A/N - This is the first fan fiction I've written, and so reviews, feedback and constructive criticism are all welcome :)

It's a DM/HG 7th Year AU where Harry and Ron are Horcrux hunting and Hermione has been asked by the Order to remain behind for reasons as yet unknown to her. There's going to be a weird love pentagon going on around the middle, and there will be a little TN/HG before we get to the good Dramione stuff ;) so if you like the sound of it, read on, if not, why are you here?

Disclaimer - I don't own Harry Potter or any of the characters. Much of this fanfic will be written by me and a friend of mine who is acting as co-writer, proof reader and editor, so many thanks to her; she's one amazing girl. NJH, you know who you are :) That's enough rambling for now. Enjoy.

The enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall twinkled over the heads of the many Hogwarts students, who were silent and had all their attention focussed on the front of the Hall. It was the start of another year and so, as was customary, the Sorting was taking place. A queue of nervous first years stood, shivering with either cold or fear, in the centre of the hall, in a line, waiting for their names to be called. Almost every student in the Hall watching the Sorting now reminisced about the time they too had donned the scruffy Sorting Hat, anxiously waiting its decision about which house they would be placed in, nervous and scared silly. One of those students was Hermione Granger.

Currently she was not looking at the front as her fellow students were, but she was gazing up at the stars above her, watching the thin grey clouds on the ceiling swirl and drift across it. She was daydreaming, most unusually for her, and she thought wistfully back to her first year, when things had seemed so much simpler, when she had befriended her two closest friends, Harry and Ron, and how this was the first time (disregarding their late entrance in second year) that she hadn't spent at least part of the start of term feast with them.


Hermione was snapped out of her reverie by the cry of the battered old hat currently being worn by a small, terrified looking blonde girl. She watched as the girl removed the hat and hurried over to the table at which she was sat, which was currently tumultuous with applause.

"Hermione, are you ok?" inquired Ginny Weasley, whose red hair stood out like a beacon in the sea of people in the Great Hall, as she was now the only Weasley left at Hogwarts.

"What?" she replied, slightly dazed. "Oh, no, I'm fine. Really," she added when Ginny looked doubtful, "I'm fine."

Concern still etched on Ginny's face, she turned back around to continue to watch the Sorting, leaving Hermione alone with her thoughts. This was the first time in her entire time at Hogwarts that she had felt truly alone, without Ron or Harry by her side. The only thing that came close had been when the pair of them had fallen out with her over the Firebolt in third year and at least back then they had still been in the castle with her. Now, the only person she had was Ginny, who was, of course, still Hermione's close friend, but she was no substitute for the brotherly bond she had with both boys. And now she felt empty, incredibly and unusually at a loss for what to do now she was at Hogwarts and the boys were gone wandering around the country. Hermione had felt, ever since the day they left after their long summer at the burrow, a summer spent avoiding all talk about the future, an all-consuming guilt because she hadn't gone with them. Originally, the plan had been for her to accompany them in their hunt for Horcruxes, but Professor McGonagall's arrival at the Burrow in the first week of summer had changed everything. Of course, she knew almost nothing of what the trio had been planning, but she knew it was to do with defeating Voldemort and that they wouldn't be returning for their seventh year.

When McGonagall had pulled Hermione aside during her visit and asked her to stay behind she had complied almost immediately, such was her tendency to go along with what her teachers asked, but she had never really understood why the Order had wished for her to be parted from Harry and Ron and stay at school. Professor McGonagall had explained Hermione's queries away by saying they needed her to stay behind and protect the castle, but Hermione couldn't help but remember how shifty ad fidgety the Professor had been when she'd answered. Even so, Hermione was at Hogwarts again, and what good would dwelling on the past do now, she thought?

Returning her attention to the Sorting, Hermione heard "Zayne, Emily" be sorted into Hufflepuff, and concluded that the Sorting must nearly be over, and indeed, a few seconds later the very professor she had just been thinking about removed the stool and the now silent hat from the Hall. Shifting in her seat, Hermione turned to fully face the Headmaster as he arose from his seat, smiling, and spread his hands wide.

"Welcome, students, to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our excellent feast, I wish to say a few things to you.

"First of all, there is a small change to timetabling this year- namely, the lack of Defence Against the Dark Arts classes, due to the lack of a Professor." Dumbledore's face turned quite sad and quiet mutters greeted his words. Of course, thought Hermione, with a glance to the Professors table, with Professor Snape dead, there wouldn't be a teacher. There was a moment of silence while everyone in the hall respectfully acknowledged Snape's death. "Thank you all. Professor Snape was a brave man and a good and loyal man also. Let his death show you the dangers of meddling with Lord Voldemort, but how the strength of those who oppose him can be such that one is willing to sacrifice themselves for what is right." Dumbledore's smile returned though it was a little weak, and his eyes glazed with tears. Hermione was moved by his show of emotion.

"On a similar note," he continued, "secondly, and most importantly, I must advise you all. We are in the midst of dangerous and uncertain times; therefore it would be most prudent of us to now, more than ever, make an effort to stand together as one, unified and strong, especially as our numbers seem to have dwindled slightly."

Dumbledore cast his twinkling eyes over the hall, and his smile seemed to dim a little. Hermione too looked round, and noticed for the first time that indeed there was a slight decrease in students. While the Hall was still almost full, there were many spaces between students on the Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, and Hufflepuff tables. The Slytherin table, she noticed with distaste, was still as full as normal. Perhaps Purebloods think they have less to fear, she thought angrily.

"Consequently," continued Dumbledore, and Hermione snapped her attention back to him, "this year we shall be placing particular emphasis on house unity."

At this point there was a large groan from the Slytherin table and Dumbledore paused to pass his blue eyes over to the Slytherins and then to the Gryffindor table.

"Finally, in the spirit of house unity, I am pleased to announce our new Head Boy and Girl. This year's Head Girl, from Gryffindor, is Miss Hermione Granger."

Applause broke out across the hall and Hermione caught snatches of mutterings of "Should've guessed!" and "Well done, Hermione!" from her own table. She blushed and smiled. She relished the fact that she had been made Head Girl, and it was one of the reasons she had agreed to return to Hogwarts; the happiness she had felt about being made Head Girl had helped her keep it together when Harry and Ron had left. Now, in the middle of a hearty round of applause, pride began to swell a little in her heart and then suddenly dampened when she realised she had no idea who the Head Boy was and who she'd have to work with for a year.

As the sound of clapping died away, Dumbledore continued.

"And our Head Boy, from Slytherin House…" A tidal wave of whispers broke out across the Hall, cutting Dumbledore off. Hermione felt sick. Heart pounding in her mouth, she heard the hissing murmurs cascade viciously around her, buzzing like bees, and as Dumbledore smiled and held up his hands for silence she prayed that it would be someone who would be civil to her.

"From Slytherin House," he tried again, "our new Head Boy is Mr Draco Malfoy."

Hermione's heart sunk. Instantly, there was uproar. It was a mixture of startled mutters, cheering from the Slytherins and loud booing from several angry Gryffindors. She chanced a glance over to the Slytherin table and saw Malfoy looking smug, having his back patted and hand shaken by many clamouring housemates. He appeared to have sought her out too and their gaze met. He winked evilly at her before she turned away.

Mouth dry, Hermione waited for silence to descend again with her arms folded and her face stony. All around her, Gryffindors hissed angry complaints at their friends, looking as outraged as Hermione felt. She needed something to drink. Luckily, silence soon fell thanks to several loud bangs emitted from Dumbledore's wand, and he invited the students to begin eating. Food appeared magically on the plates. Hands shaking, Hermione poured herself a goblet of pumpkin juice, spilling much in the process, as Ginny turned to her.

"That slimy git!" she swore. Evidently, growing up in a house of boys had affected her vocabulary. "How'd he manage to pull that off- bribe someone?" Ginny's face was as red as her hair and she reached for the mashed potatoes with fury in her eyes. Hermione's angry words caught in her mouth and so in reply she just gulped down her drink. Blindly, she reached out to spoon a helping of peas onto her empty plate. Adding a piece of chicken to her plate, she picked up her fork only to play with her food. Finally, Hermione replied.

"Probably," she rasped, still in shock. All of a sudden, rage seemed to surge from her like a volcano.

"How dare he?" she cried. "How dare he do this to me? He should have turned it down! He's probably never even considered being Head Boy, and everyone knows that I've wanted this since first year! Ernie Macmillan would be a far better Head Boy; he's reliable and trustworthy and responsible. In fact, anyone would be better than Malfoy; I mean he tried to kill Dumbledore! So how can they think he's honest or… or worthy? Merlin's beard, he's a Slytherin for goodness' sake! What were the teachers thinking? Ugh!" she concluded, slamming her fist most uncharacteristically on the table, causing peas to cascade from her plate to the floor, earning her odd looks from her fellow Gryffindors. A first year eyed her anxiously.

Suddenly, Hermione choked on the pumpkin juice she had just sipped as she made a shocking realisation. "I'm going to have to live with him for a whole year!" Ginny patted her consolingly on the back while her eyes watered. "In the Head's dorm," she added, still choking. "We'll have to have meetings and see each other regularly and actually talk… Honestly, this is ridiculous! What am I going to do, Ginny?"

Forlorn, she looked at her friend. Ginny smiled weakly. "There's nothing you can do, Hermione, not unless you want to give up being Head Girl-"

"He's not going to rob me of my position!" she declared indignantly. "This is what he wanted. I'll bet this is why he didn't decline being Head Boy; he enjoys making my life difficult and insulting me. He just hates me because I'm Muggleborn." Hermione pushed her plate away, too utterly disgusted to eat.

Slumping her shoulders, Hermione sighed as she realised she'd have to at least be civil to Malfoy for a year.

"Come on Hermione, cheer up. At least you're Head Girl, you should be glad about that," Ginny said, and then she proceeded to change the subject and engage Hermione in benign small talk about Lavender Brown until the end of dessert. She managed a little bit of treacle tart and felt decidedly better about the situation by the time the plates were magically cleared, accepting that there was nothing she could do.

For the second time that evening Dumbledore stood and silence fell rapidly.

"I hope you have all enjoyed our feast which was, of course, as splendid as usual. Now, I think, it is time for bed. Prefects, please escort first years to their dormitories (you've all been made aware of the passwords I hope) and finally, Professor McGonagall would like to speak to the Head Boy and Girl before they leave. Now, I wish you a good night's rest before lessons commence tomorrow. Goodnight to you all!"

There was a rumble of feet as all the students rose from their seats and began to file out of the Hall. Reluctantly, Hermione bid goodbye to Ginny and began to walk towards the staff table inwardly groaning about how soon she would have to contend with her new colleague.

Pushing her way through the throngs of students moving in the opposite direction, she tried to hasten towards the staff table but instead she managed to bump into someone in front of her and send them sprawling. Hurrying towards them to apologise, she placed a hand on their shoulder. "I'm so sorry…" she began then stopped when she saw who it was.

Malfoy jerked away from her, sneering.

"Keep your hands off me, you filthy little Mudblood."

Ignoring the insult and the consequent hatred he had just caused in her, Hermione started to walk forwards again and retaliated.

"Big words coming from a ferret, Malfoy," she replied coolly. He had fallen into step beside her, albeit some distance away from her. His eyes darkened and his brow furrowed.

"You better watch that mouth, Mudblood," he said, rearranging his face into a devious smirk with one eyebrow raised. "You have the privilege of living with me for a year, and that's both a curse and a blessing for you. I can make your life very difficult."

Hermione was about to snap back, but they had almost reached the Professor. Biting back a witty retort she swallowed her irritation and greeted the Professor, who looked up. Shooting Malfoy a glare that was both a warning and a stare of contempt, she turned around, pretended like he wasn't there and smiled at her Head of House.

"Good evening, the pair of you," she began, and didn't wait for a reply. "I'll make this quick as I'm sure you're keen to get to your dormitory. As I'm quite sure, the pair of you understand how important it is to the Headmaster and to the school that we are unified, this year in particular. Therefore, Professor Dumbledore is looking to you two and the prefects to promote this. He thinks it best that the patrol duties you are all required to do should be paired up boy-girl and inter-house, in the spirit of house unity." Hermione heard Malfoy groan quietly beside her. It appeared that the Professor hadn't noticed. "All partnerships should be Slytherin-Gryffindor and Ravenclaw-Hufflepuff."

This revelation caused Malfoy to attempt an interruption, but one glare from McGonagall stopped him in his tracks. While Hermione was also not very impressed with this new rule, it was a rule, and so she was willing to follow it. She saw the logic behind it and understood the Headmasters aims; however, this didn't mean that she wasn't apprehensive about how effective it would be. She suspected that perhaps it would result in several trips to the hospital wing for the unfortunate Slytherin-Gryffindor pairs.

"This brings me to your first duty as Head Boy and Girl. The patrol schedule must be made up and the prefects informed of the new regulations, and so it falls to you to do these things. Is that clear?" Hermione nodded vigorously, but Malfoy looked livid and not nearly as accepting.

"With all due respect, Professor, I really don't think this is necessary," he argued in a tone that suggested he was anything but respectful. Hermione noticed that his eyes were cold and grey, like steel.

"With all due respect, Mr Malfoy, that is none of your concern."

Hermione smirked and bowed her head to hide it as the Professor put Malfoy in his place. Looking up again, she noticed that he looked about ready to explode with rage. Obviously, thought Hermione, he was used to getting what he wanted. Without any further ado, Professor McGonagall gave them the password to their dormitory and then bade them goodnight. She turned on her heel and left, leaving a sour-faced Malfoy and a pondering Hermione. After a second, Malfoy stalked off wordlessly, hurrying so that Hermione had to run to catch up with him.

"I imagine it will be my job to draw up the schedule?" she asked tentatively.

"You imagine correctly. I certainly shan't be doing it." Malfoy's tone was calm and even, giving nothing away of his emotions, though it was clear by the look on his face that he was still angry and annoyed. Neither of them said anything more until they reached the second floor, having remained in uncomfortable silence for about five minutes.

"If you think for one second that I'll be patrolling with you, Granger, then you are mistaken." His voice was cold.

"As if I would ever wish for that, Malfoy. I didn't intend to put us as patrol partners. I don't really want to spend more time with you than we already have to; I plan to see as little of you as possible. It's bad enough that I have to share a dorm with you, so there's no way I would add weekly patrols to that. I really-" She cut her tirade short as she realised the anger she had felt during the feast was now bubbling into her objections, which was hardly professional. Malfoy shot her a vicious look as her thinly veiled insults registered with him.

"Well isn't that a shame," he snarled, sarcasm dripping venomously from every word.

Unable to think of a suitable reply, Hermione said nothing. Stony uncomfortable silence fell once more and wasn't broken until the pair reached a portrait of a lion and a serpent on the fourth floor that concealed the entrance to their dorm and Malfoy spat the password contemptuously. Hermione was still irritated, but by now was just desperate to reach her bed and get some sleep. The portrait swung forward, revealing the cosy shared common room behind it. She pushed past Malfoy, eager to get to bed.

For a moment Hermione was bewildered by the beauty of the room she had entered and she stood dumbly just in front of the portrait hole. It was a stone walled room, like all the rooms in the castle, but it was warm and inviting due to the merry fire blazing in the magnificent fireplace in the centre of one wall that lit everything with a warm glow. The furnishings were a mixture of green and crimson (presumably because of the house colours of the two of them, thought Hermione). The carpet was crimson but the cushions and throws on the couches were green. Somehow, it worked. On either side of the room were two hangings, one emblazoned with the Gryffindor crest and the other with the Slytherin crest. There were two mahogany desks covered with an array of stationary, and a collection of armchairs, sofas and tables, one topped with a beautiful wooden wizard chess set, were scattered around the large room. One wall was covered by an enormous bookcase full of leather tomes that Hermione decided to examine at length as soon as she got the chance. Directly opposite her were three wooden doors spaced well apart, raised on a slightly higher level to the rest of the room, so that there was a step. The centre one, Hermione guessed, must be a bathroom and she cringed at the thought of having to share a bathroom with Malfoy. The other two were clearly their bedrooms, as Hermione's initials were carved into the left door and Malfoy's into the right. Hermione noted that each door had a lock and she was relieved to know that she would at least have some privacy.

The entire room was breathtakingly beautiful and very luxurious. Malfoy, however, didn't seem to agree as Hermione heard him snort from behind her and mutter something about "nothing compared to the Manor." Without a word to her he stalked towards his room. Hermione felt she should say something.

"I suppose this means we have to be civil to each other then?" she ventured, extending a wary smile towards him. He said nothing for a second but opened the door to his room, stepped inside and looked back out at her.

"Not if I can help it," he snarled, slamming the door closed.

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