Hermione tried to wave cheerfully to her parents as the Hogwarts Express pulled off, noting how their smiling faces stuck out amongst the solemn faces of the other parents. Crookshanks looked up at her reproachfully and she felt a shred of guilt about not telling her parents there was a war going on and that she was involved. But she knew it was for the best. They would have never let her come back if they knew what had happened. She had told them that Dumbledore simply died of old age. She hated lying to them, but she couldn't risk not being able to help Harry. Harry. Ron. At the thought of them she could feel the tears wanting to push themselves forward. Hermione looked at Ginny, Neville, and Luna, also sharing her compartment and though they were wonderful friends, they weren't Harry and Ron. But Harry and Ron were off hunting for horcruxes while she was on her way to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for her seventh year.

Even the head girl badge precariously pinned to her robes did nothing to assuage her sadness.

But she had to be there. As a spy, and as a researcher. They had tried during the summer to find the other horcruxes and to identify them to no avail. They needed information, information that wasn't available anywhere else without suspicion, and the last thing they needed was Voldemort knowing they were after his horcruxes. Plus, what place would have more information about the founders of Hogwarts than the very place they founded? Plus with her new status as head girl she had access to books in the restricted section without question. She might even be able to find a way to destroy horcruxes without harmful repercussions. Still, she knew Harry and Ron also wanted her out of danger, and the fact that she couldn't be out there risking her life by their sides because they felt she was a burden gnawed at her. Looking down at Crookshanks she saw the gleam of her head girl badge and remembered.

"I completely forgot! I have to go to the head compartment." Ginny nodded, Luna continued reading the newest issue of the Quibbler upside down, and Neville continued preening over his plant. Hermione lifted a disgruntled Crookshanks off her lap and headed down the train to head compartment, making sure to note any mischief or wrong doing along the way. Surprisingly there wasn't much trouble, only a first year who had managed to set his companions cloak on fire. Opening the compartment door she entered to see her fellow head also tardy and relaxed sitting on the cushions. She pulled her worn copy of Hogwarts, A History out hoping that it held some secret that she had not noticed before. The door opened again and Hermione looked up to see an olive skinned boy slip in followed by none other than Draco Malfoy. Anger welled with in her. Regardless of the fact that both him and Snape were working for the order, Hermione didn't like the pale pointy faced boy. And the fact that he was the cause of Dumbledore's death, (even if Dumbledore had commanded Snape to protect Malfoy's innocence by performing the murder if it came to it) increased the strong dislike that had built up after years of prejudice and teasing. She would even go as far as calling it hate.

"Malfoy this compartment is reserved for heads. That excludes you." She spat glaring openly. Malfoy smirked sitting on the cushion across from her.

"What Mu- Granger? Afraid of being alone with two snakes?" The other boy- Blaise Zabini if she remembered correctly raised an eyebrow at her and then sat next to Malfoy.

"No Malfoy. I simply don't enjoy spending anymore time in your presence than necessary. Since Zabini is the one with the head boy badge, I assume that he not you is the one with the privilege of being in here." She retorted, closing her book and openly glaring at Malfoy.

"Actually Granger, the head's compartment is reserved for heads and their companions; it's in that atrocity of a book sitting on your lap." Zabini put in. Hermione turned to look at him in astonishment. Of course she knew that, but no one else was supposed to. She didn't think anyone but she had read Hogwarts, A History. She was counting on that. Now she'd have to put up with Malfoy without any support. It was going to be a long ride.

"Fine." She snapped at Zabini. "We have to address the prefects, I have a speech prepared and you can look over it." She handed him the speech. Malfoy snickered. Hermione ignored him, waiting for Zabini to finish reading her speech which was perfect as usual. Nodding he handed it back to her.

"Do you want to add anything?" she prompting.

"No. It's already long enough." Zabini replied. Malfoy snickered again. Hermione didn't reply.

"So Granger, where are your dogs Potty and Weasel?" Malfoy sneered at her. It hit a raw nerve.

"None of your business." Malfoy smirked.

"Oh so Potty and Weasel left the itty bitty Mu- Granger to fight the big bad guys?" He sneered. Hermione ignored him choosing to look out the window instead.

"What Granger, that beast you call a cat got your tongue? Or did you just never learn manners? I guess I can't expect much more from someone like you." Malfoy sneered again. Zabini just looked amused. She really wanted to hit him again. Just like back in third year.

"Malfoy shut it or I'll-" she was just about to say something creative that she would do to him when Professor McGonagall entered the compartment. Malfoy smirked superiorly at her and Hermione simply glared at him in return.

"Miss Granger, Mister Zabini, I trust you have made each others acquaintance?"

Zabini nodded, and Hermione followed his example, choosing not to mention the clashes that had already occurred. McGonagall nodded happily at their lack of protest.

"You are to set an example for the school this year. The school will be going through hard times, and it's time to put all house rivalries aside. We are all members of Hogwarts before we are members of our houses, and you would do well to remember that. Even you Mister Malfoy." Hermione nodded a bit reluctantly, she didn't mind house unity but as Ron had put it so wonderfully before, it didn't mean she wanted to get all chummy with the Slytherins.

"I am glad we understand each other then. You are to run the prefect meeting promptly in two minutes." McGonagall left the compartment. Hermione stood, grabbing her bag and dusting off imaginary dust from her clothing.

"We better get going now shouldn't we Zabini? Malfoy, even if you were allowed in the head compartment, you certainly aren't in the prefect meeting." She said with a little more enthusiasm than could be deemed nonchalant. But Malfoy just grinned in response and pulled something out of his pocket. Hermione gasped when she saw what it was. It was a prefect badge.

"Anymore objections Granger?" he asked smugly.

"You- I-" she stuttered incoherently.

"Granger you really should learn how to put together sentences, it is a basic sign of a civilized person. I forgot, you're not exactly civilized are you?" Hermione glared and went into the prefect compartment. Clearing her throat she began her well thought out speech.

"This year shall be a difficult year for all of us, and we need to work together in order to accomplish anything. For returning prefects, you know the rules, and for newcomers, you can hand out detentions but you can not dock house points. It is important that you do not take advantage of this privilege. You will also have access to the prefect's bathroom and help plan school functions. You cannot miss prefect meetings unless you are excused, and you are required to patrol the castle at night to ensure no students are out after hours. You must help direct first years to their common rooms after the welcoming feast, and you are to help them if they need help adjusting to the school. Are there any questions?" Hannah Abbot's hand shot up.

"What type of school functions will we be planning this year?"

"Well, none are set but due to the current pressures surrounding all of us, I thought it would be nice to plan a dance or two, somewhat like the Yule Ball in the Triwizard Tournament, but much less formal. We will discuss it in more detail at our first meeting in the school. Anything else?" Hermione asked. A slytherin sixth year whispered something to his female counterpart, resulting in both of them chuckling, and she made a note to herself to watch the two, but no more questions came.

"Then you are dismissed, unless Zabini would like to say something?" Zabini shrugged.

"You being the know-it-all that you are Granger covered it all." Hermione blushed as some others snickered, and ignored the comment. The prefects filed out. She looked at her watch and noticed she didn't have much time before the train arrived at Hogwarts, so she decided to return to the head compartment. Unfortunately, Malfoy and Zabini also made this decision.

"Malfoy don't you have first years to torment?" She asked exasperatedly.

"Granger, I'm surprised. I didn't think you would encourage the torment of first years. That isn't exactly befitting of a head girl now is it?" Malfoy sneered back. Hermione glared at him.

"Malfoy, it is I who is surprised! You used a word that was more than two syllables long! How did you do it? I didn't know your brain was capable of such a feat, it being of questionable size and all." Malfoy's eyes narrowed with contempt.

"Shut it Granger." He snarled.

"How very clever Malfoy. Would you like a pastry for your efforts?" She replied sarcastically. Malfoy took his own advice and stayed quiet for the rest of the ride. Once they arrived she entered the head's carriage along with Malfoy and Zabini, and was none too happy when she was able to separate herself from their presence and find Ginny, Neville and Luna again. Ginny, being a prefect had probably already told Neville and Luna about McGonagall's choice of head boy.

"At least it's not Malfoy," Ginny told her patting her on the back. Hermione snorted.

"It might as well be. He was with Zabini the whole time. He'll probably hang around in the head's common room too." Ginny looked sympathetic.

"I'm always here."

"Would you indulge me and practically live in the head's rooms with me?" Ginny laughed.

"I'll try." Even though she had Ginny and the others, Hermione couldn't help but feeling slightly alone.

In the Great Hall they did the sorting ceremony first as usual, and McGonagall continued to call the first years to the sorting hat even though she was now the headmistress. The hat sang its song talking about unity and dark times, but it was nothing the students hadn't heard before. The number of first years at the school was strikingly small, even the number of returning students was less than it should be. The Creevy brothers weren't there and countless others. Gryffindor received all of seven new students. McGonagall made a small speech, reiterating what she had told her and Blaise on the train. She also introduced the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

He was tall and blonde, apparently from Norway and had previously been employed at Durmstrang. Hermione stood politely when she was introduced as the head girl and she received a tremendous amount of applause from Gryffindor and from the other houses. Blaise, however, she noted only received the support of the Slytherins. She sat, trying to enjoy the feast even though her two best friends were not present. She could tell that Ginny was making an effort to include her in her conversation with Parvati, and Lavender, but the two girls' gossip didn't interest her and only made her miss Harry and Ron more. So she forced a smile and nodded, not really keeping up with the conversation. She was grateful when the feast was over and she dutifully led the first years to the Gryffindor Common Room explaining the way the castle worked as the went along. She taught them the password which was ironically Berty botts beans. With a pang she was reminded of Dumbledore and she knew that was in fact Professor McGonagall's intention. He was still there in remembrance. After the first years were all organized she parted with Ginny, promising to meet her at the Fat Lady's portrait in the morning before breakfast. Exiting the Common Rooms she headed off toward her new rooms, following the directions McGonagall had given to her on the train. Reaching the portrait that marked the Entrance to the rooms she suddenly realized that she didn't have the password to her rooms. She stood for a moment contemplatively trying to figure out what she would do. The beautiful woman in the portrait looked at her curiously, but made no remark on her behavior. She had not been thinking for long when the portrait door swung open and Draco Malfoy appeared the portrait shutting quickly behind him.

"Oi, Granger, why are you just standing there?" he sneered.

"Malfoy, would you mind not being a prat for once and telling me the password." His expression changed to the characteristic smirk that irked her to her end.

"I don't think so Granger. Unless that is, you provide some sort of incentive that might make the idea sound more attractive." Hermione's anger flared.

"You haven't changed a bit Malfoy. You're still the arrogant, nasty, despicable, spoiled daddy's boy—", however she didn't get to finish the statement because her back hit the stone wall as she was pinned by an enraged Malfoy.

"You can make as many insults as you want about me, Granger, just don't mention my father. Do I make myself clear?" He growled his eyes narrowed dangerously. Hermione glared at him, making a move for her wand but her wrist was caught in his strong grip. Then, he grabbed her wand from her pocket, putting it into his own.
"Promise that you wont bring up my father again, Granger" he growled more derisively. Hermione was not going to give in. He could threaten her all he wanted, this wasn't a matter of who was right or wrong, it was a matter of pride.

"Malfoy if you don't get off of me this moment, I'll- I'll-"

"Do what? Curse me? I have your wand. Hit me? I'm stronger. Your pets aren't here to protect you Granger, and you'd do well to remember it. Just bloody promise you won't mention my father, and I'll let you go this moment, and give you the password." He growled again frustrated. Hermione glared before nodding.

"Fine. I promise." She muttered. Malfoy seemed content and let her go, giving back her wand.

"The password is Unity," he told her turning away and waling down the hall. Hermione quickly walked into the common room only to be greeted with the sight of a shirtless Zabini reading in a big red chair. For a moment she just stared and Zabini looked up and smirked.

"Like what you see Granger?"

"Put a shirt on for god's sake," she snapped back.

"Why? I think we both like it." He retorted ignoring her and continuing to read.

"Zabini, you can't just walk around half-naked everywhere!" she almost screeched.

"Why not? I do normally. I don't have to change my habits because you're a prude. Just like if you want to walk around half naked I won't complain." He said calmly accentuating it with a languid look up and down her body. Hermione flushed red in embarrassment.

"That's not the same thing." Zabini raised an eyebrow.

"Chauvinistic?" Hermione glared.

"I'll keep my clothes on thank you very much, and I would prefer that you would keep yours on as well."

Zabini smirked.

"Pity, I was hoping you'd see the light. Well, I'm staying like this. Whether you prefer it or not." Hermione went up to her room and slammed the door frustrated once again.

This was going to be a long year.

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