Disclaimer: Not mine.
Written for the Sober Universe Quote Challenge
The prompt: Escapade
The quote: "We can learn much from silence."
The pairing: Harry Potter and Hermione Granger.
Hope you enjoy….
Hermione made her way up the circular staircase to the Headmasters office, thinking back to the first time she had made this trip. It was strange she thought, she always remembered the ceiling higher, the hallways wider, the castle darker then it was now. She wondered if it was only the eyes of a child that had made it seem so much larger, or was it the absence of the tension and danger that had seeped into the very stones all those years ago that now made it seem lighter and more airy.
"Mrs. Potter," Minerva McGonagall, current Headmistress of Hogwarts, greeted her. "My, my, it has been much too long. I take it Mr. Potter could not join us?"
"He will be here later. He's tied up right now...at work I mean. I wish this was for a visit," she said with a tried sigh. "I don't think you are going to be so glad to see me in a moment. The Ministry has a little fiasco they are embarking on and I am afraid they are starting here."
Minerva took the report from Hermione's outstretched hand, sniffing at the feel of cheap Muggle paper and not the familiar feel of the rich parchment she so preferred. Waving Hermione over to her desk, she began to read as she walked, stopping as her eyes made it to the second paragraph.
"This is completely unacceptable."
"Read it before you start," Hermione said tiredly. "I don't agree with it myself. However, you have to admit that the numbers are correct. You know yourself that the standards here at Hogwarts have been lowered to the point of absurdity."
"That is not our fault. At one time we could be assured that our first years knew the rudimental elements of language and math. Now, if they can write their own name we consider ourselves lucky."
"Most schools only teach them how to print the letters…handwriting is not taught, or spelling and grammar for that matter. Computers you know."
Minerva looked up at her, one exquisite eyebrow so high it threatened to disappear into her hairline. "As I suspected. The problem does not lay in us. Perhaps that fool Kingsley should have a talk with their Prime Minister."
"Just read it. There is going to be a hearing before the letters are sent out this year. You will have time to make the necessary adjustments and come up with a proficiency test. I am only here to answer any questions you may have and to offer you the Ministry's assistance."
"Mrs. Potter, we fought a war to ensure all children were welcomed here. Surely, you have not forgotten that. "
Hermione smiled, a small chuckle escaping her. "If he had known this was coming Voldemort could have waited. He could have won with nary a fuss."
"Sorry." Hermione regained her composure as she smoothed her skirt and readjusted her position. "Minerva, you have to admit that the student's work has fallen below acceptable levels. Even Hogsmeade Days have been cancelled for the past three years because the students are so hard to manage and unless you plan to rename the houses after action heroes or some character from a popular video game there will never be house unity again which may be the only silver lining in this. We may have to admit that bringing Muggle-born students as a right of passage is wrong."
"Action Hero? Mrs. Potter, I will not have the houses renamed for Potter. He has his name in the paper quite…"
"No," Hermione snorted. "Not a real hero. The kids today don't give a squat about that. They identify with characters in their games or on the telle more than any real hero."
"You mean those … those things they play with their thumbs?"
"Exactly," Hermione sighed. "You said yourself last year that not one of the new students even attended the Quidditch games. It's all in the report. Kids today do not play…well, they play video games…with their thumbs. However they don't like outdoors games and thanks to Weasley Whizzing Batteries and Magical Rechargers they use them any time they want."
"And what, pray tell, is the object to these things? These…games they play."
"They are all about the same. Kill the evil Zombie or the evil Wizard or you can pretend you are a vampire slayer. Sometimes they use spells, not real spells only ones that you earn by killing the…"
"Mrs. Potter, we have DADA for that. They do not need a…a game."
"Yeah, well," Hermione squirmed in her chair, "the spells are only like...ammunition. Some games use Muggle weapons. Flame throwers, machine guns, you know…the usual."
"I do hope these games, as you call them, do not show the...the hero…using these awful things."
"Right," Hermione said, looking away and fighting to find some way out of this. "Harry had the idea to put restrictions on the games but some of the others are worse. There are even games where the player is part of a street gang that rapes and steals…not to mention killing the…"
"Stop!" Minerva held up her hand and waited for Hermione to clamp her mouth shut before turning her eyes back to the report and flipping the pages. "To think they were once scared of us."
"Not any more," Hermione said brightly. "They like, of all things, vampires and werewolves. I hear there are even some rather shady places that you can meet others that like to…" Hermione's voice dropped off at the look of disgust on Minerva's face. "Yeah, well…as far as I know they don't bite people that don't want it and have to sign disclaimers before sharing blood."
"What is this?" Minerva tapped the report on the poor health choices of the daily meals served up by the Hogwarts kitchen.
"People don't eat that way any more." Hermione said meekly, wanting to leave before Minerva had time to see the rest of the report. "They want the kids served…healthy food. No more fried chicken, sausage, bacon…pumpkin juice."
"What is wrong with pumpkin juice?" Minerva peered at her over her spectacles.
"Added sugar," Hermione muttered.
"Without which it would be unpalatable."
"Exactly." Hermione swallowed hard, watching as Minerva flipped through more pages.
"The end of uniforms? I think not! Uniforms are the great equalizer, without which those with wealthy families can further flaunt their influence."
"Self expression," Hermione sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"How's it going?" Harry asked, walking in the door and tossing his travelling cloak on the chair. "My two best girls solving the world's problems?"
"Not now," Hermione whispered as he leaned over to kiss her cheek.
"How did she take closing the dungeons and the whole Burka issue?"
"Mr. Potter, if you have something to say I will ask you to share it with me."
"He was saying that we have an appointment." Hermione stood quickly, starting for the door. "I am sorry that we have to leave so suddenly."
"Wait." Minerva raised her hand, her head still lowered to the report. "There is something here about the dungeon area."
"Umm, yeah," Harry said uncomfortably, sitting next to Hermione. "According to the recent polls there are so many sexual connotations with dungeons they think it would be better to close them"
Minerva looked at him from under her brows, her lips pressed together in a thin straight line. "Go on."
Harry squirmed in his seat, looking at Hermione sheepishly until she came to his rescue. "Minerva, nothing was ever proven. It is our word against Skeeter's. You said your self no one believes what is printed in that rag."
"Good thing or your little escapade would be part of Hogwarts' legend," the older witch snipped. "Imagine how the new edition of Hogwarts, A History would read."
"I don't know about legend," Harry smirked. "However, will say Hermione…"
"Shut up, Harry," Hermione hissed and reddened at the same time, a habit of hers that Harry found quite attractive.
"Enough," Minerva said, holding up her hand, her own cheeks flushed at the memory of the incident. "Seat belts and helmets?"
"I remember belts…but no helmets. Hermione?"
"She is talking about the brooms you idiot," Hermione hissed again, her face and neck now a flaming red.
"Mr. Potter!" Minerva said harshly. "This is one time we can learn much from silence."
Harry nodded, swallowing hard, realizing he was giving out more information than Skeeter had. "Minerva, make a list of all your questions…."
"Do tell me, Mr. Potter, how do you propose to put a seat belt on a broom?"
Harry looked at Hermione for help, frowning when she looked at him sweetly and raised her eyebrow as if waiting for the answer as well.
"Umm, they are…you see…" he stammered, edging towards the door. "There really isn't much need for brooms anymore. They are thinking of dropping them from the curriculum."
"I see," Minerva said tersely. "I will expect you to floo me to set up a future appointment, Mr. Potter. I am sure I will have many more questions."
"About that," Harry said brightly, reaching in his pocket and pulling out a cell phone. "The Ministry said with the amount of powder, maintenance and the floor space the floos take up, just for casual conversation, they will be pulling them down at the end of the month. Kingsley said to give you this."
Harry and Hermione fled the office leaving Minerva alone with her report and phone, both glad to be out of ear shot when she completed the report.
That night over tea, they went over the report again, Hermione double- checked the falling percentages of the passing students while Harry made lists of things for which the Ministry would be responsible. When he reached the section concerning Forbidden Forest, he laid his quill down, leaned back in his chair and took deep breath.
"I don't see how they can do this. I mean, I understand the…the cell phones…and the…the food, but the rest of it's sheer nonsense."
"There has been an increase in the number of complaints about students coming in contact with dangerous creatures not to mention injuries on the grounds…mostly in connection to the brooms."
"That's the thing. The complaints aren't from the students. They are from the parents, our friends. People like us."
"No, they are mostly from the parents of the Muggle-born." Hermione flipped through the papers until she found the chart she was looking for. "See? There is a correlation between social-economic standings and the number of complaints. It also seems to follows political lines."
"Whose politics? Yours or mine?"
"The Ministry's of course."
"See, you identify as a Wizard. That puts you with the conservatives. As a pure blood you would naturaly want things at an even keel."
"Okay," Harry set his glass on the table and pinched the bridge of his nose. "So you must be with the liberals?"
"As an educated mud-blood, yes. We want change, whereas you want to keep things the same. I will admit, however, that the lines are a little blurred when it comes to Hogwarts."
"You think?" He laughed and raised an eyebrow.
"Do you think Minerva has reached the part about the professors taking proficiency exams?"
Harry turned, leaned back in his chair and glanced at the fireplace. "No."
"Well, there is nothing we can finish here tonight." Hermione yawned and pushed her chair back from the table. "I'm calling it quits and going to bed."
"You know," Harry said thoughtfully. "As alumni we have the right to visit Hogwarts any time we want."
Hermione stopped stacking up her papers and looked up at him. "And?"
"I was thinking that we should do a little research. You know, check out certain aspects of the report."
"And?" she asked, a small smile playing around the corners of her mouth.
"I would hate to see the entire dungeons closed off when there is only one room that is …or was…or maybe should be…put off limits. We should take a look at it again. You know, for …old time's sake."
"I'll grab my bag."