Draco seemed to be the only one who had noticed that God-forsaken ring glowing brightly as Granger let out a cry of horror. She was now officially one of them. A Slytherin. He would have thought that, if any possibility, Ravenclaw would have been the house to embrace the intelligent girl. He couldn't understand it.
And the ring, he wasn't able to discard the feeling which told him it was somehow familiar. He couldn't stop thinking about it, ever since its incredible power was briefly revealed to his cold vision. As his eyes searched his new house-mate from shoe-tip to nose, Draco was such in his suspection that the metal band was seriously connected to the decision the old rag atop Granger's head had announced. All which was curtain was that he had seen it before, but why it intrigued him so he hadn't a clue. Looking up from her hand, where his gaze had inevitably landed, Malfoy was taken aback, drawing in a rattling gulp of oxygen.
Hermione continued to perch, motionless on the stool. Her eyes were brimming, and heavy tears ran over her flushed cheeks. She was visibly upset to an obvious degree, yet, even so, her mouth seemed to crack subconsciously into an almost unnoticeable twinge of a smile. Within seconds she came to realization and reset her features in an utterly terror-stricken and dread-filled expression, wiping such a smile clean from her face.
Professor Snape had risen so quickly from his chair that it tipped and fell with a clatter, hitting the ground unmercifully. His mouth was agape. He was now the Know-It-All's new Head of House; he would have to put up with her as one of his own. "Lord, end me now." he breathed in utter defeat.
“There you have it,” Dumbledore spoke clearly throughout the hall, plucking all attention back to himself as he gestured his praise, hands upward. “Miss Granger has been presented with the honor of acceptance to a truly influential house. I would expect that you all treat her as you did prior to this ceremony.”
The grumbles and sneers in the Great Hall elevated at such a request, both Hermione and Draco calculating the reasons why.
He would be stuck with her permanently, not only in his dormitory, but in lessons and during Slytherin-specific events; she would now cheer for his house's Quidditch team, and collect points for the House Cup in the serpent's favor. Letting his contemplative gaze scrutinize the table before him, a minor epiphany wandered into his brain. It was Granger, she could be used useful – helpful even – when it came to homework, the collecting of points, and – his personal favorite – as a topic with which to jeer Saint Potter.
“Miss Granger, please come here for a moment, if you will.” guided Dumbledore kindly, watching intently as Professor McGonagall lifted the Sorting Hat and the subject of such sorting removed herself uncertainly from the stool, wiped away her tears and meekly glided over. “I would like to congratulate you on your selection. Slytherin may, very well, be the key to the success of your inner goals.” her headmaster murmured with a wink before pulling out his wand and instructed her forward. “Stand still and face me, please.”
She did as he said, trying hard to empty her brain of panicked thought. It was done, she had relinquished her connection to Gryffindor, however reluctant she had been. Of all the houses offered at Hogwarts, she couldn't understand how the hat had overruled her desperation not to be placed with the snakes of the school, doing so regardless.
Her thoughts reflected those of her fellow Head, wondering how in the world she was going to integrate in to such a disdainful bunch, especially known as a mudblood. But her absolute worse fears would soon be realized, upon the completion of Dumbledore's presentation as her eye panned the tables.
“Fera Verto!” the professor emitted, with his wand tip held at the Head Girl dutifully.
Hermione was instantly caught in a whirl-wind as the magic spell transformed her robes from the Gryffindor lion, to a Slytherin serpent; her red to green, and her gold to silver. The clever witch looked down and absorbed the new robes. Her circumstance just would not fully sink in.
“There, now you are fit for your house. You may join your new table as a Slytherin.”
Haphazard applause rang out in the large room, emanating a tone of dread as the claps rang off of the stone walls with an erie echo; the cheer was absent, as if a military response had been issued. The students were applauding for her, yet, her intuition concluded it was not a sincere congratulation. Though, she could hardly blame them.
Looking at the Slytherin table, she started to journey towards it nervously, but stopped. Glancing at her old house table quickly, she saw the unmistakable faces of Harry and Ron upturn into repugnant frowns of betrayal. Her heart sank. There were no joyful smiles, jokes, or waves. Only glares.
Still walking towards her rightful table, Hermione suddenly huffed in determination and redirected her feet, sharply advancing on the Gryffindors. “Hello, boys.” she spoke curtly. “I hope this wasn't too hard on you. I just want to apologizing for the abruptness of all this, I only just found out this afternoon -”
Before she could finish, Ron slammed his fork down and shot up from his seat. He glared at her with all of his might, “Hard? Oh, don't be ridiculous, Hermione. Hard is when you have to tell your best friends the truth, immediately, to your greatest inconvenience when you find it out, no matter how fucked up it is! Not letting them find out when it's too late; that's just cruel.” It wasn't like before, when they had fought. Those fights were always resolvable, this one had the potential to be permanent. “I guess you picked the right house.” He piped in as an after-thought, refusing to let up but one inch. “And your 'inner destiny'? Since when has this so called 'destiny' been to become a loathsome, conniving traitor, who will now, most likely, become a Death Eater?”
Hermione turned to look at her table in uncertainty and notice Malfoy was now standing with his arms crossed, smirking knowingly at Ron.
“I'm honestly confused,” the redhead started up once more, reluctantly drawing Hermione's attention back toward his petulant voice. “I thought we knew you pretty damn well, had you pegged right down to the shoes on your feet.” After stepping back, giving her a disgusted once-over, and glaring towards Malfoy with disdain, he spoke one last time. “I guess we were horribly wrong. We thought you had a heart, a brain, love for your friends and house.”
“Ronald!” Hermione was crushed, lashing out in her own defense. “I didn't ask to be re-sorted! I don't want to be an enemy to my closest friends, you, Harry, and even Ginny.” She combed Ron's face, flicking her eyes from Harry to Ginny and among Gryffindor's section of the hall as a wave of anxiety washed over her. “Please listen! I can't believe you just won't hear me out.” Tears were now escaping her eyes. “I thought you would understand and take me as I am. Are you truly this shallow, only seeing the bad?” the witch pause to allow her friends to oblige her with an answer, yet no such acknowledgement was issued. “Why can't you understand that I wanted to tell you, there was just no time. I - I was in shock, petrified of what you would think about my new house.”
Ron raised his voice to overpower her. “I don't give a bloody-fuck about you or your precious new house. I wouldn't doubt that you're only in that foul group because you're shacking up with Malfoy.” Ron pierced her with his cloudy-blue irises. The whole of the Great Hall was starring at them now, teachers outraged and readying to intervene. She drew a sharp, pained gasp, mortified as the turn of events. “I mean, isn't that right? You do seem to spend every waking moment around the git."
"That's because we're Heads, Ron!" Hermione was now on the verge of hysteria.
He hadn't heard her. He didn't want her explanations. "All Slytherin girls are good-for-nothing, no matter who you think you are. And since you're one of them -”
“Mr. Weasley!” came an indignant cry from the deputy headmistress, who was gathering her robes and descending the steps which elevated the professors' table.
The clever witch could see were this was going, and with a reset of her jaw she held strong, defiant and angry. Ron wanted to play a friendship demolishing card from his hand of insults. So be it. “Whore! Is that what you think?” He nodded and tried to continue, but Hermione beat him to it, ignoring Professor Flitwick's futile attempt to dissipate the argument as he tugged on the hems of their robes. “Well, now we see the true colors of the famed 'Weasel King'!” she shouted forcefully, eventually batting Flitwick to the side unintentionally. “I'd expect more from a Gryffindor, and from my best friends. Actually, let me correct myself, former-best friends, because after six years of a close friendship something as trivial as this shouldn't be able to get in the way! You two don't know anything about this situation, let alone me anymore it seems, yet still you judge me. Have I not influenced you in the least?” she glared in question as Snape glided slowly down the hall to begrudgingly reign in his newest house-member, billowing his cloak intimidatingly. “I was only the bookworm, who gave you all of the answers, am I right? The true friend who got you out of a tight spot when things were beyond you; the ignored part of the damned 'Golden Trio'. I was nothing to you wasn't I? Just an escape route!” Shifting her eyes at the sound of a creaking bench, she shouted, “Sit down Harry! Don't make this any worse then it already is!”
Harry was getting up to stand by Ron's side ready to confront her, but stopped at her words and a glare from the approaching Potions Master, boiling in stewing hate for the pair.
Ron took this distraction as an advantage. “You have no right to tell us what we think, or what to do. We wouldn't listen anyway, you are, after all, the greatest house-traitor to ever walked these halls.” Gasps erupted around them.
“What were we thinking when we befriended you? You were an outsider even then. Nothings changed, we were only nice to you, then, because we felt sorry for you, Granger.”
Another wave of gasps flooded through the Great Hall at the use of her surname; they had finally reached the distance of last name basis. Two could play at that. “You know Weasel, you really need to learn to stop talking and shut your mouth when the subjects is beyond your realm. I hope you haven't offended the Boy Wonder too greatly for overshadowing his limelight these past few minutes.” Harry shot daggers at her.
“That is Enough!” McGonagall puffed in exhaustion as she hurried forth.
“God knows how much you two want the attention. Too bad I'm no longer interested in what you have to say. I may be a 'bitch from Slytherin' now, but at least I'm not a hot-headed prick, with money issues, a demanding ego, and a list of embarrassments a mile long hanging over my shoulders.”
“Miss Granger!” The elder woman was now brandishing her wand recklessly, waving it in disapproval as her other hand remained tangled in her skirts.
"Have a good life, or don't; I couldn't really care anymore. If you want our friendship over so badly, it'll be my pleasure.” Hermione spoke darkly. "Change happens boys. I suggest from now on you look for the best in everything, and get used to it.”
She frowned at the two as she felt Snape enclose his fingers on her shoulder like the legs of a contemplative spider.
“That will be quite all, Mr. Weasley,” he drawled, siding unexpectedly with Hermione in the quarrel and sharpening his eye on Harry as the Chosen One's jaw fell in shock. “Please return to your seat and inform Mr. Potter that we do not condone chewing with an open mouth in our seventh year. This is not preparatory school.” His grasp then lightly squeezed the new serpent's shoulder in warning before redirecting her to her rightful place, on the Slytherin bench, beside Malfoy's open spot.
Hermione left Ron and Harry dumbfounded. With one sly look back over her shoulder as she sat, her features twisted in to a sultry simper which radiated her victory. They both whirled around in an instant and stormed out of the Great Hall with McGonagall not far behind all worked up in a tizzy. If the talented young witch had to make enemies to make her point known, she would without fault. Some people weren't worth the time or energy anymore.
As she readjusted herself and reluctantly made room for Malfoy to resume his seat, she shivered in awe and exhilaration at the severe tingling she absorbed from the ring. This time her fright seemed absent; this time it didn't worry her. It felt good. It felt right.
“Well Granger,” Draco started, disbelieve etching his face at what he was about to say, “I was skeptical at first, but after that little display, let me be the first to admit you to the greatest house you will ever see.” Subtle, yet non-threatening acknowledge sounded from the whole group of Slytherin's at the table - excluding Pansy - partly due to the sorting ceremony, and mostly because of the row with Weasley.
Yes, last name basis would definitely work out for her.
In an unexpected wash of relief, Hermione felt much better. The public fighting, with surprisingly pitiful interjection from staff, had effectively released a ton of her pent up rage and frustration. It was nice to be accepted, even to Slytherin by way of her worst enemy. Her only regret was losing her friends in the process, but the scales had been tipped, and somehow balance needed to be regained.
It was quarter past midnight, a week since the sorting. Hermione was sprawled out on the couch in the, now, entirely green, silver and black common room. A book lay on her stomach, facing down, and her head hung over the edge of the seat, staring at the upside down flames corralled beyond the hearth.
This year seemed to be determined to crown itself the worse of her academic life. She and Malfoy had just given McGonagall their mock up of the Prefect patrolling schedule - after much debate and fuss to agree -, only to be informed that the deputy headmistress was disapproving of their lack of meetings held, all yet to be conducted.
They could hardly solidify their relationship long enough to compile an outline for such meetings. Being Head Girl was rapidly becoming a thorn in her side, and no time seemed to be spared for her duties away from her troubled thoughts.
So many things her mind shuffled though to ponder, Who she was became the most frequently occurring cogitation of the bunch. She gazed to her bare left foot as they propped up on the back of the couch at the unsolved serpentine marking. She had also shed many tears over her falling out with Harry and Ron, it should have been avoidable.
In the middle of her thoughts, the portrait swung open, exposing Malfoy as he reached her end of the tunnel and emerged into the common room. “Let me guess,” Hermione started. “out having a little fun with one of your girlfriends?” He smirked as she reflected the expression, righting herself slowly in the chair. “After all, you must not settle for just one. The girls probably flock to you, like flies to garbage. I guess it's just because you're so agreeable.”
Malfoy cocked an eyebrow, detected a note of sarcasm in the statement. “Granger, am I right in assuming that you're jealous?”
“Don't assume, Malfoy. Didn't your mother ever teach you that?” the saucy witch retorted confidently. “Were you hoping I'd be jealous?”
“Well, I'm not really into mystery-bloods, so I can't even consider you in that way at all. Yet.”
Hermione laughed against logic, dazzled unwittingly by a good mood and a silver gaze. She tingled all over from the damned loop about her finger, but keeping her composure, she responded. “Yet eh? What makes you so sure that I would have you, if I wasn't a 'mystery-blooded' witch, as you say?”
“I have my ways, I'm very persuasive. They don't call me the 'Slytherin Sex God' for nothing.”
“Congratulations on your royal title, Malfoy. I'm glad you are truly recognized as a womanizer. Watch out for those sluts of yours though, they could have countless numbers of maladies. I sincerely wouldn't want to see you dubbed as 'Slytherin's Walking Sexually Transmitted Disease'.” She laughed, he frowned. “Oh, and don't forget about that little something we of the muggle upbringing like to call 'contraception'. The last thing we need at this school are Malfoy juniors.” She smiled in sarcastic sweetness and pushed out of the chair.
He was really beginning rubbing off on her. Hermione's smirk was developing into a pretty convincing simper. She was getting to be even more quick-witted then ever before with her condescending remarks, and Draco would just have to step up the competition and keep her under foot.
As she looked into Malfoy's eyes, Hermione could feel herself begin to shake, as if every muscle in her body was straining in exhaustion just to keep her standing while the ring dimly emanated. Yet, this time she felt weak, suddenly struggling for stability. Reaching out a hand and clasping the high-back of one chair in her clutch, the trembling witch watched her knuckles turn white in stress. She tried to stretch, passing it off as stiffness to the eagle eye of her Slytherin counterpart and while facing Malfoy again, was determined to hold a strong and mischievous grin.
Draco was forcefully smirking right back at her, now. It seemed like a challenge, so she calculated her steps and moved toward him utilizing the chair entirely. But the game suddenly came to a screeching halt. Malfoy's smirk faded, his eyes widened as he reached out and touched the side of her stomach.
“What do you think you're doing?” Hermione rejected in outrage as he over-zealously seemed to shatter her playful boundary. Her objections were silenced when the blond lifted his hand away to show her the red liquid staining his palm. “Shit.” She looked down to see blood soaking through her tank top. “Oh my God! I'm bleeding!” she yelled to no one in particular swallowed in panic.
“Granger lift up the side of your shirt.” He said, calmly without missing a heartbeat, his voice threaded with an unreadable quality.
“What?” She looked slightly hysterical.
“Lift up your shirt.”
“No, I will not.” She was starting to worry as to what he would think; about his assumptions as he found what resided on that side of her body. She had hidden the scars from everyone, no one knew. Even Harry and Ron never found out.
“We don't want you bleeding all over the damn place. For once, I won't do anything! Just lift it up so I can have a look to see were the blood is coming from.”
“No, I- I don't want you to see.” Tears were welling up in her eyes, as her emotions seemed to detach from her brain. Since when had she cared what Malfoy thought about her?
“See? See what?” He was confused and now quite curious. “Granger do you want to potentially bleed to death for the second time in two weeks? Let me have a look!” He didn't sound caring, barking his orders in the state of a demand.
Hermione did as she was told this time, his words weaving uncertainty through her opposition. Closing her eyes, she lifted the side of her tank-top.
“Holy-shit, Granger.” Malfoy looked from her old wound to her troubled face. “When did this happen?” Still in a curious tone with little inclination of concern, he was again looking down at the blood pouring out of her ancient claw-mark scars, tracing them with his irises.
“I . . . I don't . . . I'm not sure.” She was trying to hold back the weakness in her voice as her grip began to falter on the chairs backing.
“You need to lay down on the floor and take your shirt off, completely.”
She was stunned. He had just asked her to remove a part of her clothing. Words such as those were never good, when issued from the Malfoy line.
“Granger, the only way I can heal this is if I can see the entire wound. So for the last time, take the bloody thing off and lay on your good side!”
She was getting weaker, he could tell by her eyes, they were unfocused and heavy. After all, she was losing a lot of blood. Why did he care? She was nothing but annoying, pushy, nerdy Granger. After a moment of contemplation the truth began to dawn. No. She was a Slytherin, and the one thing he had never forgotten was that you helped your own kind, whether or not you liked them.
Hermione started to stumble as her vision darkened and blurred. Reaching out for something, anything to keep her steady, she grabbed onto Malfoy's arm.
“I don't feel . . .” She closed her eyes and began to fall.
Reaching out, with pure instinct, Malfoy shot forward and laced his arms her around her small waist and upper back, catching her in a protective grasp as if she were a larger and less golden snitch. He pulled her close bracing her to be able to set her on the floor, smearing her blood on his clothing as he did so. She was so weak he was afraid her lifeline would soon deplete.
"Dra - Draco.” she murmured faintly, into his chest.
He froze. She really must have bee delirious if she was calling him anything other than Malfoy, Ferret, or prat.