Meant to post this last week, but I got wrapped up in the Kindle Worlds thing. So, posting some of my speculation here:
It seems almost everyone is convinced that Hermione has been framed. I think she may have been “set up”, but it seems entirely plausible to me that she did intentionally try to murder Draco.
I’m always shocked and infuriated by heroes in stories who throw their loved ones into the maws of psychopaths and murders because they can’t be bothered with a quick consequentialist calculus. I’ve read multiple books where a hero is holding a gun and watches a villain calmly walk away after that villain has promised to murder/rape/torture his lover/child/family, AND has already demonstrated a willingness and ability to do so! Often times in situations where there would likely be NO repercussions if he simply shot the bastard (in the most recent case, in the middle of a low-level civil war occurring in the city!) This is the height of stupidity.
I also figured Hermione wouldn’t have ever tried to kill anyone. This was before I read Chapter 87. Specifically:
“- the sort of things Malfoy has been saying about me? What he said he’d do to me, as soon as he got the chance? … It’s unspeakable in the completely literal sense that I can’t say it out loud!”
and the second time I met him, he talked about doing it to a ten-year-old girl
Recall for a moment the violent physical reaction you (probably) had the first time you read Chapter 7. Now imagine that YOU are the target of Draco’s rape-threats, and that you are an 11-year-old girl. If you’re as smart as Hermione you’ve probably also come to the same conclusions Harry did in Chap 7 – Draco is politically untouchable. He can rape you, and you cannot stop him or get justice for it in any way. The only thing you can do is hope that he doesn’t want to.
Now imagine you’ve been mind-hacked by Mr Hat-and-Cloak, and you believe that not only does Draco intend to rape you, possibly repeatedly, but he has the backing of a major Authority Figure at Hogwarts – Professor Snape. They can overcome you with magic, maybe just physically hold you down, and do whatever they want. Practically whenever they want. You’ve gotten to the point where you jump at shadows even in the middle of a televised event in a large public park surrounded by friends.
Even now, when all the Sunshine General’s focus should’ve been on the coming battle, the Ravenclaw girl’s gaze was constantly darting in all directions, as though she expected Dark Wizards to jump out of the bushes and sacrifice her.
She probably falls asleep terrified every night. It’s likely she’s thought of all sorts of ways to stop Draco, including murder, but there’s never a way to execute any of them. No one listens to a little girl, certainly not a mud-blood with no family accusing a noble of intent-to-rape.
Out of the blue an opportunity falls in your lap – Draco wants to meet. But he wants to meet in secret, in a place no one will see or hear anything, in a place she can put her blood-cooling plan into action. Maybe she’s not sure she’ll do it. Maybe she just goes to duel with him, to show him again that she is NOT powerless and he can NOT simply abuse her. But then she loses the duel, and he’s standing over her triumphant and grinning down at her, and she realizes that she has no recourse at all, she can’t even defend herself in a fair one-to-one fight, he could rape her right now if he wanted to. So he turns and leaves and Hermione does the SMART thing that every dumb-ass hero never did. She picks up her wand and she shoots him in the back and she escapes unseen. She will no longer live with that threat over her head. Draco will never threaten any girl at all that way – she’s rid the world of a vile man who does evil, and the world is better off for it.
It’s entirely possible Hermione would’ve confessed after the fact anyway, because she’s a good person. But that doesn’t matter, because the Puppet Master (possibly Quirrell) erases the instigating belief of imminent-rape-assisted-by-Snape from her mind, clears up some other odds and ends, and arranges it that Quirrell finds Draco’s body just in the nick of time. This is much cleaner than Harry’s proposed situation of tons of Memory Charms on both Hermione and Draco and then Obliviations afterwards to remove evidence. It requires less access to Hermione and no access at all to Draco. If some time-turned individual did manage to observe or avert the duel, he’d see these events rather than the Puppet Master working intricate Memory Charms on two subdued students. It is elegant and… “delicious”, in a sense.
The Puppet Master would still be primarily to blame, and a case could be made for self-defense. But I think it’s quite likely Hermione did pull the trigger herself, of her own will.
Of course the fact that Draco is not inherently evil and is slowly being corrupted toward the Light just makes the whole thing even better. :)