Here's chapter 3 dear readers, hope you like it. In this one Hermione's feelings will start showing, though she doesn't know it yet. By the way, she doesn't know she likes girls now, she'll find out that detail about herself later on in the story. Enjoy :)

Chapter 3

Hermione had never been one to picture the future. With the war at their heels and death at every corner, she had learned to accept whatever happened, and wave it off as normal. So now, entering Hogwarts' Great Hall along with four Slytherins, she didn't feel an ounce of awkwardness, although the looks their little group received weren't easy to ignore. They entered the vast Hall with its enchanted ceiling and the four long House tables, and Hermione felt at home despite the circumstances. The five of them walked a little to the side, so they could talk without blocking the entrance.

"So... see you tomorrow?" Hermione said nervously. She really hoped they could stay friendly as she had enjoyed the ride greatly.

"Of course" Theo laughed. "I need to hear that about punching Draco from your point of view again."

"I need a live reenactment with the original characters" Pansy smirked.

"Who punched you in the face, Malfoy? I want to send them flowers" Blaise mocked.

"Ha ha" Draco looked at them with the dirtiest glare he could muster while they laughed at his expense.

"Let's go" Theo said finally. "It's almost full, they're going to stare even more."

Hermione watched them walk over to the Slytherin table, sitting at the end closer to the other tables. Summoning all of her Gryffindor courage, she strode over to the Gryffindor table, ignoring the whispers – no doubt about the fight by the carriage earlier. She spotted Harry in the middle of the table. Ginny was on his left side but the seat on his right was vacant; Ron was sitting opposite his sister, glaring at the wall. So the seat on Harry's right...

Hoping she was right, she walked over to them.

"Hey guys" she said.

"'Mione!" Harry stood up to hug her.

"We were worried you wouldn't come," Ginny said, throwing her brother a dirty look, "considering recent events."

"Nothing stands between me and you" she said firmly. Ron snorted.

"Sit then, and tell us how the Slytherins are as friends" Harry prompted. Smiling at his actual eagerness, Hermione sat down on his right, starting to talk about her new friends at once. She was soon interrupted by Professor Flitwick, leading the first-years in. Hermione quickly cut off her story, excited about welcoming the little witches and wizards.

When everyone had sat down after the Sorting, Professor McGonagall stood up, surveying them all with her green eyes.

"Welcome to another year at Hogwarts" she said. "It has been a hard summer, and even harder few years back in time, but tonight is all about fresh starts. I would like to thank all the people that came and helped me rebuild this castle – our home. To those who chose not to come – I thank you for saving it. Now I would like you to have a good time, you have deserved it. Have a nice year, all of you! Tuck in."

When she sat back down, the golden plates and bowls before them filled with delicious food. Everyone started piling their plates immediately and even Ron's face seemed to lighten up considerably. Hermione had never had a problem with food – her parents had both been excellent cooks, then the Hogwarts house-elves and Mrs Weasley, and this summer's occasional meals at Andy's. So she helped herself to a small amount of food and ate, looking around at the students. She saw a few familiar faces: Ernie Macmillan, Hannah Abbott, and Susan Bones from Hufflepuff; Anthony Goldstein and Terry Boot sat at the Ravenclaw table, eating and chatting happily; at the end of the Slytherin table she saw Draco and the others, talking and looking relaxed – Pansy seemed to have said a joke as all three boys were laughing; she looked down her own table and saw Seamus Finnegan's sandy-coloured head.

When the last pieces of pudding disappeared from the plates and everyone was full, Professor McGonagall stood up again.

"Now that we are all full," she said, smiling at them all, "I have a few announces to make. First of all, I'd like to introduce Professor Hestia Jones who will be your new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."

Said woman stood up, looking briefly at Harry, before sweeping the Hall with her eyes.

"She helped evacuate the Dursleys" he whispered, answering Hermione's silent question.

"And Professor Horace Slughorn remains here as Potions Master for the year until his new apprentice is ready to take over."

At this pause whispers filled the Great Hall. Hermione locked eyes with Harry at once. She knew he was thinking the same – who was Slughorn's apprentice?

"And lastly," Professor McGonagall said, drowning the whispers. "In the last few years Hogwarts has been divided. Now, as the Evil we fought is a mere shadow behind us, there should be no more division. As it is, you are still quite prejudiced. I know it will be hard. So I hope that our eighth-year students are going to give all of you a good example. They will not sleep in their Houses' Common rooms. They will have a dormitory to themselves and do not have to sit at a particular table. The latter goes for all of you. Let us forget all quarrels from the past and move on together.

Now it's time to go to sleep as you all need to be well rested for tomorrow's lessons. Off you go! Eighth-years after me, please."

The thirteen students that had decided to return stood up. Professor McGonagall was heading out of the Great Hall and they followed, navigating their way between the slowly rising students, who seemed to understand just then that they had been dismissed. In the Entrance Hall Draco caught up with Hermione, who was walking a tad closer to McGonagall than the others.

"Where do you think we'll be sleeping?" he whispered.

"Not in the dungeons, that's for sure" she replied as they started up the marble staircase. "Though they might give you a bed there if you ask nicely."

He scowled playfully and nudged her in the ribs.

"Here we are" Professor McGonagall said rather unexpectedly. They stood in front of a blank stone wall on the left side of the second floor.

"Union" the Headmistress said and a spot about three feet to her right opened to form an archway. "The entrance moves along the wall," the old witch explained, "You just need to enter this corridor and say the password and it will appear... somewhere."

"That's pretty Slytherin" Terry Boot said. To almost everyone's surprise Theo chuckled.

"Couldn't agree more."

With a small smile on her face, Professor McGonagall led the students into their new Common room. It was spacious, with a fireplace, and cushions of all sizes strewn all over the floor. The walls were a neutral creme colour, and the ceiling was white. There were two doors in the far two corners.

"Boys to the left," Professor McGonagall said, "girls to the right. You'll see your names listed on the dormitory doors. Any questions?"

No one said anything and she looked at them over her spectacles.

"I do hope you can forget your old squabbles. Goodnight."

And the Headmistress exited through the archway which had morphed into a door.

"Forget? Surely not."

Everyone turned to look at Ron.

"What?" he snapped and crossed the room, opening the door to the boys' dormitories and disappearing up a flight of stairs.

"I'll go up, sorry about that." Harry hurried away. "Merlin help us if he's listed with a Slytherin..."

A few moments passed in silence then Hermione decided to break it.

"Well, I just want to say I don't have a problem with Slytherins."

"Yes, we are aware" Hannah said.

"Everyone saw your entrance, Hermione" Susan smiled.

"I wouldn't mind you if you weren't so secretive" Terry spoke to Theo.

"No fun if there's no mystery" the Slytherin smirked.

"I'm mysteriously tired so I'll see you in the morning" Blaise yawned.

"See you tomorrow" Terry said, following him and Theo to the dormitories.

"Goodnight" Ernie said pompously and walked off. Seamus followed him wordlessly.

"Erm... see you, girls" Draco said and hurried away.

The girls stood where they were until Susan yawned.

"Let's go see those rooms, I say." Hannah led the way towards the dormitories.

Hermione noticed Pansy was lagging behind, so she took her hand, dragging her up the stairs. The Slytherin didn't say anything and Hermione continued to pull her along, unaware of the blush, creeping up Pansy's neck.

When they got to the top of the staircase they saw a small landing with one door opposite them.

"Guess it's going to be the four of us" Susan said, walking to the door and opening it.

Their dormitory wasn't much different from what Hermione was used to except it was purple and the bed curtains were cream-coloured. Susan and Hannah had already taken the furthest beds so this left her and Pansy next to each other.

"I'll be closest to the door if you don't mind" Pansy said.

"Okay" Hermione hummed, dragging her trunk to her new bed.

The four girls got dressed in silence and wished each other 'Goodnight', drawing the curtains around their beds closed. Hermione lay on her back in bed, thinking. She had seen Ron's face when Professor McGonagall said the eight-years would have to share a common room. There would most likely be rows, but for now she could fall asleep happy, thinking about her nice summer(most of it), being back in school, the long letter she was going to compose with Draco in the morning to send to Andy and Cissy, Pansy's surprisingly warm hand in hers...