Despite arriving in the entrance hall early for dinner, it seems as if she was the last person to enter. It's disconcerting, being unaware of how long she stood there. How did she miss all these people filing past her? What happened to constant vigilance?
A wave of silence follows her as she makes her way towards the Gryffindor table. She looks towards her usual seat to find it's not there. They've closed ranks against her.
She takes an empty seat at the end of the table instead. 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 of people around her.
She glances down the table. She sees him.
Ron's there but not eating, he's just playing with his food instead. Red rimmed eyes meet hers, before tearing themselves away, dropping his fork in the process.
Ginny leans across the table to say something to him in an urgent whisper. Ron shakes his head at his sister. She gets to her feet.
Ron reaches for her, shaking his head more imploring her not to do whatever she's about to do but she ignores her brother. Hermione tenses, bracing herself.
Hermione stares at her plate not wanting to see Ginny's face as she approaches. Hermione feels the girl slide onto the bench next to her as Hermione tries not to flinch. This is unlikely to go well.
"Hey," Hermione hears a tone much gentler than expected, "tell me" Ginny issues as a clear demand, Hermione can hear the barely contained anger in those two words.
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 would just change the subject and I'd let him. I would 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 to try to fix things. The relationship was cracked anyway. Our days as a couple were numbered. I think 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 sprawling to the floor, whacking the back of her head against the stone floor as she lands awkwardly.
"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 at the scene of the commotion. Harry is pulling Ginny away asking if Hermione is okay. Professor McGonagoll gives Ginny detentions and while asking Daphne how Hermione is.
Hermione feels herself being picked off the floor. She sees Ron still in his seat. He hadn't even moved when she got hit. He'd refused to act either for or against her. It's almost as he's... indifferent. The thought send a chill up her spine.
Ron looks up and frowns when he sees who is picking her up. She's out of the Great Hall before she looks up to see whose arms she's in. Of course it's Malfoy. She can hear the click of Daphne's heels on the stone floor, indicating they're not alone.
"Where are we going?" Hermione asks.
"Hospital wing Granger. Not only are you bleeding profusely, you probably have a concussion to go with it."
"Yeah, a lot," he grimaces.
"My blood still bothers you," She mummers against his chest.
"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 thinks she'll be sick if she opens her mouth again.
Madame Pomfrey fusses over her for an hour. All the Slytherin's popped in and out. There was always at least two of them there. Eventually Daphne returns with Professor McGonagoll after leaving to see what was happening.
"May I speak alone with Miss Granger please?"
"Of course. We'll wait outside," Malfoy agrees quickly.
"Thank you Mr Malfoy," McGonagoll says looking confused at his presence.
"I see you've been making new friends?" The professor remarks as the door closes behind the students.
"Your speech at the beginning of term did ask us to mend the divides 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 is 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 herself and Miss Parkinson instead. You will of course have to return on Monday but perhaps some space might be beneficial to all involved."
Hermione hadn't even considered this. Strange that Slytherin could become a more comfortable place to be than Gryffindor Tower. The thought of spending the weekend being glared at by her friends is unappealing. This is her chance to properly assess the changes she's heard so much about. A small part of her is thrilled at the potential for girl time. Lavender and Parvati have never been particularly inviting.
"Yes I'd like that. If that's okay professor?"
Professor McGonagoll studies her for a moment, then nods her approval.
"Very well your new friends may go with you to collect some things from the Tower once you are cleared by Madam Pompfrey."
"Thank you Professor" she says as McGonagoll leaves.
Daphne and Malfoy renter the hospital wing before the door has a chance to shut behind their headmistress.
"What did she say?" Malfoy asks.
"You asked if I could stay in Slytherin?" Hermione asks Daphne, ignoring Malfoy's question.
"Yes is that okay?"
"Yeah it actually sounds pretty good. I've always wanted to see other common rooms. Professor McGonagoll said you can come get some things with me. Just need to get out of here now," Hermione sighs frustrated.
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 girl's dormitories. Malfoy and I really don't trust leaving you alone 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 shrugs. She gives the password to the Fat Lady and enters the common room with the two Slytherin's in tow.
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 before following 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 from her, silently offering to carry it.
"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 says looking really proud of himself.
"How long have you been waiting to say that?" Daphne asks him giggling.
"Oh shut up," he huffs as both girls laugh at him. As they go down the spiral stairs 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 stood there waiting for her.
"Running away to the snake pit?" Ron asks her, her mouth quirks at the term. She resists glancing at Daphne. She can't afford to laugh right now.
"Just giving us both some space. It's only for the weekend."
"What if I don't want space?" Ron asks stepping up to her. She steps back into Malfoy who is stood close behind her. Malfoy steadies her with a hand on her waist, the other still grips her bag. He doesn't remove his hand once she's steady.
"Moved on already then?" He sneers staring at Malfoy's hand touching her.
"Don't be stupid of course not," Hermione 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 that," Harry pulls Ron a few steps back.
"Going to take her side now are you?" Ron turns on him.
"It would make a change. He always sides with you," Malfoy points out "for supposed 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 uncomfortable to be in a position where Malfoy is right and Harry's own actions were wrong.
"Hermione I'm sorry I didn't think..."
"That's evident Potter," Malfoy replies coolly.
"Come on Hermione let's go," Daphne says nudging her.
"Yeah Granger. In Slytherin maybe you'll find your real friends," Malfoy winks making Hermione laugh. Ron loses all his colour as Hermione laughs at Malfoy.
"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. Halting her progress out the door.
"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. Letting her go.
"Me too, Ron. Me too. I'm sorry," Hermione says as the portrait closes with a note of finality to the sound.