Upon arriving at the juvenile shelter, a small building with white windows and some wildly vegetating bushes on the front lawn, the driver, Mrs. Robins as it turned out, took him to a room full of washing machines that rattled and clattered in a calming rhythm. Shelves full of clothes and bedlinens lined the walls. Mrs. Robins scrutinized him critically and then pulled out two sets of short clothes, two sweatpants, a grey jumper, towels and some blue chequered bedclothes. She piled all of it in the arms of a perplexed Harry and then showed him to a room with two bunk beds. Just one of the bunk beds was occupied, the other stood empty in the corner facing the door.
“Free choice!” Mrs. Robins beamed. “You decide if you want the top one or not. Usually they prefer the top ones, don’t understand it myself really. You have to climb up, right? Besides, it’s much more comfortable on the lower one.”
Harry who had never slept in a bunk bed except for when Uncle Vernon had made them come on his insanely mad dash to escape the Hogwarts letters before Harry’s first year still had to agree with Mrs. Robins. And thus, he had unloaded the bedclothes on the lower bed and turned questioningly to Mrs. Robins.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “Right, you can put the clothes and your other stuff over there.”
She pointed towards the window where a big wardrobe was standing. Harry nodded.
“Thank you, Mrs. Robins.”
“Oh, no probs! If you want, I’ll help you make the bed and then give you the tour. There’s a
nice courtyard with a soccer field and some ping-pong tables.”
“Um- no, thank you, I can do it myself,” Harry answered politely.
“Alright kiddo, if you need anything, just ask anyone of the staff or the other boys. I have to be on my way. Bye Harry!”
She disappeared before Harry could stutter that he had meant to make his bed alone but that he would’ve very much liked a tour. Well, nothing for it, he thought and began shaking out the blanket. After making the bed, he grabbed a towel and headed for the shower, which he luckily found without help. He hadn’t showered since, heck he couldn’t even remember. Was it barely a week ago that he had escaped the Dursleys? When he thought about the whole thing he had to admit that he again got extremely and really dumb lucky.
If the police had not picked him up for being on the train without a valid ticket and driven him to the hospital...he didn’t know how it would have ended. In all the hectic about his food poisoning, the constant visits from nurses and doctors and his more than chaotic stay on a hospital ward clearly undergoing some construction work the officers hadn’t even pursued his fare-dodging.
Stepping out of the shower, he dressed in the new clothes Mrs. Robins had given him. As it turned out, she had judged his height very well and only now did Harry notice that his old clothes were a bit too short. Idly he wondered if Dumbledore would find him here or if the old man had even noticed that he had left his relatives.
He felt well, not good about being here, but better. Everywhere would be better than the Dursleys so that didn’t really count. Harry had instantly liked the brick building and the brightly coloured hallways. In his imagination, which really only stemmed from all the books about orphans he had read during his time in primary school, children’s homes were always bleak and gloomy. This was so different.
Harry draped his wet towel over his shoulder and made his way back to the room. Maybe he could check out the courtyard Mrs. Robins had told him about?
He rounded a corner and run into something solid.
“Sorry,” he hastily said while trying to extract his arms from whomever he had collided with.
“No probl-“ the other boy started. Then he looked up.
“Hey you’re new. Hey Tom, Lewy! Fresh meat!”
“A newbie?” two other boys approached. All of them were bigger than Harry was and they reminded him of Dudley and his gang right away. He couldn’t exactly pinpoint what made him think of his cousin. Maybe the eyes. There was always something in the eyes. And these ones he knew. He wondered why these boys were at the shelter.
“Which hole did you crawl out of then?” the boy with long brown hair, presumably Lewy asked.
Harry opened his mouth but no sounds were coming out. He could feel his body go into panic-mode as it had done since, well since Dudley had happened.
“I- I’m- I’m from-“ he stuttered and had to swallow. His shoulders went up, his hair clung to his forehead and his hands shook. Great! Just great!
The other boys looked at him then at themselves and laughed. They had this unpleasant rough laughter, clipped as only boys in puberty were capable of. One of them, Tom Harry assumed, was even clutching Lew’s shoulder as he was slightly doubled over. Harry could feel the familiar tingle go over his body paralysing him. His eyes felt round and too big, he had to open his mouth to breath properly.
“Well, I don’t know what you think.” Lewy said and suddenly got Harry in a headlock. “But I’m gonna have some fun with this one!” The other two guffawed even louder when Lewy rubbed his fist painfully in Harry’s hair.
“Looks like he’s not gotten wet enough from the shower yet.”
“Certainly didn’t make the acquaintance of our old time friend the loo,” the first boy pressed out breathlessly and immediately burst out laughing again.
“Excellent idea Jad!” exclaimed Lewy and whirled them both around, Harry still hopelessly trapped between his arms.
“Let- let go of me,” Harry wheezed. His airways were somewhat cut off by the strong hold Lewy had on him.
“Let go!” he struggled against the arms and tried pushing them away.
“Please! I can’t breath!“
“Much words for someone who can’t breathe!” Tom said.
“It’s called ‘many’,” slipped out of Harry’s mouth.
“Well Sherlock, try and deduce that!” Tom drilled his fist into Harry’s stomach. Completely winded he half hung from Lewy’s grip, half kneeled on the floor.
“What?” jeered Tom, “Nothing to say to that?”
“I have something to say about this,” piped up a voice breaking with puberty.
The boys turned around. Tom and Jad took one look at the newcomer and burst out laughing again. Lewy grinned.
“Well, if it isn’t beanpole himself!”
“Let him go,” the boy said calmly.
“Hey beanpole! Don’t spoil the fun!”
“You had your fun,” the newcomer said and crossed his arms.
The others were laughing again but Lewy loosened his grip on Harry who pushed him off and scrambled to get his feet under him again.
Threateningly Lewy took a step towards the lanky new boy and shoved him.
“What you gonna do eh?”
The other boy just stared back at Lewy with a steady gaze. When neither the shoves nor his words had any effect on the tall boy, Lewy grew bored.
“Come on guys,” he said and with a sweeping gesture ordered them to follow him.
“Another time then,” Jad said passing Harry and elbowed him.
“Losers!” Tom called over his shoulder.
The boys could still hear him laughing when the three had long since disappeared around the corner.
Harry bend down to pick up his towel.
“You can probably get a new one in the laundry room. Want me to show you?”
“No I-I-“ Harry stammered.
But the other boy just watched him with big and curious eyes.
“Thanks for helping.”
“It was nothing,” said the boy looking down, “They’re just stupid,” he murmured and sheepishly shuffled his feet.
“Sooo…” the boy began, “I can show you the laundry room if you want,” he looked at Harry.
“I know where it is.”
“Oh,” the boy looked at his feet once more.
“But, would you- I mean- could you maybe show me around a bit?”
A smile spread across the boy’s face.
“Yeah, definitely. Only just arrived?” he asked interested.
“No worries. Only got here myself a few days ago. But you quickly find your way around here.”
They walked next to each other in silence for a while
“What’s your name by the way?”
“Hi Harry,” he smiled again and waved somewhat awkwardly.
Then he pointed to a door and said:
“Um, here’s the kitchen and there we eat.”
“And that’s the staff room. There’s usually someone there all the time, so if you got questions…“
They arrived at a double door leading outside to a green courtyard. The boy held it open for Harry.
“Err, and here’s the yard, I guess,” the boy scratched his neck.
Harry looked around. There was a concrete pitch with soccer goals and basketball hoops, some trees and small bushes and pushed in the corners there were also the ping-pong tables Mrs. Robins had talked about.
The other boy noticed him looking around.
“Fancy a match?” he asked and nodded his head towards the table tennis corner.
“Uh, I don’t really know how to play.”
The other boy laughed and Harry’s heart sank to his feet. There was someone who didn’t treat him like dirt stuck under his shoe or as if he was an alien and he had to go and botch it up.
“I don’t know how to play either,” said the other boy and only then did Harry realize the good-natured intention behind the other boy’s laughter.
“Come on, we’ll make a great team,” the boy called over his shoulder jogging over the yard.
“Ready?” he asked passing the small ball to Harry.
“Err, yeah, I guess, but-“ sheepishly he trailed off.
The boy looked at him with those inquiring brown eyes.
“I didn’t really get your name before.”
“Oh,” the boy pulled up his shoulders.