An original editorial by MJ.
Since Prisoner of Azkaban
we've seen Hermione, as the second lead character (sorry to all you fans of Ron, but really, you can't deny this fact), foil the secondary villains or help to resolve the secondary plot. She helped save the hippogriff with her handy time-turner, she uncovered what Rita Skeeter was up to, and she rid Hogwarts of their best tangible villain to date: Dolores Umbridge. What's next?
One final conflict with Malfoy and/or the Malfoy clan, perhaps? Lucius Malfoy, in Chamber of Secrets, has shown himself more than eager to please his master, but in the meanwhile, why not rid himself or help to destroy that which represents everything he hates - muggles and mudbloods? And who best represents this? Hermione Granger.
For the past five books we've seen the Malfoy's as a sort of "background" villain. Draco is the school bully and Lucius does odd things here and there to bring Voldemort back to life. The buildup is too intense not to ignore that they will indeed become very prominent as secondary villains themselves. No more Quirrells, diary Riddles, prisoners of Azkaban, Rita Skeeters, or Umbridges to defeat; it is time for the Malfoys' evil to come into play, and it's finally time for Hermione to somehow defeat them for the greater good.
You can imagine that on his breaks from school, Draco's favorite subject is his hatred of Harry Potter and his friends, having a special loathing for that Granger mudblood. Lucius is well aware of her and how "clever" she is. He knows her by sight and reputation and has no problem insulting her to her face. Can you imagine an adult insulting a child in the way he does her? It's criminal! Her phenomenal magical abilities insult every pureblood wizard and witch around, especially Draco, who we've never seen display any sort of amazing ability at anything. His cowardice is as legendary though, as is his bullying. Nothing would satisfy the Malfoys more then destroying the symbol of that which they hate. (cough*Hermione Granger*cough*)
The bullying and taunting we see from Draco is just the tip of the iceberg - Lucius being the iceberg. There is no doubt that a Dementor-free Azkaban is an easy prison to break out of and now that the Dark Lord truly is out (and the general wizarding population is aware of it), what better way for Lucius Malfoy to prove himself than by destroying Ma and Pa Granger, leaving Hermione in a vulnerable, dangerous, and lonely position. And what better way to distract Harry's "right-hand-man" than by distracting her with the death of her parents, which then leaves Harry in a very vulnerable, lonely, and dangerous position. With both Harry and Hermione behind the eight ball, the Dark Lord can easily conquer. Harry's "saving people thing" would certainly include consoling his friend and fellow orphan.
Draco's duty to his father (whether he's in prison or out of prison) would be to take on Hermione himself. He's not going to take being punched in the face lightly. He's not going to take her showing him up lightly either. After OotP he's looking for any excuse to put Harry at a disadvantage AND destroy and humiliate Hermione. Let's face it, the kid is nuts and can't see past his hatred and loathing, both of which were put there thanks to his father.
Hermione needs to stop "ignoring" Draco's taunts and see them for what they are - real threats driven by an irrational anger. HBP will see Draco become more unhinged than we've ever seen him, and with Hermione (as pointed out by Rowling herself) becoming a little "lighter" (as pointed out by Rowling herself), she just might find herself with her guard down and alone with Draco.
Posted by: Nicole