Third year hadn’t gone so well, academically speaking. Of course, Harry wouldn’t ever admit it to Ron or Hermione - the former would be annoyed that he’d dropped both Care and Divination for Arithmancy and Runes, while the latter had already reached her insufferable smugness quota for the year - but he’d honestly been in out of his depth when choosing two things he had no real interest in, and had chosen it because he wanted to be paired with Ron. It was still a sore spot - especially with Hagrid, he hadn’t taken Harry transferring out of Care after the very first class all too well - but, all things considered, he was glad that he did it.
It still didn’t mean he wasn’t suffering, of course. Arithmancy was like all the confusing things about algebra given the ability to technically be infinite - (“How can something be technically infinite and not literally?” “It’s very simple, Harry.” “I beg to differ.”) - and while he seemed to excel well enough with Ancient Runes that was largely because he had a surprising ability when it came to memorization - it’s how he survived Potions, what with Snape being rather ineffective when it came to teaching - and it still was a pretty big time-sink. All of this wasn’t even to mention Quidditch practice which had become, if at all possible, more difficult now that it was Oliver's last year.
So that had led him here. Sitting at a table, on two hours of sleep and accompanied by the aches of a brutal morning practice in the pissing cold September rain, looking over Elder Futhark notes that weren’t entirely making sense to his brain anymore, across the table from Parvati Patil. There hadn’t been any other open tables, see, which was rather unusual, what with it being the middle-end of September and you’d figure people would at least wait a month, but that clearly wasn’t the case. So he’d asked and gotten permission to sit and study in quiet and he was starting to believe it was largely because of how miserably bloody tired he looked and not because Parvati was a particular fan of his presence.
Still, Parvati. Their relationship - or rather lack thereof - was, well, weird. Parvati and Padma both had seemed initially fascinated with him, curious, and then a few days into the year had stopped trying to interact with him in any meaningful capacity. He hadn’t noticed it then - too busy with Ron and the recent addition of Hermione to his friend group - but in hindsight it was pretty obvious, and somewhat hurtful. Of course, he didn’t assume he’d always get along with the other Indian kids at a school, he certainly hadn’t with Vikram back in St. Grogory’s, but even with Vikram there had always been a sense of, for lack of a better word, companionship. Vikram didn’t like him, didn’t like how Dudley targeted him and started slinging the same insults at him as he did Harry, but Vikram also kinda got what it meant to be in Harry’s shoes, and at least was neutral about being around him.
This wasn’t the case for Parvati. After she stopped trying to interact with him, well, she wasn’t outright cold, necessarily, but there was a distance between them that had always felt rather large for a person he hadn’t actively interacted with. Was he being entitled? Harry wasn’t quite sure, really. He’d always wanted to ask, after he thought about it for long enough to notice it, but there wasn’t really any reason to do so, and him being allowed to study in peace and not stuffed away in an alcove was probably contingent on him not bringing it up, as much as he wanted to.
Deciding that his notes weren’t making enough sense for him to really study them anymore, Harry pulled out his wand, muttered a Tempus, and got back that it was barely four thirty. It felt like it should’ve been eight or nine or ten or some time that was sooner than an hour and a half from dinner time. Wiggling his wand to dismiss the time, Harry glanced back at his notes and, in an act of self-soothing, buried his face in his calloused hands, driving the heel of his palms into his eyes in the process.
Not even bothering to move his head from its position, Harry tried to think about what he could say to get Ron to go away before his study spot was taken. He was pretty sure if he had glanced up just then he’d’ve been met with a glare from Parvati and all of a sudden it wasn’t terribly difficult to figure out why exactly she wasn’t a particular fan of his.
The scrape of a chair being pulled out finally forced Harry to drag his head out of his hands, glancing placidly over to the Ginger who now hovered excitedly at his side. He watched as Ron’s eyes flicked from his hair - red, but not like Ron’s red; his being a darker red color he’d inherited entirely from his mother - then to his face - scar first, green eyes second, his father’s cheekbones third - and then finally to his work. It was almost funny the way he blanched at the pile of notes he’d been putting to paper, as if the existence of it was somehow personally offensive.
“See, mate,” Ron started up, voice gaining that tiny touch of anger that meant his heels were already rooting themselves into the ground. “This is why you should’ve stuck with me and our classes.”
Harry flicked his gaze over to Parvati, the girl in question looking at Ron with thinly-veiled annoyance, her quill clutched in a tight fist.
“Ron, seriously.” Harry glanced back at the ginger, trying to keep eye contact just to make sure he didn’t get distracted or had the chance to go off on a tangent about homework and how foul it was as a concept. “I didn’t find Divination or Care interesting enough to continue, it would’ve made my OWLs and NEWTs a miserable experience.”
Ron’s face pinched, Harry had to hide a sigh. His expression was darkening, turning recalcitrant and somewhat mulish. So nothing good, obviously.
“You just said that because Trelawney said you’d die.”
“That was part of it, yes.”
Ron huffed, folded his arms, and leaned back into his seat. “You’re starting to act like Hermione, Harry.”
“That’s not a bad thing, Ronald.”
Ron whirled around, finding Hermione staring down at him from behind with a similar amount of thinly-veiled irritation.
Harry buried his face back into his hands, deciding that, no, he didn’t really wanna do this right now.
“Oh, by the way Harry, it’s ‘dampness’ not ‘moisture’ for one of Laguz’s properties.”
Harry restrained a noise of complaint as the headache he’d been nursing all day starting to pound insistently against the back of his eyes again. “Will keep that in mind, Hermione.”
Letting his face rise from his hands again, Harry managed to catch Parvati looking at him, offered her an apologetic half-smile, and started to immediately tune out the burgeoning argument to his left. Her expression wavered for a moment, confusion mixing with reluctance mixing with annoyance, before she finally ducked her head and went back to whatever she was studying herself.
Pulling himself back to his notes, Harry let his mind wander over to whether or not he’d take a nap after dinner or just tuck in at six and call the day over. He could probably sleep the eleven hours between six and five but he was also pretty sure that would just make him more miserable the next time he didn’t sleep as long, and since he couldn’t rightfully sleep that long every day - he wasn’t Seamus, after all - it was still a very appealing idea, to the point where he was almost considering skipping dinner because he was just that fucking tired.
“—anyway, Harry?” Ron and Hermione’s argument came to a rather sudden stop, Harry glancing over at Ron rather curiously.
“Why’re you studying with Padma—” “—It’s Parvati, Ronald—” “—Parvati, sure. Why’re you studying with her?”
“He looked tired and there weren’t any other open tables at the time,” Parvati spoke up, sounding rather absent from the conversation. “He’s been good company, until recently.”
Harry winced. She sounded unimpressed.
“I just thought you were related,” Ron said blandly and Harry had to physically restrain himself from bringing his head down against the table. For fucks sake, Ron. Hermione’s very obvious pre-rant intake of breath sounded like a fucking gunshot, what with how loud it was.
“—Ronald! Just because they’re both Indian doesn’t mean—”
“—We are. We’re first cousins—”
You could hear a pin drop. Harry’s surprised gaze snapped over to Parvati, who saw his confusion and looked at him like she’d never quite seen him in person before.
Parvati slowly glanced between the three of them, as though to make sure this wasn’t some sort of joke, before resettling her wary-and-somewhat-concerned stare back onto Harry. “My mother is your father’s sister,” Parvati said, her voice forcefully kept neutral. “She married into the Patil family. The Potter family is still very large in the Indian magical community, it’s just the English branch family that’s been depleted and considered a failed lineage, with the exception of you.”
“I, er, don’t even know my grandfather’s or – or grandmother’s or like, other aunt’s names.”
Again, there was something very wooden, very restrained about Parvati’s posture and expression. “It’s why we came over at all, because cross-cultural exchange and networking between the Indian and British magical communities used to be the job of the Potters, who would marry into the local families to build connections and then marry into Indian families to ensure their interests came as well. Euphemia Potter was one of those who came from India and was married to Fleamont Potter, who was born from Henry Potter and his wife, I believe a Longbottom. Your father - James - and my mother - Amrita - were Fleamont and Euphemia's children, though my mother found schooling in India instead of Britain once she became betrothed to my father, Vikhe.”
Harry nodded slowly.
“We—I—assumed that you were aware of this, and aware of the Potter family in India’s attempts to contact you. We assumed you had naturalized yourself culturally into Britain, and was therefore uninterested in your family in India. It’s not uncommon, especially not after colonialist rule in India, for magicals to naturalize themselves to the British, it’s not really liked, or thought of as acceptable, but we just assumed that you hadn’t wanted to get into contact.”
This was starting to sound rather bad. “I only figured out that I was a wizard on my eleven birthday, just shy of a month before Hogwarts began. I didn’t receive any letters or notification or, like, anything, about that.”
Parvati winced. “I’m beginning to see that.”
Something that felt a bit cruelly like hope fluttered nervously in the base of his chest. Harry stopped, took a breath in, and then exhaled, bringing his hands up to thumb achingly at his temples. “I didn’t know,” he finally said, more of a whisper than it was anything else. “I, if I had known there was still family around, anything like that, then I’d’ve absolutely tried to talk or, or something.”
“I thought you lived with your relatives already?” Parvati’s question got a wince out of Hermione and Ron both.
“Yes but, well, they don’t think of me as family.” Harry didn’t manage to keep the edge out of his voice, memories of Vernon making rancid jokes about unpaid Indian pool cleaners to a six year old him flashing through his skull. “Mother’s side is all about being normal, you know? Being normal in the British sense.”
Something close to recognition flickered across Parvati’s expression, enough so that her wariness started to fade away. “Oh.”
“Merlin,” Ron muttered, drawing everyone’s eyes back to him as he glanced between the two of them. “If I hadn’t come around, neither of you would’ve known! Aren’t you glad?”
“Way to ruin the moment, Ronald.”
“I did not!”
Hermione grunted, her gaze absent and suspiciously drifting towards the world history section of the library.
“Harry?” Parvati’s voice drew him back to her, in large part because it was rather gentle. “Would you like for me to reach out to my family? See what we can do? I’m pretty sure, if your circumstances at home are bad, we can probably get you some help, even if it won’t be directly.”
Harry let his shoulders droop, let his posture relax out, let himself even consider the possibility of not having to return to the Dursleys, to avoid Vernon’s beatings and being reduced to menial labor in a family that thought very little of him on principle, let alone when you added in his skin color and ability to do magic.
“Yeah, actually. I’d like that.”