The Sugar Quill
Author: CornedBee  Story: Hermione Granger and the Philosopher's Stone  Chapter: First Day, First Sign
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Hermione Granger and The Philosophers Stone

All belongs to Rowling except the various people in primary school.

First Day, First Sign

Mr and Mrs Granger, of number eighteen, Shipston Road, were very proud of their daughter. Young as she was – she would start primary school today and would be six in a few weeks – she could already read and write, as well as do simple maths. Hermione was indeed an exceptionally bright child. Hermione – a fitting name for their girl.

Yet they were nervous on the first day of September. The first school day means a lot for a child. Few things have such a lasting impression as primary school. It shapes the character nearly as much as the parental education. Really leaving the safe haven of home for the first time, meeting other children and the teachers, starts patterns that will continue to show up in life. A child met with exclusion and ridicule will later become introverted, distrusting of other people. A child that finds friends will do so more easily when they are older. A good teacher can build confidence, promote interests, teach morals. A bad teacher can destroy all of that. Not being taken seriously by the teacher leaves scars that are not easily mended.

David and Jane knew that those were generalizations and not universally applicable. But they were based on conclusive statistical evidence and simple common sense, the first being more important to Jane and the latter to David. They were both believers in action and reaction, that every effect had a cause that was researchable and logically explainable, with the possible exception of human emotions. They had spent much time discussing the composition of Hermione's gene pool.

The girl mostly resembled Jane. She had the same facial features as her mother: a round face, a rather small, unremarkable nose and equally unremarkable ears. They were usually invisible though, hidden by a large amount of brown, bushy hair that wouldn't be controlled by any amount of brushing. Its colour was the same as Jane's long, wavy strands, but they had no idea where the bushiness came from. Her eyes were David's, dark brown and thoughtful. They didn't expect her to grow tall; that wasn't a trait that ran in either of their families. Hopefully her build would resemble her mother's too, not too small, but slender and athletic.

Today Hermione was exceptionally restless. As they entered the school she ran eagerly ahead, only to realize how far away she suddenly was from her parents and run back. That was good; at least she wasn't hiding behind them as so many other children did. They led her into the classroom. All the chairs were arranged in a large half-circle, some already taken by children, their parents standing behind like guards. At the centre of the half-circle stood another chair in which the teacher sat. Hermione took an empty chair and her parents positioned themselves behind it, just like the other parents. They exchanged polite nods and settled to wait.

It didn't take long for the classroom to fill up. Soon all seats were taken by small, nervous figures, each backed by one or two parents. The teacher cleared his throat. He was young, in his mid-twenties probably, his eyes shining with life and his smile friendly. Yet there was a hint of nervousness tugging on the edges of his mouth. Probably his first class, the Grangers decided. That was both good and bad; young teachers tended to bring good ideas and a lot of motivation, but they weren't experienced in handling difficult situations.

“Good morning, children, good morning to you all,” he greeted them, his nervousness more noticeable in his voice than in his behaviour. He settled into the chair behind him. “I'm Jonathan Harley. I'll be teaching you for the next few years. Here you will learn new and interesting things, find new friends and hopefully have a lot of fun.” He looked around and got shy smiles in return. The children seemed to accept him. That was a good sign.

“Now, let's introduce ourselves, shall we? Please, you go first.” He turned to a fair-haired girl at the far end of the half-circle. “Tell us your name and a bit about you.”

“I'm Sheila Ryan. I'm five years old. I'll be six in March. We only came here a few months ago. I like riding,” the girl said. She showed no sign of shyness.

“Do you already know anyone here, Sheila?”

Sheila nodded and pointed at the girl next to her, who had rather dark skin and curly, black hair. She looked very cute.

“That's Becky. She lives just across the street from me.”

So it went around the circle, some children offering lots of information voluntarily while others had to have it dragged out of them. Quite a lot of them already knew each other. Mr Harley handled it well, asking questions only when they were necessary, but insisting on getting answers when he had to ask, without intimidating the children. Then it was Hermione's turn. Jane had a hand resting on her shoulder.

“I... I'm Hermione Granger. I'll be six in eighteen days. I like reading.”

“You can already read?” asked Mr Harley.

“Yes. I can read and write and add and subtract and...”

The teacher's smile faltered for a moment as Hermione continued to list all the things she could do. He clearly wished he hadn't asked the question. Jane pressed her hand a little harder on Hermione's shoulder. She got the message. My smart girl, Jane thought.

“...and I can tell some trees by their leaves,” Hermione finished early. David knew she could have gone on for quite a while. He looked around to gauge the reaction of the others. Most children looked at Hermione with curiosity, some looked nowhere specifically. To his relief, he could not find any envious or hostile looks.

“So, do you know anybody else here?” Mr Harley now asked.

Hermione's smile fell. She shook her head.

“Oh, well, that's not bad. You'll get to know them soon enough.”

The last few children introduced themselves. Then Mr Harley stood up.

“Very well. Now I suggest you all get to know each other better. I will talk to your parents for a moment.”

He motioned the adults to follow him. They gathered in one corner of the classroom. For some time it was very loud as the children dragged their chairs around the room to form small, tight clusters. Jane watched as Hermione joined a mixed group of boys and girls in the far corner. Then she turned her attention to the teacher, who was explaining the procedures of the school, how he planned to teach the children and what he planned to teach. David's suspicion that this was his first class was confirmed. Laughter could be heard from the children. Some parents had more questions and Mr Harley answered them as well as he could.

A loud crash followed by high shrieks caused them all to turn around. In the far corner a large and skinny boy sat on the remains of his broken chair, looking up in shock at Hermione, who was standing over him, equal shock on her face. The other children had jumped backwards, some toppling over on their chairs too.

Then the boy began to cry.

Mr Harley jumped into action. In surprisingly few steps he had crossed the room, followed closely by the Grangers and another couple, who probably were the parents of the boy. David hadn't really noticed them before, as they had been standing a few chairs to the right of Hermione and thus out of his sight.

“What's going on here?” the teacher bellowed. The children fell quiet immediately, except for the boy, who continued weeping. His mother rushed forward and took him into her arms. Mr Harley turned to one of the girls who had toppled over and had now started crying too. He lifted her up from the floor and spoke a few soothing words before handing her over to her father. Then he turned back to the main scene.

“Can you tell me what happened here, Hermione?”

But Hermione just continued to gape at the boy in front of her.

“Andrew, what about you?”

The boy lifted his head from his mother's shoulder. Hesitantly he lifted one arm and pointed at Hermione.

“She... she...” he sobbed.

David pressed his lips together and narrowed his eyes. He didn't like people pointing at his daughter this way. Various parents and children looked at Hermione. Mr Harley kept his eyes on Andrew, but the accusing finger jerked Hermione out of her stupor.

“I didn't do anything!” she shouted. “He was mean to me!”

“I wasn't!” Andrew shouted back. “I didn't say anything!” His mother glared at Hermione and David stepped up behind his daughter, returning the glare.

“Stop!” Mr Harley interrupted. Then he turned to a girl who had said she knew Andrew.

“Sandra, what did you talk about here?”

The girl gaped, surprised to be addressed when she obviously had nothing to do with anything.

“Nothing. Just ... talking.”

“He called me a woolly know-it-all!” Hermione shouted.

“I didn't!”

Mr Harley sighed heavily.

“Come on, let's get away from this chair before someone draws a splinter. How did it break, anyway?” he said, more to himself than to anyone else. He picked up one of the four legs and examined it. All four had snapped near the seat. The wood looked fresh and strong; there was no sign of rot or other damage that might have caused the accident.

David put his arm around Hermione's shoulders and led her away. She shot a nasty look at Andrew, who was picked up and carried away by his mother. David turned her so that she couldn't see the boy and knelt down opposite her. Jane knelt next to him.

“Now, Hermione,” David said gently, “what happened?”

Hermione looked at him, then burst into tears herself, her anger spent.

“Come now, be calm. It's over. Nothing bad has happened.”

“He called me names,” she sobbed, “and he laughed at me, and I stood up and wanted to shout and his chair broke. I don't know why. But he was mean to me! Serves him right!”

“Now don't say that. That's a bad thing to say,” David said, stroking her hair. “Shh, everything's alright now. Hush, my girl.”

“Dr Granger?” Mr Harley said quietly. He knelt down next to them. “Are you alright?” he asked Hermione. She sniffed and wiped her eyes, but nodded. He smiled.

“Good. Now, I need to speak to your father for a moment.”

She nodded again and sought the comfort of her mother's arms instead.

David and Mr Harley went to a window, where Andrew's father was already waiting. He appeared to be a generally pleasant man, but right now he was looking very disgruntled.

Mr Harley looked at the two, searching for something to say.

“Did your daughter have much contact with other kids before school?” he finally asked David.

“No. Not much at all. She mostly kept to herself.”

“What about your son, Mr Bloomer?”

“Quite a bit. He knew most of the children that sat with him before.”

Mr Harley steeled himself for a difficult question.

“Has he... shown a tendency to... be rude before?”

“What makes you think he...” Mr Bloomer started, but Mr Harley cut him off.

“Please, Mr Bloomer, calm down. We must face the facts. That insult sounds rather likely to me, and I could tell that Sandra wasn't truthful. Five-year-olds don't make good liars.”

Mr Bloomer's face was very red, but his reason finally won over protective instinct.

“I just can't imagine Andy doing such a thing. He's a nice boy.”

“I don't doubt that. But there's a very common group phenomenon, especially at this age: inclusion through exclusion, to tighten a group by excluding people from it. I think that's what happened there.”

“So what are you going to do about it?” asked David.

“I'll have to watch them in the future.” Mr Harley thought for a moment. “I think for now I'll have them apologize to each other. There's not much else I can do.”


“Mr Granger, Andrew thinks Hermione did something, and it's quite hard to explain that she just couldn't break that chair. So it's best if both apologize. After all, she wanted to yell at him, if I understood you correctly.” He gave David a questioning look.

David considered this and decided that the teacher was right. He nodded.

“Very well. Should I tell Hermione or do you want to talk to her yourself?”

“I'll talk to them both. Mr Bloomer, I'll be with you in a minute.”

Mr Bloomer returned to his wife and son while the teacher and David walked over to where Jane and Hermione had been watching the discussion. Hermione had calmed down completely by now and was standing next to her mother, holding her hand. Mr Harley knelt down in front of Hermione again so he could speak with her eye to eye.

“Hermione,” he said, “I'm going to ask Andrew to apologize for calling you names. But,” he added as Hermione nodded, “I want you to apologize too. You wanted to shout at him, and that's not nice. So just say you're sorry, alright? You don't even need to say for what.”

She nodded again. Mr Harley smiled and walked over to the Bloomers where he talked to Andrew in the same way. David couldn't help grinning. The boy would get the apology he thought he deserved and Hermione wouldn't resent giving it. No bad feelings would hopefully be left.

Mr Harley stood up and stepped aside, leaving an open space between Andrew and Hermione. Like a duelling area, David thought. The two children cast uncertain looks at each other and David gave Hermione a light shove. She stumbled forwards and Andrew did the same. They met halfway. Andrew was the first to speak.

“Sorry, Hermione,” he said quietly, so that David could hardly catch the words. “I didn't mean it.”

“I'm sorry too,” she answered. Andrew smiled a little and stretched out his hand. Hermione took it. After a moment they broke apart and returned to their respective parents without looking back. David took his daughter into his arms and stroked her hair.

“Very well,” called Mr Harley. “If no one has any more questions then you can go home. Tomorrow school starts for real.”

The Grangers took their leave and left the school. The prospects didn't look too bad for their girl.

Little did they know.

Thanks to the many people who helped me with this: my sister, my parents, Augurey, sveltskye, Ritournelle, Birgit, Laurie and Silver Phoenix. You have all helped in different ways, but each of you was necessary. Thanks also to all who reviewed so far at the other places I posted.

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