A/N: This is a story that spans all the 7 years of Harry and Hermione's Hogwarts stay and some more. The two are what are called 'child prodigies' a rare breed of humans, brilliant but woefully alone while growing up. Fate or destiny managed to throw them together and they form a bond far stronger than any seen in the wizarding world. They use their intelligence to bring innovations into the world but this story does not deal with integrating technology with magic. I managed to keep the Dursleys civil to Harry while he is growing up; they do not love him but do not hate him too. Snape is also not an evil psychopath. The name I have given to the heroine is Hermione Jane Granger, though JKR changed it to Jean by the seventh book, I feel that Jane has a nice ring to it and Hermione Jane Granger/ Potter simply rolls off the tongue.
Declaration: I write for my own pleasure and not for profit. I do not own Harry Potter Universe.
With You by My Side
Chapter 1- Hermione Jane Granger, years before Hogwarts
Hermione, named after a character in a favourite Shakespeare play of her parents, was born to a dentist couple practicing in Crawley. Even as a toddler Hermione Jane Granger was a bright and bubbly girl and when she began to read, that turned into an enthusiasm for learning.
Born to loving parents she was showered with all the affection that can only come from a couple so deeply in love themselves. Learning from her parents that she was named for a literary character was all that was required to ignite a spark plunging her into the fantasy world of literature. Not satisfied with the fictional characters, she augmented her knowledge of the times and traditions by extensive research into history. History and literature took the place of bed time stories and though initially surprised by their daughter's thirst for reading, Daniel and Emma Granger took pains to spend time to explain things to their bushy brown haired girl with chocolate coloured eyes.
School was a breeze for the budding prodigy surprising even her teachers who constantly encouraged her to outstrip her peers. As was bound to happen, her friends from school could not understand why she was so captivated by books rather than spend time playing dress up dolls with them. Though she tried her best, Hermione could not hold a decent conversation with the other children, as they could not match up to her mature thinking. In school when none of them could keep up with her grades, as kids of that age go, they resorted to taunt her slightly bigger front teeth and bushy hair. Her desperation to fit in with her peers turned to disappointment and she slowly began retreating into her books.
Though her parents knew about Hermione's tribulations at school, they could do nothing to soothe her hurt, other than being their loving and attentive selves. With their practice increasing their income, the Grangers decided to move into an affluent neighborhood at Oxford when Hermione was about 8 years old. The move to Oxford helped Hermione to find a few friends who gravitated to the brilliant girl more due to her ability to help them with their homework than real companionship.
The school at Oxford encouraged kids to explore their curiosity and inquisitiveness which was a boon for Hermione. Her enthusiasm for learning finally found a proper environment to flourish but Hermione soon found out that even friendship has its expenses. The incident that really brought home the point occurred when she was 10 years old. Her school announced a science fair with the winners being awarded a chance to visit the Buckingham Palace.
After school, Hermione's class mate Jennifer approached her with two other of her friends, who were all looking eager, "Hermione do you want to work together for the project? I want to win the prize and visit the Queen" the girl squealed. The two other of her class mates, Rodney and Beth were waiting behind Jennifer with excitement and anxiety written on their faces.
Excited at being sought after for partnering in a school project, Hermione agreed immediately. With a spring in her step, she reached home dreaming about happily spending time with her new friends.
Saturday after lunch that week, Hermione called out to her mother, "Mom! I am going to Beth's house. We have a school project to work on" and ran out the door bouncing with excitement without even waiting for her parent's acknowledgement.
The elder Grangers exchanged amused glances and Emma let out a wistful sigh, "I hope that her friends will be able to bring her out of the books. It has been a long time since I saw her willfully participating in something with other kids of her age." Her husband gave her a comforting hug agreeing with his wife's assessment.
The meeting of friends at Beth's house however was not a happy occasion. The task of building a model train station was easy enough with see through locomotive and coaches coming from Rodney's personal collection. Being the perfectionist she was, Hermione quickly took charge and though her intentions were good, her zeal to prove that she was the best wore her friends down quickly. The job was not fun enough to engage the other three for an extended period of time while Hermione wanted to get the job done the same day. Beth, Jennifer and Rodney lost interest an hour into the job and it was left for Hermione to finish the job. This was a crushing blow to the newly awakened feeling of camaraderie in the girl who was desperate for some friends. She chose not to say anything and quietly completed the project and returned home glad to at least have some people of her own age talking to her for things other than home work.
That night in the privacy of their bedroom, Dan and Emma were discussing the lonely life of their angel. They were supportive of her in any way they could but could not help felling that they failed in giving their daughter the best possible childhood they could. It did not help them that the thing Hermione craved for was something that they could not provide however hard they try.
Cuddling with her husband Emma let out a sniffle, "She is hurting Dan. She is trying so hard to cover it up but I can see it. She is retreating more and more into her books."
Dan was also near to breaking down seeing that his precious princess was hurting, but sobbing with his wife was not what was needed at the time, "I can see that dear. But what can we do? We cannot give her friends that she craves and we tried so hard to give her siblings. We can only make sure to give her the best care and love, support her in whatever she wants to do."
"We moved here to Oxford from Crawley to try and find like-minded kids for her, but I guess kids will be kids. We cannot expect them to leave their toys and act like mature enough for Hermione to like them. It is not the best situation, but it would have been nice if she can find someone else who is as interested in learning as she is. It probably would have been better if only she tried out for some sports."
Dan snorted at that, "We saw what happened when I took her to run in the morning. She fell asleep on the road for crying out loud. I sincerely hope that she will find a kindred spirit when she grows up otherwise I fear she will be alone her whole life."
"Come on Dan, she is just a kid! She has lots of growing up to do. By then she may even get tired of her book, once she hits her teens she just have to find a good boy and then she will start to think about dresses and makeup."
The change in Dan was immediate as he ground out, "You have to bring up the topic of boys" with a whine in his voice. That broke the tense situation and brought some much needed levity before they retired for the night.
Hermione tried to hang out with the three new friends that she found as much as she could. She followed them into the playground but tired out easily and could not keep up with them in their games. After some days Hermione started to take a book with her everywhere she went out on the playground with Jennifer and Beth, and as soon as she started to get distracted by the book they would leave her and pursue other less intellectual activities. Slowly the other girls started to ignore Hermione and finally even she had to admit that their short friendship was at an end.
Hermione's parents always encouraged her to be true to her beliefs and not to change her character to appease others. Hermione certainly loved reading and truly wanted to be the best she could be in her classes so she was loathe to change her habits for someone that was in her opinion not worthy. The conflict of emotions was weighing heavily on her young heart so she sought her parents who always had answers for her.
"Mum, Dad why don't I have any friends that understand me? Do I have to give up reading to really have friends that want to talk to me? I love reading but I also want to have my class mates to talk to me. What do I do mum? I don't want to change but I will if I have to."
Their hearts nearly broke at the desperate plea in her voice. They knew that it is quite difficult to grow up lonely. They both were shy and did not make many friends during their own childhood, but Dan used to love playing soccer and he spent some enjoyable time with his mates during that time. Emma used to live close to her cousins and spent time in their company frequently but now they moved away leaving Hermione mostly alone. They lost contact with most of their childhood friends when they entered dental college, mostly due to their study habits. But they also found each other, moving from best friends to husband and wife. Though growing up with company is nice and maybe even necessary, but they truly believed that losing one's individuality was not worth any friendship.
Pulling his daughter whose eyes were rapidly filling with tears, into his lap and giving her a hug Dan tried to soothe her fears, "Sweetie, I can understand your fears, both your mum and I did not have many friends while growing up. But you know what, I never regret loving my books, it was how I met your mother and fell in love."
Emma put a hand on her daughter's head and started to lovingly run it through her hair which usually calmed her down, "Your dad is right honey. People change through the years, but any friendship that is built on lies does not hold for long. You are still a little girl and you will meet a lot of people in your life. If you keep changing for every one you meet, then in after ten years from now you will not be able to identify yourself. What will you do then? Keep the faith my girl; you will meet someone special who will like you for just who you are and not for what you pretend to be."
Hermione was happy that she need not change to have friends and decided to diligently pursue her own beliefs and her books.
The incident that brought a big change in Hermione's life occurred after her school one day. Hermione had two huge books in her hand and was going to the school library to return them. The books were heavy enough to cause her to stumble occasionally on the uneven brickwork covering the path. Some of the girls thought that it was funny to 'play' with Hermione and when one of them used her leg to trip her and another giving a small push, Hermione stumbled causing the books to fly out of her hand while she hit the ground with some force.
Desperately trying not to cry and with tears threatening to break out, Hermione stood up on shaky feet dusting herself. Her actions were stopped by sharp pain in her arms and legs which were scrapped badly. Seeing the blood the other kid ringing her bolted away, afraid to get caught, without even stopping to assist Hermione.
Finding herself alone Hermione finally let the tears flow, sniffling and wiping her tears away; she began blowing on her injuries to reduce the stinging sensation. Nothing she read in her beloved books prepared her for the sight of her injuries being healed as she continued blowing hard through her mouth. Hermione was shocked and could not put into words the feeling of happiness, wonder and a little fear she was feeling watching her injuries disappear leaving unblemished skin behind.
At that moment Hermione also had a vague recollection of a book flying through the air into her outstretched hand when she was about five years old. She accounted it to her active imagination and did not mention it her parents at that time. She decided that she would not mention the newest incident also, after all who would believe her, and she herself is having difficult explaining it even though it happened to her. Moreover, her parents were already worried about her being different and she did not want to add to their concern. Hermione still believed in her books, she just had to look in the right place.
That one incident where she was bullied by the same girls, who she thought were her friends, firmed her resolve not to actively change herself for others. The behavior of her class mates had shown her that it may end up in nothing but heartbreak for her. She learned from her parents that neither her father nor her mother dated anyone else before they found each other. Heartened by that fact she hoped that she would be lucky enough to find someone like that, someone willing to put up with her passion for learning and still love her enough to spend his life time with her.
Hermione was a pretty girl with an understated beauty, her wild and untamed bushy brown hair framing a likeable face, and chocolate brown eyes that entrap you with the lurking intelligence. The only blemish that her parents could honestly say was the slightly larger size of her front teeth, though they were unaware about the grief Hermione was forced to endure because of them.
If Hermione were to have the gift to look into the future, she would have been amazed to see herself with a well deserving young man, a young man who would give his unending love to her and spend his entire life with her by his side.
Then just before her 11th Birthday, a letter changed her world.