Albus led the way down the train. Craning his short neck, Greg curiously peeked into the compartment windows as they walked passed them, getting his first look at his new schoolmates.
“Here,” Albus muttered, holding the door open for Greg to go through. There were already two people in the compartment; he recognised the red-headed girl with a teetering ball of pink fluff on her shoulder, but he had no idea who the boy sitting opposite her was. “Guys, this is Greg Dursley,” Albus introduced, plopping himself down on a seat. “He’s my, er, dad’s cousin’s son - a first year. Greg, this is my cousin Rose and my friend Scorpius.”
Greg was met with smiles. Rose said, “Delightful to see you again, Gregory.”
“You’ve met before?” the blonde boy named Scorpius asked Rose, who nodded.
“We were both getting our robes fitted at Madam Malkin’s,” she explained before turning to scrutinise Greg. “Did you read up on all your subjects as I advised you to, Gregory?”
Greg shook his head.
“And why not?” she asked sternly, arching one eyebrow in a way that reminded Greg of his old English teacher.
“Er, because I couldn’t be bothered,” he replied truthfully with a shrug of his shoulders. “Reading is boring.”
Rose inhaled sharply; Scorpius raised his eyebrows. Al, observing his friends’ reactions, sniggered behind his fingers.
“Boring?” Rose choked, clutching at her heart and leaning forward a little in her seat. “Reading is magnificent! There is no greater pleasure than the feel of a book between one’s fingers and being transported into an entirely new world! It's magic in itself! Only ignorant, uneducated fools would say otherwise.”
“No,” Greg disagreed, “it’s boring. TV is better.”
A strange noise erupted from the back of Rose’s throat.
“Come on now, Rose,” Albus said, looking between them anxiously upon noticing the ever growing scarlet in his cousin’s cheeks. “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, aren’t they?”
Squeezing her eyes closed, she inhaled deeply through her nostrils. “Of course,” she breathed out. “Yes. You’re quite right. Even if their opinions are incredibly absurd…”
“So, Greg,” Scorpius cut in, “that’s a cool toad you’ve got there. What’s his name?”
“Henry,” Greg answered proudly, patting the toad’s head.
“Cool,” Scorpius replied, reaching out to stroke its slimy skin.
Suddenly Greg felt the hairs prickle on the back of his neck – he turned his head a fraction of an inch and realised they were being watched. A huddle of girls was crowded round the carriage window, gazing through at them in awe. One girl even had her cheek pressed up against the glass for a better view. Greg sat a little straighter.
The girl who was pressed against the window finally decided to take the plunge and opened it, and said in the voice of a very starstruck preteen, “Oh, h-hello there.” Greg was about to respond when the girl quickly hurried on: “You’re really Harry Potter’s son, aren’t you?”
Greg furrowed his eyebrows.
“Yeah,” Albus responded jadedly. “Yeah, I am.”
“He’s really Harry Potter’s son!” she squealed, turning round to share excited looks with her friends.
Greg’s spirit deflated. He sunk further down into his seat and resolved to remain quiet for the rest of journey. What was so great about the Potters? What did they have that he didn’t?
“Ugh, first years,” Albus mumbled miserably once his newly-found fan club had departed. “Will I seriously have to put up with this every single year? I thought last year was bad enough.”
“Rather you than me, mate,” said Scorpius, patting him on the shoulder.
“What house do you want to be in, Gregory?” Rose asked, peering at him over her book, apparently over her grudge about his lack of reading.
“No idea,” he answered. “Hopefully not Hufflepuff. They sound a bit… eh.”
Rose nodded vehemently. “I know what you mean. Some of them are a bit slow, and I suppose they aren’t exactly the most exciting of houses. For the most part, however, the members are extremely amiable, in my humble opinion.”
When Greg didn’t reply, she went on: “I’m a Ravenclaw, naturally. I’m not so sure you’d be suited to my house, in all honesty. Perhaps Gryffindor, like Albus?” She jerked her head in Albus’s direction. Greg shrugged, apathetic. Rose, realising they weren't going to get any further, turned away.
They began discussing their summer holidays and Greg swiftly grew bored. An endless stream of green fields and emerald hills flew by and, combined with the relentless jolting of the carriage, it was making him feel a bit woozy. He decided to rest his eyes for a bit, and was engulfed with sleep in an instant.
When he opened them again, it was pitch black outside the window and everyone was dressed in their black school robes. Sweet wrappers were scattered everywhere.
“Greg? You awake?” Albus asked. “The food trolley came while you were asleep, but you wouldn't wake up, so I saved you a Chocolate Frog.”
He chucked it over to Greg, who shredded it open and stuffed it in his mouth without giving it a chance to leap out of his greedy clutches. He jammed the card – Harry Potter – into his pocket, and once it clicked he immediately took it out again.
“Harry Potter?” he read with a crease between his eyebrows. “Albus, what’s your dad doing on this card?”
“He’s kind of famous,” Albus replied fleetingly, looking half disturbed and half impressed at how Greg had managed to swallow a whole Chocolate Frog in one go. “I’ll tell you another time. Right now, though, you’d better go change into your robes. We’ll be there soon.”
Harry? Famous? Greg couldn’t - didn’t - believe it. He was just Harry.
Once they got off the train, Albus explained that he’d be getting a carriage to school and Greg would be taking a boat.
“A boat?” Greg repeated nervously. The last time he was on a boat he had vomited all over his mother's new shoes. “Are you sure?”
“Firs’-years over here!” bellowed a deep voice.
Albus smiled and gave Greg a shove in the voice’s direction; he bumped into a very tall boy who gave him a dirty look. Greg stuck his tongue out. “Trust me. Go over to Hagrid; he’ll help you. Good luck with the sorting, Greg! Hope you’re a Gryffindor!”
“Firs’-years!” the voice said again. Greg looked towards the source and found himself staring at a giant of a man, at least three times his own height and several times as wide.
“Cool,” Greg whispered to himself, grinning.
He caught James’s eye on the way to the giant man. “Remember, Greg – not Hufflepuff!”
“Not Hufflepuff, not Hufflepuff,” Greg muttered to himself as he clambered onto a boat. They were really quite small, so he took up the space of two people due to his size. In front of him was Lucy Weasley, the girl in bunches he’d met before getting on the train, and another girl he didn’t recognise. They were both staring ahead of them with pure wonder etched on their faces.
Greg forgot all about the Hogwarts houses, however, when the boats started moving (Hagrid had yelled “FORWARD” and Greg almost fell out of his boat with surprise). Generally, Greg wasn’t one to appreciate scenic views, but Hogwarts literally took his breath away. It loomed dauntingly above him, reminding him of the old gothic castles he’d seen on the telly. Completely surreal.
This is a school? he wondered, stunned.
“It’s even better than how my sister described it,” Lucy whispered to the girl next to her.
“It’s beautiful,” the girl agreed breathlessly.
Greg agreed inwardly, but the bitter wind was starting to sting his cheeks and so he was glad to finally crawl out of the boats and onto the dry rocks leading up to the castle. Hagrid led the first years over to where a small elderly wizard stood waiting for them.
Are all the adults here strange sizes? Greg wondered. Will I grow up - or down - to be a strange size?
The little man escorted them into a poky room off to the side of the Entrance Hall. Beaming at each and every one of them, he began, “Hello there! Welcome, first years, to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I’m Professor Flitwick, your Deputy Headmaster.”
He went on to explain about each of the four houses, and told them how the Sorting Ceremony would be commencing shortly.
“I’ll return in a few minutes,” he said, smiling kindly. “In the meantime, I’d advise you to prepare yourselves for the Sorting.”
While they waited, Greg let his eyes roam over the hundreds of portraits cluttered on the stone walls above them, and – holy cow – he swore they were moving. To him, they looked like a hundred television screens on one wall. Hogwarts was beginning to look very promising indeed.
That was, until he overheard the anxious whispers swarming around him.
“My brother said we have to battle with a basilisk.”
“Are you sure? I was told we get interviewed by a house-elf.”
“Maybe we have to do both?”
“Don’t be stupid,” Greg scoffed, turning to glower at Lucy and her friend, but he couldn’t help it - his eyes had widened in alarm. “They wouldn’t make us battle anything… would they?”
He was not met with an answer, however, because at that moment Professor Flitwick returned; the wooden doors to the Great Hall swung open and the first years were ushered inside.
The next few minutes passed in a blur of nervous anticipation for Greg and his fellow classmates. His face felt hot and sweaty and an uncomfortable knot of nervous anticipation grew in his stomach, made worse by the hundreds of pairs of eyes following his every move. His nerves were somewhat quashed when a pointed black hat appeared, rather than some huge venomous monster, and Greg was very impressed by the fact that it could talk.
A talking hat? He could deal with that.
“Dursley, Gregory,” Professor Flitwick called, startling him out of his thoughts.
Gulping down the lump in his throat, Greg shuffled onto the little wooden stool, suddenly feeling like his insides were being compressed by his tight robes. He tried to ignore the masses of people in front of him as he placed the raggedy hat on his head. He wondered if everyone else could hear his heart pounding as loudly as he could.
There was a few seconds pause, and then Greg could hear a quiet voice speaking into his ear.
“Hmm, this is rather interesting,” the voice mused. “An adequate mind, I see, and plenty of drive in there somewhere.”
“Just put me in the best house,” Greg whispered out loud.
“Yes, and a desire for power, too; well, this is very interesting indeed. A lot of potential... Not a particularly hard choice – better be –” Greg scrunched up his face, bracing himself for the answer: “SLYTHERIN!”
As a cheer erupted from the Slytherin table, Greg finally released the long breath he'd been holding. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders, now that he knew he was definitely not a Hufflepuff. The thought of him being one now was laughable. Grinning widely to himself, he ambled over to the table on the very left of the hall (but had to return to the front again when someone kindly yelled out that the Sorting Hat was still on his head) and was greeted by a prefect. On the way he caught James Potter’s eye, who gave him an encouraging smile and a thumbs up. Greg smiled back.
“Welcome to Slytherin! Gregory, is it? It’s great to have you join the ranks!”
“I’m just glad I’m not in Hufflepuff,” he told the prefect solemnly.
She gave a short bout of laughter. “Yes, well I think we all are.” Greg noticed her lean sideways to whisper into the ear of a friend: “I love first years,” she said, smirking.
Greg was taken aback to find a ghost sitting a few people down from him, covered in silver blood. It was bizarre to be able to see through a person. It would certainly take a while for him to get used to the new adaptions in his life.
The food, however, was something he would get used to very quickly; the Start-of-Term Feast was the highlight of Greg’s day. Of his term, even. He couldn’t have conjured up a larger amount of food in his dizziest daydreams (he did, however, notice the absence of sugar, sweets and all things Honeydukes, but supposed the assortment of cakes and tarts made up for it). Although it had nothing on fizzy pop, even the pumpkin juice tasted quite nice.
Twenty minutes later he was full to the brim and ready for bed, when he realised he had no idea where ‘bed’ would be. Luckily he was saved from worrying for too long, because the prefect that had acknowledged him earlier beckoned first years over to her, and she led them out of the Great Hall together. Fortunately for Greg, the trek to their beds did not require a profuse amount of stair-climbing, but still left him gasping for breath; he dreaded the day he would have to make it up to the tallest towers, and longed for lessons on the ground floor.
She came to a halt in a cul-de-sac and turned to speak to the first years. “Right, so I know you’re all probably dying to go to bed right now, but before that I think there are a few things you should know about Slytherin: we’re widely respected in this school. The most respected, I’d argue. We are not evil and we do not hold hands chanting Voldemort’s name, but we do hold a certain degree of power over the other students, and if I were you I wouldn’t let that power go to waste. Merlin himself was a Slytherin, did you know? There’s something great about every one of you, I can already tell.
“Oh, and the password changes every two weeks, so you’d do well to keep up with it; the dungeons can get really cold, especially at night. Well, I think that’s about everything. And now, for the common room!”
She grinned at them, stated the password clearly, and entered an opening in the stone wall, gesturing for them to follow.
Greg’s first impression was how fancy it looked. The room was dark and seemed to be bathed in green light. An ornate fireplace was the focal point of the room, where a flickering fire casted shadows on the surrounding plush black and dark green leather sofas. It was a very grand room, Greg thought. Just to his taste.
A little staircase off to the side led Greg down to his new dormitory. A few boys were already in there.
“This room is tiny!” Greg spluttered as he took in the small circular room. “And – what’s this – no TV? They must’ve forgotten it. One of you should tell the teachers and they’ll get us one.”
The other boys exchanged looks that Greg didn’t like at all. “There aren’t any TVs at Hogwarts,” the tallest of the boys answered. “I don’t think they work here. Anyway, I doubt we’ll have much time to watch it, what with all the work we'll get. My brother said we even have to do homework at weekends."
Greg turned to glare at the boy. “But they’re all over the walls; hundreds of them, all with little moving people. Magic TVs. I saw them.”
“No,” spoke another boy slowly, as if Greg was foreign. “You’re thinking of the portraits. You know, drawings of people. Sure, the person inside might move around a bit, but it’s just the one scene. Permanent. Never changes.”
Greg’s heart sunk.
“Of course I knew that, I’m not stupid,” Greg retorted, turning away from the boy to dig his pyjamas out of his trunk.
He didn’t think much of his new roommates. He didn’t think much of the lack of televisions, either.
Even so, Greg’s last conscious thought before he fell asleep that night were that, maybe, magic and Hogwarts and being there was worth more than television.
Plus, the food was pretty good, and to him, that was all that truly mattered.
A/N: (No offence to Hufflepuffs! I love them really!)
So I was gonna go to great lengths to develop Greg’s character and he’d realise what a little twerp he could be but I just don’t have the inspiration nor motivation to do that unfortunately. And I hate seeing this story incomplete with no update for so long, and when I started HPFF I promised myself I’d never ever abandon a story… so I’m gonna take the easy route out and just end it here.
But he made it to Hogwarts... unscathed! Yeah! Now he can prove to that nasty Grandpa Vernon what a great wizard he'll make ;)
Thank you for reading! A wee review would be much appreciated!