Troll… Troll in the Dungeon!


Herman Tumbleweed

Disclaimer: I used to think I would one day be a great author, but then I found HP fanfiction and began to realize this is a lot more fun than being rich, famous, and having adoring fans all over the world. Hmm, well the rich part I wouldn't mind most of the time, but since I like my dogs, cats, goats, chickens, and alpacas better than I like most people I know… Erm, oh yeah, JKR owns this universe and I only get to play with her characters and don't get to make any money from this. Works out in the long run, I suppose… maybe, kinda sorta, in a way you might say.

Short A/N (hopefully): One of the points of this story is to show how I think Harry and Ron would really have been at the beginning of the series, and to contrast the two. Perhaps I've gone a bit overboard with how eleven year old Won-Won speaks and a few other things, but I truly don't like the little &*^$, er, well, as he was written in canon. So, I made him appear as lazy as JK intimated, including how he speaks. Sorry if you find this "dialect", difficult to read, but frankly Ron is truly a lazy git. So, ample Ron Bashing in this one, so if ya don't like that, don't read it. I make no apologies for my own view of the characters. Btw, if ya think that stuff is hard to read at times, it is exponentially so to write. :grin:

Chapter One (also the only chapter, just in case you were looking for others):

How to Win (against) Trolls and Influence Morons

Harry had studied hard for the month after he'd gotten his supplies and books in Diagon Alley with Hagrid on his birthday. Since he wouldn't have to answer to his dratted aunt and uncle about his marks, and wouldn't have Dudley to hold him back, so to say, he wanted to do the best he could, which was a lot better than his marks had shown in his primary school. There, he had done the work and always got it right when he later checked his saved results against the corrections on the poorly done work he turned in. It kept him from getting beatings and days in the cupboard with no food; in other words, it kept the pig-in-a-wig's parents happy and off his case. Well, for that at least. They would never be more than "relatives" to him, and he wasn't too sure he'd even admit to that when he was finally able to be shot of the whole lot of them.

So it was that when he started Hogwarts' classes he was doing quite as well as anyone in the first year for the first couple of weeks. This surprised him, of course, having been under the impression that those who grew up with magic, like Ron Weasley for instance, would have been miles ahead. But they were not.

In fact, Ron didn't seem to even want to do homework, something which rather bothered Harry. After that first couple of weeks, he gave in to the constant whinging and interruptions by the read headed slacker and went along with his new friend's lackadaisical ways. However, he soon began to see that he'd not learn what he wanted to learn; that he would never keep up with some, like the Granger girl who seemed to study all the time. He was all for having time off for playing about and that, but knew studying was just as important, if not more so. Ron didn't seem to see it that way at all; in fact, it was as if he didn't want to work for anything nor felt he needed to.

In truth, the other boy's attitude bothered Harry, which led to a bit of a row between them on the day before Hallowe'en. As soon as they returned to the Gryffindor common room from the last class of the day, at around mid-afternoon in this case, Harry told Ron, "I'm going to do some of the homework we've been putting off." After nearly six weeks of this he was sick of always procrastinating the week's work and having to stay in the castle on weekends, or up late the night before something was due so as to finish it.

To Harry, the other boy sounded a lot like Dudley when he practically whinged, "Oh, c'mon, Harry, we gots all weekend to do that stuff. Le's us go'n s'plore the grounds some more." It was always this way with Ron, and Harry had had enough of it.

The messy-haired boy looked earnestly at his first, and only, friend his own age so far, and told him, "Ron, we need to get this work done. I don't want to spend all weekend in the castle doing homework again. I came here to learn to be a wizard, not to play all the time." It was the first time Harry had stood up for himself in several years, since he was a toddler he was sure, and it felt good. Continuing, he added, "I'm gonna get some stuff and go to the library, you coming? We have three essays to write due next week and I don't want to be messing about trying to come up with something to write at the last minute, as usual."

Going on with his whinging as Harry led the way up to their dorm, the redhead sounded as if he was actually pouting. "Ah, c'mon, Harry, y'know I hate the lib'ary; too quiet in there. And people don't do nothin' but look at books. Tha's not no way t'spend our time off." As they reached their beds, he brightened and added, "C'mon, I'll get muh chess set 'n' teach ya more about how to play wizards' chess."

Harry was retrieving parchment, quills, ink, some class notes, and set books from the small study desk, which doubled as a nightstand, by his bed. "No thanks, Ron. I really want to keep up in classes. You don't want that Granger girl to be the only one to have all the answers all the time, do ya?"

"What? The slacker-extraordinaire exclaimed. "The know-it-all who don't got no friends and'll prolly never have none?" He scoffed. "Ya gotta be kiddin'. Ya wanna be like her? Ya wanna stick yer hand up an' wave it 'round like yer tryin' to catch flies?" He put his hand in the air, standing on his tip-toes, in a grossly overdone imitation of the girl's actions in class.

Harry stopped gathering his things and looked over his shoulder at the other boy with a scowl. "Ron, it is not nice to make fun of people, just because they are different from you." His tone was low and held a hint of the anger he was beginning to feel as he turned to face the other. If there was one thing the dark haired boy could not stand it was bullying in any way, shape, or form, and anyone who behaved as Weasley was just then smacked of being a bully in his mind.

"What?" The other boy cried (again). "Merlin's balls, Harry, the bushy-haired, buck-toothed bookworm's a right pain in the arse in class, actin' like she knows more'n ev'body else. I can't stand people what show off how much they know, or how much more they study. Now, if she was the youngest Quidditch player in a century or so, like you, I'd be int'rested. But, a know-it-all in all our classes? What's'a use in'at? I don't care about that stuff, I jes' wanna learn what they make me learn, an' that's good enough. Why study like that? Will it make me better at Quidditch? I don't think so!" He folded his skinny arms over his skinny chest and assumed a pose as if that put paid to the subject.

Harry watched, with his mouth slightly hanging open, as his purported friend spewed just about the dumbest tirade in history; in fact he once more sounded eerily like Dudley. Blinking several times, he tried to rid himself of the image of his obese cousin's rotund visage overlaying that of his very thin dorm-mate, the boy he'd begun to get close to. It was clear their friendship was unlikely to continue if this was going to be Ron's attitude all the time.

After dispelling that disturbing image while the other boy still stood in that same silly pose, Harry finally asked, incredulously, "Ron, do you think that you can spend seven years here, maybe pass your OWL's and NEWT's, and get a job after without studying? Do you think that you don't need to know anything at all to be a Quidditch player, other than all the team and player stats for the last two hundred years? Don't you know how competitive it is for spots on professional sport teams? Good grades can sometimes make the difference of whether you get the job or not." That he was right in assuming that was exactly what the other boy thought was, unfortunately, borne out by the idiot's next statement.

"Harry, mate, course I need ta know other stuff. I need ta know how'ta ride a broom better'n most, alla the Quidditch rules, and maybe how to summ'n somethin' like a butterbeer when I wants one. What the hell else would I need to know? 'sides, Percy said we don' learn the summ'nin' charm til fourth year." Scoffing with a snort he added, "An' that's bullshite about grades, all ya gotta be is th' best." He gave the same constipated look Dudley got when trying to think through something difficult, then brightened again and looked smug. "'sides, since we gots the know-it-all in our house, shouldn' be too hard to get her ta help us with stuff. She ain't got no friends, so I bet she'd fall all over herself to help anyone who acts friendly to her."

This at least proved the boy had a few fairly intelligent brain cells, but damn few, in Harry's estimation; but then there are many kinds of intelligence, Harry knew.

Still, the green eyed one gaped at the redheaded fool for at least a full minute. Then he finally shook his head, turned his back, grabbed his stuff, and stormed out of the dorm before he said or did something to get himself in trouble with Professor McGonagall. It had been a close run thing for the last few moments that he'd faced the worthless clod. As well, the lazy moron's lazy way of speaking was giving him a headache, and he was sure he'd lost a few IQ points just being near the idiot.

They were leaving Charms the next day when things came to an unfortunate head. In class Harry was paired with Seamus, and Hermione with Ron, though the dark haired wizard would have definitely preferred that he was the one working with the cute young genius. She was nice most of the time, and Harry didn't have the aversion to girls his dorm mates had. She had gotten the Levitation charm almost right away, with Harry only shortly behind her. But then she'd spent the remainder of the class period alternating between practicing the charm and trying to help Ron learn it. He seemed to completely disregard anything and everything she told him, making snide comments back. He then kept going on the way he had been. Consequently, the redhead did not learn the Levitation charm that day. Harry wondered if he ever would.

That was not the end of it, though. As they left the classroom, Harry was following the loud-mouthed lout who had to go and spout off more of his stupid bullying crap, and it lit Harry's fuse. And it was a quite short, if slow burning one. The idiot said, "I swear, she's gotta be the most annoyin' bird in the school." He then imitated how she'd tried to help him, intentionally making it sound very unflattering. But then, he capped it by adding, "She's a nightmare, honestly; ain't no wonder she don't got no friends."

Immediately, Harry felt someone brush past him and take a wide path around Ron and his cronies. At least that is how the raven haired wizard was starting to think of Seamus and Dean, since both had laughed at Ron's antics. But the person who breezed past was the subject of the redheaded menace's bullying comments, and the glimpse Harry got of her face showed she was in tears. The fuse had just run out.

Grabbing the red-headed moron by the back of his robes, a very incensed Harry Potter literally threw Ron face first into the wall next to them. He then grabbed the front of those same robes, spun the larger boy about, and held him in place while angrily hissing into his face. "Weasley, I told you yesterday that you were being a bully with the things you were saying, and to say them again in front of her is unforgiveable to me. But then I'm not the one who ran off crying, now am I?"

It has been said that some fools never learn. Ron proved he fit that category by yelling back, "What's with you, Potter? T'ain't as if you ain't never said nothin' 'bout her. 'sides, she's just a girl, and one who is a right pain in the arse, so why should I give a shite what she thinks or does? Girls ain't worth shite, and you know it. So why should I be fussed if she went off to boo-hoo in the girls' loo."

Sad to say, but the entire class was still in the hallway, and every girl from both houses heard what he'd said. It would likely be well after he got out of Hogwarts before the boy ever got a date, if even then, at this rate.

That had to be the stupidest thing Harry ever heard, and he had heard some doozies from Dudley. He inwardly smirked as he realized how girls were never going to like the dimwit. From the looks on the faces of the few girls he could presently see, the moRon was totally blacklisted by the girls in at least two houses.

The green eyed wizard was too angry to be amused just then, though, and growled, "Weasley, you have to be the dumbest sod in the entire school. You make Crabbe and Goyle look smart when you spout off that bullshite. You've really bollocksed it up this time. I wanted to be friends with you before, but now you can take your bullying crap, and your envy, and your lazy arse out of my sight and keep away from me. I ever hear you picking on someone again like that, and… well, let's just say you will not like the results. As for comments I might have made about Hermione, it was more in jest, or out of mild frustration when she was being a bit pushy. I never said a single thing to put her down like you have done numerous times, and I never would. If it wouldn't make me a hypocrite, I'd start calling you Mo-Ron, but that would make me almost as bad as you."

He then apparently used a burst of accidental, or at least wandless, magic and threw the lanky redheaded dick about five metres down the hall, where the boy landed in a heap. Turning to the other two dickheads from his dorm, Harry commanded, "Pick up that pile of shite and keep it away from me for the rest of the day."

Oddly, the two other boys looked frightened of their smaller classmate (who didn't know his eyes were glowing and that he had a slight, shimmering gold aura about him). They took off at nearly a dead run, quickly picked the moRon up off the floor where he lay stunned but unhurt, and hustled him off down the corridor and around the corner to the main hallway.

After the trio disappeared from sight, Neville, of all people, came up beside Harry and laid a hand on his shoulder. "H… Harry," the boy stuttered, "erm, are you okay now?" You were, you know, kind of, erm, glowing just then."

Shocked, Harry's already waning anger was instantly replaced with confusion. "Glowing?" he asked somewhat timidly.

Several of their classmates nodded, all of them looking somewhat awed still, though he noticed that at least none of them looked scared. Neville also nodded and told him, "Yeah, mate, you had this weird golden aura-like thing come around you and your eyes were glowing green when you got so angry at the berk. I still can't believe he said all that crap about Hermione. She's never been anything but nice and helpful to anyone. Sure, she's a bit pushy at times about studying and stuff, but she sure didn't deserve that rubbish." The peanut gallery nodded along with Neville as he spoke, and voiced their agreement.

Meanwhile Harry got lost in thought for a moment about the aura or whatever it was, but then his mind cleared and he decided to think about that later. He turned to the other students, asking, "Could all of you please keep the glowing thing to yourselves for now?" Everyone nodded and they all knew the tarnished trio of boys who left wouldn't say a word, being cowards and all. He then asked, "Parvati and Lavender, would the two of you go and see if you can help Hermione, or at least find her and make sure she's alright?" The pair nodded and headed off, with Susan Bones and Hannah Abbot following and saying they'd help. Several other girls joined the search a moment later.

Harry didn't see Hermione the rest of the day, though he kept an eye out for her. He didn't think she'd ever missed a class before, though she did skive off two that afternoon. It wasn't until the feast that he was able to ask any of the girls whether they'd found her.

Lavender told him, "Sue and Hannah found her just a few minutes later, as it turned out." She looked angrily at the moRon down the table a ways who was talking animatedly with his two new friends. Following her line of sight, Harry noted the bloody git didn't seem to have a care in the world. Little did he know that the moniker he'd coined for the other boy earlier would stick for many years to come. And even though he himself tried to never use it aloud, many others did.

"Anyway," she continued after a moment, "She was in the girls' loo on the third floor, by the Charms corridor, still crying and refused to come out. We went to see how she was after classes this afternoon, and she still was crying a bit." Lavender then added, while again glaring at the moRon, "She still refused to come out, and if she still hasn't come out by the time the feast ends I guess we should go tell Professor McGonagall."

Harry thanked the girls, and moved off a couple of places to sit with Neville who looked at him questioningly. He told the other boy what the girls had said; Neville nodded sagely, remarking that going to McGonagall was probably the best thing to do. The two boys spoke little for the next few minutes, each thinking about the girl whose feelings were so badly hurt that she'd sat crying in a bathroom stall for several hours. Harry realized he knew exactly how Hermione felt and determined he'd do anything to help her not feel that way. It really hurt.

A few minutes later, the headmaster rose for his opening comments to start the feast. Harry noted the eccentric old mage was wearing absolutely horrid orange robes with bats and jack-o-lanterns dancing about on them. The young wizard thought he looked ridiculous. Fortunately, the oldster kept his remarks short and soon the tables were filled with all manner of tempting dishes.

It was just as Harry finished spooning some yummy looking yams onto his plate, and before he'd got a bite of anything, that Professor Quirrell staggeringly ran into the hall looking terrified. He screamed out, "Troll… Troll in the dungeons," then muttered, as he started to sway in place, "thought you ought to know." To complete the performance, the second worst teacher Harry had ever had then fainted in what had to be the worst acting job the youngster had ever seen. (The young man considered his potions professor to be the worst professor ever, but not by much over this stuttering mess.)

Falsely fainting faculty aside, nearly everyone started yelling in fright, and it took the aged headmaster several loud bangs from his wand to get the students to quiet down. Finally getting everyone's attention, the barmy old coot directed the prefects to take everyone to their dormitories, and the staff to follow him to the dungeons. Harry thought this was exceedingly stupid, given that the Slytherins were housed in the dungeons and he'd heard the Hufflepuffs were in a basement near the kitchens. But, far be it for an eleven year old neophyte wizard to tell an ancient fossil of a wizard what he should do. Besides, the youngster had a more pressing thought on his mind: how to get to Hermione and warn her about the troll.

The prefects quickly rounded up all the Gryffindors, though Harry, with Neville beside him, managed to hang toward the back of the pack. The moRon and company weren't far ahead and seemed to be laughing about the situation. Neville looked sideways at the green eyed one, and said softly, "Hermione?" Harry nodded once quickly, and both their faces were then set in a very determined look.

It only made sense to the raven haired wizard to follow along with the rest, even if they were moving a lot slower than he'd have liked. Crowds never move quickly, unless totally panicked, and the prefects were keeping that under control for now. Harry decided to wait until they got to the third floor, then sneak off to the Charms corridor and get Hermione out of that bathroom somehow, even if he had to carry her.

Looking over at Neville, he held up three fingers, softly whispering, "Charms". His compatriot gave a nod of understanding. It amazed Harry how much he and the other boy seemed to have clicked since the altercation earlier with the moRon, and he was wondering why he'd befriended the redheaded dick rather than this quiet, unassuming boy. He was starting to like Neville a lot and also started to think they may have a lot more in common than he'd first thought. That, of course, was a subject for later exploration.

It seemed to take forever before they reached the third floor, but as soon as Harry and Neville did so, they started to drop back from the rest of their housemates. It was made easier by there being no Prefect bringing up the rear. Harry thought that stupid, since the teachers always went last during fire drills at his Muggle school. However, since it gave the two first years the opportunity they needed, they took advantage of it to slip off.

Just as they got clear of the crowd, the black-haired boy had a thought which raised his ire once more. The idiot should help, as far as he was concerned. Touching Neville on the arm so he'd wait, Harry ran over to snatch hold of the back of the moRon's robes. Once again he didn't notice, but there was a golden aura around him as he bodily propelled the larger boy toward Neville. Oddly, the redhead had not made a sound, though his mouth seemed to be moving as if he wanted to be squawking up a storm. It would seem Harry had inadvertently cast a silencing charm on his former friend, though he'd no idea how it had happened, and didn't care at the moment. He had no way of knowing, but he'd also added a Notice-me-not charm to the three of them.

Neville led the way with a glowing Harry still impelling the idiot right behind. As they got near the Charms corridor, they were hit with a stench reminiscent of overflowing cesspools, three day old road kill in summer, and large piles of rotting garbage, with a side of Dungbomb thrown in for good measure. All three gagged a little, though the moRon had to do so silently and looked to be turning rather green. Not that Harry gave a rat's arse about how the idiot felt.

Something then occurred to the angry wizard, and he pulled the dimwit to a stop, hissing at Neville to stop also. Breathing thru their mouths, which didn't really help at all, the two boys drew together for a hurriedly whispered conversation.

"Neville," Harry asked, "do you think that might be the troll." Ron was nodding emphatically, although again, neither of the others paid him any mind.

Thinking for a moment, the pudgy young wizard answered, "Yeah, Harry, probably is. I've heard they smell really putrid… didn't know it was this bad though." He, was turning slightly green as well, but he gestured toward Harry, and said, "You're glowing again. Does that mean you're rather ticked at this cretin then?" He smirked slightly at his witticism.

First chuckling, the smaller boy then snarled at the redhead, and said, "Yeah, but I think ticked hardly gets the point across. Since it was MoRon that caused this cocked up mess in the first place, I wasn't about to let him miss out on the fun". The unwilling ally's face turned white, and his jaw started flapping again as if he was trying to protest, or make more feeble excuses. Harry wasn't sure which and, as has been said, didn't care.

After another moment's thought, the glowing angry young wizard said, more calmly, "Okay, let's go carefully and try not to run into the thing, since the bathrooms are just around that next corner. Neville, stay with us, so we're all together; best not to get separated if we can help it, I think."

Neville nodded, as did MoRon, and the three set off, the latter still being propelled, of course. They reached the intersection of the main hall and the short one the bathrooms were in which connected to the Charms corridor, where Neville stopped and held up a hand, which brought Harry to a halt as well. MoRon, not needing any encouragement or direction, nearly tipped over as he came to a sudden stop.

After peeking quickly around the corner the pudgy boy then whispered to the others, "Don't see it right now, but it might be in one of the classrooms or something."

Harry indicated they should cautiously proceed and just as they rounded the corner, there was a crash and a piercing scream from the girls' bathroom just down and across from them. Giving up all pretence of stealth, Harry charged forward, holding the moRon suspended off the floor with his hand, though he didn't know he was doing so.

Using MoRon to push open what was left of the door, Harry charged into the bathroom to see the creature swinging its huge club about, destroying the stalls and plumbing fixtures, seemingly with abandon. Hermione was frozen, curled up in a ball under a sink in one corner, screaming every time the troll swung its club, which seemed to send the greenish-grey fetid monstrosity into a confused frenzy. In an attempt to distract it, the still glowing young wizard let go of the moRon and started hurling bits of debris at it (the troll, not the moRon) as did Neville. The latter's thrown rubble didn't seem to be doing much, but Harry's was definitely getting the thing's attention since what he threw seemed to hit a lot harder. The other boy wondered just what it was Harry was doing and how his magic was helping him in this, which seemed to be the only answer.

Problem was, the troll then turned its attention from Hermione and wrecking the room to the two boys who really were unprepared for that, and had absolutely no idea what to do next. On impulse, though, Harry ran around behind it, while Neville was still throwing things as hard as he could. The former then basically ran up the back of the twelve foot behemoth, pulled himself up with hands and feet the last few feet on the scaly wrinkled hide, and latched onto its neck.

That definitely got the creature's attention and it dropped its club in favour of trying to reach whatever was hanging onto it by the neck. For his part, the tiny, by comparison, glowing wizard didn't really know what to do next, but he looked over to see Hermione still curled up in a ball in the corner, and yelled "Neville, Ron, get Hermione out of here."

The first named boy started trying to work his way around the behemoth, while Harry hung onto its neck still and kept swinging back and forth to avoid it grabbing him. In an odd moment of clarity he saw the moRon still by the doors, inching backward, with a look of incredible terror and loathing on his face. He appeared to be horrified by the troll, and at the same time thinking it was well beneath his standing as a wizard. Harry instantly realized that his ex-friend was no different than Malfoy, just with slightly different prejudices. It did not in any way endear the redheaded dick to him, not in the least.

Shaken out of those momentary thoughts, the boy clinging to the giant malodourous thing decided enough was enough. He was getting nowhere this way, and could see, as the troll spun back and forth, that Neville was now blocked from pulling Hermione out of the room, even though he had reached her. With all the derring-do of the swashbucklers of olde, Harry manage to get one hand up to the greasy knot of hair on top of the troll's head, and used that grip to pull himself up so he was kneeling on its shoulders and straddling its neck. He then reached around and jammed his wand up the smelly thing's nose, while thinking he wished the bloody damn thing would just disappear.

While still hanging onto the topknot and his wand for dear life, Harry was trying to think of a spell to cast, though he only really knew a few. Again, he strongly wished for the real-life monster to disappear. Suddenly there was an odd, whitish flash of light out of the troll's nostrils and ears. The creature slowly came to a halt in its attempts to dislodge the wizard on its shoulders. It was as if the thing's body took a few moments to catch on to the fact there was a problem with its head. It stood there teetering briefly, then pitched forward, its head breaking off the last sink, and jamming Harry's wand even farther up its nose. Needless to say, when that much incapacitated troll hit the floor it was with a loud booming crash which cracked most of the heretofore undamaged floor and wall tiles, few as there were, and seemed to shake the whole wing of the castle.

As it was falling, Harry had the good sense to jump clear, and rolled away from it, coming to a stop right next to Neville and Hermione. He shot to his feet, standing in front of the other two in case the troll got up again, but it was clear the thing wasn't moving at all. Besides, there appeared to be a large gash on its head with some blood oozing out, so Harry figured it was at least knocked out.

The young wizard just stood and stared at the creature. He couldn't believe that he'd managed to bring it down somehow. In point of fact, he hadn't the faintest notion how that had happened.

Neville, on the other hand, moved up beside him and stared at the apparently dead troll, then at Harry, then back at the troll, and at Harry, several times. He seemed quite perplexed, if quite relieved. Finally, he haltingly asked, "How… how did… erm, how did you do that, Harry?"

The other young wizard stood there in awe of what he'd done moments before, and eventually shrugged, then replied, "Dunno, Neville, haven't a clue what happened."

Coming back to himself then, Harry turned to see how Hermione was doing. She was still sitting on the floor, although no longer huddled in on herself as she had been. She, as well, was staring intermittently at Harry and at the troll, back and forth. She finally locked her gaze on his, tears still in her eyes. He reached out his hand for hers, and helped the terrified young witch get shakily to her feet. She looked deeply into his eyes for a moment, then wrapped herself around him like an octopus, as if she'd never let go – ever. She kept whispering in his ear, "Thank you, thank you, thank you," over and over, and he could feel she was still shaking.

Harry at first stiffened when the frightened girl glommed onto him in the first hug he could ever remember receiving. Slowly though, he relaxed into it, and wrapped his arms around her in turn. He decided right then and there that he liked hugs, especially Hermione Granger hugs.

After she'd calmed down somewhat a couple of minutes later, while still wrapped around him, she asked in a low voice, "Why were you glowing like that, Harry?"

Chuckling in reply, because it was so like her to start asking questions, to attempt to learn all about what happened, as soon as things settled, Harry shrugged again. Looking over at Neville Harry said, "I'm not sure how or why that happened; second time today, in fact. The other was when I took MoRon to task for insulting you like that after Charms."

The still shaking girl, pulled her head back to look at him then, and asked in an incredulous voice, "You… you actually took up for me? You really, truly gave him a bollocking because of what he said?"

Looking at her sincerely, he told her honestly, "I hate bullies, Hermione. My cousin and his gang of friends used to pick on me all the time. Even at home, the pig-in-a-wig was always getting me in trouble with his parents, my aunt and uncle. Or so they claim anyway. I can't stand to be picked on, but I really hate even more to see others bullied. I can promise you, no one will give you that kind of grief in my hearing ever again." There was a fire in his eyes that melted the lonely girl's heart. Neither of them had an inkling at the time, but he'd just largely sealed his fate with the girl. He would be hers unless he totally screwed the pooch somewhere down the line. (Which never happened, to be clear.)

Meanwhile, Neville had decided that discretion was the better part of valour, or something like that, and stepped away as his new friends had their intimate chat. It suddenly dawned on him that he now had a good friend in Harry, and likely in Hermione as well. The thought felt very good to the boy who'd been lonely for as long as he could recall. When the three talked the next day he discovered that Harry and Hermione had both been very isolated most of their lives as well. It was a revelation for three lonesome souls, and the start of a lifelong friendship.

However, the pudgy Longbottom scion was at that moment attempting to tug Harry's wand out of the troll's nose. He was still amazed that they had survived, let alone that the other boy had somehow managed to bring the beast down. After tugging harder and harder, finally with both hands, the wand eventually popped free of its imprisonment in troll bogie land. Poor Neville nearly fell on his backside when it did. Righting himself he looked at the grey glue-like sludge on it and promptly wiped said crud on the filthy loincloth the creature wore. He was fairly sure Harry wouldn't want to keep that… substance for a souvenir. He also made a mental note to remind his new friend to thoroughly clean said wand as soon as possible.

At that moment, a slight noise at the doorway caught Neville's attention and he saw a messy red head of hair ease around the shattered door, followed by the upper half of a very freckled face, with a pair of blue eyes. MoRon had gotten up enough balls to come back in now that the fight was over. Neville, too, had seen the coward's odd look earlier, and then seen the worthless sack of shite back out into the hallway while Harry was risking his life to stop the troll.

It seemed the silencing charm, or whatever Harry had done earlier, had worn off finally, because MoRon asked, his voice shaky, "Is… Is it d… dead?"

"Yeah," Neville told him in a contemptuous tone, "I think so." He glared just as contemptuously and with a healthy dollop of loathing.

The idiot just let all that roll off, as he then stepped into the room and announced, "Well, tha's good, in'it. Sure glad we got it 'fore it could hurt somebody."

Neville was flabbergasted at the audacity of the damn-fool cowardly prick, and didn't know what to say. At the sound of shuffling feet behind him, he turned to see that Harry and Hermione had finished their little tête-a-tête, and turned to see what was going on now. He noticed, with a barely suppressed grin, that they were standing very close together with an arm around each other and the opposite hands clasped in front of them. They made a cute couple, he decided. Then it occurred to him that he would not want to be the next person to insult Hermione in front of Harry.

Shy as he was, the young wizard was in fact, glad that apparently Harry and he were now friends. He'd certainly hate to be thought of as an enemy of the boy-who-glowed. That moniker almost made him snigger, but he managed to keep it inside and promised himself to never tell Harry he'd thought that. Unfortunately, other kids who'd seen the effect had the same thought, and as those things go, became well known and oft used among the Hoggy Warty students.

At that moment Harry was glaring intensely at the redheaded twat, who was standing proudly next to the troll like a conquering hero. Once again, said twat seemed totally oblivious to the impending, or at least potential, danger. Neville decided that as far as male Weasleys were concerned, the brains ran low when the twins were made and there wasn't enough left for the sixth male. He really hoped that the last Weasley child, a girl, was smarter that her youngest brother.

Hurrying footsteps could now be heard in the corridor and it was only a moment before Professor McGonagall came storming into the bathroom, wand out and seemingly looking for a fight. What she saw made her come to a screeching halt, draw a hissing breath, and place her hand over her heart. Right behind her, was Professor Flitwick who had largely the same reaction, and behind him were Professors Snape and Quirrell. The latter took one look at the troll, and leaned back against the wall adjacent to the doorway sliding down to his bum and looking like he'd faint again. Snape just sneered, as usual.

Harry was unimpressed with the piss-poor acting of the git, as were Neville and Hermione, even though she'd yet to hear of what happened with the useless professor at the feast. Her respect for authority was taking a beating, what with trying to learn from three largely useless professors, if you counted the ghost whose lectures covered no more than what was in the text, as she'd come to learn. It certainly didn't help that a troll, a normally reclusive beast who she knew stuck to their own and rarely came near humans, had managed to find its way into the supposedly "safest place in all of magical Britain".

For a moment, McGonagall eyed the four students suspiciously, took a few moments to examine the troll from where she stood, and then demanded, "What is going on here? Why are you four not in your common room as you were told?"

Enter the stupidest boy in Hogwarts, having recently taken that crown away from Crabbe or Goyle, whichever had had it most recently. "Well, y'see, Professor," the redhead began, "me, Harry, and Neville knew Hermione wa'n't at the feast so we went lookin' for her ta get 'er to come to the comm'n room with us. She'd been in here cryin' all afternoon, turns out. Some silly girl thing, I guess."

The moRon didn't know it, but his stock on the potential future boyfriend market had just hit bottom and was taking a dive into negative territory; far into it, truth be told. Hermione would be sure to pass that comment along to the other girls when she heard of his earlier inanities.

His chest was now puffed out and he'd taken a pose with one foot on the trolls arm. "Anyway," the redheaded fool went on, "we came 'round the corner when we heard Hermione let out a god-awful scream. Never heard the like from even my stupid li'l sister," he added with a slight sneer (and his prospective boyfriend stock dropped even farther).

Harry and Neville looked at each other wondering if the stupidest moRon in the world thought he really could get away with this crock of pure unadulterated bullshite. Hermione glanced back and forth between the two boys wondering if one of them was going to interrupt that pile of steaming dragon dung. She then realized they were giving the idiot enough rope to truly give himself a right and proper hanging, and had to hold in a snort of laughter.

"So," continued the world's newly crowned dumbest prat, "I rushed into the bathroom, and sized up the situation. I told Harry and Neville to distract it by throwing… er, stuff at it while I tried to rescue Hermione from that corner over there. I couldn't get there at that moment, so I had Harry climb on its back to distract it even more, which it did, then had Neville run over to try to get Hermione out of the corner while I kept throwing stuff at it. She was so scared he couldn't get her to move in time, just like any girl would, ya know."

The sound of a glass floor shattering could be distantly heard as his possible, but now extremely unlikely, boyfriend stock dropped below negative territory. As well, he seemed to forget he was addressing a female professor, but then he was known to forget his socks and underwear frequently. He'd even made it to the Great Hall barefooted once because he was in a rush to get to breakfast.

"That," the fool dug his grave deeper, "was when I used the windgaaardenin larviosaaar thing to take its club away from it and bash it over the head." Then the lying soon-to-probably-be-in-extreme-pain moRon smirked at Hermione with his overdone imitation of what she'd tried to help him with earlier. "It was only a couple minutes later that you p'rfessors showed up. Good thing I got the other boys ta come with me, or Hermione would probably be a smear on the walls by now. That would rilly be a big waste, since she's so good at doin'… er, helpin' with my homework and all."

In later years, Ron would never understand why he couldn't get a date in the Wizarding World and had to resort to living with a Muggle girlfriend, whom he married. A series of them actually, as none could ever stand his slovenliness for very long. All of them took him to the cleaners, or would have if the first one hadn't taken what little he had to begin with, which was never much since he only worked when he absolutely had to.

The "smear on the walls" and homework comments managed to lower his stock as a student farther with the professors as well. They already knew he was dumber than the now deceased troll, and lazier as well. It took McGonagall all the strength she had not to burst out laughing. She knew Filius had only just taught the Levitation charm that day. The fool boy in front of her never got any spell on the first day – and rarely after several class days, come to that. In fact, he'd so badly mangled the charm's incantation just then it was unlikely he'd ever get it if someone didn't take the time to help him out. She wasn't sure right now if anyone ever would, after the load of hippogriff shite he'd just tried to sell them. She looked at her long-time friend and colleague, Filius, who looked back at her with a sad shake of his head in confirmation that the boy was delusional.

After several long moments, she asked, "Professor Flitwick, would you be so kind as to examine the troll and determine what happened to it?"

"Of course, Deputy Headmistress," he replied formally. Moving the fool boy out of his way, even though he didn't seem to want to be displaced from his pose, Filius ran a series of scans over what he was certain was a corpse.

MoRon looked highly affronted at that point, and said loudly, "Hey, wha's'at for? I a'ready tol'ja what happened." He nearly yelled at McGonagall, "Shrimpy here don't need ta do nothin', since I tol'ja what I done to it."

Not only was the boy's boyfriend stock so far into negative numbers it was invisible, but he was ranging close to being in detention for the next seven years of school. About one more crack like that about a professor in the hearing of any other staff member and he would likely be expelled. Not that it would make a lot of difference in his education, but it would save Molly and Arthur a lot of Galleons.

Filius clearly heard what the idiot boy spouted and it would be a cold day in the lower reaches of Avalon before he ever got any extra help from that professor. Being the consummate professional he was, he ignored the moRon, not knowing he'd mentally echoed the thoughts and nickname the students of all houses would soon be almost universally using. At the moment he just gave a slight shake of his head as if to clear the thoughts.

Snape chose that moment to vent his own brand of vitriol, and commented, "I think we all know what really happened here." He cut across the moRon's second "Hey", by saying more loudly, "Potter saw another chance to enhance his supposed fame and celebrity status, so he dragged his friends along. It would seem they got very lucky and actually killed the beast rather than getting splattered all over Hogwarts. Pity, that." He muttered the last comment, but everyone still heard it.

His own stock in professor material took another nosedive, especially for a certain bushy haired young genius. His stock didn't have too far to fall with the two boys next to her, but it now hit rock bottom for all three students with a resounding crash, which sound the other two upright professors were sure they heard distantly. In point of fact it sounded much like the falling troll, which the Professors had heard from three floors away on the opposite side of the castle.

Things were not looking up for the greasy haired bat, in the estimation of the other two upright teachers. Professor McGonagall was ready to strangle the pompous git with his own entrails for those comments, especially the last one, but with a supreme effort of will suppressed her desire; for the moment, at least. She looked at the other three students in the room and had to hide a smile at how cute the two holding each other looked. At least it got her out of the mood she was in from Severus's inappropriate comments.

Heaving a deep sigh, Minerva said, "Mr Longbottom, would you be so kind as to give your version of events from this… altercation." She had wanted to call it a cock-up, but didn't figure that appropriate in front of children.

The ageing professor listened carefully as the boy told a lengthy tale of the moRon insulting Miss Granger, followed by Mr Potter standing up for her, and the search by various girls to find her. After finding out where she was just before the feast, the two boys were panicked on hearing of the troll and wanted to make sure the young girl was safe. Sadly, they were unable to get the attention of anyone on staff to go check up on her. He then detailed how young Mr Potter had forced the redhead to accompany them, telling how he seemed to use wandless levitation to do so by grabbing the larger boy by the back of the robes. The fight with the troll was told in detail, as well, and gave a very clear picture of what had really happened there.

When the boy finished his retelling of events, she looked at the other young wizard, and asked, "Do you have anything to add to what Mr Longbottom has just told us, Mr Potter."

She had to contain a smile, as the youngster looked decidedly embarrassed and uncomfortable at being the centre of attention. But he looked straight at her and clearly said, "No, ma'am. What Neville said is what happened."

She looked then at the young witch, who, had things had gone differently, would have been a great loss for Hogwarts and the Wizarding World. Her intellect had not been matched in the institution in a good many decades, for longer than Minerva had taught here, to be sure. After that momentary reflection, she asked the girl kindly, "And you, Miss Granger? Do you have anything to add?"

The normally reserved girl jutted her chin out a bit as if in defiance of someone, and given her momentary glance at Severus it was clear who that was meant for. The action rather startled Minerva given the girl was normally quite a stickler for rules and respecting authority figures. "No," the young witch replied calmly and clearly, "I can't think of anything to add to what Neville said." She paused for a moment chewing on her bottom lip, then seemed to come to a difficult decision. "Uhm, Professors, I don't know what it means, but Harry was glowing a golden colour like an aura, and his eyes were sort of doing the same when he came in, and it was even brighter when he was on the troll's back. Neville said the same thing happened when he confronted… Mr Weasley earlier in the day." Minerva didn't miss the slight hesitation nor the sarcastic stress on the honorific.

Harry pulled slightly away from Hermione, and she was sure she'd blown her first chance in many years at a good friendship, and perhaps more later on. He looked at her a bit crossly for a second, then seemed to recall something and smiled a little sadly, but pulled her close again. She happily snuggled back into his side, letting go of his hand, and slipping that other arm around his middle to hug him from the side more properly.

At first Harry was upset Hermione had let that secret out, but then, he remembered he hadn't told her not to say anything as he had the others earlier in the day. He couldn't stay mad at this girl if he tried, he decided.

As soon as Hermione mentioned the glow around the Potter brat, Severus scoffed loudly, speaking to his colleagues and ignoring the children. "Probably a charm he stole from one of his mother's notebooks. She used something like that her last two years here, mostly at Christmas time. No doubt the big-headed little miscreant just wants to increase his fame and glory, along with the rest of this farce. How he roped the other two into going along with it is beyond me. The Weasley boy's version is probably closer to the truth, in my opinion."

Minerva was incensed over those comments, but Filius had finished his examination and strode back over to join them. At Severus's comments her diminutive friend of many years swelled up so that he nearly looked bigger than Snape, who was no small man and who backed up a step, though he still sneered in the general direction of young Potter.

Filius had heard some tripe in his time, but Snape had just crossed an unforgivable line. "Professor Snape," he ground out fiercely, "I strongly recommend you keep your opinions about students to yourself, or confined to your colleagues' offices and the staff room. It would appear that what my Ravenclaws have been complaining to me about you for some time is in fact quite true. Numerous students in my house, and others, have reported to me your venomous and improper classroom behaviour toward Mr Potter and Mr Longbottom so far this year. I shall be having a long conversation with the headmaster very soon, of that you can be assured."

Minerva's gaze couldn't have been any colder, Filius's thought, as she frostily told the potions master, "I, too, will be at that meeting, and this time I will not be taking any platitudes from the… man who has protected you for far too long, Severus. You will start acting like a teacher and actually start teaching your subject or I will see you out of here before the end of next week. Am I clear?" By the end of her brief denunciation of the oversized bat she was hissing much like her animagus form.

Severus only sneered, nodded curtly and insolently like a small child, and then turned on his heel and stalked out of the room. Filius only then noticed that Quirrell had disappeared at some point. "What happened to Quirinus," he asked Minerva.

"I'm not entirely sure, but he slipped out a few minutes ago, it would seem, while all of the discussions were going on." She had a distasteful look as she added, "I suppose the excitement was too much for him."

Filius barely contained a snort at her look and comment, but managed it in front of the students. The two had shared their dislike, and distrust, of the DADA professor since he'd returned from his sabbatical. There was just something off about the man, but neither could pin down what exactly it was.

Then it was time once more for a dash of MoRonicism to over-leaven the conversation, as the redhead inserted himself between the professors with his chest once more puffed out as he addressed Flitwick. "So, P'rfessor," he started imperiously, well as imperiously as an eleven year old can, "I assume yer investergation provoked that the truth is that what I told you was the truth, in fact, wun'it?"

Filius was seriously concerned about the boy now. It was plain from the look on Minerva's face that she was as well, especially since she'd had to back up a step from the lad to maintain her personal space when he stepped between the two instructors. That aside, his sentence had been nearly unintelligible. Apparently he had little or no concept of such things as personal space, not to mention proper use of the English language as he was standing so close to Filius as to make the man uncomfortable, but the Charms Master refused to back away from the poor deluded lad. Instead, he placed a hand on his shoulder and stepped to the side, turning them so both were facing the huge club.

"Tell me, Mr Weasley, now you said you levitated the club high enough to knock out the troll before it fell?"

The boy nodded and said, "Yessir, tha's 'xactly what happened. It hit the sink on its way down after that."

That it had hit the sink in that manner the charms professor had no doubt, but he knew it didn't happen the way the boy said. So, he asked, "Would you care to show us how you levitated the club over the troll's head, Mr Weasley?"

Suddenly, the lad turned red and started making excuses that his wand seemed to have been damaged by levitating so much weight, and then turned to McGonagall and asked if he could be excused to the boys' room. Minerva gave her permission with a sharp look. The five still in the girls' loo soon heard the boy's running footsteps retreating down the hallway and then fade as he turned a corner.

"Now that we shall have no more rude interruptions," Minerva said acerbically, though her tone lightened considerably when she asked, "can you tell us what you found when you examined the Troll, Professor Flitwick? I think these children have a right to know just what happened here, aside from what they have already told us."

Suddenly, Filius looked a bit nervous, a look she'd rarely seen on the mostly unflappable former duelling champion. "Erm, I was rather hoping to discuss that with you privately first, before we told anyone else, Deputy Headmistress. However, let me ask Mr Potter a few questions first, as that may clear up a conundrum I find in this episode." Potter nodded, and looked expectantly curious at Filius. He nodded back and asked, "Can you tell me what spell you cast after your wand was inserted into the troll's nostril?"

Minerva interjected that perhaps this was a discussion better suited to Professor Flitwick's office, if he wouldn't mind. It was but two floors up and not far laterally from their current location. It would only take a few minutes to reach and they would have considerably more privacy, not to mention considerably fresher air and being more comfortable. The dead troll could be dealt with later.

Soon, they were all at ease in Filius's office, even more so when the small man had cast cleaning and air freshening charms on the students as they journeyed to his office. A house elf had delivered tea, sandwiches, and biscuits. They had all missed the feast, and the adults were sure the children must be ravenous by now. For about twenty minutes the cosy room was filled with friendly small talk as everyone got to know each other on a more personal basis. The teachers were more than happy to be friendly with these three exceptional young people, and the students certainly didn't mind having two adults they could easily relate to. None of them had ever really had that before, aside from Hermione whose parents were good people, but were often extremely busy with their dental practice and frequently not around for her all that much.

When everyone had their fill of the much simplified feast, they got back to business. Filius asked again, "Mr Potter, can you tell us what happened when your wand went up the troll's nose?"

The boy was obviously uncomfortable, but neither did he look away either, except for a glance at the girl beside him who smiled encouragingly. The two were seated on a small loveseat Minerva had transfigured from a single chair. She'd seen that Miss Granger needed what comfort she could get at the moment.

Still a bit nervous, Potter started, "Erm, I didn't really think of a spell, Professor. It was more like I was wishing that the thing would vanish. That's when the white light came out of it and then it fell. I really don't know what happened to it, and don't remember using a spell. I was trying to think of one at the time. Honestly," he added with a pleading tone.

Filius stroked his chin for a moment, then looked up at Minerva who looked as perplexed as the three students. Filius asked, "Mr Potter, one other question, if you don't mind. Can you tell me how you felt when that glow manifested around you?"

Again the boy appeared anxious and looked first at Mr Longbottom, then for a longer time at Miss Granger. After a few moments he glanced at Minerva, and finally locked eyes with Filius. "I don't remember how I felt the first time, when I was so angry at the moRon." Filius could hear the stress on the word, and secretly agreed with their new reference to the boy, having thought the same earlier. Going on, the lad then said, "When I grabbed him and dragged, or carried, or whatever, him to the Charms Corridor after we broke away from the house, I felt that same anger again, but it was different, more focused I think. I was calmer as well, but still angry and wanted the di… er, fool to suffer with the rest of us in case anything went wrong. I wanted him to share in finding Hermione, because he'd been such a… erm, prat to her. I hate bullying, sir, ma'am, and that just made me snap when he did that. I warned him yesterday in our dorm about it, but it didn't seem to sink in." He looked an apology at the girl.

She smiled and said, "Thank you, Harry, I know you tried and that you care. That's all I really need to know." She then, despite there being two professors present, snuggled into the boy's side again, kissed him on the cheek, and lay her head on his shoulder. Both of the elders present had a hard time hiding smiles at the girl's actions. Neville, on the other hand seemed totally unfazed by it, and did smile at who it would seem were his new friends.

The green eyed lad continued, after a short pause to smile fondly at the girl even though he was blushing quite a bit. "Professor, when I was on the troll's back, I can barely remember what I felt. I was scared to death, and it seemed like I was gonna die at any minute. I just held on for dear life at first, not really knowing what to do. We just wanted to distract it away from Hermione. But then the calm came over me again, and I knew what I had to do, so I did it. Like I said, not sure what I did exactly, but it worked. What did I do to the troll, anyway, Professor? And what is causing me to glow like that sometimes, sir?"

Filius replied, "I'll answer the second question first, if you'll allow me to run a couple of quick scans on you."

"Of course, Professor, whatever'll help you figure out what is going on so you can tell me." The boy sounded anxious again, and looked at his friends, who were giving him supportive looks. Neville leaned over from his chair next to them and placed a hand on the other boy's shoulder.

The charms master smiled at the green eyed youth, and told him, "Nothing to worry about, Mr Potter, and if this is what I think it is, then it is quite good news, indeed." He glanced back at Minerva who nodded with a slight smile. She knew what this likely meant as well.

"O… okay, Professor, if you say so," the lad replied. "I trust you, unlike some adults in this castle." Filius knew to whom he was most likely referring, and the man intended, with the help of Minerva and some others, to solve at least some of those problems very soon. The boy realized what he'd said then, and stammered, "Er… erm… sor… sorry Professors. That kind of slipped out and was very rude. I apologize." The young wizard turned bright red in embarrassment again, which both professors thought was actually rather endearing.

Minerva knew what the boy meant, as she was sure Filius did, and decided to reply and put the laddie's mind at ease. After placing a hand on Filius's shoulder to let him know she was interjecting here, she said, "We know a lot of what has been going on in some of your classes, children," she said, addressing all three. "Professor Flitwick and I, along with some others, hope to make some changes quite soon, as we are quite displeased with the way certain things are being done in our beloved Hogwarts. I know you heard the argument we had with Professor Snape, but I would appreciate it if you would keep this between us for now. I feel, though, that after this evening you have a right to know about what happens in this case. Just stand fast, and you'll see what I mean within a very short time. And thank you, Mr Potter, but no apology is needed, all things considered."

All three looked wide eyed at her and Filius, but nodded and voiced promises to keep quiet on this. Young Potter glanced at the other two, then added, "Thank you, Professor McGonagall. We'll do as you ask, and I see no reason to say anything even after you do whatever you're going to do." The others nodded along, as if they had discussed this beforehand, though of course they could not have. It was just one of those rare occurrences of three young people being quite in tune with each other. It occurred to Minerva and Filius both, that it was much like Harry's dad, Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin had been in school.

Filius then asked, "Miss Granger, do you suppose you could let go of Mr Potter for a few moments." He smiled kindly at the girl as he added, "After your experiences today, I'm sure he is being a great comfort to you, but I need him unattached, so to say, while I scan him. Now, Mr Potter, would you stand please?"

As Minerva watched, the girl blushed slightly, but did as she was asked, looking longingly at her new friend when the boy stood. He also looked slightly flushed as he shot a momentary smile at the girl. The older woman could tell there was the beginning of a long-lasting relationship there, and was glad for the two whom had both seemed rather lonely before this. Even Potter, with the Weasley boy hanging around, had seemed that way to some extent. He certainly did not now; none of the three did, she noted, not even Longbottom who had seemed so withdrawn and friendless heretofore.

The Transfiguration professor was brought from her brief thoughts as Filius finished his magical scans and stepped back, told Potter to be seated, and Miss Granger she could hold onto her security blanket again. The twelve year old blushed cutely again, but said nothing as she once again latched on tightly to the lad. Mr Potter seemed quite content and not at all bothered to have her there as he put an arm around her shoulders, protectively it seemed. This was somewhat unusual for boys that age, but not entirely unheard of. Minerva then looked at her friend and colleague with a raised eyebrow.

He replied to her unasked question. "Were you thinking that some blocks were breaking down?" She nodded, so he continued. "And are you thinking whom I'm thinking it was who placed them?"

She knew she looked severe when she replied, "Albus?"

"Yes," he replied, looking and sounding quite fierce, and reminding her of his many duelling championships. His present countenance, without knowledge of his history, would have appeared hard for him to acquire with his normally kind face. But, he then smiled a bit and added more kindly, "Your call, Min."

"Tell them. Mr Potter needs to know what is going on and why."

"Alright," the small man turned back to the students, and went on. "Mr Potter, what you are experiencing is the breaking down of some blocks which were placed on your magic at some time in the past few years. I'm sad to say that the magical signature on those blocks is that of our esteemed Headmaster. He may well have had some good reason for placing them. For instance, it could have been because of excessive accidental magic as a young child. But, and this is just a supposition on my part, I believe there were other reasons. Reasons which may not have been so benign, as these blocks, if not removed, would have caused you untold problems in a few years. I can't tell for sure, but they seem to have been placed within the past two to four years. Madam Pomfrey should have been informed of them and removed them as soon as you arrived here. Have you been to see her at all?"

Harry was gobsmacked at what he'd just been told. Looking at his friends, he realized they were just as stunned. He told the professor, "No, sir, I've had no reason to see the matron. But… but why would the headmaster do this to me? What could it mean? I've not ever seen him before I came here."

Minerva again wanted to reassure one of her rare favourite students. She had been thinking, while Filius spoke with them, that to have two favourites in one year was astonishing to her, and that they were growing close hinted at interesting happenings in the future. Minerva was not one to believe in coincidences, so wondered what the Fates held in store for these two.

Putting her thoughts aside, she told the boy, the young man rather, that she would do all she could to get to the bottom of what had been done to him concerning the blocks. It was incumbent upon her as head of his house, and even more so as Deputy Headmistress. Filius seconded her notions and promised to help as much as possible. Both thought there may be many other untoward things discovered as they investigate young Mr Potter's past.

The diminutive professor then asked, "Mr Potter, if you don't know what happened exactly with the troll, would you mind handing me your wand so I can cast Prior Incantato on it. That is a spell which will show us the last spell cast by a wand." The last was added as Miss Granger perked up at the mention of a spell she didn't know. Minerva had to again hide a smile at that. The girl was an absolute delight to teach.

The young man passed over his wand to the Charms professor with a look of curious anticipation, much as he'd shown earlier about why he was glowing at times. The elder witch wondered if he'd been hiding much of his intellect and ability previously. She recalled that he'd done better work the first couple of weeks of school, then seemed to slack off after that. It could have been the influence of the Weasley bra… erm, boy. She chastised herself for almost slipping, even if it was only in her thoughts. She thought it would be interesting to see how much Harry's work improved now, without the influence of the child. Where Mr Potter was definitely a young man in her thoughts, Mr Weasley was still a small child in the way he acted.

Coming back to the conversation, she realized Filius had cast the charm already and was analysing the result. It took her only a moment to realize what she was seeing, and noticed her friend looking at her expectantly. He had what amounted to a cat-that-caught-the-bird look on his face. She couldn't disagree with his apparent assessment, considering how gifted Lilly Evans had been in charms. Naturally, Minerva wondered if the youngster would also inherit his father's gifts in transfiguration. She smiled at her colleague and gave him a "get on with it" look and gesture.

Filius was amazed at what the Prior Incantato had shown from the young wizard's wand, just as he knew Minerva was. He'd seen the instant she recognized the spell, and couldn't help the smirk from creeping onto his face. Only a youngster gifted in charms could have cast that wordlessly, and at such a young age, with only a thought of what they wanted to accomplish. At her look and gesture he turned back to the students.

"Mr Potter," he smiled at the boy, as he handed back his wand, while waving his own to dispel the image of the spell, "what you cast was a perfect Vanishing Charm. In short, you vanished the creature's brain."

Professor McGonagall escorted the three students back to Gryffindor Tower, since it was after curfew by the time they finished in Flitwick's office. Along the way, she took the time to get to know the three even better, and came to a tentative decision. She'd need to speak with Filius and Alastor Moody. She envisioned the two gifted older wizards and herself taking time each week or so to work with the three. Neither of the boys might currently think so, but she could detect quite impressive intellects hovering just below the surface in both of them. It certainly didn't surprise her, given how smart and talented their parents had been. All four had been wonderful students, even if James Potter and Frank Longbottom had been handfuls in their day, and she had fond memories of how gifted all four were in various fields.

She also needed to contact Augusta Longbottom about getting Neville a new wand. It was obvious to her trained eye that the young wizard was using an old one; likely his father's. That was not the optimal way to teach any child, and since the Longbottoms were far from poor, couldn't believe her old friend had saddled the boy with that handicap. She also suspected the boy had the same block as Harry had, and that would need to be removed by Poppy as quickly as possible. She couldn't believe Albus could be so careless… or was it not careless at all, but intentional?

With that in mind, as they neared Gryffindor tower she told the three, "Please pay a visit to Madam Pomfrey tomorrow after breakfast. Since my class is first on your timetable, I'll understand why you are late if you are. Unless, that is, one of you feels they are even slightly injured and should see her tonight?" The youngsters all shook their heads and told her they were fine and had recovered from the earlier shocks.

Upon reaching the tower, the kids were surprised that Professor McGonagall gave the password and stepped into the common room ahead of them. There were a goodly number of students still awake, despite the late hour, but the professor didn't seem fazed by this. Harry noted she looked around at the guilty faces, those who knew they were probably in trouble for being up so late talking about the latest excitement in Hogwarts, and trading rumours about it.

Speaking loudly so all were sure to hear her, even though there was dead silence as soon as she entered the room, Professor McGonagall gave them all a brief synopsis of what had happened with the troll. She added, looking at the older Weasley boys, "In no way should you believe what one Ronald Bilius Weasley might tell or have told of this incident, unless it's precisely what I've just stated, and without any embellishments concerning his own actions. He took no part whatsoever in the incident except to hide out in the hallway until it was all over." She finished by saying, "Mr Weasley is not yet aware of it, but he has been docked twenty-five points from Gryffindor for lying to teachers and a further thirty for insulting a member of the staff, namely Professor Flitwick." Mixed in with the groans were some grumbles of anger that he had denigrated one of their favourite professors, a man who was nearly always cheerful and kind. Most notable in that bunch were the boy's older brothers, which both the elderly witch and Harry were rather glad to see, as well as Hermione and Neville.

McGonagall continued, by saying, "In addition, Mr Potter and Mr Longbottom have earned forty points apiece for bravery and sheer dumb luck." She eyed the boys with a bit of a fish eye, but then smiled slightly to take the sting out of her second observation.

Any further comments the Professor might have made at that moment were impossible as for the next few moments a deafening cheer and applause arose from the blushing children's housemates. "In addition," she went on, "Professor Flitwick and I have awarded Mr Potter a further thirty points for creative use of the Vanishing Spell. Yes, you older students, I said Vanishing, which you younger students won't be taught until fifth year. We felt it was quite creative of him to remove the creature's brain, and while Mr Potter has obviously not been taught the spell, Professor Flitwick assured me it was not accidental magic." Smiling warmly at the three blushing "firsties", the elderly witch then left her house to it, despite having sprung the points on the two boys which she and Flitwick had discussed out of the hearing of the students just as they were leaving his office.

All three kids were pretty knackered from the day's and evening's excitement. Harry, especially, felt quite tired, and wondered if it had to do with his magic escaping the blocks on it. However, they were not allowed to go to bed immediately since all the ones still in the common room wanted to slap their backs and try to garner more information from them. It took a while, but they finally were able to beg off any further talking and celebrating by telling everyone it had taken a lot out of them.

Hermione had still kept a tight grip on his hand and arm, pulling them against her body, as they walked from the West Tower to their common room, as well as the time they were there. Harry didn't mind a bit and was rather sad when they finally made it to the staircases to the dorms. He knew he'd have to let her go when she went up, but didn't do so any sooner than he had to. She spoke in a low voice before she released his hand, not wanting to give up that contact either.

Quietly, she asked, "Can we talk some tomorrow? I'd like to get to know you better, and Neville as well." She smiled a bit at the other boy who was standing off a short ways, obviously to give the pair a little privacy.

Replying in the same tone, Harry told her, "I'd like that very much. See you in the morning for breakfast?"

She nodded and they agreed on a time to meet, including Neville in that. He'd stood waiting a few steps up toward the boys' dorms for the pair to say their good nights. Harry and Hermione both thought he was going to be a great friend, and he certainly had considerably better manners than Weasley. For that they were very thankful.

As Harry and Neville entered the dorm, their three co-inhabitants were still up, though in their pyjamas and getting ready for bed. It was Seamus who called over, "So, Potter, Weasley tells us you two stole his thunder and convinced the professors it was you who knocked out the troll, when it was really him. Sounds like something you'd do, always wanting to heap more fame on your over-inflated head."

Harry looked daggers at the boy, but it was Neville who spoke up first. He was incensed that the lying twerp had the audacity to still try to take credit for it. Looking almost too calmly at the Irish boy, he said, in a low voice, "If I were you Finnegan, I'd be asking Professor McGonagall for the real truth of what happened tonight. Frankly, this lying sack of shite wouldn't know the truth if it hit him in the face like a pair of bad nappies. In fact, our arse of a roommate lost fifty-five points while Harry here was awarded seventy. Now who do you think is lying; McGonagall who deducted and awarded the points not fifteen minutes ago, or the redheaded dick over there?"

Harry grinned at his new friend, though he was blushing at the other announcing the points, but had to set the record totally straight, "And don't forget, Neville, that she gave you another forty points as well."

Neville knew he was blushing a bit as well, but nodded at Harry in acknowledgement. The two boys went on with their preparations for bed thinking that a new friendship had formed between the three of them, including Hermione, never realizing that they would be best mates for the rest of their lives. Harry thought of Hermione and how nice her hand had felt in his. He hoped she'd want to hold his hand more, quite often in fact. He could see them doing that a lot, and hoped they stayed friends for a very long time. He went to sleep smiling, to dream of bushy hair and a soft hand and body.

In her own dorm, Hermione smiled as she thought of how nice it had felt to hold Harry's hand and to hug him. It was as if they belonged together like that, as if the connection now made was unbreakable. In truth, she would in time find that was the case and she and Harry would be together for a very long time indeed.

**Ze End**

Pesky A/N: The note, not the author, though some people call him that too. My thanks, as always, to my friends and colleagues in HP fanfic writing: Tommy, aka Tumshie1960, who betas and Brit picks for me; and Mike, aka grenouille7777, who helps me kick ideas around during the writing process then helps me to clean up the mess when the smoke clears and Tommy gets done with it. And that is not to mention the members of my Yahoo group who added many thoughts of their own. Without all of their efforts, these stories would not be nearly as enjoyable or easy to read. Thanks, folks. Also thanks to Old Crow from whom I stole… erm, borrowed the "pair of bad nappies" line from his wonderful story "No Thanks".

Yep, I know there are quite a few clichés in this, but I hope the concept is unique enough to overlook those. It's getting harder and harder to write anything unique with so many folks writing this stuff. Hope you enjoyed our efforts, and my thanks to all those prolific writers who created those now clichéd scenes to begin with.