Disclaimer: I don't own anything relating to Harry Potter, really. Don't sue me, please, I'm not worth the trouble. The basic plot is not mine, either. I found it in the first chapter of a story by the author Jeconais and saw that he had no intention of continuing it. Since he no longer wanted to write about it, something burned me into continuing, and hopefully finishing, what he started. I have been granted permission to use the basic plot. This is my humble attempt. I hope someone out there enjoys it.
Chapter I: Dramatic Entrance
The figure appeared on platform 9¾ in a normal enough fashion, but for the fact that the person now occupying the crowded platform was anything but normal. At nearly 6' tall and about as rigid as a slab of quick-dry cement, he looked nothing like the rest of the students sharing tear-filled goodbyes and boarding the Hogwart's Express. He wore a fitted black t-shirt and loose-cut jeans with black boots. An olive-drab canvas duffel bag was slung carelessly over his shoulder as if it were affected with a weightless charm.
His close-cropped thick black hair did nothing to cover the faint pink outline of a lightning bolt scar on his forehead, and his green eyes quickly scanned the area for threats with practiced ease. Train stations were highly dangerous, no matter how well-prepared one was. Klaxons were going off inside of his mind at every closed trunk and bag, he needed to enter the train quickly.
Striding purposefully towards the nearest door, he made it onto the train without getting too close to any potentially dangerous baggage. Come on, Harry. He reprimanded himself sternly. You didn't defeat Voldemort so you could worry about every eleven-year old's luggage that might or might not contain an explosive device. There's nothing to worry about here, this is not a combat zone. Relax. The Boy who Lived took a deep breath and went down the hall to find an empty cabin.
The second to last cabin was empty, so he shut the door behind him and slung his duffel onto the rack at head level. He took a seat next to the window and shut his eyes. Sleep was a commodity he had learned to hoard at every turn. You never knew when you'd be able to sleep next, in the War.
The War. Had it really ended? Harry had been fighting it as long as he could remember, training for that inevitable clash between Voldemort and himself. And now that he'd clashed and emerged victorious, his mind wouldn't believe that the danger was over. The train was a secure location, he knew could sleep here without wondering if he'd wake up. It had been so long since he'd felt safe anywhere, though. Even when he was asleep, the slightest disturbance in the area around him would snap him awake instantly. You couldn't afford to be out in the field and drowsy when it hit the fan. As he drifted off to sleep, his magic reached out and set up an alert perimeter so he would wake up when someone came through the door. His thoughts drifted as he progressively relaxed his senses so he could fall asleep in a busy environment. He closed his eyes and his head rested against the corner of the seat and the wall. His wand was tucked into a leather strap on his right forearm, ready at a moments notice.
It was how he was trained, the way he was raised. The finest minds in the wizarding world had honed him into a weapon, and his Godfather Sirius Black had shown him the meaning behind it. The man was as close to him as any father, although he was rather strict when it came to training. Harry respected the man immensely. He could say that about precious few people.
In his training, he had been pushed past any limits he thought he once had so that he would emerge victorious in the final showdown. His trainers had made sure that no effort was spared to give him every advantage in battle. Harry had risen to the challenge, and succeeded beyond all expectations. He knew more magic than any but the most skilled and educated wizards, he could fire eight stunners in eight different directions in less than a second. He'd been trained extensively in combat transfiguration, which he'd been told he was a genius in. His swordsmanship was second to none, thanks to an excellent Romanian master swordsman. More than a little brutal, but Harry had become incredibly resistant to physical attacks after training with Nicolai. He didn't use a wand to cast most of his spells, he only brought out his wand for particularly complex magic, or when he needed a little extra power behind his spell.
He was also taught a rare form of wandless transfiguration known as transmuting, in which he would take elements from one object and make them into something new and permanent. It was more specific and exponentially more difficult than normal transfiguration, in that you could only transmute something in equal proportions. He used it to make the firearms and edged weapons he employed in defeating the Dark Lord's personal guards.
All this training had shaped him into an important tool for the wizarding world. A tool that would be used to remove Voldemort from it. And so he had.
He had cut down Voldemort, but now what? His destiny was fulfilled less than one month ago, and he had no idea what to do with himself now. What good was a tool that had no more reason to be used? What was he going to do?
What good was all his training, now that he'd accomplished his ultimate goal. There were more dark wizards in the world, of course, but none of them would come out of hiding with Harry there. The defeat of Voldemort at the hands of a boy nearing 16 years old had sent, and was still sending, shockwaves through the wizarding world. A boy not even old enough to buy a bottle of Ogden's Finest had killed the most powerful dark wizard in recent memory.
Now he had been ordered to Hogwarts by his superiors. Why would they need a weapon like him at Hogwarts? Harry preferred his flat. It was quiet, he was never bothered and he could train to his hearts content. Hogwarts was full of people, little squeaky people that would be running and screaming and creating chaos if a battle broke out. His talents were practically useless in a place so crowded, and truth be told he was nervous.
His higher-ups hadn't given him anything comfort, either. His orders were simply to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. No objectives, no support, no intelligence. No map of the area and surrounding territory, and no contacts he could receive assistance from. They just told him to go. So he went, knowing full well that this school could teach him nothing he either didn't already know or didn't need to learn. Orders were orders, after all, and these ones didn't go against the ethical training he'd had. Still, he hated taking days off when physically and magically he was in top form. Days off ruined that fine edge, dulled him down. His instincts would run haywire, fraying from false alarms.
The sliding door to the cabin opened, interrupting his thoughts. Harry kept his eyes closed, keeping up the veneer of being asleep. He was quite good at it, and you could find out a great many things by simply listening when nobody thought you could hear. Over the general racket of the hallway, a male voice was audible. "-was packed this week! Fred and George brought their girlfriend's families over for supper, we had to extend the table to fit over twenty-"
The voice stopped abruptly as it entered the cabin. Shushing sounds were made, along with a hissed, "Ron!" Three sets of footsteps entered the cabin, then stood for a moment whispering in hushed voices.
"I've got to sit next to my girl, Gin. You sit next to the bloke in the corner." Came the male voice again.
A distinctly female voice countered, "I'm not sitting next to some boy I've never seen before, just so you can have a snog with your girl! No offense, 'Mione, but I think HE should go sit next to the stranger. He looks asleep, so he's already better company than half the male population of Hogwarts." There were snickers at this, along with a resigned sigh. Harry's cushion popped up a little as the weight of a body pushed down on the other end, jostling him slightly. More hushed hissing voices berated 'Ron,' who was now sitting next to him.
Small talk was made, and he found out that one of the girls was named 'Gin,' which had to be a nickname for something. 'Mione' was also, 'Herms,' which meant her name was probably Hermione, unless she had another syllable in there. He wasn't very good with names, it wasn't something he'd been trained for. Still, he felt a little sneaky pretending to be asleep like this.
These people weren't mission critical, he didn't need to speak to them to accomplish his tasks, but his primary mission parameters included engaging in extracurricular activities suitable for a wizard of his age. Speaking and being spoken to were most certainly within mission parameters. So his eyes snapped open.
He blinked once, then his green eyes remained open. He righted himself and looked around silently. All conversation in the cabin died. Harry was on the receiving end of three very curious stares.
'Ron' was wearing a bright red v-neck sweater with a very worn pair of denim jeans. Across from him, 'Mione' wore a long-sleeved white blouse and a sky blue pleated skirt that ended just above her knees. 'Gin' was wearing a faded dark green halter top and beige Capri pants.
The male was the first one to speak. He had a shock of flaming red hair, long enough to cover his ears, and spoke with brash confidence. "Wotcher, stranger. I don't think I've seen you before at Hogwarts. What house are you in?"
He'd been briefed on the house system at Hogwarts, but hadn't been sorted. Another strange custom he was looking forward to. "I have not been assigned a house." He answered simply, in the monotone that his voice had assumed after years of war. He'd been instructed from a very young age that emotion was for noncoms, a luxury that weapons could not afford.
"Right." The male said again, not looking as convinced as he sounded. "Well then, what's your name?"
Harry answered straight away, "Potter." This seemed easy enough. He didn't think he could manage the 'small talk' that noncoms seemed to master at an early age, but so far they were asking exceedingly simple questions.
He heard several collective gasps from the cabin. Apparently they'd heard of him, though it mattered little to Harry. His mission was nigh-impossible to compromise, unless another prominent dark wizard that Harry hadn't yet managed to kill suddenly appeared. Besides, he was engaging in suitable extracurricular activities.
"Potter, like ... Harry Potter?" The girl named 'Gin' said in a hushed, awed voice. All eyes were suddenly drawn to the lightning-bolt scar on his forehead, which had dulled to a light pink color after he defeated Voldemort.
"Affirmative." He answered. These noncoms seemed like fairly normal wizards, Harry hoped he would be able to converse with them on a somewhat regular basis. This was an adequately engaging activity for passing time. That, and the red-headed girl seemed familiar.
"Right..." came the reply from 'Ron.' "As if we've got Harry bloody Potter in our cabin." The boy pinched his own cheek hard and yelped in apparent shock. "Ouch! What's this, then?!" He asked no one in particular.
This noncom had an affinity for stating the obvious, it seemed.
After a moment of tangibly awkward silence, in which the two girls stared pointedly at 'Ron,' the girl known as 'Mione' offered, "So... what brings you to the Hogwarts Express, Mr. Potter?" She smiled a weak but genuine smile.
"I have been instructed to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and to engage in extracurricular activities suitable for a wizard of my age." Harry recited. That was his primary mission verbatim as it was given to him, and he saw no reason to withhold non-critical information from a noncom. Some things would have to be censored for security purposes, such as his secondary mission, but most anything he knew could be shared freely with the average witches and wizards who attended Hogwarts.
The green-eyed soldier quickly learned that 'Mione' was the only one of them that could effectively synthesize the information he provided, so he spoke exclusively to her when addressed by any of the group. Noncoms had their own language and syntax; it seemed startlingly different from what Harry had been taught. 'Mione' proved to be an able translator, and would doubtless prove invaluable in the future.
After fifteen minutes of pleasant discourse (more like a good-natured interrogation), the door slid open to reveal a tall boy with incredibly blond hair slicked straight back and an oily smirk seemingly etched onto his face. "Mudblood, Weasel, I've been sent to collect you for the Head Boy. He wants you in his cabin, and five minutes ago. Ginny, you're looking ravishing today." He licked his lips and fixed her with a strange stare. His shimmering gray shirt matched his eyes. It looked incredibly expensive, and far too profligate for use in a combat environment.
'Gin' shuddered visibly at this. "Go to hell, Malfoy."
The door rolled shut with an audible slam, and the occupants of the cabin said nearly in unison, "Greasy git..." They exchanged a knowing look, then burst out laughing. Harry blinked.
'Mione' and 'Ron' left as soon as the laughter died down, leaving Harry alone in the cabin with 'Gin.'
Harry wasn't bothered by this at all, but 'Gin' was exhibiting several outward signs of stress. Her knees were rubbing together, her hands were clasped tightly in front of her, and her gaze was constantly shifting from the floor to Harry, then back to the floor. His gaze never left her, as she was easily the most interesting entity in the room. A slight flush tinged her lightly freckled cheeks.
"What is your name?" The green-eyed boy asked, attempting to initiate a conversation. It was rather difficult to think of something to say, so he used a question they had already asked.
"Uhm... My name is Ginevra Weasley, Mr. Potter, sir." She said, then blushed furiously. "I mean, you can call me Ginny. My friends all call me Ginny. You probably don't want to be one of my friends, but... I mean, you're..." She trailed off, ducking her head so her brilliant red hair fell over her face.
"I'm Ginny." She finally said, after much debate. Her head remained ducked, and she squirmed under the supposed scrutiny of the Boy who Lived.
This behavior was strange, Harry decided. Certainly, none of his fellow soldiers had ever responded like this when asked for their name. What had caused this abnormal shift in behavior? She spoke to the other two people in the room with a casual air, but something in his actions or speech had created a substantial amount of distress for Ginny. What had he done? Surely he couldn't be so inadequate at this 'small talk' that he was causing her visible distress.
"Have I said something wrong?" Harry inquired in his signature monotone. He might as well have been saying that there was a good chance for rain the following morning.
Ginny shook her head, causing her hair to ripple in a shimmering cascade of filtered sunlight. "No, sir. It's just... you're Harry Potter. And you look really familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?" She asked quietly, peeking at his face through her fiery bangs.
Harry was about to ask another question when the door to the cabin slid open yet again. The blond-haired boy from earlier, 'Malfoy,' was back. A greasy smile was on his face as he drawled, "Well well, Ginny, it appears your numbers have dwindled. I'll help myself then." Without pause, the boy sat down next to Ginny and draped his arm around her shoulder.
"I wonder sometimes, why haven't we copulated yet? It's a perfectly logical match, you know." His hand quickly snaked along Ginny's collarbone towards her chest.
The red-headed witch balled up her fist and swung it up at Malfoy's face, hard, and the fist hit him square in the nose. Blood erupted from the impact, spraying the boy's expensive shirt. A howl of pain erupted from the bloodied wizard, who immediately shoved his hand into his pocket. There was a long, thin bulge there.
Wand. Harry didn't even need to ask, his reflexes took care of the rest. Before Malfoy could extricate his hand from his pants Harry had stood up. His leg whipped out and his heel landed solidly on the blond-haired boy's collarbone, his large black boot obstructing Ginny's view of the Draco's head. Malfoy screamed as several wet cracking sounds confirmed that his shoulder and collarbone were broken. Twisting quickly, the Boy Who Lived brought his boot across Draco's face, dislocating his jaw and sending him crashing into the corner of the cabin. It was over so fast that it seemed like a single blur.
Ginny was the youngest Weasley, and the only girl. She was intensely proud of her fearlessness, which was forged in the fires of hundreds of battles with larger and more male siblings. Eventually she reached the point where threats of violence no longer frightened her in the least. Through her pride, the sight of his eyes penetrated her veneer of haughty indifference as though it were dry parchment. These eyes belonged not to a student, but a killer who could end you without a spare glance. It was terrifying to behold.
His face was a granite mask, his jade eyes raged inside their stone prison. The contrast from what seemed only moments earlier was drastic. This was the very face of death, trapped within a 16 year old boy. Her heart was hammering in her chest, her breath hitched in her throat. There was nothing she would have liked more than to shrink to insignificance and disappear under the mere peripheral of his burning gaze. It was nigh impossible to believe that a boy's eyes could hold such certainty.
Then to see this boy with blazing eyes simply annihilate a man she loathed more than any other in a matter of perhaps two seconds, it was incredible. Rather than being afraid, she found herself oddly jealous of the magical power this boy possessed.
Without a sideways glance, Harry bound the young heir of Malfoy with invisible ropes and ripped the wand out of his expensive pocket. The well-stitched seam tore, but Ginny couldn't find it in her heart to feel sorry about it. Potter pocketed the wand and banished the would-be Casanova to the floor under the window of the cabin. Only then did he return to his seat.
It wouldn't be until near midnight that Ginny would realize that he hadn't used his wand at all during the ordeal.
His face once again passive, Harry returned his attention to Ginny and resumed the conversation where they left off. "I have not attended Hogwarts prior to this, and your face is not familiar to me. I do not think you know me."
Ginny looked put out at this, but nodded mutely. Harry asked another question. "Is Ron your blood relative? You have the same hair color and facial structure, and your speech patterns are very similar."
The readheaded girl sitting across from him nodded. "If you just asked whether Ron was my brother or not, the answer is yes. Do you have any 'blood relatives?'" She asked with a small smile on her face. Maybe she was getting somewhere. At least she asked a decent question of him this time.
Harry shook his head. "Negative. My parents were both killed when I was a year old, my Godfather Sirius took me in. My Aunt and Uncle on my mother's side were both killed along with their son Dudley in a freak lightning storm. I am not aware of any living blood relatives."
Ginny paled, her mind racing and her mouth struggling to keep up. "Oh I'm so sorry, I know about your parents and everything, of course we've all read the stories, and I can't believe I just asked you that, what was I thinking saying something so rude and callous-"
Normally, Harry Potter would be harshly reprimanded for interrupting someone. These were not normal circumstances, and this noncom appeared to be rambling about false presumptions. "Do not concern yourself, you did nothing wrong. I did not know my Aunt and Uncle, and my parents gave themselves to a worthy cause. They are honored among wizards for their sacrifice. I am very proud of them."
The redhead nodded, heaving a sigh of relief. "I don't know if anyone has said it yet, but thank you." She tried to sound cheerful, but Harry could tell it was forced. Her freckled forehead was visibly creased from the effort of smiling.
"For what?" Harry inquired, honestly curious.
"Well, for starters thanks for taking care of Voldemort for us. I really don't know what our lives would be like if you hadn't killed him." She smiled again, stretching out her slender hand. "So thank you."
Harry looked down at the hand, then extended his own and gripped her hand lightly. He pumped it up and down once, then released her. "No thanks are necessary, ma'am. I was just doing my job."
Ginny insisted, "Still, we are all really grateful to you. Ron has always wanted to meet you, he's a big fan of yours. You might have a friend already." She giggled just then, and Harry stared at her intently. He was captivated momentarily by her laughter. He'd never heard anything so genuine and carefree in his life. Was this what it meant to be a noncom, to be able to laugh like that?
Harry Potter pondered this as the cabin grew quiet once more. Ginny looked incredibly uncomfortable at the way the Boy Who Lived was staring at her. Strange. She broke the silence again, "So, what are you going to do, since you've defeated Voldemort?" It was a whisper, barely even there, but Harry heard it anyway.
He answered in his normal monotone, "I have my orders, Ms. Weasley. I have not been told the reason for why I am going to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but there is always a reason behind my orders."
She mumbled something incoherent, he couldn't make out what she said. "Repeat yourself, please." He asked respectfully.
"I said, 'Call me Ginny.'" Her eyes were unflinching and defiant, daring him to disobey her command.
After a moment's consideration, Harry nodded. "That is a reasonable request. Ginny." he appended on the end. He knit his brow in concentration, and the right side of his mouth turned upwards in an attempt to smile. He hadn't been taught how to smile by his superiors, weapons had no need of such frivolities. His mission seemed to dictate otherwise, now, and he was intent on training his muscles to perform this new and awkward task.
His hand sign for homeostasis, the state of being fed, warm, well-rested and satisfied, was making an L with his index finger and thumb and setting it horizontally along his lips. He was positive that noncoms would not recognize the gesture, although it was his closest approximation to a smile. Still, his secondary orders were to engage in extracurricular activities suitable for a wizard of his age, and smiling was certainly one of those activities from what he had gleaned so far. It would prove to be a difficult challenge. Perhaps these noncoms were not as simple as he had expected.
Ginny beamed at him, recognizing his attempt for what it was. "Not bad, Mr. Potter, but when you smile you should really use both sides of your mouth. And you should probably try to mean it as well. If you're happy, you should want to tell someone. That is what a real smile should be." She nodded her approval and giggled again. Harry tried harder, but couldn't for the life of him get both sides of his mouth to turn up at the same time. His mouth simply wasn't trained for things like that. Ginny found it hilarious.
It seemed foreign to Harry. There was no underlying goal causing her to smile at him, she simply did it because she could. He didn't know if he'd ever get used to being frivolous, but he was eager to try. His mission would always come first, after all.
After several minutes of grueling practice, the muscles in Harry's cheeks were burning. He hadn't provided a suitable smile yet, but his instructor was much easier on him than he would have expected. He was used to being punished for failing to meet a requirement, but Ginny simply asked him politely to try again. It was something he wasn't used to, but he felt motivated to learn how to smile properly. This gentle method of coaching seemed almost as effective as his pistol instructor breathing down his neck and screaming expletives at him.
He still hadn't quite got it by the time 'Ron' and 'Mione' came back, but he was making decent headway. The two prefects seemed exhausted as they collapsed heavily on their seats.
"Long meeting?" Ginny asked with a smirk on her face.
The exhausted pair glared at the redheaded 5th year icily, but remained silent. Then their eyes fell on the beaten, restrained and unconscious Draco Malfoy in their cabin. Surprisingly, they kept their silence and just gaped.
With perfect timing, an older woman pushing a cart opened the door to the cabin. "What'll you kids be havin' today?" She asked kindly, smiling at the familiar faces. "Good day to you, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and ..." She trailed off as she squinted at the new face. "Good heavens, child, you're the spitting image of-"
Ginny interjected, a mischievous look on her face. "You probably haven't been introduced. Dorothy, this is Harry Potter." She motioned towards the Boy Who Lived, and the serving lady's jaw dropped.
"Is there a problem, ma'am? I hope I am not inconveniencing you in any way." Harry said as contritely as he could manage. It still sounded like a monotone.
Dorothy shook her head mutely, then looked down at her serving cart. She rummaged around in it, her hands running over the stockpiles of treats in her possession. Biting her lip, she pulled out a bag full of chocolate frogs. Tears were in her somber eyes as she held it out towards Harry, but Harry refused. "Ma'am, I was not issued currency. I cannot accept this free of charge." He insisted.
The serving lady shook her head, suddenly finding her voice again. "Listen here, boy. My husband and son were murdered by that bastard during his first reign of terror, just because my Tim was a muggle." She bit the last word off, as if the memory of it still opened the wound on her heart, and smiled tenderly before continuing.
"I can never repay the debt I owe you, but please accept this small token of my gratitude. I'm sorry I can't give you anything more, the boss would have my job if I gave these out for free." She whispered as she held the bag of chocolate frogs out to the Boy Who Lived once more. "Please. Take it."
Harry looked down at the chocolate, deep in thought, and nodded. Taking the bag of sweets, he stared unflinchingly into the serving woman's eyes. "It was an honor to serve, Dorothy." He said quietly.
It was people like this that confirmed his resolve. He was a weapon, and he saved lives by taking others. This paradox existed, as surely as he himself existed, and Harry was eternally grateful for it. He had brought justice to an innocent man and his son, for a woman he now knew. His actions had avenged Dorothy, and both would never forget that as long as they lived.
After the serving lady left, there was a moment of silence in the cabin. The other occupants had realized just how much this black-haired boy had done in his short life. Ron and Ginny hadn't bought anything, but 'Mione' shared her ice mice and Bernie Bott's every flavor beans.
Harry Potter examined the strange article in his hand before opening it. There were a dozen frogs, either coated in or made of chocolate, hopping around inside the bag. He shut the bag again, quickly, and looked around for assistance. "What have I been given?" He asked the cabin.
'Mione' was the first to answer. "They're called Chocolate Frogs, Mr. Potter. They hop around, but they're just charmed. Grab one and bite into it!" She eagerly urged him on as the whole cabin watched in fascination.
The green-eyed 6th year had never indulged in chocolate. It played havoc on your glucose levels, spiking and then depleting your energy leves. That took precious time to replenish. Oranges were sweet, but natural sugar was infinitely better for his body than artificial confections like this. All the same, he had his orders.
Following the progress of the frogs through the narrow neck of the bag, Harry's hand dove in and ripped out a frog. Holding the squirming chocolate in his hand, he stretched one of its legs out and bit it off.
His tastebuds rejoiced as he slowly chewed on the frog leg. He decided, then and there, that he loved the chewy, sticky goodness of chocolate. It was amazing, coating the inside of his mouth with melted ecstasy. He bit the frog's head off, and the charmed chocolate went limp in his hand.
Unable to speak with his mouth full of chocolate, Harry offered the bag to the rest of his cabin. After a few half-hearted assurances, 'No, we're fine,' Ginny and Ron obediently took one. 'Mione' was still on her ice mice, so he set one aside for her in the bag as the sounds of eating replaced the sounds of talking.
Being a noncom doesn't seem so bad... Harry thought, chewing on the stomach of his frog. They engage in quiet discourse, eat chocolate and put up with the occasional arrogant boy. He was going for his wand, and his father was the second in command of Voldemort's forces, but he doesn't have the killer instinct. He doesn't have the glint in his eye, that hard edge that proves he's willing to do anything and everything to get what he wants. It's simply not there, but what does that mean?
He had given himself a lot to ponder, but now was not the time to do it. Filing the questions away for later tonight, Harry returned his full attention to the group before him. Discourse was alright, he decided, as long as they kept asking pointed questions. Open-ended questions had too many unknown social parameters for him to answer properly.
When Harry got off the Hogwarts Express, Draco Malfoy's unconscious body floated after him. He followed the directions to the carriages and deposited the blonde-haired boy in the first empty one he came across. His wand, however, remained in Harry's pocket. You could never be too careful when it came to hostile intentions, and wands were as hostile as weapons came.
After a short boat ride guided by the biggest man Harry had ever seen, the new first years stood in a line with an out-of-place sixth year while they impatiently waited to be sorted. Several of the children looked up at him in awe, some going so far as to ask for his autograph, but Harry was focused on the event on hand. He had no idea what test the sorting would spring on him, but he wanted to be prepared for everything. He wasn't afraid, far from it, but it never hurt to be prepared for every possibility.
Was it a tactical test, would he be required to instantly produce the best course of action in a given situation? Perhaps a test of his general or wizarding-specific knowledge? Would he be required to duel? All his life he had been taught to do whatever was necessary to win. How did he win this battle, when he didn't know what winning and losing entailed? He was understandably tense when the sorting hat finally called out, "Potter, Harry."
A hush fell over his captive audience as he marched up to the stool and sat on it. The sorting hat was placed over his head, and it fit quite well for such an old hat. A voice spoke inside his head, which startled Harry a little. 'Hmm... You would have been a difficult one, my boy. If you'd have been here in your first year I might have put you in Slytherin, but as it stands your actions speak thunderously. Always remember that it is by your actions that you are remembered. Congratulations, you were born to be in-'
"GRYFFINDOR!" The sorting hat yelled aloud, causing cheers to erupt from the crowd. "We got Potter!" came an exuberant shout from the Gryffindor table, which he promptly joined. Was that it? Put a hat on your head, and that's the test? His senses relaxed slightly, and he chided himself for his rigid thinking. It wasn't as if a failed test meant life or death at Hogwarts. Of course they wouldn't have anything too difficult for him, especially if it was supposed to be for first years.
His new house converged on him, shaking his hand and thanking him profusely and hugging him. He'd never been hugged by his peers, it was something that only Sirius had ever done before. It felt strange, of course, but also welcome. It meant he had a social group already. Perhaps it would be a learning experience he could deal with, if being a noncom was this devoid of stress. He had only had to fight once today, and that was an incredibly passive conflict. Two hits, and the boy was out. He would hopefully be little trouble in the future, due more to the psychological affects of the damage he had sustained than the physical.
And then there was that red-headed girl, Ginny, who said she recognized him from somewhere. He wouldn't tell her this, but she seemed intensely familiar as well. Something about the bridge of her nose, the curve of her jaw, the way her left eyebrow arched just a little higher than her right... They brought with them a strong sense of nostalgia, and Harry couldn't place it. Who was she? And more importantly, where would he ever have seen her before? He'd only been to Hogwarts a few times in his life, and all of the visits were short and business-related. He'd never interacted with the student populace. Still...
There was a huge gathering of people in the Gryffindor Common Room, perhaps this was one of those 'parties' he had heard about. His mission parameters were clear, but he didn't know if he could stand the sheer volume in the area for another minute. His ears couldn't be allowed to adapt to a higher decibel level, or his hearing would be inadequate for a length of time. So he retired to his dormitory to bunk in for a couple hours of sleep.
His bed was incredibly soft. In the field, you slept wherever the ground was, and it was much colder and harder than this. He couldn't get comfortable while lying on his back, especially not on a bed this unnaturally giving. To rectify the situation, he slid off of the red and gold sheets onto the bare granite floor below. He sat how he always sat: one knee resting on the cold stone and the other propped vertically, with his wand clasped in his off hand. This position was moderately comfortable, and allowed him maximum mobility on a moments notice. The granite was cool enough to prevent him from falling into too deep a sleep. If an intruder came into the room, he could roll away from an incoming curse, or he could stand to face his attacker, or he could simply put up a shield and use the fact that he was sitting to protect him from all manner of magical attack. When he was curled up like this, a single shield would cover his head and chest. The granite floor would absorb or deflect any stray curses, doing away with a second shield under the first one to protect his legs.
And it was in this position that morning found him.