Hermione Jane Granger sat in the train compartment by herself, trying to determine the logical reasons the girls on the platform with the green and silver trimmed robes had ostracised her so quickly. Although she was used to being an outsider, her excitement over her status as a witch and the new world she was entering had allowed her to hope things would be different.

Finding out she would be an outsider in the magical world had been almost too painful to bear. She'd found an empty compartment and had almost worked herself into a good cry when the door opened as the train began to pull out of the station.

She turned in surprise at the sound of the door and saw the back of a boy wearing an ornately decorated black robe with white and brown trim which seemed to almost flow across his body like water, yet float about him at the opening as if it weighed no more than vapour. He was backing into the compartment, floating his trunk in front of him. On the seat opposite her, he'd set an elaborate cage, likely for the most beautiful bird she'd ever seen, which was standing on the boy's shoulders. The bird, whose plumage was nearly incandescent white, looked at her and she realised this bird demonstrated far more intelligence and was, by far, larger than any avian she'd seen at the London Zoo.

The bird began singing a series of sounds which changed in duration, frequency, and volume, and sounded almost as if she – Hermione had decided nearly instantly the bird was female – were talking.

"Yes, Hedwig, I'm sure she's nice," the boy said in a strained voice, guiding his trunk into the luggage rack with his wand.

He'd finally managed to float both his own trunk as well as her trunk into the overhead compartment. He then removed a small object from his pocket and tapped his wand to it, causing it to expand to a rather large, ornate perch, which he set on the floor. He then turned around. "Hello. I'm..."

As he turned, she looked up at his face and was immediately drawn to the amazingly-beautiful twin jade orbs. "Harry Potter," she whispered reverently.

He was pleased that, unlike in Diagon Alley when he'd gone shopping for his school supplies and everyone who met him seemed to look at his scar first, she never looked above his eyes.

She shook herself slightly to break her gaze with him then watched as the large, white bird seemed to float effortlessly from Harry's shoulders and land on the perch. While it appeared to be quite heavy, she was somewhat surprised when the bird slightly spread her wings and floated, along with the perch, to directly beneath the middle of the window.

"That's Hedwig. She is my companion," Harry explained, watching as Hedwig moved her perch as close to the outside wall of the compartment as she could. "In the event you've never seen a bird like her before," he said, watching Hermione shake her head, "she is a phoenix, an exceptionally proud and powerful example of her species," he explained.

"She's beautiful!" Hermione gushed, swearing the bird practically glowed.

"Yes she is," Harry said, smiling genuinely for the first time in a week. "What is your name?" he asked in a friendly tone, hoping they could become friends.

She heard his question and looked away in a Pavlovian response to it. She remembered from primary school whenever someone would ask her name then tease her about which of her parents was the beaver, because that was the only way to explain her enormous front teeth and her uncontrollably bushy hair.

Here was a boy she had read about and, if she were completely honest with herself, dreamt about since she learned she was a witch almost a year ago. And now he was going to tease her just the same way the other children at St Victor's Academy had teased her; the way the girls on the platform had ridiculed then ostracised her. The good cry she had been working herself into previously had come back with a vengeance.

Ever since Hermione had learned, on her eleventh birthday, that she was a witch, she had used that knowledge as a barrier to hold back all of the hurt and pain caused by her peers' taunts at her school and in the park during the longest summer of her life. The knowledge had stood as a massive stone wall to hold off all of it.

The girls on the platform had loosened the keystone in her emotional wall, when they had verbally pushed her away and reminded her that, even here, she didn't belong.

When the boy of her dreams then taunted her as well, the foundation beneath the wall washed away and the wall crumbled into nothingness.

Harry wasn't sure the reason asking the cute girl – he had never really had the girls-are-icky stage of adolescent male development some boys do – her name had caused her to start crying. As he stood there watching, she transitioned from merely crying to complete emotional collapse and drove headlong straight into sobbing.

While Harry had no direct experience comforting someone, he had witnessed when teachers at his normal school had comforted students and, on his frequent trips to various public venues with the Dursleys, watched parents comfort their children, or when Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia would comfort him or Dudley.

He had always thought about how comforting it had been to have someone there for him when he needed it. He couldn't help but think that maybe this girl felt the same way.

He looked at her, seemingly all curled into a ball in the corner of the bench, tears pouring down her cheeks, a large stream of snot running down her face, her mouth open and spit running down as she cried noisily.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a silk handkerchief and cast a mild cheering charm on it.

He sat down on the bench behind her and emulated what he had once seen a woman do in the Harrod's when her daughter had fallen down and begun crying. He slowly and gently rubbed circles in her back with one hand while pulling on her shoulder away from the bench to get her to sit up so he could talk to her.

Hedwig raised her head and began trilling a comforting song.

Hermione was in full emotional meltdown and felt someone pull on her shoulder the way her daddy would do when she would get upset about the bullying in school. And since the only people who'd ever done this were her parents and her grandmother, she had a purely emotionally-driven response to this, which quite surprised Harry.

As he pulled on her shoulder, he raised the handkerchief to her face to wipe her nose, only to have it batted away as she suddenly spun and was sitting in his lap, wiping her face in his hair. Not wanting her to slide off and fall onto the floor, he wrapped his arms around her and held her in his lap.

He didn't know why, but he had this warm, protective feeling wash over him. It felt rather nice to have her sitting on his lap, even though she was getting her snot and spit all in his hair.

She knew, though, that when she sat on Daddy's lap and had a good cry, he would make it, even if only for a few hours, all better. Once or twice, or, as is more likely, ten or twenty times, she'd fallen asleep in his warm embrace and he'd held her until she would awaken. At least once, that had been all night. The wonderfully soft phoenix song and the clickity-clack of the train running over the tracks only helped to lull her to sleep faster.

She felt herself drifting off in the warmth and comfort with the niggling thought that something this time was a bit off, but it couldn't be that important.

Harry continued to hold the girl, as he softly spoke to her. Apologising for causing her to cry, telling her that a girl as pretty as her shouldn't have any reason to cry, and generally telling her all the things Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had told him when he'd cried and they had been there for him.

He knew between his attempts at comforting her and Hedwig's song, they must have been working because after twenty minutes or so, her shoulders had stopped shaking, her grip on him slackened and her breathing slowed. He was rather pleased with himself until he heard her soft snores.

He panicked for a few moments as to what to do before Hedwig provided him a solution. Deciding on a plan of action, he did what he always did. He followed Hedwig's suggestion.

The bench on the train was fairly wide. Making use of what little leverage he had, he moved himself, and the girl on his lap, to the window end of the bench and rotated sideways so his back was to the window and the girl's legs were dangling off the bench. He scooted her down along his legs so the top of her head was resting just below his chin.

"I wish I had a blanket," he muttered to himself, thinking that if he had one, it would keep the girl from getting chilled.

Suddenly a small, large-eyed humanoid with a blanket appeared. It covered the girl with the blanket and then tucked it in around him, but under his arms. He gasped softly in surprise. "Thank you," he called out just as the little creature smiled, snapped its fingers twice and disappeared with a soft pop. He then noticed the sticky, wet feeling where she'd wiped her nose in his hair was gone. He slowly reached his hand up to discover, to his surprise, that his hair was clean.

The girl laying on him moved in her sleep and nuzzled her face into his neck. "Yes. Being a wizard has its benefits," he thought.

The warmth of the girl and the blanket, and the gentle vibrations of the train lulled Harry into a doze.

Suddenly, he was awake. From long practice, he maintained the slow, steady breathing of sleep and listened carefully.

"Are you sure they won't mind us being in here? We wouldn't want to intrude," he heard one girl's voice whisper softly.

"So it isn't Dudley or Uncle Vernon sneaking in to tickle me," Harry thought.

"There really isn't anywhere else to sit, and I don't think they'll object, and if they do, we can just explain this was the only place left," another girl's voice said.

"Do you really think that's him?" the first voice asked.

"Well, I'm not going to lift his hair up to see if he has a scar, but he has messy black hair and is wearing robes with the Potter crest. I'm not saying he couldn't be someone else, but I haven't seen anyone else on the train who fits the description. I don't know which one of them belongs to the phoenix, though," the second voice said.

"Logic from you, Lavender? I'm impressed," a third girl's voice whispered. What was strange to Harry was that, except for a slightly different echo, indicating the voice was coming from a different location, and a slight difference in inflection, it sounded like the first girl.

"Just because we can't all be as smart as you, Pad, doesn't mean that I don't think," the second voice whispered.

"But don't they look cute like that? Do you suppose that's his girlfriend?" the first voice whispered.

"I hope it's his cousin or sister," the second voice said, sounding both dejected and hopeful.

He opened his eyes slightly and noted the girl had moved around a bit in her sleep. Instead of laying sideways in his lap, she was now laying almost next to him, her arms around him, but somehow the blanket had remained wrapped around and tucked in under them.

"He is only eleven. He may be a bit young to have a girlfriend yet, but if she is his girlfriend, you should let your hopes down now, as I have never read or seen accounts of their being a Potter daughter anywhere. Besides, Morgana knows you're pretty, but she's beautiful," the third voice said.

"But she has to be in third year," the first voice whispered.

"And why would you say that," the third voice whispered.

"Well, just look at her... well... her...," the first voice whispered.

"Oh, I did... I mean... yes, but she could be like us," the third voice stammered.

"Early bloomers, as Mum said, or you mean almost twelve?" the second voice asked.

"Yes. To both. No house colours trimming her collar or her robes," the third voice said.

"You know..." the first voice whispered, but stopped as Harry opened his eyes fully. He noted Hedwig was standing on her perch, her head buried beneath her wing. She would never have allowed them into the compartment, much less remained asleep, had they intended any harm. He then turned his head to look across the compartment.

Sitting on the opposite bench were three girls who appeared to be a bit older. In the middle was a pretty blonde girl, dressed, like the girl sleeping on him, in her school robes. Sitting to either side of her was a girl with an olive complexion, raven black hair, perfect teeth and stunning smiles. Clearly these two were twins. They, too, were dressed in their school robes.

"Hello," Harry said, "I'm Harry Potter. I don't mean to make you cry, but is it considered rude to ask you your names?" he asked, not wanting these three girls to begin crying uncontrollably as well.

All three girls appeared embarrassed, turning a rosy hue.

"I'm Lavender Brown," the girl in the middle said, then pointed to the girl on her right, closest to the window, "this is Parvati Patil, my best friend," then gestured to the other twin, "and this is Padma Patil, my other best friend."

"And who is that you're sleeping with?" the twin named Parvati gushed out, then covered her mouth as she turned a bright red.

Harry took note that the one named Parvati had a set of three faint freckles below her left eye, while the twin named Padma had nearly the same pattern of freckles beneath her right eye. He focused, again, on Parvati.

"I don't actually know. I asked her her name and she got upset and then fell asleep on me," Harry explained,

Hermione chose that moment to awaken.

She felt cosy warm. She could feel the blanket covering her and knew Mum must have covered her once she fell asleep on Daddy's lap. She stretched and, with her eyes still closed, tilted her had back and kissed his cheek.

She heard at least two happy sighs as she kissed Daddy, but that was odd. They were coming from the other side of the room. Then she realised Daddy's face was soft, almost like a girl's, instead of rough and whiskered.

"I wish I could kiss him like that," she heard one girl's voice whisper.

"I bet Pad wishes she could kiss him like that, too," she heard another girl whisper then softly giggle.

That's when the logic centres of her brain re-engaged and she realised something was horribly wrong. She was on the Hogwarts Express, which explained the sound. Daddy and Mum were back home in Crawley. She was, however, most definitely sleeping on someone whom she just kissed on a very smooth cheek. A person whose arms were most definitely wrapped around her, providing added warmth and comfort.

She opened her eyes and gasped as she looked up into bottomless green eyes. He was looking right at her then gestured with his eyes.

She looked to see what he was gesturing about and saw three other girls sitting in the compartment. All three of them were leaning in together, giggling about something while looking at her.

She quickly sat up, tearing herself from his arms. "I am so sorry, Harry. May I call you Harry?" she asked quickly, as she felt a blush rise hotly to her cheeks.

He nodded mutely. Her sudden absence washed him in a chill and he wanted to wrap her in his arms again to regain the lost warmth and the feeling of comfort he lost when she pulled away.

"You should change into your school robes, Harry. We'll be to the Hogsmeade station soon," Lavender said.

Harry looked out the window and noticed for the first time that it was dark outside now. "Just how long did I sleep?" he wondered. He floated his trunk down, much to the awe of the three new girls, removed his slacks and school robes, excused himself, and walked out of the compartment to get dressed.

Hermione followed him out with her eyes. When Harry closed the compartment door behind him, she looked across the compartment to the three girls. This time, she was determined to wait until these girls made a friendly gesture before opening herself up to more hurt.

Surprisingly, she didn't have long to wait.

The blonde girl in the middle got up and sat down next to her.

"Hello. My name is Lavender Brown." She put her arm around Hermione's shoulders in a friendly manner then introduced Padma and Parvati.

Hermione tried not to explode with happiness. She smiled, "I'm Hermione Granger and I'm the first witch in my family and I've so been looking forward to starting at Hogwarts," she gushed.

Lavender looked very serious when next she spoke, "Hermione, there are a lot of witches and wizards who will take exception to you, being a muggleborn witch. You will need to be very careful with whom you entrust the information that you are the first witch in your family."

Hermione noted the Patil twins nodded their heads in agreement.

"You can trust us and we'd be happy to be your friends, if you'd like us to be," Lavender said.

Again, Hermione noted the twins were nodding.

"I've never had friends before," Hermione confessed, "At my old school, the bullies would tease me and torment anyone who tried to be my friend."

"How do you know Harry?" the twin named Parvati asked, "and why is it he says he doesn't know your name?"

Hermione blushed, much to the interest of the other three girls. "I just met him on the train. I thought he was going to tease me when he asked my name and..." she was cut off by the sound of the door opening.

Harry stepped in and looked at her. "I'm sorry. I didn't intend to eavesdrop. I promise I will never tease you," he said solemnly, then smiled, "at least not to hurt you."

Lavender unwrapped her arm from Hermione's shoulders and moved back to her previous spot between the twins. Harry looked curiously after her, then looked back to Hermione, who gestured for him to sit next to her.

He sat down and she took hold of his hand. He looked up at her just as the train began slowing.

"We're here," Lavender said. The train glided to a stop next to a well-lit platform.

Hermione looked pleadingly at the other three girls, then looked at her and Harry's joined hands meaningfully, then looked back at the trio, who nodded slightly. Lavender, Parvati, and Padma stood.

"We'll see the two of you on the platform," Lavender said, before shooing Padma and Parvati ahead of her out of the compartment, closing the door behind her.

Hermione turned and looked at Harry. "Harry, I'm sorry about earlier. My name is Hermione. Hermione Jane Granger. I thought you would tease me like the bullies at my last school when you asked me my name. I'm sorry I cried on you and I wanted to thank you for being such a gentleman to me on the ride today, even though you didn't have to, and I was wondering if we could be friends," Hermione managed to gush out in a single breath.

Harry smiled. "I got bullied a bit at my last school as well until my cousin, Dudley, and our friends helped stop it. I would like it if we were friends too. I don't have many friends with magic," he said, his smile fading. He then looked at her hopefully, "Lavender told me that Parvati and Padma were her best friends. Would you be my best friend?" he asked.

He could tell by the bright, beaming smile what her answer was before she said it.

"I've never had a friend before today so I've never had a best friend before or been a best friend before, but I will be the best best friend you could ever have, Harry! I promise!" she exclaimed, making a mental note to check to see if Hogwarts' Library, which she had read about, had any books on friendship. If it did, she would have to be sure to read them all cover to cover as quickly as possible.

She was about to kiss him on the cheek when a boy clearly several years older than either of them, with a badge of some kind on his robes, slid the compartment door open. "You two need to take your familiars and get off the train. The elves will move your trunks for you. Off you go," he said in a kindly fashion, though it was clear he expected them to get moving immediately.

It was evident to Harry when the boy noticed Hedwig. The boy's eyes grew wide and his mouth opened but no words came out. He closed his eyes then rubbed them, seemingly not believing what he saw. "Whose phoenix is that?!" he exclaimed.

"Hedwig is not owned by anyone but herself. She is my companion," Harry explained.

The boy looked at Harry as if he'd just noticed him. "You're Harry Potter!" he exclaimed as his eyes immediately looked up from the coat of arms on his robes to where his scar should be, seeing only a faint line.

Harry rolled his eyes, "Thank you for letting me know. I had, yet again, forgotten my name," he said sarcastically.

The older boy looked embarrassed. "Sorry about that. It's just not every day you meet a legend," the boy explained.

Harry held his hand out, "Harry James Potter."

The other boy took his forearm in hand, "Percy Ignatius Weasley."

Harry then introduced Hermione to Percy, who bowed and kissed her hand.

"You really do need to get going," Percy said, standing up again, "the boats won't wait for you." He turned and left the compartment.

Hedwig launched herself from her perch and landed on Harry's shoulders.

Harry kept hold of Hermione's hand, shrank Hedwig's perch and pocketed it, then led Hermione out to the platform and to the man who was, in Harry's mind, his first human magical friend.

As they walked along the platform, Hedwig sang a short song before taking flight.

Hermione looked at Harry curiously.

"She said she would join us after the sorting," Harry explained, squeezing her hand briefly.

"Firs' years! Firs years! This way!" Hagrid yelled over the heads of the students, "Four to a boat!"

Harry and Hermione headed over to Hagrid. "Hello Hagrid," Harry said.

The large man looked down to see a familiar boy holding the hand of a girl. "'Ello 'Airy. It looks like ya' made a new friend," Hagrid said, gesturing the joined hands.

"Hagrid, this is my new best friend, Hermione Granger," Harry said, introducing the two of them.

"Pleased to meet you, 'Ermione," Hagrid said.

"Pleased to meet you as well, Mr. Hagrid," Hermione replied, beaming that Harry had introduced her as his best friend.

"It's just Hagrid. Well, you two run along and fin' a boat. I'll be along once all the firs' years are 'ere," Hagrid explained.

Harry and Hermione waved goodbye and headed towards the line of boats at the end of the station platform.

They saw that Lavender, Parvati, and Padma were already sitting in a boat, but the three girls were somewhat frowning at the boy standing on the platform nearest their boat who was talking to them.

"...sorry, but I was just trying to be friendly," the red-headed boy was saying defensively as Harry and Hermione approached.

Lavender saw them first, and smiled. "Harry! Hermione!" she exclaimed loudly, causing Padma and Parvati to focus on the two and smile themselves. It also caused the red-headed boy to turn around.

"Harry Potter?" the red-headed boy asked.

"And you are?" Harry asked guardedly.

"Ron! Ron Weasley! I'm going to be your best friend! Mum was spare over trying to find you at the train station," the red-head was saying.

Harry looked at Hermione then back at the red-head. "I have a best friend right here," he said, and turned back to Hermione, dismissing the red-head completely. "Why don't you join Lavender, Padma, and Parvati for the boat ride, since only four will fit in a boat," Harry said.

Hermione looked a little hurt, until she realised he must be trying to help her make other friends. She nodded, then timidly kissed him on the cheek, "Thank you, Harry," she said nervously.

Harry would have very much enjoyed this were it not for the red-head's outburst.

"YUCK! Getting kissed by a girl! Nasty!" the red-head shouted, causing every first year to look at Harry, and nearly every first year girl to look at the red-head as if he were something to be scraped from their shoes.

Harry turned back to Ron. "Are you still here?" he asked sarcastically, obviously sniffing the air, before turning back to Hermione.

Hermione, still emotionally uncertain, looked as if she were about to cry.

"I don't care what anyone says, Hermione. You're my best friend. And if you want to kiss me, you have my permission to kiss me wherever and whenever you want to," Harry said fervently to her, "no matter what any ill-mannered, unwashed, malodorous cretin might say." This caused a huge smile to bloom on her face and she kissed him on the cheek again.

"You have my permission to kiss me wherever and whenever you want to, as well, Harry" Hermione whispered in his ear.

Harry helped Hermione into the boat, then stared at the red-head. "I suggest you find a different boat," Harry said coldly, moving into the stance he and Dudley had taken often when facing off against the boys who had been bullying other children at school, "this one is full."

"Not to mention I don't want a boy who pats my bum without permission anywhere near me!" Lavender practically shouted at the red-head.

Harry had turned to Lavender when she'd begun shouting. He then turned back to the red-head.

Harry looked the boy up and down with a sneer, "I'm not certain why your mum was looking for me at King's Cross, but if her manners are anything like yours, I am pleased she did not find me."

Ron's face purpled at the insult to his mother. He shouted an incoherent stream of words as he tried to punch Harry.

Having been trained, along with Dudley, in Aikido, Harry ducked under the punch, took hold of the boy's arm and gave the slightest push in the direction the arm was going while planting his foot. He'd not realised every first year was watching him.

To everyone else, it appeared as if Ron tried hitting Harry, missed, and promptly fell on his face. Harry took a step back and watched as the boy made a few attempts to stand before his arms collapsed.

Harry shook his head and slowly rolled the red-head onto his side. The boy was unconscious.

Hagrid came running over, having watched Ron's attempt to hit Harry. "Ere now! Wha's goin' on?!" he asked loudly.

Harry had looked up at the sound of Hagrid's rapid approach. "He attempted to hit me, Hagrid, and I simply moved out of the way," he explained.

Hagrid looked around, noticing many of the first years within hearing range were nodding at Harry's explanation.

Hagrid knelt down and picked Ron up bodily and put his ear to the boy's chest. Once he established the boy was still alive, he turned his attention once more to the students.

"Everyone to a boat now!" he shouted, heading towards the lead boat.

Harry entered the last boat, which was occupied by a blonde boy and a pair of larger brunette boys. As he sat down, the boats surged forward. The three boys in the boat nodded their heads silently in greeting and he returned the silent nod. He was just as happy that Hagrid had to take the red-head boy cradled in his arms. He was certain he would not have wanted to take a ride in a small boat with a raving fan boy.

He looked about and took in the sights that surrounded him and the sounds of the other children around him. He was pleased he could hear his new best friend's voice chatting with three other girls. He wasn't certain, but he hoped he had made at least four new friends.