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Chapter 1 : Alone
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--The Hogwarts Express, 11:17AM--
There was no mistaking it. Harry and Ron were definitely not on the Hogwarts Express. Hermione had searched the train backwards, forwards and all around, even asking a few people of their whereabouts, even Fred and George, who helped for a few minutes before being heralded by their friend Lee Jordan. But no one had seen hide or hair of the Boy-Who-Lived or the youngest Weasley boy and she beginning to get funny looks from the older students who she asked. She eventually decided to get a seat and found a compartment near the middle of the train, one that was, on first glance, unoccupied.
As soon as she opened the door, she knew she had been mistaken; unfortunately, terribly so. A cold sneer; a snooty and upturned pug nose; two empty gazes and a few unfamiliar, yet still unfriendly, faces met her as she stopped, so suddenly in fact that she nearly tripped.
“Well, well, look who it is everyone,” said Pansy in her voice that made Hermione nearly gag, the way she tried to sound even more stuck up than she already was, “the Golden Mudblood.”
Though it wasn’t that funny, everyone who was wearing green or a haughty expression guffawed or chuckled, making Hermione’s back stiffen a bit, and her lower lip tremble slightly, just enough to be noticeable.
“Going to go to your Precious Potty and Wonderful Weasel bawling your eyes out, Mudblood?” said a much older boy, sneering in a way that rivaled Malfoy’s. She didn’t recognize him immediately, but she knew that probably she should know his name because he looked so familiar.
Hermione stood still, swallowing her tears and staring them down the whole time with a cold defiance. She had faced many much worse things in Hogwarts with Harry and Ron last year than a few Slytherins. A fleeting image flashed across her mind’s eye, comparing the group to the dangers that she had faced the previous year, and how pitiful these Slytherins were compared to those challenges.
“What’s it to you, you snake headed prat?” she said defiantly.
The boy was taken aback, the sneer temporarily wiped off as if Hermione had smacked him across the face, surprised that she had the gall to even speak to someone with as pure of blood as he, let alone snap back at him. But his cruel sneer was back again so quickly it was as if it never had left.
“Watch your mouth, Mudblood,” he said with his smirk still there, but his face stony and voice dangerous. He did not know a sufficient insult to make out of her house’s animal, for which Hermione silently and inwardly smirked at, this small trip-up of her insulters emboldening her.
“Watch your own mouth,” she spat back, spinning her wand at her side as casually as possible given that her fingers were trembling with fear, but itching to grasp it firmly and hex him to oblivion. “I may have to clean it out for you.”
“Now, now,” said a voice behind her, a hand going on her shoulder. She looked up behind her to see a dark haired boy with the Head’s badge on his robes, with the badger and insignia of Hufflepuff on it. He was flanked by three other boys, but each of these were shorter than him and varied in looks; one African, one Asian, and another darkly haired boy with a hooked nose, whose hair was pulled back in a low ponytail. “There’ll be none of this on the Express.”
The other of the older Slytherin boys, the one with dirty blonde hair and a rather unattractive face made a grimace that, sadly, enhanced his features to the slightest degree, while saying, “Get out of here, Pillan, we don’t need you and your Hufflepuff riff-raff here.”
Hermione felt that this was a rather stupidly rash thing to say to the Head Boy while he was with two others who looked as though they played on the Quidditch team and one that looked as though he could hex just as well as Hermione. She glanced up to see the boy named Pillan’s face harden and his eyes sparkle maliciously. He held up a hand as each of his friends balled their hands into fists or took out wands and started towards the compartment, all taking the hint from the look he threw them over his shoulder, that they were not to bother with them.
“That’s more than I could say for you and your lot, Tannen,” the Head Boy said coldly, but calmly. “The rabble Slytherin lets in these days.” He hung his head and clicked his tongue in disappointment.
With that he gently took Hermione shoulder and guided her away. As she tried to go back for her trunk she had left, she saw that Pillan had motioned for one of his friends to get it for her. After they had left the car for another one, they stopped at a truly empty compartment, which Pillan wrenched open and held it there as his followers filed in. When he and Hermione were the only ones left, he didn’t move. By now, he had removed his hand from her shoulder and Hermione looked up to him and he nodded his head towards the compartment as if to say, “In.”
So she obliged, totally subordinate to the authority he held and went in, her face burning so badly she couldn’t believe that they didn’t open a window for the heat coming off of it. Daring to glance up quickly, she saw that her trunk had been put in an overhead compartment above the head of the African boy.
“That was brilliant, Landon,” said one of the boys, the Asian, as he plopped himself on the seat next to the dark skinned boy, flashing a brilliantly white and perfectly straight toothed smile.
“I’m not so sure,” said a voice that Hermione recognized as the Head Boy’s. “We don’t need to stir things up so quickly with them.
“Oh, come off it, Head Boy,” said the Asian, his tone gently making fun of his friend as he pulled a joke at his expense.
The compartment fell into silence as the boys all openly gazed at Hermione, who sat next to the window, next to Landon.
“Well, go on,” he prodded, leaning back in his seat and putting his arms up on the top of the seat. “What’s your name?”
“Hermione Granger,” she mumbled, clutching her schoolbag tightly to her chest for comfort. She was totally bewildered about how she had gotten on speaking terms with the Head Boy.
“Harry Potter’s friend? Nice to meet you,” he said with a broad smile. “My name’s Landon Pillan. These pricks are Arthur, Nadir, and Philip.” Each nodded in turn, as they were introduced. The last was the one with the hooked nose, and he merely waved his hand dismissively, turning back to a book Hermione noticed for the first time.
Hermione had a double take as she saw the name on the binding, and before she could stop herself, she said, “Is that Hogwarts; a History?” Immediately, her face flushed again and she looked away as the older boy’s face turned to her. With a blank look, he nodded.
“He reads it every year before the start of term, don’t you Phil?” teased the boy named Arthur. “Always have your nose stuck in a book!”
Philip smiled and shrugged nonchalantly as his friends guffawed in laughter, merely taking their teasing in stride. Hermione couldn’t help but giggle and pull out her own, though slightly newer copy of the same book.
“I try to squeeze in a bit, too,” she said sheepishly. Philip’s smile brightened slightly as he saw her leather bound copy with the title emblazoned boldly in gold across the front clutched closely to her chest.
“Birds of a feather flock together, eh?” chided Nadir, elbowing the smaller boy in a show of friendly affection. He turned his brown eyes, glittering with amusement, to Hermione and asked, “What year are you going into?”
“Second,” she said in a small voice, ears burning, but her face not so flushed anymore. Though she was still uncomfortable being in the compartment with the Head Boy and his friends, she felt herself relaxing around them and their laid-back natures.
“Arthur, Landon and I are all going into seventh year,” continued Nadir.
“Philip is going to be a fourth year this year,” said Landon, speaking up for his younger friend who hadn’t spoken once since Hermione had met the group of older Hogwarts students.
“Wonderful,” Hermione said, not sure what else to say. In a small voice, she continued by saying, “Thanks for helping me back there, everyone.”
“Anytime, Hermione, it was nothing,” said Landon. “Don’t let them get to you, they’re all pricks.”
She smiled. Maybe this train ride wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
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