Disclaimer: Nothing in the Harry Potter universe is mine.

AN: I know it took a while to get into writing again, and I am sorry for it, especially because I wanted to write but simply couldn't, for a few months I wasn't sure if I would be able to come back. This was in parts because of private matters, stress and angry moods and simply the year 2020 being as it was. And I needed the time to come to terms with separating creator from the creation. We fans took over long ago, it's ours, far more than hers. I love this fandom and I refuse to let one person – no matter who – destroy that for me.

So, thank you all for being patient, and for following, favouring and reviewing. This new chapter is for all of you.

I hope wherever you are, you are healthy and safe and take care of yourself and your loved ones.

As always thanks to my marvellous betas vichan and Cameron Lindsey.

Have fun reading.

On with the story.

Chapter 10: Classes begin

Harry wasn't even surprised when he opened his eyes to a dark and quiet room. He again had only a few hours of sleep behind him. Sighing, he turned on his back, listening to the soft sleeping sounds of the other occupants of the dorm. Apart from Crabbe or Goyle, that was; one of them was snoring worse than Ron ever had.

He counted himself lucky that he couldn't remember having a nightmare, but only getting a few hours of sleep when he had classes that day wasn't any better.

Classes as a Slytherin student.

Staring at the canopy of his four-poster bed Harry tried to quiet the chaos in his mind, but he had no luck. He never had been able to calm his thoughts; his mind just jumped from one jumbled thought to the other.

How would the students react?

How would the Slytherins behave in class?

Would they expect him to behave differently?

Would the teachers treat him differently now?

Would the teachers have different demands now that he was a snake instead of a lion? Gryffindor wasn't really known for their studiousness, not unless your name was Percy Weasley or Hermione Granger.

Oh, Merlin… Hermione.

How would he be able to survive classes without Hermione? And homework! Would they have different assignments in classes now that they weren't both Gryffindors?

He imagined himself sitting in the classroom, surrounded by Slytherins and couldn't prevent a small shudder. Would Snape allow him to sit with the Gryffindors? Certainly not. Perhaps if he arrived early enough, he could claim a seat in the back and not engage with anyone, but he didn't think that Zabini would let him. He wouldn't allow it if his behaviour so far was any indication, anyway.

And Malfoy…

Another shudder went through him at the thought of sitting beside Malfoy - even if a small voice told him that Malfoy had behaved rather neutrally thus far - while trying to listen to the professors. He had problems concentrating on classes in a hostile environment; like all his Potion classes thus far; his subconscious tried to keep track of Snape and Malfoy and… well, most of the hostile Slytherins. Sitting between people he didn't know all that well and had considered as enemies - okay, not enemies, but at least opponents up until a few days ago - well… there was nothing he could do to change that.

And speaking of Potions, how would Snape behave towards him now that his favourite victim for ridiculing and removing points was in his own house? Harry fervently hoped he wouldn't concentrate even more on Neville now; the poor guy didn't deserve that at all. And somehow Harry didn't believe that Snape, even after how he behaved since Harry's sorting, would – or rather – could change that much. He just couldn't see it happen.

There were certainties in life. The sun went up every morning, magic was real, Hermione Granger was the smartest witch of her age, and Snape bullied Harry whenever he could, especially in Potions class.

Somehow the thought of Snape berating him in Potions made him feel better. That was how it was. That was something he was used to - it was something normal and unchanged.

Harry snuggled under the blanket, hoping to sleep a little more. His eyes felt dry and his limbs heavy. Thankfully nothing hurt anymore; he only felt a little sore and so very tired. He definitely needed more sleep. He tried to only think about a typical Potions class. Snape would snap and call him a dunderhead - nothing new, business as usual. Funny enough, that helped focus his thoughts.

But sleep still wouldn't come. After endless shifting from side to side, he sighed and climbed out of bed.

The moment Harry stepped into the common room he had to smile as he caught sight of a blanket wrapped over the armchair he had used the last two mornings and a cup of hot, delicious, strong tea. Harry hoped it was tea, at least. Hot chocolate was fine too, but with how tired he was, something strong would be better.

As he settled down, Harry swore he would go to the kitchen within the next few days to thank the house elves. They had made him a perfectly strong cup of tea, with just the right amount of milk and sugar; it was exactly how he liked it. Content, he sipped his tea while watching the flickering shadows the fire produced. Yes, the common room still felt too wide and open, but he quite liked the bigger space compared to the lion's common room.

Even with all of Slytherin house present, the room hadn't felt too crowded the day before.

Harry let his mind wander, trying not to think of his upcoming classes, but rather of his talk with his godfather. The warm feeling Sirius' support had given him made him smile, as well as the constant support of Hermione and even the twins' behaviour. They hadn't treated him any different than they had before.

He knew it was difficult for Sirius; he understood it even better now that he had offered the explanation of his family, especially his brother. Harry also knew that Azkaban had damaged Sirius, especially his mind.

He hoped he could see him during Christmas break, but until then he swore to write him at least once a week to show him that he still was Harry, his godson, that Slytherin wouldn't – couldn't – change who he was. He wanted to deepen the relationship they had built over irregularly exchanged letters in the last year. Harry wasn't even sure who would need it more - Sirius or himself.

He was startled out of his thoughts when he heard footsteps and the Head Girl stepped into the room. He hadn't looked at the time since sitting down, but he had been sure that it had not even been four o'clock when he had woken up.

Blinking, he sought out the big clock on the mantel, which Harry was just now registering was adorned with snakes, realizing that it was after six now. Extracting himself from his blanket, Harry made his way back to his dorm to get his school things and freshen up.

As he opened the door, he realized that it was the first time that he was in the room with all of the occupants awake. If anybody had asked him how he thought the Slytherins behaved in the mornings before classes, it certainly wouldn't have been what he was seeing.

He took a step back to make sure he was in the right room.

Yes… yes, it was indeed the fifth year's dorm.

Opening the door all the way to step inside, Harry didn't even try to be quiet. It wasn't necessary for him to remain silent with all the noise the others were making. He made his way to his bed.

"Draco, I swear - if you took my favourite quill again, I'll switch out your shampoo with the stuff Lockhart used!" Nott was snarling loudly from his position at the foot of his bed. He was only half-dressed as he searched through his trunk. "And where the hell are my assignments for Potions and Transfiguration? Draco, I'm warning you..."

Harry was surprised that Nott was even awake; the day before he had gotten the impression that the boy was not a morning person. But if he looked at him now - shirt hanging out of his trousers, no shoes, no robes, hair looking rather similar to Harry's own typical bird's nest, only blinking shortly at him as Harry passed by -, actually, no… Nott was still not a morning person.

"Don't you dare!" came the slightly muffled answer from inside the curtains of the four-poster bed across from Harry's.

Harry sighed. Somehow, he wasn't even surprised that Malfoy was directly across from him. Across from Nott, Crabbe was lying spread out on his bed, already dressed but snoring – loudly. At least now he knew who of the two big guys that ruckus had been coming from. Goyle, sitting on his own bed beside Crabbe, seemed to be concentrated on closing his shirt, the buttons too small for his large hands and thick fingers.

As he stepped up to the bed beside his own, he was met with the sight of Zabini nearly crawling into his wardrobe, bare feet and trousered legs the only part of his body visible, and Harry could hear muttering in a combination of English and what sounded like Italian.

Before he could take another step, Zabini emerged from the depths of his wardrobe holding up a bright, multi-coloured sock. "Found you!" He saw Harry staring at him. "Oh - morning, Potter. Up early again?" He grinned at him. "First day of classes is always a little chaotic."

He gestured towards Nott, who had emptied all of the contents of his trunk onto the floor. This led to Goyle, who by now had finished dressing, stepping on something which gave way with a crunch, and he let out a pained grunt.

"Oh, Merlin and Morgana, Greg! Can't you look where you plant your big feet?" Nott snarled at him and held up what seemed to be the remains of a wooden figure before diving into the pile again. Profanities and curses came out of his mouth that would have made the twins either red-faced or proud.

Yes, Harry thought after a moment, definitely proud.

If Harry had uttered only one of the words Nott had used, Aunt Petunia would have washed out his mouth with soap before sending him into his room without food for at least a day.

Suddenly, the curtains of Malfoy's bed were pushed open, and a dishevelled and sleepy looking Malfoy stumbled out, hair in disarray and sticking out at odd angles. Still in his pyjamas, which were made of some kind of shimmering black and green material, he scowled in Nott's direction. "Don't you blame Greg when you are the one throwing your stuff around the room. It's not our fault that you are utterly incompetent in keeping your things in order." He swayed a little on his feet and yawned widely, obviously not completely awake. "And why the hell are you even making this ruckus? Some people would have loved to sleep a little longer!"

Nott's answer was muffled and cut off abruptly by him banging his head on the underside of his bed, which he had crawled under to retrieve whatever had disappeared beneath.

"Serves you right," Malfoy sneered and turned around to find Harry standing there. He blinked blearily, then his eyes went wide and Harry could see how he tried to find an appropriate reaction. But after a few moments, Malfoy merely shrugged and yawned. "Morning, Potter. Please excuse Nott. He always shows his inadequate upbringing before he's had his first tea." He then crawled under his blankets again, obviously set on ignoring everything and everyone else.

Harry wasn't sure how to react, instead choosing to say nothing and gather his bag and school supplies, all while trying to hide a small grin. The Slytherins weren't that different to the Gryffindors while in the safety of their dorm.

Zabini, who had managed to put on his sock as well as some shoes, followed Harry out of the room. "Don't mind them - especially Theo and Draco. Theo is just this unorganized, foul-mouthed and loud mess, especially before breakfast, and Draco… well... it takes a while for him to completely wake up."

Harry glanced at Zabini and couldn't suppress his grin. "Do I even want to know how long and what it takes to get Malfoy to transform into the slick and cold version that I'm used to?"

For a moment he regretted his choice of words, but then the other boy laughed lightly and shrugged.

"Normally I don't stay all that long in the dorm. It takes ages till he is awake enough to leave his bed for good. And then begins the pampering, which takes ages and varies each year, depending on what is in fashion in regard to hair, clothing, overall style, and so on. That just now -" He gestured with his thumb back towards the dorm. "- was Draco awake for the second time, perhaps even the third. He could at least form complete coherent sentences and was somehow polite. A freshly woken Draco is no better than a newly born dragon, though thankfully with fewer fangs and sparks flying around."

Harry snickered, remembering Norberta – at that time still Norbert – just after the dragon had hatched.

Harry's amusement dissipated on the way to the Great Hall. The moment they stepped out of the dungeons and met with other students, whispers followed him. Students sometimes stopped and waited until they walked past, regarding him with suspicious looks. A line of younger Ravenclaws hurried to form a tighter group as they caught sight of him.

Sighing, he sat down at the Slytherin table, determined to ignore them.

Breakfast was similar to the last few days. At one point, Nott appeared looking disgruntled, and promptly began muttering something into his bowl of porridge. The last one to appear was Malfoy, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle, and Harry marvelled at the difference between this Malfoy and the one he had last seen in the dorm. He was perfectly groomed, with not one hair out of place. His uniform robes looked freshly cleaned and pressed, and even his tie was knotted to perfection.

Glancing down at himself, Harry saw that his own tie was slightly crooked; he never had gotten the hang of it. Shrugging, he went back to his breakfast, ignoring the whispers and glances from the other tables. He somewhat passively wondered what the biggest point of gossip was - his sorting or whatever nonsense the Prophet had written.

Perhaps most of the school now really believed he was lying about what had happened at the graveyard. He was a Slytherin now - a slimy and lying snake. Not that snakes were slimy; the real ones, at least, were not.

"Don't pay them any mind." Greengrass settled across from him and filled her teacup. "Your sorting will be yesterday's news in a few days, especially now that classes are beginning. Nobody knows what to expect from the new Defence teacher, after all."

"Easy for you to say. I am pretty sure that most of them are assuming that I am a delusional liar or crazy and dangerous, now that I'm…" Harry cut himself off.

"A Slytherin?" Greengrass sent him a crooked smile. "I know the reputation our house has, and I did read the Prophet over the summer. It was very poorly done work on their part, if you ask me. It's disgusting to slander a teenager like that. Why didn't you sue them?" She looked at him in question.

Harry choked on a spoonful of porridge. "What?"

"You could sue them for slander. I assume they are using your name without your consent." She looked at him for affirmation and, after a wide-eyed and baffled Harry nodded, continued. "I must say I'm surprised that you didn't do this last year. Well, you are a minor and normally such things are handled by our parents... but your guardians would certainly allow you to contact a solicitor to handle that, right?"

Before Harry could formulate an answer, Snape approached their part of the table and started handing out the timetables for their year. Harry groaned silently when he saw that they first had double Transfiguration - only Slytherins - and then double Potions that day, which, as always, was a combined Gryffindor/Slytherin class.

He wasn't sure if he was prepared for his most hated class, which he would now get to see from the perspective of the side that Snape always favoured. And how was Professor McGonagall with the Slytherins? She was the Head of House Gryffindor, but Harry couldn't imagine the stern transfiguration teacher being as biased as Snape.

Someone clearing his throat made Harry realize that Snape hadn't continued on down the table and was instead standing behind him. He looked expectantly at him, inclined his head at the table where a small potions vial was standing beside Harry's breakfast bowl, and raised an eyebrow. Apparently, Harry was really not to be trusted to take his potions by himself.

Sighing, he was acutely aware of many eyes on him, especially from his own table – did all the Slytherins take childhood classes in observation without actually looking directly at whoever they were studying? He downed the potion – nourishment, if he remembered correctly – and washed the horrible taste down with a big gulp of his tea.

Snape nodded at him again and finally moved further down to distribute the timetables to the fourth years. Avoiding all inquiring glances, Harry finished his breakfast and decided to make his way early to their first class.

Hermione caught him at the entrance of the Great Hall, apparently having finished her breakfast, as well.

"We have Potions class together," she told him as they walked together out of the Great Hall.

"Just like every year, Gryffindors and Slytherins together. But for the first time I'm actually not all that unhappy about it," Harry said. "So at least I have some classes together with you. We have Care of Magical Creatures this afternoon, too."

"Did you see that Hagrid still isn't back?" Hermione asked and they both quickly looked back into the Great Hall to the teachers' table.

"Yes. I wonder what he's doing."

Hermione sent him one of her 'you-are-stupid' looks. "He is doing something for the old crowd - that's obvious." Then she glared at some Hufflepuffs in the entrance hall, who formed a tight group while looking at Harry with frightened, wide eyes, whispering harshly.

"What do you have first?" she asked after the group hurried away.


Another group of students exited the Great Hall behind them. Harry saw Ron talking with Neville and Dean, carefully not looking into his direction, and something squirmed in his stomach. Suddenly, he had an armful of Hermione.

"Hermione?" Harry asked into her hair, surprised.

"I… I just worry about you, Harry, with everything that has happened and now…" She released him and looked him into the eyes. "Now we're not in the tower together and we don't have classes together and with the hostile environment towards you, I just…" She huffed. "Be careful, Harry. I know that not all Slytherins are evil - you are a Slytherin, and you are the best person I know. But still… be careful and take care of yourself. You are my best friend and I know that you can look after yourself, but it seems like every time I'm not there with you something terrible happens."

Harry took her hands, which she was twisting in front of her, and smiled fondly at her. "You are my best friend, too." Her eyes softened at his words. "And I promise I will be careful and try to stay out of trouble as best as I can."

She nodded and squeezed his hands back. "See you in Potions."

Harry nodded and watched as she followed the Gryffindors, wishing he could do the same. Then he shouldered his bag and made his way to McGonagall's classroom.

Professor McGonagall spent the first fifteen minutes of her lesson lecturing them about the importance of their O.W.L.s.

"You cannot pass an O.W.L. without serious application, practice, and study. If you apply yourself, I don't see a reason you shouldn't achieve an O.W.L. in Transfiguration," she said grimly. Crabbe, sitting beside Nott, and Goyle, next to Greengrass, only stared at her in what Harry thought was disbelief... or else they were constipated. Harry wasn't sure.

Harry was sitting in a seat in the last row, closest to the door. It was one of the only seats where he wouldn't be completely surrounded by his classmates. He had arrived shortly before the other Slytherins and Professor McGonagall had nodded at him with a small uplift of her lips, which was practically a big smile from her.

Zabini frowned as he entered the classroom and saw Harry's seating choice, but he took the seat beside him without comment or question. Harry let his gaze wander over the classroom. It was so strange to see Malfoy's blond head sitting before him with the dark bob of Parkinson to the side, rather than Hermione's wild curls or Ron's red mob of hair.

"Today we shall start with Vanishing Spells. These are far easier than Conjuring Spells, but they are still among the most difficult magic you will be tested on." Professor McGonagall's voice cut through Harry's thoughts, forcing him to concentrate on the lesson again.

She was her usual stern and strict self. She did not tolerate nonsense in her classroom and Harry was glad to see that the Slytherins did at least respect her in her classroom. He was also relieved that there didn't seem to be major changes in her behaviour only because there were Slytherins sitting before her instead of her own Gryffindors.

It was confusing how similar and, at the same time, different classes as a Slytherin were.

Professor McGonagall took points from Parkinson when she whispered to Malfoy beside her, but she also gave points to Malfoy for managing to be the first one to vanish his practice snail. However, he did notice that instead of getting one of the rare smiles accompanying the points for the feat – as Hermione would often get – Professor McGonagall only nodded at him and turned to Goyle and admonished him for exploding his snail instead of vanishing, before working with him through the practical steps and the wand movement again. That could have been Seamus, or Ron, and Professor McGonagall would have behaved the same.

Yes, the atmosphere in the classroom was different, but Harry was sure that was due to the students and how they behaved; for the most part they were far more focused than what he was used to. But he was relieved to not see unfair treatment from one of his favourite professors and his former Head of House. He had always known that Professor McGonagall was stern and strict, but she was also fair and kind, even if it was in a rather reserved manner. Yes, she was competitive in Quidditch towards the other houses, but she also had reprimanded Moody – or Crouch in disguise, rather – after turning Malfoy into a ferret.

"Miss Bulstrode, in which class are we now?" the professor's voice cut through Harry's thoughts.

"Transfiguration," Bulstrode answered her quietly.

"And why, pray tell, are you attempting to carve runes into your snail?"

Bulstrode shrugged. "Thought that I could vanish it this way."

Professor McGonagall narrowed her eyes and Harry knew that look - hated that look, to be more accurate. It was the 'I-thought-better-of-you look,' and he had seen it directed towards him more than once.

"Miss Bulstrode, yes, it would be possible to vanish the snail while utilizing runes, but that is perhaps something you should ask Professor Babbling. And no, I don't want to discuss the benefits of runes again. We have had this discussion at the beginning of every school year so far."

Bulstrode muttered something that was too quiet for Harry to understand, sighed, and picked up her wand again. Professor McGonagall nodded and went to Davis next with a carefully schooled expression - a look Harry also recognized. It was the one she normally had when dealing with the twins.

"Now, Miss Davis, what did you do this time?" She sounded resigned.

Davis, who had twirled her wand above something on her table that Harry couldn't see, looked up and grinned.

"Oh, well, Professor... see, I tried the Vanishing Spell first, but I got distracted by the formula, because - see, if you change this part..." She scribbled something on the parchment before her. "... and then modify it here and here, you will get the exact same result but with far less magical input needed. You could even easily change it to do the opposite. In other words, you could accomplish vanishing and conjuring with the same formula. Why aren't we learning this?" Davis looked up at Professor McGonagall, who sighed.

"Because, Miss Davis, what you did is N.E.W.T. level Transfiguration. You first have to learn the basic and standard formula, which needs a little more magic, but not as much precision and therefore has a little more room for mistakes. To actually perform the spell as you suggest, you would need a profound and deep understanding of the formula, precise and absolute control over your magic, and the experience to concentrate on the small differences in the formula, all while keeping the original object and the desired outcome firmly in mind."

"But I can do that."

"Yes, but Miss Davis, but most of your classmates can't yet. Everyone learns at their own pace. So, as you have shown me that you understand the theory, please vanish your snail and then you may modify the formula in any way you want for the rest of the lecture. But please - no practical experiments before I have the chance to look over the changes."

Somehow Harry was sure that this was not the first time Professor McGonagall gave Davis this stipulation, and he was certain it wouldn't be the first and last time that Davis ignored it.

He shook his head, wondering what Hermione would make of his new housemate. The thought of what Hermione and Davis could do together made him unsure if it would be a good idea or a disastrous idea to introduce them to each other.

A loud bang followed by smoke made McGonagall rush through the classroom and Harry concentrated on his own snail again. He could almost forget that there were green ties surrounding him instead of red, which made it all the more confusing when he looked up and Zabini sent him a grin instead of Ron.

Everything was different while very much the same. It was disconcerting and made him feel unsettled.

And the next class was Potions.

With the Gryffindors.

AN: Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think.

First published: 18th of March 2021