It was his mother who noticed it first. The stock white envelope slid through their fireplace and onto the floor in front as neatly as if it had been placed there. Sverus heard the faint hoot from overhead while he was in the kitchen and went into the parlor to ask his mother if she'd heard it as well. Smiling, she pointed wordlessly to the letter in front of the fireplace. Her grin widened when her son got close enough to examine the seal. He let out a small squeal then grabbed the letter. He rushed over to the window to look at in better light.

"Mum, are you sure this is real?" Severus asked. "I didn't think they sent out Hogwarts letters in July."

"I believe that's so first year students have enough time to prepare," his mother responded. "Other students will get theirs later."

"Why not at the same time?" He didn't know why he was asking, really. He didn't much care. He had his letter and as long as Lily had hers, that was all that mattered.

"I hear Professor McGonagall likes to dictate each one. And as she has well over a hundred to send out each year, it takes her a little time. In addition to that, she personally visits every Muggleborn students and their parents. I'm sure she'll get bored of that after a few years," his mother remarked.

Severus looked up from the unopened envelope in his hand. He'd heard about three words of his mother's explanation. From her mildly amused expression, he gathered that she knew as much and didn't mind.

"May I go see Lily now? I'd like to know if—" He couldn't say it. She had to have gotten her letter for Hogwarts. Lily was far more powerful and controlled than he was, a natural talent, even if she was sometimes too bashful to acknowledge it. "I want to see how her parents have taken it," he said. There was some truth to that. Lily had spent the past several months dreading her parents' reaction, though Severus knew she had nothing to worry about. The Evanses were never anything less than loving and supportive with their daughters, yet another fact Severus had begun to envy of his friend. He knew he couldn't hope for anything close to that type of reaction from his own father, he just hoped his mother didn't have to suffer too much for her decision to allow him to attend Hogwarts.

His mother had scarcely nodded her consent before Severus was out there, the unopened letter clutched tightly in his hand. As he ran towards Lily's house, he forced himself to slow down several times, alternately wanting to give her and her family a bit of space and wanting to celebrate with her in private. With her parents finally knowing her secret, they could practice spells out in the open. If her parents took her to get a wand soon, they could go through his mother's books together and be ahead in all of their classes.

It was this last thought that finally made him stop running altogether, a block from Lily's house. He looked down at the letter in his hand. The envelope was slightly crumpled, but the seal remained unbroken. He looked down at the dark red wax and traced the Hogwarts crest with the tip of his finger. The truth was, as long as he'd known he was a wizard, he still felt it was an amazing accomplishment just to get into Hogwarts. His mother had reluctantly told him stories of Squibs and those who had more than a little magic but just couldn't make it at the school. Next to Lily, it had been his fear that he would still be called wizard, but would never be able to keep up—with her and everyone else. That was why practicing had become a nearly daily routine. Besides the usual charms, he'd picked up quite a number of hexes and defensive spells—a fact which his father had learned to a painful end. But even his father's attitude towards magic would cease to be an issue in a little more than a month.

He broke the seal and smiled down at the page as he began walking again. There was the standard welcome letter in Professor McGonagall's tightly slanted script. The next page was a list of the books and supplies he'd need before the first of September. Scanning over it, he realized that most of the books were already in the house. He wouldn't need to worry about those. As for his other supplies and school clothes, Severus didn't know how his parents would be able to afford anything. His father hardly gave his mum enough to take care of the house, and he would not see his son attending Hogwarts as a priority. Every time he'd asked, Eileen had told her son not to worry when it was time for him to go to school, but he couldn't help it. He didn't want anything to go wrong. Including having to leave his best friend behind, he thought as he approached Lily's house. For now, making sure she was coming along was the priority. He could worry about everything else later.

Looking up at the front of the house, he was surprised. A woman in a green tartan dress and tall black hat was coming briskly down the walk, her face set in a stern expression. Severus recognized her immediately from the pictures of his mother's last visit to the school. "Professor McGonagall!" he exclaimed.

The older woman glanced at him quizzically for a few seconds. Spotting the Hogwarts letter in his hand, she smiled down at him over her glasses. The gesture softed the small lines around her mouth. "You must be Eileen Prince's boy," she said.

He nodded. "Severus Snape, Professor."

"She mentioned you would be coming to Hogwarts soon. You look just like your mother. Though, there is a hint of someone else."

His face dropped. "My father's nose," Severus mumbled. He'd been told as much several times. He only hoped it was the only resemblance he would ever have to the man who fathered him.

"Yes, well, knowing what a powerful witch your mother is, I expect nothing but the highest quality magic from you, young man."

In spite of the sharp drop in her expression, he could tell from the slight tilt of her lips this was more a challenge and hint of her expectations than a rebuke. Severus knew his mother was capable of far more than she'd shown him over the years and he was expected to match or exceed her achievements at school. He planned to go far above and beyond that. He informed Professor McGonagall of this.

Her sharp laugh rang out. "I'll look forward to it, Mr. Snape. I'll see you at the sorting." With that, she looked around to make sure she wasn't be observed, turned on the spot and disappeared with a loud pop. Severus stared at the spot where she been for several seconds. That little trick was the msot remarkable thing he'd ever seen anyone do. That was a spell his mother had to teach him as soon as possible.

He ran up the stone walk and knocked on the front door. Several long moments passed in silence. Severus knocked again. The door opened and Petunia glared down her nose at him. "Oh, it's you. Well, you've finally gotten your wish now, haven't you? She's one of you." The girl rolled her eyes.

"Your sister's going, then?"

Petunia merely continued frowning at him. Her attitude towards him never differed and today was no exception. It didn't matter. He could hear her parents chattering in the living room, accompanied by Lily's high laugh.

"Lily!"

"Sev?" she called back. He shouldered his way past Petunia and into the parlor. Lily jumped up from the sofa and ran over to him. "You got yours?"

He nodded. "You got yours?"

She held out the crumpled parchment in her hand for his inspection. Squealing as he had at home, Severus pulled Lily into a hug. He grinned as she began jumping up and down while singing, "We're going off to Hogwarts! We're going off to Hogwarts!" Laughing, Severus joined in with her chanting.

"Wait, you're one of them too?" her father asked, struggling to be heard over the squealing, laughing children.

Her mother smiled. "How long have you known about Lily?"

Severus grabbed Lily around the waist to stop her movements. "I've known since I met her." He smiled at his friend. "A little before that, actually. That was why I introduced myself."

Her father blinked hard. "And what was Lily doing that indicated she might be a...a..."

"Witch," Marie filled in. She smiled at her husband.

Lily grinned. "Nothing, Dad. I was playing in the park. Sev just picked up on it."

"Nothing anyone else would have noticed," he assured them. Her parents looked relieved. Severus guessed Professor McGonagall had given them the same lecture on secrecy his mother had given him when she'd begun teaching him charms. They didn't have to worry. He and Lily had managed to keep their spell practice a secret so far, and they hadn't gotten in trouble with the Ministry for any of it. Keeping things under wraps until they went off to school would be easy.

"How did your parents take it, then?" David Evans asked. "Were they surprised? Happy?"

"Oh, my mum wasn't surprised at all. She knew when I was born," Severus said. "My mum's a witch. Everyone in her family was a witch or wizard."

"And your father?" Marie asked.

"He's not a wizard," Severus said. "And he's known about me for years. I think he was surprised, but he's gotten used to it," the boy said. He felt slightly uncomfortable lying to Lily's parents after the way they'd welcomed him into their home for months, but that was better than even hinting at the years of abuse he and his mother had suffered because of his father's insecurities and hatred. He was sure they could sense enough of what his home life was like from his general appearance. They never said anything, never treated him differently because of it, but there was always a look adults gave him. Either contempt because they thought he was somehow mean or unworthy of being in their prescence, or pity because they knew he couldn't help what his life was. The Evanses were more of the pitying type, like Lily had been before she'd gotten to know him. It was better for his peace of mind that their pity was of a more general type. They didn't need a specific reason to feel sorry for him.

"Well, I'd like to talk to your parents, if I could," David said. "Your mother especially. Professor McGonagall was nice enough, but she wasn't very informative. Would your parents mind coming by, so we could talk about school?"

"My mum wouldn't mind," Severus answered immediately. He'd talk her into it. From Lily's smile, he could tell how excited she was about the idea of discussing Hogwarts with someone who had actually been there. She would probably be more comfortable asking her friend's mother endless questions than a professor from the school.

"Fantastic," Marie said. "I'll call her." Before Severus could anything else, she was up and in the kitchen, dialing his mother. A couple of minutes later, Marie came back, a huge smile overtaking her face. "Your mother says she would be glad to come over and speak with us. Tomorrow, early for tea."

"I can't wait," Lily said. She'd been quiet all this time and she sounded breathless. Her face was flushed and her hands were shaking in her excitement. "Do you think she would mind if I came over now and asked a few questions?"

Lily Evans in his house? With his father possibly coming home at any minute? There was no way he would let his father anywhere near Lily if he could help it. "I think, when I left, she was cleaning," Severus said finally.

"Of course she's busy," Marie put in. "Otherwise she could've come over now. Lily, you'll just have to be patient. You have over a month before you'll be at school. You have all that time to ask as many questions as you want."

"Can your mum bring the photo albums tomorrow?" Lily asked. "I would love to show my mum that picture of a dragon."

"A dragon?" In that instance, Marie Evans's awed tone sounded identical to that of her daughter's the first time she knew of the creature's existence. Severus saw the same attraction to all the wonderful things she'd only imagined in her eyes that he saw in her daughter every time he introduced her to something new. It was then he knew that Lily's mother was the one who encouraged her active imagination and who would support her the most as she joined the wizarding world. He was happy she would have that support, especially since she'd been so worried over it before. Her sister was probably a lost cause and her father was cautious at best, but at least Lily would have her mother's support as he would have his.