A few reviewers asked me to expand on the House Traditions I hinted at in Harry Potter and the Blue Elves. This would be it… A view into the first night in the separate common rooms, and what sort of indoctrination each House gives their students. As you'll discover this is a bit AU from canon but I thought to myself "What would hazing be like in a wizarding fraternity/secret society?"
As the Opening Feast came to a close, Harry Potter looked down the table at all the new faces of Gryffindor. They were his now, his to initiate and break. It was a day he had both looked forward to and feared ever since his first night in the Tower. Tonight, as at the start of every turn, the House would call to its own and show them the mysteries and grandeur of what it meant to be a Gryffindor. The upper two years were expected to follow the traditions and ensure that their new Brothers and Sisters were strong, and this year he was in charge.
It was always known in the Tower that when he was old enough he would lead them, and it was a heavy yoke upon Harry's neck. From his first year, when they saw that he would not be cowed or forced to submit, they wanted him to lead. He never really wanted to lead, yet the House knew his power and demanded the best. They waited, and now it was time. He was in charge now, Gryffindors old and new looked to him for direction and didn't question his commands. It was a heady feeling, looking over the first years and knowing what was to come.
The Feast ended and the students filed out of the hall with their houses. The fifth year prefects lead the new students to their dormitories and promptly went to sleep in beds covered in silencing charms as prefects had done for generations before. Older students trickled in over the course of the evening, unobtrusively collecting supplies for the nights ahead. The students in the lower years went to bed early, glancing at the newcomers and whispering to themselves as they did. One by one the first years began to realize that they were alone with and being watched closely by the upper classmen. An uncomfortable silence settled over the common room as the two groups gazed at each other. The looks were not mean spirited or condescending; they were measuring and weighing each student as if to judge their worth.
A house elf popped into the room with two pitchers of butterbeer on a tray with eleven small cups for the upperclassmen. Harry thanked the elf and it popped away. Everyone looked away for a few seconds, finding somewhere else to look besides the seventh year who stood and brought the pitchers of drinks to their youngest classmates. The seventh year poured everyone a glass and raised his own high in a toast. "Welcome to Gryffindor House, drink up."
As the clock struck nine, Harry stood and walked to the staircase leading to the boy's rooms. "Let's get some sleep, tomorrow will be long enough on its own."
And just like that, the sixth and seventh years split off to their towers and went to bed without a single word. Ten first years continued chatting as they drank the butterbeer they were given, never paying attention to the eleventh glass which was still full.
As the clock neared midnight, the sixth and seventh years left their dormitories once again, clad in long red robes conjured specifically for this night. Harry wore a shining breastplate over his robes, a golden Griffin rampant across his chest while the recently recovered sword of Gryffindor hung from his waist. They vanished the rugs and floor coverings, moving the furniture against the wall. Bundles of firewood were levitated from the grounds in through the windows and piled in the center of the room. Charms to obscure the walls and borders of the common room were uttered and ritual implements moved into place from hidden caches and secret compartments throughout the Tower. Fires were extinguished and the candles dimmed so they had the bare minimum light they needed to play their parts.
Once everything was ready, Harry nodded to the others and like silent ghosts they swept into the first year dorms and ripped their prey from the soft beds. While the young students screamed in panic, they were bound hand and foot and black hoods shoved roughly over their heads.
"Move them," Harry growled as menacingly as he could. The Gryffindors hooted and wailed as the first years were levitated and spun about on the way to the common room. They destroyed all sense of time, direction, and distance traveled by throwing them about through the air like a carnival ride. The first years screamed cried for their parents, one even wet himself with fear. The potion that had been added to the butterbeer ensured that their minds were both confused and receptive.
The students from other years began to come down as they heard the opening cries of the yearly traditions. For the lower years, black was the color of choice for their hoods and robes. Within minutes the first years were placed in a tight circle around the stacked firewood and the hoods removed with a flourish.
"Wh-who's there? What's happening?" One of the first year boys called, struggling to look around him.
"You are here to learn the Truth," Harry intoned solemnly. "We will teach you what you are, and show you what you can become, if you have the courage."
"What do you mean? Who are you?" A girl demanded.
They always asked. They always wanted to know who would dare attack them in their sleep… The upper years began to laugh evilly. With a flick of his wrist and a muttered incantation, Harry set the bonfire alight. All the first years threw themselves away from the fire as it roared into being, their movements hobbled by the bindings on their wrists and ankles. All around them figures in red cloaks laughed and jeered at the chaos, their faces obscured by shadows. Behind them a sea of bodies crowded the shadows. Once the scared children formed a clump away from the upperclassmen and the fire, Harry lowered his hood and stepped forward so they could all see him. They gasped in surprise. "Welcome to the first lesson… Betrayal!"
Down in the Slytherin dungeons, a similar scene was taking place as Draco Malfoy brought a whip whistling down against the flesh of students who hung from the ceiling on chains.
"You are Slytherin now. You have no friends. You have no family. There is no Love. There is no Affection. There are only allies and beneficial arrangements. All alliances are temporary. People are always motivated by selfish desires. Anyone who says otherwise is an idealistic fool. We are strong because we see the truth where others cling to childish dreams. To be a Slytherin is to be a chess player. Only you are not moving pieces on a board, you are moving people in the real world. We use others as tools to reach our goals. We fulfill our desires while exerting the least effort possible."
"But sir…" One of the children started.
Draco brought the whip down again, cracking the tip just on the tip of the boy's nose thanks to years of practice. "You are Slytherin! People are always motivated by selfish desires. Selfish desires are rarely ever rational. This is because what people desire if often affected or influenced by their environment. Do you understand me?"
"Yes sir!" His new charges chorused.
Professor Chang walked across the front of the Ravenclaw Study-room, looking down at her pupils. "Knowledge is paramount, you must know what someone wants in order to alter their will. You must also have a plan in order to know which way to alter others' wills. If you do not know these things you are playing the game blind and will lose without knowing."
"Knowledge is everything," The elder eagles chanted, "Plans are key. Ignorance is death."
"Knowledge is everything…."
"What is the first Law of Gryffindor?" Harry roared in challenge.
"Never betray a Gryffindor!" The first years answered dutifully.
"When you betray one of us you betray all of us. You have never dreamed of the kind of vengeance that we will rain down on the heads of a traitor." Harry made the fire flare tall behind him as he circled the youngsters. "And this is the second Law; Gryffindors always protect their own. What is the second Law of Gryffindor?"
"Gryffindors always protect their own."
"That's right. You are all family now. You are all brothers and sisters. You might not like each other, heck you might despise each other, but when someone attacks one of you stand and deliver! You cannot allow the deeds of the wicked to go unanswered. A Gryffindor fights his enemies, he does not run."
"This is the third Law of Gryffindor!" The upperclassmen deafen the younger children.
"There is little to be gained from open war, you should avoid it. If your enemy slights you, let it pass and subtly undermine him later." Draco forced one of the new Slytherins to look him in the eye. "If an enemy seeks open war, you should gather your allies and smite him/her as quickly as possible then be the first to offer the olive branch. A beaten enemy will jump at any truce offered, no matter how unfair."
"I am sorry master, whatever I did, I'm sorry." The first year begged.
Draco turned to the next student in line. "Which is better a firm plan, or fluid approach?"
His victim took the bait, and answered with confidence. "A plan should account for anything that might come up so it is better. It leaves you free to keep your mind on the task at hand."
Goyle laughed and cracked his baton across the boy's feet while Draco enlightened him. "Neither is better. No plan can account for everything, and someone who relies on luck and improvisation will inevitably fall to a crafty adversary. Any plan can be defeated if you adapt around it, and even the most flexible will have no luck against the properly planned defense."
Harry floated the first year over the flames. They had made a show of selecting the most easily frightened first year, a rather pretty young girl who had been instantly popular with her year-mates. They had placed her in a body bind and silenced her before Harry cast his levitation charm, unknown to the first years a seventh year had also wordlessly cast a flame freezing charm. Now she was floating with her feet floating inches above the flames while her classmates pleaded with him.
"I'm going to ask some questions, if you tell me what I want to know I'll let her go." Harry pointed to Sean Bell. "Your sister Katie, what is her biggest fear?"
"You can't do this!" He yelled. "If you don't let her go she'll cook!"
Harry motioned to his classmates. "There are only eight sixth years. Accidents happen." Harry lowered the girl just a tiny bit. "Tell me you sister's fear."
"Alright, I'll tell. Katie is afraid she will never meet the right guy and will die single. Now let her go!" Sean started out so defeated, but turned defiant at the last.
"As you wish," Harry lowered his wand and with a crash the young first year girl fell into the fire, still silenced and bound.
As one, eighteen wands whipped out and stinging hexes flew towards Sean and eighteen voiced yelled out. "Never betray a Gryffindor! This is the first Law."
"Everyone has enemies," Cho explained, "accept the fact that you have them and always will have them now. Don't shy away from making enemies. Just make sure they are weaker than yourself and have nothing to offer that you might need later. If you want to make a friend, whenever possible, give someone the chance to help you, never offer to help them. People would much rather be a creditor than a debtor. If you do not desire friends, that is your decision, but realize the weaker position it puts you in."
"Everyone has a plan, they may not admit it, but everyone is scheming of how to get what they want or need. Everyone has a talent that can be useful and a flaw that can be detrimental. Understanding those will help you see how someone can fit into your own plan. A wise man will see how someone's talent can help them in their current plan, the wisest man will see how they can alter their own plan to make use of another's talent."
"Everyone is unique in some way; no two people are alike. Therefore, it should never be assumed that you could deal with one person exactly the way you dealt with another, unless it is proven to be true," Draco surveyed the new recruits. After an hour of punishing each and every perceived mistake, all traces of defiance and rebellion had been beaten out of them and now they were just tools to be used. They would serve well, the promise of pain encouraging their efforts. "Perceptions are 90 the law. If a good deed is perceived to be an injury, then it is an injury. If a bad deed is perceived to be an aid, than it is an aid. Always remember, a diplomat is someone who can tell another to go to Hell in such a way that they think they might enjoy the trip. It pays to be a diplomat."
Finally the moment all the elder Gryffindors were waiting for happened. Every year it took something different, but they were beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with this batch. The first years were mostly cowed by the apparent murder of one of their classmates and the cursing of another. They feared Harry and wondered what had happened to the perfect hero from the history books. They looked with frightened eyes on the sixth and seventh years who didn't move to stop him, who only laughed and taunted them. Where were the heroes?
The deciding moment this year came as Harry strung up two more students for another round of "Tell me a secret." He chose Sean Bell to represent the boys and the prettiest of the girls for his little game. They were floating above the flames, but this time Harry didn't bother with the silencing charms so they could beg their friends to save them.
"I'm feeling playful, so we're going to play this round a bit differently." Harry smirked as he looked at the children. "You can either choose which of your friends dies, or you can all tell me your darkest secrets. Decide soon! Hehehehe…"
"No!" The littlest boy yelled out.
"No?" Harry drew the Sword of Gryffindor and used the flat of the blade to nudge the others out of his way so there was no one in between them. "What do you mean, no?"
Somehow despite his bound ankles, the boy forced himself to stand. "This is wrong! You're nothing but a big bully. I'm not going to let you kill one of my friends and I'm not telling you anything!"
Around the circle, wands were drawn and pointed at the first year. Harry raised his hand to stop them from cursing. "So what are you going to do about it?"
"I'll fight you. You can't do this to us. I won't let you!"
Harry tapped the ropes binding the child with the sword and watched them dissolve into smoke. "I can't help but notice you are unarmed and defenseless. How did you plan to fight? Poor little Kevin, all alone against the rest of Gryffindor House."
"He's not alone!" Sean yelled from his place in the air above the fire. "He's got us!"
"Yeah!" The other girl added. Soon the rest of the first years had added their support to Kevin's rebellion.
"Nine of you against sixty of us? Are you crazy?" Ron called out from his place in the circle. "Look at them, they're shaking like leaves."
"I am not afraid!" Kevin proclaimed, though a slight hesitancy could be heard in his voice. "Now let us go. We're leaving this crazy school if this is supposed to be the House of the Brave and Courageous. House of Bullies and Cowards is more like it."
Harry waved his wand and the two first years were lowered to safety and released from the body binds. A quick summoning spell later the first girl to be dropped in the fire was returned to the group. They were surprised to find her alive and unharmed once Harry released her. When the upper years made no move to part and allow them to leave, Kevin marched up to Harry.
"Let. Us. Go."
"Courage is not the absence of fear. It is refusing to let the fear get the better of you." Harry told him.
"This is the fourth and final Law." The older students recited.
Harry tapped Kevin on both shoulder with the tip of the Sword of Gryffindor then let it rest just over his heart, just over his blank House badge. "A Gryffindor never betrays a Gryffindor. A Gryffindor always protects his own. A Gryffindor never lets injustice go unanswered. A Gryffindor shows courage in the face of fear. Welcome to House Gryffindor Prince Kevin. Welcome new brothers and sisters."
With a swirl of red and gold sparks, all the first years' house badges filled in with the Gryffindor crest.
"You mean this was all a test?" Kevin yelled angrily. "What kind of sick freaks are you?"
"The kind that want you to find the inner Gryffindor where you have friends to help you, not out on your own with your life on the line. And one day it will be you running this test, showing new students what it means to be brave and strong. You are the prince now and someday you'll be a great king." Harry sheathed his sword and cast a spell to raise the lighting so everyone could see better.
"I don't want to be some kind of prince! I don't want to terrify little kids and force them to play some sick game."
"Neither did I," Harry told him sadly. "But these are the traditions and they've saved the lives of myself and my friends many times. We lived because we already knew what it meant to be Gryffindors and we knew how to keep going even when we were afraid. Get some sleep kid, there will be time to argue about methods in the morning."
Apologies to John Templeton for stealing a few bits of his "Human Chess" essay for the Slytherins but it just fit with my mood so well. He goes by the nom-de-plume "Raven" at RavensRants(dot)com.