Title: Year One: The Philosopher's Stone (Ch. x/?)
Series: The Letter Series (Book 1/7)
Author: Synteis
Beta: Mako-chan
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairing: Harry/Draco in the future, mentions of others
Rating: PG-13 for now
Warnings: Slytherin!Harry, AU.
Summary: Harry doesn't bring his Hogwarts letter into the kitchen and hides it from his aunt and uncle instead. One small decision changes the course of his life. Slytherin!Harry, eventually Harry/Draco (circa book four or five) and mentor!Snape.

Chapter One: In Which Harry Receives a Letter

The 24th of July seemed like any other day when Harry Potter, aged almost eleven awoke. He had been kept in his cupboard since the incident at the zoo and only let out the day before. Yesterday had brought with it the coming of Dudley's Smeltings uniform and of the now dreaded Smeltings stick. Already, his shins and arms bore a few long bruises, a few of them still red. Harry didn't think that the stick would be discarded or broken as easily as Dudley's other toys.

Aunt Petunia's voice screeched through the thin door of his cupboard, "Up you get boy, there's breakfast for you to make!"

"Coming Aunt Petunia," he said as he hurried out of his cupboard and into the kitchen. There was a horrible smell in the kitchen that morning. It was an unusual mixture of bleach and vinegar as though Aunt Petunia had decided to start cleaning the kitchen and making pickles. The smell appeared to be coming from a pile of grey-brown rags twisting mournfully around in the sink, floating in a brown liquid.

Quickly moving to start the breakfast fry-up, Harry cautiously asked Aunt Petunia, mindful that he had only just got out of the cupboard, "Aunt Petunia, what's in the sink?"

Aunt Petunia glanced up from the sheet of paper she was looking with a twist in her mouth. "Your new school uniform of course. I used some of Dudley's old things."

Harry turned away so that his aunt would not see his face drop. He doubted that other children at his new school would be wearing poorly dyed uniforms made from Dudley's cast-offs. He had been hoping that without Dudley around he might finally make some friends at his new school, despite what Dudley and his cronies had said about the kind of children who went to the local comprehensive.

Uncle Vernon was soon coming down the stairs and was followed by Dudley. Breakfast now completed, Harry walked out of the kitchen to gather the mail. There was a brown envelope that looked like a bill, a postcard from Aunt Marge and a thick creamy envelope unlike anything Harry had ever seen. It was textured and heavy. As he turned the envelope, he found that it was addressed to a

Mr. H. Potter,

The Cupboard under the Stairs,

4, Privet Drive,

Little Whinging,

Surrey

Harry had never received a letter before, and he didn't think that anyone in the Dursley household had received one so interesting. In fact, Harry was quite certain that nothing interesting had ever happened to the Dursleys. On the back was a thick purple seal, with a big letter H, surrounded by a badger, a snake, a lion and an eagle. He fingered the seal and began ripping the letter open.

"What's keeping you boy?" roared Uncle Vernon.

Harry hurried forward, almost stumbling over his too big jeans. At the last moment, he slid his letter under the door of his cupboard before continuing into the kitchen. It was the first time he had ever had something nice that was his, and he didn't think he could bear to see Dudley tear it up.

He handed Uncle Vernon the bill and the postcard and sat down in his seat, almost vibrating with excitement. He ignored Uncle Vernon's scowls at the bill and his long discussion with Aunt Petunia on the merits of the Isle of Wight and how the service industry was declining when a person like Marge couldn't even go on holiday without getting sick.

But Harry didn't hear it. Instead, he shovelled his breakfast into his mouth. Even Dudley's Smeltings stick didn't bother him for long and he floated through all of Aunt Petunia's tasks without care, even though it was a hot day in the garden and there was much weeding and watering to do.

It seemed that Aunt Petunia was determined to make him work especially hard today after staying yesterday with Mrs. Figg and his many weeks in his cupboard as though to further deter him from any "funny business." He also had to wash his new uniform by hand as Aunt Petunia was determined not to ruin the dye-job. Unfortunately, for Harry, they looked no better than they had that morning. He could already imagine snickers of his new classmates.

Dudley too had his fun with Harry that day, chasing him around the park with his gang, or rather, ordering his cronies to catch Harry and then bring him forward for Dudley and his friends to hit him. It seemed that each of his friends wanted their chance with the Smeltings stick, although Piers at least had his own. Their laughter filled the park and the other children, recognising the new arrivals fled.

Dudley sat alone on the park bench, his cronies surrounding him and Harry, jostling each other for prime viewing and hitting spots.

"Now, one at a time, and I want to see good whacks all around; this is a Smeltings stick, so no sissy business," he grunted, buffing up his chest and doubtlessly imagining the fun summer that was sure to follow.

But even such a bad day couldn't ruin Harry's excitement. He quickly ate his dinner and cleaned the dishes, keeping his head low and his mouth shut until finally, sweaty, dirty and hurting he was allowed to slip into his cupboard.

He panicked for a moment when he didn't see the letter under the door, imagining once more Dudley's look of glee as he tore it up, Uncle Vernon's bright red face as he shoved Harry into his cupboard and Aunt Petunia's pinched, sour face.

As his shoulders dropped, his foot hit the thick envelope and his heart soared. He still had it. Carefully, he pulled the letter from under the cot and placed it under his pillow. Next, he removed an old broken flashlight which Dudley had once gotten for Christmas.

Harry waited, clutching the flashlight and the letter under his pillow while he waited for the house to quiet down: the television downstairs being shut off, Dudley trudging up the stairs, one loud clump after another, drywall sprinkling over Harry's forehead, the water upstairs running and then stopping, the thump as Dudley, Aunt Petunia and finally Uncle Vernon lay down in their separate beds. By this point, it was more than he could bear. Although Harry had said that he would wait twenty minutes after they had gone to bed before turning on his flashlight, he could wait only a few minutes before he pulled the sheets over his head and turned on the dim, flickering flashlight. The clock was particularly hard to tell time with as it was missing the minute hand.

Harry looked first at the address once more but there really was no doubt that it was addressed to him, down to the odd detail of his cupboard. He turned it over and saw that the envelope was torn under the seal were he had begun opening it. Carefully, he finished opening the envelope. At every creak, he would freeze and bury his flashlight under the pillow, only to slip it out a few moments later when everything was once again still and silent.

He repeated this procedure on the sheets contained inside and discovered that they were made of the same thick vellum that the envelope had been made of. The first letter read:

HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY

Headmaster: ALBUS DUMBLEDORE

(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,

Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)

Dear Mr. Potter,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress

Harry's heart leapt into his chest. He couldn't believe what he was reading. Him, a wizard? It was hard to imagine that this wasn't some kind of prank with all the talk about wizards and owls and yet this was the first time he could ever remember somebody wanting him, someone saying that he was special.

But although he desperately wanted it to be true, there seemed to be no way of knowing. The second piece of parchment contained only a list of required school supplies, none of which he had any idea how to get. He certainly had no 'owl' by which he could contact the Deputy Headmistress.

Still, there was a small spark of hope fluttering inside his chest. He read the letter again and then a few times more until he regretfully placed it into the space beneath a loose floorboard along with the broken flashlight. The letter went in first, buried under a small pile of drawings which had previously occupied the space. They were children's drawings, made from cheap crayons but they clearly showed a boy with wild hair, green eyes and a scar on his forehead smiling while his hands were held by two smiling figures although Harry could not remember his parents. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon said they had died in a car crash with him when he was only a baby, leaving him with the Dursleys and a lightning bolt scar.

The floorboard back in place, Harry curled up under his covers. He went to sleep muttering the contents of his letter, "Dear Mr. Potter, we are pleased..."

#

Harry dreamt that night of a bright flash of green light and of a high laughter but found, when he awoke that he remembered none of it. Indeed, his day began when he suddenly sat up, at once nervous and excited for the upcoming day; for today, he would have to deal with his letter.

Soon came the shriek of his Aunt Petunia., "Up, up boy, lots to do today," and the thud-thud-thud of his Uncle Vernon and his Cousin Dudley down the stairs.

He was quite distracted that day: as he cut the tomatoes with the serrated knife he almost sliced his fingers twice, he was sprayed by the fat from the bacon pan and he almost burnt Dudley's eggs, something he had not done since he was quite little.

The mail that day held nothing interesting in it what so ever, although when he handed Uncle Vernon the mail he began spluttering. "Another bill, Petunia, for that cursed car. It was brand new a month ago and it needs a new converter. I should have never bought one of those European imports. A good British car is always best, haven't I always said that Dudley, my boy."

Dudley grunted, too busy stuffing bacon into his mouth. Harry had a brief thought about how close to cannibalism that was but refused to chuckle in case he was punished for it. Harry had a plan that could not go wrong.

"Don't get fooled like I was, Dudley; stick to British cars made from the sweat of British men and the metal of British soil. Other countries don't know the meaning of quality. In fact, Petunia, I'm certain that Marge's food was cooked by an immigrant. No idea of work ethic, those immigrants. That's why I refuse to employ them, Petunia. There'll be no defective drills at my factory, oh no."

By now, his face was becoming a little red, and Harry was glad that he had held in his chuckle.

"Quite right, Vernon, quite right," said Aunt Petunia as Dudley, seeing that Harry was distracted, took his remaining slices of bacon.

"You didn't cook enough bacon for my Diddykins, did you?" snapped Aunt Petunia at Harry, making him jump. And with that, she upended his almost full plate onto Dudley's. Dudley's smile was large and toothy and Harry heard his deep chuckle. Harry's stomach, meanwhile, only rumbled. However, Harry couldn't complain because tomorrow was mail day.

Uncle Vernon sent out letters every Thursday. There was always at least one stern letter to the newspaper about one of their articles being too liberal, and this week there was also a letter to Marge, complaining once more about the declining quality of the British service industry and the negative effects of immigration. It was Harry's job to take these letters to the post office every Wednesday, and it was because of this that he had a plan.

Harry spent the rest of the day composing his letter. He had decided that he would ask the postman where to send it to as he had no library card that he could use to find the address in the library. Making that decision was simple enough, but trying to decide what to write in his letter was far more difficult.

When he was cleaning the study that day on Aunt Petunia's orders, he managed to swipe some envelopes and several sheets of paper. He hid these under the waist band of his jeans very quickly and finished dusting and vacuuming as soon as he could.

The stationary was then delivered to the cupboard, and Harry spent the rest of the day attempting to compose the letter in his head. The biggest problem, Harry found, was trying to communicate to a school which he wasn't even sure existed and one which seemed to believe that it was magical. Who communicated with owls and did things like spells and potions? But he found that his hope was stronger than the strangeness of the letter, and he was determined to hold on to that hope until it had been completely extinguished. The final copy of his letter ended up reading:

Dear Deputy Headmistress McGonagall,

My name is Harry Potter of number four, Privet Drive and I received your letter today in the post. I have no owl so I have sent this as best as I can to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry by post. I hope that it finds you. I was very surprised by your letter as I have never heard of a school of witchcraft and wizardry and never applied to Hogwarts at all. Where can I buy the textbooks and supplies that you mentioned?

Sincerely,

Harry Potter

Harry was quite pleased with his letter, as he felt that it sounded at once grown-up and serious. He had a brief worry that the original letter could have been one of Dudley's pranks, but he didn't think Dudley smart enough to know the words that Deputy Headmistress McGonagall had used. Also, he seemed quite content in general to hit Harry instead of pranking him. Dudley, like the rest of the Dursleys, was also quite afraid of the word magic.

Having written out the letter that night in his cupboard, he crumpled up his failed attempts and stuffed them in a hole in the wall; he would throw them out tomorrow on his way to the post office. As would seem had become his habit, before he went to sleep, Harry pulled out his letter and looked at it for several long moments before putting it back in his hiding place. He went to sleep with a smile on his face and that night had no dreams.

#

Harry awoke feeling refreshed and determined to send his letter to the mysterious school. He felt quite certain that he had to succeed. Indeed, this school, if it were real, sounded far better than the local comprehension where, Dudley assured him, new students were regularly beat up and placed in toilets. Never before had Harry been wanted somewhere, and now he had been accepted at a school that wrote on thick parchment which was far nicer than any mail Dudley had ever received from Smeltings.

A few hours later, Harry was walking up the street in the hot sun to the post office. It seemed that there was a heat spell and already he had spent several hours watering the Dursleys' lawn and washing Uncle Vernon's imported car. But now was the time.

He'd had to look very unhappy when Aunt Petunia had handed him the letters for fear that she, realising how much he was looking forward to the journey, might prevent him from undertaking it.

Dudley was not around that day, as Uncle Vernon had decided to take Dudley into work so that he could show him off to all of his co-workers. The Smeltings stick had yet to be broken and neither had Dudley tired of hitting things with it, unfortunately for Harry.

He was so pleased with his letter, which he had gathered that morning, that he even waved back to Mrs. Figg as he passed her house, although he usually ignored her for fear that she would invite him in to her cabbage-smelling house. The walk to the post-office took Harry quite a while, for Uncle Vernon always insisted that he bring them to the post office so that they would arrive as quickly as possible. His route passed by at least five post boxes, but he held no resentment towards them today.

Finally, he arrived at the post office and dropped off Uncle Vernon's letters and his letter to the Deputy Headmistress. Then, he carefully approached the counter and asked the man who stood there, "Sir, I was wondering if you could look up the address for a Hogwarts school?"

The man was tall and bald with a round, solid body and a jolly face. But, while he had been smiling when the small boy had entered his shop, his face now darkened grey. "Ah Hogwarts, I see. You, boy, are you trying to play a trick on me. It seems that every year someone's here trying to play that trick on me, but I've looked once and I've looked ten times and that school does not exist. For shame, children in my day knew how to behave!"

By the end of this, his face had started turning an alarming shade of red and Harry began to sink into the flagstones which covered the floor. But he couldn't leave; the man had as good as told him that the school existed or at least that it was a widespread prank.

Suddenly, a small man with a large, crooked nose and a bright orange cloak appeared behind the counter. "Now, Alfred, there's no use scaring the boy. I'm sure he was fooled just like the others. Why don't you go to the back room and have a cup of tea? I'll take over here."

Alfred, taking one last look at Harry, turned and walked quickly away, all the while muttering under his breath.

The man now turned to look down at Harry. "A letter, you say, for Hogwarts. If you give it to me, I'll-" And then, he gasped, for another customer had entered the post office and the breeze had caused Harry's hair - which usually covered his forehead - to lift up and had revealed Harry's scar.

The man's face, which had been considering, now looked quite awed. "Well, Mr. Potter, I'll get that to Hogwarts as quickly as I can. Just you wait and see. You'll have a response faster than you can say nitflick!" And he grabbed the letter from Harry's hands and started smiling and seemed to be trying to shake his hand at the same time.

"Just marvelous, my Susan won't believe it. Harry Potter in my post office, off to Hogwarts. Simply splendid."

Now quite nervous about how this man know his name, Harry, one of his letters still in his hand, quickly left the post office. Still, he supposed it was no stranger than the strangers who hugged him in the street and the man did seem to know where Hogwarts might be.

Harry walked back to number four Privet Drive quite uncertain on how he should feel.