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Hedwig's Great Adventure

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Monday, 2 September 1991

“I don’t even know where we are,” Harry groaned.

"This is ridiculous!" Hermione declared as a staircase near them began to move of its own accord. "How can we possibly get to where we're going if everything is magicked to move all the time!"

"Look on the bright side,” Terry shrugged cheerfully. “We're seeing more of the castle.

"Maybe this staircase?" Harry said, pointing ahead. They followed his lead, and were soon at another corridor.

“This is the third floor,” Hermione said as she looked around. “The schedule says Transfiguration is in classroom 303.”

“None of these doors are labeled,” Harry said with a frown.

Padma sighed and began trying doorknobs, but most of them wouldn’t budge, as the doors were locked.

"Just what do you think you're doing?" A silky tenor voice came from behind them.

The four first years whirled around in surprise – none of them had heard anyone coming up behind them. But just a few feet away from them stood a very pale man, with slick black hair down to his shoulders, fathomless black eyes, a hooked nose, and a grim smile.

"Trying to find the transfiguration classroom, sir," Hermione said politely.

"But I think we might be lost,” Padma added. 

"Very lost indeed," the dark haired man drawled. "This is the Forbidden Corridor.” His eyes swept over the lot of them and lingered on Harry. Harry struggled to keep his composure as he realized who this was. He’d been so distracted by the food and his new friends at dinner that he hadn’t really paid much attention to the professors. This had to be Professor Snape. Harry glanced away, careful not to make eye contact, and instead looked at Terry as he began to talk.

"Forbidden? Oops." Terry grinned charmingly. "We’re first years, see, so we have no idea where we’re going.”

As Harry gazed at his shoes, he tried to focus on the most innocent memories he could think of. But when he looked up Snape was looking at Terry. 

“The fastest way to the transfiguration classroom is by taking those stairs down a level, going right down the hall, and up the next set of stairs. Turn left at the statue of Millicent the Misunderstood. It will be the second door on your right. Quickly, or you will be late.” With those words, Professor Snape swiveled on his heel and strode off, his long robes billowing impressively behind him.

"Damn," Terry whispered. "I've got to learn that robe billowing trick."

The four Ravenclaws hurried to follow their Professor's instructions. They arrived at the Transfiguration classroom mere moments before the bell rang, and slipped into seats at the back of the room.

"We have got to draw up a map, like you said," Hermione whispered to Padma. "Or next time we really will be late!"

They listened as Professor McGonagall called roll and proceeded to talk to them quite strictly about the rules and basic theory behind transfiguration. Harry listened intently, and found he was learning quite more from the lecture than he did from just reading the books.

Hermione was quite avidly taking notes, and Padma and Harry jotted things down occasionally. Meanwhile, Terry tapped his wand on the table and listened quietly. When the lecture ended, it was time for their first practical lesson.

Professor McGonagall gave them each a match, to turn into a needle. The incantation was the simplest part – it seemed the hardest part was really visualizing the change. Harry tried and tried, and was disappointed when at the end of the lesson, only the matchhead had gone silver, and the rest remained wood. Hermione and Padma were both beaming as they’d finished their needles within seconds of each other.

“Wow,” Terry whistled as they left the class, Harry trying not to feel too down. “Those girls are going to give us a run for our money.”

He nodded, unable to disagree.

They found their way to their next class, though they had to sit in the back, since they were the last ones there. History of Magic was on the fifth floor, and taught by a ghost. At first they were all excited by the idea of a ghost professor, but Binns quickly proved to be a disappointment. He spoke in a dull monotone, and Harry soon found his eyes drooping shut.

“Class is over,” Terry hissed as he nudged Harry on the arm.

Harry shook himself awake and looked around. Most of the class was already gone, except for the three of them.

“You slept through half the lesson,” Hermione chided him, but she was unable to stop herself from yawning widely.

“I hope it’s not always like that,” Padma muttered.

“Let’s see if we can find our way back to the Great Hall for lunch,” Terry said as he checked his watch.

Harry groaned. He had a feeling they were going to be late again.

"Now pair up with someone with another House!" Professor Sprout declared with a smile. "Two Ravenclaws and two Slytherins at each table, please."

Hermione placed her bag on the closest table, and Harry followed suit. Terry and Padma went to sit at the next table over.

Harry looked around and caught Blaise's eye across the greenhouse. The Slytherin boy nodded and headed over to his table.

"Hey," Blaise said quietly as he sat down across from Harry and Hermione.

“Good afternoon,” Hermione said cheerfully as she pulled out her Herbology book and placed it in front of her.

"How are you liking Ravenclaw?”

"It’s great so far," Harry replied. "And Slytherin?"

"It's been interesting..." Blaise shrugged. "I have to share a room with Malfoy and Weasley… It took ages to get to bed last night because they kept shouting insults at each other.”

Just then Ronald Weasley sat down next to Blaise. The dark haired boy turned and glared at the redhead.

"There's no other spots," Ron said angrily. "Stop looking at me like that."

"Didn't realize it had such an effect on you," Blaise said mockingly.

Ron flushed and looked across the table. "Look, I'm sorry about yesterday, the dungbomb... I just wanted to get him,” he said, nodding towards Blaise.

"But you threw it into a boat with three other people in it," Hermione said sharply.

"I wasn't, really... thinking," Ron admitted. "I am sorry." He did look embarrassed, and he was apologizing – and what’s more, Harry was still hoping that Hedwig was right about Ron.

"It's okay," Harry assured him with a smile. “But you should apologize to the Patil twins as well.”

“Yeah, of course. Thanks, Potter.” Ron said, his ears going pink.

“It’s just Harry.” He held out his hand, and Ron looked surprised, then grinned back and shook it.

After a moment, Hermione relented and offered her hand. “I’m Hermione Granger.”

“Nice to meet you,” Ron said gruffly, shaking it.

“So…” Blaise drawled. “It appears our task is to identify the magical plants on the table and write them down, and take note of any that are poisonous.”

They took a minute to look at the small potted plants that were placed along the center of the garden table.

"That one with the purple leaves, is foxwort," Blaise volunteered first.

"That's oregano," Ron offered, pointing at another. "Or is it basil, I always confuse the two."

"You had it right the first time," Hermione informed him. "It’s oregano. I don’t remember seeing that in the Herbology book, though my parents use it for cooking. Is it really magical?”

“Don’t think so,” Ron said, scratching his head.

“Maybe it’s a trick question, and we’re only supposed to identify the magical ones,” Blaise mused.

“I remember seeing that in the book,” Hermione said, pointing at one in front of her. “I believe it’s called aconite.”

Ron shook his head. “No, that’s wolfsbane. My mum’s got it out by the flower garden.”

"Actually, you’re both right. Those are both names for the same plant.”  Professor Sprout was standing by their table. “Now, Mr. Potter, do you know if it is poisonous?”

Harry bit his lip. He’d read all of his spellbooks, but he’d really only skimmed through the Herbology text.

“It is to wolves?” Harry guessed.

"It would make sense, being called 'bane'," Professor smiled at him. "It is indeed poisonous to us, by ingestion or merely by touch." 

The four first-years automatically drew back.

"Which is why we're all wearing dragonhide gloves," Sprout reminded them, a twinkle in her eye. She turned and faced the next-door table, where Padma and Terry were sitting with a blond Slytherin boy and a heavyset Slytherin girl who was yawning. 

“We’re almost done,” Terry told her, and Professor Sprout praised them and moved on quickly.

When she was out of hearing range, the blond boy sniffed loudly. “This class is pointless. Malfoys don’t garden.”

“Your parents sent you here to learn, didn’t they, Draco?” Padma said drily.

“I’m here to learn magic, not to get my hands dirty. I say purebloods like us should leave the mud to the mud -”

“Are you sure you’re not just worried you won’t be any good at it?” Padma smirked.

Draco drew himself up, scowling at her insinuation.

“Learning how to identify and care for magical plants is essential for a good potions education, and careers in several different fields, including Healing,” Hermione spoke up, having heard their conversation.

Draco stared at her for a moment. “Congratulations on making Ravenclaw, Patil,” he said sarcastically. “You must be at home surrounded by more talking books.”

Hermione flushed, a familiar feeling of embarrassment washing over her.

“There’s a lot more to us than that,” Padma said steadily. “We make an effort and don’t hide behind pureblood rhetoric. That’s why I’ll beat you in every exam.”

“You’ll see, when the rankings come,” Draco scowled at her.

“I look forward to it,” the Ravenclaw girl said sweetly, and went back to identifying her plants.

“That’s the boy you dueled on the train?” Harry muttered to Ron. Draco seemed very full of himself, and not very nice either.

“Yeah,” Ron said quietly, scowling over at Malfoy. “He insulted my family, I had to duel him.” He glanced at Blaise and took a quick breath. “Look, Zabini… I never meant to curse you. It was an accident.”

“It seems you have a habit of creating collateral damage that you don’t know how to deal with,” Blaise drawled, staring down his fellow Slytherin.

“Look, I’m sorry, okay?” Ron said, a touch frustrated. “Can we just… call it even?”

“We were even after I hexed you,” Blaise said, raising an eyebrow. “Then you threw the dungbomb. So I owe you one more.”

Ron sighed heavily, holding up his hands in surrender. “Fine. You get one jinx. I won’t even go for my wand.”

“Oh, no,” Blaise smirked. “That’s no fun.”

“So… You’re not going to hex me?”

“I’ll get you back, Weasley, but it’ll be when you least expect it.” Blaise twirled his wand lightly in his hand, his smile never leaving his face.

“Great,” Ron groaned. “God, I can’t believe I’m stuck with a bunch of Slytherins…”

“You’re a Slytherin too now, Weasley,” Blaise reminded him. “Though I’m not sure how, since you haven’t displayed any cunning at all. You won’t get wherever you want to go without any subtlety. Next time you want to attack someone, they shouldn’t see you coming.”

Ron stared at him, and slowly nodded, his gaze darting over towards Malfoy. Blaise doubted his advice would actually have an effect, but he had tried. He didn’t hate the Weasley boy, though he didn’t like him either.

Soon they finished the assignment. Ron was scrawling their names at the top of the parchment.

“What’s your last name?” Ron asked Hermione.  

“Granger,” she answered, and Ron finished writing it down just in time to hand it to the teacher.

“Granger?” Malfoy had gotten up from his table to approach them, and was looking at Hermione funnily. “I’ve never heard that name before. Who are your parents?”

Hermione was a little surprised by the question. “Doctors Granger. They’re dentists, in Manchester.”

“Dentists?” Malfoy frowned in confusion.

“Don’t you ever get your teeth checked, Malfoy?” Padma asked, her voice sugar-sweet.

“Checked? For what?”

“Cavities,” Hermione frowned, suddenly concerned for this boy’s oral hygiene. 

“What are those?”

“I don’t think Draco goes to a dentist,” Padma added sweetly.

“What is a dentist?” The Slytherin demanded, clearly growing frustrated. He turned to the girl beside him, who shrugged.

“Dentists are doctors who clean your teeth,” Hermione began to explain. “Is there a wizarding equivalent, Padma?”

But Padma didn’t answer her, as she was still smirking at Draco. “If you have a cavity. Then they drill your teeth down. It’s like a muggle version of reductor curse.”

Draco stared at her in badly concealed horror.

“Of course there’s anesthesia,” Hermione said hurriedly. “But wizards have dentists, right?” She looked around for confirmation. “I mean… You all know to brush and floss regularly, at least?”

“What the bloody hell is flossing?” Draco yelled.

Terry burst out laughing, and Harry couldn’t help but snigger.

“I ask my parents to send pamphlets,” Hermione said, stunned. “So you can learn about how to take care of your teeth. It’s really dangerous to neglect them…”

“My teeth are just fine,” Draco hissed at her. “You’re just making things up, you stupid mudblood!”

Harry knew immediately that Malfoy had said something awful, because there was an uproar around them.

“Don’t call her that!” Padma cried, real anger flashing in her eyes.

“That’s out of bounds, Malfoy!” Terry said sharply.

Ron Weasley leapt from his seat, drawing his wand and advancing on Malfoy, looking furious. “Take it back, or I’ll clean out your mouth!”

“I’d like to see you try, muggle lover,” Draco spat scornfully, and went for his wand.

But Ron already had his out, and it took only a moment for him to cast a spell. “Scourgify!”

A white bolt of magic struck Draco straight in the mouth. He gurgled, his eyes widening, and everyone stared as his mouth began to foam with soap bubbles. He coughed and choked, trying to spit out the soap onto the ground. The Slytherin girl he’d been partnered with looked stunned and thumped him on the back.

“Nice one,” Terry told Ron approvingly. The redhead was grinning triumphantly.

“Mr. Weasley!” Professor Sprout cried as she came running. “Finite!”

Most of the bubbles in Draco’s mouth vanished, and he gasped for air, wiping his mouth on his robe sleeve.

“No more spells!” She shouted commandingly. Draco angrily shoved his wand away, and Ron did the same.

Professor Sprout looked between the two tables. “Miss Patil, what happened?”

“Malfoy called Hermione a mudblood,” Padma said clearly, her eyes cool and steady as she looked at the foul mouthed blond. “So Weasley scourgified his mouth.” She turned to Ron with a smile, and he grinned back.

“Mr. Malfoy,” Sprout said angrily, shaking her head. “I will not tolerate that kind of filthy language, ever! Five points from Slytherin!”

Draco stared, sputtering at her, but couldn’t quite speak, as he was still spitting out stray bubbles.

“And Mr. Weasley, attacking a fellow student is never permitted. You’ve also lost Slytherin five points. I expect you two won’t make these mistakes again in my greenhouses.” She paused for a moment, looking between them. “Mr. Malfoy, switch seats with Miss Greengrass. Now, everyone, please turn your attention to the front table, and I will tell you more about the greenhouses here at Hogwarts.”

Malfoy stomped off across the greenhouse, crossing paths with a slim girl with long blonde hair and bangs.   

“That was a clever charm,” Hermione said to Ron Weasley, looking at him contemplatively.

“Thanks,” he grinned back at her. “My mum uses it all the time – usually on the dishes, but we learned pretty quick not to swear around her!”

Ron took a deep breath, and looked at Padma and Terry. “I’m sorry about yesterday, on the boats… I shouldn’t have thrown that dungbomb. It was stupid.”

“Well, as long as you don’t do that sort of thing again,” Padma smiled back at him. “And show me that cleaning charm, then I forgive you.”

“Deal,” Ron chuckled.

“It’s water under the bridge,” Terry said with a casual wave.  

“What did it mean?” Hermione asked suddenly. “What Malfoy called me?”

The two Slytherins at the table looked at each other, and didn’t say anything.

“It’s a really rude word that means muggleborn,” Terry told her.   

“Some wizards like the Malfoys, think that they’re better than everyone else because they’re what people call pure-blood.” Ron said angrily. “It’s nonsense, saying you have dirty blood just because your parents weren’t wizards. Most wizards these days are half-blood anyway. If we hadn’t married muggles we’d have died out.”

“Oh,” Hermione said softly.

“Don’t listen to Malfoy, Hermione,” Padma said, laying a hand on the other girl’s arm. “I don’t care if you’re muggle-born, and neither does anyone who matters.”

“Thanks, Padma,” Hermione said, clearly touched by the sentiment. “And you too, Ronald.”

Ron looked briefly horrified. “Just Ron. Only my mum calls me Ronald.”

Harry was confident that Hedwig was right about Ron – he’d stood up for Hermione after all, even though he didn’t know her, because it was right.

“Weasley,” Blaise said quietly as Ron sat down beside him again, and Terry and Padma sat back down nearby. “What did I say about cunning?”

“My spell worked!” Ron protested.

“You lost Slytherin ten points.” Miss Greengrass spoke up, frowning at him.

“Five of those were Malfoy!” Ron protested.

“Professor Sprout wouldn’t have taken them if you hadn’t drawn her attention with the spell.” Blaise sighed. “Next time, save it for when teachers can’t catch you. You were thinking like a Gryffindor.”

Greengrass nodded in agreement with Blaise. Ron’s brows furrowed as he dropped his head into his hands.

“I was supposed to be in Gryffindor,” Ron groaned.  “All the rest of my family was in Gryffindor – my parents, my five older brothers – even Percy made it in. I don’t know why that blasted hat thought I belonged in Slytherin.”

“I don’t see what’s wrong with being in Slytherin,” Harry told Ron with a shrug. “Ambition and cunning…”

“You-Know-Who was a Slytherin!” Ron interrupted him. “So were all the Death Eaters!”

“All of them?” Harry said doubtfully. “They joined Voldemort because they were all crazy blood purists, not because of Slytherin solidarity.”

Ron gaped at him. “You – said the name.”

Harry shrugged, a little uncomfortable at the others’ stares.  “It’s just a word. It’s a lot easier to say than the weird things everyone else calls him.”

“Fair enough,” Blaise laughed softly. “I think what Harry was trying to say, is that not all Slytherins are blood purists – and we’re definitely not all murderous psychopaths.”

Ron looked at him doubtfully, then looked over at Greengrass and the other girl, both of whom were looking at him grumpily.

“I won’t jinx you when your back is turned,” his fellow Slytherin said, rolling his eyes. “I’ll even downgrade what I owe you to a prank, to match your dungbomb.”

“Even better,” Ron said, relieved. “Zabini… You’re not a blood purist?”

“No,” Blaise shook his head. “I’m not even a pureblood.  My mother was muggleborn. And most Slytherins nowadays are halfbloods anyways, like you said.”

“Some of us are purebloods, Zabini,” Greengrass reminded him, tossing her blonde hair over her shoulder primly.

Beside her, the heavyset girl said nothing, and reached over to stroke the soft red leaves of one of the plants.

Professor Sprout called for their attention, and they stopped conversing as the lecture part of the class began. When Herbology ended at four o’clock, Harry put the spare class gloves on a shelf (he’d forgotten to pack his dragonhide gloves in his bag this morning, but swore he’d remember next time), and walked out with his friends.

“I’m going to go find the library before dinnertime,” Hermione said brightly. Harry was glad to see that she wasn’t upset about Malfoy.

"It's the second largest magical library in Britain," Padma added, keeping pace with them.

“Do you have homework already?” Ron asked, stunned.

“Oh no, we’re just going for fun,” Hermione said, bouncing a little on the balls of her feet.

Ron shook his head, now even more horrified. “Ravenclaws are mad,” he said to Blaise.  

“Perhaps we are,” Terry said, grinning widely. “But it might be a good idea to figure out where the library is, for future reference.”

“Not for me,” Ron said with a shudder. “Anyways, I have to find the owlery. I should tell my parents I got sorted to Slytherin before Percy does.”

They waved as the redhead headed off. Padma linked her arm with Hermione’s, and the two girls led the way down the path back to the castle.

“It might be faster through there,” Blaise told them, pointing towards the castle wall.

“Through where?”

“I’ll show you.” Blaise led them to a small set of stone stairs that cut down into the ground, and through a small oak door into the castle.

Unlike the corridors of all the other floors, this was all stone – the floors, walls and ceiling, no wallpaper, cabinets or suits of armor along here. There were still a few paintings, some watching them curiously, others busy conversing amongst themselves.

“I came through here to get to Herbology,” Blaise remarked, and gestured at a set of stairs nearby that led downwards. “We live down in the dungeons.”

“Neat,” Terry sounded impressed. “Are there torture devices down there?”

“I haven’t seen any yet,” Blaise replied. He led them up several flights of stairs, and as they walked down what Harry thought might be a second corridor, they passed a group of Hufflepuff girls. The older students stopped in their tracks to watch the first years pass by, and began giggling, for some reason, and whispering amongst themselves.

“What was that about?” Harry frowned. 

“I hate to break it to you,” Terry dead-panned. “But Harry, you’re a little famous in the wizarding world.”

Harry rolled his eyes but couldn’t help but smile.

“I read three books that mentioned you,” Hermione told him. “Modern Magical History, The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts, and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century.”

“Really?” Harry said, perplexed.

“And those are just the non-fiction titles,” Blaise said wryly. “Did you know there are novellas about your childhood adventures fighting off a variety of dark creatures as you travel the world?”

What?” Harry frowned. “I… I didn’t even know I was a wizard until a month ago! And I never left Surrey in my life!”

“Well, they’re obviously fake,” Padma said loftily, though her cheeks were oddly flushed. “I mean, Parvati read them, but I thought they looked ridiculous.”

“My favorite was Harry Potter and the Six-Fingered Imp,” Blaise said with a smirk.  

“Oh, please!” Terry waved his hand. “The plot was clearly inferior to Harry Potter and the Mad Manticore!”

Terry and Blaise both began to snigger.   

“People really wrote books about me?” Harry wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

“At least they made you out to be a big hero in all of them.” Terry consoled him.

“Is that legal?” Hermione wondered with a frown. “Making money off of fake stories about a real person?”

“I have no idea,” Padma replied.

“Well, this is the third floor,” Blaise said as he stopped at the top of a staircase. “The library’s supposed to be on the third and fourth floors, I’m just not sure where.”

“Let’s try not to go down the Forbidden Corridor again,” Hermione sighed as she looked around.

“Go left down the hallway, dears,” said a woman in a nearby painting. She was reclining on a divan, a glass of red wine in her hand.  “Then make a right when the corridor ends.”

“Thank you,” Harry said politely, and they followed her instruction.

“Little early for wine, isn’t it?” Terry commented once they were out of the painting’s hearing range.

Soon they found a large set of double doors with the words Hogwarts Library inscribed them. Padma pushed one of the doors open, and Hermione was right behind her.

Harry followed them in, his eyes widening. It was the largest library he’d ever seen. The shelves stretched nearly all the way to the high ceiling – there must be hundreds of thousands of books here!

"Oh my," Padma breathed.

"It's gorgeous," Hermione said, her eyes widened with awe. She broke off from the group and disappeared into the stacks, and Padma soon did the same in another aisle.

“They look like they just found paradise,” Terry said wryly. “Anything you wanted to look up, Harry?”

"Do you know a good book about quidditch?” Harry asked.

“That’s easy, Quidditch through the Ages,” Terry nodded. He dropped his bookbag on a nearby table. “I’ll be back.”

Harry sat down and spent a moment just looking around. Blaise sat down across from him and did the same, but soon snapped open his potions text and began reading it quietly. Harry pulled out his herbology textbook, along with the sheet of assigned homework. He might as well get it done with, since it was due on Wednesday. He looked at the moving, colored pictures of plants on the left side, and the list of names on the other. A few he remembered from the lesson, so he connected the matching items with a solid line. But soon he didn’t know any of the others, so he began searching the index for the plant names.

“This place is like a maze,” Terry told him as he returned, and set a slim paperback down next to Harry’s homework. “You can learn the rules and history from here, but of course there’s no better teacher than just getting on a broom. You’ve never flown before?”

Harry nodded, and Terry whistled.

“That’s mad. Guess those books really were a load of tosh, since you were flying around when you beat the Middlemarch Mummy and the Gnome King.” Terry sprawled into the seat next to Harry’s. “Flying lessons start next week. It should be fun. I wish I could bring my broom, but they have this ancient rule about first years not being allowed to bring their own..."

An enormous pile of books dropped onto the table with a soft crash, making the three boys jump.

"This is the best library ever." Hermione beamed down at them.

The boys exchanged amused glances. Harry wondered how Hermione had carried a stack of books that reached above her head... She was clearly stronger than she looked.

"I just don't know what I want to research first..." Hermione mused as she sat down.

"For class?"

"No, an extra-curricular project," Hermione said eagerly. "I've been contemplating learning a third language..."

"What else do you know?"

"French," Hermione replied absently. "But now that I'm here, I feel like I should study something magical..."

"I know what I’m going to study," Padma said as she sat next to Terry. Her stack of six books seemed quite reasonable when compared to Hermione's eleven.  They all turned to listen.  "Have you ever heard of Animagi?"

"Wizards who can turn into animals,” Harry replied instantly. That had been one of the coolest things Hedwig had told him about.

"My aunt Sanjana is an Animagus. She can change herself into a black buck antelope," Padma said proudly.

"I know a man from Madagascar who can turn into a polar bear twelve feet tall. He's thought seriously about moving farther north." They turned to Blaise, who had snapped his book shut and was looking at Padma contemplatively. “But learning to be an Animagus takes years and years of hard work.”

"I can handle it," Padma retorted, her eyes flashing with determination. 

"Didn't say you couldn't," Blaise shrugged. "It's an admirable goal. I’ve thought about studying it someday.”

“I want to do it,” Harry blurted out. Hedwig had mentioned this ability to him before - his father and the other Marauders were Animagi.

“Count me in,” Terry grinned. “Sounds wicked.”

“So, how do we do this?” Hermione asked, her eyes alight.

“The first step is to brew the Form Revealing Potion,” Padma said, reading from the Advanced Transfiguration book she’d cracked open on the table. “It takes three months to brew, and there are a lot of really rare ingredients. We’d have to start really soon if we want to finish it before Christmas. But after you take it, you’ll have a dream of your animagus form, sometime in the following months.”

Harry’s mind was already racing, wondering what sort of creature he might one day be able to transform into… Perhaps a stag, like his father. Or a fierce creature like a tiger, or lion – or maybe a bird that could fly over the castle…

The green beans were carefully arranged in a circle around the single sliced beet. To the left lay a chicken breast, and to the right was a mound of mashed potatoes with a glob of yellow butter melting rapidly on top of it.  A fork descended to stir the potatoes, mashing it even more carefully before drawing a spiral pattern in the surface with its tines, as one might rake the sand in a zen garden...

"Hey Neville."

"Harry?" Neville looked up in surprise, his fork stopping in mid-air.

The black haired boy sat down directly across from him. Harry pushed his glasses up his nose with one hand while reaching for a roll with the other.

"Uh - what're you doing here?" Neville asked, glancing at Harry before he looked over at the Ravenclaw table.

"I'm starving," Harry replied easily. He cut roll in two, then began to butter it.

“But this is the Gryffindor table.” Why was Harry here, Neville wondered? Didn't he have other people to be sitting with - popular people, smart people - people not like Neville.

"Yeah,” Harry nodded.

"Why are you here?" Neville said nervously.

"Because you're here," Harry replied with a smile. "I haven't seen you since yesterday.”

"Oh." Neville said, his voice catching in his throat. He had thought that the three people he had started to befriend yesterday on the train would forget about him because they had all gone to Ravenclaw together. Neville hadn't expected any of them to seek him out again.  

"Can I see your schedule?" Harry asked, just as he reached into his robes pocket and pulled out a folded piece of parchment.

Neville dropped his fork and leaned down to rummage through his bag. He didn't find it right away. Gran was right, he really needed to be tidier... Oh, there it was. 

Harry took the parchment from Neville's outstretched hand, and began to scan both sheets, comparing them. “Great, we've got Charms together Tuesday and Fridays. And Wednesday night we have Astronomy together - at midnight, that's a drag. I must have missed you in History of Magic. I came in late, and fell asleep by the end...”

"Hey Harry."

Neville looked up and saw the Weasley twins standing by Harry.

"Hey, Fred. Hi, George," Harry said, glancing at them before serving himself a baked artichoke.

"What's a Ravenclaw doing in Gryffindor territory?" The second twin asked Harry. Neville wasn't sure if he sounded accusing or amused.

"I'm sitting with my friend.” Harry said simply, then turned his gaze back to Neville.  "What was Defense like? I don't have it until tomorrow."

Neville blinked away the prickle in his eyes as joy flooded through him. My friend, Harry had said! Neville had never had a friend before.

“Professor Quirrell talked a lot, but I don’t really remember much of it… It was really stuffy in the classroom, and I couldn't concentrate. Dean asked to open a window, but Professor Quirrell said it wasn't safe... He seemed a little bonkers, honestly."

"Huh," Harry frowned, feigning disappointment. He already knew the truth about Quirrell, after all. "I thought, the class being about defending yourself - that it would be rather exciting."

"Maybe it'll pick up, it's only the first class." Neville said hopefully.

"Some of the older students were placing bets, you know," one of the twins interjected, sitting down on the bench to Harry's left.

"On where you'd end up..." The second began, still standing.

"Consensus was that you'd go to Gryffindor."

"Why is that? None of you know me." Harry pointed out.

"Sorting Hat isn't run by a consensus anyways," Neville offered gamely.  Harry grinned at him.

"Seeing as you're the Boy-Who-Lived and all," the second twin said, moving to sit down on Harry's right hand side.

"That seat's reserved," Harry said, grabbing a banana from a bowl of fruit and placing the yellow fruit on the bench.

"For a banana?"

Neville laughed, nearly choking on a bite of chicken in the process. Harry gave the twin an incredulous look.

"Hello Neville!"

Smiling up at Hermione Granger, Neville inwardly praised the girl's excellent timing. She squeezed right past the twin who was still standing, and slipped onto the bench beside Harry. The black haired boy quickly moved the banana out of her way before she could sit on it.

"Hi Hermione. How are you?" Neville asked politely.

“I had a wonderful first day, thank you for asking. How’s Trevor?” Hermione began to scan the table, and pulled a dish of potatoes close to her.

“Well, he hasn’t run off again,” Neville said ruefully. “So I guess that’s an improvement. But I’m still not sure what to feed him…”

“Neville!” Terry shouted, crashing down on Neville’s left side and clapping him on the back and making Neville jump in surprise. “I just escaped from the library. They held me hostage for hours. I’m so hungry, I could eat a dragon!”

“We did no such thing!” Hermione said indignantly.

“You were there of your own free will,” Padma pointed out as she sat down on Neville’s right. “You could have left at any point. Oh, for the love of - ”  Then she said a word that Neville had never heard before. It didn’t sound like English.

“What is it?” Harry asked.

"How can I expect to eat a balanced diet if they won't give me proper proteins?" Padma scowled. "Meat, potatoes, meat, vegetables, and more meat!"

"You don’t like meat?" Neville asked curiously.

“We don’t eat it, we’re vegetarian,” Parvati answered as she arrived and set a comforting hand on her sister’s shoulder. “Don’t fuss, Padma, there are some beans at the end, I’ll grab them for us.”

“Thanks,” Padma smiled at her twin.

“Want to sit?” Harry asked the Weasley twins, who were still standing around, watching the first years interact.

“Sure!” One said, surprised, and the other added, “Why not!”

“Why are you vegetarian?” Terry asked Padma as Parvati got up to get the beans.

“We’re Hindu,” Padma said simply. “It’s against our beliefs.”

“Stand back!”

Neville looked up in surprise as Fred held up his fork to a black boy in Slytherin robes. The boy looked unamused. Neville remembered that the boy had been one of the ones who’d fallen in the lake and ended up in his boat, but he’d never got his name.

“Drop the fork or I will hex you,” he drawled.

“Ah hah, I knew it, another violent Slytherin!” One of the twins declared excitedly, drawing his wand.

“Come off it, Fred,” Ron said as he stepped up behind Blaise. “We’re just here to eat. Harry invited us over here.”

“But what if you’re here for nefarious purposes?” George said, narrowing his eyes at his younger brother.

“Then you’d better watch out,” Blaise said, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh, bugger off, you two,” Ron said grumpily to his brothers. He pushed past the twins then nodded to Harry and sat down on his other side. Blaise sat on Hermione’s other side. “Thanks for asking us over. Malfoy was being really obnoxious, I was this close to hexing him again…”

“Your invitation likely saved Slytherin a lot of points,” Blaise said drily to Harry.

“No problem,” Harry laughed. He was glad that they’d showed up. Parvati reappeared accompanied by Lavender, carrying the beans, and looked at the Slytherins with interest as she sat next to Padma.

“I heard you cleaned out Malfoy’s filthy mouth in class today,” Parvati said to Ron. 

“Er – yeah,” Ron flushed. “Sorryaboutyesterday,” he added very quickly.

Parvati smiled. “Consider it forgiven. Anyone who shows up that prat is in my good books. We were at the same primary school as him, and it’s amazing how little he’s changed. Even when he was six, Draco Malfoy was running around telling everyone he thinks he’s better than them.”

“And whenever he got in trouble, he always threatened to write to his father!” Padma giggled.

That earned a few laughs, including from the Weasley twins.

“I’ve never seen non-Gryffindors sitting here before,” Fred admitted.

“I didn’t know it was allowed,” George said.  

“There’s nothing in the rules against it.” Hermione declared, with such certainty that nobody doubted her. She did seem the type to have looked up the school’s rules and memorize them all.

“Come on, then,” Ron said, looking at his brothers. “Sit down and eat. That is, if you don’t mind eating next to a Slytherin!” The last sentence was said with a hint of worry. The twins finally saw past Ron’s bluster to his anxiety, and looked at each other for a moment.

George sat down first, throwing his arm over Ron’s shoulders. “Oh, Ronniekins, we were just giving you a hard time.”

“You’re still our ickle brother, no matter what house you’re in,” Fred agreed as he slid in and grabbed a roasted potato to start.

“Besides,” George grinned. “You’re too stubborn to get turned into a prat by the Slytherins like Malfoy.”

Ron looked pleased by their statements, though his ears were flushing from their nicknames. Neville was taking a bite of string beans when the black boy who’d sat beside Hermione reached across the table, offering his hand. Neville dropped his fork to shake the boy’s hand.  

“I didn’t introduce myself yesterday, in the confusion. Blaise Zabini.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Neville Longbottom,” Neville said bashfully.

“’m Ron,” said the youngest redhead through a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

Everyone tucked into the meal with enthusiasm. Neville soon got the impression that most of them had been studying fervently in the library for most of the afternoon.  At first, Neville couldn't stop looking around him, at all the people who had flocked to join him – how had they all come here to sit with him?  But by the end of dinner, Neville wasn't even thinking about it - he was too absorbed in the company and the conversation.

Neville listened to a story Terry was telling about enchanted utensils. Then he shared about how thrilling Herbology had been for him, discussed and compared his garden at home with Lavender Brown and the Weasleys. When dessert appeared, Neville dug into a slice of pumpkin pie and listened to Padma and Hermione discussing muggle cinema, which sounded utterly fascinating.

Somehow, contrary to all of his own expectations, Neville had found himself a group of friends who he fit in perfectly with - a group that didn't make him feel less in any way - but instead more confident and happier than he had been in a very long time.