Grudgingly, the portrait swung in. McGonagall strode forwards, leading the way into Hermione's new reality.
The small common room was lit by both a flickering fireplace and the soft glow of torches, perched atop a hanging brass chandelier. The dark wooden floors were bare of any carpet, and cream colored walls rose up around them. Only one window decorated the room, stretching from floor to ceiling and overlooking the Forbidden Forest.
Hermione's appraisal of her new common room was interrupted as McGonagall stopped in front of the fireplace, gesturing to the two doors on either side of her.
"These are your new living quarters. On the left is Miss Granger, and on the right, Mister Malfoy." Pausing, her bespectacled eyes bored sternly into the new Heads. "Your doors will only accept those of the same gender as yourself. Do you understand?"
Blushing a fiery red, Hermione nodded mutely.
"You are expected to organize nightly patrols for yourselves and the Prefects. Also, the both of you are solely responsible for the organization and setup of any school events, such as a Halloween or a Christmas ball." Her grim expression evaporated, replaced by a kind smile. "I'm sure you'll both do just fine."
Glancing up, Hermione found McGonagall looking straight at her. Snape, who had been silent since supplying the password was sharing a similar look with Malfoy.
Soon enough, both Professors had gone.
Not wanting to linger in Malfoy's presence, Hermione fled to her room, shutting the door quietly behind her. A familiar sight met her eyes, despite the change in dormitory. Her trunk lay in wait by the foot of her bed, a snoozing Crookshanks sprawled across her sheets. A four-poster bed just like her old one stood in the center of the large room, draped in crimson and gold sheets. To the right a wide mirror adorned the wall, and next to it stood an elegant mahogany wardrobe. On the opposite wall was a wide desk, just waiting for sheaves of parchment and heavy textbooks to be set atop its surface.
"Well, no time better than the present,” Hermione mumbled, approaching her trunk. The time flew by as she unpacked. She hung her school robes neatly, folded her ties carefully, and packed her schoolbag fit to burst in preparation for the next morning. Reaching down to the very depths of the trunk, she suddenly found her fingertips caressing soft, silky fabric.
Hermione lifted the emerald dress hesitantly, taken aback. She had completely forgotten about it, buried beneath her other clothing.
Unbidden, memories of the past summer flooded back.
Barely two weeks after being let out for the summer holidays, Hermione received an unexpected letter from Hogwarts.
Miss Hermione Granger,
Due to the recent activity and uprising of He-who-must-not-be-named, your Headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, has issued an emergency proposition to all students. Hogwarts is open to any student who wishes to seek sanctuary behind its walls.
One week prior to September 1st, all students are to return home to spend time with their families and buy supplies for the year. If you are interested in returning for the summer, please owl your response as soon as possible. A ministry official will escort you from your home.
All students are permitted to return home at any time during the summer. If you do not wish to return, we hope to see you at the beginning of term.
Deputy Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall
After a discussion with her parents, Hermione decided to return. And so not even two days after the letter arrived, Hermione stepped foot into Hogwarts once again.
Before long nearly all of her classmates joined her. Harry, Ron, Ginny, Neville, even Malfoy. It felt like the school year, except that there was nothing to do. There were no classes or homework to keep all the students busy. They had nothing but daily Hogsmeade trips to distract them from their endless boredom and anxiety.
So, naturally, everyone was thrilled when the notice went up. Three school-wide balls, it had said, each with their own unique theme. The first and easily most anticipated: the Masked Ball.
Hermione drew in a shuddering breath, shoving the dress back in her trunk and slamming the lid. Even through the inebriated haze surrounding that night, she could clearly remember the way it had felt. How her lips had burned from his kisses. How her skin quivered beneath his fingertips.
The day following the masked ball, Hermione rushed straight to Dumbledore's office and demanded to be sent home. Thankfully, he didn't push her for a reason. Before Hermione knew it she was home again, having been at school for just under three weeks.
Forcibly pushing her thoughts away, Hermione gathered her things to take a quick shower. Peeking out of her door, she found the Common Room empty. She rushed to the bathroom, wrenched the door open, and froze.
The bathroom was split into three parts, the main area holding nothing but two sinks. Standing in front of one, a toothbrush dangling from his mouth, was Malfoy. His platinum blond hair hung damp and haphazard into his piercing eyes.
Shooting her a cold glance, Malfoy returned to brushing his teeth, focusing on his reflection. Hermione blushed as she took in his appearance. He wore nothing but a pair of loose, white pajama pants. A wet towel was slung around his neck. She could clearly see the defined muscles of his back and shoulders, glistening from the moisture which clung to his skin.
Scandalized at her reluctance to tear her gaze away, Hermione whirled around and scurried into her portion of the bathroom. She turned the shower on full blast, stripping down and jumping in quickly, trying to lose herself in the hot water.
But, if she wasn't mistaken, she could swear she heard a soft chuckle before the shower drowned it out.