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The Real Magic by goldensnidget92

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–If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying a friend, I hope I would have the guts to betray my country” - What I Believe, EM Forster

The sound of the school bell was a source of many different emotions for Hermione. At the start of the day, it heralded the beginning of lessons, which she never failed to look forward to. As the morning melted into early afternoon, however, the ring meant lunchtime: a time for trying to avoid large groups of people, and swallowing the congealed mess of school food that had been slopped onto her plate It therefore resulted in the now familiar sensation of a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. However, the final bell often led to a series of mixed emotions. She was glad to go home, see her parents, and forget the pressure of mingling with other children; however she really did love learning, and couldn’t deny that there was usually a small part of her that wanted to stay on after 3 o’clock.

Today she was hit with a different set of emotions: excitement and apprehension. After school, she was going to Jamie’s house, and no doubt his father was going to be there. After Jamie had told her about his father’s vigilant concern about his son’s dyslexia two months ago, he hadn’t mentioned him once, and Hermione couldn’t stop her vivid imagination from wondering why. From what she’d heard her parents speak of him, he seemed perfectly ordinary; yet why would his son refuse to talk about him? What power could he have that appeared to strike fear into Jamie?

Jamie had invited her to his house for the first time last week, and although Hermione enjoyed spending time with him, she couldn’t help but feel a little scared at the prospect of coming face to face with this man. She had said yes, however, and now the bell was signaling the end of the day, they were packing their schoolbags, and heading out of school towards the gates where parents obligingly waited for their children. Hermione had often seen Jamie’s mum out there with the other parents, but had never really spoken to her. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of her. Mrs Lovell looked very absent-minded, with soft brown hair scrunched into a bun and secured with a paintbrush, and very loose, crumpled clothes. Jamie had once told her that she was an illustrator, and spent most of the day lost in worlds of fairytales and magic. Hermione had never been remotely artistic, preferring to keep her mind firmly in the world of fact and fiction, but as Mrs Lovell gave them a wide, welcoming smile as they approached her, and didn’t once mention fairies, princesses or warty toads, she decided to like her.

Jamie lived about a ten minute walk away from the school, and he chatted brightly to her and his mother on the journey back. He seemed so much happier away from school: not at all the timid, silent boy he was in class.

The Lovells lived in a very large house. Even though it was situated in the middle of a busy village, it had the feeling of being a farmhouse nestled in a quiet corner of the British countryside. The furnishings were big and sturdy, and looked as though they’d been there for centuries. The curtains were brightly coloured, adorned with quaint flower patterns, and in the center of the kitchen on a scrubbed wooden table sat a plate piled high with chocolate chip cookies. The smell of warm, slightly-melted chocolate wafted past Hermione, and she breathed in deeply.

–I’m afraid I overdid it a bit!” said Mrs Lovell. –It’s just so nice to have Jamie invite a friend over!”

–They look delicious, Mrs Lovell.”

–Yeah, thanks, Mum. Can we have hot chocolate, too?”

–Well, I don’t see why not. Would you like some, Hermione?”

Hermione’s eyes brightened considerably. With both her parents being dentists, she had strict guidelines as to what sugary treats she could have, and hot chocolate was definitely not on the list. But, as she was at Jamie’s house, she decided to ignore the rule.

–Oh, yes please!”

–Whipped cream and marshmallows?”

She was going to have to come here more often.

After their sumptuous snack, Hermione and Jamie left the kitchen, Hermione thanking Mrs Lovell profusely, and went upstairs to Jamie’s bedroom.

–I think my mum’s excited because I never really have many friends. Sorry if she was a bit…”

–No, it’s fine! I really liked her! My parents won’t let me eat many things that are bad for my teeth.”

–Dad’s the same. But Mum doesn’t really mind that much.”

Unless Hermione was very much mistaken, and that was a rare occurrence, this was the first time Jamie had mentioned his father in conjunction with something unrelated to his dyslexia. It made her wonder whether the ban on them reading together still remained. She hadn’t wanted to broach the subject before, because she didn’t want to upset Jamie, as evidently happened whenever his father was mentioned. But here he was bringing him up himself.

–What do you want to do?” he asked.

–I don’t know, what is there to do?”

–Er, not much. We could watch a film, or play with some lego.”

Deciding to risk making Jamie uncomfortable, she asked him. –Why don’t we read?”

She did enjoy having him as a friend, but she had absolutely loved those few days when she was helping him to read. It had made her feel like she was finally of use to someone, rather than simply tagging along. He was also the only person she could really talk to about books, and she was desperate to help him read as much as possible.

Jamie shifted in his position on the bed, looking across at a shelf of pristine books. –I suppose we could,” he said, nervously. –I don’t really know if I’m supposed to or not.”

–Well there’s not really much harm in reading one, is there? Has your dad found another research place yet?”

–No,” Jamie admitted.

–Well then, I don’t see why we shouldn’t.”

–Ok. What do you want to read?”

–I don’t mind.”

Hermione scanned the shelf, looking for an appropriate book.

–Oh, you’ve got Matilda by Roald Dahl! Can we read that one?”

–You only want to read it ‘cause you think you’re like Matilda!” cried Jamie.

Hermione blushed. She had always felt a connection between the two of them, not least because of their intelligence, but because of the strange things that she seemed to be able to do. Jamie had only been witness to that once a few months ago when Lindsay had been taunting her about fancying him, and she was pretty sure he hadn’t associated it with her. She had thought about telling him, but it just felt so private. She hadn’t even told her parents about her ‘powers’, but she thought they might have known about them anyway. –Alright, then,” she agreed, –I do. But it’s still a good book.”

The two of them sat together on the bed, reading a page aloud each, until they’d read five whole chapters. Jamie had not improved much since their short-lived sessions in January, but Hermione didn’t care. It was so lovely to have someone with her who appreciated books as much as she did. Time passed without them noticing, and soon it was getting late. A door slammed downstairs, but Hermione and Jamie were still urging Miss Honey to save Matilda from the Chokey. Heavy footsteps were thudding up the stairs, but they were still breathing sighs of relief at Matilda’s rescue. The door opened.

Mr Lovell stood in the doorway, a look of confusion, which was quickly turning to anger, on his face. Hermione felt her heart do a bungee jump within her body, dropping into her stomach, and then rocketing back up so that it pounded in her mouth. She went bright red, and pushed the book away from her, as if that would fix the damage.

–Jamie, what have I told you about reading?” Mr Lovell growled.

–I’m sorry, Dad, I didn’t think you’d mind anymore.”

–Well I do. Did I ever say that you could read with your friends again?”

–No,” Jamie mumbled.

More footsteps pounded up the stairs, and Mrs Lovell’s round face peered around her husband’s red one. –Come on, Barry, they didn’t mean any harm.”

–You don’t understand, Emma. I’m trying to get him the best scientific help there is, and he’s threatening to ruin it all.”

–I’m sure reading with Hermione Granger isn’t going to make anything worse!”

–Granger?” He whirled around to stare at Hermione. –Your parents aren’t John and Jean Granger?”

–Y-yes,” Hermione whispered, terrified of this large, angry man.

–Right. I’m going to phone them. Get them to pick you up.”


–I’m sorry, Emma, but I don’t want my son to be around someone who might affect his treatment for the worse.”

–Barry, you’re being totally unreason-”

–That’s my decision!” he said firmly, turning his back to them and thudding down the stairs.

Hermione bit her lip to keep the tears from spilling down her burning cheeks. She had never meant to hurt Jamie!
–I’m so sorry, Hermione, I’ll talk to your parents,” said Mrs Lovell. –It wasn’t your fault; Jamie’s dad just worries a lot.”

Hermione nodded, but was unconvinced. She looked across at Jamie who had shrunk back into the wall. He refused to look at her.

–Come on, Jamie,” cooed his mother. –Don’t get in a sulk now. You’ve got to help Hermione pick up all her things.”

Jamie glanced at her and nodded. He shuffled off the end of his bed without looking at Hermione, and trudged downstairs. Hermione stared at the opposite wall, forcing herself not to cry. Not yet, anyway. Mrs Lovell seemed to sense her distress, however, and offered her a hand. –Come on. He’ll be alright.” She led Hermione down the stairs and back into the kitchen, where Jamie had assembled her schoolbag and coat. They sat in silence, waiting for Mrs Granger to arrive. Mr Lovell was nowhere to be seen.


It wasn’t until she saw her mother’s anxious face looking out of the car window that a tear slid silently down Hermione’s cheek. She held the flood in until they’d turned the corner from Jamie’s house, then she let them fall. Great salty drops left soggy streaks down her face and school jumper, and her shoulders were shaking uncontrollably as she sobbed over her own selfish act. How could she have been so horrible? She always thought that she was better than the others in her class, those who thought only of themselves, and who went out of their way to tease others. But she was no better. She had let down her best friend, when she knew that what she was doing was risky. She could never forgive herself.

Her mother said nothing, waiting for the tears to subside. –Do you want to tell me what happened?” she asked, when Hermione’s eyes had become puffy, and her sobs had quieted.

–I didn’t mean to do anything wrong,” she whispered. –I just really like reading with Jamie. I didn’t think it would matter. So we read together.”

Mrs Granger seemed confused. –Was that all?” She parked the car and got out, opened Hermione’s door, and waited for an explanation.

–Jamie’s dad doesn’t like it. Jamie did tell me, but I didn’t listen.”

As Mrs Granger walked into the house with a subdued expression, Hermione felt a fresh wave of shame engulf her. She could hardly bear to think of what she had done. And Jamie had been so quiet! She must have hurt him badly. She felt a warm, smooth mug being pressed into her hands, and automatically took a sip of its contents. Hot chocolate. Her second of the day. Her mum must understand how awful she felt.

–Hermione, are you sure that’s all you did?”


–Ok. Well, I don’t see how that can be so bad as to send you home. I’ll talk to Barry tomorrow and try to understand why he was so upset. I think you should go to bed now. Don’t think about it until the morning.” She folded her arms around her daughter, and held her tight before letting her go upstairs.

Hermione lay awake for hours, worrying, worrying, worrying about tomorrow. Every time she pictured Jamie’s scared face a new stab of agony pierced her heart, and she felt tears prickle her eyes.

It was a long time before she slid into a blissful, dreamless sleep.


The next morning passed in an anxious flurry. Hermione had determined to apologise to Jamie the moment she saw him, and beg him to forgive her. She couldn’t stand it when someone was angry with her, but it was so much worse when it was Jamie. He was the only person who had stood up for her at school, and she had utterly betrayed him. She swore that from now on she would be loyal to any and every friend she ever had. She was anxious to get to school before him, so that he wouldn’t immediately go and sit with someone else. She waited impatiently by the door for one of her parents to take her to school, and almost dragged her father down the road, ignoring all his questions and attempts at conversation.

She kissed him goodbye at the gates, and hurried into her classroom. Good. Jamie wasn’t there yet. After hanging her coat up, she sat down at her desk and waited, her stomach feeling queasy, her whole body rigid, her teeth clenched with anxiety. Her eyes fixed on the door of the classroom. But Jamie didn’t come. The teacher came and took the register, paused at Jamie’s name, and continued. He wasn’t there.

The palms of Hermione’s hands were slick with sweat. Why hadn’t he come? Was it because of her? His father wouldn’t be punishing him because of something she forced him to do, would he? What seemed like hours later, the bell rang signaling break time, and Hermione rushed to the toilets. Tears had again been threatening to spill over, and she held them back long enough to get into the clinical silence of the girls’ bathrooms. Plonking herself down on top of a toilet seat, she wiped her runny nose as tears dripped steadily off her chin and onto her lap.

The door banged open, and she nearly groaned. Lindsay and her friends had decided now was the time visit the bathroom as well. But Hermione barely cared.

Their chattering voices stopped as Lindsay poked her head around the open toilet cubicle. –Hermione’s crying!” she shrieked, cackling in a high-pitched, demonic voice. –Why are you crying, Hermione, boyfriend dump you?” The chorus of sycophantic laughter that ensued made her come back for more. –He’s not here today, is he? Finally got sick of you? I knew he’d see sense soon. Told him he didn’t want to stick around you!”

Come on, Hermione thought to herself, make something happen! The giggles were becoming unbearable. Honestly, how were girls like this allowed to be alive? She waited for her strange powers to kick in, but nothing happened. She just sat on a toilet seat, surrounded by teasing girls, with no way of defending herself. The strange thing was, she was disappointed. She had relied on these ‘powers’ to help her in times of trouble, but here she was, being bullied, and they weren’t coming to her rescue. She knew she had always been scared of them, and had wished they would go away, but now she saw that she had come to take pride in them. They distinguished her from the others, had made her special. And now they were gone, she saw she was exactly the same as everyone else. Plain, boring, normal, and a betrayer.

The girls began to drift away when they realised they weren’t going to get a reaction out of her, and she sat alone, her mind numb with the trauma of the past few days. She couldn’t even bring herself to tidy the library.

The bell rang at the end of break, and she pulled herself up and wandered slowly back to her classroom. As she walked through the door, she saw Jamie sitting at their table. A mixture of relief, shame and anxiety fought for prominence in her mind, and she took a deep, steadying breath before walking over to him. –Hello, Jamie,” she whispered.

He didn’t reply.

She chose her words carefully, and continued. –I’m really, really sorry about last night! I should never have told you to read with me, it’s all my fault, I’m so, so sorry!” She was in such a rush to get all the words out that they began running into each other. –Pleasesaywecanstillbefriends?”

Jamie began to slowly unpack his school bag without looking at her. He took out his pencil case, his exercise book, and a Maths textbook. He unzipped the pencil case, and methodically extracted a pen, a pencil, a rubber, a ruler and a pencil sharpener. He zipped the pencil case back up, put it back in his bag, stood up, and turned to hang the bag up on his peg at the back of the classroom. Finally, he returned. It wasn’t until then that he turned to look at Hermione. –My dad wants to send me to a specialist school next year.”

There was a pause. –I don’t understand,” said Hermione. –Does that mean you won’t go to the same school as the rest of us?”

–Yes. He doesn’t think I should be friends with people like you, who obviously don’t care about my condition.”

–But it’s not a condition! It’s only dyslexia; you can get over it in a normal school!”

–Well that’s not what Dad says.”

–How does he know? It doesn’t sound to me like he understands what’s wrong with you.”

–Who are you to say that?” demanded Jamie. –You don’t know anything about my dad. If you did, you’d understand why he wants to help me so badly! But all you care about is having someone to read with! You don’t realise that maybe you’re not always right; and that sometimes even adults know better than you do!”

–Jamie, I-”

–Don’t even try saying sorry. I don’t want to be friends anymore.”

–Jamie, please!”

But the teacher walked in at that moment, and Jamie turned to face the front, edging his chair as far away as possible from Hermione’s.

Her ears rang with the accusations. Her mind reeled. He was right. She always thought of herself as so superior to everyone, when really she didn’t know anything. She was eleven years old. How was that grown up? She had made the biggest mistake of her life. The worst thing of all was that Jamie thought she had too. And he wasn’t going to forgive her. –Miss Parr,” she called out, raising her hand. –I don’t feel very well.”

–Oh really, Hermione? Ok, why don’t you go and have a lie down in the Nurse’s office. If you’re still not feeling well in half an hour we might be able to call one of your parents.”

Hermione nodded, and walked numbly out of the classroom. However, instead of turning left out of it, she turned right, heading towards the library. It was empty. She found a small, secluded corner, curled up in a ball, and began to cry.