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Disclaimer: *points to crown* Queen of England AND JK Rowling. Naturally. Of course.

And A/N: Woooo, it's been awhile, hasn't it? Not my worst time lapse between updates, but certainly the first for this pretty little series. My many apologies for the extended wait in between, but I hit a major road block with Truth, and on the contrary, hit a lovely stride with an even more annoying story of mine, back on my Quizilla account. Sigh. Alas, I am back, and I am back to bring you more Hermione Granger being a sleuth. Huffah.

This certain chapter, while irritating me from time to time to write, was really fun to do, mainly because it's this particular chapter I was able to make Hermione OOC and actually get away with it! *grins* You'll see what I mean as once you read it, and I do hope it amuses you as much as it did for me as I wrote it.

Enjoy the Rita Skeeta-ness, the apples that are following Hermione around, the Murder, She Wrote reference, and Hermione being bad, which explains the title. Look for chapter seven (which will be out sooner than this one was, I promise) to read the rest of Malfoy and Hermione's chat that you'll only get a taste of at the cliffhanger!

Thanks for your patience and don't forget to leave a review!

EDIT! Due to the break HPFF will be going on from the 21st of December to the 7th of January, chapter seven won't be out untill 2007! Which is fitting, really, so, enjoy your holiday everyone and have a great New Year!








-----








Smarter than You






And the sun which formerly shone
in the clearest summer sky
Suddenly just changed address
now shines from her brown eyes

And the moon which formerly shone
on the marbled midnight mile
Suddenly just packed its bags
now shines from her bright smile

Then she appeared,
brittle shooting star that dropped in my lap
Then she appeared, then she appeared
Out of nowhere...

-Then She Appeared, XTC




Bad Hermione! - October Eleventh





The room was abuzz with commotion, the sound of phones ringing left and right as Hermione entered the Daily Prophet building. Someone rushed past her just as she slipped off her coat, which was only a little bit drenched from the rain that had decided to hit that day, and cautiously, Hermione made her way to the front desk, preparing her reflexes in case someone needed her to dodge again.

The front desk, however, seemed to be the heart of all the commotion, with a blonde-haired woman sitting behind, round glasses over her eyes, and her wand swishing around, magically reorganizing her disorganized desk. "Hurry, hurry!" she screeched, those who had been shuffling near her scrambling off to different doors and wincing at the sound of her voice. "She'll be in here in any minute!"

Hermione, still cowering, peered at the name greeting that sat on the front edge of the desk. Madam Appleby, it read, and Hermione barely refrained from groaning aloud. Apples were, apparently, following her.

The sound of a phone went off again, and Madam Appleby reacted almost instantly, even as a stack of old Daily Prophets flew over her head. "Daily Prophet, Diagon Alley," she greeted pleasantly, contradicting her previous tone, as she continued to speak into the tip end of her wand, which glowed a subtle red color. "Madam Appleby speaking, how may I help you?"

Still adjusting to her surroundings, Hermione backed away from the front desk and ambled over to a row of chairs that were placed up against a wall, sitting down in one and crossing one leg over the other. To her right was the front entrance, but also a long hallway, that most likely led to the offices of reporters, photographers, and so on, Hermione listening as the doors down that path opened and closed again with loud bangs. To her left was a single door, placed only a few inches from where the front desk had been pushed up into the right-hand corner of the room, with golden words written across the cover that gleamed every so often. Barnabas Cuffe, it read, with Editor shimmering right beneath it. How cute.

Madam Appleby's voice caught Hermione's attention. "Yes, Ms. Skeeter, I have it ready," the woman spoke into her wand. "Yes, Ms. Skeeter, they arrived just a few minutes ag-- no, Ms. Skeeter... I'll get right on it, Ms. Skeeter..."

The red light vanished from the wand and Madam Appleby set it down on the desk. "She's coming!" she shouted again, and two people who had been standing by the entrance raced back down the hallway, an office door shutting with another loud bang. "Oh, Merlin, she's coming..." she muttered, more to herself than anything, as for now, Hermione was the only one there with her, something that Madam Appleby had failed to realize.

Taking a breath, Hermione cleared her throat loudly, deciding that if she was going to do this, she might as well do it already.

Startled, Madam Appleby looked up and at Hermione. The woman's eyes widened behind her spectacles, her lips pursing for a moment in scrutiny before saying a word. Rita Skeeter, the sequel, Hermione thought to herself dryly just as a plastic smile appeared on Madam Appleby's face.

"Welcome to the Daily Prophet, located in Diagon Alley," she greeted, sounding as though she was talking on the phone again. "How may I help you this morning?"

It was time to put Hermione's plan into action.

It was simple, when it came right down to it, though Hermione did confess her logical conscience was hardly amused by her plan of lying. However, considering her not-so-pretty past with Rita Skeeter, it was seemingly the only thing Hermione could turn to in order to get a new lead on the investigation. And, if anyone was in dire need of information they couldn't find on their own, Rita Skeeter was the eye of the storm one had to venture to.

On the contrary, whatever thoughts that seemed to pester Hermione on her walk through Diagon Alley in the rain, telling her that she was acting a bit too desperate over a case that involved her long-time enemy, Hermione equally muted them with her thirsty curiosity. It didn't matter if Malfoy was the standing in the center in the entire thing, being circled by accusations and shiftiness, and it didn't matter if Hermione's opinion of him was hesitant to change from what it had been during her Hogwarts days, even if he still held the same jackass-like air to him. Something was amuck with two murders, two people dead who were considered the Ministry's best, and now Hermione certainly wasn't going to pause, turn her back, and walk away from it now - even if that did mean lying along the way.

Sometimes, Hermione was beginning to learn, lying was the only way to figure out the truth.

Hermione returned the exact same smile to Madam Appleby, standing from the chair. Her attire made her look, to be perfectly honest, as though she was eighteen, maybe nineteen, with sneakers, faded jeans, and a black, fitted long-sleeve shirt that was able to minimize the size of her breasts, which had considerably grown at her age of twenty-five. Her hair had a windswept look to it, as though she had just gotten out of bed ten minutes earlier and had thrown in some bobby pins just for show, and her face lacked any blemish-covering make-up, her breath still even hinted with her breakfast. This look compared to what Madam Appleby wore, which was a professional skirt-suit in the powerful color of red, was able to at least give off the impression that Hermione was younger than she actually was. And, in Hermione's observant opinion, Madam Appleby was currently assuming her intelligence level wasn't all that great either.

"Hi, my name is Hermione Granger," Hermione informed, and by the bland look in the other woman's eyes, Hermione felt secretly relieved that Madam Appleby didn't recognize her name. "I was hoping I would have a chance to speak to Miss Skeeter this mo--"

"Do you have an appointment?" Madam Appleby interrupted, still wearing that same smile.

Hermione, chewing on her thumb's fingernail for a moment, which was a gesture that Madam Appleby apparently found distasteful, shook her head. "No, I don't, but I was hoping to have five minutes of her time. See, I'm--"

"I'm sorry, Miss Granger, but I can't help you unless you have an appointment," she cut in once more, sounding brisk. Her emphasis on Hermione's last name was easily translated into annoyance towards those younger than her, and success swelled in Hermione's chest, giving Madam Appleby a shy smile.

"Well, I was hoping you'd make an exception, just this once," she recited, and Madam Appleby opened her mouth to protest, but Hermione beat her to speaking, the boldness of her words able to keep her quiet. "See, I'm an aspiring journalist, and Miss Skeeter is my idol, my inspiration. I was hoping I could just talk to her for only five minutes, possibly get some advice when it comes to journalism, and it'd be really swell if you could overlook my lack of making an appointment just this once."

Madam Appleby just stared at her. "I'm sorry, Miss Granger," she began again, this time sounding tart, like she was talking to someone rude on the phone. "But, I can't help you unless you have an appointment."

In the background of her hearing, Hermione heard the familiar sound of heels clicking against the floor, and suddenly, Madam Appleby's face paled, her body stiffening as she stood up sharply from her chair. Slowly, Hermione turned her head, her gaze falling onto the shifty character that was Rita Skeeter, head journalist for the Daily Prophet, but more importantly, one who loved to suck up any attention and gossip like there was literally no tomorrow.

"Hermione!" Skeeter exclaimed, her cheeks rosy as her plastic smile reached up to her spectacle-covered eyes. "I haven't seen you in ages, peach! How are you?"

I was better when you were out of the job, but ever since... Hermione thought to herself with a hint of cheekiness before breaking out into her own fake grin.

"Miss Skeeter, it's been too long," Hermione returned, looking over what the female journalist wore, Skeeter clad in a fitting dress suit that was the color of olive green with fabric that gleamed like tinfoil. Her collar was lined with brown fur and her left hand held her crocodile-skin handbag, her blonde hair defying gravity as it was styled on the top of her head, kept together with jewel-studded bobby pins and stiff curls. All in all, it was the way Hermione had expected her to look, the years of Hermione avoiding the press and Skeeter avoiding Hermione not having the least bit of an impression on the woman.

"It has, darling, it really has," Skeeter spoke with flourish, swatting her right hand at Hermione. "And, please, call me Rita. We're old friends, after all!"

"That we are," Hermione stated, her jaw beginning to ach over how forced her smile was. She decided to get to the point, nothing being gained by standing there, adding, "Rita, I was wondering if I could have a minute of your time. I'd love to ask you some questions about your occupation, seeing as I'm a journalist myself, and completely idolize you."

The woman fell into the trap almost longingly, having a rather blunt weakness for flattery. "Oh, for you, Hermione, you can have five minutes of my time." She grabbed onto Hermione's shoulder, the sharpness of her fingernails nearly clawing through the shirt's fabric, and tugged Hermione towards the long hallway to the right of the desk. "Come with me, dearie, and we can talk in my office."

Before they got too far, Madam Appleby spoke up again, her voice heavy with disapproval. "Miss Skeeter, she doesn't have an appointment!" she cried, but Skeeter kept moving ahead, bringing Hermione with her, and not even looking over at the receptionist.

"Hush, Mandy, stop being so uptight," the journalist quipped, "It does nothing for your young complexion."

It hit Hermione then as Skeeter kept pulling her along, and a mix between foolishness and amusement settled in the pit of her stomach. Hermione gave Madam Appleby a final look, one that said her cover was blown, for Madam Appleby was no Madam at all, before staring back ahead to where Skeeter's office door stood at the very end of the hall.


---



Despite Rita Skeeter's dramatic appearance, the way she demanded attention whether she had that type of personality or otherwise, her office was anything but overdone. The back wall had a floor to ceiling window, the desk placed a few inches in front of it. The right and left walls were lined with shelves, filled with books about journalism, awards given to the Daily Prophet, and, most importantly, books Skeeter had written herself during her dreadful period of unemployment. Her desk merely consisted of a typewriter, three or four packets of blank parchment paper, at least seven Quick Quills held in a pencil container, and two photographs, which were shots of her... and, uh, her, again, but this time with a Best Journalist trophy.

The only thing that was a bit out there was the fact that the desk chair was covered in crocodile skin, the brandish woman sitting down in it and plopping her matching handbag on top of the desk. She shook her head a bit, hair staying in place while she did, with her oval glasses slipping down to the crook of her nose, before she finally looked back at Hermione.

The edges of Skeeter's mouth lifted. "Sit, dumpling, I insist," she said, holding her hand out and directing it at the two chairs before the desk, identical to the ones Hermione had sit in back in the front office. "Now, tell me... what's all this talk about being a journalist? Last I heard, you were working for the Ministry as an Auror."

Ah, so the woman had been keeping tabs on her, Hermione giving Skeeter an impish grin. She had expected this. "I still am an Auror, actually, Rita, but now that I am, it just doesn't seem like the lifestyle for me... and when I pick up the Daily Prophet, which I do every morning--"

Skeeter let out a flattered giggle.

"--I read your articles and think to myself... 'Now, that's what I want to be doing.'"

"I always knew you had the reporter's eye, ever since first meeting you, pet," Skeeter informed smartly, peering over at Hermione above the edges of her spectacles. "You're, what, nineteen, twenty? Now's the time, more than ever, to be thinking seriously about your career."

Hermione nearly beamed. "My thoughts exactly," she concurred, "Which is why I was hoping you'd be willing to be apart of my first interview as an upcoming journalist. Naturally, I haven't applied for any jobs quite yet, since there's still a bunch of red tape I have to go through at the Ministry, but I just can't contain my excitement when it comes to this new part in my life... so, really, will you do me the honors? Just for my own benefit?"

This was it. Hermione held her breath, wondering for a moment how long her nose was, before watching the way Skeeter's facial expression changed from amused to dignified.

"Why, of course, Hermione, I'd be most happy to be your first interview," the woman exclaimed, clapping her manicured hands out of emphasis, and Hermione exhaled with relief. "However, from journalist to journalist, are you sure you have your subject and questions prepared? Never try to get a story, my dear, unless you are prepared to get the information!"

"Actually, I was hoping I could talk to you about the latest headline story," Hermione stated, taking another leap once again. "You know, Rita... the Malfoy case."

Excitement could be read in every line of her matte face, her eyes going wide behind her glasses. "Oh, you really are going for the juicy stuff, aren't you, you devil," she teased, flinging her hand at Hermione out of approval. "Marvelous start. Keep that up, and you'll be just like me, one day!"

Hermione could barely refrain her snort, the one that had been bubbling deep from within her throat ever since she had seen Skeeter back out at the front desk, and hastily covered it up with a cough. "Yes, well, that's why my goal is," she returned, and from the back pocket of her jeans, she pulled out a small notepad and quill. "So, first question..."

Skeeter leaned back into her crocodile-skin chair, her hands clasping together. "Never hesitate to ask a question, sweetie, so just ask," she interjected. "I'm intrigued, after all."

"How were you able to get to the scene of the crime so quickly?"

"Oh, excellent first question," Skeeter complimented before pursing her lips in mild contemplation. "Let's see... it was around ten o'clock in the morning... I remember that because I had just finished having my weekly brunch with Barnabes... I had just walked back into my office when my Muggle phone rang."

Skeeter gestured to the black-colored phone that sat on her desk. "See, within the Daily Prophet, we contact each other by wands, but when someone has a story idea to give me, they call this." She paused, examining Hermione, watching as she wrote on the notepad. "You really should get Quick Quills..." Skeeter remarked, off topic, before adding on a giggle, "They're very handy, with pun intended."

Hermione didn't even look up, simply giving the woman a nod. "I'll get right on that," Hermione said, steering the conversation back to where it had been. "So, you say that your phone rang, the line used by someone who has a story idea to pitch to you, around ten in the morning... who was it on the phone?"

"Minister Scrimgeour."

Hermione stopped. Slowly, she looked up at Skeeter, one eyebrow rising as she did. "The Minister called you?"

Skeeter nodded, a small frown coming to her face. "Yes, he did," she recalled, wearing an expression that showed she was just remembering the events and realizing something strange about them in the process. "And, now that I think about," she started to add, bringing one finger to her face, "the conversation was rather odd..."

Hermione looked back down at her notepad, readying herself to write. "How do you mean?" she asked carefully, knowing that the abundance of curiosity in her tone could lose Skeeter's assistance instantly.

But, the woman overlooked Hermione's voice easily, smoothing right into the answer for her question. "Well, he firstly told me that top Aurors, Rayner and Besteria, had been killed and that the prime suspect was Draco Malfoy. He said that he was going down to the scene of the crime and asked if I could meet him at the entrance of Knockturn Alley in half-hour in order to report the story." Skeeter paused, giving off a shrug. "So, thirty minutes later, I met him there and he guided me to the back alley behind Borgin and Burke's, where they were apprehending Malfoy. Wicked good show they put on for my photographer and I. I got shots up to my knickers!"

Thirty minutes, Hermione wrote before Skeeter's last words clicked in her head. Photographs?

"Photographs?" Hermione asked, echoing her thoughts. "More than just the front page picture of Minister Scrimgeour and the Aurors hauling Malfoy to Azkaban?"

"Well, of course, dearheart," Skeeter answered, as though it was obvious. "I always get more pictures than I need, just in case, and then keep the extras right here."

With a single, long, and rather elaborate fingernail, Skeeter tapped against one of her desk drawers to her left, her smile bright on her face as she stared back at Hermione. "Always be prepared when it comes to photography, sweets," she stated, taking that same finger and pointing it at Hermione. "The more shots, the merrier."

Hermione nodded, in full agreement. Now, the question was, how to get those said shots from Skeeter?

"Who else was there when you showed up at the crime scene?" Hermione asked, clearing her throat and saving the photograph matter for a different time.

Skeeter made a humming noise, contemplating as she stared up at the ceiling. "The Minister, naturally... three Aurors who I wasn't allowed to interview, which was just bullocks, in my opinion... Malfoy, of course, in all his murderous glory..." She trailed off for a moment, before her face suddenly brightened. "Oh, and that Percy fellow was there, too!"

Hermione stopped short again in what she had been writing. That name was familiar.

"Percy Weasley?" she guessed, realizing she should've figured that. Ever since Scrimgeour had become the Minister at least seven years ago, Percy had been at his side as his secretary of sorts. All the bloody time.

Skeeter's head bobbed up and down, hair still in place as she did. "Yes, the Percy Weasley fellow," she confirmed, before letting out a dramatic scoff. "Bloody bloke wouldn't let me interview the Minister, even after they had taken Malfoy away, and he had been the one to call me down! It was terribly unfair."

Hermione nodded, her thoughts drifting off as she processed the information. "I bet it was," she commented airily, scanning over the notes she had written so far. "You said that your phone call with Minister Scrimgeour was odd? How so?"

"Oh, yes," Skeeter remembered, her lips pursing in reflection. "The conversation was odd, in a way, because he basically told me what points to put into my story." She paused, her eyes fleeting over Hermione with a meaningful gleam. "Don't get me wrong, pet... whenever I'm fetched a story, I demand the technicalities before delving right in... it's the fundamentals that really make the front page."

"Really?" Hermione questioned, actually sounding interested, her back straightening in her seat. "So, Minister Scrimegeour gave you the basics of what happened between Malfoy and those two Aurors before arranging a time to meet you at the scene of the crime?"

Skeeter nodded, blatant.

Hermione just stared at her, her shoulders shrugging. "How was that odd, then?"

Maybe Hermione's curiosity was more of a "teenager's" interest than actually being purposeful, or maybe her flattery she had been giving the woman throughout most of the "interview" was momentarily blinding the journalist's snooping eye, but the next thing that happened would truly set the bar of this investigation from something from the books to something undeniably fishy.

Skeeter glanced around her office, seemingly suspicious of eavesdroppers, before leaning over her desk by a few inches, closer to where Hermione sat. "Well... between you and me, Hermione..." she began, and hastily, Hermione returned the gesture by scooting to the edge of her seat. "It was more of the way he said it that made it all just... bizarre."

The woman paused again, glancing to her office's closed door before going back to Hermione. "He had this tone, you see... nervous... and while nerves are expected to be apparent after hearing your best Aurors had been killed, this is Minister Scrimgeour we're speaking of! He's been our Minister for about seven years now, and even when the Final Battle took place, he barely broke a sweat." Skeeter shrugged, leaning back into her seat and taking on a nonchalant look, adding casually, "But, I s'pose anyone gets a little jittery whenever a Malfoy is involved... wouldn't you agree?"

Hermione could barely restrain her sarcasm, giving Skeeter a flat nod of the head. "Oh, Rita, darling," she spoke, her undertone cutting with irony. "You have no idea."

Skeeter let out a nail-down-the-blackboard type of laugh, staring at Hermione intently as her fingers tapped against her chair's armrests. "So, tell me something," she began after a moment of simply watching the other female write down notes. "What has you so particularly interested in this story of mine?"

An alarm began going off inside of Hermione's mind, snapping her notebook shut in unison with looking back up at the journalist with an uneasy smile. "Well, it's the latest in the mainstream, for one thing... and, as I said before, your way of handling the event was something anyone would keep their attention on for more than a day or so..." She trailed off, clearing her throat within the pause at the fact Skeeter hadn't giggled or blushed or done anything irregularly girly over the compliment, Hermione trying hard not to get overly anxious about this.

Desperate, Hermione attempted honesty, testing it out for the first time since she arrived at the Prophet headquarters. "And, well... he had attended school with me, back in the day..." she stated, tilting her head to one side with an innocent smile coming to her face. "All of those together just made my curiosity bubble with questions, and who else better to turn to in order to get some answers, and even assist my aspiring journalist skills along the way, hm?"

Skeeter examined Hermione for two seconds, possibly three, before letting out another laugh. "Oh, Hermione, you haven't changed a bit! Still as smart and hungry for answers as ever!" she proclaimed with a bubbly tone, losing all sense of distrust she might've been holding, and in mere relief, Hermione joined in with her own chuckles, slipping her notepad back into her pocket. "The perfect attributes for a journalist, I have to say," the woman added, speaking just her wand let out a shrill ring. "I'll give you a ring once you're looking for employment, I promise!"

"Aw, thanks, Rita, you're a doll," Hermione returned, and by then, she knew if she didn't get out of the reporter's presence soon, there was no promise of keeping her breakfast in her stomach. With an uneasy growl coming from her abdomen, Hermione watched as Skeeter picked up her wand, holding one finger out to signify a pause in their chat.

"This better be important," Skeeter started off, the tip of her wand turning red, giving Hermione a synthetic smile. "I'm in the middle of an interview and--WHAT?!"

The screech of her voice nearly caused Hermione to fall from her seat, her eyes wide and stuck to Skeeter as she jumped from her desk chair and began making her way towards her door. "Mandy, I told you to keep an eye on him! He's new and should not be allowed in the printing room!" she continued to shout, her face going red. "If he's broken any of the equipment, it's going to be over your head, do you hear me? I'll meet you in the printing room, and call a Healer! Now!"

The red glow faded from the wand as Skeeter let out a stressed sigh. "I hate to cut our talk short, peach, but it seems we have some trouble--"

"Not a problem, Rita, you go and handle it," Hermione interrupted sweetly, standing up and ushering the woman towards the door. "I'm just going to finish up my notes real quick and escort myself out, not to worry."

Skeeter had that grin come to her again, pressing the palm of her hand on Hermione's cheek in a lurid manner. "Oh, dear, yes, I will definitely keep my eye out for you... you seem to be the only one who can keep her head during a crisis, which seems to be what my workers have been lacking lately." Another sigh escaped the woman, opening the door and stepping out, waggling her fingers at Hermione. "We'll chat soon, 'Mione! Oh, and borrow my autobiography before you leave! Ciao!"

A second later, the woman was gone.

Hermione stared at the closed door for a few moments, expecting Skeeter to rush back in and start beating her with her crocodile-skinned bag for lying through her teeth during their entire talk, but she never came. Hermione heaved a breath of relief, relaxing back down in her chair. "Thank Merlin that's over..." she muttered to herself, tugging at the collar of her shirt. But, in truth, it really wasn't over. Now it was time for the fun part of the plan, added thanks to Skeeter's own little slip up and mistake of leaving Hermione alone in her office.

Stealing.

Naturally, again, Hermione's conscience wasn't taking too kindly to this, for if lying was out of the ordinary for the ex-Gryffindor, stealing was especially. However, certain measures called for certain actions, a tip Hermione had learned throughout her years at Hogwarts, and by then, Hermione wasn't even pausing to think, well aware that if she did, she would not only lose valuable time, but chicken out altogether.

With silent steps, she crept up from her chair and around Skeeter's desk, examining over the right and left drawers, more importantly the one on the top left. From what Hermione could recall in their superficial chat, Skeeter had tapped on this drawer when discussing the extra photographs of the crime scene. Photographs, amiably enough, that Hermione needed more than the journalist could ever realize.

Quietly, Hermione bent down to the drawers' level, her body nearly hiding behind the desk, which could've been considered good or bad. Good, if someone walked in looking for Skeeter and saw nothing. Bad, if Skeeter walked in and made her way to her desk. Time was of the essence, more than anything, and with her lips stitched in determination, Hermione examined the specific drawer.

Of all the times Skeeter had to be overly paranoid without actually being in the room, it had to be then. A lock stared back at Hermione, a rather intricate one at that, and right below it was the handle, though not an ordinary handle in the least. Instead, it looked like the mouth of a miniature monster, reminding Hermione slightly of her Book of Monsters she had to get for Hagrid's class, once upon a time, with the creature seemingly asleep, their razor-sharp teeth bared to anyone who attempted to tug on them in order to open the drawer.

Damn.

Hermione glanced above the drawer and around the top of Skeeter's desk, but there was no sign of a key, which wasn't surprising, really - like the journalist was really going to leave the key out for anyone to use. Hermione wasn't about to try opening the drawer without the key, smart enough to know that the ending result would end in the monster of a handle not only biting her, but most likely setting off a secret alarm Skeeter had managed to stash in her heap of hair. Double damn, Hermione thought. Who knew stealing something could be so difficult.

Taking a breath, Hermione tried to calm her nerves, the ones that were bubbling all over the place over what she was doing, and focused her attention on the lock, trying hard to avoid the teeth-bearing handle for the time being. She scrutinized the lock for two seconds, three, four, before pulling her wand out from her back pocket. "Alohomora," she casted beneath her breath, wand pointed to the lock.

No use.

Instead, a mild spark puffed from the tip of her wand, sizzling down to Hermione's hand and jolting her fingertips. "Hey!" she reacted, dropping her wand to the floor and hastily shaking her hand, getting rid of the shock. "Bloody... paranoid... reporters..." she added as an afterthought, putting her wand back into her pocket while glaring at the lock.

Hermione was not going to be outsmarted by a security device.

Getting a new idea, Hermione pulled a bobby pin from her hair, studying the hairpiece for a brief moment before looking back at the lock. She had seen this work before, in all those mystery shows she'd watch with her mum as a kid, prior to everything involving magic, Hogwarts, and then some. Might as well see if it really worked or not.

The bobby pin slipped into the opening, brushing against the inner-workings of the lock. Once pushing it in as much as it could go, Hermione carefully, cautiously, and extremely slowly, jiggled the hairpiece, rotating it in a clockwise manner, her hearing perked up and impatiently waiting to hear a click. Turning, turning, turning, another small rattle, and back to the turning. If Hermione wasn't able to get the drawer opened this way, then she was going to have no choice but to leave Skeeter's office, just so she didn't draw any unwanted attention to herself.

The old-fashioned, Muggle way had to work.

"Come on, come on..." Hermione mumbled to herself, her voice soft enough to not wake the monster drawer handle. "If you can work for Jessica Fletcher, you can certainly work for me."

Click!

A smile came to the female's face. Success.

Hermione placed her hand on the handle, wincing as she did so, but much to her gratitude, the monster stayed asleep as she pulled open the drawer. "Thank Merlin for small favors," she said to herself, standing straight and fingering through the different manila folders within the compartment. At the tab that read, Malfoy, Hermione stopped and pulled the folder out, closing the drawer back shut without a second thought.

Hermione slipped the manila folder under her black shirt, fitting it to her so that it simply looked apart of her figure to the unsuspecting eye, before making her hasty way to the office's door. Oh, if only Ron and Harry could see her now, stealing photographs from the woman who could make Hermione's reputation crash and burn in a matter of seconds. If only Malfoy could see her now, for that matter, Hermione picturing the accused murderer smirking with pride over what she had just done. Bad Hermione! the blonde would exclaim, his tone full of ridicule. Seems I've rubbed off on you already.

The worst part about that was that it was true. Hermione really needed to get a hobby.


---


Malfoy was already in the questioning room by the time Hermione flew in, her face brightened for the first time since she had stepped foot on the prison's desolate island.

"What the..." the blonde started off, evidently surprised by Hermione's manner and watching her with a raised eyebrow as she walked around to her side of the table and simply beamed at him. "What--Granger..." he continued to stammer, before making an incredulous hand gesture. "Good Merlin, what has gotten your knickers in a twist?"

Hermione wasn't the least bit offended by his impatience, nor tempted to begin a row. Another first for her since her reuniting with the ex-Slytherin.

Instead, with great jubilance, Hermione pulled the manila folder out from under her black shirt, plopping it down onto the table. Malfoy merely blinked at it, before looking up at Hermione as though she had grown a few, irrelevant body parts. "What's that?" he questioned. "What the blazes is going on?"

Hermione beared a grin, more proud of herself than ever, and proceeded to open the folder.

"I got art."


A/N: Thanks for reading! Leave a review if you want and chapter seven will be out soon!

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