Harry somehow managed to drag his cart and stumble clumsily onto the train as he fought back a blush. What a fabulous way to make his debut into the world of magic; trip over yourself as you struggle get the stupid bags aboard a magical train from a supposedly non-existent platform. Somehow, he'd made it though. He'd had to practically unload his entire cart, then drag the hulking thing onto the train to do so, but he'd definitely made it. Now he stood in the middle of the aisle with his cart surrounded by his bags and trunks that he'd pushed to the side of the aisle of the single-deck car watching the platform pass by through the door. By the time he'd actually gotten everything in, the train had already begun to move. He'd been lucky. Breathing a sigh of relief, he began to load his bags and Hedwig's cage back onto the cart and moved to push it down the narrow hallways, looking for room.
Of course, it would be his luck that not a single car was empty. He hesitated by one of the rooms that had only a single occupant. It was a boy, probably about his age with red hair who Harry immediately recognized as one of the children of the family he'd seen rush through the wall between the platforms earlier. A shame he'd been too frantic and nervous to approach them before they'd slipped through the wall to the magical platform.
Putting a hand on the door, he paused. Should he really just barge in and ask to sit down? It wasn't like he had another choice, but what kind of an impression would that make? Besides, he still felt like all of this was some sort of dream. He almost felt that if he talked to anyone, he might wake up, or it would all turn out to be an accident. He still half believed that the letter and Hagrid had been mistaken.
It wouldn't be the first time he'd been disappointed like that.
Stop it, Potter, he thought to himself, realizing he'd been standing there for several minutes. Just go in and introduce yourself.
"Are you just going to block the hall all day?" an annoyed voice drew his attention. Past his cart, three snobbish-looking boys stood impatiently, staring at him.
"You," Harry said, surprised (and hoping he didn't sound too stupid, because that certainly wasn't the brightest thing to say). The boy in front of the other two was the same boy he'd met in Madam Milkin's shop.
The other boy smiled a sort of prudish half-grin. "I was just taking a look around, seeing where everyone was. I wondered if I might run into you."
"Oh," Harry said, realizing he sounded dumber and dumber by the minute but unable to do much about it. This boy seemed to do that to him.
"I never introduced myself," the boy continued. "My name is Malfoy. Draco Malfoy." He paused expectantly, as if waiting for Harry to respond. Harry glanced around, half hoping someone was standing behind him. He wasn't used to the lime-light, and even just being introduced like that before hadn't exactly led to the best situations. Dudley had made sure of that.
The only other person he could see was the boy inside the room who stared over at them through the window. Well, 'stared' wasn't quite the right word. 'Glared' would definitely be more appropriate. Whether Harry liked Draco or not, he found himself suddenly glad that the blond had stopped him from entering the cabin. He could just imagine how well that would have worked out when the boy obviously wanted to be left alone.
"And you are?" Draco said, sounding rather put out, like Harry had failed a test or something. He fought the scowl trying to creep across his lips.
"Oh, right," Harry said, holding out his hand. "I'm Harry. Harry Potter."
He didn't think he could have possible gotten a more animated response. The two boys standing behind Draco gasped and took a step back in unison while the shorter boy's eyes widened. Then his jaw dropped with an almost audible pop. They stood there, looking horribly undignified for several seconds, making Harry feel very exposed. He would have laughed if he hadn't been the one they were staring at...again. Somehow, he had the feeling he should really get used to this.
"Are you really?" one of the other boys asked after several seconds.
"Yes," Harry said uneasily, again fighting back the seemingly perpetual blush. Would he ever get used to being the center of attention? He doubted it.
Draco shot a glare at the boy who had spoken, and he backed down sheepishly. Harry frowned. He didn't much care for the blond boy, but he did wonder how the other managed to hold the two larger boys in check so well.
"This is Crabbe and Goyle," Draco introduced, almost in passing. Then he focused back on Harry again, suddenly sounding far more cordial. "So, do you have a seat?"
"Uh..." Harry mumbled, glancing over at the boy in the compartment. He'd turned to purposefully look away from them and out the outside window of the train. Harry sighed. "No, not really."
"Got here late then?" Draco asked. Then he came forward and stepped delicately around Harry's cart, as if touching anything on it would contaminate him or something. "We have extra room in our cabin. Why not come with us?"
"We do?" Crabbe asked. Draco shot him another glare, then turned expectantly back to the dark-haired boy.
"Yeah," Harry said with one final look at the other boy's back, almost wishing the red-head would come and rescue him from this. Sitting next to someone who would ignore him completely had to be better than these boys that reminded him all too much of his cousin. The boy didn't even acknowledge them. Harry forced a smile and turned back to Draco, who now stood beside him.
"Excellent. Crabbe," he shot to the taller boy. "Get his cart and take it back to the cabin. Help him out, Goyle. Let me show you around, Harry."
Harry bit his lip, feeling rather annoyed at the blond who was laughing so hard, he'd almost fallen over. And yet somehow, he still managed to look dignified. After he'd spoken some more with the other boys, Harry had quickly reassessed his opinion. Draco didn't remind him of Dudley at all. It was more like Dudley now somehow reminded him of a sort of cheap rip-off of Draco.
Where Dudley had brute strength and a little money to throw around Draco had finesse and a lot of money to throw around. He'd wasted no time in pointing this out to Harry, and had even dropped hints that Harry could have some if he didn't screw up too badly. Harry got the impression that 'screwing up' actually meant something more along the lines of 'listen to what I say no matter what'.
He was really liking Draco less and less as the train ride wore on.
Harry found that he couldn't really say he did or didn't like Crabbe or Goyle as they didn't ever really talk, but they seemed to know why Draco was laughing because they looked to be holding back snickers of their own. The blond boy finally stopped laughing long enough to glance back up at Harry. They sat across from each other while Crabbe and Goyle stood on either side of the door, as if to guard it. Harry had a sneaking suspicion that several other people had been kicked out to make room for them, and it didn't lessen his feeling of unease; a feeling that had started when Draco had introduced Harry as his friend to just about everyone on the train. It had grown rather quickly after that.
"Did that big oaf, Hagrid seriously tell you that only Slytherin produced dark wizards?"
Harry felt heat rise to his cheeks, this time not out of embarrassment. "He isn't just a 'big oaf'," he defended.
Draco held up his hands as if in defeat, but didn't look the least bit repentant. "Whatever you say, Harry."
Harry ground his teeth. He didn't like how Draco said his name. It sounded too familiar.
"Anyway," Draco continued. "Him saying that just goes to prove my point. There are plenty of dark wizards who didn't come from Slytherin. Sirius Black comes to mind first and foremost. He was a Gryffindor, I believe."
"Gryffindor?" Harry asked.
Draco stared at him, all expression of mirth gone. "You really don't know all of that? Where have you been hiding?"
"With my Aunt and Uncle. They're Muggles."
All three of the boys suddenly looked uneasy.
"You can't be a muggle-born," Crabbe started, but was again silenced by a glare from Draco.
"I remember. Your mother was a mu—er, muggle born. Your father was a pureblood, right?" the blond asked.
Harry felt a deep resentment that this boy seemed to know so much more about his family than he did. "I don't know. My aunt and uncle never told me."
"Psh," Draco waved his hand as he rolled his eyes. "Typical. This is why muggles shouldn't know about wizards. They get jealous. Pathetic."
That was probably the first thing Draco had said that Harry didn't outright disagree with. In his mind, his relatives were pathetic, keeping all of this from him and then treating him so horribly. It had taken him years (and several books) for him to realize that he wasn't supposed to be treated the way he was. No, his aunt and uncle didn't physically abuse him, but they didn't exactly welcome him with open arms either. He'd always found it unfair that Dudley could just play video games while Harry had to do chores, or that Dudley got two rooms while he got a cupboard under the stairs. He never got beat, but he did get locked in his "room" often enough. They made sure to feed him three times a day when that happened, but it tended to be leftovers at best, or old, dry bread with a small glass of water at worst.
Draco must have sensed that he'd hit a nerve when Harry didn't answer. He eyed the dark-haired boy with a sly expression only barely masked with feigned sadness. "That's why I think muggle-borns shouldn't be let in school. Their families start to get upset, and before you know it, no one will talk to each other. Sad really."
Somehow, Harry felt that families being torn apart was the last thing on the other boy's mind. Annoyed, he searched for another subject.
"Who's Sirius Black?" he asked, remembering the name.
Draco's grin turned suddenly mischievous. "A rather notorious blood-traitor. Really, your aunt and uncle even kept that from you?"
"Why would they know?" Harry asked, still annoyed that the other boy refused to drop it. "They're muggles."
"It's because of him that your parents died."
Harry's blood ran cold as he stared at the boy in front of him. Hadn't his parents been killed by Voldemort? "What do you mean?" he asked darkly.
This time, Draco's smile held more than a little triumph, although for the life of him, Harry couldn't figure out why. "Your parents wanted to oppose the Dark Lord."
"You mean Voldemort?" Harry asked, in no mood to tread lightly. Crabbe and Goyle both flinched, but Draco only raised an eyebrow, looking impressed.
"Yes. Anyway, they had a secret keeper. It's a special spell," he clarified at Harry's blank look. "As long as that man didn't say anything, than no one could find them. Ever. Not even the Dark Lord."
Harry clenched his fists. "And that man was Sirius Black." He said it as a statement.
Triumph changed to satisfied as Draco shifted, leaning forward. "Exactly. Killed a dozen or so muggles and one wizard with a single curse."
It really bothered Harry that Draco seemed almost impressed by the act instead of disgusted.
"So because he...my parents..." His anger didn't seem to allow him to finish his sentences. He'd only just barely heard of Sirius Black, but his emotions had already gone well past rage and into a deep, burning hatred. Because of that man, he had lived the life he had. He'd never known his parents, or their history, or about magic, and he'd had to live with people who hated the fact that he even existed.
"Sorry to break it to you like that," Draco said, only sounding mildly sympathetic. "But see what I mean? Any house is better than Gryffindor."
The statement struck Harry as odd coming from someone who said that he'd leave if he got sorted into Hufflepuff, but he didn't care at the moment. He could only agree.
Not Gryffindor, not Gryffindor... Harry repeated to himself over and over while the old hat continued to speak in his head.
My dear boy, the hat said. You certainly have the potential to do well in Gryffindor. Bravery is a very honorable trait. But if your sure, than it better be...
Harry didn't much care to be placed in that house either, but it was better than Gryffindor. In his relief, he didn't notice how the rest of the room seemed to have stilled in horror. The Slytherin table screamed so loudly, they made up for everyone else's lack of enthusiasm.
Author's Notes: Okay, so this will be a series of related one-shots that boarders on a storyline. Some of the one-shots seem like actual chapters, some of them will seem highly independent. I'll usually only post one per chapter, but if they're short or if I feel like two different sections are particularly connected, I'll post two.
Anyway, let me know what you think!