After listening to Harry and Ron thoroughly abuse Snape for a good half hour I realized it was easier for me to think of him neutrally. Harry, of course give what had happened between James, Sirius, and Snape was destined to hate Snape. Ron, mostly out of blind loyalty was required to hate Snape too. The man was by no mean my favorite person, especially after that tooth hexing incident in my 4th year, but I did see him as a person. A person who for whatever reason had always had Harry's best interests at heart.
Even after Snape killed Dumbledore I sensed there was some logic there, even if I couldn't quite put my finger on it yet. Time and time again he proved himself loyal to the Order and risked his life for the good of the wizarding world. Curiosity got the best of me. I needed to understand the enigma of Severus Snape. But first I had to dislodge the idea the boys had that we weren't going back to Hogwarts for our 7th year.
"Harry has it occurred to you that staying at Hogwarts may be best? That finishing your education may be advantageous?"
"Do you honestly think I want to leave? Hogwarts is the only home I've known, Hermione, but the Horcruxes have to be the main priority." I had been prepared for this argument, and had spent many, many hours thinking of a counter-argument to it.
"You haven't a clue where to start searching. Go back to school, let us do some research. Think in the comfort of castle. Besides odds are there's a Horcrux hidden somewhere in that castle. All we have to do is think of where it might be."
"I suppose there is no point in aimlessly wandering the countryside looking for something I can't find. What about Snape, though?" I knew the boy; well man now really, would see sense. None of us had been too keen on the original plan.
"I suspect he'll go back to teaching Potions. Slughorn wasn't going to stay, and there's no one who can prove he actually murdered Dumbledore. Besides with the Ministry under Voldemort's control I don't think much'll happen. I wonder who will be teaching Transfiguration now though?
"Oh honestly. Will you never read Hogwarts, A History? McGonagall will be Headmistress now wont she?"
"Right." Ron was slightly easier to convince; he was willing to go along with whatever the plan was apparently. It wasn't that Ron didn't have the potential to be great, it's just he was good at chess, he saw the bigger picture, and has some trouble with split second decisions; anyway he was always being overshadowed by someone.
At any rate we were on the Hogwarts Express on September 1st for the final time, and I was more than ready to put operation Solve Severus Snape into effect. Snape was in essence a school-yard bully. It was really. I'd just show him no fear.
" 'Mione you with us?" It was Ron.
"What? Yeah. Just lost in thought."
"What Horcrux do you think is in the school?"
"Well, Gryffindor's sword is his only known relic and we know R.A.B. has Slytherin's locket. So it's something of Hufflepuff's or Ravenclaw's. I don't see Voldemort hiding something in the school that didn't belong to one of the founders."
"So we're looking for something of Ravenclaw's then," said Harry. Honestly, if we were relying on him to save the world then I may as well go jump off the Astronomy tower now.
"Not necessarily, mate. You-Know-Who is a half-blood. Hufflepuff's sympathy may have interested him when he was younger." Ron to the rescue. Ron seeing sense. It was a nice change really.
"Ron's right, Harry. We could be looking for either. Or both." Harry sank low in his seat. It really was asking too much of a 17 year old boy. I could tell the stress was getting to him, and his temper had been getting shorter and shorter since he had ended with Ginny. I did try to do what I could to help, but it really was up to Harry, and there wasn't a thing I could do to change that. I turned to watch the countryside speed by, and to contemplate my plan.
Snape hated civility. A simple "Good evening, Professor," would be plenty to get me detention for a week. It would also cost Gryffindor about fifty house points, but I'd found the point system frivolous and easily manipulated after Dumbledore's stunt with the House Cup my first year.
The Welcoming Feast was as always enjoyable as always, as well as a touch to boisterous. Neville had made it through another summer relatively unscathed. Lavender was shooting daggers in my direction. Where she had got the idea I had tried to steal Ron from her I hadn't a clue. Sure Ron was plenty attractive, and fairly intelligent to boot; he just wasn't my style. I noticed Snape getting up to leave.
I waited a few moments before saying, "I'm exhausted from the train. I want to make sure I have everything in order for tomorrow before I turn in.
"Thought you wanted to know who'd be teaching Transfiguration," remarked Harry.
"Let me know in the morning?"
"Sure thing." I scurried out of the Great Hall before any of the teachers could notice me, and ran smack into the man I was looking for.
"Oh sorry, sorry Professor. Didn't see you there."
"I had deduced as much, Miss Granger. Why were you running from the feast in such an unceremonious manner?"
"Lon-long trips make feel a bit ill, Professor. I thought I was going to be sick you see, and I wanted to rest up before classes commence tomorrow."
"I take it the feeling of nausea has passed?"
"Detention tomorrow night for behaving in a manner ill-fitting of the Gryffindor's resident know-it-all. The dungeons at 7 o'clock sharp. Be prompt."
"Yes, sir." I tried my best to look abashed, but I was quite the happy the first phase of my mission had been accomplished with such ease. I raced to the dorms to document the next step, and prepare for the next day.