An AU of a Sixth Year AU Story: What would have happened if two liberal American druids had taken Harry to America, before returning with him to Hogwarts? In this chapter, we see the Sorting, and ...
"Firs' years! Firs years over here!" Hagrid called out. The four friends made their way through the crowd towards the huge man. Neville, Ron, and Hermione looked up at Hagrid with amazement.
Harry smiled, and introduced his friends to Hagrid as they passed by him. Harry had wondered about his parents' attitude towards Hogwarts, and Britain in general. His concerns had been partially laid to rest when Hagrid had first made his way past their house on the way to the pubs. Even the slightly disturbing Moody had greeted the huge being with an honest welcome, and both Henry and Tabitha treated him as a friend, confirming Harry's opinion of the man formed at Diagon Alley back on his birthday.
"Nice ta meet the three o' ya," Hagrid said with a warm smile. "Run along now, Harry. Firs' years get a special trip to the castle."
Harry smiled up at Hagrid and moved on, his wild hair parting over his forehead for a moment. Draco Malfoy frowned as he realized who 'Henry Evans' really was.
"No more than four to a boat!" Hagrid called out. The four friends made their way into one, Ron jumping into it in a way that made Hermione roll her eyes. Harry and Neville helped her in, and then they helped Neville in, while Harry jumped in last.
"Right then Every one in? Forward!"
The boats glided over the smooth water, and all the students looked up as the castle came into view. Nearly all were struck by the power and beauty of the scene before them.
The First years were gathered near a set of huge doors, waiting for Professor McGonagall to come back and fetch them in for the Sorting. Draco took the opportunity to confront Harry.
"Henry Evans you said," he nearly spat. "You're Harry Potter, aren't you?" A murmur went through the group.
"What's it to you, whoever you are," Ron said, turning around and scowling at Malfoy. Neville immediately went to Harry's other side. Hermione glanced behind them, saw nobody threatening, but still stood just behind Harry and Ron, keeping an eye on their backs.
"No need to even ask who you are," Draco sneered as Crabbe and Goyle came to back him up. "Red-hair, second-hand robes. You must be a Weasley." Draco's eyes flicked over at Neville. "I know who you are, too."
"And Ron and I know who and what you and your two goons are," Neville sneered back, "and aren't, for that matter." The Malfoys were rich, and had been a prominent Pure-Blood family for some 800 years, making them a few hundred years younger than the Longbottoms, Weasleys, and Potters. The Goyles were almost as old as the Malfoys, and the Crabbes younger.
Draco caught the implications, and so turned his attention to the Fourth member of the Quartet. "And what are you? Some Half-blood?"
"My parents are dentists," Hermione said from behind Harry, confused.
"Muggles!?" Malfoy said with contempt. "Mud. . . ."
"Do not finish that statement, Mister Malfoy," Professor McGonagall commanded, coming up behind him, "unless you wish to be greeted by your new Housemates having to explain the loss of fifty points." Draco backed down, and McGonagall led them into the Great Hall.
Harry had heard of the Great Hall, but the ceiling of the outside sky was still quite amazing to see. He smiled to himself as he heard Hermione explaining it to Neville.
Harry was expecting the Sorting Hat of course, but he wasn't expecting its song. It made him all the more determined not to be sorted into Slytherin. Gryffindor sounded best, with Ravenclaw a nice second.
Harry watched with some interest as the students were Sorted. He noted that the two boys who had stood with Malfoy had been Sorted into Slytherin more quickly than most of the decisions had been made so far.
Hermione went eagerly to the Hat, anxious to really experience some magic. She jammed the Hat down over her head.
"Watch it," a soft voice said in her ear, "I don't need any more tears in me."
"Sorry," Hermione whispered.
"Let's see. A fine, no, an extraordinary mind. I haven't seen one this fine in over fifty years, maybe longer. Bravery and dedication, drive and ambition. I could almost put you in any House."
"Not Slytherin," she whispered.
"No," the Hat agreed, "not Slytherin, although that's their loss, not yours. I rather think you might upset the balance in Hufflepuff. That leaves two equal choices. . . ." The Hat thought about this class. Only the Headmaster knew that the Hat was powerful enough to get an approximate reading on the entire group of First years by the time they stood in front of the dias. It usually knew where at least three quarters of the class would go before the first child put the Hat on. But where should Hermione Granger go? She would shine with honor in Ravenclaw, but if the other Sortings went as the Hat thought they would, she would be more useful in. . . .
Hermione's thanks showed the Hat it had likely been right.
Three months before, Neville Longbottom had been slightly worried about being invited to attend Hogwarts at all. Now he walked with confidence to the Hat and placed it on his head.
The Hat was silent for a moment, amazed at the recent changes that had occurred in the boy. Had it been asked to Sort him before the changes, it would have been a close call. The boy was by nature brave and powerful, but that had been overshadowed by the mis-cast Obliviation spell, which had left him weak, timid, and forgetful. He might have needed the support of Hufflepuff instead of the rough-and-tumble of Gryffindor. Now, however, it was clear.
The Hat had sensed Draco Malfoy's arrogance long before the boy put the Hat on. Left totally to its own devices, the Hat would have assigned him to Gryffindor, just to have that arrogance knocked down a few pegs for the boy's own good. However, there were some choices pre-programmed into it, and the Hat had no choice. So, as soon as it could, it shouted, "SLYTHERIN!"
The Hat could 'hear' the echoes of the thoughts and murmurs that greeted that name. It thought this might be the hardest decision of the night. It settled around the boy's head and looked. "Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either, very well-trained and knowledgeable already. There's talent, oh, my, yes -- talent and power and a nice thirst to prove yourself. Now, I could put you anywhere, but. . . ."
"Not Slytherin," Harry whispered.
"Not Slytherin, you say? Are you sure? You could be great, you know, and Slytherin would help you on the way to greatness."
'NOT SLYTHERIN,' Harry thought, with such a burst of power that the Hat was almost singed.
"No," the Hat hurriedly said, anxious to appease this wizard, who was even more powerful than it had realized, "not Slytherin, or Ravenclaw for that matter. You need to have some edges smoothed. You need . . . GRYFFINDOR!"
Harry smiled and handed the Hat to Professor McGonagall and joined the cheering table. He sat down next to a ghost he had seen earlier and across from Hermione and Neville. He exchanged waves with Ron's twin older brothers and with Percy, and watched the rest of the Sorting with interest.
The Hat sighed. "Another Weasley, and the same batch of Weasleys at that! Let's see, just another one left, and at least this one will be a girl. Haven't had one of them for a long time. As for you, I hope you have no objections to GRYFFINDOR!"
After a few odd words from Dumbledore, they went straight to feast. There was just one thing that bothered Harry throughout the meal -- his scar was twinging, something that had never really happened before. At one point, it was so painful that it drew Percy's attention.
Harry had noticed one thing about the pains: they were worse when he was facing a pair of professors. "Percy, who are those two professors? The one with the greasy hair and the nervous one in the turban?"
"The one in the turban is Professor Quirrell. He teaches Defense, and he should be nervous. The other one is Professor Snape, who teaches Potions. He fancies the Defense position himself. He certainly has a reputation for Dark Arts, but that might just because he's the Head of Slytherin."
When the feast was over, Dumbledore rose and made some genuine announcements. Harry already had been told that entering the forest could be dangerous, and, like many of the students, he was confused by the threat of 'a painful death' should anyone enter a now-forbidden corridor. Along with more general announcement, Dumbledore also announced that study groups in the Old Belief would be available to Second years and above on Saturdays. Harry was unsurprised to learn that his parents (he still thought of Henry and Tabitha as his parents) and Tom Lawrence would be three of the six discussion leaders. After singing the school song and listening to such other announcements that there were, the school dispersed to their Houses.
Harry was glad to fall into the huge bed. It had been a tiring day.
That night, Harry had a dream -- he was wearing Professor Quirrell's turban, which kept telling him he should transfer to Slytherin. Harry had been well-coached by his adoptive mother, who was an expert Dreamwalker. She had awakened the same powers within Harry. When he turned his full mind on the dream, the turban turned into a snake and fled.
Harry let himself drift down into a deeper sleep.
"My goodness!" Hermione said the next morning, as a large flock of owls flew into the great hall.
"Mail," Ron said simply. He turned back to his large breakfast, while Neville and Harry went back to coaxing Hermione into trying pumpkin juice instead of complaining about the absence of orange or apple juice.
Harry had never experienced a regular meal at Hogwarts, of course, and therefore didn't realize that the murmurings were especially loud this morning.
"Err . . . Harry?" Percy interrupted Harry's last bite of sausage.
"You might want to take a gander at today's Daily Prophet."
Harry looked, and his face lost color. "Oh, sh . . . drat."
The entire front page was devoted to Harry, as were two more of the twelve-page paper. There were eighteen photos of Harry, and his three friends and all their pets, spread over the three pages.
"Wonder why they used Muggle photos?" Neville asked.
"They shot all of these at the train station but not on the Platform," Ron said with a frown. "Could they take these without some sort of flash powder?" He turned to Hermione. "Magical photos need charmed film and usually some sort of flash to activate it."
"If they used the right type of film they could have," Hermione affirmed. Harry was still speechless with shock and a little anger.
"'Hero of the Wizarding World Returns,'" Draco quoted from behind the group, a sneer in his voice. "'Harry Potter, with Neville Longbottom, Ronald Weasley, and an unidentified witch. . . .' That's you, Mudbl. . . ." Malfoy didn't finish his sentence as Neville, who had been in the best position, elbowed the Slytherin right in the testicles.
Harry turned around sharply, as if to see what had happened. His elbow caught Malfoy right on the ear. Malfoy stumbled, and tripped over Ron's suddenly-extended right foot and crashed onto the floor. "Your friend isn't feeling very well," Harry told Goyle. "Maybe you should take him to the Infirmary."
Goyle sized up his chances and hauled the moaning Draco to his feet while Crabbe covered their retreat.
The three smiling boys turned and lost their smile as they saw the expressions on Percy and Hermione's faces. "Don't get into the habit of doing that," Percy warned, standing behind Hermione. "Do it again, and it will be points. I'm only letting you off this time because there were three of them, because you didn't escalate the confrontation, and because it was obvious what he was going to say. Understand?"
The three boys nodded. Ron was even a little surprised that Percy was being so reasonable.
"What was he going to say?" Hermione asked. "It was what he was trying to say last night, wasn't it?"
"We don't use that word," Parvati Patil said primly.
"It shows that Malfoy isn't nearly as well-bred as he likes to think he is," Lavender Brown agreed.
"But what is it?" Hermione insisted.
"He was going to say Mudblood," Ron said, bringing a small gasp from the students around them.
"What does that mean?"
"It means dirty blood," Seamus said with a snarl.
"Heritage means a lot to some of the older families, and families that wish they were old," George Weasley said, leaning over and nearly crushing two Second year girls. "Most of the oldest families left for America, the Old Believers and druids and such that Dumbledore was talking about last night."
"Like my mother's, adoptive mother's, family," Harry added.
"A few of the really old families are still around. Some don't even associate with these Pure-Bloods like the Malfoys," George went on. "The rest, well, they like to claim they're Pure-Bloods, but I doubt there are many who don't have a Muggle in the family tree somewhere."
"Malfoys are like the old Muggle aristocracy a hundred years ago," Seamus added for Hermione and Dean's benefit. "They have money and ancestry and not much else."
"The Malfoys are only some eight or nine hundred years old," George continued. "The Weasleys, Longbottoms, and Potters are a few hundred years older."
"My father's estate has been in our family since 811," Neville said proudly.
"Most of us don't care about such things," Fred joined in. "The ones who do are mostly in Slytherin, but even they're not all Pure-Bloods."
"And again, even most Pure-Bloods aren't," George reminded them. "Muggle-born are, well, what Malfoy tried to say. Seamus here, and even Harry, would be considered Half-Bloods. If all four of your grandparents were magical, then you're a Full Blood. If you can go back six generations, then you're supposed to be 'pure.'"
"And again, most of us consider it all nonsense," Fred stated firmly.
"I should certainly hope so," McGonagall stated firmly. "I shall have none of that nonsense in my House." She frowned at the First years, and paused from handing out their schedules. "Is there a problem?"
"No, Professor," Fred said quickly.
"We were just explaining the attitudes found in a very different House," George said with a nod towards the Slytherin table.
"Very well. Here are the First year schedules."
The first week of classes kept Harry very busy. There wasn't much homework yet, but all the First years had to learn how to navigate the castle. The Gryffindor and Ravenclaw first years had some trouble with Peeves, while the Hufflepuffs seemed to have the greatest trouble with the moving (and disappearing) stairs. Few of the students, other than the prefects, would help the Slytherins (neither would most of the portraits). Fred and George managed to direct all the First year Slytherins into a girls' toilet haunted by a very mournful ghost. The Ravenclaws had the least trouble, as their older House members gave them the most honest and complete directions. Some of the Gryffindors (especially Fred and George) and nearly all the Slytherins enjoyed misdirecting their own First years nearly as much as the others'.
Ron and Neville were very happy to be friends with Harry and Hermione. One or the other, if not both, usually could be counted on for having the answer in class. Ron did find Hermione's superior tone slightly grating at times, but simply dealt with it by keeping Harry or Neville, if not both of them, between himself and the girl. Hermione tried to keep herself between the boys and the walls of the corridor, as Malfoy, his friends, and now some of the Second and Third year Slytherins had started teasing her about her rather prominent front teeth whenever they could whisper it at her.
Friday, the First year Gryffindors came to the class that Harry and Hermione were most looking forward to: Potions. The twins had warned them, however, that although Professor Snape certainly knew his subject, he was the most partisan teacher on the staff. He especially had it in for Gryffindors, and most especially Weasleys.
When Percy was appealed to, even he acknowledged that Snape was certainly overly-strict, especially towards Gryffindors. He hadn't detected any anti-Weasley bias, at least not towards himself. The First years understood by now why any teacher might have a bias against the twins.
Right off the start, Snape showed his colors, as he said, when calling Harry's name on the roll, "Ah, yes. Harry Potter, our new -- celebrity." When he finished the roll, he said to the class in general, "You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making. As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep though human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses. . . . I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death -- if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach."
Harry frowned. He had been enthralled by the speech until that last comment.
"Potter!" Snape called out, having seen the frown. "What would I get if I added the powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
"In the right proportions, that could either make the Potion of Living Death, or a mild hallucinogenic," Harry answered.
Snape look startled, as did the rest of the class, even Hermione. Finally, Snape said, "That's the Draught of the Living Death, and I never heard of such an alternative use. . . ."
"It's quite common in African and Caribbean shamanistic. . . ."
"SILENCE! That's two points for your smart mouth, Potter! Open it again and that will be ten more!"
Harry kept silent.
Although he knew quite well he did everything perfectly, Snape did not comment on Harry's simple potion for boils. Hermione also did everything correctly, but Snape barely glanced at her technique. Instead, he praised Draco Malfoy, whom Harry thought was only slightly above average.
"What is it, Potter?" Snape snarled as he marked Harry and Ron's perfect potion an 8 out of 10. He had given Malfoy's watery potion a 9.
"Nothing, sir," Harry managed through clenched teeth.
Snape nodded at Harry's discomfort and turned to the class. Harry and Ron's had been the last one graded. "Well, at least you all managed not to melt any cauldrons. Congratulations." Snape had vanished any potion marked less than an 8. Another wave of his wand bottled the remaining contents of the cauldrons, three bottles per cauldron. "None of the potions were quite up to the level we would need in the Infirmary. You may, however, keep the remaining bottles yourselves. While hexes are severely punished if done in class, and in the corridors for that matter, they are not unheard of elsewhere. Boils seem to be a popular and easily-learned hex, so you may wish to keep these handy. Class dismissed."
"Why are you so angry?" Ron asked Harry as he strode in seething, though quiet, fury through the halls. Ron, Neville, and especially Hermione were hard-pressed to keep up. Harry stopped and turned on them. "There was nothing wrong with my technique or our potion," Harry said in an angry hiss. "Eight of ten. I've made harder potions than this. I mean, this wasn't even a very good potion for boils!"
"Harry," Hermione said, trying to a voice of reason, "even if it's not the best potion for boils, it probably is the easiest, and we needed to start off with something easy."
"That's true," Harry admitted calming down, "but then why give us all eight of ten when ours turned out correctly, and then give Malfoy a nine of ten for one that was too runny?"
"I suggest you keep your comments to yourself, Potter," Snape spat from over their shoulders, "or at least keep them inside your common area. That's five more points from Gryffindor." Snape gave the quartet a smirk and left them.