Hermione stared glumly down at the water surrounding her, poking at bubbles with her toes as she lounged back against the ledge. Though the pool in the Prefects' bathroom was enchanted to stay warm, she could feel her fingertips turning into prunes and knew she had to leave the pleasant abyss of quietude soon. She sighed.

Two weeks. It was two weeks into her eighth year at Hogwarts (seventh year, really, because who could possibly count a year of living in a tent, eating mushrooms, struggling to prevent extremities from being frost-bitten, and trying to not die as an academic year? Not Hermione Granger, certainly) and it had been two weeks since she had heard from Ron. Harry had written her, having never forgotten the summer before his second year when he hadn't received any letters from his friends. He'd written in one of his recent letters to her that he understood how isolating a lack of communication could be.

"I'll never forget that feeling, Hermione. For once in my life, I had found somewhere I belonged. I had found you and Ron, and you two made me feel like I was wanted, like I was worth being friends with. And then I didn't hear from either of you for so long, that whole summer. It was - terrifying would be the right word. And I've faced death, so I know scary."

Harry had written her multiple times since he and Ron had left at the end of August for the Auror Academy at the Ministry. Harry had managed to find time to write her between all of the training and drills he had to complete.

But Ron hadn't.

Sighing, Hermione climbed out of the pool, grabbed her wand, and Accio'ed her towel. She dried herself off and wrapped the towel around her hair, as it didn't take too nicely to drying charms - which she had figured out the hard way in the middle of third year. Slipping into her soft flannel pajamas, she padded over to put on the slippers she had brought with her. Always a girl for practicality but comfort as well, the ridiculously fluffy scarlet slippers (let it never be said she wasn't a true Gryffindor!) were her guilty pleasure. Her mind wandered to Ron again.

After their kiss during the Final Battle, she and Ron had given a real relationship a try for about a week before they both realized and admitted that they were much better off as just friends. Apparently, caustic arguments did not always translate into fiery passion. Rather, they often translated to fiery drapes instead, or Hermione's hair staticking so badly when she was angry that she looked like a blow-dried poodle. After having a surprisingly mature talk, both Ron and Hermione agreed that solely friendship would be best for them going forward. They had agreed that they wouldn't let their short, disastrous attempt at a romantic relationship come between them. And it hadn't.

However, Ron was still who he was, and he was not always the most considerate human being. While his emotional range had grown appreciably from the size of a teaspoon to a tablespoon, he was still at times forgetful and selfish. Hermione knew that she had her own faults and couldn't be hypocritical by calling him out on his. But that did not mean that him forgetting to Floo or write her over the last two weeks didn't still hurt.

Shaking herself from her brooding state, Hermione grasped her wand and the clothes she had discarded prior to bathing and left the Prefects' bathroom. It was night so all the students were in bed. Being Head Girl herself, Hermione was allowed out all hours, which suited her perfectly. She didn't mind walking alone through the darkened corridors. Some might have considered it eerie, what with the shape-changing shadows thrown around corners from the soft glow of low torchlight and the occasional howling of the Scottish highland winds. However, Hermione found comfort in the chilled hallways of Hogwarts. This was her home. Her only home, now.

Hermione reached her destination. Just as she spoke the password to enter the Head Boy and Girl dormitory ("New Beginnings," "Quite right, dear, quite right!"), the portrait swung open abruptly and a body walked straight into her.

"AH! Merlin, Granger, warn a bloke before you go barreling through a doorway," Malfoy huffed, quickly taking a step back from the witch he'd very nearly just trampled. The look in his eyes turned swiftly from initial panic to mild annoyance.

Hermione rolled her eyes and very slightly stomped her foot. "Well, Malfoy, I wasn't exactly the one doing the barreling, now was I?"

He sniffed. "That's very much besides the point. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go have myself a bath. And must you wear those abominations that you call slippers every single evening? I swear, it feels like I'm taking a Stinging Jinx to my eyes when I look at them."

Hermione stared at him incredulously. "I'll bloody well wear whatever I like, Malfoy. And considering that you wear a silk robe after you take your baths, I would say that you have absolutely no room to talk!"

And with that she marched right past him into the common room of the Heads dorm, portrait slamming shut behind her.

("Well I'll say, was that really necessary? Slamming a perfectly friendly portrait like me? And I was just reframed last month!")

Malfoy turned around for a moment to stare, unseeing, at the portrait, almost as if he were looking through it into the common room. A hint of a smile curled up at one corner of his mouth. "Irritating witch."

"Irritating wizard," Hermione mumbled to herself as she walked toward her room, barely suppressing a grin.