AN: Apologies. I've found many mistakes in this story and I'm attempting to correct them. So if you note any changes within, it could be me tweaking a paragraph here and there. Besides, I've been rather uninspired lately and I'm taking Daughter #2's advice and rereading the first two stories in order to get reacquainted with the characters in order to conclude the trilogy.
Harry Potter, an eleven year old boy, was like many boys his age that lived in Surrey, England: an awkward, excitable, impressionable young man. Unlike the average boy growing up in Surrey, Harry was a wizard. Yes, Harry was wizard, a magical person that could cast spells and fly a broom and do other impressive feats that Harry couldn't even imagine himself doing, but he was one of them. That rather important bit of information was something that he hadn't known until a month ago on his eleventh birthday when he first met Rubeus 'Keeper of Keys and Groundskeeper' Hagrid, but his family had known. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, a.k.a. the Dursleys, had always known.
Distractedly peering out of the train window while not really seeing what was in front of him, Harry was called out of his thoughts by a departing Ron Weasley, the red headed boy he had shared a train car with on the ride from London. The Hogwarts Express had just arrived at Hogsmeade Station where the students were to disembark and continue their journey to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, their final destination. Harry had no idea what was in store for him at the new school and new life, but it had to be better than what he had been living, right? He exited the compartment and joined the others in the aisle while the train came to a complete stop.
His mind was reasoning with him as he shuffled off the train mixed in with hundreds, maybe thousands, of students. These children were like him; wizards and witches the lot of them. Harry was part of the wizarding community. The idea of it had him a bit overwhelmed. For once he fit in and he wasn't a freak like his family claimed he was. Like every other person on that train, Harry was just a kid. Okay people recognized him and knew his name. He had a scar, sure, but he couldn't possibly be that Boy-Who-Lived they kept talking about. Harry didn't even know what that meant… Boy-Who-Lived. Who would even want to call themselves something so odd? As far as Harry was concerned, Boy-Who-Lived was just a name… mere words and most definitely not him.
Besides, how could that silly scar mean so much to people? Harry had had it his whole life, as long as he could remember, but he it was nothing special. He was nothing special. His guardians made that last point very clear to him over the past ten years of his short life. Uncle Vernon strove to ensure he was compliant and knew his place: quiet and out of sight as if he didn't exist. Aunt Petunia's sole purpose in life, her very reason for living, was to dote on her beloved, whale of a son. Her life revolved around his cousin Dudley, not giving Harry much thought other than to keep him busy with chores, as to not disturb her family. That was simply his lot in life. So that Boy-Who-Lived business must be someone else.
"First years, this way!" A loud voice boomed out. Something poked at his memory. He recognized that voice, only he couldn't get over his excitement over arriving at the train station to pay it much mind. Staring wide eyed at his surroundings, Harry turned on the spot with a gleeful grin plastered on his face. That was it, the start of a new life, a fresh beginning. No more Dursleys: no more cousin Dudley, no more Uncle Vernon, no more Aunt Petunia, no more Harry hunting and endless chores… at least until summer. Harry shook his thoughts. No, he wasn't going to fret over that until the time came for him to leave school to head back to London. There was just too much newness and he didn't want to miss out on a thing. Closing his eyes, Harry lifted his face to the brisk night air and inhaled deeply. Freedom. It smelt so sweet.
"First years, line up 'ere, if'n y' please!" Hagrid's booming voice broke through Harry's reverie. "Come along now, down t' the dock." Hagrid led them along a path down to the water, a looming large shadow of a man with a lantern held high lead the way.
Standing at the water's edge, Hagrid grinned down at the mass of students. Harry looked towards the lake and the wide dock behind the giant of a man. A string of small boats awaited their passengers. Ron stood beside Harry, all wide eyed and dumbfounded. With his mouth agape, Ron stared up at Hagrid. Having not met the man before, Ron was properly stunned by the sheer size of the half giant with wild black hair flowing past his shoulders and a beard, just as untamed, fanning his broad chest. Ron managed to mutter only one word, "Woah!"
Hagrid stared at the gawking boy for a beat before grinning at Harry. The preteen smiled his own greeting, "Hello, Hagrid."
"Evenin' 'Arry," Hagrid cleared his throat, dropping his grin to address the rest of the students. The man looked around at the gathering children and directed them forward, "Righ' then, four tae a boat. We got a schedule t' keep ta."
Harry looked around for a moment before clambering into a boat, taking a seat beside his new friend, Ron. They were joined by two others students they had met briefly on the train: Hermione Granger, the bushy haired girl who fixed his glasses and the boy who lost his toad named Neville - the boy, not the toad. The four of them gawked at the hill looming across the lake. The sight was breathtaking with a darkening sky behind the silhouette of the castle. Hogwarts' twinkling lights beckoned them in welcome.
His stomach was in knots of excitement. So much had happened in such a short amount of time. From Hagrid's rescue on his birthday, to the discovery that he wasn't just a freak as his relatives claimed he was. He was actually a wizard, a real life wizard with magic and everything! Then there was his introduction to the wizarding world, shopping in Diagon Alley, meeting new potential friends and now Hogwarts. He felt almost light headed with all the new information he was processing and felt his body sway with the boat.
"Careful." A warning voice chirped, "You don't want to touch the water. There are things that live beneath the surface. I read about it in Hogwarts, a History. There is a giant squid that protects the lake." Hermione stated that fact with a self-assuredness that unsettled Harry.
Harry stared at the inky black depths of the water, seeing nothing but the reflection of the stars above them. He didn't doubt her words, but was curious if they'd see the beast on their trip. He nodded slowly, "Alright."
Hermione was rather intimidating. It was her first year, she was born to... what had Hagrid called them? Muddle? Mugs? He looked up at the hill again as it grew larger and the night grew darker around them courtesy of the castle's shadow that overtook the boats. Hermione's parents knew nothing of magic; they were regular people just like the Dursleys. Yet the girl already knew so much about their new world and Harry felt lost, even with all the information Ron tried to force feed him on the train.
She mentioned a book she read, Harry glanced over at Hermione with a growing understanding. That must have been it. She was studious. Harry grinned at her in acknowledgement and looked up just as they docked at Hogwarts. Okay, so of the folks he had met so far there were the Weasleys, Neville Something, Hermione Granger, Draco Malfoy and his two silent goons; Harry should have some help getting his feet under him in the new world he found himself in. He would simply need to be cautious until he-
Hagrid's large fist pounded on the large door with such a racket it broke through Harry's musings. Harry grinned up at the enormous man and remembered how kind he was to him, how patient and caring he was. Right then, Harry had one more friend to add to his growing list, although Malfoy and his two bodyguards could surely be kept off the list of Harry's potential friends. A small shudder ran through Harry at the memory of their brief encounter. He had a sudden urge to find Ron's ugly gray rat a bit of cheese for his timely act of interference with Malfoy's goons.