Disclaimer: wish I owned Harry Potter. Or Castle. Or El Internado. Or El Barco. That way, some of the most idiotic behaviors/behaviours would have been prevented.
Thank you, all of you who are still reading this story. And greater thanks to Teufel1987, who has worked quite a lot in trying to correct the mistakes I made.
Chapter 8 – Trains, Friends, Hats
Railway, n., rail·way: track made of steel rails along which trains run.
It finally was the first of September, the day where Harry would take the Hogwarts Express. He had been living in Hogwarts for the last month, slowly getting used to having a timetable, waking up at a certain hour instead of when he wanted, having lunch at certain times instead of when he was hungry... he had lived for more than three years doing what he wanted, but now he had had to go back to what he did before he arrived at his parents' house.
He had also spent the last month talking with the Professors at school, the Headmaster and Remus Lupin about the things he did while he lived alone, and learnt many other things in exchange. Professor Snape had been very intrigued by Harry's ideas on potion-making, and, although he did not show it, he could tell that the Professor had been very enthusiastic about the theory Harry had developed and proved.
Professors Flitwick and McGonagall had been surprised at Harry's level of control over his magic, being able to use charms that were usually not taught until one was at their fifth, perhaps sixth year at Hogwarts, although both of them could tell that Harry was somewhat lacking in the theory.
From Professor Sprout, he had learned several things about botany and plant-caring. Herbology was probably the subject he would need to work on more, because the few things he knew about plants was learnt from being forced to work in the garden by the Dursleys
Professors Vector and Babbling, who taught Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, had not arrived at Hogwarts until two weeks before the year started, but he had managed to spend some time with them. Both Arithmancy and Ancient Runes were interesting subjects, and he had used the former to better organise his Table of Magical Elements.
He got on really well with Hagrid, the caretaker, and Professor Kettleburn, the Care of Magical Creatures Professor. He had met them one afternoon in the grounds, watching as they healed a small golden horse – an unicorn colt, as he learned soon – and he had been able to help them with the unicorn, even managing to get it to eat from his hand. Both men were very nice and affable, especially Hagrid, whose great size belied his great heart, and who seemed to have a soft spot for him, having being a great friend to his parents. He invited Harry to come to his hut whenever he wanted to, which he intended to do.
Quirrell, the Muggle Studies Professor, he had only seen from afar once. Before him, the Muggle Studies Professor was a woman called Charity Burbage, but she had had to leave her position and travel to America due to familial problems. Harry knew that Quirrell had tried to get the Defence Against the Dark Arts position, but since Sirius occupied it, he had no choice but to leave. At the end of the month, he had come back and become the Muggle Studies Professor. He had kept to himself for the few days between his arrival and the start of the school year, and it had been only by chance that Harry had seen him that one time.
The person he had spent the most time with was Sirius. Sirius had told him a lot of things about his parents and everything the Marauders and Lily got involved with. He mostly avoided speaking about Peter Pettigrew, the man who had betrayed them all to Voldemort. The time passed since Pettigrew was captured and imprisoned, however, had allowed Sirius to slowly recall the friend he, James and Remus had made at Hogwarts without letting his knowledge of the betrayal to stain the good memories. The initial strain between them due to his absence from Harry's life was still there, but both of them – especially Sirius, who allocated himself a big part of the fault of the situation – were working hard to eliminate it.
Remus could not spend as much time with him as Sirius, due to his work with the Werewolf Research Foundation, but when he came, it was always a good day. Where Sirius was expressive and open, Remus was a bit more reserved, which Harry really appreciated. The fact that Remus was more intellectually inclined than Sirius also made for great, interesting conversations. Remus had been slightly surprised that Harry already knew about his being a werewolf, although he supposed that, given the place he had been staying in, it would have been hard for Harry to not realise Remus' illness. Tensions had been dissipated when Harry dismissed all of Remus' worries with the 'furry little problem', which made both Remus and Sirius smile at the term that had been coined by James so many years before.
The Headmaster... well, he had met a couple of times. Dumbledore was always quite busy, due to the fact that he held three high positions in the magical world, that being Headmaster of Hogwarts, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and Supreme Mugwump of the ICW. However, the moments when they met were quite interesting, especially the first time they met.
Dumbledore had asked Harry about how he could do magic while at his parents' house, and he had proudly shown his stick. The ancient wizard had then informed him that it was not actually a wand, because wands were artisan-made and always contained a core made out of a magical animal's body part. According to the Headmaster, what Harry had done was to force his magic to be channelled through the stick – which, the Headmaster told himself, could be the explanation of how Harry's magic had been detected at first, but it was not later – thus turning the stick into what amounted to be an extension of his own body. That meant that, theoretically, he should be able to do actual wandless magic, but since he had been using his stick for so much time, he would have to work on it.
As soon as he got some free time, Harry tried to do wandless magic. After several hours of hard work, he had finally managed to lift a feather a few centimetres into the air. He had felt a bit let down at the fact that it was not going to be as easy as he thought, but he did not allow that to discourage him. By the end of the month, he had managed to do more than just lifting a feather. Now, he was able to use a few of the most simple charms he had learned, like the Lighting Charm or the Opening Charm, without his stick. He hoped to be able to master those charms and several others by the end of the school year.
"So, Harry, ready to get moving?" Sirius asked, bringing Harry out of his ruminations.
"Yeah, Padfoot, just give me a second." Harry closed the lid of his trunk and shrunk it with a wave of his stick.
"Heh. You are finally getting to have the Hogwarts experience. Your parents would have loved to be able to see you to the Hogwarts Express, I know your father had even been planning to give you a speech about everything you should do once you arrived. I wish I had tried to memorize it, it was quite good and fun."
Harry smiled at that. He was glad that Sirius was able to talk about his father with fondness and, at the same time, treat him as his own person instead of as James Potter Jr. They were still a bit far from reaching the level of trust they would probably have if Harry had lived with Sirius, but they were getting there.
"Very well. Now, we are going to go to the Leaky Cauldron using the Floo, Remus has promised to meet us there in a few minutes. Then, I will Side-Along Apparate you to a place near King's Cross Station. We are meeting with some people there. They were the ones that helped me to get out of prison. One of their sons is your age, and I think that you might make good friends with him."
"That's great," Harry replied. He really wanted to have a friend of his own age, and more, as if to compensate the lack of friends in the previous years of his life. Sirius moved his hand to his pocket and pulled out a mirror from there.
"Sirius, I am here," Remus' voice was heard from the mirror.
"OK, Remus, we will be there soon," Sirius replied. "Let's go, Harry, we should not keep Remus alone for too much time, or else he will get bored. And you do not know how Remus is like when he is bored. He will go to the nearest bookshop and start reading," Sirius said, as if it was the greatest crime ever committed. Harry just rolled his eyes. "You remember what to do, right?"
"Yes, Sirius, I do," Harry said. He went to the fireplace and took a pinch of the green powder that was kept in a pot next to the fireplace. He then threw it into the fire that was burning there, turning it green, and he stepped forward.
"Diagon Alley!" he shouted, and soon he was away, flying in a whirlwind of green flames interspersed with brief glimpses of different fireplaces.
Arthur managed to park the car quite easily, making the most of the space he had managed to find just a few metres from where they were.
"OK, Weasleys, everybody out! Fred, George and Molly, please be careful when you come out of the car, make sure that there are no other cars coming."
The seven Weasleys bustled out of the car, and Arthur took Ron with him so that they could bring the four luggage trolleys they would need to carry the trunks with them. He also used the chance to speak alone with his youngest son. He would probably not see him until the following Christmas, and it would be a hard time for not only Ron, but also for Molly, Ginny and himself, who would miss Ron during the next three months and a half he would be away.
"So, Ron, how do you feel?" he asked him.
"Nervous," Ron replied. Arthur smiled at his son. Just like the others in their first day at Hogwarts.
"Do not worry, Ron, I am sure you will do well there," Arthur said, stroking Ron's hair. "Besides, Neville is going to be there with you, and I am sure that you will make more friends at Hogwarts. I just hope that you do better than the twins did in their first year; Merlin knows how many problems they got themselves into."
Ron cracked a smile, and Arthur knew that, at least, he had been able to do something. All of his sons – even Fred and George – had been nervous at the idea of attending Hogwarts; he had had the same conversation with all of them, although the kids had given slightly different answers; and, in the end, he had found the perfect thing to say to make them feel better about it.
He knew Ron would feel like he would have a hard time at Hogwarts, since he would probably feel under the shadow of his successful older brothers: Bill and Percy on the intellectual side, Charlie in the Quidditch sphere, and Fred and George both in Quidditch and popularity. However, he knew that Ron was far more than capable of stepping out of that shadow, and become his own person within Hogwarts, making his mark there.
"OK, Ron, you take these trolleys with you, I'll take those two. Let's get back to your brothers."
Ron obeyed him, and soon they were back with the rest of the family, who as soon as they saw them started to pull the trunks out of the car so that they could put them on the trolleys, as well as Percy's owl, Hermes. Fred and George fooled around a bit with the trolleys, nearly starting a race with them, but Molly was faster and pulled them by their ears before they ran away, not letting them go until they promised not to do anything while at the Muggle side of the station.
Now a bit calmer, Molly smiled at her children, and, as they neared the barrier that led to the Hogwarts Express, she decided to make a little game out of it.
"Now, what is the platform number?" she asked.
"Nine and three-quarters!" piped Ginny, who was holding her hand. "Mum, can't I go..."
"You are not old enough, Ginny, now be quiet. All right, Percy, you go first."
Percy nodded, and marched forward towards the barrier, crossing it into Platform Nine and Three-Quarters as a couple of tourists passed by.
"Fred, you are next," Molly said.
"I am not Fred, I am George," the twin said. "Honestly, woman, you call yourself our mother?"
"Fred," Arthur said, interrupting him, "I think that is enough."
"How did you know?" Fred said, surprised.
"I know now," Arthur replied, smirking at his son.
"Fred, my twin, I think we have been had," George said. "And by our own father, nonetheless!"
"Well, your father, while he was not a master, enjoyed a good prank here and now. And your mother as well," another voice, one all of them knew quite well, said from behind them.
"Sirius!" Ginny said, turning around to fling her arms around Sirius Black.
"Hey, there, little red devil," Sirius said, hugging the girl and doing the same with Ron and the twins. "I see you managed to get a free day, Arthur."
"Well, I traded it with Lidge, so I will pay for this next week, but I think it is worth it," Arthur replied, shaking Sirius' hand.
"Sirius Black, where have you been these last two months?" Molly asked, waving a finger at him. "The kids were worried when you did not come as much as you normally did."
"Oh, I was getting used to my new job, among other things."
"New job?" Arthur asked.
"You are standing in front of the new Hogwarts Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor."
"Cool!" the twins said with identical grins.
"Yeah!" Ron replied.
"I am glad to hear that. I hope that you, at least, can keep these three out of trouble," Molly said, pointing at her sons, and ignoring their fake hurt looks. "But, why are you here? I thought you would have already left for Hogwarts."
"Oh, I will do that soon. I came here because Remus and I wanted to see Harry to the station."
"Harry?" Arthur said, suddenly alert. "You mean... your godson?"
"Yes. I will tell you later what happened. He went with Remus to find a trolley for his trunk, while I tried to catch you... Remus, over here!"
"Should we continue with the introductions when we get into the platform? I think we are starting to attract the attention of the Muggles, and Percy must be wondering where we are," Molly said, looking quite closely at the dark-haired kid that was pushing a trolley with a trunk on it.
"Yes, that might be better," Arthur replied. "Fred, you go in, and then George. Ron and Harry, you can go later."
The children did as they were asked, and very soon the four of them had entered the hidden platform.
Ginny had been very surprised when she saw Sirius on the train station. He had been a regular visitor of the Burrow ever since he was freed, and she had taken a liking to him nearly from the start, because he was very fun and supportive, and also someone she could speak with whenever he came. He had loved her drawings, and had encouraged to keep working on them. He had even gotten her some painting lessons as a present for her ninth birthday!
And then, Harry Potter had showed up. His story had been her most favourite tale ever since she was a little girl, and she had always wondered where he lived now, after his parents had died. She knew that Sirius had been a friend of the Potters, and that, for some reason, Harry was not living with him. She had never asked, because it seemed to be a bit of a painful subject for the man. And now, all of a sudden, it turned out that Sirius was going to be a Professor, and that Harry was going to be with Ron this year at Hogwarts.
The surprising thing was not just that, but that Harry Potter was the boy from her dreams. She would have never thought that the boy was actually real, much less the Boy-Who-Lived.
But, as she remembered the things she had seen, she realised that Harry Potter and the Boy-Who-Lived were two completely different people. The Boy-Who-Lived was the main character of a tale, a knight in shining armour ready to battle the evil You-Know-Who and save little girls. Harry Potter was a boy, a bit younger than Ron, who wore glasses and who she did not know at all. Maybe she would be able to know him better if Ron and Harry became friends. And, when they became friends, she would give him the drawing she had done of him with the winged wolf. Of course, when she did that, it would be really hard to explain him how she had seen it, but that was probably a bridge she would have to cross later.
As she followed her family along Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, she took in her surroundings, trying to memorize as many details as possible for a possible painting. Her musings were interrupted when someone called her name.
"Hey, Ginny," She turned around and smiled.
"Hey, Neville," she replied, seeing the dark-blond boy. "When did you arrive?"
"Just right now. Where is Ron?"
"He's there, come with me," she said, falling in step next to him. "And your Grandma?"
"She's right there, with your mum," he said, pointing at the imposing woman. "I thought she might not be able to bring me, because there was some emergency, but she came with me."
"That is very good. Hey, Ron!" she shouted, calling her brother, who was apparently speaking with Harry.
"Hi, Neville!" Ron said, getting his friend into a hug. "Neville, this is Harry Potter. Harry, this is Neville Longbottom, my best friend."
"Hello," Harry said. Neville was a bit stunned at first, but recovered fast and shook hands with Harry.
"Nice to meet you."
"Let's get your things into the train, then, dears, it is nearly eleven o'clock," Mum said, using a Levitation charm on Ron's trunk. "Arthur, dear, would you mind getting Neville's trunk?" Dad took the trunk inside, while Sirius did the same with Harry's, and soon the three trunks were well secured in one of the compartments. Everyone came out for a last few words before Harry, Neville and Ron had to get back into the train.
"Neville, I hope you send me at least one letter a week, so that I know how you are doing at Hogwarts."
"Yes, Gran," Neville replied.
"Well, Ron, it is off with you," Dad told Ron. "We are going to miss you at home. Enjoy your time at Hogwarts, and keep up with your good studying. And, for Merlin's sake, do not let Fred and George rope you into playing pranks."
Sirius then gathered Neville and Ron standing them next to Harry, so that he could speak to them at the same time.
"Very well. Now, the three of you, listen to me," Sirius said. Ginny was standing near, wishing that she could go to Hogwarts this year, and not the next. "For you two, this will be the first time you take your friendship out of home, and it is going to be somewhat hard. Harry, I know it will be a bit difficult for you to be surrounded by others the whole time, but I know that you are similar enough to both of your parents that you will eventually manage to get through it. I know you boys enough to know that you will be good friends, but try to find more friends. You never know what you will miss if you don't try to become friends with someone. And, for Merlin's sake, do not judge someone at first sight. I made that mistake once, and I regret it happening."
"OK, Sirius," Harry said, nodding, which the other two did as well. Sirius smiled with pride, as a bell started to sound.
"Very well. Now, get on the train, it is about to get moving."
The three boys started to move, but Ginny stopped them, so that she could give her brother a hug.
"Remember to write me, please," she said, trying not to cry at the fact that she would not see Ron for several months.
"Hey, Gin, don't worry, I will write every week, is that right?" Ron replied. Ginny nodded, and Ron pinched her cheek softly before getting on the train with Harry and Neville. In the end, Ginny could only run after the train and wave as it started moving towards the north, towards Hogwarts.
As soon as the train station disappeared from their view, Harry, Ron and Neville went to the compartment their trunks were in.
"So, Harry, what do you like doing in your free time?" Ron asked when they sat down in the couches.
"Well..." Harry hesitated, because he was not sure of whether what he did was a normal activity. "I like reading, and making potions. And also playing with Hedwig."
"You like making potions?" Neville asked, at the same time Ron asked "Who's Hedwig?"
"Yes, I do. It is quite soothing, and interesting when you know what you are doing. And Hedwig is the owl that lives with me. She is very smart, and she has been my only friend for years."
"Must have been quite lonely. I mean, owls are not very talkative."
"She understands me, though, and I can sort of understand what she says. She is very, very smart."
"Damn. Wish I had an owl like yours," Ron said, slightly awed. "We have Errol, and my parents bought Percy an owl he named Hermes. They say that, in a couple of years, I could get my own owl."
"What about you? What do you like doing?"
"I also like reading, and I like working at my greenhouse. I always feel very much in peace when I take care of my plants."
"And you, Ron?"
"I read sometimes, but not as much as Neville here. I prefer playing Quidditch and chess. I have never lost against anyone in the family for the last five years," Ron replied, with a bit of pride in his voice.
"Nice. Would you mind teaching me how to play chess?" Harry replied. He had read a bit about the game, but had never had the chance to play it, since the only time he had tried to teach Hedwig she had expressed her dislike for the game by flying away.
"You do not know how to play chess?" Ron asked. Harry shook his head. "It is a great game! I have my own pieces in my trunk, but I do not want to have to take out everything, because they are near the bottom. Though, I can tell you a bit about how it is played..."
For the next five minutes, Ron explained to Harry several rules of the game, starting with the different pieces and their movements. Then, the door opened and the three boys saw that it was a girl with brown, bushy hair. She was already wearing the Hogwarts uniform.
"Hi," she said, shyly. "Do you mind if I stay here? Everywhere else is full." Harry was sure that there were sure to be other compartments with places, or even empty ones, but he guessed that the girl – who he recognized as the one he had met in front of Gringotts last month – just wanted some company of her age.
"Of course," Neville said, noticing how Ron's cheeks had gone a bit red at the sight of the girl. He grinned internally, knowing that he would be able to rib his friend at what that meant. "You can sit next to Harry."
"Thank you," she said. "I am Hermione Granger. And I know you are Harry Potter, but not you two."
"I am Neville Longbottom, and this is Ron Weasley," Neville said, subtly digging his elbow on Ron's side. This seemed to awaken the redhead from his stupor and he smiled at her.
"Nice to meet you," he said.
"So, what were you talking about?" Hermione asked, settling down next to Harry.
"I was teaching Harry about chess, he has never played and since we have nothing to do..."
"You have never played chess?" Hermione asked Harry, a bit astonished.
"Well, I have been living alone for some years, so..."
She clearly wanted to ask him more about what he had been doing or why he had been living alone, but she decided to keep those questions for later and turned to Ron.
"Is there any difference between normal chess and magical chess?"
"Well, in magical chess pieces move on their own – you just tell them where to move. They can also speak with you and give you advice if they like you enough, and they fight when one piece claims other – they remake themselves when the game is finished, of course..."
The conversation between the four continued, and, unseen, the bonds of friendship between the four children slowly grew and strengthened.
The door opened, and the four children, whose conversation had turned to what they would find at Hogwarts – Harry had been telling them what he had seen while he was there the past month – stopped talking and turned to look at the open door. They saw a platinum blond boy with grey eyes, backed by two hulking, black-haired boys.
"Hello," Harry said.
"They say Harry Potter is in this compartment. That must be you, right?"
"Yes." Harry did not say anything else, but he still felt somewhat awry about this boy. The blond boy seemed to have gone out of his way just to meet with him. Still, he decided to follow Sirius' advice and not judge the boy for who he could or could not be, so he offered his hand. "Nice to meet you. And you are?"
"My name is Draco Malfoy, and these are Crabbe and Goyle." Those were names Harry had heard of several times. Sirius had explained him what had happened to Lucius Malfoy, and that Draco had taken it very bad, but that, hopefully, he would eventually mellow.
"Draco? Sirius has told me much about you. These are Ron Weasley, Neville Longbottom and Hermione Granger," Harry replied, pointing at his companions. "You are welcome to stay with us."
Draco's reaction surprised Harry. His face twisted as if he felt repugnance at the mere idea of staying with them.
"Me? Stay with this... filth? Two blood traitors and a Mudblood?" Ron's ears reddened again, this time in anger. Neville grabbed his friend to stop him from jumping, although it was clear he, too, was angry at Malfoy. Hermione seemed to be a bit confused, because those were terms she had never heard about. "I am not going to sully my clothes by staying near them. Though, you, Potter, you can still be saved from their influence. Come with us, there is more than enough space in our compartment for the four of us." Malfoy reached, as if trying to grab Harry's arm, but Harry stepped back, far from Malfoy's reach.
"Draco, I do not know what you have against them, but you should try to be a bit more respectful. After all, we are all the same, magical people."
"Those three cannot be as good wizards as we are, Potter."
Draco looked at Harry as if he had grown a second head. "It is clear, isn't it? She is a Mudblood. She will never be as good as a Pureblood because she is clearly inferior to us, as her parents contaminate her blood, while those two come from families that do not realise that Purebloods are superior."
"My mother was a Muggle-born, and I have lived most of my life in the Muggle world."
"Well, that stain cannot be avoided, but you can yet cleanse yourself of it."
Harry was now quite angry with Draco, as the other three were. "I think it will be better if you leave right now. If you believe that, by insulting my friends and my mother, I am going to be your friend, then you are delusional."
Before Draco could reply, someone came near the compartment.
"What is going on here?" Percy asked, his Prefect badge gleaming on his Hogwarts robes.
"Hi, Percy, they were just about to leave for their own compartment," Neville said, trying to defuse the situation. Percy turned to Draco and his two followers. It was clear that Draco had not said the last word, but he was not exactly going to continue with his tirade, and left, grumbling on the way, followed by Crabbe and Goyle.
"Thank you," Hermione said. "It could have turned ugly without your help."
"No need to thank me, it is what I do," Percy replied. "Are you enjoying yourself so far, Ron?"
"Yes, save for that git, it was quite nice," Ron said, his ears still red.
"Good. Please, try not to get into any trouble, I would hate having to write to Mother on your first day."
Ron just rolled his eyes, and Percy left.
"So, that was Percy?" Hermione asked.
"Yeah. Bit pompous, but he is quite smart. Mum wishes the twins and I were more like him, but..." Ron shrugged.
"Anyway, what was all of that with the blond boy?"
"Do not pay much attention to him," Neville said. "A few years ago, his father was sent to prison because he was part of a group that thought magic should be reserved only for those who were born in magical families, and that anyone that did not have their... how did Gran call it... pedigree should not have that privilege. They joined You-Know-Who because they thought that, with him, they would be able to do what they wanted to 'purge' the Magical world from the 'undesirables'. Ron and I are from families that do not believe that crap, so they call our families 'blood-traitors'. And the Muggle-borns, they call them what Malfoy said."
"Mudblood? Sounds as if saying that my blood is..."
There was silence for a few seconds, and then Ron spoke up.
"So, Hermione, what do your parents do?"
Grateful for the change in subject, Hermione started to explain to Ron and the others what dentists did...
Night had fallen by the time the train finally arrived at the station. All the children got down, wearing their robes and a couple of warm things to fight off the cold. A voice thundered in between the noise of the Hogwarts' students leaving the train station.
"FIRS' YEARS! FIRS' YEARS, COME HERE!" Hagrid shouted, carrying a huge lamp with him. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville struggled to stay together as they fought their way towards the large man
"Hi, Hagrid!" Harry said when the four finally arrived near Hagrid.
"'Lo there, Harry," he replied with a big smile. "Glad you made it. And you made friends, too."
"Yes. These are Hermione, Ron and Neville."
"Tha's nice. We'd better get moving if we want to arrive on time - FIRS' YEARS! - you will meet me next Friday, right?"
"Of course I will, I am sure Fang misses his favourite toy," Harry replied.
"Oh, don' speak like tha', you know Fang loves you - FIRS' YEARS!"
Finally, all students save for the first years had left the station, and the first years were around Hagrid.
"Is this every one of you?" Hagrid asked. When nobody answered, Hagrid turned around. "Come on, follow me, if you want to arrive to Hogwarts before dinner ends."
The children followed Hagrid, making sure they stayed within the marked path, while the light of Hagrid's lamp moved with the man.
"After that turn, you will be able to see Hogwarts," Hagrid said. A few of the children rushed a bit forward, trying to see the castle before anybody else, but Hagrid used his free hand to stop the rushing kids.
"Ooooh," they all said. Even Harry, who had been living at Hogwarts for the last month, could not help but be impressed by how the castle looked now, with all of its windows lit, perched over the lake on a cliff.
"No more than four 'n a boat!" Hagrid said, pointing towards some small boats that were peacefully floating on the lake. Ron rushed to take one of the boats, and Harry, Hermione and Neville soon joined him.
Once all the first years were on board, Hagrid took the last boat for himself and shouted, "FORWARD!"
The boats started to move slowly over the lake, giving the students enough time to admire the castle from afar as they reached a cave.
"HEADS DOWN!" Hagrid shouted. Everyone ducked, and soon they arrived at a dock where they left the boats, and soon they were walking uphill towards a great wooden door.
"Are you alrigh' there?" the tall man asked, and then he knocked thrice on the door.
The door opened, and at the other side stood Professor McGonagall, looking as strict as ever in her black robes and hat.
"Is this everyone, Hagrid?" she asked.
"Yes, Professor McGonagall."
"Thank you, Hagrid. I will take them from here."
All the children followed the Professor inside the castle, and into a side room.
While Professor McGonagall spoke about Hogwarts, its houses and how things worked at the school, Harry looked discreetly around himself, at his fellow students. He could see a pair of identical girls on one side, one of them talking animatedly with a blonde girl, a couple of brown-haired girls at the other side, a black skinned boy standing on his own... many children his age. He wondered if he would be able to make friends with them.
"I will be back soon to bring you to the Great Hall. Please, remain here."
The professor left, and all of them started to talk in whispers.
"Do you know how they choose us for the houses?" Hermione asked Harry.
"No idea. I asked Sirius – my godfather – but he said that it was something that would have to wait till I got here. Seems that there is some tradition that new students should not learn how we are sorted until we are in the Great Hall..."
"Fred was saying something about wrestling a troll," Ron suggested. When he saw Hermione was looking at him a bit weird, he continued. "Though, Fred and George are two jokers, so I doubt it is like that."
"Maybe they will just ask a few questions, something like a test."
"You do realise that few to none of us have opened our books before classes started, right?" Neville pointed out. "Besides, everyone must be able to do it, so it will be something easy."
Whatever Hermione was going to say, was drowned out when several white, translucent forms floated through one of the walls. They were in deep discussion.
"It is quite strange, isn't it? Peeves has become less active in the last few days," one of the forms – ghosts, Harry realised – a man wearing clearly antiquated clothes, stated.
"I did say that, eventually, Peeves would reform," replied other form, this of a man that seemed to have come out of a monastery.
"I would say that the reason for Peeves' change is more due to the presence of certain people in the... Greetings, young people," the only lady in the group of four forms – ghosts, Harry realised – said, having noticed the presence of all the children.
"Hello," Harry replied.
"Waiting to be sorted, are you?"
"I hope to see many of you in Ravenclaw, then. It is my house, after all."
The four ghosts left, and soon the door to the room they were in opened.
"Follow me," Professor McGonagall said. "The Sorting is about to start."
You arrived to Hogwarts
As it started, the fall
So that you could learn magic
After I Sort you all.
With the others you must
Live with for years.
Let's see where you can go
Without dropping any tears.
You could be a Gryffindor
where the courage dwells.
But that courage is not all,
to remember, you would do well.
Perhaps within Hufflepuff
You will find your peers,
Though hard work is not enough,
That can be seen by all seers.
Could it be Ravenclaw
What awakens your mind?
Maybe, but beware that, if it shines,
It might not be gold what you find.
Or maybe in Slytherin
The intrigues you will survive.
Do not go just with cunning,
As friendship will be good for your life.
But, do not fear,
For Hogwarts is now your home,
And you will surely miss it
When you are finally gone.
So, come, sit here,
Stay under me,
You will be chosen for your Houses,
And Sorted you will be.
Applause filled the Great Hall, although there was some talk about what the Sorting Hat had been talking about. Professor McGonagall, who was standing beside the hat, unrolled a piece of parchment.
"When I say your names, please come here so that you may be sorted by the hat. Abbott, Hannah!"
A blonde girl, wearing pigtails, shyly stepped forward from the group of first years and sat on the stool. Professor McGonagall put the Sorting Hat on her. Everybody looked at her, and then the Sorting Hat spoke.
The table on the right applauded, as Hannah rushed to sit down among those who were now part of her house. Professor McGonagall read the next name.
A brown-haired girl stepped forward and sat on the stool, as the Professor put the hat on her head.
"HUFFLEPUFF!" shouted the Sorting Hat. New applause came from the Hufflepuff's table, and Susan ran to sit down next to Hannah.
The second table on the left applauded this time, and several Ravenclaws shook Terry's hand as he sat down.
Brocklehurst, Mandy ("RAVENCLAW!")... Brown, Lavender ("GRYFFINDOR!")... Bulstrode, Millicent ("SLYTHERIN!")... Crabbe, Vincent ("SLYTHERIN!")... Finch-Fletchtley, Justin ("HUFFLEPUFF!")... Finnigan, Seamus ("GRYFFINDOR!")... Goyle, Gregory ("SLYTHERIN!")...
"Good luck," Ron told the girl as she nearly rushed forward, very nervous. The hat took some time to say anything.
Applause filled the table at the left end as Hermione took off the hat and went with a smile to sit down next to Percy, who welcomed her.
Some time later, it was Neville's turn, and McGonagall put the hat on him. It only took the hat a couple of seconds to make its choice: "GRYFFINDOR!"
Then went Moon, Lily... Nott, Theodore... Parkinson, Pansy... two twins, Patil, Padma and Parvati... then Perks, Sally-Anne... and finally:
As Harry stepped forward, ready to be sorted, he heard the mumbling around him, which was spreading everywhere.
"…the Harry Potter?"
"…wonder where he has been all this time…"
"…smaller than I thought…" Harry nearly laughed loud at that one. Then he sat on the stool and waited for McGonagall to put the Hat on him, aware that every student and professor had their eyes on him.
For a few moments, nothing happened, but soon Harry heard a voice, but it was not in his ear, but it seemed to appear directly into his brain.
Hmmm, you have a very interesting mind, Mr Potter.
It is the only one I have, so... Harry replied, not paying much attention at the fact that the voice seemingly came out of nowhere. Though, it was probably the Sorting Hat. After all, if it had to Sort you, it had to know things about you.
Oh, you have a very sharp mind, young Potter, Harry heard, followed by a chuckle. Now, let me look. And let me congratulate you on the strength of your mental shields.
They are not good enough yet.
They are quite good for a child of your age, and they will surely improve with time. Now, let's see what you have between your ears.
Harry stayed silent, not distracting the Hat as it looked around.
Yes, a very interesting mind, indeed. You are certainly a very curious person, Harry Potter. You are someone the Founders would fight to have in their houses. All four of them.
Oh, yes. You are a very creative and intelligent person, willing to learn for learning's sake as well as for other ends. You are a very hard-working person, and loyal to those that earn it. You have the courage to face the unknown and the willingness to brave on. And you are ambitious enough to know what you want to have, with the resourcefulness to reach the means for that. Most pupils have the qualities appreciated by more than one of the houses, but in you I find the qualities of the four houses in great force. If I could, I would just say that you would be sorted in all houses, but... the hat sighed.
I am not allowed to do it. Every child must be sorted into one of the houses. No exceptions. Although I can certainly see you as someone that could help mend the rifts between the four houses. It has been going on for too long. But that is something to talk about at some other point. Now, I believe I have to say where you must go to. Though, I think I am going to let you pick.
Yes. After all, since you fit well in all houses, you might as well choose the one you feel the most comfortable with. Which one do you prefer?
Albus was certainly intrigued by the Sorting of Harry Potter. Lance – the Hat – was already in its third minute with Harry Potter, and it did not seem like it would be taking a choice right now. He wondered whether Harry and Lance were deep into a conversation of their own, or whether Harry was asking Lance something about Hogwarts – the latter had been living at Hogwarts for many years, after all – but then, the hat opened its mouth.
Albus was certainly a bit surprised. Considering the previous month, he would have said that Harry was bound to become a Ravenclaw, as the boy had been studying practically every day, but he guessed that Lance had found that the Gryffindor qualities were more prominent in the boy. That would teach him to bet against Minerva McGonagall; he now owed her ten Galleons.
Gryffindor's table applauded, with a little of more enthusiasm than with the previous Gryffindors, and Harry went to sit down in front of two of the also new first-years – Ms Granger and Mr Longbottom – while Fred and George Weasley shouted "WE HAVE POTTER! WE HAVE POTTER!". It took a full minute for the Gryffindors to calm down enough for Minerva to be able to make herself heard.
It was Thomas, Dean's turn, and he was sorted into Gryffindor. Then, Turpin, Lisa's turn, who was Sorted into Ravenclaw. Then, Minerva called for the youngest Weasley male, Ronald, to sit on the stool. The Hat took just a few seconds in Sorting him into Gryffindor, to the obvious enthusiasm of his brothers and Harry, Ms Granger and Mr Longbottom, who welcomed him into the table as Zabini, Blaise, was sorted into Slytherin.
Albus got to his feet with vigour, as if he was not one hundred and ten years old, and looked with a smile at all the students in the Great Hall.
"Before you start having this wonderful dinner, I have a few words for you. And here they are! Kumquat! Nitwit! Tweak! Oddball! Thank you very much!" he said, eliciting several laughs from the students as the food appeared on the tables.
"Albus, always you have to make a joke," Minerva said, as soon as she sat down from taking the Sorting Hat out of the Great Hall.
"I often find that starting the school year with a smile is the best thing that could happen," he replied to the Deputy Headmistress.
"Yes. Now, if we actually managed to make them all laugh..." Sirius said.
"Sirius Black, I certainly hope you have not planned to prank the students on their first day," Pomona interrupted him.
"No! Why do you think I would stoop so low so as to do that?"
"Saint Valentine's day of last year."
"That was not me!"
Pomona looked at him.
"OK, OK, I may have played a role in that, but it was all the Weasley twins, I swear."
"You should be ashamed, Sirius Black. Not only you play pranks on the children, but you also rope some of them to prank the others."
"Excuse me, Pomona, but Fred and George Weasley do not need anyone to rope them into pranking other people: they are more likely to be the ropers than the ropees."
Albus chuckled. Minerva looked at him.
"Albus, do not encourage Sirius. It is bad enough that the children already applaud him pranking the others, I will not have you cheer for him, too," Minerva said.
Albus just smiled, seeing the children enjoy their first night at Hogwarts, and hoping that this year would turn out to be as good as he hoped.
As the small column of Gryffindors followed Percy and Martha (the Gryffindor fifth year prefects) Harry could see how Hermione was looking around her, clearly trying to memorize everything on the path between the Great Hall and the Gryffindor common room, and somewhat frustrated at it.
"It is a lot to take in, right?" Harry asked her.
"Yes, there is so much around here..."
"Do not worry. I know this place well enough. We can meet tomorrow morning, and I can show you the way down."
"Thanks," she replied with a small smile, as they finally stopped in front of a painting of a fat woman.
"This is the entrance to Gryffindor's tower. You must tell her the password for her to allow you entrance into the tower. Greeting, my Lady," Percy said to the portrait.
"Password?" the woman said.
"Caput Draconis," Percy replied.
"You may enter, then." The portrait swung open, as if it was a door, and Percy entered, followed by the students. It looked very comfortable and warm. Red and gold decorated most walls, and there were also a few smaller portraits around. Two big rampant lions had been painted on the wall, at both sides of a fireplace where a great fire burned happily. Some of the older students, who were lounging around, waved at them.
"This is the common room. Here, you can socialize with the other members of the House of Gryffindor. There is a curfew which all pupils must respect: you must be here before 9 PM. You will be subjected to punishment if found out of bounds. The only exceptions are a medical urgence, in which case you can ask me or another prefect to come with you, or on Wednesdays, as you will have your Astronomy class then. You can use the tables here to work on your homework, and, if you find yourself in trouble, you may ask the older students for help. This board here," he said, pointing to a wooden board on a side of the room, "is an important part. Here, you will find things you might be interested in. A new password will be put here every Sunday morning, so you should make sure to check it every week. Other important announcements that only affect Gryffindor will also be placed on the board. If you lose something, you can post a petition on the board to ask others about it." He then moved towards the stairs. "Boys' dormitories go to the left, girls' to the right. I would advise you not to try to go to the others' rooms, it would not go well. Good night to you all, then."
Harry, Neville and Ron gave their good nights to Hermione and walked upstairs, finding themselves in front of a door with the sign 'FIRST YEARS' on it. Dean Thomas – one of the new Gryffindors – pushed the door open, and the five boys entered what would be their room for the next nine months.
"It was quite nice, tonight, don't you think so?" Ron asked as all of them got changed into their sleeping clothes.
"Yeah, it was. Though, we start classes tomorrow, so it will not be as nice," Seamus, the fifth Gryffindor, said.
"Good night, guys," Harry said, and the others answered him the same way. The lights were turned off, and very soon the five boys fell asleep in their first night at Hogwarts.
I am very, very sorry for taking so much time in writing this! You won't believe how difficult it was for me to think about how things should evolve! I hope that this chapter will be enough to satisfy your want of Prodigy: Born Again.
Next chapter will, of course, deal with Harry & co.'s first days at Hogwarts. I might also show Harry's first days at class.
When it comes to reviews, I will gladly accept both exclamations of how great the chapter was and constructive criticism of the story. However, any review that contains anything that can be construed as "flaming" (insults towards my person or demands that Harry does not get near his true love and instead get it on with Hermione, for example) will be ignored.