Despite arriving in the entrance hall early for dinner when she enters everyone else is already there. A wave of silence follows her as she makes her way towards the Gryffindor table. She looks towards her usual seat to find its not there. They've closed ranks against her. She takes an empty seat at the end of the table. She doesn't recognise those closet to her. Third years perhaps. They pretend she's not there. She takes a deep breath and begins putting food on her plate. Not really aware of what she's taking. She's too focused on movements around her. She glances down the table. She sees him. He there but not eating he's playing with his food. Red rimmed eyes meet hers then look away dropping his fork. Ginny leans across the table to say something he shakes his head. She gets up Ron reaches for her shaking his head but she ignores him. Hermione tenses bracing herself. She feels Ginny slide onto the bench next to her.
"Hey," a tone much gentler than expected "tell me" a clear demand.
Hermione sighs "What do you know?"
"I heard a lot. Then Harry spoke to me. So little less angry than I was. Why not just talk to him if you're having doubts?"
"I tried he'd just change the subject and I'd let him. I'd have never ended it like this you know that"
"Ended it? So you aren't even going to try to fix things?"
"I don't think he wants me too. The relationship was cracked anyway. Our days were numbered we both knew it we just couldn't face it. He doesn't want me. He never did. Just the idea of me"
A smack across her face sends Hermione to the floor whacking the back of her head against the stone floor.
"How dare you blame him? This is your fault bitch. You didn't sit down and talk it out you publicly humiliated him."
"That's enough Weasley," Malfoy says as Daphne kneels down beside Hermione who is still on the floor. A combination of shock and dizziness keeping her on the floor.
More people arrive Harry is pulling Ginny away asking if Hermione is okay. McGonagoll giving Ginny detentions and asking Daphne how Hermione is. She feels herself being picked off the floor. She sees Ron still in his seat. He hadn't even moved. He looks up and frowns when he sees who is picking her up. She's out of the great hall before she looks up. Of course it's Malfoy. She can hear the click of Daphne's heels on the stone floor.
"Where are we going?" Hermione asks.
"Hospital wing Granger. Not only are you bleeding profusely you also probably have a concussion"
"Yeah a lot" he grimaces.
"My blood still bothers you." She says quietly.
"All blood bothers me after last year Granger. But what you were actually asking is a conversation I'd rather have when you aren't so dizzy."
They continue the rest of the way in silence. Mostly because Hermione thought she'd be sick if she opened her mouth again.
Madame Pomfrey fussed over her for an hour. All the Slytherin's popped in and out. There was always at least two of them there. Daphne came in with Professor McGonagoll.
"May I speak with Miss Granger alone please?"
"Of course. We'll wait outside." Malfoy says.
"Thank you Mr Malfoy," McGonagoll says looking confused.
"I see you've been making new friends?"
"Your speech at the beginning of term did ask us to mend the bonds of the past and to try for greater house unity."
"It did yes. I suppose I'm not used to people acting on such speeches. I understand from your early altercation with Miss Weasley that your relationship with Ronald has come to an end?" She asks Hermione nods.
"Miss Greengrass has requested you spend the weekend with her and Miss Parkinson in the Slytherin dormitories. While unusual it's not unheard of. Miss Greengrass seems to be concerned that the Gryffindor dormitories might be a hostile environment and you may wish to spend some time with her and Miss Parkinson instead"
Hermione hadn't even considered this. Strange that Slytherin could become a more comfortable place to be.
"Yes I'd like that. If that's okay professor?"
McGonagoll studies her for a moment. Then nods.
"Very well your friends may occupany you to collect some things."
"Thank you Professor" she says as McGonagoll leaves.
The others reenter.
"What did she say?" Malfoy asks
"You asked if I could stay in Slytherin?" She asks Daphne.
"Yes is that okay?"
"Yeah it actually sounds pretty good. I've always wanted to see other common rooms. She said you can come get some things with me. Just need to get out of here now."
It took another hour before the three of them were making their way to Gryffindor tower.
"The tower is charmed so you won't be able to get up to the dormitories Malfoy and I really don't trust leaving you outside or in the common room."
"Granger it's a charmed staircase. I'm a Slytherin teenage boy. No contest." He says smugly. Hermione rolls her eyes.
"Your funeral," she shurgs. She gives the password and enters. Conversation stops as they all watch her make her way across the room. She gestures to the staircase with her eyebrows raised. Malfoy takes out his wand and waves and mutters for a few moments. He smirks puts his wand away and struts up the stairs. Hermione gaps and the follows with a smug looking Daphne. They make it to her room and she quickly packs what she wants for the weekend and spare uniform for Monday. Daphne picks up a purring Crookshanks. Malfoy takes her bag.
"Do you think we'll face a welcoming party when we go downstairs?" Daphne asks her.
"Definitely. I'm ready this time though."
"Into the lion's den we go then" Malfoy said looking really proud of himself.
"How long have you been waiting to say that?" Daphne asks him giggling.
"Oh shut up" he huffs. Both girls laugh at him. They go downstairs Malfoy's joking side fades away leaving the cold snobbish boy that's more familiar. They reach the common room and Harry, Ron and Ginny are all stood there waiting.
"Running away to the snake pit?" Ron asks her.
"Giving us both some space. It's just for the weekend."
"What if I don't want space?" He asks stepping up to her. She steps back into Malfoy who steadies her with a hand on her waist the other still has her bag. He doesn't take his hand away. Ron notices.
"Moved on already then?" He sneers.
"Don't be stupid of course not" she says pulling away from Malfoy.
"Yeah that's just me. Stupid Ron Weasley not good enough for the great Hermione Granger."
"Ron mate come on. That's not it." Harry says.
"Going to take her side now are you?"
"It would make a change. He always sides with you" Malfoy says "for friends you don't seem to care very much. That little bitch hits her, I carry her off barely conscious and not one of you comes to check on her. Two hours in the hospital wing and not one scarlet and gold scarf turns up to see if she's still alive"
Silence greets this as they realise he's right. Harry shuffles his feet.
"Hermione I'm sorry I didn't think"
"That's evident Potter" Malfoy replies.
"Come on Hermione let's go." Daphne says nudging her.
"Yeah Granger. In Slytherin you'll find your real friends." He smirks. Hermione snorts.
"You really are full of cheesy shit aren't you Malfoy"
"Hey my cheese is premium. Nothing less than the best when dealing with a wizard of my pedigree." He grins shoving past Ron to hold the door open for the girls.
Ron grabs Hermione's wrist as she walks past.
"Don't go," he pleads "stay. We can talk."
"As you said earlier your best dream is my worst nightmare. The deep desires of the heart aren't something you can work through. I care about you but I don't feel that thing your supposed to feel when you're in love with someone. I shouldn't be filled with dread picturing a future with you but am I. Tell me honestly Ron do you really think we'd make each other happy? Or would the compromises be too great? In twenty years will we resent being together?"
He lets her go. Hand falling to his side.
"I hate that you're always right" he says stepping back.
"Me too Ron. Me too. I'm sorry" she says as the portrait closes.