A/N: This was a story I initially began posting on , but due to the fact that my computer now crashes on me every time I try to upload there I've shifted it over here. This starts as a slightly alternative take on the goings on at Hogwarts, I know initially some of it is the same as the books but this will change as it progresses. Please R&R as I always like to know what people think of my writing :)

Disclaimer: As always all characters, locations etc. (except a few which are obviously my own invention) belong to JKRowling – to avoid further confusion she's the one with heaps of cash and I'm not!

The Hogwarts Express

Alice stood well back from the edge of the platform fiddling nervously with the end of her plait. She was working up the courage to make her way through the swarm of people and onto the scarlet train churning out steam which drifted down and wound around the feet of those seeing off their children. As far as she could see witches and wizards – it seemed odd even to think the words – were heaving trunks into carriages, disgruntled owls were being passed through windows hooting balefully and she could have sworn that a boy had just passed her with a giant spider trying to escape from a shoebox.

Taking a deep breath she grasped her trolley firmly and began to push it towards the nearest carriage. Halfway there she felt a force collide with her, knocking her sideways and nearly making her lose hold of the trolley. Straightening up she turned to see who had jostled her and found herself staring up into a pair of cold grey eyes framed by a haughty face which was currently contorted with disgust. For several seconds she stood transfixed with terror before gathering up all of her eleven year old courage to open her mouth and apologise.

"Do watch where you're going," the stranger sneered before she could get a word out and swept away, his cloak billowing out behind him. It wasn't until he had passed her by that Alice realised two smaller but equally blonde figures had been standing next to him, presumably his wife and son. Turning back to the train she fervently hoped that all wizards weren't as unpleasant as that one or all her anticipation would have been for nothing. Still she reasoned, as she tried to haul her trunk from the trolley, it couldn't be as bad as the Home.

As she struggled ineffectually with the heavy trunk, only narrowly missing her foot when one end crashed onto the platform sending her trolley skidding off at an angle, someone suddenly took the other end from her and lifted it with relative ease into the carriage and stored it on the rack.

"There you are, let me give you a hand with that." For the second time in as many minutes Alice found herself gazing up at a stranger, this one however looked much more kindly than the previous one. The man had thick flyaway brown hair and kindly brown eyes which crinkled up around the edges when he smiled as he was doing now. Abruptly she realised he was speaking to her again. "My name's Bob Granger, you look a little lost is it your first year too?"

Typically she couldn't seem to find her tongue when she needed it so she just nodded mutely as she felt herself turning a similar shade to the train.

"Well," he grinned at her, "it's my daughters first time to Hogwarts too and she doesn't know anyone else, perhaps you might sit together?" His expression turned hopeful as he waited for her response.

As she mumbled an embarrassed acquiescence she heard a voice pipe up from behind him. "Daaad!"

Bob Granger winked at Alice as he turned to the girl who had approached him with a woman who judging by their similarity could only be her mother.

"You don't need to go round finding friends for me." The girl threw a humiliated glance at her father who smiled indulgently at her, "love this is…" He looked slightly discomfited as he realised he hadn't asked her name.

"Alice," she supplied shyly.

"Love this is Alice, she's in your year. Alice this is my daughter Hermione."

Alice peeped curiously up at the girl through her eyelashes as she reached to shake the proffered hand. Like her father the girl had a profusion of bushy brown hair which fanned out across her shoulders and swamped her tiny frame. Serious brown eyes regarded Alice warily at first but clearly she saw something in her face which made her smile, revealing teeth which were just slightly too large for her small face. Alice smiled tentatively back just as a whistle shrilled loudly from somewhere within the clouds of steam.

"Well darling you better get going." Bob Granger began lifting a second trunk into the carriage as Hermione turned to hug her mother goodbye. Fleetingly Alice felt a stab of jealousy for this girl who had a mother to hug her goodbye and a father to carry her trunk for her, but with practiced ease it was quickly suppressed. She wouldn't want to wish her parentless state on anybody.

"Thank you for helping me with my case," she blurted as the two girls hopped into the carriage and Hermione's father shut the door behind them.

"No problem Alice," he smiled at her again, "happy to help."

As the train began to pull away Alice went and sat down whilst Hermione waved enthusiastically to her parents until both they and the station had disappeared to be replaced by neat rows of houses flying rapidly past. She flopped down in the seat opposite Alice and immediately began to speak.

"So are you excited to be going to Hogwarts? I know I am. I was ever so surprised when I got my letter, my parents are muggles you see, but it's going to be fascinating. Are your family magic?"

"No." She was just going to leave it at then but then she thought that this girl might think her rude so she elaborated. "My parents died when I was a baby, I was brought up in an orphanage."

"Oh. I'm sorry." Hermione seemed momentarily set back by this revelation but it was only temporary. "So have you got all of your books and things then? I do, and I got some extra history books for background reading as well, it's all terribly fascinating. I read Hogwarts a History twice!"

Alice's normally closed face lit up; perhaps she would find a kindred spirit at Hogwarts after all. "I've read that too," she enthused, "it didn't all make sense because I didn't understand some of the magical words but I think, I hope," she amended, "its going to be good."

Forgetting to be shy when talking about books, the two girls launched into a discussion about Hogwarts and the course work they were likely to receive. Alice was delighted to find that like herself Hermione had read all of the course books in fear that she would be behind. The two girls became so absorbed in their conversation that it came as a bit of a surprise when a cheerful witch with greying hair pushed under a white cap came round with a trolley laden with sweets and pasties of every description, all of them having some magical quality. Having mused over their choices for several moments the girls bought one sweet each and sat back down. Catching sight of Alice eyeing her Toothflossing Stringmints Hermione ducked her head as though embarrassed. "My parents are both dentists," she offered by way of explanation, "old habits…" The girls' laughter filled the carriage as Alice offered her a Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Bean.

Once they had chewed their way through the entire packet and Hermione, after being dared to, had swallowed a suspicious looking blue bean which had turned out to be soap they decided it was time to change into their Hogwarts robes.

"I think they look quite smart." Alice twirled with a giggle so that the robes spun out around her. She felt oddly at home with Hermione, even though she'd only known her a few hours.

"What House do you think you'll be in?" Hermione was using her reflection in the window to straighten her tie. "I'd like to be in Gryffindor of course, but I suppose Ravenclaw wouldn't be too bad either. What's wrong?" She turned to see Alice biting her lip nervously and with a suddenly serious expression again.

"Nothing." Alice smiled at her quickly, she didn't want to divulge her greatest fear which was that when it came to the Sorting she wouldn't be put anywhere and everyone would realise it had all been a big mistake and send her back again.

Further enquiry on Hermione's part was stalled however by the arrival of a round-faced boy at the door to their compartment who looked on the verge of tears. "Sorry, have you s-s-een my toad at all? I've looked in all the carriages and I can't find him anywhere, my Gran's going to go mental."

The girls shook their heads. "We'll help you look if you like." Alice offered, the boy's stammering shyness reminded her of herself when faced with something daunting.

"Yes of course we will, where did you last see him?" Hermione took charge with an imperious voice.

Alice and the boy trailed after her down the length of the train stopping at each compartment whilst Hermione grilled each occupant on whether or not they had seen the toad.

"What's your name?" she whispered to him as Hermione stopped to ask a set of red haired twins and the boy with the spider in the box.

"Neville." He looked surprised she had even spoken to him.

"I'm Alice and that's Hermione, don't worry about your toad we'll find it," she smiled encouragingly at him.

They had nearly gone the length of the train when they came across two boys sitting surrounded by sweet wrappers. They looked to be about the same age as Alice, Hermione and Neville and the taller one had a shock of red hair and a rat in his lap which he was brandishing his wand over. Without any preamble Hermione slid the door open and queried, "has anyone seen a toad? Neville's lost one."

As a tiny part of Alice's brain admired her new friend for being able to speak to people so easily her eyes flicked to the other boy in the compartment and she stopped. There was something oddly familiar about him, but she couldn't quite place what it was. As everyone was watching the redhead who had begun to perform a spell at Hermione's request, Alice found she couldn't look away from the boy. His messy black hair stuck up in all directions and looked in need of a cut whilst slightly bashed spectacles, held together with more than a little Sellotape, covered the brightest green eyes Alice had ever seen; eyes which right now were fixed on the rat with amused curiosity.

Wanting to see her first evidence of magic, and afraid to be caught staring, she quickly turned her focus to the rodent too, but nothing happened.

"Are you sure that's a real spell?" Hermione scoffed, "well, it's not very good, is it?" She then launched into an explanation of her own research into spell casting which probably sounded as though she was boasting, but Alice had realised that she was just genuinely passionate about learning but had the unfortunate knack of making the explanation sound like a lecture. "I'm Hermione Granger, by the way, and this is Alice and Neville, who are you?" She rushed to a stop.

"I'm Ron Weasley," the redhead introduced himself with such a stunned expression that Alice couldn't help but giggle, clearly he hadn't felt the need to read as much as Hermione and she had and was now regretting it. The noise drew the attention of the boy with the black hair who studied her for a moment before saying, "Harry Potter." He frowned slightly at Alice once more before Hermione began to reel off all of the books she had read about him in which left him looking more than a little flummoxed.

That must be why she had recognised him, Alice thought, Harry Potter's lightening bolt scar had been mentioned several times throughout the books she had read before leaving the orphanage. Her gaze travelled upwards automatically, but his forehead was concealed beneath a riot of coal black hair; perhaps she hadn't seen the scar then. So where did she recognise Harry Potter from?

She didn't get long to ponder it though because after ordering the boys to change into their school robes Hermione swept from the compartment dragging Neville and Alice with her. They continued to search the train for the rest of the trip, with Neville becoming gradually more dejected at his pet's continued disappearance. At last he mumbled something about having to face his Gran without it and, throwing one last grateful smile in Alice's direction, he scuttled off back to his compartment.

As he disappeared from sight Hermione turned back to her with raised eyebrows, "you would think he would take better care of his pet in the first place. I suppose he seemed like quite a forgetful type."

Alice frowned at her, "I thought he seemed quite nice, just a bit shy and there's nothing wrong with that."

"Oh I didn't mean it in a nasty way!" Hermione looked horrified at the very notion, "I was just saying – he seemed a bit scatterbrained."

As they returned to their own compartment they heard a commotion up ahead and three boys, one of them Alice noticed was the blonde boy from the platform, came piling through the nearest door scrambling over one another in their haste to get out. They pushed past the two girls without a word, forcing Alice and Hermione to stand flat against the wall of the train to let them past as the other two were quite large.

"Well!" Hermione fumed after they had gone, "how rude. I should have thought they could have at least said excuse me."

"I wonder what happened?" Alice walked towards the door they had come from as the bushy-haired witch continued to mutter darkly about wizards without manners.

"Is everything alright?" she asked as she stuck her head into the compartment where the two boys they had spoken to earlier, Ron and Harry, were both on their feet. They both looked around guiltily at the sound of her voice, but relaxed when they saw her concerned rather than accusatory expression. Hermione on the other hand was a different matter.

"What has been going on?" she looked suspiciously from one to the other, "have you been fighting, already?" she said fighting as though it were a curse.

"No" they chorused immediately. Not for the first time that day Alice found herself trying to stifle a giggle, something she rarely ever did, as she regarded the twin expressions which both boys adopted. She had a hunch that they could both manage to look guilty even if they had spent the day being perfectly saintly.

"Hmph." Hermione made a sceptical noise. "Well you had better change into your robes; I expect we should be arriving soon."

With a jolt Alice realised that it was getting dark outside and the familiar butterflies returned to her stomach. She tried to force the feeling away but she couldn't help the slight trepidation which came over her whenever she considered starting at Hogwarts and having to be sorted.

Following Hermione back to their own compartment the two girls began to gather up their things, but Alice couldn't seem to concentrate, her mind was an hour ahead envisioning the Sorting Hat being placed on her head. What if it was all a big mistake? Or a dream as she had thought when she had first gotten her letter?

In a daze she walked beside Hermione when the train stopped, gathering on the platform with all the other students in front of… Her eyes continued travelling upwards as she tried to find the top of the enormous man. He was so large and, well unkempt was the only word she could think of to describe him. He looked so fierce, but the twinkle she detected in his eye belied this impression somewhat; he didn't seem quite as terrifying as the blonde man on Platform nine and three-quarters.

They followed the giant down a narrow path leading away from the station and just when Alice began wondering if they had long to walk they rounded a corner to find a black, glassy lake rippling gently in front of them. The water stretched for as far as she could see to either side of the group and directly ahead of them, atop the sheer cliff face stood Hogwarts castle. Its illuminated windows threw a riot of light onto the seemingly bottomless lake which seemed to dance on the waters surface.

The first years made their way towards the waiting boats trying not to fall in the water, which was bound to be freezing, as they did so. Seeing Neville get shoved slightly by his over eager classmates Alice slipped over to him and wound her arm through his giving him a friendly smile as she led the way to the boat where Hermione had climbed in behind Harry Potter and Ron the boy with the rat. Hermione chattered excitedly to anyone who would listen about all of the castle's magical attributes as the boats glided away from the shore seemingly under their own steam. Before she was quite aware what had happened Alice found herself standing in a room just inside the castle having a stern looking elderly witch, who had introduced herself as Professor McGonagall, explain to them all about the House system within the school. As the teacher disappeared once more Hermione leant over and whispered in her ear.

"Do you think we'll be put in the same House?" she looked genuinely worried, "it's just it would be nice to have a – it would be nice to know someone," she finished.

Alice tried to fight the delighted smile that was spreading across her face as she realised what Hermione had been about to say and failed. "I'm sure we will be," she whispered back, "even if we aren't we can still be friends… if you like."

Hermione grinned back at her. "Alright, friends."

They were suddenly interrupted by several people screaming behind them. Alice whipped round searching for the cause of the terror to find herself confronted by twenty pearly figures emerging from the wall. Each one was partially transparent, as though you looked at the world beyond through a vapour, and they were all dressed in outfits from periods throughout history. She realised she was gawping at them and snapped her mouth shut quickly.

"Ghosts," she heard Hermione breathe beside her, her voice tinged with awe.

"New students!" one ghost exclaimed happily, "about to be sorted I suppose?" No one answered him every single child in the room seemed to be struck dumb with fear and wonder.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Professor McGonagall sweep back into the room. "Move along now." Her voice rattled out over the silent group and Alice was sure she saw several people jump in surprise at the interruption. A spate of mutterings broke out as the first years formed a line and followed the professor into the Great Hall.

Four long tables swarming with students dressed in robes like they were ranged the length of the hall and every single face seemed to be turned towards the first years. Hermione nudged her gently and pointed up towards the high arched ceiling which seemed to vanish in the middle where it seemed to be open to the night sky.

"It's bewitched to look like the sky outside," Alice heard her friend tell the students around them, "I read about it in Hogwarts a History." She smiled slightly; Hermione seemed to have as voracious an appetite for knowledge as she did.

Once the Sorting Hat had finished its rather ludicrous song, McGonagall began to call out the names of the students who walked, tripped or ran towards it to be sorted. Alice took several deep breaths to stop herself feeling sick; did everyone else feel as nervous? Glancing around she saw that Harry Potter looked rather green which made her feel slightly better, at least she wasn't the only one. Seeing him reminded her of the familiarity she had felt on the train and caused a twinge of frustration to break through her nerves. Where had she seen him before?

"Alice Evans."

Her head snapped round so fast as the professor called her name that she cricked her neck. Had they reached her already? Time seemed to slow as she felt Hermione give her a gentle push towards the stool; it seemed to take an age for her to put one lead weighted leg in front of the other. Her attention was so fixed on the Sorting Hat that she missed the Headmaster sit forwards in his seat ever so slightly and what little blood there was drain from the Potions Master's face. Oblivious to the reactions of her future teachers Alice finally reached the hat, at which point time seemed to catch up with her again and she quickly sat down and jammed it on her head. She just wanted to get it over with.

"Well, well what have we here?" asked a disembodied voice. "Plenty of courage, but that's to be expected, and brains plenty of those too. Might do well in Ravenclaw. Shy, but has loyalty and determination as well. Where to put you? Well then, better be -" The hat paused for a second during which Alice shut her eyes and waited for the verdict. "GRYFFINDOR!"