Out of the Cauldron...

A/N: So I thought I'd give this a go. It's not canon – I'm a strong Harmony shipper, and the rest of my OTPs will become clear in time :)

I don't own anything! Everything belongs to JKR, except the OC's. They're mine!

It had been a tough few days. Harry had hate pouring down on him from all sides, and Hermione, as his sole side-kick (the twins were most often to be seen harassing Ron about his behaviour), got even more. While Harry was being taunted by everyone, Hermione was facing concentrated hate from the Slytherin girls. Why, exactly, they thought that telling her she was ugly and stupid was going to hurt her, she didn't know, especially since she was confident in her intelligence and her looks didn't bother her…much. So when she and Harry arrived for Potions the following Friday, neither were in a good mood, especially since the other houses had started flashing petty badges around – clearly someone with little imagination had been put in charge of the slogans. Hermione wasn't sure, but she thought that someone with half a brain could have come up with something better than "Potter stinks". As if it wasn't already bad enough that Harry was dealing with Ronald being an idiot, his own internal struggles, as well as a distinct lack of response from Sirius, the school was ganging up on him too. Hermione was seething at the injustice of it all, but she knew better than to try and offer Harry anything more than company.

Naturally, the first person Hermione saw in the corridor was Malfoy, but he looked unusually discomfited as Crabbe and Goyle muscled up to Harry, beginning to slur half-formed abuse at him. Harry appeared to disregard their pathetic attempts, and rounded on Draco. Hermione could see what was going to happen long before it did. Harry pulled his wand out of his robes with a practiced flourish, but Draco just stood there. She watched as he braced slightly against the wall, and Harry's hand lowered in confusion. Crabbe had been fumbling for his wand while attention had been focussed elsewhere, and now Harry was on the receiving end of a curse. Hermione thanked her lucky stars for his quick reactions as he cast a hex back. She wasn't thanking them for long, though, as the two spells collided in mid-air and ricocheted off each other. Crabbe's curse was flying towards her faster than she could think, but she caught a glimpse of the red light of Harry's hex flying towards Goyle just as the one destined for him hit her full in the face. Within seconds she felt her teeth begin to grow, pushing over her lower lip and edging towards her chin. Goyle's reaction was almost as instantaneous – boils began springing up all over his face and he let out a muffled groan of pain. She felt panic rising in her chest as she put her hand to her front teeth and felt that they were rapidly encroaching on her collar. Snape appeared from around the door and stood impassively, gazing at the scene of carnage before him. Malfoy shrank along the wall and appeared to be trying to become invisible.

"Goyle, Granger, hospital wing. Potter, Crabbe, ten points from each of you. Now enter the room silently and take your places. You should…" Snape's voice faded as Hermione turned and dashed away from the Potions room, Goyle close on her heels.

As they entered the hospital wing, Hermione could almost hear the cogs turning in Goyle's head as he tried to think of something insulting to say. Luckily, Madam Pomfrey hurried out of her office and bustled them each on to separate beds on opposite sides of the ward. She waved a hand, and one of the potions cabinets burst open, and one of the potions flew into her hand.

"Here, drink this. That should clear your face." Goyle drank, spluttering. Madam Pomfrey glared at him, and stepped quickly to Hermione, Summoning a mirror as she did so. Performing some very complicated magic very quickly, she reduced the size of Hermione's teeth, just as they threatened to pass the second button on her shirt.

"Just say when they reach their normal size, dear." Hermione watched as her teeth shrank rapidly towards where they usually were, and then let them carry on until they reached a size she preferred.

"There's fine, thank you."

"All right then my love, off you go. Mr Goyle, if you'd be so kind as to stay where you are, I need to assess the spell-damage."

Hermione stepped lightly away from the hospital wing, unable to stop her tongue from running over the surface of her new teeth. She was happily considering the prospect of a free double period (it was highly unlikely that Snape would be anticipating her return to the Potions class) in the library, when she heard raised voices echoing down the corridor ahead of her. Stopping in her tracks, she listened hard. McGonagall was clearly ill-at-ease and highly irritated. Dumbledore was trying to calm her and reconcile with someone who was getting very excited and squeaky.

"I tell you, Skeeter is the best person to do these interviews. Her readership is simply fantastic and if anyone can get anything, any dirt, on any of these golden, chosen ones, it's her!"

"Dirt, Bagman?" McGonagall's voice dripped with cool disdain and distaste. "These are school children, and I would thank you to remember that. They are altogether too young to be exposed like that to the general public. This is an enclosed, high-risk, international competition and there is threat enough without involving the wider wizarding world." McGonagall's icy logic and clear head cut through Bagman's half-formed thoughts and he was apparently left silent. Hermione crept closer to the corner and peered around it. Dumbledore looked confused and slightly anxious, off to one side, while McGonagall was standing straight-backed, arms folded, glaring through her glasses at Bagman. He looked even more like a child now than he had at the Quidditch World Cup. Clearly cowed by the telling-off he had just received, he stood hunch-shouldered, wringing his hands before his slight pot-belly.

"The thing is, Minerva, she's already here."

"Already here? Dumbledore, please tell me you didn't authorise this? This is an outrage! A gossip columnist reporting on students? You do understand what a mess she is going to make of this job, do you not?" By now, Bagman was beginning to turn an unattractive shade of puce, and Dumbledore was looking vaguely sheepish. Hermione was certain that if this conversation hadn't pertained to Harry, she would have broken down into giggles already. Just as Dumbledore opened his mouth to speak, he raised his eyes, and met hers staring curiously around the corner.

"Miss Granger! Whatever are you doing there? Aren't you meant to be in class?"

"Yes, sir, but there was an…altercation outside Potions, and Crabbe…I got hit by a spell and sent to the hospital wing."

"This is not the way back to the dungeons, Miss Granger." Dumbledore lowered his chin and surveyed her over the top of his half-moon glasses.

"I…no, sir. It isn't. Professor Snape was testing us on antidotes this class, sir, and I've missed out on a quarter of the making time."

"And where, may I ask, were you heading now?"

"To the library, sir. To do some reading on antidotes and their composition. I was going to write Professor Snape an essay on common and uncommon antidotes."

"Hmm, off you go, Miss Granger."

"Yes, sir. Umm, sir, I couldn't help over hearing…shouldn't the champions be accompanied by a professor, sir? Or Harry at the very least – he is under age after all."

"A very good idea, Miss Granger. Professor, would you be so kind as to go with Mr Bagman and accompany Mr Potter when Ms Skeeter interviews him? That should afford him some protection, should it not?" McGonagall nodded stiffly and swept before Bagman back up the corridor. "As for you, Miss Granger, I shall accompany you back to the dungeons, and I'll ask Professor Snape to afford you some leniency on your antidote."

"Thank you, sir." In almost dead silence, Hermione and Dumbledore walked back to the Potions room. As she placed her hand on the door, Dumbledore raised a finger and pointed delicately at her teeth.

"Miss Granger, are my eyes deceiving me, or are your teeth…?"

"Smaller, sir?"

"Yes…I suppose that would be the word…"

"Yes, sir, they are." Hermione flushed a deep red, and opened the door without further explanation. Harry sat with Neville, flinching as his bench-mate furiously poked at the bottom of his cauldron, producing electric-purple sparks. Ronald was on the next bench over, working with Seamus and Dean. Things there didn't seem to be going any better. Dumbledore took hold of her elbow and steered her over to where Snape was sitting, marking seventh-year essays on the complexities of the wolfs-bane potion. While Dumbledore talked to Snape, Hermione couldn't help her eyes drifting over to the Slytherin tables. Draco looked even paler than usual, and appeared to be on edge. She was curious as to why he appeared so ill-at-ease among the Slytherins, and then noticed that Pansy Parkinson had her wand pointed at his back over the top of her cauldron. Belatedly, she drew her own wand, but not before Parkinson had sent a spell at Draco's back. He collapsed, narrowly avoiding the burner under his cauldron, and hit the floor with a quiet 'whump'. Hermione dashed over, ignoring the shrieks of the Slytherin girls and menacing growls of the boys, and rested her fingers at his throat.

"Sir! He's not breathing and he hasn't got a pulse!" Parkinson backed over her stool and tripped into Crabbe's cauldron as Snape and Dumbledore rushed across the classroom. Dumbledore passed his wand over Draco's limp form and with a flash of green light apparently revived him. At that moment, the door of the chamber flew open, and Colin Creevey fell in.

"Professor McGonagall wants to see Harry Potter!" Snape's lip drew into a smirk and he indicated that Harry should leave with one finger, before returning his attention to the injured boy lying in the middle of his classroom. Hermione was torn – to quietly track Harry, or to tell Dumbledore what she had seen. The latter won, and she snuck closer to the headmaster than she had ever dared before.

"Sir," she whispered, "sir, I saw who did it." Dumbledore's head flicked up.

"Who?"

"Pansy Parkinson – she had her wand aimed at his back over the top of her cauldron, sir."

"This is a very grave matter, Miss Granger. If this is a falsehood…"

"It isn't, sir."

"Very well, Miss Granger. Thank you for informing me. Could you please go to Professors Sprout and Flitwick, and take a message to Professor McGonagall in the smallest Charms classroom on the third floor, at the end of the Charms corridor."

As Hermione dashed from the classroom, she was innocently ignorant to the changes already beginning to creep through Hogwarts.