By the time the sorting and the start of term feast had fizzled out and Hermione found herself alone in her Head Girl dorm she was exhausted. Her brain had worked her over good today with its wide range of emotion. She hadn’t had nearly the time she required to process all of the latest changes. Hogwarts without Harry and Ron didn’t feel quite so homey. Even more troublesome was Draco Malfoy. Why of all the things he could have done post war had he come back to school? Mister Malfoy had been captured and locked away. She’d heard Narcissa had fled to the US to escape. She had mistakenly assumed that Draco had gone with her. She pulled out her quill and jotted a quick letter to Harry asking if he could find out anything about Malfoy at the ministry. She’d drop it off to one of the school owls and have it sent first thing in the morning. For now, all she wanted was a hot bath and some sleep. She swapped into her robe and grabbed her shower bag before heading out to the prefects bathroom. She only had a half hour before prefects curfew.
She could hear the back to school celebrations echoing throughout Gryffindor tower. Her more studious half pushed her to go and tell them to get to bed, but she was just too tired to deal with it. She climbed out of the portrait hole and made her way over the bathroom. The lamps were still lit and the room glowed bright and gold. She turned on all the taps and shrugged out of her bathrobe. The scent of the various bubble baths already calming her. She slipped into the pool sized tub and sighed in content.
Surely Hogwarts would feel more normal tomorrow. She was just being silly. She thought this to herself as the hot water soaked into her bones making her feel limber and relaxed. She couldn’t mark how late it was when she finally forced herself out of the magically heated water. She hadn’t felt so wonderful since she’d left Harry and Ron at the burrow on July thirty first. She dried herself on one of the fluffy towels that were kept stocked on the shelves around the tub and shrugged back into her robe. She slipped on her flip flops and opened the door to exit the bathroom. As she stepped out of the doorway she ran right into something hard. There was no catching herself this time and she cursed her clumsiness and she hit the stone floor with a hard smack and the contents of her bag went rolling across the floor.
“God Granger, didn’t I tell you to watch where the fuck you were going once today?” She looked up from the floor at Draco Malfoy standing an a green and black plaid robe. Which reminded her her own was hiked up around her hips and she hurriedly righted herself.
“Did you ever think that it’s you who keeps running into me you selfish prat?” She shouted as she picked herself up off the cold floor.
“No, of course not,” He smirked. “Everyone knows you have all the grace of an elephant.”
”Really this is such a lovely chat, but I think I’d like to go to bed now,” she scrambled to pick up her things and walk away. Malfoy grabbed her arm as she walked by.
“You should watch how you speak to me Granger.” He snarled digging his fingertips into her shoulder.
“Let go of me!” She pulled her wand and pointed it at his chest almost laughing at the comparison to third year. “It’s you who should watch yourself. You haven’t got any friends or followers these days Malfoy. What are you even doing back here?”
He released her arm as if her skin burned him. His anger slipped for just a moment and she saw a shimmer of, could that be sadness? Behind his stormy grey eyes. Before she could analyze it too much he schooled his expression back to arrogant anger.
“Careful Granger, not all the bad guys have been locked away.” He shrugged her off and turned to go into the bath.
“Why did you come back?” She asked before he let the door swing shut behind him.
“Haven’t your ministry friends told you?” He asked angrily.
“No, should they?” She snarled back.
“I expect they will soon enough.” And with that he let the door swing shut.
She knew the bathroom wouldn’t allow anyone else to enter while it was occupied. Though she was curious about that last statement, she didn’t try to follow. She had a feeling it was already well past curfew and it wouldn’t look very good if the head girl got caught breaking the rules in her first night back. She figured she’d spend a restless night worrying about everything despite this being the year she had the least to worry over, but she was out before her head hit the pillow.
The next morning was a scramble as it always was. She helped McGonagall roam up and down Gryffindor table handing out schedules to her classmates and the underclassman. She’d barely had time to cram a bite of toast in her mouth before it was time to start her first class. Mercifully it was Care of Magical Creatures with Hagrid. She’d never been fond of Hagrid’s lessons, but she couldn’t very well vouch for the rights of magical creatures if she didn’t get an Outstanding on her N. E. W. T. in the class. The weather was lovely with the sun shining through the clouds and she smiled as she made her way across the grounds. Hogwarts was feeling better already. She was a strong independent witch who had helped save the world. Many of the younger witches and wizards and even some of her fellow seventh years looked at her as if she was their saviour. Of course that was more Harry than her.
Hagrid greeted her warmly as she met him near the edge of the forest. He scooped her into a back breaking hug before smiling at her with tears in his eyes.
“Alrigh’ there Hermione? I’m so glad ye’ve come back. In even more glad you’re taking me subject again. And it’s all thanks to you Harry and Ron that we get to be here and smile in the sun. I can never thank you three enough.” He smiled at her and she felt her cheeks heat. She was never one to do well with flattery.
“Anyone who could have done it would have Hagrid. We were just the ones who drew the short straws.” She shrugged and looked at the ground.
“There was a reason it was you three. Now enough with the pleasantries,” he said adjusting his large leather belt. “I’ve got a bit of a favour to ask ye and it’s not a pleasant task.”
“Please Hagrid, no dragons!” Hermione cried recalling their first year experience with Norbert.
“I’s not dragons though ye may wish it were when you find out what it is, come on let’s go greet your classmates.” He led her over to the group gathered a few feet away. She recognized a few friendly faces and on the outskirts of the crowd once again was Draco Malfoy.
He looked quite strange every time she saw him without Crabbe and Goyle next to him. Of course with Goyle being dead and Crabbe being in prison there was no chance of ever seeing that again. He was quite striking on his own. Usually surrounded by their bulk she hadn’t noticed he’d grown several inches far exceeding six foot and filled out quite a bit from the skinny boy she remembered. No one was paying him any mind as they clustered around Hagrid. She thought she saw that arrogant look slip once more before he caught her looking at him. Like a rubber band, it snapped back into place. She really needed someone to tell her why he was here when he so clearly wasn’t happy.
“Gather round class,” Hagrid’s voice boomed over their heads and the chatter ceased. “As you all know there were a great many casualties from the war and the battle here at Hogwarts. Our creature friends have suffered and we need to help them out. Your assignment for the next couple weeks will be to write me an essay on the effects of wars on wildlife. After we complete the essays we’ll move on to some conservation efforts in the forest. I’ve decided to make this a team effort and I’ve already paired you off so listen up now.”
Hermione listened for her name as Hagrid read over his list. She wasn’t worried. Essays were her bread and butter so it didn’t really matter who her partner was. Even if he was a slack off she’d still get a perfect grade. It was the hands on aspect of CoMC that she’d always disliked.
“And las’ but not leas’, Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy.” Hagrid called before he rolled up the parchment. She looked at Hagrid with her mouth gaped open. How could he? He gave her a sympathetic look and strode her way. Malfoy didn’t move from his spot, but looked particularly furious at this latest development.
“Why are you doing this to me? He’s a death eater.” She whined to Hagrid. His big eyes were soft as he looked down at her.
“Its not a punishment Hermione. None of the other students will work with him. McGonagall told me his own house calls him a traitor and the rest of the students aren’t much better. He may have been a death eater, but now he’s a student and I’m his professor. Dumbledore forgave him and I reckon he’d want me to make sure he had a partner who would at least treat him fairly.” Hagrid placed his over large hand on her shoulder and she sighed. He was absolutely right. Personal feelings aside, Malfoy had a right to be here.
“I suppose you’re right. It’s only a bit of studying and an essay. That’s what I’m best at.” She smiled up at Hagrid and he looked relieved.
“Good girl Hermione! Now I’ve got a few chores to catch up on so I’m sending you lot up to the library. I expect the Head Girl to mind them for the hour.” Hagrid winked at her and she sighed again. He gave the orders and everyone went trotting up to the library. Everyone except Malfoy.
“Well come on then, we’ve got studying to do.” She called to him. He fixed her with a hard stare and she rolled her eyes. This was going to be a challenge.
“I’m not going to help you write a dumb essay for that oaf. It’s bad enough I have to be here. Even worse I get paired up with a mudblood for an assignment.” He sneered.
The word meant nothing to her anymore. People could say whatever they wanted. Her reaction to it was what gave it power. His eyebrow raised almost imperceptibly at her non reaction.
“Oh grow up! I don’t give a damn if you want to do it or not. I’ll do it myself. I need good grades if I’m to have the career I want and I won’t have you spoiling it. Help me or don’t. It’s your future you’re spitting on.” She yelled. She hadn’t meant to yell but his smug expression had her blood boiling. He looked even more pleased at her outburst.
“Why aren’t you out there fighting crime with your friends?” He asked.
“Why aren’t you in America with your disgraced mother?” She countered.
He strode toward her so fast she had no time to react. This time it was his wand against her chest. Her heart pounded in her chest. Surely he wasn’t going to curse her like this on school grounds?
“Never mention my family again.” His voice had the barely controlled calm of the insane when he spoke. Though she’d rather not admit it, it chilled her to the bone. He pulled his wand away and tucked it back in his pocket.
“I have friends in very high places, Malfoy. You’d do well not to threaten me. Perhaps you should leave if you’d rather not do assignments.” And with that she stormed off towards the castle.
“If only I could,” he whispered sadly. Hermione, however, did not hear him.
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