Harry's robes hung awkwardly off his shoulders. Madam Malkin bustled around him, tugging and pulling at the robes. A piece of chalk floated through the air, following her hands and marking the robes for alterations.
To Harry's left was a boy with blonde hair who looked to be about Harry's age. Another witch was measuring the blonde boy.
"What are you looking at?"
Harry jumped, realizing that he had been staring at the boy. "Nothing! I mean, your robes. Yours look really good. I'm not used to wearing them."
The other boy was tall and rather thin, with a sharp nose and piercing eyes. His clothes already fit him perfectly, but he was still being fitted for several sets of new robes. Most of the new robes had green trim.
The blonde boy turned away and lifted his nose. Embarrassed, Harry looked down at the ground.
Madam Malkin stepped away from Harry. "Finished. We'll have these owled to you when the alterations are done. What's your name?"
Madam Malkin shot a glance at Harry out of the corner of her eye. "Be serious, or the owl won't be able to deliver your robes."
"Er… I am serious." Harry nervously ran a hand through his hair. Before he could smooth it back down, Madam Malkin leaned in and looked at his forehead.
"Well," she said, "Harry Potter it is. Robes should be ready in about a week."
Harry turned to leave the store. Before he could exit, the blond boy spoke again.
"You're really Harry Potter? That's cool. I'm Draco Malfoy." Draco stuck out a hand, and Harry shook it. "Getting your robes for Hogwarts?"
"Yes," Harry said. "Are all your robes for school?"
Draco shrugged his shoulders. "My father wanted me to have several. He's always going on about being well dressed. 'Draco, if you are going to be better than everybody, you must also look better than everybody.'" Draco laughed. "Are you done shopping?"
Harry shook his head. "It's taking me a long time. Everything is so strange. I just met a goblin at Gringott's—a goblin!"
"Come off it. Goblins are always at Gringott's. They own the place."
"It's the first time I was ever there, though," Harry said. "I've never done any of this stuff. I mean, I only found out I was a wizard a few days ago."
"You can't be serious."
Harry hung his head, embarrassed. "My Aunt and Uncle never told me."
Draco looked back at the mirror. "Don't worry. Plenty of first years at Hogwarts have never done wandwork at home." Draco rolled his eyes. "All destined to be Hufflepuffs, of course."
Draco laughed, and Harry laughed with him. Laughing with somebody felt nice, even though Harry didn't understand the joke. For Harry, recognizing that he wasn't the target was enough.
"But you're Harry Potter," Draco said. "There's no way you'll wind up in Hufflepuff."
Again, Harry wondered what that meant.
The blonde boy continued, "If you're new to the wizarding world, you'll need somebody to introduce you to the right sorts. Good people, you know what I mean. I can help you with that."
Harry smiled. "Really?
"Sure," Draco said, "It would be a pleasure."
At that moment, the door of the store burst open. Hagrid bent down and stuck his shoulders through the doorway.
"There yeh are, Harry. We oughter get goin'. Plenty to buy, yet."
Harry waved at Draco. "I'll see you at school, I guess."
Draco waved back. "Look for me on the Hogwarts Express."
Harry looked to his left. Platform 9: check. Harry looked to his right. Platform 10: check.
Platform 9 and ¾: No Check. Not hardly.
"There he is, Dad. Harry! Over here!"
"Don't shout, Draco."
Harry turned and saw Draco waving at him. Standing behind him were his parents.
Draco's father was a tall, intimidating man with the same platinum hair as Draco. Draco's whip-thin build clearly came from his harshly beautiful mother. The family looked obviously out of place in the train station.
"Draco, hi!" Harry walked over and shook Draco's hand.
Draco gestured to his mother. "Harry, I'm pleased to introduce my mother, Narcissa Malfoy." Harry shook her hand and she gave a small smile.
Draco turned to his father. "This is my father, Lucius Malfoy."
Lucius stiffly shook Harry's hand, maintaining ramrod straight posture. Only his eyes looked down at Harry.
"Harry Potter. I never thought I would see the day." Lucius' voice was much deeper than Draco's, but both father and son spoke with the same drawl.
"It's nice to meet you, sir."
"Are you ready for the Express?" Draco asked.
"If I could find it," Harry said. "What's 9 and ¾ supposed to mean, anyway?"
Lucius's eyes widened, and a small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. "And I thought my son had been exaggerating. Raised by muggles, indeed." Lucius tapped the tip of his cane on Harry's trunk. "Come along, we will show you to the platform."
Lucius and Narcissa walked to a nearby pillar, and, without stopping, stepped directly through the bricks.
Harry was flabbergasted. "That's amazing!"
Draco smiled and walked quickly through the pillar, pulling his suitcase behind him. Harry followed.
Harry found himself in the middle of barely controlled chaos. At the center of the ruckus was a beautiful steam engine, with large and elegant passenger compartments. Harry could glimpse a few spells being cast in the crowd, mostly levitating luggage. Nearly everybody wore robes.
"Brilliant," Harry whispered.
Lucius looked at the bedlam disdainfully. "All this? Hardly." His expression softened slightly. "Although, for a child raised by muggles, I suppose it is."
Draco laughed. "Can't wait to see you cast your first spell. Come on, let's go get a compartment!"
Inside the train, Harry found himself completely overwhelmed. He was thankful that he had Draco to follow; without a guide, he would have been totally hopeless.
"In here," Draco said, stepping into a compartment. "I told my friends Vince and Greg to meet us on the train, but I wouldn't be surprised if they get lost."
"Lost? It's a train. There's only one hallway."
Draco laughed and flopped down on a seat. "Vince and Greg aren't the smartest owls in the flock. Good guys, good for a laugh, but they'd never make Ravenclaw." Draco laughed, and Harry laughed with him. After Madame Malkin's, Hagrid had told Harry a little bit about the Hogwarts houses, so Harry was finally beginning to understand Draco's references.
The compartment door opened again. A slim girl with bobbed black hair and an upturned nose stepped into the compartment. "Draco, hello. Do you mind if I sit with you?"
Draco waved a hand in the air. "Come on in, Pansy."
The girl pulled her trunk in behind her. It took Draco and Harry lifting together to place the trunk on the rack above their seats.
"What do you have in there?" asked Draco. "That weighs more than a troll."
"Just some basics," Pansy said. "I wanted to bring more, but my mother told me that I was only allowed to bring necessities."
Harry was astonished. "That's just the necessities? How many trunks would it have taken to pack everything you wanted?"
Pansy gave him a nasty look. "Who is this vulgar boy, Draco?"
"Sorry! Pansy Parkinson, let me introduce… Harry Potter."
Pansy's eyes went wide. She started to squeal, a noise that began high and went higher, almost to the point of being outside human hearing, before ultimately turning into words. "OhmygoodnessHarryPotterIcan'tbelieveit! I'msorryIwasmeanit'snicetomeetyou!"
Harry glanced over at Draco. It was clear that Draco had purposefully "forgotten" to introduce Harry and Pansy immediately, and was playing the moment for drama.
"Er, hi," said Harry. "It's good to meet you, too."
Pansy sat down across from Harry, literally bouncing on the edge of her seat. "Where'd you find him, Draco?"
"Madame Malkin's. He and I were getting fitted for robes together. I could clearly see that he was the right sort, so I struck up a conversation."
"Right," said Harry, remembering it somewhat differently. He was also rather uncomfortable with Pansy treating him like an object.
"I can't wait to tell my mother and father," said Pansy. "Harry Potter, right here in my compartment!"
"It isn't a big deal," said Harry. Desperate to distract Pansy, he asked her the only thing he knew about Hogwarts. "So, what House do you want to be sorted into?"
Pansy's mood changed as if a switch had been flipped. "Slytherin, of course. As if any other choice would be acceptable." Pansy turned to Draco. "Was he raised by Muggles?"
"Actually, yes," said Draco.
Pansy spun to Harry. "No!"
Harry nodded. "Yes."
"Oh, was it horrible? Were they awful beasts?"
"How do you know my Aunt and Uncle?" Harry said, cracking a smile.
Pansy laughed. "I heard that Muggles don't even use owls to send mail—they make another Muggle do it. Is it true?"
Harry nodded. "They call him the postman. He comes once a day with your mail. Not that I ever got any."
"That's barbaric!" Pansy said. "What a menial task!"
The compartment door opened again. Harry looked over, expecting to see a pair of boys, ostensibly Vince and Greg. Instead, he saw a short girl with large teeth and the messiest hair imaginable.
"Has anybody here seen a toad? Neville's lost his."
Draco made a noise in his throat. "Longbottom. There's a hopeless case if there ever was one." Pansy laughed.
Harry was the only one to give a serious answer. "No toads in here. Sorry."
The girl flashed him a quick smile. "Thanks, anyway." She closed the compartment door and was gone.
Harry stood and walked to the front of the Great Hall. Whispers travelled quickly and students turned to watch as he passed. The only faces he recognized were those of Draco and Pansy, already sorted into Slytherin. Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, who never did make it to the compartment, had also been sorted into Slytherin and were sitting at the same table.
Harry sat down on the stool at the front of the hall. He fidgeted, obviously nervous. Professor McGonagall, the head of Gryffindor house, smiled at Harry as she handed him the hat.
"Don't worry, Mr. Potter. The Sorting Hat will put you where you belong."
Harry placed the Sorting Hat on Harry's head. The floppy, oversized hat immediately fell down over Harry's eyes. A voice began speaking to Harry-the voice of the hat, Harry quickly realized.
"Hmm… difficult, very difficult. You're quite the interesting case, aren't you, Harry Potter? Where should I sort you? So much to consider."
Harry thought of Draco, the only magical person he really knew. Draco was in Slytherin.
The voice spoke again. "Slytherin, eh? Slytherin could make you great…"
This intrigued Harry. He had never been great at anything.
"…there's no doubt that Slytherin could make you great. But if it's friends you want, Hufflepuff is the place for you."
Harry remembered Draco's contempt for Hufflepuff house in the robe shop. He hadn't understood at the time, and he still didn't completely understand, but he didn't want to lose his friend. Not Hufflepuff, Harry thought. I've never had lots of friends—I don't need lots of friends. Please, let me keep just one.
"Not Hufflepuff, then. It takes plenty of courage, though, for a muggle-raised student to choose his own house, especially if that house is Slytherin. If you have the courage to make such a choice, perhaps I should simply sort you into Gryffindor."
Harry had seen the Gryffindors and Slytherins booing each other during the sorting. He'd hate me if I were in Gryffindor, Harry thought. I'd do anything to be in Slytherin. I'd do ANYTHING.
There was a long silence before the hat spoke again.
"That promise should not be made lightly, Harry Potter. A wizard who is willing to do anything to get what he wants… that wizard is very dangerous. It has been a long while since Hogwarts has seen such a wizard, and he was indeed sorted into Slytherin. Are you dangerous, Harry Potter?"
Harry paused, but only for a moment. Slytherin.
"Very well. If you are willing to do anything, then you are willing to owe me a favor. My wants are few, but they are great. In exchange for a favor, I will send you to SLYTHERIN!"
Harry removed the hat from his head. As with all the other students, the Sorting Hat had shouted Harry's house for the entire hall to hear. Unlike the other students, however, Harry's sorting was greeted with almost complete silence. Distantly, Harry could hear two sets of hands clapping, and one small cheer: Draco and Pansy.
Harry looked up at Professor McGonagall. She seemed to draw back slightly, but reached out and took the Sorting Hat from Harry's hands. As Harry began to walk toward his new housemates, the Slytherin table finally reacted, exploding in cheers and applause. The other three tables remained absolutely silent.
The house tables had applauded for every new student they received, but it was obvious that Slytherin was cheering louder and harder for Harry. Being accepted was unfamiliar to Harry, but being wanted was even more foreign. He had certainly never been cheered for in his life. As Harry settled down in the seat next to Draco, he felt for the first time in his life like he belonged.
After the sorting had finished (Zabini, Blaise: Slytherin!) and a most peculiar introductory speech by Headmaster Dumbledore ("Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!") Harry and his housemates were treated to a delicious opening feast. Harry had never been given access to so much food so freely. He found himself in an unofficial competition with Crabbe and Goyle to see who could eat the most food.
As the meal wound down, Harry began scrutinizing the Great Hall and its occupants. At the teacher's table he was able to identify Headmaster Dumbledore, who seemed a bit batty; Professor McGonagall, who reacted so poorly to Harry's sorting; and Professor Quirrell, who Harry recognized from their meeting in Diagon Alley. Speaking to the turbaned Professor Quirrell was a hook-nosed man in black robes. Quirrell and the hook-nosed man looked up at Harry, and Harry felt a sharp pain shoot through his head.
"Ssst," Harry hissed in pain, raising a hand to his forehead.
"What's wrong?" Draco asked.
"Nothing," Harry said. "Headache. Who's that sitting next to Professor Quirrell?"
"That's Professor Snape, our head of house. He's the potions master here at Hogwarts."
Harry looked back to the teacher's table. Quirrell had turned and begun speaking to Dumbledore, but Snape was still looking at Harry, regarding him with a cool and calculating gaze.
After dinner, Harry and the other first year Slytherins were taken back to their common room by the Slytherin prefects. The Slytherin common room was located in the dungeons, and was lit by a cool green-blue light. ("It's under the lake, partly," Draco told him.)
Harry and the other first years stood in a crowd in the common room. Severus Snape loomed in front of them. He spoke with a peculiar cadence, clipping the ends of some words while extending others. His pronunciation was impeccable.
"Welcome to Slytherin, your home for the next seven years. In Slytherin, we value cunning, subtlety, and ambition. Together, these qualities will lead you to greatness and power." Snape paused.
"Tell me, in one word, each of you. What is power? What is greatness?" Snape made eye contact with Vincent Crabbe. "You, what is power?"
"Fear," said Crabbe.
Snape looked at Gregory Goyle next. "You."
"Muscles," said Goyle.
Snape continued looking at each student in turn, and each student gave an answer. Harry began thinking furiously. What was power?
"Money," said a tall, black boy—Zabini.
"Blood," said Draco.
"Numbers," said a large, plain looking girl.
Harry had certainly been beaten up by Dudley and his friends enough to know that numbers and muscles and fear were powerful, but Harry had the nagging sensation that there was something else, some better answer.
"Knowledge," said a dark haired girl with pale skin and ice blue eyes.
"Respect." A boy with wide shoulders.
"Influence." A small, blonde girl. Her voice was focused and intense.
"Fame." That was Pansy. After speaking, she glanced at Harry, then quickly looked away.
Snape had left Harry for last. "Mr. Potter. What is power? Do you agree with Ms. Parkinson? Is it… fame?" As Snape finished speaking, his lip curled slightly, then settled into an expressionless mask.
Harry still wasn't sure of the right answer. He wasn't sure if there was a right answer. But, at the very least, he knew that there was a power greater than muscles or fear or numbers. Dudley had all those things, but Harry had still chased him out of the zoo, and Hagrid had made Dudley look like a fool with a pig's tail.
"Magic," said Harry. "Magic is power."
Snape considered Harry for a moment with the same cool gaze he had used in the Great Hall. Harry felt sweat break out on his forehead. Professor Snape was intimidating, and Harry didn't want to start out on Snape's bad side.
Finally, Snape nodded. "Power comes in many forms. One of the most basic forms of power is drawn from numbers, as Ms. Bullistrode noted. One drop of water is a pittance. One million drops is a thunderstorm."
Snape held his arms open at his sides. "Even greater than the power of numbers is the power of unity. One million drops of water is a thunderstorm, but acting in unison those drops of water become a river in which your enemies are swept aside.
"In Slytherin house, the first rule is unity. Slytherin supremacy is paramount. The other houses of Hogwarts are envious of Slytherin. They unite against us. We have no choice but to form an impenetrable façade against them.
"Within Slytherin house, you may compete among yourselves for power and prestige. It is expected, and encouraged. But no matter how viciously you fight among yourselves, your internal struggles will NOT to bring harm Slytherin as a whole.
"A victory for Slytherin is a victory for us all. Support Slytherin at all times, and Slytherin will support you."
Harry was relieved that Snape found his answer acceptable. His head of house was intimidating, and Harry did not want to be on Snape's bad side.
A/N: 10/8/14 Edit: A few readers pointed out that my first chapter had some spelling errors, and that my story wasn't putting its best foot forward. Those have been corrected in the edit. No changes to content.