A/N: I'm actually writing this and another (Dark Harry) story at the same time but I encountered some difficulties where I realised many parts that don't make sense, so it has been delayed. Since I'm already writing a Dark Harry story, I decided to make this a Grey Harry story... enjoy! =D (Edit 29 March: This is no longer a Light Harry story)

11 April: Slight edits done. May have missed out some things, but I tried. No point reading this chapter again, everything is the same.

7 November: Slight edits done, time skip changed from 2 years to 3 years, so Harry and Hermione are 9 by the end of this chapter.

Disclaimer: Flip through the last 14 year's worth of newspapers. See anything regarding JK Rowling transferring rights to Harry Potter to anyone else? No? I don't own Harry Potter then.

Standing By Your Side

"Friendship is a single soul living in two bodies" ~ Aristotle

Prologue

The young lady, barely into her twenties trudged through the thick snow layering the pathway. Snow whipped all around her, a result of the raging winds. Her flaming red hair blew behind her, her once bright and shining emerald green eyes now dull, exhaustion clearly shining through.

Thunder rumbled in the distance.

In her arms, a baby started screaming, shaken awake by the loud noise. She gently shook the baby in her arms and started humming a lullaby, visibly calming the baby. The baby fell sound asleep again.

Soon, the thick brick walls of the building towered over her, barbed gates slightly ajar. She gently pushed against the gates and it creaked open. She entered the compound and looked up, the words Wood's Orphanage clear in sight. The lady unconsciously let out a sigh and gazed lovingly at the bundle in her arms. Her baby sleeping soundly, clearly at peace.

She hesitated for a second, rethinking her plan through, hoping to find any other alternative to the one currently in her mind.

No. It has to be done.

She walked up to the steps of the orphanage and knocked on the door. Her hands shook from the effort despite the simplicity of the actions after the exposure to the cold. The doors swung open to admit her. The warmth from the nearby fireplace and the cheer from the late night celebrations. A kind looking woman with shoulder length hair and bright blue eyes greeted her, inviting her into the room.

The lady, however, refused her invitation with a slight shake of her head, instead pushing the bundle into the caretaker's arms. "Please do what I cannot. Take care of him... take care of my Harry." With that, she turned to leave. The caretaker shouted for the lady but she paid no heed and continued leaving. In the commotion, the baby awoke, missing the warmth and aroma that came with his mother, he started wailing and swinging his arms wildly. "MAMA!" he shouted, flailing helplessly in the caretaker's arms. In instinct, the mother turned back for a last look at her baby, her flesh and blood, her entire life.

"Harry, your father and I will always love you. We may not be with you, but we will always love you. Always..."

And she was gone.

Chapter 1 - Two Lonely Souls

The happy, cheerful laughter of children was present in every corner of the room. Everywhere, you could see groups of children playing with all sorts of toys.

Scratch that. Let's start over.

The happy, cheerful laughter of children was present in every corner of the room. Everywhere, but one isolated corner. The cheer of the occasion just didn't seem to be able to reach that area. That corner was visibly dimmer. Colder. You may think that when the two environments were compared, no one would choose the dark, moody area over the bright, cheerful room.

But one child did.

His name was Harry. Just Harry. He had raven black hair and emerald green eyes that would surely look better sparkling than its current dull state. But rarely anything lit those beautiful eyes up. Just the opposite in fact.

He was left at the orphanage on a New Year's eve 6 years ago. He was handed to the caretaker in a bundle of clothes and the only thing that was known about him was that his name was Harry. No family name. No background. Since then, he has stayed in the orphanage where he had the best time of his life. No seriously, I'm not kidding. I hope you get what I'm implying.

It wasn't that he was a jerk. He was a very nice guy, in fact. He used to be kind and caring. He used to try and help everyone he could. But he wasn't appreciated. He was called a busybody. He was chased off whenever he wanted to help. Bit by bit, he lost his cheer. He sunk himself into books, reading stories of great heroes slaying their enemies and saving the world. A world where kindness was appreciated. Harry always buried himself in his books whenever he was upset. Which was all the time. These books were an escape from the cruelty of the world he lived in. These books told stories of children with poor backgrounds like him but growing to be great and everything ends up right in the end. But Harry knew that this wouldn't happen to him. But a boy was allowed to dream wasn't he? Of course, after his immersion into books, he was teased more. Books were thrown at him and on occasion, he would return from lunch to find some of his precious books ripped into shreds.

Then the "accident" happened. A kid, only a few years older than Harry, flung another book in Harry's direction. But this time, it was aimed straight at his head. And it was a hard cover book. Harry knew what was coming. He wouldn't be able to dodge the projectile. It would hit him straight on the skull. Probably life-threatening. Harry was afraid. He wanted out of this orphanage but certainly not this way. It's cliché but he was too young to die. To his shock, amazement and relief, however, the book was suddenly flung in another direction, hitting a nearby cupboard. The commotion caused the caretaker to come over to investigate. The kid made up some cock-and-bull sob story of Harry stealing the kid's book then throwing it at the kid, fortunately, missing. The caretaker doubted what the kid said, but there was no proof otherwise. So she just dismissed Harry after a light scolding.

After that day, he gained another nickname: Freak.

This is the part where I say that Harry was forever left alone and never bothered. That's not what happened. More kids came into the orphanage. The old ones were adopted, not before making up a story of Harry being this big bad bully pushing people around. The new kids continued the legacy of the older ones and they made Harry's life a living hell. This was when Harry was 4.

The bullying never stopped. Surely, there had been less bullying, but that was probably because the bullies got bored of Harry never fighting back. There were no more "accidents" so Harry dismissed the one 2 years back as a mere coincidence.

It was the Christmas of year 1996. Harry was buried behind his edition of Lord of the Rings. Yes, he was reading Lord of the Rings at age 6. Harry was special like that. Despite this, he would willingly give up his whole collection of books for a friend. Just one friend who stood by him for better or for worse. Preferably someone who liked books like Harry, but Harry wasn't picky. His wish was about to be granted.

Hermione Granger had brown hair that was a mess on her head. She had light brown eyes and light skin. Her parents died when she was barely a month old and honestly, she wasn't as affected as she hadn't gotten the chance to know her parents. Her uncle took her in but he wasn't very nice to her. He wasn't abusive either. He merely didn't care for her as much as a parent would. Then, a week ago, her uncle died.

There were many different options for Hermione. She could go live with her aunt, her other uncle, or her other aunt. But, in actuality, all of them were afraid of Hermione. Barely a month after she came into this world and her parents died. And now, her uncle died while taking care of Hermione. So they decided to leave Hermione at an orphanage.

Hermione was clever for her age. When she went to school at 4, she was bullied because of her large front teeth and ridiculed because of it. She studied more and more, reading content a few days in advance. Soon, she was reading books that teenagers normally read.

She, like Harry, hoped, beyond anything in the world to have a friend. No one wanted to be friends with her. She was a know-it-all, always eager to answer questions in classes and sometimes, the teachers were annoyed with her as well. The bullying certainly didn't help. All Hermione wanted was a chance to prove herself to the world that she wasn't a useful "beaver-faced" "book-worm". Honestly, when your hand is up for almost the entirety of the lesson, it doesn't convince people you're not a "book-worm".

Books were her best and only friend, so you would understand when she was unwilling to leave most of her books behind, bringing only her favourite ones to her new home: Wool's Orphanage.

Line Break

It was New Year's Eve. The cheer was back during the dinner hours after everyone finished eating their dinner. Most children took out their toys and started playing with one another. Those who were tired went back to their dorms and started preparing for bed. Harry and Hermione, sitting on oppsite ends of the table, immediately started reading their books.

One of the kids, a fat lump of, uh, fats called Peter was known as "The Bully" in the orphanage and Harry was known as "The Victim". I think you can make the connection.

But today, Peter's target wasn't Harry. He approached Hermione and snatched the book off her hands, all the while sneering at Hermione.

"Hey! Give it back! That's mine!" Hermione shouted at Peter, jumping, trying to get her book back. One of Dudley's goons, Mark, roughly pushed Hermione back onto her seat and slapped her on the face, causing her to fall off her chair and slam into the cold hard ground.

"What's that beaver-face? I heard some barking. I'm sorry I don't speak Beaver!" Peter shouted taunting Hermione. The gang behind Peter burst into laughter. Hermione sat on the ground, tears threatening to come out of her eyes.

Harry had enough of that. He hated bullying. He abruptly stood from his seat and shouted, "Give her her book back!" Peter looked over at Harry and laughed, "Make me!"

Harry ran over to where Peter was and tried to snatch the book from his grasp, but he was quickly held into place by another 2 of Peter's goons. Peter slammed his fist straight into Harry's stomach repeatedly. Harry screamed in pain, he had just finished his meal and his stomach was full. The pain from the hit caused his eyes to fill with tears. Harry tried to fight back, but he couldn't overpower the 2 boys holding him. His legs buckled under him when he couldn't take the pain any longer.

"Thought you could save the girl eh? I'll teach you when you try to stand up against me!" Peter slammed another fist into Harry's stomach. Harry's face was red from the pain now, hot tears bursting from his eyes. "Hey! Maybe you two could be friends! The ugly beaver-faced book-worm and the "hero" book-worm!"

Peter punched Harry a few more times and turned to leave. His goons tossed Harry on the floor beside Hermione and followed Peter away. Hermione was openly crying now. Harry pushed himself into a sitting position despite the aching pain in his stomach and held Hermione by the shoulder, comforting Hermione. "Don't cry now. They're gone. Your face doesn't look pretty when you cry."

Hermione looked up at Harry and shouted, "You're just as bad as them! You're making fun of me!"

"No I'm not. You really look pretty... but only if you stopped crying." Harry said trying to comfort the girl.

"Really? You're not teasing me?" came Hermione's hopeful voice.

"Nope... I'm not!"

Hermione immediately began wiping the tears off her face and turned to look at Harry with a smile on her face. She leapt into Harry's arms and hugged him tightly, missing the wince Harry gave. "Thanks for standing up for me! No one's ever done that for me before!"

"Er... my stomach..." Harry whimpered, face contorted in pain. Hermione immediately released Harry from her "death grip" and frantically apologised, hoping Harry wasn't angry at her. She would hate to lose the one friend she had. Does Harry even consider her a friend?

"It's okay. It just hurt for a second and it's not your fault. And I helped you because I hate bullies and how they bully people. They always bully me too. I'm Harry by the way." Harry said after pulling himself and Hermione onto the nearby seats.

"I'm Hermione Granger. Nice to meet you!" Hermione responded, stretching out her hand for Harry to shake, which Harry did. Both noticed the look of apprehension on the other's faces.

"Is something wrong?" they both said at the same time, causing them to blush before they looked up again, saying, "You go first."

"Are we friends?" they both asked with a hopeful, yet scared look on their faces. Both wanted a friend beyond anything else and it would be nice to find a friend in each other.

Harry was the first to speak after an awkward minute of silence, "We'll be friends if you want to be my friend... I don't have any friends."

Hermione's face immediately lit up in joy and said, "I'd love to be your friend Harry! I don't have any friends either! Other people always make fun of me!"

The happiness that both of them felt was the most they've felt in their whole lives. Their greatest wish had finally come true: they had a friend!

The rest of the night was spent talking to each other about the things they liked and what their lives were like. They found many similarities between them. Both of them loved reading beyond anything else. They both wished to have a friend.

When it was time for them to sleep, they were both unwilling to go back to their rooms. They wanted to spend more time with each other, their only friend and they were afraid that this was all a dream, and that after they went to sleep, this would all disappear.

Once again, it was Harry who took the initiative. He stood up and took Hermione's hand in his, loving how her hand fit perfectly in his, and pulled her to her feet. "Goodnight Hermione! It's been nice talking to you!"

Hermione had a bright smile planted on her face, because she made a friend. Then, her face reddened when she felt Harry's hand grabbing her own and loved how Harry's hand felt. She responded with a "Good Night" of her own, before they parted ways to their own rooms.

Time Skip - 2 years

It has been 2 years since that night when Hermione and Harry became friends. Ever since that night, they stuck together for everything. They sat together for meals. They sat together in lessons. They studied together. They read their favourite books together.

They were, in essence, the other's life. They were inseparable. He was her moral support. She was his source of happiness. They shared no secrets together and they shared everything. No time was wasted on petty arguments over personal belongings. This lead to a very happy friendship between the two of them.

Today, they were nervous. They were going to propose something to their head caretaker. Something, that probably wouldn't be allowed. But both Hermione and Harry hoped that their request would be approved. After the Christmas feast, Hermione and Harry walked up to the head caretaker and asked her if they could have a few words with her.

"Of course, Hermione, Harry. Is it another case of bullying? I hoped to have stopped that last year." Ever since last year, Hermione and Harry started reporting the bullies to the authorities and they have been punished, reducing the bullying cases by a huge amount.

"No Ms. Claire. It's not that. We just have something to propose and hope that you would allow it." Hermione said. She sounded confident and sure, but her eyes gave away her nervousness at what was about to happen. Harry reached over and held onto Hermione's hand and gently squeezed it, calming Hermione down.

Ms. Claire looked curious and motioned for the pair to follow her into her office. Harry closed the door behind him once they all entered the room. Ms. Claire took a seat at one end of her conference table and signalled for them to sit as well. Harry, being the gentleman he was, pulled a chair out of Hermione, which she graciously accpeted. Harry pulled a chair out himself and took a seat beside Hermione, all the while, their hands were interlocked and they drew comfort from that.

"So... how may I help you two?" Ms. Claire asked. She wasn't bothered with the contact that the two held, knowing that the two were the best of friends.

Hermione turned to face Harry, Harry doing the same to face Hermione. They seemed to hold a conversation through mere eye contact, something that Ms. Claire found impressive. They must be very close, to be able to understand each other just through looks.

After a minute of "conversation", Harry spoke up, "Hermione and I were wondering if..." Harry trailed off, muttering the next few words so softly, Ms. Claire couldn't hear him. Harry's face grew red and fell silent. Hermione immediately squeezed Harry's hand, giving him the confidence needed to finish his sentence.

"Ms. Claire, Hermione and I were wondering if we could share a room with each other." Harry said quickly. "We really like spending time with each other and thought it would be easier if we shared a room together, that way, we could be with each other most of the time." Hermione added quickly, giving her own thoughts.

Ms. Claire looked at her two charges and gave a mental sigh. These two were clearly close and they seemed responsible enough to take responsibility of their actions. "Normally, this isn't allowed. Especially when two children of opposite gender are involved." Ms. Claire started. Hermione's and Harry's face fell immediately and Ms. Claire thought she saw some moisture in Hermione's eyes. "But, as you two are the most responsible children I've seen in my years here in the orphanage, and the clear closeness the two of you share, I have decided to make an exception to allow this, as long as the two of you are responsible for your actions. This means no petty quarrels over taking up each other's space, am I clear?"

Hermione and Harry instantly smiled and gave a cheer before leaping off their chairs to hug each other. After a minute with no sign of them about to let go of each other, Ms. Claire gave a soft cough, causing the pair to jump off each other and look down at their shoes, face red from embarrassment.

"I am sure both of you are extremely happy at the news of sharing a room but I'm sure those celebrations can wait?" After a quick nod from both parties, Ms Claire continued, "I will make arrangements for you to move to the guest rooms where there are space for two people. In the meantime, you guys can pack your belongings and wait to move to your new room."

"Thank you Ms. Claire!" Hermione and Harry chorused before leaving to pack their bags.

Give them 5 years and they'll be dating each other. Ms. Claire thought. But their friendship is good for each other. That's why I allowed them to share a room. Their friendship clearly are helping each other. I remember Harry ever since the day he was brought to the orphanage. Still a small baby. Then he grew up to be kind and caring but was bullied, causing him to be distant. And Hermione, quiet and withdrawn. Clearly bullied when she was young. But after their friendship, they both opened up and became happy. They really are good for each other...

A/N: That's it! Next chapter would be some Harmony interaction and discovery of magic! (Edit 29/3: Letter will not be arriving so soon: I'm extending the "childhood" of HHr, but (spoilers), the orphanage will only exist for a few more chapters.

I think some of you think that they are too young to be sharing a room at 8, but there's no sexual content... its just sharing a room like some siblings do.

Anyway, R&R, I have a geography test tomorrow and I probably will be working on it after. Maybe if I can get at least 4 reviews, I'll post by Monday (I'll try... don't murder me if I don't!), otherwise, it should be done by Tuesday. As for my other unpublished story, I probably won't be working on that soon. Cheers, Primevere! =D