Harry Potter © J.K. Rowling

Hermione pursed her lips, eyes darting around the room in suspicion. The girl's parents were sat stiffly beside her (father with his fists clenched, and mother with an uncertain smile upon her lips while her brow furrowed in worry), only glancing at her way when the silence was becoming thick and suffocating.

"And why would this concern us?" her father's voice was flat, as unremarkable as his poorly coiffed hair where the only highlights were strands of gray. "We've met once before, and you assured us that this would not become a problem."

The young girl recoiled slightly in shock at the implication. "Father," she murmured, emotions causing her voice to tremble.

Her mind was her greatest treasure, and it had never let her down before. It was perfect in every way—she was convinced—and she refused to believe when someone would attempt to convince her otherwise. An eidetic memory was rare, especially among the small part of Britain where she resided. Many teachers had cooed over such a rarity, most swiftly attempting to sweetly talk her mother into allowing her to remain in their care despite the vast difference between the bright girl and the other students. As a result of her insisting frequently that she was uninterested in being kept as a trophy, she'd skipped three years ahead (many students resented her for this, but she didn't mind—knowledge was more important than friendship).

Physically her body was that of an average fifteen-year-old girl, although her height was rather stunted due to her often becoming too immersed in gathering information to consume food regularly. Hermione tucked a stray curl that had escaped her intricate plait behind her ear, unsure of how to continue as her father glanced at her dully.

She idly thought that she could clearly remember the faces of all those that had stepped within their home during all the years of her life.

Her father had never left the house since she was an infant. Hermione had been told many tales by her family, close and somewhat distant relatives, too, but the general theme was a horrific mugging had gone wrong when he'd been purchasing groceries. The young girl had started to see holes within the tale told very quickly, but wisely kept it to herself whenever she glanced at her father's face. The side of the man's face she could see at that moment was untouched, not barring the scars that he forever wore with a miserable expression. Stretching from his forehead and down along his right eye was a gruesome, jagged scar that ended abruptly at his cheek, as though his torturer had been unable to finish. The man's right eye was milky, and hard to look at unless a strong stomach was possessed. He was thoroughly blind within that eye, although it never seemed to be a problem for him.

Apparently, when he'd picked Hermione up as a child she'd traced the skin abruptly with her tiny, chubby fingers and inflicted so much pain upon him that he promptly dropped her onto the floor.

She traced along the nape of her neck for the diagonal scar that was there—apparently she'd fallen on something sharp.

"Father doesn't accept visitors unless there's company at home," she stated, voice barely above a whisper.

Her mother tensed beside her, hands clasped tightly within her lap after she'd smoothed down the wrinkles of her plain black skirt.

The young girl finally returned her gaze to the man sat across the three of them at the dining table; he most certainly had never stepped into their home before—she would have known! Her mother worked until after her classes were over and had only rarely taken a sick day. Her parents didn't seem to think that there was anything strange about the man, although their reaction when he'd stepped inside their home immediately was surprisingly negative.

The man in question was an aged man with long, very thin, frizzy hair that was the colour of aging and the moon (amusedly, she noted the glasses perched upon his nose were half-moon shaped), and eyes a soft blue. His expression was anything but calm as he met her gaze, though.

"That's because I made you forget, child," he replied just as softly.

He placed his elbows on the dining table, resting his chin upon his hand. The movement had caused his absurdly long beard to free itself of the large black belt across the man's waist. His clothing was certainly odd, and mostly likely caused a commotion along the gossip loving street the family resided in—Hermione could hardly wear a shirt with a hole within it without her becoming the hot topic of the small village within hours. The bright red slacks paired with a bright orange button-down shirt, which was clearly too large, clashed awfully with the purple hat that as place carelessly upon his head.

"Excuse me?" she asked incredulously.

His expression was unwavering. "It's as I said. I wanted you to forget, so you did."

"Of course," Hermione replied flatly, "that makes perfect sense... sir."

If he had any negative reaction to her tone, he did not show it. Her parents, however, hadn't managed to grasp not to react strongly in the presence of guests.

"Hermione," her mother hissed, grasping her hand and squeezing it tightly. "Please be polite to this gentleman."

"You may call me Professor Dumbledore, as that's who I'll be within a few weeks," he interjected smoothly, eyes glancing at her mother in a silent warning.

Hermione watched the non-verbal conversation the old man was having with her parents with interest. They hadn't mentioned a tutor coming—she hadn't had one since she was young, and that was simply to learn languages faster by being able to converse with another.

"I've finished school," she stated evenly, testing the waters to see if he had any idea how unneeded he really was.

"I understand that, miss," he started, granting her a tight smile and a dip of his head, "I'm well aware of your age, so I'll be withdrawing you from your secondary school. You'll be transferring to a legendary boarding school; one where only the very best walk within the walls." The professor's smile reached his eyes, creating crinkles of skin in the corners, clearly reflecting his feeling on the subject.

"There's no such school." Hermione had looked for the best schools to further her talent and quench her knowledge, but none had particularly appealed to her, especially non that were boarding. For this man to come here and brag about such an accomplished school rattled her. "I have already finished secondary school, sir, and I'm currently coming to an end at pursuing higher-level achievements in my own time."

Professor Dumbledore frowned, glancing at her father uncertainly. "Has she avoided attention at all?"

"Yes," he replied gruffly. "No pictures in the newspaper, or on the television."

Professor Dumbledore pursed his lips.

"Teachers were asked to keep quiet," her mother interjected. "She's only been taught locally, although some foreigners have tutored once or twice. No problems were encountered."

To see her parents converse with a newcomer, talking as though she wasn't in the room, only caused her to become irked. She was more than capable of taking part in the conversation, yet they were talking about such topics that seemed like she was a restrained pet.

"Miss Hermione," the old man started, staring at her intently. "I am the headmaster at such a school, and I am speaking the truth when I tell you it would be best for you to educate yourself further there. There's only so much knowledge that you'll be unable to grasp within this world unless you, yourself, seek for other sources."

"Pray tell, where is this school located?" she asked coolly.

"Scotland," he replied, chipper. "It's in a secure location, protected by the best wards and charms that can be offered in this current age. You'd be safe there, of course." Fidgeting for a moment, the old man reached into the pocket of his slacks and placed an envelope onto the table in front of her.

Hermione opened it warily, scanning the content. The school was eloquently named, Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and was inviting her officially to join the fifth-year class at the prestigious school. It listed a wide variety of objects, clothing and study equipment that were needed, and she was unfamiliar with most. The contents of the letter was surely a hoax of sorts—really, a cauldron was on her list of supplies? She was ostracised enough for being younger than other students, and bringing such odd items was clearly not going to help her there.

"You told us this wouldn't happen," her father ground out, his expression quickly turning fierce, "we were informed she'd go to a normal school, and be perfectly normal."

Normal wasn't a word used to describe her often; gifted, talented, prodigy were often uttered, but never normal. The thought that her parents would've been fine with her being average, mundane, and blending in with the rest of the students caused her heart to beat fast. Were they disappointed that she'd succeeded their expectations?

"I wish that were true, still," Professor Dumbledore replied evenly. "Circumstances have changed. Miss Hermione is showing symptoms that could be possibly dangerous if she remains here any longer; the precautions I cast before she was put into your care haven't seemed to have worked."

Symptoms, precautions. Hermione shook her head, loose brown curls that had loosened bouncing from the moment, and rubbed her hands cautiously together in her lap. Nothing out of the normal had happened lately. Her mother's friends had visited the other week, she'd collected the newspaper and purchased their groceries at the store with a fleeting smile at the cashier who was always baffled by her requesting the right amount of change before he had the chance to scan everything. The last words the professor had uttered caused her to stiffen.

The young girl's head whipped around to stare at her father so harshly, her plait barely skimmed her mother's nose. "Put into your care?" she asked, expression accusatory.

Professor Dumbledore lips twisted into grim line. "My words were careless," he explained softly, attempting to squash the nagging concerns that were swirling in her mind, "but have no worry, all will be clear when you attend school. You'll be in touch with your magic, and any doubts you have will be gone."

"Magic," she repeated dubiously.

"Magic," he replied, amusement thick within his voice. Hand withdrawing from his slacks again, this time he was grasping a thin stick. It was polished to perfection, not a blemish upon the wood, and it was certainly strange. "You'll learn all about it," the professor assured. The dining table rattled for a few moments, before neatly levitating without a wobble to either side. Hermione watched with wide, confused eyes, and noted briefly how her mother looked close to fainting beside her as the piece of furniture touched the ceiling.

Out of all the questions that Professor Dumbledore had expected her to ask first, he certainly wasn't prepared for how quick she was. "Your magic made me forget?"

"Yes," he replied evenly.

"Will you give me my memories back, or will I have to attend this school of yours to obtain the knowledge myself?" She eyed the dining table again, firmly trying to wrap her mind around the information. Her brain hadn't failed her. The man in front of her had.

"Both are possible." Hermione frowned. "You'll learn to be strong, courageous and remarkably smart and you'll most likely climb the ladder of the wizarding world, if you wish to pursue such a life."

A thought struck her. "My mind," she murmured. Professor Dumbledore raised an eyebrow in question, asking her to clarify silently. "Is my eidetic memory because of... magic?"

He chuckled, waving a hand dismissively, allowing the piece of furniture to fall slowly, almost gracefully, back into the original place. "I believe you're simply gifted. It is not a magical trait anyone is aware of."

"Will you be taking Hermione now?" her father asked, glancing at the letter openly displayed upon the girl's knees to make sure the information was correct. "We will not be leaving our home."

Professor Dumbledore blinked. "Miss Hermione can stay in the guest rooms of the castle, if she wishes."

Hermione sat back in her chair, unsure of whether to input herself into the conversation any further. It seemed to be repetitive once she had removed herself—her parents, so fazed and somehow adamant that they wanted nothing to do with such a world that the headmaster described. A world where knowledge was mandatory if one wanted to succeed, where there were many spells to be learned.

Her parents had left the room without her knowing, and the old man had softened considerably without the parental figures in the room. He'd questioned whether she was okay, if she needed time to herself to process the outcome of that day, but she had stubbornly shook her head. When the time came for her to return with him to the castle, Hermione did not cause a fuss. The emotions that threatened to spill over, the sadness of her parents' attitudes, the nerves that caused her fingertips to shake, and the dread of the unknown, were squashed down and held onto for a later time.

"Although I would prefer muggle transportation, I believe this would be the appropriate choice for you," Professor Dumbledore had said, capturing her attention when she'd carried a small suitcase to the front door.

He explained rather animatedly that muggles were non-magical folk, much like her parents, and they lived in ignorance of the magical world. The concept of their travel had gone over Hermione's head until the man managed to surprise her once again by reaching within his slacks, this time withdrawing what seemed to be a handful of dirt. She was nervous, initially wondering if this was some kind of a test to see whether she'd go along with this man's lunacy. It became apparent soon after when he'd passed the green-coloured dirt over to her hands and returned with his own hand of dirt, it wasn't the test she was wary of.

The transportation had turned out to be a horrible experience. The old man had ushered her to the nearest fireplace, and despite the lack of roaring fire that was usually there within the chilly evening, he had demonstrated placing his foot within before calling out the name of the school. Hermione followed suit, a dubious expression as she closed her eyes and released the powder.

Hermione coughed, eyes tearing up as she tried to clear her throat. The room she'd somehow bloody teleported into slowly came into view. It was an office of sorts, with many bookcases and portraits upon the wall (Hermione decided not just their eyes were moving rather quickly, and tried to shove that to the back of her mind), though the main focus of the room seemed to be the oak desk in the centre. There was a perch beside it, though any sort of bird was absent.

"I'm sure that was interesting for you," Professor Dumbledore remarked with a smile. As she dusted her clothes to attempt to get the soot and ash to go, the old man reached for his polished stick again and with a gentle movement all the dirt disappeared before her eyes.

"That, too," she murmured, eyes still on his... wand.

"Everything may seem foreign for now, but you'll become accustomed soon enough—you'll be fully immersed within our world in no time, I'm sure." He settled into the seat behind the desk, breathing a sigh of relief. "Muggle clothes may be a treat, but I think I'll change into something more comfortable, if you'll excuse me."

The ridiculous outfit changed in seconds, with the old man barely shifting in his seat to make the action happen. The only accessory he kept from before as the large black belt, and it looked just as out of place as before. He wore a bright green robe of sorts, certainly not the kind for after a bath, she noted. The material was luscious and expensive-looking, tailored to fit around his chest with billowing sleeves that allowed a lot of movement. It was a outfit that was often depicted in history, usually adorned with buttons and other such decorations, yet the only pattern was of daisies sprinkled along the long sleeves. His hat had transformed, too, Hermione noticed with a muffled snort. It had simply became rounder along the brim, while the height became well over twice the size, and pointed at the end (the stereotypical hat that muggles had worn in theatre and plays to indicate that they were magical, she realised with amusement).

"Is this usual magical fashion?" she enquired.

Professor Dumbledore guffawed. "Mostly black or diluted colours, but yes. I'll admit that I'm partial to the hats, although they are not too favoured in this era."

She supposed she would stick out like a sore thumb immediately. Any clothes that were packed certainly did not look similar to that type of fashion. The denim skirt she was wearing at that moment clearly didn't belong, though she supposed her black button-up shirt might fit underneath a robe.

Did they wearing clothing underneath? The professor's was covering his front, desk obscuring her view of his legs though she presumed that it was long. Perhaps it was custom to wear undergarments, shoes, and the robe as their main source of clothing. His clothing appeared to be a large tunic with long sleeves, not an overcoat that was drowning him. She shook her had with the thoughts, deciding to get back on track.

"This school," she started, glancing around and meeting the eyes of quite a few portraits that seemed to stare right back with intensity, "when do students usually start?"

"Letters are automatically distributed when an individual becomes the ripe age of eleven; then, it is up to them to reply, either for more information or simply to accept, and arrive by train with the rest of the years, together. I believe they begin the same date that muggle schools do."

And yet, she hadn't received such a letter—from the conversation with her parents, it seemed that she wasn't wanted here, so why was the old man allowing her to now? Hermione frowned, and expressed her doubts directly, only to become even more confused at the man's odd reactions. It wasn't necessary for her, safer without her here, apparently, but now that was shattered and she needed to be in control.

"Were my parents in danger?"

Professor Dumbledore stared at her, seeming to weigh the options in his head. "They were."

"Why?" she prompted. "Father only allows visitors when another is there; he's careful and scared."

"Child, have you ever wondered why?"

Hermione blinked. "Of course. He's a scarred man."

Professor Dumbledore released a deep breath. "Yes, Miss Hermione. I'm sure you've never noticed anything amiss about a person before?"

"Only you," she replied after a moment of hesitation. "Even without your clothes, there's something... odd about you."

"Magic." He smiled. "I am the first magical person you've encountered, though I am glad for this. There was always a chance of you meeting another magical child as you grew up, and that would've been a disaster of sorts."

"Are magical folk common, then?"

They certainly were, it seemed. Hermione seemed to have been living under a rock, though the headmaster had promptly explained that they didn't allow muggles to see them. They hid, whether for tactical reasons or in fear, she was not told. Hermione mentioned her concern that no one had noticed that she was magical and hadn't been contacted prior to his arrival, unlike the other students, and he shook his head sadly.

She was baffled to find out that magic-born child typically didn't receive education other than personal tutors at their homes. Their magic was unstable, apparently, and the risk of them attending muggle education was usually avoided by keeping to themselves. Hermione voiced her concerns that she really wasn't magical (after all, her mind was the only above average thing about her), but the old man had waved his hand dismissively and insisted she simply hadn't known.

"It may take some work, but you will be able to master magic like the rest of the students."

"I'll be years behind," she interjected, sour. "Why couldn't I start with the rest of the children?"

The headmaster frowned. "That would be my fault," he confessed softly. "I allowed you to stay where you were so muggles could nurture you. I wanted you to understand, and be in touch with them. A lot of wizards and witches, even the brightest, are ignorant to the other kind that shares the planet. I wanted your view on blood to be new."

When she pointed out that other muggle-borns would share her problems and concerns, he shook his head and tentatively explained further. The issue of blood in the wizarding world made Hermione snort quietly to herself in disbelief. Pure-bloods, those who had only married and bred with others that were purely magic-born (meaning, they hadn't been tainted by muggle-blood), were considered the almighty and powerful of their world. They held noble titles, that didn't cross over into the muggle world, had heirs as their first born, and considered themselves aristocrats. Half-bloods came from the copulation of a pure-blood and a witch of any kind (even a simple muggle, if they inherited the magic from their wizard parent), or of a half-blood and any—blood was all pure, half, or none, apparently.

He explained that in another time, many decades ago, pure-bloods were convinced that muggle-borns were filth and had stolen magic somehow. It was a long over debate that was sometimes muttered about, though never loudly. Some schools outside of Britain had only just accepted muggle-borns into their classes, while most had allowed them for centuries.

Her heart hurt as she thought about the muggle-born children that had grown up without a clue of what they were to become; children that were startled by their accidental magic—an rush of power that came from a strongly feeling child that had no control over their actions—and possibly scarred for life from the damage that they could cause. The Ministry of Magic—the name of the government of the newly introduced world, only clued such children in on their heritage on their eleventh, by being invited to a school.

It was explained that there were wards set up around the country, some expanding over a whole town, that were created to detect accidental magic only. They were not monitoring every spell, as that as too difficult and hard to do, Professor Dumbledore explained delicately when she'd gasped at the thought of being watched every moment. There was only a short amount of information about the ministry offered to her, and she quickly understood that one individual was voted into power to act as the minister, to oversee the magical world to the best of their abilities, while employees and other branches of the magical government created laws and attempted to keep their kind safe.

"You are not muggle-born," Professor Dumbledore said, capturing her attention once more. "I cannot tell you about your birth parents, but it doesn't change that the two who raised you are, definitely, your family."

Hermione simply stared, doubts swirling in her head. She wanted desperately to trace the scar of her neck—the link to her parents—but opted to pull the band from her plait, allowing her hair to fan and cover her neck.

"What am I, then?" she pressed, cautious.

Was it a ploy just for her to trust him? He was a stranger, someone who had tampered with her precious mind, and yet he was sat there calmly sharing such information as though they were talking about the weather.

"Child, you are a half-blood." He seemed happy at this. "Some would say being a half-blood is being the best of both worlds, although that is not the case with you. I will not be explaining any further today, though." Hermione's expression turned sour at this. "School will be starting in a few weeks, and I'm sure you'll be wishing to explore the castle before that time. Books and any equipment you may need will be in your room, waiting, although you'll be changing rooms when the school year begins."

Any hopes of visiting a magical town, simply to research and attempt to understand the world she was being thrust into any better, disappeared in seconds. She was to stay within the castle, apart from walks on the ground (but definitely not the Forbidden Forest, as the name suggested).

With a flick of his wand, Professor Dumbledore summoned a book from one of the many bookcases, and levitated it in front of her. "This will help," he hinted with a smile.

It was a history book of the school, it seemed from the blurb on the back. Hermione accepted with a soft nod, listening to the directions he gave her to the room she'd be staying in for the time being. The steps of the small staircase she went down were so polished she almost slipped, only just retaining her balance with a sigh of relief. Her cheeks tinged pink as she distantly heard the old man chuckling to himself, back behind his desk once again.

The school was most definitely a castle, she confirmed. It was large, spacious, with hallways that had countless windows and a wide area to walk through. All of the portraits moved, even spoke, and she concluded from conversing with them briefly that it was a complicated enchantment that was possible. The whole scheme of the building was elegant, certainly fitting for the theme of magic, and it made the previous schools she'd attended seem downright lower-class. She politely nodded to every portrait she came across, already memorising their faces (noting which were twisted in sneers, or in polite curiosity), looking around every now and then in awe. There were no other teachers and no students, she'd been informed, wandering the halls so the soft click of her shoes echoed awfully through the large halls.

As she ventured down an elegantly lit hallway, she noted that each stained wood door had a small nameplate, which glowed slightly with what she assumed was magic. On the eight door an elegant script said her first and last name beautifully.

The script paled in comparison to the room. She'd usually seen such decorations in a bedroom in fiction only, though all of her day belonged to that category at this point. The bed had hangings elegantly around it, the cream sheets without a single wrinkle upon them. The room was flawless, spotless, and the colour scheme was simple, but comforting. Only the wood of the bed, dresser, skirting board and door was stained a dark brown, while most of the fabrics and other decorations were either white or cream. It was a room fitting for someone just as elegant, not an ignorant teenage girl that was unfamiliar with wizarding customs. There was a small adjoined bathroom, the door covered by a small curtain on a particularly pointy rail.

Hermione blinked in surprise, brushing her teeth quickly and settling into the overly squishy and comfortable bedding.

-x-

The days started to pass by quickly. Professor Dumbledore hadn't contacted her again, nor had anyone approached her about why a student was there so early in August. Hermione was immersing herself in knowledge the best she could, bee-lining to the library almost every morning after breakfast (which was delivered moments before she was awake, somehow, though she was thankful as The Great Hall wouldn't be used until students had arrived; she'd read about the large hall, filled with windows, tables and seats for all the students to dine) with either a nod or a soft smile to the prim and proper librarian that sat at a desk, sorting through different papers every time Hermione saw her. The woman was suspicious at her sudden appearance at first, though after a few days returned the greeting gesture, only hesitant at first.

All the subjects were equally interesting to the young girl. She checked out many books at a time, one of each subject at a time, and returned them just as quickly after reading them. Her goal was to be able to be a fifth-year without drawing too much attention to how useless she felt, so she could avoid the curious stares and focus on her own problems. Hermione studied the hardest she had in years, gleeful that the information wasn't mundane as muggle education, and found more often than not she had a small smile on her lips every time she read. The first time she tried to cast a spell, in the safe area of the guest room she was occupying, the rush of watching her armchair levitate—even for just a second before it spluttered and fell to the floor again—had Hermione covering her face with her hands with a grin so wide she was sure her mouth would split.

After a few days of slowly working up the past years curriculum, the spell results were becoming less and less, even with her repeating the movement and words over a few dozen times. She'd reached the third-year before it was becoming a major problem, and she'd begrudgingly hauled herself out of her room and went out in search of the headmaster's office for help. She paused by the intricately carved gargoyles outside, quite unsure of how she was supposed to enter—was there a password, or maybe even a riddle to solve?

She paced outside for a few minutes. Professor Dumbledore was definitely inside; even without being able to see in, a book had mentioned that the eyes of the gargoyles would glow if the owner was not inside. Her magic wasn't connected enough for her to draw his attention that way, and it seemed certainly ridiculous to scream and shout.

"You are in the way," a voice drawled behind her, "remove yourself and go somewhere else."

"Sorry, sir," she rasped in surprise. The man was dressed all in black, robe large and cloaking his body with no sign of buttons, and sleeves that were long and not as large as the headmaster's (much like the headmaster had stated the fashion was), with hair much the same colour. His skin was smooth, with an olive tint, with dark eyes that were narrowed at her at that moment.

"State your business."

Hermione pursed her lips. His hair (which was as flat as his tone) brushed his shoulders with a neat parting in the middle. "I needed to converse with the headmaster about a private topic. I'm sorry for bothering you, sir."

His frown seemed to become deeper as he spied the muggle clothes she was wearing; the dress shirt she had tucked into a pair of jeans (both certainly not black). The headmaster had already had all of her schooling supplies delivered, and wandering around in her school uniform before lessons had even started didn't seem appealing. She'd only tried it on two times—the first to see if it was the right size, then the second to see if the rush she felt of magic was any different while wearing the appropriate attire. The experience seemed the same, no matter the clothing, so the uniforms were stored away neatly in the dresser of her room.

"I will escort you to him."

Hermione blinked in surprise.

"Thank you," she replied cautiously.

After she sidestepped out of the way, he strode past her swiftly, the robes he wore billowing from the movement, and murmured under his breath, "Mint humbugs."

The gargoyle's eyes glowed for a moment, much like they would if the headmaster wasn't present, before the ever-so-polished staircase came into view slowly. They ascended the stairs together—the man's steps quick and confident, while Hermione was cautious. The headmaster was reading a book on his table, the bird perch beside him still as empty as it had been previously.

"This young lady was pacing outside your office, Headmaster," the black-haired man drawled, stepping aside so Professor Dumbledore could see her clearly.

"I see." The old man smiled. "That certainly took longer than expected, Miss Hermione. I've been waiting for a little over a week."

Seeking help was never easy for Hermione and her pride. She'd usually grit her teeth and say the words needed and be on her way, though it was usually where a particular book could be purchased or ordered. She hadn't been almost utterly lost from classwork since she was very young. The black-haired man beside her could've been classed as intimidating in some instances, but with his inquiring gaze focused on her, she only felt irritated that he was present to witness the upcoming conversation.

"I had no problems with my studies until very recently," she admitted, a sour expression forming on her face, "I cannot advance without consulting you, despite my wishes to be independent."

He blinked. "Continue."

"I've found I have some... difficulty," she ground out, "with performing spells. I'd like to enquire about volunteering for work to be able to afford a wand."

The black-haired man's eyes seemed to narrow further at this.

"This is Miss Hermione." It was not a question, but still directed at the headmaster while the man kept his eyes on her. "Surely, you've told her about the scholarship—though I cannot fathom why she is here this early."

At her confused expression, the headmaster finally explained away any concern of money she once had. There was a fund students could apply for if they were particularly lower-class, or orphans, and the school happily paid for their supplies and anything necessary for school, as long as grades were sufficient enough at the end of the year for it to be renewed. He didn't enquire what difficulties she was having, as though he already anticipated this and wondered why it had taken her so long to come. The man beside her was introduced as Professor Snape, who would soon be her Potions teacher. He seemed rather unfriendly, but that could have been simply because he was only kind to a select few students. After he was introduced, Hermione smiled briefly at him with a nod of acknowledgement, before enquiring with the headmaster whether she could visit anywhere to purchase a wand with funds.

"Not necessary, Miss Hermione."

The old man searched through his desk drawer for a few moments before withdrawing another wand, light blue eyes flickering to look at her briefly before he pushed it across the wood towards her.

She'd read that wands had to be specifically crafted for each person, some wizards and witches having to go through sometimes a dozen to find the best for them, but any doubts flew out of her mind the moment she grasped the soft, lean piece of wood. She hummed softly in approval, curling her fingers in appreciation as her hand vibrated slightly at the sensation. Hermione smiled to herself.

"Thank you," she murmured, eyes still focused on her hand.

By the time she returned, a silver tray containing a small meal and a glass of some sort of juice, that was suspiciously orange but not the fruit, had arrived upon her desk while she had been absent. She ignored the offering as she sat on the bed and arranged the books of the curriculum she was researching at that time, focusing all her attention on them. When she'd excused herself to the toilet briefly, the tray had disappeared.

When Hermione had first researched into house-elves, she'd been so confused and incredulous. It hadn't seemed all that different to the slavery of the muggle world, and yet, the books had stated mostly noble families had them out of choice of the elf. They enjoyed serving others, making them happy, and that had mystified her. After days of meals being delivered and the room being cleaned so quickly and efficiently, Hermione had started to try and catch the elves when they thought they were being sneaky. She'd rushed to open the door at times to see one, but the soft sound of a snap in an empty room was all that greeted her. The young girl decided to just add a simple note of thanks when she finished a meal, so they knew they were appreciated.

Other than Madam Pince in the library, and the one sighting of Professor Snape, the castle was still empty. It was the weekend, two days before the school officially opened for the year. Madam Pince had informed Hermione the day before while checking out a book, that the professors would be arriving soon, along with any students that lived closely and didn't want to be escorted on a train from London.

Sharing a room with others females in her year didn't seem appealing. In primary school sharing a changing room once before swimming lessons was undesirable enough for the young girl to fake a menstrual cycle every lesson, so she could sit on an awfully uncomfortable chair on the side, reading material instead of joining the other children in the pool. She hadn't been with girls her own age for many years, and just the thought of all the giggling they'd be doing in the middle of the night was enough to make her groan. Hermione practised privacy charms with a new motive, along with any others that would be useful in such an environment.

-x-

Hermione let out a frustrated breath. She'd already dressed twice in muggle clothing without realising—she was far too distracted with all the upcoming events. There would be hundreds of children, all separated within four houses for the sake of a small rivalry, which seemed so very ridiculous.

"Just my luck," she groaned, thinking of the possibly of being sorted into the least liked house. She was sure that students were already not going to be too fond of her sudden appearance.

The ebony school robes stuck to her like a second skin, though they were like large, but thin, cardigans that were unable to be done up. Hermione shook her head to attempt to make the negative thoughts disappear, and slipped out of her outer robe, opting to hang it over the crook of her arm for the meantime. It seemed rather odd for the uniform to be half muggle—the crisp white shirt and matching tie, possibly a dark-coloured sweater if opted for, and dark gray (black in certain lights) slacks or skirt. Without the outer robe hanging on her, Hermione felt the uniform would pass for any type of school out there. Her shirt was neatly tucked into her skirt, the skirt an inch or so above the knee, and she looked at the tie curiously before realising its importance; the garment was charmed to match the house of the student automatically.

She swept her hair into a high ponytail, briefly tracing the scar on her neck for a moment. The robes would cover it when the time came—students had made fun of her for years because of it, surely it wouldn't be any different here.

The main difference was surely going to be the lack of muggle technology; magic interfered with it, rendering any devices unstable and unusable, so spells were used for the most mundane tasks.

Softly casting a spell to check the time, Hermione gulped loudly. Ten minutes, give or take, and the students would be here. They would then be split up at the meeting point according to their years, and then receive different forms of transportation. The young girl was tempted to sit by a window and watch as some of the students arrived, but a soft knock at the door distracted her.

"Miss Hermione." Professor Snape looked just as depressed as before, the only difference being his hair was slightly limper.

"Hello, sir," she replied, blinking.

"I am to escort you to the Great Hall," he explained simply, pivoting on the spot (his robes were a spectacular sight as he did this) before heading to the staircases.

She felt the pocket of her robes (still on her arm) for a moment to check her wand was there, with a brief nod of her head, before following after him. House-elves would move her stuff automatically into her new dorm, she knew, but leaving everything askew in the room seemed disrespectful. Professor Snape was already nearing the staircase, so she ran for a few moments to catch up with the man.

"Thank you for the escort," Hermione said, with a strained smile. Most of the castle was already memorised in her mind; an escort was almost an insult. Professor Dumbledore was already aware of her memory—so why was this man here? "I'm sure I could've made it alone."

"Yes," he replied flatly. "I'm here to collect the fifth-years, so I'll be in charge of you until they arrive."

"Oh." That made more sense. He simply wanted her in attendance already, so they wouldn't be delayed waiting for her appearance.

Hermione leaned against the wall of the large doors of the Great Hall. She'd peeked inside a few times in the passing days, mostly to see what the fuss was about, and she'd seen more than enough pictures in textbooks to be prepared for what was to come. Having the reactions of a first-year would've been an awful impression on the other students. She watched curiously as a few adults wandered past and into the Great Hall, only stopping for a few moments to greet Professor Snape and then head inside to seat themselves down. The first group of students arrived, but they turned out to be seventh-years, all escorted by a teacher with sandy brown hair and a kind smile. The smile faltered slightly when he spotted Professor Snape, but slipped right back into shape afterwards. The students entered the Great Hall after eyeing Hermione curiously for a few moments.

The sixth-years followed after, escorted by a witch with long, perfectly straightened, black hair that reached mid-back. Her lips were pursed to match her serious expression. She addressed Professor Snape as 'Severus' with a nod before slipping inside with her students.

Hermione had paid most attention to the rare students that had an elegant 'P' on their robes, indicating that they were prefects. From all her research, it seemed as though they didn't need to be particularly intelligent to be considered for the position—sometimes bubbly and likeable were selected. When Hermione had first read about them, she'd assumed they were a privilege for those who were advanced (why else would they be allowed their own private bathrooms to share?), but it seemed not even the title of Head Boy and Girl was due to intelligence.

A few minutes passed by before the next group of students arrived. They were easily the most organised she'd seen so far—the formation was almost impeccable. At the front was a young man, who was almost as tall as Professor Snape, with perfectly coiffed dark hair. The 'P' of his robe stood out, along with the black material against his pale skin.

"Professor," he greeted, only glancing at her briefly.

"Mister Potter," Professor Snape drawled, "I see you accepted the position."

Prefects were only handed out in fifth-year, Hermione had read.

"Of course." He smiled, though it did not reach his eyes.

The professor turned to her suddenly. "Miss Granger." Hermione blinked in surprise; it was the first use of her name within a conversation to actually address her so far. "Wait for the first-years." And with that, he moseyed on into the hall with the rest of the students after him. They eyed her either with amusement, confusion or they were simply uninterested.

The reactions of the other years was much the same as they passed her. The teachers were clearly already informed about her, as there were so questions directed at her, only a few nods here and there. Hermione slipped her robe on after realising why the looks were so odd directed at her—everyone else had theirs on already. She was curious why Professor Snape had really escorted her, and waited. Most teachers met each year group at the gate and then strode through the castle together before entering into the dinner hall.

"You must be Miss Granger."

The voice startled her. The woman in front of her had her eyes obstructed by square-shaped spectacles, pursed lips and dark hair pulled back into a low, tight bun at the nape of her neck. Much like the other female professor she'd seen, the woman wore robes of a green shade that didn't show whether she had other articles of clothing on underneath.

"Yes, ma'am," Hermione replied, well aware of the children just in front her all looking curious or terrified. It was painfully obvious which of the children were muggle-borns, as they were fidgeting on the spot nervously, some craning their heads to see inside the partially open door to view the room. No doubt some had been told ridiculous things were expected of them to decide which house they would be residing in.

"Very well," the woman said with a nod. "First-years, this way!"

The hall seemed to hum with magic (probably because of the floating candles, and the various plates that sat empty, waiting to be filled, along the tables). Hermione tucked the loose strands of her hair behind her ear as she stood with the rest of the first-years by the back. She leaned against the wall, already cursing the height difference she had with her companions. It was the opposite of usual; she was the one doing the towering at that moment. Many eyes were drawn to her once again, some being smart enough to notice the colour of her tie, finally, while murmurs started to spread.

"That's my brother!" a young woman cheered from one table. The child's face was soon as red as their sibling's house colour.

The light streaming in from the windows directed itself to the teacher's table at the end. A long, thin table with many seats on one side, so they could observe the students clearly. In the middle in a considerably larger chair (with intricate carvings, to boot) sat Professor Dumbledore. His gaze met Hermione's for a moment to offer an encouraging smile. He stood up with grace, clearing his throat softly, and then spoke to every student in the room.

Magic was making his voice project across the room, as he was speaking barely above a whisper normally. The speech was brief, and straight to the point (for once—she read that opening speeches went on for a while, and offered all sorts of information), and welcomed each of the students back from the holidays. There hadn't been any changes to the teaching roster.

"And now, for the sorting," the old man said with glee.

First-years beside her gulped. She barely stifled a laugh at their behaviour.

The sorting was odd, Hermione was sure. The books hadn't offered much information about it, simply stating a old hat, which turned out to be similar to the stereotypical wizard ones muggles used, could delve into each person's mind and identify what they would excel at. Some arguments had expressed that the hat would've been best to decide careers, rather than petty house rivalry at school. Whenever the idea had been presented to Dumbledore, the man apparently refused stating the hat was at home at Hogwarts; it had, after all, been created for the purpose to further the education of students to make sure they grew up in the right environment.

"Hufflepuff!" the hat had cried after being placed on the sibling that had blushed profusely earlier. Hermione could hear, just over the clapping of the house, the boy's sister gasping and shouting that she still loved him despite the hat's choice.

Many books had stated that the founders of the school had insisted on different houses so they could mould students separately. Sources all had different information, and Hermione hadn't felt inclined to believe any of them. Salazar had founded Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Godric Gryffindor. They all seemed bias in their own ways, especially since students were separated because of their personalities so they clashed awfully with the other houses most of the time. It wasn't as though the potentially evil children were huddled into a group together to scheme and be cruel, or for idiots to flock together. The houses were designed to help the young minds on their way to achieving greatness, whatever that may mean to each of them.

Hermione watched many students trail up to sit upon a stool with the hat, many tripping over on the journey there, only a few on the way to the tables, before it came her turn. The lack of attention while the rest of the students were being sorted was relaxing at first, but as soon as the last first-year literally skipped over to Gryffindor, many eyes were looking at her curiously.

"Hermione Granger," the professor with the bun called.

Eyes followed her as she walked towards the slightly raised floor, to sit upon the stool. She avoided eye contact and simply looked at the door of the hall as the hat slipped onto her head.

"Welcome." The hat's voice was oddly pleasant; like a soothing grandfather that was crooning to a small child. She'd been prepared for the voice within her thoughts, having researched beforehand. "Relax," the hat insisted, a smile clear in his voice (could the hat even smile?), "close your eyes and think of something nice, child. I mean you no harm; I'd like to see what you associate with happiness."

She did as instructed, focusing on the feeling of magic upon her head. The warm fuzzy sensation that was slowly spreading through her body, making her quirk her lips up in a small smile, the hat certainly was a pleasant experience to wear, even if it was so very close to falling off. If it did, then the warm buzz would be gone and—

"Slytherin!"

Hermione blinked. Ravenclaw had been the most suitable when she'd researched the traits needed for each house (needed to thrive), so to learn that she was apparently considered devious and cunning caused her to snort briefly.

There were only a few cheers from the Slytherin table, mostly from the younger students, while the rest of the hall was silent. The school rivalry was still strong, it seemed, and Hermione was certain she'd been sorted into the most hated house at that moment. The table was split up in year groups and it was only appropriate for her to sit with her own year group, she decided. Students blinked owlishly as she continued heading down the distance of the table, her expression blank apart from the wandering eye trying to find the first prefect in sight to determine where the fifth-years were. The dark-haired male from before was the one she spotted, and he had a spare seat right beside him.

She slipped into the seat, eyes focused on the headmaster once again as he gleefully announced it was time for dinner. With a click of his fingers, various different dishes appeared on the once empty plates for everything in range. He nodded in signal for everyone to begin eating. When his bottom connected with his grand chair, the hall came to life with the murmurs of chatter from all of the students, and a few of the professors.

Hermione eyed the food on the table, recognising a lot of it. The strange juice (that turned out to be pumpkin) seemed to be the popular beverage by the jugs on the table. The young girl reached for food on the plate just to the right, only a small stretch, before jumping in surprise.

A cool, but clean, fork had connected with her hand accompanied by a small burst of pain. She hadn't been stabbed, thankfully.

Hermione looked up incredulously and met the awfully fake smile plastered upon another girl's face opposite her. Her mousy brown hair was coiffed perfectly, falling into gentle waves upon her shoulders. Her expression didn't match her tidy appearance; the smile didn't reach her eyes, eyes that were dark and narrowed at her.

"Not so fast," she drawled, voice low naturally, but hushed not to draw attention. "I'm not sure you're welcome here."

Hermione pushed the fork away with disinterest. Taking no mind to their actions, she helped herself to the offered food. The treatment was usual—she didn't belong in classes much older than her, others had said, and she'd just shrugged it off her shoulders focusing on her work (work being her food, in the current moment).

"Slytherin... That's the house that detests muggle-borns, yes?" Hermione asked rhetorically. Salazar himself had wanted the muggle-born students to be rejected from the school; however, how precise that information was was questionable. Hermione had no trouble believing some were faithful to the nonsense spouted.

"Yes," a male beside the other witch confirmed. His startlingly blond hair was styled backwards, somehow managing to stay in place without gel or hairspray; magic was truly fantastic. His dull, cloudy blue eyes narrowed at his friend for a moment. "Pansy simply meant we haven't heard of your family."

Pansy sniffed indignantly. "I was just greeting her, Draco."

Draco snorted.

Hermione swallowed a bite of her food, wondering whether she could return to her guest room until this was over. It was unclear whether all students had to wait for all to finish venturing to their respective common-rooms. Hermione had memorised each entrance of the houses, the only problem being that the password hadn't been distributed yet.

"Half-blood, and I'm really not interested," she stated, finishing her roll. She place an assortment of vegetables onto her plate and a few slices of meat before the duo in front of her had replied.

"That's not something to be proud of." Pansy's face twisted into a sneer. Her hair should have been flat and dull to reflect her personality. "We've only got a few of them."

For the first time since she'd sat down, the male beside her (Potter, she recalled) spoke. "Pansy," he said in warning. Either he was flaunting his new prefect status, or was of such blood himself. Hermione didn't bother to speculate much.

Pansy's expression was sour for a moment before she smiled brightly, which looked slightly sincere, and apologised.

Pansy and Draco kept to themselves for the rest of the feast, murmuring among each other or with a few of the students around them. At one point a seventh-year had thrown a bread roll at Draco to get his attention, only to receive a rant about how his uniform could have been blemished by the food. The feast was certainly dull. The only good thing about the space was the feel of magic all around; some students were radiating it, and she narrowed it down to two that had a small, peach aura at times. Potter had displayed such an aura at one point, when he'd reached across the table to get the food of his choosing. It was gone as quickly as it had surfaced. The other student with the faint aura, and round spectacles, had much the same hair the male beside her did, the only difference being the Gryffindor's was messy and unkempt.

Professor Dumbledore stood up when the students were done eating (some squirming uncomfortably, probably needing the toilet after the long meal), and announced with a chuckle for the students to follow the appointed prefects to their common-rooms.

Potter stood up beside her, raising a hand and simply saying, "Fifth-years."

A tall blonde-haired girl stood next to him within seconds, her face blank, the 'P' of her robes being the only attention catching feature about her. The students walked in silence to the dungeons—underground, where there were many lamps to make up for the lack of sunlight—only Draco or Pansy conversing with their friends every now and then.

The group descended large staircase to reach a blank door made of the stone of the wall, illuminated only by the candles perched upon holders on either side. The bookcases surrounding them were filled and ordered impeccably, looking just as untouched as they really were; Hermione had enquired Madam Pince whether there were other bookcases in the school, and she'd been informed these were for appearance only. Just above the skirting board were two engraving of snakes, the eyes of which glittered suspiciously with what looked like emeralds. They were probably charmed so they couldn't be removed.

"The password is 'python' for now," the blonde-haired prefect specified. "It will change once every two weeks, and will be posted in the common-room."

"Be wise and check in the morning, or be locked out," Potter advised.

The common was grand, certainly, but it seemed cold in atmosphere. The water of the lake through the windows gave the room a fitting green glow. The candles added to the effect. Dark-stained wood was everywhere for the eye to see, the sofas and armchairs leather and looking just as cold to sit upon. A fire was roaring within the fireplace, and one look at the decorations made Hermione shiver. Skulls and serpents, of course, were engraved onto the grey stone of the fireplace. The staircases to the separate staircases to the gender divided dorm-rooms were pointed out.

With a nod of thanks to the prefects, Hermione was the first to enter the room she'd be occupying for the year. It was much like the guest room she had been in previously (apart from the colour scheme being green and black here) with the main difference being the width to accompany more beds. They were still four-poster, with hangings included. There were five beds in total. Belongings were already placed along with a piece of paper placed purposely on each bed, which turned out to be lesson plans for each.

Hermione closed the curtains of her bed before the other girls had arrived, casting charms so they would not be able to see or hear her, along with not being able to open them. The young girl searched through her trunk for a suitable book before immersing herself within it.

"Milli, you are not asking me for hair charms this year," she heard after a while. Hermione had forgotten a charm to make them bloody quiet, and she was already regretting it. That was most definitely Pansy.

"I'll learn," the new voice was low, but determined.

"Learn for the both of us," another said with a light laugh.

Hermione allowed them to keep talking as she read simply for information. She soon learned that she was sharing a dorm with Pansy Parkinson, Daphne Greengrass, Millicent Bulstrode and Tracey Davis (the only one who's voice she had not heard yet). Once she was certain that she could identify them with just their voices, since Tracey had whined about something soon after, Hermione silenced them absently with a flick of her wand.

Midnight had passed when she'd finished her book. All the others girls were safely tucked into their beds with the curtains closed. Hermione inspected the bathroom that that they were to share for the rest of the year; although there for two different sections, one for toilets and another for showers, it felt clinical and cold, as though it were a part of a hospital. There were locks for each individual section, they were bound to run into each other.

-x-

Hermione hadn't put the charms back up.

"Should we bother waking the half-blood up?" Pansy asked. Her words were slightly slurred with sleepiness, but still loud enough to wake Hermione up. "No offense to you, Millicent."

So far there were potentially three half-bloods in Slytherin: Hermione, Millicent, and possibly Potter. It had been recorded that the house had never had a muggle-born sorted into it (with pride).

"She's not interested," Daphne replied, recounting the words the young witch had said at the feast the night before. "There's still time for breakfast, so she'll stagger in on her own."

Their topics changed to who they thought their lessons would be shared with, some exasperated at the thought of certain professors. Their conversation fell onto Hermione's dull ears, who was sat on her bed fully dressed and ready for the day, simply waiting for the chance to slip out without having to strike up a conversation with her room-mates. The opportunity came soon, as they all entered the bathroom to show Millicent the hair charms she'd wanted to learn (Pansy seemed fondly irritated at having to do this).

Breakfast had only been open for half an hour or so. Two of the house tables were absent of anyone, either because there had been a few early risers and they'd already disappeared, or because they had stayed up late chatting. Ravenclaw and Slytherin had the most students. Hermione noted that the seat arranging was the same as before—from the students she could see—so it was possibly a silent rule that she had been unaware of. The young witch slipped into her seat beside Prefect Potter who didn't take his eyes off of the book he had resting on his hand as he slowly ate with his other. Hermione was quite fond of that technique.

She reached into her plain black bag, that usually rested off one shoulder down to her thigh, and withdrew a book that featured information on difficult potions. As she quietly ate her food while reading, Hermione was certain that Potter was glancing at her curiously. Whenever she reached for a sip of water, thankfully the pumpkin juice was further down the table that morning, the prefect would avert his gaze back to the book in his hand. The routine continued for a few minutes before the doors opened once again and the fifth-year girls of Slytherin walked with grace inside, followed by more students.

The hall filled out quickly, only a few empty. There was still another half an hour left before class (that wasn't including the allotted five minutes that was allowed for finding the classroom) but it was easy to see this was the favourable time to have breakfast. Hermione decided she'd come earlier in the future.

"Good morning, Tom," Pansy greeted the prefect with a smile. The other girls greeted similarly, with him only nodding at them with a small polite smile.

"Yes, good morning, Pansy," a voice drawled behind her with a snort. Draco seated himself behind her with a small glare from being forgotten once they'd passed through the door. "I swear you do it on purpose."

"Certainly the Malfoy heir is unforgettable," Daphne said with a laugh.

"I'm sure he'd say that in some ways," Tracey joked. Hermione was surprised she hadn't pieced it together quicker; the dull blonde prefect from the night before was her. "Wouldn't you, Draco?"

The male in question scowled. "I haven't boasted about such things yet, it's not socially acceptable," he defended himself firmly, sticking his nose further in the air. "Father says it's unseemly."

Hermione hadn't meant to snort in amusement. She tried to play it off by continuing to read her book, but the stares of more than just Tom Potter made her uneasy.

"Oh," Millicent remarked, apparently just noticing the young witch at the table. "I thought you were asleep, still."

Hermione sighed and shook her head, eyes still firmly on the book. She'd read the same sentence three times.

"She probably ran out while I was doing your bloody hair," Pansy deduced, scooping a spoonful of porridge into her mouth. She chewed thoughtfully for a moment before swallowing. "I'm Pansy Parkinson, by the way."

Hermione blinked. "I know." She'd already learned all about their time during the summer, even the brief fling with Draco that had to be a secret because of her mother, along with the rest of her room-mates. "I know who you all are, you were rather loud."

Pansy sniffed indignantly. Tom chuckled under his breath. Everyone else looked miffed.

"See you in classes," Hermione said with a nod of her head. The young witch made a bee-line to the library, striking up a brief conversation with Madam Pince, who seemed surprised that the young girl had wanted to spend time in the library before classes, before settling down at her favourite desk and reading a few more passages within the book.

She'd charmed her class schedule, which was folded neatly within her robe pocket, to vibrate with a five minute warning before a class would start. As the time got nearer, it would continue to grow worse, until it would produce a small buzzing sound if she hadn't responded at all. A brief touch of her wand to the parchment disabled it until the next class was drawing near.

Care of Magical Creatures seemed like a terrible lesson to have straight after breakfast. What if a creature could smell the food on them, and decided that they wanted them? Hermione was positively befuddled as a very hairy half-giant, with frizzy black hair almost everywhere, introduced himself as their professor. The class was only for fifth-year Slytherins after an incident last year that was the result of two houses disagreeing with each other. No information other than that was offered about the incident. A few of the boys smirked at this.

The lesson was simply an introduction to dragons. It would be a few weeks until a real dragon could be delivered to the school for them to observe, but until then it was purely theory (of which Professor Hagrid was certainly not fond of). Hermione read the text, answered the questions on the worksheet that was given out, but simply sat back and observed when questions were asked to the class. She wanted to know who the competition would be for her that year (she as not used to being second-best, after all) and it quickly turned out that Draco Malfoy answered a few, though the majority was by Tom Potter.

The stern woman who addressed Professor Snape as 'Severus' was Professor Vector. Arithmancy turned out to be pleasantly wonderful. All the numbers were entertaining to work with, and she quickly found herself happy with the class. There were only twelve students in the class itself, from all four of the houses, though the only other Slytherin was Tom. They'd sat on opposite sides of the room, eyes meeting only for a moment, before Hermione immersed herself in her work. The professor was delighted to know that the young witch wasn't lost as she'd expected her to be; this was supposed to be her first year, after all.

The class could almost have been considered a substitute for maths classes at muggle school, but only just. It was clear that children were taught by students how to do the basic, such as reading, writing and addition before they attended Hogwarts. The main issue she was having was the fact that students were required to write with quills, some featuring large feathers that were ostentatious, with nibs on the end that they could dip into ink. It was positively old fashioned and required of all of them, especially with the usual paper being substituted for parchment of different thicknesses. She had spied muggle-styled notebooks filled with parchment, so at least they wouldn't have to carry separate sheets the whole time.

Hermione skipped lunch to read in the library. Madam Pince eyed her in concern only briefly.

Study of Ancient Runes was much the same. Professor Babbling, a middle-aged woman with blonde hair, had expected Hermione to be behind as well. This class was shared with Ravenclaw, though there were more of them than Slytherins in the classroom. It was heavily invested in the runes of history and exploring what they could mean, especially with how they were incorporated in rare spells and wards; everything that Hermione was brimming in curiosity about.

Professor Snape turned out to be a wonderful, but aggressive, teacher. He still walked around with flare, robes billowing in the confines of the classroom. He was head of the Slytherin house, so his bias clearly showed in the lesson that was shared with Gryffindor. He particularly found enjoyment picking upon a freckled, red-haired (much like his face after the questions had been asked) boy and the black-haired fellow beside him. Hermione was able to recognise the faint peach glow he emitted at times, glancing at Tom to confirm that they were very similar. They shared surnames, too, but every 'Mister Potter' that was said with distaste was directed at the Gryffindor. The prefect only received praise, never glancing at his brother.

History of Magic wasn't until the next day for her, but other year groups complained openly at dinner about the man's teaching method; perhaps his personality was as airy as his ghostly body. And that thought alone had her worrying about the potentials of magic if ghosts could exist freely and to their own content. With piqued curiosity, she sought out the required books and researched until she found the answer—that Professor Binns, the spectral teacher, was an anomaly. He recorded to have died centuries ago to unknown circumstances, and the mixture of potions in his stomach and the spells that had hit him, had caused the transparent immortal body that he was left with. There had been research on him many years ago, and wizards hadn't been able to duplicate the achievement. It seemed, however, that in exchange for becoming an immortal being, his memory and attention span had taken a significant hit, yet he was a walking piece of history himself, and that was why he was employed. The first, and only, ghost.

Hermione arrived towards the end of the meal, not surprised that it was full. She'd been reading in the library for a while, making sure she wouldn't make a fool of herself the moment she decided to participate properly in classes. She slipped into her seat, her presence not enough to draw attention away from the heated discussion of wandless magic that was going on between the fifth and sixth-years.

"Please," Tracey remarked dully, "no one who's ignorant of our world would be able to perform such a feat."

Hermione ate her food slower than before. She hadn't researched much about that type of magic, as she'd assumed it only applied to the strength of the spell. Anything that seemed bland or relatively easy, she'd assumed that everyone had been able to perform. And yet, as she listened into their conversation, it seemed that that wasn't the case. Children who were raised to be magical from a very young age, who performed magic at every chance, were the ones who were most in tune with their magic. Millicent had attempted to levitate her spoon wandlessly, still verbally, and had failed miserably with a deep sigh. The others watched with either curiosity or sympathy at the display. Tracey had managed for half of the spoon to lift up, much like Draco.

Tom shifted beside her, summoning the spoon into his hand before using it to eat. A smirk tugged at the corner of his lips.

The last time she'd tried with a piece of furniture, it had lasted two seconds before falling down loudly. Hermione frowned, dropping her cutlery and started to head to the Slytherin common-room with a sour expression. It had been quite a few years since another student had bested her. Hermione thought she'd be prepared for the rush of failure that surged through her; she had to be realistic. There were so many things about magic that she still didn't know. She could not have this reaction every time something unexpected happened.

Remembering the scene once again made her frown deeper.

When the prefect had smirked, his eyes had flickered to her.

-x-

The only interaction she'd had with her room-mates had been the following morning. Hermione had left the curtains of her bed to view most of the girls with bleary eyes, just waking up on the beds. Daphne had raised her eyebrows at Hermione's spotless uniform, Tracey nodded her way while Pansy was too busy with her face shoved into a pillow murmuring that it was too early. Millicent was staring at the ceiling, willing herself to wake up.

"Good morning," Hermione greeted them, slipping her bag onto her shoulder.

A faint "Bye," was heard as she shut the door behind her.

Three Ravenclaws had settled down at their table, a lone Hufflepuff, and one other Slytherin. Still sour about yesterday's experience at the table, Hermione settled down beside the prefect without looking at him. Her book of choice that day was potions again; Slytherin had a double-slot class later that day, and she really did not want to fail at her first potion.

"Hello," the prefect beside her greeted. The polite smile on his lips only soured her mood.

Hermione nodded before flipping to her selected chapter, picking her breakfast for that morning.

"If you're looking for the potion we're brewing today, it will be within chapter seven."

Now he was trying to best her at this? "Thank you," she grit out, choosing to be polite rather than snap at him. She stubbornly stayed on the chapter she was on, which was five, and read over the information with only slight interest. It was still fascinating to learn how to brew various potions, even if she had missed her chance from being absent the years prior.

"You're welcome," he replied.

She may have stabbed her food with more gusto than needed.

Draco wandered in after a few minutes of silence, sleepily greeting the prefect before helping himself to cereal. The cereals that were on the table were certainly entertaining. Only the shapes seemed to differ from the muggle counterparts—what young wizard wouldn't want to eat sugary wizard hats for their breakfast? Food seemed to be shared between the two worlds, and Hermione was thankful for that. She was familiar with almost everything. It wouldn't be another incident where she had taken a few days to discover the strange juice was pumpkin.

"I think I'm going to bribe my potion partner," the blond-haired male murmured around his breakfast. "Last year Longbottom blew up our cauldron, and I will not be dealing with that again."

Hermione gulped.

She was determined not to be the Slytherin counterpart of Longbottom.

PREVIEW: "My brother," he spat, "usually has everyone wrapped around his fingers. Have you really not noticed that yet?"