Disclaimer:- I neither own nor own anything from this story. My plot is my own but the world of Harry Potter is the intellectual property of JK Rowling and associates.

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A/N:- Big thank you to my beta, Golden Asp, for her work on this chapter. This is my next big project, and it will run alongside 'A Traditional Lady Malfoy', as well as 'Master of Hogwarts', however that story will be a lot shorter than this or Traditional Lady. I will post it on both and AO3, but the fanfiction version will be edited to remain under the M rating. On AO3 this story will be a firm explicit rating. Please enjoy.

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Chapter One – Coming Back To Hogwarts

The golden trio strode confidently into the Great Hall of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry three abreast, looking around at the changes and improvements since the war ended as they walked. It was only when they stopped that they became aware that they were being greeted by instant silence.

"Well, isn't this awkward?" Hermione Granger muttered under her breath, bringing her sunglasses up to perch on her head now she was inside. She looked far more confident than she actually felt, but at present appearances were all that counted really.

"It'll be right, 'Mione," Ron encouraged.

"Yeah," Harry replied on her other side, as the boys performed the same ritual with their eye protection.

After the dust had settled from the war, Hermione and Harry had gone travelling, and they had only returned to England now because the school had finally reopened.

Ron had quickly settled back in England, although he had initially accompanied his friends. He'd only been gone a few months when he'd said he'd had a letter from home, and he was needed to help George in the shop. Although, Hermione had wondered at this at the time.

He'd promised to catch up with them somewhere along the way, but once he was home without them he'd discovered that he was instantly famous. As the only remaining member of their number in England he'd apparently been revelling in the delights of the witches who constantly seemed to be throwing themselves at him.

As they stood here now at the entrance to The Great Hall at Hogwarts, seeming to be the centre of attention, Hermione realised why she hadn't wanted to return, now that utter silence enveloped the hall. It was the first time people had seen the three of them together in almost two years, and Hermione had forgotten just how intrigued British wizards and witches were with them.

They did look good, all in their own ways. Both the boys were head and shoulders over Hermione, even in her high-heeled pumps, and all three of them were lean, well-muscled and literally glowing with health.

Hermione had chosen to leave her hair loose today, only catching the sides of her curly mane in a clip at the back of her head. Her strapless red sundress had a tight bodice which showed off her figure before the skirt flared out from the waist, finishing mid-thigh. There were big brown buttons down the front and a thick whitish coloured belt around the middle and her bare shoulders were covered by a black, waist length denim jacket.

Harry had dispensed with his glasses; he'd had laser eye surgery to correct his vision and cosmetic surgery to remove his scar. His hair was short at the back with a longish fringe, and his face was covered in designer stubble, completing his ruggedly handsome look.

Ron was the taller of the two young men and his hair was a shaggy mane that was mainly caught up into a pony tail that extended down past his shoulder blades. He had one ear pierced and a dragon's tooth ear ring hanging from it like his brother.

The boys were total opposites in dress and style, and while they were both wearing jeans, Harry's were well fitted and complimented his crisp white shirt and thigh length leather jacket, while Ron on the other hand, wore tight jeans and a fitted olive coloured long sleeved tee with open buttons at the neck that showed off his trim condition.

The three of them walked forward to the headmistress. "We're sorry we're late, ma'am. We had some issues at the Portkey office," Harry said quietly.

McGonagall nodded and kept going with her talk while they sat down.

The issues that Harry had spoken of and the silence they had endured on arrival were some of the reasons that he and Hermione had not returned to England sooner. Well, they had returned several times before today - for family birthdays, once when Arthur had been promoted at work and on the occasion of Charlie's marriage to Gavin, a fellow dragon keeper.

The fact of the matter was that they were just too much of a curiosity for people. They had both tried to date people in England after the war, but all of them found that people were only interested in the notoriety of having bedded a war hero—especially in Hermione's case—so they had left England, thinking that it would all settle down after a time.

Now, as she sat in the Great Hall at Hogwarts listening to the headmistress, Hermione wondered if that was really the case as she quietly started to observe the people who had returned for the so-called eighth year. In the time that had elapsed since the end of the war, most people had moved on, either going to another school, finding a way around their lack of NEWT results, or doing something that didn't require them.

Neville fell into this category. Professor Sprout had accepted him as her apprentice, and he had been training to take over her position ever since the war. He only had one more year—this year—to go before he was going to be the Herbology professor, and he wasn't here today; it was only the headmistress here this afternoon.

Susan Bones and Terry Boot were sitting next to the Patil sisters, and then Hannah Abbott, Lavender Brown, Ron and Seamus Finnigan were next in line. After that there were two students that Hermione didn't recognise, but they were sitting with Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood, and they seemed to know them, so perhaps they'd been in their year.

She mentally shrugged. She guessed that there were bound to be people coming out of the woodwork that she didn't know. Not everyone sent their children to Hogwarts, especially under the political climate of two years ago. Two years, she considered. It's a long time to wait to finish school, and as she thought this she noted Ginny glaring at her. Well, nothing new there then, she thought. She still thinks that Harry and I are doing things we're not.

Harry had ignored her offer for him to sit beside her when he'd arrived, and he'd sat next to Hermione instead, and Hermione now considered that the redhead was bound to cause her trouble sometime soon.

Hermione sighed and looked away again. The chairs were arranged in an arc around the dais where the headmistress was speaking, and the Gryffindor witch was on the extreme end, so she was easily able to see everyone. She glanced to the other side of her to check out the Slytherins, also noting the gap where no one was sitting. For some reason this incensed her. Had nothing changed? She focused on that gap intently, and she had the urge to go and close it by sitting there. Then she glanced around and saw that most Gryffindors were resolutely ignoring the existence of the Slytherins and vice versa, and she sighed.

She was hoping that neither side would start making trouble; she didn't know how she would handle that. She'd left a very pleasant life to come back to school. They'd all put their lives on hold to do this, and being an adult and still in school was going to be awkward enough without any of them making it more unbearable.

It was then that her eyes slipped to the person occupying the chair next to the empty one and what her eyes found made her gasp softly. Draco Malfoy had matured well since she'd last seen him. Even though he was sitting, she guessed he would be as tall as his father and apart from several softer aspects—obviously due to his mother's influence—he was the double of what she suspected a young Lucius would have looked like.

He was dressed in a similar manner to Harry, except he was wearing black dress trousers instead of jeans, and he simply oozed cool sophistication. Hermione found herself a little entranced by him. He was a blond Adonis, but not a patch on his father, and she wondered if he knew that his father had saved her life twice before the end of the war.

He was sitting with a very possessive looking blonde hanging on his arm. He's obviously attached, Hermione thought. Then she noted that he looked extremely uncomfortable with the attentions of the blonde beside him, and she considered that he might not be willingly entangled with her.

She wondered how Lucius was. He most certain was not the cold-hearted Death Eater she'd thought him to be, and this made him wonder about Draco too, but finally, her eyes moved passed him from face to face, and she was surprised to see that only some of them looked as she remembered.

Millicent Bulstrode was just as butch as ever, Pansy Parkinson and Theodore Nott just as sullen, but then she realised that the Slytherins appeared to be split in two factions. Interesting, she thought.

Blaise Zabini and Draco Malfoy were sitting together with Daphne Greengrass and the girl on Draco's arm who Hermione thought was Daphne's sister, and as her eyes panned back through them, and yes, she confirmed, the Slytherins appeared to be aligned into two groups. Her eyes slid past Greg Goyle on the way to her back to Malfoy.

As if feeling someone watching him, his slate-grey eyes rose to meet her curious amber-flecked gaze, and the sight that met her eyes was an irritated young man of sophisticated sexuality, but as he looked at Hermione his brow relaxed slightly, and he casually cocked a pale eyebrow at her before glancing quickly at the witch beside him and then looking back to McGonagall.

To her horror Hermione blushed and squirmed in her seat, earning her a whispered comment from Harry.

"Hermione?" he murmured in her ear. Apparently the exchange had not gone unnoticed.

"What?" she replied innocently, looking back to McGonagall.

He chuckled quietly, and leant closer to her ear, whispering, "Why are you staring at Slytherins?"

This made her snicker gently and comment, "I'm just seeing who's who," she replied, and she glanced at him, before shrugging and whispering, "That's all."

Harry scoffed quietly at her and turned his attention back to McGonagall too. Hermione snuck a glance at Ron who had been gobbled up by Lavender and Parvati as soon as he'd arrived, and she wondered again what was behind the peck on the lips he'd given her at the Portkey Office; it had not been a very welcome development. She had hoped by now that he would have given up on any thought that she entertained anything more than friendship for him.

She'd set Ron straight after their kiss in The Chamber of Secrets before The Final Battle, but every once in a while he still tried it on, and she sighed and attempted to concentrate on McGonagall again. Men! she thought, are they really worth the trouble? She exhaled, returning her attention to the headmistress. Of course, that was when her brain considered that there was one man she thought was worth it, a Slytherin even more forbidden than Malfoy would be.

She took a deep breath. She'd had such a crush on him, regardless of how he'd treated her during her previous time here. Hermione had always believed that there was a decent person caught under the persona that Severus Snape had projected during the war. Then she remembered how long it had been since she'd seen him. It seemed like so long ago, but with her thoughts she felt the familiar guilt flood her.

Her thoughts swam in her head. How could she have not even checked that he was still alive after he'd given Harry his memories that day? How could she have left him like that? She was a better person than that, and he must have been alive, because he survived the experience. How could she not have summoned help for him? She should have at least checked to see, done something.

She glanced at Harry as she felt her throat starting to constrict. No! she thought. No, think of something else. His reaction to her checking out the Slytherins had been rather tame. Harry really had grown up since they'd left England and he'd not had belligerent relatives to deal with or a mad man in his head constantly taunting him. Her eyes flitted to Ron as she thought about it, something had happened between them to cause Ron to flee, she was certain of it. She suspected she knew what it had been, but… she sighed.

Of course, none of this was even mentioning the Ginny debacle. After the war, Ginny Weasley had laid claim to Harry, except Harry hadn't wanted to rekindle their romance, and Ginny had not taken it well. Hermione sighed to herself. If there was one thing she knew for certain, it was that Harry Potter was not going to marry and produce a Quidditch team. She knew he had other plans, and she knew that because he'd told her. Harry was like the brother she'd never had, and she loved him dearly.

Besides the heroic Gryffindor types were just not her cup of tea, most of them were far too focused on themselves. Ron came to mind in this latter category. As she thought this she glanced back at Malfoy and Zabini, and thought of another Slytherin; now sensual Slytherins they were more her style. Even thought she'd never been with a Slytherin, she'd often thought about what it might be like. I really like then, she thought. I want to discover what makes them different.

Then she scolded herself. This year was a concession to those displaced persons who had not completed their NEWTs two years ago because of the war. It was not an excuse to get all hot and heavy with anyone.

The fact that the headmistress was going to so much trouble with this pre-term get together today shamed her into listening again. They were the only ones who had arrived today, so they could settle in before the remainder of the students came tomorrow, but then in some neglected corner of Hermione's brain, she wondered if today was actually aimed at seeing if they all killed each other on sight, thereby solving the headmistress' problem for her.

The headmistress drew a long breath and Hermione paid more attention again.

"Now the last thing I will tell you before you go to settle in, is that this year is an opportunity, and you are all adults. I will not be pleased if I have to deal with any lingering unpleasantness." Her astute gaze levelled on each of them. "I intend to treat you all as the adults you are, and you will be allowed to come and go as you please, but I expect decorum at all times and respect towards each other as well as your teachers. Tonight's dinner will be a social event between you and those teachers, so, welcome to Hogwarts, and I will see you all back here at six thirty."

xox

Hermione was just preparing to leave and ensconce herself within their accommodation until dinner time. She wanted to get away from other people to think through what suddenly seemed so urgent in her mind about her rekindled—and definitely illicit—interest in a certain wizard. However Professor McGonagall called after her.

"Hermione."

Hermione turned and waited when she saw the headmistress coming towards her. "Yes, ma'am?" she asked. She'd always liked her head of house, but of course she was now the headmistress, but then her mind wondered what Professor Snape thought about that. It must be terribly awkward for him being back here and not being the headmaster.

"It's good to see you," Minerva said, as she came closer.

"Thank you, it's good to be back," Hermione answered. However, her voice did not sound as convinced of that as she'd have liked it to, and she was actually wondering if it was a good thing.

"Would you walk with me, please?" the austere witch asked.

"Certainly," Hermione replied, distractedly glancing around at the different groups of her peers. Hermione was well aware that Ron's sister was still glaring at her, and she was dreading the thought of sharing accommodation with her.

"I have a proposition for you that I'm hoping will make things slightly easier for you," McGonagall said, bringing Hermione's attention back to her.

"You have, ma'am?"

"Hermione, I'm certain you will be seen as something of a beacon to the other students."

"I will, ma'am?" and images of her alter ego dancing in the club in Germany floated through Hermione's mind, and she wanted to laugh. She projected up tight perfection here in England—it was how she'd been always seen—but while she'd been away she'd discovered an entirely different side to herself. She glanced at McGonagall, her thoughts hidden.

"Yes, and I am hoping that you might consider being one of my inaugural student welfare representatives. It would be more than a simple prefect's role, and it would entitle you to private lodgings just like the head girl and boy have." She watched Hermione for some moments ignoring that look of shocked despair that passed over the young witch's countenance.

Hermione was silent, having just realised with the headmistress' words that she was going to be denied the honour of being head girl. It was one of the reasons she had decided to wait to come back to Hogwarts and had not simply attended The Salem Institute or Beauxbatons two years ago, like so many other Hogwarts students had while the school had been closed for rebuilding.

This was like a full force blow hitting her, she wasn't going to be head girl. She invented so many reasons why she had not heard about the position, but now reality crashed down over her. She had wasted two years of her life waiting while the Ministry fluffed around getting Hogwarts back up and running. She could have been a year into her first degree at university by now. There were people younger than her completing their qualifications, but she had waited like the rest of those present today for her old alma mater to reopen, thinking that it was important to finish at Hogwarts.

Countless people were making do with no NEWT levels, but she had wanted her NEWT levels. She had wanted to be head girl, to finally finish off her studentship at Hogwarts how she thought she should have. Through her disappointment, she saw Minerva watching her, and she realised that she was waiting for a response, and Hermione put on a brave face. "Oh… Thank you, ma'am. Of course, I'll assist in any way that I can," she stated with mock excitement.

She fought with herself to stay rational as all of these thoughts screamed at her, and she breathed in and out deliberately taking air in and out of her lungs to keep her mind calm. However, her attention was taken by the fact that when they started walking again, they were heading towards the library, and this seemed to overcome her minds intentions for her.

"Good," Minerva replied, obviously ignoring the breathy falseness and the actual distress in Hermione's voice. "It is fair to say that you and your male counterpart, would—under normal circumstances—have been head girl and boy, but this position will see you working with the heads and the prefects. You are both adults, so neither of you are subject to the same school rules as the others. The role you will play will be almost like a teacher's aids, as you guide those younger students who have been placed in positions of authority." Having said this the headmistress continued without even bothering to consider Hermione's perspective. "It was decided that the head girl and boy should come from seventh year students as it always has."

"I understand, Ma'am," Hermione said, even as she felt a fresh surge of anger flood her for what she given up and been denied because of the war.

"Do you? Good," McGonagall said distractedly. "Well, here we are."

Hermione had been so caught up in her thoughts that she'd lost track of where they were. She quickly glanced around, and saw that they had stopped outside the library and were mounting the set of stairs that went up to the training grounds towers.

"There are several sets of living quarters, the training room, a classroom and an office up here in these small towers. I have allocated them to you and the wizard I have chosen for you to work with. Professor Snape will also be living and working up here."

Minerva heard Hermione's small gasp, and misinterpreted it as fear. "I doubt that you will even see him, as he has a separate entrance to his rooms, and much additional research and development space through there," and she pointed to a door on the other side of the small office she had ushered Hermione to the entrance of. "The only time you may bump into him is here as he enters or leaves. Even so, you are all adults, and I'm sure you can deal with it," she stated in an off-handed way.

"Yes, ma'am, I'm sure I'll be fine," she offered, realising what the headmistress had thought when she'd gasped, but now her mind was trying to fathom why Professor Snape had consented to live so close to two students.

"I'm certain you will. Now, I've spoken to the young man in question before you arrived, and both tonight and tomorrow at the feast I will inform the students that this is where they can find you if they need you," she stated.

Hermione nodded to the woman in the portrait on the door, dressed entirely in violet "Hello," she said, as she glanced sideways at the headmistress and couldn't help but notice that she had looked apprehensive before she'd tried to gain access, and intensely relieved when the door had opened.

"Miss Granger," the witch replied. "I'm pleased to meet you, I've heard so much about you from my friend. I'm Violet Tillyman."

"Oh," Hermione said, wondering who her friend was, but more curious about who her partner in this venture would be. "Who is the wizard you've chosen?" she asked, looking around the office.

"Draco Malfoy."

"Oh," Hermione replied.

The headmistress smiled. "The office is for all three of you, and the portrait will direct inquiries to the relevant person when people visit."

They went through the small office, without seeing that the professor's door had just shut, and Minerva opened a door on the opposite wall as Hermione nodded. "Through here is a living area," and she led the way.

It was strange circular room, and there were two doors up the side of the wall and stairs winding up passed each door to the top. "Yours is the top one," she continued. "Well, I'll leave you to settle in."

"Thank you, ma'am," Hermione said, closing the door that led to the office once the headmistress had walked out.

Hermione surveyed the room. There was a coffee and tea making area, and she smiled as her eyes trailed up the stairs to her blessed private room. This almost made up for not being head girl. She sighed, but it also posed more questions than it answered. She had been dreading having to share with the other witches this year, especially Ginny. She had grown too fond of having her own space, but living with Draco Malfoy, and adjacent to Professor Snape, how was that going to work?

Hurrying up the stairs, and closing the door on her own little domain she kicked her shoes off, and after wiggling her toes in the thick rug she padded softly to the window and opened it. Sighing as the sweet summer breeze caressed her face she leant on the stone of the window frame.

It felt both good and incredibly confronting to be here. She was finally getting on with her life, but at the same time she was putting it on hold to do this, and she resolved then and there that she would throw herself wholeheartedly into her studies and forget about men. She would most definitely not lust after a professor who would not thank her for it, or anyone else for that matter.

She was drawn from her thoughts be a whooshing sound and focusing off to the side she saw Harry, Ron and several others racing towards the Quidditch pitch on brooms. She smiled, but then tsked, "Well, isn't that just typical?" and then she laughed, "They're not here five minutes and they're playing Quidditch."

To her surprise though, she saw three Slytherins amongst the group. "Well, I guess they can play Quidditch together now they're all adults," she laughed and turned back into the room to look around more closely.

xox

Draco had to admit that he had been incredibly surprised when Potter suggested that they go and toss a quaffle around for a while. Not everyone had jumped at the idea, but if there's one thing I know, it's which people hold the most benefits. We have to move forward, we can't hold onto outdated ideas that have caused us all so much pain.

Well, I didn't expect Bulstrode or Nott to like the idea of playing nice with Gryffs. They went off with their noses in the air. I don't think Granger heard what was going on, she was leaving like there was a fire in her tail feathers when McGonagall caught up with her. Beside she doesn't seem to fly well, and of course that's the reason I jumped at the chance so quickly. Astoria doesn't fly either, and it needed to get the bitch off my case long enough to make my escape. I am not going to marry that pureblooded bigot! No matter what her father says.