Chapter 1 : Harry Potter and the Sorting Hat Again
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September first 1998 was as hectic as any other. If someone had been standing outside of The Burrow on this particular morning, goodness knows what they would have thought. There were loud shouts, random bangs and the occasional sparks from the various chimney pots that stuck out of the roof at odd angles.
Inside the house, four Weasley's, Hermione Granger and Harry Potter were frantically rushing around, searching for items of Hogwarts uniforms, forcing objects into already full trunks and grabbing slices of toast from a stack on the table that kept magically refilling.
It amazed Harry that after six previous years at Hogwarts, he still had not learned to pack his trunk and prepare his uniform any earlier. There really was no excuse, he had been staying at The Burrow since the end of the war and the eventual defeat of Voldemort, all of his belongings were there, in Bill's old bedroom; his new bedroom. True, he owned number twelve Grimmauld Place, which was considerably more livable after countless hours of renovating over the summer, but Harry wasn't quite ready to live on his own, even if Mrs. Weasley had let him move out. She had decided that he would stay with them the day after the battle at Hogwarts, despite Harry's protests that she had enough to deal with.
The first few weeks after the final battle had been bittersweet. He and Ginny had fallen easily back into their relationship, not a word spoken between them about it, she had taken his hand the moment she saw him after the war and neither had looked back.
Harry had wanted nothing more to hide from the eyes of the wizarding world and to mourn the loss of his friends from the comfort of The Burrow. This had been impossible however, there were funerals to attend: Fred, Lupin, Tonks and countless others. Harry was invited to, and attended all, of the funerals for those lost fighting for the good of the wizarding world. He always sat at the back and quietly paid his respects, Hermione, Ron and Ginny with him. As discreet as he wished to be his presence never went unnoticed and there were always many well-wishers wanting to meet him; to thank him. Harry would smile politely, shake hands and accept hugs, offering his condolences and apologising, always apologising for not being able to save their loved ones.
Admittedly he was relieved when they were over; when the owls stopped delivering the invitations and Harry could finally have some time to start finding some normalcy in his life. At first he would apparate to Grimmauld Place alone, not that he did not desire the company of his friends and girlfriend, he just wanted to be alone with his thoughts. More often than not he would simply sit on the bed in Sirius' old bedroom, or wander the hallways, enjoying the silence. He loved The Burrow but it was always noisy and bustling. Even his footsteps were unheard, muffled by the dust that had settled on the old wooden floors in the uninhabited house. The more he wandered the more he found himself irked by the state that the house was in, he would compare it to The Burrow and wish that it had more of a homely feel to it.
Ron, Hermione and Ginny were relieved when Harry finally sought their company on his trips to the house and were eager to help him with his plans to make the house a home. Truth be told, it was a welcome distraction. The alternative was to let their thoughts wander, always to the loss of their friends and family, their presence sorely missed.
For the first time in longer than Harry could remember, he was having fun. The two couples, after cleaning and clearing the house, began painting it. Although Hermione had offered to teach them all the spells to do it using magic and Mrs. Weasley had let them use her decorating book ('Digsbury Does Decorating: Wall-Papering and Wand-Waving!'), they had decided to do it the Muggle way. Ron had been reluctant at first, never liking to do anything by hand that could be done quicker by wand, but even he began to enjoy himself after a few days, finding it particularly amusing when Harry accidentally stood in a pot of paint and got his foot stuck. Laughter echoed through the rooms, a sound they had all missed in recent times, and they found it hard to stop once something set them off.
It took them several weeks but by the time summer had arrived Number Twelve Grimmauld Place was transformed. Harry had left Sirius' bedroom as it had been, there were too many reminders of his late godfather in there and he didn't feel ready to let them go, aside from the fact he had placed a permanent-sticking charm on everything. Other than this all of the old items found in the house were put in the attic, including all of the pictures that weren't attached to the wall with the same charm. Much to Harry's displeasure, Sirius' mum remained on the newly painted wall in the hallway. She rarely screamed at them now, as they always tiptoed through the hall so as not to wake her; however she had been greatly displeased at them painting the wall around her. Shouts of 'FILTH!', 'MUDBLOODS AND BLOOD-TRAITERS!' and 'HOW DARE YOU ALTER THE NOBLE HOUSE OF BLACK!' were heard repeatedly until Hermione finally snapped and finished redecorating the hallway with a few waves of her wand.
It was only after they had finished the redecorating and Harry had been chatting with Ginny in the garden back at The Burrow that she mentioned returning to Hogwarts. Harry had assumed she would but hearing her say it aloud had him considering his own options for the future. When Ron and Hermione sat down on the grass next to them, Harry asked the pair of their plans come September.
"Well, I'm going to write to Professor McGonagall and ask if I can go back to Hogwarts and get my NEWTs," Hermione replied simply.
Harry was not surprised. He looked to Ron.
"We might as well go back with Hermione, mate. She wouldn't last a week without us there to check her essays and nag her to revise come exam time." He grinned at Harry and earned a playful elbow in the ribs from Hermione. "What d'ya reckon, shall we go back?"
Harry looked down at Ginny who was sitting between his legs, her head resting on his chest, and then at his two best friends. Going back to Hogwarts for his final year with no-one trying to kill him and not having the fate of the wizarding world resting on his shoulders sounded like something he would enjoy. He grinned back at Ron and it was decided; Hermione wrote to McGonagall that night.
McGonagall’s reply came just a few days later, she was thrilled that the three had decided to return. She also explained that all returning students would be re-sorted upon their return. She explained that this had been an idea of Dumbledore's; he suspected that the war had changed people, so much so that they may belong in a different house now. Harry had panicked a little at this news, two of the three times he had worn the sorting hat, it had told him he belonged in Slytherin.
Despite his worries Harry still wanted to go back and within a week of receiving McGonagall’s reply they were shopping in Diagon Alley for school supplies.
Now another September First had arrived and Harry was eagerly anticipating his return to Hogwarts, the first place he had ever felt at home. Amazingly, they arrived at Platform Nine and Three Quarters on time. The trio were met with stares as soon as they crossed the barrier and stepped on to the hectic platform, forcing them to say a quick goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and find a compartment on the train.
Harry enjoyed the journey, they played exploding snap, ate far too many chocolate frogs and were visited by fellow pupils; some of whom Harry hadn't seen since the war. As the scenery outside of the window began to change Harry knew they were near Hogwarts and began to worry about the impending sorting. His first glance of the castle momentarily distracted him. He was not surprised to see it returned to its former glory after the damage; the turrets rose as high as ever, the walls were fully repaired and the candles inside created a soft glow that could be seen for miles.
The usual chaos ensued when the train stopped; every pupil was eager to get a good seat to see the sorting and so pushed their way to the doors. Harry could here Hagrid’s familiar calls for the First Years and though Harry had seen him over the summer he scanned over the top of the many heads until he saw his half-giant friend. He waved at Harry who grinned back before making his way to the carriages.
Gasps were let out as the older students who had stayed to fight at the battle months earlier saw the Thestrals for the first time. The giant winged horses stamped impatiently at the ground and the pupils looked even more apprehensive about boarding the carriages. Harry, Ron and Hermione climbed on to the nearest one barely acknowledging the creatures. It began moving as soon as they were seated and pulled them to the magnificent castle.
As Harry waited in the long line of students waiting to be sorted, he felt increasingly nervous. He heard the sorting hat's song but couldn't seem to process the words. The new Deputy Headmaster, Professor Flitwick read through the list of names and Harry heard the applause that followed each shout from the hat, barely aware of who was sorted where. His ears pricked up when Hermione’s name was called and he joined in clapping when she was sent to the Gryffindor table.
And then, he heard it; Flitwick’s squeaky voice shouting his name. Ginny gave him a gentle reassuring smile from the table as if to tell him it would all be alright. His legs were shaky as they carried him forward and he sat on the old stool, his heart pounding, expecting the hat to yell 'Slytherin!'
Flitwick smiled kindly at him and placed the hat on his head. Harry felt it barely touch the tips of his ears when it shouted...
A huge sense of relief washed over Harry and he walked over to join his fellow Gryffindor’s at the table from which a tumultuous noise of applauding and cheering was coming. He took a seat next to Hermione and Ginny, and they watched together as Ron was, unsurprisingly, sent to the same table. Now that Harry was more relaxed, he was able to look around the Great Hall to see where the rest of his remaining classmates had been sorted. Many had not changed but there were a few new faces joining him at his house’s table; his ex-girlfriend Cho Chang and previous Hufflepuff Hannah Abbott, who was laughing about something with Neville. What surprised Harry most was that only one Slytherin seventh year had chosen to return, one he hadn’t noticed until Ron pointed him out.
“Hey, Harry. Look at Malfoy, he looks furious.”
Harry looked in the direction Ron was pointing and sure enough, Malfoy had returned. He was sitting one table over with a thunderous expression on his face, desperately trying to ignore the latest edition of The Quibbler being shoved under his nose by Luna Lovegood.
Harry chuckled, thinking to himself that this year was sure to be a good one.