Continued and eternal thanks to In Dreams, LightofEvolution, MCal, and to all of you!

In her underground prison, Hermione is losing her ever-loving mind.

Her parchment is now at least seventy inches, and it says absolutely nothing. She's a smart student; she knows what it is to pad an essay. This entire piece of rubbish is nothing but padding.

The room contains a small collection of books, but they are the worst sort of romantic drivel, and she has less than no interest in reading them.

Currently, she has taken to tossing the pit of an apricot into the air whilst laying on her back and counting the number of times she can catch it before it fumbles through her fingers. She made it up to one hundred and seven when Cho Chang sneezed and mucked up her concentration.

She's come to the conclusion that Professor Jayne is trying to torture them. Perhaps she is a sleeper agent of the former Lord Voldemort? The more questions become, what is the nature of their experience in the room? Is time passing for them in the real world? Or is time merely a construct here in the room and not really moving as she perceives? After all, time is only a concept of man to track its own mortality. Is magic ruled by the same laws and restrictions? Is the Room a pocket outside of space and time?

Hermione is growing very philosophical. It's at least as distracting as catching a fucking seed a hundred times.

She hears the bricks of one wall begin to slide apart, reminiscent of the magic in Diagon and the literal only thing she's been able to write about that pertains to her class, and knows her father has come to call. He visits generally once a day, praising her for her beauty and the blessing she represents, and being basically a chauvinistic arse. His attentions to her handmaidens have not waned. If anything, they may have increased. She half expects to wake to an orgy one day.

Hermione also expects a lot of therapy is in her future.

Today when he enters however, he is not alone. Hermione gawks at Draco Malfoy looking particularly put out, a lamb's fleece draped over his shoulders that looks like it has been doused in metallic gold spray paint. The front legs are tied under his chin, and the head of the lamb lays down over his forehead, not quite hiding the very foul look on his face.

If she were not so entirely fed up with the entire situation, she would admit it's one of the most hilarious things she's ever seen.

"Daughter! I have such a wonderful surprise for you!"

Hermione thinks she has seen everything when Gilderoy Lockhart follows in after the 'lamb'. He has been blindfolded and cotton stuffed in his ears. A rope tied around Malfoy's neck leads him along.

She manages to hold back a snicker and inquires, "What is it, Father?"

"This wonderful merchant has presented us this golden lamb. Though it is not truly a gift, he has been generous and will allow you to enjoy the company of the beast for three days." Her father waggles his finger at her, a mocking smile on his face as he pretends to chastise. "Do not allow yourself to become too attached, dear heart. For the lamb is not mine to give no matter how you might plead."

No one says anything for a long time until, finally, Draco clears his throat loudly. He gives her a nod as if to cue her into action.

Padma whispers somewhere to her left, "Oh, isn't it darling when it bleats like that?"

Hermione breathes deep and finally says, "Oh, Father, thank you for bringing me this lovely animal." Her words are wooden and scripted, and she knows she sounds as convincing as a primary school play. Her acting ability does not seem to affect the progression of the story. "How generous of this kind merchant to allow me to keep him for a time."

Rather than the King, Lockhart's booming and dramatic voice fills her chamber. Apparently the cotton isn't entirely effective to shield the conversation, but makes him yell as if only a bit deaf. "Of course, most beloved princess! For days thrice, you are welcome to this magical creature of gilded fleece! I shall return for it at sunset on the third day and hope only for your enjoyment as payment!"

Hermione looks back at her father and gives him a simpering smile. It turns her stomach a little, but no more than watching him graze Cho Chang's thigh with his hand as he leaves the room.

Once the chamber is closed, bricks back into place, Malfoy throws the pelt off his back with a groan of frustration and relief.

"FINALLY. Do you have any idea what I've been dealing with?!"

Hermione gapes at him. Is he accusing her of this? As if she had any hand in the story, the assignment, or his role therein?

"The hell, Malfoy?! What about what I've been dealing with!? I'm trapped in a bloody crypt with the three most obnoxious witches to grace the halls of Hogwarts in a millennium!"

Draco looks over to the handmaidens as if he had hardly noticed them. Lavender is twirling a blond lock around her finger and titters out, "What's a millennium?"

Hermione resolutely ignores her. She does a lot of that.

Shaking himself, Draco gets back to the conversation at hand. "Look, Granger, I don't know what is supposed to happen next, but what I do know is that Muggles are FUCKING. CRAZY. They dressed me up as a sheep, Granger. A sheep. Who does that? And how in Merlin's Balls did it work? They tied a lamb carcass around my neck for fuck's sake!"

Hermione has no answer to that, truly. Perhaps in the story, there was magic involved with the lamb that would make it more convincing? Magic the Room for some reason did not recreate? She says something to that effect, but Draco just snorts in derision and looks away.

"Such a handsome man. It is no wonder you have so immediately come to love him!"

Hermione looks over at Padma with all the incredulity her small frame can contain. Is that how this story goes?!

Lavender speaks next. "Yes, it is only a sorrow your father will not give you up without further deception."

Cho nods sagely. "When this young man returns for you, we know that your father will transform us to ducks so that your prince cannot find you. If only you could signal to him which duck you will be, so he might have you for a wife!"

Oh, this is fucking ridiculous.

Hermione is looking at the three and waiting for whatever paltry wisdom is to come.

There is a long pause as if something is supposed to be happening, then the conversation cycles back to Brown. She snaps her fingers and her eyes light up. "Of course. My lady, you will preen and clean your feathers so that your love might know you. Oh, sweet princess, you are so clever."

The three all nod in agreement as to Hermione's cleverness and then wander off to lounge and eat fruit or whatever it is that they do.

Looking back at her partner, she clears her throat. "So, it appears we have a plan."

Malfoy rolls his eyes so far back, Hermione thinks he might lose them inside his head. "Yes, and what a plan it is. I hide away in this pit of hell for three days with you and tweedles dee, dum, and dumber here, and then trick that moron of a King-"

"Hey! That's my father!"

"Taking your role of princess a bit seriously aren't you," he comments with a sneer. "Of course the king is the princess's father-"

"No, I mean, that's my dad the Room is using. My actual father."

"Oh." He doesn't seem to have anything else to say.

They stand there for a moment, rocking on their heels and glancing around, before either speaks again. Hermione blurts out, "Where have you been?" at the same time that Malfoy asks, "So what is there to do in here?"

Malfoy gestures for her to proceed. "Oh, well, I've been working on my assignment." He snorts, predictably, but doesn't interrupt. "I tried to find an exit at first. I had thought maybe I was supposed to escape, but then I remembered that princesses always need rescuing," she finishes bitterly, crossing her arms.

"Yes, well, Merlin forbid Hermione Granger can't risk her life for a little hero worship, eh?"

She glares at him, very much not appreciating the dig. "I don't do things for hero worship, Malfoy."

"Right. Sure. The satisfaction is its own reward, right, Granger?"

She lifts her chin and sniffs. "Indeed." When he laughs, it's a surprise, but there doesn't seem to be any derision hidden within the mirth. He just seems honestly amused.

When the silence settles again, Hermione gestures for Malfoy to tell his tale. "And you? Where have you been?"

She watches as he steps a few paces and flops onto a plush chair with padded arms. "Well, I found myself in a delightful little village that had an unmistakable scent of pig farm and rotten vegetables. The local fair accounted for the latter. Accommodations were a bit lacking, what with the door that didn't lock and the barmaid that I believe was trying to force herself on me, but all in all I'd give the entire experience zero fucking stars." His voice goes hard at the end, his amusement fading as fast as he put it on. "Surely we don't have to stay here three more days."

"Don't call me Shirley," Hermione mumbles, following with "Nothing," when he asks her to repeat.

Thinking to be polite and picking up that Draco hasn't exactly been living his usual lifestyle, she offers, "Are you hungry? Not a lot of variety at the moment, but I've some fruit just there, and almonds, and some wa-"

"You have apples! Oh thank, Merlin, Salazar, and Circe's shaved cunt. Poor people don't eat fruit in stories like this, Granger. They eat… I don't know… Some slop I can't name. Or potatoes." She watches him pick up a shiny green apple and take a bite, groaning almost inappropriately. Even the ladies in waiting seem to glance up and give him a once over. It's nearly indecent enough to make her blush.

"So fucking good," he moans out. "Ugh.. I could kiss you." Hermione has no idea if she means her or the apple. She's leaning toward the apple.

Malfoy seems to be lost in some little world of his own, alternating between taking bites of the apple, spinning it slowly to reveal the core, and licking juice that runs down his fingers to his hand. At one point he runs his tongue in a line all the way from his wrist to the tip of his pinky finger.

It must be a really juicy apple.

Finally, the core is all that remains, her partner looking quite disappointed as he chucks the remains into a small basket she's been using as a rubbish bin. The end of this piece of fruit cannot come too soon. Hermione is pretty sure she's blushing from her roots to her ankles at this point. Merlin, who enjoys a bloody apple that much?

He looks back and catches her staring, his countenance shuttering into one of mistrust. "What?" he barks at her.

"Nothing," she says very, very quickly.

"So, is this it?" Malfoy gestures around the room at her accommodations.

With a wry smile, she offers, "Would you like a tour?"

He snorts and rises to his feet, brushing nonexistent dust or wrinkles from his trousers. "I'd be delighted. Lead the way." He gestures for her to begin.

Moving around the small seating area, she points to the cluster of daft witches, lounging on ornate rugs and pillows, incense burning between them and bowls of fruit scattered near where they lay. "This is the servants' quarters," she says with put-on self importance. Allow me to introduce Tweedles Dee, Dum, and Dumber. They don't say much, which I'm sure is how men in this type of era like them."

Ha appraises them and huffs in what might be mild amusement. She's half surprised his eyes don't linger on the three young woman, laying about with more than their bellies and arms bared.

"Odd choices for the Room," he comments. "Especially the one... what's her name? The Weasley cast-off."

"Lavender," Hermione supplies, noticing it sticks in her throat a little. Poor, poor Lavender Brown. "Did you see other people? Real people? Besides Lockhart that is."

He nods, suddenly bemused. "I was nearly accosted by the Weasel's mother. Took quite the liking to me, matter of fact."

"You were chatted up by Molly Weasley?" she asks, the shake of laughter in her voice.

"Of course not," he denies. "It was much more hands-on than chatting."

Hermione shudders at the thought.

"Well, anyway, moving on to the dining area," she says, sweeping an arm across the view of a low table, top inlaid with gleaming tile, surrounded by floor cushions and topped with arrangements of flowers, fruits, breads, and water. It's a small area, and only a couple of paces from the "servants' lounge". Really, the whole place is just a bit larger than the size of her parents' Great Room in total.

Well, with the exception of the sleeping area; the one semi-private space that seems to have been designated for her.

"Then, of course, is the master suite." Hermione leads Malfoy across the room to the rather decent sized alcove, hidden by a screen. There is only a bed and a small table, but the space has afforded her enough privacy to keep her sanity, hiding from the dimwitted handmaidens currently giggling about the size of the king's….cough… hands.

"Not bad," he praises, looking at her, admittedly, comfortable bed with his brows raised. "Better than the straw rats' nest I've been calling home the past few days. With no preamble, she watches him hop on the bed, reclining and looking quite at home.

"Yes, sorry for your misfortune. Now if you don't mind, this is my bed."

"Oh, no no, that won't do. I'm afraid for the duration of our stay, this will have to be my bed, Granger."

Her patience has been onion skin thin for about seventy two hours by now, and it's all Hermione can do to breathe through a complete conniption.

"Malfoy. Draco. This is my bed. It has been my bed since I arrived, and it continues to be my bed regardless of any new circumstances. So kindly remove your person from my room!" She's panting when she finishes and is both mortified and gratified to see his eyes widen in surprise.

But instead of conceding, he puts on some ridiculous theatrics.

Hand over his heart, he answers, "But Granger, the only other place to sleep would be…" He pauses, looking around as if concerned for curious ears. "...with the other witches. And with you as my betrothed, I think that is highly improper. Those girls out there… " He places his hand beside his mouth, stage whispering the rest. "...they might try to have their way with me."

He shudders for effect.

"Are you done?" Eyebrow raised and arms crossed, Hermione looks as thoroughly unimpressed as she feels.

"Just about," he says with a grin. "But I'm still not moving."

She's racking her brain, searching for a way to appeal to him, when she realizes there likely is none. He wants what he wants, and he's used to getting his way.

Fine then; fight Slytherin with Gryffindor.

So, with a shrug, Hermione slips her tie from her neck and slides her robes off her shoulders, leaving herself in her button down and skirt. She's been sleeping nearly nude, but this will have to do for tonight. With one last glance to see if he's moving, she slides into the bed, feet under the covers, and nudges his legs with her own. "Well, shove over then. The least you could do is share."

"I… what?" Apparently boldness is his kryptonite.

"I said, shove over, Malfoy. It's a large enough bed. Surely you don't expect me, the princess, to retire with the servant girls?" She gives him a smirk and then settles down, her back to him, and closes her eyes like she's never been more comfortable.

Truthfully, she's a nervous wreck, but she hopes he doesn't know that. She's never shared a bed with a wizard before. A few quick tumbles with Ron at the Burrow, after which she was promptly thrown out lest his "mum come poking around", some heavy snogging sessions with Viktor… but to lie beside a man for an entire night?

Whatever. She can do this. She's Hermione bloody Granger, and she is brave enough to sleep beside a human being.

The bed tossles and bucks as Malfoy roughly settles himself in. "Fine. I'll call your bluff, Princess. Ten galleons says you're cuddled with Brown and Chang by morning."

"Twenty galleons says I'm right here in my bed. What you do is no concern to me."



There's a long pause, the irritation and stress that have followed Hermione for days finally giving way to sleep when she hears a petulant but gentle, "Night, Granger."

She grins and falls asleep.