Hermione had just finished reuniting Emily with Katie at the grand staircase, where she also saw Harry and Ron coming down for breakfast. "Good morning!"
"Morning Hermione!" came Harry's answer.
Ron yawned in reply. "Morning."
Hermione happily walked in step to complete the trio, taking her place to the left of Harry while Ron was on the right. "We get our schedules today!" She started. "Do you think we'll start with Professor Lupin? Or maybe Hagrid? Oh, I do hope he'll be okay."
"Don't worry Hermione." Harry looked back, with a smile that lit up his eyes. "I know that Hagrid will do great."
"As long as we don't have to go into the Forbidden Forest again," Ron complained. "Those bloody spiders still haunt my dreams."
Hermione and Harry laughed together with Ron. As they walked into the Great Hall, now with many more students than previously, Hermione noticed that two sets of eyes were on her. The Headmaster's, and the new groundskeeper's. Harry seemed to take notice. "Why are Dumbledore and Mr. Amamiya staring at you?"
Ron, with a small level of tact, walked around the table to sit across from the two of them to be able to get a glance of the two. "Yeah, that's a bit weird. You in any trouble Hermione?"
Hermione felt a small twinge of worry, before trying to shake it off. "I shouldn't be. Mr. Amamiya talked with me for a few seconds, and I didn't say anything to offend him."
At that moment, Professor McGonagall started walking down the table, passing out schedules. Harry nudged Hermione when he noticed. "Maybe ask McGonagall?"
The witch nodded and decided to wait for her Head of House. "Ms. Granger." The Transfiguration Professor said as a way of greeting when passing Harry and Ron their schedules. "You'll come with me for your schedule. We have a few kinks to work out."
"Of course, Professor." Hermione stated, thinking rapidly for what could have caused it. As McGonagall turned around, Hermione shot worried glances at Harry and Ron, before getting up to follow the Professor. She was led to the antechamber attached to the Hall near the Head Table. Shortly after she entered, Hermione heard the door open again.
"Thank you, Minerva." came the Headmaster's voice. "You may go. I will tell Ms. Granger about her schedule. Mr. Amamiya should also be aware of the circumstances, so he is here as well."
"As you say, Albus." The Professor placed a comforting hand on her student. "Don't worry, Ms. Granger. Everything is going to be okay." McGonagall then left the room.
Hermione now at least understood the basics of why she was being stared at. "Headmaster, Mr. Amamiya, is there something wrong with my schedule?"
Mr. Amamiya laughs heartily. "'Is there something wrong with my schedule' asks the student that registered for every single class offered." Even Headmaster Dumbledore's eyes twinkled in amusement. "You know, some things aren't worth learning Ms. Granger." Hermione felt a hot wash of embarrassment flow over her. She opened her mouth to defend herself, only to be cut off by the Headmaster.
"He means no offense, Ms. Granger. I will say, however, that you are the only student at Hogwarts that has tried to take every class offered here at Hogwarts. Even Lily Potter, considered to be the second smartest witch to ever step foot in Hogwarts, decided to not take some classes. " He smiled kindly at her. "You have shown a tremendous drive to be the best student that Hogwarts has ever seen. In fact, if you keep this up, you could even be considered the Brightest Witch of your age- especially considering that your Grades are the highest in everything but potions."
It was news to her that Harry's Mother was the second smartest witch to be in Hogwarts, or that she was on her way to be known specifically for her own intellect. "Thank you, sir, I just really want to know everything I possibly can."
"And that's a good goal to have, which is why we are here to give you three choices." The Headmaster's words put Hermione on alert. Is this her chance to convince the Headmaster to let her take all the classes, or better yet go up a year? "Option One: Drop a few classes so you can take the rest on an actual schedule like the other students." Her distaste for that idea must have shown, as Mr. Amamiya chuckled again. "Option Two: You keep all your classes, and I give you a Time-Turner to borrow that will allow you to take them as well as your other scheduled classes." Hermione's eyes widened. "Ah, self-studying again I see, for you to know what a Time-Turner is. Yes, Professor McGonagall was adamant that you could be trusted with this responsibility. With this option, and if you take in all the information you possibly can, you could be world renown as The Ultimate Witch. Just below Merlin, and on par with the legend of the Master of Death" She was already calculating how she would go about taking all the classes and hiding from herself to prevent causing a Paradox to occur. Hermione could imagine it now, being able to take the wizarding world into the next Golden Age. She was so absorbed that she almost forgot.
"What… What's the third option?" she asked uncertainly. What could possibly be better than being deemed just below Merlin status!?
Mr. Amamiya took a step forward. "Option Three: You drop your extra classes. You have a regular student schedule." He stopped and swiped a hand over his mask. As his hand dropped, his presence changed. He went from being the new friendly groundskeeper to being… something unbelievable. "But instead, you learn more about yourself than ever before. So much so, that literal Gods won't be able to stand in your way. Your third option will make you so much more than you could ever be without it. You could be able to travel to different dimensions, to change the way this world is written, to save all of life." Once again, he waved another hand across his mask, this time slowly, meticulously. Mr. Amamiya's presence changed again and it felt as if he was judging her entire existence and would erase her if he felt she was unworthy. "However," Even his voice changed, and Hermione felt a shiver go down her spine. "Your life will be in peril. There may be several times where one wrong step will result in your death. What is your choice?"
She felt like it was hard to breathe. Hermione's first and loudest thought was to ask for time to think it over, but her next thought was quiet. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The man that could ride a unicorn was giving her the option to grow strong enough to save all of life. She had no idea what to say, what to do in this situation. "Why?" she felt her mouth ask without her even thinking it. Her body was shaking.
"Hm?" Dumbledore asked in response. She paid him no mind, for once ignoring the Headmaster's presence. How could she not, when Mr. Amamiya was staring at her. Hermione asked louder, words just spilling out of her mouth.
"Why me? Why give this third option to me?" She shook her head and stared the man that radiated enough power to extinguish her life in an instant in the eye. "What makes me so special!?"
"I can see it." Mr. Amamiya's red eyes flashed bright enough that they could be glowing. She felt it the second his eyes flashed. He was staring at her soul. Judging. "I can see the potential in you." He… was deeming her worthy?
This took her by surprise. So did her response. "What do I have to do?" Mr. Amamiya smiled, and twirled around in a circle, his hand drifting across his mask. Suddenly, the pressure he held was gone, and in its place was a cocky grin.
"Will you accept the consequences of your actions? Will you take responsibility for your actions?" He seemed almost amused, before placing a piece of parchment on the table he was leaning on. His other hand suddenly held a deep blue muggle pen in it. "Will you sign?"
Determined to not lose her nerve, to keep this source of courage that overwrote her brain's thoughts, she accepted the pen and moved in front of the parchment. On it was the simple words: 'I _ do hereby state that I will take responsibility for my actions.'
She took a breath and signed her name in the blank. In a flash, the parchment and pen disappeared.
"So mote it be," Dumbledore spoke, signifying the end of a ritual as is the custom in the Wizarding World.
"What… just happened?" Hermione was able to get out. Before she could even really process anything, Headmaster Dumbledore handed her the same Time-Turner he mentioned earlier.
"You've made a step toward a new destiny for you. Mr. Amamiya will be your teacher from today onwards. You will meet with Mr. Amamiya on the seventh-floor corridor. Once he's done, you can use the Time-Turner and go to your classes. I'd say four turns should do it. Same for you, Mr. Amamiya." She saw her new teacher nod. "Remember this Ms. Granger, you can't tell anyone about this. Not Ms. McGonagall, not Mr. Potter, not Mr. Weasley, not even your parents. Using time travel is deemed exceedingly illegal by the Ministry of Magic. Once you're done with all your class, go talk to McGonagall for your basic schedule. All the core classes are the same, and because you are such good friends with Hagrid, I'll allow you to go to that class. Farewell. " With that, the Headmaster nodded at the two of them and left the room.
Three knocks sounded on the far wall, and Mr. Amamiya sprung into action. "We need to leave. Now." Hermione was confused but followed his retreating form. As she left the room, with her eyes on his back, she heard his voice behind her.
"Alright, we should leave back the way we first entered." He -and presumably herself- were behind them, maybe even in the room the whole time. Her own curiosity almost made her turn back. What was a paradox like? But she was far more intrigued by the man in front of her, how could such a being exist? To be able to wave a hand and change his entire aura? That pressure that he exerted was just… awesome. As she climbed up the stairs, she felt herself grin, and barely noticing him stop ahead of her. Her new teacher had placed his hand in front of her to stop her.
"Don't move." His voice was stern, and she listened to his order. "I'm not exactly sure how this works. Dumbledore wasn't exactly specific." He then stepped forward and started pacing left to right. After the third pass, a red door shifted into existence along the wall. "Huh. That's how. You see that?" Mr. Amamiya gestured to the door behind him.
Hermione nodded. "I see a red door if that's what you mean." His sternness faded, and he gave a grin.
"Enter. And Welcome to the Crimson Room."
Ren watched as his student- his student, man Sojiro and Kawakami would get a laugh out of that- entered the Crimson room. He had modeled it off of what Igor had told him this Wild Card's soul scape, but instead of everything having the signature color of deep blue, Ren decided to use its polar opposite. Since technically Ms. Granger wasn't allowed into the Velvet Room until she was seventeen - for some rule Igor has that he didn't understand - she might as well get used to the feeling of being in a different realm. "What is all this?" Ms. Granger asked.
"This, Ms. Granger, is modeled after the Velvet Room. A place between Dream and Reality, Mind and Matter." Ren entered into the room that the school itself made, taking it in for his own uses. It was still a wonder what all these people could do without godly powers, or a Persona, let alone a single room. "The Velvet Room is only available for certain people, called Guests. These Guests are full of potential. In fact, you will be the second youngest guest to ever enter into the Velvet Room at the age of seventeen, as we are quite literally throwing you in the second you come of age."
"Throwing me in!?"
"Of your own free will of course. You did sign the contract after all."
"What kind of contract is that anyway? 'Take responsibility for your actions'? That's incredibly vague. And what is this Velvet Room supposed to be anyway? You said it was for guests, but what does the Room do? Why are you throwing me into it the second I come of age? What am -" And she's ranting. Ren swiped a hand across his mask, feeling the changing of Personas overtake him. Gone was Calm and Peaceful Unicorn. Replacing it was the Vengeful Lord of the Flies. Beelzebub.
"Makajam!" Ren only touched his mask, not removing it to fully summon Beelzebub and horrify the girl. Her mouth kept moving, and her expression turned to shock as she noticed the lack of sound. "May I speak now?" Ms. Granger nodded, her face red with embarrassment. Ren swiped his hand over his mask again, once more calling Unicorn to the forefront of his mind. "Allow me to show you in a moment. First, let's fix you up. Salvation!" Once again, he didn't remove the mask, just allowing the healing wave cover both him and his student. He heard her audibly gasp.
"Y-your doing Wandless Magic!" She spoke, awe dripping from her voice. "I knew you were special from riding the Unicorn but to be able to perform wandless magic as well!? You might be the next coming of Merlin!"
Ren tilted his head. "Like the story? With King Arthur and Camelot? He's real?" Ms. Granger nodded in affirmation. "Wow. That's a shock."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Amamiya, but are you a Muggle-born like me?" Ren rose an eyebrow.
"That's what magic people here call people with no magic. Muggles. When a person with magic is born from them, that child is called a Muggle-born."
"Oh. Uh, no I'm not a Muggle-born then. I'm a muggle I guess. No magic here. Well, not from me anyway."
His student looked exceedingly confused. "But how-"
"Here, as I said earlier, let me show you." Ren walked into the center of the room, swiping a hand across his mask again. Of all the Persona changes, this one was always a shock to his system. "You might want to stand back a bit." He suggested, before closing his eyes. It had been a while before he actually summoned his True Self. Ren spun around, gripping his mask with one hand. He felt the power surging inside him, and the area of the Crimson Room itself seemed to struggle with the sudden build-up of power. "COME TO ME!" Joker tried to remove his mask with one hand, and it didn't budge. The mask needed to come off. It was disgusting, trying to hide him beneath it. Ren brought his other hand to his mask and tugged. He must be free. He. Must. Be. Free. HE. MUST. BE. FREE. The mask finally began to pull away, taking his skin with it. It had been too long since he was able to feel fresh air against his face. Far too long. Any amount of time hiding behind that awful mask was too long. "SATANAEL!" The mask came off, blood pouring down his face. He faintly heard a scream, before the sound was snuffed out by power. He felt the power explode from his eyes and encompass his own body, before finally leaving him. Ren heard the fire of his soul crackle in his ears before fading away. He felt lighter. He felt pure. He felt free.
When Ren looked at his student, he saw her against the far wall with fallen books all around her. She was staring upwards and having trouble holding herself up. "I… is t-that…"
Joker smiled at her. "That is the bringer of Freewill and Chaos. Satanael. He is my True Self. My Awakened Persona." He felt nigh unstoppable with Satanael at his side, with him naturally resisting everything, absorbing Curses, and Reflecting Bless attacks. Satanael, sensing the lack of threat upon the summoning, simply faded back into Ren. Once Satanael was settled back in Joker's mask appeared on his face, where he swiped over it to bring Unicorn back to him as it had the least intimidating presence. "And that is what you signed up for." He almost sighed as she fainted. "I knew I should've used Uriel."
When Hermione awoke, she was lying on a red lounge chair with her head propped up. Mr. Amamiya was sitting across from her, reading a large tome. "What happened?" She asked as she regained her bearings.
"What do you remember?" He asked in return.
It took a few seconds for her to think, but it came to her easily. The sheer pressure he exerted as he summoned a massive Deity that he called his True Self. "A-are you really Satanael?" She asked, which made all the sense in the world because of course, a Unicorn would let a being that predated it by Millenia, that worked with its - and hers, she realized -creator ride on it regardless of purity. And with how easily she was swayed by his very presence to sign that contract. "D-did I just sell my soul to the devil?" She questioned quietly herself, only to have Mr. Amamiya laugh heartily.
"I've never been called that before." He mused, before staring at her. "I will now answer the questions you had earlier." Hermione sat up and stared at what she assumed was the First Fallen Angel told of for thousands of years. "For your first two questions, yes the contract is incredibly vague, yet very specific at the same time. Everything you do, you must take responsibility for. Whether it be what you chose to eat, what you where, who you talk to, who you love or who you kill - as long as you take responsibility for it - the Velvet Room will support you. For your next two questions, the Velvet Room exists as Humanities last Defense. The short and simple for it is that two Gods, Philemon and Nyarlathotep made a bet. One said Humanity will rise above itself, and the other one said it would destroy itself. Nyarlathotep has done a lot to destroy this world, while Philemon has done a lot to save it. However, after an incident that nearly caused the world to explode because of them fighting, the two stepped back and each left something to do their bidding. For Philemon, he left the Velvet Room. For Nyarlathotep, he left Erebus. The Velvet Room is able to assist Wild Cards -like myself- to end up fighting a threat that is causing Erebus to grow stronger. And for your Final Question, why you. You, Ms. Granger, are the only Wild Card in this Universe. Right now, you are the only hope for this world." Hermione was rapidly absorbing all this information, before stopping.
"Wait… I… I can't be the… the only hope for this world. There are so many other stronger people than me. I can count on one hand at least four people stronger than me."
"Strength isn't everything. Name them, and I'll tell you why they don't qualify."
"His Journey is over." Mr. Amamiya cut her off. "He was a Persona User that fought against Grindelwald and Hitler." That surprised her.
"Ah, the Temperance. While she holds no potential for a Persona, she would be a considerable ally for you." Hermione assumed that meant something important for later that she would have to deal with.
"Harry Potter?" She offered out, less confident than before.
Mr. Amamiya sighed. "That boy… Vexes me. His Arcana is wrong. It keeps rapidly alternating between Fool and Death. I've only heard of one other person that alternated arcana like that." He trailed off. "It… would be bad, if not fixed."
Now she was almost desperate. "You!?" Mr. Amamiya smiled at her.
"I'm here to train you, of course." She felt her eye twitch. "Besides, this Universe isn't even mine. Shouldn't this Universe's residents take care of their own Universe?"
"I mean, yes, they should-"
"So since you are the most capable, you should do it."
"But I'm NOT." She shouted, because why couldn't he understand? She was smart, but she was not brave enough, not strong enough to save her entire universe.
"Yet." What? "You might not be ready. You might not be strong enough. You might not be smart enough. But that's what I'm here for. You don't need to worry about this for years, Ms. Granger. I only had eight months."
"Eight!? How did you possibly get this strong in eight months!?"
Mr. Amamiya shrugged. "Necessity. In fact, the two Wild Cards before me have had about the same amount of time. You're lucky to have three years to train before that." That took some of her tensenesses away. "But, we should start now. You'll have to go back in time to go to your classes."
Hermione took a deep breath. "Not really no."
Mr. Amamiya smiled. "Good. I'd be surprised if you said yes. Now, Ms. Granger, I have an important question to ask you."
"W-what is it?"
"What's your first name?" Hermione sighed.
"That's your important question? Really?"
Her teacher rubbed the back of his head. "Yeah."
She giggled at the sheer absurdity of the situation. "My name is Hermione Granger."
He seemed embarrassed. "Is… it okay to call you Hermione?"
"Yes, Mr. Amamiya, you can call me Hermione."
Mr. Amamiya sighed in relief. "Thanks. I've never been good with formalities. Please, call me Ren."
Hermione smiled. "I'll try, Mr. Amamiya." Ren deflated, saddened by her lack of attempt.
"Well, Hermione, this first day has been mostly just a letting you know kinda thing. We should probably break early so we have time to get you to where you need to be. The class I'm watching over today is Care of Magical Creatures. If you have that today, I'll see you there. Now, take us back in time." She nodded to her teacher's instructions and pulled out the Time-Turner the Headmaster gave her. Hermione wrapped the necklace around her and turned the knob four times per Dumbledore's advice. As she let the knob on the turner go, the turner began rapidly spinning and felt the area around her shift. She watched as she saw herself and Ren split away from her and go towards where she was laying, before watching herself be picked up from the red lounge chair and placed her against the wall she collapsed at. She took a moment to look up where Ren's body moved too and watched as Satanael ripped its way out of him and showed his form that she was able to take in. For a split second, the Personas head turned toward her and stared at the time-traveling form of her and Ren. Afterward, Satanael went back into her teacher, and she watched as she questioned her teacher and watched as they left the room. After a few seconds, the aura around the two vanished and Hermione heard Ren take a breath. "That was intense."
Her own breath was shaky. "Yeah. We should go." She removed the necklace around his neck and hid the turner under her own shirt. They exited the room and began making their way down to the antechamber of the Great Hall. "You never answered my question earlier, you know."
"Hm?" Came Mr. Amamiya. "Which one?"
"Are you actually Satanael?"
"I… don't think so. I hope I'm me. Ren Amamiya. Joker of the Phantom Thieves. I'd rather not have myself be erased. I'll have to ask the Master of the Velvet Room, see if he has any answers." Hermione hummed as a response. They reached a bookcase, and Ren pulled her behind it. "We hide here." He spoke softly and seemed to merge into the shadow that the bookcase cast.
No sooner did he blend in with the shadows did she hear the door open. Their talk went exactly as she remembered and felt the familiar pressure of Mr. Amamiya switching to Satanael. Soon they heard Dumbledore leave, and shortly afterward, Ren knocked on the bookcase three times.
"Alright, we should leave the way we came," Ren said as the door shut, popping out of the shadows. "Remember, as of right now, you can't tell anyone about this. Make up any excuse you can. If anyone asks me, I will deny it. I'll see you tomorrow in the Crimson Room." He didn't wait for a response before he left the room, and she shortly followed. As Hermione sat down next to Harry, her two friends started asking immediately.
"What did you get called for?"
"Are you alright?"
"What's your schedule?"
Hermione put up hands in front of both Harry and Ron to stop the tirade of questions. "Today I will go with you both for our core classes and Care of Magical Creatures. After that, I need to talk to McGonagall again and figure it out."
The two seemed to take that answer and ate the rest of their breakfast in peace. Hermione sighed before making herself a plate. It was going to be a long school year.