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The smoke in the air smelled faintly of ancient alleyways, and Hermione closed her eyes as the familiar scent washed over her. To the young woman, however, it wasn't unpleasant, as it was her first clue that she was getting close to Platform 9 ¾, the setting-off point for the Hogwarts Express, departing at exactly 11:00 from King's Cross.
Nervously she rubbed her fingers over the navy leather strap of her new bag. Mum had gotten it for her; she was 17 now, after all, and it was time she started looking like a lady. Hermione smiled at the thought.
People rushed past as the next train's whistle screamed out into the warm early-autumn air, sending billowing clouds of steam upward. She hoped that no one would notice that she had been standing there for quite some time now, neither looking at the trains nor running for one. No one usually did notice, but... Still not comforted, Hermione took out her scarlet ticket and looked at it for the fortieth time, examining the delicate golden scrollwork on the outside border: Hogwarts Express. This ticket registered in the name of Hermione Granger, 7th year, and may be used by said person only. Amount paid by Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And at the bottom, her favorite part: Head Girl, Head Cabin.
She looked down at the ticket, still not able to believe her luck. She, Hermione Granger, had been chosen to be the Head Girl of Hogwarts! She wasn't even a Pureblood, as certain of her schoolmates often reminded her. Speaking of which...wasn't that face awfully familiar?
She stared into the crowd, but the face was gone. Hmm. Besides, it didn't matter. She didn't want to see him here. And where were Harry and the Weasleys? She fretted again as she mentally ticked off all the things that could have happened: car accident, Ginny was late, Floo network acting up (this was how they had planned to pick up Harry from his awful aunt and uncle's in Little Whinging), and many other things, too horrible for Hermione to think about. She shivered. Voldemort was still out there, after all, and what if he decided to strike when they were the most vulnerable, outside Dumbledore's protection...
The ticket slipped from her hand and fell to the ground. Muttering something that would have shocked those who knew the slightly bookish girl, Hermione dropped her bag and scrambled under the against-the-wall bench in search of it. Wonderful. Ten minutes to departure time and she couldn't find her ticket...
Her hand scrabbled wildly in the dimness as she closed her eyes in disgust at the feeling of old wrappers, dust, and what she hoped wasn't a spider. Her fingers connected with something. There! Grinning triumphantly, Hermione emerged from under the bench.
"Very dignified, Granger," a voice drawled.
Hermione whirled around and looked up into the eyes of Draco Malfoy. "What do you want?" she scowled, standing up in a hurry and brushing off her clothes.
"Now, now, Mudblood, is that any way to talk to the Head Boy of Hogwarts?"
Hermione's face drained of color. "You're joking," she gasped.
He smirked. Does he EVER do anything else but look smug? Hermione glared at him. "Well, I thought you'd receive me a little better, Granger, seeing as how I was coming over here to congratulate you, but I see that you still lack manners." Hermione felt her face grow pink as his eyes traveled lazily over her body and back up again, coming to rest on her face. "Your looks, however..." She saw a glint of admiration in his eyes, but they quickly grew cold. "...are even more appalling than your manners." He grinned nastily. "If you want proof, look at your hair!"
Hermione self-consciously raised her hand halfway to her head. "What's wrong with—no, Malfoy, I'm fine. It's you who could use a lesson in manners."
The glint of her watch caught her eye, and Malfoy fled her mind. "Three minutes. I'd better go."
"Frankly, you git, I couldn't care less if you stayed in London forever."
Ignoring him, Hermione picked up her bag from where it had fallen to the ground. She faced the stone pillar between platforms 9 and 10, and, squaring her shoulders, began walking, then broke into a run. Three...two...she closed her eyes...one...
Hermione fell to the ground, dazed, little bright spots dancing before her eyes. Her head was throbbing from where she had bashed it against the bricks. Behind her, she was faintly aware of someone laughing. Malfoy. Gritting her teeth, she said, "Shut...up...you...git" before the world went suddenly blurry and faded to gray.
Someone was slapping her face. "Granger!"
She felt as though a ton of bricks had just been dropped on her head. Well, practically, yes, she thought ruefully. She opened her eyes, wincing at the bright station lights, to see Malfoy hovering above her, his face close to hers. "What happened?" she asked slowly.
"Get up! There's something wrong." It was the closest to in a state of panic that Malfoy had ever looked. That in itself—though it wasn't for her—was enough to make Hermione sit up, holding her head and groaning. Draco grabbed her other arm and yanked her to her feet.
"Get...up!" he hissed. Taking her hand—odd, she thought dizzily—he looked around them at the sparse crowd, then took off at a run toward the platform divider, dragging her behind him. Wait...her mind protested dimly, before they both crashed into the bricks with a resounding thud.
Draco had hit harder, and now he was the one clutching his shoulder and moaning loudly. "Bloody—stupid—platform..."
Hermione's vision finally cleared, and she made her way over to the bench once again. Draco sat heavily beside her. With an impending sense of doom, she looked up at the station clock.
The clock began chiming 11:00.
Please review! First HP fanfic :)