Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine,
I just borrow them for brief escapes from
Author's Note: This bit of utter silliness practically
wrote itself after a day spent at my own
deeply boring job (I work as a weekend receptionist in the
Education Center of my local zoo). Therefore I am entirely unaccountable
for any trauma sustained by reading it--you have been warned. Also,
I realize that Hermione no longer takes Muggle Studies, but that's the
least of the problems with this nonsense.
Having said that, I wash my hands of the
"Hermione," said Ron immediately as she joined
them at the lunch table, "what is that?" He was referring to the
velvet pouch she was carrying delicately in one hand and now placed gently
on the table.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Yes, Ron, I've had a
lovely morning, thanks so much for asking."
She began to pour herself a glass of pumpkin juice, completely
ignoring his question.
"Right, then," said Ron, "if that's how you want
to play." He reached one long arm around
behind her back. Harry looked up from his plate with interest.
This ought to be good.
But Hermione swatted Ron's hand away before he
could reach the pouch.
"Don't touch it, Ron! It's very fragile!"
"Then tell me what it is!"
Harry wisely decided to intervene before the conversation
deteriorated into one of his friends' infamous
arguments over nothing. "Did you get it in class
Hermione shot Ron another annoyed look before turning
back to Harry. "As a matter of fact, yes,
I did," she replied. "It's for my Muggle Studies project.
It's called an Orb of Vigilo."
Both Harry and Ron leaned forward as Hermione opened
the pouch and carefully pulled out a glass
sphere, its pale surface opaque. The orb seemed to balance
on her open palm, glowing faintly.
"I thought you didn't believe in Divination, Hermione,"
said Ron in confusion.
"It's not a crystal ball, Ron, I just told you.
Honestly, don't you ever listen?" Hermione
gave an exasperated sigh.
"What's it do, then?" asked Harry.
Hermione pulled out her wand. "Watch." She gave
the orb a gentle tap, muttering something
under her breath.
Instantly the faint light within the orb began
to grow brighter. The glass suddenly lost
its opaque quality and became clear enough for them to see a kind
of colored mist swirling around inside. Slowly the fog settled, and finally
solidified into a miniature, three-dimensional image.It
was a small, windowless room, brightly lit by cold white lights. A young
woman sat in one corner surrounded on three
sides by large wooden desks covered with
various bins and papers. One of these desks held a computer, at
which the woman was typing something quite rapidly. As they watched she
finished whatever it was, waited a moment
for it to print, then folded the completed
document, sealed it in an envelope, and placed it atop a teetering pile
of identical envelopes.
"Who is she?" wondered Harry curiously.
"She's a Muggle," said Hermione briskly. "Our assignment
is to observe a Muggle's daily activities
and write a report about what we learn."
"But Hermione," protested Ron, "you've lived
with Muggles. What can you possibly learn
that you don't already know?"
"Plenty," retorted Hermione. "I think this is going
to be a fascinating assignment. And don't
give me that look, Ron Weasley. You could stand to learn
a lot more about Muggles yourself!"
Ron snorted. "Yeah, right! Like what?"
"Like"--a faint ringing from within the orb interrupted
her--"like how to use a telephone, for starters!"
she finished triumphantly. She pointed to the
tiny Muggle woman, who had picked up the receiver on her desk and begun
speaking into it.
"I already know how to use a telephone!" said Ron
defensively. "Isn't that right, Harry?"
"Er...yeah," said Harry. Though he had spent most
of his life with Muggles, he was still watching
the scene inside the orb with interest. "What's she staring
Hermione peered into the orb again, where the woman
had finished talking on the phone and was
now looking fixedly up at something over one shoulder.
"She's watching the clock!"
Ron gave a low whistle. "And I thought Dad's job
at the Ministry was boring."
"Just imagine," said Hermione thoughtfully. "If
I hadn't been able to come to Hogwarts and
learn magic, I might have ended up working in an office just like
that one. You too, Harry."
This horrifying thought was enough to shock them
all into silence, and they sat staring at
the orb for a full minute. Meanwhile the woman inside had reached
under her desk and pulled out a battered satchel. After a few moments
of digging around inside it she pulled out a notebook and flipped it open
onto the desk. She sat looking through its pages, chewing thoughtfully
on her pencil and every now and then jotting
something down in the margins of the notebook.
"Weird," said Ron at last. "That looks like she's
doing homework or something. But she's too
old for that. Do Muggles still go to school when they're
twenty?" He looked appalled at the idea.
"Sometimes," answered Hermione, "but I don't think
that's homework. She doesn't have any books.
It almost seems like she's...writing something."
"We can see she's writing something," said Ron
"No, I mean...it's like she's writing something...I
don't know, creative. Like a novel."
"Yeah," said Harry slowly, watching the woman intently.
"I think you might be right, Hermione."
"Weird," said Ron again. "I still don't see how
this can teach you anything."
"You wouldn't," said Hermione. "Really, if you
could just stop being so negative for one
second you might--wait, now what's she doing?" The tiny figure
was once again rummaging through her satchel.
"Ha!" crowed Ron as the woman pulled out a thick
volume, quickly scanned its table of contents,
and started flipping through its pages as if looking something
up. "I was right! She is doing homework, look."
"Homework isn't usually that funny," Harry pointed
out. And indeed, the woman's shoulders were
shaking with laughter.
"What is she reading?" asked Hermione.
Harry and Ron each tilted their heads to try to
make out the writing on the book's cover.
"Something...something...and the something...something,"
said Harry finally. He shoved his glasses
back up the bridge of his nose and strained
to look closer. "By...I...R...Kowling. Never heard of it."
Hermione's brow furrowed. "Me, neither. Must be
pretty good, though." The woman in the orb
had dropped her pencil and given up all pretense of working.
She now sat leaning back in her chair, feet propped on one of the desks,
completely absorbed in her book.
Ron shook his head. "Nah, can't be any good if
you've never heard of it, can it?"
Hermione flushed slightly, a bit taken aback by what passed (for him)
as a compliment. But he merely grinned back at her and began gathering
up his books. "Come on, we'd better hurry or we'll be late for Care
of Magical Creatures."
Harry was hastily gulping the last of his pumpkin
juice. "We're starting something new today,
aren't we? Wonder what it is."
Ron laughed. "Knowing Hagrid, I reckon it'll be
chimaeras or something."
"Oh, no!" gasped Hermione, hurriedly placing the
Orb of Vigilo back in its pouch and shouldering
her knapsack. "I hope not! Surely even Hagrid would know
that they're far too dangerous, although I'm sure it would be very educational..."
Her slightly anxious voice drifted off as the three
friends made their way out of the Great Hall.
Miles and miles away, a young woman in a small
office looked up from her book to consult
the clock on the wall above her desk. Only a few more hours until
five o'clock. Perfect. Barring any more intruding phone calls, she should
have plenty of time to get all the way through the Yule Ball...
AN: Wow, that was wonky even for me. I blame fluorescent
lights, lack of sleep, and bad cafeteria