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“Hey Harriet, do you think we could study in the library today? The dungeon’s dankness is just...getting to me I suppose. It’s gloomy isn’t it? It’s not just me?” he joked, eyes twinkling.
I noticed his use of my proper name...I didn’t dislike it, just no one called me by it... it was always Hattie. I think my cousins had used it when I was about five or something, and it had just stuck. But I supposed I always called Albus ‘Albus’ despite his preference for Al...He’d never objected, the same way as I wasn’t about to. I supposed Harriet sounded kind of nice...different.
“I quite agree, and I for one am sick of looking at that pickled rat in a jar.”, I replied, pulling a face. Apparently Albus found my revulsion amusing. I only saw him for tutoring sessions and across the Great Hall, but things between us had relaxed. He was actually so easy to be friends with, it was almost surprising.
“So did you want to just go now? I know I just kind of randomly pulled you up in the corridor, but I have all my books and stuff...”He gestured to his bulging satchel slung across him. I could see the spines of at least six books...maybe he was bookish after all, despite spending so much time in detention.
“Yeah sure, I’m free and friendless this evening, so let’s go.” I turned on my heel and began walking towards the library, Albus falling in step beside me.
By friendless I meant that Roxy and the Scamanders had all left me for dates, even though it was a school night. Lily and Lorcan were probably snuggled up in some corner of the castle together, giving each other cute but mildly sickening looks of affection, between gentle kisses. They were an adorable couple, albeit prone to public displays of affection and living in a Lory bubble. Roxy, on the other hand, was sneaking out to Hogsmeade, with none other than Lysander Scamander. I had not seen that one coming – much to my shame.
“Lily’s out gallivanting with that Lorcan kid again isn’t she?” Albus said tersely, breaking my train of thought before I could keep scolding myself for being unobservant and oblivious. “I don’t understand her...he’s just so... weird!” He exclaimed, shaking his head slightly and running his hands through his already messy black hair.
“Lorcan is a wonderfully weird person, and Lily would’ve known that when she said yes, don’t presume her so ignorant. She probably liked the idea of someone who cared not one jot whether or not she was famous.”I said sharply; followed by an awkward pause, where my words seemed to ring in the air, complete with the rhythmic backdrop of out footsteps as we continued to make our way down the corridor.
“Sorry I shouldn’t have said that...” My voice petered off, as I waited to see what type of reaction I would receive from the bright-eyed boy walking along beside me. An easy friendship made difficult by my big mouth...
“No, don’t be, I prefer honesty. Like Lily I suppose.” Albus’s voice was calm, almost happy, and he gave me a nice smile as he held the library door open for me. It made me happy, and I relaxed, letting go of a breath I hadn’t realised I’d been holding in.
Breakfast the next day was a memorable and rather unpleasant affair.
I woke fairly early, as I always did on schooldays, to avoid the rush and crazy clamour of all five dormitory girls fighting over the bathroom at once. I showered and dressed, and fixed my hair in a reasonably attractive manner – all before any of the other girls had even stirred. I lingered in front of the mirror, pondering my appearance. My slightly wavy brown hair that sat just below my shoulders, my cheeks that were always tinged with pink, and the only feature of my face I really liked: my blue eyes framed by naturally long eyelashes. I wondered if I should bother with make-up, something I wondered about every morning.
But, as per usual, I decided that I was too uninspired to worry about how to apply this and that, and if people didn’t like the way I looked, they could just deal with it. I didn’t think myself beautiful, but I wasn’t ugly either; I was comfortably mediocre, and barely noticed anyway. I sat in the common room waiting for the Scamanders to appear to go down to the Great Hall. I read my book quietly on the blue velvet sofa, as the room became steadily busier and busier, people emerging from their dormitories most often with zombie-like stances and yawning loudly.
The Scamanders were two such yawning zombies, but they each gave me serene smiles nonetheless. Neither was willing to divulge much information about their nights before as they sleepily walked downstairs with me, but I figured that after they each tucked into their morning eggs they’d both spill – that was if Roxy didn’t get to me first. But as we walked into the Great Hall, which was by then packed full of people, it wasn’t Roxy who leapt upon me. Rather the eyes of nearly every single person leapt from their food or the people around them and focused on me.
I stood in the doorway, and felt my face flush from the unwanted attention. This couldn’t be good. The Scamanders looked from the staring hall to me, concern seeming to have woken both of them from their morning stupor. But they were similarly nonplussed, similarly confused and without answers. Then, before I could move or say a word to ask what was going on, a Slytherin girl stood up on her bench and waved her copy of the Daily Prophet in my direction, her sleek blonde hair staying strangely unmoving despite the flapping motion of her arms.
“Look everyone, it’s her
!” she sneered, loudly so that it carried across the room, her dark brown eyes slits as they glared at me over the top of people heads. If anyone wasn’t already looking at me, they were now. “Potter’s new tutor! But she’s not teaching him how to study -“ But then she screamed, the newspaper clutched in her perfectly manicured hands suddenly aflame. The heat caused her to fling the flaming paper blindly down to the table below, making others scream as parts of their breakfast also caught alight. Gasps filled the room.
“You weren’t hot before but you are now, bitch!” shouted a voice, causing everyone in the hall to finally shift their gaze from me too...Albus. His green eyes were flashing behind his glasses, as he stood, wand still outstretched, and shot the Slytherin girl most menacing glare I had ever seen. People were beginning to laugh softly, as the Slytherin girl noticed part of her ponytail had been on fire and was now singed, and began screaming expletives at Albus, who was still looking furious.
“Albus Potter! The nerve! Detention! For a month!” McGonagall cried shrilly over the commotion, standing from her headmistress’s seat and matching Albus’s furious expression.
“Yes, whatever, see you later Minnie!” Albus yelled angrily across the hall, walking quickly up to me, grabbing me by the arm, before marching out of the door, fuming and pulling me alongside him. In silent shock, I let him drag me along, his hold surprisingly gentle. I could still hear muttering of the Great Hall...the girl...But she’s not teaching him how to study
...The accusation made my insides squirm, and I was on the brink of tears by the time Albus brought us to a halt, tickled the pear and led me into the school’s kitchens.
Albus let go of my forearm, giving me the briefest of strokes before kneeling down to greet the nearest house elf, who had appeared instantly due to our presence.
“Bliffy, could you please get Harriet some breakfast? I’m thinking pancakes, berries, cream, tea.” His voice was no longer full of fury, but was calm, pleasant, sweet. And there I stood, emotion-riddled, arms hugging myself as I watched him order me breakfast through slightly blurred vision from tears that I wouldn’t let completely fall. Gods, this boy was a miracle...
“Certainly Mr Potter!” the elf squeaked, rushing off and soon disappearing amongst the sea of tiny little bodies, all busily preparing breakfast for the hall above.
Albus rose to his feet, and motioned for me to sit. I obeyed, and less than a minute later a pile of pancakes was in front of me, decorated with liberal amounts of berries and cream, and sitting beside a steaming mug of tea.
“You need to eat Harriet.” Albus said simply, giving me a small smile as he took the seat opposite me. I picked up a fork and began to pick at the food. I took a tiny mouthful, it was delicious. So delicious it had me wondering if they always kept the best stuff down here for special guests...special guests, special needs...same thing...
I took a few more bites, before I had to ask the question sitting on my tongue. “How are you so calm now?”
Albus shrugged. “Just am.” He looked down at my plate, which was still nearly full. “Eat.” He said forcefully, pointing. “But I’m not hungry.. ”I replied weakly, resting the fork on the plate. “It’s lovely but...my stomach is...”
“Writhing because you’re thinking about all those horrible rumours the school will be reading and talking about right now?” Albus said blankly, staring into my face, his eyes brimming with concern.
“I’m sorry.” He apologised. “Rumours follow me...I should never have let you tutor me, we need never have a session again, it’s ok. I’ll find a way to pass Potions somehow.” His voice was sad, but his expression gave very little away.
“Wait! No!” My voice was slightly strangled as I tried to sound defiant despite still being a little choked up. “We can’t let them win! You need to learn, so you will. I don’t care what they think. I never have.”
“That’s why you’re down here with me on the verge of tears?” Albus asked quietly, sounding slightly sceptical and sorry simultaneously.
“Well...I’ve never had to deal with this kind of thing before. I’m practically invisible. It took me by surprise. But I don’t want to stop the sessions. You need them, and... we can’t let them win.” This time thought I managed to sound calm, controlled and importantly, sane.
After a pause in which he studied my face, Albus gave in. “If you’re sure.”
“I am.” I stated, my voice now strong and the tears gone.
“Ok then. But we’ll go back to the dungeons...That dumb bitch took a photo of us in the library. An innocent photo...but you know how they twist these things. Or at least you do now.” He grimaced apologetically. “ And I think it’s best if we avoid each other times, if they’re going to make rumours after just seeing us together.”
“We don’t need to hide...”I started, desperate, not wanting to have to act indifferent for the sake of others. But then, the cruel reality struck me. We did need to hide, they would make stories out of nothing, and as strong as I would like myself to be, I wouldn’t be able to withstand more rumours. Not truly. I would try, but I would fail because at the end of the day, I only knew how to be invisible.
“We do, and you know it. Starting now, unfortunately. I have to get to Herbology, not all of us have frees on Tuesday mornings!” He said, sticking his tongue out playfully as he stood up.
I smiled softly at his attempt to cheer me up. There, standing before me, black hair sticking every which way, greens eyes twinkling, hands in his pockets, and his slightly lanky figure towering over the house elves all around. How could I have ever thought him unkind...it was all a facade..
“But I look forward to our sessions Harriet, we can say hello to your friend Mr Pickled Rat again, I know how you love him.” Albus smirked, before giving a slight wave, saying goodbye to the house elves (to their squealing delight), and leaving alone with me pancakes and tea.
I thought I loved somebody, but it wasn’t Mr Pickled Rat.
The rest of the day was terrible. Even with Roxy by my side and attacking as many people as she could for talking about me, their words still got to me. Even remembering that Albbus had practically been my knight in shining armour, their words still got to me.
Roxy was helpfully angry, ever the loyal best friend, and preventing me from landing myself multiple detentions from unleashing my trustworthy Stinging Hex. She now had a long list of new people to prank, a list that, for once, did not include a single one of her family members.
Unfortunately though, she was not around five minutes before Ancient Runes, the only class we didn't have together. Consequently, a Slytherin girl did get rather badly...well, stung. And I got a detention, fabulous.
After that, I kept my head down and focused on my schoolwork, creating a studious bubble that separated me from the world. Too bad it wasn’t completely impermeable to gossip.
I skipped my other meals, avoiding the Great Hall and preferring to befriend the house elves. I went to bed early, hurt that so many Ravenclaws in the Common Room cared what a stupid newspaper said about me. Too long being invisible I thought to myself, too long being completely innocent.
But what met me as I pulled by the sapphire curtains around my four poster made me so happy, I went to bed smiling, despite the day I had just experienced.
A beautiful posy of wildflowers was nestled on my pillow; bluebells, lavender, heather and snowdrops tied together by a thin purple ribbon. And an anonymous note; slender black handwriting on a small rectangular piece of parchment.
“Tomorrow will be better, I promise. P.S You’ve never been invisible to me.”
A/N: It's been a long time between updates and for anyone who got annoyed, I'm sorry! Holidays and hecticness. But I hope you enjoyed this new addition, I liked writing it, it's a bit cute. I also changed the chapter names...because I could haha! Please read a review!! It would mean the world to me if you did :)