Hermione Granger closed her book and looked at the library clock.
It had only a single hand and there were no numbers, but the hand was pointing to the
words, "Almost Time To Go." She had promised Professor McGonagall she would call
on the newest member of the faculty at Hogwarts and help the professor get settled.
As she left the girls' dormitory she noted how strangely quiet it was with all of the
other students still away on Summer holiday. Ordinarily she wouldn't be here
either, but her parents had been called to the north of Scotland on a family matter and although she
loved her family dearly, and would have enjoyed seeing the countryside, she detested
her three male cousins and had asked if she could return to Hogwarts early.
At first her father would have none of it, but her mother knew exactly how she felt,
and of course the matter was settled. What a delight it had been to find Ginny
Weasley was also here during the summer!
Poor Ginny. Professor Snape had decided she needed further tutoring in her
least favorite subject, which was Potions. After announcing that Ginny had to
stay for part of the summer, Professor Snape left, saying he would not be back until the Fall
term. There wasn't anyone to tutor her, but when Hermione arrived Professor
McGonagall asked if she would help teach Ginny.
Hermione was also given permission to do some research on her own, and had a limited
pass to the forbidden section of the library. She had decided to do further
study on the use of a familiar, especially a cat, for enhancing spells used to guard
and protect. She wanted to use Jinks, the old grey tomcat that slept in the
Gryffindor common room, but so far, Jinks had managed to avoid her.
She stopped at the seventh portal in the Hall of Harpies and looked at the sleepy head
of a small gargoyle cast in brass. It was a doorknocker, and it was attached to
a wooden door. Although the door wasn't really closed, she used the brass
gargoyle to tap lightly on it. It just seemed the polite thing to do.
Inside, she heard something fall to the floor followed by a sudden volley of strange
sounding words, and then a loud clap; Hermione held her ears and wondered what
had just happened. The face on the brass doorknocker awoke and stuck its tongue
out at her and precisely at that moment the door flew open, revealing a very odd sight.
Hermione had never met the visiting Professor of Personal Incantations, but there she
stood, perhaps half as tall as Hermione, and round as a pumpkin. Hortense
Biddlefinger gestured at her to be quiet, and then went about finishing a spell she was
working on. When there was another loud clap indicating the spell was at an end,
the round little witch bent to pick up the book that had fallen to the floor, and
Hermione saw that the title was 'Protective Incantations Against Demons and Imps'.
It had a worn cover and the author was A. H. Biddlefinger. Hermione's
curiosity made her wonder what the 'A' stood for, but she decided not to ask.
"Yes, yes, yes, what do you want? Can't you see I'm very busy? This office
that Master Dumbledore has given me is completely unacceptable, and I must get it in
order." Hermione could see that a new broom and an old dustbin were very busy
indeed, and she had to duck as a bright green feather duster tickled her ear as it flew
about the room. Piles of books were everywhere, and a large chest filled with
parchments and other strange items stood in the middle of the floor.
"Actually, Professor Biddlefinger, I came to see if you needed any help. My
name is Hermione Granger, and I'm a fourth year Gryffindor." Hermione looked
at the books with interest and noted there were a number that she had not yet read.
"Perhaps I could put your books on the shelves for you, if you would like my help."
"Hmm, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Maybe I can use your help.
You can start with the orange books over there, and put them on that shelf under the
window. Don't put them next to any green books, as they tend to argue with
each other, although they don't know a thing about each other's topics." The
feather duster giggled at this, but continued to fly about the room, stopping
only briefly to dust a very large and sleeping black cat. Hermione thought
it must be the old witch's familiar. "And, dear, never put two of the purple
ones on the same shelf together. They chatter so!"
Hermione took out her wand and began to levitate the books into place,
just as Professor Biddlefinger had directed. She was careful to note there
was a complete set of Garibaldi's 'Incantations for Animation', which
looked well used. She was quite impressed to see there were hand-written notes
in the margins of the pages that she could see. The Garibaldi texts were placed
next to three saffron-colored tomes and far away from the single copy of
Thistlebottom's Warts and Wattles, a Compendium. When she
had finished, Hortense Biddlefinger gave her an approving look and said, "I
see you have some understanding of how books should be arranged. That's a rare
gift, Miss Granger, and I appreciate your help. Perhaps you could assist me
during the next school term with my latest manuscript. I haven't decided on
a title yet, but you might find the subject interesting. Of course it's on
incantations. Professor Flitwick has told me that you have a good scholastic
mind, and I believe you could help me with some of the research."
Hermione said, "Thank you, Professor, I would like that
very much." Blushing, she put the last of the books on the shelves and lowered
her wand. Almost immediately a pea-green book flew off the shelf and landed on
the floor. As they both stared, the pages began to turn, faster and faster, until
stopping suddenly about half-way in the middle. Hermione recognized it as the same book
that had been on the floor when she first entered the room. The book lay at
their feet with its pages fluttering slightly as they both watched it for any further action.
When nothing more seemed to happen Hermione leaned over it and saw that it
was open to a chapter entitled, 'Demons and Imps That Serve Fenris'.
Professor Biddlefinger, who had been standing as though frozen, abruptly reached down and
snapped it close, but the book wriggled out of her hands and flew across the room straight
at the feather duster which squawked and jumped out of the way. The book landed on
the desk and again opened itself to the same chapter and page. With that, Professor
Hortense Biddlefinger picked up her pointy black hat and put it firmly on top of the book.
She turned to Hermione and said breathlessly, "Dear, please do not pay any
attention to this. It doesn't concern you, and I do not wish you to talk about it
to others. Do I have your word?" Hermione gave the professor a silent nod
but continued to stare wide-eyed at the hat. The book seemed to be moving to get
out from underneath it. The older woman pulled Hermione towards the door and gently
pushed her out, saying, "Please stop by my flat at tea time, dear, and I will reward you
for your help." With that, the door clicked shut and the brass doorknocker hanging
on it winked at her and resumed its sleepy appearance.
That was the strange first meeting for miss Hermione Granger and
Professor Hortense Biddlefinger, but it wasn't the strangest. No, not at all.