Hermione Grows Up

Authors Note: Since I have now managed to complete this story, it is in the process of being renovated and edited to make it better. Hopefully this will increase your enjoyment! I began this story, which was my first ever fanfiction, when I was still in awe of the site and a little basic in my story writing skills, so now I've improved I can go back and improve it. Also, I realise now that Hermione would be turning seventeen in this story, not sixteen, so I altered that, and there are many subtle differences. I own nothing except a few ideas (one scene in a future chapter is taken from the book Gone With The Wind).

"Move up a bit Ron!" Hermione yelled, pushing her best friend playfully and giggling as Harry mercilessly tickled her ribs. "Argh… stop… now! Please, no more!" She collapsed on the floor in hysterics before pulling herself together and returning to her usual prim self. Running her fingers through her silky brown curls, she was oblivious to how much power she had over her two best (male) friends Harry Potter and Ron Weasley; though they still claimed to see her only as a confidante, they couldn't help but notice her now lithe womanly figure and blossoming curves. The fact that she wasn't stunningly beautiful only seemed to increase her attraction- her chocolate brown eyes danced and sparkled when she was happy, and captivated many men- not that she was aware of it. In fact, Hermione Granger was only concerned with one thing, and that was her future. If she was aware of her charm, it was likely she would try and change it, if it meant getting good NEWT results in the future.

"So how was your summer?" Ron asked Harry, passing him another chocolate frog. The Hogwarts Express whizzed along, and the three best friends were sitting side by side, passing the time by joking and quibbling lightheartedly. Ron and Hermione had just returned from Prefect duties, a matter that Harry had long managed to overcome his jealousy with. He was much quieter nowadays, usually brooding on the death of his most beloved friend and godfather, Sirius. His two friends had realised that nowadays it was best to leave him be when he was in one of his moods, knowing that nothing they could say could ever make him feel better.

"Boring," Harry answered automatically, trying not to think about the Dursleys. "This is the first summer that I've spent the whole six weeks with my Aunt and Uncle. I'm sorry Ron, but I just couldn't face seeing anyone for a while. I just stayed in my bedroom all day. I would have loved to stay at The Burrow, but I just couldn't pretend to be all happy and cheery, when inside I'm just… broken." This was the first time he'd mentioned Sirius's death since they had got on the train. Hermione and Ron exchanged significant looks.

"It's bound to be tough," Hermione said, squeezing her friend's hand comfortingly. "Sirius was a great man, and it's a tragedy- but it can't be helped. The past can't be undone." Harry looked into his friend's eyes and knew she was speaking the truth, but the same anger was bubbling up inside of him again. He shook his hand free from her grasp, and turned to Ron. How could they say that? How could they ever understand what torment he was going through?

"I suppose you think I'm just bad tempered about nothing too, and I have to get over it?" Harry's voice was dangerously quiet.

"No..." Ron looked extremely uncomfortable and his ears went red from the pressure. "No I don't think that, and neither does Hermione. We just care about you, mate."

"Yeah right," Harry growled, and stood up. "I'll leave you two to discuss how sad and pathetic I am." He turned to leave the carriage, knowing he was being sensitive and childish but feeling the same miserable anger as usual..

"Where are you going, Harry?" Hermione asked, alarmed.

"Somewhere where nobody's going to pester me!" he shouted, and slammed the door angrily, leaving Ron and Hermione shocked into silence.

"I just don't know what to say to him anymore," Ron said sadly, his pale blue eyes downcast and gloomy. Arguing with Harry was worse than fighting with a brother because there was always another sibling to turn to- but not with Harry. He had Hermione... but she was different. So clever, and strikingly pretty, and good natured... she would never notice him now, not with all the other boys hankering after her. Not that she'd even observed it, for Hermione was too busy thinking about the next homework assignment or essay.

"What are you two up to then?" came a familiar Irish accented voice breaking the awkward silence, and in walked the other Gryffindor boys, Seamus Finnigan, Dean Thomas and Neville Longbottom. They all took to the benches chattering eagerly about anything and everything.

"Hey Ron, did you see that Gryffindor match? It was wicked! The save that Keeper made? Class!"

"My grandmother told me I had better do well this year, or she's banning me from seeing Quidditch at all…"

"I'm off," Hermione muttered in a low voice to Ron. "I'd better go find Harry. I'll see you later." Ron didn't answer; he was busy chattering away ten to the dozen about the Chudley Cannons.

Hermione rushed through the door into the next carriage, where sat Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil, gossiping excitedly and brandishing numerous neon coloured lipsticks.

"Hi," Lavender called. "Did you have a good summer? Want to come and talk to us?"

"Sorry girls, I'm in a bit of a rush. Did you see Harry pass here?"

"Yeah, he looked pretty angry. Did you two argue or something?"

"Not really… doesn't matter. Anyway, thanks." Hermione hurried through, into the next carriage, and this one was full- of Slytherins. Many unwelcoming faces glared at her in various degrees of hatred, from confused dislike (Crabbe, Goyle, Milicent Bulstrode) to seething smirks (Pansy Parkinson) to bored indifference (Blaise Zabini). And next to her sat the one she despised most of all- the proud, arrogant wretch himself... Draco Malfoy.

The slicked back white blonde hair revealed a pale pointed face with icy eyes, a long nose and high cheekbones, ending with a set mouth and masculine chin. Powerful shoulders flexed underneath a white shirt (evidently he had not yet changed into his robes) and something about his stance was different... he radiated power and smug arrogance. No longer was he like a little boy... Hermione's reflexes came up as she realised she was staring with her mouth open, though that was nothing to the look on his face. Feeling almost naked in his vision, she crossed her arms protectively across her chest.

"Well... if it isn't the filthy Mudblood," he drawled, his eyes still not taken off her. "Potty just ran by, poor ickle thing. I think he was crying. Have you had your first tiff?" The other Slytherins sniggered, Pansy in particular letting out a high pitched shriek.

"None of your business," Hermione answered, snapping back to her usual primness, and attempting to pass Draco to the door.

"Well going by the look on his face, it seems he doesn't want you anymore," he sneered, every word making Hermione flinch. "Better luck next time, love."

"Leave me alone," she replied angrily, and pushed past him, into the next compartment. It was empty and she leant against the wall, her heart thumping madly. Why had she felt so strange seeing Draco like that- and why had she let him get to her? It wasn't as if she cared what he thought.

She was just about to walk up into the next compartment to carry on searching for Harry, when she felt someone touch her shoulder. Spinning around, she was faced with Malfoy, but without his usual smirk.

"What are you doing Granger? You're looking different. Maybe even stranger, if it's possible." He spoke coolly, though he swallowed hard and didn't have his usual attitude in place.

"I am looking for Harry, if you must know. What do YOU want? I see no need for you to follow me."

"No reason. Just thought I'd ask- because I'm telling you, Harry isn't interested in you. He's interested in nobody but himself."

"And you're not?"

"No. I'm not just interested in myself." Suddenly everything went awkward and Hermione was silently pleading for him to drop his gaze; she averted her own eyes to the floor and backed away from the increasingly electrical tension between them.

"I'd better go," she said hurriedly, as Draco took his hand away and placed it on the door handle.

"Good. I'm bored of this conversation anyway," Draco spat rather venomously, though he looked strange and his emotions were undetectable. He left, and Hermione collapsed onto her chair, attempting to catch her breath. What had just happened... it was all the signs of a... but no. Surely she wasn't ATTRACTED to her worst enemy?