On Monday morning, Hugo entered the Defense against the dark arts classroom on his own, as usual. The one different thing today was that someone was expecting him.
“Hugo!” Connor Macmillan exclaimed loudly, waving at the blushing redhead. “How’s it going?”
“Alright, you?” Hugo politely asked in return as he joined him.
“I’m great,” Connor smiled. “Say, are you doing something later tonight?”
“My homework I suppose. Why?”
“You Ravenclaws and your homework,” Connor shook his head in disbelief, “you know, I expect your cousin is right, something is wrong with you lot.”
“It’s only because I’ve got nothing better to do,” Hugo mumbled, uncomfortable.
“Well I’ve got just the thing for you then! I was thinking about taking Hagrid up on his offer and go see if he needs help; do you want to come with me?”
Hugo was very surprised by Connor’s offer. He tried to understand why the Hufflepuff was asking him this. It certainly wasn’t because Connor was nervous about seeing Hagrid again; Connor wasn’t the type of boy to be shy or anxious about anything. Did he really want to spend time with Hugo? Willingly? Hugo smiled at the thought of Connor wanting to hang out with him and nodded; this was certainly a first.
“Yeah, I’d love to go see Hagrid with you.”
“Excellent,” Connor smiled widely, “how about meeting in the Entrance Hall after dinner?”
“No problem,” Hugo answered. Professor Stebens entered the class and the boys sat in their respective seats.
The rest of the morning passed in a flash for Hugo. Although it wasn’t different in the sense that he still didn’t manage the required spells and most of his classmates kept on mocking him, Hugo didn’t mind for once. The thought of a possible friendship with Connor Macmillan made him happier than he could have imagined. He got an even bigger shock when lunchtime came and Eliana Rowan-Pritchard sat in front of him at the Ravenclaw table.
“Hi,” she said, flashing him a shy smile. “Do you mind me sitting here?”
“No, please do,” Hugo stuttered, surprised.
“Thanks,” she said, piling chicken and carrots on her plate.
“Did you have a good morning?” Hugo asked her, fighting his natural instinct and taking the lead of the conversation.
“It was alright,” she shrugged, looking sideway at the students around her before adding in a lower voice, “Neela’s really nice and I partnered with her in charms. When she’s with Gwen and Jade though, she can’t seem to remember that I exist.”
“Yeah,” Hugo nodded, looking over at the 3 giggling girls a couple seats away from them. “It’s the same with Liam. He’s nice enough when we’re alone together but he practically ignores me when he’s with Mal.”
“I think it’s sad, how these two are being controlled,” Eliana shook her head before looking curiously at Hugo. “I wondered did you ever find anything interesting in those books you read?”
“I found loads of interesting stuff,” Hugo nodded, “except for what I was looking for, that is.”
“That’s too bad but, the school year is young and the library is big; you’ll find it at some point.”
“Yeah, I try to think of it that way too,” Hugo said, a bit uncomfortable with the subject. He didn’t feel ready to talk about his problem. Not with his family nor his head of house and definitely not with a girl he barely knew so he searched rapidly for a subject change. “Is it where you spend your nights? In the library?”
“What do you mean?” She said, her face going suddenly white, telling Hugo he had made a mistake.
“Well, I just meant that you aren’t in the common room a lot, that’s all.”
“Oh,” Eliana sighed, blood coming back to her cheeks, “yeah, I do go to the library at nights or just stay up in my dormitory; I prefer the quiet to study.”
“So do I,” Hugo smiled, taking a large breath before saying, “you should try the common room sometimes, it’s pretty quiet too. You could, you know, you could join me, if you don’t want to be with the other girls.”
“I could do that,” Eliana smiled, “I could join you tonight.”
“Yeah –No!” Hugo said, remembering his promise, “sorry, I just remembered. I’m going to Hagrid’s with Connor Macmillan tonight after dinner.”
“Oh, it’s alright. Maybe after curfew, when you come back?”
“Definitely,” Hugo nodded, relieved that Eliana wasn’t offended by his mistake. They ate in silence for a couple minutes, Hugo waving at some relative or another from time to time.
“You seem to have a big family,” Eliana said when he waved at Dominique. “That must be nice.”
“It is yeah. We have pretty interesting family gatherings. Then again, that could only be because we’re Weasleys.”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s a very strong sense of humour and prank in our blood you know? So much so that a couple of my Uncles are the owners and inventors of the biggest wizarding joke shop: Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes.”
“Oh I saw that place when I went to buy my books and wand! I wanted to spend the afternoon there but my parents didn’t have the time.”
“You definitely need to spend a couple hours in there in order to see everything. Roxanne and Fred, the two dark skinned ones there,” Hugo pointed at the Gryffindor table, “they spend half their lives there. Their father is the biggest owner. He created it with his twin brother back when they were in school.”
“Why did his twin brother step back then?”
“He died during the war,” Hugo explained, “it was way before we were all born. We never knew him.”
“It is,” Hugo nodded although a smile crept on his face, “even if he was only half as great as Uncle George, he would have been amazing. How about you, do you have a big family?”
“Not really,” Eliana shrugged, “I have a step sister, Kate who is the same age as me and our parents gave us a half brother, Matt who is 7 years old. We’ve got no cousins though; both our parents are only children.”
“I only have a sister myself, Rose,” Hugo pointed at his sister was currently shooting peas out of her nose in Al’s direction. “She counts for 5 siblings though. Can you tell she’s thirteen?”
“They look like a fun group; it must be hard to be apart from them and stuck with much more boring Ravenclaws.”
“Sometimes,” Hugo slowly answered, “but I was never as loud as most of them so, maybe this is a way for me to find my own voice.”
“You’re strong then,” Eliana answered, wide eyed, “and to say that I almost didn’t come here because I didn’t want to leave my family behind!”
“Is there anyone magical at all in your family?”
“No,” she shook her head, “it was very unexpected although it did explain quite a lot.”
“I can imagine,” Hugo smiled, remembering the stories his mother told him of the years before she came to Hogwarts. “My mum is muggle born like you and she said the same thing. It was hard to believe at first but it did explain the strange things that happened around her all the time.”
“My parents had a harder time believing it than me. I have to admit that it was a welcomed explanation to me though. Then I came here and it’s even better than I imagined!”
“Do you regret your decision at all?”
“No. It’s hard sometimes but I don’t regret it. Sure, coming into a place where practically everybody knows each other and I don’t, makes it harder but, I would have faced similar problems in a muggle school.”
“What do you mean?”
“Everybody knew me already,” she blushed, “and I was considered quite strange because of my magic so, it would have been hard making friends anyway.”
“That, I can understand,” Hugo nodded, “everybody either knows me as the quiet Weasley or they know my parents’ reputation. They expect a lot from me but I’m clearly not up to standard so they discard me.”
“But, I mean, sorry to ask this,” Eliana blushed a deep crimson, “but you are magical, aren’t you?”
“I think so,” Hugo whispered, looking at his plate, “I mean, I have done accidental magic and I did receive my letter so that confirms I definitely am a wizard but, I can’t seem to be able to do any magic now that I’m here.”
“Then there’s no need to worry. I expect it must be like growth; some people take longer to grow but everybody does in their own time.”
“Flitwick says the same thing,” Hugo smiled, looking back at her. He was surprised to see confidence rather than pity in her dark blue eyes. “Thanks for saying it though.”
“No problem,” she smiled back.
Hugo found himself much more relaxed, walking through the corridors with a friend by his side. He found it easy to talk with Eliana; she wasn’t like some of his cousins who were so used to him being quiet, they did not leave him much space to talk. Eliana was interested in hearing what he had to say and gave him time to form his thoughts and find the right words. She didn’t try to figure out what he was thinking when he was silent, she waited for him. She didn’t laugh at his choice of words either. Hugo was actually very surprised to see that they had a similar vocabulary; something most people mocked him for, saying he talked like an old person rather than an eleven years old boy.
After dinner that night, Eliana bid him goodbye and went up to the common room while Hugo nervously waited in the Entrance Hall, a bit scared that Connor might have forgotten his offer. Hugo was wrong though and Connor sprinted up the stairs leading from the Hufflepuff common room a couple minutes later, a huge grin plastered on his face.
“Sorry mate, I had to go drop my bag in my dorm. Have you been waiting long?”
“Not so much,” Hugo shrugged, joining Connor as they walked out of the castle.
“I’m so excited!” Connor said, “I hope he’s got loads of animals with him.”
“I just hope they’re small,” Hugo said before laughing at the Hufflepuff’s frozen face.
“Small? I hope they’re gigantic! Like a dragon or a theastral.”
“Sorry to disappoint you but I don’t think Hagrid keeps dragons in his hut.”
“In the forest then,” Connor shrugged, “I’m not scared to go in there. Are you? Hugo?” Connor asked when Hugo stopped walking, halfway through the grounds.
“What? No, I’m not scared,” Hugo answered, shaking his head to clear his thoughts.
“You look scared,” Connor said although he started walking again.
“It’s nothing, don’t worry about it. So, what’s the biggest animal you ever saw?”
Hugo asked the question but he did not listen to the answer because he had just noticed the most amazing thing. The closer they got to the forest and the weaker the music seemed to get. Hugo’s head felt clearer and his headache lessened significantly. He wondered if it was the castle that emitted the music or if the forest was blocking it. When they reached Hagrid’s hut, Connor stopped talking, apparently done with his story, and they knocked.
“Who’s there?” Hagrid asked in a thundering voice.
“Connor Macmillan and Hugo Weasley,” Connor answered and the door opened immediately.
“What a nice surprise,” Hagrid said, “come in, come in, I was just about to make some tea. What brings ye here tonight boys?”
“You told us we could come over sometime and we thought that tonight seemed like a good enough time,” Connor explained after they sat around the table. Even though Hugo was tall for his age and a good five inches taller than Connor, he was still far from reaching the ground with his feet. Hagrid winked at Hugo, apparently aware that this visit had not been his idea and that he was simply coming along with the Hufflepuff boy.
“I’m glad ye did then,” Hagrid nodded, “ye chose a great night too, ye know? I have a brand new litter of crups that I’m sure ye’d love to see.”
“Really?” Connor asked, his eyes bright with excitement.
“Yeah really,” Hagrid laughed loudly. “Tell me though, how do yer parents like ye coming to see me?”
“They’re happy I’ve got someone to talk to about animals,” Connor shrugged, “I think they’re a bit tired of hearing me going on about it and asking them questions they don’t even have answers to.”
“My parents are glad I come to see you, Hagrid,” Hugo answered truthfully although he was careful not to mention that his parents were not informed that he would be in contact with animals. His father had warned him often enough to stay away from them.
“Excellent,” Hagrid’s eyes glinted as though he was just as happy as Connor to have someone to share his love of animals with. “Come along then, they’re just behind the pumpkin patch.”
At first, Hagrid and Connor did all the talking but before long, Hugo found himself really interested in the crups and began asking questions of his own. Hagrid showed them how to feed the puppies and explained how he had figured out their needs. By the time curfew arrived, Hugo was surprised to see how much he had enjoyed his night. Hagrid invited them to come back during the weekend, saying that the puppies would be old enough to be touched by humans and hinting that he might teach them how to manipulate the creatures by themselves. As they walked back to the castle, Connor simply couldn’t stop talking.
“I had such a great time, Hagrid really knows everything about these creatures,” Connor said when they left the hut. “Oh, and did you see their little tails? I didn’t know it only forked when they reach one year old, did you?”
“No, I didn’t know much about crups actually so, pretty much everything I heard there was unknown to me,” Hugo shook his head. “I see you aren’t too disappointed that those were very tiny creatures.”
“The big ones will come, I’m still keeping faith,” Connor laughed, “you seemed to enjoy it as well; are you going to come back?”
“I think I will,” Hugo said, honestly surprised in his answer, “I did learn a lot of stuff.”
“Plus, you want to hold them too,” Connor nudged him cheekily.
“Alright, you’ve got me,” Hugo joined the laughter. “We can go back on Thursday; would that be alright for you?”
“See I knew you’d enjoy it; and it was much more fun being two rather than being alone. Not that Hagrid isn’t nice or anything, he’s the greatest. And he’s so smart too! My dad said he was a bit hard to understand but I didn’t have any trouble, did you?”
“Errr,” Hugo simply said, not sure which question he should answer. Connor seemed to understand his trouble and shook his head.
“Sorry mate, I talk too much when I’m excited, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
“I did notice,” Hugo smiled, “it’s ok though, you’re like Lily, you guys talk for two and I’m used to that.”
“It’ll be fun to get together with her again then! Who do you think talks the most?”
“I think you might win,” Hugo said after a moment’s thought. Connor threw his fists in the air with a gleeful cry at that answer, making Hugo laugh.
“We could invite her to come along this weekend.”
“Definitely; nothing can keep me from going there. I can’t wait to tell my sisters about this; Rosalind will freak out!”
“How many sisters do you have?” Hugo questionned.
“6; only 2 are at Hogwarts though. Rosalind is a Hufflepuff; fifth year and she’s Prefect. Abigail is a Gryffindor; fourth year. I’ve also got 2 older sisters and an older brother that have already left school and finally, 2 little devils that have not arrived here yet.”
“Woah, that is a big family; even bigger then my dad’s!”
“Yeah, my parents were both only children and apparently they were jealous of the Weasleys when they went to school,” Connor explained, shaking his head in disbelief. “We’re wondering when she’ll think the house is full enough though; my bet is that they’ll have another one before deciding they’re done. My sister Abigail claims they’ll want to round it up at 10 kids. Well, this is my spot, see you in class then?”
“Yep, good night,” Hugo nodded when they reached the stairway leading to the Hufflepuff common room.
The boys separated as Connor went down to his House common room and Hugo made his way to the fifth floor in order to get to his common room. When he arrived there, he quickly scanned the room for Eliana but he didn’t see her so, assuming she chose to spend the night up in her dormitory, Hugo did the same and climbed the seven flight of stairs that lead to the first year boys’ dormitory. After taking a shower, seeing that he was still alone in the dormitory, Hugo settled down on his seat by the window to write a letter home, telling his parents about the two new kids he had met.
The rest of the week went on quietly for Hugo. Connor and him went back to see Hagrid and the crups on Thursday and he spent the rest of his nights doing homework with Eliana in the common room. Although they were both working in silence most of the time, Hugo was happy just to have someone sitting next to him. Since things didn’t change for him, magic wise, Hugo was once again invited by professor Flitwick for a chat on Friday night.
At 8 o’clock sharp, Hugo knocked at his Head of House’s office. Professor Flitwick sat behind his large oak desk, smiling broadly as Hugo walked in.
“Good evening Hugo,” the teacher said, “how are you doing tonight?”
“Alright, thanks,” Hugo nodded politely, “yourself?”
“I’m good too, thank you. I may be wrong but it seemed to me that you had a better week, is it possible?”
“I still haven’t done any magic,” Hugo mumbled, feeling himself blush in shame.
“Ah but magic isn’t everything,” professor Flitwick smiled, “after all, it was something else that made you happier this week.”
“Oh,” Hugo said, surprised by his teacher’s declaration, “you’re right, I did meet some new people this week.”
“They may very well become friends, yes,” Hugo nodded.
“And why aren’t they considered ‘friends’ yet?” What do they need to do in order to become your friends?”
“They don’t need to do anything!” Hugo exclaimed quickly.
“Then why don’t you think of them in this term?”
“Well,” Hugo answered slowly after a moment of reflection, “I always thought that friendship develops over time and what you do together. It’s when you’ve played with someone and talked with them a lot that you become friends isn’t it?”
“It’s one way to see it,” the professor nodded thoughtfully, “but if they aren’t your friends then what makes you seek them in order to play or talk with them?”
“Well, I don’t know,” Hugo frowned, “I guess it’s something you feel; I have a good time in their company so I want to do it again.”
“Some people would tell you that this is precisely their definition of friendship.” Hugo nodded, still very confused about what to think. “If we take your idea on the subject though let me ask you this, when do you think you will consider them your friends?”
“I really don’t know; I never thought about it like that.”
“Why don’t you think about it this week and then give me your answer next week?”
“Have a good week then,” professor Flitwick smiled at the confused boy.
“You as well professor.”
His head was swirling. His professor had shaken everything he believed about friendship. It had always seemed very clear to him that friendship developed through time. Hugo never understood his cousins who said they had dozens of friends when he, himself, only considered he had one real friend, Lily. Sure, he knew dozens of people but that was it, he only knew them; they weren’t his friends in his mind. As he walked by the Great Hall, still immersed in his thoughts, Hugo realised he was near the Hufflepuff common room and wondered whether Connor would want to go see Hagrid the next day. This thought stunned him deeply. What Flitwick had said was coming back to him and he realized that he was seeking Connor’s company. Did it mean Connor was his friend? Hugo suddenly thought about the other Hufflepuffs he knew, Oliver Creevey and Alana Oot. Hugo had known them for years; with Lily, they had gone to elementary school together. Yet, they had been at Hogwarts for 3 weeks now and Hugo had barely had contact with them; he had not seeked their company either and now, he realized that Connor’s company was more attractive to him even though he had only known him for a week. Was that what professor Flitwick had meant, that having a friend simply meant that you want to spend more time with them?
“Oi,” a voiced snapped him out of his thoughts. “Everything alright kid?” A large Hufflepuff prefect was standing next to him, frowning in concern.
“Yes,” Hugo stuttered, realizing he had apparently been standing still for a while in front of a dead end corridor. He wondered how long the older boy had been there, trying to catch his attention.
“Good,” the prefect nodded, “do you know that it’s past curfew; you should go back to your tower.”
“Right I will, thanks,” Hugo smiled back.
“Don’t stop on the way,” the prefect called, “others might not be as nice and they might give you detention.”
“Thanks,” Hugo answered, resuming his walk at a quicker pace, all the while staying alert in order to see or hear other prefects that might be coming his way. He did not meet anyone else until he reached the top of the tower, a bit out of breath. The bronze eagle set its superior look onto him and asked in its confident voice:
“What comes one in a minute, twice in a moment but not once in thousand years?” Hugo felt the now usual rush of stress upon hearing the enigma. Although by now, he felt a bit more confident in his ability to answer, the fear of being locked out of the tower, should he not find the answer, was still very present.
“It’s not time related,” Hugo muttered to himself, trying to picture the enigma. A large smile crept on his face when he asked, “could it be the letter ‘M’?”
“Very nice young mister Weasley,” the eagle bent its beautiful head as the door opened, “good night.”
“Thank you and a good night to you too,” he said, walking inside the crowded common room. Hugo was still very much overwhelmed by his meeting with his Head of house and he made his way toward his dorm without looking around himself but a small, sweet voice reached him when he walked thought the room. Looking around, he saw Eliana sitting alone at a small table near the stairs. He smiled at her, feeling suddenly like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
“Hi, where have you been?” She asked him with a large smile when he joined her.
“Erm,” Hugo hesitated. He felt ashamed to admit he had meetings with their Head of house. If he told her where he had spent the last half hour, he would also have to admit that he was being watched; admit that he was having serious problems.
“You don’t have to tell me,” Eliana said suddenly, sensing his discomfort, “I was just curious but I can live with not knowing.”
“No it’s alright,” Hugo shook his head, making up his mind. He could tell her the truth because there was no way Eliana had not noticed his troubles anyway. “I was with professor Flitwick; he asked that we meet for a couple of weeks.”
“I see; is it because of what we talked about the other day?”
“Yeah,” Hugo blushed, refusing to meet her eyes, “the teachers have noticed as well that I haven’t done any magic yet. Professor Flitwick is also saying that I don’t look very happy.”
“I wonder why you should,” Eliana laughed, making Hugo frown. “I mean, you have been Sorted away from your family, your dorm mates are being rude to you; you’re so preoccupied with everything else happening in your life that you haven’t done any magic and that also preoccupies you. It’s not mystery that you aren’t skipping about and laughing your head off.”
“That’s true,” Hugo breathed in relief, once again surprised of how observant this girl was, “but things have been a bit easier this past week, since I’ve met Connor and you last weekend. I feel a lot less stressed when I’m with you guys.”
“That’s a nice thing to say,” the girl blushed, evidently happy that Hugo seemed to appreciate her company. “I really like hanging with you. I like Connor as well but I always feel, I don’t know, sort of out of breath when I’m with him.”
“He does take the breath out of the world,” Hugo laughed, “I feel comfortable with him though, he reminds me of Lily in that sense.”
“So, are you guys going to go back to see Hagrid again?”
“In a couple of days,” Hugo nodded, “he invited us to come as often as we like. Connor wanted to spend the night there, obviously.”
“Isn’t he worried he won’t have time to do his homework?”
“I don’t think it really matters to him. I’ve got a feeling Connor came to Hogwarts solely to meet Hagrid and his creatures.”
“Of course, that makes perfect sense,” Eliana laughed, “tell me, what do wizards do to pass the time?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, the...err... muggles usually spend their free time playing videogames or going on the Internet, computers, watch tv or simply listening to music. I know their objects don’t work here so, how do you spend your free time? Do you have special apparels that allow you to do the same as us?”
“Well,” Hugo frowned, “you’re right we don’t have these things exactly because they don’t work around magic. We have all sorts of games though. Gobstones, card games, chess.”
“Aside from the first one, something stone, we have these games.”
“Oh I doubt it,” Hugo smirked, “have you ever played wizard’s chess?”
“How much different is it?”
“Do you want to play right now?” Hugo asked, excited at the idea of playing his favorite game. “Wait here, I’ll go get my board.”
Hugo ran up to the seventh floor of the tower and, although quite out of breath, he hastily searched through his trunk for his chessboard and chessmen. He hadn’t realized how much he had missed playing chess since he had come to school. At home, he played almost every day with his father; loosing night after night but still fighting and learning. Nobody could win against Ronald Weasley and most people – including Hugo’s mum – simply refused to play with him. Losing to his father didn’t bother Hugo at all; Ronald was a great teacher and Hugo felt himself progressing with each game. He expected to be able to beat his father before turning 16; that was his goal anyway.
“Here,” Hugo breathed heavily as he sat back at the table, softly putting down the box holding his chess pieces.
“Looks pretty normal to – woah,” Eliana exclaimed when Hugo opened the box and the chessmen made their way, on their own, on the chessboard.
“You were saying?” Hugo asked cheekily.
“Alright,” Eliana tore her eyes away from the correctly positioned board, “I’ll admit that I’m pretty sure this is different from regular chess.”
“You say you’re pretty sure,” Hugo frowned, “have you ever played chess before?”
“No sorry, but I can learn!”
“Alright, we’ll start with the basis then,” Hugo smiled back at her.
Write a Review Alienation Beyond Measure: Creatures and friendship