AN – Warnings, disclaimer, etc. found in Chapters 1 & 5
Harry gathered up his notes and books, stuffing them in his bag as all his classmates began filing out of their charms class. Glancing around when he was done, Harry found Hermione at the front of the room talking with Flitwick. The boy hesitated at the doorway and intended to wait for her, but when his friend waved him on, he left.
The rest of the first year Gryffindor boys had gone ahead and Harry managed to catch up to them as they were crossing the courtyard to the Herbology greenhouses for their next class. It was only as he began walking beside the group that he could hear their conversation. Seamus was apparently poking fun at Ron for being corrected during the lesson by Hermione. The Weasley was obviously embarrassed and frustrated, and began mocking Hermione in response, eliciting laughs from the rest of the group.
Harry frowned at them all, angry at how they were talking about the girl. "Hey, let up, will you? She was only trying to help!"
The redhead scoffed. "Trying to help? She's a nightmare, honestly! It's no wonder she doesn't have any friends!"
As the boy said the last word, Hermione pushed past the group, clutching her books to her chest. The laughs from the first years stopped.
Harry rounded on Ron, getting in his space and fisting the other boy's robes. "What the hell is your problem?" Ron was taller than Harry by a good few inches, but his face was full of surprise and a bit of fear. When he only sputtered in response, Harry let him go in disgust and went after the bushy haired girl.
He thought he heard Ron weakly mutter, "I - I didn't know she was behind us," to the others, but ignored him in favor of trying to find his friend.
There were so many places in the castle Hermione could have gone to – empty classrooms, the common room, any number of bathrooms, and not to mention the numerous secret passages and rooms – that Harry figured Herbology must be over with by the time he located the restroom the girl had holed up in.
"Hermione?" Harry called quietly, and the soft sobs he could hear from the stalls stopped briefly.
"Go away, Harry." The reply was weak and choked up. Harry ignored the words and went a bit closer, knocking on the locked door of the stall.
"C'mon, Hermione. Just ignore them. Who cares what Ron thinks? He doesn't know what he's talking about."
"I said, go away!" The command was stronger and angry this time, so Harry backed off. He wasn't sure what to do to comfort a crying girl, but he really didn't want to just leave her while she was so miserable. The Winchester gave a sigh and settled on the floor in front of the door to make sure no one else came in.
A few minutes passed in silence before the sobs from the stalls started again. Harry wished he knew something to say to make the girl feel better, but he'd never had this happen before. His family wasn't really one to cry out their feelings and comfort each other when they had a problem. Not to mention… well, Hermione was a girl. Girls were strange enough when they were happy – a crying one was even worse.
Harry wasn't sure how long it took before the crying stopped, but it was long enough for him to start feeling really hungry. He almost jumped in surprise when Hermione started talking.
"I thought it'd be different here."
Harry shifted around on the floor. His butt was starting to fall asleep from the hard stones. "What do you mean?"
"I was always different, you know? No one ever liked me much. I've never really had friends. After I got my letter, I thought it was my magic that made me different from everyone else. But now I'm here and I'm still different. I'm here and still nobody likes me. I still don't have friends."
"That's not true," Harry cut her off. "I'm your friend, aren't I?"
"But you're Ron's friend, too."
"Ron's an idiot. I guess he's alright to talk to sometimes, but you're more of my friend than he is. And I don't like it when people talk bad about my friends. Besides, it's good to be different. Normal's boring." Hermione didn't say anything in response, so Harry continued after a few beats of silence. "I almost punched him, you know? After he said what he did. I didn't do it, but I could if you want me to?"
That earned him a watery laugh from the girl. "No, I don't want you to punch him. You could get in trouble." There was a sniffle and the sound of toilet paper being torn, probably being used in place of a tissue. "I probably look a mess. You can go to the feast. It has to have already started by now. I'm going to clean up."
Harry stood up and stretched his arms and legs. "Yeah, alright."
He picked up his bag, but paused when Hermione said quietly, "Harry? Thank you."
The Winchester smiled. "No problem. I'll see you in a bit."
Halloween at Hogwarts meant smiling jack-o'-lanterns floating around the corridors and Great Hall, enchanted bats circling the ceilings, and a huge feast filled with amazing food and sweets. Although this was all new and brilliant, Harry couldn't help but miss going door to door with his Dad, Sammy, and sometimes his Grandpa, begging for candy, all of them dressed up as something silly. When Harry got a bit older, Sam would sometimes take him to the local corn maze. Dean would always refuse accompanying them, muttering about alien abductions and microwavable fairies. Harry hadn't gotten the full story about that. Afterwards, they would go back home and he and his Dad would fight over all the good candy. With a pleading look toward Sam, Harry would quickly have help fending off Dean's grabby hands.
There were no fun costumes here at Hogwarts and no trick or treating. Ron had looked completely baffled when Harry had suggested wearing a costume today. Apparently wizards and witches had never even heard of such a tradition. So it was a slightly disappointed and homesick Harry who sat at the Gryffindor table during dinner after talking to Hermione, listening to all the happy chatter around him and trying to have a good time.
He had made it to the Hall before the food disappeared to be replaced by desserts. Just as the cakes, candy, and cookies had appeared along the house tables, the Great Hall doors slammed open and all the students fell silent and watched as Professor Quirrell ran down the middle isle.
"Troll! In the dungeon! Troll!" He stopped in front of the head table, looking at Dumbledore. "Thought you ought to know." Then the man collapsed in a dead faint.
People immediately started screaming and panicking. It took Dumbledore casting a charm on himself and yelling out "SILENCE" to quiet all the students.
When all eyes were on him, the headmaster calmly continued, "Prefects, please lead all students to their dormitories. Teachers, if you will accompany me to the dungeons."
As he was exiting the Hall, Harry immediately remembered Hermione still in the girl's bathroom. He slowed down so all his fellow students passed him and was about to sneak away, when Ron griped his robes.
"Are you mad? Where are you going?"
"Hermione doesn't know about the troll. I need to warn her. It's your fault she's not here in the first place," he reminded at Ron's protesting look.
Ron bit his lip and looked hesitant, then nodded and said, "Fine." Harry turned to leave, but Ron's hand still on his arm stopped him. "I'm coming with you. You said it yourself, this is my fault. I'm going to help." The Winchester frowned, but didn't bother taking the time to argue and Ron followed behind him, muttering, "Man, Percy's going to kill me if he finds out."
After successfully getting away unnoticed, both boys went straight to the girl's bathroom. As they were nearing however, Harry heard the faint sound of footsteps coming towards them. Harry pulled Ron behind a statue in the hallway and covered his mouth with a hand when he looked about to say something. The redhead soon froze when Snape came into view. The professor looked to be in a rush and didn't notice them as he went by in a billow of robes.
"Why isn't he with the other teachers?"Harry wondered out loud.
"Search me," Ron whispered back.
Harry quietly followed after the greasy haired man a bit. "Looks like he's going to the third floor." Harry took another step after him, but Ron held up a hand.
"Do you smell something?"
Harry sniffed too and sure enough, there was a foul stench coating the air, getting stronger by the second. Soon after, they heard the sound of giant footfalls and what could only be the mountain troll came into view. The boys stood perfectly still and watched as it went into a room at the end of the corridor. Neither moved till it was long out of sight and as both let out a sigh of relief, they heard a shrill scream come from where the thing disappeared.
Harry felt himself fill with dread as he realized the troll had gone into the bathroom Hermione was in. He reacted quickly and took off running toward the girl's screams, pulling his wand from under his robes as he went. He was distantly aware that Ron was following, but kept his focus on the ugly creature before him as he skid through the door.
Hermione was attempting to hide under the sinks as the troll smashed everything in sight with his club trying to find her.
"Harry!" she shouted out as soon as she caught sight of him. This gained the troll's attention and it turned around towards her, its club swinging in a wide arc and tearing through the toilet stalls. Pieces of wood went soaring throughout the room and Harry ducked to the side, but a piece managed to hit his arm. His wand went flying to be lost among the rubble. He heard Ron cry out and looked back to see the redhead lying on the floor, looking surprised, but thankfully unharmed.
Losing his wand didn't deter Harry from his focus of saving Hermione. Without missing a beat, he unsheathed his hidden knife and stood straight, ready to move at a sign of the creature attacking. However, the troll's attention was still stuck on finding Hermione, its back facing the two boys. Harry noted that its gray skin looked too thick for his knife to do much damage, so as Ron was regaining his footing, Harry grabbed a hold of the lumpy club as it swung past him and used it to land on the creature's head. Hermione screamed once more as the club finished its swing and landed mere feet from her. Gritting his teeth and bracing himself, Harry tightened his grip on the knife and plunged it into the troll's right eye.
The thing roared out in pain, dropping its club and scrabbling at its eye with both hands. Harry managed to keep his hold on the knife, pulling it out as he fell to the ground. The wind was knocked out of him and he had to blink a couple times to regain his vision. It was only thanks to the training with his dad that he was able to quickly roll out of the way as the troll stumbled backwards, before falling to its knees. Harry looked around and saw Hermione still under the sinks, her path to the door being blocked by the troll. Spying the dropped club, he got an idea and turned to see Ron looking in shock and fear between him and the agonized troll.
"Ron!" he yelled out. "The club!" He paused as the troll stopped howling and started looking around through its good eye with a growl, one hand still covering the mess he had made of the other.
"What?" Ron yelled back.
"The club!" he repeated, moving back as the creature focused on him. "Use it to knock this thing out!" The little hunter didn't have time to say anything more as the troll turned its attention to him and he could only hope Ron would be able to figure out what he meant.
The troll roared and using the hand not clutched to its eye, reached out to smash him to the floor. Luckily for Harry, it was somewhat slow and he dodged out of the way in time. As the hand hit the ground, he dug his knife into the top of it. The creature roared again and pulled its hand back, the knife dragging across it. But just as Harry thought, its skin was thick and it only created a shallow cut.
"Hurry!" he yelled out to the redhead.
"Alright!" Ron answered, voice shaky, and readied his wand. "Wingardium Leviosa!" They watched with a smile as the club lifted from the ground and high in the air. The troll sat up straight and shook its injured hand, sending blood droplets scattering around the room. Just as it looked ready to attack again, Ron got the club over its head and let it fall, connecting with a sick sounding thunk.
The troll looked confused for a moment, then began swaying and finally fell with a thud that shook the bathroom.
The three children stood frozen for a bit, Harry and Ron with their weapons still raised and Hermione sitting with her mouth open in shock.
They were broken out of their trance when footsteps were heard and Professors McGonagall, Snape, and Quirrell entered the room. At the sight of the unconscious troll McGonagall let out a gasp, hand over her mouth, and hurried over to Hermione who was just emerging from her hiding place. Quirrell let out a whimper and backed out of the room, looking like he would faint once more. Snape bent over the troll to study it. His eyes narrowed before darting to Harry and his bloody knife. Harry narrowed his eyes right back, but didn't try to hide the knife again. Too late for that now.
"What on earth were you thinking of?" said McGonagall coldly, going from Hermione to Ron once she was satisfied the girl wasn't injured. "You were lucky you weren't killed. Why aren't you in your dormitory?"
It surprised Harry when Hermione was the one to speak up. "Please, Professor McGonagall – they were looking for me."
Hermione still looked shaken by the happenings, but gained more confidence as she continued her lie, "I went looking for the troll because I – I thought I could deal with it on my own – you know, because I've read all about them. If they hadn't found me I'd probably be dead now. Harry – Harry jumped on it and -," she swallowed, "and stabbed it in the eye. Then Ron knocked it out with its own club. They didn't have time to fetch anyone. It was about to finish me off when they arrived."
"Well, in that case…" said Professor McGonagall, finally finished with checking them over, "Miss Granger, you foolish girl! How could you think of tackling a mountain troll on your own?"
Hermione hung her head. Harry was shocked that Hermione Granger of all people was lying through her teeth to a teacher to keep them out of trouble. He was careful to keep his face free of any disbelief though, as to not give the lie away. Ron, however was staring at her as if she had grown another head.
"I am very disappointed in you. Five points will be taken from Gryffindor for your thoughtlessness. Since you seem to be uninjured, you should head to your dormitory. Students are finishing their desserts there."
Hermione nodded her head and left quietly.
McGonagall turned to the two boys. "Well, I still say you were lucky, but not many first years could have taken on a full-grown mountain troll. You each win Gryffindor five points. Now, I suggest you take yourselves to the common room also."
Before they could move, Snape cleared his throat and attention turned to him. "While giving out house points for sheer stupidity is all well and good, Minerva," he sneered, "I am more concerned about why Potter seems to be holding such a weapon."
Harry's grip on the knife hilt tightened. "It was a present from my family."
Snape's eyebrow rose. "Giving a child such a dangerous thing? Seems quite irresponsible if you ask me. You could… hurt yourself. And we certainly wouldn't want precious Potter getting harmed."
"I'm perfectly capable of handling it. My dad wouldn't have given it to me if I wasn't."
"Ah yes, those savage muggles who brought you in like a stray. I wouldn't trust their judgment anymore than I would that troll's."
Harry grit his teeth in anger and was about to respond when McGonagall cut in sharply. "I think that's enough, Professor Snape. I see no harm in him keeping the thing. However, Mr. Potter, I do not want to see it out of your trunk again. If you are found with it, it will be taken from you."
Harry nodded sharply, "Yes m'am."
"Good." She flicked her wand and the blood on his blade and hand disappeared. "Off you two go."
After locating his wand among the rubble from the broken stalls and sinks, Harry turned on his heel and strode out the room, Ron following behind and still looking pale. Hearing footsteps, he looked over his shoulder and saw Snape striding down the opposite corridor, robes billowing as always, but Harry could see the slight limp he was trying to hide. Tucking that information away for later, he and Ron continued to their rooms.
Just over a week for this new chapter. That's not too bad, right? Has to be some kind of record for me, haha! I really hope you liked how I did the troll fight. As always, thanks to all of my readers and reviews are appreciated!