The thud of the cover against its pages seemed to echo too loudly in the small studying space. She had just closed the cover of her Transfiguration textbook and now leaned down and pressed her forehead against the back of her hands. She still had Potions to catch up on after missing half the class today. There was so much to do…

Her head throbbed with the questions and knowledge she didn't know how to sort or put away.

Just then the clock between the windows chimed, softly as all the clocks in the library did and she decided, with no particular compulsion or real understanding why, that she would go for the patrol tonight.

As she walked toward the Great Hall, she told herself it was because she had skipped patrolling duties four nights in a row now and the guilt and fear of tarnishing her credibility was starting to nag at her far too much to be ignored. It was the truth. Hermione slowed her paces as the doors of the Hall came into view. Would he be here tonight?

She hadn't asked him if he had continued patrolling nevertheless. It was settling into a routine- early morning to the Room of Requirement, then to the Infirmary, then dinner spent with Katia and Xander in Madam Pomfrey's room or at the Room of Requirement, then back to her room at nine fifteen, after prep was over and patrolling duties were to start. After she'd cast protective spells, it was impossible to tell if Malfoy went out or not because she never left the room till the next day.

There was no sign of him at the entrance of the Great Hall. Her fingers flexed instinctively. She didn't bother looking around her before walking off to the left where the route began. With a heave, she adjusted her bag; as she walked the bag full of books thudded against her hip. It was her fault there would be a bruise there as usual, but nowadays she avoided going to the Head Dorm whenever she could. Even sensing his presence nearby made her insides feel scalding hot, a burning she relished only marred by an undercurrent of disquieting sorrow. She felt her nails dig deep into her palms as the familiar agitation scorched her insides. By the time it died down, she no longer knew whether the anger she felt was toward him or the betrayal of sorrow she could never fathom.

Of all the things she felt toward Malfoy, sorrow was not one of them. She had no patience to feel sorry for a man who had patently chosen this path in life, family circumstances aside. Least of all did she have the ability to feel sorry for a man who himself was sorry he would be marrying her. She wasn't sorry they would marry- sorry was too mild a word.

She only realized she was trembling when all of a sudden her feet stopped in its paces on its own accord and she heard her deep breaths rushing at her. The weight of her bag seemed like a thousand bricks, her shoulder ached acutely and then it seemed like her tie was too tight at the neck, her cloak too heavy, it was pulling her to the cold hard floor, she tried to walk away from these sensations but her shoes, they were leaden, she was moving too slow- there was a dull crack as she threw her bag to the floor.

She stared at the fire till all she saw was a blinding orange.

"…very trying time for you, I can only imagine, but please…" She barely heard what Dumbledore was saying, only registered the soft sooth of his voice. It was comforting, and her insides constricted in its consolation. Honestly she was glad Dumbledore had pulled her out of Potions- it was almost as though he knew how intolerable being around Malfoy was to her.

The voices of the past few days, even weeks had been mostly harsh, impassioned, cold, blunt, angry. Harry and Ron spoke to her words of comfort and support, but the tone was steely, pitiful at times, resigned, anxious, angry and bitter- she couldn't bear the bitterness most, their bitterness at the unfairness of her fate.

Her own voice resounded bitter and harsh and lashing sometimes, never toward the children of course, but to everyone else and to herself. In closed moments, Katia and Xander gave her much smiles and laughter and even, she admitted freely, fun. Harry and Ron often joined her during dinner and they studied together whilst taking turns to entertain the children. When she had assignments or panic attacks over lagging behind on studies they babysat, allowing her time in the library and on her own.

She liked it, she knew. And it was actually very pleasant times. She'd grown accustomed to the children's freely-given affections and seeing Harry and Ron with them made her feel more than ever how much she loved her two best friends.

She couldn't bring herself to accept it on principle.

The orange looming in her vision was almost blinding.

She realized the room was silent and startled, turned toward Dumbledore.

"The future is neither natural nor inevitable, Miss Granger. The future is as insubstantial a bondage as a thread of spider's web. The future cannot make itself happen; only our actions can. You can choose those actions, weighing the balance of probabilities in favour of the future you seek."

The orange spots faded as Dumbledore's pale blue eyes gazed solemnly at her.

Her footsteps echoed softly as she walked through the high-vaulted corridors on the second floor. Damn it, she thought, trying to rub away the ink from her hands. Her inkpot had cracked when she'd thrown her bag to the floor and now, it annoyed her she'd had that uncharacteristic fit.

Hermione slowed to a stop around the corner near the Charms classroom. Who knew black ink could be so sticky?? She groaned under her breath. Two more corridors and she would be done and then she could collect the children from Harry and Ron and give or take two hours from now, she would hopefully be sleeping.

She froze instinctively against the wall as an ominous hiss issued suddenly from the adjacent corridor.

There was a thump, like something hitting a hard surface and worried, Hermione leaned her head out to check on who was violating the rules and doing so thus indiscreetly. She almost bit her gum to stifle the noise in her throat.

"My father will not renounce his allegiance lightly." It was Malfoy's hiss she had heard.

Snape almost laughed, a grating hard noise. "Lightly? You call foreknowledge and living proof of the future 'light evidence', boy?"

Malfoy pushed the professor's chest and moved from the wall he was backed up against. "The future is never set, Professor," he snarled the word, "The future holds no trap, old man; all the present alters the future a hundred times over!"

"It is not a game of chess Draco, you fall in love and marry the muggle-born and the Dark Lord loses the Great War!"

"The two events are not necessarily interconnected." He countered.

"Then it must have occurred to you that they are also not necessarily mutually exclusive!"

She watched as Malfoy's spun sharply on his heel and walked up to Snape with a volcanic fury that caused her to grip her wand tighter.

"My fathered pandered to the Ministry after His fall, but you, Professor Snape, should know better than I, that his allegiance is not based on poll. He is loyal to the Dark Lord and so it is redundant to tell him about this disgusting affair. I will not be unduly punished and distrusted now for a future act of treason" Malfoy seethed, his words cutting her ears, "that will only happen if I will it to."

She saw a gleam of wood as he whipped out his wand. "The events, like you said, may be connected or it may not. I will not be banished into isolation based on a damned arbitrary possibility of a marriage that I will never allow happen. It's a risk I can eliminate on my own, I assure you." He spat.

Snape gripped his wand and twisted his arm downward. He leaned forward and each word was cold and hard and smooth as ice. "Be sure to see that you do so. I will be watching you Draco and if you cannot kill this risk, I will be sure to hand over matters to your father…and the Dark Lord."

"Thank you, professor." He gave a short mocking bow as the words forced from his mouth in a faint strangled rage. Yanking his hand out of Snape's hold, he stalked off toward the staircase and disappeared in a swirl of black robes.

Hermione heard Snape walk off in the opposite direction. When she could no longer hear his footsteps, she got up from the floor.

She stood still in the shadows, leaning against the wall for a long time.


Hope you all like this, for I doubt I will continue writing further if there isn't demand for it. Snape is still very much loyal to Dumbledore, but obviously he has to play his part well to Malfoy as in all the books.

And to clarify, I didn't mean to make Malfoy seem such a brute in the previous chapter, he didn't kick his son away, it was more of a slight outward jerk that displaced Xander, who was holding onto his robes for balance.

Just read some of the latest reviews to this chapter, some of you may be confused at the format; I thought it would be quite clear the middle section is a sort of reflection/flashback to the afternoon. Sections 1 and 2 are of the same. Her frustration owes significantly to the conversation she had with Dumbledore.

Read and review, thank you!