Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers including, but not limited to, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

A/N: And here's chapter two. There's been some concern about my Fate comment in the last chapter's A/N. Don't worry about it too much, though I think certain events in Harry's life are Fated, those scenes which will echo cannon have been written with this version of Harry well in mind. So far, I haven't had any nay-sayers among the folks who have the pleasure of reading this before it gets posted (namely, my family and my beta).


Chapter Two: The First Night

The Great Hall was nearly everything his imagination had pictured, though it was distinctly lacking in stained-glass and gilt statuary. It was lit by thousands of candles, hovering, unaided, over four long tables. There was a fifth long table, set perpendicular to the students' ones, and all the teachers were sitting there. Everyone had golden plates and goblets set before them, waiting for the food. McGonagall led the line of first-years through the center of the hall until they were all standing in front of the teachers' table. Looking up, Harry saw that Hogwarts; A History had been correct, and the ceiling was charmed to reflect the sky. He heard Hermione whisper that very fact to someone nearby. Dragging his attention back to Professor McGonagall, he watched as she sat a dirty, fraying wizard's hat on a wooden stool. What's this? he wondered. Do we hafta pull a rabbit out of it, or somethin'? Harry smiled at his own absurdity.

Though he had noticed people pointing out his scar and whispering, all chatter ceased and the other students' attention was captured by the hat. Harry didn't know what was so fascinating about an old hat. He really should have known better. The hat twitched, and it took all his will not to show his surprise. A rip near the brim opened and the hat began to sing. Harry had time to note that the voice was a rather pleasant baritone before focusing on the words of the song.

Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,
But don't judge on what you see,
I'll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.
There's nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can't see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.
You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you've a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.
So put me on! Don't be afraid!
And don't get in a flap!
You're in safe hands (though I have none)
For I'm a Thinking Cap!

Harry was slightly disturbed at something seeing inside his head. Unfortunately, even with the book on Occlumency he'd read, he knew he didn't currently have the capability to keep the hat from doing so. While the hall applauded the song, Harry overheard Ron sigh with obvious relief. "I'm going to kill Fred. He was going on about wrestling a troll."

Harry snickered and whispered back, "Didn't I tell ya it couldn't be that bad?"

Ron nodded, "Yeah, you did. Sorry for not believing you."

"Don't worry 'bout it none. You couldn't've known 'at a couple of the professors here came to tell me 'bout Hogwarts over the summer. We didn't talk none 'bout it on the train."

Professor McGonagall then stepped forward holding a long roll of parchment, "When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted," she said. "Abbott, Hannah!"

The girl from the boat stumbled out of line, sat on the stool, and put on the hat. It fell right down over her eyes. Nothing happened for a few moments, and then the rip opened again and shouted, "Hufflepuff!" The table on the far right of the hall cheered as Hannah went to sit down among her fellow Hufflepuffs, the ghost of the Fat Friar waving merrily at her.

"Bones, Susan!"

"Hufflepuff!" the hat shouted once more, and Susan ran over to sit next to Hannah.

"Boot, Terry!" became the first Ravenclaw, and then it was Harry's turn.

"Brewer, Harry!"

On his way to the stool, Harry could hear several whispered comments. "Thought he was Harry Potter," one person said. "Brewer? How can that be?" another voice added. Harry sighed and picked up the hat, but didn't put it on.

"Professor McGonagall?" he turned to the woman. "Before I do this, can I say somethin' to the hall?"

McGonagall glanced towards Dumbledore, who nodded slightly. "Very well, Brewer, but be quick about it."

"Thankee kindly, ma'am," he nodded to her. "'Scuse me!" he yelled. Very shortly, everyone calmed down and was quiet. "Thanks. I just wanted to say that yeah, I used ta be Harry Potter, however, I was adopted when I was a baby, an' took my dad's last name. It's Brewer, by the way, just in case y'all didn't catch it, an' I won't answer to 'Potter.' Just thought I'd clear that up now, 'fore it got to be an issue. Thanks again." With that, he plopped down on the stool and sat the hat on his head.

There was a moment of stillness before a voice began talking at the back of his head. "Very amusing, Mr. Brewer."

Harry jumped a little at the unexpected voice before thinking back at the voice in his head, Thanks.

"Hmm… Interesting…"

What?

"Just pondering where to put you. You've got a wonderful mind and no small share of talent… There's courage here, too, and you are not afraid of hard work… Ah, and there is also no small thirst here to prove yourself…"

So… Where am I going?

"It would seem that Slytherin would be a good place for you, for it would help you on your way to greatness."

Um… Greatness?

"Yes, yes. Greatness. It's all here, in your head."

What if I don't wanna be 'great?'

"Not want to be great? Why not?"

It's great people that make history, sure, but most of the guys in history books either died real young or spent their lives running' from one bad situation to another. I'd rather not be 'great.' I'd much rather be ordinary. Leaves more room for fun that way.

"'Ordinary?'" the hat sounded amused. "Oh, dear Mr. Brewer. You will be anything but 'ordinary,' I fear."

What makes ya say that?

The hat laughed in his mind. "No one with your potential could possibly be anything but great."

You keep pressin' the 'great'. I don't get it. Why?

The hat's tone turned more serious, "Because that is what you are."

Am not.

"But you are."

Don't think so. I'm just me. I can't help it if your standards are obviously lacking, which they have ta be in order ta consider me great. Sure, I get good grades and like ta think I'm smarter than average, but from what Professor Snape told me about the Houses, that'd lend me ta Ravenclaw, not Slytherin. I also like hard work, it makes me feel like I've actually accomplished something at the end of the day, which would mean Hufflepuff. I try not ta let fear stand in my way of doing what needs done, so that means Gryffindor. Of all the Houses – again, this is from what Professor Snape told me this summer – I don't particularly feel like a Slytherin. I ain't all that cunning. If I were, wouldn't I have an easier job of not getting into trouble with my folks?

"Well…" the hat sounded disappointed and Harry had the feeling that the entity residing within the hat had never been argued with in quite that way before. "If you're sure?"

Yeah, I am.

"Better be…" the voice drifted from within his head to being heard by Harry's ears, "Gryffindor!"

Harry took off the hat, somewhat disturbed by it's insistence that he would be 'great,' and sat it on the stool. He smiled when he heard the Weasley twins chanting, "We got the Boy-Who-Lived!" over and over again.

He snuck up behind them and, standing on their left, reached around to tap one on the right shoulder. "Mind if I sit here?" he asked.

The twin he'd tapped whirled around, "Sure," he said and shoved his brother down a little, making room. Harry settled down on the bench, removing his cowboy hat to dangle by its cord – he'd been raised to take his hat off at the table, despite the rest of the students still wearing their pointy black caps – and watched the rest of the sorting. He was happy to find that Ron joined him in Gryffindor, as did Dean Thomas, the round boy who had buttoned his cloak wrong, and an Irish kid. Harry was even happier when Malfoy was sorted to Slytherin. Had he not argued with the hat, he would have had to live with the rat-faced little prick. He wasn't as pleased to find that Hermione Granger would be sharing their house; Harry felt she was kinda stuck-up, but given the choice between her and Draco, he'd take Hermione's slightly superior attitude any day.

When the last of the students had finally been sorted – the tall black boy he'd stood behind – into Slytherin, the headmaster stood up to address the hall. Harry wondered if this was going to take long. The meal he'd shared with Ron on the train felt ages ago. From the time Albus had spent with his family in Iowa, Harry knew that the man was slightly… odd. Even he couldn't have known what the headmaster was going to say, though. "Welcome to another year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our wonderful feast, I would like to say a few words. Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you." He returned to his seat.

"Ya know," Harry said to Ron and the twins, "I suspected he was a coupla cards shy of a poker game, an' now I have proof."

Gred and Forge laughed, "Yeah, he is a bit mad, I suppose, but he's also probably the greatest wizard alive." Their synchronized speech was almost as intriguing to see as their finishing of each others' sentences. "Pass us the potatoes, would you?"

Harry's jaw dropped open despite his efforts to the contrary. In the space of mere seconds… milliseconds, actually, the table was packed with different dishes and platters of food. He could recognize roast beef, chicken, pork chops, peas, carrots, gravy, steak, and many others. He handed a dish of French fries to the twins and set about loading his own plate with some peas, pork chops, and some of the fries from the dish he'd passed to Fred and George, ignoring the slightly incredulous looks he received when he poured gravy on the fries. The food was better than his prior experience with school lunches, but the pork chops weren't as good as he'd had at home. That's only to be expected, Harry, he thought. After all, Iowa raises pigs, so the pork back home is always the freshest it can be, an' Mom's a real good cook. Rick, too, for that matter.

The ghost with the tights and ruff hovered nearby. "That does look good," he said sadly, watching everyone eat.

"Can't you…?" Ron asked around a mouthful of steak.

"I haven't eaten for nearly four hundred years," said the ghost. "I don't need to, of course, but one does miss life's little pleasures…" he trailed off, staring wistfully at one of the dishes Harry couldn't identify. The ghost shook himself, "I don't think I've introduced myself. I am Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, at your service. Resident ghost of Gryffindor Tower."

"I know who you are!" Ron replied after he'd swallowed, "You're Nearly Headless Nick!"

"I would prefer you to call me Sir Nicholas de Mimsy –" he began, but was interrupted by the sandy-haired Irish boy.

"Nearly headless? How can you be nearly headless?"

The ghost was obviously irritated, though he also looked like this was a conversation he had participated in many times before. So, with a long-suffering sigh, he pulled on his left ear and said, "Like this." His head swung off his neck and hung there by a strip of skin and sinew.

Harry grimaced, "Gross. What happened to ya?"

Sir Nicholas looked to Harry, "I was the unfortunate victim of a botched beheading," he said.

"Yeah, I kinda figured that, but why?" Harry asked.

"I was living in a muggle area for several years and did one too many spells within view of a suspicious neighbor. He rallied the villagers and a rather dull ax took care of the rest." Sir Nicholas was a little surprised at the first year. No one had ever asked him for the details of his death before. He shrugged and his head was pushed back into place. "So… new Gryffindors! I hope you're going to help us win the house championship this year? We've never gone so long without winning. Slytherins have got the cup six years in a row! The Bloody Baron is becoming almost unbearable; he's the Slytherin ghost."

"How'd he get the name?" Harry asked when he spotted the gruesome ghost sitting next to Malfoy.

"I don't know, I never asked," Sir Nicholas replied.

"Guess I'll hafta, iffen I ever meet him in person," Harry said, finishing his dinner.

When everyone else had eaten as much as they could, the remains of dinner faded away only to be replaced with row after row of desserts. There was ice cream, apple pies, donuts, strawberries and other fruits, and several dishes that Harry couldn't identify. "There any strawberry-rhubarb pie?" he asked looking over the plates and bowls.

"No," Sir Nicholas replied. "Though I shared your fondness for rhubarb, it is rarely served at Hogwarts."

Harry sighed. "What's that?" he pointed to a dish of miniature pies.

"Treacle tarts," Ron said, reaching for one.

"Huh?"

Ron laughed, "Just try one, they're really good."

Harry took one of the tarts and nibbled on the edge. It was really too sweet, especially after the candy on the train, so he helped himself to a scoop of strawberries and poured some milk over them. He didn't see any cream, so the milk would have to do. While everyone was indulging in something sweet and sugary, the talk among the first-years turned to their families.

"I'm half-and-half," the Irish boy said. Harry realized the kid's name was Seamus Finnegan, though he didn't recall being introduced. "Me dad's a muggle, Mum's a witch. Bit of a nasty shock for him when he found out, but they're okay about it now."

"What about you?" Ron asked the boy who had buttoned his cloak wrong.

Harry vaguely recalled that the boy's name was Neville, though, like Seamus, he didn't remember anyone actually saying so. "Well, my gran brought me up and she's a witch," Neville said, "but the family thought I was a squib for ages. My great uncle Algie kept trying to catch me off-guard and force some magic out of me. He pushed me off the end of Blackpool Pier once. I nearly drowned. Nothing happened until I was eight, though. Great Uncle Algie came around for dinner and hung me out of an upstairs window by my ankles. My great aunt Enid – his wife – offered him a meringue and he accidentally let go of me. Everyone was scared, but I bounced all down the garden and into the road. Gran was really pleased and ended up crying, she was so happy. They were all really pleased when I got my letter to come to Hogwarts; no one thought I had enough magic to come here, you see. Great Uncle Algie was so proud that he bought me my toad."

Down the table, Harry could hear Hermione and Prefect Percy talking about lessons, but he tuned them out. "What 'bout you, Dean?"

"My parents are both muggles," he replied. "I know we were all really surprised to learn about all this," he gestured around, indicating the whole of the wizarding world, "but I also know they were glad there was a rational explanation of what I was doing when weird things happened around me."

"You got any brothers or sisters?"

Dean nodded, "Yeah. I've got two older sisters, Suzanne and Amelia, but Amelia's already married and lives in Liverpool with her husband. Suzanne will be sixteen next month." He blinked in surprise. "Guess that means I'll have to find her a birthday present."

"I can't imagine havin' older sisters. I've got a baby brother, though. His name's Cyrus, an' will be two in April." Harry finished off his strawberries and pushed his plate away.

Conversation around him had calmed a little; most of the people had endured a rather long day and with the abundance of food were starting to feel a little sluggish and sleepy. Harry, on the other hand, was wide awake. He took the lull as a chance to look around. Hagrid was drinking from a goblet the size of a bucket and talking with a tiny little man; the size difference between the two making their respective statures that much more noticeable. Professor McGonagall was chatting with Dumbledore, and Snape was trying to ignore the chattering of a teacher in an absurd purple turban. The man in the turban glanced around while he talked, and for a split-second, his eyes landed on Harry. A sharp spike of white-hot pain flared in Harry's scar. Harry winced, but the pain had gone as quickly as it had come.

The twins had noticed, though. "What is it?" George asked. Harry knew it was George. He noticed there was a small, triangular freckle on the exact midpoint between his eyebrows that was missing on Fred's face.

Harry shrugged, "Not sure. Who's that teacher talkin' at Snape?"

The twins looked up. "That's Professor Quirrell. He teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts. Replaced Professor Zandryn for the last month of last year, when Zandryn had a heart-attack and couldn't continue teaching," Fred said while his brother asked, "How do you know Snape?"

"He an' Dumbledore were the ones who came an' told me 'bout Hogwarts," Harry replied. "Gave me a bunch of book recommendations, though it took him a couple of days to realize I'm not my real dad. He an' my real dad apparently didn't like each other none when they was in school."

"You must have said or done something that really impressed him," George said. "Snape usually doesn't like anyone enough to help them."

Harry shrugged, he honestly didn't know what he could have done, and decided that it didn't really matter. He filed the information away, though, and went back to watching people – specifically Quirrell. Quirrell didn't look his way again, though. His other-sense was disturbingly quiet. It normally gave him a good idea of the nature of things to expect from people, even when he wasn't using his empathy.

At long last, the desserts disappeared and Dumbledore got to his feet, clearing his throat. "Just a few more words now that we're all fed and watered. I have a few start-of-term notices to give you.

"First years should note that the forest on the grounds is forbidden to all pupils – a few of our older students would do well to remember that as well," he was obviously looking at Fred and George. "I have also been asked by Mr. Filch, the caretaker, to remind you all that no magic should be used between classes in the corridors. Quidditch trials will be held in the second week of the term. Anyone interested in playing for their house teams should contact Madam Hooch. And finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death."

Harry chuckled at that, but only a few others did. "He can't be serious," he said to the twins and Ron.

Fred and George exchanged uneasy glances. "He is, though. It's a bit odd, he usually gives us a reason why we're not allowed to go somewhere. The forest's supposedly full of dangerous creatures, though we've not seen anything more than a giant spider or two," Fred explained.

George shook his head, "Well, we never really go all that far into it, though, do we? I heard there's supposed to be centaurs and thestrals, as well as a clan of werewolves hiding in a cave somewhere."

Before Harry could ask what a thestral was, Dumbledore cried, "And now, before we go to bed, let us sing the school song!" Harry snickered when he saw that the smiles on the teachers – Snape excluded – had become rather fixed. Snape was openly scowling. Dumbledore gave his wand a little flick and a long, golden ribbon flew out the end of it. The ribbon rose high above the heads of the students and twisted into words. "Everyone pick their favorite tune and off we go!"

The school bellowed the song. Harry had picked the music behind his old school's theme song, an old drinking song called 'Whisky and Rye,' while the twins sung it as though it were a funeral march.

Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please,
Whether we be old and bald
Or young with scabby knees,
Our heads could do with filling
With some interesting stuff,
For now they're bare and full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff,
So teach us things worth knowing,
Bring back what we've forgot,
just do your best, we'll do the rest,

And learn until our brains all rot.

Everybody finished the song at different times because of the plethora of different music to which it was sung. The Weasley twins were the last ones left singing, and Dumbledore conducted their final lines with his wand. When they finished, he was one of the ones who clapped the hardest. "Ah, music," he said, wiping his eyes. "A magic beyond all we do here! And now, I fear, it is bedtime. Off you go."

The Gryffindor first-years followed Prefect Percy through the chattering crowds out of the Great Hall and up the large marble staircase. Though everyone else appeared to be tired and were dragging their feet, Harry was still wide-awake. Though he'd had to wake up two hours earlier that morning than he usually did, he was still on Iowa time and felt as though it were only three or four o'clock in the afternoon. He noticed that Percy led them through doorways hidden behind tapestries and sliding panels and up more staircases than he could count. He also noticed that the people in the portraits they passed were moving, and unlike wizarding photos, they were also talking quite audibly. I wonder just how much further we're goin'? Harry wondered. I think we've walked the same distance from the Great Hall as from my house to A.J.'s.

He was startled out of his musings when the group suddenly came to an abrupt halt. A bundle of canes were floating in midair ahead of them, and as Percy took a step toward them they started throwing themselves at him. "Peeves," Percy whispered to the first-years. "A poltergeist." He raised his voice, "Peeves, show yourself!" There was the noise of someone blowing a raspberry as Percy's answer. "Do you want me to go to the Bloody Baron?"

There was a pop, and a little man with wicked, dark eyes and a wide mouth appeared, floating cross- legged in the air, clutching the canes. "Ooh!" he said with an evil cackle. "Ickle Firsties! What fun!" He swooped suddenly at them. They all ducked. Harry wondered idly if a poltergeist was the same as a ghost and made a mental note to ask Sir Nicholas about it the next time he saw him.

"Go away, Peeves, or the Baron will hear about this, I mean it!" barked Percy.

Peeves stuck out his tongue and vanished, dropping the rest of the canes on Neville's head. They heard him zooming away, rattling coats of armor as he passed. "You want to watch out for Peeves," said Percy, as they set off again. "The Bloody Baron's the only one who can control him, he won't even listen to us prefects. Here we are." Everyone stopped again in front of a portrait of a heavyset woman in a frilly pink dress.

"Password?" she asked.

"Caput Draconis," replied Percy. The portrait swung forward to reveal a hole in the wall. They all scrambled through it and found themselves in the Gryffindor common room. It was round and decorated in shades of gold and red with several comfy-looking armchairs and sofas. I guess this explains the ties and the bedding in the trunk.

Percy directed the girls to stairway at the back of the room and led the boys though an identical one across the room from it. At the very top of the spiral staircase they finally found their dorm room. Harry realized he must be at the top of one of the towers of the school. Nifty. He saw that everyone's luggage had already been brought up and were sitting at the foot of their respective beds.

Though Harry was still wide awake, none of the other boys were, and they set about putting on their pajamas and settling into bed. Harry waited until everyone was deeply asleep before venturing down the ladder into his trunk. He didn't want everyone to know about the room just yet, though he realized that it wasn't likely to stay a secret for long, living as he was in such close proximity to four other boys.

He grabbed the Latin dictionary and set to translating one of the thinner volumes on the bookcase, using one of several spiral-bound notebooks that he'd had his mom buy for him, in addition to the rolls of parchment he knew he would be expected to do his homework on. It was an interesting – if wordy – treatise on something called the 'Animagus transformation.' Harry realized, after a couple of hours, that it involved turning into an animal. When he tired of translating the document, he retrieved his guitar and began practicing with it. Wonder if there's a piano anywhere hereabouts? Wouldn't do to have all Sarah's lessons go to waste if I don't practice.

Finally, he found himself growing tired and trekked back up to the dorm room. He noticed that dawn was rapidly approaching and sighed. Better not go to sleep just yet, he thought. Iffen I do, I'll just end up real tired durin' classes, an' that wouldn't do at all.

To keep himself busy, he retrieved the letter from James and read it again. Wonder who these people are, he pondered for the umpteenth time. Hmm… It says to contact this Lupin fella if I was left with those Dursley folks. Either him or that Black guy, but since the letter was still in the trunk, I s'pose he's not around no more. Wonder if that Lupin fella is still alive? Harry made a decision, listening to that inner othersense. He got a piece of parchment and one of the quill pens he was slowly learning to use – his mom had spent the extra money needed to get ones he didn't have to dip in an inkwell. Harry chewed on his lip for a moment, thinking about what he wanted to say, then set pen to parchment.

September 2, 1991
Dear Mr. Lupin,

My name is Harry Brewer, though I was once known as Harry Potter. I recently found a letter from James Potter to either me or a man named Sirius Black. The letter mentions you and I was wondering why. Did you know my father?

The letter was in what I assume was James' old school trunk – it even says as much in the letter – and since it remained undisturbed, I assume that Mr. Black was unable for whatever reason to retrieve it. It says… Well, it says a lot of things, but I was curious. It told me that if I was left with some family called the 'Dursleys' to get a hold of you and show you the letter and run away with you. Do you know why? I wasn't left with them, though. I was adopted by my mom. Her name is Aurilia, and a couple of years later, she married my dad, Jim Brewer. I took his name when they married. They raised me on a horse-ranch in Iowa.

If you would, could you please write back to me? I know a couple of the people here at Hogwarts – I just arrived – knew my real parents, but I don't quite trust the one, and the other has come right out and told me that he and James didn't get along. Since you were mentioned in the letter, I assume you knew my real parents.

You can reach me at Hogwarts, or if it's during the holidays, I'll be at my home in Iowa. I'll include the address for you, as I don't know if an owl can deliver overseas. Thanks for your time, sir, and I really hope you will write back.

Sincerely,
Harry Brewer

P.S. Here's my address at home:

2093 Vermont Drive
Hamilton, Iowa 50116
U.S.A.

Harry figured that while he was writing letters, he may as well write a quick one to his folks and A.J., too.

Hey A.J.,

This place is huge. I've only been here a couple of hours, and the distance from the cafeteria to my dorm alone is roughly the same distance from your house to mine! I'm kinda glad I'm not out-of-shape – there had to be three thousand stairs between my room and the door to the outside! My room is at the top of one of the towers. I was sorted into Gryffindor. My roommates are Dean Thomas, Ron Weasley, Neville Longbottom, and Seamus Finnegan. Ron's pretty cool, he's got five older brothers and a little sister. Two of his brothers are already done with school – one works with dragons! The oldest one still at school reminds me a lot of Casey Lewis. He's got the same attitude she does, only they apparently reward that here. He's a 'prefect' and helps enforce the rules. Ron's other brothers, though, are really cool. They're identical twins named Fred and George, and they talk like they're only one person.

Everyone seems to have trouble with my last name, though. It looks like I owe you five bucks. I really am famous. Though why I should be for something I don't even remember… Well, I guess I'll have to look into it in more detail later.

There's this one kid here that's a complete ass, though. His name's Draco Malfoy. You know how I can sometimes just tell when something's important or gonna happen? It kept warning me against him, though it didn't need to. He's an irritating little worm. I hope he leaves me alone, otherwise we'll have to see if I really did earn that green belt.

I'll write more when I've got more to say, but right now I'm just trying to stay awake long enough to get over the jet-lag.

See ya later,
Harry

His note to his mom was much shorter, merely stating that he'd arrived safely and seemed to be making friends. When all his letters were written, the sun was up and his roommates were beginning to stir. Neville yawned hugely and blearily got out of bed. "Where's the loo?" he muttered, not noticing that Harry was also awake.

"I 'spect it's through that door," Harry replied, causing Neville to jump and whirl around. "Careful, don't wanna hurt yourself," he grinned at the boy.

Neville returned the smile, "Thanks, Harry. You a morning person, too?"

Harry nodded, "Usually, yeah. Don't get much of a chance to sleep in on a farm. Too much work that needs done. But, I ain't been ta sleep yet. Still on Iowa time."

Neville nodded and made his way through the door that Harry had pointed out. He reemerged a couple of minutes later, dressed for the day. By that time, Dean and Seamus were also awake, though neither of them looked ready to get dressed any time soon. Ron continued snoring on his own bed. "Any idea when breakfast is?" Harry asked his awake roommates.

They shrugged. Neville thought for a moment, "Ah, Gran did tell me that breakfast is normally from seven to eight during the week and seven to nine on the weekends."

"It's just now half past six, though," Harry replied.

"If that's the case, it looks as if we've some time to kill," Dean said before opening his trunk and pulling out some posters of a soccer team and beginning to pin them up around his bed. Seamus headed towards the bathroom, and Neville cracked open one of their schoolbooks. Harry saw that it was the one on magical plants.

Harry grabbed his letters and put his hat back on. He also traded the robe for his denim jacket, as the morning air of the castle was slightly chilly. Must be the elevation, he thought while descending to the common room. There were a couple of students awake and playing some sort of card game. Harry recognized one of them as the girl, Angelina, from the train the day before. "'Scuse me, Angelina?"

She looked up from the game that she and two other girls were playing. "Yes?"

"Don't mean ta interrupt, but where's the nearest post office? I've got a couple of letters to send."

She smiled, "The owlery is…" she sighed and got up from the table, walking over to a window. "See that tower over there?"

Harry nodded, "Yeah."

"Take your letters over there. One of the school owls will be able to deliver them for you. The school owls are easy to recognize, they all have a blue band on their ankles."

Harry grinned at the older girl, "Thanks, Angelina. Good luck on your game."

"You're welcome," she replied before returning to the game she was winning against Katie Bell and Alicia Spinnet.

Harry had the relative location of the tower he was heading to fixed in his mind as he left Gryffindor Tower. He almost walked through Sir Nicholas when he exited the portrait. "Sorry!" he exclaimed. "I didn't see you there."

"It's quite all right," the ghost replied. "You're up awfully early, even for a school day. What's the occasion?"

"Actually, I ain't been ta sleep yet," Harry replied. "I'm tryin' ta get used to the time difference. You wouldn't be able to show me how to get to the owl-tower, would ya? I got a couple of letters to mail."

Sir Nicholas nodded, "Certainly, young Harry. Always happy to help a Gryffindor in need."

While the ghost showed Harry the shortest route from the tower to the owlery, Harry asked, "What's the difference between a ghost and a poltergeist?"

"Ah, met Peeves, have we?" Harry nodded in reply. Sir Nicholas thought for a moment, "Well, to start with, a ghost used to be alive. A poltergeist has never had the experience of life. They also have an easier time of manipulating physical objects."

"If they were never alive, then what are they?"

"They are an expression of repressed emotions and untamed magic, quite common to areas with teenagers, simply due to the overabundance of emotion and half-trained magic available. Hogwarts is actually quite lucky that we only have Peeves. I heard that Durmstrang has several poltergeists."

The two of them paused, waiting for a staircase to make up its mind on whether it was going up or down. "You were a wizard when you were alive, right?"

Sir Nicholas nodded, "Yes, I was."

"Can only wizards become ghosts?" was his next question.

"Yes and no. Only magical beings can become ghosts, it doesn't necessarily have to be strictly a witch or wizard. There's the ghost of a veela out near Glastonbury."

They walked along in silence for a few minutes, then Harry's curiosity got the better of him. "Just why did you end up a ghost? I assume not every magical bein' becomes one, otherwise, there'd be nothin' but ghosts ev'rywhere."

"Astute observation, Harry," Sir Nicholas smiled. "Ghosts only become so if they have some sort of vital, unfinished business to attend to at the moment of their death."

"So…" Harry wasn't sure if it would be polite to ask, but he was really curious. "Um…"

"If you're wondering about my own 'unfinished business,' it will forever remain unfinished, young Harry." The ghost smiled sadly. "I never had children of my own, and so I came to Hogwarts after my death, in hopes that I might still have the chance to affect some of the young minds that came through here." They stopped just outside. "And, it appears as though you have reached your destination. Just cross the bridge, the owlery is at the top of the stairs. I trust you can remember your way back?"

Harry nodded, "I think so."

"Well, if you get lost, don't be afraid to ask any of us ghosts, or even the portraits – though their directions usually involve knowing where certain other portraits are located in the school."

"Thanks, Sir Nick," Harry said as he set off across the short bridge towards the tower.

Reaching the top of the owlery, Harry located the school owls with little difficulty. He wasn't sure what to do next, though. "Um…" he looked at the band on the owl's leg, "Horatio?" The owl bobbed his head. "If I give you two letters that go to the US, will they get there?" Harry felt a little silly talking to an owl, but the owl bobbed his head again. "The addresses are on the envelopes," he said, and held them out for the bird to take. The bird took them in his beak and flapped out a nearby window. Feeling a little less like a doofus, Harry asked the perch of remaining owls, "If I have a letter to someone who I don't know the address for, can you still take it to him?"

One of the owls fluttered down from her perch and landed on Harry's shoulder. "I'll take that as a 'yes.' He held up the letter to Lupin, "It goes to a guy by the name of Remus Lupin." She grabbed the letter and was out the window before Harry could thank her.

When Harry returned to Gryffindor tower, he and his roommates headed down to breakfast and their first day of classes.

Harry gratefully went to bed rather early that night. Just before his head hit his pillow, he realized he had been awake nearly thirty-six hours. Maybe it was because he was so tired when he went to bed, or maybe it was just fate, but his dreams were plagued by visions of Professor Quirrell's purple turban, with a hissing voice floating out of it, berating him for refusing greatness.


A/N2: I hope everyone liked this Harry's interaction with the Sorting Hat. It took me forever to write that bit.