The Great Hall was quiet, much quieter than the staff ever remember it being. They couldn't blame the students since they were just as baffled as the children. It was a rather strange sight, they'd admit. All the ghosts had converged on the one table, surrounding a pale group of first years to speak with one dark-haired boy.
Harry Potter, for his part, seemed unconcerned, even happy to have so much attention from the dead. He was speaking avidly with the Bloody Baron and Sir Nick, though what about, the teachers couldn't tell. Even the Gray Lady had come down from her tower to stare curiously at the boy and the Fat Friar was nearly giddy in excitement.
The other tables were watching the scene warily. None of them had predicted where the Boy-Who-Lived would have been sorted. They had all thought it'd be Gryffindor, even if they had wanted him in their house. Now it was a moot point as he was proudly wearing a yellow and black tie and the Weasley twins were out ten galleons.
The Hufflepuffs, for their part, were a mix of excited, confused and concerned. The boy certainly wasn't what any of them expected. Susan Bones was sitting next to the boy so was one of the worst off with the ghosts.
Her eyes constantly strayed to the lines running around Harry's wrists and arms. As she was closer, she thought she'd be able to tell what it was exactly, but it still seemed to shift between being drawn on and actual thread. She had a disturbing urge to pull on one and see if it came out but pushed the thought from her mind.
She was relieved to note the lines across his mouth weren't real, though they were eerie as it made it look like his smile was much wider than it really was, like he was showing more teeth than he was.
She glanced around at all the ghosts staring adoringly, a bit confused at the conversations they were having.
"How is your father?" one of the ghosts asked excitedly. Harry grinned as his classmates looked confused.
"He's quite well. Mom has him teaching the bats new trick for Halloween," Harry said excitedly, his tie twitching.
Zacharias Smith sneered, as much as an eleven-year-old could sneer, his arrogance and curiosity overcoming his discomfort.
"Aren't your parents, well, dead?" Zacharias asked bluntly, much to his housemate's disapproval.
The Hufflepuffs glanced at the boy worriedly, hoping he wasn't too upset by the question, but were surprised and confused when he only blinked.
"Yes, of course they are," he stated bluntly.
Sir Nick coughed lightly, getting the young prince's attention.
"I believe the boy meant your biological parents, young Harry," he informed him solemnly, glancing at Smith in disapproval. Harry's mouth opened in understanding.
"Oh, yes, they are, too," Harry corrected easily.
"Too?" Ernie mouthed to Justin silently.
Justin only shook his head, focusing on the food in front of him.
The ghosts gradually move away so the boy could enjoy his dinner, but people noted how they stayed much later than they did in earlier years. His house mates gradually relaxed, beginning to talk with each other as the hall got a bit louder.
"My family often vacations in France," Smith boasted to those around him, who only rolled their eyes.
"My aunt is too busy at the ministry, so I tended to stay with Hannah and her mother when they traveled to Greece," Susan supplied to the conversation, Hannah smiling at the memories.
"My parents didn't like traveling," Justin shrugged, "but we've stayed in Bath for vacations before."
Susan glanced at Harry who was quietly eating some chicken, though he was making a weird face when he tried it. She bit her lip but turned towards him.
"Have you ever traveled, Harry?" she asked.
Harry looked up as those around him quieted and stared curiously, many still excited about having the savior of the Wizarding World in their house. Harry grinned again, almost instinctively.
"Oh, yes," he said excitedly, "we go somewhere new every year! Last year, we went to Sleepy Hollow in New York. My dad likes to ride horses. It was a fun trip," his smile turned dreamy.
"Is he any good?" Ernie asked curiously. Harry snickered.
"He is when he keeps his head on," Harry informed him, much to everyone's confusion. A few muggleborns explained how it was an expression of speech. Everyone missed the confused look on Harry's face at the discussion.
"What classes are you all looking forward to?" Ernie asked.
"I think charms will be fun," Megan Jones answered excitedly. Hannah nodded in agreement.
"I heard Defense is a good subject, but it depends on the teacher," Susan commented. Everyone glanced at Harry who was staring intently at the mashed potatoes in consternation. He glanced up, feeling everyone's stare.
"I'm looking forward to potions," he said, his smile turning sweet, "my mom likes to cook and Aunt Haelgamine and Zeldaborne taught me a few for my ninth birthday."
A few people blinked at the names, but the older students were staring apologetically at the boy.
"While I don't want you to not enjoy Potions," Cedric Diggory started slowly, "you should know Professor Snape is not the easiest person to get along with. He really only likes his house. We're lucky we don't have the class with Slytherin, but that doesn't help much."
Harry stared at the boy, wide-eyed.
"Who's Professor Snape?" he asked curiously.
Cedric pointed out a pale, greasy haired man with a crooked nose. Much to everyone's surprise, Harry's smile widened in excitement.
"He's a vampire!" Harry exclaimed excitedly.
A few students stared at him in horror while the rest all broke down in gales of laughter, causing the teachers to look over. Professor Snape was one of them, so noticed the Potter boy grinning at him. He sneered at the boy who only grinned wider, as impossible as it seemed.
Severus was perturbed by the display and decided it was in his best interest to ignore the boy the rest of the night. Harry was dismayed when his professor turned away to talk to a man with a turban on his head.
"Not quite," Cedric said, watching the boy in bafflement, "though some people call him a bat."
Harry glanced at his tie, then over to Cedric in confusion.
"He's not as cool as bats, though," Harry stated confidently.
Cedric laughed, smiling fondly at Harry.
"No, I'm sure he isn't," he agreed humorously.
They all turned as Albus Dumbledore stood up, gaining everyone's attention. As he mentioned the Forbidden Forest, Harry perked up, happy he'd have a way to visit home if he could find the proper trees. Everyone began muttering to each other about the third floor. Harry looked up curiously, wondering what could be in the corridor.
"Is it really so awful?" Harry asked Susan, who was whispering with Hannah.
"Probably, if he's warning us away," she commented, not noticing the gleam that entered Harry's eyes.
As the students broke up and the Hufflepuffs made their way down towards the kitchens, everyone was looking around curiously. Harry was whispering quietly with the Fat Friar who was following the first years.
They were shown into their common room, which was warm and homey with different plants growing around the corners. The first years were too tired, though, and only cared about getting to bed.
As the boys all got ready, many glancing at Harry as they saw more lines on his legs and along his back, Harry smiled contentedly. He thought it was a wonderful first day, though not much happened. He couldn't wait to speak with his parents about it.
As Luci, his black cat that followed him from home, jumped up onto the bed, Harry fell asleep, a skeleton's grin on his face.
Harry awoke to gloomy sunlight filtering into the room. He was dazed, not recognizing the dark room. He blinked, realizing he wasn't in his cupboard or even Dudley's extra room. While he was glancing around, unsurely, the door slowly creaked open.
"Harry?" A soft voice called out.
Harry jumped, glancing at the door and seeing the nice lady from last night. Memories flashed through Harry's mind and his eyes widened.
"Miss Sally?" Harry said questioningly.
Sally smiled kindly at the little boy who was looking around once again.
"Are you hungry?" she asked.
Harry's stomach grumbled loudly, and he flushed, ashamed. Sally only held her hand out for the boy, who climbed out of bed and ran over. She ran a hand through his hair fondly as they made their way downstairs.
Jack was downstairs, talking with the two witches, the only ones who were the closest to human in Halloween Town. They were both telling him enthusiastically about foods children could have. Helgamine, the taller witch, was stirring a cauldron with something bubbling inside.
Harry hid behind Sally's leg shyly, clutching her dress when the others looked over. Sally smiled down at the young boy.
"Harry, these are Helgamine and Zeldaborne. They're helping us make something for you to eat," she explained patiently. Harry glanced curiously passed Sally at the two women with green skin and warts all over their faces. His aunt would scream if she saw them, though she'd probably do that with anyone he saw last night.
"Hello," he greeted them shyly.
"Good morning, child," Zeldaborne said, handing Helgamine a bright red bottle.
"We'll have you fattened up in no time," Helgamine declared, glancing at the incredibly skinny boy.
Harry smiled sweetly, moving more towards Sally's side than her back. Jack was watching avidly, his curiosity over a human rearing up. He crouched down to the child's height, much to Harry's surprise. When he grinned, his face splitting, Harry's eyes widened comically.
"So, young Harry, can you tell me where you're from? Sally wasn't around any towns when she came back last night," he asked kindly.
"I live in Surrey," Harry answered quietly, going a bit pale. Jack nodded thoughtfully; a non-existent eyebrow raised. Sally had been in northern London the night before, so he was confused how the boy ended up so far away.
Helgamine handed the boy a bowl of bubbling something. Harry smiled thankfully, barely glancing at the food before taking a bite. He paused, blinking, before swallowing the spoonful as everyone watched him curiously.
"It's better than most of what the Dursleys give me," Harry said happily.
Helgamine nodded, satisfied. Sally was happy he liked it but wasn't sure that comparison was normal. She was mostly sure their food would not be something he'd like making her question what he's been fed before. After that, they all ate, Sally making sure to give Harry another helping when he had looked longingly at the cauldron.
Zeldaborne and Helgamine were cooing over the boy, as much as two witches could coo anyways. Zeldaborne was brushing her long fingers through his hair, making Harry giggle. Helgamine paused, eyes narrowing as she looked at the boy. Jack glanced at her questioningly, but she only shook her head.
"Harry, can you tell us more about your relatives?" Sally asked.
Harry paled, shaking a bit. Jack could feel the fear coming from the boy and he was positive it wasn't because of them. Jack laid a hand on Harry's shoulder, noting the flinch that ran through the boy.
"How about we walk around a bit before discussing this," Jack suggested, grinning widely at Harry, "would you like to see our town?"
Harry nodded enthusiastically, excited to see more and to not have to answer. Sally looked at Harry in concern, she wasn't sure why he didn't want to talk about them, but she was beginning to be reluctant to return Harry.
"How about you do that while I go visit Santa?" Sally whispered to Jack, who nodded quickly before taking Harry's hand.
Harry looked around in wonder as they left Jack and Sally's house. Sally had left after giving Harry a hug, letting him know she'd be back. The witches flew off, probably to gossip with the other townsfolk. Harry's mouth dropped open.
"They're flying!" he exclaimed in awe.
"Yes, it's much faster for them," Jack explained.
Jack began pointing out buildings like Town Hall and explaining who lived in which house. Harry thought the houses were very funny looking, but he was more interested in the people walking around that were staring just as curiously at him. Harry saw a clown on a unicycle, a man who looked like he was covered in slime, even someone who looked like the devil. Harry's aunt and uncle would hate this place so much.
Harry absolutely loved it.
The townspeople were just as curious about the young human. Ethan, the little corpse child and his two friends, the mummy Tut and winged demon Nyx, were watching as they played around the fountain. Harry waved shyly at them and all three boys waved back.
"Jack!" called out the man with two faces. He was smiling widely until he saw Harry and his head turned all the way around to show his other, paler face. Harry jumped slightly.
"Hello Mayor," Jack smiled, "come meet young Harry."
Harry wrapped his arms around Jack's leg as the mayor came over warily. His head changed back and he smiled down at Harry. If Jack was alright with the young boy then it should be fine.
"Why, hello," the man said, "are you enjoying our town?" Harry smiled then.
"Oh yes, it's wonderful," Harry enthused despite his hesitance earlier, much to the townspeople's pleasure.
"Good good, just let me know if you need anything, Jack," the mayor said, staring at Jack with a similar gleam most of the people around them seemed to have around Jack. As the mayor left, Harry tugged on Jack's leg, making him look down.
"Why do they all stare at you?" Harry asked curiously.
Jack's mouth widened into a wide smile as he crouched down.
"Because I'm the Pumpkin King," Jack exclaimed, abruptly jumping up into the air, landing on the ledge of the fountain. Harry stared in amazement as Jack took his head off and replaced it with a pumpkin laying on the ground.
"Wow," Harry whispered, a light of wonder shining in his eyes, "what else can you do?" He asked eagerly.
Sally made her way through the forest and into the Christmas tree. As she walked through the snow towards Santa's house, the elves watched on curiously, one running towards their boss' home. The door opened as Sally made it to the house, Mrs. Claus smiling kindly at the girl.
"Hello, Sally," she greeted sweetly, "can I help you with something."
"Oh, I hope so. Does Mr. Claus have a moment? We have a…situation in Town and aren't really sure what to do," she said, unsure how to explain everything.
Mrs. Claus let her in just as Santa Claus came into the house, followed by an elf.
"Sally," Santa greeted, "it seems you have quite the interesting visitor." Sally looked at him, surprised.
"You know?" she asked.
"My dear, he is a child. He's under my supervision," Santa reminded her. Mrs. Claus watched on a bit confused though she had a suspicion.
"Can you tell me about him?" she requested.
Santa frowned slightly, moving to his desk and grabbing his list.
"Harry Potter, aged six. Nice every year, yet never been given a single present," Santa muttered, grimacing as he searched through the list again, "Dudley Dursley, also six, naughty for the last three years. If what I remember of the family, I wouldn't be surprised if they gave Harry's presents to their son. Neither were on the nice list much in their lives."
"Oh, how awful," Mrs. Claus said, aghast.
Santa seemed deep in thought, his eyes blank as though looking at something nobody else could see. Mrs. Claus offered Sally some cookies while they waited.
When he finally came to, Mrs. Claus was handing Sally a gift-wrapped box of cookies to take back to the young boy. Santa frowned as he began muttering to himself. Sally wrung her hands together.
"Does he have to go back?" Sally asked, a pang going through her.
Santa was going to answer but paused as he looked at the girl searchingly.
"Do you want to take him back?" Santa asked calmly. Sally bit her lip, looking down before she shook her head slowly.
"No, I don't suppose you would," Santa said, staring at her face intently. He sighed, scribbling an address on a piece of paper and handing it to the young girl.
"Send Jack there. I know you have someone who lurks under stairs, correct? Have him take Jack that way. I'm sure it will work in your favor if Jack isn't already thinking something similar," she took the paper curiously but Santa touched her shoulder, staring into her eyes, "but I want that boy to come to Christmas Town a few times over the year. He will need to return to the human world some day and he'll need to be able to fit in, if only temporarily."
Sally was confused why he wasn't explaining anything but was just grateful for his help. She thanked them both and made her way back towards the forest, Mr. and Mrs. Claus watching her.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Mrs. Claus asked her husband. He sighed.
"It'll make young Harry happy," he sighed, "it's the best gift I would ever be able to give him."
"What?" Mrs. Claus inquired curiously. Santa smiled slightly.