It took the two of them until the last week of August to finish reading through the books they had purchased. From the books, Drake and Harry pieced together an idea of what the wizarding world was like. First and foremost, came the knowledge that many people adored Harry for his defeat of Voldemort. Similarly, many hated him for the same. It was not spelt out on the bare page, of course. Nonetheless, the thread of bigotry that laced the books – both history and those aimed for muggleborns – made it clear that even with Voldemort dead, there were plenty that still upheld his views. It made Drake very uneasy. He did not like leaving Harry to deal with this on his own. For one, Harry was far too young. He should not have to worry about adults threatening him, simply because he had unwittingly managed to kill the leader of the pureblood movement.
"You will need to be careful, Harry," he cautioned. "You cannot reveal who you really are. Just as we have gathered as much information as possible about the wizarding world, so too will the wizards do about you."
"Maybe I should stay here," Harry offered.
Drake shook his head. "No. They would not allow you to remain outside the wizarding world. You are too important to them." And he pointedly quoted passages from various books that emphasized the cult that had grown around the concept of the Boy-Who-Lived.
"Then what do I do?" Harry sounded frightened, and well he should, Drake thought grimly. A young boy, kept away from the wizarding world, not knowing anything about it? Someone had planned well. And John Drake would not allow his charge to enter the fray without the support he needed. While no plan survived engagement, he could provide Harry with the basics that would allow him to navigate his new world. While he might not know anything about magic, Drake did know about intrigues.
"We present them with what they expect. The-Boy-Who-Lived is a hero of the light side. He defeated the darkest wizard the wizarding world had seen. They will expect you to be sorted into Gryffindor, the house of the brave."
Harry wrinkled his nose. "I don't know if I would like Gryffindor."
Drake nodded. "I don't know if you are best suited for it. You're probably far too cautious for it." He stared seemingly at nothing, before sighing. "I wish we had known of your past before now. I could have helped you more. Made it so you could, if you tried, fit into Gryffindor." He shook his head. "No matter. We can't change the past, and must move forward. You have a choice, Harry. Aim for Gryffindor, as the wizarding world expects – and on the off chance you will be accepted there - or aim for a harmless house, like Ravenclaw."
"But not Slytherin," Harry asserted confidently.
Drake shook his head. "No, they would not like it if you ended up in Slytherin."
"What about Hufflepuff?"
Again, Drake shook his head. "As loyal and hardworking as you are, Harry, Hufflepuff would not suit you – you are too selective when it comes to who you give loyalty to," he snorted. This bedamned insistence on 'sorting' you into a House… People shouldn't be sorted." And he looked at Harry with an intent look. "Promise me, Harry. No matter what happens, you will not let them place you into a box, categorize you. You are unique, you are not a number."
Harry nodded, but looked confused, not really understanding what Drake meant. "I don't really understand," he finally confessed.
Drake clasped Harry by the shoulders, staring into Harry's eyes. "Society likes to place everyone into a defined place, to confine them within boundaries. You will already have this problem, because they will see you as the Boy-Who-Lived. You can use that, to help you to do what you must in the wizarding world. We don't know what you'll face when you're at Hogwarts. You will likely have enemies, those that followed that Dark Lord you supposedly defeated, or ones who believe as he did. You will have those who only want to be seen with you because of who you are. You must choose carefully who you are friends with, and who you confide in. But more than that, you must learn as much as you can. Only with as much knowledge as possible, can you make the decisions you need to make your own decisions. Don't forget that part of gaining knowledge is asking others who might know more than you about a particular situation, for advice. In the end though, you need to decide for yourself, the path you wish to take. This is what I mean, Harry. Do not let others mold you into someone you don't want to be."
Again, Harry nodded. His brow furrowed in thought, and he bit his lip.
"I will leave you to think about what I said. We can talk about your school later." Harry didn't even hear Drake leave, something he considered a good thing. It meant the boy was thinking.
Harry didn't even bother asking Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia for a ride to King's Station. Mr. Drake had offered - well told – them he would drive their nephew in their stead, and not surprisingly, they didn't protest. For his part, Harry felt more nervous about what September 1 meant. It had taken him a couple of days to figure out what Mr. Drake had meant, when he admonished him not to let the wizarding world make his decisions for him. But he also worried that no matter how much he prepared, and how much he learned, he would not break free of what others wanted from him. Of course, as Mr. Drake might say, that was life.
Finding Platform 9 and ¾s didn't take nearly as long as Harry had feared. Mr. Drake helped him through the portal, and then helped him load his trunk and owl onto the train and find a compartment. Harry didn't want Mr. Drake to leave him, but also knew he had to stand up on his own. Hogwarts and the wizarding world didn't belong to Mr. Drake; they belonged to Harry, and he needed to become comfortable in it.
"Remember to write, Harry. And remember what I've taught you. You're welcome to stay with me during the holidays," Mr. Drake admonished.
"I will," Harry vowed, not wanting to let his mentor down. "I'll miss you."
Mr. Drake looked down at him fondly. He bent to his knees and met Harry's eyes with his own. "And I you. You are a very special boy, Harry, one I'm proud of. So very proud." He pulled the boy into a hug, saying his goodbye, lending him strength. Whatever Harry needed. It was something he had always given to Harry, making up for the Dursley's inability to look beyond the fact he was a wizard.
Pulling back, Mr. Drake gave him one last smile. With his trademark salute, he left the carriage. "Be seeing you, Harry."
Harry blinked back tears as Mr. Drake left him. And then he took a deep breath, squaring his shoulders. Mr. Drake had taken him in and taught him the basics of what he thought Harry would need to know. Yes, Harry was a wizard, but it did not mean the skills learned over the last couple of years would not translate over. If nothing else, Mr. Drake's insistence on learning as much as he could before making a decision would do him well.
Settling into his seat, he peered out the window, looking at the mill of the crowd on the platform, taking in the sights and sounds of this hidden world that was now his own. For the longest time, no one entered his carriage, giving Harry time to calm himself while observing everyone else. Eventually, he pulled a book out of his trunk. He would wait to see whom – if anyone – decided to join him. He couldn't help but think there had to be a better way of introducing children like him to the wizarding world than this.
"Excuse me, may I sit in here?" a hesitant voice interrupted his thoughts. He turned his head and saw a young girl standing in the doorway.
"Of course," he replied with a small grin. She returned his smile, and entered. He helped her with her luggage and sat back down.
"My name is Susan Bones," she introduced herself.
"Harry Potter." He noted that she looked a bit startled, her eye going towards his scar. He wondered if everyone would do that. Happily, she did not ask any questions about the night his parents died. Both he and Mr. Drake had noticed that the books regarding the reign of Voldemort waxed poetic about something no one knew about. They had prepared a few statements of how he would respond, should someone be so gauche as to ask. Harry hoped he would not have to use any of them. He suspected he would have to though.
Susan seemed to sense his unease, and launched into a short speech about herself and her life in the wizarding world. He learned that like him, she was an orphan and lived with her aunt, who worked for the Ministry with the aurors. In turn, he shared a bit about his life, glossing over his life with the Dursleys, and instead focusing on all that Mr. Drake had given to him. He thought that Mr. Drake might like Susan's aunt, if he didn't dislike the government and its officials so much.
By the time the train departed King's Cross, their compartment had gained three others: a set of twins, Parvati and Padma Patil, and another boy, Neville Longbottom. Of them all, only Harry had not grown up in the wizarding world. Neville lived with his grandmother, and the Patils with their parents. To Harry's relief, they all seemed nervous about attending Hogwarts, even having grown up with magic. They took the time to explain the basics of the wizarding world to him, something he appreciated because it gave him a viewpoint that didn't come from books.
Harry enjoyed his trip to Hogwarts. The only situation that marred it, was when a rather spoiled young boy barged in, demanding an introduction. Flanked by two others, he thrust a hand out. "I've heard that Harry Potter is in here. My name is Draco Malfoy."
Harry exchanged a look with the others in his compartment, before standing. "I'm Harry," he stated cautiously. He recognized the surname as belonging to one of Voldemort's supporters, who had avoided jail because of being under something called the imperious curse. Most of the history books he had read, insisted that Mr. Malfoy was an unfortunate victim of Voldemort. However, it seemed that many of Mr. Malfoy's associates suffered from the same misfortune. It could be mere coincidence, but Harry thought, and Mr. Drake agreed, that it seemed unlikely. Harry knew he needed to play this very carefully. He shook Malfoy's hand, wondering if he would introduce his two companions. He did not.
"You know Potter, not all wizarding families are the right sort. I can introduce you to them," he officiously offered.
"Thank you," Harry said politely. "I appreciate that your help, but Susan, Parvati, Padma and Neville have already offered me help, and I've accepted. But if I have any questions they can't answer, I'll come to you."
Malfoy flushed pink – in embarrassment? Or anger? Harry couldn't tell. "Fine," he bit out. He seemed to hesitate a moment, before taking a look at Susan. He must have seen something in her face, because he turned around and left.
"Harry…" Susan began cautiously, exchanging a look with Neville. "be careful around Malfoy. His father supported You-Know-Who."
He nodded in reply. "I don't want to antagonize anyone yet." He gave them a crooked grin. "Now, you were telling me about wizarding candy?" and he steered the conversation back to one less fraught with tension.
Hogwarts was a beautiful sight. All around Harry, his fellow first year students looked with mouths agape. He had not really seen any castles growing up, but even if he had, he suspected Hogwarts would still eclipse them. "It's beautiful," he muttered to Susan, who stood next to him. She nodded in agreement.
Miss McGonagall greeted them at the entrance, introducing herself as Professor McGonagall, Transfiguration teacher and head of Gryffindor House. She looked and sounded as stern as Harry remembered. She gave a tight smile as she explained that they would each be sorted into one of four Houses. Harry paid close attention to her, and his surroundings. He wanted to make sure that he could learn whatever he could from her – both by what she said, and what she didn't say.
A few minutes later, she led them into the Great Hall. Harry looked up in awe at the ceiling. If this was what magic could do, it was incredible! He overheard one of his future classmates talking about how Hogwarts: A History said it was charmed to mirror the actual sky. '
Once they reached the front of the room, they gathered around a stool with an old hat on top of it. This, apparently, was how they would be sorted. Harry wondered if the entire wizarding world was so quaint – especially when it started to sing.
As Professor McGonagall called up each of his classmates, Harry closed his eyes, taking a deep breath to calm himself. He waited patiently for his own name to be called, and once it was, he walked confidently to the front, trying his best to ignore the increased whispering that followed. He smiled nervously at Professor McGonagall, who nodded her head slightly in acknowledgment. He sat, and the Hat descended on his head.
'Ah… Harry Potter. So many people are interested to see what House you're sorted into. Let's see… aren't you a sly little thing? So very, very clever. Full of thirst, to prove yourself, but also for knowledge. Brave… oh yes, very brave, but only for what you believe in. Where to put you?'
'Please, Hat. I would like Gryffindor or Ravenclaw,' Harry requested.
'Are you sure? Slytherin would suit you, help you prove yourself to your aunt and uncle,' the Hat wheedled.
'I'm certain,' Harry told it firmly.
'Gryffindor wouldn't suit you – but then… you knew that.' It remained quite for a moment. 'Very well, young Potter. You're for…' Ravenclaw! it shouted.
Harry smiled as he stood from the stool, placing the Hat back on the stool. Both he and Mr. Drake had known getting into Gryffindor was a long shot, but Ravenclaw was a nice second choice. He joined his cheery Housemates, smiling as he sat next to Padma, who had been sorted there earlier. He was glad to have at least someone he knew in the same House as him. He didn't know what the future would bring, but he rather thought she could become a friend. He hoped so, at least.
By the time the Welcoming Feast had ended, Harry was both exhausted and full of good food. He sleepily followed his House to their dorms, doing his best to memorize the path. Given how big the castle was, he knew if would take some time for him to learn his way around. The prefects gave them a short speech, before sending them to bed. Before he went to sleep, Harry wrote a short letter to Mr. Drake, letting him know what had happened this night. Yawning, he climbed into bed. He was sure that tomorrow would be a long day.
That night, back at No. 6 Privet Drive, Drake wondered how Harry would deal with being along at Hogwarts, without Drake there to offer advice. He didn't know the wizarding world, and even if he learned as much as he could, he still won't know it. Harry would have to make his own decisions, using the skills Drake taught him these last two years.
He just hoped the boy was ready.
Author's Note: This ends the first arc. I will be returning to this 'verse with the exploits and Harry and co. in the future. However, I have a list of fics that I need to finish first, before I even think about writing the next part.