"Who's the letter from?" Ron asked, food dribbling down his chin and across at Neville and Harry. Climbing up against the bench trying to see what his friend had gotten.
Harry barely grimaced, so used to people eating like pigs that its barley bothered him. The Dursley's were the worst for it really, Petunia wasn't as bad as both men. Neville however, was staring at Ron as if he was something alien and awful.
"Get off!" Seamus shoved Ron a bit, "Can't breathe!" grumbling a bit righting his plate which had tipped up when Ron all but got on the table to see the letter Harry got. Ron's knobbly elbow had really hurt, Seamus thought as he rubbed at the painful sore ribs.
"Are you okay?" Harry asked Neville, staring at the blonde boy.
"Yes, yes I'm fine," Neville replied, glancing at Ron, lowering his voice, "Just…my gran would have a heart attack if I ever ate like that." Finding it gross and disgusting, none of the other Weasley's ate like that, he noticed. They were all calm and collected, while Ron ate like he'd never been fed before. Using his hands instead of his cutlery? It was awful, and Ron was a pureblood like him.
Harry glanced at Ron before shrugging, "I'm used to that, my family are pigs," Harry emphatically stated in a whisper.
Neville's jaw dropped, glancing at his plate, "Weren't you raised…" pausing, he truly had no clue how to phrase what he'd been thinking. He unlike most of Harry's classmates knew just how…delicate the matter was. He hadn't lost his parents to death, but something far worse. Still, he didn't want to hurt Harry in any capacity. His first friend.
Harry stared at Neville in feigned befuddlement, "Raised…?"
"By family, you're the Potter heir, you've been born into almost royalty." Neville pointed out, bravely venturing on. Harry was the last male heir of the Potter line, the only one that could possibly continue the family name. The Potter's came from the Peverell name, one of the most ancient magical families known to man. He knew this because his grandmother made sure he knew the history that was well known in the older circles but not so much the younger generation. Likely something his father wouldn't have forced him to learn Neville privately reckoned.
Harry made a noncommittal hum, "Correct on all accounts," he conceded, he'd read the books, he'd noticed something, Dumbledore very rarely actually outright lied more than he had to. "I'm going to Hagrid's. Do you want to come?" although the 'almost royalty' thing did confuse the hell out of him.
"Hagrid?" Neville asked befuddled, "Who's that?" he couldn't remember anyone here called Hagrid, was it someone he'd befriended from another house? Harry seemed friendly with a lot of people, so it wouldn't surprise him if it was someone from another house.
Harry remembered the conversation he'd had with Professor Snape and Marcus. Of course, he wouldn't know the grounds keeper. He shouldn't even know him, but he couldn't regret his beautiful owl, Hedwig. Marcus had gotten him treats for her, good ones. His fingers rising up to touch his gold chain, another gift from Marcus. Fondness suffused him, the knowledge that he'd always have someone at Hogwarts at his back meant more than anyone would ever know.
"Oh, Hagrid is the half-giant, he's the grounds keeper, he took me for my school supplies, he's inviting me down for tea." Harry explained, "Want to come?" folding up the letter, and sliding it into his pocket.
"I thought you were my friend?" Ron said looking distressed, and his emotions backed him up. Harry was the first friend he'd made all on his own, without his mum setting up a 'play date' and before all his siblings. Feeling rather jealous that Harry was paying attention to anyone that wasn't him.
Harry turned to him, his heart tugging, a small smile appeared on his face, "I am your friend. I can have more than one, just like you, you played chess with Seamus and Dean all night." He pointed out, entirely calm unlike most eleven-year-olds would be in this situation. If he hadn't had professor Snape and Marcus to enable him to feel more confident…he'd never have risked his friendship with Ron for anything. "I'm no good at chess." He'd never played before. So, of course, he wouldn't be any good. He hoped to learn though. There weren't many things that could be played to pass the time here.
"Me neither," Neville confessed. "My Great-Uncle Algie tried to teach me." a little pleased to have something in common with Harry. However, just mentioning his Great-Uncle Algie made his heart pound with fear. He remembered everything he'd done, but he also remembered how nice he became after he did magic, and even bought him the frog he'd wanted so much.
Harry narrowed his eyes, making a mental note to remember that name. Hopefully Marcus would know who it is, he didn't want to ask Neville. The sheer terror he felt spiking on the mere mention of the name was enough for him. It was intermingled with fondness, but Neville wouldn't be the first-person Harry had known to love their abuser. It happened more frequently than people could fathom.
Sometimes being an empath aged them beyond their years. Regretfully, Harry as always going to be forced to be older than his tender age.
"I'll come, but I still don't understand how he was put in charge of showing you the magical world. It should have been one of the Head of Houses," Neville said enthusiastically but comically baffled as to why the grounds keeper of all people, took Harry to Gringotts and Diagon Alley.
Harry shrugged, "Who knows?" not making a big deal about it, he didn't want to risk Dumbledore paying more attention to him than he would be. He didn't know what would or could set him off. If he could get free of the Dursleys? God, he'd do it, he'd do anything, so if he had to keep quiet about what they were really like until he had the upper hand? Then so be it.
"I'll come too!" Ron said, a little bit jealous, but a lot less than it was a few moments prior. Glancing at Seamus and Dean thoughtfully, yes, they could be his friends too. His hyperfocus on Harry and wanting his attention focused solely on himself faded.
"When does he want to meet?" Neville asked, as he ate his breakfast with the proper pureblood decorum that his gran bred into him. "And where?"
Harry plucks it back out, peering at it easily, amazed that he could see so well. He'd quite often made an aborted move to push his glasses up his nose when they weren't even there. "He has a hut beside the Forbidden Forest, so Hagrid's hut I guess?" maybe why he felt enough at home to sleep in the hut before they departed.
"Oh, yeah, I remember seeing that," Neville nodded, "It's outside our windows." Collectively referring to their dorm room in Gryffindor. He wasn't sure why he was surprised it was being used. Although, if anything he'd have thought perhaps an animal enclosure?
"Oh, I've seen it," Harry nodded, it was before he had gone to wander around the school, when he saw Marcus properly for the first time.
"I didn't realize it was his hut, I wonder does he sleep in there? Instead of the school? Or just entertain?" Neville pondered as he finished off the food, too excited to eat more instead of nervous.
"Rather small to entertain though, right?" Neville added, as he shifted to see Harry better.
"Compared to Hogwarts? Very," Harry said dryly, "But I haven't really seen it from anything other than a distance so it's difficult to say."
"When are we going?" Ron asked, the spittle of the food landing in Harry's drink, glancing at Neville's. there was nowhere to pour the pumpkin juice to get another goblet full. No extra goblets or such.
"What's the matter?" Neville noticed Harry's reactions.
"Don't suppose you know how to get a fresh cup?" he hadn't even taken a drink out of it, for goodness' sake.
"Here, take mine, I do not drink pumpkin juice," Hermione said, handing over the goblet, her nose wrinkled up, "They put too much sugar in that and it's disgusting." She wasn't allowed a lot of sugary things, so anything she ate with sugar now at twelve, tastes disgusting to her.
"Thank you," Harry said accepting the goblet, with a smile.
"My parents are dentists," she said in a way of explanation, before going back to her book.
Harry blinked, had she been listening to their conversation (or at the very least part of it) and reading a book? Shaking his head in disbelief, he turned back to Neville who seemed rather nervous and worried. "What were we saying?" trying to remember as he finished the goblet off in two big gulps, still not used to being able to eat and drink whatever he liked.
"Potter! Follow me!" professor Snape commanded, as Neville squeaked in fright. Paling rapidly as he watched the Potions Master stalk out of the Great Hall in rapid strides.
"Uh, I'll be right back," Harry said genuinely taken aback, climbing off the bench he took off to keep up with his professor.
The second the doors closed Severus frowned at the boy, "Why did you not drink your pumpkin juice?" displeased but hiding it.
Harry blinked, utterly bewildered as to why his professor cared, "Ron spits when he talks…and he spoke with his mouth full." The look of horrified disgust on professor Snape's face was almost enough to make Harry giggle. Never mind the emotions to back it up.
Severus sighed, before swiftly and with moves that made it look rehearsed, he was in his robe pockets. Withdrawing a purple dragonhide potions kit, opening it he plucked out a potion and handed it over with a look. One that suggested Harry comply lest he want to face the consequences. Easily folding it back up and ensconcing it in his robes once more.
Nodding once when Harry consumed it without worry, pleased that he was being trusted thusly.
"From now on, drink your pumpkin juice the moment you sit down. It has potions in it that you require to get better." Severus informed him seriously.
Harry felt queasy at the thought, "Anyone can just put potions into my…" not able to finish, before Severus cast a spell around them so that they were unheard.
"No, no, not at all, I personally bound a House-elf to myself, they primarily work at Hogwarts and is officially mine, and answers only to me." Severus reassured the boy, pleased that he was thinking in such terms. He might just survive what this world threw at him. "He ensures that nothing that's not supposed to doesn't go into anyone's goblets, and if it does occur, they'd know to come to me. You're safe, do you understand?" he did not trust anyone at Hogwarts, including the headmaster. So, he made sure he had eyes and ears where his damn food and drink was prepared.
Harry relaxed, nodding his head, "I understand," and trusted his word, his emotions denoted unending firmness, confirmation and confidence in his own abilities.
"Good, now return to the Great Hall and eat at least another piece of fruit, and you have detention with me tonight." Severus stated, "Seven o'clock, do not be late."
Harry's jaw dropped, "What for?" shocked at the suddenness of it.
"Cheek, Mr. Potter," Severus said, turning and removing the spells he had up, "And a certain Slytherin will be there." With that he entered the Great Hall once more, his face a mask of sheer annoyance at having to deal with the Potter brat so early in the day.
Harry's lips pulled into a wide disarming grin, excitement already thrumming through him. He couldn't wait to see Marcus again, he had so many questions he wanted answers too and Marcus was smart. At least to his eleven-year-old eyes.
"You alright mate?" Ron padded out of the great hall, content and with a very full stomach. "Ready to head to class?"
"Hold on, I'll get Neville." Harry said, opening the great hall doors he rushed towards their spot, "You coming?" he asked, as he grabbed his bookbag, ready for another day at Hogwarts. Even if he had potions at the end of the day.
"Coming!" Neville's emotions took a swift turn from self-disgust and unhappiness to happiness. He didn't believe himself worthy of Harry's friendship, hell, he didn't believe he was worthy of being at Hogwarts. He was just a step above a squib really, but he was so grateful to be here and walking the very same place his father had. To have just a tiny miniscule of his family's praise. To realise he'd done something right for once.
Together Neville, Ron and Harry made their way to the first class of the day.
"How are you so good at most classes?" Harry asked in amazement, as he Neville and Ron left their last class of the day. Which just happened to be Potions, and he'd lost two points but he and Neville had managed to salvage the potion – with his better eyesight – and paying attention when professor Snape had cleared his throat pointedly. "Except potions?" he amended.
"I'm not," Neville murmured uncomfortably, as they begun to walk in the direction of the front doors of Hogwarts. "I know the theory that's all, I learned growing up."
"Only theory?" Harry asked, "Do you seriously really not use magic until you're eleven except for accidental magic?" recalling his acts of accidental magic, not everyone was like that though? Too afraid of using his magic to continue but knowing you were magical all your life? it seemed silly that's all.
"Everything we do lets off a little magic," Neville said, "According to my tutor, all the time I spend with my plants in the green house made them flourish, that each time I water them, touch them, magic gets soaked up. I guess we technically use magic before Hogwarts just a different kind."
Ron just walked beside them, having zero interest in the conversation.
"They're a little prejudice though, the professors." Harry said sombrely.
"Don't worry about it, Harry," Ron placated, "Snape takes points of Fred and George ALL the time." Being sincere, Snape he'd heard, could turn very nasty.
"Well, him too, but I was talking about professor McGonagall and Spout." Harry admitted.
"What do you mean?" Neville asked, brows furrowed in confusion.
"Yeah?" Ron chipped in, staring at Harry in blatant confusion.
"Just that a lot of the other students got it right but a big fuss was made over someone who was muggle-born." Harry confessed, "And it's like quietly accepted, like its just the way things are."
"Granger," Neville nodded, understanding Harry now, and honestly? He hadn't realized it was true until Harry said something. "I guess it's seemed as something better since they only found out about the magical world, they are playing catch up."
"Sure, we're playing catch up, but it doesn't make what they do any more impressive. It's not very fair, I mean can you imagine if you two got it first then the professor praised Granger?" Harry pointed out, as they descended the steps, already moving in the direction of the groundskeeper's hut.
"She's so annoying," Ron grumbled, hating the girls attitude.
Harry glanced at Ron, deciding against correcting him. Ron didn't find her annoying, well, he did, but his primary emotion was jealousy. However, Ron was quite often actually jealous. More jealous than everyone was usually during the day. And self-conscious, Neville was different to Ron like night and day.
"She's just trying to prove herself," Neville said simply, and it was the truth of it. Although, Harry's earlier comments had left him feeling rather thoughtful. It was true, so far, the muggle-born students were being praised for the same work the half-bloods and purebloods were doing. In fact, he was pretty confident that a few of the Slytherin's had gotten the spell work done and correctly before Granger. Yet she really was praised.
At quarter past three Harry, Neville and Ron made their way across the grounds. "It's smaller than I thought." Harry confessed; Hagrid apparently lived in this small hut. It was right on the edge of the forbidden forest, which was scary. Although, that might have something to do with Neville and Ron's fear of course.
There was a crossbow (weird to see in the magical world especially such an old one) and a pair of galoshes, again an odd sight since you could just magic any mess you make of your shoes.
Harry bravely ventured forward, and knocked on the door. Immediately barking started up causing Ron and Neville to jump in fright. Harry's eyes widened though hearing the deep scraping happening. "Uh, that sounds like a big…dog." He murmured, backing away a bit.
"Harry!" the beaming face of Hagrid peered out the hole he'd made in the doorway. "Hang on! Back Fang! Back!"
Neville glanced back at the school, anxiety bursting through him. The urge to go back to school was strong, not sure he wanted to face whatever beast was making that racket. He almost jumped out of his skin when Harry squeezed his arm. "They wouldn't have something in a school that would hurt people…" Harry reassured him, glancing dubiously at the door, at least he didn't think so.
"Are you sure about that?" Ron asked, panic in his voice, but before they could do or say anything else, Hagrid appeared in front of them, beaming happy to see them.
"What is that?" Harry choked, as he watched Hagrid struggle with the big dog.
"Come on in! Make yourself at home! This is Fang, don't mind him," Hagrid said, patting the enormous black boarhound.
The three students entered the cabin, and Harry noticed the hut was exactly that a hut. A fireplace, a bed, a sitting area, it really was a hut. For a giant (or half-giant as the case may be) it was very confining. Harry reckoned it was like him and his cupboard. One room, with many hams and pheasants hanging from the ceiling. A kettle was boiling in the fireplace, and that was all Harry saw before he was being licked by the massive boarhound. Who was clearly, very friendly despite his big size.
"This is Neville and Ron," Harry said introducing his friends, as Hagrid poured them cups of tea and rock cakes on the plates for them.
"Another Weasley, eh?" Hagrid said, glancing at Ron, "I spent half me life chasing yer twin brothers away from the forest."
Neville moved to bite into the rock cakes, they were one of his favourites. Or rather, his grandmother always had an unlimited supply, so he had more than he probably should. However, they were nothing like his grandmothers, Neville whimpered clutching the side of his mouth as he hastily put the aptly named 'rock' cake down hastily.
"Are you okay?" Harry whispered, grinning at the look on Neville's face as fang drooled all over his robes.
"I'm fine," Neville said, his tooth had almost broken in half, but he was alright. The last thing he needed was a visit to the Healer so soon into Hogwarts, his grandmother would have been so ashamed.
The three new friends delighted in telling Hagrid about their time at Hogwarts. Neville wouldn't dare write to his grandmother about such nonsenses. Harry didn't have anyone to write letters too, and Ron? Well, his siblings had probably told their parents everything they possibly could. He'd write eventually, but no doubt Percy had already written to their mum about where he'd been sorted.
Then Ron began complaining about Snape, "He seems to really hate Harry!"
"Rubbish!" Hagrid declared, "Why should he?"
Harry's eyebrows rose, the wizard – was he a wizard if he couldn't use magic? – was so obvious that it was painful to see. This was without his ability to sense everything Hagrid was feeling.
"How's yer brother, Charlie doing? I remember him, great with animals!" Hagrid said, changing the subject, and awfully at that.
Harry's gaze kept being drawn to an article underneath the table mat. Strange, it wasn't normal, but Harry couldn't fight it, in the end he almost mechanically grasped a hold of it. "Hey, Ron, look! This was what you told me about, the break in, it happened on my birthday!"
"First successful break-in, but luckily, it had been empty. Grandmother contemplated removing the Longbottom fortune." Neville declared, "She was most displeased."
"Why do you have this article cut out?" Harry asked Hagrid in confusion. Had he something to do with the break in? He distinctly remembered Hagrid visiting Gringotts with him on his birthday. Hell, for all he knew it could have happened while they were there but if that was true then Hagrid did the breaking in…but with the goblins there it was highly unlikely…right?
Eventually the three preteens made their way back to the castle before dark and to get dinner. Ron was quickly to state as such, he didn't want to miss dinner. "Should have put them in the Black Lake," Ron said, his pockets filled with rock cakes.
Plucking one out of his pocket, he threw it as hard as he could, something would likely eat them. Neither Neville or Harry followed suit, instead waiting to put them in the bin.
"Want to play chess after dinner?" Ron asked sounding hopeful, "I'll teach you!" he added enthusiastically. Ronald Weasley teaching the Boy-Who-Lived how to play chess.
"I can't, I've got detention with Snape," Harry told Ron, not feeling apologetic the slightest, he couldn't wait to visit Marcus.
A/N – I never thought I'd find it difficult to write Harry with his friends but I've just grown so used to writing Harry surrounded by adults that it's odd writing him as a kid, I mean I hope it's looking good and authentic like an eleven-year-old would be/act. Upside I might only need 7/8 more chapters and we're on to second year…I do wonder though if we should have Harry work with Voldemort with promises that Marcus and Severus and those, he cares about are left alone…or if it's too early for that? Hmm difficult very difficult…R&R please! Take care and stay safe xx