A/N: I'm finally back! Okay, so first, sorry about the poll. It was an epic fail on my part. It wasn't really necessary, though, so it wasn't the end of the world. ;D Now I'd like to say, because a few people have been asking, that NO, this is not a bashing story. I love all the HP characters, even the bad guys (although that's more like love-to-hate :D). I think Dumbledore's marvelous really, but for this kind of story, well, you have to be a little mad at him. He is manipulative, you have to admit that, but not in a heartless way, if he can help it. I think he really cares about Harry, but he has an entire world to worry about. Also, I love all the Weasleys and we will definitely be seeing more of them! And while we're at it, I love Hermione too.
To RUMO415 I looked for you, but I couldn't find you! Sorry! No, I don't do evil fics. :D
"Where'd you come from?"
"How come your dad came into school with you?"
"What's wrong with your head?"
The questions came the moment Miss Arvis let them outside for recess. Harry suddenly found himself at the center of a small knot of kids clustering around him curiously. He felt heat rushing up in his face and tried to shuffle back a few steps, but the group just pressed in closer, jumping at anything new in their routine environment.
"I – what – not my – " Harry stammered, struggling wildly to find answers and force them out of his mouth. He was finding it hard to breath under the avid stares of his classmates and was hugely relieved when Miss Arvis came over to see what was going on.
"Come on, don't squish Harry now," she said, chivying the children along. "Go on and play. Why don't you show Harry how you play football? And Stephen, it's rude to ask questions like that!"
The little group scattered at once, the blond boy Harry had seen whispering to his friend earlier and who had asked what was wrong with his head (staring at the scar slashed across Harry's forehead) shot a smirk at him over his shoulder as he raced off with his friends. Harry didn't follow them. He backed up a few steps to press himself against the school building and watched the rest of the children running around warily. Miss Arvis noticed.
"Don't you want to go play, Harry?" she asked, coming to stand beside him.
He jumped a little bit and looked up at her, but said nothing. In fact, she had not heard him say anything all morning. Not since he'd whispered something to the man who'd brought him in. Miss Arvis was still trying to figure out exactly what relationship that man had to Harry.
"So, how has your first morning been here at White Field Primary School?" Miss Arvis asked, attempting again to coax some words out of the little boy.
Harry shrugged one shoulder, still looking up at her warily.
"That good, eh?" she asked, smiling slightly. "Well, I'm sure you'll settle in quite nicely. What sort of – "
But her next question was cut off by a cry of "Miss Arvis!" A girl Harry recognized from the seat in front of him came running up to them. She had a lot of bushy brown hair, rather large front teeth, and at the moment was streaked with dirt.
"Miss Arvis, Stephen stomped on my worms!" she exclaimed, looking quite indignant.
"Your womrs?" Miss Arvis asked, raising an eyebrow. "What on earth were you doing with worms, Hermione?"
"My science project," Hermione explained impatiently. "My dad says there's all kinds of worms and he got me a book that tells all about them and I'm going to make a poster all about them, but Stephen stomped on the ones I found today and now I can't draw them! He ought to go to the Wall. He did it on purpose!"
"Did not!" Stephen, who was sulking a few feet away, protested. He came forward a few steps. "I didn't see them. Hermione's a tattle-tale."
"I am not, I told you they were there!" Hermione said snippily.
"I didn't see them!" Stephen insisted.
"Enough of this," Miss Arvis cut in. "Stephen, whether you saw Hermione's worms or not, you need to apologize."
Stephen muttered a quick sorry before dashing off to rejoin his friends. Hermione looked unsatisfied.
"He did it on purpose!" Hermione repeated, looking up at Miss Arvis indignantly. "He should be in trouble."
"I'll talk to him," Miss Arvis assured Hermione. "Hey, I've got an idea. Harry, why don't you help Hermione with her project? Don't you think that might be fun?"
"He doesn't know anything about worms," Hermione said at once. "He wouldn't know what to do. Besides, I don't want help. I like doing posters alone."
"Hermione," Miss Arvis said with a hint of warning. "Haven't we talked about working with others? Harry's new here and he doesn't know anybody. You ought to include him."
Harry didn't think drawing worms sounded like very much fun, especially since it was recess. Why was this girl working on school work during recess? But he could tell, just like Hermione, that neither one of them had much of a choice in the matter.
Hermione looked at him appraisingly. "All right, but he better do it just as I tell him."
"Hermione," Miss Arvis said again. "We've talked about being bossy, too."
"Yes, Miss Arvis," Hermione said, looking a bit embarrassed. Then she turned to Harry. "Come on, I'll show you my station."
She seized his wrist and dragged him away across the playground.
"That Stephen Morris!" Hermione huffed as she marched towards the fence on the other side of the playground. "He did it on purpose. He always does! Yesterday he kicked a ball right across my papers and got mud all over them and last week he stole my eraser and wouldn't give it back and when I told Miss Arvis, he said it was his and she believed him because he wrote his name on it in marker!"
Hermione raged away, not seeming to care if Harry was listening or not. She talked rather quickly and didn't need to seem to breath quite as much as normal people.
"Here it is," she said, stomping abruptly at a patch of mud near the fence. "This is my station. Those are my drawings and that's my book and those are my pencils. You can help me dig up more worms since Stephen stomped on the other ones."
Harry quickly found out two things about Hermione as he helped her dig through the mud for worms: First, she was very bossy, and second, she didn't need to rely on a second person to keep up a conversation. The first thing he didn't like so much because it meant she was always correcting what he was doing and making him do things over, but the second thing he didn't mind at all because it meant he didn't have to think of things to say or answer questions.
By the time Miss Arvis called them all in, Harry had found three new worms for Hermione to draw and both of them were smeared with dirt. Harry hadn't realized how messy he'd gotten until Miss Arvis sent the two of them to wash their hands and he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror.
And almost at once, Aunt Petunia's voice, shrill and irritated, screeched in his head, "You aren't coming into this house looking like that, boy! We give you clothes and you go and ruin them playing in the mud! Honestly, you could be a little more grateful for what we've done for you! Vernon, get the hose!"
Someone poked him in the back and Harry jumped so badly he nearly smashed face-first into the sink at the back of the classroom.
"Class is going to be starting, hurry up!" Hermione hissed and Harry nearly flew out of the way so that she could use the sink, whipping his still-soapy hands on his muddy jeans.
Hermione stared at him. "You're supposed to use the towels," she said, handing him a paper towel from the dispenser. "What's the matter with you, anyway? You look odd."
Harry turned and hurried back to his desk, sinking as low in the chair as he could and avoiding everyone's eyes. He wondered how angry Remus would be with him for getting his clothes all dirty. Probably not as mad as Aunt Petunia, he tried to assure himself, but the idea of making Remus angry at all was enough to make him feel slightly sick.
Harry was glad when it was time for lunch. He had tried to pay attention, but between worrying about getting his clothes muddy and the way Stephen Morris (who sat next to Hermione) kept whispering to his friends during work time and looking over at Harry, he had found it hard to concentrate.
He stood on tiptoe to reach the zipper on his backpack and pull out the lunch bag Remus had packed for him that morning, and then turned to see what the rest of the class was doing. Miss Arvis was chivying them into a line at the door, so Harry joined the back behind a girl with red braids. The girl looked at Harry and then at his paper-bag-lunch and scrunched up her face. She turned hastily to her friend.
"Switch spots with me, Gwen, I don't want to be near it!" she begged.
Her friend looked around curiously, saw Harry, and shook her head. "Neither do I! What if they start crawling out?"
Gwen gave a little shriek and pushed at her friend, trying to get as far away from Harry as she could. Harry stood there, turning red and wanting to ask what they were talking about, but unable to open his mouth.
"I'll switch with you," a boy halfway up the line called back. "I don't mind 'em."
He was a little fat with a lot of orange freckles all over his face, a big nose, and bushy eyebrows, and he wore a shirt with a green alien on it. He waddled down to where the red-haired girl was and she scuttled away, throwing one last nervous glance at the lunch bag in Harry's hand.
The boy had already started his lunch waiting in line. He stood munching loudly on a carrot and staring interestedly at Harry.
"Can I see 'em?" he asked after a few seconds of Harry fidgeting uncomfortably.
"Er, see what?" Harry asked nervously.
"The worms," the boy said eagerly. "I heard you eat worms for lunch, that's why you were helping Hermione at recess. I heard you ate one for a snack."
"No!" Harry exclaimed, disgusted and panicked. "I don't – I didn't – I don't have worms in my bag!"
He opened the bag and the boy leaned over to look for himself. He looked disappointed.
"Aw, Stephen was lying," he said to Gwen.
"Was not!" Stephen said form behind Harry, making him jump. "He mashes 'em up and puts 'em in his sandwich, I bet. Bet he drinks bug juice, too."
"Ewww!" Gwen squealed, but the boy looked excited again.
"I don't!" Harry protested, turning around to look at Stephen. "Stop telling them that!" he begged, but Stephen was leering.
"I saw you eat one," he grinned. "Didn't you, Lionel?" he asked, turning to one of his friends. The boy nodded, grinning stupidly.
Harry opened his mouth to protest again, but Miss Arvis was calling for quiet and the line was starting to move.
No one seemed to want to sit by Harry in the lunch room. He could tell just form the disgusted looks most of the class was giving him and his lunch that they had all heard what Stephen was saying about him and believed it. Hermione was the only one who didn't seem to care, but maybe that was because she was too engrossed in her diagrams.
Harry thought about trying to sit next to her, but decided he didn't want to spend his lunch getting his ear talked off about her science project. Also, she seemed like she might not want the company, the way her drawings were spread around the table, and he wasn't sure if he liked or not yet. And he didn't need to perpetuate the worm rumors any more. So instead, Harry found an empty place away from the rest of his class.
In a way, he was almost glad. He was used to eating by himself, after all. It was easier.
At recess that afternoon, Harry didn't help Hermione with her project. Stephen and his friends had been laughing and looking over at him the way Dudley and his gang used to before they started chasing him, and from long experience, Harry knew it would be best just to stay out of their way. He found a place under the slide that was relatively sheltered, but where he could still see Miss Arvis so he'd know when it was time to come in. He didn't stay near her in case she tried to make him play with Hermione again.
Harry spent the time outside trying to brush the dirt off his clothes, but it had already sunk into the fabric in muddy streaks. This only made him feel worse.
Harry didn't want to meet Remus outside of the school when the last bell rang and the rest of the class swarmed out the door to the busses. When Remus had left him this morning, he thought this time couldn't come quickly enough, but it was with trepidation that Harry dragged his muddy jacked on and pulled his frog backpack over his shoulders. He knew school wouldn't be any good at all. Everybody thought he ate worms and on top of that, he'd be in trouble when Remus saw him.
Harry jumped. He hadn't realized Miss Arvis was standing a few feet behind him.
"Would you like me to walk you out to meet, er… Remus?" she asked.
Harry hesitated, then nodded, pulling his knit cap low over his eyes. Remus might not be mad right away if Miss Arvis was with him. She offered her hand and Harry took it, letting her lead him out of the classroom and towards the front doors.
"So, how was your first day?" Miss Arvis asked cheerily.
Harry didn't answer, to nervous and miserable to try to think of a response.
"How come you sat by yourself at lunch?" she asked, determined to get at least one word out of him today.
Harry just shrugged.
"I thought maybe you would sit with Hermione. You two seemed to get along."
Harry shrugged again.
Then Miss Arvis pushed the doors open and Harry saw Remus sitting on the steps. He turned at the sound of the doors and Harry froze. The logical part of him was telling him he shouldn't be scared, that Remus was not anything like his aunt and uncle, that he wouldn't shout and not let him in the house, but the rest of him was too busy remembering the Dursleys to listen to logic.
"Hello," Remus said, smiling at both of them. "How'd it go?"
Harry stood between Miss Arvis and Remus, staring down at his shoes and not saying a thing.
Remus looked uncertainly at Miss Arvis.
"That's what I've been asking him all day, but he hasn't told me a thing. First days are always hard," she added sympathetically. "It'll get easier. He'll loosen up."
"Certainly," Remus said, looking worriedly down at the silent child before him. "Should we head home then, Harry?"
Harry's answer was to take a few halting steps over to Remus, still looking fixedly at the ground. This did not ease Remus's anxiety. It had taken him the entire week he'd had Harry to get him to relax completely (or almost completely). Would that all be undone in just one day? He wondered what had happened. Nothing Miss Arvis seemed to know about.
Remus hesitated, but bent down and lifted Harry into his arms. Harry stayed tense, stiffening in Remus's grip.
"Thanks for walking him out to me," Remus said to Harry's teacher. "He'll be on the bus tomorrow. Goodbye, Miss Arvis."
Remus carried Harry all the way home. He could have gotten a taxi, but he didn't. It was a stupid reason, really, but it felt too much like last Saturday, when he'd first brought Harry home, and Remus was afraid that all the headway they'd made in the week since then would be erased. And the longer Harry stayed stiff and silent, the more he worried.
Maybe it had been too soon to start school. Maybe he should have kept Harry home with him longer, made sure he really was okay before he sent him off to school.
It wasn't until they were home and he was unbuttoning Harry's coat that Remus noticed the mud.
"How did you get so dirty?" he asked lightly as he hung Harry's coat up.
Harry didn't answer. He peaked shyly up at Remus, biting his lip. An alarming idea struck Remus and he knelt in front of Harry once more to look more closely at him, looking for scratches or scrapes he might have missed, pulling up Harry's sleeves and running a hand through Harry's hair.
"Did you fall during recess?" he asked, trying not to sound as anxious as he was.
Harry shook his head and Remus's stomach plummeted.
"Did someone push you?" he asked. "Did you get picked on?"
Harry shook his head again, and Remus stopped looking for injuries, relieved. "Then how'd you get all covered in mud?"
"D-digging for worms," Harry mumbled.
Remus blinked, then a grin broke out across his face. That was the most normal thing Harry had done since he'd been with Remus. He started to laugh and Harry looked up sharply, not sure if this was a good sign or not.
"I was helping a girl with her science project," Harry explained in a mumbled.
"That's excellent!" Remus beamed. "See? I told you you'd make friends."
But Harry shook his head miserably.
"Miss Arvis made me and she wanted to draw worms more than she wanted to talk to me," Harry explained. He had decided that Remus was not mad about the mud and felt rather stupid for being so scared. His logic was saying 'I told you so' very smugly to the rest of him. And suddenly his bottom lip began to tremble and he flung his arms around Remus's neck, burying his face in Remus's shoulder. He wasn't sure what possessed him to do it, but he couldn't get the way nearly everyone in his class had looked at all day out of his head.
And suddenly he found himself telling Remus everything. All about the worms and Stephen Morris and how Gwen and her friend didn't want to be next to him in line. He wasn't sure how much Remus had understood because he'd kept his face buried in Remus's shoulder, but Remus rubbed soothing circles into his back and listened until Harry had talked himself out.
When Harry had fallen quiet again except for ragged breathing as he tried not bawl like a toddler, Remus resettled him on his lap and looked down at him.
"Rough day then, eh?" he asked softly.
Harry nodded. Remus sighed.
"I know it must be getting old, but it will get better, I promise. If that Stephen boy gives you a hard time, you should tell Miss Arvis though, alright?"
"I don't want to be a snitch," Harry mumbled.
"If he keeps picking on you, you aren't snitching," Remus told him. "Come on, I've got the perfect cure for long hard days."
He set Harry on his feet and led the way into the kitchen, opened the freezer, and pulled out a carton of chocolate ice cream.
"What do you think?" he asked, setting it down on the counter and lifting Harry up beside it. "Before dinner and everything. Sound good?"
Harry nodded, and for the first time all day, a little smile broke out on his face.
A/N: Yay, Remus makes it all better! So what do you think? Here's the deal with Hermione. I love her. I do. And Harry will too (as a sister only ;P sorry, but I'm cannon) but I built her personality off of how she first is during Sorcerer's Stone. That is, with not a lot of social skills. She's kind of a lot for Harry to handle right now I think, so they aren't going to be BFFs right away, but they'll get there eventually.
As for a few other points. Someone mentioned a love connection between Miss Arvis and Remus… well, that one you'll just have to wait and see. But I realized that there is an opportunity for Sirius to be let out of Azkaban seven years earlier than previously anticipated. The question is, would that be something I should do? I hadn't thought about it and what I have planned is mostly just Harry and Remus. I think Sirius might water down that story line. Plus I think he might really freak Harry out. An ex-prisoner fresh from Azkaban and an emotionally stunted and abused child do not seem to mix well. Even though I love Sirius and would like to incorporate him. I don't know. Tell me what you think! :D