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The train ride back to Hogwarts was long and silent for Hermione. Harry and Ron were nowhere to be found and while the Prefect’s carriage was usually crowded with students, this time it was unusually empty. She had expected that a good portion of the student population wouldn’t return after the attack, but the rest of the train was busy and full of life. Why hadn’t any of the Prefects come to their shared carriage? And most importantly, why hadn’t the Head Boy?

The entirety of the ride was marked by pounding sheets of rain and flashes of lightning harmonizing with rumbles of thunder that refused to cease when the Hogwarts Express reached Hogsmeade Station. The younger students ran through the puddles and dashed around under torrents of water pouring down from the station buildings while the older students hurried to the carriages eager to be out of the downpour. Hermione took her time gathering up her shoulder bag and opening her umbrella, hoping that she’d catch glimpses of Draco or at least her friends. In the end, her waiting caused her to not only be drenched from the splashing of the younger students, but to ride to the castle alone in the last carriage as well.

When she arrived at the gates she was less surprised and more thankful to see a group of Ministry Auror’s checking students and luggage. Despite recent conspiracies within the Ministry of Magic, she figured the Minister would send at least a little reinforcement to the school if only for appearance. Still it was great to finally see some familiar faces in the crowd.

“Kingsley!”

The dark-skinned Auror was one of the most interesting characters around in Hermione’s opinion – he was hard-working in the Ministry and fed top secret information to The Order whenever he had the chance. His work aside, whenever he was at Grimmauld Place or the Weasley’s he always passed his dessert off to Hermione after dinner and surprised her with wrapped caramel pieces when they ran into each other. He had been nothing but sweet and caring to her.

“Yes? Can I help you?”

Why is he being so cold? “It’s good to see you again, how ar-,”

“I’m sorry Miss but I don’t believe we’ve met before. If you’d kindly pass me your bag, I can begin searching it so you may enter the grounds.”

Hermione stared at him for a few seconds in disbelief before finally biting her lip and handing him her bag. She knew there was nothing of interest in there – some makeup, feminine hygiene products, a small compact mirror, scattered Muggle and Wizard money, random small hair accessories, The Art of Seduction – but Kingsley still took his time shoving his hand down and around to reach every possible crevice. Despite being in the last carriage, there were still groups of students standing around as their bags were searched. She wasn’t sure, but it seemed like the constant staring and hushed whispers that had previously died down, had resurfaced and begun again. Trying her best to seem unfazed by the uproar of attention, she smiled pleasantly and attempted to give off the aura that being alone wasn’t so bad.

After what seemed like ages, Kingsley handed Hermione her bag back with a curt, “You’re clear to proceed to the castle.” She smiled at him with questioning eyes but he just turned over his shoulder to assist the other students.

“Hermione?”

Standing a few feet ahead was none other than Tyler, waving excitedly with one hand and beckoning her over with the other. He seemed to have grown taller over the past few weeks and the ends of his now long hair were curling slightly under the collar of his sweater.

“Tyler, hello. How was your break?”

He smiled and matched his stride with hers as they continued up to the castle. “It was busy! I was,”

Hermione smiled as he rattled on about his vacation, something about one sport or another and the unbelievable weather where he was. It wasn’t that she had anything against the poor boy, and she had to admit that if she was actually listening it would probably be quite a story, but she just couldn’t bring herself to care at that moment. Where were all her friends? Where were the Slytherin boys she had gotten so used to seeing around? Sure there were students everywhere – no matter where she looked she saw people as she walked with Tyler into the castle – but she couldn’t find anyone she had a connection to.

“Would you like that?”

Hermione smiled and looked up at him. “Would I like what?”

Tyler’s trademark beaming smile faltered slightly. “Flying out to Paris for Valentine’s Day… My family has a private jet and I could get us a reservation at whatever restaurant you’d like.”

Private jet? She knew Tyler was Muggleborn like herself, but that fact had slipped her mind. From the sounds of it his family also had quite a bit of money but did he think flaunting it would make her say yes to him?

“Have you ever been to Paris, Hermione?”

Paris…

Immediately she flashed back to the last time she had been in Paris, beginning in the dark hours when time crosses from one day to the next, as fireworks and a strong pair of arms encircled her. Yes she had been to Paris, the city of romance and love. She had been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, dined on the banks of the Seine, shopped in the top districts and went up and down The Avenue des Champs-Elysées more than a handful of times. At Hogwarts she was seen as low class, but in the Muggle world she had status and privilege, and for that one day, she had been treated like the Queen.

It felt like a lifetime ago now.

“Hermione?”

She looked up from her daydream and into the clear blue eyes of Luna Lovegood, who was standing absurdly close with a wrapped package in her hands. When Hermione gazed back at her, she lifted the package and presented it happily.

“Harry and I made these cookies just last night and he told me to bring them to you!”

Hermione raised an eyebrow and looked around behind her friend. “Where is Harry anyway? I have some things I need to speak to him,”

“Oh he isn’t here.”

What? “What?”

Luna nodded and offered the cookies closer to Hermione. “Yes he isn’t here, but he told me to give you these cookies!”

Hermione looked between Luna and Tyler and chuckled happily, though awkwardly. “Tyler I’m sure you understand that I haven’t seen Luna at all since break and we are rather close.”

Tyler nodded and exhaled. “Of course you’d want to catch up with your friends now that we’re back, it’s only natural. I guess I’ll see you at dinner maybe?”

She nodded. “Sure, maybe. I’ll see you later!”

The two girls watched as Tyler jogged the rest of the way to castle, rubbing his hands together against the cold winds that had taken the place of the rain. “He seems rather nice!”

Hermione nodded and looked at Luna. “Where’s Harry?”

Luna shrugged. “On an adventure somewhere.”

“He didn’t tell you where?”

Her voluminous hair bounced as she shook her head. “All he said was that it was important and had to be done.”

Had to be done? Did he… Go after the horcruxes!? “Maybe we should go in to dinner…”

The Great Hall was full of students but seemed empty – there were spots of laughter and hushed conversation, everyone was on edge and unsure what to expect from the new semester after what had happened the last time they had been in the castle. Professor McGonagall gave the welcome back speech but Hermione was everywhere else yet nowhere. She felt anxious all over and a sense of anticipation was crushing her like a wave, but she had no idea what she was waiting for. To see Dumbledore? Harry or Ron? Then there was… But no, she had to focus.

The walk up to the Head’s Dorm felt heavy even though many students stopped to say hi to her and ask how her break was. Part of her hoped that she would find him when she climbed through the portrait hole, that he would be there waiting for her and missing her like she had been missing him, which she had. She had gone from not caring about him, to trying to seduce him to now finding herself missing his presence. This was the last thing she had expected at the beginning of the year.

Silence greeted her when she emerged on the inside of the portrait hole. The fire was on and warming the room casting shadows across the walls and giving her false hope that she wasn’t alone in the large dorm. Usually his bag, socks, robe or books would litter the room but there was no sign that he had been there. She wasn’t sure what kind of scene she had expected when she walked in, but this was not it.

Duchess was waiting on the bed when she walked into her room, the smell of incense filling her nostrils softly. The small kitten had gotten quite attached to the Slytherin and usually pawed at the door to be let out so she wander around to find him, but the fact that she only gazed at Hermione happily told her that Draco Malfoy was definitely not here.

The return from back saw students facing a new schedule – usually their classes would pick up in the same order they were before they left, but now all of their subjects had been changed to different times and different rooms. There had no been no explanation at breakfast, which Hermione had eagerly waited for, so she could only assume it was some sort of precautionary method. No one had figured out how the Death Eaters had gotten in the school, though plenty far fetched stories filled pages and pages of the Prophet all through break and were the topics of conversation now that the students were back in the castle.

When breakfast commenced Hermione shoulder her bag glumly and prepared herself to face a new term without her friends, since they were still nowhere in sight. As she rounded the corner of the Grand Staircase to head up to her classes, she expected to see Blaise waiting for her, as he had the past few months. But no one was there.

The day dragged on like feet in mud, her only company in classes being Tyler. None of her professors offered explanations of where the absent students were or why their schedules had been changed, only carried on as if nothing had happened. The aura of the school felt drained, whether it be because of the anxiety of another possible attack or because her friends had not shown up she didn’t know.

Tyler, she felt a little awkward admitting it to herself, was like sunshine though. He held open doors for her and kept her as distracted as possible from her loneliness, going so far as to sit with her for lunch and for dinner. He seemed to have calmed down from his eagerness of liking her and instead made her laugh with funny stories and Muggle jokes.

“Can I walk you up to your room?” Tyler asked nonchalantly as they left dinner after a long first day back.

Hermione fidgeted with her bag; sure he had been great all day but did he expect something if she said yes to his accompaniment? Who else was there though? “I suppose that would be alright…”

He smiled and extended his arm to take her bag and they proceeded up the flights of moving stairs until they reached the portrait for the Head’s Dormitory. Fleetingly she remembered that last night in the castle before break, when Draco had been sitting against the wall waiting for her. Forcing the lump rising in her throat back down she turned to Tyler and smiled warmly.

“Thank you for today Tyler, it was great.”

Tyler smiled shyly as he set her bag against the cold stone wall. “You looked like you needed someone, I thought I’d try to fill in. For, well, you know.”

An awkward silence passed – Tyler thinking about how she must miss Blaise, while in reality she was missing Draco.

She had to admit that dating Tyler would be easier, and less controversial, than dating Blaise or… And Tyler was here, and he really was a great guy who liked her. No weird deals about losing virginity or using a book for seduction. Maybe this was what she needed.

Hermione bit her lip. “Tyler, you know I was-,”

“Ireallywanttotkissyourightnow!!”

She raised an eyebrow and squinted. “Come again?”

Tyler shrugged his shoulders as his cheeks reddened. “You just look so beautiful and I really want, to…” he trailed off and looked up at the ceiling.

Who knew a guy who had been so forthcoming with his emotions would be shy! It was actually kind of cute, and before she knew what she was doing, she was stepping closer and looking up at his tall figure. “You think I look beautiful?”

He looked down at her, searching her eyes to see if maybe she was toying with him. Slowly he placed one hand on the small of her back and the other gently cupped her left cheek. “You always look beautiful Hermione.”

Later that night as she tossed and turned in her bed, Hermione replayed that night in Paris, the night that had changed her. Tyler had rubbed her cheek gently and kissed her forehead before bidding her goodnight, but so many nights ago she had been in a similar position with a very different boy. He had whispered to her and held her close, and maybe in time Tyler would be the person to do that.

But all she wanted at the moment was Draco Malfoy.

















A/N
I AM SO SO SORRY FOR THE LONG WAIT :((( College will do that to you. I hope you guys aren't too mad!

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