Toggle paper mode ----

The countryside rolls passed you, sometimes obscured by smoke from the old locomotive you're on, The Scarlet Train as you named it. You think something or someone may have mentioned it was called the Hogwarts Express, but you don't really care and prefer function to tradition.

You could read, but the excitement makes you doubt your ability to concentrate. Rather, you're stuck remembering. You remember when you were barely four and returned from your first day at school. Petunia didn't look pleased to see you, less so when you told her you were the only one who knew the alphabet and the teacher gave you a gold star, or something like that. Your loving aunt made sure you knew that lying and cheating would get you in trouble. You wanted to tell her that you hadn't cheated, but it was probably about that time you realised she didn't care, so said nothing.

Snorting, you realise that was probably the start of your “selective mutism” as the school nurse had called it some years later. You prefer to call it freak-training, since good old uncle Vernon liked to call you a freak and trained you not to talk by making your life worse every time you did. It hadn't been physical abuse, but you know that one sarcastic comment here or there would've had your cheek introduced to the back of his hand.

Perhaps the only person who actually cared about you in as long as you can remember is that first teacher. She was always pestering you, wanting to know why you stopped asking such interesting questions and giving such interesting answers. You gave her some cock-and-bull story about finding out about your parents – you can't remember if your relatives had actually told you the “truth” by then, but the teacher gobbled it up.

Oh, your parents, that's a fun subject. You were told they were good-for-nothing drunkards and that the scar on your head was from when they were drugged out of their mind and decided to take the kid for a spin, ending in their deaths and your orphan... Is it orphaning? Could be, but not important. If that giant-of-a-man Hagrid is to be believed, your parents were actually a stand-up witch and wizard and they gave their lives to protect you from a madman. Of course, there's the fairytale about you being a one-year-old superhero. You were hoping Hagrid was just a bit of a big kid, but a bunch of other random adults seem to be under the same delusions.

It's exciting in a way as what kid didn't want to be told he was special? You know slightly better though that freak is just another word for special. The Dursleys seemed to have hated you for being magic, but the children hated you for being silent. Well, maybe hate is too strong a word – the school kids just ignored you, except when it came to sports. You weren't first pick, but you could run fast and that's enough to get ahead in most games.

Remembering, like all you seem to do now, you replay the expression, “Glass half-empty,” in your mind. Are you really that kind of a person or do you just accept that life isn't fair? Who knows; after all, you're only eleven. True, you've been a cook, gardener and general-purpose handyman for the last few years, but you've found that manual labour gives you a lot of time to be philosophical.

Sometimes you feel like a twenty year old sarcastic pessimist trapped in a child's body – not in a paedophilic way of course.

Whatever the case, you know that everything you thought before doesn't matter. You're in a new world now, one without logic and reason. You thought things sucked before and you're pretty sure they're gonna suck now. After all, all those witches and wizards were using incantations and you haven't spoken a word in years. You suppose you could try and break the habit, but, to be honest, you're stubborn, more stubborn than you even think you are, and are also invested in this whole being mute thing.

You like it and you know it. You've seen people tiptoeing around things, being careful with every word that slithers out their mouth. That's not for you. You know what you like and it's peace and quiet. For some reason, other people hate it and try to break it whenever it's around by talking about stupid things no one, even themselves, cares about.

When someone knocks on your door and pokes his head through, you instinctively scowl.

“Er, is it, um, okay if I sit in here?” the boy asks.

You recognise the ginger hair from earlier – there was a whole family of them. At the time, you wondered if they all dyed their hair or why on earth the only two ginger witches and wizards decided to marry each other and have kids. You may or may not have guessed that they were forced to under endangered animal protection laws and have felt a little bad for thinking it.

At least he has the good decency to squirm under your scowl. You want to say no, but feel you should at least give him a chance and turn away as you reach for your trusty pad.

“Too good to even give me an answer? Bet you're related to Malfoy.”

The boy seems to have issues. Given that the only Malfoy you know has blonde hair and yours is as black as oil (last you checked at least,) one of his issues is with the little brat. Guessing that he wouldn't want to join you now, even if you asked very nicely, you look back at him and shrug.

That seems to do the trick as he gives you what he must think is a scowl – it looks more like he bit his tongue. You fail to hide your amusement and he responds by giving a trollish grunt. Now that you think about it, trolls might be real and you should probably find out how they grunt before tarnishing their good name by likening them to this little bundle of joy and anger.

He slams the door, probably thinking he has made some kind of point. All you know is that you've got two kids with attitude problems on your case and you've only spent two days around the magicals. Since you're about to spend some eight or nine months there, you hope it's a big enough school that a few hundred enemies won't be a big deal.

Well, you've got someone to watch your back. At least, you hope you do. You ran into her when you went to the famous British shopping district that is Diagon Alley. When you say you ran into her, you more walked into her – to cut yourself some slack, it was your first time in any kind of magical place.

She took it well, even though she dropped her ice-cream. Ever the gentleman, you had a galleon out of your little moneybag and your best “I'm sorry” smile on before the cone hit the floor. Hagrid was quick to apologise on your behalf to the stern woman behind the girl, while the girl took the galleon and smiled back.

It's a sad and depressing fact that it's the only time you can remember a girl roughly your own age smiling at you. If you care to broaden the audience to people, then she joins the dentist you once saw and your first teacher.

Her introduction was short. “Susan Bones. I'm starting my first year at Hogwarts.” You pointed to yourself and nodded. “You too?” she asks and you nod again. You like that she seems able to interpret gestures – getting your pad out and writing down takes times and more effort than its usually worth. “I'll see you there,” she says. You wink back, getting a hint of a blush. “Cheeky,” she managed to squeeze out as whoever she was with had already begun pushing her along.

She's the reason you felt a bit bad for casually mocking the ginger family earlier since she had a hint of orange to her hair. It was more blonde than strawberry, but she's probably the closest thing to a friend you've had and will have for years. Well, Hagrid seemed pretty happy to be around you, but you get the idea he worshipped your parents the way he talked about them.

Is it strange that you learnt their names from him? Lily and James Potter. Your aunt is also named after a flower and James is your middle name (you got that titbit from the dentist,) but it was nice to know for certain. After all, it's much easier to find a grave when you know the names you're looking for.

You're thinking in circles, and maybe that's a good thing. There's nothing to do for the eight hour trip. Yes, magic can get you anywhere in an instant – you saw people appearing from nothingness, some holding random things and some just their wands, and others falling out of fireplaces – but that doesn't mean that they could do something to an old train to cut the journey time down.

So you're stuck here on The Scarlet Train for another seven and a half hours, if your internal clock is correct. It is since you had to get yourself up to cook breakfast every morning and be home in time to cook dinner every evening (except when takeaways were ordered and you could make yourself a sandwich whenever you wanted.)

No need to be touchy, you get to go back there for a few more summers. Who knows: maybe they'll invite you back for Christmas so Petunia doesn't have to cook. Still, it could be worse and you know it – at least you had the good fortune to be born here and not in a third-world country where you'd be lucky to even reach one, let alone eleven.

Now you're just depressing yourself, but at least you have a very thorough understanding of misfortune. Your mind wanders back to the trip to the alley. It was the most interesting and exciting thing that had ever happened to you.

The alley itself was beautiful. You loved the buildings and how much character they had, completely unlike the identical rows and rows of houses that made up Privet Drive and the surrounding area. The people, well, you didn't dislike most of them, but you only had a few seconds with most of the shopkeepers and less with the passer-bys, excluding Susie. Would she want you to call her Susie? You guess it doesn't matter since you'll never call her anything.

Bizarre is the only word you can think of to describe the shops. Sure, you'd read a couple of stories about magic, but it was eerie how accurate they seemed to be. Potions with eye of newt? Of course! Broomsticks for riding? There's twelve different brands each with a new model for the year! Little pieces of wood that makes things do stuff they're not supposed to? There's one for everyone and, just for laughs, it's the flimsy stick that chooses you!

Your pocket buzzes as the flimsy stick you mocked shows its displeasure. You still don't believe it, but it's a mute point. Maybe that should be a mute's point? Har-har-har.

The goblins were another interesting part of your little excursion. You don't trust them as far as you can throw them, which isn't that far even if they are short globs of snot, but money seems to be their thing. Vernon and his colleagues liked money and that's probably influencing you, but you don't really care. You've lived off nothing for ten or so years and that was before you could do magic – the goblins can go to hell if they try anything.

Still, you'd like to stay on their, well, you don't think goblins have a good side, but you'd like to stay on whatever is the side that still gets to ride on the carts. It's a bit childish, but you didn't get to go to an amusement park, let alone on a roller coaster, so it's something you'd like to do again.

Hagrid had acted a bit shifty around then, sneaking off to get something from a special vault, but you don't care. He's an adult and can do what he likes. Well, except magic legally, but that's his little secret and you'd prefer to not get on his bad side since he is insanely huge.

There's a short, sharp bark in the room. You've come to recognise that as the distinctive call of Hedwig. Unlike you thought, owls bark, or at least this one does. She was your first ever birthday present, so you're a little attached to her.

Okay, you're practically in love with her.

To be fair, she is, by far, the most beautiful owl you've ever seen and you've seen a lot of owls recently. Not only that, but she's definitely more clever that Dudley (not that it's much of an achievement.) Exactly how intelligent she is, you don't know, but you're confident she'd be the type to sit and do crosswords, if she could hold a pen or a quill.

What was she barking for anyway? You look outside in time to catch a glimpse of a wonderful meadow and pond. Smirking, you would definitely marry her if there weren't laws in the way. Maybe the wizarding world has its own laws? That's something to look in to if you ever need to convince someone you're crazy in a single sentence.

In the little time you've been together, she knows you very well. You pull your trunk down and start leafing through your meagre possessions. It wasn't well organised to begin with and is probably as bad as it could be when you hoist it back up.

You flick a treat to Hedwig and she gobbles it up. It takes a second for you to realise that she wasn't even looking when you did it and you're tempted to give her a round of applause for that little bit of entertainment. You were advised by Hagrid to keep her in her cage on the trip, but you have an aversion to keeping living things in confined spaces and let her out as soon as you got to the station. The crowd didn't like that too much, but she sat happily on your shoulder and the wide berth you were given made traversing the crowded area easy.

It hadn't taken you long to find the secret entrance to the platform – normal people avoiding the area around the wall and children along with their parents walking through the wall was something difficult to not notice.

Shaking your head out of then and bringing it back to now, you take up your drawing pad and set of pencils. It's your only hobby and one you quite enjoy. You close your eyes and bring the meadow back to the front of your mind. You don't remember, you see. You see the luscious green grass ripple in the breeze, longer than most lawns but not as long as in fields. You see seven trees dotted around, forming a rough arc with three oak trees and four willow trees. You see the crescent-shaped lake that the trees surround, a handful of ducks sitting happily on the gentle water. You see the man walking his dog – a black or chocolate brown Labrador breed.

You release the breath you always seem to hold when you do this. You don't know what exactly it is you do, but you like that you can seem to burn recent memories into your mind. Opening your eyes, you look down at the page and smile. Your hands tingle as you pick a soft lead to start with and begin giving life to the water's edge. The gentle strokes leave a tender trail of grey behind, like a ghost in the sheet. Your smile broadens as you continue to bring the delicate streams together.

You lose yourself in your work, like you always do. As the pencil becomes more and more comfortable in your hand, you move faster and faster, the gentle pressures beginning to fluctuate as you start giving true character to it. Hard strokes set the grass in motion, while soft strokes stir the waves, your attention focused on narrowing the difference between the image in your mind and the image on the page.

Colour is long forgotten as you start applying shadows, but it wasn't meant to be as someone knocks hard on the door. You have a feeling that they've knocked before, but you were too engrossed. This is one of the occasional times you wish you could just shout, “Go away!” or worse.

Whoever it is becomes impatient and opens the door. You give her your best scowl. It's probably no better than that earlier kid's attempt, but you have a feeling that you will perfect it soon.

“I'm ever so sorry, but I thought I heard you say, 'Come in,'” she says, already striking you as someone who will annoy. “You haven't seen a toad have you? Only Neville has lost his and he's dreadfully upset about it. You see, it was a present from his Great-Uncle Algie for getting into Hogwarts.”

She seems intent on continuing, even though you were shaking your head the moment she asked the question and throughout her explanation. As if that was annoying enough, it seemed she had picked up her speech patterns from a boring old book. You wouldn't be surprised if she started telling you that the Great War was over and that you should pop over for crumpets and tea.

“Oh, well, if you see a toad, then could you please get either Neville or I? We're working our way down the train and asking everyone, so if you head towards the back you should find one of us.”

You want to point out that you have no idea who Neville is or that there must be a magic spell to do something useful or that asking a prefect would probably help, but she's eyeing Hedwig.

“According to Hogwarts: A History, animals should be brought along in cages or similar to prevent them escaping and causing havoc on the Hogwarts Express,” she informs you, managing to avoid looking away from your owl.

You at least have your earlier thoughts on this train's name verified. If you didn't want her to leave as soon as possible, you'd ask her how the toad escaped both its cage and the compartment. Back on topic, while it's tempting to throw something at her, you instead look to Hedwig. As though she's psychic, your owl looks back at you at the same time and you give her a nod – she doesn't need you to fight her battles. The clever girl that she is, she understands and looks back at the intruder and gives a short, sharp bark.

You'd smile, but the girl is still here and you don't want to encourage her – you can fetch another owl treat when she leaves.

“Well I never!”

Good, it seems she won't be here much longer. She looks to be on the verging of saying something else, but your luck holds out and she turns on her heel, slamming the door behind her. You wonder if Hogwarts has a junior school attached to it that trains children in how to be melodramatic. If it does, then your “mortal enemy” counter is probably doing to exceed its new value of three.

Hedwig barks again and you are beginning to think she's psychic. Rather than pulling your trunk down, you just open it up on the rack, taking a treat from the small bag that's nestled on the top. You toss it over your shoulder, confident in your motor skills. The snap of her beak acts as confirmation while you debate over whether or not to just take the bag out. You decide against it, not wanting to fatten her up or run out before you even make it to the castle.

Sitting back down, you pick up your pencil even though you know it's futile. The image in your mind is blurred, not close to as sharp as it was before the interruption, and has only slightly more detail than your drawing.

Sighing (silently,) you half-heartedly attempt to add the shadows to the trees. It looks disgusting and fake to you. You wish you could get another look at the meadow, but you doubt the driver would turn the train around and add a couple of hours to the journey.

Not wanting to think, you beckon Hedwig over and she hops across. Her feathers are amazingly soft as you stroke her. Hours of petting and half-sleeping pass before there's another knock on your door.

You're ignoring it when a timid voice announces, “Lunch trolley.”

Once more you're a child with a pocket full of coins and the prospect of sweets. You jump up, giving Hedwig a fright, and open the door.

The little old lady gives you a gentle grin, which puts you off slightly as you can count at least ten missing teeth. “Anything off the trolley, dear?”

You nod and start picking up whatever peaks your interest.

“My, my, hungry aren't you?” she comments, every bit the gentle grandmother figure. “Thirteen sickles and five knuts, please.”

You give her a smile before scooping out a load of sickles. You probably have some knuts, but it would take you a while to find them amongst your masses of sickles. Not much seemed to cost galleons and having mostly knuts would make buying things take forever, so you went for sickles mainly with some galleons for good measure. She's sharp and starts counting out knuts while you count out sickles, exchanging the piles as she takes the pay and you the change.

“Don't eat them all in one go,” she says. Smiling, you give her a slight bow. “My pleasure.” Another witch who can make sense of your gestures – maybe the magical world won't be so bad?

Acting your age, you ignore her advice and manage to work through several chocolate frogs – charmed or enchanted or magicked to act alive, which meant the first one nearly escaped your unsuspecting stomach – and a packet of Bertie Bott's. There's a pile of Cauldron Cakes and Pumpkin Pasties still to go. You could have bought some other stuff, but you prefer to stick to familiarish things and something that might qualify as an actual lunch.

Before you can open your first chocolate muffin-like treat that the Cauldron Cakes seem to be, there's a rap on the door. Without waiting for any reply, it then opens and reveals Draco Malfoy. You resist the urge to smirk as you remember how annoyed he got when the two of you were having your robes fitted. Well, angry is probably a better description since he was spouting something about his father and looked like a strawberry with cream on top.

There's a flash of recognition on his face and you're rewarded with a momentary scowl. “You again,” he drawls, making you wonder why on earth he would. “I'm looking for Potter, Harry Potter. My father says he should be on the train. Have you seen him?”

You're tempted to point to yourself, but that would probably keep him here for longer. Why does it seem like everything you do is about getting rid of people nowadays? Maybe you're grumpier than you thought. Realising that he's still waiting for a response, you shake your head.

“I didn't think so. What would a worthless fool like you know?”

He looks awfully proud of himself for insulting the person he's looking for without knowing it. As he slams the door, you wonder if being magical makes people dramatic. Even Hagrid had a fair bit of flair, though he lacked the follow-through.

Regardless, things are on the up and up as you make your way through the rest of your food without disturbance. Quiet continues to prevail for the hours following as you busy yourself with flicking through some of the books and looking out at the Scottish sights.

You change into your robes as your internal clock is telling you that the train will arrive in half an hour, so long as it's on time that is.

The British sun's descent had nearly finished, reminding you of the approaching winter. You don't like winter, but that's because it's cold and you didn't have warm clothes; now you have to wear a thick, cotton dress, maybe it won't be so bad?

You don't hold your breath. Instead, you pull your trunk down and start giving it some semblance of order. Don't want to be waste your time tomorrow morning trying to find everything, do you? Tomorrow's Monday and you bet they'll make you start right then.

There's not much longer left and you're starting to get nervous. You're not much good at occupying your mind, but do your best by carefully tearing a piece of parchment into a small rectangle and write, “Hi, I'm Harry!

The train starts to slow while you're still looking for something to use to stick it to your robe. You nearly give up before remembering you've got one of Dudley's newer, and thus even larger, hand-me-downs on, complete with safety pin.

Borrowing one that kept the shirt from dropping too low – you're wearing a dress that does a good job of hiding it – you attached your note to where the breast pocket would be. You have a pretty immature sense of humour and take a second to chuckle over the word “breast”.

With a final shudder, the locomotive stops and you take a look at the magical town of Hogsmeade. It doesn't look that special with houses that look like cottages and street lamps that look old-fashioned rather than magical.

Okay, so it's anti-climactic, but that's not a bad thing. You stumble out onto the platform, glad that this time Hedwig's cage is in your trunk and the owl herself is keeping an eye on you from atop the train. She's moved from love interest to mother and you're not sure what role she'll take on next.

No time to think as Hagrid starts asking for the first years. Well, you say ask, but his voice is like thunder over the din of students. You make your way over by continuing the strategy of stumbling and it works.

You are told that you're crossing the lake in a rickety old boat. On the plus side, you get to dump your luggage here and it'll magically make its way to the castle.

Hanging back, you wait for the others to fill up the boats. It seems a lot of people have friends already. You doubt that any of the relationships are built on any kind of solid foundation, but they're just kids. There you go, thinking about them like you're not one of them. In your defence, you're probably very different from them.

The girl from earlier is in a boat with another boy you assume is Neville. You're tempted to see if you can squeeze in a boat with Hagrid, but you don't want to risk it and the alternative is getting in a boat with Malfoy and two goons that look like they might be part-troll. Hey, maybe you can see if they grunt the same as the red-head that's scowling at you again?

You slip in the boat unnoticed by the girl. The boy looks at you and you can see the hopelessness in his eyes as she keeps talking at him. He looks down though and sees your name-tag. There's a few seconds, which are still full of her talking about something you couldn't care less about, before his eyes widen and you wonder if he's maybe not as stupid as Malfoy.

There's not much time to ponder that thought as Hagrid announces, “Off we go!” and the charmed or enchanted or magicked boats starts to drift. You make a mental note to find out if there's a difference between charming and enchanting and if there's anything else like it, even if it's just to simplify your thoughts.

The ride itself is smooth and enjoyable. The toad disagrees, making you more sure that it's Neville, and jumps for freedom. Your reflexes are good enough and you grab it a few inches from the water, though nearly lose it as Neville's attempt to catches him rocks the boat severely.

A bark above has you see Hedwig following your journey. You wonder if that was a bark of approval at your skills or a bark of disappointment at the lack of a meal. Whether she eats toads is unknown to you, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility.

Meanwhile, there's more enjoyment to be had as the girl in the boat starts thanking for you saving Trevor, only to slam her jaw shut when she recognises you. Your feral smile – your attempt at imitating the goblins – doesn't go down well, not that you intended it too, and she harrumphs. It's the first time you've seen someone harrumph and it's an event you'll unlikely forget.

Neville is looking between the two of you, no doubt confused by the sudden coldness from the girl. When Hedwig barks a few more times, he seems to understand. As he keeps looking between the two of you, you guess he's torn between thanking me and taking her side.

You don't really care, so stick your thumb at her back. He nods and asks her some question about plants. You think it's more likely about magical plants than the best way to prune a rose. So far, you like Neville. Then again, you tend to like most people that can take a hint.

The conversation doesn't last long as even the annoying drawl from the boat behind ceases when the beauty that is Hogwarts emerges. Damn, even you like the idea of living in a castle – there's just something awesome about it. With your luck, you'll probably find you own it. Hell, you hope you own it or at least one measly castle. You add making moats of fire to your list, along with finding some beasties that don't mind the heat.

Some things weren't meant to be and the bossy voices starts up, telling all about how she read all about it, but it couldn't possibly prepare her for such an amazing sight. You wonder if they have a register, since you could probably still push her in without anyone noticing. Well, Neville probably would, but a well placed nod should stop him from making a deal of it. Heck, maybe it would be worth it just to get some peace and quiet for the rest of the trip.

Scratch that, the drawl is back, making some comment about how his father is the submissive one in the relationship or something similar. You're not interested.

The boats drift into an alcove and stop at some odd dock thing. You get yourself out, offering good old Neville a hand. There's another harrumph as you turn and walk away, but it wasn't your first, so you don't care that much.

You look around at the bunch of terrified first years. Okay, terrified is a bit much (in most cases,) but they're still looking like they're at the dentist. Do magicals even have dentists?

The doors burst open, making half the group jump. You didn't spot the doors, but it is nearly pitch black down here. The witch introduces herself as Professor McGonagall and starts on a long spiel about the Houses and you basically ignore her once you recognise it as the introduction to Hogwarts: A History. You pick out the few people you know: Susie, the red-headed boy, Draco (or should you call him Malfoy? Nah, drawler is good enough) and Neville. You presume the harrumpher is near him, but are distracted by the professors departure.

A few seconds pass and the lovely silence is broken by the harried conversation of petrified children as they try and discover what method is used for sorting. When no one offers the actual solution, they start making stuff up. In particular, the red-head (that you don't like) says his brothers said that it's wrestling a troll.

You don't think you'd mind that and start wondering what House most embodies the kick-it-in-crotch approach. It's a bit too underhanded for Gryffindor, so probably more Slytherin or Ravenclaw. Then again, you'd think Slytherins would just get their daddies to buy them a troll-slayer, based on your experience with those who aspired for the House, so Ravenclaw is probably your best bet.

Another handful of gasps and screams ruin your mood as ghosts float through the wall. You're more curious than scared – the staff would hardly leave them around if they were dangerous and Hagrid seems pretty amused by all this.

Luckily, it's not long until McGonagall returns and with her she brings order. There's a smile on your lips as you all traipse through an ancient castle, complete with suits of armour and magical charmed or enchanted or otherwise magicked portraits. You settle on “enchanted” until you know better since it's starting to annoy you.

She's been jabbering on some more while leading you all, an extended version of the earlier introduction. There's words like “detention” and “expulsion” floating around as she establishes her no-nonsense personality. You think you'll like her if she keeps kids this quiet all the time.

Large double doors lay ahead and she goes through alone for a second before opening them up fully. Sadly, it's by hand and not more magic. You follow the line out into the hall.

It's a nice place – four long tables, side by side, with a load of children on them and a shorter one at the one end with some staff. Well, you assume they're staff and you know what they say about assumptions. Seeing some of your fellow first years looking up and gaping, you see what the fuss is about.

The detail on the ceiling is extraordinary.

You're tempted to get out your pad and start drawing, but there's the problem of your trunk being in limbo until you're sorted.

As if on cue, some singing starts and you tear your eyes away from the beauty above to find a tatty hat. You wonder why on earth someone would enchant a hat to sing, but the reasoning becomes clear as its song progresses.

Shortly, you'll have a mind-reading hat on. Well, that's what you gleam from its song at least. It doesn't take you long to decide that talking to mind-reading hats falls under your no-speaking rule. You feel it's rushed, but you can set up a formal debate later with the drawler and the harrumpher.

McGonagall starts calling people up, alphabetically it seems. Hannah Abbott is plopped over in Hufflepuff, as is Susie Bones. The two of them seem to be friends, judging by the excited giggly stuff they're now doing at the table.

The list goes on, with the only interesting bits being that the harrumpher is Hermione Granger and a member of Gryffindor, the toad-boy is Neville (Longbottom) and he's also in Gryffindor and Draco The-Drawler Malfoy is a Slytherin, just like his daddy wanted.

When McGonagall announces, “Harry Potter,” the hall silences. You wonder if they did that especially for you, but then the whispers start and you put this down to the whole one-year-old-superhero thing they have going on.

Walking towards the Sorting Hat, you regain some joy from the furious look Malfoy is giving you. At least you won't be bored here.

The seat is warm as you sit down on the stool. You always feel like you're sitting in someone's fart when this happens. Since you spent most of your life around Dudley and Vernon, it isn't a nice feeling.

Darkness descends as the hat's lowered over you.

Ah, hello Mr. Potter,” it speaks into your mind.

In reply, you think nothing.

Not very chatty I see. No matter, your past is behind you and its footsteps lead you to where you are now as it shall lead me.

There's nothing in your head, not even the realisation that you're thinking of nothing. You're stubborn and you've made up your mind.

A tragic life indeed, though one with a future unpainted, yes? Hufflepuff would do you well, help you escape your self-imposed solitude... Or perhaps Slytherin to temper you and make you stronger? Then again, your list of knowledge to seek is Ravenclaw to the core and yet your bull-headedness in this refusal to speak to me on nothing but a moment's thought is Gryffindor through and through.

You catch yourself from making a sarcastic comment in your head, instead thinking of thinking of nothing.

A close call their, Mr. Potter, eh? Perhaps if Salazar made me I would set breaking your foolishness as my goal, but Godric was as noble as they came a millennia ago. That you make me think of them is no coincidence and it's between those two that the choice must be. If you wish to sway me, now is the time.

You wait, struggling to keep your mind clear.

Very well. I can sense Salazar's prized cunning and independence in you as well as the bravery and courage Godric looked for. Either one would do them and yourself proud, but I feel you have much growth ahead and that it be best for you to do so in Gryffindor!”

Judging by the way “Gryffindor” nearly deafened you and that the Gryffindor table is going mental, you guess that the sorting, for you, is over. Oh and that the hat was removed from your head by a beaming McGonagall.

Walking over to the table, you see lots of people cheering you on and not just in Gryffindor. Granger still looks a bit unhappy about you, but Neville seems pleased.

When you finally sit down between one of the other first years – Dean Thomas – and a pair of older students, Granger asks, though it's more a demand complete with slight spray of spittle, “Why didn't you tell us who you were?”

You can think of a dozen replies off the top of your head, ranging from the Make-your-mother-blush kind to the Petunia-would-scrub-your-mouth-with-oven-cleaner. In the end, you point at your little nameplate and stick with what works: it's best to say nothing.