No amount of studying could adequately prepare her for the magical world. She suspected that would be the case, but it didn't prevent her from trying. It was all so new and fascinating! A new school, new things to learn ... and new people to do it with.
Being 'shy' wasn't a trait she particularly ascribed to herself, but she could admit that she would have been happy to add 'new friends' to the list of things. The only problem was that she didn't -- really -- have old friends to replace. Acquaintances, but not friends.
She certainly didn't expect to make friends with a celebrity. She had set her sights on something more reasonable -- trying to befriend a boy on the train who had lost his frog. On the way she had gotten a bit caught up, though. Her books told her about the famous Harry Potter, but encountering him on the train, well, that was entirely different!
What would a boy who had defeated the Dark Lord be like?
She got caught up in reciting what she'd read about him, and he merely smiled in response, his eyes twinkling with a wisdom that seemed beyond his years. "Well, one musn't believe everything one reads," he told her mildly.
She tried to turn the subject to magic. He'd done something amazing at a young age, and she'd only recently entered the magical world. How would they compare? How much harder would she have to study? He allowed her to mend his damaged glasses, thanking her for it, despite Ron's less impressed reaction.
Before she could ask further questions, Neville had approached behind her, still looking for his frog. "Well, what's your frog's name, then?" Harry prompted.
"Er, Trevor," Neville explained, fidgeting. "Have you, er, seen him?"
"Not yet," Harry replied, winking at Hermione -- for some reason -- before drawing his own wand and carefully pronouncing, "Accio Trevor."
That was a charm she hadn't learned yet! She and the others were all impressed when the frog floated down the hall gently, settling in Neville's hands. Well, it wasn't a real surprise that the legendary Boy Who Lived knew spells she hadn't. It did make her wonder why he didn't know how to mend his own glasses, though.
"Come in, sit down," he prompted. "As soon as the opportunity arises, I intend to buy far more candy than is reasonable, and will undoubtedly need help finishing it all!"
He certainly seemed friendly, hadn't he?
Though she normally avoided candy due to her parents' influence, she accepted a chocolate frog, just to be polite.
Conversation was engaging, with him admitting he'd been largely raised by muggles -- much like she herself. Ron and Neville contributed on their own backgrounds, from wizarding families, until conversation was interrupted by an unfamiliar blond boy and his two slightly larger friends opening the compartment door.
"Harry Potter!" the other boy declared, pointing at Harry.
"Draco Malfoy!" Harry returned, pointing at the blond with an amused smile.
Ron frowned crossly, while Neville merely looked taken aback.
"Er," Draco replied, dropping his hand. "We were discussing brooms the other day, in Diagon Alley, weren't we?"
"We were," Harry agreed. "With my friend, Hagrid."
"Well -- Potter, you'll soon find--"
"Harry," Harry corrected. "We talked about quidditch, so we must be friends."
"Can't argue against that," Ron admitted, his features relaxing.
"Er.... Harry, then. I was going to say, you'll find that some wizarding families are better than others, and it wouldn't do to make friends with the wrong sort," Draco continued, frowning. "I can help you with that."
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Ron asked, his expression darkening.
"Well," Harry mused, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "The family that raised me was so awful at wizarding that they were muggles. But I think he just means that some families are the sort that don't approve of quidditch."
"Right monstrous, that," Ron said with a grimace, shaking his head as he shuddered faintly. "Your family ain't that sort, is it?"
"Isn't that sort," Hermione corrected with a frown.
"Of course not!" Draco protested.
Hermione shook her head faintly, asking, "Anyway, what's quidditch?"
Ron looked at her as though he were suddenly profoundly disturbed by her presence.
"Ah, see?" Harry asked with a chuckle and slight shake of his head. "That's the sort of thing Draco -- can I call you Draco?"
"Uh, well, if we're friends that must be fine, I suppose," Draco replied, off balance by Harry's response.
"Right-- That's the sort of thing Draco is trying to help us out with, I imagine," Harry explained. "Now, Hagrid gave me a beginner's guide to quidditch, so even being raised muggle, I know a bit. But why not allow an expert to explain it?"
"I know plenty about quidditch!" Ron protested.
"Then we can be twice as informed! Ron's clearly from a proper family, unlike us less fortunate souls, don't you think, Hermione? Well -- come and join us, Draco -- we've still got an abundance of candy."
"I-- My things are in another car, so--"
"Your friends can watch over your things," Harry assured him. "In fact, we've so much extra candy, why not share some with them, as well? It'd only be friendly, after all." So saying, he climbed to his feet and dumped a small pile of licorice wands, Bernie Bott's every flavored beans, and chocolate frogs into the hands of both of the other boys with Draco. Cocking his head to one side, Harry looked at the pile occupying the space between Neville and Hermione. "That's hardly dented it, has it?"
Taken aback, Draco shook off his misgivings and accepted the invitation, sitting between Harry and Ron as they explained the sport of quidditch to Hermione. Part of her wanted to think the entire concept was simply mad. On the other hand, despite some seeming rough patches, Ron and Draco were both rabid fans, and even seemed to have the same favorite team.
Who was she to question that? Certainly, the Boy Who Lived appeared capable of defusing tensions and making friends.
Not long after that, they disembarked, and boarded little boats, which was also Hermione's first sight of the hulking figure that Harry had also named one of his friends. The large grounds-keeper saw them all to the gate of the castle before delivering them for the sorting ceremony.
They had an agonizing wait before the doors opened, everyone becoming more and more agitated after McGonagall's parting warning to 'smarten up.' "I wouldn't worry about it," Harry said breezily. "The test can't be that bad if every Hogwarts student has gone through it, after all."
That was hard to argue against, and there was a nervous, tension dispelling chuckle from the gathered first years-- And then the doors were thrown open, and the ceremony began properly.
This was a secret they hadn't put in the books! Hermione was amazed, and also a little bit terrified. She seemed to have made some friends on the train ... but what if they weren't sorted together? She was put in Gryffindor, much to her surprise and relief.
After her, Neville joined, and then Draco was sorted into Slytherin. She was curious about Harry -- he seemed like Gryffindor material too, but perhaps with his ability to make friends he'd follow Draco?
What actually happened was something she never would have seen coming.
The hat was placed on his head as Harry surveyed the great hall with a relaxed, pleased smile. It vanished for a look of dismay almost instantly.
"Oh," he said quietly, but still somehow loud enough to fill the entire hall, "bollocks."
This drew a murmur from the students, and the consternation of the professors. McGonagall in particular shot Harry an exceptionally stern look. "Is there a problem?" Dumbledore asked kindly, leaning forward in his seat, eyebrows rising.
"Well," the hat said with a frown, "I would say so. We appear to have a time traveler, here! I can hardly sort him into Gryffindor again, now, can I? And, anyway, what business does someone who may as well be a fully trained auror have taking first year classes?"
"I would have gotten top marks, you know," Harry rebutted ruefully. "And really aced the Triwizard Tournament!"
"You mean, you'd cheat?" the hat asked in a deadpan. "Against what are effectively students far younger than you?"
"That, er, is a different way to look at it, I suppose," Harry admitted, scratching the back of his head as his face colored faintly.
Shaking his head as everyone was busy staring at him in horrified fascination, Harry popped off the stool, and faster than any of the professors could react, had his wand out and directed at the quavering professor with the turban. "Accio Volde-bits," he declared with a sigh, the incantation seeming somehow ... mildly embarrassed and apologetic.
The murmur in the hall rose to a furious roar as the professor shrieked like, well, Hermione herself might have when much younger -- but as he flew across the room, his turban got unwound -- revealing the most horrifying, snarling face Hermione had ever seen. The fact that it was on the back of the teacher's head didn't particularly help-- But that was when the entire student body began to cry out, students diving under tables, freezing in place, backing away, or frantically readying wands.
It was a bit moot with Dumbledore himself there, but even he wasn't quite fast enough for what happened next. Harry reached out with the hand not holding the wand as the teacher floated closer and declared in a mighty voice, a single word, drawn out for greater effect:
Suiting actions to words, he gently tapped the oncoming forehead of the thrashing form, causing it to become consumed in a brilliant gout of flame. Dumbledore somehow appeared at Harry's side, looking at him thoughtfully before raising his own wand, capturing a shadowy bit of ... something ... that escaped the conflagration in a glimmering cage of light.
"Now, then," Dumbledore mused with a frown. "What precisely is going on here, Mr. Potter?"
"Apologies, Sir," Harry said with a disarming smile, a twinkle glimmering in his eye as he shrugged. "I just thought I'd destroy most of Voldemort before the school year started, so I could relax a bit. All of the Volde-bits are gone, except for the ones here," he tapped his scar with his wand, drawing another, smaller cloud of shadow out, and then flicking it to join the one that Dumbledore had already contained.
"Unless you meant me to explain what I meant by 'Volde-bits,'" Harry added. "But I wasn't properly clear on what the plural of 'horcrux' is. I mean, is it 'horcruxes'? 'Horcruxen'? Perhaps even 'horcruxii'? Well -- if it was the wrong word, I must apologize profusely."
"That is quite the question," Dumbledore agreed, nodding, as the pair seemed to compete to see who could produce the most eye-twinkles. "Of course, 'volde-bits' does seem to be quite acceptable in this instance. Fawkes, if you don't mind...."
There was another flash of fire, and then trailing flames of its own, a majestic phoenix appeared in the center of the hall, already dive-bombing unerringly toward the cage of light. The hall was bathed in a light as bright as the sun briefly, as everyone heard and felt a chilling, nightmarish scream of rage and terror ... and then the small bubble and its shadow were gone, just a tired phoenix winging its way to Dumbledore's chair.
"Still, this does present us with some difficulties, doesn't it?"
"Wait, I've got it!" the hat announced. In a roar, it shouted, "Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts!"
"Well, that's sorted," Harry agreed, shrugging as he pulled the hat off and handed it to a gob-smacked McGonagall.
"I don't wish to establish a precedent for removing your predecessor as a means of acquiring the position, but in this case, I think we can allow an exception," Dumbledore allowed, smiling widely. "Especially for accomplishing that with nothing more than a summoning charm."
"Undoubtedly," Harry agreed. "Though I must admit, it's one of the most useful charms I know." Falling in step with Dumbledore as they approached the high table, Harry reached into his robe pockets and then held a hand out, offering, "Lemon drop?"
"I don't mind if I do," Dumbledore agreed, plucking it from Harry's outstreched palm.
"Also, I'd like to have Sirius Black released from Azkaban as soon as possible," the boy continued in a conversational tone, almost absently directing his wand toward the still un-sorted first years. "Accio Peter Pettigrew. Here's the real culprit. Incidentally, Ron, sorry about the trouble -- I'll get you a replacement, if you'd like."
"N...no trouble, mate," the Weasely boy managed to sputter out, eyes wide.
"I can see that is a more useful charm than I'd originally considered. Hmm, time travel, is it?" Dumbledore mused, eyeing the rat that thrashed in midair, frantic to get away as it floated toward the headmaster and DADA professor. Popping the lemon drop into his mouth, he added, "We will have much to discuss later, I suspect."
"True, but isn't there a welcoming feast to enjoy first?"
"Indeed, we must have our priorities in order!" Dumbledore agreed as the pair shared another bright smile, eyes twinkling in unison.
Hermione blinked slowly in awe; the magical world was certainly going to be interesting!