As she boarded the Hogwarts Express, Hermione looked around at the platform for familiar faces. Finding none, she walked through the train to a compartment near the back where she and Harry and Ron usually sat. She sat down on the cushioned seat and waited. After about fifteen minutes of waiting, the train finally started. She was surprised. Where were Ron and Harry? Had they missed the train like they had done in their second year? The time passed slowly as Hermione waited for the boys to enter. Once half an hour had passed, she gave up waiting and decided that she might as well go to the prefects’ compartment and wait until everyone got there. Then she realized she was still wearing her muggle clothes, so she slipped into one of the bathrooms on the train and changed into her Hogwarts uniform and robes. With that finished, she strode confidently toward the prefects’ compartment. This year, she had been made Head Girl. When the owl had arrived with the letter from Dumbledore with her badge, she had not been exactly surprised; it was a well known fact to everyone who attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that Hermione Granger would make Head Girl. However, it had been a consolation in the midst of all her troubles at home and had cheered her up, slightly. Now that she was on the train to go to Hogwarts for her final year, the worries that had stayed with her from her summer at home suddenly vanished, and her full confidence had been restored. She was ready to return to her role as the bushy-haired bookworm. She opened the door to the compartment, and strode into the room with a slight bounce to her step. Looking around the room, she was glad to see that no one was there yet. She still had time to work out what she was going to say to the prefects when they arrived. Then a question struck her; who was going to be Head Boy along with her? When she had received her letter, she had automatically assumed it would be Ron, but then she remembered that there were many other intelligent prefects who were capable of living up to the responsibilities that came with badge; of course, Malfoy excepted. She was still certain he had only been prefect because of his father. That boy certainly did not have the brains to live up to the role of prefect, much less Head Boy. This was why she was surprised to see the devil himself (Draco Malfoy) walk into the room with his usual over-confident swagger. She gaped at him as he unceremoniously plopped down on one of the seats. He looked around the room, then noticed her and his face contorted into its usual sneer. Hermione knew that he would have said something extremely rude to her right then if they hadn’t been interrupted by the prefects’ sudden entrance. They all came in at the same time and made a loud commotion, and Hermione had to shout over the pandemonium they had created. Once they had all quieted down, she gave her small speech. “Okay, now you are all here because you have great academic abilities. This does not just give you special privileges. The badge that you received comes with responsibilities. You are expected to set a good example for all the younger students; you should not be caught pulling pranks or hexing your fellow students.” At this point she glared in Malfoy’s direction. “Also, any rule breaking may result in penalties that range from detention to loss of your badge, depending on the extent of the offense. “You are also in charge of arranging special events for the school. For example, you are expected to decide what balls or parties the school will have, and you will be in charge of decorating the school for that event.” She looked at all of them in turn. “You are all dismissed for now. Oh, wait. Do you have anything to say, Malfoy?” Malfoy’s sneer still hadn’t disappeared. There was sarcasm dripping from his voice as he answered her. “Oh, no; of course not. How could I say something in addition to that wondrous speech of yours?” The Slytherin prefects snickered at this, but everyone else glared at him. Hermione resisted the urge to slap that smug look off his face. Instead, she smiled at the prefects and said, “You may leave. Don’t forget that there’s a prefect meeting next Saturday at 7 o’clock.” As she started to leave the room, she felt someone grab her arm. She turned around to look into the familiar brown eyes of Ginny Weasley. Ginny had been made a Gryffindor prefect that year. “Hermione, what happened to your face?” she asked her. Somehow, her voice sounded different. There was a strange detached sound to it, as if she was asking the question, but wasn’t really concerned. Hermione paused for a moment at this, but realized that she must be imagining it; though she and Ginny had never truly been close friends, they still cared about each other. She smiled weakly at her, and answered slowly, as she quickly came up with an excuse. “Oh, the scratches just came from Crookshanks when I unfortunately picked him up while he was in a bad mood. I got the black eye when I-” At this point, she realized that Ginny’s eyes had a glazed-over look that indicated that she wasn’t listening anymore. “Hey, Gin, are you okay?’ Ginny seemed to wake up from her trance. She smiled at her, and Hermione did not fail to notice that the smile did not reach her eyes. “Oh, I guess I just kind of spaced out right there.” She gave a slight wave to her, and then exited the room quickly. Hermione watched her leave, and wondered what was going on. Finally, she just shrugged and noticed that by then, everyone had left the compartment. She walked down to the compartment in the back, noted that Ron and Harry still were not there, so she began a search of the compartments. After a few checks, she finally opened a sliding door to see a familiar red head. Unfortunately, she had just come upon a very different scene than she had expected. Ron was there alright, but he was in the middle of a very heated ‘snogging session’ with a fellow Gryffindor who was none other than Lavender Brown. Immediately, she closed the compartment door on them and leaned against it. ‘Since when are Ron and Lavender a couple?’ she asked herself. ‘That’s probably why he and Harry weren’t in our usual compartment!’ She certainly did not want to go looking for Harry now. He was probably off in the same situation as Ron, and she did not want to see that unpleasant sight. After a few moments, she felt the train come to a slow halt. She headed toward the doors, and walked outside into the warm night air. The horseless carriages were waiting for them outside, so she sat down in one that was pretty far away from the train. After several minutes of waiting, the horseless carriage started moving, and Hermione sighed deeply. She had been hoping that Harry and Ron would search for her, but they hadn’t. Why did she expect them to, after they hadn’t looked for her on the train? Her year at Hogwarts was looking bleaker now. Hopefully, once they had gotten up to the school and into the Great Hall, the two boys would sit next to her, and this incident would be forgotten. ~ * ~ Hermione got no such luck. She sat down at the end of the Gryffindor table and watched Ron and Harry walk to the table and sit far away from her. They did not even seem to notice her. They both had an arm around the waist of a girl. Surprisingly, the girl with Harry was Parvati Patil. Hermione knew the two of them had gone the Yule Ball together, but she didn’t know that they were a couple. Suddenly, she started feeling very sick. No one came to her to greet her or talk to her; she was left completely alone. The truth that Hermione did not want to admit was starting to show. Before, she had only had friends because she was a close friend of the “Famous Harry Potter. Now, she had no one. Even her friends had abandoned her. It was starting to feel like her first year. She had had no friends back then, either. Yes, this year was starting out badly. Feeling as if she was going to throw up, Hermione left the table and walked out of the Great Hall. ~ * ~ A/N- I know, I know, there wasn’t enough interaction with Draco, or even Harry and Ron, in this chapter. Also, I just made it even more depressing! Well, I’m still trying to set the tone for the story. I want you all to know though, that this story will become extremely romancey in later chapters! And then everything will start getting good from then on. I just want to get you all pitying Hermione. Hopefully, you are starting to feel the first signs of pity right now!
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