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A Confrontation in the Library

Hermione was the last to leave most of her classes but was always the first to leave Divinations. She had dropped the class previously. However, she strove for academic excellence and she felt that if she didn't understand that which she opposed then she was hardly the scholar she was aiming to be. When Hermione finally reached her destination just around the corner from the Great Hall in a dark doorway she noted one thing to herself. Draco Malfoy hadn't been to their last two classes.

One thing she wanted to make clear to herself was that she did not care that he wasn't in class. Until recently she hadn't interacted with him positively at all. But, he'd said something earlier that just got under her skin in a way that enhanced her paranoia about her reader. "You don't really see the way you think you do…"

Hermione pondered what that could possibly mean. Did Draco know who her reader was? As she thought about it on her way back to Gryffindor tower she concluded that he did, in fact, have to know who her reader was. Firstly, why would he even make such a comment if he didn't know? Also, Draco was a socialite and very much the type of person who knew everything about everyone; and if her reader was a Slytherin boy in the same year then there was no conceivable way that Draco Malfoy didn't know who her reader was.

Settling down for the night didn't take much effort. Wednesday was her busiest day of the week, technically speaking. Although her classes were simpler than most on Wednesday there were so many of them that when she wakes up on Thursday morning she always felt as if she had not rested in the slightest. One thing that she decided that gave her peace of mind enough to sleep was that she would have to stage more casual encounters with Draco Malfoy to get his information.

Sure, Ginny continually encouraged her to relax and let her reader work at his own speed. She was strongly discouraging Hermione's pursuit of her reader. Each day that passed without the return of "Lucky Jim" the more frantically she discussed him. Which one was he? Was it a joke? Was he also fond of her? What did she mean when she said fond? Ginny swore to Merlin that Hermione had a huge crush on her reader, which wasn't necessarily incorrect.

Hermione had reached a level of obsession that had to be romantic to some degree. She was reasonless at times, illogical and panicked. Ginny said that Hermione acted like a girlfriend, and therefore was probably a girlfriend. Of course she had never been a girlfriend, not really. The closest she had gotten to being a "girlfriend" was when she was seeing Viktor Krum.

The next morning Hermione left bright and early for History of Magic. After all, yesterday had been interesting since Draco had spoken to her and had his intellectual outburst at Professor Binns. Harry had made a slighted comment about it during lunch but it didn't go much further than that, since he and Ron hated him more than was really necessary. He was an awful person, no question about it, but hate like that was wasted on such a petty boy. Hermione learned that very quickly in her first year. Besides that, there were far more evil people and things than Draco Malfoy.

Hermione was inexplicably early, at least half an hour. She kept herself angled so that she could keep an eye on the door. Draco Malfoy had come in early yesterday and she was hopeful that he would do both again today. Ten minutes ticked by before the door opened. It took every fiber of her being not to bolt out of her seat to greet whoever was coming inside. She was very surprised to see that it was Harry and Ron wandering inside with pumpkin pasties hanging loosely from their lips. Her heart rate went down instantly and she fell back into her usual study pattern.

History of Magic passed by uneventfully. Hermione lulled herself into a calm state and forgot temporarily all about her reader and her mission to discover his identity through Draco Malfoy.

Unfortunately, those thoughts resurrected themselves when she headed off to Defense Against the Dark Arts with Professor Umbridge. Going to the class was a chore and it was difficult to sit there, continually lacking the necessary hands-on experience that every student required. Reading, a good foundation to education, was not the only way to teach students.

In no time she was on her way to Charms, though, to do actual magic. Not to imply that she didn't recite the spells and practice them in the dorms every chance she got. Everything was practically mastered at this point; at least what she was required to know anyway. Not to mention, Draco Malfoy was in the first hour of Charms for her. This meant she could watch him and observe who all he spoke to, because would he not insult the person engaging in any sort of Muggle custom with her of all people. Hermione was sure that he would and therefore kept a close eye on him.

Much to her surprise, though, Draco had become somewhat of a recluse. His usual company, Crabbe and Goyle, were sitting a couple of feet further away than usual. He wasn't passing notes with Pansy or Blaise at all. Blimey, Hermione didn't even see him so much as take his eyes off of his book during the lecture. It was incredibly out of character for him.

In fact, Draco had behaving out of character for some time now. She wondered if perhaps something was happening, perhaps specifically at home, that was causing him to recede from his peers. This was something that she had done in her first year and was confident that she could spot it anywhere. His family was full of previously confirmed Death Eaters, so she feared that perhaps he was being directly affected by their decisions. Hermione could see how worn out the boy had become in just a few days' time.

And that would make it easier to extract information from him.

This was most certainly a bit mad and manipulative, but each day that passed that she didn't know her reader allowed her question less about her tactics to discover his identity. Not to mention that Draco had done much worse to her and if she hurt his feelings trying to figure out her own problems then it was a necessarily sacrifice. After the hell he put her through in the past, did it not seem fair? Hermione would have to bend her morals a little but she knew she could manage.

When Hermione's open hour finally rolled around she went to the library. Even though it wasn't a part of her conscious information, she had realized over the last few years that Draco Malfoy spent a lot of time in the Restricted Section of the library. Hermione assumed that this would be an acceptable time for her to seek him out.

It wasn't hard 'stumbling' across Draco in the Restricted Section. He was in a far corner under a flickering lamp. Hermione watched from behind a bookshelf for a few moments. The boy simply flicked his wand upwards and repaired the lamp without even speaking. Hermione was actually jealous. She still had difficulty casting some spells silently. Professor McGonagall had told her that she was doing wonderfully considering how few witches and wizards are ever able to perfect that skill.

Hermione took her wand out and whispered 'nox' so quietly that Draco didn't seem to detect the sound. He just silently cast the light back on while he continued to read the text on the desk. It was effortless, flawless! So then she knocked a book off the edge of the table near his arm. It was levitated back onto the table as quickly as it had gone. Unintentionally, Hermione giggled before casting another spell that slammed his book shut. Draco scoffed loudly as he pushed his chair back loudly to before moving to address his aggressor. She went around the backside of the shelf as soon as he got on his feet.

Keeping herself hidden was a task because Draco had long legs and moved very quickly; hence his position as a seeker, she supposed. He looked all around and grumbled angrily about pranks under his breath. Hermione felt a rush as she realized that this was what she was missing out on by not participating in Ginny and the twins' shenanigans. It gave her another bit of a chuckle which did nothing for her stealth.

"Hermione Granger? I should be surprised…" Draco mumbled from directly behind her. She spun on her heels and faced him directly with a shaky grin on her face. Unsure of how to directly address the statement she thought that perhaps she should state exactly what she was doing. Of course, that wasn't what actually happened.

"I keep terrible company." Hermione nodded.

"Only if ‘terrible’ is synonymous with ‘entertaining’ and ‘immature.’" Draco countered plainly. Exhaustion was still apparent in his face, particularly in his sunken and dry eyes. Hermione kept her gaze locked on his as the conversation continued.

"I suppose sometimes it would seem that way." Her reply was softer. It was true, though. The forms of entertainment that the Weasley twins found in their pranks could border on inhumane and even illegal at times. And they hardly had a tasteful joke. Every single thing they came up with was more childish and mundane than the last. However, that made it no less funny to those around them. Hermione even admitted amusement to some degree.

"You didn't follow me back here for revenge. So why did you take time out of your studies to find me?" Draco was very blunt and to the point now. There was plenty to envy about his social stature if one removed the fact that he was a pureblooded monster siding with Lord Voldemort due to familial obligations. His ability to interact with other people was seamless and natural and for a second made Hermione too comfortable.

"I seem to have developed a bit of fondness towards someone in the Slytherin house. Unfortunately, I have no idea who it is that I am dealing with. I write letters to him but he is anonymous. He wants to play a guessing game but I am crave knowledge and am therefore - impatient." Hermione could not keep herself consistent. She was going to be honest at first but strayed from the plan. Now that she was sure she would just play it cool she was blurting out the truth. She was backwards and confused by her emotions and intentions.

Ultimately, Hermione decided that she should have worked up to the reveal of her intentions. Working up to it would have made much more sense. One thing she knew from her books was that when someone wants something from someone else there has to be an established trust and understanding. Hermione definitely hadn't created that atmosphere and was sure that she wouldn't get the answers she came to the library looking for…

"If you came here looking for information on your anonymous man is then you came on a fruitless mission, Granger. The only advice I have to offer you is be patient… and use your eyes." Draco insinuated again that Hermione wasn't seeing all that was around her. This was his disturbed way of tipping her off, obviously. He was trying to tell her who it was without explicitly telling her who it was. It was exactly the sly sort of thing she expected any Slytherin boy would do. Part of the house traits identified for its members was cunning. And if anyone was ever to be the personification of true cunning she supposed it would have to Draco Malfoy.

His belongings were packed at record speed and his feet were carrying him out of the library forcefully. Hermione still had one more class for the day so she couldn't linger. Falling back into the school schedule pattern, the flustered Gryffindor girl attended her final class of the evening so that once completed she could return her attention to the fact that her book had yet to be returned.

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