Chapter 5: Hogwarts and a Sorting
Although she was extremely nervous, Hermione remained silent. With a deceptively calm air she followed Thomas as he crossed the threshold to platform 9 and ¾ where the red steam engine waited for them.
As she crossed the barrier between Muggle and Magical world, Hermione felt her heart give a nervous flutter, but lurking behind the anxiety was excitement. She had missed the world of magic, had missed the comforting stone walls of Hogwarts, and she had missed Albus Dumbledore.
At the thought of the younger, but still friendly wizard, Hermione grinned. Thomas, who had stood aside to wait for her, smirked when he saw the childish delight shining in her eyes and the excited smile. He was always indulgent with her, though, so he refrained from spitting out the sneering comment that popped into his mind.
He held out his hand to her and she took it with an air of familiarity. With his Head Boy badge glinting in the morning light, Tom led his trunk with one hand and Hermione with the other.
The last two and a half weeks at the orphanage had passed quickly for Tom and Hermione. After the incident at the cave, Thomas had refused to let her out of his sight except for when she went to sleep at night, safely locked in her room across from him. His concern stemmed more from possessiveness than from any other emotion, however. Their relationship had shifted into an unidentifiable area. They were friends, but not; colleagues but something more. They spoke more to each other now, about magical theories and random topics. On some unspoken agreement they didn’t bring up their past except for one time when Hermione told him that she had fled France to escape Grindelwald, and when Thomas merely told her that his mother had died at his birth, and his father had died only last year. Neither asked the other any questions, and for that they were both grateful.
Their days were filled with reading and chess, and talks about school and academics. Much was left unsaid between them even though they spoke for hours, and they were both careful to seem nonchalant whenever they reached for the other’s hand. Hand-holding was as far as they ever went, but by some unspoken declaration they knew that there would be more, that there already was more. There was a silent promise that lurked beneath the empty small talk; a vow that had yet to be fulfilled.
As Hermione took her seat on the Hogwarts Express, she smiled when she saw Thomas placing silencing charms and wards around their compartment. Turning away from the now securely locked door, he smirked condescendingly in response to her knowing smile.
“Don’t you think that is a little excessive?” she asked, clearly amused.
Tom gathered his robes around him with an elegant sweep and settled himself on the soft cushion across from her. He gave her a mocking half smile and merely claimed, “No, I do not.”
“Who are you trying to keep out?” she inquired as she took out Hogwarts, A History and opened it to page 394.
Tom scoffed when he saw what book she was flipping through, knowing that she had already read it at least three times in the past two weeks. “Perhaps I am trying to keep you in,” he countered.
Hermione glanced up at him over the pages of her book. “I would like to see you try,” she said airily.
“Arrogance does not become you.”
“Well,” Hermione stopped to give an effected sigh, “Your Slytherin traits must have rubbed off on me.”
Tom snorted. “What do you know about being a Slytherin?”
Hermione grinned and gestured to her book by lifting it slightly as she claimed, “Why this book here has some rather interesting assertions on the House of Slytherin.”
“What does it say?” he asked, a distant curiosity coloring his tone.
“Only that those belonging to the house of serpents are arrogant, cunning, sneaky little bastards.”
A small smile turned up the corners of his mouth. “Is that a direct quote?”
Hermione laughed. “I may have embellished it a bit. Only a small bit, mind you.”
“Of course,” he allowed.
He watched silently as her eyes sparkled with humor. There was a large part of him that wanted to snuff out that light since it sparked at his expense, but another part of him cried out at the thought. A small part of him wanted to cultivate it, as well as take it and keep it safe.
“Thomas, what house do you think I’ll be in?” her question broke his reverie.
Only she could call him Thomas. Shifting his eyes back to hers, he studied her. What house would she be in? He had pondered that question many times for the past two weeks.
Tom was not a fool. If it was blatantly obvious to him that Hermione was a mudblood, then it would be clear to everyone else at Hogwarts as well, especially those in his own house. In fact, they had been the reason he had so thoroughly locked and warded the compartment. He wasn’t ready for their interference in his relationship with Hermione. She was his, no matter what his followers had to say about it, but he knew there would be problems.
He couldn’t have his cake and eat it to, as it were.
A lot of it would boil down to which house she was sorted into. She was as loyal as a Hufflepuff, and as hardworking, but Tom couldn’t see the hat placing her there. She had too much fire. Slytherin was right out. While she had enough Slytherin traits to be sorted there, the unfortunate circumstances of her birth would prevent it and for that Tom was grateful. He didn’t want to think of what his house mates would do to a Mudblood in their den; the way they had treated him during his first year. That had been at first, though. They had learned quickly enough how deserving he was.
He knew it would be between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. She was smarter than all of the current Ravenclaws put together, and had more courage than the average Gryffindor. Personally, he was hoping for Ravenclaw. He would continue his association with her no matter which house, but her being a Ravenclaw would make it more seemly for him to be seen with her.
Tom smirked at what his classmates would think of him, Slytherin Head Boy, walking hand-in-hand with a Mudblood Gryffindor.
Belatedly, he realized she was waiting rather patiently for his answer.
“Ravenclaw,” he stated.
Hermione smiled. “Why Ravenclaw?”
“Because you are always asking questions,” he snapped.
If she was hurt by his tone, she did not show it. “I wish I could be in Slytherin, with you,” she said regretfully.
Tom was shocked at her words and at the wistfulness that colored them. “You know why you cannot,” he said softly.
She smiled. “Of course, tainted blood and everything,” she said dryly, completely unconcerned about the state of her blood. “But still, things won’t be the same, will it?”
He stared at her and began to feel a fist squeeze at his heart as he realized the truth of her words. “No, it won’t be,” his words were quiet as though he was speaking to himself.
Hermione nodded sagely. “That’s why I wish I could be in Slytherin; maybe things wouldn’t be so different then.”
“Don’t say that. You don’t want to be in Slytherin,” Tom said. “You don’t have what it takes to survive with the snakes. You are too nice.”
A secret smile touched her lips and utterly fascinated Tom. It was one part coy, a touch mocking, and it was deliciously cunning. “You would be surprised, Thomas, at how ruthless I can be,” she whispered darkly.
A shiver danced up his spine and Tom’s eyes lost focus. In his mind, Hermione had always been pure, completely incapable of anything scheming. Thinking that had made him want to covet her innocence, protect it from everything, including himself. But as she whispered that statement, he had heard a darker side of her. Her voice had been soft, but dangerous and something in it captured his attention and held him captive. There was something about her air that radiated strength and power and for a moment, it made him slightly nervous.
She was still an innocent, but there was darkness in her. She had, he reminded himself, come from France where Grindelwald was very prominent. She had fought in a war. She had danced in the shadows and touched evil. She wasn’t only surrounded by his ruthlessness; she had it in her.
And it excited him.
Suddenly he was very curious about her role in the war against Grindelwald and what had occurred that made it necessary for her relocation to another country. Was she in danger? Would he send any of his minions after her?
Tom almost wished that the dark wizard would try to come after her; it would give him a chance to practice some of his deadlier hexes.
“We’re slowing down,” Hermione cut through his ponderings.
Tom looked out the window and saw the familiar landscape of Hogsmeade. How long had he been lost in his thoughts?
“Yes, we have arrived,” he responded, rising from his seat, “Change into your robes.”
They both took out their wands and muttered a charm that transfigured their current clothes into their school uniform. After straightening his tie Tom unwarded the door and pushed it open. Busybodies were buzzing in the hall, everyone pushing and shoving in their eagerness to get out of the stuffy train.
Taking Hermione’s hand in his once again, Tom fixed a steely, indifferent glare on his features and led her out onto the platform. He received many curious stares, but everyone smartly moved out of his way without comment. Being popular and extremely powerful had many advantages, Tom decided.
As they stepped off the train Tom hesitated. Should he lead Hermione over to the caretaker, Robert Coltrane, so that she could take the boats over with the first years, or should he bring her over to the carriages? In the end he decided that he wanted to enjoy his last few moments of peace with her, and he guided her towards the carriages.
He felt her freeze as the carriages came into view, and he turned to look at her. She wasn’t looking at him, though. Her eyes were riveted on the thestrals.
She can see them, his eyes widened slightly.
She must have been very involved in this war of hers, he determined.
Hermione was oblivious to Tom’s gaze on her since her attention was focused solely on the creatures.
They were beautiful- terrifyingly so.
Slowly, in a horrific curiosity, Hermione inched forward.
They looked just like Harry had said they did; horse-like with reptilian qualities. They were completely fleshless, their black coats of what could be called fur clinging to their skeletons.
Standing still and motionless in the gathering fog, the creatures looked eerie and sinister.
Perhaps they’re part dragon, Hermione mused as one stretched its black, leathery wings while she inched even closer to the beast she had ridden and flown on, but never seen.
In fact, she didn’t even understand why she could see them now. In order to see a thestral, one had to have seen death, and she had never actually seen death. But, she was forced to admit, it had touched her.
Maybe that was it, she thought. Maybe those tainted by death could see the thestrals just as easily as if they had seen death with their own eyes. The death of her parents still haunted her waking and sleeping hours, and perhaps that was enough to open her eyes to these strange creatures.
Cautiously, Hermione stretched out her hand, making sure to keep eye contact with the thestral so that it was aware of her intentions.
Abruptly she froze, her hand hanging in the air, and turned to see Thomas watching her every move. His intense green eyes held hers captive and Hermione feared that he was going to look into her mind.
Quickly, she wiped her thoughts and put up a mental brick wall. Severus would be proud, she idly thought, but she quickly pushed the idea down.
Without breaking their stare, Thomas opened the carriage door and stretched out his arm, gesturing that she should enter before him. The tense moment passed, and Hermione allowed him to help her into the carriage.
Tom looked back at the thestrals one more time before hoping into the carriage while wondering who this Severus character was.
Their ride was shared in silence and was over quickly. Tom nimbly hopped out of the carriage and helped Hermione down. Their hands still clasped they walked to the looming castle, both feeling a sense of home wash over them.
As they entered the entrance hall they found Albus Dumbledore smiling and greeting students.
“Ah, Mr. Riddle, Miss Granger, just who I was waiting for,” he said cheerfully, his eyes twinkling as he noticed their clasped hands.
“Professor Dumbledore,” they mumbled in unison.
“I’m afraid I must separate you two. Mr. Riddle, you may proceed to the Great Hall, and Miss Granger, if you will please follow me.”
Tom and Hermione looked at each other. This was the moment when everything would change. They wouldn’t be the same people anymore. Now they had school and their classmates to worry about, when before they had stood united against Billy Stubbs.
“I will see you later,” Tom said quietly, a tacit promise in his words.
Hermione nodded. “Goodbye, Thomas.”
And for the first time in about two months, they separated.
Feeling an odd sense of loss, Hermione followed Albus down the hall fighting the strange urge to look back behind her for Thomas. He wouldn’t be there anyway.
Noticing her unease, Albus smiled gently. “Don’t worry, Miss Granger. I’m only leading you to the staff entrance to the Great Hall. Headmaster Dippet will introduce and sort you after the first years.”
Hermione nodded absently.
“I trust you had a pleasant summer,” he asked, his eye twinkle increasing.
“Yes,” Hermione said distractedly, “It was most…interesting.”
“I expected it might be.”
Hermione looked up at him, her eyes narrowing on the self-satisfied twinkle his eyes still carried. “You sir, do not change much in the future,” she huffed.
Albus chuckled. “I certainly cannot wait until I truly make your acquaintance, Miss Granger. I imagine much of my behavior around you in the future suddenly makes more sense.”
Now that she thought about it, much of his behavior in the future could be explained by her current predicament. Albus Dumbledore had always had a soft spot for her, Ron, and Harry. He had always kept a close eye on them, especially Harry, for obvious reasons. Harry was fated to save the world, which meant that Ron and Hermione were fated to help him. She had always thought that was why he had always smiled at her so knowingly; why his eyes always softened on her.
Perhaps there was more behind his interest in her other than what had been apparent.
She followed him through the side door that brought them to the staff table. It appeared that the sorting had completed and everyone had been waiting for them.
“Ah, Albus, right on time. Please, Miss Granger, do come down here,” Dippet called over to them.
Hermione gulped as every head turned to her in response to the Headmaster’s summons. She walked over to Dippet slowly since she suddenly became very nervous as all sets of eyes fell on her. She had been used to the spotlight because of her friendship with Harry Potter and even Viktor Krum, but never before had the spotlight been focused solely upon her. She had the sneaking suspicion that she now knew how Harry felt most of the time.
She scanned the sea of students with a bored expression, even though her heart was pounding furiously. Her eyes immediately went to the Slytherin table and locked with a pair of calm, sage green eyes. Thomas lifted his head ever so slightly in acknowledgment and Hermione felt her heart slow and her breathing calm.
When she reached the front of the hall, Armando Dippet clasped a comforting hand on her shoulder and flashed a kind smile down to her before addressing the student body.
“We live in a troubling time. As we all know, the dark wizard Grindelwald has been steadily gaining power and support throughout Europe, and unfortunately, France has seen the brunt of the fighting. In these dangerous times we must help our fellow wizards and open the doors to our school to those in need. As such, I would like to introduce you all to Hermione Granger. She is a recent transfer student from France and I expect everyone to treat her with the same respect you have for your fellow classmates.”
Hermione gulped as whispers swept the hall; everyone wondering who she really was and why she had had to flee from Grindelwald.
“Silence, please,” Dippet commanded. “Now, Miss Granger, if you would please take a seat on this stool, we will place the sorting hat on your head and see you sorted.”
Hermione nodded and obediently took her seat. Dippet placed the hat on her head and Hermione was relieved to not have to see the curious faces of the students anymore. Almost immediately, the hat began to speak to her.
“Ah, a time traveler! How interesting…where shall we put you? Hufflepuff won’t do, you have too much fire…yes, we want to encourage the flames, not suffocate them. I’m afraid Ravenclaw won’t work either. You are surprised by this, I see, but I fear you may be too smart for your own good. It is to be Gryffindor…or perhaps Slytherin. You would do very well in both; I can see that you already have done well in one. Maybe now we can see how you will fare in the other. No? You do not want to be in the house of snakes? I can well understand your fear, my dear. But what to do? You are so evenly matched between the two: you have the heart of a Gryffindor, but the mind of a Slytherin. Not only the mind of a Slytherin, though…yes, you would meet your match there- you have already met him. Far be it from me to separate the two of you. Better be…
Shocked silence rang throughout the hall as the sorting hat shouted the last word for all to hear. Fear squeezed her heart in a vice like grip, but it beat in a surprisingly steady rhythm. Numbly, Hermione reached up and removed the hat from her head, staring at it in her hand. She rose from the stool and sat the hat on it carefully, as though she was afraid of it.
Turning, she faced the surprised student body. There was no polite clapping from any of the tables, and Hermione well understood why. Looking at Albus, she could even read the shock on his normally collected features.
She looked away from him and faced the Slytherin table. There was not one student that was not glaring at her. She understood their resentment and hatred, though.
Granger was not a prominent wizarding surname and was easily recognized for what it was: a muggle name.
A mudblood amidst Slytherin.
Terror gripped her and Hermione was slightly relieved when she met a pair of eyes that reflected her fear. Thomas stared at her in fascinated horror as she slowly moved to take her seat at the Slytherin table.