Disclaimer: I don't own the Harry Potter universe.
Harry slowly walked the blocks between Benford and the shelter with Darius at his side. Darius understood that Harry didn’t want to talk at the moment because he was too nervous. He himself would be attending another local school, but he had promised Harry that he would be there after school so that they could walk back together. After Darius had heard that Harry was attending school, he’d talked to Mr. Benoglio about attending himself. He had enjoyed school and he wanted to provide a good role model for Harry.
“Darius?” Harry’s voice was quiet and hesitant. “What if I don’t do well?”
Darius looked at Harry and sighed. They had already talked about this over the weekend. Darius knew that Harry hadn’t had a pleasant experience at his old school, but he was unsure of how to comfort him. “Harry, you will. And even if you don’t, we’ll work together to help you improve.” He pulled Harry into a one-armed hug. “It’s a new start. No one here knows you, so you can be friends with anyone. There’s nothing, and no one to stand in your way.”
They eventually reached the short, ranch-style building that was Harry’s new school. Benford didn’t have a large field, and the majority of the property was covered in concrete. Old basketball hoops were placed next to the parking lot and were the only source of entertainment that they could see. They were early, and not many students could be seen milling about. Harry offered a shaky smile to Darius and started the trek through the large doors of the building to office, where he would begin his new career as a student.
Half an hour later, with the principal personally escorting him to class, Harry was walking through the narrow halls. A single beam of light ran through the course of the school, brightening the dreary walls and floor and every fifteen feet or so there was another wooden door. The principal paused in front of the door just before the hallway turned a corner and continued. He rapped firmly on the door three times before stepping away from the door and waiting, hands clasped behind his back; Harry stood awkwardly by his side.
The door was wrenched open, as if it was too big for its frame. The face of a woman peaked around the door and, seeing who was standing there, opened the door fully.
“Sorry. It sticks sometimes,” she offered as an excuse. She was small in stature, and Harry thought that Darius would be taller than her. She wore her mousy, wispy hair in a loose bun at the nape of her neck, and she had rather large, chocolate brown eyes. Her face was pale. Looking past her, he could see many children craning their necks to get a glance at him, and hear their whispers. He knew that they were talking about him, and he didn’t like it, but schooled himself to ignore them. He fidgeted uncomfortably, waiting to see what the principal would do next. At his previous school, his visits with the principal had been frequent and unpleasant. They were often followed by ranting and the cupboard at home.
“That’s quite alright, Miss Goodwin. I have a new student for you, a Mr. Harry Potter. I trust that you received the note from your mail box?” Miss Goodwin nodded and turned her head to Harry, giving him her full attention for the first time. The principal lightly nudged Harry through the open doorway and into the open curiosity of his new classmates.
One boy, sitting near the back of the class, was surrounded on all sides by fellow students, as a king is surrounded by subjects. His eyes were cold, hard beads of black that glared at everyone and everything. When Harry caught his gaze, he suddenly felt that he was back in the presence of Dudley, only this time he sensed a cruel air of intelligence about the boy. He almost wished that he could turn around and run down the hall and through the door, never to return to this school and this boy’s dreadful stare, but Harry knew that he couldn’t.
Instead, Harry stared back at the boy. This boy wasn’t Dudley—he didn’t have to live with him all the time, and the boy didn’t have a pair of adults at his beck and call. This time Harry wasn’t alone— this time Harry had Darius.
Miss Goodwin broke the unacknowledged staring contest between the two boys by taking Harry’s hand and leading him to the front of the class, in front of the blackboard. For the first time, Harry got a proper look at the classroom he found himself in. It was a small room that looked as though as many chairs and desks as possible had been crammed into it.
“Class, this is Harry Potter. He has transferred from another school and will be joining our class. Please make him welcome.” There were a few hellos, but the section of the class near the back was silent. Miss Goodwin continued, almost muttering to herself, “Now where can we put you, hmm? Ah, there’s an empty seat.”
She led him towards the back, and sat him down just a few rows apart from the boy who was still staring at him. Harry could hear their mutters, and was trying desperately to ignore them. Instead he focused with all his ability on Miss Goodwin, who was now trying to teach grammar to the class. Almost no one else paid any attention to her, conducting little conversations and passing notes among themselves. Harry had a feeling that he wasn’t going to be behind in this class for long.
Darius was waiting at the spot where Harry had left him that morning. His eyes scanned the growing swarm of children that fairly flew from the doors of the school. He couldn’t see the mop of messy black hair among them.
It was just a few days after Harry had first started at Benford. When Darius had asked Harry about his day the evening after his first day of school, Harry had smiled at him and told him that it had been fine. But Darius had seen the echo of painful remembrance in his eyes and had known that Harry wasn’t being entirely truthful. Harry had quickly changed the topic off him and Darius had given him silly responses in an attempt to lift the boy’s spirits.
Today as Harry walked towards him he didn’t miss the rude glances and snubs sent Harry’s way. He was appalled that someone could act that way to Harry; what had Harry done to make everyone dislike him? He watched as everyone ignored Harry as he walked among them, eyes cast downwards. Harry only lifted his gaze once he had reached Darius, giving him a wide smile. He didn’t make any remark on the behavior of his classmates, nor had he in the previous days. An appalling thought wormed its way into Darius’ mind. Harry could only act like this if he was used to it, for Darius, having spent the majority of his time with Harry for the past few weeks, hadn’t seen any malicious or cruel tendencies in the boy, and therefore ruled out any suggestions that Harry had provoked this silent attack. What had Harry gone through at his previous school?
Once they were out of sight of the school yard and all the bullies it contained, a familiar shape passed over Darius’ head to land on Harry’s shoulder. Harry reached up to greet his beloved pet, and Darius ran a hand under over her wings. Hedwig fluffed her wings proudly over the attention. Darius had accepted Hedwig and Hedwig had accepted Darius, though neither knew of the other’s judgment.
Under the stars of London some distance away, a little rat crept along the cobblestones. He had managed to find his way into Diagon alley, and was now searching for the entrance to the Ministry of Magic. First thing first, his master had to know the status of the wizarding world—their thoughts about Voldemort and his Death Eaters, as well as his followers’ current status. He also needed to be aware of their defenses.
And Peter Pettigrew was the perfect rat for the job.
A/N: Please review!