Chapter 1- Without A Focus

She awoke and was greeted by the dark familiarity of the girl's dorm. Blinking away whatever remnant of sleep that clung to her eyelids, Hermione stared at the ceiling. Not for the first time that night she had found herself mulling over the events of Slughorn's party. Particularly Draco's dramatic entrance and exit. What exactly was he doing? Surely he would not risk being caught to crash a party full of people he dislikes?Well, lying in bed wasn't heeding any answers. Stepping onto the cold stone floor, she felt like she was slipping onto ice. The sensation offered no comfort.

The muggle clock illuminating the wooden nightstand seared harshly in her retina, she sighed: 3am. Quickly making a decision, she swept silently down the steps and out through the portrait hole, unsure of her destination. It wasn't unusual for Hermione to be losing sleep these days. Ever since Harry found that book she had been out of sorts. Trouble emanated from it's very pages and well, Hermione wasn't just going to ignore it after the incident in the Chamber of Secrets. With Ron not speaking to her and Harry absorbed in the book she was in need of some company. With sudden determination she backtracked to the library and began to devour the wisdom of an old friend; Hogwarts: A History.

Dew droplets clung to the grass making the Hogwarts' grounds glimmer in the golden light of the dawn. The beauty of the setting went unnoticed by Draco who was deep in thought perched upon a precariously angled window ledge. Such a responsibility was riding on his shoulders that he had little time for anything else. So Snape wants the glory does he? That snivelling git is not going to steal this away from me. My father wants me to prove myself and here the opportunity has fell right into my lap, but what does that mean for me? Draco continued to stare vacantly into the distance as if some answer waited for him beyond the mist, he knew what he must do. Begrudgingly, Draco dusted his collar and retreated back into the tower.

"Hey, Hermione! Over here!"Harry had to shout over the commotion in the common room. Christmas was quick upon their heels and everyone was packing ready to take the journey home on the Hogwarts Express. Hermione pushed her way through the crowd and greeted Harry with a warm smile, airily ignoring Ron in the process.

"Bet you can't wait to return to The Burrow, Harry." Pushing the chess game aside with her books she deposited them on the table and turned her back on Ron mid-eye roll. "I'm sure I'll be 10 pounds heavier by the time Mrs. Weasley is done. I don't know why she always thinks I must be hungry." Harry smirked at Ron, Hermione pretended not to notice. "Well, you are kind of scrawny Harry. I mean…I don't mean…you know, you have Quidditch practice all the time and…" she blushed. "Don't worry, no offence taken."

Still laughing at Hermione's expense, the boys gripped their trunks and turned to leave. "Oh and Harry, take care of Ron won't you." she spoke gently so only he could hear. "Sure thing, don't get into too much trouble over the holidays eh?" At the portrait they gave one last wave and clambered through, leaving for the holidays.

The letter Draco grasped in his fist did not bring welcome news. His father wished him to stay for Christmas when there would be fewer students and more opportunities to accomplish "the task" as he referred to it. Almost everyone had left and the castle was starting to feel empty, not that Draco didn't prefer the silence of the halls and quiet of the common room. He threw the letter into the fire and made the decision to go to the library and get himself acquainted with some particularly nasty potions Snape had helpfully mentioned during the last lesson.

The corridors were cold, despite being filled with the familiar floating candles and flaming lanterns lighting his way. Maybe I'm cold, not the corridors. Cold for my guilt even before the task has been completed.

When he stepped into the library, the overwhelming scent of old books, dusty volumes and forgotten history swarmed his senses. In defiance of his nature, Draco loved to be amongst the books. They seemed to give him life, a way of feeling like he wasn't the only troubled person in the world. He would never admit it of course, but that made the pleasure all the more guilty.