I Don't Want to Be A Hero - Ch. 1
Sept. 1991 - The Welcoming Feast
Hagrid shouted, "Firs' Years folla me!"
Organised chaos gathered around the large man with the bushy beard. Once all the chattering, wide-eyed first years had collected into one mass, Hagrid led them off the Hogwarts Express platform and to the edge of a huge lake that was black and silver with reflection under the full moon. Dozens of boats waited at the edge.
"Is that how we're getting to Hogwarts, Ron?" asked Harry of the redhead beside him. He had met Ron on the train and were already fast friends.
Ron, grinning as much as Harry was, nodded excitedly. "My older brothers told me about the boats. It's the best way to see the castle at night."
"Five to a boat!" ordered Hagrid. "Quick now! We doona want ta be late!"
As they were told the children climbed into the boats but Harry and Ron were a touch slow. It was then that Hagrid waved to them. "Come along, 'Arry!"
Harry's eyes widened at the boat Hagrid sat in. He was so large he ought to be sinking, but the boat had not displaced any water just as the others had not. Ron grabbed Harry's sleeve, and they both trotted over. Hagrid helped them in, and then he shouted, "To 'Ogwarts!"
The boats then slipped across the water with their excited cargo. Minutes later the horizon of the lake glittered with tiny dots of fire, and all of the students looked up; there was the castle of Hogwarts with every window blazing with lit torches to welcome the new students. A cheer and clapping went up and as all the first years delighted in the sight.
Some time later the boats headed into a small, man-built cave with steps that led to a great, old, time-worn door of ironwood, and iron rusted fittings. At the top of the stairs was a tall, thin woman wearing forest green teaching robes, a tall conical hat adorned with a single pheasant feather, and silver, square-rimmed spectacles sparkled on the mid-point of her nose.
"That's Professor McGonagall," Ron whispered to Harry. "She's Deputy Headmaster, and the Head of Gryffindor."
"What's Gryffindor?" asked Harry in the same whisper.
"Just the best House in the world!" boasted Ron. "Everyone in my family is a Gryffindor because we're braver than anybody else."
"Being brave means fighting a dragon who can burn you with flames before you can get your wand out," snarled a little boy Harry had seen when he was getting his new robes at Madame Malkins in Diagon Alley. It was Draco Malfoy. "Gryffindors are stupid," Draco declared.
Ron's face got as red as his hair, "And Slytherins are cowards! They only think of themselves!"
Before a fight could break out Minerva McGonagall stepped in. She introduced herself, and then maneuvered all the new students into the castle, and through a hidden door into the Great Hall. They were met by the applause of the older students, and Ron could hear the twins, Fred and George cheering loudly for their little brother.
Harry was amazed by all the sights around him but he was not as vocal as the other new students. He was aware that most in the Great Hall were looking at him, and when he glanced up towards the dais where all the teachers sat, he felt most uncomfortable when the old, bearded man nodded to him as if they knew each other. There was something in those twinkling blue eyes that spoke to Harry that the man who sat up there was more than what he seemed; whatever that was it unnerved him.
Another teacher stared so hard, and with such curious hate at him that Harry shivered under his dark gaze.
"That's Severus Snape," Ron's voice broke into Harry's thoughts. "My brothers said he's a vampire."
Harry jerked his head away from the dark gaze that was holding his prisoner. "A vampire?" Harry's heart sunk. Ghosts, living portraits, boats that moved by themselves, and now vampires? What else was there? He glanced again at the table, and winced as he felt his scar suddenly burning. He also heard a whispery, sibilant voice welcoming him.
"Harrrry Potterrrrr hasss come to Hogwartssss at lassst."
"Potter, Harry!" called Minerva McGonagall's voice.
For a moment he thought that whispery voice was saying his name again, but someone behind him nudged him. It was Ron. "Go on, Harry. Time to get Sorted!"
Harry was unsure about that but with everyone smiling at him, maybe it was not a bad thing.
Professor McGonagall directed him onto the tall stool, and then she dropped the old hat she held onto his head. Amazingly, it began to talk to him!
"Harry Potter. Son of James and Lily. How very good it is to see you at last. Both your parents were in Gryffindor, but somehow that does not seem quite like you."
"Why not?" asked Harry.
"Well, you are a brave one but there is something more; you're a survivor. You've had to be."
"So?" Harry challenged bitterly. He bet the dumb hat was talking about his family, Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and his fat cousin Dudley.
The hat chuckled. "Not Ravenclaw. Oh, you're a smart one but you have the sort of intelligence that one needs when they have to think on their feet. Of course, you seem to have a strong loyalty to your new friend."
"I like Ron. His mum gave me a hug before sending me through the magic wall at the train station. Ron thought that was silly but I liked it."
"And, you like Ron. However, you're not a Hufflepuff."
Harry grimaced. "That sounds like a diseased blancmange. I don't want to be a Hufflelump."
"Hufflepuff," corrected the hat. "And they are very noble folk. I do think that Slytherin would be good for you... but... what is it, Mr. Potter?"
"I want to be in the same House as Ron. Is he going to be in Slytherin?" asked Harry.
Suddenly the Sorting Hat shouted to all assembled, "Gryffindor!"
The Hat was removed from his head and he was met by polite applause by his new House and varying degrees of approval from all the teachers on the dais. And, the Headmaster twinkled.
Dazed, Harry sat down at his new House table and was not entirely aware of what his House-mates were saying as they clapped him on the shoulder, and congratulated him. Moments later a breathless Ron Weasley slid in beside him.
"Isn't this great, Harry?" enthused Ron. "We can still be friends!"
Harry nodded numbly but it was that word 'still' that rang uncomfortably in his head. If he had gone to any other House would he have lost his first friend. He could not think anymore when the Welcoming Feast started and Harry was met by an array of food such as he had never seen in his life. It was all so fantastic but when he caught the eye of one House-mate scrutinising his scar, Harry's stomach tumbled into a roiling depth of worry.
And, he felt eyes on the back of his neck. He turned without any subterfuge and was met once more with the stony glare of the teacher known as Severus Snape. Harry could not fathom why but the man had taken an instant, and deep abiding, dislike to him.
A tawny owl fluttered over to the table and dropped a pretty parchment note in front of Harry. The curious, which was nearly everyone in House Gryffindor, urged Harry to open his note. He did not want to preferring to read it when alone but so many eager faces were looking at him that he bent to peer pressure. He broke the seal, unfolded the letter, and read the short note.
"What's it say, Harry?" asked Ron as he rudely grabbed the note. Harry snatched it right back and could not stop a quelling look towards his friend's assumption.
"The Headmaster wants to see me after the feast in his office, Ron. He says I'm supposed to ask my prefect to escort me. Who's that?"
"Me, Harry." Another redhead, looking a bit like Ron but older, waved at Harry. "I'm Percy. Ron's older brother. I'll take you as soon as the feast is finished."
Harry nodded at Percy, and then looked down at his plate. It was filled with a fascinating array of meats, vegetables, and fruit. Harry selected the bowl of fruit as being the only thing he could stomach. Smiling at a few of his House-mates, he ate his cubes of fruit, and wondered what the Headmaster might want of him.