Unlucky and Lucky
That night I was in conference with the staff using the floo. McGonagall hadn't want to walk down to the staffroom, and we didn't want her to, either. Rather than place our heads in fire, we had the fires a shimmering low emerald, and were each in our own respective offices, discussing what we needed to. We had gone over the plans for the end of the year feast, spoken unanimously about the potion being made available to the general public (we'd start in Hogsmeade), and were almost all the way through the possibilities of a new Transfiguration teacher, now that it was obvious Minerva wouldn't be able to do it all.
Professor Flitwick's voice rang out high and clear from my fireplace. "So Molly Weasley and Andromeda Tonks are the applicants we've decided?"
"Yes." I answered, an echo to the other 'yeses' that sounded at the same time.
"I will send the owls out in the morning."
"Very good." Minerva's voice said. "We will decided between them without prejudice, either would be an excellent choice.
"On to the next order of business, and then we close for the night, I think." A soft flutter of relieved sighs wafted around the room. "Enough of that." Minerva's stern voice only changed the sighs to chuckles. "Right. Severus, how is Miss Granger adjusting?"
"As far as I know, quite well." I replied. "I haven't seen or heard from her, except that her trunk is moved in. I imagine she's either reading or sleeping at this hour."
"I want no more of this nonsense going on, this in-house fighting." This time, the tone of voice brought nothing except straight backs from myself, and I'm certain, to everyone else listening. "The rivalry between houses is, to some extent, expected. But for students to pick fights with each other in the same common room will not be tolerated. Also," her words took a softer note, "I'm fairly certain that this started, not because of an argument about the unfair attitude of a teacher, but because there's a lot of underlying resentment and misunderstanding going around about our Hermione. I want everyone to do their best to protect her, without giving the idea that they're doing anything out of the ordinary. Is that clear?"
Again, a chorus of yeses.
"Good. Then I call this meeting closed, and hope to see you all bright and early at breakfast."
Good-nights were called, then the flames went orange. I stretched and looked at the wall. It was a good wall. A thick, stone wall with even bricks layed. In between each brick was an invisible layer of magic, built to protect, to ensure it was sturdy, to rise up in defense of those who resided if need be- and to block out the sounds of a worried, upset teenage girl if it needed to.
I sighed, then got up and paced around the room. It had never seemed dull to me until now. I had felt comforted in the fact that my offices, and my chambers, were bare save for books or potion ingredients. Now, I wish I had something more to take my mind off worrying. Minerva walking with a cane. A top student, forced out of her chambers. It was a different kind of apprehension, one I hadn't felt in... Years. Before Voldemort, before Hogwarts. It felt strange, remembering that time, that simple time, where the only thing I really worried about were those around me... Yet, somehow worse, because once again I felt that helpless kind of feeling, where I didn't know what to do, or even if I could.
A commotion outside my office door, in the Potion's classroom, broke my reminiscing. I moved swiftly to the door and swung it open. The sight that greeted me was Argus Filch, though old and more bedraggled than ever, succeeding at bringing two struggling girls to my office door. I waved my wand to illuminate the room.
"Professor! I found these two trying to sneak into the dungeons. Likely trying to make off with some of the potions brewing around here."
"It was nothing like that honest!" one of them insisted.
"Yeah, we weren't trying to sneak into your creepy classroom!" The other had a kind of south London accent, and I recognized her as a 7th year Gryffindor.
"But you were trying to get into the area under my jurisdiction." I nodded my head to Filch, who dropped the two on the floor, keeping a foot on their robes so they couldn't move. I didn't doubt his strength for an instant. "Does this have to do anything with Granger residing here?"
"No, Professor." They answered in unison, and far too quickly. I closed my eyes with impatience; why does everyone take me for a fool?
"I am not stupid, ladies." I folded my arms slowly around me, bringing my cloak close, and tilting my head to the side. They looked scared. They should be. "I am, however, in the possession of Veritaserum, and a caretaker who wouldn't blab."
"He's right, miss." Filch addressed the speaker, who was trying to get out from under his foot. "And he's right about me, too. I'd say he was being too easy on you. Students out of bed ought to spend the night with wrists in chains."
"Well said Filch."
"All right, all right!" The one from south London spoke. "It was about her." She nodded her head to the other, who'd spoken up after my threat. "The one that threw the punch was her little sister. She was mad, because it seemed like Hermione was getting special treatment. Granger starts a fight, her sister finishes it, and Granger gets her own room while her sister has detention for a week while writing a two foot scroll on why we use magic and talking, not brute strength, to sort through our problems. I just came cause I feel like she's too smart for her own good."
"And," I finished, "because you were the only one willing to listen to this nonsense about Miss Granger starting a fight."
"You used to hate her, you should know!"
"Miss... McKendrick, isn't it? I am a teacher, I don't take sides. But if I did, I would say that she is a know-it-all, but not too smart for her own good, and would never start anything- except an extra assignment. Now then... About your punishments..."
"Please, not detention!" the other, obviously a Noble, cried.
"No, no, your sister is serving detention. This calls for something... Original." I paced, pretending to need a moment, but already having an idea. My smile as I turned back to them brought a mirror image to Filch's face. "Your N.E.W.T. testings were going to be a few drops of Veritaserum and then you were going to be asked how the Amortentia smelled to you. You two will take yours... in public."
"You can't do that!" Jessica cried again.
"I'm giving the test, I can administer it however I choose, something that you had best not pass along." I tilted my head again. "Why is it that you think I can't do something, just because it's something you wouldn't like?" I let my words fall slowly, looking them coldly in the eyes, before waving them off.
"Escort these girls back to their dormitory, Mister Filch. A true hero you are tonight, for bringing these vagabonds to justice." I leaned down slightly, my voice lowering. "And how unlucky you two were to be caught." I gave each of them a long, icy stare. "I don't want to see or hear of you back in this part of the castle unless it's for classes. Which, by the way, you'd better pay attention in. If either of you fail your N.E.W.T.s, I will assume it's on purpose, and you will spend your last few days as Hogwarts students helping Filch with the last minute cleaning duties in the castle. Without magic."
A last shocked look from them, and Filch was dragging them off, looking darkly pleased with everything. I watched them go, then turned to head back to my office.
A soft voice made me turn suddenly, sending my robes whirling around me. Hermione Granger was leaning in the doorway wearing crimson pajamas with a lion emblazoned on one corner. Her hair looked horribly disheveled. Had it been almost any other situation, I would have laughed.
"Miss Granger, what are you doing up?"
"I wanted to get a glass of water, and I heard voices." She took a step closer looking around the empty classroom, then back at me. "What happened?"
"You should be getting back to bed." I turned back, heading toward my office.
"Professor!" she called after me. I ignored her.
That stopped me. I turned back to her, to see her crying.
"Tell me what happened."
I sighed, and walked over to her.
"You are taking too much on yourself Miss Granger, but I'll tell you." I pulled a chair over to us, and had her sit. To be fair, I'd meant it originally for myself, but thought better of it. "It was two Gryffindors in your class. They were apparently upset with you for your scuffle the other day." She opened her mouth to protest, and I raised my hand. "They were the only two who felt that way, and they have been dealt with."
"You weren't too hard on them?"
"Your rescuer, Filch, was all for the usual things he's fond of. But no, I don't think so. They will be taking their N.E.W.T. tests in public."
She looked curious. "What are the tests?"
I smiled, partly relieved that she had cheered up so fast. "I will not give out that information, and if they try to tell you or anyone else, the same punishment they received will be given to those who were willing to listen."
She shivered. "Nevermind, I don't want to know."
I nodded. "Then I think it's time we each went back to our own chambers."
She stood, stretching. I rose after her, waiting for her to speak.
"You're right, Professor. Sorry about using your name earlier, by the way." I bowed slightly. She laughed, then looked thoughtful. "Whatever you did, it's not going to help my point of you being a good person, beneath the dogma about you."
"I don't mind that Miss Granger. I don't care what the other students think of me."
"But you care about what I think of you?"
Hmmm. "That remains to be seen."
She chuckled softly, looking better, then suddenly embarrassed. "I... just realized I'm in my pajamas."
I raised an eyebrow.
"Nothing, sorry." She shrugged, wrapping her arms around herself, then turned to walk away. I felt that was invitation to call it a night, and turned to do the same.
"You really must stop talking just before I exit the room, Miss Granger."
"Sorry, again." I turned back to see her about to leave, but looking at me through a part in her hair. "I just wanted to say... Thank you. I feel very lucky to have someone like you at my back."
I bowed again. She shook her head, but smiled. "Goodnight, Professor."
I waited until she'd closed the door. I started through my office, then paused, and turned back to where she'd been. "Goodnight, Hermione Granger."