Chapter 69: Self Actualization, Pt 4

It was out of the cor­ner of her eye that Hermione Granger saw it, a re­flec­tion on the pol­ished metal of a statue at the junc­tion of two cor­ri­dors, a flash of gold, a flash of red, some­thing like an image of fire; just for a mo­ment she saw it, and then it was gone.

She paused, puz­zled, and she al­most walked away, but there had been some­thing fa­mil­iar about that brief glow -

Hermione walked for­ward to where the statue had stood, looked at the cor­ri­dor from which she thought the fiery re­flec­tion might have come.

Faintly, as though from a far­away place, she heard the cry, the call.

Hermione started to run.

She ran for a while; when­ever she got to a junc­tion she would pause, catch as much breath as she could, and then she would see a flash of fire re­flected from one di­rec­tion or an­other, or hear that dis­tant call. If it hadn’t been for her army train­ing she would’ve fallen over in ex­haus­tion, run­ning like that.

She never saw the phoenix.

And then she came to a four-way branch and there was noth­ing, no sign, she waited for long sec­onds and she heard no cry and saw no fire, and she was only just start­ing to won­der with a sick sad feel­ing if she’d imag­ined the whole thing, when she heard a per­son cry out.

When her rapidly rac­ing feet turned the cor­ner her mind took in the whole scene at a glance, three huge boys in green-trimmed robes already turn­ing to look at her, and one shorter and smaller boy in yel­low, who was dan­gling in the air from one foot held up high by an in­visi­ble hand.

The Sun­sh­ine Gen­eral didn’t even think about it, peo­ple who stopped to think didn’t spring very good am­bushes.

Her wand was in her hand, her fingers did the twist and her lips said “Som­nium!” and the largest bully fell over, the Hufflepuff boy dropped out of the air with a thump and the other two bul­lies were try­ing to aim their wands at her and she said “Som­nium!” again and an­other huge boy keeled over—the one who’d been aiming his wand faster, that was who she’d fired at.

Un­for­tu­nately cast­ing two Sleep Hexes in a row like that was hard even for her, and she couldn’t get off a third be­fore -

The last bully shouted “Protego!” and was sur­rounded by a shim­mer­ing blue glow.

Twenty-four hours ago, Hermione would have pan­icked at that, a real Shield­ing Charm would let the bully-boy cast spells on her even while he was pro­tected.

Now she -

Stu­pefy!” shouted the bully-boy.

The crim­son bolt blasted to­ward her with a ter­rible brilli­ance, blaz­ing far brighter than any hex that had sprung from Harry’s wand.

Hermione swayed slightly to the left, and the bolt missed, be­cause the bully’s aim hadn’t been nearly as good as Harry’s; and the thought came to her that maybe bul­lies and Pro­fes­sor Quir­rell’s armies didn’t mix.

Stu­pefy!” shouted the bully-boy again. “Ex­pel­liar­mus! Stu­pefy!

Any­way, now she’d just spent a whole hour think­ing of all the other spells she could’ve cast on Harry and Neville -

Jel­lyfy!” yel­led the bully-boy, a wide-beam jinx with no visi­ble bolt to dodge, and her knees sud­denly felt al­most too weak to sup­port her. And then, with an an­gry roar pro­duc­ing an even brighter blaze of crim­son, “Stu­pefy!

She dodged that one by de­liber­ately fal­ling, and by then she’d re­cov­ered enough for her next spell, which was -

Glisseo,” said Hermione, di­rect­ing her re­mark to the floor.

“Oof,” said the bully-boy as his feet went out from un­der him and he ac­tu­ally dropped his wand.

The Protego winked out.

Som­nium,” said Hermione.

She was still breath­ing in gasps as she crawled over to where the Hufflepuff boy was sit­ting up, and groan­ing and rub­bing his skull where he’d been dropped head-first into the floor; it was a good thing he hadn’t been a Mug­gle, Hermione re­al­ized, or he might have snapped his neck. She hadn’t ac­tu­ally thought of that.

“Uh,” said the boy, his hair was of a color that would’ve been called ‘brunette’ if he was a girl, his eyes an undis­t­in­guished brown that some­how seemed just right for Hufflepuff, there weren’t any tears on his face but he looked sort of pale. She pegged him at about fourth year, or third.

Then the brown eyes widened as he fo­cused on her. “Gen­eral Sun­sh­ine?

“Yeah,” she said. “That’s (gasp) me.” If the Hufflepuff boy said any­thing about her be­ing Harry Pot­ter’s love in­ter­est, she de­cided, he was go­ing to die.

“Wow,” said the Hufflepuff boy. “That was—you just—I mean I saw you on the screens be­fore Christ­mas but—wow! I can’t be­lieve you just did that!”

There was a pause.

I can’t be­lieve I just did that, thought Hermione Granger, who was feel­ing a lit­tle faint all of a sud­den, it must have been all that run­ning. “Ex­cuse (gasp) me,” she said, “can you (gasp) Un­jel­lyfy my legs?”

The boy nod­ded, pushed him­self to his feet, and reached in­side his robes for his wand; but Hermione had to cor­rect his ges­ture be­fore the counter-Jinx worked right.

“I’m Michael Hop­kins,” said the boy once Hermione had rol­led back to her own feet. He stuck out his hand. “Or just Mike in­side Hufflepuff, there aren’t any other Mikes in all of Hufflepuff this year, would you be­lieve it?”

They shook hands, and Mike said, “Any­way, thank you.

Hermione wasn’t pre­pared for the rush of eu­pho­ria that hit her then, sav­ing some­one like that liter­ally felt bet­ter than any­thing she’d ever felt in her whole life.

She turned to look at the bul­lies.

They were very big and they looked, she thought, around fif­teen years old, and she was sud­denly re­al­iz­ing just how large a differ­ence had sprung up be­tween Hog­warts stu­dents who’d signed up for all of Pro­fes­sor Quir­rell’s ex­tra-cur­ricu­lar ac­tivi­ties, and stu­dents who’d had years of be­ing taught by the worst Pro­fes­sors ever to go Pro­fess­ing. Be­ing able to hit things that you aimed at, for ex­am­ple; or be­ing able to think well enough in the mid­dle of a fight to re­al­ize that you ought to In­ner­vate your fallen al­lies. And other things Pro­fes­sor Quir­rell had said, like that in the real world al­most any fight would be set­tled by a sur­prise at­tack, sud­denly made a lot more sense to her.

Still try­ing to catch her breath, she looked back at Mike.

“Would you (gasp) be­lieve,” said Hermione Granger, “that five min­utes ago I was (gasp) hav­ing trou­ble figur­ing out how to be­come a (gasp) hero?”

Had she re­ally thought she needed per­mis­sion from some­one, or that heroes sat around wait­ing for some­one else to give them quests? It was very sim­ple ac­tu­ally, you just went where the evil was, that was all it ever took to be a hero. She should’ve re­mem­bered, she shouldn’t have needed a phoenix to tell her, that bad things some­times hap­pened right here in Hog­warts.

Then Hermione glanced ner­vously back at where the three older boys were ly­ing un­con­scious as the re­al­iza­tion hit that they’d seen her, they might know who she was, they might sneak up on her and take her by sur­prise and—and they could re­ally hurt her -

Hermione stopped.

She re­mem­bered that Harry Pot­ter had put him­self in the mid­dle of five Slytherin bul­lies on the first day of class when he hadn’t even known how to use his wand.

She re­mem­bered the Head­mas­ter say­ing that you grew up by be­ing put in grownup situ­a­tions, and that most peo­ple lived their lives in­side a con­strain­ing cir­cle of fear.

And she re­mem­bered Pro­fes­sor McGon­a­gall’s voice say­ing, ‘You are twelve.’

Hermione took a deep breath, once, twice, and three times.

She asked Mike if he needed to go to Madam Pom­frey’s office, which he didn’t; and got him to tell her the names of the Slytherin boys, just in case.

And then Hermione Granger strol­led away from the heap of un­con­scious bul­lies, mak­ing sure to put a smile on her face as she walked.

She knew that she was prob­a­bly go­ing to get hurt sooner or later. But if you were too scared of get­ting hurt to do what was right, then you couldn’t be a hero, it was as sim­ple as that; and if you’d put the Sort­ing Hat on her head at that mo­ment it wouldn’t have waited even one sec­ond be­fore call­ing out ‘GRYFFINDOR!’


She was still think­ing about it when she came down to din­ner; the eu­pho­ria of sav­ing some­one still hadn’t worn off, and she was be­gin­ning to worry that it had bro­ken some­thing in her brain.

As she ap­proached the Raven­claw table a sud­den epi­demic of whispers broke out, and Hermione won­dered if the Hufflepuff boy had said any­thing yet be­fore she re­al­ized that the whispers prob­a­bly weren’t about that.

She sat down across from Harry Pot­ter who looked ex­tremely ner­vous, prob­a­bly be­cause she was still smil­ing.

“Uh—” said Harry, as she served her­self freshly toasted bread, but­ter, cin­na­mon, no fruits or veg­eta­bles what­so­ever, and three helpings of choco­late brown­ies. “Uh—”

She let him go on like that un­til she’d finished pour­ing her­self a glass of grapefruit juice, and then she said, “I’ve got a ques­tion for you, Mr. Pot­ter. How do you think peo­ple fail to be­come them­selves?”

What?” said Harry.

She looked at him. “Pre­tend there isn’t all this stuff go­ing on,” she said, “and just say what­ever you’d have said yes­ter­day.”

“Um...” Harry said, look­ing very con­fused and wor­ried. “I think we already are our­selves… it’s not like I’m an im­perfect copy of some­one else. But I guess if I try to run with the sense of the ques­tion, then I’d say that peo­ple don’t be­come them­selves be­cause we ab­sorb all this crazy stuff from the en­vi­ron­ment and then re­gur­gi­tate it. I mean, how many peo­ple play­ing Quid­ditch would be play­ing a game like that if they’d in­vented the game them­selves? Or back in Mug­gle Bri­tain, how many peo­ple who think of them­selves as Labour or Con­ser­va­tive or Liberal Demo­crat would in­vent that ex­act bun­dle of poli­ti­cal be­liefs if they had to come up with ev­ery­thing them­selves?”

Hermione con­sid­ered this. She’d been won­der­ing if Harry would say some­thing Slytherin or maybe even Gryffin­dor, but this didn’t seem to fit into the Head­mas­ter’s list; and it oc­curred to Hermione that there might be a lot more view­points on the sub­ject than just four.

“Okay,” said Hermione, “differ­ent ques­tion. What makes some­one a hero?”

“A hero?” said Harry.

“Yeah,” said Hermione.

“Ah...” Harry said. His fork and knife ner­vously sawed at a piece of steak, cut­ting it into tinier and tinier pieces. “I think a lot of peo­ple can do things when the world chan­nels them into it… like peo­ple are ex­pect­ing you to do it, or it only uses skills you already know, or there’s an au­thor­ity watch­ing to catch your mis­takes and make sure you do your part. But prob­lems like that are prob­a­bly already be­ing solved, you know, and then there’s no need for heroes. So I think the peo­ple we call ‘heroes’ are rare be­cause they’ve got to make ev­ery­thing up as they go along, and most peo­ple aren’t com­fortable with that. Why do you ask?” Harry’s fork stabbed three pieces of thor­oughly shred­ded steak and lifted them up to his mouth.

“Oh, I just stunned three older Slytherin bul­lies and res­cued a Hufflepuff,” said Hermione. “I’m go­ing to be a hero.”

When Harry had finished chok­ing on his food (some of the other Raven­claws in hear­ing dis­tance were still cough­ing) he said, “What?

Hermione told the story, it be­gan rip­pling out in fur­ther whispers even as she spoke. (Though she left out the part about the phoenix, be­cause that seemed like a pri­vate thing be­tween the two of them. Hermione had felt sur­prised, think­ing about it af­ter­ward, that a phoenix would ap­pear for some­one who wanted to be a hero; it seemed a bit self­ish when she thought about it that way; but maybe it didn’t mat­ter to phoenixes so long as they saw that you were will­ing to help peo­ple.)

When she was done talk­ing, Harry stared at her across the table and didn’t say a word.

“I’m sorry for how I acted ear­lier,” Hermione said. She sipped from her glass of grapefruit juice. “I should’ve re­mem­bered that if I’m still beat­ing the pants off you in Charms class then it’s okay for you to do bet­ter in Defense.”

Please don’t take this the wrong way,” said Harry. He looked too-adult now, and grim. “But are you sure this is who you are, and not, to put it bluntly, me?”

“I’m quite cer­tain,” said Hermione. “Why, my name prac­ti­cally spells out ‘hero­ine’ ex­cept for the ex­tra ‘m’, I never no­ticed that un­til to­day.”

“Be­ing a hero isn’t all fun and games,” said Harry. “Not real hero­ing, the sort grownups have to do, it isn’t like this, it isn’t go­ing to be this easy.”

“I know,” said Hermione.

“It’s hard and it’s painful and you’ve got to make de­ci­sions where there isn’t any good an­swer—”

“Yes, Harry, I read those books too.”

“No,” said Harry, “you don’t un­der­stand, even if the books warn you there’s no way you can un­der­stand un­til—”

“That doesn’t stop you,” said Hermione. “It doesn’t stop you even a lit­tle. I bet you never even con­sid­ered not be­ing a hero be­cause of that. So why d’you think it’ll stop me?”

There was a pause.

A sud­den huge smile lit Harry’s face, a smile that was as bright and as boy­ish as the frown had been grim and adult, and ev­ery­thing was all right again be­tween them.

“This is go­ing to go hor­ribly mind-bog­glingly wrong some­how,” said Harry, still smil­ing hugely. “You know that, right?”

“Oh, I know,” said Hermione. She ate an­other bite of toast. “That re­minds me, Dum­ble­dore re­fused to be my mys­te­ri­ous old wiz­ard, is there some­place I can write to get an­other one?”


After­math:

″...and Pro­fes­sor Flitwick says her de­ter­mi­na­tion seems un­shake­able,” Min­erva said tightly, star­ing at the silver-bearded old wiz­ard who was re­spon­si­ble for this. Albus Dum­ble­dore was just sit­ting silently and listen­ing to her with a dis­tant sad look in his eyes. “Miss Granger didn’t even blink when Pro­fes­sor Flitwick threat­ened to have her trans­ferred to Gryffin­dor, just said that if she left she would take all the books with her. Hermione Granger has de­cided she’s go­ing to be a hero and she’s not tak­ing no for an an­swer. I doubt you could have pushed her into this any harder if you had tried to—”

It took all of five full sec­onds for Min­erva’s brain to pro­cess the re­al­iza­tion.

“ALBUS!” she shrieked.

“My dear,” said the old wiz­ard, “af­ter you have dealt with your thir­tieth hero or so, you will re­al­ize that they re­act quite pre­dictably to cer­tain things; such as be­ing told that they are too young, or that they are not des­tined to be heroes, or that be­ing a hero is un­pleas­ant; and if you truly wish to be sure you should tell them all three. Although,” with a brief sigh, “it does not do to be too blatant, or your Deputy Head­mistress might catch you.”

“Albus,” Min­erva said, her voice even tighter, “if she is hurt, I swear this time I’ll—”

“She would have come to that same place in due time,” Albus said, the dis­tant sad look still in his eyes. “If some­one is meant to be­come a hero then they will not listen to our warn­ings, Min­erva, no mat­ter how hard we try. And given that, it is bet­ter for Harry if Miss Granger does not fall too far be­hind him.” Albus pro­duced, as though from nowhere, a tin which flipped open to re­veal small yel­low lumps, she’d never been able to figure out where he kept it and she’d never been able to de­tect the magic in­volved. “Le­mon drop?”

She is a twelve-year-old girl, Albus!


After­after­math:

Within the win­dows, barely visi­ble in the evening gloom, fishes swam in the black wa­ters; illu­mi­nated by the bright shine of the Slytherin com­mon room as they came closer, fad­ing into dark­ness as they swam away.

Daphne Green­grass was sit­ting in a com­fortable black leather couch, her head col­lapsed into her hands, glow­ing golden-yel­low­ish as bright sparks of white light winked in and out of ex­is­tence around her.

She’d been ready to be teased about lik­ing Neville Long­bot­tom. She’d been ex­pect­ing to hear a lot of snide re­marks about Hufflepuffs. She’d thought of whole reams of snappy come­backs for it while she was on the way back to the Slytherin dun­geons.

She’d been look­ing for­ward to be­ing teased about lik­ing Neville. Be­ing teased about that sort of thing meant you’d grown up into a real girl.

As it turned out, no­body had worked out that her challeng­ing Neville to a Most An­cient Duel meant that she liked him. She’d thought it would be ob­vi­ous but no, no­body else had even thought of that ap­par­ently.

It was always the hex you didn’t see that hit you.

She should’ve just called her­self Daphne of Sun­sh­ine, like Neville of Chaos. Or Sunny Daphne like Sunny Ron. Or any­thing ex­cept Green­grass of Sun­sh­ine.

Green­grass of Sun­sh­ine.

It had gone from there to Green­grass of Sun­sh­ine and Blue Sk­ies.

Then some­one had added Snow-Topped Moun­tains and Frolick­ing Wood­land Crea­tures.

Cur­rently she was be­ing referred to as the Sparkly Uni­corn Princess of the Noble and Most An­cient House of Spark­ly­poo.

And some cursed sixth-year girl had hit her with a Sparkling Jinx, she hadn’t even known there was such a thing as a Sparkling Jinx, and Finite In­can­tatem hadn’t worked, and she’d asked older girls who she’d thought were her friends (she had ap­par­ently been wrong about this) and then she’d threat­ened the caster with grievous poli­ti­cal may­hem wreaked by her father and nonethe­less Daphne Green­grass was still sit­ting in the Slytherin com­mon room with her head in her hands, sparkling brightly and won­der­ing how she’d ended up as the only sane per­son in Hog­warts.

It was af­ter din­ner­time and they were still at it and if they didn’t stop by to­mor­row morn­ing she was go­ing to trans­fer to Durm­strang and be­come the next Dark Lady.

“Hey, ev­ery­one!” said the Car­row twins dra­mat­i­cally, wav­ing an is­sue of the Daily Prophet. “Did you hear the news? The Wizeng­amot just ruled that ‘let’s see what you got’ con­sti­tutes a lawful challenge to be fought un­til the challenger lies down and has a nap!”

“How dare you in­sult the honor of the Sparkly Uni­corn Princess!” shouted Tracey. “Let’s see what you got!” Then Tracey lay down flat on her sofa and started snor­ing loudly.

Daphne’s sparkling head sank fur­ther into her glow­ing hands. “After my fam­ily takes over I’m go­ing to have you all put un­der anti-Ap­par­i­tion jinxes and Flooed into the sea,” she said to no one in par­tic­u­lar. “You’re all okay with that, right?”

Thunk-thunk, thunk-thunk-thunk, thunk.

Daphne looked up, sur­prised; that was a Sun­sh­ine code-sig­nal -

I hight some­one knock­ing!” bel­lowed Mr. Goyle. “Knock­ing of the door!

Let’s see what you’ve got, door!” shouted an older boy near the door, and yanked the door open.

There was a mo­ment of com­plete sur­prise.

“I’ve come to have a word with Miss Green­grass,” said the Sun­sh­ine Gen­eral, sound­ing like she was try­ing to sound con­fi­dent. “Could some­one please—”

From the look on Hermione’s face she had just no­ticed Daphne sparkling.

And that was when Milli­cent Bul­strode raced up from the lower dorms and shouted, “Hey, ev­ery­one, guess what, now Granger went and beat up Der­rick and what’s left of his crew, and his father owled him and said that if he didn’t—”

Milli­cent caught sight of Hermione stand­ing in the door­way.

There was a very loud silence.

“Uh,” said Daphne. What? said her brain. “Uh, what’re you do­ing here, Gen­eral?”

“Well,” said Hermione Granger with a strange smile on her face, “I’ve de­cided it’s not fair if mys­te­ri­ous old wiz­ards give some peo­ple a chance to be heroes and not oth­ers, and also I’ve read his­tory books and there aren’t nearly enough girl heroes in them. So I thought I’d just drop by and see if you wanted to be a hero and why are you glow­ing like that?”

There was an­other silence.

“This,” said Daphne, “was prob­a­bly not the best time to ask me that ques­tion—”

I’ll take it!” shouted Tracey Davis, leap­ing off her sofa.


And thus was born the So­ciety for the Pro­mo­tion of Heroic Equal­ity for Witches.

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