There had been cheers for the other students, but for Harry there was dead silence.
He grimaced and carefully set the hat down. He walked toward the Slytherin table and carefully sat down without a word.
The other first years almost imperceptibly pulled back from him, and it seemed that none of them could stop staring. Looking up, Harry could see that even Professor McGonagall seemed at a loss for words.
After a seemingly endless time, she eventually went on to the sorting of the last two students.
Harry felt miserable and misused. It wasn't his fault that he was trapped in a situation that required him to be cunning. He couldn't help but look before he leaped; there were pitfalls everywhere.
He was sure that he could have fit in one of the other houses. He could learn to love having friends! He simply was too new to it to know exactly what to do yet.
He glanced over at Hermione, who had a sympathetic look on her face. He couldn't see Neville.
Harry stared at the table, barely noticing when the headmaster stood to give some sort of speech. He was startled to see food appear on the table, more food than he'd seen in his entire life.
While the other students talked openly, the students around him seemed subdued. Harry could feel them glancing at him and he grimaced.
A moment later, he felt a presence settle beside him. He glanced over and saw a gaunt, dead eyed ghost covered in silver blood.
Harry shrugged and began eating, even as the other students around him reacted to the ghost. He didn't have time to worry about phantoms.
“We weren't expecting to have a Potter sitting at this table,” the ghost said finally.
Harry chewed his food for a moment, considering what he was going to say. “I can't say I expected to be here...but I can't say the hat was wrong.”
This end of the table mostly consisted of first years, while the older students were further back. Harry suspected that he had the most to fear from the sixth and seventh years. They would know the most magic and wouldn't be risking as much of their magical education by trying to hurt him.
“You think you are cunning enough to be a Slytherin?”
“Try me,” Harry said. He smiled mirthlessly. “There's a prophecy about me...if it's right, I'm going to be a very dangerous person someday.”
Probably best to head off any problems.
“I've got a very, very long memory, and I hold grudges.”
The ghost glanced around the table. All the others nearby seemed to be listening intently, and some of them were pale.
The ghost nodded. “I can see why you were placed here.”
Harry smiled mirthlessly. He chatted with the ghost, who introduced himself as the Bloody Baron. He supposed that as a ghost there wasn't much that could be done to him.
His classmates were in an unpleasant position. Harry suspected that at least some of them would have been happy to have been friends with him. However, with Voldemort's people being active, none of them could afford to be seen as being friendly to him. There were too many people in their House who were doubtlessly reporting to their parents. Some of the parents were Death Eaters.
Being friendly with Harry was a good way to have friends and relatives murdered, at least if the histories Harry had read from the last war were still true. This was like his experience in school with Dudley keeping anyone from being his friend, only infinitely worse.
Harry glanced behind him. Hermione was talking to other people around her, and she seemed happy at least.
The red haired boy was glaring at Harry, with a look of betrayal on his face. Considering that Harry had never met the boy, certainly not in this timeline, he couldn't see what the boy had to feel betrayed about.
The rest of the meal concluded in silence, and afterwards the headmaster made an announcement about avoiding the third floor on pain of certain death, as well as warning about the Forbidden forest.
Harry felt his stomach drop. He already had an insane professor waiting to murder him the moment he turned his back. Some mysterious danger on the third floor and a forest nearby filled with horrible monsters.
He wondered if he would survive the night, much less live to finish all seven year of school.
If this was the safest place in all wizarding Britain, he wondered what an average place was like. Did they have trolls in the toilet, or giant snakes in the drains? Didn't this bother anyone?
None of the other students around him seemed all that concerned.
In his old school, they would have evacuated everyone if a homeless man had wandered onto the school grounds. Parents certainly would have withdrawn students if they heard about certain death on the third floor.
Harry was still grumbling to himself when the entire room was led by the headmaster in a horrible rendition of the school song.
Apparently music wasn't one of the subjects taught here.
An older student, apparently a prefect gathered them up, and led them out of the Great Hall. They were led down a set of stairs; apparently the Slytherin common rooms were in the dungeons.
Harry felt exhausted. Apparently being in constant terror was wearing on the body, and he'd had a long day.
They were led to a stone wall, and the prefect turned to them.
“The password for this week will be Alpha Serpentis. Memorize it and don't let any member of another house hear about it...we haven''t had anyone from another house break into our common rooms in the last seven hundred years and I won't have it happen on my watch.”
“It'll change every two weeks and it'll be posted on the note board inside,” he said.
The wall opened up in front of them and he led them into a short passage. It led into a room with greenish lamps and chairs. The ceiling was low and there were windows apparently leading out to the lake.
“You've been assigned rooms,” the prefect said. “Your trunks have already been moved next to your assigned bed.”
Harry wondered how they'd moved all the trunks in the short time since the sorting. It had been less than an hour, and he hadn't seen any staff other than the professors.
“Professor Snape handles the punishments within Slytherin, and he is known for his...creative punishments for those who prove to be an embarrassment to the house. I know better than to ask the lot of you to stay out of trouble...but you'd better not get caught.”
The prefect gestured, and a female prefect came to escort the girls away to their rooms.
“The girls' rooms are off limit to the boys. I don't suppose you care much about that now, but you will later,” the prefect said, smirking.
He led them through a small hallway into a circular room. There were five beds, and Harry's was the one farthest from the door. He wasn't sure how he felt about that. It would make it difficult for him to escape, but it also meant that an attacker from outside would have farther to go before they could attack him.
“You should go to bed,” the prefect said. “Class schedules will be handed out at breakfast tomorrow. Classes start at nine and breakfast begins at eight, although in the future early risers will be able to get an abbreviated breakfast at seven thirty.”
The boys around Harry groaned, although Harry couldn't understand their problem. He was up by six A.M. at the Dursley house in order to shower and start making breakfast so it would be ready by seven. Sometimes he had to get up earlier if he knew he had extra chores.
Even during the summer his aunt insisted that he keep to the same schedule, claiming that he didn't need to be lazy even when his cousin slept in until 10.
They had late breakfasts on those days to accommodate his cousin, even though this left Harry hungry.
The prefect glanced at Harry and said, “Good luck and welcome to Hogwarts.”
As the door closed, Harry turned to face the other boys. The white haired boy was flanked by his two cronies and a black boy was standing off to the side.
“I'm sure you all know who I am,” Harry said. “Who are you.”
“Draco Malfoy,” the white haired boy said. “And this is Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle.”
Harry wondered if the later two could speak for themselves. They didn't look to be particularly cunning, although maybe they simply wished they were.
The other boy was tall and dark skinned. He said, “Blaise Zabini, pleased to meet you.”
“Are you?” Harry asked.
“How much do you know about the prophecy?” Harry asked.
“My father says it's all a load of...hogwash,” Draco said. “As though a kid our age would be a threat to the dark lord.”
Harry smiled grimly. “And yet they act like I am a threat. Can you think of a reason why?”
“Because old people are crazy?” Goyle asked.
“Yes, actually, but sometimes they're right.” Harry said. He headed for his bed. “You know if I end up dead in here, half the wizarding world is going to be after your heads, right?”
The others stared at him silently.
“And if you try to kill me and fail, you'll be stuck in here, sleeping with me,” Harry said. He smiled, although the smile didn't reach his eyes. “The hat told me that my mind is very much like Voldemort's....and what does he do to those who cross him?”
They all started, although he couldn't tell if it was at his use of the name or at what he'd said.
“Whatever you do to me, I'll find a way to hurt you,” Harry said. He hesitated. “I know you can't be seen as being my friends, but being my enemy wouldn't be very bright either.”
With that he began undressing for bed, and the others followed suit. Harry would have thought that the greenish light that was coming from the windows would keep him up, like the lights outside his aunt and uncle's house. Instead he found them to be oddly soothing.
After the day he'd had, he was exhausted. As he fell asleep, he wondered if he would wake up again in his bed at the Dursley house.
To his surprise, he survived the night.
At breakfast he discovered that his classmates had decided that the simplest way to deal with him was to ignore him. It was the safest thing they could do under the circumstances.
Although he'd worried about the Slytherins, he actually heard more comments and received the most dirty looks from the Gryffindors. Apparently, he'd been expected to be sorted into their house and they saw it as a personal affront that he hadn't been.
The class schedule was simple; all he'd really have to worry about was flying class on Thursday and Potions on Friday, both of which were held in concert with the Gryffindors. Other than that he'd simply have to avoid them in the halls, and he should be fine.
His first class, History of magic was a monumental disappointment. Harry began to wonder seriously if the ghost teaching the class was trying to bore them to death. If the rest of Hogwart's curriculum was this boring, Harry couldn't see why the students wouldn't just all move to France or possibly America. Anything would be better, although at least there were no attempts to kill him.
On his way out the door, Harry felt his legs being pulled out from under him. He saw a group of Gryffindor boys snickering nearby, with one sheathing his wand.
He scowled. On top of attempts on his life he'd have to deal with garden variety bullying? He'd thought he was done with that when he left Dudley behind. It had been the one thing he'd been looking forward to about going to this castle shaped death trap.
Making sure to never be alone, Harry made his way to charms class, which was led by a professor who was short enough to be a goblin.
This class he found much more interesting. Although they weren't allowed to do any practical magic, Professor Flitwick did begin to teach them the basics of wand movements and a little about the theory behind the pronunciation of spells.
At home, Harry had always been at the mercy of the bigger, stronger boys. No matter how hard he'd tried he'd never been able to fight back in any way that mattered.
However, trained wizard duelists were known for being able to take on multiple opponents at once. Magic was the great equalizer. A child the size of Hermione could defeat a man who weighed a hundred kilos, assuming she knew the right spells.
What he learned in class was going to be the basis for defending himself from Voldemort, his death eaters, and even from bullies in other houses in his own.
The problem was going to be learning fast enough, Harry thought as he was dodging jinxes from another set of bullies. The Slytherins hadn't joined in so far at least, but Harry suspected that it was only a matter of time.
Harry vowed to remember everyone who'd attacked him and to find some way to get back at them. Talking to Dudley had never made a difference. The only thing that had stopped his bullying had been fear.
The only way Harry would be safe from day to day was if people feared to attack him.
Herbology was interesting, but didn't seem as useful. Harry had studied poisons a little as he'd feared that would be the easiest way to murder him.
He kept his bezoar with him religeously.
Herbology didn't seem to focus on poisons, or even plants that could be used to attack people. It seemed perfectly pleasant, and Harry liked the professor, much as he'd liked Flitwick. Neither seemed likely to try to murder him, although the woman would seem to have the skill to make a competent poisoner.
Astronomy made him anxious. Being at the top of a tall tower during the middle of the night seemed like a recipe for being pushed off the tower while no one was looking. He made sure to get a telescope as far from the edges as possible, and he was careful on the stairs coming back.
He couldn't see how astronomy was going to help him on his quest to survive, although once he'd realized he wasn't about to be murdered he'd relaxed and enjoyed looking at the stars.
Part of him wished that he'd be able to simply lie on a blanket out staring up at the stars without a worry in the world.
If he'd been in Gryffindor he was sure he'd have had friends. People wouldn't have been afraid to talk to him. He'd have been able to spend time with Neville and Hermione every day. He wasn't even sure if they'd want to speak to him now and he hadn't had a chance to find them.
Undoubtedly the other Gryffindors were going to pressure them to stay away from him.
In a perfect world, he'd be able to relax, letting Hermione do his homework and spending time with Neville, playing...whatever it was that wizards played.
It wasn't until he stepped into his Defense against the Dark Arts class that he realized that he'd be taught by Voldemort himself, or at least the man who hosted him.