Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related characters, settings, and plots belong to JK Rowling.
Preface: Another new story?
So this is my take on Slytherin!Harry. I know what you're thinking: it's been done before, and probably better than I can do it. But there's a lot of possibility for expansion and innovation even within a common theme, and hopefully I can put together an interesting rendition of it. If you've read A Curse of Truth (you should!), you'll have found that possibly the most interesting character in that story is Daphne. I very much enjoyed writing her, so a Slytherin!Harry story lets me play with a number of other similarly cunning and nuanced characters.
Also, in a break from my previous writing style, I thought I might try a more serial writing style like most of the stories around here. This means much longer delays between less-polished chapters, because I typically make several passes for proofreading and improvements. To give you an example, I wrote 150k words of ACoT over four months before I started posting it, and the early chapters were revised or added to probably a dozen times or more. This time, however, I only have half of chapter two written.
Summary: Ten-year-old Harry Potter meets a kindred soul in secret who changes his whole outlook on his life with the Dursleys. Burned into Harry's mind with the violent death of his only friend, the lessons imparted guide him through his time at Hogwarts.
Lesson One: Bullies
"Bullies come in all different sizes, Harry."
"I know, my uncle is huge and my aunt is thin as a rail."
"No, I mean there are different kinds of bully, and sometimes the best way to deal with one is not the way to deal with another."
"Well, why didn't you say that in the first place?"
"Shut up, Harry."
"Hey kid," a voice said from behind a small ten-year-old sitting on the only functional swing on the rusted, decrepit playground. The chains had snapped on the other ones when the neighborhood bullies had kicked him off and taken over the swings. Luckily he was long gone before he had let his delighted laughter bubble up at the memory of the larger boys flailing around in anger at the swings.
At the mostly unexpected sound of the emotionless voice the ten-year-old froze, jamming his toes into the deep crevasses in the dirt – eroded from decades of swinging children – so he could stop its slight, ponderous movement. He had seen the clearly older boy coming, of course, and quickly discarded his initial concern that it might be one of his usual tormentors. Over the next two minutes afterward he had stolen a few more secretive glances over his shoulder, making and refining observations as he went. After all, being unaware of one's surroundings was a rather bad idea at his relatives' house.
The approaching boy was significantly taller than himself. His own height was certainly at the lower end of the curve, but someone with the height and build of the other boy had to be several years older. The faint outline of stubble, once he had drawn closer, supported that observation. He walked softly and with a certain kind of grace; certainly a far cry from the rampaging stomps of the usual bullies. That meant that this boy...or man, even, was potentially an even bigger threat. The younger boy had hoped the older one was simply passing through, but of course that would imply the younger was at all lucky. He really should know better by now.
"Your name's Harry, right?"
Well, that was new. He had forgotten to hide his surprise, but luckily he was still facing away from the newcomer until he could replace his blank expression. When he turned, he adjusted the man's age to his upper teens, height slightly greater than Uncle Vernon but probably a third of the weight. The white tee and jeans only didn't hide the lean, wiry frame underneath, though it didn't hide the facial or the upper arm bruises. "Harry Potter," the younger boy said neutrally.
"I'm Will," the man replied. "It's nice to meet you finally, Harry."
Harry's eyebrows lifted above his taped, round glasses at that. "Finally?"
Will nodded and looked toward the Dursley's house. "I understand some of what you're going through. I watched you get bullied the other day by the one who lives with you, and then I followed you home to see you get in trouble for it."
Harry felt a twinge of anger and annoyance at that, but what could he do? He just suppressed it and nodded.
"It occurred to me that I had an older stepsister that helped me out when she could, and she would be angry with me if I didn't pass on the favor," Will continued. Harry looked up to find the teen's eyes distant for several moments until he shook himself back to the present, then he looked back at the younger boy. "If you want, that is."
Harry turned his face away when he felt burning tears spring up to his eyes. He'd long since given up hope that someone would help him - that someone other than the snakes that he had befriended that only provided a listening ear. Or however it was that snakes heard him. And now here was some stranger, someone supposedly like himself, offering to place himself in that very role. It had to be a trick. "No thanks," he said, then he stood from the swing and ran away as fast as he could.
He didn't see Will smile sadly and nod to himself.
Harry woke up sweating and crying from that dream again, and his current companion, a small garden snake that was curled on his stomach, slithered away to burrow into the pile of dirt he kept hidden behind a broken shelf. Harry liked it better when his friends hid there instead of slipping out in the hole in the corner, which he figured must somehow lead under the house where they could hunt. Thankfully both places were hidden where none of the Dursleys would find it...not that anyone but his aunt could fit in here, and it suited Harry just fine that she pretended the cupboard under the stairs didn't exist. He was furious at himself, though, for waking up in tears again when he'd be going away to school later this morning. He was furious at himself for running away from Will the first time they met, despite the older, wiser boy's insistence that it was the wise thing to do. Harry saw the sense in that at the time, but now it just meant their time together had been even shorter. To be fair, Will couldn't have known that he was going to die.
Harry violently shoved away the image of the covered stretcher being rolled out of Will's house shortly before his disheveled, balding, heavyset, and handcuffed father. He had been used to getting nothing for his birthday, but having his only friend taken away the day before made it the worst birthday ever. In retrospect, it should have been happier, because only a few days earlier he had successfully hidden away the very first letter he'd ever gotten, though when he showed it to Will, the older boy had convinced him it couldn't be real. Between the mentions of a wand, cauldron, and owls and the ridiculous names, it did seem ridiculous and Harry had felt foolish.
He had felt foolish indeed until the day after Will died and Hagrid showed up. Then Harry had cried almost every night in August – safely in his cupboard where his relatives wouldn't see him, of course – that Will hadn't been able to see what Harry had seen in Diagon Alley. He dreamed of their first meeting at the swings, of their later meetings up in trees where Dudley and his gang never went, of the older boy's almost never-ending stream of advice. Said advice had improved his stay at the Dursleys immensely; once Harry had adequately explained that sometimes strange things happened around him and that they literally blamed him for everything, Will had finally laid off the pranking advice and started thinking seriously about avoiding those situations.
Harry had been too scared to try and convince them to let him move into Dudley's second bedroom, but the steps he had taken to minimize the opportunities they had to get angry by acting meek and increase his food stores without arousing suspicion had been quite successful. Harry had already developed his awareness from years of avoiding bullies, but Will said to use that awareness to not only be as unobtrusive as possible, but to look for body language and listen for tone of voice to get a sense of what people were going to do.
Many of his early lessons were like that: seemingly obvious bits of knowledge that Harry instinctively understood as soon as the lesson was imparted, but frustratingly he never came up with those things himself. It wasn't until the past few weeks – after Will was gone and Harry had begun going over their talks in his head – that he started to understand the greater lesson: to be resourceful, street-wise...to avoid trouble where it's possible, and to redirect anger where it's not.
Pushing those lessons aside for the moment, Harry stood and began his morning routine. It was different today, though. He breezed through each of his chores with excitement, a level of anticipation that had never affected him even when he was looking forward to taking off and meeting Will. He had approached his uncle after dessert the previous night, when Vernon was the most pleasant – or least abrasive, anyway – and secured a ride to King's Cross Station for the trip to Hogwarts. He wasn't terribly sad to leave the garden snake behind; he had long since learned that getting attached to a snake was a bad idea with his uncle around, so he hadn't even named the creature. In any case it was rather lazy and didn't understand why Harry didn't just eat his relatives.
Vernon hadn't said a word to Harry all morning, and the whole family ended up piling into the car so as not to waste a trip to London. The car listed comically to one side as Vernon and Dudley both weighed down the driver's side, though Harry made sure to avoid reacting or drawing attention to himself in any way. That was quite an accomplishment in Harry's mind, since he felt an urge to bounce his leg with anxiety. He actually used his memories of Will to tamp down his enthusiasm and simply watch the suburban landscape around Little Whinging transform into the dense London metropolis.
Without so much as a word, the Dursleys left Harry standing alone outside the train station. He secured a luggage trolley and, just as Will had predicted, found no trace of a Platform Nine and Three Quarters. Harry moved his trolley against one of the pillars between Platforms Nine and Ten and sat on his trunk, glancing around to the other travelers while pondering this issue. He wasn't surprised that nobody from Hogwarts had arranged an escort or even a description of how to reach the place; one of Will's earliest lessons was that adults are pretty much useless. Well, that one wasn't a lesson per se, but he had muttered it on more than one occasion and it fit rather well with Harry's experience.
As he sat he noticed that none of the other travelers had a cage with an owl in it. Hedwig had been a present from Hagrid – Harry's first real birthday present, in fact – and though she didn't think much of his friendship with the garden snake, he thought she was just jealous that it could speak back to him. Hedwig actually seemed more intelligent despite their lack of verbal communication, judging by the way she seemed to listen intently when he spoke to the snake. So he had taken to speaking to her as well.
"Any hints, girl?" His fingers were slim enough that they could slip in and stroke her feathers a bit, which she rewarded as usual with a light nip of her beak. Harry relished the affection; he liked to think she was giving him a kiss. Dudley hated when his mother kissed him, but Dudley was also an idiot. On this occasion, Harry imagined she was telling him to be patient, which was, perhaps unsurprisingly, exactly what Will would have said. Sooner or later some hint or perhaps even another student would be along.
He didn't have to wait long. His ears perked up at the word 'Muggle' and immediately tracked it to a family of oddly dressed redheads moving almost perpendicular to his line of sight. He slowly slid over such that Hedwig would be hidden from their view as much as possible, so long as they kept on their current path. He wasn't looking directly at them, but he noted a few glances in his direction. His observations were inconclusive. Just because they seemed happy and were not dressed as richly as that rude, blonde-haired boy he had met in Madam Malkin's a month ago didn't mean they were friendly. He started when the twins disappeared through the pillar, rubbing his eyes as if to make sure he didn't imagine it. He jumped up and peeked around the other side of the pillar nearest him to make sure they weren't over there. Coming back around the corner he saw the two other boys, one older and one perhaps as young as Harry, disappear as well, followed quickly by the mother and daughter, neither of whom had their own trolley.
Giving them a solid ten count in his head, he moved his cart into position. A wave of anticipation washed over him as he realized what he was about to do, so he couldn't stop himself from breaking into a run like most of the redheaded family had. He forced down the surge of panic that screamed at him to stop before he rammed the barrier, though he had to close his eyes. Suddenly the sounds and smells changed, and he opened his eyes to find the sights completely different as well. It was like he had traveled back in time; gone was the modern-looking station with open steel and glass architecture and sleek diesel hulls, replaced by gothic stone arches, a barrel-shaped steam engine and boxy passenger cars. Judging by the number of faces in the passenger car windows and the relative dearth of similar faces on the platform, Harry figured he had better get moving despite his wariness of wading through such a crowd.
Fighting through the awareness overload, he made his way to a less crowded entrance and began to unload his trolley when he felt a tap on his shoulder.
"Can we help you with that, mate?"
Harry jumped slightly and then froze, getting ready to run at the slightest hint of danger. Then, realizing his overreaction, blushed and turned to the voice to find the redheaded twins standing there. "You don't have to..."
"Eh, mum's watching," one said, jerking his head over his shoulder to indicate her approximate position. Sure enough, she was, though she was dividing her attention between the twins and fussing over the youngest boy. "She saw you alone and..." Harry noted his eyes flicker to his over-sized clothing before he trailed off.
"...thought you could use the help," the other twin finished. "I'm George, by the way."
"Fred," the first one said.
The twins looked at each other a moment, then shrugged in unison. "Nice to meet you, Harry," Fred said.
"Best get a move on, though," George said, then grinned. "Mum didn't like it much back in our first year when we jumped on the train after it started moving."
"We didn't have a choice! It's not like we could miss it," Fred argued.
"Of course, just because we jumped off right beforehand..."
The twins continued to argue and banter playfully as they picked up Harry's trunk and boarded the train, leaving the flabbergasted boy with only Hedwig. He couldn't remember meeting such jovial people before. Everybody at his old school was terrified of Dudley and his gang, so they were never this nice to him. Will was friendly, but he was definitely not a happy person. It was a new experience for Harry, and as a result he wasn't sure what to make of the two redheads. He decided all he could do continue to observe them. Will had given plenty of advice on what to do with bullies, but he hadn't told Harry how to make friends...at least not ones that weren't bullied.
He grabbed his owl and hopped onto the train to follow the twins.
"I'm Ron, by the way," the youngest redhead brother said after he joined Harry, claiming the other compartments were full. "Ron Weasley."
"Harry." He didn't want to say his last name after what happened at Diagon Alley a month ago. On top of that he was quite uncomfortable, being stuck in a compartment one-on-one with someone he knew too little about. The brothers were nice enough, but familial connections are definitely not enough to assume similar personalities. After all, there was no way Harry's mother was as horrible as his aunt.
"So this is your first year? Mine, too." When Harry didn't respond, Ron just continued talking. "My brothers have all been here, though Bill's been done for over two years and Charlie just graduated a few months ago. Then there's Percy, he's a Prefect this year, of course, and you know Fred and George. I'm the last one except for my sister Ginny...you saw her with my mum. She'll be here next year."
Harry didn't really know how to respond to that, so he just nodded. Ron must have taken that as a signal to keep going on about his family, though Harry couldn't figure out why the redhead was revealing so much. The way he spoke about his brothers – his voice inflections and tone – indicated he didn't have much in the way of self-esteem. It seemed odd that Harry would meet somebody that used to have such similar issues he had had just a few months earlier, before Will had helped. Harry wondered if he should help the same way, but the circumstances behind the issue might be completely different. Ron didn't seem to hate his brothers as Harry had hated his relatives, so he'd just have to find out if the redhead met the conditions Will had given for people that deserved help. But how?
"Do you have any brothers or sisters that came here?"
Harry was surprised, apparently the other boy had figured out that they can't have a conversation if he just keeps talking all by himself. "No," Harry said. When he noticed Ron looking decidedly uncomfortable, probably regretting the decision to sit here, Harry decided to give him a little more. "I didn't know I was a wizard until a month ago."
"Oh," Ron said, his face lighting up. "So your parents are Muggles? What was that—"
"No, my parents are dead," Harry cut in.
Ron flinched and paled. "Oh...s-sorry, mate..."
"They were killed when I was a baby," Harry offered, feeling sorry about making it worse. "I don't remember them, but they both went to Hogwarts."
Ron furrowed his brows. "Then how come you didn't know about magic?"
"My relatives don't like magic," Harry said darkly, "they lied to me...about everything."
"Oh...uh, sorry," Ron stammered, quickly looking away and voice wavering slightly in fear. Yep, he was definitely regretting his decision to sit with Harry now.
"Not your fault," Harry said quickly. "Don't apologize for something you have no control over."
Harry resisted the urge to slap his forehead and groan in frustration. He realized Will's lessons about guilt don't really work without context. "Don't worry about it." Frowning, he realized Ron was taking his neutral tone as hostile, so he softened his voice. "Really, don't worry about it. I would rather not to talk about my past, if that's okay. Can you tell me about the Houses? I've only talked to one other student about Hogwarts, and I didn't really trust him."
Ron's face lit up once again and he launched into the virtues of Gryffindor and the evils of Slytherin, with only passing mentions of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Neither student he had met at that point thought much of the latter, but Harry wasn't about to base his opinion on either of them. They both mentioned about some kind of sorting process but implied they had no control over it. So how, exactly, did each house maintain reputations for different attributes if the students themselves had no control over where they went? Did their House represent their already present traits, or did their House change them through the influence of their peers? Was there a difference?
A knock on the door preceded the snack trolley lady offering a wide selection of wizarding treats. Harry was about to ask about something more substantial – he was well aware of the effect chocolate can have on an empty stomach – but Ron's envious eyes as he held up a delicious-looking sandwich made him change his mind. Unfortunately Will hadn't been around when Harry found out his parents left him a bunch of money, but he had the sense he could use this to his advantage. So he bought a wide assortment of the treats and immediately offered to share if he could have the sandwich, a deal that, if Ron's face was any indication, cemented their friendship forever. Or at least until someone else offered him candy.
Ron was in the middle of both trying to explain a magic spell his brothers had taught him and eating some odd-looking confection when suddenly the door to the compartment crashed open. Harry immediately dropped to a crouch, hand in his pocket, fingering the rusty pocket knife he and Will had found earlier this summer. The fake wood finish on one side was cracked and bleached from the sun, and it was completely missing from the other side, exposing the pins that had dug into Harry's finger so many times, as they did just then. The blade edge itself was still somewhat sharp, and being a folding blade it had been protected from the elements, so it still looked dangerous. Harry had practiced with it enough that he could open it with one hand.
Despite the rather harmless-looking girl on the other side, Harry still cursed the train for being set up such that he couldn't follow Will's advice about escape routes. She flinched backward at Harry's gaze, hardened with Will's advice about intimidation. "H-have either of you seen a toad? A boy named Neville's lost one," the girl said shakily.
Harry cursed himself for being frightened so easily. "Sorry," he said roughly, but then he remembered the trick of his previous conversation: using a softer voice. "You opened the door pretty hard." He had considered saying that she scared him when she did that to make it sound even softer, but that would be admitting weakness...not a wise decision if you don't know the people within earshot.
"Sorry, I-I didn't mean to..." she began, but Ron swallowed roughly, drawing her attention. Her brown eyes widened when she saw the wand. "Oh! Were you going to do magic? Let's see it then."
The bossiness in the girl's voice set Harry on edge, setting off his bully alarm despite the small stature of the person behind that voice. His jaw clenched tight as he watched the girl closely, his instincts at war with each other.
Apparently unaware of the mental tension in his new friend, Ron cleared his throat. "Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow. Turn this stupid fat rat yellow." He waved his wand wildly at the creature as he completely the incantation.
The girl crossed her arms at the failure of Ron's supposed spell to have any effect on the rat - or indeed, any effect at all. "Are you sure that's a real spell? Well, it's not very good, is it?"
Harry couldn't take it anymore, and in that moment the dissonant observations in his head crystallized into a reasonable picture of the girl's behavior and a plan of action. Here, oddly enough, was a bully who could be easily intimidated. So he sprung to his feet to a spot right in front of the girl, who squeaked and jumped back. "We have not seen the toad, and I would appreciate it if you stopped bullying my friend. Good day."
The look of horror on the girl's face when Harry closed the door did not bring him any satisfaction. In fact, it looked like she was going to cry, and he felt like a bully himself. But wasn't she pushing Ron to do something he was clearly uncomfortable doing? Didn't she mock him when he failed?
Harry had not encountered such a complex situation before, so he sat, frowning, barely acknowledging his apparently new friend's efforts to reengage him in conversation. How could he have handled that better? Clearly the amount of contact he had with her wasn't enough to judge her character accurately. On the other hand, he couldn't just sit back while she insulted Ron, who had as good as admitted his self-esteem issues on multiple occasions already.
"There are different kinds of bully, and sometimes the best way to deal with one is not the way to deal with another."
Will's advice echoed in his mind. Harry had thought he already considered that when he stood up to the girl, since obviously that would never have worked with his relatives, or Will's dad. But her face...Harry thought perhaps what he had done was indeed correct. She seemed horrified when he pointed out she was being a bully, as if she didn't know what she was doing. He thought perhaps there is a difference between being a bully and bullying someone.
With that thought, he stood and opened the door with the intention of looking for the girl to apologize. Before he got too far, the door to the girl's loo slid open, and he found himself face-to-face with the clearly distraught girl. At her look of surprise he flushed with embarrassment and looked down at his feet.
"I'm sorry," they both said at the same time, then in unison they both look up in surprise.
"I shouldn't have said what I said," Harry said quickly.
"N-no, you were right," the girl said, looking down, "From what I've gone through all this time I should have realized...well, I have no excuse. Do you think—I mean, I need to apologize." She started to head back to Harry's compartment but stopped and spun back toward him. "I'm Hermione Granger, by the way."
"Harry," he replied, taking her proffered hand in surprise. He'd never met a bully that honestly wanted to apologize before. He decided that there was indeed a difference between acting like a bully and actually being one, and he resolved to be more careful with such accusations in the future.
"Potter, Harry!" Professor McGonagall called in a voice that seemed disproportionately loud to Harry. Whispers immediately exploded all over the hall around him, and he steadfastly ignored the gaping looks from his new classmates as he stepped forward.
A sense of danger radiated from a spot off to his left, drawing his eyes to a sallow-faced, black-haired man in pitch black robes, glaring at Harry with beady eyes. Will's advice to not show any fear or weakness sprang to the front of Harry's mind and froze his face in its blank expression. He held the angry professor's gaze for a brief moment – long enough that he wouldn't think Harry was frightened – then turned his eyes back to the waiting Professor McGonagall. He resisted frowning at her lack of expression and slid his eyes to the aged headmaster, who was smiling at him. He returned the smile just before turning and sitting on the stool for the Sorting. The mass of wide-eyed stares and continued whispers threatened to overwhelm him, but he recalled advice – not Will's for once, but he couldn't remember where he'd heard it – to look above the audience.
"Hmm, difficult," said a small voice in his ear once Professor McGonagall placed the Hat on his head. "Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There's talent, my goodness, yes - and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that's interesting... So where shall I put you?"
Harry sat still, quickly overcoming the initial shock at the voice in his head and waiting for it to make a decision. Idly he wondered which House would be best for him in the long run.
"Best for you? Even I cannot see that," the Hat said in his mind, making his eyebrows jump in surprise. "You have the traits to succeed in any House, but in particular I see the ambition that's even greater than the thirst to prove yourself. A lofty but very worthwhile goal, I assure you, and Slytherin will help you on the way to that greatness; there's no doubt about that."
Slytherin would be acceptable, he thought in his head.
"No need to shout, Mr. Potter...Slytherin is a curious choice for you indeed," the Hat said in an amused tone. "I look forward to hearing of your exploits." Before Harry could ask what he meant, the Hat yelled to the rest of the Hall. "SLYTHERIN!"
The silence in the Hall was deafening.
Harry couldn't decide whether it was preferable to the whispers or not, but he stood up and walked quickly over to the Slytherin table. Some of the students were still gaping, some appeared to be glaring at him almost as hatefully as the professor he had spotted earlier. Thankfully the First Years sat closer to the Head Table, so he didn't have to go far, but of course it was just his luck that the two students on the end, Theodore Nott and Pansy Parkinson, were both glaring at him. He chose to sit by Nott since that side of the table backed up against the wall, meaning he could keep an eye on almost everybody. Draco Malfoy, the boy who Harry had met briefly in Madam Malkin's, must have recognized Harry and gave him a nod from the seat next to Parkinson. Daphne Greengrass was sitting on the other side of Nott. Harry wished Nott had sat on the other side, though he probably would have been too shy to speak to the raven-haired, ice-blue-eyed girl.
"Who said you could sit here, Potter?" Nott practically spat when he whispered, once the Sorting and whispers had started up again.
"Pretty sure the Sorting Hat did, Nott," Harry replied coolly. He was sitting far enough away that he'd be able to see if the strangely angry boy would attack.
"Shut up, Nott," Malfoy cut him off, surprising Harry. It surprised several of the other first years within earshot as well.
"Later," Malfoy said firmly, holding Harry's eyes for an extended moment before turning back to watch the remainder of the Sorting. Lisa Turpin eyed him curiously as she made her way to the Ravenclaw table, and then Blaise Zabini sat across from Harry.
Harry took the opportunity before the speech to glance at each of his new classmates. The dark-skinned Zabini seemed uninterested in engaging anyone in conversation, though Harry noticed him shoot occasional looks toward Greengrass and Davis, as if he were checking up on them. Harry thought perhaps they knew each other. Pale-skinned, brown-haired Parkinson was chatting familiarly with Malfoy; her cruel face looked strange with a smile. The pointy-faced, light blonde Malfoy seemed almost bored by her, though. On the other side of Malfoy, Gregory Goyle and then Vincent Crabbe, hulking Dudley clones, sat speaking to each other in low tones. Crabbe, the further one since the students had taken spots in alphabetical order, had noticed Harry's glance but looked away quickly. He surreptitiously leaned back to catch a glimpse of Tracey Davis and Millicent Bulstrode. The former, a tanned, dirty blonde that seemed open and friendly, was speaking with Greengrass and didn't notice him. The latter, a female version of Goyle, did and she also looked away quickly when their eyes met.
It was interesting, Harry thought, that the ones who looked most like Dudley – and therefore the ones Harry might expect to be bullies – were actually acting a bit like they were bullied themselves. It must be because magic has little, or perhaps nothing to do with physical size.
Dumbledore stood and said a few nonsense words just before the food appeared, at which time Harry allowed his new classmates first choice. Despite the delicious smells, he wasn't terribly hungry due to the sizable sandwich and treats he had eaten on the train, and it seemed to please the two nearest to him to get their food before him. Instead he spent the time studying the students at the other tables; he could easily pick out the bushy-haired Hermione and the flame-haired Ron at the Gryffindor table. He felt a pang of regret that he wasn't with them, but he supposed he'd see them often enough. Unfortunately he couldn't see much of the Hufflepuffs - since they were fewer in number they were hidden behind some of the older Gryffindors. The first year Ravenclaws were largely quiet, though the older ones sounded as though they were catching up with their friends.
During the headmaster's more reasonable speech, Harry took the time to glance back at the angry, dark-haired professor, but somehow the man knew Harry was looking. What had Harry done to make the bully hate him already? It must have been the name, Harry thought. Granted he hadn't been in the Hall all that long, but it wasn't until Professor McGonagall called him up that his sense of danger flared. As he was returning the look expressionlessly, suddenly a sharp pain in his forehead involuntarily snapped his hand up to his scar. He couldn't hold back a hiss of pain in time.
"What are you doing, Potter?" Harry turned in surprise to see that Daphne Greengrass had spoken to him, and thankfully it wasn't in an overly harsh tone...although part of that might have been because she was trying to speak quietly.
"Nothing," Harry said in the same neutral tone, forcing his hand away from his throbbing scar. "Do you know who the professor near our end of the table is? The one who's been glaring at me, I mean."
Harry jerked a little when most of the first years snapped their heads in his direction. "That is Professor Snape, our Head of House," Malfoy said quietly.
"What did you do to him, Potter?" Nott was probably annoyed that Greengrass had spoken across him, but his tone wasn't as hostile as before. Did Malfoy already have that big of an influence on him?
"I've never seen or even heard of him before in my life," Harry said honestly.
"What?" Several of his classmates exclaimed in disbelief, interrupting the headmaster and getting glares from the Head Table. They didn't speak again until they were led to their common room.
The first years were held back with the Prefects, which made Harry sigh softly in relief. Letting the older students filter out of the Hall would make it easier to avoid getting lost in the jumble, and would also make it easier to keep an eye on everyone else. He glanced over to the other groups of first years, hoping to catch Ron's or Hermione's eyes. The latter seemed to be drinking in what her Prefect – Harry recognized him as one of Ron's brothers – was saying. His red-haired friend from the train did glance at Harry but quickly looked away. He once again suppressed the pang of disappointment, figuring he had just met those two earlier today anyway.
Most of the first year Slytherins kept their distance from Harry, seemingly unsure of what to do about him. Most of them, that is, except for Tracey Davis. After apparently arguing with Greengrass quietly, Davis sidled up to him on their way to the dungeons. "Hi," she said shyly.
"Hello, Ms. Davis," Harry said politely.
She giggled and looked back at her friend, and Harry had to resist the urge to roll his eyes. She leaned in to whisper to him, causing him to flinch back involuntarily. She looked at him in surprise, and inwardly he cursed himself. "It's okay, P—Harry," she said, whispering the last word. "I'm a half-blood, too."
Harry wondered what that meant; it sounded like it wasn't a good thing, and apparently he was one as well. "I see," he said neutrally. He wanted to ask her about that and several other things, but he could feel lots of eyes on the pair of them and he didn't feel like putting his ignorance on display once again. "Can we talk later? Somewhere more private, maybe?"
She gasped lightly and spun her head back to Greengrass, whose eyes widened as she looked at him.
"Sorry," he said, fighting a blush. "I just meant it's too crowded here. You can invite Greengrass..." As he said it he realized he probably just made it worse. He decided to go with his hunch. "...and Zabini if you like." At their surprised looks, he shrugged. "It seemed like you knew each other."
Davis glanced around at the other first years quickly then turned back to him and searched his eyes for several moments. "Nobody was supposed to know that," she said softly.
He cringed inwardly, but kept his face blank. "Sorry."
"I accept," Greengrass said formally, joining them and causing even more looks in their direction. Then she leaned over and whispered something in her friend's ear, after which they both nodded and dirty-blonde smiled.
They reached the Slytherin Common Room a moment later, filing in behind the Prefects. Thankfully the Common Room wasn't terribly full; at least some of them had something better to do than gawk like the people at Diagon Alley a month ago. Malfoy, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle, approached Harry almost immediately, but he deliberately looked elsewhere in order to put it off as long as possible. Not the best stalling tactic, but...
It worked when they were distracted by the entrance opening again, but his sense of relief was short lived when Professor Snape swept into the room, eyes fixed on Harry. "Well, well, if it isn't our new...celebrity."
Harry didn't know what to say, so he merely returned the man's glare with what he hoped was an unassuming look, something like mild curiosity. He was curious, in reality, since he had no idea why his new Head of House despised him so. Snape's face darkened as he tilted his head forward to intensify the glare. Before Harry could even think of how to deal with this bully, the professor suddenly jerked upright, eyes rolling back in his head as he collapsed to the floor in a heap.
This took me forever because of the lack of dialogue, so don't be surprised to find more blabbering in the future like my other novel-length story. Also, I'm not planning on making this a comprehensive, 100k+ word per year series. The introductory pieces of the story – showing how my Harry diverges from canon!Harry and developing personalities and relationships – will soon give way to jumping ahead to important events. At least, that's the plan...chapter two is about 5k words, and I'm still slogging through the first couple weeks of the school year.
In case you can't tell, writing dialogue for little kids is not my forte. I always have to go back and dumb it down, and even then it doesn't always come out reasonably. I figure I can get away with more complex words in his head, though, since people don't generally think in words.
If this is the first story you're reading of mine, be informed that I'm something of a perfectionist. So any errors that you find, be they spelling, grammar, continuity, anachronistic, or logical, I want to know about them. I can't promise I'll fix a minor issue that requires a major structural change, but I'd still like to know for future reference.
So leave a review, whether you're pointing out mistakes, leaving me with thoughts or ideas, or trying to burn the story out of your brain by flaming me...I want to see it! Thanks for reading.