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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.)

Author Notes:

How could I resist leaving Severus Snape's unusually poetic opening speech untouched? Well...almost untouched.

Except for a brief, five-month period at Molly Weasley's small home-school, studying with her children, Harry had always attended Muggle school; first the horrible place the Dursleys sent him to, where he was bullied and ostracised by Dudley's gang, and then the little village school at Betwys Beddau, where he was considered an outsider, but at least not ganged up on or completely left out.

He'd liked the village school, though it wasn't terribly challenging, since Remus and Sirius were intelligent people, who assumed Harry was also (a nice change from most adults) and had made sure that, whatever they did, Harry learned something. This did result in his being a little more advanced than many of the other children of Betwys Beddau, and made him all the more eager for Hogwarts, where he'd be learning what Sirius called proper lessons -- Sirius didn't hold much with Muggle views on some subjects, and had already been teaching Harry basic Arithmancy when the rest of his classmates were stuck in long-division. Harry might not understand Arithmancy as thoroughly as he did long-division, but magic was much more interesting and challenging than boring Muggle school, and Harry was impatient to start learning real, physical magic at Hogwarts.

He just hadn't expected to be one of the lessons.

In his first week at school, it was not just the students who were fascinated by him, but the professors, as well. Some were more subtle than others. In their first Astronomy lesson, that Wednesday night at midnight up in the highest tower, everything had seemed remarkably normal, at least by Hogwarts standards.

"Let's begin with a basic survey," Professor Sinistra had said. "What stars and constellations can you name?"

Hermione Granger's hand went up first, and she reeled off three constellations and their significances in one breath, before Sinistra could gently stop her and call on Neville, who had not raised his hand but bravely pointed out Polaris, the north star. Nott managed to murmur something to Crabbe, when he was called on, and then Sinistra turned her eyes on Harry, who raised his hand before he could be caught not-raising-it, and pointed upwards.

"That's Sirius," he said. There was a quiet murmur. Before he could stop himself, he blurted, "It's the first star I learned."

"I imagine your godfather taught it to you?" Sinistra asked, with a slightly misty look, like the older Slytherin girls got when Oliver Wood passed by.

"Er...yes, Professor," Harry answered.

"Did you stargaze frequently?"

Harry glanced around. Everyone was staring, except Neville, who was still working out which star Harry had pointed to.

"Yeah, I guess," he said. They had gone stargazing, in Wales, though mostly it consisted of Harry using a small telescope and reading books about constellations by flashlight, while Sirius and Remus shared a blanket and a flask nearby. Sinistra went on to pump the whole mythological story of the Dog Star and its accompaning constellation out of him, making what he suspected were sly comments on his godfather, until finally Neville butted in with a question, to save him.

It was almost worse in History of Magic, where Professor Binns gave a lecture on You Know Who -- Harry had to bite his tongue to keep from saying Voldemort, since Sirius and Remus had always followed Headmaster Dumbledore's example and called him by his name, on the rare occasions it was necessary to mention him -- before discussing with them the technique for studying history, using Harry as an example. And he still managed to make the whole thing boring, even for Harry.

In Charms, Professor Flitwick lectured on cosmetic covering charms "good for covering spots, boils, and scars, even magical ones" while never actually looking directly at Harry. Ron, who was less awed by Harry's reputation, having known him from Molly's school, drew funny pictures of the professor while Neville, on Harry's other side, was a wonderful distraction as he buggered up every charm he tried, thoroughly but cheerfully. Blaise glared at Harry from across the room as though he were a traitor for consorting with Gryffindors, but then Blaise was stuck with the Slytherin girls, as Crabbe and Goyle had attached themselves to Theo Nott, who was marginally brighter than they, and seemed pleased with his little gang.

Professor Quirrell -- whose lessons would have been more interesting if it hadn't been for the strong smell of garlic and the constant stuttering -- often singled out Harry to answer questions, apparently assuming that Harry was some sort of Defence expert. He also giggled nervously whenever he looked at Harry. The other Slytherins teased him a bit about how anxious he made Professor Quirrell, but it seemed good-natured, and certainly was kind compared to what the other Slytherins said about Quirrell himself.

In every class so far, Harry had been singled out in some fashion, except for Transfiguration, and Harry felt sure that Professor McGonagall was ostentatiously, purposely treating him like the other students. He was glad that Professor McGonagall was even-handed, as Harry didn't seem to have a strong knack for Transfiguration (something he definitely didn't want Sirius to find out about). He began arriving early to class specifically so he could sit with Padma, who was excellent at it, and sweet-talk her into helping him.

The class he was really looking forward to, however, was Friday's class -- double Potions with Gryffindor. This was Professor Snape's class, and he'd finally be able to see what Snape was like as a teacher. He'd already been warned not to expect preference, which would be a relief, and there would be no talk of scars or You Know Who or the Boy Who Lived, he was sure. For one, Snape already knew all there was to know about Harry; for another, Harry knew Snape well enough to guess that even if he hadn't, he would have kept his curiousity to himself, like Professor McGonagall, and got on with the job of teaching.

Most of all Harry wanted to do well in Potions, to impress Professor Snape.

He could hardly eat that morning, for excitement, though Padma forced him to finish a bowl of cereal and a banana before she was satisfied. He was going to be early anyway; he and Padma had made a habit of eating early so as to avoid the Slytherin prefect kicking her off the Slytherin table. Draco usually joined them, he said to escape his rather dull Hufflepuff mates. Neville, on the other hand, regularly overslept and sometimes missed the meal entirely, meaning Harry only ever saw him when Slytherin and Gryffindor had class together -- like they did for Friday morning Potions.

"Should I go fetch him?" Harry fretted, when Neville was nowhere to be found that morning.

"You're not his keeper," Draco pointed out around a mouthful of potatoes.

"Doesn't mean I can't look out for him," Harry answered, as Snake slithered off his wrist and wrapped himself happily around a goblet of hot cocoa, soaking up the warmth. Harry had assumed, once the novelty of classes wore off, that the reptile would want to spend his days basking on the grounds or sleeping in the Dungeons, but to his surprise, Snake had insisted on accompanying him everywhere. He still spent most of his time asleep, however. Snakes did that.

"Harry's got a pet Gryffindor," Draco drawled, and Padma grinned.

"Remus told me I had to look out for him," he said, which was almost true. "He's family."

"He is?" Padma asked.

"Well, sort of."

"Think you could have given him some of the graceful genes?" Draco inquired.

"Malfoy!" Padma scolded.

"What? In Transfiguration he's always blowing something up, and drawing attention."

"You don't have to be his partner if you don't want to," Padma said severely. Draco ducked his head, and the tips of his ears turned red.

"I didn't know anyone else to ask if they'd be my partner. I don't think anyone else'd have me," he murmured. Harry frowned, slightly; he knew some of the students had been pointedly ignoring Draco -- both those who had been raised thinking his father was a murdering brute, and those who might have approved, but couldn't publicly show their approval. They tended to be ashamed of him anyway, since he was a Hufflepuff; Harry remembered hearing that Sirius had suffered from that too, when the most promising of a long line of Slytherins had gone into Gryffindor instead.

"Then you oughtn't beat bludgers at Neville," Padma continued.

"At least I don't blow things up."

Their bickering was interrupted by the owl post, which coincided with the arrival of the Slytherin prefect, and Padma and Draco ran off to their separate tables, leaving Harry to read his letter from Sirius in the company of Blaise and Pansy, who were discussing Potions.

"I heard Professor Snape hates students and only teaches because nowhere else will hire him," Pansy said, wrinkling her nose at the apparently too-bourgeois-to-eat breakfast food.

"I heard nobody else will hire him because he was a Death Eater," Blaise replied.

"That's not true," Harry said sharply, and they both glanced at him. Theodore might have Crabbe and Goyle, but Harry was the undeniable leader of the first year boys; he was cooler than Blaise and smarter than Theodore, and he was friends with Neville Longbottom, who was the loudest if the least competent of the Gryffindors.

"Then why don't we ever see him?" Pansy asked, as Millicent arrived, trailed by Crabbe and Goyle.

"You would if you didn't spend all your time giggling over the older boys in a corner of the common room with Bulstrode," Harry answered, and Pansy flushed scarlet. "I see him in the dungeons all the time."

Just then Snake uncurled from the cocoa cup, and Harry held out his hand, allowing the small, warm creature to weave itself between his fingers.

"If you don't do well in Potions it'll go hard on you," Harry said sternly, and stood, gathering up his book-bag. "If I catch you losing us points I'll make sure everyone knows what you said about Marcus Flint last night."

"You daren't!" Pansy shrieked, her bobbed hair flying around her cheeks. "You don't know I said anything!"

"I do now," Harry grinned. He noticed Neville arriving breathlessly in the doorway, and picked up a few slices of toast and some bacon, making his retreat as the other Slytherins turned their curiousity on Pansy. Neville waited until they were in the hallway on their way to the dungeons before accepting the food.

"Thanks Harry. I can't seem to get my alarm charm to work," he sighed, sinking his teeth into the hastily-made bacon sandwich. "Just as well, really, this way I won't have time to be nervous. I only got up when I did because Andromeda's owl found me in the dorm and wouldn't let go of my hair till I took the letter," he said, pointing to a bare place just behind his left ear. "Is that post from your godfather?"

"Yeah, just normal stuff. They've locked up River House -- the place where we were living -- and they're still unpacking in the attic."

"That'll be fun," Neville said cheerfully, as they reached the bottom of the stairs down into the Potions classroom. "We'll have holidays together and such. Christmas in Diagon Alley is brilliant, they charm the snowmen to move about and give people directions, since we get so many tourists. Last year Dora and I made fifteen Galleons singing carols on streetcorners. We can't neither of us sing, but lots of young men like Dora and all the mums like me," he added. "We gave half to the Aurors' Relief Fund -- " he stopped in the middle of the Potions classroom, and stared around. "Look at this place!"

Harry grinned. He'd been in the classroom before, many times, in the months he'd spent visiting Professor Snape; he was familiar with the animal room too, where the snakes -- and their prey -- were kept. The peculiar jars, the pitted worktables, the odd smell; all familiar and comforting, if only vaguely, like the memories of Sandust and the early days in Remus' flat in Little Whinging.

"Sit with me, Harry, will you? Otherwise Granger's going to want to sit next to me and tell me how to do everything. She's a bit of a nightmare," Neville said frankly. "I know I'm not that bright, but honestly, I think I'd like to make my own mistakes."

Harry was hesitant about sitting with Neville, who did have a tendency to destroy things, but they had made a deal on the train. He sat down at a worktable near the front, and Neville slid in next to him, taking out a sheet of parchment and tacking it down, idly twiddling his quill between his fingers.

Other students began to drift in slowly, while Neville finished his breakfast and Harry arranged his cauldron and note-parchment, made sure his tie was straight and his robe was properly done up. He gave Ron a wave and a grin when he took the table next to theirs -- joined, oddly enough, by Blaise. Harry glanced around and realised that slowly, all of the students who were arriving were following the seating arrangements: Hermione Granger and Millicent Bulstrode, Theodore Nott and Lavender Brown, Seamus Finnegan and Pansy Parkinson, who glared daggers at Harry and Neville before refusing to look at them at all.

Harry was about to turn to Neville and remark on the unusual seating, when the door flew open and Professor Snape strode down the aisle, turning to face the class.

"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potionmaking," he began. Harry sat rapt, listening intently, as the rest of the class fell silent. "As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic."

He swept the class with his eyes, coolly. "I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses..."

He gathered his robes around him, suddenly distant and grown-up and slightly dangerous. "I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death -- "

Harry risked a sidelong look at the other students, and realised that Professor Snape had the same gift McGonagall had; he was speaking softly, and his words were not precisely kind, but he could keep the class silent by his mere presence.

"If you aren't as big a bunch of idiots as I usually have to teach," he finished.

Harry blinked.


"Yeah, he's always like that," Fred Weasley said, flopping back on the grass to stare up at the still-summery sky. Most of the Gryffindor first years, along with Fred, George, Padma, two of her Ravenclaw friends, Draco, Pansy and Blaise were all gathered on the lawns outside the castle, enjoying the early-September sun and relaxing after their first week of classes, making full use of their Friday afternoon off.

Draco was watching clouds cross the deep blue sky, oblivious to the fact that George had charmed little miniature false clouds to drift across his vision, eddying into unusual shapes, until one of them was a little too realistically obscene. The rest of the children shrieked with laughter as Draco flung a clump of grass at George, and George shot it back with a flick of his wand, striking Draco's forehead and leaving a small smear of dirt.

Harry grinned and stroked Snake's head, where the little creature was coiled up on Harry's chest, sunning himself and occasionally threatening to slither off and find a rock that didn't fidget so often. Harry wasn't ready to give up their discussion so easily, though, and he fumbled for the right words to express what he was thinking.

"I thought he'd be...well, not nicer, but..."

"He's not really a bad sort," George said, "He just doesn't like teaching first-years much."

"I think he's horrible," Hermione Granger said. "He didn't call on me once."

"Maybe if you hadn't nearly fallen out of your seat waving your hand around like a know-all, he would have," Ron replied. Hermione scowled.

"He wasn't very nice to Neville."

"Longbottom let his potion boil over," Blaise pointed out. "If he called him incompetent as usual he was only saying what everyone else is thinking."

"If you call Neville incompetent again, Zabini, I'll break your arms," Harry said calmly, without looking at him. Draco gave Harry a small grin.

"Well, he is," Blaise insisted.

"There's no need to keep reminding him, he's doing the best he can."

"You certainly haven't got anything to worry about," Blaise answered. "Pay attention to Potter's chopped Valerian Root, class, note the attention to detail and the precision. Five points to Slytherin," he drawled, in a fairly good imitation of Snape, if Snape's voice had been an octave or so higher than it was in reality.

Harry had been a bit unnerved by the praise, but then he had been fairly proud of his work, and didn't really think it was undeserved. "Well, anyhow, he did send him to the infirmary right away and didn't take any points off. When Seamus accidentally transfigured his fingers into flowers, Professor McGonagall made him wait all class before she let him go."

"I didn't mind," Seamus said. "Cept for the allergies. Kinda cool, really."

"The thing to remember about Professor Snape," George said, sitting up and regarding them with a rare serious look, "Is that he wants you to be perfect and he gets frustrated when you aren't, cos, well, you're ickle screwup kiddies."

"Thanks," Harry said dryly.

"He yelled at us for hours over the Giggling Brew we put in the water last year," Fred added, "But when he got done yelling -- "

" -- and giggling -- " George added.

" -- he made us show him how to do it and he teaches it in fourth year curriculum now. Knows a good thing when he sees it, Snape. Plays favourites and his team cheats at Quidditch, but you'll learn stuff, which is more than'll happen in Defence or Divination."

"Your fan club's back, Harry," Draco called, and Harry propped himself on his elbows to see a couple of second-year Gryffindors wander past, gawking at him.

"Awww, is the Boy Who Lived shy?" Padma teased, when Harry scooted behind Fred and George, out of their direct line of sight.

"I'm going to see Neville in the infirmary," Harry announced, dislodging Snake from his chest as he stood, and gathering him into a pocket. Draco and Padma scrambled up also; the rest of the sunbathers wandered away, or gathered themselves into a closer group to continue discussing classes.

"You can't go anywhere without being stared at, can you?" Padma asked, as they passed into the castle, and a redheaded Hufflepuff stumbled out of their way, staring at Harry.

"No," Harry said glumly.

"Buck up, it'll wear off," Draco said. "You've just got to be absolutely mediocre for a while. You know, what you've got to be is boring."

Harry sighed, and led them onwards towards the infirmary.

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