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Chapter 17: The Opening Feast

Albus set his quill down and glanced over the parchment in front of him. It was a press release to The Daily Prophet concerning Harry's change in guardianship. They had delayed the release in order to give the boy a chance to adjust before the media attempted storming the castle. Sealing the parchment and setting it aside, the headmaster looked over at his charge, who was currently napping on the settee.

Albus couldn't help but wonder about how the boy would turn out being raised in the magical world. He had hoped his muggle relatives would not only keep Harry safe but also allow him a proper childhood. Albus nearly cringed at the reminder of the conversation he had with the Dursleys before he brought their nephew to Hogwarts. It was always his goal to find the good in people but even he found it difficult when faced with the Dursleys.

The floo flared for a moment before the potions master came through.

"I trust the boy was no problem."

"The day that Harry becomes a problem, Severus, is the day I stop eating lemon drops."

Albus watched as Snape settled himself into a chair and summoned a tea tray from the kitchens.

"Need I remind you that Potter blood runs in that child's veins?" the potions master snapped.

Albus leveled his eyes at the professor in front of him, causing the man to give in with a sigh.

"My apologies, Headmaster," Severus sighed and forced himself to relax in the chair. He was always on edge at the start of term and this year was proving to be worse. Not only was he preparing for a year of exploding cauldrons and classrooms full of dunderheads, he had Harry to watch after as well.

The headmaster simply nodded as he served the tea, used to the clipped tones that the young professor spoke in during term.

"And what arrangements have you planned for our young ward?" the headmaster inquired.

Severus glanced over at the sleeping child. "There are only a few classes that conflict between our schedules. I suppose a house-elf can sit with him during those times."

The headmaster nodded in agreement. It wasn't the best situation, but they would manage.

"And when will young Mr. Malfoy be visiting us here?"

Severus pulled a letter from one of the pockets in his robe. "Lucius wrote and set the date for the third Saturday of the month. He will be assigning one of his house elves to accompany Draco."

"Not entirely unexpected. It would be safe to assume that the elf will be making a full report to Lucius of the day, and that the focus won't be Draco's behavior."

"Indeed."

Severus set his empty teacup down on the tray and started to stand.

"Before you leave, Severus. I have one more point of interest to discuss with you."

Severus settled back down in the chair and took the paper being handed to him from the headmaster. Scanning the document, he glanced up at the older man.

"Very crafty, Albus," Severus said as he handed the press release back.

"Yes, I'd prefer we explain Harry's change of guardianship under our terms and not through rumors that would surely circulate through the students."

Severus shared his agreement, stood, and scooped Harry in his arms, the boy stirring a bit at the movement.

"Tonight then, Headmaster."

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"Harry, sit still," Severus hissed to the fidgeting boy sitting at his right, between him and the headmaster. They were seated in the Great Hall and at any moment the students would be stampeding into the school as if they were a herd of wildebeest in the middle of the migration on the Serengeti plains. Severus was determined that despite the recent changes in his life, his growing reputation as the bat of the dungeons wouldn't be ruined.

"Sev!" Harry whined and tried to pull away as his guardian tried for the millionth time to get his hair to lay flat. It was a lost cause.

The hands stilled as a rumble started. Suddenly, the doors flew open and the students streamed into the hall, separating to their designated tables.

Severus glanced down at Harry and watched as the boy's eyes grew wide as he took in the students.

Harry looked up at him with a small smile on his face. Severus had explained to him earlier about how life was going to change around the castle. How there would be other children around, but older than him. Severus suspected that Harry was nervous about the change. The only child he'd ever been around was his cousin, Dudley, who he suspected didn't provide many positive experiences.

Eventually the first years entered and were sorted. Albus had even chuckled aloud when Harry stood on his chair and gasped when the sorting hat began to speak. "The hat's talking!" he had exclaimed in a mix of fright and awe. Severus had settled him quickly back into his seat and quietly explained that the hat was magic.

Finally, after they had all eaten, it was time for Albus to make his welcome speech and school announcements. The headmaster stood and waited until the students had quieted down.

"Greetings and welcome to another year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. First years should note, and our returning students would be best to remember, that the Forbidden Forest is indeed forbidden."

A few chuckles came from the older students as the Headmaster met eyes with more than a few sheepish grins.

"I'm pleased to introduce you to two new residents of our castle. First is our new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor, Professor Archibald Dankworth. I trust that every single one of our students here at Hogwarts will treat the professor with as much respect as he is entitled."

The portly man sitting at the end of the head table stood and gave a small bow to the students, who clapped respectfully. He was a last minute hire as the position was rumored to be cursed. The previous professor had ended the previous term with a nervous breakdown.

"Now I am very happy to introduce you all to the newest and youngest member of the Hogwarts family. He has recently been under the care and guardianship of both Professor Snape and myself. I trust that you will all make young Mister Potter feel very much at home here within our school."

Severus tightened the scowl on his face as the cries of surprise sounded across the student body. Harry, who had been kneeling in his seat to watch the students in front of him, turned and buried his head into Severus' robes.

"Potter?! Harry Potter is here at Hogwarts?" the students whispered to each other.

The Headmaster raised his hands for silence. "Indeed, Harry Potter is now a permanent resident here at our school for reasons I won't discuss. Now then, let us retire for the evening as we have a very busy school years that starts in the morning." With a wave of his hands, the food suddenly disappeared from the tables. The students, stuffed with food and turning drowsy, started exiting the hall for their respective houses, but chatter about the young savior of the wizarding world could still be heard.

Severus stood from his seat, intent on getting Harry settled into bed before his opening meeting with Slytherin House. The boy was clearly exhausted, rubbing his eyes and yawning frequently. Seeing no other choice, he swung the child into his arms where Harry quickly rested his head against the Potion Master's shoulder.

And there goes my reputation as the dungeon bat.

"Interesting," a voice to his side drawled. Severus met the beady eyes of the new DADA professors.

"And what, pray tell, is so interesting?" Snape snapped, irritated at a delay in getting back to the dungeons.

"That the ministry would allow the very Savior of the Wizarding World to be raised in such an unsuitable home."

Snape's glare didn't even seem to faze Professor Dankworth as he continued.

"I understand that this is indeed a boarding school but for a child to be raised within these halls would not be the ideal home. Then there's the question of security. Who knows what ties these students have with their families. There's truly no way to tell where true loyalties lie, is there, Snape?"

"Well, I suppose it's a good thing that you are not the head of Family Affairs," Snape stated before turning in a flurry of robes and disappeared out the side door, leaving a disgruntled DADA professor behind.

Harry was asleep in Severus' arms by the time they reached their quarters. Quickly changing him into his pajamas with a flick of his wand, he had the boy tucked into bed and was out the door in a matter of minutes.

Setting a monitoring charm on his quarters in case Harry awoke, Severus quickened his steps to the Slytherin common room. Schooling his features into his sternest look, he stalked into the room with robes billowing in a manner that shut even the 7th years up that were lounging on the couches.

Snape studied the students in front of him. Here before him were the youth of the war, old enough to still remember and understand what it meant when Voldemort was vanquished. The loyalties varied, as it did within each house. However, any family who once sided with the Dark Lord now kept their heads down. Severus didn't expect any major trouble from his house regarding his recent co-guardianship.

"Welcome to Slytherin," Severus drawled, studying the faces of his new first years. Twelve in total and all looking at him with wide eyes.

"I am Professor Snape, Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House. There shall be no tolerance for rule breaking. Slytherins may have a poor reputation amongst the other houses, but know this: We are family here and we stick together, no matter what. I expect the best out of my snakes and will hold each of you to the highest of standards. Failure to comply will result in dire consequences."

Severus paused in his speech as he met each student's terrified gaze. I still have it!

"Curfew is at 10:00 on school nights, and 11:00 on weekends. Any student out after curfew will live to regret it. Questions?"

None of the students were brave enough to raise their hands. Severus had almost expected to be assaulted with questions regarding Harry Potter, but was pleased to see that he still caused some terror in those in front of him.

With a curt nod of his head, he turned and exited the common room in the same flourish as he had entered. A small part of him still took pride in the fine tuned ways he developed in carrying himself.

Once Severus reentered his quarters, he allowed himself to finally relax. To be honest, the feast didn't go as bad as he had feared. No one, aside from Dankworth, made much fuss over the announcement of Harry's change of residence.

Severus threw his robes over the end of the couch and started down the hall, loosening the buttons on his sleeves as he walked. Easing open Harry's door, he checked to see if the boy was still asleep. Stepping farther into the room, he saw Harry curled around a stuffed bear, sound asleep. It looked like Severus would get his full night's rest. Harry still suffered from the occasional nightmare, which Albus assured was normal for young children. However, it looked like tonight would be peaceful for both of them. After adjusting the covers over the child, Severus edged out of the room and left the door cracked open in case he was needed during the night.

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