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Chapter 8 : Muggle Borns.
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By the middle of October, James had become pretty used to life at Hogwarts and despite his worries about lessons, the torture of Potions classes with Snape and the constant reminders of his father’s superior abilities, he had to admit that it was pretty good fun a lot of the time.
The secret passages, trick doors and vanishing steps were quite confusing and for the first few weeks the Muggle borns were entirely flummoxed. To the students from wizarding backgrounds, these also caused confusion, but being more used to the idea that inanimate objects could move or change their nature, they found it far easier to distinguish patterns and therefore found their way around far quicker.
It wasn’t all thanks to their own ability that those from wizarding families found it easier, though, to be honest. They also had the advantage of knowing others who had been to Hogwarts and could advise them as to where they could and could not go. James’ cousins were always willing to help him out, apart from Percy’s son Albert, who appeared to think it beneath his dignity to associate with a mere 1st year and uttered statements such as “you’ll be far better off learning for yourself, rather than expecting others to help you out every time you come across a problem.”
It was generally accepted among the Weasley/Potter family, that Albert was just like his dad!
James was just glad he had plenty of other cousins, most of whom were a little more helpful. Harriet could be a right know-it-all sometimes, just as his dad and Ron always maintained Hermione had been when she was at school, but for behind all that, Harriet could be depended on. She might sigh and suggest that you would find things a lot easier if you “would only pay a little attention to the teachers,” but she would never refuse to bail you out of whatever situation not paying attention had got you into.
Alice envied him his cousins.
“If only my cousins went to school here, it would make things so much easier,” she said once. “I think my little brother just might be a wizard, but seeing as he won’t be old enough to attend Hogwarts for another six years, that isn’t much good to me.”
Of all the friends James had made at Hogwarts, he liked Alice best; not in a fancying way, as some of the others teased him. After all he was only eleven and he had no intention of going out with anybody until he was at least fourteen. He had seen the way some of the older boys behaved when they fancied a girl and he couldn’t imagine why anybody would want to act like that.
No, the main reason he liked Alice best was because she was Muggle born and he knew that she was friends with him for himself and not because of who his father was. He often wondered about that with some of the others, particularly Kelly, who constantly pestered him to get his father’s autograph for her, or a signed photograph or something. It was getting really annoying. In fact he sometimes thought of telling her he would get her an autograph if she would promise that she would stop bothering him about Harry. Even Richard and some of the other Ravenclaw boys who had become pretty good friends with James went on a bit too much about Harry sometimes and James couldn’t help wondering why guys from Ravenclaw, who were so intelligent and academic and all would be interested in being friends with him, and whether it had something to do with his parentage.
Not that Alice had remained unaware of who Harry was for long. It would have been hard to spend even a week at Hogwarts without hearing him mentioned. Hermione referred to him occasionally in Defence Against the Dark Arts, when she was explaining about the need for particular defensive spells or occasions in which they had been used. James was quite sure that she would have mentioned him even more often if it wasn’t for the fact that all eyes turned to James whenever she did so, and she was well aware of how uncomfortable that made him feel.
Mind you, it didn’t really matter whether she mentioned him or not, as he was referred to in their History of Magic book anyway, and Kelly and a number of the other girls spoke about him almost continually and had posters and things of him on their walls.
So Alice had become aware of Harry’s fame and the reasons for it quite early in her time at Hogwarts. As we have already seen, she was first told about him before she’d even reached the school. And she did think that it was totally cool that James had a famous father, but she knew that he was James’ father before she had heard of his fame and she still tended to think of him as being James’ father, rather than James as being his son.
It would have sounded like a subtle difference, James supposed, to anybody who did not have famous parents themselves, but James really did get fed up with being thought of only as Harry’s son. It was quite annoying to walk down the corridors and hear people whisper “that’s Harry Potter’s son, you know.”
That was the reason why he often felt more comfortable with Muggle borns. And he and Alice had become firm friends during their first week at Hogwarts.
In addition to the fact that he knew for sure she liked him for himself, there was an added bonus to being friends with Alice. It was a bonus that wouldn’t last forever, but as it stood, she was still unaware of many things about the wizarding world and he could sound very knowledgeable by informing her of many things which she had never heard of before. Of course he knew that anybody else from a wizarding family could have enlightened her just as easily, but she didn’t know that, and James was so used to knowing less than the rest of his family that it was exciting to know more than somebody, and even more gratifying to know that they were impressed by your knowledge.
He was really enjoying explaining to her, the importance of Halloween to the wizarding world. He had been to school with Muggles before he had begun attending Hogwarts and he was aware that Halloween was not as important to them. Therefore he wasn’t surprised that she was extremely interested as to how it would be celebrated at Hogwarts.
“You know so much about it,” she declared.
“Well, Professor Weasley,” (it still sounded odd to call Hermione that) “is my aunt, you know. And all my relatives attended, or are still attending Hogwarts anyway. It’s hard to avoid hearing about things then.”
As a result of his explanations, Alice was really excited about Halloween and the celebratory banquets. Halloween was not so important to Muggles, she explained, declaring that she couldn't wait to enjoy a Hogwarts Halloween.
Despite having heard about Hogwarts’ Halloween celebrations all his life, James was looking forward to it just as much as Alice and the other Muggle borns were. By the looks of things, it appeared that even the oldest students, who had already experienced five or six Halloween banquets, were still looking forward to this one.
Apart from the banquet itself, one of the best things about Halloween was that most of the teachers left them off homework, as the banquet would take most of the evening and there would be little time for work.
The only exceptions were Professor Binns, who never let anything, even his own death interfere with his teaching, and, unsurprisingly, Professor Snape.
“Your schoolwork is far more important than some silly banquet,” he declared. “And I can assure you that anybody who does not hand up an acceptable standard of work tomorrow, will not be going to next year’s banquet!”
Nobody doubted Snape’s ability to remember exactly who had skimped on their homework when next Halloween came around, so while they might skip the History of Magic essay on the grounds that Binns probably wouldn’t even look at it, they were all careful to put in the time on their Potions homework.
“Maybe there is something to be said for having Potions with the Slytherins after all,” Kelly exclaimed, when Alice told her why most of the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw first years were late for the banquet. “You know how Snape always favours them. I guess he didn’t want to give them any homework tonight and he could hardly give us homework and not them.”
“That is so unfair,” Alice announced. “Teachers aren’t supposed to show favouritism like that! How come nobody had ever reported him to McGonagall?”
“Would you?” James asked. “Can you imagine his reaction if he found out who did it? Besides, she must know. I know Dumbledore knew how much he hated my dad.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, James regretted bringing up his father, but for once a reference to Harry Potter went virtually unnoticed. It was hardly surprising, as everybody was far too impressed by the Great Hall and the banquet which was laid out there.
Almost everybody in Hogwarts was there, including the ghosts. James knew that Alice had found it difficult to get used to the idea of a ghost floating past you or entering through a wall or closed door, but after two months at Hogwarts, she was beginning to take far less notice of it, particularly as they were taught one of their classes by a ghost.
The Fat Friar, Hufflepuff’s own ghost, was James’ favourite. He was always friendly to the students and willing to help lost first years. Nearly Headless Nick was nice too, once you got past the shock of seeing him with his head barely attached to his body. However when it came to the Bloody Baron, Slytherin’s ghost and Peeves, he found it hard to decide who he liked least. The Bloody Baron was terrifying. Even the other ghosts were nervous of him. Peeves on the other hand, was a terrible nuisance. He could be funny sometimes…when he was torturing somebody else. It wasn’t so funny if it was you.
Michael and Steve had also been allowed to attend the banquet with Ron, although he would bring the boys home before it ended. James was delighted to see his uncle and cousins, and introduced them excitedly to his friends.
At this point, Kelly’s reticence on the subject of Harry ended, and she quizzed Ron shamelessly about the adventures he and Harry had shared. (Somehow, it didn’t seem to occur to her that Hermione had also known Harry at school, or else she was afraid to question a teacher.)
"You were friends with Harry Potter at school, weren't you?" she began excitedly. "What was he like? Did he have a girlfriend? Well, I suppose he must have had loads, didn't he..."
Her voice drifted away, as James had taken his cousins off to introduce them to the rest of his friends, as soon as the conversation began. He had heard more than enough of Kelly's adoration of Harry Potter.
Still, he must be getting used to her, he mused that evening, after the banquet had ended, as her questions and even her monopolising of Ron for much of the evening, didn’t in the least interfere with his enjoyment of the banquet. Halloween had certainly been one of the most enjoyable times of the two months he had spent at Hogwarts.
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