Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Her Magnificence JK Rowling, except a few minor or not-so-minor characters.
I Was Right
Chapter 1: First Impressions
Professor Severus Snape, Potions Master at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was not sleeping well. This was not unusual. He crept off his bed and glided across the cold, damp floor to the cupboard. Once, when he was in his sixth year at Hogwarts, he had smuggled out a small amount of Dreamless Sleep potion after an overnight stay in the hospital wing(a stroke of luck caused by Potter's beating him senseless, losing thirty points for Gryffindor along the way).
Madam Pomfrey had ordered him to drink it, but he had poured it in one of the jars he carried in his robes instead. He analyzed the potion and thereafter brewed it for himself with all the enthusiasm of a teenage boy doing extra--not to mention illegal--work on his favorite subject. Like any other medication, the Dreamless Sleep potion had to be prescribed by a Healer under Ministry guidelines, but the insomniac sixteen-year-old simply couldn't bring himself to frequent the infirmary that often.
Snape shook his head angrily as he opened the cupboard. With insomnia, one was neither awake nor asleep--he was half-dreaming, dredging up those schoolboy memories from long ago. Stupid, stupid. He grabbed an unlabeled jar out of the small cabinet, looking it over.
Since adulthood his supplies had been ransacked often due to circumstances, but the searchers were always looking for stuff less innocent than a simple sleeping draught, and he had never landed in trouble for that. His eventual professorship made its presence even more innocent-looking, as probably a sample for teaching.
For the love of Merlin! What was he doing, standing here freezing his feet off, clutching a jar of positively elementary potion and gloating over how it never got him in trouble? Harshly, he pulled down a cup, filled it halfway, brought it to his lips, and stopped. This stuff was addictive, he knew, and he did not want to become reliant on it. Substance addiction--that was more than he could afford at this point. It was not the kind of thing that would incriminate him with Dark Arts-related charges, but these days you never knew, you never could be too careful.
He set down the cup, glaring at it and the jar, and Banished both to the sink with a wave of his wand, which he kept on his nightstand.
Strangely weak suddenly, he sat down on the bed. Severus, will you never be strong, decisive, manly! No, Mother, I never will be,* he answered in his head. I am not Septimius, and never will be. Now get out of my head, you've been dead for over ten years now. And I am alive, more or less.
Maybe what he needed was the Draught of Living Death. Or maybe the Draught of Death. That wasn't funny, but he twisted his lips into a smile.
Potter, he thought suddenly. You would never have thought these kinds of thoughts, would you? Yet you died and I lived. Thinking about the Dreamless Sleep potion had reminded him of James Potter. He scowled deeply. As if he did not have a living reminder in front of him every day at work.
But who is better off, you or I? You lived a full life and when you died, you had something to die for. And I-I had a chance, too. I had a chance, at least. Was I right to throw it away?
He lay down on the comfortless bed, and for a wonder suddenly became very drowsy and fell asleep immediately. Wonderful, was his last conscious thought. Just avoiding thoughts of Potter works like a charm. I should do this more often.
The train ride was more or less uneventful, though several idiot boys had annoyed him greatly on the way. Potter, Black, Lupin, Pettigrew-no doubt Gryffindor material, ten-year-old Severus Snape thought disgustedly, unable to think up a greater insult at the moment. After a decidedly unpleasant talk, he had not moved to another compartment, not wanting to give them the satisfaction, and had sat for the rest of the journey stonily reading a book and making the probably to-be Gryffindors uncomfortable. It was the 1943 edition of Advanced Curses: Background and Practice (the last before the book was banned in 1946, for covering the Dark Arts far more than was necessary), the covers carefully bound in blank parchment. If only they knew what it is I'm reading, Severus thought, smirking. He thought of all the things he could do to them as long as he could be sure of staying out of trouble. He'd prove his power and his knowledge, this was what he was here for...
The Sorting, however, almost turned into a disaster as the Hat asked him:
"Are you sure you don't want to be in Gryffindor? You have cunning, sure, and ambition--but there are also smoldering courage and daring. You'll find your true friends in-"
Don't say it! Severus thought furiously. He had just watched the said idiots be sorted into Gryffindor. Not going to Durmstrang with Septimius was bad enough. If he didn't even make it into Slytherin... If you scream Gryffindor, I'll curse you into a thousand filthy, ragged pieces and burn-
"Or maybe you do belong in Slytherin, after all," the Sorting Hat had said hastily, sounding like this was a new one. Disagreements, pleading, reasoning, yes--but threats? "Are you sure about this? There's a darkness in you, you know, your courage will be misplaced and your cunning twisted--"
Just say it! I can do the Slow Disintegration Curse, Severus snarled inwardly, panicking. It wasn't just his mother's displeasure at stake here. If the Hat took too long his House members might not take him to be a true Slytherin at all. He thought he heard the Sorting Hat chuckle. "Kid, for pure evil, though, you sure are the archetypal--SLYTHERIN!" The last word was shouted out for the Hall to hear as Severus went almost weak with relief. He stood up, took off the dirty, ragged wizard's hat with distaste, and flung it down with an angry glare.
"I knew it! I knew that slime belonged in Slytherin! Pay up, Peter!" Severus heard from the Gryffindor table as he passed near it, and recognized, without turning his head, Sirius Black's voice. They had exchanged names and handshakes, at least; that was where the civilities had ended and unpleasantries begun.
"Man, I was dead sure he would be a Ravenclaw, with his nose stuck in a book all the way!" Exclaimed a smaller voice, belonging to the fat boy, Pettigrew. Severus swept on (hearing, almost out of earshot, "Are you crazy?! That's where the best-looking girls are, not overgrown bats like that!"), joining the Slytherin table with satisfaction.
A fifth-year boy, short with a face like a pug and what looked like a permanent sneer on his face, stuck out his hand condescendingly. "Snape? I'm Orion Parkinson, prefect."
Severus took his hand, saying "Pleased to meet you," with all the courtesy ingrained into him. This was, after all, a prefect.
"I am Mei-lin Jin," came a cold, dignified voice, reminding Severus of his mother. It belonged to a girl with thick black hair and heavy lids, sitting next to another first year who introduced himself as Alan Lestrange. He had watched her being Sorted, but now that they were face to face the weight of her presence slammed into him like bricks. He felt strangely afraid of her. Here was someone he honestly didn't want to cross...
The introductions went on. "Avery," "Travers," "Pritchard," "Rosier," "Wilkes"...many of the names were familiar to him, mostly pureblood families whose children had been in Slytherin for generations.
Then the food appeared and the feast began. The Slytherins seemed to be chatting amiably enough, but the undercurrent was the subtle comparison of bloodlines and rivalry over influence. Delicious as the food was, Severus felt strangely tired and empty when Dumbledore shooed them all off to bed.
Next day they had Defense Against the Dark Arts and Care of Magical Creatures, among others. Severus surprised Professor Baddock and his Housemates by answering every question the professor had; he hadn't stayed up nights reading banned Dark Arts books for nothing. He was later to learn that Defense Against the Dark Arts involved more than knowledge of the Dark Arts. However, it was here that he began to develop a reputation for knowing every curse that was brought up in class, and other things that clearly didn't belong on a wizarding school curriculum--not unless that school was Durmstrang Academy.
They had Care of Magical Creatures with the Gryffindors. Severus noticed that Potter and his cronies seemed to have befriended a girl; very pretty, with vivid red hair and a clear, ready laugh. Severus scowled--his partners Rosier and Wilkes were acting like idiots, glancing the girl's way every time they had a chance and trying to act impressive. He himself paid no heed, or tried not to, for he had learned that the girl, Lily Evans, was Muggle-born.
Finally, during Professor Kettleburn's brief absence, when Wilkes tried to show off one time too many and nearly upset the crate of flobberworms they were supposed to feed, he lost his patience and hissed in a near-whisper, "Have you no shame, Daniel? Making a fool out of yourself over that freckle-faced Mudblood Evans."
Everyone suddenly went dead quiet. Severus realized it had happened again: Even though he spoke very low, sometimes a whole roomful of people would catch every word, somehow. He decided to make the best of it and try to garner some respect from his fellow Slytherins.
Deliberately he put down the lettuce he had been shredding and slowly unbent to find himself looking directly into the eyes of James Potter.
Several things happened at once; Evans put a restraining hand on Potter's shoulder as he stood up, as did nearly all the Gryffindors, and Pettigrew and Lupin cried "No, Sirius!" as a streak of robes and black hair erupted from the Gryffindor side and pinned Snape to the ground.
Severus, startled, looked up to see Black's angry face above him. "Stinking Slytherin," Black growled. "I'll make you eat those words right this instant--"
"Sirius, no!" Potter was at his side in an instant, trying to pull Black off. "He's not worth getting in trouble for-"
"Get off of him!" Wilkes cried, also tugging at Black's arms, but went sprawling to the ground when Black swatted him away like a fly.
Black had just dragged Snape to his feet, holding him by the front of his robes amid the shouts and screams from both sides and Potter still trying to make him let go, when Professor Kettleburn arrived on the scene.
"What is going on here?!" He cried, taking in the scene--all the students on their feet, several crates upturned in the confusion, and one of the boys nearly choking another. "Black, let Snape go this instant! Everybody back to their flobberworm crates!"
Black, with an angry glower, threw Snape from him as if he had been holding something slimy and unpleasant. Snape tumbled to the ground, and let the Slytherins help him up while he glared lividly at Black.
"I have never-" Kettleburn could barely speak from fury. "First years, on their very first school day--"
"But that git-" Black started to shout, but was interrupted.
"Silence! Ten points off Gryffindor, and detention, Black!"
"Professor!" Potter did not raise his voice, but his voice carried through the uproar. "It wasn't all Sirius' fault. Snape called Lily a Mudblood."
"A...what?" Kettleburn looked at him in surprise, then turned to Evans. "Miss Evans, is this true?" He asked sharply.
"Yes, Professor." She seemed a little nervous, but answered steadily. "Though I don't know what it means--"
"Snape!" The professor's tide of anger seemed to have changed directions. "Are you aware that the term--the term you used is foul, insulting, and bigoted?"
Snape stared up at him with cold defiance, though inwardly he was a little confused. He never thought the word had that much significance--his mother, his brother, his father before he died, and the people who visited his house used that word all the time. It was just another word he used, though obviously Mudbloods themselves and Mudblood-loving Gryffindors would be mad. But Mudbloods didn't have any business here in the first place, did they? Salazar Slytherin had said so, everyone knew that.
"Five points of Slytherin, and I want you to apologize to Evans, Snape."
He was startled. Apologize in front of all the Slytherins? "I won't," he said sullenly.
"What?" It was Kettleburn's turn for surprise, now.
"I won't apologize, sir," Snape said more loudly, sensing his House members' support in their approving murmurs.
"Well, in that case," Kettleburn said, his rage palpable now, "it's ten more points from Slytherin, and detention."
Snape shrugged. It was better than being publicly humiliated. "Yes, sir," he replied.
As class settled down, Snape cast a malicious glare over to the smug-looking Potter and his cronies. He'd get them for this...
The Slytherins were silent as they went up to the castle. Then Lestrange spoke up. "It wasn't smart to speak up like that, Snape--saying the word Mudblood and all. But we're all proud of the way you stood up to Kettleburn."
"Yeah, you really showed them!" Rosier said excitedly.
As he walked with his Slytherin friends, talking, his ear caught voices just ahead.
"I'm really okay, James. I have to put up with Petunia at home--I can put up with him, too." That must be Evans.
"My big sister. She's been simply awful since I got the letter from Hogwarts. She thinks I'm an absolute freak."
"Never mind them," said Potter. "It's a disgusting thing to say someone is below them because of bloodlines. I mean, some of the best witches and wizards ever to come out of Hogwarts were Muggle-born or half-blood!"
"Yeah, it's the likes of Snape who're the freaks," cut in Black. "Don't worry--Slytherins are all like that."
"Just ignore them," said a quieter voice that Snape recalled to belong to Remus Lupin, a quiet boy with brown hair. "Which is what you should have done, Sirius."
"It was worth detention, though," said Black, "seeing that slimy git quake..."
"Well, you shouldn't have," laughed Evans. "Thanks, though, Sirius, James. For standing up for me."
Just then the Gryffindors moved out of earshot, and Snape tuned in again to Rosier's plans for revenge.
That night, as he lay in bed, Severus decided that the day had gone reasonably well. No one seemed to really mind the points he lost. Purity of blood was something of an obsession in the Slytherin house from Salazar Slytherin's time, and he had played this sentiment well.
He also knew that fierce rivalry with Gryffindor was another Slytherin tradition. They were so cocky, so close-knit...he hated them already. He was sure glad he had bullied the Hat into putting him in Slytherin.
He had gotten into Slytherin, as he should, and he was determined to belong here. He could always find out what people wanted, and where he could hurt enemies most. By being watchful and ruthless, he could pull this off, this belonging business.
Even if it hadn't worked on Mother. Nothing ever worked with Mother, try as he might.
He drove the thought from his mind contemptuously and willed himself to sleep, but sleep took a long time to overtake him.
Author's Note again: Well! Was Snape nasty enough? I didn't want him to be too OOC . Well, the Sorting scene may be absolutely improbable--I just wanted to see Snape threatening the Sorting Hat. I know, I know, I'm crazy.