Categories > Books > Harry Potter > I, Alone
Chapter 13 – A Bit Different
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Harry Potter, the youngest Quidditch Seeker in a century, couldn't help but smile as the wind rushed through his hair, disheveling it even further than it already was. The young wizard was upon his Nimbus 2000, circling several hundred feet above the pitch below him. It was the first Saturday of the new month, his second while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The sun was shining and it was a rather warm day for the first week of October on the Scottish coast.
With a subtle touch the Seeker sent his broom into a steep dive before barrel rolling out of it and making a mad run through the spectator towers as if they were part of a giant slalom course. Harry marveled at the feeling that flying gave him. In the air nothing else mattered but the broom beneath him and the open sky about him. Flying…this is true freedom, Harry thought to himself with a happiness he had seldom known in his short life.
Rounding the final tower Harry dove once more, practicing several feints and diversionary tactics used primarily to throw the other team's Seeker off his twigs. As the ground rushed towards him he easily pulled up and climbed once more until he was once again several hundred feet in the air. The Nimbus was an excellent broom and he could see why so many other students were a bit envious of him for owning it. It was an odd feeling, having others feel envious of him for a change. His entire life he had always envied others and the happiness they had.
Harry paused to catch his breath and eyed his teammates below him. Flint, Pucey and Derrick, the team Chasers, were making runs at Bletchley, the Keeper. Off to one side Higgs and Bole were hitting both Bludgers back and forth to improve their accuracy as well as strengthen their arms. Marcus Flint, the team Captain, barked out instructions to Miles Bletchley as the Keeper allowed another Quaffle to get by him. They had been practicing every day as Flint said the nice weather wouldn't hold for much longer. Apparently winter came early in this area of Scotland. The young Seeker doubted he'd care what the weather was like as long as he could fly!
Harry's gaze shifted and looked about the stands at the handful of Slytherins which always were present at practices to show their support for their house. It was a common misconception that Slytherins only cared about themselves and none other. While there could be no doubt that as individuals they did place themselves first and foremost, against the other Houses they presented a united front. House unity, as within the other three Houses at Hogwarts, was a big deal, being a matter of pride. In a Pureblood dominant house such as Slytherin, pride was paramount to almost everyone.
As his eyes scanned over those here today he spied his friends, only to frown upon realizing that Hermione wasn't with them yet again. The bushy haired witch had been absent from their group more and more the past few weeks. What could she be doing? Harry wondered to himself as he flew down towards the top of the Slytherin spectator tower to say hello. He, as well as the others, had asked the young witch if everything was alright and she had assured them that it was.
"Looking good out there, Potter," Tracey Davis called to him as he drew near, drawing the wizard from his thoughts as well as causing him to blush at the compliment. The auburn haired witch's smile grew upon seeing the color rise in Harry's cheeks at her words. "Don't you agree Daphne?" she pointedly asked her friend, her brown eyes sparkling mischievously.
"Hi, Harry," Daphne offered in way of greeting, ignoring Tracey's comment completely, realizing Tracey was just trying to have a go at the boy. "I see you're getting used to the Nimbus." The blonde witch's warm smile was infectious, causing the wizard to smile in return.
"He's a natural I tell ya," Blaise Zabini intoned excitedly before the wizard astride the broom could respond to the witch's words. "He's going to fly rings around that Gryffindor Seeker! Aren't you, mate?" the dark skinned Slytherin asked with much enthusiasm.
Harry couldn't help but grin broadly, the others boy's excitement being contagious it would seem. "I don't know if I would go that far. I'm just hoping not to fall off my broom," Harry replied as he steadied his Nimbus beside the top of the tower, glad that his friends were there to support him. While it would be normal to give Daphne and Tracey a hug, it was rather hard to do whilst astride a broom he reasoned. The thought of a hug made him think of the missing member of their group. "Hermione?" he asked.
"She said she had House stuff to do today," Daphne offered in a tone that was not all that convincing.
"I doubt you'll be seeing her here during a practice, Harry," Tracey offered sympathetically.
Blaise nodded in agreement before adding, "After the first time she came and your teammates accused her of spying for Gryffindor, I can see why she wouldn't want to come. They were pretty harsh on her. She'd have to be mental to want to go through that again."
The incident had occurred several weeks ago. At the time, Harry had been in the air, going through the new plays that Flint had given him and hence had missed the encounter. He had witnessed the bushy-haired witch running from the Pitch in tears though. When he had made to go after her Flint had called him over and proceeded to chew him out for bringing a Gryff to aSlytherin practice to spy on them. It hadn't been till the next day that Harry could apologize as Hermione had conspicuously absent from the evening meal that day. While he wished for his friend to be there, he also understood why she would refrain from doing so.
Seeing the worried look upon her friend's face Daphne tried to reassure him, "I'm sure she's alright, Harry. Hermione would tell us if there was something wrong." The blonde witch, not for the first time, was thankful for just how different Harry was from other boys his age and a good many that were older than him. He didn't care just about himself.
Harry nodded slowly, not so easily convinced. The young wizard was certain that he had done something wrong or had offended the witch in some manner. It had been his teammates after all that had caused her to run from the pitch in tears that day. I might not know much about girls, he told himself silently, but I know it can't be good to make one of them cry. He was certain of this fact as it was something that Dudley would often do and take great pleasure in. It was a pretty fair bet that anything his cousin did for enjoyment was a bad thing he reasoned.
Putting on a brave face, the young wizard forced a smile."I'm certain you're right, Daphne," he replied. "Are we all going to the library after here?" Harry asked hopefully in an attempt to change the subject.
Tracey looked down at the books sitting on the bench around them and then back to the wizard upon the broom. "As much fun as it is to watch you zip around the Pitch, Harry, it does get old after a bit," she said with a smile to take any sting out of her words. "We sort of brought our homework with us to help pass the time."
"Speak for yourself, Davis," Blaise quipped, being able to watch Quidditch the entire day without getting tired of it.
The smile upon Harry's face told the witch that he hadn't taken any offense at them doing their homework while being there. Even though it meant he'd have to do his on his own later. "I reckon that I'm having loads more fun than you are then, Tracey," he replied with as his smile grew into a grin.
"Oi! You don't have to rub it in, Potter!" Blaise whined, causing them all to chuckle at his words.
"Potter, get your arse back in the air," Flint bellowed up at the bespectacled boy from near the rings. "You're not here to socialize!"
"I best be going," Harry said looking back to his friends, his smile only slipping slightly. "See you lot at the evening meal then," he added before turning stick and hauling twig back into the air as the others waved goodbye to him.
"Soooo…any real idea where Granger might be?" Daphne asked as she opened the book in her lap. Like Harry, she too had become worried about the Gryffindor witch's recent absences. While she agreed with Zabini's reasons for Hermione to miss attending Quidditch practices, given that it was adifferent house than her own, she had also missed several nights in the library over the past couple of weeks.
Zabini just shrugged, believing he had already given the reason for her absence. Returning his attention to the Quidditch practice below on the Pitch he quickly dismissed the conversation from his immediate attention.
"I'm sure Zabini is right," Tracey offered her friend."After what happened last time I doubt you'll see her here again. Though," Tracey added in a thoughtful tone, "that doesn't explain why she's missed the other times in the library."
"My thoughts as well," Daphne said, glad that she wasn't the only one who was concerned about their missing friend.
Hermione Granger gathered her books, slipping them into her backpack, much as she gathered her resolve. The bright witch still wasn't certain what was happening but she had deduced that something certainly was going on with her house mates. It had started a couple of weeks ago with strange glances in her direction whenever she walked past. From there is had blossomed into hushed whispers that would stop as soon as she drew near.
By the end of the first week of such treatment she started to notice others avoiding her presence. Shortly thereafter the pranks had started. A tripping hex here, missing parchment there, broken quills and hidden books. Nothing of a serious nature that had caused her anything more than embarrassment and a few skinned or bruised knees. Several times these occurrences had caused her to forego her usual nightly library study sessions with her friends. Missing out on studying and seeing her friends hurt her more than the silent treatment and pranks did.
At first she had attributed the treatment she was receiving to always being the best in class. In her primary school she had often received the same frigid treatment she was now the recipient of for doing so much better than her peers. While there had been pranks as well they had been limited as the students didn't have magic to rely upon. "But I'm getting points for our house!" she reasoned aloud to herself as she shouldered her school bag. "How can they possible be upset about that?" she asked as she turned and made her way from the dormitory, her question left unanswered.
In truth the treatment hurt. More so than she let on or wanted to admit. She had hoped, with this being a magical school, things would be different this time. The young witch had secretly harbored dreams that for once in her life she would fit in with her peers and be accepted as one of them, in contrast to her primary school. It hadn't taken the young girl of six long to realize that being different was the quickest way to be ignored or worse yet, teased. By the time she had discovered this though it had been too late as most of her classmates in her primary school already knew her to be different. Here was supposed to have been a chance for things to be different.
I have no one to blame but myself, she mused silently as she descended the stairs into the Gryffindor common room. I let my love of learning get the better of me. Learning had always held a certain fascination to the young girl. The joy she felt when she understood something for the first time was like an adrenalin rush. It was a feeling that drove her with an almost single mindedness to take in and understand even more. The excitement this brought her was akin to opening a present only to find not only what was inside but another present waiting for her as well. The pursuit of knowledge became the happiness in her otherwise miserable academic world giving her an almost euphoric sense of accomplishment.
Magic, being an entirely new endeavor for her, presented the curious girl with an opportunity to learn a great deal more as well as affording her the opportunity to broaden her horizons of the world around her. The mysteries of the universe were out there just waiting for her to unravel them she believed almost reverently. Like a child with their first piece of candy, Hermione ever craved more and more of the delectable treat called knowledge. It was quickly becoming an insatiable hunger for her.
Finding an empty seat at one of the large tables within the common room, the young witch sat and began taking out the items she would need to start upon her Transfiguration homework. More and more she had taken to doing her homework within the common room as accidents only tended to befall to her when she walking the halls of the castle. She had attempted to determine who was tormenting her, however there were always enough students about from all the different houses so that she couldn't determine who the culprit or culprits were. Sadly, it was always in front of a large group of her peers that she'd suddenly find herself sprawling upon the floor, her books and what not scattering across the stone floor before her.
Not that the time here has all been terrible, she thought to herself, thinking of Harry and her other friends. They certainly accept me for who I am at least. The fact that it was students from a house other than her own only added to her disappointment at how house life at her new school was turning out. The irony that it was students from Slytherin, a house despised by others, that accepted her while her own apparently wanted nothing to do with her didn't escape her notice. She wanted to scream and would have if she thought it would do her any good at all. It just wasn't the logical thing to do she had told herself, fearful of what her friends would think.
It was a new experience for her to have friends who were girls, or any friends for that matter. Thinking of Daphne and Tracey brought a smile to her lips as she placed her inkwell upon the table and opened her potions book. When she was with them she actually, for the first time in her young life, felt like she belonged. I'm just one of the girls, she happily mused while reveling in the sensation that thought brought her.
Daphne always pushed her to her limits, and beyond, to do her best. While the two witches constantly strove to outdo the other there was no hostility in their actions, just good natured rivalry. Tracey never failed to make her laugh with some off comment or tidbit of news. The auburn haired witch always seem to know exactly what to say to lift her spirits, a fact she was very grateful for.
Then there was Harry. Thoughts of the dark haired wizard filtered through her young mind bringing a warmth to her chest and a slight blush to her cheeks that confused her on several different levels. She'd never been friends with a boy before and really didn't know what to expect. On the one hand she knew that her friendship with the bespectacled wizard should be no different than the ones she had with Tracey and Daphne and yet it was. Try as she might, she couldn't see herself giving either girl a kiss upon the cheek, though a hug may not out of the question. It's all just so confusing, she silently lamented as she tried to analyze it logically.
I'm worried about Harry, she admitted to herself while attempting to ignore the warmth in her chest that seemed to spread the longer her thoughts remained on the boy in question. He seems so very utterly lost over the simplest of social behaviors. Not to say he isn't well mannered. It's as if he's been sheltered his entire life. For being the Savior of the Wizarding World he seems to know terrible little of it, she thought to herself before quickly realizing she didn't know much more herself. Still, what she did know was agreat deal more than he apparently did. He is fabulously adorable though when he doesn't know what to do, she thought only to feel the warmth spread further.
With a stifled growl the bushy-haired witch forced her attention to the book in front of her and from her bespectacled friend. Taking quill in hand she started working on the required essay; however it wasn't long till her thoughts once again returned to The-Boy-Who-Lived. She knew, from listening to her dorm mates, that boys in general were slow and dim-witted as well as uncaring and selfish while lacking a certain sense of hygiene. Yet, to her, it seemed as though Harry was none of those things. If anything he's all the things they say the other boys are not. Why is that?
As she thought about the matter she absently chewed upon the end of her quill. Over the course of the last several weeks Harry had been both kind and caring to her. When the other boys had snidely remarked about not riding his new broom and criticized her for stopping him, the young wizard had surprised her by actually defending her actions and telling those gathered that they would do well to listen to her as well. A boy, telling other boys, to listen to me, a girl? She still wasn't certain what to make of that. It was perhaps the sweetest thing anyone had ever done for her. Once more she felt that peculiar and confusing warmth start to spread within her chest.
Not that he doesn't have his bad points as well, she reasoned to herself, recalling the baggy clothes he seemed to prefer to wear when not wearing a school uniform. The young witch vividly recalled how Harry had dogged her steps after class one day apologizing for the actions of his teammates after they had called her unsavory names and threatened to hex her if she didn't leave the Pitch immediately. It was apparent that Harry felt it was his fault for inviting her to the Quidditch practice in the first place. She had told him, in no uncertain terms; that she didn't feel it was his apology to give as he had nothing to do with the confrontation in the first place. That didn't stop the boy from apologizing yet again. It was only the dejected look that appeared upon his face, when she wouldn't acknowledge his apology, which finally forced her into accepting it.
He is far too quick to feel that the blame for everything lies with himself and not others. This particular characteristic of her friend frustrated her to no end as she couldn't understand why he would be that way. It made no sense to her young logical mind. Then there was also that stunt with the Malfoy boy and Neville's Rememberall, though that had actually worked to Harry's benefit, she reluctantly admitted seeing as Harry had been made Seeker due to it. Neville had been rather surprised when she had returned it to him, not having realized he had even lost it. Harry had asked her to return the item as Neville was her housemate. Hermione suspected that Harry hadn't actually wanted her fellow Gryff to know that he had been the one to rescue the glass sphere. Boys certainly are peculiar!
Blinking several times, Hermione realized that she had been zoning out for more than a few moments. Once her attention returned, she noticed that many of those present in the common room were shooting her nasty looks. Glancing about discreetly she saw others looking in her direction and then leaning over to whisper something to the others they were sitting with only to giggle at whatever was said. Stealing a glance in the opposite direction she saw Ronald Weasley talking to his twin brothers Fred and George. As she watched one of the twins passed something to their younger sibling. Judging by the folded paper she suspected it was a note or perhaps a missive from their mother.
Ron Weasley, now there is a shock, Hermione reflected. When she had started to receive the dark looks from her house mates her first reaction had been to withdraw, just as she had always done in primary school. It was during this time that the young Weasley always seemed to be about and near her. When the rest of their class had stopped speaking to her he had gone out of his way to engage her in conversation. Several times the painfully awkward Gryff had even sat and studied with her, though she had spent more time helping him than doing her own work. Not for the first time she wondered if she had perhaps misjudged the ginger-haired boy.
Feeling the eyes of the room upon her, she inwardly groaned, before starting to put her things away as she realized that she wouldn't be able to study under these circumstances. Being careful not to look at anyone, the young witch stood, shouldered her book bag, and walked out the portal. Hermione had only gone a short distance down the hall when she heard someone exit the portal and hurry after her.
"Hermione! Wait up!" Ron Weasley called as he hurried to catch the witch ahead of him. The witch in question paused and turned upon hearing her name called. "Heading to the library?" the redhead asked as he reached Hermione, falling into step beside her as he adjusted the book bag slung over his shoulder.
Hermione simply nodded before adding, "I was finding it a bit difficult to concentrate back there."
"Exploding snaps are meant to be loud," Ron stated, referring to the card game that Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan had been engrossed in. Seeing no reply forthcoming the wizard pressed on. "Mind if I join you? I'm having a bit of trouble with the Charms work Professor Flitwick assigned us."
"Sure, Ronald," Hermione replied, glad for the company and the chance to talk with someone. As the two of them descended the Grande Staircase to the third floor Hermione worried about her housemates and their actions. Absently she chewed her lower lip, a clear indication she was deep in thought if ever there was one.
Upon reaching the library they found an out of the way table and set up their items so they could work on their assignments. The next hour pasted quickly, with Hermione mostly helping Ron with his homework."Honestly Ronald, were you not paying attention is class at all?" the witch asked in a tone bordering on exasperation after having to explain something for the third time.
"I was listening," Ron replied defensively. "It just doesn't always make sense," he mumbled as if it was hard to admit the fact. Judging by the redness of his ears it probably was.
Hermione took a deep breath and let it out slowly. I have to remember that not everyone will be able to grasp concepts as quickly as Daphne and I can.Realizing this didn't stop her from recalling that Harry and Tracey had picked it up just as easily. "Alright, Ronald," she said in a patient tone of voice. "Do you understand the first part of it?" Seeing the ginger-haired boy nod, she continued. "Then start on the essay and cover that part first. When you get to the next section, we can go over it once again," she told him.
Hermione waited till she saw her housemate dip his quill and begin writing before turning to her own work. The over achieving witch already had most of her work for the next week completed with the only item remaining being a rather lengthily parchment on the ingredients used in a Forgetfulness potion. Professor Snape and short parchments were two terms that were apparently never used in the same sentence. A fact she rather enjoyed as it allowed her to fully express her ideas.
As Hermione worked on the essay her thoughts kept returning to the odd treatment she was receiving from her housemates, with the exception of the youngest Weasley. More than once she had gone over her behavior and other than being overly intelligent she couldn't for the life of her determine how she could have estranged the entire Gryffindor House from her. Finally, deciding that she wouldn't be able to work till she asked, Hermione set her quill aside, careful not to splotch her parchment. "Ronald?"
"Hmm," the red-head replied without looking up from the parchment he was busy scribbling on.
"Can I ask you something?" Hermione posed. "Friend to friend," she added for some uncertain reason. While she was certainly coming to think of him as a friend, he wasn't on the same level as Tracey, Daphne or Harry. Even Blaise, whom she had slowly come to know, wasn't on their level as yet though she certainly thought of the dark skinned wizard as afriend.
Ron paused and then looked up at the witch seated across from him."Sure, Hermione. Ask me anything," he said as his blue eyes regarded her intently.
The young Gryffindor witch opened her mouth to reply but suddenly found herself distracted for a moment. There it was, right there under his left eye. "You know you have some ink on your face," she told him, only to see him wipe at the right side of his cheek. "Right here," she added, pointing at her own cheek to guide him to the blemish.
"Uh, thanks," Ron said as he used the sleeve of his robe to wipe most of the ink from his face. "Did I get it?" he enquired, to which Hermione gave a slight nod that he had. Dipping his quill in his inkwell the wizard returned to his writing.
"Ronald, that's not what I wanted to tell you...I mean ask you," Hermione said to get his attention again. It never failed to amaze her how Ron's attention was limited to one thing at a time. No wonder he is having such adifficult time in his classes, she reasoned.
"Sorry," Ron said with a small grin before making a big production of setting his quill aside and giving her his undivided attention. The boy's over exaggerated movements and theatrical flourishes were rather comical and under other circumstance would have no doubt drawn a chuckle from the witch seated across from him.
"Right then," Hermione opened with, pausing for a second to gather her thoughts before bravely pushing on. "I can't help but notice that something has changed over the last couple of weeks. I've racked my brains trying to determine just what it is and have as yet been able to come up with an appropriate answer."
"What do you mean something's changed?" Ron asked, cutting into her speech before Hermione could continue.
Hermione, who hated to be interrupted, refrained from glaring as she continued. "Others in our house have been giving me….well…looks. Isomehow think they're none too happy with me. They whisper behind my back or stop talking suddenly when I draw near," she continued to explain."There have even been a number of pranks, though I can't say with any degree of certainty that it's other Gryffindor's responsible for those. Do you know anything about it? Did I do something to offend our entire house?"
Ron looked thoughtful for a moment before he replied. "Well, I have heard a few rumors," he offered slowly.
"Rumors! About me?" Hermione snapped loudly only to quickly look about at Ron's gesture to keep her voice down. "What kind of rumors? Who started them? What are they about? Why is this the first time I've heard about this?" the young witch asked, bombarding her friend with asteady succession of questions as her temper began to flare. As best as she could tell she had done nothing to cause any rumors to circulate about her. Perhaps someone is spreading lies?
Ron glanced about to make certain no one was watching them before he leaned in, waiting for her to do the same before replying in a quiet tone of voice. "I don't know who started them or even when they started," he told Hermione. "I only know about them as I overheard the twins discussing them with Lee Jordan the other day. It seems that people are saying that you don't want to be a Gryff and that you're going to ask the Sorting Hat to resort you."
"What?" Hermione exclaimed loudly upon hearing his words. "Is that even possible?" she asked rhetorically, well aware that the boy wouldn't know if it was or wasn't as she herself didn't know."What else have they been saying about me?" she demanded angrily.
Ron gulped, not having counted on the witch with him becoming angry. "They…they said you wanted to be in a different house is all," Ron hastily answered with, deciding not to mention anything further. The anger apparent in the Hermione's face was beginning to frighten him. He'd seen his mother on a rampage enough times to know that girls could be right scary when they fancied to.
"Which house out of the three remaining do they think I want to be in?" Hermione asked, certain she already knew the answer. Given her tendencies to be overly smart and out performing her classmates she could well guess that people would have little trouble believing she'd prefer to be in Ravenclaw. Admittedly, if she had to pick a different house, Ravenclaw would certainly be at the top of her list.
"S…Slytherin," Ron barely managed to squeak out fearfully. The ensuing silence did nothing to lessen his growing belief that this was not going to turn out well at all.
To say that the witch was shocked would have been an understatement. Hermione sat there gobsmacked and at a loss for words for afull minute before she could say anything. When she finally did manage to speak it was in dazed and slightly distracted tone of voice. "How…how could they possible think that?" she asked as her eyes fell to the table top as her mind reeled under the very thought of being a Slytherin. "My parents are non-magical. I'd be looked down upon as the lowest of the low were I a Slytherin."
Even having only spent a little over a month at Hogwarts the intelligent witch had quickly learned that those who called themselves Purebloods had a tendency to look down upon others as being lesser creatures than themselves. Those deemed Half-bloods, meaning that at least one of their parents were Purebloods, were at least tolerated. For those like herself, with two non-magical parents, they were looked upon as barely a step above Goblins…if that. It was a distasteful and barbarically antiquated social structure yet it was accepted by most of the Wizarding world apparently. The young witch knew that she would have to try and do something about that when she was older.
"That's what I told them," Ron said in a supportive manner. "I said there's no way that you'd want to be a snake! You're far too smart for that, I said."
"Thank you, Ronald," Hermione said with a small genuine smile, her anger momentarily forgotten. "How could they ever think something like that though," she asked thoughtfully.
Ron visibly screwed up his courage and replied with, "Perhaps its Potter and those other snakes you're always hanging about. I mean it's not natural for snakes and Gryff's to hang out together. It goes against the very laws of nature!" he added, scrunching up his face distastefully at the very thought.
"What?" Hermione asked, shocked once again by his words, though less so than before. "Harry, Daphne and Tracey are my friends," she said defensively. "They're the first friends I made when I came here. Just because I'm friends with Harry and the rest of them doesn't mean I want to be in a House that will persecute me simply based upon who my parents are!" she responded with as her temper started to flare once again.
"Come on, Hermione," Ron said, attempting to reason with her, which was something out of the ordinary for him. "You're not seeing it as the rest of the House sees it. There has been a long standing feud between our House and theirs that stretches back to the time of the founders. It was Salazar Slytherin himself that slighted the noble Godric Gryffindor and started it after all!"
"That's not what it says in Hogwarts: A History," Hermione was quick to counter with, having read the book four times by then. "It was never determined why Salazar Slytherin left Hogwarts. While people have speculated that there was a disagreement between two of the Founders, there have been no clear proof of just what it was."
Ron shrugged, dismissing her argument as if it was nothing."Does it really matter what the facts are, Hermione?" Ron asked loudly. "If the rest of the Gryff's think you want to be a snake does what really happened hundreds of years ago matter? For all we know they got in an argument over who got the last kipper!"
Trust Ron to bring food into the discussion at some point, she absently thought, though she had to agree with him. If the members of Gryffindor House thought she wanted to be a snake then that was all that mattered and was the problem that had to be dealt with. "But what can I do to show them that they're wrong?" Hermione asked absently aloud as she thought the problem over logically.
"The first thing you should do is stop hanging about Potter and those other snakes," Ron said helpfully, believing the question was directed at him. "People see you with them and it's pretty blatant that you'd rather be there than with other Gryff's."
"Is that how you see it, Ronald?" Hermione asked hesitantly, eyeing the boy.
Ron shrugged his gangly shoulders haphazardly as he answered rather bashfully, "I'm here, aren't I?"
"Thank you, Ronald," Hermione offered with a warm smile upon hearing his words. "I can't just stop being friends with Harry and them though," she added determinedly, once more worrying about what to do as she nibbled on her lower lip.
"Why not?" Ron asked rather testily. "I mean what do they have that you couldn't find with another Gryff or even myself for that matter?"
"It's not what they have or others don't have," Hermione replied as she attempted to articulate her thoughts. "There is just something about them. They understand me because they're like me, an Outsider," Hermione said, suddenly recalling the name she had overheard Zabini and Daphne use to refer to their unique group. "We don't really belong anywhere which is why we belong with each other. I don't know how else to explain it, Ronald."
"Outsider?" Ron asked in a frustrated tone, at a loss for what exactly the witch was saying. "Hermione, how can you belong anywhere else other than with other Gryffindors? That is where the Sorting Hat placed you after all, wasn't it?"
"I don't know, Ronald. I mean I'm sure the hat had a reason for placing me where it did but I don't know what it would be," the witch said quickly. "I mean, name me one other in our House that revises as much as I do or reads as much as I do."
"No one reads as much as you do, Granger," Ron told her with a humorless snort.
"They do, the Outsiders," Hermione replied in an effort to refute his words. "Daphne reads as much as I do and I suspect that Tracey could as well if she but applied herself a bit more."
"Yeah but those are girls," Ron countered with, believing it to be a good argument, as everyone knew that girls did those sort of things. "Besides, Gryffindors are known for their bravery and courage, not for the number of books they've read or the O's they've received."
"I bet those in Ravenclaw read a great deal as well," the witch continued with, "and they're not all girls. Harry even reads as much as I do," she added, suddenly realizing that it was true. Whenever she saw the emerald-eyed boy he was always reading something. "In fact he might even read more than I do," she said trailing off with a worried expression crossing her face as she realized that maybe she had been skiving off in that regard. I need to read more!
"Harry Potter!" Ron snapped angrily, having had more than his fill of The-Boy-Who-Lived. "All you talk about is Harry Potter! It's no wonder that people are jumping to conclusions concerning you. He's asnake, Hermione. None of their lot are any good!"
Hermione quickly leaned back in her chair, taken aback by the angry words of the wizard across from her. "He's heralded as the savior of the Wizarding World, Ronald!" Hermione pointed out angrily in defense of her friend. "Or doesn't that matter to anyone in this school?"
Ron threw his hands up in the air in disgust and then lunged to his feet and started packing his things away forcibly. Once finished he slung his backpack over one shoulder before looking over at his housemate. "A bit of advice Granger, one friend to another," he offered in a tone that was anything but friendly. "If you want your housemates to accept you, you'll have to prove to them just where your loyalties lie! I've done all I can for you. If you don't forget about those snakes soon, whispers, glares and harmless pranks will be the least of your concerns."
"What do you mean, Ronald?" Hermione asked only to see the wizard turn away and storm angrily out of the library leaving a confused and slightly worried witch behind in his wake.
Harry trudged up the hill towards the castle from the pitch. Flint had finally called it a day and allowed them to shower and head back before the evening meal. The young wizard hurt in places no eleven year old should hurt in. I never realized there were so many muscles there, he thought to himself upon feeling atremor from the protesting anatomy. Had there been anyone there to see he was certain he would have made a comical sight as he walked while trying to rub the inside of his protesting thigh.
Descending the stairs into the Dungeons, he quickly made his way through the Slytherin common room and into his dormitory to retrieve his book bag. Hopefully I can do some reading in the library before the evening meal is ready. Harry groaned when he saw the state of his school bag. Someone had nearly ripped it in twain, spilling its contents out upon the floor beside his bed. "I guess I should have expected that," he said upon realizing that he hadn't placed the bag within his trunk, leaving it sitting upon his chair instead by mistake.
With a resigned sigh, the raven-haired wizard began collecting his stuff from off the floor. He was thankful that his inkwell had been properly stoppered and hence hadn't leaked. The rolls of parchment hadn't fared as well though as they were drenched with some form of liquid. Rather than risk touching them he used the Levitation Charm to move them directly into the nearest rubbish bin. He had made that mistake once before which had resulted in a burning rash on his hands, requiring a trip to the hospital wing for an ointment.
Collecting his quill set, inkwell and books, which while none the worse for wear, were still not in the best of shape, he set them upon his desk. A quick glance about assured him that he was the only one in the room. "Reparo!" Harry spoke the proper incantation as he used the Mending Charm to repair his book bag. After quickly placing his remaining items, minus the parchment, into his bag he slung it over his shoulder and quickly retraced his steps. Once out of the Slytherin common room he headed for the castle's third floor and the relative sanctuary of the library located there.
Breathing a slight sigh of relief as he stepped off the moving staircase and into the library hallway, Harry made his way to the large double doors and slipped through them as quietly as possible. While he had restored the books he had transfigured the Head Librarian had a very long memory. Harry couldn't help but feel that Madam Pince never failed to eye him suspiciously when she saw him. He got the impression from her glares that she half expected him to damage her precious books once again if given half the chance.
After a quick peek about and upon not seeing Madam Pince in the area, Harry turned to make his way to the usual table that he and his friends usually used. The green-eyed youth paused, spotting a very familiar bushy haired witch off by herself, and altered his course to where she was seated instead. As he drew near his brow creased in worry at the bewildered and slight frightened look upon the Gryffindor's face. "Alright there, Hermione?" he asked as he paused, standing not far from her side.
The witch slowly turned and looked up at him with brown watery eyes. For a moment there was no reaction then suddenly Harry found himself with a crying witch in his arms as Hermione threw herself at him and buried her face in his shoulder. "Whatever it is I'm sorry for having done it," Harry offered upon hearing quiet little sobs and sniffles coming from his friend.
"It…it's not you, Harry," Hermione sobbed into Harry's shoulder, her words barely distinguishably through her crying.
The witch in her arms shook her head, telling him it wasn't him that caused her to be in such a sate. Awkwardly, he alternated between rubbing her back and just holding her as he hadn't a clue as to what he was supposed to do beyond that. Harry was glad though that whatever caused this in his friend it at least wasn't his fault as he had feared. "It can't be that bad, can it?" he asked gently.
"It's terrible," Hermione finally mumbled into Harry's shoulder. "They all hate me," she told him dejectedly. "No one likes me! I don't know what I should do."
"I don't hate you, Hermione," Harry offered, trying to be supportive while not having any idea what had his friend so upset. "I can't speak for others but I most certainly like you. How about you tell me what happened and maybe between the two of us we can figure out what we need to do?"
"Thank you, Harry," Hermione replied as she lifted her head from his shoulder with a final soft sniffle. The fact that Harry was apparently going to help her made her feel slightly better. The young witch's eyes grew wide upon seeing the large damp spot upon Harry's shoulder. "I'm so sorry, Harry," she offered as she reached out and ran her fingertips over the spot as if she could just brush it away in such a manner.
"That's alright," Harry told her without even looking at the spot on his robes. Slipping a threadbare handkerchief from his pocket he gently dabbed at her cheeks, wiping away the tear tracks that he could see there. "What's a few tears among friends," he added with a small lopsided smile. Gently, Harry eased the witch back down into her seat before taking the one next to her. "Why don't you tell me what's going on?"
Hermione gave a slight nod and after pausing for a moment to collect her thoughts, proceeded to tell Harry everything. She related how she had started to receive looks and then rumors and finally pranks, ending with what Ron had told her. "What ever am I going to do, Harry?" the young girl of twelve asked.
"I don't know what to tell you, Hermione," Harry confessed even though he didn't like to admit it. He saw that upon hearing his words Hermione's shoulders drooped in defeat. Hating to see his friend in such a manner he quickly tried to think of something to say to cheer her up. "I think if our situations were reversed that I would do everything it took to keep you as a friend, Hermione. You're my first friend ever and are more important to me than all the other houses combined," he told her in a rush of words in his effort to try and console her. "I would never ever let you go!" Harry was more than a little flummoxed when he suddenly found himself the recipient of a bone crushing hug.
"Thank you, Harry!" Hermione said, turning her head just slightly enough to chastely leave a kiss upon the wizard's cheek before sitting back once again, a smile blazing across her features as she took both his hands in hers and held them on her knees. "Don't you dare ever change, Harry Potter!" she mockingly scolded the boy across from her.
"A...alright," Harry agreed, still confused as to just why Hermione had hugged him and thanked him. He had learned over the course of the last month that when it came to girls, especially the three that were now his friends, sometimes he just had to go with things…even if he didn't understand them. Blaise had told him it was safer that way, a fact he had been told by his mother. "I'm certain you or the others will let me know if Ido."
Hermione grinned, nodding in agreement with his words. We've far too much time invested in you Harry to let you undo all our hard work, she mused playfully. Truthfully the three witches hadn't needed to do much. A nudge here, asuggestion there was all it ever took to get the boy to do things. More often than not they simply inserted missing social manners that should have been there in the first place. The hugs and chaste kisses were just added bonuses as they saw it.
"If it wasn't for the pranks I could manage this I think," Hermione said distractedly as she puzzled over the current predicament she had found herself in.
"You shouldn't be ignored and slandered just for spending time with your friends," Harry stated defensively as he defended her from herself, as strange as that may sound.
"I dealt with that before in primary school," Hermione admitted unknowingly as she continued to try and find a logical way to resolve the issue with her housemates.
Harry gulped upon hearing her admission, suddenly finding her to be far more like him than he had first thought. As he watched Hermione, gently chewing on her lower lip and her brow crinkled in concentration, a sudden thought came to him. "Hermione," Harry said hesitantly, only continuing upon seeing the witch look up and regard him directly. "Pack your thing up, there's someplace we need to go."
"Where's that, Harry?" the young witch asked even as she started placing her books into her book bag. Hermione frowned when Harry wouldn't answer her right away. Once everything was stowed in her bag she slung it over her left shoulder and stood. "Where are we going, Harry?" she enquired once again, though with a little more force this time.
Harry chuckled. "You'll see," he told her.
Hermione huffed and folded her arms over her chest in a stubborn pose. "Harry Potter! I'm not moving a step from this spot till you tell me what you have planned!" she declared with a defiant glare at the young wizard.
Harry's grin grew broader as his emerald eyes sparkled humorously."Trust me," he countered with as he held out his hand towards her. Hermione eyed the proffered member for a long moment before hesitantly reaching out and slipping her hand into his. Hand in hand, Harry led the bushy-haired witch from the library.
Aurora Sinistra took a slow sip of her tea before setting the porcelain cup back on the corner of her desk. The Hogwarts' Astronomy teacher turned her attention to the next report only to smile warmly upon reading the name Harry Potter upon it. The first year students had been given the assignment of selecting an astrological Zodiac sign and writing a half of ameter report about the constellation and the characteristic attributed to their Zodiac sign of choice.
The witch's brow creased in puzzlement upon seeing that the wizard had selected Virgo, The Maiden, as his Zodiac sign to report upon. In most cases students would typically select their own Zodiac signs to work with, which was why she found it curious that Harry hadn't selected his own. She was fairly certain that Virgo wasn't his sign.
Reaching down the witch opened the left most bottom drawer of her desk and extracted a rather large leather bound book with the words 'Student Registry' embossed across the front cover. Opening the magically updating tome she ran her finger down the listing of students name till she found Harry's. There, just to the right of the boy's name was his date of birth, July 31st 1980.
Aurora 'hmphed' to herself as she saw the date. "Just as I thought, a Leo. Maybe that's why everyone was certain he would be sorted into Gryffindor," she mused aloud. Out of curiosity the Professor started back at the top of the list of first year students, checking to see if any of them were Virgos. As her finger trailed down the listing, stopping momentarily at three names, a smile blossomed upon her face and grew. "Now what are the chances of that?"
Acting upon a whim, Aurora dug through the stack of school work and found the essays for the three she sought, those who were the only Virgo's in their year. "Let's see, Miss Granger…Leo. Miss Greengrass…Leo. Miss Davis…Leo. How very curious, and very sweet," she declared softly, both amused and rather touched by the foursome. Apparently the young Potter boy had picked the one Zodiac sign that was shared by all three witches and they had unerringly all selected his Zodiac sign.
"I wonder if they did so on purpose?" Aurora idly speculated concerning the essays of her favorite four first years. Over the past several weeks she had made certain to keep a watchful eye upon the four friends when they attended her class. It was apparent that the Zabini boy was friends with all of them; however, she couldn't help but notice that when they were atop the astronomy tower is was always just the four of them together.
"They're certainly close enough to know each other's birthdays," she reasoned. Still, she just couldn't bring herself to accept that as the reason. Perhaps it was the romantic in her, thrilled at watching what she believed to be young love in bloom, that made her feel the way she did. All she was certain of was that it warmed her young heart every time she saw the four of them together.
Regardless of the reason she felt certain that is was something else, something greater, at work. Fate? No, she did not want to say that without checking the stars. Astrology after all was a much more factual area of expertise, especially when compared to something as dodgy as Divination! While she genuinely liked Sybill Trelawney, and respected her as a colleague, she just couldn't help but feel that the woman wasn't all there. Just a touch around the bend perhaps, she speculated, while being careful to never say aloud.
Further thoughts were halted by a light knocking on her office door. "Enter," the youngest Professor currently at Hogwarts called only to smile broadly as she spied the dark-haired head of The-Boy-Who-Lived appear once the door had been opened far enough to admit him. Aurora motioned the boy in only to see Miss Granger was behind him and apparently holding his hand.
"Sorry, Professor," Harry offered a bit nervously after closing the door behind Hermione and himself, letting go of his friend's hand in the process. "I was hoping you might have a bit of time to spare for us?" Harry's first inclination had been to go to Professor Flitwick office, only because he found it far easier to speak to the diminutive man rather than a larger adult. However, on their way past the Charm's classroom Harry had spied the Professor tutoring some older students and so, not wishing to intrude, he had lead Hermione down to the first floor and the Astronomy Professor's office instead.
"Of course, Mr. Potter," Aurora said as she gestured, two comfortable chairs appearing before her desk. "Why don't you and Miss Granger have a seat? How are the glasses working out for you? No more headaches?"
Harry motioned for Hermione to step past him and select the seat she wanted before moving to the remaining one. "They're fabulous!" Harry replied, unconsciously adjusting the glasses in question as he waited for Hermione to be seated before sitting down himself. "No headaches either," he added upon seeing the Professors expectant look. The young wizard decided it would be best not to mention the few times that his scar had burned as he was fairly certain that had nothing to do with his eye sight. What it did have to do with on the other hand was something he currently held no clue to.
Hermione looked towards her friend, concerned due to the Professor's questions. Harry never mentioned he was having headaches. The young witch made amental note to ask him about it later. Truthfully she was more than a little nervous, the wringing of her hands in her lap a clear indication of this fact.
It didn't take an overly bright person, which she was, to realize that Harry had brought her here to speak about the problem she was experiencing with her housemates. Though she liked the astronomy professor she really wasn't comfortable with discussing this with an adult. In the past, doing so had only caused the problem to escalate while becoming more covert at the same time.
Aurora closed her copy of the Student Registry and returned it to her bottom drawer before folding her hands on the desktop and regarding the two first year students before her. "Now then, what may I do for Miss Granger and yourself, Mr. Potter?" she enquired calmly.
"I'm having a problem with my housemates," Harry quickly said before the witch next to him could even barely open her mouth.
"What sort of problems and with which ones, Mr. Potter?" Aurora asked, concern for the young wizard causing her pulse to elevate slightly. If there was one thing she couldn't abide it was anyone hurting achild or even an older child hurting one smaller or weaker than them. She was well aware from her years attending school at Hogwarts that bullying was a part of life and generally accepted as a rite of passage. Just because some accept it doesn't mean that I have to! The Professor suddenly found herself wanting to protect the young wizard before her.
"Please, Professor," Harry said with a small indulgent smile, "Harry…just Harry, if you would please?" Upon seeing the dark skinned witch nod once and return his slight smile he continued. "As for which of them, well, almost all of them I guess," he stated almost sheepishly. "It started out with just strange looks and then progressed to glares and whispers," Harry informed the Professor. "Since then it's become pranks and occasionally some befoulment of my bed or school stuff.
Hermione just stared at Harry in disbelief. She had been certain that she would have to tell the Professor everything that had been happening to her. The very thought of that had embarrassed her while causing her stomach to twist up into a knot while flopping about. Yet here was her friend, taking it all on himself. She wasn't even certain how Harry had known about the school items and her personal possessions being messed with as she hadn't told him of that. Perhaps he's just embellishing a bit, she thought. "Harry," Hermione said, suddenly feeling guilty about allowing him to tell her tale. "I-,"
"It's alright, Hermione," Harry quickly said, cutting her off before the young witch could say that it was actually her being harassed. "I don't mind if Professor Sinistra knows."
"I'm glad you came to me, Harry," Aurora said, with aslight smile due to using his given name as he requested. The fact that the boy trusted her enough to seek her out about a potentially embarrassing incident only made her desire all the more to help him. "Have you spoken with your Head of House as yet about this matter?" she asked. Knowing Severus, she doubted that he would take it kindly should she step into the middle of what he would consider an internal matter. Not that she'd let that stop her from doing it.
"No," Harry replied giving a slight shake of his head as he cast his eyes down towards the floor. "I don't think I want to get my entire house in trouble, Professor. I'm just not sure how to deal with it."
Aurora could understand the young wizard's reasoning, though she was of the mind that if they were all bullying Harry, or anyone for that matter, they deserved a fair bit of punishment. "It's doubtful that it is the entire house. The seventh years are busy getting ready for their N.E.W.T.'s and the fifth years their O.W.L.'s, so they both pretty much ignore the world right now. Sixth years are not much different with the workload they'll have this year," she explained. "That leaves just the fourth years and below. Do you know why they've singled you out, Harry?"
Harry gave a slight nod of his head before replying in a hesitant voice, "I think it is due to the friends I decided to have," he told the older witch across the desk from him.
Hermione could no longer just sit there and quickly reached out and laid her hand on Harry's arm, giving a small squeeze of appreciation for what he was doing for her. Had there been any doubt what-so-ever remaining about if he truly was her friend or not it would have been banished in that instant. As there was no doubt, all she could do is clasp Harry's arm as she felt the familiar warmth seep into her chest and slowly start to spread once again.
How do you tell an eleven year old that the world is not always anice place? The Wizarding world was anything but nice place. There were certain aspects of it that were amazingly wonderful, yet like all things there were also those that were the complete opposite. As distasteful as House rivalry was, it had long been an acceptable and expected aspect of school life there at Hogwarts. The Professor doubted that it would change any time soon, if ever.
Aurora smiled softly as she saw Hermione bravely reach out and give Harry's arm a comforting squeeze. Gathering her own courage, the young witch decided to stay with the truth. Hopefully when they are a little older they will understand better."Harry, there will always be people who will not approve of your choices in life. It doesn't matter if it is the profession you choose when you're older, the manner in which you carry yourself or even the friends that you decide to keep about you."
Aurora looked between the two of them, noting that she had their complete and undivided attention. She resisted the urge to grin, though it was hard to not to do so, when she noticed the young witch's thumb absently rubbing back and forth across the young wizard's arm. Apparently the two first year students were too engrossed in what she was telling them to notice the affectionate display.
"I'm sure you've both heard the phrase, 'You can't please everyone'?" she asked only to see them both nod slightly before she continued. "If you can't please everyone then you should please yourselves. By this I mean that you shouldn't allow others to dictate what you can and can not do. Within the rules," she hastily added. "Choose whichever career you feel most inclined towards. Dress in the manner that makes you most comfortable. Most certainly," she added with a pointed glance between the both of them, "choose the company you want, not that which others say you should keep. Personally, from what I have seen, I think you are a fine judge of the people you should be near, Harry."
Harry blushed slightly at the compliment, still being unused to receiving them. It was not something that was a regular occurrence while growing up with the Dursleys. Harry was attempting to recall if he had ever received a compliment from his relatives when he suddenly had a thought."Professor, what if the situation doesn't get better or it even gets worse?" The prospect of Hermione having to deal with more than she had already was not something Harry liked to think about, but he grudgingly admitted it was a possibility.
Nodding slightly, Aurora had to admit that the boy's concerns were valid. The thought that any student would take things past harmless pranks was enough to spark her anger, but she wisely realized that now was not the time for such thoughts. "I understand your concerns as they very well could be valid, Harry," Aurora admitted regrettably. After pausing for a moment to think she continued, "There may very well come a time when your convictions will be tested, when the pressures that others place upon you seem too heavy a burden to bear. I hope that such a time never graces your young shoulders." She told him earnestly. "Should it though you may have to choose between doing what is easy and what you feel is right, for you."
"But how will I know what to do, Professor?" Harry asked after licking his lips quickly to moisten them.
"I think that is a choice that we each have to make for ourselves, Harry. Though not till we're both much older," Sinistra added with a forced smile and a short chuckle to break the tense mood that seemed to have enveloped the room. "If anything happens, my door is always open. That goes for both of you," the dark-skinned witch added turning her gaze to Hermione who had remained uncharacteristically silent during the entire exchange.
"Now, unless I miss my mark it is nearly time for the evening meal," Aurora said, once more falling into the role of a Hogwarts Professor. "The two of you should go wash up before your late for the meal," she said, shewing them out of her office with a smile. I'll have to speak with Professor McGonagall, Aurora thought to herself as she watched them leave. It had been clear to her, judging by the expressions upon the young bushy-haired witch's face, that the one with the problem was actually the Granger girl. She may be relatively new to teaching, compared to many of the other professors, but she knew how to read her students!
Harry and Hermione quickly let themselves out of the office but had only gone a few feet down the hallway when Harry suddenly stopped."Wait for me here a sec?" he asked. "I forgot something."
"Sure," Hermione replied, willing to do just about anything for the boy by this point after what he had just done for her.
Harry spun about and hurried back into the professor's office without bothering to knock. Aurora looked up at the boy's entrance and arched abrow in question. Quickly making his way around the witch's desk Harry leaned in and quickly placed a kiss upon the stunned witch's cheek. "Thanks Professor! You were brilliantly helpful!" he declared as he made a hasty exit so as not to keep Hermione waiting. Behind him he left a very befuddled and once again blushing witch in his wake.
"That was quick," Hermione said once Harry rejoined her and they fell into step with each other. "What did you forget?" she curiously asked as they walked down the hallway towards the Great Hall.
"To say thanks," Harry replied, causing the witch next to him to smile appreciatively and once again give thanks that Harry wasn't like other boys.
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