Author's Note 1: You know, it's hard for me to stay focused when you don't keep the reviews coming! (MissNibbles told me to say that, honestly! Also, I'm terribly spoiled and whiny… And I guess I take it out on her… ;))

Author's Note 2: This actually has to do with the story: Currency. 1 galleon is the equivalent of £5 or $10 (yes, MOAR research). It's not terribly important if you don't care, but it might help you out a bit in one place.

Author's Note 3: Actually I messed up some research in last chapter. Moaning Myrtle talks to Draco in a boys' bathroom when Harry interrupts, but let's just assume that they met in the girls' bathroom and then moved on, shall we?

Author's Note 4: Angst is beginning to bore me a bit. Unlike you, I have to wallow in it for hours and hours to write it. But just because I don't continue to get really emo about it, doesn't mean that they don't still feel it.

Thanks to MissNibbles for daring to advance her pregnancy in the last two months. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN'T STAY FIVE MONTHS PREGNANT??? And to Maz (who is still not Mazakai, but rather my boyfriend MAZ) for being so dense that I can idiot-proof my story (when I feel like it). AND NEW ADDITION: to kazfeist for being a grama queen (haha, she doesn't get to edit my notes, grama grama grama)

Hermione was lying on her bed, staring up at the canopy. It was all dark and quiet. Light hurt her abused eyes, but she wouldn't put it away. Her eyes flitted to the floating ball of light that he had given her.

It doesn't mean anything. My parents are rich and I'm well aware how spoiled I am. I have many things I don't need.

Yes, well, it had meant something to her. It had meant that he had listened to her and that he had tried to fulfill one of her wishes. He hadn't had to do that; she certainly hadn't expected him to, but he had done it anyway. In spite of his awkward way of handling it, it had been really sweet. At least, she had thought so at the time.

She had no more tears left and numbness had taken over. Ginny had been right. It had taken Hermione far too long to reach this conclusion, but Ginny had actually been right. After everything he had said today, there could be no more doubt.

"He doesn't want you. He doesn't care about you. He's just using you! I can't just stand by and watch you betray and hurt everyone for someone like him! Either you cut it off or you tell Harry and Ron. You are supposed to be their friend! If you don't do it, I will!"

It was over. One more tear, that she hadn't thought she had, slid down her cheek.

She should just get over it. She should just shrug this off and go out there and go back to not caring about him. It was much easier said than done. It certainly didn't help when she remembered all those times he had seemed like he did care, like he might be falling just a little bit for her.

What do you think this is? Some epic love story? We fucked, we got caught and now it's over! Real life caught up, princess.

She had never expected him to agree to having a real out-in-the-open relationship with her, she wasn't that stupid, but she had hoped for just a little bit more. A little reluctance or regret on his part would have been nice. But, no, he just ruthlessly threw her aside and began sleeping with Shaw instead.

She had a vision of him taking the same pleasure in Shaw as he'd always seemed to take in her and the pain threatened to crush her, threatened to stop her from breathing. She tried to push it away again.

He had every right to sleep with whoever he wanted, of course, but… Why couldn't he want her instead? She didn't care about lying to Ginny and her friends, as long as she could just be with him! This should shock her, but it didn't. She had known for a while that her priorities had changed significantly. It was none of their damn business anyway; it wasn't as if she was off to join Voldemort.

Ok, so spending time with him might have changed her a little, loosening her up towards certain behaviors, but her views and loyalties were still the same. She wouldn't change those for anyone; not even if she hadn't been a Mudblood, as he so charmingly called her each chance he got.

Why was it that she wasn't good enough for him anymore? Could it really matter that much that Ginny knew? She hadn't even told him about Ginny's threat. Was it because she wasn't as pretty as Shaw? Perhaps, if she smoothed her hair and wore some makeup… No, she would never be that pretty, but perhaps if she made an effort, she would still appeal.

Or was it that she hadn't truly satisfied him in bed, the way she had always thought she did? He had seemed to be more bruised after Shaw than he had ever been after their nights together… He could have told her if he was feeling unfulfilled, told her what she needed to do. She didn't mind being a bit kinky. She didn't mind not 'making love' again. She would do anything.

She knew she was being pathetic. This wasn't like her at all. She was, however, well aware of the truth hidden in these thoughts and how it should horrify her. But it didn't.

After all, she'd be stupid not to have noticed that she had fallen irreversibly in love with him, in spite of all his many, many shortcomings.

Her thoughts flickered back to Ginny shouting at her.

"Just WHAT is making you do this? Do you love him? Snap out of it, Hermione, this isn't love. If you want love, then take a look at my brother. He's been mooning over you for ages, trying to catch your attention, going out with that stupid bitch. But he's not good enough for you, is he? Oh, no, it has to be someone who is mean and hateful and abusive… Don't you dare tell me that Malfoy is not all of these things!"

These days, sometimes when he said hurtful things to her, she would think that she saw a flicker of pain in his eyes, but it was always gone before she could be sure. It was most likely wishful thinking on her part. She should stop all of her wishful thinking and pining and start facing reality.

Fact: He had dumped her.

Fact: He was now always mean and derisive to her, even showing some signs of violence.

Fact: He was sleeping with Shaw.

Fact: He didn't care the least about her person and he openly made light of her feelings.

What's love got to do with fucking? I hope you know better than to mix up those two things. I would hate to get stuck with tender feelings from a Mudblood.

Pain stabbed at her and her dry eyes stung.

Did he know that she had fallen in love with him? Were he and his friends laughing at her in their common room? Had it been some sick joke to see how long he could keep it up? Was he telling everyone what a gullible moron she was?

She couldn't believe it, she wouldn't!

It's not my fault that you're so fucking gullible that you'll jump into bed with anyone who makes moony eyes at you.

Not anyone, just him. It had never been anyone but him. He knew that. He knew that she had been a virgin and that her soft spot was for him alone. He had to know that. But he didn't care, did he? She hadn't been the only one for him and he just kept adding to his list, touching other girls, being intimate with them…

And still she couldn't hate him. She wanted nothing more than for him to say that he was sorry and then kiss her – and she knew that if he did, she would forgive him.

She had never thought she could be this weak and spineless or that she'd settle for anything less than a whole relationship.

She supposed the reason was that there had never been a whole relationship. She had had to 'settle', all along. Still, settling with him had given her more pleasure than a full relationship with anyone else she could think of would have.

He wasn't as bad as everyone, including himself, seemed to think. He had never really treated her badly. He said thoughtless things, yes, but before now it had always been in his eyes and touch that he didn't mean it. He had often apologized, taken back his words and even tried to be nice to others for her when he didn't have to. His caresses had always been gentle, except when she didn't want them to be, and he'd never ever left her wanting in bed. He had truly changed, if only for a while.

It was all so inconsistent.

What was she supposed to believe? His cruel words and actions or the way he had looked at her after they had made love?

She supposed it didn't really matter; he had tired of her and moved on.

She turned over and buried her head in her pillow, sobbing. There were more tears after all

Hermione knew she looked dreadful the next day, but she didn't care. Her eyes were puffy and red-rimmed, and her nose was swollen. Her skin had a grey tinge, and even her hair seemed more dull than usual.

Who was she trying to impress, anyway? She supposed that another way of handling this was to try and look her best and maybe flirt a bit, but that only worked if the boy cared. Her boy didn't.

She obediently went down for breakfast, where she just sat staring at her toast, occasionally poking it.

She wasn't surprised that there was gossip; after all, her breakdown had been fairly public. If that wasn't enough, then Harry and Draco coming to blows over it had surely done the trick. It had landed both of them in detention for weeks and neither had been allowed to go to Madam Pomfrey's for more than a safety check-up, so today they were both sporting black eyes and split lips. Rumor had it that Draco even had a cracked rib, but it was impossible to know if he was merely exaggerating. He had been known to do that, after all.

This whole thing was supposed to teach them a lesson not to fight, but really it just made it all the worse for Hermione because speculation ran high and she was in the middle of it all. Neither Draco nor Harry had been forthcoming with any story, which made it even worse. Harry, of course, wasn't completely sure what Draco had done, bless him, only that he'd made her cry. Draco, on the other hand, could have come up with a lie easily. She assumed that this was merely another way of torturing her.

"Hermione?" Ron said, touching her arm.

She looked up at him.

"Weren't you listening?" he asked.

She slowly shook her head.

He made a face. "I don't know what Malfoy said to you yesterday, but I don't get why you care. You should know better than listen to him. He's always been an evil git; it runs in his family."

She just looked at him, or rather through him, for a few minutes and then she sighed and said "No, I suppose you wouldn't understand."

"Explain it to me then," he said.

Hermione shook her head again.

"Look, I know you thought he got all nice from your influence, but that's just not the case. Just goes to show that not everyone can be turned around, doesn't it? Some people just don't have it in them. They're born that way – it's in their blood!"

Hermione felt her apathy abating, being replaced by fury. "Shut your stupid mouth," she growled, getting a shocked glance from Ron.

"Hermione, there's no reason to—"

"Just how is what you just said better than what any nonsense some pureblood fanatic might spew?" she interrupted, slightly raising her voice and earning a couple more startled looks. "The world would be a much better place and there would be no 'Dark Lord' if stupid wizards like you could get it into their thick heads that the only thing worth mentioning about blood is hemoglobin!" She stood up and leaned down to shout at a very pale Ron. "Anyone can be whatever the Hell they want to be. It just so happens that some people want to be pricks. Leave blood the fuck out of it!"

She turned to leave and noticed that she had gotten quite a bit of an audience. Cold grey eyes in a pale, battered face were watching her from the Slytherin table with seemingly little interest, and beside him Shaw had a knowing, pitying look.

She knows? He told her of all people?

Her heart was threatening to beat through her chest and she felt as if she was going to be sick. This couldn't be happening! Shaw couldn't be aware that she had had something with Draco. The humiliation was complete.

She rushed from the room

Hermione couldn't sleep. Every time she tried, every time she closed her eyes, she had only one thing on her mind. This was eating her up. She swore to herself that she would never ever allow anyone else to affect her like this, because it was pure torture. She deliberately ignored the fact that she would not change a thing even if she got the chance.

Sighing, she got out of bed and pulled on her robes. Lavender was snoring and it was annoying her to distraction, so she was going to just go down to the common room.

When she got there, however, it was already occupied by a fifth year couple, heavily making out. Hermione's first thought was to act the prefect and break it up, but then she realized that it would be hypocritical of her and besides, she was more jealous than outraged.

She tapped her head with her wand, rendering herself invisible, and snuck past the couple, who probably wouldn't have noticed it if she had stomped over them while singing the school song at the top of her lungs. The painting swung closed behind her and she just kept on walking.

How many times had she snuck out? How many times had she pretended to go to bed, only to sneak eight floors down to indulge in forbidden fruit? She briefly wondered if they would have even been attracted to each other if it hadn't been wrong and exciting.

While she would acknowledge the edge it might have given their sex at times, she was pretty convinced that she would have been attracted to him, regardless. Goodness, on the rare occasions when he had genuinely smiled at her, she would have followed him to Hell and back. Imagine him actually being a nice, normal person. They might even have been able to really be together…

To her great shock, she had reached the dungeons and had, in fact, progressed deeply into them. Habit. She turned to go back up and then froze at the sound of a voice. His voice. No, it couldn't be. She edged closer to the classroom where the voice was coming from, unable to make out the low answer that was coming from a female. Finally, she reached the door and she peeked in, seeing Draco and Shaw in what appeared to be a heated argument. A lover's spat?

What a pity, she thought gleefully.

"Damn it, Marilyn!" he ground out. "I told you to let it go, it's none of your fucking business!"

"You made it my business when you involved me in it!" she shot back. "What am I supposed to tell her if she confronts me about it?"

If who confronts you about what? What's going on?

"She won't! And if she does, why don't you just tell her the truth?"

"The truth, Draco?" Shaw asked haughtily. "You mean, how you were drunk and didn't want to and then the next day you felt so bad that you were damn near cr—"

"Don't you dare finish that sentence!" he shouted, lifting his hand as if to slap her.

Hermione gasped.

His head whipped to the side and he stared intensely at where Hermione was standing.

Oh, crud.

Hermione knew that if she moved he might see her, but at the same time, he would almost definitely reveal her presence if she remained where she was. Thankful for the darkness of the dungeon, she slowly slid to the side, out the corridor and a few steps along it.

He came charging through the door, right where she'd been standing a few seconds earlier, and she froze in her tracks. He stopped up, as if listening intently.

"You're being paranoid, Draco," Shaw said, having followed. "Nobody's here."

"Maybe," he said, sounding unconvinced and scanning the area. He was standing too close. Hermione was sure that he should be able to hear her breathing or sense her body heat. "But this conversation is over," he continued. "Never mention it again. If anyone hears, it was all for nothing!" He stalked off and Shaw silently followed.

Hermione was afraid to move for several minutes and then she sprinted out of the dungeons. What secret was it that Draco was so eager to keep

Hermione knew better than to approach Draco in the weeks after he had hurled the fact that he was sleeping with Shaw at her. He had clearly stated what he wanted, and even though she might wish that things were different, she had more self-respect than to throw herself at someone who had chosen to be involved with someone else.

She ignored the voice telling her that he had been involved with Pansy Parkinson for most of the time they had been sleeping together. After all, he hadn't really been involved with her; that had all been for show… right?

No point in going there. No point in dwelling on useless things.

Harry's bruises and cuts faded and disappeared, as did Draco's. Draco kept moving carefully for a long time, however, and wincing even when he couldn't even suspect that someone was watching, which did lend some probability to the story that he had hurt his rib. Good! Let him feel some pain for once! Strangely enough, he wasn't raising Hell about it this time, but then again – his Daddy was in Azkaban, where he belonged, and so could hardly come to his aid.

The weather gradually improved while spring continued. April had quickly come and gone, and then it was May. Would the school year really be over soon? The thought made Hermione happy and relieved, but in another way it made her anxious and sad. She only had one more year left at Hogwarts; soon she had to go out into the real world, and that was a scary thought.

Almost eight months had passed since her first encounter with Draco. Where did the time go? And why did she even keep track of it? There was no use in thinking about it, time would keep passing and one morning she'd wake up and this would all be in a distant past. The thought was depressing.

"HE KILLED HIM!" Myrtle shouted at Hermione. "YOUR POTTER IS A MURDERER!"

Hermione nearly had a heart attack before realizing that this was just one more of Myrtle's antics. Then she got annoyed.

She was at a girls' bathroom on the fifth floor, where she had been freshening up before dinner, when suddenly the screeching ghost had emerged from one of the cisterns, throwing her mad accusations around.

"Who did Harry supposedly kill?" she asked irritably.

"Draco Malfoy!" Myrtle said, breaking into sobs. "He wasn't doing anything, we were just talking – he's really a nice and sensitive boy – and then Potter barged in and killed him! Like this!" She did a wild slashing motion.

Hermione's heart stopped and her eyes bulged. "M-Malfoy's dead?" she whispered.

Myrtle nodded dramatically and Hermione's world started spinning.

He can't be dead. Why would Harry kill him? He can't be dead. I love him. He can be as mean as he wants to be, as long as he's not dead!

Tears were threatening to take over, but she needed more information.

"W-why did Harry do this? Are you sure that Dra-I mean, Malfoy's dead?"

"Harry Potter is a mean boy! He doesn't care how others feel. I bet he did it just out of spite! And Malfoy was sliced right up, there was blood everywhere when Professor Snape came and closed him up and took him to the hospital wing!" The ghost started wailing again.

Something registered with Hermione. "He was healed and taken to the hospital wing?" she asked. "Then he's not dead?"

"Well," Myrtle said, sniffing and looking thoughtful. "I suppose there's a chance that he might not be… yet…"

"You idiot of an excuse for a ghost!" Hermione hissed, feeling relieved and furious at the same time. "Be glad that you're already dead or I would kill you!"

Myrtle shrieked with outrage, and, with a plop, she disappeared down the cistern she had come from.

Hermione was battling to get her feelings under control. Draco was not dead. That simple fact now had her feeling what almost felt like euphoria, but Harry sure had some explaining to do

Hermione was sitting in the common room, playing with her light. It stayed hovering wherever you put it and it was sort of amusing to just poke it around. Not that she felt very amused right now. She supposed Harry might have had his reasons for using the unknown spell on Draco, but that simply wasn't good enough. Ginny was, of course, being a bitch about the whole thing and defending her boyfriend. It probably didn't help that she was still sore about catching Hermione kissing Draco. Hermione didn't think that either of them was being fair in vilifying Draco that much, but she could hardly say anything about the matter without risking that Ginny would tell Harry everything.

She wouldn't risk it. Not because she didn't want them to know; sometimes, she thought it would be easier if they did, but because Draco had been all but begging her never to tell anyone.

My family is in deep with the Dark Lord. I could get us all killed for wanting you, and yet I still do, and you call it a chore? This is a real threat, Hermione. I can't just ignore it. It won't just go away. Nobody can know, Hermione. Nobody.

Nobody would know, not from her. She could do that much for him.

"Hey," Ron said, cautiously approaching her. He had been walking on eggshells around her since she had blown up at him, even though it had been weeks. She didn't hold any grudges against him, though, not really. He hadn't meant anything by his unfortunate choice of words.

"Hey," she said, poking the light again, dimly wondering if it would just go out one day, since there was no way of actually turning it off.

"Whoa!" Ron said, noticing her toy. "Where did you get that?"

Hermione looked at him with a puzzled expression. "Aren't they quite commonplace?"

"Well, yeah," Ron replied. "If you can afford them. They're, like, 100 galleons, if you're lucky. We don't have one. Mum says wandlight does just fine. So where did you get yours?"

Hermione stared at him for a second. "Uh, my Mum and Dad sent it," she mumbled. It figured. The spoiled little rich brat would just happen to have an extra 100 galleon light lying around.

And he hadn't even told her its worth to gain an advantage

Hermione clutched the scrolls to her chest and took a deep breath. As far as peace offerings went, this was pretty lame, but it was all she knew how to give. She had stayed up all night the past two nights assembling essays and copying notes for his benefit. It hadn't been hard to figure out how far Draco had fallen behind in his classes. In fact, it appeared that he had been putting in minimal effort since she stopped helping him. How typical of him. Didn't he realize that he might need it later in life?

Still, she was going to bail him out because one of her best friends had literally almost killed him from sheer stupidity.

She was hesitating outside of the room she knew he was in. Chances were pretty good that he would be cruel to her and maybe even reject her work. She didn't know how well she could handle that.

You're a Gryffindor; find your bloody courage!

Breathing deeply again, she pushed the door open and immediately wished that she hadn't.

Inside was an, even for him, very pale, but obviously not dead, Draco, lying in a bed. There was a fading red mark on his cheek and a similar red mark disappearing beneath his neckline. The fact that the marks were even still there was telling of the severity of the wounds.

But this was not what had her regret.

Next to him was Shaw sitting on a chair. They looked as if they had been interrupted in the middle of an important conversation, her chair was pushed up, and she was leaning in over him. Draco had turned his head, looking at Hermione with a clear look of surprise, and Shaw was frowning disapprovingly at her.

Hermione had really not been pining for another chance to see Draco together with his new girlfriend.

She went over and dumped the scrolls on his bed.

"H-he didn't mean to do it," she mumbled, not quite looking at him. "It was an accident. He didn't know what the spell did." She turned and hurried away again, vaguely aware that they hadn't said a word

Fortunately, it seemed that Draco would have no permanent injury, and he was up and about again in a few days' time. He didn't in any way mention Hermione's gesture, and she didn't know how to feel about that. In the end, she settled for relieved, as he, at least, didn't mock her for trying to right Harry's wrong. It was nothing more than she would have done for anyone else.

Right, you would have done Crabbe's homework, for sure.

Ok, maybe not anyone else, but most people. At least most people who were Draco Malfoy.

She was now officially a dimwit.

Classes were the worst. She had no way of always avoiding looking at him for the duration. Potions was especially gruesome. Hermione did her best to stay focused on her cauldron, but since this was a practical class, it was harder to not occasionally look up or look over at the others. At least, in Arithmancy, she could remain focused on her books and notes, Professor Vector, and the blackboard.

"All right then, class," Professor Slughorn said in one of those dreadful Potions classes, not long after the incident. "You will be working in pairs on a project for the rest of the year."

Grand, I'll be stuck with Ernie Macmillan.

True enough, Ron and Harry seemed to be huddling closer together. Hermione raised an eyebrow at Ernie, who nodded. Well, at least he took his work seriously.

"Your partner may not be one from your own House," Slughorn continued.

Hermione smirked as a look of shock and panic went across her friends' faces.

Good one, Slughorn, she thought approvingly. Think outside the box.

She looked around her. Draco had caught the eye of a Ravenclaw girl, who reluctantly nodded in response. Zabini openly sneered at Slughorn and Nott looked positively bewildered. Finally everyone seemed to have found a partner – except Ron and Harry.

"No, no, this won't do at all," Slughorn sighed when he realized that things hadn't quite worked out. "Robert and Ernie team up, Harry and… who do we team you up with, then?" he scanned the faces.

There were sniggers at Slughorn's repeated inability to get Ron's name right. Hermione rolled her eyes. Honestly, sometimes people could be so childish.

She put up her hand. "Sir? Sir, Ernie and I already had a cross-house team," she pointed out. She was slightly less enthusiastic about this idea now that she didn't know who she might end up with.

"Ahh, yes, but certainly Rudolpho needs someone to keep him rule-bound more than you do, yes?"

This mollified her a bit and made the Slytherin table erupt in peals of laughter. Ron didn't look too pleased, but what did he expect? Slughorn had caught him yesterday, playing with some toy from the Weasley'sWizard Wheezes that he had confiscated from some other student. Hermione wholeheartedly agreed that he needed to be kept in line.

"Ahh, what about the lovely Lisa? Yes, she's done well this year and maybe she can help you remember your talent again," Slughorn said, winking at Harry, whose 'talent' was hidden deep in the Room of Requirement.

Hermione blinked. Lisa? Wasn't that… She turned and only had to glance at Draco blanching to realize that indeed it was. Lisa Turpin was the girl he had teamed up with. Trust him to seek out someone good to do all the work for him. Right now he was glaring at the poor girl as if she had deliberately switched to Harry.

"That leaves you, Hermione, and who? Ah…" Slughorn's voice faltered a little. "Draco."

"No!" Draco exclaimed. "I don't want to team up with that… her! Give me someone – anyone – else."

At this, Zabini coughed, looking as if he'd swallowed something the wrong way, while Slughorn frowned. "That is no way to respond to being teamed up with a perfectly responsible and intelligent girl, who, I believe, has already been tutoring you, yes? You could learn a great deal from her, young man! Haven't you already?"

Draco looked positively desperate. "But I hate her!"

Zabini was now openly sniggering, having the time of his life, while Hermione's back had stiffened, her face had flushed and she knew her eyes were too bright. She couldn't help but being hurt and humiliated by this exchange. She didn't want to team up with Draco either; at this moment she never wanted to lay her eyes on him again. Being talked about like this was simply too much. She wished Slughorn wouldn't force them to work together.

Harry leaned in and whispered. "Don't worry about it, Hermione. You know that's just how he is." When she didn't reply, he added "Want me to beat him up again?" Which brought a small smile from her, but she was still considering whether dropping Potions might not just be worth it.

The professor now looked really angry, his face red, bordering on purple. It was the first time anyone had seen him in this state. "20 points from Slytherin!" he barked. "You will team up with Hermione Granger. You will do your part. And you will do well at it or, so help me, I will make sure that you never make your NEWT next year in this class! Am I making myself clear?"

A silence fell over the room before Draco weakly said "Yes, sir."

"Good," Slughorn said, suddenly beaming again and beginning to hand out their assignments. "Each assignment is unique. You will make everything from scratch, following these directions, and in one month you should have something to show for it. Have fun!"

Not bloody likely.

Harry left to go to join Turpin at her table and Ron and Ernie bent over their assignment, studying it. Hermione stared at the piece of parchment with their directions. Their directions. Fortunately, most recipes required a whole lot of waiting, and they didn't have to be near each other for that.

She began reading. It didn't seem very complicated, it was mostly about timing. A few minutes later, Draco walked over and leaned against the table, not looking at her or the instructions. She ignored him while she finished reading.

"So, what am I supposed to do?" he asked, still not looking her way.

Merlin, was he pouting? What a brat.

"Get your cloak," she said. "We're going out." She was glad that she had spent the break outside in the nice weather and so had her outerwear with her.

"Why?" he asked.

"You'd know if you'd bothered to read the assignment," she bit out and began walking, not bothering to make sure that he kept up.

He caught up with her a few minutes later, clasping his cloak.

"You know," he said. "You don't have to be such a bitch about it."

Hermione clenched her jaw painfully to refrain from replying to that.

"So where are we going?" he asked again.

"To the gardens," she forced out. "It has to be fresh, so we're cutting the ingredients ourselves."

He frowned. "Shouldn't that be a part of Herbology instead?" Neither of them were taking Herbology this year, as he well knew.

"Well, funny enough, Herbology and Potions are connected."

"Still with the bitching," he said.

Hermione's hands were now tight fists, her nails digging into her palms.

Just ignore him. He's only trying to provoke you.

Madam Sprout had been expecting them and in short order they were left on their own to dig up stuff with admonitions to not take more than they needed or step on the sprigs. Hermione went to work, but Draco only stood around with a look of distaste on his face.

"You know," she said, wiping her brow, well aware that she would get dirty smudges on her face. "You'd be out of here faster if you actually helped."

He carefully rearranged his robes, so he wouldn't get dirt on them, while making his way through the garden to where she was standing.

"Don't we have people for this? Like that enormously stupid Longbottom…"

Hermione straightened. "You noticed that Neville is good with plants?"

Draco frowned. "No… But there you go!"

Hermione made a derisive sound and threw him the gloves, not caring that dirt spattered onto his robes. "You get the Devil's Snare!"

He blanched. "We need bits from a Devil's Snare?"

"And then the mandrake root."

"You're joking!"

Hermione considered for a moment but then sighed. No, they really didn't need either of those troublesome and deadly plants. It would have been fun to watch him struggle, though. "I suppose. But we do need wolfsbane."

He shot her a very dark look before he obliged. Hermione couldn't help but smirk. Lamentably, however, he seemed to handle the poisonous plant well enough to not die or even need to go to the hospital wing… again.

Finally they had what they needed and were making their way back.

"How come nobody else is out here?" Draco asked. "We can't be the only pair out of six to need fresh plants."

"I suppose they could start out with preparing dried or conserved things," Hermione said, shrugging.

"And why couldn't we?"

Because I said so, and you didn't even bother to read the bloody assignment?

"We needed this first. We'll have to hurry if we want to get it all chopped and sliced in class."

He didn't reply but merely sped up his pace. It seemed he couldn't be rid of her fast enough. Well, fine, right back at him. Still, there were some details they needed to work out.

"We need to make a plan," she said. He didn't reply. "The most important thing is the full moon. If I remember correctly, that will be on the 22nd. That is this Thursday, so you will need to meet me out here at midnight."

He stopped dead in his tracks. "What?"

"I said—"

"I heard you the first time," he rudely interrupted. "What the Hell are you playing at?"

"Homework," she gritted out. "And guess what? You'll have to meet me at least once before that to get everything else ready in time."

He glared at her as if she was making all this up just to be alone with him and Hermione lost it. She yanked the instructions out of her bag and shoved them at him so hard that she sent him stumbling a step back.

"READ THE DAMN ASSIGNMENT!!!" she shouted, before she stalked off.

Author's Note 5: First of all, I'm sort of proud of this chapter. It might not have great sex, or tension, or angst or whatever, but it's FILLER, and as such I actually managed to get it to BE about something! Yay!

Author's Note 6: I'm never, never, never, ever, EVER doing the whole 'let's do a potion not thoroughly described in the books' bit again. All this research resembles WORK! And, oh yeah, full moon WAS on the 22nd in May that year… But I know you know that.

Author's Note 7: And yeees, forcing them to group is rather cliché. I still think I pulled it off. :P Of course Draco would go for a clever partner, who was not Hermione, and of course Slughorn would show favoritism towards Harry and redistribute the cleverness. And hey… About time someone tried to mix the houses :P