The rest of the day went by much less stressfully for Hermione. McGonagall helped her create a schedule based on the classes that Hermione was already taking at Hogwarts (or had taken at Beauxbatons, as she claimed), and Dumbledore sent out an order for her new robes. She suddenly remembered that she didn't have any non-school clothing to wear on the weekends, or nightgowns, or a toothbrush or shampoo or any other toiletries, or even socks and underwear. When she blushingly brought this up to McGonagall, her professor frowned and said,
"Oh dear, that is a concern. Well, I'm sure the other girls in our dorm will let you borrow something to wear to bed…but write a list for me of everything you'll need, and we'll try to get everything for you as soon as possible. And next weekend is a Hogsmeade weekend --- that's when the students are allowed to visit the nearby village --- so you can buy some new clothes then. Do you have any money on you? No? I'll ask the Headmaster to lend you some then. I'm very sorry, Miss Taylor, for whatever circumstances landed you here, away from your family and everything that's familiar to you."
"I'm sorry, too," Hermione said softly. She felt a wave of sadness pass over her as she suddenly began to strongly miss Harry and Ron --- and even Ginny, even though the girl had broken her heart. She wondered if all her friends in 1998 would even know that she had disappeared, or if, when she finally came back home, it would be like nothing had ever happened. She couldn't quite grasp the fact that they were separated by a time difference of twenty years and that none of her friends had technically even been born yet. It felt more like 1978 and 1998 were two different countries separated by a vast ocean, and Hermione was stranded thousands of miles away from her friends, with no way of communicating with them or getting back. She hoped that Dumbledore would send her back soon, because she didn't know how long she could bear being away from everything she knew.
At least you're still at Hogwarts, and your same professors from 1998 are here to take care of you. You could have ended up in fourteenth century China or something, she thought glumly to herself as she made her way down the stairs for dinner. She hadn't eaten anything since breakfast that morning, and was starting to feel sharp hunger pangs in the pit of her stomach.
When she walked through the gigantic doors of the Great Hall, she saw that students were already filling up the benches. Her eyes darted across the huge room, hoping to find Lily at the Gryffindor table. As strange as it felt for her to be talking with Harry's dead mother, it was better than the awkwardness of eating by herself. Thankfully, she soon spotted a flash of red hair and Lily waving at her from the end of one of the long tables.
Hermione shyly walked over towards Lily and her friends. Sitting across from Lily was a girl with medium-length light brown hair, a round face and a friendly looking expression; something about her seemed oddly familiar to Hermione, but she couldn't put her finger on what it was. Sitting next to the round-faced girl was another student who reminded Hermione more of Tonks than anyone else. Her hair was cropped short and dyed black (Hermione could tell it was dyed because of the brown roots that were slightly visible), which, together with the multi-colored hoop piercings that went all the way up both of her ears, gave her a vaguely punk look.
"Hi," Hermione said, taking a seat next to Lily. She didn't know quite what else to say, and was starting to feel nervous. Where was the comfort of her own friends when she needed it? Fortunately, Lily rescued her from having to think of something else to say by breaking the silence herself.
"Hey! Let me introduce you to my two best friends." She gestured to the round-faced girl, and said, "This is Alice, and"---she pointed to the black-haired girl---"this is Abby. Everyone, this is Olivia."
Hermione's brown eyes grew wide as it dawned on her why the first girl looked so familiar. Alice…it's Neville's mother, Alice Longbottom. But the last time I saw her, she was in her late thirties, insane and in St. Mungo's…
"N-nice to meet you," Hermione stammered, trying to keep her cool --- which she was finding it harder and harder do, the more of her friends' parents she met.
"She just transferred here from Beauxbatons," Lily explained to the other girls. "She's in our year, so we're going to have a new roommate."
"Oh, really? So I guess you won't be here very long, since we graduate in just a few months," Alice said.
"Yeah…I don't know how long I'll be here actually. I might leave even before graduation, I just don't know."
"Why is that? And you have an English accent --- why were you going to a French school if you're not French?" Abby blurted out as she took a swig of pumpkin juice. Lily sighed and said,
"Do forgive her, Olivia --- Abby can be too nosy and blunt sometimes."
"Hey, I was just asking a question! You don't mind, do you, Olivia?"
Hermione shook her head. "No, it's all right. Well, um…" She paused as she filled her dinner plate with food and tried to remember the story that she and Dumbledore had agreed to tell. "I know I sound English, but my gran on my dad's side of the family is French. When I was eleven I got letters from both Hogwarts and Beauxbatons, and my parents decided to send me to Beauxbatons so I could learn some French culture. But just a few days ago, my aunt in France died. They think it might have been a Death Eater-related murder, so…so I was sent here."
Alice's jaw dropped. "That's terrible! I'm so sorry!"
"Blimey, I…I had no idea," Abby said, her pale face flushing. "I feel like such a git for asking."
"It's okay, you didn't know," Hermione said. It's not like it's even true, she thought guiltily; she wasn't used to lying, and she didn't like having to do so. "Anyway, um…my parents almost pulled me out of school completely, but…they wanted me to continue my education, and they thought I might be safer at Hogwarts than I would be at home, so here I am."
"Well, there have been a lot of bad things happening here in England, too," Lily said, her face looking grave. "But Hogwarts probably is the safest place they could have sent you. Mostly because Dumbledore is the greatest wizard alive today. I hope you'll like it here."
"I hope so too...it just feels so odd being away from all of my friends," Hermione said wistfully.
Lily gave her a sympathetic look. "If it makes you feel any better, most of the people here are very nice," she said. "Well, except for a couple of unsavory boys I won't mention…"
"Oh, c'mon, Lils, Potter's been a lot nicer this year," Abby grinned. "Maybe you should finally just give him a chance?"
Lily set her mouth in a very stubborn, determined expression. "He may be a little bit nicer, but he's still annoying. Every time he 'accidentally' bumps into me --- which is way too often, if you ask me --- he asks me to go out with him. If he stopped being so bloody persistent, I might actually say yes."
"Who's Potter?" Hermione asked in a purposefully inquisitive tone of voice. Even though she knew perfectly well who Potter was, she knew she had to act as though she didn't if she wanted her story to be believable.
"Potter is James Potter, the boy who's been in love with Lily for ages," Alice said. "He's another Gryffindor in our year. He used to be an arrogant prat, so Lily's always turned him down when he asked her out. He's gotten better this year, though. Even my boyfriend Frank hangs out with him now, and they were never really close friends before."
"Yeah, well, Potter doesn't ask Frank out every single day, so I bet your boyfriend finds him a lot more tolerable than I do," Lily said wearily. "I'm scared to death of what he'll do on Tuesday. He'll probably think that just because it's Valentine's Day I'll forget that I couldn't stand him for seven years, and that I'll actually agree to be his girlfriend. I'd rather be Abby's Valentine than his."
"And you know I'd rather you were mine too, love," Abby said, winking cheekily at Lily, which made both of them and Alice laugh. Hermione stared at them in curiosity. Was Abby into girls? Something about the short-haired girl had set Hermione's "gaydar" off when she'd first set eyes on her, and the banter between her and Lily seemed to confirm it. It made sense that Lily would make friends with the gay and lesbian kids at school; Professor Lupin and Sirius had always said that she was so accepting of everyone, even the Slytherins.
Abby must have noticed the look on Hermione's face, because she turned to her and said,
"Ah. There's something you should know about me, Olivia, because if you don't like it I don't know how we're going to be able to share a room together. You see, I'm gay. Lily and Alice and Frank are fine with it, so if you're not, there's going to be a problem."
Hermione had to struggle to suppress her laughter at the irony of it all as she replied, "Oh, it's definitely not a problem, don't worry. Actually…" She lowered her voice as she continued, "my girlfriend and I just broke up."
"No way!" Abby cried, her mouth opening in an expression of half-laughter, half-shock. "You're gay too?"
"Sssh, Abby!" Lily whispered, giving her friend a reproachful look. "Maybe she doesn't want the entire school to know about it on her first day?"
"Oh, sorry," Abby said quickly, in a quieter voice. "I'm really sorry 'bout that, I wasn't trying to out you or anything. I just don't know any other girls at this school who are openly gay."
"Well, I don't know if I even consider myself gay," Hermione shrugged. "I used to like boys, and I even thought I liked my friend Ron, but then I realized I actually had a crush on his sister --- that's my ex-girlfriend. I don't really call myself anything. I think that labels are for potions jars, not people." She felt herself blush when the other three girls began laughing.
"I never heard it said like that," Abby said, looking amused. "I guess I must be a potions jar then, because I'm one hundred percent lesbian, no doubt about it."
"Well, I think it's a perfectly legitimate way of explaining it," Lily said, taking on an intellectual tone of voice. "I've done some reading on human sexuality, and Olivia's right --- most doctors and psychologists agree that sexuality is fluid, and a lot of people these days choose not to label themselves." She grinned at Hermione as she added, "I think that's really quite cool, actually."
Hermione grinned back at Lily. She already sensed that she'd made an intellectual connection with the other girl, which made her feel very relieved. How many other people did she know who read human sexuality books just for fun?
A short while later, the four of them were making their way back upstairs to the Gryffindor common room. When Alice's boyfriend Frank joined up with them to wrap his arm around Alice's shoulders, Hermione found herself being introduced to who she knew would become Neville's father as well. They were comparing their schedules with Hermione's to see if they had any classes with her when Alice suddenly whispered to Lily, "Don't look now, but Potter and his cronies are heading this way."
"Oh, Merlin," Lily breathed, rolling her eyes. "I do not want to deal with him or Sirius Black right now."
"Too late," Abby said, just as a male voice called out,
Hermione spun around, and what she saw next made her skin crawl. It was as if Harry were walking towards her --- but a taller, less scrawny Harry with hazel eyes and a forehead free of scars. This unruly-haired boy could only be James Potter, Harry's father. And trailing behind him were three people that she immediately recognized (though they were so much more youthful looking than she was used to seeing them) as Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew.
"Ignore them and keep walking," Lily said between clenched teeth. But like Abby had said, it was far too late for that. James shouted,
"Hey, Evans! C'mon, please don't walk away from us!"
"Yeah, we were just wondering who your new friend was," Sirius added.
"Why do you have to ask me that?" Lily said sharply, putting her hand on her hip and flipping her red hair over her shoulder in a fashion that reminded Hermione eerily of Ginny. "I'm sure she's perfectly capable of telling you who she is."
James looked taken aback, but then he grinned widely and extended his hand towards Hermione.
"Touché, Evans. Very well then --- I'm James Potter. And who might you be? Why in the world have I never seen you before?"
"Because I just got here today," Hermione said, feeling a shiver run down her spine as she shook Harry's father's hand. "I'm Olivia, and I used to go to Beauxbatons. It's a long story --- I'm sorry but I don't feel like explaining it right now."
"Fair enough. I just wanted to say hello, seeing as we're both in Gryffindor, and it's my duty as Head Boy to greet new students. Let me introduce my best mates, Sirius, Peter and Remus."
The rest of the Marauders waved at Hermione, and Sirius even flashed her a cocky smirk and winked at her. Hermione remembered that Sirius had been very popular with the girls while he was at Hogwarts, and she thought to herself in an amused way, Oh, Sirius, don't even bother trying to charm me. It won't work, and you'll feel guilty about it later if you ever realize I'm your godson's friend.
She suddenly remembered that she should avoid spending a lot of time with people who might later recognize her as Hermione Granger in the 1990's. So she quickly said to the boys in a polite but brisk tone,
"I think we're going back to our dorm room now…or at least that's where I'm headed. I've had a long day and I'm exhausted. It was nice to meet all of you, though."
"I'm really tired too," Lily said, grabbing the arms of both Hermione and Abby. Turning to Alice and Frank, she asked, "I guess you two will want to spend some time together before you go to bed?" The couple blushed and nodded.
"Alright, see you later then, Alice." Just as Hermione felt herself being pulled away by Lily, James called out again in a hopeful voice,
"I'll see you in class tomorrow, Evans!"
"Yeah…I can't wait," Lily sighed, sounding as though she did not look forward to seeing him in class the next day at all.
Soon they were inside the seventh year Gryffindor girls' dorm, where Hermione was grateful to see that a bed for her had already been squeezed into the corner, and on top of it lay a brown paper bag that contained soap, a toothbrush, and toothpaste; Professor McGonagall must have retrieved these items for her earlier that evening. Her school books were also on her nightstand, and her new robes were hanging in her closet. Hermione was getting ready to brush her teeth when Lily flopped casually onto her own bed and said,
"I'm sorry I dragged you away like that, Olivia. I don't know if you wanted to stay and chat with James's friends, but to be honest I wasn't sure I trusted their intentions. Plus, I can only take so much of them sometimes. Except for Remus Lupin --- he's really nice."
"No, it's all right, I really was tired," Hermione assured her. "And James does seem really, really persistent in trying to get your attention."
"I know, it's kind of pathetic, isn't it?" Lily said, frowning.
"He's not nearly as pathetic as he used to be," said Abby as she opened her drawer and pulled out her pyjamas. Hermione remembered at that moment that she didn't have any nightclothes of her own.
"Um, Lily and Abby…" she began shyly, "I…don't ask me why, but I don't have a nightgown or anything with me yet. Is there any way I could…borrow one of yours?"
"Of course!" Lily cried. "Don't be embarrassed about that, we borrow each others' clothes all the time. Let me see…I have something that might fit you, even if it's a little big…"
She pulled out a pyjamas set that consisted of a long-sleeved white cotton shirt and trousers; both items had thin pink, purple and blue stripes running vertically down them. It was a bit girlier than Hermione was accustomed to wearing, but she was hardly going to turn it down.
Soon after changing into Lily's pyjamas (which were only slightly too long for her), she crashed in her bed, utterly exhausted from all the excitement of that day. The last thing that entered her mind before she began dreaming was how odd it was to wear someone else's clothes…and to smell their scent upon them, a scent that wafted towards her nostrils as she fell asleep like a strange perfume.
Author's Note: Sorry it took me so long to update. I hope I didn't have Hermione come out to everyone too quickly, or make friends with everyone too quickly, for that matter. Please let me know what you think. :)