Chapter One – Of Difficulties and
Ron Weasley leant slowly over the Gryffindor Common Room table with
head in his hands and sighed in utter defeat and frustration as the
voices faded away down the corridor. Presently, he looked up and met
sympathetic gaze of Neville Longbottom.
“You’d think,” began Neville, tentatively, “that Malfoy would be
encouraging her behaviour, rather than giving you grief for not
her under control. After all, it is Harry who’s her target –
ought to be cheering her on!”
“He’s probably doing just that on the quiet,” responded Ron,
closing his books and preparing to go down to supper.
“He’s probably feeding her all sorts of nasty little tricks she can
on Harry,” he continued dolefully, “and then coming straight down to
to whine about the standards of behaviour of the Gryffindor
I may be her brother, but there are some tasks that are beyond even
wit of Godric Gryffindor himself, and this, I’m sorry to say, is one
“You’ve got to admit it though, she’s becoming unbearable; really
the top.” Seamus Finnigan pushed his recently vacated chair under
table with a scraping sound, turning a thoughtful look on his
“Have you heard the latest?” At Ron’s worried negative, Seamus
not without a certain relish.
“Yesterday,” he began, “Harry not only found his Quidditch robes
bright green with yellow and blue spots (for the third time this
but when challenged with the deed, she turned his hair the same
Not that Harry isn’t capable of reversing the spells, of course, but
takes time. He was late for Quidditch practice again and Madame
deducted five points from Gryffindor – and it wasn’t even his
Ron, who had been about to leave the table, sank once again into
chair with a heartfelt groan.
“I take it no one told you about that last one till now.”
The voice was Hermione Granger’s. Ron looked up. The girl’s face
serious, but her eyes twinkled and her mouth twitched slightly at
corners. Neville, Dean and Seamus finished tidying up and sauntered
of the Common Room down to supper. Hermione waited, eyebrows
“I have to say, Ron,” she spoke into the sudden silence, “she
has talent – that hair colouring was extremely detailed and very
– but why does she hate Harry so much? And, more to the point, how
we going to persuade her to stop these constant attacks?”
Ron shrugged wearily.
“The best I can get out of her is that she had a silly, childish
on Harry the Hero when we three first got to be friends. Now she’s
out of it, she feels thoroughly embarrassed and blames Harry.
I know, but when was Ginny ever anything else?”
“Hmm.” Hermione frowned. “It’s gone on for rather a long time,
it? All through last summer, and the term before that. In fact, I
she started making his life a misery just after Christmas last year,
Ron gestured helplessly.
“Oh, come on, ‘Mione,” he protested weakly, “All she did then was
to speak to him and play the occasional prank. It was really during
summer term that she started getting – well …”
“Spiteful?” suggested Hermione, innocently. Ron shook his head.
“No, no!” he declared, loyally, “Just – concentrated. Goodness, if
think last term was bad, you should have been staying with us during
holidays! I think Harry even considered writing to his uncle, he was
hacked off – imagine Ginny driving him to run back to the Dursleys!”
“I with I had been there.” she replied, wistfully. “I regret
parents’ decision to say in Australia for another two weeks even
now. I was so disappointed when I had to cry off visiting you, Ron.”
He grinned at her, at once looking more like his usual self.
“Aw, don’t worry, ‘Mione.”
He put out a hand and patted her arm, lowering his voice
as they were by now quite alone.
“You’ll get plenty of chances to bat your eyelashes at Harry now
back at school, I’ll make sure of that. After all, we’re together
now – should be a piece of cake.”
Hermione blushed and her expression stiffened.
“I’ve told you before, Ron, I really have no feelings for Harry,
Unfortunately, her blushing cheeks and generally flustered
seemed to give the lie to this simple statement. Ron’s grin
“Sure you don’t, ‘Mione, sure. After all, you never blush or get
when he’s around, do you? Come on, we’re old friends, you can talk
me. I don’t understand why you haven’t given him some clue as to how
feel … For Merlin’s sake, we’ve been through this so many times – I
see why you keep denying it. This is me, Ron – I’m not going to
at you. You’d make a great couple, you and Harry … Oh, I give up!
on: let’s go and get some supper.”
He rose from the table decisively and strode from the room, hands
his pockets, whistling. Hermione stared after him, a bleak
on her face.
“The reason I keep denying it, Ron, is because it’s just not true.”
whisper was so soft it was almost subvocal. Shrugging her shoulders,
followed him out of the Common Room down to supper.
“Honestly, I’m not getting at you Ron. It’s not as though you’re
for the things she does – you’re only her brother, for Merlin’s
I’m just completely baffled as to why she’s picking on me!”
Harry was making a mountain out of his mashed potato only to hack
down again roughly with his fork, as though his current difficulties
be solved by similar tactics: he was too preoccupied to eat. Ron
at him sorrowfully.
“This is the Quidditch robes and hair thing yesterday, is it? I’m
Harry, why didn’t you tell me? I only heard about it third-hand this
“I didn’t want to seem as though I was nagging you. You’ve been
enough aggravation from the likes of Malfoy, the last thing you need
for me to join in.”
Harry frowned, pushing stiffened fingers through his thick, wayward
“It’s not the fact that she’s obviously trying to make fun of me –
like a good joke as well as the next person – it’s the consequences.
had five points deducted from Gryffindor because I was late for
practice. Now, I admit I’d been late twice on the trot, and this was
third time – but she was responsible for all of them!” Ron could
gaze mournfully at his friend and rue the day his parents decided to
just one more little Weasley.
“Harry,” he asked pointedly, “are you going to eat that mashed
or Transfigure it into something more palatable? It must be cold by
Hermione, her face in a set expression, removed the fork from
hand and set it firmly on his plate.
“I’ll get pudding – my treat.” she said quietly, muttering a brief
Instantly, the smeared plates, cold mashed potato and dirty cutlery
from the table, to be replaced by steaming bowls of fruit crumble
creamy custard. Students at Hogwarts were not strictly permitted to
the meals provided, but many saw creating a more palatable
to that offered by the kitchens as something of a challenge, and a
of the staff viewed it as good, harmless practice. Hermione was
good at puddings. Ginny’s misdemeanours temporarily forgotten, the
sniffed eagerly before piling into the hot sticky confection.
“I gotta hand it to you, ‘Mione,” commented Ron indistinctly, his
dripping berry juice, “You really know how to conjure puddings –
Harry added a muffled agreement before scraping his bowl so
that Neville accused him of trying to eat the glazed pattern. With
effort, Hermione managed to throw aside her abstracted mood to smile
and genuinely at the boys’ sincere, if muffled, compliments.
“One day I might just make it for you the muggle way.” she
fixing them both with a piercing gaze. “It’s your turn to come and
with me over the summer – I’ll teach you to cook!”
Ron choked over his last mouthful, and Harry stopped scraping long
to stare at her in horror.
“Now, steady on, Hermione.” he began, in genuine anguish, “My Aunt
a muggle, as you know, and she makes food in the muggle manner.
if that’s ‘cooking’, I want no part of it!”
Ron, having recovered from his coughing fit, made urgent noises of
“I’ll second that – it sounds terrifying.”
Hermione frowned mightily, although her eyes still twinkled.
“Are you telling me that you two – my very best friends, partners
crime, fellow members of The Dream Team, and, I might add, frequent
of my meticulous studies with regard to homework,” here the two boys
uncomfortably, “d’you mean to say that you doubt my prowess in
“Well,” began Ron, nervously nudging Harry.
“Well,” repeated Harry, without the faintest idea how to reply, “I
er – I can’t imagine you being, er, unsuccessful at, well, anything
wanted to learn, Hermione.”
“Except for muggle cookery?”
“Oh, ‘Mione, it’s not you I’ve got worries about!” exploded
frowning in irritation at Harry’s ineptitude. “It’s the whole idea
producing food without magic. My dear, sweet, beautiful, clever,
capable Hermione – how could you fail at anything you set out to
It’s not the artist that I doubt, it’s the process!”
Hermione’s cheeks had flushed a bright pink at this fulsome praise,
its lighthearted delivery. She quickly lowered her eyes and began
incantation to clear the dishes. Abruptly, a large yellow blancmange
in the middle of the table with an audible thump.
“Yeuch!” announced the two boys, in unison. Blushing even more
Hermione rounded on them.
“Oh, for goodness sake: you two are enough to make any serious
give up magic completely!” she exploded, “Now look what you’ve made
Ron’s expression was full of wounded innocence and hurt. He quickly
out his wand to assist, but so angry was Hermione’s expression that
backed off quickly.
“And do you think I’m incapable of clearing up after my own
she hissed, indignantly.
Just at that moment, Fred and George passed the table on their way
“Hey, look: a blancmange!” yelled Fred, alerting his twin, “I
if it’s as good as mother’s.”
Without bothering to reply, George seized a spoon and started
the yellow, gelatinous mass into his mouth. A split second later,
did likewise. There was a short pause then both boys coughed, gagged
sprayed the table. Fred continued spitting, covering chairs, table
floor alike with yellow slime, while George shouted indignantly.
“Ach! Yellow blancmange is supposed to taste of banana – not
Glaring at Hermione, he grabbed a nearby carafe of water and
to sink the contents in one go.
By this time quite a crowd had gathered, and Fred and George wasted
time in playing to their audience. Hermione bit her lip, observing
imminent approach of any one of a number of teachers, and produced
wand, intending to put the damage right before any more trouble
result. Unfortunately Ron beat her to it. Urgency made him slide and
over the words of an admittedly complex charm and as he tapped the
with his wand, the whole things rose several feet in the air and
into bloom like some enormous floating garden.
“Can’t you even get it right on the second try?” sneered George,
pulling pansies out of his hair and ears. Hermione flushed crimson
the roots of her hair and glared furiously at Ron, who was by now
Fred on the back as he coughed up daisies, petunias and an
variety of crocuses. An open-mouthed Harry was physically trying to
the table back down to earth by one of its legs.
“That is enough! Who is responsible for this outrage?” Professor
was not amused in the least. She tapped the legs of the floating
twice with her wand, and it descended gently to the floor, while the
of flowering plants transformed themselves back into crockery and
She then fixed each of the major participants with a piercing gaze
most of the onlookers melted away like snow.
“Mr. Fred Weasley, Mr. George Weasley.” she rapped out sharply. “I
pranks, particularly when they are as public as this. Report to me
detention at 7.30 sharp this evening.”
Fred and George looked anything but repentant, however they bowed
heads, having no choice other than acceptance of their
“Miss Granger, Mr. Ron Weasley,” McGonagall continued, swinging her
around to land on them, “You will report to Madame Pomfrey for your
also at 7.30 sharp. Mr. Potter …” Harry’s jaw dropped and a derisive
was heard from one of the remaining onlookers. Professor McGonagall
sharply and homed in without missing a beat. “… and Miss Ginny
…” There was a collective gasp at such rough justice. “… will report
Madame Pince in the library at the same time. Perhaps such heavy
will make you think twice before creating such a spectacle at
in future. You are dismissed.”