Hermione Jane Granger: The Smartest Witch of Her Age?
Disclaimer: Not mine; just playing in the universe!
At the end of Prisoner of Askaban, Sirius Black mentions that Hermione Granger is the smartest witch of her age he's ever met. When I read that, my first question was, "How many 14 year olds has Sirius met?" When I began reading fanfics that treated the statement as if Sirius had said that Hermione was the smartest witch of her generation, I laughed. Then, I realized many, many writers had jumped on the bandwagon as if Hermione were a prodigy or something. Now, I'm not saying that the girl is not intelligent. No one who reads and memorizes her textbooks is stupid, but, it seems to me that, like Harry, Hermione never really reached her true potential, but neither she nor her friends realize it. This story allows a more independent character to point this lack out to Hermione.
Oh, I do realize that JKR said that Percy's name is Percy Ignatius Weasley, but, that's like naming your child Ricky. It's a nickname, not a true name. Therefore, I decided to make his real first name Percival; surely a couple as loyal to Albus Dumbledore as Arthur and Molly Weasley would have named at least one child after the man. I also stuck with Jane for Hermione's middle name since that was the original middle name given. Besides, I like Jane better than Jean. Jean reminds me of a pirate.
Twenty-year old Hermione Granger nervously entered the office deep in the bowels of the ministry. The decor screamed government-issue industrial use. Everything was painted in dull greens and greys, reminding Hermione of similarly decorated offices she had seen in American war movies. Why wizards and witches had not used more cheerful colors to decorate their workspace puzzled the newly-qualified witch.
For the past week, she had undergone psychological and physical testing to determine if she were suited for an entry-level research position in the Department of Mysteries. Her friends, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, had no doubt that she was perfect for the job. In the deepest part of Hermione's being, she, too, believed that the position was hers for the asking, but the expression on the face of the stern wizard with whom she was meeting caused her the teeniest bit of trepidation.
After inviting her to be seated in one of the two hard-backed wooden chairs that faced the large metal desk, the wizard, whose black and white nameplate declared to be Unspeakable Worth, sat in his desk chair, cleared his throat, and opened a thick manilla folder lying on the desk.
"So, Hermione Jane Granger," he began in a gruff voice, "you wish to become a researcher in the Department of Mysteries? I see, Miss Granger, that you received 11 OWLs and 7 NEWTs. A commendable accomplishment, I must say. You are considered by your friends as the smartest witch of your age. Let's see what you have achieved, shall we?
"In your first year at Hogwarts, you claimed to have sought out a mountain troll because you were sure that having read about them you would have no trouble defeating one. You were mistaken. Fortunately, your friends Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley were able to subdue the beast long enough for the three of you to escape."
Hermione opened her mouth to refute the story, but the middle-aged man, who reminded her of drawings of the fictional S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury, apparently did not notice.
"You later deduced, during the first quidditch game you had ever seen, that, since he was not blinking, Professor Snape was hexing a broom being flown by Harry Potter—once again citing the fact that you had read all about hexing. You later determined that Professor Snape was after the Philosopher's Stone when, in fact, he had been uttering the counter-curse to save Mr. Potter and was trying to protect the stone.
"Some time later you, then, successfully solved a logic puzzle allowing yourself and Mr. Potter to exit a room sealed on two sides by lit fireplaces when flame-freezing charms would have worked much better and faster. Flame-freezing charms are mentioned not only in the history of magic texts, but also in all standard charms books. Surely, a well-read witch would have easily discovered them?
"Although you finished the year at the top of your class, your most notable accomplishment was learning to produce "blue-bell flames" that could be used for both warmth and light and stored in a jam jar. Blue-bell flames are rarely mentioned in charms books and the ability to manipulate them is indicative of an affinity toward elemental fire magic. Did you ever explore it? Not according to our records."
Mortified, Hermione attempted to interrupt the unspeakable, who held up a hand and continued, "In your second year, you successfully brewed polyjuice potion and deduced that Slytherin's monster was a basilisk moving through the school in the plumbing. Yet, with all this knowledge, you still were petrified by the snake causing you to miss nearly five weeks of school; however, in spite of missing classes and not taking year-end exams, you remained at the top of your class."
Hermione smiled at the implied compliment.
Unspeakable Worth frowned at her and plowed ahead occasionally turning over one of the sheets of parchment contained in the thick folder, "In your third year, you were granted the use of a time-turner to take all electives Hogwarts offered and, with the exception of your rescue of the hippogriff formerly known as "Buckbeak" and Sirius Black—which you did only after Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore suggested it—you used said time-turner solely to attend classes. You did not use it to give yourself extra time to do homework, to sleep, to attend social events, to have fun, or even to play planks—you only used it to attend classes. It was in this year that you first discovered that being at the top of your class did not mean you had the highest grades in every subject. I believe your final exam in DADA demonstrated this fact most thoroughly."
Again, Hermione tried to interrupt to explain that the rules granting her use of the time-turner had firmly stated that it only be used to attend classes that met at the same time, but the unspeakable had already moved on to his next point:
"In your fourth year, you looked up hundreds of "useful" spells for Harry Potter to learn in order to compete in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, but never found a spell or potion to incapacitate a dragon, breathe underwater for an hour, or navigate a maze. You did find the four points charm, but, as we all know, it always points north. You never found the spell to modify it to point to whatever or whomever the caster desires nor did you use the arithmancy you had been learning for nearly two years to modify the charm yourself. In fact, we could find no evidence that you had ever attempted to modify any spell, charm, or potion.
"You also spent five hours and used nearly an entire bottle of Sleakeasy's Hair Relaxant calming your hair when a five-second incantation known to both of your roommates as well as almost every non-muggleborn female in Hogwarts at the time would have been both easier and less expensive. Knowing how familiar your roommates were with beauty spells and charms, why didn't you ask?"
Worth made a tutting sound while shaking his head. Hermione flushed in embarrassment and looked at her hands which were lying in her lap. It was a moment before she realized that he was continuing the commentary on her fourth year at school.
"You began a crusade to save house-elves from slavery called SPEW—without ever determining if house-elves were, indeed, enslaved and needed or even wanted to be saved. In order to save the house-elves, you left hand-knitted hats and socks around the Gryffindor common room in the mistaken belief that picking up clothes would actually free the Hogwarts elves. What were you thinking," he asked rhetorically before continuing.
"In your fifth year, you spent every bit of spare time you had studying for your OWLs. In fact, you were so concerned about failing your DADA OWL that you convinced your friend Harry Potter to form an illegal defense club. It is interesting to note that when the club was discovered by High Inquisitor Delores Umbridge, it was Mr. Potter who was nearly expelled and not you—the club's instigator and membership recruiter. Later, when you fought a battle in this very department, instead of incapacitating the death eaters who were attacking you, you used easily countered stunners and annoyance spells such as jelly-legs and tripping jinxes. You were almost killed when you silenced an opponent rather than taking him out. Surely a witch as well-read as you were supposed to be had heard of silent casting? Did not adult witches and wizards of your acquaintance utilize them?"
Worth again looked at the embarrassed witch seated before him and tutted before carrying on, "You spent your entire sixth year mooning after Ronald Weasley. Your grades slipped—not that you told anyone, of course—and you were obsessively jealous of Harry Potter who, through following alternative instructions for potions brewing, was outscoring you in potions. His defense against the dark arts skills were, by then, legendary and you had no hope of eclipsing him there. Unknown to Mr. Potter, he was also outscoring you in charms and herbology further increasing your jealousy. You ignored every warning Mr. Potter gave you about Draco Malfoy as well as enjoying the attention granted you by attending Professor Slughorn's Slug Club events. In spite of your much-vaunted maturity, you wasted an entire year acting like a child. Although you finished the year in the top five percent of your class, you were not at the top. Had you actually sat end of year exams, who knows where you might have placed?
"Now, we come to what should have been your seventh year of school. The first thing you did after arriving home after your sixth year was to modify your parents' memories and send them off to Australia—without even consulting them! Had someone else done the same, you would have protested to anyone who would listen, and, yet, it was perfectly acceptable for you to do it!
"Instead of returning to school, you spent most of that year, I believe, living in a tent. You knew you would be 'roughing it' and yet you failed to pack any canned or non-perishable foods in that bottomless, weightless bag of yours nor did you suggest to your companions, Messrs. Potter and Weasley that they should bring some. Instead, you chose to pack books. Books that did little or nothing to help you in your quest—and then you actually wasted time studying seventh year material and chided Messrs. Potter and Weasley when they did not do the same.
"Once again, you ignored every idea posed by Mr. Potter. He wished to immediately go to Godric's Hollow; you berated him and forced him to wait until Christmas Eve to go there—a delay that nearly got both of you killed.
"Mr. Potter wanted to make #12 Grimmauld Place your 'bolt hole'; you convinced him that, since a death eater had side-along apparated there with you, the place was no longer safe. Since no one had told the death eater the secret of Grimmauld Place, he would never have been able to enter it and so it was perfectly safe to go there. Emergency portkeys to Grimmauld Place could have saved you both in numerous situations, yet you never suggested making or acquiring them.
"Finally, Mr. Potter asked his two best friends to perform one feat during the final battle to assure Voldemort's defeat—kill the snake—and neither of you even tried to do it! Fortunately, Mr. Potter was able to make the same request of Neville Longbottom or the Dark Lord would have won the battle and, perhaps, the war!"
Once more, Unspeakable Worth looked at the young witch seated in front of his desk. Her embarrassment was almost palpable. He was surprised she had yet to storm out of his office. She must really want to be a ministry researcher, he thought to himself. He quickly jumped onto the next topic, "Finally, after the war, you hurried to Australia to "rescue" your parents. When you found them and restored their memories, you were honestly surprised by their reactions to you! Your lack of empathy is astounding!
"Once you determined life with your parents was not going to return to its previous utopia, you decided to return to Hogwarts for your seventh year of school. You were appalled when your friends Ronald Weasley and Harry Potter chose not to accompany you. You publicly berated them for laziness and taking advantage of their fame when the two immediately entered auror training. You ignored your own invitation to join the ministry in almost any department. You also ignored that both young men's graduation from the auror training program was contingent on their earning NEWTs in DADA, potions, herbology, charms, and transfiguration and that all students whose education had been interrupted by the war were being permitted to take OWL and NEWT examinations at the ministry on a rotating schedule. The fact that Messrs. Potter, Weasley, and Longbottom successfully passed their DADA and herbology NEWTs the first time the exams were given is apparently irrelevant to you. You even derided them for choosing to sit only two exams per testing period. Does it gall you that all three of your friends had earned their NEWTs six months before you had sat the first exam? Don't bother to answer; the question was rhetorical.
"In short, your accomplishments seem to have stopped in the middle of your second year at Hogwarts. Did it ever cross your mind, Miss Granger, that you were granted a time-turner at the age of thirteen to see just what you could accomplish with it? Each year, our department grants one or two third year students time-turners. We then sit back and watch to see what the students do with them. In the 538 years the time-turner program has existed only two students have used them for class attendance only—Percival Ignatius Weasley and Hermione Jane Granger. The rest invented potions and spells, played ingenious pranks, researched non-school-related topics, sneaked away from school, and generally had a good time with them demonstrating their creativity and desire to experiment and learn.
You used it to go to class, and you think we're going to allow you to become an unspeakable? Puhleeze! We have high standards for our research team; its members must be willing to apply what they learn to solve real-life problems. You, Miss Granger, have not demonstrated this ability, and so, it is my recommendation that a witch of your talents be placed in the Centaur Liaison Office. I'm sure Percy Weasley will be glad of your assistance. Good day, Miss Granger."
With that clear dismissal, Unspeakable Worth stood, moved around his desk, opened the door, and indicated that Hermione should make her exit. Tears of humiliation running down her cheeks, Hermione Granger swiftly left the Department of Mysteries. Once in the atrium, she flooed to her parents' empty house, ran up to her old bedroom, threw herself upon her bed, and began to cry in earnest. Nearly ten years in the magical world had apparently taught Hermione nothing; she was still the insecure little girl who believed that what she learned from books was much more important that anything she could learn from experience. The job interview had opened her eyes, now she had to decide what to do next.