Part Two: The Journey to Hogwarts
All of the compartments were occupied. Severus walked down the narrow hallway again, dragging his trunk behind him. He had to find a place to sit. He couldn't spend the entire train ride wandering up and down the corridor. Finally, he decided the next compartment with remotely friendly occupants was going to be where he would sit for the duration of the trip.
Happy shouts and merry conversations rang out from all of the compartments. Severus paused outside one that was occupied by four boys: James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and a chubby boy who was stuffing his mouth with sweets. No, he couldn't go in there; Potter and Black had made it very clear they were not interested in being friends with him. With a sigh, he wistfully listened to their conversation, standing so that he could see a little bit into their compartment.
".... had the whole team sign my trunk!" James bragged loudly enough to ensure that his voice would carry into the corridor.
"I haven't been able to get to any professional Quidditch games yet," Remus said with touch of envy in his voice. "Anyone up for a game of Exploding Snap?"
"Maybe you can come with us over the summer, Remus. We usually get Arrows season tickets. It'll be fun," Sirius offered.
"I don't think your family would want me to come to your house, Sirius." Remus was standing on the seat rummaging through his bag, looking for his cards.
James spoke up. "You can stay with me. My parents don't make a fuss over blood issues."
"You could stay with me, Remus," said the chubby boy. "My mum would love it. She loves to cook and bake--"
"What house do you think you'll be in? I know I'll be in Gryffindor," James interrupted.
"I'd like Gryffindor, or maybe Ravenclaw, like my mother," Remus said brightly, pulling out a pack of Exploding Snap cards.
"I want to be in Gryffindor, too," chimed in the fourth boy.
"Shut up, Peter," James said nastily. "You'll likely end up in Hufflepuff, same as your parents."
"Yeah, well, if you get sorted by where your parents were, I'll be stuck in Slytherin for sure," grumbled Sirius.
James snorted with suppressed laughter. "You'll have to spend the next seven years of your life rooming with that Snivelly Snape. I'd rather bunk in the kitchen with the house-elves. OW! That hurt, Sirius!"
"My father and mother will have a fit if I'm not in Slytherin. Every Black going back for -- forever has been there. I don't want to be in Slytherin and be under my cousin Bella's thumb until she finishes school. Andromeda's fine, but Bella's a real bitch."
"And you'll be stuck with Snivelly," James added. Laughter echoed out into the corridor.
"Really, James, he isn't that bad," Remus protested mildly. "He seemed very polite."
"Remus, let me tell you something, I've heard my dad talk about his uncle. The whole family is very interested in the Dark Arts. They're nothing but trouble," James said lowering his voice. "Besides, if you want to be friends with Sirius and me, you can't be friends with the likes of Snivelly. Not that you'd really want to."
Severus had heard enough. If he didn't think he would get into trouble, he'd use one of his hexes on that stuck-up Potter boy. He bit back angry tears. It just wasn't fair! He was sure that Remus would have probably been friends with him, but he was too worried about what Potter thought. No, Remus was just a stupid sodding coward; Severus didn't want to be friends with such a weakling! The Princes were clever and shrewd and deserved to be surrounded by powerful people like the Malfoys and the Blacks. Maybe after they were dorm mates, Black would change his mind about him.
He looked up to see a witch pushing the food trolley towards him. Severus had to find a compartment at least to allow her to pass. He ducked through the door two compartments down from Potter and his pals. He only hoped the occupants were a bit more friendly.
"Oh, hi!" Severus was greeted by a very pretty, smiling face. He had stumbled into Lily Evans's compartment. How did he manage to miss her before? "I wondered where you had gotten to. I thought maybe you had decided to sit with someone else. Have you been in the corridor the whole time? Er...I'm sorry, I can't think of your name."
"Sniv-- Severus, Severus Snape," he introduced himself, feeling his face turn red. He sounded like such an idiot.
Lily only beamed more brightly at him. "Pleased to meet you. Please, sit down. I really haven't had a chance to make any friends yet. You see, I didn't know I was a witch until my letter arrived. I don't really know much about the wizarding world."
"So you really are a Mud-- I mean a Muggle-born?" He mentally kicked himself. You nearly insulted her, you dunderhead! Well, Uncle William won't be pleased that I sat with her on the train. But she seems so nice. Anything is better than walking up and down the corridor the whole way to Scotland.
She looked at him oddly. "Is there something wrong with being a Muggle-born?"
Severus had to think fast. "I don't think so, but some wizards, like those boys who were making fun of me, tend to look down on them."
"Are you from one of those old wizarding families? What was it like growing up with magic?" Her eyes were shining with excited interest.
"Well, I..." Severus was interrupted by the opening of the compartment door.
"Anything off the trolley, dears?" asked the matronly-looking witch pushing the snack trolley.
"We'll have..." Severus pulled his coin purse out of his pocket. He only had one Galleon, eight Sickles and ten Knuts to last him until the Christmas holiday. He quickly calculated in his head. "Two cauldron cakes and a small box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, please ma'am."
He handed over a Sickle and four Knuts. Not much, but he felt it was a chivalrous effort on his part. Lily took the cake with a beaming smile. Out of her satchel, she pulled a wrapped sandwich, a package of crisps, and a container of milk. Sharing the drink with only one straw seemed a little too awkward, so Lily returned it to her bag. Otherwise, they had a pleasant meal. Soon they were talking and laughing like old friends as the countryside flew swiftly by.
"So, these are just jelly beans?" Lily asked, picking up the box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans.
Severus grinned. "Well, you have the usual flavors, like strawberry and chocolate, but there is also grass, soap and dirt. Just be careful."
Lily carefully picked up a red one, eyeing it cautiously. It looked harmless enough. It was more than likely just cherry or tomato. What else could it be? She went to pop it into her mouth, but changed her mind, handing it to Severus.
It's probably nothing too dangerous, he thought, popping it into his mouth and chewing it. That was a big mistake, because within seconds his mouth was burning so badly that he thought he would be able to breath fire. Severus felt his face turn red, and his eyes began to water. He felt like he was going to burst into flames.
"It's chili pepper!" Severus choked out, fanning his burning mouth. "I need something to drink!"
Lily dug furiously through her satchel, trying to find the container of milk to give to him.
Surely this is considered a matter of life or death, he thought as his pulled out his wand, trying to think of a spell that would help, but none were coming to mind.
Lily shoved the milk container into his hand, and he quickly drank the whole thing. Slowly, the fiery torture began to fade. Now the only problem was that the combination of chili pepper and milk was making him feel horribly sick to his stomach. He leaned back against the seat, concentrating on forcing his unruly guts to behave.
"Are you all right, Severus?" Lily asked, sitting next to him, a worried look on her face.
"I think I will be fine," he muttered tightly between his teeth. Gods, she must think I'm a complete berk! Of all the ruddy stupid things to have happen...
"Can I get you anything?"
He shook his head slightly. Just when Severus thought things couldn't get any worse, the compartment door slid open. Staring at him with malicious looks on their faces were James Potter and Sirius Black. The two boys took in his offish appearance, and nasty grins were exchanged.
"Looking a bit peaky there, Snivellus," James taunted. "Suffering from a bit of motion sickness, I see. Is the swaying starting to get to you?"
"Can't stand that back and forth and back and forth feeling, can you?" Sirius asked snidely, exaggerating the back and forth.
Severus was now forced to think about the rocking motion of the train car, and it made him feel even worse. He stood up to open the compartment window to allow some fresh air in. Sirius roughly shoved him back into the seat. The sudden movement sloshed the bile up higher in his throat. Surely he was going to vomit!
"Leave him alone!" Lily commanded, shoving Sirius back. "He wasn't bothering you."
"So Snivelly needs to have a girl fight his battles," Sirius snapped.
"I told you to leave him alone!"
Sirius looked like he was going to shove Lily. Severus couldn't allow her to get hurt on his account. He waved his wand, flicking it towards Sirius's face and shouting, "Surculus Saeta!"
Suddenly, Sirius's eyebrows began to thicken and grow rapidly down over his eyes. He started yowling in surprise. All too soon the noise attracted some very unwanted attention.
"What is all of this racket about?" Prefect Lucius Malfoy was standing in the doorway with Bellatrix Black at his elbow.
"Sirius Black, how dare you embarrass me by picking a fight on the school train?" Bella demanded, yanking Sirius back by his ever-lengthening eyebrows.
"Leave me alone, Bella!"
"Better watch it, Sirius," she hissed angrily, "or I'll write your father and tell him you have been associating with trash and Mudbloods.
Sick or not, Severus wasn't going to let that hoity-toity snob insult him like that. He whipped out his wand and barely had an incantation in mind when Malfoy yanked his wand from his hand.
"You really don't want to cause any trouble now, do you? You could wind up expelled even before you get to school." He looked appraisingly at Severus. Pointing his own wand at Sirius, he muttered, "Finite Incantatum."
Severus stood up defiantly, swallowing back the sick feeling that was threatening to escape his stomach. "Give me back my wand. Now!"
The older boy raised an eyebrow. "I suppose you are going to try and make me."
"Damn right, I am," Severus snarled, reaching for his wand.
Malfoy handed it back to him, an amused smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "I think that I will need to watch you closely. Bella, escort your idiot cousin back to our compartment. I think we need to have a little chat with him."
As the two older students ushered Sirius out of the compartment, James turned to Severus, hatred blazing in his eyes. "I hope you're pleased with yourself, Snivellus. Do you have any idea how much trouble they'll make for him? I'm going to get you back for that if it's the last thing I do." He turned to Lily. "You might want to find a new friend before something terrible happens to you. He has the wrong sort interested in him now."
James exited the compartment, slamming the door behind him. Lily and Severus sat in a very awkward silence. He drew his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs. He rested his head on his knees, too embarrassed to look at Lily. Either she was going to think that he was some kind of Nancy-boy who couldn't fight his own battles, or else that he was an evil, uncontrolled monster. Surely she wouldn't want to have anything to do with him now. He swallowed hard, feeling his anger settle uneasily in the vicinity of his still churning stomach.
After what seemed to be a very uncomfortable eternity, Lily broke the silence by asking, "Severus, what's a Mudblood?"
He didn't dare meet her eyes; instead he mumbled against his knees. "It's a really vile term for a Muggle-born. It means 'dirty blood.' It was probably the most insulting thing that girl could have said to you."
"Oh..." Lily looked out the window, a frown pulling down the corners of her mouth.
His heart sank. "Please, don't worry, Lily. I would never call anyone that; especially not you."
Severus had no idea what he was supposed to do. He had absolutely no experience with girls, especially sad ones. He had the instinctive feeling, however, that if he did or said the wrong thing, she would never speak to him again. He lowered his voice to a whisper. "Lily, can you keep a secret?"
When she nodded, he continued. "I'm really not much better off than you are. I'm what they call a half-blood; my mother is a witch, but my father is a Muggle. My parents are dirt poor, and the only reason that I'm even on this train is because my uncle is paying for my education expenses. Only he isn't exactly a very well-liked person, so people like Malfoy and Black are just going to figure that I'm pretty much worthless, too."
"But you stood up for me! Those two boys could have really hurt you, because there were two of them," she hastily added. "I don't think you're worthless; I think you're great."
She doesn't hate me! She still wants to be my friend! He felt his chest swell with pride at the possibility of having her as a friend. The knots in his stomach loosened a bit, and he grinned at her. "I promise to be your friend, no matter what happens."
"Even if we aren't in the same House at school?"
"No matter what," he reiterated.
They spent the last of the train ride sitting side-by-side on the seat, their heads bent low over the book, Potions: A Primer. He gave her a few tips that his uncle had taught him about preparing ingredients. She wrote them carefully in the margins of her textbook. Outside, the scenery was becoming lost in the deepening shadows of the setting sun.
It was dark by the time the Hogwarts Express chugged up to the platform at Hogsmeade Station. The students all clambered off of the train, and an enormous, hairy-faced man greeted the first years and led them to the lake. A fleet of small rowboats was waiting for them. They were instructed to ride no more than four to a boat. Lily hesitated at the sight of the small watercraft.
"What is the matter?" Severus asked when he noticed that she was shaking.
Her face turned red. "I'm afraid of boats. I fell out of one when I was little."
"I promise not to let anything happen to you," Severus said, trying to reassure her. "You can keep your eyes closed the whole time if it will make you feel better."
"If she's stuck with you, I don't blame her for keeping her eyes shut," growled Sirius as he shoved past Severus and Lily.
Severus glared at him, noting a bright red, hand-shaped mark on the side of the handsome boy's face. Apparently, James hadn't been joking when he said Bella and Lucius would 'make trouble' for him. Well, it was his own fault for coming into the compartment in the first place. As Sirius walked by on the dock, Severus furtively pointed his wand at the boy and muttered the incantation for the Trip Jinx. Sirius stumbled and fell off of the dock and into the lake. Severus cringed slightly. He had only wanted him to land on his arrogant arse, not fall into the lake! It was a bit too obvious that he had been hexed.
When Hagrid reached down to pull the dripping wet boy from the water, James took advantage of the situation and attacked. James drew his wand, but Severus was too quick with the Leg-Locker Curse. James bunny-hopped for a moment before crashing to the dock.
"Tha's enough now, yeh two!" the gamekeeper bellowed, standing between Severus and James. "In ter the boats with yeh."
Severus and James reluctantly did as they were told. The children settled into the little boats for their trip across the lake. Severus and Lily shared a boat with two boys, while James, a soggy Sirius, Lupin and the chubby boy took a boat together. As they set out, Lily clenched her eyes tightly closed and grabbed Severus's hand with a bone-crushing grip. The boy felt a curiously happy feeling flood him as he squeezed her hand back. He felt incredibly special sitting next to a girl, a pretty girl who was holding his hand. Severus almost felt as if he would be able to float across the lake without a boat.
He looked out of the corner of his eye to see James Potter staring at him, jealousy etched on his face. James Potter, wealthy pure-blood, with an autographed Appleby Arrows trunk, was jealous of him? No one had ever been jealous of dirt-poor, half-blooded Severus Snape, who was coming to school with used textbooks and secondhand school robes. Looking at the girl beside him, with her thick, red hair and green eyes, Severus realized now he finally had something -- no, someone -- in his life to inspire envy in others. It was an oddly satisfying feeling.
As the tiny fleet cleared the trees, the first years were finally able to see the majestic castle rising out of the mist. The sight was awe-inspiring. Severus stared at it in wonder, taking in every detail of what was to be his home for the next seven years.
"Open your eyes, Lily," he whispered, not wanting her to miss the hauntingly magical sight that was Hogwarts castle.
Lily first opened one eye and then the other, clutching Severus's hand tighter than ever. She whispered back, "It's so beautiful."
In spite of the fact that he was sure half of the bones in his hand were broken, he enjoyed the feel of her hand in his. It was a comforting feeling -- friendly. Severus didn't care that James and Sirius wanted nothing to do with him. Lily had accepted him without a second thought. She didn't care that his robes were faded or that his books were old and written in. He decided that the castle wasn't the only thing that was beautiful.