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The best laid plans

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Friday, 3rd September


The next morning Hermione woke early as she was too excited to try and go back to sleep. It was weird to have the first day of term on a Friday, but she was hoping to have one of her new classes today. Being awake before the other girls had an advantage; she was able to jump in the shower before the other girls started climbing over each other. She moved Crookshanks, who had settled between her legs in the night trapping her until he was shifted. Then grabbed her wash bag.

“Hey Crooks...” Hermione sounded conspiratorial as she spoke to her cat, “Why don’t you go jump on Harry and wake him up while I take a shower?” He flicked his ear, which she took as an agreement and went to take care of her morning needs.

Twenty minutes later, she was back in her dorm room with her towels wrapped around her, keeping the dripping to a minimum. Lavender and Lily were just waking up Parvati, having joined Hermione in the showers halfway through. Hermione fumbled through her things for her trunk keys, and opened up her mini library. She pulled out one of her new books, ‘A compendium of household charms’; there were a number of drying charms in the book and she was hoping to speed up her morning routine. The fur on her back and tail retained a lot of water and it could be a pain to dry.


She found the spell she was looking for and gave it a try. Nothing. But it was normal not to get a spell first time you try it, so she double checked the instructions and tried again. Her left leg was now perfectly dry. Not perfect, but better. The third time was the charm, [the author would like to apologize for this terrible pun] all the water still clinging to her from her shower vanished.


The results were mixed, she was dry now, but her hair and fur were frizzy. Well, frizzier than normal. She would have to look into that. She was halfway through getting dressed for the day when crookshanks came storming back into the dorm. He jumped up on his bed because as far as he was concerned it was his, he just let Hermione borrow it. He then curled up in a huff, ignoring everyone. Hermione thought something must have happened, Crooks seemed fine, she just needed to ask Harry what happened. Tights* and shoes on, and she was finished dressing, pocketing her wand.


Hermione would have to come back for her books after she got her timetable. She gave Crookshanks a quick scratch behind the ears and made her way down to the common room. Harry was waiting for her, his hair still a little damp from his own shower. The look on his face said that something had happened and that he wasn’t looking forward to telling her. She guessed it had something to do with Crookshanks sulking, but she couldn’t fathom what could have happened. Crookshanks had made a game of waking Harry over the last week once he’d settled into his new family.


Harry walked up to her, wrapping his arms around her smaller form and giving her a quick peck, as had become his habit after a week at her place. If Hermione was honest she expected him to stop with other Gryffindors watching. She hugged him back, happy he had gone with Gryffindor’s ‘boldly forward’ mentality.

“Mione, it might be best if we start down to breakfast quickly.” Hermione broke the hug, looking confused into his face, “What’s wrong Harry?”

“I’ll tell you on the way but please, come on.” He started gently guiding her to the portrait. She could have stopped if she wanted, but she decided to trust Harry. They were soon out of the tower and walking along the sixth floor to the grand staircase before Harry stopped and started explaining.


“It’s probably best if you keep Crooks out of the boy’s dorm. He woke me up in his way,” Hermione giggled; Crookshanks’ way of waking Harry was to annoy him till he couldn’t sleep any more. Funnily enough, it was his way of waking her up as well.

“This morning he was batting my nose with his tail”, Harry added to his recounting, getting Hermione to smile more, “After he got me up he was waiting for me after my shower, demanding his reward for disturbing my rest. But then Scabbers saw him and bolted. Crookshanks did what any cat who sees a running rat does. He ran after scabbers.”


Harry hesitated a few moments before continuing, “‘Mione, before I say more, I want you to think; what you would do if a dog was chasing Crooks?” Hermione thought about it for a few seconds and then realised what Harry was implying. Even though she knew Crookshanks was fine she worried about what Ron had done. She was about to turn and go check on her cat when Harry continued; 

“All Ron did was shoot some sparks at Crookshanks, nothing extreme. He gave Crooks a fright so I took him down to the common room after I finished dressing and calmed him down. Problem is, before I left Ron worked himself up. I’m hoping that if we are in the Great Hall for breakfast in front of the Professors, when he sees you he won’t make a scene.”


Hemione thought about it. As much as she wanted to curse Ron for casting on her familiar, she had to admit that Harry was right to ask what she would do to something attacking Crookshanks. With that perspective sparks were reasonable, even if she didn’t feel that way. They continued on their journey down to the Great Hall, and Harry directed them to sit closer to the staff table, obviously hoping to prevent a confrontation between her and Ron.

Harry picked up her plate and began adding one of her favourite breakfasts since her potions mishap. Whole wheat toast, two poached eggs, and a kipper. “Need a good breakfast on the first day back,” he smiled at her as he got himself an identical plate, before sitting next to her. They began eating and chatting about what lessons they may have that day.

“So...think we will have a new class today?” asked Harry. Hermione considered it for a second, “Probably. We will have more than one lesson for each subject so we should have some every day.” Harry nodded his agreement. He was just about to continue when Ron entered the hall.


Ron was glaring directly at her. She suspected Harry’s plan to avoid a fight till Ron had a chance to cool down was about to fall apart. Ron came storming over to the two of them, choose a spot on the opposite side of the table, placing his hands on the table to support himself. He then began aggressively leaning over the Gryffindor table, all the time glaring at Hermione, “You need to get rid of that monster of yours! It tried to eat Scabbers.”

Hermione wasn’t sure how to answer. She wasn’t getting rid of her baby but she knew Ron was upset, “Ron, please calm down. I’m sorry. I’ll keep Crookshanks out of the boys’ dorms.” She answered back politely and kindly. She even promised to keep her cat from going into his bedroom. Surely that was enough?


It wasn’t enough; “Not good enough at all. Get. it. Out. Out of the castle! Or I swear I will.”

That was too much for Hermione. Yes, she understood Ron was upset, but that was no excuse for threatening her familiar, “You bloody dare Ronald, and I will curse you into next year!” She was standing now as well. She wasn’t going to let him threaten her Crookshanks like that.

“What’s going on here!” It seemed that Harry’s plan had been half successful. While sitting there hadn’t stopped Ron from starting a full-blown argument over the table, it had lead to Professor McGonagall quickly coming to see what was happening.


“The damn monster tried to eat my pet rat!” A group of Slytherins, that included Malfoy, had walked in just in time to hear Ron's announcement. They all started laughing hysterically. Hermione went a little red but focused on what was important, stopping Ron from hurting Crookshanks. 

“My cat is not a monster,” Professor McGonagall relaxed a little; she seemed to have taken Ron’s sentence the wrong way as well, she just had a better poker face, “I already apologized and said I would keep him out of the boys’ dorm. There was no need for you to threaten him!”

“That cat is a menace. You need to send it home. Scabbers was at Hogwarts first.”


“OK, THAT’S ENOUGH! Mr Weasley, let me remind you that cats are on the approved pet list at Hogwarts. Rats are not. Because, cats and owls both hunt rats. Bringing a rat to Hogwarts is the height of folly. Now enough of this nonsense, Miss Granger has given her word, she will do what she can. Now make yourself useful and hand these out.” She handed Ron a stack of timetables and returned to the staff table.

Ron grumbled but started handing out the timetables. He handed over Harry’s and Hermione’s then walked away, still grumbling. Hermione looked at her timetable, “Not a great morning; double Potions first thing and History of Magic. But, Ancient Runes, double Transfiguration and double Charms after that”, she then returned to her breakfast.


“Same for today”, Harry said as he arranged the food on his plate to his liking, “But I seem to have two free periods; one first thing Tuesday morning and one thursday morning? I also have a note to see Professor McGonagall. Why didn’t she talk to me just now?”

Hermione took an educated guess at the reason, “You only took two extra subjects. The free period is probably where the third would go. Professor McGonagall probably wants to talk to you about using your extra free time.”

Harry nodded along with her explanation, “That makes sense... I wonder what my options are?”

“I’m not sure, but I would guess you could pick up another class or maybe study to retake your Latin exam. You really did terribly in it.”

“Gah! No please, anything but more Latin. I like professor Babbling and I’m looking forward to Runes.” He glanced at the staff table then went quiet, “you know, Latin was the only subject with a good teacher I failed. Binns just drones on and on, and Snape is...well, Snape. I bet if someone else did the marking I would have passed Potions.”

Professor Binns and Professor Snape, Harry.”

They finished up their breakfast. “Come on we need to get our books.”

“Yay, five floors up to the common room, then two more to the dorms, just to come all the way back down.”


--- ϟϟϟ ---


Harry and Hermione arrived outside the potion dungeon with five minutes to spare. This left them alone with about half of the slytherins who had much less distances to travel to retrieve their books.

“Hey, Mogblood! What's this about you trying to eat rats now?” Malfoy sneered in his regular mocking drawl. Normally, Hermione would have ignored it but this was an opportunity to set the record straight.

“My half-Kneazle tried to eat Ron's rat, not me.”

“Yep, your Kneazle-half tried to eat a rat. Does a scabby rat make your mog mouth water?” The blond Slytherin burst out laughing, as did his contingent of supporters. Harry wasn’t going to let him keep talking to his girlfriend like this.


“Hey, Malfoy, why don’t you shut your gob before I stuff a rat in it and shut you up”, suddenly the laughter on Draco’s face was gone. And it was replaced by a look of pure fury.

“Think you're the big man, do you Potter? Sticking up for your pet?” 

Hermione whispered in his ear, “Harry just leave it. He’s not worth it.”

Harry looked at her, “No he’s not, but you are.” Hermione leaned against him, her arms too full of her bag and potion ingredients to give him her normal hug. The other Gryffindors and Slytherins started to show up.


Draco scoffed at them, “you think that half-breed Mudblood is better than me?”

Harry pretended to think about it for a few seconds, “Let’s see...on one hand we have a big mouth who runs to daddy everytime something doesn't go his way...” even a few of the Slytherins behind Draco smiled at that, “then on the other hand, I have an amazing witch who is smart, strong and also really cute. And you ask if I value her more than you. I value Ron’s rat more than you.” A few of the Gryffindors laughed until Snape opened the door to the classroom, killing all the laughter with his mere presence.


“Get in before I need to dock house points.” All the students began filing into the room. Hermione pulled him to the middle station in the front row. Where he would be right under Snape's nose.

“Let’s not sit right up front ‘Mione”, he tried to get her to move but Hermione refused to budge, “No Harry. With your eyes you need to be close to the board.” he sighed; he knew she was right but that didn’t mean he had to like it.


Snape stood at the front of the class. His voice barely above a whisper, carrying through the silent classroom easily, “Before we begin, pass your summer homework to the front. Any student who hasn’t done it will be spending the weekend here mincing fresh flubber worms.” There was a shuffle of papers as people passed their work forward. Tracey Davis passed Harry the papers from the stations behind him. He added his and Hermione’s homework and took the stack to Snape's desk.


Snape waved his wand and a piece of chalk jumped to life and wrote a recipe on the blackboard. “We will be seeing if the summer destroyed what little brains you lot have. You’ll be attempting to brew a shrinking solution.” It was a nasty potion for their first lesson after the holidays, but that was just the type of thing Snape did.

Harry checked the ingredients; daisy roots, caterpillars, leech juice and Wormwood were in their potion kits, but they would need rat spleen, Shrivelfig and cowbane. These would be in the store cupboard. Harry set up his tools first and set his cauldron of water over a low heat before he went to get the extra ingredients from the student stores. 


Thirty minutes later Harry was adding his sliced caterpillars infused with leech juice to his unfinished potion, when Snape called out, “Potter, Detention.” It took Harry a few seconds for His brain to catch up to what Snape had said. Then he protested.

“What!? Why!? I am standing here doing my work. What could I possibly have done?”

Snape sneered at him, “If you recall, I said at the start of the lesson that anyone who didn’t do their summer homework would be spending the weekend working for me. Surely your memory isn’t that short Potter?”


“But I did do the homework. And I handed it in. I can see it on your desk, you just read it.”

“I said you need to do your homework, I don't know who did it for you, though I have my suspicions.” He glared at Hermione, “But, you didn’t do this work, so detention.”

“But I did it.”

Hermione tried to help, “He really did profes-” Snape cut her off, “I do not recall asking you to speak Miss Granger”, he sneered at her, before turning his unruly attention back to Harry, “So...Mr Potter, you will be spending the weekend milking flobberworms. Without your protective gloves.”


“But I did the work.”

“Ten points from Gryffindor for lying to a teacher.”

“I’m not l-” there was a sound behind Harry, who turned back around to see that his cauldron was boiling over and flinging hot blobs of potion around. He was about to kill the flame when he heard Snape behind him; “Evanesco”, and his potion was gone. 

“Looks like a T for today's lesson as well. Most disappointing, I expect more from my owl students.”


Harry was angry. He hadn’t felt like this since his birthday and Aunt Marge. Harry wanted to throw his Cauldron at Snape; that potion was perfectly salvageable. A little lrish spring water and mint would have undone the effect of overheating and Snape knew that. But there was nothing Harry could do, so he just sat back at his station and cleared up his potion kit.


--- ϟϟϟ ---


Harry and Hermione were just leaving Runes. Their first Runes lesson had been really interesting professor Babbling, had given them a lecture on the uses of Runes in the magical world. It was absolutely fascinating; Harry hadn't realised just how much Runes could be used for. They were now on their way to Transfiguration, which luckily was only one floor down. They were soon in the Transfiguration classroom waiting for other students who hasn't arrived yet, if Harry recalled correctly, Ron and some of the others had Divination up in one of the two towers, and it would take them a few more minutes to arrive.


Hermione once again sat Harry at the front of the class where his poor vision would be less of a problem. The rest of the students began to filter in; Ron, Neville, Lavender and Parvati had all opted for Divination. There was also the odd Ravenclaw were in divination with them class with them, although there had been more of the claws in runes with him and Hermione.


All the divination students were staring at Neville and Harry as they walked in. Neville kept his face down, looking dejected. Harry wondered what in the world happened in Divination. The students took their seats waiting for Professor McGonagall to begin her lesson. Her lecture on animagi was interesting enough to put Harry's concerns right out of his head, at least until Professor McGonagall demonstrated her own animagus transformation. Right before Harry’s eyes, she transformed herself into a grey tabby cat with spectacle markings reminiscent of her glasses. While the students who had been in Runes all clapped at this, the students who had been in Divination did not. Professor McGonagall found this quite unusual.


“Ok, what's up with this class today? Not that it matters, but that is the first time my cat transfiguration has failed to get an applause from a whole class.” It was Lavender who replied, “Professor, we just had our first Divination lesson and…”

“Ah...I understand. So which of my students is dying this year?” The whole class looked at her in surprise. Eventually Neville raised his hand and said, “M-me, Professor...well, both Harry and I.” Harry Potter’s blood turned cold. The Divination teacher had predicted his death, his and Neville's death. When Harry had been looking into what subjects to take this year, he had been considering Divination and had looked up the professor. She was apparently descended from a celebrated  seer. While the subject as a whole might be useless to anyone without the sight, if anyone had the sight it was probably a descendant of Cassandra Trelawney. To hear that such a person had predicted his death made Harry felt as if his insides had suddenly taking a trip somewhere else.


Professor McGonagall started muttering quietly to herself, too quiet for any of the students to hear, and then said out loud, “ Mr Potter, Mr Longbottom, I should inform you that Sybil Trelawney has predicted the death of one student every year since her first class here, over 10 years ago. Every single one of those students is still very much alive”, she gave each Harry and Neville a look before continuing, “Divination is probably the most imprecise branch of magic that currently exists. While true prophecies do exist, they are rare. And, I am unaware of any that Professor Trelawney has made”, Her voice took on a slightly stressed tone at the word ‘Professor’.


“Mr Longbottom and Mr Potter, you both look perfectly healthy, so no getting out of your homework, and Mr Potter, no getting out of Quidditch practice either. I would really like to win the Quidditch cup this year.” That relaxed Harry; if Professor McGonagall was joking about Quidditch, there was no way anything serious was going to happen. The rest of the class laughed, Professor McGonagall’s love of quidditch was rather legendary and the only time she ever showed any favoritism to Gryffindor.


 The lesson continued on as a lecture on human transfiguration, a devilishly difficult aspect of transfiguration that they were only studying the theory of this year. They were just packing up, getting ready to go to lunch, when Professor McGonagall spoke up, ”Mr Potter, I would like to see you for a few minutes after the lesson please.”

“Yes Professor.” Harry assumed this was about the note that he had that morning on his timetable. The rest of the class packed up and made their way to lunch though Hermione was dawdling, intending to wait for Harry. Once everyone but Hermione had left, Professor McGonagall began to speak, “Mr Potter, I have two things to talk to you about. Firstly, I've had a number of complaints during morning break this morning about what happened in Professor Snape's class. Can you please tell me what happened in your own words?”


Harry hesitated for a few moments, before recounting his side of what happened, “I had no idea what was going on. I handed in my summer homework, just like I did in your lesson, but for some reason Professor Snape refused to believe that I had done my own work and gave me detention all weekend. And when I tried to say that it was my work he just started taking points from Gryffindor. Then while I tried to convince him it was my work my potion bubbled over, and even though it was saveable, Snape just vanished it and gave me a T.”

“Its professor Snape, Mr Potter.”

“Sorry professor.”

“Do you have any idea why Professor Snape thought someone else did your homework?”

“Not a clue professor. And I worked really hard on it this year.”

“You worked harder this summer?”

Hermione broke into the conversion, “Professor if I may?” At a nod from her Head of House she continued, “Professor, Harry spent this summer at my house. After his grades came my mother gave him a ‘pep talk’. He was then motivated to redo all of his summer homework. He put a lot of effort into it.” 


Professor McGonagall considered that, then went to her desk and flipped through the stack of homework that had been handed in that lesson and extracted one of them, presumably Harry’s. She began reading his homework and soon her eyes were growing wide, “This is a lot better than your normal work, Mr Potter. You barely scraped an ‘Exceeds Expectations’ in last years end of year exams. This here might just be worth an Outstanding. Harry, can you name me three of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration?”

Harry shrugged and answered easily enough, “food, transition metals and plants with magical properties.”


Professor McGonagall nodded, “Excellent, Harry! I will have a word with Professor Snape and see if I can get him to rescind the detention and the points as you were obviously not lying.”

Harry sighed a breath of relief; he really wasn't looking forward to spending two days milking flobberworms. The dried flobberworm mucus was extremely difficult to get out of your fingernails and clothes. “Thank you Professor.”

“I also wanted to talk to you about the free time in your timetable. How do you intend to use it?”

“Honestly Professor, I don’t know. What are my options? None of the other classes interest me that much. My math skills are OK, but not really good enough for Arithmancy. I don’t have the sight, so Divination wouldn’t do me any good. And I was raised in the muggle world; I know how to do all the muggle stuff. I kinda wish there was a wizards studies class.”


“You're not the first student to ask for such a class, many of the muggleborn students throughout the years have felt such a class would be useful, unfortunately Professor Dumbledore is, for some reason, set against the idea. Your other options are to study to retake one exam of one of your dropped subjects, your Latin was particularly bad, or for you to submit to me an idea for a personal project.”

Harry had never heard of this before, “A personal project? What sort of project would be allowed?”

“There is wide scope on such projects, one student who was attending Hogwarts used her project to invent the sneakoscope, for example. You have until the 1st of october to decide how you will use your time. That's exactly 4 weeks. Don't forget that I need to approve your project. Now off to lunch both of you, I need to talk to Severus.”

The two began making their way to lunch, a comfortable silence between them. Hermione wondered just who had complained about Snape, while Harry was wondering what he could do as a personal study project. He really didn’t want to be stuck retaking Latin. Snape's detention milking flobberworms seemed more appealing...or would, if he didn’t have to deal with Snape during a detention like that.


--- ϟϟϟ---


Saturday, 4th September


Harry was walking around the school looking for ideas; he had two projects in mind. Hermione was doing Arithmancy homework, which gave Harry a bit of time to think on his projects. The first one was for the free time in his schedule. The second one, the reason he took advantage of his alone time from Hermione's homework, was for her birthday. It was in fifteen days and was the first birthday she would have since they become a couple. He knew he didn’t have to worry about a present as he had gotten her trunk for her, but he felt he should still get her something small to give her on the day.


That was easy enough; a few sugar quills, just to have something to give her. Any more than that and he was sure ‘Mione would get angry at him ‘wasting’ his gold. The problem was he wanted to do something, but the only thing that came to mind was a party, which didn’t feel right. Hermione wasn’t the type to enjoy big parties. Harry was just taking a walk around the castle when he saw a red haired plait that was commonly worn by one of his classmates. He had been meaning to talk to her and jogged after her.


“Hey Susan! Wait up a sec!”

The redhead stopped and looked around, seeing Harry jogging up to her. He saw her hesitate for a second before stealing her nerves. Noticing she was a little nervous, Harry stopped about ten feet from her before he started talking;

“Hey Susan, you got a minute?” Harry tried to look as least intimidating as possible.

  Susan still looked skittish, but she nodded, “Your finally gonna have a go at me for saying you attacked Justin last year?”


Harry then realised why Susan was nervous. Luckily, her fears were in vain, “Nope.” She looked surprised, so Harry elaborated, “I mean, yeah, i’m still a little pissed that everyone thought I had problems with muggleborns, even after I started dating Hermione.” Harry took a calming breath; if he kept talking about that, this would turn in to the conversation Susan was worried about and Harry wouldn't get the information he wanted, “Sorry. No, I wanted to talk about someone I think may be family of yours; Amelia Bones, director of DMLE?”

Susan’s demeanor changed instantly. “Why won’t you people leave her alone!? My aunt is not the latest bit of gossip for your entertainment!” Susan turned and started to storm off angrily.

“Susan, wait!” Harry went after her.

“Piss off Harry!”


He was a little angry now. All he wanted was to ask after Director Bones; she had helped him a lot over the summer and Harry was worried about her, and here Susan was, accusing him of gossiping about people. Something she had spent most of last year doing about him , “Yeah, do me a favour and remember that next time I’m the center of those rumours!” He called after her, causing her to flinch and stop walking away. But he wasn’t done, “Oh, and I met your aunt over the summer. She is helping me with something. I only found out she was attacked a few days ago and wanted to know if she was Ok.” Harry then turned and started walking away himself.


“Harry, wait!” Susan called Harry considered just continuing to walk off for a second but stopped. 

“I'm sorry...your right. That is how I treated you last year. Did you really meet aunty over the summer?” Harry turned back to her and nodded, “I...I did some accidental magic over the summer. It...revealed a few things. Director Bones was helping to sort stuff out. She was really good about everything. I hope she is going to be OK. The idea that someone could just attack your memories like that...” Harry shuddered at the thought.


Susan shuddered as well before replying, “Yeah, I'm not sure what I would do if I found someone had altered my memories. Aunty is a little shaken by everything but she is tough. She won't let this stop her. They don’t think too much of her memory was altered, so that's a relief. They are planning to have her back at her job by Halloween.” 


The two chatted for a little longer as they walked down the corridor they were in, before going their separate ways.


Author’s Notes:


Tights*- in the UK tights are what Americans refer to as “pantyhose”. What Americans call “tights” Brits call “leggings”.