Ujima

Ujima - Collective Work and Responsibility; To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.

[Book Year 3]

“It’s our O.W.L. year,” Alicia complained, “Wood can’t possibly think he can set this packed of a practice schedule.”

“Of course he does,” Katie said with a sigh, “When has Wood ever been known to slow down?”

Angelina sat with her teammates on the floor of the Gryffindor common room near the fireplace as they read over the latest Gryffindor Quidditch practice schedule, which Oliver Wood told them at dinner he had been devising over Christmas break. She had immediately gone over to Alicia and Katie after reading it through, sure she had gotten the wrong paper.

She sighed, “I knew he would do this after we lost to Hufflepuff.”

“But he has exams too!” Alicia exclaimed, “There’s no time!”

Angelina set down the color-coded parchment complete with outlines of individual workouts, group practices, and strategic meetings. “I’ll talk to him about scaling back.” They didn’t need more practice. Everyone knew that Harry would have caught the Snitch had the dementors not chosen that moment to see what all the fun was about. She shuddered, reminded of the cold, dark feeling that had washed over her as she’d flown at the Hufflepuff goals.

“Angelina?”

She looked up to see Lavender Brown standing above her, a worried look on her face.

“What’s up?” Angelina asked. The girl rarely spoke to her outside of BSU meetings, which she had only recently begun attending, but Angelina had long since taken it upon herself to be available to all of the younger Black Gryffindors who needed her guidance, as others had been for her.

“Can we talk?”

“Sure,” Angelina folded up Wood’s practice schedule and pushed herself up off the ground. She followed Lavender over to two armchairs just vacated by two first years, wondering what the issue was. Lavender had only started coming to BSU meetings just before the end of last term, and though she was new, she’d seemed fairly comfortable. From the look on her face, Angelina worried that something had happened.

“What’s going on?”

“Something’s wrong with Hermione,” Lavender said, “I wasn’t going to say anything after how insensitive she was after my bunny died, but I’m really worried.”

Angelina hadn’t seen Hermione much this year, and the few times she’d caught a glimpse of her she had either been running to the library, running to class, or running to her room to get another book. She wasn’t sure it was much different from how Hermione had acted in previous years, but Lavender was the girl’s roommate, so Angelina knew she would have more insight.

“What makes you think so?”

“She only ever does homework — I know that doesn’t sound so different from how she is normally, but it’s like she never sleeps. Parvati picked up her schedule yesterday morning to give back to her after she dropped it on her way out of our room, and she swears Hermione had multiple classes in the same time slot!”

Angelina frowned, “No one can be in two places at once.”

“Well obviously not, but she’s never missed a Divination class and she goes on and on about Arithmancy, but they’re at the same time.”

“Maybe she’s worked something out with the professor,” Angelina offered, unable to see anything else for it.

“Maybe, but that’s not the point. She’s been crying a lot lately and I know for a fact that she and Ron Weasley had a row. Of course, Harry sided with him, so now all she does is hang out with Hagrid.” Her voice dripped with derision at the thought of anyone wanting to spend their free time with the school’s newest and most untrained professor.

“Why haven’t you offered to let her hang out with you and Parvati?”

“Obviously we have, and we’ll occasionally have lunch but we have nothing in common,” Lavender leaned in, her tone hushed, “She doesn’t even care about the Boys With Magic’s Screech Tour!”

Angelina watched Lavender, bemused. She supposed Lavender and Hermione were about as different from each other as you could get, but still, she appreciated the fact that Lavender was willing to seek help for her roommate.

“Why are you coming to me about this? Surely Professor McGonagall could help her with her schedule, or talk some sense into Harry and Ron.”

“Well, she looks up to you,” Lavender says, “I wanted to invite her to a BSU meeting, but I think she might respond to it better coming from you.”

“I don’t know…” Angelina said, unsure, “If anything, her coming to BSU might make her scheduling issues worse.” She vaguely wondered if she could go to Wood with the BSU as an excuse for why she couldn’t do so many practices.

“True, but BSU makes me feel like I have a real support system here,” Lavender said, “It seems like Hermione is flailing. Maybe it could help her too.”

Angelina promised Lavender that she would talk to Hermione about joining the BSU, but for the rest of the week, she didn’t find the time. Her professors were piling on more and more homework as O.W.L.s loomed. As their match against Ravenclaw came closer, Wood became more pumped up than ever, approaching team members in the hall to shout tips and getting into a very loud and public argument with Percy Weasley in the entrance hall about why having a full working model of the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch in their room shouldn’t be a hindrance to a good night’s sleep. She had spoken to Wood about calming down, and in response, he relented on the individual workouts, but increased the constructive feedback he seemed to feel obligated to hurl at them in passing.

With Saturday morning came Quidditch practice, but Angelina had a book she needed to return to the library before Madam Pince began stalking her for it — she had heard from Colin Creevey that Pince had taken to popping around corners after he’d put off returning a book for too long. She left her broomstick at the doorway, knowing the librarian wouldn’t like it in her sanctuary.

She wasn’t all that surprised to see Hermione there, surrounded by stacks of books near one of the windows, the early morning light filtering in through the thin gray clouds. She was bent over an open book, but when Angelina got closer, she realized the girl was fast asleep.

“Hey,” Angelina nudged her awake.

Hermione shot up, eyes wild. The side of her dense curly hair was flattened, packed together, and lopsided. “Wha—? Oh, hey Angelina.”

Angelina knew she needed to get to practice, but now that she was really looking at Hermione up close, she could see that Lavender had a point. The girl had large bags under her eyes, her clothes looked disheveled, and it was clear she hadn’t moisturized her hair in at least two weeks. Angelina sat down next to her, reaching out to fluff up the side of Hermione’s hair that had been mashed together when she dozed off. It felt dry and brittle.

“What’s going on?”

“Oh, nothing,” Hermione mumbled, rubbing her eyes, “I’ve been looking up precedents for hippogriff pardons after they’ve attacked humans. I must have fallen asleep.”

Angelina slid a stack of books out of her way and glanced down at the huge tome Hermione had been sleeping on. It was a book about legal cases against violent magical creatures from the 19th century. “Why would you be doing that?”

“The Ministry is holding a hearing for Buckbeak soon and Hagrid needs all the help he can get,” Hermione’s words were slower than Angelina was used to, but she could still hear the indignation in her voice. “It isn’t fair to punish Buckbeak just because Malfoy was being stupid.”

“Sure,” Angelina had heard all about the hippogriff issue, it was one of the reasons they had played Hufflepuff in their first Quidditch match of the year, and by extension, the reason Wood was so frantic after losing. “But why is that on you?”

Hermione blinked. “Hagrid is my friend.”

“Yes, but Hagrid is also a grown man,” Angelina said gently, “Are you sure you have time to focus on this given all of your classes?”

Hermione wouldn’t meet her eyes, “I’m handling it.”

“I won’t tell you how to manage your time,” Angelina conceded, leaning back. “But it seems like you need some support. Some of us — Black students, I mean — we meet on Sunday mornings to hang out and talk. Professor Sinistra gave us her classroom to use.”

Hermione frowned, “I heard about that. I figured Zabini just sent that note as a courtesy. He doesn’t like me very much, and the others think I’m too high strung.”

Angelina grimaced, “That may be true, but the BSU isn’t about that. It’s about community, having each other’s backs even if you’re not exactly close.”

“I don’t know,” Hermione said, rubbing her eye again. Angelina wondered if all Hermione really needed was a good night’s sleep.

“Well just think about it,” Angelina said, pushing herself up from her seat. She was going to hear it from Wood for being late. “And stop by my room later. I’ve been developing a quick moisturizing spell for hair that I think you’ll be able to learn fairly easily.”

Hermione yawned. “Thanks, Angelina,” she said before bending over further to read about the trial of a bowtruckle with a penchant for pulling out the hair of anyone who came within ten feet of its trees.

Angelina nodded and turned to leave the library.

Angelina sat in Sinistra’s classroom in the circle of chairs Blaise Zabini and Desiree Warbeck had configured before the start of the meeting. Desiree was now passing around the fresh cookies she’d baked in the Hogwarts kitchens (“You can get a lot done when you’re friendly with the house elves.”) while Dean Thomas wrote a few things on the board in the front of the classroom.

Angelina’s younger brother Alex sat nearby, poised to take minutes. It was his first year at Hogwarts, and he’d been sorted into Ravenclaw. When Angelina had told him about the group, he’d jumped at the chance to join, and when Blaise had casually asked if anyone could take notes, Alex took it upon himself to bring his own quills and parchment to every meeting from there on out.

“Did you talk to her?” Lavender hissed at Angelina as she sat down in the circle, leaving a seat between them.

“Yeah,” Angelina said, “I don’t know if she’ll come, but we’ll see.”

“Alright everyone,” Blaise said, after thanking Desiree for a cookie, “We should start.”

Dean finished writing down the last bullet point with a flourish and came to sit between Blaise and Alex. Desiree kept walking around the circle, while Blaise continued.

“Let’s check in. How’s the beginning of the new term going for everyone so far?”

There was a beat of silence as the students all looked around at each other, unwilling to go first.

“I’ll start,” Dean said, sitting up straighter. “I’m okay. School’s fine, but I’ve been having a hard time talking to my mum. My parents are Muggles, so they don’t know about all the...stuff going on here. I was too scared to tell them about the Chamber of Secrets, and with Sirius Black on the loose near Hogwarts…I don’t know I guess I’m just having a hard time figuring out what to tell my family.”

Blaise nodded, looking around the room. “Anyone have any advice for Dean?”

“Don’t be stupid,” Lee Jordan said next to Angelina. “The Chamber’s been closed and the Ministry will get Black. Don’t tell them about any danger unless you don’t want to stay here anymore.”

“Of course I want to stay!” Dean exclaimed.

“Then keep your mouth shut,” Lee said, “Trust me, it’s a pain to have your parents worrying about you at school, Muggle or not.”

Angelina silently agreed. She and Alex had been getting long-winded letters from their mother about all of the anonymous tips the Daily Prophet was getting about Black, and after the attack on the Fat Lady, she knew her parents were of half a mind to pull them out of school altogether. Angelina wished she could tell her not to worry, especially with Dumbledore around, but instead she thanked her mum for the information and moved on with trying to balance her schoolwork and Quidditch.

“Who’s next?” Blaise asked.

“I’ll go,” said Lee. “Everything’s brilliant mostly, except I’ve got detention for the next four Saturdays just for putting fake snakes in Alicia’s stew.”

“You deserve it!” Alicia interrupted scathingly from across the room. Several people giggled.

“Oh come on, it was just a bit of fun,” Lee said with a smile. “Anyway, I’m supposed to be sorting Flitterblooms from Devil’s Snare with Sprout, which is cruel and unusual punishment if you ask me — what if I get attacked and there’s no one to save me? On top of that, Snape’s given me extra Potions homework just because I misspelled ‘monkshood’ in my essay, so now I’ll be missing out on some prime planning time with the twins — we’ve got some brilliant jokes for April but they take time —”

“Sorry,” a small voice said from the doorway.

Lee stopped as the room turned to see Hermione, looking unsure. She wore a burgundy sweater and jeans, her thick hair pulled up into a pineapple on her head. She was clearly still exhausted, but she looked far better than when Angelina had seen her last.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Hermione said, eyes darting around the room, “I just wasn’t sure if this was the right place.”

Dean smiled kindly, “You came at the right time. Lee was rambling.”

“Sorry for trying to share my life,” Lee said, crossing his arms dramatically, “I thought I was amongst friends.”

“Take a seat,” Blaise said, gesturing to the circle.

Hermione made her way over to the chair between Angelina and a beaming Lavender. Desiree hurried over to offer her a cookie.

“Why don’t you check in, Granger?” Blaise said as Desiree took her seat. “We’re just talking about how our years are going so far.”

“Oh,” Hermione said, taking a small bite of her cookie and wiping her mouth. “Mine has been really hectic, but I’m managing…”