The students entered through the double doors and into the Great Hall, heading toward their respective tables. Above each table were banners that showed their house colors: Gryffindor - maroon and gold; Hufflepuff - yellow and black; Ravenclaw - blue and bronze; and Slytherin - green and silver.
The High Table was across from the four tables, where the teachers were already sitting. Above the table was their own banner, which combined the four houses into one. McGonagall sat in the center where Dumbledore usually sat, and to the right of her sat Snape talking with Slughorn, and a little further down was Hagrid, who was waving at the Golden Trio.
The Trio waved back before they sat down at their table. “I hope the sorting is quick. I’m hungry,” Ron announced.
“Ron, when are you not hungry?” Hermione laughed.
Ron shrugged and turned toward Harry. “Any word on who made Head Boy?”
Harry shook his head, wrapping his arm around Hermione. “No, but we all know who made Head Girl.”
“Harry, stop. We don’t know that for sure,” Hermione said, playfully hitting his arm.
Harry wanted to tell her so badly and honestly couldn't wait anymore. As soon as he was about to open his mouth to speak, he was interrupted by the first years entering the hall.
To Ron’s delight, the sorting did not take long, since there were fewer students than usual. With Dumbledore dead and Voldemort still on the loose, some parents felt Hogwarts was not as safe as it used to be and didn’t want to enroll their children.
The students and teachers began eating the ample food that appeared in front of them. Ron was stuffing his face, oblivious that Hermione was not touching any of the food. Unlike Ron, Harry had noticed and raised an eyebrow at her. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” she answered. “Just kind of thinking about our years here.”
“Hermione, you got to eat something,” Harry pushed, handing her a roll.
Hermione thanked Harry and started nibbling on the roll. She turned around and began scanning the hall. She wasn’t looking for anyone in particular, simply wanting to take the whole scene in. She knew this was her last “first meal,” and although she was happy to move forward in her life, she was still sad to think these walls that had held her in for six years prior were no longer going to be there. She would no longer hear what new songs the Sorting Hat came up with, or see the joyful looks on the first years as they were named into their house.
When her eyes came upon the Slytherin table, she realized she was not the only one reminiscing. She saw Draco looking around the hall himself, smiling up at the bewitched ceiling. She then looked down at his plate, noticing he wasn’t eating either. She smiled to herself, thinking that maybe there was some good in him after all and that he really did care about his school and friends.
He suddenly turned toward her, casuing her whole body to tingle when their eyes met. It didn’t take long for her to shake it off, though. She could admit to herself that he was good looking, but it always ended there. Unlike the other girls in her year, she believed beauty was skin deep, and with a personality like his, she could never be attracted to him beyond the physical point.
Draco could not understand what was happening to him. Once he entered the Great Hall, he felt this overwhelming feeling come over him. He suddenly realized this was his last year and he would no longer be protected inside these walls, knowing there would be no more excuses anymore and would not be able to hide behind his school.
While reminiscing about the school, he suddenly felt like someone was watching him. He looked over toward the Gryffindor table, noticing Hermione staring at him. He didn’t know how, but he sensed that she was feeling the same way he did about their last year. He couldn’t believe that this girl in front of him, who he ridiculed for six years for being different, was not as different as he originally believed. He quickly shook it off and turned away, not wanting to think more on that.
He then looked down his table, thinking about the friends he made in his six years. There were Crabbe and Goyle, whom he never considered great friends but still good companions. They never thought for themselves, so he always enjoyed bossing them around and telling them how they should think. They were great to have around when he needed them because they always gave him the attention he craved.
Then there was Pansy Parkinson, who always gave him something else he craved. He had loved her in their fifth year, but later discovered it wasn’t reciprocated. She had told him that she wasn’t looking for any type of relationship and just wanted to have fun. At first he was heartbroken, but when their new “relationship” began, he was able to forget how he had felt before and loved having a friend with great benefits and none of the responsibilities of a boyfriend.
“You gonna eat that, Draco?” came a low voice sitting beside him.
He looked over, seeing Blaise Zabini eyeing his chicken. He shook his head and handed the boy his plate. Blaise smiled, snatching the plate away from Draco’s hand, and began eating it.
Blaise was the only person Draco ever considered his true friend. Their parents were really good friends, so he and Blaise had practically known each other all their life. They always confided in each other about everything and never passed judgment. They also knew that if either of them ever got into trouble, the other would always have their back.
“Our last year. Excited?” Blaise asked.
“Nervous,” Draco admitted.
“Why? Tough classes?”
“No, just nervous about afterwards.”
Blaise nodded in understanding, sad to see his friend in this predicament. He had already made his choice earlier that summer and knew Draco was still fighting his conscience, trying to see which one would eventually win out. “Whatever you decide, remember I will always have your back,” Blaise promised.
Draco nodded, turning his attention toward the Gryffindor table and focusing on the Golden Trio. He watched as Harry tickled Hermione and Hermione laughing while she tried to push him away. He saw Ron stuffing his face with more food, smiling at his two best friends who were obviously flirting with each other. He sighed to himself as he stared down at his table, thinking, Must be nice to have a life like that.
Once everyone had enough food, the food and plates disappeared from the tables. McGonagall stood up from her seat, waiting for the students to hush their voices, which didn’t take long, since everyone was scared of her.
“Another year has come,” she began. “For some of you, this will be your last year and I hope we have exceeded your expectations here at Hogwarts. Now I’m sure most of you are anxious for this next announcement, and I must say this was rather hard to decide.”
Hermione grabbed Harry’s hand, squeezing it tightly. She knew the announcement of Head Boy and Girl was next. She worked so hard to try to get this high achievement and was very nervous about the outcome.
Harry smiled and leaned over, whispering in her ear, “Hermione, there’s something I need to tell you.”
Harry looked over at Ron, noticing his attention was still on McGonagall. He took a deep breath before he started to speak again. It was now his turn to squeeze her hand. “I like you.”
Hermione smiled. “I like you too, Harry.”
“No, I mean I really like you,” Harry stressed. “More than a friend.”
“Oh,” Hermione could only voice, shocked at his sudden declaration.
Harry smiled. “There’s something else.”
McGonagall continued to ramble on about the duties and obligations of the Head Boy and Girl, but Hermione was no longer listening. Her attention was fully focused on Harry: the boy who just told her he liked her more than a friend.
“So after a long discussion with all of the teachers,” McGonagall began wrapping up, pointing over at the smiling teachers (Snape scoffing), “and talking with several of their peers…”
“I’m Head Boy,” Harry suddenly whispered to Hermione, not able to keep it in anymore.
“What?” Hermione’s jaw dropped. “How do you know?”
“I told you. McGonagall and I got closer over the summer. One night when we were talking, she let it slip that I had become Head Boy,” he explained.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“She asked me to swear not to say anything,” he replied. “But I couldn’t hold it in anymore.”
“Do you know who made Head Girl then?”
Harry nodded. “I do, but I don’t know if I should tell you.”
“It’s not me, is it?” she frowned.
“What if you weren’t? Would you like me any less if I became a Head and you didn’t?”
Hermione shook her head. “Of course not, Harry. I like you too much to ever do that,” she said, happy that her mind finally caught up with her heart.
“Well then it’s a good thing you’re the Head Girl,” he smiled, leaning in and kissing her cheek.
“Congratulations to Harry Potter and Hermione Granger,” McGonagall concluded.
The two looked up when their names were announced. Hermione was still in shock, not hearing the cheers and applause from the students in the hall, the loudest coming from their own table, and Ron in particular.
Harry grabbed Hermione’s hand and they stood up at their table, so everyone could see. Hermione looked around the hall and again her eyes met with those cold, gray-blue eyes. Draco smirked at her and then looked away, shaking his head.
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