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The Perils of Innocence by puck_nc

The Perils of Innocence


Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

Reminder: I'm on Twitter under "avidbeader" if you are reading this on a guest account and would prefer to get your notifications of a new chapter that way. I promise I won't be spamming. I'm also on Tumblr under the same name, though that's more for my own fannish appreciation of others than my writing at this point.


1 September 1991

Hermione stared past a fleet of little boats across a large lake. A castle loomed in the gathering darkness, spilling warm light from every window and crevice and reflecting moonlight from the turrets. It was a marvel straight out of a fairy story.

"No more'n four to a boat!"

"Hermione, come on!"

The voices broke her out of her thoughts and she picked her way down to the shore. Dean and Harry were holding a place for her in one boat, Dean actually grabbing the arm of the Weasley boy to keep him from climbing in beside Sally-Anne. Hermione hurried forward to take her place. The red-haired boy gave her a dirty look and eyed the next boat, but Justin was already climbing in beside Terry, Wayne, and Neville Longbottom.

As they sailed across, the true size of the castle became apparent. It loomed over them, blotting out most of the moon in the sky before they approached the shore. Hermione studied it hungrily, picking out details as they drew closer: the great tower rising to the left, a covered bridge with support arches that reminded her of the Roman aqueduct in Segovia, a daunting series of stairs leading up the craggy tor from the little covered dock that seemed to be their destination.

Sally-Anne squeezed her hand as they went past the dock and into a cove between the two parts of the castle. The huge man that had gathered the first years shouted, "Mind yer heads!" and they watched as he ducked under a curtain of trailing ivy. On the other side was a cavern with a large pebbly beach. Each of the boats floated to an assigned spot and drove itself onto shore far enough for the children to get out.

As they followed the large man out of the cavern and up a grassy hill, Hermione slipped forward to walk next to Harry and Dean. They mounted a steep set of stone stairs to an enormous oaken door. The man pounded three times, announcing their presence.

The door opened to reveal a familiar face.

"The firs' years, Professor."

"Thank you, Hagrid. I will take them from here."

The Muggle-raised group wormed their way forward. McGonagall nodded at them, then led the group up the stairs into an enormous entrance hall. The silent group could hear the murmur of voices on the other side of an imposing pair of doors. The professor opened another door and the children gathered in an anteroom.

"Welcome to Hogwarts. We will enter the Great Hall for the start-of-term banquet momentarily, but before you all can be seated you must be sorted into your houses. The Sorting is an important step, as your house will be something like your family during your time here. We use a points system at Hogwarts: good behaviour and achievement will be rewarded with points for your house while any rule-breaking will lose points. The house with the most points at the end of the year is awarded the House Cup. The four houses are Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each house has a remarkable history and has produced notable witches and wizards in all fields. You will be sorted by means of the Sorting Hat; each of you will put the Hat on and it will decide the most appropriate house for you.

"Please stay here while we make the final preparations. Do take the opportunity to tidy yourselves up. I will return in a few minutes for you."

McGonagall's departure produced shifting and murmuring among the first years as some of them straightened cloaks and robes. Hermione leaned over to whisper to Ron Weasley, "You've got dirt on your nose, by the way."

He glared at her but scrubbed at his nose with his sleeve.

Sally-Anne slipped over to Hermione. "I don't suppose we'll be lucky enough to all be together."

Hermione looked around the room, counting swiftly. "There's not even forty of us here. If about the same number of students goes to each house, the odds aren't good for all seven of us to be in one house."

"I think I'd be all right with anywhere but Slytherin - their head of house seemed really unpleasant."

Hermione nodded in agreement. "I think after reading Hogwarts, A History I'm most likely for Ravenclaw, which I suppose would be all right. But I'd rather have Professor McGonagall as my head of house." She noticed Harry had been listening in. He nodded his agreement at her.

At that moment, McGonagall entered the room once more. "We're ready for you. Please follow me."


It quickly became apparent that the first years were being called alphabetically. Two girls were sorted into Hufflepuff and then Terry was called.

Terry sat and his vision was obscured as the too-large hat slipped down over his eyes. He jumped slightly as a voice spoke.

Let's see here, Mr Boot…you're a bit of a clever one, aren't you? Brave as well, willing to do your part. But where will you fit best?

An image of his mother's library sprang into Terry's mind and the memory of the little professor who spoke enthusiastically about the collections housed in Hogwarts School and in the Ravenclaw tower.

Knowledge above all else, eh? That's an easy enough decision for-


Terry blinked as the Hat was lifted from his head and the students at one table clapped and gestured at him to join them. He met his friends' gazes as they smiled and applauded as well.

After a few more students, Justin heard his name and stepped forward to sit on the stool and let McGonagall place the hat on his head.

Well, hello there, Mr Finch-Fletchley. Let's see what you have…fairly smart, but you'd rather be doing something than studying about it. And not all that ambitious…I tend to see that when we get someone of your background…you're still all about loyalty at this point.

Justin immediately pictured Professor Sprout, who had ridden most of the way with them after the incident on the train. He had been quite taken with the friendly, motherly woman.

Well, then, if you have that strong of a preference, I see no problem with-


The Hufflepuff table applauded and the two girls who had been sorted first waved at him to join them.

After "Finnegan, Seamus" went to Gryffindor, McGonagall called out, "Granger, Hermione!" Hermione went forward, warmed by the slight smile in the professor's expression as she approached.

Welcome, Miss Granger. Let me have a look at you…

The hat went silent for a moment and Hermione felt an odd sensation, as if something was rummaging in her mind like a clothes drawer, looking for matching socks.

I haven't seen intellectual potential like this in quite some time. But there's also terrific ambition here and bravery and devotion to those you care about. You could be sorted anywhere and have the tools to succeed…

"I want to be near Professor McGonagall," Hermione whispered.

You do seem to have formed an attachment. And she is a bit protective of you from what I saw as she called your name. Well, I did say anywhere would do, and that includes-


Harry waited on tenterhooks as more students were sorted. Some seemed to take longer than others; Hermione had sat for nearly two minutes and Neville Longbottom needed almost five to be sent to Gryffindor, while the Malfoy boy they had met in Diagon Alley was called for Slytherin almost before the hat touched his head. Wayne joined Justin at the Hufflepuff table. Sally-Anne took a few minutes, a stubborn expression on her face, before the hat declared her a Ravenclaw.

"Potter, Harry!"

Instantly a buzz grew among the tables as students confirmed to one another that they had indeed heard the famous name. Harry swallowed hard and stepped forward.

The hat slid down, pushing against his glasses. He started at the voice that sounded close to his ears.

You're a difficult one, aren't you? Plenty of courage, not a bad mind…not afraid of hard work and so very eager to prove yourself. But where am I going to put you, Mr Potter?

"Gryffindor," Harry whispered. "Put me in Gryffindor!"

Oh, now, it's not that easy. Just because Miss Granger is there-

It's not just her, Harry thought fiercely. It's Professor McGonagall and my parents and even Neville Longbottom that we met on the train-

All right, all right. I see. But truly, you could be great and Slytherin would help you on your way to greatness.

NOT Slytherin! Harry felt bile rise from an already nervous stomach at the thought of sharing most of his time with Malfoy.

If you're sure, then, better be-


Hermione squealed and jumped up to hug him, while a pair of red-headed twins began chanting, "We got Potter! We got Potter!"

Harry sat next to Hermione and across from Neville, paying less attention until he heard Dean's name. Dean went so far as to cross his arms as he seemed to argue with the hat until it shouted, "GRYFFINDOR!"

Harry and Hermione jumped up to greet him, relieved. He sat on Harry's other side and shook his head. "Daft thing, kept going on about Hufflepuff but I insisted that I wanted to be with my friends."

"You insisted?" A dusky girl, one of the Patil twins, looked at him with wide eyes.

"Yeah, I did. I wanted to be with my mates and I wanted Professor McGonagall as my head of house. Hufflepuff would have been all right, I suppose, but this is better."

They were interrupted as the Weasley boy approached them, sitting next to Neville. "Good show, mate. Glad we're in Gryffindor together! Imagine being stuck in Slytherin!"

Hermione's eyes narrowed at the familiarity of this boy toward Harry. "And what's wrong with Slytherin? The hat said I could've fit in there."

Weasley's eyes grew wide. "But Slytherins are evil! There wasn't a wizard or witch who went bad that wasn't a snake!"

"That's not right!" Hermione contradicted him instantly, drawing attention from a few of the older students near them. "From what Professor McGonagall told us, Sirius Black was supposed to be one of those Death Eaters and betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort-" At the chorus of gasps around her, she muttered "Honestly!"

"And since we learned today that Peter Pettigrew was a Death Eater and faked being dead, he was obviously cunning enough for Slytherin as well in spite of being a Gryffindor!" Harry continued hotly. "Seems like there will be plenty of good and bad people in any house!"

Weasley looked ready to argue, but McGonagall was rolling up the list she had used and the headmaster had stood to address the students. He quickly sat on the other side of Dean, looking cross.

"Welcome, one and all, to a new year at Hogwarts! Let me say just a few words before we start our feast: Rappel! Butter! Periwinkle! Moonbeam!" He clapped his hands and the tables suddenly filled with an astonishing variety of piping hot food.

Harry and Dean did not hesitate to start filling their plates, while Hermione looked toward the staff table and the headmaster, now happily loading his plate with what appeared to be fish fingers and custard. She turned to the older student who happened to be next to her, yet another red-haired boy. "Is he always like that?"

"Who, Professor Dumbledore? Mostly, yes. He's rather mad but quite brilliant, really."

With a huff, Hermione began her meal as well.


2 September 1991

Justin and Wayne were cautiously pleased with Hogwarts so far. Of the other boys in their year sharing their quarters, Ernie Macmillan was very friendly and Stebbins seemed a decent sort. Zacharias Smith had been a little offensive, boasting about not having a single spell of accidental magic after the first time when he was three. He had also woken the others up with a bout of snoring not long before they were due to get up anyway, serving as a most unpleasant alarm clock.

As the two entered the Great Hall for breakfast, they noted that, unlike dinner the night before, breakfast was something of a casual affair. Terry and Sally-Anne were sitting near one end of a somewhat empty Ravenclaw table and waved them over.

"I asked an older student, there's no rule about sitting at one's house table for meals but it's generally understood that we should at dinner," Terry told them.

"Brilliant." Justin sat and blinked as a plate and utensils appeared in front of him. He took the invitation and began loading up on eggs and sausages.

Wayne started with some toast. "Seen the others yet?"

Sally-Anne shook her head. "Not yet. That's why we sat near the doors, so we could watch for you all."

Terry asked, "What's it like in your house? I've got three others with me. Corner, Cornfoot and Goldstein. Corner's a bit of an ass - he and Goldstein argued about who should have one of the beds near a window. They ended up drawing lots for it and when Corner lost he got all sulky about it."

Sally-Anne continued, "The girls seem pleasant enough. Padma Patil was especially nice, telling me about visiting her grandmum in India. Over there they start teaching children magic around age seven, though they mostly still use wands."

Justin finished chewing and swallowing before chiming in. "The worst thing so far is we've got someone who snores. Most everyone seems friendly enough, though."

Sally-Anne waved suddenly. "Hermione! Over here!"

Hermione had entered the hall and smiled at the summons. She practically skipped over to sit with them. "Good morning, did you all sleep well?"

"Well enough. What about Harry and Dean?"

"They should be along in a minute. Neville Longbottom, the boy with the toad, was walking with us and got his foot caught - there's a step on the main staircase that you have to remember to skip otherwise your foot sinks in it. Harry and Dean are trying to help him out and I'm supposed to tell a professor or prefect if they aren't here soon."

Justin smiled as he saw the three boys enter. "Looks like they managed it."

"Morning, everyone." Dean sat and grabbed a plate. "We've had our bit of adventure for this morning."

Neville blushed and accepted the plate that Hermione passed to him. "Must remember not to put a foot on the thirteenth stair."

Wayne shifted from toast to sausage and started the platter around. "How is it in your house? We're not too bad other than someone who snores."

The Gryffindor boys groaned almost simultaneously and the others laughed. Wayne continued, "I suppose you have the same problem?"

Harry nodded. "Ron Weasley. Like a ruddy chainsaw, he is. Hermione, can I borrow that spell index you bought? Maybe there's something in there on how to make a person quiet?"

"Certainly. I'll fetch it after we eat."

A voice broke into their conversation. "I see we've moved a bit afield this morning."

As the chorus of "Good morning, Professor" died down, Terry defended himself.

"I asked around and the older students said it was permitted."

"And so it is, but generally not on the first day. It's a bit difficult to hand out timetables if we have to hunt for our students at all the tables." McGonagall passed forms to her three Lions and nodded to the others. "You'll need to return to your rooms for your books in time for your first class."

Hermione studied her timetable eagerly. "Gryffindor and Hufflepuff share Herbology and Astronomy. We've History of Magic and Charms with the Ravenclaws. Potions and Defence are with Slytherin and we seem to be by ourselves for Transfiguration. There'll be flying lessons in a couple of weeks with all the houses together."

"Did we ever figure out what subject the Fantastic Beasts book was for?" Dean asked.

"No, we didn't. I meant to ask Professor McGonagall and I forgot. I'll go ask her now." Hermione jumped up and headed to the far table where a few sleepy Gryffindors were taking their timetables from the professor.

Neville glanced after her. "Is she always so…energetic?"

Harry and Dean chuckled and Harry answered, "Yes, that's our Hermione."


3 September 1991

The first day went smoothly enough. History of Magic was quite boring once the novelty of being taught by a ghost wore off. Herbology was rather interesting between the fun of working with the plants and Professor Sprout's steady stream of information. They hadn't got very far in Charms, partly due to Professor Flitwick needing to go to the hospital wing; as he was calling roll he had tried to bow to Harry from the stack of books he was standing on and had taken a bad spill.

The first class on the second day was Double Potions with the Slytherins. Harry felt the tension as he entered the room, with the students sporting green badges and ties all sitting to the left, while Weasley dragged Finnegan to the rightmost table. He drew Hermione to sit beside him and Dean and Neville took the table next to them. Harry noted the Malfoy boy, sitting with a dark-haired girl that looked vaguely familiar.

It was chilly in the dark dungeon, being surrounded by stone walls and shelves full of containers. The stone jars added to the dreariness while the glass ones contained things that after first glimpse Harry would rather not study closely.

The thin, sallow potions professor entered from a side door and began class by calling roll. He paused when he got to Harry's name. "Mr Potter…our new celebrity."

Harry's eyes narrowed at the cold tone in Snape's voice. "Present, sir."

"Tell me, Potter, what would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"

Hermione's hand shot up but Harry patted her arm and she lowered it. "I don't know yet, sir."

"Hm. I see fame clearly isn't everything. Let's try again. Where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?"

Harry frowned, as the word seemed familiar. He could hear it being pronounced and spelled by Pippa as she talked about some of the stranger medical tales that would come up in her classes. "It…it forms in the intestines, sir."

"Hmph. Specifically in the intestines or stomach of a goat. A bezoar will protect one from most poisons. One more. What is the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane?"

Harry sat up, thinking hard, because "monkshood" was definitely familiar to him. Hermione brushed her hand against his leg and whispered, "Brother Cadfael!"

That's it! The Cadfael books! Hermione's mother had an impressive collection of mysteries and had shared them willingly on his visits to the Granger home.

"They're two names for the same plant, sir, a poisonous one."

The professor raised an eyebrow and studied Harry for a moment. "Well, then. Here's hoping you lot aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach."


Author's Note: Thanks as always for reading! The next chapter will happen when it happens.