Disclaimer: Belongs to JK Rowling

Looking Forward, Looking Back

3/?

-

"What exactly are we looking for again?" Ron asked. His attention span had just about reached the end of its very short tether.

"Something that you think he'd put part of his soul in, Ron," Harry said quietly, "We know what he's already put it in, just look for familiar ground."

"But there is nothing familiar in these darn books!" He snapped, pushing the book away, "It's the same old crap, time after bloody time, I've had enough."

"Ron, please..." Hermione began.

"No, Hermione," Ron said. "We've looked at these books countless times, and I've had just about as much as I can take. We never find anything; it's almost like we are stalling. Trying to find something in nothing."

"We will find something, soon," she said quietly, "We have to keep trying. If we don't... it's like he's winning."

Ron didn't say anything after that. He knew what Hermione was was referencing. He had smartened up a little over the last six months, ever since they had left Hogwarts. Hermione had too, not that she really needed to do a whole lot. But this thing, whatever she had with Malfoy, it had changed her. He'd like to think it was for the better, and in some ways it was. Right now she had a whole lot of fervor for helping to rid them of Voldemort, as if that would bring Draco back. Of course this helped Harry a lot, but it also drove him barmy. He was an action man, if you will, and it was time to do something. There were only so many books he could stomach, none, actually.

Although he was still scared shitless over eventually facing Voldemort, he just wanted it done. Ever since he had embarked on the Hogwarts Express seven years ago now, his life had been one never-ending adventure. And while that had its good moments, it was draining. He just wanted to wake up one morning without a feeling of dread about what the coming day was going to bring, wondering if anyone he knew and/or loved, was going to die. It wasn't a nice feeling. He wanted a normal life, back like it was before he met Harry on the train that day. One with endless Quidditch matches, long days in the sun, just lying around doing absolutely nothing, worrying about nothing. That's what he wanted, and he prayed that he would one day get it.

"This is pointless," Harry muttered, shoving his book away. "We've been through these several times now, Hermione, it's not in here. Whatever it is, there is nothing on it in these books. If you find anything, well, you deserve a prize or something! We'll make you a trophy."

Hermione gave a weak laugh, "I think you're right, it's not here. I was so sure we'd find something in one of these..." And she stopped speaking, with a thunderstruck look on her face.

"What is it?" Harry asked.

"A trophy..."

"What trophy?" Ron asked, sharing a puzzled look with Harry.

"I can't believe we didn't think of it, it's so bloody obvious," she muttered, shutting the books. Getting up she started towards the door, "Are you coming?"

"Where are we going?" they asked in unison.

"Hogwarts."

-

"We should tell him," Harry whispered, "He could help us."

"Are you mad?" Ron asked, "Getting Ferret Boy to help us is the last thing we should do, he'd sooner kill us than help us."

Hermione looked behind them over to the table where Malfoy was sitting, looking through one of the books that was there. And grimacing occasionally at some of the pictures it contained. He couldn't hear what they were saying, of course. She had gotten over her dislike for the Muffliato charm in this instance.

"He couldn't hurt us now, Ron, even if he wanted to," she said turning back. "He doesn't have a wand and, Harry and you are much stronger physically than he is. There is no way he could overpower us."

"Well... he could brew a potion or poison our morning juice or something," he said, obviously reaching for anything that would prove him right about Malfoy's untrustworthiness.

"There are no potion supplies left at the house Ronald, unless there is something poisonous growing in the garden, which is more than likely, actually," she retorted, not missing the look of triumph on Ron's face. "Do you know which plants are poisonous, Ron?" He shook his head. "Exactly. I imagine the only one here who does is Neville, or your mum, so I don't think Malfoy has a chance of finding out how, much less, actually poisoning us."

"Whatever," he muttered. "Trusting that wanker is like shaking Snape's hand as soon as he walks in the fucking door. You wouldn't do that, would you Harry?" Harry shook his head. "No, so I won't trust Ferret. End of story."

"Okay then," Harry said, turning to Hermione. "You with me?"

She looked over at Malfoy, who looked up at that moment, and meet her eyes for just a moment, till he looked down again to the book in front of him. Turning to Ron, she knew he wouldn't like this; it was the only option.

"I'm with you Harry, let's tell Malfoy."

Ron just looked at her, and shook his head, clearly disappointed in her. But she had to go with what she thought was right, and Malfoy's help could be invaluable to their cause. They needed him, and Ron would just have to learn to live with it. This wasn't about him, after all. There was a bigger picture that they had to keep their eyes on.

Harry went and sat down opposite Malfoy, and when Hermione sat down next to Harry, he spoke, "So, do you know anything about Horcruxes?"

"Horcruxes? Never heard of them, what are they?" he asked, looking between the two of them.

"It's an object that you place part of your soul in, something you do if you wish to attain immortality," Hermione said. "You can't be killed as long as part of your soul is in it."

"Hmm, well, that sure is interesting," Malfoy said, "So let me guess. Voldemort has created one of these, and you lot have to figure out what it is and get rid of it before you can defeat him?"

"It's not as easy as that," Harry said.

"Why?"

"We believe he created seven of them originally," he said quietly. "With himself being the final one to destroy."

"Oh," Malfoy whispered, "Well, that's a pain."

-

Harry wasn't entirely sure what Hermione was on about, but she was incredibly determined it seemed. After ensuring that they were indeed following her from the library, she went to the kitchen, where Remus was just sitting down with the paper, and a fresh cup of tea. She had bustled him out of his seat, saying that he had to come with them, they had to go to Hogwarts, right now. Remus had been powerless to stop her. So now he and Ron were following Remus who was following Hermione who was making her way up the drive to Hogwarts rather quickly.

"Do you have any idea what she is on about mate?" Ron panted beside him.

"Not a bloody clue," Harry answered. "Wish she'd slow down just a bit, though." As soon as they'd apparated to the Hogwarts gates, she again was off at a rapid pace. After the heady feeling of Apparation they had yet to get used to, it was a hard walk up the steadily increasing slope to the castle. It loomed in front of them, containing none of the life it had had before. It was as if a dark cloud had come to hover over it. When all this was over, Harry knew Hermione harbored a desire to return and have a chance to complete her education. He wasn't sure if he could accompany her. Because it just wasn't the same place anymore to him. Without Dumbledore, no matter how he had felt about him the old headmaster at times, it just wouldn't be the same. He didn't think he could do it.

"Are you okay, mate?" Ron asked beside him.

"Yeah," he said, "Fine. Does it seem different to you?" he asked, looking at the castle.

"It does a little, but then I didn't spend a lot of time here in the summer holidays, we never did. But it is different, empty. More than it should be."

They didn't say anything else as they made the rest of the way up to the castle, and Hermione didn't wait for them as she climbed the steps. "Come on boys, we don't have all the time in the world."

Harry had a little laugh to himself, as he and Ron started a light jog to catch up, slowing to a walk as they entered the castle. Hermione was waiting for them a little way down the corridor, "It's strange, isn't it? It's no different than it was before, but it just doesn't feel the same. Are you all right, Harry?"

"Fine," he said stiffly. "So where are we going?"

"The third floor, follow me," she said, rushing off once more.

It seemed that Harry and Ron had no choice but to follow, telling Remus that they'd be back soon. They followed Hermione. As she knew her way better than they did. It was the smartest option.

As they finally stepped off the staircase on the right floor, Ron asked, "So what now?"

"The Trophy Room," she explained. "It should still be there."

They found the room relatively quickly, with Ron reminding them all of the time he had cleaned each and every trophy, all the while burping slugs everywhere. Hermione quickly scanned the displays till she found what she was looking for. "Here it is," she said. "Come over here."

They looked in through the glass at what she was pointing at. "You think that's one?" Harry asked.

"Absolutely," she said.

"But why would he make one, and leave it here right under Professor Dumbledore's nose? It's a bit risky," Ron said.

"My thought is, he went for this because he could, and it's hard to notice. What do you feel when you are at Hogwarts? I mean, what prickles your skin, makes your hair stand on end?"

"The magic," Harry said quietly.

"You wouldn't notice anything off about sensing magic in this room, you feel it everywhere here."

Harry looked at the rather innocuous looking award in the display. It seemed likely to him. That Voldemort would make a Horcrux out of something that Dumbledore could have possibly handed to him, primarily for the thrill of knowing, that Dumbledore had a piece of his soul so close at hand, and having no idea at all.

"Well there is only one way to know for sure," he said, "Let's take it back with us to Grimmauld Place and find out if it is."

-

After they explained to Malfoy what exactly Horcruxes were, what they knew about the ones already destroyed, and the ones that they had yet to discover, she sat herself down on the old sofa in the study. It was rather worn in parts, but still soft enough to ease the pain of sitting at that table for hours on end.

She savoured this time. It wasn't often that she got some time to herself nowadays. There was always some drama that needed to be attended to, and the never-ending study made it more than a little stressful. She needed a little 'just for herself' time, so she lay back properly on the sofa, and closed her eyes. It would just be for a moment, a chance to clear her head. Then she would go back to the books.

Hermione wasn't sure how much time had passed till she felt someone pulling her feet up and the weight on the sofa suddenly shifting to allow another body to sit down, placing her feet over the legs.

She opened her eyes just a little, and saw that it was Ron who was sitting there. He had become increasingly familiar around her lately, with little useless touches and lingering glances. She had no idea what she was going to do about it.

"What is it, Ron?" she asked quietly.

"Why did you agree with Harry, Hermione? I thought you'd have my back on this... on everything, really," he said. She could hear the bitterness in his tone. He was more than annoyed.

"What makes you think that, Ronald?" she asked and sitting up, placing her feet on the ground. "I have my own opinions and I'll make my own decisions, regardless of what yours may be."

"I just thought since you and I, well, we are going to be 'us'," he said, gesturing between the two of them, "I thought that meant you'd support me."

"I really don't want to have this conversation right now," she whispered. "There is no 'us', not right now, and maybe there won't ever be. And even if we were going to be together, I would still make my own decisions, think for myself. You have no say input or sway in that."

He didn't say anything, just looked at her with a puzzled expression on his face. Obviously, Lavender hadn't asserted herself with him and her opinions to him.

Sighing, "I'm going to have a shower and get ready for dinner," she said. Leaving him on the couch.

"Sure, dinner."

That would keep him distracted for a while, she thought. She needed to decide what was happening there, and soon. It was getting too complicated.

...