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The Real Magic by goldensnidget92

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Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel. - Hamlet
, William Shakespeare

It was Wednesday morning. This was usually the worst day in the week for Hermione: exactly half way through, and not even really the weekend yet. But this morning, there was something different in the way she got dressed for school, ate breakfast, and sat down to wait for one of her busy parents to escort her in. It wasn’t that she had never looked forward to going to school - on the contrary, she loved the lessons - but she had always felt so awkward during lunch time, or when she had to do group work. There had never been anyone she could rely on to talk to. She had got used to it, of course, and had convinced herself that she preferred it this way. She always felt that the other children talked about such trivial things anyway, but she knew her parents worried. They tried their best to take it in turns to look after her, but as they both worked as dentists, they had hectically busy days; and more recently her grandmother had fallen ill, and her mother was spending more and more time looking after her. Hermione had learnt a long time ago that it would be easier for them not to have to worry about her as well, so she kept to her books, brought home perfect reports, and behaved beautifully. Despite this, it was impossible to hide the fact that she had no real friends, and that was the one thing that was out of her control.

Today, however, Hermione was definitely looking forward to going in. She pondered over exactly why. She knew they had reading time scheduled for after lunch today, and she had accordingly packed a book: Little Women (she had finished A Little Princess the night before). But there was something else that was making her contemplate the day with excitement. Of course. Lunchtime with Jamie Lovell. They were still reading Peter Pan: he hadn’t been lying, he did read slowly, but she could tell by his face that he was enjoying it. He still didn’t speak much outside of those reading sessions, but she was beginning to wonder if he were simply shy, rather than surly. Hermione herself was not shy in the slightest. She may be quiet at school, but that was just so as not to draw too much attention from Lindsay and her crowd. When she had a captive audience, she could talk for hours, and her parents had been subject to many lectures from their young daughter on long car journeys.

Her father came clattering noisily down the stairs, fastening his tie around his neck as he called back to his wife. –Yeah, I’ll take her to school today. I heard Barry say he’s got to take his son in and talk to the school about something, so he’ll be in a bit later. There won’t be such a rush to get in on time.” Hermione stood up obligingly, schoolbag in hand, and waited for her father to pull on his coat before turning to her. –Ready, Sausage?”

She pursed her lips at the epithet, wondering if either of her parents would ever remember that she was far too old for this childish name-calling business, but decided to go against her instincts and not nag him about it. Her mother had always said that the more you nag a man, the less likely he was to do what you wanted, so Hermione hoped that he would learn on his own.

They stepped outside into the frosty January morning, and their faces were immediately turned to blocks of ice by the bitter cold. –So, Hermione, how are you getting on this term? Read any more books since yesterday?”

Noting the use of her proper name and wondering if maybe he was more astute than she gave him credit for, Hermione smiled. –Well, I’m going to start a new one today in reading time.”

–Really? Which one this time?”

–Little Women.”

–But you’ve read that before!”

–I know, but I like it.”

–I’ll never understand how you and your mother can read things again and again. How’s school going?”

–Fine. I’m in charge of the library at lunch times.”

–Blimey, how can you take so many books?” he asked jokingly.

–And I’m teaching a dyslexic boy to read.”

–Oh really?” he was serious again. –That’s very nice of you. Did the teacher ask you to?”

–No, I said I’d do it myself.”

–I think that’s a really lovely thing to do, Hermione. When are you doing it?”

–Every lunchtime.”

–Ah, so you’ve got an excuse not to go outside, I see.”

–Yes, but at least I’m doing something good.”

–I know, I’m only teasing you.”

They had reached the school. Hermione gave her father a quick kiss goodbye, and walked quickly through the gates. Instead of walking straight to her classroom, however, she looked around at all the other children, trying to see if Jamie was there. After a good deal of lingering, she was surprised to find that she felt disappointed that she couldn’t see him. Resigned to spending the rest of the day alone, she entered her classroom. Maybe he was just ill, she mused, and he’d be back tomorrow. Or maybe, said a nasty voice at the back of her mind, he’s just trying to avoid you. You knew it would happen soon, and it’s your fault for starting to think of him as a friend. She couldn’t deny it. It had only been two days, and she supposed she’d just been so keen to have someone to talk to that she’d pounced on the first poor person to come her way. She should have known that he’d desert her soon enough.

The teacher entered and took the register, not seeming to notice Jamie’s absence. As she began to write the date and title on the board, however, the secretary walked through the door, again towing Jamie in behind her. He looked a little upset, but as soon as he saw Hermione, smiled and waved. Bemused, Hermione smiled tentatively back at him. Apparently he was not ill, and certainly not ashamed to be friends with her. Had no one told him yet that she was a freak, and that he shouldn’t talk to her? She greeted him as he sat down next to her, and watched as he glanced anxiously at the teacher and the secretary, who seemed to be talking about him. –What’s that about? Why were you late?”

–My dad took me in. He wanted to talk to the Headmaster.”

–What about?”

–I’m not supposed to say.”

Among the many things Hermione disapproved of, people keeping things from her rated highly on the list. She knew she was only eleven, but she still considered herself far more mature than many of her contemporaries, and therefore being kept in the dark seemed to her to be an insult to her intelligence. If it had been her parents hiding something, she would have demanded the truth, but it was very different with Jamie. Not only had she only known him for a couple of days, but he was evidently a very sensitive boy, and rarely spoke about anything but reading and books. He had only mentioned his mother because she read to him, and he had not once mentioned his father before today. Come to think of it, she still didn’t really know anything about his life before he had moved here. She decided to ignore this conundrum for the time being, hoping that he would come to tell her of his own accord, and changed the subject. –Are you ready for more Peter Pan today? We’re getting to a really good bit-”

–I can’t read with you today.”

–Oh.” Hermione could tell that she looked crestfallen. –Well, tomorrow then?”

–I can’t read with you tomorrow either. We can’t read together anymore.”

–What? Why?”

–I’m not supposed to say.”

This really didn’t make any sense. Was this what his father had come in to talk about? Why should her reading with Jamie be bad? She turned to face the front as her teacher began to talk, but she wasn’t registering the words. This was all very strange. She could only suppose that Jamie’s father wasn’t happy about the reading because of something about Jamie’s dyslexia, but surely she was only helping him get better? She gazed out of the window, watching as rain started to spatter the panes, rapidly turning into a steady stream of water that slid swiftly down the glass.

She was suddenly roused when Jamie nudged her. Miss Parr had just told them to get into groups to make a poster about their favourite books. –Can we work together?” he whispered.

–Oh, yes, of course. Sorry, I must have got distracted for a moment.”

–Doesn’t matter. So, what book shall we do it on?”

–Gosh, I don’t know. I don’t think I can even choose one favourite book! Do you have one?”

–I think mine’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

–Oh, that’s such a good one! I really don’t like the Witch, though. You’d have thought if she had all those magic powers she could at least do some good in the world.”

–Yeah, but she’s probably my favourite ‘baddie’ of all the books I know.”

–You wait ‘till we get to Captain Hook, he - oh, sorry, I forgot.”

–It’s ok; it’s not your fault. I’m sorry; I should never have mentioned it to my dad.”

–Do you mind me asking why he’s not happy about it?”

Jamie was silent for a while, looking as though he was debating something in his mind. –He did ask me not to tell you.”

–Don’t worry about it, then, I don’t want you to get into any more trouble on my behalf.”

–No. I don’t understand why I shouldn’t say anything. Anyway, you’re helping me more than he is, so I don’t see why you shouldn’t know. You see, my Dad’s a dentist, but before that he trained to be some kind of doctor. He’s always been interested in experimental science and medicine, and when he found out I was dyslexic, he looked into loads of research projects that dealt with dyslexic children, and that tried to help them. A few months ago, he enrolled me in this programme which gave me loads of strange tests to do, but then, of course, we moved. I think he’s trying to find a continuation of that project around here, so he doesn’t want there to be any change in my dyslexia. He thinks that what you’re doing might damage me for future testing.”

–But surely if you’re enjoying it, there shouldn’t be a problem?”

–He doesn’t see it like that.”

Hermione watched as Jamie absent-mindedly ran the tip of his pencil up and down the crease of his exercise book, a tiny frown crumpling his smooth forehead. What must it be like to have a father who cares more about your scientific value than your enjoyment? Her parents might be dentists, but they certainly appreciated that there was so much more to life than science. Hang on - hadn’t Jamie said that his Dad was a dentist? Perhaps her parents knew him. –Jamie, does your Dad work here in the village?”

–Er… yes, why?”

He must be the new boss that her parents had been talking about. Maybe she could ask them about what type of person he was. She wouldn’t tell Jamie, though. She didn’t want him thinking she was checking up on him.

–Oh, just that he must work with my parents. They’re dentists too.”


By lunchtime, the rain had flooded the playground so efficiently that you could see the sweeping grey sky glowering back at you when you looked down at the ground, and that seemed like a good enough reason to keep the children inside for lunch. To Hermione’s dismay, this meant that a lot of people were in the library, and they were certainly not reading. She had just returned from her own deeply unsatisfying meal of overcooked peas, puff pastry and sausages, squeezed her way through the manic mass of children, and finally arrived in the library, when she saw a particularly unwelcome group of girls.

They were sitting in a circle playing Chinese Whispers, and one of them looked up as Hermione entered, a nasty grin spreading across her face. She shook back her perfect blonde hair and raised her voice. –Everyone, look. Hermione’s here!” The girls stopped their game and stared insolently at Hermione. She felt her heart beat faster, and the palms of her hands began to sweat. She decided to ignore them and walk straight over to the non-fiction section, the furthest part of the library, so as to escape their notice. It didn’t work.

–Aren’t you going to say hello, Hermione? That’s very rude of you. Do I need to tell a teacher that you’re being rude to me?”

Hermione stopped, knowing that if she carried on walking, Lindsay would only follow her. She tried to think of a witty response but, as always when Lindsay was around, she could think of nothing. –Hi,” she said, in the most spiteful tone she could muster.

–Ooh, not very happy today, are we? What happened? Did your boyfriend dump you?”

–He’s not my boyfriend.”

–Yeah, right! I bet you dream about him, don’t you, Hermy? When you’re all on your own, you dream about kissing him.” Hermione knew it was petty, but anything Lindsay Hannigan said just made her so uncomfortable and upset. There was nothing she could do to stop it. –Hermy and Jamie, kissing in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!” she sang.


–Aw, have I upset poor Hermy? Is she going to cry?”

–What’s going on?” Jamie had just come around the corner, and evidently heard that last part of their conversation. Hermione blushed profusely, hoping desperately that he hadn’t heard Lindsay teasing her about him.

–Ooh, it’s Jamie, Hermione! Aren’t you going to say hello to Jamie?” Hermione said nothing. –I’d better warn you, Jamie, Hermione’s a bit of a freak. I don’t suppose anyone’s told you yet, or you wouldn’t still be speaking to her. She doesn’t have any friends, and no one wants to talk to her. She does strange things and sits on her own in the library every day. You don’t want to stick around her.”

–I’d rather be friends with her than be friends with you,” he said calmly. –At least she’s nice to people. At least she cares about their feelings. You don’t seem notice how very rude you are. In fact, I’d say you’re the meanest person I know.”

Hermione stared at him. No one had ever defended her against Lindsay Hannigan, ever. If she had happened to be talking to someone at the time, they always seemed to stare awkwardly at their shoes, and then melt away into the background. Despite the situation, she felt a bubble of hope rise up within her.

Lindsay, on the other hand, looked confused for a moment, as though she was still trying to register exactly what had been said. Then her expression darkened. No one ever insulted Lindsay Hannigan. –So. You think I’m a mean person. Well that’s all very sweet, but as it happens, you’re just the new boy, and you don’t know anything or anyone around here, so I can make things very, very difficult for you. What would you say if-”

She stopped suddenly, and clutched at her throat. She was moving her mouth, but no words were coming out. She began to go purple in the face as she opened her mouth as wide as she could, but to no avail. No one heard even a whisper escape from her lips. All her friends started squeaking and squawking around her, asking if she was alright. But she merely glared at Hermione.

Hermione didn’t know how to respond. This kind of thing had happened before, but she couldn’t explain it. She wasn’t even sure how she did it. One second, Lindsay would be tormenting her, and the next, something awful had happened. Hermione knew it wasn’t normal, but as Lindsay had bullied her less and less, it had stopped, and she thought it had gone completely. Apparently it hadn’t. She heard Jamie giggle next to her, and she tried to look amused too, but couldn’t quite hide her confusion and disappointment with herself. Whatever this ability was, she had to get it under control as soon as possible. She would be starting Secondary School in September, and she was determined not to stick out again. But how on earth was she supposed to rein in something that she couldn’t even tell she was doing? Starting to feel miserable for the second time that day, she went to sit down in the corner of the library.

As she sat down, Jamie plonked himself down on the floor next to her. In her self-absorbed melancholy she had forgotten about him and his defence of her.

–Are you alright?” he asked.

–Yeah, I’m ok. Thank you for sticking up for me. No one’s ever done that before.”

–It’s alright. That’s what friends do.”

Hermione smiled at his use of the word. So she hadn’t been too enthusiastic: he was actually willing to be friends with her. He knew that everyone thought her strange, that she was quiet, bossy and a bit of a know-it-all, and yet he still wanted to be friends. –Yeah,” she said quietly, –that is what they do.”