Disclaimer: I own none of these characters. I'm just playing 'what if.' :P

Severus didn't go home that night. When the weather was warm he preferred to sleep outside. The playground was his usual haunt; he normally curled up under the slide in case it rained. He couldn't face going home just yet. Not on top of everything else. He was just so used to lashing out with his magic. It was sporadic but it had saved him enough times that he was generally left alone unless really unlucky. At least until Hogwarts when he wouldn't be able to use magic to get himself out of tight spots anymore.

Every silver lining has a cloud.

He'd told Lily about accidental magic, surely she realized that he hadn't done it on purpose? Of course if her sister hadn't had that lucky spurt of power, she'd just be a smear on the ground right now. It had been a pretty big branch. Looking at it that way made his stomach twist. Lily would hate him forever and her sister looked the vindictive type. What if they told people at Hogwarts? He was self-aware enough to know that he was unlikely to have many friends. This could mean he'd be hated before he even got a chance to screw up.

But there wasn't a thing he could do about it. Every feasible plan he came up with required at least talking to them but he knew if he went anywhere near them again, they probably would tell. His best bet was to leave them alone and hope they forgot about him. But remembering Lily's laughing green eyes, her bright hair, the way she'd smiled as if she really wanted to hear what he had to say… It was a lot to give up.

Although that implied he had a choice. He'd had his chance and he messed up. Nothing new there, time to move on.

It wasn't as if he needed anyone anyway. His mother always said that caring for people made you weak. He hated the way she always looked at him when she said that. Closing his eyes as if to block out the unwanted thoughts; he fell into an uneasy sleep, dreaming of branches smashing Lily's head while Petunia screamed and he just watched, unable to move.


Petunia Evans was good at denial. She wouldn't agree of course, but she'd heard it said. But ignoring whatever unpleasant things she was forced to deal with until they went away—her preferred coping method—had nearly gotten her killed. Two days had passed since the incident and she still couldn't forget about it. Petunia found it rather offensive that a nebulous force she didn't even believe in had both tried to kill her and saved her life, changing her entire world view in the process.

Of course, her rational side decried it all as coincidence and hysteria but even her common sense had to admit there was also a possibility, a slim possibility mind, that it might be real.

Maybe.

In which case, she needed as much information about all this nonsense as she could get. For example, did they have to go to this Hogwarts place? What happened if they didn't? Would they be turned back to normal?

She honestly had no idea. Petunia was out of her depth and found that she didn't much care for the experience. She made a quiet vow never to let it happen again. Lily was just as clueless, wandering around with red eyes, worrying their mother and acting as if she was the one who'd nearly died. Unfortunately, the cure for this malady was that homicidally inclined gutter rat. She'd overheard enough whispered conversations to know that his part of town was rough and uncouth and that Spinner's End was the worst area of the lot. But she needed him. As much as it galled her to admit it, he was the only one who seemed to know what was going on.

But the thought of seeing him again made her knees tremble in remembered terror. She really didn't want to go on her own. But he seemed to like Lily. And that way, it would be two against one if he tried anything. It's not like its real anyway, she consoled herself. This is just in case. Funnily enough, it didn't soothe her the way it used to.

oOoOoOo

So it was on the third day that they marched back to the playground, ready to do battle. Lily had been surprisingly easy to convince, which had made Petunia slightly suspicious but she was walking with her chin up and a familiar stubborn determination in those green eyes. Petunia almost pitied the Snape boy when they found him.

Except they didn't. No scruffy dark shadow slunk into the park that day or the next. It wasn't until a whole week had passed that they finally caught a glimpse of him and even then it was an accident. They'd immediately abandoned their mother to carry the shopping the rest of the way home alone, citing a 'friend' who'd been sick that they'd just spotted. Petunia felt a small stab of guilt as their mother cheerfully waved them off with just a reminder to be home in time for dinner.

He was standing along the canal, skimming stones along the water. If he'd been a little more respectable, Petunia would have allowed herself to be impressed at the number of times he got them to bounce. As it was, she tried to control her nerves. Lily however seemed to realize how skittish she was and took charge. For once, Petunia let her without a shred of resentment. She didn't want to get closer to the Snape boy than she had to.

"Severus!"

At Lily's shout he dropped the stones he was holding and jumped backwards to avoid the resulting splash. He'd barely enough time to widen his eyes before Lily had slapped him hard across the face.

"That was for almost hurting Tuney," she said firmly. Petunia expected to feel vindicated at Lily's defense but something about the blank expression on the boy's face made her uncomfortable. He hadn't even twitched. Lily watched him for a minute before nodding and settling down on the bank.

"Will you teach me to skip stones like you can?" she asked solemnly.

Petunia blinked at the sudden change of tone and from the boy's wary expression, she wasn't the only one surprised.

"So you know I didn't do it on purpose?" he asked uncertainly.

"Not at first," Lily admitted, "I was too upset. But what you said about being scared or…angry, I've done it too."

"Lily?" Petunia gasped. "Don't be ridiculous, you'd never—"

"Remember the day the Ryan brothers were teasing us outside the butchers? Remember how the window—"

"Some hooligan threw a brick at it, Lily! That wasn't you!"

"Come on Petunia!" Lily said sharply. "Didn't you think it was weird that we never saw this hooligan? Or that no-one ever found the brick?"

Petunia just stared at her sister's regretful eyes. "Jack needed stitches, Tuney," Lily whispered raggedly. "I did that! I was so scared of myself, I—"

"Spent a week locked up in your room." Petunia wasn't sure what to say. As she watched, the Snape boy sat cautiously next to Lily and handed her a stone.

"They have to be flat," he told her quietly, "They can't be too light or the wind will interfere but if they're too heavy they'll just sink. Throw it low, like you're trying to slide it across the water."

Lily tossed the stone and watched it disappear with a 'plop'. She threw another with the same result. "No, like this," he told her and demonstrated. His stone skipped four times before sinking. Lily's face lit up and she grabbed another to try again. "Okay, this time for sure!"

"Lily!"

Lily dropped the stone and looked guiltily at her older sister.

"Sorry Tuney," she murmured. "Listen Sev, we need to know more about Hogwarts."

"What happens if we don't go?" Petunia added, "Will be go back to being normal?"

She ignored Lily's look of alarm and focused on the boy.

"You are normal!" he snapped. "The only thing that'll happen if you don't go is that you'll never be able to control your magic."

"Will it…could I hurt someone?" she asked in a small voice. "Mum and Dad?"

"Oh Tuney!" Lily jumped up and gave her a hug.

"You might," the boy said carefully. "It all depends. But probably at least once, yes."

Petunia's stomach dropped. "Oh." She paused. "I don't want to go to a freak school."

"At least we'll all be freaks together!" Lily said brightly, obviously trying to cheer her up.

"We're not freaks," the boy growled. "And no-one will force you to go! You can just stay here and be a muggle."

Petunia stiffened at his tone but Lily interrupted before it could turn into a row. "Listen Tuney, you don't have to decide until we get our letters. Just listen to what Severus has to say and if you still don't want to go, I'm sure Mum and Dad will work something out."

Petunia nodded reluctantly.

"Now," Lily let go of her and clapped her hands. "I don't think either of you has ever been properly introduced. Severus Snape, this is my sister Petunia Evans. Tuney, this is Severus."

Petunia and Severus looked at each other. He gave her a curt nod. She sniffed disdainfully but returned it.

"Great!" Lily said happily. "Now let's sit and Sev can tell us all about Hogwarts."

oOoOoOo

It soon became a regular thing. Every day Lily and Petunia would meet Severus in the playground and learn about the Wizarding world. Their world, according to Severus. It sounded like some kind of bizarre fairy tale; owls that could deliver post, pictures that moved, magic wands…it all seemed so incredible. But Severus acted so casual about it all, as if it were commonplace. Lily of course, lapped it up. Even the scary bits like the Wizard prison and the Dementor-monsters that guarded it. That was evidence enough that magic wasn't all sweetness and light.

But when Severus talked about school it was hard not to believe him. He seemed so sure and he made it sound so beautiful. A great hall with its ceiling enchanted to reflect the sky outside, moving staircases, disappearing rooms. Flying lessons, something called Quidditch and massive libraries. Before long, Petunia couldn't think of Hogwarts without a flutter of excitement and anticipation. She wanted so desperately to see it. She wanted it to be real.


On the morning of her eleventh birthday, Lily could hardly keep still. Her parents were taking her and Petunia out to celebrate later but she wanted to see Sev first. He'd promised her a magical present. She was a bit disappointed he couldn't come with them. Petunia said he probably didn't have anything to wear. She hated how her sister always said nasty things like that to Sev. The branch incident had mostly been forgotten but Tuney couldn't seem to get over where Sev lived. Lily understood that it wasn't as nice as where they lived but that was hardly Sev's fault.

She was on her way out when she ran into Tuney on the stairs. "Are you going to meet Severus?" she asked.

"Yeah, he promised me a present."

"Do you mind if I come?"

"You just want to see magic," Lily teased, knowing she still wasn't completely convinced it was real. Petunia didn't bother to deny it.

Sev was waiting on the swings and gave a small smile when he saw her and a polite nod to Petunia. Lily was glad they'd moved past hostility and into civility. Sadly they seemed unable to move any further.

"Happy Birthday Lily!" he greeted her as she and Tuney sat on the swings either side of him. He held out a small vial filled with a clear liquid and a small card. She took them curiously, holding the vial up to the light.

"It's a potion," he told her proudly. "I brewed it last night. Drop it on your nails and it'll change colour with your mood."

Petunia's blue eyes widened and she leaned forward slightly. "Try it, Lily!"

With a quick glance at Severus she complied, spilling a little in her hurry. Almost immediately, they turned an eye-watering yellow.

"You're happy!" Severus exclaimed, sounding delighted.

Lily shrieked in excitement and hugged Sev till he blushed. When she pulled back her nails had turned a faint pink.

"Here, Tuney!" she cried, "you try some next!"

Petunia hesitated, looking at Severus anxiously. He was still a bit flushed after Lily's hug and he actually offered her a rare smile. "Go ahead," he shrugged, "its Lily's present after all." Seeing how she eyed the vial nervously, he added, "It won't hurt you."

Tuney carefully applied it, not spilling a drop. Her nails turned a sickly green and Severus rolled his eyes. "I told you it's not dangerous;" he said impatiently, "Don't be such a wimp."

Her nails flushed red. "I am not a wimp, Severus Snape!"

"And now you're angry Tuney!" Lily said grinning at her sister's vamp red nails. Petunia make a face at her and her nails slowly settled into a more peaceful blue. They messed around a bit more until Lily's nails refused to turn any other colour except the cheerful yellow that denoted pure happiness and even Sev couldn't rile Tuney up enough to change hers from yellow tinged blue. It was the first time they'd all laughed together. That realization just made Lily's yellow nails glow brighter.

"Hey, what's that Lily?" Tuney asked curiously as they grew bored of examining each other's nails. Severus smirked. "I thought you'd like to see a real Wizarding photograph," he said smugly.

Lily immediately dove for where she'd left it on the empty swing. Petunia wasn't far behind her, dignity forgotten in the rush of discovery. "Is it real Lily?" she asked breathlessly, "are they actually moving?" She seemed almost scared to look. With a grin, Lily held out the card so her sister could see it too.

The card itself was old and bent but they barely noticed. They were fixated on the old man in deep blue robes dotted with gold stars that gazed back at them through half-moon spectacles. He had long white hair and his beard was tucked into his belt. As they watched, he smiled and waved, his blue eyes twinkling merrily. After a few minutes of pulling various faces, he wandered out of the frame and Lily nearly dropped the card in shock as Petunia let out a startled yelp.

A chuckle from behind them showed Severus lounging on his swing, obviously enjoying their reaction.

"He's gone!" Petunia said in disbelief.

Severus shrugged. "You can hardly expect him to hang around all day, can you?"

"Will he come back?" Lily asked, studying the empty frame in amazement.

"Eventually," Severus promised. "Did you read the caption?" He grinned at their sheepish looks. "Well maybe you should now he's not around to distract you."

"Albus Dumbledore," Lily read aloud. "Wait Sev, is this—"

"The Headmaster of Hogwarts?" he finished. "That's right. I thought you'd be interested."

"Considered by many to be the greatest wizard of modern times," Lily read eagerly, "Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the Dark Wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon blood and for his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and ten-pin bowling. Bowling?" she asked doubtfully.

Petunia shrugged, attempting to act nonchalant but her blue eyes shone with excitement. "Everyone needs a hobby Lily."

"I guess," she said, happy that Tuney seemed to have finally come round. They couldn't stay long after that, they were already overdue. If they waited any longer even being the birthday girl wouldn't be able to save them. They promised to meet Severus the next day and ran home, Lily smiling even wider when she saw that Tuney's nails had turned as yellow as her own.