Harry waited impatiently with all of the other first years, trying to ignore Hermione's incessant chatter about having learnt spells and wondering which one she would have to use. Most of the students were afraid at how they would be sorted—Ron included, oddly enough—but Harry had known for awhile it was just a matter of trying on the Sorting Hat and waiting until it told you where to go.
Of course, the process may be easy but the waiting was extremely difficult. Especially when Harry knew how much Sirius wanted him to be in Gryffindor, much as he respected Ravenclaw. Harry's name was also near the end of the alphabet, and it became clear immediately that the Sorting would be done in alphabetical order…or nearly.
Harry tried to pay attention, but he hardly recognized most of the students, and they all looked terrified. Even Hermione had paled considerably, but perked up when the hat sorted her into Gryffindor.
He heard Ron groan and Harry couldn't blame him. It looked like they were stuck with the loud mouthed muggle born for the next seven years. Still, he was too nervous to care much as he kept counting down the number of people to be sorted before it was his turn.
He held Merlie close to his body as he stood in line, waiting. The cat seemed to sense his anxiety, because she started purring and licking his hands.
"Thanks, Mer," he whispered as Neville Longbottom was sorted into Gryffindor.
"Malfoy, Draco." The blonde boy had barely placed the hat on his head before it declared him a Slytherin.
Harry waited impatiently as McGonagall read from the list of names. He was not exactly eager to go, but waiting wasn't pleasant either.
Padma Patil became a Ravenclaw, but Parvati Patil was sorted into Gryffindor. She looked fairly happy about it.
A couple other people went, but what house they joined Harry was unable to say. Suddenly, it was his turn.
"Potter, Harry!" called Professor McGonagall.
Taking a deep breath, Harry made his way to the middle of the room, where the stool and the hat lay. Very tentatively, he put it on his head and began to will it to put him in Gryffindor.
"Not Slytherin, eh?" the hat asked, sensing Harry's unease. "You could be great, you know, and Slytherin would help you on the way to greatness…"
"NO!" Harry thought. "Gryffindor, not Slytherin. Gryffindor!"
The hat gave a sigh. "Well, if you're sure, better be GRYFFINDOR!"
He said the last part out loud, and Harry removed the hat before it could change his mind, heart beating faster than he could remember. He stopped at the line first to retrieve Merlie from Dean, who looked rather sad to see the kitten go.
"Thanks!" he muttered as he joined the Gryffindor table.
Harry waited anxiously for Ron to be sorted—almost immediately, the hat placed him in Gryffindor—and then the last few people were called. Then, it was over, and Harry couldn't believe he had been so nervous about the whole process.
"Glad it was just a hat," Ron muttered to Harry as Blaise Zabini, a childhood friend of Harry's, had been placed in Slytherin. "Fred and George were going on about how you had to wrestle a troll."
Harry snickered. "I can believe it."
Dumbledore then stood up to make some announcements. It was the first time Harry had ever seen the man in person, though he had appeared on several of his chocolate frog cards over the year. He looked unusual with his long white beard and commanding presence. Harry remembered that it had been Dumbledore who had initially placed him with the Dursleys, and felt some reservations towards this headmaster. Sirius had always said Dumbledore was a genius, but why would a genius allow a baby boy to be surrounded by people who hated him? Had it not been for Sirius' intervention, Harry highly doubted that he would even be at Hogwarts right now.
"Welcome," Dumbledore said. "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts. Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you!"
As everyone cheered, Harry wondered if these expressions were phrases from the wizarding world Harry had never heard before. Ron, however, looked as confused as Harry felt, and he decided it must be part of the reason Sirius thought that Dumbledore had gone a bit mad over the years.
The food appeared in front of him and Harry found that he was starving. The sweets from the trolley felt long gone, even though he had a few chocolate frogs left in his robe pockets. Sirius had been a fairly good cook, but this food looked better than anything Harry had seen before. There was chicken, potatoes, fries, bacon, steak…Harry's stomach growled as he sat there looking at everything.
Seeing everyone else helping themselves, Harry did the same, taking some of everything, not wanting to miss out on anything. Harry remembered Sirius saying that even though the food was always good at Hogwarts, feasts like these were reserved for special occasions. Harry wanted to be sure to enjoy it, and every so often fed a scrap to Merlie, who was sitting on his lap looking around with an awed expression. Harry felt the same way.
"That does look good," said one of the ghosts as Harry began to cut up his steak.
Must be Nearly Headless Nick, he thought.
He nodded and smiled. "You're Sir Nicholas, right? My godfather's told me about you."
The ghost looked pleased. "Sirius Black, is it?"
"I'm Harry Potter," Harry corrected, taking a large bite of the steak.
Sir Nicholas waved his hand dismissively. "Yes, of course, we all know who you are. I meant to ask, is Sirius Black your godfather?"
Harry nodded, too busy chewing to formulate an answer.
"He was a smart one…always causing trouble, too," the ghost laughed. "I always liked young Sirius…and your father, of course. Your mother was a delight as well," he added offhandedly. "A bit more reserved in the trouble making department."
Harry nodded again, then looked around the room to find other ghosts, including one covered in blood.
"Who's he?" he asked, nodding at the ghost.
"That is the Bloody Baron," Sir Nicholas replied, looking stiff. "He's the ghost to the Slytherin house."
"How did he get covered in blood?" asked Seamus Finnigan, looking quite interested.
Sir Nicholas, however, simply replied, "I've never asked" in a tone implying it was not something he would recommend to first year students.
After awhile, the dinner disappeared and trays of desserts appeared out of nowhere. Harry, who had been feeling quite full just a few minutes ago, now felt his appetite reappear as he helped himself to a treacle tart and a large scoop of strawberry ice cream. The conversation at the table soon turned to parentage, and Seamus was talking about how his mother only told his father that she was a witch after they had gotten married. Neville Longbottom, at Ron's prodding, explained that his family was all wizards, but they thought that Neville was "all Muggle" (or a Squib) for the longest time. It had been quite a relief when he had gotten accepted to Hogwarts, and one of his relatives had bought Neville Trevor the toad.
Harry secretly wondered if Neville had really wanted a toad, or if he had been pressured into getting that kind of pet from relatives who thought they knew what would be useful and fashionable at Hogwarts today.
Harry then heard Percy Weasley and Hermione Granger talking about lessons and Hermione's interest in Transfiguration. Percy told her that they would start with small objects, such as turning matches into needles, and Harry was very glad that Sirius had taught him how to do that over a year ago. Harry certainly did not know enough to pass an OWL exam in any subject, or even the end of year exam, but he knew that he came to Hogwarts with a sufficient head start. Harry thought that this would be helpful as the lessons became more difficult—he already had a good knowledge of the basics. Still, Harry knew that he did not share Hermione Granger's enthusiasm…but then again, she had been raised in a muggle family, and this was all new to her.
Before long, Dumbledore was talking again about Quidditch tryouts and giving reminders about the Forbidden Forest being out of bounds to all students—something Harry thought was quite evident from the name—and something about a corridor being off limits as well. He was starting to feel sleepy, and found that he couldn't pay close attention to what the headmaster was saying.
Fortunately, the announcements were brief and soon they were singing the school song. Sirius had taught it to Harry shortly after he received his acceptance letter, but Dumbledore put the words in the air so that everyone could see how the song went.
"Everyone pick their favorite tune," said Dumbledore, "and off we go!"
It was pure chaos as everyone began to sing the words to completely different tunes, and finally Dumbledore conducted the Weasley twins, who were the last ones still singing as they had chosen the tune of a slow funeral march. Then he clapped loudly, saying, "Ah, music! A magic beyond all we do here! And now, bedtime. Off you trot!"
Harry was very relieved to hear this, as was, he suspected, the professors. Percy led the first years to the Gryffindor tower, and Harry was so tired that he barely noticed which way they were going. It seemed to take forever, and was further slowed by Peeves making an appearance and interrupting the process with his pranks, but finally they reached the fat lady.
Sirius had told Harry about her portrait, but Harry hadn't realized how accurate the description was. She looked rather like Petunia had his aunt gained at least a hundred pounds, wearing a pink silk dress that was quite old fashioned.
"Password?" she asked, looking down at the new first year students with interest.
"Caput Draconis," Percy replied, and Harry made a mental note to remember that. The fast lady moved aside to reveal a hole in the wall, and they all crawled through it…Neville with some assistance from Percy.
Harry saw that the common room was rather cozy and very round, filled with large chairs that looked like they would be good for napping. The colors were all Gryffindor ones, of course, and Harry wondered if he'd ever get tired of those in the seven years he'd spend at Hogwarts.
Percy directed the girls to their room and the boys to theirs, each alongside a long spiral staircase. The room, as Sirius had warned, was smaller than what Harry had been used to, and he had to share it with everyone, but he was rather excited about it all. The five four poster beds had dark red curtains around them which Harry was sure was velvet, and Harry saw that all of the luggage had been brought up already.
Probably house elves, Harry thought sleepily, remembering Sirius mention there were over a hundred at Hogwarts. He had never actually seen one, but they were supposed to be unusual creatures who loved waiting on humans, and belonged to one family until they died. Sirius' family had owned one, Kreacher, but Sirius said that this particular elf was always unpleasant and he didn't know what had happened to it.
Harry put Merlie on top of the bed and quickly changed into his pajamas, seeing the other boys do the same. He remembered there was a bathroom nearby, but none of the boys felt like exerting the effort to get up and brush their teeth.
Once probably won't hurt, Harry reasoned, pulling the covers over him. Merlie promptly settled herself near Harry's neck, the blankets covering all of the kitten except for her head.
Harry was too tired to contact Sirius that night, and he knew that his godfather would be disappointed, but he'd have to understand. Harry would "call" him the next evening, after all…
Harry had a strange dream about wearing Professor Quirrel's turban which kept telling him he must appeal to the Sorting Hat to place him in Slytherin, because this was his destiny. Harry refused, and the turban became heavier and heavier until it nearly choked him…then there was a surge of green light and Harry woke up suddenly, shaking.
He wondered if it was too late to call Sirius…but surely the dream was just that, and Harry was still very tired. He rolled over and fell asleep, nearly squishing Merlie. When he woke up the next day, he could hardly remember the dream.
Sirius stayed up late that night, clearly hoping to hear from Harry. As he paced about the spare bedroom he would be using at half past ten, he realized he might have left some things at the Dursleys. He couldn't find Harry's photo album anywhere, and Sirius was sure he had an extra set of robes…He sighed and decided it would be worth the risk to Apparate, collect the items, and then reappear in Remus' apartment.
Just as he finished with this, nearly scaring Dudley with his sudden reappearance, Sirius plopped on the bed, exhausted but determined to stay awake. He felt a little disappointed that Harry had not contacted him, but reasoned that the Sorting could have gone on longer than he remembered, and then thought that Harry might be tired after the long day and decide he would speak with his godfather the next day.
Sirius hoped it was the former.
There was a light knock on the door.
"Moony?" Sirius called, forcing himself out of bed.
The door opened slightly and Remus poked his head in. "I was just about to make some tea. May I interest you in a cup?"
Sirius snorted. "Moony, there's no need to be so formal. Any normal person would have said, 'Want some tea?' Anyway. . . why not? You have any peppermint? And honey?"
Lupin wrinkled his nose. "How's sugar?"
He always found honey in tea a strong resemblance in smell and taste to his Wolfsbane potion. As a result, he rarely kept the former in his house.
"Mmph," Sirius replied noncommittally.
They walked to the kitchen where Sirius promptly collapsed on one of the plush armchairs and stuck his feet right on top of Remus' clean table.
"Padfoot!" Remus complained once he saw. "I just cleaned that this morning."
Sirius groaned but removed his feet. "Sissy," he muttered under his breath.
Remus raised his eyebrows slightly, cleared his throat, and then turned away to bring the tea.
"Wonder how the ruddy Dursleys are doing without their resident freaks," Sirius muttered once Remus had returned, carrying the familiar worn tray that had once been his mother's.
Remus smiled as he handed Sirius his cup. "They're probably quite happy to have the house to themselves. Doesn't Dudley go to Smeltings on the sixth, after all?"
Sirius gave a noncommittal grunt. "Something like that. I never paid attention when they spoke about the school. Except," he added, not bothering to hide an ear to ear grin, "when Dudley came in with his uniform. Harry and I couldn't stop laughing. Petunia was not amused when she saw us," he recalled, shaking his head. "And they have the nerve to complain about our lot wearing robes."
Remus nodded. "Did you manage to take any pictures of Dudley in his uniform?" questioned the werewolf. He had never actually seen Dudley, but Remus last year during Harry's visit, Sirius had managed to sneak in a few of his old photographs, dated when he was three, five, six, and nine. Harry had referred to his cousin as a beach ball at the time, which Sirius had said was proof that he had the brains of his father.
"Not yet," Sirius sighed. "The Dursleys suspected that some of the pictures weren't quite the same and have been guarding them carefully. Maybe over the holidays, though…" Sirius fell silent, formulating a plan involving dung bombs.
Remus seemed to know that the former Marauder was up to trouble. "Give them some peace and quiet," he advised. "Looking at it from their perspective, it can't have been easy all these years."
"Yes, hatred and intolerance is difficult to maintain when you have two perfectly harmless people living in your house," Sirius grumbled. "Don't start that again, Moony."
"Abusing Harry was awful, and I agree that you should have gotten complete custody, but they are a necessary element in Dumbledore's plan. Had James been the second to die, of course, he probably wouldn't need to be in the care of the Dursleys, since you're distantly related to him."
"Damn Lily," Sirius replied, only half joking. This speculation had crossed his mind more times than once before, but of course the real fault lay with him. Lily and James hadn't chosen the order in which they were going to die knowing what would happen—how could they? If only he had been the Secret Keeper…
There was a long silence while Remus and Sirius sipped at their tea. Sirius barely tasted his, but whether this was because Remus used weak bags or he was worried about missing Harry's "call", he couldn't quite tell.
"You weren't entirely harmless," Remus finally stated. "You can call it defense, if you like, but not all of the Dursleys can attest to this kind of behavior."
Sirius sniggered as he downed the rest of his tea, knowing exactly what Moony was referring to. "I let Marjorie Dursley off easy. 'Sides, I'm the one who suffered most…seeing that hideous woman half naked."
But Remus knew that Sirius had done more than simply transform into Padfoot after Ripper had begun to attack Harry. Granted, the story got embellished over the years, but Remus had a good idea of what had happened.
"Oh yes; you merely had an accident several times in one day and destroyed their kitchen. You also, I remember, woke up Marjorie Dursley with your barking every morning she was there, while conveniently putting a Sound Blocking charm on her bedroom so that the other Dursleys thought she was raving mad. You also, as I recall, accidentally bit Ripper a few times as Padfoot, in some areas that…" He paused delicately. "Suffice it to say that even a full dog wouldn't have been that bad."
Sirius snorted with laughter. "You haven't seen Ripper and the way he treated Harry. Not to mention his alleged aunt…who's not even related to him by blood, don't you know! She's Vernon's sister…well, let me tell you, she looked it. At any rate, desperate times call for desperate measures."
Remus raised his eyebrows and finished his own tea before speaking. "I'll give you that, but I must say I'm surprised Harry wasn't scared of you afterwards, once he had seen your other side."
Sirius looked offended. "My puppy knows I'd never hurt him."
Suspecting he had tread on dangerous ground, Remus quickly changed the subject. "So, all joking aside, do you think Harry will be all right?"
Sirius had filled him in, albeit briefly, about Harry's fear of living up to James' expectations. Remus had merely replied that he was not surprised, given the emphasis Sirius placed on James. Sirius made a mental note not to talk about Harry's father so much.
"I gave him the two-way mirror," he confessed.
"The one you and James shared? I thought that broke ages ago."
"I guess the last time we used that thing was in our seventh year," Sirius recalled, trying remember the last time they had used it. After Hogwarts ended, there hadn't been a point. Sirius had kept the pieces, more as a keepsake than anything else, and was somewhat surprised that it was in the same place, intact, after all this time. "Must be over thirteen years by now. No wonder it's so filthy." Sirius barked out a laugh. "I hope Harry'll use it."
"He will," Moony reassured.
"At least, he will after he's had Potions," Sirius laughed. "It will take him ages to recover from old Snivellus. Do you suppose he still wears that old robe he used for class…?"
The next evening, Harry sighed as he retrieved the mirror. It wasn't that he didn't want to talk to Sirius, but he knew that Sirius would ask him why he hadn't "called" earlier, and the truth was that Harry had been so nervous about lessons and almost being placed in Slytherin, he hadn't wanted to face his godfather then and there.
Now, however, it seemed unwise to put it off any longer. Harry sighed again, pulled the sheets closed over his four poster bed, and held the mirror so that it was seated on the pillow in front of him.
Instantly, he saw his godfather's beaming face. "Hi, Harry! How's Hogwarts?"
Harry suddenly wished Sirius was standing next to him. His worries about how Sirius would react to almost being placed in Slytherin seemed so trivial…
Harry shrugged. "We had the Sorting ceremony yesterday," he said.
Sirius' beaming face nodded. "And what House is lucky enough to have you, puppy?"
"Gryffindor," Harry began.
Before he could say anything else though, Sirius had interrupted. "That's no surprise! Both of your parents were in there, as was I…" He gave a mock bow. "Knew you could do it."
Harry nodded glumly. "The hat almost put me in Slytherin, though."
Sirius wrinkled his nose. "Thank goodness you talked some sense into it."
"Yeah…But what if it was right?" Harry persisted, putting his head in his hands. "What if I'm meant to be there?"
Sirius laughed. "Puppy, that thing is over a thousand years old. It's bound to make mistakes now and again. Peter was in Gryffindor, and he was a Slytherin if there was ever one. If you hadn't corrected the hat, it could have put you there and that would have been a disaster. Fortunately, you spoke up and stopped it from making that decision."
This was hardly reassuring. "Is Slytherin really that bad?" he asked, trying to look Sirius in the eyes, opposed to his flannel bedspread.
Merlie crawled out from under the covers and purred. Absentmindedly, Harry began to pet the kitten.
Sirius paused for a few seconds before answering. "It's a bad house. All of my family was there, and they supported You-Know-Who. I'm not saying that there's not an occasional good apple, but most people are rotten to the core. If they're not when they start, they are when they leave. Don't forget, old Snape's the head of the house, so he lets them get away with stuff no other head would allow."
There was Snape again. Harry had seen the professor at the feast—he had given Harry a very nasty look and at about that time, he felt his scar hurt as it had never done before. Still, having not had any lessons with Snape, and only the hospital visit memory as a personal experience, Harry wondered if Sirius had been exaggerating, if only slightly, all this time.
"Are you sure I'm in the right house?" Harry persisted.
"You're a Potter," Sirius replied simply. "It's impossible for a Potter to be sorted in any house except Gryffindor. Although," he added, after a pause, "I probably wouldn't disown you if you have been sorted into Ravenclaw." Harry grinned. "Just highly disappointed…I'm kidding!" Sirius added quickly, seeing the color drain from Harry's face. "Puppy, why are you worrying? The sorting's over and you averted a crisis. Now you just have to worry about doing well, playing pranks, and embarrassing that Malfoy boy. Not to mention old Snivellus…"
Harry shifted, nearly causing Merlie to somersault. "Ron's also in Gryffindor," he said quickly, "but all of his family was there so he figured he'd be there too. There's also a kind of clumsy kid called Neville Longbottom. Also Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas. This really smart girl named Hermione Granger was also put in Gryffindor. She talks a lot."
Sirius laughed appreciatively. "Who else?" he prodded.
"Can't really remember," Harry admitted. "There are only five boys in Gryffindor."
Sirius laughed. "There were four my year. 'Course, there were six in Slytherin, so…" Sirius cleared his throat. "Well, it sounds like you'll have a nice group of people to become friends with. Is Hermione related to the person who founded the potions society?" He asked, remembering the name somewhat.
Harry shook his head. "No, she's muggle born."
"Anything else that's worrying you?" Sirius questioned. He could tell by the look on Harry's face that there was something else.
"Well, I really miss home." He lowered his head, as though this was something to be ashamed of. Even so, Sirius knew Harry was leaving something out.
"We all are from time to time. It will pass," Sirius reassured, wishing he could just give Harry a hug. "Your dad missed his parents a lot on the first few nights, too. Cried a bit, though he denied it," Sirius added.
"Did you miss your mum and dad?" Harry questioned after a moment's pause. It occurred to him that Sirius had never spoken about his parents, though on occasion he had mentioned his "prat of a brother".
"No, I was glad to leave," was the rather guarded reply. Sirius' lips became tight, and Harry knew not to say anything more on the subject.
"Oh." Pause. Then, "What about Uncle Remie?"
Sirius grinned. "Merlin, Remus made your dad look like he hated his parents." He paused, and then in an attempt to be fair, Sirius quickly added, "Of course, he did have his reasons, being a werewolf and all. He was terrified that we would find out the truth, you see."
Harry nodded but otherwise remained silent.
"It's normal to be homesick, puppy," Sirius reassured. "But we'll talk as much as you want, and Christmas isn't that far off. I was thinking we could celebrate it with Moony."
Harry nodded, looking slightly cheered up at this proposition.
"Sirius," he began, "On the train, one of the boys kind of barged in and wanted to be friends…Said I wasn't choosing them right. His name's Draco Malfoy—d'you think he's related to the Malfoys?"
Sirius' stomach lurch. Not the Malfoys, he prayed. They were one of the first families to return after the fall of Voldemort. Seemingly under the imperious curse. Few people outside of the Ministry believed two words of the Malfoys' story, but the Ministry seemed to think that anyone who gave money to worthwhile projects couldn't be bad.
Yes, now that Sirius thought about it, Draco Malfoy would be around Harry's age.
"Yeah, I know of his dad," he replied, trying to keep his tone even. "Bit of a git, to put it kindly."
"So was Draco," Harry answered honestly.
Sirius snorted. "I'll bet. Look, puppy, don't pay attention to anything Draco Malfoy tells you. He's a bullying git if he's anything like his father. I expect that he might get away with it in Potions and possibly in the hallways if he's sneaky enough, but he won't be able to do anything too terrible to you. If he does," Sirius added, "let me know."
Harry nodded, trying to stay awake. It was becoming increasingly difficult as each moment passed. Talking to Sirius certainly helped relieved Harry's worries, but right now he just wanted to get a good night's rest so that he wouldn't fall asleep in Transfiguration or Charms the next day.
Seeing Harry trying to hide a yawn, Sirius laughed. "I get it, I'm boring you."
"No!" Harry protested before realizing his godfather was joking. Once it registered, his face turned red. "Oh. Night."
"Sweet dreams, puppy."
The rest of the week went relatively well for Harry, as far as Sirius could tell. They spoke a few times before Friday, but the only time Harry was quite as nervous and unhappy as his first night was on Thursday.
This was due to the fact that he would have his first Potions class the next way.
"Don't worry," Sirius soothed, staring at his godson who looked as though he was about to throw up. "We've studied the material and you're at least up to December already. You also know a few potions by heart, and the uses of a lot of ingredients and properties in the major. . .erm. . .ingredients. I'm sure that even if Snape throws a question at you, you'll know the answer. Even if you don't, no one else will."
"'Cept Hermione," Harry muttered. "She was the only one who could turn the match into a needle. I was concentrating really hard and all mine did was lose the color part."
"That's not a bad start," Sirius encouraged, smiling. "Remus caused a long point to form on his when he tried. Your dad accidentally set his on fire," he added, grinning. "But that may have been on purpose."
They talked for awhile about Harry's lessons (Charms was his favorite) and what Sirius had been up to while Harry was away (getting cooking lessons from Molly and Remus, and composing a scrapbook of all of Harry's embarrassing pictures) until Sirius saw Harry starting to drift off. He interrupted himself on the latest topic (whether the newest addition of Herman Vahn as Seeker would improve the Chudley Cannons' standing in the league) to insist that Harry get some rest.
Harry protested halfheartedly, but Sirius remained firm. "You'll need all of your energy tomorrow for Snape's class."
Harry groaned. "He hates me. At the Feast, my scar hurt as soon as he looked at me."
Sirius snickered. "Well, he hated your father, and you look almost exactly like him." He paused. "Use it to your advantage. We loved playing pranks on old Snivelly. Er, just don't call him that to his face."
"I won't," Harry promised as he hid the mirror under his bed.
Severus Snape knew that his life at Hogwarts would be hell when Potter entered the school as soon as he heard the result of the custody battle nearly ten years ago. It had been all over the paper and glancing at the titles alone made him ill. "Boy Who Lives Abused by Family—Godfather Steps in" was the worst of all, and Snape remembered needing an anti vomit potion after reading that article.
As far as he was concerned, Potter's parents' death was a blessing in disguise. His mother was not that bad, and they had been friends at Hogwarts, but his father had been bad enough for ten wizards. Sirius Black was, if anything, worse. James Potter and Sirius Black had been the ringleaders of a gang, but it was obvious to Snape that Potter deferred to Black entirely. It was often under Black's orders that Snape would be hexed mercilessly, until a professor or Lily Evans came to intervene. Snape felt a cold smile escape his lips. Potter had always known that Lily Evans was not as disgusted by him as she was by Potter. Perhaps if Snape hadn't joined the Death Eaters, Harry would be their son…
No, what Black considered abuse was probably the Dursleys' way of saying no to the spoiled brat. He imagined that Harry would keep them up at all hours of the night, screaming, until they finally put him in a smaller room downstairs which Black later named a cupboard. Of course, the wizarding world insisted that Black be given custody over the Boy Who Lived—a title that Snape had changed in his mind to the Brat Who Lived—and if Snape had ever felt sorry for muggles, it was the Dursleys. They actually had to live with that man, raising the Potter boy to become just like his father, and of course, Black had seen to it that both he and the boy were allowed to do magic outside of school.
James Potter had made Snape's life at Hogwarts a living hell, and now he was about to repeat this experience with the next Potter in the generation. Worse yet, Potter would have doubtlessly been trained in the art of "Aggravating Snape", and what his father and Black had learned over the course of years Potter would come into the school knowing. It made him ill, and on several occasions Snape had almost approached the headmaster attempting to resign, once getting as far as the outside of the headmaster's office, before turning away, utterly disgusted.
After all, it may be a Potter but he was only a boy. Surely he, as the professor, would have the upper hand. Perhaps it would be harder to deal with Potter than the other Gryffindors, but he would take off house points and assignment points wherever possible, and make unpleasant remarks intended to stab the Brat Who Lived. Snape reminded himself, yet again, that he was not the eleven year old boy who had attended the school, but rather a professor with power.
Potter would not get away with anything in his class.
Harry walked to his Potions lesson with Ron feeling more than a little nervous. That morning, they had just managed to make it from the Gryffindor common room to the Great Hall without getting lost, which was more than could be said about getting to their classes on time. Most of the professors were understanding. Flitwick, for example, offered some shortcuts to first years, but these ended up being impossible to follow because the staircases that he relied on changed so often. Certain areas of the castle were more static than others, but to Harry, everything seemed to move around on a regular basis.
Sirius also wasn't much help in that respect. Perhaps corridors changed permanently every so often, since his advice was even more useless than Flitwick's. Harry just hoped that he'd find his way around before the professors' patience wore out.
The only first year that was able to make it to all of her lessons in time was Hermione Granger. She'd arrive well before everyone else, smiling condescendingly as the other first year students crept into the classroom as though afraid that entering the wrong room would mean punishment from Filch. Harry imagined that she knew shortcuts from reading Hogwarts, a History, a book that she constantly rambled on about, but he was determined to read it only as a last resort.
Ron, of course, agreed wholeheartedly with Harry's resolution, and often called Hermione "a nutter" behind her back and, on occasion, to her face.
Harry tried to stay out of conflict. Living with the Dursleys had made him realize that there would always be people who disliked him, for little to no reason at all, and reacting to it was just another way they had power over you. Sirius had always said that the Dursleys were too dim witted to understand the benefits of magic, and therefore they must be pitied for their ignorance.
Harry was very much aware within the first few days that there were "Dursleys" among the students—and teachers—at Hogwarts. Draco Malfoy was a prime example. Although Harry had not explicitly refused his offer of friendship, the fact that he had been sorted into Gryffindor seemed to be all the proof the first year needed to believe that Harry was no good.
Not that Harry was free from this kind of prejudice. Years with Sirius had convinced him that Slytherin was a house full of rotten apples, in which even those who started out decent turned horrible. Hufflepuff was a house for people who were somewhat dim and could never really achieve academically, but they would also never cheat on a test. The catch to this, Sirius added, was that they would also never turn in a cheater. Ravenclaw was a house full of bookworms, a place in which learning occupied every part in a student's mind, to the extent that it would be considered rude to ask them to play a game of Gobstones or Wizard's Chess. They made everything academic, and always succeeded, but knew nothing except this type of success. Gryffindors, then, were the best because they understood that a balance of everything was needed. Bravery was what they valued the most, whether it be the courage to stand up to a friend or the ability to eat an unusual colored Bertie Bott Every Flavored Bean.
The fact that Harry had been sorted into Gryffindor, though barely, helped the young boy's self esteem. Since he had been sorted into the best house at Hogwarts, the house where Sirius, Uncle Remus, and his father had all lived and excelled, this seemed to be confirmation that he would follow in their footsteps and become a great wizard.
Still, on that Friday morning Harry wasn't feeling particularly brave when he entered the dungeons for the first time, barely on time.
Hermione had arrived first, as always, but even she looked somewhat subdued when Snape appeared. After taking role, he paused for a long moment to glare at everyone and then lectured for awhile, making it clear in his opening speech that he considered most Hogwarts students to be worthless idiots and he looked forward to the day in which he could teach only the best.
"Unfortunately," the potions professor prowled on, "That happy day will not be for another five years, so I suggest that you all pull together whatever brains you have and put in enough effort to pass my class. Assuming you pay attention, take thorough notes, and put careful detail into your homework assignments and potions which we will complete on a regular basis, it should not be beyond most" his eyes focused on Harry "of your abilities."
He then set them to work on what he called a simple potion to eliminate boils, but the directions were so intricate that had Sirius not prepared Harry for this sort of thing by helping him make these types of potions, Harry would have felt lost. Snape seemed to phrase everything so as to deliberately confuse his students, and it was no wonder when Neville let out a low whimper. When Harry looked up from his work with Ron, he saw that his cauldron had collapsed entirely and the potion was seeping across the floor. Neville, Harry saw, had gotten a full dose of it on his arms and legs.
Snape must have mistook Harry's look, because he immediately turned on him. "You…why didn't you tell him not to add the quills?"
"Sir?" Harry replied, confused. "I wasn't looking at his potion, just mine."
Some Gryffindors sniggered in the background.
Snape fumed. "A point will be taken from Gryffindor for your cheek, Potter. Be glad it isn't more." He turned to Seamus, who had been working with Neville. "Take him up to the hospital wing."
Seamus dragged a whimpering Neville out of the classroom, a look in his face that showed he was grateful to escape unscathed.
Snape should have blamed him, not me, thought Harry. He was Neville's partner.
Snape glared at Harry and, instantly, Harry remembered Sirius warning him that Snape had been able to develop the ability to read minds over the years. He couldn't see past Harry's most basic thoughts, not without prying and to do so would cause unwanted attention, but Harry knew that his feelings were as clear as if he had spoken them aloud.
Forcing himself to avoid Snape's beedy eyes, he tried to focus his attention on something else. His focus turned to the blackboard, and he saw that the potion he and Ron had been working on was only half completed. He wondered if Snape would erase the board by hand after the class was finished, or use the old eraser that sat on his desk.
"Back to work," snarled Snape, taking an extra moment to glare at Harry. "Bunch of dunderheads," he muttered under his breath.
The rest of the lesson passed without incident, but when Harry and Ron filled a sample flask with their potion to be marked by Snape, he very nearly broke it, spilling it on Harry.
"Careful, Potter," he snapped, picking up the flask hesitantly. He glared at the rest of the class. "Hand in your potions, and then copy down the assignment." He moved his wand casually to the board and the directions disappeared, letters reforming to list a homework assignment nearly as long as the directions to the potion. "Immediately!" He added, glaring at the terrified class.
Malfoy sniggered, sure that he was not included in the unending list of dunderheads Snape kept referring to. Harry waited for the Slytherin to be reprimanded, but Snape acted as though he hadn't heard him.
Once Harry left, he felt that Sirius had not given him a fair warning about the amount of fear he would face in Snape's class. He realized that even if he did everything perfectly, the potions instructor would still find a way to criticize him, if not sabotage his work entirely. Even though Harry had only had one class with the other professors as a means of comparison, none of the others seemed so brutal. McGonagall, after all, might have been strict, but at least she was fair and available for extra help.
Snape was just a nasty git.
As soon as Harry safely reached the Gryffindor common room, he let a smile escape. He'd have to talk to Sirius about showing Snivellus a thing or two about manners.
Especially when dealing with a Potter.
A/N: Thank you Jessica (Jayley) for reading this chapter and helping me improve confusing sections. You rock:)
As always, reviews are GREATLY appreciated and needed for improvement. It only takes a second, and really makes my day.