"Where are your parents?" The man at the ticket booth asked, looking down with concern at a pair of bright, shiny green eyes, filled to the brim with the kind of innocent view of the world only an eight year old could possess.
"Just over there." Hermione said with the biggest smile she could muster. "I said I'd get the tickets! Cos Mum isn't feeling so good, and Dad's looking after her." As if to reinforce her statement, she waved in the general direction she had indicated.
Fortunately the train station was so crowded the man at the ticket booth couldn't see that she had in fact, been waving at no one at all.
"Well... as long as you're not alone, I suppose it's alright." He said reluctantly, and he printed out three tickets, two of them adults, and one child.
Hermione carried them with pride to a bench round the corner, where she squashed herself neatly between a man with a briefcase and Grandmotherly old woman carrying a large bag patterned with tiny kittens.
Hermione cheerfully kicked her short legs in the space between the bench and the ground, and thought eagerly of her Grandfather who she was travelling to see, and whom she hadn't seen since her seventh birthday a year ago. After months of whinging and pestering to her Mother about him without response, Hermione had taken it into her own hands to see her Grandfather.
"The train to Cardiff is now approaching. Please remember to mind the gap." A formal friendly voice announced over the intercom and Hermione jumped off the bench eagerly.
Thinking herself on a wonderful adventure, she ran onto the train amidst the crowd and plonked herself down in the nearest seat to the door.
Granddad was going to be so excited to see her!
She watched the world go past her window. She looked up at the clouds, and after a moment of sheer concentration, made out the forms of animals and other objects smiling down at her from the bright blue sky. A little boy sitting further down the train was shouting at his Mother to look, and she was also looking up with wonder.
When Hermione came back from the toilet the clouds were once again unfamiliar and unextroadinary.
Hermione lost track of the coming and goings of the trains and fell fast asleep.
She was woken up abrudtly by someone grabbing her by the shoulders and lifting her high. She felt compressed as large arms tightened around her.
"Oh thank God, Oh thank God..." Jack was saying over and over, for that was who it was who had woken her up. Suddenly Hermione was back on the seat, looking up into the furious, stormy eyes of her Grandfather.
"What the hell were you thinking!" Jack was yelling. ""Anything could've happened! Your mother's in hysterics! In tears she was, crying down the phone... and we were all thinking the worst.."
He wasn't at all what she'd been expecting. He wasn't what she'd been expecting at all. She'd been picturing a proud beaming Grandfather, putting her on his knee and gushing over her intelligence, 'what a clever girl! Getting a train all by herself!...'
But instead she was confronted with a haggard and very angry man with bloodshot eyes and hands digging in her shoulder, looking for all the world like he wanted to throw her over his knee and scream what a disappointment she was. She burst into tears.
Jack immediately softened.
"Oh Hermione..." He held her tight, though not as uncomfortably as before, and lifting her up carefully carried her off the train soothing the sobbing child gently. "Hermione, I'm not angry with you. I was frightened! You had us petrified! Your parents have been worried! If it hadn't been for your note saying you were coming her, who knows what they would've thought?"
Hermione carried on crying, her cheeks going bright red and her nose running while Jack stroked her bushy hair that was so like Jane and Lucia's.
"Anything could have happened to you Princess." He croaked, and shuddered, his grasp tightening. A lost eight year old girl in a cruel world... it made his jaw clench and his insides turn cold.
"I-I'm sorry!" Hermione spluttered. "I wanted to see you! I promise I won't do it again!" Jack sighed.
"You better not! You can't go giving your Granddad an old heartattack now can you?" He was joking, but he was still deathly pale. "Yan, will you watch her for a second? I have to call Jane and let her know she's safe." He sounded reluctant to let her out of his sight.
For the first time Hermione realised they weren't alone. A pale man in a suit, with brown hair and kind blue eyes was standing at Jack's side, watching them interact in disbelief. He quickly recovered at Jack's words.
"Ianto Jones." He said, sticking out a hand as her Granddad reluctantly set Hermione down.
"Hermione Granger." Hermione said, sniffing appreciatively and wiping away her tears before shaking the offered hand. She'd already upset her Grandfather and her parents enough by getting a train on her own, she wasn't going to make things worse by not being polite.
"You gave your... Grandfather one hell of a scare back there. I've never seen him so scared."
Hermione bit her lip and looked as though she might start crying again.
"I never thought..."
"Hey! Hey!" Ianto quickly said, noticing with alarm the tears building up again. "You're safe, that's all that matters now. How about we get an ice-cream?"
Hermione quickly agreed, and in a few minutes they were both sat on either side of a bench, licking their own choice of ice cream cheerfully. There really was nothing like ice-cream to make you feel better. When it was all gone they started chatting, and the pair each discovered something about the other that they rather liked. Ianto discovered Hermione was intelligent and intellectual, while Hermione discovered he shared her love of coffee and organisation.
"Well, I've told your parents I'll take you home on the next train." Jack said, putting his mobile away as he walked briskly back, subtly examining Hermione to make sure she was still there and all in one piece. "But it's not for a few hours."
He looked hesitantly at Ianto, before returning his gaze to Hermione. He looked unsure.
"We could take her to the hub until the next train." Ianto suggested. "Tosh said there's not been alot of rift activity this week, and Suzie needs something to take her mind of that glove."
Hermione puzzled at the word 'rift', but didn't say anything. Instead she fixed the most conniving and convincing pleading expression she had on her face and looked up at her Grandfather. She batted the blue eyes she'd inherited from him and put her hands together.
"Yes! Oh please oh please Granddad! Can I see the hub?"
Jack paused. 'She's eight year's old!' a voice that sounded suspisciously like Alice snapped in his mind, and it was not wrong. The innocent did not belong in his world, yet here she was. His flesh and blood. A granddaughter who wanted to know him, who wanted to see his world. Who wasn't completely poisoned against him like his daughters were.
He sighed, knowing he would probably one day regret this.
"Fine, you can come. But you're not to tell your mother, got it?"
That was the first time she ever saw Torchwood.
It was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.