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As she presses herself to the wall of the stall to allow her two accomplices to pass, clutching the tumbler tightly to her chest, the nagging seeds of doubt and worry that had already burrowed into her mind a month ago begin to sprout and niggle about. No matter how many times she reassures herself that all precautions have been taken, that everything will work out, she can't help seeing Murphy's Law coming into full effect for this escapade, this reckless endeavour to unearth an only slightly plausible circumstance. Regardless, she stares down into the murky, sick-coloured depths of Essence of Millicent Bulstrode churning about beneath her nose, and feels her stomach shift at the thought of ingesting it. She would much rather have the Slug charm placed on her than this; then again, if the look of ghastly discomfort on Ron's face was any indication, this might be less painful. But after seeing those gruesome illustrations of those wizards in such pain throughout the transformation, she begins wishing that she was as brave as Harry, or as "do-first-think-later-consequences-be-damned" as Ron. She's only book-smart, bossy know-it-all Hermione, and that's all she ever will be.
"Ready?" comes Harry's voice from the stall next to her.
"Ready," she responds a little too eagerly, and feels a faint blush tinge her cheeks when she hears Ron answer at the same time. She's bewildered by her reaction, but leaves no room for thought when Harry begins to count. On three, it's like time freezes, and in a moment that feels like quicksand, she thinks wildly, I'll show him, before pinching her nose and dumping the contents of her tumbler down her throat.
Although it merely tastes like overcooked cabbage, it burns on the way down. She doubles over as her stomach starts roiling, the pain as sudden as being hit by a sledge hammer. Then it begins. Dear God, then it begins.
The sensation spreads outwards to the ends of her toes from her very core, like her skin has turned to hot wax. She opens her eyes for the briefest of moments, which were previously pinched closed, and dread weighs her down as she sees bubbles and welts erupting all over. She feels her limbs beginning to writhe without her permission, and as another bolt of pain cleaves through her, her legs fall from beneath her. She can see Harry and Ron's now gargantuan feet from under the stall, and she's about to ask if both of them are reacting this way when the most unpleasant prickly feeling erupts all over her. She watches in horror as thick black hairs begin the sprout from her skin, feels an excruciating pain at her tailbone and a throb of peculiar elongation. She doesn't understand what's happening to her, but all thought is wiped from her mind when her eyes begin to bubble. She pinches the lids tightly closed, and yet this is more agonizing than the rest. Finally, the sensation abates, and she's left breathing heavily on the bathroom floor. She braces her hands against the stall door and stands shakily, but something feels...off. She runs her hands over herself but feels only the rough hair- fur, she realizes. She sucks in a sharp breath and begins quivering as she reaches down to her lower back and grasps a tail; her tail. She feels tears prickle at the corners of her eyes, and shakes her head vehemently. Nononononononothernothernothernotherwhywhywhywhywh ywhy
She's a cat. Millicent Bulstrode must have a cat, and being the presumptuous little girl that she is, she assumed that it must have been her hair. Really, for someone with such acclaimed intelligence, she had been blinded by her own praise. Hadn't she thought that everything would turn out alright? Had she not omitted to foresee any possible occurrence of this nature, something going wrong with the potion? What is she to do?
She hears a low grunt come from the stall next to hers. "Are you two OK?"
She knows that it's Harry, but it sounds so uncannily like Goyle that she can't help but wonder.
"Yeah," Ron-Crabbe- responds, and it's once she hears Ron's voice that she truly begins to panic. What is she to do? She can hardly go outside like this; not only is it mortifying, but what if they were caught, as they surely would be accompanied by her? What if there's no antidote, and she's stuck like this forever?
She hears two locks scrape back and heavy footsteps, and sinks to the floor, clutching her knees, feeling quite faint.
"This is unbelievable. Unbelievable," Ron says, and her heart sinks further.
"We'd better get going," Harry says. "We've still got to find out where the Slytherin common room is, I only hope we can find someone to follow..."
"You don't know how bizarre it is to see Goyle thinking," Ron says in an awed voice. Suddenly, it's much closer, and he's banging on her door. She jumps back in surprise and hits her head on the toilet. "C'mon, we need to go..."
Her voice comes out quite higher than normal, but that's to be expected, she supposes. "I-I don't think I'm going to come after all. You go on without me."
"Hermione, we know Millicent Bulstrode's ugly, no one's going to know it's you."
If it's even possible, his words make her feel even worse. Because this-what she's become- isn't ugly. It's hideous. It makes her feel even worse about her bushy hair and slouched back and buck teeth, because now she has a tail and she's covered in fur and her eyes are...she's to afraid to even think about what her eyes look like. Who would ever want to look at her, talk to her, if she's this repugnant? She wonders what Ron will think of her. Harry, she knows, is accepting and won't care, but she feels like Ron is still rude sometimes and at a time like this, when she's feeling so vulnerable, he'll rip her to shreds. She answers without thinking much about it, but to her it sounds more like a plea.
"No- really- I don't think I'll come. You two hurry up, you're wasting time."
"That looks more like Goyle," Ron says to his best friend. "That's how he looks every time a teacher asks him a question."
"Hermione, are you OK?" Harry asks through the door.
"Fine- I'm fine...Go on-"
"We'll meet you back here, all right?"
She hears the door creak open and then their footsteps fading away. "Alright," she whispers as tears leak out of her eyes and catch in the fur on her cheeks. This is possibly the worst she's ever felt in her whole life, and sitting here, on her own, she feels even more hideous than usual.