2: Of Missives and the Ministry
the point of view of Hermione Granger
Headmaster had said we should think of Cedric when we are forced to choose
between what is right and what is easy.
Although the words had little impression on me when they were first
spoken, they sprung immediately to mind when my parents asked about my last
weeks of term. I knew the easy thing
would be to tell either the complete truth or a complete lie, but somehow neither
seemed right. Telling them an outright
lie seemed deeply wrong. They are,
after all, my parents and have some right to know what is going on in my life. In addition, it felt unfair to keep them
ignorant of a situation that might potentially endanger all of us. Malfoy had said that the mudbloods would be
the first to go. Also I could not
completely shake my early lessons that honesty is the best policy.
know that knowledge can do nothing to change my parents' vulnerability. Telling them everything would worry and
possibly endanger them to no purpose.
They could not protect me or alter the situation in any way. They are utterly helpless against a wizard.
sometimes, when I am honest with myself, I consider that if they knew they would
forbid my return to Hogwarts. I am
unwilling to abandon the wizarding world.
settled for the middle ground. I told
them a slightly edited version of the story that minimized both the danger and
my friends' involvement. I felt rather
guilty about it but I concluded that it was an inevitable feeling regardless of
what story I told.
addition to the guilt, it was a strain to hide my worry and pretend everything
was normal. I quickly came to the
conclusion that the trick of being a great liar was not having a great
imagination, but having a good memory and acting skills. It is a difficult thing to convince the two
people you have known all your life that nothing exceptional is happening when
in fact you know a very dark and dangerous time is fast approaching.
escaped to my room to rest and conserve emotional energy at frequent intervals
by claiming the need to complete summer homework assignments. While it lasted, I found the normality of
studying and writing to be very comforting.
Unfortunately, the homework assigned was barely enough to fill a
end of the second week my fingers had begun to itch with an urge to write and
my eyes to water for lack of words to read.
So I embarked on a secondary project for the summer: correspondence.
last conversation, I had told Viktor that, considering recent events, I would
be unable to visit him. As consolation
I promised to write often. However, upon arriving home, I discovered I had
nothing to write about. I could tell him
about the trip on the Hogwarts Express, my discussions with my parents, or the
homework I had just completed, but the minute it was written on parchment it
sounded trite, whiny, and incredibly boring.
I decided to take a bath to organize my thoughts and upon turning on the
faucet I was struck by inspiration. I
could write letters about life as a Muggle.
Not only would they be interesting; they would be educational.
this thought in mind I quickly churned out a roll of parchment about dental
floss, complete with footnotes and a small sample. Feeling galvanized by my summer's first feat of letter writing, I
sent a copy to Ron for good measure. After all, I hadn't written him either and
it would never do to neglect a friend.
received replies from both wizards within the week. Viktor thanked me for my letter and promised to write me about
aspects of the wizarding world I might not have yet encountered. His also included a very well written essay
on the Loquacious curse, a nasty spell that makes it impossible for the target
to stop talking. Ron's reply was a
comical plea about how he had enough homework already without having his letter
writing turn into more. This sent us
both off on tangents and teasing that provided us with ample writing material
to keep owls flying for the whole summer.
weeks passed I began to notice a peculiar pattern. While I enjoyed the well thought out and often lengthy missives
from Viktor, it was the rapidly scrawled lines from Ron I reread. It saddened me that Ron and I could maintain
a lively barrage of letters about nothing, but Viktor and I had so little to
write to one another. Perhaps this was simply because I knew Ron better.
even frequent letters did not make the summer relaxing. It felt like the quiet
before the storm. The fact that the storm never hit actually made the suspense
worse. The Daily Prophet never reported anything about You-Know-Who or Death
Eaters. The disappearances of relatively unimportant people were ascribed to
Sirius Black. The only vaguely exciting
thing that happened was receiving a letter from Dumbledore warning me not to
open any packages from unknown senders and to inform him immediately it I
received one. However since I received
nothing out of the ordinary, this only heightened the tension. Even the train ride to Hogwarts was executed
without the heretofore considered to be necessary confrontation with Draco
first thing I noticed upon entering the school was a woman attempting to stand officiously
near the door. She should have looked ordinary. There was nothing exceptional about her shoulder length straight
brown hair, her hazel eyes, or her dark gray robes, but somehow she looked out
of place. Perhaps it was because she
was standing so awkwardly that she obviously felt out of place herself.
no," Ron exclaimed with resigned amusement. "There's our new Defense
Against the Dark Arts professor."
As if she had heard Ron's words, the unnamed
woman fastened bespectacled eyes on us. She twitched her shoulders in an
unsuccessful attempt to relax herself and hurried over to engage us in
Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ronald Weasley." She sounded as if she was reading off a list. "Hello my dear children. I am Commissar Garret. I am so glad you have returned
safely." Speaking seemed to calm
her. With every blustery word her voice
became more even and her posture straightened.
know you are all properly grateful that the Ministry has worked tirelessly
to ensure that Sirius Black does not hurt you in any way. All this y-y-y-you-know-who nonsense. I am certain you sweet children are
wise enough to know the truth and sufficiently careful to avoid harm."
Ron, Harry and I looked at each other with growing horror. Perhaps her newfound confidence was not such
a good thing.
Minister of Magic himself has sent me to make sure that nothing happens
at Hogwarts to compromise any of you precious children's security. After all, we at the Ministry know that children
are our future." By this point in
the speech all three of us were desperate for a way to end the
conversation. Our deliverance came from
an unexpected source.
Mr. Potter has decided that the latest meeting of his fan club is more
important than the rest of our dinners." The dark voice of Professor Snape
easily cut the thread of the woman's conversation and I realized with a start
that, between the three trapped listeners and the other students who were
taking advantage of the opportunity to eavesdrop, we had managed to completely
block the hallway. "We must all wait on our resident celebrity."
minute Commissar Garret's speech ended she seemed to shrink into her previous
discomfited self. She stared after the
Professor as he strode purposefully away.
Ron, Harry and I took advantage of her distraction to slip away to our
seats at the Gryffindor table.
"Blimey! Was that woman reading off a cue
card?" Although I had to giggle in
response, I felt that I could not completely let Ron get away with being so
disrespectful to a possible new Professor.
Ron, you should be grateful for her concern and dedication to ..." I
searched for the appropriate euphemism.
ridicules speeches?" Harry
finished for me.
was glad to be back at Hogwarts.
the boys continue their banter, I looked up to the High Table and saw to my
great relief that there was another new face. There could not be a greater
difference between the two new women.
The second stranger practically radiated tranquility. She had an open, motherly face framed with
lively red curls, but her most distinguishing feature was her gray eyes that
shone like twin moons. I was greatly
relieved when Professor Dumbledore introduced her as Ignia Antiope, the new
DADA professor, after the opening feast.
always thought it was easier to adjust to small changes than large ones, but it
only took one week back at Hogwarts to convince myself I was wrong. It was hard to put my finger on it, but Hogwarts
was different. The students were
subdued. Laughter was a millisecond
slower and softer. Homework was done a
tad more thoroughly and quietly. And
Slytherins were subtly more isolated and regarded with a bit of suspicion. If the changes had been large, I could have
adjusted quickly. But the slight changes gnawed at me. I felt that I was always out of phase with
first few days of lessons were uneventful.
Every class began with a lecture about how we would be taking our O.W.L.s
at the end of the year so we should study extra hard. Professor Snape made the point most dramatically by claiming
that, if we didn't know everything expected, the potions O.W.L. might be fatal. This speech was probably responsible for
Neville spectacularly blowing up his cauldron in a record time of fifty-seven
not to be relieved that Professor Grubbly-Plank was substituting for Hagrid,
who was undoubtedly on Hogwarts business.
Thursday afternoon I was desperate for something, anything out of the ordinary
to happen. I felt as if one truly odd
occurrence would release some of the tension.
The first Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson provided just this.
Antiope began with a question.
afternoon, class. I was hoping to ask
you for some advice." I was not
terribly impressed. Wasn't she supposed
to know more about her subject matter than a room full of fifth years?
afternoon the second year students provided me with an impressive demonstration
of some dueling hexes. Unfortunately my
hat was used as a target and I fear it is no longer wearable. I was wondering if any of you had some
advice on how to return to its original state." The hat in question was sitting on her desk. It was bright pink, wobbling around the desk
while attempting to dance and at random but frequent intervals it would shoot
out bright sparks and attempt to sing.
I raised my hand up in the air.
I like easy questions and I learned the answer this one as a first
year! At the professor's indication
that I should speak, I replied, "Cast Finite Incantatum, Professor."
smiled calmly in response. "What a wonderful idea Miss..."
Granger," I supplied.
you please demonstrate?"
walked confidently up to the front of the room and cast the spell. To my surprise and disgust the only effect
was to change the hat from pink to a flashing neon rainbow pattern. How irritating. I very rarely miscast spells.
However my second attempt only served to strengthen hat's singing
voice. My efforts to correct the
problem seemed to be making it worse.
Antiope smiled sympathetically at me. "Well, my dear, you seem to be
having the same problems I was." I
returned to my seat, my face burning with shame. However I began to feel better when the other students who
attempted to uncurse the hat had no better luck. All told it was a frustrating ten minutes until Harry took his
turn and succeeded in returning the hat to black.
job, Mr. Potter. May I ask how you
managed to remove the curses my hat?"
looked slightly bewildered. "I
didn't. You said you wanted the hat
returned to its original state so I cast a spell to dye it black."
DADA professor looked unruffled by this statement. "So you did not remove
any of the curses or hexes?"
wrinkled his brow. "Because when other people tried it didn't work."
points to Gryffindor. Mr. Potter has
just demonstrated one of the most important principles of defensive magic: Be creative. If you do not know the specific spell to accomplish a task, use
one that will achieve a similar result."
She stood several moments to allow the supposed impact of this speech to
sink in before she abruptly changed topics.
multiple spells are cast on an object, they do not remain separate but mesh and
meld. This had to duel effect of giving
them interesting new properties and making them harder to remove." We all pulled out papers and began to take
notes. The rest of the class went
smoothly as she explained the interactive properties of some of the most common
curses and hexes.
opinion of the new professor rose as the class continued. It was possibly the least dramatic Defense
Against the Dark Arts class I had ever attended, but I left the room feeling
that I had learned the most. I walked
back to Gryffindor common room in an intellectual haze, musing on the myriad of
possibilities presented by spell interactions.
I was therefore slightly startled when Professor McGonagall walked up
and informed Harry, Ron, and I that the Headmaster wished to see us in his
note: Thank you to Rugi for listening
to me babble about story ideas for countless hours and to Amberdulen for
untangling my convoluted prose. This
story would not be possible without you.