The Beginning of the End… of the Beginning
I twisted the folded parchment in my hand idly and watched as the title moved in and out of my vision. Becoming a Hogwarts Pen Pal: Change Someone's Life Today! Make a New Friend! was printed in bold red font right above a picture of two students hugging. I recognized the couple as Hannah Abbot and Susan Bones from last year. The picture was most likely taken by Colin Creevy, the local school photographer. He had been notoriously known to take pictures of hot-shot Harry Potter in his earlier years but had long since moved on and was now documenting more important things. What's considered more important than Harry Potter, you ask? Well just about everything. But we'll get to that later. Right now the important thing is figuring out how in the world I picked up this brochure at the end of term last week.
It had been lying on my desk ever since I unpacked and during that night I could have sworn that I heard it talk. At first I let it slide as just my mind playing tricks on me. But the next night I heard it again—and again… and again. Since I'm already of age, I cast a detection spell on the possessed parchment and found that it was charmed. I dug through my bag for one of the books I had borrowed from the Hogwarts library for summer reading (Madame Pince has always allowed me to do so, as I was her favorite student and she knew that I would never harm a book. They are sacred, after all) and after a bit of reading I found that it was a reminder charm set to go off at a certain point to remind whoever need be of an event or, in my case, a deadline. Like an alarm, only more annoying and going off hours before it was set to. At first I wondered if it was a joke. I mean, who in their right mind would set a reminder charm to go off in the middle of the night? Mine must be a defect.
"I MUST DISTRESS FOR YOU TO CHECK YES SO YOU MAY FIND A FRIEND!"
I jerked and let the letter fall back onto my desk. Nope. Definitely not a defect. But why is it going off now? Again? At random intervals?
I pondered this for a good five minutes. Surely there must be some explanation as to why this brochure was being defective? And then it hit me—Dumbledore set this up. What would he use as the charm's trigger?
"MOVE YOUR QUILL, YOU KNOW THE DRILL! JUST SIGN BELOW AND I WILL GO!"
I gritted my teeth and opened the brochure once more. I scanned the almost memorized layout for a clue as to how to turn the annoying voice off. And then I saw it. Beneath a list of how I could benefit from the new system was a single sentence in fine print. So fine, in fact, that I couldn't see it with my naked eyes. It looked like a squiggly line rather than a group of words. I groped around beside me until my hand found my velvet glasses case. Not many people knew I needed glasses. Well it wasn't as if they cared, anyway. So why bother telling? I only needed them for reading print like the one in this pamphlet—print so tiny that even a person with 20/20 vision had to squint to see it.
I slipped the square-rimmed frames on the bride of my nose and adjusted it with my index finger quickly. As I leaned forward I could scarcely see the letters that made up the small sentence. Beware of the…
"Hermione dear, would you like a ham sandwich?!"
I didn't answer right away. Not because I didn't hear my mother's shrill voice, but because I was currently on the floor with a hand over my chest. Can your heart actually leap out of your body?
"N-no!" I said quickly, pushing myself back into my chair. "No thank you!"
I heard a faint shuffling downstairs and turned back to the brochure. I waited a few seconds before resuming my previous position. The last thing I wanted was to get closer and closer to cardiac arrest via my mother. Pushing my glasses up the bridge of my nose I squinted and saw the small print.
Beware of the reminder charm! If you are prone to easily scaring, falling out of chairs, or have pre-existing heart conditions, DO NOT pick up this brochure.
"Well that's helpful." I muttered. "Use the print that only pixies can see."
I set the brochure down and leaned back so that the spine of my chair folded slightly to my weight. This was all getting too frustrating to bear. I can feel a headache forming behind my eyes. I think now would be a good time to think up a plan on how to approach this little situation that I got myself into. It would be easier to come up with a solution if I cross-reference how this all started. Besides, it can't be that complex. Now, let's see… the last day of term…
"All right, settle down, settle down."
The previously buzz of conversation quickly died down at the headmaster's just-loud-enough order. He smiled gently and rose gingerly from his seat at the head's table. I craned my head from the book I was reading for my Ancient Runes class and regarded him curiously. It wasn't every day that he spoke up in the middle of dessert—especially the last one of the year just before everyone was to rush up to their dorms to pack at the last minute. Morons. I'd already been packed for a good week and a half. Well, it wasn't as if I had much to pack anyway—mostly books and parchment seeing as how I owned little to no clothing. It's a waste of good money in my opinion. Why spend twenty pounds on a sweater when you could get the newest edition of Hogwarts, a History with complimentary book sleeve? It's all in the strategy.
"Thank you." Dumbledore said with a slight nod. My attention was drawn back to him as I adjusted myself in my seat. "Now, I'm sure that you are all eager to get to your dorms and finish up—or rather start, for most of you—your packing." How did he know? Oh, who am I kidding? It' Dumbledore. "But I have an announcement that simply cannot wait for the morning. I assume you all know of Mr. Potter's recent conquest over Voldermort?" A roar erupted throughout the hall. I chipped in my own two cents by clapping at a speed that matched those around me. It wasn't every day that a sixteen-year-old defeated the greatest dark wizard of all time, after all. I saw the man of the hour get up out of his seat while his friends pushed and shoved him with catcalls and nicknames only people missing a dozen or so brain cells could come up with. Moment officially ruined. I abruptly stopped clapping and rolled my eyes. Of course he would take to the spotlight like a good little monkey. Dumbledore wasn't doing much to stop him, either. He was smiling like his grandson just won the Nobel Prize. And just when I was growing to respect him…
The applause died down and Potter returned to his seat next to his groupies. I saw Dumbledore adjust his collar and clear his throat (for dramatic affect or simply because his robes were too tight, I don't know) before continuing his rudely interrupted announcement. He didn't look too bothered by it, a fact that I am choosing to overlook. "As I was saying—in result of Mr. Potter's triumph, the professor's and I have come up with a way to loosen the tight grounds. We are aware that because of the newly acquired environment, some of you may feel tense or anxious. And because of that we have decided to set up a new system of communication between students very similar to the Muggle pen-pal system. For those of you who are not familiar with it, the premise is quite simple. Sign up and you will be matched with a partner selected by a charm composed by our very own Professor Flitwick." Dumbledore motioned to the seat on his right occupied by a blushing professor. I couldn't help but giggle. Professor Flitwick had always been far too modest. "And that charm chooses the best person with whom you can carry a conversation with. Simply put—a Chemistry Charm. In this new era, you would have someone to express your concerns with that wouldn't judge you because of who you are." A slight murmur was heard among some students and Dumbledore chose to take pity on those who couldn't decipher context clues. "The letters you will send shall be Anonymous unless you chose to reveal your true identity." I heard a handful of students say "Ohhhhh". Okay, maybe not a handful. But can you blame me for wanting to make our school sound the least bit intelligent?
"For those who are interested, pamphlets are available in the entrance hall. Now, off to your dormitories!"
I packed up my book bag and slung it over my shoulder. As I followed the crowd of students exiting the great hall, I overheard groups expressing their thoughts over the new pen-pal system. I couldn't pick up whole sentences of theirs if I tried but they all went along the lines of "sounds like an easy way to get laid" and "I can make my own friends!" All thoroughly predictable reactions. People these days didn't appreciate the efforts our professors made to better improve our lives unless it had to do with cancelling exams or giving away free candy. Honestly! If I wasn't so set on my studies and actually liked the people I was surrounded by I would be happy to participate. But, sadly, the people that inhabit this school aren't exactly the sharpest tools in the shed, and therefore not worth my time.
As I entered the entrance hall I saw the display that Dumbledore had mentioned. It was set by the double doors that led out to the grounds and had a large green neon sign with a blinking arrow saying: "PICK UP YOUR PEN-PAL BROCHURE TODAY AND START A NEW BEGINNING!" Cheesy. Very cheesy.
I didn't realize I had walked over there until I was reaching for one of the pamphlets on the top shelf. I studied the cover for a moment before I felt a presence behind me. It could have been anyone, but the fact that my back tensed up signified that it wasn't another peer coming to look at the display. My muscles didn't contract around just anyone.
I gritted my teeth but kept my eyes on the pamphlet. "Potter"
Call it eyes in the back of my head, but I could picture him scanning the shelf and realizing what I was doing over here if he hadn't noticed the fluorescent sign already. And knowing him, he probably didn't. "Really Granger? I thought you had given up by now."
I couldn't resist turning around and glaring at him. I opened my mouth to retort, but he took my pause as hesitancy to refute.
"Ahh well." He put his hands on his hips. In all honesty, it made him look like a statue—hollow with no brain. "I don't even know why you bother anymore. I mean—after first year I thought you would have just stopped trying."
My jaw clenched and I kicked his shin out of reflex. Hard.
"Christ, Granger!" He hissed. "You don't need to resort of physical abuse."
I smirked at him and clenched the pamphlet in my right hand. "After years of out-witting you I thought it was about time for a change. Besides, you should be thanking me. I could have kicked something else entirely." I saw him flinch and knew that I had made my point. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do."
I walked away before he could make another bogus comment. Potter always knew how to get on my nerves—one of his many unneeded talents. The others being among burping the alphabet, having horrible timing, and always finding a way into trouble. How did I know of these skills? Well, they were kind of hard to ignore when you shared a common room together for six years. Thankfully, I knew this was the last year I would have to deal with him. I was a shoe-in for Head Girl next year and would share a common room with the Head Boy far on the other side of the castle. I didn't really care who it was going to be. Anyone is better than Potter; even that slime Malfoy.
It wasn't until I was halfway up the staircase that I realized I was still carrying the brochure. I turned around quickly, set on returning it, when I saw that Potter was still standing there. He looked to be deep in thought, probably still trying to think of a comeback. Poor guy. Sometimes I almost felt sorry for him.
And now I'm over it.
I sighed and turned back around, set on finishing up my Ancient Runes textbook in the warmth of the common room fire.
Of course! It all made sense now.
When I got to Gryffindor tower, I put the brochure in my trunk to dispose of later and completely forgot about it. I was too absorbed with my anger at Potter and my Ancient Runes textbook to give it another thought. And now it was haunting me.
It was all Potter's fault!
If he didn't get me all fired up, then I would have thrown the brochure away and be sleeping in until noon. Damn Potter.
I opened the brochure and took out the slip of paper that had been tucked inside. When I opened the brochure for the first time after too many sleepless nights, it had fallen out from a secret compartment. It was a form to be a pen-pal. All that needed to be filled out was a name and if you wanted to be a recipient of the first letter or write the first one. I bit my lip. I knew it wasn't the only way to make the noise stop but there was a part of me that wanted to try it out. Not only would I have someone to talk to… but I would prove Potter wrong. I would have a friend. A real friend.
Plus the fact that I would be benefitting the school by participating, which is what should be motivating me. I mean, I've made it six years without friends and am top of my class, proving that you don't need them to succeed. Take that stereotypes! But there's always been a part of me that wanted to talk to someone about stupid stuff. Stuff like Quidditch and butterbeer. Not that I would have much time to talk anyway with all the time I dedicate to studying.
I glance out the window and see our neighbors in their backyard. My parents and I live in a subdivision where everyone has a pool. So the twin 5-year-old-girls next door are taking turns diving into the deep end with their friends. It's their birthday today and they have close to thirty kids running around their extensive backyard and deck. Some are jumping in the bounce house, others are swimming, and a select few are at the buffet table stuffing their faces. I smiled sadly at the scene. The most people I'd ever had at a birthday party were ten, and they were all my spoiled cousins', snotty aunts, and drunken uncles. I thank Merlin every day I don't have an extensive family. But seeing those girls and their friends makes something go off in my head. I have everything I could ever want—good grades, loving parents, a stable household. But not friends. I wanted them. And not only that… but people (and by people, I mean Potter) think I can't ever have any which makes me want them even more just to prove them (him) wrong.
"GO ON NOW, DON'T BE SHY! JUST SIGN YOUR NAME AND GIVE IT A TRY!"
Making up my mind, I grab a ball-point pen from a jar I keep on my desk and scribble down my name. Out of reflex, I checked the box signifying that I wanted to write the first letter. After doing that, I grabbed an extra sheet of parchment I had leftover from school and began working on a short introductory letter. No need to overdo it, right?
To Whomever This May Concern,
Hi. This is my first time doing something like this and I'm not going to lie—I'm nervous. Dumbledore said this was to bring us all closer together in this new era and although it sounds cheesy, I think our school needs it. I don't want to get too overly talkative in the first letter and ruin this thing so I'll just leave it at that. I hope that through these letters we can develop some sort of understanding or even friendship. Do we have a deal? Sorry. Bad joke. I hope to hear back from you soon and until then Happy Summer Holidays!
I read over the note a few more times checking for the usual bad grammar, spelling, etcetera—not entirely happy with the note, but too eager to re-write it. I grabbed a spool of yarn and ripped off a piece to tie around the rolled up parchment. As I tied the double knot securely around the letter, I looked at the directions for delivery and saw there was an option for students without owls. Well that's convenient. Fold your letter and/or form into the brochure.
Fold the letter into the brochure? The directions were too vague to take seriously, but I complied regardless. Curiosity always got the better of me. I wasn't expecting anything major to happen.
I stared blankly at my desk. The brochure was gone. That's right gone. It was almost as if it had dissaparated. But a piece of paper couldn't do that. Could it?
I sighed. No use thinking about it now. It was too late. All I could do was wait. But I couldn't help the nagging feeling the back of my head. If I'd never had a friend, who in the world would the charm set me up with?
A/N: Welcome to my new story! This one is very different from In Too Deep in the sense that there won't be much dark-ness since old Moldyshorts is gone. But Hermione stilll hates Harry in the beginning. I have a weakness in that respect. GO AU!!! There will be plenty of angst and URST, though. So no worries about that ;) I hope you'll grow to like it!