"What did you do?"
Jessa turned, clutching her bag to her chest. Her brow furrowed. It was Ron Weasley. Only Ron.
"What are you talking about?"
"Mr. Malfoy changed the attack against Hagrid. What did you do?"
"May I ask you something first?"
"You don't like me. I'm not saying you have to like me just because I'm Harry's sister. I'm actually glad he has someone as protective as you as a friend. But you seem to hate me for simply ending up in Slytherin. I didn't choose my house, but I'm not upset about it either."
"Every wizard who's gone dark has been in Slytherin."
"You really think I'll go dark?"
"No. But those around you? Your so-called friends?"
"And we're back to Malfoy." Jessa sighed, but tried to be patient. "I know you hate him, that your families hate each other. I'm not stupid, Ron. I can be friends with you, with your family, and with Draco."
"I see you're trying to."
She rolled her dark eyes. "To answer your question, all I did was talk to him; told him off, actually. That I don't agree with how he – or his father – are handling the injury incident. I proposed a different solution."
"Will it still hurt someone?"
"Far less than what would have happened if I hadn't gotten involved. Though I don't actually know what's going on."
"Are you looking for a thank you?"
"I'm looking for you to give me a chance. I'm Harry's sister. Surely that counts for something?"
"Yes, little brother. Surely the famous Potter name counts for something?"
Jessa turned to find the twins approaching. She smiled at them, especially as she could hear the sarcasm that laced their tones. They nudged their brother.
She nodded. "I am. Thanks. Especially thanks to the chocolate."
"Anything for our second little sister."
Ron gaped, but said nothing else. Just looked between his brothers and his best friend's sister and nodded.
She went to turn away when he called after her. "How do you know he's not using you?"
Jessa whipped back again. "What? Are you serious?"
"You just asked me if the Potter name even counted for anything? Why aren't you asking him that?"
"For your information, he started befriending me before he knew who I was. I know you hate him, I know he's downright foul to you. But he's nice to me. You know how Harry and I have grown up, what it's like at the Dursleys'. Are you seriously asking me to give up one of the only people who actually likes me, who's looking out for me?"
"He's using you. Or else he pities you. Why else would a Malfoy keep a muggle-raised halfblood company?"
"That's enough, Ron."
But she didn't hear the rest. She turned away, trying (and failing) to hold back tears as she fled from the brothers.
Try as she did, Jessa couldn't get Ron's words out of her mind.
A week and a half later found her sitting on the bleachers, pulling her jumper tight around her as the Slytherin team practiced, waiting to see if she'd be asked to join or help today. She felt the creak of footsteps and looked up to find Blaise coming to join her.
"Planning on joining the team?"
"Hardly. I'm here to see if you're okay."
"Bloody cold, but fine. Why?"
"Because you've been acting weird recently."
"Thanks," she replied, ducking her head, both against the wind and in embarrassment.
"I'm serious, Potter. What happened?"
"Someone said something and it's…getting to me more than it should be."
"Could you be any more vague?"
"Blaise, I'm not…we didn't grow up with stories of Hogwarts. I only had a few from last summer. We didn't learn all this house rivalry stuff growing up."
"You're really telling me Potter didn't warn you off Slytherin as soon as he came home?"
"Well, no. Of course he did. But trying to keep everything from his magical stories straight? Not to mention it wasn't like I knew how sorting worked."
"Not to push, but are you going somewhere with this?"
"Am I boring you? Keeping you from something far more important?"
"No, but you were right – it's bloody cold out here."
She snorted despite herself, and found herself relaxing just a bit. "You were the one who sought me out."
"And now I realize I should have waited. But I needed to talk to you without Malfoy overhearing. With the wind, there's no chance of that."
"What do you mean?"
"Potter, everyone knows you're close. It's obvious. Yet you've been distant lately. To him mostly, but to all of us. Why?"
"It was suggested that the only reason Malfoy – most of you – are alright with being close to me is my surname. Or pity. Or both."
"Who said that?"
"Does it matter?"
"Sure. This way I can hex 'em."
"I'm serious. It's a load of shite is what it is."
"Doesn't matter. Person who said it – he's not the only one thinking it, I'm sure."
"It's a load of shite, Potter. Especially since you aren't famous. Don't listen to them."
She smiled, albeit weakly, at her friend.
"You're a Potter. And in Slytherin. There's always going to be talk. Ignore it best you can."
"And when it's other Slytherins?"
Blaise froze. "Who said it to you?"
"It doesn't matter."
"It does. Especially if it's someone in our own house."
"Don't. Please. Just don't. I appreciate it. I do. But I – I can't. I'm sorry."
His brow furrowed. "What's gotten into you?"
"Blaise, please. It's…it's nothing. Not in the long run, anyway."
"It's obviously something."
"We don't have the life many imagine we do at home. It's always been a lot of pity and hiding and bullying. I suppose I thought things might have been different here. I'm just a bit…angry it's not."
He didn't know what to say that. Jessa pulled her cloak around herself tighter.
"I know you aren't quite there yet, but you're one of us and we stick together. Whoever this idiot is, ignore him."
Wednesday morning, just before lunch, Jessa sat in Defence Against the Dark Arts, listening to Professor Lupin teach about the Full-Body-Bind Curse. This class, like most of the current students at Hogwarts, was among her favourite, due to both the practicality of the subject and of course, Professor Lupin himself.
She noticed he looked pale and more tired than usual. Not that this deterred from his teaching in the slightest. But she did wonder if he was alright.
"Miss Potter. Please stay after class."
Taryn turned to her, but Jessa just shrugged.
After class, she followed him into his office.
"How have you been faring with the dementors?"
Jessa grimaced. "Not particularly well, Sir."
"I heard what happened at the match. And over the break. I've been speaking with your other professors. I'd like to tutor you, see if we can't find some method, however minimal it may be, of defence until you gain more education."
"I'd like that, Sir. I – I don't like feeling so…weak. So defenceless," she admitted, feeling like she could trust him.
"I can only imagine. Especially having known your parents," he said. She smiled a bit, albeit sadly, at their mention.
"Would you tell me about them?"
"At your lesson. Report for your first one Saturday afternoon after lunch. In the meantime, I do believe you have somewhere to be?"
"Yes, Sir. Thank you."