A/N: Sorry this took longer than I expected! The whole first page got deleted, so at least I have a sort of excuse. Thanks eternal to all my wonderful reviewers! You are fantabulous! Oh, I feel like I should say this because I haven't in quite a while, but, I DO NOT OWN HARRY POTTER OR ANYTHING RELATED. It would be lovely if I did, but then, I would not be writing fanfiction, I would have made it this way in the book in the first place. So, there you are, now publishing companies can BACK OFF. Thank you. Onto the story.
They arrived approximately three minutes later in the Great Hall, and Hermione was still furious.
"Hey, 'Mione," Ron grunted around a mouthful of food without looking up.
Harry was more eloquent, but he didn't sound particularly more intelligent when he looked at Malfoy and asked slowly, "Why is he here?"
Malfoy gave him a glare that would have peeled paint, but then again, Harry had faced Voldemort seven times, so he wasn't unduly impressed.
Ron swallowed his mouthful and looked up. He noticed Malfoy for the first time, and his look of contentment with the food vanished and was replaced with a mixture of incredulity and disgust. "What's the deal with him?" he asked.
1 Hermione started slicing her chicken with a vengeance. "Can you never pay attention, Ronald? Harry just asked."
"So, Hermione," Harry said pointedly, slowly, as if to make sure Ron could keep up. "Why is this ferrety Slytherin snake sitting at our table?"
"I'm sitting right here, you know," Malfoy said snappily.
"Which is precisely why I'm choosing to ignore you," Harry answered. Malfoy glared.
"So what is it, Hermione?" Ron asked.
"McGonagall doesn't believe we've learned our lesson," she sniffed. "So I'm stuck with him into the summer."
"It's fascinating how you talk about it as if it weren't more a punishment for me than it is for you," Malfoy drawled. The others ignored him.
"Into the summer?" Harry asked incredulously. "But you're done with school! That can't be right!"
"The problem is, I can't find anywhere that it isn't legal," Hermione cried. "I've been through dozens of books, and they just say that teachers can administer punishment as they see fit as long as it meets the basic protocol for humaneness."
"That's unbelievable!" Ron was getting purple in the face.
"But she won't even be your teacher anymore," Harry reasoned. "So she doesn't have those privileges."
"But it's not against the law in any way. It's perfectly legal to bind two people together."
Ron just stared now. "That is totally ridiculous."
"What's ridiculous is that I can't find anything more specific than that in the library."
"I told you that you wouldn't," Malfoy reminded her superciliously. "No way McGonagall would give us something to work with."
"With that attitude," Hermione countered, "I might say you wanted to be stuck like this."
"And if you think that, you're more delusional than I thought."
Hermione gave him her highest strength glower, the one that made experienced Death Eaters cower in fear. The one that, incidentally, she had acquired from Professor McGonagall herself. Malfoy backed off.
"The point being," Hermione continued crossly, "that this totally ruined all of my plans for the summer. I mean, how am I going to be able to swim with him there?"
All three boys ogled at her. "Swim?" Harry asked.
"What are you talking about?" Ron added. Malfoy didn't need to say anything. He was incredulous.
"Yes, swim," Hermione sighed. "I'm on the team at home."
"You play a sport?" Harry asked dubiously.
"Technically, I don't play, I race."
"Still!" said Ron. "I can't imagine you actually getting exercise."
"Wow, thank you Ron. Let's see if you can make an effort to be a bit less tactful."
"What'd I say?"
Hermione groaned. "Yes, I swim. Now can we move on?"
"Blimey, Hermione, how did you never let us know about this?" Harry asked.
"Now you know." Mentally, Hermione calculated how many hours she would have to be polite to Malfoy to get enough time away from him for the two and a half hour swim practice. For that she would need two point five times four, which was…ten. Ten whole hours of being polite to Malfoy. And, as they had discovered, sleeping time didn't count. And not just ten hours once in a while. No, this was ten hours each day, just so she could go to swim practice at…. Oh no, Hermione realized. Practice started at 5:30 in the morning. And the walk to the pool each morning took a little less than ten minutes, so they would probably not have enough time away from each other for Malfoy to sleep in. She glanced over at him. He was staring lividly at his plate, stabbing his fork into pieces of food as if they personally were causing his misery. She decided to drop the bomb of her swim schedule later.
Harry pulled her out of her brooding. "The train leaves in an hour, Hermione, shouldn't you finish packing?" he asked.
Hermione looked up. "Yeah, thanks, Harry."
He and Ron stood. So did she, pulling Malfoy up beside her. "I wasn't done," the Slytherin objected, annoyed.
"Yes you were," Hermione informed him. "Let's go."
Neither Hermione nor Malfoy had much left to pack, but the job took quite a bit longer than it needed too, because they both kept pulling each other across the room to get something of theirs, or put something away, or just to spite the other. In fact, Hermione was just latching the lid of her trunk and sweeping a glance around the room to make sure she hadn't missed anything when the bell rang, telling her they had five minutes to get down to the Great Hall before the carriages left.
Malfoy picked up his own trunk. "Time to go," he said, sounding a bit waspish. Hermione nodded in reply, and they left the empty room behind them, stepping out into the corridor. Hermione cast one look behind her at the portrait of the Indian girl, then she and Malfoy walked briskly away from the room.
The Great Hall was packed with students heading for the carriages. She pulled Malfoy behind her, searching for Harry and Ron, but they ran into Ginny.
"Hermione!" the younger girl greeted her happily. "Great, c'mon, let's get a carriage." Hermione let herself be led by Ginny to one of the vehicles. Malfoy trailed behind her, not putting up much of a fight.
In truth, Malfoy felt a little lost. Everyone here was searching for their friends, calling to each other, but here, he had no friends. Pansy had promptly dumped him when she found out that he was no longer a Death Eater. Crabbe was dead and Goyle hated him, believing it was Malfoy's fault that the former had died. The various admirers and hangers-on of Slytherin had generally dissipated, and they didn't count as friends in any case. Blaise Zabini was the only person who had stood by Malfoy, and he had neglected to come bact to Hogwarts that year, opting instead to finish his education at home. So there was no one for Draco to join, no one to call out to to sit with. He was stuck sitting with the littlest weasel and the bookworm of Hogwarts. What a prospect.
He took one last fleeting look at the school as the carriage rumbled to a start and Granger and Weasley started to chatter, and a slightly startling thought came to him; his time here had not actually been that bad. He had almost enjoyed it. He had made friends, not necessarily very good ones, but they were there. He had had good times. He had had victories and failures, passed and failed tests, people and teachers he had liked and hated. Suddenly, the place he had complained about and ridiculed for so long didn't seem so bad. Admittedly, he still didn't like even the memory of Dumbledore, second year had been far too stressful with all the Chamber of Secrets business, fifth even more so with OWLs , and sixth was a veritable nightmare with all the plotting he was supposed to be doing, and not doing very well at. But after seven years at the place, it was odd to be leaving, strange to know he would probably never return here. Maybe, he reflected, he would look back in a few years and actually miss this place. But then Draco Malfoy chuckled to himself. Maybe it hadn't been that bad, but it was doubtful that he would miss Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
A/N: Well there you are! Hopefully the next chap. will be up soon. Like it? Think it was awful? Review review review, I love feedback! I stayed up late into the night to finish this for you. This chapter was slightly longer, I believe. So, I'll try and update fast, but I'll probably be faster if you REVIEW!