That night, I took Nathalie's copy of Hogwarts: A History into the bath with me. I threw my hair into a bun on top of my head and settled in, ready to sit there soaking and reading until the water went cold. The fascinating information printed on the ancient pages thrilled me. The castle had an enchanted ceiling that was bewitched to look like the sky. I closed my eyes and tried to picture it but just couldn't. I'd have to wait.
A whole year.
To distract myself from that frustrating reality, I skipped ahead (something I never, ever do) to the section about the school's Founders. There were many words I was unfamiliar with as I went through the chapter and to my great disappointment, there wasn't a single footnote to explain. I paid particular attention to the chapters on the lives of Rowena Ravenclaw and Godric Gryffindor. Professor McGonagall was the head of Gryffindor House and she thought I'd be well suited for it. The more I read about him, the more I doubted my capacity for Gryffindor. Gryffindors were categorized as the bravest of the brave; I didn't consider myself brave at all. However, Ravenclaw seemed to suit me fine – the smartest, most quick-witted students were Ravenclaws and I decided that is probably where I belonged.
I was still reading when Mum came knocking,
"Hermione? Are you still in there?"
"Yes, Mum." I answered. I looked up at the clock – how could it possibly be so late? I'd been reading for three hours already!
"You're going to be a wrinkled prune, darling!" She teased me.
I realized that the water was quite cold and I started shivering. I marked my page in the book and set it down on a table next to the tub before I got out and toweled off. I pulled on some soft blue pyjamas and carried my book to my bedroom.
And so began my nightly ritual. I read the Hogwarts: A History in the bath and then read the Standard Book of Spells in my room until I fell asleep. I kept a diary of spells I'd tried with Nathalie's wand. I wrote out what the spell was, and if I was successful. I tried to keep them all small, but useful; everyday spells. Hogwarts: A History told me that the Ministry of Magic sent warning letters students who practice magic outside of the school. As much as I wanted to try the more advanced spells at the back of the textbook, I didn't want to get into trouble, or do anything else to jeopardize my future education.
It got me wondering how students from magical families got by not using magic. It must be terribly tempting to see your parents using magic in daily life and not being able to. I wasn't sure how I would handle that temptation. The more I thought about it, the happier I was to be Muggleborn; I never had to watch my parents' wands whizz around while I sat on my hands wishing I could do magic.
Months went by and though I had read Hogwarts: A History a few dozen times by then, I continued to read it faithfully every night. I only flipped through the Standard Book of Spells after a while. I wasn't as successful at many of the spells I attempted as I had hoped and it was getting me upset. I decided it would be better to wait until I was at school to try again in earnest. I couldn't concentrate on my spellwork if I was constantly worried about an owl pecking at my window with a letter from the Ministry, warning me to stop practicing magic or else. I also thought there must be an element I was missing or wand movement I wasn't doing properly. Better to wait and not learn bad habits. Nathalie said she didn't want any of the other First Years showing me up and I was determined not to disappoint her.
On Christmas morning, I found a package wrapped in brown paper tied with blue and bronze ribbons. I knew it was from Nathalie straight away; blue and bronze are the Ravenclaw House colors. I smiled wide taking the package in my hands, I knew in a flash that it was a book. I looked at my parents and they nodded, giving me permission to open it.
I tore into the paper and snapped the ribbons open. It was a brand new copy of the Standard Book of Spells. I opened the cover and a piece of parchment fell into my lap. It was a note:
The brand-new edition was just published, I thought you'd like to have it! Don't worry if you're not quite getting the hang of certain spells; you have a lot to learn and plenty of time to master it all. I know you're going to be something very, very special!
Happy Christmas, see you in August!
I was thrilled down to my fingertips. I made a mental note to call Nathalie and thank her for the book. I also needed to know what "see you in August" meant! Did I really have to wait until then to get all of my school things? Where would I even go to buy them? I knew my Muggle money wouldn't be any good in the Wizarding world. I had so many questions, I needed to make sure I talked to her.
My new edition of the spellbook revived my efforts to master certain spells. The spells themselves were exactly the same as what was written in the older book, but the descriptions and actual "how-to" instructions in the new edition were far superior. Spells I had tried at least 20 times unsuccessfully were suddenly working, I just needed to tweak my form a little bit. Like my dad always told me whenever I fell off my bicycle, "Practice makes perfect."
I took my diary to school with me one day and I was sitting outside during recess documenting my success with a light-summoning spell when Jaya grabbed out of my hands.
"Aww, the little bookworm is writing in her diary. How sweet." She taunted. I couldn't believe I had ever considered her a friend.
"Give it back, please."
"Why, Hermione? So you can keep writing about what a freak you are?" She said, laughing. Amelia was standing nearby, sniggering. Patricia had her arms crossed over her chest.
"I asked you nicely." I said through gritted teeth. I felt the lump in my throat getting bigger. I would not let them see me cry. I would not give them that power.
"Thought you were so clever at camp, didn't you? Well, Hermione Granger, let's just see what such a clever girl writes about." Jaya said, opening my diary. She turned her back on me, I panicked. I reached into my bag, gripped Nathalie's wand and whispered a spell I'd only managed once.
My diary flew from Jaya's hand and landed on the pavement to my feet. She and Amelia both looked at me with large, bewildered eyes. Patricia looked shocked too, but not afraid like the other two. I glared at them all with an air of superiority as I pushed my diary deep into my bookbag and left them all standing there.
I was nervous the rest of the day. I had a feeling of dread in my stomach I couldn't shake. I knew it was incredibly stupid to bring my diary with me to school. It was completely reckless of me to perform magic in front of Patricia, Jaya and Amelia. The Thing at camp was one thing, I didn't have any control over my powers then. I was scared and it just happened. Using the Disarming charm outside of school was a major violation; and I'd done it in front of Muggles, no less.
Jaya and Amelia stayed away from me the rest of the day and to my surprise, I didn't hear any whispering about what happened from my other classmates. Patricia looked like she wanted to talk to me when we boarded the bus home. My knee bounced the whole ride. I ran from the bus stop around the corner and saw Nathalie sitting on my front stairs, waiting for me. I felt sick to my stomach. She was coming to tell me I was expelled from Hogwarts before I'd even started lessons there.
I dropped my chin to my chest and walked slowly towards her. I wanted to savor the last few minutes before hearing the bad news. Without a word, I dropped my book bag on the walkway and sat next to Nathalie. She was wearing her black boots again. She'd paired them with a long grey-purple dress and denim vest. Her blonde hair was longer and shinier than ever.
"So. You know why I'm here?" She asked me. I nodded my head and she smiled weakly.
"Ok. Let's go inside, Hermione. We'll work this out."
I looked up, "Work what out? I'm expelled, aren't I?"
She smiled, "No, you aren't. The Ministry knows you used magic outside of school and in front of those Muggle girls but as you aren't enrolled in school yet..." Her voice trailed off.
My heart lifted. Hot tears of relief formed in my eyes. "Really?"
She gestured toward my front door. "Let's talk inside."
I wore my key on a piece of red cord around my neck. I pulled it out of my uniform shirt and let us into the house.
"I just have to ring Mum, let her know I'm home." I said to Nathalie.
I nervously dialed the phone number of my parents' dental practice.
"Granger Family Dental, this is Kate speaking." The bright, sunny voice said.
"Hi Kate. It's Hermione." I said quietly.
"Oh, hi kiddo!" She said, I smiled a little. "How was school today?"
"It was fine." I replied. "Is Mum there?"
"Your Mum is with a patient right now. Your Dad is out. Are you at home?" Kate asked me.
"Yes, I am. Could you –"
"I'll let her know."
"Oh, could you also tell her…Nathalie is here with me?" I added.
"Of course! I'll tell her. Talk to you later! Have fun playing with your friend!" She said.
"Thanks, Kate. Bye." I hung up the receiver and sighed heavily.
When I walked into our parlour, Nathalie was eating an apple. She'd pulled her boots off and was sitting cross-legged on our sofa.
"Tell me exactly what happened." She said.
I recounted how I had been keeping a diary of spells I tried. She smiled proudly.
"A very Ravenclaw thing to do. Organized." She remarked with a wink.
I returned her smile but was nervous about the next part of my story. I told her I brought both my diary and her wand to school with me. I pulled them both from my bookbag and lay them on the table. I couldn't read her expression at first. I expected her to be angry, but she looked more sympathetic.
I held tears back when I explained all about my friends abandoning me and told her the whole story about Jaya stealing my diary.
"I couldn't have her read it. I just couldn't. I know it wouldn't have made any sense to her, but…but…" I started sobbing. Nathalie handed me a blue handkerchief.
"But you were afraid she'd take the mickey out of you? Afraid she'd tell everyone?"
I nodded. "She used to be my friend. She doesn't deserve to know about magic." I said, swallowing hard.
Nathalie paused and looked down at the floor. "I would have done the same thing. It's fine, Hermione. I promise."
I sniffled. "Are you sure? But I did magic out of school…in front of Muggles…"
Nathalie finished her apple and I watched with awe and envy when she levitated the core and dropped it into the bin in the kitchen. She rubbed her hands together and cleared her throat before she spoke.
"Well, like I said, until you're a student the Ministry is more lenient. All they know is you performed magic, and it happened in front of Muggles – they don't know the details. They don't know you did it on purpose or why. Actually, even if they did know you intentionally did it, the fact that you are Muggleborn actually works in your favor in this instance. They think Muggleborns are more apt to act rashly."
"So, if they're lenient..." I started.
"Why am I here?" She finished my thought. I nodded.
"They contacted McGonagall and told her what happened. She owled me and asked me to come. She didn't want you to be a nervous wreck." She winked. "If the Ministry was going to chuck you, you would have gotten an official warning or a notification of a Ministry hearing for the use of underaged Magic, or worse: a letter telling you of your expulsion. You have an official pass on what happened today, but you can't be so irresponsible again, Hermione." She put a friendly arm around my shoulders and gave me a squeeze.
"I promise. No more rule-breaking. Ever." I said, wiping my tears away.