A/N: This is kind of a rambly chapter but I guess it gets the job done… it's to help with the time transition… bleh… anyway, here it is.

Chapter 17

Time Jump

The boys are 11-11 ½

Itachi is 16

It was official.

Severus Snape's son was a Gryffindor.

A Gryffindor!

He'd never hear the end of this from the rest of the staff.

A Gryffindor.

He shouldn't be surprised really. He'd seen all the signs and willfully disregarded them. Oh sure Naruto had a Slytherin streak as wide as the Thames but it was tempered by his heart.

His own little lion.

Severus sighed as he watched the boy bouncing around the Weasley Twins while the sorting continued. That friendship, while not one of Severus' favorites was a boon now that the blonde would be housed in Gryffindor tower. Any resentment the other Lion's might feel toward their Potion Professor's son would be tempered by the inevitable retribution the twins would rain down upon any would-be offender.

Naruto had enjoyed free reign in Hogwarts for the last four years as the son of a Professor but this year Albus had put his foot down and proclaimed that the boy would join his peers in their non-wand requiring classes. The odd scheduling had him with the Gryffs and Slyths for Potions, History of Magic, and Care of Magical Creatures followed by Runes, Herbology, and Muggle Studies with the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs. The rest of his day was to be spent on Ninja training.

The Uchiha brothers had barely escaped being sorted as well; Severus was rather impressed by their fortitude against the Dumbledore Sparkle-Stare™ - a look that Naruto swore was some sort of Jutsu. Itachi was not swayed however and had just stood in the Headmasters office stone-faced, occasionally uttering an emphatic 'No' until the old man had finally given up.

Snape had tried to warn the Headmaster that Itachi as a legal adult and as a resident private instructor did not fall under the Headmaster's control as long as the Jounin adhered to the school's code of conduct, but he hadn't listened and Snape feared the man had severely damaged his credibility with the ninja by trying to force the issue.

Severus doubted if Dumbledore was capable of seeing past Itachi's age – especially after their confrontation over whether or not Sauske would be sorted. While Itachi had been stoic about the Headmaster's demands upon himself, he was positively enraged by the man's same insistence about his brother. Well, enraged for an Uchiha, which was not showy but nevertheless had been chilling to behold – especially when those red pinwheels had started spinning in the young man's eyes.

Albus had finally gotten a clue.

The Potions Master had agreed fully with Itachi's reasoning. Sauske was not a wizarding child and therefore should not impact the House Cup with any mistakes he should make by being a foreign shinobi child. Also, while Sauske would join Naruto in most of his Hogwart's classes Itachi wanted the freedom to pull him out of those classes whenever he so chose. In short Itachi felt that by allowing the sorting and having Sauske room elsewhere it would introduce too many other authority figures into the picture that the boy would feel honor bound to obey – it would pollute the boy's training. Sauske was answerable only to Itachi and Itachi was answerable only to Severus and the Hokage – and that was the way the elder Uchiha wanted to keep it.

The sound defeat of the Headmaster's machinations might have put more pressure on Severus to allow Naruto's sorting – if the duo hadn't discussed it prior to the start of the school year. Naruto would forever be a child of both worlds and while he didn't use a wand he would still need the friendships that would be built by his sorting and working with his housemate's toward the House Cup promoted community awareness and teamwork.

It would also help to bolster Naruto's confidence and independence. For all the boy's bravado and power… he was rather clingy. Personally he didn't mind it – he enjoyed being needed by his son and given the boy's background it wasn't a surprising development. In fact it was a rather minor side effect of a massive amount of abuse; but Itachi had reminded him that it was an unacceptable trait in a ninja – and in an adult, which Naruto was as of Jaraiya's brief visit a month ago.

The Toad Sage had been with them for a matter of hours – running Sasuke and Naruto both through their Academy graduation tests in a whirlwind, fretting the whole time that his own sons would break the seals on his study before he made it back to the Hidden Continent. He quickly pronounced the boys Genin and disappeared. It was only later that Severus was informed by Itachi just what Jaraiya's side job was.

But the Sanin's infamy aside, Naruto was considered an adult in the eyes of Shinobi law – which made him an adult in Wizarding eyes, truth be told, but with the adoption the law was a little muddy. The pair had discussed the issue at length and they had decided to just go with the flow. Severus had never made any decision for Naruto without his input before and this is how they would continue.

A Gryffindor!

Draco had, of course, been sorted to Slytherin; the sorting hat barely touching the Malfoy heir's head before making the pronouncement. Severus could tell that the blond was rather put out that his best friend was in another house and he hoped that pressures from their respective houses didn't strain the boy's relationship… of course, knowing his son as he did, he doubted that would happen. Naruto was very devoted to his 'special people', he'd even declared to Severus one day that it was his 'ninja way'.

Severus suspected that even if Draco did start to lose his way in the darkened dungeons, Naruto would have no problem dragging him back to the light. The dour man smiled, just a slight uptick of the lip; Naruto was his own guiding light now and he thanked Merlin every day for the events that had brought them together.

Watching the two blondes he noticed them both glance occasionally to a spot near the ceiling and watching carefully he finally caught a glimpse through the floating candles of Itachi perched among the roof trusses watching as Dumbledore introduced Sasuke and explained Naruto's status as a Wizarding Shinobi. When the Headmaster mentioned the elder Uchiha's name Itachi appeared next to the man in a puff of smoke – much to the students' amazement – and after a moment disappeared again.

Severus thought it was very interesting that the Shinobi version of Apparation worked within Hogwarts, while the Wizarding one didn't. He had started making extensive notes on the differences between Chakra and Magic and their affects on each other. There had been studies done before, but most of those had been by Wizards visiting the Hidden Continent and nothing over an extensive timetable or with the same subjects. It was turning into a very interesting piece.

Sauske and Naruto returned to the Gryffindor table – shoving and jostling each other the whole way. The pair had a strong but amicable rivalry going on and Severus had marveled at its duration. It had started the moment the boy's eyes had met four years ago and persisted unabated. Narcissa said it was adorable and she couldn't wait for them to be old enough to realize what their feelings meant. Severus was glad he'd never gotten excited about his Sire's Rights since grandchildren were probably out of the question.

Ah well – he just hoped Shinobi culture had no objections to such unions, he'd researched it but found no information either way. He hadn't approached Itachi on the subject yet, not feeling especially pressed on the matter, but he supposed he should; Draco was displaying an ever increasing interest in the older Ninja, although he was much more circumspect than Naruto.

Severus sighed in contentment as he watched the Hogwarts students happily enjoying the Welcome feast while catching up with or making new friends. Even the threat of the Dark Lord's return and the still missing Harry Potter could not dampen his rare mellow mood. The last four years had been the highlight of his life and this year was shaping up to be a continuation of that but he'd been through too much to take the peace he'd found for granted.

This strange little family he made for himself would travel this coming summer to the Hidden Continent for the Chunin Exams and if, when Naruto passed that milestone he would be a full fledged Shinobi; able to begin his career if he so chose. They had not discussed the options presented by the Exams, for the first time Severus found himself hesitant to speak of something with his son. He supposed he just wanted to 'live in the now' as the saying went and enjoy what time he had left with his boy before he grew up and left the father he'd only had for a handful of years behind.