The problem, or perhaps the solution, was that Harry fell in love with Potions. He’d never been particularly interested in school before, being preoccupied with avoiding Dudley, chores, avoiding Dudley, keeping the peace with his relatives to avoid his uncle’s version of child rearing, and avoiding Dudley.
Which all came down to Harry being really frustrated, the third time Neville melted a cauldron in Potions, because it distracted him from his own brewing and turned his yellow potion an odd mustard color.
Unacceptable. Yelling at Neville didn’t help, Hermione helping Neville just got points taken off both of them….
Obviously, the solution was a study group outside of class, where Hermione could show Neville things to her heart’s content, and Harry could practice.
Which is how, through a series of trial and error, Ron ended up begging the twins to show them where they did their illegal potion brewing, because Professor McGonagall was not impressed with their impromptu study group. It turned out to be in the caved-in entrance of a secret tunnel, which was wicked. Neville, Hermione, and Ron weren’t as keen to use it at all hours and at odd hours to experiment with different potions they’d learned, were learning, or would learn, but that was okay. Neville was far calmer in class when he’d already made the potion semi-successfully before, and Hermione got her urge to tutor out of the way before class, which meant Harry could concentrate on his potion. With Snape yelling at Neville a little less, three things became apparent:
1. Most of the class was terrible at potions.
2. Draco got points for Slytherin because he was actually good at Potions.
3. Snide or not, Snape’s commentary on Harry’s abysmal Potions skills actually was good advice, if you ignored almost everything he said.
Harry became quite good at ignoring everything his Potions professor said.
The hell of it was, even Hermione couldn’t figure out how Draco got potions that extra bit of the way from ‘the right general color’ to ‘giving off smoke in attractive shades’ and ‘getting Slytherin 10 points, the slimy git.’
By the time Halloween rolled around, Harry was frustrated enough that he was spending his dinner trying five different variations, and was trying to withstand the sinking feeling that he was going to have to ask Draco Malfoy for advice.
It was, obviously, still better than asking Professor Snape for advice, because he wasn’t suicidal. But it was still bad.
Which is how, with him coming from one direction mourning the death of his dignity and pride, and Hermione and Ron coming from the other direction, they ended up fighting a mountain troll in the hallway outside the girl’s toilets.
Neville had been deputized to go find an adult, which was great, since Harry needed an adult, what with the excessive amount of bleeding he was doing. Neville even found Professor Quirrell, who turned out to be exceedingly good at cutting curses. Bye, troll!
After that, they were really friends, especially Hermione and Ron. Who had, apparently, turned their impromptu alliance into a pact to keep Harry from getting himself killed by forgetting to eat meals or running headlong into trolls.
Professor Snape was really awful about Harry running into the troll in the next Potions class, too.
“I suppose you thought it would be heroic to fight a troll, Potter?”
“No, professor, I was working on studying for the Strengthening Solution-“
“A point from Gryffindor for an obvious lie.”
Or something like that. Harry really hated that he was Harry’s favorite professor. Why couldn’t he have liked Professor McGonagall and learned how to turn into an owl, like a sane person.