Blinded at the age of four, Harry Potter only wants to lead a normal life with his family. On his eleventh birthday, he finds out that he can have anything but...
Harry woke up feeling cold and wet. The ground was pressing against one bare cheek, and he felt the feathery kisses of Hedwig's tongue on the other.
"Harry." A voice that sounded like Hermione's called to him through his dizziness "Harry, are you alright?"
"Come on, Harry." It was Hagrid this time "Yeh got to call off yer pet. We can't help yeh if we can't get near." Confused, the boy tried to focus his inner eye to see what was going on around him. Hissing in pain, he closed himself off from the agonizing glare that seemed to come from the castle. He'd worked himself up to his hands and knees when he felt Hedwig rear up and hiss menacingly at someone nearby.
"It's alright, girl," he whispered. "I'll be safe with them. Go find some dinner in the forest." The Coatl lowered itself down and nuzzled his face momentarily before hissing at the group in general, springing into the sky, and flying out of sight. The moment that the snake was away, he felt Hagrid's huge hands on his shoulders, helping him up.
"What happened, Harry?" the big man asked with concern. "You gave us all quite a fright."
"I..." The boy didn't want to tell anyone about his ability yet; he knew from his reading that it wasn't common among wizards to be able to 'see' magic. He didn't want anyone finding out about it, especially when it didn't seem to be working correctly at the moment. "I...guess I just got over excited. I'm fine now, really."
When Harry dusted himself off he noticed that he was missing the familiar weight of his glasses. He snapped his eyes shut, knowing how people felt about how they looked, and knelt to try and find them.
"Now what's wrong, Harry?" asked Hermione.
He felt her hand on his shoulder as she pulled him back to his feet. "Harry, please believe me, I understand. But it's the middle of the night, and they're waiting for us at the castle. You do have another pair, don't you?"
"In my trunk, but..."
"We just have to make it through the welcome feast and your trunk will be waiting for you in the dormitory." Unhappy with the situation, but unable to argue, he followed the girl, and in a few short minutes the first years made it to the boats and started the final leg of their trip to Hogwarts.
Hagrid tried to make Harry ride with him but repeated reassurances from Hermione and Neville calmed the half giant to the point of letting the boy ride with them. The crossing itself was smooth and only a little unsettling for the raven-haired boy. Other than the initial feeling of acceleration when it started moving, the boat remained perfectly calm in the water. The only other signs of life were the whispers of the other first-years as they approached the ancient castle. It was a relief to Harry when Hagrid called for them all to duck as they entered what sounded like a large cave; at least with the echoing sounds he had a general idea of where the walls were around him.
The boats stopped and, before he could even attempt to get out on his own, Ron Weasley was at his side, forcibly pulling on his arm and trying to lead him onto the dock.
"I've got you, Harry. Don't worry." Far from worried, the raven-haired boy was incensed. He hadn't asked for help; what did this moron think he was doing? Struggling against the overly helpful Weasley boy only caused the boat to begin to rock violently, and Harry started to feel a bit of panic since he'd never learned to swim.
"Stop it!" Hermione pushed herself between the two, trying to separate the boys, but her actions only made the situation worse as the boat suddenly shifted over and dumped Harry, Neville, and Hermione into the water. Ron, seeing the impending disaster, was able to scramble back onto the dock before falling in. Harry was struggling madly to stay above the water, hindered by the sodden robes around him.
"Over here, Potter!" Harry recognised Draco's voice and stretched an arm wildly in his direction. Someone grabbed his hand and pulled him up onto the dock. Moments later Harry, Hermione, and Neville were all huddled together on dry land and given a quick drying charm by a fussing Hagrid.
The half-giant led them all to a set of huge double doors where he knocked three times They immediately opened, and Harry heard all the muttered conversation stop. He was about to ask Hermione what was going on when he heard the familiar, stern voice of Professor McGonagall.
"Welcome to Hogwarts," she said. "The start of term banquet will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you'll be sorted into your houses. The Sorting is a very important ceremony because your house will be something like your family while you are here. As a house you will attend classes, sleep in the same dormitory, and spend your time in your house common room.
The professor went on to explain about the four houses and the point system regarding the house cup. As Harry listened he felt a comforting, familiar weight settle on his shoulder "Hello, girl," he whispered to her as she nuzzled his cheek. He turned his attention back to the deputy headmistress as she wound down her introduction.
"The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes in front of the rest of the school. I suggest you smarten yourselves up as much as you can while you are waiting. I shall return when we are ready for you. Please wait quietly."
Harry used his hands to straighten his robes as much as he could. He knew his hair was hopeless, however, and simply wished he had his glasses. Ron, having missed the drenching the others enjoyed was busily explaining to one of his companions how this just proved that Harry needed to be watched over, as he obviously couldn't take care of himself. This apparently was the last straw for Hermione as she suddenly stormed over to the blathering redhead and began to yell at him.
"A word, Potter." Harry turned, recognising Draco's voice along with the laboured breathing of his two large friends.
"What can I do for you, Draco?" he asked.
"Why didn't you let the Weasel help you at the boats?
"Because I didn't need it," he replied curtly. "Why do you need your goons hanging over your shoulder all the time?"
Harry heard one of the two large boys step forward and tensed himself just as Hedwig did the same. Draco, however, intervened at the last moment. "Crabbe, Goyle, go help Granger torture the Weasel for a bit." The two moved off and the boy and snake relaxed.
"Awfully brave of you, Potter, angering my friends like that without that snake on your shoulder. Where is he anyway?"
Harry was confused and almost reached to pat the snake to reaffirm that it was there, but a warning squeeze from the Coatl stopped him. "I... sent her into the forest to find her some dinner.
The boys stood silent for a moment as some of the other first years were screaming something about ghosts. Draco suddenly asked, "Why don't you like people helping you with anything?"
"You wouldn't understand," said the boy, "but ever since the accident most people treat me like I'm weak or stupid. Like I can't even do the simplest things. I learned to survive in the Muggle world, and if I'm going to learn to do it here, I need to stand on my own feet."
"Right then," said Draco. Pushing something into the boy's hands, he said quietly, "You may not be helpless, but everybody needs a little help sometimes...by the way, I found these on the path; thought you could use them."
Harry examined the object thrust into his hands by the other boy. They were his glasses, and they seemed to be intact. Quickly placing them back on his head, he turned in the direction he'd heard the other boy go. Draco Malfoy, he decided, was a very confusing person.
He was distracted from his thoughts as a door opened and he heard Professor McGonagall call to the students, "Now, form a line. Harry, come here; you'll be sorted first."
After everyone had been put in line, they were marched into another large hall, one that seemed bigger than the one before. From the reactions of his classmates, the sight must be spectacular and Harry wished again that he could still see or that his inner sight would at least work correctly. When they reached the front of the hall, they were all put in another line waiting for something. He heard the wooden scrape of a chair or stool and then more silence for a few moments until somebody suddenly broke out into 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.
In some of us these qualities,
Are much more equally given,
For those that no one house can hold
Shall bear the crest of Merlin
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!
The whole hall burst into applause as the hat finished its song. It bowed to the four tables and became still. Not having been able to see what had happened, Harry still figured out that they were to try on some odd hat to place them in their proper houses. If he had been able to see, he'd have noticed the curious looks passed between the teachers as the hat finished its song and how the twinkle in the headmaster's eyes had doubled.
Harry felt the professor gently take his arm as she led him to the stool. He could hear whispers up and down the hall as everyone strained to get a better look and the gasps as they realized he was blind. After settling himself on the stool, he felt something placed on his head: a hat so big that it rested on the bridge of his nose.
"Hmm," a small voice said into his ear. "Difficult, very difficult. You've an excellent mind, I see, and more than a little bit of courage either. There's talent, yes, and a thirst to prove yourself. You'd do well in any house, but it's your need to understand that drives you. Better be---Ravenclaw!" The whole hall began to clap, but was cut short as the hat continued, "Merlin's crest!"
Harry couldn't see it, but the entire hall had suddenly widened itself by about fifteen feet. New flagstones seemed to boil up directly out of the floor. The four tables were pulled apart, and in between the second and the third was left an empty space that was filled by a new table. Emblazoned on it was a midnight blue dragon surrounded by silver stars.
"One more thing," the hat said as Professor McGonagall tried fruitlessly to remove it from the boy's head. "Hogwarts knows of your problem earlier with her wards. It should be more bearable now." With that, the hat released its hold on his head and Harry slipped from the seat.
He was led to a table that seemed to have no one else sitting at it. Daring to sneak a peek with his mental sight, he realized that he could see again, even if it was still harshly bright in the room. He'd settled himself when he heard the professor begin to read off the other names.
Moments later the girl sat on the stool, the hat on her head. There was a moment's pause---
"Hufflepuff! Merlin's crest!"
And so it went with the rest of the first years. Of them all, nine others were chosen to bear Merlin's crest along with Harry: Terry Boot, also from the Ravenclaws; Hannah Abbott, Justin Finch-Fletchley, and Susan Bones of the Hufflepuffs; Hermione and Neville from the Gryffindors; Blaise Zabini, Millicent Bulstrode, and Draco Malfoy from the Slytherins.
Draco's sorting hadn't gone seamlessly, however. He almost seemed to be arguing with the Sorting Hat before unhappily taking it off and joining his new classmates. He sat down on the other side of Harry from Hermione and plopped his head into his hands. "Father is going to kill me."
Everyone's attention had been drawn back to the front of the hall where Dumbledore was currently wearing the sorting hat and having a conversation of his own. Harry took that moment to get a good look at the man for the first time. He, like some of the other items the boy had seen over time, was so full of magic that he actually seemed totally solid. Not only that, but he could see the man's clothing. After all, most clothes weren't alive or extremely magical and it left nothing to the imagination. At least with Dumbledore's clothes and the turban on the one teacher near the end of the table, they blocked off his sight and looked like clothes should
At last removing the hat, Dumbledore addressed the assembled students and staff. "After an extended conversation with my esteemed colleague," he began as he gestured to the headwear sitting on the stool, "I would like to welcome our fifth house to the students of Hogwarts. As the Sorting Hat so aptly told us in his song, these students hold equal measures of all the qualities that the individual houses hold dear. All four heads of house will run it and, as you can tell, each student has a sponsor house, picked because it would have been the house they'd have been sorted into otherwise. Merlin House will gain and lose points as a whole, just like any other house, but acts of individuals will not only affect their own house but their sponsor house as well.
He turned to his teachers and said, "We will need a prefect from each house that will rotate on a weekly basis with the children. Minerva, would you be so kind as to lend us Mr. Weasley until we finish with the details?" Having worked out the temporary details, he turned back to the students.
"Welcome, to another year at Hogwarts. Before we begin the banquet, I'd like to say a few words. Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!..Thank you!"
"He's a bit mad, isn't he?" Harry asked of no one in particular.
"Absolutely," replied Draco "Father said he's the worst thing that ever happened to Hogwarts."
"I wouldn't say that," replied Hermione as food suddenly appeared on the table and Harry's mouth began to water at the aroma. "He is a bit odd, but from everything I've read he's the greatest wizard of our age." They went back and forth throughout the rest of the feast that way. The food was wonderful and Harry truly liked his friends after he got them all to stop trying to help him eat. It was nearing the end of the meal and he was getting seconds on potatoes when a sharp pain in his forehead nearly made him drop the spoon.
He raised his head and got a general sense that it was coming from the head table, off to one end. Harry tried to determine who it was but he couldn't sort them all out. "Hermione," he said, "is anyone at the head table looking at me?"
The girl glanced up, trying not to be too obvious and answered, "Most of them are stealing glances, but Professor Snape can't seem to be able to take his eyes off of you. He doesn't look very happy about it either."
In short order the desserts were finished as well, and the headmaster stood again. "Just a few last minute announcements now that we've all been fed and watered First year students should note that the forest on the grounds is forbidden to all pupils. And a few of our older students would do well to remember that as well. I have also been asked by Mr. Filch, the caretaker, to remind you 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 his or her house team should contact Madam Hooch. Sadly, Merlin House will not be able to participate, as brooms are not allowed until your second year. 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." At this everyone laughed, though Harry could tell from the old man's signature that he was deadly serious. "And now, before we go to bed, let us sing the school song," cried Dumbledore
The old man gave his wand a few flicks and Harry watched as the sparks danced around it, and formed themselves into a ribbon at the tip that snaked out over the hall and formed words. "Everyone pick out your favourite tune," said the headmaster, "and off we go!"
The crash of sound over Harry was crazy as everyone sang the school song to a different tune. Since no one but the Sorting Hat had knowledge of his abilities, he simply listened along with a silly grin on his face. Everyone finished the song at a different pace with the Weasley twins ending last, singing to a funeral dirge.
"Ah, music," said the old wizard as he wiped his eyes. "A magic beyond all we do here! And now, bedtime. Off you trot!"
Dumbledore himself came down and lead Percy and the Merlin House to their tower. The journey was a joy to Harry, even though the intensity of the place had given him a dull headache (he was sure this was temporary until he got used to it). It was intoxicating to see all the moving paintings just like he had his parents photograph. Newly constructed by the castle's magic in the short time since the start of the ceremony, the entryway to Merlin House's tower stood on the fourth floor behind the painting of a mounted knight.
"Password," required the knight.
"Queen of hearts," said the old man loudly enough to be heard by all the first years. The painting opened and they entered their common room. Inside everything was done in wood grains and forest green. To one side a crackling fire was putting off a warm glow, and different overstuffed chairs and sofas littered the room.
"Right, children," said Dumbledore "Boys dormitories are up the stairs on your left, girls on your right. Classes start in the morning so everyone have a good night's sleep...Neville, a word with you if I might." Harry could sense the fear coming off the boy to be summoned by the headmaster on his very first night, but it faded as the pair walked into a corner.
Harry made it up the steps and found his dormitory without problem. With a little help from Draco, he quickly mapped out the room in his head and found the entrance to the bathrooms. As he was settling into bed, Neville came in oozing confidence and resolve.
"What did the headmaster want, Neville?" asked Harry sleepily.
"He talked to me about my mum and dad," said the chubby boy. "Told me how proud they would be of me."
Grinning at the other boy's happiness, Harry rolled over and wished his pet good night before falling asleep.