Author's Note: Boo. This was initially supposed to be a 5000 word or so oneshot. I'm splitting it into a few chapters, but please let me know if you think I should extend it or replace this first chapter with the original oneshot.

Chapter 1

An Unexpected Partnership

Draco Malfoy adjusted his tie. He didn't like ties. Made it easier for the – many – people who wanted him dead. If he had been Mad Eye Moody, he would have decided that it was a conspiracy theory by the stupid school. He knew that Dumbledore would just love to get his spindly hands around Draco's neck, after everything Draco had done to poor itty Pottsy. Stupid Potter. Always gets whatever he wants, just by having a little chat to Dumbledore. He'd always thought there was something suspicious about their relationship. But he didn't particularly give a damn as to whatever Potter and Dumbledore did or talked about. All he wanted was to stay alive, which could be a little tricky considering his current situation in life.

He swept out of the Slytherin common room, ignoring Crabbe, Goyle, Blaise, Parkinson, but speaking to a little third year. Admittedly, the only words he said were, "Get lost," but it was more than the others had earned. He was cross with them. Very cross. As in, wanted to gouge their eyeballs out with his wand sort of cross. They had decided between themselves that he had a girlfriend. Parkinson had cried, Blaise had smirked, Crabbe and Goyle had stood there stupidly like the idiots they were. Draco had simply swept out of the Slytherin common room, ignoring them but speaking to a little third year. Admittedly, the only-

'Oh Merlin,' thought Draco. 'I'm going mad.'

Whenever he started repeating himself like a song on loop, he knew there was something wrong. Actually, he'd always suspected that there was a slight glitch in his brain, although he would rather die that admit it. Probably from his father 'accidentally' dropping him on his head as a baby one too many times or something... it seemed like the sort of thing his father would do. He was hit with a vivid mental image of baby basketball Draco, being bouncing against the floor and ceiling and walls by a gleeful-looking Lucius. He shook his head hurriedly. Being cross always brought out the strangest ideas in his head.

The Slytherin table in the Great Hall was surprisingly peaceful. He'd gotten there a little on the late side, and there was barely anyone left. Except Potty. And Weasley and Granger. He would have shot them – ingenious things, those Muggle guns – then and there for disturbing his private breakfast, if Dumbledore hadn't been sitting at the Head table. And he probably would have, too. They were all laughing obnoxiously loudly, Potter's still-breaking tenor mixing with Weasley's baritone and Granger's tinkling soprano. Put him off his bacon a bit, actually.

When he arrived back in the Slytherin common room, Pansy sang at him, "We know who it is!"

"Really? Keep me informed, won't you? It really is a little disappointing that I haven't a clue who my girlfriend is supposed to be."

"It's the Mudblood, isn't it?" said Blaise from his armchair in the corner. He was smoking a Muggle pipe, exhaling purple-blue smoke from the corner of his mouth.

"The Mudbl- Granger? Why on earth would I date a Mudblood?"

"So you aren't?" asked Goyle, looking crestfallen.

"Of course not, you idiot," he snapped, and headed straight out of the common room again. He couldn't deal with them. Not now.

He ran straight into Granger, and felt his cheeks redden slightly at the thought of what Blaise had said. How had they gotten that idea?

"Malfoy," she said coldly.

"Granger," he said, inclining his head slightly.

"We need to talk," she said, brisker than usual, and began walking up a set of stairs that led to some sort of tower. He followed uncertainly, not sure if she wanted to kill him or whatever. Once she reached the top, she whirled around with her hands on her hips. "What the hell have you been spreading? Seven people have asked me if I was dating you, this morning alone."

"Y-You too?" he asked, stunned.

"What do you mean, me too? Weren't you spreading it for the sole aim of humiliating and irritating me to the best of your ability?"

"Uh... nope."

"Oh." She looked crestfallen. "Then who the hell did?"

"How am I supposed to know, Granger? Aren't you supposed to be the one who knows everything?" he sneered.

She rolled her eyes at him, the arrogant Mudblood. "You're incredibly touchy today, Malfoy. What, this rumour got you jumpy?"

"Of course it has," he said, shuddering. "I don't want people thinking I'm with you."

"Trust me, I'm not too fond of the idea myself," she said dryly.

He glared at her. "You think I'm worried about the gossip hounds? Granger, my father is a Death Eater." When she flinched, he continued, "Oh, grow up. You know it. He is. And my Death Eater father has a bunch of Death Eater friends as well as... oh yeah, Voldemort! Now do you get it?"

She watched him for a few seconds, her brown eyes burning into his like she was trying to read his mind or something. Then she stood up and started walking away.

"Where are you going?" he called after her, miffed that she was just walking away from him. "Offended?"

"No," she said simply, without turning around. "Finding whoever did this."

Well, he couldn't very well leave all the work up to her. For all he knew, she'd just take the opportunity to spread a bit more information about him throughout the school, and, well, that 

would suck. So he followed after her, his expensive shoes making loud noises on the stone floors as he increased his pace to catch her up.

"What are you doing?" she asked, glaring at him.

"Ah! I did offend you!"

"By talking about my heritage, as you have been doing for the past five or so years? I don't think so. You think my skin's that soft, Malfoy?"

"Erm..." He didn't know if it would be wise to say 'uh... well, duh'.

She kept walking. It was really pissing him off. How would she know where to go? All she knew was that someone was spreading nasty and totally inconceivable rumours about the two of them. For some reason, she was striding towards a statue which asked her a riddle. She thought for a moment, and answered, "Time." He didn't get it, but then again, he wasn't the one with his head always buried in a book.

"Correct," sighed the statue. "You should have been in Ravenclaw, girl."

Granger shrugged modestly. "I need Cho Chang."

Ah, of course. The gossip guru. Typical, that Granger somehow had a web of well-informed students in every house... except his own, of course. He hoped so, at least.

Chang walked out of the Ravenclaw common room. "H-Hermione? What are you doing here?"

"Can it, Chang," said Granger, leaning in very close to Cho Chang. Malfoy watched, shocked and just a little bit impressed, as Granger hissed, "I know it was you. You're jealous that Harry and I are friends, and you wanted me out of the way."

Chang had the decency, at least, to look guilty.

"I advise that you use your little chain of giggling girlfriends to dash this rumour into the cobblestones," growled Granger. "Or I promise, Harry will have heard worse things than about your little fling with Roger Davies."

Chang went a funny colour, and whispered something to the Edgecomb girl. They both hurried back into the common room, shooting back dirty looks at Hermione. Granger, he corrected himself.

"Merlin," he said, walking in the opposite direction after Granger. "That was a little... intimidating."

"Shut up, Malfoy. I'm not in the mood for you."

"Aren't you?" he said, wriggling his eyebrows.

"No, I'm not," she snapped. "I've got to speak to Harry."

"'Bout what?" he asked, jogging a little as she walked faster.

"Asking him to make his little girlfriend keep me out of their relationship," she said primly, turning a corner and disappearing.

He stood for a moment, remembering Granger with Chang's collar in her fist, hissing into her face. It had been scary. He would have felt sorry for Chang, if there wasn't an even longer list of reasons for him not to. Like her fraternising with Potty. And being annoying. And not in Slytherin. You know. The usual.

He stomped back to the common room, all of a sudden incredibly annoyed again. Blaise was smirking in his armchair, the pipe still fixed between his teeth.

"You're blushing, Draco," he observed with a sneer. "What is it?"

"It was Chang," he spat.


"Chang started the rumour," he informed Blaise.

"I didn't hear it from Chang," said Blaise with a small shrug. "Heard it from Theodore Nott, who wouldn't dream of going near her. He said he'd seen you two 'chatting' beside the lake. By chatting, we all assumed he meant making out."

Actually, the 'chatting' hadn't even been chatting. She had invaded his privacy, sitting below his tree. When he had arrived, he had, obviously, yelled at her. She'd yelled back, and in the end, she had grabbed his shirt and pulled him down to her level, their faces very close together, so she could hiss, "Go die." Oh. He had just understood where this part of the rumour might have gained a little substance. Not that they'd been making out. Ew. Like he'd kiss a Mudblood. He just, er, understood how it may have looked to any idiot stupid enough to consider the possibility.

Parkinson grabbed his arm. "Hey Draco! Did you hear?"

"Hear what, Pansy?" he forced himself to say.

She giggled. "The little Creevey boy got a picture of you and Granger together today! Oh, it's just adorable..." Here, she began to scream. "How could you cheat on me with a Mudblood?"

"Cheat?" he asked, surprised. "I didn't know we were going out."

"So that makes it okay?" she sobbed. "And you admitted it! Just then! Draco Malfoy, I'm writing to your mother!"

"Whoa!" he said, grabbing her by the wrist. "I don't think so."

Her bottom lip jutted out.

"Erm..." he said slowly. "I am not dating her. I never have, and never will. Ever."

"Good!" she said enthusiastically, touching his face. "Come here, you-"

"Gotta go," he said, and hastily steered his way out of the common room. Granger was there, her hands on her hips again. "What are you-"

She thrust a photograph into his hands. Yeah, them by the lake... her leaning forward. Oh, crap. Her head was tilted to face him, as she muttered her threat in his ear. You could only see the back of her head and it looked... well, it looked like she was kissing his neck. His eyes widened when the little photo Draco leant to her, and kissed her cheek. He bristled with indignation. He'd been saying, "Never, Mudblood," not kissing her.

"That's... that's not what happened!" he stammered.

"I'm aware of that," she snapped. "I was there, remember?"

"What do we do?"

Dumbledore drifted past, smiling fondly at the two of them. He stopped for a moment, and said, "It's nice to see that the houses are finally patching up the rift. Congratulations, Miss Granger, Mr Malfoy."

Hermione gave a frustrated scream, and stormed off.

"Was it something I said?" the old man asked Draco, smiling slightly, before he floated off again.

Draco sent a desperate look in both directions, and raced after Hermione. He wasn't fond of her, sure, but he wasn't going to let her go kill people, was he? He found her in the library, pacing back and forth as she dictated to her quill.

"Students, teachers, house elves and every other foul creature of Hogwarts. You are all idiots. The idea of I, Hermione Granger, dating Malfoy is absolutely absurd, and he feels the same. You all stink. The next person to bring it up will be killed. Painfully."

"What are you doing?" he asked curiously.

"Writing to the students of Hogwarts," she said, and then went back and told her pen, "Wait, take out the 'he feels the same'. They'd assume we'd have to be in each other's presence to decide that." When the quill started writing, 'Wait, take out the-' she interrupted it, snatching it off the table and writing herself.

"Er, Hermione, are you quite all right?"

She stared at him. "You... you called me Hermione..."

"No, I didn't," he said immediately. "Granger."

"You did," she insisted. "I'm not an idiot, Draco Malfoy."

"And if I did?" he challenged. "You must admit, as disgusting as it is, we're in this mess together."

"And how would you say we fix this mess, Draco?"

He leant in conspiratorially. "I say we chuck the next person who says anything off the Divination tower."

She raised an eyebrow about how close he was, but relented. "I'd say... I think that'd be an effective strategy."

"See? I have ideas," he informed her.

"Yes, thank you, genius," she said sarcastically. "Okay. I'm going to go to bed."

At least she acknowledged his presence before disappearing this time. Never mind that it was only four in the afternoon. Weirdo.

Draco wandered back to the common room, where Blaise was still sitting in the chair, with a newspaper which he was scanning.

"Blaise," said Draco, nodding at him.

"Hello, Draco. Did you enjoy wherever you went off to?" The sparkling in his dark eyes made it rather obvious that Blaise had a fair idea of where he thought Draco had been. The scary thing was, he probably wasn't too far off.

"Erm..." Draco wasn't sure how to answer. He hadn't exactly had the worst time of his life. No, the prize went to... oh, every second he spent in his father's presence. But if he said 'sure', Blaise would interpret that as he chose, and by tomorrow morning every body would be screaming 'oh my Merlin! Draco Malfoy said he loved Granger!'

So he went into the dormitory instead of replying to Blaise. Safer that way, really. He lay on his bed, and tried to think of a 'plan'. Well, good plan it was. By the time dinner came around, his wonderful, super duper plan that was going to get everyone of his and Hermione's backs consisted of... well, nothing.

He ate uncomfortably, feeling the gazes of every student at Hogwarts – minus Hermione, who was glaring at Potter and Weasel – along with those of every teacher, ghost or mix of the two. Their attention shifted between him and Hermione, like they were waiting for one of them to make a move. Hermione did. She stood up and left.

Every head in the room swivelled to stare at him. He knew what they wanted. He wasn't going to give in.

"Was she crying?" asked the voice of a disdainful Slytherin first year.

Shit, he thought, and followed Hermione out of the Great Hall. He knew it was idiotic, but she really oughtn't to be crying over this stupid rumour.

"Granger?" he called exasperatedly. "Granger, where are you?"

"I'm right here," she said, sounding calm and collected. "What the hell are you doing here? They'll think you followed me!"

"Erm... I did."

She stepped out from behind a tapestry, showing that she'd been curled up with a bloody book. Her eyes weren't even red, but her face slowly was.

"Why? What happened to the whole 'if we're seen together, we're doomed' thing?"

"You were crying. I was being chivalrous."

"Chivalry is dead," she informed him. "You were being stupid."

"Charming, Granger."

"I've been demoted," she noted.

He sneered at her. "Yes, you have."

She seemed to accept that. "Okay then. What are we going to do? Like it or not, this obviously isn't going away. Even the ghosts are in on it now."

"I'm aware of that, thanks. You should have heard the Bloody Baron, swearing away about Mudbloods and bad blood."

"Nearly Headless Nick too, talking his head off about how Slytherins can't be trusted," added Granger.

Draco couldn't help himself. He burst out laughing.

"What?" she asked frantically. "Are you... are you having a seizure or something, Malfoy?"

"It's so funny!" he gasped. "Talking his head off... Nearly Headless Nick..."

Hermione stared at him for a moment. Draco wasn't sure why he found it so funny – or alternately, why she didn't. Finally, the corners of her mouth relaxed and she cracked a small half smile.

Once they had calmed down, Hermione brushed herself down and leant against the wall. "Seriously Malfoy, what are we going to do?"

"We could ignore it," he suggested.

She considered, and then nodded once. "Right. We'll ignore it and they'll see what idiots they all are." With that, she hurried off towards the Gryffindor common room. Draco went to the Slytherin one, hoping to get to bed before Blaise pounced on him.

"Where've you been, mister?" asked Blaise from his armchair, sucking placidly on his pipe.

Draco snarled, whipped out his wand, and Blaise started choking on the bubbles that were now coming from his pipe.

"Mature, Draco. Really mature," he snapped, but Draco had already gone into the dormitories, where he succumbed to a night of fitful, restless sleep.

The next morning, the Great Hall seemed kind of... normal. Nobody looked at them. They all seemed to be caught up in their newspapers. An owl dropped one of the aforesaid 'newspapers' in front of him. It wasn't a newspaper. It was a Hogwarts newsletter, with a large moving picture of him leaning forward in the library, a smile on his face, and murmuring something to Hermione, who was shown laughing. He swore loudly, and felt himself yanked backwards by the back of his tie. He'd known it would get him in trouble one day, that tie. Just as his air was being well and truly cut off, the pressure on his windpipe disappeared and he could breathe again. He was out of the Great Hall, standing beside the hole in the wall with Hermione.

He rubbed his throat, scowling at her, as she said grimly, "I think we need a new plan."

Damn straight they did.