This one-shot takes place shortly before Hermione's 3rd year at Hogwarts. It is also related to two of my other stories, Family, Miss Granger and The Right Hands.

O O O

Hermione Granger ran her finger along the spines of the books, searching for nothing in particular as she waited for the Weasleys to finish buying the dozens of books that five of their seven children needed for school this year. She had no idea how they managed with so little money and so much they needed to buy. It was lucky that Mr. Weasley had won the annual Daily Prophet Grand Prize Galleon Draw this year, though they had spent most of the gold on a vacation to Egypt.

Hermione wandered rather aimlessly, browsing over the many titles that Flourish and Blotts sold, searching for something to spark her interest. Her finger stopped on a book entitled Death Omens: What to Do When You Know the Worst is Coming. Curiosity made her pull the book off the shelf and examine the cover. A picture of a large black dog with gleaming eyes stared back at her. She shuddered and debated whether or not to open the book.

"Isn't this section rather dark for you, Miss Granger?" a smooth voice asked.

Hermione jumped in surprise and turned to see a man she quite loathed—Lucius Malfoy. Hermione glanced at her surroundings and noticed that she had indeed wandered into a section of darker books, many of them appearing to be about the Dark Arts. She hugged the Death Omens book to her chest, almost as though using it as a shield against the pureblood.

Lucius smirked and took a step towards her. She backed against the bookshelves behind her as he reached out a hand sporting a black leather glove. She breathed a small sigh of relief as he took a book from just above her head and stepped backward to examine it. "Becoming interested in the Dark Arts, are we, Miss Granger?" he asked nonchalantly, skimming the back cover of the book in his hands.

"No," Hermione answered sharply.

Lucius raised his eyes to hers as he arched an eyebrow. "A pity." Hermione's brow furrowed, curious as to why Lucius considered it 'a pity' that Hermione, a Muggle-born, did not wish to learn Dark Magic. Lucius looked back down at the book, which had a menacing serpent embossed on its cover, and began scanning the first page. "Draco tells me that you are at the top of all your classes." Hermione shifted rather uncomfortably, thinking about Draco telling his father what a know-it-all she was and wondering what else the bully said about her. "One with your talent and cunning should be in Slytherin."

Hermione's eyebrows shot up as this statement sunk in. "I'm a Muggle-born, Mr. Malfoy," she reminded him, though she was sure that he knew her bloodlines full well.

Lucius smiled slightly as he glanced at her again. "I remember, Miss Granger."

"Then how could I ever be in Slytherin, Mr. Malfoy?" Hermione asked, trying not to care about the answer, but curious nevertheless.

Lucius shook his head slightly. "It is a common misconception that Muggle-borns cannot be sorted into Slytherin, Miss Granger." He flipped a few pages of the book. "But anyone who is pureblood in nature and has a thirst for glory can be in Slytherin."

"I have no 'thirst for glory,'" Hermione said almost laughingly.

"Don't you?" Lucius countered, looking up at her once again, his icy grey eyes studying her. "Your friendship with Potter, your need to display your intelligence at every possible moment; your actions show that, by nature, you are much more Slytherin then perhaps you would like to believe."

Hermione stared at him, and the man simply gazed back at her unwaveringly. Did Lucius actually believe that she would have been a good Slytherin? Slytherins were all malevolent and immoral, from her experience—surely she could never fit into such a group. The pureblood must have some ulterior motive behind this conversation, but Hermione could not think of what he could possibly have in mind. "I'm in Gryffindor, Mr. Malfoy," she said firmly, not sure of what else to say.

"I know." He reached over her and put the book back on the shelf. "It's a shame. Your talents would be put to much better use in Slytherin." He nodded curtly to her. "Good day, Miss Granger." He turned and walked away, his black cloak billowing behind him as he disappeared from view amongst the bookshelves. Hermione stared blankly ahead, going over the odd conversation in her mind.

"Hermione? 'Mione, where are you?"

Ron Weasley poked his freckled face around a corner and grinned at her. "We've finally finished, Hermione. Mum's taking me to get new robes now!"

Hermione smiled half-heartedly as she turned to put the Death Omens book back on the shelf. She and Ron walked to the front of Flourish and Blotts, where most of the Weasley family was waiting.

"Are you all right, Hermione?" Ron asked as they left the shop.

Hermione saw Lucius on the other side of Diagon Alley. He approached a woman with long blonde hair and gently brought her hand to his lips. He then wrapped an arm about the woman's waist and headed towards Knockturn Alley. Hermione watched the couple curiously, feeling a bit surprised at Lucius' apparent caring and love for the woman. He did not appear the malicious man she had made him out to be.

"Hermione?" Ron prompted when she didn't answer.

"I don't know," she said quietly, watching the pair vanish into Knockturn Alley.

Curious…