It was absolute chaos!

Spells exploded throughout the atrium of the Ministry of Magic, taking gargantuan chunks of tile, plaster and stone off the walls, shattering windows, splintering doors, and creating a thick choking cloud of smoke.

The once beautiful fountain statue that was the centerpiece of the atrium had been reduced to tennis ball sized rubble. The water had been spilled onto the floor and had mixed with the dust and stone to create a thick grayish sludge. Tables and chairs from the cafés had been thrown all around and the news stand was all but splinters now.

Twelve Death Eaters were fighting to escape while their enemies kept them from the floos, and their freedom. Even their leader, the most powerful dark wizard in history was having difficulty in ending this battle.

All at once, the floos began to come alive and high ranking members of the Ministry as well as members of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement began to step out. Even the Minister of Magic himself stepped out of one of the fireplaces made for magical travel, looking quite put out at having been called into the Ministry at this hour of the night.

Cornelius Fudge was scowling, and preparing himself to scream at whoever had sent for him. That was until he very nearly lost his head as a fiery purple spell soared very close to his head, ripping a football sized hole out of the wall behind him. Fear overcame his previous anger as he, and the rest of those who had just arrived beheld the monumental battle playing out within the Ministry of Magic in stunned silence and awe.

Lord Voldemort, the most evil and feared wizard in over a hundred years was locked in furious combat with Albus Dumbledore, former Headmaster of Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Voldemort had been believed to be dead for over fourteen years, yet here he was right before the Minister's disbelieving eyes.

Fudge had spent the better part of a year trying to discredit Albus Dumbledore, whom had been desperately trying to warn the populace that the Dark Lord had somehow risen from the dead. Now there was no way Fudge could sweep this under the rug. Word was going to get out, and before he knew it, the wizarding world would know Albus Dumbledore was not insane after all.

As Fudge took in the battle, he saw some other noteable people in the fight. The first was Amelia Bones, head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. She was locked in battle with Bellatrix LeStange, an extremely dangerous and deranged prisoner whom had very recently broken out of Azkaban prison. Bellatrix taunted and teased as she fought, but Amelia ignored the crazed woman's verbal assault and focused on her own combat. Watching Amelia Bones, Fudge understood how it was she fought her way up the ranks to become the head of her department. She had not lost her fighting edge at all over the years spent behind a desk.

Alastor Moody was also there. Arguably one of the most famous and respected Aurors the Ministry had ever had, the now retired man was making easy work of not one, but two Death Eaters, who looked to be struggling to keep the grizzled man at bay.

Fudge got a serious shock when he recognized Sirius Black. Black had not been seen in over fourteen years, and was believed to have sold out the Potters, the last people killed by Lord Voldemort before his fall. Yet here he was fighting the Death Eaters along side Amelia Bones and Albus Dumbledore. The man was actually smiling as he fought as if the battle was nothing more than a game.

And then Fudge received his greatest shock when he saw his very good friend, and strongest supporter, Lucius Malfoy. But Malofy wasn't fighting against the Death Eaters. He was dressed in the black robes of Lord Voldemort's followers, and fighting against a young looking man dressed almost like a covert operative.

The rather thin looking warrior wore all black. Boots, pants, long sleeved shirt, with a black hood over his head. Just as Fudge realized what he was seeing was not a dream or hallucination, the fight between the two combatants ended when Lucius lost his wand hand. Not just his wand, but his entire hand. In an eruption of blood and bone. Lucius shrieked like a woman as he fell to his knees cradling his stump. His opponent dashed up and struck Lucius in the chin with his knee, knocking him out cold before turning to look for his next battle.

It was Lucius' scream of pain that signaled the end of the fight. Lord Voldemort Heard Lucius scream and turned to see the man in black looking at him. The Dark Lord shouted out and sent a Killing Curse his direction. The man in black dodged it. Voldemort's distraction nearly cost him as Dumbledore sent a series of spells at the Dark Lord, which Voldemort batted away angrily before realizing he was now surrounded by Ministry people and Aurors. He gave a shout to his followers and latched on to Bellatrix LeStrange's arm before disappearing with a thunder crack.

What followed was a long stunned silence, until Headmaster Dumbledore began directing his allies to bound any Death Eaters who'd been stunned or otherwise kept from escaping. The press began taking pictures as fast as they could, as the Aurors rushed forward to help and the Minister of Magic bustled forward to speak to Dumbledore.

Before Fudge could utter a single syllable, The reporters cut him off demanding answers to their inquiries. Dumbledore held up his hands trying to silence the anxious reporters as Sirius Black came to the old headmaster's side to give him a quick report. Dumbledore strained to hear Black over the rumble of the reporters, who were now questioning Fudge.

"Minister, how does it feel to have been proven wrong about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"

"Will Dumbledore be reinstated as Headmaster?"

"Was it a plot to draw out He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"

But then, the questions stopped suddenly as the aurors led a bleeding and pale Lucius Malfoy in front of the Minister. Fudge wondered if they had planned it that way. The questions began again. This time they were very interested in how much influence Malfoy had in the Ministry and if Fudge was aware of Malfoy's true allegiance.

Dumbledore was still talking to Black when the young man responsible for relieving Malfoy of his hand stepped forward and removed his hood. Fudge gaped as he got his first good look at the startlingly young man, who looked barely old enough to be shaving, much less fighting the way he had.

"Dumbledore? Dumbledore is that…" Fudge gaped.

"Cornelius, I will explain everything to you in a moment." The headmaster said easily before turning back to the young man and Sirius Black. They spoke in hushed tones for a moment, and Dumbledore stood in a way that would allow the press to get a few blocked photographs that would lead to much speculation. It was all a part of a greater plan that the Headmaster was sure would help to end this war before too many people lost their lives. He patted the young man's shoulder, smiling proudly as he spoke quietly, giving instructions to Sirius who was also looking pleased.

A moment later, Black led the young man and a few others towards the floos. Amelia Bones made sure that none of her aurors stopped them. Fudge demanded that the fighters remained until he could question them, but Dumbledore promised that everything would be explained to him.

The press began pressing for answers and Fudge knew that he had very little choice. He and Albus Dumbledore would need to address the reporters or the rumors would start, and they would be hard to correct later. Especially seeing as Rita Skeeter was by far the loudest among the reporters.

As Dumbledore addressed the press, everything came crashing down on Fudge. He was ruined. There was no saving his administration. In all honesty, Fudge knew the moment he saw his long time financial backer's face that his own career was finished. There was no way he would be able to explain away taking donations from a Death Eater, much less the return of Lord Voldemort.

Fudge just stood stupidly at the Headmaster's side as Dumbledore answered every question, some of them with precise answers, others were a little more vague. Fudge was lost in his own misery, looking for all the world as if someone had just killed his puppy. He did perk up though when someone asked about the unidentified man who had been led out by Sirius black, and had so easily removed Lucius Malfoy's hand.

Fudge turned to stare at Dumbledore who gave a proud smile.

"That young man is someone very special, and has been until now hidden for his own protection. I would ask that you respect his privacy." Dumbledore stated.

"The scar on his forehead." Rita Skeeter asked. "Was it Harry Potter?"

"Harry Potter died." Someone else shouted.

"The child was buried with his mother." Someone else pointed out.

"Are you all so certain?" Rita questioned. "Did any of you actually see the baby or the mother buried?"

Dumbledore did not respond to these queries but stated that he and the Minister had a meeting to attend, and began to walk away. The press made to follow but at Madam Bones' order, the aurors who were not busy taking fallen Death Eaters into custody, headed off the press to prevent them from following.

As they headed towards the Minister's office, Dumbledore began making demands of Fudge, which the Minster agreed to with sad little nods. Fudge knew he had very little choice. Everything he had worked towards had just crumbled before him. Fudge wondered exactly how long before the Wizengamot called for his resignation.

Dumbledore reminded Fudge that he had warned the Minister repeatedly ever since the end of the Tri-Wizard tournament that Lord Voldemort had returned. The worst part was that Dumbledore never did it in an "I told you so" way. He simply pointed out that the entire past year could have been avoided if only Fudge had set aside his pride and simply listened to the truth.

Fudge could say nothing. There was very little hope that he would survive the week as Minister of magic. There were pictures of the very wizard Fudge had been telling the public was dead. He had seen with his very own eyes that the Dark Lord was alive and well.

"Dumbledore, I have to know." Fudge grasped the wrist of the old man. The young man, the one in black. Who was it. He fought like… Like he was possessed by the devil."

Dumbledore smiled as Fudge opened the door to his office.

"That young man is none other than the baby who defeated Voldemort fourteen years ago. His godfather and I decided it was best for the boy to be hidden away. When I was sure that Lord Voldemort would return, we decided it would be best to train him in the ways of combat."

"You're not serious." Fudge gasped. "That… that was Harry Potter? But, we all believed him dead!"

"It was the only way in which we could guarantee his safety." Dumbledore sighed, taking a seat. "Now, we still have much to discuss, and I have little time to do it. Lord Voldemort will not rest long before he strikes back."

Hermione Granger stepped through the portal that placed her on Platform Nine and Three Quarters. Today she was headed north from London to Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry where she would be beginning the sixth year of her education. However, unlike so many of her peers, she was not looking forward to it. In fact, she was rather dreading it.

Hermione was of two minds over returning to Hogwarts She absolutely loved learning. She spent so much time reading history and spell books, trying to master every new spell she came across. It was a deep seeded passion that she had for as far back as she could remember. When she was six years old, she had been tested and determined to be gifted, having a higher than average reasoning skill as well as excellent reading and mathematics. Her parents, who were both dentists, were very proud, and Hermione had strived to make them even prouder.

When she had learned that she was a witch, it had turned her entire world upside down. It had explained a lot of rather strange occurrences, but it had still changed everything for her. Yet it was exciting to discover that she was truly special, and after her first visit to Diagon Alley, Hermione had a whole library of books that would eventually teach her just how special she was.

And then she had actually gone to Hogwarts and within a month all of her excitement and joy had been wiped out, thanks in large part to a few individuals.

Hermione had always had trouble fitting in, but during her primary school days, she had managed to make a few friends here and there. But she had always been picked on, due in large part to her great love of books and learning. Yet she still crave human companionship, and really wanted to have good friends. She was always so envious of her peers. Unfortunately for her, people found her quite irritating, stubborn and bossy.

Hermione had no idea when she became such a nag, but she had always been a bit… firm with people in regards to making them follow rules and do their best in class. She just always felt that things were fair for everyone when the rules were abided by.

It also didn't help her that her intense love for learning had led her to knowing all the answers in every class. Perhaps she felt a need to stand out, or she just wanted people to know that she was able to understand things easily. Whatever the reason, it had not endeared her to most of the people at Hogwarts.

With each passing year, it got worse. She was ostracized, even by the Ravenclaws, who were supposed to be lovers of knowledge. Perhaps if she had been sorted to Ravenclaw, things might be slightly different. However, the Sorting Hat had seen something within her. Something strong, and powerful, and so it had placed her with the Gryffindors.

She had tried to make friends. She really had. At least until her fourth year, when she had just decided to give up. She had realized that when school was finished, she would likely hardly ever see any of these people who'd made life so miserable for her ever again.

But that year had also been when the teasing and bullying got worse. All thanks in large part to Viktor Krum and the Yule Ball. She had believed it to be a turning point. If a world famous Quidditch star had wanted her as a date to a very exquisite ball, then perhaps other boys would see her in a romantic light, and perhaps the teasing would end.

"Why couldn't things ever be like they were in her romance novels?" She would often wonder.

The rest of her fourth year she was plagued by insults and innuendos. And then Viktor had broken up with her, claiming that a long distance relationship would never work between them. When that happened, everything Hermione Granger had to endure up to that point was nothing more than playground name calling. Her fifth year had been the absolute worst for her, and she knew it was thanks to her experience with Viktor. It had awakened her to the knowledge that she was a teenaged girl, and she wanted to fall in love. She'd tried to suppress those feelings and urges, but her subconscious kept throwing it in her face, and she'd suffered many, many fantasies, some of them even happening during classes.

Hermione navigated her way through the throngs of families saying goodbye, and boarded the train. Her parents had both had early appointments and had dropped her off with her assurances that she could manage on her own. She had wanted to sit up close to the conductor, but the first car was already full. Hermione desperately wanted to find a cabin that she could have all to herself. She had managed the last two years to get one by herself, but this year, it looked as if that would not be the case. There seemed to be a lot more first years this year.

Hermione kept walking further and further along the train, dragging her heavy trunk behind her, peering into every cabin in search of someplace to sit. She shuddered at the thought of sitting with people who would likely stare at her, or whisper behind their hands about her, or worse… spend the entire trip seeing what it took to make her run away crying. She didn't even want to sit with first years, as they would likely just ask her question after question, and she just couldn't deal with that today.

Just when it appeared hopeless, and Hermione thought she would have to find some first years, as they would be far more tolerable than just about anyone else, she found a cabin at the very back of the train with a single occupant who appeared to be asleep, though she couldn't really tell.

Whomever it was, was sitting with his back to the wall, both feet on the bench, curled up in a tight sort of ball. They were dressed all in black, and had their jacket pulled up over them like a blanket, and a black hood pulled over their head.

Hermione knocked lightly, but the person made no move. She opened the door softly, and poked her head inside, saying in a rather soft voice, "Excuse me?"

Still the lump made no move or sound.

Hermione hauled her trunk inside and as quietly as she could hefted the incredibly heavy trunk into the rack above the seats. She winced with every noise she made, not wishing to incur the wrath of her sleeping companion. She finally managed to get her trunk situated and took a seat across from the sleeping person. Already dressed in her school robes, Hermione settled down for the trip. Sitting down, she crossed her long thin legs and wrapped her robes over them to keep warm. It was a rather chilly day, and even with her tights, she still felt a bit cold. She then slipped her reading glasses out and picked up her latest trashy romance novel. Brushing a few stray strands of her brown hair that had escaped from her braid out of her face. Hermione hoped that her companion would sleep the entire trip and that no one would bother her today, or at least wait until they arrived at school.

Hermione kept glancing up as she heard people boarding just across from her cabin. She saw Lavender Brown, her fellow Gryffindor and room mate step onto the train looking if it were possible, more stunning than she had the last year. Lavender was a very buxom blonde girl whom every boy at Hogwarts fantasized about. She had long, naturally curly blonde hair, stunning blue eyes, and hips that called out to the males as she walked. In comparison, Hermione was tall, skinny with a mane of brown hair and no butt to speak of. Her chest had decided to finely make an appearance, but they were nothing when compared to Lavender's ample bosom. Hermione didn't think she was unfortunate looking by any means, but she was no Lavender. Hermione thought she'd be happy to be compared to someone like Ginny Weasley, a rather athletic sort of girl, who was quite popular with the boys despite her lack of a large bust line, and a rather flat posterior.

Hermione shoved that all out of her mind and tried again to focus on her book.

At precisely eleven o'clock, the whistle sounded, and the scarlet steam engine rumbled to life. Hermione glanced over at her traveling companion and was shocked to find they had not moved at all. Hermione wondered idly if they had put up silencing charms around themselves, or at least on their clothing. She couldn't understand how anyone could sleep through the torrent of whistles the train made as it picked up speed.

It was a full hour into the trip before Hermione regarded her companion again. As she realized the lunch trolley was likely making its way towards them, she began to wonder whether or not she should try to wake this person so they could get something to eat. It was then that she really began to examine her companion. She felt that it was a male, though she couldn't say why she felt that. Perhaps it was the military style boots, or the black cargo pants.

She couldn't see any of the person's skin as their hands were hidden beneath their makeshift blanket. Hermione began to let her mind wander on who it might be. She knew nearly everyone from the seventh years to the fifth years. But, as she couldn't see this person's face, she had no idea who it could be.

At last the little old lady with the lunch trolley arrived, and Hermione felt her stomach give a light rumble. She knew it would be several hours before she would be eating a proper meal at the welcoming feast, and she had barely eaten anything at breakfast. Hermione was greeted with a warm smile from the lady and Hermione selected several different things, as well as two gilly waters, as she was feeling rather thirsty at the moment.

With a glance over her shoulder, Hermione surprised herself when she took another gilly water and a couple of pumpkin pasties for her companion, in case they woke up hungry before they arrived at school.

Returning to her seat, Hermione set the snacks for her companion aside and opened the first bottle of water, taking a long slow sip, and enjoy the rather fruity taste. She then opened a cauldron cake and began picking at it as she continued to read. However, she just couldn't keep her attention on the story as the sleeping person across from her had captured her imagination. Who were they? Why were they here instead of with their friends somewhere else on the train? Why had no one come looking for them? She had no answers that made sense save for one, whoever this was, was a new student. She had never seen anyone transfer from any of the other magical schools. Not to say it was unheard of, but definitely rare, to say the least.

Trying once again to ignore the lump across from her, Hermione tried again to read. She had began at last to get into it as the character of Richard was sweeping Abigail of her feet. Hermione's mind's eye imagined a tall ruggedly handsome man saying the same things Richard was saying to Abigail. It was no wonder Hermione preferred books to real people. Fantasy was so much preferable to reality.

This was never more evident than when the cabin door opened and Hermione saw one of the last people on the entirety of the earth she wanted to see. She wasn't even at school yet, and the year was already off to a truly horrid start as Draco Malfoy, Prince of Slytherin House leered down at her.

Draco Malfoy was a tall, handsome boy with sleek blonde hair and cold steel grey eyes, and a permanent sneer on his pointed face. He was also the worlds greatest prat. He had made it his sole mission to make everyday Hermione existed to be the very worst. He prided himself on being able to make her cry with just a few words, though Draco loved the slow torture. He loved dragging out her suffering for as long as possible before she finally wound up in tears. He just knew exactly what Hermione was most self conscious about, and loved to stamp on those buttons to make her miserable.

Hermione had tried dueling him several times in the vain hope he would leave her alone, but he always managed to get the upper hand, usually because he was never alone, and no one ever came to her aid. Not even her fellow Gryffindors.

"I told you I'd find the source of that disgusting smell. " Draco smirked, glancing over his shoulder. "It's the mud blood after all."

Crabbe and Goyle, two hulking gorilla like boys who always flanked Malfoy chuckled stupidly. Neither Vincent Crabbe, nor Gregory Goyle were all that bright, so they made perfect henchmen/bodyguards for the richest Pureblood in Hogwarts, as Malfoy loved to remind people.

"I have to know Granger, why do you keep coming back?" Draco smirked, his steely gray eyes locked on Hermione making her squirm uncomfortably. Despite his obvious loathing of her, Hermione wondered if Draco secretly lusted after her. She sometimes wondered if he might one day try to amp up his mental abuse of her into something physical. Hermione shivered as she imagined Draco Malfoy's disgusting hands touching her.

"I think I know why. See, I have this theory, Granger." Draco smirked. Hermione kept her eyes on her book, trying her best to tune out whatever Draco was going to say. "I think you like being abused. I think you like it when we call you names, and treat you like dirt. I think it gets you hot. I think you're a bit of a masochist. It excites you. Makes your knickers all wet, doesn't it? A few of us have a bet. You see, we think you get so hot after we humiliate you, that you run to the bathroom crying because your so turned on you just can't wait to get your hands down your tights."

The two hulking shaved apes behind Draco chuckled stupidly and Hermione felt her face burning. Her hands began to shake, making it very hard to focus on her book and tune Malfoy's words out.

"Well, well, it looks like I was right." Draco laughed as Hermione's face became tomato red. "So what gets you hottest?"

"Shut up Malfoy." Hermione snarled softly, but too quiet for anyone to hear.

"Is it when we call you mudblood?" Draco laughed. "Or when we say you look like an engorged Bowtruckle? Seriously, you can tell us. I mean, if we know just what gets you the hottest, we might be able to help you reach climax. We all know you have to do it yourself, as no self respecting wizard would ever go near you. I don't think you could even get a witch interested, even someone as ugly as Eloise Midgen.

Crabbe and Goyle guffawed at this, and Hermione began tensing as she tried to fight down her rage. She was fighting so hard not to cry. She did not want to give him the satisfaction this early in the year.

"You're stronger than this." Hermione kept repeating to herself over and over. "He's just trying to see you fall apart. Don't do it."

"Everyone needs a release, even a disgusting, piece of slime like you, I suppose." Draco smirked, his two friends laughing like hyenas.

"Shut up Malfoy." Hermione said louder, her eyes still locked on her book. Tears began stinging her eyes, despite her war against them, and her whole body was shaking with rage. She thought about reaching for her wand, but she knew that Malfoy was quite quick on the draw with his, and he probably knew some very painful or humiliating curses.

"Seriously Granger, I just want to help you out here." Draco laughed.

"Well you're pissing me off."

Hermione looked up from her book suddenly as Draco and his two friends looked to the person in black, who was still covered up. The voice was rough and a bit scratchy sounding, but oddly pleasant to Hermione's ears.

"Who the hell are you?" Draco asked, looking perturbed.

"Someone who would appreciate it if you left." the voice replied. The person readjusted, getting more comfortable, and tightening the jacket around himself a bit. Hermione still couldn't see the face, and found herself very curious now. She looked at Draco who was glowering at the lump of black clothing.

"I asked you a question." Draco said, trying to sound threatening.

"And I answered you." The person replied, sounding irritable. "Now, please remove yourself or I will remove you ."

"Do you have any idea who you're talking to?" Draco asked offended. "No one talks to me like that, I will…"

"Whine like a bratty little girl?" the voice asked. Hermione saw the top of the robe come down, but she couldn't see much, save for a sliver of pale skin that she was sure was part of the boy's forehead.

"I don't like being woken up, and I'm not a very pleasant person first thing. So, do us both a favor, and get the fuck out before I get really irritated and do something you will regret." The boy in black said grumpily

"I think it's time you learned to respect your betters." Draco snarled. His wand came up, but before he could utter a single word, he was banished into his two friends, and the door snapped shut. Draco scrambled to get to his feet and yank open the door, but it was sealed shut. He even fired several spells at it, but nothing penetrated. The boy across from Hermione pulled the jacket up again and she heard him yawn.

"T-thank you." Hermione whispered. The boy made no reply, but remained quite still. Hermione turned and watched as Draco pounded on the door, surprised that there was no sound. After a few minutes, Draco and his two gorillas left looking thunderous, though Hermione was sure he'd be back.

She watched the boy in black for several moments before trying to go back to her book. She kept replaying what had just happened in her head. It was quite clear that her companion had banished Draco and he'd done it silently. But the door was different. She couldn't think of one spell that would shut it and imperturb it at the same time. Not only that, but he hadn't uttered a single sound.

Hermione wondered if it was a seventh year student. She wished she could see his face. She found the desire to know his identity becoming all consuming. Thankfully her good manners and her own desire to be left alone won out, and she let him sleep on.

An hour later, her body had a major need and with a sigh, Hermione stood to head to the ladies room. As she reached for the door, she worried that whatever spell her sleeping companion had used would be hard to cancel, yet, the moment she touched the door handle, it slide open easily. Whatever he had used apparently couldn't be opened from the outside. She wondered if she should prop the door open so she could get back in, but somehow felt it would be alright, though how she knew that, she couldn't say.

A few moments later, she returned, her bladder now empty, and she was able to open the door without trouble. She was truly amazed at the spell work of her traveling companion. The mystery was starting to become too much for her. She wanted answers, but she didn't want to disturb this boy, especially as he had just protected her, even if it was only a side effect of getting back to sleep.


Hermione turned and sighed inwardly as yet another person who'd spent the last five years tormenting her approached. Ron Weasley was quite simply a prick. He was arrogant, lazy and more than a little rude. He was also quite popular. Truth was, Ron was pretty funny, at least when he wasn't turning his attention on her. Ron Weasley was largely the reason she had no friends. All because she had made him look a bit foolish in their first year. She had been trying to help him, but he ended up resenting her because she had levitated a feather in a single try.

Ron wasn't alone. He was holding hands with his girlfriend, Lavender Brown, who was smiling brightly, and making Hermione feel self conscious, just by looking at her appraisingly.

Lavender and Ron had begun dating last year, and had quickly become Hogwarts sort of power couple. They did look really good together, and Hermione knew that Ron treated her well because Lavender always talked about him in their dorm. Sometimes Hermione was jealous, but then she'd remember just how much of an arse Ron actually was.

Is it true?" Ron smiled. "Did you really knock the crap out of Malfoy? He's screaming about getting even with you."

"I didn't do anything to him, as usual." Hermione corrected, her voice soft. "He got what he deserved. Now, please leave me alone."

She opened the door to her cabin and stepped inside, but as she was closing the door, Ron grabbed it and forced it open, banging it loudly. Hermione immediately turned to the sleeping boy nervously.

"What happened then?" Ron asked loudly, not noticing Hermione's travel companion.

"It doesn't matter." Hermione whispered, trying to make Ron notice they weren't alone.

"Come on Hermione, you can tell us what you did to him." Lavender whined. She hated not knowing things, especially in regards to gossip. She was the most essential cog in the Hogwarts rumor mill, after all. Hermione looked nervously between them and the boy on the bench.

"Look, he's making more out of it then there is, just like always. So please leave." Hermione hissed angrily.

"Oh come on!" Ron bellowed. "Someone gets the drop on Malfoy and makes him look like a complete idiot, and we find out it was you, of all people? That's like Longbottom beating Snape in a duel."

"I didn't do it!" Hermione said, quite loudly. Her hands flew to her mouth, and her eyes bulged. She turned to look at the bundle of black that was now sitting up, pulling his robe off of himself and removing his hood before running a hand threw his short, very messy black hair.

"Who are you?" Lavender asked staring at the stranger.

"Someone who's incredibly close to just hexing the lot of you. Is it really too much to ask that you all shut the hell up?" He replied, head bowed so they couldn't see his face. His voice was still scratchy sounding, and he coughed twice before rubbing at his eyes.

"You know up until just now, you were a most pleasant cabin mate." the boy said. Hermione knew the remark was directed at her, and her face flushed again.

"I'm really sorry." She said, sitting down and looking apologetic. "They followed me, and wouldn't leave me alone."

Slowly the boy turned to glare at Ron and Lavender. Ron suddenly gasped when he got a good look at the boy.

"I believe she asked you twice to leave her be." The boy said. Hermione saw Ron actually step back, looking almost frightened. Lavender grabbed his arm, her eyes bugging out further than Hermione had ever seen.

"So now I'm asking you. Leave." The boy said. Ron stared at him for a moment before he nodded and backed out. He grabbed Lavender and hurried away, whispering frantically.

The boy sat back and Hermione got her first good look at her cabin mate. For the most part he looked rather average, with fair skin, and a chiseled face. Hermione thought he was really very good looking. She was immediately enchanted by his bright green eyes. The only other distinguishing feature was the angry red lightning bolt scar on his forehead, just above his right eye.

The boy yawned and rubbed his eyes again before sitting forward again.

"How long until we're at the school?" He asked. It took a moment for Hermione's brain to begin functioning right, as she found herself very attracted to this boy. She glanced at her watch and did some quick math in her head.

"Around three hours, I think."

"I guess I missed the food trolley then." The boy sighed rather dejectedly.

"Actually, I um… I thought you might be hungry if you woke up, so…" Hermione presented the gilly water and pumpkin pasties she'd bought for him. The boy accept them with a gracious smile.

"That was very nice of you, thank you." The boy said evenly popping open the bottle and downing half of it.

"I don't mean to be rude," Hermione said.

"And yet, sometimes accidental rudeness happens." The boy said wiping his mouth.

"Right." Hermione replied, her brow knitting in frustration. "Who are you?"

"I guess everyone will know soon enough. I'm Harry Potter. And you would be…" The boy said, eyeing his cabin mate.

"Uh, Hermione."

"You don't sound too sure." Harry said.

"Hermione Granger." She said, shaking her head. Harry reached out a hand, which Hermione shook, noting that he didn't squeeze it too tight, nor did it feel like she was holding a wet noodle or something. He also held her eyes with his own, making her shiver a bit.

"You're having me on, aren't you? Harry Potter died when he was a baby after stopping Voldemort." Hermione stated.

"I'm impressed." Harry said with a small smile. "Most people can't say the name without an aneurysm. No, I'm really Harry Potter. The one who stopped the Dark Tosser known as Voldemort when I was a baby, though that story isn't exactly true."

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked, looking very confused now.

"It's a really long story, and kind of boring. For the record, I don't like Pumpkin Pasties." Harry said, taking a huge bite of the pastie.

"Then why are you eating them?" Hermione asked.

"Because you were nice enough to get them for a stranger. Least I can do is eat them as a show of gratitude." Harry said, shoving the rest of the pastie into his mouth and eating it quickly.

"I'll remember that for the next time." Hermione said rolling her eyes. She felt very at ease with this boy. And that made her tense up. Hermione knew this comfortableness wouldn't last. As soon as he heard others talk about her, he would turn against her, and she'd be alone all over again.

"So, if you're really Harry Potter, where have you been all this time, and why are you here now?" Hermione asked, looking at him critically.

"You don't like mysteries, I take it." Harry smirked.

"Not really." Hermione replied

Harry nodded and took a few breaths and finished the gilly water.

"It was felt that I would be better served being kept away from people because I might let fame go to my head, or some such nonsense. As to why I'm here now… that has yet to be revealed to me properly. I was told that I needed to forge real friendships, and to act like a normal sixteen year old, whatever that means. Now, I have a question for you. That first boy who came in here…"

"Draco Malfoy." Hermione said as if the name tasted sour on her tongue.

"Malfoy, really?" Harry said thoughtfully, a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth. "Well isn't that interesting."

Hermione couldn't help herself, and felt her own mouth turning upwards at his smirk.

"Why do you say that?"

"You don't happen to read the papers, do you?" Harry asked. Hermione nodded and Harry's smile grew a bit. "Did you read anything about something happening in the Ministry last June?"

"Yeah. Voldemort was seen, and Aurors fought him and his followers. They were fighting over something in the Department of Mysteries."

"That's basically right, yeah. Did you happen to read anything about Lucius Malfoy?" Harry asked, his smile growing larger.

"Yeah, they said he was caught wearing Death Eater garb, and that he had lost his right hand, and it couldn't be repaired." Hermione said, remembering the article from last June.

"I was the one who removed his hand." Harry stated. Hermione gaped at him, making him smile again.

"Ok, now I know you're lying." Hermione said, folding her arms over her chest.

"Sounds like it, doesn't it." Harry said as if he were expecting her reaction. "But it's true. And if you and I are going to be friends, then you need to know that I don't lie. It's useless, and serves no purpose."

"Y-you want to be my friend?" Hermione asked incredulous.

"I told you I was here to make friends. Why shouldn't you and I be friends?" Harry asked.

Hermione bit her bottom lip for a second, her arms still folded across her chest.

"People don't usually want to be my friend." She said flatly. "No one likes me."

"I don't believe that. Everyone has at least one friend." Harry said, but Hermione shook her head.

"I don't. The only person who talks to me without saying anything rude is Neville, but we're not friends." Hermione said. Harry looked at her for a few seconds before responding.

"Maybe he thinks of you as a friend." He observed.

Hermione shook her head.

"He's just trying to survive, like me. He's at least got people who like him. Ron even lets Neville hang out with him sometimes.

"Ron was the gangly looking redhead with that girl?" Harry asked.

Hermione nodded. "The first couple of Hogwarts. He looked kind of freaked when he saw you."

"I imagine his will be the least offensive reaction." Harry said morosely.

"What do you mean?" She asked.

"We can talk about it later." Harry replied, rather bitterly. "Can you tell me what to expect from the sorting tonight?"

The next two and a half hours passed in a blur as Hermione answered every single one of Harry's questions about Hogwarts. Not only about the castle, but about the houses and the students. He wasn't annoying like a first year, and seemed quite content to let her prattle on and on about everything she knew. It was easily the most pleasant train ride she'd ever had going to Hogwarts.

Hermione found herself really enjoying the trip now with her companion, though in the back of her mind she was sure that by tomorrow evening, this boy will have forgotten her completely.