Disclaimer: All intellectual & physical property of Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling and Warner Bros.
Harry awoke to the sound of his name being called. He opened his eyes and turned his head toward the sound.
"Harry…hey, Harry, you awake, mate?"
"Mmm?" Harry enjoyed a bone-cracking stretch and grinned, "I am now, thanks." He looked at the head that had appeared from the top bunk, hanging upside down and staring at him with a wide smile.
"You think they're here yet?"
"What?" Harry asked.
"Our letters. From Hogwarts – our letters. They're supposed to come today." The boy who occupied the bunk above Harry was bouncing with excitement. Harry could hear the springs squeak.
"Stop bouncing, you're going to break the bed. And I don't even know what time it is – might be too early for the post."
Suddenly, both boys heard their mother calling for breakfast.
"Harry, Severus, come and eat – the post will be here soon," her voice rang up from the kitchen.
"Race you," Severus challenged.
"You know I'll beat you," taunted Harry as he bolted out of bed and reached the door before Severus had even gotten down from his bunk. But Severus was quick and he caught up with Harry on the stairs, both of them jostling for space as they ran down.
"Boys!" their mother chided, "Stop before you break something!"
"Sorry Mum," Severus looked contrite, but winked at Harry as the two sat down to their breakfast at the table.
They were joined shortly by three younger children, all of whom had shocking, red hair.
"Ron!" their mother called, "Breakfast!"
"I'm here, Hermione, nearly blew my eardrum out," Ron huffed. Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Don't inhale your food," Hermione said to her three youngest children, "You'll choke."
Suddenly, two owls flew into the open window and dropped large, cream-colored envelopes in front of Harry and Severus.
"Excellent!" Severus cheered. Both boys abandoned their eggs and kippers and tore into the letters.
"Got in," Harry confirmed.
"Well of course you did," Hermione said with a hint of exasperation.
"Already went once," Ron muttered.
"Ron, stop," Hermione warned. They didn't speak of Harry and Severus' lives before the curse – not if they could help it. They thought it made Harry and Severus upset and uneasy.
"Well, we'll head out to Diagon Alley next week and pick up your things," Hermione sent their dishes over to the sink, satisfied they had eaten enough. "Go get yourselves ready and do your chores."
"Awww, Mum!" Harry whined, "Can't we have today off? You know, to celebrate our letters?"
"Absolutely not. Your brother and sisters are going to do their chores, and you two aren't any different."
"Are too," Severus said under his breath. Hermione shot him a warning glance.
"That's enough. Go, all of you, now – time's wasting. " She ordered all five children back upstairs to bathe and dress.
Once they had gone, she sat at the table with her husband and sighed, "What do you think? Should we get them new wands?"
"What for?" Ron raised his eyebrows, "We've already got theirs – no sense in not using them."
"I suppose," Hermione seemed unsure. "What do think will happen when they get there? Do you think they'll be in the same houses – you know, as they were before?"
"I dunno. I mean, Harry seems like he's still a cert for Gryffindor, but Severus – I don't know if the hat'll put him in Slytherin or not. I mean, he's different now. Well, not completely, I guess – still a sneaky bastard if you ask me."
"Ron!" Hermione chastised him.
"Well he is," Ron retorted. "It's going to kill them if they get put in separate houses, though," he admitted.
"I know," Hermione said with a sad tone. "It's so odd – I still can't get over it. If you'd told me ten years ago that there would be a day when Harry Potter and Severus Snape would be best friends, I'd have hit you over the head with a frying pan."
"You tried to do that to me yesterday," Ron rolled his eyes.
"I know, but you deserved it," Hermione got up and kissed Ron's cheek before taking care of what was left of breakfast. "Go upstairs and make sure our angels aren't tearing apart the second story."
Ron shuffled off to check on the children and Hermione went over to the sink to supervise the dishes that were washing themselves. She stared out the window and lost herself in thought. She tried to wrap her mind around the fact that Harry and Severus were headed back to Hogwarts. Sometimes it seemed like only yesterday that she, Ron, and Harry had finished their seven years there together. She could still remember the final battle against Voldemort clearly, as if no time at all had passed. She also remembered the shock of what had happened immediately following the death of the Dark Lord: a flash of blue light streaked toward Snape, presumably from a vengeful Death Eater. Harry jumped in front of Snape to take it instead – a move Hermione heralded as not just stupid, but immensely strange – if not a bit noble. The trouble was, he didn't get there in time to take the full brunt of it, and it hit both him and Severus together. She remembered the sensation of being frozen in time as she thought her best friend was going to die, and then the shock when he didn't, in fact, crumple to the ground but instead shrunk as if he were growing backward, ending up as a tiny, gurgling infant on the ground – directly in front of a matching baby Snape. An age-reductor curse – an odd choice for revenge, for sure, but who knew what went through the Death Eaters' minds anyway – they were all nutters. Maybe they were trying to render Snape defenseless, to make him easier to kill. With spells still flying around, she ran instinctively toward the now helpless infants, grabbed their respective wands, scooped them up into her arms, and made her way as fast as she could back to the safety of the castle.
It had taken quite a bit of explaining, but everyone finally realized what had happened. There was heated debate over what would happen to the baby-Harry and baby-Snape, but Hermione and Ron had been adamant that they be allow to care for both children and raise them as their own – they certainly didn't intend to send Harry back to his Aunt's family, and Severus had none at all. In fact, they feared that some people might volunteer to raise Severus and punish him for things he had done in the past. Ron and Hermione had been planning to get married anyway and they both wanted children – this would simply be a jump-start on their family. And they had – raised the two boys as their own – and then gone on to fill their home with three additional biological children. They had made sure to tell the boys bits and pieces of their past, but not too much, and never too many details at once. The boys knew they were different – knew they had once been adults but were hit by a curse – but Hermione and Ron had made sure not to tell them anything about what kind of people they had been (especially Snape – Hermione was convinced that being raised by what she deemed 'proper parents', that he would not turn out to be an insufferable git, something of which Ron was not entirely convinced). Harry and Snape supposedly didn't have any memories of their former lives, although occasionally they would say or show knowledge of things that they shouldn't have known otherwise.
The next week held the much anticipated trip to Diagon Alley. The family of seven made their way into the Leaky Cauldron and back to the brick wall entrance. Harry and Severus were bouncing on the balls of their feet with excitement. As Ron tapped the bricks with his wand to open the arch to the Alley, Hermione tried to focus both boys.
"Now, remember, no wandering off on your own, stay close to us, and try not to draw too much attention to yourselves." Hermione and Ron had actually contemplated putting Harry and Severus in disguises, but the boys had balked and convinced them otherwise. The archway began to appear, and as the Alley came into view, the boys moved forward as if drawn by a magnet. "Boys," she warned, "I will make you hold our hands if you try to bolt off." She was rewarded by a mortified stare from both of them, and their excitement was toned down a few notches. She nodded her approval.
"Where to first, then?" Ron asked as they made their way down the street.
"Mmm, I suppose we should do robes first, they'll take the longest."
"Probably right," Ron agreed.
"Of course I am," Hermione responded with a smile. They made their way to Madame Malkin's and stepped inside. Fortunately, they had made it to Diagon Alley quite early and it was not yet as crowded as it would be later in the day. This was not coincidence – they hoped to get in and out of all the necessary shops before too many people started realizing who they were.
The bells rang as they entered the shop. "Good morning, welcome to Madame…" the shop owner stopped dead. "Goodness me! Is this Mr. Potter? How wonderful to see you! Again!"
Hermione gave the woman a glare that would have made Professor McGonagall proud. The lady ceased and desisted.
"And this must be Mr. Snape. Wonderful – boys, if you'll follow me," she ushered them toward the back of the shop where the measuring was done.
"You go get the books," Hermione ordered Ron, and intimated that he take the three younger children with him.
"Right," he ushered their two daughters and other son out the door as Hermione, Harry, and Severus followed Madame Malkin into the rear of the store.
A few hours later, the family had completed their assignments – robes were purchased, book lists collected, two owls bought, and an assortment of other necessary items were in tow.
"What about our wands, Mum?" Severus inquired as they passed Ollivander's on their way back toward the Leaky Cauldron.
"We've already got your wands," Ron said.
"Already got them? When did you do that, while we were buying our owls?" Harry asked.
"No, we…" Ron was cut off by a look from Hermione.
"We'll talk about it when we get home," she said. "Keep up, Rose needs a nap." The youngest Weasley girl began to screech in protest to this announcement.
By the end of the weekend, Harry and Severus were finding it nearly impossible to sleep. They stayed awake late into the night trading stories about their hopes and dreams for the coming year at Hogwarts. Before they knew it, they were at King's Cross ready to board the train.
"Owl us if you need anything," Hermione was saying her final goodbyes, tears in her eyes.
"Mum, stop crying!" Harry squirmed out of her embrace, embarrassed.
"Go on, then, on the train with the both of you," Ron shuffled them into the nearest car.
"We love you," Hermione cried as the train began to move, billows of white steam filling the platform.
"Bye, Mum! Bye Dad! See you at Christmas!" Severus called out from the window of the compartment they'd made their way into.
Harry and Severus spent their entire time on the train swapping their fears and expectations for the coming year. A hot topic of debate was the sorting.
"Which house d'you think we'll get sorted into?" Severus asked.
"Well, Mum and Dad were both in Gryffindor, so we'll probably be in there, too," Harry surmised.
"Yeah, but what about our other parents, you know, from before. Do you know which house yours were in?" Severus seemed a bit downtrodden.
"Mine were both in Gryffindor, Dad told me," Harry said. "But he never told me about yours. Did you ask?"
Severus shook his head. "I know they didn't know my parents – just that my father wasn't even a wizard. They told me my mum's name, once, but never said which house she was in."
"Well, there's no reason you won't be in Gryffindor, then. I suppose some people don't always get sorted into the houses their parents were in."
"What if we aren't in the same house," Severus whispered, finally admitting his underlying fear.
"We'll be in the same house," Harry assured him. "Besides, Dad said the first time I went, the hat asked me what house I wanted to be in, so you can tell it you want to be in Gryffindor. We'll both tell it that and then we'll be together."
Severus seemed cheered at this information. "Right," he smiled. "Sounds like a plan."
They eventually changed into their robes as the train approached the castle and headed off the train once it arrived at the station. They were clumped together with the other first years and approached by a giant of a man.
"Firs' years, follow me!" He turned and led them to the boat house, where he proceeded to usher them into small boats in groups of three or four. His eyes finally fell upon the two boys sticking close to each other, like they were adhered with glue. "Harry!" his face broke into a smile. "S'been awhile – can' believe yer back after all this time. Haven' changed a bit, I see, 'cept, no more scar?"
"Scar?" Harry puzzled.
"Never mind," Hagrid waved his giant hand. "So this must be the Professor," he turned to Severus.
"P-Professor?" Severus stuttered. "I'm not a teacher."
"But yeh were – bit strange tryin' to call you Severus. 'Suppose I'll have to get used to it."
Harry and Severus exchanged a look of confusion. Their parents had never told them what they did as professions in their other lives.
"Please, sir," Harry began as he climbed into the boat with the half-giant.
"Hagrid," Hagrid interjected, "yeh never used to call me 'sir' – don't start now!"
"All right, erm, Hagrid, then, if Severus was a professor, what did I do? You know, before…"
"Well, you were jus' in school, weren' yeh? Hadn't had a chance to do anythin' yet, before yeh took that curse."
The boats had started forward towards the castle.
"Took the curse, sir, I mean, Hagrid? What do you mean, took the curse? We just got hit with one – how can someone take a curse?"
"Blimey, Harry, didn' Ron and Hermione tell you anythin'?" Hagrid looked positively stunned.
"They don't talk about it much," Severus admitted.
"Oh, well, I guess I'm not really the one to tell yeh. If Ron and Hermione didn' tell you 'bout it, they probably had a good reason."
"We don't mind," Harry said quickly. He found he was rather intrigued about learning more about his former self, even if it seemed as though he was hearing about a stranger.
"Mmm, sorry, Harry, Prof-erm, Severus. If Ron and Hermione haven' told yeh, that means they don' want yeh ter know. Sorry," he repeated.
Harry and Severus exchanged another look of dejection. If Hagrid didn't want to give them information, maybe they could find someone else here who could.
The boats finally reached the castle and the first years clamored out of the boats and filed up to the castle behind Hagrid. They were met by a familiar face – well, familiar to Harry and Severus, anyway.
"Uncle Neville!" Harry cried. With all the excitement of the day, he'd forgotten that his Uncle was now the Head of Gryffindor and also deputy Headmaster.
"Hey there Harry, Severus!" Neville gave both boys a quick squeeze. They looked around at the glances of their fellow classmates, a few seemed impressed, others uneasy, and some even seemed jealous that the two boys not only seemed to know the boat-master, Hagrid, but also the Professor that had greeted them at the castle gates. "Follow me, please, we need to get to the Great Hall for the sorting."
Severus felt a lead weight settle in his stomach as he remembered his fear of being sorted into a different house than Harry. He willed himself to channel Harry's optimism that they would be able to remain together.
The line of first years reached the entrance to the Great Hall and was led in by Professor Longbottom, filing in and making their way up to the front of the room where a tattered hat sat on a plain, wooden stool. Professor Longbottom began reading names and the students made their way up to the hat and were sorted. Finally, Harry heard his name when the list reached the P's and he rushed up to meet his uncle, who placed the hat on his head.
"Hmmm," Harry heard a voice in his ear. "Do I know you? You seem familiar."
"Um, I'm not sure," Harry thought. "Well, maybe, I've been here before."
"You have? Why are you back? This is most unusual."
"Well, there was an accident, and I had to come back to school." Harry was astonished that the hat seemed to remember him, when he didn't even remember himself.
"Right," the hat said. "Well, doesn't change anything, you're an easy sort." And with that, the hat shouted out, "Gryffindor!" for the whole hall to hear. Harry grinned and made his way over to the Gryffindor table, catching Severus' eye as he did, giving him an encouraging nod.
Severus' dread grew and grew in his gut as he waited to be called. When he did finally hear his name, he reluctantly made his way up to the hat.
"Mmm, another familiar mind," the hat seemed less surprised than it had with its encounter with Harry. "Was there an accident with you, too? Is that why you've returned to the school?"
"Erm, yes," Severus thought, surprised at the hat's accurate question, for he hadn't heard the exchange between the hat and Harry.
"Well, you're just as easy as the one before," the hat seemed relieved. And before Severus could remember to ask to go into Gryffindor, the hat shouted, "Slytherin!" to the hall.
Severus froze as he heard the pronouncement, his eyes finding Harry's as he left the stool. Both boys had looks of complete and total despair clearly on their faces. Severus felt his legs trudging, unwilling, toward the Slytherin table. He was welcomed by his housemates, but didn't hear any of their kind words; he was already devising ways to get himself moved into Gryffindor House. Surely, students had been resorted before, he hoped, and he would find a way. There was no possible way he was going to go through seven years of school separated from his best friend in the entire world, and he resolved to rectify what he now regarded as a grave injustice.
Both boys were ushered to their common rooms by the House Prefects with no chance to talk to each other, and they both lay awake late into the night, staring at the ceiling from their four-poster bed, missing the familiarity of each other, the sharing of space for the past ten years.
Both boys awoke the next morning tired, having not slept well the night before. They made their way down to breakfast in the Great Hall with their housemates and were relieved to see that sitting with one's house was not required during this meal. They searched frantically for each other, practically running toward one another when they joined eyes from across the room. They found some space at a nearby table and sat down together, emotions spilling out as they began talking at the same time.
"I can't believe you're in Slytherin!" "There's got to be a way to change it!" "We can write home, maybe Mum can do something about it." "Maybe Uncle Neville can help."
After both boys cleared their minds of their rattling thoughts, they began to plan their course of action. They would approach their uncle first, and then involve their parents if that didn't work. Before they left the hall to get to class, they made their way up to the head table to talk to their uncle.
"Erm, Uncle Neville, could we talk to you for a moment?" Harry asked.
"Sure, Harry," Neville looked concern, reading the looks of tension on the boys' faces. "Is something wrong?"
"I want to be in Gryffindor. With Harry," Severus cut to the chase.
Neville paused, gathering his thoughts before he responded. "Severus, you were sorted into Slytherin. You were in Slytherin before, too. The hat put you there for a reason. You can't just switch Houses."
"But I don't want to be in Slytherin! The hat didn't even ask me what I wanted! I want to be with Harry, I want to be in Gryffindor like Mum and Dad were. I don't want to be alone," he finished quietly, voicing his fear.
"Alone? Severus, you'll make friends in your own House. That's part of the fun of school – meeting new people, making new friends. You won't be alone."
"I don't want to make new friends. I'm already friends with Harry."
"I don't want us to be separated, either, Uncle Neville. Isn't there any way we could be together?" Harry pushed.
"No, boys, I'm sorry, but the sorting is final." Neville sounded truly sorry. He understood how it felt to feel alone, without friends. "But you'll be able to spend a lot of time together – you'll have classes together, you can eat breakfast and lunch together, study together. You'll have plenty of time together."
"We'll have classes together?" Harry's eyes brightened.
"Of course! Slytherin and Gryffindor always have most of their classes together. Haven't you looked at your schedules yet?" Neville was perplexed.
"No," Severus admitted. He pulled his out at the same time as Harry, and they leaned together so they could see each other's. "Hey! We have got every class together!" He suddenly felt loads better.
"See," Neville smiled at them both. "Speaking of class, you're both going to be late if you don't get going."
The boys exchanged a glance and left the hall at top speed. On their way to Transfiguration, they debated the current situation.
"Well, I suppose we can give it a go and wait to owl Mum if it gets too bad," Harry proposed.
"Yeah, sounds good. Uncle Neville's right, really the only time we'll be apart is at dinner and for bed." Severus was relieved.
"I couldn't sleep last night," Harry admitted.
"Me either," Severus agreed. "It was weird – you not being there. The other boys snored so loudly."
"One of my roommates talks in his sleep," Harry giggled. "It's bizarre!"
The boys made it through their classes that day with little incident and they realized the biggest problem they were going to have among Transfiguration, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and History of Magic was staying awake during Binns' soporific lectures about Goblin Wars and the like.
The next day they started a fresh round of classes. They would have Charms, more Defense, and a double Potions lesson. After lunch, they made their way to the dungeons for Potions together. As they entered the classroom, they saw tables set up with two chairs each, and they assumed they were expected to pair up. Everywhere they looked, Gryffindors paired with each other and Slytherins followed suit. They realized they were the only mixed pair in the entire room. As Professor Slughorn (who had been more than happy to stay on as Potions Professor after the imminent threat to his life was removed) called roll, he stopped when he realized that Harry was paired with Severus.
"Mr. Potter and…Mr. Snape? You're…you've paired up together? Isn't there anyone else you'd like to work with?" Slughorn seemed very disconcerted that the two boys would choose to be together for an extended period of time.
"Erm," Harry was uncomfortable – were Gryffindors and Slytherins not supposed to work together? "Do we have to separate?" he asked his Professor, desperately hoping the answer would be no.
"Well, no, I suppose not, but…" Slughorn still seemed confused. "I just thought…my word, Potter and Snape…together. Quite unexpected, that's all." He shook his head, as if clearing out dust. "Right then! Let's get to work on a simple cleaning solution!" And with that, he set them to task.
As the boys worked through the instructions, Severus began to get odd, gut feelings as they put together the ingredients. Soon, he was deviating ever so slightly from the prescribed directions – adding extra stirs here, a pinch of extra ingredients there. Harry sometimes gave him a sideways glance, not sure what was making Severus do what he was doing, but the potion seemed to stay on track, so he didn't question him out loud. Finally, time was up and Slughorn made his way around the classroom to inspect. He stopped dead when he reached Harry and Severus.
"Incredible," he whispered. "Never, in my years, have I seen a first year produce such flawless results. Unbelievable. Of course, you'd have made it before, but would you remember?" he seemed to be talking to himself. He shook his head again and addressed the pair, "Tell me, do either of you remember ever attempting this potion?"
Both boys shook their heads.
"Well, have you ever seen it done before? Perhaps at home?"
Again, the boys shook their heads.
"Well, perhaps, given that it's you, Severus…perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised." And he gave Severus an appraising look and finished his rounds.
As they left class, Severus and Harry exchanged a low conversation.
"What d'you suppose he meant, asking if we remembered doing it before? When would we have ever made a potion before? And why wouldn't we remember it? And what do you think he meant when he said that he wasn't surprised because it was me? Why did it seem like he didn't care that you were working on it, too?"
"I dunno," Harry said genuinely. "I mean, I suppose that before, you know, before the accident, we learned all this stuff when we were here the first time, but we don't remember any of it – he has to know that. If we remembered it, we wouldn't have to be here, doing it over again."
Another odd incident occurred later that week while Harry and Severus were studying outside by the lake together. A second-year boy wearing Slytherin robes approached them, flanked by two surly-looking friends.
"Oi, what d'you think you're doing, hanging about with a Gryffindor?" he leered at Severus.
"What, I can't even be friends with him, just because he's not in our House?" Severus asked heatedly.
"The bigger question is, why would you even want to?" one of his friends sneered.
"Looks like we're going to have to teach you a lesson about proper Slytherin pride," the front boy said, pulling his wand and pointing it at Severus.
Before he could get out a spell, however, Harry had pulled his wand without thinking and pointed back at the boy. "Expelliarmus!" he shouted, and all three boys' wands shot out of their hands into the air toward Harry, and he caught them on the way down. The three boys' eyes widened in their heads as they stared at Harry in amazement.
"Hey, never mind, mate, sorry," the boy seemed genuinely frightened at what Harry might do next, now that all three of them were disarmed. "Give us back our wands and we'll leave you alone."
Harry regarded them for a moment, unsure of why they seemed so eager now to leave. He tossed their wands back to them, though, and exchanged a look with Severus as the trio ran away.
"Wicked spell, where'd you learn that?" Severus asked once the boys were out of earshot.
"Dunno," Harry said. "It just came to me – I didn't even know what it would do. It just felt like the right thing to say."
"Crazy," Severus shook his head in amazement. "First that thing in Potions, now this spell of yours; what d'you reckon is going on?"
"No idea," Harry said, truthfully. "Not so bad, though, is it?" He brightened at a new thought, "Seems like it'll only help us out – Slughorn seemed impressed enough."
"Hadn't thought of that," Severus conceded. "You're probably right."
Soon, Harry and Severus were performing at the top of every class. They were the first to master the transfigurations, they always brewed the best potions, and they picked up the charms, hexes, and jinxes faster than anyone else in their year. In fact, things came so easily for them that the only time they had to spend on homework was when they were set essays.
Even though they saw quite a bit of each other during the school day and on weekends, they still wished they had been sorted into the same houses. It was with great pleasure, then, when they were able to go home for the Christmas holidays and not be forced apart for any length of time.
"So," Hermione began guardedly their first evening back over dinner, "I hear the two of you are at the head of your classes."
Harry and Severus looked at each other and shrugged. "I suppose," Harry said nonchalantly. He couldn't imagine his parents being upset that the two of them were earning good marks.
"Mmm," Hermione let out a noncommittal noise. "I hope you two haven't been sharing your work," she hedged.
"Mum!" Severus was angry, "We'd never cheat! Why would you think we would cheat?"
"No," Hermione backpedaled, throwing a pleading glance at Ron, "We didn't think that, it's just…some of your professors are…well, they're unsure of how you're making such quick progress."
"I guess we're just brilliant. Not complaining, though," Severus added.
"Some of your teachers have told us that you can do things – that you know spells and such that they haven't even taught yet."
"So? Is that a bad thing? It's helped us out a few times," Harry defended.
"No," Ron finally chimed in. "It's just, well, we were wondering if you maybe were remembering things that you knew…from…you know, from before."
Harry and Severus were quiet. It wasn't often their parents brought up their lives from before the accident. Usually they waited until Harry or Severus asked them a question.
"No, not remembering. It's more like, well, it's like stuff just pops into my head – stuff that just feels right," Severus offered, hoping it would suffice as an explanation. He didn't really know how else to explain it.
"Well, all right then," Hermione said, and she was apparently satisfied because she let the subject drop.
That night, after the family had gone to bed, Harry and Severus lay awake in their bunks. Both of them knew neither had fallen asleep.
"Harry?" Severus finally said in the dark.
"Yeah?" Harry answered.
"I can't sleep."
Both boys were silent for a time.
"D'you wanna come down here?" Harry finally asked.
"Yeah," Severus admitted. Harry heard the creaking of the springs as Severus shifted to get down from the top bunk. Harry scooted over toward the wall to make room for Severus to crawl under the covers next to him. This was something they had done frequently when they were younger. They would build a fort from the bottom bunk and fall asleep together after staying up late and playing make-believe. The familiarity of the past fell comfortingly on both boys, and Severus move closer to Harry, snuggling up against him and throwing his arm around Harry's stomach. "I missed you," Severus whispered.
"Me too," Harry smiled, and within a few minutes, both boys were sound asleep.
The end of the holidays brought back the reality of school, and Severus and Harry were quite sad to leave home. Every night over the break they had slept together in Harry's bottom bunk, and they knew it would be hard to break away from that. Both boys expected more than a few sleepless nights.
The rest of their first year passed much the same as the beginning had, though without the wrenching heartache of the first night when they had been sorted into different houses. By the end of the year, though, the boys' reputation had been proven when they both finished first and second in every subject – even History of Magic, even though neither one of them had ever managed to stay awake for an entire lesson all year.
Once they had come back home for the summer holidays, both of them were determined to maintain their top-in-the-year standing by completing their set assignments. The first few weeks, they relished the closeness both at night and during the day, but after that, they fell into the routines that had been established before they had even been to Hogwarts. The only event of any consequence, in fact, was something that happened shortly after Harry's twelfth birthday. He awoke one morning and, half asleep, made his way to the loo. As he made to relieve himself, he suddenly realized that his penis was sticking straight out. Concerned, he pulled down his pajama pants and noticed that he had suddenly developed a thatch of hair in that region as well. He became so upset that he quite forgot he had to pee and instead, ran into his parents' bedroom, intent on making them aware of what he was sure had to be a serious medical issue. Disconcerted when he realized the bedroom was empty, he rushed downstairs to see if they were at the table. He skidded to a stop in front of Ron.
"Dad," he said, breathless. "Dad, there's something wrong with me!"
"What?" Ron looked up sharply with concern, "What's wrong? Are you ill?"
"I don't know," Harry admitted. "Could you…could you come with me?" He glanced around at his mother and younger brother and sisters, acutely aware that he did not want to have this conversation in front of them.
"Of course," Ron agreed and immediately rose from his seat to accompany Harry, who led them to the downstairs loo.
"Well, this morning I woke up," Harry began, "and in the loo, I looked down and…and…" he couldn't explain what was wrong, and the issue was now gone.
"What? What happened when you looked down?" Ron was confused.
Harry focused on what he did know. "Well, it's all hairy down there, why am I suddenly sprouting hair all over?"
Ron paled. This, of course, sent Harry into a desperate tailspin and he blurted out the rest. "And it was all stiff – poking out – it's gone now, but…but it was sticking straight out!"
Ron was frozen in complete awkwardness.
"Dad?" Harry pleaded, sure he was the victim of some terminal illness, "Dad, am I dying?"
"What?" Ron was jolted out of his silence. "Dying? Of course you're not dying."
The relief was visible on Harry's face. Perhaps he'd just have to see a healer, then. "Do I have to go to St. Mungo's?"
"What?" Ron was confused, now. "Of course not, it's…you're…well, let's go back to the kitchen. Your mum can explain it to you."
They made their way back to the table, Ron's hand guiding Harry. Ron cleared his throat and Hermione looked up. "Is everything all right?" she asked with concern.
"Erm, yeah," Ron shuffled his feet and looked at the floor. "Could you come into the sitting room with us?"
Hermione looked puzzled, but got up and followed them both.
Once the three of them were out of earshot of the three younger children still eating breakfast, Ron broke the silence. "Erm, this morning, Harry woke up with, well, he noticed…" Ron was flushing with embarrassment. "Well, he woke up a bit, erm, stiff," he gestured toward his groin. Hermione's eyes popped open with understanding. Her eyes flickered between Ron and Harry, finally settling on Ron and composing herself.
"Well, did you explain it to him?" she said with an air of expectation.
"No way! You're better at that stuff than I am – you explain it to him – I'll call Sev down and you can do them both at once."
"Oh, no, Ronald Weasley, I get the girls. You get the boys."
Ron looked like he would rather face a Hungarian Horntail rather than have "the talk" with his two oldest boys. "But you're so much better…" Ron tried the weak flattery again.
"Absolutely not," Hermione was adamant, effectively closing the subject. "I'll go get Severus. I'll spare you Hugo, he won't need it for another few years."
Ron sighed and began to fidget with his pockets. "Well," he said to Harry without meeting his eyes, "Sit down."
Harry was soon joined by Severus – bleary-eyed and still in his pajamas as well – on the couch. Severus looked confused why he was 'getting a talking to' in the sitting room by his father on a random Tuesday morning before he left for work.
"Right," Ron began, "Well, I'm sure you've noticed that you're…erm…changing."
Harry and Severus exchanged a glance, then returned their eyes to their father.
"This is, well, normal. I mean, it happens to everybody, eventually. It's, erm, it can be weird, sometimes, but it's not all bad, I mean, you'll start to get taller, and the hair isn't so bad, and then, you'll…start to notice…I guess, girls," Ron finally gave up, well aware that his face was matching his hair. "Hermione!" he called.
Her head popped out from behind the archway, "What?" she seemed perturbed.
"Don't you…can't we…isn't there a book or something we can give them?" Ron pleaded.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Of course I have a book. You're such a prat." Ron sighed with marked relief. Hermione disappeared for a moment and then returned with a thin, hardback book and held it out, clearly irritated at Ron. He took it from her.
"Right," he turned to the boys. "This should answer all your questions. If not, well, I guess I can answer anything else you come up with." He looked like he seriously hoped the book would do its job. Severus reached out and took the book. "You might want to take it upstairs," Ron suggested.
They boys went back upstairs to their room to peruse the book together. After the first few pages, which fortunately, the boys both thought, came with illustrations, Severus asked a question.
"Why'd Dad decide to give us this book? Why now?"
"Well," Harry began, "I woke up this morning and thought something was wrong with me."
"Wrong with you?" Severus was a little concerned.
Harry recounted the tale of the bathroom, the horror, and then the discussion with Ron.
"Oh, that," Severus said nonchalantly. "Happens to me, too." And he turned back to the book.
"Wait," Harry put his hand on Severus' shoulder to recapture his attention. "It's happened to you? When?"
"A few times, just before the end of school. A couple of times since we've been home. It goes away after you use the loo."
"Huh. How'd you figure out nothing was wrong with you?" Harry found himself annoyed that he had clearly overreacted.
"It happened to some other boys in my dorm before it happened to me. Some of them had older brothers, so they knew what was going on. It's not a big deal."
Harry was glad to know he wasn't alone in experiencing these changes. "Does the book say when it will go away? I mean, are we going to wake up like that the rest of our lives?"
"Hmmm," Severus skimmed the text. "Well, it says it won't happen as often as we get older, but no, it doesn't say it'll stop. In fact, it says it might happen other times, too, if we get…uh," he stumbled over the word, embarrassed, "stimulated."
"Well, that explains what Dad mentioned about girls."
"No girl I've seen yet is very stimulating to me," Severus snorted.
"Too right," Harry agreed. They tired of the book quickly and decided to clean up and go downstairs to eat.