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Her eyes followed his movements, unable to stop herself from doing so. In the few months that she had not seen him, he had been altered. He was graceful where he had been as regular as herself. He was lithe where he had never been before. And he was mysterious where he had once been an open book, easily read by her and easily memorized for future reference – even despite the openness of his face while they’d been boarding the train.

But now he presented a mystery. The mystery had begun in the corridor of the train where he had let her off with nothing more than a nod.

And she felt that it ended here.

“What are you staring at, Granger?” his voice interrupted her thoughts. She hadn’t realized that her eyes hadn’t strayed away of their own accord and were still fixated on the space he had been previously, and on the space where he had seated himself now.

She was on a chair opposite the couch where he lounged across from the fire. She had seen how those grey irises reflected the light from the fire, bent it in ways unrecognizable that made her fascinated. Why? She couldn’t help but wonder the question to herself. Once again, she reminded herself of the instructions she’d been given and it cleared away the thoughts for the moment.

But this remark was such a reminder of his old ways that her expression turned petulant and angry all at once.

“Certainly not at yourself, Malfoy,” she shot back, rising to her feet. “And you may want to do something about that thing on your chin.” It was a bluff – his face was perfection, as he presumably spent countless hours in front of a mirror doing whatever it was that he did. But it was enough to elicit a glare from him, one that made her pause for a moment to observe. It, too, was different, and in a way that made her uneasy.

She had retreated to her room that night, their first night back at Hogwarts, because she hadn’t the faintest clue what else to do. The option of returning to their shared common room, considerably smaller than her previous one in Gryffindor, was out of the question. They were like fire and ice, not liable to mix well in any situation.

So Hermione had taken to sitting at her window, looking outside at the swaying treetops of the Forbidden Forest. Despite its reputation of being unsafe, it never held more of a mystery than it did at night.

A knock on her door both surprised her and brought her from her thoughts. Really...she had never found peace in Gryffindor House – was she doomed to have the same luck here even though she had her own room?

It was made ten times worse by the fact that it could only be one person, always.

“What?” she called to the other side. She waited a beat and received no answer. Had he left?

She stood and crossed the room to her door, opening it and revealing the Head Boy who appeared as though he were getting ready for bed. His tie hung loose around his neck and his shirt was halfways unbuttoned. A sliver of disconcertion shifted down her spine as she realized that she had to look up at him from a greater height than she could remember.

He, however, looked right at her as he spoke. “You have a visitor.” His tone was, unexplainably, cold. Her face hardened in response and his face turned into that sneer she’d come to recognize. “Hurry along, Granger. Merlin knows that you won’t see them enough this year. Run along.”

He said it in such a patronizing way that her palm itched with the desire to slap him. His sneer had transformed to that smirk, the smirk that said he had bested her. He ought to know by now that it would never be that simple.

So she smiled in return, catching him off guard. She was satisfied to see his eyes flicker. “Say what you like about me and my friends, Malfoy. At least I’ve got some.”

His smirk seemed to fall completely from his face as she pushed past him, already anticipating a very long year. And it had only just begun.

~


She laughed, a hand coming to muffle the sound in the near silent common room. She and Ginny had taken to playing a game that Ginny had heard about on the train. It went something like “If I could, I would...”, but they had long ago trailed away from that base. Instead, they had gone onto silly ranting of anything they could think of, sending both Harry and Ron off to their dorm, chortling at the two girls.

“Ginny!” she said, still laughing, trying to keep her giggling silent.

Ginny, however, was extending no help whatsoever. Instead, she, too, was giggling, an arm holding her waist as though trying to keep it together.

This continued for another moment until they managed to successfully wipe the tears of mirth from their eyes without injuring anything of importance. The fun and games had died down, now, and they began talking of more serious matters – but never right out, for that could have disastrous results were they to be somehow overheard by outside forces.

Only a few minutes of this conversation passed; they didn’t dare dwell on it too long.

“Well, Gin, I think I should head back to my room. The common room is nice, but the couch isn’t my preferred sleeping place.” Hermione smiled. They stood simultaneously and hugged briefly.

“You need to bring me over sometime to see how things look. Your own common room and bedroom? It must be amazing.”

“It would be doubly amazing if they weren’t shared quarters with Malfoy,” once again, her teeth went to worry her bottom lip. But she shrugged, the obligation for a duty shoving aside most of the misgivings.

Ginny grimaced, seeming to feel the pain, so to speak, for which Hermione was grateful. “At least you’ve still got your bedroom to yourself. He can’t get in, can he?” Her brow rose in both question and suggestion and Hermione could do nothing but stare.

“Of course he can’t get in! ...At least, I don’t think he can. I’ll need to ask McGonagall, but that’ll have to wait until tomorrow.” She hugged Ginny briefly once more and slipped from the common room.

Then she was left in the corridor with only her thoughts as a distraction. What if he could get into her room? He wouldn’t dare, though...Although he was Malfoy, foul and loathsome at best, he wouldn’t dare try something like that...would he? Her lip fell between her teeth once more as she contemplated. McGonagall would definitely be hearing from her tomorrow in some form or another.

She entered the common room, quickly murmuring the shared password. A step in revealed more than she would ever like to see within her lifetime. Malfoy, of course, was there – in the armchair with a girl in his lap. Hermione shuddered, rolling her eyes.

The portrait swung closed after her and the couple looked up.

“Oh, do put some clothes on.” Hermione threw the girl’s shirt at her as she hissed the words. How dare he bring some hussy to the common room that she was forced to share with him? There were countless rooms in the castle –

Stop thinking! she thought to herself with a slightly frantic edge to it. She didn’t want to imagine what on earth he would be doing freely in another room.

“Get out of here, now,” she continued, grabbing the girl’s robes from the floor. “Thirty points from...Slytherin, is it? Yes. Thirty points from Slytherin.” She didn’t miss the glare that she could feel fixated on her, no doubt due because of her deduction from his House.

The girl made a rude gesture in response and gathered the rest of her belongings. “That makes ten more points!” Hermione called after, but her eyes were on him as his were on hers. His shirt was still the same as it had been when she’d left except much more of him was exposed. Much more than she would like to see. “Cover yourself, Malfoy, for Merlin’s sake.” She shook her head and walked towards her flight of stairs.

She didn’t miss the sound of his footsteps behind her and she turned to face him dead-on. He would not intimidate her.

“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” He demanded angrily, his voice rough with his previous lust, presumably.

“Kicking that girl out. If you want to traipse around with that type, feel free, but don’t you dare do it here where I have to stay as well.”

“Granger, I don’t know who you think you are besides some self-acclaimed high-and-mighty Mudblood, but you cannot tell whomever I bring in here to leave at your whim. It is absolutely no business of yours.” His grey irises seemed frozen as she looked at him, shaking her head in utter disbelief.

“You’re quite right, Malfoy, it is no business of mine. But when you’re here doing whatever it is that that is here in the shared common room, it becomes my business. Go find a different room for you and your toys.” She shook her head once more at him, disgusted and turned, flicking her hair over her shoulder.

“Fifty points from Gryffindor!” he said, and she whirled around to stare at him.

“What the ruddy hell for?” she demanded, knuckles white with the strain of her grip on the banister.
“Because I said so!”

“That’s hardly a justifiable reason!”

“Sixty!”

“Seventy from Slytherin on top of the forty you’ve already cost your House!”

His eyes flashed. “One-hundred and fifty from Gryffindor for you being nothing more than a Mudblood!”

She glared at him with an intensity of hate that she’d never felt before. Never once in all of her seventeen years. “Two-hundred from Slytherin for you being nothing more than a Pureblood that bows to daddy’s whim!”

“Two-hundred and fifty!” He retorted fiercely, but his eyes no longer held that flash of anger. They held something else or guarded it, rather.

“Four-hundred points from Slytherin!”

The whole bit about the House points was absolutely ridiculous and Hermione knew it – she honestly had no idea if the hourglasses in the Great Hall even had that amount in them on the first day. But when everyone saw that they were empty tomorrow and word got around that their dear Head Boy and Girl were at fault, there was bound to be some sort of reasonable punishment.

She lay in bed that night, exhausted due to the late hours with Ginny, and even more so after the argument with Malfoy. The stupid git...How dare he bring a girl, that looked to be no more than fourteen, into their common room and snog quite like that in plain sight? He could have had the decency, or the common sense, to take to his bedroom.

With a groan that formed into a sigh, Hermione rolled over to her side and gazed out the window. The moonlight shone through, the moon in plain sight through the sheer curtains. Inhaling deeply, she counted to ten as she let it out.

This method was enough to calm her and, in no time at all, she was sleeping.

The next morning brought a bout of dull light from her window, for the sky outside was overcast. After remembering last night’s events and picturing the looks of her Housemates at breakfast this very morning, her mood was no better than it had been and she was quite ready to turn her wand to Malfoy at a moment’s notice.

Getting dressed didn’t occupy enough of her mind to keep her distracted – it was habitual, robotic, and easy to accomplish without thinking about what went on next. She needed something more, something that was a challenging puzzle that didn’t have a solution readily visible.

She shook her head, sighing quietly as she pulled her lion’s mane back away from her face. The first day was always important, she’d told herself, and today would be no different than any others had been the past six years. Deep breaths were constantly taken to calm nerves, to calm the words on the tip of her tongue, and to calm racing thoughts as she imagined precisely what she would say to not only Malfoy if she saw him, but her friends when they – if they – began asking questions.

The bag sitting in the corner, already shoved full of books, was slung over her shoulder. The weight might have felt a bit excessive to anyone else but Hermione had done this every year – quite honestly, she was used to it. Another breath passed through her mouth and she opened her door, immediately pausing in the frame to look around the common room and to look across from her door to his.

No sounds met her ears as well as no sight of him at all. She exhaled and made her way down the staircase and out of the door. One burden had been lifted, but another fell in its place.




Author’s Note: Feedback always welcome. =]

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