SPECIAL REQUEST: I was reading the synopsis the other day as I was editing the chapter number, and I don't quite feel it does the story justice. Anybody feel I should change it? And if so, any suggestions?

Don't worry, story isn't over yet. And thank you for all of the wonderful reviews.

DISCLAIMER: Alas, from the recovery room of the hospital, I write the words, "I do not own anything except the plot." The ER nurse said I had the worst nun chuck induced injuries she'd ever seen. But I won't give up. Hear me, J.K.? This isn't over!

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Saturday afternoon is the first Quidditch game of the season. For some reason, the games started unusually late this year. Other than my little showdown with Lavender and Dean Thomas's top-volume shouting match with Professor Snape, the delay in the start of the Quidditch games has been the talk of the school.

I shudder to recall an incident in which some fifth years on the Ravenclaw team somehow convinced themselves that a person called the High Commissioner of Quidditch was recalling all brooms and instead giving players strap-on wings, and that was the reason for the delay. They chased me down the Charms corridor demanding to be told the "top secret" information Dumbledore had supposedly given me.

And I thought they were supposed to be the House known for its intelligence.

I'm enjoying a rather dreamy breakfast during which I'm imagining that Draco and I live together as boyfriend and girlfriend (yes, one of those where you're embarrassed to even be thinking it, like other people can see into your brain) when I'm disrupted by an owl tapping on my bedroom window.

And right in the middle of our imaginary hot kitchen sex, too.

Drat.

"Alright, bugger off then," I mutter to the owl, handing it some treats and accepting the letter from its beak. The owl hoots at me rather indignantly (did it seriously take offense to my telling it to "bugger off?") and I shut out the cold November air.

Here it is. The first of many sappy love letters between Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger that we'll show to our grandchildren.

Miss Granger,

I apologize for bothering you so early on a Saturday morning, but there is a matter of importance which I must speak to you about in my office. Mr. Malfoy will meet you there. Please come in half an hour.

Albus Dumbledore

Well, there go my decorative boxes of love letters.

And why does the man never give the password to his office? Yes, I know, security reasons and all that, but couldn't he just write it down and have it magically disappear after you read it? The man is a bloody Wizard, after all.

I forgo the rest of my breakfast in favor of choosing outfits. I'm trying for "effortlessly amazing," like "yes, I wake up and look this great every day," but, you know…NOT like I'm trying. In light of the Sex God requesting a second date with yours truly, I can't have him seeing me looking like one of the Mole People or he'll never want to go out with me again.

Or so I've heard, from the other girls' gossip.

And if that gossip is anything to go by, seems to be an awful lot of pressure on women to look perfect at every minute of every day just in case they bump into the man of their dreams. Which brings me to my next question: how do women actually manage the whole living-with-the-boyfriend thing then? Are you supposed to leap out of bed before he opens his eyes every morning and get ready so he only sees you looking your best? And what if you're sick-do you put on makeup anyway? Will he pack his things and move out if he comes home and catches you in sweatpants?

Seems a bit ridiculous, if you ask me.

After trying and vetoing several different combinations, I finally settle on a casual sweater, jeans, and flats combination. Since I'm now officially ten minutes late for my meeting with Dumbledore, I forgo the makeup and dash out to his office.

I waste a few more minutes trying to guess the stupid password ("Pumpkin pasty…no? Mars Bars…no? OH COME ON!") before finally figuring out that it's "lemon drop" (of course) and by the time I race up into his office I'm breathing like a winded rhinoceros and everyone in the room is staring at me.

"Miss Granger, how nice of you to join us," Dumbledore says pleasantly (are his eyes really bloodshot? Has the man ever heard of Visine?). "Come in, have a seat."

I nod, and gratefully slide into one of the armchairs in front of his desk. I spare a quick glance at the Sex God, who is regarding Dumbledore with a curious expression.

I also notice that there are several other people in the room; a group of women I don't recognize. Behind the gaggle of women, Madam Hooch is standing with the Heads of Houses: all of them are wearing rather unhappy expressions.

I have a feeling I'm about to find out why the Quidditch season started so late this year.

"Just to get you up to speed, Miss Granger: I'm sure you, like the rest of the students, have been wondering about our beloved Quidditch games. In light of Quidditch star Thomas Dean Anderson's broom accident in the beginning of the year, some of the mothers of Hogwarts students were good enough to form Mothers Against Accidents on Brooms-or MAAB, if you will," Dumbledore informs me, gesturing at the group of strange women.

Ah yes, I vaguely remember hearing something about this. Anderson had been fooling around with some fan of his before a game back in January and had been caught by his wife, who had come out to check and see if he was ready to play. In an effort to escape her rage-fueled hexes, he'd jumped on his broom and promptly flown headlong into a tree.

I'm at a loss for how this would lead to a coalition of mothers fearful of broom accidents. The only other person on the planet silly enough to attempt crashing through things as a getaway plan from their own stupidity is Tiger Woods.

But then again, I was responsible for the formation of S.P.E.W. a few years ago. So I suppose I can't judge.

"Yvonne, I'm sure you can do a much better job of explaining the purpose of MAAB than I can," Dumbledore continues, gesturing at a seated woman whose severity is giving McGonagall a run for her money.

"Thank you Albus," Yvonne says, rising from her chair. "After we-" she motions at the other women standing around her-"heard about Mr. Anderson's accident, we began to wonder just how safe the game of Quidditch is for our children. If an experienced player can suffer such a terrible injury, than it is clear that anyone who plays Quidditch is at risk. And after a review of all the accidents that have happened at the schools over the last few years-well, I think it's obvious that this is an extremely dangerous sport that is not to be taken lightly." Yvonne pauses for a moment, as though to let the weight of her words sink in. She clears her throat slightly, and the mother examining her very manicured nails jumps in her seat and looks up at Yvonne with renewed attention.

"Delia," Yvonne says (rather cattily in my opinion), "I would so love for you to tell the staff what we propose to do."

The Sex God isn't the only person in the room to have an openly affronted expression at being referred down to as "staff."

"Yes, thank you, Yvonne," Delia says, standing up. "We are working to have Quidditch games banned from all schools. But in the meantime, we demand rigorous broom checks-to be sure they aren't tampered with in any way. We also demand that players fly at 40 miles per hour, for the safety of our children. We've been to see the Head of the Department of Magical Sports and Games, and they agreed that the flying speed at which school games are played is responsible for a large percentage of the accidents." At this point, she hands Dumbledore a piece of parchment. He feels around on his head for his glasses for a moment, before pulling them down to rest on his nose.

"We hope everyone here in this room can understand why these precautions are important," Delia finishes, and then returns to her seat.

At this point, both the Sex God and Madam Hooch are wearing equally appalled expressions. I'm usually clueless about Quidditch and even I understand that playing the game at 40 miles per hour is the equivalent of asking NASCAR drivers to zoom around at speeds usually reserved for their grandmothers.

"Albus," McGonagall says, seemingly unable to stay silent any longer. "I believe I speak for all the teachers when I say that while Mrs. Brown and her peers make some excellent points, this is really rather ridiculous. I-"

"Wait. Mrs. Brown? Your daughter doesn't even play Quidditch! What are you so concerned about?" the Sex God interrupts.

"Draco," Snape says warningly.

Let's take a time out to examine my position (which at some point, I'd like the Sex God on top, thanks).

I happen to agree with Malfoy and the teachers. This is utterly ridiculous. Yes, I've thought for a while now that some safety precautions are necessary, but there has to be another way of doing things. Also, after this year, I'm going to be an adult in the Wizarding world. I should be able to stand up for what I think, and speak with diplomacy.

Not to mention, my agreement might win some much needed points with the Sex God. I know, it's petty, but I can't help thinking it as I stand up from my chair.

"Professor Dumbledore," I say politely. "May I offer my thoughts?"

Dumbledore places the parchment on his desk and leans back in his chair. "Yes, of course, Miss Granger. Your opinion is always welcome."

"Thank you sir," I say. "I agree, some safety precautions are needed. However, there must be another way of doing things. We could, for example, hire a Medi-witch to be on the pitch during the games. I'm sure if Malfoy and I worked in conjunction with Madam Hooch, we could come up with some safety protocol that would satisfy both the parents and the students."

"Well put, Miss Granger," Dumbledore says happily. "That sounds wonderful. I will look for the new precautions drawn up by Mr. Malfoy and yourself to be on my desk by the next game."

More one-on-one time with the Sex God. An added perk I did not consider in my original plan. Well done, Hermione.

I glance over at the teachers. McGonagall nods at me in approval.

I've always liked her, and not just because she's my Head of House, either. She's a straight shooter, a no-nonsense kind of person. She's also very accessible to students, and will tell you exactly what she thinks about something. You don't get that from many people. It's really rather refreshing.

I lean back in my chair, feeling rather pleased with myself. Yvonne Brown, however, does not look so happy.

"Albus, I really must protest. It is inappropriate to allow students to draw up safety precautions! They have no children themselves and therefore cannot possibly examine the situation from every angle! And do you really mean to tell us that even in the face of all of this indisputable information we have presented, you are still going to allow today's game to be played?"

The Sex God bristles a bit at this, and it takes me a moment to remember that today's game is Slytherin versus Ravenclaw.

Dumbledore appears to be completely unfazed.

Did I just hear his stomach rumbling? The man's eaten an entire package of candy in the fifteen minutes we've been in here! He's lucky he doesn't lose his stomach contents all over the desk!

It's also always a mystery to me how that man has any teeth left. Whenever he smiles I half expect to see Reese's Pieces attached to his gums.

"Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy are our most capable students," he's saying. "And I will of course keep you in the loop, Yvonne. As for today's game, our students are very much looking forward to it-I would so hate to take away something they enjoy. Feel free to sit in the stands and keep an eye on things, if you wish."

Yvonne opens her mouth, clearly to argue more, but Snape beats her to it.

"I think, Professor, that we may dismiss our Head students. Mr. Malfoy does have a Quidditch game to prepare for, after all."

"Yes, yes," Dumbledore says. "The two of you may go. See you on the pitch!"

I follow the Sex God out of the room, grateful to be away from Mrs. Brown. Who could've guessed she'd be just as aggravating as her daughter?

We walk down the corridor in silence.

Say something about how awesome I am for standing up for Quidditch. Go on, you know you want to.

Oh, and mention that second date you promise. Come on, Blondie.

"I'm not coming back with you-gotta head down to the pitch and get ready," the Sex God says suddenly, breaking me out of my pathetic attempt at mind control.

"Oh, ok," I respond, trying to hide my disappointment.

He starts to walk in a different direction and then pauses, turning around. "Nice going in there, Granger," he says. "Will you be around tomorrow afternoon?"

TO GO ON A DATE. Say it, you dink.

"Uh, yeah."

"Alright, we can start working on the safety stuff then," he says.

"Sounds good," I answer. Then, before I can stop myself, I add, "Looking forward to it."

"Me too," the Sex God says, smiling a bit.

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I spent a ridiculous amount of time after lunch on Sunday picking an outfit and doing my hair.

I keep telling myself it's stupid, to get so dressed up for something barely a step above a study session.

And yet, the female in me can't seem to stop herself.

It's only when I find myself actually practicing pleasant faces and comparing phrases like "Oh, I'd love to!" versus "That sounds wonderful!" to say to him when he brings up our second date that I finally become disgusted with myself and exit my room.

I find the Sex God in the kitchen, dressed in jeans and a plain t-shirt and looking like a male model. After taking a few moments to perv his bum (oh come on, it was right in front of me!) I clear my throat to announce my presence. He jumps a little and turns around with a surprised look on his face.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you," I giggle. "Ready?"

"Oh, damn. I apologize, Granger, I totally forgot that we were supposed to work on that Quidditch thing today," he says, grabbing his wand and shoving it into his back pocket.

"It's alright," I answer. "Did you want to take notes or should I? I thought we could start at the library and research Quidditch accidents, just to make sure we cover all possibilities."

"Yeah…about that," he begins, and I feel my stomach do an odd wiggle that suggests I'm about to hear some bad news.

"I can't today. Something else came up. I'll be back later or I'll just see you tomorrow and we'll work something out then, ok?"

"Right, sure," I say, doing my utmost to maintain a "it's all good" tone of voice. He nods and then, without another word, heads for the door and is gone.

I stand in the kitchen for a few minutes, trying to figure out what to do with all of the free time I suddenly have. I spent the entirety of last night doing all of my homework just so I could spend the day with him. I'd imagined that we would have such a good time that the afternoon would melt into the evening, and then he'd say that we should just have a private dinner together up in our Common Room.

Not wanting to waste such a nice outfit (and also not wanting to be alone with my slightly obsessive thoughts), I wander down to the Gryffindor Common Room in search of Ginny.

"Hey, Hermione," Harry says as I walk in. He's hunched over a star chart, occasionally writing down what I can only assume are the names of various stars that are going to predict the course of his week.

For about the millionth time, I am SO GLAD that I am no longer in Divination. I have enough homework without reading some globby tea leaves and trying to come up with some explanation for how they tell me I'm about to die an untimely death.

"We haven't seen much of you lately," he comments, setting down his quill and leaning back in his chair.

"Yeah, I know. My classes and homework are taking up a lot of my time, plus Dumbledore's got me on the Quidditch safety project."

"Right, I heard about that. Well, if you find that Malfoy's opinions are chock full of ego and you'd like another perspective, I'd be more than happy to help," Harry offers.

"Yeah, I'll let you know, thanks," I say. I think the more pressing issue is the awkwardness that's been following this conversation like a bad smell. Ron is great to joke around with and can offer some surprising insights sometimes, but Harry has always been good for a nice honest, serious conversation (even though I would have to comment that his grades don't often reflect how smart he actually is, just another reason why I've been pushing him for nearly seven years to do better in school).

Keeping the "honest" part in mind, I take a seat across from him. "Harry…is it just me, or are things a bit weird between us right now?" I ask.

He smiles sheepishly. "A bit, I guess. But it's really not you, I've just been thinking a lot about Ginny and myself."

Ah. And here it comes.

"Hermione, I have to ask. Did you know Ginny wanted to see other people?"

STUPID Hermione. Should've just kept on walking straight up to the girls' dormitories. But noooo, instead you had to sit down and be SOCIAL. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

"I wasn't really sure what was going on between you two," I say (and it is sort of the truth. I really did have no idea what was going on from Harry's side. There. Truth.)

Luckily for me, however, I don't have to say any more than that. Harry is clearly going to take the reins on this one.

"I just feel like I should've seen it coming, you know? I feel like I should have noticed how unhappy she was. And yet somehow, I was too selfish: I never even noticed her when she was there, and now…" he gestures helplessly.

Sigh. Men.

"Harry," I say, leaning forward a bit, "this isn't anyone's fault. You're in the public eye rather often, and you and Ginny were such an obvious match that everyone simply assumed it would work out. But nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors. Everything will work itself out for the best."

At this, Harry smiles at me a bit. "Thanks, Hermione," he says. "That's very wise of you."

Yes, yes. I somehow manage to be wise in everyone else's love life, save my own.

How ironic.

You can put that on my epitaph.

And now, for a quick escape.

"Looks like you have a lot of work to do," I remark, glancing pointedly at the pile of scrolls, bits of which have things like "you'll die tomorrow" or "early death predicted right around Christmas" on them.

"Yeah," he says, straightening up and adjusting his glasses. "Trust you to notice that."

"Not that I would consider a daily death or dismemberment prediction actual work, but since you're taking the class you had better get to it. I'll see you at dinner, yeah?"

I begin to edge towards the stairs, nodding at him. He nods back and then picks up a book entitled 30 Reasons Why You Are Not Meant for a Long Life.

F that class in the A. Barreling my way through the trapdoor in the middle of classtime was one of the best things I've ever done for myself.

Seriously, I don't know about you, but if I'm going to be toast tomorrow I'd rather not have my last memories of life involving being told such news over a crystal ball with my clothing being permeated by incense.

I enter the sixth year girls' dormitories to find Ginny alone, folding some clothing.

"Hey Gin," I say as I flop down on her bed.

"Hey Hermione. Great outfit," she responds.

"Thanks. It seems I dressed up for a wasted effort."

"What do you mean?"

I wait until she's finished jamming what look suspiciously like Ron's frayed Yule Ball robes into a corner of her trunk before plunging into my tale of woe.

"Well, remember how I told you over dinner yesterday about that project Dumbledore assigned to the Heads, and how this is going to be such a great opportunity for me to show the Sex God that underneath this nerdy exterior I'm really a charming, sensitive, intelligent woman filled with wit and life?"

"Yeah," she says. "Weren't you supposed to be working with him today? Is that what the get-up is for?"

"Originally. As it turns out, he told me he'd forgotten all about it, and then blew out of the room before I could say anything else. He didn't even mention our second date," I add miserably.

"Oh, Hermione, I'm sorry. Men can be such asses sometimes," Ginny says sympathetically. "I swear, you can write them a full-scale reminder and staple it to their foreheads and they still won't know. Clueless, the lot of them."

I nod.

"Although," she continues thoughtfully, "I must say I'm surprised you haven't brought it up to him yourself. You've been out on a few dates before, haven't you? With those Muggle boys you told me about? Don't remember hearing any reports from you about shyness then."

Ah yes. "Those Muggle boys."

Thomas Wyclef was a boy I went out on two very innocent, seemingly pleasurable dates with two summers ago. When it came time for me to go back to school, and thus for any dating to go on hiatus, he quite lost his mind and proceeded to ring my parents' house phone five times a day for a month.

Thankfully, my parents learned to ignore his phone calls after a week, although my dad did make some remark that involved "that man Dimpledore" giving us permission to use "some sort of banishing spell for this twink."

Then the next summer there was Henry Fitzroy, who seemed perfectly normal until he informed me that he tried to decide if he could marry a girl by the second date, and if he couldn't see himself with her forever, the relationship was over. Mind you, he told me this over our third date, but not before he remarked that he automatically mentally attached a price tag to every woman he saw walking down the street.

I shudder to remember. Eek.

"I don't want to sound too obvious," I explain. "I know it sounds silly, but I'd like for at least one potential relationship in my life to sort of just carry itself along, without me having to constantly push it to the next step."

At this, Ginny sighs. "I know exactly what you mean," she informs me with an odd look on her face.

"You-what's happened?" I ask. "Sorry, I've been so wrapped up in the whole Sex God thing I totally forgot to ask you how things in your life were going."

"Oh it's fine," she says, waving a hand at me as if to dismiss my concerns. "I only may have screwed things up with Blaise for like forever."

"Really? How?"

"Well I switched patrol shifts with Parvati the other night so I could spend a bit of time with him. We were getting along really well and all, and of course we ended up in an empty classroom doing a bit of kissing."

"Of course," I say dryly. Blaise Zabini has a bit of a reputation for landing himself in empty classrooms with lady friends.

Or at least, so I've heard. And if I, the least gossipy girl in all of Hogwarts, have heard it, then so has everybody else.

"So naturally, he wants to go a bit further. And I…I don't know what happened! I just kind of freaked out and it was like something went off in my brain and next thing I know I'm babbling about how I'm not sure if I'm ready for this and I don't want to be considered a slut!"

She looks at me in horror, obviously waiting for me to say something comforting.

"Uh, well," I say, clearing my throat a bit, "at least you successfully killed the mood."

"Hermione!" Ginny shrieks, giggling.

"Well, I'm sorry, but what else do you want me to say? Do you want me to criticize you for having said something because you didn't feel you were ready? And from what I've heard from Harry and Ron talking, guys enjoy a bit of a chase." I pause a bit to consider this statement. "Then again, they also seem to tire of the chase rather quickly, so it's really a crapshoot."

Ginny smiles. "I love how you pepper our little talks with your adorable Muggle terms. And I know, you're right. I didn't even do anything with Harry either, we just kissed also."

"If you're not ready, then it's fine. And if he isn't interested in respecting that, then he can go find someone else to shag."

Ginny looks rather satisfied at this, but her worries about being called a "slut" are bothering me. What makes a person a slut? And why does this term really only seem to apply to women? There's also the other rather obvious fact that "slut" is an extremely subjective term: we call women we don't like "sluts" and then make excuses for our friends, even if both friend and enemy have slept with the exact same number of people. And is it about the number of guys, or the type of guy?

If you ask me, women really need to stop with the friendly-fire insults. And the battle to avoid being called a "slut" is a losing one, because if some girl doesn't like you, she still thinks you're a ho.

Go figure.

It's times like this I wish I was born a boy.

But, moving on.

"Uh, Gin? While I'm here, I think I should mention that Harry stopped me for a bit of a chat down in the Common Room. He seems quite upset that you two are over."

"UGH," Ginny sighs with such vehemence that I instantly realize this is a stone I ought to have left unturned. "That's all Ron's been talking about all week. Poor Harry this, poor Harry that. And I bet when he talked to you, it was all about him, right? 'Oh poor little me, the weight of the world is on my shoulders. I, I, I, me, me, me. See, this is exactly why I felt it necessary to examine other options besides The Boy Who Whines."

"Wow, Ginny, don't hold back," I say after a moment's pause.

But clearly, Ginny isn't finished ranting.

"And you know what, in his eternal quest to not be selfish, he somehow manages to be the most self-absorbed person I have ever met! Everything is about him! Well you know what, I'm a person too. And I have needs and feelings and concerns, same as everybody else. He just needs to get over himself. But nooo, Ron's kicked off the 'Harry Is A Wounded, Soulful Panda' Campaign 2009, and unfortunately I'm the only recipient of his campaign speeches! I am SO sick of this! He can officially change his moniker from 'The Boy Who Lived' to 'The Boy Who Had To Buy A Separate Home For His Ego.'"

I should probably point out that all the while she's been ranting, she's been taking it out on her poor laundry, who never did anything except get dizzy in the spin cycle.

"Finished?" I ask. She seems to have stopped for breath. Bit red in the face though.

"Yeah," she says. "Look, I hate to kick you out, but Snape is on the warpath this year with the homework. I swear he's trying to kill everyone."

"It's fine," I say, laughing a bit. "Good chat, glad we both got everything out of our systems. Especially you."

"Yeah, well, my head would probably explode if you weren't around to rant at. So when you get back to your Common Room this evening and spot the Sex God in all his sexiness sexily reading in front of a sexy fire, you're going to sit down and have a chat with him about that second date, right?"

"Yes I am. I am Hermione Granger, empowered women of the 21st century. I can totally do this."

I begin to head out the door, smiling to myself when she shouts, "That's what I like to hear!" after me.

I can totally ask Draco out for our second date. How hard could this be?

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I hate homework, and it hates me.

But I love you guys. I hope you enjoyed it! Read and review!

Love,

Carrie