Author's Note: Well, it seems as though some folks like this idea! I tried to get some work done on my other stories, but since they're fighting me every step of the way, I figured that I'd try my hand at something that doesn't completely hate my guts yet, and here we are with this second chapter.
Now, I know that I said this chapter would cover the welcoming feast and the first few days of class, but it kind of got away from me, so it'll just be the Sorting, and then next chapter we'll get to see how our li'l firsties handle Hogwarts.
Warning: Still applies from the first chapter.
Disclaimer: Also still applies from the first chapter.
Harry spent the first hour of the ride contenting himself with some of the school texts he'd fished out of the trunk, but that soon lost his interest, and he pulled one of his mother's old books over to him. Part of a trilogy, he'd found the books hidden in a lonely corner of his family's library and fell in love with the story instantly. It was supposed to be a great literary classic, and he could see why.
He became so immersed in the book that he didn't even notice when a girl his age with bushy brown hair and rather large front teeth tapped on the door until she simply opened it up and came in, looking irate.
Harry looked up in surprise, and the girl's eyes darted to the book's spine. "Is that a Lord of the Rings book?" she practically demanded, not even bothering with her name.
Startled, Harry answered, "Er, yes, The Two Towers, actually. Have you read it?" Poor Harry wasn't even remotely prepared for the flood of words that tumbled from the bushy-haired girl's mouth, but her eyes shone with the excitement only achieved when finding someone who shares in one's passion. "So...I'll take that as a 'yes,' then."
At that, the girl blushed deeply and said, "I'm sorry, it's just I don't get to meet too many people my age who enjoy reading. I'm Hermione Granger, by the way." She held out her hand, and Harry took it, replying with his own name.
"Harry Potter," Hermione repeated thoughtfully to herself. "I'm sure I've read that name before. Might you be related to Daniel Potter? You certainly look a lot like the picture of him in Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century."
Harry felt his face arrange itself into a grimace against his will, and he quickly wiped it off his face as he answered, "I'm his brother."
Hermione had the decency to look sheepish. "Oh, yes, you two are fraternal twins, aren't you? I think that was in The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts, chapter eleven." There was a bit of an awkward lull before Hermione's eyes brightened. "I almost forgot why I came in here! Have you seen a large, brown toad anywhere? A boy named Neville's lost his."
"Neville Longbottom?" Harry asked, perking up a bit. Neville was really the only friend he had, and that was only because whenever the boy came to have a play-date with Daniel, the Boy Who Lived would shunt Neville into Harry's company. Other than being somewhat forgetful and a bit on the meek side, Neville was alright by Harry. "He's lost Trevor already?"
Harry thought back to the many times Trevor took unsanctioned trips away from his owner at the Potter's home, and the Summoning charm his mother always used to find him. He knew the incantation, and his mother never seemed too bothered by any difficulty when casting it, so Harry decided it was worth a try.
Raising his wand, Harry muttered out, "Accio Trevor." Harry felt the pull at his power, and could almost sense a tendril of his magic as it searched out his friend's pet. In less than a minute, the adventurous amphibian zoomed through the open door and into Harry's waiting palm. That was his third great feat of magic, and he hadn't even gotten to the school yet.
Hermione seemed to be thinking along the same lines. "That was a Summoning charm!" she practically shrieked. "A properly-cast one at that! Students aren't supposed to learn that one until halfway through fourth-year!"
Harry suddenly felt embarrassed and nervous. "I've seen my mum do it loads of times," he said with a modest shrug. "I just like to pay attention to that kind of stuff."
But Hermione didn't seem to have heard him. "I mean, I've tried a few of the simpler spells and they've worked for me well enough, but what you did was downright impressive! How far ahead have you read?"
"I've gotten through most of the assigned texts," he answered, "I'm about three or four chapters from the end of Herbs and Fungi, though."
Hermione gaped. "You mean you haven't even read up on how to perform the charm? But that's terribly dangerous, isn't it, to try magic that you don't understand?"
Now, Harry was starting to feel a bit like he was being scolded for some reason. "My mum's a Charms Master," he said defensively. "She tells me some stuff about it...when she's not, erm, tending to Danny that is." He managed to stave off the sour expression that time, thankfully.
Hermione seemed torn between telling him off further and asking him about the inside information straight from a Master. Instead, she said, "Well, I'll just take Trevor back to Neville, then. You should change into your school robes in the meantime; the conductor said we'll be arriving soon." She took the toad from him and began to leave, then stopped in the door and said, "It was a pleasure meeting you, Harry. I hope we're in the same House." And with a wave, she was gone.
Harry took her advice and put his school uniform on. As he tried (failingly) to fix his hair into something not resembling a bird's nest, he felt the train begin to slow, and the conductor's voice called over the public announcement system that they would be pulling into Hogsmeade Station in just a few minutes, and to leave any luggage where it was. When the train finally stopped, Harry departed and found himself swept up in the crush of students as they made their way to the front gates.
"FIRS' YEARS!" a familiar voice boomed out. "FIRS' YEARS, OVER 'ERE!" Harry followed the sound until he found himself in front of the towering form of Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of the Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts. He was a good friend of Lily and James and was a frequent visitor during the holidays, and unlike most of the rest of the world, he went out of his way to split his attention equally between the Potter twins. And even though the cakes he sneaked Harry could chip a tooth if it wasn't softened by the fireplace, Hagrid would always hold a special place in Harry's heart as his first real friend.
Harry tugged on the hem of the giant man's moleskin coat and smiled when Hagrid looked down. "Why there yeh are, Harry! Gettin' so big I didn' even know it was you." Harry was almost knocked over by the well-meant pat on his back, but he caught himself before he fell.
"It's good to see you, too, Hagrid," he answered as more first-year students gathered around them. Harry spotted Daniel at the center of most of the other new arrivals, and he dredged up the decency to be happy for his brother. It was good that he was making new friends, really.
"Well, that everyone?" Hargrid asked, then forged ahead after a quick head-count. "Right then, off we go, follow me!" He led them along a cliff face, calling for them to duck under a thick curtain of ivy, and finally stopped before a group of small rowboats. "Four to a boat, now, no shovin'. Don't want no one fallin' in now, do we?"
Harry found himself in a boat with Neville, Hermione, and a girl with her light red hair pulled into a braid who introduced herself as Susan Bones. Harry graciously offered to do the rowing, but when he went to reach for an oar, it jumped up and rapped him across the knuckles.
"Don't bother with the rowin'," Hagrid called out (belatedly, in Harry's opinion), "the oars're enchanted to get you there themselves. Let's be off, then!" He tapped the side of his boat with the gaudy pink umbrella he always carried with him, and the fleet of boats took off as one. After about five minutes of breathless silence, filled only by the soft stroke of the oars, the first-years heard Hagrid say, "Yeh'll be gettin' yer firs' look at Hogwarts in a minute."
And true to form, their tiny armada rounded an outcropping of stone and the mighty castle of Hogwarts was revealed to them in all its shining splendor, every window spilling warm, liquid light to invite them in. They reached a small, sheltered harbor and disembarked from their boats to follow Hagrid up to a pair of grand, gilded doors. The Groundskeeper lifted the knocker and banged thrice.
A scant second passed before the doors opened, revealing a tall, severe-looking woman with gray streaking her dark hair and sharp, shrewd eyes behind a pair of square spectacles. Harry knew this was Minerva McGonagall, the Deputy Headmistress and Transfiguration professor of Hogwarts, as well as the Head of House Gryffindor. His mother always spoke very highly of the woman, and Harry vowed to give her his utmost respect, no matter which House he was in.
"I brought up the firs' years, Professor McGonagall," Hagrid intoned a bit redundantly, gesturing at the small children flocked behind him, and the professor nodded.
"Thank you, Hagrid," she replied, nodding gratefully. "Follow me, students," she added in a tone that brooked no argument, and the first-years obediently trailed after her. She led them into a narrow room, and then turned to face them. "I am Professor McGonagall. Let me be the first to welcome you to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In a few moments, you will be Sorted into one of the four houses. They are Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Here, they will be as your family. Any victories will earn your house points, while any failures result in their loss. At the end of the year, the house with the most points will be awarded the House Cup."
And with that, she disappeared through a side-door, leaving the children to their own devices. Almost as soon as she'd gone, it seemed, a pale, blonde-haired boy opened his mouth and said in a carrying voice, "So it's true, then. Daniel Potter has come to Hogwarts."
The muttering began instantly, only to be quashed by the boy himself answering in an equally clear tone. "I have. What of it?" He was standing near a boy Harry knew as Ron Weasley and another kid as yet unknown.
"Nothing, really," the pale boy continued. "Only, you should pick who you associate with wisely." He made a point to shoot Ron a disdainful look before holding out his hand. "Draco Malfoy. I can help you figure out who the wrong sort are."
"I'm perfectly capable of finding out who the wrong sort is myself, thanks," Danny returned coolly, and Draco's face gained a decidedly sinister cast. "I know who you are, Malfoy, just like I know who your father is. So save your breath for someone who cares."
Harry felt pride for his brother swell in his chest. He, too, knew of the Malfoy family, as well as their rumored involvement in the war against Voldemort. James had spent many a night venting his frustrations about being unable to convict Lucius Malfoy due to the man's connections.
"Well, Potter, it's just too bad that you see it that way," Draco said, hand reaching into his robes, undoubtedly searching for his wand. Harry saw Daniel go for his own wand as well, and though Harry wasn't sure if either of them could do more than throw sparks consciously, accidental magic was known for reacting to a magician's will. Harry had been on the receiving end of some of Danny's wilder bouts and so knew exactly what his brother's magic was capable of doing. It wouldn't be fair if Danny got kicked out of school for something he couldn't control, so Harry acted as quickly as he could.
"Rictusempra!" he whispered frantically, aiming at Malfoy discreetly. The Tickling hex was one of the easiest there was, and one of the trickiest to spot since it was colorless magic. No one would know he'd cast it unless they performed a Prior Incantato on his wand.
Draco doubled up suddenly, and Danny paused in confusion when he slumped to the floor, shaking uncontrollably. One of the two large boys standing at Draco's side asked, "Are you alright, Draco?" while prodding him with a pudgy finger. Poor Malfoy couldn't take it and burst into laughter, chuckling even as he lay on the stone floor.
Grinning, Harry let up, and the boy lay there, gasping for breath. With the help of his friends, Draco regained his feet, face flushed from his bout of giggles, looking positively murderous. "Who did-"
"Come along now, children," he was interrupted by McGonagall, who poked her head in through the door.
Malfoy slunk to the back of the group to avoid any questions about his dirtied robes, and the group of first-years filed through the door and into a large dining hall. There were four long tables, each with a different-colored tablecloth, with students packing the benches and pointed toward a fifth table standing on a raised dais where the teachers and staff were sitting. Candles floated a few feet above each table, and topping it all was an enchanted ceiling which portrayed the sky outside. Harry had read about it in Hogwarts: A History, but reading about something and seeing it with his own eyes were definitely two different things.
Tearing his eyes away from the wonderful magic that sustained the illusion, Harry spotted McGonagall placing an ancient, patched-up wizard's hat on a three-legged stool in between the staff table and the other four. A sort of breathless anticipation filled the air as everyone leaned forward expectantly. Curious, Harry watched as a large rip just above the hat's brim opened wide just as a human's mouth would do, and then...it began to sing.
Harry listened, bemused, as the Sorting Hat laid down the terms of the ceremony and what it entailed. He almost felt like sobbing in relief when it became clear that all the new students had to do was put on a hat; his godfather, Sirius Black, had been going on about thumb-wrestling a giant in order to be properly sorted, and not for the first time wished that his parents had offered the position to Remus, who'd instead taken the position as Daniel's godfather.
When the Hat finished its song, McGonagall stepped forward and unfurled a long piece of parchment. "When I call your name, you will come up and place the Sorting Hat upon your head. Am I understood?" Upon receiving a general murmur of acknowledgement, she continued, "Abbot, Hannah!"
A girl with blonde pigtails scampered up to the stool and set the hat on her head. After about a minute, a large tear near the brim opened wide like a mouth, and the hat shouted, "HUFFLEPUFF!" The table with the canary-yellow cloth burst into applause, and a relieved-looking Hannah took off the hat and headed over to her new housemates.
Susan Bones was next, and after she was sent to Hufflepuff as well, Harry lost interest and began to take in his surroundings. Up at the staff table, the teachers were all watching with various degrees of interest; some, like the tiny, white-haired man seemed totally engrossed while others, like the man wearing a large turban were conversing with their peers. With a start, Harry noticed that Turban-Fellow was speaking with his mother's friend, Severus Snape, who he knew taught Potions here, as well as being Head of Slytherin. Harry had never interacted directly with the man, but his father never had anything nice to say about Snape. Then again, Harry and his father didn't have what one would call a healthy relationship, either.
Harry vaguely noticed that the Great Hall, which had recently been filled with the low buzz of almost-whispered conversations, had suddenly fallen quite silent. Looking around, he saw his brother practically swagger up to the stool just as more murmuring broke out.
"Did she say 'Daniel Potter'?"
"The Daniel Potter?"
"Wonder what House he'll be sorted into..."
In the end, it took roughly two minutes for the Hat to decide that "GRYFFINDOR!" was the house for Daniel, and the red-and-gold clad table practically erupted in cheers. Harry could make out the Weasley twins shouting about how 'they got Potter,' and everyone seemed totally ecstatic about getting to be housemates with the Boy Who Lived. Daniel meandered over and was instantly besieged by well-wishers.
McGonagall's attempts at calling order were futile, and she eventually created a loud cannon blast with her wand to recapture everyone's attention. Clearing her throat, she continued, "Let's see, where were we...ah, yes. Potter, Harry!"
"Wonder if they're related."
"Is he Daniel's cousin or something?"
Harry was suddenly reminded of all the negative thoughts which had been running through his head ever since his Hogwarts letter had arrived, even as he strode forward on shaky legs. What if he wasn't intelligent or witty enough to be placed in Ravenclaw, as his mother had very nearly been? What if he was too much of a coward and a crybaby for Gryffindor's vaunted tower, so very unlike James and his friends? Would his ambition and cunning be sharp enough to make it to Slytherin? What if he was so bad that not even Hufflepuff (which the Sorting Hat said would take in the rest) wanted him? With such terrifying thoughts streaming through his consciousness Harry sat himself upon the stool and set the Hat on his head, where it instantly fell down around his nose. A heavy presence filled his mind, and an echoing voice began murmuring softly.
"Hm, you look like a hatstall to me, boy," it said, and Harry made the connection that it was the Hat speaking directly through his thoughts. "Ah, quick on the pick-up, aren't you? And you regard intelligence very highly. You'd be a good fit for Ravenclaw, no doubt. But you're pretty brave, too, yes, putting yourself at risk to help that brother of yours. Oh, what's this? A desire to prove yourself and step out from behind your brother's shadow, to prove that you're just as worthy of praise as he is, yes. But here's the loyalty to a family who barely acknowledges you, stronger than any first-year I've encountered, and the patience to go with it as well. You'll be a difficult one to place. Tell me, what is it you value more than anything, Harry Potter?"
Harry had to think about it for a moment. What did he cherish most? His dreams of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his brother and people finding that he measured out to be greater than the Boy Who Lived seemed prominent, but even more than his ambition to outshine Daniel was his desire for a family who loved him, with he and his brother standing as equals to bask in the adoration of their parents.
I want my family to be safe and happy, he thought. I want to be the one who makes them that way, to be their protector and their pride. A vision swam into his mind's eye's focus, one that he'd often dreamed of on so very many lonely nights. It was a simple scene, the famous Potter sitting room, bathed in warm light from the fireplace. In the large, winged armchair was his father, while his mother and brother were seated on one of the plush sofas. It was almost a normal evening at Potter Manor, but for one crucial detail: They were all looking toward him with the same happy smile he'd always seen his parents give Daniel, full of warmth and love and pride, and it made something within him swell, and it was becoming too big and warm, but in a pleasant way. I want them to love me the way I love them.
"Ah, that's it, then," the Hat said softly, as if to itself. "I know exactly where to place you. The only place you'll make that dream a reality is in HUFFLEPUFF!"
When Harry lifted the Hat, it felt that the stress and anxiety he'd been carrying for the past month or so rose with it. And when he saw the Hufflepuff table giving him a rousing applause, he couldn't have stopped the radiant smile even if he'd wanted to. After setting down the Hat and thanking it, Harry went over to sit with his new house-mates to watch the rest of the Sorting.
"Why did you take so long?" Harry turned and found that the person next to him was Susan Bones. "Everyone else got Sorted in next to no time. Even Daniel Potter only spent about two minutes on the stool."
"How long did it take?" Harry asked in confusion; to him, the episode within his mind had happened in almost the blink of an eye.
"You were up there for almost seven minutes straight," said a handsome older boy across from them. "I'm Cedric Diggory, by the way." Harry took his offered hand and shook while he said, "I've never heard of anyone who's gone more than four." His slate-gray eyes flicked up to the staff table. "Rumor has it that Professor McGonagall took close to five, but it's impossible to know if it's true or not short of asking her."
"Is that bad?" Harry asked worriedly, and Cedric smiled.
"Nothing like that," he assured the first-year firmly. "Hatstalls happen when the Sorting Hat finds that you have traits that would thrive well in more than one House. Flitwick's a confirmed stall, and he said that the Hat wasn't sure whether to place him in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor, but it settled on bronze and blue for him. I dunno about McGonagall, though."
Harry was silent for a while. The Hat had said he would have done well in any of them at first, but when he'd spoken of his family, the magical piece of cloth had almost instantly sent him to Hufflepuff. As he watched Weasley, Ron get Sorted into Gryffindor, Harry figured that there must be a reason to the Hat's rhyme and decided to just roll with it. Who knew? Maybe if he stuck to Hufflepuff House's guiding traits, his dream could come true.
Content in that knowledge, Harry smiled as the last student was placed in Slytherin, and when the dark-skinned Blaise Zabini took his seat, the aging old man at the center of the staff table rose to his full, formidable height. This was Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of the school and holder of half a dozen other important titles that Harry couldn't possibly hope to remember. He knew the man from the few calls the ancient wizard had made to his home, even though he'd never actually met him in person. That privilege had been reserved for Daniel, and Harry couldn't bring himself to feel too jealous of his twin; after all, it was only natural that the one who defeated the Dark Lord would be on good terms with the only man Voldemort ever feared.
At that moment, the powerful mage didn't seem all that intimidating. Indeed, he was beaming at his charges with those insanely blue eyes as if nothing could have made him happier than seeing them all there. "Welcome!" he said. "Welcome to another year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak. Thank you." He sat back down to applause and cheers just as the large golden platters filled themselves magically (of course) with food of all descriptions and flavors.
Harry himself was feeling quite numb as he replayed the few words Dumbledore had given them. They were exactly how he'd felt just before placing the Hat on his head, that he might have been too much of a nitwit for Ravenclaw, or too much of a blubbering coward for Gryffindor, or not cunning enough to tweak any situation to his needs like Slytherin, or not even worth the oddment that Hufflepuff took in. It was as if Dumbledore had laid out all his fears before the entire school, and then dismissed them casually, telling him that there was nothing to fear here.
Looking up at the winged throne upon which Dumbledore sat, Harry was shocked to find that those electric eyes were staring right at him, right through him, while a small smile grew underneath that crooked nose. Then, the Headmaster tilted his head slightly and turned back to his conversation with Professor McGonagall.
A grin tugged at his lips as he turned to his new dining table and began piling food on his plate. School was in session, and Harry had a good feeling that it would be anything but ordinary.
After-Action Report: Now, let's get some trivia out of the way. Did you know that Minerva McGonagall spent five and a half minutes being sorted? Yep, the Hat couldn't decide on whether or not to put her in Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, but in the end, the Lion in her won out. That 'hatstall' thing isn't something of my own creation, and can be found on the Harry Potter wiki, along with many more wonderful things.
If you didn't catch it, Harry's more than a little insecure about himself, which is understandable, having lived his entire life in his twin brother's shadow. Maybe if things had been different, he'd be a bit bolder and would have been sent to the Scarlet and Gold like Danny. But alas, for the purpose of this story, it'll take Harry a little longer to develop his more Gryffindor tendencies.
The whole "Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!" thing is just my interpretation of Dumbledore's immortal words at the Opening Feast of the 1991 school year. I've read many essays, blogs, etc. concerning that seeming non sequitur, and I like this explanation best.
It's like this: Every one of those scared little first-years were terrified to some degree, and Dumbledore not only sums up all their fears, but banishes them like some silly boggart like the benevolent old wizard that he is. I like Albus Dumbledore. He's a great man, and much can be learned from him even if he is a fictional character in a novel meant for children. I think that Rowling had something along those lines in mind when she wrote that scene, and even if she didn't...well, a guy can dream, right?
I like reviews. Very much so (Droppin' a pretty big hint here). Until next time!