"Hello," Tobias said, extending his hand towards the petite looking girl. She took it in her and shook it nervously.
"I'm Tobias," he said. "Tobias Snape." And he smiled down at her.
"I'm E...Eileen Prince," Eileen stammered, staring up at Tobias.
Tobias chuckled at the nervous look on her face. "Don't worry," he said. "I won't eat you up."
That broke the ice. Eileen giggled and offered her lunch box to Tobias.
"Would you like to have some cakes?" she asked. "My mother baked them."
"Sure," Tobias replied and picked up a cake. "Oh...you are Mrs Prince's daughter. She brings bread for us every morning."
Eileen looked down at her feet and didn't say anything. Like always, her family's poverty rankled her. Nobody wanted to speak to her. And when she saw Tobias Snape approaching her, she was automatically and understandably nervous. She had heard stories about his family's snobbish behaviour and she had assumed that Tobias would be the same. Even though Tobias had smiled at her a couple of days back.
Tobias sensed her uneasiness and slipped a hand around her shoulders.
"Come," he pushed her towards a small group of students. "Hey...look here," he called out to them.
"Who's this?" one of the boys asked Tobias.
Tobias pushed Eileen forward. "This is Eileen Prince," he told his friends. "And she's my new friend. Our new friend."
One of the girls stared at Eileen, much to her discomfort. "Isn't she the cobbler's daughter?" she asked.
Eileen wanted to be anywhere but there. The feeling of humiliation grew with each passing minute. But Tobias, reading her thoughts, held on to her hand tightly
"Yes," Tobias answered for her. "But she's our friend now so be nice to her."
"It was just a question," the girl said and walked up to Eileen. "Hello Eileen," she said and smiled. "I'm Elizabeth." The others in the group smiled at her too. Tobias was relieved.
The smiles were warm and genuine and Eileen felt at ease once again.
She finally had friends.
"Thank you, Tobias," Eileen said, walking back home with her new best friend.
Tobias looked at her. "For what?" he asked.
"Friends," she replied. "Never had a single one until today."
Tobias smiled. "I had to work hard to make some friends over here," he said. "I didn't want you to go through that."
Eileen looked up at him, a curious look on her face. "But why?" she asked.
Tobias chuckled. "Oh c'mon, Eileen," he said. "Everyone thinks I am snobbish. Like my parents."
Eileen was horrified to hear Tobias talk about his parents in that manner. "Oh well..." she stuttered.
Tobias slipped his hand in hers. "Eileen," he said, looking at her. "I'm not like them. I don't want to be like them either. I want to have friends. Friends like you. To whom I can be myself and not the heir to the Snape fortune."
Eileen was stunned by this little sermon by Tobias. But she recovered soon enough and smiled up at him.
"Did you like those cakes?" she asked him. Tobias nodded. "I'll get some more for you tomorrow."