A/N: A tougher and less forgiving Harry, a slightly OOC Ravenclaw!Hermione.
Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns Harry Potter.
Still I Rise - Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
He heard the word constantly the week following the announcement of the Tri-Wizard Champions, when his name was somehow pulled out of the Goblet and he was entered in the contest. He was then branded as a glory-seeker, an attention wanter, a cheater, a liar, a traitor. He was shunned by most of his House, including his best and first mate, Ron.
He already had 'fame' with being the bloody 'Boy-Who-Lived', why would he want more of it, when he doesn't even want it in the first place? Ron had refused to speak to Harry and when he did, it was only to berate him for being a 'glory-seeking prat'. He felt all the glares as he walked down the hallway, he heard the whispers, he knew the accusations.
It was him against the whole school and he didn't even think that the teachers believed him. McGonagall wasn't helping, neither was Dumbledore, the only words he spoke was that he was entered into a legally binding contract and would have to compete, or lose his magic. The whispers were overwhelming, and he needed to find solace.
Which was how he ended up in the school library on break before dinner, a place he never visited too often during his time at Hogwarts, since Ron held an innate aversion to learning. He just needed a quiet place to think, and maybe to start researching how to stay alive in this tournament. Problem was, he had no idea how or where to start looking. They had just started fourth year, barely learning anything and he honestly doubted that the Cheering Charm would help him survive. Dumbledore said that people had died in the bloody tournament, who knew what they were going to throw at them.
He also had the damn dreams to worry about, his scar aching more and more after every dream involving him. Voldemort was still out there, looming over his head like a dark cloud. The dreams were scaring him, making him jumpy and he felt the constant pressure building up inside of him. He kept thinking that he would snap at any second. How long was he going to last at all?
"What are you doing?"
Harry had been lost in his thoughts while absent-mindedly scanning a bookcase when he spun around to see Hermione Granger standing a couple of feet away from him, eyebrow raised in question.
He sighed and couldn't help the slight irritation from slipping into his tone. "What does it look like, Granger?"
"You look lost, which is probably because I've never seen you in the library before. Why the sudden interest?" Hermione asked, sounding curious as she set her things down on the desk that Harry had set his down on, "Oh, and this is my desk."
"Didn't see your name on it," muttered Harry as he turned back and scanned the books once more. What the hell was he supposed to be looking for?
"I call seniority, but I guess I can share."
He turned his head to snap at her, his already thin patience at its end, but before he could open his mouth, she had already wandered into the aisle on the other side of the bookshelf he was browsing. He just shook his head and scanned the titles, but the words were blurring together and he couldn't think. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, wincing at the small ache from his scar.
He and Hermione Granger haven't had any significant conversations in the last four years of going to school together. He could barely recall a time where he had said five words to her before now. She wasn't in his House, and she was a bookworm, often known as the best in their year. That was the only recognition she really got as she wasn't particularly stunning, in fact she was quite plain with brown hair that was quite bushy, deep brown eyes, and slightly large front teeth.
All she was to him was just another student in his year. The only significant amount of time he spent with her was on the Express before first year. She came into his and Ron's compartment looking for Neville's toad with a bossy tone in her voice. She had fixed his glasses for him, 'showing Ron up', which of course caused the insecure boy to respond in the only way he knew how, his temper, declaring her 'mental' after she had left.
Harry watched as she picked out a book and he was able to see her face through the shelf, her brow furrowed as she studied the cover of the book. They stayed in silence for a couple of minutes, before Harry felt it becoming too thick on his end. Funny how he would have given anything for silence out in the halls, but he needed to talk to someone. She held no ties to Harry, so he figured that was why he felt the impulse to talk to her.
"I didn't put my name in," Harry blurted out, surprised when he saw the indifferent face of Hermione as she flipped through the book in her hands.
He did a double take before frowning, slightly taken back. A girl he had barely said two words to throughout their four years at Hogwarts believes him, but his best friend and housemates don't? What kind of logic is that...oh, yeah, he learned that magic and logic do not go hand in hand.
"How?" he asked baffled and curious, causing her to raise her brown eyes to his.
"Simple logic. Number one: Professor Dumbledore set an age line and there was no way you could get through that, unless you had an older student to put your name in, which brings me to number two: you looked absolutely terrified when your name was read - genuinely scared - so that cancelled out that idea. Anyone with half a brain could see that you didn't put your name in," she shrugged and let out a sigh, "Then again, Gryffindors are not exactly known for using their brains, are they?"
He normally would have defended his House against the insult, but with the way they were acting, she was right. "Yes, but your House doesn't believe me. I thought they were supposed to be the intelligent ones?"
She grimaced, "True, but my House also has 'God's gift to mankind' Cho Chang in it, and she is going out with Cedric Diggory. As for the others, the Hufflepuffs finally got something that could pull them out of their bad reputation, but you go and 'steal their thunder' while the Slytherins hate you over something out of your control. Kind of like they hate me."
He understood her words immediately. Mudblood. Even though he didn't know Hermione, he knew that word had been thrown at her a lot, especially from Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson. To his newfound shame, he never had done anything about it. He had heard it in passing as he walked halls, Malfoy and Parkinson calling her a 'filthy Mudblood'. If Malfoy called him 'Potty' or 'Scarhead', like the Snake frequently did, he and Ron would go ape-shit, but calling Hermione a Mudblood was of no consequence to him.
He looked back up, but she had put the book back and her face was blocked from his view, though he could see the top of her bushy hair over the books.
"So, what exactly is it that you're looking for?" he heard from the other side.
"Something to help me with the tournament. I'm going against six and seventh years who already know fifth, sixth, and seventh year spells," he practically spat, the bitter venom on his tongue reminding him that he didn't sign up for this tournament. They both reached the end of the aisle and Harry saw that she was juggling a couple of books in her hands.
"I see your problem," said Hermione, before looking almost uncertain. "Would you like some help?"
Harry frowned, "W-What?"
"Research. Would you like some help? It's what I'm good at," she shrugged, holding his eye contact.
"But...why would you help me?"
She didn't answer right away, gnawing on her lip with a thoughtful expression on her face before laughing mirthlessly, "I guess...because I know what it's like to be alone, I know what it's like to be ostracized from your House, I know what it's like to be whispered about behind your back, and it's...it's not fun."
Harry was brought up short by her words and looked at her. He knew that she got picked on, teased for being a 'know-it-all' and for her bossy nature, even Snape would throw jabs at her. He would sometimes see her eating alone at the Ravenclaw table, sometimes he would even hear some girls in her House making snide comments about her hair and teeth. He was there when Ron had insulted her in first year, laughing along while she ran off crying.
He watched as she limped over to the table she had set her things on and suddenly he felt a stab of guilt. He knew she was in the bathroom crying the Halloween of 1991 when that troll was let loose in the school. He had heard from word of mouth that she was attacked by the troll and seriously injured, having to stay in the infirmary for a while that year and she still walked with a limp.
He felt no guilt back then, since she was just another girl in his year, but he realized that, inadvertently, he helped cause those injuries. If only he had stopped Ron from insulting her, if only he had stopped her from running off. He thought that it was all in good fun.
It was all in good fun with him against Dudley and Piers Polkiss too, wasn't it?
That thought made him sick to his stomach, the comparison to those two. Here she was, offering to help him, after he had done nothing for her in four years of going to school together. He realized it was a testament that she was a much better person than he. Maybe this tournament was all Karma coming back around to punch him in the face, adding to the stress of Voldemort because he acted like an arse to Hermione, and didn't stop people from bullying her.
He could barely choke out the words as he took a seat at the table, "Th-thank you."
He received a decisive nod from Hermione that ended any and all conversation. She slipped out a half filled piece of parchment, a quill, and some ink along with her potions book. Harry then remembered the essay from Snape and took out his book along with the same materials to start. He had never done this before, getting started early on an essay a week before it was due, he usually waited until last minute so he could mess around with Ron. The idea that this wouldn't be looming over his head felt good as he started writing.
He would compulsively glance up to Hermione, seeing her working diligently, her essay double the size of his as she scribbled away, sometimes pausing to check the book. He glanced back down to his chicken scratch, she's not the best in our year for nothing.
"That's wrong," Hermione said suddenly, causing Harry to snap his head up with an eloquent, 'huh?' Hermione pointed to a line on his parchment, "Three leeches, not four. Also, you have to crush the moonstone to a power or else it won't react well with the fluxweed."
"Oh," Harry said, glancing down to his paper and crossing out his errors, rewriting her corrections, "Thank you."
"You're welcome," she said, glancing back down to her own essay and reading to over while chewing on the end of her quill. Harry kept working on his essay, finding himself done in half the time it would have taken if he was with Ron, who would have kept whining about being bored or wanting to go play chess.
"Do you want me to look that over? For corrections?" Hermione asked. He looked up to see her hand out, a genuine look on her face and raised his eyebrows.
"You'd...you'd do that?"
"I wouldn't have offered," Hermione simply said with an eye roll, taking the parchment and setting it in front of her. He watched as she read it over, sometimes crossing things out and writing notes at the side. Harry watched her, still trying to figure her out. Did she have a craving for helping people or something? A couple of minutes later, she handed the parchment back to him, "Not bad."
"Thanks," he said, frowning as he found himself saying thank you to this girl more times than he had ever said to someone. The first draft of his potions essay was finished by the time they were leaving to go to dinner an hour later.
"We'll come here after Charms tomorrow," Hermione said, standing up and stretching a bit. Harry nodded and did the same, working out the kinks he had acquired from sitting in the chair. He felt good, though, since he didn't have to worry about his essay and with the corrections made and because he should get a good grade. Of course, Snape could always set it on fire and then say that Harry didn't turn it in. He grimaced at the thought and packed up his own things, placing them in his bag.
Hermione slung her bag over her shoulder and started toward the exit of the library, "See you."
"Granger," the girl stopped at his call and turned around to the 'Boy-Who-Lived' with an eyebrow raised in question. Once again, he said, "Thank you."
Harry watched as her lips twitched into a small grin and she nodded once, "You're welcome, and call me Hermione."
"He's still not talking to you?" Sirius asked through the mirror as Harry laid in his bed, curtains drawn, silencing charms in place for a quiet conversation. He was glad that Sirius had given him these mirrors that the Marauders used during detention. It was much easier to communicate with him or Moony whenever he needed someone to talk to. He really needed to talk to Sirius, but Moony was unavailable since he was curled up in the basement of Grimmauld due to the full moon.
"Nope. The whole school still thinks I put my name in, even some of the professors," Harry told his godfather, hearing the muttered cursing of 'all the arseholes at Hogwarts'. Harry couldn't agree more. As soon as he had walked into the dorm, he saw Ron sitting with Dean and Seamus, whispering and glancing over to him. It was easy to deduce that they were talking about him. Shaking his head in disgust at his former friend's behavior, Harry got dressed into his night-clothes and closed the curtains before calling Padfoot.
"I'm sorry, Pup. I wish there was something I could do to help."
Harry actually smiled a bit at this, "Actually, I think I do have help."
"I was in the library and this girl, Hermione, offered to help me research spells."
"Oh?" Sirius asked again, sounding more interested this time since it was a girl, a mocking-lecherous grin on his face. "Well, tell me about this Hermione."
"Well, we've never really talked before. She's in Ravenclaw and easily the best in our year. She's scary smart, always answering questions in class. Everyone says that she's a 'know-it-all', but she really does know it all. She offered to help me."
"Is she cute?"
"Can you be serious for once?" Harry snapped, before realizing what he said. He groaned at the incoming inevitable joke in 3...2...1...
"I am Sirius all the time, Pup," the grim animagus was guffawing, making Harry roll his eyes, "But, really, is she?"
"I-I don't know, but I don't think I should be worrying about this right now. People have died in this tournament," Harry said desperately, promptly shutting his godfather up as he adopted a serious exrpression on his face.
"I wish that I could get you out of this. Whoever put you in this tournament is not your friend. Don't try to win this thing, research spells with this Hermione girl, and skid through. Who cares if you come in last, what good is eternal glory if you're dead."
Dead. The word twisted in his gut and he didn't feel like talking anymore. He just wanted to succumb to Morperus' embrace, hoping dreams about Voldemort allude him. "I'm going to sleep. I'll talk to you tomorrow."
"Good night, Pup."
Hermione Granger was quite excited to help Harry Potter. She even woke up with a slight smile on her face, and it stayed with her the whole morning. She was in quite the chipper mood, Luna Lovegood even commented about Nargles not surrounding her head or something. She just smiled at her blonde Housemate, and ate her breakfast.
Hermione had a strong desire to be able to help anybody and anything that needed help, but had trouble with how to approach the things and that made her frustrated.
House Elves were one of the big issues she wanted to help with. She knew that she could not free the House Elves, considering their 'Master' needed to give them articles of clothing in order to, but she wanted at least equal rights for them. She had thought about starting a club to promote their welfare and start the road of getting them equality, but her unpopularity and students general disinterest would hinder it.
She also wanted to bring equal rights to all magical creatures. From the essay they were assigned the year before, and then with general curiosity, she knew that werewolves were essentially only a small step above House Elves to wizards, only House Elves get to work. Werewolves were looked down on, hence the reason Professor Lupin was fired, which was a shame because he was their best DADA teacher yet.
She had no idea how to go about it and usually made mistakes. First year she seemed to take to learning spells and wanted to help others in her class, but when she would approach them, but would come off bossy and they would normally just brush her off or make fun of her.
It was like primary school all over again, which disappointed her. She was incredibly happy when she realized that she was a witch, she was different and she would be going to school with other different kids. They would understand her, she would make friends, she would finally be happy. It didn't turn out that way for her, though.
The magical world was totally different from the 'mundane', and she felt as if she still didn't belong. She tried so hard to make friends, but she came off abrasive and immediately turned her classmates off, and she was once again alone.
She was excited for this opportunity to help Harry with the tournament. She held a quiet respect for the 'Boy-Who-Lived', even when he would laugh at Ronald Weasley's jokes about her. He never really made fun of her, but it did hurt when he would laugh at those who did. Now, he seemed to be on the receiving end of it, and she wanted to feel like it was some sort of victory, that he would finally know what it feels like, but instead she just felt pity. She also realized that she would be no better than him if she reveled in his rejection. She knew he didn't put his name in the Goblet, it was simple logic!
She realized that it was her chance to help someone in need, and that someone was none other than the 'Boy-Who-Lived'. What a story to tell the kids one day, she inwardly snorted as she glanced up to see Professor Flitwick dismissing class.
Glancing across the room, she saw Harry packing up his things, everyone shooting him dirty looks before walking out of the class. She even felt the pity welling up inside of her at that moment. She was used to rejection, but Harry didn't seem to be and wasn't taking it well, though trying to hide it. Hermione limped over to her favorite professor, wincing a bit. Her leg always seemed to be a little more sore when raining out.
Harry gave her a questioning look, but she just motioned with her head to walk over. The half-goblin glanced up at his star student along with the son of his former favorite student.
"Did you need something, Miss Granger, Mr. Potter?" Professor Flitwick asked.
He had remembered back in first year, her thirst for learning was so thrilling, and reminded him so much of Lily Evans. However, he knew that she didn't have many friends, and some of the other students picked on her. It was one of the reasons she was hurt in her first year. He was one of the Professors aside Minerva and Severus who took down the troll and found the little girl, lying in a pool of blood on the destroyed bathroom floor. The sight made him sick to his stomach, seeing one of his Eagles in that state, especially that little Eagle.
The teasing only seemed to get worse as they had incentive with making fun of the way she walked with a limp, so Filius offered his room as a sanctuary for her. That was how he began teaching her advanced charms as she would master each quicker than the other students. She had the summoning and banishing charms down in her third year, which he would teach them this year.
He had taken to the young girl and was sure she would be his successor when he retired from Hogwarts. He was a little shocked to see her standing with Harry Potter, as he had never seen them together before. He didn't believe that the boy entered the tournament, and was quite shocked that everyone else did.
"I have to ask, do you believe that Harry put his name in the tournament?" Hermione asked her favorite teacher and Head of House, hoping that he didn't. When she saw him shake his head, she let out a short sigh of relief. With his help, things would be a lot easier.
"No, I don't. May I ask why you're asking?"
"No one else is helping him, everyone thinks he's a cheat. I've decided to help him, but we need..." Hermione trailed off, but saw understanding in her teacher's eyes.
"That's very admirable of you to do, Miss Granger. I'm assuming that you were looking for some books to help you," Filius smiled at Hermione shy nod, and pointed his wand behind her, levitating a couple of books over to his desk. Hermione noted that it was the standard Charms books for years 4-7.
"Thank you, Professor," Harry said, speaking up for the first time, the small teacher smiling. He saw the genuine appreciation in his eyes - Lily's eyes - but wanted to ask the boy something.
"Mr. Potter, may I have a word?" Flitwick asked, the boy nodding and glancing at Hermione.
"I'll just wait in the hall," Hermione said, scooping the books up and shuffling out the door. Professor Flitwick cast a silencing charm and turned back to the 'Boy-Who-Lived'.
"I have to tell you, Mr. Potter, Miss Granger is definitely the person that you want helping you with this. You are being genuine, right?" Harry noted that the Charms professor's tone was almost pleading. He was concerned about Hermione, and to ease his worries, Harry nodded.
"Yes, sir. I can't tell you how glad I was that Hermione offered to help me. I haven't really talked to her, but her doing this means a lot."
"I'm glad and neither I nor Professor McGonagall believe that you put your name in,"
"Thank you, but I wish I could say the same for my friends," Harry muttered bitterly, clenching his jaw.
"If they don't believe you over this, were they really your friends to begin with?" Harry stopped up short at his words, staring at the smiling Charms teacher, "Have a nice day, Mr. Potter."
Too baffled to speak, Harry nodded and walked out the door, seeing Hermione leaning against the wall and skimming through one of the books. She glanced up to him and gave a small smile, which he returned and held out his hands for the other three books in her arms. She handed him two instead of all and he realized that it was a show of independence, something he liked about her.
"Okay, I've also been reading up on the tournament, trying to compare the tasks to see if there were any similarities."
"Were there?" Harry asked Hermione, seeing her nod. They reached the library and took their seats at 'Hermione's spot', the Ravenclaw pulling out Hogwarts: a History from her bag, along with History of the Tri Wizard Tournament. Harry then pulled out parchment and ink to write notes, before taking a deep breath.
"I've found a connection, I think, but you tell me what you think. First, in the Tri-Wizard Tournament there's a standard of three tasks designed to test the Champion's courage, intelligence, resourcefulness, and magical ability. In 1792, the last Tri-Wizard Tournament, the first task was the Champions catching a Cockatrice. Unfortunately, it went on a rampage, injuring the Heads of Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang." Hermione saw how Harry paled at his information and had to drop the ball, "Based on other similar first tasks involving Erumpents, Tebos, and Jobberknolls, I think that the first task involves a magical creature of some kind."
Harry wrote that down on a piece of parchment and nodded her to continue, "The second task of that year was about retrieving a special item that had been taken from each of the Champions from the forbidden forest."
My firebolt, my cloak, the map, Harry thought about his three most important items and going into the forbidden forest to retrieve them. The Forbidden Forest full of centaurs, werewolves, vampires, and other dangerous creatures. He suppressed a shudder and nodded for her to continue again.
"The third task is the hardest and it's always different from what I've read, but it's usually a combination of wit, physical prowess, and displaying magical ability. It's also the most dangerous with the highest number of recorded deaths."
Harry copied it down, before just looking at the paper, the inevitability of the dangers he was going to face making his breathing quicken. Hermione just let Harry settle down, knowing no words of comfort would help him. He was going to risk his life for a tournament he didn't enter, what exactly could you say to make it better?
"I still need a place to train," Harry told Hermione, who just gave him a small grin that she hoped was reassuring.
"Well then, we'll just need a room to fill your requirements."