A/N: This is a series of one-shots, like it says in the opener. It turned out to be really sad, but that was not my original intention! But I do think the three of them fulfill each others' deepest beliefs about friendship and family and they're happier together than apart. So here's a look at the Golden Trio before they were the Golden Trio! Ladies first.
Hermione's hand shot in the air.
With not a small amount of exasperation, the teacher sighed, "Yes, Miss Granger?"
"Sir, you've written the dates wrong." Several of the students around her tittered.
"I can assure you," said Mr. Beauchamp, "They are not wrong. They are from the textbook."
"Yeah, piss off, Granger!" yelled one of the boys. Hermione wasn't sure which one. She could feel her face turning a brilliant shade of crimson and lowered her eyes and her voice, but continued anyway. He had the dates wrong.
"No sir," said Hermione, "Look. You've mixed up the War of Succession with the Battle of Crecy."
Mr. Beauchamp finally looked at the board. Hermione chanced a glance up. She could feel the entire classroom staring at her and her face continued to become more red. She wanted to shrivel up and fall through the slats in the seat. Why had she opened her mouth? Imagining what would happen in the schoolyard when they left for break, Hermione was practically stewing in her own misery. All of a sudden, no one was looking at her. Mr. Beauchamp, though he had not said a word, was erasing the dates and writing the correct ones.
"Right, thank you, Miss Granger. Moving on." And they did. Even the boy who had helpfully yelled at her to piss off was bent studiously to his work.
Hermione was never sure what was happening when things of this nature occurred. They seemed to be happening more frequently. Maybe she was going mad, as Evelyn Tate and Rebecca Vance had suggested.
No, she thought, I'm not going mad. My classmates must be feeling more accepting after what happened to that sixth year boy.
Just last month a boy in the sixth year had tried to commit suicide by hanging himself in the closet. His parents had found him in time, thank God. It was due to bullying. He was still in the hospital and they had to bring him his schoolwork. Hermione could not repress a shudder, as misguided as she knew it was, at the thought of missing so much important school, but that was far beside the point.
Still, just last week she had been desperately hoping for one of the girls at the popular table to notice her. She just wanted one of them to come over and say hello, maybe ask about her new haircut which she thought made her look less like a walking, talking triangle. Hermione had been hoping for one of the girls to notice her haircut so single-mindedly that she must have done something without realizing it. She must have! One's hair did not stand on end on its own and her own hair had done just that, like it was reaching for the sky the way they had to do with their arms in physical training. But suddenly it was standing on end. She must have done something unintentionally to make it do so, but she could not figure out what.
The end result was, of course, the popular girls had noticed her. Everyone had noticed her. Even some of the teachers had joined in the laughter and that had really hurt. But not as much as Evelyn Tate throwing different foods into her staticky hair, trying to see what would stick while Hermione had run from the cafeteria crying.
And the year before, when she had been begging her mother to do correspondence classes. But her father must have sent for the paperwork, as much as he denied it. Hermione knew beyond a doubt her mother had not, for she had practically fallen over when she had seen the packet to enroll her in a correspondence school after they had argued about that very thing the night before.
No. They hadn't appeared out of thin air, but, again, Hermione had no idea where they had come from. She knew Mother had suspicions.
Her parents had long treated these odd happenings as they treated everything. With unassailable and indefatigable logic. And that was precisely what Hermione intended to do.
Later, as she had predicted, Evelyn and Rebecca came across the yard toward her. Beatrice was with them. She and Hermione had spent time together over the summer holiday, but once school started that friendship had evaporated. Hermione had not been surprised, but she had spent a lot of time crying about it while her mother stroked her hair. She tried to put that thought aside as they came. Those girls could smell weakness and thinking of her mother and Beatrice's betrayal would not help her with what was to come.
"So. Hermione," said Evelyn.
Hermione continued looking at the toes of her unremarkable school shoes. "Yes Evelyn?" she said, hoping whatever this was was quick and not too public, though she saw some of her classmates looking their way interestedly.
"That was well interesting today. How you knew the dates even though Mr. Beauchamp didn't."
Hermione looked up sharply. Evelyn had never told Hermione that anything she had done had been "well interesting".
Then Rebecca joined in with a painfully accurate imitation of Mr. Beauchamp's clipped, city accent, "I think not, Miss Granger." Evelyn and Beatrice laughed appreciatively while Rebecca went on to say all sorts rude things that Mr. Beauchamp would have rather been caught picking his nose than saying in front of students.
"So." Evelyn again. "I was finking you could come over for my party on Saturday?"
It was a question even though it was a statement, but that was not what had Hermione confused.
"P-party?" she felt herself blushing at the same time as she tried to keep her cool.
"Yeah, you know," said Rebecca, "A bunch of humans get together and like, hang out. You ever done it?"
Evelyn elbowed Rebecca, hard, in the ribs.
"So like, try and be nice?" said Evelyn.
Rebecca just rolled her eyes, but smiled at Hermione when she was done.
"Sure. I could come to your party." Why couldn't she think of something cooler to say?
"So. It's at mine. You know where I live?"
Hermione nodded. She had gone there once with Mother to pick up a costume for the school play. Mother didn't sew, but Evelyn's mother did.
"All right. Well. Don't want to keep ya."
And with that the three girls walked away. Beatrice looked back, but instead of looking excited, she looked worried. Hermione supposed she was afraid Hermione would embarrass her by bringing up their summer friendship, but Hermione never would. All she wanted was to have a good time at the party. She couldn't wait to tell her parents!
Her parents had been thrilled with the news.
Mr. and Mrs. Granger had watched their daughter very intently. It was such a joy to them to finally see her happy and getting along with the other kids.
After checking that she was really asleep, Mrs. Granger had come down to sit with Mr. Granger in the living room. He had poured them two glasses of wine and she gratefully took a sip. She snuggled in beside him and he threw a blanket over the two of them.
"Do you think she'll have a good time at the party? Could this be it?" she asked. She didn't want to look Mr. Granger in the face. She was afraid her own worries and insecurities would be reflected too plainly.
"I don't know. I hope so."
Hermione didn't see much of the other girls for the rest of the week. She thought maybe they'd sit at lunch together but their table was full and Hermione was afraid of being turned away if she asked them to make room. They didn't make fun of her though, and Beatrice even passed her a note in class complaining about their teacher's B.O. She figured they had invited her to the party out of curiosity. She was determined to show them how much fun she could be.
It was supposed to be a pajama party. She and her mother spent the whole day at the mall looking at different silly pajamas and finally settling on a set of pajamas with little mugs of tea and biscuits all over them.
When her mother dropped her off at Evelyn's house she asked if Hermione wanted her to come in with her.
Hermione had laughed. "Of course not!"
"Are you excited?" Mother asked.
Hermione blushed. Her mother was only asking because she knew she didn't have any friends. It was embarrassing.
"I s'pose. It will be fun to have a girl's night," she said decidedly, and gave her mother a bright grin.
"Yes. It will. Well have fun. If you need anything just call. I'll drop it off with Mrs. Tate so I don't disturb you girls."
"Thanks, Mother," she said and leaned over to give her a kiss on the cheek before getting out. She was feeling a little giddy and light-headed. She wished she had not worn her pajamas to the party, whatever Evelyn had said about it being a pajama party.
When Mrs. Tate opened the door Hermione's worst fears were confirmed. No one else was in pajamas. Even Mrs. Tate looked rather aghast at Hermione's attire.
"So," said Evelyn, approaching with a cat-like grin on her face. "You found us? All right. Come on, we were going to go watch a movie. What are you wearing those for?" She indicated the pajamas but completely ignored Hermione's mumbled excuses. "Whatever. Guess you're comfy, eh?"
They all trooped up to Evelyn's room. Soon, Hermione forgot her discomfort. They watched movies where big-breasted women fell off tall ladders and were caught by unrealistically muscular men. At first, Hermione could not engage, but the other girls said such funny things between the lines (it was clear they'd seen these movies a hundred times) that she was soon laughing and making jokes with the rest of them.
Around ten o'clock, Evelyn left the room. Hermione barely noticed she was gone she was having such a great time. She hoped it would last all night. When Evelyn came back she had a very different face on. A calculating face.
"So. My parents are finally asleep," she said. The other girls all sat up and their faces became just as expectant and calculating as Evelyn's.
"Hermione," said Evelyn, sitting on the bed across from her. "We were going to sneak out and go to Charing Cross tonight. You want to?"
Hermione willed herself not to blush. She thought of her parents. But surely her parents wouldn't want her to do anything embarrassing? She thought they would give her some leeway if – well, when, really – they got caught if they knew she was breaking the rules with friends.
She nodded. The other girls cheered and the tight feeling of guilt eased a little.
"So. I'm going to call the boys!"
Hermione's heart plummeted. Boys? She looked around at the other girls to see how they felt about this, but apparently it had all been anticipated.
"I'm not really dressed for Charing Cross," she stated. She had half a mind to call her mother and go home. She didn't like this feeling.
"So like, change?" said Evelyn, already dialing numbers into her sparkly handset.
Beatrice got up and walked over to Evelyn's wardrobe. She began selecting a few items of clothing.
Hermione couldn't hear what Evelyn was saying to the boys. The other girls were being too loud. She wondered wildly which boys from their class, though she thought she could guess. It would only make sense if it was Carter and Ian and possibly Mark, since they all hung around with Evelyn, Beatrice and Rebecca. She didn't know if the other girls had these pseudo-boyfriend/girlfriend relationships or not.
Beatrice came up to Hermione. She smiled shyly as she handed her a tanktop and blue jeans. She stood up and went to the toilet.
She heard Evelyn say, "So Beatrice, did you give her my Tommy Hilfiger tanktop? Well that won't do. Hermione!"
Hermione stuck her head back in Evelyn's room. It was a wonder that Evelyn's parents were still sleeping really. No one had got any quieter since Evelyn had announced they were in bed.
"Here, give me those. I'll get you something better. Go on, go get out of those pajamas, I'll bring something right down."
Hermione smiled and ran downstairs to the loo. She was so glad the boys wouldn't see her in that silly pajama set!
She waited in the bathroom for a minute, trying to make her hair look nice. She heard a knock on the door and the sound of young male voices. Lots of young male voices. What, did Evelyn's parents take sleeping pills or something?
There was a knock on the door.
"So. You have the pajamas off?"
Hermione tried to open the door, but Evelyn pulled it closed.
"There's like, boys here, Hermione! Just hand me the pajamas and I'll hand you the clothes!"
Hermione blushed. "Right!" she said and took off her pajamas. She was just in knickers now.
The bathroom door opened again. Hermione stuck out a hand for the clothes and Evelyn's hand wrapped around her wrist. Before she could grasp what was happening, Evelyn had opened the door all the way and yanked Hermione out of the bathroom.
Before her, almost her entire class was standing in the hall, looking at her in her pants. The shock was too great. She could barely even see anyone; her eyes had clouded over.
Then a deep shame washed over her. She moaned with terrific embarrassment. The boys began to laugh and the girls joined in. Several of the girls were pointing at her white cotton knickers. They had a little bow on the front and apparently this was just hilarious.
Hurt, anger, betrayal, and sheer humiliation all tumbled through her. She knew she shouldn't, but she began to cry. She tried to cover herself but it was useless. Why couldn't she just disappear!
And suddenly, it was as if she had. No one was looking at her. They were all talking to each other, but no one was looking at her.
Hermione made a dash for the door. The cold night air rushed against her skin; it erupted in goosebumps. She ran. She didn't know where she ran. In the back of her mind, she knew it was a bad idea for a ten year old girl to be running naked down the street on a Saturday night. She knew she needed to get to a payphone. The actual thinking was happening far away. All she could see was the evil glee that had lit up the faces of her classmates as she had been shoved forward for everyone to see.
She ran into someone. It was a man. Real fear began to blossom in her chest.
"Dear me," said the man. He was quite old and had a rather startling appearance. His hair was as long as his beard and both could have been tucked into his belt, which, Hermione saw, they were.
"I'm afraid this won't do," said the man. He produced a brilliant bathrobe of red and purple silk from a bag Hermione had not seen at first. He wrapped her in the robe.
"Do you see there?" he asked and pointed across the street. "That's a payphone. Have you any money?"
Hermione shook her head. Her whole body was shaking. Why was he being so nice?
"Here. Take it. Call your parents. I shall accompany you, and wait until they arrive."
Hermione ran across the street without another word. The man followed swiftly behind her. Should she run to a cafe? She probably shouldn't stay on a dark street with a strange man, whether he had given her clothing or not.
She pushed a coin into the slot and dialed her home number quite frantically. She hoped her parents had not gone out!
The phone rang three times before her mother's voice, sounding quite panicky, answered.
"Hermione?" she asked.
"Yes. Mother, please come pick me up." She looked around for a street name and gave it to her mother. "I'm outside the Centaurus Cafe."
"I'll be right there, darling."
Hermione looked up at the man, gratefully. He was standing with his hands clasped before him, looking quite at ease. Rather like he was waiting for the bus. He smiled at her benignly, and then looked straight ahead again. Hermione didn't know if it was the way his eyes had twinkled behind his half moon glasses, or the myriad other kindnesses he had done, but she decided she could trust him and waited at the payphone with him for her mother.
When she saw her mother's car she ran forward. As she put her hand on the door handle, she turned back to thank the man but he was gone. She looked down the street for him but couldn't find him.
"Hermione, what are you wearing?" Mother asked.
Later, once the shock had worn off, Hermione began to cry. She would have to return to school on Monday. She didn't think she could bear it.
Mother held her as she sobbed long into the night.
For just one day, Hermione wanted to have real friends.