Chapter Nine: Meetings and Greetings

"Ugh,' Hermione moaned.

She must have dropped ten feet down. For a second she considered just laying there, until good sense overcame this and snapped her eyes open. She pushed herself up into a sitting position and examined her surroundings. The ground was empty of paint and candles. There was no cleared ground, a fact which was apparent by the crackling leaves under her hands. The trees were still in full, green, bloom. Wincing, she clambered awkwardly to her feet, brushing herself off in the process. Spotting her trunks and Crookshanks next to her, Hermione muttered a bewitchment to have it hover after her. Shoving her wand back into her pocket, she checked the damage to her other hand. She unfurled it grudgingly.

"Damn!" she swore. "Damn, damn, damn!"

The Carnelian had cracked down the middle. No wonder it had gotten so hot. There went any chance of re-appearing back in her time instantaneously. Harry was really going to kill her. Hermione tore her ivory scarf from her neck. The weather was significantly warmer, and she was starting to get overheated. Whether this was from overexcitement, or the change of temperature, was anyone's guess. Things were looking up. If it had all gone right, she should be back in early September of 1943. She put the now unnecessary scarf and broken necklace into her hovering trunk, picked up Crookshanks' basket, and set off for the castle.

Rounding a bend of trees, she spotted the second excellent sight of the evening. Hagrid's hut was substantially larger. The perimeter was slightly wider, and there were two stories. She passed by a lighted window that glowed a soft yellow through the plaid curtains. She trudged towards the castle, panic and a rising hope waging war in her stomach. Many of the castle's windows were lit as well. Climbing the steps, her heart racing, she stopped outside the large entrance's closed doors. A quick, last minute inspection was needed of her appearance. Her uniform was subtly, yet distinctly different than usual. Her jumper was plain grey, with no colored trim around the edge. There was no tie around her neck. No prefect badge or Gryffindor crest adorned her plain black robes. Her black pleated skirt had come down to just past her knees instead of the usual just above them. Dark stocking gave way to a higher heeled version of the standard black Mary-Janes. With a final, desperate, and ultimately doomed attempt to make her hair appear curly, not bushy, Hermione opened the doors and went inside.

Immediately, the sounds of the school eating in the Great Hall came from the right. She wavered, indecisive on her course of motion, when it was taken out of her hands. The Malfoy clone from the pensieve (What was his name? Ignatius? Ichabod?) was walking down the marble staircase to her left, heatedly arguing with a younger, fem-Malfoy. (Oh, for heaven's sake, two of them?) They crossed the floor towards the Great Hall before they noticed her.

"Oh, hello," the boy said, surprised. "I didn't see you there." The girl looked annoyed, though it was unclear whether it was at her or at the Malfoy-clone.

Showtime, Hermione thought grimly. She smiled winningly.

"That's all right, I just came in. I'm new to Hogwarts, so I'm afraid I don't really know where to go," Hermione said apologetically.

"New?" The girl said sharply, "Another Beauxbatons refugee? Why didn't you come last week with everyone else? And you certainly don't sound French," she finished accusingly.

"Audrey," the boy reprimanded sharply.

"Well, that's because I'm not. I'm English," Hermione said still smiling, while inwardly fighting the urge to slap the girl. "And I'm not from Beauxbatons. My parents tutored me at home, and they were killed recently by Hitler's followers. I don't have anywhere else to go" she finished, making herself look properly anguished. (It wasn't hard to do; she had a large quantity of sad memories to think of for inspiration.) The Malfoy clone looked sympathetic, but the girl looked as cold as ever.

"I doubt the Headmaster will even let you in," she said haughtily. "You'll be way behind," she narrowed her eyes, and tossed her short, platinum blond bob that was artfully curled away from her face. "Hitler killed your parents? Isn't he that Muggle? So you're Muggle-born?" she sneered, her lip curling.

"Audrey, that's enough," the boy said sharply. "Go to supper, I'll take care of this," he ordered.

The girl silently acquiesced, shooting contemptuous glares at Hermione the whole way. Hermione stared back, her expression one of deepest loathing. If that uppity little bitch had any idea about what she was capable of, she would think twice before pissing her off.

"I'm sorry about all that," a voice broke into her thoughts. She started; she had almost forgotten he was there. "Sometimes I can't believe she's my sister," he said with a faraway look. His gaze snapped back to her, and he strode forward, his hand outstretched. "Igneus Malfoy at your service," he said charmingly. "Seventh-year Ravenclaw, Head Boy, and most handsome bloke in the school."

Hermione barely resisted the urge to roll her eyes, and had to remind herself that seducing and/or befriending people didn't involve developing the reputation of a shrew.

"Hermione Granger," she said shaking his hand. She was planning on changing the course of history for goodness sake; there was no point in hiding her identity with a fake name.

"Shall I take you to the Headmaster's office? I believe he's there," Igneus inquired politely.

"Yes, thank you," Hermione said.

"This way," he turned, going back up the marble staircase. "And there's no need for thanks. As Head Boy, I get the enviable duty of escorting gorgeous new students around the castle," he flirted. Her smile was growing more and more strained. She ducked her head, feigning embarrassment.

"So, Hermione," he said, as he led her upstairs, "please make all my dreams come true, and tell me you will be in your seventh year."

She smiled a faux apology. "I'm afraid not, Igneus, she said, pretending to look disappointed, "I am starting my sixth year."

Igneus made a dramatic show of clutching his heart.

"Alas" he gasped, "you have broken my will to live, my lovely! I suppose I will have to hold onto the hope you will be in Ravenclaw with me."

"I thought that Mafoys were always in Slytherin," she said. Immediately, she bit her tongue, hard. Too late. Igneus looked at her curiously.

"Oh, half and half, are you?" he said knowledgably. "I suppose you would have to be, to already know magic," he finished thoughtfully.

He turned back to her as they passed the silent form of the Bloody Baron gliding in the opposite direction.

"Normally Malfoy is synonymous with Slytherin," he said cheerfully, "but I happen to be the black sheep of the family. I think the only reason I haven't been disowned yet is because I made Head Boy." He didn't look particularly broken up about it. "My sister Audrey, though, is a Slytherin. Fifth year," he added. "And then there are my cousins, Phobos and Dougal. They're in Slytherin, sixth years, like you, but nowhere near as witty or dashing as me. To be honest with you," he said, halfway grinning, "they look a bit rat-like. All pointed and pasty."

Hermione fought the urge to laugh. "While you are the epitome of a tanned god?" she teased.

"I'll have you know my complexion has a rosy glow to it," he said primly. Hermione grinned. "But honestly now, you should watch out for the three of them. They hold some pretty stupid prejudices against people such as yourself. And watch out for the Blacks as well. They are a prominent pure-blooded family."

"Let me guess," Hermione said dryly, "Slytherins?"

"I cold tell you were a smart girl right away," Igneus said admiringly. "Alphie, he isn't so bad, he's a second year, but the rest of his brothers and cousins and what-have-you, are real nightmares."

"Any sixth years?" Hermione asked. Igneus thought for a moment.

"Estelle is a sixth year, and she's a terror. It's not all bad, though. This girl Dorcas Meadows, she's in my house, she's a swell girl. In your year, you know. And one of my best mates, Tom, he's a sixth year."

"Oh, is he also a Ravenclaw?" Hermione asked casually.

"No, he's a Slytherin. But they're not all bad, that's just a myth," Igneus said. "Oh, here we are."

They had arrived outside the statue of the gargoyle.

"Headmaster Dippet's office is right up here," he pointed. "Laurence Olivier," he stated to the statue. It leapt aside, revealing the revolving staircase. "He has a thing for Muggle actors," Igneus shrugged. "Alas, my sweet," Igneus intoned melodramatically, flinging his palm facing out on his brow, "here we must part, all too soon. If you'll excuse me, I must go weep bitterly into my plate of bangers and mash, agonizing over the loss of your company." He grabbed her hand, kissed the back of it, and sauntered back down the corridor, whistling.

Hermione's jaw was hanging open. A Malfoy had just hit on her. A Malfoy had just hit on her. Repeatedly. A Malfoy had also willingly touched her. She wondered if dear old Draco had even known of the existence of this relative, or if he was just a dirty family secret. Between a cocky, bizarre, flirty Malfoy and a cocky, sneering prat Malfoy, she would choose Igneus any day.

She stepped into the revolving staircase, the door closing behind her. She drifted upwards, a nervous ball of energy in her stomach. The door with the Griffin knocker appeared. She stepped off the stairs, and rapped the knocker sharply.

"Come in," a thin voice called.

Opening the door, she stepped into Armando Dippet's office. She recognized him instantly from Harry's memories in the Pensieve. He was an elderly, frail looking wizard, somewhat dwarfed by the large desk he sat behind.

"Hello," she said nervously. "My name is Hermione Granger. I believe you received my owl informing you I was coming?"

Dippet looked momentarily confused before her ruse worked like a charm.

"Oh, yes, of course," he said. "New student, are you dear? I'm afraid I lost your information, you see, I receive so many owls," he waved his hand helplessly at the piles of parchment on his desk.

Hermione smiled as charmingly as she could, and opened her trunk. Shuffling through her crammed belongings, she detached a sheaf of parchment, handing it to Dippet. While he read her flawlessly forged documents, she glanced around the office. It was very different from Dumbledore's mound of magical instruments, complete with Phoenix, and Lupin's collection of DADA paraphernalia. For one thing, it was a mess. Piles upon piles of miscellaneous rolls of parchments stuck out of every crevice. Half eaten food littered every available service. There was a crumpled heap of robes in one corner, and even a pointed wizard's hat hanging from one of the many portraits of past heads of Hogwarts. Dippet looked up.

"Well, everything seems to be in order here Miss, uh," he glanced at her papers, "Miss Granger. Now, if you'll just try on the sorting hat…"

Dippet made to pull the hat off of a peg on the wall. His hand closed on thin air. The peg was empty.

"Oh, balderdash," he said exasperatedly. "I forgot. It's in maintenance for repairs." He heaved a sigh, and then picked her paperwork back up. "Ah yes, a Virgo…" he muttered to himself, "an Earth sign…" he lunged forward and grabbed her palm. Dippet traced her hand with a knotted finger. "Yes, yes… and this- oh, and this too-" he dropped her palm. "Yes, dear girl, you are undoubtedly a Gryffindor," he said, nodding his head.

"What?" Hermione blurted in horror. "Oh, Professor, n- can't I wait till the hat is repaired? I really think I'm more of a Slytherin," she cajoled, desperate.

Dippet was shaking his head.

"No, the hat is undergoing its strenuous renewal ritual. It has to be cleansed thoroughly, and any possible rips mended. No, Gryffindor will work out fine for you," he said, getting up out of his chair.

He walked over to a tall wardrobe and yanked the doors open. A pile of uniforms fell out. He glanced at Hermione appraisingly, and then picked out a few items. Dippet handed her a large pile of Gryffindor edged sweaters, ties, and patches. He pointed at the latter.

"You can just charm those onto your robes," he said. "Well, shall we go down to supper? You can meet your new housemates, and I'm feeling a mite hungry, myself."

Hermione put her new uniforms into her trunk and started to hover it behind her again.

"Oh, leave that, dear," Dippet waved his hand at her trunk and Crookshanks' basket, "the house-elves will take care of it."

Hermione dug her fingernails into her palms to keep her from saying anything rash and smiled, a little painfully. Somehow, she couldn't see Dippet showing interest in joining S.P.E.W. She followed Dippet downstairs.

Great Hall September 7th, 1943

Hermione detachedly wondered if she was going to throw up. Sure, she had stood in front of the entire school before, when being sorted as a first year, but this was another thing entirely.

For starters, she was the only one on display. Also, the Headmaster seemed to be giving a long-winded speech on her behalf. He had just mentioned her "dead" parents. If her story was true, she surely would've been furious at the man's gall. Did he want her to start bawling in the middle of the Great Hall? That would surely make a good impression on her new classmates. As it was, it brought up horrible memories of her mother dying in Diagon Alley by one of her former best friends; and of her father, somewhere in the future, frantically worried about his suddenly missing daughter.

Furthermore, she hadn't been expecting Hogwarts to be this much more populated with students. It made sense in retrospect, that her own time would have fewer children, due to the fear of Voldemort plaguing the adults and stopping them from procreating. Logic did nothing to make it any more enjoyable to have at least 1,000 people staring at you. Not to mention the Professors' stares - particularly a blue-eyed, crooked-nosed Professor's stare - boring into her back.

She caught Igneus Malfoy's gaze at the Ravenclaw table. He winked at her saucily. Heartened, she chanced a look to the Slytherin table. Immediately, her eyes made contact with Audrey Malfoy's, who sneered at her. Two twin boys further down from Audrey gazed at her impassively. They were even more likely to have been clones of Draco Malfoy. She stifled a snigger upon noticing that they did, in fact, resemble rats mated with snow-white ferrets more so than Igneus. Next to the rodent-faces was the inbred ringleader of the gang that had harassed Hagrid. What had Igneus called him? Parkinson? It would make sense that cow's relatives were just as foul as she. Further down were a number of black and auburn-haired Slytherins of varying ages. At least one of them bore a startling resemblance to Sirius. And there, near the end, was her target. Tom Marvolo Riddle. He was staring at her calmly, not looking either overtly friendly or hostile

Hermione fought a wave of rising fury. There he sat, looking as innocent as can be, while he had murdered someone.

So have you, the evil voice whispered to her. And you've killed a lot more than one, Little Miss Self-Righteous.

That was different! She argued with herself. It was self-defense!

Oh? The cold voice questioned mockingly. So Carina Zimmerman was trying to kill you with her back turned towards you?

If it weren't for Riddle, Carina wouldn't have died in the first place! She hissed back angrily.

With a start, she realized Dippet was finally nearing the end of his sadistic torture of her, also known as his "welcoming speech."

"…and so, I hope you will make Miss Granger feel welcome here at Hogwarts. She has been sorted, and she will join the Gryffindors."

The table on the far left cheered.

"No!" Igneus Malfoy wailed loudly. A number of people laughed.

"Mr. Malfoy, control yourself," Dippet said, clearly repressing a smile of his own. "Thank you for your patience, and go back to your dinner," he concluded.

He put his hand on Hermione's lower back and shoved her towards the Gryffindors. She stumbled slightly, before re-gaining her balance and walking towards the familiar table full of unfamiliar faces.

A friendly faced girl was waving her towards the empty seat she was sitting next to. Hermione gratefully sank into it. It was startling how much fuller the tables were with students.

"Hullo," the girl said brightly. She had chin length, curly, dark auburn hair styled into a fashionable bob. "Hermione, right? Sixth-year? So are we," she indicated a few of the girls around them. "You'll be rooming with us."

"Pleased to meet you," Hermione replied politely.

"The name's Marlene Smith," the girl chirped. She took a hearty bite of pie. "And this," she waved her loaded fork, "is Marion Hinsley." The severe looking witch across from them nodded in acknowledgement. "That's Evelyn Sanders," another wave of the fork at a shyly smiling blonde, "this nutcase is Alastor Moody." She indicated the boy to her diagonal. "Oh, and this" she waved her fork at Hermione's left, to a pale, sad looking witch, as a piece of her pie flew off her fork and landed on the table, "is Brigitte Laroque. She just transferred this year from Beauxbatons, she doesn't know a lot of English." Hermione smiled at the girl, who looked nearly as lost and uncomfortable as she did.

Hermione did her best not to look shocked at a young, not heavily scarred, peg-legged, and not so Mad-Eye Moody as she smiled in return at her new housemates, and slid a basket of rolls to her plate.

Marlene continued to point out and name a flood of other strangers, splattering innocent bystanders with pie in her enthusiasm. Hermione's nod became mechanical. It was going to be a long night.