A/N: If you didn't notice, Book 4 is rated M. Not for this chapter, but other things coming up. Please be aware of this.

Hermione and Daphne had assembled a somewhat eclectic assortment of art. Some paintings were from hedgewitches who'd had very up close and personal encounters with werewolves, while some were from muggles. This resulted in contradictory portrayals of werewolves with some of the pieces.

"And what's this one?" Muriel Prewitt wanted to know, gesturing to a piece. "That's certainly not what a werewolf looks like."

"It's symbolic of the monster within," Hermione made up, looking at the muggle painting. "While an actual werewolf might appear different, inside is a ravenous and ruthless beast. This artist wanted to capture what that monster's true power might look like if it were clear from the outside."

Muriel tilted her head, considering. "Interesting. And this one?"

"A stylistic interpretation of the agony of the transformation itself," Hermione interpreted. "The full moon transformation is very painful for the werewolf, you know, even with Wolfsbane."

"Is it?" Muriel glanced at Hermione. "I'd never considered that. Animagi don't hurt when they transform."

"Animagi choose to transform," Hermione shot back. "A werewolf's transformation is unwilling. It's the curse literally fighting against the person's own magic."

Muriel shrugged. "As you say."

Rolling her eyes, Hermione drifted away to try and talk to someone else.

Harry was having great success telling someone about Lupin as a teacher, what a superb professor he'd been, and how now he'd never be able to teach again. From the look on the wizard's face, Hermione suspected he was rather more starstruck by Harry Potter than actually listening to him. Nearby, Draco was telling two adults about the danger the entire school had been in the whole time, impressing upon them that it was only through extraordinary luck that a dozen students hadn't ended up bitten, savaged, or worse. The two adults looked horrified, and Hermione rather wondered if Draco's aim was to get them to donate to the cause or to write angry letters demanding Dumbledore's dismissal.

"Miss Granger."

Surprised, Hermione turned to see Snape looking down at her. He was wearing robes of fine black silk, which was the only indication that he had dressed up at all for the event.

"Professor Snape!" Hermione exclaimed. She beamed. "I didn't know you were coming!"

"I was invited," Snape said dryly, raising an eyebrow.

"I didn't handle invitations," Hermione explained, shrugging. "Daphne did pretty much everything. She was excited to host a society event."

"Miss Greengrass certainly seems to be starting young with her societal aspirations," Snape agreed. He cast a look out over the crowd. "Are you pleased with the turnout?"

"Um. I guess?" Hermione ventured. "It depends how much money we raise, really. If we don't raise enough to build the home…"

She trailed off, realizing she didn't have a backup plan in the event enough money wasn't raised. She wasn't even sure how much money was needed to build the werewolf house. She'd just thrown money at the coven house builders, but that wasn't how normal buildings were built at all.

Hermione's mind began to spin in panic, spitting out contingency ideas. She'd need to find Royce Fiddlewood, and she'd need to get the preliminary cost estimates from him. Then she'd need to find Harry and convince him that if they didn't hit their target, to get into an imaginary bidding war with her at the end on the last painting, and that she'd reimburse him later—

"I see some new dire problem has dawned on you," Snape remarked, breaking her train of thought. "Hopefully this one has less violent solutions than your previous methods."

"I'm rarely violent!" Hermione protested, looking back up at her teacher. "Most of my problems I solve without any violence."

"Without violence, or without the threat of violence?" Snape inquired, eyes glinting. "Those are two very different things."

"That's not fair," Hermione complained. "Society's current structure is inherently based on the threat of violence. But you wouldn't call society as a whole violent."

Snape gave her an odd look. "Inherently based on the threat of violence?"

"Well, the Aurors and Hit Wizards don't exactly keep the peace with kind words and stickers, do they?" Hermione's lips quirked. "People's property is protected by the threat of violence of the law. If someone steals something, the authorities will respond and resolve the issue."

Snape seemed to consider this.

"Is this not inherent in all societies?" he asked. "This seems to be part of the human condition, not just the wizarding world."

"Probably," Hermione admitted. "I'm not well-versed in political theory, but that seems right. The only society I can think of that might not isn't a human society."

Snape looked surprised by this, then suspicious.

"Non-human societies?" he asked. "Pray tell, Miss Granger, who—"

"There are centaurs and mermaids and goblins and veela and hags and house elves," Hermione began listing off. "There are tons of non-human sentient magical beings with their own societies. Like I don't think the House Elves keep law and order by the threat of violence – though I could be wrong. Who knows?"

Snape rolled his eyes.

"We should mingle," Snape suddenly announced, beginning to glide off. Surprised, Hermione quickly trotted after him to keep up.

Snape's method of mingling was decidedly odd. It involved glaring at anyone who came near to keep them away and speaking to no one. Hermione watched her teacher from his side curiously. Snape clearly had some reason for wanting to 'mingle'.

Hermione realized that he was guiding them to the outdoor balcony, where fewer people were. The doors were glass, so everyone inside could see out and vice-versa, but glass doors could block sound. There were a couple fancy wire chairs and tables on the balcony, draped in fancy linens to match the rest of the party.

Sure enough, after Snape closed the doors behind them, he flicked his wand, murmuring something, and he turned to face her.

"I must admit to another motive in attending this soiree tonight," he said, glancing down at her.

"I surmised as much," Hermione said, lips quirking.

Snape gave her a look, before growing grave.

"I must know if you have any dangerous plans planned for this summer," he told her.

"Dangerous plans?" Hermione blinked. "Err—I don't think so. Though… define 'dangerous' in this context."

Snape pinched the bridge of his nose very tightly.

"There are rumors starting to circulate, Miss Granger," he told her. "Rumors of the Dark Lord gathering strength, preparing for a return."

Hermione's eyes grew wide. "Really?"

"Pettigrew's escape started the worries, but there have been more rumors circulating recently," Snape said gravely. "If you have political shakeups planned, I advise you to tell me – they may put you in more danger than you know."

Hermione made a face.

"I'm buying the Daily Prophet," she admitted. "I intend on changing the editorial policy so the news will slant the way I want it to. That's politically motivated."

To his credit, Snape didn't react to that.

"Of course you are," he said dryly. "Anything else?"

Hermione weighed her words carefully.

"My friends and I are starting a secret club that you could say has political goals," she told him. "Susan is helping write the charter. We believe in the fair and equal treatment of all magical beings, of trying to change things so people have the most positive freedom possible—"

Snape rolled his eyes.

"A secret club, or a political action committee?" he said, snarky.

"A secret club," Hermione said firmly. "We're going to make secret membership necklaces and everything. Harry even agreed to wear one if we add 'save the world' to the ultimate goal list."

Snape groaned.

"Anything else, Miss Granger?" he demanded. "Any more genocide planned? Anything that will undermine the entire structure of society as we know it?"

Hermione paused.

"No," she said with certainty. "Not for this summer at least."

Snape gave her a curt look.

"If I have to check with you each term, I will," he warned. "It would be much easier if you came to me about these things beforehand."

Hermione made a face.

"But then you'd tell me not to do them," she complained. "You'd tell me they're too dangerous or I'm too young."

"You are too young," Snape said curtly.

"No one's too young to get involved in politics to help make the world a better place," Hermione argued. "I got elected to help out politically. This whole gala is because I'm trying to get something good done politically—"

"And you murdered the dementors to do political good?"

Hermione faltered.

"Well, no," she said. "That was more a moral crusade than anything."

Snape sighed. "Do you have any moral crusades you intend on—"

"Not this summer," Hermione snapped, annoyed. "I want to hang out with my friends, buy the Daily Prophet, finish up the werewolf house, and go watch the World Cup."

"That sounds mostly like what one would expect of a teenager's summer." Snape smiled thinly. "If any of that changes, Miss Granger—"

"Yeah, yeah, I know; tell you, let you know," Hermione cut him off, annoyed. "Is that all, Professor? I'm supposed to be mingling and helping out with the gala."

Snape gave her a serious look.

"Whispers of the Dark Lord gathering power are nothing to take lightly," he told her, his voice very quiet. "Even if you are not doing anything to draw attention to yourself, be aware that the environment and landscape is changing. It may put you in danger without cause."

Hermione swallowed hard.

"Thanks, Professor," she said, weak. "I'll do my best to stay safe."

Snape gave her a curt nod before opening the doors once more, striding through and back through the guests at the party. Hermione watched him go.

"That was well done."

Hermione whirled around, wand drawn, only to see Theo emerging from underneath one of the tables. She gaped at him.

"Were you hiding under there this whole time?" she demanded.

"I didn't feel up to socializing." Theo shrugged as he clambered onto his knees. "And I didn't want to risk Daphne's wrath by hiding in the bathrooms again."

"And you heard everything?" Hermione wanted to know. "Despite Snape's spell?"

Theo's eyes glinted.

"Snape did well preventing outside listeners from eavesdropping," he said. He stood and stretched. "Not so much at checking for inside-listeners, though."

Hermione snickered.

"That's on him, then," she said, tossing her hair. "I wasn't the one insisting on a secret meeting at a fancy party."

"Of course not." Theo smirked at her. "That was well done, you know – phrasing your plans as a children's political action club. I could practically hear his eyes roll when you were talking about it."

Hermione's lips quirked up.

"Not my fault he underestimated me," she quipped. "Once he heard Susan and Harry were involved, you could practically see the disinterest in his eyes."

Theo smirked, then grew more reserved.

"So you're going to do this." It wasn't a question. "You really are going to start a third faction for the upcoming war."

"Yes." Hermione's answer was firm. "I'm not about to follow Dumbledore, and I'm not going to follow the Dark Lord. And hiding isn't an option."

"You really think you can do this?" Theo asked her, his eyes serious. "This is going to be a war."

"If nobody is really aware of my group and we work from the shadows, it minimizes risk," Hermione pointed out. "Also, if I play my cards right, my group members will be able to escape from any situation – even if there are anti-apparition wards laid down." She looked him dead in the eye. "Theo – we'll be working toward something we believe in. And we'll be able to have a group of people we can trust to back us up and protect each other. There's more power in being motivated for something than against something else, you know?"

"Like Dumbledore's little anti Dark Lord club?" Theo's voice was bitter. "I suppose. They shouldn't be discounted, though. Last time around—they caught a lot more people than people realize—"

"I'm not about to underestimate Albus Dumbledore," Hermione said, incredulous. "But just the same – I'm not exactly comfortable trusting him to save the wizarding world as we know it."

"Why not?" Theo wanted to know. "He's a Light wizard, he defeated Grindelwald—"

"A war is made up of many different little decisions, not just great big ones," Hermione said, cutting him off. "Dumbledore may be good at dramatic final strikes, but wars aren't won just with battles, but with planning, strategy, logistics—"

"And you don't trust him to make those small decisions?" Theo said, raising an eyebrow.

"Well… he left Harry with abusive relatives for years, for one," Hermione said, ticking things off on her fingers. "He hired Lockhart for Defense, which was a joke, and then he hired Lupin, who put everyone at risk. He didn't notice when Quirrell got possessed, or at least he didn't care, and he didn't go after the basilisk terrorizing the school—"

"How was he supposed to know it was a basilisk?" Theo protested. "Nobody—"

"I figured out it was a basilisk," Hermione snapped. "If a teenage girl can figure something out that the headmaster of the school can't – is he really the best one to be running a war faction and strategy, then?"

Theo seemed to be weighing this response.

"Okay – you've got a fair argument on why you're the better option over Dumbledore," he said. "Now – why should someone join you instead of the Dark Lord?"

Hermione was careful not to flinch and to hold back her instinctual response. Spewing a lot of vitriol about evil and pureblood prejudice wasn't going to convince someone who might be swayed to Voldemort's side with those very arguments. She was going to get asked this question in the future – and if she didn't have an answer for those who asked it, they'd become more soldiers on Voldemort's side.

"The Dark Lord is powerful, don't get me wrong," Hermione said quietly, "but he's also reluctant to share that power with anyone else. His focus has always been on taking over magical Britain, eliminating the Muggleborns, and becoming immortal. His recruitment was historically based on the lure of learning powerful, forbidden magics, but a few Dark spells does not equate to learning lost magic in my mind."

"His main recruitment was the pureblood agenda," Theo objected. "The rest was—"

"It might have been for the Sacred 28, but among the populace who couldn't care less about that sort of bigotry, he used a different tactic," Hermione shot back. "Besides – the Dark Lord is a half-blood himself. A half-blood leading the charge for pureblood purity – it sounds like a farce."

Theo stared at her.

"You're not serious," he breathed. "A half-blood?"

"Not that it matters," Hermione snapped, "but yes, he was."

Theo fell silent, dwelling on this. Hermione gave him a moment before continuing.

"My side, though – I'm not unwilling to share power and knowledge, and there's a record of it. I've helped the hedgewitches learn a new way of using magic, giving them access to a power they'd never thought they'd have. I have a coven, and we've done incredible things already. And I destroyed the dementors." Her eyes burned, holding Theo's. "The Dark Lord sacrificed his own people strategically and openly to make a point to the Ministry and to his other followers. Do you think I would do the same?"

Theo considered.

"…no," he said. "You didn't even let Rookwood get thrown in Azkaban, and she tried to kill you."

"There you have it, then," Hermione said. "You risk significantly less death, gain protection, and get to learn forgotten magic for real. Any war activities would be undertaken guerilla-style, under the shadow of darkness, not blasting spells and dueling out in the open. And if you brought me a problem, I'd care." She gave him a pointed look. "Do you think the Dark Lord cared about making his followers' lives easier, or what they could provide him with?"

Theo rolled his eyes. He opened his mouth to respond, before seeming to cut himself off, pointing through the glass doors instead.

"Lupin's on the stage," he said. "We should go listen to his speech."

Theo opened the door, gesturing for her to go first. Hermione gave Theo a significant look as she passed him, eyes holding his, before finding a seat with her head held high. Theo would have to make his own mind up ultimately, and it was likely to come down to who could provide the more alluring package, not morals or ethics.

But if she could secure him for her own side… with Theo's background and knowledge of Voldemort's previous campaign, he'd be an invaluable resource to have around.