Chapter 2 : Acquaintances Made
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For James Potter, who was his parents’ most treasured (and only) son, everything in life came simply and easily.
He was born to Harold and Elizabeth Potter, who were honest and hardworking, and did not decide to have a child until they knew they could put in the time and effort into raising him to the best of their abilities.
While he still worked, Harold Potter was Head of the Department of General Operations at the Ministry of Magic. His job was as much the Minister of Magic in practicality as the title ‘Minister of Magic’ was in name.
Harold retired some eleven years ago in order to raise his son and the general public was sad to see him go. People had wanted to see him as the next Minister, but Harold had no interest in the title. His only concern was to see to it that the Ministry did what it was supposed to do and did it well.
In the days of Harold Potter, the people had sung nothing but praises for the Ministry. When he retired, people said it was a waste of a great man’s talents, but to Harold, nothing would ever have more value than the task of raising his son.
He had carried out his daily business with rigidity and unquestionable authority and was only ever seen being gentle to his wife and son. He had kindly and patiently taught James everything that was important about life.
Of all the people in the world, the one person that James admired most was his father. The image of Harold Potter that James held in his mind was of a hard-working, strong willed man who could achieve anything and everything in the world.
When he narrowed his father down to one memory, he was watching from the entrance of his workshop and Harold was taking the meticulous effort to shape every twig by hand for a broomstick he was making for James. He could so clearly see the enjoyment and fulfillment at his own effort on his father's concentrating face, like he was a man who making something of which he could be proud.
To Harold, there was nothing more valuable than a person who could achieve a means for himself through an honest effort. Because of that, he admired muggles and the kind of work they had to put in to get what wizards could get with the flick of a wand.
Naturally, James grew up with a respect and affinity for muggles as well. He sometimes felt a bit sorry for the fact that they always had to try so hard. He was always bright. Even before he was able to use magic, everything James did, he did exceptionally well and he knew it too.
His parents lived on an estate in the countryside and that was where he grew up. While it could have been too big and too lonely for one boy, James had never minded its size, nor found it any sort of vast and empty. In fact, he often found that the grounds of his family estate was not enough to quench his thirst for adventure.
In days after his parents had deemed him old enough to go about wandering on his own, he’d fly off on his broomstick to the nearest muggle village or town and spend the day wandering around, perplexing muggles with his strange questions and befriending muggle children.
Once, he had even snuck aboard a muggle train at a local station and he was brought back later that night by one of his father’s acquaintances who’d found him in London.
James had a happy childhood where he experienced the adoration of parents who loved him, the freedom of flying, and the knowledge that there were no impossibilities in life so long as he had the will to reach them.
He was a boy who did not know any hardships in life.
He wasn’t nervous at all to go to Hogwarts because he knew that he would excel at any subject they taught in school just like he excelled at everything else in life. He was excited, because he’d never been to school before and James felt that any new experience was a worthwhile one.
When he arrived at Platform 9¾, he found the place to hold exactly the air of enchantment which he’d expected. The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement and it was so contagious that James could barely hold his smile before he boarded the train.
His mother kissed him on the cheek and hugged him. “We love you, James,” she said smiling.
“Love you too, mum, dad,” James said. And he gave her a quick peck on the cheek and hugged his father once before boarding the train.
Harold and Elizabeth stood together, watching son about to embark on his journey to Hogwarts. He was only eleven, only a child, but he took on life with a fearless passion and they knew that he was ready. All they hoped was that they had taught him enough so that he would know good from bad and to follow his own mind.
James looked back and waved, and he had the feeling that he would be leaving a stage of his life behind when the train took him away from this platform. Again, there was the rush of excitement for heading into the unknown.
He wasn’t afraid because he knew that a challenge was up ahead, and it would be one that he would be able to meet with an overwhelming victory.
Smiling to himself, James Potter went to go find a place to sit.
“Hi,” said James Potter.
The boy who entered his compartment was tall and big boned and held himself like an aristocrat, but his face (even though it was partly hidden under his wildly messy hair) gave away his age. He should be considered handsome, for an eleven year old boy and James, who had never envied anyone for anything, found that he somewhat envied this boy’s looks.
James stood up and faced the boy casually, with an easy smile. He stood confidently, even though he wasn’t as tall and would probably not be able to beat the boy in a fist fight. “I’m James Potter – and because you’ve entered my compartment, I demand that you tell me your name.”
“’s not your compartment,” the boy immediately refuted.
“Sounded like you just said snot,” James laughed.
The boy laughed too. “Did, didn’t it? I’m Sirius Black.”
“Well Sirius Black, have a seat. Anyone who shares my kind of humor is a friend.”
Sirius sat down, grinning appreciatively at the offer of friendship. There was nothing more relieving than finding a friend in a place where you didn’t really know anyone.
“So do you just go by James?” Sirius asked.
“Your family doesn’t call you Jim or anything like that at home?”
James shook his head, grinning a little skeptically. His parents had always called him James, and he liked that. It was like they respected him and treated him on a level equal to their own. “My parents didn’t name me James so that they could call me Jim. Why d’you ask? Do your parents call you Siri at home or something?”
Sirius snorted with laughter at the absurd idea of either of his parents calling him ‘Siri’, because it was most certainly a girl’s name and because his parents didn’t show any sort of affection beyond acknowledging that they had a son. “Sure,” he replied jokingly. “Only if yours call you Jamesie.”
James joined him in laughing too, neither of the boys were ashamed or embarrassed at this new derivative of their names. And the friendship between Sirius and James came as easily as that.
In his first week of school, James landed himself a detention which, he would like to add, was completely unjustified. He’d only been returning to the Gryffindor tower a bit (read: three hours) after curfew. He was outside, there were no clocks outside so how was he supposed to have kept track of the time?
Of course, it didn’t exactly help his case when he tried to argue it either.
He had never felt as patronized as he did in the bounds of this school. He stated his case and was told that rules were rules and he had broken one of them. Then he stated that he would refuse to acknowledge authority who wouldn’t follow reason, but Professor McGonagall made it very clear to him that he would acknowledge whatever authority the school deemed appropriate if he was to stay a student there and James (begrudgingly) conceded.
“Detention, Mr. Potter,” McGonagall said severely. “Let that be a lesson to you on where your status lies at this establishment, Mr. Potter. Don’t let me catch you breaking the school rules again.”
So on the first Saturday afternoon of his first year at Hogwarts, instead of spending time with his friends or even doing homework (unlikely), he went to detention. There was only one other person in the classroom, waiting to serve the sentence; Hanne King, who was a first year Gryffindor too.
Hanne was already there, sitting at a desk, looking bored, scratching the surface of her desk with a quill. She didn’t notice James until he took the seat beside her. When she looked over, he grinned sheepishly because when one (officially) meets another for the first time in a setting like detention, he ought to be a little sheepish.
“Hey,” he said. “I’m James.”
“I know,” she replied. “I’m Hanne.”
“I know,” James said. After all, they had all the same classes, lived in the same tower, at meals at the same table, etcetera, etcetera. Even if he never talked to her, he had seen her get sorted and knew who she was.
He thought that if people were colours, Gryffindors would be different shades of red and she would be a murky blue grey, like the sky before it rains. She was always alone and James felt that this was due to some sort of repellent quality she seemed to have. Something about her always made it seem like… like being around her would down a person’s mood.
When she smiled at him, it was like the sun came out.
He was surprised what a difference a smile could make. Maybe it was because he had never seen her smile before, but he felt that hers was more earnest than others, like she was smiling because she was genuinely pleased with something and she wasn’t just being polite.
“So how’d you end up here in the first week?” James asked.
“I hexed a second year,” she answered without any hint of regret in her voice. “Because he was bullying Neville Chamberlain.”
“Who’s Neville Chamberlain?”
James grinned, because he was more impressed that she knew how to hex someone than he was disapproving that she did. “You know how to hex?”
“Sure I do,” Hanne answered, like it was the most basic knowledge in the world.
“Can you teach me?”
Hanne took a good look at James, like she was sizing him up, trying to decide whether or not he was worthy. “Sure,” she said lightly. “I’ll teach you after detention if you want.”
They spent the afternoon together, fertilizing pumpkins with the gamekeeper, Hagrid. It was difficult, dirty, and the smell was acrid, but every time James looked to Hanne, he saw that she was concentrated on her work like it was something enjoyable. Under the afternoon sun, she seemed to look healthier, like less of an awkward waif, and her hair reflected gold off the light of the sun.
He didn’t even mind so much when she caught him staring at her and she gave him the most devious grin before flinging a shovel full of hippogriff poo at him.
“James!” Sirius called jovially when he spotted James walking towards him. James grinned at him but Sirius missed it because he was busy watching Hanne walk off. Sirius watched her, his eyes resembling an alert and cautious animal. “What were you doing with that King girl?”
“Detention,” James replied like it was obvious. “What’ve you been up to?”
“Nothing important,” he said quickly. “Why was she in detention?”
“She hexed a second year.”
Sirius raised his eyebrows, reluctantly impressed at that. It wasn’t until Bellatrix came back from her second year at Hogwarts that she could finally make good on her threats to hex him. They were only a week into their first year here and Sirius wondered where she might have learned that from.
Maybe she was from a family of dark wizards or something – she didn’t seem too far off from it. Or maybe she was just lying.
“I don’t like her,” Sirius said finally. “Something about that girl just isn’t quite right… I think it’s the way she looks; it’s like she never feels anything – it’s weird.”
James shrugged, wondering how long Sirius had to have spent paying attention to her if he could deduce her personality from her day to day expressions. “Have you ever spoken to her?”
“No, and I don’t want to.”
“I reckon she’s alright,” James said, grinning because Sirius’s look of disbelief was exactly the reaction he wanted to see. He felt like he was rebellious and daring, getting to know Hanne (even if it was only for the brief time of an afternoon).
“You talked to her?”
“Sure,” James replied nonchalantly. He was still grinning though, and it killed the air of nonchalance he was trying to put on. Sirius still listened with rapt attention, like he was faced with the carcass of a dead animal, which was both repulsive and fascinating. “She taught me to do the hex she did on that boy.”
Then James nudged his head in the direction across the courtyard where Lily and Severus were sitting together under a tree, books in their laps. One of the things that catalyzed his friendship with Sirius was that they always caught onto each other’s ideas quickly. Sirius grinned and it was a smile that spelled out trouble in bolded capital letters.
“Prove it,” Sirius challenged.
“No,” James replied casually, laughing. “Let’s go take a walk Sirius, I want you to meet Hagrid – he’s the gamekeeper.”
And the pair of them walked casually, at a deceivingly innocent pace, across the courtyard. As they strolled, Sirius began to whistle a tune. Coming within hearing distance of Lily and Severus, James began to sing quietly (but not too quietly), “Lily and Snivellus sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”
A couple of the students nearby snickered and at the same instance, Lily’s head snapped up immediately in reaction to James’s little quip. She glared up at the two boys and all the more infuriated because of the way they were regarding her; like they would never take her seriously because they knew that they would always be above her. “Stuff it Potter, Black.”
James and Sirius both fell silent at once as they continued to walk.
Lily couldn’t see, but they were sucking in their cheeks, trying not to laugh. Then James slipped his wand out and with an expert’s aim, shot the hex right at Severus, who gave a cry of pain and terror. Lily didn’t have any time to curse out James and Sirius because she was too busy scrambling to get all of hers and Severus’s belonging as they rushed away.
When they were out of hearing distance, James and Sirius burst into laughter. Then they spent the next while mimicking Severus’s cry any time he was close enough to hear.
It never rang in his conscience that his father had once told him taking from someone else in order to gain something is not an acceptable way to do things. He hadn't thought to apply this to the situation of his gaining amusement from Severus Snape's misery. Nor did it ever occur to him that if his parents had ever been proud of him, they would not be now, should they witness the actions of their son.
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