Steam Train to Hogwarts
If there are any glaring errors or inconsistencies, let me know. Some might be because it's an alternate universe and things are genuinely different here, others like the decade timeskip are artistic license, but given this is a rewrite - several times over - of my original rewrite which was a transcription of a story that mauled the English language and good taste several times over… I'm not perfect. Letting me know when things slipped past me, however, brings the story closer to being perfect. Also, most people are willing to accept there's a roughly ten percent lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender population. That means out of forty students in Harry's year, four would be LGBT. One will be in Harry's group of friends. Most people found her amusing in the last version of this. You might not. If alternative sexual lifestyles really bother you that badly, just hit back. Granted I'm pretty sure the notion of Lily hooking up with Narcissa has already scared those people off, but I figured I'd give one more warning just in case.
His brief encounters with Neville, the Patils, and Su had given him a taste of what the Hogwarts Express eventually delivered in spades as it grew closer to eleven o'clock: familiar faces back in too-youthful bodies. His parents had died when he was one, his sisters had never existed, Anastasiya and Cassie had likewise been missing from his original universe, and the only time he'd met a young and healthy Sirius or Remus was back when he was still filling a diaper. Seeing them like this was just as new to him. But seeing his former classmates back in the bodies they'd had in his first year was… highly disturbing, he decided.
Fred and George were the first to pass by his compartment, bookending a slightly younger girl with glasses and black hair. Harry grinned, wondering what the trio could possibly be discussing in low voices, their heads close together. Likely nothing good. A slightly chubby girl with the same red hair as the twins trailed along behind them, and Harry blinked before shrugging. He had spare siblings. Why not the Weasley clan, especially given their already ridiculous rate of breeding? The sighting of two confirmed Weasleys and a potential third had Harry thinking back to another September 1st and brought a few questions he'd always had back to the front of his mind. Why hadn't the Weasleys flooed in like his family had chosen to? And why had Missus Weasley - on her eighth year of sending students to Hogwarts - wandered around King's Cross talking loudly about muggles and quizzing her children about the hidden platform?
Hmmph. He was starting to turn into Mad-Eye, seeing conspiracies everywhere.
Then again, you weren't paranoid if they really were out to get you.
Another thing Harry noticed was how many people were talking about Neville Longbottom, nattering on endlessly about their precious Boy-Who-Lived. Had it been that bad when he was on the train? He didn't remember the whispers being quite as prevalent but then again, he'd shut himself up inside a compartment early in the journey and not emerged until they arrived at Hogwarts. It certainly was annoying. The kid had bounced a Killing Curse off his fat, snobby head. It wasn't like he'd led a great army in battle against a dark wizard or anything.
A girl with long, reddish-brown hair walked past and Harry almost wrote her off until he noticed her attire: the basic, trim-free black robes of an incoming first year. That was an interesting development he'd never taken into consideration. This universe evidently had students in it that he wouldn't be familiar with. Harry thought of the list sitting in his journal. He'd been prepared to take into account a bit of drift between the two universes, like Neville and Parvati, but for some reason he'd never even considered that there might be students missing or new students joining his class.
And who knew what other changes could have been wrought over the last ten years by parents making slightly different choices when it came to raising their children? An odd mental image came to him and he chuckled. Maybe Hermione's parents had encouraged her to play sports instead of obsessing over school, and she and Dean Thomas would spend most nights in the common room arguing over football. Maybe Ron, the backstabbing bastard that he was, would end up in Slytherin. Wouldn't that be perfect? First Weasley in generations not in the house of lions.
Half a mo. Who had that girl with the Weasley twins been? It certainly wasn't Katie, Angelina, Alicia, or… bugger, who was that friend Katie had brought to DA? Leanne. Wasn't her either, or at least he didn't think it was. So who was she? And why was she their partner in crime instead of Lee Jordan?
Shaking his head, Harry slouched down in his seat and put his legs up on the opposite bench, focusing his attention on the book in front of him. What ifs were great but ultimately useless. Until he arrived at school and spent a bit of time with his peers, guessing would accomplish nothing more than wasting his time. Time he could think of better uses for, such as establishing his bookworm façade so people wouldn't question his growing repertoire of spells. And so he put his curiosities out of mind, found the spot where he'd left off, and went back to reading.
An hour or so into the journey, Harry's reading was disturbed as someone wrenched his compartment door open and stomped inside, slamming it shut and throwing themselves down across from him with a huff. After a moment, in which the other person made no move to initiate conversation, Harry marked his spot in his book and closed it, laying it on his lap. Who he found sitting across from him surprised him greatly.
It was Hermione, and yet she wasn't the Hermione he had known back in his first year and had expected to meet again. This Hermione was… well, brawny. Not on the level of Millicent 'half troll and it shows' Bulstrode, but in only a muggle t-shirt and jeans, it was very easy to spot that her level of physical fitness rivaled or perhaps even exceeded his own, and he was no slouch when it came to taking care of his body. Her hair was merely wavy instead of the frizzy mess he was used to, pulled back into a simple ponytail to keep it out of her way. And she was giving him a fierce glare, a look she hadn't perfected until after some of her adventures with him and Ron. "Take a photograph, it bloody well lasts longer. Oh wait, you probably don't know what a photo is. Snobby magical wankers."
Harry's jaw dropped. Hermione swearing? Leaning over, he looked out the window and peered up at the sky. Well, there was no rain of hellfire and brimstone yet. Huh. The other universe's Ron owed him a galleon. Turning back to Hermione, he offered her a smile. "Actually, we do have photographs. Wizard ones even move, like movies that last a few seconds before restarting. But… based on that hello, I'm going to guess that you get along with the purebloods about as well as I do."
"All I did was overhear some of them talking about quidditch and ask if I could come in. I think the game sounds fascinating and it's not like anything I've ever seen in the, err, muggle world. They figured out I was a muggleborn pretty quick and things went downhill." Hermione scowled and looked down, flexing the fingers on her right hand. They seemed a bit scraped and red, which made Harry curious. She realized what he was staring at and raised her hand proudly. "Some dumb sod named Longbottom called me a 'mudblood' to my face. Not sure what it means, but his expression made the intent pretty clear. So I hope you lot know a way to get his teeth back into his mouth. And really, Longbottom? Most English surnames come from your ancestors' occupation. My family used to be farmers; that's where the last name Granger comes from. What the hell kind of bizarre family does he come from?"
He couldn't help it anymore; Harry leaned his head back and laughed loudly. "A magical one. And a really vain one at that. Can't believe you punched the Boy-Who-Lived, though, that's priceless. Wish I'd been there to see that." Hermione gave him a curious look. "Oh, you don't know? Neville's a celebrity here in the magical world. His parents and mine used to be friends until he got famous for basically doing nothing, and his parents developed huge egos to match their son's."
Hermione's jaw dropped and Harry noticed she lacked the oversized front teeth of her other world counterpart. "I punched a celebrity? Huh. Well, he deserved it and I'll punch anyone who says otherwise." Wow, this Hermione was a violent one. Did that mean there really might be a Ron somewhere on the train with his nose buried in a book? "So, you're not a pureblood I take it?"
"Nope. Harry Potter, half-blood extraordinaire at your service. My father is a pureblood and my mother is a muggleborn like you. So yes, I know what electricity, movies, and cars are. And you would be… someone Granger. Do you have a first name, Miss Granger, or shall we just do the Madonna thing and call you 'Granger'?"
Hermione rolled her eyes and offered Harry a two-fingered salute. "Hermione. Hermione Granger. So do you know anything about sports? Quidditch or muggle ones? The other kids don't seem to realize that people play games other than quidditch, especially in the muggle world."
Shaking his head, Harry decided to go with the truth since he did have patchwork knowledge of the muggle world but not enough to convincingly fake an interest in something Hermione liked. The girl could be bloody scary sometimes, and if her focus was on athletics instead of academics in this world, she could probably name every player in the Premier League or some such. "No, I grew up in a town called Perranarworthal in Cornwall. I didn't go to muggle school so I couldn't do any of the local sports. I've watched a few pick-up football games, but the only sport I've really been exposed to is quidditch. You?"
After a moment, Hermione reached down and rolled up one leg of her jeans to show off a large, puckered scar on her shin. "I play field hockey. Goalkeeper. Sometimes, I go without pads because then I can toss my helmet at the coach and move up past half field with my teammates to try and score. Earned myself a compound fracture a few months ago, which actually worked out well because I was supposed to do a presentation at the Hampshire County Science Fair on the same day as one of my games, and the injury cleared up my schedule. When Professor McGonagall came to speak with my parents, I was still in a cast with stitches and the works. She brought Madam Pomfrey over and they fixed me up in minutes. Well, the bone at least; I decided to keep the scar for when I'm older because my father says women dig scars. I have to say, the bigotry is a pisser but it's hard to hate a world that can put you back on the playing field in a day instead of months."
Merlin's left nut, Hermione played field hockey? Harry had seen the Stonewall High boys team practicing during the summer between his fourth and fifth years. It was a rough sport. And… why would she care if women dug scars? Unless… huh. Was this Hermione like his mother in yet another way? Eleven seemed a bit young to care about that sort of thing but on the other hand, Ginny had started crushing on him at a younger age in his home dimension and so had Cassie here. So… whatever made her happy, he supposed. And it guaranteed she wouldn't end up with Ron again, which was a definite plus. He just hoped they had different taste in women, because he didn't relish the idea of competing with someone who had the head start of actually knowing how a woman's mind worked.
Another important thing he had picked up on, though, was that Hermione was still an academically gifted student even though she enjoyed sports. And punching people who wronged her. What an interesting combination. Harry had a feeling that he would never find himself bored if he stuck around her. Mind made up, Harry leaned forward and grinned. "Yeah, magic can be bloody brilliant sometimes. Alright, what did you want to know about quidditch? I'm no Ludo Bagman, but I know my share."
Opening her trunk, Hermione grabbed a book out of the top before closing it and lifting it up onto the luggage rack. Dropping back into her seat, she opened Quidditch Through the Ages
and leafed through the pages before turning it so Harry could see. "Well first of all… did I read this right? Have the Chudley Cannons really not had a winning season in over a century?"
Harry shook his head. "Close. They've had winning seasons, as in they've had at least one more win than loss, but they haven't won the League Cup in that long."
Staring at him with wide eyes, Hermione let out a low whistle. "Wow. That's bloody pathetic."
"Pretty much, yeah." A knock on the window disrupted their conversation and Harry raised an eyebrow at the new arrivals: Su had finally shown her face and she'd brought along a pair of familiar faces: Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Not-Greengrass. Motioning for her to open the door, Harry rose to his feet and pulled out the pocket watch Lily had snuck him; his father owned several but only used one, so she didn't reckon he'd miss it. "Huh. It only took you an hour and sixteen minutes to find me, assuming you got on the train just as it pulled away. Did they magically add some cars when I wasn't looking?"
Su rolled her eyes before gesturing to her trunk and owl cage, which Harry magically levitated up to rest next to his own. "Funny. No, I decided to poke around for a bit, see if I could make a few friends not named Harry Potter. Nothing. Did you know there's only one other Chinese girl on the entire train, and I've only seen half a dozen other students who aren't white? It's like the school forgot minorities exist. Actually, it's like they forgot people who aren't white and English exist; didn't hear many Irish or Scottish accents, either." Slipping past Harry, she moved to sit between Hermione and the window before nodding in the direction of the two quiet redheads still standing in the doorway. "I ran into them while I was looking and figured that since you're not exactly the crowd type, you'd probably have room for more in your compartment."
Shaking his head, Harry was about to invite them in when he remembered his current companion. Looking over at Hermione, he raised an eyebrow and nodded in their direction, causing her to shrug. Right then. Well if Hermione didn't mind and he obviously didn't have a problem with them riding in the compartment… "Daphne, Tracey, you've met Su obviously. This is Hermione Granger. Do you need help with your trunks or anything?" The pair looked at each other, looked back at him, and shook their heads perfectly in sync. Each drew their wand and with a muttered Levitation Charm, their trunks lifted into the air and floated over to rest in the luggage rack. That done, they looked around the compartment slowly before meeting each other's eyes again. Some sort of silent communication took place between them, reminding him almost of the Weasley twins, and then Daphne brushed past him, grabbing his wrist and pulling him along behind her as she took the window seat and then pulled him down beside her. As soon as he was settled, Tracey took up the spot on his other side. He offered each a bemused smile. "Well, I lost my window seat but at least I'll get to know the two of you better."
"No, you lost the window seat and I don't have to worry about Tracey bugging me from here to Hogsmeade because she's too polite to try talking across another person." Ignoring Tracey's indignant huff, Daphne leaned forward and offered Hermione her hand. "Daphne Greengrass, heiress presumptive of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Greengrass." Reaching out, Hermione shook the girl's hand, looking utterly confused all the while, but when Harry made no move to explain things to her, Daphne eventually took pity on the brunette. "Inheritance positions are a big thing with purebloods. Being heiress presumptive means that unless my mother has a son between now and when my father dies, I stand to inherit. Harry here, on the other hand, would be the heir apparent of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Potter because he's the oldest son of the only son."
Hermione let out a soft 'oh' before narrowing her eyes at Daphne. "You're not one of those snobby purebloods who would call a muggleborn a 'mudblood', are you? Because I already punched one for doing it and if I'm going to end up having to punch you, Harry should probably have some warning so he knows to move over a bit."
After staring at Hermione for a few seconds, Daphne threw her head back and laughed. "Let me guess, you're the real reason that Longbottom looks like he tried to snog a bludger?" Hermione nodded, making Daphne shake her head in amusement. "He's running around telling people he got punched by an older Slytherin. But no, I'm not into all that blood purity stuff. My father used to be, but a decade of being yelled at by mother and stepmother has beaten it out of him." Harry's brow furrowed as he tried to figure out the implications of what she'd just said before shaking his head; her family situation wasn't his business and if she wanted him to know, she'd tell him. "Anyways, I'm Daphne and on Harry's other side is Tracey Davis. Not an heiress at all."
Tracey just rolled her eyes at that. "Yes, and if our father had met my mother a few weeks sooner, I might have a claim to that inheritance of yours even if I am the illegitimate one. And besides, it's not like you actually inherit anything. Being the 'heiress presumptive' just means you're the one whose husband gets all the money and land someday when Father dies. Which makes you the one who has to get a husband - or get sold off to a husband of Father's choosing - while I can marry whoever I want when the time comes. So no thank you. You can have your heiress-ness."
"…and there go chances of us keeping the related-to-you thing quiet until Big Mouth starts Hogwarts in two years." Daphne groaned, burying her face in her hands for a moment before straightening up. "To make a long story very short, we're half-sisters. Father took advantage of a loophole in wizarding laws to marry Aunt Claudia - Tracey's mother - in the muggle world and my mother in the magical world. Now he splits his time between Aunt Claudia's house in Hampstead and Greengrass Manor in Woodbridge. The houses are both connected to the floo so Tracey, Tori, and I just sorta float back and forth between the two at will." Looking back and forth between the two girls, Harry could almost see it. Well, it had to be true if they were actually coming out and saying it because who would lie about such a thing? But the more he looked, the more things he found that convinced him he might have eventually realized the truth on his own. Their hair and eyes were different colors with a common medium ground: Daphne was a strawberry blonde with teal eyes and Tracey possessed reddish brown hair and olive eyes. Mister Greengrass, Harry theorized, more than likely shared his mother's coloration. Their cheekbones and lips were both similarly shaped and… actually, all their similarities were located above the neck. Daphne was shorter and slimmer than her half-sister, while Tracey not only carried a bit more weight overall but was already visibly developing. "There's more to the story than my father wanting to be stuck supporting two wives and three children spread over two houses in two worlds, but that's not for sharing until I get to know you better. Or until Tracey decides she can't help blabbing family secrets to outsiders again…"
Despite his own curiosity - such as why Tara had avoided using Tracey's surname when she clearly had one - Harry decided to respect Daphne's wishes. The question was, did he let the conversation die for now or try to redirect it into safer territory? He thought about several different potential topics before settling on one that would either result in them talking about something he could participate in or - more than likely - band them together in a synchronized huff about 'boys!' and launch a conversation about how juvenile his sex was. But hey, at least then they'd be talking and becoming friends and he could go back to his book. "So, does anyone else here like quidditch? Hermione and I were talking about how pathetic the Cannons are before the rest of you got here. I root for the Falmouth Falcons, mostly because they play only a few miles south of where I live and so it's easy to go to their games."
Harry knew immediately that he'd made an egregious error when not only Su but Daphne's eyes lit up, prompting a groan from Tracey. Sliding off her black outer robe, Daphne revealed not the Hogwarts uniform that Harry was expecting, but an ankle-length bottle green skirt and matching shirt with a golden talon emblazoned over her heart. "Holyhead Harpies. Father has season tickets for three and so the six of us rotate as to who gets to go. Well, five of us; Tracey never wants to come. What about you, Su?"
"Well, I cheer for the Shanghai Sānzúwū whenever we're visiting home, but I should probably find a new team to root for while I'm here in England." Su thought about that for a moment before shrugging. "It's not like I'm betraying the Sānzúwū, since none of the teams around here compete against them in the Chinese Quidditch Association. Although don't expect me to be in anything other than red and gold in 2004…"
Letting out another groan, Tracey leaned to rest her forehead on Harry's shoulder as Daphne began extolling the virtues of the Harpies. "Oh, this is going to be a fun ride…"
When the train finally rolled in to the station near Hogsmeade, Harry disembarked first before offering each girl a hand as they stepped down to join him on the platform. As his fellow first years gathered around, it just reinforced the feeling of oddness that had set in that morning. Being surrounded by miniature versions of people he'd seen grow into young adults - with a few exceptions - was just bloody odd.
Neville was a prime example. No matter how hard Harry looked, not a single trace of either the shy, plump boy from first year or the confident young man of their seventh remained. This Neville was a chubby, dark-haired Draco Malfoy, except his claim to fame was a scar on his head instead of familial riches and a well-positioned father. Parvati was another; the younger of the Patil twins intermittently tugging at her sister's braid as they walked along. And… his knowledge of the future wasn't going to be nearly as useful as he'd hoped. Even beyond the potential for people who were the same on the outside and different on the inside, the girl with reddish-brown hair was one of a handful of strangers wearing pure black robes. A handful that included the girl he suspected was this world's version of Ron.
Speaking of Draco, it was while standing on the platform that Harry finally received confirmation that he'd be stuck dealing with him in this world too. He'd realized while on the train that while he'd assumed that Draco and Tara were fraternal twins that gravitated towards their same-gendered parent - and planned around said assumption - he'd never thought to ask anyone so he could know for sure. Well, there the prat was in all his blonde-haired, pointy-faced glory. Great. Maybe if he was lucky, Draco and Neville would end up in Slytherin together and spend all their time tormenting each other…
"Firs' years! Firs' years over here!" Hagrid's booming voice echoed over the platform, freezing most of the first years in their tracks. Rolling his eyes, Harry gestured for his friends to follow him as he headed towards the half-giant; sure Hagrid looked intimidating, but Harry knew the man was a great big teddy bear on the inside. "C'mon, follow me… any more firs' years? Mind yer step, now! Firs' years follow me!" Eventually all the students took their lead from Harry, following along like ducklings as Hagrid led them down a path through the woods towards the lake. "Yeh'll get yer firs' sight o' Hogwarts in a sec, jus' round this bend here." There were gasps and appreciative noises as Hagrid led them out onto a narrow beach that separated the woods from the large lake, gesturing with his umbrella to the row of boats sitting on the shore. "No more'n four to a boat!"
With a chorus of low murmurs, the students began splitting into groups for the boat ride across the lake. The quintet looked at each other before shrugging and heading towards the furthest boat. After all, the five of them combined probably weighed less than Hagrid and he was going across the lake in one of the same boats as them. As soon as they were all loaded, there was a gentle bump and the boats began pulling away from the shore. There wasn't much to see, it being night and all, and so Harry closed his eyes and let the sounds of his boatmates' quiet chatter wash over him. Sometime in the next half an hour or so, he'd be finding out who he'd be spending the next ten months a year for seven years with. But that was then. For now, he could do nothing but wait and relax. And so he did.
As they congregated outside the Great Hall, waiting for Professor McGonagall to lead them inside, Harry shook his head as it sank in… there were a lot of boys in his class alone. And he'd really known two in his entire time at Hogwarts: Ron Weasley and Neville Longbottom, the latter entering his life around fifth year. Similarly, apart from the late additions of Luna, Lara, Daphne, and finally Su, his only real female friends had been Hermione and Ginny. Before their post-war transformations, at any rate. Okay, he'd had the Weasley Twins too, but the point stood. He'd been so screwed out of a social life by associating with the two biggest losers in his year, it wasn't even funny.
Harry was pulled from his thoughts as McGonagall appeared, herding the crowd of nervous first years into the Great Hall. When she reached the front of the room, she gestured for the group to stop and peeled off to retrieve the stool and Sorting Hat. Its appearance caused his peers to burst into whispered conversation, while Harry opted to pay attention to those near him. After all, he'd already been here and seen this. One thing he did notice was that Daphne was shivering, something that had started during their trek across the lake, and he debated for a moment before motioning for her to approach. She hesitated before moving to stand beside him and Harry casually threw an arm around her shoulders, making her tense up. Leaning in, he lowered his voice so he wouldn't be overheard. "My wand is in a holster at my wrist. Since we're technically not supposed to know any magic before we get here, I didn't think it'd look good for me to be waving my wand around casting things during the sorting." That made Daphne relax marginally, and then his Warming Charm swirled around her and she melted against his side as his spell chased the chill away.
Listening to the Sorting Hat's song with half an ear, Harry sighed in relief when it turned out to be the same as the first time around. He knew from the past that the Sorting Hat could react to the changing circumstances of the magical world, and had half expected something referencing a dimensional traveler or the daughter of Thor Odinson to pop up in the song. But his secret was still safe it appeared. Stepping forward, McGonagall called up Hannah Abbott and the Sorting Hat was placed onto her head. "Hufflepuff!" Her tie and tights both went from solely black to alternating bands of yellow and black, and Hannah rushed off to join her new housemates at the Hufflepuff table.
The next two went just the way Harry remembered, with both Terry Boot and Mandy Brocklehurst being sorted into Ravenclaw. But instead of Lavender Brown following Mandy, an unfamiliar boy with brown hair moved to sit on the stool… when Professor McGonagall called 'Brown, Lawrence'. Huh. Harry's eyes wandered over to land on the redheaded girl he'd seen with the Weasleys on Platform 9 3/4. Did that mean then that it wasn't a case of Draco and Altaira, but that this girl was in fact the Ron of this world? How very amusing.
Millicent Bulstrode followed Lawrence and quickly became the first Slytherin of the year, and was followed into the house of serpents by one Maeve Campbell, the girl with reddish-brown hair who he'd first seen on the train. Two more Ravenclaw Boys and Crabbe later, it was Tracey's turn beneath the Sorting Hat. As she slowly walked to the front of the Great Hall, Harry tried to figure out where she might end up based on his two encounters with her thus far. Perhaps Slytherin again, but that was doubtful. Gryffindor also seemed unlikely for a reason he just couldn't put his finger on. Maybe… "Ravenclaw!"
Harry blinked as Tracey's uniform acquired blue and bronze accents, offering her a reassuring smile as she slid off the stool and moved to join her new housemates. As nice as it would have been to stay together as a group, the odds of all five of them - six with Tara - ending up in the same house were miniscule. And it gave him a pair of eyes in the house he now doubted that Su was fated for. His mind went to work, retooling his plans accordingly to compensate for both this latest development and the personalities of the girls that were shaping up to be his inner circle at Hogwarts this time around. Another unfamiliar student, a girl named Fay Dunbar, was sorted into Gryffindor, followed on the stool by a string of five straight boys: a Gryffindor, two Ravenclaws, a Hufflepuff, and another Slytherin. Then it was Hermione's turn to approach the stool and sit beneath the Sorting Hat.
Not a surprise, really, especially given how feisty this version was compared to the original. Daphne was the next to sit beneath the Sorting Hat and someone on high either liked him or hated him, Harry wasn't sure which, because Daphne soon followed the muggleborn over to the Gryffindor table, taking the seat across from her. While Harry couldn't quite bring himself to be unhappy about her being in the house he'd presumably end up in, it meant his list of friendly potential Slytherins was rapidly thinning and he still didn't have eyes in the dungeons.
Granted Tara would probably end up there… but then again, Daphne was 'supposed' to end up in Slytherin as well and he'd seen how that had ended.
The sorting continued, back to back aberrations coming when Megan Jones was sorted into Gryffindor instead of Hufflepuff, compensated for a moment later when Jen Ledger became a Hufflepuff instead of a Gryffindor. Surprisingly enough, Neville somehow managed to make it into Gryffindor despite his rather Malfoy-esque personality. Two students later, Tara and Draco took their turns under the Sorting Hat, each Malfoy being sent to Slytherin as soon as the hat touched their head. Well, if none of his other choices ended up in green and silver…
It wasn't until Nott was on the stool - right after Roger Malone - that Harry realized a face from his world was missing. While this world had a few new faces, it was evidently missing at least Kellah Morris… and he didn't see Sally-Anne Perks, either, come to think of it. He watched Nott and then Pansy go to Slytherin, Padma to Ravenclaw, and then Parvati ascended to sit on the stool. And sit. And sit. Finally, the Sorting Hat came to a decision. "Slytherin!"
Huh. Well there was another option if he didn't want to involve his cousin in his plans.
After waiting a moment, Harry shook his head and remembered that nobody would be pointing and whispering here. He was just Harry, not the Boy-Who-Lived. Moving up to sit on the chair, Harry felt the hat touch his head and waited. After a moment of silence, he realized what the problem probably was and carefully lowered his occlumency shields before reaching out with his mind. 'So, out of curiosity, can we just accept the first Sorting Hat's judgment here and put me back in Gryffindor? I'm so hungry I could eat a hippocamp.' 'Funny, Mister Potter. Maybe I will take the other Sorting Hat's judgment… and put you straight into Slytherin where you belong. Is that what you'd like?'
Harry cringed; the wizarding world was going to have a hard enough time with a person whose power greatly outstripped that of its 'savior'. Going into the house of dark wizards would only make it worse. Fuck. 'Language, Mister Potter. No, you are still mostly a Gryffindor at heart… although you've picked up more Slytherin traits as of late than most people would expect a Gryffindor to possess. Picking friends based on their usefulness, for one.'
Harry's heart raced; this wasn't going anything at all like he'd anticipated. He absolutely could not be a Slytherin. He'd be cut off from Hermione and Daphne at a minimum due to house rivalry, and nobody would trust that anything he did was altruistic, rather than due to a hidden selfish ambition. 'Not just for their uses. Their personalities matter too. I don't want another Ron on my hands, after all. But is it really wrong of me to not want to end up carrying dead weight, especially with what I know is coming?' 'Mmm. And considering their future looks?' 'I'm male. So hex me.' 'Right. Well, as reluctant as I am - that patronus of yours is as clear a sign as any of where I should be sending you - you may be the lesser of two evils. After seeing into the Longbottom boy's mind, I fear for the future of this world. They will need you, Harry Potter, when the world falls down around them. They will turn to you and cry out for the savior that Longbottom cannot be. And you will be that savior. It's who you are. You can do no less. But in this narrow-minded world they have built, you cannot be a savior unless you come from…'
The hat twitched again on Harry's head. "Gryffindor!"
Whipping the hat off his head and putting it on the chair, Harry hurried over to sit next to Daphne, giving Hermione a nod and a smile. The strawberry blonde immediately leaned in, nodding towards where Su was standing with the other students who still needed to be sorted. "I thought she was Li Su, last name being Li because of some weird Chinese thing?" Harry nodded slowly; they'd gone over that when the girls introduced themselves at his house. "Then why wasn't she sorted before Longbottom?"
"Because the school saw Li Su and assumed her last name was Su. And she figured that if they were going to let someone ignorant of her culture address the Hogwarts letters, then why not take advantage of it to make sure she was sorted after the Patils so she could be in a house where Parvati isn't? She met them at Madam Malkin's and wasn't too impressed." They watched as Zacharias Smith was sorted into Hufflepuff again and then Su comma Li was called forth to sit beneath the hat. "With her plan and some of the other things she's said, I'm guessing Slytherin despite it being where Parvati ended up…" Which meant she could be his eyes in that house, come to think of it…
"…but I've been wrong before." Su bounced over and took up the seat remaining on Harry's left, and the quartet watched as Tara's Welsh friend Branwen joined the Hufflepuffs. Dean was sorted next and became a Gryffindor, followed by Lisa Turpin going to Ravenclaw, and 'Anne Weasley' becoming yet another Gryffindor girl. The sixth, if Harry was counting right. An 'Ellen Williams' - a girl Harry assumed to be a differently-named Siobhan - then became the seventh Gryffindor girl, only to be followed by the actual Siobhan Williams who went to Hufflepuff. That made three sets of twins in his year alone - two identical and one fraternal - and neither pair of identical twins was identical enough to have both members end up in same house. Interesting. Blaise Zabini was the last to be sorted and became the final Slytherin, and the stool and hat were hustled off as Dumbledore rose to his feet. A short speech later, food hit the table and conversation fell by the wayside as everyone 'tucked in'.
Dinner was a bit odd for Harry; he'd been isolated amongst the Weasleys rather than spending time with his peers the first time and they'd all treated him a bit worshipfully, although that had quickly worn off in the case of the twins. With Hermione, Su, and Daphne for company, there was joking, idle chatter in between bites of food… Su even felt daring enough to use a fork to poach a carrot off his plate. Nobody would have dared do that in his old world. It felt… normal. Good, even. He was by far the quietest of the quartet, though, busy thinking both about the secrets he held - Tara could be called upon to be a bonder for an Unbreakable Vow but did he want to disclose his secrets or lie and, in the case of the former, how soon - and the problems that would be coming his way over the next few years.
Obviously, he couldn't simply accuse Quirrell of having Voldemort sticking out of the back of his head and let things go from there. Not only would it tip his hand as to his unnatural knowledge, but Harry would look like quite a fool if this was yet another place where his universe and this one varied. Maybe Snape was Voldemort's vessel here. Maybe Quirrell would still do it but was nothing more than a willing servant. Maybe one of the other teachers had gotten possessed. The possibilities were endless.
Second year would be obvious and yet complicated: all he had to do was locate the diary horcrux… but who knew who would end up with it. If Malfoy was smarter in this dimension, he'd target a neutral family or even use one of his children's future housemates instead of dropping it in the cauldron of a family who'd sent every member into Gryffindor for the last few centuries. That assumed Lucius was smarter here, though. So it could be very simple or very hard, and he wouldn't know until next fall. Joy.
After that came third year… would Pettigrew escape Azkaban like Sirius had? What were those crimes the book hadn't listed? Would he come after anyone in the castle? Not only would Longbottom be there - assuming he hadn't flunked out or died by then - but so would Harry, his younger sisters, and Sirius's daughter Cassie. If Peter held a grudge against his two former best friends, they'd all present good targets for revenge.
Fourth year… he knew what he had to do in his fourth year. Nobody would die in the second war if there was no second war. He would either enter as the fourth champion again, find a way to make his way in as Hogwart's real champion, or sneak into the maze and grab the cup first. But Voldemort would die in Little Hangleton that night, Harry was certain of it.
After dinner, dessert, and Dumbledore's announcements - including the 'most painful death' bit about a certain corridor - Percy Weasley and a girl his age with blonde hair, a smattering of brown freckles, glasses, and a bright smile descended on them. "First years, follow us! My name is Percy Weasley and I shall be your fifth year prefect this year. Please, stay with us, the hallways can be very confusing and I don't want any of you getting lost on your first night."
"Oh, lighten up, Percy. It's not like they can lose sight of that bright red mop of yours." The girl's grin widened as most of the first years laughed, herding from behind to keep them moving after Percy as they ascended the moving stairs towards where Gryffindor Tower was. "My name is Cherise Cram, and I'm your other fifth year prefect. Between the two of us, we can answer any question you have or solve almost any problem you need… but girls, I recommend coming to me if you have feminine issues unless you want to see a boy's face turn Gryffindor red."
After a lengthy hike and the requisite explanation of the portrait system and an introduction to the Fat Lady, the new Gryffindors were led into their common room and guided over to one corner full of sofas and chairs. Why quickly became evident. "Right then. Just so you know, every year the prefects sit the first years down and we go around and introduce ourselves so we can start getting to know each other." Percy puffed up, rubbing the sleeve of his robe against his prefect badge. "I'll go first, just to start things off. My name is Percy Weasley. I'm the third of seven children, and oldest of the four currently at Hogwarts. My brothers Fred and George are third years, and Anne is sitting among you. Next year, our sister Ginny will be joining us. I hope to become Head Boy, then go on to work at the Ministry of Magic. Cherise?"
Cherise grinned and dropped onto the sofa between Su and Daphne, leaning back and kicking her feet up on a nearby coffee table with her legs carefully crossed for modesty reasons. "I'm Cherise Cram. Still, just like five minutes ago. I have a fraternal twin sister in Hufflepuff named Janae. We don't look much alike but if you want to earn some serious brownie points with me, walk up to her and pretend you think she's me. It winds her up so much it's hilarious. Unlike Percy, I don't have my whole life planned out yet and so when I graduate, I just plan to go somewhere and do… something."
From there, since the group was divided along gender lines with Harry and Hermione sitting together on a two-seater and forming the border between the two sexes, they got to hear about the utterly enthralling lives of Seamus, 'Larry', Dean, and Neville, including a particularly bad and overly dramatic account of how the latter supposedly survived the Killing Curse.
Then all eyes turned to Harry, and he sighed. Bugger.