Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter (obviously).
Hermione was very grateful that she was paired with Neville. He was a kind and grateful boy, very unlike Ronald Weasley. She’d had the misfortune to be sit next to him several times in Transfiguration and he’d been nothing but snarky when she’d helped him with his pronunciation and wand movements. Neville, on the other hand, had been sincerely thankful and had struck up a tentative friendship out of the classroom. It wasn’t uncommon to for others to see them working together in the library. Neville had started to avoid spending time with Ronald after he overheard his mocking remarks about the undeserving Hermione.
Today in charms they were practicing the levitation spell: Wingardium Leviosa. Hermione had already practiced the wand movements with Neville last night in the common room, so it didn’t take long for her feather to begin floating above the heads of the students. She blushed at Professor Flitwick’s praise (“Look! Look! Miss Granger has done it! Excellent pronunciation, Miss Granger.”) and turned to help Neville. It wasn’t long before he too was able to levitate his feather and he smiled gratefully at her.
Hermione winced as she heard Ronald mutilate the spell behind her and could not stop herself from turning around.
“You're saying it wrong. It's Wing-gar-dium Levi-o-sa, make the 'gar' nice and long.*”
Ronald glared at her and then ignored her advice for the rest of the class.
Once class was over, while Hermione and Neville were walking to dinner, they overheard Ronald speaking to Dean and Seamus. At his rude, mean remark, Hermione’s eyes began to tear and she quickly passed the trio by, almost running up the corridor. Neville quickly followed her, telling her to ignore the boy, that he was wrong.
Both of them missed Dean and Seamus rounding on Ron to rebuke him for his callous words.
The next day, a flood of owls could be seen leaving the castle, alerting worried parents to the appearance of a troll in the castle. Complaints were made, so many that it was brought to the attention of the school board and a certain blond-haired pureblood.
Peter Pettigrew had, using a stolen wand, apparated as close to the stately Malfoy manor as possible with the heavy wards covering them and was greeted by a shivering house elf. After requesting a meeting, stating that he had unique and valuable information on their missing lord, he was quickly ushered into a large, pale green room with soaring arches and a high ceiling. A fire roared at the center of the south wall, spitting embers and sparks onto the nearby rug. Hearing Lord Malfoy enter the room, he had turned and a quick, hushed conversation had ensued.
Since that day just a little while ago, the Malfoy fortunes had diminished a few hundred gallons and the Ministry had received a generous donation. Old contacts had been subtly re-established. And now, here was the perfect opportunity to knock Dumbledore’s position in society down a few pegs.
A troll loose in a school full of untrained wizards? Ordering students down to an area he had already been informed contained a dangerous creature? Was he trying to be replaced?
Lucius Malfoy almost smirked as he watched his owls carrying letters to his fellow board members, scheduling a meeting as soon as possible.
“If you’re looking to make friends, join clubs. Find people with common interests. It may not always work on the first try, but eventually you will find someone that you enjoy being with, someone that can be your friend.”
That was Darius’ advice when Harry had mentioned that he was lonely at school. That was the reason he was now hesitating before a table in the library, holding one of his favourite reads to his chest. The boy sitting at the table glanced up and he was caught. He couldn’t back away now without it being awkward.
“Can I sit here?” His voice didn’t waver, nor did it convey his nerves. Harry straightened his back almost imperceptibly.
The boy nodded and returned to his book. The book that was the reason that Harry had decided to join this table, well, that and the fact that it was the only table where a group hadn’t congregated. It seemed that the boy had similar literary tastes, and Harry was hoping that the other boy, that James, had poisoned the boy against him like he had the majority of his grade.
Ever since his first day at Benford James had taken a dislike for him. Harry didn’t know why—he didn’t even have a ghost of a reason like he had had with Dudley and the rest of the Dursleys. Using his “gang” of friends, James had spread rumors and subtle threats, subsequently causing the rest of his class mates (and then their friends in other classes, and eventually the majority of the seventh grade) to avoid him.
This avoidance did not happen overtly. Rather, it happened quietly and if one wasn’t looking for it, they would miss it. It showed up when groups of friends closed ranks when he walked nearby, when everyone in the class paired up and Harry would either do the work by himself or be assigned a group by the teacher (and then have cold radiate of the pair for the duration of the partnership), when he was always picked last during physical education and then ended up with bruises at the end of class. Harry tried to hide the evidence from Darius, but he didn’t know how well he was doing.
He continued to sit next to the mysterious boy during the following weeks and eventually the boy tipped his book onto the table and instigated a conversation. The ensuing discussion barely lasted a minute, but it was a step. A baby step.
It wasn’t until the fifth or sixth conversation that the boy introduced himself.
They were in the middle of discussing their relative teachers, though some would call it mocking, when all of a sudden he paused.
“I’ve never introduced myself. Do you know even know my name?”
Harry shook his head and looked puzzled when the boy started to laugh, only stopping when the librarian gave them a dirty glare.
“I mean, usually that’s the first thing one does, but here we are… You know I’m in Miss Rafique’s class, just opposite yours. You know I’m practically failing math, but having next to no problems with science. You know I have two older brothers and a younger sister, and that one of them doesn’t live at home, but you don’t know my name. Doesn’t that just seem odd?”
Harry gave him a weak smile and nodded. He couldn’t really judge the situation himself, given the fact that he hadn’t had many previous friendships.
“I guess I should introduce myself-” here he stuck out his hand “- Hello. My name is Joel le Parks.
The weeks passed and Halloween had occurred a few days ago. The conversations with Joel in the library had developed into a light friendship. Surprisingly, Joel had heard about James and didn’t particularly care. Moreover, he didn’t feel threatened in the slightest. When Harry had questioned him as to his reasons, he had simply replied that he had two older brothers much bigger than James and one of them had even been chased out of town by the police—a fact he didn’t seem at all concerned about.
The only thing of note was that Harry had developed a great headache on Halloween night and had almost fallen down the stairs, saved only by Darius grabbing his arm. Darius was concerned because during his time at the shelter he had already complained of several minor headaches, most likely caused by his poor prescription.
Darius was thinking about getting a part-time job, citing a need for money as his reason, though he wouldn’t answer Harry’s queries as to why he needed money. Harry had only gotten slightly annoyed before he’d let it go and forgotten about it. Darius had already sent out a few applications, but none had responded as of yet. Darius hadn’t seemed too upset or concerned about this, and so Harry wasn’t either.
Darius glanced up the street and picked up his pace. During the past month, his visits to Benford to walk Harry home had been peppered with sights of Harry being ignored or even tripped by his fellow classmates. A boy with the blackest eyes he’d ever seen seemed to lead the crusade against Harry, with liberal snubs, but there wasn’t anything he could report as of yet.
Consequently, he’d chosen to leave Harry alone as little as possible. In class, he was relatively safe and he spent his breaks with his new friend Joel. The only times Harry was vulnerable were before and after school, and so Darius had taken to delaying their departure time as much as possible and rushing to Benford after his school ended.
Today, however, he’d been delayed by his gym teacher, who’d wanted to discuss the possibility of him joining the football team. He turned the corner just in time to see Harry pushed to the ground by a larger boy, watched closely by James. Anger flowed through his veins and he sprinted the remaining distance separating him from Harry. He pushed the boy away, vaguely noticing that the boy tripped and fell.
“Are you okay?” he frantically asked Harry, who was picking himself up.
“Yeah—nothing happened…” and then noticing that Darius was still angry “… Not really.”
Darius was still tempted to take the boy’s punishment in his own hands, but at Harry’s pleading look to just leave the incident behind them, he settled for threatening them never to come close to Harry again. To his severe irritation, James just smirked before calmly walking away, though the other boy seemed frightened.
He was tempted to call after him, but Harry was already tugging his arm in the opposite direction.
“Let’s just leave it. It’s over.” Harry said, and Darius, though he wasn’t pleased, left it.
*- quote from Philosopher’s Stone
A/N: as always, I would greatly appreciate any feedback, or even ideas...