Harry Potter was a bit overwhelmed.
When he had first been given his Hogwarts letter by his Aunt and Uncle, he had finally understood why his relatives hated him so much: He was, in their mind, a freak. The letter told him that he was a wizard ... a person who could do magic. And although he had always yearned for acceptance from his relatives he knew, at that moment, that they would never accept him. He was the freak and they wanted nothing to do with him if they could help it.
His Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had taken him to Charring Cross and pointed him toward an old pub. His Uncle's handed him an envelope with 500 pounds and told him that was all he would get. His schooling was arranged apparently and he would have to make do with what he got. He was worried how he would make the money last, but he was used to having little. The 500 pounds was actually a shock: His Uncle had never given him money before. He was grateful for what he had and he would do whatever he could to make the money last. When it was used up, he would have to figure out how to make more. Maybe he could mow lawns in the neighborhood. That was a problem for the future.
He entered the Leaky Cauldron very early in the morning. It being very early on a Friday morning, there was no one at the pub yet except the bartender. Seeing a rag moving by itself dusting the tables, he finally admitted to himself that it was real. He had to figure out how to get the list of items. He had approached the bartender and had been treated very nicely. It was quite a shocker. Apparently he was well known for surviving as a child. Tom, the old bartender, had told him what an honor it was to meet the Boy-Who-Lived. He figured wizards didn't die in car accidents much because Tom told him how every one who heard his story really took it as a sign of hope.
At that moment, he was so embarrassed that he couldn't even find it in himself to ask why surviving a car crash was so very surprising. He concluded that wizards must get around differently. When he asked how wizards traveled, he was given an explanation of floo, brooms, and apparition. He then explained about the one time he ended up on the roof of his school and asked if that was apparating. Tom was very impressed with the story. When he got right down to it, he figured he could trust Tom and told him he needed some directions as to where to get his supplies. Tom asked him if he had the galleons with him. He explained he had 500 pounds and wondered if that was enough. Tom thought about it for a minute and said that it would be quite enough. He then offered to exchanged the pounds for galleons, explaining that usually people just went down to the bank but as he was the Boy-Who-Lived that he would help him out. Apparently some of his customers used pounds and having the money would be useful for making change. Tom had even offered an oath that he wasn't cheating Harry and after a flash of magic, Harry realized that Tom was just a good person helping a kid who needed some direction.
Harry explained that his guardians expected thrift and Tom had taken him to get the best quality used items when possible and discounted new items when necessary. The most expensive thing had been his wand. Besides the wand and the potions ingredients, Tom had helped him buy good used items for most everything else. When he was done, he still had fifty pounds and even with the long list of items he had only spent 30 of the 90 galleons that Tom had given him. Tom even gave him an old used change purse to hold the money so it couldn't be lost as an early birthday present. It helped that Tom haggled with every shop owner to get the best discounts, explaining that Harry Potter's guardians expected thrifty spending so as not to seem too ego-driven. The shop owners had mostly looked at him oddly, but cooperated with Tom. Why everyone was so nice to him was still a mystery but the stares were disconcerting.
The wand shop was a bit of a surprise. The wand maker was a bit creepy when he had helped find his wand. Instead of satisfaction when it was done, he had been about to say something but a man and someone his age had come in probably to buy a wand for the boy. Tom rushed him out before he could figure out why Ollivander reacted so strangely to his wand. Tom explained on the way back to the Leaky Cauldron that some people were prejudiced against muggleborns and muggle-raised people. That conversation continued with Tom explain the idea of purebloods, half-bloods and muggleborns. Tom mentioned that the Slytherin house in Hogwarts tended to have the most bigots, although not all of them were like that. Of course that led to Tom explaining the houses and telling him that Tom himself had been in Hufflepuff. As Tom had said, "A lot of folks think that us Puffs are a bunch o' duffers, but really it's mostly about being willing to work hard and being loyal." Harry, deciding that he was used to hard work, replied that it sounded like a good house. Tom beamed when he said that and Harry resolved to get into Hufflepuff if he could because if Tom was representative, he could identify with the attitude. Tom was a hard working man who took time out of his busy day to help a perfect stranger. Harry had a lot of admiration for that..
After he had somehow tripped and hit his head coming out of the boats, he had woken up to find himself in what looked like a hospital. There was a nurse ("I'm Healer Pomfrey and the infirmary is where we treat accidents") who treated him for the knock on his head. He wasn't used to getting things treated outside of a few "playground accidents" at his primary school (Dudley liked his Harry Hunting) and concluded that it was much more efficient if a lot weirder than he was used to.
The Deputy Headmistress (and she was a stern one at that) had brought an old hat and explained that he missed the Sorting. After explaining the procedure, he put the hat on. When the hat had started talking to him, he was a bit shocked. He argued a bit with it when the hat mentioned Slytherin. He told it that he wanted Hufflepuff because he wasn't afraid of hard work. After a short discussion with the hat, finally it called out his House. His Head of House came to the infirmary and introduced herself and told him that a prefect would be around in the morning to show him to the dormitory and how to get to the Great Hall.
The prefect was a bit stilted and didn't seem to want to engage in conversation. Harry was used to being the freak and so resolved to keep quiet and make no waves. He had survived primary without getting close to people and it seemed that the kids around him didn't seem to be comfortable talking to him. It was lonely, but without Dudley at least he wasn't getting pounded on a regular basis.
A week had gone by and he was getting used to classes. The stares of his fellow students tended to make him nervous so he went back to his dorm room as much as possible so as to avoid the whispers. It became his habit to avoid the other students. Some were overly friendly and he wasn't comfortable with that because he wasn't used to it. Others seemed nervous and so he didn't want to push too hard and make them even more nervous. Some (mostly his Slytherin classmates) tended to make fun of him. One blond kid had even insulted his House and made a comment that he would go the same way as his parents. He didn't like to get reminders of the fact his father had been drunk driving. He avoided confrontation as much as possible because he didn't need another Dudley to attack him and apparently the kid was popular. After a while, he noticed the blonde boy - Draco Malfoy - began to ignore him and tended to get into conflict with a red-headed kid in Gryffindor. Thank god that he had learned how to avoid bullying when possible. Otherwise it would have been a much more unpleasant experience.
He didn't really know how to make friends but his Head of House encouraged his habit of hard work and that at least was satisfying.
He noticed that the brown-hared girl in Gryffindor was a bit of a bookworm. He didn't mind that type of student really. She wasn't really showing off to the other students but it was obvious she was trying to impress the teachers. He was sad to see the other students around her get annoyed. He no longer made such attempts to impress teachers; he learned that lesson early. For one thing, he got in trouble for getting better grades than Dudley. Another thing was that one of his early teachers didn't like "swots" and so idea of showing off what he was learning was not appreciated. Come to think of it, Mrs. Ferguson from primary reminded him of Severus Snape at Hogwarts. The same sarcastic, insulting manner that he grew used to with her was found to be alive and well with the tall, dark man. He had decided to be very polite and respectful. As much as he didn't like the man, the man was a teacher and held power over him and it was a bad idea to fight against authority. One thing he did notice was that when he sat near this one girl in his class, Susan Bones, Professor Snape tended to not make as many horrible comments. It was almost like he was holding himself back from something really scathing. As a result, he sat near to her as much as possible. It was a lot less unpleasant than being singled out by the frightening teacher.
It was a somewhat interesting Winter Holiday. He had stayed at Hogwarts, knowing that his relatives had no interest in his coming home and sharing the holiday - well, other than the fact that he couldn't do the cooking if he wasn't there and he really had no interest in cooking a feast he wasn't allowed to enjoy nor sitting shut up in his room while the rest of the household exchanged gifts. He had never really had any real presents and so didn't really expect any. He didn't mind the fact that he was alone in his dormitory over the holiday. Although there were a few older Puffs, for the most part everyone went home. The ones that stayed tended to be older kids who were preparing for some big end of the year exams.
One thing was that was strange was that he had received a package with some silvery cloak. It didn't say who had sent it but had said it belonged to his father. It was a very large cloak and he didn't think he would have any reason to wear it around - it would probably look odd on him. No one else seemed to dress in silver cloaks and it had taken months for people to stop looking at him like he was some sort of strange creature. He didn't want to do something or wear something that would start that up again.. He was happy to have something from his father but really wished that whoever had sent it had given more information. He had carefully folded the cloak and looked at it, feeling a bit wrung out to finally get something that had belonged to at least one of his parents. He didn't know anything about them really. He didn't even know their names. His Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon just called them freaks and had never really said anything else about them. Not knowing who had sent the package, he had no idea who to ask to get more information. He resolved that he would hold on to it and find some time when it would be appropriate to wear when he was older and bigger.
It was coming toward the last few days of the term. Harry was working hard on finishing up things and getting ready for the summer. He wasn't looking forward to going back to Privet Drive but he at least knew that he had successfully completed First Year. He was in the Hufflepuff First Year dormitory when some black cloud had swooped in to the room. The other students had screamed a bit but the cloud advanced on his like a ghost. For some reason, the cloud caused his scar to hurt horribly - a larger order of magnitude of pain than he had felt during the school year at strange times, mostly in the Great Hall and in DADA.
The next thing he knew he was waking up in the infirmary and Madam Pomfrey was talking to him. She did a few spells and then gave him a tray to eat for breakfast. He was going to miss the good food of Hogwarts when he went back. After he had finished, the doors opened to admit several people including Professor Sprout, another woman who looked tough as nails with a monocle, and someone else who looked to be acting like a bodyguard. After he was introduced to Amelia Bones, the interview that would change his life began.
AN I thought it was a good idea to give an accounting of Harry and his attitude which led to him accepting what was happening during the year. I want to thank all the reviewers who make so many good comments. I will continue this, albeit slowly, as many have expressed an interest in seeing where it's going. It wasn't as long but then again it is a needed step to fill in some detail.