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Chapter 1

"If you dare say Ravenclaw, my dear, I predict that you a soon and dire death. And it would be such a pity, after 1000 years, eh?"

"Actually, Rowena... Miss Ravenclaw... I was about to say Slytherin."

"Not on your life."

"Hufflepuff?"

"Try again."

"Then it had better be... GRYFFINDOR!"

"Wise hat."

"One can never be too... wise... around you."

McGonagall took the Sorting Hat off her head and she rushed at the Gryffindor table with delight. She had been many things before, but never a Gryffindor. The Hat had insisted on placing her in her own House for the first dozen times or so, until she decided she had had too much of it, thank you very much. Then it had been Slytherin – a new and exciting experience. And once or twice, Hufflepuff – a new and unexciting experience.

She sat down at the lion's table and occupied herself with plans on how to take the lion's share of the food when it finally appeared. She was hungry. No surprise there, though. She hadn't eaten for awhile and then there had been that young, adorable fool who'd lost his frog and she hadn't been able to buy anything for herself when the lady with the sweets went by. And, a new pretense always made her hungry.

"Hi," she said to one of the red-haired boys in front of her. Weasley, probably. One was always safe with Weasleys. "I'm Hermione Granger. How do things work around here?"

It was a safe question, one that any first-year might ask and that she wanted answered for some rather different reason than one might expect. She could've asked "how's my school going?" but that was always a bad idea. As expected, he launched into a long explanation about classes, electives, grades, teachers – she was actually quite attentive as he described them all – sports, stairs, portraits, ghosts, dormitories and the library. At the end of that, she nodded, pleased, and thanked him. Meanwhile, the Sorting finished and she couldn't help but notice that the Potter boy – Harry, she reminded herself – was a Gryffindor. It was to be expected. And he was very much stared at. Something to be expected yet again. As the first years talked amongst themselves about magic and Hogwarts and the excitement of being in a magical school, she resumed her questioning of the Weasley – Percy.

"I do hope they start right away, there's so much to learn," she said, getting used to her know-it-all, overexcited, fabricated personality. First year. She would have to act like a first year. Not that she hadn't done it before. "I'm particularly interested in Transfiguration, you know, turning something into something else, of course, it's supposed to be very difficult-"

"You'll be starting small," he cheered her up. "Just matches into needles and that sort of thing. Only then will you move on to greater things."

She nodded, pleased. Yes, things were as usual. Easy, then more and more difficult as time passed. From the corner of her eye, she noticed Harry Potter slap his hand against his forehead, over his scar. How odd. No, how fishy. That was the word. She was about to ask him what was wrong, when Percy decided to ask that question. Well, that was alright, she could listen.

"N-nothing," Harry Potter stuttered. It was clear that it wasn't nothing. "Who's that teacher talking to Professor Quirrell?"

Aaah, the cause of the pain seemed to be one of the teachers, eh? Hermione Granger (once upon a time Rowena Ravenclaw and then many, many other people) almost leaned back to listen in more comfortably. Luckily, she remembered that even though times had changed and many things had been invented, the seats in the Great Hall still had no backs. Why, if she were still in charge... But she wasn't. She smiled to herself.

"...he teaches Potions, but he doesn't want to -- everyone knows he's after Quirrell's job. Knows an awful lot about the Dark Arts, Snape," Percy was saying.

Hermione glanced up. Hm. She knew some of the faces. Yes, she knew about Severus Snape and his failed love for Lily Evans... And there was McGonagall, looking as stern as ever. Dumbledore! He was the test, perhaps he would recognize her this time around. He was older, maybe wiser. Maybe not. He was a troubled and troublesome individual. Oh, his air of great knowledge and benevolence was as fake as her eleven-year old body and prefabricated story of dentist-born. He was passionate and tempted by power, cunning and manipulative. And much too perceiving at times. She would have to be very careful when she moved about him. Luckily, it wasn't in the nature of the Headmaster to do much fraternizing with students. And yet – to send him hints of things that were clear enough to carry her meaning, obscure enough to hide her interference. It would be difficult and complex. But she was not the Ravenclaw for nothing.

Another round of The Game was coming up and she was the only player that needed to be taken into consideration. How nice. But even if there were no other players, the obstacles and dangers more than made up for the lack of them.

"Ahem."

She jumped to attention. Dumbledore was making a speech.

"Just a few more words now that we are all fed and watered. I have a few start-of-term notices to give you. First years should note that the forest on the grounds is forbidden to all pupils. And a few of our older students would do well to remember that as well."

She tried to look serious and warned as he said that.

"I have also been asked by Mr. Filch, the caretaker, to remind you all that no magic should be used between classes in the corridors. Quidditch trials will be held in the second week of the term. Anyone interested in playing for their house teams should contact Madam Hooch. And finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death."

Harry Potter laughed. She didn't. It wasn't likely that the old wizard would be throwing around such dreadful speeches for nothing. Her eyes narrowed – what was the man hiding there, and so obviously? Alas, there was no answer. She nearly jumped in surprise when they were required to sing the school song – when had that happened? And then she noticed the professor's grimaces and realized it was one of the Headmaster's impossible innovations. Well! She sort of half-rapped, half-invented a tune, having no patience with the song and noting how the entire Great Hall resounded with a rather desperate, almost musical, terrible noise. She hoped somebody would talk him out of that experiment for the future.

They went to their dormitories, interrupted only by Peeves, who had been there since... 1784? Something like that and she revised inside her head: illusion charms, to make her books look like textbooks – she already knew all magic there by heart. Anything that slipped her lips about the past or Hogwarts would be referenced to "Hogwarts: A History", better called "The Most Boring and Complicated History of Hogwarts One Could Ever Read". Nobody ever read it, so she should be safe, no matter what she said. If she slipped about magical theory, she would refer vaguely to "a book". She had barely read it. Pointing out to Dumbledore that something was amiss and that Voldemort had horcruxes – also pointing out their locations, as far as she'd been able to figure them out. And, of course, she had to change a few things about the school. She also had to remember to be a stuck-up know-it-all, so people would go away and let her do her work in peace. But that part was fun.

With all those things in mind, she managed to tiredly smile at the little girls that she shared her bedroom with and then went to bed. It would be a full few years, she was sure of it.

Xxx

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