Hello, readers! Just to let you know this will be a somewhat slow-moving story at first, but everything has a purpose. It will likely get more interesting later on (around second to third year), but it will not make as much sense if you don't read the earlier chapters (which are of course interesting as well, I like to think). I wasn't able to put many characters on the list, but this story will also have Gabriel, Lucifer, Ron, Hermione, and possibly some other angels as well as the supporting characters from Harry Potter.
Update on 12/30/15: I've developed the storyline a lot since I first started writing this over seven months ago, and I have structured the story itself into three books, each roughly 20-25 chapters long. I won't upload them as separate stories, however. When I've completed them all, I will post a epilogue and then the outline so that you can see the sequence of events clearly and also spot some of the references I make throughout.
Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me except for parts of the story line and my little twists. Things you recognize are probably from the books or TV show. I did take portions of the book in this chapter and copy/paste them, but I won't continue to do so as my story takes its own course.
Thanks for taking the time to read this! You don't have to review but it would be great motivation for me to update. Unless you don't want me to update, which is also fine. Constructive criticism is appreciated, but flames are a waste of your own time. By all means, however, go ahead and flame if you like. It ups the total review count!
Harry winced as a train whistled past him, his thick black hair ruffling messily. Annoyed, he tried to flatten it, eventually giving up and glancing around himself once more.
People were bustling around him right and left; he tried to catch someone's attention, but he was after all a small and skinny boy in a crowded train station. A rather thickset gentlemen bumped into him, nearly bowling him over and making Hedwig flap and squawk in indignation. Harry tried his best to calm her while juggling his pile of baggage. She eyed him long-sufferingly. Her sleek white feathers were still drenched from the water some loathsome old lady had spilled over her cage.
After staring helplessly at the "Platform 9" sign for a long time, Harry tapped the shoulder of an attendant who was pacing nearby.
"Excuse me," he said, politely. "Can you tell me where Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters is?"
The attendant looked at him oddly.
"Are you all right, sonny?"
While not unkind, he sounded incredulous. Harry pursed his lips.
"Yes, I'm fine. Sorry for bothering you."
As he walked away, the man muttered under his breath, "Nine-and-Three-Quarters, indeed. Whatever's gotten into the youngsters these days?"
Harry sighed and straightened the bag that was slipping down his shoulder. It was getting later; according to the time Hagrid had given him, the enigmatic train would be leaving in about fifteen minutes. He felt tired and dirty from the dust that the train wheels kicked up, and his arms ached from the weight of the luggage. Hogwarts was probably all a hoax after all. But he waited. The thought of returning to his smug relatives was even more unbearable than the prospect of spending the night at a dusty train station.
He was saved from this fate by the arrival of a large family. It was comprised almost entirely of boys - the only exceptions were the mother and the youngest. What really caught his attention was the content of their conversation.
"Hurry along, all of you, we're nearly late for the Hogwarts Express. Now then, Ron, you've got dirt all over your face. What kind of impression do you think you're going to make on the teachers?"
The youngest redheaded boy tried to squirm out of his mother's grip.
"Mum!" he complained, flushing. "Everyone's staring at me."
Two of the older boys, by their appearances identical twins, gleefully continued for their mother.
"Poor ickle Ronniekins," said one.
"You're going to be snubbed by everyone," continued the other gravely.
"For a dirty speck on your nose," finished the first, tenderly.
They both took hold of their younger brother and started to scrub his face with their own none-too-clean handkerchiefs.
"Ow!" said the boy called Ron. "Stop it!"
The oldest glared down superciliously at the rowdy trio through the horn-rimmed glasses perched on his long nose. Their mother scolded them.
"It's all right, Mother," Glasses Boy said. "I'll keep them out of trouble."
"Thank you, Percy, dear. Now, hurry up. We haven't got much time. Fred, you go first."
The twin she had spoken to looked aggrieved. "I'm not Fred, I'm George. Honestly, woman, you call yourself our mother."
"Oh, I'm sorry, George, dear," she replied absently.
The boy flashed a grin at her.
"Just kidding, I really am Fred."
Fred pushed his cart quickly towards the barrier between the platforms, vanishing a split second before he hit the wall. Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters. In a flash, everything made much more sense. Of course a wizarding train station wouldn't be in the middle of a normal human one. If they were trying to keep it a secret, they wouldn't leave it out in the open. The platform had to be under a spell.
Pressing his lips together to hide a nervous grin, Harry trotted towards the woman, his bags scraping against the ground awkwardly.
"I... is that how you get to Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters?"
"Yes, dear. Is this your first year?"
"It's Ron's, too. Just take your stuff and walk right through the wall there. If you've never done it before, you should run. It's much easier that way."
It didn't sound very easy at all; in fact, it sounded very risky. There did not seem to be much of a choice, however. The train was leaving in seven minutes.
"All right. Thank you."
"It's no problem, dear. Go right ahead. Ron can go after you."
He ignored the fluttery sensation in his stomach and squared his shoulders, hoping that the impact wouldn't be too painful. To his surprise, the wall felt like absolutely nothing. It shimmered a little as he passed through. Having braced himself for a violent collision, he lost his balance and tripped, nearly falling before he stumbled to a stop.
Misty steam blanketed a quaint old station. A brightly painted train with Hogwarts Express inscribed on its side was puffing gently on the tracks. Above him, swinging merrily on its hooks, was a sign that read, "Platform 9 & 3/4." His heart gave a glad jump.
Something collided heavily against his back and he tumbled to the ground. His bags went flying and Hedwig's cage tipped, rolling over and over away from him. The owl gave a outraged screech and fluttered in agitation.
Harry scrambled to his feet. Ron stared at him sheepishly. His cart was tipped on its side and the trunk that had occupied it had burst, its contents spilling all over the pavement.
"Awfully sorry about that," said Ron, embarrassed. "I didn't know you were standing there."
He took the hand that Harry offered and pulled himself up. Staring around himself in consternation, he rubbed his head and sighed.
"Awfully sorry," he repeated. "Let's hurry up and move all of this stuff out of the way before someone else comes barreling through."
By the time they had gathered their spilled belongings, they were panting with exertion. Harry sat on his trunk as Hedwig began to hoot despondently. He stuck a finger through the bars of her cage and stroked her silky head feathers to soothe her.
"We'd better board the train," Ron sighed. "Come on. By the way, I'm Ron... Ron Weasley. I guess my mum told you that."
Harry grinned. "Yeah. I'm Harry. Pleased to meet you."
Ron's eyes widened.
"Really? This is so cool!"
"What do you mean?" asked Harry, puzzled.
Ron gaped at him.
"You mean you... you don't know?"
Now Harry was even more mystified.
"That you're the most famous wizard in the wizarding world! You defeated You... You-Know-Who when you were only one year old! Is it really true, do you have the scar?"
Although still somewhat bewildered, Harry nodded. He pushed up his shock of dark hair to reveal the jagged scar carved across his forehead. Ron gazed at it in awe.
"This is so cool," he repeated.
The train whistled loudly, and they both started.
They stared at each other for a split second in consternation.
Harry lunged for his bags and Hedwig's cage in panic. How on earth could he have forgotten that the train was about to leave? They sprinted past teary-eyed parents who were waving and calling out last minute advice. The train was puffing more briskly now. Mrs. Weasley met them half-way, her plump, motherly face a picture of alarm.
"What in Merlin's name were you doing? The train's leaving, Ron!"
"Mum!" Ron protested, chagrined, as she kissed him wetly. He tried to escape her attention by grabbing hold of Harry's sleeve.
"This is Harry Potter, Mum."
Mrs. Weasley glared at him.
"I know, Ron," she said reprovingly. "And you're being very rude."
Ron looked ashamed.
"Now, both of you, run along. It's going to leave without you. Goodbye, Ron." She kissed his cheek again. "I love you. Don't follow the twins' lead. Be a good boy like Percy."
Ron wrinkled his nose at Harry behind his mother's back, mouthing "Percy" in what seemed to be a derisive manner.
"And goodbye to you, too, Harry."
Harry started as her arms wrapped around him.
"Thank you," he said hesitantly as he pulled away.
She gave him a small smile before hurrying them to the train.
"Goodbye!" she called as they hauled themselves and their things up the steps. "Have a good year! Pay attention during class and don't get into trouble."
"Yes, Mum," Ron called back behind him, pushing Harry forward into the car as train began to jerk and move forward.
Mrs. Weasley was still calling something out to them, but Harry could no longer hear her. The two boys made their way into an empty compartment, swaying in synchrony with the rough motion of the train. Ron collapsed with a relieved sigh on one of the cushioned benches, abandoning his bags on the floor. Harry gazed around himself with a thrill of excitement and wonder. He slowly lowered himself on the seat across from Ron, running his fingers across the smooth, wooden armrests.
"Mum's always like that," Ron told him, yawning. The scenery was flashing by the window in greens and grays. Harry stared at his reflection in the clear glass.
"That's nice," he said vaguely.
Ron scoffed, his head flopping backwards.
"It gets pretty annoying. I guess it is kind of nice, though," he admitted.
A stewardess knocked on the door of their compartment and they looked up simultaneously. Her cart was full of sweets. Harry's eyes brightened, but Ron groaned and closed his eyes, settling deeper into the seat.
"Please," said Harry, rooting in his pockets for the gold coins he had gotten from Gringotts. "I'll take all of it."
Both Ron's and the woman's eyes widened. Excited, Harry poured the money into her hands and dragged the cart closer. He took out one of the Chocolate Frogs, tossing it to Ron, who nearly dropped it in surprise.
"Come on," said Harry, grinning at him. "We can share the old thing."
"It's all right, I don't want it," said Ron, his eyes telling a different story.
"Oh, come on," Harry coaxed. "I wasn't going to eat it all myself, and I've never had this much stuff before. It looks good."
Ron seemed to hesitate for a moment. Then he grinned at Harry and started to rip the wrapping of the Chocolate Frog.
"What did you mean when you said you'd never had it before?" he asked presently.
"I didn't say that," Harry said, licking the sticky, melted chocolate from his fingers. "I just said that I've never had this much. My cousin let me have a piece of his once, one that he didn't want. It was good... a little old and musty, though."
Ron looked baffled.
"Your cousin let you have an old piece of his," he repeated incredulously, sitting forward. "But you're... you're famous! Don't you have loads of money?"
Uncomfortably, Harry looked away from him.
"I didn't even know about wizards until around two months ago," he confessed, abashed. "I didn't know I was famous, and I certainly wasn't rich. I lived with my aunt and uncle. They didn't like me very much," he concluded dolefully.
Ron's eyes bugged out.
"You mean you didn't know you defeated You-Know-Who?" he spluttered.
Harry shook his head.
"You didn't even know you were a wizard?"
Harry ducked his head in embarrassment.
"Well, I'll be dashed," said Ron wonderingly. He did not speak again for several minutes, and the atmosphere began to feel distinctly uncomfortable.
"You... you have a lot of brothers and sisters, don't you?" Harry asked, in a wretched attempt to break the silence.
"Well, there's Percy, and the twins, Fred and George. Ginny's the youngest and she's the only girl. You've seen all of them. And then Bill and Charlie are off on their own."
"That's a lot of people. Doesn't your house get a bit crowded?"
Ron made a face. "Oh, it does. And I have to share a room with the twins, which is really bad, because they play pranks on me all the time. You know, they switched my pillow for a joke one once, so that every time I started to fall asleep it would yank itself out from under my head."
Harry snorted with laughter.
"Oi," Ron said indignantly. "It wasn't funny… it was a mean trick to pull. You'd think they'd be nicer to me. I'm their only little brother, after all."
"It sounds fun."
Ron gave him a sharp look.
"Sometimes," he conceded. "It's mostly just tiresome, though. What about you? I mean, your family?"
"I haven't anything to tell. My aunt and uncle aren't really… family." Harry shifted. "And obviously I don't know that much about my parents."
Ron looked stricken.
"I'm sorry, I..."
"No, don't worry about it," Harry assured him. "I don't remember them anyway."
He exhaled, and was glad when a second knock sounded at the door. From the look on Ron's face, he was relieved as well.
This time it was a girl. She had already changed into her Hogwarts robes (he was already beginning to get a feel for her personality) and her bushy hair puffed out over the collar. She gave their depleted supply of candy a look of revulsion.
"Have either of you seen a toad?"
Whatever he had been expecting, it hadn't been that. Her tone was imperious, but the question was so odd and silly that he wasn't sure what to say.
"A... a toad?"
"Yes, a toad," she said impatiently. "Because Neville's lost his, and he feels terrible about it."
"No." Harry shook his head earnestly. "I haven't seen a toad. Would you like a Chocolate Frog?"
For a moment, she looked hesitant. Harry nodded towards the seat next to him.
"You can sit down, if you like."
"Thanks," she said uncertainly, a flash of something darting through her eyes. She sat down on the edge of the seat primly and took the Chocolate Frog he had handed to her. "I'd better introduce myself. I'm Hermione Granger. What are your names?"
"I'm Ron, Ron Weasley."
"Oh," she perked up in interest. "Harry Potter?"
He had hoped she wouldn't have the same reaction as Ron. It made him feel frightfully awkward.
"That's interesting," she remarked, taking a bite of her Chocolate Frog and hurriedly swallowing it before continuing, "I've read all about you in Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and Modern Magical History. They have your complete biography in them... or at least the part that has to do with Voldemort."
Ron visibly flinched.
"Don't say his name," he hissed. "It's bad luck."
Hermione waved her hand dismissively.
"You needn't be afraid of a name," she said sagaciously. "That's all it is, a name."
"I'm not afraid. I just don't like it."
"Fine," Hermione replied, with more tolerance than understanding. "I'll say You-Know-Who, then."
Ron grunted. Harry watched this exchange with a mixture of amusement and interest.
"So where are you from, Herm... Herm..."
"Her-MI-one," she said helpfully. "I'm from London. My parents are dentists."
"They're Muggles?" Ron asked curiously.
Harry cocked his head in confusion, but Hermione's face changed.
"Yes," she snapped, her tone defensive. "Why?"
"No reason. I like Muggles. They're so interesting... and different."
She was cut off by the sound of someone clearing his throat. At the door of their compartment were three boys. The youngest and shortest one seemed to be in charge. He was still rather tall (the others were elephants) and he was dressed in his school robes as Hermione was. His features were pale and twisted in a sneer that looked unusually spiteful for such a young boy.
"So you're the famous Harry Potter," he said. "My name is Draco Malfoy."
He glanced about the compartment, his eyes narrowing as he noticed the other occupants. His sneer deepened.
"What are you doing with a blood-traitor and a muggle-born?"
Both Ron and Hermione unconsciously stiffened. Harry frowned, disliking the tension that was seeping into the room.
"What are you talking about?"
Malfoy's pale eyebrows rose.
"There are certain sorts of people you should associate with and others you shouldn't, if you understand what I mean."
"I don't," said Harry, his brow furrowing. "But I do think I'm the one who knows who I'd like to associate with. Besides, I don't think the bodyguard was necessary."
Malfoy glanced at the two burly boys who stood behind him.
"All right, then," he said impatiently. "You can go."
They stared at him for a moment rather stupidly before lumbering off down the passageway. Malfoy stood awkwardly in the doorway and looked at the floor.
"You can come in, if you like," said Harry.
Malfoy seemed to come to himself.
"Of course," he said smoothly. "As long as the Mudblood doesn't mind sitting next to a Malfoy."
Moments later, he was stumbling back out of the compartment, holding his nose.
"Don't you go around calling her names! Get out of here." Ron slammed the door viciously. "That'll teach him, bloody git."
Muttering, he threw himself back onto his seat.
"What does Mudblood mean?" Harry asked, hesitantly.
"It's a derogatory manner of addressing witches and wizards born in the Muggle world," Hermione explained, sounding subdued. "I've come across it in some of the books at Flourish and Blotts. Muggle is the wizard word for a nonmagical human." She glanced at Ron quickly. "Thank you. You didn't have to do that."
Ron rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.
"It's okay. Forget it. Do you want to play Exploding Snap?"
It was hours later when they heard the conductor shout, "Hogwarts in five minutes!" Hermione made a choked, panicky noise in the back of her throat.
"Hurry!" she urged, dragging them up. "Put on your robes, you've got to hurry! We're going to be there really soon... Come on, Harry! Ron, put away the cards! Oh! I forgot, my things are in the other compartment!"
She fled. Harry looked at Ron bemusedly. Ron shrugged and sat down again.
In the end, they had to scramble for their bags and the remaining candy as everyone began to disembark. Ron was still chewing frantically on a last Chocolate Frog as he and Harry lugged their trunks down the steps. Harry heard a deep, familiar voice coming from somewhere near them in the mist.
"Firs' years this way! Firs' years follow me."
"Hagrid!" Harry called out. He hurried towards the voice, leaving Ron to scurry after him. "Hagrid, it's me, Harry!"
The mist parted and the half-giant scooped him up, beaming all over his large face.
"'Ey, 'Arry! 'Ow are you? Come on, firs' years take the boats."
Hagrid disappeared again into the fog. Puffing, Ron halted at Harry's shoulder.
"Oi, why'd you go running off on me?"
"Sorry," said Harry, still peering through the fog and trying to see Hagrid. "Come along. First years to the boats, he said."
They followed the wide stream of students, eventually breaking off with a smaller group that headed down to the lake, with Hagrid at the head of the procession, holding aloft a lighted lantern. There was a line of small rowboats at the edge of the water. Harry boarded one along with Ron, but Hermione was too far away to join them. Once all the first years were settled, the boats began to glide across the smooth surface of the lake. There was nothing visible pulling them or inciting the forward motion; Harry could feel tendrils of magic gently tow them in.
Everyone was very silent. The only sound was the chink of the lantern swinging, and the sloshing of water against the sides of the boats. Suddenly, Ron jabbed Harry in the ribs. He pointed at the towers of the large structure that had just entered their field of vision. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
"Harry," he whispered. "We're going to be sorted soon."
"What does that mean?"
"You really don't know much at all, do you? There are four Houses; Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. First year, you get sorted into one of them. Fred and George said that in order to find out where you belong to have to pass a test. They said we'd have to fight a dragon."
Harry wrinkled his nose.
"They were probably just trying to scare you," he said. "After all, nobody's going to make eleven-year-olds fight a dragon. It's far too dangerous."
Ron looked slightly reassured, but still skeptical.
"I don't know. They really might. And Fred and George would know."
The boats scraped up against the pebbly shore. Hagrid jumped out, holding the lantern high.
"Welcome to Hogwarts," he boomed. "Follow me, we're going inside."
They trooped obediently behind them. Someone pushed past Harry's elbow roughly, making him stumble. It was Draco, looking furious and still sporting a bloody nose. His two bodyguards walked before him to clear the path. Harry tried to suppress a grin.
They seemed to walk through endless stone corridors. Finally Hagrid stopped in front of two ornate wooden doors. He turned to face a sea of faces, some eager and some frightened.
"This 'ere's the Great Hall. You'll be sorted before dinner. Go on in."
He threw the heavy doors open with ease. For a moment, no one moved. Then Harry was being swept forward by a crowd of excited new students. He caught a glimpse of the four large tables, each with a different colored banner hanging above it. The occupants had been chattering loudly, but a wave of cheering spread through the room as the new students entered.
At the head of the room was another, smaller table that faced the others. It was clearly the professors' table; there were only adults seated at it. In the middle there was a old man wearing a robe and pointed hat with matching patterns of stars. His eyes twinkled merrily, his long white beard hiding his mouth. He stood up and clapped his hands as the clamor died down.
"The very best of evenings to you all!" he said loudly. "To our new students, welcome! To our old students, welcome back! Another year full of magical education awaits you! Bring out the Sorting Hat, please, Professor McGonagall."
"That's Dumbledore," Ron whispered confidentially, nudging Harry's side. "He's a brilliant wizard. Dad says he's the best. He's even on Chocolate Frog cards… I got him in the train, do you remember?"
The stern woman who stood at Dumbldore's right produced a rather dusty, pointed brown hat. She placed it on the tall wooden stool that stood before the professors' table. Ron looked very relieved. In a moment, a startling deep voice rang out through the room. With a jolt of surprise, Harry realized that the Sorting Hat was singing. It was fascinating, but Professor McGonagall merely looked impatient. When the hat had finished, she began to call out names quickly.
A small girl tripped to the front of the room and clambered onto the stool, trembling with excitement. On went the hat.
"Hufflepuff!" it roared. The girl took it off, blushing as she took her place among the clapping members of her new house.
Several names later, McGonagall called, "Granger, Hermione!"
Harry craned his head to see the familiar bushy head moving forward. Hermione sat on the stool stiffly, her hands clasped on her lap, and bit her lip in anticipation.
When the hat came off, she was beaming. She skipped to the Gryffindor table and was greeted with cheers and hearty handshakes. As she was swallowed up by her blabbering housemates, she turned towards Harry and Ron and waved wildly in exultation.
Harry supposed this must have been the Neville who had lost his toad in the train. He was a clumsy, nervous boy, but looked friendly and good-natured. Another Gryffindor.
The boy stepped forward frigidly. His nose was cleaner, but his face was still bruised. Before the hat even touched his blond head, it yelled confidently, "Slytherin!"
A small, satisfied smirk manifested on Draco's childish face. He hopped off the stool and walked unhurriedly to the Slytherin table. His eyes had darkened with pride and his manner reeked of self-importance.
The entire room fell silent. Harry rose in the stillness and made his way to the stool. He sat down carefully, gripping the edges tightly with his fingers as the hat slipped over his head and eyes. It was dark and cool inside, but he could feel the deafening silence of the room pressing about him. For a moment, nothing happened and a cold fear ran through him. Was he not going to be sorted? Had the hat decided he wasn't fit for... Then a soft voice began to speak in its head.
"Ah, Harry Potter. But you're not just Harry Potter. This is most curious... it's never happened to me before..."
"You don't know? Well, I won't ruin it for you then. I think it's something you're to find out on your own. Now, where shall I put you? You've brains, I'll give you that. Enough for Ravenclaw. Some of that Hufflepuff loyalty, too. And you're... oh, you're rather cunning. Very ambitious. Slytherin qualities if ever I've seen any. Brave as a Gryffindor should be. This is a quandry. Any opinion? No? I'll have to choose on my own, then."
The little voice disappeared from his head. The silence seemed to drag on.
"Slytherin!" the hat barked loudly.
A surprised murmur traveled through the tables. Harry blinked as the hat was lifted from his head. The students were staring at him and whispering behind their hands. He glanced at McGonagall in uncertainty. She motioned him towards the Slytherin table.
The Slytherins did not give him the hearty greeting of the Gryffindors, but a few of them nodded affably at him. Some gave him curious glances. Draco looked at him queerly before averting his eyes. Harry sat down quietly to watch the rest of the sorting.
Ron went into Gryffindor, where he was loudly congratulated by the twins. Percy shook his hand gravely and Hermione gave him an awkward hug. Harry frowned a little. For a moment, he wished he had been sorted into Gryffindor. He strained his ears, but couldn't hear their conversation beyond a low murmur. His concentration was broken when he noticed the affronted looks he was receiving from his own housemates.
"Ravenclaw!" the hat shouted.
The final first year, a boy, hurried to the Ravenclaw table. There was a very last round of applause as Dumbledore stood up and clapped for silence. Trays and bowls of mouth-watering food appeared on the tables.
"Before we begin our banquet," Dumbledore announced, beaming, "I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you."
Harry felt rather taken back, but the little speech did not seem particularly alarming to anyone else. One of the Slytherin boys near him mumbled, "Crazy old coot, he is," and started to eat along with the rest. Harry blinked and reached for a bowl of lamb chops. It was delicious. He couldn't remember ever having eaten something like it. He licked the sauce messily off the top of his lip.
"It's good, isn't it?" commented the girl who was sitting on his left.
"Yes, awfully," Harry agreed.
The girl laughed, not unpleasantly, and flipped her straight, dark hair over her shoulder.
"So you're Harry Potter." She looked him up and down appraisingly, a flicker of amusement in her blue eyes. "You're a bit scrawny," she observed. "Keep eating. You need some meat on your bones. I'm Margaret Lestrange. Third year."
Harry swallowed his mouthful of lamb. "Pleased to meet you, Margaret."
"Likewise. You know," she commented, "everyone thought that you'd end up in Gryffindor."
Her nose wrinkled a little as she said the word, as though it was distasteful to her, but she refrained from making any snide remark.
"The Sorting Hat had trouble placing me," Harry explained. "I'm not sure why it chose Slytherin. I've already made two friends. They're both in Gryffindor," he concluded, mournfully stabbing a square of boiled potato. Margaret pursed her lips.
"That's too bad. But let me give you a word of advice. Don't get close to people from other Houses. It isn't appreciated."
"What do you mean?"
"Nothing really. Just be careful, that's all."
The main courses disappeared and tiered dishes of sweets appeared in their place: ice cream, chocolate cake, pumpkin tart, chocolate éclairs, and jam doughnuts. Margaret laughed when she saw Harry's wide eyes.
"Looks good, doesn't it?" she said, reaching for an éclair. She popped the creamy chocolate confection into her mouth. Harry wavered for a moment before following her lead.
"So where do we sleep here?" he asked, his mouth full of chocolate.
"It depends on which house you're in. Slytherin is down in the dungeons. It gets cold in the winter, but thankfully it's quiet."
"What about Gryffindor?"
She gave him a sharp look.
"Potter," she said seriously. "You should really tone down on the Gryffindor stuff. I'm telling you, it's dangerous."
"It's okay," said Harry. "I'll be fine."
She raised her eyebrows skeptically.
"All right, whatever you say. The Gryffindor dormitories are up in the Gryffindor tower behind the Fat Lady painting. But you can't get in; you'll only know the Slytherin password."
Their conversation was interrupted by Professor McGonagall's announcement.
"Prefects, lead your tables to your dormitories! Be quiet and orderly, all of you. Single file, please."
Everyone stood up at once, disregarding the last two instructions. In the middle of the chaos, a hand grabbed Harry's sleeve and dragged him through a gap in the crowd. Margaret grinned down at him.
"You don't want to get lost on your first night."
He nodded gratefully at her.
"Thanks. Is it always like this?"
"Generally," she replied, grimacing. "Look at them. They're like cattle. Complete beasts."
They slipped through the mass of people and squeezed through the doorway. Harry took a breath of relief as they escaped into the airy hall. The air grew damper and colder as they hurried down the twisting passages. Not far behind them, they could hear the voices of the Slytherins that were following them.
"Are you a muggleborn?" Harry asked.
It was like one of those stupid twenty question games, but he couldn't think of anything else to say. Margaret turned on him furiously.
"Of course I'm not," she hissed. "Are you daft? How could you even think that?"
"I... I'm sorry," Harry spluttered. "Did I say something wrong?"
She shook her head incredulously.
"You're either stupid or ignorant, I really can't decide. Muggleborns are a disgrace. My father says they shouldn't even be allowed at Hogwarts."
Harry stared at her in bewilderment.
"Why on earth would he think that?" he exclaimed. "I met a girl on the Express who is a muggle-born and she's awfully nice. What do you think is wrong with them?"
Confused, she halted.
"I don't know. They're just... they're just... like Muggles."
"What's wrong with Muggles?"
"They aren't magical! They're regular, useless, stupid humans."
"No, they're not!"
"Why are you defending them? Have they treated you well?"
That shut him up. Her face softened.
"Never mind, I don't want to quarrel."
When they reached a dead end, she knocked on the stone wall. A ghostly voice answered.
She tapped her foot impatiently.
A hidden stone door scraped open, revealed a rather dimly lit common room. Margaret threw herself on one of the couches with a sigh of content.
"I must say, I'm terribly glad to be back. It's so peaceful here."
Harry sat down awkwardly on the edge of an armchair. He felt the heat from the fireplace flaring against his exposed skin. His tense muscles relaxed, and soon he was nestled deep into the cushions. He jolted upright again as a thought struck him. Margaret seemed annoyed at the disturbance.
"Now what? You're so jumpy, Potter. It's unsettling."
"I've just remembered. What about my trunk?"
"Oh." She yawned unconcernedly. "They bring it up for you. It's already in your room."
"Who bring it up?"
"The house elves, of course."
"What are house elves?"
She groaned. "You don't know what a house elf is either? What's wrong with you? Did you grow up with Muggles?"
She sat up quickly.
"What? I wasn't serious..." she trailed off when she realized that he had been. "Oh, mercy. House elves are servants... unpaid servants. But they love to serve. That's their life. It makes them dreadfully uncomfortable to be free. Here, I'll call one up."
She opened her mouth but Harry stopped her.
"You needn't bother them."
"Oh, they don't care. Wheezy!"
There was a loud crack. A strange little figure stood before them. Something - a dishcloth - was wrapped around its waist. It stood about three feet tall and had little, slender, stick-like fingers. It bowed low, its long nose nearly touching the ground.
"Wheezy is here, Miss! What would Miss like?"
"Nothing," Margaret said breezily. "Harry Potter wants to see you."
The little creature turned its huge eyes towards Harry, who stammered.
"It's... it's okay... Wheezy. You can go back now... to... wherever it is you go."
"Wheezy will, Master Harry!" it squeaked. "Call Wheezy if Master wants anything."
With another loud crack, it disappeared. Harry collapsed back against the chair cushions.
"That was really weird."
"You're sure you've never seen one?" Margaret asked disbelievingly.
Harry nodded. Just at that moment, there was a loud thumping outside the door. Margaret jumped up.
"Everyone's coming in. We'd better go to the dorms now. The boys' is that way. See you in the morning, Potter."
She disappeared before he could answer. The hubbub outside was increasing in volume; the prefects were probably having trouble reaching the door. Harry opened the door that Margaret had pointed out and escaped just as the door burst open and the rest of his Housemates streamed inside.
Slytherin was not the most demonstrative of the Houses. Harry was barely acknowledged by any of them the next morning (unless a Malfoy sneer counted as an acknowledgement) as he hurried towards the Hall for breakfast.
Margaret had offered to take him to his first class, seeing how he was completely lost in the huge castle. He discovered quickly that it took a great deal of coordination to reach one side of Hogwarts from the other. The moving staircases were particularly confusing; he nearly trapped himself on the trick step before Margaret darted back and pulled him out. When he finally reached the door of the Transfiguration classroom, he was gasping for breath. Margaret merely eyed him with a hint of amusement in her blue eyes.
"See you at luncheon, Potter," she called over her shoulders.
He watched her go blearily before pushing the heavy oaken door open. He was nearly late, but managed to slip into a seat before Professor McGonagall swept inside.
Defense Against the Dark Arts was taught by a young man who he recognized from the last night's feast. Professor Quirrell was nervous and did not seem to know much about the Dark Arts at all; in fact, they seemed to frighten him.
Charms was taught by the tiny Professor Filius Flitwick - Harry found out later that he was part goblin - who was head of the Ravenclaw house. Unlike Quirrell, he knew his material very well and how to teach it. Harry rather liked that class.
Potions was taught by Professor Severus Snape. The Slytherin first years shared the class with the Gryffindor, and Harry was able to spot Ron and Hermione sitting in one corner with Neville Longbottom. Hermione waved at him cheerfully and mouthed, "How are you?" Harry mouthed back that he was fine. Ron grinned at him.
Potions could certainly be labeled as the most eventful class of the day. Snape watched with baleful eyes as the rest of the class very quietly seated itself and took out the Potions textbooks. His eyes seemed to be constantly drawn towards Harry, who squirmed uncomfortably under the dark gaze.
During the role call, Snape paused at Harry's name.
"Ah, yes. Harry Potter. Our new... celebrity."
His voice was silky. For some reason, it sent a shiver down Harry's spine, but he knew distinctly that he was not afraid of the man. It was more the tone; it seemed almost familiar, in a terrible way. He swallowed, trying to dispel the feeling of unease.
"So… you are in Slytherin. I'm sure your father would be proud."
His tone implied the opposite. He glared at Harry one last time before continuing with his speech. It was anything but welcoming.
"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making."
He spoke in barely more than a whisper, but they caught every word. Similar to Professor McGonagall, Snape had the gift of keeping a class silent without effort.
"As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses... I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death... if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach."
There was complete silence. Not one of them dared to so much as breathe. Snape's black eyes swept over the room expressionlessly. Finally, they landed again on Harry.
"Potter. What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
In the far corner of his eye, Harry could see Hermione's hand shoot up. He licked his dry lips.
"I don't know, sir."
Snape gazed at him unblinkingly for a moment, and then he sneered.
"Fame clearly isn't everything."
His tone was scathing.
"Shall we try again? Where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?"
Although he felt angry at being thus singled out, Harry forced himself to keep his voice calm.
"It is a stony concretion that forms in the stomachs of some animals. It was once used as an antidote against many illnesses."
He almost clapped his hands over his mouth. It was with more shock than fear that he looked up to meet Snape's eyes. The black eyebrows rose ever so slightly, but other than that the man showed no reaction.
"It was not 'once used'," Snape corrected him finally, rather coldly. "It is a remedy is still used against poison and venom among... other things."
His purposefully vague words lingered in the air. He abandoned his attack on Harry and turned to the chalkboard that hung at the front of the classroom.
"We're doing an exercise so that I can judge how many of you are fit to be taught," he said curtly. "Let us see how well you can follow the instructions on the board."
No one moved.
"Teams of two," Snape barked.
Everyone began to scramble to find a partner. Harry simply stood in the middle of the chaos, rather forlornly. He realized that he was looking for Margaret, but she was two years ahead and in a different class.
Someone tapped his shoulder. He spun around, his hands flying up protectively.
"Whoa, mate," Ron said, jokingly raising his hands. "No need to be so jumpy."
Harry's brow furrowed. Hadn't that been what Margaret had called him the night before?
"I'm not jumpy," he said defensively, lowering his hands. "You just surprised me."
Ron shrugged. "Whatever. You're acting like you have post-traumatic stress disorder. No need to be so prickly."
Harry raised an eyebrow.
"Post-traumatic stress disorder?"
Ron looked abashed.
"All right, so what? I saw it yesterday in one of those huge books that Hermione brought. Hurry up, Snape'll eat us alive if we don't sit down."
When the chattering had died down, Snape gave the class a sharp once-over. His lip curled when he saw Harry with Ron and Hermione, but surprisingly he made no comment about the seating arrangements.
"I think he hates me," Harry said reflectively as they began to stumble through the initial steps.
"I don't know why," Ron said. "You haven't done anything at all. Maybe he's just jeal... Aargh!"
Snape had stopped right beside their table. To cover Ron's slip-up, Harry quickly reached for the next ingredient. The arm of his robe caught on a jar of dragon egg-shell, sending it crashing to the floor. Glass pieces shattered everywhere. Ron had frozen, his arm poised over the table, halfway to the cauldron.
It was utterly silent. Snape simply stared at them. Ron's face paled and Harry could feel his doing the same.
"Clumsy fools," Snape hissed finally. Ron's eyes widened. His ginger hair stood out against the stark pallor of his face. "Pick up the pieces. Ten points from Gryffindor for clumsiness!"
"Silence!" Snape snarled. "Five more for talking back."
Ron resentfully but wisely shut his mouth and bent over to pick up the pieces. Harry joined him. Snape's footsteps faded away and the room began to come to life again. Only then did they draw a deep breath.
"I'm sorry, Ron," Harry whispered, picking up a particularly large piece of shell. "He should have taken the points from me. He saw me do it."
"It's okay," Ron sighed. He shook some shards from his robe. "He's trying to get back at you without taking points from his own house. Just be careful next time."
But he still looked rather bitter, and did not speak much for the rest of the lesson. Harry stewed with mixed feelings of guilt and indignation. He angrily shouldered his bags and pushed his way out the door the moment class ended. In his irritation, he failed to watch where he was going and bumped heavily against someone.
"What ho, Harry."
He blinked up at the speaker from his place on the floor. Margaret grinned down at him.
"What causes the death glare?"
He took the hand she offered and pulled himself up, dusting off his school robes.
She pursed her lips.
"What's the matter with our dear Head of House?"
"He hates me."
"Don't be silly."
"He does," Harry insisted. "I just don't know why."
Margaret rolled her eyes.
"If you say so," she said. "Let's go to lunch."
The Great Hall was crowded when they entered it. Harry was able to find a spot at the Slytherin that just fit two people, if they squeezed. As they were eating, Harry's shoulder was jolted roughly and his glass of strawberry cordial was nearly knocked from his hand. Neville Longbottom sat down uninvited between him and Margaret. He grinned toothily at them.
"Um... hello, Neville."
While Harry didn't know Neville very well, the Gryffindor first year had appeared abnormally timid and unassuming in Potions. A massive change had been wrought in him over the last hour. Neville gazed sharply into Harry's eyes for several seconds. After breaking eye contact, he began to laugh loudly.
"This... this..." he choked with laughter, unable to continue speaking for several moments. "This is hilarious! So it really is true? You're just Harry Potter!"
"I've always been Harry Potter. I don't know what you're talking about."
Neville shook his head wordlessly, his cackling gradually subsiding to short chuckles. Mystified and unnerved, Harry tried to scoot away. Most of the chatter around them had stopped as the Slytherins noticed the commotion. On the other side of Neville, Margaret scowled darkly.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" she asked, disgusted.
"Right back at you, sister."
"Get lost, Gryffindor," she sneered. "This isn't your table."
They locked eyes challengingly. Finally Neville rolled his eyes and swung his legs out.
"So long, Potter," he called out as he walked away. A slow rumble of laughter followed his words.
"Ignore him," Margaret said, an undercurrent of anger in her tone. "He isn't worth it."
Harry shied away from her friendly pat. Slightly hurt, she withdrew.
"I could have taken care of him," said Harry, sullenly. "You didn't need to do that."
"Don't friends stand up for each other?"
Her words made him vaguely uneasy. He shrugged the feeling off.
"I suppose so."
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