England, September 1990

Hermione Granger had been bullied as a child. Severely, and for a variety of reasons.

First, it had been her skin. In a primary school that had catered to the more well-to-do families of her neighbourhood, she had been the only visibly mixed-race student. That had lead to scathing comments by most of her peers on just how dirty she must be, how strange she was.

Her bushy mane of tangled brown hair did not help. The girls had taken every opportunity to taunt her about it. They would pass their hands through their long, silky, and usually blonde, hair, and then yank at hers. It had gotten so bad she had often returned home with her scalp completely red, and smarting from all the tugging.

But her bullies' biggest motive: her intelligence.

Hermione was a borderline genius, and this quickly became apparent to the members of staff of her school. With an almost photographic memory, and a voracious appetite for reading she had excelled so much that it had been impossible for her to continue with her age-group. Thus, Hermione ended up skipping a year, and another… and another, until at age ten, Hermione had ended up in a class with fifteen year olds.

Intellectually, Hermione had shone. Each year, she proved that she was capable of handling the workload assigned to her, and more. Every year, the teachers would raise their expectations of where they expected Hermione to reach. Some thought she would be the next Einstein, or Freud, or Shakespeare, or Churchill. With her intelligence, the sky truly was the limit.

Emotionally, it had been traumatizing. Before, she had dealt with the infantile insults of children her own age. After skipping so many years however, the situation had changed completely. As an ten year old in a class full of teenagers, taunts had taken on an entirely different intensity. It had almost broken her.

On her eleventh birthday, Hermione was pounced on by an owl. It landed on her hair, leaving behind something heavy on her head.

"Of course! Even the birds don't like me. But did it really just lay an egg in my hair?"

Hermione swiped at her hair, determined to rid it of any possible owl eggs. As she did, her hand brushed against something papery. After a bit of manoeuvring, she was finally able to detangle what she found was a letter from her hair.

The contents of the letter would change her life irrevocably.

She was a Witch!

Of course, she had already known that she had been special for some time now. Her first experience with the bizarre had been when she was five and Betty Andrews, a spoiled brat in her year, had been pulling at her hair. She had felt so angry, and so humiliated, and just wanted everything to stop, and then, magically it had. Betty had been frozen in place, completely immobile, for the entirety of lunch time, which gave Hermione almost an entire hour for herself! She had loved it. But she wanted to know exactly what had happened.

Thus, Hermione's naturally inquisitive mind lent itself to the task of discovering how exactly the strange incidents - and there had been many- happening around her had occurred. She soon became convinced that she had mystical powers.

Focusing those powers had been almost impossible. No matter how much she read, and how much she tried, she couldn't channel her power at a whim. This was the case for most everything she had tried. One ability, however, had very recently become available to her after years of trying and it had radically altered her treatment at school.

Hermione was now a quite capable illusionist.

But of course it was just a coincidence that her bullies had been having hallucinations as of late. Must have been drugs. The principal and their parents had certainly agreed. Especially after "seeing" one of the students "destroying evidence".

Hermione chuckled. Revenge had been served.

She would have to prepare for this Professor McGonagall's visit.

Hermione frowned.

Professor McGonagall had explained to Hermione and her rather worried parents that Hermione was what the Wizarding World called a muggle-born.

What the Professor hadn't explained, however, was that muggle-borns were social pariahs, and were often called Mudbloods by the Magical Elite, the purebloods, especially those of the so-called Sacred Twenty-Eight.

It had taken Hermione all of one hour in Flourish and Botts, a magical bookstore on Diagon Alley, to discover this. She wondered why the Professor had not revealed this to her or her family. Surely she would want to at least warn the Grangers of the possibility that she could face prejudice?

Putting that aside, Hermione refused to be put into a position where she would be bullied again. She had spent her entire time at schooling being taunted and ridiculed. Until a few months ago she had been a helpless victim.

Now, however, things would change. And she had just the plan to make sure she stayed on top.

Hermione visited Diagon Alley quite frequently after her first excursion with Professor McGonagall. Almost everyday, in fact.

During the time spent there, she did two things: she researched, and she practiced her illusions. Both would be essential to her plan.

The research would help her carefully establish herself as a person of importance in the Magical World. The illusions would ensure that she had "proof" to back her claims. Thus, it was necessary to ensure that her illusions worked on more than just Muggles.

They did.

England, July 1991

Hermione's plan was ready to be enacted.

She had spent hours upon hours dedicating herself to her research and to the plan, now, all that was needed was Professor McGonagall.

Hermione's plan was simple in theory. Refusing to be bullied any longer, Hermione would enter Hogwarts as a pureblood Heiress of a House thought to be extinct. She would use her illusions to convince McGonagall that her parents were both squibs who had fled certain death from their families, and had taken refuge in Muggle London.

Her father's illusion would say that he was the squib son of the Grangers, coincidentally, a once-famous Wizarding family from her father's native Haiti.

Her mother's would claim that her father had been Morfin Gaunt, heir of the ancient British pureblood Gaunt family, and a foreign pure-blood witch. She would say that she had been secretly raised in her mother's home, until it was discovered that she was a squib. Her mother had not been pleased and had attempted to murder her. Fortunately, she had been able to escape and settled in Muggle London.

The two then met in Dental School, fell in love, and had Hermione. This was just about the only part of Hermione's story that was not a falsehood. But as Hermione had learned, the best lies had elements of the truth.

As a precaution, the illusions would say that they felt uncomfortable and ashamed talking about their pasts and that they would not be speaking about it again. This shut down any possible means of the Professor trying to find out more information from her parents, without her there to provide the illusions.

It had all worked out! Hermione was now a pureblood witch in the eyes of Professor McGonagall, and gossip was bound to spread about it. She just had to let the rumour mill do its business, and by the time she entered Hogwarts, it would be common knowledge. A perfect plan.

Hermione's plan truly had been brilliant, if a bit convoluted and morally questionable. Nonetheless, despite its brilliance, it had come with a flaw. Hermione had collected an enormous amount of data to be able to support her story, she had not however, realized the significance of some of the names she had used.

Well, one name in particular. Gaunt. Though she had no way of knowing, Hermione had already decided her fate.

September 1991

Hermione sat alone in the train compartment, her face a mask of serenity.

She had read tomes upon tomes on proper pureblood heiresses, and come to the realization that they were like medieval muggle royalty. Thus, she had made it her mission to be the very picture of elegance, and class. She should appear confident and proud, but not arrogant or standoffish, as she would be seen as a product of poor breeding.

Moreover, to complete her Heiress visual, she had actually had to delve into the world of fashion, a subject that she had no interest in. Her mother, on the hand, had been absolutely delighted. As such, Hermione's wardrobe now consisted of several pieces inspired by her mother's fashion icons - Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn - all in rich, dark colours.

The sound of the compartment door sliding open brought Hermione out of her musings.

"Hello. Have you seen a toad in here? My toad, Trevor, is missing.", a chubby blonde boy whispered.

"Yes, I have. In fact, I had heard about the magical properties of toads, so I harvested him."

The boy went white as a sheet, and seemed on the verge of tears.

"That was a joke." Hermione groaned. It seemed Heiress or not, she still was not funny, She made a mental note to read up more on comedy.

"Yes, Trevor is over there", she said, pointing to a corner of the compartment in which Trevor sat completely still. It was almost as if he were in a daze.

Yes, Hermione had no qualms practicing her illusions on animals.

"Oh thank you so much! Gran would have killed me if I had lost Trevor again." The boy picked up the toad hurriedly and made to exit the compartment.

"Aren't you going to introduce yourself? I know that's Trevor. What about you? I am Hermione Granger."

"Oh sorry Hermione. Gran would kill me if she knew I had forgotten to introduce myself. I'm Neville Longbottom."

Longbottom? Hermione's eyes flashed. The Longbottoms were a Sacred Twenty-Eight pureblood family. Perhaps some pre-Hogwarts networking…?

"There seems to be a lot your Gran would kill you for, Neville. But nevermind that, why don't you sit here for awhile. I would appreciate the company."

"Erm, alright."

"So tell me, what House are you hoping to get into?"

"My gran wants me to go to Gryffindor." Neville looked downcast as he said this. Hermione was not a psychologist, but she was a genius, and it didn't take a genius to notice that Neville possessed a rather unhealthy level of fear of his grandmother.

"And what do you want Neville? I'm thinking Ravenclaw myself."

"Well I don't really have any talents. Merlin knows I'm not smart enough for Ravenclaw, I could hardly muster up the courage to come into this compartment so Gryffindor is probably a stre-"

"Neville. We're eleven. You don't actually have to be good at anything yet. Just take it slow. The Sorting Hat will make a suggestion, and you can even reason with it."

"Really?! I've never heard of that. How do you know that?" Neville asked excitedly.

Hermione smiled demurely.

"Haven't you read Hogwarts: A History?"

Hermione was outraged.

Had the books been wrong? They almost never were. So why had the Sorting Hat sat on her head for all of one millisecond before it had screamed SLYTHERIN!

It was so unfair!

Hermione made sure not to show her displeasure as she walked to the Slytherin table. In fact, as she took her place at the table, she attempted to convey confidence and acceptance, as if all had gone exactly as she had planned.

Mentally, however, she was screaming obscenities. Thanks to the blasted Hat, she would be at the epicentre of the bullying, and discrimination for her entire Hogwarts life.

Hermione followed the Seventh Year prefect, along with the other first years, to the dungeons, where the Slytherin dormitories were located.

Wasn't that ironic? She had been trapped in Slytherin House and now she would be living in a dungeon. It was absolutely poetic.

A consistent chattering in the group interrupted Hermione's thoughts.

The blond boy who had been boasting at length about his father's meeting with the Minister of Magic, Draco Malfoy, was now attempting to establish himself as a leader of the first years, with varied success.

Some like Pansy Parkinson, a girl with a rather pinched face, and Crabbe and Goyle, two boys could only describe as trolls, were eating it up, and feeding his ego.

Others such as Theodore Nott, a small, rather nondescript boy, and Daphne Greengrass, a beautiful blue eyed blonde haired Heiress that Hermione was immediately self-conscious around, had established themselves as rivals to Draco.

The two remaining students, other than Hermione, were Tracey Davis, a painfully polite girl, and Blaise Zabini, the most handsome boy Hermione had ever seen in her life, and they seemed content to be diplomatic about their allegiances, at least at first.

"I can't believe we got a Blood-traitor's daughter in our year. My father will not be pleased to hear about this, Davis."

Hermione groaned internally.

The game had just begun.