Draco tugged the sobbing witch the length of the corridor and up the stairs, making it into the entrance hall before stopping. They could hear Ron's footsteps right behind them. Draco pulled Hermione to the front doors and out, down the few steps and onto the grounds.
They made it to the lake and just into the first set of trees in the forest before stopping again.
"Are you okay Granger?" he asked, careful to drop her hand and step back a little now that they were not in a frantic rush anymore.
Hermione wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. "Yes, thank you" she lied. She couldn't believe what she had just seen and the events following it. All the worry about Ron, and the energy it took to walk on eggshells around him. The times she just kept quiet and accepted it when he was bordering on cruel to her, and now she catches him cheating.
And now she was standing on the outskirts of the forbidden forest with none other than Draco Malfoy! Who seemed to have saved her a second time from total disaster.
"Well, okay" Draco turned to leave, and get away from this strange and uncomfortable situation.
"Malfoy wait" Hermione called at his retreating back.
He turned, raising an eyebrow. "I don't really know why you keep stepping in and helping me, but really I want to say thank you. I do appreciate it"
He nodded and left.
Five minutes later Harry found Hermione and after pulling her out of the tree line and admonishing her for being in there on her own in the dark asked "are you okay 'Mione?"
Tears welled in her eyes again and she shook her head, sobbing into Harry's chest after he engulfed her in a hug. "I'm sorry 'Mione, I really don't know what to say"
After calming herself again Hermione stepped out of his embrace and sat down next to the lake. "There is nothing to say Harry. After almost eight years of friendship, I never want to see Ronald Weasley again"
Harry sat next to her and laid a comforting arm around her shoulders. "Where's Ginny?" Hermione asked after a few moments. Hermione felt Harry shake and realised he was trying to hold in his laughter "well she's taken Ron to the Hospital Wing"
After seeing Hermione's enquiring look he continued. "Well I managed to stop her ripping Lavender's hair out, but when we caught up with Ron; she sort of punched him on the nose. It's broken."
Hermione couldn't help but let out a little squeak of laughter, she could just see the scene played out in front of her…the look of shock on Ron's face as his little sister struck a good one right in the middle of his face.
"How did you find me Harry?" she asked.
"Oh well that was easy, never come to Hogwarts without this" he pulled the Marauder's Map from his pocket. Hermione smiled and looked back out at the lake. They could just see the head of the giant squid poking out of the water in the distance.
"Hermione, not to upset you by bringing up an unimportant point but did I see Draco Malfoy standing next to you on the map?"
"Oh err…yes you did. It's all rather strange. He saw me running from Ron and he sort of grabbed me and got me away" she answered, feeling just as bewildered as Harry looked.
"That's not all, last month he saved me from being crushed by a pile of falling bricks, he's very quiet and almost civil. He certainly isn't the Malfoy we have come to know and despise".
"He did seem very subdued at the hearing. I expected him to be more like his father, thrashing about and shouting at the decisions" Harry mentioned.
"Well I guess he'll be going soon, the school is nearly done, if he stays like this until then, I will have no complaints" Hermione replied. She was sure now more than ever that she would be staying at Hogwarts to take her N.E.W.T's because she would certainly not be going back to the Burrow anytime soon.
Harry just nodded. He looked like he wanted to say something but kept quiet.
When Hermione finally went back into the castle Ron had left for the Burrow. Ginny informed her that as soon as his nose was fixed he left the school grounds and apparated home.
After a long hug from Ginny and a kiss on the cheek from Harry the young couple left and Hermione took herself to bed. Unfortunately she was sharing a dorm room with Parvati and Lavender.
They had entered after Hermione had gotten into bed and closed her curtains and quite clearly did not know she was there.
"You shouldn't have done that Lav, he had a girlfriend" Parvati was saying as they entered the room.
"Stupid cow deserves it. She wouldn't give him anything more than kisses" Lavender responded, she sounded so smug that Hermione had a hard time not grabbing her wand and sending a hex through her curtains.
"Leave it out Lavender, you were wrong and you know it" Parvati sounded almost as disgusted in her friend as Hermione was.
"Do I look like I care? She shouldn't have tried to steal him from me in the first place, she deserves it" Lavender answered.
"Don't forget who you're talking about Lavender. She helped save our world, I doubt either you or I could've gone through what she did this past year" Hermione felt tears well in her eyes as she listened to Parvati defend her. She found a lot of respect for the other witch in that moment.
She could hear a lot of rustling that sounded like the two witches getting ready for bed. After hearing them say goodnight to each other Hermione closed her eyes and tried to find some form of sleep.
"You know the best bit?" She heard Lavender say. "We christened her bed since she obviously isn't going to"
Hermione froze for a moment before throwing herself from the bed and onto Lavender who had not pulled her curtains yet.
She managed to get a few punches in before Parvati pulled her off. Even beaten and bruised Lavender looked smug, which just infuriated Hermione further. She stormed out of the dorm room and heard Parvati saying "don't speak to me anymore" before she ascended the stairs to the Slytherin common room and out into the dungeons.
She walked up and out of the dungeons but did not know where to go. She wandered for a while, just up random staircases and down dark corridors eventually ending up in the almost built Astronomy tower.
She made her way around the piles of bricks and toolboxes of the builders, coming to the railing and laying her hands on it, taking a deep breath. The fresh air cleared her mind and she contemplated her next move.
She would ask to be moved from the dormitory in the morning. She would spend the night on the tower, there was no way she was going to sleep tonight anyway and the warm air was calming.
She was unsure if Lavender was planning on coming back to the school but she would find a way to keep away from her.
Lost in her thoughts she did not hear when someone walked up behind her. She felt a hand on her shoulder, causing her to jump. She spun round, her wand extended and pointed straight into Draco Malfoy's face.
"Merlin Malfoy, you made me jump!" Hermione dropped her arm and turned back to the railing.
"I know why I'm up here. What are you doing here Granger?" he enquired. He had found solace in this place ever since it was safe enough to stand in and he wanted to know why said solace was being interrupted.
"Thinking" was the short precise reply from the young witch.
"Look Granger, I know it's not my business and I know that I really have no place saying this to you but don't waste your time thinking about things that you cannot change"
Hermione stood shocked for a moment before turning around and facing the boy that had always been her enemy.
"What do you mean?" Hermione enquired.
"I mean, whatever happened between you and Weasleby happened and you can't change it so just move forward" Draco answered and joined her looking over the railing.
"Well wow" Hermione replied.
"What?" Draco asked.
"To be honest, I always knew you were intelligent, but I never expected us to have a civil conversation long enough for you to show it to me" Hermione smiled to show she wasn't trying to get at him, just stating a fact.
"Yeah, I guess this is our first proper conversation" Draco agreed.
They stood silently for a while; eventually Hermione sat down and leaned her back against the railing. "Hey, sit down"
He hesitated for a moment before sitting across from her against the large round structure that would eventually turn into the original sculpture. "So, what is going on with you?" she asked.
"What?" He was unsure as to what she was referring to.
"Well like we just said, we've never had a civil conversation, why now?"
"Oh come on Granger, do you really want to go into this?" he avoided the question. He did not want to start explaining himself, because in all honesty he did not really know himself yet.
"My name is Hermione" she put emphasis on her name. If they were going to be civil then first names would be a good start.
Draco took a deep breath, "Fine Hermione, I don't know why now. For the first time in my whole life I don't have anyone's expectations to live up to, I don't have to be cruel to anybody to please anybody else and I can think for myself"
He took another breath and continued before Hermione could open her mouth "I have no idea how I feel about muggles, wizards or even Hippogriff's for that matter. All I do know is that just over a year ago I was stood in this very spot with a task that would keep my loved ones safe and I couldn't do it. I don't know myself and until I do I cannot possibly answer your question"
"He cheated" Hermione answered.
"What?" Draco expected a tirade of words from the know-it-all Gryffindor princess and instead he got this.
"You said you don't know what happened between me and Ronald, well now you know, he cheated, with Lavender Brown. Apparently on my bed." Hermione fought off nausea at the thought and waited for Draco to say something.
"Fool" Draco murmured but Hermione heard him.
"What?" she enquired because she couldn't understand him thinking Ron was a fool for not wanting her; after all in Draco's eyes she was Mudblood Granger.
" I said he is a fool. A monumental fool to choose her over you" Draco punctuated each word very clearly so there was no mistaking any of it.
Hermione sat opened mouthed. 'What on earth is he on about?' she thought to herself.
"Granger trust me on one thing. You are absolutely beautiful. You are, always have been and always will be worth ten of Lavender Brown" with that Draco got up from his position on the floor, nodded to Hermione and walked down the stairs, leaving the witch open mouthed in shock.