"Words and Actions"
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Harry Potter characters. All characters are creations of Joanne K. Rowling, © 2007, to whom I am deeply indebted. I make no money from any of this. I'm just taking her world and tweaking it a bit.
Note One: I'd like everyone to give a big welcome to my new beta: Majerus!! And I'd like to thank him for editing this chapter.
Note Two: Thanks for the reviews, guys! I'm happy we're finally getting into their second year!
Hermione happily made her way down the path to the greenhouses with Harry and Ron later that morning, eager to get started with her lessons. As they came into view, Hermione noticed a scowl forming on Ron's face. Harry, too, had a slight frown. Curious, she glanced to where they were looking. A large tree that Hermione had always assumed was just a normal one, could be seen off behind the greenhouses, several of its branches in slings.
"Is that -?" Hermione began, turning to Harry and Ron.
"Yeah," Ron grumbled, scowling at the tree. "Stupid, bloody tree."
Ron stomped off down the path to where the rest of their classmates were waiting. Hermione glanced nervously at Harry, who winced. It was obvious Ron was in a foul mood because of the Howler and Hermione knew she'd have to watch what she said around him for rest of the day; she didn't want to start an argument.
As they joined the rest of the group, Professor Sprout came striding across the grounds looking irritable as Lockhart followed after her.
"Greenhouse Three today, chaps!" she called out; interrupting whatever Lockhart was telling her.
Excitement buzzed in the air as everyone made their way into the greenhouse. It was known that Greenhouse Three housed more `dangerous' plants than the one they had been in all last year. Hermione felt a shiver of excitement go through her, the knowledge that they were advancing on from the basics made her eager to start.
"Harry, my boy - a minute!"
Everyone paused to see Lockhart reach out and pull Harry towards him. He flushed and looked up at Lockhart. "You don't mind if I talk to Harry for a spell, do you?" Lockhart asked Professor Sprout. He didn't give her a chance to reply and whisked Harry up the path for some privacy.
"Inside!" Professor Sprout snapped, clearly not pleased.
"I wonder what Lockhart needs to say to Harry?" Hermione asked, glancing back as they were ushered into the greenhouse.
"It's probably nothing important," Ron grumbled. "He's a stupid git."
Hermione, Shae, Lavender, and Parvati all turned to glare at the redhead. Ron squirmed uncomfortably and hurried to his seat, ignoring Fay and the Gryffindor boys laughing at him.
"Why aren't you like the other girls, Fay?" Seamus asked as they all sat down. Hermione sat beside Fay, leaving the seat next to her open for when Harry returned.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Fay asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Er, it isn't anything bad," he hastily explained. "Just - well, you know… you aren't as mad about Lockhart as the others."
Hermione was about to retort that she wasn't that bad when she remembered Shae and herself quickly outlining all Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons in hearts as they waited for the others to head to Herbology. It had been fun and made Hermione feel girly for the first time in her life, but now she just felt embarrassed. She blushed and kept her head down.
"That's because I don't think Lockhart's that special," Fay shrugged, ignoring Lavender's scandalized gasp. "He seems too… focused on fame to have been able to pull off everything that's written in his books. Plus, he's an adult, we're twelve. Nothing will ever happen."
"You sound like a grown up," Shae grumbled, glaring at her friend. "No fun at all."
Five minutes later Harry came rushing into the greenhouse, looking flushed. He kept his head down as he hurried to the empty spot in between Hermione and Ron. Hermione looked at him and raised an eyebrow. He caught her eye and quickly shook his head.
Professor Sprout started the lesson then, pointing to plants that had purplish green tufts sticking out of the dirt. "We'll be re-potting Mandrakes today. Can anybody tell me the properties of the Mandrake?"
Hermione quickly shot her hand up, glancing around to see if anyone else had. Both the Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs stared at Professor Sprout, clearly not knowing the answer. "It's a powerful restorative," Hermione rattled off. "It's used to return people who have been transfigured or cursed to their original state."
"Excellent. Ten points to Gryffindor," Professor Sprout smiled.
The lesson continued on with Hermione getting another ten points for Gryffindor when she explained the Mandrakes cry was fatal. Professor Sprout told everyone to grab a pair of earmuffs from the front of the class and there was a mad dash as the boys all tried to not be stuck with the pink ones. Dean drew the short end of the stick, ending up with a pair of pink fluffy earmuffs. He scrunched his nose at them as Professor Sprout gave the instructions on what to do next.
Hermione put on her earmuffs and watched as Professor Sprout grasped the tuft of the Mandrake and pulled. A horrendously ugly, mottled green baby was attached by the head to the leaves and, even though she couldn't hear a thing, Hermione knew that it was bawling at the top of its lungs. Professor Sprout wasted no time in shoving the Mandrake into a new pot, made sure it was covered with dirt, and then gave everyone the thumbs up signal.
"Since these Mandrakes are only seedlings, their cry won't kill you yet," she explained after everyone removed their earmuffs. "But they will knock you out for several hours and I don't think you want to spend your first day back to school unconscious in the Hospital Wing. Alright! Four to a tray. Compost and pots are over there - get to it!"
Hermione quickly went to a tray near the back of the room with Harry and Ron, wanting to ask what Lockhart had to say to Harry. She shot an apologetic look at Sally-Anne who was with Hannah Abbott and Susan Bones as she passed. Her friend rolled her eyes but smiled.
"So what did Lockhart have to say?" Ron asked once they reached their tray.
Harry was about to tell them when curly haired Justin Finch-Fletchley joined them. He quickly introduced himself to Hermione, Harry, and Ron, shaking their hands.
"You're so lucky Lockhart wanted to speak to you," Justin told Harry as they began to fill their pots with dirt. "He's amazing, isn't he? All the stuff he's done? I'd never be able to do any of it - I can't imagine how he stayed so calm when cornered by a werewolf!"
Hermione saw Harry and Ron tune Justin out as he went on about the many accomplishments Lockhart achieved. Even Hermione had to admit that Justin was taking it a bit too far with the idol worship. "You're muggleborn too, right Hermione?" he asked suddenly, pausing to look at her.
"Yes," Hermione nodded, slightly relieved to be on a different subject. "My family lives in Oxfordshire."
"Ah," Justin said, nodding. "What school were you down for?"
"Uh," she hesitated, "it wasn't decided when I got my Hogwarts letter."
"I was down for Eton," he said, giving a smug smile. "I can't tell you how glad I am I came here instead. Of course, Mother was slightly disappointed but since I made her read Lockhart's books she's begun to see how useful it is to have a fully trained wizard in the family…"
Professor Sprout interrupted Justin's tirade by telling everyone to put their earmuffs on. Hermione was thankful for the interruption and went to work on re-potting her Mandrake. The one she had had long, spindly appendages and it quickly figured out how to make it extremely difficult for Hermione to get it into the new pot. By the time Hermione finally had her first Mandrake re-potted there was only fifteen minutes left of the lesson. She gave up on attempting re-potting another one and went to help Harry push an extremely fat Mandrake into its pot.
Everyone left the greenhouse sweaty and dirty. All Hermione wanted to do was have a shower but since there was no time, she and everyone else settled for quickly washing up in the fountain in the courtyard.
"That was disgusting," Shae complained, sneering and flicking some dirt off of her skirt.
"It wasn't so bad," Neville said, shrugging. He had been one of the lucky ones who didn't have too much trouble.
"Ron, what happened to your wand?" Hermione asked.
Ron had taken his wand out of his robes as he washed. Hermione immediately noticed the tape that seemed to be holding his wand together in the middle. She leaned in closer to examine it when it gave off a bright spark, making her jump back. "I don't think that's safe," she said.
Ron grumbled, flushing angrily, and snatched his wand away. Hermione looked at Fay, who just rolled her eyes, and started for Transfiguration.
Ron's broken wand definitely posed a big problem for him. He was not able to cast even the simplest of spells and loud bangs and smoke would waft up from where the wand had been snapped whenever he tried casting.
"Don't even bother with trying to help him," Fay muttered to Hermione as they worked on turning a beetle into a button. "You know he won't take it well."
Hermione nodded and flicked her wrist, grinning widely as the beetle transformed nicely into a coat button. She had missed magic so much.
Only Hermione and Fay were able to turn their beetles into buttons when Transfiguration ended. Hermione had a large collection while Fay had only a few. Fay had been having an issue with the wrist movement and, after Hermione transformed her sixth beetle, she caved in and asked her for help. Ron didn't look pleased when he saw the buttons Hermione had made and ended up taking his frustrations out on his food when they stopped for lunch.
After finishing lunch, Hermione, Harry, and Ron went outside to wait out the remainder of the period in the courtyard. When the conversation turned to Quidditch, Hermione pulled out Gadding with Ghouls and immersed herself in Lockhart's adventures. She didn't look up until she noticed a first year Gryffindor standing in front of Harry with a muggle camera.
"All right Harry? I'm Colin Creevey," he said breathlessly, clutching the camera in a vice grip. "I'm - I'm in Gryffindor too. Is it - um, do you think - can - can I have a picture?"
Ron snorted and quickly covered his mouth as Colin went red. Harry stared at the younger boy with a confused expression. "A picture?" he repeated.
"A picture," Colin squeaked, nodding. He seemed to gain a bit more confidence when Harry didn't immediately turn him away and began to ramble, "Just to prove that I've met you. Everyone's told me about you and how you defeated You-Know-Who when you were just a baby. I'm a muggleborn, see? Hogwarts is just amazing and - and I told my dad I'd send him loads of pictures. D-do you think I could have one with you? And … if - if it's possible, stand next to you? And have you sign it?"
There was a stunned silence as Hermione, Harry, and Ron stared at Colin in shock. His request was so ridiculous that Hermione almost felt this was some sort of prank. But Colin's expression was so hopeful that she was positive not even a professional actor could pull it off. Harry was struggling on how to respond when a voice no one wanted to hear cut in.
"Signed photos? You're giving out signed photos, Potter?"
Malfoy made sure his voice was loud enough to echo throughout the courtyard as he walked up behind Colin, Crabbe and Goyle flanking him as per usual. A few people turned their heads in Malfoy's direction but that wasn't good enough.
"Everyone, queue up!" he roared, waving his arms around. "Harry Potter is giving out signed photos!"
"No, I'm not," Harry growled, glaring at him. "Shut up, Malfoy."
"You're just jealous," Colin said. Hermione had to admit that Colin was pretty brave for glaring at Malfoy when his goons were giving menacing looks right back at him.
"Jealous?" Malfoy spat. By now, half the courtyard had stopped what they were doing to listen but Malfoy kept his voice raised, "Of what? Having a stupid gash on my forehead? Please."
Ron swore at Malfoy, causing the smug look on his face to flicker into anger. "I'd watch myself if I were you, Weasley," he snarled. "Just remember what Mummy dearest told you."
Ron went red and took a step towards Malfoy. Hermione and Harry quickly grabbed the back of his robes as Crabbe and Goyle began to crack their knuckles.
"Weasley would like a signed photo, Potter," Malfoy continued, his eyes glinting. "It'd be worth more than Weasley's whole house. In fact, why not give him two? He can make sure his family can wear clothes that actually fit."
By now, Ron was struggling against Hermione and Harry's grip as he tried to get to Malfoy. Crabbe and Goyle stepped in front of Malfoy as the crowd hushed, looking on with anticipation. The tense moment was broken, however, when Lockhart came striding up. "What's all this about? Who is giving out signed photos?"
Malfoy stiffened as the crowd parted. Lockhart laughed, pulling Harry towards him for the second time that day. "I shouldn't have asked!" he exclaimed. "Harry, Harry, Harry."
Ron ripped his robes out of Hermione's grip and glared as Malfoy disappeared back into the crowd. Hermione smiled at Lockhart, thankful he had made it in time before Ron started a fight she knew he wouldn't win.
"Well now, Mr. Creevey," Lockhart said, keeping Harry pinned to his side. "How about a picture with both of us and we'll both sign it for you."
Colin looked like Christmas had come early and nodded eagerly. He quickly snapped the photo just as the bell rang. As the crowd dispersed, Lockhart turned with Harry still under his arm, leading him back into the castle.
"Can you believe him?" Ron asked, fixing his robes and hurrying after them.
"He did stop a fight from happening," Hermione pointed out, scrambling to catch up with Ron's long legs.
"Of course you'd defend him," Ron scoffed, rolling his eyes.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Hermione bristled and followed after him, glaring at Ron's back.
When they made it to the classroom, Harry had taken a spot at the very back of the room with Lockhart's books piled up high so he could barely be seen. Ron immediately went to the seat beside him, doing the same with his own books. Hermione was a little more hesitant; she had wanted to sit near the front of the class. Ron gave her a pointed look and Hermione sighed, going to the back of the room and taking a seat beside Harry.
"You could've fried an egg on your face," Ron told Harry. "Let's hope Colin and Ginny don't band together and start up a Harry Potter fan club."
"Shut up," Harry hissed, shooting a glare at Ron.
The classroom filled up quickly. Hermione noticed with a twinge of annoyance that the Gryffindor girls were all up near the front of the class. She shot a glare at Harry and Ron.
Lockhart cleared his throat from the front of the room once the last of the students were seated. He strode forward with a little bounce in his step, picking up one of Neville's books. "Me," he said, winking at the cover. "Gilderoy Lockhart, Order of Merlin, third class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defence League and five times winner of the Witch Weekly's Most-Charming Smile Award - but that's not important. I didn't get rid of the Brandon banshee by smiling at her."
Lockhart waited for people to laugh and Hermione blushed, feeling sorry for him. He cleared his throat after an awkward silence and placed Neville's book back down. "I thought today we would start off with a little pop quiz," he continued, going back to his desk and picking up a stack of papers. "It's nothing to worry about - just to see who here has read the required reading materials."
Hermione readied her quill and ink as Lockhart passed the tests out. She was eager to prove how much she knew and remembered about his books. Once the test began, she looked down at the questions. They were generic and easily answered if you had read Lockhart's books. Grinning, Hermione dipped her quill into her ink and began to write.
Hermione finished with minutes to spare. Setting her quill down, she raised her hand and waited for Lockhart to come grab her test. He looked it over, grinned at her and walked back to the desk. Hermione felt herself go warm as she smiled to herself. Seconds later, Shae's hand shot up into the air and Lockhart went to retrieve her test as well.
Hermione glanced over at Harry and Ron to see if they were almost finished. Harry was still on the first page, frowning at the questions while Ron just sat there with an incredulous expression. Hermione felt her smile slip and she sighed; they were only hurting themselves by not taking this test seriously.
Lockhart eventually called for everyone to stop writing and went around, picking the tests up. Everyone waited as he leaned against his desk, tutting to himself as he looked over the results.
"This is not good," he said, shaking his head. "Really, it's not hard to remember my favourite colour is lilac, its right there in Year with the Yeti. Oh, but Miss Shae Bevern knew my ideal birthday gift would be harmony between all magic and non-magic peoples, very good!"
Hermione could see Shae straighten up proudly from where she sat. Although Hermione was happy for her friend (Shae was hardly ever praised by a teacher) she couldn't help the jealousy that coursed through her. She bit her lip, hoping she too would be called on. She didn't have to wait long.
"And Miss Hermione Granger got that question right too," Lockhart said, smiling. He scanned her paper, his smile widening. "In fact, full marks! Where are you Miss Granger?"
Hermione's eyes widened and she shot her hand up in the air, narrowly missing knocking off Harry's glasses.
"Excellent!" Lockhart beamed. "Yes, very good. Ten points to Gryffindor."
Hermione beamed and glanced at Harry and Ron. Both boys didn't look all that interested and she looked back to Lockhart, fighting to keep herself from feeling discouraged.
"Now that I have some insight on your skill level," Lockhart said, putting the papers down. Hermione heard Harry try and cover a snort with a cough, "I think it's time we jump into things, shall we?"
Everyone watched as he patted a box on his desk that was covered with cloth. Hermione peered over the heads of everyone else, trying to get the best view possible.
"Now I want you to know that no harm will come to you when you're in my care," Lockhart said seriously. "It is my job to prepare you for the foulest creatures known to the wizarding world. Some of you may in fact face your greatest fears while in my classroom but know that I, Gilderoy Lockhart, will be here to keep you safe."
The classroom was deadly silent as he grabbed the cloth. Hermione was now half-standing to be able to see the entire box properly, tense with anticipation. Even Harry and Ron couldn't resist looking around their stacked books to see what was about to happen.
"All I ask is that you please, do not scream," Lockhart said. He paused and then whipped the cloth off.
The box was actually a cage that held numerous electric blue Cornish pixies. As soon as the cloth was removed, they started twittering and shaking the cage, their sharp little arms reaching out in between the bars.
Seamus let out a loud snort that he didn't bother to try and cover. Lockhart's smile fell as he looked coolly upon the boy. "Yes?" he asked.
"Well, Cornish pixies aren't exactly dangerous, are they?" Seamus chuckled.
"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Lockhart said, looking put out at the lack of response from his class. "Let's see how you can handle them when put to the test!"
Lockhart unhinged the door containing the Cornish pixies and they shot out in every direction. Hermione was actually glad she ended up sitting in the back as all the girls shrieked and dove underneath their desks. While some of the pixies smashed through the windows to make their escape, a majority of them decided to stay and wreak havoc on the classroom. Books were picked up and ripped apart, pictures of Lockhart torn down from the walls, and some of the students were pelted with objects.
"Come on now," Lockhart shouted over the mayhem. "It's just a simple spe - oops!"
As he was speaking, two pixies grabbed Lockhart's wand from his hand. They jabbered excitedly to themselves and out the window they flew. Now defenseless, Lockhart dove underneath his own desk as a picture came crashing towards him.
"Let's get out of here!" Harry shouted, smacking a pixie away from him with one of Lockhart's books.
Hermione tried to pack up her books but was constantly having to dodge things being thrown at her. Frustrated, she whipped her wand out, pointed it at the nearest pixie and shouted, "Immobulus!"
The spell hit the pixie and it froze, falling out of the air and landing on the desk with a loud crash. (Was wondering if perhaps they'd land with more of a thud, being not all that big… crash seems like a lot of noise for a pixie?)
"That a girl!" Lockhart praised. The bell rang and there was a mad dash to get out of the classroom. Lockhart scrambled out from under his desk, right behind the students, "Another ten points to Gryffindor! Since you're doing so well, I'll just have you three nip the rest of them back into their cage."
The door slammed shut just as a pixie tossed a glass figurine at Lockhart's head.
"Can you believe him?" Ron asked again, following Harry's idea and using his book as a shield.
"He's just giving us some hands on experience," Hermione defended, freezing a few more pixies and throwing them back into their cage.
"Hands on?" Harry asked, taking out his own wand and immobilizing another pixie. "Hermione, he didn't have a clue what he was doing."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Of course he did," she snapped. "You've read his books - read all those amazing things he's done."
"He says he's done," Ron retorted. "I don't get how you can't see what he really is, Hermione."
Hermione chose to ignore that comment and focused on getting the rest of the Cornish pixies back into the cage.
It felt slightly weird not having any of the Gryffindor boys around when the girls had their first afternoon off that Friday. Hermione sat with Shae and Fay in the common room, writing a letter back home after the boys reluctantly made their way to their first Sexual Education lesson. Fred and George bugged the boys endlessly the night before, giving little hints of diagrams, pictures, and spells they needed to know for when they were older.
"I wonder what we'll learn," Fay pondered, taking a break from her Transfiguration homework.
"It shouldn't be too bad," Shae said. She had sprawled out on one of the sofas with the latest issue of Witch Weekly. "I get that we're separated because it'll be embarrassing learning with the boys there but come on, what's there to learn about growing up?"
There was a lot to learn, apparently. The boys came back from their lesson an hour later, all of them flushed from embarrassment.
"George was right!" Ron moaned. "There are diagrams! And we have to fill them out! I don't want to have to look at another guy's bits."
"That was just embarrassing," Harry said quietly, sitting down beside Hermione.
"It was that bad?" Shae asked fearfully.
Harry and Ron both opened their mouths and then closed them as if trying to decide on how bad it really was. "I don't know," Harry said finally. He turned to Hermione, "It was a little like Health in school but the pictures move now."
Hermione immediately felt herself blush. Before attending Hogwarts, Hermione's school had just barely skimmed the surface of the human body while in Health. But Hermione remembered how embarrassed she felt when she had to look at the pictures for the first time. She couldn't imagine having to look at them while they moved.
"I don't like Hermione's reaction," Shae whined. "Why are you blushing?"
Hermione tried to come up with a way of saying what sort of pictures they'd be looking at, but they were all too embarrassing to say out loud. She shook her head, "We'll find out on Monday."
Harry nodded, leaning back against the sofa. "I'm already ready for a break," he said. "Any of you up for visiting Hagrid tomorrow?"
Hermione and Ron agreed immediately while Shae and Fay politely declined. They quickly decided to visit their giant friend after breakfast the next morning and then pulled out the homework they needed to work on. Even though it was the first week of school, none of their professors had decided to take it easy on them. Hermione didn't mind. In fact, she felt they could do with more homework, although she chose not to voice that opinion. As the group of Gryffindors worked, all of them studiously ignored the constant clicking of Colin and his camera.
The plan to visit Hagrid was slightly altered when Hermione woke up the next morning. She arrived in the common room to see Ron waiting for her, Harry nowhere to be seen.
"Harry got called for Quidditch practice this morning," Ron explained as Hermione walked up to him.
Hermione rolled her eyes. The Gryffindor Quidditch Captain was a little more than obsessed about the sport. Last year he worked his team ragged so it didn't surprise her to hear Oliver Wood had started early this year. "Let's eat and then meet up with Harry," she suggested.
Ron nodded and together they made their way down to the Great Hall. They ate as quickly as possible and then hurried out to the Quidditch Pitch, making sure to grab a few pieces of toast for Harry.
When they arrived, the team was around Wood looking sullen as he barked off some instructions. Hermione and Ron made their way to Harry, who stared at the toast hungrily.
"You're still going?" Ron asked incredulously.
"We haven't even started yet," Harry grumbled. Hermione held out the toast and he accepted it gratefully.
"That's okay," she said. "We'll be up in the stands watching."
Harry nodded, stuffing the toast into his mouth as he mounted his broom. Hermione and Ron took their seats in the stands and watched as the team did a few practice laps.
"Look," Ron groaned, nudging Hermione.
Hermione looked to where Ron was pointing and bit back her own groan. Colin was sitting by himself in the stands, camera at the ready and snapping photos.
"We should really talk to him about that," Hermione said, shaking her head. "It's making Harry uncomfortable."
"I don't think he'll listen," Ron said darkly.
Hermione sighed and turned her attention back to the practice. Harry and the twins were racing each other when Wood blew his whistle. Off in the distance Hermione could see the green robes of Slytherin marching toward the pitch. The Gryffindor team flew back to the ground, Wood practically running to meet the other team.
"This doesn't look good," Ron said.
Hermione nodded and followed Ron as he started back down the stairs. "Is that Malfoy?" Hermione asked, squinting. They were still a ways off but she could pick out Malfoy's unmistakable blonde hair.
"What's happening?" Ron asked Harry when they caught up to the two teams. He shot a glare at Malfoy. "What's he doing here?"
"I'm the new Slytherin Seeker," Malfoy replied smugly. "We've just been admiring the brooms my father sent as a gift for the team."
Ron's mouth dropped open as the Slytherin team brandished polished new brooms.
"They're the latest model," Malfoy boasted. "Far superior than the Nimbus Two Thousand and your Cleansweep Fives can't even come close."
"At least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way on," Hermione snapped. She had had enough of Malfoy acting so high and mighty the entire week. "They got in with pure talent."
Malfoy's expression turned into anger as he glared murderously at Hermione. "No one asked for your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood."
Hermione knew at once that Malfoy had called her something terrible. As soon as the words were spoken, the entire Gryffindor team was in an uproar. Fred and George tried to dive at Malfoy but were blocked by the Slytherin Captain, the girls on the team began shrieking insults, and Wood was staring at Malfoy in horrified shock.
Hermione stared with wide eyes as she watched everyone defend her, feeling tears start to form. She was used to having insults hurdled at her, it happened all the time while in elementary school and she still had the occasional insult thrown at her at Hogwarts. But Hermione never had people try and defend her like they were right now.
"You'll pay for that, Malfoy!" Ron roared. He whipped his wand out and pointed it at the Slytherin. A loud bang erupted from it and Ron was suddenly thrown on his back.
Hermione and Harry gasped and hurried over to Ron, who was groaning on the ground. The rest of the Gryffindors crowded around him as the Slytherin team howled with laughter.
"Ron!" Hermione knelt down beside him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Ron, are you alright?"
Ron propped himself up on his elbows, his brow furrowing in concentration. He made a retching sound and several slugs flowed from his mouth. Everyone leapt back in horror as the Slytherin's laughter escalated. Hermione could hear Colin taking pictures and asking Harry to move Ron so he could get a better shot.
"Let's take him to Hagrid's," Harry said urgently, grabbing a hold of Ron under his arm. Hermione nodded and grabbed his other arm. Together they hoisted him up and half carried, half dragged Ron away from the pitch.
The door to Hagrid's hut opened as it came into view. Lockhart stepped out of the hut with Hagrid following after him, scowling at the professor's back.
"There's Lockhart!" Hermione gasped, smiling. She yanked on Ron's arm but he dug his heels into the ground. "Come on, Ron! He'll know what to do."
"No," Ron moaned, more slugs plopping down onto the grass.
"He's leaving," Harry hissed. Hermione looked up to see Lockhart give a merry wave to Hagrid and stride over towards where the three were standing. "Hide!"
Hermione tried to protest but was overpowered by Harry and Ron. She huffed and helped Harry move Ron behind a bush as Lockhart passed by. When he was out of sight, Hermione and Harry hurried to Hagrid's door. Harry knocked on it urgently then backed out of the way as Ron spewed more slugs.
The door opened at once, revealing a grumpy looking Hagrid. His expression brightened when he saw who it was and ushered them inside.
"Bin wonderin' when yeh would come an' visit," Hagrid said. He grabbed a basin and placed it in front of Ron, not the least bit disgusted by his slug problem. Ron took it gratefully and his head disappeared from view.
"I don't think there's anything we can do to make them stop," Hermione said worriedly, biting her lip as the sounds of slugs hitting the basin filled the hut.
"Just gotta let it run its course," Hagrid said, putting a kettle on the fire.
"What did Lockhart want with you?" Harry asked, sitting down at Hagrid's large table.
"Wanted ter give me advice on gettin' Kelpies from a well," Hagrid growled. "Then he kept goin' on abou' some Banshee he banished. If any part of his story is true, I'll eat my kettle."
Hermione's eyes widened in shock. "But Hagrid," she squeaked, "I think you're being a bit unfair towards him. Dumbledore obviously felt he knew what he was doing if he hired him."
"Dumbledore only hired him `cause he was the only one that applied," Hagrid retorted. "No one wants the Defense job anymore. No one lasts fer long, they think it's cursed."
"He's still a teacher," Hermione argued.
"So who was it Ron was tryin' ter curse?" Hagrid asked Harry, abruptly changing the subject. Hermione huffed and rolled her eyes.
"Malfoy," Harry said at once. He looked at Hermione. "He called Hermione something… I don't know what it was but it must have been bad."
"It was bad," Ron moaned, reappearing. He shakily wiped the perspiration that formed on his forehead and spit into the basin. "Malfoy called Hermione a Mudblood."
"He didn'!" Hagrid growled, looking appalled.
"He did. But, what's a Mudblood?" Hermione asked. "I can tell it means something horrible but -"
"A Mudblood is about the most insulting thing you could call a person," Ron said. He disappeared with a retch and then came back up. "A Mudblood is a really foul name for someone who is muggleborn. There are some families - like the Malfoys - that think they're better than everyone else because they're what they call `pure blood.' The rest of us know it doesn't make any difference. Look at Neville, he's pure blood and can hardly cast a spell properly."
"And they haven't invented a spell our Hermione can't do," Hagrid said proudly. Hermione felt herself blush as she smiled.
Harry had a dark expression on his face now that he knew what Hermione had been called. "Don't let Malfoy get to you, Hermione," he said angrily, nodding. "Malfoy can't stand that you're the one who gets the top marks so he calls you names to make himself feel better."
"It's a disgusting name to call someone," Ron said. "Dirty blood. Common blood. It's mad. If we hadn't married muggles we'd have died out ages ago."
He paled and then ducked his head back in the basin.
"I don't blame yeh for tryin' ter curse him, Ron," Hagrid said, grabbing the kettle as it began to whistle. He poured them cups of tea and handed them out. "But maybe it's a good thing yer spell didn't work. Don't think Lucius Malfoy would like that yeh cursed his son. Oh," he said suddenly, "met yer little sister the other day."
"What was she doing?" Hermione asked.
"Said she was just lookin' around the grounds, but I reckon she was hopin' she might run inter someone else if she visited my house," Hagrid replied, grinning slyly at Harry.
"Not you too!" Harry groaned, growing red.
By the time lunch rolled around, Ron's slug problem was reaching the end of its course. The trio said goodbye to Hagrid and promised to visit him again as they made their way back to the castle. Ron looked exhausted and slightly unstable as they entered the Entrance Hall.
"There you are," Professor McGonagall stopped them from climbing the staircase. "Potter, Weasley, you will be serving your detention tonight. Mr. Weasley, you will be polishing the silver in the trophy room with Mr. Filch - no magic either."
Ron looked horrified but Hermione thought that was for the better. With his broken wand, there's no telling what he could do to the trophy room if he tried to cast a spell.
"And you, Mr. Potter, will be helping Professor Lockhart answer his fan mail," she continued.
Harry groaned in protest. Hermione stepped on his foot and thanked Professor McGonagall. She nodded, telling the boys to be at their detentions by eight that evening and then strode into the Great Hall. Harry and Ron's mood dropped after that, both of them wallowing in their own self-pity.
Hermione sought out Shae and Fay when the boys left for their detentions, knowing they would want to hear what happened that morning. She found the two girls lounging in the common room and immediately dove into her story.
They looked outraged by the time Hermione finished and stared at her in shock.
"He didn't!" Shae gasped. "Of all the things-"
"I wish Ron's spell hadn't backfired," Fay said darkly, crossing her arms. "It'd serve Malfoy right for saying such a thing. He could get in trouble for saying that - go report it to Professor McGonagall."
"I'm not going to do that," Hermione protested. "That'll just egg Malfoy on."
"Then he's going to think he can get away with saying that again if you don't," Fay retorted.
"It's just a name," Hermione said weakly. "I was called all sorts of names before coming to Hogwarts. Yes, they can hurt at first but it's not like I'm devastated."
There was an awkward silence as Shae and Fay stared at Hermione with sad expressions.
"But you shouldn't have to put up with it," Shae said quietly. "And we're your friends, Hermione. We don't like hearing other people say bad things about you."
"How did Harry react?" Fay asked suddenly. "We know how Ron reacted, but did Harry do anything to defend you?"
"Well, he was like me at the start," Hermione said slowly. "He didn't know what it meant. Then when Ron explained it he did get a little angry. He told me not to let it get to me because Malfoy is only jealous I beat him in marks."
"Good," Fay said smiling, nodding to herself. "And it's true, you saw how angry he got when our marks came out last year."
Hermione smiled, a warm feeling flowing through her as she was defended for the second time that day. The three girls spent the rest of the evening together, Shae and Fay playing Wizard Chess while Hermione read some of the chapters required for Herbology.
Eventually Shae and Fay bid Hermione goodnight and turned in. Hermione felt herself growing drowsy but wanted to be up for when Harry and Ron returned from detention. As it neared midnight, Hermione felt her eyes begin to droop. She got up and stretched; she would just have to ask Harry and Ron how their detention went the next morning. Hermione gathered up her things and quickly went to bed.
End Note: And there you have it! I hope you liked it! Please leave a review and tell me what you thought!
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