Seven year old Harry Potter was a happy boy. For the first time in his young life he was reading Dudley's comic books, specifically a multi-volume series from Japan about a manly adventure to save a young man's mother from certain death. The Dursleys would be gone all day, so Harry wasn't worried about being discovered as he tore through the comics as fast as his little mind could handle, eagerly devouring the whole story during the course of the day. By the end he was in tears- seeing the young man challenge terrible enemies to save his mother was the most moving thing the boy without parents had ever read.
Late that night, Harry thought about the strange powers called 'Stands' that the characters in the comic used as he tried to sleep in his cupboard. Come to think of it, strange things tended to happen around Harry all the time, and his relatives always called him a 'freak' whenever something abnormal occurred. Did he have a Stand like the people in the comic? If so, why couldn't he travel around the world, saving people and being a hero like those he read about? It would be much better than staying at the Dursley's.
That thought sent him down a rather different path than he would have otherwise traveled.
Four years and many adventures later
Harry Potter was celebrating his eleventh birthday in his usual subdued manner, eating a large cupcake and humming the happy birthday song to himself as he walked down a crowded German street. He spotted a few young German kids trying to pickpocket some American tourists, but he didn't bother trying to stop them- Harry had long ago realized how difficult life was for homeless kids without supernatural powers and he couldn't fault them for trying to live. As long as they didn't hurt anyone Harry was prepared to overlook their petty theft.
Besides, they were really helpful whenever Harry tried to go after real criminals. Those street kids kept their ears to the ground and held no love for the violent and dangerous villains that infested big cities like Berlin, so whenever Harry needed to find someone they were the first people he asked. Being a hero was a lot more complicated than Harry had initially thought.
Harry's thoughts were interrupted when a tired brown owl landed on the ground about a foot in front of him, a strange note tied to the poor thing's leg. This wasn't the first time Harry had seen a mail owl, having encountered wizards and goblins and such during his travels, but it was the first time one had been addressed to him personally. The young boy briefly wondered if it had been sent by one of his enemies- he was good at making those- before deciding that even they wouldn't be stupid enough to send him owl mail in the middle of a Berlin street. As soon as Harry untied the letter from the owl's leg it started flying off again, leaving the crowd of normal people milling about the street slightly confused at the sight.
Harry James Potter
Well, it was certainly his letter.
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.
Well, that was odd. Harry never remembered signing up for a wizard school and was certain his former relatives wouldn't have either, seeing as they hated magic and everything. Was it a mistake? The letter was only addressed to Berlin, and there where a whole lot of people living here. Then again, there probably weren't a whole lot of English people here and it had even gotten his middle name right.
In the end Harry decided it must have been for someone else. After all, the letter failed to mention where the school was, how to get there, what tuition would be, how to contact them, and a dozen other minor concerns that someone who was only vaguely familiar with the wizarding world would need to know, so this letter must have been intended for some young wizard with the same name. That was the only explanation that made sense to Harry.
So, being the hero that he was, Harry Potter sent off to find this other Harry Potter in Berlin who was missing his letter. The goblins would be a good place to start, since they seemed to keep tabs on all the wizards around and were quite friendly when you got to know them.
A few hours later Harry strolled into Gringotts Berlin, smirking at the rather pointed warning that hung over the crowded lobby. Nobody was crazy enough to try and steal gold from goblins anymore, but they left the sign up for tradition and it was nice of them to warn people coming in from the non-magical world.
Harry waited patiently in line, well aware of the looks that the witches and wizards were sending his way but choosing to ignore them. Those haughty bastards always took in his worn clothes, lack of appealing aroma and the absence of any wand and decided he was little more than garbage littering the floor. Oh, there were a few exceptions, like that nice Xenophilius chap who always wanted to interview him for some reason, but by and large wizards were a bunch of prats who could use a good punch to the face. Harry concentrated on ignoring them and waiting for an open teller.
"Next," a bored goblin called out in German. Harry strolled up to the counter and slapped the Hogwarts letter down with no preamble, speaking in his native English.
"Grognard, you silly bugger, tell me who this letter belongs to before I kick you in the balls."
"Harry, you sack of Dementor puke, how did you convince the guards not to pike you the moment you stepped in here?"
Grognard was a friendly goblin, easy to get along with, and Harry was glad he seemed to be in a good mood today. Dealing with witches and wizards tended to upset the friendly folk the most. "I just flashed them my winning smile and told them I'd break their kneecaps if they tried anything. Getting to the point; an owl gave me this letter but I believe it belongs to someone else with the same name. Can you find him or tell me where he is?" Harry gestured to the letter still sitting on the counter, but Grognard made no move to inspect it.
"I knew you were thick but you're outdoing yourself today. The Hogwarts acceptance letter is never wrong. Not that I could tell two ugly humans from each other myself, but owls never make a mistake."
That set Harry back a little. He was supposed to go to a wizard school? The letter didn't even say how he was supposed to get there, let alone what it would cost him. He'd probably have to turn the school down; being a hero didn't exactly pay well.
"Oh. Well, I'm glad I at least wasted some of your time today."
Harry turned to leave, but the goblin called out from behind him. "Tuition can be paid directly from your vault, and you should have more than enough left over to pay for your supplies."
Harry whirled back around to see the goblin leering at him, no doubt enjoying the confusion on the young boy's face. "Why do I have a vault?" he asked, then remembered his manners and added, "you bastard."
"You have a trust vault that your parents set up before they died. It has enough money in it to see you through all seven years of Hogwarts, including supplies, with some left over for miscellaneous expenses. If you decide to waste your life by becoming a wizard we can get your Hogwarts account set up now."
"...I'll think about it and get back to you. Go jump in a fire," he finished, taking his Hogwarts letter with him and leaving the bank, not noticing the incredulous stares most of the other patrons were giving him as he left. They all hated goblins, of course, but none of them dared to speak that way to the awful creatures currently holding all of their material wealth. None of them realized just who that boy was.
September 1st 1991
Harry Potter stood in King's Cross Station, holding his rather unobtrusive suitcase (charmed, of course, to hold all of his supplies regardless of size), and wondered why they were taking a train to school. Did the wizards have nothing else to do with their magic? In any case Harry was wearing his shabby but still somewhat presentable clothes and had taken a bath just that morning so he was at least somewhat dignified in appearance, even if his hair was going crazy like usual, so he took the time to look around and see what the other little wizards and witches were doing.
He spotted a very large family of redheads clustered around the entrance to Platform 9 ¾, being as obvious as they possibly could, probably intending to help those who were nervous or lost. That was nice of them. A little further down he could see a rather stern looking elderly woman talking to a chubby boy his age, though he couldn't make out what they were saying. There were plenty of other families, of course, but most chose to quickly enter the platform and hold their goodbyes there instead of staying within visual range of normal people. Following their lead, Harry unobtrusively strolled through the entrance to the secret platform.
Pretty much every student was there with one or two parents to see them off which caused Harry a brief twinge of jealousy as he surveyed the scene. Ignoring that familiar feeling he made his way to the train itself and hopped on, searching for a relatively unpopulated compartment. Somewhat near the rear of the train he spotted a car with only a single occupant, so he set his suitcase on the overhead rack and sat down across from her.
She had long, dirty blonde hair, which clashed quite violently with the bright yellow robes she was wearing. Her silvery gray eyes were transfixed on the magazine she held in front of her, and it took Harry a second to realize that is was upside down. Or perhaps the cover was upside down? In any case she looked like she was reading intently, and since Harry didn't have a real need to interrupt her he just sat back quietly.
The peace didn't last for long, though. More students shuffled through the room, some of them friendly and some studiously ignoring the two first years as they passed between compartments. Eventually, as the train filled up, Harry and his oblivious companion were joined by three older boys and a nervous girl his own age. Two of the older boys seemed to be identical twins, and all of them were friendly.
"Greetings, ickle firsties! I'm Fred-"
"No you're not, I'm Fred, you're George-"
"Sorry, I'm Forge and this is Gred-"
"Weasley, and this is our good friend Lee Jordan."
After that rather odd introduction the two witches started giggling and the slightly nervous atmosphere disappeared completely. The brunette witch was the first to speak. "Hi, I'm Tracey Davis. You're the Weasley twins, aren't you? My mum told me to stay away from you because you're trouble."
The two twins just grinned at each other.
"My my Forge, mothers are telling their daughters not to bring us home already."
"It is a shame being this devilishly handsome-"
"Though it has its perks as well."
The two then simultaneously waggled their eyebrows, one at Tracey and the other toward the still unnamed witch. The two girls giggled again, and this time both Harry and Lee joined them (with a much more manly type of giggle, Harry insisted to himself). At this point the blonde decided to give up on her magazine and join in on the conversation.
"I'm Luna Lovegood. A pleasure, I'm sure."
"Not that we're complaining or anything, Luna-"
"But why are you here? Shouldn't you be in next year's class?"
The blonde directed her gaze to Harry and answered in a slightly bemused tone of voice. "My eleventh birthday is less than a month from now, and Daddy thought it would be nice to have me taking classes with Harry Potter. He is a hero, you know."
Harry instantly blushed and turned his face away, immensely happy and embarrassed that someone recognized his exploits during the past few years. He had expected these wizards and witches to be more... well, mean, but these guys all seemed like nice people. It made Harry wonder if he had just encountered the worst of the bunch in his travels or if this group was uncommonly friendly.
Lee shook his head, laughing at Luna's statement. "Your dad wanted you to come a year early so you could be in Harry Potter's year? I know he's a big deal, but isn't that a little extreme?"
Harry was stunned. He was a big deal? He didn't think very many humans would recognize him from his heroic escapades, since he mostly saved goblins and veela and centaurs, all of whom were looked down upon by wizarding society from those bastard wizards of the Slaver's Guild. The only humans he saved were normals, so he was quite surprised that these wizards had heard of him. Then again, that Xeno wizard interviewed him a few times about his... wait.
"Luna Lovegood, as in Xenophilius Lovegood?"
Luna turned her large, inquisitive eyes to Harry. "Oh yes, he's my father. I've read all your interviews in The Quibbler, you know."
The other occupants of the car all turned their attention to Harry, who had yet to introduce himself and was apparently getting interviewed by Luna's crazy dad. He was about to open his mouth when the door opened, revealing a young girl with bushy hair and the slightly pudgy boy Harry had seen earlier.
"Has anyone seen a toad? Neville's lost his and we're searching for it."
"Don't worry about it, I'll summon him. What's his name?" Lee asked, bringing his wand out.
As soon as Harry saw an exposed wand his Stand activated out of reflex, a testament to the number of times he had been on the receiving end of hexes and curses in his young life. After a brief moment he forced himself to calm down and allowed his Stand to dissipate, reminding himself that no one here was going to try and curse him while they were riding the train to school.
"Uh... did anyone else see a woman pop up for like a second there?" Lee was currently staring directly at where the woman used to be, which was currently where Harry was at that moment, which caused him a bit of discomfort. Everyone else had their attention on Lee, though, so they only caught a flash of bright light and movement out of the corner of their eyes.
"Er... right. Anyway, his name's Trevor," the girl stated, eager to see some real magic performed.
Lee shook himself out of his funk and raised his wand. "Accio Trevor the toad!" he said, and a second later a small shape zoomed into his outstretched hand from a neighboring compartment. Neville took the toad and thanked him, and the two first years returned to their own compartment.
"Aren't you going to introduce yourself?" Tracey asked, looking over at Harry. All the other members of the compartment followed suit, leaving poor Harry the center of attention.
"Harry Potter," he said, causing everyone else to gasp.
"You've got the scar, then?" Tracey asked, but immediately looked bashful the next second. "Well, I mean, I guess that's kind of personal but it's really famous..."
Harry wasn't sure which scar they were talking about but was saved from an awkward conversation when Luna reached forward and brushed the hair off his forehead, revealing the lightning bolt scar he was practically born with. Everyone seemed really impressed by it, and Harry thought it looked pretty cool himself, but how did they know so much about him? The Quibbler must be a really popular magazine if everyone knew about him just from the articles in there. Most of his magical adventures hadn't even been in Britain.
The Weasley twins had a gleam in their eyes like they had just won the lottery, Tracey was quietly blushing and stealing glances at him, Lee was still trying to figure out why he saw a woman before and Luna was simply staring at him. Harry didn't quite know what to do in this situation. People very rarely recognized him due to all his traveling, and he didn't speak about himself very much, so being the center of attention was quite daunting for the eleven year old. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, the door to their compartment opened and a young blonde boy stepped in, flanked by two larger boys who looked like they might have had gorilla ancestry.
"I've heard Harry Potter is on the train. Do any of you know where he is?"
The Weasley twins spoke up immediately and simultaneously. "We'll tell you if you say 'please'."
The blonde boy sneered at them. "You must be some blood traitor Weasleys. I'll be sure to drop a few knuts on the floor on my way out so you can feed your family."
That got Harry's attention. Some of the best people he had ever met were penniless street urchins and this dickface made fun of people for being poor? He obviously wasn't worth associating with in any capacity. Before the twins could launch their retort Harry jumped in.
"Sorry, no one here named Porter. I'd check another compartment if I were you."
This time the blonde boy sneered at him. "It's Potter, mudblood, and you'd be better off watching how you speak to your superiors. Remember the name Draco Malfoy and don't get in my way."
The blonde ponce then exited the compartment, the combined glares of all its inhabitants following his back.
"Nice chap isn't he?"
"Didn't even leave the coins-"
"Which makes him a liar as well as a prick."
Tracey Davis let out a sigh. "Ugh, I'm going to be in his House for seven years... what did I do to deserve this?"
"You were born a Slytherin," the twins replied at once, though their casual smiles let everyone know that it was a joke. Even Tracey laughed at their mocking reply.
"What makes you so sure you'll be a Slytherin?" Lee asked, striking up another conversation.
"My family's been Slytherins for ages, I just can't see myself getting sorted anywhere else. Not that I'm upset, mind you, I want to be in Slytherin, I just hope that Malfoy stays as far away from me as he possibly can." She then turned to the other first year students. "What about you two? Ready to join the House of the cunning?"
"Oh, I shall be in Ravenclaw. That's the House my mum was in."
Harry wasn't sure which house he'd be in so he shrugged. From what little he knew about Hogwarts it seemed that each House received approximately the same amount of students, so which one you belonged to didn't seem very important, especially since Harry had no interest in stupid things like the House Cup or Quidditch. He was learning wizard magic so he could be a better hero. And to fight against other wizards more effectively, of course.
"You should join me in Slytherin!"
"Having the Boy-Who-Lived in Slytherin? No way, Gryffindor is the only choice!"
"Eww, you want to pollute poor Harry's mind with your crazy recklessness? Don't listen to them, Gryffindor is where all the idiots go."
"Hey! We know some Gryffs who aren't idiots!"
"Yeah, all our chasers have brains as well as looks!"
This went back and forth for a little while, and even though Tracey was outnumbered three to one it never got mean and she never got upset about it. Harry wondered if these boys were a typical example of Gryffindor students or, if Malfoy and Tracey were any indication, if what House you were sorted into really did not reflect on how good a person you were. Harry was a little confused about one thing, though.
"You guys keep calling me the Boy-Who-Lived. What's up with that?"
Tracey was the first to answer. "You're the first person to ever survive the Killing Curse, and no one knows how you did it. You're famous for it."
"Oh, that's all?" Harry's Stand was able to partially block the Unforgivables, though not completely. The large, black scar on his chest was proof enough of that.
Tracey, the twins and Lee all opened their mouths to inform him that no, that was not all, there was also the rather small detail of him getting rid of You-Know-Who while he was at it, but that misconception failed to be cleared up as the compartment door opened up once again. An older girl stood in the doorway, a shiny prefect badge gleaming on her robes, smiling as her hair changed color from a subdued brown to a bright pink.
The three youngest students all nodded.
"My name's Tonks," she said, shooting a glare at the twins, "and only Tonks. I'm one of the Hufflepuff prefects. If you have any questions or need any help during the school year don't hesitate to ask for me, especially if you're being bullied. Not that I expect any of you to be bullied, mind, but it sometimes happens even in Hogwarts and you don't have to put up with it." She finished her little speech with a fair bit of passion, but seemed a little embarrassed about it a second later. "Er, anyway, do you have any questions about the school?"
Both Tracey and Luna knew pretty much what to expect since they had come from families that had attended the school for generations, and Harry didn't really care that much, so they didn't have any questions for the energetic prefect.
"Well, that's all right then." She rounded on the Weasleys, shaking a finger at them. "And I better not hear any complaints from these three about you before the train even arrives!"
"Honestly, we weren't even going to do anything!"
"Well, okay, we were, but now we've got something even better planned!"
Tonks resisted the urge to drive her head into the nearest solid object. "What are you planning?"
The twins grinned at her in unison, but didn't say anything.
She opened her mouth, presumably to lecture the twins about school rules, but decided against it. After a few more seconds of struggling to come up with something, her stern expression left and she sighed. "Just don't hurt anyone, alright? I'll never get into the Aurors if you guys give me too much trouble."
"Give you trouble?"
With one last sigh her hair changed color again to a morose black and she went to patrol the rest of the train, shaking her head at the lost causes of Fred and George. After the prefect had left the twins turned to their younger companions.
"She's one of the few prefects we'd advise befriending."
"She told Filch to go stuff it once when he was trying to get us expelled."
"Plus she's hot."
Harry took an instant liking to the older girl, partly because of how seriously she seemed to be taking care of younger students and partly because Fred and George recommended her. He found himself trusting their opinions, probably because they seemed to be rather sharp and observant underneath all their jokes.
Tracey smiled at the twins. "So you guys are into older girls, huh?"
"Age doesn't matter-"
"It's the witch that matters."
That launched the friendly compartment into a discussion of love, something little Harry was still clueless about. He was a little concerned when Tracey kept sneaking glances at him when the subject of dating was mentioned, and Luna seemed to be staring at him throughout the entire thing, but the boy was frankly ignorant about what that meant. After seven years of neglect at home and nearly four years wandering around Europe by himself, he never really developed the kind of boy crushes that kids his age usually experienced. He was either not allowed to (Dudley threatening any girl that came close to Harry) or unable to (never staying in the same town for more than a month at most).
So it should come as no surprise that Harry missed out on the significance of Tracey's blushing or the straightforward way Luna expressed interest in him, and instead decided that they were just being silly girls. When Harry was asked what kind of witch he preferred, he just shrugged.
"Harry isn't interested in girls yet. I suspect we'll have to do something about that," Luna said, directing her gaze to the other students in turn. Tracey blushed again, Lee smiled, the twins were supporting identical wicked grins and Harry looked bewildered. The conversation drifted off to other topics after that, but everyone aside from Harry kept that last comment in mind.
Other students occasionally popped by the compartment, mostly to see Fred and George, but everyone seemed to have taken the clue earlier and didn't mention Harry to anyone. The young boy was grateful; although it was nice being recognized for his heroic deeds he'd much rather have a normal start with everyone.
The rest of the train ride was comfortable and uneventful.
"Firs' years! Firs' years with me!"
An enormous man was gathering all the first year students, separating them from the crowd that was making its way to the castle. Harry, with his new friends Tracey and Luna, joined the growing group of eleven and twelve year olds (with one ten year old) and waited for instructions. After the giant gathered everyone up they started to the lake.
A long, impressive boat ride later the new students found themselves in the castle proper. After a very brief introduction from a stern older witch named Professor McGonagall the first years all shuffled into a line before the Great Hall, waiting for their name to be called for the Sorting.
A nervous girl with braided blonde hair stumbled her way to the sorting hat, jamming the thing over her head like it was a security blanket. After a few seconds the hat shouted "HUFFLEPUFF!" eliciting cheers from the far right table. Each student went in alphabetical order, with both Tracey and Luna going to the houses they predicted earlier, until finally it was Harry's turn.
He strode to the stool, much more confident now that he had seen the simple process a few times, but was a little concerned by how much whispering his name caused. Did The Quibbler really write that many articles about him? He made a mental note to borrow some copies from Luna so he could read them for himself as he put on the sorting hat.
"Hm... you're a difficult one, Mr. Potter. You've got courage in spades and a mind to match, not to mention a fair bit of cunning and great ambitions. Now where to put you?"
"Eh, anywhere is fine."
"Oh ho, that's not something I hear every day. I see... you're not interested in what this school can do for you, but how much it can help you save other people. There's a place for people who look out for others, and that's in HUFFLEPUFF!"
A great cheer erupted from the Hufflepuff table, and Harry sat down between a beaming Susan Bones and a cheerful looking fellow named Justin. The rest of the Sorting went fairly quickly, with Harry introducing himself to his fellow Puffs during the lavish feast that followed. Susan and Justin proved to be very nice people, and the rest of the students at the table seemed to be cheerful and helpful as well.
"Wotcher, Harry. The headmaster wants to speak to you after the feast, so come grab me when you're done and I can lead you to his office."
Harry looked up at Tonks, surprised that the headmaster would want to see him, especially considering that the new students were supposed to get a tour after the feast. Then again, if one of his prefects was escorting him there wasn't much chance of getting lost, but that still didn't explain why the headmaster wanted to see him in the first place.
"Er... thanks, Tonks. I'm ready whenever you are."
"Harry, good to see you."
"Uh, good to see you too?"
Harry was never that great at talking to adults, and the strange old man before him was even more difficult to talk to than normal. He was almost like a caricature of a grandfatherly wizard, up to and including an actual twinkle in his eye.
"How have you been doing? I've been lead to believe that your guardians haven't seen you in a little over three years now."
Oh great, this conversation again. Harry wondered why everyone seemed to care that he didn't have a permanent home or stupid adults looking after him all the time.
"I'm doing fine, Headmaster."
That was true. Harry was much healthier now than he had ever been, with all the exercise he got while traveling and access to good food that he didn't have while living with the Dursley's. He had even grown a bit in height and filled out with some muscles compared to the rail-thin boy he was a few years ago.
"Be that as it may, Harry, I'm concerned for your safety. There are those who would wish you harm now that you are publicly attending school here."
Dumbledore, of course, was referring to the Death Eaters who wouldn't hesitate to kill Harry if they ever learned where he was outside of school. Harry, by contrast, assumed Dumbledore was referring to the Slaver's Guild, the Italian Ministry of Magic, the Volbloeden Samenleving, the Romanian Magical Mafia, and probably a few more groups he was forgetting about. He was really good at making enemies.
"I can take care of myself."
Dumbledore gave him a grandfatherly smile, his eyes twinkling in amusement at the young boy's blunt statement. After Harry's disappearance the old headmaster used every available resource he could to find the boy, but there were only so many people he could rely on to provide the necessary discretion while tracking down such an important fugitive and in the end there was simply too much ground to cover for such a quiet investigation. Dumbledore didn't even know what the boy had been doing during that time, since Harry almost never interacted with wizards to his knowledge, and aside from poor Xenophilius' ramblings of saving veela colonies from slavery and rescuing goblins from wizard-made earthquakes nobody claimed to have seen him.
Xeno was a good man, dedicated to the cause, but he was a bit off his rocker. Coming from Albus Dumbledore that really said something about the man.
"I'm sure you can, Harry. However, I think it would be best to arrange for some more stable living conditions for you while you attend Hogwarts."
"I'll be staying in the dorms while attending Hogwarts, sir."
"I mean over the summer, and possibly the holidays as well if you'd prefer. It's not safe to wander around alone."
Harry wasn't sure what he should say about this. 'Stuff it old man, my life is my business' came to the forefront but Harry dismissed it, still wanting to attend this school to learn wizard magic. He supposed it shouldn't be surprising that the headmaster of a boarding school actually cared that one of his students was homeless and would attempt to help him, but that only made this slightly less annoying. Misplaced good intentions could cause a lot of harm.
"Thank you, but I already have plans for the summer."
It seemed they both knew that Harry's 'plans' involved going wherever the hell he felt like going, so Dumbledore decided to switch tactics.
"There are plenty of families who would love to have you over during the summer. The Bones, Weasley and Lovegood families are all wonderful people, so if you decide to change your mind they will all be available."
Dumbledore, of course, knew that Harry had interacted with those children and had judged all of their homes defensible enough to let Harry live there during the summers. He merely attempted to open Harry to the possibility of living with one of his friends while Dumbledore protected him from afar, placing strong wards on the properties and making sure he had people in place in case of an emergency.
Harry Potter simply heard the implied statement on the headmaster's part- 'I know who you're talking to.' Years of living on the street and fighting against secretive organizations sent warning bells ringing in the young boy's head, telling him that the man in front of him was dangerous. Maybe not immediately hostile, but someone to avoid crossing if at all possible. The fact that he was trying to help him was the only thing that kept the headmaster off the 'investigate for possible villainy' list that Harry mentally tracked.
"Thank you, sir. Is that all?"
Harry never wanted to interact with his headmaster again, and step one was getting the hell out of here.
"Yes, Harry. Please keep this conversation in mind as you enjoy your year."
There were so many implied statements in there that Harry didn't think he even got all of them, but he nodded politely and made his way out of the office. Tonks was waiting for him next to the gargoyle, a large grin forming on her face as she saw Harry's grumpy expression.
"So, what'd Dumbledore want?"
Harry, perhaps because he was thinking about too many things at the time, did not spare enough thought for his answer.
"He went on about how being homeless isn't safe and tried to make me live with-"
"Harry! You're homeless?"
It was about then that he realized the kind of mistake he just made. Nobody ever liked it when Harry told them he didn't have a home and most stopped interacting with him after that point, and often the ones who would still speak to him either called the police in an attempt to help him or tried to force him into their homes. Harry was rather sad now, he had liked Tonks and didn't want her to go all weird on him.
"Please don't tell anyone else," Harry said, hoping that she wouldn't spread that information through the whole school. He'd probably be forced to leave after someone called the cops so they could drag him to an orphanage.
"I'd never do something like that! Besides, Dumbledore is helping you so there's nothing to worry about. He knows just about everyone and nobody would turn you down if you wanted to live with them, so you'll have a home before you know it! Now come on, I've got to show you to the dorms before you miss out on all the introductions."
Harry decided not to correct her assumption that he wanted to live with someone and let her keep her delusions, mostly so she wouldn't bug him about it later.
Back in his office the headmaster gave a little sigh, smiling at the antics of young Harry Potter. It was a shame that he ran away from home, causing the blood wards on his home to permanently shatter, but that was never the only option in keeping him safe. Dumbledore was a little more concerned that he had been forced to release Severus from his employment at Hogwarts so he could help track the boy, and thus losing the perfect position for his most valuable ally. Severus was currently working under a research grant that Dumbledore had set up, pretending to be developing new potions on his own while he was secretly carrying out Order business.
It wasn't what the headmaster had wanted, but this wasn't a terrible position to be working from either.
Monday was the first day of classes, starting out with Transfiguration shared by the first year Ravenclaws. Harry, along with Susan and Justin, were joined at their four-person table by Luna.
"Hello Harry Potter."
"Hi Luna. This is Susan," he gestured toward the slightly plump redhead on his right, "and this is Justin." The sandy-haired boy gave a smile and a small nod.
After a brief smattering of small talk the Professor walked into the class, exuding an air of authority and confidence that made all the conversations die down at once. Harry appreciated the no-nonsense approach she took to teaching the class and paid careful attention to everything she said, well aware that she did nothing without a reason.
Even still, he made little progress that class. Susan and Luna, who came from wizarding families, also failed to make the little matchsticks they were given change into pins so Harry wasn't too disappointed with his lack of progress, but he was a little upset at how long it would take him to learn wizard magic. He had initially hoped that a year here would teach him enough to finish his education with self study. That hardly seemed like a practical goal now.
"Don't feel too bad, Harry. I didn't manage anything either," Justin said, catching the expression on his new friend's face. He was a muggle-born so he was even further behind than his slightly odd classmate.
"Nah, don't worry about it. I just thought wizard magic would be easier to pick up than this."
Susan gave a small laugh. "If it was easy we wouldn't spend seven years learning it," she said, directing her comment to both Harry and Justin.
They both grumbled in unhappy agreement with her, causing the girl to giggle again.
Luna stood up as the rest of the Ravenclaws started filing out of the room, moving to join her House in the next class. "It was nice meeting you, Susan and Justin," she said, turning to them in the wrong order.
"Er, hold on a second. Actually, I was wondering if I could borrow some editions of The Quibbler from you..." Harry trailed off, not knowing how he should phrase his request without sounding like a prat.
"You want to read what Daddy said about you? That's quite all right. I have all your interviews next to my bed, you know, I often read them before going to sleep. I can give them to you during Charms tomorrow."
Harry, Susan and Justin weren't quite sure what they should say to the spacey blonde's awkward announcement, but Luna seemed completely unfazed by the lack of response and left with her fellow classmates.
"She's... pretty out there, isn't she?" Justin ventured as the silence grew.
Harry shook his head, used to not understanding girls. "She's nice, though. Come on, we've got to find our History room before we're late."
The sliding, changing, rotating corridors and stairs did their best but failed to keep the Hufflepuff trio from getting to class, so the kids just plopped their books down on the nearest empty spaces and prepared for some history. Before the class started, a somewhat familiar looking girl with bushy hair marched herself up to Harry.
"You're Harry Potter, aren't you?" she asked without introducing herself. "I've read all about you. You're really famous and everyone thought you would be in Gryffindor, like your parents, but then again the sorting hat put me in Gryffindor and everyone says I should be in Ravenclaw so I guess people don't always guess right."
"Er... right then?"
"Anyway I came over to introduce myself. I'm Hermione Granger. You should get prepared for class, it's about to start," she finished, and returned to her own seat where meticulous organization was somehow holding her books, quill, ink, parchment and wand all within easy reach. Harry noted with a bit of surprise that all of the available seats around her were empty, and a redheaded boy was looking at her with undisguised annoyance.
The Professor, apparently a ghost, floated through the wall into class to the shock of the students. The class quickly went downhill after that when it became clear just how boring the subject would be, the Professor reading the book almost word for word in a slow, monotonous voice. Only Hermione took notes after about twenty minutes, and at the forty minute mark some of the students had started to nap. Professor Binns didn't notice anything.
After class was over Susan had to poke Justin awake, and the three of them made their way back to the Great Hall for lunch. Joined by Hannah and Ernie, other first year Hufflepuffs, the five of them ate in relative haste, eager to get to their next class after the boring History lesson.
Harry was personally looking forward to Defense Against the Dark Arts as he believed it would be the most relevant to him by far, teaching him how to fight against Dark wizards and monsters the wizard way. Any information at all would be helpful, especially considering that Harry had no formal schooling on the subject to date. Charging in to fight things he didn't understand had almost got him killed a few times already, and he wasn't about to pass up anything the class offered.
So it was with some enthusiasm that Harry led the way to Defense class, coming up with questions that he'd always wanted the answers to, babbling excitedly to his classmates on the way down. Susan and Justin, for their part, simply assumed that this was his favorite subject and humored him. After all, no one really expected to need this class in their actual life. It was just something you learned in school.
Tracey Davis and three unidentified Slytherins met up with the Hufflepuffs in one of the corridors leading to their Defense classroom, trading pleasantries and introductions. Daphne Greengrass, Millicent Bulstrode and Blaise Zabini were a little more subdued than Tracey (who was alternately beaming to and blushing away from Harry), but they were all pretty friendly. Blaise was a man of few words and the other two weren't very vocal either, but Tracey made up for any lack of conversation on their part by talking enough for four people.
The rather large group of students were stopped at the front of the classroom door, blocked by a certain blonde haired ponce and his two bodyguards.
"Well well. It looks like you managed to get yourself a fan club, Potter."
Draco, of course, was fuming from the train ride where Harry played him for a fool. Harry, having met many interesting people in the last few days, dimly recalled seeing this guy before but didn't remember much about him.
"That's because he's actually a good guy, Malfoy. The only people you can collect are those flies attracted to your stink," Tracey said, indicating Crabbe and Goyle. Draco flushed scarlet, not used to being insulted in any way, much less directly to his face.
"Watch it, half-blood, or things will start to get difficult for you."
Harry's distracted mind immediately recognized one thing- this Malfoy kid was threatening a girl, with his two lumbering cronies cracking their knuckles in a way suggestive of physical violence. That did not make Harry happy. Not happy at all.
Before Harry could march up and show Malfoy what the business end of his fist looked like a strong hand clamped down on his shoulder. Blaise gestured briefly to Tracey, who Harry noted didn't look very surprised or concerned about the threat that was just made to her, and Harry took the hint to let her handle it herself.
"What are you going to do about it, Malfoy? Your precious daddy can't keep you from getting expelled if you try anything and no one here is going to cover for you, so you're just a sad little dog barking without any teeth to bite with. Go ahead and try something. If Harry and Blaise don't beat you up the girls and I will hex you into oblivion, and then you'll be on the first train out of here."
If anything Draco's pale face turned even redder than before, but he made no move to try and fight. It seemed he had noticed that he was vastly outnumbered, and his intimidation hadn't worked, so he turned around and stormed into the classroom. Tracey was right, Draco's father had made it quite clear that a Board member couldn't interfere with the normal operation of the school, especially since that bumbling old fool Dumbledore had no fear of political reprisal from ignoring the Malfoys, so Draco couldn't just go around hurting people with impunity. If Professor Snape was still here it would be a different story since the old Malfoy family friend could cover up all his bullying, but unfortunately the good Professor left the school a few years ago to work on his potions.
And that bitch Tracey had gone and talked to all the first year Slytherins right away, promising them something in return for ignoring the Malfoy heir and siding with her in any potential conflicts. Draco would have to find out whatever hold she had on them and break it, establishing himself as the leader of their class. That would allow him to torture Tracey with impunity, as long as he did so in the Slytherin rooms with only his housemates as witnesses. He began formulating plans to take over his House, envisioning himself as the undisputed master of his year.
Unfortunately for Draco he had about as much Slytherin cunning in him as a flobberworm and without the fear of his last name nobody was concerned with what he could do. His inflated sense of self-worth blinded him to this fact (and to all of his other shortcomings), so he spent the rest of Defense class failing to be a manipulative mastermind like his father.
The Hufflepuffs and non-stupid Slytherins trickled into the room behind Malfoy and his goons, talking to each other and just being friendly in general. Harry had newfound respect for Tracey after she diffused a situation with words alone (Harry usually just punched people until they stopped being prats) and complimented her, causing the girl to immediately blush and mumble something about "any real Slytherin could have done the same."
As much as Harry was looking forward to Defense he was almost crying at the end of it. The teacher was completely incompetent and could barely be understood anyway, stuttering about inconsequential things and providing idiotic answers to all of Harry's rather specific questions. It became clear that the whole class was going to be completely worthless. Harry almost quit the school right then.
"Cheer up, Harry. That was just the first class. I'm sure it'll get better."
Susan gave him a patient smile, directing the pouting eleven year old back to their Hufflepuff dorms as the Slytherins waved goodbye. He spent most of the evening sulking about it until Justin told him, quite pointedly, that he was being a big baby and should get over it already.
The next couple of months found Harry in a routine that was quite odd for the normally free boy. Being locked up in the same castle for two months straight was almost unbearable, and only the extremely pleasant company of his new friends kept him from just skipping out and giving up on wizard magic altogether. Transfiguration, Charms and Potions were the only classes he found useful; the rest were either inconsequential (Herbology, Astronomy) or taught by useless professors (Defense, History).
Harry found that he was about average in the 'useful' classes while he was rather abysmal in the rest, probably due to the fact that he rarely did homework for those subjects unless Susan forced him to. He got along pretty well with most of his housemates, especially with Susan, Justin and Tonks, who took it upon themselves to make sure Harry didn't do anything too crazy.
Luna Lovegood was their regular partner during the classes they shared with the Ravenclaws, and despite her rather strange mannerisms the tolerant Hufflepuffs found her company to be both amusing and enjoyable. When Harry found out that some of her housemates were bullying her it took the combined might of Ernie, Hannah, Tonks, Justin and Susan to keep him from marching over to the Ravenclaw dorms to dispense some indiscriminate justice, and even though Harry let the matter be settled by Professor Flitwick he let it be known what would happen to people who continued to pick on his friend. From what Luna said a furious Flitwick had docked points left and right (putting Ravenclaw firmly in last place for the Cup) and thrown detentions around like candy on Halloween, vowing that nobody was going to bully a first year in his House again. Even when the bullying stopped, though, only the Hufflepuffs considered her a friend.
The Weasley twins were another matter entirely. They had taken it on themselves to show Harry every secret passage, unknown corridor and shortcut in the entire castle, partly to alleviate boredom and partly to set up an incredibly elaborate prank (not that they told Harry the second part). Despite the age difference they quickly became two of Harry's favorite people, along with their sometimes partner in crime Lee Jordan.
Tracey spent as much time as she could around him, inviting him to study together in the library or to have meals in out of the way locations. She also seemed to blush quite a lot, especially if he complimented her on something. The only time she wasn't smiling at Harry was when she was verbally sparring with Malfoy, whom Harry had quickly developed a dislike for as he proved to be a boorish prick that insulted everyone around him. Tracey and her Slytherin friends assured Harry that they had him well under control, but he seemed to become angrier and more volatile as the days went on.
Hermione Granger was a surprise. At first Harry was a little wary of her after her forceful introduction, but he soon realized that she had absolutely no friends. The other Gryffindors thought she was a bossy know-it-all and refused to speak with her, causing the girl to withdraw into her books. Feeling sorry for her, Harry struck up a conversation one day and was amazed at how far ahead she was in classes, asking her to tutor him with some of the more difficult charms they were learning. Despite her slightly abrasive attitude she was a wonderfully informative teacher, and soon Harry started going to her with all of his school related problems. The rest of Harry's House followed suit, and soon Hermione was socializing with her peers even without the (exciting?) topic of schoolwork to fall back on.
So it was with some resignation that Harry Potter went down to the traditional Halloween Feast with his housemates, not feeling festive or excited in the slightest despite all the admittedly impressive decorations. Harry had never participated in celebrations like this before, either being locked up in his cupboard by his former relatives or being on the road while people held their festivities indoors, so he wasn't initially thrilled by the prospect. After some teasing by Tonks he finally let himself start enjoying everything, which was for the best because it was a thoroughly entertaining holiday.
Everyone can thank Sir Poley and LordsFire for the inspiration for this story. LordsFire's Brutal Harry gave me the idea of a more physical Harry who hilariously uses JoJo's Bizarre Adventure as the basis for his unknown magical powers, and Sir Poley's excellent Harry Potter and the Natural 20 led me to believe that I could craft a decent Harry Potter story without the usual drama and angst that goes with it. So, like or hate my story, blame them for making me want to write it.