A/N: Harry Potter et al belong to JK Rowling, with my thanks for letting me play with her toys.
This is a non-canon story. Hermione is called Jean in this story, though that will change as the story progresses.
I need to stress that this is Not Canon Compliant! There are a lot of things different between "Jean" and canon, and I don't just spell it all out - it is revealed a bit at a time. Please don't give up early, I promise the payoff is worth it.
Be patient, this is going somewhere, I'm just taking a detour or two and I hope you enjoy the change in scenery.
Chapter 1 – Alone
A girl sat alone on a bench in a large, deserted station. Her blue and bronze scarf was wrapped tightly against the mist that hung thick in the air, dulling the afternoon sun. A single light blue case rested on the seat beside her, she had a novel in her hands. The girl's bushy hair obscured her face as she leaned close to read by the scant light. Occasionally a noise would pierce her concentration causing her to look up expectantly.
One of those times she saw an older woman approaching, a single bag under her arm. She walked past an empty bench to stand a few paces from the younger woman.
"Mind if I sit here?" she inquired, gesturing slightly to the girl's bench.
"Please," the girl replied as she slid her case to the cement by her feet, "there you go," she smiled at the newcomer.
"Thank you, dear." The woman sat with practiced grace, though she braced herself as she eased down onto the solid bench. "Frightful weather, I'm sure they'll be soaked goin 'round All Souls Eve... excuse my manners, my name is Sarah." She finished with a smile of her own.
"Jean," the girl replied simply. The older woman seemed very nice, a friendly interruption if one had to be interrupted.
Taking out a bit of knitting, the woman gave a glance to the book in the girl's hands, "I'll not bother your reading further, I can see you were quite involved and the light won't hold much longer." With that she began to knit upon something long, brown and undefined.
Jean nodded politely in thanks, a small smile accompanying her agreement, though she remained silent. That silence continued, only broken by the click-clack of knitting and the occasional turning of a page as the pair settled in on their wait.
The atmosphere was somehow more comfortable with the rhythmic background noise and Jean found herself lost once again in another world. She read that way for another half an hour or so, occasionally glancing up at odd intervals.
Eventually the light faded so badly that she could no longer make out the words. Closing her book with a heavy sigh, Jean leaned back and closed her eyes. She realized she may have strained them a bit from the poor light as motes danced beneath her eyelids. Her mind wandered in the quiet, the mist muting even the afternoon traffic to a dull thrumming in the background.
The sullen mood she had been fighting all day returned quite easily without the distraction of the novel. She wondered about the major changes that had already come and those that would shortly turn her life in a whole new direction. Her brow furrowed as Jean began to mull over all that was going on in her life.
Sarah Combs considered the young lady sitting next to her. She was saddened by what she saw. It was hard to guess the girl's age as she was rather short and slight of build. Perhaps barely into her teens? The girl's small stature was not what concerned the older woman; Instead it was her eyes. Those eyes gleamed with such intellect as she read, yet they contrasted with the drawn, haggard look upon her face. The girl seemed so… tired… for someone so young.
Jean was tired. She was tired of being "Gifted", tired of being "Brilliant", mostly she was tired of being… Different.
As she sat waiting at the station, she hoped that this new chapter in her life would change all of that. She'd had her hopes dashed before, with a special school where she didn't fit in much better than she had at her Primary school. Well, it had been loads better than Primary, but still…
Still, this school had to be better. Everyone there was going to be different, just like her. She was getting used to not fitting in, used to being treated as an outsider, but she did not like it.
Of course she realized that the obvious thing that made her Different was her intelligence, that and her zeal to apply her intellect to learning new things. Jean was always tops in all of her studies, yet she had not been able to make friends with her classmates. She thought she had tried very hard to make friends over the years, but most kids seemed more interested in taunting her. It seemed there was no end to the reasons she was teased.
Since starting Primary she'd had trouble with her name. Well, she hadn't had trouble, but with a name like 'Hermione', some kids just couldn't get it right. So they tormented her with a dozen mocking derivations of her literary, yet awkward name. Hermione was already quite intelligent for her age and saw that this was an issue she could change, so she took action. Beginning her second year of Primary she told everyone that she'd changed her name to her middle name. They left her alone pretty quickly… about that.
As surprised as she was at how well it went at school, the response at home was quite the opposite. The argument over her name change was the first ever between seven year old 'Jean' and her parents. They had been her only authority figures besides her teachers and she'd never argued with them before. They tried to reason with her for a week solid, yet she would not budge on this 'sudden' wish to adopt her middle name at school. Eventually she requested to be called Jean by family as well. She didn't realize the hurt her mother felt over the changing of her given name for many years.
Meanwhile it seemed that the reason the kids mostly accepted Jean's name change was because they had a lot of other things to harass her over.
For one thing she could not hide her bushy "mouse brown" hair. It flowed in long, thick curls, down past her shoulders. Her wild mane absolutely refused to be tamed for more than a few hours – even after a professional salon treatment. The stylist had even said she was cursed!
Next of course she had large buck teeth. Her parents assured her she would grow into them, and there was nothing she could do about it. Since they were both dentists, she could hardly argue the point.
Then there was… is, her love of books. This obsession with reading led her to walk about, head down, face buried in her latest find. For some reason this amused her fellow students to no end, they made snide comments as she passed and sometimes even her knocked down, "on accident", of course.
At the end of the list was her love of learning coupled with her amazing memory. An outside observer would point out that it was more the fact that she answered every question in every class. Correctly. In her defense, Jean could no more restrain her enthusiasm for learning (and sharing that knowledge) than she could contain her unruly curls.
Yes, it was a long list and Jean loved lists. She mentally added that when she answered questions in list form she got laughed at for that as well. She began to review her mental list of where things went from there when she forced her mind to a stop with a physical shake of her head.
Jean sat forward on the bench again, coming out of her reverie. She felt terribly self-centered just now, with everything else going on, she was back to analyzing herself, specifically her failings. The counselor had said it was 'something to work on'. Yeah... right. The perfectionist in her felt compelled to review herself, to try to find where she had gone wrong. Jean tried to take a deep, calming breath, like her exercises, and only then began to remember her surroundings.
Suggested Reading is Hermione's Plan by Chem Prof, a great version of everyone's favorite bushy haired bookworm.
I'd like to take a moment to give well deserved praise to those who have inspired me, edited my work or encouraged me, in no particular order, thank you to mylady phoenix, MUNKEYMANIAC, coffeeonthepatio, GenkaiFan MUGGLEDAD, MATTD12027, Abraxan, OldCrow, Clell65619, HPGunshot, S'TarKan, Thirst4Light, Mizuni-sama, canoncansodoff, and of course Megan, James, Aerin, Thomas and Diana! If I missed your name bug me, it's my oversight not your lack of helping or inspiration.