Cod evening laydeez and gentz. It's update time (later than planned as per usual).

Thank you to all who reviewed. Enjoy the next chappy, tell me what you think!

Chapter 5

She couldn't help but remain rooted to the spot, open-mouthed at what had just happened. Just who did Malfoy think he was? What made him think he could…manhandle her in any way he saw fit? The nerve! She could tell that Dumbledore's words had meant nothing to him by the way he had just behaved. She saw the look of disgust on his face when he pushed her away from him as if she was some nastily contagious disease. It made her feel ashamed for the feelings she thought she had for him, ashamed for even confiding in Ginny about how confused he made her feel.

She balled her fists with new resolve, almost relishing the stinging sensation she felt from her nails digging into her palms. Her dark eyes narrowed as she began to catch up to her nemesis, walking between shadow and pools of moonlight as she passed the arched castle windows. She was meters away from him now, well within range to shoot a nice, gruesome hex at him. An uncharacteristic smirk crept across her face and she reached for her wand. Her hand froze, however, at the realisation of what she was doing. Attacking somebody while their back was turned? Truly a coward's way; and Hermione Granger was certainly not a coward. She began to wonder if being around the Slytherin was finally influencing her to become scheming and deceitful. She snorted. As if anybody would blame her for trying to kill him.

"Hurry up Granger, we haven't got all night," the silky voice abruptly threw her off her train of thought. "I've known slugs that travel faster than you."

The retort bubbled out of her mouth before she knew what she was doing. "Nice to know that you keep to your own kind then," she smiled sweetly at him when he spun around to glare at her.

"As much as I'd love to continue with this banter, we have a job to do," Malfoy said, refusing to rise to the bait. He noted Hermione's look of disbelief with satisfaction. Her wide eyes, parted lips, and her wild, chestnut hair that fell around her face made her appear so… Draco searched for the right word. Innocent…

Hermione shook her head as if to clear it, clearly caught off guard by what he had just said. He felt smug just to have shut her up for over ten seconds. She was clearly having an internal battle, probably deciding whether or not he was being serious. He didn't blame her of course; she should always be on guard around him. Any chink in her armour and he'd be the first to slip in there and…

And what? A voice in his mind posed the question he had been thinking about over and over during the past couple months. What would he do once he had found her weakness? Make her pay for being such an infuriating little bitch? What distress would she feel from a few well calculated insults? She had taken plenty of verbal-abuse from him in the past and brushed it off, seeming unfazed by his attempts to upset her. Draco clenched his jaw, waiting for the flabbergasted witch in front of him to stop impersonating a goldfish.

Eventually she spoke. "Y- you're quite right Malfoy," Hermione straightened her posture and lifted her chin, as if waiting for him to defy her. She received a deadpan look from Malfoy, clearly sending her the message that her opinion meant very little to him. She continued with what she knew best; logic. "We should plan what order we're going to search the castle. I think we should start with the areas where the school houses are for tonight, and do other sections of the castle on a different night. So firstly we should look around the Gryffindor tower, because that's on the highest floor, and then continue down the castle with Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and finishing with…"

She didn't bother finishing the sentence, knowing full well it was a lost cause. Malfoy had stopped listening to her and was inspecting his nails with some interest, leaning his shoulder against the cold stone wall. He looked up after a few moments of silence.

"Oh, have you finished your ramblings now?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Hermione sighed, her shoulders slumped in defeat. She should have known that his mature outlook on the task was going to last a nanosecond. The Sorting Hat's credibility was definitely being questioned.

Draco stood up and turned to walk in the direction of the Gryffindor tower, once again leaving an astonished Hermione behind.

The next hour went by as smoothly as expected, considering whom she was dealing with. They had finished the first three houses without any sign of life, which came as a surprise considering it was the weekend. It seemed that the students were beginning to understand the importance of adhering to their curfew. Unlike Harry, Ron and she did in their earlier years. Hermione smiled to herself, her thoughts being her only salvation from the blonde monster prowling to the right of her.

The air was getting colder as they descended into the dark dungeons, and she could see her breath fogging before her whenever she breathed out. Shivering, she wrapped her black winter cloak around her tightly, rubbing her arms for warmth. She heard Malfoy mutter a spell, and balls of orange fire flew to the unlit torches on the wall, providing sufficient illumination for them both to see. He made a comment of her being too incompetent to walk around the dungeons in the dark without falling on her worthless arse. By now, Hermione was used to his sly comments and just nodded absentmindedly. She continued to do this when Malfoy began to point out the differences between them both; something to do with how he was far more superior to her for many reasons. Looks, money, important connections, wit, charm… Until then, she had been rolling her eyes and sighing, but the last comment made her snort.

"Charm? What do you know about that? You have about as much 'charm' as a rabid banshee on a bad day, Malfoy. Perhaps less."

Draco narrowed his silver eyes angrily. "That's because I only use it with people I like Granger, and when you're around there you aren't worth me wasting my energy being nice to," he finished with a sneer.

Even from where she was standing, Hermione could he the hate flashing in his eyes. She shrugged off the feeling of unease by playing the memory of him being transfigured into a ferret in their fourth year in her mind. A ghost of a smile traced her lips.

"Good, because the sort of, and I use this word loosely here Malfoy, people that you're civil with aren't the kind I want to be near," she lifted up her hand and began using her fingers to count as she listed examples conversationally. "You know, narrow minded pure-blood maniacs, Death Eaters-"

Hermione halted abruptly when Malfoy suddenly stood in her path, clenching his jaw and glaring heatedly. Swallowing, she noticed a muscle in his jaw twitch. She had only ever seen him this angry once before. Apprehension built somewhere in her stomach as seconds of silence seemed to drag. She could practically see thoughts in his mind whirring around, and flinched as he brought his left arm up. He sneered.

"Why did you flinch then Granger? Scared I was going to hit you?" he mocked, slowly rolling the black sleeve up of his cloak. Hermione's eyes widened and she shook her head. "Yes you were. You were terrified that the big bad Death Eater was going to hit you," he whispered, walking towards her menacingly.

She hated when he did this to her. Resorting to intimidation tactics to get as if to prove a point. She suddenly found the use of her voice. "I- I never said that you were-"

She winced as his hand collided with the rough wall behind her, missing her face by inches. She knew it was intentional.

"Listen closely, you filthy bitch, because I'm only going to say this once. Don't you ever insinuate that I have anything to do with Voldemort's little group of lost sheep who can't think for themselves. My idea of a good time is not risking my precious arse following The Boy Who Unfortunately Lived around all the bloody time!"

Malfoy yanked his left sleeve up to show his pale forearm to an alarmed Hermione, taking some satisfaction in her shaken demeanour. A faded skull with a protruding snake tongue was still slightly visible on his arm, clearly showing his attempt of trying to erase the mark from his skin and his life. Dumbledore's words rang through his mind, and Draco's eyes darkened as he thought about what Hermione had just said. How dare she compare him to the likes of his father-

No. Now was not the time to be wallowing in the past. He was stronger than that. Straightening up his broad shoulders, he rolled down his sleeve; not taking his glare away from Hermione's shocked brown eyes in front of him. His breathing was suddenly heavy, and he didn't know why. Draco didn't give a shit about anything the stupid Mudblood had to say, so why did his composure slip so easily when she shot her mouth off about the company she thought he kept? Did he even blame her? With his dark past he doubted that most of the school trusted him. They were amazed that he was made Head Boy after his failed attempt of Dumbledore's life. It was common knowledge that Crabbe and Goyle had already succumbed to the Dark Lord's empty promises; did she really assume that he was also the type to still be swayed by the egomaniac that had ripped his life apart? A fresh wave of anger surged through his veins, almost blinding him.

Hermione was at a loss for words. Subtly, she began calculating whether or not she could make a run for it. The air between them was laced with a poisonous animosity that was consuming her thoughts. How could one person be filled with so much hate? The thought scared her.

The heavy silence was broken when they heard a shuffling noise in a classroom nearby. Both the student's heads turned towards the disturbance, one covertly relieved of the distraction, one overtly annoyed. Neither spoke. Both waited in silence expectantly. They heard no noise again, but this time with a muffled voice. Hermione noticed Draco frowning, clearly deliberating if he should check the room. She was surprised at her nervousness. Something wasn't quite right, and Malfoy's expression mirrored her thoughts. Maybe it was just because she had been in his presence for too long, but the feeling of uneasiness didn't lift when once again the corridor fell silent.

It was almost as if Malfoy read her mind when he murmured his next words. "You stay here and keep watch in the corridor. I'll check the room."

Hermione nodded, reaching for her wand in her pocket, watching him do the same. She noted that he must be feeling equally as apprehensive, as he wasn't charging into the classroom with an arrogant smirk at the fact he was about to reprimand a fellow pupil. Glancing at Hermione over his shoulder, Malfoy moved to the side of the door and opened it silently.

Nothing happened.

Hermione let out a breath of air that she didn't realise she was holding. Malfoy stepped in the room, lighting the end of his wand silently. She watched him disappear into the darkness and waited, calming herself by running through different defensive spells. After what seemed like an age, Malfoy stepped back out. She almost gasped at how pale he looked.

"Empty," he muttered.

Hermione nodded her head, still keeping her wand in her hand.

"Maybe we should finish now, I don't think we're going to find anything…" she trailed off, suddenly very interested in her feet. She sensed Malfoy shake his head.

"If you're too scared of the Slytherin's headquarters then fine, I'll finish up here and you can go back to the common room," he taunted.

"Oh, get stuffed Malfoy. I'm not too scared, just tired," she wasn't lying. As soon as she had finished speaking she stifled a yawn with the back of her hand.

"Just go. I'll finish here," Malfoy said. It was clearly an order and not a statement. She wasn't going to argue with him. A feeling of suspicion crept into her mind, but another yawn caused it to vanish. The only thing on her mind right then was her bed.

Without saying goodbye she turned on her heel and left. Hermione could practically feel a pair of grey eyes burning into her back.

With a languid flick of his wand, professor Snape enchanted the piece of chalk to scrawl notes on the blackboard behind his desk whilst he continued to talk. The cold classroom was filled with the sounds of students diligently taking notes whilst he explained the workings of a complicated defensive spell. Ron sighed and lifted his head up, rubbing his sore neck. Gone were the days where a simple Shield Charm would do the trick. He looked longingly at his battered gold watch, as if willing time to speed up so the class would finish. Unfortunately he didn't possess any time changing powers, and grudgingly bent back down over his parchment to continue taking notes. To his left he saw Hermione's hand flying from left to right across her parchment whilst she was glancing up occasionally, seeming to drink in the words the hooked nose professor was speaking.

Ron rolled his eyes, and stole a glance to the small desk on his right where Harry was sitting. He was apparently paying very little attention to what Snape was saying, and doodling on his parchment absently. They would just have to lend Hermione's notes later on. Not that Harry needed any extra help of course; he was destined to pass Defence Against the Dark Arts with flying colours. In fact, if anybody needed to concentrate right now it was Ron.

"Weasley, is there any particular reason why you aren't taking notes?" Snape's cold voice startled Ron out of his reverie of winning the next Gryffindor Quidditch match against Ravenclaw.

"Umm…" Ron began to mumble, clumsily rushing to pick up his quill once more. In his haste his elbow knocked his black ink pot which spilt over his parchment, ruining the few notes he had bothered to take down. He shook his head, messy red hair falling into his eyes which were cast downward to avoid the cold, dark glare from his teacher.

"Or perhaps you feel you have learnt all there is to know about the Dark Arts through being friends with the Boy Who Lived."

A few of the Slytherins in the class laughed cruelly and Ron's ears turned pink whilst he silently glared at the empty glass pot, lying on its side almost mockingly. He was imagining jumping to his feet and firing numerous gruesome hexes to disfigure the loathsome professor. This made him feel marginally better. He could sense Harry tensing beside him, but Ron shook his head quickly to discourage any reaction, which Snape took as a reply.

"Good, now carry on with your work."

Hermione cast a worried glance in her friend's direction, and noticed that Malfoy had laughed the loudest at Ron's expense. She scowled at Malfoy's childish behaviour. Hermione had noticed that Ron's concentration had been slipping over the past few weeks and couldn't help but be concerned about his grades. Of course she would offer her notes if he ever asked for help, but she shouldn't have to. She pondered briefly over what could be distracting him lately, and came to the conclusion that she was probably better off not knowing. Who knew what went on in his mind? It probably had something to do with Quidditch anyway. Eventually the class ended and there was a flurry of movement from eager students trying to get out of the room. Hermione and Ron were one of the last to leave.

"I've been meaning to ask you, is the prefect's meeting about the Christmas ball on tonight?" Ron asked, holding a door open politely for his friend to walk through. Hermione nodded tried to hide her surprise at his polite gesture.

"Yes, tonight at seven in the Head's common room. Don't forget to remind Ginny as well," she added.

They entered the Great Hall and immediately spotted Harry's black messy hair in the middle of the Gryffindor table, who was sitting next to Ginny. Ron pulled a face at Hermione and she giggled, dragging him the sleeve of his robes to sit him opposite the couple. They didn't notice a pair of eyes watching them in distaste from the Slytherin table.

"I don't think that idea is very suitable, Luna. Dwarves can't sing very well and would definitely spoil the festive mood," Hermione objected tactfully. The truth being that the idea of having the dwarves back in the school would bring up horrid memories of Valentine's Day in her second year. She glanced around at the nineteen other faces at the round table in the Head's common room. They looked equally uneasy about the idea suggested by the strange blonde, especially Ron, who was concealing his laughter by biting his knuckles.

Hermione heard Malfoy click his tongue impatiently next to her. The meeting was dragging on longer than he had hoped. She rolled her eyes. He had shown no interest whatsoever, his only contribution being the occasional cutting remark when somebody dared to suggest something he didn't agree with.

"Well I think that there should be some kind of theme to the Ball," Hannah Abbott put forward, and a few people nodded.

"Very clever, Abbott. How about Christmas as a theme?" Draco snapped sarcastically, his tolerance wearing thin. Hannah frowned and folded her arms angrily. Pansy Parkinson laughed snidely.

"Okay I think everybody's getting tired now," Hermione interjected before an argument broke out. She flicked through her notes she had made of everybody's ideas. "I will read out suggestions people have made, and we will vote. Whichever one gets the most votes will obviously win. Now," she skimmed the notes in front of her. "All in favour of Lavender's notion of dress robes and gowns raise your hand."

Hermione counted sixteen people who liked the idea. Michael Corner sighed, clearly frustrated that his fancy dress idea was now out of the window. He glared at his fellow Ravenclaw prefects who had voted in favour of Lavender. They shrugged.

"And what about Romilda's carol singing fairies during the feast?"

Thirteen people lifted their hands, and Romilda grinned proudly. Hermione noted he result and glanced at the next suggestion.

"Theodore's idea of having a band play?"

Fifteen people approved, and Theo leaned back in his chair smirking. He winked at Hermione when she looked over, and she felt her cheeks flush. She quickly lowered her head again to hide her glowing face. Malfoy muttered something she didn't quite catch.

"I know there are plenty more thoughts we need to decide on, so I think this should be the last one for this meeting, and we'll continue with the rest another time," Hermione glanced at the Head Boy to her left, as if expecting him to have some sort of miraculous input in the meeting. She sighed. No such luck. "Okay so Pansy's idea of fourth year and below having a curfew of eleven o'clock…"

Everybody, including Draco (Hermione's mouth dropped slightly in shock when he voted) approved.

"Well that's it for tonight. We'll meet again on Thursday in here. Lavender, would you ask Seamus to start on those posters to put around the school for me?" Hermione asked. The dark haired girl smiled and nodded, and followed the milling students out of the room.

Draco rose from his seat and made a bee line for his room, clearly not intent on helping Hermione clear up after the meeting. Hermione's shoulders slumped and she looked over at Ron. They were the only people left in the deserted room. Paper was left haphazardly on the round mahogany table with the prefect's notes scrawled on them. Ron moved to stand by her, similarly surveying the room.

"Don't worry, I'll help you tidy," he said, throwing a friendly arm around her shoulder and squeezing it reassuringly. Hermione's tired eyes looked up and studied Ron's features. She smiled. Ron felt as though his stomach was suddenly full of butterflies, and their proximity was the cause of it.

"Thanks," Hermione said, leaning into his embrace. Ron closed his eyes briefly, and tried not to frown when she pulled away and walked towards the table.

Ron shook his head to try and clear it; he didn't need to be thinking of his friend in that way right now. It was clear that his feelings were one sided; even Harry had advised him not to make any reckless decisions that would cause a strain between the three of them. Ron had agreed, grudgingly accepting that he should be happy with Hermione just being a close friend. However it was easier said than done.

Bringing his attention back to the task in hand, Ron began to help clearing up by picking up screwed up pieces of parchment off the floor. A small yelp from across the room caught his attention, and he rushed towards Hermione who was holding her finger cursing under her breath.

"What's wrong?" he asked, eyebrows knitted together in worry. He looked down at her and ignored the impulse to run his hand through her soft looking chestnut curls. She sighed in frustration.

"Nothing, it's just a paper cut…I'm being stupid."

Ron took her hand and examined the small cut on the pad of her index finger. He knew that getting paper cuts was definitely in his top ten of annoying things, which included Malfoy. She giggled when he voiced this, causing the butterflies to return to his stomach. He tried not to look too pleased with himself as he held her small hand and dabbed her finger with a tissue he had conjured. Hermione watched his slow, careful movements, noting how big his hands were compared to hers.

"I think you'll live," Ron whispered when he had finished, unsure why he had lost the full use of his voice.

Deep brown eyes met his and his heart began to beat wildly, his thoughts clouded at his proximity to the girl he had been in love with for what seemed like an age. He could practically count the small freckles that dusted her nose; her face tilted upwards, her pink full lips begging to be kissed. He swallowed, licking his lips as his eyes drank in every part of her features. Her eyebrows… her long, dark eyelashes… her soft skin that just had to be caressed. Any sensible thought in his mind was drowned by his desire for her. He raised his free hand and brushed his fingers along her smooth cheek, which flushed under his touch. Her eyes fluttered closed briefly at the contact, and she gazed searchingly back at him.

"Hermione…" he breathed.

Her pulse quickened at the sound of him speaking her name. She glanced down at her hand, his thumb stroking her palm lovingly, and met his eyes again, which had darkened with something she had never seen before: desire. She noticed how tall he was, how broad his shoulders were, how strong he looked. Ron had been her rock and her best friend for seven years and it had only just dawned on her that in this one small moment, their relationship had just transformed completely.


Hermione was cut off by his lips crashing onto hers. She reacted in the only way she knew how; kissing him back with equal passion. His lips were soft, his kisses fervently expressing his long hidden desire for her. Never in Hermione's life had she felt so wanted. Ron bit her bottom lip, causing her to moan softly against him. She was vaguely aware of him pushing her back onto the hard table behind her, parting her legs to stand between them. He deepened the kiss and she gladly accepted, allowing his tongue to explore her mouth. He ran his hands down her back, back up to her shoulders until finally entwining them into her unruly hair. Hermione's hands travelled across his broad shoulders and down his muscular arms. Ron growled and with one hand lifted her leg around his waist, causing her grey school skirt to bunch around the top of her thighs, revealing more creamy smooth skin. His hand moved up her thigh, caressing every inch of her that he came into contact with. She moaned underneath him, arching her back and deepening their kiss even further.

The sound of a door slamming caused both of their eyes to fly open.

"Well, well, well. Don't let me interrupt the tramp and the whore getting friendly."

There was no mistaking the sneer in Malfoy's cold voice.

Oh dear :o

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