Part 5: October-November 1991
Thursday, 31st October 1991
Charms classroom, late morning.
“Now, don’t forget that nice wrist movement we’ve been practicing!” said Professor Flitwick, looking over at the class. “Swish and flick, remember? And saying the incantation is also very important — never forget Wizard Baruffio, who said S instead of F and found himself on the floor with a buffalo on his chest!”
“Did that really happen or is it just one of those cautionary tales?” said Harry to Seamus, who was his partner for the lesson, as they took turns trying to make their feather float.
“Dunno,” Seamus answered with a slight frown. “It’s from that old nursery rhyme… ah, guess you wouldn’t have heard that. It goes ‘Wizard Baruffio made a mess, changed his F out for an S…’”
“I’m hearing a lot of chatting over there, but I’m not seeing a lot of swishing and flicking,” Flitwick called from his desk.
“Our apol — I mean, sorry, Professor,” said Harry.
Seamus looked at him like he was weird, but didn’t comment.
Getting the feather to float was a lot harder than it looked. Harry and Seamus weren’t the only ones struggling… but it had to be said not everyone was trying equally hard. Lavender, for example, was just playing around with her wand and giggling, to the great frustration of her partner Dean. Parvati and Neville were making more of an effort, but Neville seemed too scared of messing up to really try all that hard. And Ron and Hermione…
Ever since their nightly adventure that ended with almost getting eaten by a three-headed dog, Hermione had been furious with Harry and Ron. And it had only got worse after Harry had, in her words, “been rewarded for breaking the rules” by being made the Seeker of the Quidditch team and given a brand new racing broom. She had refused to speak to them ever since… which honestly had been kind of nice, since up until then she’d only ever talked to them to admonish them for something or to show off how clever she was.
So it wasn’t a very big surprise when, after a minute of watching Ron struggle with the Levitation Charm, she decided to say something to him for the first time in weeks… and it was both to admonish him and to show off her cleverness.
“You’re doing it all wrong,” she snapped. “You’re supposed to swish and flick, not wave your arms around like a windmill! And you’re saying the incantation wrong too! Tt’s Win-gar-dium Leviosa, with the gar nice and long. It’s not… whatever it is you think you’re saying.”
“You do it then, if you’re so clever!” Ron snapped back.
And she did. With a triumphant “Wingardium Leviosa!” Hermione sent the feather straight up towards the ceiling — to the delight of Flitwick, who called out for everyone to “look at Miss Granger, everybody, she’s done it! Brava, Miss Granger!”
The class did not share the teacher’s enthusiasm. There were stifled groans and glares from all around, and Harry even heard Parvati mutter “oooh, look at perfect Miss Granger” under her breath.
That wasn’t much of a surprise either. Harry and Ron weren’t the only ones who found Hermione annoying; the other Gryffindors tended to give her a wide berth as well. Of the first-year students, it seemed like only Neville was willing to put up with her for too long… and even he seemed more intimidated by her than anything.
It didn’t help either that when the class ended, Hermione was still the only one who had even come close to mastering the spell.
Ron, who hadn’t even managed to make the feather budge, was in an utterly foul mood as they left the classroom, walking briskly to put as much distance between themselves and Hermione as they could. “It’s swish and flick, not wave your arms around like a windmill!” he muttered to Harry in a surprisingly accurate imitation of Hermione’s voice. “Well, sorry for not being perfect! I swear, she’s a nightmare!”
“Oh, never mind, Ron,” said Lavender, who came up beside them together with Parvati and Neville. “Hermione Granger’s always having a go at everyone. You should hear her in the girls’ dorms if Parvati and I even whisper a bit after we’ve gone to bed. Keep it down, some of us care about getting a good night’s sleep so we can be awake for class,” she mocked. Her Hermione imitation wasn’t as good as Ron’s, even if she was a girl, but she got the point across.
“She’s the absolute worst,” Parvati agreed. “Right, Neville?”
“Er.” Neville looked uncomfortable. “She’s… she’s very clever.”
“Oh, I’ll grant you she’s clever,” said Parvati. “Nobody ever said she wasn’t clever. But she’s still horrible! It’s like she doesn’t even know how to act around other human beings!”
“Right,” said Lavender, and then giggled. “Maybe she was raised by books or something? Like, her parents were actual books, and she just happens to look human? It would explain a lot, wouldn’t it, because nobody human would —”
There was a loud thud behind them. They turned to see Hermione stand there, having dropped her school bag and staring at them. For the first time ever, she didn’t have her normal expression of smugness or annoyance; instead she looked… hurt.
“Oh,” said Parvati.
“Hermione —” said Neville.
She didn’t answer. She just grabbed her bag from the floor, turned around and stormed off. Harry could have sworn he heard her sob.
“Someone should go after her,” he said weakly.
Hermione didn’t turn up for the next class. According to Parvati, she’d locked herself in one of the girls’ bathrooms and refused to come out. Ron especially looked pained when he heard that.
Thursday, 31st October 1991
Great Hall, early evening.
“Troll — in the corridors — says he’s here to eat the children — thought you ought to know.”
As Quirrel sank to the floor in a dead faint, and Dumbledore ordered the prefects to gather the students to get them to safety while the teachers went to deal with the troll, Harry grabbed Ron’s shoulder. “Hermione!” He hissed. “She doesn’t know about the troll! What if it finds her?”
“Bloody hell,” Ron swore. ”Right, come on. Trolls are a type of Fae, I remember how to deal with them.”
In the chaos, they managed to sneak off from the crowd, while Percy’s voice sounded: “Follow me! Stick together, first years! No need to fear the troll if you follow my orders!!”
“Sad thing is that he’s probably right,” said Ron, as they ducked down a corridor and hurried towards the girls’ bathroom.
“How do we deal with a troll?” Harry panted. “If we meet it?” He caught himself wishing that Yellow, Magenta and Cyan were here — if trolls were Fae, the flitlings they might have some ideas on what to do.
“Can’t use magic on it — you’d need to be a really strong wizard to get through that thick hide with any sort of spell,” Ron answered. “Best way’s to try and trick it — they’re really stupid — let’s just hope that we — oh, no.”
A shrill scream sounded through the corridors. It was Hermione.
Harry and Ron looked at each other. Then, they sprinted towards the sound, as fast as they could.
The door to the girls’ bathroom was open, and through it Harry could see… the biggest, ugliest, shaggiest creature he’d ever laid eyes upon. He — definitely a he — had grey skin, shaggy hair and a lumpy sort of body, with limbs as thick as tree-trunks, and he was dressed in rags and furs. He was lumbering towards a panicking Hermione, who was shrinking against the wall and screaming loudly.
“Don’t scream, little morsel,” said the troll in a deep, gruff voice. “I ain’t gonna hurt you. I’m just gonna kill you an’ eat you.”
“Oy!” Ron called out, his voice nearly cracking with fear. “Er — I mean, hello there! Er, how are you doing?!”
“Eh?” The troll turned to look at them. “Wot’s this we got here then? Two more little morsels? ‘Preciate the offer, but I already got one.” With that, he reached out towards Hermione to grab her.
“No! Wait!” Ron yelled. “Er. We’re not food, we’re… we’re your hosts! Yeah! So glad you could make it! Thought your invitation might have got lost or something.”
The troll stopped trying to grab Hermione. He paused, as if it took a bit of time for this information to reach his brain. “Wot are you talkin’ about?” he finally said. “Was it you wot invited me? You look smaller than you did when I saw you last… An’ I thought you wos only one person. But in this light you look like two persons.”
“Right, yeah, the light makes us look different!” said Ron desperately. “We were definitely the ones who invited you! Er, but you know, it’s very rude to, to, to try and eat your hosts. So, if you’d just, er, stop trying to eat Hermione, then —”
The troll raised his club and slammed it against the floor, which cracked. “You told me I could come here an’ eat all the little children I wanted!” he roared. “An’ I’m HUNGRY!”
“Right!” said Harry, thinking fast. “I see where the misunderstanding is! We did invite you, but not to eat children — there’s a great feast in your honour, down in the Great Hall! All the food you can eat! Steaks, potatoes, pies, pumpkins, all sorts of sweets… All for you!”
The troll paused again. “Sweets?” he said, licking his lips.
“Lots of them!” said Harry. “All the sweets you want! In the Great Hall, it’s just straight down the corridor, you can’t miss it!”
“All right, then,” the troll decided. Harry and Ron both scooted to the side as he picked up his club and lumbered out through the door. He paused for a moment to look at Harry. “But if there ain’t enough sweets, I’m comin’ back here to eat the three of you!”
“Fair enough!” said Harry. “Just — just hurry or the feast’ll get cold!”
“Right. Don’t want that.” The troll vanished through the door, and Harry breathed a huge sigh of relief as he heard the heavy footsteps hurry away from them.
“Bloody hell, it worked.” Ron looked about ready to collapse. “Er, I mean of course it worked, I told you I knew how to deal with trolls. Good thinking about the feast, Harry, that should slow him down long enough for the teachers to deal with him… Hey, Hermione, are you all right?”
Hermione nodded. She was deathly pale and leaning against the wall, clearly trying to keep from shaking. “I think so — what was that thing doing here?”
“Looking for something to eat, apparently,” said Harry. “Good thing trolls are easier to talk to than three-headed dogs, right?”
Hermione giggled, probably more out of a nervous relief than because she thought Harry’s comment had been all that funny. “I think… I think I’d like to get out of here now, please,” she said, more subdued than Harry had ever seen her.
“Come on,” said Harry. “If we’re lucky, we can make it back to the Gryffindor common room before anyone realizes we’re gone. How did a troll get into the castle anyway?”
“Dunno,” said Ron as they all hurried out of the bathroom. “I think a couple of trolls live in the Forbidden Forest, but they’re not supposed to be allowed on the school grounds. You don’t suppose we could ask…er…” he paused, glancing at Hermione. She didn’t know about Yellow, Magenta and Cyan; none of their classmates did.
“Hagrid?” said Harry hurriedly. “Yeah, maybe. He lives right next to the Forest, he could have seen something, couldn’t he?”
If Hermione thought Ron’s hesitation was in any way odd, she didn’t show it. Instead, she looked at them both with a much softer expression than usual. “By the way,” she said awkwardly. “I… I just wanted to say… you were very brave back there, and… and very clever. I panicked, I couldn’t think of anything to do. If you hadn’t come when you did…!”
“It’s okay,” said Harry. “It’s kind of our fault you were even in there in the first place, right? We haven’t been the nicest to you.”
“Yeah,” said Ron. “Just call it our way of saying sorry. I hear Lavender and Parvati were planning on saving you from a dragon next week as their apology.”
She giggled again. Less nervous and more genuine this time. Harry couldn’t remember ever hearing her laugh before, but… he kind of liked it. It made her seem a lot nicer.
“Look,” he said. “Why don’t we just forget everything that’s happened, and start over? Hello, my name is Harry Potter and this is my friend Ron Weasley.”
“We’re Gryffindors,” Ron shot in. “Heard rumours that you’re one too?”
She hesitated a bit, but then smiled. “Yes. I’m Hermione Granger. Pleased to meet you.”
As they continued towards the common room, Harry felt that something had changed between them. It was strange, but the three of them… felt right somehow. Like this was how things were supposed to be. He didn’t think he’d find Hermione anywhere near as annoying in the future.
They were just turning a corner when they heard quick footsteps approaching behind them. Quickly, Harry grabbed both Ron and Hermione and pulled them with him to duck behind one of the armours that stood in along the walls.
From behind the armour, they could see Snape come walking down the corridor. He was walking quickly and seemed irritated at something — he was muttering under his breath as he passed them. Luckily, he was too busy, or too preoccupied with his complaining, to notice that they were there.
He vanished around the corner, and Harry waited for a moment or two before daring to come out from behind the armour.
“Where did he come from?” he said in a hushed voice. “Why wasn’t he with the other teachers looking for the troll?”
“They must’ve split up,” said Ron. “Cover more ground that way. Anyone hear what he was muttering?”
“Er… I might have heard wrong, but it sounded like ‘if it’s not Potter, it’s that blasted Fae girl’ or something,” said Hermione.
“Fae girl?” said Harry.
“Barking mad,” said Ron, with another glance at Hermione.
Just then, they heard several faint noises and voices talking loudly from down the corridor. Harry turned to look, but couldn’t see anything — if he was going to guess the noises came from the Great Hall.
“I think the teachers found the troll,” he said.
Moments later, his guess was more or less confirmed when the voice of the troll sounded above everything else, a roar of disappointed rage: “But the host said I could have all the sweets I want!”
He looked at Ron and Hermione, and they all broke down laughing. It was really the only thing they could do.
Thursday, 31st October 1991
Gryffindor Common Room, late evening.
The common room was full and bustling. Food had been sent up so that the students could continue the Halloween feast, and all in all spirits were fairly high — people were talking loudly, speculating about how that troll might have entered the castle (the common theory seemed to be “Peeves let it in as a prank”) and enjoying their food. Nobody paid Harry, Ron and Hermione much mind as they entered the common room; even Percy seemed much too busy telling everyone about how he could have handled the troll to even notice that they’d been gone.
Neville, however, had. The round-faced boy came hurrying over to them, face pale. “Where have you three been?” he said, looking slightly panicked.
“Er… that’s not important,” said Harry, taken aback. “We’re fine, nothing happened.”
“Lavender won’t stop crying!” said Neville. “She won’t tell us what’s wrong!”
In one of the alcoves, slightly apart from the feasting students, Lavender and Parvati were sitting in one of the large armchairs. Parvati was hugging and trying to comfort a sobbing Lavender, stroking her hair and speaking in a soothing voice to her.
“There you are!” Parvati said in an almost accusing tone as Harry, Ron and Hermione approached. “Where have you been?”.
“Never mind that right now,” said Harry “What’s with her?”
“I don’t know!” said Parvati. “We lost track of each other in the confusion, and when I found her again she was crying!”
“Lavender,” said Hermione awkwardly. “What’s wrong?”
Lavender raised her head. Her normally pretty face was red and puffy, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Iwwasssssayy-wassayyyinnn-iieee-wewwwwwinnnn ahhri roo-oll!” she wailed.
Hermione blinked. “What?”
“I think she said something about the troll,” said Ron.
“Are you crying about the troll, Lavender?” said Hermione. “It’s okay, it didn’t hurt anyone.”
“He didn’t hurt anyone,” said Ron. “That troll was definitely a bloke – er,” he added when Neville and Parvati looked at him with shocked expressions. Even Lavender lifted her head mid-sob to look at him.
“You met the troll?!” said Parvati. “Is that where you’ve been? You went to confront the —!”
“It was an accident,” said Harry. “Hermione didn’t know about the troll, so we went to warn her, and, er… things happened. Nobody was hurt!”
“Not even the troll, really,” Ron added. “Look, don’t tell anyone, all right? We managed to get back to the common room without anyone seeing us. We almost ran into Snape, but we managed to dodge him, so I don’t think we’re losing any house points —”
Lavender burst into tears again.
“Wha — now what?!” said Ron, horrified. “Was it something I said? Lavender, we’re not losing house points! Anyway, it’s just a silly House Cup, who cares?!”
“Excuse me?!” said Hermione in an indignant voice. ”I happen to care very much, thank you! If you think —”
“Hermione,” said Neville, so quietly that it was almost impossible to hear him over Lavender’s crying. “Not now.”
Hermione looked at him, then at Ron, and then at Lavender. “You’re right,” she said. “Not now. I’m sorry, Lavender, please don’t cry.”
Lavender shook as she heaved for her breath. Then she did something very strange: She threw her arms around Hermione and hugged her tightly, still sobbing.
Hermione looked mortified at the sudden display of affection, but tried rather awkwardly to pat Lavender’s back. “Er… there, there?”
“It wasn’t my fault,” said Lavender between sobs. “I’m glad you — I’m glad you weren’t eaten by the troll.”
“Right, er, it’s, it’s okay, er, of course it’s not your fault, I mean, you didn’t let the troll in, did you?”
“It wasn’t my fault,” Lavender repeated, trying to keep her voice steady. “I didn’t mean to — didn’t mean to call you a nightmare. And I didn’t mean it when I said you weren’t human. Well, okay, I meant it when I said it, but I — but I don’t anymore…” She started to sob again.
*That’s… that’s okay, I forgive you,” said Hermione. She looked at the others with a panicked “help me!” expression on her face.
Parvati took pity on her. “Come here, Lav,” she said, gently untangling Lavender from Hermione. “Let’s go up to the dorm, okay? I have some magazines I think you’ll like. Okay?”
“Okay,” Lavender sniffed. She let Parvati lead her over towards the stairs. “My godmother would have been so disappointed in me…”
Harry, Hermione, Ron and Neville remained behind, looking at each other with awkward puzzlement.
“So… what d’you suppose that was all about?” said Ron.
“I think she feels bad about, you know, what happened after Charms class,” said Hermione.
“But that really wasn’t her fault!” said Harry. “Well, no more hers than any of ours, anyway.”
“You don’t suppose….” said Neville, and then hesitated. “You don’t suppose Lavender did let in the troll? No. No, that’s stupid. Forget I said it. Why would she even have done that?”
Nobody had an answer to that.
“Let’s not ask her,” Harry finally said. “I don’t think I can take it if she starts crying again.”
Friday, 1st November 1991
The Forbidden Forest, just after midnight.
“I can’t believe that Severus Snape person!” Yellow grouched. She was sitting on a tree branch and sulking. “Imagine barging into the forest and asking us if we let a troll into the castle as a prank! Why can’t we curse him again?”
“Because he’s Harry’s ally,” said Magenta, who was sitting next to her. “I would have liked to teach him a lesson about proper manners too, but we can’t.”
“Hedwig’s not bound by that!” piped up Cyan. She was sitting on a higher branch together with Hedwig, who had decided to come visit the flitlings in the forest. “She couldn’t curse him, but she could scratch him a little, couldn’t you, Hedwig?”
The owl looked at her.
“What? Of course you don’t look like an idiot!” said Cyan. “What sort of question is that?”
Hedwig let out a short screech.
“She has a point,” said Magenta. “Owls who attack wizards probably do get a lot of trouble for it.”
“Well, never mind then,” said Cyan.
“I still think that man deserves his ears cursed off or his wits addled or… something,” Yellow grouched.
“Many people deserve things they don’t get,” came a voice from below. “And many people get things they don’t deserve.”
Flitlings and owl looked down to see the tall green woman standing underneath the tree, skimpily-clad and barefoot.
“Mistress!” Yellow, Magenta and Cyan all immediately zoomed down to greet her. Hedwig watched with mild interest as they fluttered around her with joy, squeeing and eagerly talking over one another.
“We’re so happy to see you! We missed you!”
“I missed you most!”
“No, she didn’t!”
“Welcome to the Forest, Mistress! I wish we had some honey to offer you, but —”
“We are so happy that we’re not Dursleys anymore!”
“What are you doing here?”
Lady Vidia smiled at the eager flitlings, but then held up a hand. Immediately, all three of them fell silent and lined up in a row to hover right in front of her, like little soldiers standing to attention. Or hovering to attention.
“I’m happy to see that you are adjusting so nicely to your new lives,” she said. “And I’m even happier to see that you are finding your home in this Forest… it’s not exactly the Lands of Perpetual Spring, but there is a certain homey charm to it… I’m starting to see why Rubeus likes this place so much.”
“Did you want to see him. Mistress?” said Magenta. “I think he hasn’t gone to bed yet, there was a light on in his hut…”
Lady Vidia shook her head. “Unfortunately, I can’t stay long. And it was you three I wanted to see anyway.” Lady Vidia extended a finger to pet each flitling on her tiny head.
They closed their eyes and leant into the pettings, like kittens. They would have purred if they’d been able to.
“You see, there is something I want to tell you,” said Lady Vidia. “And I don’t want you to share this with Harry, at least not yet. I think he is starting to take an interest in some of the mysteries of Hogwarts… taking an interest in trolls and stones and overheard comments. He will want to know about Jenny’s pet, and a mysterious trap door, and a Fae girl. And I don’t want you to help him too much.”
Cyan opened her eyes. “Why not?”
“Well, what fun is a mystery if someone just hands you the solution?” said Lady Vidia. “I think Harry and that redhead friend of his are planning on investigating things. It would be a shame to spoil the fun for them. So no sharing answers.”
“That won’t be a problem, Mistress,” said Magenta, “because we don’t know the answers.”
“Not yet, but you will.” Lady Vidia smiled. “Because I’m going to tell you. And the first thing I’m going to tell you is about the girl.”
“What girl?” said Magenta.
“Well, my darling Magenta… there is a girl in Harry’s year that has quite a bit to do with you.”
“Oh, yes.” Lady Vidia held out her palm for Magenta to land on. “Harry might take an interest in her. That’s fine, he can be as interested as he wants, but it’ll be up to her if, and when, she decides to tell him. So you’re not to to share the information I’m about to give you with him.” She had started to stroke Magenta’s body with her finger, up and down… “Do you understand me, my sweet?”
“Yes, Mistress,” Magenta gasped.
It was around this time when Hedwig decided to take to her wings and fly back to the Owlery. She had a feeling she knew how this scene was going to develop, and had no particular desire to stay and watch.
Besides, this was clearly a Fae thing.
Saturday, 9th November 1991
Hagrid’s hut, early afternoon.
“It was Snape,” said Ron, “Hermione and I saw him. He was cursing your broomstick.”
Harry swallowed a large gulp of strong tea. His first Quidditch match had been a rather dramatic one, with his broomstick suddenly deciding to act like a wild horse and trying to throw him off, but he’d won the game and caught the Snitch… and Hagrid had invited him to his hut for a calming cup of tea afterwards.
When Ron and Hermione had insisted on coming along, Hagrid had been more than happy to include them, saying vaguely that “It’s jus’ Fang there now, it won’t get crowded,” with a glance at Hermione, and Harry had understood the meaning — the flitlings weren’t at his hut at the moment, so it was okay for her to come along..
Harry was relieved that he didn’t need to come up with some excuse or explanation to ditch Hermione. She’d changed a lot since the troll incident; she’d eased up on her lectures and scoldings, and had turned downright friendly — not only to him and Ron, but she was getting along much better with Lavender and Parvati as well. Blatantly excluding her from a trip to Hagrid’s would have seemed… well, mean.
He hadn’t been able to see the flitlings in a while. It wasn’t really Hermione’s fault, Harry knew that. But all of a sudden she was always there… and after that scene at the welcoming feast, he was reluctant to let anyone else know about Yellow, Magenta and Cyan. He’d lucked out with Ron, who seemed to have taken a liking to the flitlings, but there was no guarantee that Hermione would react the same.
Though he had to admit, she was turning out to have his back in a lot of other situations.
“I know a jinx when I see one, Hagrid!” she was saying. “I’ve read all about them! You’ve got to keep eye contact, and Snape wasn’t blinking!”
“Rubbish!” said Hagrid. “Why’d Snape be jinxin’ Harry? That don’ make no sense!”
Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked at one another. Yesterday’s meeting with Snape, when he’d confiscated Harry’s copy of Quidditch Through the Ages and limped away, was fresh in their memories.
“Hagrid,” Harry finally said. “About that giant three-headed dog…”
Hagrid nearly dropped the teapot, but managed to catch it just in time.
“How’d yeh know about Fluffy?” he demanded.
“Fluffy?” Ron and Hermione chorused.
“You mean that’s your dog?” said Harry, wondering why he hadn’t guessed. In hindsight it seemed rather obvious.
“Well, no, I got me hands full with Fang, don’t I?” said Hagrid, scratching his enormous boarhound behind the ears. “Nah, Fluffy belongs to, er, a cousin o’ mine,” Hagrid said. “Her name’s Jenny. Borrowed him off her, to help guard —- ah, never mind that!” he cut himself off. “Yeh’re not even s’pposed ter know about Fluffy in the first place! Didn’t Dumbledore say that nobody was ter go near that corridor?”
“But why?!” said Harry. “What’s the dog guarding and why is Snape trying to steal it?”
“Steal?!” Hagrid looked flabbergasted. “Snape?! He’d never do a thing like that! All righ’, he’s a bit of a grouch, but he’s not a criminal!”
“We saw him limping, Hagrid! We heard him complain about the three heads! We even —” Harry hesitated for a moment, but then decided to go for it. This was something that had been bothering him for a while. “We even heard him mutter something about a Fae girl! Back at Halloween! Right, Hermione?”
“Oh — oh, yes!” Hermione said, her eyes widening. “What was that about?”
“Look, forger abou’ Fluffy, all righ?! Whatever he’s there for has nothin’ ter do with you!” said Hagrid. “Now will yeh please drop —”
“So the Fae girl has something to do with us?” said Harry.
“No! I mean, er, well, I mean — blimey, Harry, why can’t yeh jus’ drop it when I tell yeh ter drop it! Yeh don’t meddle in the affairs o’ the Fae! Maybe I haven’ made this clear enough, cause of everything that’s happened to you —” (once again, he glanced at Hermione before he continued) “— but even if you’re a friend to the Fae, yeh don’t go snoopin’ on them!” He looked sternly at Ron. “You at least should know that!”
“Er,” said Ron sheepishly. “It’s really Snape we’re speculating about? Pretty sure he’s not a Fae, unless there’s such a thing as a Greasy-Haired Broom-Jinxing Gits Court.”
Hagrid sighed. “For the last time,” he said. “Snape wasn’t cursin’ Harry’s broom, he’s not tryin’ ter steal the Stone —” He stopped, his eyes widening. “Shouldn’ta said that. I should not have said that.”
“Stone?!” said Harry.
“Can’t tell yeh no more, Harry! I said too much already! Now please forget about Fluffy an’ what he’s guardian’, that’s a matter between Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel, so —”
“Who’s Nicolas Flamel?” said Harry.
Hagrid hid his face in his hands.
Saturday, 9th November 1991
Hogwarts school grounds, late afternoon.
“Anyone else feel bad for Hagrid?” said Ron as they made their way back to the castle. “He has to keep so many secrets and he’s just not good at it.”
“We did find out that the dog is named Fluffy, that it belongs to Hagrid’s cousin, and that it’s guarding a stone of some sort,” said Harry. “Oh, and that someone named Nicolas Flamel is involved. Only thing we didn’t find out anything about is that Fae girl Snape was talking about. Who do you suppose that is?”
“No idea.” Ron looked uncomfortable. “Hate to tell you this, but he was right about one thing… as a rule, the Fae don’t like it when you snoop. Asking them is one thing, and if they decide to share their secrets with you then you bloody well listen, but it’s not a good idea to try and find out things they don’t want you to know. Even if they like you, they can get a little, er, tetchy. Might be better to let this one go.”
“Maybe,” said Harry. “But…” He thought about Hagrid’s aunt. What was it about her that made him want to find out more?
“What are you two talking about?” said Hermione.
“Er.” Ron looked at her. “Hermione, you’re Muggle-born, right?”
“You know I am.”
“Do you know anything about the Fae? I mean the Fair Folk, the Shining Ones, the Gentry, the Starchildren…”
“Fae?” said Hermione. “Not a whole lot. None of the books I read mentioned them all that much, and Madame Pince wasn’t very helpful, so all I really know is that they’re this old people who were around before the humans, and who mostly live in another realm. Wizards don’t associate with them because they are shifty and untrustworthy, but they have very powerful magic and can do things even we can’t even dream of. In the old days, the Fae were infamous for stealing human babies and leaving one of their own in exchange, and they were called changelings. But apparently they don’t do that anymore because it’s against the treaty that was established with the Statute of Secrecy.”
“Er, yeah, that —”
“Oh, and they really like honey, and sweet things in general, but they don’t like iron or steel, which is understandable as it’s said to weaken their powers.” Hermione was on a roll now. “Some sources also say they don’t like salt, but others claim that’s nonsense, so I figure this might be an individual thing. And the books didn’t say this outright, but I know how to read between the lines, and…. er.” Suddenly, mid-tirade, she hesitated.
“What?” said Harry.
To his surprise, Hermione was blushing. “Well… er… it’s probably tied to them being more closely linked to the primordial forces of nature,” said Hermione evasively, clearly wishing she’d stopped talking after she’d mentioned the salt. “But… it seems like the Fae are… kind of hedonistic.”
“Hedonistic?” Harry repeated.
“You know.” She didn’t meet his eyes. “Lovers of… pleasure.”
Hermione grit her teeth. “Yes! Do I have to spell it out for you?”
“Sex!” Hermione snapped. “They have a lot of sex! Are you happy now? Do you think it’s funny to make me say it? We’re eleven!”
“Oh,” said Harry. And then, because he couldn’t think of anything else, he added: “Eeeurgh.”
Hermione was blushing furiously and muttering something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like “Boys.”
“Sor — my apol — sorry,” said Harry. To be honest, after spending so much time with three flitlings who never wore a stitch of clothing, he shouldn’t have been surprised. (But at least, if Yellow, Magenta and Cyan had a lot of sex, they had the decency to do it when he wasn’t around to see it.)
“Er, sounds like you know quite a bit about the Fae anyway, Hermione,” said Ron, “Some of it’s, er, probably a little exaggerated… I mean, the Fae are individuals too, you get some who do and some who don’t… er, yeah.”
“I suppose,” said Hermione. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“I’m not, I just thought of something… er… just a thought, really… But when Snape mentioned the Fae girl…”
Hermione’s eyes widened. “Ron Weasley!” she gasped. “If you’re suggesting that I’m some kind of, of hedonistic fairy girl, some changeling from another dimension…!”
“Okay, okay!” Ron raised his hands disarmingly. “You’re not. I get it. I was just, er, remembering something… it was something that, er, someone said earlier this year —”
“Did you remember that Lavender accused me of not being human?” said Hermione, annoyed. “That’s rubbish and you should know it! I’m as human as you are!”
“No, it wasn’t Lavender, it was —” Ron looked at Harry before continuing: “—someone else. Someone Harry and I talked to a while ago. She just said something that I remembered, and, er… what if this Fae girl is someone we know? Someone… in our year, even?”
“And you immediately thought of me,” said Hermione. “How very flattering. But I’m not hedonistic, thank you very much! Now come on, it’s freezing out here and I want to get back to the common room.”
Ron didn’t say anymore as they walked the rest of the distance to the castle, but Harry knew what he was thinking about: Back at their first fisit to Hagrid’s hut, when Ron had first met the flitlings, Cyan had mentioned that Dumbledore had asked them about a girl in Harry’s year. She hadn’t said which girl, and Harry had forgotten to ask because he’d learned so many other things at the time… but if this girl was the same as Snape’s Fae girl… well, it had to be one of their fellow first-years.
Could it be Hermione? Or… was it one of the other girls? He really had to talk to the flitlings.