Eleven-year-old Harry Potter looked at the outstretched hand in front of him. He saw the smile on Draco’s face falter for a moment and without thinking tried to reassure him.
“I’m Harry,” he said.
“Harry Potter,” finished Draco.
“Everyone seems to know that,” Harry replied with a small, confused smile.
“This is Crabbe, and that’s Goyle,” said Malfoy, drawing himself up. As soon as the two boys came up behind him, the touch of a sneer had returned to his oval face. Harry glanced at the two remarkably large members of Malfoy’s small posse.
“Um, nice to meet you,” Harry said, involuntarily stepping backwards. “Listen, I think I heard Ron over there mention my name,” he excused himself, gesturing over his scrawny shoulder.
“Potter,” interrupted Malfoy before Harry could leave, “You don’t want to go making friends of the wrong sort. Some families--.” Before Malfoy could finish, Harry darted into the throng of first years, past poor Neville who was holding his enormous toad with both hands, in search of his newfound friend, Ron Weasley.
Ron was standing awkwardly to the side of the crowd, a sheepish look on his narrow face, his shoulders hunched forward, making himself smaller. He was watching two other boys’ antics and looked like he wanted to join in.
“Ron,” interrupted Harry. “Nervous?” Ron looked up, ready to reply, but a commotion at the front of the crowd redirected both boys’ attention. It was McGonagall, who had swept back in from the Great Hall, her green robes trailing at her ankles. Her hair was spun into an immaculate bun and she commanded the first years’ respect effortlessly. She said something clearly but too quiet for Harry to hear and turned abruptly the lead the new students into the hall.
When Hagrid had described Slytherin just as the train had pulled into Hogwarts, Harry’s immediate thought was of the cruelty in Draco’s dark blue eyes when Crabbe and Goyle were around. Yes, Draco would be a Slytherin as he had hoped. But what would Harry be?
He looked at his peers and saw his own anticipation on their faces. Neville, the toad-boy, what house would he be in ? And Ron? Ron had to be Gryffindor if all his brothers were, right? But he had no idea what to expect as he followed, in single file as per McGonagall’s bidding, the line of first-years into the Great Hall.
The first-years walked past the crowded tables decorated in brilliant shades of color. Harry recoiled as he glanced at the table of Slytherins. The table was jet black, with silver accents and a green tablecloth, but still failed to be as harsh as the pale lot that sat there. Near the end of the table though, he saw a group of three students smiling and laughing. It perplexed him and he was distracted enough to stumble over the back of Ron’s heels as the group came to an abrupt stop.
“Sorry,” he said awkwardly, but Ron seemed more focused on what was ahead of them.
At the front of the room, in a place of honor perched on an ornately carved oaken chair, was a soggy looking hat.