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By: jenniiiiii
Beta read by: Jessi_Rose and arithmancy_wiz
Chapter Graphic: Elena78
Title: By the Wayside
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: I wouldn't have been half so happy with this fic without the help of Jessi_rose and arithmancy_wiz for beta reading and the amazing chapter graphic is solely the creation of Elena78. I've had a wonderful time with this project and whilst I'm glad it's all done at last, I'm really going to miss the wonderful atmosphere of it all. I hope the staff enjoy every bit of their present! Happy reading!


Terry Boot sometimes felt like a background character in the story of someone else’s life; the sort of character who gets mentioned once or twice but never has an integral role in the main plot. In one word, he was forgettable. Unimportant.

He wasn’t noisy in classes; he didn’t talk back to the teachers or break any rules. He wasn’t a joker, like the Weasley twins, or even ridiculously smart like Hermione Granger. He was simply a stereotypical Ravenclaw – not that there was anything wrong with that - and merely sat at his desk taking his notes studiously. The only time Terry Boot had ever done anything against the school rules was in his fifth year, when he had joined Harry Potter’s little rebel group. Of course, there had been extenuating circumstances then. He hadn’t really seen Umbridge as a teacher; therefore he hadn’t felt obliged to obey any rules she set down.

Despite Terry’s usual tendency to follow rules, he wasn’t as strait-laced as he always acted. Joining the DA had partly been a way to finally break the rules. He had been sceptical of Harry’s claims at first, but the Defence classes had seemed a good idea anyway. And eventually, getting to know Harry and his friends had changed his perspective somewhat. Terry had become a believer of the Boy-Who-Lived and was staunchly loyal to him even now, when they had barely spoken for a year. Terry analysed the facts, and the facts said Harry was a good person.

Michael Corner had dragged Terry and the other Ravenclaws along to the very first DA meeting, although it wasn’t the DA back then. Terry had thought of it more as a way to purge the anger and resentment towards Umbridge rather than an actual plan to undermine her. He’d only gone because Michael hauled him there, and Michael had only gone because he was going out with Ginny Weasley. He’d always been slightly bitter about that. Ginny Weasley had been his dream, the sort of crush that you nurture fondly but know nothing will ever come of, because she was a Gryffindor and attractive, and Terry was a studious Ravenclaw that no one ever noticed. Michael was more noticeable than him. Michael had gotten the girl.

The first DA meeting had been interesting, to say the least. The slight twinge he had felt when Ginny Weasley had smiled and greeted him was soon pushed to the back of his mind. It wasn’t Michael’s fault that he had taken the girl Terry had so often thought about. It wasn’t like Terry really wanted her; he didn’t know her very well and he probably wouldn’t be firm friends with her even if he did. But it still felt like a betrayal in his subconscious mind, of a kind that he was used to. So it wasn’t that difficult to forget her – although he couldn’t help but notice the approving look Michael gave Cho – and concentrate on what Harry Potter was telling them. Or not telling them, as the case may be. The words people actually spoke weren’t half as telling as the ones they didn’t.

His conclusion after that first meeting? Harry Potter knew what he was talking about and he could learn from him. Terry resolved to go back to the meetings. But the thing with Ravenclaws is they are constantly competing with each other and everyone else, and Defence was not Terry’s best subject. He was a typical Ravenclaw, more of a book learner than a practical learner, and very detailed with theory work. So when it came to Defence, he wasn’t that talented. He knew all the spells and the theories behind them perfectly, but he didn’t have the raw magic to execute the more complicated ones without a lot of practice, and he didn’t have quick reflexes. So the meetings were something of a trial for him at first.

He didn’t stand out as any worse than the others, and definitely not worse than Neville Longbottom, the good hearted but bumbling Gryffindor boy. But to Terry, this knowledge brought little comfort. He didn’t require special help because he was keeping up fine, but he didn’t merit being singled out for praise. He was unnoticeable once again. A lot of his fellow Ravenclaws liked it this way; they were free to learn and practice in peace, without anyone trying to help or interfere. Michael Corner was happy as long as Ginny Weasley noticed him, and Cho was happy as long as Harry Potter noticed her, although she was very subtle about it at first. Terry, however, only saw this as further proof he was unimportant and unremarkable.

He didn’t mind not being the best; Terry wasn’t like that. But he wanted to feel noticed. He slowly came to respect Harry, as he realised the boy had done everything people said he had. Well, not the bad stuff. Harry wasn’t the Heir of Slytherin and he wasn’t crazy or an attention seeker. But he was very good at Defence. He had more knowledge than Terry had expected from a Gryffindor like him. Meaning, of course, that he wasn’t particularly motivated to do all his work on time. He suspected Hermione Granger had a lot to do with Harry’s extraordinary store of hexes, curses, jinxes and counter-jinxes. Not to mention with his success in the Triwizard Tournament.

But more important than knowledge – Terry had plenty of that - Harry was quick thinking, he was inventive with his spells, and he had very honed reactions, the reason he was so good at Quidditch. Maybe if Terry learnt from him for long enough, he’d pick up some hints. It looked like being able to duel would be important in the future.

And slowly, very slowly, the work with the DA began to pay off. But things got worse before they got better. Neville Longbottom started improving rapidly, surpassing nearly everyone in the group. Except of course for Hermione Granger, but that went without saying. Not all Ravenclaws were work obsessed, but Terry was mostly a stereotypical Ravenclaw. He didn’t mind doing work, but the reason he did it well, and thoroughly, was because he liked being one of the ‘smart’ students. He liked being near the top of his class, and he liked having knowledge to do spells others couldn’t. But now even Neville was outstripping him.

So Terry worked even harder, and eventually, he began to improve. It wasn’t particularly obvious to him at first, but his improvement manifested itself here and there, like when he managed to repel a curse from Michael for the first time, or when three of his hexes found their mark even when he shot them off whilst dodging someone else’s. He barely even realised that he was quicker than he used to be, and his reactions were better than they had ever been. When Harry Potter stopped to watch a particularly successful duel of his with Michael, instead of giving Terry advice like usual, he simply said, “Great work, Terry. Michael, you need to hold your wand a little differently when you block; it’s making your shield weaker.” Terry gaped a little, and then regained his composure. He had finally been singled out for praise. Terry smiled. Maybe he wasn’t simply a background character after all.

As if life was determined to prove that he was important, Michael was seen later that same day arguing with Ginny Weasley, and Terry found he didn’t even care. He’d gotten to know the little Hufflepuff called Hannah Abbott quite well during DA meetings, and she’d agreed to go to Hogsmeade with him on Valentine’s Day. She didn’t have the Weasley girl’s flair and outgoing personality, but that was okay. Ginny Weasley wasn’t really the sort of girl he wanted anyway. He was far more comfortable with Hannah, and she accepted him for the Ravenclaw he was. He suspected Ginny wouldn’t be quite so accommodating of his studying habits.

And if Hannah and he never became serious, he knew he had a friend in her. Neither of them were the type to take offence over the usual boyfriend/girlfriend things, and their relationship was steady rather than passionate. So if they didn’t work out, he would be okay with that. Now that he possibly had one, he didn’t really think he needed a girlfriend.

The year passed quickly, and all too soon the exams were over, signalling a return back home. To his surprise, he had found the Defence Against the Dark Arts practical exam really easy, and the theory even simpler. But he was dreading the return home. He had wizarding parents, but that was the problem. His elder brother was also magical and was currently making a name for himself somewhere in America, doing something that earned him lots of Galleons and a large house. When he returned home, Terry knew he would be back to the sidelines, overshadowed by his brother and his accomplishments. Terry didn’t bring any money to the family. Terry wasn’t a genius. Terry wasn’t special in the slightest.

But before the term ended, something happened that completely changed things. Harry Potter and five of his friends – including the Longbottom boy and his fellow Ravenclaw, Luna, of all people – fought Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries, and now He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s return was proven. Almost overnight, the whole wizarding world changed. Leaflets with safety rules were given out. Old stories of Death Eater victims were dragged up. More and more frequently, teachers and students were seen whispering in corners.

All the while, Harry Potter, the one who had proven his return, the one who had fought him and lived, was sitting at his meals and lessons with a blank look on his face. And for some reason, that upset Terry more than any of the other strange things going on. Somewhere along the way, he had learned to see Harry as more than a teacher and a hero. He was a friend.

Terry had believed Harry was telling the truth for months now, but he had never really stopped to let himself think what that meant for his family and the rest of the wizarding world. But now, thinking about Harry and what he must have gone through, Terry couldn’t even work up the courage to go and tell Harry how grateful he was for everything he had done. He couldn’t face that blank look that even Ron and Hermione couldn’t seem to lift. He was a coward. But, Terry mused moodily, that was why he wasn’t a Gryffindor. But Harry didn’t need him anyway. Harry would always carry on; he was a hero! But it didn’t quite ring true. Terry knew that heroes were still human, and every human needs somebody, however much they say they don’t.

When he was on the train home, he was very quiet. It had been a good year for him, despite all that had happened at the end, and he didn’t want to go back to being the old Terry Boot. But he couldn’t help but feel slightly happier than before about going home. His parents would find it really impressive that he was friends with the Boy-Who-Lived, and was in fact taught by him. Hopefully he’d receive a good grade in Defence Against the Dark Arts, which would pacify them further. But feeling like that just made him feel guilty as well. How could he be pleased about the blank look that constantly adorned Harry’s face now?

He’d heard a disturbance outside, and was fairly certain he had seen a flash of white-blonde hair pass in front of the door. He’d also heard the sneering voice of Draco Malfoy. Terry exchanged looks with the other occupants of his compartment, and they stood up as one. Terry didn’t wait to hear what Malfoy was saying to Harry, lifting his wand as soon as he saw the fury in Harry’s eyes. Several voices sounded at once, and Malfoy and his cronies were thrown back as a multitude of hexes hit them simultaneously. Terry craned his neck to see what the combined curses had done, and winced, wishing he hadn’t. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

When he looked up, Harry was staring at them all. His face no longer looked so expressionless. He looked slightly surprised, but somehow Terry knew he was grateful and touched by the show of support. He gave the dark haired boy a small smile, just an upturn of his lips. It was more than just a smile for Terry; it was a way of telling Harry that he was also grateful for the support the DA had given him all year, and for all that the Gryffindor had done for him. Whether Harry understood or not, Terry suddenly felt much happier.

Whatever happened during the summer, whatever happened next year, Terry would be prepared. And this time, he would not be by the wayside, watching as the rest of the world went by.

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