Chapter 7 : The Professor's Intervention
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“Urgh,” he said. “Morgana again; I reckon I’ve got about six of her.”
“You’re joking,” Harry said. “I’ve got my dad’s old album of cards, and he didn’t ever manage to find one of her.” Ron passed it over, and Harry tucked the card into his rucksack. He didn’t really collect – certainly not to the level that James had – but if he found one he knew the album was missing, he’d add it.
“Any chance you’ve got Agrippa?” Ron asked hopefully. “I’ve got about five hundred, but not him, or Ptolemy.”
“I reckon I’ve got at least four of him” Harry said. Ron’s mouth fell open. “You can have one if you’d like.”
“I got Ptolemy earlier,” Draco said, from the corner. He pulled the card in question out of his pocket, and Ron looked torn between distaste at the source, and delight at his good luck. “Would you like it?” Ron looked surprised, and a little wary – Harry didn’t blame him in the slightest. Draco held the card out impatiently. “Don’t worry, Weasley, it’s free,” he drawled. “I don’t need the money and you don’t have it, so I won’t charge you.” Ron looked mildly insulted, but accepted the card.
“Thanks,” he said. Draco just nodded and went back to stroking Scabbers. Harry spent a moment watching him; while Draco and Hydrus weren’t close, Harry had always been under the impression that they’d put up a united front when Hogwarts rolled around, for their own sake, and for the sake of the family name. Harry wasn’t sure if they’d had a falling out that morning, or if they’d been separated, if Draco’d been driven away by others, or if Draco had just got up and left on his own... It was hard to tell; Draco didn’t seem angry, or upset, just very subdued (and that could have been because Ron was there), but then, Harry wasn’t all that good at reading Draco.
There was a knock on the door; Hermione was back. Her eyes skimmed over Ron, and Harry, and then stopped on Draco.
“Hermione, this is Draco, Draco, this is Hermione,” Harry said. Draco looked up, curious. He opened his mouth, frowned, and then closed it again, looking a bit guilty. Harry wondered what he’d been about to say.
“Move,” someone said, and Hermione was shoved – not overly roughly, but certainly unnecessarily – into the compartment. She tripped on Draco’s outstretched foot, and would probably have landed on the ground if Ron hadn’t caught her. Harry was on his feet at once.
“So this is where you’ve got to,” Hydrus said, strolling into their compartment. He looked at Draco, who said nothing (Draco was suddenly even more interested in Ron’s rat), and then at Draco’s trunk in the corner. “A compartment with a blood traitor-” Ron’s face flooded with colour, but he didn’t say anything; he, like Harry, must have noticed the two large boys that had followed Hydrus in, like bodyguards. “-and precious Potter.” Hydrus glanced at Hermione and curled his lip. “Well, shows what you know, Draco.”
Draco continued to ignore him.
“You can tell someone’s blood from their appearance; no one with magical parents would be allowed to have teeth like that.” Hermione made an injured sound, and Harry saw Draco’s fist clench, but still he said nothing. “Mud-”
“Shut up,” Harry said to Hydrus, and Ron got to his feet as well, looking furious. He was taller than everyone else in the compartment, but not as wide as either of Hydrus’ bodyguards. Hydrus’ smirk widened.
“And if I don’t?” Hydrus said.
“You’re not being very nice,” Hermione said, from behind Harry. “You pushed me and were very rude; I’ll tell a teacher-”
“On the train?” Hydrus scoffed. “You really don’t know anything about this world, do you, Mud-”
Harry would never know if Moony had some sort of sixth sense for detecting trouble (which was entirely possible, given his old circle of friends) or if he came across their compartment by pure chance, but all Harry knew was, that, as he raised his wand to jinx Hydrus for the name he’d been about to call Hermione, his hand cramped.
“Is there a problem here?” Moony asked mildly, looking down on the Hydrus and his goons. Hydrus’ face was comical; he looked terrified, and then embarrassed, and then managed to get a haughty expression back on.
“No, Professor,” he sneered. “None at all.” Hydrus gave the occupants – all of them – of the compartment a superior look, and then nodded at the other two, who followed him out. Moony didn’t, as Harry had half expected, follow them, or say anything else on the matter. Instead, he flicked his own wand, and the cramping in Harry’s hand ceased.
“What was that for?” Harry demanded.
Moony glanced around the compartment, at Hermione, who looked relieved he’d intervened, at Ron, who was still standing, and looked angry, and at Draco, who was still paying very close attention to Scabbers. He tilted his head and Harry frowned, glanced at the others – hoping that Ron and Draco wouldn’t kill each other, or Hermione, while he was gone – and then followed Moony out into the corridor, pulling the door shut behind him.
* * *
The few people that were in the corridor and not settled in their compartments disappeared quickly when they saw Remus reappear and so he and Harry had the corridor to themselves. Harry was massaging his hand, and Remus felt a stab of guilt for that, and then reminded himself it had been for the best. While he was sure there was a good reason for Harry raising his wand, there were several better ones that supported his intervention.
“Well?” Harry asked grumpily.
Remus sighed. He and Harry spent a lot of time together, but Remus had never really joined in on the parenting aspect. He was happy to give advice, or offer a comment like ‘Is that really a good idea?’, or help Harry with homework, or tell him a story, but he always let Sirius deal with the... well, with serious matters. It wasn’t Remus that Harry came to when he wanted to discuss nightmares, or if he needed someone to confide in; that was well and truly Sirius’ area.
“Think,” Remus sighed. “You’re not a celebrity at home, Harry, but you’re not at home anymore. People are watching you-” People were watching all of them, these days – Sirius and Remus for years, but Harry’d been sheltered until now. “-and if you go around hexing people – and Lucius Malfoy’s son, of all people, then word will get around.” Harry said nothing. “It won’t look good for you, and it won’t look good for Sirius, as an Auror, to have you throwing spells around at every opportunity you get. You’re not even off the train, for-”
“I wasn’t just throwing spells around,” Harry said, with a scowl that made Remus wish Sirius was there with them, so that he could handle this instead. Remus arched an eyebrow. “Do you know what he called – or started to call Hermione? The M-word.”
“Little git had it coming; you didn’t hear what he said, Moony! He called Lily the M-word, like it was nothing!”
For a moment, it wasn’t Harry standing before Remus; it was James. James, with the same set jaw, angry eyes, and heated tone as Harry had now, trying to explain to (back then) new-Prefect-Remus, that he’d given Regulus silver skin because he’d called Lily a Mudblood. Harry glowered at the ground, and Remus was reluctant to speak and break the moment, and lose the temporary reincarnation of James, but eventually, he did find his voice.
“That’s still no reason for you to react the way you did; there’s always a better way to handle these things.”
“Short of him hexing me or her, what could possibly be a better reason?”
Harry’s response, though, was different to his father’s; he didn’t say anything at all, but Remus caught his scent, and he smelled betrayed. Guilt squirmed in Remus chest, and Remus almost apologised, and then shook his head. He was Harry’s ‘godmother’ but he was also his teacher, and that needed to come first, at least for the next few days until the scrutiny (of the re-emerging Harry Potter, and of Remus the teacher-werewolf) died down. Hydrus Malfoy was, Remus had no doubt, a little wart, but he couldn’t just turn a blind eye to kids hexing each other, particularly not when Harry knew some that could actually cause damage... he’d made that mistake during his own school years.
Remus took a deep breath and nodded at Harry’s compartment, where, perhaps, the oddest combination of children he’d ever seen together, sat.
“I’ll be up the front with the driver,” he said, when Harry didn’t say anything; he was looking out the window at the darkening sky, perhaps thinking, or perhaps just avoiding eye contact. “And you might want to think about putting your robes on; we’ll be there in about an hour.”
Harry nodded and headed back into his compartment. Remus shoved his hands into his pockets, feeling very unsure about the whole exchange, and wished, once again, that Sirius was there with them to mediate. And Dora, too - not so much for the mediation – if only for her company. He sighed, and started toward to front of the train.
* * *
The rest of the train ride passed without fanfare. Draco had – after being horrified to learn that Scabbers didn’t have a cage, and instead travelled around in Ron’s pocket even on long journeys – sent his owl home to ask his parents to send his old rat cage, and then relinquished his the rat to Ron. Ron had been surprised by the kind gesture, and spent the majority of the time after that watching Draco carefully, as if reforming his opinions of him.
Draco, unlike Hydrus, seemed more interested than offended by Hermione’s blood status – something Harry found very relieving - and had started to question her on a whole assortment of aspects of muggle life. Strange ones like ‘Do muggle families eat dinner together?’ and ‘So what exactly do muggles do?’ cropped up regularly, and Hermione seemed confused, but happy enough to answer. And, emboldened by Draco’s questions – perhaps realising that nothing he said in comparison could sound silly - Ron started to ask her things too, though his questions were more specific. Ron wanted to know how muggles cooked and cleaned, and how they played Quidditch if they didn’t have broomsticks.
Harry sat in silence, laughing every now and then at some of the funnier ones that came up, but mostly he was thinking about what Moony had said. Harry hadn’t given the celebrity thing much thought, other than to think he’d rather like it if he wasn’t famous, and he certainly hadn’t worked out that he’d be watched like a Snitch for the first little while. He also thought that, while Moony was right about there being better ways to deal with Hydrus than hexing him, that Hydrus thoroughly deserved it for his horrible disposition, and that Harry might, in the future, have to start listening to Padfoot: don’t get caught.
Eventually, Hermione escaped the quizzing, saying she needed to change into her robes, and once she was gone, the boys changed into their school uniforms, and pulled their robes on over the top. Harry saw Draco eyeing Ron’s second-hand, slightly-too-short ones, but he didn’t comment on it, though Harry was sure he must have been dying to.
Instead, Draco bit his lip and turned to look out the window, where mountains and thick trees were blurring past. Harry thought they were becoming clearer, though; the train was slowing down.
“We will be reaching Hogwarts in five minutes’ time. Please leave your luggage on the train, it will be taken to the school separately.”
Outside, people were moving in the corridors, and excited babble was drifting through the door.
“Do we just-?” Harry asked, nodding toward the corridor.
Ron, who was very pale, just shrugged, and said, “I s’pose.” Draco didn’t say anything, but he followed them out into the crowd, and stuck close to Harry’s side. The train stopped completely only moments later, and then Harry found himself being ushered out into the brisk night by the taller, older students.
He shivered, and looked around for the others. Hermione wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but Ron and Draco – red and white, in the dim light – had managed to stay together, and Harry headed straight for them, and then started to look around for Moony.
“What-” Ron began, but was cut off as light – in the form of a floating lantern - flooded the platform.
“Firs’ years! Firs’ years over here!” The lantern, it turned out, was not floating – Harry decided he was far too used to magic – but was actually being held, by Hagrid. He smiled down on them all, and called a greeting to Harry when he spotted him. “C’mon, follow me – any more firs’ years?” Harry started to look around for Blaise, but it was dark and there were lots of others around. “Mind yer step, now! Firs’ years follow me!”
Hagrid led the way down a narrow path – and a rather steep one at that – and the rest of them stumbled after him. Nobody had much to say, except Hydrus, who, somewhere behind them, was wondering loudly if Hagrid was kidnapping them all to eat them. Draco sniggered at that, and then saw Harry’s frown and fell silent.
“Yeh’ll all get yer firs’ sight o’ Hogwarts in a sec,” Hagrid called, from up ahead, “jus’ round this bend here.” Around the other side of the bend was the edge of the lake, and on the other side of the water was Hogwarts, big and tall, with the light from its windows shining like golden stars in the dark sky.
Harry was not the only one to make an impressed noise; several people made ‘Oooh’ noises, and a girl at the back even squealed before she was shushed by her friends.
“No more’n four to a boat!” Hagrid called and for the first time, Harry noticed the fleet of boats resting by the shore. He, Ron and Draco climbed into a boat and were joined by a girl Harry didn’t know. Hermione and Neville climbed into the boat next to theirs with the girl Bones had been with, and another boy. “Everyone in?” Hagrid shouted. “Forward!”
The boats took off smoothly across the lake. Harry settled against the side and looked up at the castle – he’d visited before, but only been outside once, and not at night, or from as far away – just drinking in the sight of his new home.
Hagrid’s voice jolted him out of his reverie, but Harry’d missed the actual words. He craned his head to try to see ahead, and then Draco shoved his head down. They passed through a curtain of ivy and into a wide cavern lit by torches that held some sort of hidden dock.
“Do you want your head knocked off?” Draco hissed, as their boat stopped with a bump of wood against wood, and Ron and the girl clambered out.
“Not really, no,” Harry muttered back. “Thanks.” Hermione and Neville made their way over – Hermione was asking Neville if he still had his toad with him, and Neville was nodding shyly – and the five of them joined the rest of the first years. Hagrid led them up a passageway and out onto damp grass, and then up a set of stone steps.
Then, he lifted his enormous fist and knocked on the heavy front door three times. It swung open at once. A tall witch with black hair and a strict expression stood there, surveying the first years. Her sharp eyes landed on Harry several times, but her expression never changed. He nodded at her; he’d met her once, briefly, during Padfoot’s trial.
“The firs’ years, Professor McGonagall,” said Hagrid.
“Thank you, Hagrid. I will take them from here.” She pulled the door open properly and everyone shuffled inside. Hermione’s chatter about facts she’d read in Hogwarts: A History ceased as she too took in the huge Entrance Hall and massive marble staircase.
“If I remember correctly,” Harry heard Hermione saying, “the Great Hall - where students have meals – is just through that door.”
Harry glanced toward the doorway on the right that she had directed Neville’s attention to and could hear the buzz of hundreds of voices. Professor McGonagall led them right past it and into a side-chamber. For the first time since the platform, Harry found himself feeling nervous... not for any real reason, he just supposed he was getting caught up in it with everyone else. He shared a look with a grim Ron, and Draco hadn’t said anything, but he was still staying quite close.
“Can you see Blaise?” he whispered to Hermione. She craned her neck and looked around, and then shook her head.
“Welcome to Hogwarts,” Professor McGonagall said. “The start of term banquet will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will be sorted into your Houses. The Sorting is a very important ceremony here because, while you are here, your House will be like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your House, sleep in your House dormitory, and spend free time in your House Common Room. The four Houses are called Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each House has its own noble history and each has produced outstanding witches and wizards.
“While you are at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn you House points, while any rule-breaking will lose House points. At the end of the year, the House with the most points is awarded the House Cup, a great honour. I hope each of you will become a great credit to whichever House becomes yours. 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.” Her beady eyes lingered on Neville’s cloak which was fastened under his left ear, and on Harry and Ron’s faces; Harry remembered too late that they probably had ash all over them. He scrubbed his face with his sleeve, and McGonagall’s thin lips twitched. “I shall return when we are ready for you. Until then, please wait quietly.” With a swish of emerald robes, she was gone.
“Ceremony in front of the rest of the school?” Harry asked, looking over at the others, horrified. “Do you how they sort us into Houses?” Harry asked. He’d asked Padfoot and Moony a few times, but neither had ever let on, but that hadn’t bothered him because he’d assumed it was private.
Ron shrugged, pale under his freckles, and said, “Some sort of test, I think. Fred said it hurts a lot but I think he was joking.” Harry nodded, mentally running through the spells he’d learnt and might need. He couldn’t see her, but he could hear Hermione doing the same. He was just trying to remember the incantation for a basic shield charm when several students screamed.
A group of ghosts had just floated through the wall arguing amongst themselves: “-forgive and forget, I say,” said a fat little monk, “we ought to give him a second chance-”
“My dear Friar, haven’t we given Peeves all the chances he deserves? He gives us all a bad name and you know, he’s not really even a ghost- I say, what are you all doing here?” A ghost in tights and a ruffled shirt had just noticed the first years. Nobody answered.
“New students!” the Fat Friar said, beaming around at them. “About to be Sorted, I suppose?” A few people, Harry among them, nodded. “Hope to see you in Hufflepuff!” he said kindly. “My old House you know.”
“Move along now,” Professor McGonagall said sharply, making a chubby girl with pigtails jump and scream. “The Sorting Ceremony’s about to start.” The ghosts drifted through the wall, making several students break out in nervous chatter again. “Now, form two lines and follow me.” Harry got into line behind Ron. Draco was beside him, looking calm, but resigned.
“Good luck,” Harry muttered. Draco turned to stare at him, seeming confused.
“Thanks?” he said after a moment. “Good luck to you, too.”
Professor McGonagall led them out of the chamber, back across the Entrance Hall and into the room Hermione had pointed to when they first arrived. It was easily as big as the Entrance Hall and had four long tables where the older students were sitting, and one table across the far end where the teachers sat.
Dumbledore was front and centre, beaming around at them all, and Snape was to his left – the seat on his right was empty, and was probably McGonagall’s – and Moony was beside Snape. He smiled at Harry when he spotted him, and Harry, despite having some lingering frustration, waved and smiled back. Harry didn’t recognise any of the other teachers, but there was a tiny little man next to McGonagall’s empty seat, and a witch with enormous glasses and flyaway hair right down the end on the left, who was staring intently into the bottom of her goblet.
Above the tables were thousands of floating candles which bathed the Hall in a warm golden light and above that was the ceiling, which was velvety black and dotted with stars. Hermione was telling Ron – who looked too terrified to actually be paying proper attention - that it was bewitched to look like the night sky. Harry hid a smile. As they drew even with the end of the tables, McGonagall re-emerged, carrying a stool and a frayed hat.
The older students were watching the hat expectantly. Harry shared a confused look with Ron – Draco and Hermione were staring straight ahead and wouldn’t meet his eye - and looked up in time to see a stitch near the brim open. The hat began to sing:
“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 not afraid 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.
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 entire Hall burst into applause as the hat finished its song and bowed to each of the four tables.
“So we’ve just got to try on the hat!” Ron whispered to Harry, sounding relieved. “I’ll kill Fred; he was going on about wrestling a troll!”
Harry nodded, but wondered how safe it was; he was a Secret Keeper, after all – not that they were hiding anymore - and he knew an awful lot about things like Horcruxes, and about Padfoot’s Auror cases, and all sorts of other things that he didn’t really think a hat needed to know. Harry’s wondering was cut short by Professor McGonagall who was holding a long roll of parchment.
“When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be Sorted,’ she said. “Abbott, Hannah!” A red faced girl with blonde pigtails - the one who had screamed when McGonagall had returned - stumbled out of the line in front of Harry and put the hat on.
There was a short pause and then the hat shouted, “HUFFLEPUFF!” A table to Harry’s right – all with yellow and black ties - cheered as Hannah sat down.
“Bones, Susan!” The girl who’d been with Bones that morning hurried up, but Harry didn’t pay much attention to that; he was wondering where ‘Benson, Blaise’ was. He glanced around, but couldn’t see through the throng of first years, and gave up in time to see Susan take the hat off and hurry over to join Hannah at the Hufflepuff table.
“RAVENCLAW!” Ravenclaw’s reaction was a little more subdued – clapping instead of cheering – but several older students shook hands with Terry as he sat down next to a pretty Asian girl. Mandy Brocklehurst, a tall girl with a short brown ponytail joined Terry in Ravenclaw, and a moment later a girl with curly brown hair named Lavender Brown went to join the Gryffindor table, which exploded into applause. Millicent Bullstrode, a tall, thickly set girl with a square jaw was the first Slytherin of the evening.
Justin Finch-Fletchley – the boy that had been in the boat with Hermione and Neville - became a Hufflepuff.
“That’s what he wanted!” Hermione whispered, and then jumped as her name was called.
She had the hat on her head for the longest of anyone so far, and Harry was surprised when it finally called, “GRYFFINDOR!” because he’d fully expected her to end up in Ravenclaw. He caught her eye and smiled though, and hoped more than ever that he would end up in Gryffindor too.
When Neville Longbottom was called, he fell over on his way up to the stool.
The hat took a long time to decide, but finally it called out “GRYFFINDOR!” Harry was a little surprised - he’d picked Neville for Hufflepuff - but he clapped along with the rest anyway. Neville himself looked shocked but pleased as he ran off to sit down, still wearing the hat.
He had to jog back through everyone’s laughter to pass it to “MacDougal, Morag.”
Draco was called shortly after. The entire Slytherin table perked up at the mention of his surname. He extracted himself from his place beside Harry and walked to the front. The hat - which covered most of his head – was quiet for a long time, but Harry thought he could hear Draco talking to it.
* * *
Severus’ heart was in his throat as Draco approached the stool and sat down. Beside him, Lupin could probably smell it, because he looked sympathetic. Severus put his back to the werewolf, and focused on his godson, who didn’t look even faintly nervous.
Severus wondered if Draco would look nervous if he had even the slightest inkling of what Severus and Narcissa had done to him over the past few years. The boy that sat beneath the hat now, looked the same as the one who’d come to Severus’ office at his mother’s request, to re-sort a bookshelf, but he was entirely different. They’d put ideas in his head, changed him, slowly, changed the way he thought and the way he acted... Draco, untouched, and left to grow up the same way Hydrus had, would be a lot like Hydrus, although, Severus suspected, he would be an little kinder; Draco had always had that tendency.
There was silence but confused looks were beginning to pass between friends and colleagues.
Teach him to survive, Narcissa had said. So, Severus had taught the boy to lie, to see lies, and to organise, so that once he was thirteen, he’d be able to take up Occlumency without difficulty. He would have Severus’ rather unique skill set. And, if Severus and Narcissa had done their jobs properly, he would have that skill set, a Gryffindor tie, and Harry Potter’s friendship.
And, with those three, he would have a choice, and therefore freedom that few people had; when the time came, he could serve the Dark Lord from Gryffindor, the way Pettigrew had. Or, perhaps, like Severus, he would change sides and play double agent. If Potter was anything like his mother – and Severus, very grudgingly, had to admit there were some similarities – then friendship with him would not be an easy thing to turn away from... or at least it wouldn’t be, if Draco could keep himself from making Severus’ mistakes.
But, whichever side he did choose – and Severus hoped rather fiercely that it would be Potter’s, Dumbledore’s and his, so that he didn’t have to kill his godson – could be kept a secret, if Draco so desired, and with ambiguity came safety...
But that all hinged on the Sorting Hat’s next word. They had a tentative friendship already, but if Draco didn’t make it into Gryffindor, he’d never make it – properly – into Potter’s circle of friends, never have the chance to offer himself as a spy, or have the reasons to turn on the Dark Lord. He would have no choice but to follow in his father’s footsteps, and kneel at the Dark Lord’s feet, and he would have a life of servitude whether he wanted it or not.
That was what Narcissa feared, what she wanted to avoid, regardless of the cost.
Severus did, of course, want Draco to have a better quality of life than ‘Death Eater’ but above all - and he’d never admit this to anyone, and especially not to Dumbledore - he just wanted Draco to be happy, doing whatever he enjoyed, or spending time with people whose company he appreciated.
And, Severus knew, thanks to his and Narcissa’s manipulations, there was really only one place that he’d find that.
For all the good it does, he thought, I am sorry, Draco.
Severus sighed, crossed his fingers in his lap and thought with all his might, Gryffindor. Please, please, let it be Gryffindor.
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