Disclaimer test number 55: British? No. Female? No. Insanely wealthy? No. Probability of being JK Rowling: 0% within experimental uncertainty.

A/N: Well, last chapter was a bit of a rocky start for Hermione, I admit, but taking control of your life can be a difficult process, with bumps and false starts along the way.

To certain reviewers (you know who you are), I say this: go back and reread the last two paragraphs of the last chapter. I am not trying to make Hermione weak, but she is a fourteen-year-old girl who has been through three near-death experiences and is being forced to share the school with things that want to eat her. I know from personal experience that it's possible to get stuck in a rut for a very long time when things pile on like that. I'm sorry if I don't have a good handle on how often girls cry, but I feel like I wouldn't have had to be much less inhibited to wind up like her at certain points in my life. Also, remember that like any story, I only have space to show the highlights (good and bad) of Hermione's life. She's still going to class day after day in a relatively stable state. My portrayal of Hermione may come across a bit skewed from what I intended, but I certainly didn't do it thoughtlessly.

I also know from personal experience how a small shift in perspective can make a huge difference to you when you're in a state like that. That's why those last two paragraphs are so important. That moment is where Hermione really gets her act together (although socialising with the Twins and forcing herself to walk past the trolls were small steps forward). She will grow up fast and grow stronger fast from here on out, and I hope this chapter shows a good, clear start to that. And she doesn't cry in it once. Or the next chapter. At least. I checked.

As for Harry and Ron, well, they're thirteen-year-old boys. They're growing up, too, as Harry is already starting to, but it takes time. I wouldn't have written a story that's over 300,000 words and counting if I was going to have a quick fix.

So that's my piece. If you don't like it, go back to the end of Chapter 52 and write your own version. In fact, I'd consider it an honour to have inspired a spin-off fic, and I'd be happy to read it.

On an unrelated note, if you have doubts about how troublesome wavy hair is, let me say that as someone who has to live with it, even as a guy, it can be very frustrating. And, a lot of barbers don't know how to cut it properly.


Chapter 55

Hermione's life soon got back to some semblance of normal. She soon found that despite Fred's and George's forceful and somewhat ill-advised method of getting her past the trolls, it went a long way towards dispelling her phobia. She could walk past them on her own now without panicking, at least. Ginny had set Harry's priorities in order (not the easiest feat, she thought, given his upbringing), and Ron was being nice to her again. In fact, Ron was trying to be unusually nice to her, which was a little strange, coming from him. It was clear the healing process would take time, but he was being polite and had stopped complaining about Crookshanks, so it was a good start. Maybe it would build up a habit. Hermione was finally starting to get more sleep, too, although that healing process would more direct intervention.

While she waited, Hermione was now very glad that she'd brought one of her parents' human anatomy textbooks to school with her, "just for reference". She hadn't expected to need it, but its description of the cellular and molecular structure of hair was invaluable for her latest spell. It was probably because of their limited knowledge of molecular chemistry that wizards had few spells able modify the texture of hair—potions, yes, but not spells. Simply put, hair curled because of the disulfide bonds and weaker hydrogen bonds that formed between the keratin protein strands of the fibres, causing them to stick in a curved position. A straightening iron worked by breaking the hydrogen bonds and reforming them in a straighter position, but moisture would disrupt this and cause them to snap back. A perm used chemicals to also rearrange the disulfide bonds, but this was more likely to damage the hair. Therefore, Hermione decided to stick with just spelling the hydrogen bonds in place for now.

Of course, Hermione's problem wasn't actually that her hair was curly. If it were curly, she could do something fashionable with it. But it wasn't curly; it was wavy—stubbornly, stiffly wavy, with waves that frayed and didn't want to line up with each other so that it just turned bushy. She suspected Harry would have the same problem if he grew his hair out. That was why she couldn't do anything more with it than putting it in a rough braid in it natural state. Fortunately, a Hair-Straightening Charm should solve that problem just as well.

The individual elements of the spell were simple. She took some of the weaving elements from her Hair-Plaiting Charm and shifted the scale factors way down so that they would act on the individual protein strands. A new set of terms would straighten and align the strands. Then, a brief pulse of heat would break and reform the hydrogen bonds. It was tricky, but straightforward. She probably could have done it on the molecular level, but working out the spells to manipulate the chemistry would have been a major project.

After double-checking the spell and testing it on some wigs in the Room of Requirement, by Thursday morning, she was ready to try it on her own hair. Looking in the mirror, she waved her wand at her bushy tresses and cast, "Micronima Isiazolio."

To her delight, her hair straightened itself, and those stubborn waves worked their way out of it. Unfortunately, as straight as it was, it somehow looked even more like a lion's mane than usual. "Ugh. Frizz city," she groaned. "But it's progress. Go back to the drawing board; create another spell to cut down on frizz. Right." In the absence of other options, she quickly plaited her hair with her other spell and went down to breakfast.


Professor Lupin was not expecting anyone to come into his office at eight o'clock on Thursday evening. He had pronounced Harry fully qualified with the Patronus Charm two weeks ago—as qualified as he was likely to get at his age anyway—and he had used the spell to great effect against the bullies at the Quidditch match. So he was most surprised when Harry returned to his office at his weekly lesson time and still more surprised that he had brought a friend along with him.

"Hello, Harry, Hermione," he said. "Can I help you?"

It was Hermione who stepped forward. He had noticed her not looking well the past several weeks. She seemed to be doing better now, but she still looked troubled. "Professor Lupin…I was wondering if you could teach me the Patronus Charm," she said.

Lupin's eyebrows shot up. As studious as Hermione was, he hadn't been expecting that. And Harry hadn't mentioned any of his friends needing or wanting to learn. "Well, that's a little complicated, Hermione," he replied. "May I ask why you want to learn it?"

"Because I won't be able to sleep at night until I learn it," she said in a strained voice. "I hate the fact that soul-eating monsters exist. I've been a wreck for the past three weeks because of it. I still see those hoods when I close my eyes. I'd rather just see them destroyed, but that doesn't look likely to happen anytime soon, so I at least want to be able to defend myself against them."

"Ahhh…" Lupin said. "So I take it your boggart will now take the form of a dementor?"

"I'm sure it will, sir. Merlin, I was so stupid," she said angrily. "My worst fear was my parents pulling me out of school? There's so many worse things—"

"Hermione, it's perfectly alright," he assured her. "You were afraid of losing something very important to you, and you didn't know the truth about dementors at the time. That you recognise the horror now, as unfortunate as it is for you, shows great wisdom. Now, since your boggart will be a dementor, that will simplify things. If you had only wanted to learn it out of academic interest, it would have been more difficult. Unfortunately, I already banished the boggart I was using with Harry, but I can probably find another around here somewhere in a couple of weeks."

Hermione frowned: "I was hoping we could at least start the theory tonight, sir."

"Hmm, I suppose we can…Harry you haven't said anything. What are you doing here?"

"I was wondering that myself, Professor. Hermione wouldn't tell me. I just kinda figured I owed her one after last week."

She coloured a bit: "Sorry, Harry. I got overexcited. I was hoping you could help teach me."

"What?"

"Well, you already learnt it—and not many wizards can. You might have some good insights on it."

"I, er, I don't know—"

"I daresay you might, Harry," Lupin said with a chuckle. "Another point of view, one from someone her own age, may be just what your friend needs."

"Um, okay. I guess I can."

"Thank you, Harry," Hermione said.

"Okay, let's get started. The spell, as you probably know by now, is the Patronus Charm. The Patronus is a guardian—a projection of the positive emotions dementors feed upon—purified and amplified, until it is so powerful that it overwhelms them and drives them back. And while the dementors are focused on the Patronus, they can't feed on you directly. It's a very difficult charm, but if you're as good as you seem to be, Hermione, I think you can do it. Harry, why don't you demonstrate the spell for her?"

Harry looked a little nervous being put on the spot like that. But he nodded his head and drew his wand. Steeling himself, he waved it in a complex motion and said, "Expecto Patronum!"

A silver light emanated from the end of his wand—a light that seemed to radiate positive emotions. The sight alone had a calming effect on Hermione. The light formed into a mist, which took on a vague, cloudy shape, larger than a man, but with no definite form. After trying to make it take a solid shape for a minute, Harry cut off the spell. He looked out of breath.

"It had a form at the Quidditch Match, but I didn't get a good look at it," he said, disappointed.

"That was still really nice," Hermione assured him.

"Yes," Lupin said, though he looked a bit disappointed as well. "It can be difficult to do consistently, but that is still phenomenal for a third year. So, we might as well get to it. The wand movements are a bit finicky…"

Finicky was right. The Patronus Charm was a difficult spell with a difficult wand movement that nonetheless would have to be cast very fast in a dangerous situation. It took both Lupin and Harry walking her through it to get it right. Harry seemed to teach by example more than Lupin, but he was surprisingly good at going through it step by step. Before the end of the lesson, Lupin pronounced her wand movement good.

"You'll want to keep practising it over the next week, but that's good wand handling. Now, the most difficult part of the spell is that it only works if you concentrate with all your might on a single, powerful, happy memory. Finding the right memory can be difficult and focusing clearly on it can be very challenging, so it's good to practise the spell with some different ones so that you have one that you know works well."

"Yeah, that was the hardest part for me," Harry said. He didn't elaborate, but Hermione knew well enough why. Curse his relatives.

She wondered which of her own memories would be good for casting the Patronus Charm. Love for family and friends seemed the obvious answer, but she couldn't think of many specific memories for that that stood out above the rest. After considering a few other possibilities that were more wide-ranging, she finally settled on the first time she saw Hogwarts Castle in her first year. "I think I'm ready to try it, Professor," she said.

"Alright, then," he replied. "Concentrate on that happy memory, and cast the spell."

Hermione focused as hard as she could and waved her wand. "Expecto Patronum," she said. "Expecto Patronum. Expecto Patronum."

A wisp of silver mist shot from the end of her wand, and she squeaked in surprise. She felt a trifle dizzy from the effort, but it soon passed. Presumably, that would improve with practice.

"Brilliant, Hermione," Lupin said.

"It didn't do much," she said, disappointed.

"That's as good as my first try was," Harry said. "I'm sure you'll get it."

"Yes, that was very good for a first try, especially at your age" Lupin agreed.

That was a little more encouraging. "Let me try that again," she said. "I think maybe I need a stronger memory. Harry, if—you're comfortable saying, what memory did you use?"

Harry gritted his teeth uncomfortably, but he took a deep breath and said, "I went through a bunch of them. At first, I thought of the first time I rode a broom, but that didn't work very well…Then I tried when I found out I'd be able to leave the Dursleys, and that worked better, but…I wish I had some good memories of my parents, but I don't. So…eventually, I thought of something else…" He glanced at Lupin nervously.

"What was it?" she asked.

"Actually, it was that first Halloween, after the troll—when we spent all night just talking."

"It was?"

"Yeah, I know it doesn't sound like much, but it was the first time I ever did anything like that. Ron was already my good mate, but that was the first time I realised I had friends like that I could just talk to for a while like that—like normal."

"Wow…" Hermione felt humbled. "Well…I'm glad I could help, then." Harry's advice was surprisingly good—maybe better than he realised. She tried to think of more mundane memories that still contained the joy of spending time with people she cared about. She thought of the sunlit days she'd spent with her parents in France last summer and tried the spell again: "Expecto Patronum. Expecto Patronum. Expecto Patronum!"

She felt the power of the spell much more strongly this time. Instead of a mere wisp, her wand produced a sizable orb of silver light—not as strong as Harry's, but still respectable, and though it was draining, she still felt happier in its glow.

"Excellent! Really excellent, Hermione," Lupin said. "I daresay you're off to as good a start as Harry was."

"Thank you, Professor," Hermione smiled.

"I'm pleased to find two students so skilled in my class," he said. "It reminds me of the good old days. Now, I think that's about as far as you'll get tonight. It's possible to get there without a boggart, but it'll go faster if you have one to push yourself with. I don't know if I'll be able to meet next week—" Next Thursday was the night before the full moon. "—so let's meet again in two weeks' time. You're welcome to practice in the meantime, Hermione."

"Yes, Professor." She was about to go, but something stopped her. "Professor, there was something…" she said hesitantly.

"Yes?"

"I hadn't thought it much, but at the first Quidditch match, when the dementors came on the field, and Harry fell off his broom—something happened. When I saw him fall, I suddenly started seeing the situation in terms of maths—acceleration due to gravity and so forth, and suddenly, the effect of the dementors got better. I could think more clearly, and I figured out how to save him. It was like…the maths was enough of a happy memory for me to do something."

"Hmm…interesting," Lupin said thoughtfully. "I don't think you could really call that a 'happy memory'. Of course, maths is very important to you. Even I've seen how your eyes light up when you talk about arithmancy. It's possible that you happen to have a strong, happy memory that is associated with maths and arithmancy, it might be worth a shot."

"Really? Maybe I should try…" She raised her wand again, but she stopped. "Doesn't that make me kind of a lousy person though? I mean if I care about numbers so much compared with my friends and family?"

Harry smiled reassuringly: "Then you're a lousy person who's saved my life eight times."

"Eight?!" Lupin yelped in surprise, but he collected himself: "Excuse me. Harry is right, Hermione. It's not about caring about numbers more. Maybe that's what arithmancy was for you at first, but it goes much deeper than that, now. Professor Vector's told me a lot about you, so I think I know how you think. For you, arithmancy is your way of feeling empowered. It's how you can take control of your life, and can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. And the fact that when you called up your maths skills, you instantly jumped to that solution to save your friend's life shows your good heart and your dedication to your friends. Arithmancy is a powerful tool, and one you very much enjoy, but it's that caring and dedication that makes it work against dementors for you."

" you, Professor," she said, much relieved. She took a deep breath and said, "I think I'd like to try it one more time."

"Be my guest."

She raised her wand again, trying to concentrate on happy memories connected with her arithmancy and spellcrafting studies. The first ones that came to mind were the crisis moments—solving Professor Vector's code puzzle, inventing a spell to block the basilisk's gaze—but that wasn't quite right. They weren't actually happy memories. She thought harder, to when she had actually used her skills to help people—she had helped her parents learn to brew potions and helped Filch do the same. She had saved Hagrid's first Magical Creatures lesson. She had helped Luna get to the Halloween Feast—small things, but they felt right. She focused on those things and cast the spell: "Expecto Patronum!"

Her Patronus was similar to her last try, a glowing orb hovering in front of her—not really stronger, but not weaker either.

"Very good again. I'm sure you'll improve with practice," Lupin told her.

"Yes, Professor. I'll have to experiment to find the best memory to use. Thank you again."

"You're quite welcome. Good night."

Hermione was smiling as she and Harry walked back to Gryffindor Tower. It was an amazing feeling to know she wasn't helpless against dementors anymore, and to be in control of her life again. "Thank you, too, Harry," she said. "You're a good teacher, you know."

"Er, thanks. I hadn't really thought about it."

"You are. You taught Ginny Quidditch really well, and you definitely helped me tonight."

Harry shrugged and nodded noncommittally.

Hermione decided to try the Patronus Charm one more time before she went to bed. It again wasn't much different from before, but it really impressed her roommates, who thought it was really beautiful, even though it didn't take a shape.

Hermione slept better that night than she had in a very long time.


"Luna, hi! How are you?" Hermione said, running up to her Ravenclaw friend.

Luna turned around and smiled broadly. "Hello, Hermione, I'm very well, and I see that you are, too. Your wrackspurts are clearing up nicely."

"Um…I don't know what that means, Luna, but I wanted to apologise for being so distant to you. I was having panic attacks over dementors, and then I developed a phobia of security trolls, and I slept in a secret room for a week, and then I had tea for three at Madam Puddifoot's, and finally, I decided to take control of my life, so I learnt the Patronus Charm, and—Well, I just want you to know it's wasn't anything you did. I just went off the deep end this past month."

Luna listened to her rambling patiently, tilting her head as she often did, but she frowned at one point. "That's silly, Hermione," she said sharply. "Even I know no one gets tea for three at Madam Puddifoot's, and I haven't even been to Hogsmeade."

Luna Lovegood just called me silly, Hermione thought. That probably isn't a good sign. "It's true, Luna. I wasn't trying to trick you. Fred and George Weasley were involved."

"Oh, that explains it then," she said, smiling again. "You really learnt the Patronus Charm?"

"Uh huh—or started to. I'll need a lot more practice to do it well."

"That's very impressive. Not many people can do that."

"Well, I kind of had to. It's the only thing that stopped the panic attacks."

"I'm sorry you're having a hard time, Hermione," Luna said, "but I'm glad you're getting better. I was getting lonely when you were away all the time."

"Well, I'm back, Luna," she smiled. "And thank you. I'm glad I'm getting better, too."


"Okay, toy wand test number one," Hermione said, carefully writing down the experimental procedures. "Pine twig stripped of bark, flitterbloom tendril core, non-magical glue, no varnish. Glasses on."

Hermione, Fred, and George each slipped on a pair of safety glasses furnished by the Room of Requirement.

"Go ahead, Fred," she said.

Fred flicked the experimental wand once and said "Lumos."

CRACK!

Hermione squeaked in surprise as the wand exploded with a light like a camera flash, sending splinters flying across the room.

"Whoa!" the Twins said.

"Obviously needs some work," George quipped.

"Definitely. Where'd the other half go?" Fred replied as he held half a twig in his hand.

The looked around the Room. "Here it is," Hermione said, picking up the other half from where it had fallen, clear across the workshop.

They examined the two main pieces. The wand had split lengthwise along the seam, the exposed surface blackened. Using a pair of forceps, they peeled the charred remains of the flitterbloom tendril off of one of the halves.

"Hmm…the main difference from the store-bought toys is the glue," Fred observed.

"Looks like it couldn't take it," George agreed. "It's all burnt up."

Hermione thought about that: "The entire surface is burnt. At first thought, I'd say the glue superheated and boiled, splitting the wood, and it burned on exposure to the air."

"Could be. Anyway, it looks like the magical glue is probably important, then," George said.

"Have you had any luck analysing what's in the store-bought toys?" she asked.

"Still working on it."

"It's hard to analyse a potion when you have so little of it—and dried out," Fred told her. "Once we have that figured out, we should be able to at least replicate the cheap ones."

"Well, I guess we're adjourned until we have that potion," Hermione said.


After all her problems in February, Hermione was very relieved to find things lightening up as the weeks passed. She was still frightfully busy with all of her classes, not to mention that she had to start thinking about her upcoming Arithmancy O.W.L., but she was soon on top of things again. She continued to practice the Patronus Charm every night before she went to bed, trying it with a different memory each time, and she made steady progress. She nearly broke down again the first time she faced the boggart-dementor, but she picked herself up and kept trying. She was nothing if not determined. She still couldn't stand the idea of the dementors lurking about and still thought the Ministry was making a mistake by appeasing them in general, but at least they weren't giving her nightmares anymore—much.

Draco Malfoy seemed very miffed that his efforts to scare her suddenly stopped working. In fact, none of his campaigns were really panning out this year. Harry was cleaning up at Quidditch again; Hermione was no longer terrified of dementors; Hagrid hadn't got in any serious trouble all year, and his classes were actually fun. Naturally, this put him in an increasingly bad mood.

Hermione, meanwhile, was busy working on a new spell—the one to complete her hair-styling hat-trick. It took a lot of reading, but she thought she had it, and just in time for the Quidditch final—if that could be considered a social event.

Frizzy hair, she learnt, was caused by the outer, scale-like cuticle of the hair peeling up at the cellular level, often because of mechanical stress, allowing the hair to absorb excess moisture. After digging through the chemistry for a while and coming up with some interesting ideas that she would need to get back to later, she decided to try something a little more metaphorically low-tech. After extensive reading in the library, she managed to find a roofing spell that was designed to repair loose shingles. From there, it was fairly simple: she just reduced the scale factors and modified a few terms to account for the different material, and she hoped she would have a spell that would repair the damaged cuticles and make her hair smooth and well-behaved.

This was a little trickier to test than her other spells, since she couldn't replicate the exact conditions of her hair with the wigs, but once she got the spell to the point where nothing bad happened when she tried it on them, she cut off a small lock of her own hair to test it on. After a couple more attempts, it seemed to work on that, and she was ready to try it on herself.

Dry hair was a major cause of frizz, so she applied the spell right after a shower to try to lock in a healthy level of moisture, first lightly towelling her hair, then brushing it, then waving her wand with the words, "Aplana Tejascabello."

That didn't appear to do much while her hair was still damp, but once it fully dried, it did seem to have a softer, smoother wave than usual. This was the moment of truth. She waved her wand again and cast, "Micronima Isiazolio."

"YES!"

"Hermione? What happened?" Lavender called.

Hermione stepped out of the bathroom, and Lavender's and Parvati's jaws dropped.

"I finally got my new spell working."

"Sweet Merlin! Who are you and what have you done with Hermione?" Parvati said. "The real Hermione never tries to fix her hair."

Hermione giggled and flipped her hair, revelling in how much more manageable it was. "I just thought it was time for a change," she said.

"Wow, that really looks nice, Hermione. I'm impressed," Lavender agreed. "Will you let us do your makeup, now?"

"Let's not get carried away."

Her roommates laughed, but she was still off to a great start. But the real test was when she went down to breakfast, and she succeeded in turning a few heads there. Mostly for the novelty, but still. Naturally, the boys were mostly interested in the Quidditch match.

"Ahem. Morning," she said as she reached her friends at the table.

Ron, Ginny, and Harry all did a double take when they saw her.

"Hermione? Is that you?" Ron blurted.

"In the flesh," she said.

"But…but your hair, it's—"

"Straight?"

"Well, yeah."

"Not to mention smooth and shiny," Ginny added. "How did you do it?"

"Magic," she said.

"Magic?"

"All my own spells and not an ounce of product," Hermione said smugly. "Take that, genetics."

"Wow…uh, it looks good," Ron said.

"Why thank you, Ron," she said primly. She smiled as she sat beside him. "Harry, are you ready for the match?"

"Yeah, I'm ready."

"I hope so. I don't think Cho is going to make it easy for you."

Harry turned slightly pink, but he said, "I can handle it."

When the game began, Cho used the same strategy on Harry that she had used on Cedric, marking him closely and following until he spotted the Snitch, and then zooming ahead of him. That was a risky play considering Harry was on a much faster broom than Cedric, but it nearly worked because Harry wasn't keen to play too aggressively against her. Wood put a stop to that, though: "QUIT BEING SUCH A GENTLEMAN! KNOCK HER OFF HER BROOM IF YOU HAVE TO!"

Unfortunately, Harry took that a bit too literally and went too far the other way. He spotted the Snitch again and zoomed after it, and Cho did the only thing she could against such a fast broom: she tried to cut him off again. And then Harry did the only thing he could do to get the Snitch: he flew right into her…knocking her off her broom.

Hermione screamed, as did a lot of other people, but Harry apparently knew what he was doing, and he was on a very fast broom. In one fluid motion, he grabbed the Snitch out of the air, flipped over, and dove fast, snatching Cho by the hand and slowing to a stop just off the ground.

The screams in the stands turned to cheers, both for Harry winning the Quidditch Cup for Gryffindor and for that stunning bit of flying. Both Harry and Cho were still staring at each other, blushing slightly, when the fans stormed the pitch.

"Uh, thanks, Harry…I think," Cho said.

"No problem," he replied.

"Harry Potter!" Hermione yelled when she reached him. "You could've killed her doing that!" she scolded. "Did you plan that move to catch her from the start?"

"Er, not exactly, but I could tell it was the only thing that would work against her," he said.

"Oh, Harry," she groaned.


"Toy wand test number seven. Machined pine dowel, flitterbloom tendril core, magical glue based on the one-sickle store-bought wands, no varnish." Hermione had written to her bemused parents to send her some proper dowels for their experiments. They weren't sure whether a machined dowel or a natural twig would work better, but the dowels were at least more uniform. "Glasses on. Go ahead, George."

"Lumos."

The wand lit up with a harsh, white, flickering light, like a fluorescent bulb on the blink. It wasn't much, but it was almost exactly the same flicker as they got from the store-bought wands.

"Awesome!" Fred exclaimed.

"Yes! Test successful," Hermione said.

"Good to know we can replicate the cheap ones, then," George said.

"Yeah. Our family isn't gonna know what hit 'em this summer," Fred grinned.

"Oh, no," Hermione said, "I've created a pair of monsters."


Things continued to go surprisingly well for the next month. Hermione's Patronus still didn't quite get to the corporeal level, but Professor Lupin still said she was in good shape and "passed" her in her lessons. She definitely felt a lot more confident, anyway. The only thing that really got her frazzled now was her impending Arithmancy O.W.L., for which she was revising feverishly. Malfoy had quite bugging her. Her Quidditch World Cup predictions continued to be very good. And best of all, neither hide nor hair of Sirius Black had been seen since February.

She should have known trouble was on the horizon. Things always seemed to happen in October and May at Hogwarts.

It was nearly dinnertime, and Hermione was just putting the finishing touches on her latest spellcrafting project. She was really excited about this one. It was something completely new to the magical world, and the potential applications were endless. Better yet, the incantation was only four syllables. That was professional-level spellcrafting. When she explained it to Professor Vector, she said it might even be worth a paper in Annals of Arithmancy, even though it wasn't along the lines of their studies in non-Euclidean geometry. (It instead required some tricky differential equations to make the waveforms line up.) She grinned as she watched Crookshanks and Wendelin chase each other around the Common Room. The two cats would be an important part of this test, at least according to some comments from her parents in response to her recent letters. She checked over her maths one more time, and she was ready to go.

Just then, Lavender and Parvati burst into the Common Room.

"Hey, girls," she said brightly. "Come look at this."

"Hermione!" they yelled frantically.

"We have to tell you—" Lavender said.

"Somethings gonna happen—" Parvati said.

"Just a minute," Hermione said. "I'm about to make history here."

"You are?" Parvati squeaked.

"Have you bound a dark servant with spells unknown?"

"Um…no? But I do have a new spell—"

"What is it?" Lavender said. "This is important. Trelawney said you're going to bind a dark servant."

"Well…this spell won't bind anyone, but it is really neat."

"But Trelawney—"

"No, really, just look at this," Hermione insisted, too excited to back down. She waved her wand at the floor and spoke her newest incantation: "Lux Cohaerens."

A dot of red light appeared on the floor.

"Uh, what is it?" Lavender said.

Just then, there was a yowl, and two cats pounced on the red dot. Lavender and Parvati jumped, but Hermione just laughed and shifted her wand. The dot moved across the floor, and Crookshanks and Wendelin chased after it. In moments, she had them running around and around in circles, over and under the furniture, and even trying to run up the walls. A small crowd of her friends started to gather.

"They've gone mad! How're you doing that?" said Ginny, coming to see the commotion.

"It's an Imperius Curse for cats!" Parvati exclaimed.

"Bloody hell, are you going dark, Hermione?" Ron said half-seriously.

Hermione kept laughing at the felines' and her friends' antics. "No, no, no, it's a laser pointer!" she said. "It makes a narrow beam of red light that you can only see when it hits something. They're all over the place in the muggle world. Cats like to chase them." She cut off the spell with a simple "Nox" (that was still the degenerate form for lights-out)before the cats could cause too much damage.

"Oh. Well, that's nice," said Parvati.

"'Nice?' That's it?" she said indignantly. "I just invented a magical laser! The first person to do this in the muggle world won the Nobel Prize!" Well, it was a maser, but close enough. "The applications are endless. It can do more stuff than even I can imagine." Lavender and Parvati still looked unimpressed. "Fine, then. What is so important?"

"Trelawney made a prophecy!" Lavender and Parvati yelled in unison.

Hermione sighed and rolled her eyes: "Fine, if you want to believe that—"

"No, Hermione, we're serious," Lavender said. "It wasn't a prediction. It was a prophecy! She went all stiff like this, and started talking like this." She rolled her eyes back in her head, held her arms out like a zombie, and started speaking in a spooky, harsh, rasping voice. "And then she didn't remember it afterwards."

Hermione edged back a little and glanced at Harry, Ron, and Ginny, sharing a sceptical look. "Really?" she said.

"We're not kidding, Hermione," Parvati said. "Those are the signs of a true prophecy, and even people who don't believe in regular divination believe in those."

Hermione was still unconvinced, but Harry spoke up. "What did the prophecy say?" he said.

Lavender and Parvati looked at each other and then produced a parchment and started reading it together in unison in rather creepy fashion:

"Two servants, unalike in dignity,

For twelve years hidden, now will be revealed.

One will escape and go to victory;

One bound by spells unknown, his fate is sealed.

The Dark Lord waits, alone, without a friend

For one who power will restore to him.

Tonight before the clock strikes twelve, the end;

His servant will return with purpose grim.

More dreadful than before, the war shall come,

And many will to Magic Dark succumb."

An ominous silence fell over the Common Room as the poem ended. Even Hermione felt a kind of weight in the words, even if she tried to convince herself otherwise. "'Two servants, unalike in dignity'?" she said, snatching the parchment from their hands. "She ripped that off Shakespeare."

"This isn't a joke!" said Lavender. "Something bad's gonna happen. Did you see how she said 'grim'? The Grim is a big, black dog, and it's an omen of death!"

"She said 'grim' because it rhymes with 'him'," Hermione insisted, but then she heard Harry's breath hitch and saw him turn pale. "Harry, what is it?"

"I saw it," he said. "The Grim."

"You did? When?" Parvati squeaked in horror.

"All over. Back at Privett Drive, at the first Quidditch game, wandering the grounds a few weeks ago—"

"But it doesn't matter," Hermione interrupted. "Even if this prophecy's real, it's not the same 'grim' as in the poem."

"But what if it is?" Ginny said. "A real prophecy, I mean." She shuddered slightly. "Maybe we should try and figure out what it means."

"It probably doesn't mean anything."

"I don't know, Hermione." Ron said. "I reckon even if it's a fake, the old bat meant it to mean something."

"Hey!" Lavender and Parvati said.

"Okay, whatever," Hermione said, looking over the parchment. "Well, obviously, the Dark Lord is Voldemort—" The other girls gasped in horror. "Really?"

"So…You-Know-Who has two servants," Ginny reasoned, "and one's going to escape and get back to him, and the other one's gonna be caught."

"Someone's gonna get caught? Sirius Black?" Harry said hopefully.

"But that doesn't make sense," Hermione said. "Sirius Black and who else, then?"

"Malfoy's Dad, maybe?" suggested Ron. "We know he worked for You-Know-Who. He was behind the—the diary." He glanced at Ginny.

"But Mr. Malfoy isn't really hidden, though," Hermione countered. "Come to think of it, neither was Black. He was just captured. Although I guess you could interpret being in Azkaban as…well, you see? This is why Divination is so unhelpful. It can mean anything you want it to."

"It can't mean just anything," Parvati huffed. "It obviously means Black's either gonna get caught or escape tonight."

"He'd better get caught," Harry growled.

"Harry, we don't have any reason to think this is for real," Hermione insisted.

"Well, maybe not, but I sure don't want him getting away."

"Neither do I, Harry, but even if it is for real, it's more complicated than just Black."

"Yeah, I can tell," Ginny said worriedly. "I don't like the sound of that more dreadful war and succumbing to Dark Magic."

"Blimey," Ron muttered, "if You-Know-Who does come back somehow, we're in big trouble."

"I still think it's much ado about nothing," Hermione insisted.

"But it all makes sense," Parvati said. "Look at this, Hermione: 'Bound by spells unknown.' That could be referring to you."

She gave her roommate another sceptical look: "Me? Really?"

"Yes, you're always making new spells. They're unknown."

"Parv, I'm only an O.W.L. student. I'm only the one who does the most spellcrafting amongst your friends, not the whole school, and most of what we do is reinventing spells, anyway."

"I dunno, Hermione," Ginny countered, "you're the only one around here who publishes papers, and didn't you say that red light spell was completely new?"

"Well…there is that…"

"And there's something else that's different about you from the other Arithmancy students," she added.

"What's that?"

"You're friends with Harry. If You-Know-Who's involved…Harry might be, too," she whispered.

"Ginny, calm down. We don't know if anything's going to happen."

"You shouldn't dismiss a prophecy, Hermione," Lavender said. "A lot of divination is just for fun, but prophecies are serious business."

"Lav, Parv, if you're so worried about it, just go and tell Professor Dumbledore," Hermione said in exasperation. "I'm sure if there's anything to be done, he'll take care of it."

"Oh course! Dumbledore!" Parvati said. "He'll know what to do."

"Yeah, I bet he knows all about prophecies," Lavender agreed. "C'mon, Parv, let's go." The two girls ran from the Common Room.

Hermione sighed as they left. "Alright, come on," she told her friends. "Let's go get dinner."


A/N: Micronima Isiazolio: stylised from the Greek for "tiny threads, unbend, unbind". Credit to MMternit, syed, drovitch77, and Tanzanite Queen for this idea.

Aplana Tejascabello: stylised from the Spanish for "flatten shingles of hair". Credit to Drovitch77 for this idea.

Lux Cohaerens: Latin for "coherent light".