Well, I'm back. I can't quite let go of this story, so I have decided to write a series of one-shots of the 'To Trust' universe instead, adding to it whenever the mood strikes. I hope you enjoy the little snippets I write, and that they live up to the tremendous praise and encouragement you all provided me with while 'To Trust' was still in progress.
Harry awoke early on September first, feeling as though a thousand butterflies were coating the lining of his stomach.
Doubtful that he’d be able to focus much on anything, Harry remained in bed for a while longer and breathed in the cool air that felt perpetually fresh.
He was leaving for Hogwarts today, and it felt far more daunting than he had imagined it would. Compared to everything else he’d been through, beginning his magical education should have been a walk in the park. Yet Harry had grown to feel so comfortable in Snape’s home, more safe than he had ever felt in his life and a part of him feared that, once he left what had become a sanctuary of sorts, he would never get it back.
Get a grip, Harry told himself firmly. Snape is your guardian, you live here now.
Harry couldn’t quite quell the pit of anxiety in his stomach, however.
Eventually, Harry rose from his bed and dressed, pausing to double-check his luggage before making his way downstairs.
He entered the kitchen, where Snape greeted him with a nod. He settled in his chair and attempted to eat, but instead stirred the food around his plate idly, watching with morbid fascination as the bright yellow hue of his eggs gradually shifted into a brownish, sludgy substance.
“Nervous?” Snape asked, an eyebrow raised at Harry’s antics.
“A bit,” Harry admitted, his grip on his fork tightening as he stabbed it repeatedly into the glob on his plate.
“You will be fine, Harry,” Snape said calmly.
“How are we getting to the station?” Harry asked in attempt to change the subject. Snape went along with it.
“Apparition would be the most convenient method.”
Snape frowned. “When have you ever… Ah. I suppose the headmaster escorted you here by means of Apparition.”
Harry nodded tensely.
“The first time is generally the worst, Harry. It won’t be quite as uncomfortable as you remember.”
“Why not?” Harry asked skeptically.
“There are pathways in your brain that had to be formed the first time you experienced Apparition. Now that they are in place, it will feel more natural to you.”
Harry supposed that was a good enough answer.
“What about Hedwig, sir?”
Snape tilted his head.
"Animals are generally unaffected by the sensations of Apparition.”
“Why's that?” Harry asked, frowning.
“The discomfort stems from the brain’s reaction to the displacement, and the human brain is decidedly more complex than that of an animal.”
That made sense.
“But won’t the, er, muggles notice us randomly popping into existence?”
“There is an allotted area for Apparition that muggles cannot access.”
Harry was quiet for a moment.
It’s pretty risky that Apparition messes with the brain. Unless wizards are born with different brain chemistries. Interesting…
“What happens if a person Apparates while drunk?” he asked.
Snape lips twitched, and his face took on the expression that Harry had grown to recognize as amused.
“Well, Apparition is a delicate process at the best of times, requiring a considerable level of focus, and if one is not in his, shall we say, right mind, he may likely splinch himself, or worse.”
Oh, splinching. Harry had read a bit about that.
“So I do suggest, when you acquire your own license, that you avoid such undertakings.”
Harry bit back a grin. Snape raised an eyebrow.
“You believe that is a laughing matter, do you?”
Harry shook his head, trying hard not to laugh.
Snape pursed his lips. “Speaking as your guardian,” he said, “if you ever attempt an endeavor so foolhardy, you will be scrubbing cauldrons in my laboratory until you turn thirty.”
Harry couldn’t hold it back anymore; he pressed his hands against his mouth the muffle the chuckles that were forcing their way out.
Snape maintained his stern expression for a moment, then relaxed, his face softening.
“The things you children find amusing…” he muttered, refilling his teacup.
They finished their breakfast, and the remainder of the morning seemed to fly by. It felt as though it was only moments later when Snape summoned Harry’s luggage from his bedroom and dropped it off by the front door.
Harry insisted on fetching Hedwig on his own, not wanting to frighten her. Climbing the stairs two at a time, he reached his bedroom quickly and grabbed hold of Hedwig’s cage, from where she hooted softly at him. He glanced around his room one last time before hurrying downstairs.
“Ready?” Snape asked, one hand lifting Harry’s trunk while the other fumbled in the pocket of his overcoat. Harry nodded, trying not to stare.
I could have sworn he was wearing robes just two minutes ago… magic, obviously. He obviously has to wear normal clothes if we’re going to King’s Cross.
Nonetheless, it was still rather odd to see Snape dressed in black trousers topped with a grey button-up shirt and black overcoat.
Snape beckoned toward Harry to follow him.
Harry grabbed hold of his backpack and shrugged it on, then made to step outside. Snape held him back by the shoulder and handed him a small, black pouch.
“Some money for the train ride,” Snape said, his face unreadable. “I daresay you will want to sample the abundance of sweets offered.”
“Thanks,” Harry said, taking the pouch with his free hand. “I’ll pay you back when I-”
“You most certainly will not,” Snape said sharply.
Harry looked up at him, eyebrows furrowed. “But I do have money-”
Snape sighed, setting down Harry’s trunk.
“Harry, as your guardian, it is my responsibility to provide for you, financial matters included.”
“But I have loads of money in the bank.”
“And that money is to remain there to be used once you come of age, Harry.” Snape responded, shaking his head slightly.
“You didn’t have any objections when we went to Diagon Alley,” Harry said, annoyed.
“I was not your guardian at the time.” Snape squeezed Harry’s shoulder. “I am now, and I will be providing for you. There is no discussion.”
Harry exhaled. Snape let go of his shoulder and pulled Harry tightly against his side.
“Brace yourself,” he warned, and Harry squeezed his eyes shut, preparing himself for the dizzying sensation of Apparition.
It wasn’t quite as bad as Harry remembered, but that did not prevent him from staggering when they landed. Had Snape not held him steady, he would have certainly fallen flat on his face.
Upon regaining his balance, Harry pulled away and looked around.
As Snape had mentioned, they were in a large, closed room, where several other people were popping into existence not far from where they stood.
Still carrying Harry’s trunk, Snape led Harry out of the room and onto the bustling station. He grabbed on to a trolley and set down Harry’s trunk, pushing it along until he paused several yards away from the platform.
“I prefer not to enter the platform, I do not wish to deal with the reactions of terrified Hufflepuffs and subsequently angered parents.”
Harry grinned. “Yeah, I supposed you’d want to avoid that.”
Harry was surprised when Snape suddenly pulled him into a brief, one-armed hug. He leaned into it. Snape let go of him after a moment, urging him forward with a pat on the back.
“I will see you at the feast, Harry,” he said, his eyes warm.
Harry nodded, and, taking a deep breath, he turned and pushed his trolley toward the barrier between platforms nine and ten. He ran through it without any difficulties, but was nonetheless quite awed by the rapid alteration of his surroundings. The area was crowded with witches and wizards, dressed in normal clothing and robes alike, and amidst them all was a huge, red steam engine puffing smoke, with the words Hogwarts Express plastered across its side.
Interesting that they’d use a steam engine. Is it magical?
Thanks to Snape’s feather-weight charm, he easily stored his trunk, adjusted Hedwig's cage more firmly in his grip, then stepped through a nearby door into the interior of the train. He cringed slightly at the noise and crowds surrounding him. It had been crowded outside as well, but it felt more suffocating inside the train. He weaved his way down the aisle, keeping his head down and Hedwig’s cage held closely to his chest.
Eventually, Harry spotted an empty compartment and slipped inside, sliding the door shut behind him. He scanned the room quickly, noticing a rack set above the row of seats. He hopped onto the nearest seat to store Hedwig’s cage. then sat, shrugging off his backpack. He then pulled out a book, relieved that he had made it on to the train without any hassle. After roughly ten minutes, the train began to move. Harry felt a jolt of excitement mingle with the nervousness. It wasn’t the most settling combination of feelings.
He watched the passing scenery through the window for a while, the urban-esque surroundings of London gradually shifting into vast, empty fields. He turned back to his book.
Harry’s reading was suddenly interrupted when he heard a croak. He jerked slightly and looked down at the floor.
There was a rather large toad squashed into a corner of his compartment, apparently quite content to remain where it was.
I didn’t expect that someone would actually bring a toad as a pet.
Harry figured he’d better keep an eye on it in case someone was looking for it. He bit back a chuckle at the gormless expression he imagined it would be sporting, if toads actually could form facial expressions.
The train vibrated slightly as it began its ascent up a hill, and the toad, startled, hopped out of its corner and toward the door.
“Oh, no you don’t,” Harry muttered, setting aside his book and jumping out of his seat. He snatched the toad up before it could escape.
Harry sat back down with the toad firmly cupped in his hands. It croaked again.
I didn’t expect be doing this on the train ride…
“Has anyone seen a toad?” Harry heard a loud, female voice say some moments later as the door of his compartment was pushed open. “Neville’s lost one.”
Harry looked up quickly to see a bushy-hair girl stepping into his compartment, followed by a nervous-looking, round-face boy.
Wordlessly, Harry held up the irksome toad.
The boy gasped in relief and rushed forward to take it.
“Thanks,” he said earnestly. “He’s so hard to keep track of.”
“Why would you bring a toad in the first place?” Harry asked, before realizing that the question may have been a bit rude.
The boy, Neville, didn’t seem insulted. “I got him as a gift,” he said, his face going a pit pink.
Harry nodded his understanding and shifted awkwardly in his seat.
Thankfully, the girl seemed to feel that she had gone long enough without speaking.
“What’s that you’re reading?” she asked interestedly, stepping forward to peer at the book beside him. Harry tensed, his fingers clutched around the book tightly.
Calm down. She’s not trying to steal anything from you.
He forced his shoulders to loosen and held the book out to her. She looked at him oddly for a moment, then accepted the book with a small smile.
“Oh, I’m Hermione Granger, by the way,” she said, skimming through the text.
“Harry Potter,” he muttered.
Both Neville and Hermione looked up.
Oops. I forgot about that.
“You’re Harry Potter?” she gasped. “Wow, I’ve read all about you.”
“So did I,” Harry said dryly.
“You’re smaller than I expected,” she said matter-of-factly, sitting down beside him.
Harry raised his eyebrows, a bit offended. Sure, he was small, but did she have to point it out? It wasn’t as though she was much bigger than he was. Although, the fact that a girl was larger than him, especially after several months of his having regular meals, was something to be concerned with.
Hermione went a bit red.
“You can, er, sit down,” he said to Neville, who was standing awkwardly in the middle of the compartment, hands clutched around his evasive toad.
“If you’re sure that’s alright…”
Harry nodded, and Neville sat down on the seat across from him.
Harry wasn’t quite sure what to say next, but Hermione seemed to have no objection toward taking charge of the conversation. She prattled on about all the books she’d read and what classes she expected to enjoy, apparently under the impression that fourth year level spell books were required reading materials. Harry recalled much of the information from the books he’d read as well.
“I’m muggleborn, you know,” she said. “My parents are quite confused by all of this, really. But it’s so exciting, I never imagined I would be able to attend such a school. It’s one of the best magical schools there are, at least in Europe.”
“I only found out about Hogwarts recently, too,” Harry offered, feeling as though he should say something.
“Really?” Neville asked, seeming to have overcome his shyness. “I would have thought that you…” he stopped, looking uncomfortable.
“Because I’m Harry Potter, you mean?” Harry asked, not as annoyed as he would have expected to be. It was clear that Neville didn’t mean any harm.
Neville nodded, looking sheepish.
“I was, er, raised in the muggle world, so I didn’t know much of anything until this summer.”
Neville nodded, seeming to understand that Harry was reluctant to discuss the matter further.
“I was raised by my Gran, who’s a witch,” Neville said quietly. “Not that it gives me much of an advantage.”
Harry wondered what had happened to his parents, but said nothing.
“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” Hermione said soothingly. “I had to spend all summer reading just to catch up on all the information that probably comes naturally to you.”
Neville shook his head slightly, looking bemused. Harry could see why. Hermione was probably better informed than the majority of wizard-raised students in their year.
“I’m hoping to be sorted into Gryffindor,” Hermione said. “Dumbledore himself was sorted there, did you know?”
“Though Ravenclaw wouldn’t be bad, either.”
Neville looked a bit glum. “I’ll probably be in Hufflepuff,” he said, his mouth turned down in a frown.
“What’s wrong with Hufflepuff?” Harry asked. He hadn’t read anything about that…
“Well, my Gran expects me to be in Gryffindor, like my dad, but I doubt I will be. Hufflepuff is where everyone says all the leftovers go.”
“Oh, I’m sure that’s not true,” said Hermione. “All the houses have their good qualities.”
What if I’m in Hufflepuff? Harry thought. Will Snape be disappointed…?
Harry shook off the thought. If he was sorted there, there wasn’t much he could do about it now.
“Anything off the trolley, dears?”
A plump woman pushing a trolley stacked with sweets had just stopped by their compartment. Hermione straightened, looking intrigued.
Harry remembered the pouch of coins Snape had lent - no - given him.
Better use it, or it will seem like I’m ungrateful.
Neville shook his head, muttering about his Gran not wanting him to have too many sweets.
Between Harry and Hermione, they managed to purchase a sample of nearly every sweet offered, and they and Neville spent an enjoyable half-hour tasting them all. Well, aside from when Harry nearly chocked on a petrol flavored bean.
“Ooh,” Hermione nearly squealed. “A Paracelsus card!”
“Who?” Harry asked.
“He’s one of the first known alchemists. He invented the-”
A loud clearing of the throat cut her off.
Harry looked up to see a pale, blond-haired boy standing at the entrance to their compartment with a strikingly familiar face…
He was flanked by two large, blank-faced boys who stood on either side of him as though they were bodyguards.
His father probably pays them…
“So it’s you,” Draco said, looking straight at Harry. “You’re Harry Potter.”
Harry raised his eyebrows. “Your point?”
Draco looked taken-aback and haughty at the same time.
“I never would have expected it.”
Harry stared. “What were you expecting?”
Draco’s lips tightened. “I wouldn’t have expected the Boy-Who-Lived to be mucking about in Knockturn Alley dressed as a street urchin.”
Harry stiffened. Malfoy knew nothing about street kids.
Malfoy paused to look down his rather pointy nose at Neville and Hermione.
“I expect you’ll gain a stronger sense of class if you join us in our comparted instead of consorting with the likes of… them.”
Harry felt hot anger surge up inside him, and it was all he could do to force it back before he caused an explosion.
How dare he insult them?
Perhaps they weren’t friends yet, but Hermione and Neville had both readily accepted him and not looked at him as though he were a bit of dirt at the bottom of their shoes. Something that Harry had been worried about happening once he began school.
How dare Draco Malfoy degrade them and claim that he was better friendship material, as it was clear that the boy was only interested in Harry for his fame?
Harry rose from his seat and walked with slow, deliberate steps towards the blond-haired boy.
“Leave.” Harry said in a hard voice.
The two large boys stepped forward, leaning in intimidatingly. Harry felt his heart rate speed up and snuck a hand into his pocket, only to remember that he didn’t have his dagger. Only his wand, and he couldn’t do much with it, yet.
I’ve got to get it back from Snape.
Covering up his anxiety, Harry refused to back away.
“Potter, you’re making a mistake-”
“I disagree,” Harry responded, his voice growing cold.
Malfoy sneered. “You consort with riffraff like those two, and it’ll rub off on you, and you can forget about-”
Malfoy’s face tinged pink for a moment, then cleared, and he gave Harry a nasty look before turning on his heeling and stalking out of the compartment, his large companions lumbering behind him.
Harry let out a breath and sunk back into his seat. He didn’t want to look at either of his two seat-mates. Would they still want to sit with him after that? Stupid Malfoy.
“Harry?” said Neville quietly.
Harry met his eyes.
“Thanks for sticking up for us. You didn’t have to.”
Harry stared at him. Neville was thanking him?
“Malfoy’s a jerk,” Harry muttered.
“Oh, was that a Malfoy?” Hermione said. “I think I read that name somewhere, though I can’t remember the context-”
“They’re an old, pureblood family,” said Neville. “They have a lot of power”
“I suppose money would do that,” Harry said.
“Yeah, but it’s the pureblood, too.”
“It seems quite odd that some wizards are so fixated on bloodlines,” said Hermione thoughtfully. “I mean, if you have magic, you have magic. Unless the genetics strengthen it…”
“I don’t think so,” Harry said, perking up a bit. “Magic seems to be a dominant trait, seeing as most people with only one magical parent have magic as well-” That was what the books said, anyway.
“But maybe it’s an incomplete dominance inheritance pattern,” Hermione said, her brown eyes bright with the thrill of new knowledge. “That would mean that if one parent is a muggle and the other is a wizard, then the child would have weaker magic than if both parents were wizards.”
“But then how would you explain muggle-borns, like you?”
“That would bring us back to dominant versus recessive genes.”
“In that case, both your parents would have to carry a gene for magic but not actually have it…”
Neville stared at both of them with his mouth slightly agape.
“Oh, sorry Neville,” said Hermione, noticing his expression. “This is all just so fascinating.”
Harry had to agree.
“We should probably get changed,” said Hermione, peering out the window. “I expect we’ll be there soon.”
Harry muttered something about changing in the bathroom and grabbed his backpack. Hermione followed him out of the compartment, leaving Neville to change in the compartment while they found their respective bathrooms.
Harry exited shortly, trying not to trip over the fabric swimming around his legs.
These robes are really inconvenient.
He felt the train shudder to a stop, so he hastened to his compartment to grab Hedwig’s cage. Hermione had likely made her way off the train alone, so he and Neville, whose hands were tightly clutched around his toad, disembarked along with the swarm of robe-clad students.
Harry shivered slightly in the evening air.
“Firs’ years, firs’ years, this way,” Harry heard a familiar voice call. He turned to see a crowd of students making their hesitant way towards a huge, bearded figure. Harry relaxed in spite of himself.
“All righ’, Harry?” Hagrid called to him with a wave. Harry flushed slightly, but grinned back. Hagrid led them towards the edge of the lake, where an assortment of small, wooden boats waited.
“No more ‘n four to a boat…”
Harry made his way to the nearest one and perched stiffly on a seat. He had lost Neville and Hermione in the shuffle, so several unfamiliar people joined him. They exchanged nervous nods, but didn’t take the time to chat.
Harry gripped the sides of the boat as it began to move.
This was it.
Harry stared, wide-eyed as he and the other first years were led through the great hall. The place was huge. There were four extremely long tables set for what seemed like hundreds, occupied by students of varying ages, all clad in black robes.
Harry tensed his shoulders, looking anywhere but at the older students who all seemed to be staring at the group of new arrivals. He then noticed the ceiling, or what seemed to be the lack of one, as it appeared dark and starry, just like the sky had been outside.
Oh, right, Hogwarts, a History had mentioned something about it being bewitched to look that way.
Harry heard Hermione muttering about what enchantments she thought were used to create that effect.
Professor McGonagall, the stern-faced woman who had met them in the entrance hall and explained the Sorting, finally stopped before the podium that held the staff table, where a small, wooden stool was placed with old, faded hat perched on top.
“When your name is called,” McGonagall said crisply. “You will put on the hat and take a seat on the stool. The hat will determine which house you belong in.”
All the first years seemed to be simultaneously frozen.
And so it began. Harry surreptitiously studied the staff table as the Sorting went on. There was Dumbledore, of course, seated at the very center of the table. Harry avoided looking at him. There was a vacant seat beside him, which Harry guessed belonged to McGonagall.
Harry saw Hagrid several seats down, looking ever larger than usual seated beside a tiny, bearded, amiable-looking man. Snape was seated a few seats away from Dumbledore on the left side of the table, looking severe and rather bored at the same time.
Harry focused back upon the Sorting when he heard Hermione’s name being called, and he watched as she hastened over to the stool. It was after several moments that the hat called out Gryffindor.
Harry clapped as Hermione pulled off the hat and rushed to take a seat. She was clearly pleased with her placement.
Not long after, Neville was sorted into Gryffindor as well, and Harry, though happy for him, felt nervous. There was no guarantee that he’d be sorted alongside them, and what if Neville and Hermione were the only people that would want to be friends with him?
Harry looked up quickly as Malfoy sauntered over to the stool, and he was sorted into Slytherin when the hat had barely brushed his head.
Malfoy strutted over to the Slytherin table, and Harry had to suppress the urge to roll his eyes.
Several more names were called, then finally…
When Harry stepped forward, the hall immediately began to echo with whispers. Oh, right, he was famous.
Harry kept his eyes trained on the ground, and he was actually relieved when the hat slipped down over his eyes. At least he didn’t have to see the stares.
“Harry Potter,” an odd-sounded voice spoke in his head. Harry nearly jumped.
“Quite interesting,” the hat went on. The bloody thing could read his mind? It was all Harry could do not to rip the hat off his head and run for the hills.
“Intelligent, I see. Very intelligent, “the Hat said it a voice so smugly all-knowing that Harry felt the urge to shove it into a shredder. “Some anger there too, I see.” Harry groaned inwardly.
“Quite cunning, as well, when the need arises. Reluctant to trust, yet supremely loyal to and protective of those that you do.”
The hat paused.
Get it off.
“Gryffindor would not be the best option.”
“If you say so…”
“While you are not lacking in bravery, you prefer to avoid confrontation, and you despise the limelight. Though you would rush to protect those that you love against all odds, so perhaps… but no.”
“Hufflepuff would not be an option, either. Members of that House are often trusting and open of heart, and quick to give their loyalty. Their mode of operation is foreign to you. Not to mention their tolerant and patient nature, which you lack most supremely.”
Good. Wait, I’m not tolerant? Well, not of idiots, and loud people, and irritating people, and… Okay, I’m not tolerant.
“You possess the cunning and quick wit of a Slytherin, and you hold yourself closed and apart from others. All very Slytherin qualities. You are slow to forgive, and the rage you harbor is cold and silent, much unlike the fire of a Gryffindor. You are suspicious, you trust very few, and you sense danger and discontent all around you, even where none exist.
So you’re saying I’m delusional, are you?
“You would certainly fit well into Slytherin,” the Hat continued, ignoring his comment, or rather, his thought. “However, you are not greatly ambitious. You do not long for power, other than that which serves to protect you and those you care for. You do not dream of great fortune or respect. You long for peace, solitude, and, deeply within you, love.”
I do not long for love. That’s pathetic.
“While Slytherin would certainly be a good fit, it would only serve to reinforce the tendencies you have developed out of necessity. Had you led a different life, you would not be quite so suspicious, or cunning, or mistrustful.
The hat paused for a moment, as though to let his words sink in.
What does that even mean? How does he know? It there a person behind this hat who’s reading my mind?
“You strive to gain knowledge, not for any reason other than to possess it,” the Hat continued. “You thirst for understanding and truth, and you are possessed of an unusual level of intelligence. Ravenclaw would help you develop your potential in a way that no other house can. There you will find peace, knowledge, and the companionship you crave, despite your claims to the contrary.”
Harry could only picture the rip in the brim of the Hat opening wide as it bellowed out his placement.
For a moment, there was utter silence.
They all probably expected me to be in Gryffindor. Pity, that.
As Harry made his way toward the Ravenclaw table, head held high, the muted applause gradually grew louder and louder until it was positively deafening.
Studiously avoiding eye contact, Harry found a seat at the table, where he was greeted with many shakes of the hand and pats on the shoulder. Although he wanted to cringe, Harry couldn’t help but feel as though he had finally found his place. This was where he belonged.