This teensy ficlet just sorta popped out when I was trying to write a sequel to Filios. The two are, of course, completely and utterly unrelated. (This sort of happens to me every now and then. I try to write one thing, and something else entirely results.) I think I was trying to give myself a break from psychotic Draco.

As we all know, everything belongs to J. K. Rowling. (Well, except for young Ian Macnair, and I'm quite sure that I don't want him.) I am but a humble fan.


Gregory saw the other boy from under a stand of trees. They regarded one another quietly, stolidly. Neither of them moved for awhile. Gregory was big, so he wasn't scared. It seemed that the other boy was big, too. He was perhaps taller. It was hard to tell. The air was hot and hazy and made distant objects look rather wavy around the edges.

At length, the other boy started moving. He came forward, step by deliberate step, until they were standing side by side. His eyes were dark and curious. "Hello," he said.

"'Lo," Gregory responded. His voice was scratchy. He hadn't spoken for a while.

They stared at one another. The other boy had a square, solid face and heavy eyebrows. Gregory's mother had always told him that he was too big for his age, but this boy was even bigger.

"I'm Vincent Crabbe," the other boy offered.

"I'm Gregory Goyle," Gregory answered. Silence followed, but he didn't have anything else to say.

Vincent gave Gregory a hesitant smile. It crinkled around his eyes and stretched his mouth wide, showing big square teeth. Gregory smiled back.

They stood under the trees for a while.

"Is this your house?" Gregory asked.

"No." Both of them stared up at the dark stone mansion.

Vincent spoke again. "My father was meeting someone here."

"Mine was too." They smiled again, finding something in common.

Companionable silence followed, and the buzzing of afternoon flies.

Of a sudden, another boy appeared, crashing through the trees. He was a blur of wild sunbright hair, with dark clothes tailored to his slim young body. He didn't see Gregory and Vincent until he was almost upon them, and he fell heavily into the dirt when he tried to skid to a stop. "Ouch!" he cried, landing hard on his side. "Oh, look at that, my robes are torn already and this one is new, I bet Mother's going to throw an fit when she sees -- you must be Mr. Crabbe's son, and you're Mr. Goyle's, aren't you? You lot look just like them." He gazed up at them from the ground, pale eyes catching the afternoon sunlight. "Hi, I'm Draco Malfoy. This is my father's house."

Gregory stood silent, dazed by the sudden rush of words. Vincent was staring at the newcomer as well, his mouth gaping slightly open.

Draco Malfoy seemed to be in constant motion, looking around with quick shifts of his eyes, legs fidgeting, arms brushing off his robes, never keeping still. His quicksilver presence wrapped around them, animated and bright, bringing a curious sort of sparkle.

It was as if the world instantly became more interesting, with this swift-talking shining boy in it. Perhaps that was why Gregory reached out, holding out a heavy hand that somehow seemed too broad and solid, to help the boy up. Vincent reached out at the same time. Draco Malfoy accepted with a quick flashing smile, his slender hands grasping theirs, and together they pulled him to his feet.

"Your fathers are inside, with Father's other friends." Draco pointed towards the mansion. "Why're you two just standing out here? It's hot in summer."

Gregory blinked. He hadn't even considered moving.

"Da left me here," Vincent volunteered. Gregory nodded in agreement.

"They wouldn't mind if you came inside," Draco said with an engaging grin. "Come along, there's food, and I can't eat lunch by myself, it would be ever so boring. Mother says I never eat enough anyway, come on, besides it's too hot out here -" and before they knew it, Draco Malfoy was tugging at their hands to follow him.

Gregory exchanged a puzzled glance with Vincent. They followed docilely after the small talkative boy, who was babbling ceaselessly about cold drinks and sunburn.

"I'm six years old," Draco said suddenly as they entered the large entrance hall. It was dark, and much cooler. "How old are you?"

Vincent spoke first. "Six."

"Me too," Gregory said.

"That's great!" Draco actually bounced a step and clapped his hands. "Oh, that means we'll all be at the same year at Hogwarts, won't that be fun? We can all be friends."

"Friends," Vincent repeated bemusedly.

Friends, Gregory echoed in his mind. No one had ever wanted to be his friend - not without asking something from him in return. He felt a wash of gratitude towards Draco Malfoy, this small bright boy who had so unselfishly offered to be his friend. And he could definitely be friends with Vincent Crabbe, whose deliberate contained movements were so much like his own.

Draco never stopped talking, even when his mother came and gave them food. Draco's mother was a pretty, quiet woman, white-gold and shining like her son. The food was good. Draco talked a lot but never really demanded answers from either Vincent or Gregory, so they were free to eat without needing to speak.

After they finished, Draco showed them around the mansion. They played with his toys. Gregory rather liked the toy Quidditch set, which came complete with tiny opposing Quidditch teams. Draco took one team, and Gregory and Vincent the other. Gregory was busy manipulating his Beater figure towards Draco's Seeker, when suddenly it was snatched out of the air. He blinked in surprise.

"Hey!" cried Draco indignantly. "That's mine!"

A tall youth with sandy hair was holding the struggling tiny Beater. "I don't know," he said idly. "It's rather cute, isn't it. You wouldn't mind if I kept it, would you?" He smiled down at the three children. It was not a nice smile.

"I would so mind," Draco said, his lower lip pushing out. "We were playing."

"Poor little Draco Malfoy," the youth sneered. "You must really be lonely, to play with these sad little kids. They're so stupid, I wonder that you can keep up a conversation with them at all. Pathetic little creatures, aren't they?"

Gregory was used to such comments, and clearly Vincent was also; they merely stared at the floor. Draco seemed to feel differently, though. He stood, fists clenched at his sides. The top of his head was almost level with the youth's waist. "They are not either. They're my good friends! Now you give that back, Ian Macnair, or I'll tell my father!"

"Oh, you'd tell your father, would you? Let me tell you something, young Malfoy. You're nothing but a spoiled brat, and brats shouldn't have such pretty toys. At any rate." Ian Macnair shoved the Beater into his pocket and grinned down at Draco. "Your father," he said, enunciating clearly, "is afraid of my father. He won't do anything."

"My father's not scared of anybody," Draco shot back.

"That's as may be, but I doubt it," Ian said. "Want a taste of what I'm learning at Hogwarts, little brat?"

Draco glared back, unfazed. "Try a spell on me. I dare you."

The youth snorted. "I'm not mad enough to curse Malfoy's heir inside Malfoy's mansion. But -" His fist lashed out and caught Draco across the face, spinning the small boy around and knocking him to the ground. "Defensive spells can only go so far."

Sprawled on the ground, Draco touched a hesitant hand to the red mark on his cheek. Tears welled in his eyes. Ian laughed and drew his fist back to hit Draco again.

Gregory felt a sudden surge of anger. He was used to being insulted; it didn't bother him. But Draco was different. Draco had defended him, and Draco shone with a fierce white glow that bathed everything about him. No one who shone so brightly should ever be hurt, and Draco's light seemed to flicker and go out as he lay crumpled and defeated on the ground. When Ian's fist came flying again, Gregory reached up and caught the older youth's wrist. He squeezed. Ian Macnair made a strangled sound. Gregory was very strong.

Vincent stood also, putting his bulk between Draco and Ian. "Give it back," he said.

"Or else what?" Ian tried to break Gregory's grip and failed.

Vincent didn't bother to answer. He reached into the youth's pocket, bringing out the Beater figure.

Gregory let go of Ian's hand. "Leave us alone," he said, glaring up from under his eyebrows.

Ian stumbled backwards a few steps, his gaze moving rapidly back and forth between Vincent and Gregory. "Who wants your stupid toys anyway?" He turned and strode away, rubbing at his wrist.

Draco was sniffling. "He's bigger. It's not fair, is it?"

Gregory produced the Beater figure, holding it before Draco's face.

"We got it back," Vincent pointed out.

Draco wiped at his eyes with his sleeve, and saw the tiny Beater. A smile appeared on his face. "You were great," he said to Gregory and Vincent. He sniffled back the last of his tears and beamed up at the two of them. "I'm glad. Want to play some more?"

Gregory blew out a satisfied breath, and exchanged smiles with Vincent. Draco was shining again.