Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Moments in Love

The Scarlet Claw

by Gandalfs_Beard 0 reviews

A reporter causes trouble for Harry and Hermione...

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst,Drama,Romance - Characters: Harry,Hermione - Published: 2017-07-16 - 5902 words

Neville was still struggling badly with Summoning Charms, and he was the only one to be assigned extra homework. Harry and Hermione did their best to coach him. But even after Hermione had corrected his pronunciation for the umpteenth time and he’d finally got it, Neville was still having problems and he was nearly in tears.

“I’ll never get this!” Neville moaned. “Maybe I really am a Squib!”

“Don’t be silly Neville,” said Hermione kindly. “Of course you’re not. You’ll get it eventually... you just need more confidence!” But the look she gave Harry suggested that she was at a loss. Neville appeared to be doing everything correctly now as far as Hermione could tell.

Harry’s brows furrowed pensively.

“Maybe... maybe something is wrong with your wand Neville,” Harry suggested. “Ron’s wand didn’t work very well in Second Year when it was broken!”

“I don’t think so,” Neville muttered, casting his eyes down. “Gran’s right... I’ll never be as good as my father. I don’t deserve his wand...”

Hermione clapped her hand to her mouth in horror; Harry’s face darkened, then his brows furrowed in thought again. Neville’s eyes widened when he realised what he had just let slip.

“Oh... no,” Neville said quickly, “she never quite says it like... like that. But... but I know she thinks it...”

“Wait,” Harry interjected, “that’s your dad’s wand?”

“Er... yeah! Why?” asked Neville, puzzled by the question.

“Well... er... don’t take this the wrong way, but it might just not be meant for you Neville...” Harry replied.

“What do you mean Harry?” Hermione asked.

“The wand might just be incompatible with Neville, Mr Ollivander told me that the wand chooses the wizard.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense Harry!” Hermione peered at Harry, perplexed. “How can a wand choose anything? They would have to be sentient.”

“I dunno,” Harry admitted. “All I know for certain is what Mr Ollivander told me. I just assumed that he meant that wands have to be compatible in some way with their owners to be the most effective. We had to go through dozens of wands before he thought of the... er... the right wand for me. Didn’t you have to?”

“Not really,” Hermione replied. “I think we only tried about three or four, and I... I just really liked this wand...”

“Because the wand ‘liked’ you,” said Harry, raising his eyebrows. “Look... I don’t really know how it works - I mean, Charlie’s old wand seemed to work well enough for Ron before he broke it in Second Year, but I expect Ron’s new wand works even better for him. Some wands just might not work properly at all for the wrong owner.”

“You... you really think so Harry?” said Neville, looking hopeful for the first time.

“Yeah... I do!” Harry responded. “I reckon Mr Ollivander ought to know. I think you should try and get a new wand Neville!”

“Gran’ll never go for it though,” Neville said glumly. “She’ll just think I have to try harder...”

“Why don’t you just order one yourself? Mr Ollivander doesn’t mind making trips to Hogwarts - he did for Ron.” Harry gave Neville an encouraging look.

“Er... I... I suppose I could. I do have some allowance money...” Neville said uncertainly, glancing at Hermione.

Hermione bit her lip thoughtfully as she quietly considered things. She had to concede that what Harry had told them only made sense, given Mr Ollivander’s expertise in the matter of wands. Finally Hermione passed Neville her own wand, hoping that it would be more effective.

“Try summoning the blackboard duster, Neville,” she said.

Neville gulped and nodded. Concentrating with all his might, Neville muttered the incantation, enunciating clearly, “Accio.”

Neville was shocked when the duster leapt from the ledge of the blackboard and flopped on the floor several feet away from him. Harry grinned at him.

“That’s excellent Neville!” Hermione squeaked happily. “Just imagine what you could do with your own wand. Harry, you’re brilliant!”

Hermione was so excited that she grabbed Harry and kissed him heatedly while Neville goggled and turned beet red. Hermione let go of Harry and blushed. Fortunately, the three of them were the only ones left in Professor Flitwick’s classroom.

“Thanks Harry!” said Neville, looking much more cheerful as they departed for lunch. “I’ll see you guys in a bit... I’m going to send a letter to Ollivander’s right now!”

Harry still seemed to be about as popular as the Blast Ended Skrewts with most of the school, so he and Hermione ate lunch under a willow by the lake with Luna. After lunch, he and Hermione headed to the dungeons for Potions. Hermione bristled as they drew nearer to the Slytherins waiting outside of the classroom.

Harry looked closer to see what had upset Hermione. He snorted and rolled his eyes. The Slytherins were all wearing badges which bore the message Support Cedric Diggory - the REAL Hogwarts Champion in glowing red letters.

“Like them Potter?” chortled Draco Malfoy. “That’s not all they do, look!”

Malfoy pressed the badge and it flashed bright green, changing to POTTER STINKS. The Slytherins roared with laughter.

“Oh, that’s hilarious - really witty!” Hermione snapped sarcastically.

Ron was standing with Seamus and Dean by the wall. He started to snigger, but caught himself when Seamus and Dean raised their eyebrows at him. Ron shut-up; as much as he despised Harry at the moment, Ron didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and think that he was on Malfoy’s side.

Malfoy looked like he was about to say something else, but thought better of it when he saw Professor Snape approaching. Snape regarded the scene coldly, narrowing his eyes when he saw the flashing badges.

“Potter - you are excused from today’s lesson - you are wanted by Bagman and Crouch in classroom fifteen for the wand weighing and the Daily Prophet’s Triwizard Champion photo shoot,” said the Potions Master.

Harry groaned and turned pink, rubbing at his itching scar. He had known it was coming, but more publicity was the last thing in the world he wanted. Hermione shot daggers with her eyes at Ron and Malfoy, who had both snorted loudly and derisively at the mere mention of Harry’s photo-call.

“You may as well take Granger with you,” Snape added, much to Harry and Hermione’s surprise. As they turned to leave the dungeon, they were both even more stunned to hear Snape addressing the Slytherins in the passageway.

“Remove those badges at once,” the Potions Master snapped. “I will not tolerate distractions in my classroom.”


“Aha, there he is! The Fourth Champion - splendid!” Bagman beamed when he spotted Harry entering classroom fifteen with Hermione.
Harry felt his chest tighten when Viktor Krum and Cedric Diggory both scowled at him, and he glanced at the others in the room. Hermione squeezed his hand comfortingly. Fleur gave them both a smile.

Crouch was there as well of course, with one of the Aurors currently stationed at the castle as security for the tournament. A buxom witch with heavy makeup and brassy hair done up in stiff curls regarded Harry shrewdly through her bejeweled spectacles. Harry presumed that the wizard accompanying her was the photographer, as he was setting up a camera on a tripod.

The brassy looking witch approached Harry slinkily, batting her eyelashes at him. Unable to help herself, a barely audible little hiss escaped Hermione’s lips and she scooted closer to Harry.

“Well, well, the Youngest Champion,” the witch said with a breathy voice, “I’m Rita Skeeter, reporter for the Daily Prophet. I don’t suppose you’d mind giving us an interview for the Daily Prophet’s readers, would you deary?”

Harry could feel Hermione bristling next to him, and he knew the reporter was trouble. The flash of a camera bulb went off.

“I suppose,” Harry responded stiffly. The woman glanced over at the broom closet, but seeing Hermione firmly attached to Harry’s arm, she thought better of it. Rita Skeeter’s eyes narrowed, and she sat down at a nearby desk instead.

“Lovely!” she said with a toothy grin which reminded Harry of a crocodile, “Well then, let’s get right to it shall we?”

Skeeter pulled a notebook from her handbag and set it on the desk, her long thickly painted fingernails giving Hermione the impression of scarlet talons. A long green feather-quill emerged from the handbag and darted across the notepad, scribbling by itself.

“So Harry...”

“Mr Potter! You can call me Mr Potter. Only my friends call me Harry.”

Skeeter’s eyes narrowed even more, and her smile stiffened.

“Of course, my apologies Mr Potter... So, how did you decide to enter the tournament, given your tender age?”

“I didn’t,” Harry replied firmly. “Someone else entered my name without my approval. But I don’t know who did it.”

Rita looked incredulous. “Come now Ha... Mr Potter. Everyone loves a rebel. You can tell us the truth.”

“I just did,” said Harry, his blood beginning to boil.

“And Harry’s not a liar!” snapped Hermione.

The quill darted across the page, but Harry ignored it. Rita shifted uncomfortably and decided to try another tack.

“So Mr Potter, how do you think your parents would feel about their twelve year old son participating in such a dangerous tournament? Proud? Worried? Angry?”

It was Harry’s turn to look disbelieving. He wondered if she had a dreadful research department. Or was the reporter just trying to get a rise out of him? Judging by the way Hermione’s grip tightened on his arm, he thought that perhaps it was the latter.

“I’m fourteen...” said Harry through gritted teeth.

“...And this interview is over!” interjected a very welcome, calming voice. Harry and Hermione both looked up with all too obvious relief to see Professor Dumbledore, who had just arrived with Mr Ollivander.

“Dumbledore, how simply delightful it is to see you again,” Rita simpered, fluttering her long dark eyelashes at the headmaster.

“As enchanting as ever to see you, Ms Skeeter!” said Dumbledore warmly, his clear blue eyes twinkling, “I must say, I was thoroughly entertained by your description of me in your last article. How did you put it again? ... Ah yes, ‘obsolete dingbat’ I believe.”

“In any case,” Dumbledore continued, giving Harry a wink, “it is time for the wand-weighing. You shall have plenty of time afterwards for photos and contriving scandalous narratives, Ms Skeeter.”

Ollivander seemed to be quite eager to examine the Champions’ wands, beginning with Fleur’s.

“Oh my,” said the wandmaker, his bushy white eyebrows rising, “Dear me... the core appears to be...”

“An ‘air from ze ‘ead of a Veela, Oui...” Fleur began proudly. She halted suddenly, remembering her father’s warning. Fleur’s eyes darted anxiously towards Rita Skeeter and the reporter’s leering photographer.

After Mr Ollivander concluded his examination of Fleur’s wand, he moved on to Cedric’s, and then Viktor Krum’s. Ollivander’s pale eyes lit up when Harry pulled his gleaming wand from his holster.

“Aaaah, yes! How well I remember... Mr Potter.”

Harry remembered all too well himself. He glanced nervously at Dumbledore and Hermione, the only two people in the world besides himself and the wandmaker who knew that his wand shared a core in common with Voldemort’s - a phoenix feather from Fawkes’ tail. Fortunately, Ollivander seemed to know better than to reveal that juicy tidbit of information to the public at large.

But the thrilled wandmaker spent the most time examining Harry’s wand, noting the care that Harry had given to it, and remarking on the exceptional quality of the holster, which had apparently been crafted by an old colleague. Harry was very pleased to meet with Ollivander’s approval. Harry’s wand was his most important possession, and he had paid as much attention to its upkeep as he had to his Nimbus 2000 and his Firebolt.

“Splendid Mr Potter!” Ollivander exclaimed with a rapturous expression after shooting a fountain of wine from the tip. “Still in perfect condition.”

Harry let out a sigh of relief and grinned, suddenly remembering something else important.

“Mr Ollivander... er... my friend Neville - Neville Longbottom - he needs a new wand. He sent you a letter by owl earlier today, but I was wondering...”

“Say no more my dear boy!” Ollivander interjected, beaming at Harry. “I give all of my clients excellent service of course, but I am more than happy to go the extra mile for any friend of yours Mr Potter. Your friend Mr Longbottom shall have a new wand before the day is out!”


It had been two days since their first training session with Professor Moody, and the second session was just as hard and painful as the first, if not worse, despite spending half the time practicing spells. On top of the aches and pains from the rigorous calisthenics, Moody had insisted that they practice stunning each other.
“You need to know what to expect,” he growled. “The more experience you have bein’ stunned, the easier it gets to deal with the effects.”

Moody berated Harry more than once for holding back and being too soft on Hermione. Finally Mad Eye decided that they’d had enough for their first full lesson. He grimaced at the two students who lay groaning on the mat and pulled several vials of potion from a pocket in his robes.

“Down the hatch both o’ you!” Professor Moody grunted. “Pain potions, one each for now, and one each at bedtime - I got ‘em from Pomfrey. Be sure to take ‘em or she’ll have my hide! And trainin’s only gonna get harder before it gets easier when I start teachin’ you muggle hand to hand fighting.”

Mad Eye gave Harry and Hermione one last look as they swigged their first vial, then lurched out of the Room of Requirement with a snort, muttering something about “compromising the training programme” under his breath.

Despite still being in a lot of pain as the potions started to kick in, Hermione giggled.

“What’s so funny?” Harry groaned as he got back to his feet.

“Professor Moody! I think he’s taking it easy on us...”

“Bloody Hell! Are you joking?” Harry asked as he helped Hermione stagger to her own feet. “He tried to make me stun you to oblivion...”

“And vice versa...” Hermione agreed. “But he’d be working us twice as hard, and I doubt we’d be getting any pain potions otherwise. I expect he had to adjust his training plans a bit to get Dumbledore to agree to training you and me at all, Harry. We’re younger and probably smaller than what he’s used to dealing with - normally Moody would be training Hogwarts graduates.”

Harry’s eyebrows popped up. He hadn’t considered that angle. Harry felt a sudden surge of gratitude towards Dumbledore as the pain potion really began to kick in - both for allowing Mad-Eye Moody to train him, and for keeping the battle-hardened ex-Auror from going overboard.

As much as Harry would have liked Hermione to stay in his private rooms with him every night, he knew that even with Hermione’s plans it would still be a bit risky, and they had both agreed that just a few nights a week would be best. But tonight seemed a good night for a nice cuddle, so they shuffled back to Gryffindor Tower to pick up Hermione’s things.

It wasn’t too bad in the Gryffindor common room, as most of the Gryffindors were happy enough that one of their own was a Champion, even if they did think that Harry had somehow rigged the Goblet to get himself in. And the few who were cross with Harry, or jealous, knew better than to say anything out loud in front of the rest. It especially felt good to see the friends who believed in him, and Neville was positively ecstatic when Harry and Hermione appeared.

“Thanks for telling Ollivander about me, Harry!” Neville squeaked. “My new wand is smashing! I can summon anything right to my hand now.”

Ron looked up from his game of Exploding Snap with Seamus and Dean, scowling. An odd thought occurred to Ron when he overheard Neville thanking Harry for helping him get a new wand. But as soon as Harry caught his eye, the thought evaporated from Ron’s mind. Scowl firmly back in place, Ron returned his attention to the game.

For a moment, Harry thought he had seen something different in Ron when he had glanced Ron’s direction - he thought he’d seen a flicker of the Ron he knew. But it was gone so quickly that Harry wondered if it was a trick of light. Harry briefly considered having another go at trying to convince Ron, but he was so bloody knackered - and Ron’s glare looked as horrid as it had for days - that Harry shook his head and decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

The lure of Hermione’s comforting soon-to-be presence in Harry’s quarters was too strong. Harry’s attention was caught by the reappearance of Hermione with her book-bag - no doubt containing her night-things and a change of clothes for the morning - as she whispered a giggly goodnight to Parvati and Lavender.


Harry wished Hermione didn’t have to leave when he heard her alarm go off. Even with the pain potions that Professor Moody had given them, they had both felt too sore to do much more than snuggle and kiss a bit. He was grateful for how well the pain potions had worked though - expecting that they would still be feeling horrible the morning after both being on the receiving end of so many stunning spells otherwise. They had both faded early after the dinner which Dobby had been thrilled to bring them.
“That tickles Harry,” Hermione giggled when Harry brushed her tawny-brown tresses aside and kissed her neck as she stirred awake, trailing his kisses until he reached her lips. “And if you keep doing that, I won’t want to leave...” she added breathlessly.

“Hmmm... That's the general idea!” said Harry with a grin. He sighed as he watched her get ready to leave before the rest of the school awoke.

“I’ll see you at breakfast Harry,” said Hermione, giving him one last kiss before departing under his invisibility cloak.

Harry was managing to endure most meals in the Great Hall now, as he had Hermione and a phalanx of the most loyal Gryffindors surrounding him. Neville on one side, Parvati and Lavender next to Hermione, and the Twins across the table from him, Ginny nearby. And he was more glad of that than ever when Hedwig arrived, dropping the Daily Prophet in his lap.

When Harry spotted the picture, Harry knew that things were just about to get a whole load worse - and not just for him now. Staring at Harry from the front page of the Daily Prophet was his own stony visage next to Hermione’s glaring bushy head. And Rita Skeeter’s poison quill had turned Harry’s taciturn responses and silences into a load of pathetic rubbish... not to mention making Hermione’s loyalty into something disgustingly cheap and tawdry.

It would appear that young Harry’s tragic past has caught up with him at Hogwarts, and spurred him to become a dangerous risk taker who is not above bending the rules to prove himself to his dead parents and recapture his past glory.

“I suppose I get my strength from my parents,” says young Harry. “I know they’d be very proud of me if they could see me now... Yes, sometimes at night, I still cry about them, I’m not ashamed to admit it.... I know nothing will hurt me during the tournament because they’re watching over me...”

And apparently young Harry has found love at Hogwarts - or has he? The twelve year old orphan is frequently seen arm in arm with muggleborn witch - and older woman - Hermione Granger: a plain woman with frizzy hair and teeth like a jackrabbit.

One can only wonder what to make of this unlikely pairing - a famous young boy trying to live up to the mythology built around his tragic past, with a plain woman of low birth and great ambition.

Who is really the master in this relationship? Is famous young Harry Potter finding his natural pubescent instincts fulfilled and encouraged by a womanly playmate eager to flaunt her feminine assets? Or could Granger be taking advantage of young Harry’s fame and fortune to advance her own lowly status in the wizard world?

What must poor Harry’s parents think as they look down from their etheric perch, having given their lives in the service of the Ministry, only to see the possibility of their massive estate and business empire falling into the clutches of a Shrewd Succubus?

Harry glanced at Hermione who was as white as a ghost, hand covering her mouth and tears streaming down her cheeks. As Harry stared again at the text, the sick feeling in his stomach turned into a bubbling cauldron of rage and anxiety. He looked up at the staff table where McGonagall, Flitwick, and Pomfrey were peering at their copies of the newspaper and turning violent shades of purple which would have made Uncle Vernon proud, while Moody, Snape, and Dumbledore shared dark looks, and Hagrid peered at Harry and Hermione worriedly.

There was no question about it; things were much worse now! If anything could cement people’s opinions of Harry as a tragic, lying, attention seeking pampered prince it would be this... But Harry was getting used to that! It was the scurrilous attack on Hermione’s character which had him so enraged that he couldn’t speak.

For the first time in his life, Harry truly wished someone else besides Voldemort and Wormtail dead, but he found it wasn’t helping very much. He imagined dropping Rita Skeeter into a pit brimming with Blast Ended Skrewts.

Harry wondered how long it would be until other students noticed the article. He didn’t have long to wait; barely a few minutes after the last owl departed, heads turned and the whispering began. Some Slytherins erupted into laughter, not even bothering to whisper.

“I’m surprised you let your pet Mudblood eat at the table Potter! When are you going to put it on a leash?” Malfoy shouted.

“No! She’s a Succubus remember. Potter’s the one on a leash,” Pansy shrieked gleefully.

Harry’s hand flexed, twitching towards his wand as his cheeks blazed with fury.

Ron sniggered loudly, earning himself vicious glares from Parvati, Lavender, Neville, and Ginny. Unable to look Harry in the face, Dean got up with a sick expression and departed the Hall, leaving Seamus sitting with Ron by himself. Luna and Padma, who had been approaching the Gryffindor table looking concerned, frowned at Ron and the Slytherins. They briefly conferred in whispers, then Luna headed for the Staff-table.

Fred and George glanced over at the Slytherin table, eyes narrowed, then back at Ron who was still chortling.


“Yes Fred?”

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

George smirked. “Of course I am.”

Harry gave a start when he felt a hand rest gently on his shoulder. He looked up to see Dumbledore standing behind him with Luna.

“Harry, I believe that it would be in your best interests for you and Miss Granger to take the rest of the day off from classes,” Dumbledore suggested in a kind but commanding tone.

“Perhaps spend some time away from the other pupils,” the Headmaster continued. “There is little that I can do now that the student body has unfortunately become aware of this insipid piece of propaganda, but I shall do what I can to ameliorate the damage...”

“Miss Lovegood has proposed that I contact her father in an effort to counter some of these sickening insinuations in the pages of the Quibbler, and I believe that to be a wise course of action. In the meantime, I think a visit to Madam Pomfrey is in order,” Dumbledore concluded.

“Th...thanks Luna, Professor Dumbledore...” Harry managed to croak as he led Hermione away from the table.

Madam Pomfrey was already waiting in the Hospital Wing with several vials of calming draughts in her hands. Hermione tearfully whispered something to Madam Pomfrey.

“If you’re absolutely certain dear!” the school nurse replied.

Hermione nodded and went behind a curtain with Madam Pomfrey. Harry had already guessed what Hermione had asked the nurse for before she returned. Hermione couldn’t look Harry in the eye when she got back. Harry put one arm around Hermione and gently stroked her wet cheek with his other hand.

“Hermione, you have always been the prettiest, the most gorgeous girl I’ve ever seen,” Harry reassured her adamantly. “It’s... it’s alright that you had Pomfrey shrink your front teeth a bit if... if that’s what you really wanted anyway - but I want you to know that you never would’ve had to do that for my sake! I think you were perfect just the way you were before... and... and that you’re perfect just the way you are now.”

“Don’t you dare listen to that horrid Skeeter Cow! ...What does she know? ...she’s just a painted clown!” Harry vehemently continued as Hermione sobbed in his arms.

“You don’t have to change a single thing for me - I love your hair - and I love YOU no matter what!” Harry concluded, giving Hermione tender kisses.

Madam Pomfrey listened to Harry’s declaration from behind her office door and dabbed at her own tears with a hanky.


The next couple of days were worse for Hermione than they had ever been at Hogwarts, but Harry was pleased that Parvati, Lavender, and Luna and Ginny did their best to comfort and hug her at every opportunity. Owls had arrived the following morning with the post, dropping dozens of letters into Hermione’s porridge. Dumbledore had arrived within moments and vanished the lot of it.

“It is undoubtedly all hate mail Miss Granger,” he sighed. “There is no point in opening any of it. The professors and I shall sort through it. If there is anything of value, I shall pass it along to you later.”

The Slytherins had stepped up their campaign of harassment, regularly quoting Skeeter’s article at both of them with great delight. Harry found himself with an itchy trigger finger, desperately wanting to hex Malfoy and his gang to oblivion.

“Want a tissue Potter? In case you start blubbering about your parents in Transfiguration?” Malfoy chortled as Crabbe and Goyle guffawed.

“No need Draco. I’m sure the gold-digging jackrabbit will let him wipe his nose on her skirt!” sniggered Millicent Bulstrode.

“If you ask me, the Mudblood looks more like a chipmunk,” Pansy Parkinson giggled.

“Just ignore it Harry,” said Hermione, glancing worriedly at his furious features.

But Harry couldn’t ignore it. He was used to the insults against him, but putting up with some of the nastier comments made about Hermione severely strained his temper. “Gold-digging Mudblood” was among the kinder comments directed at Harry’s girlfriend. Hermione had to grab Harry’s hand more than once to stop him from hexing Draco and Pansy when he heard the words “slag” and “whore” among their choice descriptives.

And Ron appeared more determined than ever not to speak to Harry directly at all since Rita Skeeter’s article had come out, which seemed to have confirmed Ron’s belief that Harry was really enjoying all the attention. Whatever clue that Harry had briefly seen the other night which indicated that Ron might be having second thoughts about his attitude seemed to have vanished completely.

To make matters worse, Ron was less reticent to join in laughing at the Slytherins’ nasty comments, as many students from the other Houses were also joining in. The only ray of sunshine was that Snape had caught Malfoy chucking one of the Potter Stinks badges to a bewildered Ron during Potions and given them both detention together pickling rats brains.

“I knew you’d come around eventually Weasleby,” Malfoy sneered when Ron had chortled at one of Draco’s comments. “Here, this is for you,” said Malfoy, tossing a badge in Ron’s direction.

Ron had caught the Potter Stinks badge with a look of confusion as Snape thundered down upon the both of them.

Finally, on the third morning since the Daily Prophet article had come out, Owls began dropping free Quibblers on every table.

Harry’s stomach flipped when he read the Quibbler. He hated getting more attention, and he especially didn't like that it had revealed that Uncle Vernon (unnamed) had received two Ministry warnings for treating him badly. But Harry could see how that might make Hermione a more sympathetic character to a wizarding audience.

Harry decided that he could live with other people knowing that his Uncle had hit him on a fairly regular basis, if it meant that they’d be nicer to Hermione. There was also a bit about Hermione’s life at Hogwarts: how she had struggled against long odds to find friendship and worked very hard to achieve her successes.

The Quibbler article went on to counter the Prophet’s article by showing Harry and Hermione both to be brave and compassionate rather than rule breaking glory seekers. It mentioned that they had become good friends when Harry had saved Hermione from a Mountain Troll. And though certain details were left out, it covered Harry and Hermione’s critical role in saving Ginny Weasley and killing the Basilisk in Second Year.

Among the other incidents covered by Mr Lovegood’s article, Madam Bones - the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and Susan’s Aunt - was quoted as praising Harry and Hermione for their courageous acts during the terror attack at the Quidditch World Cup in bringing two criminals to justice.

Finally, Mr Lovegood had somehow managed to convince the Gringotts Goblins to reveal that the Potters’ “Massive Estate” and “Business Empire” amounted to little more than a single family dwelling, one lonely vault with a tidy sum of gold, and modest dividends from sensible investments; a small fortune befitting a comfortable upper middle class lifestyle.

Hermione couldn’t help noting with much satisfaction that there was not a single word about crumple-horned snorkacks in the entire special edition of the Quibbler. But there were some extremely interesting features about the darkening mood of the Wizengamot, and an editorial upbraiding the Wizengamot for sacking Cornelius Fudge. The employment of Dementors by the Ministry was also brought into question. The Quibbler had apparently taken on a decidedly hard-hitting and credible political bent.

A murmur of confusion filled the Great Hall as students argued and tried to reconcile the two utterly different narratives. Many were as adamant as ever that the Daily Prophet had the right of it, and many were just bewildered - not sure what to believe - but a number of Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs began to look ashamed. Cho glanced across the Hall at Harry and bit her lip in consternation.

Harry turned beet red when Neville, Parvati, Lavender, and Ginny all peered at him tearfully. Lavender opened her mouth to say something, but Hermione shook her head warningly, knowing that Harry didn’t want to talk about that.

Fred and George glanced at Harry, and then each other with shocked expressions on their faces, as perplexed as anyone that Harry had never mentioned being beaten by his Uncle. They looked down the table at Ron, who was oblivious and uninterested in the Quibbler, having just received a mysteriously unmarked package in the post.

Ron had been so thrilled to receive a parcel - even such a small one - that he didn’t bother looking to see who it had come from. He tore it open excitedly. He wasn’t sure what it was though. It seemed a bit too small to be a belt and a bit too large to be a watch. In any case, there was no watch-fob on the leather strap. Instead, it was dotted with metal studs.

As Ron puzzled over it, the leather strap wriggled in his hands and came to life. He dropped it with a gasp of fright, but the thing flew at him from the table and wrapped itself around his neck. Ron whimpered and grabbed at it, trying vainly to unbuckle it as the buckle had vanished, leaving only a solid metal ring and an unfurling chain in its place.

The other end of the chain whizzed past Seamus’s startled face and scrambled eggs spilled from his mouth. With a rattle and a loud clink, The chain met two others in the middle of the Great Hall which appeared to be attached to Slytherins. Pansy and Draco both shrieked as the chains began to tighten, dragging them away from the Slytherin table.

Ron was pulled to his feet and he staggered across the floor moaning until he found himself nose to nose with the two Slytherins. The three of them struggled, but that wasn’t the worst of it. Seconds after meeting in the middle of the Hallway, their robes and school uniforms vanished.

Pansy, Ron, and Malfoy all turned crimson in mortification as they shivered in their underwear. Fred and George collapsed on the floor howling with laughter as they watched the three of them stumbling out of the Great Hall together. Pansy continued shrieking as Ron unavoidably kept bumping into her.

“Can I open my eyes now?” Ginny asked.

“It’s alright Ginny. They’re gone now,” Lavender said with a big grin.

Parvati was crying from laughing so hard, and she had nearly fallen out of her own chair. Neville smirked. Hermione couldn’t help herself. She felt terribly guilty about it, but she hadn’t been able to stop herself from giggling.

“You two are dreadful...” she finally managed to admonish the Twins, but with little indication of any actual indignation. A part of her felt that this had been a long time coming.

“Oi, we resent that!” chortled George.

“You can’t prove a thing!” said Fred nonchalantly.

Harry grinned and shook his head at the Twins, simply glad to no longer be the centre of attention as the Hall filled with laughter. Fred raised his eyebrows questioningly at his twin; George shrugged in response. Luna and Padma giggled and waved at Harry and Hermione from across the Hall, looking rather pleased with themselves.

Harry squeezed Hermione’s hand under the table and they finished their breakfast in peace.
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