"Do you fancy some ice cream, sweetie? Or how about we have a look around the pet shop? You've always wanted a cat!"
Sam gave a jerk of the head that might have been an affirmative, biting her tongue hard enough to taste blood as she fought to keep the scathing response from escaping.
Mr and Mrs Granger were driving her insane, hovering over her shoulder, not letting her out of their sight, asking question after question until Sam was ready to tear her hair out. If she heard 'are you alright, sweetie?' one more time she was going to murder the couple in their sleep.
The only thing stopping her from losing it on them was that she really couldn't blame them. From their perspective their sweet eleven year old daughter woke up one day with a new vocabulary full of words that couldn't be spoken in polite company and an attitude that made feral animals seem approachable in comparison. But Sam didn't want to be Hermione Granger any more than Hermione's parents wanted someone like Sam for a daughter.
The first day, Sam had been in absolute denial. She'd been convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that this whole thing was the result of falling asleep in front of the television after twelve cups of coffee and an ungodly amount of sugar, but when she opened her eyes to the same unfamiliar ceiling she'd fallen asleep staring at the next morning she'd rolled over and screamed into the pillow until her lungs felt like they were going to give out.
The next few days had been more of the same, trying to rationalize everything as a dream or a coma or someone spiking her with acid. Anything. But when she woke up in the same body staring up at the same ceiling a week later she finally admitted to herself that this was real, and she was going to have to live out her new life as a fictional character in a world she'd read stories about when she was actually the age of the body she'd hijacked.
She was twenty three, almost twenty four. She had a shitty flat in the arse-end of London and a job that barely paid the rent, she'd been born in 1995 and had grown up in the 21st century, with iPhones and WiFi and the Internet at her fingertips.
Now she was eleven, a pale and buck-toothed girl with hair that had defeated every brush she'd taken to it. She hadn't even realized whose body she'd taken over until Mrs Granger shouted "Hermione!" up the stairs while Sam had been staring at her reflection in numb disbelief, which was further confirmed when the couple started talking about how exciting it was that she was a witch over breakfast.
Emma Watson she was not.
Trying to rationalize her presence here was headache inducing, and that was only the beginning of her problems. She'd been a fan of the books and the films when she was younger; she'd grown up with the books and watched the films as they were released, but that had been years ago. She could only remember the bare bones of the plot and she wasn't sure which events happened in which film - or, more accurately, which book, because she clearly wasn't in the film adaptation.
Hermione Granger had gone from a fictional character to a very much alive person to the body Sam hijacked.
She didn't like to think about that last one too often.
Some people might think this was a dream come true, living in a magical world of their favourite fantasy books.
Fuck the Wizarding World and the broomstick it rode in on.
Her attitude had been so foul that the Grangers had decided a trip to Diagon Alley would cheer her up, and Sam had to admit that it had brightened her mood considerably. But the Grangers wouldn't shut up and the joy of the whole thing was dampened by her companions.
"Oh, the bookshop! Should we get a few more books?"
Sam, finally at her wits end, opened her mouth to tell Mrs Granger where she could shove her books - and froze when she saw who had just passed them.
Heading towards the ridiculously named bookshop was a scrawny boy dressed in oversized and overwashed hand-me-downs, wearing a pair of round glasses with hair as black as oil and as unruly as Sam's current birds nest. Sam instantly recognized the main character. But that wasn't what had made her freeze.
It was the expression on his face, twisted into pure loathing as he scowled around the bright and colourful street. She watched him enter the bookshop, kicking the door closed behind him and paying no mind to the giant of a man who was following him with a look of bewildered panic on his face. It was so out of charterer that it had struck her dumb.
Out of character...
"No way..." She breathed. "No fucking way."
Well aware that she could be completely wrong in her assumption, Sam hurried after him with the Granger duo on her heels.
The bookshop was full to burst with children, books piled in their arms and the arms of their parents, all of them wearing the bastardised bathrobes and honest to God witch hats that seemed to be the dress code here. It was easy to pick out the dark haired boy scowling at the shelves, a don't-talk-to-me vibe rolling off him so strong everyone was keeping a respectful distance. Sam slipped away from the Grangers and approached him with the confidence of someone who had nothing to lose.
"What the hell are you doing here, you prick?" She demanded as soon as she was behind him, the smile on her face and the excitement of her tone completely at odds with the words.
Harry Potter whirled around so fast Sam was sure he'd given himself whiplash. He stared at her, green eyes wide behind round glasses that were taped together at the bridge. He said nothing, eyes searching her own for a moment.
Those vivid green eyes lit up and a wide grin spread across his face.
"I've never been so happy to see you in my life!" He dragged her into a crushing hug. "Even if you don't look like you!"
Sam's laugh bordered on hysterical and she hugged him back just as hard. The pressure in her chest that had been building ever since she'd woken up in the wrong body eased as she buried her face in the bony shoulder of the boy.
"Oh my God you have no idea how glad I am that you're here." She breathed, her ribs protesting at the arms crushing them but she refused to let go of the one familiar thing she'd found in this world.
Jim pulled back but kept his hands on her shoulders so he could look her up and down. "Who the hell are you supposed to be?"
"Hermione." He raised an eyebrow. "Emma Watson?" He shrugged, uninterested. "At least tell me you know who you're supposed to be."
He gave her a bright grin. "I'm the star of the show." He proclaimed, arms out to the side as if Sam was supposed to bow down before him. When she failed to do so, he lowered his arms. "So, any idea what the fuck happened?"
Her grin disappeared at the sobering question. She was about to tell him that she was as clueless as him when a voice from behind her cut off anything she might have said. "Oh, Hermione! Aren't you going to introduce us to your friend?"
Sam grit her teeth so hard her jaw ached. She'd completely forgotten about her fake-parents in the excitement of finding Jim here. She looked over her shoulder to give Mrs Granger a withering look.
"I'm Jim." He piped up before Sam could stop him. "We've been friends for ages."
You twat, she hoped the look she gave him conveyed her thought. The Grangers turned their questioning gazes to her. "Yeah..." She said awkwardly, stepping on Jim's foot in childish revenge. "We met at the... park?" That was where kids hung out, right?
Jim looked like he was trying very hard not to laugh at Sam's bad attempt at the accent she'd been trying to mimic since she got here. If the Grangers had picked up on it, they hadn't said anything. They probably thought it came with her new bad attitude.
"Why haven't you invited him over before?" Mrs Granger was disgustingly happy and Sam got the impression that Hermione didn't have any friends even before Sam arrived. "Would you like to come to our house for tea tonight, Jim? We're having shepherd's pie."
"Actually Sa - Hermione has been invited to my house tonight." Jim said with a disarming smile. "If that's alright with you of course, ma'am."
"Oh, no, that's fine!" Mrs Granger said a little too quickly, looking enamored with the polite young boy. Oh, if only you knew the bastard behind that innocent little face, Sam thought, amused. "What time do you want picking up?"
"We'll give her a lift home, it's no trouble." Jim answered for her. It was nice to see that being in the wrong body hadn't affected his ability to lie through his teeth. "I'm meeting my family at the ice cream shop once I've finished my shopping. Hermione can finish hers with me, so we can catch up."
If they weren't eleven years old and in front of her fake-parents, Sam could have kissed him.
"What was that accent?" Jim demanded as soon as the Grangers hugged Sam goodbye - much to her displeasure - and left. "You sounded like you belonged on BBC news."
"Yeah, and Harry Potter's definitely from Norwich." She drawled. Jim smirked.
"C'mon, let's get out of here." He glanced around the shop. "If I spend one more minute with the giant guy I'm going to push him in front of a bus."
Sam, grinning like an idiot, took his hand and dragged him out of the bookshop.
They ended up in the Leaky Cauldron, the little pub that doubled as the entrance to Diagon Alley, and after failing to get served they sat in a secluded corner with a glass of Butterbeer each - which, unfortunately, had no actual alcohol in it - and a plate of sandwiches between them containing what could have been beef, chicken, or both.
"What the fuck happened?" Was how Jim started the conversation. He was scowling at his small, pale hands with nothing short of disgust. "Is this some kind of shared delusion or what? Did someone spike our drinks again?"
"I wish." Sam sighed, leaning back in her seat. "I thought it was some coma dream or something like that, now I have no idea."
Jim took a bite out of one of the sandwiches and immediately grimaced. "That's disgusting." He remarked, throwing it back onto the plate. "What are we even supposed to do?"
Sam puffed her cheeks out in consideration. She'd been wondering the same thing. "I don't know. This whole thing's a level of insanity I didn't think existed." She glanced around the pub; the families of shoppers were slowly trickling out, the room now mostly occupied by older wizards, probably the regulars. "I don't remember half the stuff that happens in the books, and I only remember the big parts of the films."
"Lord Valium is on the back of some guy's head and wants to steal a mirror or something." Jim offered unhelpfully. "He wants to kill me, right?"
"Lord Voldemort is the least of our worries." Sam told him seriously. "Going through puberty again is way more terrifying than any evil wizard."
Jim's eyes widened before he scowled. "This is bullshit." He muttered, and then his expression shifted into one of deep contemplation.
"What?" Sam asked warily. That face was familiar; it was the same one that led to thousands of pounds in debt, three cats, a trip to Germany, and a month of court proceedings. "What are you thinking?"
Jim pointed to himself. "I'm Harry Potter." Sam nodded, even though she had no idea where he was going with this. "I'm Harry Potter."
Sam's eyes darted up to the scar on Jim's forehead, barely visible through the mess of black hair. Jim was, in fact, Harry Potter.
He leaned across the table conspiratorially. "Think about it," he whispered, bright green eyes lit up with excitement. "We've got magic, I've got a whole vault full of money, no one here knows who we really are, and I'm fucking famous! No debt, no criminal records, and a whole new world to exploit."
"Don't you mean explore?"
"No. We were brought here for a reason, Sammy." He grinned at her, a flash of white teeth. "We're here to wreak havoc."
Sam was not on board with that idea. Absolutely not. They weren't here to exploit this new world. They weren't going to mess with the story just because they could. And she wasn't grinning right back at him.
Of course not.
They were here to make things better. They were here with the foreknowledge of what would happen so they could help people. She wasn't thinking about how much chaos they could create, or how someone like Jim being Harry Potter was going to destroy the entire plot. And she definitely wasn't thinking about the damage they could do to just about everything with magic at their disposal.
"You're right," Sam leaned across the table so they were inches apart as she whispered, "Let's fuck shit up."