Categories > Books > Harry Potter > I, Alone
Chapter 8- Freedom
Theodore Nott was no fool. Growing up with a father who loved to use the Cruciatus Curse as a form of punishment saw to that rather quickly. To anger the head of the Nott family was to quickly find yourself upon the floor withering in excruciating pain. Theodore's father, Thomas Nott, was the head of their Noble House with powers of authority that were unquestionable and near god-like to the child. This point was sufficiently driven home at the tender young age of six.
The young Nott scion was seated at the dinner table with his father, eating in silence as he always did, fearful the wrong word would set his father off. The women of the Nott family, his mother and several cousins, ate after the males being of lesser standing according to the head of the Nott House. His father didn't want them sitting at the table with him, claiming that having to look at them spoiled his appetite. Still a child at the time he was indifferent to girls in general and could scarcely tell the difference between the genders. He well knew his father's dislike for the female members of the family. All who lived in the Nott Manor were well aware of this fact. So it was with no small amount of surprise that Theodore looked up at his mother's approach as the two males were eating.
The youngest Nott quickly glanced towards his father in trepidation, fearing the outburst that was to come any moment now. Thomas Nott was a rather large man who enjoyed his meals. He was not heavy set but neither could one properly call him thin either. His hair line was receding even while the rest of it started to thin, though it showed no hints of greying as yet. The man's square jaw seemed firmly fixed in place and his dark recessed eyes seemed to miss nothing. The head of the Nott family always gave the appearance of continually calculating everything about him. The past ten years, since the demise of his master the Dark Lord, had been very profitable for the seated man.
Dinner was one of the few times Thomas was both able to enjoy something he considered one of life's few pleasures, namely good food. It was also the only time of the day that he allowed himself not to be disturbed with the hassles of running the family business or the Nott family itself. It was due to knowing this that Theodore was certain an explosion of biblical proportions was imminent as he spied the approach of his mother.
"My Lord," Gertrude Nott intoned hesitantly as she halted several feet from the table with her head bowed submissively. Thomas has decreed upon assuming the Head of House position that no female member of the family was ever allowed to look up and meet the eyes of a male member of the family. The elder Nott firmly believed that women were good for only two things, birthing children and satisfying the lustful urges of their husbands. As both could be done in the bedroom and neither required any spoken words to be performed, a fact he rather appreciated as he preferred women neither seen nor heard outside of that room. It was believed this was also why his wife had a separate bedroom from his own, so that he had to see her as little as possible.
"What?" Thomas snapped in an annoyed tone without looking towards the waiting woman as he reached for his knife to cut another bite size piece from his steak.
Gertrude's eyes widened slightly as she saw her husband's hand move towards his wand which rested on the table next to him. It wasn't until his hand lifted the knife next to the wand that she swallowed heavily before wondering absently how her life had ever reached this point. It wasn't all that long ago that her family had been something far more.
Edda Meier was the third daughter of minor German nobility. Being the third daughter left her with few options once her older sisters were married off. When an offer of betrothal had arrived from the Bulstrode family from Britain, an old and prominent house, the girl's father had jumped at the chance to sell her off believing that the partnership would strengthen his own position. It was a mistake he would never know he made.
Six months after the wedding a mysterious sickness claimed the entire Meier line leaving Edda the sole heiress as the only surviving member. Darrien Bulstrode as her husband received the Meier family's wealth, lands and title. Shortly thereafter Gertrude had been born as Edda was already well along with the child at the time of her family's demise. On the night of her birth Gertrude was betrothed to the then five year old Thomas Nott to cement an alliance between the two families. The then young Nott scion, upon coming of age, claimed his bride and took her rather forcibly their wedding night. Gertrude was all of twelve at the time.
The young wife was fortunate not to conceive that time due to being so young. She quickly learned the various forms of contraceptive in secret so as not to supply her husband with the much sought after heir he so greatly desired. The girl was an extremely bright witch and soon realized that once achild was born of their union she would become expendable.
It was only by chance that Theodore was born. Gertrude had fallen ill with a sickness that she just couldn't seem to rid herself of. The illness drained her of strength and kept her confined to bed. It was during such time that Thomas came and forced himself upon her and the conception was done. Only the fact that she seemed to rapidly recover her health afterwards lead her to believe that the sickness had not been by accident but rather planned.
"I spoke with the healers earlier today," Gertrude informed her husband, a note of fear in her voice. She well knew that Thomas wished for another son so that he might strengthen his ties to other houses through marriage. Though there had been many attempts at siring another sibling the efforts to date had proven fruitless. The news she had received today she knew would not be well received. "They informed me that I would no longer be able to bear children," she said in a rush.
Thomas continued to chew the piece of steak in his mouth, swallowing it before speaking. "Is that all?" he enquired in a casual tone.
"Y…yes, Milord," Gertrude replied, a note of relief in her voice as she had feared that her husband would remove her from the family now that her usefulness was at an end. The thought of being separated from her son was heartbreaking, however she knew Thomas had the authority to do just that.
The head of the Nott family motioned to the empty seat on his left, across the table from the young Theodore. "Please, have a seat Gertrude," he said as he used his knife to trim another piece of meat from his steak before spearing it with his fork and popping it into his mouth to savior the rich flavor.
"Are you certain, Milord?" enquired the confused woman. Seeing her husband and lord nod once she quickly followed his orders and eased into the offered seat. Head bowed and hands clasped in her lap she awaited further instructions. The potion she had finally procured and ingested two weeks back had put an end to her fertility. It was the actions of a woman who had reached her limit and was tired of being ridden like a brood mare with no thought or consideration for herself.
"Take this," Thomas said evenly, offering his own steak knife to the woman once she was seated. With a look of continued confusion Gertrude did as directed and accepted the offered knife, holding it gingerly with one hand. The head of the Nott family reached over and lifted his wand, pointing it at his wife. "/Imperius/," he said in a calm and even tone as if he was merely discussing the weather."I find I no longer have a need for you. Take the knife in your hand and from wrist to elbow cut as deeply as you can on each of your arms. Then return the knife to me," he said without a hint of emotion as he sat back and savored the moment.
Theodore watched in horror as the woman that gave birth to him did as instructed. Perhaps the most horrifying thing of the entire occurrence was that all the while his mother was killing herself she had a peaceful, almost serene, smile upon her face. Once the deed had been done the bleeding woman presented the bloody knife back to her husband who promptly used it to cut another piece of steak before popping it into his mouth.
At the young age of six Theodore suddenly understood that the man who he called father had complete and utter control over his own insignificant life. The man sitting at the table next to him chewing a piece of steak and watching his wife bleed out could end his life at any moment. Theodore lived only so long as there was a use for him. Silently the young Pureblood vowed that there would always be a need for him even if it only to see his father dead by his own hand one day.
Theodore blinked twice, returning his attention to the conversation at hand and wondering absently what had caused him to think of that moment from his youth. The brown haired boy nodded in agreement as if he had been paying attention to the blonde boy who sat next to him the entire time.
"We are both from old Pureblood families," Draco continued with what he was fast referring to as his 'recruitment speech',"as such it is in our best interest to band together rather than mingle with the likes of others here. Look around you, Theo. The half-blood and mud-bloods nearly out number us," the Malfoy scion said with acondescending sneer. "It's as my father feared, they'll let anyone into Hogwarts these days!"
Theodore cringed inwardly, hating to be called Theo by anyone."So what do you want from me?" he asked softly as any child his age would have. The Nott scion had been well schooled by his father. His instructions had been to get close to the Malfoy boy and help him in any way possible.
Still, Theodore wasn't just any child. He was far wiser and smarter than the other eleven year olds in his class. Rather than seeking out Draco he had allowed the boy to come to him. This served to set them as equals. Had he sought the blonde boy out first it would have regulated him to the same sub-servant positions of the Crabbe and Goyle boys. Theodore barely managed to repress the shiver of revulsion at the thought.
"For now, nothing much," Draco told him, a bit surprised at how easy it had been to enlist the boys allegiance. "Try and recruit others to our cause," he explained to the youngest member of the Nott family. "Avoid associating with those who are not like us."
"…and if they will not join?" Theodore asked, already knowing the answer. As first years there wasn't much they could do to those older than them. For now they would be forced to limit their actions to those within their own year.
"For now we leave them be but they will pay when the time is right," Draco replied with an edge to his voice that would have made men far older than himself shiver in fear. "Their time will most certainly come!"
"What of the Greengrass girl," Theodore enquired having seen the dressing down Draco had received at her hands the day before. In truth the Nott heir knew this to be a sore spot for the Malfoy youth and he just couldn't resist the chance to pour salt into the already bleeding wound. His father had confided in him that Malfoy senior was attempting to force amarriage contract from the Greengrass family, a contract between the two blonde Slytherins.
"My father is taking care of her," Draco replied with asnarl of frustration at the boy's question. The young Pureblood quickly schooled his features, however an air of pride adorned his features when speaking of his father. "Once she is mine then she will amend her ways," he added to indicate that there were other plans afoot for the girl in question. "Leave her be or answer to me," Draco threatened in amenacing tone.
Theodore glanced discreetly down the breakfast table at the blonde girl who sat conversing softly with the auburn haired witch Davis she was always in the company of. I'll need to write home to father concerning this as well as Potter it seems.The head of the Nott family had made it very clear that he wanted to be kept abreast of any plans the Malfoys might have. I'm certain that it will all play into Father's plan in some manner.
"Understood," he replied to the Malfoy boy in a neutral tone as he maneuvered a fork full of eggs into his mouth. It was not the Nott family way to do things themselves if they could help it. Far better to let others do the work while remaining unobtrusively by their side. Theodore's father had told him that the Malfoys had the money and influence for the time being, however should that change then the Nott family would quickly step in to fill the void their demise left. The only remaining question was whether that demise would be by the Malfoy's own hands or assisted by the one right next to them.
"So Herbology this morning and then our first flying lesson this afternoon?" Tracey Davis asked her friend for confirmation as she took a sip of her morning tea. She wasn't sure how other students managed to stomach the pumpkin juice served at every meal. She personally felt the liquid was vile and should be tossed out. She preferred tea or even coffee to the swill being guzzled by the majority of the student body. Idly she couldn't help but wonder just what was in each of the cups and glass situated before each staff member at the head table.
Daphne nodded as she quickly swallowed the food in her mouth before replying. "You did read the chapter last night like I suggested didn't you?" Seeing her childhood friend hastily take a fork full of eggs and stuff them in her mouth quickly followed by a bite of toast was all the answer she needed. "Tracey! How do you expect to get good grades if you don't apply yourself? You're so smart if you only worked a bit harder at it you could be at the top of the class," Daphne scolded her.
"Not all of us have a desire to be at the top of the class," Tracey said around the remainder of the food in her mouth which was stuffed into one cheek giving her a slightly chipmunkish sort of look."Honestly Daphne, this is our first week. Isn't there some sort of rule about holding off on applying one's self till after fourth week or something at least?"
The blonde Slytherin girl rolled her eyes in exasperation at her friend. "Tracey, with you fourth week quickly becomes sixth week which then makes the short leap to next term and before you realize it the year is over with!"
"When's the last time you ever heard of anyone failing first year?" Tracey asked with an arched brow and a pointed stare, certain she had won the discussion as to the best of her knowledge no first year student had ever failed to move on to second year. It was like there was some unspoken golden rule that students weren't allowed to be failed.
Daphne snorted in disbelief at her friend's argument. "So you mean to become the first then do you?" The blonde Slytherin shock her head in disbelief. "Just because you've never heard of someone failing doesn't mean it hasn't happened. It's not like the school would advertise something like that as it would give the appearance that they couldn't do their jobs correctly," she explained to her Housemate.
"That's not what I meant," Tracey replied defensively."Herbology is all about lectures and reports this year," the auburn haired witch continued with. "It's not like I won't have time tonight to read the chapter. Astronomy class isn't till midnight after all. It will give me something to do in order to stay awake," Tracey said with a sad pout in an attempt to appease her friend.
"Look, the point is that you shouldn't allow yourself to get behind. Once you do that it's all downhill from there and you'll never get caught up," Daphne tried to explain to her dearest friend while ignoring the infuriating cuteness of her friends pout. "I just want to see you do the best you can is all."
"Come on, I want to stop by the library before going to class," Tracey said as she got to her feet, slinging her book bag over her shoulder and effectively ending the argument. "I've heard so much about what Potter did to the books that I want to see it with my own eyes."
"Fine," Daphne replied with a heavy sigh. It was not the first time the two girls had this particular conversation. Daphne worked hard and studied even harder for her good grades. In contrast Tracey did as little as possible and yet still managed to pull in rather good grades. In truth the ease at which her friend managed it Daphne found extremely frustrating. She was certain that should Tracey really work at her lessons she could be head of their year or at least second to herself and Granger who seemed to tie often.
They walked side by side from the great hall and then out to the grand staircase for the trip to the third floor. Tracey had a smile on her face while Daphne frowned, displeased by her friend's refusal to apply herself properly.
"Tell you what," Tracey offered as she slipped her arm through Daphne's and pulled the slender blonde girl close against her side,"I'll read two chapters tonight which will put me ahead for next week."
Daphne's answering smile brightened the stairwell, or so it seemed to the auburn haired witch. "You promise? No taking it back," the young blonde witch asked as she held out her pinkie finger to her friend.
"I swear," Tracey replied with a smile as she stuck out her own pinkie and wrapped it around the other girl's in a pinkie promise.
"What do we do with pinkie promises?" Daphne asked as part of their age old ritual. For as far back as either of them could recall they had always tied their promises to each other in this manner. While some might think it childish to still be doing it at their age, neither really cared what others thought hence it was a moot point.
"We keep them," Tracey confirmed before releasing the small finger entwined with hers, glad that Daphne was smiling once again. They were so close to one another that it was an unwritten rule that if one was down it was the responsibility of the other to raise their spirits…by any means possible. A smiling Daphne is my favorite Daphne of all, Tracey mused to herself.
The two girls made their way up the shifting stairways to the third floor. "Why the sudden interest in what Harry did?" Daphne asked as she glanced at the portraits without any real interest. It felt nice, just the two of them. So long as I have Tracey with me I know everything will be alright.
"Oh so he's 'Harry'now?" Tracey teased her friend with a mischievous grin as she tightened her grip on the other girl's arm so she couldn't pull away.
"Stop avoiding the question Davis and just answer it," Daphne countered with, deftly deflecting the question aimed at her in the process. It's always been Harry, hasn't it, she couldn't help wonder silently to herself. Well, that is his name after all. He did introduce himself to me as Harry when we were atop the train after all, she reminded herself.
Tracey shrugged slightly as they walked along the library hallway."I don't know. I couldn't sleep last night and so got up to go downstairs to read a bit," she confessed to her friend. "I still haven't gotten adjusted to being here I guess. I figured a page or two of The History of Magicshould be sufficient to put anyone into a coma induced slumber." Both girls chuckled in agreement. "I curled up on the couch in front of the fire and there he was."
"Who? Har….Potter?" Daphne asked after quickly using Harry's surname to avoid further ribbing from the girl with her.
Tracey smirked at Daphne's slip but decided not to comment on it."Yeah. You know the small couch tucked into the fireplace off to the side. Well he was curled up on it, fast asleep." The young witch decided not to mention how she had gone and found a blanket for the sleeping boy or how she had gently tucked him in.
"So what did you do?" the blonde witch enquired, a note of anticipation in her voice.
"What do you mean 'what did I do?' I read a few pages and then went back to bed," Tracey retorted with, shooting the girl next to her a questioning look only to see her shrug dismissively. They both walked a short ways before passing into the library itself. "He's kind of cute when he's sleeping," Tracey admitted in the hushed tone that people usually use when in a library.
"WHAT!" Daphne exclaimed in disbelief earning her areproachful glare from Madam Pince as well as a hushing motion from Tracey next to her. Daphne quickly turned and headed to the area with all the missing books. "It's over this way," she offered over her shoulder in a soft tone.
"I mean he didn't snore nor do any of the other disgusting things boys typically do," Tracey clarified as they wound their way through the shelves of books and scrolls. "How do you know where it happened?" Tracey asked suddenly realizing what her friend had said.
"Granger and I came here yesterday when she wanted to talk," Daphne told her friend. "We're going to start studying together," she hastily added before Tracey could ask what the talk was about. Considering the ribbing she was already getting from Tracey she wasn't about to tell her that she and Hermione had come here to talk about Harry.
"Oh, I want in on that!" Tracey quickly exclaimed."With the both of you studying together you'll make the rest of us look like befuddled fools! Maybe we should see if Blaise and Harry want to join as well," Tracey suggested off-handedly.
"I wonder what he was doing sleeping there instead of his in his bed," Daphne asked rhetorically as neither of them knew the answer to her question. "Maybe he fell asleep while doing his homework," Daphne hazard as a guess.
The auburn haired Slytherin smirked, realizing that her friend had not even heard her suggestion of inviting the two boys to the forming study group. I guess I'll just have to do it myself then, she surmised. "Not unless he's taken to doing his homework in his pajamas," Tracey offered. "He was clearly dressed for bed." Both girls looked at each other, uncertain what to make of that fact.
Daphne chewed the inside of her cheek as she pondered what Tracey had said. I certainly didn't see him there this morning, she thought to herself. The blonde Slytherin had risen earlier than normal and was one of the first ones down to the common room. She had used the time spent waiting for Tracey to join her to read ahead in her Herbology book. That means he must have gotten up even earlier than I did or maybe he woke during the night and made it up to his bed. She hoped it was the latter of the two as a she was fairly certain that a night spent on the small couch near the fire wouldn't have been comfortable.
Tracey gave a low whistle as they stepped out from between a row of shelves into an area obviously meant for studying. There were several tables evenly spaced about the area, all of which were laden with books currently. Even the chairs around the tables had been pulled out and had books piled upon them. Beyond the currently unusable tables were tall empty bookshelves made of dark sturdy wood. "That's a lot of books," Tracey said in a slightly awed tone of voice.
"There are several rows of shelves that are empty currently thanks to Harry," Daphne said with a small smile of admiration at the boy's ability, be it intentional or accidental. Those weren't there yesterday, she silently thought, eying the tables piled high with books as she led her friend towards the still empty shelves. "It's amazing he could so much damage in so short an amount of time," Daphne said with a humorous grin.
"I bet Madam Pince was beastly over it," Tracey said with a chuckle as she followed her Housemate.
"She was more than a little put out," said a distinctly male voice just before a dark mass of hair and emerald eyes peeked out past atall stack of books on the table nearest the empty shelves.
"Harry!" Daphne gasped in disbelief and slight embarrassment from talking about the boy without knowing he was about.
"What brings you here, Potter?" Tracey asked without missing a beat though her cheeks were a bit pinker than normal as she had been gossiping about the boy as well.
Harry shrugged slightly as he replied with a small smile,"Restoring the books my accident caused," he told them. "Sorry if you needed one of the books from there," he added, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder to indicate the now empty shelves. "I should have them all restored later tonight I think," he told them in a hopeful voice.
Daphne couldn't look the boy in the face for some reason. While they probably weren't the first to come to see the devastation to the Library's parchments, scrolls and books caused by Harry, she wasn't comfortable telling him that was why they were there. If it was her, she knew that she wouldn't enjoy the notoriety that such an accident was sure to bring.
"I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and dragged Daphne with me," Tracey spoke up, sensing her friend's uneasiness."I'll say this, you sure know how to call attention to yourself, Potter!" Tracey realized it was the wrong thing to say as the smile on the boy's face disappeared in a blink of an eye only to be replaced by a look of embarrassment.
"Come to laugh at me as well? Might as well," Harry said in a quiet and even voice, "everyone else has. Sorry I can't stick around to amuse you as I best get back to work," he said turning away before either stunned girl could reply.
"Harry we didn't mean…I mean it wasn't intentional…," her words trailed off as none of them seemed to be the right thing to say."If you'd like we can wait and walk to class with you, Harry," Daphne finally offered as she watched him turn away with a sad look on his face.
Harry paused and glanced at the two girls. "No. I can find it myself. Thanks," he told them before grabbing an armful of books and disappearing back into the maze of shelves to put them away.
The two Slytherin girls looked at each other and sighed dejectedly before turning and retracing their steps to head to class. They both knew that they may have inadvertently caused the young wizard to withdraw from them further when they were working to draw him out of his shell. "Well, that couldn't have gone any spectacularly worse," Tracey quipped. Daphne could do little more than silently agree, wondering what to do now.
Harry walked down the rows of empty shelves till he reached the last one and then turned and started placing the books in his arms upon the next available shelf. It's not bad enough that everyone wants to gawk at The-Boy-Who-Lived, now they also want to see the freakthat turned all the books to pins. In his mind he could hear his uncle Vernon's voice spitting out the word /Freak/just as clearly as if the man was standing there in front of him.
Harry sighed, wishing not for the first time that he was back home, safe and secure in his cupboard under the stairs. Life there hadn't been perfect but it was all he had known as opposed to here where he knew next to nothing and no one. Between a choice of the known and the unknown he did as most people would do and longed for what had passed for his 'normal' life at number four Privet Drive.
Last night, with the assistance of Hermione, he had started transfiguring books back from the pins that he had transfigured them into when his magic had slipped his control. They had worked in relative silence the entire time till Madam Pince came by to inform them that it was nearly curfew time and they should hurry on to their Houses.
Though they spoke very little, Harry still felt like it was awonderful time. He had never spent so much time in another person's presence as he had with the Granger girl. It was almost like we were friends just hanging out, he mused before grinning as his own foolishness. Friends aren't to be trusted, he reminded himself with a slight shake of his head.
The one time he had thought he had a friend had ended in disaster. Still, even in the short amount of time he had spent at Hogwarts he had seen others sitting about laughing, talking and giving every indication of enjoying themselves. Is that what friends do? he wondered. If I had a friend would I be able to talk to them? Would they make me laugh?Sadly the bespectacled young wizard realized that even if friends could be trusted he had no clue what to do with one or how to act around one.
Growing up he had seen how Dudley and the boys that hung around his cousin acted. It was very similar to how Draco was with Crabbe and Goyle. Dudley was the uncontested leader and the others marched to his tune or faced the consequences. If that's how it is to have friends I'm not all that certain I want any part of it, he told himself. I'd have to be severely mental to be ordering others around and treating them like Dudley does his friends!
In his world there were those who had and then there was him. Others had clothes that fit correctly. Not him. It was for others to have family that loved and cherished them. Not him. If others truly do have friends then certainly Ishouldn't, he was left to reason. My world may be lonely but it is one I know well, he thought to himself feeling a measure of security from the knowledge of what equated to normal in his life. My life may not be perfect but then again whose is?
Still, he had certainly found the time spent with the young Gryffindor witch last night enjoyable. Sadly it was the very time spent in the presence of another that had made him realize just how lonely his life truly was. It took being with someone to realize that he had been kept separate from everyone else his entire life. While it was safer to be alone it was that just as well…alone.
It was with those depressing thoughts playing within his head that he had entered the Slytherin common room and made his way to the first year dormitory. After removing his robes and changing into his pajamas he had pulled back the covers of his bed and was just about to jump in when he had smelled something which forestalled his enthusiastic leap onto the mattress.
Harry reached out hesitantly with one hand while holding the covers aside. His questing fingers encountered a thick wet substance. Raising his hand he took a tentative whiff of the sticky substance and from the earthy scent deduced that his bed was full of mud. I guess it could have been worse, he told himself at the time as he wiped his hand off on the sheet and allowed the covered to drop back into place.
It didn't take long to determine that the sheets as well as the blankets were in shambled and couldn't be salvaged. Fortunately his pillow had managed to escape the lackluster prank. With a resigned sigh he had taken it and returned to the common room. As he was leaving the dormitory he was certain that he had heard several hastily hushed snickers and whispers behind him.
Growing up with his cousin Dudley, pranks of this nature were common occurrences. This one was actually kind of amateurish, Harry thought to himself as he retraced his steps to the Slytherin common room. There were still several of the older students in the room either chatting or working on assignments. Harry quickly crossed to the small couch near the fire and curled up and went to sleep. When he had awakened in the morning it was to discover that someone had tucked him in with a warm blanket. Some people prank me while another tuck me in, he pondered with aslightly bewildered, slightly amused, look upon his face.
Harry shook his head, all the more certain that he didn't understand other people, as he slipped the last of the books onto the shelf and turned to retrieve more only to find a bushy-haired witch with an armful of books blocking his path. "Hermione," Harry said, more than slightly surprised at seeing her there.
"I thought I might find you here," the young Granger girl said matter-of-factly. Harry shrugged non-committedly. "Rough night?"
"Something like that," he admitted sullenly as he relieved her of most of the books in her arms and started to place them on the shelf next to the ones he had just deposited there. "Did you eat breakfast?" Harry asked in an attempt to change the subject not really wishing to discuss the events of the previous night and his sleep accommodations.
"I did," Hermione replied with an abrupt nod of her head, "Did you?" Harry's stomach suddenly let out a rather loud growl causing the boy to blush in embarrassment. "I guess that answers that," the young witch continued with as Harry relieved her of the remainder of books in her arms. "I brought you an apple," she said as she held out the fruit she had just taken from a pocket in her robes. "You can eat it on the way to class...which if we leave right now we should just be able to make in time."
"Thanks," Harry offered as he hesitantly took the red fruit from her hand. "Let me get my bag," he said as he stepped around her to go and retrieve his backpack from where he left it at the tables. The two of them left the library together and walked in silence as they descended the stairs, though this could be due to Harry attempting to finish the apple she had given him before they reached the greenhouse where their class was to be at.
"Did you read the chapter for today?" Hermione asked, being sure to keep the questions answerable with nod of a shake. Seeing Harry nod brought a smile to the young witches face as she found the boy to be more like herself each time they spoke. "I've read ahead several chapters actually. I can't wait till we learn about Devil's Snare and the Incendio charm," Hermione prattled on as they descended the stairs and made their way outside. The young witch continued on as she spoke about the other plants and spells they would be covering for the year, content to carry the bulk of the conversation.
Harry, for the most part was content to walk beside the rambling witch and simply listen to the sound of her voice. While most eleven year old boys would never admit to enjoying the sound of a girl's voice or the pleasure of their company, Harry was most certainly not your typical eleven year old boy. He was more than content to allow her to continue as it meant that he himself did not have to speak. Given his recent feelings of loneliness being with someone was just what he needed at the moment.
"I'm rambling aren't I, Harry?" Hermione suddenly asked catching the young wizard by surprise as they reached the first of the greenhouses. "You can tell me if I am. I don't mind really," she said to assure him. "My Mum and Dad say I ramble, but it's just so seldom that anyone is willing to listen to me," she tried to explained to him, her hands moving animatedly with every word she spoke.
"Most people stand and just stare at me for a moment or two before they say they have some appointment or previous engagement they need to attend to and hurry off," Hermione told him with a trace of pain in her voice. "Those that do stay really have no clue what I'm talking about usually. So, please do tell me if I ramble on," she reiterated once more as she looked towards him, imploring him with her brown doe-like eyes.
"N…no," Harry stammered, suddenly finding himself in uncharted waters without a life raft or any other means of saving himself. In desperation he blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "I really like the sound of your voice so please don't stop."
The young petite witch stopped dead in her tracks at his words causing him to pause as well. Turning he saw the shocked look upon Hermione's face and he suddenly feared he had offended her in some manner. "I'm sorry. Maybe I shouldn't have said that?" Anything further he was going to say was suddenly halted as he found himself with a face full of bushy brown hair that smelled strangely of strawberries and his arms filled with the petite slender Gryffindor witch. Harry froze in fear as a pair of slim arms were wrapped around his shoulders and hugging him tightly.
Hermione suddenly realized what she had done and jumped back releasing Harry from the hug she had thrown on him impulsively. "Oh, I'm sorry, Harry," she stammered, recalling how he had shied away from her touch before. "I wasn't thinking," she tried to apologies, fearing that her actions would push him away from her once again. "I know you don't like me touching you. I just couldn't help myself. No one has ever said that to me before. Not even my Mom and Dad. I'm a hugger….it's what I do," she finished with as her shoulders rose and fell in an apologetic shrug.
Harry stared at the Gryffindor witch nervously chewing her bottom lip as she anxiously regarded him with watery eyes. The shock of the sudden contact was slowly easing away. When he had been grabbed his first reaction was to brace for a beating. The fact that no beating came left him more confused than anything. "It's alright, Hermione," Harry told her, forcing a small smile to his lips. Seeing her still eyeing him with a half frightened expression he turned away. "Come on. We'll be late for class if we stay here much longer."
That got the young witch moving once again. The fear of breaking the rules was something the young girl wouldn't do willing. They walked along for a bit in silence before Hermione tried once again to apologize for her actions. "Harry…?"
"It's alright. Really Hermione," Harry told her with agenuine grin, feeling that she was more shaken up over what had happened than he was. "I don't know what that was you did back there," he told her as the door to the greenhouse their class was to be held in came into view,"but it wasn't bad. It was sort of nice," he finished with a bit flustered by the admission, his emerald eyes never leaving the ground in front of his shoes.
"Honestly, Harry," Hermione replied with a mixture of relief and disbelief in her voice, "you act as if you've never had a hug before!" she stated as she unconsciously brushed several errant strands of hair behind one ear in a nervous habit she tended to do when embarrassed. He thought my hug was nice?, she nearly squealed within her head. The young witch hadn't been able to hug asoul since saying goodbye to her parents on the platform at King's Cross station and she was starting to feel as if she was going through withdrawal. Giving and receiving hugs was one of her greatest pleasures in life. It ranked right up there next to books.
"Is that what that was?" Harry asked as he glanced towards her with a creased brow only to see her nod hesitantly, uncertain if he was having a go at her or not. The young wizard shrugged, returning his gaze to where he was going. "I haven't," he informed her of just before opening the greenhouse door and stepping aside for her to enter before him.
Hermione desperately wanted to question him further, however as many of the other students were already present she knew that doing so would only embarrass Harry. I'll just have to ask him later then, she consoled herself with. Offering a small smile over her shoulder towards Harry, who was behind her due to holding the door for her, she found a seat on the Gryffindor side of the room and busied herself taking out her quill, inkwell and parchment. Could he really have never been hugged before? she wondered as she worked.
Harry noticed Blaise who was seated by himself at the back of the room and quickly slid into the seat next to him. So that was what a hug feels like? he silently pondered as he got his things out for the class. He knew what a hug was as he had seen his aunt give Dudley plenty of them. He had just never received one himself in all him years living with his relatives. I think I could grow to like them, he thought, his eyes unconsciously glancing towards Hermione who was setting out her own writing utensils.
"You ready for today, Potter?" Blaise asked Harry, his eyes sparkling with excitement as a small grin appeared on his face.
Harry opened his book to the first chapter before replying."As ready as I'll ever be," he replied. "I've read the chapter over several times so I think I have a pretty good understanding of it."
Blaise chuckled softly. "What are you mental? I'm not talking about this class," he told the confused wizard next to him, "like Icould care about a bunch of plants! We have our first flying lesson today, mate!"
The dark-hair Slytherin boy grinned good-naturedly, "I thought it was a little strange that you would be excited about class for once. I thought maybe you'd gone round the bend of something on us." Harry dodged the other boy's playful swipe at him before sitting up once more and shrugging dismissively at that afternoon's scheduled class. "I told you I've never ridden a broom before. Not sure I'll be any good at it."
"I over heard some of the fifth year guys talking about how they have races around the Pitch when it's not being used for Quidditch practice," Blaise informed him of with a board grin. "There is betting and everything!"
"What do you pitch?" Harry asked with a creased brow, certain he was missing something rather important by the look on the other boy's face.
"Not pitch, Pitch! As in where they play Quidditch at," Blaise clarified in an exasperated tone of voice that still had a heavy undertone of humor in it. "Did you get the book on Quidditch like I told you to?"
Harry arched a brow slightly. "Me. Books. Library. Hello!"
"Oh yeah," Blaise said with a crooked grin, recalling the recent incident in the library. "Then here," the dark boy said as he reached into his bag behind him and pulled out the book in question before presented it to the stunned Harry seated next to him. "You can borrow mine, mate."
"I couldn't possibly take yours!" Harry declared as he pushed the offered book away with the palm of one hand.
"Look, I've already read it twice," Blaise replied stubbornly thrusting the book back at the unwilling boy. "Just be sure to give it back to me when you've had a chance to read it over." Seeing the dark haired Slytherin hesitate Blaise pressed his advantage. "Really Harry, it's scary just how little you know of the Wizarding world you're a part of. Consider this homework to further your education. There isn't a witch or wizard alive that doesn't love the game!"
"Alright, alright," Harry relented. "I'll read it over but only so I'll have the slightest clue as to what you're talking about when you start pitching and catching things."
Before Blaise could correct him the door to the greenhouse flew upon as Ronald Weasley ran in and quickly took the vacant seat beside Hermione. Not a moment too soon it would seem as Professor Sprout stepped into the room, pausing to close the door which the redheaded Gryffindor had left open in his haste not to be late for class.
"I would greatly appreciate it if each of you could remember to make certain that the door closes behind you when entering," the Professor intoned as she walked towards the front of the class. "We try to keep the unwanted pollen and bugs out of the greenhouses as much as possible. Best you get into the habit now," she added with a pointed look at the Weasley boy, "while you're still new here."
Harry glanced over at the boy seated next to Hermione only to see his ears growing red with embarrassment. Harry could do little more than shake his head in silent sympathy, well understanding how it felt to be the center of attention. The blushing redhead caught him looking and shot a scathing glare in his direction. Hermione, seeing where her table partner was looking glanced back and gave Harry a soft smile before turning back to listen to the small, yet stout, Professor.
As soon as the class was over Harry bolted from the greenhouse and ran all the way back to the castle entrance. After stopping in the great hall long enough to secure an apple for his lunch the thin boy quickly ascended the staircases to the third floor and returned to the library. Flying lessons were not till later in the afternoon which meant that he could work at restoring the books he had transfigured. Sometime later as he was preparing to leave the library he felt confident that he should be able to complete the restoration of the missing books later that evening before his astrology class.
The several hours he had spent in the library had given him agreat deal of time to himself, allowing him to think. It was with a heavy sigh of remorse that he realized he might have been rude to Daphne and Tracey earlier that morning when they had been in the library. It's human nature to want to see what everyone is talking about, he reasoned. It doesn't mean they were there to specifically laugh at me. After so many others have come to do just that he had mistakenly jumped to the conclusion.
Though he hated it, he was realizing that there would always be those who would stare, if for no other reason than the scar on his forehead. There was very little he could do concerning his moniker of 'The-Boy-Who-Lived' he conceded begrudgingly. What's done is done and there's nothing I can do to change it now. I'll have to apologize to them, he told himself, knowing he had been in the wrong and feeling miserable because of it. I hope they aren't too mad at me. I guess all I can do is apologize and hope they'll understand.
Harry slung his book bag over his shoulder and left the library, running his hand through his hair as he walked down the hallway towards the ever shifting stairs. His ministration did little to improve the current state of his dark strands. Harry was so used to his unruly mass of hair that he wasn't even conscious of running his hand through it as he walked along.
Once I get all the books restored then people won't feel the need to come and stare any more, he told himself. With all the work he had been doing with the pins he'd had very little time for doing any reading other than what was required for his classes. The young wizard really wanted to be in Madam Pince's good graces so he could hide away in the library and read to his heart's content.
As he made his way out of the castle along with several other first year Gryffindor and Slytherin students, he could see the rest of their class already gathered below. It was a clear breezy day, and the grass rippled beneath his feet as he made his way down the slightly sloping lawn towards the flat grassy area the lesson would be held at. Directly ahead of him could be seen the Forbidden Forest, whose trees were swaying darkly in the insistent breeze. "Well this should be interesting," Harry mumbled softly aloud to himself as he paused next to Blaise.
"Hey, Potter, try not to make too big of a fool of yourself," Blaise offered with a cheeky grin. "No need to give Draco's ego any greater boost. Any larger and I doubt he'll be able to fit through the common room door!"
Harry, like all of the first year Slytherins, as well as any others that would listen, had heard over the past day just how great a flyer the young Malfoy heir was. If everything the corn-silk haired boy claimed was true then he had been playing Quidditch since the age of four and had no fewer than three near collisions with muggle flying craft.
"Never flown before," Harry reminded the other boy drily. "I'll be happy if I don't break something," he said with agrin, "be it the broom or myself."
Madam Hooch, a slender witch with short grey hair and yellow eyes like those of a hawk, soon arrived and got them to stand in lines facing each other. "Stick your hand out above your broom," Madam Hooch instructed from the front of the group where she could keep an eye on all of them, "and say UP!"
Everyone yelled "UP!"
Harry was more than a little surprised when the wooden shaft of the broom smacked rather forcibly against the palm of his hand which he had held out above it as instructed. Glancing around he quickly noticed, with even greater surprise, that he was the only one to get it up on the first try.
"Well done, Mr. Potter!" Madam Hooch praised him upon seeing the shaft of his broom protruding from his hand. "Five points for Slytherin."
Harry watched as Hermione was having problems with her boom and couldn't help but grin when the young witch looked at him quite vexed at the easy manner in which he had apparently accomplished the task. I guess she's not used to not being first, he thought amusedly while feeling rather proud of himself at the same time for being first for once. Looking to his left he was just in time to see Daphne get hers off the ground, rapidly follow by Tracey who quickly got a firm grip on her wiggling broom less it return to the ground.
Once everyone had their broom in hand Madam Hooch moved about the group showing everyone the right way to mount and sit their broom so they wouldn't fall off. Harry and Blaise were both chuckling when Tracey Davis barked a laugh at Malfoy's discomfort. Madam Hooch had informed the "seasoned broom rider' that he had been mounting and sitting his broom wrong all these many years.
"Now when I blow my whistle I want you to kick off the ground hard," Madam Hooch instructed them. "Rise up in the air a few feet then bring your broom back down by leaning forward slightly."
Suddenly, even before the whistle had blown, Neville Longbottom seemed to shoot up into the air. The frightened look upon his face clearly indicated that it was not a place that he wished to be. Despite several orders from Madam Hooch to bring his broom back down it continued to rise. As the entire class watched in horrified fascination the broom gave a violent shudder and the poor boy fell to the ground with a meaty thud. Madam Hooch was at the boy's side in an instant and proceeded to lead him towards the infirmary after issuing order that they were all to remain off their brooms till her return.
"Did you see his face," Malfoy chortled as soon as the flying instructor was out of hearing range. "The great lump!" Most of the other Slytherins joined in with laughter of their own.
"Shut up, Malfoy!" snapped Parvati Patil causing the blonde boy to laugh all the more.
"Oh, sticking up for the Longbottom?" Pansy Parkinson was quick to quip. "I never thought you'd like the chubby and klutzy type, Parvati. Maybe it's just his Pureblood you're after?" Pansy added with asneer.
Draco suddenly bent down and picked something up off the ground holding it out for others to see. It was a small round glass ball with gold bands wrapped around its axis. Harry, looking at the object had no clue what it was however he knew it wasn't Malfoy's.
"Maybe if he had used this he would have remembered how to come back down," Draco guffawed loudly causing him to receive a glare from the Patil girl and another round of laughter from several Slytherins.
For the rest of his life he would often wonder what made him do it. Try as he might he would never come up with a satisfactory reason for his actions that day. It was so contrary to everything he had beaten into him his entire life, yet standing there listening to Draco badmouth the boy who had just been injured was suddenly something Harry found considerably more than he could take.
Perhaps it was the very fact that he had been abused and put down his entire life. Knowing what that felt like he wouldn't wish that even on someone as mean and cruel as Draco or his cousin Dudley for that matter. Whatever the reason for it, hearing the laughter and the cruel comments of the blonde boy caused something to happen that never had before. Harry found himself truly angry at another person.
While the bespectacled boy accepted his lot in life and disliked his relatives he had never grown angry at them. Perhaps when he was very tiny he had as all small children have no control over their tempers but he didn't recall it if it had ever happened. Perhaps he was just too fearful of them to allow himself to feel angry when they beat him? He had long since given up trying to figure it out why he clung to his relatives and still craved their approval and attention. Here though was someone he could get angry at. Someone who was deserving of the rising fury he could feel building inside of him.
"Give it here, Malfoy!" Harry demanded, taking a step towards the other boy while holding out his hand for the object in question before he even realized what he had done.
There were several quick gasps and then shocked silence descended upon the group. Malfoy jumped on his broom and shot up into the air several feet before anyone could stop him. "If you want it come and get it Pot-," the blonde boy had to hastily move to one side to miss being knocked from his broom as Harry shot past him at a far greater speed than Draco had managed.
Harry paused, turning his broom on a dime with nary a thought as to how to do it. "I said give it here, Malfoy!"
"Want it for yourself, do you Potter?" Draco sneered as he tossed the glass sphere from one to hand to the other. "I think I might leave it someplace for Longbottom to find," he said loud enough for all to hear. "Maybe in a tree," he added with a wicked grin.
Harry sat astride his broom, noting that the other boy hadn't listened to Madam Hooch and was still seated incorrectly. "Give it here or I'll knock you from your broom and take it, Malfoy," Harry stated in the calmest of tones. "There's no Crabbe or Goyle up here to back you up. It's just me and you," he added in a softer tone of voice so that only the other boy could hear him. Harry noticed with satisfaction as Draco's grey eyes fearfully darted about as if suddenly realizing that fact as well.
Draco tried to play it off with a laugh but he couldn't ignore the shiver of fear that made its way down his spine. "Fine, if you want it so bad then go chase it!" the young scion exclaimed before he turned about and threw the glass object as hard and as high as he could. Harry zipped past him, the force of his passage unseating Draco who only just managed to grasp hold of his broom and was left dangling there until he could coax the broom low enough for him to drop to the group.
Harry shot past the prat completely unaware that he had actually unseated the boy and left him hanging in the air amidst howls of laughter from the Gryffindor members. Harry watched the glass sphere as it arched through the air and it seemed as if time slowed. In a split second he knew where the ball would land and adjusted his course dropping low to the ground as he pushed the old broom to accelerate even more. At near breakneck speed he shot along the ground, the wake from his passing parting the grass like the bow of a ship before leaving it whipping about crazily behind him. Suddenly the dark-haired Slytherin pulled up upon his broom coming to a sudden halt before spinning about and easily catching the thrown object.
Harry couldn't help the triumphant grin that appeared upon his face as the object thudded into the palm of his outstretched hand. Flying was the single greatest thing he had ever experienced in his life! Even greater than learning he was a wizard. Here is something I can do without even knowing how! he screamed exuberantly within his mind, grinning so broadly it rendered him incapable of speech at the moment. For the few seconds he had sped along the ground with the wind whistling past his ears he had known for the first time in his life what it felt like to be truly free. Flying on a broom is freedom!
Harry put his feet down and stood up as his broom had been skimming along the ground that closely. After pulling the broom out from between his legs he held up the glass ball he had caught for all to see. It was only then that he realized no one was cheering or even making a move in his direction. Instead all eyes seemed to be fixed on a point just over his shoulder.
"Mr. Potter," said a cool voice almost directly behind the first year Slytherin. "Fancy yourself a Quidditch player now do you?" Professor Snape enquired with a sneer as the boy turned to face him."Apparently celebrity status isn't nearly enough for you."
"I was just trying to get…" Harry's words trailed off under the cold glare of his head of house. He had only wanted to get the thing from Malfoy he wanted to say but this was a Professor, his head of House none the less. Old habits ingrained took over, stealing any sense of accomplishment from him as he hastily cast he eyes towards the ground.
"Fascinating…," Snape drawled in a monotone voice."Perhaps we can find a better use for your wonderful…talents," the Potions Master nearly hissed. "If I see another student on a broom I will personally see to it that you're expelled quicker than you can say Quidditch!" Severus bellowed loud enough for all to hear. "Follow me, Potter," Snape said with a glare down his pale nose at the emerald eyed boy before turning away and striding off with his robes bellowing out behind him magnificently.
Harry glanced over at the other students only to see Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle all laughing at his expense. With a resigned sigh he turned and hastened after the departing Potions Master wondering what punishment awaited him or if he'd even remain at the school long enough to be punished.
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