The Twisted Path
Rating: M (for violence/gore, language, and mild innuendos/sexual situations)
This story is based on characters and stories that are not owned by this author. I have no claim to any of it. There are minor quotations in this chapter from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Author's Note: This is my first story and I would appreciate feedback!
Chapter 1: An Unintended Consequence
July 28th, 1991
Minerva McGonagall was angry. Those who only had a passing familiarity with her might not be surprised at this, but it wasn't something that those who knew her well would expect. Despite her supposedly stern exterior, Minerva was in fact fairly even tempered. She even had a bit of a mischievous disposition at times. To get her truly angry actually took a great deal of work and provocation. But she was well past that line now.
Part of what was bothering her was this business with the Philosopher's Stone, which was, in her opinion, an exceptionally bad idea. This was not to say that she doubted the staff's ability to keep the stone safe, but some of the obstacles were far too dangerous to keep in a school for children. Beyond this, there was the risk of someone dangerous coming to get the stone, and the children getting caught in between.
But the stone was not the source of McGonagall's current distress. Her anger stemmed from this letter addressed to Harry Potter at THE CUPBOARD UNDER THE STAIRS. The stone was also not the Headmaster's current biggest problem. His current problem was her, Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall, who, having stormed into his office at Hogwarts, was giving him a glare that seemed about to burn him to ash.
"Harry Potter has not replied to any of his Hogwarts letters! Do you know why?" roared the head of Gryffindor house, before she continued on without any real pause. "Well I do! IT IS BECAUSE HIS 'FAMILY' IS DESTROYING THEM!"
"Surely not," said Dumbledore, who was clearly uncomfortable with this conversation, "I would think that if they did not care for the boy they would want him to leave."
Minerva's eyes narrowed abruptly. "How do you know they don't care for the boy?" she asked coldly.
Albus hung his head. "I am... aware of his situation. I did not intervene because I felt it might give some unscrupulous people, like a certain member of the Board of Governors, a chance to gain custody of the boy. Also there are protections in place at 4 Privet Drive that cannot be replicated elsewhere. But you must believe that I did not have any knowledge of his family trying to actively prevent him from attending Hogwarts."
Minerva took a moment to calm herself. Minerva was one of Albus' most ardent supporters, but this was very unlike him. Clearly there was more to this than Minerva understood, but the Headmaster was notoriously secretive about a select list of things. Harry Potter was definitely on that list.
"Albus, I told you they were the worst sort of Muggles. I went to their home. I saw them destroying the letters myself. They were laughing as they destroyed them in front of him!" shouted Minerva, her temper boiling again.
Albus closed his eyes, "Perhaps I have erred. It would not be the first time. It seems we will need a more personal touch."
Minerva seemed to soften a bit, "I'm glad you agree."
Albus nodded. "I will send Hagrid in a few days..."
"Hagrid is not the deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts," said Minerva sharply, "I will handle this. Tomorrow, as early as I can."
"Very well," agreed Albus. Minerva scoffed. She was more than capable of handling a few angry muggles.
Minerva turned to leave, still angry enough she hadn't said good day, when she turned back suddenly. "I know you say that you trust me. So why didn't you trust me about the boy Albus?" she asked sadly.
Albus looked her straight in the eyes, "My greatest fault has always been that I trust myself too much, and my friends too little."
Minerva looked at him blankly. "Good day Albus." And she left.
July 29th, 1991
Harry Potter was not having a good summer. First he had accidentally set a (talking!) python on his cousin Dudley at the zoo, and now these letters kept arriving. More came every day. All of them for him. And all of them were destroyed by his aunt and uncle before he could read them. Harry had no idea who could possibly want to contact him. He was, after all, just Harry Potter, the unwanted boy from Little Whinging. The whole affair had inspired his aunt and uncle to let him sleep in his cousin's spare bedroom. While it was an upgrade, the room had sort of become Dudley's junk heap. Sometimes he did miss the spiders in his old cupboard. They were better company than the Dursleys at least.
But at the same time it meant his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were noticing him more, which was never a good thing. He had tried to get some of the letters. He'd had several plans, which should have worked, considering how stupid his relatives were, but in the matter of denying Harry happiness the Dursley's had proven oddly industrious.
The truth was life at 4 Privet Drive was pretty boring, aside from the constant emotional abuse. It was a boring neighborhood, full of boring people. So Harry was glad something was happening, even if he was in the dark about what it was.
Right now he was preparing breakfast for his relatives, not his least favourite activity, but annoying considering how little he was given to eat. Vernon, while clearly exhausted, was beaming. "No Post on Sundays," he reminded them cheerfully as he spread marmalade on his newspapers "no damn letters today..."
A forceful knock was heard at the door. Vernon's face fell, as he seemed to realize he had been tempting fate. For a moment he seemed conflicted as to whether he should answer the door, or whether he should make Harry do it, but quickly sighed and got up. "Boy, stay here!" he said as he made his way to the door. Harry did as he was told, but positioned himself so he could hear as best as he could, earning him a scowl from his aunt.
"WHAT IS IT?" yelled Vernon as he jerked open the door.
"Mr. Dursley, I am Minerva McGonagall. I wish to speak with Harry Potter," said the voice of an older woman.
"HE IS NOT IN!" bellowed Vernon as he tried to slam the door shut. Harry did not hear it slam however.
"Mr. Dursley, I know you are lying. Let me in before I cause a scene much larger than the one you are causing right now," said McGonagall calmly.
There was silence for a moment before Vernon growled, "Fine," and allowed McGonagall into the house. In a moment she was in the kitchen offering Harry a kindly smile.
"Mr. Potter, would you care to join me in the living room? We have much to discuss."
Harry led her into the living room where they both took seats in opposing chairs. Vernon watched from the kitchen clearly not wanting to get too close, but wanting to keep an eye on what was happening.
McGonagall was wearing a very old fashioned dress and a long coat that almost looked like it was a robe. She was very severe looking, but Harry hadn't survived the Dursleys without being able to read people. Harry thought that her severity, while not wholly a ruse, seemed to cover up a more emotional core, though what emotions were likely to emerge worried Harry. In Harry's world, emotions were usually bad.
McGonagall started, "I am Minerva McGonagall, deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School. Have you heard of Hogwarts?"
Harry shook his head, "No ma'am."
McGonagall nodded as if it was expected. "Your parents attended Hogwarts, and were quite good students there. Head Boy and Head Girl actually. Were you told that about them?"
A surge of… something went through Harry when McGonagall mentioned his parents. "The only thing I know is that they were drunks who were killed in a car crash," replied Harry.
McGonagall's nostrils flared as she shot Vernon a death glare. "Lily and James Potter did NOT die in a car crash. Neither of them could even drive. And they certainly weren't drunks. They were heroes."
"You see," she said turning back to Harry, "The school's full name is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Your parents were a witch and a wizard."
"No way!" exclaimed Harry as Vernon screamed "HE WILL NOT..."
Vernon got no further because at that instant McGonagall waved her wand and turned Vernon into a pig. Cries of horror came from Dudley and Petunia in the kitchen. "Don't worry, I'll change him back," McGonagall said, visibly calming herself. She waved her wand again, transforming Vernon back. Vernon cowered, trying to hide himself behind a couch, while simultaneously trying to keep an eye on the elderly witch.
"Mr. Dursley," McGonagall warned, "Your horrendous treatment of him has stripped you of any right or say in what happens to Mr. Potter here. You will remain silent, or you will spend the rest of this day as a pig."
Vernon's mouth clamped shut, and he nodded, terrified.
"So... I'm a wizard ?" asked Harry hesitantly. It had been funny seeing his uncle turned into a more appropriate form, but he didn't dare laugh.
"Yes Harry,'' McGonagall said kindly, "Your parents were both quite powerful. Once you have been properly trained I believe you will be too." She handed him a letter, identical to those Vernon had destroyed.
"Professor?" started Harry, to a nod form McGonagall, "Do we get turned into pigs as punishment at Hogwarts?"
McGonagall smiled. "No, that's against the rules. I only did that to your uncle because I suspected he was about to become violent. But I shouldn't have. Your Uncle is not capable of defending himself from me."
Harry nodded, with a distinct lack of confidence, "This sounds fantastic, and I'd love to go, but I'm not sure how. I have no money, and I am sure my aunt and uncle won't pay for it"
"Well, tomorrow I am showing two new muggleborns Diagon Alley and explaining the basics of getting to Hogwarts to them. I would be willing to pick you up so that you could join their orientation. I think everything will be explained to you there," replied McGonagall.
Harry gave her a quizzical look. "Muggleborns? Diagon Alley?"
McGonagall shook her head. "A muggle is a non-magical person, so a muggleborn is the magical child of two non-magical people. Diagon Alley is our magical shopping district. Despite our close connection with the non magical world, it is imperative that you not mention magic to anyone who does not know about it. If you expose our world the consequences could be drastic."
Harry nodded again. "I'd love to come."
McGonagall smiled again, "I'll pick you up at half past eight." She stood up, clearly preparing to leave, but giving Vernon a pointed stare. "If anything happens to Harry while he is staying here, you will regret it enormously."
Vernon nodded wordlessly.
And with that McGonagall swept from the room, out the front door. Harry tried to see her out the window, but she was gone. Harry turned to see his relatives staring at him angrily. "I think I'll be in my room for the rest of the day." He fled upstairs immediately. He was sceptical, but he'd also seen uncle Vernon turned into a pig. And then he remembered when he had teleported to the roof of his school, turned his teacher's hair blue, and set a snake on Dudley. Maybe he was a wizard.
Harry read his letter and book list a dozen times that day, fantasizing about what his next day would be like. He went to sleep early, half wondering if he would wake in the morning only to discover that this was a dream.
July 30th, 1991
As Hermione Granger looked around she decided that The Leaky Cauldron probably wasn't the most impressive place to introduce muggleborn witches and wizards into the magical world. It was dingy, dirty, and decidedly disreputable looking. Though that might come in handy for turning away curious muggles, now that she thought about it. The other new student, Justin Finch-Fletchley, seemed slightly offended by his surroundings. He and his mother were both very dressed up. Hermione figured they came from a well-to-do family. Not that her family wasn't relatively well off as well. Her parents were dentists, and they made more than enough to get by on.
They were not the only people in the common room of the pub, but most of the other people seemed to take little interest in them. The bartender, Tom, was polite enough. But everyone else had been decidedly close-mouthed. She supposed they were worried about the Statute of Secrecy. Still Hermione was practically dancing in her seat. She wanted to learn more about magic, and the anticipation was killing her!
Suddenly a woman entered with a boy a little younger than Hermione. Hermione recognized the woman as Professor McGonagall, who had hand delivered her Hogwarts letter. Hermione had been impressed by McGonagall's no nonsense demeanour, and her powerful transfigurations. The boy, who seemed a bit small and scrawny, and was wearing what were clearly oversized hand-me-downs, looked at her and Justin warily. Hermione noted that he had a lightning shaped scar on his forehead amd had unruly black hair. His eyes were a brilliant green.
"Allow me to make introductions," began McGonagall, "Harry, this Justin Finch-Fletchley and his mother Jillian, while this is Hermione Granger and her parents Robert and Helen. Justin, Hermione, this is Harry Potter. His parents were magical, but he has been raised in the non-magical world, so I thought he would benefit from today's presentation."
Hermione realised that all of a sudden all noise in the pub had stopped. Tom was staring at Harry. "It's Harry Potter," he said as if he was stunned. All of a sudden, every single witch and wizard in the place was on their feet rushing towards Harry. Harry looked at them with sheer panic in his eyes. Luckily McGonagall quickly placed herself between Harry and the crowd.
"Excuse me!" she said over the crush, "Do you mind? Mr. Potter is here for his Hogwarts orientation, and does not need to be disturbed, thank you very much!" Surprisingly the wizards all retreated, most of them a bit shamefaced. Or perhaps it was not so surprising. Hermione didn't think she was the only one to find this woman's admonishments intimidating.
McGonagall looked at Harry apologetically, "I'm afraid your scar is quite recognizable," she said as if she hadn't announced his identity to the entire room.
Hermione took the opportunity to wave Harry into the seat next to her. She didn't know what all this was about, but one of her biggest hopes was that she would make some new friends in the wizarding world. She'd had barely any in the muggle world. While she was friendly by nature, she did have a tendency to alienate people she talked to, and she had become used to keeping her head down in class. Harry seemed to be shy as well. Might he have had some of the same problems she had?
Harry looked at McGonagall for confirmation, and when she nodded he sat down next to Hermione, extending his hand to her. "Pleased to meet you," he said.
"Likewise," said Hermione taking his had while showing a beaming smile.
"If you are ready I will begin the presentation," said McGonagall. "Feel free to ask questions. There will also be another orientation on the third of next month for the rest of the muggleborn first years, so if you have any questions that you think of after you leave I will be here all day then. If you purchase an owl of course you will be able to owl me any questions. However, I will strive to be as complete as I can regarding your preparations to attend Hogwarts."
McGonagall quickly went over a brief History of Hogwarts school and its educational aims. "Our primary purpose is to prepare every young witch or wizard for a career in the magical world. This means, unfortunately, that many muggle subjects are not offered. Mathematics for example is only offered as part of our Arithmancy course, which is an elective you can begin taking in third year."
Hermione frowned at that. She wanted the broadest possible education. She noticed that Harry seemed thoughtful about this announcement, while Justin seemed ecstatic (though his mother looked less than thrilled).
McGonagall continued, telling the students how they would reach Hogwarts: via the Hogwarts Express. She also explained how to enter platform 9 the hidden platform between platforms 9 and 10. She then went over the list of school supplies and which shops would carry each in the local magical market.
"All of these shops can be found at Diagon Alley, which, if you will all follow me, is this way," she said moving towards a back room. The assembled parents and students scrambled to their feet to follow her. In the back room she pulled out her wand and tapped out a pattern on the brick wall at the back of the small room. All of a sudden the wall opened up to reveal a bustling market street.
There was so much going on, much of it clearly magical, that it took a good while for everyone to give Professor McGonagall their attention again. Eventually she did manage it. "In order to shop in Diagon Alley you will need magical currency. You may exchange currency at Gringotts, which is the primary wizarding banking establishment." McGonagall led the way down the street.
"Gringotts is run by goblins, who are sentient magical creatures, but are not wizards themselves. DO NOT treat them in a condescending manner. DO NOT stare at them. And DO NOT insult them. They find smiles that show teeth as a sign of aggression, so try not to show your teeth. Treat them with respect and they will do the same to you. Treat them with disrespect and things will become unpleasant" McGonagall paused, then looked at the adults "One more thing, they will be more lenient with a child than they will be with an adult. So just because one of the students doesn't provoke an angry reaction, it doesn't mean that you won't."
She led them to a big white building, with short creatures wearing scarlet and gold uniforms guarding the doors. The creatures were clearly not human, but were short, dark skinned, and had long nimble looking fingers. Hermione looked away quickly so as not to be appearing to stare. She saw Harry give one of the goblins a solemn nod, and was surprised to see the goblin give him a nod back.
Inside the opulent marble sheathed lobby McGonagall stopped them. "That desk over there handles money changing. Harry, your parents left you a fair amount of money, but you will have to visit your vault to get it," She handed him a key, "That will give you admittance. Just go to that desk over there. Only older wizarding families usually have these sorts of vaults."
Hermione perked up at the mention of vaults. "Harry would it be all right with you if I came to see your vault? I'd love to see some more of this place."
Harry shrugged, "I certainly don't mind if your parents don't." A slightly worried smile came across his face. "Company would be welcome to be honest."
Hermione looked at her parents hopefully. They each gave the other a significant look. "As long as Professor McGonagall says it is safe," said her mother.
McGonagall nodded. "They will be under the supervision of the Gringotts staff the entire time. So long as they follow instructions they won't get into any trouble."
The Grangers sent Harry and Hermione off with instructions to obey the Gringotts staff and then joined the queue for the money changing station, which was quite long. Harry and Hermione walked right up to the desk of one of the vault managers. "Hello sir, my name is Harry Potter, and I would like to visit my vault," said Harry as he extended his key.
The Goblin looked at him with what appeared to be surprised. "A wizard with manners! What will we see next, a troll with brains?" The Goblin shook his head as he examined Harry's key. "Very well, this seems to be in order. Griphook!"
Another goblin appeared who led them into a back corridor. This room was a dim stone corridor which led to a small cart on a track. Like a minecart, thought Hermione. Griphook opened the cart and Harry and Hermione climbed in. Once Griphook was inside he shut the door and the cart took off.
Hermione immediately started regretting coming with Harry as the cart shot forward as if it were a roller coaster. It shot through intersections and track splits at full speed and with seemingly no input from Griphook. Hermione looked at Harry, who initially seemed a bit uneasy, but quickly seemed to adapt to the ride. Well if he could get used to this, she could too!
"So Griphook, what is the relationship between Gringotts and the wizards?" said Hermione as she tried to take her mind off the ride.
"Gringotts is the face of the Goblin people to the wizarding world," Griphook paused, as if he was wondering what he should say, "I would classify the relationship between goblins and wizards as strained. Despite the fact that we handle almost the entirety of the wizarding world's financial matters, the wizards treat us disrespectfully and distrust us. The Ministry of Magic limits where we can settle. The bulk of Goblins in Britain live under Gringotts or in similar mines across the country."
"That sounds like they are putting you on reservations!" said Hermione angrily, having momentarily forgotten her discomfort.
Griphook nodded. "A somewhat apt comparison. Though Native Americans or Australian Aborigines don't get to live in gold and diamond mines, so it is not entirely apt."
"Still, it sounds shameful!" huffed Hermione.
"Sounds like the Ministry is pretty short sighted," agreed Harry quietly, "If there's a crisis one would think the goblins and their financial prowess would be useful. I doubt that, given wizarding attitudes, your help would come cheap if things get bad."
Griphook gave a big grin which exposed his teeth. "It does not."
The cart ground to a halt outside one of the vaults. Griphook leapt out of the cart while Harry had to help Hermione keep her balance as she tried to adapt to not moving at breakneck speed. As they reached the door, Griphook inserted the key, and the door to the vault opened. Inside were piles of money; huge piles of gold, silver and bronze coins. It was more money than Hermione had ever seen in one place before. "Harry, you're rich!"
The boy had a dazed look in his eyes. "T-t-this is mine?" he asked Griphook. The Goblin just grinned toothlessly.
There were bags in the corner. As Harry grabbed one, Griphook explained the wizarding money system. "29 bronze knuts to the silver sickle, 17 sickles to the gold galleon."
"What's the exchange rate with pounds?" asked Hermione as Harry carefully counted money into his bags.
"Five pounds to the galleon," replied Griphook.
Hermione stared, "The gold in the galleons must be worth ten times that!"
"Did I mention that almost all wizards have to buy many groceries from muggle markets? Most of our business trades from galleons to pounds."
Hermione laughed. "You're making a killing!"
Harry had finished with the coins, and turned to Hermione. "I hope this doesn't make you think of me differently. I had no idea I had this money."
"I don't care about that Harry," said Hermione kindly.
Harry grinned. "Good," he said as they climbed back into the cart.
When they reached the lobby Hermione's parents were waiting for them. They said that McGonagall had gone to an ice cream shop named Florean Fortescue's, and Justin and his mother had already left to buy other things. Harry was a bit worried that he'd have to find his way around alone, but the Grangers gestured him along with them without really discussing it. Harry supposed they must have done so while he and Hermione had been in the vaults.
The trip was largely uneventful. Harry and Hermione were fitted for robes without incident, then they went to the apothecary where they grabbed cauldrons and potions ingredients. However it was once they reached Flourish and Blotts that things got interesting.
"A bookstore!" squealed Hermione racing inside. Harry had to run to catch up. Hermione's enthusiasm for books turned out to be infectious. Harry had always liked books, but years of living with the Dursley's had suppressed that somewhat. Faced with Hermione's obvious passion for reading, he allowed himself to get carried away as well. There were so many interesting books. He'd secretly withdrawn quite a bit more money than the amount McGonagall had recommended, so he was able to afford a number of very interesting looking books which he promised to Hermione he would loan to her once he was finished with them. Hermione herself got a few extras, including Hogwarts: A History, which seemed particularly useful.
"Why don't we stop for ice cream?" suggested Helen Granger after they left the bookstore.
Everyone agreed to this so they made their way to Florean Fortescue's. There was a bit of an argument when Robert tried to pay for Harry's ice cream, however Hermione managed to step in. "Believe me Dad, Harry can afford it. His parents left him a fortune!" she said.
"In that case I better keep you on his good side," he said with a suggestive smirk, "Gotta lock that down."
"DAD!" said a now red Hermione.
Harry just laughed, "I know your dad is just kidding," Harry assured Hermione as he paid for his ice cream.
"Damn!" said Robert in an exaggerated stagger.
"Language dear," his wife said, not unkindly.
As they went outside to eat their ice cream, they saw Professor McGonagall talking to a family of redheads. There was a kindly looking woman who was clearly the mother, with an older teenage son who was paying attention to the discussion his mother was having with McGonagall, two bored looking twins, a younger boy about Harry and Hermione's age who also looked bored, and an even younger girl. McGonagall waved Harry and the Grangers over. They set down their ice creams and followed her lead.
"These are the Weasleys. This is Molly," said McGonagall indicating the mother, "This young man is their third son Percy," indicating the oldest boy, "and these two are Fred and George..." she said indicating each twin.
"Hey! I'm Fred..." said the one she had called George.
"...and I'm George!" finished the twin she had called Fred.
McGonagall gave them a measured stare. "Are you really?"
"...we know our names."
"Well..." said McGonagall, clearly about to apologize.
"Don't bother Professor, they're lying," said the young girl.
McGonagall gave the twins a slightly darker glare, then turned back to Harry and the Grangers. "Where did I leave off there... oh yes Ronald here is starting Hogwarts this autumn with you two," she said to Harry and Hermione, indicating the youngest boy.
"And this young lady must be Ginevra," said McGonagall leading the girl to shout, "Ginny!"
"This is Robert and Helen Granger, and their daughter Hermione. They are here for muggleborn orientation. Tagging along with them today," McGonagall paused, "is Harry Potter."
The response from the Weasleys was astonishing. Molly clutched her hands together excitedly, Percy started, the twins did an overly elaborate double take, and Ron shouted "Blimey, Harry Potter!"
"Ronald keep you voice down," said Molly incredibly loudly.
Ginny on the other hand seemed to be paralysed. She couldn't seem to decide whether she wanted to stare at Harry or hide behind her family. She just stood there, trying, unsuccessfully, to speak.
"Why does everyone react that way when they hear my name?" asked a genuinely puzzled Harry.
"Seriously..." said Fred.
"...you're incredibly famous!" finished George.
"But why? No one has ever told me!" said Harry, getting a bit frustrated.
Ginny suddenly made a slight recovery from her paralysis. "It's because when the dark wizard who killed your parents tried to kill you he failed, and was killed himself instead."
Harry gasped as he turned to look at Ginny. Professor McGonagall half reached for him, but he stepped back. "My parents were murdered by a Dark Wizard?"
Ginny's face became a mask of abject horror as she realised what she had done. "GINNY!" yelled a very angry Molly. Ginny stepped back herself and looked like she was ready to run.
Despite Harry's shock, he managed to recover before Ginny had a chance to flee. "WAIT!" he yelled as he lunged forward and grabbed Ginny's hand. He looked her directly in the eyes, something he had never been comfortable with. Then he turned to her mother.
"Mrs. Weasley don't be angry," insisted Harry before turning back to Ginny. "No one has ever told me what happened to my parents, not honestly anyway. I was brought up believing they were drunks who died in a car crash. Thank you so much for telling me the truth Ginny. I really needed to know that "
Ginny blushed, and quickly broke eye contact with Harry. As he looked away Harry noticed out of the corner of his eye Hermione was trying hard to fight back tears.
"Well," said a soft voice Harry didn't recognize, "Minerva, the Weasleys and..."
Harry turned his head to see a man with a hooked nose and black greasy hair looking right into his eyes.
"Potter," the man said with a revulsion that made Harry shiver. Yet for one moment his eyes seemed to soften, before he turned his head to see holding Ginny's hand. His eyes went hard again. Now it was Harry's turn to blush dropping Ginny's hand.
"This," said McGonagall as she inserted herself partly between Harry and the man, "is Professor Severus Snape, the Hogwarts Potion Master, and Head of Slytherin House."
Harry offered his hand to the man, "I look forward to taking your class sir."
Snape looked at his hand for a moment then took it for exactly one downward shake. "I... will see you at Hogwarts," he said with uncertainty, "Minerva." With that he rushed away.
"That was odd, even for Severus," said McGonagall quietly.
"Eh, the slimy git..."
"...always has it out..."
"...for every non-Slytherin."
Molly and McGonagall glared at the twins, and were about to say something when Hermione broke in, "While I know you're about to give the twins a well deserved verbal thrashing, but I think Harry has some questions for you."
Harry gave Hermione weak smile as a way of thanking her. He'd been afraid the topic had been dropped, but wasn't able to muster up a lot of enthusiasm for it. The twins on the other hand were both nodding solemnly.
"I'm sorry," said Molly, "You're right Hermione, this is more important. We can deal with the twins later." The twins grimaced at that last bit.
"Who was this dark wizard who killed my parents? Why did he kill them? And how did I kill him?" asked Harry.
"Well, we don't like to say his name. Back during the war horrible things happened to people who said his name," explained Molly.
"You see, he placed a curse known as a Taboo on his name, which allowed him to hunt down those who dared use it," continued McGonagall, "Still that curse has long gone dormant. His name is Voldemort." She said the last name quietly as if she was afraid others would hear.
"Voldemort?" said Harry, not bothering to keep his voice down. The Weasley's and McGonagall all flinched.
"HEY!" said a witch at a nearby table, "Who do you think you are? Harry Potter?"
"Yes," said Harry frustratedly, looking right at the woman. The witch blanched as she looked at his forehead and quickly got up and left.
"Anyway," continued Molly, "You-Know-Who, was a pureblood supremacist, he believed only those descended from witches and wizards were worthy to wield magic."
McGonagall nodded, "Your mother was a muggleborn, so she would have always been a target to them, but in truth, James and Lily would have stood up to You-Know-Who regardless. They had a powerful sense of responsibility. They even fought with him several times. Eventually he decided to purposefully target them. On Halloween night of 1981 he came and murdered them. He tried to murder you too. His attempt left you that scar, but somehow he failed, and he hasn't been seen since. As for how you defeated him, no one knows. Even Albus Dumbledore, who is the greatest wizard of our age, has only guesses."
"Though Dumbledore's guesses are usually right," noted Molly.
"Everyone thinks that You-Know-Who has died, but Dumbledore is not so sure," said McGonagall, "Some fragment of him may have survived, though the fact that he has not re-appeared would indicate that he was very badly weakened."
"Since you survived, everyone assumes you did some powerful magic to stop him," said Ron, eager to get into the conversation.
"You've sort of become a national hero,"said Ginny shyly. At this Harry groaned, and rested his forehead on his hand.
"I'm just a normal kid. I was raised by muggles. I'm not a hero, off having adventures, unless you call sleeping in a cupboard an adventure!" snapped Harry.
Everyone stared at him. "I am going to..." started McGonagall before she managed to visibly calm herself again, "...make your aunt and uncle understand the depth of their mistakes."
"But let's talk about something more cheerful while you eat your ice cream," said Molly.
"How about Quidditch?" said Ron.
"Yes Quidditch!" agreed Ginny.
The twins nodded, "We're the Beaters..."
"...on the Gryffindor team."
The next 15 minutes were spent with the Weasley's explaining the rules of Quidditch to Harry and Hermione. Hermione seemed to get bored fairly quickly, but Harry thought a sport played on broomsticks sounded brilliant.
But then it was time for the Weasley's to go, and they made their goodbyes, with a "Glad to meet you Harry!" from Ginny, and a "See you at Hogwarts!" from Ron. The Grangers and Harry took their leave of McGonagall to finish their shopping. The rest of the trip was less eventful. The only other things of note were when Harry bought a large snowy owl at the owl shop and the reaction from Ollivander when Harry chose his wand.
"He told me my wand shared a core with Voldemort's!" he said to McGonagall when they returned to her.
McGonagall pursed her lips. "I will ask Albus about this, he may have something to say about it."
"It was great to meet you Harry!" said Hermione excitedly, as she and her parents prepared to leave.
"You take care of yourself," said Helen.
"If you have any problems with your relatives don't hesitate to call the police," advised Robert.
"It was great meeting all of you, I'll see you on the train Hermione," said Harry happily.
With that the Grangers left, though Hermione looked back at Harry and gave him a wave as he watched them go. He waved back, a little sadly.
"I'm sorry, but I will have to take you back to your relatives now," said McGonagall.
"When we get back to their house go directly to your room," instructed McGonagall, "I will need to have words with them."
When Harry got back to #4 Privet Drive he did in fact go to his room. He wasn't able to hear exactly what was said, but from the sound of the din coming from downstairs he supposed that was just as well. He put the scuffle going on out of his mind and began to take a look at his new school books.
September 1st, 1991
Hermione was thrilled when she saw Harry again at King's Cross Station. The smile on his face seemed to be genuine, something she almost couldn't believe. Before, every time one of her supposed friends had seen her studious side they had rejected her. But Harry had seen her practically salivating in the bookstore and he still wanted to be her friend!
"Let's find a compartment," he shouted over the noise of the crowd.
They made their way onto the train and found a compartment in the middle of the train. After putting up their luggage (putting Harry's owl, which he had named Hedwig after someone out of A History of Magic, up carefully) they began to discuss how they had spent the rest of their summer break.
"Did your relatives treat you all right the rest of the summer?" asked Hermione.
Harry nodded, "After McGonagall was done talking to them they were afraid to look at me funny. Other than that I'd rather not talk about them."
Hermione nodded in reply. She really wasn't sure what she was supposed to say to that. Soon the two were talking about what they had read in their various books. They were soon lost in the differences between Charms and Transfigurations, and the way different potion ingredients interacted. All of a sudden the door opened, and Fred, George and Ron were peeking in.
"Are you two related?" asked Fred.
"Or are you just looking for a place to kiss?" asked George. Hermione felt her cheeks heating up, and she saw Harry's cheeks turn scarlet.
Ron scowled, "Lay off 'em, they haven't done anything that deserves being teased by the likes of you two." Hermione suddenly felt grateful to Ron, even if she suspected that his primary motivation was not scaring off Harry Potter as a friend.
"Wait till you have a younger sibling at school, you'll be teasing them and their friends too," said George.
"Well maybe not, since if you try it with Ginny she'll probably hex your nose off," laughed Fred.
With that the twins left, leaving Ron alone with Harry and Hermione. "Uh, mind if I sit here?" he asked, as the train lurched into motion.
"Please!" said both Harry and Hermione.
Harry and Hermione were soon back to talking about their textbooks, leaving Ron bewildered. "Wait, you guys have already read your textbooks? Are you mental?"
Harry shook his head a bit. "It doesn't hurt to make a good first impression Ron. That way if you screw up later you get a bit of leeway."
Ron nodded, but didn't seem to want to join the conversation. Hermione guessed it wasn't fair to him to discuss things he had no idea about, so she asked him what he knew about magic.
"Well mind you, you aren't allowed to do magic at home while you are underage, so I haven't actually performed any magic," said Ron, "But Fred and George taught me a spell." He pulled out his wand, and what appeared to be a pet rat.
"Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow,
Turn this stupid, fat rat yellow."
"Are you sure that's a real spell?" asked Hermione, "Well it's not very good, is it? I've only tried a few simple spells for practice and it's all worked for me."
Ron's face turned red. Harry shook his head at Hermione and she realised that she had done something wrong. "Oh no, what did I do?"
"It sounded like you were putting Ron down. And bragging how you could do what he couldn't," said Harry.
"I'm sorry Ron," Hermione apologized, "I didn't mean it like that. I guess I did come off like a bit of a prat there."
Ron looked at her questioningly for a moment, then nodded. "I guess I can let it slide this time. But try not to insult me when you are explaining things, it's bloody annoying."
"Language Ron!" said Hermione reflexively.
Harry let out a laugh, and Hermione felt the tension go out of the compartment.
About an hour into the trip they had a visitor, right after they had a visit from the trolley witch. They were opening up Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans and Chocolate Frogs when a young wizard with slick blond hair and two hulking goons following him entered the compartment.
"I hear Harry Potter is on this train, have you seen him?" he asked.
Ron almost growled. Harry took his cue from that. "Who wants to know?"
The blonde wizard had a look of complete arrogance as he said, "Draco, Draco Malfoy. You must be Potter." He looked at Hermione and Ron. "What are you doing with these...people?"
"They're my friends. And I don't take kindly to them being insulted," said Harry as he stood up.
"Friends with a blood traitor? That's a laugh. I think the girl's a mudblood as well," said Draco
Ron shot to his feet. "WHAT DID YOU CALL HER?"
Hermione realised that this was getting out of hand. "Ron, hold it together! He isn't worth it, whatever he said!"
"I called you a mudblood, because your parents are filthy muggles!" said Draco as if nothing could touch him.
Ron looked like he was about to punch Malfoy, but Hermione held him back. "Thank you, that is quite the compliment," she said calmly.
Draco looked at her in shock. "Crazy mudblood doesn't even know it's an insult. Crabbe, Goyle, let's get out of here." And the three turned and left.
"Okay, that was brilliant," said Ron, "I don't know how you kept your head but thanks."
"It wasn't an insult to me," said Hermione, "I'm more concerned how he knew I was muggleborn."
"He knew I was on the train too, but we didn't talk to a lot of people on our way in," observed Harry, "I think he had a list of the new students to begin with."
Ron nodded. "His father is on the Board of Governors, he could get it for him."
"I hope I'm not in the same house as him," said Hermione resolutely.
"He'll almost certainly be in Slytherin," noted Ron, "The Slytherins are ambitious and always competing against each other for status. But the bulk of the pureblood bigots end up in that house. Not all of them I guess, but enough. Pretty much all of the powerful dark wizards come from there anyway."
"What house will you be in?" asked Harry.
"Gryffindor probably. Everyone in my family has been in there for ages including all five of my older brothers. Hermione here will probably be in Ravenclaw, she's so smart."
Hermione shook her head. "I'd rather be in Gryffindor. It was Albus Dumbledore's house!"
"Even Hufflepuff would be better than Slytherin," said Harry, "at least you'd have good friends."
"So Ron, why don't you tell us about your older brothers?" asked Hermione.
The rest of the trip went smoothly. Hermione was a little bored when Ron started talking about Quidditch again, but she had to admit she had never really liked any sports that much to begin with. Ron did seem to know a lot about the sport, so she supposed it was possible he would be a really great player.
Before they knew it they were at Hogsmeade station getting off the train to the sound of a huge man shouting "Firs' years, Firs' years!" As Harry passed him he gave a surprisingly high pitched yelp. "Harry, good ter see yeh again! Name's Hagrid. I knew yer parents when they were in school. We'll have ter have a spot o' tea and talk sometime."
Harry smiled, "I'd love to!" Hermione gripped his shoulder briefly, and he gave an appreciative smile. It was clear Harry was still a little in the dark about his parents. Hermione wondered if there was something she could do to help.
They were brought down to a lake where there was a small flotilla of boats. Harry and Ron quickly chose a boat, but Hermione was a bit reticent to follow them. Harry offered his hand to steady her and soon she was in the boat, which soon was zooming across the lake, driven by some magic. And there they saw Hogwarts, lit up in its full glory. It was, well, the only word Hermione could think of was magical.
The first trip through the castle was a bit of a blur. While the talking portraits, and ghosts and various other magical displays were impressive, what really stuck in her mind were the faces of her two friends (was she really thinking of Ronald Weasley as a friend?) at seeing this wonder. That she must have been mirroring their expressions made it even more memorable. For the very first time, she felt like she belonged.
The Great Hall was the most impressive place of all, with its enchanted ceiling. Stunned, Hermione tried to explain what the charm was doing, but Harry shook his head. "Only you'd try to analyse something like this Hermione. Never change." That caused her to blush a bit.
The sorting was apparently done by a battered old hat that would be placed upon their heads and yell out the name of the house they would go to. It seemed to take a varying amount of time with different people. Hermione did feel a little nervous when "Granger, Hermione" was called, but she tried to project confidence as she marched up to the stool at the front of the hall and sat down. As soon as the hat was set upon her head it began to talk to her. IN HER HEAD.
"Now that is a mind! You'd do very well in Ravenclaw. You have plenty of courage too, you'd do anything to help a friend, a natural Gryffindor. Hmmm, not used to lots of friends though, and your tendency to show off would probably put off the Hufflepuffs. Though your willingness to help others would offset that a bit. You do have ambitions, but you're a muggleborn. The Slytherins would eat you alive before you could learn to defend yourself."
"Gryffindor sounds fantastic. I heard Dumbledore was in Gryffindor, and he's the greatest wizard of the age." thought Hermione.
"Are you sure you wouldn't like Ravenclaw? With your mind there is no limit to the bounds of your ability. They would let you discover things beyond your wildest imagination."
Hermione considered. "There's no way Harry and Ron would get sorted into Ravenclaw. I guess I could do with or without Ron, but Harry is a natural Gryffindor. I really want to be sorted into the same House as Harry!"
The hat paused for a long moment. "I see that this is what you truly want. There is nothing wrong with this desire, and it may yet lead you on to better things. But I doubt you will thank me for this."
Harry was stunned, along with everyone else when the Sorting Hat shouted out the word Slytherin. Hermione's eyes had grown wide, and her mouth was open just a tiny bit. As McGonagall usher her towards the Slytherin table she had a blank expression on her face. She looked lost. Harry immediately knew something had gone very wrong. He looked at Ron and saw outrage clear on his face. But Harry didn't think he was mad about the injustice.
Hermione was trying to find someone to sit next to, but no one in Slytherin seemed to want her sitting next to them. Finally she just picked an empty seat, only for the people next to her to get up and move. Oh, it was bad, thought Harry. He had to do something, but he couldn't figure out what.
He'd stopped paying attention, and Ron had to poke him when "Potter, Harry" was called. This caused a small scene as everyone began to talk about him at once. But they all quieted when the hat was placed upon his head.
"What did you do to Hermione?" Harry immediately demanded.
"Unfortunately I cannot discuss another students sorting," replied the hat in his head, "I'll get right to the point. You could do well in any of these houses, but because someone has tampered with me I will have to put you in Slytherin."
"So all I have to do is tell them what you just said? Then Hermione and I will get resorted!"
"I can't discuss your sorting with the staff, my magic won't allow it." Harry rolled his eyes exasperatedly. Without the hat, would anyone believe him?
"Hermione asked to be in the same house as me, didn't she?" asked Harry as he looked at the clearly anxious girl. The Hat's silence was telling.
"No, she didn't just ask. It's what she really truly wanted wasn't it? Otherwise you could have sorted her elsewhere and just told her it was for her own good."
Harry felt the hat sigh. "Mr. Potter, in some ways you are her first friend ever. That can cause a great deal of loyalty between two people. But you already know that don't you?"
Harry nodded, "I don't care where you are being forced to sort me. Now that Hermione is in Slytherin I want to go there. She'll need my help, and I won't let her down."
"You have the bravery of a Gryffindor, and the loyalty of a Hufflepuff. Too bad I have to put you in SLYTHERIN!" The last word was spoken aloud.
Harry stepped down and headed to the Slytherin table as every single person in the hall stared at him in absolute shock. The old man at the centre of the head table whom Harry recognized from a Chocolate Frog card as Albus Dumbledore had a serious look on his face. Snape, the head of Slytherin, his house, looked murderous. Harry just walked down to the table and sat down next to Hermione.
"You didn't come to this house because of me, did you?" asked an uncertain Hermione.
"No, but you wanted to be sorted into the house I was in, didn't you?" asked Harry very softly. Hermione nodded with a slight blush.
"Well the Sorting Hat told me it had been bewitched. It had to put me into Slytherin. Didn't matter to me though. I'm not about to abandon a friend to a pit of snakes."
Harry reached under the table and took her hand discreetly. "Everything will be fine as long as we stick together." Hermione nodded as if his confidence gave her strength. Now if only he could believe it.
Author's Note: Edited for grammar.