They'd sat there until three in the morning, discussing what had to be done.

At first, it had been easy. Both of them had easily recognized problems that would spring up if they ever pursued a relationship. There were so many obstacles; the fact that Hermione was a muggleborn, or the evil truth that even staying just friends put both their lives in danger.

So, together, they both reluctantly agreed that it would be best to just not see each other.

At all.

It had been an agonizing decision for both of them; each of them trying to appear less pained then they really were. That night, which they both suspected to be their last, was spent mostly silent. Her head lying lightly on his chest, his arms cradling her lightly, as if afraid to get too comfortable in that position. They talked when necessary, whether it was to reform the plan, or to just open their mouth and speak.

It didn't really matter, because they both knew at the end of the night, they would probably never get the chance to be together again.

--

All of that went through Hermione's head as she looked at her Headmaster. Dumbledore was a shrewd man; at that moment, he was giving her a calculating gaze that made her squirm in her seat. She had the inkling that he probably knew what had gone on the night before. He had a knack for knowing everything that happened within the walls of Hogwarts, whether the parties involved wished him to know or not. It bothered her slightly, to know that the moment she and Draco had shared last night was most likely not theirs alone.

But instead of mentioning it, Dumbledore just nodded. "May I ask why, Miss Granger?"

She launched into the story that she and Draco had prepared for that moment. Starting with how she felt out of place, being the only muggle in Slytherin House, then with the mistreatment and hostility she received from everyone there. As soon as the words were out of her mouth, however, his look changed. "Even Mr. Malfoy?"

In her head, she cursed the old man. She knew he had every detail of what was going on. It was never clear how he knew all that he did, but he never missed anything. Snapping back into reality, she gave a curt nod. "Malfoy and I have not been on speaking terms for over a week, and I have high doubts we will ever reconcile."

He shook his aged head wisely before offering a small shrug of the shoulders. "I don't see what harm it could do. Most likely, however, you will be placed back in Slytherin."

She knew she wouldn't. "And if I'm not?"

Heaving a sigh, Dumbledore stood and walked to the side of her chair. "Then you will be escorted to your new house immediately. The members of said house will be alerted of your situation." He then paused, leaning so that their eyes were level. His gaze was very serious, "Are you sure you want to do this?"

Playing with her hair nervously, Hermione chewed on her lip. Her mind screamed at her to answer him yes, and quickly, but her heart was pleading her to say no. Unfortunately, she had always been partial to logic over emotion. She nodded in conformation. "Yes, and as soon as possible."

--

As soon as possible turned out to be that evening. Dumbledore had asked if she had liked anyone to be present, and though she was dying to tell him that she wanted Draco there, she shook her head no. He told her that McGonagall would be there to do the ceremony, as always, but there would be no one other than them. Around seven that night she returned to the office and was instructed to sit upon the same stool that they'd had in her first year.

She lowered herself onto the stool, and watched as McGonagall placed the hat atop her head. Quietly, it whispered into her ear. "Hello again. . ."

To the hat, she answered. "Please place me anywhere but Slytherin. Please."

It was amused, she could feel it. It made her slightly angry. "Why should I? You're nearly all the way through school. And Slytherin has proven to be a very good house for you, has it not?"

"You can read my head like a book, so don't be a ninny. Just place me somewhere else!"

It chuckled. "Yes, I suppose I can, can't I? My, my. . .you have changed. I do believe another house would be more appropriate for the remainder of your school years.." It paused, something of a mental hat-type shrug, "But is it necessary? You've only a year and a half left. Slytherin is still a perfectly good house. Is that what you really want?

Breathing a sigh of relief, she confirmed. "Yes, that's what I really want."

There was a pause, then the hat shouted out. . .

--

Hermione had been busy for the past week. There had been much to do about her re-sorting, and along with having to deal with adjusting to a new atmosphere, she had to put up with the constant whispers of "Did you hear about Hermione Granger?" every time she passed someone in the hall.

Her new house was much warmer than Slytherin, in more ways than one. She had found it almost sweltering when she had first entered. The dungeons were always cool, even when it was warm outside. A fire was constantly burning. Yet this place, alighted with red and gold, made her feel as if she were standing inside one large blaze, a thought that was both comforting and mildly disturbing.

Yet the major difference she noticed was in the people. People never laughed in Slytherin, unless it was at someone else's expense. There was no joy. That didn't exist within these new walls. Not a minute passed that someone gave a hearty chuckle, and they all seemed so. . .happy.

It was a strange, strange time for Hermione, those first few days in Gryffindor.

The day she had entered her new common room for the first time, McGonagall had accompanied her. She'd stepped through the portrait hole, insecure and nervous as her Head of House informed them of the situation. For a moment, there had been complete silence, and she felt as if she was just as much an outcast in this house as in her last, when there was a sudden shout.

"Hermione!"

And there he was, Harry Potter, smiling like a little boy and motioning her over to sit by him and his best friend, Ron Weasley. Awkward and blushing, she'd gathered her books to her chest and repeated the one thing she'd been trying to convince herself of ever since the hat had announced her as a Gryffindor. . .

'This is your life now.'