2020: HP – “Why Three-Quarters?”

Title: Why Three-Quarters?

Author: penumbria

Fandom: Harry Potter

Word Count: 25,956

Warnings: Character Bashing, Discussions of  child abuse, discussions of murder, racism, violence – canon level

Pairings: Harry Potter & Blaise Zabini, Harry Potter & Neville Longbottom, Harry Potter & Padma Patil, Harry Potter & Parvati Patil

Summary: Why exactly is it Platform 9 & 3/4? Harry Potter questions this on his first trip to King’s Cross and everything changes.

Original A/N: The discussions of child abuse and murder are for canon events/history and the racism is for pureblood vs muggleborn. JK Rowling admitted that King’s Cross has no barriers between platforms 9 and 10 but she didn’t know that when she wrote it. So, we accept this and I ignore the reality as well.

A/N: Written for the 2019 November Rough Trade Challenge “Canon Divergence”. I finished it, sort of. But while I like the beginning, the more I wrote, the less I liked how it was headed. Kind of. I made a decision at one point that changed a lot of what I had plotted and changed the timing of the ripples and erased others. And I wasn’t sure where to go once that happened. If I ever come back to this it will be heavily edited and changed. So, I put this version here.

Title Art

Casting Pages

~casting train kids~casting hogwarts kids~casting adults



 

Chapter 1

September 1, 1991

Harry Potter stood frowning at the Dursleys’ car as it pulled out into traffic, still able to hear his uncle’s chuckles at the lack of the correct station on Harry’s train ticket. As the man had pointed out, there was a platform 9 and a platform 10, but nothing in between. No Platform 9 & ¾. 

Harry pushed his trolley back to the platform listed as 9 and sat on a bench as if waiting for a train on that platform. He knew the platform existed. It was hidden, like Diagon Alley. But Harry didn’t know the trick. Hagrid hadn’t told him how to access it. 

All things considered, Harry mused to himself, it was probably lucky Hagrid even remembered to give him the ticket itself. The large man had been genial but didn’t come off to Harry as overly bright or responsible. The fact that he had been in charge of being Harry’s chaperone during his shopping trip but had wandered off for a pint or several wasn’t exactly top-notch adult behavior.

And now, Harry looked at the station clock on the wall, he had around three-quarters of an hour to figure it out before he missed the train entirely. Three-quarters of an hour, platform nine and three quarters, three quarters.

Three-quarters of an hour meant 45 minutes. But it also meant a fraction of the whole hour. Three-quarters of the full four quarters that made up an hour. 

Why was the platform on the ticket three quarters? If it just meant between 9 and 10, then, why didn’t it say ½ or ⅚ or ⅞ or even something utterly silly like 97/105? Why three quarters?

Harry leaned forward on his bench and looked up and down the platform. There were a large number of pillars separating the two platforms, much more than four. Then again, there were more than four minutes in an hour, too. The three quarters there referred to fifteen-minute increments each. Each quarter being fifteen minutes out of sixty in an hour. 

So, Harry silently counted the pillars, what if three quarters means the same kind of thing? He did the math in his head and it came out to an even number, no remainder. But which direction to start from? 

There were only two choices, really. Well, four if you counted both sides of the pillar but two pillars, either starting from the north end of the platform or the south. Harry decided to try his luck with the end nearest to his current seat and rose to his feet, pushing the trolley with his trunk and Hedwig in her cage five pillars down from his bench. 

As he approached, he slowed down and casually stopped against the pillar and bent down to fiddle with his shoelaces. He ran the fingers of his hand up the bricks next to him and didn’t feel any give but the tips of his fingers tingled a bit. 

Harry stood back up and leaned back against the pillar and placed both hands on it. There was a definite tingle, not just his hopeful imagination. He straightened up and grasped his trolley firmly as he wheeled it around the end of the pillar and then made a sharp turn around the other side. He lost control of the front for a moment but rather than being embarrassed at the lack of strength in his small frame, Harry counted it as a fortunate happenstance as the front of the trolley slid right into the bricks of the pillar, disappearing into them as if they weren’t even there.

Harry pushed his trolley into the wall and as he reached it, he took a deep breath and walked through the bricks, flinching unconsciously. Two seconds later, his wide-eyed stare took in a bright red steam engine and a shining shine reading 9 ¾. He had made it and with well over half an hour to spare.

Even so far from the departure time, the platform was fairly packed with people, with families, Harry noted. Children and teenagers with trunks and pet carriers and adults, parents, he supposed, seeing their children off for months to a boarding school. 

Harry suspected that Dudley would get a similar scene in a few days when he was off to Smeltings. But not orphan Harry. He was alone, as always. No parents, no siblings, no caring relatives of any sort, just a trunk and an owl. 

But maybe his next trip would be different. He still wouldn’t have his parents and would never have blood siblings, but friends and found family, a family he could make made up of more than just shared DNA. 

Harry knew the saying about blood and water and how it was used, but he also had learned that it was almost always misquoted and thus misused. ‘Blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.’ The full quote meant almost the exact opposite of what people usually used it to mean. 

And without Dudley and his gang around to scare off anyone who deigned to be friendly to Harry, the small boy clung to the idea of making a true family by finding true and loyal friends. 

Harry pushed his trolley to the nearest set of steps onto the train and grabbed one of the handles of his trunk with one hand and Hedwig’s cage in the other and tugged. He struggled for a minute, the trunk heavy and awkward, especially with only a single hand to use for it.

Before he could get frustrated, the trunk lightened abruptly and Harry looked up. There was a blond boy in the Hogwarts school robes lined in yellow. He smiled at Harry as the man behind him slid a wand up his sleeve. 

The man smiled down at Harry as well. “Just a featherlight charm, young man. Cedric pointed out your struggle. The shops should make sure that Muggleborns know to get auto lightened or auto shrinking trunks. You don’t have an adult around to help do either until you can use magic yourself.”

Harry smiled back, shyly. “Thank you.”

The man and the boy, Cedric, smiled more widely than before. “You’re quite welcome, quite welcome. It’s the Hufflepuff way, you know. My old house, and Cedric’s, too, as you can see.” The man waved at Cedric’s robes. “Now, go find yourself a compartment. Get settled.”

Cedric nodded. “And unless you are expecting people you know and have arranged to share before now, pick one with someone in it. It’s a long ride to Scotland from London and a big train that magically expands and you don’t want to spend the whole thing alone if no one finds you in an empty compartment. And it’s a great way to make new friends, especially for firsties.”

“Thanks, I will.” Harry gave a wave at the two Hufflepuffs and climbed aboard the train, his trunk now feeling like it only weighed about half a stone rather than the five stones that it had been before. Magic was so brilliant.

Harry made his way along the corridor, passing several empty compartments, determined to take Cedric’s advice. Finally, about halfway down the train car, Harry came upon a compartment that was occupied by a single boy though Harry could see three trunks on the upper rack above the bench the boy sat on. 

Harry didn’t think they could all belong to one boy, who was obviously a first year, like Harry. The boy was already in his school robes and they were all black like Harry’s own in his trunk, rather than lined with color as Cedric’s had been. Harry had gathered from Cedric’s father’s remark that the color meant a student had already been sorted into a Hogwarts House. And yellow obviously meant Hufflepuff.

The door wasn’t closed so Harry knocked on the frame and when the boy looked up, Harry smiled, “Is there room in here to sit?”

The boy smiled, one side of his mouth higher than the other, his brown eyes narrowed a bit. “Unless there are invisible people on that other bench, there’s no one else here.”

Harry bit his lip. “Well, I saw there were three trunks up above you, so I wasn’t sure if you were waiting for some friends.”

The boy smiled more naturally. “Yeah, they belong to a couple of girls who are saying goodbye to their parents and family. But I’m not waiting for anyone else in particular. I do know some other first years but we didn’t make plans to meet up or anything.”

“So, I can sit in here?” Harry smiled expectantly.

The boy nodded. “Welcome. Do you need help getting your trunk on the rack?”

Harry shook his head, “Thanks but a man on the platform cast a featherlight charm on it. It’s brilliant. Barely weighs anything now.”

Harry maneuvered his trunk into the compartment and after briefly opening it to grab his school robes, he closed the lid and awkwardly lifted the light trunk onto the luggage rack across the aisle from the boy. He nudged it and shoved it before it got over the lip and settled. He laughed as he turned back to his companion. “Of course, that doesn’t change how big it is.”

The boy nodded. “My trunk has auto-shrinking and auto-lightening charms built-in. That way it isn’t an issue before I learn the charms for myself. The featherlight charm is third year, I think, and the shrinking charm is fifth.”

“Cool.” Harry bit his lip. “The store didn’t mention any options like that and it would have helped a lot. Does the shrinking charm make it really small? Your trunk looks the same size as mine.”

The boy nodded. “Shrinks down to fit in the palm of your hand, about the size of an adult’s fist. But I resized it once I had it on the rack. The house elves take them to our dorms for us so we don’t have to worry about them once we’re on the train.”

“House elves? Sorry, I – I didn’t know I was a wizard until this summer, just a month ago. I don’t know much of anything, really. And I think people expect me to if what happened when I was in the Leaky Cauldron was an indication.”

The boy tilted his head, “What happened in the Leaky Cauldron?”

Harry sighed, “A whole bunch of adults mobbed me and wanted to shake my hand, some of them even came back twice or three times. Like dozens of people, pretty much everyone in the pub. I didn’t understand what it meant when Hagrid told me I was famous until then.”

Harry looked at his companion who was frowning in thought. And he realized something. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t even – I should have introduced myself. God, I’m an idiot sometimes, I’m just not used to people talking to me. Not ones my age.”

Harry held his hand out, “Hi, my name’s Harry. Harry Potter, is it okay if we share a compartment to school?”

The boy’s eyes widened and his mouth gaped open for an instant before his face returned to a more neutral setting, though his eyes did flick upward to Harry’s bang-covered forehead for a brief second. He reached out and shook Harry’s hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mister Potter. I’m Blaise Zabini. And you’re welcome to share the compartment.”

Harry snorted as he shook Blaise’s hand. “You can call me Harry. Or is that wrong? Is it really formal in the wizarding world?”

Blaise released Harry’s hand and they sat across from one another. “Not wrong. Definitely not at our age. The professors will call you Mister Potter and after introductions, most of the students will call you Potter, unless you give them leave to be informal. At least, most of the purebloods and wizarding raised half bloods will. If someone is informal without being given explicit permission, it is considered rude and kind of suck up behavior. Like, they’re trying to create an artificial sense of intimacy with you and have others believe they are closer to you than reality states. It isn’t really an issue for most people but you being you, it’s something you should watch out for. And feel free to call me Blaise, if you prefer.” He smiled.

Harry tilted his head. “Okay, Blaise, so, if an adult calls me Harry from the moment we meet, no formality at all, does that mean they’re being underhanded?”

Blaise shook his head. “Not necessarily underhanded but – did that happen? Or is this a hypothetical situation?”

“Yeah, the man who told me I was a wizard and took me to Diagon Alley. He called me Harry. Never formal at all.”

Blaise’s eyes widened. “A professor was that informal with you? Which one?”

Harry shook his head. “He didn’t say anything about being a professor. He said he was -“

Harry broke off as there was a tentative knock at the compartment doorway. A chubby young boy stood in the hallway, a toad in his hand and a trunk on the floor behind him. “Excuse m-me. C-can I s-sit here? M-most of these compartments have upper years.”

Harry looked at Blaise and then turned to the boy. “Sure, we have room left. Need a hand with your trunk?”

The boy smiled and nodded. “Th-thanks.”

Between the three boys, they got the trunk sorted next to Harry’s and the boy sat down. The boy bit his lip and then spoke softly. “Is it alright if I c-close the door? Trevor likes to hop off and hide.”

Blaise nodded. “As long as you don’t lock it. We have two others who will be coming back after they get their goodbyes fully said.”

The boy slid the compartment door closed and sat back down and Harry turned to him with a smile. “Trevor’s your toad’s name?”

The boy nodded vigorously. “Yeah. Oh, s-s-sorry. My manners, my Gran would be so upset with me. My name is Neville Longbottom.”

“Blaise Zabini.”

“Harry Potter.”

Neville squeaked. “Oh. I – I – sorry.”

Harry shook his head. “I’m just a normal kid. Well, a normal kid who’s a wizard, so a normal kid in this company. And you can call me Harry.”

“Blaise.”

“Nev-Neville, if you wish.”

“Great, Neville. I hope we can be friends, all of us.”

Neville blushed and Blaise smiled and hummed a tuneless note. “Might depend on where we get sorted. I’ve heard that some Houses have a hard time having friendships with certain other Houses.”

Harry frowned, “Well, I don’t know how they sort us but I don’t care what House I’m in or what House either of you are in, I won’t give up my friends because of something arbitrary like where I sleep and who I have classes with. I’ve been on the wrong side of people bowing to peer pressure like that and I won’t do it to others.”

Blaise smiled wider. “Hopefully, you’ll be right.”

Harry nodded. “I am. And maybe we’ll all be in the same House.”

In the middle of Harry’s statement, the compartment door slid open and two girls entered. They were identical, down to the way their hair was styled and the Indian style dresses they wore. The one in front smiled at the boys.

“Well, it looks like our train companions multiplied, Padma.”

A hushed giggle sounded from the other twin girl. “By three, Parvati.” She stepped forward next to her twin and bowed her head. Her twin copied her. “I am Padma Patil and this is my twin sister, Parvati. Please call me Padma.”

“And feel free to use Parvati for me. If you can tell us apart.”

“We’ve already been introduced but do feel free to be informal and use Blaise, if I want clear before.”

“Neville Longbottom. Please, Neville is fine.”

Harry sighed internally and crossed his fingers for luck. “Harry Potter, normal boy, please call me Harry.”

Parvati gasped and Padma slapped a hand over her twin’s mouth. “Thank you, Blaise, Neville, Harry. It is a long ride to be formal.”

Parvati shoved Padma’s hand off her mouth and glared as she flounced to sit next to Blaise. Padma chuckled and grinned as she sat next to the window across from Harry.

Parvati straightened her shoulders and smiled. “I won’t gush, Harry. I just never met anyone famous before. Sorry.”

“No problem. I just don’t really get the fame thing. I grew up in the muggle world and only found out I was a wizard, and famous for something I don’t even remember, at the end of July. So, I know people will be a bit – um – weird about me but I’m really nothing special.”

The girls nodded and Padma changed the subject. “So, did I hear you saying as we came in that you hoped the three of you would all be in the same House?”

Chapter 2

September 1, 1991

Harry explained what he had meant by the remark the twins overheard. Padma looked thoughtful for a minute. “It’s a nice thought. But the likelihood of the five of us or even just the three of you being in the same House isn’t high. Frankly, our family is fairly sure, based on what my mother has said about Hogwarts and the Houses, that Parvati and I will be in different Houses. We really are quite different in personality.”

Parvarti nodded. “Our mother went to Hogwarts but our father didn’t. He’s from India and came here in the 1970s. Mom was in Ravenclaw. And she thinks that Padma might follow in her footsteps but it really wouldn’t be a good fit for me. I’m not stupid but I don’t really focus on books and learning things, you know?”

Blaise nodded. “Yeah. I suppose sorting Ravenclaw wouldn’t surprise me too much, but I’m not really a fit for Hufflepuff or Gryffindor. Most people I know think I’ll go Slytherin.”

Neville bit his lip and then spoke. “M-my parents were both in Gryffindor and everyone wants me to go there but they all say I’ll probably sort Hufflepuff. My Gran says she doesn’t care since I got a letter and have enough magic to come. My family thought I was a squib or too low magically to go for ages. And I’d like to be in Gryffindor, everyone would be so happy, but I don’t think I’m very brave.”

Harry shook his head. “You came in here and asked if you could stay even though it was occupied. You could have kept going until you found an empty compartment. Bravery isn’t just running off and hitting people or shooting spells, I guess. It’s being scared or worried but not letting it stop you.”

Neville smiled and his cheeks reddened. “Thanks, Harry.”

Parvati looked at Harry and caught his eye. “Where do you think you’ll sort, Harry? I mean, I know what everyone expects of you and all but you were right, you’re just a normal kid, so what do you think?”

Harry smiled widely, happy that she understood. “Well, I don’t know much about the Houses. I was told that my parents were in Gryffindor and that people think that Hufflepuffs are all duffers and that there isn’t a wizard or witch who went bad that wasn’t in Slytherin. But I don’t know that I believe that. The person who told me wasn’t exactly, um, reliable. And may have been a bit drunk.”

“Was that the person you were talking about who gave you your letter and took you to Diagon Alley? The one that was overly familiar with your name?” Blaise asked.

Padma gasped. “A professor said that about the Houses?”

Harry shook his head. “He wasn’t a professor. He said he was the Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts. He brought me my letter and took me to get my supplies. His name’s Hagrid.”

Neville frowned. “A gamekeeper introduced you to the wizarding world? You said you were raised by muggles. And that you didn’t know about magic until this Hagrid told you? Is that right?”

Harry nodded. “Yeah. I mean fre – odd stuff happened around me sometimes but I never knew what it was. And then my letters came and it was crazy.”

Blaise blinked several times. “Letters? Plural?”

“Well, my relatives didn’t want me to know about being a wizard so they kept destroying them. And then the next day there would be more and they would come in weird ways. Like, after a few days, my uncle boarded up the mail slot in the door and so some letter came through a crack in the window and inside some eggs and down the chimney. It drove my uncle a bit mad and we left and he tried to outrun them but the first motel we stayed at, at breakfast the clerk brought over one and said there were about a hundred at the front desk. 

“And then we ended up on this little hut on a tiny rocky island in the middle of a storm and Hagrid showed up at midnight with my letter and told me I was a wizard. The next day he took me to London and we went shopping. But we rode the Gringotts cart and it made him sick, so he went to have a few drinks in the pub while I shopped for my robes.”

Neville frowned. “That is just so wrong.”

Padma nodded her head emphatically. “For one, sending so many letters in weird ways was a breach of the Statute of Secrecy. And for another, coming at midnight? That is rude.”

“Well, it was my birthday and he gave me a cake and gave my cousin a pig’s tail when my uncle was rude about Professor Dumbledore and called him a crackpot.”

The four wizarding born children stared at Harry in amazement and horror. “He g-gave your cousin a pig’s tail? Your muggle cousin?”

Harry nodded. “He said he meant to turn him into a pig but he wasn’t very good at magic.”

Blaise huffed. “Good thing. That was blatant muggle baiting. That’s illegal and not to mention it wasn’t even your cousin who insulted Dumbledore. This Hagrid is lucky it wore off because if it didn’t -“

“It didn’t go away. My aunt and uncle took him to a surgeon to get it removed today before he starts school,” Harry interrupted.

“Surgeon?” Asked Parvati.

“Oh. A surgeon is a doctor who specializes in surgery, um, cutting people open to fix their insides or outsides.”

Parvati winced. “Gross.”

“That’s another breach of the Statute. Even more blatant than the letters which could have been played off as a prank,” said Blaise. “This Hagrid isn’t just irresponsible with his duty to you, he’s irresponsible with our way of life.”

“I don’t think he meant to expose magic or whatever. I mean, my aunt and uncle already knew, they didn’t tell me but they knew. My cousin found out when I did, when Hagrid showed up.”

“But the surgeon?” Neville questioned.

Harry nodded.

“The surgeon didn’t know. And a muggle boy with a pig’s tail isn’t normal. Is it?”

Harry shook his head. “No. But it isn’t like they were going to tell the surgeon it was a magical pig’s tail. They were going to say it was an oddly shaped mole or something.”

Padma interjected, “It still is odd and if this surgeon person sees weird moles a lot, he could recognize that it wasn’t one and tell someone and take pictures and who knows what from there.”

“I get it. It was dumb of Hagrid and I don’t disagree. But I don’t think he thought it through. He didn’t strike me as very bright. But he has a temper.”

Blaise sighed. “This goes back to what I was trying to explain to you earlier about formality and forced informality, Harry. You agree that it was wrong, you agree that it was dangerous for several reasons, but you can’t seem to not make excuses for the man. Was he formal with you at all?”

“No. He introduced himself by his full name and job title but told me to call just call him Hagrid, which come to think of it was his last name, not his first. And he never called me anything but Harry.”

“And he created a false sense of intimacy with you. You feel a connection to a strange man but there is no real foundation to build on. You should actually feel more antagonistic to him after what he did to your cousin.”

Harry shrugged. “I found it funny. At the time. My cousin and I aren’t close. It’s actually the opposite. He’s a bully and I’m one of his favorite targets. And Hagrid knew me as a baby.”

Parvati huffed out a loud breath. “And you only know that because this man told you that, right? You don’t remember him from before your parents died? Um, I mean, he didn’t visit you in the decade since, right?”

Harry smiled at her softly. “It’s alright. I don’t even remember my parents, who I presume were my primary caregivers every day, let alone some other adult I saw more infrequently as a baby. And I have to get used to hearing people refer to them being dead. Every time someone uses that stupid nickname it is all I can think of, anyway. And I doubt people will stop using it any time soon.”

“Stupid nickname?” Asked Parvati.

“The hyphenated idiocy, you know, The-Boy-Who-Lived. It says it right there. Or implies it, The Boy Whose Parents Were Murdered And Then The Murderer Bolloxed It Up And Couldn’t Kill Him.”

Neville choked on a laugh. “Sorry.”

Harry waved it away. “I was going for the dark humor of it. No problem. And I guess Hagrid’s informality was off. I mean, even the mob in the Leaky Cauldron called me Mister Potter after the first whisper of my full name, which only happened, now that I think on it when Hagrid announced to the barkeep that he was helping ‘Harry here’ get his school things. And Hagrid’s voice is very loud even when he’s trying to be quiet and he wasn’t then.”

“So, you see,” Blaise explained, “ that is more reason for you to distrust him. He drew attention to you and his responsibility to you and used your first name to an entire pub to make it seem like he was close to you when you’d only just met.”

Harry frowned, “Okay, first off, I’m not trying to defend him with what I’m about to say. I see the issue and what I was doing earlier and this isn’t that.”

The other kids nodded. 

“Alright, so, if he was – I mean, he was using informality, in private and in public, that’s just a fact. And I could be wrong in this but he really, really did not come off as that smart. Unless he is a really good actor, it was either inadvertent on his part or someone else suggested the idea.”

“Well,” Neville said, “adults can be good actors and you only just met him, he could have played the fool as a way to connect with you more. Especially after his temper tantrum with your cousin.”

Harry made a face, unsure. “Possibly. But a boy I met in the robe shop saw him outside and when I explained who he was, the boy said he had heard of him. Hagrid has a reputation of getting drunk and setting fire to his cottage trying to do magic. He’s not supposed to because his wand was snapped. But he kept the pieces.”

“Well, regardless of whether it was his idea or someone else’s or just his personality in general,” said Blaise, “you see the falseness in the relationship that was established.”

“Yeah. I was kind of considering him my first friend, he told me I was a wizard, rescued me from the Dursleys, and even bought me the first birthday present I remember getting, and the first birthday cake. But, that was weird, huh. A grown man bringing a young boy a cake and buying him an owl. I just got a shiver thinking about it objectively.”

The others nodded. Neville tilted his head and then put a tentative hand on Harry’s arm. “You can see it now. Whether it was benign or deliberate, he won’t fool you again. If he is just a sweet man who is kind of, um, not bright, then fine. If he’s acting and has an agenda, you’re aware to be wary. But either way, he’s a grown man and you’re only 11. You shouldn’t consider him a friend. Not – not like that.”

Harry nodded, “Right. Thanks, Neville. I hope I wasn’t reading him completely wrong but I will treat him like the adult he is and not the kid he acted like.”

Parvati smiled. “Good. Now, let’s lighten things up a bit. We’ve hours to go before the train reaches Scotland and Padma and I came prepared. Who wants to play Exploding Snap for a while?”

“Exploding Snap?” Asked Harry.

The others smiled. “Don’t worry, we’ll teach you.”

The five kids spent a couple of hours playing cards, both Snap, and games that Harry taught them that muggles play, with twists due to the wizarding deck they used to play. The conversation was light and touched on differences in customs of greeting, popular trends in music and fiction and fashion, and anecdotes from everyone’s lives. Granted some of the things that Harry and Neville related as lighthearted to them looking back, were not as sweet to their companions, even each other, but by common consensus, nothing heavy was tackled again. But things were remembered for a later time.

Padma had just shuffled the deck to start the latest hand of cards when the compartment door slammed open with a bang. A lanky, red-haired boy in faded plain black school robes stood in the doorway. His eyes flicked around the compartment until they settled on Harry where they stared at his bag-covered forehead, narrowed. “I’m looking for Harry Potter. He’s supposed to be a first-year this year. We’re the same age.”

Harry bit his tongue to hold back a scathing reply and stayed silent. Blaise leaned down and reached out, catching Trevor as he tried to escape out of the opened door. 

“Th-thanks, Blaise.” Neville took the toad in his hands. 

The redhead sneered at Neville. “You brought a toad? That is the stupidest pet on the list. But you’re nearly a squib, Longbottom, so it doesn’t matter, I guess.”

Harry narrowed his eyes, hearing Dudley’s voice overlay the rude boy’s voice as he continued on. “And you called him Blaise? I’ve heard of a Blaise before, he’s a Zabini. I didn’t think even a worthless squib like you would sit with an evil snake like a Zabini, Longbottom. His mother’s a murdering evil black widow. And you couldn’t find a better class of people? I mean, really, soon-to-be Slytherins and foreigners?”

Harry leaned into Neville’s side and the other boy took a deep breath. “No one asked you, Weasley. I’m happy with the company I’ve got.”

Weasley snorted, “Whatever.” He turned to Harry. “So, are you him? Harry Potter? Have you got the scar? You look like the descriptions and illustrations in the books and newspapers. You’re the Boy-Who-Lived, aren’t you?”

“Why do you care?” Harry glared.

“Come on, mate. You don’t want to be in this company. Longbottom is bad enough, he’s got almost no magic. And Zabini is evil like his family. He’s gonna be a slimy snake. And the girls, I guess they’re pretty but they’re probably muggleborns. Come with me, Harry, mate, and we can have fun and I can show you the right way.”

Harry heard Dudley’s voice echoing ever louder. This Weasley boy was rude and a bully. He was sucking up to Harry because he was famous. He’d seen Dudley act that way around clients of Vernon’s when there was a dinner party at Privet Drive.

“No thanks. I don’t think you know the right way. At least not my right way. I’m not your mate. I don’t know you and I don’t want to. Go away and leave us alone.”

“You think you’re too good for me, Potter?”

Harry nodded. “Yes. I’m too good for you. And Neville’s too good for you, and so are Blaise, Padma, and Parvati. Who are all purebloods, by the way. Not that there is anything wrong with being a muggleborn. My mother was a muggleborn, you arse. You’re just a loudmouth bully suck up. Go. Away.”

“You’ll see how wrong you are soon, and you’ll be begging to be my friend, Potter.”

“Not if we were the only students at Hogwarts. I don’t like bullies.”

Weasley glared at everyone in the compartment before he slammed the door on his way out. 

Harry slumped back against the seat, he wasn’t used to standing up to bullies that way. His normal behavior was to run. Then again, he wasn’t going to get punished for telling off the redhead the way he would if it was Dudley.

Neville blinked and sat back, placing Trevor back on the seat next to him. “I really hope I don’t end up in the same House as him.”

Harry shook his head. “My luck, I will. What was his problem, other than being a bully and wanting to be friends with someone ‘famous’?”

Neville sighed. “The Weasleys have a huge family. That was Ron. I’ve met him a few times at events and parties. He’s the youngest boy in the family and has five older brothers and one little sister. I think three of his brothers are still in school. And his sister will start either next year or the one after, I’m not sure when her birthday is.”

“What does her birthday, other than her age, have to do with it?”

Padma explained, “If you are born after September 1, you can’t start Hogwarts until the next year. To be a first year, you have to be 11 on or before September 1. So, some of the kids in our year will actually be 12 for a lot of the year, if they have an autumn birthday.”

“Oh. Okay. It is sort of like that in the muggle world but the cut-off date is like early October or late September, I think. But, seriously, he has a big family, why is that a problem?”

Blaise snorted. “It isn’t that. Though I think he feels overshadowed by them, they are all pretty well known, sort of. The ones out of school are already making names for themselves in their fields. And his brother Charlie was scouted for professional Quidditch teams, though he turned them down. 

“But Weasley’s problem is his family is poor. His father has a job at the Ministry but it isn’t a great one and he doesn’t move up the ladder at all. And he doesn’t have a position where people would bribe him much. And the Weasleys are well-known as being really Light. He likely wouldn’t take any bribes offered anyway. So, with so many kids and not a lot of money coming in, they don’t get much and the youngest Weasley seems to have a chip on his shoulder about it.”

“Not having stuff isn’t something to be ashamed of. It isn’t his fault, he can’t do anything about it, and he’s got a big family to support him. He’s just a bully. Maybe he’ll grow up and get over himself but I don’t want anything to do with him.”

“No problem with me,” said Blaise. 

“Fine with me,” said Neville. “I don’t want to be around him either if I can avoid it.”

“Same here,” said Padma and Parvati echoed a second behind her sister.

“Good, let’s get back to our game.”

The five preteens managed to get another two rounds in before there was a polite tap at the door and a brief glance showed it was the food trolley lady. Neville slipped Trevor into his pocket as they each purchased a few things and explained the sweets to Harry. 

After some thought, Harry bought two Chocolate Frogs, a box of Bertie Bott’s Every 

Flavor Beans, a cauldron cake, and a bottle of butterbeer. He had not eaten much of a breakfast at the Dursleys and it was still at least three hours until they reached Hogwarts. He made a mental note to bring a packed lunch next time to help tide him over.

The new friends settled in to have their snacks and chatted more about sweets in the wizarding world. Harry opened his first Chocolate Frog and was treated to a listing of the cards his friends were missing. His first card turned out to be Morgan le Fay and his second card was Ignatia Wildsmith. 

Padma handed Harry the card from her pack. “I already have eight Dumbledore cards. I think it’s one of the most common. Along with Merlin and Morgan le Fay and all of the Founders.”

Blaise nodded. “But some of the cards are really rare. I’ve been collecting since I was 5 or so and of the 101 main cards, not counting special editions and limited runs, I am missing 7. Including, I am embarrassed to admit, the Harry Potter card. It has a drawing of you as a baby being held by your parents on it. I’ve seen it but never gotten it myself.”

Harry rolled his eyes. But Padma said, “My cousin has one. The illustration is based on the statue in Godric’s Hollow.”

“There’s a statue of me as a baby somewhere?” Asked Harry, incredulous.

Parvati nodded sadly. “In Godric’s Hollow, in Wales. It’s part of the tour, the statue, your parent’s graves, and the destroyed house left as a monument to your destroyed family.”

“Parvati!” Padma snapped at her sister.

“Sorry, but that’s what the sign says. We went on the tour two years ago.”

Blaise sighed. “I went with someone when I was 7. It was kind of boring for a kid.”

Harry shook, angry beyond belief. “My parents’ graves and the house where they died are a bloody tourist attraction? Ugh. I thought the fact that I was famous because I didn’t die as a baby was insane, that – that is callous, like really, horrible.”

Neville put his hand on Harry’s arm as Trevor squirmed out of his pocket and onto the bench. “People don’t get it, Harry. To them, that day was something to be celebrated, the end of a horrific civil war. And your parents and you are the heroes involved in ending it and bringing peace. Not many people even knew your parents personally. They were too young to have made a big mark on the world.”

“Other than with their deaths,” Harry spoke bitterly.

Neville nodded. “Yes. And people as a whole are obliviously callous and uncaring unless they are directly affected by something. That’s just how it is.”

Blaise nodded. “Not to mention the entire mythos created around you and your unexplainable survival. And all of the Adventures of Harry Potter books don’t help. They come out about twice a year and build up the legend. The Harry Potter in those books has fought nundus and befriended and tamed dragons. He didn’t grow up in the muggle world not knowing about magic until he was invited to Hogwarts. He isn’t essentially a muggleborn, like you are. And you should be prepared. Lots of kids in our year and even the older kids are going to be expecting things from you because of the character in those books.”

Harry slumped in his seat. “Great. Just great. There’s no way I can live up to that. That’s straight fiction. Crack fiction at that. I’m real and I don’t even know what a nundu is, let alone how to kill it.”

The others sat in awkward silence, looks of embarrassment on their faces. And as everyone waited for someone else to break the silence, there was a polite knock at the door.

Neville scooped Trevor into his arms and Blaise slid the door open. Three boys in plain black robes stood in the hallway. Harry recognized the one in the center from Madam Malkin’s. The blond boy took a step forward just across the threshold of the compartment and nodded at Blaise.

“Zabini.” The boy turned to Neville. “Longbottom.”

His eyes met Harry’s and they widened, “You’re the boy from the robe shop.” He took a deep breath. “I need to apologize. I realized after we parted that even with all of the talking I was doing at our first meeting that I was rude and failed to introduce myself. Allow me to redeem my manners at our second meeting.”

The boy waved his hand at the large framed boy to his right, “This is Vincent Crabbe,” he waved to the rounder boy on his left, “and Gregory Goyle. And my name is Draco Malfoy.” He bowed his head shallowly.

Harry met Blaise’s eyes and Blaise nodded lightly and gestured with his chin. Harry stood up and nodded at Malfoy. He took a deep breath and tried to put his recent lessons on greeting to work, “Malfoy, I thank you for your courtesy. You appear to already know some of my companions but for manners’ sake, may I introduce Blaise Zabini and Neville Longbottom. And these lovely ladies are Padma and Parvati Patil. And my name is Harry Potter.”

Malfoy’s mask actually slipped and he gasped for a long moment. “I knew that Harry Potter was my age. I don’t know why I didn’t really consider that you would be here on the train. It is a pleasure to meet you, Potter. Miss Patil, Miss Patil, I am charmed. I hope we can further our acquaintance at a more appropriate time and place.”

Malfoy extended his hand towards Harry and Harry grasped it. “I look forward to further conversations, Malfoy.” Harry nodded to the two silent boys bookending Malfoy. “Crabbe, Goyle, well met.”

Two grunts that could have been an echo of the greeting came from the large boys. Harry forced himself to not roll his eyes as he dropped Malfoy’s hand. The blond shook the hands of everyone else in the compartment before he bid them farewell and returned to the hallway, closing the door as he went.

Harry flopped back onto his seat. “Wow, that was weirdly intense.”

Blaise chuckled, “You handled it well. Malfoy is a bit of a stuffed shirt in public settings. His parents are fairly strict with the pureblood manners thing. But he’s not so bad in a more informal setting. You shocked him badly, I have to say. I haven’t seen him lose his perfect pureblood mask since he was 8.”

“Well, I don’t know if I’ll ever see him without it, though I hope to. I can’t judge whether I want to be friends with someone if they are just pretending all the time. I mean, I know manners are a thing and that’s fine and I don’t mean secrets but just being real. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Padma smiled, “I think we get it, Harry. And maybe Malfoy will relax when he isn’t on the back foot due to his shock.”

“Yeah. Hopefully. Now, can we talk about something more fun, by my watch we have an hour or so to go before we need to get off the train.”

“Sure,” said Blaise. “Have you heard about Quidditch, yet?”

Chapter 3

September 1 – 2, 1991

Harry stood in the Great Hall surrounded by his new friends and all of the other first-years and waited to discover how the sorting would work. He was nervous but determined to do his best in whatever House he ended up in. He still had no clue where he would best fit, even after learning a lot more on the train ride about what the Houses were all about. 

And then the Hat on the stool began singing about the school and the Houses. It made Harry even more confused and a bit more worried.

Harry didn’t think he was very smart or bookish, though he did like to read sometimes. The library was an escape from Dudley and when he could smuggle a book into his cupboard, it was an escape from boredom. And he guessed he was kind of smart, not that he could ever show it without being accused of cheating by doing better than his thick cousin.

And he supposed he was cunning, he did survive ten years with his relatives without breaking and killing them or himself. But he wasn’t very ambitious. He just wanted to live his own life, a normal life for a wizard boy.

Harry knew that he was able to work hard, his upbringing certainly saw to that. He didn’t have any other choice but to learn if he wanted to eat and not be locked away for days or weeks at a time. He didn’t know how loyal he was though. He never had an opportunity to be loyal to anyone. Definitely not the Dursleys and he had no one else, until the train ride, to show loyalty to.

And Gryffindor, bravery? Chivalry? Daring? Harry didn’t think he really understood chivalry. Maybe he was brave for believing Hagrid and coming to this new world. But that would make every single muggleborn eligible for Gryffindor which he thought was wrong. He didn’t feel very daring. But Harry supposed he sometimes was when he taunted Dudley or when he had tried to get one of his letters but trod on Uncle Vernon’s face.

Harry shrugged internally. He’d just go where the Hat put him. That was evidently it’s only job.

He watched silently as kids he didn’t know were sorted, interspersed with some he did know. Crabbe, Goyle, and Malfoy all went to Slytherin, the first two after twenty seconds or so, the latter before the Hat even settled on his head. Neville was sorted into Gryffindor and almost forgot to take the Hat off before going to his table, he was two steps from the stool when he stopped and took it off with a sheepish smile. Padma went to Ravenclaw after a brief few seven seconds, as she and her mother had predicted for her. And then Parvati sat under the Hat for nearly a minute before it called out for her to go to Gryffindor.

Then Professor McGonagall called out his name. He walked calmly to the stool, hiding his nervousness as whispers broke out around the hall. He sat on the stool and the Hat lowered onto his head and began to speak in his mind.

“Well, interesting, interesting indeed. Quite humble, Mister Potter, I see the thoughts you’ve had on my job. You’ve a good mind, a loyal heart, hardworking by nature as well as nurture – such as it was, cunning and sly when appropriate, and sometimes when not, courageous and chance-taking, sometimes too often for your health. Have you a preference, Mister Potter? I don’t guarantee you’ll get it but I am curious.”

Harry gave a moment’s thought. “I’d like to be with my friends. I’ve never had them before and I’d like to keep them, if I can. So, I don’t know where Blaise will go, as he hasn’t been sorted yet, but either Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, I suppose.”

The Hat hummed. “Well, you would do well in either. And you would make new friends in Hufflepuff and have a good chance at keeping your currents ones, as well. But not Slytherin?”

“I know some of the Slytherins, though not well, and Blaise thought it was a good possibility for him to end up there. So, I could live with it.”

“It could help you on your way to greatness.”

Harry frowned. “I don’t think I really want to be great. Great seems to lead to fame. And I’ve got quite enough of that, unwanted.”

“True. True. Still, Harry Potter in Slytherin would be quite the clever twist. Twist some people’s beards, it would. Alas, the more we talk and I see your mind, and wishes, the better it is for you to go and enjoy your time in – GRYFFINDOR!”

Harry heard the last word with his ears and opened his eyes as Professor McGonagall took the Hat off his head. He stood and walked to the table as his robes changed to show a red and gold trim, with a lion on his crest. Two red-haired twins began chanting, “We got Potter! We got Potter!” And Harry slid onto the bench beside Neville, who had Parvati across from him.

The rest of the sorting proceeded and a boy named Dean Thomas took a seat next to Harry and Harry grimaced when Ron Weasley was sorted and sat next to Dean. Then he sighed when Blaise was sent to Slytherin. At least he had Neville and Parvati. 

The Headmaster called for the food and it was amazing to Harry. So many platters filled to the brim with so many different choices. He had heard some of the older years call this the Opening Feast or the Sorting Feast and he had to agree with the terminology. Harry concentrated on his food and talking with his new classmates as they ate.

After eating a decent sized meal and even some pudding, the Headmaster gave a speech which called into question his sanity in Harry’s mind but then again, the man was sitting on a golden throne and wearing robes with some kind of animated things prancing around on it. But to tell kids they shouldn’t go somewhere unless they wanted to die? Without explaining the threat? 

Harry knew Dudley would just take it as an instruction to go at the earliest opportunity. And so would his gang and most of the kids he went to primary with. The only ones who wouldn’t at least think about it were the teacher’s pets and the complete scaredy cats. 

Even Harry was giving it more than a passing thought. But he was too tired to do anything right now. It had been a long day and he was stuffed full of good food. Not to mention, he had no idea where the third floor even was. And he wasn’t sure that he wanted to risk his life just when it was going so well for him for the first time ever.

Two of the prefects, who didn’t introduce themselves or anything, though one bearded a striking resemblance to Weasley and the red-haired twins who had been so excited at Harry’s sorting. Harry guessed the male prefect was a Weasley, probably one of the infamous brothers five.

A long walk up lots of staircases, some of which moved, got them to a portrait of a heavyset woman in the middle of a hallway. The likely-Weasley prefect turned to them and told them this was the entrance to the common room and required them to give the portrait the password to enter. 

“Caput Draconis.”

The probably-Weasley prefect instructed them which side of the staircase was for girls and which for boys and didn’t even show them their dorm room or tell them any rules or the schedule for meals or anything. And the girl prefect never said a word the entire time as the perhaps-Weasley chivied them up the stairs.

Harry’s trunk was at the foot of a bed and Neville’s was next to him on the right. On his left was Dean and the other two were across the room. Harry hurried to the bathroom with his things and got ready for bed. Within five minutes of entering the dorm, he mumbled goodnight to his dorm mates and closed his curtains – feeling cozy like his old cupboard – and fell asleep. If he dreamed, he didn’t remember.

The next morning, Harry woke up early, his body clock used to the Dursleys schedule. The other boys weren’t even stirring and the clock Harry found on a wall said it was just gone six. He knew he would not be able to get back to sleep so he got ready for the day, putting his uniform on and packing his school bag. 

Harry didn’t have any idea what classes he had, if he would have them all today and have a locker to use nearer to the classrooms then the dorm or if they would have different classes on different days. And if that was so, he didn’t know which one would start that day and which another. And he had too many textbooks to take them all, it would make the bag too heavy to lift and he didn’t know the charm that Cedric’s dad had used on his trunk.

Harry decided to pack some parchment, a few quills, an ink bottle which he wrapped in a piece of cloth so it wouldn’t break, and two random books. He closed his eyes and his hands fell on “The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 1” and “Magical Drafts and Potions”. He slid them into his bag and grabbed “A History of Magic” to read to pass some time while he waited for his roommates to wake or it got closer to seven, whichever came first.

After nearly forty minutes of reading, about an hour since he had woken up, another male prefect, not the likely-Weasley one, entered the room and set off an alarm. It was like an alarm clock ringing and most of the other boys stirred and began to rise. All except the definite-Weasley, Ron. He grumbled and rolled over, mumbling about Fred and George and ghouls and pulled his pillow over his head.

The prefect walked over to Ron’s bed and set off the alarm again, this time right by his head. He sat up straight, his arms swinging out. The prefect stepped back and the redhead blinked. 

The older boy walked to the door and faced them. “My name is Randophic Harrington. I am the Gryffindor sixth year male prefect. It is currently seven, breakfast begins being served at quarter after this hour and will be served until thirty minutes after eight. Normally, breakfast begins at seven on weekdays but not the day after the Opening Feast. On weekends, breakfast begins at half-past seven until nine. 

“It will be your responsibility after today to get yourselves up and ready on time in order to get breakfast before classes begin at three quarters past eight. I will teach you a spell that can set an alarm to wake you after dinner this evening. I will escort you down to the Great Hall in ten minutes. Professor McGonagall will distribute your schedules then.”

Harry rose to his feet, already prepared to go and slipped the book he had been reading back into his trunk. The other boys all rushed to the bathroom and Harry could hear them cursing as they got in each other’s way.

Harrington smiled at him. “Early riser regularly or just nerves and bad sleep?”

Harry smiled back. “Early riser. Had to get up early for chores at my relatives’ house. But I’ve only been up an hour.”

“Well, it’s a good habit to keep. Go to bed at a reasonable hour and get up a bit early so you aren’t in a rush. Or falling over your dorm mates as you all try to get ready at the same time.”

Harry nodded. “I have a question.”

Harrington waved his hands wide. “Answering questions for the younger years is at least part of what my job is.”

“Okay, then, a couple of questions. First, how does the class schedule work here? You said we’d get ours at breakfast but I mean, do we have all of our classes every day or otherwise? And which are most likely today if not?”

“Muggleborn or raised?”

Harry nodded. “Raised.”

He smiled. “Well, you’ll have three or four classes a day in your first year. One or two before lunch, and one or two after. Except Wednesday nights when you have Astronomy at night after dinner. And other than that class which stays consistent with day and time every year for the first years, the others change. So, I don’t know what you will have before lunch today.”

“Thanks. Okay, second, who were the prefects who showed us to the common room last night? They didn’t introduce themselves and the girl never even spoke at all, at least, not unless she did after the girls went to their dorm.”

Harrington rolled his eyes. “Percival Weasley, more commonly called Percy, and Rebekah Standish are the fifth year prefects for Gryffindor. My sixth-year female counterpart is Trista Brandice. And the seventh year prefects are Mark Gilles and Fiona Smythe.”

Harry smiled. “Thanks.”

The other boys had begun leaving the bathroom during the explanation and soon they were on their way. The girls were waiting in the common room with Prefect Brandice and they headed down to the Great Hall, pointing out stationary landmarks on the way and warning of trick stairs and doorways.

They arrive at the Great Hall and it is about half full. The Gryffindor table is the least filled and Harry and the rest of the first years sit at the end nearest the Head Table. 

Harry slid onto the bench and Neville sat to his right. Parvati was talking to her sister by the Ravenclaw table and Ron Weasley slid next to Harry on the left. 

Harry grimaced but decided to give the redhead a second chance. First impressions weren’t always the best and Weasley was just 11. And just look at Malfoy. When they met in Diagon Alley, Harry had felt he was a lot like Dudley: a spoiled, arrogant, and entitled brat. But when they met again things went much better and they were at worst neutral acquaintances.

Unfortunately for Weasley, his second impression didn’t start any better than his first. “Harry, mate, see you made it into Gryffindor. And that slimy snake you were sitting with is where he belongs. After class, the squib can switch beds with me so we can be next to each other. I told you you’d regret what you said.”

Harry stiffened and his eyes narrowed in anger. “Blaise was sorted into Slytherin. I don’t care. It is a House in school so he can be with others who have the same type of mind as he does. Or focus on similar things. Prejudice is stupidity in action. Neville isn’t a squib and the beds are fine the way they are. If you take it upon yourself to touch Neville’s things or mine, I will report you for attempted theft.”

Weasley’s ears turned red along with his cheeks. “You’re a stuck up prat. You think you’re so much better than me. Rather hang with slimy snakes then your own housemates.”

“You’re a brown noser of the first degree. If I wasn’t famous for something so stupid, you wouldn’t care about me in the least. When we first met you came looking for the Boy-Who-Lived. Not me. You want to be ‘mates’ with someone who doesn’t exist. Maybe someday you’ll grow up and be a better person, but unless that happens, I don’t care to have any more to do with you than I have to by being Housemates and living in the same dorm room.”

Weasley’s second impression just worsened as breakfast continued. As they had been arguing, the redhead had filled his plate with bacon and eggs and toast and sausages and potatoes and tomatoes and by the time Harry finished his quiet rant, Weasley’s plate was mounded high.

The boy stuffed his face with a mouthful of eggs and shoved a piece of bacon in before he even began to chew. Harry shuddered and instinctively scooted closer to Neville. When he realized what he had done, Harry realized he had unconsciously been making room for Dudley or someone his size, at least. The more he interacted with the entitled redhead, the more Harry’s mind imposed Dudley’s face on him. 

Weasley began chewing and opened his mouth to continue his insanity, not quiet in the least. Food sprayed from his mouth across the table and fell from his fork as he gestured with it. “You’re going to regret being a slimy snake lover. You’ll die like you should have as a baby.”

Harry sighed and shook his head. “You’re a prejudiced git. And for your information, snakes aren’t slimy at all unless they’ve been swimming in unclean water. They’re dry and smooth. Neville, can we move down the table. I don’t want to have to change my uniform because Weasley spits food on it.”

Neville nodded, hiding a grin and they picked up their plates and moved to the very end of the table, leaving Weasley to his fuming and eating.

Harry put a decent sized breakfast on his plate, a fried egg on toast, a spoonful of stewed tomatoes and two slices of bacon. He poured himself some of the pumpkin juice but found it too sweet for breakfast. Looking around, he couldn’t see a different drink and he turned to Neville.

“Why is pumpkin juice the only thing served to drink?”

Neville shrugged, “I dunno. Most kids like it. I drink it but don’t love it. My Gran wouldn’t let me have it except on special occasions at home.”

“Huh. Well, I never had it before last night and it was good enough then but it’s too sweet for so early in the morning for me. I’d much rather have milk or water or maybe apple or orange juice.”

Within seconds of Harry’s reaching the end of his sentence, a pitcher of milk, a pitcher of water, and a pitcher of apple juice appeared on the table along with a dozen fresh glasses. Harry chuckled, “Magic is brilliant. Wonder why no orange juice, though.”

Neville frowned. “Well, pumpkin juice is orangey. Kind of. Brownish-orangish. Orangey-brownish? Maybe the house elves figured that qualified close enough.”

Harry laughed, “No, orange juice not the color, the juice of the fruit, oranges. It’s sort of popular in the muggle world. And you’ll have to explain house elves to me.”

“Uh, they’re like servants, their species has a, uh, oh, symbiotic relationship with wizards. And Hogwarts has a lot of them. They do most of the cooking and cleaning and washing and stuff. They must have heard you ask about other drinks and had no orders against it. They might not have known what orange juice was any more than I did, either that or they didn’t have any oranges. Or both. It’ll probably be on the table tomorrow.”

“Awesome. They are great at their job, for sure. Are they invisible or just really fast?”

“They are good at not being seen but the juice was just using their magic like with the food dishes.”

A slightly grating voice piped up from across the table, “Do you think they could provide tea? A good English breakfast tea? I usually have a hot drink with my breakfast at home. Usually tea though occasionally once in a while coffee.”

Harry looked across the table and saw his Housemate, he couldn’t remember her name, she had talked about reading “Hogwarts, a History” when they entered the Great Hall the night before and her name came before Neville but after the Irish kid, Seamus. He knew her first name was odd and her last name made him think of a farm in passing when he heard it the first time.

Neville nodded, “They probably,” a teapot and teacups appeared on the table by the girl, “can. I guess it took a few seconds more because it is hot and that is an extra step.”

The girl nodded as she poured herself a steaming cup of tea. “I wouldn’t want to cause them more work.”

“House elves live to work, they get joy from a job well done and the magic a happy wizard or witch gives off just by existing is kind of like food for them. Not exactly, but sort of in a way, I think. It had to do with how they are bound to wizards.”

The girl frowned. “Bound? They – they aren’t slaves?”

Neville shook his head violently. “No. Not bound like slaves, um, bound like tied or, um, tethered to a place or a person or a family. House elves who aren’t, uh, tethered by the time they reach maturity get really sick and gradually go mad. Like, evil insane kind of mad. That’s where gremlins come from. Or came from originally and still can come from, I guess. Though most now are descendants of untethered house elves from centuries ago.”

“Oh. Well, as long as it isn’t slavery, that’s alright.” She took a sip of tea. “Hmm, just perfect. Oh, I’m Hermione Granger.”

“Neville Longbottom, pleasure.”

“Harry Potter.”

Granger’s eyes widened. “I know. I’ve read all about you. You were in – ”

Harry interrupted her. “I’m sure you have but other than facts leading up to that night it’s all speculation. As far as I know, other than a fifteen-month-old baby, no one survived to tell what happened and I doubt I was speaking well enough to explain what I saw even if I understood any of it at the time. So, those books are speculative at best and lies at worst. The facts are as follows: You-Know-Who came to the house where my parents and I were on October 31, 1981. My father and mother died, he vanished – no body but his robes were there but not his wand – and I got a cut that scarred in the shape of a sort of lightning bolt on my forehead. The end.”

Granger’s eyes widened and she jerked back. “You didn’t need to be rude. You’re famous and should be used to people having read about you by now.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “I wasn’t being rude. I was informing you that your statement about having read all about me was blatantly false. And you just confirmed it yourself. There is no way I could be accustomed to my idiotic ‘fame’.”

Granger huffed. “Just because you were raised in isolation by a wizarding family who used glamours when you went out is -“

Neville interrupted her, “You j-just proved his point, again. You don’t know anything about him. Other than what he said were the facts earlier.”

Harry smiled, “Thanks, Neville.” 

Harry turned to Granger as he finished some of his egg on toast. “I’ve only know that magic exists for 33 days. I found out I was a wizard on my birthday when Hagrid – the man who brought us across the lake in the boats last night – found me with my muggle relatives and gave me my letter and took me shopping on July 31. Up until then, I’d always been told, very adamantly, that there was no such thing as magic. So, you very obviously have read and heard very faulty information.”

Granger opened her mouth to presumably retort when Professor McGonagall appeared behind her and handed her a piece of paper. She reached across the table to hand papers to Neville and Harry as well. “Your schedules, Miss Granger, Mister Longbottom, Mister Potter. Finish your breakfasts, classes start in less than half an hour.”

Harry nodded and looked over his schedule. The first class of the day was Herbology, followed by History of Magic, then lunch. He turned to Neville. “I’ve got the wrong book. I’ve got to go back to the dorms. You good or should I wait?” 

Harry took the last bite of bacon and downed the last of his milk. Neville looked at his schedule and then in his bag. “I need my history book. I’ll be done in a minute.”

As Neville turned back to his nearly empty plate, Harry smiled and his lips twisted in thought. As Neville stood with his bag, Harry nodded to himself. He put his hands together and gave a little bow to the actual table before standing. “Thanks for a delicious breakfast. If you can’t provide orange juice, the milk and apple juice is great.”

Neville paused and tilted his head, biting his lip. After a second, he shrugged. “Thank you for the wonderful breakfast, it is a great start to the day.”

As the boys hurried out of the Great Hall, they heard Granger copying them and thanking the table – and hopefully heard by the house elves – for breakfast and just before they were out of earshot, they heard a little thanks from an Irish voice and a London one, as well.

Chapter 4

September 2-6, 1991

The morning classes of Harry’s first day were interesting, in different ways. Neville was an absolute prodigy in Herbology and Harry was his partner. They shared a table with Parvati and her new friend Lavender Brown, leaving Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan to share with Granger and Weasley. The Hufflepuffs they shared the class with worked in their own groups.

Harry found the class interesting and he was decent enough, having so much experience working in the garden at Privet Drive. But Neville was in heaven working with the plants. And the plants loved him. His seedlings were greener and took to the replanting better than anyone else’s. Neville told Harry that he worked in the greenhouses at home often and just loved plants. He understood them better than people.

History of Magic was interesting because it was taught by a ghost, which you would think would be amazing. But Professor Binns was not amazing, he was boring and absentminded. And his voice was a dull, one-note monotone with an odd deep echo to it. 

Harry tried to take notes but most of the rest of the class eventually fell asleep, even the Ravenclaws, except Granger. But Harry noticed that even she struggled to keep her focus on her notes. Weasley didn’t even try. As soon as the class started, he put his head down and closed his eyes. 

Lunch was good, light food but filling. There were different types of sandwiches and finger foods, some sweet, some savory. And along with the seemingly requisite pumpkin juice, there were jugs of milk and water near Harry’s seat as well as a pot of tea near Granger. Harry, Neville, Seamus, Dean, Granger, Parvati, and Lavender all thanked the house elves by thanking the table before they got up from their seats. Weasley just stuffed his face until the food disappeared.

After lunch, the Gryffindors had Charms and then Defense Against the Dark Arts. Charms was interesting, and they got to use their wands for the first time in a class. Professor Flitwick taught them the lighting charm ‘Lumos’ and it’s counter, ‘Nox’. Harry got it on his first try, as did nearly everyone in the class. Weasley took three tries and Neville took four, but it worked.

Defense was interesting in the subject matter Professor Quirrel was speaking about but the problem was that Professor Quirrel was speaking. His stuttering was even worse in front of a class than it had been when Harry met him in the Leaky Cauldron. Harry tried his best to follow along but whenever the man turned to the blackboard to write something, Harry found himself daydreaming about his life before Hogwarts. He thought about memories of cooking and cleaning and gardening for the Dursleys, various punishments by Vernon and Petunia, Dudley and his gang perfecting ‘Harry Hunting’, and fleeing from the Hogwarts letters. But when the professor turned back to face the class, Harry shook himself out of his daydream immediately and worked on understanding the stuttered mess.

As he was walking down to the Great Hall for dinner, Harry saw Blaise with the other Slytherins and waved to him. Blaise smiled and nodded and mouthed “Meet after dinner?” Harry nodded back and proceeded to an empty spot at the Gryffindor table that wasn’t near where Weasley was already stuffing his face.

The meal was filling and there were several options for both the main dish and the side dishes but not nearly as many as during the Opening Feast. There were two meat options – beef or pork, a chicken dish, a seafood option, and a vegetarian option. Plus six side dishes ranging from two kinds of potatoes to steamed or roasted vegetables to rice.

Harry made up a plate with a small meal but not so small as to stand out too much. He turned to Neville. “Not nearly as many options as last night. Good thing, too, or we’d never get up the stairs to the tower. We’d be too fat after months of eating like that.”

Neville chuckled and a boy on the other side of the table smiled at them. “We only get meals like that on Feast nights, Opening and Closing, of course, plus Halloween, which is heavier on the sweeter things and has lots of desserts. And Christmas dinner but it is rare for there to be more than twenty or so students who stay over the break. So, there are fewer dishes overall but lots more options than a normal night.”

Harry smiled. “Makes sense.”

The boy waved his empty fork. “I’d extend a hand in greeting but it’s kind of awkward across a table. I’m Tarik Benford. Fourth-year.”

“Harry Potter. First-year. Nice to meet you.”

Neville gave a little cough when Benford looked at him. “N-Neville Longbottom. F-first year. Pleasure. To meet you.”

Benford smiled more gently than before. “Relax, Longbottom. I don’t bite. Most Gryffindors are generally decent. And the ones who aren’t wouldn’t deign to talk to firsties. Unless, they’re a firstie, too. Then, just avoid them when you can and when you can’t, if it gets out of hand, report it to a prefect. For your sakes, I would have it be the seventh year ones. Or the sixth year one, Harrington. Between us, Weasley was chosen, I think because the only other choice wasn’t interested. He’s more focused on Quidditch and wouldn’t want the prefect duties on top of it. And I’m not sure why Standish was appointed, there are other possibilities in her year mates and she is so shy. Unless they turned it down.”

Benford snorted quietly. “Sorry, I tend to ramble, a lot. I’ll let you get to your dinners. Enjoy.”

“Thanks again,” said Harry.

Benford nodded and the three boys turned to their plates and enjoyed the good meal the house elves had set before them. Harry had a half a glass of pumpkin juice – it really was too sweet for him to stomach more – and a glass of milk. He chose to have a cup of tea with his pudding.

As he had at breakfast and lunch, Harry bowed to the table and offered thanks for the meal. Neville and most of the other Gryffindor first years did so, as well, Weasley being the exception. 

Benford tilted his head and said, “You know it is the house elves who send up the food, right? The table isn’t sentient or alive.”

Harry laughed. “I know. But when I was just talking to Neville at breakfast about the beverage options, or lack thereof, the house elves sent up what I mentioned missing to him. After Neville explained house elves to me, I decided it was only right to thank them for their service and performing their jobs very well. It’s all manners, right?”

Benford hummed. “Never thought of it like that, interesting point. And here I thought the BWL was wizard raised. But no wizard raised child would even think about it like that. I like it, though. Thanks, Potter.”

Benford wiped his mouth with his napkin and laid it atop his plate before folding his hands in a pressed together manner and bowing shallowly. “My thanks for this wonderful meal. Well done and Magic Bless.”

Harry tilted his head but before he could say anything, Neville nudged him and whispered, “I’ll explain later.”

Harry got up from the bench, “Okay, well, I’m going to meet up with Blaise and then work on our homework. Want to come?”

Neville nodded. “Definitely. Are you just going to say hi or will he be joining us?”

Harry shrugged, “That’s up to him.”

The boys walked to the Entrance Hall and waited, having seen Blaise getting up as they were leaving the Great Hall. Blaise walked up to them with a smile.

“Glad to see me being a Slytherin hasn’t put you lions off.”

Neville smirked. “I’m not Weasley and Harry likes snakes.”

Blaise laughed, “Fair enough. Hope it lasts. Peer pressure might be a problem.”

Harry raised an eyebrow, “For both sides?”

Blaise sighed and nodded. “Maybe.”

“Then I hope you use your cunning and wit to fulfill your ambition to remain our friend. And we’ll use our bravery to daringly confront anyone who tries to make us be cowards and abandon you.”

Blaise and Neville stared at Harry, whose chin was raised and his shoulder back. Then he cracked and started laughing and they joined in. 

Blaise got control of himself with a final chuckle. “It’ll help that you haven’t had a negative interaction with any Slytherins personally. And you aren’t friends with a bigot who will start fights and drag you into them.”

“True. I want nothing to do with Weasley.”

“Ah, you knew who I was talking about.”

Neville smiled, “It wasn’t a hard guess.”

Harry smiled, “Neville and I are heading to the library to work on our homework. Do you want to join us?”

Blaise nodded. “Sure, I need to get my books and supplies.”

“So do we. We’ll meet you there.”

“Fifteen minutes? First ones there get a table.”

“Deal.”

Twenty-two minutes later, Harry and Neville enter the library, Parvati and Lavender following them. Blaise is seated at a table with a brownish-blond haired boy. Harry hurried over. 

“Sorry. The stairs changed position on the fourth floor on our way down and wouldn’t change back. We had to ask some portraits for an alternate route and the first route tried to land us in the third-floor corridor we’re not supposed to go to so we had to find a different way. Parvati and Lavender,

 – this is Lavender Brown – heard where we were heading and asked to come along and Padma’s meeting us here once she gets her books. Parvati told her about it.”

Blaise smiled. “No problem. This is Theodore Nott. There’s a rule in Slytherin about not going anywhere alone if you can help it, so we’re roommates and he wanted to work on his homework anyway.”

Harry nodded. “Okay. Well, introductions then. This is Neville Longbottom, Parvati Patil, and Lavender Brown. Parvati’s twin sister, Padma, will be joining us shortly. It’s nice to meet you, Nott.”

“Likewise Potter, Patil, Brown. Hello, Longbottom, glad to see you.”

“Nott,” said Neville. “Glad you’re keeping each other safe.”

Harry tilted his head. “Oh. Is it safety in numbers? Is being a Slytherin that bad?”

Nott’s lips curled. “Sometimes, so say the older years. Slytherins are distrusted by the majority of the school.”

“Well, I don’t trust you. But I don’t not trust you, either. And it has nothing to do with your House. I don’t know you to do either, so you’re kind of just in the area of let’s see what you’re like. And then I’ll make up my mind. I trust Blaise because I know him. Well, as much as one can get to know someone during an eight-hour train ride from London to the Highlands of Scotland.”

Neville snorted. “I know Nott. He isn’t bad. And I’m trying to not have House prejudices. It’s hard sometimes to not think stuff because I grew up with it, but I’m not letting the thoughts stick around or come out of my mouth.”

Nott smiled. “Thanks, Longbottom. I get it. I’ve heard about stupid Gryffindorks my whole life, too. But I came. I could have stayed in our room. It would have been quiet with Blaise up here with you.”

Harry frowned. “Would Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle not be in the room?”

Blaise smirked. “We’re Slytherin. Slytherin’s dorms are in the dungeons, not a tower. We have more room to spread out. I share a room with Nott. Crabbe is with Goyle and Malfoy lucked into getting his own room.”

Harry pouted. “I’m stuck in a room with four other blokes. Neville’s alright. And so far Thomas and Finnegan have been decent – though considering it’s only been about twenty-four hours – but I’m stuck rooming with Weasley! Weasley!”

Blaise and Nott chuckled quietly as Padma walked up to the table and asked if the chair next to Parvati was free. They all nodded to her and did introductions quickly. Then they got out their books and parchment.

Padma looked around the table. “Okay, so I a Ravenclaw so I’ll be stereotypical and take charge of the study group, at least to get us started. We’ve only had one day of classes so far and we didn’t have them all together. I had History with the Gryffindors and Herbology with the Slytherins. My other two classes were with Hufflepuff which we don’t have any of them here. So, we didn’t get any homework in History. But we got six inches for Herbology.”

Neville nodded. “So did we. We had Herbology with Hufflepuff. And Charms and Defense with the Slytherins. We have six inches for Herbology and eight inches for Defense.”

Padma nodded. “Okay, I haven’t had Defense yet. Or Charms. But I have the Herbology homework and 12 inches for Potions. And eight inches for Transfiguration.”

Blaise smiled. “Well, you won’t get homework this week in Charms. Professor Flitwick told us that he never gives homework the first week back. First, to allow students to settle in or back into school. And second, because he has five year’s worth of summer homework to grade and return. He doesn’t want to add more work to himself until he gets that done.”

Lavender giggled. “I asked why it was only five years of summer work. He explained that he doesn’t have any from incoming first years for obvious reasons. But he does from the incoming second through fifth years and the incoming seventh years. The incoming sixth years don’t get summer work because they might not have passed their O.W.L. exam or have too low of a pass to take Advanced Charms.”

Padma nodded. “Makes sense from the Head of Ravenclaw. Okay, so we all have Herbology homework. Want to work on that together?”

They all nodded, opened their textbooks and buckled down to figure out how to answer the essay question without copying directly from the book or from each other. When they finished their essays, they each turned to the next bit, Defense for the Gryffindors and Slytherins and Potions for Padma. All told, it took them about an hour to get finished.

Padma sighed. “Do you guys want to make this a regular thing? I’d like to get homework done soon so I won’t fall behind.”

Harry nodded, “Good by me. I think that’s a good strategy. Plus it frees up the weekends for fun stuff instead of cramming, though revising may come up if we have exams on future Mondays. But not on Wednesdays. We have Astronomy on Wednesday nights from nine until midnight.”

Blaise nodded. “It sounds good to me. And it gives us time to hang out with those not in our House. And, we have Astronomy on Wednesdays, too. Same time slot.”

Padma nodded as she packed her school bag. “We do, too. So I presume each year has it together, due to time constraints and sky constraints.”

Parvati stood up. “Okay, so same time, same place tomorrow? Here in the library about half an hour after dinner?”

Everyone agreed and left the library to get it their dorms, Parvati and Padma slipping away for a few minutes first.

The next several days went much like the first, Harry went to his new classes and ate good meals and went to study sessions with his new friends. There were a few highlights that stuck out to him, Weasley was almost fifteen minutes late to Transfiguration because he wouldn’t stop eating when the other first years got up to head to class and he got lost. He lost ten points and got three detentions for arguing with Professor McGonagall and trying to blame Harry and Neville for not waiting for him. And Weasley fell asleep during the last hour of Astronomy and lost points and got a detention after hitting Dean and saying he should have stopped him from falling asleep. 

And their first Potions lesson, which was supposed to be a single class on Wednesday morning was canceled because someone had spilled some kind of potion on the floor and the tables and it had reacted with residual fumes and residue in the room and created a nearly toxic gas cloud. Most people blamed the Weasley twins who were notorious pranksters but they didn’t claim credit when asked. And some of the older years said the twins knew enough to know what the spilled potion could cause of it came into contact with certain things that were likely to be present in the potions classroom.

So, Gryffindor and Slytherin didn’t have their first Potions class until Friday morning. And it would be a double. Thursday night at study group, Padma told them what her class had been like and so they all made sure to read the first chapter and the first three appendices in their textbook. And also to read up on the recipe, preparation, and warnings surrounding the Boil Cure potion which the Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff class had prepared.

At breakfast on Thursday, about halfway through his eggs, Harry got a visit from his owl, Hedwig, for the first time at mail call. She was carrying a note from Hagrid asking Harry to tea. Harry hesitated about what to do, remembering the conversation on the train about Hagrid’s familiar behavior and speech. But, then again, the man had taken him shopping. 

Blaise pointed out during a brief meeting at lunch that Hagrid had been doing his job, though it was normally something a professor would have done, not a groundskeeper. But still, delivering his letter and taking Harry shopping was a job assigned by his employer. 

Harry pointed out that Hagrid had brought him a birthday cake and later bought him ice cream and an owl. And yes, admittedly, it came off somewhat creepy in retrospect but he hadn’t been hired to do that. 

Neville pointed out that making Harry feel guilty was a great manipulation technique. Harry understood but admitted it also worked. With advice from his study group, he sent a note back to Hagrid telling him he had a free afternoon on Fridays and asking if he could bring a couple of friends.

Friday morning, Hedwig brought a note from Hagrid agreeing to the time and the company. Harry signaled Blaise and told Neville what the note had said.Both of them would be going with him, as evidently all first-years had two free blocks on Friday afternoon.

But first they had around three hours of Potions class to get through. It could be longer, depending on how Professor Snape handled the break that would normally be used to get from one classroom to the next. 

Other than Astronomy, Potions was their only class with a double period. Harry wondered why but assumed it had something to do with the length of time the practical would sometimes take. Some of the potions in the book only took thirty to forty minutes but many of them took closer to two or two and a half hours.

Harry, Neville, Parvati, Lavender, Dean, and Seamus thanked the house elves for breakfast, hearing a number of others both at their own House table and others, doing the same. 

They went to the Entrance Hall and waited and shortly, Blaise and Theo joined them, along with the newest member of their study group, a Slytherin girl who had shown up with the boys at Thursday night’s study group, Tracey Davis. 

The Slytherins showed their Gryffindor friends the best route from the Great Hall to the Potions classroom in the dungeons. As they turned the corner at the bottom of the steps, Harry saw Granger following them. She looked like she was trying to appear both covert and unconcerned but he didn’t call her on it. He felt she was being smart, she was following people who knew where to go. 

That’s why Dean and Seamus had come with them after they finished eating breakfast. The two boys knew Harry had Slytherin friends and would be going to class with them and that the Slytherin Head of House taught Potions. 

And it’s why Weasley refused to do the same. The redhead made it clear he wanted as little to do with the Slytherins as possible, though of course, he was much cruder in his terminology. Even if it meant getting lost, being late, and losing more points and/or getting more detentions. 

Weasley truly baffled Harry with his attitude but he just shrugged it off whenever he started to dwell on it. It just made another connection between Weasley and the Dursleys in Harry’s mind. 

Vernon and Petunia were incredibly prejudiced and even having proof of the mistaken nature of their prejudice brought to their attention wouldn’t change their minds. And they were teaching Dudley to be the same.

The group of mixed Gryffindors and Slytherins reached the classroom, only to find the door locked. None of their other classrooms had been locked before they arrived. Harry wondered if it was a recent development following Wednesday’s problems or if it was a standard practice. After all, there would presumably be potions ingredients and possibly completed or partially completed potions in the classroom and they could be volatile. Requiring adult supervision to enter made sense to Harry.

Granger casually walked up to stand near the group and about a minute behind her came the rest of the Slytherins. The hour ticked over and the door opened from the inside and Professor Snape looked at them and barked, “Get in!”

Granger hurried past everyone and took a seat at the potions station in the front of the room in the center. Harry and Neville exchanged glances and took the station behind her. Dean and Seamus sat next to them at the station to their right and Blaise and Theo took the station to their left on the other side of the center aisle. Parvati and Lavender claimed the back most station and the other Slytherins filled in their side of the room with Malfoy at the front station paired with a dark-haired girl whose name began with a P. She had been sorted just before Padma. Harry thought her name was Parsons or Parting or something like that.

Professor Snape was closing the door when a body slammed into it and from the sound bounced backwards into the wall across the hallway. There was a loud smacking sound followed by a groan. The professor opened the door and Weasley picked himself up from the floor and entered the room, glaring at Professor Snape, while rubbing his nose and his bum.

“Next time, be on time, or you’ll have consequences beyond your own stupidity.”

Ron looked around for a place to sit and there were only two choices for the redhead. Either he shared the front station with Granger, who he constantly argued with whether they were paired for class or just sitting near one another, or he sat at a station at the back of the room with a Slytherin girl who had been the first one sorted into Slytherin from what Harry recalled. 

Harry was pretty sure her name had an animal in it – Birder or Bullfinch or Bellwing. Harry was discovering that unless he met someone face to face or saw it written down, he was absolutely pants at remembering names. It had never been a problem before. 

Weasley finally sat down next to Granger, his prejudices against Slytherin beating his dislike of his housemate and her nagging. Harry had guessed it would go that way though the fact that Granger was at the front must have irked the other boy immeasurably. The back seating would have been what he wanted but he couldn’t bear working with a “snake”. 

Professor Snape strode to the front of the room and took out a leather-bound notebook. He began calling out names, taking roll and making notes with a quill in the notebook in his hands.

When he reached Harry’s name, he paused for a moment before he drawled, “Ah, yes, Harry Potter, our new celebrity.”

Harry bit his tongue and raised his hand as the other had. “Present, Professor.”

The man glared for a moment before writing something in his notebook and continuing the roll.

Finally, he closed the notebook and placed it on his desk with the quill. Then he began to speak of potions and what they could accomplish. Harry found the speech inspiring, even coming out of the mouth of the grumpy professor. Until he called the students he taught dunderheads.

Harry mentally rolled his eyes, knowing better than to do it physically and potentially get seen. Granger was practically vibrating in her seat in front of Harry. He figured she wanted to prove how smart she was to the professor.

“Potter! What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”

Harry sat up straighter and thought back to what he had read the night before. “The Draught of Living Death, sir, a very powerful sleeping potion.”

“Hmm. So, you cracked open a book before coming to class. Unusual for a Gryffindor. Let’s see if your housemates followed your example. Longbottom, where would I find a bezoar?”

Neville sucked in a breath before blowing it out slowly. “F-from the stomach of a goat, it’s a st-stone that cures m-many poisons.”

“Impressive. Shall it be three for three? I doubt it. Weasley, what is the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane?”

Weasley stared at Professor Snape with a glare. Granger next to him thrust her hand in the air so fast, Harry felt a breeze. Finally, Weasley said, “I don’t know.”

“Clearly the talent in your family skipped you, Weasley. Put your hand down, Granger. If I wanted a response from you, I would call on you.”

Malfoy and several of the other Slytherins laughed. Harry was tempted but didn’t dare. 

Professor Snape looked to the back of the room. “Patil, care to redeem your house?”

Parvati gulped loudly but said without a pause. “They’re the same plant. They’re also called aconite.”

“Correct. Quite amazing. Most of you. Today’s class is a double period. Due to the criminally negligent so-called prank that kept you from Wednesday’s class, you will have to work quickly and in pairs. Miss Bulstrode, join Miss Davis and Miss Greengrass at their station for today.”

The Slytherin girl by herself in the back moved her stool up a row as the professor pointed to a corner of the room. “The common ingredients cupboard. It is free for student use to supplement the ingredients you bought as supplies. You will be making the Boil Cure Potion. Directions are on the board. Begin!”

Harry looked at the board and compared the recipe to the one in the book. They were identical. He turned to Neville. “You get the base liquid heating and I’ll get the ingredients from the cupboard that we don’t already have.”

Neville nodded. “Okay.”

Harry and Neville took turns preparing the gathered ingredients and the one who prepped the ingredient watched the other add it. They carefully read each step before making it and Harry pointed out the warnings box at the bottom of the page to remind Neville of the most dangerous points to messing up the potion in a bad way.

Their potion turned out pretty much the right color and consistency from what Harry could tell from the description in the book. They carefully bottled two samples and labeled them with their names and the date.

Professor Snape strode over and lifted the stirring rod from what was left in the cauldron. He watched the potion drip off of the end into the cauldron. He nodded. “Acceptable. Perhaps you inherited your mother’s facility with potions, Mister Potter. Keep your standards high and do whatever you did to prepare for class regularly.”

Harry nodded. “Yes, sir.”

The professor looked over Harry’s head at Neville. “You as well, Longbottom.”

“Y-yes, sir.”

“Clean your station and gear. And you may go. Nine inches on the similarities and differences between this potion and the one of page 17 of your textbook.” He jerked his head at a secondary blackboard in the corner of the room which had that very assignment written on it.”

As Harry finished wiping down the table, Granger’s voice was rising in volume as she berated Weasley. “No! That’s not the right size. It says one inch size pieces. Not three inch.”

Weasley growled. “What’s it matter? It’s all going in the cauldron together. Big deal.”

Weasley picked up the disputed ingredient and tossed the entire bunch into the mixture. Five seconds later, the potion in the cauldron blasted out of it, hit the ceiling and fell down on Weasley’s head. 

Granger had grabbed her bag and jumped back into the center aisle the instant the ingredients had hit the liquid. Harry figured she had read the warnings and knew what that would do. It was one of the first warnings there. The only one in larger letters was about removing the potion from the heat before adding the porcupine quills.

Weasley’s face was redder than usual, likely scalded by the hot potion, his red hair was bright yellow, and his black uniform had turned purple, not lavender but bright, almost neon purple.

“Weasley, Granger, this is not a Quidditch pitch or your common room! Ten points from Gryffindor, each. Granger, escort Weasley to the hospital wing.” 

Harry shook his head and sighed. Part of him felt bad for Weasley, but it was entirely his own fault. Not only had he not read the book, he hadn’t even read the recipe in class. Professor Snape was a grump and strict but accidents when making potions could maim or kill. Frankly, Weasley had gotten off lucky this time. A few small burns and some colored hair and clothing. It could have been much worse.

Chapter 5

September 6, 1991

After lunch, Harry and Neville met up with Blaise in the Entrance Hall and they made their way out the main doors. They made their way towards the lonely hut on the edge of the forest.

As they approached, Harry looked around and frowned. “Is Hagrid the only one to live work at the school and not live in the castle?”

Blaise nodded. “As far as I know. There may be a few part time workers who live in Hogsmeade. But even Filch, the caretaker and Madam Hooch who teaches flying and referees for the Quidditch matches have rooms in the castle.”

Neville bit his lip. “That’s really odd. Why wouldn’t he live in the castle proper? I know he’s a really big guy but there are expansion charms and things. Is his being alone out here a punishment of some kind, like mild shunning, or a privilege?”

Blaise cocked his head. “And if it’s a privilege, what did he do to earn it?”

Harry shrugged. “Dunno, but he said he isn’t allowed to do magic, technically, and Ollivander said they snapped Hagrid’s wand. But I’m pretty sure he has the pieces in his umbrella. And he uses it like a wand. And Malfoy mentioned when we met in Diagon Alley that he is known for trying to do magic and setting his bed on fire. His father had told him that.”

Blaise snorted. “For Malfoy to remember something like that about someone he considers seriously beneath him, his father had to have mentioned it numerous times. I know Mister Malfoy is in the Board of Governors, so he’d know every time it happened if there were repairs needed.”

“I know, I know, more reasons to be wary of an adult who wants to befriend a young boy for some reason. It could be innocent, it could be sinister. We don’t know but I’ll be wary.”

The boys walked up to the door of the hut and knocked firmly. They heard a loud barking and a deep voice saying, “Back, Fang. Back,” as the door opened and Hagrid stood in the opening, holding a large boar hound by the scruff of his neck.

Harry eyed the large dog warily as Hagrid waved them in. He’d not had great interactions with dogs in the past. Vernon’s sister, Marge, bred bulldogs and liked to set them on Harry when she visited.

Hagrid scoffed, “Don’t worry ‘bout Fang. He’s a big baby, he is. Loud but worst you’ll get is slobbered on.”

Harry nodded. “Thanks for the invite, Mister Hagrid. These are my friends, Neville Longbottom and Blaise Zabini.”

“Told ya, just Hagrid, lad. I ain’t no mister.”

The boys sat at a large round table as Hagrid poured some tea. “Zabini, eh? And in Slytherin, ain’t ya?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Ain’t no sir. Don’t need to be sucking up to me. Harry brought ya, says yer his friend, so we’ll see. Odd thing, Gryffindors friends with Slytherins. Been here a long time, hardly ever see it work out for long. True colors show through in the end.”

Harry narrowed his eyes but bit his tongue to keep from jumping to Blaise’s defense when he caught the other boy’s eyes and he shook his head.

Hagrid turned to Harry. “So, how was her first week of classes, then, Harry?”

Harry smiled a bit tightly. “Pretty good. Wish Astronomy was earlier and I bet in winter we’ll wish it was indoors more. And History is a bore.”

“Aye, well, that’s how it’s done at Hogwarts. Just bundle right up and ye’ll be fine come winter.”

Harry tried to bite into the fudge on his plate and nearly broke a tooth. He eased it back down and picked up his teacup. Over the next half hour, Hagrid chatted to Harry and ignored Neville and Blaise as much as he could, it seemed to Harry. 

The man never addressed Blaise directly after insulting Blaise’s House. And he never spoke to Neville at all. He responded if Neville asked a question but he never spoke to him like he did to Harry. 

It all made the boy very uncomfortable and Harry excused himself and his friends as soon as he felt it was long enough of a visit to be polite. Harry said they had homework that they wanted to get done so they could enjoy their weekend.

Hagrid grinned and waved them off with a final admonishment. “Explore the castle as much as ya want but stay outta the forest and away from the third floor. Fluffy don’t like company much.”

The boys waved the large man goodbye and walked up the path towards the castle. Harry sighed, “I still don’t know if he’s just a prejudiced git, like Weasley, or I don’t even know. He’s been here a long time and maybe he had bad experiences with some Slytherins that were like Malfoy. I know, I know, I’m trying to justify. I just – he was one of the first adults who was ever nice to me, you know? But I won’t get drawn in. I’ll be polite but sort of distant. He’s an adult, I’m eleven. End of story.”

Blaise and Neville nodded. 

As they pulled open the doors to the Entrance Hall, Neville wondered, “Who’s Fluffy?”

September 12, 1991

Harry headed out to the courtyard for his first flying lesson. Ever since the announcement had gone up on the board in the common room, most of the first year Gryffindors had gone a bit mad. In differing and more or less opposite ways.

There were those like Weasley and Seamus who told stories of their daring adventures in brooms, nearly being spotted by muggles. Or tales of Quidditch matches they had seen or participated in. 

Then there were those on the other side, like Neville and Granger. Neville’s grandmother had never allowed him on a broom, not even a training one, and always told him he was enough of a disaster on the ground, she didn’t want him in the air only to fall to his death. And Granger was both muggleborn and, Harry speculated based on things she said, afraid of heights.

Harry was looking forward to the lessons and hoped he enjoyed flying but he refused to let it overwhelm him with stress. He would do his best just as he tried to do in every class. If he enjoyed it, he would think about getting a broom over the summer to bring back for second year.

The lesson was paired with Slytherin. Harry couldn’t understand why the lessons with the most potential for bad accidents, such as Flying or Potions, put the two Houses that had the most volatile relationship together. Harry himself had no issues with Slytherins, obviously, but well, Weasley was very much a different matter.

When he reached the courtyard, Harry stood next to a broom that looked the least like it was going to fall apart. Neville came and stood next to him, breathing in and out slowly. Weasley was at the other end of the line of brooms and then the Slytherins arrived en masse.

Blaise, Theo, and Tracey stood opposite Harry and Neville. Malfoy took his mini entourage of Crabbe, Goyle, and the dark-haired girl with the nature name and stood opposite Weasley. Harry sighed and braced himself for the coming fight. Malfoy opened his mouth, likely to make a taunt about Weasley’s lack of wealth, his usual starting point, but closed it when Madam Hooch, the flying instructor and Quidditch referee strode up to the class.

“Alright, everyone who is not by a broom yet find an unused spot. Everyone place your hand in the air over your broom and very firmly and with intent, say ‘Up’.”

Harry looked at his broom, placed his hand out and said, “Up!”

The broom practically flew into his hand before the word finished passing his lips. He grinned and looked around. Malfoy, Blaise, Theo, Lavender, Seamus, Dean, and the Slytherin girl whose name had an animal in it all had brooms in their hands. Crabbe’s and Goyle’s brooms were in the air but not in their hands, slowly rising from the ground. Weasley’s broom stayed on the ground until he said the summon a second time and then it smacked him in the face. Neville’s broom just rolled over and Granger’s didn’t even quiver as she looked at it with clear apprehension on her face.

Harry slid over a step and whispered to Neville. “It’s like with an animal. Be firm. You’re in charge of the broom. It isn’t the one in charge.”

Neville took a deep breath, wiped his hands on his robes, then placed his arm straight out and glared at the broom. “Up!”

The broom rose to Neville’s hand slower than Harry’s had but much faster than Crabbe’s or Goyle’s. Neville turned to Harry and grinned. “Thanks,” he whispered.

Harry nodded and slid back to his place in line as Madam Hooch instructed those who couldn’t call the broom to hand to just pick it up. She then demonstrated the proper grip for leisure flying, adjusting Malfoy’s hands when he used his normal grip.

“I don’t care if you’ve been flying since you were in nappies, Mister Malfoy. Your grip is wrong for leisure flying and that is what we are learning and working on today. Your grip is more suitable to stunt flying.”

Malfoy glared at Weasley as he laughed and mounted the broom as the professor told them how. Harry shook his head. Trouble was coming. It was almost like a storm front. Really, the professor should notice it and move them away from one another. But she didn’t.

They practiced taking off, hovering about a foot or two off the ground and landing again. Neville jumped the count but kept his control as he was only one second ahead of the class. After fifteen minutes and repeating the hover exercise seven times, Madam Hooch told them to rise to around ten feet and carefully and slowly turn their broom to the right and begin flying in a large circle, following the student in front of them.

Unfortunately, this was when the unpredictability of the ancient school brooms reared its head and when the Slytherin girl in Malfoy’s entourage pulled her handle to the right, the broom turned left. Harry watched as she tried to compensate and turned her handle left and the broom rose five feet. Madam Hooch attempted to get her to figure out the broom’s pattern but there didn’t seem to be one. At least not a simple one. The girl turned her handle right again and the broom spun in a tight circle, then again and it rose several feet. She pushed down on the handle and the broom shot straight out at a high rate of speed towards the forest in the distance.

Madam Hooch grabbed a broom from nearby, a much newer model than the students were using, likely her personal broom, and yelled. “Everyone land! Stay on the ground until I get back or you’ll wish you were expelled.”

The woman took off like a shot but the girl was nearly into the trees already and barely in sight. And the storm that had been brewing the entire class broke. Weasley laughed and taunted Malfoy. “So much for your Slytherin perfection. What kind of pureblood can’t even control a broom?”

Malfoy actually growled. “She’s a better pureblood than you. Your broom would rather beat you than let you fly it.”

“You don’t even know how to hold your broom right.”

“The brooms you use at home are more museum pieces than these pieces of junk. You can’t afford anything decent. Not brooms, not robes, not even a wand! You’re no kind of proper wizard, Weasel.”

Harry tuned out their insults, he’d heard the same thing constantly from them in the past two weeks. He turned to Neville to chat when several of his classmates gasped and he turned back around. 

The two idiots had gotten back on their brooms and were going to race to the Quidditch pitch and back. “This won’t end well,” Harry murmured to Neville. 

Neville sighed and rolled his eyes. “No way in the world does this work out well.”

The first years watched as Malfoy and Weasley took off, looking more like full contact wrestling then any kind of broom race. Weasley shoved into Malfoy who kicked out at him in return. Weasley tried to pull ahead and Malfoy swerved into his path. Weasley kicked him in the thigh. Malfoy took one hand off his broom to push at Weasley’s head and that’s when it happened.

The brooms were both old and temperamental. They should have been retired before Harry was born. But they’d been used for decades instead. But this was too much. They had never been pushed so hard even when they were new. They seemed to almost coordinate their efforts as the brooms swerved away from one another and picked up speed. The two boys obviously no longer had any control of the brooms. The first years watched in a sort of delighted horror that comes from watching a train wreck you can’t prevent as the brooms entered the pitch at forty feet up and somehow each boy ended up hanging by their robes from one of the goals. On opposite sides of the pitch. 

Malfoy squirmed around until they could make out that he had his legs wrapped around the goal post hoop’s side and was working his way to perch in the center of the circle. His broom and Weasley’s were both on the ground.

Weasley swung from his robe, dangling in the middle of the hoop like a demented Christmas tree ornament until his old hand-me-down robes lost their fight and ripped. Weasley flailed and managed to grab on to the lower end of the hoop as he fell but his grip was obviously not solid.

The screams of the students had drawn attention and Professor McGonagall came running up and they pointed at Weasley and Malfoy. Harry was close enough to hear the teacher curse under her breath, “Oh, Merlin’s balls.”

She ran towards the pitch, moving quite fast for a woman of the age she appeared but Weasley’s grip failed before she reached them. But her wand whipped out and she was able to slow him down and seemingly cushion the ground as well. 

Madam Hooch returned with an hysterical girl and dismissed them, saying she would take the girl to the infirmary, not listening when they tried to point out Weasley and Malfoy. 

Harry later learned the two boys got detentions until the end of the month and each lost thirty points. Weasley spent the night in the infirmary and got a Howler two days later. Malfoy kept quiet as Blaise said Slytherin was furious he got caught.

September 19, 1991

Harry hurried down the hallway near the library on his way to his study group. After the first week of school, Padma had gotten them permission from Professor Flitwick to use an unused classroom near the library as their meeting place instead of the library itself. Their group was kind of large, especially on the occasions when Dean and Seamus showed up, and it was difficult to keep the noise down with so many voices. Plus, they couldn’t practice magic in the library.

The room was cleaned by the house elves and there were several small tables and one large one near the back wall. The chairs were all really comfortable but not so much so as to encourage napping. The house elves always had a tray with a pitcher of water and glasses ready when their group met. And they were near the library if they needed to get more research materials.

As he passed a door just before the turn to the corridor where they met, Harry heard sobs. He stopped and listened for a moment before moving toward the cracked open door. He eased it open a little and saw a girl seated against the wall, rocking herself, her arms wrapped around her torso, and her face wet with tears as harsh sobs wrenched themselves from deep inside her. It was Hermione Granger.

Harry wasn’t the kind of person who could ignore someone in pain like this, even if he didn’t like them. And, he decided he didn’t want to be that kind of person, either. He wouldn’t even leave Weasley in such a state and they were almost sworn enemies  by this point.

Harry slid into the room and closed the door fully behind him. It clicked as the latch caught but he didn’t think she heard it as she didn’t even look up. Harry wasn’t sure what to do but he knew he needed to try his best to do something.

Harry crossed the room and knelt down a few feet from the sobbing girl. “Hey. What’s wrong? Can I help?”

Granger’s head shot up and she tried to stop sobbing as her breath came in harsh gasps that she was visibly struggling to suppress. “What do you want?”

“I heard – the door wasn’t closed all the way and I heard someone crying. I – Are you okay?”

Granger wiped her face. “I’m fine. Not like you really care.”

“If I didn’t care, I would’ve just kept walking, Granger.”

“You contradict yourself in a single sentence, Potter.” Granger spit out the final word.

“How?”

“My name is Hermione.”

“Actually, your name is Hermione Granger.”

“Granger is my family name. Hermione is my first name, my name.”

Harry nodded. “It is your familiar name as opposed to your familial name. Which is the entire point. You’re muggleborn and grew up learning and using current muggle manners.”

Granger nodded. “So did you. You grew up in the muggle world, too. You said so.”

Harry inclined his head and he settled down to sit on the floor. “Exactly. So I know what I’m talking about. This is the wizarding world. It exists in parallel to the muggle world but it isn’t the same at all. You essentially are an immigrant and yet you’re treating it like nothing has changed in your life except what school you attend. The wizarding world is an entirely separate culture to the muggle one.”

“Pureblood versus muggleborn? Seriously? That from you?”

Harry sighed, “No. It has nothing to do with blood status and everything to do with culture and manners and mores. The muggle world tends to informality in the modern era, sometimes extreme informality. The wizarding world doesn’t. Manners in this world, which I emphasize again is not just a different school but an entire culture that is ancient, manners here are much more formal. You and I aren’t close, we barely know one another, and I’ve not invited you to be familiar with me and call me Harry. Nor have you invited me to call you familiarly. So, you’re Granger.”

She narrowed her eyes and tilted her head. “That’s more Victorian or even Regency manners.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “They’ve been the standard in this new world, this new culture, you’ve come to live in for thousands of years. Or well, hundreds. Since the family name paired with a familiar name has been common as opposed to a familiar name tied to a place or a use name, like Godric of Gryffin’s Door or Salazar the Sly.”

“Oh. I never really thought about it like that. I mean, the wizarding world is kind of backward.”

Harry sighed deeply. “Okay. You’re a muggleborn who grew up in the United Kingdom and you sort of are stuck in the memsahib mindset. You’re not a colonizer come to educate the savages, Granger. The muggle world isn’t the shining perfect star versus the dirty, muddy wizarding world. Neither is perfect but what they are is different. Separate but equal.”

“I’m not a racist!”

“Not by skin color, at least. You came here to learn magic but that’s all you’re interested in. You seem to have no desire to learn about more than spells and potions. You look around at the torches on the wall and the parchment and quills and you roll your eyes at how behind the wizarding world is. You don’t see, you blind yourself to the fact that there are reasons for the choices this world has made. Magic doesn’t interact well with many muggle things. I’m sure you were told not to bring electronics because they wouldn’t work here.”

“Yes, there is too much ambient magic and it interferes with things life batteries and electric current.”

“Magic is a natural force in the world. And unnatural things react badly to it. Things like plastics and synthetic fabrics. Even some inks and glues and paper depending on its manufacture process. If you brought muggle books from home, fiction reading or otherwise, you should send them back unless they are antiques from the last century or before. Otherwise they’re likely to start falling apart, especially the mass market paperback books.”

“Professor McGonagall didn’t say anything about that.” Granger narrowed her eyes.

“She told you not to bring muggle things, didn’t she? To do all your shopping, even for skivvies, in Diagon Alley?”

“Yes. But I assumed she was trying to help the economy of the Alley.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “There may have been a little of that but mostly it would have been because you wouldn’t know any other wizarding shopping district. But mostly it was a warning. You know the saying about what happens when you assume? You make and ass out of you and me. Well, if you bought muggle stuff, depending on what it is, you may end up showing your ass as it breaks down.”

Granger gasped and huffed. “And how exactly do you know this supposedly gospel information?”

“My friends told me about it. I didn’t have an opportunity to buy clothes other than my uniforms on the Alley. And I mentioned something to Neville about my socks and he explained. I had to owl order lots of stuff, from the skin out and the toes to the head. I’m even going to have to get new glasses at Yule Break. These are mostly plastic and they weren’t in the best shape when I got them.”

Granger sniffed but her face looked less hostile and more thoughtful.

“Why were you upset, if you don’t mind my asking this time?”

She sighed. “I just – I’m – stuff.” She turned away and as her legs moved, Harry saw an envelope half under her. His gaze wandered around and his eyes fell on a card a few feet away.

“Is it your birthday? That’s a birthday card, isn’t it?”

Granger nodded. “My parents sent it. I – I’ve never been so alone on my birthday before.”

“You’re kind of homesick?”

Granger inclined her head once. “Yeah, sort of.”

“Huh.” Harry cocked his head to one side. “I’ve not felt that at all. I mean, I wouldn’t have expected to, all things considered. And I haven’t. My relatives and I don’t get along. And I much prefer being nowhere near them.”

“You don’t miss anyone back home?”

Harry snorted. “It’s never been my home. Just the place where I slept. And sometimes got food to eat. And did all of the chores. I can’t stand my relatives and the feeling is very much mutual. And I made my first friends ever on the train, so, no, I don’t miss Surrey.”

Hermione blinked three times. “You didn’t have friends before?”

Harry shook his head. “It isn’t really your business but as I opened the door, no, my cousin would beat up anyone who looked to be friendly with me. But he isn’t here so I have options.”

“How did you make friends on the train?”

Harry shrugged. “We talked. And played games. And talked while we played games. And ate snacks. I wanted to make friends and we just bonded. I mean, I have to work to keep them and make new ones. Especially for my friends who aren’t in Gryffindor. But I think it’s worth it.”

Granger’s forehead scrunched up and her lips poured just the slightest bit. “I talk to people. But they ignore me or insult me or make fun of me.”

Harry shook his head. “No offense intended, Granger, but just going by my personal experience in interactions with you until now and what I’ve observed when you interact with others near me, that isn’t true. You don’t talk to or with people. You usually talk at them. Often is a swotty tone of voice that makes it sound like a lecture or like you’re trying to be a parental figure.”

Granger breathed in harshly.

“Don’t start crying again. I’m guessing we had something in common, sort of. You never had friends in primary either, did you?”

Granger stared at her lap and shook her head.

“Too smart? Teacher’s pet?”

Granger nodded.

Harry chuckled without finding it actually funny. “You come off as very, um, like standoffish. And like you think you’re better than everyone around you. But you’re just, like, nervous, aren’t you? You want to make a good impression on adults and your peers and it just doesn’t work the way you think it should.”

Granger sniffled. “I don’t understand! I always just lost myself in books and helping the teacher and getting good grades. I told myself it didn’t matter. But it does!”

Harry nodded. “It does. Come on, Granger. Let’s go get you cleaned up and then I’ll introduce you to some people. But you have to be aware of how you come across to people. I’ll give you a nudge or signal if you slip into overly annoying know-it-all tone.”

Granger blinked, “Huh?”

“Try making friends with someone else there to help ease the way and bridge the gap.”

“Why???” Granger whined the word.

“I don’t know how I’d be coping if I was isolated like you. I’ve always been isolated and I always hoped it would get better. And it did. So, I’m passing on my luck in the matter to you. Come study with us. Just don’t act like you’re the professor.”

Granger took his hand and stood up. “O-okay. I’ll try.”

Chapter 6

October 31, 1991

Harry sat in Charms class paired with Neville. Hermione sat on his other side and she was paired, as she nearly always was, with Weasley. Even though she had been working hard on reigning in her attitude, Gryffindor had an even number of first years who had already chosen preferred partners by the time she was a friend. 

Also, no one wanted to get stuck with Weasley, not even Hermione, but she knew she was stuck for at least the rest of the year. Weasley never did his share of the work and what work he did do was half-arsed at best. 

Luckily for Hermione, they had only had one paired homework project so far. And it had been in DADA. Hermione had done all of the research, with the help of Harry’s study group and she had written over four fifths of the essay. She had made sure to write a note at the top of the essay explaining things and when Professor Quirrel had handed back the assignment, Hermione had gotten an O, while Weasley had gotten a P for his lack of participation.

Today was the first day they would be working on the practical for the levitation charm. They had a class of magical theory and another class practicing the wand movements. But today it would all be put together. 

As Professor Flitwick finished handing out the feathers they would start with, Harry took several deep breaths. During study group they practiced spells that they had mastered in class without calming themselves but Harry had found that until he had the spell down, he needed to focus harder, which he supposed made perfect sense.

Professor Flitwick reminded them of one of his favorite and much repeated stories of a foolish wizard mispronouncing a spell and its consequences before he called out. “Begin!”

Harry pointed his wand at the feather and slowly swished it and flicked it, silently. When he was confident with the movement, he moved his wand through the motions again but this time he carefully pronounced the words, focusing on his desire for the feather to float. “Wingardium Leviosa!”

The feather rose an inch above the desk before he lost control of the spell. He glanced around. Harry centered himself and tightened his focus. He swished, flicked, and intoned, “Wingardium Leviosa!”

This time the feather rose and he kept his wand steady as he lifted the tip. The feather floated six inches off of the desk. He twitched the tip of his wand and the feather floated to the right. Another twitch and it moved left. He raised the tip further and the feather rose another six inches.

“Oh, well done, Mister Potter! Well done! Five points to Gryffindor.” Professor Flitwick bounced up and down on his toes. “Lower it to the desk now and release the spell. Cast it twice more successfully and we’ll move you on.”

Harry nodded and over the next seven minutes, he had four entirely failed casts, one where the feather rose but wasn’t in control once it was off the desk, and two successful castings where he controlled the feather enough to draw a smiley face in the air.

Harry turned to Neville and frowned. His friend struggled quite a bit in wanted classes during the practicals and Harry didn’t understand it. Neville has lots of magic but the spells seemed to not work right for him. Harry worked on calming his friend, who got frustrated with himself over his inability to perform spells, and a few minutes before the end of class, Neville got his feather to hover four inches off the desk surface. 

Neville grinned and sat back. Harry knew his friend wouldn’t attempt it again. He knew Neville we’ll enough to know the boy would want to end class on a high note, whenever possible.

He looked around and saw over half of the class had their feathers at least hovering if not truly floating around. Seamus’ desk was scorched from where he had evidently accidentally set it on fire halfway through class but Dean’s feather was floating and tickling the Irish boy on the nose.

Blaise was floating his feather in a ballet with Tracey’s feather while Theo’s was hovering above his desk but not moving. Malfoy’s feather was gently bobbing around the room and heading for Weasley’s desk.

Weasley was making arm movements much too large and exaggerated and they weren’t the proper movements anyway. Plus he was yelling mispronounced words at his feather as if the words were what made the feather float and not his magic. 

Harry could see Hermione’s cringe and nudged her as she opened her mouth. She looked over her shoulder at him and Harry shook his head. “He wouldn’t appreciate any corrections from you. You can ask him if he’d like pointers but don’t just start lecturing him,” Harry said in a quiet voice.

Hermione bit her lip and nodded. She turned back to face Weasley, nearly getting hit in the face with his flailing arms for her trouble. “Weasley, please stop gesturing like that. You nearly took my eye out. If you’d like I can give you pointers.”

Weasley scowled. “Who asked you, Granger? I don’t need help from a swot like you. You’re a nightmare!”

Hermione’s shoulders stiffened but she simply sniffed at him. “Fine. It’s your grade.”

She looked over at Harry who grinned at her. “See. He still was a – er, mean boy about it.”

“Thanks, Harry. I would have just made it all even worse.”

Harry nodded. “But it only would have been partially your fault. Weasley just does what he wants. You’ve seen it.”

She nodded. “Still, thanks.”

Professor Flitwick dismisses the class after assigning homework, which was practicing on their own and an essay for those that didn’t get the spell to work on the theory and correct movements. Weasley was given an extra four inches to explain why pronunciation was important and to give three examples of times when it went wrong. 

The professor told Weasley he wasn’t allowed to get other students to give him answers. Flitwick handed him a special parchment to use. “I’ll know if you cheat and it will gain you a week’s worth of detentions, Mister Weasley. Do your own research.”

Harry guessed he had overheard Weasley dismissing Hermione’s help. And maybe had talked to Quirrel about the group assignment.

After classes, Harry and the rest of the Gryffindors made their way up to their tower to drop off their school things. There was still over an hour before dinner and they were meeting up with their multi-House friends to just hang out instead of studying. 

When they walked into their study room, they found that Blaise, Theo, and Tracey has been busy and had talked to the house elves. The tables and desks were against the walls and there were several low sofas and bean bag chairs scattered around the room along with a table with different kinds of drinks.

Blaise smiled when they entered. “Tracey figured that with the Feast tonight, we wouldn’t want snacks but drinks were a must. The elves set this up for us yesterday so it wouldn’t interfere with their preparations for this evening. Evidently, even with magic, some of those dishes are all-day affairs to cook and make.”

Harry nodded. “Thanks.”

He walked over to a black bean bag chair and flopped into it. “It’ll be nice to just hang out without worrying about homework and studying. I mean, I want to get good grades and I usually don’t mind studying but …”

Theo smiled from his perch on one of the sofas, his legs dangling over one of the arms. “I know. We need to try to do this more often. Hang out and talk and play games. Just be kids. We are still kids.”

The others all nodded, even Hermione. “I can’t believe I’m saying this but schoolwork isn’t all there is to life,” the young witch sort of whispered. “I never really understood it before, books and school were my sole focus because I was good at it and people – adults – praised me for my grades. But I never had friends who saw value in school and in fun, too.”

Tracey tweaked Hermione’s braid, something the Slytherin girl had taught the Gryffindor bookworm how to do. “We’re glad you are here with us, Hermione. And we are glad you’ve learned to slow down and appreciate life. And us.”

Hermione laughed, “I’m so glad Harry found me on my birthday and took a chance to talk to me. And that I listened.”

Parvati grinned from across the room where she and Lavender were applying darker makeup charms than usual. “We are all glad of that.”

Harry sighed and sank further into the chair, listening to his friends as they bantered and joked together. He wasn’t listening to the words, just the tones and the voices as he drifted into a near meditative state.

After a bit, Neville nudged his foot and Harry turned his head and blinked at his best friend. “Huh?”

“How are you doing, Harry?”

“Good. Tired. Happy.”

Padma slid onto the bean bag chair next to his and reached out to play with his hair. “You sure? We’re all here if you need to talk.”

Harry leaned into the soft touch. “Um, no, I was just lost in thought. Why would I need to talk about something?”

Hermione’s face scrunched up. “Harry, it’s Halloween.”

He nodded. “Yeah. Big feast tonight. Lots of sweets, I’ve heard.”

Blaise leaned over the arm of the sofa he was lounging on. “We aren’t talking about the feast. You don’t have to pretend with us. We all know what you lost tonight.”

Harry frowned and thought for a minute before he had an inkling what they were looking for. “You mean because my parents died on Halloween.”

His friends all nodded but Harry shrugged. 

“I was 15 months old. I don’t have any memories of them at all. I don’t even know what they properly looked like, other than how people say I’m the spitting image of my dad except with my mom’s eyes.”

Hermione reached a hand out and rubbed his arm. All of his friends were surrounding him, sharing bean bag chairs or on the sofas next to or behind him. “You’ve never seen a picture of your parents?”

Harry shook his head, “Nah. Petunia and Vernon wouldn’t have a picture of freaks in the house. They even kept me home every year on picture day so they wouldn’t have to either spend money on pictures of me that they’d just toss in the bin or look unnatural or cheap by not buying pictures of the nephew that lived with them when they bought ones of Dudley.”

“Freaks?” Hermione whispered.

Harry nodded. “I told you I didn’t have a brilliant childhood, Hermione. I meant it. Hogwarts is the first time I’ve really had a home. The Dursleys hate me and Petunia despised my mum.”

Neville wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulders and several of the girls were playing with his hair, almost petting him.

“I grew up being told my dad was an unemployed drunk and drug addict and my mum was a slag. And that they both died in a car smash when he was driving drunk and that’s how I got my scar. I grew up thinking that my parents were horrible people who were irresponsible and uncaring who died because they were fools and I got dumped on the Dursleys.”

Hermione choked back a sob.

“I’ve only known the truth about how and why they died since my birthday, so three months exactly. I understand it intellectually but I’ve spent a decade hating my parents and being ashamed of them. My head knows it was all lies but my emotions haven’t caught up. I don’t know if they ever really will. I kind of mourn the idea of my parents, of having a loving family, but not the people, you know? I just can’t seem to do it. I hate them for dying and leaving me to the non-existent mercy of the 

Dursleys.”

His friends all piled on top of him and around him, embracing him as silent tears dripped from his eyes, a giant puppy pile of found family. They remained cuddled together for the next hour.

Harry walked into the Great Hall and took a moment to appreciate the decorations. They were very elaborate but he found them a little too gaudy. The pumpkins were huge and several were large enough for a younger student to sit inside. He hoped the house elves had gotten the pulp to use. If they did, he speculated there would be lots of pumpkin dishes in the next few days.

Harry sat down at the table near his normal seat, glad he wasn’t near Weasley. The boy was a pig when eating on a normal night. Harry didn’t want to imagine his manners, or lack thereof, at a Halloween feast.

Neville came in and took his seat next to Harry. And Hermione sat across from them as she had taken to doing after her birthday breakdown. Parvati and Lavender sat next to her and Dean and Seamus sat next to Neville.

Unlike normal nights, the table had lots of decorations scattered about but the food wasn’t out yet. Harry turned to Neville as he heard Weasley grumbling to his brother Percy about being hungry.

“I’m guessing since it is a feast, the food will be sent up all at once like it was after we were sorted.”

Neville nodded with a thoughtful look on his face. “Makes sense. Fest implies lots more food than a normal dinner. And the Opening Feast certainly demonstrated the difference. The Headmaster will probably signal the house elves when it is time.”

Hermione’s mouth dropped open. “Oh. Do you think those were the names of the house elves in charge of each table? Those nonsense words he spoke before the food appeared?”

Lavender nodded. “It’s likely. I mean, everyone considers the Headmaster a bit, you know, off. The way he dresses, his love affair with sweets, and just his general attitude. But he isn’t actually insane, no matter how dotty old grandfather he appears.”

“Do you think the same House elves are in charge tonight?” Hermione asked.

Harry shrugged. “Guess we’ll find out when he speaks to summon the food. If he uses the same words, then yes. If not, is it because the house elves rotate who is in charge of which feast for their own reasons? Or because he wants to be more mysterious and barmy seeming and told them to?”

Neville laughed. “It’s a possibility. I can’t remember what words he used. I think one was, um, Squeak?”

Harry shook his head. “It made an impression on me. It was nitwit, blubber, oddment, and tweak.”

“Oh. Okay. Well, I was close. I rhymed at least.”

The friends all laughed along with Neville. And quieted as Professor Dumbledore rose from his chair and tapped on his goblet. “Before we eat, just a few words. Jingle! Wombat! Flute! Caramel! Let us feast!”

Harry sighed a laugh at the old man as the table filled with dishes overflowing with food. He frowned as he looked around at the offerings. There were lots of desserts already on the table, which he supposed made sense on Halloween. Sort of. But he didn’t see a single dish within reach that want sure to be sugary and sweet.

Growing up at the Dursleys, Harry had few opportunities to enjoy sweets of any kind. The Dursleys didn’t starve him, though he never had as much as he would have liked to eat, but things like pudding and sweets were mostly reserved for his relatives, not him. 

At school, he usually got a sweetie of some kind with his school provided lunch. And he usually got to eat it at least once or twice a week. The other times, Dudley or his gang would steal it from him.

And his babysitter, batty old Mrs Figg sometimes gave him a slice of cake or a few biscuits as he looked through her albums of pictures of her multitude of cats. It was usually dry and not overly fresh, but it was still nice.

And of course, there was the trip to the zoo on Dudley’s eleventh birthday when he got a lemon ice lolly and most of Dudley’s first Knickerbocker Glory. The day ended terribly with the accidental magic but through lunch had been wonderful.

So, Harry admitted to himself that he may have overindulged in pudding since his arrival at Hogwarts and it’s unmonitored meals. But this was beyond ridiculous. All of the dishes were drowning in obviously sweet sauces and caramelization. 

Harry shuddered and glanced across the table, meeting Hermione’s eyes. She too had an empty plate so far. She rarely had any kind of sweets even now, her childhood growing up in the care of two dentist parents held tight.

Before either of them could take a chance on a dish or two and maybe scrape some of the sauce to the side, the doors to the Great Hall slammed open and Professor Quirrel staggered inside, shouting, “T-t-troll! T-troll in the dungeons! Thought you ought to know.” And the man collapsed to the floor.

People started screaming and crying and Dumbledore let off a loud sound with his wand. “The professors will handle this. Prefects lead your Houses to their common  rooms. The feast will continue there.”

And with that every adult up at the Head Table vanished so fast it was almost as if they teleported. But Harry knew they hadn’t actually done that as Hermione loved her book “Hogwarts, a History” and quoted from it often. 

Harry looked down at the floor. Make that all the adults in the room vanished, he thought to himself. Quirrell was gone as well.

Harry had a thought and looked around. A number of Gryffindors and Ravenclaws were already on their way out of the room. And the Slytherins and Hufflepuffs were being organized for exits by their prefects. But Harry realized a problem of logic in the Headmaster’s orders. 

Harry went up to Percy Weasley, the nearest prefect and stood in front of him. “Excuse me, Prefect Weasley, but the troll was in the dungeons.”

Percy shoved him away. “I need to do my job, Potter. Just get out of the way.”

Harry slid back in front of the older boy. “The troll is in the dungeons. Slytherin and Hufflepuff both go into the dungeons to get to wherever their common rooms are!” Harry spoke loudly.

Percy pushed Harry firmly and he stumbled back into a bench. “We’ll be fine. Just get in line and up we go.”

“What about Slytherin and Hufflepuff?”

Percy sighed loudly and snarled at Harry. “They have prefects. Headmaster Dumbledore knows what he’s doing.”

“Trolls in the school happen a lot, does it?”

“Of course not. Now get up and get in line, Potter.”

“And trolls, they don’t have legs?”

“Stop being stupid and come along.”

Harry shook his head. “Nope. Not me. And everyone should stay here.”

A Hufflepuff prefect came up. “Why wouldn’t the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws be safe in their journeys, Mister Potter? I understand your point about us and Slytherin.”

Harry sighed and rolled his eyes. “Well, trolls have legs and they can obviously use stairs or how else did it get into the dungeons? So if they can go down stairs, they can come up them, too. How do we know the troll was still in the dungeon by the time Professor Quirrel got here?”

Percy just shook his head. “I have faith in the Headmaster, Potter. Now stop making trouble.”

The redhead grabbed his youngest brother and pushed him and several second and third year Gryffindors out the door. Harry shook his head and called, “Good luck!”

The first year Gryffindors, minus Weasley, and a number of others who had heard Harry’s words, sat back down at their table. The Hufflepuff and Slytherin prefects shooed their charges back to their own tables and Harry caught Blaise’s eyes from across the room and he nodded his thanks.

The prefects closed the main doors and levitated benches in front of them. The Head Boy stood up in front of the lectern at the front of the Hall. “The barricade will give us a little warning if the troll tries to come in here. If it does, head out the doors up here to either side of the Head Table. They should be too small for a troll to fit through. And they’ll lead you to the hallway that leads to the lake. First years go first, then second, then third and so on. Until then, try to enjoy the feast as much as you can.”

When he was standing arguing with Weasley the Idiot Prefect, Harry had seen some dishes on the Hufflepuff table that had potential. He cleared his throat and asked the girl seated nearest to him if she could pass him the platter of smoked fish in a bed of autumn vegetables.

November 4, 1991

It had been days since the Halloween disaster and over the weekend rumors had been flying around the school. It turned out that on their way up to Gryffindor Tower, Harry had been proved correct, as the group of twelve students who had followed Percy Weasley and left the Great Hall had stumbled across the troll.

It was just a matter of bad timing. Two of the other Gryffindor prefects and four of the six Ravenclaw prefects had already corralled students from the Hall before Harry and Percy began to argue and they all arrived at their common rooms safely, never even smelling a hint of the troll. But Percy’s group turned a corner and the troll was just standing there.

The rumors were increasingly unlikely as days passed with little official information. Several classes had been cancelled on Friday, the day after the aborted feast. But not all of them. Transfiguration and DADa were canceled for the entire day but only the afternoon Potions classes and the morning Charms classes. And no one reported seeing Professor Dumbledore in the building since he sent everyone off to their dorms.

Some people were claiming that the troll was actually Dumbledore in his animagus form and that they had accidentally killed him when he was transformed. He had attacked the Gryffindors as a test of their bravery for a Halloween prank.

Others said that Peeves had conjured an illusion of a troll to fool Quirrel and an actual troll had seen it and wandered in because it had fallen in love. And Peeves had transformed himself into the replica and was leaving the castle to marry the troll.

Yet others thought that Quirrel himself had let the troll in so he could go to the third floor corridor that promised a most painful death without anyone seeing him. They believed he was suicidal and wanted to die heroically to overcome the shame he had suffered over the summer when he had tangled with the vampire that scared him into a stutter.

The Weasley twins insisted that unless he was an idiot who was pants at research, the third floor corridor wouldn’t kill him. The had investigated it on September 1 after everyone had gone to sleep. They said the door was locked with a basic lock and there was a three-headed dog over a trapdoor behind it. After a few hours in the library and three different reference books, they found out how to get past it, just play music.

Then they said under the trapdoor was some Devil’s Snare and then a room with a bunch of keys flying around and you had to catch the correct key and if you grabbed the wrong one they started chasing you and transformed into knives. But the right one was really obvious, the others all looked pretty much the same but it was a different size and color.

The next room held a life-sized Wizarding chess set and you had to play a game to cross. One of the twins took the place of the king and the other the queen. They beat the set in two moves. It was set on a really easy level, they said.

And after that was an empty room and then a room with potions and fire doors. They solved the riddle and the last room was empty except for a pedestal in the center that had nothing on it.

The twins said they reckoned it was going to be a practical exam for the end of the year though they couldn’t figure out why it was set up so early. But it had been simple and they figured it was designed for first years. 

Most people believed they were lying. But they had been talking about the three-headed dog for weeks and had been out of the common room and in the Hospital Wing with their family to see their prefect and youngest brothers on Friday and Saturday.

When the group of Gryffindors led by Prefect Weasley ran into the troll, the small handful who had been unharmed revealed that he had told them to run. But several of them had stayed, either wishing to help – the two sixth years – or frozen in fear or cowardly hiding behind a nearby suit of armour – like Weasley the youngest. The upper years and the prefect cast lots of spells at the troll but it just got mad and ended up knocking them out and breaking bones. 

Weasley the youngest was found under the suit of armour he had been hiding behind, unconscious and with the armour’s spear through his leg. Five others didn’t run and all had at least broken bones and most had concussions as well. Most of them had been released from the Hospital Wing Sunday afternoon, though not either of the Weasley boys. And the twins had been missing as well.

Harry hoped things began to shift back towards the normal routine now that it was a new week. Those hopes were dashed as Hedwig arrived with a copy of The Daily Prophet. He’d started a subscription – the only first year to do so – in early October. It was normally fairly useless to him but he wrote down questions that the articles brought up to discuss with his friends later.

Today’s front page bore a picture of an insane laughing dark-haired man in a prison uniform and a weaselly looking man who grew from an actual rat as the picture progressed. This was under the banner headline: Pettigrew Alive! Black Framed!

Harry sighed as he read the article.

Pettigrew Alive! Black Framed!

By Misty Lang

Everyone knows the story of those fateful fall days in 1981. Sirius Black, Secret Keeper for the Potters, led You-Know-Who to their safe house in Godric’s Hollow. James and Lily Potter were killed and baby Harry destroyed him and became the Boy-Who-Lived. 

Days later Black cornered Peter Pettigrew on a muggle street and after Pettigrew yelled at him for betraying the Potters, Black blasted him and twelve muggle bystanders apart with a single curse, leaving only a finger left of the heroic Pettigrew. His mother was given a posthumous Order of Merlin for her late son.

But those facts everyone knows are now known to be lies. Sirius Black was not the Potter’s Secret Keeper. Peter Pettigrew was. Sirius Black did not fire the curse that killed Pettigrew and the muggles. Pettigrew fired the curse and hit a muggle gas line. And it wasn’t a suicide move. Pettigrew was an illegal, unregistered animagus – a common gray rat. He cut off his own finger and transformed after blasting the gas line, leaving a grieving and concussed Black to take the blame.

How was this discovered? Pettigrew found a wizarding family to take him in. A day after the confrontation with Black a young boy found an injured rat in the garden of his home. He took it inside to heal it and was allowed to keep it as a pet. For the next decade, Pettigrew lived as a rat in the family’s home. Neither Arthur nor Molly Weasley found it odd that the rat lived so long when common non-magical rats typically live four years at most.

The child took the rat to Hogwarts when he began school and none of the teachers objected to this non-regulation pet. Nor did they perform any health checks on it though rats are known to carry multiple deadly diseases.

When the boy became a prefect this past summer, his parents bought him an owl and he gifted his rat, whom he called Scabbers, to his younger brother who began his first year in September. Pettigrew may have spent many more years living as a pet rat in Hogwarts or the Weasley home but for one event.

On Halloween, a troll somehow got into Hogwarts and the current and former owners of the rat, Scabbers, had an injurious run-in with the beast. They were both unconscious when healers scanned them for injuries. And the scans found an anomaly on the younger boy who was carrying the rat animagus in his pocket for the Halloween Feast. The rat, too, was unconscious from injuries inflicted by the troll.

Healers found him and scanned him again separately from his owner and discovered his secret. The DMLE was called and soon the entire story came out. 

Sirius Black was released from Azkaban on Sunday and is currently recovering at Saint Mungo’s Hospital. Peter Pettigrew was tried in a rushed session and sentenced to life in Azkaban. He was fitted with anti-magic shackles that were welded shut and is now locked away.

How did this miscarriage of justice occur? Are there more innocents in Azkaban? How was Pettigrew able to hide for a decade? Did the Weasley adults know or suspect? Why did Albus Dumbledore nor any of his staff think to check the long-lived rat for anomalies? What will Black’s release mean for our beloved Boy-Who-Lived, as Black is his godfather?

We at The Daily Prophet will look into these and other questions and keep you updated.



Complete-ish

A/N: Remember, I warned you. In my plot notes, Sirius/Pettigrew wasn’t supposed to happen until May or June, not October. And I never got to Susan and Hannah which was plotted for November. Major re-write when edits happen. So, lots will change when/if I return to this idea. Happy Evil Author Day! ;-P