Hermione was eleven years, eleven months and twelve days old when she arrived at Kings Cross with her parents to board the Hogwarts express. She had known she was a witch for eleven months and nineteen days. She had read a hundred and eleven books (from her reading list and from the recommendations of Dimitrius, the manager of Flourish and Blotts) cover to cover and there were currently thirty four main anxious thoughts that her brain was cycling through, but the number that was worrying her most was that of how many people she would have with her as she stepped on to the train for first time. Zero.

Her parents had been wonderful. So supportive that she sometimes welled up if she thought about it too long. But when she left them today, they wouldn't be able to follow. No matter how many questions they asked about the magic world, about what she was reading about, the laws and systems that ruled both magical energy and governance, from the moment Professor McGonagall had appeared on the Granger's doorstep, Hermione had been held apart from her parents. Their average, nuclear family unit had been irrevocably altered by the knowledge that there was something in Hermione's blood that was not present in theirs – she had the key to a whole other world that they could not enter, and a burning desire to join it, no matter the consequences. She didn't plan on abandoning them, of course, but she had known from the moment she'd set eyes on the severe, powerful woman who had rapped on the front door a week before her eleventh birthday that she wanted to follow where she led.

And where she led, apparently, was Kings Cross Station.

"Okay, so you've definitely got everything you need, right?" Hermione's mother was trying her hardest not to sound panicked but it wasn't quite enough.

"Yes, mum – I am completely and utterly sure, just like I was five minutes ago." She smiled reassuringly at her mother who tried to look disapproving at her daughter's cheek but ended up smirking anyway.

"Maybe it's a good thing we're getting rid of you, little madam," her father raised an eyebrow at her and she grinned innocently back, even as her mother repressed a moment of horror at his words.

"I'm sure you're really delighted." She paused, glancing at the huge clock that loomed over them. Five minutes. There was really no putting it off any longer. She turned back to them and opened her mouth again, but they had seen where her gaze had wandered and – really – what more was there to say?

"Okay love, you'd best get going – find a seat with some nice kids." She knew her father had been afraid that the bullying she had suffered at her primary school would carry through to her secondary education and was especially anxious about the new and cruel ways magic might be used to make it even worse. She tried to pretend she wasn't worried about the same thing.

"Yes, and don't worry if you don't meet anyone right away because you know you'll have plenty of time once you get there…" Mrs Granger was smoothing her daughter's hair down compulsively and had to be gently forced to stop long enough for Hermione to give them both a hug.

"I'll do my best," she said quietly, squeezed one last time and then began walking away with her trunk, eyes burning with unshed tears.

"Oh, and Hermione?" It was her mother. She looked over her shoulder to see her face set with determination, "don't you dare let anybody tell you that you don't belong there."

The tears spilled over down onto Hermione's cheek and she paused for a moment to brush them away.

"Never." She said, and her parents both returned her resolute nod.

She boarded the train.