When Severus came to, the sky outside was dark and the train had stopped. He could hear the whistle blowing, signalling that the train ride had come to an end. Rubbing his eyes, he blearily looked around for Lily. He quickly spotted her bright red hair as she got off the train. She glanced back at him. "Come on!" she said with wide, excited eyes. "There's a huge man outside looking for first years!"
Severus raised his eyebrows, but decided to follow her. He ran his hands through his hair, which had become quite unkempt from the long journey, and stepped off the Hogwarts Express.
"Firs' years o'er here!" shouted a large, burly man behind him, who towered intimidatingly over everybody else. "Firs' years, follow Hagrid, that's me!" Severus spotted Lily trotting just behind the man who called himself Hagrid. She mouthed for him to come after her, and he did, narrowly dodging a girl with glasses who was chasing after her familiar.
"Wow!" breathed Lily. Hogwarts Castle stood just right in front of her and everybody else, towering majestically over them with the stars twinkling brightly behind it. Severus was too spellbound to say a word as he took in the breathtaking view. "'Ere it is!" bellowed Hagrid, rowing the small boat he was in right next to them. "Beautiful, innit?"
Lily smiled winningly at Hagrid and was rewarded with a wink in return. Severus watched the exchange with a small smile. He leaned over and stared into the deep depths of the lake. It was pitch black, and he was about to look back at the castle when he detected movement in the water. It wasn't ripples, he knew, because the waves it created were very different. It wasn't something small like Amber the goldfish, either. It was big. Curiously, Severus leaned over a little more to get a better look, knowing that if the creature were dangerous, it wouldn't be in the Black Lake. He could see it a bit clearer now. It looked like it had legs - several legs - how many were there?
Before he knew it, Severus was soaking wet. He surfaced, spewing water from his mouth and shaking his head wildly as droplets of water flew from his greasy hair. The boat was not so far away from him. "Help!" he yelled. He could swim perfectly well, but he was also aware that whatever was in the water was probably right below –
An enormous tentacle suddenly burst out of the water and seized him by the waist. Severus screamed as he was lifted into the air, and he felt as if he were about to throw up. He could see Hagrid far below him, yelling, "Hold on, boy! Hold on, I'll get yer..." He squeezed his eyes shut, expecting the tentacle to throw him far out into the deep end of the lake. He was surprised when he found himself being safely deposited back into the boat where Lily was, still completely drenched in water. She immediately reached over to hug him.
"Sev, that was fantastic!" she said, eyes wide. "That was so brave!"
"Brave?" said Severus weakly, shivering from the cold. "I thought it was going to kill me..."
The first years trudged up the steps to the door of the Great Hall. They stood there idly for a while, until a severe-looking woman came down the stairs to greet them.
"As soon as you enter the Great Hall," she said, looking at them sternly over the glasses perched on her long nose, "you shall all be Sorted into your houses. There is no need to panic. You only need to line up on the side and wait for your name to be called. Now, I shall go in and get things ready whilst you stay here and behave yourselves." With a sweep of her cloak, she disappeared.
"Who was the boy who fell in the lake a while ago?" someone said. Severus turned to look for the source of the voice. His eyes landed on the boy he had seen in the train compartment with three others, the one with the round glasses and electrified hair. "Was it you?" leered the boy, now staring straight at him. Without waiting for a reply, he nodded with a smirk and turned to the three other boys who were next to him. "Did you see his face whilst he was up there?" he laughed, as they joined in. "He was screaming like a girl!"
"He was not!" Lily said defiantly, stepping in front of Severus, as if she were shielding him. "Lily... don't..." whispered Severus urgently, but she didn't budge. "I can do this on my own..." he pleaded, but Lily steadfastly ignored him and turned to glare at the boys. The boy with the glasses softened a little as he took Lily in. "You're a friend of his, aren't you?" he asked. "What's your name?"
"Lily. Lily Evans," she replied. "And I'm asking you to leave Severus alone." She said the last word with another menacing look at the four boys. All of them except the first backed up a little. Severus inwardly smiled. He greatly admired Lily's bravery.
"Lily? That's a fancy name..." murmured the boy with the glasses, looking at her interestedly. Severus quietly thought to himself that the boy seemed to think very highly of himself. Too highly. "Trying to protect your boyfriend, Flower Power?"
"Don't call me that!" said Lily heatedly, flushing a dark red which clashed horribly with her hair. "Just leave us be!" She turned her back on him and pulled Severus with her by the sleeve. "Come on, Sev."
"All right, all right..." The boy held up his hands in mock defeat, but Severus heard him whisper nastily to his friends, "That old witch is back, anyway..."
Sure enough, the severe-looking woman was back again. "You may now enter the Great Hall," she stated. "Do not run. Everybody in the school will be there, and that includes Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster. Please line up and I shall call your names when your turn comes."
The first years shuffled into single file and were escorted into the Great Hall. A magnificent sight welcomed them before their eyes. Hundreds of students were already seated at the tables, each of them standing up and craning their necks to get a better look at them. Some were applauding as they walked down the narrow aisle, and as Severus looked up, he saw countless stars above him, twinkling all the way, as if they were happy for the new students' arrival too.
The students came to a halt at the front. A hat on a stool sat in front of them, looking very tattered and worn. The severe-looking woman appeared with a scroll in hand. Clearing her throat importantly, she unrolled it and read the first name on the list. "Abercrombie, Sophia."
A thin, brown-haired girl, surprisingly tall for her age, stepped up and sat on the stool. The witch with the scroll took the hat and placed it neatly over her head. Severus waited for something to happen. Perhaps the hat would transform Sophia into something? Or would it ask her to cast a spell? After what seemed to be about half a minute or so, the hat bellowed one word which was so loud Severus nearly toppled over, "HUFFLEPUFF!"
The list went on. Severus recognised the wavy-haired boy who had sat in the compartment along with the boy with the glasses. His name, as he learned, was Sirius Black, and Severus was slightly surprised to see him look a little dejected when the hat Sorted him into Gryffindor. After a few names, Lily followed. Severus immediately straightened up to watch. As the hat was placed over her head, Lily seemed to have an internal battle with the hat, screwing up her eyes and mouthing words Severus couldn't interpret quickly enough. Whatever was going on inside Lily's head, it was taking a long time. Finally, the hat declared her a Gryffindor. Severus applauded her as she skipped her way to the scarlet and gold table, bright eyes glittering.
Severus didn't pay attention to many others, but he caught a few he recognised. The girl who had been chasing her familiar back at the station (her name was Natalia Jonas) was Sorted into Ravenclaw; a dark-eyed, edgy looking boy whose name was Rodolphus Lestrange took a while before becoming a Slytherin, after a girl who Severus assumed to be his sister called Bellatrix was Sorted into the same house; the mousy-haired, scared-looking boy in the train compartment was also in Gryffindor; a girl with dark hair and eyes (Meiling Tang) was a Ravenclaw; and the boy with the rat Severus recognised on the train was very surprisingly declared a Gryffindor, too...
At some point, the name "Potter, James" was called, and the taunting boy with the glasses sat on the stool as he awaited his Sorting. When the Sorting Hat shouted, "GRYFFINDOR!" Severus almost hit himself. How unfortunate Lily was to be in the same house with that boy, he thought. It stung him to see the boy prance his way to the table, but what stung him even more was when he took the empty seat next to Lily without asking her if he could. "How dare you!" Severus wanted to say to him. "She doesn't want to sit with you!"
Severus suddenly felt all eyes on him as he quietly stepped onto the platform. He sat in the stool, feeling completely and entirely numb as the hat was placed onto his head.
"Hello… interesting person you are..." said a low voice inside his head. Severus willed himself not to say anything, as his hands clenched the edge of the stool tightly. "You don't need to speak, boy, it's all in your head... now let me see, let me see... you want friends, don't you, now? Yes, you do... it's a very powerful need, I can feel it in here... I know a house which would suit your perfectly... a house where you will find not only friends, but brothers... it could only be SLYTHERIN!"
Severus opened his eyes, and saw the Slytherin table erupt in cheers. He walked to the Slytherin table with his head bowed, and he took his place at an empty seat, next to a boy he recognized to be Rodolphus Lestrange. The other people at his table were congratulating him, but Severus couldn't hear them. All noise seemed far away to him, and his eyes were only focused on the table on the other end of the hall, where he could see Lily and James at their table. He was shocked to see them speaking to each other. Not only that but they were smiling - Lily was smiling, too. Then, slowly, he saw James' hand reach up for a handshake. He saw him say something to her. Don't shake his hand...please, he thought desperately. He's an enemy...he was mean to us just now, remember? But Lily couldn't hear his thoughts at such a distance. She was too busy looking at James. Then, Severus watched numbly in shock as her hand came up to meet his, and they shook hands firmly, smiling as they looked into each other's eyes, laughing as they did so.
He didn't care that Rodolphus was trying to speak to him; he was too focused on the pair of Gryffindors. Something twisted in his stomach and he looked away, unable to stand the sight of them. He knew that Lily was kind to everyone with no exceptions, but he hadn't quite expected her bounds of kindness to stretch to people he didn't like. Did she have enough sense to know that? Did she even care?
Maybe not, he thought.
Though this story can be read as a stand-alone, it is actually part of a series. If you're interested in what happened before or after Severus and Lily went to Hogwarts, there are several of my fics you can pick from.
Four Seasons, a four-chapter work in which Severus first meets Lily.
Lily's House, a three-chapter work in which Severus and Lily get their Hogwarts letters and have a sleepover, as well as prepare for school.
Ink, Parchment and a Quill, featuring the letters which Lily writes to her parents starting in her first year and ending in her third.