Chapter 4

Theo had just settled into an empty compartment when Harry arrived, with a stranger in tow. The pair stowed their trunks and got comfortable, with introductions being passed around. Neville got noticeably nervous when Theo's last name was mentioned, but both the other boys eventually got him to relax a bit.

With five minutes until the train left, a large mass of redheads poured through the barrier, prompting Harry to stand up and open the window.

"Ginny!" He called, attracting the smallest Weasley's attention. They waved to one another, with the girl pointing out her friend's position to her next-oldest brother. Not long afterward, Ron stumbled into their compartment.

"Okay if I-?"

"'Course it is, have a seat." As soon as Ron got his breath back, both he and Harry called out some last-minute goodbyes to the group on the platform, which Nanna Figg and Remus had both joined. When the train finally started to pull away, Ginny ran after them, waving until she couldn't be seen anymore.

-N5WW-

Neville wondered just what in the world he was doing.

Sitting with the Boy-Who-Lived was one thing, but sitting in close proximity to the son of a traditionally Slytherin house? Even the added presence of a Weasley brother couldn't quite wipe away his anxiety about the matter. It didn't help that the Weasley in question seemed to be a bit on edge as well.

"Um, er," Neville stuttered, managing to draw the attention of all four other boys in the compartment. "H-how do you all k-know each other?"

"Bookstore," Harry and Nott said in sync, the former with a grin and the latter with a sigh.

"I only just met them a month ago myself," Ron confided in the nervous boy. "Figg here's best friends with my little sister, has been for years."

"Oh."

"Ah," Harry coughed, looking a bit sheepish. "Actually, Ron, from now on I'm going to have to go back to being called 'Potter' rather than 'Figg'."

The redhead blinked at him. "...I'm sorry?"

Nott snorted, reaching over to lightly punch Harry's shoulder. "You've just been making that explanation shorter and shorter every time you go through it, haven't you?" The sheepish expression deepened.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, back up a tick," Ron exclaimed, waving his hands through the air. "You mean you're Harry Potter? The Harry Potter?"

"Yeah."

"...Does Ginny know? Because she's had a crush on you for years."

Nott outright laughed as Harry winced. "Yeah, she, well, she yelled at me for a good ten minutes when I told her and Theo and Luna last week. Didn't much like the fact I hadn't owned up to it in the last five years..."

"None of us much liked the fact you hadn't told us beforehand. Me especially!" Nott made an exaggerated hurt expression. "Don't you realize that if my father knew I'd managed to accidentally make friends with the Boy-Who-Lived, he probably would've let me come over to your house far more often? Which would've gotten me out of those ruddy pureblood parties, too!"

Harry schooled his features into a suitably abashed look, though his eyes with lit up with amusement. "Of course, Theo, my apologies for not rescuing you sooner from the likes of Malfoy and Parkinson." The serious expressions lasted for all of another ten seconds before both boys broke down into giggles.

Neville stared at them. And again wondered what in the world he was doing there.

A little while later, as he and Ron were playing exploding snap while the other two boys read some books they'd brought along, the door to their compartment suddenly slid open to admit a dark-skinned newcomer.

"Merlin's beard, do you two realize how long I've been looking for you?" The new boy plopped down in-between Harry and Nott, forcing to pair to scoot aside a bit. "Malfoy's holding court in another compartment and being even more insufferable than usual."

"So you decided to come hide with us instead, then?" Nott asked dryly.

"In a word, yes."

"Figures. Weasley, Longbottom, this is perpetual-pain-in-the-arse is Blaise Zabini. Do exercise those manners of yours and say hello, Blaise."

"Hi," Zabini said to them. Ron mumbled back a greeting while Neville simply nodded in reply. The other two were unable to return to their books as Zabini insisted on conversing with them for, as he put it, 'some sorely needed entertainment'. When he managed to get Harry going on about the benefits of researched biographies while Nott argued in favor of primary sources, Neville found himself smiling slightly as well. Ron merely rolled his eyes and called the whole lot mental.

The food trolley arrived a couple more hours into the trip, and the trio of friends pooled their money to buy enough sweets for all five of them to munch on. That went a fair ways to winning over Ron's goodwill, and as he accepted a chocolate frog and a cauldron cake Neville figured the gesture did the same with him as well. The compartment's atmosphere became more relaxed, as all the boys chatted together about all sorts of topics. Harry even went out of his way to ask Neville about his hobbies, and the resulting conversation about gardening set both of them to grinning like loons.

It all came to an unpleasant halt when the door slid open again to reveal a boy with platinum blonde hair, a pair of scowling, larger ones standing behind and to either side of him. After taking a moment to scan the occupants of the compartment, the blonde folded his arms and raised an eyebrow. "Zabini. Nott. And Figg," he added. "What are you all doing here with a couple of blood traitors?"

"Enjoying ourselves before we get to Hogwarts," Harry answered. Despite the fact that he was wearing a relaxed smile, Neville could see the annoyance in his green eyes. "What about you, Draco? Going around greeting old friends and meeting new ones?"

"Hardly. I've heard that Harry Potter is starting at Hogwarts this year and I want to track him down before anyone else does."

The compartment was conspicuously silent. Malfoy didn't notice.

"So, if you all see him, I expect you to send word to me immediately." With that, the blonde swept off with his bodyguards to continue the search. Theo extended a foot to slid the door shut as soon as they were gone.

A moment later, four of the five boys burst into laughter, leaving Blaise thoroughly bewildered and asking what was so funny.

-N5WW-

Remus returned to Number Five to have dinner with Arabella that evening, as both of them wondered how Harry's train ride had gone and whether he'd made any new friends before arriving at Hogwarts.

"I wouldn't be surprised," the woman sighed with a rueful grin. "If he simply went and found Theo, and the both of them spent the entire trip with their noses buried in a book apiece!"

Her guest winced. "That might be partially my fault."

"Don't be daft, Remus, we all share some of the blame for starting his initial love of the things."

"I suppose so. Minerva, I know at least, wanted to foster any inclination he might have gotten from Lily with regards to studying, as opposed to James and his habit of winging it."

Arabella snorted, placing their dishes in the sink for later washing. It was then that the both of them heard a voice out in the living room.

Moving quickly, the pair got to the fireplace in record time, eager to hear what the bemused-looking Minerva had to say.

"Ravenclaw," she announced. "I think we overdid it with the books."

-N5WW-

Theo woke up to Sun Tzu rubbing against his face. Sitting up with a grin, he cuddled the purring cat close, studying his surroundings with a sharper eye than he had the night before.

Mostly filled by the identical four-poster beds, the dormitory still found space to squeeze a personal bookshelf in for each boy, along with the hanging tapestries depicting inspirational quotes depicted in Ravenclaw blue and bronze. What stonework was visible of the walls was painted over with the covers of all sorts of books, both well-known magical stories and, surprisingly, some classic works from the muggle world.

A slipper suddenly whacked him in the head. Grin shifting instantaneously to a scowl, Theo turned and glared at Harry, who was draped halfway off his own bed, second slipper in hand.

"Morning!" The other boy practically chirped. Sitting nearby on her perch, Hedwig ruffled her feathers and mimicked the sound, which got Sun to meow back as well. "You're outnumbered, Theo, you might as well say it back."

"Oh, very well, good morning to the lot of you." Theo rolled his eyes, but soon returned to grinning.

On the other beds, their roommates were beginning to stir as well. Anthony Goldstein was the first one to actually sit up, rubbing at his eyes before they brightened with excitement. Terry Boot followed, with Micheal Corner rousing not long afterward. They all unknowingly copied Theo in taking a minute to more fully study and appreciate the room around them, before Harry set off the charge to get out of bed and washed up for the day.

Half an hour later saw all five boys gathered down in the elegant common room, admiring the included library as they waited for the prefect who'd promised to walk them all down to the Great Hall for breakfast.

"Guess this means you're just as much of a bookworm as me after all!" Harry whispered gleefully in Theo's ear. The other eleven year old made to give him a snarky reply, but paused when he noticed the handful of older students also in the room giving the two of them some rather un-subtle stares. It occurred to him, not for the first time, that being the perceived best friend of the famous Boy-Who-Lived was going to bring an uncomfortable level of scrutiny down on his head.

Harry caught sight of his grimace, and sighed. "Noticed them, did you?"

"Yeah... When did you realize they were doing that?"

"Last night," Harry said ruefully, tugging at the bangs of his shaggy hair. "I've had a bit of practice ignoring the looks, at least, since I always got stared at for being barmy-Harold-Figg back home, but something tells me this is only going to get worse."

Theo considered the problem for a moment. "Well... Provided she's still willing to hang out with your strange self next year, I guarantee Ginny's glares of Doom ought to be enough to chase most of them away." He grinned when Harry had to muffle his loud snickers.

Being Sorted into Ravenclaw rather than Slytherin had been a big surprise for the pureblood boy, but he was inclined to think that being in it with Harry would suit him just fine.