposed to be accurate. I didn't mess with it." A thought struck Harry. "Hang on…did it help you this summer?"

Severus shifted impatiently. "It was just a coincidence."

"What happened?"

Severus sighed. "I opened it, one night, when my father was out late. I was up in my room, and it kind of…glowed, on my desk. I opened it and all of the arrows were pointing to 'Danger.' But that was just a coincidence."

"What did you do after you saw the arrows?"

Severus seemed to debate whether or not to continue telling the story, as it went against his argument. "I looked out the window and saw him coming up the street. I grabbed my things and told my mum to be careful, and I'd be back. I didn't know where to go, then I looked back at the watch—" He stopped abruptly.

"Wait—the watch changed? What did it change to?"

"The watch didn't change, an arrow just moved." Severus turned his back to Harry and busied himself with his suitcase.

"And what did the arrow move to?"

There was a long pause.

"'Love.'"

A couple weeks later, Quidditch tryouts rolled around. Harry slipped on his uniform and met with his team on the field.

"Good turnout this year," Violetta said, hands on her hips as she surveyed the group of hopeful students.

"Whatever position needs me most, I'll take it. I really hope I don't have to be Keeper again," she added, more to herself than to anyone in particular. "Okay, those who want to be Chasers, please come forward. Everyone else, if you'd like to wait off to the side for a bit…"

Harry realized his father had stepped up with the dozen other students, brimming with confidence, the number 6 attached to his front and back.

"Let's see, your numbers are all visible…Okay! Just fly around and I'll call you back down when I have what I need."

She wrote down the strongest and weakest fliers, sometimes consulting Harry. He felt a little awkward every time she leaned down toward him for his input; he hadn't forgotten the kiss.

Violetta pointed at a few of them. "Numbers 6, 8, and 9 are definitely the best." Some of the other potential players moved through the air awkwardly, sliding around on their brooms.

At Violetta's call, the dozen students touched down on the ground. "Brilliant, everyone. Now I'm going to divide you into two teams. The goal is just to get the Quaffle into the goal. No illegal moves, or you'll get a warning. After the second offense, you're out. Anastasia and I will be the Keepers. You don't get in because you score the most goals, we want to see how you work within a team." To Jacob and a long-time player, she said, "You can mark down notes next to the numbers. Get your brooms, you'll get a better view that way."

James turned out to be a quite skilled Chaser. There was only one other second year, and James was much better.

After taking notes, it was clear there was only two people that he would consider for the position: James and a sixth-year girl.

It was past lunch when tryouts ended. After eating a very rushed lunch, they met back to discuss the competitors.

"I think number six…James Potter, has real potential."

"All the same, Violetta is better."

"Yeah, but she's better than the Keepers that tried out…"

"What do you think, Jacob?"

Harry wanted his father to be on the team, he was good, but would it make him hate Harry more or less?

"I think we should give him a shot."

Violetta nodded, lips pursing a bit. "Alright, if you think so."

James was the last to arrive at practice. He said there was a confusion about time, but Harry would find out later he had just stayed in the common room too late, as he had waited to convince Lily to come watch him after breakfast. Harry knew Lily had slept in late on purpose so she wouldn't see James.

James wore black dragon skin gloves, looking smug as he looked from his Nimbus to Harry's, thinking that Harry had lost his advantage.

"Okay, now that everyone's here…finally," she looked at James, who merely smiled, "we can get started."

She split them into two groups for a warm-up. Harry was on James' team. Harry noticed, as the practice went on, that James was a fairly decent flyer, and was able to catch and pass, but he lacked any team skills. He would try a complicated move that was quite unnecessary and lost him the Quaffle in the end.

When the team had touched down for the final time in early afternoon, James' ego had deflated a bit.

"Let's go eat, everyone! Don't forget we have practice Tuesday, right after class!" Violetta poked James' shoulder as he walked with the rest of them. "Can I talk to you for a moment?"

James straightened, looking smug again. "Sure." He glanced halfway at Harry, before sauntering off beside Violetta.

A couple weeks later, Raven revealed to Harry what she had concealed for months. "I know about the Animagus project."

Harry shushed her, looking around, but no one was listening. "So, what are you going to do?" And how had she found out?

"I want to be a part of it, too. The only thing stopping Severus from telling is knowing you're in on it. And…he doesn't want to become an Animagus, since he doesn't want to have anything to do with James and them." Raven's eyes were determined, scrutinizing his reaction.

Harry knew if he said no, Raven or Severus might give away their plan.

"I suppose so…but they won't be happy, with me or you."

Raven nodded quickly, about to thank him when Harry continued, "You can't tell anyone. And you'll spend at three hours a week researching." That part was an exaggeration, as Remus ended up doing most of the research, but wanted her to change her mind.

"I don't mind at all. Thank you so much!" Raven grinned and hurried to catch up with Severus.

One morning in October, Harry was jolted awake by the water.

It rained, hard, from the ceiling, frigid and…green?

"What the hell?" James was already at the door, trying to escape, but it wouldn't budge. "Alohomora!" Nothing. James pushed back a lock of now bright green hair and gritted his teeth in frustration, only for them to be dyed as well.

Sirius rushed to the window, throwing every spell he knew at it. Nothing would open or break the glass. Lupin threw his schoolbooks in his dresser, and ran to do the same for everyone else.

"Finite Incantatem!" yelled Harry, wand at the ceiling. Nothing happened.

"Impedimenta!"

Harry watched as a raindrop in front of his face slow. It looked like an emerald, or stained glass. Lupin gasped a little in wonder.

"Incendio!" The door burst into flames that shot up, black and menacing. After the wood had burned through, the rain started up again and extinguished the tendrils that had worked their way across the floor.

The six boys ran out of the room, only to meet more rain.

"James, Sirius; get the first Professor you can get to. Professor Darcer, if you can."

Harry was certain that the Slytherins were behind this, but how did they get in? He didn't want to think this was Severus and Raven's doing.

"Jacob!" shouted Remus over the din of shouting, rain, and footfalls. "We have to get everyone out!"

The two of them slowed down the rain (Remus knew the spell as well, though no one else in their grade had learned it) and burned the doors.

The common room was a mess. When Remus and Harry got back downstairs, they saw the Gryffindor girls running toward the portrait hole, levitating tables and chairs as they went to get some cover from the rain.

Professor Darcer ran into the room with what appeared to be the top part of an umbrella suspended over his head. He wore navy pajamas and his thick brown hair was flung about in a way very similar to James.

A few muttered incantations later and the rain started to peter out. Then, everything was silent.

"Follow me, Remus, Jacob." Darcer led them, then the others, out to the Hospital wing.

"Paling Potion, please, Poppy," said Darcer briskly, giving no explanation until every student drank their allotted cup. He discussed, in a whisper, what had happened to Madam Pomfrey until the effects of the potion had settled in.

The Gryffindors stood, completely white, gaping at each other.

"No worries, it'll take a few hours for you to get all your color back. Twelve at the most."

There were a few groans, curses, and angry mutters. Harry heard several mutterings of "Slytherins."

"If there is anyone who can't fall asleep, I'll arrange for an early breakfast. And I'll make sure you're excused from your first class this morning. Also, until we find out who did this, I don't want anyone to make any assumptions."
By their second class of the day, tensions ran high.

"So, which Slytherin wants to confess to this morning?" James asked lazily, leaning on his desk. "It'll save time. I won't make fun of you for coming up with the absolute worst prank I've ever seen." Everyone was quiet now, watching James.

"No one? Snivellus, what about you?" Sirius sidled next to James.

Severus' eyes narrowed. He said nothing.

James nodded, looking away as if to accept this; then his arm shot out and sent a red stream at Mulciber.

The silence was broken, and the two houses were suddenly shooting at each other, even Mulciber, whose face had been transfigured into a pig's.

With an unintelligible squeal, Mulciber sent a curse at Lily, whose back was turned as she tried to stop the fighting.

"Protego!" Harry blocked the spell and shot another between the two groups, forming a barrier against the spells, which sparked uselessly in the air.

"Enough!" Professor McGonagall whisked into the room, eyes blazing.

Harry wished she hadn't seen him cast the spell; it was more advanced magic than any of the others his age knew.

"You should all be ashamed of yourselves."

James got down from the table he had jumped onto. "They started it!"

Professor McGonagall cut him off.

"Detention, Potter. If the rest of you could please take a seat, without blowing up the classroom, I would appreciate it."

The chairs shuffled and scraped as the students sat down. Professor McGonagall looked them over sternly, then opened her mouth to continue when Mulciber snorted loudly.

"Now, really…" McGonagall waved her wand and Mulciber returned to normal. "This morning's events are inexcusable. I expect that you can at least be civil with each other, if you cannot be friends, and that nothing of this sort will happen again."

Only three days passed before the Gryffindors retaliated.

Lucius Malfoy was the first to confront them, because he was one of those who got the worst of the prank.

He stormed up to James in the hallway after first hour, eyes ablaze, furious.

"I heard you arranged this, you little prat."

The second year group had now stopped to watch. James grinned, even though Lucius' wand was pointed at his throat.

"I might have. I at least gave them the idea for the tattoo on your arse."

Lucius turned scarlet and put his wand on James' skin. The lion tattoo on Lucius' face opened its mouth into a roar, but no sound came out. "Oh, I could burn you where you stand. You're just a second year, and I know magic beyond what your tiny brain can imagine."

As he turned to leave, James said, "Well, not enough magic to grow your hair back, right?"

Lucius spun, short hair standing up with static, and shot a spell at James, who was thrown backwards.

A few girls screamed. Aluria Vane ran to his side, but James waved her off.

Lucius was gone, laughter from the Slytherins rippling in his wake. Harry saw they all had Gryffindor tattoos on their faces and hands—and probably other places he couldn't see.

Sirius helped James up, and they left the scene in furious whispers.

The battle of the houses continued. Madam Pomfrey rarely showed up at meals, and the hospital wing was always crowded with visitors and victims of pranks. Teachers piled on more homework in the hopes that they could lessen attacks, but the stress only strengthened the arguments between Slytherin and the other houses. Dumbledore made speeches on the founding of the school and the unity that was intended.

History of Magic turned into debates about the purpose of the houses, with Professor Binns serving as a weak moderator.

Harry first just listened in the arguments that broke out between the Ravenclaws and Gryffindors, but after listening to their childish retorts for three classes, he had to say something.

"The houses are important because they unite Hogwarts, not divide it. The fights are because of individual people, not because of the houses. Besides, some people become friends with people outside their own house, even with Slytherins."

"I disagree." A Ravenclaw, Lauren Tempah, stood up. She pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. "Hardly anyone has best friends from different houses. And we have fights because we know we are different from the others; the Sorting Hat tells us that. The four-House system prevents us from learning how to deal with people different from us."

Harry couldn't hide his annoyance. They were going against the way the school had been for a thousand years…the way he had lived in the best home he had ever had. "Then why are there different countries? Or even cities?"

The girl glared at him. She was one of the few who paid attention in History class. "That's different. People in different countries speak different languages, and they have different governments, and live in completely different ways. Here, we're all from Britain, we're all witches or wizards, and we're all kids. We're not meant to be put into boxes when we're still trying to figure out who we are."

Professor Binns checked the clock, now ten minutes past the end of class. "Class dismissed."

Harry almost shot something back at Lauren, but she was already moving out the door.

"Do you guys agree with me?" Harry asked Raven, Severus, and Lily.

"Yes."

"Yes."

It was Raven who hadn't replied. She shrugged and tilted her head. "Lauren does have a point."

Harry opened his mouth to try and convince her, but she interrupted. "We gotta go, just…think about what she meant, not about the Houses themselves."

She and Severus left in a hurry, and the Marauders followed. Remus told them to go on without him; he had to ask the Professor something.

He joined Lily and Harry without talking to Binns.

"Hello," he said as we swept his hair aside, looking at Lily, then Harry, and back to Lily.

"Remus, what do you think about the houses? I'm torn."

Harry was surprised; Lily had an opinion about everything.

"I like the idea of the houses, but I think they go too far. Most things we do are with our own house, so we never get to know anyone else. And I see, especially with the Slytherins and Gryffindors, that the label creates the conflict. People think what they do—their destiny—is predetermined by where they're put."

Lily stared at him, amazed, which made him so nervous he couldn't continue. "Okay, I think I decided; I agree with you."

Harry was tired of arguing with twelve-year-olds, who had little idea of what they were saying, and a weaker sense of tradition. Part of him thought Remus was right, but he still felt the houses were what kept the school together.

It had been a miserable two weeks. More drastic measures soon had to be taken.

When Professor McGonagall addressed the students, she had shadows under her eyes. "I will give the Gryffindors and the Slytherins one week. If they cannot resolve their differences by next Friday, November 3rd, the night before the first match, they will not be able to compete for the Cup."

Cries of outrage and frustration rang throughout the hall.

Dumbledore stood and the everyone fell silent. "The events over the past few weeks have astounded me. A new era is approaching, so it is essential that we remain united. Petty differences are no means for a feud."

Some students whispered to each other, oblivious to this "new era." Harry was one of the many that knew what Dumbledore meant; Voldemort was gaining power, and loyalties would be tested.

"This has been a battle over, in the eyes of the Houses involved, right and wrong. But fighting cannot create peace; or at least, not a resolution. I want each of you to consider this before you jeopardize someone's safety."

For a day, it seemed as though the conflict was over, but the last prank had been Gryffindor's work, and some of them couldn't resist rubbing it in.

So it was inevitable that the Slytherins would do something to shut them up.

Literally, shut them up. Five Gryffindors, including James and Sirius, woke up unable to speak. They could open their mouths, but no spell would allow them to make a sound that wasn't a high-pitched squeak.

In Potions, as Slughorn prepared a remedy, Harry caught a glimpse of the writing on a note James passed to Sirius.

Thursday night, corridor by the dungeons.

Word of the plan did not reach the professors. Students were under enough pressure from both sides that there were no attempts—that Harry knew of—to stop the battle.

Severus and Raven virtually disappeared in their small amounts of free time. This would be the true test of allegiance, but it seemed they had already made their decision.

That week, the hallway interactions between the Slytherin and the other houses consisted of either sarcastic respect and kindness or blunt distaste. As the fighting lessened, it seemed, to everyone not in the know, that they would make the deadline.

Harry wondered whether the fight-to-end-all-fights would just jumpstart the problem. And then there was the other factor; none of them wanted to lose Quidditch rights, even if they weren't on a team.

On Thursday, an electric current ran though the Great Hall. The teachers seemed much more rested and less stressed. After dinner, the students clambered to leave, clutching books on spells they had studied to prepare, talking to calm their nerves.

Nearly all of the Gryffindors left the common room at eleven. The percentage of participants rose slightly per year of study. All of the sixth and seventh years went, a couple hanging back to paint the eager, determined faces of their peers.

"Jacob, I decided to go. I don't want anyone to get hurt, and I haven't done anything so far. Have you decided?" Lily had been struggling with the decision because she thought the conflict was unnecessary.

"Yes, I'm going, but I'm not hexing anyone. I need to know you guys'll be safe. Also…I don't want Severus or Raven to do something they'll regret."

The Gryffindors moved through the school in small groups. The seventh years put Disillusionment Charms on all of the students, which was enough to conceal them in the dark hallways.

The fight didn't break out at the first encounter. The Slytherins and the Gryffindors revealed themselves at the appropriate place and time, a bit unsure. Some students cast protection charms around the area.

After a minute of suspense, a Slytherin, face masked like a Death Eater, pushed to the front of his end. He had hardly extended his arm before he was knocked to the ground by one of Frank Longbottom's friends.

Most students teamed up against others. Those who had specific grudges faced off one-on-one, if they could recognize their opponent. Harry was too focused on blocking spells to find Severus and Raven, who he thought he could identify by their height and movements.

A high-pitched noise rang through the air. Harry didn't know what or where the sound was coming from until everyone stopped what they were doing.

The girl was now curled on the ground, stiff with pain. The circle of Slytherins around her dropped as stunning spells collided with their backs.

The Slytherins scattered, taking the unconscious bodies with them, cries of protest and stray spells ringing out among the Gryffindors.

Harry pointed his wand at a few of the now recovered Slytherins who had circled the girl. "Accio masks!"

Unmistakably greasy black hair was revealed on one of the boys as they ran away. Harry glanced back and saw Lily staring at the spot Severus had been, shock frozen on her features.

"Violetta, are you okay?" Harry heard someone ask. He turned and saw she had sat up, but was still crying.

"I—it was the Cruciatus Curse," managed Violetta after two of her friends calmed her down.

Lily had finally been pulled out of her haze and asked Harry, "What's going to happen now?"

The next morning, Raven came to breakfast late, red-eyed, dark skin an unhealthy pallor. Harry couldn't figure out why she was emotional.

Lily refused to speak to Severus and pretended he wasn't there. Halfway through breakfast, however, she couldn't hold back any longer.

"Why did you do it, Severus?"

Severus looked up, clearly dreading her suspicion. He glanced over to the staff table, where Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall were talking. "I…what do you mean?"

"I saw you with those Slytherins. You could go to Azkaban for that! What were you thinking? What did she do to deserve—?"

"I didn't cast the spell."

"Why should I believe you? You can't prove you didn't!"

"You can't prove I did."

"I hate it when you act like this! You've seen the Slytherins do horrible things, but you still hang out with them—"

Lily noticed Raven was holding back tears. "Look, Raven—" She watched in dismay as Raven got up and left, crying inaudibly. She didn't want to take back what she said, it was clear she felt responsible.

After glaring at the two of them, Severus stormed after Raven.

Lily jumped into conversation so she didn't have to worry about them. "Do they—the professors—know what happened?"

"I don't know. We were all supposed to take care of the injured ourselves. After Violetta was tortured, though, I don't know what they're going to do…but they can't take away Quidditch without going against what McGonagall said."

It turned out that Violetta made everyone promise not to say anything. It would only lead to controversy, since the Slytherins would deny it and accuse the Gryffindors of lying. So the first game of the season, Gryffindor vs. Slytherin, was still on.

On the day of the match, the air was humid and cold. The Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws had arranged themselves between the Gryffindors and the Slytherins to prevent conflict.

Two chants began as the players took their positions, words mashing into an unintelligible roar.

Harry had a new motivation to catch the Snitch as quickly as possible this time: to prevent anyone from getting hurt.

He took into the air and flew just slightly above the players. A few drops of moisture formed on his glasses and he wiped them away with his glove.

Minutes went by with no sign of the Snitch. Through the mist, Harry could get a vague idea of what was happening. Hardly a play would go by without the shrill sound of a whistle and yells from either end of the stands. Lucius Malfoy glided along so casually that most of the time he wasn't even looking around, just drifting, eyes locked straight ahead.

At first, Harry thought this was because Lucius was counting on him to find the Snitch before trying to get it himself. Then Harry realized something else was going on.

He hadn't seen any flash of gold the entire time on the field, and as he was the best Seeker in Hogwarts, something had to be wrong. Harry had seen the Snitch released, so it wasn't as though it wasn't around somewhere. Maybe the Slytherins had cursed it from the stands, or put some sort of spell beforehand that kept it out of view.

Harry continued to speed along, but gradually decreased his height.

"…And Slytherin ties it up, 90 to 90!"

Harry was low enough now to see blades of grass on the ground. Looking up, Harry saw Lucius descending after him. He gained speed, eying the ground. Then, he saw it resting in the grass by the Slytherin stand. Harry dove toward the ground, Lucius on his tail, and grabbed the Snitch.

"Jacob Walker caught the Snitch! Gryffindor wins!"

It seemed as though the spectators thought the Snitch had been flying low to the ground, when it had been on the ground.

As it turns out, the Slytherins had been trying to stall Harry so they had more time to do illegal plays. A couple members from each team were brought to the hospital wing, but there were no long-term injuries. Nothing was brought up about the pranks or the curse, but nothing was resolved, either. Harry knew the Marauders wouldn't stop pushing the limits of the Slytherins and the teachers.

"Jacob, do you mind, well, we've got plans tonight. Can you handle, er…" James bared his teeth and barked.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Sure. I'll let you prank the Slytherins instead of taking care of your best friend."

"Right. Thanks." James met back up with the other Marauders, leaving Harry to seethe. How could they be so awful?

After dinner, Harry and Remus trekked down to the Whomping Willow.

"I promise, I won't let you get hurt this time."

Remus shook his head. "It was an accident."

He still seemed uneasy, so Harry added, "I have better spells this time."

Remus rubbed the back of his neck. "It's not that…Do you fancy Lily?"

Harry almost tripped. "No. No, I don't. Not at all." If only he knew how ridiculous his question was.

"Oh, good. I mean, not good, but…" He faltered.

"Because you fancy her."

Remus stopped, staring at Harry in shock. "How did you know?"

"It's kind of obvious."

"Oh no…"

"I mean, to me it is, but I don't think anyone else noticed. Especially James."

Remus didn't say anything. He looked up at the sky, then started walking. Finally, he said, "You won't tell anyone?"

"Of course not. I've known for a while, and I haven't told anyone so far." Harry levitated a branch and it hit the knob on the tree. "Does it make you…unhappy to fancy her? Because of James?"

Remus swallowed. "I guess, if I could control it, I wouldn't like her, but I—I can't help it. I know he has a better chance than I do, in the end."

They had reached the shack. Harry went upstairs and crouched by the hole in the floor. He peered down and said to Remus, who looked back up at him, and said, "What about Raven?"

"Raven?" Remus hardly had time to consider it before he shuddered and his head snapped back.

Harry withdrew and pulled out his wand. A howl rose into the air, sending vibrations through the floorboards. Harry summoned the happiest thought he could; the time he first met his mother. A stag bounded forward, bright and pure. It slipped downstairs, which cut off the howl and brought on a long whine. Then, there was silence.

Peering down the hole once more, Harry saw Remus eye the stag, snarling. The Patronus kneeled, still staring serenely at the werewolf before it. After a moment, Remus rested his head on his paws, regarding the Patronus until he fell asleep.

The next morning, Harry saw that Remus had suffered no injuries from transforming.

"Last night, before I transformed, what did you mean?"

"Er, what did I say again?"

"It seemed like you were saying I should give up on Lily and consider Raven."

"Well, you should do whatever is going to make you happy. But I don't think James will stop fancying Lily."

A week later, at Quidditch practice, Violetta pulled Harry aside. "I think James fancies me," she said, trying not to smile.

"You've noticed? He actually fancies someone else; he's trying to make me jealous."

"Jealous?"

"I don't fancy you, he just thinks I do." Harry fidgeted, awkward. "It's probably because, you know, you kissed me."

"That wasn't anything! I'll talk to him and tell him to—"

"No, don't." Harry grinned. "It'll be an inside joke; one more thing we can make fun of."

"Brilliant."

"Violetta, something's wrong with my broom!" called James. "It's pretty hard and a little stiff, can you help me fix it?"

Violetta rolled her eyes, exchanged a grin with Harry, and went to help him. James shot Harry a smug look from down the field.

That night, Violetta stood before the Gryffindors to address them about the Order of the Phoenix. Voldemort was gaining support at a faster rate than the year before, so the upperclassmen who planned on joining the Order held monthly meetings about acting against his forces. "My little brother was killed about three years ago. He was only eight, but he was already showing signs he would be a very powerful wizard. He had such potential.

"I was babysitting him that night. I was upstairs, he was downstairs. I didn't hear them come in, or leave. When I went into his room to check on him, he was dead." She paused a moment to take a breath. "I'll never forget how I could barely recognize him, he was so torn up. We were told one of You-Know-Who's werewolves tried to turn him, but my brother fought back, and was killed. That's why I'm joining the fight against You-Know-Who. To make sure no one has to go through what I did."

A few other Gryffindors spoke before the meeting was over. The younger Gryffindors headed to bed, the speakers stayed behind to talk with the others.

"Violetta, I'm sorry about your brother. I know what that's like." For a moment, Harry wished he could tell her that Voldemort would most certainly pay for what he'd done.

"Thanks, Jacob." She seemed exhausted. "I don't get sad about it much anymore. It took a while before I realized he wouldn't want me to be unhappy. I had allowed myself to be miserable because if I wasn't, I would feel like I was shaming his memory. I realized he was just one person in the world that suffered because of You-Know-Who. Instead of making my life miserable, I had to make the world better." Violetta paused to let him process what she had said. "I think you'd be a good addition to the Order, when you're of age."

The weather grew colder as winter deepened. After finishing their homework, Raven wanted to get outside, and asked Harry to join her. They ended up talking about her involvement in the Dark Arts.

"I have nearly a dozen books that my relatives have given me over the last couple years. 'Happy Christmas, how about cursing someone at school!' and, 'Here, have a book with 183 easy ways to torture!'" Raven shook her head and scoffed.

"So that's why you can't leave? Because of your family?"

"No. Well, partly." She braced herself against the wind.

"Then what're the other reasons?"

"I dunno," she said, and the brief moment she had opened up to him was gone.

Harry thought they had been getting somewhere, so he persisted. "No, tell me."

"I said, I don't know!"

Harry stopped. "What about Sirius? His whole family is in Slytherin! How come he isn't?"

Raven kicked at the snow as she spun to face him. "Because he's arrogant and, I dunno, he doesn't care what his family thinks. Why don't you ask him?"

"That's not the point." Harry took a step closer, lowering his voice. "Everyone has a choice. Some people die because of their choices, some die for their choices. But you're only twelve, you don't have to worry about life or death." He took her shoulders and realized she was trembling. "The direction you're taking…you'll kill before most other people your age would have a real job. It's strange to imagine now, as a kid, you'd be capable of that."

Raven's face was splotchy and streaked with tears. She couldn't bring herself to speak, so she just wrapped her arms around Harry.

It took a few minutes, but after wiping her face and taking some deep breaths, Raven was able to talk. "I know now what I was doing is wrong. I—I thought I was too far in, and I—I thought that Se—Severus would lose himself with the Sly—Slytherins if I wasn't there."

"It's okay." Harry began walking again, slowly, and Raven followed.

"What's Severus gonna say?"

"I don't know, but we'll find out. Look, even if he gets mad at you, and refuses to talk; you made the right decision."

Raven hunched her shoulders against the wind. "I hope so."

The next day, when she told Severus, he nearly snapped his quill in half. "What do you mean?"

Harry was a ways back, trying to seem like he wasn't listening, but he was unable to continue his conversation with Lily.

"What do you mean, 'You're done'?"

Raven avoided his eyes. "Severus, I'm just tired of being a part of this, and…"

Harry's attention flipped back to Lily and he noticed she too was listening in on Raven and Severus.

"…I've always been sort of against it, I think, but I thought we'd both gone too far in to leave."

"You're right. You are too far in." Severus crossed his arms. "They're going to go after you."

"Can't you stop them?" Raven's hands shook and her voice was strained.

Severus struggled for a moment, uncrossed his arms, and replied in a low voice, "I'll try, but I'm not old enough to make much of a difference—"

"Severus, just leave with me!" Raven grabbed his hands. They were almost at eye level, so there was nowhere for him too look other than at her. "Please, before it really is too late! They'll ruin you, and I know you want to say no, but they're honestly evil."

Severus' expression hardened. "You've been talking to Jacob, haven't you?"

"You're missing the point." Raven took her hands away, but held his gaze.

Severus studied her, expression cold, but his eyes darted too much and his face was reddening. "'We're in this together, Severus,'" he whispered, forcing his emotions into anger. "'They don't know what they're missing, Severus. Don't listen to Jacob, Severus.'"

Raven looked as though she'd been slapped. "Stop. I can't help that I've changed, Severus."

Severus raised his voice. "'I wasted so much time before, being against the Dark Arts, Severus. The Dark Lord knows the truth about the world, Severus. Honestly, Severus, this is the best part of school. Thank you so much, Severus.'"

Lily ran to Raven's side. "What the hell is wrong with you?" she demanded, as Raven broke down in her arms.

"What's wrong with me?" Severus repeated, hysterical. "What's wrong with her! We've worked for so long to get to where we are, and now she's—she's throwing it away!"

Raven glared at him through her tears. "You're the one throwing your life away!"

"Severus, it's Raven's decision." Harry stepped between them. "Why does it matter if she leaves? You don't want to, so what difference does it make?"

Severus looked down and turned. "I'm going to bed." He ran upstairs, now more alone than ever.


Chapter 9: The Hate Potion
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

"Hey, traitor!"

"Mudblood lover."

"Freak."

"You're not gonna make it long after Hogwarts, you know that, don't you, Faralyn?"

Harry wouldn't let Raven go anywhere without someone else accompanying her. Severus refused to do so, but he was never with the Slytherins when she was targeted.

Raven, Remus, and Harry were walking through the corridor on Saturday when the attacks escalated. A Slytherin hit Harry in the back with a Full Body-Bind Curse and snatched his wand. Remus took the offender out with the same spell and they ran into an empty classroom.

Remus refused to let her out until twenty minutes after, when he thought it would be safe. It took that long for a passerby to unfreeze Harry.

By the last few days before the holidays, seeing Severus outside of class was a rare occasion. Which is why Severus was surprised when Lily asked at breakfast, "Have you guys packed yet?"

"I'm almost ready," replied Harry. Severus nodded in agreement, a harmless lie. He was sure his involvement in the Dark Arts would have exempted him from Christmas at Lily's.

"Cool." Lily turned to Raven, who ran up to them as she tied her long hair into a ponytail. Raven was happier than Harry had ever seen her, especially now that she was more resistant to verbal attacks from the Slytherins. She smiled more, laughed more, and was closer to the Lily, who had a positive effect on her. Still, there were times when Raven fell into a state of listlessness, brought on by seeing one her former Slytherin friends, Regulus especially, or sometimes (in Harry's view) for no reason at all.

The train ride to King's Cross was brief. The train had been decorated with holly, everlasting icicles, and tinsel. In some compartments, tiny snowflakes drifted down from the ceiling, vanishing if they touched the ground without landing on a student.

Sirius and Peter were staying at Hogwarts. The full moon had just passed, so Remus felt comfortable going home for Christmas. Otherwise, he endangered himself and his parents.

When the train pulled up to King's Cross, it was Severus who was by far the most nervous. He smoothed down his wrinkled shirt front, trying to look presentable. Lily fussed at his state and charmed his shirt so it looked freshly ironed.

Mr. and Mrs. Evans met the group at the station, then drove them on a long and awkward car ride home.

Petunia greeted them at the door, wearing a plaid, neatly-ironed dress. Her expression soured as Severus and Raven walked past.

"Well, this is it," said Mrs. Evans, looking over them warmly.

Harry realized both he and Severus had stayed overnight at Lily's house without their parents knowing, and he once more had the feeling that he was intruding.

"So, this is the kitchen." Mrs. Evans walked them through the living room. "Breakfast is at nine, I'll make the rounds if someone's not up."

"We waited to decorate the tree!" Petunia beamed at Harry.

"Right, that'll be before dinner tomorrow." Mrs. Evans guided them downstairs to the basement. There was one mattress in the back of the room, a sleeping bag and blankets set up on the floor next to it.

"This is where you two will sleep," she told the boys. She lead them back to the main floor, then upstairs.

When they entered Lily's bedroom, Harry noticed Severus shift uncomfortably.

"Raven, you'll sleep here, like last time." Mrs. Evans nodded toward the trundle beside Lily's bed. "And we'll be in the room down the hall if there's an emergency."

Petunia appeared in the doorway. "Dad has everyone's things. The girls can shower in the evening, and the boys in the morning."

Downstairs, Mr. Evans helped them with their suitcases. "Girls upstairs by ten, boys downstairs by ten." His gaze fell pointedly on Severus and Harry. Neither of them needed further explanation.

"If you need anything, just ask." Mrs. Evans smiled warmly at them. Mr. Evans was looking curiously at the owls. Severus' owl, Luna, seemed to hold him in a trance for a good twenty seconds before he managed to look away.

Severus and Harry unpacked in silence.

At least, it was silent until Severus caught a glimpse of Harry's borrowed purse.

"Why do you have that?" he asked, peering over at the suitcase Harry had quickly shoved the purse back into.

"It's my mom's. I, er, stole it."

"Why'd you steal it?" Severus had stopped what he was doing, and his black eyes searched Harry. Jacob had proved to be a rule-follower—definitely not a thief.

Harry hoped his discomfort would be taken as guilt. "Because…if I stole the purse…then she wouldn't suspect me. Well, first, I stole it for money; she wouldn't give me anything for supplies. If I had just stolen the wallet, then it'd be more obvious, so I had to take the purse, too. She thinks she just lost it or something."

Severus nodded, but more to himself, as he looked back at his suitcase.

A couple days passed. It was at first strange for the four of them to be together outside of school, but they soon fell into the rhythm of it.

"Biscuit?"

"Thanks."

Petunia paused behind Harry, watching him take a bite.

"Er, is there something on my face?"

"I just wanted to see if you won. You didn't."

"Win what?"

Petunia had become increasingly more annoying to Harry. It was easy, at first, to separate her from her older self. Now, it was hard for Harry to ignore the distasteful looks she cast that reminded him all too clearly of the times she would wrinkle her nose at him, as if he had crawled into the house from the plumbing. As if it was his fault he was a constant reminder of his mother to her.

The sound of glass shattering and Severus cursing stifled Petunia's reply.

"Lily, I'm sorry, it just slipped. What's wrong? It was an accident…"

Petunia was quick on the scene. "That's her ornament, her favorite one, and you broke it, you—"

"Tuney, I—I'm fine." Lily swallowed, blinking to keep her composure. "It's just an ornament."

Green and gold shards littered the ground. The biggest piece, the chipped head of the rabbit, stared at Harry blankly.

Mrs. Evans came into the room with her standard fretful, doting expression. "What happened? What broke?"

"Severus did it!"

Mrs. Evans looked from Petunia to Severus to the ornament on the ground. "He only dropped it, don't be upset, girls, it didn't break. How, I don't know…and what about that smashing sound?"

"Everything's fine, Mrs. Evans," chimed in Harry. "And thank you for the cookies."

"You're welcome, love. Oh, did Petunia tell you? If your biscuit has chocolate in the center, you get to put the star on the tree. Last year, Mr. Evans won." The others seemed to only distantly hear this; they all stared at the gold-and-green bunny, which was back in one piece.

"I'll leave you to it, I suppose." Mrs. Evans went back to her baking.

"Who fixed it?" asked Lily in a low voice.

"I saw Severus do it," said Harry, giving him a small nod as a cue.

"Sev, you didn't have to do that. You could get in serious trouble. What if you were expelled?"

"I…"

"Thank you, though, Sev."

Severus accepted her hug, too distracted to appreciate it.

On his way to use the bathroom, Severus confronted Harry. "Why did you do that? Why didn't the Trace work?"

"I did it because, if you haven't noticed, your relationship with Lily is on the rocks. And I don't know why the Trace didn't work, but I bet most people in Ministry are on holiday, so they wouldn't have time to deal with a small accident involving a Repairing Charm."

That night, the four sat in a circle on the ground around Severus' mattress. Raven and Severus leaned against Harry's bed, with Harry across from Severus, and Lily across from Raven.

"We should play Truth or Dare," said Lily, when their mugs of hot cocoa were empty.

Raven uncrossed her legs. "What's Truth or Dare?"

"Oh, right, it's a Muggle game, you wouldn't know. Well, how 'bout I start. I'll ask someone, 'Truth or Dare?' and they choose one, and I ask them a Truth or a Dare."

The other three nodded. Severus shifted uncomfortably.

"Okay, Raven, Truth or Dare?"

"Er…" Raven's eyes flickered to Severus, then back at Lily. "Dare."

"Hm. I dare you to…talk while holding your tongue for the next two rounds."

"I have to?"

"That's how the game works, yeah."

Severus shifted, nervous. "Do Muggles actually play this game? Jacob, have you ever played this game? No?"

"Just give it a chance! Unless you have something other than Wizard's Chess to play. Okay, Raven, now you ask someone."

Raven eyes skimmed Severus, but then she decided, tongue between her fingers: "Jacop, Tooth o' Dare?"

Harry shrugged. "Truth." This had to be a low point in their maturity, even for twelve-year-olds.

"Er, how about…oh!" Raven grinned as best as she could while holding her tongue. "Ith 'ou 'ad thoo choose anyone in the thcool to date, 'oo would it be?"

Harry frowned. To them, it was a harmless, silly question. For him, the pain over Ginny made it difficult to respond.

"I don't fancy anyone, though."

"It doesn't mather. Chooth thomeone!"

"I suppose Violetta, but…"

Lily and Raven exchanged a glance and smirked.

"I don't fancy her, though!"

"Sure, Jacob." Lily still smiled, convinced.

"Lily, Truth or Dare." Harry agreed with Severus that they should do something else.

"Truth."

"If you had to date someone in the school, who would it be?"

Lily stopped smiling. "But I don't fancy anyone!"

Harry raised his eyebrows, and Lily sighed. Severus stared at her, and Harry noticed his hands were clenched.

"Fine, then—Remus."

Severus couldn't help himself; "Why Remus?"

"Shh!" Lily glanced toward the stairs. "I dunno, he's nice, and not obnoxious, like James. I don't actually fancy him, although, if I had to choose…"

Severus leaned back against the bed. Harry thought he saw his eyes shining, but at the next glance he decided he had just imagined it.

"Raven, you can let go of your tongue now. And, you haven't gone yet, Sev, so Truth or Dare?"

"Dare," replied Severus immediately. He probably saw the game as a binding contract to tell the truth, and couldn't risk the question of the last two Truths.

"Dare…hm. I'm really bad at these. Jacob, Raven, help me."

Raven seemed hopeful.

Noticing Raven's expression, Harry became torn; he sometimes, without meaning to, supported her feelings for Severus. Should he try to push them away, because Severus could never feel the same way about her?

Harry whispered his idea to Lily.

"Hold hands with Raven for five minutes," Lily told Severus.

Harry was the only one who noticed Raven's nervousness as Severus reached across to her, avoiding her gaze. They fumbled for a moment before their fingers were locked.

"Severus. Ask someone Truth or Dare."

"Jacob, Truth or Dare."

"Truth."

Severus met his eyes, serious. "Why do you sometimes look like James?"

Harry froze. Lily and Raven looked between them, confused.

Like James…like James…When did the spells not work? Or had something else happened? "I don't know what you mean."

"Never mind." Severus' fingers tightened around Raven's; she squirmed.

"Here, Sev, I have an idea." Lily leaned in and whispered something to Severus.

Severus huffed. "Fine, what's your favorite thing about each person here?"

"Oh." Harry thought for a moment. He pushed away thoughts about Ron and Hermione. "My favorite thing about Raven is…how she cares for people. She's always there for us." He couldn't have truthfully said that until after she'd left the Slytherins. In Raven's eyes, though, it was clear that after leaving them she still believed she'd abandoned Severus.

"As for Lily, she's incredibly kind, and stands up for people."

Severus' eyes followed on Lily's guilty, downturned ones.

"And my favorite thing about Severus is…" Harry thought of the person who died for love, not out of selfish reasons, but for Harry's own life.

"His determination. How he spends time to get something done, and he doesn't give up…even if, well…" Harry stopped.

Raven's fingers were red from the pressure of Severus'.

Harry thought for a moment. "Raven. Truth or Dare."

"I'll do Truth this time."

Harry paused. "Is there anything you would give up magic for?"

"Yeah, sure."

"Really? What?"

"Well, if someone was dying, and that was the only way…or," she glanced at Severus, then her eyes traveled back around the room, "no, yeah, something like that. All right, Truth or Dare, Severus."

"Truth."

"Oh. Er, if you only had a day to live, what would you do?"

Severus looked down. "I'd tell off everyone I didn't like, because there wouldn't be consequences. I'd go somewhere, too, I suppose."

The group was silent, thoughtful.

Everyone but Lily, Harry realized, had some sort of secret that would affect their final day on Earth: Raven had feelings for Severus, Severus loved Lily, and Harry was from a different time. And, maybe Lily didn't hate James as much as she had before?

Severus unraveled his fingers from Raven's. They both wiped her hands on their pajamas. Raven tried to exchange a glance with Severus, but he had looked away, to Lily.

"Truth or Dare," said Severus quietly.

"Truth."

"What is your least favorite thing about me?"

"Oh, Sev, I don't want to answer that…"

"But I want you to."

"Besides you hanging out with the Slytherins? I mean, sometimes you can be a little intense, and clingy…" Lily frowned, but shrugged as if to say, "You wanted to know." Not wanting to meet Severus' empty eyes, she decided on Harry. "Jacob, Truth or—"

"Truth."

"Hm…Have you ever lied?"

"Yeah." Harry was relieved. It didn't reveal anything about himself; he saw all of his friends lie daily, with little stretches of the truth.

"Wait, no, how about, what's the biggest lie you've told in the past month? No, year?"

"I can't remember anything specific."

And then he felt it. The space in front of him felt cooler, thinner. It was merely a flicker, but it was enough to cause a slight shift in Severus' eyebrows. The appearance-changing spells had weakened again. But why?

"C'mon, it's just us."

"I told my mom I didn't know where her purse was, when I actually stole it."

Harry felt normal again, but Severus still stared.

The next morning, Harry groggily opened his eyes, awakened by Severus' hand on his shoulder. It took him a moment to realize what day it was.

"What's the matter?" Harry sat up.

Severus' mouth was ajar in shock.

"What's wrong? Why are you looking at me like that?"

Severus shook his head, blinked a few times, and sat back down on his mattress. Harry leaned against the wall and looked at Severus, waiting for a reply.

"I couldn't sleep. I keep thinking…Well, what if Lily doesn't like my gift?" Severus' voice cracked slightly.

Harry's eyes had adjusted better to the darkness; he saw Severus pressing his hands together.

"Of course she'll like your gift; it's from you." It seemed as though that wasn't what Severus was really wondering about.

Harry wondered if Severus expected him to know how he felt about Lily, or if he believed he was doing a good job of hiding his feelings and didn't want Harry to know.

"I suppose." Severus lay back down and fixed his gaze on the ceiling.

"Lily still cares about you," said Harry quietly.

Severus' eyes turned to Harry, then back again. "Not for long."

"And why do you think that?"

Severus exhaled. "Because."

Harry raised his eyebrows. Severus saw his expression and sighed again.

"Because she's—we're—too different."

"So?"

"So…I don't know! She's mad at me, all the time—for no good reason—and…" His voice hitched again.

"I would say there's a good reason."

Severus sat up. "Of course you would! You always side with her!"

Harry looked back at Severus in amazement. "How long have I told you the Dark Arts is a bad idea? If anything, she's siding with me." Harry moved to the edge of his bed. "Look, I'm not against you, and, it's Christmas; we don't need to be talking about this right now."

Severus lay back down and sighed. "Fine. But, er, one more thing…"

"Hang on." Harry turned on the lamp on the bedside table. Raven and Lily stood up quickly on the landing, trying to make it seem as though they hadn't been listening.

In the light, Harry could see Severus' panic clearly. "Lily, I didn't mean—"

"It's fine, Severus," said Lily, but it seemed forced.

"We didn't mean to eavesdrop, we were just going to see if you were up…" explained Raven, trailing off.

"Do we wait for your parents, or can we go upstairs?"

"I'll get Tuney. Then we can open presents; my parents always sleep in." Lily tip-toed back up the stairs.

Raven hesitated, torn between sides, then said, "I'm going to make some hot cocoa," on her way after Lily.

Severus groaned and rolled onto on his stomach. Into his pillow, he said, "I'm such an idiot."

The tree glowed warmly in the dark of the living room, illuminating the stockings and gifts. Petunia and Lily's were stuffed full of things, while the other stockings seemed deflated. Raven, Harry, and Severus didn't mind, though.

They only took ten minutes to go through all of their stockings. Mixed in with the presents under the tree were things that had been mailed from family and friends. Remus gave Harry a journal filled with new notes from Animagus-related books and sections gathering everything Harry had found before. He gave Lily a stuffed rabbit, which he had bought after asking her what her favorite animal was at breakfast (in a not-so-subtle way). Raven got three books from family on the Dark Arts. After unwrapping them, she and Harry exchanged a grin.

"I have to get something," said Lily, before unwrapping Severus' gift. She came back downstairs, hand clasped around something. She sat back down and opened her palm. "Let me guess…yeah, 'Evans.'" The stone Severus had given her last year now read "Lily Evans."

His gift this year was a protective stone similar to the one Lily gave him last year. However, this one wasn't a solid color; it had blue detailing.

"Now we both have one." Severus and Lily smiled more sincerely than they had the entire holiday.

"How did you get the money for gifts?" Harry asked Severus, when Mr. Evans was at work and the girls had gone to the market.

"If I tell you, will you not say anything to try and convince me it was wrong?"

"Sure."

"I make potions and sell them."

"What kind of potions? Are they legal? I'm just asking, relax."

"You wouldn't know what kind. And, no, not technically."

"Well, money is money, isn't it? Doesn't matter where it came from, as long as you're using it for good, right?"

Severus hesitated. "Right."

After the holidays, James was quick to work on the Animagus project. "Jacob, we're having a meeting today in the common room. Eleven o' clock sharp. Tell Raven."

They actually stuck to their word. Remus had a stack of books in case they needed resources. Most, if not all of the books appeared to have been nicked from the Restricted Section.

"So," Harry began, flipping through the journal, "I think we have the rest of the year left before we're ready."

"The rest of the year?" James folded his arms and leaned back in his chair.

"It's not easy. You and I have Quidditch, and we all have homework. If we did it before the end of the year, everyone would have the summer to practice transforming. It's better that we go over the procedure—"

"Yeah, I get it."

"If you want a guarantee that we'll be done in time, you could help out. Double-check everything."

James glanced at Sirius. "Okay. For the sake of marauding."

As February 14th approached, most students were preparing gifts, excited to have a break from studies. Harry, however, worried that after last year's events, something awful would happen on Valentine's Day.

He was right to worry.

Lily slammed her drink down on the table. "No." Severus flinched, and a few people turned to look at her.

"Er, what—"

"I'm tired of your excuses about everything! And the lying; you think I don't know when you're not telling the truth."

Severus stared at her, wide-eyed. "Lily, it's not—"

"Just stop!" she screeched. Harry had never seen her so furious with Severus.

She stood up and faced him, fists clenched and shaking.

"You're so timid about everything. You don't know how to stand up for yourself. You complain about James bullying, but you and your gang do the same thing. You say you want to be friends, but you torment every Mudblood that isn't me."

Harry saw Severus' eyes narrowing, dulling as he pushed his emotions inward. Should I help? This is what I meant to prevent, and now it was happening again. Not in the same way, though…would that mean they would still have a change to make up?

"I see no reason in staying friends." Some of the spectators smirked, some felt guilty to be listening. Lily's leaned in close to Severus' face.

"I hate you."

It was barely a whisper, but Harry heard it all too clearly. It echoed in his mind until the words no longer sounded like words, just harsh syllables.

Remus, Raven, and Harry sat in a shocked silence. James, Sirius, and Peter were bent over their food, smirking.

Lily spun around and stormed off.

Severus stared after her, face contorting. He stood and hurried out of the Hall. Harry followed him, ignoring the stares and the whispers.

It didn't happen like this before. Everything had been fine, where did this come from?

He had no more time to contemplate, he could only be there for him. "Hang on, Severus!"

Harry withdrew a bit when he heard the shaking of Severus' breath. They stopped just outside the Great Hall.

"She didn't mean what she said." Harry couldn't see Severus' face.

"But you agree with her." Severus' voice was higher than normal.

Harry did agree, so he replied, evasively, "I'm just saying she doesn't hate you."

Severus started walking again, more quickly this time.

"Stop!" Harry grabbed his Severus' arm, which twisted uselessly beneath his grip.

"WHAT? WHAT DO YOU WANT?" Severus' face contorted in fury. "YOU THINK YOU OWN ME, BUT YOU DON'T! YOU CAN'T FIX THINGS! I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP!" He took off the watch Harry had given him and threw it on the ground. It bounced, but didn't break. At this, tears sprung in Severus' eyes. "Just leave me alone…" Then he blinked, and his dark eyes widened. "Potter?"

Harry felt as though he had fallen into the pond in the Forest of Dean. What did Severus mean, "Potter?" He looked around; there was no one else there.

"What—how…" Severus closed his eyes, shaking his head, and whatever he saw seemed to be gone. Then he remembered what he'd felt and said the minute before. "Goodbye."

Harry quickly looked at his reflection in the face of his watch. It was not his father, nor Harry, who looked back at him. It was definitely—

"Jacob!" Raven ran up to him, a bit out of breath. "Lily said she wouldn't be friends with me if I was friends with him, I don't know what's wrong with her…" She trailed off. "Are you okay?"

Harry looked away, wishing she would do the same. How humiliating it was to cry at something so trivial as a nineteen-year-old, even if only he knew his true age. "Fine."

Raven wasn't convinced. "We need to talk to Lily."

"Right." What had Severus seen? Could he see through my appearance, or had James simply been behind me?

Raven and Harry hurried back to the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall, where Lily sat, trembling.

"What was that about?" demanded Raven.

"I just hate him so much." Lily didn't look at them properly. Her eyes were slightly out of focus.

"You mean to say you suddenly—out of nowhere—hate your best friend? When did you become insane?"

Harry noticed the Marauders whispering and laughing. Remus' grin seemed forced, and it disappeared when he met Harry's glare.

"Sounds like Evans has finally come to her senses." James was unable to hide a glow of satisfaction.

"Sounds like you want a mouthful of dragon shit," snapped Raven. Everyone who heard gaped at her in surprise.

James' eyes narrowed. "I don't like your tone, Faralyn. Luckily for you, I happen to know a great spell that could fix it for you: shutus thefuckupeus."

Raven snorted. "And I don't like your ugly face, Potter. Unfortunately for you, the only way you could change it is by magically fixing a bag over your head."

A few people oohed, and James' face flushed. "At least I'm not a traitor. You don't belong in Gryffindor or Slytherin."

Raven shot a spell right at James' chest.

Harry thought he saw Dumbledore look their way. "C'mon, Raven, he's not worth it."

"I know. But he deserved that."

As they walked by, James was huddled in his seat, rubbing his arms, face white.

"What'd you do to him?"

"Freezing Hex. Innocent enough, but it'll be a while before he thaws."

Harry told Raven he would deal with Severus alone. Severus was sitting on his bedside, facing away from the door.

"Severus? Are you okay?" His figure didn't move; Harry thought he had been petrified until he faced him.

Severus' eyes were blank, staring straight ahead. "I'm actually fine."

"Are you—are you sure? What about what Lily said?"

"Fine."

"Fine? Severus, you screamed at me hardly fifteen minutes ago, your best friend told you she hates you, and you're fine?"

"I'm going to sleep."

"James and Sirius did something to Lily. She didn't mean what she said."

"It doesn't matter," said Severus into his pillow.

"Okay. Believe what you want. It's not my problem." Why do I waste my time on him? He has to be the most socially incompetent person in school. Harry left Severus' watch on his bed.

Lily thought, when she recovered, that Severus would be mad at the Marauders, and not upset with her. She was left with a less than vivid memory of what happened. Her guilt about what she had said temporarily prevented her from considering the truth behind her words.

"'Morning, Sev." Lily studied his face, which appeared worn and tempered beyond thirteen years old.

"Good morning."

"I'm sorry about whatever I said. If James shows his face at breakfast, I'll hex him. You know what? We should do something to them. Give 'em a bit of their own medicine. Sev, where are you going?"

"I'm not hungry."

Lily looked to Harry, confusion obvious. Raven sighed. "Lily, what you said really hurt him. Do you remember anything?"

"I…" Lily thought for a moment, brow furrowing. "Yeah, I do. But he knew I had been cursed, or, what did Remus say they used? A hate potion?"

Raven nodded. "They did use a hate potion, but I don't think it's that simple. Hate potions are different from love potions. A love potion blurs reality; it creates a dreamy sort of obsession. Hate potions, if they can, take what the person already feels. They make everything sharper. You know I'm bad at Potions, but I remember Severus telling me because—well, because I wanted to make one."

Lily put her head in her hands. "It was horrible. I felt as though I'd suffer if I didn't tell him off. Like I had waited my whole life to do so. Don't tell him I said this, but I understand what I said. It was awful, I know. But, he is mean to people."

So Lily is already harboring bad feelings for Severus, thought Harry. Maybe, the sooner Severus lost Lily, the sooner he could get her back.

The next day, James approached Harry, perhaps to apologize. Then, his true objective became clear; "If you help me with Lily, I promise to leave Severus alone for the rest of the year."

"This really isn't a good time, James." Unless the day after an incident, with the victim sitting ten feet away, was a good time.

"Okay, all of us will leave him alone. And you can stop helping me if any of us mess up."

"Well, that's a start, because the first thing you could do to get Lily to like you is to not bully people."

"Wait, hang on, was that a yes?"

As much as Harry didn't want to agree, he didn't believe there was another way they could connect. A week later, they met to discuss Lily.

James pulled out a piece of parchment. "Okay, I made a list of the top fifteen—no, sixteen—annoying gits who aren't in Slytherin. There's one or two people not on the list that we've pranked in the past year."

"One or two people?"

"Hey, we have to compromise. I need to keep a couple—"

"A couple, as in two?"

"…a few kids around in case I'm stressed and require a creative outlet."

It was odd, talking to his dad like this. The lure of his father's acceptance was too great to refuse. If Harry made James a better person in the process, what was the harm?

A day later, James returned to Harry with a new request. "I need you to ask Lily what she doesn't like about me."

"Do you really want to know?"

"I'm prepared."

Harry waited until dinner. Things were strained between the friends. Maybe the mutual dislike of James would help unite them.

"Lily, what don't you like about James?"

"Why? You don't like him, do you?"

"No, I was just wondering."

"Well, he's a bully, he's lazy, he's arrogant, he's not as good at Quidditch as he thinks he is…but, honestly, compared You-Know-Who and his followers…"

Severus poked at his food. "So, you're saying, because he tortures without killing, he's better than the Dark Lord."

"Torture? I wouldn't say torture. And since when have you called You-Know-Who the 'Dark Lord?'"

"At least I don't say 'You-Know-Who' in fear."

Time to intervene. "Whoa, who, remember, I only asked about James."

Severus wasn't finished. "I would think, after everything James has done, you could easily say you hate him. It's probably hard to resist someone who fancies you."

Lily flushed. "How should you know, Severus? Your self-esteem is low enough that I can't imagine you saying no to a girl if she asked you out."

Severus' mouth twitched. "That's not true, and besides the point. I can tell you're softening up to James."

"I can tell you're being irrational."

Harry, desperate to leave their bickering, reported to James back in the common room. "Lily thinks you're arrogant, lazy, and a bully."

"That's not too bad. At least she didn't say I wasn't good-looking."

That night, Lily was too annoyed at Severus to ask him for help with homework. "Hey, Remus?"

Remus flinched and spilled his ink on the table.

"Here, let me." Lily charmed the mess with a swish of her wand.

"Thanks, sorry."

"No problem. Could you help me with my DADA homework?"

"Yeah, of course."

"I thought you'd be able to help since you spend extra time with Mr. Darcer after class."

Harry hadn't known about that. "Would you want to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts?"

"I don't know yet. I know I want to be in the Order. Er, what—what about you, Lily?"

"I want to be in the Order, too. Alice said my charm skills could be useful. She even suggested books for me to read that'd help me."

"Good for you. Oh, did that—did that sound sarcastic? Because I meant it. Er, anyway, what was your question?"

"Oh, right. I don't get—"

"Hey, Remus, Sirius needs your help." James slid in next to them. "I can help you, Lily."

"No, thanks, I'll just ask Jacob."

James looked at Harry, eyebrows raised.

Harry got the hint. "Actually, I forgot about something I have to do. I'm sure James knows how to help."

Harry joined Remus upstairs.

"I think I'm ready to start moving on from Lily." Remus didn't seem upset; just tired. "It's not something I can avoid—James constantly talks about her, and it's even more of a problem this year. Well, it's only a problem because I like her. It's better that I give up instead of waiting for James to do something he's never gonna do."

"Listen, Remus, it doesn't have anything to do with your…situation, does it?"

"Yeah, but that's not the biggest reason. I think she's always seen me as a friend."

"Okay. If you ever need to talk…"

"Sure."

Now there were two lovesick people moping in bed: Remus and Severus.

Lily and Severus' relationship was not over because they rarely had to be around each other; it meant that it was easier to tolerate each other. They had been friends too long for them to call it quits, and they had the same best friends, who forced them to be careful about what they said.

The strain on Lily was tighter because of rumors about Severus. Mary McDonald and Lily's third-year friend, Cassandra, filled her in (without her request) on everything they had heard he was doing. Harry didn't want to believe the wildest of the stories; that Voldemort was meeting with the greatest potential Death Eaters, including Severus. It couldn't be true because Dumbledore would know, and if Dumbledore knew, he would stop it.

Regulus became Severus' informal apprentice of the Dark Arts. He was the appropriate replacement for Raven; he was Pureblood, eager to learn, and obedient. Harry noticed both Raven and Regulus casting each other a reproachful look when the other wasn't paying attention.

"Raven, I know you may not, er, want to answer stuff like this anymore, but this book was marked with your handwriting, and I was, well, I was wondering if you could explain it to me?" Regulus had his head bent down as he said this and tilted it up when he finished his request.

Raven turned to face him. "Sorry, I'm not really up to that anymore. If you had questions with your homework, maybe, but…sorry."

"No, no, it's fine, it was a dumb thing to ask."

"You sure you want to use Study Hall time to study Dark Arts instead of, I don't know, Potions?"

Regulus smiled. "I'm doing well in Potions. What about History?"

"You're in luck; I'm the best in my class."

"I could use your help, then. Look, Raven, I'm sorry we never talk anymore."

"No, it's okay. You chose one path, I chose another."

Harry, sitting next to Raven, listened to their conversation until, eyes wandering, he spotted Gilderoy Lockhart.

Lockhart was sitting on one of the tables, blond curls gelled in place, telling an extravagant story that had taken place in Flitwick's class. He already had a small circle of friends who seemed more like followers. None of them were girls, however. Harry noticed, surprised, that the girls nearby were ignoring him and clearly thought he was annoying. Funny how that worked.

Talk of the upcoming match against Hufflepuff seemed quiet compared to what had surrounded the match against Slytherin. Still, practices increased in order to prepare. If the Gryffindors won the Cup, Violetta would earn a spot in the trophy room for her efforts as Captain.

Harry had recently been second in his dorm to leave in the morning. "Out for extra practices with Violetta, again, James?"

"Yeah, Walker. Sorry if I'm taking time away from you."

"Oh, no, of course not. It's better that the players who need the most help get it."

"That's not—you—I don't—whatever."

Although James' sessions with Violetta were meant to make Harry jealous, he did get better at being a Chaser. This may have helped Gryffindor win the game after Hufflepuff had a ninety-point lead. As James stole possession for the third time, the students in the stands began chanting, "Potter! Potter! Potter!"

The Hufflepuff Seeker stayed closer to the ground, probably in case the Snitch repeated its strategy from the last game. The cheers for James were cut short as Harry chased the Snitch straight down, catching it as he was still vertical.

Back in the common room for the post-game party, James approached Harry. "Good game."

"You, too."

James took a sip of butterbeer. "It was cool, did you hear? Everyone chanted my name."

"How many goals did you score?"

"Seven."

"How many assists?"

"One."

"Well, you can work on that."

James nodded, thoughts elsewhere. "I meant to tell you that I don't need help with Lily anymore. I think I have it under control."

"So, the deal's off?"

"Yeah. I'll see you at practice, Jacob. And…thank you." James considered shaking Harry's hand, then decided against it.

The first signs of spring put everyone in a good mood. Lily tolerated James more easily, and Raven didn't become dispirited whenever Severus was around.

Harry wondered if Raven was moving on. He could tell she had never confessed how she felt to anyone, not even to Lily. It seemed she had given up trying to change Severus.

Soon enough, it was May, and Violetta was giving her players a pep talk. "This is it. My last year, and last for some of you, too. I am so proud of everyone's efforts. I want each of you to give it your all. The Ravenclaws will give us a clean game, and we have to do the same. I want to hear 'Gryffindor' on three. One, two, three, GRYFFINDOR! Let's get 'em."

Harry rose up at the whistle, peaceful; Quidditch was the ultimate escape. In the nineties, he relished the sport because he could forget everything that had to do with Voldemort. Now, he could distance himself from the petty drama between his friends, and to fill the gaps left by the people back home.

Harry felt strongly that, as he took in the energetic spectators, the speeding pitch, and the towering castle, he should stay here, at his home, for at least another year.

Hogwarts, where he had the simple responsibilities of a student; where choices were more clearly given to him. Where even the food was familiar. Where he had his real family instead of the one he had made to replace them.

Gryffindor was winning by forty points. Ravenclaw called a time-out and all the players touched down on the pitch.

"Jacob, feel free to catch the Snitch, we have a big enough lead. James, you gotta pass. Anastasia was open four times, so trust her. Okay, let's wrap this up."

Harry spotted the Snitch immediately. It was trapped in the fray of the Chasers, flitting in the crosswind. One of the Ravenclaw Chasers noticed this and tried to point it out without Harry noticing. Distracted from what was going on around him, the Chaser was knocked out of the air.

Both Seekers advanced toward the middle. Harry weaved between players, eyes on the flash of gold. The crowd was on its feet, cheering, even before his fingers even grazed the Snitch. The Gryffindor fans streamed down to the field.

Violetta met the players with tears in her eyes. She kissed everyone (at least) on the cheek, then exchanged a grin with Harry. She went to him, took his face in her hands, and kissed him briefly for a second time. "Thank you, Jacob. What a brilliant job, everyone!"

June 2nd. The day set aside for the transformation. The location: the Shrieking Shack. The Marauders, Raven, and Harry went to bed early the night before and got up at three. James used his invisibility cloak to conceal himself and some of their supplies, the others used Disillusionment charms to sneak out of the castle.

On the lower level of the Shack, the six laid out the materials. There were three cauldrons full of potion, eight books, and five sets of parchment that detailed the procedure, each composed of three double-sided pieces.

First, Remus and Raven prepared the potions. Each participant downed a glass of the concoction, which seemed to be designed solely to ward off anyone too weak for the process. After swallowing, Harry felt as though his entire body was on fire, then ice, then fire once more (for good measure, it seemed).

Next, Sirius, Harry, and James performed a series of complicated spells, hurrying to stay within the three hour time limit.

The second to last step was writing runes on each person's arms and legs. If the procedure leading up to this step had been completed correctly, the runes would melt into the person's skin and disappear.

Raven had been chosen to do the drawing of runes. She used brushes dipped in a mixture of crushed, deactivated Erumpent horn and a small amount of dragon blood. It was the most awkward stage, as it required everyone to pull up their trouser leg and resist flinching as Raven applied the ticklish, cold substance.

When the runes were no longer visible, they all cheered. There was only one remaining step: to drink a small amount of potion.

James held up his cup, the others did the same. Remus held up an empty one. "Well, this is it. Over a year's worth of hard work, and we made it, with ten minutes to spare. Is everyone ready? Okay, one, two, three!"

Harry swallowed his potion, which tasted similar to butterbeer. A tingling spread across his body, then he felt as though he were Apparating.

Harry was the last to collapse.

 


http://www.harrypotterfanfiction.com