A massive thanks to Thobeobo for beta-reading this chapter.
I do NOT own Harry Potter or its universe. All rights go to J.K. Rowling and her publisher.
Most children slept long past five in the morning on a Sunday. They waited until the sun had risen and breakfast was made before waking up, then joined their family for a nice meal before going about their day in a normal fashion. They played and talked and laughed with their loved ones, enjoying all that life had to give.
Harry Potter wasn't most children.
He glared at the light that filtered through the crack in his blinds, the streetlamp outside painfully bright to his tired eyes. While he normally woke up at this time, that didn't mean he liked it. If anything, he hated it and every reason there was for him getting up now instead of later. Harry would much rather sleep in than work his way through a list of chores first thing in the morning.
Especially today, of all days.
Sighing, Harry rolled over and grabbed his glasses from the desk beside his bed. As he slipped them on, his tiny room came into focus. All of his cousin Dudley's brand new toys were neatly piled in the closet, right where Harry had put them when he first moved into this room a few weeks earlier. His own weathered trunk, which contained all of his belongings, was at the foot of his bed.
Harry ran a hand through his messy jet-black hair as he sat up, blinking tiredly and yawning. It was best he started now, before the Dursleys woke up.
He made his way downstairs and into the kitchen, making as little noise as possible, then started to prepare a meal he presumed he wouldn't be allowed to eat any part of. Harry had long since grown used to the fact that the Dursleys didn't want him having any of their meals. If he wanted to eat, then he had to make something for himself afterwards.
It took nearly an hour, and by the end of it Harry was sweating and as tired as he'd been when he first woke up, but at last he finished their breakfast.
And not a moment too soon.
Petunia Dursley entered the kitchen, wearing a familiar look of disdain as she looked down at Harry and the baggy hand-me-downs he wore, never mind that they had once been Dudley's.
"Get cleaned up," she said shortly. "You have to leave soon."
She wasn't wrong. Harry's train to King's Cross left at half past eight, and though it was only just after six, he would have to drag his heavy trunk to the station by himself. The Dursleys refused to give him a ride, though Harry wasn't sure he was too upset about that. It meant he would be away from them sooner, and that was better for all of them.
Harry raced upstairs and gathered some fresh clothes. He had just enough time before Vernon and Dudley woke up that he could take a shower.
Thirty minutes later found Harry dressed and presentable—or as presentable as he could be in clothes that were four sizes too large with glasses that were held together by Sellotape from all the times Dudley had punched him. He hurried to his room and grabbed his trunk, heaving it down the stairs to leave it by the door.
It was times like this when Harry hated the Dursleys for his being so small compared to other kids his age. He had always been short and scrawny, and it was all because of them: first because they kept him in a cupboard under the stairs for nearly ten years, and then because they neglected to feed him properly.
"Still here, are you?" Vernon asked from the kitchen doorway. He watched Harry with beady little eyes, as if he expected Harry to do something unnatural—not that it was an outlandish expectation, after everything that had happened over the years.
"Yes," Harry replied stiffly. "But not for much longer."
"And I'll say good riddance when you're gone," Vernon sneered. "Best be on your way now, boy. Wouldn't want to miss your train," he added with a nasty chuckle.
Giving his uncle a one-fingered salute, Harry slipped outside and slammed the door shut behind him.
The journey would be long and boring, but it would be worth it. He would be learning magic.
Harry arrived at King's Cross station a couple hours later. He loaded his trunk onto a trolley and set off for platforms nine and ten. Assuming Petunia hadn't lied to him—and, for once, he doubted she had—all he needed to do was walk through the barrier that separated the two platforms. Harry knew that the Dursleys wanted nothing more than to be rid of him, so he suspected she'd told him the truth about how to board the train to Hogwarts.
When he saw the solid-looking brick barrier, however, Harry hesitated. He didn't see how even magic could stop him from colliding with something that stood firmly right in front of him.
Taking a deep breath, Harry slowly walked forward, and it was only once he was safely through the barrier that he exhaled. He couldn't help but grin at the sight that greeted him.
A scarlet steam engine stood tall beside a platform filled with robe-wearing wizards. Several of them held animals, each one either a cat or an owl. Smoke billowed from the train, coating the platform in a hazy fog that made it difficult to see the other end.
Harry struggled to lift his heavy trunk onto the train. He heaved and tried to lift it, yet nothing he did worked. He was just about to give up when a voice behind him asked, "D' you need some help?"
The boy who had spoken was much taller than Harry, with kind grey eyes and tidy brown hair.
Harry nodded cautiously, uncertain whether or not this was some kind of scheme like Dudley and his gang always used against him.
The boy smiled at him before grabbing one end of the trunk and lifting. Together, Harry and the boy managed to carry the trunk into an empty compartment, setting it in the corner.
"Thanks," Harry muttered, brushing his hair out of his eyes.
The boy gave him a strange look. "You look familiar."
"We've never met," Harry assured him.
The boy shrugged, then he held out his hand.
"My name's Cedric."
"Nice to meet you, then, Harry," Cedric said as he shook Harry's hand. "I'll see you around."
Then he was gone.
'That was strange,' Harry thought as he shut the compartment door. That boy had been nice to him when they didn't even know each other.
Shoving aside his suspicions that it was some prank that hadn't been sprung yet, Harry pulled the blinds over the glass on the window and door before quickly changing into his school robes. There was a hole in one pocket since they were bought second-hand, but his robes were the only clothing Harry owned that hadn't previously worn by Dudley, so they actually somewhat fit him.
Harry took a book out of his trunk and sat down to read. The tattered black cover was faded, but the title was just barely visible.
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection.
According to the shopping list that had been sent with his acceptance letter, this book would be for a class called Defence Against the Dark Arts. From what Harry had read so far, it all seemed very exciting. The book was full of information about combative spells and creatures straight out of nightmares, such as werewolves and hags and zombies. He looked forward to his first lesson.
A whistle sounded, and the train lurched into motion.
Harry looked up and watched as families waved goodbye, their faces beginning to blur as the train picked up speed. A little girl with fiery red hair ran after the train, but disappeared from sight as they turned a corner and left the station.
Not long after that, the door to his compartment slid open and three boys entered.
"It's a bit unfair that first-years can't bring brooms," one was saying. "My dad lets me fly around at home all the time. I don't see why we need to pass a class first if we already know how."
"I've snuck out on my brother Charlie's broom a few times," said the second boy. "I'm not very good, but Fred and George are—they're the Beaters for the Gryffindor team."
"That's brilliant!" the first boy exclaimed as he reclined on the same bench as Harry. "D'you think they'd let us watch the team practice?"
"Maybe." The second boy sounded nervous. "I guess it depends on whether or not we're Gryffindors."
"Well I'm going to be a Gryffindor," the first boy declared. "Both my parents were, and so have most of my father's family."
"I'm not sure I'll make it," the third boy said sullenly. Then, in a brighter tone, he continued, "My mum says she doesn't care, though, as long as I'm happy."
"Of course you'll be a Gryffindor, Neville!" the first boy reassured. "There's no way you won't be."
The third boy, Neville, straightened in his seat.
Throughout the conversation, Harry kept most of his focus on his book, even as he listened to what they were saying. These boys spoke like they were new students, too, but also like they were raised in the magical world, so Harry thought it would help him out later to pay attention now.
"What about you?" the first boy asked, nudging Harry with his foot. "What house are you thinking you'll get sorted into?"
Harry said nothing, keeping his gaze on his book. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw two of the boys exchange shrugs.
"Maybe he'll be a Ravenclaw," said one, "if he's that focused on reading instead of talking."
The boys ignored Harry after that, continuing to talk about Quidditch. Harry didn't know much about it, beyond the basic knowledge that it was a sport played on broomsticks, and he wasn't particularly in the mood to learn more by eavesdropping when he could instead read about the Knockback Jinx.
The rest of the train ride was fairly uneventful. The compartment went undisturbed, for the most part, aside from when a trolley with snacks came around an hour in to the journey. None of the other boys bothered Harry at all, though it was far from peaceful and quiet. They laughed and talked loudly, seemingly uncaring that they were disturbing his concentration.
Only through strong self-control was Harry able to refrain from lashing out at them.
Eventually, though, the train pulled into the station. The sky outside was pitch black, dotted with stars, and the platform was lit by lanterns that swung from tall wooden posts. Students pushed past each other and flooded the corridor, all of them trying to exit the train at the same time.
Harry sat back and waited until it was a bit easier to navigate, less suffocating, before departing.
The night was freezing. Harry shivered in his thin robes, a cold breeze flowing through the holes. He couldn't wait to get inside the school, where hopefully it would be warmer.
"Firs' years!" bellowed a deep voice. "Firs' years over here! Come on, now!"
Harry gaped at the giant of a man who had spoken. He was easily three metres tall and as wide as a bull, with arms as long as Harry was tall. His face was mostly obscured by a shaggy mane of black hair and a beard, though his tiny beetle-like eyes glinted in the light of the lantern he held in his enormous hands.
"Firs' years follow me!"
Shaking himself out of his stupor, Harry followed the giant man with the other new students.
He led them down a dark path between rows of trees so thick and tall it was impossible to see through the shadows between them. A couple of kids stumbled as they walked, which made Harry wonder why the trail wasn't lit so they could see where they were stepping.
At last, they broke through the trees and found themselves at the edge of a great black lake.
Harry sighed. He prayed no one splashed him.
Standing in a small room that was far too cramped with forty kids squished together inside it, Harry lurked in one corner, observing the others. Many of them were guessing how they would be sorted into their houses after they were retrieved. Some of their theories had to be wrong, such as wrestling a troll or warding off a vampire, but others seemed plausible, like reciting the incantations and wand movements for some of the more simple spells in the early chapters of their books.
Without warning, screams ripped through the chatter. Fingers pointed and the first-years gasped.
Harry looked where they were pointing and his eyes widened at the sight he found.
A translucent silver ghost, dressed in robes that were stained by what looked like blood floated nearby. He had chains draped over his body, manacles around his wrists and ankles, and a haunted gaze in his sunken eyes. His face was gaunt, as if starved, and he stared at them in such a way that a chill raced down Harry's spine.
No one spoke. They stood in silence, staring back at the spectre.
"Move along, Baron."
Professor McGonagall stood in the entrance to the chamber. She was a tall woman whose black hair was pulled into a tight bun. She gave the ghost a stern look, as if daring him to ignore her.
The Baron inclined his head slowly before turning and slowly drifting through the wall.
"Now," Professor McGonagall said, her eyes roving over them, "form a line, and follow me."
Harry stayed in the corner until he could join the back of the line, unnoticed and out of the way. The first-years were led out of the chamber, across the hall, and into a magnificent room unlike any Harry had ever seen. There were four long tables set with empty golden goblets and plates, their benches filled by the other students. At the top of the hall was a fifth table, perpendicular to the others, where the members of the staff sat. Countless candles floated in the air, illuminating the hall. The ceiling far above looked like a window to the starry sky outside. Professor McGonagall led the first years up to stand in front of the staff table, facing the rest of the students. Then she brought out a four-legged stool, upon which she placed an extremely old hat that was patched and frayed.
Harry wished he could see Petunia's reaction if she were to lay eyes on it.
"When I call your name," Professor McGonagall said in a carrying voice, "you will come forward, place the Sorting Hat upon your head, and wait to be sorted."
As each first-year was called forward, in alphabetical order by last name, Harry observed the way the different houses reacted to receiving new members.
They were all far too loud for his liking. With each first-year to join their houses, they applauded raucously, as if trying to one-up each other in an unspoken competition to prove which of the four houses was more excited. The Gryffindor and Slytherin tables, in particular, seemed to be trying their hardest to be the first to make the room shake.
Harry's focus snapped back to the stool and the Sorting Hat.
A boy who looked remarkably like him stepped from the line. They had the same thin face and messy black hair, but that was about where the similarities ended. Harry's face was sharper and his cheeks hollower, whereas the boy's was softer and full. Harry's eyes were a bright green—a colour he was happy to keep, even if he could change it with a thought—but the boy's were hazel.
Harry watched as the boy approached the stool and sat on it, the Great Hall full of hissed whispers, each one questioning if they had heard the boy's name right. One specific comment caught Harry's ear, however: "The Evan Potter?"
It was spoken as if this other Potter was famous, but for what reason, Harry didn't know.
The Sorting Hat had barely touched his head before it bellowed, "GRYFFINDOR!"
The loudest cheers of the night filled the hall. The Gryffindors roared so loudly that dust fell from the ceiling, shouting their glee that the other Potter was one of them. Evan Potter basked in the attention, grinning as he strutted to the Gryffindor table to sit beside a blond boy.
The cheers stopped like a candle snuffed out when Professor McGonagall called, "Potter, Harry!"
Evan Potter stared at Harry as he stepped out of the line. More whispering broke out, but this time it wasn't excited. There were many questions being raised, each of which made Harry's head spin.
"Have you heard of Harry Potter?"
"No, have you?"
"Where did he come from?"
"Are they related?"
"Have to be, with hair like that."
Then Professor McGonagall placed the Sorting Hat on his head, and all he saw was darkness, the image of hundreds of faces staring back at him imprinted in his thoughts.
"Hmm," said a small voice in his ear. "Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either… But only one house would truly suit you… better be — SLYTHERIN!"
If Harry had thought the hall was stunned by his name, it was nothing compared to now. Everyone stared back at him with wide-eyes, uncomprehending.
The silence was broken by a single person clapping: an old man who sat in a golden throne-like chair in the centre of the staff table. His twinkling eyes were focused on Harry, a small smile on his face.
Some more scattered clapping followed Harry as he approached the Slytherin table. He continued past where everyone was grouped, heading to the far corner of the room, where no one would be able to get behind him without him noticing. There were a few empty seats around him, but Harry didn't mind; he preferred it that way, really.
The expressions on the faces of the other Slytherins were a mixture of shock, disdain, or even hatred from two or three of them.
Thankfully, they stopped looking at him when Professor McGonagall called the next name.
Harry turned, as if drawn by some outside force, to look at the Gryffindor table. His eyes met Evan Potter's, and he saw confusion and anger staring back at him. Harry wasn't sure what he had done to earn that anger, though, considering he had never spoken to Evan Potter before.
Looking up to the staff table to watch the rest of the Sorting Ceremony, Harry noticed that a pale man in an absurd purple turban was staring at him, observing him.
Harry quickly looked away. Something about the look in the man's eyes unnerved him.
As the Sorting Ceremony finished and the old man in the centre of the staff table rose to give a speech, Harry couldn't help but wonder just what he had gotten himself into.
The Slytherin common room was long and low, hidden deep in the dungeons of Hogwarts. Lanterns hung from the ceiling, and several armchairs and a couch surrounded an ornate fireplace with a fancy marble mantelpiece, above which hung a portrait of a slim man with a bald head, a long silver beard, and piercing grey eyes.
Harry assumed he was the founder of his new house: Salazar Slytherin.
The fifth-year prefects had escorted the first-years down here after dinner, then showed them to the dormitories. They were each given their own room, down the corridor for first-years, which Harry supposed was a benefit to living in the dungeons.
Inside the room with his name on it, he found a four-poster bed hung with velvet green drapes and a desk for him to do his homework on. There was a shut door set in one wall, but Harry was too tired to see where it led tonight.
Instead, he pulled out his pyjamas and changed, then climbed into bed, thinking about what he had learnt tonight by eavesdropping on the other Slytherins during the feast.
Evan Potter—the Boy-Who-Lived, they had called him—was apparently a celebrity. From what Harry heard, everyone in the magical world knew Evan's name, though he still didn't know why Evan was famous; it was one of the few things he was curious about that hadn't come up in conversation.
But Harry really wanted to know if he was related to this other Potter, and if so, how?
Before he could think about it further, there was a hesitant knock on his door.
Harry narrowed his eyes and quietly climbed out of bed, silently making his way across the room.
When he opened the door, he found one of the other first-year boys standing in the hall. He was tall and thin, with bedraggled brown hair. Harry couldn't recall his name, though.
"Potter," the boy greeted. His tone was stiff and quiet.
Harry said nothing.
The boy shifted his feet.
"My name's Nott."
Harry almost asked 'Not what?'
"Can I help you?" he asked instead.
Nott looked apprehensive. "I have some questions."
Nott bit his lip.
"You," he said.
Harry raised his brow. "In the middle of the night?"
Nott shifted again.
Harry sighed and opened the door wider.
"Come in," he said. "I'll answer your questions."
Nott sat in the chair at the desk and Harry made himself comfortable on his bed. He got the feeling he wouldn't like whatever questions Nott was going to ask, and sure enough—
"Are you related to Evan Potter?"
"I don't know," Harry replied tonelessly.
"How can you not know?" Nott asked, baffled.
Reluctantly, Harry admitted, "I grew up with muggles."
Nott looked disgusted.
"My father works for the Ministry. They keep records for every wizard there—maybe he can find out."
Harry didn't want to do that yet, but he made a mental note of the offer.
"What was it like?" Nott asked. "Living with muggles."
Harry scowled. The look on his face must have been answer enough, because Nott moved on. His demeanor changed, however, becoming more relaxed, perhaps even a little friendly.
"What's all this 'Boy-Who-Lived' stuff about?" Harry asked.
Nott looked surprised, but he masked it quickly.
"Evan Potter's the only known survivor of the Killing Curse," he said. "The Dark Lord—"
"Who?" Harry interrupted.
"Read The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts," Nott recommended, looking nervous. "It talks all about who he is and what he did. Most of us, well… Most of us don't like talking about it."
Nott's eyes flashed with anger.
Harry wasn't sure whether it was directed at him or not, so he prepared to defend himself. If he could handle the Dursleys, surely he could hold his own against a single untrained wizard.
"The Dark Lord put a lot of people under the Imperius Curse," Nott explained. "A lot of his supporters were forced to follow him, and when he was defeated by Evan Potter nearly ten years ago, they were freed from the curse. Some people still don't believe that they're innocent, though."
Harry frowned, "How could a one-year-old defeat someone like that?"
"Nobody knows," Nott said with a shrug.
'Well that's helpful,' Harry thought, rolling his eyes.
"How'd you end up in Slytherin?" Nott asked, watching Harry closely. "Potters have always gone to Gryffindor, though I guess some of them have married Slytherins."
"The hat said Slytherin was 'the only house that truly suits me,' whatever that means," Harry said. He didn't quite understand that, but he didn't know enough to say otherwise.
Nott nodded, as if his curiosity was sated, and he stood up.
"See you around, Potter," he said as he moved to the door.
Then Harry was alone once more. He looked around the room and smiled. He was away from the Dursleys, and starting tomorrow morning, he would be learning magic.
It seemed life was finally getting better.
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