A/N: Hi! So I know many of you are following my other story, Operation Teamwork, and are desperate for more updates, and I promise that I will definitely be updating that as well as this new story, so don't worry. However, having read a couple of fics with a similar premise, I decided that I loved the idea too much not to write my own. Don't worry though, mine is going to be quite different, as I don't want anyone to accuse me of stealing their ideas. Enjoy! As always, Please review, it means a lot!
"Harry! Ron! Over here!" Hermione called as she saw her two best friends across the platform. Her face broke into a grin. She was so glad to be going back to Hogwarts, so glad that the war was finally over, so glad that everything was going back to normal.
If only Hermione knew how completely abnormal this year was going to be.
Choosing whether or not to repeat her seventh year wasn't even a choice for Hermione. She had jumped at the chance to complete her education, and looking around platform nine and three quarters, it seemed that most of her peers had made the same decision. Even the majority of the Slytherins seemed to be here. McGonagall had given all the children a full pardon for their part in the war, granting them a second chance if they returned to finish their schooling.
Ron pulled her into a crushing hug, and Hermione grimaced slightly into his shoulder as she hugged him back. Ron was ever the enthusiastic one in their relationship, and whilst she herself wasn't unenthusiastic, so to say, she definitely wasn't a huge fan of the physical contact side of things. At least she wasn't a huge fan of it with him. Hermione didn't know if she'd feel differently with someone else. But it didn't matter. She loved Ron and Ron loved her, and that was all that mattered.
When Ron finally released her, she pulled Harry into a hug, much less ferociously. She hadn't seen either of them since the end of the war, as the first thing she had done was travel to Australia, find her parents and restore their memories. Just thinking of their faces when they finally remembered who she was filled her with absolute joy, and she climbed onto the train with her best friends, chattering excitedly as she looked forward to what the year would hold.
At the other end of the platform, Draco Malfoy hugged his mother goodbye as he swaggered onto the train. As much as McGonagall would like to think that the war had changed the Slytherins for the better, it was safe to assume upon entering their carriage that they most certainly hadn't.
The only thing that had changed, thought Malfoy, was his choice in friends. Gone were Crabbe and Goyle, the huge, senseless oafs he had hung around with for the majority of his school years. They hadn't returned to school, and after the downfall of Voldemort, had decided the smartest thing to do was go on the run, rather than to repent their sins and join the rest of the Slytherins in doing the sensible thing in completing their education. The slight downside of their plan was that they had less brains than a goldfish between them, and had been caught in the first five minutes of their escape.
Idiots, thought Malfoy, shaking his head as he approached the carriage. He didn't even know why he had hung around with them in the first place.
His choice in friends had certainly much improved, he decided, as he watched them laughing through the carriage door. Blaise Zabini, Pansy Parkinson, Theodore Nott and Daphne Greengrass. All had switched sides at some point during the final battle, knowing as he had that this was the best method of self-preservation. They didn't need a leader, as Slytherins, they could fend for themselves, cunning and ambitious the lot of them.
Exactly like him, he smirked, pushing open the carriage door.
This year was going to be excellent fun.
When the train pulled into Hogwarts, students rushed forwards to the carriages. Hermione caught a glimpse of Hagrid, a good head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd, leading the first years down to the boats as she got off the train. Hurrying towards the carriages, she beckoned Harry and Ron as she climbed up into the last unoccupied one.
At exactly the same moment, Draco Malfoy pulled the carriage open from the other side and climbed inside, nodding at the rest of his friends to follow him.
Both scooted along the seat, oblivious as to who had come in the other side, and crashed into each other with a thud, rocking the carriage so much that both of the door banged shut.
"What the hell do you think your doing?"
"Well excuse me, I didn't know this carriage was reserved. Oh wait it's not."
"Granger." Malfoy growled.
"Malfoy." Hermione spat back.
"Draco? What's going on in there?" Pansy called from outside the carriage. "Come on, we need to get in, the rest of the carriages are starting to leave."
"Hermione, are you okay?" Ron asked, knocking on the door.
"Yes Ron, I'm fine, now just get in." Hermione replied impatiently as she got up from the carriage floor, dusting off her robes.
"Granger, I don't know what you think you're doing, but I was clearly here first, and so therefore you and your Gryffindor buddies are going to have to leave."
Hermione drew herself up to her full height, which was no easy feat inside a carriage of that size, and glared up at him. She wasn't short, in fact she was considered tall by most for her age, but Malfoy was in a whole league of his own. He was easily six foot, and Hermione noticed that he had filled out over the summer. Gone was the gangly, malnourished boy, and in his place was a young man. His open robes showed his shirt straining across his muscular chest, and she could imagine the sleeves were doing a similar thing for his biceps. His platinum blonde hair was ruffled messily atop his head, and Hermione had to grudgingly admit that without all the gel, it didn't look greasy at all. In fact, it looked rather soft. And his eyes, his steel eyes caused her to shiver slightly as she glared up into them, but it wasn't a shiver of fear.
She didn't know quite what it was.
As she tried to shake these unwelcome thoughts from her heard, little did she know that the Slytherin was trying to do exactly the same.
She had grown up, that much was evident as she stood tall in front of him. Her robes hid most of her body, but his eyes could still pick out her delicate curves. She had managed to tame her hair a little, and it was less bushy, slightly sleeker in appearance, and he noticed for the first time that it was actually a rather nice shade of chestnut. And her eyes, her brown eyes sparkled with fury as she stood before him, hands on hips.
No, was all he thought to himself, as he tried to push back what he knew he was just about to think.
There was no way he would allow himself the thought that the Gryffindor princess of all people was beautiful.
"Honestly Draco this is ridiculous. What in azkaban are you doing in there? Open the motherfucking door!" Theo yelled.
"Hermione all the other carriages are gone! Can you open the door?" Harry asked loudly.
"Did you hear that Granger? There are no more carriages. I guess you and your pals are going to be walking this year," Malfoy smirked, unlatching the door on his side to let his friends in.
"Finally! Draco I have no idea what took you so long, I-" Pansy began as she climbed up the carriage steps, but stopped short when she saw Hermione.
Hermione ignored her and turned to Malfoy. "Look, ferret, how about we see if we can act civilly for ten minutes. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to walk all the way to the castle. And believe me, you would be the one walking." Her lips curled into a smile as she twirled her wand between her fingers.
Taking his silent, stony glare as a yes, she bent over to unlatch the door on her side, and Ron climbed in, mumbling to himself. He came to a halt when he saw the other occupants.
"Slytherins who we are not going to fight with, Ronald." Hermione smiled pointedly, sitting down opposite Malfoy. "This isn't really my favourite arrangement ever either, but we're all going to have to put up with it, aren't we?" she said through gritted teeth.
"Whatever you say 'Mione," Ron replied, sitting down beside her. She pursed her lips at his use of the nickname she detested so much, but said nothing.
Only Malfoy noticed her annoyance. He watched as her lips tightened, and marvelled at her self-control. In her shoes, he would have slapped the Weasel right across his stupid face. Honestly, even he knew that the Granger girl hated that nickname.
When the five Slytherins and the three Gryffindors were all crammed into the carriage, it finally began its journey towards the castle. A stony silence ensued as the occupants glared pointedly at each other.
When the carriage finally pulled up outside the school, the haste in which everyone exited the carriage would have seemed hilarious if anyone had seen them. Hermione herself had to supress a smile as she watched Ron tumble down the steps. The Slytherins snickered characteristically, confirming Hermione's opinion that they hadn't changed a bit.
Wrapped up in her thoughts, she didn't notice the stone at the bottom of the steps until she tripped straight over it, falling directly into Malfoy, who had exited the carriage before her. His back was muscular she found as she clung onto him to prevent herself from slipping to the ground.
Malfoy stiffened as he felt her slim fingers cling to his robes. Looking over his shoulder, he found himself supporting her with his arms, helping her regain her balance.
When he moved his arms to support her, Hermione thought she'd entered a parallel universe. What was the world coming to?
The look of evident surprise on her face brought him back to reality, and inside he cursed himself.
"Careful Granger. Next time you touch me may well be your last. I'm off to burn these robes. See you around, Potty, Weasel. Mudblood."
His cutting words brought things back to normal. No, no parallel universe, Hermione thought as she walked with Harry and Ron into the great hall. Just the same old Malfoy.
The welcoming feast was in full swing when the three of them finally walked into the great hall. Ginny beckoned them over, gesturing at the three seats she'd saved for them. Hermione grinned back gratefully, sliding in to place next to her best female friend.
"Where on earth have you lot been? You missed the sorting. I looked for you when we got off the train, but you just disappeared. I got a carriage with Luna, Neville, Parvati, Padma and a couple of girls in my year, which was fine of course, but I haven't seen you for ages!" she said to Hermione.
"I know, I'm sorry. I just wanted a bit of time to reconnect with my parents," Hermione explained. "I would have come down to the burrow but the summer just ran away from me."
Ginny laughed. "There's no need to apologise Hermione. I'm not upset with you, it's okay, I get it. I would have done the same if it had been my parents. We all would."
Hermione found herself thinking of the Slytherins whom she had been forced to share a carriage with earlier. Would they do the same as she had? It was hard to imagine any of them belonging to a family like hers. But then again, hadn't it been Narcissa Malfoy's love for her son that had saved Harry's life?
Hermione didn't really know what to think about that.
Around half an hour later, when everyone had finished eating, even Ron, Professor McGonagall stood up from her throne-like chair, holding a hand up for silence. The chatter around the hall ceased as the students looked up at her, waiting for her to speak.
"Attention please. I have a few announcements to make. Welcome to all our students, new and old. Welcome to another year at Hogwarts, for those of you who are returning, and welcome to the beginning of your magical journey for all you new students. I'm sure you will all enjoy yourselves here and learn to blossom as you learn new things and make new friends.
Now, onto other matters. It is my pleasure to announce this years head boy and girl. This year we have chosen Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevey. Congratulations to the both of you, I am sure you will both do the school proud."
Hermione looked over to see Luna beaming at the Ravenclaw table as her fellow housemates congratulated her on receiving the position. She always forgot that Luna was in the year below them, as with all her random comments about creatures no-one else had ever heard of, she did seem rather wise.
She also couldn't help but feel a little jealous. Having not even been at school during her seventh year, she never had the chance to fill the position of Head girl, which she had been offered by owl the summer before the trio had gone on their search for the horcruxes. Nevertheless, she grinned at the girl, clapping with the rest of them, despite the pang of envy inside her.
Pushing that to the side, she turned back towards the heads table to listen to the rest of McGonagall's announcement. She was just finishing telling the students that Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes were now banned from the school premises.
"Now, this final announcement for the evening may come as a shock, but there is to be no arguments, as everything ahs already been organised and decided. I repeat, this a non-negotiable subject."
Hermione frowned. What could be so controversial that the headmistress felt the need to say that before announcing it? A cold feeling of apprehension began to grow in the pit of her stomach as she listened to what the teacher had to say.
"As you all know, this we have in essence an extra year group with us. Those who were not able to complete their N.E. due to the war have returned to the school in order to finish their education. They shall be known as the eighth years, and we will welcome back all of them, no matter what their part in the war."
She found herself glancing over at Malfoy, and to her surprise, her gaze was met by silver grey eyes. She looked away quickly, but not before she saw his signature smirk appear on his lips.
Arrogant bastard. He wasn't even sorry for his part in the war.
Professor McGonagall continued as the student body digested this news. "Any bad behaviour will not be tolerated. As you know, the late Professor Dumbledore was a big promoter of house unity. Therefore, in support of his dream, we have decided to trial something within the eighth years. One student from each house will transfer to a different house for the duration of the year."
A collective of gasps echoed around the hall as the students realised what she was saying. Hermione turned to Harry and Ron.
"Oh I do hope we're not split up. That would be awful!" she exclaimed.
The boys agreed. "Don't worry 'Mione. There's no way they'd split up the golden trio, especially as we're war heroes," Ron said.
Harry shook his head. "I'm not sure if that's not exactly what they'll do. I mean, if the war heroes are supporting it, everyone else will to, at least that's what they'll think."
Hermione grimaced as she realised he was right. Of course, she supported house unity, but was something this drastic really necessary? She had been looking forward to a peaceful year without any giant snakes, deadly tournaments or evil noseless wizards, but it looked like all that was about to be turned on it's head.
"Silence!" Professor McGonagall's voice rose above the confusion, and the students settled down again. "We have already decided who will be transferring, but it is the sorting hat that will decide exactly where it is you need to go so that you and the other students get the best from this endeavour. I am going to read the names of the four students who will be moving, and I would like you to come up to the front to be resorted by the hat. Firstly, from Hufflepuff, the chosen transfer is Ernie Macmillan."
There was a smatter of applause, mostly from his own house as Ernie stood bravely and walked to the front of the hall.
"From Ravenclaw, Terry Boot."
Again a smatter of applause as the chosen student walked reluctantly towards the front.
"From Slytherin, Pansy Parkinson."
Hermione's head whipped around along with many others as a high-pitched screech came from the Slytherin table. "WHAT! NO! I refuse! My mother shall here about this!" Pansy shrieked.
"I'm sorry Miss Parkinson, but as I have already said, these changes are non-negotiable. Please make your way to the front.'
Hermione couldn't help but feel sorry for the girl as she walked to the front, lacking her usual strut. She would hate to be separated from her friends, and the Slytherin girl didn't really have any friends outside her house.
"And finally, from Gryffindor…"
She held her breath, hoping desperately that what she suspected was about to happen wouldn't be the case.
Every head in the great hall turned to watch her reaction. She managed to keep a hold of herself barely as she rose form her seat and walked robotically to the front of the hall. The majority of the students, minus the Slytherins, applauded the war hero as she walked past, but it didn't make her feel any better.
Inside, a battle was raging. How, she thought to herself. How could McGonagall do this to me? After all she'd done for the school, for the Wizarding world. She felt like breaking down and crying, but she was Hermione Granger, and she had survived worse. She wouldn't give people the pleasure of watching the tears fall. It wouldn't be that bad.
She only hoped it was Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff.
"When your new house is determined, you will return with your new housemates to the common room, where you will find your belongings waiting for you. All of your robes and ties and such that bear the house colours or emblem will change accordingly based on what house you are put into. Now without further ado. Miss Granger, would you like to come and sit on the stool to be sorted first?"
Fingers shaking, Hermione sat down on the stool as Professor McGonagall placed the hat on her head. The next minute was by far the longest of her life, in longer than the one where she thought Harry was dead.
Hmmm. Miss Granger, back again? I see you've done well in Gryffindor, an excellent decision on my part. Now, where to put you this time?
Please not Slytherin, please not Slytherin, please not Slytherin.
Why are you so against the house of the snake? You could flourish there you know. Ravenclaw may seem the obvious choice, with your intellect and all, but there's not so much difference between achieving your goal through bravery and cunning you know. Just ask your friend Mister Potter.
Nevertheless, I ,must make a decision, and I am afraid it is not one you are going to like.
Hermione squeezed her eyes tight shut as the hat's proclamation rang round the great hall.
When she opened them, her tie had changed from its usual red and gold to a brilliant green and silver.