Harry Potter was not a stupid child. In fact, for a thirteen year old, he was quite intelligent. However, Harry's intelligence lay more in survival skills as opposed to school. This is not to be taken the wrong way – Harry did fine in school. He did not, though, seem overly concerned about his grades, at least to his teachers. To his few friends, though, Harry was obsessed with details – though not for the reasons you might think.

For example, Harry made sure that he made average grades in school. He did not fail, he did not overachieve. He had the potential to do so much more, yet he carefully and deliberately did everything he needed to accomplish this, including purposely failing tests and not passing in homework. It was Harry's unspoken rule. To make an average grade was normal. It was like everyone else. It did not draw attention.

Like most rules, though, there was one exception. Harry excelled in Home Economics – cooking class. He was the best cook – male or female – that Stonewall High had ever seen. His talent far surpassed that of his teacher, who claimed that from the moment Harry started cooking in her class, it was clear that he was a natural. Why, it looked like he had been cooking for years.

Not many people knew how very true this was.

Chapter One:

The last day of school had finally arrived. It was hard to believe that the year had gone by so quickly, yet there it was, summer vacation.

The final bell rang, and every student at Stonewall High surged as one to the front doors, out into the warm weather and its freedom.

Harry Potter stayed behind. Seemingly intent on cleaning out his locker, he appeared not to notice the hustle and bustle around him.

At last, when all of the other students had exited the building, he slowly closed the locker and carried a bundle of papers to the nearest trash can. The pile that he had left behind, consisting mostly of recipes and books stacked neatly on the floor, he carefully moved into his old, ratty backpack that looked like it could hardly hold a single notebook, much less a whole stack of items. But the old backpack held together faithfully, as it had done the past six years.

Zipping the once red (it was now more of a brownish color) backpack up, Harry was just getting to his feet when a soft voice that he would recognize anywhere spoke.

"There you are!"

He turned, and sure enough, Lola Sanders stood before him.

Harry and Lola had been friends ever since their first year at Stonewall High, when they'd both been eleven. Lola had been the new girl. She had moved from America when her father died. Harry had been 'that Potter kid, Dudley Dursley's cousin'. Dudley had made it clear during the years in elementary school that no one was to befriend Harry. And though Dudley now went to a Privet School, people obviously remembered the threat and avoided Harry as best they could.

It was only natural that Lola and Harry become friends.

At first, it was a tentative friendship – Harry wasn't used to having someone he could trust, and Lola felt sure that he wouldn't want to play with an American girl. But as the months went by and they became closer, it was evident that neither was going anywhere.

Once each of them had made this discovery, they had made it their mission to take the other misfits under their wring, and in the end created a tight group of five friends, each, for one reason or another, rejected by the rest of the student population.

"Here I am," he replied with a smile. "Were you looking for me?"

"As a matter of fact, I was," Lola grinned. "I figured that since it's the last day of school and all, you might want to walk home together? Since we won't be able to talk much over the summer."

"Walking home together sounds like a plan to me," he replied. "Let's take the long way."

"You won't get into trouble?" Lola asked disbelievingly.

Harry paused.

"Well, maybe a little… but they'll have all summer to dish out punishments. Besides, it's worth it."

Lola bit her lip, still apprehensive.

Harry had lived with his relatives ever since he was one and his parents had died in a car crash. While Lola had never met the Dursley family personally, she had heard stories about them from Harry. It had taken months for her to gain his trust, and even longer for him to open up and tell her bits and pieces of his home life. Harry made sure that he didn't give too much away at once, instead choosing to tell little by little. He was intent on not telling her everything, but enough so that she would know why he couldn't see her on weekends and during summer holidays, why his clothes were practically rags (old and dirty and several sizes too big), why he brought the same lunch to school every day (half a peanut butter sandwich), why he sometimes wouldn't show up at school for two or three days at a time, and why he was obsessed with details.

"Look," Harry said quietly, "I'll be fine. I'm always fine. If it makes you feel better, we'll got he short way."

"It'll make me feel better," she replied with a nod.

Harry merely shook his head, trying to disguise the amazement he felt that someone could actually care so much about him, despite his bedraggled appearance and 'freaky' ways.

Together, they left the school and made their way down the streets.

"So, this summer…" Lola started, "will I see you at all?"

Harry paused for a moment before answering.

"I can try."

"Don't get yourself in trouble now," Lola warned.

Harry grinned humorlessly.

"I'd get in trouble one way or another. No, I'll do my best to sneak away sometime. "

"You know where I live – don't hesitate to come over!" Lola laughed. She suddenly sobered, and said quietly, "especially if there's a…problem. Promise?"

Harry looked at her strangely. It was almost scary, he thought, how well Lola knew him. She had been able to piece together the details of his life with the Dursley's with the small amount of information he had given her. Up until he'd been eleven, he'd never known anyone who cared – truly cared – about him. It had been a shock the day he'd met Lola.

It had been pouring outside – the rain was coming down in buckets. Harry, who walked to school, was getting thoroughly soaked. Lola, also walking, had spotted him from across the street and hurried over, offering shelter under her large red umbrella.

"I promise," he said finally.

Author's Note: This is the first time I've ever written a story like this, so please let me know what you think. I'm experimenting. I know that there are plotholes (why didn't people from Hogwarts come get Harry, etc.) but most of them will be explained in the next chapter. This is more of an introductory thing to introduce Lola, mostly. Anyway, thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.