The heat was all consuming. He could feel it stem from the tips of his limbs and traverse gruesomely all the way up to his melted insides from where it exploded bright blue.
It was over; Eleven years were all he had had to live his life. And with that thought everything stopped; everything. The waving candle chandelier stilled while swaying to the left, while the people who were hit by the impact of the explosion were frozen in the air. The flames that had reached Harry were now glimmering uselessly. Harry backed away with a gasp, not concerned by the heat that was melting him.
In front of him was a gruesome sight. The old gentleman who had been speaking to him just a moment earlier was distended in the air like a floating balloon. His head was limply hanging off his shoulder, tongue lolling futilely and his insides had just exploded. Blood, intestines and flames bathed the man. His white hair was tainted red.
Harry wanted to be sick but he couldn't move even though he was the only person not affected by the time freeze. He closed his eyes again and wished with all his might that everything become right again.
"Fell down the stairs, indeed," Madame Pomfrey tutted unbelievingly while she tended to the boys' injuries, "I wasn't born yesterday. And you should take more care, Mr. Potter, with your delicate disposition…"
"M' not delicate," Harry grumbled while the rest of the boys tittered. Madame Pomfrey shook her head and continued to do her wand waving.
Hermione was standing in a corner with a dour expression. She obviously was the only one who had the good sense to stay out the fight and she wasn't hesitant to say so.
"Savage, that was completely savage," She repeated as soon as the hospital wing was devoid of adults.
"What were we meant to when he…" Ron trailed off sporting red ears.
"Insulted me! It was my problem that he called me foul names… It's not like he's the only one who does that," Hermione looked away with a quivering lower lip.
"You're my friend, our friend. Good friends protect each other's back," Harry said intensely.
"Yeah," Neville agreed while the other boys nodded. Ron looked a bit green but he relented. For a moment Harry was mortally scared Hermione was going to burst into tears but she smiled widely instead.
"If we're done sobbing into each other's shoulders like me nan's sisters I'd like to think of what do with Malfoy. He thinks he's the big man of the house with Crabbe and Goyle doing all his dirty work and if we let him get away with it he'll become insufferable," Seamus plotted viciously.
"And what if he goes to Professor Snape?" Hermione said with a nervous look around, "He should be here same as us because he didn't get away without a bruise or two."
"More than a bruise," Dean boasted.
"Yes, exactly. So where did he go?" Hermione wondered. The silence that followed was only broken by a new arrival in the room
"Mr. Potter, must I always find you injured," Professor McGonagall shook her head wearily and beckoned for him to follow.
Malfoy stormed into their dorm looking like he was attacked by a gang of vicious pit-bulls. His hair was in disarray and his tie was in shameful tatters. His robe was hanging off one of his shoulders.
"What happened?" Dan dropped the quill he was sharpening. The dorm was empty save for him. The rest of the first years were in their classes like all little first years should be. It was not uncommon for the Boy who lived to skive his classes. It wasn't like he was going to learn anything new.
"Your brother happened, that's what. I wouldn't mix with him if I were you," Malfoy ripped his tie off and threw it on the floor.
"He didn't do this to you… alone?" Dan accepted the fact that his brother could be so vicious without question.
"Course not. He had all the Gryffindors with him. I only went to up to him to shake his hand and look what he did to me," Malfoy lied with anger that was not feigned.
"Why would you do that?" Dan's eyes were instantly guarded and his voice lowered in pitch.
"He's your brother and he has a good chance of being sorted into Slytherin. I thought it would be polite to greet him formally but I was being stupid. He's already chosen his house."
"No one can choose their own houses. Only the sorting hat can," Dan answered simply though great weight was behind his words.
"I know," Malfoy whispered, "I know you would choose to be a Gryffindor because of your mother and father. I get it because if I hadn't been a Slytherin my father would have pulled me out of Hogwarts or disowned me at the very least. And then mother would have murdered him for that and my life would have been shite. At least your parents accepted you."
"Have they?" Dan's green eyes glinted sharply against the fire from the blue flames in the fireplace. Dan had recently learned a new flame spell that couldn't be put out.
"At least they're being very Gryffindor about it," That was the only way he could put his thoughts to words.
"Yeah, they are," Dan finally conceded.
"Now, look, your brother's as good as in Gryffindor. The fifth years might give you trouble for that," Malfoy looked around nervously as if he expected the fifth years to jump out of cupboards.
"They'll regret it. I can promise them that at least."
"But you can't fight everybody and you don't need any more enemies. Be ready for it and if you strike don't let them know it was you. That's the Slytherin way," Malfoy had heard his father giving that advice once. It had stuck to his mind though he never really used it.
"That isn't bad advice at all," Dan smirked, "Now I suppose you came to me because I can fix your injuries."
Malfoy rolled his eyes but let his friend heal his swelling fingers.
"Am I in trouble?" Harry asked after they turned another corner.
"Have you done anything to get into trouble?" The woman raised her eyebrow.
Harry shook his head in negation. He knew in his heart that helping a friend was the right thing to do especially after he heard what the meaning of the m-word was.
"I am pleased to announce you have managed to pass all the tests the teachers of Hogwarts set out for you. You will be a Hogwarts student, that is, if you wish it.'
Harry had no more reluctance to attend Hogwarts. He felt too weak, feeble and abnormal. If he wanted to curb his unnaturalness then he needed to know it first. It was the only way. He had learnt the cons of leaving his magic wild the worst way possible. Harry shuddered thinking about the flames that had melted his skin.
"It is customary for Hogwarts students to be sorted into different houses. Your name will be on the student list officially once you are sorted. So speak up Mr. Potter, is this what you want?"
"Yeah," Harry nodded curtly.
"Good, then I shall lead to you to the Headmaster's office," Professor McGonagall led them down a few hallways before they reached a gargoyle.
"Sherbet Lemon," The Professor called out sharply. Harry was wondering what was going on when the gargoyle moved aside to reveal a circular stone staircase.
"This is the headmaster's office," Harry was led into an empty circular room with a lot of spindly tables and portraits covering most of one wall. He shifted his weight on another leg uncomfortably with the feeling he was being watched.
Professor McGongall waved her wand silently and a stool with a patched and derelict hat shifted to the middle of the room noiselessly.
"Wear it, it won't bite," The Professor raised her eyebrows impatiently. Harry uncertainly shuffled to the stool and picked up the hat. He jumped in surprise when the hat started speaking after he wore it.
"Hmm, difficult. VERY difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either. There's talent, oh yes. And a thirst to prove yourself. But where to put you? "
"Not Slytherin. Not Slytherin," Harry murmured.
"Not Slytherin, eh? Are you sure? You could be great, you know. It's all here in your head. And Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, there's no doubt about that. No?" The Sorting hat was not convincing at all.
"Hell no! I wouldn't be caught dead in Slytherin. They're all so vile," Harry grimaced remembering Malfoy and his brother.
"And you would leave the life of sheer greatness for a handful of schoolboys, "The Sorting hat whispered in his ears.
"If you can see in my mind then you'd know the last thing I want to be is great. I'm freaky enough as it is," Harry thought, "I want to be normal."
"Well, if you're sure, better be... GRYFFINDOR!"
Harry sighed in relief and the bird sitting at its perch burst into flames. Instead of looking worried Professor McGonagall gave him a smile she rarely bestowed upon anyone.
"Err. The bird's burning"
"About time, it was looking ghastly."
"He's been sorted into Gryffindor," Malfoy slid into the bench with narrowed eyes. His friend had been in the library the whole afternoon and away from the gossip churning in the underbelly of Hogwarts.
"Is that so?" Dan answered deceptively unemotional.
"The Weasley twins carried him all the way to the Gryffindor towers. I overheard from the Weasley prefect who has his nose in his arse complaining about the din in the common room."
"That's… nice," Dan answered even more coldly. He fumbled with his quills as he stood up abruptly.
"Wait, where are you going?" Malfoy scrambled to his feet "I don't think it's a good time to pick a fight."
"I'm not that stupid," Dan snarled finally showing his true emotions. He stuffed his last bits of parchment in his book bag and stormed off.
"Where are you going?" Malfoy repeated and raced after his friend who was mercifully heading towards the Slytherin common room. They encountered no one until the last bend where to their dismay a gathering of fourth and fifth years was whispering to each other fervently.
"What are doing here Potter? Not celebrating with the Gryffindors?" Marcus Flint, the captain of the Slytherin Quidditch sneered at the first years,
"What's there to celebrate," Dan grumbled sullenly.
The group of Slytherins ambled in closer creating a semi circle around the two boys and for the first time in ages Malfoy wished he hadn't gotten rid of Crabbe and Goyle's company.
"Oh, so hasn't the Boy who lived heard the news. His brother's been sorted with the idiots."
"Yeah, so," Dan was feeling too angry for once to show any kind of deference while Malfoy just though he was being suicidal, "Bole has a brother in Hufflepuff. Shit happens. I want to know when the next practice is."
"And why should we have you firstys there? Wouldn't want you to whisper our player tactics to the enemy," Flint leaned in closer revealing his wonky teeth.
"Why would I hang out with a blood traitor? He used to live with muggles and who knows what kind of germs he's picked up," Dan sneered with enough heat in his eyes to make Flint curious.
"Germs?" Higgs' spoke out feeling baffled as all the other purebloods.
"You know, filth," Dan grimaced looking the Quidditch captain straight in the eyes. The sheer loathing in his stare finally convinced Flint.
"Come down to the Quidditch pitch after five. It's going to be fun."
"You'll be going back home for the weekend?" Hermione asked primly while Harry took a breather from the party. He'd like to believe the party was for him but it was mostly an opportunity for the Gryffindors to have a bit of fun during the weekend.
"Yeah, I don't have my clothes and stuff. I'll come back on Monday."
"That's good. It shall give you time to say good bye at home."
Some of the girls walked past them while giggling incessantly and Hermione rolled her eyes. Harry decided to change subject.
"I don't understand girls. They're just standing, staring and giggling. Do I have something on my face?"
"I don't either," Hermione crossed her arms and slouched in her seat, "They probably think you're cute. They'd be pursuing Daniel Potter if he weren't a Slytherin."
"What, no!" Harry blushed furiously, "That's just… yuck."
"Oh, please, you're just another boy. They'll flutter their eyelashes at you and you'll go berserk. Neville used to say the same thing but you should see him when Lavender Brown wants to pet his Mimbulus mimbletonia."
"I thought he fancied a girl called Bones?"
"He does," Hermione smiled with a twinkle in her eye. Her smile faded away at the sight of impending company. Ron with his arm around Dean Thomas' neck lurched towards the pair a moment later.
"Wanna finally see the Quidditch pitch," Ron scowled at Hermione before she could speak, "I've heard they did clean up the pitch today and its Gryffindor turn on the pitch. Fred and George told me so. They've already headed down moaning about Wood's insane schedule."
"Humph," The bushy haired girl replied and Harry nodded with approval. He got up to leave with them with a look towards Hermione who still looked unsure whether she was welcome. The girl quickly followed the three boys going towards the coat stand near the portrait door.
"The Quidditch pitch is a stonking great pitch, one of the best in Britain. It's near the lake so it's a walk away. They've cleared the path so we won't get stuck in the snow," Ron added pointedly for Hermione's benefit. She looked away without a small pout while she shoved her woolly hat on top of her frizzy hair.
Harry was quickly led through various twisting, turning and even moving paths till they ended up slipping out from the great hall. A few other students also seemed to be heading towards the pitch.
"When are your parents picking you up?" Hermione asked after
"I don't have a clue," Harry answered feeling rather gormless. It must be so unusual for people who've lived with their parents their whole lives to see him so unsure about where he stood. Were his parents the kind of people who would turn up the moment they thought his tests were over or would they indulge him enough to let him stay? Were they even going to pick him up like they said or just owl him his luggage? Would he even get time to say goodbye to his Godfather and Remus Lupin?
Harry was sightlessly following his friends and that was the only reason he couldn't avoid the black projectile that zoomed straight towards them.
"Gerrof, Fang," Dean pulled back a gigantic dog that was now enthusiastically drooling all over Harry's neck.
"Lo' Hagrid," Ron waved enthusiastically at the other new arrival. Even Hermione gave the giant man a shy wave while trying to pull one hind leg of the 'too huge to be a real' dog, Fang. Harry withstood the assault with as much composure he could maintain before he collapsed in a fit of giggles.
"Down Fang," Hagrid's familiar voice boomed, "Ey, Harry, nice teh finally see yeh again."
"Same here Hagrid," Harry vainly tried to keep from rolling on the ground.
"An' its good teh see yeh at Hogwarts," The man grinned as he pulled away the large dog as if it was weightless, "Chuffed to bits I am. I didn' think yeh'd want teh be at Hogwarts."
"Why wouldn't you be coming to Hogwarts?"Hermione looked at Harry with beady eyes. Ron opened his mouth to explain more of the situation but Harry interrupted.
"Aren't we going to be late? Don't want to miss the practice," Words spewed from his mouth in a crazy high pitch. He did not want everyone to talk about how much a nonce he was
"Yeah, go on, but 'Arry do pop over fer tea sometimes," Hagrid asked and Harry promised him instantly. He was already feeling guilty was treating the man as he had over the past year. Missing out on his tea invite sounded criminal. Everyone bid Hagrid farewell and traipsed forward towards their goal.
"Hagrid invites me for tea sometimes," Hermione bit her lip as if she was revealing something very private.
"Hey! He invites us for tea," Ron rounded on her aggressively.
"I'm sorry! I missed the invite for your wedding. Clearly Hagrid made a vow in front of a registrar to make you and only you his cup of tea," Hermione replied back in the same tone.
"Now, now children," Dean shared a roll of eyes with Harry, "Time to go see Uncle Wood perform some Quidditch magic."
There was sullen silence until they reached a small crowd surrounding the players, craning their necks to see what was going on.
"I don't understand what the hold up is," Ron grumbled. Hermione poked him and pointed upwards. In the sky were circling students wearing green uniforms.
"Crud, the snakes have stolen the pitch!"
Dan was feeling rather pleased with his blue flame. All the Slytherin kids who were scattered across the Slytherin stands were now huddled around him hoping to steal his warmth. Malfoy was playing with another flame Dan had conjured which Davis was trying to catch. She shrieked when it flew close to her head.
The Slytherins of the Quidditch team were whizzing in the air with powerful movements but lacked any focused plan. Dan sighed and wondered how they ever won when it was clear Marcus Flint was no strategist.
"Oh, oh, looks like trouble," Nott raised his neck like fledging chicken. On the ground amidst the white snow the red uniforms were obvious. The Gryffindor team was on the pitch and the green uniformed students instantly landed looking ready for a fight.
"Let's go watch them beat each into a pulp," Busltrode clapped her hands gleefully and her friends didn't need to be prompted any further. Dan and Malfoy were last down the stairs because they had their brooms with them. It was now routine for the boys to fly with the team after the practice was finished so they always lugged them about whenever the Slytherins had the pitch.
When they reached the middle of the pitch the row was in full force. The Gryffindor team looked to be near blows with their opponent and behind them was gaggle of Gryffindor spectators.
"I booked the pitch for today, ask Madame Hooch," Wood looked wrathful at Flint's smug expression.
"Stop winging like a nancy, Wood, Snape gave us a note and that's worth a billion times more."
"Who're you calling a nancy, you plonker," Johnson, a Gryffindor chaser with braids spoke out aggressively.
"I'm not talking to little girls who don't know shit about Quidditch," Marcus Flint scoffed.
"This little girl could beat your socks off," Fred Weasley said, "Heck, even our tetchy firstys could beat you Slytherins."
"Is that right?" Flint's mouth contorted dangerously, "Then it's time to test the bull that comes out of your mouth, Weasel. You name your first year and we'll name ours. First one who wins the snitch gets the pitch two whole weeks."
Wood clenched his fist around his broom and looked like he was about to take the row in a physical dimension the looming threat of detention be damned but one of the Gryffindor girls stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. Any further actions were halted by one name being called out.
"Potter," George Weasley stepped sideways to reveal the new first year whose eyes were rounder than an owl's, "We'll be sending in Potter."
"Potter?" Flint and Wood exclaimed together. They both looked equally baffled.
"He's a good seeker, we've played with him," Fred backed his brother with a pat on Harry's back who looked like a stiff breeze could knock him over.
"Funny you should say that because we have a Potter of our own," Marcus Flint looked towards the Boy who lived with an evil glint in his eye.
"Blimey," Someone hissed loudly and to Harry it sounded vaguely like Ron. He couldn't be sure because alarm bells were ringing in his ears.
"That sounds easy peasy," Dan was rearing to go with his broom clenched in his hands. He hadn't forgotten his own defeat last time they met on a Quidditch pitch, "Scared?"
"You wish," Harry crossed his arms, swiftly hiding his despair, "But my broom's at home."
"Use mine," Fred Weasley tried to hand him his broom but the Gryffindor captain's hand on his arm was like steel. He ushered them all closer to have a private chat while looking back wearily at the Slytherins who were having their own conference. Harry ended up being dab smack in the middle.
"Do you understand what you lot is doing. If we lose…" The older boy looked vaguely threatening.
"We won't! He's already beaten the dolt who lived and that was the first time he even sat on a broom."
"Has he?" Oliver Wood's eyebrows rose as he contemplated the situation, "Well, fine, but if he has to borrow a broom then it has to be mine. It's the fastest model on the pitch."
The captain then turned to Harry. "This is important; this is the big one," Oliver Wood, Fred and George Weasley said together.
"Not the first year we've had Wood as the captain," Fred explained while the captain rolled his eyes.
"Win! Just win. If you win this I'll even make you seeker," Wood looked miserable at having a first year not even in the team defend his team's battered honour, "If you survive that is."
"That was supposed to make me feel better?" Harry was handed the broom and pushed along like lamb being sent to the wolves. This was not how he imagined his first day at Hogwarts to go.
"I've got the practice snitch," Flint's grinning mouth revealed uneven teeth. He raised his hand with the snitch in the air.
"Assume take off position," Wood called out while the spectators scrabbled backwards to make room for the impromptu match. Harry mounted his broom just as his Godfather had taught him. Dan did the same with his own broom while his friends in the background cheered him on. Harry could hear his own new companions calling out his name.
"Three, two," Flint released the practice snitch before he reached one and consequently Harry was not the first one off the ground. He did take off a fraction of a second later without caring about the ensuing tussle on the ground. Flint was tackled by half the Gryffindor team and in consequence the Slytherin team had done the same.
The rush of cold wind sliced him like a knife as he raced through the atmosphere clotted with descending fluffy snowflakes. He scanned the whole pitch but could not find any sign of the snitch. The silence so high above was broken by a loud noise. Dan swooped from behind, unseating him from the boom. Harry looked around in a panic but his brother was nowhere to be found. The boy had disappeared, taking advantage of the worsening weather.
Harry suddenly noticed a golden gleam to his right. He flattened himself on the broom racing towards what he hoped was an end to this ridiculous situation. Without warning he lurched forward because his broom halted in its tracks. A laugh cackled near his ear but he couldn't even catch sight of the Slytherin who was evading him so successfully.
Muttering something about fouls and people who should keep their hands to their own brooms Harry looked back to where he had seen the snitch earlier but it had disappeared. Suddenly from the corner of his eye he saw his brother making a sharp downwards manoeuvre and Harry frantically sought to join him in the descent. Clearly his brother had caught sight of the snitch to come so blatantly come into view whereas he had been so elusive previously.
WronskiFeintWronskiBeatHarry FeintWronskiBeatHarryFeintWr onskiFeint Harry's mind chanted mindlessly and he continued chasing Dan until he realized they were not his thoughts. It hadn't even occurred to him that this was a feint but there it was, the idea being supplied to his mind so carelessly. He looked up and the snitch glinted mysteriously just above him. Harry broke his dive at the same time as his brother and the two first years with their bodies clenched tensely fought gravity as they tried to reach heaven wards. Harry reached out his right arm with all his might.
Dan crashed into Harry but he was too late. His brother's fingers were already wrapped around the glittering practice snitch. Both boys twisted and turned for a moment unable to break free until finally they broke apart.
Harry clasped the snitch to his jumper as the broom lost all acceleration and drifted down without any focus. He neither heard nor saw the jubilance of his house. He could feel himself uncomfortably pressed against multiple bodies but he had more pressing concerns. Had he just read someone's mind?
I'm not happy with the chapter :( And I've managed to lose my plot summary in some heap of paper that got thrown out. Damn you, spring cleaning. Damn you.
I never did ask if there were any issues with the Brit speak. It's not a huge deal but it's a bit jarring to find the wrong language being used in the middle of a Brit fic. I used to have a Yorkshire accent but I've lost it since we moved back home so my Brit speak credentials are on shaky grounds.
And for those with great memories yes, the first paragraph is exactly the same as the previous chapter's for a reason. No, I've not gone nuts.
And apologies to those hoping for a non-Hogwarts end. I know, I know but Hogwarts hate comes from a retrospective point of view and I want to start with a clean slate on the same playing field. This story will simply not work in another wizarding school.
Thank you for the reviews! I just spent some time going back to see them and that's what prompted me to post the chapter even though I'm not too keen on it. I chopped out Dan's reaction because I had two scenarios and I needed both so I now have to merge them somehow. Sorry again.
Lastly, Harry's a Gryffindor. I know it's a popular theory that he's always been a closet Slytherin and of course he has traits no doubt but he denied greatness! That was the Sorting Hat's test and no matter what coloured his experiences he said no to being great which no self respecting Slytherin could ever deny.