Just a glimpse would be enough to set his mind at ease. A head of thick brown hair, light brown eyes, any of the features belonging to Hermione Granger would calm Harry down as he stood on the Hogwarts Express, gazing out of the window. His eyes went from the crowds to the platform gate to the clock as it ticked closer to eleven. Standing with feet apart and fingers twitching, Harry considering searching the train because, knowing Hermione, she would have been at the platform early in order to make sure she definitely got to Hogwarts.
The idea of being magical was ludicrous to Harry, unthinkable. Some moments, he would just grasp his wand or look at Hedwig to remind himself of what had happened in the Hut On The Rock and of Diagon Alley. Even when Hagrid told him of his heritage, he was not thoroughly convinced, but Hermione’s heads-up paved a route of belief in his heart, and so he took in every word Hagrid said, including the details about his parents …
It made Harry sick to his stomach to think that one man, one being could be so evil to spread his tyranny, to target his young parents and himself, as a baby, as if they were threats. Harry missed them dearly, although he did not know them; yet even he knew that everyone had to die and he was eleven years old. Sure, he preferred not to think about death usually, but ever since he found out how and why his parents died, death was all that he could think about. He couldn’t even get excited about the fact that he was a wizard and was going off to a school on the other side of the country. This He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, this Voldemort did not necessarily scare him; Harry hated him, pitied him, wished death upon him but did not fear him. Besides, Harry had only seen him when he was an infant and because he could not remember that, he hoped that he never would have to again.
Ahead of him, the remaining students piled onto the train and a few minutes later, the clock struck eleven. Feeling the ground beneath him tremble, Harry turned away from the window, away from the waving parents and families and off to sit in the empty compartment behind him that he had been keeping an eye on.
He sat quietly, wondering how many others knew about his past. If the information was freely available in a history book, it must be all over the school that he would be attending this year. Silently, Harry hoped that they didn’t expect anything from him. He was raised by the Dursleys, wasn’t he? And they were the most anti-magical family there was …
Harry pulled his legs up to his chest, his dirty shoes on the edge of the chair and placed his head on those tired aching knees, hoping to relieve some pressure from his pounding headache.
Suddenly, the door beside him opened. His feet fell to the ground with a thud as some skinny freckled ginger boy asked if he could join him.
Sweets spread around them, Harry’s gaze followed the small chocolate frog as it attempted to escape the two eleven year old boys. After Ron had clued him in on Hogwarts, he was trying to figure out how much money he had spent on all of these treats. Yes, he had piles of gold in Gringotts but growing up poor made him extremely cautious with what, if any, money he spent.
“What’s up?” Ron asked him cautiously. He had only known Harry Potter for ten minutes, told him his whole life story and already thought that he was getting tired of him.
“Nothing, Ron,” Harry muttered. “Bit full,” he lied, holding his stomach. Unable to figure out exactly how many Sickles there were to a Galleon, Harry gave up and sat back, afraid to ask his new friend in case he looked stupid.
Ron shrugged and checked the packaging on a pack of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans. “Ewww,” he muttered. “It says here it could be anything from pumpkin pasty to bodily fluids, some not even human! Never read that before …”
Harry laughed as Ron’s turned pale and pulled a face. “Have another one. You’ve already started now.”
“Yeah and the first one was cherry pie. Don’t want to take any more chances. Always approach Bertie Bott’s Beans with caution. I told you about the dodgy flavours I’ve had in the past.”
“Well, what’s the point?” Harry asked, smiling.
“You have one, then.”
Ron held the box out to Harry and he put his hand in, randomly picking out a red jelly bean. Popping in straight into his mouth, he chewed, albeit gagging slightly on the bitter taste.
“Well?” Ron asked.
“Chilli,” Harry said smiling, despite his eyes beginning to water uncontrollably. Ron laughed at him and moved onto eating a half-finished chocolate bar.
Occasionally, Harry saw Ron’s eyes travel up to his scar, but this he expected. Apparently, Harry was a wonder among wizarding kind, a miracle child. He didn’t care much that Ron looked, especially because he genuinely wanted to be his friend, telling Harry all about his home in Devon, about his five brothers and sister, parents and however many other family members he had. Harry was extremely envious of him, but never said so because it was blatant enough when he made a sad face after Ron told him about his last birthday party.
“Muggles are odd, aren’t they?” Ron said absently.
“What - oh right, muggles …” Harry almost forgot what he meant. “Well, not to me …”
“You’re going to have to do a lot of adjusting at Hogwarts,” Ron said. “There aren’t many people from muggle backgrounds there I don’t think. Some halfbloods. But I’ll help you out.”
“Thanks.” Harry wiped his watering eyes and his mind floated away just for a moment as he stared at the ground. “There was this girl,” he started quietly.
“Oh, here we go …” Ron leaned forward and began to grin.
“We’re not even in our teens yet and already you’re talking about girls! Fred did say that at Hogwarts things are different. I’ve never seen so many girls before I got to the platform. They were everywhere! What was it he said? Enchanting, that was the word. Listen, Harry you’re going to have to control yourself because, honestly, I can’t handle -”
“No, it’s not that.” Harry had been frowning at him as he muttered the words to him torn between humour and confusion. He had been thinking about Hermione and thought Ron deserved to know about his life seeing as he had told him practically everything about his.
“Oh,” Ron said, blushing.
Harry sat back on the chair and looked out of the window as they passed a remote village of small cottages and houses.
“I had this friend at home in Surrey. I’ve known her for about a year. We met at the dentist.” Ron frowned at him. “Never mind. I’ll explain later. Anyway, her parents aren’t magical but she sort of told me that she was coming here too.”
“Have you seen her?” he asked. Harry shook his head. “Well, if anything, we’ll see at the Sorting if she’s here. Oh God, I hope I’m not in Slytherin. Even Ravenclaw wouldn’t be bad and that House is full of -”
Harry had been looking at his Albus Dumbledore chocolate frog card when the door to the compartment slid open. Somewhere in the process of reading about his famous battle with Grindelwald in 1945 and looking up, Harry smelt something familiar. It smelt like something that reminded him of the dentists and that was when he realised that there was a possibility that his favourite person was standing in the doorway.
And she was.
“You’re here!” Harry stood up. “Hermione, I thought that … you …” The words seemed to disappear from his lips as he stared at her frowning face and crossed arms. Hermione was standing in her school robes, looking livid, eyes glaring right at him, lips pressed firmly together.
“Erm, why do you look -?” Harry began.
“Shall I leave you two alone?” Ron said with a slight grin on his face.
“No, that’s fine,” Hermione said, holding her hand out to Ron as if he was about to stand.
“What’s wrong with you?” Harry finally asked.
“What’s wrong with me?” she asked, sliding the door shut behind her with unnecessary force. “You disappeared on me, Harry.” Her face did not change but her eyes softened. “I called you and called you and I got no reply. I knew your aunt and uncle must have stopped you, but I at least thought that they would have had the heart to let you pick up the phone on your birthday …”
“I don’t know why you would have thought that,” Harry muttered.
Ron stifled a laugh; despite not knowing what a phone was, he generally grasped the emotionless nature of Harry’s family. Hermione glared at Ron, probably wondering who on earth he was.
Turning back to Harry, she continued and her voice got higher and more desperate. “So then I got really worried. My dad noticed and he asked my mum to take me to your house. He was absolutely appalled at your aunt and uncle’s behaviour, by the way, even threatened to go and get you and let you stay at my house until we went to Hogwarts.” Harry raised his eyebrows. “Anyway, my mum took me to Privet Drive just to check up on you but there was nothing. The car was gone so we assumed you were out but a neighbour of yours was tending to her roses and told us that you had all packed up and left in a hurry a week or so before and I was upset, Harry …”
He shrugged, looking at the ground, embarrassed that Ron had to hear this.
“It’s fine, they didn’t kidnap me or anything.”
“That is exactly what I thought! I was going out of my mind and I -” Hermione stopped speaking, looking to her right at the ginger boy listening intently to their conversation. Instead of expressing how relieved she was that Harry was alright, she forced a smile and sat down. Harry did so also, glad that she wasn’t angry any more.
“Hello,” she said politely. “I’m Hermione Granger.”
“Ron Weasley,” Ron replied. He held out the box of beans and shook it enticingly. “Want one?”
“No thanks,” she replied. Her gaze steadily went to Harry’s, silently demanding for them to go to a place where they could talk but Harry shrugged and motioned to Ron, gently declining to step into the corridor to chat. He could tell that she was disappointed but decided to talk to her later about it instead.
Sat at the Gryffindor table with her eyes closed and fingers crossed, Hermione imagined the Sorting Hat calling out “GRYFFINDOR!” until it eventually did and Harry sat at her side. She shuffled over excitedly as he smiled, shaking hands with nearly everyone on their table while Ron’s twin brothers shouted about ‘getting Potter’ to students of the other Houses.
“That took a while,” she said to him, grinning ear to ear. She would have quite possibly died - or otherwise would have been sorely disappointed - if he was put in another House because he was the only guaranteed friend she would have.
Harry shrugged as he continued to shake people’s hands and say thank you to their congratulations, many of whom were not even in his House and had travelled over from the other tables.
Taken aback by his vague reply, Hermione whispered, “Would you listen to me if I tried to shake your hand?”
Hearing her clearly, Harry said, “What?”
Hermione shrugged with a look on her face that told him it would have served him better to reply to her first invitation of speech. But that wasn’t the point. He would rather not talk about that fact that he might be evil in the middle of the Great Hall if that suited her.
Trying hard not to roll his eyes at her irreverent need to know everything, Harry instead took his arm from the strangers’ and focused on filling his stomach with the many and varied foods presented by Professor Dumbledore on the table.
That night in Gryffindor Tower, after getting to know Neville, Seamus and Dean, Harry and Ron sat in their new dormitory while the others were in the common room, marvelling about the entire castle, ecstatic that they had actually made it.
“This time last year, I would never have imagined that I would be here,” Harry said smiling while bouncing slightly on his four poster bed and glancing at the stone walls, floors and large windows.
“Yeah, well I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I knew what ‘Hogwarts’ meant,” Ron said. “I dunno if I’ll be any good at it though.”
“Being a student here,” Ron admitted. “There’s a tad bit of pressure growing up in the shadow of my brothers. Star Quidditch players, Prefects, Head Boy and great grades, remember?”
“Who cares if you’re rubbish?” Harry said comfortingly. “Not me. Besides, I need someone else in the club.”
Ron chuckled and threw himself on his bed after pulling on his pyjamas. Hedwig chirped in the corner of the room and Harry stared at her silently.
“Your friend Hermione seems nice,” Ron said, vague.
“Yeah,” Harry said.
Ron paused as he watched Scabbers fall off his trunk at the foot of his bed. “Big hair.”
They both started laughing, swiftly moving onto what subjects they would be taught, talking all the way until three in the morning with their roommates, until each of them drifted off to sleep one by one.
In all honesty, Harry did not imagine that he would be late to his first ever lesson, but it happened anyway. They ended up telling Professor McGonagall that they got lost, finding it would be wiser than admitting that they had overslept and could not get into the bathrooms after groups of sixth years with free periods were hogging them.
Generally, all subjects were rather enjoyable considering Harry was a novice, not one teacher caring about his lack of ability or knowledge. Every subject except Potions.
Thankful that his first day was over, Harry joined Ron, Neville, Dean and Seamus at the Gryffindor Table for dinner, tucking into some roast lamb immediately.
“Oh, Harry,” Dean said, “a girl was looking for you.”
He looked up from his plate and Neville and Seamus looked over inquisitively.
“Let me guess,” Ron said, closing his eyes, pressing two fingers of each hand to his temple as though he possessed the Sight. “Big teeth, big hair, goes by the name of Granger?”
The boys laughed.
“I don’t know her name but the rest was pretty accurate,” Dean said. “She was quite irritated with the fact that you hadn’t come to dinner yet and went upstairs.”
Harry sighed. “She’s always a little on edge.”
“A little?” Seamus said. “Parvati Patil told me she had already spent the night in the library. If that’s not on edge, I don’t know what is.”
The four boys opposite Harry looked at him as if demanding an explanation for such outrageous behaviour.
“Look, don’t ask me,” he replied. “I’ll talk to her later.”
“I dunno, it seemed urgent,” Dean said smiling as the puddings and desserts appeared.
“She probably wants to test me on everything we learnt today,” he joked without thinking. Despite how poor he thought it sounded, his roommates laughed and so he reluctantly joined in.
Hermione had been cross-legged on her bed, in her pyjamas, re-reading a tiny passage in Hogwarts: A History for the past half an hour, not realising that she was doing so because something in the back of her mind was bothering her. The passage stated:
Among many of the famous students and alumni, Hogwarts welcomed onto its grounds both James Potter and Lily Potter (née Evans) in the September of 1971. Their school history was the same as any student’s, passing both their O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts, however, this pair are notably famous for their deaths on Halloween three years after leaving school and being the parents of young Harry James Potter (born 31st July 1980). Harry, also known as The Boy Who Lived, disappeared from the magical radar once evading He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in Godric’s Hollow, creating yet another famous name to grace the halls of Hogwarts come 1991.
Of all of the books Hermione liked to read, this was by far her favourite. It was good at displaying the facts of the castle as they were (for instance the magical protection, the secret passageways and the village of Hogsmeade) but it was quite passive in terms of human emotion. Although historical books are not written primarily to provoke heartstring-pulling feelings, Hermione could not help but hate the way it described Harry as if he were not an orphan who had lost everything a child should have. For goodness sake, he wasn’t just a famous name, he was just a boy, a boy who really had no idea how serious this was; his parents had not just died, they were murdered - the book failed to mention this. Hermione had read what she could on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and she did not like it. Even Hogwarts: A History had little to say:
He-Who Must-Not-Be-Named is the world’s most dark wizard since the 1950s, attacking both wizarding kind and the muggle world in order to invoke terror upon all beings. He and his followers played a large part in the start of the Wizarding War. No one knows his ultimate goals, but He has been the cause of many deaths and catastrophes since a very early age.
It seemed that what was already known about him was in the minds of the people who had lived through the past few decades and the War. For a moment, Hermione wished that her parents were magical so that she could grill them for information on him, but then stopped herself; she was glad that they were protected and also had the feeling that she would not like what she found out about this wizard anyway.
“… saw him on the platform first. And I saw his scar,” Lavender squealed excitedly. She and Parvati were sitting on her bed with the curtains half-closed.
Hermione slowly looked up from her book, careful not to move too much in case they noticed her eavesdropping. They had been discussing Harry’s arrival since last night and Hermione had been itching to tell them to shut it, but instead migrated to the library to study up on the Levitation Charm.
“Woah,” Parvati said, impressed. “But to be honest, he didn’t seem that special to me. People say he’s really powerful. Well, a boy called Lee Jordan said he knew lots of magic.”
“I doubt it,” Lavender corrected. “Lee was probably joking. I feel sorry for him living with muggles. Snape really laid into him. And that Hermione Granger didn’t help. She just drew attention to the fact that he didn’t know anything.” Hermione’s insides jerked.
“I thought that,” Parvati agreed quietly. “My twin sister, Padma, said she really wants to be Harry’s friend. Said so as soon as she realised we would be in the same school year as him. We were six when we figured it out.”
Hermione rolled her eyes.
“She’’ll have to get in line behind everyone else. Even the older kids are trying to have a go at -”
Hermione had shuffled off her bed and her feet hit the floor with a thud, rendering Lavender silent as she glared out of the gap in the curtains to see Hermione holding her book, looking at them.
Parvati peered out but neither her nor her friend moved. The three of them just stared at each other for a moment.
“Hermione …” Parvati muttered. “Hi.”
“Harry is not just something to stare at or a friend to be won,” Hermione stated firmly.
“We never said that,” Parvati said quietly.
“Harry’s really famous, really admirable,” Lavender replied boldly. “All I’m saying is that we’re never going to have a chance at being his friend even if we’re in the same House and share classes.”
“Not that we need to,” Parvati threw in quickly at the angry look on Hermione’s face.
Lavender frowned at Parvati.
“For your information,” Hermione began, “Harry and I have been friends for just over a year.” The girls opposite Hermione looked at each other and didn’t even have to say that they didn’t believe her for Hermione to know it. “He and I are actually quite close … and he - I … oh forget it …”
Hermione and Harry had not even said more than a few words to one another since their arrival at school, had only spoken lightly in class, so why on earth would they believe they were friends? They certainly hadn’t acted like it.
She grasped her book, shoved on her slippers and stormed out of the dormitory, hearing the disbelieving sniggers of her roommates as she exited. Hermione was not there to convince people that she knew Harry more than they could ever imagine and she certainly wasn’t going to waste her time doing so. She would just like for Harry to acknowledge her existence once in a while. She knew that he was finding his feet being a young wizard with the help of his new friend Ron Weasley, but she couldn’t help feeling completely rotten as she spent her evening in the library, falling asleep with her face stuck to the page which mentioned the Potters.
As the rays of the bright sun threw itself over her face, Hermione awoke beside a window in the corner of the library. She shot straight up, her bottom lip and dry saliva was stuck to the pages of Hogwarts: A History.
Hermione checked the huge wall clock above her.
“Six-thirty …” she muttered quietly.
Closing her book, Hermione made her way out of the library and up to Gryffindor Tower to sleep for half an hour, shower and prepare for the new day by reading through a few texts before class.
Telling the Fat Lady the password, Hermione fell through the portrait hole and had full intentions of going straight up to her empty bed but was interrupted by the crouching figure of her friend.
Harry had been up all night, tossing and turning, turning and tossing, worried. All he could think about was what the Sorting Hat had told him. He had this intense feeling that there was something wrong with him and that maybe everyone had gotten it all wrong, maybe he did not deserve to be at Hogwarts, or worse, deserved to be a Slytherin; it was unnerving.
Remembering that he had left a textbook beside the fireplace yesterday afternoon, he had gone to retrieve it seeing as he could not go back to sleep.
Hermione had entered the common room in her pyjamas, a yellow top and pink trousers with white slippers, clutching a huge book to her chest. Upon seeing him, she took one glance and then continued over to the door to her dorm.
“Hermione,” Harry called.
She stopped walking. “Yes, Harry?”
He put his book down onto the armchair and walked over to her stubborn form. “Where’ve you been?”
“Library,” she uttered. “Where have you been?”
“I’ve been here - I -”
“No, Harry,” she said, this time staring at him intensely. “Where have you been? Do you realise that we haven’t really talked since the Feast?”
“Oh - I - I didn’t know -”
“Shows how much you pay attention. Listen, I’m just going to go to -”
“I didn’t do it on purpose, you know. I’ve just been … busy … you know, getting used to everything …”
“Harry, I really do understand that you’re building new friendships but -”
“You mean Ron?”
Hermione blushed and Harry smirked to cover his own embarrassment as she looked away from him.
“No … Of course not …”
“You do …” Harry frowned. “You’re jealous, aren’t you?”
“No, I … Well alright, maybe. But do you blame me? We’ve been friends for over a year and now all of a sudden y-you’ve deserted me …”
Harry put his hand on her shoulder as her head lowered.
“I haven’t deserted you. I just -”
A male student entered the common room, half-asleep and yawning, making for the closest chair. He collapsed into it, then finally noticed Harry and Hermione, staring at them curiously.
Harry dropped his arm and his voice went to a whisper.
“I just - I’ve got a few things that I need time to deal with.”
“And you can’t talk to me?” Hermione said quietly back to him.
“No, not yet,” he rushed.
“Fine. But you could at least say hello to me once in a while. We were supposed to talk properly once we arrived.”
“I’m sorry, I’ve been distracted by -”
Hermione shrugged. “It’s okay. I’ll just leave you to your thoughts until you decide to be my friend again.”
She began to walk away from him as the boy in the corner of the room raised an eyebrow and pretended not to listen to their conversation innocently.
Harry went after her and held her arm so that she would not go. “We’ll talk later. Is that okay?”
Hermione said nothing and looked sadly at him. He hadn’t made much time for her since they arrived so who knew whether he would make time later that day?
“We’ll see,” she said as she opened the door to the staircase.
“What does that mean?” Harry questioned as he followed her. “Hermione, I really do want to talk to you, it’s just -”
As Harry began to walk up the steps to follow her, each step became more difficult as it melted beneath him into a neat stone slope. He tried to take one more step, but fell down and slid back down to the doors. Hermione gave a little squeal and slid down after him. The book hit Harry first in his middle and then Hermione crashed into his legs despite the fact that she tried not to harm him by curling up her body.
The first thing Harry noticed after he rubbed his sore middle was the fact that Hermione was laughing, at him he assumed.
From simply looking at her, Harry couldn’t help but smile.
“What are you laughing at?” he asked.
Hermione chuckled as she sat up. “I-I forgot that …. that the staircase did that … I just wasn’t expecting it.”
“And what exactly happened?”
“Oh, the stairs are enchanted so that boys can’t get into the girls’ dorms. I read that just last night in Hogwarts: A History.”
“Thanks for the warning,” Harry muttered.
Hermione’s smile soon vanished as more silence hung between them. “So … I’ll speak to you later?” she asked timidly.
“Only if you want,” Harry said.
“Of course I do, Harry.”
“Okay. Well, I’ll speak to you at breakfast,” Harry suggested. “Or in Potions.”
“We can’t talk in Potions,” Hermione said promptly.
“Or lunch or something. We’ll find the time.”
A door at the top of the staircase opened and from the corridor came a girl named Alicia Spinnet, dressed in her school uniform with her bag over her shoulder, clearly an early bird.
“What are you two doing on the floor?” She smiled and slid down to them. Alicia laughed and looked at Harry. “Tried to go up?” Harry nodded. “Most first year boys try at least once. The older you get the more persistent you are. A sixth year boy got half way up all on his own last year, I heard. Ravenclaw.”
Alicia held out a hand to each of them and they stood, thanking her. “It’s okay. See you later Harry.”
“Erm - bye.”
Harry looked to Hermione, who, clearly upset at being ignored, picked up her fallen book and walked up to her dormitory as the stone steps reformed.
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