A/N: It has been quite a while, my readers ;). After a good two years of Hiatus I'm trying desperately to get back into writing mode and motivate myself to finish the revising and continue with a WIP story that I'm excited to post. Hopefully previous readers will be able to notice the difference between this and older version of this story, as I tried to make it more realistic, less like the movie, and not so emotionless :P. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, and I am not taking credit for it. The plot is also base loosely on Warner Bro's A Cinderella Story.

Update: January 11, 2009

Chapter One (Home Sweet Home)

It was August 31st and there was just one more day before she was off for her sixth year at Hogwarts. Unlike many other students that attended her school, Hermione Granger couldn't wait for the holidays to end and school to begin. After three months of a horrible summer with her step-family she was exhausted and more than happy to get away from everything.

Three years ago, tragedy has struck her family, and now she was forced to live with her two stepsisters, Riley and Cassandra, who were arrogant, supercilious, and cruel. But they were nothing compared to her step-mother, Madam Hazen, who could pass as Voldemort's right-hand woman. Hermione was sure that if it hadn't been for her 'mystery man' she couldn't have lasted the summer.

It was as if fate had brought them together. While walking down the corridor to exit the train to head home for summer, Hermione stumbled across a lone package on the floor, being trampled by the careless students excited to get home for the summer. Without a second thought she picked up the package, intending on sending it to its owner once she arrived home. The following day, she sent an owl to deliver the package to the owner with an explanation of why she had the parcel in the first place. A week later, she received a kind reply filled with words of thanks, and the next thing she knew the two of them had become, well, friends.

Although she knew little about his exact identity, she knew a lot about his personality. He was kind, elegant, and absolutely charming. He knew how to arrange his writing in order to say just the right thing to make her blush; and how to describe the exact feelings he had about a particular subject. He wrote the honest words no one could say aloud – and that appealed to her.

Although she had never met him face-to-face (well, knowingly at least) she felt as if she had known him for years. His handwriting was distinguishable, and as the letters continued to come Hermione was able to decipher his mood from the curves of the quill he had written with. She could tell when he skived off a certain point, or avoided a specific topic, and she could tell when he was passionate about something, as well. For her, those were the most intriguing letters to read. To hear another person relay to her the emotional connection and strong opinions they had about one thing in particular was amazing to her; intoxicating and addicting.

There were radomocities about him that she knew as well: his favorite subject, his pet peeves, his most desired trait in a person, his most desirable trait. The list was endless. Their knowledge about one another didn't seem to hit a wall until the more general topics surfaced. Things such as his house, his name, his year in school: they were all unmentionables. Why ruin something that was going so well with potentially insignificant facts? She didn't ask him, and he didn't ask her.

Her thoughts were put on pause momentarily when Riley came barging into her tiny bedroom with an accusing glare across her face.

"What have you done with my summer dress?!" she demanded in her typical winey fashion.

"I haven't seen it," Hermione answered truthfully, secretly wishing she had taking her sister's favorite dress and ripped it into shreds. Maybe that would shut her up…

"Well then where is it?" Riley yelled in frustration, starting to throw Hermione's own clothes around the room, looking for her dress. If anyone had still been asleep, they were awake now.

"Did you ask Cassandra yet?"

"Why bother? You do it," she sneered and stomped out of the room. Hermione sighed and stood up from her desk; the day had officially begun.

-----

As it turns out the dress was, in fact, in Cassandra's room. Not even bothering to point this out to Riley, Hermione got to work for the day. She had been assigned to do various chores by Madam Hazen which included cleaning the floors, doing the laundry, straightening up the house, cooking breakfast and lunch, and packing Cassandra's trunk for Hogwarts.

She was in the middle of packing Cassandra's trunk when Riley came into the room and began complaining to her about not properly cleaning her shirt, which she held tightly in her hand, waving it around madly. Hermione had been waiting for the outburst to start. Every year Riley became temperamental just before the school year started. Throwing fits about nonsensical things and moping around the house to dampen everyone else's spirits were among the many ways in which she complained.

Although it was impossibly irritating, a small bit of Hermione's conscience couldn't help but feel sorry for her. Being a squib in a family of purebloods was not something one could take lightly. The fact that her own father had disowned their family due to her inability to perform magic did not help lessen the burden already set on her shoulders. The shame was one thing, but the guilt of driving away her own father was a feeling she would never be able to rid herself of. Of course, Hermione's muggleborn background did not make living with Riley any easier, as she always brought up the unfair way things had turned out: the purebloods had bred a non-magical daughter, while the muggles had been lucky enough to acquire an intelligent witch.

As if there weren't enough abnormalities as it was, Hermione's place in the family only added to the dysfunction. It had started after her third year at Hogwarts when she had arrived home from school that summer. It was fine, perfectly normal for that first week. That was, until The Accident. It had been hard to deal with, losing her mother and part of her father's emotional self in nothing more than a few weeks. The rest of that summer had been solemn. Hermione's father stayed out of the house as much as possible, and Hermione was mostly left alone to cope with her mother's death alone.

When she left for her fourth year at Hogwarts after summer, she had never imagined what she would be coming home to just nine months later. It had been bizarre; expecting to come home to the empty house, her father away on business to stay out of the house as much as humanly possibly. However, she was met with a new man – someone she didn't know. He was happy, or at least seemed happy, and was clinging to the opulent woman beside him when he told his daughter the news. He was married. Married! Of course, the idea to write her over the school year had somehow escaped him and Hermione had been left in the darkness about his relationship and marriage with this new woman.

As it turns out, this new woman was a witch – literally and metaphorically. Not only that, but she had a daughter that was Hermione's own age! Same age means same year in school. And so her new life began.

Madam Hazen, who her she called mother only in front of her father to please him, was nothing short of a monster. A two-faced, lying, unearthly, monster.

It was late August when the only family she had left abandoned her. His death was harder on her than her mother's – this time there really was no one to go home to. Hermione was left on her own with only a stepmom to prove she even had any type of family once-upon-a-time. Of course, with her father gone, Madam Hazen found no point in trying to hide her dislike for her late husband's own child, and so Hermione was placed into the same situation she was in right now: hell.

Tell Harry or Ron of the horrible woman she was stuck with!, one might suggest. How could she do something like that to them? They – the three of them – had so much more to deal with. The dark side was growing, and the problems were only getting larger as time went on. Voldemort wasn't stopping, so their fight against him could not be paused either, even if it meant Hermione's happiness at home. She could sacrifice it.

"Are you listening to me, mudblood!" Riley shrieked from her left.

"Yes! I'll wash your shirt again when I'm finished with this packing." Hermione glared at the girl and folded another pair of jeans.

"And it had better be done right this time!" she squealed as she stomped out of the room, huffing the entire way.

Hermione sighed at the receding girl. As much as she pitied her, the brat was still annoying as hell.

---

After she had completed all of the tasks and had eaten a small dinner, Hermione headed up to her room to finish packing her own Hogwart's trunk. When she opened the door her mood increased drastically when she noticed the familiar dark owl on her desk, waiting patiently with a letter held securely in its beak. She rushed over and removed the letter from the bird, setting it down on the table.

"Wait just a second," she told the bird with a sweet smile and it gave a small hoot of understanding. She walked over to her bedside table drawer, where she had a bag of owl treats handy. She removed a few and brought them over to the owl, whose name was Kale, and set them on the desk in front of him. He hooted in thanks and dug into the treats set for him. Turning away from the bird and back to the letter, Hermione hurriedly ripped open the envelope and read the message written in the familiar elegant penmanship.

It's good to hear you are managing in the last few days of summer. I'm sure it has been most difficult for you as the days trickled on, edging closer to the return to Hogwarts. Merlin knows I'm fairing just as anxiously as you are!

Do you find it as strange as I do, knowing that we will be so near one another but not actually know it? I could hold a conversation with you and not even know it's you. It's both nerve-racking and exhilarating at the same time. Hopefully I'm not sounding like too much of a nutter at the moment; you know how I tend to analyze.

Of course, we will be keeping up with our letters once we return to Hogwarts, will we not? I wasn't aware of your thoughts on the idea of a "pen pal" – I still don't understand the origin of that word – when we will be in such close proximity. Do let me know, I'll be looking forward to the answer.

I'll be seeing you soon, whether I know it or not.

Hermione finished the letter and smiled at his words. She had mentioned casually how she and her family didn't get along very well, although hadn't gone into too much detail. He had explained to her in return the tension that ensued in his own home as well. The understanding that existed between them after that had stuck. She grabbed a quill off of the desk and began to write a reply.

Ah, just a day left. That bright light of Hogwarts at the end of my dark summer's tunnel seemed to be the only thing keeping me from using magic lately. Thankfully tomorrow I'll be able to use my wand. Its strange not using it – as if I'm missing part of my arm. I'm sure you understand the feeling.

No, you don't sound crazy in the least. I've been thinking the same thing. There is a bit of thrill knowing the distance gap is coming to an end. And I've gotten used to the analyzing. Next thing you know it will be me dissecting every bit of information I absorb!

I was hoping to keep up writing with you as well. Unless we suddenly find each other and talk rather than write, I'd look forward to receiving your mail just as I do now. Hopefully that was the answer you were looking for.

See you tomorrow, and hopefully you'll have a nice train ride.

PS: We've been over this before! Take a class of muggle studies. I've tried to explain what a pen pal was and failed miserably (because you're stubborn!) so you can figure it out on your own.

Hermione re-read the note before sending off with Kale. She watched as the owl soared away from her house into the black of night, feeling as if her summer of troubles was flying away with it, giving her that relief she needed.

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