11-year-old Hermione Granger traced a finger along the spines of countless books. Magick and Its Elemental Properties; A History of Prophecy; The Anthology of Ancient Bloodlines; Advanced Runic Translation; A Beginner’s Guide to Potions.

She smiled to herself. This is where she belonged. She’d never thought it possible before, back when she was teased for being a “freak,” trying to block out the whispers of family friends and neighbors when something unexpected happened around her. She couldn’t explain the strange events. The glasses that shattered when she was upset, the dead flowers that suddenly bloomed under her fingertips, the way the kids who teased her would end up tripped and bruised, even though she never touched them. After any of these events, which grew more frequent as she got older, her parents would study her uneasily, and Hermione would sometimes cry herself to sleep when she heard them whispering outside her door. She knew she was different. But now – now she realized she wasn’t the only one.

She pulled out Advanced Metaphysical Magick and settled into a plush armchair to read. She had already gotten the other supplies she needed for her first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, so she figured she had at least an hour of free time. Her parents were waiting for her in London, expecting her back on the other side of the brick wall sometime that afternoon. They were apprehensive about her going to a special school for magic, but secretly relieved that there was a reason their daughter was…different. They were also glad that she would be learning how to control her abilities. Her mother had tired of replacing their best crystal.

Hermione was halfway through the first chapter when she heard an imperious “Excuse me.” Startled, she looked up. An incredibly pale, blonde-haired family was staring down at her. The boy appeared to be Hermione’s age. They were dressed in what had to be very fine robes, and immediately Hermione felt shabby in her Muggle sundress and cardigan. Her mother had bought it for her especially, wanting her to look her best when she ventured into the wizarding world for the first time. “First impressions are important, Hermione,” her father always said.

She instinctively tried to smooth down her wild curls.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“You’re quite young to be alone. Where are your parents?” the woman inquired. Her pale blue eyes were as frozen as her voice.

“They’re in Muggle London.”

The man curled his lip into a sneer, although he didn’t look at all surprised.

“You’re Muggleborn?” the boy asked disdainfully.

A familiar weight settled into her stomach. The feeling of not truly belonging. She closed the book and curled it into her chest, as if it was a kind of shield.

Advanced Metaphysical Magick,” the boy’s father intoned, reading the cover. “A bit beyond the abilities of an 11-year-old, I should think.”

“I’m a fast learner,” Hermione defended.

He cocked his head to the side, appraising her.

“What’s your name?” the boy asked.

“Hermione,” she said, wondering why they were still talking to her. She just wanted to be left alone. “Who are you?”

“I’m Draco Malfoy. I’ll be starting at Hogwarts too. Which House do you think you’ll be in? Not Slytherin, obviously.”

“Um, I don’t know,” Hermione said, feeling dreadfully inadequate. She had no idea what the boy was talking about.

“I’ll be in Slytherin,” he said proudly. “Everyone in our family are Slytherins.”

"Well, at least we won't be in the same House," she said shortly, reopening her book in an attempt to ignore them. Why are they still here?

She sighed heavily. “Honestly, is there something you need?”

The man cocked an eyebrow at her.

“Tired of us already?” he asked, looking rather amused.

She blushed. “Look, I know how this works. If you’re going to insult me, just get it over with so I can go back to reading.”

The elegant blonde woman pressed her lips together. “Come Draco. Let’s get your books.”

“Yes Mother,” he said. He raised an eyebrow at Hermione. “See you at school.”

“I suppose,” Hermione said dully.


Lucius Malfoy dropped galleons on the counter, watching with a bored expression as a wizened old man wrapped Draco’s books and handed them to him with a deferential bow.

“Mr. Malfoy, Mrs. Malfoy. Always a pleasure,” he said.

Lucius didn’t deign to acknowledge him. Once outside the shop, Narcissa glanced down at the First Year supply list. “Hmm, Draco, we have all your Potions items, but you’ll need some new robes.”

Draco rolled his eyes. He liked to look good – he was a Malfoy, after all – but he hated clothes shopping.

“I have to stop in at Borgin and Burke’s,” Lucius reminded her.

“Of course, dear. We’ll go right after Madame Malkin’s.”


Hermione was panting. Never having been athletic, she struggled with her purchases. The potions shopkeeper had shrunk her cauldron and other supplies down to a smaller size, but it was the books that were the problem. She'd bought about five more than she actually needed for First Year lessons, and it was taking its toll. She turned a corner without realizing where she was going. Shifting her bags to the other arm, she looked up. And froze. She was in a darkened alley. A filthy-looking wizard eyed her up and down, grinning with blackened teeth. A chill ran all the way down her spine. She turned around to go back the way she came, but found herself staring at a brick wall. What the….?

Fear struck her deep and hard.

She stayed as close to the wall as she could, sidling around the creepy wizard without making eye contact.

“Lost, dearie?” A woman with matted hair and only one eye leered at her.

Hermione felt her eyes start to water. Pulling out her brand new wand, she gripped it with sweaty fingers, deciding there was nothing to do but push forward. She searched desperately for a kind face, but could find none. A group of what appeared to be goblins wandered by, grinning at her with teeth sharp as knives.

She wished she hadn’t worn a dress. She’d felt so pretty at the time, but now she just felt exposed.

A hand gripped her upper arm and spun her around. She shrieked and struggled, tears slipping down her cheeks as she realized that she was no match for a full-grown man. It was the wizard with the blackened teeth. His putrid breath washed over her as wrenched her closer. “You’ll make a pretty pet, won’t you girl?”

Suddenly the man yelped and was blasted backwards, landing in a crumpled heap. Hermione whipped around, chest heaving.

The blonde-haired family was behind her. Lucius Malfoy had his wand outstretched before him.
She couldn’t remember when she’d been so happy to see anyone.

Before she knew it, she was racing toward the tall wizard, wrapping her arms around his legs and practically sobbing with relief.

Shocked, Lucius looked down at her awkwardly, finally grabbing her shoulders to push her gently away. She winced when his hand came into contact with her upper arm, cheeks still wet with tears.

He frowned and let go immediately.

“Here, let me see,” the woman said, her voice sounding much gentler than it had in the bookstore.

Hermione stood still as Narcissa pushed the cardigan down to reveal the bright red handprint just below her shoulder.

A touch of her wand and the pain was gone. Hermione blinked gratefully, brushing the back of her hand across her cheeks to wipe away her tears.

The boy pushed in front of his parents. “What in Merlin’s name are you doing here?” he said angrily, eyes flashing. “Don’t you know how dangerous this place is?! Especially for someone like you!”

“Someone like me?”

“A Mud-“

“That’s enough, Draco,” his father said. “This is why you shouldn’t come to Diagon Alley alone,” he added to Hermione.

Hermione flushed. “I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. I looked down for a second, and then…” she swallowed, fighting more tears.

Lucius Malfoy sighed. “Come on then. We’ll get you back to Muggle London. Have you done all your shopping?”

Hermione nodded, hefting her too-heavy bags.

“Where – where are we?” she asked.

“Knockturn Alley.”

With a muttered incantation, he made her bags feather-light and indicated that she should stand beside him. Flanked on either side by Lucius and Narcissa, with Draco directly behind, she finally let herself relax. She noticed as they walked that everyone avoided eye contact with them, moving to the side in waves as the Malfoys walked right through them, heads held proud and high. Some even bowed, although their facial expressions never changed.

Who is this family? Hermione wondered.

When they reached the brick wall at the front of Diagon Alley that led to Muggle London, Hermione turned around awkwardly. “I just – well – thank you,” she said.

Narcissa looked as though she wanted to hug her, but didn’t. Lucius clasped his hands behind his back, and for a moment his pale grey eyes softened into smoke instead of ice.

“Your parents, they’re waiting for you?” Draco asked.

Hermione nodded.

“Where?” Lucius demanded.

“At a café across the street,” she said, wondering why he sounded angry.

“I’ll be fine,” she added, hoping to placate him.

“As fine as you were in Knockturn Alley?” Narcissa asked archly.

She flushed yet again.

“I promise. It’s only a few yards away.”

“Very well,” Lucius said. He tapped his wand against the brick and Hermione stepped through the portal. She turned back to thank the Malfoys once more, but they were already gone.



Hermione rushed to the abandoned bathroom, wiping her cheeks with the sleeve of her robes as she went. Stupid Ron. Why was he always so thoughtless? She had hoped that things would be different when she got to Hogwarts. She thought she could finally put the years of bullying to rest and make some real friends. Instead, she found she was ostracized by her own House in addition to everyone else. The Malfoy boy she met in Diagon Alley barely glanced at her, surrounded as he always was by his fellow Slytherins. When he did meet her eyes, it was usually to give her a superior smirk.

She knew why people didn’t like her. She was a know-it-all, but she couldn’t help it. She loved to learn, and furthermore she wanted to prove all those stupid Purebloods, like Draco sodding Malfoy, wrong. She wanted to belong in the wizarding world.

Locking herself in a stall, she sank down and sobbed. She was so lonely. Just one friend, she pleaded silently. I just want one friend.

Suddenly the bathroom door slammed open, followed by booming footsteps. Her heart stilled as she peeked under the stall to see two grotesquely huge feet and the blood-stained tip of a heavy club. A troll! The shuddering footfalls stopped. There was a loud sniffing, and then her stall door was ripped off its hinges. She shrieked and dove through the troll’s thick legs before it rounded on her. Hermione thought she was done for, when in ran Harry and Ron. A few distractions, a particularly well-placed “Wingardium Leviosa” and one lie later, Hermione finally got her wish: she had friends.*

From then on, she went everywhere with Harry and Ron. Their school marks improved, and Hermione no longer cried in empty bathrooms. It was a win-win. Her relationship with Draco Malfoy changed as well. Instead of smirking, he now glared.

[*Paraphrased from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, JK Rowling, Chapter 10]




He spoke to her once that year, when he came upon her at the back of the library.

“Granger,” she heard someone say. Her head snapped up from her book.

She blinked at Malfoy suspiciously, glancing around for his cronies.

“Where are your friends?”

“As if Crabbe and Goyle would ever set foot in a library,” he scoffed, rolling his eyes.

She breathed a sigh of relief. She really didn’t like those brutes.

“What do you want, Malfoy? Come to congratulate yourself on nearly getting me expelled?”

“Don’t sneak illegally traded dragons out of the castle at midnight, and you won’t have to worry about expulsion!”

She flushed. “It’s not like it was my idea.”

“Of course it wasn’t, Granger. But you keep hanging about with imbeciles like Weasley and Potter.”

She sputtered. “Harry is NOT an imbecile, and Ron, well…Ron’s very good at chess,” she said defensively.

He smirked.

“Stop that,” she said. “And you have some nerve calling my friends imbeciles when you keep company with the likes of Crabbe and Goyle.”

He had no retort for that.

“Look, I didn’t come here to debate which one of us has dumber friends, but you should consider connecting yourself to people other than Potty and the Weasel,” Draco said. “Maybe some Ravenclaws. They share your penchant for being an obnoxious know-it-all.”

“I don’t know if you noticed, Malfoy, but I don’t exactly have a fan club. I can’t throw away my only friends. Besides, Gryffindors are nothing if not loyal.” She crossed her arms and stared at him defiantly.

“Fine,” he spat. “It’s your funeral, Granger. Don’t think I’d care if something happened to you anyway. One less Muggle polluting the magical world.”

He stalked away before Hermione could respond. She huffed, trying to get back into her book but failing. Ugh. What a git.

She gathered her things, hoping that Ron and Harry were in the common room so they could play a game or two of Exploding Snap and distract her from thoughts of accusatory grey eyes.

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