It was September 1st, the day to return to Hogwarts. Hermione was alone; Harry and Ron had left to hunt Horcruxes. It was a wonder how they had managed to convince Mrs.Weasley. Hermione lugged her trunk behind her. It was difficult, considering the number of parents running around, making sure that their children had everything and yelling that they had better write at least once a week. Hermione was maneuvering fairly well when she ran into the last person she wanted to meet.
"Watch where you're going, Granger."
"What are you doing here, Ferret?" she asked contemptuously.
"Isn't it obvious, Granger?"
Hermione was not in the mood to argue. "Go find someone else to annoy, Malfoy."
"What are you going to do about it, Mudblood, read me to death?"
"Oh, very funny. Just because I'm Muggleborn doesn't mean that I am any less of a witch. If we weren't surrounded by all these parents, I could hex you into oblivion, and you know what? People wouldn't care. Doesn't that hurt, Malfoy, that if you were gone, it wouldn't matter?"
She saw the anger in his eyes, but she also saw something else - sadness. He couldn't be sad. This was Malfoy, and the Malfoys probably hadn't even heard of emotion. She felt awful, but she would not admit that to him and apologize. But her conscience told her that she had gone too far.
"I'm going to regret saying this someday, but I think I went too far. I shouldn't have said what I did. I wouldn't, I couldn't hex you for no good reason, but I... People would care, I bet loads of people would … your parents would … your friends..." She trailed off when she saw the look on Draco's face. He looked angry, yet almost sad.
"See, Granger, you were right. My parents couldn't care less about me. All they wanted was for me was to follow in my father's footsteps and become a Death Eater, because that's what a Malfoy does. It didn't matter that I didn't want to; no one cared what I thought. I acted like him, and I hated it. I'm not proud of the way I acted. You know, I don't even like the word Mudblood - it's a cruel word that no one should have said to you. I'm not as bad as you think, Granger. It was all an act."
Draco turned away and lugged his trunk onto the train. Hermione stood on the platform, not knowing what to think or say. Draco Malfoy had been civil. He had told her things she had never imagined. He had always seemed like an arrogant idiot, but something had changed.
Hermione shook her head, grabbing her trunk and pulling it onto the train. She dragged it down the corridor to the compartment reserved for the Heads and Prefects. She placed it the trunk rack and removed the photo album she carried around and laid across one of the long seats. She flipped through the pictures, seeing pictures of herself, Ron and Harry. Some were the magical pictures and some were Muggle. She saw one that she hadn't seen before. It was of her, Ron and Harry sitting on a couch. They were talking, but both Harry and Ron had their eyes on her the entire time. Hermione realized that it had been taken this summer. She had never felt more alone than after seeing that picture. She turned the page, and a scrap of parchment flittered out. She unfolded it.
By the time you read this, you will more than likely be on the train. We know that you're probably disappointed with us for leaving you here while we went to hunt Horcruxes, but more than anything else, we want to keep you safe, and we hope that you'll forgive us. Please have a good year, and don't study too hard. I know that things will be different this year, but try to enjoy it. Dumbledore told us that he has a job for you too, Hermione, but we're not allowed to tell you. Besides, we know that Dumbledore will tell when you arrive at Hogwarts. Remembe,we love you and we'll miss you everyday.
Love, Harry and Ron
Hermione couldn't but help but think about what Dumbledore had told Harry and Ron and would tell her. She put those thoughts in the very back of her head and placed the note between those pages of her album. She turned another page and laughed. These were the few pictures she had of Sirius, including a picture of him running throughout number 12 Grimmauld Place with decorations, laughing, and another of him running into Professor McGonagall, covering both of them with tinsel. It was sad to think that he was gone now. As she told herself that it wasn't fair, a tear fell from her eye. She had never told anyone, but she had had a secret crush on Sirius.
He was just so different from her; he was a trouble-maker, he didn't worry so much about everything. She knew that it probably hadn't been right to crush on a man of Sirius's age, but she never considered it for a moment until he died. When it happened, it hurt her, not just because she had a crush on him, but because he wouldn't be around to cause mayhem, to bug her about reading and to get her to be fun. He just wouldn't be around for her, for Harry, for anyone.
She turned the page and saw a priceless picture. It was of Dumbledore, sitting with all of them at the table in the kitchen. Everyone was distracted, and no one saw him secretly steal a sweet from Ron's pile on the table. Ron had gone crazy looking for it. Hermione sighed. She wished that Ron and Harry were here instead of looking for Horcruxes.
She heard the door slide open, and she figured that it must be the Head Boy. She looked up to see Draco Malfoy walking into the compartment.
"Hello, Granger." His face was tense, but she didn't sense any anger towards her. His tensity made her wary, but she replied with an answer nonetheless.
"Hello." He lazily sat down across from her.
"Reading, how unusual, Granger."
"There's nothing wrong with reading. Maybe you should try it out one day."
"Except that it makes you a bookworm."
"Like I haven't heard that one before. People call me a bookworm all the time, but if it bothered me, I would have done something about it years ago. I enjoy reading. It's "my thing," as Ron and Harry like to put it." She smiled at the thought, but her smile slid off her face when she came to see that she was staring at Malfoy.
"Potty and Weasel? I don't see them trailing after you. Where are they?" He was too nosy for his own good, and she wasn't about to tell him where.
"They're… they're not coming back; they left me here, alone."
"Why? Even I know that school's important."
She knew she couldn't tell them where Harry and Ron were going.
"I just don't know why...why I had to..."
"Right..." Clearly, he was not convinced, but to Hermione's relief, he didn't push the issue any further. You could see, though, that it had captured his interest, but leaving school without finishing your last year would make anyone wonder.
They both kept quiet for the rest of the ride back. When they arrived at Hogsmeade Station, Hermione was the first to get up. She reached the door before she realized that she was supposed to walk with Malfoy to show unity, like it was something simple to show.
"Malfoy, come on, we have to walk together to show unity." Hermione dreaded the idea, but she wasn't going to handle her new duties poorly and have her badge taken away.
"Keep your knickers on, Granger, I'm coming." He was calm and collected, unlike Hermione, who was ready to jinx him for his last comment.
They left the train and walked to the carriages. They got into one and began to move towards Hogwarts. Hermione was excited to be back, but it was going to be a lonely year. She did have Ginny to talk to, but she wouldn't be around much. The carriage ride was quiet. Hermione occasionally stole glances at Malfoy. He caught her looking once when they had almost arrived.
"You know, Granger, you should really stop staring. You might give me the idea that you have a crush on me." He smirked. How Hermione hated that smirk; it always made her want to smack him. But even she was caught off guard by his comment.
She blushed, but only because she had been caught. She had only been looking at him because she didn't know what to do and she didn't like the silence.
"You wish, Malfoy." She was poised to hit him, but the carriage stopped suddenly, and Hermione and Draco both knew that they were back at Hogwarts. Hermione jumped down and started walking inside. Malfoy called her name (she swore she heard "Hermione" instead of "Granger), but she pushed it out of her mind. She turned around.
"What?" Her voice was filled with impatience and anger. She just wanted to get up to the castle now.
"Weren't you the one, not too long ago, going on about unity, and there you are, basically running away from me. It wouldn't be because you're embarrassed, would it?" His trademark smirk covered his mouth once again.
"Give it a rest, Malfoy." She was attempting to keep their discussion to a minimum. She rather enjoyed the effects of her silence on him.
He caught up to her and they walked together into the Great Hall. They sat down at their respective tables. When everyone was seated, Professor Dumbledore stood and began to speak.
"Welcome back to Hogwarts. I must warn all students that these days are dark. Be careful. What lies ahead is not to be taken light-heartedly. With that said, tuck in."
The twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes was dimmer than usual, and it was obvious that he was worried about something. Hermione wasn't especially hungry, but she tried to eat, because she knew she'd be hungry later.
When everyone was finished eating, Dumbledore called for both Hermione and Draco. They stood and walked over to him, and he told them that he would be showing them where they would be living. Once they had exited the Great Hall, he showed them to a portrait of an apple, a talking apple. Hermione looked to Dumbledore as to ask if he was serious, but Dumbledore simply smiled, his eyes twinkling for a couple of seconds. Both Hermione and Draco said their goodnights to Dumbledore and stepped through the portrait hole. Hermione went straight up to where the rooms were located. She saw a door she presumed to be hers, as it said "Head Girl". She turned to look at Malfoy, who was standing at the bottom of the steps.
"I think we should try to be completely civil with each other. I think you should stop calling me "Granger" and making fun of my reading." It was high time she took charge of this situation. She wanted the name-calling and rudeness to stop.
"Yes, your highness, I will be civil. I'll try to stop saying Granger, and I won't make fun of reading, but you have to call me Draco."
There was the catch, the exchange. She would have to call him Draco. It was a fair deal, but Hermione didn't want to relinquish her power. However, she was becoming quite tired of the stare-down that she was competing in with Malfoy. She just wanted to escape to her room.
"Ok, fine. I'm going to my room for the rest of the night. Goodnight, Ma-Draco." She'd almost slipped, but she had made a nice save indeed.
"See, now, that wasn't too hard. Night, Hermione." He gave a slight wave. She thought he was taking civility quite well. All she could hope was that he didn't want to be friends, because she couldn't imagine the horror if Harry and Ron found out.
Hermione slipped inside her room. It was gorgeous with pale pink walls and a white dresser. She saw a door, opened it, and saw a bathroom. The bathroom had white walls, but despite its plainness, it seemed very nice. She closed the door, and, feeling very sleepy, decided to sleep. She dressed in her pyjamas and laid on the pillows. It wasn't long before she was asleep.
But later, from the depths of sleep, Hermione heard a bang and awoke to see the outline of someone standing in her doorway.