Title: The Sorcerer's Stone: Alternate Year One
Author: Jade Hunter
Disclaimer: The characters and properties of Harry Potter all belong to J.K.R. May her genius never end.
A.N.: Sorry I took so long with this chapter. Two reasons for this. One, the Sorting took some time for me. I knew which House I wanted to have Tristan/Harry in, and I knew how to have him get in there, but the scene just wouldn't mesh down on screen well. Sigh. Two, spring quarter started, and my writing class is a killer, although the adolescent development psychology class is surprisingly interesting.
The door swung open at once. It was Professor McGonagall, clad in emerald-green robes. She was just as composed as he remembered her, but with a sterner cast to her features than before, and Tristan knew immediately that, here at school, she was not someone to be crossed.
"The first years, Professor McGonagall," the large man said.
Professor McGonagall nodded shortly, "Thank you, Hagrid. I will take them from here."
The entrance hall that lay behind the door was large - so large and grand that Tristan couldn't even make out the ceiling. The stone walls were lined with lit torches akin to those at Gringotts, and there was a magnificent marble staircase facing them that led to the upper floors. Mouths agape, they followed Professor McGonagall across the flagged stone floor and into a small, empty chamber off the hall.
"Welcome to Hogwarts," she said. "The start-of-term banquet shall begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will be Sorted into your Houses. The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your House will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your House, sleep in your House dormitory, and spend free time in your House common room." Professor McGonagall paused to see if they were paying attention, then continued, "The four Houses are called Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each House as its own noble history and each has produced outstanding witches and wizards. While you are at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn your House points, while any rule-breaking will lose House points. At the end of the year, the House with the most points is awarded the House Cup, a great honor. I hope each of you will be a credit to whichever House becomes yours." Another pause, and another sweeping glance, "The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes in front of the rest of the school. I suggest you all smarten yourselves up as much as you can while you are waiting."
Her eyes lingered for a moment on a few students who were suffering from grooming mishaps, including Neville, whose cloak fastening had somehow moved around to under his left ear.
"I shall return when we are ready for you," Professor McGonagall finished. "Please wait quietly."
She swept out of the chamber, and, immediately, there was some desperate scrambling to clean up appearances. Neville yanked his cloak back into place, nearly choking himself in the process, and a dark-haired girl began wiping desperately at a patch of mud that had collected on her cloak when she'd slipped on the way to the boats.
Tristan looked around the small room, confident that his own grooming was immaculate. A few people broke out into whispers, and he couldn't help but overhear snatches of conversation.
"Does anyone know exactly how they Sort you?" someone asked quietly from behind him.
Another unfamiliar voice answered, "Some sort of test, I think. My brother said it hurts a lot, but I think he was joking."
Due to the size of the room, the voices had carried, and now nearly everyone was looking terrified, bemoaning that they were woefully unprepared for a test! Neville, in particular, looked nervous, and Tristan saw the Hermione girl whispering rapidly to herself about which spell she would need for the test. There were a few people who looked unconvinced, however, and Tristan was glad there was some sensibility in the wizarding world after all. Honestly! Who in the world was gullible enough to believe that a school - an institute of education, mind - would make first years take tests? When some of them hadn't even known about magic before receiving their letters? Utterly ridiculous.
Someone screamed suddenly, and Tristan nearly jumped out of his skin twice - once at the scream, and then at what had caused the scream.
"What the - ?"
Several people gasped. About twenty ghosts had streamed through the back wall, pearly-white and transparent, gliding across the room with hardly a glance at the gathered first years. They seemed to be arguing amongst themselves, and someone who used to be a fat little monk was saying: "Forgive and forget, I say, we ought to give him a second chance – "
"My dear friar, haven't we given Peeves all the chances he deserves? He gives us all a bad name, you know, he's not even really a ghost - I say, what are you all doing here?" asked the ghost wearing a ruff and tights, interrupting himself.
No one answered.
"New students!" said the friar, smiling around at them, seemingly oblivious to the air of nervous terror. "About to be Sorted, I suppose?"
A few heads bobbed faintly.
"Hope to see you in Hufflepuff!" the friar said. "My old House, you know."
"Move along now. The Sorting Ceremony's about to start."
Although he would never admit it, even under pain of death, Tristan was enormously glad to hear Professor McGonagall's sharp, ringing voice once more. He had read about the ghosts at Hogwarts, of course, but reading about them and actually seeing them were far different things.
He swallowed. Very different.
As the ghosts floated away through the wall opposite that of their entry, Professor McGonagall began to speak again, "Now, form a line, and follow me."
Trying in vain to shake off the shock of seeing the ghosts, Tristan got into the line behind a sandy-haired boy. Professor McGonagall led them out of the chamber, back across the hall, and through a pair of double doors into what was undoubtedly the Great Hall. Thousands upon thousands of candles lit the room, floating in the air above four long tables, where the older students were already sitting. Each person had a golden plate in front of them, along with matching goblets and cutlery. And at the front of the Hall, there was a long table that seated the people Tristan assumed were the Hogwarts professors.
Professor McGonagall led the line up there, so that they came to a halt facing all the other students, with the teachers behind them. The hundreds of faces stared at them unabashedly, their faces flickering with candlelight, and the ghosts dotted here and there amongst them glowed misty silver. Completely unperturbed with the stares aside from the fact that it was utterly rude, Tristan let his gaze roam over the Hall, comparing the things he saw to what he had read in Hogwarts: A History. The ceiling, in particular, was impressive, far more so than he had expected from the book; velvety black with stars glinting here and there, it was hard to believe that the Great Hall didn't simply open up onto the heavens - which was understandable, as it was a mirror of the sky outside, if he remembered correctly.
As if to assure him that he was, in fact, remembering correctly, he heard the Hermione girl whisper to someone, "It's bewitched to look like the sky outside. I read about it in Hogwarts: A History."
Silently, Professor McGonagall placed a four-legged stool in front of them, and, on top of the stool, she placed a pointed wizard's hat. To Tristan, who did not even like to think about the fact that a wizard's hat was part of his uniform, this particular hat looked ten times as foul. It was frayed and patched, and certainly nothing that the maid would allow in the house.
Then the hat twitched. On its own. As Tristan goggled, forgetting himself for a moment (even a Cabot could only take so much), a rip opened near the brim, like a mouth - and then, even more unbelievably, the hat began to sing:
"Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,
But don't judge on what you see,
I'll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.
There's nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can't see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.
You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true,
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you've a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin,
You'll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.
So put me on! Don't be afraid!
And don't get in a flap!
You're in safe hands (though I have none)
For I'm a Thinking Cap!"
The whole hall burst into applause when the Hat finished its song; it bowed low to each of the four tables, and then became quite still again.
For his part, Tristan was having difficulty getting past the fact that the Hat had just been singing. In rhyme. A hat. Singing. Rhyming. He blinked slowly, took a deep breath, and pushed it out of his mind. He could get past the singing, rhyming, talking, moving-on-its-own hat.
At least now he knew how people were Sorted. Although the book had been enthusiastic in describing the various Houses, it had remained frustratingly tight-lipped about the Sorting process. It seemed a bit anti-climatic, since all you had to do was try on the hat.
Then again, it was a singing, rhyming, talking, moving-on-its-own hat.
Professor McGonagall stepped forward, holding a roll of parchment; "When I call your name, you will sit on the stool and put on the hat to be Sorted. Abbott, Hannah!"
A pink-faced girl with blonde pigtails stumbled out of line, put on the hat, which fell right down over her eyes, and sat. A moment's pause –
"HUFFLEPUFF!" the Hat shouted.
The table on the right cheered and clapped as Hannah went over to sit at their table.
And Susan went to sit down next to Hannah.
The second table from the left clapped this time, and Tristan saw several of the Ravenclaws stand up to shake hands with Terry when he joined them.
"Brocklehurst, Mandy" went into Ravenclaw as well, but "Brown, Lavender" became the first new Gryffindor. The table at the far left exploded with cheers, and a pair of redheaded twins were even catcalling. "Bulstrode, Millicent" became a Slytherin, and went over to the second table from the right.
And then – "Cabot, Tristan!"
Steeling himself, he walked calmly up to the stool. Picking up the hat, he sat down before lowering it onto his head, closing his eyes as he did so, wondering if all the people who had put it on before him had washed their hair today. He shuddered at the possibilities, what with how battered and ratty the Hat already was.
And then a little voice said quite indignantly,"Why, I'll have you know, I'm quite clean!"
This time, he did not jump; he merely stiffened in surprise.
"Old I may be, but you shouldn't judge by appearances!" the small voice continued, and it wasn't difficult to figure out that it was the Hat talking. "Didn't you hear a word of my song?"
'I heard,' Tristan replied as calmly as he could as another part of his mind shied away like a skittish colt at the thought of a telepathic Hat that talked and sang and rhymed and moved on its own. 'But if you can look into everyone's head, you should know that people always judge by appearances, even when they're not aware of it. Besides, I have a right to be concerned - what if I contract lice because of you?'
"Lice!" the Hat spluttered. "Well, I never – !"
'You'd be surprised by how many people aren't as hygienic as they appear to be,' he commented idly, not at all concerned that he'd offended the Hat. Talking hat or no, it really was just a hat.
"Just a hat, eh?"
'Well, aren't you? At any rate, let's get on with this, shall we? I would like to be put in Ravenclaw.'
The Hat spluttered again,"Don't you know that I'm supposed to Sort you? You don't get to decide!"
"Tradition!" the Hat said promptly. "I am the Sorting Hat, and I am the one who Sorts. Now, let me see, here..."
Tristan tried to suppress his impatience, 'I told you - Ravenclaw.'
The Hat made an exasperated noise, "Why Ravenclaw?"
'Because it is the only sensible House,' Tristan replied. 'And the only House I can explain to my parents. Can you imagine their reactions when I tell them I've been placed in a House due to my personality traits? Perhaps wizards are open to this kind of thing, but my parents only understand achievement - it wouldn't do for their perfect little boy to be in any House but the one for the most intelligent, would it?'
"Ravenclaw does not hold the most intelligent students," the Hat protested. "They hold the students who prize knowledge."
'Yes, well, you don't think I'll tell them that, do you?' Tristan asked impatiently. For a Hat who could read thoughts, this one didn't seem to get it at all.
"Oh, I get it, Mr. Cabot. I don't even have to look deeper into your mind - your entire plan for deceiving your parents and playing to their assumptions just screams Slytherin. You'd do very well there, I'd wager," the Hat whispered.
'I don't think so, hat,' Tristan retorted. 'I won't do well in any other House but Ravenclaw. And besides, who says I don't prize knowledge?'
"But only for what it can do for you, for the advantage it gives you," the Hat said in reply. "Not for the sake of knowledge itself."
Tristan was about to retaliate when the absolute ridiculousness of the situation hit him. Here he was, on a stool in front of everyone, arguing with a bloody hat, of all things. 'I wasn't aware there were conditions set. At any rate, I repeat: I will not do well in any other House but Ravenclaw. In fact, I can guarantee it. Maybe this makes me suitable for Slytherin, and maybe not, but I do believe it will be Ravenclaw or nothing.'
He'd read the laws. There was nothing that said a student absolutely had to continue their magical education if they weren't going to contribute to the magical world after graduation. He could just as easily have his magic bound and go on to Eton and get a normal education.
"Well, you're right about that," the Sorting Hat admitted. "At any rate, I don't make it a habit of placing people in Houses they don't truly wish to be in, Mr. Cabot. My job is to find a House that will help the individual flourish - and no one can flourish if they are placed unwillingly into a House they absolutely don't wish to be in. Very well, for you, it shall be RAVENCLAW!"
Tristan heard the last part being shouted out to the entire Hall. Plucking the Hat off of his head, he walked to the Ravenclaw table, satisfied. The Ravenclaw table welcomed their new addition with clapping and handshakes from those close enough; Tristan sat down next to Terry Boot, who also shook his hand, and then reached across the way to shake hands with Mandy Brocklehurst (who was sitting across from Terry). Truth be told, he already liked these Ravenclaws - they didn't lose their dignity and go out of their minds when a new student was Sorted into their House, and they had enough manners to greet people politely.
He could see the High Table properly now. At the end farthest from him sat the giant of a man who had led them across the lake, and, in the well-lit atmosphere of the Great Hall, Tristan could see that there was a gentle crinkle to his eyes. And there, in the center of the High Table, in a large gold chair, sat Albus Dumbledore, whose silver hair was the only thing in the entire Hall that shone was brightly as the ghosts. Professor Quirrell, the nervous, twitchy fellow from the Leaky Cauldron, was there as well, sporting a ridiculously large and gaudy purple turban.
The Sorting continued.
"Corner, Michael" and "Cornfoot, Stephen" both were Sorted into Ravenclaw, taking the seats across from and next to Tristan, respectively. They all shook hands and greeted each other politely as a thickset boy named Vincent Crabbe was Sorted into Slytherin, followed not much later by a fine-boned girl named Tracey Davis. Kevin Entwhistle joined them, sitting across from Stephen with a rather relieved looking smile, and another round of salutations were exchanged. Justin Finch-Fletchley hurried over to the Hufflepuff table to a round of applause, and Seamus Finnegan was received with great aplomb by the Gryffindor table.
"Goldstein, Anthony" was Sorted into Ravenclaw as well, a pleased smile on his face as he shook hands with everyone. Slytherin had another addition by the name of Gregory Goyle, who was thickset and looked about as bright as a dead lightbulb. The Hermione girl practically ran up to the stool when her name was called, jamming the Hat on her head, and joined the Gryffindor table a few moments later with a beaming smile on her face. A pretty girl named Daphne Greengrass tossed her dark hair as she strode confidently over to the Slytherin table after her Sorting, and then Wayne Hopkins went to Hufflepuff, followed soon after by a tall, lanky girl named Megan Jones, while the petite girl that followed ("Li, Su!") came over to the Ravenclaw table with a lopsided smile.
Then Neville's name was called, and even Tristan winced a bit in sympathy as the other boy tripped on his way to the stool, inspiring a ripple of laughter. First day, in front of the entire student body as well as the faculty? Ouch.
Bright red, Neville meekly placed the Hat over his head; it took a long time for him to be Sorted, but the Hat eventually decided on Gryffindor, to which Neville seemed to go into shock. In fact, he was so taken aback that he forgot to take off the Hat as he headed over to the Gryffindor table, and had to jog back amidst gales of laughter to pass it over to a girl with clear blue eyes named Morag MacDougal, who ended up in Ravenclaw as well. A well-groomed looking boy named Ernie MacMillian was Sorted into Hufflepuff, and "Malfoy, Draco" turned out to be a blonde boy with a pointed face that swaggered up to the stool, then swaggered over to the Slytherin table, a smug look on his face.
There weren't many people left now.
"Moon, Tania" went to Hufflepuff, Theodore Nott was Sorted into Slytherin, a pug-faced girl named Pansy Parkinson also went to Slytherin. And then a pair of twin girls were called up, Padma Patil coming over to their table as her sister Parvati was Sorted into Gryffindor. "Perks, Sally-Ann" went to Hufflepuff, Dean Thomas went over to Gryffindor, Lisa Turpin came over to Ravenclaw, the red-haired boy from the boat who turned out to be "Weasley, Ron" went over to Gryffindor to be greeted by other red-haired people as a dark-haired boy named Blaise Zabini was made a Slytherin.
Then the Sorting was over, and Professor McGonagall was rolled up her scroll and took the stool away.
Albus Dumbledore got to his feet, a beaming smile on his face, his arms spread out wide as if nothing could have pleased him more to see them all there.
"Welcome!" he said. "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!" Beaming, he added, "Thank you!"
The Headmaster sat back down as the student body clapped and cheered. Tristan, who didn't know whether to be amused or be concerned, saw that there were a few faces at the Head Table who looked a bit resigned, as if such a thing was expected.
And then the food appeared.
It was a feast, all right, with all of the golden dishes that had been previously empty now simply piled with food. There were several choices, of the best kinds of food, such as roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops, lamb chops, sausages, bacon, steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, fries, chips, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy...the list went on. There were also an entire array of condiments and, for some reason, peppermint humbugs.
Serving himself portions of each, Tristan offered the dishes near him to the others, accepting the dishes they handed to him in return, serving himself some of that, and then, finally, he began to eat. It was all delicious, just as good as anything the cooks or even the caterers ever came up with back home.
"Look at that!" It was Kevin Entwhistle, who had paused in the middle of bringing a fork full of food to his mouth, and was now gaping across the way to the far off Gryffindor table.
Tristan glanced up as well, and paused. There was the ghost with the ruffs and tights before; it was hard to mistake him, although he currently had nearly the entirety of his head on his shoulder, the majority of his neck clearly cloven in two.
There was a bit of laughter from a dark-haired boy who was not a first year. "That's Nearly-Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost," he explained, and then added, "I'm Roger Davies, third year."
"He prefers to be called Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington," said an older girl with light brown hair in a clear, calm voice, further down the table. She smiled briefly, "I'm Penelope Clearwater, one of the fifth-year Prefects. You all can come to me if you need help with anything during the year."
"What do you mean, he's the Gryffindor ghost?" Kevin asked, after a round of hellos had been exchanged.
"Each of the Houses have a resident ghost," Roger explained. "Nearly Headless Nick is the Gryffindor ghost. The Bloody Baron, there, is the Slytherin ghost."
Tristan looked behind his shoulder at the Slytherin table, and found a gaunt-faced ghost sitting next to the pointed-faced boy, Draco Malfoy. He had blank eyes - the ghost, that is - and his robes were covered in silvery stains.
"Is that blood?" Terry Boot asked, sounding horrified and fascinated all at once.
Roger nodded, "But no one's ever asked him how he got covered in it."
It was obvious to everyone why - while the other ghosts were of a friendlier mein, the Bloody Baron was simply terrifying.
"The Hufflepuff ghost is the Fat Friar," Roger continued, and then gestured down to the opposite end of the table, "and our ghost is the Grey Lady." Craning his neck, Tristan managed to catch a glimpse of the Ravenclaw ghost. She was of slender build, wearing flowing robes, and had a prettily intelligent face and sharp eyes. "She mostly sits with the sixth and seventh years because they've a broader and more knowledgeable range of topics she can converse with them about. She's the intelligent sort."
When everyone had eaten as much as they dared, the remains of the food vanished, leaving golden plates and goblets that were just as clean as before the feast had started. A moment later, the desserts appeared - blocks of ice cream in every flavor imaginable, apple pies, treacle tarts, chocolate éclairs, doughnuts, trifle, pudding, all kinds of fruit, and even wiggling piles of different flavored Jell-O.
As Tristan helped himself to an éclair and passed the bowl of green Jell-O to Padma, who smiled in thanks, the talk turned to academics.
"My brother says that Transfiguration is difficult, and Professor McGonagall is strict," Anthony was saying as he picked out a trifle. "Fair, but strict."
"As long as she's a competent teacher," Lisa Turpin put in before spooning some strawberry ice cream into her mouth.
"She is, from what I've heard, and so is Professor Flitwick, our Head of House, and Professor Sprout, the Hufflepuff Head," Terry replied. "It's Professor Quirrell that's going to be a problem, my sister says."
Tristan swallowed the last of his éclair and said, "I met Professor Quirrell at the Leaky Cauldron when I went to get my supplies. Professor McGonagall said that he used to be good, but was traumatized by something during his leave two years back. Whatever happened, it's scared him good. He can't even talk without stuttering, and he looked frightened of just about everything."
"And don't forget Professor Snape, the Slytherin Head," Su Li added. "He's supposed to be pretty bad, too."
"Isn't he one of the wizarding world's top Potions Masters?" Padma asked, confused.
Tristan nodded; he'd read that, too. "But talent doesn't guarantee the ability to teach," he pointed out.
"Right," Kevin agreed. "Sometimes, it's the best who have a hard time teaching others. Mostly because it comes so easily to them that they don't understand how other people don't see it the way they do."
There were a few groans of disappointment. None of them wanted to be faced with an incompetent teacher, and the prospect of there being two to put up with... Tristan wasn't the only one who looked at the High Table just then. As it happened, Professors Snape and Quirrell were actually speaking to each other, and the coincidence of it had them smothering smiles.
"He really does look unpleasant," Padma noted softly. "Professor Snape, I mean."
In truth, the hook-nosed Professor was the only one Padma could have been talking about. While Professor Quirrell was jumpy, he had a baby-faced look to him that made him seem harmless, really, unlike the Potions teacher, who had sallow skin, greasy black hair, and a generally unpleasant air to him.
"I heard he doesn't even want to teach Potions," replied Anthony, just as quietly. "Rumor is that he wants Professor Quirrell's job. That's what everyone says. And that he knows a lot about the Dark Arts."
The way Anthony said those words sobered the mood at their end of the table. Privately, Tristan thought that what 'everyone' said was probably not the same as what Anthony's brother said, but it was easy to believe when one looked at the scowling man.
At last, the desserts too disappeared, and the Headmaster got up to his feet once more. He hardly needed to wait, for the Hall fell silent immediately, and Professor Dumbledore smiled before saying, "Ahem - just a few more words now that we are all fed and watered. I have a few start-of-term notices to give you. First years should note that the forest on the grounds is forbidden to all pupils. And a few of our older students would do to remember that as well."
Professor Dumbledore's twinkling eyes flickered to the Gryffindor table, but Tristan was too far away to notice the students being singled out. "I have also been asked by Mr. Filch, the caretaker, to remind you all that no magic should be used between classes in the corridors. Quidditch trials will be held in the second week of term. Anyone who is interested in playing for their House teams should contact Madam Hooch. And finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death."
Only a smattering of students laughed, many of them the younger years. Most of the older students looked puzzled and worried, and Tristan frowned. Was the Headmaster serious?
Kevin echoed the question to Roger, who shrugged, "He must be. It's strange, though, because he usually gives everyone reasons if we're not allowed places. The forest, for instance - everyone knows that it's full of dangerous beasts."
"Then why do they keep it instead of razing it to the ground?" Tristan asked.
Roger looked surprised, as if the idea had never occurred to him. "Why, it's always been here. For as long as Hogwarts has existed."
Tristan knew that, of course, from Hogwarts: A History, but he didn't think tradition meant more than the lives of several hundred children. He turned his attention back to the High Table just in time to see the back of Professor Quirrell's purple turban as the man in question turned to say something to the giant man from before.
A sharp, hot pain shot across a point on his forehead - with a hiss, Tristan clapped his hand to the point in reflex, drawing curious looks. The pain faded, gone as quickly as it had come, and he shook his head in confusion.
"Sudden headache, I think," he told the others, and they all nodded and turned their attentions away.
"And now, before we go to bed, let us sing the school song!" the Headmaster announced jovially, and Tristan noticed that some of the teachers' expressions had become rather stiff and fixed. Professor Dumbledore, who didn't seem to realize this, gave his wand a little flick, and a long golden ribbon came out of the end. It rose high above the tables and twisted, snakelike, into words. "Everyone pick your favorite tune, and off we go!"
And the school bellowed:
"Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please,
Whether we be old and bald
Or young with scabby knees,
Our heads could do with filling
With some interesting stuff,
For now they're bare and full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff,
So teach us things worth knowing,
Bring back what we've forgot,
Just do your best, we'll do the rest,
And until our brains all rot."
It was chaos.
Tristan, who had chosen to watch and listen instead of singing (due to the fact that his singing voice sounded like the dying honk of a flock of geese), now wished fervently for a pair of earmuffs. His piano tutor would have been absolutely mortified by the mutilation of music that was happening in this Hall. One could hardly even make out the words, since everyone was singing at the top of their lungs to different tunes, and some of these people had singing voices that made Tristan's sound like a choir of angels in comparison.
At last, thankfully, only a pair of red-haired twins were left singing to a slow funeral march. Professor Dumbledore conducted their last few lines with his wand and, when they had finished, he was one of those who clapped loudest of all.
"Ah, music," the Headmaster said, wiping his eyes. "A magic beyond all we do here! And now, bedtime. Off you trot!"
They all stood, the Ravenclaw first years following Penelope out of the Great Hall and up a marble staircase. Tristan was feeling quite full and, as a consequence, entirely too sleepy, and hardly had it in him to be surprised or even interested when Penelope led them through doorways hidden behind tapestries or illusions. They climbed more staircases, their feet dragging and their calves aching by the time they came to a halt in front of a large, oval-shaped mirror that was around two feet by seven feet at the widest and longest points.
"This is the entrance to the Ravenclaw common room and the dormitories that make up Ravenclaw Tower," Penelope told them all in a crisp tone. "To gain entry, you must state the password to the mirror - the password changes every week on Sunday morning, and the new password will be posted in the common room's notice board. Be sure to read and memorize it before heading out. This week's password is: sapientia."
The surface of the mirror rippled - and the glass disappeared, revealing the entrance to a large, airy room with a fireplace and many squashy armchairs. Penelope led the first years through, and Tristan paused to touch the wooden frame of the mirror before stepping in. The male fifth-year Prefect, a quiet boy named Lawrence Bradley, led the first year boys through one door as Penelope led the five girls through another. At the top of a spiral staircase, they found their beds at last: six four-posters hung with midnight blue, velvet curtains arranged at perfect intervals. Their trunks had already been brought up and placed at the foot of each bed; it didn't take long for them to figure out which trunk (and, by default, which bed) was theirs, after which they changed into their pyjamas and fell into bed.
Perhaps Tristan had eaten a bit too much, for he had the strangest dream that night. He was wearing Professor Quirrell's purple turban, which kept telling him that he should transfer to Slytherin at once because that was where he belonged. Tristan, of course, told it quite firmly that he would do no such thing, at which point the turban became heavier and heavier. He tried to get it off, but it became painfully tight - and there was his best mate Chris, laughing at him, which was strange because Chris knew nothing about magic. Then Chris shifted suddenly into an instructor at his primary school whom all the students had hated, and his laugh was high pitched and cold - and there was a burst of green light and Tristan woke, sweating and shaking.
He had barely opened his eyes and registered the pounding of his heart before his eyes were closed again and he was once more asleep. And when he woke the next day, Tristan didn't remember the dream at all.
As the students slept in their beds, a certain Headmaster was not quite as delighted as he had appeared only hours before. His mein was worried and pensive, his trademark twinkle gone from his eyes as he contemplated the list of first year students.
Fawkes trilled reassuringly from his perch, and Albus Dumbledore tried to smile. "Alas, dear friend, it seems I have made a terrible mistake."
Yes, placing young Harry Potter with the Dursleys had most definitely been a mistake - as Minerva had pointed out in her very best 'I told you so' tone earlier in August when Hagrid had brought the news. It had been Dumbledore's hope that the Dursleys would read the letter and understand, would take in their nephew despite the estrangement between Petunia Dursley and her sister, Lily Potter.
He had relied on his belief that there was good in everyone, and it had led to this.
The Dursleys hadn't even bothered to remember which orphanage they had left the boy at, and all the locating spells that the staff had cast weren't working. Harry Potter simply would not be found. Could not be found. The fact that his name wasn't even in the Book was alarming - it could mean one of three things: that Harry was dead, a squib, or out of the country, out of Hogwarts' jurisdiction.
Albus absolutely refused to believe the first. And if the last were true, then the school in question would have been bragging about their pupil in the news by now. The most likely assumption was that Harry Potter had somehow become a squib after Voldemort's attack - for his name had been present the day he was born. His eager parents had checked for that as soon as possible. And if he was a squib, that meant he was either with an unknown family, or still at the orphanage.
Dumbledore knew all too well what could happen at muggle orphanages, all too well what the blasted places had done to one of Hogwarts' most brilliant students. And more fool him for not helping the lad when he had begged so many times to not be sent back. That was a guilt he would carry for the rest of his life, and now, his decision ten years ago - what he had thought was the best at the time but seemed so foolish today - silently joined the old guilt and added more weight to his aged shoulders.
A.N. 2: For those of you wondering why the Hat knew nothing about Tristan being Harry Potter, I do have an explanation. Tristan doesn't know, so the Hat wouldn't see it in his mind, unless he dug around for memories from when Tristan was only a year old. Which, the Hat wouldn't do, because it has no reason to, and it's just looking for personality traits more than specific memories. I think it's a type of Legilimency - the Hat looks for specific things, not every little detail.
For those of you who are worried that Tristan will still end up doing exactly what Harry does in the book? Don't. The reason I started this fic was in retaliation to those fics who do this - place Harry in a completely different living environment and then have him react in exactly the same way as the original. I thought I could do better, and so...here it is. Some things will happen, because I believe in destiny, but a lot of things will be different as well. And I'm especially not going to make Harry friends with other people and have those people react exactly like Hermione and Ron would. That's just annoying, and a surprisingly common problem.