Chapter 1: Freedom and Friends

Harry sat alone, staring out the window at the passing scenery. There was so much green; so many trees and bushes. It was almost a shock to see there was more to the world other than Privet Drive.

Sighing, Harry leaned his head against the window. The cold glass was a relief to his heated skin. He was so tired; so sore. He wanted so bad to close his eyes and rest, to fall into a healing sleep, but he didn't want to miss a second of the view outside the window. With every passing tree, he was that much closer to his freedom, and he didn't want to waste the experience by closing his eyes.

The compartment door sliding open had Harry sitting up fast, a wary expression on his face as he watched a mop of red hair poke in.

"Mind if I sit down? All the others are full." The boy was tall and gangly. Freckles adorned the boys face, giving off an almost friendly appearance.

Harry eyed the boy suspiciously - even the friendliest could turn out to be cruel, but he nodded anyway. It was usually best to agree rather than risk angering a person by saying no; he learned that lesson long ago.

The red head sat down and immediately stuck his hand out towards Harry. "Ron Weasley." he said, gripping Harry's hand tight as he shook it. "This is my pet rat, Scabbers. Bit sorry lookin', isn't he?" He held up his other hand, indicating the rat before placing him back on his lap. "He isn't really my rat, he was my brother Percy's first, but mum got him an owl for making Prefect, so I got the rat instead."

Harry blinked as he tried to follow what the boy said. The words had been rushed, and with his head turned down to look at the rat, Harry couldn't see his lips. He had no clue what had been said, and didn't know how to ask the red head to repeat himself.

"My brothers, Fred and George, gave me a spell as to turn him yellow. Wanna see?" Ron asked, this time looking right at Harry.

His expression was full of eagerness.

Harry gave a small smile and nodded his head.

This was why he was here wasn't it? To become a wizard and learn spells - though if his relatives had anything to say about it, he wouldn't be here. He very nearly wasn't. His Uncle Vernon had made sure the night before that he would be far from enjoying his first week at Hogwarts, the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

But despite the pain he was in, Harry was determined to enjoy every moment away from his relatives.

Ron cleared his throat as he pulled out his wand, the noise loud enough to pull Harry from his thoughts. "Sunshine, daisies, butter..."

"Have any of you two seen a toad? A boy named Neville's lost his." Both boys looked up at the intrusion. A girl with bushy brown hair stood in the entrance of the compartment, looking at them expectantly. "Oh, you're doing a spell? Let's see, then?" The girl sat herself across from the red head and next to Harry, not seeming to notice his small flinch. She smoothed out her black robes before looking back up at Ron, giving the red head a pointed look.

Ron's ears tinged pink at the attention, and he cleared his throat once more before muttering the spell again. Other than a spark and a squeak from the rat, nothing happened.

"You sure that's a real spell?" the girl asked, not impressed in the slightest. "Well, it's not a very good one, is it? Of course, I've only tried to do simple spells myself, but they've all worked for me." She lifted her wand and turned to Harry, pointing it directly between his wide green eyes. "For example; Occulus Repairo." In a flash Harry's broken glasses were like new again. He stared in awe at them before sliding them off his nose to look at them better, a well of gratitude building up inside of him at this girl. No one has ever bothered to do anything like that for him before.

"Holy cricket, you're Harry Potter!"

Ron's head snapped up at the girl's exclamation, and his blue eyes widened in shock as he stared at the boy in tattered clothing.

"I'm Hermione Granger. And you are?" the girl asked, turning to the red head.

"Um... Ron Weasley." he finally managed, dragging his eyes away from the quite boy to glance at the girl.

"Pleasure." Hermione said with a touch of sarcasm before standing up. "You best be getting into robes now, I expect we'll be arriving shortly."

Harry stared in confusion at the spot where the girl had stood, feeling a bit out of his depth suddenly. That wasn't the first time someone knew who he was, and for the life of him, he couldn't understand why? It was all disconcerting really.

His trip into Diagon Alley had scared him to the bones at all the attention he received. How did they know who he was? And why did they all fawn over him like he was some great being?

He wasn't.

How could he be? He was nothing more than a freak.

"Why didn't you tell me you're Harry Potter?" Ron finally blurted out. He was looking at Harry like he was the prize from the bottom of a cereal box.

Harry shook his head. How was he supposed to answer that?

"Is it true, then? Do you really have..." His eyes darted around the small compartment, as if looking for eavesdroppers, "the scar?"

Harry stared at Ron's lips, trying to discern the boy's words, but the pointed look the red head was giving his forehead had Harry lifting his hand and brushing back the dark fringe. Apparently it was what Ron wanted since he broke out into a huge grin.

"Wicked," Ron said in awe. "Do you remember that night at all? The night you defeated... You-Know-Who?" he asked in a low whisper. Harry frowned. He didn't hear a word of that, and the boy had moved his head around too much to try to follow his lips.

"Didn't think so," Ron said in disappointment, mistaking Harry's frown for a negative. "Do you know which house you'll be sorted into?"

House?

Harry rubbed at his head, trying to ease the headache that was building from trying to understand Ron's one-sided conversation. He was so tired. It was becoming increasingly difficult to keep his eyes open.

"Of course, no one can tell what house they'll be sorted into; I just pray it isn't Slytherin. There's not a witch or wizard that didn't go bad from that house."

Ron's sudden look of appraisal had Harry sitting up straighter and tugging on his ragged clothes, trying fruitlessly to straighten and smooth them out. He hated when people looked at him like that, like they were judging him. It was a look he got that was usually followed by pain on his part.

"You don't speak much do you?"

Harry sighed and shook his head, abandoning his attempt to straighten himself out.

"How come?"

Harry frowned. He wished he knew the answer to that too sometimes.

Harry gave the red head a critical look, trying to determine if the boy meant trouble for him now, but all he saw was a look of total curiosity.

Sighing, he stood and pulled his trunk down from its resting place, searching around for a pen and paper. 'I dont speek' he wrote out in shaky writing, hesitating for a moment before passing the paper to Ron.

"Or spell." Ron retorted humorously as he read the note, smiling at the small boy's slight glare. "But how can you learn your spells if you can't speak?"

Harry shrugged. He wasn't sure either.

Until just a few short weeks before, he never imagined that any of this existed. He had thought his first Hogwarts letter was a joke, sent by his cousin Dudley's friends as a way to get him in trouble. Why would anyone want to write to someone so freakish like him? The beating he received afterwards had confirmed his belief, but with each passing day he kept receiving the same letter in greater bulk.

There was no way Dudley's friends would spend so much for a stupid prank.

His relatives had never been as unhappy with him as they were then. They blamed him - made sure he knew it too. It was unnatural. The letters were pouring in from everywhere - the mail slot, the chimney, windows, under the door... but they still refused to let him read his letters.

It wasn't until the appearance of a Hogwarts Professor that Harry was finally able to read the letters.

His uncle had thrown a fit; his face purpling as he swore and raged at the man, but the Professor had merely sneered and waved a stick, effectively shutting up his uncle.

Harry was in awe of the man.

No one had ever stood up to his uncle like that before. It was like the man was fearless.

Of course, he had paid dearly for that incident later that night, but Harry didn't care - the Professor had taken him away for a day of freedom, showing him a wondrous world he never thought possible as they shopped for his school supplies.

If his silence bothered the Professor at all, the man made no mention of it, just simply explained anything of importance to him in a clear voice as they went along.

He wasn't sure if the Professor realized he couldn't speak - surely they wouldn't allow him to attend if they knew? And if they did send him back to the Dursley's, at least he was able to taste a bit of freedom for awhile.

Harry stifled a yawn. He really was exhausted.

"Don't worry, mate. Just stick with me, I'll help you out." Ron's hand clapped him on the back, and Harry hissed in pain. He could feel blood trickle down his back as a couple of his still too fresh wounds opened up again. He just hoped that the blood soaking his back wasn't too noticeable.

Forcing a smile around the pain, Harry gingerly sat back and nodded to his new friend.

That thought made him smile for real as the boy's words finally sunk in. Ron didn't care that he couldn't speak, didn't care that he was different. Perhaps the wizarding world didn't mind freaks like him as much as the, what did the Professor call it - the muggle world did. He certainly hoped so; it would be nice having someone to help him out as he learned his way around this new world.

"Come on; let's get our robes on before we forget." Ron said as he stood, rummaging through his bag.

When Ron turned back around, Harry was sound asleep in his seat, his school robe tucked tightly around him like a small blanket.

Chuckling, Ron settled back into his own seat, his rat back on his lap. "Wait 'til Mum hears about this." he grinned to the creature before closing his eyes as well, napping for the rest of the trip.


"First years! Over here, first years!" bellowed a giant of a man with wild hair and wearing furs. Harry blinked owlishly up at the man as he and Ron made their way to him.

"Blimey, look at him!" Ron exclaimed in his ear, making it easy for Harry to hear him above all the noise. Ron's expression was almost fearful, and Harry couldn't blame him. The man's fists were easily three times the size of his uncles. He certainly didn't want to be the one at the end of those fists.

The boat ride over the lake was thrilling, at least for Harry. He'd never been on a boat before, and definitely not one that was propelled by magic. And the castle had been a fantastic sight to see as it raised higher and higher the closer they got. It had sent a jolt through him as he realized that this was actually happening. He was in the wizarding world to become a wizard.

Hagrid, the giant man, had led them up a flight of stairs and into the warm entrance of the castle where a stern looking woman stood waiting for them. A look from her quickly told him that he wouldn't want to cross her either. She didn't look very pleasant, though her eyes where much kinder than his Aunt Petunia's, who's gaze was always cold and unforgiving towards him.

She led them to a small room and turned to face them all.

"My name is Professor McGonagall, Headmistress and head of Gryffindor house. In just a moment you will be sorted into your houses. They are Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor and Slytherin. Your house will be like your family while you're here." She gave the first years a stern look. "Your actions will reflect on your house. If you break the rules, you will lose points. If you do well, you will earn points - best if you remember that. Now if you would just wait here, please."

The first year's mutterings grew in volume as Professor McGonagall stepped through a side door, most speculating how they were to be sorted.

Harry squirmed. He was distinctly aware of eyes on him, and he stepped closer to Ron, seeking some sort of reassurance from the boy.

"Alright there, mate?" Ron asked as he felt the smaller boy clutch a hand to his robes.

Harry nodded but didn't let go.

"So it's true, then? The great Harry Potter has come to Hogwarts?" a voice sneered above the rest. Harry turned at the voice and came face to face with a blond haired boy with creamy white skin.

Harry just stared at the boy. Was his name written on his back or something? How did everyone know who he was?

"Name's Malfoy. Draco Malfoy." the blond said, thrusting his hand towards Harry. Ron's laugh brought a silver flash of anger to the blonds gray eyes, and the hand dropped, welling into fists at the boy's side. "Think my name's funny, do you? Don't need to ask who you are - red hair and hand-me-down robes; you're a Weasley."

The name was said with such hatred.

Harry tried to step back, not wanting to get caught in a middle of a fight, but the blond whirled on him.

"Best watch who you make friends with, Potter." He glared at the red head. "You don't want to be caught hanging out with the wrong sort."

The hand was back in front of him, waiting for him to shake it, to accept the friendship.

Harry looked between the two glaring boys, biting his lip. He had no idea what to do and everyone was now watching them.

He tugged on Ron's robes, pulling the boy closer to him slightly. The jester didn't go unnoticed by the blond.

"What's going on here?" McGonagall's voice ranged out as she came up to the group that had gathered around the boys.

Draco dropped his hand, sneering slightly as he gave a small nod to Harry. "Nothing Professor." he answered for everyone as he turned to face her.

McGonagall gave the boys a look that clearly said she didn't believe them, but said nothing on it.

"Follow me, please," she said as she turned and open the side doors, giving the first years their first look at the Great Hall.

Gasps rang all around and Harry couldn't keep his jaw from dropping as he stared up at the enchanted ceiling. He vaguely heard a girl claim that she read all about it as they were led down an aisle to stand in front of the teachers table.

To Harry's utmost amusement, a stool with an old and ratted hat atop it was placed before the teachers table and the whole of the school was looking at it expectantly. After a moment of silence, Harry understood why. The hat began to sing, the rip in the seam acting very much like a mouth. It sang of the different houses, of their qualifications, and Harry wasn't sure if he fitted any of them.

"When I call your name, please come up, sit on the stool and place the hat on your head." Professor McGonagal said, eyeing each of the first years before focusing on the scroll in her hands.

One by one the students were sorted, and with each one, a knot in his stomach grew. What if the hat couldn't find a house for him? What if they realized his freakishness and sent him home? He didn't want to go home. He wanted to stay here, to learn to be a wizard.

By the time his name was called, Harry was almost in a full panic. His heart beating fiercely in his chest, he trudged up to the stool and placed the hat atop his head.

"Hmm," The small voice in his head startled him and the hall laughed as he gave a small jump. "Difficult. Very difficult. There's plenty of courage, I see, and not a bad mind. And there's talent, oh yes - and a thirst to prove yourself; so where to place you?"

"You aren't going to send me home?" Harry asked in confusion. It was a bit disconcerting listening to a voice in your head that wasn't your own.

"And why would I do that?"

"Cause I can't speak, sir." Harry answered, his gaze dropping to his hands in nervousness. He could feel the weight of the stares from the students the longer he sat there, and he didn't really like it at all.

"There's a difference between not being able to and choosing not to," the hat answered. "Now, where to place you? Slytherin will take you far into greatness, and you can be great, you know. It's all here in your head."

Harry frowned. What was it that Ron had said about Slytherin, that not a witch or wizard in that house turned evil? Harry didn't want to be evil. Evil was like his uncle and cousin, and he didn't want to be anything like that. No, he didn't want Slytherin.

"Not Slytherin, eh? You sure? Very well, better be... GRYFFINDOR!" The last word was said aloud for all to hear and immediately cheering started up at the Gryffindor table.

Lifting the hat off his head, Harry headed for a free seat at the table, a blush heating his face as people congratulated him. A few nearby dared to clap him on the back and Harry had to bite his lip to keep from crying at the pain. He was really going to have to bandage his back before bed.

The other students were sorted and he did his best to clap and smile with the rest. Ron was sorted into Gryffindor Harry noted with relief. Sharing a house with Ron made him feel much more secure than if they had ended up in different houses.

As Dumbledore stood to make his yearly announcements, Harry let his eyes wander over the rest of the tables.

Draco Malfoy had been sorted into Slytherin. The blond had taken his spot amongst the other Slytherins it seemed, if the pleased smirk gracing his pointy features was anything to go by.

Grey eyes looked right at him, and the smirk grew as Harry realized he was staring. He gave the blond a tentative smile before turning back to listen to Dumbledore, a blush covering his own face.

He wasn't sure of the feelings the boy stirred in him. He made him quite nervous, and reminded him vaguely of his cousin, and he wasn't sure he liked that thought at all.

As Dumbledore introduced the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Harry's eyes landed on a dark, familiar figure. The same figure that had rescued him for a day from the Dursley's. He couldn't help the grin that broke out across his face as Professor Snape's black eyes landed on him.

When he was to be sent back to the Dursley's, Harry would forever remember the man for rescuing him and showing him a wondrous world. Even if it was only briefly.

Authors Note 12-26-13: I started this several years ago when I was very much into the Harry Potter series. But, life ended up happening. A year ago, I stumbled upon this story again and decided to give it another go...life happened again but it's been on my mind a lot. So I decided to challenge myself and finish this. I apologize that it's taken so long, and I hope I'll be able to provide future chapters on a much more regular bases than once every few years.