Okay, so a few of my readers have asked, "What the hell's going on in Draco's mind?"
The story starts nearly two months before the actual first chapter, when Bellatrix got that mad idea to dose Draco with a soulmate potion. Draco was beyond incensed with the whole matter, considering it useless and a waste of time. After all, he had hardly known (in a more biblical sense) more than the Slytherin girls, and they were clearly not his soulmates. He had, just because (alright, for fear of it actually being Pansy - he'd rather do without a soulmate than have it be her), come up with a decent alibi.
Imagine Draco's fury at the potion actually working (and him finding out that he recognized the scent - thousands upon thousands of witches, and here he gets someone he knows! Fate is cruel.). He stumbles out the alibi (purely by force of habit, his face was white as a sheet), and then has to deal with Bellatrix conniving to get him trips to France for the next month or so.
But back to Draco - he's furious, first, because Bellatrix was right (that's actually the biggest part of his anger.), and only secondly because it was Hermione Granger - sanctimonious goody-two-shoes and general knowitall Teacher's Pet. His best response to that is a general Her? (Unlike a considerable portion of DM/HG fics, he hasn't been in love with her. In fact, no romantic thoughts entirely... putting her in a position shared only by Gin Weasley. He's had fun entertaining himself with plots to get into practically everyone else in school. (yes, including McGonagall). Granger and the Weaslette hadn't seemed possible, let alone interesting).
After blowing off some steam (courtesy of a few priceless ming vases imbued with Merlin-knows-what), he did what came naturally - started cracking the books, looking to see if there was something that he could make of this situation.
He comes up with the idea for an alliance - based solely on the idea that knowing she's his soulmate makes her predictable. Trustable, even.
Because Draco Malfoy isn't just looking to get rid of Lord Voldemort. He's looking for peace, and that's a far more fragile quantity.
But peace, as always, is something negotiated. You don't get peace by killing the other side, unless you're willing to make it everyone. And Draco doesn't feel like it's his job to die. So, he comes up with another solution. Let Granger manage the "reformers" and Draco will manage the "pureblood elite" (who are more of a handful anyway).
It's a decent plan, but it all falls apart if Weasley and Potter get even the slightest hint that Malfoy's maneuvering to have them out of the country so that he can make a move on Granger. Nothing's more likely to cause those two to put their heels in the ground and not move an inch. [Draco, for what it's worth, was telling the absolute truth when he told Gin that it was a "distant" possibility. He meant in terms of time, but was quite willing to let Gin think it was merely unlikely. Pity she didn't take the bait, eh? Lying by distraction is such a Slytherin trait. ] And Draco's honestly not trying to get them to leave just for that. It's merely a nice sidebenefit.
Draco's being pretty stubborn about them not being on the same side... why is that? Well, first, it's because his side fights behind masks. He doesn't want these fine folks to die because they're sitting around wondering, "Is that Draco behind the mask?" Nah, way better that they remember that he's not on their side. Secondarily, it's a bit of a feint to dispel any thoughts on Ron or Harry's part that Draco is trying to get close to Hermione.
As to what the hell to do about the actual soulmate bit of this? Draco's being perfectly honest when he says to Gin he's not sure. He's being a typical cautious Slytherin, seeing potential for something there, but very unwilling to say "yes, this is going to work." He figures, if he winds up saying anything to Gin before the two years are up, it'll be "no way in hell."
So, everyone's asking, I'm sure, "what was up with that kiss?" The kiss, when done in front of Draco's mum (it needed witnesses), is a rather formal commitment on Draco's part (none implied on Hermione's), saying that she's his intended. It's the sort of romantic gesture that was done in times of war, when someone was going off to battle. There are ways out of it (though Draco would have to choose one of the more obscure, as the traditional "send back her token of favor along with apologies and see what punishment she prescribes" rather requires Hermione to have given him a token). Importantly, this is the sort of thing that is simply all over the romance section of any Wizarding Library. It's why everyone recognizes it (and why Blaise, in particular, is a bit disturbed. Draco Malfoy had shown no interest, whatsoever, in Granger, and Blaise doesn't see any reason why that's changed).
As to why Draco decided after doing that to insult her? To challenge her?
Well, let's put it this way. They've been out of school for long enough that he's not sure if Weasley and Granger are an item. His goal? Think of me. He wants to make certain he's on her mind (while not, perhaps, in a romantic way - he really doesn't want to have to ask himself if he's the reason she died in battle). Malfoy likes puzzles, and so does Granger. He makes himself into enough of a puzzle that she spends bits and pieces of time trying to figure him out - for five freaking years.
(Malfoy's not about to just up and explain this to Granger. Not even what the kiss means, which should make an interesting "welcome back" scene).
Oh, and in case you're wondering, the bit about Snape collapsing? He's instinctively looking to get punched or kicked. That rubbery stance is designed to absorb blows. It's implied that Narcissa came from just as brutal an upbringing as Snape, because she recognizes it.
As to why Draco's such a goddamn bastard at the start of this? Well, Gryffindors are really, really hard to move if they dig their heels in. Keeping them unbalanced is a good way to make certain they are still listening.
Why is Snape helping Granger? While laughing at her? It's his sense of humor shining through. What, you expected cuddly kittens? Severus Snape appreciates irony, and does not do cuddly kittens.
A few bonmots that didn't actually make it into the story:
Draco had a simple idea (a backup plan) for "recoding" this conversation. First, put the conversation itself into a pensieve, as he didn't need to remember all the details. Second, burn into his brain the fragment she said yes. Third, arrange with Pansy Parkinson to have a fake, hidden betrothal (complete with some fiscal incentive for her remaining unmarried for the time being). That way, if the Dark Lord ever figured out the fragment (code phrase), he could have something that seemed reasonably authentic. Naturally, this whole idea got shot to shit when he realized he had to teach Potter how to occlude.
Draco in the final battle: He quickly asks Potter (mind to mind) to send Longbottom into the forbidden forest, with utmost haste. As Longbottom leaves, Draco and his 50+ wands (handpicked followers... some of the less enthusiastic of the Dark Lord's men) chase after him. Once Draco and his men are in the Forbidden Forest, he tells them to search Very Carefully, as Longbottom is a master at concealment. They spend the rest of the battle going through the Forbidden Forest inch by inch.
Draco mildly muffs an article: The article in the paper says that a Naval Vessel of Her Majesty's Navy has mysteriously had everyone on it die. Problem is, the people on the ship are in orange jumpsuits and the tattoos they're sporting aren't exactly navy. (Can't expect him to get everything right. He's lucky Voldemort didn't notice).
[Please, please, please, write a review! Did I miss any questions?
This is literally the first story i've finished writing, ever. Comments, criticism, anything. And I am writing about ten other stories, so check them out!]