Hermione Granger was having a rather wonderful year. She had never in a million years thought that magic might be real; and if it was, it happened to other people.
She thought magic was fluffy tulle dresses and gossamer wings, silky blonde hair that curled very differently to hers and pale skin and pumpkins; rodents that somehow weren't vermin, and cackling women with tall hats and warts on their nose. It was almost absurd that the only correct thing in all her years of reading stories was that magical people really did fly on broomsticks! Oh, and the hats.
But the reality she had found was far more wonderful. Professor Black had come to visit at the beginning of the summer and told her and her parents all about magic that was measurable and quantifiable; magic that one could learn all about in lessons. He said that some things in magic were ordered and always had the same answer, much like a mathematical equation, and other parts of magic were like language and grammar, where there were strange rules that didn't quite make sense, but one could learn them all eventually and put them together to form simple things or longer, more complex things.
Hermione's parents, both being medical practitioners and thus scientists, had both been as fascinated as she had. Her mother had talked about how handsome the man was and she had to agree. He had eyes like silver and long hair in loose curls that he tied with a velvet ribbon like all of the charming princes in her books, but it was when he had written out hieroglyphics with a long elegant wand made of cherry wood and made the table disappear, then turned an apple into an orange, and that orange into a tortoise just like Prospero (the long necked tortoise she already had as a pet) that they had become really excited.
Magic really was real.
They told Professor Black about Hermione's bad habit of fetching books that were too high on the shelf or somehow stealing spoonfuls of nutella without opening the jar, and Professor Black had smiled at her and said it was because she was especially clever. Hermione had felt the thrill go through her that was only achieved when she earned a teacher's praise.
She was excited to go to this Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, even if it meant she had to leave her beloved parents and Prospero the long necked tortoise at home.
The handsome professor had come back closer to the start of term time after giving them nearly a whole year to read all of the materials he'd left with them in order to get used to the idea. As Hermione's birthday was in September she'd had a longer time to get used to it than most. She knew most of the pamphlets were for her parents, filled with things about how her biology was a little different than theirs; She had an extra organ called her 'magical core' with its own systems, and so some things would be different as she went through puberty and grew into her adult body. As her mother had already told her about puberty and the changes she could expect to happen in her body when the time came, she was allowed to read it all.
After so much reading she felt somewhat more prepared to live in this new world and going to Diagon Alley with Professor Black had helped even more.
She met the goblins. They were gruff and rather scary at first, but Professor Black told her they were a proud people from a warrior culture and no one could be more trusted to look after her money. He taught her how to properly greet them, and how to speak to them in order to gain their respect and not offend them. One shouldn't ever show their fear to a goblin, but she had already learned it always paid to be polite, and when she said so, Professor Black had given her that smile again, and she knew she had passed the test. He also helped her set up an account at Gringotts seperate to her parents' own, and she made her first deposit, entrusting her gold to the experts.
They had treated her with respect as if she wasn't a child, as it was her own money and Hangclaw, her new account manager said he was looking forward to a strong and prosperous working relationship.
Hermione thought she agreed with Professor Black; goblins were fantastic.
She was glad her parents had given her some pocket money, because on top of making her deposit she was able to buy a few extra books that Professor Black thought she would find helpful. One of course, was a primer on goblin culture, and another was a wonderfully in depth compendium on all the other non-human beings in the magical world.
She had also acquired a wand which she adored. She was so glad they weren't pink or adorned by a star, or anything so tacky. Instead her wand was made of elegant vinewood and held a heartstring from a dragon. She had asked what kind of dragon and had been told that it was from an antipodian opaleye, a unique species who lived down in the Southern Hemisphere near New Zealand, and when she looked them up and saw the wondrous moving pictures she found out that they were absolutely beautiful. Of course all dragons were beautiful in their own ways, but the opalescant sheen that the opaleye was named for made them rather unique among their kind.
There were also an abundance of potion ingredients to buy, as well as a couldron and other specialised equipment, much of which were a little more along the lines of what she was used to witches using in muggle fiction. She found it funny that they used cauldrons instead of beakers, but she was excited for potions class as she'd always loved chemistry. She did wonder what the difference in potions would be if she did use beakers, and the professor admitted that some potion makers preferred them when making certain potions, professing that it resulted in a higher quality outcome, and were trying to get the magical hospital to adopt the practice. Otherwise, for the more skilled potioneers, the choice of silver, copper, or even gold cauldrons depended on the ingredients and what reactions one was looking for (or which reactions one was looking to avoid).
For instance the wolfsbane potion was at its best when brewed in a silver cauldron, and as the salve for dragon fire burns needed exposure to real gold, many dragon tamers bought a gold cauldron so that they didn't go through galleons worth of gold each time they made it. Hermione found it all fascinating.
Hermione had asked to read the scientific journal he had referred to in that conversation about using beakers instead of couldrons, but apparently one needed to know far more about potions to be able to understand the language used in the article, and that due to that lack of knowledge, it was best to stick to sealed pewter for now, as the potions professor would want her to prove she was adept in the foundational skills before talking about branching out. Hermione thought that was fair, even if she was still wildly curious.
They got everything done in such good time that Professor Black treated the Grangers to an ice cream. She saw that Professor Black greeted Mr Fortescue with respect and so she did too, and he treated her with an extra scoop of peppermint ice cream.
Mr Fortesque had called the Professor 'Lord Black', which made her parents raise their eyebrows with significance, but they liked to be polite, and so they didn't comment. When they had sat down Professor Black admitted that he was indeed from a Noble and Most Ancient House, which was quite a significant family politically and socially. He had grown serious and said that there were some people in his circles that thought bad things about muggleborns, and didn't want them to learn everything about magic. He said that he taught a supplementary history lesson about the magical world to muggleborns who were able to maintain a high level in their classes so he knew they could handle the extra work. Hermione vowed to do well so that she could learn everything about the world of magic. Professor Black gave her that smile again and said he was confident he would be teaching her soon, and she was determined to prove him right.
He had spent the rest of their time in the ice cream parlour teaching her how to greet people, and how to act at the welcoming feast so that she wouldn't make a faux pas upon her entry into the school, and she was ever so grateful.
That night she had been so exhausted she had fallen asleep at the dinner table and her father carried her up to bed. It was worth it though.
She knew there was much to learn and she was thrilled because she absolutely loved learning. She couldn't wait for school to start.