Disclaimer: I disclaim in the name of her majesty, the Queen!


Consumed with a vindictive fire, Hermione stormed down the castle lawns, heading in a vague direction. Any direction. She really didn't care. Despite the fact that tears were leaking out her eyes, inside she was aquiver with suppressed rage.

How…. Dare…. He….

That's it. The only way to explain it was that he's a stupid git and he was dropped on the head as a child. That is the only way to explain the fact that she just saw Ronald Weasley and Lavender Brown lip locked in the corner of the common room.

Boys!

She'll never understand them and she was starting to think she never wanted to. First, he was mopey and whiny for WEEKS! Then, he gets mad at her over that STUPID misunderstanding about the Felix Felicis and the Quidditch game. NOW! Now he goes and gets involved with Bloody Lavender. Talk about temperamental!

He must be on his man period.

Well, at least she got her own back. Those canaries looked harmless but their claws certainly weren't. He'll be supporting a lovely scratched face for a long time yet. Walking around the school…. Maimed… because of her….

Damn it! Now she felt a little bad about it.

Sighing, Hermione slowed down and found herself on the edges of the Quidditch pitch. Really, at night with no one around, it really was quite peaceful. Well, except for the one lone flier sitting on a broom at the top of the stadium. All she could see was a black blur, and even that intruder seemed like they belonged to the ambience of the deserted pitch. Her rage rapidly deflated and she was now left feeling quite depressed about the entire thing.

So…. Ron now had a girlfriend.

Hermione felt nauseous….


Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose, just between her eyes. The mother of all headaches was upon her and she was one of those people who believed that simply taking a headache-be-gone draught was a quick fix solution to a problem that should not have happened in the first place. The simple truth is that she was still not in the full swing of her usual evening study crams in the library. And now her head was holding it's very own rehearsal for a twenty-four piece bass drum orchestra. But, at least her work was finally done for the night.

Hitching her bag strap more securely on her shoulder, Hermione turned the corner as if she had somewhere very important to be and had to be there five minutes ago. But then, that was the way she always walked.

Look, if she really wanted to be truthful with herself, this time of night made her feel strangely anxious. Hermione always filled her day. From the minute she woke up in the morning, there was a schedule. Dress, eat, go to class, study. But the time between finishing her study for the night and the time where she actually felt sleepy enough to go to bed, there was no schedule.

This time of night was simply not productive. Hermione liked being productive. Being unproductive was simply not a good thing. Didn't everyone know that she had standards. And when one is doing nothing, how can one achieve all one's own goals in life?

Try as she may though, things were simply not working the way she had planned. Every year previous to this year, she lived by that schedule and it had worked for her. She got top grades, she was an active member of the student council. Hell, she even had time to help Harry combat the evil forces of Voldermort and his merry band of Deatheaters.

What changed?

All this year, she felt off. So many problems now crowded her mind and suddenly, her single-minded determination and concentration was thrown off. She couldn't cope with the pressure. She mentally ticked off the list of things that now vied for the top of the list of things that worried her.

1. Helping Harry find and destroy all the Dark Lord's horcruxes, then helping find Voldemort himself, kill him and throw all his followers in jail,

2. How her parents were coping now that they had set up permanent residence in sunny Australia. Were they okay? And even though their memories had been obliviated, did they miss her?

3. Her love for Ron, and all the intricate problems that being in love with a best friend and boyfriend to another girl presents,

4. Being Hogwarts Head Girl, a top position job that she probably has to shoulder herself, seeing a Malfoy was probably going to be NO help at all,

5. On the subject of Malfoy, him and his crazy attitude thus far. Having to live with him and his antagonism, strange mood swings and the unsettling and odd connection between them. AND…. they kissed…. AND he had seen her at her worst and most vulnerable,

6. Her mental breakdowns. Something that had thus far being isolated and infrequent events. But they were getting more frequent, more worrying and less ….private ….now that Malfoy knew something of them. How long would it be before he told someone else?

7. And her studies. Her bloody studies. They just didn't seem important any more in the wake of all that was going on around her. During her library study stint, she had spent half an hour staring at a paragraph on invertebrate transfiguration in her textbook and took not a single word in.

She sighed and made her way to the Astronomy tower to meet up with Ron and Harry. Harry had called a meeting to brainstorm ideas about where to find the Horcruxes and Hermione had a virtual plethora of research books in her bag. They were going to get to the bottom of the R.A.B. fake locket mystery, even if it killed her. And it probably would if they didn't find these Horcruxes soon.


Hermione laid sprawled on the Astronomy Tower floor and absently sucked on a sugar quill. Next to her, Ron and Harry were discussing the possibilities of whether there was or was not a Voldemort Weapon of Mass Destruction hidden in the girl's dormitory of the Griffindor Tower.

"Well, I say it could be there. I mean, we can't go in there and see and we wouldn't even suspect that one would be there. If I were He Who Must Not Be Named and uglier than a squashed toad's backside, that's where I would hide it." Ron fixed Harry with a determined look.

"And like I said." Harry retorted in a restrained tone of voice. "You are full of it mate. You just want an excuse to go in there."

Hermione rolled her eyes and blew a stray curl out of her eyes. The whole thing started when Ron, the bright spark he was, had suggested THAT he read in a mystery solving book once THAT all the truly diabolical villains left trophies and evidence of their crimes where the 'crime solvers' could see them. Something about 'hidden in plain sight'. From there Ron had suggested more and more ridiculous places that Voldemort could have hidden his Horcruxes (Hermione's personal favourite suggestion was that one could be hidden in Harry's ear… and yes, Ron did check…. Evil bits of earwax, no evil bits of Voldie's soul). Well, at any rate Hermione was fed up and curfew was about to begin.

"Look Ron, if I PROMISE to look in the girl's dorms under the pretense of looking for contraband items, can we move on?"

Ron's face lit up. "That's right, you have to do stuff like that as Head Girl don't you? I knew there was a reason we're friends." He grinned impishly.

Hermione controlled the rivaling grin that was fighting to be free on her face and pretended to look offended.

"Yes well, let's get back to the list shall we?"

Harry sighed. "Yes. We should. What has been written down so far?"

Hermione perused the list she had jotted down thus far from their meeting and read it out aloud:

Horcruxes:

1. Tom Riddle's Diary (Destroyed by Harry by basilisk's fang, 2nd year)

2. Malvolo's ring (Destroyed by Professor Dumbledore)

3. Nagini (Volemort's snake, destroy last to preserve the element of surprise. Voldie not know we are after the Horcrux)

4. Slytherin's necklace (missing??? RAB??? Research needed)

5. Helga Hufflepuff's cup (missing, Tom Riddle took it, poss. in Borgin & Burkes where he worked, though unlikely)

6. Something of Rowena Ravenclaw's (more research needed)

7. Seventh Horcrux (??? Poss. options something of Godric Griffindor's or something Voldemort treasures… 'trophy' of some sort?)

Places they could be:

Riddle's Orphanage

Borgin and Burkes store (Riddle's first job)

Ministry of Magic (?)

With a loyal Deatheater follower

Godric's Hollow (place of his downfall)

Grave site of mother (unlikely because he didn't like mum + used her necklace as a horcrux)

Hidden in plain sight (i.e. in Griffindor girl's dorms)

Hermione frowned at the last suggestion given by Ron. Somehow, something was niggling at her conscience about that sentence. Her eyes narrowed. What was it? She abruptly hushed the boys, who were discussing the list in muted whispers. They looked up at her enquiringly.

Haltingly, she spoke. "Listen, maybe Ron's suggestion about hiding something in a 'close to home' place is not so far fetched." Ron looked pleased with himself and shot a self-satisfied smirk Harry's way.

Hermione continued. "Well, think about it. Maybe Voldemort really did hide something at Hogwarts. As much as you loathe him Harry, you and he have something in commons. Both of you are orphans and grew up in horrible places. Both of you call Hogwarts your first real home."

Harry instantly coloured. "Hermione, Don't even think of suggesting that I have anything at all in common with that monster. He's the one who made me an orphan after all."

Hermione looked dismayed and rushed to apologize. "I am sorry Harry. I don't mean it like that. You are NOTHING like that bastard, and don't even think for a second that I or anyone believes that." The fact that the Head Girl had swore on Harry's behalf was more of an apology than the rest of the words had been. Harry smiled his acceptance of the apology.

"Anyway." Hermione concluded. "My point is this. If Voldemort called this place home, and even wanted to become a teacher here, wouldn't it be a logical conclusion that he would hide a piece of himself here." Ron looked triumph, which caused Hermione to add to her hypothesis.

"Well, probably not quite in 'plain sight'. It's not going to be the sorting hat otherwise Professor Dumbledore would have found it and destroyed it already." Ron deflated and sulked a little while Harry looked quite swayed at Hermione's suggestion.

"You know, you may have something there Hermione." Harry grinned and Hermione grinned back. Merlin, when was the last time Harry smiled like that?

"I guess kissing gits like Malfoy doesn't scramble your brains after all." Ron abruptly started choking violently and Hermione flushed a brilliant red.

Honestly, you kiss your greatest adversary in potions class and you never live it down. Word of the wise, learn from my mistake people.

"Ugh! Don't even remind me." She admonished Harry, while glancing quickly at Ron to see his reaction.

"Yeah!" Ron mumbled. "I'd like to keep my dinner down if that's okay with you." Harry grinned in the wake of his discomforted best friends.

"Personally, I'm surprised that word hasn't spread about the school yet." Harry mused. "I would think that the ferret couldn't wait to tell everyone about his brief love infatuation with the Griffindor Head Girl."

Hermione scoffed as she transfigured her notes on the Horcruxes to look like blank parchment and stuffed them in her bag. "Oh, it spread far enough. Ginny…" Quick glance at Harry. " …ummm accosted me in the Charms corridor before dinner and demanded details. Where, when and um… consistency… whatever that means. Frankly, I would like to forget it ever happened. Think I might be able to obliviate the memories of everyone in the school?"

Sigh! If only….

"Well, Mione. If he gives you any more trouble, you just tell me and I'll sort him out for you." Ron punched his hand for extra effect.

Hermione's eyebrow raised. "Well, Ronald, as another helpless female, I'll keep that in mind. Seriously, I have a wand and I know how to defend myself."

"Even so." Ron replied gruffly. "I don't trust him. He's been acting awfully funny towards you lately. You know, I don't think he's called you the 'M' word once since he showed up at The Burrow this summer. He's still a horrible sneaky git to me an' Harry but he's almost pleasant to you lately. The ferret's up to something."

Hermione smiled slightly. It almost sounded as if he was jealous. That thought should not have made her so happy.

"I agree." Harry supported thoughtfully. "He's changed somehow last summer. I can't place it though. He may have turned over a new leaf and wants to fight for the light side but you had better be careful of him anyway Hermione. Last year I suspected he was up to something and I was right. He might be trying to pull the same wool over our eyes."

Hermione sighed and smiled sufferingly at her paranoid boys. " Look, if Professor McGonnigal trusts him enough to make him Head Boy, that's good enough for me. Why don't you both concentrate on the real problem at hand, beating Voldemort. I'll do more research for the list and you two concentrate on how to search the different locations for them. Meet again next week?" Both boys nodded.

"Great! I'll see you both tomorrow then for classes. May I remind you that our Charms essays are due."

Twin groans accompanied Hermione's exit.


Wiping spaghetti from her forehead (another one of the Entrance portrait's insane tasks… that girl was going DOWN!), Hermione achingly stumbled into the room and dumped her heavy bag on the floor. Groaning, she tenderly rubbed the sore muscles of her shoulders.

Forget the evil heavy school bag of doom…. Needed: one heavy dosage of bed stat!

Hermione turned and headed for her… what… the …devil…?

The common room area leading to her bedroom was completely bare. The sofas, the desk, rugs, tapestries, the odd shaped hat stand that looked like a bunch of money arms coming out of a hairy tree trunk… not there. And a blaring thick red line dividing her side from Mal…

…Oh! Okay, stop looking everyone… she found her stuff…

There was Malfoy, sitting quite comfortably in an armchair reading a book (oddly enough he was pulling a Loony Lovegood, because the book cover was upside down). Surrounding him was all the furniture IN THE ENTIRE FREAKIN COMMON ROOM! All on HIS side of the room, may I add. It resembled something similar to an eccentric old lady's garage sale.

Oh, fer merlin's sake, there was even a giant stuffed marlin fish stuck on a board back there that she had never seen THAT before in her life. It was wearing a Christmas hat!

Trying out her most intimidating, authorative pose, Hermione stuck her hands on her hips and tapped her foot on the ground briskly. When that elicited no response from her unaccommodating roommate, she burned a hole in his head with her glare and coughed abrasively.

One eyebrow raised…. Then an eye… the book lowers…

"Granger." Malfoy drawled. "How nice of you to join us. Pleasant evening?"

Hermione cocked her head slightly to the side in mock confusion. " What do you mean 'join us'? Do you mean the voices in your head because that'll mean I'll have to look for a new place to live."

Oop! Was that a falter in the smirk? Naughty Hermione! A man's ego is his most prized possession… heh heh heh….

"Au contraire mon amour! It is you whose sanity is now in question." Malfoy replied archly and slowly placed his book on a nearby table.

Hermione restrained the desire to ask him what the hell he was on about. Malfoy was a straight and narrow egotist and he was right in his element. Asking what he was on about is what he would want her to do.

"What the hell are you on about Malfoy?"

Oh bravo Hermione! Talking about sticking to your guns. Mini conscience Hermione was giving a rousing applause. That's it! Keep clapping and I'll pour vodka in my ear. Let's see how many brain cells are left after THAT! Oh, Merlin, this is no time to be turning on oneself. Must be strong in the face of adversity…. Hmm, maybe he's right about the crazy thing… this can't be normal…

"Granger?"

"Wha?" Hermione replied oh-so-smartly. Internally, she told conscience Hermione that they would talk later. Malfoy was looking a little bemused and irritated at her,

Hah! Rich boy doesn't like being ignored does he?

"Merlin, you really are loopy aren't you?" Malfoy exclaimed snidely. He stood up and strode over to Hermione purposefully. "Look, you're an alright bird and all… sometimes… but frankly, I don't feel comfortable with you being around me or my stuff too much. I removed the furniture from your side of the common room for your own good. I wouldn't want you to spontaneously start snogging something I have to sit on later."

Hermione's eyes narrowed to slits. So that's what he was on about. That damned kiss in potions. Once again, her power to annihilate people with her icy cold glare had deserted her. Hermione rose to the challenge and stepped closer to Malfoy.

"Oh that is rich! At least I'm not the one who had a five minute infatuation with the girl I've affectionately called 'Mudblood' these past seven years. I'll bet your school chums didn't hear that part of the story." Hermione suddenly felt like a cat that had been rubbed against the fur.

"They may not have, but they did hear the part where you offered to have sex with me if I drunk an antidote. When shall I expect a payout?"

"Never!" Hermione hissed.

Malfoy pouted slightly and replied offhand, "What a shame." He looked her up and down. "You really do need the experience. Well, if you change your mind… you know where I live…" Another infuriating smirk.

Hermione blinked. What the hell was going on? Was he actually flirting with her? Ladies and Gentlemen, I officially welcome you to the Twilight Zone.

She snorted to cover up her sudden uncertainty and confusion. "Yeah well, don't hold your breath pretty boy. Merlin, is that all you men think about, Carnal relations? I'm surprised there's room for anything else in that brain of yours."

Malfoy's head leaned closer to hers, so close that she could feel his breath on her neck. His voice whispered seductively in her ear. Rich tenor timbre. "You would be surprised what I could teach you Granger. You only need ask."

Hermione's heartbeat suddenly raced and her mind afforded her a brief piece of clarity. Malfoy really was sex on a stick. Gluttonous sugary sex on a stick, feels good going down and headed straight for your thighs. She flushed a brilliant red at that thought, but thankfully Malfoy didn't see. At the moment he was brushing back a lock of hair from the right side of her neck. Softly, oh so softly, his lips met the patch of skin beneath her earlobe.

DANGER WILL ROBINSON! DANGER WILL ROBINSON! ABORT MISSION ABORT MISSION!

Hermione jumped back as if stung. "W…well, if you're so smart, how about you put your money where your mouth is then, huh?"

A look of confusion crossed his face. "This feels like dejavu. Haven't I already done this? Fine, how do you propose we do this?"

Thinking fast, Hermione accioed a coffee table and her wizard chess set to stand in front of them. A fire gleamed in her eye.

"You up for it pretty boy? Shall we test your manhood?"

"I can think of other more concrete ways to test my 'manhood' and like I said, you are welcome to help me." He ran a hand through his hair offhand as his predatory stare burned into her.

Hermione was never one to back down… would you expect any less from the female protagonist? She met his stare, looking braver than she suddenly felt around him. There was something so animalistic about him right now that she didn't entirely hate.

"Answer the question Malfoy, are you up to it or not?"

Malfoy's answer was to sit down in front of the chess set and ask, "White or black Granger?"

Hermione sat down in turn and rotated the board so that the white pieces were in front of her.

"It's seems wrong to deprive you of the black team Malfoy. They do suit you so well."


A/N: First of all, I'd like to say I appreciate each and every one who reads this story, and especially those who reviewed. It means a lot! Secondly, I am at somewhat of a precipice with this story. See, I have an original idea of where I roughly want this story to go but a more risque idea has popped into my head recently. Of course I could just write this idea in a new story because I think this deviation from the original plot line would be better suited to an older Hermione/Draco story. So I have an option of going for my 'safer but more realistic character portrayal' plot line (i.e. tortured loveable Draco), or the more unrealistic plotline (i.e. Draco, sex god and cad). If I stick to the original plotline, i'll update quicker. I don't know... Well, if anyone has any imput, I'd love to hear it... I awwwl konfused...