For the Love of the Land
~I pledge my loyalty to Honor, Justice, and Hogwarts~
Part One

Platform 9 and 3/4 jostled Hermione Granger as she tried in vain to find a familiar face. Younger students surrounded her on all sides. Even after five years Hermione could remember her very first trip on the Hogwarts express. That's where she had met Harry. And Ron.

Don't think of Ron! She scolded herself. Hermione had made a pledge over the summer: I no longer have a crush on Ron Weasley. Hermione knew it wasn't that simple, but she was going to try.

Speaking of Ron...did she just see a blob of red? Yes! The Weasleys, and Harry with them. She ran over, waving and smiling.

"Hey!" She shouted, still ten feet from the Weasleys.

"Hermione!" She heard, shouts coming in all different forms from the bunch before her. Ron and Harry ran toward her, nearly making road kill out of the second years who were in their way. Hermione held back a very loud laugh.

"Hey, where have you been?" Harry demanded. Hermione rolled her eyes.

"On Neptune," She replied sarcastically.

"Well, that explains a lot," Ron said, with equal sarcasm.

"Honestly, when did you guys get so sarcastic?" Harry asked as they started searching for an empty compartment.

"When I met him!" Hermione said, pointing at Ron.

"When I met her!" Ron said at the same time, pointing to Hermione. Harry simply shook his head and gestured to a compartment nearby devoid of occupants.

They stowed away their trunks and Hermione let the cat out of the bag-literally. She opened her wicker basket and set Crookshanks on the floor, while Ron covered Pig's cage with a set of robes. They were ready for some serious post-holiday conversation.

"What did you do Hermione?" Harry asked politely.

"Yeah, what was so important that you couldn't come stay with us?" Hermione rolled her eyes. Guys. Well, to be more specific, Ron. He was just...crude. Or maybe Harry was polite. Whichever it was, it was terribly annoying.

"I was on holiday in Nova Scotia," Hermione informed him haughtily. In all honesty it hadn't been much of a holiday at all. They spent the whole time with a bunch of doddery old great-aunts and uncles who talked of nothing but local gossip. Hermione had to do her homework discreetly, lest her Muggle relatives discover her magical studies. Her great-great-uncle Fritzgerald was still convinced that magic was real, and believed witches evil and deserving of their medieval punishments of being burned at the stake. Hermione had yearned for her friends, Hogwarts, classes...ANYTHING with a little bit of magic. For two months. Yuck.

"Oh really?" Ron asked, raising an eyebrow. "And did you enjoy Nova Scotia?"

"Of course I did!" Hermione lied. Ron and Harry saw right through her.

"Hermione, you are absolutely no good at lying." Harry said, shaking his head.

"So, like I said," Ron began. "Did you like Nova Scotia?"

"Argh, it was HORRID!" Hermione said. She started off in detail, complaining about her stupid relatives for nearly an hour. That's when the snack trolley rolled into their compartment, and they had all bought as many sweets as they could carry, especially Hermione, who had taken a liking to sugary things and didn't get any over the summer. Her parents were great and all, but they were still...dentists. Just thinking of it made her take a large bite out a pumpkin pastry.

"So," Hermione said, then quickly swallowing the last bit of the pumpkin pastry. "What did you guys do?"

"Oh, you know, the usual," Ron said biting the top off a licorice wand.

"The usual?"

"I stayed at the Dursley's for a miserable month and a half, Ron picked me up and scared them half to death, then I stayed at the borrow and had a blast for the last few weeks of holiday." Harry said this nonchalantly around a chocolate frog, but Hermione knew he was concerned. The dementors had finally deserted Azkaban. Hermione knew about his worry, and Harry knew she knew about his worry, so there was no need to voice it. After being best friends for five years, you learn to say things without saying anything at all.

"Sixth year." Harry said, and then put on a monotone voice. "Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to get Draco Malfoy expelled. Repeat, get Draco Malfoy expelled. This message will self-destruct in five seconds." With that he made a blast from his wand that sent a loud 'BOOM' through the compartment. Hermione, who had been giggling behind her hand the whole time, burst out in full fledged laughter, and was shortly joined by Harry. Ron sat there, looking both confused and as though he thought his best friends had just gone mad.

"Okay, you two are seriously freaking me out." He said, looking from one to the other for an explanation. They looked at Ron, then at each other, then started laughing again.

"GUYS!" Ron exploded in frustration.

"It's a Muggle thing," Harry said, finally calming himself down.

"Mission Impossible, it's an old tv show." Hermione started singing the theme song, but Harry clamped a hand over her mouth.

"Please, let's not go THERE, Miss Tone Deaf, UK." Harry teased. Ron laughed and joined in. Somehow, teasing Hermione turned into Quidditch. Hermione just rolled her eyes and picked up her new Transfiguration book. With those two, everything could be traced back to Quidditch.

Hermione started to read. Or at least, she PRETENDED to start reading. In reality she was peeking over the top to look at Ron every ten seconds or so. He was so cute when he laughed...

NO! No, no, no, no, no, no, no! This cannot be happening to me! Hermione thought. The crush was still there stronger than ever. NO! She was getting rid of it THIS year. Ron had absolutely no interest in her, and she wasn't going to some stupid girl who sat around all of her life waiting for a guy who didn't like her. It was only logical. Not that liking Ron was logical. Was anything logical? Transfiguration was logical. Hermione glanced down at her book as the words swam in and out of focus. Okay, so maybe Transfiguration wasn't logical...

Hermione continued like this for the rest of the train ride; trying to convince herself that liking Ron wasn't logical, realizing that did no good, then trying to console herself in Transfiguration just to find herself peeping out over the top again. It was quite a relief when the train stopped and they piled out of the train.

"I hope there's not many first years, I am STARVING!" Ron said, looking at the castle as he climbed into a carriage with the other two and Neville.

"Honestly, Ron, you ate a ton of sweets," Hermione said, in what could be a scold.

"That was HOURS ago!" He whined. Hermione rolled her eyes and got into a conversation with Neville, which she wasn't paying much attention to because she kept looking over at Ron. Not there was anything wrong with looking over at Ron. No, EVERYTHING was wrong with looking at Ron. Or maybe-but blissfully, the carriage halted before Hermione's head exploded in confusion. She chatted with Ron and Harry as she went into the Great Hall and took a seat, with the boys on her left, farther from the teachers.

Ron groaned as the first years entered. It WAS an unusually long line of them...Hermione suddenly realized that Ron was right, it HAD been hours since the sweets. And it wasn't often that Hermione gave Ron credit for being right.

"Ablad, Abbagail!" Professor McGonagall cried out.

"HUFFLEPUFF!" And so, the Sorting began. All the older students applauded, but really, they were waiting for McGonagall to hurry up and finish so they could eat.

Finally, with 'Young, Melissa' becoming a Gryffindor, the feast began. Ron helped himself to everything he could reach (which, considering his long arms, was a lot) and began eating so fast that Hermione stared.

"It's become worse over the summer," Harry said, grabbing the chicken. Hermione continued staring until Harry put some potatoes on her plate and brought her back to reality.

An hour later Ron had ingested three plates heaped with dinner and two of desert. He was the last one to set down his fork.

"Ahem," Professor Dumbledore said, rising to his feet. "Now that you are all finished-" He looked very pointedly at Ron, causing Harry and Hermione to work very hard to keep a straight face.

"I have a few start-of-term announcements for you. Firstly, a reminder that the Forest is completely forbidden, with no exceptions. There is no magic allowed in the hallways. Any students not sure on what objects are allowed in the school should go see Mr. Filch.

"I would also like to introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher." As Dumbledore said this, a woman sitting next to Professor Sinistra stood up. Her auburn hair as clipped along her chin line so that it got shorter toward the back, and was longest at the front. Her eyes were hazel and sharp, now surveying the students carefully. Her eyes rested on Harry, Ron and Hermione for a moment, and they narrowed.

"Everyone please give a warm welcome to Professor Starlight!" Dumbledore said.

"I don't like the looks of her," Ron said, leaning in towards Harry and Hermione, still clapping politely with the rest of the hall.

"Oh, Ron, give her a chance!" Hermione said.

"Yeah, we'll give her a trial run." Harry said. He, too, didn't look all that thrilled with Starlight. Hermione rolled her eyes. Will they ever learn that the teachers are NOT the enemy?

"Now, off to bed!" Dumbledore said, shooing them away. Hermione led the first years upstairs to their dorms, then she went up to her own. I love my house and all, she thought, but nothing beats Hogwarts.