Disclaimer: J K Rowling owns Harry Potter and its characters. I'm just borrowing them to torture - ahem - to explore their world and characters. Yeah, that's it. .;

Oh yeah - some lines here are from PS.

By lethe medusa

6. Habit of a Lifetime

It was naturally the Headmaster's idea that Severus take Mouse back to Diagon Alley to purchase the articles he would need for his first year at Hogwarts. Of course, the Headmaster himself was too preoccupied with other matters to accompany them, and the barmy old wizard was the only other member of the Hogwarts staff residing at the school during the summer who could successfully manage the boy's erratic behaviour.

After waving off his adopted family as bravely as any Gryffindor, Mouse had proceeded to live up to his name, hiding in corners and shadows from every strange new face. Severus had finally hauled the boy in front of him for the remainder of his introductions to the staff and kept him there only by means of an iron grip. This - and the threat of being sent to Granny Bones for a bath - proved sufficient for the evening, even when Hagrid returned for a second attempt at introducing himself.

"There now, Harry, I'm not that scary now, am I?" the half-giant had smiled gently, revealing a rather large number of rather large teeth.

"If you don't mind, little Mouse," Severus had drawled when his charge did not answer the Groundskeeper, "I would like to restore circulation to my hand sometime this evening."

Snatching his hand away from where it had been clamped onto Severus', Mouse's expression had barely twitched as he stomped on Severus' booted foot.

"That was extremely childish of you," the professor snapped, grabbing the boy by a shoulder and shaking him briefly.

"Severus!" McGonagall had exclaimed in an outraged tone. "In case it has escaped your noticed, Mr Potter is indeed a child. You, however, are most certainly not!"

She'd moved swiftly forward to collect the boy by the elbow, only just managing to grab hold of his sleeve to drag him away from the potions master. She had been unprepared for him to slip easily from her grasp, then turn to retaliate in his favourite method.

"My goodness!" she'd exclaimed again as Severus yanked him back by the scruff of his neck.

"You were saying, Minerva?"

The incident had earned Mouse the label of 'wild boy' amongst the staff who had been present. While it had endeared him to Hagrid, the others were more wary - at least of his teeth. As Mouse was not enamoured by the sight of the huge man, Severus was consequently left to shepherd the boy through Diagon Alley on his own.

McGonagall had been almost as appalled by the boy's multiple layers of second-hand clothing as she had been by his feral behaviour, placing Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions high on their list. Not having the patience to deal with the woman's pointed barbs regarding his own choice of clothing, Severus abandoned the boy in her tender care with a stern threat to stay put or else while he went to collect potion supplies for the both of them. An hour later Severus was cursing his own stupidity as he followed the trail of the charm bracelet into Eeylops Owl Emporium.

"Did it occur to you that owls eat mice?" he queried as he peered at the bright green eyes blinking owlishly at him from under a large, tree-like perch on which half-a-dozen owls sat staring at him. "I've half a mind to transfigure you into a real one and be done with you!"

Mouse's jaw set stubbornly.

Severus reached under the perch with one arm, intent on hauling the boy out. Instead he found himself fighting off a barrage of snowy feathers to the accompanying sound of a young boy's laughter.

Twenty minutes later, a most indignant Severus departed the shop with Mouse in one hand and the snowy owl in a cage in the other. At least the owl's aggressive actions had allowed him to bargain the price down.

"You can always find a way to make me pay, can't you, you ungrateful little wretch?" he grumbled as he tucked away his purse. For an instant Severus could almost have sworn the boy wore an abashed expression. He didn't delude himself to the reality of Mouse trying to snatch the cage that was very nearly as tall as he was out of Severus' grip.

Rather than risk Mouse scampering off again, Severus dragged him straight to Ollivander's. The old man had greeted them with the knowing smile that had always made Severus' skin crawl, inquired with undue curiosity as to the state of his own wand, and proceeded to inflict dozens of unclaimed wands upon the hapless boy.

It was with great relief that Severus observed the sparks that indicated Mouse had finally been matched with a wand - relief that was short-lived when he saw Ollivander's expression.

"How curious," said Ollivander, smiling his mysterious little smile.

"What is it?" Severus demanded.

"The phoenix that supplied the feather for this wand gave just one other - the core for the wand which gave young Mr Potter that scar." He tapped his finger lightly against the boy's forehead with his final words. Mouse flinched back, the owl screeched in protest. Ollivander was unrepentant.

"You're saying that his wand is brother to the Dark Lord's?"

"I am indeed," Ollivander assured him.

Mouse's eyes darted between them uncertainly.

"I assume you will be informing Headmaster Dumbledore," Severus stated.

"Of course. I promised him I would many years ago - the feather belonged to his phoenix, after all."

"And no one else?" pressed Severus darkly.

He received only that damnable smile in response. Mouse was provided with one additional comment: "I expect great things from you, Mr Potter." What Ollivander received was a shower of sparks in his face.

Having paid a suitably exorbitant price for the wand, they made a made a dignified but swift exit.

"You will not repeat what Ollivander said about your wand to anyone else, do you understand me?"

Mouse simply looked at him.

"Don't give me any cheek over this, boy."

Bowing his head, Mouse focussed his attention on stroking his owl's ruffled feathers through the cage. Sighing, Severus hauled his charge back to Madam Malkin's, determining that this would be the last stop. Anything else the boy needed he would be able to order by owl.

"I do hope you're going to behave this time, dear," Madam Malkin admonished Mouse sternly as he climbed onto the stool once again to be fitted for his robes. Mouse darted a sulky glance at Severus before meekly complying.

Severus moved to the side, poking through the robes on display while keeping one eye on Mouse. When a blond boy with instantly recognisable features entered the shop he was quite glad he was half-hidden by the swathes of material, but nevertheless moved closer to ensure Mouse behaved himself in light of this new challenge.

"Hello," said young Malfoy to Mouse as he stepped up on the stool beside him. "Hogwarts, too?"

Mouse nodded warily.

"My father's next door buying my books and mother's up the street looking at wands," said Malfoy in a drawling voice that to Severus' ears was an imperfect imitation of his father's haughty tones. "Then I'm going to drag them off to look at racing brooms. I don't see why first years can't have their own. I think I'll bully father into getting me one, and I'll smuggle it in somehow."

Severus had to suppress his laughter at the thought of anyone besides the Darl Lord bullying Lucius Malfoy and getting away with it, and made a mental note to spring a surprise check on the Slytherin first years' dorm some time during the first two weeks.

"Have you got your own broom?"

Mouse shook his head after a moment's consideration.

"Play Quidditch at all?"

Another headshake. Severus had to wonder if Mouse even knew what Quidditch was.

"I do - Father says it's a crime if I'm not picked to play for my house, and I must say, I agree. Know what house you'll be in yet?"

Once again, Mouse shook his head, while Severus rolled his eyes at the Malfoy boy's arrogance.

"Well, no one really knows until they get there, do they, but I know I'll be in Slytherin, all our family have been - imagine being in Hufflepuff. I think I'd leave, wouldn't you?"

It was a pity the possibility of a Malfoy becoming anything other than Slytherin was so remote. Severus was less than thrilled at the thought of being responsible for this arrogant boy for the next seven years. Of course, it could be worse - there was an unfortunately growing possibility that Mouse would also remain in his charge after the sorting. If that was the case, he wasn't sure how he was going to survive without resorting to murder. The boy was starting to grow on him, however, much like a parasite.

"There you are, dear," Madam Malkin said to Mouse, who hopped off the stool with great alacrity, not bothering to farewell the other boy. Young Malfoy seemed somewhat affronted before he was distracted by the arrival of his father - whose more observant eyes immediately lighted upon the professor lurking in the shadows. Severus swore mentally and steeled himself for a meeting with the older Malfoy.

"Professor Snape, how unusual to find you prowling around Madam Malkin's establishment. Looking to add a dash of colour to your wardrobe?" the elder Malfoy inquired with a condescending expression. Madam Malkin harrumphed her opinion audibly in the background as she bundled up Mouse's robes.

"Not this time, Mr Malfoy," he replied, ignoring the woman while wishing the aristocratic bastard would just let him pay and escape the store gracefully.

"You have not yet met my son, have you, Professor?" Malfoy ushered Severus efficiently over to the stool where his miniature stood expectantly. "This is my son, Draco. Draco, this is Professor Snape, who will be your Head of House at Hogwarts."

"Hello, Professor," Draco said in imitation of his father's measured tones, and proffered his hand.

Severus debated for an indiscernible instant before accepting the boy's hand in an overly-firm grip from which the boy was quick to pull back. He didn't bother arguing the assumption that the boy would be in Slytherin.

"You have quite a name to live up to, Mr Malfoy."

"I promise I won't disappoint, sir."

The professor rather wished he would.

"Of course you won't," Malfoy senior assured them both with an edge of warning in his voice. Draco beamed proudly. Severus mentally added another ten percent to all of young Malfoy's prospective grades, and hoped to hell that he had learned at least some subtlety from his father.

"Here are your robes, dear," Madam Malkin informed Mouse, who was skulking over by the owl's cage, which had been left next to the door. "And how will you be paying for these?"

Severus was about to excuse himself to address the matter of payment with the witch when Mouse plunked a sizeable purse upon the counter. He watched in disbelief as Madam Malkin directed the boy to retrieve the appropriate amount, and supplied him with his change and the parcel containing his robes.

"I have heard," said Malfoy, regaining the majority of Severus' attention, "that there will be a celebrity attending Hogwarts this year after all."

"Have you?" he responded with practised indifference. "Well, we shall all see come September, I imagine."

"Indeed we shall," murmured Malfoy, his suave tones belying the sharp look in his grey eyes.

"Good day, Mr Malfoy, Mr Malfoy." With a brief incline of his head, he abruptly cut himself from the conversation and stalked out of the store, collecting Mouse and the owl on his way. Malfoy would be suspicious of his behaviour, but that was hardly unusual. What concerned him was Malfoy's interest in the 'celebrity' - and the ease with which he could be connected to the boy, especially come September when young Draco would discover the identity of the boy whom he had spoken to. It did not bode well for Severus' reputation, or his somewhat shadier connections. He would have to have a little discussion with the Headmaster regarding the boy's safety, and prayed once again that the boy wouldn't end up in his own House. Speaking of which...

He stopped them in a slight alcove between two shopfronts, out of the way of the flow of pedestrian traffic on Diagon Alley.

"Hand it over."

Mouse blinked up at him innocently. It didn't fool Severus for a second. He held out his hand expectantly, and after a few moments the purse was reluctantly placed in it. He weighed it in his palm, giving it full consideration. Poking at it revealed a significant portion of silver and gold content, along with the monogram 'L.M.'.

Severus levelled a look at Mouse - before pocketing the purse, and continuing on to the fireplaces at the Leaky Cauldron. Mouse tugged at his sleeve as they hurried along the Alley.

"N-n-not g-giving b-back?"

He turned long enough to give the boy an incredulous stare. "Like hell!" Although he was planning on casting a few spells to make sure Mouse's magic-deterrent nature had nullified all of Malfoy's anti-theft measures. Not to mention start preparing himself for seven years as the incorrigible boy's guardian.

Beside him, Mouse grinned all the way back to Hogwarts.

By the time September rolled around, Mouse's reputation was firmly established amongst the staff who had returned early to Hogwarts. McGonagall was continually despairing of ever turning the 'wild monkey boy' into a civilised wizard, but Flitwick and Dumbledore were both quite fond of playing 'games' with the boy that helped him begin learning how to manage his instinctive use of magic. Hagrid was repeatedly doing his best to coax the boy down to his hut, in much the same manner as he would any of the dangerous animals living in the Forbidden Forest, while the rest of the staff were doing their best to avoid him.

Severus had taken it upon himself to improve the boy's literacy and verbal skills. He made the boy copy out his lesson notes for the first term, then set him answering the theoretical questions therein. He introduced the boy to the library - dragging him out of the restricted section three times - and set essays on the history of the wizarding world. While by no means brilliant, Mouse proved he was willing to make attempts in most areas besides his speech. Initially this had been cause for great concern, as enunciation was of considerable importance in casting spells. It turned out to be less of a hindrance than they had expected as Mouse proved himself capable of casting simple charms soundlessly. Severus continued with his attempts to draw the boy into verbalising his answers to questions, but had to continually stop himself from picking up on the unique sign and body language the boy had been accustomed to using with the Bones.

Socially, the boy was adjusting slowly to life apart from his adoptive family. Mouse was not accustomed to being the centre of attention in groups larger than three or four, as a rather disastrous attempt by Dumbledore to throw the boy a birthday party proved. He would be in for a rude shock when the general populace finally managed to get their hands on him as they doubtless eventually would. As it was, the students at Hogwarts would provide the little Mouse with ample experience of being gaped and pointed at. It would be interesting to see how long he held out before either scurrying off to hide somewhere or tossing the worst offenders in the lake - which remained the boy's worst fear.

On the first evening in September, Severus watched resignedly as the new first years shuffled nervously into the Great Hall. Mouse had flat out refused to go to Hogsmeade Station with Hagrid to slip into the group there, and join them for their traditional entry into Hogwarts over the lake. Once had been more than enough. Instead, he had waited with Professor McGonagall, lingering in the shadows of the stairs outside the Great Hall. Severus caught sight of him edging into the Hall, as far from the crush of bodies as he could be while still remaining part of the group. Green eyes locked with his own, and he raised one eyebrow challengingly. Scowling, Mouse moved stiffly into the centre of the pack and glared at him pointedly. Severus suppressed a smirk.

The boy relaxed a bit when a familiar cat brushed against his leg, followed closely behind by its young mistress and master. Severus snorted as the trio exchanged greetings, then quickly settled as the Sorting Hat began its song. The usual applause echoed around the Hall when it had finished, and Professor McGonagall called "Abbott, Hannah!" as the first to be sorted that year. Moments later, the girl was sorted into Hufflepuff. Down the table from him, Sprout beamed delightedly.

"Bones, Christopher!"

The young wizard floated his chair up the steps to the murmur of curious whispers from the assembled students. He was obviously too old to be a first year, and the chair was highly unusual in the wizarding world. The news of the missing Bones' return had been kept quiet, allowing the family time to adjust, but Severus was sure that it wouldn't be long before the entire school was aware of what had happened.


The Gryffindors cheered loudly, if a little uncertainly. Severus wasn't at all surprised.

"Bones, Helen!"

The girl actually carried the cat with her onto the stool. It sat purring contentedly in her lap as the Hat deliberated, much to the amusement of several of the students.


He blinked. That one was almost surprising, but given the quality of the potions work her aunt had sent to him to be assessed, not unfounded. Her grandmother had proved a competent potions teacher, if slightly insane.

The sorting continued with "Bones, Susan!" - HUFFLEPUFF - and proceeded on down the list. Severus made note of the new Slytherins, including young Malfoy, and kept a watchful eye on their end of the Slytherin table. Young Slytherins had a habit of either showing off or fading into the shadows, and he liked to know which mix he would be dealing with this year.

"Potter, Harry!"

The whispers spread like wildfire this time, and heads craned this way and that to see the famous Boy Who Lived, long missing from the wizarding world.

Mouse didn't move a muscle.

"Potter!" McGonagall snapped, eyeing the boy sharply, to no avail. The whispers grew steadily into a dull roar as no Harry Potter came forward.

"Mouse," Severus spoke up at last. "Move!"

The Hall fell silent again as the scrawny boy reluctantly stepped up to the stool and put on the Hat. They waited, the moment stretching out with palpable tension.

"HUFFLEPUFF!" the Sorting Hat declared, much to the bemusement of those assembled in the Great Hall. Gradually a crescendo of applause rose from the Hufflepuff table, only to die away into silence as Mouse seated himself with great aplomb.

"Mr Potter!" exclaimed Professor McGonagall. She was pointedly ignored.

"Well, I never!" huffed Professor Sprout indignantly.

"You have to admit, that's a new way to show Hufflepuff's strength of loyalty," commented Flitwick, earning himself a glare from the normally gracious Herbology Professor.

"Albus, he can't do that!" she persisted, only to falter at the Headmaster's raised eyebrows. "Can he?"

The Headmaster stroked his beard thoughtfully.

"I don't believe there's any rule against sitting at another House's table," he answered mildly.

"Albus! That's not what I meant!"

As the furore spread around the hall, Severus' gaze was inevitably drawn to the boy who was the centre of it all. Mouse was waiting as patiently as he was able to for the fuss to die down, meeting the consternated stares of the Slytherin students around him with unperturbed ease. Sensing Severus' gaze upon him, he turned to the head table and wriggled his fingers in a wave.

Severus fought futilely to hold in his laughter. It was going to be an interesting year.

This is the end of Derailed, but obviously not the end of Mouse's story.

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