19 September 1989

Hermione Jean Granger sat on the bus bench in front of her school, watching a cluster of girls walk away, down the opposite side of the street. They were laughing and chattering loudly, and Hermione felt a surge of envy and shame. She sighed and continued to swing her legs over the edge of the bench, looking anxiously around for her mother's car. In place of a book, as was her custom, Hermione held a bakery box on her lap. It was heavy, much to Hermione's sadness.

A little blue car pulled up to the curb, and Hermione hopped to her feet. Mrs. Granger smiled and waved, leaning over to unlock the door. Hermione pulled it open and climbed into the back seat, swinging her bag onto the floor of the car. She buckled her seatbelt without a word and held the box on her lap.

"Oh, did I get too many?" her mother asked with a laugh, eyeing the box as she pulled away from the curb. "I'm always doing that, are there a lot of cupcakes left?"

Hermione didn't answer.

"Hermione?"

She sighed. "No, Mummy," she answered, staring out the window.

Mrs. Granger frowned at her in the rearview mirror. "You've still got the—"

"I know," Hermione sighed, wishing she could melt into the seat and never be seen again. The car was stopped in front of an ice cream shop, where the four girls Hermione had been watching earlier were sitting on the stoop, eating their treats.

Hermione's mother was silent for several minutes as she made a left turn onto their street. When she had parked the car, she climbed out of the driver's seat and walked around the car to Hermione's door. Hermione unbuckled her seatbelt and got ready to climb out as well, but her mother stopped her.

Mrs. Granger crouched in front of Hermione with a knowing look in her eyes, and reached for the lid of the bakery box. Twenty-three fat vanilla cupcakes, decorated with white frosting and tiny pink flowers, sat in neat rows.

"Oh," Mrs. Granger said softly.

Hermione drew a shaky breath, trying not to cry. "Mrs. Little had one," she said in a would-be bright voice. "She said it was delicious."

Mrs. Granger picked up the box and set it on the driveway beside her, then reached for Hermione and pulled her into a tight hug. "I'll bet it was," she said, and Hermione burst into tears, wrapping herself around her mother's neck.

"No one wanted them," Hermione wailed. "J-Jennifer and—and—and Alexandra—they—they—told everyone not to have any—that I'd poisoned them…I didn't do anything, Mummy, they just didn't want them—" And Hermione continued to cry, burying her face in her mother's neck.

"All right, sweetheart, all right," Mrs. Granger murmured, lifting Hermione out of the car and bumping the door shut with her hip. She left the box of cupcakes sitting on the driveway, and carried Hermione to the front door, which she unlocked as Hermione continued to sob.

"Shh, shh," Mrs. Granger said soothingly, walking into the kitchen and setting Hermione on the countertop. Hermione continued to sniffle miserably as her mother ran a paper towel under warm water, and turned to Hermione to wipe her tears away.

"Now," Mrs. Granger said, once Hermione had calmed down enough to stop crying. She hiccupped every so often, but gazed up at her mother. "Can you try to tell me what happened?"

Hermione nodded. "Mrs. Little said I could bring the cupcakes out at lunch," she began shakily. "And when I did, I brought them around to all the tables, but everyone said no, and they didn't want them—" Hermione began to tear up again, and Mrs. Granger hushed her gently, wiping the tears away. Hermione took a deep breath. "And then, I heard Jennifer telling Alexandra that I'm a freak, and no one should—should—"

Mrs. Granger didn't need to hear any more, and allowed Hermione to bury herself in her shoulder, sobbing once again. Eventually, she calmed down, and Mrs. Granger released her, bending slightly to meet Hermione's eyes.

"Hermione, look at me," she said gently. "You are not a freak. You're a wonderful, wonderful girl. You're brave, and honest, and kind. You love everyone—"

"Except Jennifer and Alexandra," Hermione interrupted, and Mrs. Granger gave a little laugh, tucking a strand of Hermione's wild brown hair behind her ear.

"Except Jennifer and Alexandra," she conceded. "But do you want to know something? Something secret?

"What?" Hermione whispered, her eyes widening.

"You, Hermione Jean Granger, are the best girl I've ever known in my whole entire life," Mrs. Granger said. "Really and truly, the very best. You're going to do something really wonderful someday, Hermione."

"Like what?" Hermione asked, looking unconvinced.

"Like…" Mrs. Granger thought for a moment. "Save the world?" she asked, and Hermione giggled. "Become a famous writer? Be the first ballerina to ever dance on the moon?"

Hermione was now laughing out loud, as the last of her tears fell down her cheeks. "I like that one," she said.

"Do you?" Mrs. Granger asked, leaning her forehead close to Hermione's.

"Yeah," Hermione giggled, and she began to shriek with laughter as her mother tickled her, covering her with kisses.

"Where's my girl?" came a voice from the hallway. "Where's the birthday girl?"

"Daddy!" Hermione shrieked, still giggling madly in her mother's grasp. "Help me! Mummy's got me!" She gasped as her father came into the room. He was carrying a huge, beautiful chocolate cake, topped with ten lit candles. It read Happy Birthday, Hermione! in sparkly silver icing, and it was decorated with dozens of silver-painted candy stars.

"Happy birthday to you," Mr. Granger sang, as Hermione clapped her hands over her mouth, held securely in her mother's arms.

"Happy birthday to you," Mrs. Granger joined in. "Happy birthday—" she pecked Hermione's cheek— "dear Hermione! Happy birthday to you!"

Hermione grinned broadly, dropping down from her mother's arms. Mr. Granger bent over slightly to hold the cake before her, and Hermione screwed up her eyes and made a wish.

I wish that I could do something great—something amazing!

Hermione blew out her candles in one, and her parents cheered. Hermione looked up at her mother as Mr. Granger placed the cake on the counter.

"I never liked vanilla much, anyway," she told her mother, eyeing the chocolate icing eagerly, which was starting to melt, taking a couple of stars with it. Mrs. Granger smiled.


Awwww...li'l Hermione...what a cutie. :) heheheh. Hope you like!