Draco Malfoy was trying to entertain himself. He had managed to corner a first year Hufflepuff and was in the process of carefully pointing out her shortcomings to Crabbe and Goyle, much to the girl's distress. She was making it entirely too easy, though, which ruined some of his fun. After a few more scathing comments, he didn't protest as the girl gathered the courage to push past his brutes and rush down the hall.
"Now what?" he asked Goyle, ennui coloring his words.
"We could do homework," Crabbe suggested.
Draco sighed. "You're too practical," he complained.
"We could find another Hufflepuff," said Goyle, frowning at the floor.
Goyle opened his mouth, then closed it without saying anything.
"We could explore," Crabbe tried again. "See about finding a secret passage or something."
That piqued Draco's interest. Secret passages would be useful, and Hogwarts was riddled with them. It would be well worth it to find them as early as he could.
They'd only been exploring for a quarter hour when they ran into a boy Draco wasn't entirely sure he wanted to see again.
"Dra-Malfoy!" Potter beamed at him, apparently not sharing Draco's distaste for their former acquaintance.
"Potter," Draco spat in return, wrinkling his nose to make his distaste clear.
Potter narrowed his eyes, though his body language was still open and friendly.
"That's not my name," he said in a put-upon voice. "I mean, I get that Potter was my birth parents' name, but I was adopted. I haven't been a Potter in, like, ten years. Why the hell does everyone in this castle insist on calling me by someone else's stupid name?"
It was a rant he had obviously been holding in for some time.
"Blood is important," Draco informed him, tilting his chin up so he could look down his nose imperiously. "Wizards don't change their names; they acknowledge their bloodlines and celebrate their lineage. The Potter family is old and respected, with many talented wizards on the family tree. You should be grateful to share that heritage."
Potter actually looked surprised. "You know," he said after a moment of silence, "you're the first person to actually answer that question."
Draco sniffed. Of course none of the Gryffindors had bothered to help the poor, confused half-blood.
"Anyways," Potter continued, "I was actually looking for you."
"Really?" Draco raised his eyebrows, unable to help sounding surprised. He'd figured the other boy wouldn't want anything to do with him, all things considered.
"Yeah," said Potter, shoving his hands into his pockets and smiling. "I wanted to make sure we were still okay. I know your offer of friendship was predicated on the likelihood of being sorted into the same house."
"Your sorting was obvious once your real name was announced," Draco sneered.
"It's not my…" Potter grimaced. "Actually, never mind. You're right. I should own it. Actually, my adoptive family calls me JP," he added, not that Draco was particularly interested. "They knew those were my father's initials, so that's how I think of myself. I guess accepting Potter isn't that big of a step. I'm never going to be okay with Harry, though." He squinted at Draco in something resembling suspicion.
Draco just shook his head, slightly bemused. Potter hadn't been quite this talkative on the train.
"So… you weren't really trying to lie to us about being the Boy-Who-Lived?" Crabbe broke into the conversation. Draco had almost forgotten he was there. Potter smiled.
"No," he said earnestly. "I only heard about that for the first time a month or so ago. As far as I'm concerned, I'm still Harlin J. P. Leverage IV."
"Oh," said Crabbe.
"You have a lot to learn," Draco said, deciding that he might as well allow the acquaintance to continue. After all, Potter seemed intent on pursuing it, and who was he to turn down the opportunity to get to know a person with such political potential?
"Yes," Potter agreed, his smile getting a little sharper. "I don't suppose you know any tutors in Wizarding etiquette and politics? I get the feeling Gryffindors are not the best role models."
"You came to the right person," Draco assured him. "Meet me in the Library, Saturday after lunch."
"Thanks," said Potter, sounding honestly appreciative. "I'll let you get back to what you were doing. Crabbe, Goyle," he nodded at each of the bigger boys in turn. "Malfoy," he added, with a slightly deeper nod. At least he had the basics down.
Draco nodded lazily in return and watched Potter head off toward the dungeons. He wondered briefly if he should redirect the wandering Gryffindor, but decided he'd let the boy make his own mistakes. After all, it's not as though they were friends.
Their first week was quickly wrapping up without a single opportunity to try their brand new wands, much to JP's disappointment. Hermione had pointed out that, if he did the assigned reading properly, he could deduce the wand movements and incantation of at least one spell. After all, she had. JP was glad that Ron hadn't been around for that exchange.
Friday morning was a double period of Potions, a class they would be sharing with the Slytherins. JP wasn't as excited about Potions as he'd been about Charms and DADA, but it had to be better than Herbology. Not to mention that DADA hadn't lived up to his expectations in the slightest…
After breakfast, the Gryffindors headed down toward the dungeons in a pack. JP was apparently the only one who had scoped out the route ahead of time, which struck him as a little odd. He'd expected Hermione at least to have walked the route so she wouldn't run the risk of being late, but apparently she'd been so busy memorizing next year's textbook that such practical considerations had not occurred to her. At least, that's what he decided her blush meant when he had gently teased her about it.
They arrived shortly after the first of the Slytherins, but well before class was scheduled to begin. JP briefly considered partnering with Neville again - after all, someone that good at gardening should be good at cooking, too, right? - but decided not to waste the opportunity to get to know some of the Slytherins a little better. Ignoring Ron's gesticulations, he slid onto a bench next to Blaise Zabini.
"Good morning, Zabini," he greeted softly, giving him an incremental head nod.
The shallow nod was returned. "Potter," came the cool reply.
"Have you enjoyed your first week?" JP inquired politely as he pulled out his textbook and note-taking materials.
Apparently Zabini had not forgiven him for having been sorted into Gryffindor.
JP tried again. "Did you enjoy Transfiguration as much as you had hoped?"
Zabini shrugged one shoulder, then relented. "I'm disappointed there wasn't any wand-work."
"Me too. Hopefully we'll get to try some spells next week."
Their conversation continued stiltedly as the rest of the Slytherins arrived and settled into their seats. A few of them shot JP and Zabini weird looks, though Malfoy ignored them entirely. Crabbe actually quirked a smile when they made eye contact, earning a responding smile from JP.
Class began right on time.
The professor swept into the room from a doorway at the front of the class. He was a dark, grim looking man with sallow skin and a deeply etched scowl. His gaze skipped across the room, lingering briefly on JP. It was not a friendly gaze.
Like all the other teachers, Professor Snape began by calling role. When he reached JP, his voice lingered malignantly over the syllables "Harry Potter," adding a malicious, "our resident celebrity."
JP just quirked an eyebrow. Was this guy for real?
Then he launched into a flowery description of potion making, ending with a sneer and an insult that seemed directed mostly at the Gryffindor side of the room. Before JP could decide what to make of this tactic, the professor was snapping questions at him.
"Potter. What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
JP frowned and wracked his brain. "Asphodelus is related to death and the underworld, and wormwood has to do with dreams. I'm not sure what you get when you mix them together," he admitted.
Snape's eyes narrowed as he began to answer, but he snorted derisively with JP's admission.
"Clearly," he sneered, "fame isn't everything."
He sounded relieved; he hadn't wanted JP to get the answer right!
"Let's try again. What is the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane?"
"Nothing," he said, smiling cheekily at the professor. Snape's scowl was getting even deeper and twistier. "They're the same plant. It's also called aconite," he added, just to see if he could make Snape's eye twitch.
"Where would you look if I told you to find a bezoar?"
Shoot. That one he didn't know, and by the gleam in Snape's eyes, he knew he'd won. Well, JP wasn't about to just roll over and take it.
"An apothecary," JP replied, not breaking eye-contact. Snape's answering expression did not bode well for JP, and he found himself almost regretting the smart aleck answer.
"2 points from Gryffindor for your cheek," he snapped. "For your information, asphodel and wormwood combine to make a sleeping potions so powerful it is known as the Drought of the Living Death" - which totally made sense with what JP had said, he should've guessed something like that - "and a bezoar is found in the stomach of a goat. It is a cure for most poisons."
JP schooled his face into an expression of intense interest and made a show of writing the information down, which only made the professor look grumpier.
"Well," Snape snapped, turning away from JP, "why aren't the rest of you writing this down?"
The rest of the class proved reasonably interesting. They were allowed to actually try brewing a potion, which JP was pretty excited about. Snape wasn't terribly encouraging, and he didn't exactly invite questions, but he was quick to snap out a correction disguised as an insult when he noticed you doing something wrong - and he always noticed.
Zabini was a more than adequate partner. He was extremely precise in his measurements and followed the directions in the book exactly. JP took charge of all the cutting, slicing, and dicing when Zabini admitted he didn't know the difference between the various terms. It was nice to be useful, though JP wondered why Snape hadn't bothered to explain the terminology for the class. He only knew because Uncle Eliot's method of teaching knife safety was centered around the kitchen.
An hour into class, JP became aware of a commotion behind and to the right. Neville's potion was bubbling up over the edge of the cauldron, and it was an alarming shade of purple. He had a brief moment to be glad he had chosen a different partner before the potion surged explosively up and out, covering several nearby students in sludge.
Class ended early as the crying, boil covered students were sent off to find the Infirmary and Snape cast a spell to make the mess disappear.
JP looked down at their nearly finished potion in dismay. He'd been so close to actually accomplishing something this week! With a sigh, he followed the instructions on how to safely dispose of the still bubbling potion and cleaned up his work area.
"I'll see you next Friday, Potter," said Zabini as they exited the classroom.
"Sure. Have a good weekend," he replied, waving as the other boy joined the departing Slytherins. Somehow it had only been Gryffindors affected by Neville's disaster. Weird.
It was too early for lunch, so JP headed back to the dorm for a quick phone call home. He had a lot to talk about!