Yes, it's a few hours late. Sorry. For some reason, this chapter kept doing things it was not supposed to do. *scowls at chapter* It's also too much like canon for my liking. Ah well.
Also, updates are probably going to be every two days now, as I need to work on more extensive plotting for book two (so I can slip in those vague hints, and figure out if anything else needs to happen in this one to set up the next one). Book Two, so far, is going to be long, much longer than canon. At least twenty-five chapters, but probably closer to thirty. And Book Three will be longer still (and look absolutely nothing like canon).
Anyway. I'm done babbling. Here is the chapter:
Chapter Nine: A Rather Unusual Detention
"Oh, well done! See here, everyone. Miss Granger's done it!" Professor Flitwick clapped his hands, somehow missing the furious and embarrassed look on Ron's face. Hermione beamed at the praise, and Ron's scowl grew.
Harry winced. He knew he was by no means friends with Hermione, but he didn't hate her, as Ron seemed to. In fact, she reminded him a little of Remus - the only other person, apart from Sirius, he'd truly gotten to know before Hogwarts. Oh, their temperaments were completely different - Hermione was forward and bossy, whereas Remus was shyer and more submissive. But they were similar in other ways. They were both smart, and bookish, and they tried to help whenever they could (even though Hermione was not aware her 'help' seemed to do more harm than good).
And they were both alone.
The problem was that Ron was Harry's friend. And Ron was the sort of person who expected Harry to be by his side no matter what happened, and the few times Harry hadn't been, Ron had gotten a betrayed look on his face that made him flinch. There was also the fact that Harry didn't like to confront people, so he did generally go along with what Ron said.
But right now, he couldn't be mad at Hermione for trying to help Ron, in her own way, for taking up his challenge and succeeding, and for enjoying Professor Flitwick's praise for something that was impressive. However, he couldn't be mad at Ron for being angry at being shown up, for his bluff being called, and for feeling patronised and bossed around like some child.
Harry didn't know which side to take. He didn't think there was a right side, in this argument. There certainly wasn't an easy side.
Why, he thought savagely, as Professor Flitwick dismissed them, does my life have to be so complicated?
"It's no wonder no one can stand her. She's a nightmare, honestly," said Ron, as they were leaving the classroom with the others. Harry froze at Ron's words, then he felt someone knock into him as they almost ran past him.
It was Hermione, and she was crying. Harry felt sudden emotions well up in him, anger at Ron, worry about what he had to do, sympathy for Hermione - and then forced them down, letting only the righteous anger flow through him. Ron, I'm sorry, but you go too far, he thought grimly.
"What did you say that for?" he demanded, letting his anger show on his face. He turned and took a step forward.
Ron backed up against the wall, startled. "Because she is! She should have noticed that she's got no friends!" He glanced down the corridor at Hermione and then back at Harry.
Harry was vaguely aware that Hermione had stopped, at the other end of the corridor, and that people were staring as they went past them. He didn't care. Right now, he was focused on Ron.
"You had no right to say anything like that," said Harry. "All right, she was being patronising. But you were acting like a child, Ron! And I'm sorry, but I can't side with you if you're going to be deliberately malicious like that!"
Ron seemed incredibly flummoxed, and Harry knew it was because he had not been expecting anything like this. Most people, Ron included, saw him as Ron's tag-along, quiet and unassuming. His shadow, even. But he wasn't, not always. Now, he was showing them he was a person in his own right - a different person to Ron, not the same. The fact that he was defending Hermione hardly mattered. He would have defended anyone, if no one else would.
The thing was he knew no one else would have defended her. They would defend Neville, yes. Because Neville was vulnerable, and didn't care if other people saw it. But Hermione was not - and the Gryffindors hadn't seen how much she was affected by their snide remarks. They hadn't seen hurt flash across her eyes before her face returned to its indifferent mask. They hadn't seen because they weren't looking.
Finally, Ron found his voice. "But it's Hermione, Danny," he said coaxingly, as if he could persuade Harry to take his side, like Harry had always done before. "You know what she's like. And you said she wasn't a friend of yours. Why are you defending her?"
"Because no one else is," said Harry, breathing through his mouth to remain calm. Ron could be such an idiot sometimes. "Because you were in the wrong, this time. You had a right to be angry about how she was behaving to you, but not to say that stuff about her. That was uncalled for."
Shock clouded Ron's features for a moment. "Why are you acting like this?" he asked, his voice shaking slightly. "You wouldn't stand up for Neville when Malfoy stole his Remembrall - and you didn't help Seamus when Crabbe and Goyle jumped him -"
"Because I knew you would defend Neville," said Harry quietly. "And you did. And then Professor McGonagall came and everything got sorted out."
"What about the fight?" asked Ron, a scowl crossing his face. "Why didn't you help then?"
"It was three on three," said Harry, shrugging. "It wouldn't be fair."
"It was a fight, Danny!" Ron exploded. "You wouldn't have tipped the odds! You know how big Crabbe and Goyle are!"
But I would have, Harry thought silently. Because I grew up defending myself with only my fists. But he couldn't say that. Why was this so hard? "You're getting off topic," Harry snapped. "This is about what you said to Hermione. If you go around saying things like that you're no better than Malfoy."
Ron's ears went red. "You're comparing me to him?" he demanded angrily, taking a step forward.
"Yes, I suppose I am!" Harry retorted, standing his ground.
Ron's face closed. "I - I -" he stammered, then he cleared his throat. "I'm nothing like Malfoy. Nothing. You take that back, Danny."
"I will if you prove it," Harry replied. He turned slightly, so his attention was split between Ron and Hermione, still standing at the end of the corridor and watching the confrontation with wide eyes. "Apologise to her, Ron. Take back what you said. You were just as much in the wrong as she was."
Ron froze, his gaze flicking between Harry and Hermione. Then, grudgingly, he pulled himself off the wall and walked over to Hermione. "I'm sorry," he said - and he sounded at least halfway sincere, which was surprising but pleasing. "I shouldn't have said that. Danny was right - I've been acting like a prat. Do you forgive me?" He held out his hand.
Hermione blinked. Obviously she hadn't though Ron would apologise, let alone ask for forgiveness. "I - well, all right," she said, and they shook hands. Her face was still tearstained, but when she turned to Harry, there was a smile there. "Danny?" she asked.
"Thank you," she said. "It's Hallowe'en tonight, you know. Better get to the Great Hall if you don't want to miss the feast." Then she walked away, leaving a contented Harry and a still slightly bewildered Ron, who was looking at Harry with a strange expression,
Harry grinned at Ron, suddenly slightly nervous about his reaction. "I take it back, okay?" he said. "You're not like Malfoy. He would never apologise, to anyone."
"Especially not Hermione," said Ron. He frowned at Harry as though scrutinising him. "Where did that come from, though? You're always - well, you never do anything like that. I thought you were just shy or something, but..."
Harry looked at his feet. "I don't know... I think you crossed some sort of line."
Ron shrugged. "Should have known. So you, what, unleashed your inner Gryffindor?" He laughed, and Harry cracked a smile. Ron didn't hate him. That was good. "Well, you must have been sorted here for a reason. Like you said to Neville. Wonder what it would take to let his out?"
"No idea," said Harry. He glanced at his watch. "The feast could be starting soon. Shall we go?"
"Yeah," said Ron. "Charlie told me Hallowe'en feast are the best ones. Of course, none of my other brothers agree with him, but they can't agree, either." He grinned, and they started walking towards the Great Hall, following the last few straggling students. "So," he said, as they pushed open the double doors and went to sit and the Gryffindor table. "Any other things I should know about that you've been keeping from me?"
Harry almost froze, and forced himself to keep moving, to sit down and act as though everything was okay. His heart was hammering. Unknowingly, Ron had put his finger on more than he knew.
"No," he said quietly, "no, I'm an open book."
A lie. But a necessary one.
The Great Hall was spectacular. The candles flickered inside the pumpkins as thousands of live bats swooped around, fluttering off the walls and occasionally swooping down, making some of the girls shriek and getting tangled in their hair. The feast appeared on golden plates, and every dug in with gusto.
"Where's Seamus?" Ron asked Dean, swallowing a mouthful of food.
"Detention with Snape," Dean said, shrugging. "Remember? One night a week until the end of the month? Snape deliberately made it so he'd miss the Hallowe'en feast."
Harry glanced up at the staff table. "But Snape's there," he said, puzzled, and turned a questioning stare on Dean. "Is Seamus locked in the dungeon scrubbing cauldrons or something?"
"Probably," said Dean, returning to the food. "He didn't come back to the dorm until almost midnight last time, so I think he'll be a while."
The doors to the Great Hall burst open and Professor Quirrell sprinted in as if a hoard of angry hippogriffs were chasing him. His turban was slightly askew, and his mouth was half open in terror. He looked paper white. The professor made it to the staff table and gasped out, "Troll! In the dungeons - though you ought to know -" and his eyes rolled back in his head as he fainted.
The hall, which had been silent from Professor Quirrell's abrupt entrance, was suddenly filled with noise. People screamed and tried to run for the doors, only to be caught up in the crush. One or two of the first years had fainted from terror, like Professor Quirrell. Several firecrackers exploded from Dumbledore's wand, and there was silence again.
"Prefects, lead your houses back to the dormitories immediately!" he instructed, a grave look on his face. His eyes were not twinkling.
Percy, Ron's elder brother, herded the first year Gryffindors together and out of the Great Hall. Lavender was shaking with fear, her face white. Parvati had her arm around her, though she didn't look much better herself. Dean trailed behind Percy, looking slightly stunned, and Hermione had the same expression on. Neville's eyes were wide and he kept anxiously glancing into shadowy corners, as if afraid the troll would leap out at them. Ron, for once, was quiet.
The group seemed smaller than it should be, he thought, as they jostled past a group of Ravenclaws, who gave them disgruntled looks. Who was -
And then it struck him. Seamus.
Seamus was in detention. Professor Snape was not with him. He was in the dungeon, where the troll was. And he didn't know about it.
"Ron!" he hissed, tugging his friend's arm and pulling him away from the others, into the shadow behind a stone griffin.
"What?" asked Ron. He pulled away, confused. "Why aren't we going with Percy and the others?"
"I just thought - Seamus. He's in the dungeon. And he doesn't know," said Harry urgently. He glanced at Percy, who hadn't noticed anything, and was leading the others away past a group of Hufflepuffs. "Come on!"
Ron hesitated, but then nodded, his face set with determination. "All right," he agreed, and they turned to go the other way, towards the dungeons -
"Where are you going?" someone demanded. It was Hermione. Her arms were crossed, and she looked fierce. "We need to catch up with the others."
"Hermione," said Harry, "Seamus is in the dungeons. And he doesn't know."
Hermione bit her lip. "Oh, all right," she snapped. "But if we run into a professor, I'm doing the explaining."
"Fair enough," said Harry, cutting off Ron, who had opened his mouth to say something unfortunate. Again. "Come on, there's a shortcut behind this tapestry."
They hurried through and down to the dungeons, avoiding a group of Slytherin students as they did so, but the troll didn't appear to be there. Relieved, but a little suspicious, Harry yanked on the door to the Potions classroom, but found it locked.
Desperately, he turned to Ron and Hermione.
"Move over," said Hermione, pushing him aside. "Alohomora." The door swung open with a click.
"Nice one," said Ron, sounding genuinely impressed. They rushed inside.
Seamus was scrubbing a cauldron in the middle of the classroom, a ferocious scowl on his face, and he looked up when they entered. The Irish boy started in surprise, confusion evident in his face. "Ron - Danny - what are you three doing here? Did Snape give you detention, too?"
"No," said Harry, "but Seamus, you need to come with us, now. There's a troll loose in the dungeons somewhere, Professor Quirrell told the whole school in the Great Hall - only you weren't there - come on, we have to go."
Seamus blanched, and he clambered to his feet. "A troll loose in the dungeons?" he said carefully, glancing between Ron, Harry, and Hermione's faces as if hoping this was some sort practical joke. "You're not serious?"
"We are, and we have to hurry!" Harry said. "We're all supposed to be up in the common room right now!"
"All right, I'm coming," said Seamus, discarding the scrubbing brush and hurrying over to them. "Let's go, before Snape comes back and puts us all in detention."
They only made it halfway to the common room - to the fourth floor - when they smelt the most horrendous smell. It was like the smell of a school bathroom or public toilet - just a hundred times worse. Harry wrinkled his nose, as did the others, but they froze when they saw the gargantuan shadow against the wall of the corridor ahead. They could hear low grunting and the sound of humongous feet shuffling aimlessly along the stone floor.
"The troll's left the dungeon," Hermione said in a terrified whisper. She sounded as though she might pass out.
"What do we do?" moaned Ron, pressing himself against the wall. "We're done for!" His voice was rising in fear.
"Shut up!" snapped Harry, as quietly as he could. "It might pass us by!" A naive hope, he knew, but if they were very quiet...
Too late: the troll had heard something at least, because the shadow seemed to pause before it started forward, moving quickly towards them. Hermione let out a muffled shriek. And then the troll came around the corner.
"It's - it's huge," said Seamus faintly, looking terrified.
It certainly was. It was at least seven times as tall as a man, so high it had to stoop even in Hogwarts' high-roofed halls. It had long, gangly arms, thick as pillars and oddly lumpy, bulging in odd places. It's body was much of the same: lumpy and gray, simply enormous, with a small bald head sitting on top. The troll had an enormous club which it was dragging along behind it, and it's feet were horned and only slightly smaller than cars were. And the smell was absolutely awful.
"I think I'm going to be sick," said Hermione, and she sounded like it.
It seemed to be scanning the hallway as though looking for something. That was when it's beady black eyes settled on the four Gryffindor first years, and it gave a loud grunt and started towards them, swinging it's club and smashing it into the walls of the corridor, leaving dents in the stonework.
Hermione screamed. Ron and Seamus yelled. Harry was no less terrified, but he'd been in situations like this before and he knew that shouting was not very productive unless you expected aid. But in every situation like this he'd been in - matters of life or death - he had been with Sirius.
Sirius was not here right now. He was alone. He had to fight this battle by himself.
They were backing away even before the troll began to run, but when it did, they turned their backs and sprinted towards the end of the corridor. Seamus grappled with the door handle, but he was overcome by terror and was only fumbling it.
Suddenly the troll lunged out, one hand splayed wide and grabbed for something. Ron screamed as he was roughly yanked away by the ankle and dangled, upside down in mid-air, utterly helpless even as he thrashed and tried to free himself. Seamus managed to get the door open, but now he wasn't trying to go through it; they couldn't go while Ron was in the troll's grasp - literally.
"Seamus! Go find a professor!" yelled Harry, drawing his wand and pointing it at the troll.
"I can't leave you!" protested Seamus.
"We can't beat a troll, only stall it! Go find a professor!" Harry returned. He suddenly realised as he raised his wand that he didn't have a single idea for a spell to cast. He didn't know any offensive spells. Sirius had shown him how to fight like a muggle, because any magic he did could be traced - but muggle-style fighting would not work on a troll. It would get him killed.
Seamus hesitated, clearly not liking the idea, but the logic of Harry's words seemed to penetrate him and he raced off, shouting loudly for a professor. Harry hoped it wasn't Filch who heard him.
Ron yelled and just managed to pull himself up as the troll swung at him with the club. His face was turning red with all the blood rushing to it. They had to do something, and fast.
"Confuse it!" Harry yelled to Hermione, who seemed frozen in shock, ran between the troll's legs and grabbed a piece of rock that had broken off the wall when smashed by the troll's club. He threw it and it struck the troll in the back of the head with a dull thunk. "Hey, ugly! Why don't you pick on someone your own size?" he yelled.
He wasn't sure if it was the taunt or the rock; either way, it worked. The troll dropped Ron and Hermione seemed to unfreeze, rushing over to him and helping him to his feet. Unfortunately, the troll started for Harry, letting out a roar of rage. He backed away.
"Wingardium leviosa!" he heard Hermione cry, and Ron echoed her. The debris from the smashed wall rose and suddenly smashed itself into the troll's face. The troll roared again, as the rock left gashes and bruise, and one eye seemed to have been damaged. Harry wasn't sure if a half blind troll was more dangerous or less so.
The troll raised it's club and brought it smashing down, sending a shockwave across the floor that made Harry stumble and breaking up part of the stonework. Ron and Hermione sent this, along with the other debris, smashing into the troll's face again, but this only seemed to make it mad.
It swung it's club suddenly and Harry just managed to scramble away, tripping over and falling to the ground. He picked himself up again, ducking another swing and ignoring Hermione's scream.
"Do something!" Ron cried out. "This isn't working!"
"Wingardium leviosa!" shouted Hermione again, but the spell missed when the troll got in the way. Hermione was a gifted witch, yes, but even she couldn't levitate a troll.
The troll lashed out with the club again, and this time, it didn't miss.
Harry cried out in pain as the club smashed into his side, sending him flying into the wall of the corridor. He heard the crack of a breaking bone again and a stabbing pain in his ribs - they were broken, or at least some of them were. Hermione screamed again, and Ron let out a strangled cry. Harry placed his hand to his side gingerly, and it came away bloody.
The pain washed over him and he had to fight not to pass out. The troll grunted, taking a step forward and raising it to swing it at him. If it smashed into him with as much force as the last blow had, it would probably kill him.
"Wingardium leviosa!" he heard Ron shout out, and the troll swung - but the club was no longer in it's hand. It rose, high, almost to the ceiling, and tilted - then it came crashing downwards, slamming onto the troll's head.
It teetered, then dropped to the floor like a stone, falling flat on it's face and causing the whole corridor to shake. There was a sudden silence.
Harry coughed, and he was startled to see a small amount of blood spatter onto the floor in front of him. He stared at it stupidly, trying to make sense of it through the fogginess that was his mind. Ron and Hermione hurried over to him.
"Oh my - Danny! Danny, are you okay!" Hermione cried. He coughed again.
"I... no," he rasped. Ron and Hermione were both white and shaking, and he knew he was probably the same way. "Broken... ribs, I think. Where are... the professors? Seamus was getting... them..." he trailed off in another cough that sent stabbing pains through his chest.
"Don't talk," Ron advised. "Merlin, you're coughing up blood!"
There was the sound of hurried footsteps and the door to the corridor swung open. Someone - Professor McGonagall, he thought - let out a loud exclamation when she saw the troll, and then the three first years.
"Mr Weasley! Mr Lewis! Miss Granger! What happened here?" asked Professor McGonagall. Harry twisted slightly: Professor Snape and Professor Quirrell were with her. Seamus wasn't; he had probably been sent to the common room. Harry winced at the pain brought on by the slight movement.
"We - we went looking for Seamus, because he was in detention with Professor Snape, and when we were coming up here we ran into the troll," said Hermione. "It - it grabbed Ron, so Danny told Seamus to get a teacher and we distracted it. Ron knocked it out with it's own club, but that was after Danny got hit." She let out a choked sob, of fear and anxiety and the emotions that had built up to a boiling point during the battle.
Professor McGonagall's furious face suddenly became one of concern and she swiftly knelt by Harry. "Mr Lewis. Are you all right?"
"Broken ribs," he managed, then coughed again. The blood startled her, but she remained composed.
"Miss Granger. Fetch Madam Pomfrey," instructed Professor McGonagall. Hermione ran off. "Severus - can you do anything in the meantime?" she asked. "Do you have any potions on you?"
"No," said Professor Snape, his lip curling slightly. "I did not imagine even a Gryffindor would be so foolish as to try to take on a fully grown mountain troll, let alone a first year."
Professor McGonagall ignored the barb. "Mr Lewis. I am going to put you to sleep so we can move you more easily. But first," she said, her eyes flickering to Ron and the others in the room before returning to him. "I think five points each to Gryffindor - for sheer dumb luck, mind you. Not many first years could take on a fully grown mountain troll and come out of it even relatively unscathed."
"You call this unscathed?" Ron muttered. Professor McGonagall, luckily, didn't hear him.
"Now," she said, pulling out her wand and pointing it at Harry. "Quiesco," she said clearly, and a stream of silvery light came out from her wand and seemed to settle on Harry. He felt his eyes slip shut, and he was falling, the sounds around him fading as he slid into unconsciousness.
The last thing he heard was Hermione and Madam Pomfrey hurrying over to him, and the school matron's loud exclamation at his condition. Then, the sounds faded to black around him, the spell overcame him, and he went to sleep.