Chapter One

Who Knew Reading Required the Buddy System?

Biting her lip, Hermione Granger stared out the window of the Gryffindor common room. The buzz of rowdy conversations behind her grew louder, and she knew that she'd never be able to finish the assigned Transfiguration reading. Turning, she started to scowl at the room in general, but only sighed when she noticed the happy, carefree expressions on her fellow Gryffindor's faces. Everyone was in uncommonly high spirits because the Gryffindor Quidditch team was currently in first place and in a good position to win the Cup.

Stupid Quidditch, she grumbled under her breath. It ruined everything! She couldn't get Harry and Ron to follow their revision schedules, as they always seemed to have a Quidditch practice, or were too tired from a Quidditch practice. Honestly! How tiring could it possibly be to fly around on a broom? The broom did all the work, after all!

She tilted her head to the side, remembering the Quidditch match she'd attended only last weekend. Gryffindor had been playing Hufflepuff. Or was it Ravenclaw? She frowned, trying to remember, but all she could recall was reading three chapters ahead in her Potions text book.

Her time in the stands at the Quidditch pitch had been remarkably fruitful—the sound of the crowd had provided a comforting level of background noise, and best of all, she hadn't been expected to add to it. No, instead she'd been able to read in relative peace as the people around her cheered, booed, and otherwise ignored her.

It had actually been quite pleasant.

She squinted, straining to make out the Quidditch pitch from the vantage point of the Gryffindor tower. Only the top corner of the stands was visible, the sun reflecting off the seats and causing the area to glow.

No. It would be silly to walk all the way to the Quidditch stands just to have a quiet place to read.

Dean Thomas yelped and Hermione turned just in time to see Seamus Finnegan pocketing his wand and whistling in an attempt to look innocent. Since Dean was currently sprouting antlers and Seamus was trying valiantly not to laugh, she highly doubted his innocence. While Neville Longbottom attempted to sort the problem (somehow causing the antlers to sprout flowers), she stealthily placed her books in her bag and edged toward the door. She heaved a sigh of relief as she slipped through the portrait hole, grateful that no one had called her back to request help with their homework.

The brisk walk to the Quidditch pitch lightened her spirits immensely, and by the time she'd chosen her seat halfway up the stands she felt ready to tackle her homework with renewed zeal. After all, the day was sunny and she had nothing on her agenda other than working ahead. What could be better?

She propped open her textbook, cast a Cushioning Charm on the hard seat, and began reading. Unable to stop at the required reading, Hermione continued to page through the textbook, mentally preparing herself for the concepts that would be covered for the rest of the term. Just as she neared the end of the section that discussed complications of transfiguring live subjects, she heard the heavy footsteps and raised voices of a group of students.

Probably just a group of students out for a stroll, she told herself. They might come near the Quidditch pitch, but would be unlikely to stay long, as technically, students weren't to be on the pitch without permission.

The voices, however, only grew louder. Hermione pressed her lips together and resolutely continued to read—she was hardly going to allow herself to become distracted now! Not when she had only two chapters to go before she'd covered the topic matter for the term.

"Oi! Flint!" she heard a gruff voice call. "What say we try out the new formation today? I'd like to give it another go before we use it against the Gryffindors."

Hermione looked up sharply and saw a group of young men dressed in the traditional green and silver of Slytherin marching onto the pitch, brooms in hand. "Oh, bother," she muttered under her breath, realizing that the Slytherin Quidditch team had arrived for a practice. She looked back down at her book longingly. Biting her lip, she made a snap decision. With a flick of her wand, Hermione cast a disillusionment charm, effectively protecting herself from discovery. After all, she reasoned, she only had a few more chapters to read. And the added noise of the practice ought to be soothing, just as she'd found actual matches soothing. Really, this was working out rather well, she decided. With a satisfied nod, she turned back to her reading and immersed herself in the challenges of transfiguring cold-blooded reptiles into warm-blooded mammals. It wasn't as straightforward as it seemed, and Hermione found herself entirely engrossed by the intricacies involved in making the transfiguration flawless.

She was jotting down a particularly vexing question in the hopes that she might pick Professor McGonagall's brain when a wayward bludger zipped past her, only inches from her ear. With a shocked exclamation, she wobbled on the bench, her balance disrupted. She took a deep breath, willing herself to remain calm. The bludger hadn't hit her, after all. There was no need to—

"Ahhh!!" Hermione screamed loudly as the bludger returned, passing even closer to her on the other side of her head. She felt her disillusionment charm fail, but it didn't matter, because she was falling, toppling off the bleacher; falling, and she couldn't reach her wand to cast a cushioning charm; falling, and she hadn't realized she had chosen a spot so high in the stands… and it just figured that she'd meet her death in a Quidditch pitch, of all places.

Eyes squeezed tightly shut, body tensed and braced for impact, Hermione held her breath and waited for the sickening crash that would surely break multiple bones in her body, if not kill her.

It never came.

Instead she heard a panicked voice casting a spell, and she landed gently on the neatly trimmed grass of the Quidditch pitch. When she forced her eyes open, she found that she was staring into the stormy grey eyes of Draco Malfoy.

"Granger," he spat, releasing his hold on her and letting her back drop the few inches back to the ground. "I should have known. Potter and Weasley sent you to spy on us, didn't they?"

Hermione winced at his accusatory tone. When she opened her eyes again, it was to find that she was surrounded by the Slytherin Quidditch team, and each of them looked just as furious as Malfoy.

"Of course not," she tried to protest, but her tongue seemed to be stuck to the roof of her mouth. And Merlin, why did her head hurt so much? Malfoy had prevented her from hitting the ground, hadn't he?

"A likely story," Flint accused, spittle flying from his mouth and landing on her cheek.

Hermione frowned and raised her hand slowly to wipe her cheek. She hadn't realized that it took quite so many muscles to achieve such a simple action. Since she had no intention of allowing Flint's saliva to remain on her person, however, she persevered in removing it and then wiped her hands on her skirt.

"You're here to spy for the Gryffindor Quidditch team, aren't you?" Malfoy pressed, looming over her. "I should have known those tossers would resort to underhanded tactics."

"Oh, please," Hermione said, rolling her eyes. "Wasn't the Slytherin team accused of sneaking into the Ravenclaw practice last month? And I'm not spying! How could I when I don't even understand the game?"

"There is that," Goyle said. "She doesn't watch the matches—only reads."

"Exactly!" Hermione exclaimed. "And that's what I was doing today! Reading! My Transfiguration textbook, that is." Her eyes darted involuntarily to her spot in the bleachers where her book was, presumably, safely waiting for her. "Accio Hermione's book!" she said, anxious to both keep track of her belongings and to prove that she really had been reading.

It would have worked, too, if her Summoning spell hadn't been a little too strong, and the book a little too eager to join her. It also would have helped if Blaise Zabini hadn't chosen that moment to step directly into its path. The massive tome struck him in the back of the head, causing him to lurch comically before toppling to the ground to land in an undignified heap beside her.

"Oi!" Flint cried. "What did you go and do that for?"

Hermione picked up her textbook from its landing spot and then waved her wand over Zabini's prone form. "He's fine," she said crisply. "Well, aside from the lump on the back of his head. But that should go down in a few days." She frowned. "A week at most," she speculated.

"A week!" Flint exclaimed. "A week! We have a match next weekend, in case you didn't know." He loomed over her, his hands crossed over his chest in a show of intimidation.

"Do you?" she asked innocently. "Who do you play?"

"Who do we play?" Malfoy sputtered. "Who do we play? We play Gryffindor, you ninny! Only now we'll be playing them shy one Chaser!"

"Oh," Hermione said vaguely, patting the ground to check for any items which might have fallen out of her pockets when she landed. "That's too bad."

"Yes," Pucey said, his eyes narrow. "It is too bad, isn't it?" He paused. "Of course, not for the Gryffindors, it isn't."

Hermione looked up, uncomfortable with the quiet accusation in his tone. For the first time she realized what a truly vulnerable position she was in—the lone Gryffindor bookworm surrounded by the strongest and fittest of Slytherin house. Though she was a dab hand with a wand, she suspected that if it came to duelling, the results would not be in her favour. Plain and simple, she was outnumbered.

She was never entirely sure who cast the first curse. All she knew was that her own wand was in her hand and she was scrambling away, throwing hexes left and right in an attempt to save herself from the creative and painful curses no doubt practiced in the Slytherin common room.

Her legs didn't seem to want to function very well; most likely they were still affected from her near disastrous fall, but her Shield charm seemed to be holding. Either that or she'd been hexed so many times that she could no longer feel them…

"What is the meaning of this?" The crisp voice of Gryffindor's Head of House cut through the barrage of spells, and Hermione sank gratefully to the ground. Merlin, she was tired.

"No doubt," a sibilant voice intoned, "the Slytherin Quidditch team was merely using Miss Granger as a live Snitch. Is this not the case, Flint?" Professor Snape hissed, his eyes snapping between Hermione and the captain of the Quidditch team.

"What?" Flint asked, breathing hard. "Oh. Er. Right. That's right." He extended a hand toward Hermione to help her to her feet, but she scrambled backward, glaring at him mistrustfully.

"We caught her," Flint finished lamely.

"Poppycock," Professor McGonagall said. "Seven Quidditch players against one Gryffindor?" she tutted. "Shameful."

"She started it!" Malfoy protested. "She came here to spy on us!"

"Is this true?" Snape demanded, eyes narrowing as he stared at Hermione.

"Of course not," McGonagall said, her tone dismissive. "Miss Granger is incapable of relaying the slightest helpful information to her house mates as she lacks a basic understanding of the game."

Honestly. All she'd wanted to do was to find a quiet place to study where she wouldn't be distracted and accosted by other students. Instead, she'd had her lovely reading spot invaded, she'd fallen from a ridiculous height, and she'd been unfairly accused and attacked!

Not to mention that it was Quidditch, not rocket science! If she had been spying, she'd certainly be able to relay relevant information to her friends!


"I beg your pardon," she said, unable to stay silent in the face of such an attack on her intelligence.

"And then she hit Zabini!" Crabbe accused, pointing a meaty finger at her.

"I didn't hit him!" Hermione protested. "He merely got in the way of my Summoning charm!"

"Right," Malfoy scoffed. His tone turning ominous, he added, "Just like you're about to get in the way of my Stinging Hex."

And before she could do so much as raise a Shield charm, curses were once more flying left and right. This time, however, both Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape were in the midst of the fray, which only seemed to egg the Slytherins on.

It made no sense to Hermione. Didn't they realize that they would be punished more severely for casting harmful spells in front of professors? She thought fleetingly that she really didn't understand Slytherins at all, and then devoted herself to making it through the debacle with as few injuries as possible.

The next clearly audible voice she heard belonged to none of the Slytherins, nor to either of the two professors. "Goodness gracious," Professor Dumbledore said, sounding remarkably cheerful in spite of discovering eight students and two professors in an all-out brawl. "What do we have here?" And before anyone could react, he was humming tunelessly and waving his wand in what looked like a terribly sloppy configuration.

"I'm sure we can sort this easily enough," he continued cheerfully. Blue sparks shooting from his wand, he pointed to each Slytherin in turn. Hermione stared in horrified awe as the members of the Quidditch team appeared to shrink before her very eyes.

"Professor!" she exclaimed. "Whatever are you—"

"Now, now, Miss Granger," Dumbledore interrupted. "This is quite an intricate spell. You wouldn't want to distract me at an inopportune moment, would you?"

She clamped her mouth shut and watched as Malfoy, Flint, Pucey, Crabbe, Goyle, Nott, and Zabini shrank to a height no more than three apples high. She rubbed her eyes, straining to keep track of the transformation. Not only were the members of the Slytherin Quidditch team tiny, their uniforms had somehow changed as well, and they were now dressed in identical uniforms of a most unsubtle blue.

"Albus!" McGonagall exclaimed, obviously shocked. "What have you done?"

Hermione looked at the group of three professors. Professor Snape stood somewhat apart from the other two, glowering furiously at the Headmaster, but Professor McGonagall was in Dumbledore's face, her hands planted firmly on her hips.

"Explain yourself!" she demanded, causing Professor Snape to breathe in deeply through his nose before adding his own demand.

"Yes," he said. "Please do explain."

Professor Dumbledore beamed down at the miniaturized Quidditch team running around in circles at their feet in apparent confusion.

"Isn't it obvious?" Dumbledore asked. When McGonagall raised one eyebrow and Snape sneered, he further explained, "I'm giving them a fresh perspective, that's all."

"A fresh perspective," Snape repeated, pinching the bridge of his nose. "And what, precisely, do you hope to accomplish with a perspective that limits the subjects to studying objects no higher than my knee?" Hermione watched in fascination as the two Heads of House seemed to unite against the Headmaster. She'd always suspected that there were fascinating politics in the staff room, but she'd never seen such solid proof that she was correct. Since she was certain that they would revert to their unified front if she reminded them of her presence, she held herself as still as possible, even going so far as to hold her breath.

"Oh, very well," Professor Dumbledore said, sighing as if he were put out. Hermione suspected that it was still a part of his act, but didn't discern the true meaning of his statement until the Headmaster's wand flashed again, and Professor Snape began to shrink just as the members of the Quidditch team had.

"Albus!" Professor McGonagall exclaimed, her voice shaking. "You… why… Sweet Merlin, what have you done?"

"Come now, Minerva," Dumbledore said, running his fingers along the length of his wand. "You know what a good influence Severus is on his young charges. They'll get on much faster with his help."

She gaped at him.

"Come to think of it," he continued, "I've noticed that your presence seems to be a good influence on Severus." He tapped his wand to his chin, looking thoughtful.

Professor McGonagall looked up sharply and scrambled to draw her wand, but was unable to protect herself before Dumbledore's spell hit her. Hermione watched in horror as her favourite professor convulsed, her body morphing before her eyes. When McGonagall was finally still, however, she was surprised to see not another tiny blue creature, but a normal-sized cat.

"Sir?" she questioned, forgetting her plan to remain unnoticed.

"Oh, dear," Dumbledore said, staring at the cat curiously. "That wasn't what I expected at all."

Not the words one wanted to hear when an accomplished wizard was studying his human transfiguration attempts.

"I suspect Minerva's Animagus form reacted with my spell in a most unforeseen manner," he said thoughtfully.

The brown tabby hissed at him but kept her distance.

"Quite right," he responded. "I rather think I'd be a little put out, were I in your position, Minerva."

"Put out?" Hermione questioned, her voice rising with indignation. "Put out? Professor Dumbledore! What—"

"Ah, yes. Miss Granger." Dumbledore turned away from the cat, who was now resolutely ignoring him. "I wonder… Minerva has always been a calming and steadying influence on Severus. I wonder if you…" He raised his wand, but Hermione was ready for him this time. His spell, however, cut through her hastily constructed Shield charm as if it were tissue paper, and panic constricted her chest as she felt herself rushing toward to ground.

Dumbledore had cursed her, too, she thought dimly, and hoped rather desperately that Professor McGonagall wouldn't give into her feline instincts and chase her.


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Author's Notes

Characters from the Harry Potter series are the property of J.K. Rowling. The Smurfs were first created and introduced as a series of comic characters by the Belgian comics artist Peyo (pen name of Pierre Culliford) in 1958. They are used without permission and not for profit.

Graphics credits: Sparkly blue background from Smurfs images from film publicity stills. Cat is Microsoft clip art.

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