Chapter One: Trains & Changes
The shrill ringing of the alarm clock burst into song, but this time, Hermione barely minded. Turning over, she stretched and smiled. September first, the day she had been counting down to since her holiday began. She would finally get to see Hogwarts and her friends again. She showered and changed, before checking to see that she had packed everything. Her mother and father drove her to Kings Cross Station and left her with hugs and kisses and a promise of letters. Drawing in a deep breath, she closed her eyes and plunged through the dividing barrier between her two worlds. She'd been here six times before, but the sight of the shining Hogwarts Express never failed to steal her breath away. She looked around eagerly for Harry and Ron, but found it wasn't quite hard to spot them. Even if they hadn't been bounding toward her, she could have picked out that mop of red hair anywhere.
"Ron! Harry!" she exclaimed, catching each in a hug. Harry stepped back, allowing a more intimate embrace between the other two. Hermione and Ron had been together since the summer after fifth year, and it always brought a smile to Harry's face when he saw just how happy they were together. Not to mention when she wasn't around, Ron wouldn't stop talking about her.
"How are you?" Harry asked. Hermione smiled. Ron wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her closer while she and Harry talked a little while longer.
"I missed you, baby," he whispered in her ear. Blushing, Hermione kissed his cheek.
"I missed you, too." The train's whistle sounded, and everyone left on the platform rushed to find a compartment. Harry and Ron loaded Hermione's luggage, amid her complaints that she could have done it herself, thank you very much. The managed to seek out an empty compartment near the back of the train, and settled in.
"You got Head Girl!" Ron exclaimed. Hermione nodded, unable to respond for the grin on her face. Ron cheered, picking Hermione up and spinning her around. He placed her back on her feet, kissing her. Harry rolled his eyes.
"C'mon, its not like anyone could have competed with her. She's the smartest girl around. Besides…" Harry paused, realizing his friends had stopped caring he existed. "Oh, bloody hell," he mumbled. "Get a room!" Ron looked up, grinning, and Hermione blushed. Ron winked at her, and grabbed her hand. Leading her outside, Ron pulled her along the corridor, stopping every so often to listen in on a door. Hermione felt her heart thumping as Ron pushed a door open.
Much to everyone's chagrin, it wasn't empty, and a half naked Draco Malfoy was it's occupant. Ron choked, causing Draco to turn around at the noise. Hermione stared. His surprisingly well-muscled figure was bruised and scratched, with a long diagonal slash down his stomach. Blushing, she looked away, her mind reeling.
"What do you want?" Draco asked, his voice cold and his eyes merciless. Ron shivered slightly.
"We were…um…well, you see…we're…" he stammered, unable to grasp the words in time to think up a lie. Draco sighed.
"Yeah, I get it, Weasley." He picked up his shirt, pulled it on, and grabbed his bag. On the way out the door, Ron jabbed his elbow into Malfoy's wounded stomach. He winced, agony lining his features, but kept going after only a moment's pause. Ron chuckled at his momentary victory and walked inside. Hermione sighed and sat down.
"What's wrong?" Ron asked, sitting next to her and placing what appeared to be a consoling hand on her leg. Hermione shook her head.
"I don't know, just something about Malfoy." Hermione knew that Ron and Harry would never understand their relationship. It was weird, how four years ago she had slapped him so hard, her handprint had appeared, and just eleven months ago they'd been smiling as they passed in the hallway. Dumbledore had had a special assignment issued for the best students in each house, and when Draco had shown up for the meeting, Hermione's whole outlook on him had changed. In those few months, they'd worked together, and silently agreed not to think of all those other times when they'd made each other's lives hell. When the project ended, so did their friendly conversations, but the insults had stopped and lessened on Harry and Ron. She couldn't tell them what had happened, but how was she supposed to be with Ron when her mind was reeling about Draco?
"Oh, come on, Hermione!" Ron cried. "This is Malfoy! Bouncing Ferret Extraordinaire! Why shouldn't you take small joy in knowing he got his arse kicked?" Hermione sighed again, shaking her head. Boys were so insensitive. Ron rolled his eyes. "I guess this means I'm not getting any?"
"Exactly," Hermione replied. Usually, she'd have laughed at this, but now it made her sick. "Ron, why can't you see past the fact that he used to be a total wanker and move on?"
"Because he's still a total wanker," Ron replied very matter-of-factly. Hermione shook her head. "What? I'm supposed to love the guy now, just cause he's injured? Yeah fucking right, Hermione. That will never happen."
"Of course it won't Ron. How stupid of me to assume that you've matured in the past seven years." Her voice was dripping with sarcasm.
"Oh, real nice," Ron spat. "Stick up for him against your own boyfriend. Hermione, sometimes I wonder if you really love me." Hermione's jaw dropped, the comment rendering her speechless. Ron glared at her, stood up, and walked out, letting the door bang close behind him. She sat their for a moment or two, wondering, hoping, knowing that he wouldn't come back.
Draco had been wandering the corridor, knowing that he had absolutely no place to go now. Stupid of him, to give up his compartment. Now he was stranded outside, and was a perfectly placed target for any of the comments or spats he knew would be coming. Stupid decision after stupid decision, but Draco couldn't help following his heart. That's why he'd run like that. Why he'd endured all that pain, those beatings, the curses. He sank down to the floor at the back of the train after buying a cup of tea from the snack cart witch. He stared into the liquid, watching the milk swirl around. It wasn't until he heard the slam of a door that he looked up. Ron was stalking down the hallway, and Draco prayed it wasn't for him. He was tired, he didn't want any trouble. But with Weasley, you just never knew. Fortunately, Ron went into a nearby compartment. Draco watched, thinking that maybe Hermione would follow. Puzzled when she hadn't come out after a few minutes, Draco went back to his room.
Hermione was sitting, huddled on her seat. Her eyes were glassy when she looked up at him. Draco's heart broke. She'd looked at him with such hope. She thought I was Ron, Draco thought. He sat down across from her, but she looked away.
"Want some tea?" he offered. She shook her head. "It's good tea, and I promise I didn't spit in it." Hermione smiled slightly and accepted the cup. She took a sip and looked out the window. "Are you going to tell me what's wrong?" he asked quietly.
"Ron," she whispered after a pause. "He just said something."
"Oh," Draco nodded, knowing not to prod. She looked at him with her sad, brown eyes.
"Thanks for the tea," she said, handing it back. He pushed her hand away.
"Keep it," he smiled. Hermione shook her head, her lips hinting upward and she left. Draco watched out the window, the now familiar landscape staring back. He'd wanted her to stay, so maybe they could have talked like they used to. He knew she'd understand why he'd run away like that. But no, he couldn't ask her to do that. She was already on thin ice with Weasley, it seemed, and if she and him started talking again…well, that wouldn't go over well. He sighed, running a hand through his lengthening hair. It seemed as if he was in quite a predicament.
Hermione had decided not to return to her compartment. She wanted to apologize to Ron, but decided to let him cool off a little first. Instead, she went to Lavender's compartment. Lavender smiled softly, and immediately accepted her. Hermione had always felt like she never had to say anything to Lavender for her to understand. They sat and talked with the Patil twins, who were also present, until it was time to change for Hogwarts. They filed out of the train into the rain that had begun to fall, still talking and gossiping. McGonagall sought out Hermione and took her to a carriage set aside for the Head Students. She sat down, smoothing out her robe. She was actually quite excited about moving out of Gryffindor tower and into her own set of rooms. Dumbledore had hinted last year during their project that it was going to be used to choose the heads. Hermione was certain Justin Finch-Fletchley from Hufflepuff was going to be Head Boy. He was nice enough, so she figured she wouldn't have to worry about sharing a dormitory with him. Content with dreaming about the upcoming year, she hardly noticed when another someone stepped into the carriage and sat opposite her. When Hermione finally looked around, her throat closed over any possible words, conveniently making it hard for her to breath. Draco smiled, raising his eyebrow in that annoyingly knowing way. She turned away quickly, her heart racing. This was not going to work.
Author's Note: First chapter of the revision. Let me know what you think. Thanks to Chevi for beta-ing this for me. She's an angel.
p.s. 'Fucking' isn't a commonly used word in the UK. Says Geoff the Pretty Much Brit, "I've heard "effin'" a lot, but "fookin'" or "feckin'" is also very common. If it's spoken, "fookin" or "fockin" is easy and common."