For the Want of a Groundskeeper – Chapter Four – Pretzel

Content Rating:
  • PG-13
  • Character Bashing
  • Discussion-Child Abuse
  • Racism
  • Violence-Canon-Level
  • Alternate Universe
  • Challenge Response
  • Canon Divergent
pre-Harry/Hermione (friendship at the moment)

Word Count:
7,091 / 23,881 / 50,000

Author's Note:
No notes for this chapter

Hagrid was unable to make the first visit to Harry Potter to tell him of his birthright in the Wizarding World. Filius Flitwick took up the challenge in his stead, and everything changed.


Harry was excited. So excited, in fact, that he woke up before the sun truly rose on September First. He filled some of the time until it was a reasonable hour for breakfast and waking the others- he and Sirius were spending the night at Malfoy Manor so they and the Malfoys could leave for the station together -by double-and triple-checking his trunk and making sure he had everything. Koko had helped him pack the previous night, but Harry didn’t want to leave anything behind.

Harry ran his fingers over the dimensional store that was clasped around his right wrist, his fingertips gliding over the griffin that was engraved into the lightweight mithril. It had belonged to his grandfather Charles Potter, according to the vault log, and Harry felt honored that he could wear something his grandfather had when he was his age. The magic of the store would ensure that it would resize as he grew, making sure he could use it for years if he wanted to. Harry had already bonded his wand to it and stored some of his more important belongings there, as well as some less essential things, like snacks for both himself and Whisper.

His familiar was still asleep, curled up in the elaborate enclosure the elves had prepared for him. A smaller version of the enclosure would be set up at Hogwarts once Harry had been Sorted into his House and had his room assigned to him. Regardless of what House he was Sorted into, Harry would have the choice to be given his own room as he was the future Earl of Gryffindor. His father had decided not to have his own room, instead being roomed with Remus, Sirius, and Peter for the next seven years.

Harry hadn’t decided what he wanted, but he supposed it would depend on where he was Sorted and if he made any friends on the train ride, He was hoping he would make friends outside of Draco. He liked his cousin quite a bit, especially now that he’d gotten to know him better and Draco had relaxed his Pureblood mask some around him. Harry sat back on his heels, staring down at the neatly organized interior of his trunk. He couldn’t do anything more with it, so it was time to close it and shrink it down to its smallest size.

He shut the lid of the trunk and then pushed a bit of magic into the set of runes carved into the trunk. The trunk shrunk to something that could be found in a dollhouse. Harry put the trunk into a pocket of his robe and then went to go wake Whisper up.

~Hey. Hey Whisper. It’s time to get up,~ he said. ~We’re going to Hogwarts today!~

Whisper stirred, poking his head out of his coils to stare at Harry. ~Hogwarts? You mean that giant stone nest you’ve been telling me about?~

~Yes, it is. We’ll be taking the train there. It may be a little noisy, but you can just sleep if you want. I’m not going to force you to interact with anyone if you don’t want to.~

Whisper considered that. ~You owe me an extra egg if you want me to come with you on the noisy thing,~ he decided. ~Otherwise, you can send me with one of the squeaky ones and they can take me to my new territory there.~

~Greedy-guts,~ Harry said with a laugh as he took Whisper out of his enclosure and then draped him around his neck. Whisper flicked his tongue at him, scenting Harry’s sleep-warm skin before settling back down. Harry made sure Whisper wasn’t going to move before leaving his room. He nearly ran into Draco in the hall, his cousin looking bleary-eyed but still awake. Harry grinned at him, stifling a laugh behind a hand.

“Not quite awake yet, Malfoy?” he teased, keeping his voice down. Draco huffed quietly.

“Shut it, Potter.”

Harry’s grin grew at the grumpy tone to Draco’s voice. “Never. Dobby wake you up?”

Draco yawned, halfheartedly covering his mouth with his hand as he nodded. “Y-yeah. He’s very eager. Apparently he hasn’t been to Hogwarts since my great-aunt’s time.”

Harry thought he’d stop being surprised at learning new things about the magical world, but apparently not. “He’s that old?”

“Mm. Dobby’s been with the Malfoy family for two hundred years. He’s still pretty young for a house elf.”

“Huh. I wonder how old Koko and Lulu are,” Harry mused as the two of them made their way down to the informal dining room so they could get breakfast. Draco shrugged.

“At least fifty years old. That’s when house elves usually begin being drawn to a compatible Family’s magic. The Family has to be at least an Ancient one, so around for five generations at the very least,” he explained. “Take House Weasley, for example. They’re technically an Ancient House, but Arthur Weasley hasn’t drawn any house elves to it yet for some reason.”

“Maybe he doesn’t want them?” Harry suggested. Draco snorted sharply.

“They could use at least one,” he said. “Arthur Weasley and his family live in a cramped house that’s held together more by magic than nails and boards.”

“Maybe they like it that way,” Harry said as they reached the informal dining room. “Not everyone wants to or even can live in a manor like us.”

Draco considered that. “I guess, but I don’t know. Even if they didn’t have a manor, you’d think they’d at least want a physically stable house.”

Harry shrugged as he sat down, a glass of orange juice and bowls of fresh fruit and oatmeal appearing in front of him, as well as his morning dose of potions. He downed the potions first, wrinkling his nose before popping a piece of watermelon into his mouth to wash away the taste. He savored the fruit, still not entirely used to having such healthy and plentiful options available to him. Harry hoped the food at Hogwarts would be as good and varied. According to Sirius, the food there was amazing, but Harry was going to make his own determination on that once he got there.

Draco sat down across from him, tucking into his own breakfast that the house elves had made. The adults joined them when the two boys were about halfway done with their food, Lucius and Narcissa looked as put-together as always, but Sirius still seemed to be half-awake. Harry smirked at his dad, amused at Sirius’s sleepy expression. It got better after Sirius had some coffee, though it was more milk than coffee once he’d finished doctoring it.

The five of them left for Platform Nine and Three-Quarters at half-past ten so Harry and Draco could get situated on the train in plenty of time. They took the Floo, Sirius bringing up the rear. He still felt wary around large amounts of people, so the less time he actually spent on the crowded platform, the better.

Once Harry and Draco had claimed a compartment near the middle of the train, they went to say goodbye to their parents. Sirius pressed a small paper-wrapped parcel into Harry’s hand. Harry looked down at it and then up at his dad, brow furrowed in confusion.

“What is this?”

Sirius stuck his hands in his pockets, a small smile curving his lips. “A way to contact me if you want,” he said. “It’s a communications mirror. I’ve given ones to the others as well. It’s a secure way to talk without worrying about letters going astray or Floo calls.”

“Huh. Useful.”

“Yeah. We used to use them in school to help plan pranks,” Sirius said, his smile broadening. “You might want to hold off on that for a little bit while you settle in.”

Harry rolled his eyes at that. “I’m not going to go looking for trouble, Dad. All I want to do is learn magic and get through school.”

“Merlin, kid, if you’re not in Ravenclaw, I’ll eat my own hat,” Sirius told him with a laugh. “You might look like James a lot, but you remind me so much of your mother at times.”

Harry was pleased by that. He’d seen the wedding portrait of his parents and had even talked with it. He could definitely see why people said he looked a lot like James. They had similar facial features, though Harry definitely took after his mother’s height at this age, and, of course, he had her eyes. Still, it was nice to know that he resembled them in more than just superficial looks, though he doubted he’d ever want to continue James’s habit of pranking people. Sirius had told him stories about their time at Hogwarts, and while some of the things had sounded funny, a lot of it had also sounded like bullying, especially towards the Slytherins.

Thanks to the ongoing weekly visits to a private mind healer, Sirius had gotten over a lot of things from his childhood, though he still carried some enmity towards certain people, Severus Snape included. Much like with the food at Hogwarts, Harry was going to wait on making any sort of judgment towards Snape until he’d actually met the man and gotten to know him. According to Draco, Snape was a highly talented Potions Master and the resident (and sole) Potions teacher at Hogwarts.

Harry thought it odd that there was only one teacher per subject. He was used to there being multiple teachers for the same subject, albeit at different grade levels, and was dubious that the teachers could be effective when teaching for so many different skill levels across four Houses. Still, it was possible that, given the fact that magic existed, grading was a lot easier and therefore the teachers had more time to make comprehensive lesson plans for each year level.

Regardless of how it was done, Harry was very glad for the subject guides Sirius had gotten him for his birthday. The one for Potions had moving diagrams of the different ways to chop, cut, slice, and dice various ingredients. While Harry was familiar with them due to his knowledge of cooking, there were still some differences to the techniques in the book that promised to provide the best results. He was excited to see just what could be done with Potions beyond what he’d already experienced, and if he had an ulterior motive to ask why potions couldn’t be flavored nicely, then so be it.

He bid Sirius, Lucius, and Narcissa goodbye, as did Draco, giving out one last round of hugs before boarding the train and returning to the compartment they’d claimed. Harry watched out the window as the other students began boarding as well, steam starting to wreathe the platform as the trained warmed up. A swarm of redheads entered through the hidden entrance out in the Mundane side of the platform, four of them breaking away from the group and hurrying on to the train, their trunks floating haphazardly along behind them.

Harry waved goodbye to Sirius one more time, earning a disgruntled hiss from Whisper at the jostling, and then settled down in his seat as the train began to slowly pull away from the station. About ten minutes into the ride, there was a knock at the compartment door. Draco, who was closer to it, got up and opened it, revealing a round-faced boy on the other side. The newcomer looked tearful as he glanced into the compartment, seeming to look for someone or something.

“Heir Longbottom,” Draco said, looking startled by the other boy’s current state of being. “Is everything alright?”

“H-have you seen a t-toad? Mine’s gone m-missing.”

“We haven’t, but you’re welcome to look in here,” Draco replied, taking a step back and moving to one side. “Heir Neville Longbottom, this is Heir Harry Potter-Black, my cousin. Harry, this is Heir Neville Longbottom, one of our year-mates.”

Harry smiled warmly at Neville as he got to his feet. “It’s great to meet you, Heir Longbottom. Feel free to call me Harry. My dad mentioned you. He said your mum was my godmother.” He held out his hand for Neville to shake. “I already have a good cousin, but I’ve never had a godbrother. I’d be honored if we could be friends at the very least.”

Neville gave him a wide-eyed look, clearly not expecting the offer. “I- Y-yeah, alright. You c-can call me Neville. Um, are you sure you want to be my friend?”

“Of course,” Harry said as Neville shook his hand. “I can always use another friend, and I’m sure you’ll be a great one. Now, you mentioned your toad?”

“My Uncle Algie got him for me.” Neville startled when he saw Whisper lift his head and scent the air with his tongue. “You have a snake?”

“This is Whisper, my familiar,” Harry said, gently pulling Whisper off his neck and showing him to Neville. “He’s an egg-eating snake, so he wouldn’t have done anything to your toad, but he might be able to track his scent.”

~Bah. Don’t make promises for me. The smelly toad is not in this den,~ Whisper grumbled. ~An older mage could probably Summon him like your sire does his cloak, yes?~

~That’s a great idea. I didn’t even think of that. Thanks, Whisper,~ Harry hissed back, running his fingers lightly over his familiar’s back. He looked up at Neville’s gasp of surprise. The other boy seemed so nervous about everything, something that had Harry curious. Maybe that was just how he was?

“Everything okay?”

“Th-the Quibbler wasn’t just making things up, then? You can really talk to snakes?” Neville asked.

“Yep! I’m a true Parselmage. Apparently it runs in the Gryffindor line, though it can skip generations. My great-grandfather Dorian was a Parselmage too, according to our Family history,” Harry informed him. Neville relaxed greatly at that, though Harry wasn’t exactly sure why initially. The longer he thought about it though, the more he came to the conclusion that Neville must’ve thought it was some sort of remnant from Voldemort.

“Um, anyways, Whisper says that one of the older students could probably Summon your toad for you,” Harry continued on, putting Whisper back around his neck. “It’d be easier to find it that way.”

Neville perked up at that. “I saw some sixth years a few compartments back. Maybe they can help,” he said.

“I can come with you,” Harry offered. “Draco too, if he wants. It’d be nice to explore a bit before everyone starts moving around.”

“I’ll stay here and keep our compartment,” Draco said as he returned to his seat and the new comic book he’d gotten for the train ride, “but you two have fun.”

Harry left the compartment with Neville, closing the door behind the two of them. He trusted Whisper when he’d said that he hadn’t scented Neville’s toad in the compartment, but it never hurt to make sure it couldn’t escape just in case. Neville led him to the compartment where he’d seen the sixth years, and after a short conversation with them, one of them performed a Summoning Charm. It took a moment or two for the charm to catch, but soon enough Trevor the toad was floating into the compartment, croaking indignantly as he did so.

Neville caught hold of him, shooting the older students a grateful smile. “Thanks. I’m going to go put him back in his habitat. I don’t even know how he got out.”

The habitat turned out to be back in Neville’s original compartment. Harry helped open the door for Neville since he had his hands full with Trevor. Neville went into the compartment and secured Trevor in his traveling habitat, double- and triple-checking that the lid was secured as tightly as possible. Neville sat back on his heels, a triumphant smile brightening his face.

“Thanks for all of that,” he said. “There was someone else who was helping me too, but I don’t know where she-”

“Oh, Neville, you found him! That’s wonderful!”

Harry turned, startled by the way his magic had reacted to the newcomer’s presence. It had felt like his magic had recognized an old and familiar friend, which was strange considering Harry was pretty sure he’d never met the girl standing in the doorway before. She had flyaway hair that nonetheless framed her face perfectly, and her pleased smile illuminated her features.

Neville glanced over at her, an answering but far more shy smile on his face. “Yes, I did. Harry here had the brilliant idea of having one of the older students Summon Trevor. I don’t know where he was hiding, but he’s back and that’s all that matters.”

The girl turned her attention to Harry, who quickly did his best to regain his composure and sketched out a quick bow like he’d been taught in his etiquette lessons when meeting an unknown female-presenting person of his age. “It’s a pleasure to meet a friend of Neville’s. I’m Heir Harry Potter-Black, but you can just call me Harry. Actually, please just call me Harry. It’s- I’d rather not be too formal, you know?”

The girl blinked at him in surprise and then let out an amused laugh. “You just bowed to me. Me! How is that not formal?”

“Look, you’re not wrong, but I’m doing my best here not to annoy the wrong people,” Harry said, at a loss for words. Neville watched the two of them interact, a highly amused look passing across his face before he quickly wiped it away at Harry’s short glare. Harry pointed at him. “No comments from the peanut gallery.”

“From the what?”

“The peanut gallery. It used to be some of the cheapest seats in a theater, and therefore it often attracted the most… vocal people. It-” The girl paused when she saw Harry and Neville were actually paying attention to her. “Sorry. I tend to ramble if allowed. I’m Hermione, by the way. Hermione Granger.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Hermione,” Harry said. “Would you and Neville like to join my cousin and me in our compartment? It’d be nice to have some friends in there for the ride.”

The way Hermione lit up at the suggestion had Harry thinking that she, like him, wasn’t exactly used to having many people she could call friends. After a quick discussion of the logistics on how to move their luggage, Harry suggest that he could just go get Draco and have him move there since their trunks were shrunken and easy to move. It didn’t take long to get Draco to come join them, though he did warn that he might go in search of other people during the ride.

Harry didn’t mind, as he was well aware that his cousin had friends of his own and wasn’t going to begrudge him that. They got into a spirited discussion of what Houses they might want to Sort into at School, Neville lamenting that his grandmother would be very disappointed if he didn’t get into Gryffindor.

“My mom and dad were in Gryffindor, you see, and Gran wants me to follow in their footsteps,” he explained.

Harry hummed, idly stroking his fingers over Whisper’s scales. “The way I see it, we’re our own people, not our parents. My parents were in Gryffindor as well, but I don’t think I’m really all that suited for it. My dad says that it’s usually pretty loud and rambunctious, and I don’t know if I really want to deal with that for seven years. I’d prefer peace and quiet, y’know? And Gryffindors are apparently trouble magnets, and I definitely don’t want to have to deal with that. Besides, just because your parents went into Gryffindor doesn’t mean you have to. You’re your own person, and they already had their time at Hogwarts. This is our time.”

“Besides, your grandmother Sorted to Ravenclaw, so she can’t really talk,” Draco pointed out. He shrugged when Neville looked at him in surprise. “My dad made sure I knew all of my peers’ parents or guardian’s Houses and alignments.”

“Ugh, politics,” Harry said with a wrinkled nose, making Hermione giggle. “We’re eleven. I don’t want to worry about politics.”

“Hogwarts is where it all starts,” Draco retorted. “What allies and enemies you make there will likely follow you into the rest of our lives.”

“That seems… How do you know the right people to pick as friends?” Hermione asked.

“Trial and error, like everything else,” Harry replied. “Let’s deal with politics later, though. What House would you want to Sort into, Hermione?”

“Well, I was considering Gryffindor because that’s where Headmaster Dumbledore was Sorted-” She paused at the look of annoyance that flashed across Harry and Draco’s faces. “Is… is something wrong?”

“Let’s just say we’re not fond of the Headmaster and leave it at that for now,” Draco said. “Go on.”

“Right. Um, anyways, I was considering Gryffindor, but honestly Ravenclaw sounds like a better fit to me,” Hermione continued on. “I don’t think I would like to be somewhere constantly noisy and busy. I prefer the quiet most of the time.”

“Me too.” Neville sighed. “Gryffindor would be nice, I guess, but I might be suited to Hufflepuff all things considered.”

“That’s perfectly fine,” Harry told him, quickly cutting off Draco’s expected snide comment about Hufflepuffs being idiots. “There’s nothing wrong about being known as loyal, steadfast, and just. I think that sounds like a great thing. I’d rather that then being known as brave and brash. Besides, I bet you could get away with a lot more if people underestimate you.”

“Why, Harry, that’s positively Slytherin of you,” Draco joked. Harry grinned at his cousin.

“Thank you!”

“I heard a lot of people say that all Slytherins were…” Hermione trailed off, shoulders hunching uncomfortably. “Well, it wasn’t exactly favorable.”

“Let me guess, all Slytherins are evil and followers of the ex-Dark Lord?” Draco asked, his voice Sahara-dry. He scoffed. “Honestly, that’s just stereotyping.”

“Like how people say all Hufflepuffs are dumb and stupid?” Neville retorted. Draco opened his mouth, closed it, and then huffed.

“I guess,” he said, waving a dismissive hand. “Anyways, there have been plenty of Slytherins who didn’t follow that idiot, both before and after the war. Merlin was supposed to have been a Slytherin, even if the timelines doesn’t exactly line up, and no one’s saying he’s evil. There was also Richard Stevens. He was one of the best Ministers of Magic the British Magical World has seen, and he was a Slytherin. Margaret MacDougal was a well-known Head Healer for Saint Mungo’s and she was a Slytherin. Stevens was before the Dark Idiot and MacDougal after. Long story short, just because someone belongs or belongs to a certain school House doesn’t make them any worse or better than you.”

“Same goes for parentage.” Harry nudged Draco with an elbow. Draco rolled his eyes in exasperation.

“Yes, yes, whatever.”

“If anyone tells you anything different, ignore them,” Harry said firmly. “I’m technically considered a half-blood myself, since my mum was a Mundaneborn and my father a Pureblood.”

“Mundaneborn?” Hermione looked puzzled. “Not Muggleborn?”

Harry ran a hand over his face. “Calling someone a Muggle seems pretty rude, y’know? It doesn’t really describe why we’re different from people that don’t have magic, just that we are. Mundane, on the other hand, pretty neatly sums up that reason while not being rude about it.”

“Oh!” Hermione thought that over. “I like it. I’ll have to try to use that instead of Muggleborn and Muggles. You’re right, it does sound better. I’d never really thought of it like that.”

“Most don’t. You’ll hear a lot of people still using Muggle and Muggleborn, but thankfully it’s starting to be phased out more,” Harry said. “I’m guessing you’re Mundaneborn?”

“I’m the first in my family to have magic as far as we know, yes,” Hermione confirmed.

“Draco and I are both Purebloods,” Neville said. “That means we have magical parents and grandparents.”

“Alright, that makes sense, though Pureblood is… not that great,” Hermione said. “Just saying.”

“I’m not sure what else we would call it,” Draco said, “but maybe we can come up with something different some day.”

If we’re the future, we-” Harry was interrupted by the compartment door sliding abruptly open, revealing a lanky redheaded boy with what looked like a smudge of dirt on his nose. He looked around the compartment, his gaze automatically skipping over Draco, Neville, and Hermione to fix on Harry.

“Is it true that you’re Harry Potter? They’re saying all up and down the train that Harry Potter is in this compartment.”

Harry frowned. “Who’s saying that?” he asked. “I haven’t told anyone who I am besides the people in this compartment.” He narrowed his eyes.. “Have you been going from compartment to compartment trying to find me? Who are you?”

“One of the Weasleys, judging from the hand-me-down clothes and red hair,” Draco drawled. “The one in our year is Ronald, I believe.”

“Draco, we’ve talked about this before. Hand-me-downs aren’t a bad thing,” Harry said with a sigh. He returned his focus to Ronald. “What can I help you with, Weasley?”

“Why are you hanging out with these losers?” Ron asked. “A slimy snake, a squib, and… Whoever that is.”

“These ‘losers’ are my friends,” Harry said tersely, crossing his arms over his chest. “I don’t need any ‘friends’ who are only interested in being my friend just because I’m famous for something I couldn’t control.”

Ron glared at him before turning and leaving with a huff, nearly running into the snack trolley lady. He dodged around her before disappearing. The trolley lady poked her head in the compartment.

“Anything from the trolley, dears?”

Harry got up and went to investigate what was on offer, eventually coming away with a few Chocolate Frogs and a sleeve of soft chocolate chip cookies that claimed to taste and feel like they’d just come out of a warm oven once the packet was opened. Draco and Neville picked some snacks of their own, paying the trolley lady before returning to their seats.

“Not getting anything?”

Hermione shook her head in response to the trolley lady’s question. “No, thank you.”

“Alright. We’ll be at Hogwarts in a few hours.” The trolley lady continued on down the train, leaving the door open. Neville got up and shut the door, wishing he knew any locking spells. He flopped back down in his seat and picked up his packet of licorice wands.

“So… what kinds of wands do you have?” he asked idly as he opened his candy. “I have my dad’s old wand.”

Draco frowned. “You don’t have your own wand?”

Neville shook his head. “No. My Gran said that I should use his wand to honor him.”

“Then you’re not going to do well at school,” Draco told him. “She should know that.”

“I could have my dad reach out to her,” Harry offered. “We’ll have to tell whoever your Head of House is. They’ll want you to do your best, at the very least.”

Neville shrugged. “I guess. I just don’t want to make Gran mad.”

“I think it’s better that you do your best and risk making her a little mad rather than not doing your best and making her even more mad,” Hermione said. “She should want you to do well.”

“Honestly, it was a surprise I even got my letter,” Neville admitted. “That’s why I got Trevor. He was a gift from my great-uncle for getting my letter.”

“I’d prefer an owl, but I guess that works,” Draco said, “and I don’t know what they were worried about. You’re from a highly magical family. Maybe your magic just presents differently than usual. It happens.”

“Maybe.” Neville didn’t look too comforted by that. “I guess I’m stuck with my dad’s wand for now.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll get you taken care of,” Harry assured him.

The rest of the train rise was thankfully free of any interruptions from unwanted guests, and when the announcement came on over the loudspeaker that they would be arriving at Hogsmeade Station in five minutes, the boys stepped out of the compartment to let Hermione change into her robes before taking their own turn. Harry and Draco entrusted their trunks to their personal house elves, not wanting their luggage to be delayed or sidetracked. Both trunks were protected with blood- and magic-based wards, but there were still ways to override or circumvent even the strongest wards, especially for particularly powerful magic users.

“What were those?” Hermione asked quietly as they disembarked the train.

“Those were Koko and Dobby, our house elves,” Harry explained. “House elves are drawn to a family with strong magics. In exchange for a bond with either the family as a whole or a particular person in that family, the house elves act as servants. They need the bond to keep them from going mad. They live in…” He paused, trying to think of the word. “What did your mum call it, Draco? Sym- Sumb-”

“Symbiosis?” Hermione suggested, earning a bright smile from Harry.

“Right, that! Symbiosis with magic users. House elves live off the ambient magic we make. A lot of people don’t think house elves are all that important, but Koko is my friend,” he finished, “so I’m gonna treat him like one.”

“Good plan,” Hermione said, still looking thoughtful about the whole situation. They followed the other first years towards a towering man with a lantern in his hand. He kept scanning the platform as if he was looking for someone in particular, and Harry had a feeling he knew who it was. He kept his head down until their guide gave up and started leading the group of first years away from the platform and down a nearby path.

Harry felt Hermione gasp and then quickly grab his hand, and he could only assume that she’d nearly lost her footing on the precarious path. He didn’t mind; in fact, he kept hold of her hand until they reached the dock area where a small fleet of boats were waiting for them, one particularly large boat clearly set aside for their guide. Harry helped Hermione into the boat, followed by Draco and Neville. He settled in next to Draco on the rear seat, sharing a quick grin with his cousin as the boats started off.

The first sight of Hogwarts at night was an amazing one. Harry heard more than one person gasp at the magnificent array of towers and windows waiting for them on the shore. The trip ended in a cave that was guarded by a curtain of ivy hanging over its mouth, a staircase leading up and out to what Harry assumed were the main grounds of the school. Their guide- who still hadn’t introduced himself to them -took them up the stairs and across the dew-damp lawns and towards the main entrance of the castle.

He knocked three times on the front door, the booming noise making more than a few people jump. The doors were opened by a stern-looking woman with her hair pulled back in a dark bun.

“The firs’ years, Professor McGonagall.”

“Thank you, Hagrid. I’ll take them from here.”

Ah, so that was the giant man’s name. Harry made a note to remember that as he followed the others into the castle and into a side chamber. They could hear the murmur of hundreds of voices coming from the nearby Great Hall as they shuffled into the antechamber, and then that noise was cut off by the door to the antechamber shutting. The speech that Professor McGonagall gave them was clearly rehearsed and sounded like something someone who wanted to only focus on the positive would give. Harry was all for good relations with his schoolmates, but he also was wary of only focusing on his Housemates. Shouldn’t they all be like family?

He knew the answer he’d be given if asked was likely to be ‘it’s always been done this way’ or ‘it’s tradition’. That seemed to be the reason for a lot of things in the Magical World, like why no one used anything besides quills and parchment to write with or why there weren’t forms of magical mass transit that didn’t threaten to make one throw up. Harry kept his opinions to himself as Professor McGonagall left for a brief time and then returned to take them into the Great Hall.

The scene was quite magical, what with the floating candles and occasional silvery ghost at the tables, but Harry’s attention was fixed on the long-bearded man sitting at the teacher’s table. Was that… Was that a throne? If it wasn’t, then it sure as hell looked like one, and that was just egotistical to the max. Harry barely hid a sneer of disgust as he forced himself to look away from the Headmaster and scanned the rest of the high table.

The teachers all looked relatively alright, though there were a few Harry wasn’t sure of, including a sallow-faced man in all black and a man with light brown hair who had scars littered across his face. It was possible that both were perfectly nice people, but Harry was going to reserve his thoughts until he actually met them himself. Harry refocused his attention on the front when Professor McGonagall brought forth a three-legged stool and a patched hat.

She placed the hat on the stool and then stepped back. Everyone stared at it, and then, after a brief pause, the hat began to sing. Thankfully, it wasn’t off-pitch, but Harry wasn’t exactly impressed by the song either. Once the song was over, the hat fell still, allowing Professor McGonagall to pick it up. When the first student (“Abbot, Hannah!”) took a seat on the stool, McGonagall placed the hat on her head, and soon Hannah was declared the first Hufflepuff of the night.

The Sorting moved apace from there, with Harry clapping hard when Hermione got Sorted into Ravenclaw after seeming to debate with the Hat for several long seconds. Neville was next, gaining the gold and black of Hufflepuff on his robe trim and tie. Harry clapped equally hard for him, as well as for Draco when he got into Slytherin. He forced himself not to shift from foot to foot as McGonagall grew closer and closer to calling his name, falling still entirely as the second of a set of twins was Sorted to Gryffindor.

“Potter-Black, Harry!”

Harry took a deep breath, touched the lump under his robes where Whisper was curled up in one of his pockets, and then made his way to the stool. He stared out over the assembled student body until the Sorting Hat was placed on his head and cloth blocked out his sight.

Ah, Heir Potter-Black. I was wondering when I would get to speak with you. It’s always wonderful to talk with the Heir of one of our Founders. Now, then, where to put you…

Not Gryffindor, Harry immediately thought back to it.

Not Gryffindor, eh? But you’re the heir of that house and could be great there.

I don’t want to be great, I want to be my own person. I don’t want to be judged by who’s come before me, but rather who I am.

The Hat fell silent, and Harry could swear he could feel it thinking. Hm… Tricky. Very tricky indeed. You would do well in all of the Houses, but if you don’t want to go to your ancestral House, then perhaps you’ll do well in…


Harry blinked in the sudden light as Professor McGonagall lifted the Hat off his head. He got up and joined Hermione at the Ravenclaw table, settling in happily at her side. Harry glanced up at the head table to see how Dumbledore was taking him not being a Gryffindor. The Headmaster looked rather put out, though he was hiding it well as the remaining first years were Sorted, clapping politely for them until Ronald Weasley was Sorted into Gryffindor and Professor McGonagall took the Hat and stool away, presumably back to wherever they were kept during the rest of the year.

After a short and rather nonsensical speech from Dumbledore, the meal began. Harry quickly downed the potion Lulu slipped into his pocket, tucking the empty vial away once he was done and then taking a drink of water.

“Is everything alright?” Hermione murmured, thankfully not drawing too much attention to what Harry had just done.

“It’s fine. I… I need to take potions with every meal,” Harry replied. “It’s a health thing.”


Harry breathed a sigh of relief when she didn’t press any further, instead focusing on putting food on her plate. Harry did the same, tucking into his food and enjoying the rich flavors. It was heavier fare than what he usually ate, but given that it was a feast, that was likely to change for regular meals, or so he hoped. He indulged in a small bowl of chocolate ice cream for dessert, setting his spoon down once he was done.

Harry felt warm and content. His stomach was full, he got into a good House, and he had a friend at his side. Hermione seemed pleased with how things were going as well judging from the quietly happy smile that was on her face. Harry leaned in to speak with her.

“Doing alright?” he asked.

Hermione nodded. “Yeah, I am,” she confirmed. “I’m very excited about being in Ravenclaw. Are you?”

Harry nodded. “My grandfather Charles was in Ravenclaw, so I guess technically I’m following in his footsteps a little.”

“Well, at least it’s a good path to follow,” Hermione said with a smile. “And you won’t be in your parents’ shadows. At least not in this, anyways.”

“True,” Harry agreed. “I-”

He paused when Dumbledore got to his feet. The Headmaster raised his wand and set off a series of brightly colored sparkles to catch the attention of the students. The chatter that had been filling the Great Hall died away as everyone focused on Dumbledore.

“Ah, wonderful. Now that we are all watered and fed, I have a few announcements to tell you before you all toddle off to bed,” he said. “First years should note that the forest on the grounds is forbidden to all students, as should a few of our older students.” His gaze cut towards a pair of red-headed twins at the Gryffindor table before returning to the assembled students at large. “I have also been asked by Mr. Filch, the caretaker, to remind you all that no magic is to be used between classes in the corridors. Quidditch trials will be held in the second week of the term. Anyone second-year and up who are interested in playing for their house teams should contact Madam Hooch. And finally, we welcome a new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor to our ranks. Please help me welcome Professor Remus Lupin!”

The man with the sandy brown hair got to his feet, bowed briefly, and then took his seat once more. Harry noticed that the sallow-faced man was glaring unrepentantly at Lupin, though why was anyone’s guess. Dumbledore nodded and then spread his arms wide with a giant smile.

“And with that, I bid you all goodnight. First years, please follow your prefects to your houses. I wish all sweet dreams and look forward to hearing how your first week goes!”

Dumbledore let his arms fall back to his sides as the student body got up and left the Great Hall. Harry followed the nearest non-first year Ravenclaws out of the Hall, Hermione grabbing onto his hand once more so they didn’t get separated. Harry hardly minded, especially given how pleasantly his magic tingled within him while their skin was in contact. They had to part ways once they were in the Ravenclaw common room, but Harry knew that he’d see her in the morning.

He made his way up the boys’ staircase to where there was a door labeled ‘First Years’, followed by the other three boys in his year who had been Sorted into Ravenclaw. Behind the door was what looked to be a smaller version of the common room with four doors set around the edges. Each had the name of one of the boys. Harry found his name and entered his room. There was a four poster bed, a wardrobe, and a small desk set into one of the corners of the room. His trunk was already waiting at the end of his bed, and the half-open door of his wardrobe showed that his house elves had already unpacked his clothes, as they were all neatly hanging there. Whisper’s enclosure was set up in another corner and all ready for him.

Harry closed his door after saying goodnight to his dorm-mates, locking the door and then getting ready for bed. Once he’d changed into his pajamas, he called Koko.

“Hey, ‘Ko,” he said as he sat down on the edge of his bed. “Everything good here?”

Koko nodded. “Everything’s nice and clean,” he confirmed. “Koko has done elf-wards so no one can sneak in and do bad stuff to your things. Lulu is in the kitchens making sure all the elves there know that she’s going to watch over your food.”

Harry smiled fondly. “Thank you. I really appreciate it.” He yawned, belatedly covering his mouth. “Go ahead and tell Dad where I Sorted and let him know I’ll mirror-call him tomorrow morning, alright?”

“Koko will do this. Sleep well, Master Harry.”

Harry watched him pop out and then got under his blankets after taking off his glasses and setting them aside, wriggling a little until he was comfortable. He was asleep not long after that, glad to finally be at Hogwarts.

Post Archive

(L-R Top) Filius Flitwick (Warwick Davis) | Sirius Black (Christian Kane)

(L-R Bottom) Hermione Granger (Storm Reid) | Harry Potter (Tahj Mowry)

About Pretzel

Aka Scarlet_Gryphon on AO3. I enjoy writing and reading about pretty boys, good plots, and awesome worlds. Writing is my stress relief.


  1. I am enjoying this story and love the focus and differences in Harry you present.

  2. I love this iteration of Harry; more cautious, more curious, more clued-in. This was a much better intro and sorting than he got in canon. Great section :D

  3. I was thinking either Ravenclaw or Slytherin would be Harry house. Just glad Hermione got Ravenclaw too
    Thanks for sharing

  4. I always love curious Ravenclaw Harry. Love how the switch from Hagrid to Flitwick has changed things!

  5. Oh, lovely part, thanks so much!

  6. Such a good update for a really good story!

  7. Brilliant! I love this!

  8. I do like your Harry. Great chapter.

  9. Definitely enjoying Harry being confident enough to think for himself and to speak up when he wants/needs to.

  10. Really enjoying the story, it’s a nice take on the Blacks and Malfoys. I’m not usually a fan of ‘good’ Malfoy stories, but I am liking this one.



  11. Awesome chapter

  12. A confident Harry who thinks for himself is such a pleasure to read! I have to admit that I’m glad Ron isn’t a “friend”. That boy was lazy, self-entitled and downright cruel.

  13. Just lovely! Great to see that connection with Neville and Hermione! Things are changing, Remus is on the scene and I’m curious about how things unfold! Glad Harry’s got Filius as HoH!

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