Sliding into an empty seat, Hermione could feel every pair of eyes in the room move to watch her. She was wary of how the other students would perceive her. So far, everyone seemed interested in her – she was hearing whispers behind her and feeling eyes on her all day, but whenever she turned to see who was there, they stopped – and, honestly, she couldn't find it in herself to blame them. She was probably the first transfer student in the entire history of Hogwarts. If she had gone to school here since she was eleven and a new student arrived for their seventh year, she would have been just as – if not more – curious about the whole ordeal.
Still, that didn't help her get over the initial nervousness.
As a child, Hermione attended Muggle elementary school and had been picked on by the other kids. Her father, a halfblood wizard, told her early on, when she had unknowingly shown magical talent, that she was a witch. He described to her a fantastic school where witches and wizards went to study. Hermione had been unsure at the time whether or not she wanted to go to school, and her father, a former professor until he married a Muggle, had insisted it would be just as well if she were home-schooled.
So, she had been, and she enjoyed the closeness she'd gained with her father. Even more than that, Hermione had loved spending extraneous amounts of time curled up with any of her textbooks, learning all about the magical world. It was real, and that was all her overachieving persona needed to drive her to be the very best she could possibly be. She didn't have to worry about bullies or anything of the sort while she was home-schooled; though, thinking on it, Hermione hadn't made too many friends being home-schooled either.
Now that she thought about it, her childhood had been rather cute and innocent. Well, up until a few months ago when terrible things started happening.
Her family had taken a trip to France, where her mother's family had been getting together for a little reunion. It had been quite the entertaining trip at first. Only knowing a small amount of French beforehand, it had taken a bit before she and her cousins had begun to bond over small, Muggle things. She'd even helped the older ones take care of their younger siblings. She had always wanted a younger sibling herself, so she hadn't been able to help herself when she was given three for a few months. They had all loved her – except when she reprimanded them; that was when Hermione had realized how motherly she could be – and they'd had a right good time. It had really made her wonder what it would have been like to attend the magical school, and if she had made the right choice. She'd decided quickly not to linger on it since that had been a choice she'd made and couldn't reverse.
Well, she'd thought that anyway, until the kids had wandered a bit too far into the woods one day and…
Hermione couldn't bear to think of it. She had to swallow the distress – her first actual class was about to start! Now was not the time to get all worked up over what had happened. She needed to focus on doing her best to become a better witch. That was what her father had wanted her to do and despite her desire to go after him to make sure he and her mother were safe, Hermione knew it was best for her to be at Hogwarts. Her father had said as much: "It's always safe at Hogwarts."
Again, Hermione pushed her distress away and put on a determined front. She would get through this. Bullies and not fitting in were the least of her worries after all that had happened. She was magical and so were the students here; everything would be fine. Still, her reassurances did nothing to quell the voice in the back of her head that kept telling her to be careful because she was forgetting something. The only problem was that this nagging voice was just like a remembrall – it didn't exactly tell her what it was she had forgotten.
She almost jumped when someone took the seat beside her, pulling her out of her thoughts, and although she didn't literally jump, she felt herself tense up. When she saw who sat down, she only served to get more anxious, which was a bit strange, though she thought nothing of it. Glancing at him from the corner of her eye, Hermione saw only the back of a tall boy's head. Whoever it was had nice hair, but his very presence was making her even more on edge. Really, what was wrong with her? It wasn't like she hadn't interacted with new people before.
He was talking to someone sitting in the desk on his side, but when he turned around to face her, it was almost too sudden.
The first thing she noticed about him was his smile. It was disarming, the kind of smile that could make anyone comfortable in a matter of moments. He was handsome, with dark brown locks of hair and even darker eyes that gave off a hint of mystery. If she didn't know any better, she would have said that he seemed straight out of one of her favorite novels – the tall, dark, and handsome stranger – but that was just her inner romantic speaking, and as she felt something in her stomach flip, she knocked the idea out of her head. Even so, her smile back was bashful, and she looked away when that voice began nagging at her again.
She couldn't blame it either – what was she doing even entertaining the idea of liking a guy? She had her studies to attend to so she could keep her family safe after graduation. Hermione didn't have the luxury of a relationship anymore. Not after what had happened over the summer, not with her family on the run, not with Grindelwald terrorizing Europe. Besides, something – that stupid voice – was telling her to be wary of him, though she couldn't figure out why. It wasn't like he was planning on killing her. He probably wasn't even thinking anything more damaging than, "I wonder what this new girl is all about."
Calm down, Hermione, she told herself as her heart leapt in anxiety. You're safe. Everyone else is safe. She took a deep breath, as silent as she could make it. There was no need to attract anymore attention to herself, though Hermione wasn't sure more attention was even possible.
That was the reason she could welcome the sound of the teacher entering the classroom, telling the students to quiet down so she could begin class. At least it moved the focus off Hermione and onto something worth the time. A calm smile formed as the idea of studying crossed her conscious mind. There were few things she loved more than reading and learning. Her family, of course, but that was it. It was odd, and something about that made her feel empty.
"Alright now!" the teacher exclaimed as a bright smile graced her face. The woman wasn't short, but she was nowhere near as tall as other teachers Hermione had seen walking through the halls earlier. Something about the woman made Hermione respect her. Each wrinkle that lined her face only made the young witch wonder how much she had gone through, how much she had learned. It was probably a safe guess on her part that the witch had knowledge Hermione could only dream of. Well, this was certainly one class she could check off as interesting, that was, if she could get through it.
"It's come to my attention that we have a new student," the teacher continued, her eyes immediately coming to rest on Hermione's frame. She felt the other students' eyes find her again. So she had been wrong – apparently there was a way to attract more attention to herself. "I am Professor Merrythought, and I'll be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, Miss…?"
Hermione opened her mouth to respond but then, a bit frazzled by the fact that she had to introduce herself in the first place, closed it again. Didn't all of the teachers know her name already? This is probably for the other students, she told herself. Calm down. Opening her mouth to try again, she said, "I'm Hermione Gra – "
She paused and swallowed.
Why had she almost told them that her name was Hermione Granger? Why was it that she could hear her voice from years ago introducing herself with that name? Why was it that she could hear an older woman calling her to come to the front of the room for something important? Why was it that the name seemed so familiar? It had almost been too easy to tell them that Granger was her name, but it wasn't. She'd probably heard it in a dream, or in Diagon Alley or something. She needed to stop this ridiculous fretting over things that hadn't happened yet, and things she couldn't have controlled even if she wanted to. It wasn't going to do her any good worrying about things that didn't make any sense. She might end up having a heart attack if she kept this up.
"It is very nice to meet you, Miss Goulding."
No, Hermione would calm herself down and enjoy her studies, even if that seemed so ridiculous after all that had happened.
"Now, I'm sure you all remember what we learned last year. We will be continuing with nonverbal magic today." Hushed whispers flew through the classroom and for the first time that day, Hermione could truly assure herself that they weren't talking about her. The thought of learning a bit of powerful magic was enticing – a challenge. She wondered if the other students had become efficient with that kind of magic already. They'd had an entire year to garner some skill after all. She'd have to work hard to keep up if that were the case; she didn't need them thinking she was incompetent. "But before we get to more advanced spellwork –" a mixture of groans and sighs interrupted her for a moment, "Now, now, we'll get to it. However, first, we must review what we learned last year. The basics of this magic."
At this, Hermione was relieved. She'd at least have a chance of getting the hang of it before the curriculum called for something complex she would in no way be able to do.
"Now, I want all of you to gather your things and move to the back of the classroom,"
Merrythought directed. "Up, up!"
At her command, the students did what they were told, gathering in a huddled bunch at the back of the classroom. It was hard to ignore the obvious line between the Gryffindors and Slytherins in the room. Hermione herself had been sorted into Gryffindor house, but she had yet to be approached by any of her housemates aside from a small "hello" or smile. It was almost as if half of them were too afraid to talk to her, which was a strange notion. Hermione thought it might be because they'd heard a bit of what had happened to her and didn't want to offend her. Still, she felt lonely as she took her place in the middle, only close enough to be considered on the Gryffindor side.
With a wave of her wand, Merrythought sent the desks to opposite sides of the room, creating a large space that hadn't previously been there. "Now, set your things to the side. You won't be needing them for this exercise." She waited patiently as the class placed their belongings by the wall closest to the door. "Grab a partner and find your own place in the room. We'll be practicing disarming spells and only disarming spells." She turned her eyes to a tall, light-haired Slytherin, standing on the left side of the dark-haired boy who had sat next to Hermione earlier, and with a terse smile said, "We wouldn't want a repeat of what happened last time, now would we, Mr. Rosier?"
"Of course not, Professor," the boy, Rosier, replied, his tone innocent. It was obviously mock innocence, though, as not only did it simply sound fake to Hermione's ears, but as soon as Merrythought turned her back to pick up something she'd dropped, the boy looked to the group of boys around him and they all laughed, albeit quietly. Glancing his way, Hermione was quick to note that the boy who'd sat next to her wasn't laughing, although he did smirk, and something about that smirk was…unsettling. She quickly looked away, suddenly concerned with the fact that she didn't have a partner.
She stood there for a moment, not certain in her ability to get someone to partner with her. Maybe she could ask one of the Gryffindor girls, but then, looking at them, they all seemed to have already paired themselves off with one another. As Hermione looked around the classroom, it seemed that everyone had already paired off with someone else. Wouldn't it be just her luck to be the odd one out purely because of numbers?
"You're the new girl, right?" a distinctly male voice asked.
She turned to her right, looking up to face a boy of moderate height, not too much taller than Hermione herself. He was clad in the Gryffindor robes, his hair dark and unruly, and a pair of thin-rimmed glasses framed his dark eyes. Even though he wasn't extremely tall, it was almost as if he was staring Hermione down for a moment, judging her. For a second, her anxiety had taken over and she had forgotten that he was expecting an answer. "Ah – yes. Hermione."
"Right," he said, his persona changing completely in an instant. It was as if that judgmental boy was gone, and in his place was someone eager to get to know her. Hermione figured this was just her nerves messing with her again. "I'm Graham. Graham Potter." Something in her lit up at the sound of the name 'Potter', but she wasn't sure why. She'd never heard that name before in her life. "This bloke," he continued, pointing to the dirty-blond standing behind him who was also wearing Gryffindor robes, "is Casper Lovegood. You're welcome to partner with us, if you want."
"Oh, sure," she said, nodding. "It's nice to meet you."
"Likewise," Graham replied, making his way to a section of the classroom that was still empty. Hermione followed and waited for Graham to take charge. That was the impression she'd gotten from him anyway, that he would attempt to take charge in most situations. The other boy, Casper, looked more laid back than Graham, with his hands in his pockets and a carefree smile plastered to his face. "So, Hermione, have you worked with nonverbal magic before?"
"Not yet, no," she answered. "I mean, I've studied it in theory and tried a few spells on my own every now and then, but we never got around to learning it."
"Alright, then. You want us to start or do you want to try?"
"Oh, go ahead."
At her words, Graham nodded to Casper, his wand at the ready. The dirty-blond removed his hands from his pockets, pulling out his own wand, his carefree smile turning playful. Looking between the two, there seemed to be an air of challenge, a question of who would strike first. But they were only supposed to be doing disarming spells, right? A feeling came over her that told her that the two of them were preparing for more than just a simple nonverbal disarming exercise. It was a bit nostalgic, really.
She didn't have time to dwell on that, though, as the two boys began. They'd both nonverbally cast the spell at the same time, causing a small collision in the air. Red sparks flew up in the air where the two spells had hit each other, looking like a show of small, personal fireworks. While the spells hadn't caused their intended effects, they did push both wizards back a few steps, and it looked as if Graham had almost tripped over his feet. Neither boy seemed frazzled by the impact, though. They both carried the same determined expressions from the moment they'd started.
"You might want to try before we get carried away, Hermione," Casper said, chancing a glance at her. His voice was light and peaceful; it didn't sound at all like he'd just almost been knocked off his feet.
"Alright," she nodded. Might as well give it a try. It'd probably be fun if she got the hang of it quickly. "Um… who- ?"
"Have at it with Lovegood, here," Graham suggested. "He needs someone to fix his carefree attitude."
"Sounds like you're scared, Potter," Casper retorted in his airy, whimsical tone.
"I certainly think you are."
"Am I going to try disarming one of you or are you going to keep up with this back and forth?"
Hermione interjected. The two boys stared at her for a moment, and she wondered briefly if that had been the wrong thing to have said. When they both simultaneously laughed, she exhaled a breath she hadn't known she'd been holding. They exchanged a look, which ended in Casper's turning toward Hermione, opening his arms in a 'come at me' sort of way.
Alright, well, here goes nothing.
She kept her eyes focused on Casper's wand, saying the incantation "Expelliarmus" over and over again in her head as she imagined red sparks flying from her wand. It happened much more quickly and much more powerfully than she expected, and when Casper's wand flew a few feet towards her, Hermione almost jumped. The two boys shared a look, the same confused look that Hermione herself had on her face.
"I thought you said you'd never tried it before," Graham said after a beat, astonished.
"I… don't recall ever having done it before," Hermione replied, bending down to pick up Casper's wand.
"Well done, Miss. Goulding!" Merrythought's cheery voice congratulated her. Hermione stood up to receive a pat on the back from the amicable witch, and noticed, upon looking around the room, that everyone was staring at her again. "10 points to Gryffindor for such a lovely surprise."
A sense of pride welled up inside her and she had to bite back a large smile. Earning house points had always made Hermione feel like she was doing something right. Wait – always? Since when did –
"Well, that was a really good job for someone who's never done it before," Graham continued after Merrythought had moved on to pair of witches across from them.
"Oh, shove off, Graham," Casper said playfully, "Just because it took you a week to even get the spell working –"
"She doesn't need to know that!"
Hermione didn't bother stifling her giggles as she handed Casper back his wand. The two of them were obviously close friends, and they were – inadvertently or not – making her feel a little less on edge about being at Hogwarts in the first place. She only hoped they wouldn't ditch her as soon as class was over. That would just make her feel awkward.
As the two boys bantered, she chanced a look around the classroom at the other students. It was evident that not all of them were as well adept with nonverbal spells as Hermione had pegged them to be. Though, there was one boy who was clearly better than the rest. It was the tall, dark, and handsome one, the boy who had sat next to her. He seemed to be able to cast spells almost with just a wave of his hand, let alone just a wave of his wand, easily knocking his partner – that Rosier boy – off his feet.
Wait! That wasn't just a simple disarming spell!
But apparently the teacher didn't notice. Hermione would have called him out on it, but something deep inside her was telling her not to. Merrythought obviously hadn't seen it when she awarded Slytherin ten points "for good workmanship" on his part, scolding Rosier for not keeping his feet planted. The tall boy turned around, and his eyes bore into Hermione's, a saccharine smile clouding her vision. She felt something choke in her mouth as what felt like rocks built up in her stomach. Don't trust him, the nagging voice from earlier told her. You cannot trust him.
A scoff from behind pulled her back to the task at hand, and Hermione turned around to find Graham annoyed and Casper… not quite as cheery as before. She glanced at where they were staring, only to find them looking over at the boy and his friends like she had been.
"He's always getting them points for the stupidest things," Graham muttered.
"Starting this already?" Casper asked. "Can't we – "
"No, we can't, and you know that," Graham snapped. "That wasn't even a disarming spell he used. Looked more like a jinx to me."
That was what Hermione had thought, though she didn't think voicing it right away would do her any good, especially considering she didn't know exactly what was going on. Giving them both puzzled looks, she waited for one of them to explain to her why both of their demeanors had just changed at what was just the drop of a hat.
"We'll explain later," Casper told her. "It's not really important anyway. Graham here has just had an ever-steady rivalry going on since our first year."
"I swear, if he wasn't Head Boy – "
"You'd be – I understand. Now can we continue? I'm certain a few minutes ago you were eager to prove your bravery by facing Miss Goulding here."
"Hermione," she quickly jumped in, as if on reflex.
"Right, Hermione," Casper corrected with a nod. "Or, after seeing what she can do, have you gotten scared?"
"Don't even joke, Lovegood," Graham said, his entire character changing back to the playfulness it had been earlier. "Hermione, you up for a round?"
"Certainly," she agreed with an enthusiastic smile, though she couldn't help but chance one look back at the dark-haired boy. The Head Boy.
Don't trust him.
Disclaimer: I obviously don't own Harry Potter.
A/N: Thank you for all the reviews! I wasn't expecting so many from just the prologue, so that was a great surprise. Keep them coming - I'd love to hear your ideas on what all I could include in the story.
I do feel the need to state that Hermione has lost most of her memories and this is what she thinks has happened to her. This will be explored further in detail later on, so stay tuned.
Again, much thanks goes to my beta readers: Ani and Lily! And you, too, Ginny! Love you guys.