Author's Note: Two warnings today.
One is for you readers who are unfamiliar with the universe in "Lily and the Art of Being Sisyphus" while this one is fairly intelligible without having read the original there are still mentions of events, characters, and just things from the original which would have to be inferred. You can read this without having read the main fic but I don't recommend it.
Second is that this is NOT-CANON, so these events described here do not happen in the main story. Similar events might take place in the main story later but as of now none of this has happened.
It wasn't too far into their school year that Hermione Granger realized that something needed to be done about Ellie Potter and that no one was going to do it for her.
She liked to think she wasn't being bossy, she had been called that quite a bit at her old school, but really it was for Ellie's own good. She couldn't remember what the deciding factor was, whether it was Ellie's blatant disrespect for both Professor Snape and Professor Quirrell, her insistence on bringing her familiar rabbit Rabbit everywhere with her, her casual invasion of Gryffindor, or even her treatment of Hermione as some sort of wizarding encyclopedia to be used at her leisure for whatever random piece of information she needed. At any rate all these things combined together until one day, sitting at the Gryffindor table alone for breakfast once again, Hermione decided that she just couldn't take it anymore.
Ellie didn't have to be completely normal, or even vaguely normal, she just had to be less weird or at least more respect for authority.
She had to learn that it wasn't polite to call Professor Quirrell Professor Squirrel, especially without being called on in class in front of everybody, and that talking back to Professor Snape was preventing everyone from learning anything. Hermione had to spend all her time on Potion because they learned nothing in class thanks to Ellie's constant and violent distractions.
Besides, Hermione reluctantly thought to herself once all the logical reasons had been covered, it would give her something to do and someone at school to talk to. People didn't like Hermione at her new school any more than they had at her old one, it had only taken a day but she was already the know-it-all bookworm once again, worse even she was the muggle born know-it-all bookworm. That had been harder, walking down the hallways and knowing that some people, Slytherins mostly but even people in the houses that were supposed to be good looked at her and thought she didn't matter at all just because her parents were dentists and she had a last name like Granger.
By teaching Ellie some manners she'd have an excuse to talk to someone, even if it was Ellie. Maybe if it went well she would have a friend; a more normal version of Ellie Potter for a friend, and that was a nice thing to think about.
She'd been very excited to meet Ellie Potter after reading about her in books and realizing they were going to be in the same year. On the train even as she'd helped Neville look for his toad she'd thought about what the girl who lived would really be like, how she'd look, how she'd act, how she'd react to Hermione.
Ellie had been like nothing she'd imagined.
She spoke nonsense at a ridiculous rate, disregarded wizarding culture completely (along with normal British culture), acted bizarre but more than that entirely confident as if it was you who was mistaken and she had the right of it, and she just seemed so different from the rest of them.
Not necessarily older but… different.
After much thought Hermione realized that Ellie reminded her of what aliens were supposed to be like in movies or television, where you could talk with them and understand them, but there was something a little not human about them. The only problem was that Ellie was supposed to be human.
So it started after much thought, planning, and confidence bolstering one morning when Hermione approached Ellie at the breakfast table interrupting Ron's latest rant on the rules of quidditch.
"So really it's only the seeker and the keeper that are needed to win a game, because as long as you keep enough balls out of your goal and catch the stupid shiny thing you pretty much automatically win. I'm not even really sure you need the keeper actually, because you just have to catch the snitch before you lose more than one fifty points." Ellie concluded with a very serious expression after Ron had apparently finished summarized.
Ron, however, looked horrified by the suggestion, "That's not how quidditch works at all!"
"Well it seems like that seeker position is the most point heavy, and you said that for the majority of the time the person who catches the gold ball thingy wins the game, so there doesn't really seem to be a point to the rest of it." Ellie shrugged slightly as if this couldn't be helped or rather that she didn't really want to help it. In fact the further the silence went the more pleased she seemed by this development, as if having only one necessary player in a quidditch game worked perfectly for her.
"Ellie." Hermione said clearing her throat. The girl turned and once again Hermione was caught by how odd she looked, those bright green eyes that seemed to see everything and nothing at once, that always took a second or two to process before displaying any sort of emotion. It took a moment for Hermione to recapture her thoughts but when she did so her tone was fairly confident, "We need to talk."
Ellie continued to look at her, giving her what seemed to be her undivided attention, more so than she ever gave to Professor Quirrell or Professor Snape at any rate. She didn't say anything though, just kept looking, and Hermione could only stand there wondering how someone could have this little social etiquette or if it simply was that Ellie didn't care.
"For someone who needs to talk you aren't doing much of it." Ellie finally commented with narrowed eyes as if Hermione was some sort of flawed puzzle that was refusing to be put together correctly.
That, right there, was why they absolutely had to talk.
"Do you mind leaving the table for a bit? It won't take long."
"Well, now that this quidditch thing is all sorted out and since it's Saturday the most boring day of the week… Why not?"
Ellie shrugged, grabbed the rabbit (which she never left anywhere on its own) and followed Hermione out of the Great Hall giving a slight wave goodbye to Ron and Neville. After positioning themselves in an abandoned classroom where they could talk freely Ellie casually put her feet up on a desk and looked at her, "So this talking that you find so necessary, what is it?"
"Ellie, I don't know if you haven't noticed or not but you're not like other people." Hermione was greeted with that by a look that clearly questioned Hermione's intelligence and Hermione bristled at the unspoken insult, "You're very rude to people and I'm not sure if it's intentional or not but you should respect your professors more as well as everyone else."
Ellie seemed to consider that, "There's only so much respect I can hand out in one day, besides it's not as if they deserve it. Is this the only reason we're talking right now?"
"Well…" The answer was really yes, but also no, it was also a chance for Hermione to talk to somebody. As rude as Ellie was she didn't sneer, she may use Hermione like a dictionary but it didn't seem like there was an inherent insult in it, for the most part as far as Hermione could tell Neville was the only one Ellie didn't act completely rude to and even his opinions and feelings were disregarded daily.
She wasn't like Lavender, Pavarti, or any of the other girls in Hermione's dormitory. She didn't sneer or snicker or just exude coldness that made Hermione want to go and hide in the library and pretend that everything was okay when it wasn't. Even though Ellie was impolite, crazy, disrespectful, and of dubious intelligence Hermione would still rather spend her Saturday morning talking with her than to no one at all.
"I'll take that as a yes. Boring, terribly boring, far too boring and I'm far too busy to be bored. Come up with a vaguely interesting venture and find me again, in the meantime, I have some quidditch to practice." With that Ellie jumped nimbly off the desk and began to saunter, there really wasn't another word for that confident stride, out of the classroom.
"Wait!" Hermione shouted, and she knew she sounded desperate and alone but she didn't care anymore because it was always about more than Ellie and teaching Ellie manners, "I… If you leave now then I will never answer one of your questions ever again!"
Ellie stopped in her tracks, right in the middle of a step, she froze in a mechanical inhuman movement that just looked so wrong. Slowly the girl turned back around to face Hermione and there was a darker, older, and more contemplative expression on her face as if for the first time she was truly looking at Hermione as something other than a tool to be used. Hermione didn't like that expression and she wondered for a split second if she should have just stayed an encyclopedia.
"Better. Of course, I don't respond well to blackmail, the trouble with threats is you have to hit the right target and you have to be able to see it through. Usually people only get one of the two and I'm afraid you're off in left field at the moment."
"Oh." Because what else could you say to something like that?
Ellie continued though, as if Hermione hadn't interrupted, and stalked forward, "I could find other sources to regale me with wizarding trivia that I find too tedious to memorize, who knows maybe I could actually memorize Hogwarts A History. But this is much less boring than when the conversation started. You pick up things quickly."
"…Thank you?" Hermione asked because the way it was stated, while it was a compliment, Hermione suddenly felt as if she didn't want it to be a compliment.
Ellie grinned at her, a shark like expression that belonged on the villains in books or in films and not on little girls and continued, "There are too many things going on in this school, even for me to keep track of, having a Frank 2.0 on staff would be most excellent."
Ellie waved her off and returned to her usual casual demeanor, "Never mind that. So Hermione, you had plans or something? I wasn't paying attention."
Hermione took in a deep breath and gathered her courage and stifling her already mounting frustration reminding herself that it had been her idea to fix Ellie and that once Ellie acted properly she wouldn't be half as irritating, "Right, we're going to fix that."
Ellie blinked at her, that processing expression back on her face, not confusion but rather a lack of ability to parse, "I'm afraid I don't understand."
"You, Ellie, you're attitude and manners and… We're going to fix you."
Only a few hours later Hermione would realize what a truly terrible idea this was but at the time there was only her staring into that blank expression on Ellie's pale face and the rabbit sitting on her head.
The great Ellie Potter rehabilitation project started and ended soon after that when they went to Professor Quirrell and Professor Snape's weekend office hours so that Ellie could announce her intentions to change as well as apologize for her inexcusable behavior.
They started with the one that Hermione felt Ellie had offended more, namely, professor Snape.
"Wow, this is the first time I've been to his office without having some sort of detention." Ellie noted with an odd expression on her face as they stood outside the rather menacing looking office door, "I wonder if it's a sign."
It was funny the office door looked like any other office door, like Professor McGonagall's or Professor Flitwick's, but something about it seemed colder and sharper than those other doors as if it dissuaded anyone from coming near. Hermione had only gone to Professor Snape's office hours once or twice and while he had been helpful he had also been cold and distant so much so that she had shortly decided that she would refer to the library before professor Snape for help on homework and class assignments.
Ellie looked mostly indifferent to the door though, perhaps it was because she was a Slytherin and he was her head of house, but never the less Ellie wasn't allowed to be braver than Hermione who was a Gryffindor so Hermione swallowed her sense of disquiet and mustered her courage.
"It's a sign that you're changing your ways." Hermione stated but Ellie shook her head mildly as if listening with only half an ear.
Hermione had noted that Ellie often looked dazed, not all the time, but in class or in the middle of conversations her attention would appear to drift as if she was listening to something else instead. It had always bothered Hermione, especially when even when seeming distracted she usually was paying at least some attention, but seeing it outside of the class and just in a hallway seemed odd. As if it was just one more thing that made Ellie just a little too different from the rest of them.
"Doubtful, no, it's something else. It smells like… opportunity." And again there was that grin, the one that was too sharp, and Hermione tried to pretend that she never saw it in the first place.
"Professor Snape?" Hermione said knocking on the door. For a few moments there was only silence and then from the inside that deep and impatient voice responded.
"Miss Granger, if you are having social issues I suggest speaking with your own head of house."
Hermione blushed furiously, wondering just how obvious her situation was that even Professor Snape noted it, and a part of her was dying in shame in front of Ellie wondering if this was all as clear to her too. It was also quite rude, she could have been there for homework, although it was a Saturday and she had already finished the Potions assignment for the weekend the night before but never the less he didn't need to say it quite like that.
"No, this, um, this isn't about that…" Hermione spluttered trying to regain her confidence.
"Wow, you really are this much of an asshole to everyone." Ellie noted loudly, clearly directed at Snape on the inside of the door meanwhile Hermione's flush only grew darker at Ellie's foul language as well as her blatant disrespect.
"Ellie!" Hermione whispered harshly in admonition but Ellie just gave her that blank look.
"Are you trying to tell me that Snape is not an asshole? He enjoys tormenting small children, he probably drinks their tears, it would explain why so many of our Potions class end in traumatized children."
"You are the reason that our Potions classes always end in traumatized children!" Hermione said louder losing her ability to whisper and confront Ellie at the same time, "If you would just do your potions and not blow everything up…"
"I beg your pardon!" Ellie said looking somewhat offended, "My potions have been nothing short of stellar and have never once exploded."
"I didn't mean your potions!"
The door opened abruptly and they were met with Professor Snape's cold hard glare. Professor Snape had a bit of a reputation, especially in Gryffindor, most of the reason Ellie was so popular was because she confronted Snape on a regular basis and for the most part Hermione didn't understand it but then sometimes she did. There was always something a bit scary about professor Snape, but he was a tenured professor so surely he couldn't be too awful, but then sometimes when he glared down at her she felt pieces of her soul die.
He wasn't looking at her though, he was looking straight down at Ellie, and it was odd but he was looking at her as if she wasn't really a student.
Well, not like she wasn't a student, but like she was more than a student. Like she was something dangerous, something that needed watching, and something he very clearly did not like.
"Hi," Ellie said with a slight wave, "Enjoying the sweet smell of defeat, professor?"
He said nothing but his glare intensified and Ellie continued on casually as if Professor Snape's silence to her made no difference whatsoever, "Hermione says I should apologize for my behavior."
"Does she? Miss Granger is very… perceptive." And Hermione got the feeling that she wasn't at all perceptive because she had no idea what was going on at all and she had the distinct feeling that she didn't want to.
It was not going at all like she'd thought or hoped it would, she'd thought it'd be a few minutes of her life, that maybe Professor Snape would even appreciate it and her just a little bit more. That all seemed like a hazy dream now though as she realized that Professor Snape might resent her forever for this meeting between him and Ellie.
"Well, she does know everything one doesn't need to know about this silly little culture you have going on in wizarding Britain." Ellie said, not even looking at her as she said it, but only with eyes for Snape, "And so I felt I should at least respect her opinion somewhat. So I'm sorry for inciting revolution in the classroom, I will instead shift the battlefield from the trenches of the Potions class to the much larger quidditch pitch."
And if anything Professor Snape looked almost scared at that last comment as if he knew exactly what she was saying even when Hermione clearly didn't. With that Ellie offered one final grin and said, "I wish you substantial luck, Mr. Snape, because there is blood in the wind as well as in the water."
And then she and Hermione were walking away from the Potions classroom, Hermione feeling as if she'd just missed everything and also a little scared, and Ellie grinning, "That was fun, I should apologize more often."
She almost didn't want to go to Professor Quirrell's office after that, but she had started on a mission, and she would see it through to the very end. Ellie was also beginning to terrify her so that it seemed less like a Saturday morning and more like a nightmare where she simply couldn't leave but had to keep riding until the terrible end. Her one consolation though was that Ellie's hideous joy at confronting Professor Snape (although what about was beyond her) was dripping from her face steadily until only a sour grimace remained; an unhappy Ellie seemed to be much safer and more reassuring than a terribly happy one.
"Do we have to talk with Quirrell the Squirrel, his stutter gives me migraines." Ellie said once they reached the sighing at the mere sight of it and rubbing her temples.
"That is exactly why we need to talk to Professor Quirrell. You can't just go along calling him whatever you want, even if he does give you headaches, he is a tenured professor you know." Hermione said to which Ellie just sighed and glared at her slightly.
"He practically is a squirrel; a squirrel with tenure is still a squirrel."
"He isn't a squirrel!"
"Have you seen him twitch?" Here Ellie stopped and jerked slightly, as if dangling from puppet strings, a stricken look on her face, and then said in a timid stutter, "To…to…tt…today Mi…mi…miss Granger we… we… I… we.. wi… will discuss….tr….tro…trolls."
It was actually a rather good impression, a bit overdone, but never the less it seemed accurate and very much in the spirit of Professor Quirrell and Hermione found herself mortified that she had just had that very rude thought about the professor she was trying to get Ellie to respect.
"And you shouldn't make fun of others speech impediments! It's very rude!"
"I will when they choose lecturing as their employment. If I have to listen to that every Monday for an hour then I damn well can say what I want."
It was at that, before Hermione could admonish Ellie for her ghastly language, that the door opened and revealed a twitching and rather nervous looking Professor Quirrell.
Ellie's expression just grew darker and she began gritting her teeth and Hermione wasn't sure if it was because Professor Quirrell had made an appearance or because her headache had gotten worse.
"Hello professor, Ellie and I were in the hallway and Ellie felt she had something to say to you." Hermione looked over at Ellie and felt her face pale immediately. It was even worse than her expression around Professor Snape.
Around Professor Snape she had looked dangerous, like someone who wasn't an eleven year old girl, now she didn't even look human. It was her eyes, they were too sharp, and they just stared into Professor Quirrell as if he wasn't even there at all but was rather a speck of dirt about to be trampled beneath her shoe.
"I'm sorry for calling you a squirrel, Professor Squirrel, it won't happen again." Her voice had no inflection in it, no feeling at all, but rather fell flat against them with all the insincerity it could possibly muster.
He blinked a little, as if slightly confused, probably because Ellie just called him a squirrel after saying she wouldn't, "We….Well… Well Miss Po…Pott….Potter tha… that's…"
At even the first syllable of his words her face distorted back into that grimace. It was the first time she'd really seen Ellie angry, she seemed vaguely frustrated sometimes, but never really angry and worse it didn't even seem to be rage but rather mild irritation as if he was a fly buzzing in her face that only had to be swatted down.
"Please, just don't talk. Everything you say just makes reality ten times worse than it used to be."
"Ellie!" Hermione said her flush returning even when looking at that cold inhuman expression on her face. "You're supposed to be apologizing for your lack of respect."
"It takes a great deal to earn my respect, Hermione, I am hardly going to offer it to a squirrel. He might mistake it for an acorn and then it would be gnawed on, I can't have my respect being gnawed on."
"You just said you wouldn't call him a squirrel!" Hermione felt herself flush and couldn't help but remember her first time talking to Ellie Potter on the train and feeling that she should have just remembered how frustrating it all was.
"I didn't call him a squirrel, I referred to his true nature, calling is more like an insult since he really is a squirrel that's somehow drifted into man and garlic form there's no insult implied. It's just a sad fact of life."
Professor Quirrell seemed stunned, as if he wasn't quite sure what to make of all that, and said nothing merely blinked at her and Ellie. Meanwhile Hermione was becoming dreadfully embarrassed by the whole thing and thinking that maybe they should have saved the apologies for after the lessons were finished and Ellie had been reintroduced into society.
"Why we're here?" Ellie finished for him with a sigh, "It took you that long to say just that? You totally made that vampire thing up; even a crippled bloodsucker could have maimed you in that amount of time."
"Were the first ten points for ridiculous conspiracy theories not enough?" And Hermione felt, irrationally, that the room just became ten times colder and that everything seemed to be that much darker; as if Quirrell had somehow transformed to match Ellie in tone so that it was only Hermione who didn't belong.
"Just admit that you have a garlic fetish, or that you have a garlic eating tumor in the back of your head that must be fed on an hourly basis or it eats your brain, no one will judge."
In the pause then it seemed as if a thousand unspoken words passed between Professor Quirrell and Ellie Potter. Finally in a soft and yet terribly cold voice Professor Quirrell said, "Twenty points from Slytherin, now get out of my office."
And he quietly closed the door in their faces.
Standing outside the hallway Ellie's expression brightened into the familiar owlish blinking and she said to Hermione, "Wow, who knew that Quirrell was such a point loss source of wealth, if only his very existence didn't flay my brains."
"So, Hermione, this has all been rather productive for a Saturday. I got to threaten Snape, lose points from Quirrell, and it's before noon even. What's next?"
It was really a split second decision on her part then, looking at Ellie smiling at her like any other cheerful student, the rabbit on her head blinking over at Hermione with a curiously solemn expression.
"You know, Ellie, I think we'll end things here for now."
"Oh, Really? That's it?" Ellie asked before turning on her heel, "Looks like I have time to practice this quidditch thing after all. Oh by the way, Hermione, I'll be delivering to you the agenda sometime tonight."
"Agenda?" Hermione called after her.
"Well, you did agree to be Frank 2.0, that was the bargain Miss Granger. People tend find it unpleasant when they break bargains with me." And then she was gone, around the corner and out of sight leaving Hermione standing alone outside Professor Quirrell's office.
Later that night in the common room Hermione talked with Neville. She had only spoken to him once or twice, not usually too often, and he seemed to like her well enough. Really though he seemed like the best person to talk to about Ellie and so the whole story came pouring out.
"Yeah, that does sound like her… She says she has a war with Slytherin or something and is trying to get them to lose the house cup…" Neville said after it had all wrapped up.
"It's more than that Neville! She's…" She didn't have the words for it, there were so many, but Neville seemed to know what she was getting at because he nodded slowly.
"Ellie can be scary sometimes, I like to think she's good scary though."
What was good scary though? She wasn't usually like that in class, certainly not to that degree, so it seemed she knew when to turn it off and on but did that make it good? It made her wonder if Ellie didn't already have her own rules of etiquette, unspoken ones that nobody knew about, and that her usual terrible behavior was actually her very best behavior and that her worst was far worse than that.
Either way it was the last time Hermione ever tried to change someone for their own good.
(Later that night, on her nightstand, without any proof of anyone having entered her dormitory she found a very thick pile of papers labelled in ball point pen 'Agenda', and Hermione wondered if there wouldn't be drastic consequences to her actions after all.)
Author's Note: So yeah, friendless Hermione is still friendless, and it's all just kind of sad. For the 800th review of "Lily and the Art of Being Sisyphus" by Terahlyanwe who asked for a fic where, "a character (Hermione, Draco, or Zechariah Smith seems like they'd be really hilarious, but not integral. Or a prof, maybe.) decides to influence Lily into being a "normal" witch with "normal" views subtly. Lily has an independent plan to influence that same person to seeing things a bit more her way. I don't really care how it ends, except that Lily ends up seriously disturbing whoever it is in some way beyond the current status quo." Hermione wasn't necessarily subtle about it but then neither was Lily.
Another note for those who don't read authors notes that this is NOT CANON to the main fic.
Thanks to readers and reviewers you guys are great and reviews are much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter