AN: I do not own Harry Potter. Thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter! Seeing you guys enjoy the story makes me love writing it even more, so make sure to keep those reviews coming! They don't all have to be all happy and uplifting, I really do appreciate all types of feedback, as long as it isn't baseless hating. This chapter is a bit longer than I thought it would be, but I wanted to make sure to include everything. It's also done a lot sooner than I expected, although that could be contributed to there not being ANYTHING ELSE to do. Everyone make sure to stay safe and healthy, and, as always, I hope you enjoy!
Chapter 4: Off to Hogwarts
Harry's last month at the orphanage wasn't fun. True, the children now chose to outright ignore Harry, casting him dirty looks whenever he walked by. No one forced him to do anything, or short at him – in fact, they didn't speak to him at all. Envious that Harry was getting away from the orphanage, they acted as though any chair with Harry in it were empty. Although this was an improvement in many ways, it did become a bit depressing after a while. 'Just one week and you'll be home. You'll never have to put up with them again.'
Harry kept to his room, with his new owl for company. He had bought her at Draco's request so that the two could send letters throughout the rest of the summer holidays. She was a beautiful Snowy Owl, with black spots lining her back. He had decided to call her Hedwig, a name he had found in A History of Magic. His schoolbooks were very interesting, and the other books he bought about the wizarding world were even more so. He lay on his bed reading late into the night, Hedwig swooping in and out of the open window with a new letter from Draco every night before going off to hunt. It was a good thing Mrs. Tuck didn't come in to vacuum anymore because Hedwig kept bringing back dead mice. Every night before he went to sleep, Harry ticked off another day on a piece of parchment he had pinned to the wall, counting down to September the first. Getting used to writing with quills had been a small challenge at first, but Harry was determined to make his mark in the world he was about to enter. Now, with only a few days until going to Hogwarts, Harry couldn't imagine going back to muggle stationery.
On the last day of August, he thought he'd better speak to Mrs. Tuck about getting to King's Cross station the next day, so he went down to her office where she was going over some paperwork at her desk. He cleared his throat to let her know he was there, and she jumped when recognized who was at the door.
"What can I do for you, Harry?" her voice was kind, but Harry could see the fear in her eyes. The fear that had been there since Thomas. 'She knows it was you. She knows you're a murderer.'
'Shut up! He forced me!'
'Yeah, but you enjoyed it.'
Harry had to shake his head to recollect his thoughts. Letting his conscience eat at him now wouldn't do him any good. "Er – I need to be at King's Cross tomorrow to – to go to school."
"Oh, of course, dear," replied Mrs. Tuck, who hurriedly rummaged around in her desk. "Here's some money for a cab, I'll call them right now and schedule him to pick you up tomorrow. What time do you need to leave?"
'Well someone is eager for me to get lost.' "Well, the train leaves at nine o'clock," Harry began, knowing full well that the train left at eleven, "so could I leave here at seven? I want to get there early to get a seat on the train."
"Of course, of course," the matron replied absentmindedly as she put a wad of pounds in Harry's hand. "This should cover your cab there as well as your cab back at the end of the year. Have a good term!" And with that, the nervous matron ushered Harry out of her office before closing the door behind him. Looking down at his hand, Harry couldn't help but smile. 'Well, that was easy.'
Harry woke at five o'clock the next morning and was too excited and nervous to go back to sleep. He got up and pulled on his jeans because he didn't want to walk into the station in his wizard's robes – he was getting there early enough, he'd change on the train. He checked his Hogwarts list yet again to make sure he had everything he needed. He looked towards Hedwig's cage and saw she was still out. He had sent a final letter to Draco the previous night – she was probably still out hunting. He paced the room, waiting for his bird to return so that he would have something to do.
As if his unspoken prayer was answered, Hedwig chose that moment to swoop into the room.
"Thanks, girl," Harry said to the owls as he stroked her feathers and gave her an owl treat. "I need you to go in your cage now, we're going to Hogwarts today!" Hedwig just hooted in response and flew over to her open cage, waiting for Harry to lock the cage door. Harry had felt weird talking to his owl at first. Originally, he had just done it because there was no one else to talk to. But once he realized that she could essentially understand everything he said, he slowly began to get accustomed to it.
At seven o'clock sharp, the taxi was waiting out in front of the orphanage. The only indication Harry gave of his departure was a simple "I'm leaving" to Mrs. Tuck before he walked out the orphanage for what he hoped was the last time.
Harry reached King's Cross at half-past eight. The cab driver dumped Harry's trunk onto a cart before collecting his fair and heading off. Wheeling into the station, Harry decided to use his extra pounds to get something to eat. He rarely ever had a good breakfast at the orphanage, and he wanted to use this opportunity to indulge. Finding a small café, Harry ordered a small, but nice, meal and sat down with one of his books.
At half-past ten, Harry finally began to make his way over towards platforms nine and ten. Remembering Dumbledore's instructions from a month prior, Harry was able to identify where the entrance to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters was located. But even if Dumbledore hadn't given him instructions, he would have found the platform thanks to the clearly wizarding family in front of him.
"– packed with Muggles, of course –" The speaker was a plump woman who was talking to four boys, all with flaming red hair. Each of them was pushing a trunk like Harry's in front of him, and one of them had an owl.
"Mum, Harry Potter is coming this year," the youngest redheaded boy was saying to his mother as all the other boys listened in. There was a small freckled girl as well, who at first appeared uninterested, but at the mention of Harry's name, she suddenly gained a heavy interest.
Harry took a step back, hoping none of them had noticed him listening to them. He went to smooth his hair over his scar when the small girl's head turned around and she immediately made eye contact with Harry. Her eyes widened and she just stood there with her mouth open. Harry panicked and quickly thought through his options. He could run, sure, but what kind of message would that send to everybody? Or, he could stay and deal with everyone's reaction. He'd have to shake a bunch of hands, and meet a bunch of people, and he really didn't want to go through all that.
But then it hit him.
Just as the girl seemed to regain her sense of presence and seemed primed to alert her mother, Harry brought a single finger to his lips and quietly shushed the girl. She seemed to stop in her tracks again, wanting to say something but also not wanting to disappoint Harry. Harry then smiled and waved at the girl, before smoothing his hair over his scar and shushing the girl once more. At this point she appeared to get the message, instead choosing to simply wave while ducking her head to hide the crimson blush that was quickly spreading over her face.
'Interesting. I wonder if there are others who respect me as much as that. I could always just ask people to quiet down.'
"I'm telling you, mum. Neville told me. They were only born a day or two apart, so Neville would know."
Harry could hear the boy saying something else, but he couldn't make out the exact words. He heard the boys' mother though.
"Ronald, you will not pester him! He has been through enough to have earned a break from people asking him about that night. You aren't to mention You-Know-Who to him at all!"
After waiting for the family to pass through the barrier, Harry stepped forward again. He pushed his trolly around and stared at the barrier. It looked very solid, but he had just seen six people walk – or rather run – straight through it.
He started to walk toward it. People jostled him on their way to platforms nine and ten. Harry walked more quickly – leaning forward on his cart, he broke into a heavy run – he wouldn't be able to stop now – the cart was getting out of control – he was a foot away – he closed his eyes and kept on running…and he opened his eyes.
A scarlet steam engine was waiting next to a platform packed with people. A sign overhead said Hogwarts Express, eleven o'clock. Harry looked behind him and saw a wrought-iron archway where the barrier had been, with the words Platform Nine and Three-Quarters on it. He had done it. He was home.
Smoke from the engine drifted over the heads of the chattering crowd, while cats of every color wound here and there between their legs. Owls hooted to one another in a disgruntled sort of way over the babble and the scraping of heavy trunks.
The first few carriages were already packed with students, some hanging out of the window to talk to their families, some fighting over seats. Harry pushed his cart off down the platform in search of an empty seat. He passed a round-faced boy who was saying, "Gran, I've lost my toad again."
"Oh, Neville," he heard the old woman sigh.
'That's the Neville kid that ginger was talking about? Maybe they both have mental issues.'
'Or maybe they're normal and you're the one with a mental issue. After all, they're not murderers. They've never killed anyone.'
'It's different here. I'm different here. It won't be like the orphanage. It's different here.'
A boy with dreadlocks was surrounded by a small crowd.
"Give us a look, Lee, go on."
The boy lifted the lid of a box in his arms, and the people around him shrieked and yelled as something inside poked out a long, hairy leg.
Harry pressed on through the crowd until he found an empty compartment near the end of the train. He was about to put Hedwig inside first when he heard a familiar voice.
"Harry! Over here!"
Looking up, Harry saw Draco, Lucius, and a blonde, regal looking woman standing outside the very last compartment of the train. Putting Hedwig back on his trolly, Harry began to walk over to his friend.
"Harry," Draco greeting again as Harry reached them. "This is my mother, Lady Malfoy."
'What do I do? Am I supposed to kiss her hand?'
"Hello, Harry. It's very nice to finally meet you. Draco has told us everything about you since that day in Diagon Alley. You seem to have made quite the impression."
Draco's mother smiled down at Harry, and he immediately knew why Draco had spoken so fondly of her in their letters. She had a warm, caring nature about her that Harry was instantly drawn to.
"Thank you, Lady Malfoy," Harry responded with a smile. "Although, I hope he hasn't told you everything."
"I would certainly hope not," came the voice of Lucius, who had decided to join the conversation. "He does have a reputation to uphold. Harry, always a pleasure."
"You as well, Lucius." 'I hope that sounded right.'
"Very good. Now, Narcissa, Harry, would you mind if I borrowed Draco for a moment? I wish to talk to him privately before the boys depart."
"Of course, dear, but be quick. The train leaves in fifteen minutes."
As Lucius walked around one of the pillars with Draco, Lady Malfoy turned to Harry and look at him with…was that sympathy in her eyes?
"Harry, Draco and Lucius mentioned that you have lived with muggles for the past ten years. They wouldn't go into much detail, but from what I can gather, it wasn't the most pleasant experience for you. It is not my place to ask you about your time there, nor is it my place to impose our lifestyle on you. But, should you ever not want to go back to the muggles, please know that Malfoy Manor's gates will always be open to you, should you desire it. You and Draco have seemed to have started what looks to be like a very promising friendship, and I truly hope this continues throughout your time at Hogwarts."
Harry was speechless. Tears were beginning to form in his eyes. 'I knew it. I would be accepted here. They want to be my friends. They want to help.' "Thank – thank you, Lady Malfoy. Really, you have no idea how much that means to me."
Lifting her hand to wipe a stray tear from his cheek, Lady Malfoy smiled at him. "Of course, Harry. And please, call me Narcissa."
Harry wished to continue talking to Narcissa, but Lucius chose that moment to return with Draco. "I assume we are all ready to go?"
"Of course, dear." Replied Narcissa. Redirecting her attention back to the boys, "You have everything you need, now. Please be safe and try to stay out of trouble. And don't forget to write."
"Yeah, yeah, mum. Can we please go now?" Draco was basically bouncing up and down with excitement.
"Come give me a hug, and then you can go."
Draco begrudgingly walked up to his mother, who enveloped him in a huge hug.
"Come now, did you truly think you could get away from me without a hug goodbye? You seriously underestimate your mother, Drakey."
Harry was clutching his sides in laughter, his friend's embarrassment being one of the funniest things he had seen all day. By the time Draco had managed to get away, his face was almost as red as that family's hair from earlier. He struggled against his mother's grasp until she finally let go, and he all but raced past Harry on his way to the train.
"Come on, Harry let's go."
Still laughing, Harry waved to the Malfoys. "Lucius, Narcissa, thank you again for everything. I look forward to seeing you again."
"You too, Harry," replied Lucius. "Have a wonderful semester."
"Let's go, Harry!" Draco was starting to get impatient.
By the time Harry and Draco had finished their banter, they had made their way through the crowds of people and into an empty compartment. People had pointed and whispered, but Harry had anticipated this and just barreled ahead. Once they were inside, Harry and Draco sat down on opposite sides of the compartment and let out a deep sigh. Draco was the first to break the silence.
"Thank Merlin they didn't follow us in here."
"I'm honestly used to it at this point. But I do thi-"
Whatever Harry had to say was abruptly cut off by the opening of the compartment door. Standing in the doorway was a girl about their age. She was already wearing her Hogwarts robes.
"Has anyone seen a toad? Neville's lost one," she said. She had a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth.
"We haven't seen one," snapped Draco immediately, who was annoyed he didn't get to finish hearing what Harry had to say. "Who would be stupid enough to bring a toad to Hogwarts, let alone lose one. Better question yet, who even are you?"
"Well, that's not a very nice thing to say, is it? Honestly, there's no need to be rude. Now, I'm Hermione Granger, and this is Neville Longbottom."
"Granger…" Draco said to himself mostly, looking thoughtful. He then turned his head back to the girl – Granger – with an accusing look in his eyes. "I haven't heard the name before."
Apparently, Granger didn't notice the ice in his tone. Her face adopted a proud look, and she happily stated that "That's because you haven't. I'm the first witch in my family."
If she was waiting for Harry or Draco to be impressed, she would have been waiting for a long time. Harry, who was indifferent on the subject other than his disdain for muggles, simply shrugged his shoulders. Draco, on the other hand, was full out glaring at the young girl. When Granger finally looked back towards the boys, she recoiled slightly at the look on Draco's face before the boy began to speak again.
"Oh, and I suppose that makes you special? You're not the only mudblood at this school, and I'm sure even they have more potential than you."
"Hey! That is a very rude thing to say! All we wanted was to see if you had seen Neville's toad, that's no reason not to act civilized at the very least!"
Harry, who was growing increasingly annoyed at the girl's presence, finally chose the moment to speak up. "You asked us if we've seen it, and we said no. Now leave."
Granger huffed indignantly before turning on her heel as she stormed out of the compartment. As the door slide closed behind her, Draco turned to Harry with a thankful look on his face.
"Thanks, Harry. I was beginning to lose it with that mudblood."
"Hah! Beginning? Draco, you looked like you were about to start yelling at the girl."
Draco shoved Harry from where he was sitting as he laughed. "Yeah, yeah, whatever."
A comfortable silence broke out between the two boys. They were well on their way to Hogwarts at this point, the countryside flashing by outside the window. Harry figured now was a good time to ditch the muggle garb, and put on his robes. Every now and then the two would make small talk, before returning to silence. Harry, who was still thinking on the encounter with the Granger girl an hour after the incident, broke it when he remembered something Draco had said.
"Hey, Draco?" The boy's head turned away from the window as he looked at Harry. "That name you called Granger – mudblood – what does it mean?"
Draco let out a sigh and leaned back in his seat. He ran his hand through his blond hair and looked at Harry. "Ah, geez. Sorry, Harry. I forget you were raised by muggles. Mudbloods…" Draco paused, not sure quite how to continue. "Mudblood is another word for Muggle-borns. Granger clearly didn't know I was insulting her."
"But why insult her? Does it really matter if someone is muggle-born or not?"
Draco just looked at Harry in utter shock. "Of course, it matters! Families like mine and yours have been around for hundreds of generations!"
"But why does that mean anything about you?"
If Draco was stunned before, he was beyond shocked at what Harry was now suggesting. He kept opening and closing as if to speak, but no words were coming out. Finally, he spoke.
"Harry, mudblood isn't a term for all muggle-borns. My family goes back hundreds of generations in the wizarding world, and I think yours goes back even further. Yes, we all originally descended from muggles. But muggles originally descended from apes. Even muggles are better than apes, that much is clear."
"Okay…" Harry responded, trying to make sense of what Draco was saying. "But why does that matter if someone is muggle-born or pureblood?"
"I'm getting there, Harry. Now, our families have been in the wizarding world for generations. She" he pointed violently at the door as if stabbing where Granger had just stood "is new in the wizarding world. She has to prove herself before I have any reason to respect her or her family name."
"I think I see," Harry began slowly. "So mudblood is a term for muggle-borns who haven't proven themselves?"
"Not exactly. It's so much more than that." Draco was clearly very invested in the conversation, his hands waiving all around the compartment. "There's nothing wrong with muggle-borns who come into the wizarding world and adapt, who truly want to join our world. But they always come in and try to change things up – traditions that have been in place for thousands of years, laws that go back to the time of Merlin. They come in with all their muggle ideas like 'Wizengamot seat should be voted on, not inherited' and then create their own views like 'dark magic is evil' and we all have to smile and wave and accept these things because Merlin forbid we offend them. We need to get rid of wizarding holidays because the muggle-borns don't understand. Instead, we should celebrate the muggle holidays."
Harry was completely blown away by Draco's rant. The boy in question was panting by the end of his tirade – his perfect blonde hair had even fallen in front of his face. Once Harry had taken everything in, and given Draco a moment to recover, he spoke up.
"Okay, I think I understand now. But then why did you call Granger that after talking with her just once."
"Did you see how she talked to us? She acted as if she was the most important person in the room like she knew more than us. She has no history in the wizarding world; we do. She should –"
But whatever Draco had to say was interrupted, once again by the opening of the compartment door. Standing in the doorway was the redheaded boy from earlier – the one who wouldn't shut up about Harry – and the toad boy. 'Neville. That's his name.' The ginger spoke first, although Harry was pretty sure Neville was incapable of speech in front of strangers.
"Is it true?" he began. "They're all saying Harry Potter is in this compartment."
Harry was completely taken aback. The Granger girl was one thing, but at least she had the decency to knock before inviting herself in. 'Shoot, what was his name? His mother said it on the platform.'
"You know, it's not very good manners to barge into someone's compartment." Harry began coolly. 'Ronald! That was is!' "It doesn't make a very good impression, now does it, Ronald."
Harry felt quite pleased with himself at the boy's shocked expression, highlighted by the reddening of his ears. Whatever he was about to say was put on hold, and Draco took the opportunity to pipe up from his spot in the compartment.
"You can never expect good manners from a Weasley, Harry. That's just stupid."
Weasley's entire face turned red at Draco's comment, however, he seemed to recover his ability to speak. "Wait, so you are Harry Potter? What are you sitting with him for, mate?"
''Mate'? Who the fuck does this kid think he is?' "Well, I was having a conversation. Can I help you with anything?"
Weasley clearly didn't notice the scathing tone of Harry's voice, as he kept on with his rehearsed speech. "I'm Ron Weasley, this is Neville Longbottom. We just wanted to know if you wanted to come to sit with us."
Harry was beyond stunned at the audacity of this kid. "Thank you very much," he ground out through gritted teeth, "but I'm happily sitting here, with my friend."
Weasley's eyes widened. "You're friends with him? But he's a Malfoy!"
Harry was mad at this point. Very mad. He stood up and faced Weasley. "I am very well aware of that. Now I've told you I don't want to sit you, and quite frankly, I don't want to be your 'Mate'." Harry pointed behind Weasley, into the corridor of the train. "Now leave."
Weasley's face matched his hair at this point, his mouth spluttering incoherently. Finally, he closed his mouth and glared at Harry. "Fine. Let's go, Neville." And with that, he stormed out of the compartment, Neville hot on his heels.
Just as the door was sliding closed behind the two boys, Granger decided to make her presence known again.
"Oh, good, you're already in your robes. I expect we will be arriving soon." And with that, she left, presumably to spread her enlightening wisdom with the next compartment.
'Of course I'm in my fucking robes. You think I want to look like a muggle.'
'She does. She wants to make the wizarding world like the muggle world.'
Harry sat slumped in his seat, feeling exhausted from the two encounters. Draco spoke, a grateful look on his face.
"Thanks, Harry. Sorry you had to deal with Weasley. He's a Gryffindor for sure."
"I just can't believe the nerve of some people. Wait, what do you mean he's a Gryffindor? We don't get sorted until we get to Hogwarts."
"I meant he's going to be in Gryffindor. That's where all the brash people like him go. Plus all his brothers are in Gryffindor."
"Jeez, I hope I'm not with him, that for sure. What house do you think you'll be in?"
"Slytherin." Draco puffed out his chest proudly. "All my family has for generations."
Harry grew nervous at this. Dumbledore had said both of his parents were in Gryffindor. 'If I have to share a room with Weasley for seven years I'm going to go insane.' "Does the sorting normally depend on families?"
Draco realized what he was saying, and quickly tried to backtrack. "No no no, not normally. It mostly depends on who you are, and since most families are similar, they go into that house. Although I think Potters have been pretty mixed between Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. No Slytherins yet though…"
Harry just sat back and looked out the window. The sun had almost completely fallen below the horizon, creating a nice landscape. Two more people joined the compartment, but Harry didn't even register their names. Apparently, they were friends of Draco, so that was good enough for Harry. Neither of them talked at all, instead choosing to grunt, and occasionally laugh, at whatever Draco said. This was completely fine with Harry, as he wanted to be left to his thoughts.
Soon, Hogsmeade station came into view. Harry had managed to work through all his thoughts and happily joined Draco as they made their way off the train. Only one thought remained, but Harry knew it would go away soon.