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AU. When Sirius and Remus go looking for Peter Pettigrew, they make a wrong turn and someone else finds him first. Eight years later, Sirius owns a book store and Remus manages it for him. When Harry stumbles into the store and they find out the truth, they decide it's time to be Stealing Harry. (SB/RL slash relationship in later chapters.)

Harry was deeply involved in a game of Gobstones -- watching, not playing, as apparently Zacharias and Seamus had a grudge match on -- when Sirius appeared in the doorway to summon him downstairs. Harry gathered up his wand and secured Snake around his neck, following Sirius and Andromeda down and out into the shop once more, where Andromeda helped him up onto a stool.

"Now then," she said, as another magical tape measure began its work. "Arms straight out, Harry, there's a lad..." she consulted a series of notations rapidly appearing on a sheet of parchment tacked to the wall, and walked to the racks nearby, taking down charcoal trousers, a white shirt, blue jumper, and plain black tie. "We didn't want to give Madam Malkin's too much competition, she's a good friend and she's been very good to us, so I've priced these a bit high -- sensible people will still buy from Madam Malkin, and we'll deal with the snobs who think costly is better," she said with a grin. "For you, however, free of charge. No, Sirius, let me give the boy a present. It isn't every day one starts Hogwarts, is it, Harry?"

Harry grinned. "No ma'am," he said, as the tape measure wrapped itself around his head, and Andromeda promptly fetched his hat.

There was a soft noise, almost a sigh, as someone entered the shop, and Andromeda glanced over her shoulder as a small, pale-haired boy peered carefully around, trailed by a house-elf, a trunk levitating in the air behind them. The boy looked exhausted, Harry thought, and on the verge of tears.

"You must be Draco," Andromeda said. "Right, Harry, just a minute..."

Harry glanced at Sirius, who had narrowed his eyes when Andromeda said the boy's name. She was crouched in front of him, studying his face.

"You look exhausted. Have you done all your shopping yourself?" she asked, and he nodded.

"Couldn't find your shop, at first," he mumbled. "Thought I might as well get all my things."

"Did your mum leave you in Diagon Alley?" Andromeda asked, shocked.

"She wouldn't go in the Leaky Cauldron," Draco said miserably. Andromeda gave the house-elf behind him a piercing look, and Harry watched in fascination as it cowered behind Draco's knees.

"I'm going to have words with your mum when next we speak," she said severely.

"Dobby is taking very good care of master Draco, miss," the house-elf said querulously.

"I'm sure you did, but a boy shouldn't be wandering around Diagon Alley with only a house-elf for chaperone -- don't you dare punish yourself in here, elf! That's an order! You take Draco's trunk upstairs, now, and Master Draco, let's fit you for your robes, then you can go upstairs too and have a lie-down, how's that?" Andromeda asked, kindly. "You hop up there, I'll just go make sure Dobby's arranged your things," she said, as she vanished once more into the back of the shop.

"Hi," Harry said, as the pale-haired boy climbed up on the stool next to him. Draco flinched when the tape measure began its attack, but held very still once he understood what it was doing. "I'm Harry."

"Draco Malfoy," the boy mumbled.

"It's exciting, isn't it?" Harry asked. "I've done all my shopping today too. Did you see Mr. Ollivander?"

Draco nodded.

"And Flourish and Blott's, isn't it the greatest place ever?"

This brought a shy smile to the boy's face. "Yeah, I never saw so many books in one place, except our library, and I'm not supposed to go in there..."

"Was that your very own house-elf?" Harry asked, jerking his head in the direction Dobby had gone.

"He takes care of me," Draco answered. "He's going home tonight. Aunt Andromeda's taking me to the train tomorrow. Is she nice?"

Harry gave him a quizzical look. "Don't you know her?"

"Mum asked her to take me because she doesn't like crowds. She doesn't like Aunt Andromeda much either," Draco said, mournfully. "But she likes crowds less."

"Draco," Sirius said, startling them both. Harry had forgotten his godfather was there, leaning against the wall next to the trouser racks. "You'd be named for your ancestor Draconis. Draconis Black."

Draco quailed at being addressed by the tall, dark-haired man. "Y-yes sir," he said, cautiously.

"That's my godfather Sirius," Harry said, belatedly. "He's taking me to the train."

Sirius came forward, planting himself in front of the two boys.

"Sirius Black?" Draco asked, in a small voice. Sirius nodded.

"Your mother is my cousin," Sirius said, and Harry blinked. This was the cousin's son Sirius talked about, the one who almost got the Black estates? Sirius gave the boy a wry smile. "If it wasn't for me, you'd own this building."

"Oh," Draco said, nearly panicking. "Oh -- "

"Calm down, lad, I don't bite. Much," Sirius added.

"My mum hates you!" Draco blurted, then looked terrified.

"Yes, I imagine she does," Sirius said with a small smile.

"Sirius, are you harassing my nephew?" Andromeda demanded, returning with a small plate on which sat some of the shortbread left over from tea. "Here you are, lad, no need to panic. His bark is worse than his bite," she added. Draco ate a piece of shortbread, eyes still wide with terror, while Andromeda threw a robe over Harry's head and a needle began to hem it automatically. She fetched more clothing, making a second, separate pile for Draco.

"I'm sure I don't know what your mum is thinking, owling me out of the blue after years and years, asking me to take you to the train when she's perfectly capable of doing it herself," Andromeda continued. "Not that I mind in the least -- I've been wondering if I'd ever get to meet you properly -- but it's very strange, isn't it?"

"Mum's very strange," Draco muttered under his breath, just before a robe descended over his head, too, and another needle began hemming it. Harry stifled a laugh.

"At any rate, you're here now," Andromeda said. "And there's Harry done."

Harry struggled out of his robe and watched as it remained in midair. Two more robes exactly like it floated down and the needle began its work on them. Andromeda winked at Harry, and kissed Sirius on the cheek.

"Remus is upstairs talking with Ted, apparently they're both interested in the new flying bicycles that Nimbus is trying to patent," she said. "You're welcome to stay to dinner, Sirius, if you like. We're already feeding eight, three more won't make that much difference."

"Can I, Sirius?" Harry asked. "Neville's got a wizard's chess set and I bet anything I can beat him -- "

"Go on then," Sirius said with a smile, giving Harry a little shove. "I'll nip down to the shops and see about getting something to help with dinner -- wine?" he asked Andromeda, who smiled and nodded as Harry wandered away. Harry glanced back over his shoulder to see Draco, still watching Sirius with amazed eyes, and wondered precisely what Draco's mum had taught him about Harry's godfather.

He seemed a bit of a wet blanket, Draco Malfoy. Not at all as interesting as Neville or as much fun as Seamus.


Dinner that night was a very lively affair; six boys, four parents, and one Cool Older Sister all gathered around the big dining room table, sharing (and occasionally, in Blaise and Harry's case, flinging) spaghetti and meatballs and garlic bread. Nymphadora showed off her Auror's badge and did funny faces on request, the grownups got mildly drunk on the excellent wine Sirius had procured, and Sirius taught the boys a mildly offensive alternative version of the Hogwarts school song. When Andromeda sent the other boys along to bed, they gathered up Harry's things and ambled up Diagon Alley to the Leaky Cauldron.

"One bed?" Remus asked, lifting an eyebrow when Sirius showed them the room he'd arranged for. Sirius grinned and, with a flick of his wand, transfigured a low bench by the window into a small bed.

"Mister Potter, your bedchamber," he said, bowing, and Harry bowed back, before unwrapping the package Andromeda had made up for him, which included some Hogwarts pyjamas. He went to put the rest in his trunk, and dropped it all on the floor when he lifted the lid and saw what was inside.

"A Nimbus Two Thousand," he cried, lifting the broomstick out of the trunk. He glanced at Sirius, who was looking smug, and set the broom down carefully before running to hug him around the waist.

"Lad can't start school without something special," Sirius said, ruffling Harry's hair. "There's a false bottom in the trunk where you can store it -- the trunk's charmed to expand to fit."

Harry carefully eased the broomstick back into the trunk, then took it out again.

"He's going to try to sleep with it," Remus stage-whispered to Sirius.

"Am not. I just want to look at it for a while," Harry said reverently, sitting on the small bed and running his hands over every inch of it, from bristles to logo. "It's great," he said. "Really great, Sirius."

"Only the best for our lad," Sirius said. Harry placed the broomstick in the trunk, then lowered the lid on the false bottom, and began cleaning up his clothing, packing them into it before adding his books on top, and his potions supplies in a fold-out compartment on the left. Remus and Sirius changed into pyjamas while he upacked his backpack into the trunk as well -- more books, some art supplies and drawings, and, tucked carefully away, a worn plush frog. Remus saw one webbed foot poking out from under the Mabinogion before Harry closed the trunk's lid, and smiled.


There was an office, a desk, bookshelves, a kettle and a tin of tea-bags (which was peculiar in itself, as he never used tea-bags), an empty aquarium for some reason; his own hands, indubitably, the light dusting of brown hair across the knuckles, the small scar on his left wrist from where he'd cut himself long ago, before he'd been bitten.

He was placing papers in a suitcase on top of old, ragged clothing; packing hurriedly, some fear niggling in the back of his mind though he couldn't identify it when he tried. Instead he kept packing, until there was only one thing left on the desk, a folded piece of parchment with ragged edges.

He picked it up slowly and opened it, and the him that was him, and not simply a man packing as if his life depended on it, smiled. The Marauder's Map. Years since he'd seen it. When they graduated they'd passed it on to a couple of fourth years who'd had it confiscated, so they heard, around Easter the following year.

Someone knocked on the door, and he turned -- Harry. Standing in the doorway, Lily's eyes in James' face, watching him.

He'd done something -- failed Harry somehow. He could see it in Harry's face. Harry was saying something and he was replying, but he couldn't hear the words; all he could focus on was the look on Harry's face, the reproach. He tried to breathe and suddenly couldn't; tried to move and felt fixed in place.

Remus woke with a gasp, drawing air desperately into his lungs; just because werewolves could go without air for extended periods didn't mean they wanted to. He pushed himself up on one elbow, trying to slow the frantic beating of his heart, and realised he wasn't in their bright, booklined room at home; this was a room over the Leaky Cauldron, looking over Diagon Alley.

He rubbed his face with one hand. Next to him, in the bed, Sirius mumbled into his pillow and scooted closer, while Harry, in the other bed, let out a sigh and rolled over. The clock read just past six; too early to be up, but he knew he wouldn't manage any more sleep, and he might as well help them get an early start on the day.

Two years.

Two years he'd gone without the dreams, the unconscious visions so real he felt that there must be another Remus Lupin somewhere, living the life he saw when he slept. He had no doubt the lack was something to do with Betwys Beddau and the ring of standing stones that had once surrounded it. Still, he had hoped he was done with them forever.

He wandered down to the bathroom that the tenants of the Leaky Cauldron shared and washed himself, shaving carefully before returning to the room to put on decent clothing. He descended barefoot into the pub and asked the young woman behind the bar to send up breakfast in half an hour. She looked harried, but agreed cheerfully enough; he gave her his best Charming The Customers smile, learned from years of running a shop, and paid with tip in advance.

When he returned to the room, Harry was awake and sitting on his bed under the window that looked onto Diagon Alley, arms wrapped around his knees, forehead resting on the glass.

"Morning," Remus said, and Harry turned to give him a grin. "Breakfast in about half an hour. Train leaves at eleven; we'll be there well early, but that's just as well."

"I don't mind," Harry answered. "I can save a compartment for Neville and everyone."

"Do you want us to come onto the platform with you? I know I used to be heartily embarrassed when my dad came along," Remus said with a smile.

"You don't have to if you don't want to," Harry said.

"Harry -- of course we want to. I'm worried Sirius is going to want to get on the train with you, that's all," he added, and Harry smiled.

"I'm glad you're taking me," he said quietly. "Imagine having to go buy all my things all alone, like Draco did. I would have, I bet, if the Dursleys still had me."

"Not the type to enjoy a trip to Diagon Alley, were they."

"Not by half," Harry agreed. "But..."

Remus lifted an eyebrow.

"Well, it would've been easier," Harry said quietly, chin resting on his knees. "Leaving the Dursleys, I mean. I miss Betwys Beddau already, and I don't really..." he sniffed. "What if I can't find my classes, or nobody likes me -- everyone knows each other already, Neville and Seamus and Zacharias and Blaise -- or I fail out all my classes?"

"Fancy James Potter's son failing anything," came a deep voice from behind them, and Sirius shifted on the bed, curling around Remus, chin resting on his shoulder. "Not to worry, pup, we have every faith in you."

"Yeah, I guess," Harry said, and Remus suddenly wished he did have the Marauder's Map; it was a reassuring tool that he sensed Harry could well have used.

"It'll be fine," Remus added. "You'd better get washed up, Harry, and by the time you're done, breakfast should be ready," he ordered, and Harry climbed off his bed reluctantly, wandering sleepily down the hall.

"Maybe he can take Padfoot with him," Sirius speculated.

"No, Pads," Remus answered. "He's got to go this one alone."

"Seems a shame, though."

"He'll be fine."

"You remember your first night in the dorms?"

"Vividly. You and James levitated water balloons at us. You filled mine with clotted cream, in fact."

"Right." Sirius sighed. "I'd forgotten. Sorry about that."

"Forgiven," Remus said, and graciously allowed Sirius to kiss him.


Between Sirius' fussing and Harry's forgetfulness, they were still nearly late getting to the train; Harry suffered his godfather and his whatever-Remus-was -- they'd never really established that, but Remus didn't seem to mind -- to kiss him and ruffle his hair and slip an extra Galleon or three into his pockets for the sandwich trolley. Sirius knelt as they were calling for all students to board the train, and looked Harry right in the eye.

"Remember lad, you're James Potter's son and Sirius Black's godson and you don't take any trouble from anyone," he said gravely. "You do well in your classes and make friends and if you get up to a bit of mischief, well, you come by it honestly."

Harry nodded soberly, and glanced up at Remus, who smiled and laid a hand on Sirius' shoulder.

"You'll be fine, pup," he said quietly, using the pet name that normally only Sirius used. "Owl us, will you?"

Another nod, and Sirius hugged him, nearly crushing Snake in the process, before giving him a gentle shove towards the train. Harry maneuvered his trunk through the crowd, distracted for a minute by the logistics of getting it up the stairs, and when he turned in the doorway he couldn't see them.

He bumped down the corridor, peering into compartments already crowded with children, until he reached the last one. In this one, there was only one occupant; Draco Malfoy, the fair-haired boy from the night before.

"Mind if I sit here?" Harry inquired, and Draco shrugged, gazing out the window. "Where'd everyone else go?"

"Blaise said there wasn't room in their compartment," Draco answered, carelessly. "He and Zacharias and Seamus and Neville all got a compartment, but Neville went off to find his tie, it fell off somewhere, and they pushed me out after he'd gone."

"Bastards," Harry said amiably, and Draco went pale. "What?"

"That's an awful word."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to offend," Harry answered haughtily, embarrassed by Draco's scolding tone. He looked out the window, scanning the thinning crowd for his godfather, and pointed when he saw him.

"Look, there's your Aunt Andromeda, and Sirius and Remus. Sirius said yesterday that they're going to move into the attic of Andromeda's house."

Draco looked indifferent, so Harry prattled on, mostly to hide his own anxiety; the pale boy across from him seemed unnaturally calm, in the face of what was supposed to be the biggest adventure of their life. He waved goodbye to his godfather until the train had left the platform entirely, and then settled back against the seat, watching the outside world fly by.

It wasn't long before the door of the compartment rattled, and slid open; Neville's cheerful cherubic face peered around it.

"Hiya Harry," he said. "Hi Malfoy. I thought you were in with us."

"Got too crowded," Draco said offhandedly, and Harry -- who had pulled enough pranks at the village school in Betwys Beddau to appreciate a smooth liar -- gave him an admiring look. "Find your tie yet?"

"Not yet, but it's bound to turn up," Neville said. "We've looked everywhere else, mind if we sit with you for a while? Peaceful down this end of the carriage, isn't it?"

At Harry's inviting gesture, Neville pushed the door open fully and flopped down on the seat next to him, while a slightly taller, grave-looking girl lingered in the corridor.

"Come in then," Harry said. "You'll let in a draft."

The girl stepped inside, catching the door so it wouldn't slam, and held out her hand.

"Padma Patil," she said. "You're Harry Potter."

Harry grinned. "Want to see the scar?"

"Do show her, she didn't believe me when I said I had dinner with you," Neville complained. Padma settled herself composedly next to Draco, who watched her as if she were some sort of otherworldly creature. Harry pushed up his fringe, and Padma examined it interestedly.

"I always pictured it a bit more gory," she said critically. "It looks like a scratch that didn't heal properly."

"Oh, well, if you want gory..." Harry pulled his shirt-collar down, displaying the white, puckered gash across his collarbone where Peter Pettigrew had let his blood, two years before. "Neville's got one too, show yours, Nev," he said, and Neville showed off his own, nearly-identical scar with a grin.

Draco gave them an appreciative whistle.

"That's what I call a scar," Padma agreed. "Why didn't it heal properly? Didn't you have a Healer look at it?"

"S'magic," Neville replied. "Have you got any interesting scars?" he asked, glancing at Draco to include him. Draco shook his head, and Padma looked thoughtful.

"No," she said. "But I've got a bit of a dent in one leg where I fell off the kitchen ceiling once."

"Fell off the kitchen ceiling?" Draco asked. "Walk about on it often, do you?"

Padma lifted her chin haughtily. "If you don't want to hear about it I shan't tell it," she said.

"Do," Harry urged. "I want to hear. Neville does too, don't you?"

Neville nodded, and Padma relented. "Well, you know how, when you're little, you show magic?"

"I bounced," Neville sighed.

"I turned a teacher's wig blue," Harry agreed.

"I made a cat disappear," Draco said. They all paused momentarily. "What? They found it eventually, it was only a few miles away."

"Well, that's the way I showed magic. My sister set fire to things and I climbed walls."

The boys looked suitably impressed. "Can you still do it?" Neville asked interestedly. Padma stood on the train seat, rubbing her hands together.

"It doesn't always work, mind," she warned. She held her hands above her head, palms up, and jumped; her palms seemed to stick to the ceiling, and she dangled there for a moment before dropping again.

Harry glanced at Draco and Neville, who were looking suitably impressed, and he could tell they were thinking the same thing -- she's all right, for a girl. He saw Draco open his mouth to say it, but just then the trolley rolled by, and they all stood up to inspect its wares. Harry, who hadn't had wizarding sweets in years, bought a bit of everything; over pumpkin pasties and chocolate frogs they discussed Hogwarts, the train ride, the arrival, and the Sorting Hat -- which naturally turned the conversation towards Houses.

"Well, my mum and dad were both Gryffindor," Neville said, "So I guess I'll end up there. Haven't got the brains for Ravenclaw," he added frankly.

"I don't really care, so long as I don't have to share a room with my sister," Padma rolled her eyes. "Though I think it would be rather frightful to be in Hufflepuff. I hear nobody pays them any notice at all."

"It'd still be better than Slytherin," Draco said. "My whole family's gone Slytherin. I'm doomed to it."

"Slytherin isn't so horrible," Harry protested. "Professor Snape's their Head of House, he's all right. And Hufflepuff isn't ignored, they're just quiet."

"How d'you know?" Padma inquired. "You haven't got any siblings at Hogwarts."

Harry floundered for a minute. "Er -- well, Professor Snape godfather and Professor Snape are..."

It would be a terrible lie to say they were friends, and while Harry wasn't against lying on principle, Sirius and Professor Snape being friends went against nature itself.

"...acquaintances. I used to visit Professor Snape at the school when I was younger," Harry finished.

"You know all about it then, don't you?" Neville asked. "Tell us what House you want to go into."

"Well, my parents were Gryffindor like yours," Harry said slowly. "So I reckon there's a chance there. I don't think I'd much fancy being a Ravenclaw, and I'm not patient enough to be a Hufflepuff. Wouldn't half-mind Slytherin, really, I like snakes, and I like Professor Snape. What about you, Draco?" he asked, because Draco had gone silent, and looked thoughtful.

"Don't know," he said, indifferently. "Won't know until we get there. Doesn't matter where I want to go anyway, Malfoys are Slytherins. Always have been, always will be."

"Sirius said most Blacks were Slytherins too," Harry argued. "But he wasn't."

"Andromeda neither," Neville put in. "And she's your aunt. She told me she was glad because her sisters both got put in Slytherin and she didn't think they were very nice -- " he stopped short, and clamped his jaw shut; Harry saw tension building in his shoulders.

"Well, she's not," Draco murmured.

"All right then, here's what we'll do," Harry said brightly, in his best Remus Distracting Sirius From Something Unpleasant voice. "We'll make a pact here and now. No matter what House we go into, we'll look after each other. Nobody picks on Draco -- " this was an obvious concern for all of them, especially Draco himself, " -- and nobody makes fun if anyone goes into Hufflepuff, and if we end up in the same House as one another we'll share notes and all. Might as well do anyway," he mused. "We'll be our own House."

He spat on his hand and held it out to Padma, who looked doubtful.

"I'm not going to spit-shake," she said. "Mum says it's not hygenic."

"Mine too," Draco chimed in. Harry glanced at Neville and rolled his eyes, then wiped his hand off, picked up a chocolate frog box, and pulled out the collector's card.

"Look, see? Dumbledore," he said, holding it up. "It's a sign."

Draco gasped as Harry ripped it neatly into four pieces. Neville took his easily enough, grinning as half of Dumbledore's hat and a bit of his ear waggled humourously in the photo; Padma giggled as she took hers, and Draco reluctantly accepted his quarter, which had Dumbledore's left armpit and most of his beard.

"Now it's like in pirate stories, everyone has a bit of the treasure map and we're all brothers," Harry announced. "And sister," he added, when Padma cleared her throat.

"So what do we call ourselves?" Neville asked, joining the spirit of the game. Harry shrugged.

"We'll make something up in a bit," he said complacently. The train clacked along, the scenery whizzed past, and he had a full stomach of sweets and pumpkin pasty; in a few hours they'd be at Hogwarts, and they'd see where they were going to spend the next seven years. Now that he'd already made three friends, a little of the fear and homesickness was receding, replaced by a fluttering but almost pleasant anxiety over where he was to be sorted.

All in all, even if Padma was a bit stuck up and Draco unrelenting in his wet-blanketness, it was turning out to be a pretty good train ride.


Most of the professors at Hogwarts school spent the final day before the arrival of the students arranging their classrooms, going over their notes, and re-checking their student rosters. It was a soothing habit that well-hid the anxiety even the adults felt, with every new school year. Severus himself generally spent the time cleaning the Potions cabinets and sorting any disarrayed paperwork; he was by nature and neurosis a tidy man, though he necessarily tolerated mess, as it was a rare class indeed where someone didn't spill ingredients, stain robes, or blow something up.

That particular year, however, he found the cleaning didn't soothe him; the papers didn't get any neater no matter how often he reshuffled them, and the jars all looked badly-organised in their racks on the supply cabinet shelf. He had never been so out of sorts over an arrival before. There was always some anticipation when the children were returning, but after a perfunctory cleaning he'd usually simply wrapped himself up in his studies and his books, ignoring it until it was time to go down to the feast.

Even Minerva McGonagall, passing him in the hallway as she was returning from lunch and he, too restless to eat, was on his way to the library to check a reference in one of his lectures, remarked on the tension in his face, asking him if he was ill. Normally, McGonagall not being known for her particular tenderness of feeling, he would have been startled by the question. Instead, he growled a reply, and resumed his pacing of the corridors.

Tonight, Harry would be here. He hadn't seen the boy in far too long; it had been two years since Harry and his godfather and that abominably good-natured werewolf had gone into hiding. True, he was their secret-keeper, and the temptation to simply appear on their doorstep some evening had been great, especially on days when his classes went badly, or he caught people staring curiously at the mark on his face near his right eye, or his usually busy mind sank into something which a less-repressed man might have called depression. He hadn't known how lonely he --

Well, there was no use brooding upon it, not -- he glanced at the clock on the mantel of his sitting-room, -- not when it was time to go down to the feast.

Severus Snape did not run, as a rule, but he hurried down the hallway, cursing himself for having let time slip away; one minute it seemed to drag, the next it seemed to fly. He arrived just as the First-Years did, led by McGonagall. Dumbledore glanced over at him hesitating in the doorway, and winked, waving him on.

With as much dignity as he could gather, he crossed behind the high table, and settled into his seat. He found himself scanning the line of children, eagerly, until a dark head lifted and bright green eyes met his.

Harry saw him and blinked, and then glanced around; self-consciously, he raised a hand and waved. He was taller than he had been, which was augmented by the plain Hogwarts robes, and the last traces of childish roundness had left his face. He was sun-browned, his hair grown rather long and shaggy, and there were definite hints of cleverness in his eyes, a more adult intelligence he hadn't possessed as a guileless eight-year-old. He looked very much like James had at his age, but Severus barely thought on that; he hadn't really linked James and Harry since their first visit together, and Harry was quite his own person already.

Severus, in reply to the waved greeting, inclined his head just enough for Harry to see, and was rewarded with a brilliant grin. He fought his own smile -- a first impression of a kindly, beaming fool was not what he wanted to make on the rest of the children -- and watched as Harry glanced around. Severus saw Oliver Wood do a double take, and the Weasley brood hollered across at him, and their own brother -- Merlin, not another one, had no-one introduced Arthur Weasley to the concept of a prophylactic? -- who had collared Harry now and was speaking excitedly with him.

McGonagall was calling for silence, however, and he kept an eye on the Slytherin table, making sure no-one was being troublesome, while he waited for the names to be called. He let them roll over him without paying too much attention -- Abbot, Bones, Boot, Brocklehurst; Finnegan, Goldstein, Goyle, Granger.

He heard Longbottom called, and watched Neville timidly approach the Hat; the boy gave him an anxious look, but also a wink of recognition that would have outraged his sensibilities if it wasn't, well, Neville. A social maladjust, that boy, no matter what Andromeda had done for him. Nymphadora Tonks had been the same way, though without the utter presumption of familiarity Neville had just shown.

"Gryffindor!" the Hat shouted, and Severus murmured "Surprise," to himself as Neville hopped down and dashed over to the Gryffindor table, giving Harry and an unfamiliar boy pats on the shoulder as he passed. The second boy had pale, white-blond hair, and a somewhat sickly pallor --

"MacDougal, Morag!" "Ravenclaw!"

-- as though he didn't get out in the sun enough; then again, most of the students were pale with anxiety.

"Macmillian, Ernie!" "Hufflepuff!"

There was something about the face, though.

"Malfoy, Draco!"

Severus glanced up sharply at McGonagall as she called the name, and the pale-haired boy stepped forward. Lucius and Narcissa's son, then. A murmur went around the room at the name, and the boy seemed to pull in on himself. His name had already done him no favours; these children had grown up on stories of James and Lily Potter, You-Know-Who, Peter Pettigrew and Lucius Malfoy. Two years ago, the Malfoy name had been all over the papers -- with the seeming return-to-life of Pettigrew, some of Lucius' old cronies had called for his release on the grounds that Peter had killed all those Muggles, but the Ministry had stood firm; Lucius Malfoy was still a Death Eater, and insane, besides.

Despite the whispering and the embarrassed slouch of his shoulders, young Draco's face was carefully schooled to blankness as he approached the stool, and he didn't flinch as some did, when the Hat was set on his head.

There was a long silence, broken only by the occasional murmurings of the Hat in Draco's ear. It almost seemed to be arguing with the boy, until finally it gave a distinctly dissatisfied rustle and called out "Hufflepuff!"

Draco pulled it off, leapt down from the stool and nearly bolted off the platform to the Hufflepuff table. He did not receive the warm welcome Neville'd had at Gryffindor.

More names were called, as the students began to look rather hungry and Severus felt his own stomach churn with a combination of emptiness and nervousness. Nott's boy, Theodore, went into Slytherin, as did Pansy Parkinson; the Patil twins looked relieved to be split up, Parvati to Gryffindor and Padma to Ravenclaw -- indeed, he'd never seen sisters look so happy to be split up.

Severus leaned forward as Sally-Anne Perks left the chair. Soon, now...

And then McGonagall's voice again, tone entirely unchanged.

"Potter, Harry!"

There was another ripple of murmuring that ran around the hall as the boy stepped forward, beamed a wide grin at Dumbledore and himself, and sat confidently on the stool. The hat was lowered over his head, and as with Draco, soft mutterings could be heard; Severus strained to make them out, but the Hat kept its secrets close.

After a moment, and just when the silence in the room became oppressive, it shouted, clear and loud, a single word.

The rest of the professors looked stunned, as did the majority of the students -- Neville Longbottom and the Weasley brothers included.

Severus Snape smiled.

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