The Sugar Quill
Author: Arabella (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Hermione, Queen of Witches, Book Five  Chapter: Chapter Two
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Hermione, Queen of Witches

Hermione, Queen of Witches

Book Five

 

By Arabella

Based entirely on JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

 

A/N – Thanks to Honeychurch for the beta and to Doctor Aicha for sitting in a dark cabin with me two summers ago and feeding me Cremos while I wrote this.  You are the One Soda Fairy. 

 

Thanks to everyone who’s actually reading this again – your reviews are putting the biggest,

 stupidest grin on my face.  It’s been way too long.  Gwen missed you too.

 

And a reminder, because some of you are saying you’re looking forward to Hermione’s thoughts throughout OotP and I don’t want anyone to get disappointed: DO NOT expect this 5th diary to be complete.  As Azyne so perfectly put it, I’m going to scam my way out of this worse than Malfoy playing Quidditch.

 

Also, if random text is underlined again in this chapter, I apologize.  Something is up with my HTML. 

I don’t know wuzzgoinon with that.

 

Disclaimer –  It's all JKR's.

 

~*~

 

HQoW

 

9 July

 

It's really early, and I'm exhausted, and my neck hurts.  I'm used to pillows.

 

What time is it?

 

It's barely even light out.  Ginny's fast asleep.  I wish I could sleep like she does.

 

I hate this room.  I hate being awake in it alone.  There are the most hideous shadows, and I'm just going to pretend I can't see that clock.  I wish I hadn't woken up.  It's not even six.  No one else will be awake for hours, and I don't want to be either, I'm so tired. 

 

Try to go back to sleep.

 

I can't.  My mind's racing.  The things I found out yesterday… I can hardly comprehend all of it.  I never even told you about lunch, or about who else lives here, or about Percy. 

 

Percy? 

 

They didn't tell me about it until late last night when they were sure their parents were in bed.  Ron, Ginny and the twins and I sat up in here, and they told me everything.  No one said a word about it at lunch or dinner, though there was one really awkward moment.  Very awkward, now I look back on it.  I'm glad I didn't know the whole story at the time, or I would have been mortified. 

 

What happened? 

 

I went down to the kitchen with Ron, and ate lunch with the Weasleys, Sirius, and Professor Lupin.

 

Professor Lupin!

 

Yes - he's staying here too, and it was so good to see him - and it was good to see Sirius… sort of.  Sirius unnerves me.  And I think he hates this house - he didn't even say hello.  He just sort of barked at me, "Well, Hermione, what's your opinion of this place?"

 

I'm glad Ron had already told me that it was Sirius's house, or I might have said that it was an evil, nasty, disgusting place.  As it was, I only said that I think it's fascinating the way the house is Unplottable and Secret Kept.  I went on about how we haven't studied the theory of invisible spatial adjustment in Charms yet.  I told him that I hope we'll study it this year, because it's the most amazing magic.  Taking space that doesn't exist, and filling it up with actual, physical stuff - or taking actual, physical stuff and shrinking it to allow for more space - like the way this house ballooned out between the other two.  The houses on either side had to adjust to suit it, but it happened in such a way that the people inside couldn't feel a thing, or even notice a change.  Nothing physical actually changes.  It's other-dimensional.  It's so interesting.  It's like the tents we used at the Quidditch World Cup.  I've always wanted to know precisely how that works, and I really do hope we study it this year, because I have the basic grasp of it, but I really need to study the developmental theory -

 

You said all this to Sirius?  Or are you just this excited about spatial adjustment?

 

Oh.  Well both.  I am excited about it, and I also said most of those things to Sirius.   I essentially gave a lecture to the whole table - I'm sure I bored most of them.  But Professor Lupin laughed and said I was just as he remembered.  He told me he'd often wondered about my studies since he'd left Hogwarts.  He wanted to know if I was still making top marks - and then he said he imagined he could guess, based on my speech, and he grinned.  Mrs. Weasley said, "Of course she makes top marks.  Listen to her.  You'd think it would be an example for my own children."  And Bill said, "Oh, Mum, they're all doing great - come on, sit down and eat with us."  But then he pointed at me with his fork and said that imaginary spatial theory is some of the coolest stuff I'll ever study.  I like him.

 

Bill Weasley's there too, then? 

 

Yes, he never went back to Egypt - he's working at Gringotts here in London.  All the Weasleys live here, for the time being, except Charlie and Percy.  Charlie's still in Romania.  He's supposed to be recruiting new members to the Order. 

 

And Percy? 

 

That's what I asked.   I said, "And where's Percy?  At the Ministry?"

 

Mr. Weasley was passing a plate of sandwiches to Fred when I said it.  He dropped the plate with a crash - and then there was such a silence.  The Weasleys all looked down at their plates, and then suddenly Mrs. Weasley, who had just sat down, stood up and mumbled something about needing a different apron.  She left the kitchen in a hurry, with her eyes full of tears. 

 

Is… is Percy all right? 

 

Yes.  But I thought he might be dead.  That was the way they all reacted.  And then Ginny said, really gently, that she'd explain later where Percy was, and she asked me to pass the juice.  It was really hard not to ask more questions right then - I was so curious.  But all the Weasleys looked like they were going to be sick, and Professor Lupin caught my eye and let me know without a word that it was really bad.  So I knew better than to press.  And then he and Bill got up and pulled their wands and made more sandwiches really quickly, apologizing that they wouldn't be anything like Mrs. Weasley's.  And then we all ate and talked a little.  The only one who didn't talk much again after that was Mr. Weasley.  He finished his sandwich, got up, patted my shoulder, and said he was very glad I'd come.  And then he went back to work.  He took the whole morning off in order to pick me up from King's Cross.  Ron said that his mum really should have been the one to go, but that his dad insisted that he take on the responsibility.   But Ginny said that their dad wasn't worried about the responsibility at all - it was the underground he was interested in.  Though she admitted she had enjoyed the underground too.  She said she was glad she'd been the one allowed to come and get me, and Ron gave her a dirty look.  Ron apparently tried to convince his parents to let him go to King's Cross, so that he could be the one to pick me up. 

 

Did he tell you that?

 

No, it was George.  He gave me a sly grin and said that Ron threw an absolute paddy when their dad said that he was only going to take Ginny. 

 

Why did it have to be Ginny?

 

For the sake of consistency, simplicity and safety, according to Professor Lupin.  Ginny says it's because she's a better actress.  And also because I would have wondered why Ron was there, if I'd seen him, because he doesn't take any extra courses and I'm clever enough to have thought about it, and to have been too suspicious to come through the barrier.  That was proved, she said, by the way I reacted on the platform - pulling my wand and everything. 

 

Sirius was interested in that.  He said, "Did you really, Hermione?"  And Ginny said, "Yes - when she saw there wasn't a train, and that it was just the two of us, she nearly had a heart attack.  She thought we'd trapped her or something." 

 

The twins thought that was very funny, but Sirius just said, "Well.  I suppose we're all getting quite paranoid, aren't we.  That's all right, though.  That's what keeps you alive." 

 

Yes. 

 

So… Ron threw a fit, did he?

 

I don't know if he did, I wasn't here, and the twins are prone to exaggeration.  But it's hardly important - the thing is, no one was able to tell me what had happened with Percy, because just as we finished lunch, there was a really frightening, cackling noise, and a fire roared up in the kitchen fireplace and it sort of… ejected the kettle toward all of us.  And the kettle was scalding hot.  It skidded down the table toward Sirius in particular, whistling horribly with steam, and then its top came flying off and some of the water inside it splashed up into Sirius's face and made him clutch at his eyes and swear up a storm. 

 

Goodness.  His own house attacking him - is he all right?

 

Some of his skin was burnt.  Professor Lupin patched him up, but it was very alarming. Bill told us that things in the kitchen have been attacking his mum ever since they got to this house - apparently we have to decontaminate the house of Dark arts so that we'll be able to live in it without getting hurt.  Or killed. 

 

Decontaminate… but you can’t even use your wands.

 

I know.  But we started yesterday.  Between lunch and dinner, Ron and I spent hours clearing out the fireplace.  Ron did a lot of grumbling while we worked.  He told me that his parents said that we'd be allowed to help the Order while we were here, but that so far all they've asked us kids to do is clean - and without magic.  But we had to do the fireplace so that Bill could get to the bricks and start breaking whatever curse is on them. 

 

I had forgotten that he's a Curse Breaker.

 

Well, he's doing a desk job for Gringotts, at the moment.  I don't think he likes it.  He took yesterday morning off to do some sort of guard duty for the Order.  I'm not sure exactly what, though.  And then he went back to work, and by the time he got home it was nearly dinner and we had finished clearing out the fireplace.  It hadn't been cleaned in a decade, and there must have been a hundred shriveled salamander corpses in it - and some things that looked like miniature human arm and leg bones, all charred and crumbling.  It was revolting.  Not to mention that it seemed to have a mind of its own.  It coughed soot and bones all over us.  Ron and I were both black all over by the time we were finished.  We looked ridiculous.  And then I couldn't even have a bath, because the toilets have murderous ghouls in them and the taps are all spouting brown water.  Mrs. Weasley had to freeze the taps and make a tubful of uncontaminated water materialize for me so that I could get myself clean.  Don’t even ask what we have to do to be able to use the toilets.

 

All right…

 

And then we all ate dinner, and then… we came back up here and they told me about Percy.   And it's horrible.

 

What is it?

 

Four nights ago, Percy moved out of the Burrow.  He won't speak to his family anymore.

 

But… why?

 

Because he was offered a high position at the Ministry of Magic.  Junior Assistant to the Minister - in Fudge's own office. 

 

And part of the job is that he has to stop speaking to his family?  I don't quite…

 

No.  The thing is, Percy was very nearly sacked at the end of the Triwizard Tournament. 

 

Why?

 

Because he hadn't reported that there was clearly something wrong with Mr. Crouch, or that anything was awry in his department.   The twins say that it was because Percy fancied being in charge, but… I don't know.  And I'm not standing up for Percy - not after the sorts of things he said.

 

What did he say?

 

I'm getting there.  I'm just saying, I'm not standing up for Percy.  But I think I might understand him a little better than his family - except perhaps for Mrs. Weasley.  And I don't think he was trying to take over Mr. Crouch's department simply because he fancied being in charge.  I think he really admired Mr. Crouch, and that he didn't want to make his boss look bad.  And I think that he was probably afraid that if he did report Mr. Crouch's behavior, he would lose his job - and he'd always worked so hard to get a position at the Ministry.  I think that he probably did want a chance to prove that he could do things on his own - I mean, his boss never even bothered to learn his name properly, so I'm sure Percy wanted to prove himself, and gain some real recognition for his hard work, but I'm not sure that's necessarily a bad thing.  I mean… I don't personally mind it when someone recognizes my hard work.  Does that make me horrible?

 

Of course not.  But Percy should have reported that Mr. Crouch was neglecting his duties.  You would have reported it.

 

Oh, absolutely.  No doubt about it.  I'm just saying that I think there are more reasons for his behavior than just sheer ambition.  But anyway, he was in definite danger of losing his job last week.  Ron said there was an inquiry and everything, and that Percy was incredibly depressed.  Their dad was really worried about him, they said.  Percy was just going to work and coming home and shutting himself up in his room, without eating or anything.  They were all worried about him.

 

How on earth did he get a job in the Minister's office? 

 

Well, that's the question.  It was very, very sudden.  He just came home four days ago, very pleased with himself, and told Mr. Weasley that he - Percy - had been promoted.  He said it in front of everyone, and Ginny said he looked like he expected them all to burst into applause. 

 

But instead, their dad really quietly asked Percy if he thought it was wise to accept a position in Fudge's office, just at present. 

 

And Percy… 

 

Didn’t take it well.  He apparently went very cold and said, "Wise?  And why wouldn't it be?"

 

"Because Cornelius Fudge does not believe that You-Know-Who is back.  He has no respect for Dumbledore.  You know very well that Fudge doesn't plan to work with Dumbledore to fight You-Know-Who."

 

Then the Minister hasn't changed his mind?  He still thinks Harry's experience in the graveyard – 

 

Is a lie.  He thinks that Harry's a mad liar, and that Dumbledore's a mad old fool to listen to Harry.  Fudge has been going round the Ministry making sure that no one has any personal contact with Dumbledore.  He's been telling people that if they do side with Dumbledore, then there is no place for them in the Ministry of Magic.

 

Good Lord.

 

I know.   And Percy knows it.  And he knows that his dad - his whole family, really - does side with Dumbledore.  He knew they were preparing to leave home, he knew they were getting ready to join the fight.  And he was still really excited to have been promoted at the Ministry.  I mean… I do understand.  Sort of.  It's the job he's wanted all his life.  But…

 

Well, what did Percy say in return?

 

He said that just because the whole world's been bowing down to Dumbledore for years, it doesn't mean that the Minister of Magic has to do it.  He said that just because Harry Potter's a household name doesn't make him some kind of god.  He said he reckons Harry is mad, and that Dumbledore should consider the adult opinions of superior wizards, like Cornelius Fudge, over the adolescent ramblings of famous little boys.

 

You're joking. 

 

Wish I were.  And then Mr. Weasley said, "Percy, you are too intelligent not to use your head.  Coming so soon after your inquiry, this promotion is abrupt.  Too abrupt.  It's suspect."

 

Ron said that for a minute, all you could hear in the Burrow was the ticking of the clock and Percy's breathing.  And then his dad continued.

 

"Fudge must know that this family is in league with Dumbledore.  And with Harry.  It continues to surprise me that he lets me keep my job - the only reason I think he does it is that he wants to have an eye on me.  And by bringing you into his office, I have to wonder if he intends to use you to spy on our family and Dumbledore."

 

Oh, how that must have stung.  Poor Percy - even if he was in the wrong.  To have it suggested to him, by his own father, that his merit alone was not enough to earn him recognition.  That he was only good to the Minister as a pair of eyes, after all his hard work.  It must have been very, very difficult to hear.

 

Just wait.   You won't say poor Percy in a minute. 

 

All right. 

 

They said he went completely insane, right there in the middle of the front room.   They said he rounded on his father and gave an awful laugh, and then said something like - "Oh, I see.   That's right, pretend you're not impressed, but it's just that you can't feel happy for me, can you?  Wish it were you, don't you?  But you'll never move ahead at the Ministry - you've never had an ounce of my ambition, which is why you've been stuck in that dingy office for half your life, and we've never had a Knut to spare.  Do you have any idea what it's been like for me, trying to scratch out a career for myself with your Muggle obsession hanging over my head?  Do you have any idea what a horrible reputation you've got with the people who count?"

 

Oh.  Percy. 

 

Ginny said their dad went white, and then he shouted right back - "The people who count for what, Percy?  How exactly do you determine who counts?  Compare their paychecks?"

 

And then Percy went on about how he's tired of being poor and tired of having a father who's a laughingstock.   He said his father has never made a difference to the Ministry because he's as much a lunatic as Harry, running around after plugs and nonsense.  He said that You-Know-Who is a figment of everyone's imagination and that if his father believes Harry and wants to run around with Dumbledore, then he's an imbecile.

 

He called his father -

 

Yes.  Fred said that Mr. Weasley shouted, "The way things are right now, anyone who isn't running around with Dumbledore is either a blind fool or a traitor."  And Percy shouted back, "There's only one traitor in this room, and he's going to go down right along with Dumbledore - and drag his family with him.  Mark my words."

 

Ginny said that Percy accused their father of dragging her and Ron into it without their consent, because they're not of age, and everyone else is, Percy thinks that they shouldn't be exposed to all this lunacy.  He said that they're going to be ruined by it, just like their father, and that if he's willing to destroy his whole family over something Harry claims is true, then he's worse than Percy thought. 

 

How awful.  

 

Percy said he doesn't see how anyone in their right mind can believe Harry when the Ministry and the Prophet both know that all his stories are nothing but cock and bull.   Mr. Weasley argued that the Prophet isn't the ultimate authority, but Percy seems to think it's a better source of information than "a mad old man and a fourteen-year-old boy."

 

Is that really what he thinks of them?

 

That's what Ron said.  Ron looked ready to kill something the whole time he was talking.  He said that Percy rambled on, at the end of the argument, about how glad he is that he's got this new position and a new salary, because he can finally escape their "pit of a house" and get far away from all of them. 

 

All of them?  His family?  He said that?

 

I'm sure he did.  You should have seen their faces as they were telling me all this.  White and hard.  I've never seen Ginny look so hurt.  I've never seen Ron and the twins so furious.

 

No wonder Mrs. Weasley cried.  No wonder Mr. Weasley dropped the sandwiches.  I'm so sorry I brought Percy up at the table.

 

You couldn't have known.  Is… is that really how the argument ended? 

 

Well, after Percy said that he wanted to get away from them, Mr. Weasley told Percy that if that was how he felt about it, then he feared for what would happen to him.  He shouted that he'd never expected a son of his to put his own ambition ahead of his family, and his world, and his heart.   He shouted at Percy that if he was going to go into his new position blindly, without examining the offer for what it really was - that if it was more pleasant for Percy to turn himself into Fudge's lapdog than to clearly view the facts…

 

Oh… he said that to his son. 

 

Well, what was he to say?  It's true.  Percy would rather suck up to the Minister and believe he's important than consider, for one second, that there's something really dodgy about all this.  He just won't let himself believe it.  He's blind - worse, he wants to be blind.  He wants to believe the Prophet, even after he saw how badly Skeeter skewed… at least, I thought he must have seen… because he's so clever.  I've always admired him for being so faithful to his studies and for knowing his priorities and being unafraid to be different from his brothers, but now… How can someone so clever be so completely stupid?  How… I mean, I know that a lot of people are blind right now, but I… wouldn't have expected a Weasley… not even Percy.  How… how could he say those things?  Those horrible things? 

 

I keep remembering how he marched right out to fight the Death Eaters that night at the Quidditch World Cup, and came back bleeding like the rest of them.  I remember how pale he was when we came up from the bottom of the lake, during the second task.  He loves Ron.  He loves Ginny - he used to fuss over her so much in her first year, he was the only person who noticed that there was something really amiss with her.  He loves his family, I know he does.  I know he does.  He has to.

 

What happened to him?

 

I wish I knew.

 

He packed his things that night, and moved straight up here, to London.  He hasn't tried to contact his family since.  Ron says that, as far as they know, Percy and his dad just ignore each other at the Ministry, if they see each other at all.   And then Ron sort of slumped back in his chair and looked at his knees and said, "He's our brother.  Our brother.   He's always been a git, but… how could he?"  And Ginny gave an angry sob, and George cracked his knuckles.  Fred was silent for a minute, and then he said, in a hollow sort of voice, "I hope he pays for all those things he said to Dad.  I hope the bastard pays."

 

He's paying already.

 

What… do you mean? 

 

Betrayal is the cruelest crime.  Look at the Potters and Pettigrew.  To betray someone you love is to hurt them deeply - possibly even kill them - but who is it that pays in the end?

 

But Pettigrew hasn't paid.

 

Hasn't he?  Living twelve years as a rat.  Unable to escape from the service of a demon who forced him to sever his own hand.  Forced to live with the memories of his friends, and to know that in their last moments on earth, they must have despised him.  He's paying all the time.

 

But Percy… Percy isn't.  He came up here, he took a flat -

 

How on earth did Percy get a flat of his own so quickly?

 

I asked the same thing.  Apparently the Ministry set it up for him the morning after he left. 

 

From nearly sacking him to accommodating him so entirely.  How very convenient.

 

I know.  They probably do want him for a spy.  It'll be difficult for him to spy now, though, won't it.  He doesn't live with his family anymore.

 

What a fool he was not to have a moment of doubt at such an abrupt change in status.  Though I'm sure he did have doubts.  I'm sure he simply refused to acknowledge them.  Believe me, Hermione… I know something about this.  You can't knowingly turn on a person you love without paying for it dearly.  More dearly than you can comprehend at the moment of betrayal.  If regret and fear and self-loathing aren't eating at him already, then my life taught me nothing. 

 

He knows about the Order, doesn't he?

 

He must.  The Weasleys were preparing to come here almost from the moment they arrived home, Ron said.  They got back to the Burrow and their parents wouldn't even let them unpack their trunks. 

 

You don't suppose… you don't suppose that he informed Fudge of the Order, and that it was that information that earned him his sudden promotion?

 

Oh.  Oh, I don't… I mean, he said horrible things, but they're still his family, I'm not sure if he could bold-facedly march into the Minister's office and hand Fudge that kind of information.   Though… I suppose…

 

His own boss didn't even know his last name.  So then, how on earth would his name have come to the attention of the Minister?  Even if Fudge did want a spy, it doesn't seem the most obvious connection, does it?

 

No… but perhaps it was something to do with the inquiry.  Perhaps whoever was investigating Percy's behavior at work had written up a report and put it in front of the Minister for inspection - you know, for a final decision as to whether Percy should be sacked.  Perhaps Fudge looked at the report and realized that he had an opportunity there. 

 

Hm.  I hadn't thought of that.  It's very possible.

 

I have to think of it that way.  I can't let myself imagine Percy giving his own family away so totally.  Not even after what he said.  I won't believe it. 

 

Don't block it out entirely, though.  If information is somehow leaked about the Order, you won't want to put it past Percy.  You won't want to be blind. 

 

No.  I won't. 

 

I don't… I know I always say I'm old enough to manage things. 

 

But? 

 

But not all of this.  It's too much for me.   I don't want to be a part of it.  I mean… I do.  I wouldn't back out for the world - this is where I belong, and I'm in it.  But it all hurts so much.  And there's no escaping it.  There's none of the old… levity.  I don't know.  There's no laughter. 

 

Certainly there is.  You can't see it now, because you're overwhelmed.

 

I haven't laughed all day.  A day with the Weasleys, and nothing was funny.  There's something so wrong about that.

 

Ginny said that as Percy was leaving the Burrow, their mother begged him to take it all back, to say he didn't mean it, to apologize and to stay.  She was telling him she loved him as he was walking out the door.  But he told her he did mean it - that he meant all of it - and that she should consider what she's doing, siding with Mr. Weasley and Dumbledore.   And then Percy left - and as soon as he was out the door, Mrs. Weasley begged Mr. Weasley to go after him and forgive him.  But Ron said their dad wasn't having any of it.  Mr. Weasley said "No, Molly.  If that's what he really feels - if that's how he sees me, and if he's determined to be completely blind, then I don't want…" 

 

But Ron said he wouldn't finish his sentence.  He said his dad started sentences like that over and over for the rest of the night.  Saying "I don't want…" or  "He'll never be allowed…" or "He's not one of…" and then just clamping his mouth shut and going pale, while Mrs. Weasley cried her heart out.

 

And the next day, Mrs. Weasley came to London by herself, to beg Percy again to come home.  But Percy shut the door in her face.

 

I can't believe this only happened four days ago.  None of them have really been able to digest it.  The twins said that when their mum came home from London, three days ago now, she was such a wreck that she couldn't even speak.  She just locked herself in her bedroom and sobbed for the rest of the day.  And in the meantime, their dad took the twins aside and very harshly questioned them, regarding their loyalties.  They won't tell us what was said, but they looked very grim and very… proud about it.  

 

And that night, after Mr. Weasley had determined that he could trust them, he held a family meeting in the kitchen of the Burrow.  He told Fred and George and Ron and Ginny that it was time to pack up their things for the summer and for the year.  They all flew here together in the middle of the night.  They completely abandoned the Burrow, at least for the summer.

 

That's it, really.   That's… the whole story.  They all looked like they'd been run over by a train when they were finished telling it. 

 

Honestly, I can't believe they told me everything so candidly.  It doesn't surprise me that Ginny did, but the twins have never been very keen on me - or at least, that was my impression - and Ron's always been very sensitive about his family's financial status and things, but he only flinched a little when he was repeating the things Percy said.  It's a terrible thing to be included in, but… it was almost an honor to be so included?  If that makes sense?

 

Yes.

 

It makes me feel I'm really one of them, which is… such a change, after being at home and knowing that my parents just couldn't understand. 

 

Anyway.  Once the boys went up to bed last night, Ginny climbed under her covers and covered her face and raged about Percy for a long time.  I thought she might have been crying, under all the shouting, so I sat beside her and tried to help her, but she just shouted that she didn't want to be sad about Percy, that he didn't deserve it, that he was a traitor to all of them, and that she didn't care if he was gone.  But I know she does.  She always laughed at Percy like the rest of them, and she never liked him fussing over her, but he did take special care of her, and she loved him.  They all loved him.   They're all… hurting.   Percy isn't even my brother, and I feel betrayed, so I can't even imagine what they’re going through.

 

Ginny told me, right before she went to sleep, that her dad did give her and Ron a choice about this.   She said they were questioned, just like the twins.  But she was too tired to get into it. 

 

I want to ask Ron about it anyway. 

 

Yes. 

 

And he's knocking.  He's awake this early?  Wait a minute…

 

Gwen, I have been writing for nearly THREE hours.  It's almost nine.   No wonder my hand is cramping.  Hang on, would you? 

 

Certainly.

 

HQoW

 

Okay, I'm going down to breakfast with Ron.  We're going to write letters to Harry and read the paper and start decontaminating the cutlery.

 

Sounds like a lovely, romantic morning to me.

 

What…

 

There's some levity for you.  Goodbye. 

 

Good BYE. 

 

 

HQoW

 

10 July

 

Today was "supposed" to be my first day back at Hogwarts.

 

Instead, I just had the most unsettling experience.  Have you… ever had a moment in which your ideals were challenged and you almost forgot about them because you felt personally insulted? 

 

I'm afraid you'll have to put it all in context. 

 

You know the elf I was telling you about.

 

Creature?

 

Yes.  Well, it's Kreacher, actually.  Not that that's much better.  But Ron and Ginny and the twins and I were working our way through the pantry, throwing out maggoty food and old rotted stuff in pickle jars -

 

How charming.

 

- when the twins told Ron that Kreacher had been in their room last night, and they admitted that he really was creepy.  And Ron said, "I told you to bar your door, didn't I!  Hermione, I woke up in the middle of the night, our first night here, and that bloody elf was prowling around my room, muttering the nastiest stuff - he's enough to stop your heart, I'm telling you."

 

But I didn't answer.  I was too angry about his name being "Creature" and I told them all so, and they laughed and told me how it was really spelled.  I asked them how that was different, when the meaning was the same, and George said I take things too seriously.  And then I heard this perfectly horrible voice, all low and croaky, right behind me. 

 

"Master has let a new brat into my Mistress's house, and the brat is friends with the nasty little blood traitors, she is stealing from my Mistress's kitchen, oh yes…"

 

And I turned and saw Kreacher.  He's old and withered, and his flesh is sagging, and he wears nothing but a loincloth - it was all I could do not to recoil.  He was staring right at me with big, watery, bloodshot eyes.  Because I'm the "new brat", you see.

 

Aha.

 

But I wanted to set an example for the rest of them, and I didn't want Kreacher to see my disgust.  It's not his fault he's been ill-used and that he's forced to go about nearly naked.  It's not his fault he's angry - I'd be angry, too, if my ancestors' heads were mounted on the wall and I knew I was next in line for decapitation.   So I put out my hand to him and said, "You must be Kreacher.  It's very nice to meet you - I'm Hermione Granger."

 

But he didn't offer his hand in return.  He stared at mine and said, "Granger… she says her name is Granger, but Kreacher has never heard that name in his Mistress's house, oh no… And Kreacher knows the names of all pureblood wizards, for they are all on the tapestry, all on the tapestry…"

 

And I smiled and said, "You wouldn't have heard of me, then.  I'm Muggle-born." 

 

You would have thought I said I wanted to spear him and cook him alive.  He took several steps back, breathing heavily, and he pointed at me and gave a low, garbled sort of screech.  "A Mudblood in my Mistress's house - Master has let a Mudblood into his mother's house - dirty Mudblood, filthy Mudblood - oh, how my Mistress would cry, how she would hate to see her house defiled -"

 

Well the twins and Ginny were so shocked that they just stood there with their mouths hanging open.  And I was so hurt that I wasn't sure how to continue.  But Ron reacted right away.  He was holding a sack of rice in his hand, and he started to swing it at Kreacher, shouting, "DON'T YOU CALL HER A MUDBLOOD, YOU VICIOUS LITTLE -"

 

But I whirled around in front of him and got hit with the rice myself, and fought him back and begged him to leave Kreacher alone, and by the time I turned around again, Kreacher had disappeared, and he hadn't been hurt.

 

But in my heart, I wanted Ron to hit him.   In my heart, I was glad Ron reacted that way.

 

I feel sick.

 

Hermione…

 

No.  What kind of person am I?  How can I go on and on about elf rights, and then as soon as I meet one who's been truly abused - physically and mentally - into believing in the morals set down for him by his masters - which is only natural, because he didn't have a choice - I want to hit him with a sack of rice for calling me a Mudblood?

 

Because you're human.

 

So? 

 

So… you have emotions that aren't always the ones you would have chosen.

 

So I'm secretly malicious, and secretly I believe myself superior to other creatures. 

 

Oh, I don't think so.  Your reaction had nothing to do with believing yourself superior to other creatures.  It had to do with your being very hurt.  After all, you've had similar reactions to Malfoy, and he's human.

 

That’s debatable. 

 

You know what I mean.  It has nothing to do with species and everything to do with the fact that Kreacher was in the wrong to say what he said.

 

But he doesn't know it's wrong.  He's been conditioned to believe those things - and because I haven't, it's my job, as an educated creature, to behave according to my education.  It's my job to defend creatures who haven't had the same privileges I've had, and to see things from not only my perspective but also from theirs -

 

Which is exactly what you did.  You protected him, even though you were hurt by him.

 

Yes, but in my heart -

 

Yes, but you mastered your heart and behaved according to your ideals.  Hermione, don't you realize that to stick to ideals requires self-mastery of exactly that nature?  What you felt was natural.  What you did was noble.  To have ideals - well.  That's easy.  But to live by them is often excruciating.  Or so I'm told.

 

It's… hard to pity Kreacher.  I know I should, but I'm still angry.  I'm not a brat, I'm not a Mudblood, but if Sirius's whole family believes in things like that, then I wonder how he…

 

Don't assume what Sirius believes.  After all, we are not all exactly like our families.  Look at you.  Look at… Percy.

 

No, I just wonder how he got away, that’s all.  After Kreacher left the room, I told them all that I needed the loo, and I came up here to sort myself out.  They're waiting for me, downstairs.

 

I don't know what to think of Ron.

 

What do you mean?

 

I mean… part of me wanted him to defend me the way he was going to.  But part of me is so disappointed that Ron can't be compassionate toward the elves.  I so much want him to understand their plight.  Why can't he?

 

Well… very much like you, what Ron felt was natural, and… what he chose to do was also noble, in its own way.

 

No it wasn't.  He hauled off with a sack of rice and tried to beat an elf over the head. 

 

In defense of you.  Because he doesn't want you hurt.  His show of nobility was not toward the elf, to be sure.  But where you were concerned? 

 

But he… can't just go round hitting everyone who tries to hurt me. 

 

Perhaps not.  But consider how you would feel if Ron didn't bat an eye when you were called such a vicious name.  What if he had continued throwing maggoty food away without so much as looking up?  What if you'd been standing there, stunned and hurt, and he'd said, "Oh, ignore him, Hermione.  He's just a poor, abused elf, he doesn't know any better."

 

I'd… be proud of him for realizing it.

 

Would you.

 

I'm…

 

I'm not sure. 

 

Go on downstairs then, and help your friends, and think about it. 

 

All right.  Bye. 

 

Bye.

 

 

HQoW

 

11 July

 

I've decided how I'm going to redeem myself.

 

Oh?

 

I'm knitting some hats.  I asked Mrs. Weasley if she could set me up with a pair of needles and some wool.  She looked really surprised and pleased, and said that she certainly would, and that I could knit with her, if I like.  She knits with magic, of course, but she said that she could charm her needles to give me a tutorial.  I said I'd like that, because I learned how to knit when I was ten, but I haven't done it since, and I think I might've forgotten how.  So I'm going to have a knitting lesson as soon as there's time, and then I'm going to make some hats, and I already feel much better about everything.

 

I can see why.  Knitting hats purifies the soul.

 

Don't be ridiculous.  I'm not knitting them to purify my soul, I'm knitting them for the elves at Hogwarts.  The ones who haven’t been freed.

 

Everyone but Dobby, then.

 

And Winky.  I wonder how she's doing.  Anyway, I plan to make as many as possible, and then leave them out for the elves to grab.  So that they can be free.  Isn't that a good idea? 

 

It's… well…

 

Oh never mind.  If you don't like my idea, don't tell me, it'll only exasperate me, and I don't want to be exasperated right now.  It was really nice of Mrs. Weasley to say she'd help me - I wondered if she would.  I still wonder what she thinks of me.  It's only been two months or so since Easter, and she was angry enough at me then to leave me out of the chocolate eggs.   But she must have got over it.   Or else she's really glad that someone wants to learn to knit.

 

Anyway, you'll never guess who's here!

 

Viktor Krum.

 

Gwen, please.  Although I really should write back to him.  Although what Ron would say about spending one of our two-owls-per-day on a letter to Viktor, I just don't know. 

 

I'll bet I can guess. 

 

I suppose I could ask Mr. Weasley to post an owl for me from the Ministry.  I'm sure he would, he's just so nice.  Anyway, it's Buckbeak!  That's who's here.  He's upstairs, Sirius is keeping him here at headquarters.

 

Sirius is keeping a hippogriff at headquarters.

 

I know, it's a bit mad.  And he's keeping Buckbeak in his dead mother's bedroom.  I said I was really sorry about his mother, but Sirius just laughed at me and said that, when I meet her, I won't be sorry any longer. 

 

Meet… his dead mother.

 

He says there's a wizard portrait of her in the house.  I haven't seen it yet.   Sirius said that's a miracle.  He said he's "shocked the old hag can keep her filthy mouth shut for four days at a stretch."  When he said that, Ron and I gave each other the most startled looks.   Neither of us would ever talk about our mothers that way. 

 

Well, I should hope not.

 

But Sirius really seems to hate his.   I mean, keeping a hippogriff in your dead mother's bedroom isn't much of a mark of respect, is it?

 

Not where I come from, no.

 

And he's feeding Buckbeak bags and bags of rats.  He says he's doing us all a favor, clearing the rats out of the basement so that we don't have to deal with them, along with everything else.  But I can't see how he'd get that many rats out of the basement unless he was Summoning them from the sewer or something.   I think he does it mostly for his own sake.  I think he has a thing about… seeing rats dead. 

 

Delightful.  I seem to remember him chomping them to bits last year, in Hogsmeade. 

 

That's right.  Eurgh.  Well, I can't really blame him.  After what Wormtail did to him and his friends… and after what Wormtail did just last month, killing Cedric and slicing Harry's arm in that graveyard… Can that really be just a few weeks ago?  I don't know how that's possible.  It feels like another world.  Time's going so slowly, and spreading so far, and so much is happening that I can't… Well.  I can't even make sense, apparently.  I'm not even sure what I just said. 

 

I think I have an idea. 

 

Yes, you should be able to translate my nonsense by now.  Ugh. 

 

What? 

 

Well, a moment ago, I was really happy.  Thinking about helping the elves, and about seeing Buckbeak again.  But now I'm thinking about Harry, and all he's been through, and how far away from us he is, and how unfair that is, and the way he sounded in his letter to Ron this morning.  He still hasn't written back to me.  He doesn't realize that Ron and I are together here.  We're not even allowed to tell him that.  I'm finally going to know just how many more letters Ron gets from Harry than I do.  I'm sure it's about a million.

 

But it really was nice to see Buckbeak.  Ron and I both bowed to him and he let us pet him - and Ron said, "Hello there… I spent loads of time researching to try to get you free, do you remember me?"  And I said, "I turned back time to get you free, you must remember me."  And Ron said, "You don't have to listen to her, she's always trying to get one-up on people."

 

Sirius laughed, and Buckbeak rubbed his head against my shoulder.  He's… still rather scary, really.   He's just so big.  But I do like him.  And I'm very glad he's all right, and I understand why Sirius is attached enough to him to keep him here.  Still, I wonder if… I mean, would the Ministry really recognize Buckbeak now?  They can't still be looking for him.  I doubt they'd catch him, if he were set free - and even if he can't be set completely free, I'm sure there must be a more humane place to keep him than in a city bedroom, he's so big.  He must really want to stretch his wings.  But when I asked Sirius if he'd thought about that at all, he really snapped at me - "Look, Hermione, half the time, Buckbeak's the only company I've got in this house.  So I'm not prepared to give him up, if you don't mind."

 

I was really taken aback.  So was Ron, I could tell.  He looked rather apprehensively at Sirius, and then at me. 

 

But I just said, "Oh.  I didn't mean… well, I'm sorry."

 

Sirius looked sort of sorry too, like he hadn't meant to snap quite so hard.  But you know… I don't think he can help it.  I thought at first that he hated this house, and now I'm sure of it.  He seems to despise being kept here.  Though perhaps he'd despise being kept anywhere.  It must all feel like prison, after Azkaban.  He must just want to… to run and shout and fly. 

 

Yes. 

 

I'd like to see the portrait of his mother.  I wonder how long it's been since he's lived in this house?  I haven't had a chance to ask.  We barely saw him at all yesterday, he spent most of the day upstairs.  He said he was trying to make the bedrooms a bit more livable. 

 

Has anyone got rid of that clock? 

 

Yes.  Last night.  Mr. Weasley said he was going on duty.  I'm not sure what that's about.  But anyway, he said he'd take the clock, as long as he was going.  Another member of the Order helped him - Kingsley Shacklebolt.  He works for the Ministry too, and he was here for dinner last night - he said he "wouldn't miss Molly's meatballs for the world".  And they are really good.  Mrs. Weasley's a great cook.  Though I don't think that's any reason for Ron to try and get two whole meatballs in his mouth at the same time.  Honestly. 

 

Anyway, Kingsley Shacklebolt -

 

What a name.

 

Oh, and you should see him.  He's tall and black and bald and has an earring.  He looks like a film star -

 

You said that about Lockhart.  Do I sense a bit of a crush -

 

Gwen, honestly, no.  This is completely different.  Lockhart would star in a film called "Romance in Kensington Gardens," but Kingsley Shacklebolt would star in "The Vindicator."  Do you know what I mean? 

 

I've never seen a film, I'm afraid.

 

There has to be a charm for that.   I'm just saying that he's very striking.  Plus which, he's the first member of the Order I've met, outside of people whom I already know.  And you won't believe what he does for the Ministry.

 

Try me.

 

He heads up the investigation of Sirius Black.  He's in charge of trying to catch Sirius.  So all he does at work is plant misinformation, so that no one will ever find Sirius.  Isn't it great?  I can't believe I'm in a house full of…

 

Spies.

 

Right. 

 

Wow.   Now I'm in a film.  Or that's how it feels. 

 

I wish Harry were here.  He deserves to be.  He's the one who's seen… I mean, he might not be of age, and he might not be eligible to fight in the Order, but he's experienced more battles than pretty much anyone, I imagine.  I doubt that Sirius or Professor Lupin or Kingsley Shacklebolt have met You-Know-Who four times and survived.  Harry should be here. 

 

What did his letter to Ron say?

 

He demanded to know why Ron had been keeping so quiet.  He wanted to know if everything was all right.  And then he went on for half a page, wanting information about the Ministry and the wizarding world.  Wanting to know if anything has changed since we were all in the hospital wing together.  Wanting to know if Fudge is "still being a pompous idiot and refusing to listen to Dumbledore."  And then he said that he can't handle being at the Dursleys', and that if he's ever needed a good busting-out in the flying car, it's this summer, and that he wants to know when he's going to find out when he's allowed to leave Privet Drive and come to the Burrow. 

 

He just has no idea.  It's killing me, not to be allowed to say anything.  And I'm really good at keeping secrets.   But this doesn't seem like a fair secret to keep.  I don't believe that Harry, of all people, should be in the dark.

 

It does seem… strange. 

 

I said as much to Mr. Weasley at breakfast this morning, but Sirius was the one who jumped in and said that he agreed a hundred percent, and that Harry should be informed immediately of the goings on.  Mrs. Weasley got a very sharp look on her face and said that she was sure Dumbledore knew what was best for Harry, thank you very much, and that Harry would have the necessary information at the necessary time.

 

Sirius gave Mrs. Weasley a really narrow look, and then he thanked her far too politely for the "excellent breakfast", and went away upstairs to keep decontaminating the bedrooms. 

 

Speaking of which, I should really be downstairs.  Ron and Ginny and the twins and I are supposed to be working on kitchenware.

 

Working on it? 

 

Going through it, seeing if we can work out what's hexed, and trying to wrestle it into rubbish bags if it's dangerous. 

 

Without wands. 

 

Well… no.  Fred and George are seventeen now.  They can use their wands.

 

Oh dear. 

 

Yes, that's what I think. 

 

Well, I'm sure I'll write to you later.  Not a moment goes by in this place that isn't fascinating.  Even if it's disturbing. 

 

Bye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

//
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