Meant to Be

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Chapter Notes:
She finds comfort in numbers and time
The trip to the station takes them three hours and forty-six minutes. That includes a nine minute wait due to an accident on the motorway as they entered the city limits of London. Hermione finds comfort in numbers and time, and lets the familiarity calm her nerves. She knows that if she counts to seventy-two, it will make a minute. She counts quickly so it takes more than the standard sixty count for her to equal a minute. There are times she doesn’t have her watch, a simple round face on a leather band that she received as a birthday gift when she turned eight, so she knows the count and the beat of time because it is often an escape when she doesn‘t have a book.

The platform is crowded by the time they arrive. Hermione is excited and nervous as she walks between her parents. Her hair is neatly tied back with a ribbon, an effort that took her mother one hour and twelve minutes to accomplish. She kept track, of course, having nothing better to do as Mum brushed and twisted her mess of hair into something reasonably neat and tidy.

First impressions are important. She doesn’t usually care one whit about her hair but she doesn’t want her new classmates to make the same comments that those at her old school had often made. Here, they will not call her a bushy-haired swot or say that birds are nesting in her hair. There will not be snide teasing that hurts far more than a punch to her eye. They will not make fun of her teeth or the fact that she would rather read a book than watch boys play sports like the other girls. No, there will be none of that here. She will belong here in a way that she never managed to at her other school.

When they arrive at the train three minutes later, she is intimidated. There are so many students and they look far more capable and confident than she feels at the moment. Hermione raises her chin and her face takes on a stubborn, determined look that has managed to get her through the past few years of ridicule and awkwardness and she knows will get her through life. There is no need to be anxious. She’ll have friends now, people who laugh with her and not at her. They’ll understand her because they, too, are different.

Mum kisses her cheek and Dad kisses her forehead. They leave her and she’s alone, again. She is often alone and finds it comforting, familiar, even though she loathes solitude when it is not what she wants. Right now, she doesn’t want to be alone. Hermione stands there on the platform for six minutes as people rush past her. She hears laughter and watches children kissing their parents good-bye. It seems to her that if she steps onto the train, she will wake up and find that this is nothing more than a wonderful dream. If she hesitates long enough, it might make it real. She finally picks up her bag and boards the train.

It is mayhem and chaos. Students are rushing back and forth in all directions. They bump into her and don’t even take a moment to beg her pardon for knocking her over. They’re rude and look far too much like the students at the school she left behind. There are compartments on both sides of the train, but the majority are older students that glare at her for even daring to look in to see if there is a free seat.

“Sorry,” she mutters so many times she loses count. Numbers are tangible and, without them, she feels even more lost. Forty-five, forty-six, forty-seven---it’s nearly a minute later that she reaches the middle of the train. She overhears a boy bragging about Slytherin House; it’s something familiar from the book, Hogwarts: A History, that she has read multiple times since receiving her Hogwarts letter over the summer. She looks over at him, seeing a short boy with shockingly blond, nearly white, hair, and realizes he must be a first year, too.

Hermione is so pleased at finding another first year amongst the crowd that she doesn’t hesitate to speak up and correct him when he incorrectly gives the history of Salazar Slytherin. She thinks being helpful is a way to make a friend, and this boy is better than nothing even if he sounds rude and looks smug. He sneers at her and mutters something beneath his breath that have his friends laughing at her.

This is familiar to her and she doesn’t flinch as they laugh. There is no way that she will let them know their laughter and words hurt her. She is far too used to this sort of laughter, to these sneers and insults, to let them know she actually cares. Hermione simply raises her chin so that she can look down upon him and walks away. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen---she reaches up and pulls the ribbon from her hair, tossing it on the ground as she walks. She refuses to let him or his friends or anyone on this train ruin this for her. She will belong here. She’ll make a place for herself whether they like it or not.

This is her life now and she’ll finally have friends and not be alone.

Thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three---a door suddenly opens and a boy peers out into the hall. He looks young and scared as he hides behind the door and scans the area as if he’s looking for something. His hair is neatly combed and his face is round. “Trevor?” he whispers so quietly she can barely hear him.

“You really must speak louder if you’re calling to someone,” she informs him matter-of-factly. “The train is far too loud for such whispering.”

He looks up at her and blinks. “You’re talking to me?” he asks with what sounds like amazement.

“There’s certainly no one else here that I would be speaking to,” she says as she shifts her bag in her hand and looks at him curiously. “Who is Trevor?”

“He’s my toad,” the boy explains. “He got out somehow and now I can’t find him. Gran will be so upset with me if I’ve lost him. I have to find him, you see.”

Hermione nods, understanding about Grans and them being upset when things are lost. She looks at the boy and smiles as she offers, “I’ll help you find him.”

“You will?” He smiles then and opens the door. “Thank you. I don’t know where he might be and it’s so crowded. You can put your stuff here. I’m alone.”

“You’re not anymore,” she tells him as she puts her bag down and holds out her hand. “My name is Hermione Jane Granger and this is my first year at Hogwarts.”

He blinks again and shyly takes her hand. “I’m Neville Longbottom. I’m a first year, too.”

She nods. “Let’s go find your toad,” she says in what her mum calls her bossy tone but Neville doesn’t seem to mind. He grins and offers her a chocolate frog before he dutifully follows her back into the hall.

Seventy, seventy-one, seventy-two---Hermione smiles as she searches for the boy’s toad. It might not be what she had expected, might still have the snide remarks and people making fun of her, but she doesn’t care. She has a friend now and he needs her help. She’s finally found someone who is different like her and she’s no longer alone. That’s all that really matters, she decides as she starts her count over. One, two, three.

The End