A/N: I was so sick and tired of the pre-Hogwarts stuff...and I did some planning, and realised that I still had loads and loads of chapters to write. So we're speeding things up, and going to Hogwarts. Also, due to the planning, I have finally decided what the story pairing is going to be, and it's going to be HP/LV, with HP/DM as some first love. But that's not going to occur until third year, and third year is a long way off. If you have any suggestions, review and tell me, and I'll consider it. The Volturi are also going to feature, and I have fixed up Evan Rosier as the ultimate antagonist. I actually really like him, heh heh. He's a cool baddie. An outtake from my planning:

Harry: What happened to your hair? I thought you were dark haired...

Rosier: Well, I used to be tall, dark, and brooding, but Tom stole my look. So I decided to fight the stereotype that blonds are stupid. Funnily, I have felt distinctly more foolish since I dyed it...

Harry: ...Why don't you just dye it back?

Rosier: Harry, Harry. If I can't even overcome blondness, how will I overtake the world?

And another, a HP/TMR moment:

Harry: I can't keep up with you, Tom! You have so many damn mood swings it's like you're real.

Tom: I'm a book, Harry, I have a different face on every page.

Harry: Then where do you keep your soul?

Tom: You are my soul.

I smirk and feel pleased with myself. Hey, I actually did planning. This story is now the proud owner of a plot. I want rewards.

The Road Not Taken

Chapter Nine: Finally, Hogwarts

"Mr. Potter, do you mean to say that you were ignorant of magic?"

At this moment, the door to the conference room burst open.

There stood an old man in lime green robes and a yellow cap, with billowing beard and a twinkle in his eye, just like on chocolate frog cards. To Harry, he seemed like the twelfth witch at Sleeping Beauty's birthday party-an evil gatecrasher.

"Harry," said Albus Dumbledore. "There you are."

For the reporters, this was too good to be true. Nothing better than a good old facedown. They flocked to Dumbledore like flies.

"Professor Dumbledore! Can you explain-?"

Albus Dumbledore held up a hand with a patient smile. "My friends, I have been searching for Harry ever since he disappeared. I do believe I need to be explained to, more than anyone present, in fact."

"Professor Dumbledore, what are your reasons for leaving Harry here with muggles who abused him? Was it negiligence, plot, or…?" A young woman asked matter-of-factly, with an air of thoughtfulness that contradicted the gleam in her eye.

"This is a great misunderstanding," Dumbledore said. "It would be an exaggeration to say that Harry's relatives abused him. I assure you all, they are blood, they care for one another, and while rifts will arise between family, it is nothing that cannot be solved. Harry's safety is my utmost concern, and I would not wish any disagreement between child and guardian to be taken advantage of by those who have ulterior motives."

He stared pointedly at Lucius Malfoy.

Harry felt Lucius' arm snake across his shoulders, almost embracing him, and understood that it was to mock Dumbledore. Therefore, he resisted the urge to shrug him off.

"Misunderstanding, Dumbledore?" Lucius sneered. "I do not call it misunderstanding when a family keeps a child in a cupboard, I call it an outrage. Or, perhaps, this is some mysterious part of muggle culture that I fail to understand?"

"However muggle culture differs from ours, the things that bind us remain the same," Dumbledore said evenly, "love, family, kinship-just as we have. Not one of the fathers and mothers present would consider it reasonable for their child to be taken away on the grounds of disagreement, however fierce, and neither will muggles. The prudent option here, is for Harry to be sat down with his family to talk out their differences. I will see to this."

The overwhelming horror at the idea of ever seeing the Dursleys again drove Harry into action.

"THEY AREN'T. MY. FAMILY!" Harry yelled, struggling free of Lucius' hold and standing as tall as he could. He glared at the old wizard. "They've never treated me like family! I don't want to ever see them, ever again!"

Mutters sounded. Dumbledore made his way towards the raised platform on which Harry stood, and the crowd parted for him in rapt anticipation. He stopped in front of Harry and bent down to meet Harry's gaze.

"Harry." His tone was gentle but his gaze sharp. "There are many things you do not know, or understand, about the wizarding world, about yourself. There are those who do not wish you well, and you must be aware. It is too much to ask, of course, for one as young as yourself to recognise every danger, combat every foe. You would not wish to consort with those who would lead you into peril. I can help you there."

Harry said, "I think I can tell who's the wrong sort for myself, thanks."

Lucius chuckled, supremely smug.

"Well, Dumbledore? Harry himself is the best judge at what sort of treatment he has received at the hands of those who should have cared for him. Harry will be welcomed into the Malfoy family, and I will be a better guardian for him than any muggle."

"You mean to adopt Harry?"

"Exactly," said Lucius.

"I cannot condone this," said Dumbledore.

"It is not for you to condone, Headmaster," Lucius drawled. "I have the minister's approval."

"Cornelius," Dumbledore said, with a distinctly unfriendly look at Lucius, "I must discuss this with you."

"Ah-um," Fudge responded, "Ah, yes, I suppose…"

Harry's heart started thudding madly as Dumbledore turned to Minister Fudge. Whether from Ixander or Lucius or chocolate frog cards, he had learnt that Dumbledore was a Very Powerful Man. What if he convinced Fudge to send Harry back to the Dursleys?

But Harry suddenly noticed that Lucius' supremely smug look had not faded. Dumbledore and Fudge were muttering furiously together, the reporters were muttering furiously between themselves, and Lucius was looking pleased. What was he missing here?

"Mr Malfoy," a crisp female voice suddenly cut through the muttering, and Harry jumped as he noticed that the speaker was just beside him. "The adoption papers are in order, sir."

Everybody turned to stare as Lucius lifted the roll of parchment from her hands.

"Thank you, Amanda," Lucius drawled, and held the roll up to Dumbledore's gaze. "I took the liberty of speedening up the paperwork a little in time for this conference, Minister. I do hope you won't mind?"

He paused, but Fudge made no reply, so he continued to look at Dumbledore.

"Well, Headmaster? What more have you to say?"

Dumbledore held Lucius' gaze for long moments before turning to Harry.

"I shall see you at Hogwarts, Harry," he said quietly, and swept from the room.

Dumbledore had lost.

After the press conference was quickly wrapped up, Lucius and Harry looked at each other in the aftermath of victory.

"Well now." Lucius crossed his arms. "Let's hear you call me father."

Harry considered this briefly before a wide grin spread across his cheeks.

"Okay, pops!"

Lucius' lip curled. "…Stick with Lucius."

Harry smirked. He got Lucius just fine. If there was one thing old Lu couldn't stand, it was plebianess.

If Severus had despised the Potter boy before, it was nothing compared to what he felt now. He stared murderously at the line of small children filing into the Great Hall; beside him, Pomona Sprout shot him a startled look. Severus ignored her. Dumbledore, on the other hand, looked utterly unperturbed, sneaking a sweet out of his pocket and popping it into his mouth. The corner of Severus' lip curled up. He may be milking his dotty old man persona for all it was worth at the moment, but Severus had been there when he'd sat speechless for an hour after returning from the ministry. Whether he had a plan to counter Lucius Malfoy, Severus had no idea. The old man was, as always, evasive.

McGonagall was now pulling open the roll of parchment to begin the sorting. Severus searched the line of midgets for the particularly intolerable one, but did not immediately find him.

"Abbott, Hannah!"

A small blonde girl stumbled towards the stool, looking bewildered. Not an ounce of self control. A Hufflepuff for sure, Severus thought contemptously. Sure enough, Hufflepuff was what the hat proclaimed. One of these days, if the hat got sick, Severus could probably fill in. Indeed, if Severus had been to judge, Dumbledore would most certainly have spent his seven years in the Slytherin dungeons.

Severus glanced sideways at the headmaster, and found him twiddling his thumbs as he watched the sorting. By the time it finished, the old man would have memorised all the names of the new students, the houses they were sorted into, and also something of their personalities. It was a feat Severus had been attempting to imitate, with limited success. Dumbledore had the advantage of experience and power. Severus did not bow to many people, but Dumbledore's power was such that he could not hope to reach.

Laughter made Severus turn his attention back to the sorting, only to find that none other than Neville Longbottom had tripped over himself on the way to the stool. Severus raised an eyebrow. Was the other potencial prophecy child so incompetent? The Dark Lord would be quite furious if his designated nemesis turned out to be a Hufflepuff. Gryffindor, however, was the hat's proclamation, and Severus had to wonder if the old thing was truly as impartial as Dumbledore claimed. He would not put it past the old man to manipulate even the sorting hat.

"Malfoy, Draco!"

Lucius Malfoy's surname caught his attention, and he watched as the young likeness of Lucius swaggered to the stool. He was sorted into Slytherin without a glitch. Severus remembered first seeing him at the celebration of his first birthday, tightly held in the arms of his mother and forced to keep silent as the adults around him plotted and planned. The boy would not remember, that the Dark Lord had caressed his cheek and commented that it was a fortunate thing he had been born a month premature, the words directed towards Lucius but his eyes on Severus. Draco, Severus recalled, had burst into tears at the Dark Lord's touch. Smart boy, Severus thought sardonically.

And now Severus watched with rapt attention as McGonagall proceeded to the P's. He barely spared a glance to the pair of new Slytherins sorted before it came to 'Potter'.

Of course, there was muttering. Everybody sat up straighter and peered as a small boy appeared from behind a gangly redhead and stumbled up to McGonagall. He looked just as the picture in the Prophet showed, almost an exact replica of James Potter. The impotent rage stirred up again. Fool boy, undermining your mother's sacrifice, consorting with dangerous men like Malfoy, don't know what's good for you…Severus silently seethed as the hat sat on the boy's head. Reckless, irresponsible, without a brain to speak of, just like your father…


"Dumbledore!" Severus snarled, spittle flying from his mouth as he turned to glare at the old man. "The hat has obviously gone senile in its old age. I demand-"

"Senility is nothing to sniff at, Severus," Dumbledore said, infuriatingly calm. "In fact, I find it rather refreshing."

Severus ground his teeth. "I demand the boy be immediately removed from my house."

"That might be wise, Albus," Sprout put in, eyeing Severus apprehensively. "Hufflepuff House would be glad-"

"Ah, Pomona," Dumbledore said, "The Sorting Hat has been doing a splendid job for longer than any of us have been alive. I trust that its choice is the best one."

Severus knew from experience that Dumbledore would not be changing his mind, and with a muttered insult, turned to look at what Potter was doing. He found the boy sitting opposite Draco Malfoy at the end of the Slytherin table, talking to the recently sorted Theodore Nott. On either side of Draco sat Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, Nott…sons of Death Eaters, and Potter's new cohorts. Harry Potter did not know what was good for him.

A final Slytherin took his seat gracefully beside Potter, and Dumbledore rose to give his annual greetings. Severus was not listening. The old man was far too calm-and too crazy, but nothing could be done about that. Severus would not be giving his new Slytherins his annual speech. He would be in Dumbledore's office, throwing the biggest tantrum he could work up and demanding that the insufferable Potter child be removed from his house, from the school, away from his sight.

Food appeared on Severus' plate, but the oily texture only made Severus want to retch. After a few seconds' deliberation, he decided there was no reason his tantrum should be postponed-it would start now. Fuming wordlessly, Severus pushed back his chair, stood up, and swept from the room without a backward glance.

Harry stopped listening to Draco's pompous and long-winding speech about the Malfoy family when he noticed a professor from the head table suddenly heading out. Since apparently Draco knew absolutely everything, Harry quickly flapped a hand in Draco's face and pointed to the retreating man.

"Who's that?"

"Merlin, Potter, I swear, your manners-Snape? Why's he leaving?"

All six of the new Slytherin boys stared at their head of house as he exited from the large doors.

"Maybe he's unwell," suggested Theodore Nott reasonably.

"He can't be ill!" Said Draco. "I have it on good authority he's going to give us a speech later on."

Harry rolled his eyes at Draco's obnoxiousness. "So he isn't allowed to be sick 'cos he's got to give you a speech? Great logic, Draco."

"He hasn't eaten anything," said Goyle.

Harry found that a reminder that he hadn't eaten anything either, and the food that filled the table looked wonderful and much more edible than Malfoy Manor delicacies. Deciding that his hunger was more important than the whereabouts of his new head of house, Harry scooped up a couple chicken drumsticks and began to eat.

Draco kicked him under the table; Harry glared at him.

"Potter, please. Stop bringing shame to the Malfoy name. Use your fork."

Harry scowled, picked up his fork, and stabbed into the drumstick without dropping Draco's gaze. He heard a snicker-it was the last Slytherin boy, Zabini something.

"So what's it like living with Draco, Potter? Must be hard work," said Zabini, smirking.

"Oh yeah," Harry said heartfeltly. "You knew him before?"

"Mrs Malfoy and my mother attend a lot of the same functions. Boring functions. We had to entertain each other sometimes."

"We Slytherins are exclusive, Potter," Draco said snootily, cutting up his steak with excessive precision. "Didn't Father tell you? Zabini, Crabbe, Goyle…even Pansy Parkinson over there, we've all met before. You don't get to be a Slytherin if you're just anybody."

"Well, what am I doing here?" Harry snorted.

He was rounded on by looks that suggested he was stupid.

Finally, Draco said, "Those muggles, did they damage your brain? The greatest wizard in the history of wizards is dead because of you. You're the Boy-Who-Lived."

Harry noticed that the others were looking distinctly uncomfortable. He didn't particularly enjoy mentioning that either.

Zabini coughed, and said, "So, Potter, tell me some more about your life with Draco."

"That sounds wrong," Harry muttered.

Zabini sniggered, and the moment was broken.

Several helpings and a generous portion of dessert later, Harry was feeling a bit like a slug and wasn't quite sure he wasn't going to start oozing. He burped, and was treated to another 'Potter-you-have-no-manners' glare from Draco. Harry couldn't bring himself to care. He was looking forward to bed, and was hoping Professor Snape really was ill, and would spare him a long, droning speech.

All of the sudden, the remains of the food vanished, leaving Crabbe mid-bite and looking crestfallen. Harry smothered a laugh, and turned his attention to the head table as Albus Dumbledore stood up. Their eyes met.

Dumbledore smiled, looked away, and began to give his start-of-term notices.

Harry was still wondering about Professor Snape's abrupt departure when Dumbledore gave him something else to wonder about.

"-the third floor corridor is out of bounds to anyone who does not wish to die a very painful death."

Harry raised his eyebrows and looked around, but none of the other Slytherins seemed to be paying Dumbledore much attention.

"-and now, let us sing the school song."

Draco looked up at once, blanching, and Zabini burst out laughing.

"Oh man, Draco-please don't! Do us all a favour!"

"What?" Harry said curiously.

"Ah-this once, at the Ministry Christmas Gala-"

"Zabini," Draco hissed, shoving his wand into Zabini's face.

Zabini raised his hands into the air, and finished with simply, "Draco can't sing."

Harry was amused. He made sure to sing very loudly. Draco was not amused.

After all had fallen silent but a funeral march from the Gryffindor table, Harry looked in their direction and caught Ron's eye. Ron smiled at him wanly. Harry wondered if Ron would still want to be his friend now that they were in different-and not very friendly-houses.

"First years?" After even the Weasley twins had finished singing, a tall, bulky boy with a prefect badge appeared at the first-years' end of the table. He looked a little intimidating. "Follow me."

As Harry got up to follow the other Slytherins, he wondered why not one upper year student had spoken to any of them. The first year girls hadn't even spoken to them much, despite Draco's claiming to have known them. However, Harry was hardly going to go up and make conversation with the intimidating prefect, so he just made small talk with Zabini, who seemed like a nice bloke.

They went along a corridor and down several flights of stairs, until Harry was certain he would never be able to find his way back. Finally, they stopped before a stretch of wall.

The prefect tapped the wall with his wand, and said, "Puritatis maxime."

Harry was reminded of Diagon Alley as the wall dissolved and allowed them in.

"Puritatis maxime," repeated the prefect, "is the password. You'd better remember it. Usually Professor Snape has some things to say to first years, but he isn't here. Your dorms are through there; your names are on the door. Welcome to Slytherin, feel free to settle in."

With that, he disappeared down a different passage, likely leading to his dorms, and left the ten first year students to fend for themselves.

Everyone looked at each other, and left the candle-lit, empty common room, heading down the narrow passageway. It was one of many that lead off the common room. They soon came to a door on which hung a metal plate, enscribed with the names 'Vincent Crabbe' and 'Gregory Goyle'. Opposite, was a similar door which proclaimed 'Millicent Bulstrode' and 'Dalphne Greengrass'. Further down were two more doors that specified they were for 'Draco Malfoy & Theodore Nott' and 'Morag MacDougal & Pansy Parkinson', and then Harry and Zabini were the only ones left.

"It's alphabetical," Harry pointed out, for want of something to say.

"That's right, roommate," Zabini said, smiling easily.

Sure enough, the final door was enscribed with the names 'Harry Potter' and 'Blaise Zabini', and Harry finally knew Zabini's first name. Harry pushed open the door to see a spacious rectangular room lit with torches around the walls. Two four poster beds with heavy green velvet curtains stood on either side of the room. Another door was on the other side of the room, presumably leading to the bathroom.

Harry recognised his trunk standing beside the bed by the window, and plopped down on it with a satisfied sigh. He lay and watched fish swim by the window. The room must be under the lake, he thought groggily. He could hear Blaise whistling as he rummaged through his stuff, and knew he should probably be unpacking his pajamas and toothbrush as well, but he felt too lazy. He didn't even want to take his glasses off. It wouldn't hurt to take a nap.

"Potter! Zabini!" Draco Malfoy's nasal and far-too-perky voice accompanied the sound of the door creaking open. Harry groaned.

"Whadda hell, Draco? Go sleep."

"Seriously? Our first night at Hogwarts and you want to sleep? Hey, I have it on good authority that the Slytherin upper years are having their own back-to-school party and I know where it is. You have to come."

Draco and his good authority. Damn Lucius. "No. Go 'way."

"Did you say party? I'll go," Blaise offered. "Let's devastate a few birds with my sexiness…"

Harry snorted, and rolled over.

"Yeah, yeah. I can see how you would be devastating. Come on, we have to grab Vincent and Greg as well."

There was some shuffling, another creak of the door, and they were gone. Peace and quiet, however, Harry's sleepiness had been rattled by Draco's racket. Yawning loudly, Harry rolled off the bed and opened his trunk. Tugging out his washing stuff, he went off and made use of the rather nice bathroom. Then he donned his pajamas and opened his secret diary.

Well? The word flitted across the page the moment he opened it.

Say hello to the new Slytherin, Harry wrote slowly, grinning.

Well done, Harry. I knew you had it in you, came the swift reply.

Thanks. It's pretty good. My roommate is quite nice, but he's gone off with Draco to crash the Slytherin upper years' party. You wouldn't know anything about that?

Let's hope they can hold their own; the party is strictly sixth year and above. As they are neither girls nor pretty, I doubt they will receive a pleasant reception.

Ha ha, good thing I didn't go then.

Indeed. Is Hogwarts much different from the days I was made?

How would I know what it was like when you were made, Tom! But I don't think it's much different, it seems very old. The gateskeeper is pretty funny, though, he's enormous!

Hagrid? Oh, he's still there, is he…he's very close to Dumbledore, Harry, you might want to keep your distance.

Really? I thought he seemed quite nice.

Hagrid is rather…simple-minded, but he is extremely loyal to Dumbledore, and Dumbledore is not so pleasant to deal with, is he?

Oh. It's so good to have you, Tom, you're like a Slytherin's best friend.

Why, I am much more than just your best friend, Harry…

A/N: Did anyone notice the familiarity of the 'I think I can tell who's the right sort for myself, thanks' quip? Anyone? Anyone? Do comment!