Platform 9 and Three Quarters, at King’s Cross Station, was packed with people when Severus and his mother arrived.
Severus already had on his school robes; he held his mother’s hand and peeked round the busy station through a gap in his hair.
Steam billowed over the crowds of excited families, cats wound round people’s legs, owls hooted and, here and there, rats twitched their whiskers atop shoulders.
Severus watched the animals glumly: He had never had a pet in his life, as his father would never have allowed him one.
His mother squeezed his hand, ‘I’ll buy you a pet as soon as I know your father’s gone,’ she told him, soothingly, as if she had read his mind.
Severus beamed at her.
‘I want something cool like a snake or a lizard!’ he said, enthusiastically.
‘Oh, I’ll get you something much cooler than that,’ she said, mysteriously.
‘A dragon?’ Severus repeated, his eyes enormous now.
For the first time since leaving the house, his mother chuckled.
‘Dragons are much too dangerous, darling, but speaking of danger-’
She knelt down so that she was on eye-level with Severus.
‘Your father can’t touch you at Hogwarts. No Muggles can. They can’t go there, you see. It’s just for people like us. You’re going to make lots of new friends at Hogwarts, Severus, and no one’s going to bully you anymore,’
Severus knew she was going to leave him soon, and this scared him. Another frightening thought was his mother going home and finding his father still there.
He held both her hands tightly like he wouldn’t let go.
‘Come with me!’
She was blinking more than usual.
‘Let’s get your things onboard, shall we? The train will be going soon.’
Severus’ trunk had been sent on ahead by the Ministry representatives (Severus reminded himself to thank Dumbledore) so he looked very poor, or at least poorly prepared, carrying a single shopping bag onto the Hogwarts Express while everyone else heaved on their trunks.
His mother stood outside his window.
‘You’re going to have a great time,’ she promised him, ‘Just be yourself. Work hard. Be good ... and-’
She wiped her eyes.
‘Be brave,’ Severus told her with a wink.
She smiled back and nodded.
A whistle blew and the train started moving.
As it picked up speed, Severus waved to his mother who waved back, energetically, and then, she was gone.
Severus stood there for a moment, stunned. He was going! He was actually going to Hogwarts! And those scumbags back at Spinner’s End who teased him about his hair would sit through maths exams, and the most exciting thing they’d do in a classroom is flick bogies at each other. Ha!
Severus began making his way along the train, looking into the compartments.
Many were filled with noisy students in high spirits, and he shied away from these, for they didn’t seem, quite, his type.
Severus kept going until he found a compartment that was completely empty, except for one girl, sitting by the window.
Severus chewed his lip; he’d been hoping for a place to himself and was about to move on when she noticed him looking at her.
Severus blushed, but the girl beckoned for him to come in.
Severus timidly opened the compartment door.
The girl was extremely pretty, with long, dark red hair and bright green eyes.
‘Is it ok if I sit here?’ Severus asked her, nervously.
‘Of course it is,’ the girl said, kindly, and Severus sat down opposite her.
‘What’s your name?’ the girl asked.
‘I’m Lily Evans. I’m really looking forward to Hogwarts, aren’t you?’
Severus smiled a little, ‘Since I got the letter,’
‘The others keep going on about Houses, what do you suppose they are?’ Lily wondered.
Severus sat up a little straighter, feeling glad that he could talk to this girl.
‘My mum’s told me about them,’ he said, ‘there are four Houses, and she was in Slytherin House,’
‘But what’s the difference?’ Lily asked him.
‘Maybe there is no difference,’ Severus shrugged.
‘There must be,’ Lily persisted, ‘Not everyone belongs, I guess,’
Severus began to get uncomfortable, and he quickly changed the subject.
‘How old were you, when you found out you were a Witch?’
‘When I was five. I was in the garden and I accidentally made the garden hose move like a snake. My father got a right shock, he was watering the flowers at the time.’
Severus began to smile but then something struck him about what Lily had said.
‘Was he angry when he found out you’re a witch?’ he asked, quietly.
Lily looked surprised, ‘Who?’
‘No, he was amazed. He’s a Muggle, you see. Both my parents are.’
‘Oh,’ Severus said, shortly, thinking of his own Muggle father.
There was quiet for a while as they looked out the window, watching the scenery rush past.
‘Are both your parents magical then?’ Lily asked Severus, curiously.
Severus fidgeted a little.
‘My mum’s a witch,’ he said, carefully, ‘she comes from a long line of pure bloods,’
‘What are they?’ Lily asked, but just then a new voice entered the compartment.
‘Anything off the trolley, dears?’
Severus looked round to see a plump witch pushing a trolley laden with sweets.
‘Er -’ Lily looked at Severus, apologetically, ‘I don’t know what wizard sweets are like,’
‘I’ll get some,’ Severus said, hurrying over and pulling a handful of Galleons from his pocket.
At this, Lily went pink. ‘You don’t have to.’
‘It’s fine,’ he answered, swapping coins with the trolley witch.
He bought them Chocolate Frogs, Cauldron Cakes, and Fizzing Whizzbees.
As they ate, Severus kept peeking at Lily through gaps in his hair, as if to reassure himself that he wasn’t imagining things.
He had never had any friends before, but Lily, who was a Muggle-born, was being nice to him.
It felt strange but good, sharing the sweets with her, and he mustered the courage to look her in the eyes a few more times, exchanging smiles as he did so.
They were just brushing the crumbs from their mouths when the compartment door slid open again, and four boys entered.
‘Of course, Gryffindor’s the best House,’ the foremost boy was saying, knowledgably. ‘All my family were in there.’
He had very messy black hair, hazel eyes, and wore glasses. The boys threw themselves down into seats, and the first boy put his feet up on the one opposite.
Severus frowned, disapprovingly, and hid behind his hair again.
‘Do you think I’ll get into Gryffindor?’ a round-faced, chubby boy asked, anxiously. The first boy rolled his eyes.
‘For the millionth time, Pettigrew, yes,’
‘You can’t know that for certain!’ Pettigrew said, unhappily.
‘Sirius,’ the first boy addressed the boy next to him, who was handsome and had thick, dark hair. ‘Will Pettigrew get into Gryffindor?’
The one called Sirius rubbed his temples, dramatically, with his eyes closed, as if conjuring psychic powers, or looking into the future.
‘Yup,’ he said, casually, folding his arms, cool-like.
‘That’s good enough for me,’ the messy-haired boy said.
‘Don’t take the Mickey, James!’ Pettigrew squeaked, and while the three of them argued, the forth boy, who had light brown hair, noticed Severus and Lily.
He gave them a brief smile but turned to Pettigrew, the chubby boy.
‘The point is, Peter,’ he said, restoring calm, ‘is that we all believe in you.’
Peter Pettigrew smiled, bashfully, ‘Thanks Remus,’
‘And talking of the next wizard,’ the one called Remus said in a louder voice, for the others hadn’t even acknowledged Severus and Lily’s existence, ‘hello,’
‘Hello,’ Severus and Lily echoed.
‘Hi, I’m James Potter,’ the messy-haired boy said before anyone else could talk.
‘This is Sirius Black-’
The cool-looking boy gave them the thumbs-up.
‘-That’s Remus Lupin-’
Remus smiled and raised a hand in greeting.
‘-and Peter Pettigrew’s the one who’ll definitely be getting into Gryffindor,’
‘What are your names?’ Remus asked them.
‘I’m Lily Evans,’ said Lily, ‘and this is Severus Snape.’
Severus had been sitting in irritated silence the moment the boys had arrived, and he was even more annoyed now they’d decided to stay.
It had been nice with just Lily for company.
Severus looked round to see the Potter boy watching him, unsmilingly.
‘Snape?’ he repeated.
‘Yes, I’m Snape. Why?’
‘I’ve heard of your family,’ Potter replied, but he didn’t sound glad to.
‘Heard what, exactly?’ Severus asked, tensing.
‘Hmm, let’s think,’ Potter said, sarcastically, counting off his fingers, ‘You’re all in Slytherin, you’re purebloods who think they’re better than everyone else, and you live in a dump so squalid there are rats who wouldn’t move in.’
The others laughed.
‘Shut up!’ Lily snapped, but Severus had drawn out his wand, quite without anyone noticing. At this, everyone except Lily leapt to their feet.
Potter quickly had his wand out in answer.
‘I dare you,’ Severus said, coldly, ‘insult my family again, and I’ll hex you,’
‘He’s bluffing, James,’ Black muttered to Potter, ‘He doesn’t know any hexes yet,’
‘You want a bet?’ Severus asked, loudly, as sparks flew out the end of his wand.
Lily caught him by the wrist, ‘Watch out!’
They all looked round and saw something like a cloak whisk out of sight.
Lupin, who was nearest, opened the compartment door and peered out.
‘No one there,’ he said, ‘probably kids,’
But they were all thinking the same thing. They didn’t know if there any adults onboard the train, and the last thing any of them wanted was to get into trouble before they’d even started school.
‘Come on, Severus, let’s get out of here,’ Lily said, ‘I think some people need to grow up!’
She left the compartment with as much dignity as possible, while the boys mocked her haughty tone.
Potter stuck out a leg, trying to trip Severus as he passed.
‘See you, Snivellus,’ he called after him.
Once outside, they moved a few compartments away from the one with Potter in.
Severus felt his face reddening. Lily looked angry too, and they spent a while verbally abusing the boys. Severus didn’t want to go in any of the other compartments, and Lily agreed they should stay in the train’s corridor.
It was dark outside the window now, and while they had been travelling, the landscape had turned wild; the fields and country lanes had given way to dark forests and dramatic mountains.
They sat, cross-legged, on the floor and talked about magic.
Severus eagerly expressed how interesting he had found their spell books, particularly The Dark Forces. It turned out that Lily also enjoyed Magical Draughts and Potions, which made him feel better.
At last, the train began to slow down, and people up and down were rummaging in their trunks, changing into school robes. Lily jumped up.
‘I’ll be right back!’ she called as she ran off to change as well.
Severus’ heart gave a leap in his chest; soon, he would be arriving at Hogwarts for the first time in his life.