"He's doing well," Blackwood told Harry's dark eyed guardian in their quarters the morning after Harry had taken the test. "90% right, and the questions he got wrong were all maths that he had been struggling with before I was tutoring him three times a week. If he keeps this up he'll be just fine and nearly caught up with the rest of the class in everything but maths."
"I am pleased to hear that," Severus said, and he turned to Harry and gave him an appraising look. Harry's cheeks turned red and he looked away. He was pleased with himself for working so hard, but he wasn't used to others being happy about his performance.
After Blackwood left, Severus turned to Harry and said, "Your current test scores being what they are, might leave one to wonder why they were ever so low."
Harry looked down and didn't answer.
"You have nothing to say?"
"I wasn't being lazy sir, I swear," Harry said.
"I do not believe you were." Severus looked at him critically for a moment and watched as Harry fidgeted under his gaze.
"I believe in reward for hard work," Severus finally said, and Harry looked up, surprised.
"When I work hard," he went on, "I am rewarded by being paid by the school. When I work to achieve higher education, I am rewarded by the Ministry. When students at Hogwarts put in extra effort, they are awarded house points, and later rewarded by becoming Prefects. Because you have worked so diligently on your studies, you should also be rewarded."
Severus nodded. "Go and get your shoes on."
Harry hurried to obey, and was back out in less than a minute, ready to go. His aunt and Uncle always took Dudley out for ice cream when he got a C or better on a test or homework assignment (probably why he was so fat; Dudley was always getting C's). Harry didn't dare get his hopes up for ice cream though, never mind that he'd never had any before.
"We will go to Diagonalley. You are in need of a warm coat for the fall since you will be walking to school each morning, as well as a hat and gloves and a pair of boots. If we go today we will not have to go later." Severus went to his desk and unlocked the top drawer with a key and pulled out his money pouch. Harry watched, eyes wide, as he came back with it and opened it. "I will give you sixteen sickles. You may spend them on what you want, or save them. The choice is yours."
Harry held out his hand and watched as Severus counted out sixteen. It was the first time he'd ever received pocket money. As they walked to the school gates at the edge of the grounds, Harry liked the way the money jingled in his pocket. He almost considered not spending it just so that he could walk around with it in his pocket all the time. But the moment they had apparated to Diagonalley, Harry knew he was going to have a problem not spending the money.
Every manner of witch and wizard were walking down the cobbled street, window shopping, chasing stray animals, or carrying bags of their purchases. There were children too, just like Harry, hurrying along behind their parents or holding their mother's hands if they were younger.
"I want a broom mummy!" one boy cried as she led him into an apothecary. Harry wondered how much brooms cost then, and if he had enough to buy one with his pocket money.
"The clothing store first, and then you can investigate the other shops."
Harry nodded and followed Severus down the street. Harry soon had a warm winter coat, a winter hat with matching gloves, and a pair of black boots to go with it all. Severus had also insisted on a black traveling cloak, though Harry thought he would look silly if he wore it. "You do not know how useful a traveling cloak can be," Severus told Harry at the dismayed look on his face. "Once winter comes however, you will find out."
Severus let Harry lead the way down the street, and while Harry was tempted to go into the bookstore, he knew he had plenty of books to check out from the schoolhouse or from Hogwarts, so he settled instead for pressing his face against the glass. He did go into the Quidditch supply store and oggled at the racing brooms and their high cost of over 100 galleons and resigned himself to never having one. Their last stop was a toy store three times the size of the one in Hogsmeade. Inside, Harry stared wide eyed and looked up at the three stories of toys. There were two separate spiral staircases leading upwards, and Harry ran up one of them, deciding to start at the top and work his way down. Severus didn't follow, and settled for leaning against the clerk's counter with several other adults who were watching their children explore the toys.
While there were many interesting things on the top floor, none of them were exactly what Harry was looking for. He wanted to find a bin of characters to go with the ones he already had. On the second floor in a corner next to several sets of children's fantasy books, including the drake series he'd been reading, there were several bins of play figures and he got on his knees to sort through them. Characters were 2 sickles each and that meant he could get 8. He hadn't read the black or green book of Drakes yet, but he decided to get the black and green drakes for when he did, along with the red, gold, and white drakes. He also got two girls and a boy to go with the red, gold, and white drakes. He wished dearly to pick out some more villains, but his money was already spent on the 8 characters. Harry was just wondering how he would carry them all down the stairs to pay for them when Severus spoke behind him.
"There are no other toys that interest you?" Severus asked.
Harry turned and looked up at him.
"There are all kinds of toys I might like in here," he said. "But I really like the drake books and I've had fun with the three figures I have."
"What else do you want?"
Harry thought on it. "There was a potions kit that looked fun, and I'd like more color changing building bricks in the future so I can build more places for the book characters to visit. And a broom."
Severus raised his brow at the last item.
"And if I get more money I'm going to come back and get the rest of the characters... the other three heroes and some monsters."
Severus helped him carry the toys down to the ground level, and did not fail to notice when Harry stared longingly at the many castle sets that were the right size to fit his figures.
Several hours later, when they were back at the castle, Harry had packed all of his new action figures into his ratty backpack and carried them to the inner courtyard, where he pulled them out one by one and began enacting a huge battle against the merperson and the carved wooden monster. Harry looked around and began gathering twigs. Maybe he could somehow tie them together to make other monsters for his characters to fight. Eventually he gave up however, putting the twigs in his bag, and ended up having the drakes and their characters fighting each other. Harry lay on his stomach on the stone walkway happily battling away the afternoon.
* * *
The castle had suddenly grown a lot more lively. Staff that Harry had yet to meet had returned from long vacations to prepare for the upcoming term which started in two weeks. Some seemed intent on cleaning and rearranging their classrooms and offices, and others focused on making lesson plans. Severus was out of the quarters a lot more and when Harry wanted to find him to tell him he was going to visit Hagrid or wanted to go up to the library on the third floor, he had to find him in his office or one of the dungeon classrooms. Apparently he taught in different classrooms depending on the size of class he was teaching. Luckily the classrooms were all down the hall from each other in the same corridor.
Harry knew better than to be underfoot when adults were busy, as that sort of behavior only led to punishment, so he made himself scarce as well, spending all of his time out on the grounds with Hagrid, who didn't have classes to prepare for. And since he was with an adult, he was allowed to go all over the grounds, not just to the places marked on the map.
Hagrid led Harry around the back side of the castle to a garden and greenhouse where most of the school's vegetables were grown, and let Harry help him tend the crops. He also let Harry help him water and care for the pumpkins he was growing behind his cabin. Being the groundskeeper Hagrid had other things to do as well, such as taking care of invisible creatures called Thestrals (which Harry was curious about but also creeped out by since he couldn't see them as they ate meat from a bucket Harry held up). Harry also helped Hagrid repair the stone wall at the front of the grounds, and re-paint the tall black iron gate that he often passed through to get to Hogsmeade with Severus. Once Severus even gave Harry permission to go to Hogsmeade with Hagrid to get supplies Hagrid needed. Harry enjoyed spending time with the groundskeeper and having something that was not schoolwork to do.
* * *
"I have not seen much of you recently," Severus commented one evening when Harry came back to the quarters after dinner.
"Today Hagrid and I went to that stone bridge that goes over the brook."
"The one on the edge of the forest near the lake?"
Harry nodded. "One of the stone steps was falling apart and we fixed it. He showed me how to catch newts and we skipped stones after that. Hagrid can throw really big ones." Harry held up his hands to indicate the size of the large stones Hagrid was skipping and Severus nodded. Harry sat down on the couch and reached for the White Book of Dragons which he'd left on the coffee table the night before. He generally didn't leave his things anywhere but his room, but he'd been tired the night before and had forgotten it when Severus had sent him to bed.
Before Harry could find his place in the book again, Severus said, "The start of term feast is the night after tomorrow night. That day I have staff meetings to attend for the majority of the day. We need to discuss some new rules for when school is in session."
Harry put the white book down and sat quietly.
"You will be the youngest person in the castle. You will be expected to follow my rules, as well as the same rules the other students must abide by. This means you must obey the other staff here as if you were obeying me."
"Curfew for first years is 8 pm, which means you must also be in the quarters by 8 pm. Until now I have made you return directly after dinner, but there are sometimes events that go on after dinner during the term so I will allow you to stay out until 8."
Harry filed the information away in the place in his mind reserved for all rules.
"You may take meals in the quarters, or in the Great Hall, but since you have not yet been assigned a house you may sit at any table but the staff table. Students are not used to having younger children around that are not enrolled, so they may have questions. You will simply tell them that you now live at the castle and have to follow all school rules."
Harry nodded and Severus continued. "If you want to take your meals in the quarters, the house elves will send food to the kitchen table if you put an empty plate on the table and ask for breakfast, lunch, or dinner."
Severus went over a few school rules with Harry and explained that since Harry wasn't a student he wouldn't be assigned detentions or a loss of house points, but that if he got into any trouble Severus would hear about it and would issue a punishment. He also explained that Harry was not allowed to go into any of the house common rooms, and that unless it was a public space like the Library or Great Hall he shouldn't go anywhere alone with any of the older students.
"Do you have questions?"
Harry shook his head.
"School does not start in Hogsmeade for a full week. I expect you to keep yourself occupied and out of trouble in the week you are here while term is in. I have written down my office hours, as well as the office hours of Professor McGonagall and the Headmaster." He pointed to a parchment taped under his map of the grounds up on the wall. "If you need me during the day, come to my office. If I am not there because I am in class, seek out Professor McGonagall or the Headmaster in their offices."
"I won't get in any trouble," Harry promised. He was nervous about nearly 500 older students coming into the castle. When he'd first arrived the Headmaster had explained to him about his parent's deaths, Voldemort, and his nickname (The-Boy-Who-Lived), and he was worried people would stare at him and his ugly scar. He was also worried he'd be picked on and bullied like he always had been before, especially since he would be the youngest one there.
"Since tomorrow is my last free day until the weekend, I will take you to get school supplies. Mr. Blackwood sent over a list last night. I will also show you the route to the school again. I will take you on the first day to ensure you get there, but after that you will be walking by yourself each morning, and coming back to the castle by yourself each afternoon."
Harry was excited and nervous about that at the same time. He liked being outside and had often wished he could go explore on his own without having to be with an adult, but it was a long walk to the school in Hogsmeade and that left a lot of opportunity for other kids to gang up on him before and after school without being seen by adults. He tried not to dwell on it overmuch as he went to sleep that night, or on the fact that the quiet castle was going to get so busy in so little time.
* * *
Harry avoided breakfast on the first morning of the term. He was too nervous about the other students and not sure which table he should sit at, so he ordered breakfast in the quarters instead, and spent an hour organizing the new supplies Severus had bought him in Dundee and in Hogsmeade into his new dark gray backpack. He had several Muggle notebooks with lined paper (all with blue covers), a metal pencil box with half a dozen pencils with an eversharp charm, three quills, a knife and tweezers for cutting the quill, six bottles of black ink and one bottle of blue ink, a brand new set of colored pencils with an eversharp charm, scissors, spello tape, several bottles of spello glue, and a book of parchment paper. Harry wondered if they would teach him how to use the knife and quills and just what exactly the tweezers were for as he packed them away, wishing he could start school this week instead of sitting around the quarters.
Eventually boredom got the better of him and drew him out of the quarters an hour before lunch. It wasn't long before he ran into students in the Dungeon corridors. Some were going to and from Potions it seemed, and several were Slytherins making their way up out of the Dungeons to go to classes elsewhere in the castle.
"Who are you?" a boy asked. He had a prefect badge on and looked about as old as the boy who had delivered his furniture earlier in the summer.
"Harry," he said, avoiding giving his last name.
"Why aren't you wearing your robes? What are you doing in the Dungeons?"
Harry motioned down the hallway behind him. "I live in the castle now." At least, he thought that's what Severus had told him to say.
"We all live in the castle. What class are you supposed to be in?"
"I'm not a student," Harry said, wondering if this boy would eventually get angry enough with him to beat him up. "I live in the castle with Professor Snape."
The boy raised his brow. "Professor Snape?"
"He doesn't have any kids. Does he?"
Professor Snape appeared behind him then however and spared him from trying to figure out what to say next.
"Where are you headed Harry?" he asked.
"Hagrid's," he said.
"Don't be late for lunch."
Harry nodded and made for the stairs out of the Dungeons. He heard Snape behind him telling the Prefect (Dusty) that Harry did indeed live in the Dungeons.
Harry was unable to find Hagrid out on the grounds however and ended up heading back into the castle just as students were heading for lunch. He got swept into the Great Hall with the crowd and ended up standing there staring at the student body as they began to take seats, wondering where he himself was supposed to sit or if he should just go back to the Dungeons.
"Over here," someone said, giving a light tug on his sleeve, and Harry turned to find Dusty.
"Sir?" Harry asked, and Dusty laughed.
"Don't call me that. I'm never going to be known as sir. If you live in the Dungeons you might as well sit with Slytherins since we live there too. Come on, there's room at our table for you."
Harry followed him to the table at the far end of the Great Hall, wary that this was some sort of trick. Once a group of boys from his class had asked if he wanted to sit with them at lunch, and it turned out they just wanted him to tell them embarrassing things about Dudley. He never did tell them but it didn't stop Dudley from beating him up on the way home from school for it.
"This is Harry. He lives with Professor Snape. Budge up and make room," he told a group of students that looked a little older than Harry but not much. Dusty sat down in the midst of them and then pulled on Harry's sleeve until he sat down too.
"These are first years," Dusty told him. "They're new here too."
Some of the students looked as nervous as Harry did, and others just looked happy to have a break from classes.
"He's not in our house," a boy pointed out.
"Doesn't matter," Dusty said. "He can sit here ‘cause I said so. How old are you? Ten?" Harry nodded. "They're eleven," he said, pointing to the group of first years. "Not that much of a difference."
"Does this mean we can sit at other tables?" a girl asked.
"If you're invited," Dusty said. "Harry's not in a house so he gets to sit wherever."
"Who's that?" a boy wearing a robe with a yellow stripe asked from the next table. He was wearing a Prefect Badge as well.
"Harry Potter," Dusty told him with a grin.
"Potter? I thought he wasn't coming ‘til next year."
"He lives in the castle now," Dusty said, and now several other people from Slytherin and Hufflepuff were listening in on the conversation. By the end of lunch it had spread across the hall and several students, mainly older ones, had come over to see if the rumor was true and to stare at Harry's scar.
At the end of lunch Harry stood and hurried away from the table, not certain if he should be irritated or upset with Dusty, but Dusty caught up to him in the Entrance Hall. "Hey, what's the rush?" he asked.
Harry turned and stared at him. "You only pulled me over there so you could say you sat with The-Boy-Who-Lived."
"I told you why I took you to Slytherin. You live in the Dungeons and so do we."
"But it didn't take you long to boast to everybody about it."
"It didn't take long for people to ask."
Harry frowned at him.
"You can believe what you want, but it didn't happen like you think it did. I'm a Prefect and Prefects are expected to set an example for the rest of the students. Professor Carcroft told me to ask if you wanted to sit with us so I did. If I hadn't you would have still been standing in the Great Hall watching everybody eat."
"Professor Carcroft?" Harry asked, confused. He'd seen Dusty talking to Snape two hours ago, not Carcroft.
"I had class with him before lunch," Dusty said. "If you don't want to sit at Slytherin you don't have to, but it's rude to act like you're so important and popular that people just use you for your popularity." He didn't seem angry as he turned and walked off, but Harry still felt foolish and as though he'd just been shouted at. Dusty was right. He had just assumed.
At dinner Harry stood on the threshold of the Great Hall starring in. Several students stared at him and some waved him over towards their tables, but Harry's eyes were glued firmly on Slytherin, where Dusty sat amongst a group of older students that looked his age. Severus didn't seem to be at the staff table yet, and several other staff were missing so he wondered if they had some sort of teacher's meeting to be at. Making up his mind, he went to Slytherin, causing several disappointed looks across the Great Hall, and sat down across from Dusty. The older students around him stared for a moment.
"I'm sorry," Harry told Dusty, "for being rude to you earlier."
The Prefect gave him an appraising look and then grinned at him, not bothering to explain to those around him what Harry was apologizing for. He went back to his meal and continued talking to his friends, and when Harry served himself meat and potatoes but no vegetables, Dusty reached across the table and put several carrots on his plate. Harry didn't complain. He was just glad that the first day with students back in the castle hadn't gone as horribly as he thought it would and that he had figured out where to sit at meals.
At the head table Minerva leaned over and asked Severus, "Did you tell him he had to sit at Slytherin?"
"I told him no such thing."
From the other side of Dumbledore, Carcroft said, "I told Dusty he might ask him to sit at Slytherin if he hadn't found a place to sit at lunch."
"Thank you Colm," Albus said.
"He's angling for Head Boy next year," Carcroft said. "It's good for him to learn what it is to lead by example."
Severus listened in on the conversation but didn't comment. He hadn't known that Dusty had been wanting the Head Boy position. Carcroft was right though, it was good for him to lead by example and prove he could build bridges between houses. Not that Harry had been placed in a house yet, but when he was, he was certain to go to Gryffindor. There was still a lot of anti-Potter resentment floating around prominent families who had come from Slytherin and who had served the Dark lord as well. If Dusty, a respected and well liked Prefect was willing to invite Harry to sit with Slytherin, it might make things easier on Harry in the long run.
Now that he thought about it, he probably should have told Harry to sit with Slytherin when at meals. It would have given him some direction instead of standing around wondering where he was supposed to sit. It was something he should have thought of, but hadn't. Maybe Dumbledore was right, and he wasn't as ready to take over a house full of children as he thought he was.