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What it Means to be a Slytherin

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“Slytherin!” the sorting hat declares. Harry is conflicted. On one hand, the hat said he could do great things there, and deep down he’s always wanted to achieve great things so that maybe the world would love him a little -- love him for something he can actually remember doing -- he has to correct himself after his recent weird brush with fame. On the other hand, he’ll have to deal with that snob Malfoy more than if he were in another house. Harry glances over to Malfoy, who, having been snubbed earlier, is very pointedly not looking at Harry as he approaches. I guess that’s better anyway .

 

The Great Hall is also conflicted. The Slytherins (excluding Draco, who is carefully studying the charmed sky with his arms crossed) applaud politely, but glance at each other in surprise. Many of the other houses whisper among themselves, because Slytherin is the very last house they expected the Savior of the Wizarding World to be sorted into.

 

Albus nearly chokes on his lemon drop in shock, but recovers himself enough to applaud politely, hiding his turbulent thoughts behind a carefully pleasant expression. Many of the students follow his lead and begin to applaud as well.

 

Severus’ brows shoot up before he gains controls of his features once more. He did not expect the little whelp of James Potter to be sorted into his beloved house. Severus decides to keep a more careful eye on him than the headmaster prescribed, for,  perhaps Potter will not be as similar to his dreadful father as his looks declare .

 

Minerva simply nods and applauds politely. While she had hoped Harry Potter would be sorted into Gryffindor like his parents before him, she often wondered if leaving him with those wretched muggles would have unforeseen consequences. Minerva was not one to question Albus often, but she has never been able to shake the feeling that Albus made a terrible choice.

 

Hagrid isn’t sure what to think about Harry being sorted into Slytherin when he’s had so much trouble with that house, but applauds heartily anyway because he’ll love Harry no matter what.

 

As Harry directs his attention away from Malfoy in order to find a seat, he notices that many of the Slytherins are eyeing him with calculating curiosity. Uncomfortable with the attention, Harry makes his way to the empty seat across from Malfoy, who, unlike the others, seems content to ignore him. After all, Harry is used to any attention that isn’t outright positive turning into conflict.

 

Dinner is an awkward affair of Draco doing his best to pretend Potter isn’t there, when Potter decided to sit directly across from him. Draco cannot keep his eyes focused on his plate the whole meal, for that is beneath a Malfoy. Nor can he study the ceiling while he’s trying to eat. So Draco very carefully only looks at his his minions who are flanking his own person, or his childhood friends who are inconveniently flanking Potter. Potter does not seem to notice his inattentiveness as he keeps his head down the entire meal. Draco scoffs to himself, What undignified behavior. One would think he’d been raised by muggles!

Draco is sorely tempted to give Potter a piece of his mind for looking so meek and undignified at the Slytherin table, not to mention his horrid table manners -- Really, who holds cutlery in such a barbaric fashion?! -- but has to remind himself that he is scorning Potter for refusing his offer of friendship. Pity he was sorted into Slytherin. That meant Draco was not allowed to be outright hostile to him in order to preserve the image of Slytherin house unity.

 

Harry does his best not to draw attention to himself throughout dinner, because it seems he’s managed to stick himself smack in the middle of Malfoy’s friend group. Thankfully, they seem to follow Malfoy’s lead and are content to ignore him as well. Harry’s never been good at making or keeping friends thanks to Dudley, and the Slytherins don’t seem very friendly in the first place. Harry decides that being in the middle of a group who seems to have decided to ignore him may be his best option after all, and slowly relaxes into his dinner.

Or rather, his feast! Harry’s never even seen so much food at once, even with how much the Dursleys seem to eat, let alone been allowed to have so much of anything! Harry puts some of everything on his plate, but even after stuffing himself he can’t clear it due to his years of near-starvation... and some periods of actual starvation when the Dursleys were feeling particularly vindictive. Harry feels bad at the prospect of wasting any food, so he sneaks what he can into his pockets. He figures he may need it later anyway.

 

If the Slytherins notice him quietly tucking food away, they don’t mention it.

 

-----

 

After the feast, Harry tails behind the group of first year Slytherins. As they travel further down into the castle, Harry notices it getting colder and colder, but as no one else seem bothered by it, he doesn’t dare make a spectacle of himself. By the time they reach the apparent entrance to the common room, his lips are blue, and he is desperately fighting not to shiver.

Harry jumps as a hand lands on his shoulder, pausing him on his way into the common room.

 

The Slytherin prefect looks down at Potter curiously, questioning his skittishness, but decides not to comment on it. “You would do well to learn some warming charms,” he says with a smirk, “It’s always rather cold down here.”

 

“Thanks,” Harry mumbles, head down and flushing in embarrassment. That answered his question about why no one else seemed to be bothered by the cold.

Once in the common room, Harry looks around in awe. The dimly lit, deep green space not only gives him a sense of wonder, but puts him at ease. The only place Harry’s ever found comfort was in his dark closet.

Harry is shaken from his dazed wonderment by a man with greasy hair, dressed in all black, sweeping into the room from behind a portrait and letting it swing shut with a Bang!

 

The room immediately falls silent as Severus gazes over the collection of first years.

“Good evening. As many of you know, I am Professor Snape, your head of house. As such, I find it important you remind you all that despite any quarrels you may have among yourselves, you will present a united front to the rest of the school. I also expect you all to be on your most proper behavior as each and every one of you reflect back upon this house. If you are caught misbehaving in any way I will see to it that you suffer full punishment. However, if you find yourself in a predicament you do not feel you can handle yourselves, do seek me out before the situation becomes too severe.” Severus moves to sweep back out the way he came, but turns back at the last moment to add: “I should not need to remind you, but I especially do not tolerate tardiness.” and proceeds through the tunnel behind the portrait of Salazar Slytherin.

 

Harry lets himself be ushered up the stairs by his prefect, into the room he is to be sharing with the other first year boys. He starts as he realizes his things are set near the bed directly next to the one Malfoy is already lounging on, having been the first into the room. Malfoy still seems content to ignore him, so Harry glances over to his other neighbor, who turns out to be the dark-skinned boy Malfoy was talking to at dinner. Harry isn’t exactly comfortable with being sandwiched between two people, but notes that at least the bed has curtains that he can close.

Harry notices the other boys changing into their pajamas and quickly follows suit, taking out his tattered, oversized hand-me-downs from Dudley. Self-conscious, he rushes through the process of changing, leaps into bed, and shuts the curtains as quickly as possible. He had caught glimpses of the silky and luxurious material the other boys seems to all sport, and wondered if he would ever manage to fit in.

 

Once Harry Potter had shut his curtains the other boys glanced at each other in confusion. His hurried movements had only served to draw their eyes to his scar-ridden, emaciated body, and tattered, ill-fitting pajamas. This was completely incongruous to what they believed about the upbringing of the Boy Who Lived. What was going on?

Chapter Text

Thoughts, verbatim

"twins talking at the same time"

 

----------

 

Harry wakes up in the morning to the sounds of the other boys moving around. He puts his glasses on, carefully peers out of his curtains, and sees his neighbor that isn't Malfoy gathering his shower things in the dusky green glow barely seeping through the window.

 

Blaise notices the movement and says to Potter, “Oh good, you’re awake. We’re heading to the showers.”

 

“Ok, thanks,” Harry replies, opens his curtains, and begins gathering his stuff. As he moves about, he notices Malfoy glaring at the other boy.

 

Blaise simply shrugs when Potter glances over at him, and says, “It’s not my friendship you rejected.” He offers his hand to Potter saying, “I’m Blaise Zabini by the way, pleasure to meet you.”

 

Harry accepts the handshake, feeling grateful that he’s made a possible acquaintance. However, he's still wary of Zabini’s intentions, considering he had been following Malfoy’s lead in ignoring him just last night.

 

Blaise introduces the other boys in the room is well: “Across from me is Theodore Nott, and you’ve already, * ahem* met Draco Malfoy, along with Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle,” he finished, gesturing to Crabbe and Goyle across the room.

 

-----

 

Harry is grateful to discover that the showers have individual stalls with their own changing areas, giving him complete privacy. He allows himself to relax into the steaming water, and takes his time washing himself with the soaps provided. Harry revels in the luxurious warmth so much that he’s startled when Zabini calls out to him:

 

“Hurry up Potter, or you’ll be late! We’re heading back to the room to gather our things before breakfast. Be sure you do the same.”

 

Harry hears Malfoy muttering to Zabini on their way out, but can’t tell what he’s saying. He can tell from the tone, though, that it isn’t anything nice.

Harry hurries to finish his shower, then makes his way back to the dorms. As he wanders through the cold, he realizes he still hasn’t learned any warming charms. After a few more minutes, Harry realizes he’s been walking for much longer than he should have been and turns around. Where was that entrance again? What does it even look like?? As Harry hurries back down the corridor, he nearly collides with a group of girls who are walking out from what used to be a solid wall.  Oh, thinks Harry, Maybe I should have paid more attention last night.

 

“Watch where you’re going, Potter!” a girl with cropped black hair snarls at him, “And fix your hair! No self-respecting Slytherin walks around like that!” she adds before she stalks off with the other girls.

 

Harry hurries into the common room before the door swings back shut, where he nearly barrels into Crabbe and Goyle. They sneer at him as he stutters an apology then stumbles his way up to their room. Trembling with nerves, Harry collapses onto his bed and lets out a long sigh.

 

“Hey,” Blaise calls out after a moment, “hurry up. We’re heading out for breakfast in a couple minutes.” He can see that Potter is shaken, but Slytherins do not get to be coddled. Still, Blaise dallies until Potter is ready, then heads down to the common room with him.

 

Harry is surprised when Malfoy approaches him with a sneer,

 

“You still haven’t tidied yourself up, Potter? Even your shirt is sticking out,” Draco spits, then flicks his wand at Potter while muttering a spell, causing the boy to jump as his uniform straightens itself out. Draco snorts, “Pathetic.” At least his clothes are neat now, if not his hair. And someone must really do something about those wretched glasses, Draco thinks to himself, No self-respecting Slytherin should be such a bleeding mess.

 

Once they file out of the common room, Malfoy goes back to pretending Harry doesn’t exist, and Harry doesn’t know what to think anymore. Either Malfoy ignores him, or he insults Harry while helping him out. What the hell?

 

-----

 

Breakfast is a much more simple affair than last night’s feast, but Harry is still amazed at the number of dishes and bounty of food. He once again fills his plate with more that he can eat, and once again pockets his leftovers as stealthily as he can.

 

-----

 

Zabini lets Harry sit next to him during all their classes, and Harry is relieved that he hasn’t seemed to get on the Slytherin’s nerves yet. He slowly begins asking Zabini more and more questions when it seems like Zabini doesn’t mind answering.

 

Blaise is bewildered at how little Potter seems to know about the magical world; He asks questions any toddler would know. That combined with the scars Blaise saw littering Potter’s body -- and some of them fresh! -- leads Blaise to the conclusion that there is no way Potter was as pampered as the wizarding world had been led to believe, but quite likely the opposite. Blaise had gotten his fair share of beatings from one of his mother’s ex-husbands, but no marks had been allowed to scar. Blaise decides then that he is going to force Draco and Potter to make up, because he has every intention of becoming Potter’s friend, but no interest in sustaining any drama with Draco.

 

Harry quickly learns not to ask Blaise questions during potions. Especially not while Professor Snape is talking.

 

“And what, Mr. Potter,” Snape snipes, “is so important that it must be discussed while I am lecturing?”

Harry stumbles for words: “I was just -- I just -- I wanted to --”

“-- Enough of you babbling!” Professor Snape cuts him off, “I have no time for nonsense in my classroom.”

Harry can hear Malfoy snickering quietly behind him, and slumps back into his chair with a sigh, but Zabini subtly prods him into sitting up straight again. Harry glances over, but Zabini keeps his eyes glued to the front of the classroom. Harry takes the hint and refocuses on the lesson.

 

 

As Harry is leaving Potions, Ron Weasley knocks past him, sending Harry and his things flying to the ground. Harry is too shocked to move. The redhead sneers down at him. “Traitor,” the boy spits out, then turns to go, but Malfoy gets up in his face.

 

“What a child,” Draco sneers, annoyed that this blood traitor scum would dare assault any Slytherin, “Pick up the mess you made.” Weasley tries to shove past him, but Draco draws his wand and points it at redhead’s red face; “I said, pick up the mess you made, Weasley scum.”

 

Weasley’s face is redder than a tomato, and he looks ready to fight, but Professor Snape walks up to the scene and arches a brow. “Mr. Weasley, I do not appreciate messes being left in my classroom. If you need lessons in tidiness I can surely help you during detention,” the professor drawls, the adds, "Ten points from Gryffindor for sheer stupidity. Do not tempt me to make it more."

 

Weasley huffs and bends down to collect the spilled books and supplies, grumbling about “bloody Slytherins, think they’re so important just because they have Big Bad Snape behind them,” the whole time.

 

Malfoy turns his nose and goes back to ignoring Harry.

Harry thinks he may be starting to understand what it means to be a Slytherin.

 

-----

 

As he walks into the Great Hall for dinner, Harry looks around and realizes that many of the other houses are talking to each other while looking at him, and feels his blood start to boil. Why am I any of their business?

 

Blaise notices Potter stiffen beside him as they head to their table. Ah, he thinks, so he finally noticed. Blaise makes eye contact and gives Potter a quick nod, acknowledging the irritation he sees in the boy’s eyes.

 

When they arrive at the table, Zabini greets the girl who accosted Harry earlier, “Pansy,” he says with a smile.

 

“Blaise,” she responds, then adds, “Potter. I see you’ve fixed your clothes but not your hair. We really must do something about that… Come find me after dinner and I’ll make you look like less of a mess,” she finishes with a too-sweet smile.

 

Harry nods warily. “Okay,” he responds carefully. He isn’t sure whether to be offended at the jab, or grateful that she’s willing to help him out.

 

Pansy smirks as she adds, “You’ll owe me one though.” Really, who let this boy into Slytherin? He’s way too soft.

Potter eyes narrow and responds, “Right...”

Oooh, that got his attention. Maybe he’s not such a lost cause after all. Either way, this should be fun. She smirks at Potter and tosses her hair as she turns back to Draco, “So, Draco darling, are you still pretending that our very own Slytherin celebrity doesn’t exist?”

 

Harry tenses at that, hating his so-called fame already.

 

Draco simply sneers at Pansy, What a stupid question. Of course is. Potter had yet to apologize for snubbing him. He wouldn’t be a Malfoy if he simply allowed such indignities to breeze over unanswered for.

 

Suddenly, the Slytherin table goes quiet. When Harry looks around to see why, he notices two tall, lanky redheads approaching the table.

 

Hiya Harry,” they say, causing the Slytherins bristle at the casual greeting.

“I’m Fred,”

“And I’m George.”

“We heard what our little Ronnikins did,”

“And we just wanted to apologize--”

“--on his behalf.”

“His manners are--”

“--truly terrible, and--”

“--we’re ashamed to call him--”

“--our brother,” the twins conclude together.

 

“Um, thanks,” Harry replies.

 

“Don’t mention it!” says George.

Fred adds, “Oh, and if he keeps it up,”

“And you want a little payback,”

Count us in.” The twins both give Harry a mischievous grin, then stroll back to the Gryffindor table.  

 

Harry is shaken out of his shock by a scoff.

 

“Weasley’s so annoying, even his own brothers hate him,” Pansy says with a sneer in the direction of the Gryffindor table. “What happened anyway?”

 

“He knocked me over on his way out of potions and called me a traitor,” Harry responds, agitated by the memory. He glances over at Malfoy, who quickly looks away, and continues: “Malfoy made him pick my books up.”

 

The Slytherins all look at  Draco with surprise written on their faces. “What?” he says haughtily, “I couldn’t let some Gryffindor walk all over a Slytherin, you should all know better,” he ends with a huff.

 

Pansy titters, “Oh, but of course, Drace dear,” causing the blond to glare at her.

 

Blaise asks, “Is that why you fell so far behind?”

 

“Yeah,” “Yes,”  Potter and Draco reply at the same time. Draco levels a glare at Potter, who stares back.

 

“Boys, boys, save it for the common room,” Pansy interjects.

 

Malfoy sneers at her, but goes back to his dinner. Harry turns to Zabini and mutters, “I think I liked him better when he was ignoring me.”

 

Blaise turns to Potter with a wry smile, “Ah yes, Draco can be a handful, but he grows on you.” Blaise isn’t sure what to make of Potter. Sometimes he’s completely timid, but other times he gets just as fired up as any of them.

 

Dinner can’t end fast enough for Harry. He’s had a long day, and he just wants to curl up behind the curtains of his bed.

 

 

Up at the head table, Dumbledore plots. He noticed the friendly exchange between Potter and the twins, and thinks he may be able to use his connection with the Gryffindors to distance Potter from the cunning Slytherins. All in due time, he tells himself, All in due time.