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The afternoon, thankfully, went by rather smoothly for Hermione. James and Sirius did most of the talking; they truly were quite funny together. Remus tended to roll his eyes often at the pair of them, and Peter mostly looked on with obvious admiration in his eyes for his friends. It was hard for her to believe while watching him, that he would one day betray everyone in that compartment. He seemed so sweet, and soft spoken, not to mention, just as witty as his friends - which was a total shock for Hermione.

Maybe there could be a way for her to possibly stop him from joining Voldemort, she thought.

Soon the sun set behind the hills and twilight had arrived. It would not be long until the arrived to Hogsmeade Station.

“Hermione?” Peter asked timidly.

Her skin crawled when he called her name, yet she tried to appear as friendly as she could manage. “Yes?”

“I hope I’m not being too forward, but I was just wondering what made you move back to England and come to Hogwarts?” His cheeks turned a brighter shade of pink.

Hermione sighed and hoped she would be able to lie convincingly enough, since she knew it would probably not be the last time she would be asked the same question.

“My parents passed away this summer,” she answered softly. Thinking of her own parents, safely tucked away in Australia, with their memories wiped, helped bring a genuine tear to her eye.

The four boys all looked at one another with sympathy clear in their eyes. Sirius patted her forearm gently. “I’m so sorry to hear that,” he said in the most serious and genuine tone she’d heard from him yet.

“Me too, Hermione. I’m sorry for bringing it up,” Peter told her.

“If there’s anything you need...” James trailed off, but Hermione understood the sentiment.

“We’re here for you,” Remus finished.

Hermione was sincerely touched by the authentic kindness all four boys were showing her at that moment. It made her feel horribly awful for lying to them.

“Thank you. I truly appreciate that,” she sniffled.

After a few uncomfortable moments of silence, Remus cleared his throat and suggested they all put on their robes, since they would be arriving at the school in no time.

When the five of them were changed and sat back in their seats, Hermione’s palms began to sweat, upon seeing the village of Hogsmeade come into view out of her window. She felt the color slowly drain from her face as the panic began to set in. Sirius must have noticed her discomfort and put an arm around her shoulders to give her a gentle squeeze.

“You’ll be alright. Just stick with us and you’ll be absolutely fine,” he assured her with a dazzling smile.

Hermione squirmed from under his arm and tried to return his smile. Though she had the feeling that she looked quite manic.

“Hope so,” she whispered more to herself than in response to him.

Soon the train came to a stop at the station and she watched as dozens of students passed by their compartment. Most of them were laughing loudly and talking with the excited voices many students had on their first day of term. When the year was new and all felt as if they had a fresh start.

Hermione stood and stretched from the long day of travel.

“Come on, Hermione. We take carriages up to the school,” Sirius informed her as they all made their way out.

Hermione and the boys fell in line with the other students and slowly walked towards the exit. Despite the fact that she was surrounded by all of those people, she had never felt more alone. Her stomach churned and she worried she might become sick.

“You’re going to love it here. Promise,” Remus said from behind her, causing her to jump.

Hermione responded with a shrug and a half-smile.

Once out on the platform, some people called to James, Sirius, Remus and Peter. Many asked if they had a good summer, and some inquired on what kind of prank they might have been planning for the first day of term. No one seemed to pay Hermione much attention, and the few who had only gave her a quick, curious glance. Never had she felt like such an outsider in a place that had once been so familiar to her.

When she heard Hagrid calling out to the first years, directing them towards him, Hermione had to stop herself as she almost waved and shouted a hello to the half-giant. Her throat grew thick as she reminded herself that the Hagrid towering over the many students to the left of her, would have no idea who she was.

Her attention was quickly brought back to the boys when she heard Sirius groan.

“Get a grip, Prongs. You’re not still on about Evans, are you?” he chastised.

James flushed a dark tint of red as he stared longingly towards the carriages. Hermione turned in the direction James stared and gasped quietly. A beautiful girl, with the longest red hair she had ever seen, was laughing with a few girls before climbing into the carriage with them. Lily hadn’t noticed the five students who were now all looking in her direction.

“Give it a rest, James,” Sirius continued. “How many times does she have to tell you that she’s not interested? You’re just embarrassing yourself at this point, mate.”

“Piss off, Sirius,” James said with a glare towards his best friend.

After Sirius replied by giving James a particularly rude hand gesture, a carriage pulled up in front of them.

“Ladies first,” Sirius said, offering Hermione his hand to help her inside.

Hermione thanked Sirius and felt a steady warmth creep up her cheeks when she placed her hand in his rough, calloused palm. She assumed Sirius had noticed her blush, since he winked and the side of his mouth curled up into a cheeky half-grin.

Hermione had to get ahold of herself and not be taken in by the charm of her best friend’s future godfather.

When the four of them were all seated, and the carriages began to move -- pulled by Thestrals, which Hermione assumed only she had been able to see -- Hermione took a look out the window and watched the magnificent castle rise up from the scenery. The site of the glistening windows, and lanterns lit throughout the grounds, which used to fill her with a sense of homecoming, now caused her to feel nothing but apprehension. Normally Hermione could plan and figure out every last detail of whichever task she was meant to do, yet this time, she felt as if she were just floating in the breeze. The feeling of not being in control terrified her as much as it angered her.

“Hermione? Did you hear me?” Remus asked.

“Oh, sorry!” She jumped. “What did you say, Remus?”

She heard James snigger as Remus smiled politely at her.

“I asked if you would like me to show you the way to Professor Dumbledore’s office? He’s the headmaster, and I’m assuming you probably need to speak with him before joining us for the feast.” he repeated.

“I do, actually. That would be lovely, thank you, Remus,” she said, then noticed Sirius’ expression darken to something that looked very much like disappointment. Hermione suppressed an eyeroll.

Once they entered the school, Hermione took a moment to let the familiarity of it wash over her, to try to give her a bit of comfort. She stood in the Entrance Hall and attempted to ignore the fact that she was currently standing with James, Sirius, Remus and Peter, and just took in the sites of the moving staircases, suits of armor, and even Peeves, who was floating above their heads cackling. For a brief second in time, Hermione closed her eyes, drew in a deep breath and tried to convince herself that although she was in an entirely different year, she was still at Hogwarts - her home.

“Hermione?” Remus spoke up next to her. “Are you ready?”

Hermione opened her eyes and smiled at Remus. She managed to bring her heart rate down just a bit, and tried to control her breathing. In through her nose and out of her mouth, she mentally reminded herself.

“I am,” she said with more meaning than he could have possibly known.

With a quick goodbye to the other boys, Remus turned and led the way up the stairs and towards the entrance to Dumbledore’s office. Hermione made a conscious effort to trail behind just a hair, to keep up with the pretense of she being a new student at the school.

“I’m sure you’re probably very nervous, but Professor Dumbledore is a great man. A little different, but great all the same,” Remus tried to comfort her.

Hermione almost laughed out loud. He was dead on about Professor Dumbledore. Different was certainly an understatement. But she couldn’t ignore the obvious admiration and respect that rang out in Remus’ voice as he spoke of the headmaster.

“So I’ve heard,” Hermione said with a little chuckle.

When the two finally arrived at the bust of the stone Gargoyle, Remus’ mouth turned down in a frown. “I’m so sorry, but I don’t know the password. I’ve just realized.”

Hermione shuffled through the papers she had with her and gave Remus a reassuring smile. “That’s alright, Remus. I actually have it right here,” she said raising up one of the documents she held. “Thank you for showing me the way, and also for being so kind to me.”

A hint of color tinted Remus’ cheeks as his mouth pulled upwards. “It was nothing at all, Hermione.”

Hermione turned toward the stone bust and said, “Jelly Slug,” then brought her attention back to Remus as the Gargoyle moved out of the way and the spiral staircase began to appear.

“I’ll see you in the Great Hall, I suppose.”

Remus nodded as Hermione took a step onto the stairs.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you end up in Gryffindor,” she called after her, as she began to rise up and out of site.

When she reached the top and found herself facing the wooden doors of Dumbledore’s office, Hermione’s panic began to crescendo again. What if he didn’t believe her? What if he threw her out of the school, assuming her to be some sort of trap sent by Voldemort? What if he attacked her?

With a deep steadying breath, Hermione raised her shaking hand and knocked on the door.

“Come in,” she heard a familiar, albeit younger voice call out.

When Hermione walked into the office, she was somewhat surprised to see that it hadn’t really changed between the time she was in and the time she had known. Dumbledore already had many of the same spinning little trinkets on his tables, some letting out puffs of smoke. His Pensieve resided in a cabinet to her left, and his desk was set in the middle of the room, with two red armchairs sitting in front of it.

Dumbledore looked up from his desk as she entered, and she watched his eyes briefly widen in surprise.

“Hello,” he said politely. “I was not expecting any visitors at the moment.” His eyes narrowed just a fraction as he bowed his head and watched her over the top of his glasses, as he had done so many times in the future. Though this Dumbledore was much younger, his face softer and less wrinkle-filled, his hair not quite as silver, and he seemed to be holding himself differently.

She gathered the documents that she had brought with her, squared her shoulders and tried to mentally prepare herself. “Please, sir. My name is Hermione Granger, but I will be known as Hermione Winters for the duration of my stay here. That is, if you permit it.” Dumbledore remained silent, yet watched her with thousands of questions now swimming in his eyes. He inclined her head as to tell her to continue on. “You’ve sent me here, sir. From the year nineteen ninety-eight, that is.” She paused for a heartbeat. Something flashed through Dumbledore’s eyes. “I was sent here to set a certain chain of events right. I - I have an envelope to give you from yourself in the future.” She held up the documents the future Dumbledore had given her, before slowly walking towards the headmaster’s desk and placing them before him.

As Dumbledore picked up the envelope and opened it, Hermione’s blood raced. “I know it sounds mental, sir. But, I swear, I speak the truth,” she said with a hint of desperation in her voice.

Still he had not spoken another word to her, but he did read over the letter she had given him. An occasional ‘hmm’, ‘oh yes,’ or ‘I see,’ was all said.

After nearly ten minutes, Dumbledore had finished going over all the of the information that Hermione had given him. When he looked up, she was beyond relieved to see that twinkle in his blue eyes, and a warm smile form on his face.

“It does seem that everything you have said is indeed the truth, Miss Granger.”

Hermione felt her shoulders release a small amount of the tension they were holding as a sigh of relief escaped her. “Thank you, sir.” She was entirely grateful for whatever it was the future Dumbledore had written for his younger self to read.

“Please, Miss Granger.” Dumbledore gestured towards the chairs in front of his desk. “Have a seat.”

When Hermione sat down and took a look up at this Professor Dumbledore, she watched as he clasped his hands together and looked back at her as if she were some sort of experimental spell - some sort of oddity. His scrutinizing gaze made her squirm uncomfortably in her seat. She felt extremely exposed.

“It seems I have advised myself here,” he held up the letter from the sealed envelope,” that it would be in your best interest not to let anyone know who you really are, or where you have come from.”

Hermione, who had figured as much, nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“If you would prefer, I shall accompany you to the Great Hall, where we could sort you into one of the four Houses.” His mouth curved upwards. “Although, considering what you have done today, I would venture a guess at Gryffindor.” He winked.

Hermione let a nervous chuckle out, as she assumed her information stated which House she was in during her time at Hogwarts. “Thank you, sir.”

Dumbledore flourished his wand, sending Hermione’s documents into a drawer next to the cabinet containing the Pensieve. With another swish, it closed and Hermione heard the click of a lock, securing her true identity away. Dumbledore then rose from his chair and Hermione quickly followed suit.

“Shall we, Miss Winters?”

Hermione felt a jolt in her chest upon hearing her new fake name used so conversationally by Professor Dumbledore.

“Y-yes, sir.”

When they entered the Great Hall together, Hermione’s face burned with embarrassment seeing that every eye in the room was on her. The only thing she wanted to do in that moment was run towards the table she had sat at for the last six years of her life, and hide amongst the rest of the Gryffindors. She glanced that way as she walked, and happened to make eye contact with Sirius, who winked and smiled at her. For whatever reason, she felt herself calming slightly after he had done that. It must have been the fact that he was someone familiar to her, she thought. With a clearing shake of her head, she continued to trail behind Professor Dumbledore, and tried to tune out the whispering that followed her on her way towards the staff table and Sorting Hat.

Just when she reached the front of the hall, the last of the First Years was being sorted. “RAVENCLAW!” the hat shouted, as a tiny and terrified looking sandy haired boy hopped off the stool and ran to his new House’s table. Dumbledore then walked towards Professor McGonagall, who was looking at Hermione with her lips pressed thin and obvious curiosity in her eyes. Dumbledore leaned in and whispered something to Hermione’s former Head of House, who also was much less wrinkled and grey than the woman she had known. McGonagall’s eyes softened as Dumbledore spoke to her, and she offered Hermione a rare smile.

“Of course, Albus,” McGonagall said as Dumbledore backed away.

With a comforting pat on Hermione’s shoulder, Dumbledore walked away from the two women, and headed towards his seat in the middle of the staff table.

Professor McGonagall spoke quietly to Hermione as she lifted the Sorting Hat off of the stool. “This is the Sorting Hat, Miss Winters. I shall place it upon your head, and it will decide which House you will reside in for the remainder of your time here. Your House will be where you live, sleep and spend a majority of your free time. It will be your home,” she advised her, although Hermione was more than aware.

“I understand, Professor,” Hermione said then took a seat on the stool in front of her.

When the hat was placed upon Hermione’s head, she blanched as the rough and eerie voice spoke in her mind for the second time in her life.

Secrets and deceit, the hat began. Hermione stiffened. There is also an abundance of courage, yet also an exceptionally clever mind...where to place you…? Hermione silently pleaded for Gryffindor, as her mission there very much depended it. Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, the voice repeated three times. Hermione swallowed loudly. Yes, yes, I see. Better be… “GRYFFINDOR!” the hat shouted. Hermione let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding in until that moment.

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