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Chapter 12 : You've Got to be Kidding Me
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The next morning I woke up earlier than everyone else as usual, so I silently dressed and then walked down the dormitory stairs to the empty common room. Checking my neon green watch I saw it was a quarter after six. Knowing I could read for a bit I walked out and down to the Great Hall, pondering yesterday's events as I went.
I was extremely worried about Neville, I had waited up a while for him but he had never come in. A broken wrist certainly shouldn't have held him up in the hospital wing all night. Maybe if I went and asked Madam Pomfrey again real nicely she'd let me in to see him.
I sat down to my breakfast and pulled a book out to read while I ate. I actually enjoyed my early breakfasts a lot because I could read without having to try and hide just how fast I could read. However, as I got caught up in the woes of Edgar Allan Poe, I didn't hear Professor McGonagall enter the hall just in time to stare as she watched my speedy page turning.
A while later the hall began to fill up so I tucked my book away, and nursed a cup of tea. Which I nearly spilled as I spotted Neville heading my way. I jumped up in a rush and hugged him.
"Where have you been? I thought for sure you would have been back last night?" I asked pulling away from my best friend.
He looked confused for a moment and I noticed that he looked exhausted, but then he said, "Ah, well I sort of got locked out because I forgot the password. But that's not all..."
I looked at him curiously as we sat down and Neville told me about the events of last night, I glanced at Harry, Ron, and Hermione throughout the story but didn't say a word. That was at least until Neville got to the part about a three headed dog they had come across.
With a hushed exclamation I said, "You ran across a Cerberus in the forbidden corridor...sounds like you had a fun night." I finished with a bit of a plotting smile. I was a bit of an adrenalin junky, and I was a bit disappointed I had missed out on the chance for an adventure and a rush.
"Fun? You mean terrifying!" Neville said.
I smiled mischievously and said, "Whatever you say, Nev. Whatever you say."
A little more than a week later, the focus of everyone in the great hall was caught when two sets of owls came in carrying oddly shaped packages tied up with brown wrappings. Everyone watched groups of six owls fly their packages and Harry and I started a bit in surprise when a package landed in front of each of us at the Gryffindor table. Not a moment later two more owls swooped in and dropped letters, placed on the packages like a cherry atop an ice cream sundae.
Harry and I both tore into our letters, as the majority of the hall looked on curiously. I looked down at the handwriting I recognized as Professor McGonagall's reading that in the oddly shaped package was my new broom and direct instructions not to open it at the table, along with telling me that I was to meet with Oliver Wood at the Quidditch pitch at seven. It also mentioned that my new broom was an American model called the ThunderSky. Behind that was a letter from my parents, it read:
We are so proud of you! You Professor tried to explain a bit of what Quidditch was to us in her letter, but we didn't understand much past that it was some sort of sports team. You'll have to explain it more to us when you come home over Christmas. Even though we don't know exactly what it is your doing, we know that you're doing your best and will kick some butt! (By the way your father said that not me, Mom) We can't wait to hear from you soon, be sure to practice hard and learn a lot. Good luck, and we hope you like the broom, Professor McGonagall said you needed one but offered to pick it out for us since we don't know anything about this Quidditch.
Love you Forever,
Mom and Dad
I smiled as I read the short letter and decided later I would write to them thanking them profusely for the broom, and hopefully explaining a bit more about the sport I was to play. I showed Neville the letter from McGonagall, and glanced at Harry to see him doing to same for Ron, and Ron had a grin a mile wide. I saw Harry and Ron leave the hall, and I quickly went about finishing my breakfast so I could stash my broom before classes.
About five minutes later Neville and I were hurrying up to the common room, I hurried through the portrait and dashed up the girls' staircase. I quickly tucked the still wrapped broom under my bed before heading back down the stairs and off to classes with Neville.
My mind often wondered during my classes that day, whether it was to the new broom in brown paper packaging tied up string or to my first Quidditch lesson that night with Harry and Oliver Wood. That night at dinner Harry and I ate our dinners at record breaking speed, and then rushed up the stairs with Neville and Ron on our tails.
The three boys went up to their dorm, and I went to grab my broomstick to take to their dorm, since boys couldn't go up the staircase to the girls' dorms. When I entered the room the boys were looking with awe at what I could only assume to be Harry's new broom. Looking closely I could see Nimbus 2000 painted in gold near the top of the mahogany handle. After a moment they looked at me in expectation as I quickly pulled the wrapping from my broom. The broom that fell into my hand was elegant and dark. I recognized the dark, nearly black wood as that of the Black Oak. And up near the top in forest green in curling script it read ThunderSky.
As Neville and Ron looked at it in confusion I explained, "It's an American model."
They nodded in understanding, as I noticed a piece of paper with writing on it inside the wrappings I bent down and picked it up. I quickly read it and at the prompting of Ron read it aloud.
"The ThunderSky is new and faster than even that silly thing the Brits call a Nimbus 2000," I smirked at this due to the expression on the three 'Brits' faces before continuing, "While accelerating only slightly slower than its British counterpart, the ThunderSky may maintain its top speed with ease and for any extended amount of time, which the newest Nimbus cannot. Perfect for most positions in Quidditch, or the game of Quadpot, we are sure it will be to your liking."
Around quarter to seven, Harry and I headed out of the castle in the bluish dusk towards the Quidditch pitch, new brooms slung over our shoulders. As we approached the massive stadium I took in the high seats, raised up above the ground so those watching could actually see the game. On both sides of the field were three hoops raised high up on golden poles.
With both of us eager to fly again we took off around the pitch swooping around the goals and the seats, before racing down the length of the field.
Caught up in the feel of the cool night breeze against my skin, I didn't even notice the two figures approach until Wood called, "Oy! Come down here you two!"
The two of us quickly sped to the ground to land a few feet in front of the Wood and a girl who I didn't know.
As soon as we touched down Wood said, " That was good. McGonagall was right the two of you are naturals. Tonight we're just going to teach the rules to you, but after that you'll have practice with the team three times a week." He then continued with introductions, "Angelina, this is Ashley McDonald and Harry Potter. Ashley, Harry, this is Angelina Johnson, she's one of our chasers."
Harry and I nodded and waved hello. Oliver opened up the crate he had brought with him and I saw four different balls.
"Well anyway, Quidditch is really easy enough to learn, even if it is no where near that easy to play. Each team has seven players. Three of them are called Chasers, that's you Ashley after I explain the basics Angelina's going to work with you for a bit." I nodded as he continued and Harry repeated some of the information in order to commit it to memory, and Wood pulled out a scarlet ball, "Now this is called the Quaffle and the Chasers pass it to try and score through one of the three hoops on the opposing teams goal, ten points for each time the Quaffle gets through a hoop."
Harry said, "So basically the Chasers job is a bit like playing basketball but on broomsticks?" When Oliver and Angelina both looked puzzled at the mention of basketball Harry and I grinned at each other, waving Oliver to continue. These were the times when it was fun to be muggleborn, or at least having grown up in the muggle world, because we did know things those from wizarding families didn't and it was a lot easier for us to be conspicuous in the muggle world.
Forgetting his puzzlement over Harry's comment about basketball he continued, "There is one Keeper per team, and that's the position I play. I fly about our three hoops and try to keep the Quaffle out." Pointing out the three balls still left in the crate he handed both Harry and I a smallish wooden bat. "Now I'm going to give you a small demonstration on bludgers." And with that he released one of the two charcoal colored balls, which immediately flew up into the air, and around a bit before rushing back down towards Harry. Harry swung the bat hard sending the bludger away, before it sped back towards Oliver. Who tackled the tricky ball before strapping it back into the crate.
"Bludgers shoot around the pitch, and do their best to knock anyone they can off their broom. Which is why each team has two beaters, the Weasley twins are our beaters." I smiled at this, I had heard the two of them talk about it and knew they tended to air on the side of human bludgers, Harry however looked a bit disheartened by the fact that inanimate objects were going to try and attack him.
Wood reached in and pulled out the last ball, it was miniscule compared to the other three and a brilliant golden color that flashed in the last rays of sun. It had a pair of fragile looking wings that reminded me of that of a dragonfly.
"This ball is called the Golden Snitch. You Harry, the Seeker flies around through all the other players and balls and tries to catch it. The Seeker who catches it first ends the game and generally wins the game for their team, since they earn their team a hundred and fifty points." He paused for a moment and then asked, "Do either of you have any questions?"
Harry and I both shook our heads no, and he sent me with Angelina who had the quaffle under her arm and her broom over her shoulder, before walking off with Harry and a bag of golf balls.
Angelina looked me over and then said, "Well, let's see what you've got." And with that we jumped up on our brooms and just passed the ball around for a while, but soon night had fallen completely over the grounds and it was too dark to continue. The four of us landed close together, looking slightly windblown.
As the four of us headed up back towards the castle Wood joyfully exclaimed that the Quidditch Cup was sure to go to Gryffindor this year.
I had seen a lot of things in Ashley. She quite clearly didn't really care what people thought about her so long as she had friends to stand by her. And she seemed to be extremely protective of those friends. But something was different about her. Ever since her first day of classes with me she had been a bit different. She very rarely raised her hand in my class, but if I called on her she knew the answer. She only ever got O's on any of her assignments, or quizzes, or even tests. It didn't even matter that she had Quidditch now to busy up her time, I still often saw her wondering about the castle or borrowing stacks of books from the library which she would return, at most, two days later. Madam Pince was beginning to think she was just trying to make a good impression by putting on the act of reading a lot, but didn't say anything as the books were always returned in perfect condition. I, however, think there is something else going on, especially after I had seen her with that book in the Great Hall.
Over the next few days, I went to every teacher Ashley had, and they all said the same thing. She never raised her hand, but always knew the answer if called upon, her work was superb, papers well thought out almost too much so, and all her grades were O's. Severus actually suspected she was cheating somehow and had been watching her closely, but couldn't find any proof. This annoyed me to no end, if any of his Slytherins had been doing this well he would have been bragging about it all over the castle, but from any other house they must be cheating. Even Filius admitted that none of his first year Ravenclaw's grades were this high.
So I decided I wanted to find out more. And so I decided to do a little investigating, and apparated over the Atlantic. What I found out in a little Ohio town stunned me, and after a bit of thinking I decided the Headmaster needed to be told. Because Ashley wasn't just smart, and she certainly wasn't cheating, one of my newest first years was a certifiable genius.
"Albus, do you remember the girl you tested and found to be a polygloti?"
"Yes, of course my dear. What about her? She hasn't been up to any mischief has she?" he finished with a twinkle in his eye.
"No, nothing like that. You know how I check up on all of my first years' marks to be sure they're not having a hard time?" He nodded so I continued, "Well, when I checked on Ashley's I found some interesting and confusing results." He waved his hand for me to continue and I said, "I went to get her muggle school records to see how he marks were there, and I found out she's...well...she's a genius."
"Whatever to you mean that she's a genius?" Albus asked.
"She's graduated muggle secondary school, or high school as they call it in the States. She finished her schooling this past spring. One of her teachers told me that it was extraordinary, that she read amazingly fast and remembered everything."
Albus pondered that with a curious expression on his face before asking, "So it would seem she skipped a few grades?"
I nodded, "Seven actually."
"So what are you planning on doing about it, since it appears she hasn't told anyone about her intelligence?"
"I was thinking I would talk to her, I'm sure there's a reason she doesn't want people to know. And I'll have to watch her, as she may need an accelerated coursework, or we may even have to consider allowing her to skip a year..."
Albus nodded at this, and I could tell from his expression that he was deep in thought.So with that I took my leave of him.
But as I walked out I heard him ask, to himself it seemed, "I wonder why the sorting hat didn't place her in Ravenclaw?"
Soon enough I was back sitting in one of the chairs in front of McGonagall's desk, and I was a little worried this time because I had no idea why. I waited patiently for her to finish reading the paper in her hands, as my mind flew in vicious turmoil. Maybe she had decided to expel me for flying after all?
Setting the parchment on her desk she looked at me and said, "Ashley, I asked you here to talk about your coursework." And as I looked at her with puzzlement she continued, "It has come to my attention that you are extremely intelligent," I blushed furiously at that but she pressed on, "and I think that if you are finding the work too easy that maybe we should take measures to challenge you more."
She waited, obviously for her words to sink in, but I immediately asked, "How do you know about me? Who else knows?"
I saw her eyes soften at the touch of panic in my voice as she said, "Don't worry only the other professors are aware of the situation as far as I know of." As my face relaxed in relief she went on, "And as for how I know, I always check up on my first years, and when I looked into your marks I got curious. So I went to get you records from your muggle schooling and low-and-behold you're more than just smart."
She watched as my eyes flitted about the room nervously for a few moments, before she asked in a very motherly voice, "Ashley, why are you so worried about if your classmates know how smart you are, it's a wonderful gift?
Biting my lip in a nervous habit I said, "Well...um...here people didn't already know I was smart. At my old school it was obvious since I was so much younger, but here I'm with people my own age. It's not that I really care if people know that I'm smart, it's more that I wanted them to know me first, before my brain." As I watched McGonagall's brow furrowed in confusion so I continued, "I wanted to know for sure that the people I knew were actually my friends, and not just fakes who wanted me to do their homework for them."
She nodded in understanding before offering me a biscuit, which I had recently learned was actually a cookie, and a cup of tea.
Soon two months had gone by at Hogwarts. I honestly couldn't believe it, it feels like just yesterday I was meeting the Weasleys. I was quickly finding the classes more interesting now that we had finished the basics, of things like wand safety. After my talk with McGonagall, only a few things had changed. I now basically had an unlimited pass to the library, and was slowly making my way through its entirety. The teachers often would hand me other work at the end of classes, I wasn't exactly sure what it was for but I easily looked up the necessary information and did it. And I had decided to tell Neville.
After a few moments of shock he had grinned a mile wide. I was so relieved, he didn't think I was a freak for being so smart. He thought it was brilliant. It seemed since then we were closer than ever. And even though I did often help him with his work, I knew I was doing it because we were friends, not because I had a good brain to pick.
The morning of Halloween, my absolute favorite holiday, everyone in the castle woke to the wondrous smell of pumpkin. The smell that I considered the epitome of fall seemed to have worked its way into every nook and cranny of the enormous stone building.
It seemed my day couldn't get any better, what with my senses being held in ecstasy by the sweet and spicy smell of pumpkin. Whether or not things got better I'm not sure, but they certainly did get more interesting when I sat down in Charms. Flitwick told us that today we would be learning to make objects fly, with a simple charm I had already mastered. We all were split up into pairs, and by a lucky chance me and Neville were put together, so I stayed in my usual seat next to Neville.
Easily demonstrating the charm for the diminutive professor I earned Gryffindor ten points, and went about helping Neville to master the Charm that I had used to save him when he fell from his broom. But as I nudged Neville in the right direction I couldn't help but observe the tension among one pair, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Neither looked at all pleased at having been paired together, and Hermione hadn't spoken to the four of us since the day the two broomsticks arrived. And with Hermione correcting him it didn't get any better, especially when she received praise for it from Professor Flitwick.
When the hour ended, Ron was in a very foul mood indeed. As I walked out with Neville I noticed him and Harry talking, Hermione just behind them. And by the expression on her face they were talking about her, and it definitely wasn't nice. A moment later she hurried past them in tears. Now I may not like Hermione, but that was totally unnecessary. So in a fit of redheaded mothering anger, I rushed up to them grabbed them by the ears, which worked quite well since I was taller than both of them, and dragged them off to the side.
With them wincing and rubbing their ears I asked, "What on Earth did the two of you say about her?"
They both looked at the floor but as I continued to glare and Neville stood awkwardly just behind me, Ron looked up shamefaced and horribly embarassed at having been dragged away by the ear and said, "It was me. I may have said she that she doesn't have any friends because she's such a bossy know-it-all..." he finished hurriedly.
I just starred at him for a moment, boys could be so stupid, I mean girls still talked smack but at least they made sure whoever the subject was wasn't right behind them. I shook my head and said, "Ron that was a horrible thing to say, if I ever hear you being such a prat again you'll wish I just dragged you away by your ear." And with a huff I turned around and stalked off to my next class, the boys following a ways behind me.
I didn't see Hermione all day, and I progressively became more worried about her. As the four of us walked into the Great Hall I heard Parvarti saying that Hermione was in the girls' bathroom, crying, and my anger at Ron's idiocy went up a few notches.
The decorations around the great hall were fantastic, live bats swooped about the room and the usual candles were there, but done up in Jack-O-Lanterns. As we sat down all of the food appeared out of nowhere, just as it had at the feast our first night at the castle. But my enjoyment of the holiday was dampered greatly by the knowledge that Hermione was alone and upset. It didn't really matter to me that she wasn't my friend, not even that I found her a bit annoying, I couldn't stand to sit here like nothing was wrong while she was crying because of some stupid thing Ron, being a stupid boy had said.
And so I grabbed a napkin and tucked a few pumpkin rolls into it and stood up. When Neville looked up at me with a questioning glance I simply said, "I'm going to go and find Hermione."
He nodded but I didn't see it, as I had already begun making my way out of the Great Hall.
I quickly made my way through the empty hallways, not a soul was in sight, but if I listened real close I could just make out the cacophonous sounds from the Great Hall. When I got to the door I hesitated just a moment, before pushing back any second thoughts and walking in.
I didn't see anyone, but I could hear Hermione crying. I called out gently, "Hermione, are you alright?"
In the voice of someone who was very upset I heard her reply, "Go away."
I sighed before leaning back against a sink, and saying, "You know crying isn't going to make it any better, Ron's a boy, he can't help it." at the loud sob I heard after that I continued, "Now, I'm not saying it was alright for him to say any of that I just meant that boys can't help themselves, their foolish, don't think about what they're saying."
I paused a moment to let her take that in before I went on, "And if it makes you feel any better, I dragged him and Harry away by their ears, to give them a good talking too, I highly doubt that Ron won't ever say anything stupid again, but I can tell you he will be looking over his shoulder for me."
At that I heard Hermione laugh through her tears and I said, "Now come on out here, or I'll have to eat all these delicious pumpkin rolls by myself."
The lock clicked open and slowly Hermione emerged, a bit tearstained, but now she had a small smile on her face.
She took a few steps towards me before stopping and saying, "I know I shouldn't have made such a big deal about it, but it's just that at my old school people used to call me a bossy know-it-all because I'm smart and I like to read, and I just thought that here it might be different..." and I saw a few more tears roll down her cheeks and could tell she was trying to hold back a sob.
I deliberated, well more like yelled at myself in my head, but eventually I said 'What the hell' and so I said, "Hermione I know." She gave me a puzzled look and I handed her a roll taking a deep breath before continuing, "Hermione I know because I've been there." And then ever so unceremoniously I blurted out, "I'm a genius."
She stared at me for a moment before we both burst out laughing. Neither of us really knew why we were, because nothing was really funny but we just couldn't help it. Soon we sat down and enjoyed our rolls, while regaling each other with tales of the woes of being smart. And it seemed as Hermione heard more of my stories she started to feel better, and it seemed she realized that if I could be happy when I had to deal with high schoolers who resented me beyond how anyone my own age could, that she could certainly deal with Ronald Weasley.
Just a bit later, we turned to clean up our small mess and I turned curiously at the sound of the bathroom door slamming. What I saw froze me in my tracks. Hermione turned to ask me what the noise was but she froze as well. Standing before us was the ugliest thing I had ever seen and it reeked like a blend of a beach full of dead fish and milk left out in the July sun, and I knew from my excessive reading habit that it was in fact a Mountain Troll. And all I could think as it stood there looking at us stupidly was 'You have got to be kidding me!'
It took a swing with the club it was lugging around at us, Hermione shrieked, and I pulled the two of us out of the way. The club landing where we had been a moment ago as Hermione and I cowered against the wall opposite the door, we were trapped.
I looked as I heard the door swing open and in ran Harry, Ron, and Neville. I saw them trying to figure out what to do as the troll advanced on us, knocking sink after sink off the wall as it went, and as it got closer I grabbed Hermione's arm again, who was looking rather like she might faint and dragged us out of the way of the wooden club.
Harry recovered first and grabbed a faucet off the floor and chucked it against the wall, while yelling at the two thunderstruck boys, "We've got to confuse it!"
The troll hesitated as it headed towards us again, and turned to see where the noise had come from, it saw Harry and turned to go after him. I pulled Hermione into a corner, and stuck her behind me drawing my wand.
Ron and Neville started yelling and throwing various pieces of wreckage at the troll, and it seemed its brain was going into overload, as it turned towards Ron with a horrendous yell. And now it was Ron who was trapped.
In an effort to protect his friend Harry leapt onto the troll's back, and the troll flailed about, trying to get him off.
The troll seemed to notice Hermione and me again, and it went to bear down on us with the club. At the same time Neville and Ron yelled out the charm Flitwick had taught us just that day, and the troll's club flew out of its hand, before falling with a crack on top of its head.
As Harry got up a little shakily the door flew open again to reveal Professors McGonagall, Snape, and Quirrell. And all the eyes in the room turned to face me. My hands were outstretched, eyes closed, and a bluish glow had surrounded both me and Hermione and was now fading. The moment it did my eyes flashed opened, and McGonagall started yelling at the three boys on her side of the room as Snape examined the unconscious troll. And I knew the three boys just thought she was furious with them, which she was, but I could see the worry in her eyes.
Then out of no where a voice sprang up from behind me, "Please, Professor McGonagall-- all of them were looking for me." ***She then continued on to say how she had thought she could fight the troll all on her own, and I saw Ron drop his wand in shock at the fact that Hermione was lying, flat-out to a teacher.
McGonagall listened intently and sighed taking five points from Hermione for her foolishness and awarding Harry, Neville, Ron, and me each five points for a whole lot of dumb luck and loyalty to a friend. And then quickly sent the lot of us back to Gryffindor Tower, as she and the other professors dealt with the troll and pondered the strange blue glow that had surrounded me when they had entered.
When we got to the common room it was loud and crowded as people finished out the feast. And I was quite pleased to see some hushed thanks between Harry, Ron, and Hermione. It wasn't perfect but it was a start.
***Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling pg. 177
There a nice long chapter for ya'll. Hope you enjoyed it. Oh and anyone who caught my allusion to The Sound of Music gets a free imaginary purple unicorn. YAY!
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