AN: Fast forward to second year. I always wondered what Hermione did on the train when Harry and Ron didn't show up.

This chapter talks about violence and abuse, but doesn't show it happening.

Chapter 4: Second Year Begins

Hermione was frantic. Where the hell were they? She had looked in every compartment on the Hogwarts Express and had found no sign of Harry or Ron anywhere. Remembering that she had seen the fourth years up near the front, she ran down the corridor, stopping to catch her breath when she found Ron's twin brothers sitting with their friends and their younger sister who she remembered from Diagon Alley.

'Have you seen Ron and Harry?' she asked.

Fred looked at her and laughed, 'are they lost already? Even we wait until Hogwarts before we try and sneak out!'

George chuckled but said in a friendly voice, 'we were in a rush getting Ginny on the train so didn't see which way they went but they were right behind us. They are probably getting changed. When you see them tell Ron to come get his lunch from me before I get hungry and eat it.'

Hermione nodded feeling slightly, but not very, reassured. She thanked the twins and said hello to Ginny before walking back down the train corridor, once again looking through each door to check who was in there. Walking past the Slytherin second years she kept her head down and adverted her eyes. She didn't want a repeat of last time and Harry and Ron definitely wouldn't have been in there!

As she passed the door she heard a smooth voice say, 'I'm starving. I'm going to go see what's taking that lunch witch so long.' She hid a grin but made sure she kept walking at the same pace so as not to attract suspicion from the few people wandering the corridor. She heard footsteps behind her and moved to the side so the boy could pass. As he did he whispered, 'take your time getting off the train. There are carriages that take you up to school. We can sneak into the last one together.'

She nodded and murmured, 'okay', and he sped up and continued to walk on without looking back. Hermione paused outside the compartment that she knew contained Lavender, Parvati, Neville, Dean and Seamus. She wasn't sure whether or not to keep looking for Harry and Ron, but since she had been up and down the train three times already there didn't seem to be much point in continuing. Besides, George had told her that they had been on the platform, so they would have been surrounded by hundreds of adult witches and wizards, including the Weasleys. They must have just missed the train and would have to come to Hogwarts by floo or portkey. She shook her head, honestly those two caused some drama. But there wasn't much she could do about it now so she slid open the door and went in to say hello to her Gryffindor friends.

A few hours later as the train pulled up to the station, Hermione was one of the first off the train. She hadn't been able to get away from the group of Gryffindors yet so she was starting to think Draco's plan wouldn't work. Then she heard a voice behind her, 'first years this way!' Looking over she caught Hagrid's eye and smiled, running up to him.

'Hagrid it is so good to see you! Did you have a good holiday?'

'Yeh it was great. Come see me, the three of yeh, sometime this week and say a prop'r hello.'

Hermione nodded, 'of course', and moved to the side to let the first years pass, giggling at their nervous expressions. It seemed like a lot longer than a year ago that she had been standing in their place feeling just as scared. She had genuinely wanted to say hello to Hagrid, but she was pleased to see that by running down to the opposite end of the platform, she was now stuck waiting for all of the other students to pass through the gates and choose a carriage. She watched as Neville climbed up behind the other Gryffindors while looking around for her. She waved at him from back of the queue and gestured that she would meet him up at the school. He nodded and waved back. Hermione slowly moved forwards as the carriages filled, noting that it was mainly fifth year prefects around her now and she couldn't see any of her friends. Draco appeared beside her, scowling and standing away from her with his arms crossed. She ignored him and rolled her eyes for good measure. After a few minutes they finally made it off the platform. The group of fifth years just ahead climbed into a carriage together leaving Hermione and Draco standing alone. They grinned at each other.

'Excellent idea if I do say so myself,' Draco said as he lifted himself up the ladder and settled onto the comfortable seat, reaching out a hand to help Hermione in. 'I thought it could be ages before we were settled into classes and could see each other properly again. How was your last week?'

Hermione and Draco had spent the entire holidays owling letters back and forth. Hermione had also tried writing to Harry and Ron but as Ron had only bothered to reply once with a couple of scrawled sentences and Harry hadn't even received his mail, Draco had been a much more satisfactory pen-pal.

'Yes, it was great. I went to the beach with mum and dad for a few days, and then they took me into London to get my books and things yesterday and we stayed overnight so I could catch the train today.'

'I know. They were lucky enough to meet the whole Malfoy family weren't they,' Draco sighed bitterly.

Hermione felt uncomfortable. Draco had slowly opened up to her about his family. She knew he had been punished for coming second in his classes to her, a muggle born. She knew that Draco was worried because since being away at school for a year, his father and his friends were acting weirder and more sinister and he was scared they were planning something. She also knew that Draco had had no choice but to act the way he had in front of his father. Even so, it had still hurt to see the sneers they were giving her and her parents.

'I'm sorry, I had no –'

Hermione shook her head. 'Stop. I don't want us to have to spend all of our time together apologising. Draco you are one of my best friends and if that means I have to ignore your stupid behaviours when you turn into 'Malfoy' then that's what I'll do. Besides, I get my own back when I pretend to bitch about you to Harry and Ron and the other Gryffindors.' She grinned cheekily. Draco looked upset and guilty and didn't smile at her joke. She took his hand and squeezed it, waiting for him to look at her. 'Hey. I know you didn't have a choice. How's the bruise?' she quietly asked.

Draco shrugged and pushed up his school robe sleeve, showing a brilliant yellow and purple mark that spread from just above his wrist to over his elbow. Hermione gasped. How could anyone do that to their own child. Draco pulled his sleeve back down and said, 'this isn't why I wanted time alone with you. I wanted to talk about happy things before I get stuck with those idiots in the dungeons for the rest of the night.'

'Can you believe Gilderoy Lockhart is our new defence against the dark arts teacher?' Hermione squealed, eager to accommodate Draco's request to change the subject.

Draco groaned, 'are you kidding? He is such a loser!'

'No way! Have you even read his books?'

'All 50 of them he made us buy?'

'He is a genius!'

'Seriously? You have teachers like Snape and McGonagall teaching you daily and yet you call him a genius?' Draco couldn't stop laughing.

'Well, I can like them all can't I? Stop it! He is going to be great!' Hermione started laughing too, unable to help herself. Draco's laughter was contagious. It was rare that she saw him let go of his cool mask and show real happiness. She grinned.

'What?' Draco asked.

'Nothing. I just missed hanging out with you over the holidays that's all.'

Draco smiled, hesitating for a minute, before putting his arms around Hermione and giving her a hug. 'I never thought I would admit this but I missed you too.'

He pulled away and both teenagers looked at each other embarrassed before grinning and looking away. Hogwarts was appearing up the path and they could see students unloading from carriages ahead. They both subtly shifted so they were sitting further away from each other again, in case anyone looked back. Draco smoothed his hair and robes down and Hermione watched as his familiar smug expression appeared on his face.

'We will get our new timetables tomorrow at breakfast. Should we meet tomorrow night in our classroom to compare?'

'Perfect. No one will be in the library yet so we won't be discovered,' Hermione agreed. 'It will be too late tonight after the feast and sorting.'

As the carriage pulled to a stop Draco went to climb down the ladder he said, 'You know, it's my fault we have to do all of this sneaking around, but I spent most of the holidays wondering what would have been different if we had both been put in Ravenclaw.'

She smiled sadly, 'or you had been put in Gryffindor.'

Draco whispered, so quietly that Hermione could have pretended not to hear him, 'I never would have been put in Gryffindor. I'm not brave enough to change my fate.' He climbed down and walked up the path with the last few students without turning around. Hermione followed him, realising that Neville and Dean were waiting for her at the gate. She grinned and ran up to them.

'Thanks for waiting guys! Sorry I got caught at the back of the queue after saying hi to Hagrid.'

'And then got stuck in a carriage with Malfoy! Are you ok?' Neville asked.

'Oh yeah, fine. He didn't even look at me let alone say anything,' Hermione replied.

'Lucky for you,' Dean said with a menacing glare at Draco's retreating figure. 'It could have gone really badly if that git was in a foul mood.'

Hermione shrugged and changed the subject to the feast and they began walking towards the school.

Draco walked alone, thoughts flying through his head. It wasn't fair that he was stuck hiding and sneaking around to see his only real friend. It wasn't fair that he had to pretend to bully her so that her friends all hated him. It wasn't fair that he had just spent 3 months being bullied himself by his own father. If only he was a Gryffindor, and he was brave enough to change.