In 1991, Quirrell is ordered to attack Harry directly. As a result, the Boy-Who-Lived will never be alone in the fight again.
Some say there's supposed to be a bright light, after you die. A beautiful white light that shines with all the love and goodness in the world, and welcomes you into its embrace, to bask in it for all eternity.
Many have asked Harry Potter, in the years since his drowning at the hands and wand of a Death Eater, whether he remembers such a light. But try as hard as he might, he is never able to summon up more than the terror of that moment, the memory of the spell, and the pain of the capsized boat striking him unconscious. He doesn't remember being resuscitated by the muggleborn Hermione Granger, not merely once, but twice; nor does he recall the panic of Hogwarts' professors at the near-death of one of their students.
In fact, to this day he claims that the only bright light he saw during that time was the rather painful light of Hogwarts' Hospital Wing, upon his awakening...
-an excerpt from Wings From the Waters, written by Frank Miraklen, Historian of the Order of the Phoenix
Even before he opened his eyes, Harry knew doing so would be a mistake. The light shone down through his lids, painting his featureless world a brilliant crimson, but even so, he forced his eyes open, flinching back as the light flooded them.
"Oh, thank Merlin, he's awake!" he heard a relieved voice exclaim. "Poppy! Poppy, he's awake!" Hurried footsteps followed the words as he tried to blink tears from his eyes, as though someone were rushing to his side.
Gentle hands brushed away his tears, and Harry felt a rush of gratitude as whoever they belonged to leaned over him, blocking out the light. "Mr. Potter, can you hear me?" a non-nonsense female voice asked him quietly, but nevertheless making him wince as the sound echoed around his skull. He nodded gingerly, not sure his head would stay on his shoulders otherwise.
His eyesight finally cleared, showing him a woman's face bent over him. Fine wrinkles graced the corners of her brown eyes and thin lips, smile and frown lines in equal abundance, and her iron-gray hair was confined under a stern square cap.
"Well now, Mr. Potter, I do believe you are the first student to end up under my care before the Sorting had even taken in place," she told him, her voice crisp but not quite unsympathetic.
It was only then that he really noticed he was lying on a soft bed, and that his head and chest hurt something terrible. "What... what happened?" he tried to ask, cringing as he burst into a fit of coughing.
"Your boat capsized and smacked you a good one upside the head," the lady told him, helping him sit up so he could breathe more easily. "I've never thought those things were safe, but it's /tradition/, and Albus wouldn't hear of changing it. Now, take a good deep breath."
She listened as he complied, and tutted when they both heard the damp rasping. "The water damaged your lungs. You'd best take it easy over the next couple of weeks. Can't have you overstraining yourself and coming down with an infection, now can we, Mr. Potter?"
"We most certainly can not." Harry looked over at the doorway to see Headmaster Dumbledore standing there, smiling at him. A second, severe-looking witch in emerald-green robes was at his shoulder. "Hello, Harry."
"Er, hullo, sir," Harry replied, nervous butterflies fluttering in his stomach. "Um, I'm sorry about this..."
"Nonsense, dear boy! 'Twasn't your fault at all." Dumbledore moved to his bedside. "Poppy, might I speak with your patient for a few moments?" he inquired of the iron-haired woman.
Poppy gave Harry a long, reluctant look. "Not for too long, now. And if you tire him out I'll have more than a few choice words for you." With a brisk nod, the two women left the room.
"How do you feel, Harry?" the elderly wizard asked.
"I'm fine, sir," Harry replied, his automatic reaction to any such question.
"Is that so?" Dumbledore looked at him, one fluffy white eyebrow raised, and the boy flushed.
"My... my head hurts," he admitted quietly. "And my chest aches, especially when I breathe."
The Headmaster nodded, silent for the moment. "Harry, I need you to tell me just what happened," he finally said. "I have already spoken with Hagrid, but he tells me you were the first to see the curse coming towards you."
Harry nodded and took what was meant to be a deep breath, but turned into a shallow one as his lungs throbbed. The wizard waited patiently as he coughed a few times. "I... I was looking at the moon's reflection, in the water, and then I saw the reflection of this bright purple light coming towards us. I wasn't sure it wasn't a trick of the light, so I looked up, and when it was still there I yelled for Hagrid." He frowned. "And then... then I remember it hitting the boat, the sound of wood cracking, and then nothing."
"I see. Then you saw nothing in the direction the Blasting Curse came from?" Dumbledore seemed disappointed when Harry shook his head. "Ah, well. 'Twas only a hope."
Harry bit his lip. "Um, sir? What happens now?"
The Headmaster pondered for a few seconds. "Well, I imagine Madame Pomfrey will be wanting to keep you overnight, just to make sure there aren't any complications. After that..." He clapped his hands together. "But of course! You missed the Sorting! We'll need to bring the Hat out again so it can sort you into your house."
The boy blinked. "...Hat, sir?"
Dumbledore nodded. "The Sorting Hat. I'll bring it by later tonight."
A throat cleared, and they both looked up to see Poppy standing there with her hands on her hips. "That's quite long enough, Albus. Mr. Potter still needs to get lunch and a few potions inside of him, and then if he doesn't get some rest he'll be here for much longer than tonight."
Dumbledore sighed, but got up all the same. "Of course. Please, no sleeping potions. He still needs to be sorted sometime this evening." The mediwitch made a disgruntled noise, but nodded all the same, and the old wizard gave Harry one last smile before leaving the room.
It was only a minute before the mediwitch was bustling over with a tray. A steaming bowl of stew was placed in front of him, and a hunk of bread rested beside it to sop up the juices with. A moment before Harry hadn't been hungry at all; now he was ravenous, and fell on the food with the appetite only a growing boy could have.
It wasn't until he'd finished that he reached up to push his glasses back on his nose. Even after having had the same frame for going on four years now, they were still just a bit too large for his face, and were forever slipping down until he nearly drove himself cross-eyed trying to see through them. This time, though, as he performed what had long ago become habit, Harry froze. "Madam Pomfrey?"
"Yes, Mr. Potter?" she called back from a little anteroom that he supposed was her office.
"I think there's something wrong!"
There was a pause, but then like lightning the mediwitch was at his side. "I can see!" Harry told her, a note of panic in his voice.
Madam Pomfrey blinked at him. "Well, I should hope so! Why in the world-?"
For the first time in his life, Harry interrupted an adult. "But where are my /glasses/!"
When Harry finally sank back in bed later that night, he almost wished he hadn't said anything. Madam Pomfrey had run every test imaginable on him, and except for the damage in his lungs and the still-tender spot on his temple, each and every one of them had come back normal. They still had no idea why his eyes had gotten better, and the mediwitch was seriously considering calling in a professional from a place called St. Mungo's to come take a look at him.
Harry hoped she wouldn't. He was already causing enough of a fuss, and he wanted nothing more than to just sink back into the background for a while. Part of the furor was undoubtedly because he was the first student to die, however temporarily, in Hogwarts in decades, but he had a feeling the rest was because of the whole Boy-Who-Lived thing Hagrid had told him about.
Celebrity wasn't all it was cracked up to be. So far, he'd been stared at like a bug under a microscope and nearly drowned by someone they still hadn't caught yet. Madam Pomfrey had said something about Aurors scouring the lakeside for clues (he guessed Aurors were something like bobbies), but that they hadn't found anything useful.
The door to the Hospital Wing opened, and Dumbledore stepped in, cradling a tattered gray hat beneath one arm. "Hello again, my boy. No visitors?" He looked around, as though trying to spot someone hiding behind one of the antiseptically-white beds.
Harry shook his head. "Madam Pomfrey hasn't been letting anyone in."
"Ah." The Headmaster moved to his bedside. "This shouldn't take long. Let's find out where you belong, shall we?" He pulled the Hat out and handed it to the boy. "Just put this on."
Harry took the Hat nervously, his hands trembling just a bit, and slipped it on. It was much too big for him, and fell over his eyes. He was staring into the darkness, waiting for something to happen, when the Hat spoke.
What's this, then? Mr. Potter, is it? Well, let's see what to make of you. Hmm. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either. Talent, oh yes, and a thirst to prove yourself... Where to put you? And...
It paused, there in his mind, looking at something he couldn't see. Oh, my... Oh... Harry couldn't help but wonder what in the world could stun a hat so, let alone something in him.
Oh. This is a pretty fix. Slytherin would have been best. It would have made you great, perhaps the greatest of all...
But I don't want to be great, Harry wanted to protest. He just wanted to be left alone, like the Dursleys had never let him be. They'd hated him, belittled him, and far too often had treated him more like the furniture, but the worst part he'd always found to be the way they'd never stopped watching him. Growing up, he'd always felt their eyes on him, just waiting for him to do something freakish.
Is that so, then? the Hat murmured, and Harry jumped. He'd forgotten it was listening to his thoughts. Perhaps it's for the best then that, the circumstances being what they are, I cannot in good conscience put you in the house of serpents. No, I think it better that you be in GRYFFINDOR!
The last word was yelled out loud, and when Harry removed the Hat Dumbledore was smiling. "Well, there was little doubt of that!" the old man said, his eyes twinkling as he took the Hat back.
Harry thought about telling him what the Hat had said, about how Slytherin would have been best, but Dumbledore seemed so pleased... Finally, he decided to keep his mouth shut, but as the Headmaster carried the Hat away, he couldn't help but wonder.
Why had the Hat changed its mind?
Author's Note: This is the end of what had already been written. Future chapters will be posted as they're finished.