Severus and Lily got off the Hogwarts Express together.
Lily was grinning from ear to ear with excitement and Severus’ heart was thumping a dance-beat against his ribs.
‘Firs’ years this way! Firs’ years, follow me!’ boomed a voice from nowhere.
A yellow lantern was bobbing towards them and beneath it was an enormous bushy head of black hair, and a huge, tangled beard.
‘It’s Hagrid!’ Lily cried, happily.
A giant of a man approached the group of nervous eleven year olds.
‘No need to be scared,’ he told them, his black eyes twinkling, kindly, ‘My name’s Rubeus Hagrid, Hogwarts Gamekeeper, but everyone calls me Hagrid. Well, what are we waiting for? Who wants to go to Hogwarts!’
‘I DO!’ bellowed the first years, Severus included, beaming.
Convinced that Hagrid was safe, the first years trotted after him, away from the Hogwarts Express.
Hagrid led them to the edge of a wide, black lake, where a dozen rowing boats bobbed in the shallows. There were no oars or sails.
‘In we get!’ Hagrid boomed, swinging a giant boot over the edge of one and shuffling to the front where he fixed his lantern.
Severus and Lily found themselves jostled as the first years spilled in behind Hagrid, and into the other boats.
‘Ok, everybody in? Good! Forwards!’ Hagrid commanded, and the boats sailed off, all by themselves, to cries of wonder and astonishment from the first years.
Hagrid chuckled at their amazement.
They glided majestically across the inky-black lake, making barely a ripple.
Severus looked into its depths but couldn’t see anything swimming in there.
Suddenly, there was a great ‘Whoa!’ as the school came into view.
Severus had never seen anything quite so wonderful.
Atop a stark, craggy cliff was Hogwarts castle, twinkling with yellow windows, and complete with turrets and towers.
It was better than he had ever imagined it to be.
Even James Potter couldn’t hide his amazement, and Sirius Black was gaping, open-mouthed, all cool composure forgotten.
Peter Pettigrew, who had been sitting by the edge of the boat, nearly fell overboard, but Hagrid grabbed his robes, with one huge hand, and hauled him back.
‘Nearly,’ Hagrid chuckled, ‘Lucky you didn’t fall in, ‘cause there’s a Giant Squid in there with an appetite for human flesh – I’m only joking!’ he said, hastily, ‘Nah, he’s friendly,’
They glided onwards for a short time, and at last, the boats drew up against the opposite bank.
Hagrid swung a massive boot out onto firm ground.
The first years scrambled out after him, and followed Hagrid until they met a pair of great, oak front doors that led into the castle.
Hagrid knocked loudly and they all waited.
Severus could hear a lot of nervous whispering about what happened on the first day at Hogwarts. He wished they wouldn’t, as he was looking forward to his.
They all jumped as the door was opened by stern-looking witch wearing emerald green robes and square spectacles. Her black hair was drawn back in a tight bun.
‘The firs’ years, Professor McGonagall,’ Hagrid told her.
‘Thank you, Hagrid, I’ll take them from here,’ the witch replied.
They followed Professor McGonagall into the Entrance Hall, where torches were glowing in brackets, and the walls were adorned with paintings, and immaculate tapestries.
The first years made little sounds of surprise and wonder, as they noticed the subjects in the paintings moving.
In fact, Severus was beginning to admire the beauty of the place, when-
Severus yelled as a shower of ice-cold water crashed over his head.
The first years laughed, but none louder than Potter and his three friends.
‘Peeves!’ McGonagall shouted upwards, ‘Get out!’
The laughter gave way at once to frightened gasps when the first years saw who she was addressing.
A little man with a wicked grin floated, in mid-air, holding an upturned bucket.
He was dressed in vibrantly-coloured clothing, and he was cackling at Severus.
‘It’s a ghost!’ a girl with curly, blond hair shrieked.
‘A poltergeist,’ Professor McGonagall said, ‘Be off with you, Peeves, or I’ll send for the Headmaster, I mean it!’
Peeves dropped the bucket on Pettigrew’s head before zooming away with his tongue out at Severus, rattling suits of armour as he went.
Amid the now muffled sniggers of the others, Severus dripped, coldly, onto the floor.
He glanced quickly at Lily. She wasn’t laughing, but looking at him, apologetically.
Severus felt his face glow with humiliation.
Professor McGonagall cleared her throat, loudly, and the tittering died.
She waved her wand, and Severus felt as if a warm, summer wind had just blown over his whole body.
He was completely dry again.
‘Right,’ Professor McGonagall said, briskly, ‘Now with Peeves gone, we can begin.
‘Welcome to Hogwarts. First year students are to attend the Sorting Ceremony where they will be sorted into the four Hogwarts Houses, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. During their stay, students are capable of gaining or losing points for their Houses. Hard work, both in classes and on the Quidditch pitch, will earn House points, and rule-breaking will lose House points. At the end of the year, the House with the most points wins the House Cup, a prize that never fails to bring its students and House Head pride. My name is Professor McGonagall; I am Head of Gryffindor House. And now,’
She moved her spectacles higher up her nose.
‘We shall attend the Sorting Ceremony.’
Keeping close to Lily, Severus avoided everyone else’s eyes as Professor McGonagall led them down the Entrance Hall.
They met another pair of huge, wooden doors, which parted on their own.
The Great Hall stretched out before them.
Innumerable candles floated in midair above four, long tables, laden with golden plates and goblets. Hundreds of students were seated round the tables, all in their school robes and pointed hats.
Pearly white ghosts were drifting round the long room.
They were translucent, like Peeves but, unlike Peeves, they were clearly very well-behaved.
As they followed Professor McGonagall in a long line, Severus’ eyes travelled up to the ceiling, which was enchanted to reflect the night sky outside.
As they drew near the end of the Hall, Severus looked at the staff table.
His gaze fell, immediately, on the central man sitting on a great, golden chair.
He was tall, thin, with a long, crooked nose, and silvery hair and beard that were extremely long. He was wearing purple robes and half-moon spectacles.
This man appeared so important, and intelligent, that Severus knew he must be the Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.
On one side of Dumbledore sat Hagrid, who was so large he took up two places to himself. Beside Hagrid, sat a tiny wizard with an explosion of white hair, and beside him was a short, plump witch, all in green.
On Dumbledore’s other side was an empty chair, presumably for Professor McGonagall, a timid-looking, balding wizard, and a large, round wizard with a huge moustache.
In front of the staff table, there stood an ordinary, three-legged stool.
On top of this stool, was a very old, very tattered, wizard’s hat.
It was so frayed and ancient-looking, Severus wondered why anyone would want to keep such a thing.
Professor McGonagall stood to one side of the hat, and unrolled a large scroll.
‘When I read your names out,’ she called, ‘you are to sit on the stool, beside me, and put on the Sorting Hat,’
Snape groaned inwardly.
‘Just what I need,’ he said in an under-tone to Lily, ‘to look a fool in front of the whole school. First a bucket of water, now a stupid hat! Like I need anything else on my head today,’
‘Don’t worry, Sev,’ Lily whispered, bracingly, ‘We’re all going to have to put the hat on. If we’re going to look stupid, at least we’ll look stupid together,’
She patted his shoulder a few times, and Severus smiled to himself.
Sev? No one had ever called him that before...
While they had been talking, Professor McGonagall had been calling out names, alphabetically.
Each time the Sorting Hat was tried on, it shouted out the House name, Severus presumed, the wearer belonged to.
In response, the House tables cheered their new members, who ran to join them.
‘Black, Sirius,’ McGonagall read.
Sirius Black smoothed his hair as he strode up to the stool.
Professor McGonagall lowered the Sorting Hat onto his head, it was much too big, and fell right down over his eyes.
There was a moment’s silence and then the Sorting Hat spoke.
The Gryffindors cheered and clapped, loudly.
Professor McGonagall raised the Hat and Sirius Black got off the stool.
He gave his head a little flick, so that his long fringe drooped in front of his eyes, and sauntered up to the Gryffindors.
‘Smug git,’ Severus muttered.
‘Not half,’ Lily murmured back.
‘Evans, Lily,’ McGonagall called.
Lily jumped and then she hurried forwards, red hair swishing, and hopped up on to the stool.
As the Hat lowered, she held the brim with little finger raised, as though she was trying on a divine-looking wedding hat, and winked.
Severus grinned, and there was brief laughter, before the Hat fell over her eyes.
Severus hoped hard that she’d be put into Slytherin, but suddenly-
‘Gryffindor!’ the Hat cried.
Severus’ heart sank, and he sighed.
The Gryffindors cheered and whistled as Lily jumped off the stool, face flushed with happiness, and ran over to join them.
Karkaroff, Igor, was the first to become a Slytherin, and this was what drew Severus’ attention to the Slytherin table for the first time.
They all looked a very solemn and secretive bunch.
Severus had seen pictures of trolls and zombies in his Dark Forces book, and quite a few of the Slytherins looked like them.
One of them stood out from the others because of his blond hair.
He was about fifteen years old, had a pale, pointed face, grey eyes, and wore a rather haughty expression.
Lupin walked forwards, without an arrogant flare like Potter or Black, and the Sorting Hat put him in Gryffindor.
Sirius Black gave Lupin a hi-five as Lupin sat next to him amidst applause.
Severus watched, scowling, as he noticed Lily on Lupin’s other side.
Mulciber, Eric then became a Slytherin.
Peter Pettigrew tripped on the hem of his cloak, to gales of laughter, but when he had the Hat on, he got his wish:
The Gryffindors cheered Pettigrew who sat on Lily’s other side, pink-faced and breathless with relief.
‘Well done, Peter,’ Lupin told him, smiling.
James Potter marched forward like he was a war hero about to be awarded a medal.
Severus grimaced after him in growing dislike.
How could anyone could be so confident?
Potter sat on the stool, one leg crossed, and tried to put on the Hat at a jaunty angle, but it was far too big.
‘Gryffindor!’ the Hat shouted.
The Gryffindors roared their welcome, and James Potter swaggered over to sit next to Pettigrew.
Severus’ mouth went rather dry, and as all eyes fell on him, he felt deeply uncomfortable.
He swept forwards, got up on the stool, and shut his eyes, blocking out the stares.
Professor McGonagall lowered the Sorting Hat on his head.
When he next opened his eye, Severus saw the black inside of the Hat.
‘Ah-ha,’ said a little voice in his ear, ‘Potential. Great potential. There’s buried strength, plenty of intelligence, and a lot of courage. Oh my goodness, yes! Gryffindor always admired that mixture. But what’s this, determination to settle a score? Slytherin will help you there, I promise you,’
He had wanted Lily to be in Slytherin, but she was in Gryffindor now, and he wanted to be in Slytherin because his mother had.
‘You’ve chosen then,’ the Sorting Hat said in his ear, and out loud, it shouted, ‘Slytherin!’
The Slytherins cheered and yelled as the Hat was raised past Severus’ eyes.
He slid off the stool and walked, briskly, to the Slytherin table.
The pale boy with the blond hair patted him on the back, saying ‘Well done!’
Severus gave him a shy nod of thanks and sat.
He looked across to the other side of the room, past the Hufflepuff table, and the Ravenclaws’, to Lily Evans.
Their eyes met for a moment, and she shrugged with a strange smile.
Was she glad for him or a bit disappointed?
The girl with the curly blond hair ran forward, but the moment she sat on the stool, she scrunched up her face.
Right before their eyes, her head began to change, and suddenly, she had the exact same hair and beard as Albus Dumbledore.
There was a roar of laughter on all sides, as well as a round of applause.
Even Dumbledore himself was chuckling as he peered round to admire the full effect.
McGonagall smiled at Tonks and called for quiet before lowering the Sorting Hat.
There was a pause, and Andromeda became a Hufflepuff.
The Hufflepuffs went mad with triumph as she joined them, her hair and face fading to normal.
The Sorting Ceremony ended when Zizzi, Ziggy became a Ravenclaw, and the clapping faded to quiet.
Albus Dumbledore got to his feet and spread his arms wide.
The candlelight glinted off his silvery hair and beard.
‘Welcome!’ Dumbledore began, warmly, ‘Welcome to another year at Hogwarts, especially to our first years who must hear the school rules. To those who have heard them before, please do your best to ignore an old man’s mindless rambling,’
There was giggling as Dumbledore cleared his throat.
‘Our caretaker, Mr. Argus Filch, will be responsible for making sure no spell-casting is performed between classes. The Forbidden Forest, well, the clue is in the name, but-’
He raised his voice slightly as a few more giggles broke out, ‘I must warn you that your very lives will be in peril if you stray in the Forest alone,’
There was a sudden, tense silence as Dumbledore allowed this to sink in.
‘No doubt some of you,’ the Headmaster continued, ‘have already met our poltergeist, Peeves,’
Severus grimaced and shrank behind his hair, for he could see people tittering at the reminder.
‘However, I feel it essential to highlight something,’ Dumbledore said, sounding altogether more serious, ‘Hogwarts tolerates Peeves’ behaviour, but like every school, Hogwarts does not tolerate bullying,’
Severus slowly pulled his hair back from his eyes to look at Dumbledore.
‘Anyone who is caught bullying must be reported, either to a teacher, a prefect, or the Head Boy or Girl,’
The other teachers were looking at Dumbledore, curiously, and for a second, Severus was sure that Dumbledore’s eyes went to him.
Then, Dumbledore was bright and cheerful again.
‘Alright, ramble over, everyone tuck in and enjoy!’
At that instant, the plates and goblets were filled with food and drink.
There was roast chicken, roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, roast pork, apple sauce, carrots, peas, cabbage, chips, sausages, shepherds pie, gravy, and chilled pumpkin juice.
Severus tucked into lamb and mint sauce while his fellow Slytherins did the same with everything else.
The blond boy was complaining about his steak.
‘I wanted it raw!’ he was saying, irritably, ‘this is blue rare! I want it mooing when it arrives on the plate, I want it bloody.’
Then he noticed Severus watching him.
‘I’m Lucius Malfoy,’ he said, offering a hand, and Severus shook it.
‘How long have you been here?’ Severus asked him.
‘Fifth year,’ Lucius proudly tapped his prefect’s badge, ‘I’m also Keeper on the Quidditch team, with any luck we’ll bag that Quidditch Cup this year,’
They spoke for a while about Quidditch, and then the conversation turned Dark Arts, and the sorts of creatures most people preferred to avoid.
‘I read about them in the back of – I mean, in our Dark Forces book,’ Severus said.
‘Cool,’ Lucius replied, and he smiled at Severus.
Severus smiled back, shyly, and returned to his meal, glad he was in Slytherin.
After dinner, the puddings arrived. There was chocolate cake, blamange, jellies, cheesecake, trifle, treacle sponge, and ice-cream of every flavour and colour.
Severus had been holding his head in his hand when something jarred his arm, sending him face-first into his bowl of chocolate trifle.
There was a moment of confusion, shouts and laughter, as Severus reached round, blindly, for a napkin. He felt one being pushed into his hand, and wiped his face clean. When his vision cleared he saw-
‘Potter, what’s going on?’
Severus went scarlet. Potter was standing over his right side, and Professor McGonagall over his left.
‘I came to talk to Snape, Professor,’ Potter said, innocently, ‘but he slipped into his trifle so I gave him a napkin,’
Lucius drew in a sharp breath, but Severus kicked him under the table, mouthing “No”.
‘Is that what happened, Snape?’ McGonagall asked.
Severus looked Potter right in the eye.
‘Something like that,’ he replied, steadily. McGonagall nodded and left.
Potter smirked at Severus, wordlessly, and went back to the Gryffindor table.
Someone pulled him round by the arm and Severus found himself looking at a now angry Lucius Malfoy.
‘Why did you stop me reporting Potter?’ he demanded.
‘Because McGonagall’s already cleaned me up once today,’ Severus replied, ‘I don’t want her thinking I need help every time Potter bothers me,’
Potter was now entertaining the Gryffindors by miming Severus falling into his pudding, to gales of laughter.
Severus narrowed his eyes.
He decided it was high time Potter realised Severus Snape wasn’t a push over.
The question was how could he retaliate without landing himself in trouble, particularly in the light of Dumbledore’s speech about bullying?