Disclaimer: The sum of the square roots of any two Harry Potters is equal to the square root of JK Rowling.


Chapter 28

The days passed quickly that fall and (mercifully) normally. At the end of the third week of term was Hermione's birthday, for which Lavender, Parvati, and the Weasley Twins had insisted on getting her a cake from the kitchens. They wanted to make it special since it was her thirteenth. That would have been more pleasant if the Twins didn't leave her looking over her shoulder all evening.

"Honestly, we wouldn't mess with you on your special day," George told her.

"Yeah," added Fred. "Becoming a teenager should be a big enough prank on its own. See, now you have to worry about boys." Hermione felt herself turn red

"And clothes," said George.

"And hair."

"Well, maybe not hair."

"You've got your own unique style there."

"I'll leave all that to Lavender and Parvati for the time being, thank you," she told them. Thirteen she may be, but her main worries about boys still involved them nearly getting themselves killed.

"How was your birthday, Hermione?" Lavender asked later than night. "I know we didn't know about it last year, so we tried to make it up."

"It was nice," Hermione said. "Much better than last year. It's too bad I couldn't spend it with my parents, but that's the cost of going to boarding school."

"Yeah, I know what you mean," said Lavender. "Harry's lucky he has a summer birthday."

"No, he's really not," Hermione said. "His relatives hate him."

"What? But he's Harry Potter."

"Yes, but they're muggles—and not nice ones, either. They can't stand magic."

Lavender and Parvati both looked offended that anyone could hate magic or the Boy-Who-Lived—well, anyone outside of Slytherin for the latter.

"So you and your parents always did something special for your birthday?" Parvati changed the subject.

"Yes, at home, my parents would always take me to a fancy restaurant for my birthday. The last couple years before Hogwarts, we went to this really nice Indian restaurant. They had the best chicken tikka masala."

"Ooh, you like chicken tikka masala?" Parvati said excitedly.

"I love chicken tikka masala. Lots of British muggles do. It's too bad we can't get it here."

"Oh, I know," Parvati griped. "I get so tired of all the British food here. Just give me some tikka masala or traditional curry once in a while—either one. Padma complains about it, too. She always wants her mango juice."

"Yes, but I've been saying the magical world is behind the times," Hermione said. "I mean, muggles don't use quills and parchment anymore either, and they've got better technology than the wireless. It figures it would be the same with food."

Parvati pushed herself up on her bed to get a better look at her. "I wonder if we can do anything about that," she said.

Hermione sat up and raised an eyebrow. Most witches and wizards rarely seemed like the type to take action on things like that. "Maybe," she said. "I've thought about it once in a while. Who controls the menu here?"

"Isn't it the house elves?"

"I don't know; I've never asked. It might be. They're probably the only ones who have any idea what things they can actually cook. I did write down a recipe for chicken tikka masala over the summer, but I'm not sure how good it is. Do you know a good recipe, Parvati?"

Parvati gave her a look that Hermione realised must be the same one she herself gave people who asked her obvious questions.


"FRED! GEORGE!"

The two redheads sniggered as the littlest Weasley came storming into the Great Hall at dinnertime the next Friday night on a royal tear. The Hall erupted into laughter at the sight, but those nearest to her soon stopped laughing when faced with her glare.

"Hello, Gin-Gin," the Twins said in unison.

"There's something different about you—" Fred started.

"—but we can't quite place it," George finished.

Ginny's hair was bright pink.

"Change it back, you imps!" she yelled.

"Now where's the fun in that?" said Fred.

Ginny pulled her wand on them.

"Whoa, sis," George stopped her. "We, uh, we kinda never actually tested the counter-spell."

"WHAT!"

"It's okay, Ginny," Hermione said from her vantage point a couple of seats down. "They did the same thing to me last year, except it was Weasley-red. It should wear off overnight if it's the same trick."

Ginny glowered for a moment and then hissed at them: "I'll get you two for this." This actually seemed to be enough to make Fred and George nervous.

She sat down, squeezing in between Hermione and Parvati, and looked around the table nervously. She whimpered almost inaudibly and seemed to shrink back into herself when she saw Harry and Ron trying not to laugh at her. (Ron wasn't trying very hard.) Hermione shot them an exasperated look.

"I need to think of a way to get them back," she said to no one in particular a little later. "I could always try Bill's Bat-Bogey Hex, but I don't know if I could get them both at once. Maybe I could ask T…" she trailed off with a nervous glance at Hermione.

Hermione didn't know whose name started with a T whom she would ask, but she couldn't help feeling sorry for the girl. She was new here, after all, and that was hard enough. And Fred's and George's idea of good clean fun didn't quite line up with normal people's. So as she looked down at her plate, she started thinking… "Actually, Ginny," she said. "I think I might have an idea that fits in with something I'm working on."

Ginny looked up inquisitively, and Hermione whispered the upshot of her idea to her. Ginny got a mischievous smile on her face, which made Fred and George a good deal more nervous.


"That looks about right," said Padma. "Go ahead and take it out of the broiler."

"But Miss Padma Patil, the chicken is not being all cooked," the little elf said.

"I know that," Padma snapped. "The last step is to simmer the chicken in the sauce to finish cooking."

Hermione frowned. Not unexpectedly, her pureblood friends were not as polite as she was with the house elves. It didn't help that she didn't know these elves as well as the others. Most of the ones she knew best were on the cleaning crew, although they rotated occasionally.

"How's the sauce coming, Parv?" Padma said.

"The sauce is ready, Pad," Parvati replied. "That was a good idea crushing the coriander leaves instead of chopping them, Hermione. I don't know why, but it tastes better that way. How did you come up with it?"

"I didn't," Hermione said. "My mum has a friend who's a caterer, and she says she always prepares it that way."

"Maybe it's like potions," Padma suggested. "The way the ingredients are prepared can affect things in weird ways."

"Hmm, maybe," Hermione said. That started her thinking about potions and how various modifications could affect them. Of course, potions were so idiosyncratic and unintuitive that it was hard telling what even small changes would do. Snape might not be very good at teaching, but she had to grudgingly admire his reputed talent in the field.

"Alright, so we just simmer the chicken in the sauce for about ten minutes," Padma said as she directed the elves to combine the ingredients.

"That seems like an awful lot of sauce, Miss Patil." Professor McGonagall was supervising the entire process, as per the school policy.

Tilly and some of the other elves had explained it when Hermione asked her: "We is choosing the menu, Miss Hermione Granger, but all new recipes needs the approval of the Headmaster or Deputy Headmistress."

"A lot of Indian food is like that, Professor," Padma replied. "You can mop up the extra sauce with the flat-bread."

"Sometimes," Parvati added. "It can depend on the meal, but that's close enough for here at Hogwarts."

"Plus, I always like lots of sauce on the rice, ma'am. Plain white rice always tastes too bland to me," Hermione said. Hermione was nominally helping to steam the rice, but that was simple enough that the elves had it in hand. Of course, her main contribution had been the samples of several spices that her bemused parents had sent her in a care package that week. Hogwarts didn't stock half of what the Patil Twins said they needed for a proper masala sauce, and their own parents were oddly less interested in the whole affair, perhaps thinking their daughters should be fed perfectly well at school already.

"Hmm, how unusual," McGonagall said. That really described the whole scene, she thought—three second year students teaching the house elves a new and exotic dinner recipe. "Well, I can honestly say this is something I haven't seen before," she said. "You seem to have a talent for the unusual, Miss Granger."

"Um…thank you, ma'am."

Suddenly, there were excited squeaks from the other elves in the kitchens. Hermione looked and saw Professor Dumbledore walking toward them jovially. The elves all bowed low as he passed. "Good afternoon," the Headmaster muttered to the elves. "Good afternoon, Minerva," he added as he approached, "and Misses Patil, Patil, and Granger."

"Good afternoon, Albus," McGonagall said. "What brings you down here today?"

"Well, I was informed that there was a lovely new recipe being prepared in the kitchens, and I thought I would stop by to sample it for myself." He leaned over the simmering chicken and sauce and inhaled deeply. "Ah, chicken tikka masala. Excellent. It's been far too long since I've had the modern fare."

And, of course, no matter how provincial most British magicals were, Albus Dumbledore knew all about Indian food.

In a few minutes, the food was done, and, at the Headmaster's direction, Dumbledore, McGonagall, and the three children sat at the duplicate High Table in the kitchens, and the elves dished up a small portion for each of them. It was a little surreal for Hermione. She had never taken a meal (or a snack, in this case) with the Headmaster, although he always looked like perfectly pleasant dinner conservation from across the Great Hall.

But Hermione thanked the elves and took a bite. She smiled at once. Yes, Hogwarts definitely needed more Indian food. She really appreciated Parvati's and Padma's recipe and the elves' skill in following it at sight. The Patil Twins looked equally pleased, and Professor Dumbledore, who seemed easily delighted by novelty, nodded to them appreciatively.

"An excellent recipe," Dumbledore said. "My compliments. What do you think, Minerva?"

McGonagall swallowed a little uncomfortably. "Certainly not like anything I've tasted before, Albus," she said. "Much spicier than I'm used to. I'm afraid I'm not as well-travelled as you are. But I must say, it actually tastes quite good, though I think we may wish to reduce the spiciness for the students' sakes."

Hermione, Parvati, and Padma sighed inwardly and suppressed the urge to roll their eyes. Oh well, Hermione thought. That's why I asked for hot sauce.

"Mm hmm," Dumbledore said. "I commend all of your efforts. I think this will make a fine addition to our menu." The children smiled, and the elves all cheered in excitement. It was rare to make any major changes to the menu. He turned to the nearest elf and said, "Dolly, when might you be able to prepare a dinner with this dish?" Hermione was not at all surprised that Dumbledore knew the elves by name.

"We will be needing to order the ingredients, Professor Dumbledore, sir, but we can be making it for next weekend," Dolly said.

"Excellent. Perhaps Sunday night, then. I think it will be an educational experience for all."


Hermione was back to spending part of her weekends pacing off the castle. It didn't take as much of her time as it had last year, since she soon determined that the shape of the castle as a whole hadn't changed beyond its usual fluctuations. To be honest, she was being a bit lazy about it, but it was better than running herself into the ground, like last year. She had reached an uneasy truce with her sleep schedule, which still slipped on occasion, and that was about it, so it was probably wise to take it easy when she could.

Today, she was re-mapping the second floor of the West Wing, unused classrooms and all. It was a lonely endeavour: most of the students spent the weekends in their dorms or outside, or in the case of many Ravenclaws, in the library, so few people ever came by here. Even with the occasional greeting from a portrait or a suit of armour walking around in the distance, it was very quiet.

Given the stoic silence, it was perhaps a little surprising that Hermione didn't hear the sound sooner: a faint keening sound wafting through the halls. She didn't pay it much mind. Strange sounds weren't that uncommon around here, and Hermione could get a little oblivious when she was focused on something else. But presently, she found that she had to use the loo, and when she made her way to the nearest one, and opened the door, she suddenly became painfully aware of the sound.

There was a girl crying in the bathroom, and loudly.

"Hello? Can I help you?" Hermione said, but the wailing girl didn't seem to have heard her. She walked down the row of stalls to pinpoint the girl's location. From the sound, she was clearly in the last stall, although Hermione didn't see any feet beneath the door. Either the girl was trying not to be seen or she was a tiny first year whose feet didn't touch the floor.

Hermione really felt like she needed to help out, now. She knocked on the stall door and said, "Hello?"

"AHHH!" The girl's voice shrieked, and there was the sound of a splash in the toilet.

"Sorry, are you okay?" Hermione said.

"What do you want?" the voice said in an accusatory tone.

"I wanted to see if I could help."

"Well, you can't, so go away."

Hermione sighed. Of course, the girl would say that, but it didn't sound like going away was what she needed right now. "Are you sure?" she said. "If you just want to talk—"

"I said go away!" the girl screamed so loud that Hermione took a step back. She started wailing again.

Hermione stayed rooted to the stop for a minute, trying to decide what to do. Finally, she said, "I feel kind of bad leaving someone crying in here alone, though. Do you mind if I check up on you later?"

"Why do you care?" the voice sniffed.

"Well, I guess it's kind of silly, but this happened to me once last year, and I was nearly killed by a mountain troll."

"Nearly killed?!" the voice screeched, and, suddenly, the face of a rather squat and, to be honest, unattractive girl came through the stall door and right up to Hermione's own. "Oh, that's great for you!" the ghost yelled. "Nearly killed!"

"I—I'm sorry, I didn't know—" Hermione started.

"Oh, of course you didn't know. No one ever bothers to ask about miserable, moping, moaning Myrtle!" And with that, she gave a load moan and drifted back into the stall, where there was a loud splashing sound, and water trickled out under the door.

That's strange, Hermione thought. Ghosts are supposed to be intangible.

There was a flushing sound, then a gurgle, and then more water came pouring out from under the stall. The ghost appeared to be trying to clog the toilet to chase her away.

"Myrtle?" Hermione called as she took a step back. "Myrtle, please come back out. I didn't mean to offend you. I'm a muggle-born, and I'm not really used to ghosts, yet."

Surprisingly, the sounds of water stopped, as did Myrtle's moaning. Her face poked back through the stall door with a look of interest. "You're a muggle-born?" she asked.

"Yes…"

Myrtle came all the way through the door and floated in front of Hermione. She looked to be about Hermione's age. (How had she died so young?) And she was wearing old-fashioned looking school robes with a Ravenclaw crest on them. "I was a muggle-born, too," she said.

"Y-you are—were—are—?" Hermione said nervously.

Myrtle seemed to take pleasure in Hermione's uneasiness. "Oh, yes. I was so excited when I found out magic was real. I didn't have many friends at home, and I thought things would be so wonderful here. I loved all my classes. It was such fun. But then…" Myrtle started to sniffle and whine again. "Then all my roommates started making fun of me. They called me fat and ugly, and Olive Hornby always made fun of my glasses. It wasn't my fault I couldn't afford better ones. And then the pimples started…" She let out a long moan and started swaying back and forth where she hovered.

Hermione felt herself turn red. That story already sounded far too familiar for her tastes. Myrtle must have drawn the short straw for roommates, though. With her hair and teeth and know-it-all attitude, she had plenty for her own roommates to make fun of her about, but they hardly ever did.

"I don't think your glasses look that bad," she tried to comfort the ghost. "In fact, my friend Harry wears practically the same kind." Probably because that's all his relatives will pay for, Hermione thought. Myrtle's glasses looked like bargain bin round frames, very like Harry's, except pearly white instead of black.

But Myrtle just whined, "They're hideous. I wish I'd died wearing something nicer. And that Tom Riddle—he wasn't so bad himself, but all his Slytherin friends called me an ugly mudblood and laughed at me behind my back."

"Oh, those types," Hermione said darkly. "I've got Draco Malfoy. He says it to my face. And if I run into him alone, he always tries to hex me."

"Ooh, Tom Riddle had a friend named Abraxas Malfoy. He was one of the worst ones."

"I'm not surprised. The Malfoys go way back."

"It's awful how those purebloods treat everybody else. And I can't even haunt them properly. I haunted Olive Horby for years, but…" Myrtle sniffed. "But she just took out a restraining order against me."

Hermione opened her mouth and then closed it again. Yes, that was exactly the kind of thing wizards would do. "That's…um…that's too bad," she said. "Why are you haunting a bathroom, now, though?" Hermione asked. "There's plenty of better places in the castle."

That proved to be the wrong thing to say, as Myrtle took offence. "Like where?" she snapped.

"Well…um, if I were a ghost, I'd probably haunt the Library," Hermione replied whilst wondering how she had got to the point of saying that.

"Well, that's well and good for you," the ghostly girl whined. "You're a Gryffindor. All my roommates spent all their time in the Library." She started sniffling again. "I like it better in here. It's more private, and no one complains if I cry in here. Everyone just stays away from Moaning Myrtle." And with that, she started crying loudly and back into her stall, where there was a splashing sound of her diving into the toilet.

"Myrtle? Myrtle, I'm sorry. You can…you can haunt wherever you want," Hermione called, but there was so response but some more splashing and gurgling. At that point, she didn't see much good in keeping this up, so she just said, "Well…I'll try to check up on you sometime," and left the bathroom, thinking that maybe she needed to do some more research on ghosts to be able to have a sensible conversation with them. It was too bad. Myrtle's story seemed disturbingly similar to her own—and to die at such a young age, and as a muggle-born, it had to have been terrible, and here she was, what looked like decades later from her clothes, and she was still crying in the bathroom. Hermione shuddered, thinking, There but for the grace of God go I.

It was only as she left that Hermione noticed the OUT OF ORDER sign on the bathroom door.


On Sunday evening, Hermione made sure to remind Fred and George to be on time for dinner, and the Twins "chivalrously" escorted her and Ginny down to the Great Hall together. Once there, Hermione made sure they sat in the right arrangement, with herself, Ginny, and Parvati circled around the two boys at optimal angles. That Harry and Ron sat down on her other side, somewhat distracting them, helped.

When dinner appeared on the long tables, there were gasps and confused murmurs throughout the Great Hall, for this was definitely not the usual fare. Or, rather, some of it was, but at intervals along each table were a large bowl of white rice and another filled with something that proved to be cubes of chicken drowned in an unfamiliar orange sauce.

"What the heck?"

"What is this stuff?"

"Have the elves gone mental?"

Only a handful of people in the Hall looked happy with the new selections, disproportionately muggle-borns, who quickly began explaining the dish to their less worldly peers. Of course, Professor Dumbledore was beaming, and, Harry informed her later, for some reason, Professor Snape looked oddly satisfied with the meal.

"Now this is what I call a real dinner," Parvati said excitedly as she dished a large spoonful of rice onto her plate.

"Definitely," Hermione agreed as she went for the chicken.

Fred and George looked with interest at the two younger students who were happily serving themselves food that they had never seen before.

"And just what kind of dinner is this, exactly?" asked George.

"Chicken tikka masala," Hermione and Parvati said in unison.

Fred and George looked back and forth between the two girls in surprise.

"It's a British muggle adaptation of traditional Indian food," Parvati explained. "Broiled chicken and steamed rice in a sauce made with tomato, coriander, yogurt, and Asian spices."

"Tomato and—"

"—yogurt?" the Twins said in confusion.

"In a sauce?" said Fred.

"Are you having one over on us?" asked George.

"No, that's really the recipe," Hermione said. "We taught it to the house elves last weekend. You should try it. It's really good."

Fred and George shrugged their shoulders and dished themselves up two plates.

"Huh, not bad," George said when he took a bite.

"Yeah, weird, but not bad," Fred added.

"You were right, Hermione this is good," Ginny said appreciatively.

"Uh huh, can you give our mum the recipe?" asked Ron.

"We'll think about it," Parvati told him. "Hey, Hermione, did you bring the hot sauce?"

"Uh huh."

"Hot sauce?" Fred and George asked.

Hermione uncapped a small bottle of red sauce and dribbled a little bit of it onto her food, then handed it to Parvati. "Professor McGonagall wanted the food mild, but it's really supposed to be spicier, so I had my parents send me some spicy sauce to add to it. Ginny, do you want to try it?"

"Sure, I'll try it," the younger girl replied innocently. She took the bottle and added a few drops to her plate.

But when Hermione took it the bottle back, she carefully palmed it and swapped it with another bottle that she had transfigured to look identical on the outside. She offered this bottle to Fred and George, saying, "Do you two want any? A real connoisseur takes it at least medium."

Not to be outdone by their little sister, the Twins took the bottle and drizzled a generous amount of sauce on their chicken tikka masala. They each took a large bite and grinned in satisfaction, but those smiles quickly turned to winces as they grunted, "Water, water, water!" and each chugged a goblet full.

Hermione, Parvati, and Ginny started laughing, and Hermione high-fived Ginny.

"Bloody hell, woman, what did you give us?" Fred demanded whilst coughing.

Hermione withdrew the other bottle from her sleeve and set it on the table. Then, checking to make sure the teachers weren't watching too closely, she drew her wand and tapped the bottle she had given the Twins, causing the label to change back. "It's habanero sauce," she told them. "It's ten times spicier than normal hot sauce."

"In other words," Ginny clarified, "you fell for a muggle trick."

"A muggle trick, Freddie," George wheezed. "We're losing our touch."

"We've got to get back on top, Georgie. We can't have Hermione and Ginny thinking they can unseat the school's best pranksters." And they gave the two girls an evil but painful grin.

Hermione paled. "Why did I let you talk me into this?" she muttered to Ginny, who didn't look too enthused by the idea of payback herself.

After the main course was over, Professor Dumbledore, to the surprise of many, stood up and addressed the Hall: "Well, I think this has been an interesting new experience. The new dish tonight was chicken tikka masala, a more modern British dish in the Indian style, and I am most pleased to see that it has been such a great success." Indeed, looking around the Hall, a solid majority of the students seemed to have liked it, though the very traditional Slytherins less so. "We have three students to thank for this new offering, who took it upon themselves to teach the recipe to the house elves on their own time. For this show of initiative and cross-cultural interest, I award ten points each to Hermione Granger, Padma Patil, and Parvati Patil."

The Gryffindors and Ravenclaws cheered, while the Hufflepuffs politely applauded. The Slytherins seemed displeased, but that could have been about either the points or the food. Hermione noticed, across the Hall, that Draco Malfoy in particular was glaring in her direction.


On the fifth of October, Hermione woke up and immediately knew that something was wrong. Another person whose body reacted differently might have dismissed it for a while, but she knew better. She felt a burning sensation creeping up just behind her soft palate, and that could only mean one thing: the common cold.

She'd dodged that bullet last year—about the only thing she'd managed to dodge—but it was too much to hope for a second year in a row, not with the damp chill and pounding rain seeping into the castle. A cold always meant the same thing for her. She was in for three days of miserable throat pain, followed by three days of hacking and sniffling, and then a lingering cough that could run clear through next week. And her with no paracetamol.

"Are you okay, Hermione?" Parvati asked as Hermione staggered stiffly out of bed.

"No…I'm getting a cold," she groaned.

"You should go to Madam Pomfrey, then. A Pepperup Potion will clear that up right away."

Hermione stopped and stared at her roommate: "You mean wizards actually have a cure for the common cold?"

"Yeah. I mean, it's not perfect. It's actually an energy potion, but it works—if you don't mind having steam coming out of your ears for a few hours…"

Hermione opened her mouth to ask the obvious question, but then closed it again. Of course it makes steam come out of your ears for a few hours. "Thanks, Parvati, I'll do that."

An hour later, Hermione was in the unusually crowded Hospital Wing. Apparently, the sickness was going around.

"Hello, Miss Granger, can I help you?" Madam Pomfrey said.

"Uh yeah, Parvati told me you had something that can cure colds?"

"Ah, yes, another one. You aren't looking too poorly, though, Miss Granger."

"I know, ma'am, but I can always tell when one's starting because the first thing that happens is I get this burning in the back of my mouth."

"Alright, then, that's simple enough." Madam Pomfrey made a note of who was being treated and why, and then uncapped a small bottle of potion. "Here, drink this."

The Pepperup Potion tasted so hot that Hermione could barely drink it. She jumped as the warmth flooded her body. She felt like she'd just downed a double espresso, and the burning in her throat ceased immediately. "Wow, thank you ma'am," she said.

"Not a problem, Miss Granger. Come back if the steam doesn't go away by dinner time."

"Yes, ma'am." Sure enough, she felt puffs of steam pouring out of her ears and leaking out from under her hair. She must look completely ridiculous, and within minutes, her hair was an unmanageable frizz. Still, she went down to breakfast and took her usual seat. Thankfully, a number of other students in the hall and even Professor Sinistra also had steam puffing out of their ears as well, so she didn't look too out of place.

A few minutes later, a dishevelled-looked Ginny Weasley collapsed into a seat nearby. Hermione squealed when she saw her. With her bright red hair, Ginny looked even worse than she did—rather like her whole head was on fire.

"Oh, hi, Ginny," Hermione said. "Pepperup, too?"

"Yes, Percy made me take some. He said I wasn't looking too good."

Actually, there was something to that. Ginny's robes were all crooked, there were a few strands of hair plastered to her face, and though she looked wide awake now, she was pale, and there were dark circles under her eyes.

"Well, you are looking pretty out of it, even with the potion. Have you been sleeping alright?"

"I'm fine," she said defensively. "It's just…getting use to classes and stuff, you know."

"I understand. Just don't overdo it. I made that mistake last year. You can come talk to me if you need any help."

"I can manage," Ginny said, and she focused her attention on her food for the rest of the meal.


The most difficult part of mapping the castle was the dungeons, both because of the maze-like structure and because of the company.

"What are you doing down here, mudblood?"

Hermione groaned softly and clutched her notebook to her chest. Why did she keep running into him whenever she explored the dungeons? Did he have people reporting to him? Well, maybe he did. She fingered the handle of her wand. "Do we really have to do this again, Malfoy?" she said. "I have as much right to be down here as you have."

"You don't have any right to go spying for our Common Room," Malfoy spat. "You ought to just stay in your tower if you know what's good for you."

"Well, that's just the thing, isn't it? You know where our Common Room is, so there's no reason yours should be a secret. I still couldn't get in without the password." She didn't mention that she already knew where the Slytherin Common Room was, just around a couple of corners from here—if it was still in the same place Sonya had pointed out last year.

Malfoy didn't take kindly to her use of logic. He drew his wand, but Hermione was quicker on the draw than she used to be, having practised this past summer after Harry managed to hex her. She had her wand trained on him before he could cast a spell, though she still started backing away.

"You shouldn't have come back," he growled.

"Yes, you've already told me that," Hermione replied as calmly as she could. "But I didn't let a mountain troll and a possessed teacher keep me away, and I'm not going to let you keep me away, either."

Malfoy actually hissed at her: "One of these days, Granger, you'll get what's coming to you."

Hermione sighed theatrically. "What's your problem, anyway, Malfoy? There's plenty of other muggle-borns in this school. Is it just because I get better marks than you?" She chuckled at him with false bravado. "Because I've been dealing with people who are jealous of my grades my whole life."

"No mudblood can beat a Malfoy! Calvorio!"

Hermione jumped to the side and dove against the wall, but the jinx caught her in the arm. She felt a strange itching sensation, and when she shook out her sleeve, she found that all of the hair had fallen off of her arm. She considered her options. She quashed the urge to say, "Take Arithmancy, and then we'll talk," and decided against shooting a spell back at him if she could help it. Instead, she just backed away faster, keeping one eye on him until she made it around the next corner. Well, that wasn't so bad, she thought. A Hair-Loss Jinx is tame for him.