In 1991, Quirrell is ordered to attack Harry directly. As a result, the Boy-Who-Lived will never be alone in the fight again.
Hagrid lifted the girl from the water, dropping her gently into the boat pulled alongside. Even as he turned away, another student draped his cloak about her shoulders.
Frowning, the half-giant anxiously surveyed the water for the last of his charges. "'Arry?" he called, a note of concern roughening his voice.
Abruptly he stopped, as something large loomed beneath the surface of the lake. Most of the first-years flinched back as the giant squid broke through into the air, a limp form held tightly in one tentacle. Carefully, the squid deposited the boy into the same boat that held the waterlogged girl, and despite the fact the little boat was sitting dangerously low in the water under their combined weights, Hagrid breathed a sigh of relief.
One that he almost instantly regretted, as a few seconds later the shivering Muggleborn bent over Harry and gasped. "He's not breathing!" she cried.
Hagrid's heart seemed to stop in his chest.
Dazedly, he watched the girl check his tiny friend's pulse. After a few moments, she smiled in relief. "His heart's still beating. All of you, get out of the way!" she ordered, glaring at the other occupants of the boat. They hurried to obey as she stretched the boy out flat on the floor and, to their surprise, put her mouth to his.
"'Ere, now, what are ye doin'?!" Hagrid indignantly asked her, nearly standing up in his own overloaded craft and tipping it over before he remembered he wasn't on dry land.
The first-year came up for air long enough to direct her glare towards him and speak a few words. "I'm saving his /life/. Now, if you don't mind..." Almost instantly she was back at her task, and the half-giant was amazed to see little Harry's chest rise and fall with every breath the girl took.
Then the Boy-Who-Lived was coughing weakly, and the Muggleborn was helping him sit up and pounding him on the back as most of the students, plus one groundskeeper, gaped in shock. "Easy, easy..." she murmured to him, looking relieved.
Harry stared at her with glazed green eyes, and all those present received the distinct impression that he wasn't entirely there yet. That feeling was born out as his eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed once again.
Minerva McGonagall paced just outside the entrance to the Great Hall, wondering just what was keeping Hagrid with the first years. They were running several minutes late, and that simply wasn't like the man. He knew what it meant that Albus trusted him with the safety of the children...
Then there was a shout and the sound of hurried footsteps coming from down the corridor, and her eyes widened as they took in the sight of Rubeus Hagrid practically running towards her, carrying a tiny figure in his massive arms. "Hagrid, what-"
"No time, Professor!" he shouted as he strode past her. "We need ta get 'arry to the 'ospital Wing /now/!"
/Harry/... Damn it all, why did that name set off alarm bells in her mind? On automatic, she called out for the small herd of first years that followed Hagrid to stay with her, even as she watched him disappear around a corner with troubled eyes.
"Oh, I hope he'll be all right..." a small first-year with bushy brown hair murmured next to her.
"What happened?" the confused Transfigurations teacher asked her, wondering what the hell was going on.
The girl looked up at her, a worried frown firmly in place. "Something hit our boat, a spell, I think, but it wasn't in the first year texts, or the second or third, so I don't know which, and-" She visibly stopped and calmed herself. "But, the boat flipped over, and I guess it hit his head, because he went under, and /drowned/..."
"/What/?!" Minerva breathed out, stunned. "Oh, Merlin..."
"No, no, it's all right!" the girl said, stopping her before she could follow her first impulse to rush off after the groundskeeper. "I got him to start breathing again, he'll be okay as long as he doesn't stop again like he did when we got to the dock..." She suddenly blinked. "Erm, the doctor here does know CPR, right?"
Even if she had known what cardio-pulmonary resuscitation was, Minerva couldn't have answered. For only now had the meaning, and the connotations, of the name Harry sunk into her brain.
"Oh, Merlin," she said again, paling.
Severus hid a wince as a particularly shrill squeal made itself heard from somewhere over by the Hufflepuff table. He gritted his teeth and glared at the adolescent females responsible, rather futilely as they weren't paying the teachers' table any mind whatsoever as they caught up on the summer's gossip. Idly, he wondered if he might somehow concoct a potion version of the Babbling Curse using their flapping tongues.
And what the bloody hell was keeping Minerva? The woman was never late, any more than he himself was. Unless that oaf Hagrid had managed to bollocks things up... Fuming, the Slytherin professor winced at another piercing sound made it to his ears, and glowered at the Hall's enormous doors. The longer she took to get here, the more time he would have to spend in the company of these brats...
As if on cue, the doors swung ponderously open, and Minerva strode in, the group of first-years filing in behind her. Following her usual, time-honored route, she walked up between the student tables, but Severus frowned as he observed an unaccustomed note of haste in her step.
A buzz rose from throughout the Hall as, unlike in previous years, Professor McGonagall didn't stop by the stool that held the Sorting Hat. Instead, the strict woman kept going as the new students milled around uncertainly in the aisle. The Head of Gryffindor continued on and around the table to Albus's side, where she bent and began murmuring into his ear.
The buzz of whispering voices grew louder as the Headmaster paled, and Severus felt a pang of concern. But then, after a moment of thought, the old wizard nodded and said something back to her, gesturing towards the confused first-years. Reluctantly Minerva bowed her head, and returned to the crowd of children to Sort them.
Severus didn't pay the Sorting much attention, though he absently clapped whenever a student was inducted into his house. He was too busy watching his mentor sit in his seat with a deeply worried expression in his blue eyes, even if not in his face. He was so absorbed in this pastime, in fact, that he missed both the sudden presence at his side of the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, who had up until that moment been absent from the ceremony, and the way Minerva McGonagall paused after Sally-Anne Perks was Sorted into Hufflepuff, before going on to call Evelyn Rivers to the Hat.
A few of the students noticed, though, and began to speculate, as Quirrell bent his turbaned head to hide a grim smile.
Author's Note: Pairings are yet undecided, and will stay that way until the characters in question are at least past puberty, but this will not be a Harry/Hermione.