It felt good to be back in the Great Hall. As she started on her dinner (with a copy of Hogwarts, A History propped up in front of her—it never hurt to brush up on things), Hermione felt herself start to relax. Dinner hadn’t started out so smoothly, however. There were so many changes to Opening Ceremonies that Hermione had no idea what to expect. First of all, there was no Sorting. Not that that was surprising, after all that had happened in the final battle…she couldn’t even remember what happened to the Sorting Hat after Neville had pulled the Gryffindor sword out of it. Had it gotten lost? Who knew?
Being as there was no Sorting, the students just sat wherever they liked. Most tables were now mixed, although Hermione did notice that the former Slytherins mostly kept to their own table. One slight exception seemed to be Draco Malfoy. Although he did still sit at the Slytherin table, he opted to sit at the very foot of it, alone. He also managed to do so in a manner that made it very obvious to all that he preferred to keep it that way. He had spread his books and belongings all around him forming a barrier of paraphernalia, and mostly kept his head down, hunched over some magazine. When he did look up occasionally, it was to glare at some student who had obviously gotten too close.
Instead of a Sorting, the evening had begun with the Headmistress’ speech. Professor McGonagall has taken up the post for one year only, in order to get the new regime running smoothly before stepping down into a peaceful retirement. Announcements had been made about some of the new rules (no more House points, being as there were no more Houses), and introductions of the new prefects and of course, the new Head Boy and Head Girl. Michael Corner, formerly of Ravenclaw, had been awarded Head Boy. Hermione supposed that was a good choice; surprisingly, she didn’t care as much as she thought she would. Ginny had actually seemed more interested than she had, probably because Ginny had dated him for a while back in her fourth year. When the announcement had been made, Hermione glanced over at Ginny, who had rolled her eyes, then grinned. Hermione stifled a giggle, and then actually ended up having to cover her mouth when she had caught Malfoy out of the corner of her eye pretending to vomit all over his magazine.
After all the unfamiliarity of the Opening Ceremonies, it was wonderful to see Malfoy acting like such a Slytherin. It was a constant in an all too rapidly changing world.
Dinner had finally ended and Hermione had opted to direct all the First Year girls to their dormitories while Michael did the same with the First Year boys. Wanting to keep busy, she took extra time to make sure all of the students were settled, and ended up not finishing until about a half hour before curfew. At this point, most of the students were all in their rooms, getting set up and also getting in some last minute socializing before lights out. Hermione found herself patrolling an empty hall, mainly as an excuse to have some time to herself. There had been a lot of changes to get used to this evening, and she didn’t feel much like socializing at the moment.
Out of the silence came a long, heavy sigh. “I guess there’s nowhere in this school anymore where you can go to be alone. It’s like every room’s fair game as a common room now. Ridiculous.”
Hermione turned around. Malfoy was glaring at her with his hands in his pockets. She blinked at him in surprise, realizing that what would once have been a very annoying remark to her, now sounded almost amusing. She found herself almost smiling in response. “Is that what you’ve been doing all night, looking for a place to hide?”
The silver eyes narrowed menacingly. “I don’t blame you,” she continued hastily, “I’ve been doing pretty much the same thing.”
Malfoy stared at her for a minute. This seemed to be the first civil conversation that they had ever had, and he seemed to be temporarily at a loss. Irrationally, Hermione wanted to keep it going. For some unknown reason, she was comfortable in his company and reluctant to see him leave. “It’s hard to come back, isn’t it?” she ventured.
Malfoy continued to stare at her. “Yeah,” he said after what seemed to be an eternity. “Yeah it is.” Hermione ventured a small smile; Malfoy’s eyes went to the floor. After another minute Hermione heard him say, “Corner’s a prat. Thinks he’s Ravenclaw’s gift to Hogwarts. My owl’s got more sense than him.”
Hermione giggled. “Yes, I noticed your welcoming response to the Head Boy announcement at dinner.” She found herself grinning at him.
Malfoy’s eyes remained on the floor. At least he wasn’t insulting her…although he was insulting someone else. I guess he wouldn’t be Malfoy if he wasn’t insulting somebody, Hermione thought. He looked up at her again. “So…returning to Hogwarts and Head Girl to boot? Thought you’d take off with Potter and Weaselby instead of coming back.”
Malfoy had actually decided to keep this conversation going! “No…I wanted to finish school. Get my N.E.W.T.s and such.” And then she found herself adding, “And I think I needed to get away from everyone for a while, too.”
The silvery-blue eyes relaxed, as if recognizing a fellow comrade. He nodded. “Yeah. Me too.” And then he was gone.
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