The Sugar Quill
Author: Author By Night  Story: Measure Before Mind  Chapter: Default
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            Hermione crawled into the common room, wincing slightly. It was her first day out of the hospital wring since the fight at the Ministry of Magic. Neville, Ginny, and Ron were behind her; Harry also followed, but, at the sight of the Creevey brothers, fled. Hermione understood; the last thing he needed was to be asked how he felt, when he clearly felt miserable. Hermione herself had been horrified that Sirius was dead – she couldn’t fathom what Harry, who loved Sirius like a father, must have been feeling.

            “Hermione!” Angelina Johnson rushed over. “Ron! Where were you two? How’d you both get hurt?”

            Half of the Gryffindor House was now coming towards them. That had never happened to her before.

            Hermione bit her lip. “Um… it is a very, very long story.”

            “Some people are saying you three were involved with those Death Eaters a few nights ago,” Katie Bell said. “Is that true?”

            “Excuse me.”

            Hermione turned to see Professor McGonagall behind them, leaning on her cane. She smiled slightly, something Hermione didn’t think she’d witnessed before.

            “Um… Professor?” Hermione asked.

            “I am sorry to take you away from your friends, just as you return, but I want to have a word with you,” Professor McGonagall said.

            Hermione felt her heart sink. Had she failed all her O.W.L.S.? Was she in trouble for, as Prefect, failing to keep the other students at Hogwarts?

            McGonagall led Hermione into her office. “Sit down,” she said.

            Hermione sat nervously, wondering what was going on.

            “Did I fail my O.W.L.S., Professor?” Hermione asked.

            “I have not gone over your results yet, but I am sure you did not fail any,” Professor McGonagall replied.

            Hermione tried to think of what she could have done wrong.

            “Miss Granger… this year, needless to say, was not a good one,” Professor McGonagall began. “No, it was likely one of the worst we have ever had, along with the attacks four years ago, and the first time the Chamber of Secrets was opened – and, I suppose, the escape of Sirius…”

            There was an awkward silence; they both knew full well what Professor McGonagall had meant, but it did not make the words any easier to take in.

            “What I mean is,” McGonagall continued, “there was quite a bit of tension, and I think you felt particularly threatened, because of your friend, Harry Potter. However… just recently, Marietta told me you were behind hexing her face – out of the earshot of Professor Umbridge, of course. And according to Dolores Umbridge, Draco Malfoy, and countless Centaurs, you led her to the Forbidden Forest, as well as implied that Dumbledore indeed did have a dangerous weapon. Are those things true?”

            Hermione bit her lip; all those things were true. But she had only been trying to do the right thing!

            “Professor… I just wanted to teach them a lesson,” Hermione said. “And the weapon lie, that was just so Harry would not have to reveal Sirius’s location! She was going to force him to.”

            McGonagall did not look remotely touched. “Let’s start off with Miss Edgecome. What you did to Miss Edgecome was what Muggles call harassment, Miss Granger.”

            Hermione blinked. “But… but I didn’t threaten her, or…”

            “No, but you gave her a constant reminder of a mistake she made,” McGonagall replied firmly. “A mistake she made under an enormous amount of pressure. Was it the right thing to do? No. But Kingsley Shacklebolts’s Memory Charm was not permanent, Miss Granger. He put one on her while she was being questioned – but after that, she could have told Professor Umbridge. But she refused to do so. Yes, what Miss Edgecome did was wrong, but when she realized what would happen as a consequence, she backed off. That was all she needed. Instead, until your charm goes away, it will be a constant reminder.”

            Hermione remembered Tonks making an offhand comment that when she used her real looks, she looked a lot like a relative she never exactly admired. At the time, she had felt bad for Tonks, feeling that nobody should have to look in the mirror, and be reminded of something they couldn’t help. Hadn’t she done that to Marietta, though? Yet, Marietta had chosen to do what she’d done.

            “She chose to, Professor,” Hermione said timidly. She didn’t like standing up to a teacher, but she had no idea what else to do. “I… I wasn’t trying to hurt her, I just saw no other way. And the charm will go away in time.”

            “By then, she may be scarred,” McGonagall pointed out. “Miss Granger, I am simply trying to make you understand that what you did was wrong. Now… may I bring up Umbridge?”

            Hermione sighed. Even then, she had wondered if it wasn’t a mistake. “I was… well, I was panicked, Professor. I know it was a bad idea now, but I was so scared, I sort of… lost control.”

            “That’s what worries me,” McGonagall said. “You could have cost Dolores Umbridge her life. Dumbledore managed to cover for you, but it might not have been that easy under different circumstances.”

            “Oh,” Hermione said slowly. “I see.”

            “Did you really want Umbridge to die?” McGonagall continued. “I know you were not fond of her, and I… well, I understand why. But did you think she deserved to die?”

            Hermione slowly shook her head. “No, Professor. I just… wasn’t thinking.”

            McGonagall sighed. “Miss Granger… you have no excuse for not thinking. I am sorry, but there simply is none. The reason I asked you to be Prefect was because I was certain you could do the job – and yet, you have hexed a student and put a faculty member in mortal peril. These are behaviors a Prefect should be very much against.”

            Hermione realized she was wringing her hands. “You… you aren’t going to… take away my badge, are you?”

            “Not now, no,” McGonagall said. “But if I feel that you do not truly realize the seriousness of your actions, I may have to. Furthermore, what you have done definitely makes me question your capability of being Head Girl.”

            For once in her life, Hermione did not feel nearly as horrified at the prospect of not being Head Girl as she had before. As McGonagall’s words sunk in, she realized the Professor was, as always, absolutely right.

            Sure, Marietta had betrayed Dumbledore’s Army. Yes, Umbridge was a tyrannical, horrible woman. But surely none of them had truly deserved what they had gotten?

            “I’m sorry, Professor,” Hermione said quietly.

            “Remember, Miss Granger,” Professor McGonagall began. “You are a very bright young lady – and fiercely loyal to your friends. I have no doubt in my mind that your actions were made with nothing less than good intentions. Yet, we must remember that sometimes, what seems to be the right thing might come with heavy consequences. Also, we must remember not to always consider only the issue – but the people involved.”

            Professor McGonagall’s words sunk in, and Hermione found herself thinking. Did she really want anyone to be hurt, even if they had done something terrible? Did anyone deserve pain? And did Hermione really want to do things at the risk of others being harmed?

            “I’ll try,” Hermione said. “I just… I just want to make a stand!” she said suddenly.

            “I know you do,” McGonagall said. “And that is why I know you will be a good Head Girl, if you simply try. However, you need to learn that there are ways not to do things at the expense of others. Do you think you can do that?”

            Hermione nodded. “I think I can.”

            McGonagall smiled. “I think you can too, Miss Granger. And I see potential in you.”

            McGonagall looked at a clock behind her chair. “I must do some things,” she said. “Take care, Miss Granger.”

            Hermione smiled. “You too, Professor.”

            Hermione left the office, and on her way back to the Gryffindor common room, she saw Marietta Edgecome leaving the library, a balaclava around her head.

            “Um… Marietta?” Hermione said timidly, walking over.

            Marietta gave Hermione a dirty look. “Going to brag, Granger?”

            “No!” Hermione said. “I wouldn’t ever do that. I just wanted to apologize, okay?”

            Marietta snorted. “If you want to make it up, erase this bloody hex from my face.”

            “I don’t know how to reverse it, or I would,” Hermione admitted. “But it will go away, I promise.”

            “When?” Marietta snapped.

            “Probably by the time we leave school, maybe a little later,” Hermione said. She took a deep breath. “Look – what I did was wrong, okay? And I am sorry. But… but I really didn’t have much of a choice.”

            “Neither did I,” Marietta said coldly.

            “Okay, so I guess we both… well, as my friend Ron would say, blew it big time,” Hermione said, slightly surprised that she’d used such an informality – especially at a time like this.

            For a moment, Marietta gave a hint – just a hint – of a smile.

            “Anyway,” Hermione continued, “I really just want you to know… I was thinking irrationally at the time…”

            “Yeah, well… I suppose everyone was,” Marietta said. “But still… it’s not like you had to make me live with it.”

            “No, but then… you really did betray us,” Hermione said.

            “And how was this going to stop that?” Marietta asked.

            Hermione bit her lip. “Well…” She hadn’t really thought of that; it had just been a way to make the betrayer feel guilty.

            “Look, I have to go,” Marietta continued. 

            “Fine,” Hermione said, slightly confused.  Had Marietta forgiven her or not? “Well… bye.”

            “Bye,” Marietta said.

            Marietta walked away, although for a moment, she did look back at Hermione – without scowling or frowning.

            Hermione walked back to the common room; yet again, a bunch of people called hello. She had never realized that so many people had actually cared she was gone.  wasn’t that Hermione had thought they wouldn’t care; rather, she hadn’t really thought of it to begin with.

            Maybe McGonagall was right; maybe it was time to think about other people.

            And as Hermione joined Ron and Ginny in a circle of chairs (Harry seemed to still be in his dorm), she found herself  trying to listen to a Quidditch discussion.

            If she wanted things to change, perhaps the change would have to come from within.

            But then again, Hermione thought, maybe it already has.

             

 

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