Harry Potter stared up for the first time at the many luminous lights shining out from Hogwarts castle, his mouth hung open with silent admiration. Train smoke buffeted around him, noisy students jostling their way past the Boy Who Lived with frantic whispers. He ignored them, too pre-occupied with his own wildly escalating expectations, as he tried to count the hundreds of windows and stone turrets in the distance.
''Come on Harry,'' called the red-haired Weasley Harry had met on the train. He was waving impatiently from the end of the platform, a fat rat clinging precariously from his elbow.
Harry needed no further encouragement, he grinned widely at his friend and they hurried along with the rest of the first-years. Time seemed to be speeding them along much faster than Harry would have liked, as before he knew it, they had been ushered through huge oak front doors and through another passageway, and another...
His hands felt clammy, nerves pooling in his stomach. But they were nothing compared to his excitement. Following a bushy haired girl with a constant, irritating desire to correct him, Harry entered the Great Hall full of hope and wonder.
He barely heard Proffessor McGonnagal begin to read out the children's names, calling them foreward to be sorted. There was too much to take in. Starry ceilings, candlelit walls, ghosts... And hundreds and hundreds of new faces.
It was with a sudden jolt of remembrance that Harry spun his gaze onto the head table. His wide eyes had made it half way along the sea of older faces, before insistent nudges at his elbow caused him to blink, losing concentration.
''Harry Potter,'' McGonnagal called again. ''Up here, if you please.''
Harry gulped and stepped forward on shaky legs. He sat down, all to aware on all of the whisperings and pointing. He was used to it by now, but he'd never grown to appreciate it.
McGonngal was smiling encouragingly at him, but Harry felt a sudden wave of panic. He put his hand up quickly to intercept the large hat bound for his head and spun round once again, eyes searching the head table more insistently this time.
He passed Dumbledore, who smiled knowingly, until two black eyes at the very end of the table ended his search.
Harry sighed in relief, body sagging a little. He smiled widely at the Potions Master. The man shook his head slightly, as though in exasperation, but Harry knew the grouchy man far too well by now. There was deep affection well-masked beneath his grim exterior.
He gave the small boy a minuscule nod of encouragement, unable to entirely hide his curiosity that mirrored those surrounding him. Harry turned back round and closed his eyes and felt the Sorting Hat lowered onto his head, falling far over his eyes.
He said nothing, thought nothing, only gentle interest as the clever hat worked out where to put him. Harry was not particularly worried where he was put, though he had a certain preference... All houses were equally as respectable, he knew that well.
''Gryffindor,'' the hat shouted finally and Harry immediately stood up.
The cheers were deafening. He could not help but throw a challenging wink at Severus. The man merely cocked his head, shaking it a little, one eyebrow raised. He did not look surprised.
The feast was over far too quickly for Harry's liking. He wanted to savour every moment, every conversation... It was with heavy feet and a reluctant yawn that the followed his fellow classmates out of the Great Hall.
His face almost hurt from smiling. He'd made it through his first evening at Hogwarts.
''Hey, Potter! Let me see your scar!''
Harry sighed, turning round reluctantly and coming face to face with a pale-faced blonde.
''Malfoy,'' he acknowledged grimly. He'd been hoping he could have saved this confrontation for a later day. He'd been warned about this particular boy, and for good reason it seemed.
''It's even uglier than in the papers,'' the Slytherin remarked coldly. ''You better watch it this year, Potter. If you think-''
''If he thinks what?'' came a deep voice from behind them.
Harry stuffed the wand he'd drawn back into his trousers, hands behind his back and a picture of innocence. Malfoy looked extremely put out at being interrupted. The rest of the students filed past until the three of them remained in the corridor, a tense silence hanging between them.
Malfoy stared defiantly at his new Head of House, arms crossed. Severus walked slowly towards him, no particular malice on his face, but strong disapproval. He had learnt many years ago that to hate was an emotion he could avoid at all costs. This boy held no threat to him.
''To bed. Now. I am loathe to take points from my own house.''
Malfoy opened his mouth to argue, but seemed to think better of it. He shot a final spiteful glance at Harry.
''Daddy won't always be here to protect you,'' he hissed, turning on his heel and marching off to the dungeons.
Severus stared after him, a small frown on his face. When he turned back to Harry, his expression was serious.
''Do not provoke him in future, Potter,'' he warned. ''The Malfoys are not an enemy you need.''
''They're already an enemy,'' Harry muttered.
''Ten points from Gryffindor,'' Severus spoke over him, softly menacing. ''For loitering in the corridors...''
Harry gaped at him, open mouthed. ''But term hasn't even started yet! Malfoy spoke to me!''
''And in engaging him in such highly intelligent conversation, where have you found yourself?'' Severus reprimanded. ''Where are your fellow Gryfindors? Or do you already know your way to the Gryffindor common room? Are you that bigheaded to think you should already have attained such knowledge when your fellow first years have remained unaware?''
Harry scowled at him. Severus merely raised an eyebrow and sighed.
''Since when was I Potter?'' he asked.
Severus tutted loudly. ''Do not sulk. It does not become you. Now follow me,'' he beckoned, leading the way up the stairs.
Harry hesitated, irritated.
Severus turned, a warning on his face. ''Follow me,'' he repeated firmly. ''You can't stand there all night. Unless you wish for me to take another ten points from-''
Harry grunted, darting up the stairs before he could finish his sentence and fell into step beside the potion master as he led him up seven floors.
The castle was even bigger than Harry had imagined. And he had imagined often. He was so distracted, head turning this way and that to take in his new surroundings, that he hadn't notice the hand that had come to rest on his shoulder, steering him clear of hidden traps, invisible stairs and such obstacles.
When he did, he rolled his eyes and glanced upwards.
''Proffessor Snape within Hogwarts,'' Severus reminded firmly, though not unkindly.
Harry rolled his eyes. ''Really?''
Severus nodded seriously, though the hand that remained on the boys shoulder squeezed momentarily, and without warning, he pulled him firmly forwards. Harry's arms encircled the man's waist easily, and he breathed in the musty smell he knew so well.
''I can come and see you in the dungeons whenever I want though, right?'' he asked quietly, poorly concealing the hope in his voice. ''Dad said he visited you, so does that mean I can as well?''
Severus hummed his approval, and Harry felt it vibrate through his chest and smiled.
When Severus finally nudged him back, Harry's smile was wide. Severus could not help but offer a small smile in return, the boy's happiness was infectious. He looked so much like James it was ridiculous.
''I shall send your father an owl,'' he said. ''I'm sure he'll be just delighted that you got yourself stuck with the lions...''
Harry laughed, knowing how proud his dad would be. His face fell slightly, as he remembered just how it was he knew there'd be no chance he'd end up in Slytherin.
''Do you think Lily... my mum... would she be happy that I'm here?'' Harry asked tentatively. His mother was not a subject that had ever been avoided, but it wasn't one they widely discussed either. Severus had never deterred him from asking such questions in the past, so Harry felt no fear in sharing his troubles.
''More than anything,'' he answered quietly. When Harry continued to frown, he was forced to elaborate. ''She was every inch a Gryffindor, Harry. As was and is, your father. There is no reason you should be anywhere else. There is little you could do to cease them both having great pride in you.'' He hesitated, eyes sweeping the young boy with a barely concealed affection and familiarity. ''And I also.''
Harry smiled gratefully.
''Now go,'' Severus insisted. ''Enough of your sentimentality. Cause mischief. And Potter?''
Harry turned back, ''yes, Proffessor.''
''If Malfoy bothers you again, come straight to me. Do you understand?''
Harry saw no signs of joking on the man's face. He nodded, grinned one last time and clambered through the portrait.
Severus sighed as Harry disappeared, ignoring the protests of the fat lady against the Head of Slytherin House and headed straight to the owlery.
The first few months Harry spent at Hogwarts passed much the same as his first day; with great speed. There was so much to learn, so many places to explore and new friends to make... and enemies also, that he quickly found himself wrapped up in all things magical.
It was only when he received an untidy scrawl from a rather persistent black owl, that Harry realised he may have been a lot less dependant on his one link from home than he thought. Harry read the note guiltily.
If you could spare a moment outside of classes, one might believe they haven't entirely been forgotton.
Harry headed straight to the dungeons after breakfast, tie loose and school-bag slung over his shoulder.
The door to Severus' office flung open before Harry had even knocked. He swallowed as Severus towered over him.
''Have you finished your potions homework?'' he asked immediately.
Harry frowned. ''I thought you wanted to see me, not talk about homework.''
''Are the two things exclusively different?''
''Guess not,'' Harry grumbled. ''And no, not yet. Unless you fancy letting me off this one?''
''Not a chance,'' Snape answered immediately, not that Harry was surprised.
''You're right,'' he agreed, with amusement. ''You're the strictest of all the teachers... Nobody likes your class. Except the Slytherins...''
''Is that so?'' Severus asked with a raised eyebrow, unperturbed. He pushed the door open a little wider with unspoken invitation and Harry stepped inside with a grin.
''Well you are quite...'' Harry begun but faltered, as he noted the man sitting behind Severus' desk, a huge grin on his face.
Severus closed the door behind him and smirked. ''He's not here all day, Potter. Hurry up.'' He nudged Harry in the back and the boy blinked away his surprise and ran forwards.
James grinned widely as Harry threw his arms around him, squeezing the breath from his body. He pulled the boy closer still, remaining seated as when he stood Harry barely came up to his belly button.
Harry's face buried in his chest, James raked his hand through the messy hair he had inherited and smiled warmly at Severus over the top of his head.
Severus watched the familiar scene of the two embracing and sat at the other side of his desk, billowing robes folded beneath him.
''You've missed me?'' James chuckled approvingly, slowly encouraging Harry to let him go so he could get a proper look at him. This had been the longest they'd been apart since the boy was born 11 years ago. ''You haven't grown much then.''
Harry tried to frown, but his smile was fixed. ''Have to! Haven't I, Severus?''
Severus ignored the use of his first name in the confines of his office and raised an eyebrow. ''How would I know?'' he answered easily, with amusement. ''You barely make your presence known. You gallivant around the castle just as your father did, paying no mind to the like of a Slytherin such as myself.''
Harry shook his head at Severus, too used to the man's unique, often sadistic sense of humour to take his insults too seriously. When he was truly angry, he knew it, but now wasn't one of those times.
He hugged his father again and James mused at how much Harry mirrored himself when he was that age. In looks at least. He much more had Lily's heart. He certainly had her eyes. He would not be worried about Harry following the immature path of bullying and popularity and attention seeking, as he had done.
Harry was not that kind of person.
''So have you made any new friends?'' he asked brightly, pulling Harry's small form up with ease so that he could make the most of Harry sitting on his lap before he finally did get too old.
As it was, Harry keenly filled him in on his first two months of Hogwarts, while James and Severus listened patiently and with interest, knowing only too well that youth and all of its innocence was something to be treasured.
When it was time for Harry to leave for his first class, James kissed him fondly on the cheek and nudged him off his lap.
''I'll see you at Christmas,'' he promised. ''I have work to do with Dumbledore, so we'll stay at the castle for the holidays for this year. That alright with you?''
''Yep,'' Harry beamed. ''As long as I don't have to sleep in the dungeons.''
''Tsk,'' Snape reprimanded lightly, placing a hand on the boys head as he walked past, dispelling the dark locks into even greater disarray.
Harry smiled. ''I'll catch up with you soon, Severus,'' he said earnestly. ''And you'll be at my first quidditch match won't you? And you'll tell dad how it went. And that I won! Even If I didn't.''
Severus snorted. ''And Gryffindors are supposed to be honest.'' He shook his head at James, who merely smiled, and opened the door for Harry.
''See you soon, Dad,'' Harry grinned and sprinted off to his first class.
Severus watched him disappear up the corridor before closing the doors. Harry this close to the Slytherin common room was never a good idea. There was only so much he could do to deter his students from preying on the 'Golden Boy.'
James had his arms crossed over his chest, a knowing expression on his handsome features when Severus turned back to him.
''You worry about him too much,'' he said lightly. ''Harry can look out for himself, Severus. He's not a baby anymore.''
''Hm,'' Severus said, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. ''You do remember what it is to be a child?'' he asked, leafing his long fingers through some papers on his desk. ''And that particular child of yours, Potter, if a beacon for mischief.''
''Wouldn't have it any other way.''
Severus rolled his eyes and James stood up.
''Though I am glad you're here,'' he said honestly. ''Doesn't hurt to have an extra pair of eyes on him.''
''No harm will come to him while I am here, James,'' Severus said quietly.
James had no doubt.
''Though...'' Severus continued warningly, as a darker, more predatory look took over James' face, ''you probably should have mentioned you're here... right under his nose... three, four times a week...''
''Sometimes more,'' James interrupted, taking a more deliberate step towards Severus and eyeing him lazily through long lashes. Severus drew in a dark breath as a tanned hand brushed his curtain of hair aside, hazelnut eyes full of affection as they drunk in his pale features. After ten years he would have assumed his senses would have dulled to such a familiar touch.
Unfortunately, as James deliberately ran a thumb over his cheekbone, and Severus felt his heart thump harder in his chest, he suspected his current predicament was permanent.
''Not the point,'' he muttered distractedly.
''It's not Harry I'm here to see during the week, Severus, you know that. He's a Hogwarts student now. I can't interfere during term time. How is he supposed to cope if I demand his attention all the time?''
''Yet I am to contend with it?''
''You... don't have a choice,'' James grinned before he kissed him, his mouth hot and wet as he pulled Severus against him.
The work Severus had been attempting slipped from the desk as James forced him back upon it, Severus' trousers falling to drop at his ankles.
''Insufferable...'' he muttered, a faint smirk on his face as James spread his legs apart.
Harry awoke far too early on Christmas Day, not to the now-familiar curtains of his four-poster, but to bright window overlooking the quidditch stadium. He had offered to stay in his dorm over the Christmas break, but couldn't deny that Severus' and his fathers' insistence that the three of them share accomadation within the grounds made him feel more at home.
He threw back the bedcovers, dislodging presents from the end of his bed as he knocked on his parents bedroom door. When there was no answer, he opened it carefully. They weren't inside. It was still very early. The sun was pale as it shone out over a snow covered Hogwarts.
Harry made his way back to his bed and sat down, smiling as he picked up one of his presents, wondering what they'd decided to indulge in this year. He managed to stop himself before he opened any, knowing his father would disapprove of not waiting for them all to be here.
He crossed to the window, and only when he squinted could he make out two figures on brooms, looping through the sky. Harry smiled, grabbed a pair of trousers and his gloves and padded through the empty castle. By the time he'd waded through the snow, the sun had risen more fully and the flying figures had landed. The edge of the pitch was entirely frozen, so it was almost like an ice rink.
Not that his father and Severus seemed to mind.
Even from a distance, Harry could tell it was them. He had never seen any other couple wrap around each other in quite the way they did. His father hugged Severus with all his body, looked at him with eyes full of emotion Harry could never quite describe. He could only hope that one day when he was older, he would be just as lucky to find an ounce of the contentment his father seemed to have found.
He rolled his eyes and looked away with a grimace as the men kissed, brooms cast to the side and frost on their faces.
He had often wondered about what his life would have been like had Severus not been Severus... And instead his mother had been with James. And he always found that, though he wished with every ounce of his being that Lily was still alive, he could not imagine his father with anyone else. Not even her.
He'd never pitied himself for having two fathers. Quite the contrary. Harry knew Severus loved him. The man was not as forthright with his emotions or parenting abilities as James, but Harry considered him family just the same. He had never been made to feel like an outsider or that he did not belong. The fact that Severus was so cold with most people, and showed him such warmth, only made Harry feel even luckier.
Harry was pulled rather suddenly from his thoughts by an icy blast to his face. He stumbled back, nearly falling. He glowered at his father, but he merely laughed as he gathered another snow ball. He dodged the following one, seeker skills aiding him in retaining his warmth. When he'd battled his way to his father's side, he was pulled into a one-armed hug. James kept his other hand around Severus' waist.
With the older wizards creating a pathway within the snow, the walk back to the castle was much easier. None of them were aware of a pair of twinkling blue eyes watching the family from the headmasters office, as they crossed the grounds.
Harry paused as they reached the top of the steps to the front doors to the castle. He turned back and eyed the white beauty with growing fondness, entirely unaware of just how much adventure Hogwarts and life in general had in store for him.
Severus laid a hand on his shoulder, eyebrow raised in silent questioning and Harry shook his head, dispelling the man's frown, and smiled up at him. He had never felt luckier.