Wrong Kind of Hero
Chapter one: House is Everything
He watched them go, the girl Lily and her sister "Tuney"- what kind of names these Muggles gave their children, he thought with distaste- and there was a kind of sourness in his mouth, the taste of disappointed dreams. He was used to it; he got it all the time at home. He looked down at his abnormally large coat and his dirty hands and felt only sad as he watched Lily's retreating back. He so desperately wanted a friend, and she seemed so nice. She pulled her hand out of her sister's and turned back to him, curious despite her anger. She raised a hand halfway to wave goodbye, then her sister snapped at her again, she shot him a guilty look, squared her shoulders and marched away. Snape was not deterred or discouraged. He would befriend her yet. He knew things, things about her and the world she was going to. She was going to need him. She'd see.
She'd come back to the playground, to the last place she'd seen him, lured by the promise of strange and wonderful things… lured by the promise of magic. He felt his heart swell when he saw her figure approaching in the distance. Severus brushed himself off as best he could and tried to smooth his hair down inconspicuously. He knew a better place than this for them to talk, this childish playground. Lily scuffed a toe in the dirt, tracing figure eights, looking down at her feet.
"Hi," she said, sounding slightly nervous. "Sorry about Tuney. She's weird about the kind of stuff I do. Doesn't like it. Makes her nervous."
"No wonder, since she's a Muggle. No-" he said, holding up a hand as she started to glare again. "It's not a dirty word. It just means a non-magical person. She probably wishes she was as special as you."
"You think so?" Lily brightened, daring to look at him for the first time. She took in his odd-sized clothes, his long scraggly hair, his dark eyes, his long straight nose and his expressive lips. An odd boy, she concluded, but interesting.
"I know so." Snape was confident of that.
"Do you-" Lily halted, then began again. "Do you think you could tell me more about being a… witch?"
"Sure. I know a place…" he trailed off as she looked at him, her sense of curiosity piqued. "Do you trust me?" She shrugged and laughed a little.
"Great. You won't be sorry." He started to walk toward the trees at the edge of the playground. Lily followed. Snape stopped at the junction between two trees. "We have to climb."
"Okay." Snape climbed over first, then gave her his hand and pulled her through. He closed his eyes, still holding her hand. He seemed to be thinking hard.
"Do I need to close my eyes too?"
"No. I found it. Come on." And he led her confidently, eyes still closed, to a cherry tree in full bloom. There was a spring breeze wafting through it, and as they sat down, petals rained down on them and Lily smiled broadly.
"This is really pretty. And it smells nice."
"I thought you might like it," the boy muttered, color coming to his otherwise-pallid cheeks in wake of her praise.
"So. What's the first thing I need to know about-" She waved her hand in the air and the petals around them swirled, forming pretty little patterns before they fell.
"Being a wizard? I'll tell you."
Lily listened for what seemed like hours, rapt. She asked lots of questions, some of which seemed silly to Severus. But, he reminded himself, she was raised by Muggles. She had no way of knowing.
The time he reassured her she wouldn't be hauled off by Dementors for practicing magic outside of school and her sister dropped out of the tree was a one-time incident. Lily still came back, apologetic once more, and they found new places to talk where Petunia couldn't find them.
They spent the summer pleasantly enough that way, and Lily even managed to sneak him home one night through the back door when her parents were otherwise engaged. She put on some Muggle music and danced around on her bed to it, insisting he dance too. He was all ready to make some remark about how it was beneath his dignity, but she looked far too happy for him to crush her that way, so he just wiggled his index fingers up and down, sideways and back, meaning to move as little as possible. She dubbed the dance "the Wizard" and started doing it too. Then Snape told her he had to go, because he knew there was only a finite amount of happiness in the world, and less still allotted to him personally, and he didn't want to use up all of his happiness now and have none for later. He tried to explain this to her; she told him he was weird, but that she spoke 'barking mad' on occasion, so she thought she understood what he was trying to say.
The day they left for Hogwarts was the most thrilling of Severus's young life thus far, though he'd never let on. To be with Lily every day… To be learning magic, away from his uncaring family, where surely the teachers would notice both their innate abilities, and they would be recognized for the bright young minds they were. The scrape with James and Sirius was distasteful, but altogether thankfully brief. After they found their own compartment, Lily found it safe to remark:
"God, what awful gits those two were. I didn't like them at all, did you?" Snape's heart soared. She still liked him better than the other students she'd now met, even though they were better dressed and their robes were brand new. They were still going to keep their pact to be best friends at school.
"No. They were revolting and immature, to say the very least."
"Let's forget about them. They don't matter. Who cares about being brawny, anyway?" Lily cocked her head to one side. "You know, you look good in robes." He mumbled something that could have been 'thanks'.
"Tell me again about the Houses." Snape rolled his eyes, but obliged.
"There're four of them. Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. Gryffindor's where the 'brave of heart' go, but if you ask me, they're bloody stupid and reckless, most of them. Case in point: Potter and Black. Ravenclaw's for the smartest and studious, and Hufflepuff's where the- well, Hufflepuffs try hard and they mean well, but they're not exactly the cream of the crop."
"Oh," Lily said, and frowned. "I hope I don't make Hufflepuff, then."
"And Slytherin is for the purebloods. And sometimes the halfbloods. The ones from wizarding families," he clarified.
"Like you," Lily said quietly. Severus nodded at her once. "Anyway, I hope you're right. I hope we get into the same House." Then the trolley came by, wielding its enchanted sweets, and Lily was distracted by the chocolate frogs and trading cards with their moving pictures, and Snape had a hell of a time wiping the smirk off his face when one ill-timed jump landed his chocolate frog down her shirt, and then they were there, and there were the enchanted boats to squeal over. Severus just took it all in, and felt that assuredly, this place would become his home, and he would be happy here, so long as this girl was by his side.
Ah, well. He'd sort of known it would happen. He hadn't really expected them to be put in the same house, but all the same… it was disappointing. Lily sought him out afterward to reassure him, to make him swear up and down again that despite the rivalry between their two houses, he would not desert her or abandon her.
"Never," he said fervently, and meant it.
"Good." She beamed. "Do the Wizard!" She started wiggling her fingers like he had that summer, and he sighed, wondering why he put up with this. She ran up the moving staircase toward her common room, and he went down into the lower levels of the castle toward his, feeling curiously light on his feet, despite the lecture that was sure to follow from Lucius on his choice of companions. Maybe he could pass her off as a half-blood from the country…
"I'm not interested," Lily said firmly. She'd been putting up with this behavior for months now and she was sick of it.
"Oh, c'mon, Evans. We were just having a bit of fun," pleaded the Potter boy.
"Making his house badge say 'Greasy Git' is NOT what I call a bit of fun. Why can't you just leave him alone? Stop punishing him for being friends with me."
"Friends with a Slytherin, that's a bit rich, don't you think? You have to give those kinds of things up once you come here. Your House is everything." His rich friend, Sirius, chimed in.
"Well, my House will just have to put up with it. Besides, I knew him before we even got to Hogwarts, so it shouldn't matter."
"We'll make much better friends, won't we, Sirius? Hey, Remus, come over here and say hello to Evans." A small quiet-looking boy dressed in hand-me-down robes detached himself from his place at the window and murmured "Hello" to Lily.
"Hello. I hope you have better manners than your friends." Remus had the grace to look embarrassed.
"They're just being prats. They can't help it. It's instinctual. They see a pretty girl and if they can't have her, no one else is allowed to either." Lily put her hands on her hips and narrowed her eyes at the two sniggering, heads together, probably plotting their next prank already. "All the same, I'll see what I can do."
"Thank you. I'd appreciate that. What are you reading?"
"Oh, this? It's just a Muggle book, nothing special." He tried to hide it behind his robes, but Lily tugged it from his grasp.
"Wuthering Heights! I had to read that in school. My parents were Muggles too," she confessed to him.
"Did you like it? Wuthering Heights, I mean," Remus asked, pleased to have found another bookwormish Gryffindor.
"I did. It was very melancholy. I felt sorry for Heathcliff. He had a rough life. Then there was that one character no one could understand because his speech was completely weird."
"What're you talking about? We demand to know." Potter again, with Black in tow, clapping his hands on Lupin's shoulders and startling the poor boy, who almost jumped out of his skin. Remus sighed longsufferingly.
"Nothing you'd be interested in, James. It's not Quidditch or Lily's personal life."
"They've been speculating about my personal life? Ooh, you bloody-" She chased James around the common room, brandishing Wuthering Heights, while Lupin and Sirius looked on and yelled encouragement. Actually, only Sirius yelled encouragement. Lupin yelled about keeping his book in good condition.
"Don't crack the spine! For the love of God, don't crack the spine!"
Lily got in one good wallop; Arthur Weasley, the friendly red-headed prefect, broke them apart.
"Just so you know, I was betting on her, mate," Sirius said, clapping James on the back much harder than was strictly necessary.
Lucius was disappointed, as Snape had predicted. He got a lecture which, while it didn't mention Lily outright, made it very clear where Slytherin's house stance was on Muggleborns, not to mention Gryffidors. Severus was charged with holding up his noble House's standards and reputation for excellence, and to think very carefully about the allies he was going to be making in the next 7 years. They would alter his future profoundly, Lucius said, waxing eloquent about the Slytherins who had gone on to become top Ministry officials and incredibly powerful wizards. "And there are rumours," Lucius had said, "of another very powerful Slytherin who is collecting quite a following in this House. He has many supporters. Be wise, boy. We could condemn or condone you all too easily on the basis of your associations alone. Now run along and meet the other first years," he'd said genially. "I'm sure you'll make us proud. Welcome to Slytherin, and do remember the motto of our noble founder, Salazar Slytherin-"
"Toujours pur," Severus had muttered, already slinking away.