Well. I don't even know how long it's been. As usual I blame school. Here you go!

Chapter 7: Pansy's Revenge

The rest of the weekend and following week passed surprisingly uneventfully. Ron seemed to carry out his silent treatment even more aggressively, if that was possible, and no one else felt the desire to mention the party or kissing to Hermione. All in all, things were essentially the same as before. She had no idea what the situation was like in the Slytherin side, and she didn't really want to know either.

It was partly because no one had time to carry on meaningless chat. The seventh years' homework pile seemed to grow exponentially. Even Hermione, who always did assignments when she received them, had to stay up until four in the morning one night to finish a Charms project and an impossible Ancient Runes essay. She knew for a fact that Malfoy did not sleep at all that day and that Harry still hadn't finished the Charms project by breakfast time.

She had gone into the Charms classroom early, mostly to avoid the whispers and stares of her classmates. She immediately regretted her choice when she saw that Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson were the only other two in the classroom, conversing quietly. Malfoy abruptly stopped talking when he saw Hermione, which made Pansy look up as well.

"Oh, it's just you," Pansy said haughtily, clearly unhappy that her quality time with Malfoy was being interrupted.

Hermione roller her eyes extravagantly and took her usual seat right in front of Professor Flitwick's podium, staring unusually hard at an imperfection in the floor plank beside her foot. A sudden, inexplicable feeling of sadness washed over her at that moment. She gripped her seat tightly and tried to think of ways to improve her Ancient Runes essay, but her mind kept spinning in circles. Angrily, she thought of how she should have been enjoying breakfast with the rest of the Gryffindors. Fuck what they all thought! Somewhere in the distance, Pansy laughed—a frightening shriek of a sound.

Hermione heard Malfoy say, "Merlin's sake, Pansy. Stop that. You sound like a deranged bat." She couldn't help but giggle to herself.

"S-stop laughing, you dirty Mudblood!" Pansy gasped. Hermione turned her head back quickly and saw that Pansy's face was beet red. Pansy sneered at her and turned back to Malfoy.

"Oh, Draco, don't be mean. Your joke was so funny, I had to laugh!"

"Whatever you say. . . ."

Pansy lowered her voice suddenly. "Draco, can I ask you something?" At once, Hermione could feel the hairs on her neck stand up at her tone, could feel the two Slytherins' eyes bore into the back of her head. She could not explain why, but she knew what Pansy's question would be.

"Um . . . did you really . . . er, snog Granger?"

The silence was suffocating.

Draco then said evenly, "Well, yes I did." Pansy made a choking noise.

"What! Why would you do that?" she whined. "What about me? How can you forget about me? And . . . and with a Mublood, of all people!"

Hermione felt her cheeks flush, and allowed her curiosity to get the best of her. She peeked behind her just in time to see tears begin pouring out of Pansy's beady eyes. Malfoy had an annoyed expression. He leaned back on his chair and steadily gazed out the window, a hint of his signature smirk on his lips.

"Don't be a hypocrite, Pansy. We all know that cunt of yours has been passed around more than Weasley's dress robes." His tone made even Hermione shiver.

Pansy stood up quickly, shaking slightly from shock and hurt. She seemed like she was going to faint, when without warning she flew at Hermione and grabbed her sweater collar. Hermione was all too aware of Pansy's long manicured nails digging into her shirt, which could easily gash someone's face if she so desired.

Malfoy also got up from his chair, knocking it over in his haste. "Calm down, it's not her fault," he said sternly. He calmly grasped Pansy's forearm and wrestled her grip off of Hermione.

The tears fell once again, and Pansy's shoulders rocked with pitiful sobs. "But Draco, I love you!"

"Loony wankers," Hermione muttered to herself, glancing at the clock for the hundredth time. The five minutes she had sat in the Charms room felt more like five hours. Pansy and Malfoy's relationship downright disgusted her, but she was more adverse to going down to breakfast. So she stayed.

"I think it's time you spent a few more nights with those fifth year boys you like so much," Draco said cheerfully.

"Draco!" Pansy shrieked. "You . . . you can't believe those rumors!"

Five more minutes. The clock seemed frozen, yet the ticking second hand was the only object that made any noise in the room. The silence was palpable.

"Let's stop seeing each other. You know this is all bullshit."

Hermione covered her ears to muffle the scream. Pansy fell to her knees, knocking loudly against a few a desks and chairs, and promptly began to writhe from her sobs. It was quite the spectacle. The pathetic scene made Hermione feel a large twinge of annoyance at Malfoy's insensitivity. She stood up from her desk and marched over to the prostrated Pansy, helping her stand and lean against the wall for support. True, Pansy was no saint but she deserved better than the callous rejection Malfoy offered.

Pansy said nothing but continued to sob and hiccup into a silk embroidered handkerchief. "Bloody hell, how can you be so idealistic?" Malfoy snapped. "You're not getting this—" (he motioned his body) "—if you're sleeping around."

"I HATE YOU!" Pansy suddenly shouted, her voice thick from her stuffed nose. She gave a dramatic sigh and dashed out into the hall, lifting her arms up to cover her face and conspicuously raising her dress shirt to reveal that she was wearing a thong.

"Classy," Malfoy noted. His smirk widened.

"Malfoy, you . . . really should treat her better," Hermione said with some difficulty, holding back a scowl. She could not forget the years of taunting from Pansy and her gang. "After all, she was your girlfriend for how long?"

He rolled his eyes. "We were just fuck buddies, really. She just started telling people we were going steady and I never bothered to deny it."

"Well, at least use some tact when dealing with human beings. I know it's hard for you." Hermione rolled her eyes too. She couldn't help but curse herself for not staying in the dorm room. Life was too full of drama for its own good. She was about to turn back to her seat when Malfoy grabbed the back of her sweater and clenched his hand into a tight fist.

"Does the name Pansy Parkinson elicit tact?" Malfoy barked. "Don't be such a know-it-all, Granger. But of course, I know it's hard for you."

They glared at each other with a soul-burning intensity for several long moments.

"What's going on here?"

Hermione jumped and glanced towards the door. Ron had walked in, with Lavender trailing closely behind him. Hermione's heart lurched when she saw they were holding hands, but she made herself look away.

Ron laughed loudly and forcefully. "Meeting in secret now? Sorry to disturb."

Hermione felt tears sting the corners of her eyes. She closed them and raised her head towards the ceiling before suddenly grabbing Malfoy's arm and forcing a grin.

"Oops, it seems we've been discovered, right Malfoy?" she said with a girlish giggle, swinging Malfoy's arm enthusiastically.

"Indeed it does, Granger," he replied after a short pause. She looked at him, astonished that he was playing along so easily. He had his cheeks sucked in, as if he was stifling a laugh. "Come, let us go to our seats."

Before Hermione came out of her stupor, Malfoy dragged both of them to the front desk that she had sat at before class. He pushed her into her old seat and plopped down on the chair next to her. "Accio book bag," he commanded. His books zoomed to the front and landed neatly in front of him. Hermione was all too aware of the whispers behind her as more students walked in and saw them together.

"Th-thanks," she choked. The held-back tears finally began to fall. She wanted to hit herself. After nights of telling herself that she was better off without Ron, she still could not control her feelings when she saw him. It was just like the first day of sixth year when she saw him snogging Lavender senselessly. She hurriedly wiped her eyes and stared at the blackboard, just as more tears began to form above her lower eyelid, threatening to tumble down her cheeks.

"Come on now, Granger. Crying makes people look ugly," Malfoy said. Hermione laughed silently, but it make her choke up even more.

Malfoy suddenly took up his wand and pointed it to Hermione's books and quills. He muttered something under his breath and blue sparks shot out from his wand. The books and quills shuddered for a second, then each one exploded into a million shreds like several small paper and feather fireworks. Hermione gasped, and gasped again when the fragments immediately reformed into the original items only to explode again. The cycle repeated over and over again, like a miniature and silent fireworks show. She watched, mesmerized by the prettiness and advanced magic.

"What are you—"

Malfoy shrugged and said, "My mum used to do that to amuse me. Like if I scraped my knee or something, she would explode random things and I'd forget about the pain." He smirked again. "Distraction from the pressing issue, always the Slytherin way. Girls love it for some reason."

Hermione let a small, watery smile escape her lips. "You must be showing it to simpering fools."

"Ones such as you, Granger. Good work."

She made a "hmph" noise, but inside she did feel better. For what seemed to be the hundredth time, she thought of how ironic it was that Malfoy was the cause of all her problems, yet he was the one who always someone brought out her smile.

She felt refreshed and answered even more questions than usual during class. Professor Flitwick seemed very pleased and made several comments regarding Hermione's imminent success on the Charms N.E.W.T. She walked out of the classroom with an uncontainable grin and started towards the castle front door to get to the Herbology greenhouses. The fresh air was welcome. The weather had become the curious hybrid of summer and autumn, as the sun beat its rays onto the earth while a slightly chilly wind grazed across the school grounds.

Hermione crossed her arms against the cold and turned her head down. They were going to learn how to handle adult mandrakes today. Professor Sprout hinted that they would start harvesting the most mature ones if the class behaved. Hermione stared into the ground, walking and grinning. She mumbled soundlessly to herself the procedure: first, one must wear the magical ear plugs (as plain earmuffs would not suffice anymore), then while wearing special gloves swiftly pull the plant from the base of the woody stalk. Usually the shock will prevent the mandrake from crying too loudly. They need to be cut immediately, fresh from the pot, to retain the magical healing juices or else they decay very rapidly to form a poisonous film over the branches and leaves. . . .

"Gone loony, have you?"

Her eye automatically began to twitch. Hermione stared at the ground even harder and marched quickly forward, leaving Malfoy behind. "Hey!" he screamed, picking up his own pace. "Who do you think you—"


She didn't know how, but she was sitting on her behind. She felt a sting on her forehead as the breeze blew past, and after a few seconds her eyes focused on a brown pole in front of her. No, not a pole. It was a tree trunk. She lightly pressed the area above her eyes and saw dirt and flecks of blood on her fingers. All the evidence pointed to the horrifying conclusion that Hermione Granger had undoubtedly, unequivocally, indeed run straight into a tree.

"Are you quite all right?" Malfoy said. His voice was shaking from trying not to laugh. The effort shortly proved too great, and his laughs burst out in a giant roar. A few students walking by giggled and whispered to each other, pointing to the tree in front of Hermione. Others stared at the hysterical Malfoy.

"G-GO AWAY, YOU PRAT!" Hermione screamed.

She hurriedly gathered her spilled books and moved towards the greenhouses as quickly as possible. She could feel her eyes and cheeks burn, and she felt the shame welling up along with the tears. She was such a weak person now. Why did she cry for every single unimportant thing? She wiped her eyes with a short deft movement, hopefully undetectable to those unaware of her.

Once inside greenhouse three, Hermione quickly took the seat nearest the teacher once again.

"Oh dear, Miss Granger, what happened to your forehead?" Professor Sprout asked. She had just come in through the storage room, carrying an armful of earplugs, earmuffs, and gloves.

Hermione's face grew even hotter. She shook her head quickly and smiled genially. "It's nothing, Professor. I hit my head on . . . on my bed post while getting up this morning."

"Poor thing! Do be more careful. Well if you feel all right, can you help me transfer the mandrake pots?"

Hermione and Professor Sprout moved the large ceramic pots from the storage area out onto the work tables. The students began to pour into the greenhouse, mumbling excitedly about the mandrake harvest. Once the bell rang, each student picked out a partner quickly and stood next to a pot. The greenhouse was hot and humid with the packed class, and Hermione pursed her lips in scorn. Professor Sprout may have been too generous for her own good, as half of all the seventh years seemed to be in the N.E.W.T. Herbology class.

They listened to Professor Sprout and put on their gloves, ear plugs, and earmuffs. Lavender had forced Ron to be her partner, so Harry went with Neville. Everyone had a partner except Hermione, and she felt slightly lonely. However, she remained near the front and paid close attention, the first to start once the professor had finished her demonstrations.

"Very good," Professor Sprout mouthed as she passed Hermione.

Hermione beamed and began working with considerable efficiency and speed. The silence from the ear plugs and earmuffs ironically blocked out all of her thoughts as she concentrated on the mandrake—shaking the pot to loosen the soil, massaging the leaves to relax the mandrake, and so on. Taking a deep breath, she grabbed the sturdy stalk, applying slow pressure, and in one quick motion she yanked the plant out.

She and the mandrake stared at each other for the smallest second. There was a look of mischievous determination on its face, as if it had a plan to escape somehow. She felt the vibrations through her gloves before it even opened its mouth.

Suddenly Hermione felt a tug from her ear. With wide eyes, she noticed Pansy cackling, and then everything was a blur. She heard everything and nothing, and saw only vague shapes and colors. There were people grabbing her, pressing over her ears, shaking her. She tried to speak, but her throat felt constricted. Where was she? What was going on?

Then, nothing.

Draco saw her first. Without thinking, he pulled his wand from his jeans and yelled, "Diffindo!" He couldn't hear himself say it, but sparks shot out of his wand and slashed the screaming mandrake in Granger's hand into pieces. Hannah Abbott had quickly knelt to the floor and hugged Hermione's exposed ears. Granger's eyes were rolling back into their sockets in a way that made Draco chilled to the bone. Her hands were shaking uncontrollably, as if she were having a seizure.

White-faced Professor Sprout forced herself through the crowd of hysterical students and patted Granger's cheeks, but it was of no use. She tried to say something to Draco but he couldn't read her lips.

"What?" he screamed.

She repeated herself, exaggerating her mouth motions and using wide hand gestures. He understood that she meant for him to carry Granger.

"Where? Hospital wing?" he asked, his heart pounding in his chest. Sprout nodded quickly.

In a swift move, Draco scooped Granger's limp body in his arms and positively sprinted towards the castle. He saw the other idiot Gryffindors, too stupid to even move, gaping at Granger.

Slytherin's pants, Granger, don't do anything stupid now, he thought desperately. The absolute last thing he needed was to have a Mudblood die on him, literally and figuratively.

He kicked open the front doors and jumped up the staircase, nearly running over Professor McGonagall. She promptly plucked Draco's ear protection off and gave him a suspicious look.

"Mr. Malfoy, what on earth is going on? Why is Miss Granger fainted?"

"Granger got exposed to a mandrake scream—"

McGonagall's eyes widened. "Oh . . . oh, my. Hurry!"

They both ran to the third floor, where McGonagall rushed into the hospital wing.

"Quick, Poppy. We have an emergency," she said shortly.

Madam Pomfrey, surprisingly calm and uncomplaining, ripped the curtains away from an empty bed, and Draco quickly slid Granger off of his arms. She was completely motionless now. With a terrible lurch in his stomach, Draco noticed a small stream of blood flowing from her ears.

"Malfoy, how did this happen?" McGonagall choked out. "Miss Granger would never—she wouldn't—wouldn't make such a silly mistake as to take out her ear plugs."

"Granger didn't do anything. Pansy Parkinson was the one who pulled them out." Draco's breaths were coming in short, ragged bursts. For some reason, he thought of his father at the moment. "Is she—is she going to be all right?"

Cupping Granger's bushy head in one hand, Madam Pomfrey slipped a thick, viscous potion down her throat with the other hand. "It's impossible to say," Madam Pomfrey said grimly. "Right now, she's alive at least. It's lucky she wasn't exposed longer or else it would have been instant death. But I don't know. Minerva, could you send for a St. Mungo's specialist? I don't think we can move Miss Granger there, and I'm quite at a loss as to how to treat this."

The potion made Granger's body jerk for a moment before she became still again. They stared at her for a few seconds, and McGonagall got up and walked briskly out of the hospital wing.

Draco sat on a stool next to Granger's bed. He clenched his trembling hands in his lap, eyes closed. It was the first time anyone he knew personally ever came so close to death. Even though Granger was an annoying know-it-all, he couldn't help but feel shivers at the mere thought of her being gone. He was disgusted with himself for being so pathetic. Slytherins were supposed to be fearless, masters over death and darkness, but Draco could only sit and brood over his feelings like some spineless Hufflepuff. At that moment, the hospital wing door burst open and almost the entire Herbology class stampeded into the room.

"Is Hermione okay?" Potter asked desperately. He pushed through the crowd and knelt beside Granger on the other side of the bed from Draco. Weasley stood not far behind Potter, looking as if he had been kissed by a dementor.

"OUT!" snapped Madam Pomfrey to the rest of the students. "You may visit Miss Granger later if you wish. It's a hazard to have so many people here. Did you hear me?" She herded everyone except Draco, Potter, and Weasley out of the open doors.

The awkwardness of the group was felt immediately. Draco coughed a few times and made to leave the room before Potter looked at him straight in the eyes. Gray bore into green.

"Thanks, Malfoy," Potter muttered in an obligated sort of way.

"Pansy was trying to get revenge on her or something. I just didn't feel like letting the Mudblood die on my watch." Draco looked away and stood up. He was about halfway to the door when Weasley suddenly grabbed his arm and snarled, "Don't you fucking dare use that word about Hermione."

Draco laughed, slapping Weasley's hand off. "Don't you have some snogging with Brown to do?" he said, smirking. With that, he dug his hands into his jeans pockets and sauntered out of the hospital wing.

"Malfoy!" He felt a firm hand grab onto his shoulder. A glance backward told him it was McGonagall, who adjusted her glasses and looked at him, or rather, through him. "I know you and Granger aren't the best of friends, so I want to reward you for actually doing the morally correct thing today," McGonagall began. "So, I will award fifty points to Slytherin."

Draco's eye twitched with annoyance. "I appreciate it, Professor, but Pansy was the one who tried to kill Granger. I think that's about a fifty point deduction from Slytherin," he said emotionlessly.

It never occurred to him that he had done anything worth commending, and Potter and McGonagall's stupid Gryffindor sentiments irritated him. He turned away quickly and walked briskly toward the nearest staircase. He ran to the seventh floor and into the Heads dormitory. Avoiding looking at Granger's empty room, he crashed on his bed for the rest of the day.

At the dinner bell, he dragged his strangely weakened body out of the dormitory to the Great Hall. He felt famished, but then he had skipped lunch. Draco took his usual seat beside Crabbe and Goyle and grabbed a piece of bread before he realized most of the Slytherin table was staring at him.

"What?" he demanded with a sneer.

Zabini raised an eyebrow. "Well, we hear that you dumped Parkinson and saved Granger in one day. It's a bit suspicious, wouldn't you say?"

"So what? Maybe I'm fucking Granger."

A stream of laughter erupted from the table. "I hope she wears a paper bag over her head at least!" someone down the row shouted.

Draco smirked and replied, "No paper bag can fit over that broomstick hair of hers."

The table laughed again and the awkward staring vanished soon enough. As Draco nibbled on his green beans, his mind constantly wandered back to the events of the day and, specifically, Granger. Did his actions really make it look like there was something between them? The mere thought made him slightly sick to the stomach. He disgustedly put his fork down and sipped pumpkin juice for the rest of dinner. He had smoothed over the snogging incident at the party by saying everyone was wasted as hell and no one could tell who was who, but he couldn't keep making up excuses all year long. Damn Granger was ruining his life even as a half-dead hospital wing patient. Something was wrong still. The table was quiet, too quiet, yet everyone was chattering as usual.

"Where's Pansy?" he asked suddenly.

Some girl part of Pansy's gang quipped, "McGonagall sent her packing immediately, but her father is working things out with the board of governors! Don't worry Draco, she'll be back soon, I'm sure."

Draco couldn't hold back his smirk. "Finally," he muttered to himself. "Granger in a vegetative state, Pansy on house arrest. Stupid women out of my life at last." He let out a small chuckle and easily downed the rest of his meal. After some more thought, he was satisfied with today's happenings; in one swoop, he was rid of two large annoyances and he managed to irritate Potter and Weasley.

"What's wrong with you?" Goyle asked stupidly. "Bollocks, did they have the lemon cakes today? I missed them!" Crabbe whipped his head around at the word "cakes" and both of them scanned the table eagerly for the desserts.

"No, you idiot," said Malfoy. "Just keep eating. Don't mind me." He continued to smirk at this fortunate turn of events.

Maaaaaaaybe the next chapter will come soon enough. I'm sorry guys, truly :(