A brief intro to this fic. Yes, this is a HG/SS fanfic. NO, there will not be any sort of physical relationship between Snape and Hermione while she's a student at Hogwarts. Just so we're all clear and on the same page. :)
Basically, as the title and description suggests, this fic will explore Hermione's school years as she is sorted into Slytherin House. I'd like to follow canon as closely as possible, though there will be a few relationship changes that should be somewhat obvious with Hermione's new House affiliation. Those characters will namely be Snape, Draco Malfoy, Harry, and Ron. This is merely to say that their interactions with one another will be slightly different than cannon.
Anytime you see the asterisk symbol (*), this signifies a direct quote from JKR for whichever book we're in at the moment.
Other than that ... I'm quite excited about this fic. It's been on my mind for several months now, and I've been looking forward to putting it down with "pen and paper" as it were. This will likely be a novel length fic, so settle in a long ride! (For those of you following MM, I'm VERY much hoping that writing this will help lift the fog, and ideally work on both side by side.)
I always appreciate reviews. On that note, constructive criticism is most certainly welcomed in a respectful and professional manner. I am happy to take substantiated criticism, with thoughts on how to improve. I would, however, like to discourage any reviews that might go something along the lines of, "Hermione would never be sorted into Slytherin." Well ... obviously. That's why I'm writing about it and borrowing JKR's wonderful characters and not making a dime in the process. This is simply for entertainment purposes.
With that being said ... here we go.
Hermione Granger stared dully out her bedroom window. The rain outside was pounding with little reprieve, making the green grass of her parent's yard annoyingly sloshy. On her lap sat an open letter inscribed with emerald green ink. She still didn't quite understand what it meant. What she did know, however, was that her little family had been in an uproar ever since it had arrived earlier that afternoon.
I wonder, the girl thought, as she tried to ignore her parent's arguing from the floor below, how that owl was trained to deliver letters.
It had to have been from the zoo, she reasoned. Hermione hadn't been to the zoo for ages, but she vaguely remembered a show where hawks and eagles and other birds flew from one side of an auditorium to the other. The owl, she was certain, had previously been a part of that show.
But that still didn't explain the message inside the letter.
To Miss Hermione Granger
11 Earl Way
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)*
Dear Miss Granger,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
The term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
Hermione carefully folded the letter along the previously pressed creases and looked back out the window. The paper was rather fancy, unlike anything she had ever written on at school. That thought, however, did little to dull the ache that had formed in the pit of her stomach.
I'm a witch, she thought miserably. Those awful green creatures with black pointed hats and hairy warts who run about scaring children. That was what she was destined to turn into.
As if I'm not disliked enough by everyone at school already.
She sighed and tucked the letter into her skirt pocket, listening for signs that her parents were finished arguing with that old man who looked disturbingly like Father Christmas.
Eerily on cue, her mother's voice cut through the floorboards.
"Hermione, dear? Can you come and join us for a moment, please?"
Hermione's brown eyes momentarily flickered outside toward the summer downpour before she turned from her chair, arms around her knees, and stared ahead at her closed door. Without replying, she scooted off the chair and straightened her skirt, and then opened the door and made her way through the hallway and down the stairs.
The sitting room was an odd scene. Hermione's mother was sitting in her father's favorite chair, a hideous orange thing from well before Hermione was born, eyes red from crying. Her father stood stoically behind her with a hand resting lightly on her mother's shoulder, warily eyeing the thin, old man who looked liked someone Hermione might bump into on Halloween.
"Hermione," her father said with an odd note of contrition in his voice, "please, come in here."
She hesitated. She searched their faces as the rain continued to patter against the roof. Eventually she sighed, circumventing the coffee table slowly, and sitting down on the plush sofa closest to her mother. The old man was backlit from the hall light, motionless.
"Hermione," her mother began, her voice catching at the end, "there's something that you need to understand ... something that your father and I have only just come to know."
"I read the letter," Hermione said softly, looking to her feet without any real emotion in her voice. "I understand what it means. That I'm ... that I'm a witch."
"Indeed you are, Miss Granger," the old man said gently, speaking for the first time. "And I am so very pleased to inform you of the fact." He stood and moved with surprising agility, and Hermione found her neck craning upward to look him in the face.
He crossed the room and extended a sun-spotted hand without a sound, without the wood creaking. "Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore at your service, Miss Granger."
Hermione stared unblinking at the veined hand for a moment. That mouthful of a name was the same that was signed on the letter folded in her pocket. Was this ancient looking man the reason she was now a witch?
Slowly, as she extended her own little hand, she looked up at his face.
At least, she thought numbly, he doesn't look angry just now.
On the contrary, Albus Percival ... whatever his name was, appeared cheerful and rosy; a true representation of the Father Christmas figure he so closely resembled.
"Hermione Jean Granger, sir," she said quietly, taking his hand.
"It is a pleasure, Miss Granger, I assure you." His lips twitched into a smile behind his massive, white beard. "For brevity and memory sake, my dear, you can simply refer to me as Professor Dumbledore."
Hermione's eyebrows shot upward. "You're a professor?"
"Indeed I am," he said amiably, moving to return to his sofa. He paused as he made to turn, and cocked his head slightly. "Would you care for a lemon drop, Miss Granger?"
Never take candy from a stranger.
"No, thank you, sir."
He smiled cheerfully to himself, despite her refusal. "That's just as well," he said, reaching into his blue robes to pop the small candy into his mouth. "I am rather fond of sweets, you see. All the more for me."
Hermione's own lips twitched briefly. Not a smile, but not a gesture of rejection either.
"Miss Granger," Professor Dumbledore said, and his voice dropped an octave, "I understand this must be quite confusing for you. Surely, you must have a great many questions." He steepled his fingers, tapping them together softly. "My reason for being here is to answer those questions, and I am quite happily at your disposal for as long as you require me."
Hermione was horribly uncomfortable, her heart pounding along so fast that venous refilling was starting to back up. She thought of the letter in her pocket, could feel the corners of the parchment poking against her hip. And so, she asked the first thing that came to her mind. "How did that owl know to deliver the post to my address?"
Professor Dumbledore's blue eyes twinkled behind half moon spectacles. He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, as though he were about to embark on a very exciting story. "A very observant question, Miss Granger. Owls are how we," he gestured to both himself and her, "as magical beings communicate with one another."
"But ... I didn't know I was a witch," Hermione said uncertainly. "I thought it had escaped from the zoo."
"Quite quick on the uptake, my dear," said Professor Dumbledore with a genial smile. "Generally muggle-born students–students who have non-magical parents like yourself–receive their Hogwarts acceptance letters through the muggle mail first. However, seeing as you and your family were on holiday when the post was sent, an owl was asked to deliver the message to ensure it reached you." He looked about the room serenely. "An owl is much more difficult to ignore than a letter," he sighed. "They rather tend to leave a horrible mess."
Hermione chewed her lower lip in concentration, feeling a sudden sense of smallness. "So there are witches–people like us–who have ... magical families? They already know they are a witch or wizard?"
"That's quite correct."
Hermione frowned. "And they're not upset by it?"
Professor Dumbledore regarded her with a sad smile. "Not at all, Miss Granger, and neither should you be. The term 'witch' has a much different connotation in the wizarding world than it does in the muggle one. A witch is simply a female that possess magical abilities."
"You keep saying the word 'muggle'," Hermione's father interrupted, his voice more tight than anything in recent memory. "I've never heard of any such word, even though the other terms are somewhat familiar."
"Ah, yes," said Professor Dumbledore, removing his glasses and wiping the lenses with the excess material of his sleeve. "Forgive me for not explaining. A muggle is simply a non-magical person, like yourself, Dr. Granger."
"So, would I be the only one at Hogwarts with non-magical parents?" Hermione asked, her small voice trembling slightly. "A muggle-born?"
Professor Dumbledore shook his head and smiled kindly. "No, Miss Granger, there are most certainly others. As the headmaster, I pay all muggle-born students a personal visit before the term begins to make certain students and their families feel as comfortable about the situation as they are able."
"But I still don't understand," Mrs Granger said shakily, before blowing her nose into her father's hanky, "how Hermione could develop these ... these abilities without John or I possessing anything of the sort."
"Ah, yes," said Professor Dumbledore. "That seems to be the thing about magic, I'm afraid. There is still so very much we don't know about it. The questions and variables and the unknowns are what make it, shall I say, for lack of a better word, magical?"
His eyes twinkled like a five-year-old on Christmas morning.
Hermione thought it was a rather bad joke, but she closed her eyes for a moment, steeling herself. "So you're saying, sir," she began tentatively, "that because I'm a ... a witch, that I can do magic?"
Images of rabbits being pulled out of black top hats and face cards appearing out of nowhere flashed rapidly at the forefront of her mind.
A glimmer in the man's blue eyes appeared to be the equivalent to a full blown laugh. "But of course, Miss Granger! Tell me," he leaned forward again, "have you ever been able to make something happen, something that you couldn't explain?"
Hermione froze, glancing cautiously at her parents. Both appeared visibly shaken by Professor Dumbledore's presence and Hermione wondered what the professor had done or said to startle them so. There in that frozen moment, she swallowed and nodded slowly, and her mother let loose an audible gasp.
"You knew, Hermione?" she asked, batting at her eyes with her father's hanky. "You knew you could ... do things, and you never told us?"
"No, it wasn't like that!" Hermione cried, balling her little hands into fists. "It wasn't ... I didn't even know what I was doing! And it never would have made any sense to me unless ... ," she waved her hands wildly, trying to remember that horrendously long name, " ... unless Professor Dumbledore explained what he just did!"
Mrs Granger appeared rather startled by her daughter's small outburst and clutched the hanky to her breast.
"That is, of course, quite normal," Professor Dumbledore explained patiently, when he took in the distraught features of the Grangers. "For wandless magic to be made manifest in younger children when they are experiencing powerful emotions."
"Normal," her mother repeated hollowly, staring at some nondescript point in the room.
John Granger looked at his daughter with a quizzical expression. "Just what was it that you were you able to do, Hermione?"
Hermione sat back in the couch, staring at the three adults in the sitting room, wondering at it all. She fought the brief impulse to simply dash to her room to avoid the stares, but settled, instead, on entwining her fingers in every which way possible. "I didn't think anything of it, really," she said quietly. "I'd forgotten about it, until just now."
Professor Dumbledore looked over at her with understanding in his blue eyes. "It's alright, child. Go on."
Letting out an exaggerated breath, Hermione said in a rush, nearly tripping over her own words, "I once made a book move without touching it. One that I couldn't find."
Hermione's mother gasped. "You made it move?" Her brown eyes were wide and startled. "How?"
The girl shrugged. "I don't know," she said timidly. "It was a long time ago." Her brow furrowed and she bit her lip in concentration. "I just remember there was a book I couldn't find and I needed it for school. I searched through my cabinet and everywhere I could think of–-the den, the sitting room, everywhere ... I simply couldn't find it."
She closed her eyes, feeling more determined now, lost in the memory. "I remember thinking in my mind how much I needed to find the book and out of nowhere – woosh! – it flew out from under the bed, right at me!"
Mr and Mrs Granger looked at their daughter as though she had grown a second head.
"And ... you didn't think to tell us?" John Granger asked incredulously, still with a reassuring hand on Mrs Granger's shoulder.
Hermione shrugged, her eyes downcast. "I didn't know if it was even real." She shook her head. "It didn't make sense. I thought I'd imagined the whole thing."
The awkward silence that followed in the sitting room was palpable. Maybe they'll think I'm some kind of ... of freak now. Maybe they won't want me at all. Hermione glanced warily at her parents, struggling to ascertain how they truly felt about the whole situation.
But there was no hatred or animosity on either's face, only confusion and disbelief.
"My dear sir and madame," Professor Dumbledore said gently, breaking the silence after a long moment, "is there anything further I can answer for you at this time? You know, of course, as it is, I am humbly in your service to provide you any information or knowledge that I can. I feel, however, that there is still much that needs to be discussed within your family circle and I am rudely intruding on that privacy."
"Sarah?" John Granger asked softly, looking down at his wife.
"No," she shook her head, glancing up at Professor Dumbledore. "No, I don't have anything more. I think this is ... enough to take in at the moment." She hesitated only slightly as the elderly man rose to his feet. "When is the deadline for Hermione to return a reply?"
"July 31," Hermione answered numbly from the couch, thinking of her letter.
Sarah Granger nodded. "Right. We'll make sure she sends a response by that time–whatever that response might be."
Professor Dumbledore looked down at the little family and smiled sadly. "Of course, madame. Thank you both for your hospitality this afternoon. The tea was lovely." He turned to the young girl sitting on the couch. "And it was a wonderful pleasure to meet you, Miss Granger. I took the liberty of bringing along your assigned texts for your first year of school so that you might have a chance to look over them and see, perhaps, if this school is something you'd like to consider."
Hermione perked up at this. "Thank you, sir." She looked around the sitting room uncertainly. "Er, where are they?"
"Why, up in your room, Miss Granger."
Hermione blinked. "But, how'd you get them up there? I've been either there or with you the entire time!"
Professor Dumbledore made his way to the front door and bowed slightly, his midnight blue robes rustling in the quiet of the room. There was that dry twinkle in his impossibly bright eyes.
"Magic, my dear Miss Granger. Magic."
And then Professor Dumbledore quitted the Granger home and strode out into the dismal weather, whistling happily to himself as the rain fell indifferently around him.
A week later Hermione Granger lay flat on her stomach atop her bed, feet hanging lazily in the air as she flipped through the pages of Miranda Goshawk's The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1). The humid night air drafted in from the open window, with the warm pine smell of the woods.
"You're liking those books," her mother said by way of greeting one evening, grave and severe in the little doorway.
"Oh, yes!" Hermione replied excitedly, swinging her legs around so she sat cross-legged with a thick tome in her lap. "It's all so fascinating, mum! A completely different world! Instead of studying arithmetic, and science, and English, they study potions, charms, and history of magic – oh! – all sorts of things!" She laughed and folded her arms behind her head, leaning against the backboard. "If I'm going to be off to Hogwarts, I'll need to read ahead in all the texts."
Her mother raised a trimmed eyebrow in question.
"I'm so worried everyone will already be ages ahead of me," Hermione explained, scanning over the books piled neatly at the center of her bed, "since most already know about magic. I don't want to be behind."
"I see," her mother said softly.
They stared at each other from across the bedroom, in grim mutual silence. Hermione sighed and rubbed her eyes.
"You don't want me to go to Hogwarts, do you mum?"
Her mother looked back over at her sharply. "What makes you say that?"
Hermione shrugged. "I can just tell. Every time I've brought up a new subject or mentioned my books, you and dad both look nervous." She swallowed and looked to her hands. "And uncomfortable."
Mrs Granger shook her head, stepping into the bedroom and sitting on the bed beside her daughter. The mattress shifted slightly.
"You think I don't trust your heart, Hermione." Her voice caught. "There's nothing I trust more."
"Then I don't understand why you and dad don't want me to go to Hogwarts," Hermione complained. "This is where I need to be, mum. I'm sure of it."
Mrs Granger nodded, trying to reign in her emotions. "You misunderstand, dear. It's just a little hard on your father and I, is all. To have a man come into our home and tell us that you belong to another world was like throwing the proverbial rug out from under our feet. It has nothing to do with going against what you want," she smiled softly. "It's more, I think, our entire perspective on the world; we're simply trying to wrap our minds around it."
The young girl instantly deflated. "Oh."
"You're our only child," Mrs Granger said simply, looking across the room to a family portrait that rested in a pool of light on her daughter's writing desk. "And this is something that your father and I aren't a part of. Some place we don't fit in or understand. Where we can't be together as a family."
After a long moment, Hermione said softly, "I'd ... miss you too. But, I've never fit in here, mum. Not at all." She looked up at her mother and met her eyes levelly. "Don't you see? There's a reason why I never fitted in. Why I don't have any friends. I'm not like everyone else. I'm different. And this place," she gestured to her books with a look of sacred reverence, " ... Hogwarts, this might be where I actually belong! Where I can make real friends."
Her mother looked down at her, her brown eyes somewhat startled. Then she sighed. "Oh, Hermione. You've grown up, love." She shook her head. "Your father and I want nothing more in this world than your happiness." She hesitated. "And if this is what you think will make you the most happy, of course we'll allow you to go."
"Oh! Really, mum? Truly? Oh, thank you!" She reached over and threw her wiry, little arms around her mother, nearly squeezing the breath out of her. "I'll write all the time," she promised, feeling one hot tear gather. "I'll find one of those owls and make sure it knows our address. I know I'll only be seeing you and dad on holidays, but ... "
She faltered. There was no 'but'.
"I know dear," her mother said simply. "It's alright. It is."
"Thank you," Hermione said, when all other words failed her. They looked at each other contently, happy to be at peace. "Um, where's dad?"
"Stopped to buy some milk. You drank the last of it," Mrs Granger accused lightly, smoothing down her daughter's wild hair.
Hermione chuckled. "Well, at least when I'm off at school, poor dad can save himself a trip."
"Yes," her mother replied dryly, "he'll be quite relieved, I'm sure." She paused and smiled, and then bent and kissed the top of her daughter's bushy head. "Come on. Help me set the table for dinner. Your books can wait an hour or two."
Hermione sighed dramatically, and her mother swatted at her.
"All right, all right!" she protested, holding her hands up. "I'm coming!"
Diagon Alley was unlike any place Hermione Granger had ever seen.
After passing through a grubby looking pub, where her father had pulled her rather close, and into the small, walled courtyard, Hermione had followed the instructions in her acceptance letter and, with her parents, made her way through an enormous archway that opened to a cobbled street that twisted and turned out of sight.
Stores that held cauldrons, supplies for a sport called 'quidditch', wands, banks, robes, and everything Hermione imagined Disneyland Main Street looked like stood before her, awaiting with eager anticipation.
"Mum! Dad!" Hermione exclaimed, peering into a shop that sold owls, "Can you believe this place? It's amazing, isn't it? It has everything I read about in those books Professor Dumbledore left me! All sorts of magic!"
The Grangers, for their part, appeared rather startled and impressed themselves.
"I can't believe," Mr Granger said, pulling his wife close to him, "that this place is right in London; hidden in plain sight."
Mrs Granger nodded, somewhat baffled herself, as she glanced up at a snowy white building that towered over all the little shops. The sign on the front suggested it was a bank.
"Let's see," said Hermione, pulling out her letter. "I'm going to need a wand, a cauldron, a set of brass scales, a telescope, three sets of plain work robes, and – oh! – this all seems rather expensive!" she exclaimed, worriedly.
"It's fine, dear," Mr Granger said. "The money isn't a problem." He patted her on her back. "I think we need to head to that ... bank first, as it appears magical folk have a different system of currency than the pound."
Hermione chewed on her lower lip, noticing a sign advertising a broom cleaning kit for sixteen Sickles.
Sickles? How did I miss reading about that?
The currency exchange went as well as could be expected, considering the initial surprise of goblins working the bank.
"Don't stare, mum," Hermione whispered up to her mother, when she started and accidently backed into her father. "It's rude."
"Well, of course," Mrs Granger said with a tinge of guilt, "I was merely surprised – oh, good heavens, that one's beard reaches the floor."
Passing through a pair of silver doors, Hermione and her parents managed to make it to the counter without further incident.
"Next," called a goblin at the end of the counter. His voice was harsh and deep.
Mr Granger walked uncertainly to the counter, looking down at the little goblin. "Er, yes, I need a currency exchange, please."
"Name?" the goblin asked.
"What is your name, sir?" the goblin asked again, slightly irritated.
"Oh," said Mr Granger, patting his pockets uncertainly. "Well, it's for my daughter. Hermione. Hermione Granger."
The goblin peered down his long nose and over the counter, making eye contact with Hermione. It seemed he had dealt with confused muggles before.
"Muggle-born?" he asked. "First time in Diagon Alley?"
Hermione shuffled her feet nervously. "Er, yes, sir."
The goblin perked up slightly at the title. "Come up here, then. Yes, that's fine." He looked back up at Mr Granger. "In addition to making a currency exchange, you'll likely want to set her up with an account here. She'll be able to make withdrawals without you needing to make subsequent trips. We'll exchange the currency automatically."
Mr Granger nodded. "That would be wonderful."
"Very well," the goblin said, hopping down from his stool. "I'll fetch the necessary paperwork for you to make an initial deposit."
"I say, would you look at that," Mrs Granger said after the goblin disappeared, adjusting her purse strap on her shoulder and nodding toward the opposite side of the huge room, "apparently there are all sorts of creatures and beings in your wizarding world, Hermione."
Hermione stepped back from the counter and peered around her father's legs. Walking into the room, very nearly making the tiled ground shake, was the tallest man Hermione had ever seen. His face was almost completely hidden by a long, shaggy mane of hair and a wild, tangled beard.* Behind the giant, trailing him like a lost puppy, was a skinny boy with dark hair and glasses. He appeared to be close to Hermione's age.
"Wow," said Hermione, eyes following the pair. "I read about giants in one of the books Professor Dumbledore gave me, but look how tall he really is!" She smiled as she watched the giant and the boy. "He seems friendly enough. I can't see his mouth behind that awful beard, but his eyes are smiling."
The giant and boy made their way to the counter on the other side of the room just as the Granger's own goblin returned with the necessary paperwork to open a Gringotts account. While Mr Granger set about to filling out the forms, Hermione glanced at the giant and then at the room at large. Witches and wizards were interacting with goblins and giants and all sorts of creatures without any reluctance or animosity.
Everyone is so different and no one cares! she thought excitedly. No one minds if you're really tall or horribly short or ... or anything!
She laughed once, incredulously. Maybe, just maybe, this world would be a place where she could finally fit in.
"We might as well get your uniforms," said Mrs Granger, nodding toward Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions as she looked at the list of items still needing to be purchased. Entering the shop, the were immediately approached by a squat, smiling witch dressed completely in Mauve.
"Hogwarts, dear?" she said, when Hermione started to speak. "Got the lot here – there's a young man being fitted up just now, in fact."*
In the back of the shop, a boy with a pale, pointed face was standing on a footstool while a second witch pinned up his his long black robes. Madam Malkin stood Hermione on a stool next to him, slipped a long robe over her head, and began to pin it to the right length.*
"Hello," said the boy, "Hogwarts, too?"*
"Yes," said Hermione, smiling excitedly.
"My father's next door buying my books and mother's up the street looking at wands," said the boy. He had a bored, drawling voice. "Then I'm going to drag them off to look at racing brooms. I don't see why first years can't have their own. I think I'll bully father into getting me one and I'll smuggle it in somehow."*
"But that's against the rules!" Hermione exclaimed.
The boy shrugged noncommittally. "If you know the right people, it isn't."
Hermione frowned, trying to decide whether or not she liked the boy. At length she said, "I haven't gotten my wand yet. I'm more excited to get that than anything else. I've read all about them."
"Yeah?" said the boy. "I suppose I'm pretty keen on getting my own, as well. I hate having father and mother do everything for me. It will be so nice to be able to do magic whenever I want to."
"But we're not allowed to do magic outside of school," Hermione argued. "I read about it. Not until we're of age. The Ministry of Magic can trace the user's wand and you can get into big trouble. There can even be a trial!"
The boy regarded her strangely. "Blimey, you sure read a lot, don't you?"
Hermione smiled. "Oh, yes. I love to read."
The boy shrugged again, as if he didn't really care.
"Play Quidditch at all?"*
Hermione frowned, remembering the shop when she first entered Diagon Alley. She still wasn't entirely sure what 'quidditch' was. Only one of the books Professor Dumbledore had left her gave a reference to it, and the most she could deduce was that it was some sort of magical game involving brooms. As she was not particularly inclined to heights or physical activities where things flew at your face with rapid speed, she had moved onto more traditional readings.
"No," she replied, feeling that the safest answer.
"I do – father says it's a crime if I'm not picked to play for my House, and I must say, I agree."*
"Oh," Hermione mumbled, not certain what more to say. "Well, good luck, I suppose."
The boy smirked. "Thanks."
Before Hermione could ask the boy if he had always known he was a wizard, Madam Malkin said, "That's you done, my dear," and Hermione, turning to see her parents approaching, hopped down from the footstool.
"Well, I'll see you at Hogwarts, I suppose," said the drawling boy.*
Hermione smiled. "Alright. See you at Hogwarts."
"Who was that?" Mr Granger asked, as he paid for the robes with the new wizarding currency.
"A boy who will be going to Hogwarts with me," said Hermione happily. She followed her parents through the door and back into the alley.
"Is that so?" Mrs Granger asked. "What was his name?"
Hermione started. "I didn't even think to ask him!"
"That's alright," said Mr Granger as they headed across the crowded street to Ollivanders. "You'll probably see him again once you arrive tonight."
Compared to the other buildings they had been in, Hermione thought Ollivanders to be a rather narrow and shabby place. A tinkling bell rang somewhere within the depths of the shop as they moved inside. It was a tiny place, with only a few chairs for her parents to sit on and wait.
"Good afternoon," said a soft voice. Hermione jumped. Her parents must have jumped, as well, because there was a loud crunching noise as they both got quickly off the spindly chairs.*
An old man was standing before them, his wide, pale eyes shining like moons through the gloom of the shop.*
"Hello," said Hermione awkwardly.
"And who might you be, my dear?"
"Hermione, sir. Hermione Granger."
The man smiled. "Well, welcome Miss Granger. I trust you're here for your first wand. Yes? Let's see." He pulled out a long tape measure with silver markings out of his pocket. "Which is your wand arm?"
My wand arm?
"I'm right handed, sir. If that's what you mean."
"Hold your arm out. That's it." He measured Hermione from shoulder to finger, then wrist to elbow, shoulder to floor, knee to armpit and round her head. Hermione suddenly realized that the tape measure, which was measuring between her nostrils, was doing this on its own. Mr Ollivander was flitting around the shelves, taking down boxes.*
"Oh!" said Hermione. "What sort of charm makes the tape measure function on its own? I've only read about a few simple charms, myself. This one appears rather complicated."
"That's because, Miss Granger," said Mr Ollivander, " ... it is." He smiled briefly before getting down to business. "Right then. I'd like for you to try this wand. Just take it and give it a wave."*
Hermione took the wand and, feeling rather nervous about it, waved it around a bit, but Mr. Ollivander snatched it out of her hand almost at once. This went on for several minutes, Hermione waving wands around, feeling rather silly, and Mr. Ollivander plucking them out of her tiny hand and giving her a new one.
Oh, no! She thought, horrified. What if they messed up and I'm not really a witch? What if it Professor Dumbledore made a mistake?
"Tricky customer, eh? Not to worry, we'll find the perfect match here somewhere."* He retreated to the shelves, pulling down one more narrow box. "Let's see about this one. Vinewood with a dragon heart string core. Eleven inches, nice and bendy."
Hermione took the wand. She felt a sudden warmth in her fingers. She raised the wand above her head, brought it swishing down through the dusty air and a stream of green and silver sparks shot from the end like a firework, throwing dancing spots of light on to the walls.*
"My word!" exclaimed Mrs Granger, getting to her feet. "How extraordinary!"
"Oh, she'll do plenty more than that, I assure you," said Mr Ollivander, taking Hermione's wand and putting it back into its box, wrapping it in brown paper. "You should be all set, then. That will be seven Galleons."
Mr Granger reached into his pocket and paid the old man and they quitted the shop, Hermione nearly dancing circles as she clutched the box that held her wand to her chest. "Did you see that, dad? Did you? I did magic! Real magic! And that's only just the beginning, just like Mr Ollivander said! I'll be learning how to transfigure something into something else, all sorts of complexed charms, and potions, and – oh! I can't wait!"
Mrs Granger laughed. "Calm down, love. Your train doesn't leave for a few hours yet."
Hermione beamed, following her parents into an ice cream shop. "Sorry about that." She looked up at her father. "Ice cream?"
"One last round before the school girl leaves," Mr Granger said fondly, tangling his big hand in her wild hair. "Just make sure that you don't forget to floss morning and night while you're away. If you come home for Christmas and have even one cavity, I'll make certain you don't return for spring term."
Hermione smiled and her heart leapt as her father playfully ushered her through the door. "Thanks, dad. I'll be sure to floss."
The early afternoon sun hung high in the sky as Hermione and her parents made their way back down Diagon Alley, back through the wall, and through the pub called the Leaky Cauldron. They hurried back to the Granger's car and, with careful rearranging, Hermione managed to pack her truck with her newly purchased items, scooting her books and her muggle clothing around to make room. She put her wand in last, a proud feeling swelling in her chest as she regarded the brown packaging.
At King's Cross, Mr Granger put Hermione's trunk onto a cart and wheeled it into the station for her.
"We're looking for platform nine and three-quarters; I've never heard of such a thing," said Mrs Granger. "Although," she added thoughtfully, as she closed the passenger door to the car, "we did walk through a wall to get to that shopping alley. Perhaps it's the same thing here."
Hermione pulled her letter out of her jean pocket. "The very same," Hermione confirmed, reading the now worn parchment. "It says I simply walk right through dividing barrier." She shrugged. "Sounds simple enough, I suppose."
When the reached platform nine, Hermione looked up to find her mother crying softly to herself.
"Ah, mum! Don't cry, please!" she pleaded, grabbing her mother's hand. "I promised to write, didn't I? I'll do it, I swear!"
"I know, dear," Mrs Granger said, sniffing loudly. "It's just that we'll miss you. Terribly."
Hermione hugged her mother fiercely, turning her head to hide her own tears. She hated crying in front of her parents. She closed her eyes for a moment; the heat of her tears hurt. Her father, she saw, when she had the courage to open them again, was blinking very rapidly and clearing his throat.
"Dad?" she asked tentatively.
"Mind your manners, Hermione," he said, stepping forward to embrace his daughter. "Study hard and be the best student you know how to be." He paused and cleared his throat once more. "We're both very proud of you, you know."
"I know. I love you, dad," Hermione murmured into her father's broad chest.
He pulled her closer. "And I, you."
She stepped back and wiped her nose, only to be fervently embraced once more by her mother. "Be safe, Hermione. Use your head. You're a bright girl. I'm counting on you to write."
"I will, mum," she promised, breathing her mother's scent in deeply. "I love you."
"I love you, dearest."
At length, Hermione pulled herself carefully from her mother's arms and she straightened herself, walking over to grab her trunk on the trolley. She wiped her nose on her sleeve. Looking back one final time at her parents, Hermione offered a smile, tentative smile. And then, turning around, she pushed her trolley forward and started to the barrier. Not able to bear the thought of looking back to see her parents tear-stained faces, she continued forward until the wall was a foot away.
She closed her eyes and walked, amazingly, through what appeared to be a solid surface.
A second later, Hermione opened her eyes.
A scarlet steam engine was waiting next to a platform packed with people. The sign overhead said 'Hogwarts Express'. Hermione looked behind her and saw a wrought-iron archway where the barrier had been, with the words Platform Nine and Three-Quarters on it.*
She had done it.
A/N: Well, there you have it. What'd you think? I always love comments from the peanut gallery. :)