Author Note: Written for Battle_of_Lissa in the 2008/2009 Winter Exchange. Hermione is nearly 19 in this story as it takes place following the end of the NEWT examinations a few weeks before the Leaving Feast. I've disregarded canon from Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix onwards, simply because I couldn't manage to fit the story prompt around the completed canon universe. Many thanks to my betas (Annie Talbot, Ariadne and Machshefa) for helping me get this story to this stage. Without their help, this story would not be as polished as it is. Any remaining mistakes are mine alone.

Preface

She's a scruffy girl, always looking for the cheap shot, the insult guaranteed to burn the inner lining from a Hippogriff's stomach. She never behaves subtlely. She's a Slytherin, with a poor estimation of a barb well delivered.

I happened upon her just this afternoon, regaling a Gryffindor, and not just any Gryffindor, but Miss Granger, no less, with the supposition that her success was due mainly to an overreaching need to service her teachers with her lips – and not in a way requiring an adequate understanding of language. I doubt that particular Gryffindor would ever consider fellatio as a tool for gaining success in any endeavour. To her, books and learning, the bricks and mortar of her education, are paramount. It's petty jealousy, base and coarse that led to the slur.

I doubt Miss Bulstrode realised my presence in the shadows. In fact, I'm sure that, had she realised she did indeed have an audience, she would have merely shoulder - butted Miss Granger out of the way and continued on her journey to the dormitory. That she did not is patently evident. I made myself known on hearing the anguished cry rise from the back of the young Gryffindor's throat. She had her hands fisted at her sides, her satchel crumpled at her feet. One gauche act followed by another saw me swoop down on the pair of them. I needed to stop the fight before it became too physical. Miss Granger took a step back from me, whilst Miss Bulstrode merely crossed her arms and looked defiant. iI/i had created this arrogance in my attempts to influence my students to think for themselves instead of blindly following, and so it was left to me to try and assuage some of the guilt I felt at that moment for my rank favouritism and prejudice towards the other Houses.

I turned towards Miss Bulstrode, looked her up and down deliberately, and allowed a sly grin to light upon my face. At once, she looked unnerved by this simple action, as though uncertain just what I was appraising. Nothing worthy of a second look is the short answer. Focusing on her knees, her perpetually grazed and scraped knees, gave me the perfect and infinitely satisfying chance to throw her slur back at her. I did so, with merely a sneering remark that I had always wondered why her knees appeared so abused, as though she rested on them for great intervals of time, though why that should be eluded me. Tone and innuendo laced with a sly look for good measure.

In an instant her posture changed markedly. Murderous, piggy little eyes narrowed with an air of recrimination that flashed all over her features as she shot a withering glare at me. Without uttering a single word, Miss Bulstrode turned abruptly and left me alone with Miss Granger in the corridor. Folding my arms slowly as I turned, I saw Miss Granger shrink back from me. Whilst the ability to intimidate is useful, to defuse this situation required every ounce of my skill.

A single word, "Leave," and a slight shooing motion of one of my hands saw her scrabbling for her satchel and looking at me oddly before she, too, thought better of further confrontation and left me standing alone in the main Slytherin thoroughfare.

~~*~~

Had I known...had I any inkling of how my solitary act of kindness would rebound on me, I would have remained sequestered in my niche and allowed the pair of them to bloody each other as they desired. As it is, it is an interlude on which I often reflect, and not with fond thoughts of the remarkable satisfaction I felt correcting a wrong. I don't know what possessed me to step into the fray that day, but I wish by the Founders I had never been close enough to intervene.

~~*~~