A/N - Etherian (the author of "Nobody Cared") is my beta for this story. So if you see any glaring mistakes, they're probably mine. :)
A pause, and then a small bespectacled boy pushed his way of the crowd and slowly made his way to the front of the Great Hall.
Step. Click. Step. Click.
All eyes were on the spiky, black haired boy as he carefully moved across the floor. At his right side, he had a blue stainless steel forearm crutch, and every time he took a step with his right leg, it moved too.
Everyone stared at the strange pinkish scars he had across the right side of his head.
Step. Click. Step. Click.
It seemed to take an inordinately long amount of time for the boy to make his way to the front, but perhaps that was merely because everyone had fallen silent as they witnessed the anomaly that was before them.
Step. Click. Step. Click.
Then, silence as the boy stopped in front of the small stool and slowly sat down upon it. He looked straight out at everyone, his back ramrod straight as he waited for McGonagall to drop the hat down over his spiky black hair.
At long last the hat was down, and that's when the real waiting began. Minutes crawled by and yet the hat did not speak. The students looked at their professors and the headmaster for clues, but none were forthcoming.
Everyone knew that both of his parents had been in Gryffindor. It made sense that he would be as well. It should have been a quick decision. There shouldn't have been a wait.
As five minutes turned into ten, the professors had begun to talk to one another in low murmurs, and the students in the Great Hall followed suit.
Another minute passed without a decision.
McGonagall took a step forwards, her hand reaching out to take the hat off of the boy, and that's when the hat finally did speak.
It slowly opened the slit that was its mouth, and shouted out for all of the Great Hall to hear.
The small boy carefully stood up, removed the hat from his head and slowly went to take a seat at the far table on the side closest to the professors. He sat down next to a silent Draco Malfoy and across the table from a grinning Theodore Nott.
No one clapped. No sounds were made from the shocked crowd.
As they watched, the left side of Harry's face pulled upwards into the semblance of a smile, while the right side stayed completely immobile. The effect was more of a smirk, and it seemed to sit well with the other first year Slytherins he was surrounded with. As they relaxed, so did most of the other students.
Then, with a flick of his wrist, the forearm crutch collapsed into itself and shrunk down an object no larger than a wristwatch on the small boy's arm.
After a moment more, McGonagall cleared her throat and managed to call out the next name, but there was little doubt what—or whom—they were all still thinking about.
. . .
Harry hadn't been bothered by the silence surrounding the hat's decision. His world had been mostly silent since the accident anyway. He could still hear extreme highs and lows, but mostly he relied on touch and sight to make his way through the world.
It hadn't particularly bothered him to be stared at by a room of kids either. He was used to being stared at. He didn't necessarily like it, but he wasn't prone to being nervous about it either.
He was used to it.
It helped that his right eye was actually a magical prosthetic that did everything a regular eye did, plus a few things. He couldn't see through objects with it like a certain auror's did, but he didn't care. He was just thankful to be able to see out of that side of his face again.
Around him the other students were bringing their hands together and clapping as the last student was sorted. However, it wasn't until a boy had slid into the spot diagonal from him that he realised he had gotten Slytherin as well.
He assumed from the direction of people's heads that someone was apparently talking, so he turned his body around and gazed up at Dumbledore, the bloody headmaster. The old man was talking, but Harry couldn't understand much thanks to his massive beard. No matter, he knew better than most that what came out of the old man's mouth was mostly rubbish.
He swung back around and ignored the students around him as he remembered that first meeting with Dumbledore.
He had awoken to pain, so much pain surrounding him like a blinding white sheet of open nerves floating amongst a sea of burnt detritus.
"All right there, Harry?" The headmaster had asked him.
It had been before the infections had taken out so much of his hearing, but now he wished he could have just completely ignored the man. Was he all right!
What kind of a question was that? He had just been blown up—or rather out of the car that his relatives had left him to die in.
Was he all right? After the horrendous crash that had completely crushed his right leg to splinters? After being left to burn when his relatives escaped relatively unscathed? Having to hear them talking about purposely not going back for him, while he screamed for help?
Oh he was just bloody well peachy.
Harry scowled and the other students around him shot calculating glances at him in response.
"Old man's crazy," Nott grumbled just across the table from him. "Never shuts up," he said, rolling his eyes.
"I know," Harry answered, allowing his face to relax once more.
Finally, he noticed the other students shifting in their seats just as the table was loaded down with food.
"Can't believe you—," Malfoy poked him in the arm and he turned to better see what he was going on about. "A Potter," the other boy's eyes narrowed in disdain as he said it, "being sorted into Slytherin. If your parents were still alive, they'd likely be petitioning to have you resorted before dessert." The white blond haired boy's lips curled up, and Harry felt for the knife he had in his pocket, not pulling it out, but keeping a hand on it.
"Maybe if they were alive," he answered slowly, carefully enunciating his words as he did, "I wouldn't have been sorted into Slytherin to begin with." The left side of his face rose in that same parody of a smile and the others first years around him seemed to squirm in discomfort at it.
"Malfoys have always been in Slytherin," the boy said, sniffing lightly as though Harry's proximity had left a bad smell in the air.
"'Cept for that Hufflepuff girl," Nott interjected slowly, giving Harry a chance to see him before finishing his thoughts.
Malfoy's white face flushed a bit out of the corner of Harry's eye, and he grinned that same half smile once more in response to the other boy's discomfort.
"We don't speak of her," retorted Malfoy hotly.
"Of course not," Nott answered, rolling his eyes for Harry's benefit.
He spent the rest of the meal watching and observing the others around him. He ate slowly and carefully as he did so, appreciating the luxury of the meal and enjoying the time he was allowed to spend on it. Of course, as was his habit, he stole the bread and slipped it into an inner magically sealed, airless pocket inside his robe. Back in the muggle world, he had used Tupperware, but he found this option to be much less bulky and far easier to manipulate in such a crowded atmosphere.
None of his fellow Slytherins saw the action, but his head of house did, and unsurprisingly, Snape found the action worrisome.
In fact, he found Harry's entire demeanour a cause for concern, and now that he had been sorted into Slytherin—something he would have never thought possible—it gave him the means with which to investigate the boy, and hopefully ease some of those concerns.
After dessert was over, Harry watched in concealed surprise as the leftover mess before them disappeared just as easily as it had appeared before. Judging from the direction of the heads around him, he guessed that the Headmaster was talking again. He didn't bother to look at him at all this time. He was sure that if there was anything important said, it would be repeated again by those around him. They didn't seem the types to blindly accept the rules, and for that he was glad. He wasn't sure what he would have done had he wound up in a house full of obedient automatons.
What had that Malfoy boy said? Resorting, right, he remembered. If he had been put somewhere he didn't like, he would have asked for a resorting himself. Who needed parents to depend on, anyway?
Worthless, they are, was his vehement thought.
. . .
The walk to their dorm took them down several flights of stairs, each darker than the last.
Gloomy, great, he thought with an uncharacteristically cheerful heart. He liked the idea of living in a dungeon, even if no one else did.
He made sure to go slowly, to look weaker and more inept than he actually was as he made his way down the stone steps. Technically he didn't need the crutch at all, as his magically enhanced prosthetic leg held him up just fine. However, he had learned, through many painful lessons, that people underestimated the ones who looked weak, and he certainly didn't want to discourage the assumption.
He gripped the side rail harder than was necessary, and eventually the annoyance of his classmates started to make its way to him. If he were to guess, he'd say that they had been saying things for awhile before the physical violence started, but he didn't know for sure.
He felt it at shoulder level first; a touch, a bump and then a something like a shove, followed by an increase in vibratory sounds around him.
Laughter wasn't unfamiliar to him, but seeing Nott's concerned face was. The shoving, the pushing continued, and eventually someone oh-so-unhelpfully shoved a foot into the middle of his back, nearly causing him to really lose his balance.
He stopped completely still, his eyes focused on something farther away on the opposite wall, and he spoke in a voice loud enough to make his throat vibrate nearly painfully.
"Next person that tries to push me down the stairs is getting kicked in the stones."
Everyone stilled around him, but no one turned around and actually looked back up at him. No one came up to him and said anything to his face. Beside him, he could see Nott's shoulders twitching alongside a poorly hidden smile on the smaller boy's face.
Then he started moving again, and everyone followed suit.
No one touched him for the rest of the trip down.
. . .
Snape travelled down the stairs at a quicker pace, having chosen an alternate and less well known route than the one the Prefects traditionally took the students on. He arrived moments before his house did, despite having left the feast after the students. It gave him time to find a spot in the shadows to stand and then observe the students as they made their way in to the common room.
He had been very surprised at having Potter's spawn in his house, but now after having watched the boy all during dinner, he found himself agreeing with the hat's decision, if only ever so hesitantly.
His eyes narrowed as the firsties finally made their way into the common room, having taken up the rear of the crowd as always. Unlike his classmates, Potter seemed completely unfazed by the hustle and hubbub going on around him. The boy's eyes flicked to his hiding spot, and a ghost of a half-smile came and went across his face in an instant.
So the lad had seen him. That wasn't entirely out of the ordinary; several of his older students had known to look for him, but as far as he could tell, none of the other first years noticed his presence at all.
He took the time to observe the pleased expression on the tiny Nott boy's face, and then he saw the petulant scowl across Draco Malfoy's features, and he surmised that the two likely had something to do with one another. Fighting in the corridors was a likely bet; one that he would have to speak to his prefects about—again. Malfoy's upbringing being what it had been, he doubted that this would be the last of the fights he had to deal with.
It was time to begin. He stepped out of the shadows and stated, "Welcome to Slytherin." Gasps of surprise met his words and he smirked appreciatively at the small, but successful trick. He enjoyed keeping his snakes on their toes.
After all, it wouldn't do to let his children get complacent. It was best for everyone involved if they really believed that he was everywhere and could see everything.
"First years up front," one of his prefects, a Miss Mary Tower instructed in a brisk, no nonsense voice. The girl was a natural at dealing with younger children, thanks to being the oldest of four. Her family was and had been a neutral group between the Dark Lord and Dumbledore.
"Mr. Crabbe," Snape instructed crisply, already loathing the idea of dealing with this dunderhead for the next seven years. "What is that on the front of your robes?"
Slowly the boy looked down at his front and then raised his head. "I dunno—sir," he added when one of the second years behind him gave him a sharp nudge to this backside.
"It looks like dinner to me," Snape spat back critically, his lip curling in distaste. "You are not a farmyard animal, Mr. Crabbe. I do not expect to see you eat like one again. Understood?"
"Uh yes, sir. Sorry, sir." Crabbe mumbled back, dropping his eyes from Snape's own piercing ones.
"As I was saying, welcome to Slytherin. Welcome back for those of you who have returned for another year. Slytherin is a fine house to be in. We are the eyes and the ears of the school. We think before we do," he said, stopping in front of the young Malfoy with those words and glaring for a moment. "We are the planners; the ones who bother to think out the consequences of our actions." He paused, and looked at the Potter boy. The child was staring resolutely back up at him, and he was reminded of how those sharp eyes had glanced at him upon entering the common room.
"It is not that we do not have bravery like Gryffindors, because we do. We stand up for our own, and we do what we can to protect those who are important to us," he said, looking at all of his snakes with that statement. He was pleased to see more than a few nodding back at him as they remembered the lessons of past years.
"Slytherin is not a house for idiots either, despite what some may think," he added, his eyes flashing as he looked directly at Marcus Flint. "We have intelligence like the Ravenclaws, and I expect you to utilize that skill in everything that you do. Finally, we are hard workers. There have some in the past who have referred to Hufflepuff as the house of the 'leftovers.'" His eyes twitched to Vaisey and then Derrick and Boles. Those were a pair of "leftovers" if he had ever seen one. "Those same students are almost always the lazy and arrogant ones. For whatever reason, they do not seem to understand the dedication that is required to make things happen."
"Prefects, to the front please," he said and then stepped to the side. "These are your prefects, Slytherins: Miss Mary Tower and Mr. Landon Marsh. In the event that I am not available, you are to take your concerns to them. Treat them as though you would treat me or any other professor. If you do not, trust me that I will know," he hissed, staring down at them all, the warning clear in his face.
"Lights out for fourth years and younger is in half an hour. Everyone except first years is dismissed!"
There was a loud shuffle as the students in the common room exited, and while he waited to be left alone with his newest snakes, Severus found his eyes drawn back to Potter. The boy's crutch was out, but he was not leaning on it. Severus could tell that much from the angle of his body. Unlike his future classmates, the boy wasn't talking to any of those around him either, but instead he seemed to be watching everyone around him.
When the common room was sufficiently cleared as to allow Snape some privacy, he noted with interest that the Potter boy was the first to move in towards him, even before he gave his instructions.
"You will come with me to the infirmary and receive full physicals from Madam Pomfrey," he stated in a tone that allowed for no argument. "If any of your classmates should need to stay the night, there will be no talking about it, understood? Or I'll have you scrubbing out my cauldrons for the rest of the term."
It wasn't an empty threat. He'd had to do it before, and he'd do it again if necessary.