Disclaimer: I do not claim anything in the Harry Potter universe as mine. Everything belongs to the magnificent J.K. Rowling. I merely want to play a little in this wonderful playground she built.
Warnings: Severus & Harry guardianship or mentorship, child abuse, bullying,
Summary: The Ministry letter after the Dementor attack has far greater consequences than everybody could have anticipated and at the start of his fifth year in Hogwarts Harry has to be sorted again. And this time there is no negotiating with the Sorting Hat.
AN: I should not start another story while working on my other two. But this plot bunny really did not want to leave me alone. I wrote it down and left it for weeks.
But it always came back and distracted me from my other fics. So, it grew, till I decided that I could at least publish the first chapter, to see how it will be received. As I am really don't know where this story will go (the background story is settled, but the main plot not) I will keep the right to change warnings etc when needed.
This story is not my priority in the moment, so updates will be slow and irregular but I really wanted the plot bunny out of my head.
I am grateful for questions, remarks, grammar and spelling corrections message, so review or PM me.
This is now beta'ed by the brilliant vichan and Cameron Lindsey, many many thanks and hugs to them. We will go over the already published chapters and then hopefully new ones will be coming!
Have fun reading.
Let's start the story.
Chapter 1: Consequences of a Ministry Letter
Harry Potter thought that his summer had finally taken a turn for the better. He had survived the Dementor attack, the shock from the Ministry letters, and the punishment from his Uncle and Aunt for nearly losing Dudley's soul – which would have been an improvement to his character, in Harry's opinion.
Vernon had been outraged because Petunia hadn't allowed him to throw Harry out after the letter from Dumbledore. Vernon normally preferred to use his fists, but for the first time since Harry started Hogwarts he had reached for the belt and had gotten even more furious when Harry's blood wound up on it.
As if I could have avoided it, Harry thought darkly, wincing as he felt the half-healed welts on his back sting with every move he made.
And even after Dementors had shown up on Privet Drive, Dumbledore hadn't decided to let Harry leave, but had left him there for another four days. It had been four long days locked in his room, complete with daily thrashings from Uncle Vernon and the bare minimum amount of food. By the fourth day, Harry had almost been wishing for a Death Eater attack.
Finally, someone arrived to get him. His relief had been quickly replaced by anger as he was confronted with the fact that his friends had been with his godfather since early summer. The entire time he had been stuck at the Dursleys, alone, with their unhelpful and uninformative letters, they had been at Grimmauld Place. That hadn't played out nicely.
Harry's frustration and anger were overwhelming. He was beyond frustrated at being left with the Dursleys, as well as the utter lack of information. The injustice of it all made him want to scream in fury. Without him they wouldn't even know that Voldemort was back. Harry was the one who had been tortured and had to fight for his life. And his reward? Being stuck with the Dursleys.
His lightning bolt scar tingled and prickled with pain on a daily basis, which also hadn't helped to lighten his mood. His nights were filled with nightmares. He had barely slept more than three or four hours a night since coming back for the summer holidays.
To add insult to injury, when he had arrived at Grimmauld Place he hadn't even seen Dumbledore himself. It seemed being attacked by Dementors, nearly being expelled from Hogwarts, and summoned to a disciplinary hearing wasn't worth his personal presence or any reassurance.
It was no wonder that Harry was in a dark mood and particularly bitter with Dumbledore. Yes, he had been at the trial and Harry was sure that without Dumbledore they would have found him guilty, but to his confusion and growing irritation, Dumbledore had not once looked at him or spoken with him.
He felt abandoned and tossed aside, like he was nothing more than a tool which had lost its usefulness.
The bullshit with the Daily Prophet - how they had painted him as a lunatic - only added fuel to the fire. Harry wasn't sure if he had felt anything other than acerbic anger for a while now.
But this - this was the icing on top of the cake.
It had started with the arrival of the annual Hogwarts letters on the last day of August. With the excitement that Ron had been made prefect, it had gone overlooked for a few moments that there wasn't a letter for Harry.
Everyone was confused, until Professor McGonagall had come through the fireplace with a letter in hand. It was addressed to Harry, in the typical green ink with the Hogwarts seal on it. McGonagall hadn't said anything but simply waved at him to open it.
The content confused Harry even more. It was the same letter he had received in first year, only with the fifth-year book list:
Dear Mr. Potter,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…
A letter of acceptance? Harry gave his head of house a questioning look.
"Am I understanding you correctly, Professor, that due to the over-enthusiastic Ministry, I really was falsely recorded as guilty before I even had my trial?" Harry snarled, looking at Professor McGonagall in exasperation, who was sitting with him at the kitchen table.
"Mr. Potter, due to the exceptional circumstances I will overlook the tone, but I recommend that you attempt to control your anger," Professor McGonagall said patiently. "And to answer your question - yes, that is exactly what has happened. The fact is that someone put your breach of the Degree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery due to performing a Patronus charm in a Muggle-inhabited area and in the presence of a Muggle down as a conviction. Instead of merely showing that you had been charged, that conviction declared you guilty"
"But that doesn't even make sense! Dudley is my cousin, he already knows about magic," Harry grumbled under his breath, which McGonagall thankfully ignored.
"The penalty for such an offence is the snapping of the wand and expulsion from Hogwarts. This was revised shortly after due to the interference from the Headmaster. Unfortunately, in this short time, the data bank of the jurisdiction registered you as convicted and updated the Hogwarts book of students, deleting your name from the list of students currently in attendance and adding it to the list of expelled students."
"And this can't be reversed?" Harry felt a little lightheaded.
"No, the systems are magically connected, and everything is automatically updated." McGonagall answered.
"So…" Harry did not know what he wanted to say.
"As you were acquitted at the trial, the expulsion was void. But it can't simply be reversed. Make no mistake, Mr. Potter, you are listed as a Hogwarts student. But you are not on the list of Gryffindor students. The magic of the book put you down as an unsorted student, like the first years. As the magic of the student book doesn't allow a sorting outside of the school year, we have to wait until September first to get you sorted again." McGonagall stood up, signalling that their conversation was about to come to an end. "I will take you aside when you arrive at Hogwarts. In the presence of the four Head of Houses and the Headmaster we will get you sorted - privately. Then you can join your friends at the Gryffindor table."
It sounded like McGonagall was sure that Harry would be in Gryffindor again, which is exactly why Harry was filled with an odd mixture of terror and fury.
It was exhausting.
"That is everything as of today, Mr. Potter. You will be informed if something changes. I wish you a good day, and pray you enjoy the remainder of your summer holidays. We will see each other on the first of September." McGonagall nodded to him and left through the fireplace.
Harry stood and walked upstairs - avoiding the room he and Ron shared - and went to the Black library instead. It still had not been cleaned out even though Harry spent a lot of his time there since arriving from Privet Drive. The room was dark, dusty and perfect for some solitude. Harry slipped inside, closed the door behind him and settled in an old armchair. Worry squeezed his stomach.
Harry wasn't so sure that the hat would sort him in Gryffindor this time around. The hat had been quite insistent that he belonged in Slytherin the first time, and Harry had argued with it until it had finally put him in Gryffindor. Harry had a terrible premonition that there would be no negotiating with the sorting hat again.
The uncertainty made him uneasy, and just a little queasy.
Harry had always known that he possessed Slytherin traits. It was impossible to grow up with the Dursleys without developing some cunning, not if one was to evade Vernon's worst moods.
His previous Hogwarts years and all the adventures they had had not diminished those traits.
In first year he had been happy but anxious to be sorted into Gryffindor with Ron. Harry hadn't been sure if he would fit in or not. He knew already from primary school that his homelife wasn't the same as other kids. He was not stupid - quite the contrary - and by the time he was five years old he had realized that the way the Dursleys did some things were definitely not normal.
He had observed the other kids in his dormitory and his house in order to adapt his behaviour, copying their mannerisms, trying to do what seemed to be expected of a typical Gryffindor. He didn't want to attract attention to his homelife.
It had been hard in the beginning. Harry had never been a loud or bold child like the majority of the Gryffindors. But he had learned, and he had played his part very well.
He had to play the part. He had known what was expected of him the moment he learned magic was real, when Hagrid had told him, full of awe and excitement, about Harry's fame.
The wizarding world expected a brave, cheeky and chivalric Gryffindor hero. They expected the Boy-Who-Lived and Harry made certain that they got what they wanted.
He had developed a routine which made it possible to hide the more prominent evidence that not everything was as everyone believed in the homelife of the Boy-Who-Lived.
He never showered with anyone else, always going before or after all the others. He always slept with the curtains closed and silencing charms, which he had learned in his first weeks at Hogwarts, around his bed. He never changed in front of his roommates or his Quidditch teammates. He was careful to wear a few layers of clothing, first because the castle was always cold and Harry was always freezing, and second to hide his too thin figure.
The Gryffindors had accepted and never questioned his behaviour. But what would happen if he really was sorted into another house?
His stomach twisted with worry.
This whole mess had started on the second of August, with the Dementor attack and the letters from the Ministry. Who could have predicted they would have such unexpected consequences? Harry remembered the moments after the attack quite clearly… his initial panic over the expulsion, Petunia's shaken expression, and Vernon's terrifying fury. The rest of that evening had been filled with pain.
Harry took in a deep, shaky breath, and glanced around the Black library for something to distract him from the memory of Vernon's belt. He stood and went to one of the walls of shelves, which were full of books Dumbledore surely wouldn't approve of and Harry hadn't dared to open before.
Another wave of anger swept through Harry at the thought of Dumbledore, and Harry plucked a book off the shelf just to spite the headmaster.
A few hours later Harry walked into the kitchen to find everyone already seated at the table. As he sat down next to Ron, the others looked at him expectantly.
"So what did Professor McGonagall want? And why did she bring your letter personally?" Ron was the one to voice the question everyone wanted to ask, while Mrs. Weasley placed plates and bowls full of food on the table. Ron's tone was carefully casual. Everyone was still wary of Harry's temper after his explosion shortly after arriving at Grimmauld Place.
"They discovered that the whole situation with the warning letters from the Ministry and the trial had further consequences," Harry explained.
"What consequences?" Sirius enquired. Harry had the suspicion that his godfather was not as happy as the others that he had been declared innocent. But Harry could also chalk that up to his imagination, influenced by his overall gloomy mood.
Harry sighed but decided to explain. "Someone in the ministry put my use of the Patronus charm down as a conviction and not a charge -"
"But this would mean you were guilty, and you hadn't even had your trial at this point!" Hermione interrupted. "And the punishment for that is being expelled from Hogwarts and your wand being snapped!"
Harry looked at her, slightly annoyed. "Yes, I know. Dumbledore -"
"Professor Dumbledore," Hermione corrected him, and Harry glared.
"Dumbledore got them to change that. But in the time between the first and second letters, I was convicted. The book that keeps track of every Hogwarts student erased my name from the student population. Something about magical updates and so on." Hermione opened her mouth to interrupt again but stopped at a fierce look from Harry.
"The expulsion can't be reversed, though since I was declared innocent I was put back in the book as a Hogwarts student, but like a first year - unsorted. At the start of the new school year, I will be sorted again." He saw Fred and George exchange worried glances.
Sirius looked rather grim, as he always did when the end of the summer and Hogwarts were mentioned. Harry could somehow understand this, when they left his godfather would be all alone in this dark and depressing house, which was full of bad memories for him. It was similar to Harry's situation with the Dursleys, but there he at least was allowed to go outside - at least most of the time.
Sirius was at that moment the only person that Harry felt could understand his anger at the whole situation, which helped him feel connected to his godfather. But he had at least hoped that Sirius would be happy for him not to be expelled.
Ron shrugged. "That's it? That's the reason you were brooding and moping for the last couple hours?" he said in disbelief. "Come on, Harry - you know that they will sort you right. The hat will declare you as a Gryffindor and everything will be like it should be. What are you so worried about?"
Mrs. Weasley nodded at this and set a pot with steamed carrots and a plate of mashed potatoes in front of Harry. "Eat, Harry. You still look peaky."
Harry didn't say anything more, he simply shrugged and put a small portion of food on his plate and slowly started eating. If Ron only knew.
Harry spent the rest of the day in the library. Thankfully the others had learned to leave him alone when he was in a particularly dark mood, which had been more often than not over the course of the summer. The worry of his upcoming sorting wasn't dissipating. It was far worse than the anxiety he had felt over his sorting in first year.
The difference was that now he knew what awaited him, which made it all the worse.
The probability of his being placed somewhere other than Gryffindor was actually quite high. If anything, his time at Hogwarts had fostered and encouraged some of his more Slytherin traits.
Harry was no fool and with his typical Potter luck, he would be sleeping in the same dorm as Draco Malfoy for the next three years. Wouldn't that be fun?
So he decided it better to be safe than sorry and prepare for the worst.
He had already spent much of his time in the Black library since he arrived at Grimmauld Place. He had felt completely helpless in the graveyard and when he thought back to all the dangerous situations, he had found himself in Hogwarts, he had realized that there had been too many times when he couldn't defend himself. It was time to study on his own.
The vast and old library helped tremendously. Harry devoured books about protection spells and wards and tried to read ahead for Defence against the Dark Arts.
After Ron and even Hermione complained that he sometimes disappeared for hours, Harry tried to spend time with them, but he felt somehow separated from his best friends.
The return of Voldemort and his nightmares from the graveyard resulted in him not being a delightful and happy companion these days.
The only person who still sought out his company was his godfather, and Harry was surprised to discover how proficient Sirius was in some subjects. Sirius told him that because of the many protective wards, spells and charms on the house, Harry was able to practice magic here without fear of the Ministry's Trace. Sirius helped him learn and practice, even introducing him to some darker hexes Harry was sure the others, especially Dumbledore, would not approve of.
Harry had even practised setting up protective wards based on a combination of ancient runes and spells, running them over and over until he was satisfied that they worked well enough. To his surprise, he had found that the subject of Ancient Runes was not as dry and difficult as he had once thought it was, and he actually rather liked it. So he studied it further, going as far as to look through Hermione's school books from the previous years.
Now armed with the knowledge that he could wind up in Slytherin, Harry snuck some of the most interesting and helpful but also rather dark books from the Black library into his trunk, hiding them under his invisibility cloak.
Sleep did not find him easily that night. He lay in his bed, Ron sleeping soundly in the other one, and worried about the next day.
Harry woke the next morning feeling groggy; it was far too early and all he could do was listen to Ron's snoring. His stomach felt uneasy and his scar prickled. Knowing that sleep would not come again, he got up and went to the loo. After washing his face with cold water, Harry examined himself in the mirror.
His face was pale, but his cheeks had finally lost some of the hollowness he always had after some time with the Dursleys. His green eyes were clouded with worry hidden behind the old dark-framed glasses. His black hair was even messier than normal. His scar looked red and slightly inflamed, a normal sight this summer.
All in all, he looked as exhausted as he felt.
He took a quick shower without looking at the scars and barely healed welts on his chest and back, and he went back to the bedroom. Ron continued to sleep.
Harry opened his trunk to search for clothes. They would return to Hogwarts today, and even if it was summer, Harry always froze in the Scottish Highlands. He slipped on a pair of thick woollen socks that Dobby had given him. Rummaging through his trunk he found some thick grey sweatpants he had bought in the summer before third year, when he had slipped unnoticed into Muggle London during his stay in the Leaky Cauldron.
It was saddening that clothes he had bought when he was thirteen still fit at fifteen.
Harry frowned as he examined his skinny figure. Even Mrs. Weasley's attempts at fattening him up over the last three weeks did nothing to change the fact that he still could count every single one of his ribs. Moreover, it seemed he hadn't grown even one inch since he had bought those clothes. He was still the height of a thirteen-year-old - a very small thirteen-year-old.
Harry sighed as he slipped on two tees and some old jeans from Dudley, which were without question big enough to fit over the sweatpants. A hoodie completed his outfit.
Then Harry started to pack his trunk. He knew, after four years of sharing a dorm with him that Ron could sleep through a thunderstorm, so he didn't even try to be quiet.
At around 7 am, Mrs. Weasley knocked at the door.
"Wake up, boys. Breakfast is ready, and I really hope you finished your packing."
Ron groaned and slowly opened his eyes, blinking at Harry. "Morning… how long have you up?" Yawning, he got out of bed and stretched.
Harry only shrugged. "A while," he answered evasively. He did not want to talk about his sleeping habits, or lack thereof. "Come on. Breakfast."
With the promise of food Ron was completely awake immediately and ran out of the room. Harry shook his head fondly. As irritated he had been with his friends this summer, he really hoped some things would never change.
The train ride to Hogwarts was uneventful. Ron and Hermione were in the prefect compartment most of the time, so Harry shared a compartment with Ginny, Neville and a classmate of Ginny from Ravenclaw, Luna Lovegood. Luna was a peculiar girl with long blond hair and big protuberant eyes that gave her a permanently surprised look, and she was interesting and funny. Harry rather liked her.
Malfoy and his cronies visited for their traditional attempt to stir up trouble, but he somehow seemed subdued, not quite his usual arrogant self. Harry thought it could have something to do with, Malfoy knowing, without a doubt, that Voldemort was back. His father had been at the graveyard, after all. Perhaps even a stuck-up pure-blood wasn't happy with having a mad, homicidal, megalomaniac back from the dead.
All thoughts of Malfoy vanished as the train approached Hogwarts, the trepidation over his upcoming sorting drowning all thoughts of his blond classmate.
He was startled to see it was Professor Grubbly-Plank instead of Hagrid who gathered the first years. Where was Hagrid? Did something happen?
He followed his friends to the carriages but stopped in shock. The normally horseless carriages were not horseless anymore. They were drawn by some sort of winged horses.
The horses were completely skeletal, their black coats clinging to their ribs, and there was something reptilian about them. They had vast, black leathery wings and a dragon-like head with white, pupilless eyes. Somehow, their presence felt like a gloomy omen, especially when he realized that neither Ron nor Hermione could see them.
Luna's cheery acknowledgment of their existence and her assurance that he was as sane as she was did not help in banishing the eerie feeling.
The moment Harry stepped into the entrance hall of Hogwarts, Professor McGonagall rushed him away from the others and into the antechamber of the Great Hall where the Triwizard champions had gathered the previous year.
Professor Dumbledore and the other three Head of Houses were already present. The Headmaster had his grandfatherly smile on his face but still did not look Harry in the eyes. Professor Flitwick and Professor Sprout gave him light smiles, but Professor Snape only sneered.
Harry wished they weren't present for this. He felt exposed.
Something must have shown on his face because Professor McGonagall looked at him and placated him with an explanation. "The sorting is only valid if the Headmaster and all four of the Heads of Houses are present," she said. "This will be over shortly. Please sit down, Mr Potter." She gestured to the three-legged stool with the familiar battered, old hat with its patches already in hand.
Harry chewed on his lower lip in worry but sat down. Professor McGonagall placed the hat on his head. It was still too big and slipped down over his eyes.
"Mmh… ah, Mr Potter! A pleasure to see your mind again," the small voice in his head said. "A real pleasure. Seldom do I have the chance to have more than one look into such an interesting mind. Still plenty of courage, but how you apply that courage has somewhat changed. I am not sure if you are still suited to Gryffindor. But... oh - that thirst to prove yourself… to show the world that you are more than just your title… I know exactly where I will put you this time."
Dread filled Harry. "Please - Gryffindor. Not Slytherin."
"Oh no, Mr. Potter. Gryffindor is not the right place for you anymore - not at all. You would have fared well in Slytherin from the beginning, if you only would have allowed me to do my job. This time I will put you into your real house, where you belonged in your first year. "
"But Slytherin isn't the right house," Harry insisted. "They hate me, and a lot of them are from Death Eater families. I would not survive a week there. Do you want me to die?"
"Don't be afraid. I am linked to the magic of Hogwarts and I know the mindsets of all the students and staff in this school. Slytherin will do you good and you will do good for Slytherin. Slytherin is your true house, and you need the Slytherin students as much as they need you. Slytherins protect their own."
"No, I will not yield. This time there will be no negotiations. I'm sure… SLYTHERIN!"
The last part the hat announced aloud. Harry heard someone gasp, but as the hat was still covering his eyes, he couldn't see who it was. Harry couldn't move. He was frozen and was still processing exactly what had happened.
His worst nightmare since he first learned of his re-sorting had become reality.
AN: Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think.
Many thanks to vichan and Cameron Lindsey for helping to improve my grammar and spelling.
First published: 21st of August 2018
Last edited: 30th of January 2019