Harry & the Mysterious Curse of the GirlWhoLived

3: The Wisdom of an Old Hat

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.

And a quick note: There is a song in this chapter by our old friend the Sorting Hat. It is not the one JK Rowling wrote. And it is shorter. So you don't need to just skip it. But feel free, nonetheless.

Harry and the Mysterious Curse of the Girl-Who-Lived

CHAPTER THREE: THE WISDOM OF AN OLD HAT

Harry Potter had never really had any friends growing up at the Dursleys - Dudley's bullying prevented anyone who was willing to overlook Harry's shabby appearance from actually being friendly. The other schoolchildren were all too willing to tease Harry for anything from his over-sized formerly-Dudley-owned clothes to his sellotaped glasses. So Harry never really knew that much about other people except from a sort of distance - except for his relatives, of course, but Harry figured he knew them a bit too well.

Harry had once heard the expression "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" in school, and if actual physical distance was considered, he never hated the Dursleys less than at that moment, standing before the imposing yet awe-inspiring walls of the vast castle of Hogwarts. Perhaps because the Dursleys were the furthest thing from his mind.

But in the relatively short time he had been exposed to the Magical world, Harry had managed to form a few opinions about the various people he had already encountered and had any sort of conversation with. Hagrid was a bit slow, bit silly. But someone whose ridiculous size belied a truly gentle spirit and a was apparently a real friend of Harry's parents. The old man who sold wands - Ollivander. Creepy. Arrogant, perhaps somewhat justifiably, but still. The only one who seemed to "hear" that Harry wasn't a girl, but still refused to acknowledge it. Which in some ways, made him almost the most annoying person Harry had met - almost, except for one... Draco Malfoy - what a spoiled brat. Imagine a skinny, rat-faced Dudley who was also very creepy and had a decent vocabulary. Unlike Dudley, Malfoy wasn't just stupid, but he was an arrogant little jerk. On the more reasonable side of things was Ron Weasley - amusing in a sort of keeps-putting-foot-in-mouth kind of way. If he could keep up his "Don't refer to Harry as a girl" and general reasonableness, Ron might just end up being a decent sort of bloke. As for the other Weasleys - the mother seemed nice enough. The twins were a mix of annoying and friendliness. Time would tell on that. The rest were essentially unknown, especially the ones Harry hadn't even met yet, if he ever would.

That one girl Hermione Granger - seemingly smart girl, kind of condescending and odd. Seems like she disliked Harry for an unknown reason. Perhaps being an actual girl would lend some insight on it, but that wasn't something Harry wanted to dwell on. And then there was Neville Something-or-other - poor kid. Embarrassed easily, with a toad for a pet! Harry felt kind of bad for him. And he hadn't referred to Harry as "Harriet" even once - so that was one plus in Neville's favor, at least.

"Firs' years! Firs' years over here! All right there, Harriet? Nobody gave yeh no trouble, right?" Harry shook his head. Good ol' reliably friendly Hagrid. The familiar face certainly relaxed Harry's nerves a bit, with Hogwarts right there in front of them.

Hagrid smiled and winked obviously, but Harry didn't really mind that particularly. "C'mon, follow me — any more firs' years? Mind yer step, now! Firs' years follow me!" The various first-years quickly fell behind the enormous gamekeeper, a feeling of excitement of nervousness and excitement palpable in the evening air.

"Yeh'll get yer firs' sight o' Hogwarts in a sec," Hagrid called over his shoulder, "jus' round this bend here."

And there it was. Hogwarts. Harry was so close he could almost feel the magical energy bursting from the ancient stone walls. He glanced around quickly. His fellow first-years seemed similarly entranced with the impressive edifice. Even the annoying Malfoy couldn't be blase about such a sight.

Hagrid led the group to set of boats, each capable of holding four students.

Harry caught a glimpse of Malfoy looking at him in a almost calculating sense, and quickly turned to Neville and Hermione, who were standing nearby.

"Say, why don't you come on our boat?" Harry asked before Malfoy could get any closer or say anything. Neville and Hermione looked surprised, although Hermione looked a bit suspicious, while Neville merely looked as though he was shocked anyone had even bothered talking to him.

Ron looked at Harry and shrugged. "Yeah, why not?" he said.

Eventually all the students found boats and Hagrid even spotted Neville's wayward toad, Trevor. Harry wasn't sure if he should congratulate Neville for getting back his pet or feel bad that he got back a frankly terrible pet. Harry settled for giving Neville a friendly smile and a thumbs-up, which caused to Neville look like he wanted to hide or throw up but couldn't decide.

"What's with him?" Harry managed to whisper to Ron.

Ron chuckled nervously. "I have no idea."

But soon enough they reached the gates of Hogwarts, where Hagrid turned them over to a stern-faced, tall, black-haired woman.

"The firs' years, Professor McGonagall," said Hagrid.

"Thank you, Hagrid. I will take them from here."

Hagrid turned to leave, but gave Harry another obvious wink for good measure before disappearing into the darkness. This time, Harry was pretty sure no one else had noticed, since the students were far too focused on McGonagall's actions.

She pulled the door open and led the students into an wondrous and cavernous entrance hall,

"Welcome to Hogwarts," said Professor McGonagall. She explained, in a very no-nonsense sort of tone, that they would all be Sorted before the feast into one of the various houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Harry remembered bits and pieces about the houses, although the main things he remembered were that his parents were in Gryffindor and Volotredi was in Slytherin. That didn't seem too difficult to decide between, although Harry wondered if he would even have any say in the matter.

McGonagall finished her short lecture with a cursory explanation of points and house cups. "The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes in front of the rest of the school. I suggest you all smarten yourselves up as much as you can while you are waiting."

Her eyes lingered for a moment on Neville's cloak, which was fastened under his left ear, and on Ron's smudged nose.

Harry nervously tried to flatten his hair. Then he remembered he supposedly had "pretty hair" to everyone else and scowled. Well, fine, he'd keep his hair however he pleased then.

"I shall return when we are ready for you," said Professor McGonagall. "Please wait quietly."

"So, Ron, how exactly do they sort us into houses?" Harry asked Ron. "Do we get to decide?"

Ron looked as though as wasn't sure he wanted to answer. "It's a kind of test, I think. Fred said it hurts a lot, but I think he was joking. I'm sure he was, right?"

Harry gulped, suddenly worried. He had read some of his books already, but it wasn't like he knew any spells. And all the other students, watching him. Could you fail this test? Forced to go back to the Dursleys?

No. No, that wouldn't happen. Harry breathed in deeply, trying to calm himself. He would do just about anything to prevent being sent back there, away from learning about magic.

A bit calmer, Harry glanced around and saw that everyone else looked terrified, too. Well that was a bit more heartening. Even brainy Hermione Granger, who had supposedly memorized her books, was whispering very fast to herself about all the spells she'd learned and wondering which one she'd need. Ron looked pale and nervous, and Neville was obviously sweating heavily.

And stupid Malfoy was clearly nervous, although he was trying to pretend he wasn't. Prat.

Suddenly several people behind Harry screamed, causing him to jump forward a bit. A group of ghosts had just streamed by, babbling to each other about something called a "Peeves". One fat one took a moment to welcome them, although Harry doubted most of the shell-shocked students had even heard the words.

"Move along now," said a sharp voice. "The Sorting Ceremony's about to start."

McGonagall had returned, and led the children into the Great Hall, which was yet another sight that took Harry's breath away. Thousands of floating candles, sparking golden goblets, tables of chattering and staring students. And the ceiling above... it was like looking into the clearest night sky imaginable, dotted with countless stars.

Dang. Magic was pretty cool.

"It's bewitched to look like the sky outside. I read about it in Hogwarts, A History." Oh, Hermione. Harry couldn't help but smile a bit at the very well-read Muggleborn girl. He didn't even know that Hogwarts had an eponymous history book in the first place. Harry wondered if would be worth reading or if it was one those dry, dusty old history books that could bore you to sleep before you even opened them.

Although with a Magical book, perhaps that could actually happen.

Harry quickly looked back towards the front of the hall as Professor McGonagall silently placed a four-legged stool in front of the first years. On top of the stool she put an old and worn pointed wizard's hat. What in the world?

And everyone was staring at the hat. For a few seconds, there was complete silence. Then the hat twitched. A rip near the brim opened wide like a mouth — and the hat began to sing:

A hat, a hat, a Sorting HatA song, a song, a pondering songOnly wizards would think of thatA singing, talking, Sorting Hat

Try me on and I will findThe place where you shall be assignedWhich house is the house in store?The founders inspired a mighty four

Slytherin for those who slinkRavenclaw for those who thinkHufflepuff if you don't mind caringGryffindor if you don't lack daring

And the other houses that don't existAre for those who shall be dismissedBut worry not, for you shall be SortedThe Founders' Will shall not be Thwarted

Each of you will find their kinA house that shall be found within:Hogwarts!

The whole hall burst into applause as the hat finished its song. It bowed to each of the four tables and then became quite still again.

"So we've just got to try on the hat!" Ron whispered to Harry. "I'll kill Fred, he was going on about wrestling a troll."

Wearing a talking hat? For a crazy magical test, that didn't seem that bad at all. Heck, Harry thought he could wear an entire set of talking clothes if need be. In fact, Harry would probably be willing to "pretend" to be a girl if he absolutely had to - although he was really REALLY hoping that was not the case.

Professor McGonagall had already started calling out names.

"When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted," she said. "Abbott, Hannah!"

A pink-faced girl with blonde pigtails stumbled out of line, put on the hat, which fell right down over her eyes, and sat down. A moments pause —

"HUFFLEPUFF!" shouted the hat.

In quick order, "Bones, Susan" also went to Hufflepuff, and "Boot, Terry" and "Brocklehurst, Mandy" went to Ravenclaw. "Brown, Lavender" was the very first new Gryffindor, and the table on the far left exploded with cheers; Harry could see Ron's twin brothers catcalling.

Well as much as Harry wanted to go to Gryffindor, those twins had better not catcall him. Or else... something would definitely be done. Harry wasn't sure how he'd pay them back exactly, but he'd find a way.

"Bulstrode, Millicent" was then picked for Slytherin, "Finch-Fletchley, Justin" for Hufflepuff, and "Finnigan, Seamus" for Gryffindor, who actually took a bit longer under the Hat than everyone else.

"Granger, Hermione!"

Hermione almost ran to the stool and jammed the hat eagerly on her head.

"GRYFFINDOR!" shouted the hat. Ron groaned.

"It's not that bad," Harry whispered with a sudden grin. "Maybe you'll be in Slytherin."

Ron choked and looked ill. "Harriet, please. I get enough of that from the twins."

When Neville Longbottom, the boy who kept losing his toad, was called, he fell over on his way to the stool. Harry thought that this was maybe because he kept looking rapidly back and forth between Harry, the Hat, and the floor. And he had a toad! For a pet! Poor Neville.

The hat took a long time to decide with Neville.

When it finally shouted, "GRYFFINDOR," Neville ran off still wearing it, and had to jog back amid gales of laughter to give it to "MacDougal, Morag."

"Maybe Slytherin won't be so bad," Ron said with a kind of harrowing tone.

Malfoy swaggered forward when his name was called and got his wish at once: the hat had barely touched his head when it screamed, "SLYTHERIN!"

Malfoy went to join his friends Crabbe and Goyle, looking pleased with himself.

"Hmm," Ron now actually looked a bit thoughtful. "You know, perhaps I had Hufflepuff all wrong."

Harry coughed to cover a unmanly giggle; that would not look good for his ongoing "I am not a girl" campaign.

There weren't many people left now. "Moon"…, "Nott"… , "Parkinson"… , then a pair of twin girls, "Patil" and "Patil"… , then "Perks, Sally-Anne"… , and then, at last —

"Potter, Harriet!"

As Harry stepped forward, whispers suddenly broke out like little hissing fires all over the hall.

"Potter, did she say?"

"The Harriet Potter?"

The last thing Harry saw before the hat dropped over his eyes was the hall full of people craning to get a good look at him. Next second he was looking at the black inside of the hat. He waited.

"Well now," said a small voice in his ear. "Curious, very curious. I can't say this makes any sense at all to me. Tell me Miss Potter, what should I believe? Your memories or my perceptions?"

"What do you mean?" Harry asked, wondering almost hopefully.

"You appear to be a girl, yet your memories clearly indicate yourself as a boy. Can you explain this odd discrepancy? That is, which is it?" The hat then chuckled. "Never mind, actually. I can see that you consider yourself a boy."

"You - you actually believe me?" Harry could scarcely believe it himself.

"I do indeed," the Hat said. "Unlike Mr. Ollivander, whom I sorted long ago, I am not encumbered by the morals of a specific era. But I must be frank, Not-Miss Potter. I have never seen a student like you, and I have been Sorting since Hogwarts began."

Harry sighed in disappointment. "So you don't know how to fix it?" A thought occurred to him. "Wait.."

"No, that won't help," the hat interrupted. "I know what you're thinking, of course. But I cannot reveal what I have seen in the memories of other students - although I can admit that even if I could, I still would have no answers. Unfortunately, most students have a very elementary knowledge of magic, and although I sit in the Headmasters' office, that does not necessarily mean I am privy to their magical ponderings."

"Dang it..." Harry grumbled. "There's nothing I can do?"

"Well I wouldn't quite go that far, Not-Miss Potter," the Hat admonished. "In fact, I do have an idea. Some of your Professors may have some knowledge on this odd situation. You may consider asking them about it."

"Do you think they might understand that I'm really a boy like you've figured out?" Harry asked excitedly.

"No, I do not," the hat said with a sigh. "I can see that most people act as though you haven't said anything out of the ordinary when you talk about being a boy. And based on the limited information I have, I doubt the Professors will be able to perceive otherwise. However, there is a slim possibility that the Headmaster might actually be able to help."

"Really?"

"Yes, he does have his skills. I remember when I Sorted him - well, I can't tell you the specifics, but I can say he was not your average student. Or even your average brilliant wizard, for that matter."

Harry considered this and felt a bit more optimistic about the potential future. "Do you think he'll even have time?"

"Professor Dumbledore is a busy man, but I am sure you will find the time eventually." The hat cleared its nonexistent throat. "In any event, I have enjoyed this brief mysterious interlude, but we still need to Sort you."

"Oh, right," Harry said in embarrassment, having kind of forgotten about that.

"Normally you would do well in several houses, I think," the Hat mused. "But your specific 'condition' changes things. Ravenclaw wouldn't treat you well, and Hufflepuff wouldn't have the needed support."

"I'd rather not be in Slytherin," Harry admitted. "You know, with Volotredi and Malfoy."

"I see your point," the hat said. "Very well then, better be GRYFFINDOR!"

Harry heard the hat shout the last word to the whole hall. He took off the hat and walked in a bit of a haze toward the Gryffindor table. Percy the Prefect got up and bowed deeply, while the Weasley twins yelled, "We got Potter! We got Potter!"

Well at least they weren't catcalling. That would not have been pleasant.

"Sit over here, Harriet!" It was one the twin girls, Something Patil, sitting next to Lavender Brown, the first Gryffindor sorted. Beaming, she patted the seat next to her. Well, why not? It wasn't like people could accuse Harry of being particularly girlish just because of sitting next to one. Harry sat down next to the dark-skinned and smiling girl.

"I'm Parvati," she whispered loudly. "And this is Lavender!"

Lavender waved a bit shyly. Harry felt a little bad for her, considering the Weasley twins rudeness. Unless Lavender actually liked that sort of thing - with actual girls, who could figure?

"I'm Harry Potter," Harry whispered back, just as loudly.

Parvati giggled. "Yes, I know." Of course she did.

Harry looked over at the High Table, finally able to see the various Professors sitting there. Hagrid was there, naturally, who caught his eye and gave him the thumbs up. Harry grinned back. And there, in the center of the High Table, in a large gold chair, sat Albus Dumbledore. Harry recognized him at once from the card he'd gotten out of the Chocolate Frog on the train.

Hopefully he wouldn't disappear like on his card - although that might be amusing to watch.

Harry spotted Professor Quirrell, too, the nervous young man from the Leaky Cauldron, now wearing an ugly purple turban.

He certainly didn't look any less nervous wearing the hideous thing.

And now there were only three people left to be sorted. "Thomas, Dean," a Black boy even taller than Ron, joined Harry at the Gryffindor table.

"Hi there," Dean said with a smile, holding out his hand.

"Hello yourself," Harry said, accepting the handshake. But then, to Harry's horror, Dean actually tried to kiss his hand! Well, Harry wasn't about to let that one happen again. He grabbed back his hand and smacked Dean's fairly hard.

"Watch yourself and don't kiss people who don't ask for it!" Harry scowled to Dean's gobsmacked expression.

"Ooh, well done Harriet!" Lavender said admiringly.

Harry nodded his thanks to Lavender and turned back to the Sorting.

"Turpin, Lisa," became a Ravenclaw and then it was Ron's turn. He was pale green by now.

Harry caught Ron's eye and mouthed "Hufflepuff" with a big smile.

Ron's mouth quirked up a bit at that.

But Harry still crossed his fingers under the table and a second later the hat had shouted, "GRYFFINDOR!"

Harry clapped loudly with the rest as Ron collapsed into the chair next to him.

"Well done, Ron, excellent," said Percy Weasley pompously across Harry as "Zabini, Blaise," was made a Slytherin. Professor McGonagall rolled up her scroll and took the Sorting Hat away.

"Well, that wasn't so bad, was it, Ron?" Harry asked with a grin.

"I suppose not," Ron said with a kind of sudden realization.

Albus Dumbledore had gotten to his feet. He was beaming at the students, his arms opened wide, as if nothing could have pleased him more than to see them all there.

"Welcome," he said. "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!

"Thank you!"

He sat back down. Everybody clapped and cheered. Harry didn't know whether to laugh or not.

"Is he — a bit mad?" he asked Percy uncertainly.

"Mad?" said Percy airily. "He's a genius! Best wizard in the world! But he is a bit mad, yes. Potatoes, Harriet?"

Harry's mouth fell open.

The dishes in front of him were now piled with food. Now this was some of the best magic yet. The students tucked in with the unique eagerness of hungry eleven-year-olds, not even bothering to talk much at all. Finally as dessert appeared on the tables in another impressive magical feat, the first-years began to slow down and relax.

As Harry helped himself to a treacle tart, the various first years began chatting.

"Why do you suppose some people stay longer under the Hat than others?" Hermione asked, a bit imperiously.

Seamus Finnigan, who had been under the Hat longer than everyone but Neville and Harry chuckled. "Who can say, really? All pretty normal, I guess, although Harriet was under the longest, weren't she?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "Well, I'm sure that Harry and the Hat had a decent conversation about reasonable things, you can be sure."

"You had an actual... conversation?" Neville asked, who then looked shocked that he even managed to ask anything at all.

"I highly doubt that," Hermione sniffed. "There's nothing that special about Harriet Potter, after all."

"Are you balmy?" Ron asked in a sort of shocked manner. "She beat You-Know-Who! You should know that much, with all the books you've memorized." He sneered a bit with this last word.

"And I'm sure you've read nothing at all," Hermione sniped. "So keep your ill-informed opinions to yourself."

"So anyway," Harry interjected, worrying that the two might actually come to blows. "Parvati, was it?" he asked the twin girl.

She nodded with an amused smile, probably having spotted Harry's little distraction attempt.

"Is your family magical as well?"

"Yes, it is," Parvati answered. "The Patils have been magical for many generations, actually, although we only moved to this country three hundred years ago."

Harry blinked. "That's quite a long time."

Parvati giggled. "Harriet, you know, the Potters have been in the country for over two thousand years."

"They have?" Harry suddenly realized he knew very little about his family history.

"And the Browns have been here over a thousand," she said, indicating Lavender, who looked surprised to be included in the conversation.

"Well, that kind of thing isn't that important, right Harriet?" Ron asked.

Harry nodded. "Yeah, I don't think who are your parents are should really matter."

Seamus laughed at this. "I hear ya, girl. I'm half-and-half. Me dad's a Muggle. Mom didn't tell him she was a witch 'til after they were married. Bit of a nasty shock for him."

The others laughed.

"My p-parents were both magical, too," Neville ventured nervously. "But nobody thought I'd be able to do any magic - they thought I'd be all-Muggle for ages."

"Well, you're obviously magical, since you've been Sorted and all," Harry reasoned.

Neville blinked in surprise. "Yes, I suppose so."

Harry yawned, starting to feel a bit warm and sleepy, and looked up at the High Table again. Hagrid was drinking deeply from his goblet. Professor McGonagall was talking to Professor Dumbledore. Professor Quirrell, in his absurd turban, was talking to a teacher with greasy black hair, a hooked nose, and sallow skin.

It happened very suddenly. The hook-nosed teacher looked past Quirrell's turban straight into Harry's eyes — and a sharp, hot pain shot across the scar on Harry's forehead.

"Ouch!" Harry clapped a hand to his head.

"What is it?" asked Percy.

"N-nothing."

The pain had gone as quickly as it had come. Harder to shake off was the feeling Harry had gotten from the teacher's look — a feeling that he didn't like Harry at all.

"Who's that teacher talking to Professor Quirrell?" he asked Percy.

"Oh, you know Quirrell already, do you? No wonder he's looking so nervous, that's Professor Snape. He teaches Potions, but he doesn't want to — everyone knows he's after Quirrell's job. Knows an awful lot about the Dark Arts, Snape."

Harry watched Snape for a while, but Snape didn't look at him again.

"I'm sorry to bring this up, Harriet," Parvati said. "But we are all really so excited so finally meet you. Right, Lavender?"

Lavender nodded a bit apprehensively.

"It was all a surprise to me about my so-called fame," Harry put in. "I didn't know everyone knew my name or a story about some Dark Lady who I somehow killed as a baby."

"I believe that entirely," Hermione muttered.

"It's still such a thrill to actually be here with you," Parvati said, ignoring Hermione. "Us pure-bloods have heard loads of stories about you growing up - who knows how true they were of course - but I'd never have guessed you'd be so pretty in person!"

Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He hadn't appreciated such compliments before, but it somehow seemed rather different coming from a girl. Perhaps because she wasn't trying to be all creepy. Harry felt he needed to say something in response, although he wasn't entirely sure what the appropriate compliment might be.

"Well, I mean, you're pretty too," Harry managed to get out. "Um." Harry thought frantically for a minute, then recalled a compliment "Harriet" had received already. "You have really nice hair."

"Oh, really do you think so?" Parvati said, twirling her fingers in her hair. "Thank you so much!"

"You both are pretty," Lavender said gloomily. "Much more than me." She looked at Harry almost expectantly.

Harry wondered if being an actual girl would give some insight on how to respond, but ah well - better go with the same idea.

"That's nonsense," Harry retorted with a smile. "And besides, you have a great smile; you really need to show it more."

Lavender beamed widely at that, looking like she truly appreciated Harry's rapidly improvised words.

"See, there you are," Harry said, honestly taken aback at Lavender's behavior.

Hermione huffed fairly noticeably.

Parvati narrowed her eyes. "What's your problem, Granger?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Hermione huffed. "You lot going on about ridiculous nonsense. Prettiness, hair, clothes, makeup - when there are far more important things to be worried about."

Harry glanced at Ron, but the redhead looked like he didn't want to get involved. The other boys around the table were also each pretending not to listen. How curious.

"Is that right?" Parvati said acidly. "You think that's all we care about, is that it?"

Hermione sneered at the other girl. "The evidence is more than clear, isn't it?"

"Why you..." Parvati then took a deep breath, clearly trying to calm herself. "Perhaps we like that sort of girlish thing, but it's not like we don't know what's important. We all lost family in the last war. Did you?"

Hermione looked uncomfortable, but also like she didn't really want to back down. "I'm sorry for your loss," she began. "But that's hardly what I meant. I merely referred to your lack of interest in magical studies. But perhaps that's due to your magical upbringing." Hermione glanced at Harry. "Or perhaps not."

Parvati threw up her hands in exasperation. "Oh, you are impossible."

"Um," Neville started to speak.

"Neville's right," Parvati said in a suddenly calm voice. "We shouldn't argue on our first night here. After all, we'll be living together in the girl's dorm for the next seven years, we ought to try to get along at least. Right, Harriet?"

"Right," Harry nodded then paused. "Wait, what?" Which dorm did she say?

The rest of the evening passed in a blur for Harry. Dumbledore's speech of welcome, warnings about the dangers of the Forbidden Forest and something on the third-floor corridor, and finally a crazy, off-key mass song.

Soon enough they were in the Gryffindor common room. Harry stood before the door to the girl's dorm, not quite able to move. He had not thought this part through at all.

"Is there a problem, Miss Potter?" Percy asked politely.

"Aren't you coming, Harriet?" Parvati asked, already halfway through the door. Hermione had hurried on before them, of course.

"No," Harry said slowly. "I suppose it wouldn't make sense for me to sleep in the boy's dorm, would it?" He chuckled nervously.

Percy smiled and nodded. "Ah, I see the problem. Don't worry, Miss Potter, the boys won't be able to disturb you in your dorm. The stairs turn into a slide if a boy steps on them."

"They do?" Harry asked in alarm.

"Yes, so don't worry your head about it."

"Does the same thing happen if girls try going to the boy's dorm?" Harry asked.

Parvati looked at Percy, also curious about this bit of information.

"Well, no of course not," Percy sputtered. "Why would it?"

Harry shrugged. "The same reason, I guess. Whatever that is."

"Um, Miss Potter, you don't have any particular reason to visit the boy's dorm, do you?" Percy asked nervously.

"I suppose not," Harry sighed.

"Then I shall bid you both a good night," Percy said with obvious relief. "I must be off to look after my other duties. Good night."

Harry mumbled a good night in response.

"Okay, let's go!" Parvati said excitedly.

"Sure, I'm coming." Harry followed behind Parvati slowly. Behind the door was a spiral staircase, and Parvati raced up it, then noticed that Harry hadn't yet followed.

"Come on then, Harriet, it won't turn into a slide on you!" she chided.

But was that certain? Harry raised a foot to step onto the stairs, honestly completely unsure of what he wanted to happen. Would the stairs realize he was a boy and spit him back? Or worse, would they think he was a girl? Could stairs even think, like the Sorting Hat?

Harry took a deep breath and steeled himself. He couldn't stay there all day after all, and his leg was beginning to get twitchy. Harry stepped onto the first step.

And then he stepped to the next one.

The entire staircase shuddered, and the stairs bent a bit then stayed still. Harry glanced at the staircase disbelievingly.

"That was odd," Parvati said, scratching her head. "Well, no matter, I'm going to get a bed. Hurry up!" She raced away.

Harry sighed and trudged up the remainder of the steps. The staircase shivered a bit but stayed mostly steady. A compromise, it seemed. Well, that Harry could live with.

The girls bustled around the room, unpacking and fussing about.

But Harry was too exhausted to even stand, and collapsed into the remaining bed. He could unpack tomorrow.

The next day Harry awoke quite early, as was usual for him. Parvati was already awake as well, and Hermione was reading a book on her bed. Well that wasn't really a surprise at all.

"Oh, good morning Harriet!" Parvati said with a smile. "You went to sleep in your clothes!"

Harry laughed nervously. "Yes, I suppose I did." Then he frowned. He supposed he'd need to change for the next day, but he didn't feel right.

Parvati began to change out of her nightclothes, and Harry began to feel horribly embarrassed.

"Um, wait!" he shouted, waking Lavender as well. Harry winced. That had been a bit obvious.

"What's wrong, Harriet?" Parvati asked curiously.

"I can't change around you," Harry explained. "I'm, uh, shy." That was a good reason, wasn't it? And somewhat true as well.

"You're shy?" Parvati frowned. "You've never changed around other girls before?" Lavender rubbed her eyes and watched Harry for a response. Even Hermione seemed to be paying attention, although she tried to hide it.

Harry had never changed around anyone else before, but he didn't want to bring that up. He had a sudden flash of inspiration. "It wasn't considered a proper thing to do at my relatives," Harry said, congratulating himself on his genius. "I always had to change privately."

"Harriet." Parvati paused and looked almost pained. "Your relatives - they didn't... mistreat you, did they?"

Now Hermione had abandoned the pretense of reading her book.

But what was the big deal, anyway?

"No, not really," Harry assured the girls. "I mean, they never hit me or anything. Sure, Dudley did, but that's not the same thing really."

"Dudley?" Lavender managed to ask.

"My cousin. Same age, about. But like I said, nothing serious. Well, not that serious, anyway."

"He hit you?" Parvati asked in outrage.

"Um, can we not talk about this? I still need to change."

Instantly Parvati's face turned into from furious to sympathetic. "Of course, Harriet. You can use the washroom, and just come out when you're done. We'll wait, won't we?" This last question was asked a bit forcefully, and the look in her eyes seemed to mean there was only one correct answer.

Lavender just nodded and looked sad.

Hermione sighed and looked utterly devastated. "Yes, of course, we'll wait."

Harry changed as quickly as possible, completely baffled by their responses. What was their problem anyhow? Harry eventually chalked it up to something only a girl would understand. And anyway, who cared about all that when there was magic to learn?

The first few days were a mix of excitement and frustration. Harry walked around mainly with Ron, although he often was with Parvati and Lavender, who now looked at him with a disturbing look of sympathy. Ron didn't do anything like that, at least. Hermione was actively ignoring them, and Neville was still far too nervous to speak to Harry at all. The other Gryffindor boys, Harry didn't really know, so he mostly avoided them too.

Although he made sure to glare at Dean occasionally just for fun.

Harry remembered the Sorting Hat's advice to speak to the Professors about his odd girl curse, but he wasn't sure even who to ask. Professor Sprout, who taught Herbology, and Professor Sinistra, who taught Astronomy, were women, but that only made Harry more nervous to talk about girl-related issues. He still barely knew them, after all. And Professor Binns, the History Professor, was so boring it didn't matter that he was a ghost and probably knew some history.

He seemed to get things mixed up often, so Harry didn't think Binns was worth asking.

Professor McGonagall taught Transfiguration, and was not only extremely competent, she was also Harry's Head of House. Harry wasn't quite able to muster the courage to speak to her the first class, but he resolved to talk to her the next week.

Professor Flitwick, the charms teacher, was short and friendly, a sort of backwards Hagrid, but was clearly an excellent teacher. Harry thought that perhaps Flitwick would be decent sort to ask as well, but he didn't have the time the first week.

And Quirrell... well, he may have been teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts after all, but he seemed completely bumbling and useless. That disappointed the other students as well, and Harry didn't even bother considering asking Quirrell about anything.

Friday was an important day - they were finally having their remaining class Potions, a double period with the Slytherins. Harry had managed to avoid seeing Malfoy and wasn't looking forward to seeing the creep again.

"I'm not looking forward to this," Ron muttered worriedly, his mouth full of breakfast. "Snape's Head of Slytherin House. They say he always favors them — we'll be able to see if it's true."

"Wish McGonagall favored us," said Harry.

"McGonagall doesn't favor anyone," Parvati sighed. "Hardly seems fair."

"I think it's very fair," Hermione said with a sniff.

"You would." Ron grumbled under his breath.

Before they left, Harry received an invitation to have tea with Hagrid. Well, that ought to be pleasant at least.

Potions lessons took place down in one of the dungeons. It was colder here than up in the main castle, and would have been quite creepy enough without the pickled animals floating in glass jars all around the walls.

Snape started the class by taking the roll call and paused at Harry's name.

"Ah, yes," he said softly, "Harriet Potter. Our new — celebrity."

Harry blinked in confusion, not sure of what the Professor was getting at.

Draco Malfoy sneered and turned away from Harry in a huff. Harry couldn't really be bothered to care about that.

Snape had finally finished taking roll call.

"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion making," he began. "As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses… I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death — if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach."

Snape then looked over at Harry, a very odd expression on his face.

"Miss Potter, as our resident celebrity, did you study your Potions material in advance?"

"Um, as much as I could sir," Harry said honestly. "I couldn't learn much without actually doing it, of course."

"Yes, indeed," Snape said in a kind of choked voice. "You know.."

The Potions Professor paused and looked over at Harry.

Snape's eyes glittered oddly. "You look quite a bit like your mother, Miss Potter."

Harry didn't know why, but he felt extremely uncomfortable at that moment.

Next time...

A Broom, A Duel, and a Troll

"I don't recognize you!" Filch sputtered angrily. "Who are you?"

Harry didn't answer, but just ran.

Sorry about that ending.

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