Harry was no stranger to large quantities of food. Between Dudley and his uncle, he saw volumes engulfed every day that could easily fill three times their number. What Harry couldn't quite seem to grasp was that all of this food, good food that made his mouth water in anticipation, was his to eat as he pleased.
Now that he was seated, having been sorted and accepted, a good deal of tension had left him and his appetite had made its appearance with a roar. For a long moment, all he could do was stare at the feast laid out before him.
"Well go on," Ron said through a full mouth, nudging Harry with his elbow. Then Harry made a grab for everything in reach, filling his plate to the brim. It was good food, far better than the junk food Dudley always wanted, or the cold leftovers when he was being punished. All the same, Harry only managed half his plate before he began to fill sick. Suddenly, the chomping, chewing, and slurping going on around him began to turn his stomach. He pushed the rest of his plate away quickly, wondering how Dudley had ever managed to eat as much as he did. Not willing to let so much food go to waste, in case it didn't come again or they decided to kick him out after all, Harry discreetly filled up his napkin with all the sorts of things not likely to go bad. Luckily Ron was busy on his second plate, and no one else paid him enough mind to notice.
Now full, even overly full, his fears began to return. The feast was too good, really. Surely this must cost a great deal, money the Dursleys would never spend on him. Didn't they always go on about how he was such a burden? Harry was suddenly certain that a mistake had been made somewhere. This couldn't really be meant for him. For the millionth time that day, Harry wondered if he had gotten off at the right school. He reminded himself that his name was on the list. The kind man with the beard hadn't made him leave. Unless, of course, they just didn't want to do that in front of everybody. Maybe they were going to wait until everyone left the feast to tell him. Harry clutched his napkin of food closely.
"What was the deal about?" Ron asked him suddenly, "Why'd they skip you?" Other students around them turned to look at them curiously.
"They didn't think I was coming," Harry answered softly, "I think my uncle forgot to fill something out."
"Is that all?" the girl with bushy hair asked, "And they still let you be sorted?" She was sitting across the seat from them, no longer with the toad boy in tow.
Harry nodded his head, rather than explain that he chose where he went. Somehow, he didn't think the old man wanted other people to know. He had said it was highly unusual.
"I'm Hermione Granger, by the way," the girl said, "I've been reading up about this school. I was a bit sceptical about coming here when my dad first suggested it; he just wanted me here because it was his school, and mum agreed of course because it's so close to home." Harry blinked at her while she looked at him expectantly.
"I think I'm here because it was the easiest," he said at last. Now Hermione blinked at him blankly.
"I don't see how it was easiest," Ron said, "I'm only here on scholarship." Then he turned red, as though he hadn't meant to say that.
"Well," Hermione continued, "I finally agreed to go here when I read about their library. Did you know this school has one of the largest privately owned libraries in the country?"
"Er," Harry answered, feeling more and more out of sorts. If this school was as expensive as it was beginning to sound, why in the world was he here? Dudley had made the place sound like a holding ground for future criminals, but this place wasn't like that at all.
"Library?" Ron asked, "Who cares about the library? Wait until you see the football pitch!"
"Football," Hermione sniffed.
"It's really great, Harry," Ron insisted, "What position do you play?"
"Er," Harry said again. Even if he hadn't always been the shortest in his class, Dudley had made it rather impossible to get into sports.
"I play goalie," Ron continued, not seeming to notice Harry's lack of response, "And Fred and George are wingmen on the house team." Then the other boys around them started talking about their favourite players, leaving Harry totally clueless. Suddenly all conversations went silent. Harry turned his head to notice that the old man was standing once more before the podium.
"Welcome back to Stonewall High," he began, "For those of you who don't know me, I am Headmaster Dumbledore. Very soon, you will be set free to do as you please, but do remember that classes begin tomorrow early, and curfew is at ten." This was greeted by a few boos and hisses, but most students were too sated to respond. "First years," he continued, "Follow your house prefects to find your dorms. You should all be provided with an orientation package; now would be a good time to begin to familiarize yourself with the campus. I will remind all of you that the woods on the edge of the campus grounds are completely forbidden, and all students should be inside the buildings by nine. For a complete set of rules and regulations, please consult your orientation package. If you have any questions, you may see your head of house. And now, I believe the dessert has arrived!"
The dessert had indeed arrived, bringing with it a much more relaxed atmosphere. Some students were already standing, walking between the tables to speak with out of house friends and a few were even headed out the door. Harry was feeling much too full for dessert, and the sight of all that rich food made him feel slightly green. He wasn't the only one who couldn't seem to find room for it, and even Ron only managed a couple of cream filled puffs. Not wanting to miss out completely, Harry added a few of the smaller éclairs to his napkin. It wasn't long before Percy was calling up and down the Dorens table for the first years to follow him.
"It's not like he's the only prefect," Ron mumbled, but he got up with the others to follow his brother. Harry was quite ready to leave; his stomach was really starting to bother him. Percy led them out of the hall through a smaller, more regular opening than those great doors they had first entered. They had only gone a short distance when Harry caught sight of a men's toilet and dove into it to be sick. He knelt shaking in the stall for a long moment, before going to the sink to wash out is mouth. When he came out again the other first years were no where to be seen. He only had a moment to panic, however, when he spotted Ron leaning against the wall.
"Are you all right?" he asked, "You look a bit green."
"I'm fine," Harry answered, staring at him. He had never had anyone wait on him before like that.
"We better catch up before Percy sees I've gone missing," Ron said, and taking Harry's hand he pulled him along down the corridor. They went at a bit of a run in the last direction Ron had seen them go, but the group was long gone by then. Oddly enough, what had nearly sent Harry into a blind panic moments before didn't seem so bad when Ron was with him. Ron, determined to find the way, kept leading him down the long stone hallways at the same hurried speed, never mind that neither had any idea where they were going. This went on until they came very close to crashing directly into a man wearing black, billowing robes. In fact, they had to change directions so abruptly that Harry wound up sitting on the floor.
He looked up from where he sat, and up into the face of a pale, sharp faced man with oily black hair. For one second, Harry saw the black robes and recalled his dream about witches and magic and was slightly afraid. When the man's hand came down suddenly Harry flinched away, but he was only giving Harry a hand up.
"Do watch where you're going," he said, his voice dripping with derision.
"Sorry professor," Ron mumbled, making a move as though to go on around him but Harry hesitated.
"Excuse me, sir, do you know how to get to the Dorens rooms?" he asked nervously, his stomach aching worse than ever. Ron looked at him like he was insane and the man's stare was cold and intense.
"And why aren't you with the rest of your year?" he asked, his voice giving the impression that they were doing something horribly wrong.
"Harry was sick," Ron answered quickly, perhaps hoping to gain some sympathy.
"Were you," the man said, eyeing Harry intently. "Your stomach bothering you?" Harry nodded his head nervously.
"Very well," the man said, and with a sweep of his robes he started down the hall in long strides. After he had gone a few yards away, he suddenly stopped, and without turning his head he said, "Well? Do you want me to show you or don't you?"
"Er...thank you," Harry offered, and the two boys hurried to catch up. He led them swiftly down the halls and up some stairs, finally stopping before a set of double doors. Pushing them open he revealed a long room made up rather like a hospital. A young girl was already in there, looking even greener than Harry.
"This isn't the Dorens common room," Ron complained, but the professor ignored them in favour of approaching a small, plump nurse.
"Severus," the woman exclaimed at seeing him, "What brings you here?"
"An upset stomach," he answered, gesturing back towards where Ron and Harry still hanged out in the doorway, "I thought it better that you take a look."
"You brought him here for an upset stomach?" she asked, looking slightly bewildered. The professor rolled his eyes.
"He looks a bit scrawny, don't you think?" he asked, his voice deliberate and laced with meaning, "A bit jumpy too." The nurse's expression changed to one of understanding, and then towards something fiercer, like anger but tinged with sadness.
"Another one of your serpents, is he?" she asked, motioning for Harry to come away from the door. Harry still didn't move, not quite certain how he had gone from searching for his new room to being ushered into the infirmary.
"Dorens, actually," the professor answered, eliciting another surprised expression from the nurse, "Lost Dorens; they may need a guide back to their common room afterwards." That said, he made another sweeping turn and strode back out the double doors, leaving Harry and Ron to fend for themselves.
"Well, come along, dear," the nurse said, motioning for Harry to hop onto a bed. Ron hovered next to him, looking slightly confused while the nurse requested Harry's name. As soon as she left to look up some records, he whispered to Harry in a hushed voice.
"That was Professor Snape!" he hissed, "I'm sure it was! He's the head of the serpent's house; everyone says he favours them in classes. What was he doing, walking us here? From what I've heard, he never helps anyone who isn't in his house."
"You did say I was sick," Harry reminded him, feeling sicker by the minute. He hated doctors of any sort, and he was almost certain the Dursleys would not approve of this visit. What if the school asked them for more money because of this? What if she wanted him to take his clothes off? He didn't like this at all. Ron didn't seem to notice his anxiety, too caught up in his own puzzle. Then the nurse was back, not looking particularly pleased.
"I don't seem to have your medical records, Harry," she said, "Could they have been put under another name?"
"Er, the headmaster said some of my forms weren't filled out right," Harry suggested. She tutted and made her way back into her small office.
"Percy will have noticed us gone by now," Ron remarked as he slumped down onto a nearby bed, "I'll bet he tells mum."
"It's my fault we got lost," Harry pointed out, to which Ron cheered up slightly.
"Hey, yeah, she likes you. If I say you were really sick, she'll be glad I stayed to help."
"Yeah," Harry answered, feeling slightly confused. Ron's mum liked him? She had only seen him for a few minutes, and most of that was his being a nuisance, not knowing where to go. Then the nurse was back again.
"There," she said, "The headmaster himself is coming down to deal with this. We'll soon have you sorted out."
Harry's stomach ache, which had all but disappeared while he listened to Ron ramble, returned full force. How much trouble would he be in if the headmaster himself had to come all the way here to deal with him? The nurse gave him a kindly smile and patted him on the back before turning to the other bed where the sick girl lay.