Chapter beta:Dark Akuma Hunter

Story warnings: Rated M for language, adult content and sexual violence.

Hermione watched her best friends slip down an old corridor. They were trying for stealth, but under the observing eye of Hogwarts' brightest pupil they were more than obvious. It's a new school year, and already those boys are up to something. She had been keeping mental notes of their suspicious behavior for the first month of school. Their speedy eating at meal times was what first tipped her off. They would arrive promptly and engage in distracted small talk, their eyes darting between each other and the rest of the Great Hall, eat as quickly as they could manage, and then swiftly retreat.

Unlike last year they didn't preen under the attentions of the school's female populace. In fact, they seemed not to notice them at all. For two teenage boys who had spent many a night in the Gryffindor common rooms discussing such trivial things as a dress some girl wore, another girl's accessory, all the way down to their beauty products; something must really be on their minds. In fact, they were hardly in the common room at all this year. At first she thought they were doing some extra quidditch practice, but when she had asked Demelza Robins, Demelza had looked highly confused. She had said that they were having quidditch practice, but not as much as they would all like. Apparently even as captain of the team Harry and Ron had missed a few practices. Definitely up to something.

Could they be plotting something against enemy number one? Or was it something on a much smaller scale, such as some petty revenge scheme? The fact that they had yet to come to Hermione about the situation meant a few things. First off, whatever the plan or reason, it was a stupid plan that was probably nowhere near well thought out enough. Secondly, they were going to get caught, find themselves in trouble, or even worse! After so many years of bailing them out of bad situations, how could they even begin to think that they wouldn't need her!

They didn't seem to be doing too much research for their plan; she hadn't seen them in the library at all. Either they were sneaking books at night using the invisibility cloak, or they had acquired books from elsewhere. Books that were, without doubt, un-reputable; books that would end them in disaster.

That was when she had devised her own plan. Tonight she was going to follow them, find out what they were up to, and then…well, she would respond accordingly based on the level of stupidity they were exposing.

So here she was, snooping after Harry and Ron as they slipped out of dinner. She followed them up the great stairs, through the transfiguration hall, down a side stair, and finally saw them slip behind a tapestry. The colors in the tapestry changed as it fell smooth against the hall. It went from bright, warm reds and oranges to slip into dull blues and grays. This transformation made it nearly blend into the walls of the castle, as if it were trying to divert her eyes from it. The very texture of the tapestry changed from a soft cloth material to more that of stone. That did not stop her from pulling aside the rough material, grabbing the latch and opening the door. Whatever notions she previously had about their actions instantly vanished, literally, before her eyes.

At first they didn't notice her intrusion, as they were working to remove each other's shirts. She felt as if her hands were glued to the door jam and her feet to the floor. At first she watched as Harry moved towards Ron, one hand in Ron's hair, pulling him into a kiss as his other worked on Ron's belt. Harry began to work on undoing the zipper and releasing the button when Hermione was shocked into movement. Quickly she backed into the hall, her foot scuffing on the floor, alerting them of her presence. She turned to leave, but was spun back into the room as Ron grabbed her wrist.

"This isn't what it looks like!" Ron began as Harry closed and locked the door, blocking escape. Realizing he was standing in front of her nearly naked, his underwear stressed forward from what was underneath, he blushed red, grabbing at his pants and trying to put them on. Hermione said nothing, still in shock, merely listening as he stammered on. "I mean, we aren't gay! I mean, well, Harry and I are only, we don't, we..." he trailed off, looking to Harry for help. Harry was picking up his glasses, holding them up to the light to check for smudges. Satisfied at finding none he put them on, looking Hermione in the eyes. She cut him off before Harry could start.

"I'm not sure I need to know….but how long?"

Harry sighed, not sure how to continue at first.

"You remember last summer, how I was able to visit the Burrow a week before you?" Harry waited for a moment, continuing after her nod. "Well the twins were working on a product, another of their jokes, and we were their guinea pigs…" He shook his head a bit as he took a moment to remember. Then he smiled as he said, "At this point we should have thought twice before accepting anything from those two, but well, it looked innocent enough. They told us it was the wrapper, not the contents they were testing. They made the outside of the wrapper look like a normal sweet from Honeydukes. Once you opened the wrapper and placed the candy in your mouth the wrapper was to fly out of your hand, form into a mouth to laugh at you, then fall to the table, revealing the Weasley's Wizard Wheezes logo. We thought it was genius, and that it would provide a good laugh. What they didn't tell us was that the sweet inside was to be tested as well. We're not sure what the sweet was supposed to do, they still haven't told us. Their only reactions were, 'Oh that's interesting, foul, but interesting,' and, 'who would have thought that might happen if shared? Take a note of that." Harry seemed to be finished, looking away while running a hand through his messy hair.

"That doesn't explain anything at all!" Hermione protested. "What did the sweet do, and what does it have to do with the two of you secretly snogging, or more?!"

Ron spoke again. "It's just a bit of snogging really, not much more, a bit of touching. But were you listening? We are not gay! It's all that stupid pink sweets fault! They only gave us one, and it was a bit of taffy so we thought we could split it no problem. The wrapper did its bit the moment it was in our mouths, and we thought that was it. But next thing you know Harry and I were going at each other's faces like a bunch of silly fourth years. Sure, it was foul at first. But once we got past the part where we were kissing another bloke, we realized it wasn't that bad really. And well, one thing led to the next…."

"Ron's right. We are not gay, that would mean we were attracted to each other or something like that. It's just, with everything going on, all this stress on me and all, it's easier to get there," Harry paused and blushed a bit himself, "you know, if it's someone else doing it for you." Hermione really didn't know what to make of all this. To say she was shocked would be putting it lightly. Harry was studying her closely. "You won't tell anyone, will you?" Harry asked.

"No, of course not, who would I tell? You guys are my best friends. And if this is what you want to do, then ok…" Harry and Ron let out a breath, and then looked to one another.

"We were going to let you know, just not like this." Ron looked down as he kicked at the edge of the area rug at his feet. "In fact, we were thinking that maybe you might want to join us…I mean, we used to kiss, and it was nice, and it would just be a bit of stress relief. With you in the middle, it definitely wouldn't be gay!" It was Harry's turn to look shocked.

"Ron, she just found out, I thought we were going to wait a while after she found out!" Hermione's shock doubled, leaving her speechless and frozen for the second time with in the span of an hour. Did they really expect her to join in on this? To release some 'stress'?! Seeing her face scrunch up with repulsion Harry tried to smooth things over. "Just give us a chance," he spoke while walking toward her, reaching out to finger her hair. She flinched at this, but he had already encircled her, holding her shoulders from behind.

"I have my books if I wish to take care of any stress I may have!"Hermione started as she tried to pull away, but he had her firmly as he wrapped one of his arms around her waist, the other holding her neck. "Harry, what has gotten into you!" Instead of finding escape, she found Ron following Harry's lead, reaching forward into her robes. "Ron, stop this silliness, I mean it!" She began to panic a bit. This was NOT how their friendship worked, or how they behaved. "Guys, you know me, I will help you with anything else, just not this!" That seemed to knock some sort of sense into them.

Harry paused. "Anything? Ok then, here is an idea. Between classes, homework, eating and quidditch practice we don't have much time for this. Now, people would notice if we missed classes or didn't turn in homework. A person has to eat and sleep. Originally we decided to take time from quidditch, but I have a new plan. You will do our homework, all of it; get us good marks without drawing attention to the fact that you are doing it for us. Or you could join us, it's your choice."

"You can't make me do either of those things!" Hermione shouted at them, trying to pull herself out of their grip, but failing.

"Oh, but I think we can. Either way no one would believe you. No one would want to believe you. Even if they knew, you think they would stop us? I am The-Boy-Who-Lived! They all think either I'll die soon, or that I will save them! You know I don't like the fame or attention, but don't think I'm above using it if I need to." He threatened, and it was all true. How many times had they broken rules, or sometimes even the law, and no one said anything as long as it led to them being closer to defeating Voldemort?

"Ok. I'll do it. I will do your homework. But when you fail your exams because you don't know anything, don't you think the professors will notice?" Hermione sighed as she gave in to this second request.

"We will cross that bridge when we get there," Ron said as the boys let her go, letting her run away down the dark hall.

AN:

This story is complete with epilogue; all new postings will be to replace original chapters with their beta'd versions. Beta'd chapters will be marked at the top.

When I first started this I wasn't sure what the end goal was, just that I wanted to vilify Ron and Harry and have Draco be the hero for a change. At some point my writing method changed and I began plotting further ahead. This story has resounded with readers in a way that I didn't expect, something I will keep with me as I write future stories.