A/N: Thank you to everyone who has been so patient in waiting for an update and also to those of you who haven't! Sorry. I'm just really busy right now and don't have as much time to write as I would like. Don't worry, I will finish this story. I promise! It just may take me a while. While you are waiting for the next update, you can check out the one-shot I wrote for the H&V Anniversary Challenge if you haven't already. Let me know what you think. Also, sorry if I haven't replied to your review. They changed their review reply system, and I can no longer tell which reviews I've already replied to. It's really annoying. I really appreciate your reviews though! This chapter is the beginning of the war with the Weasley twins. I couldn't fit everything into one chapter, but I hope you like it. Last chapter: Hermione kicked Malfoy, and Malfoy pulled her hair. Ah, young lurf!

Patent Pending

Hermione was still standing in the hallway with her mouth hanging open when Regulus popped into the frame next to her. He gave her a sly look. "What's the matter? Malfoy get your tongue?"

With a scowl, Hermione's mouth immediately snapped shut but not for long. "Can't you go be useless somewhere else?" She didn't appreciate the interruption. Malfoy and her were having a... well, moment wasn't exactly the right word, but they were having something. And Regulus was very much interrupting it.

Regulus looked offended. "That's gratitude for you. Here I am coming out here to help because I know Malfoy doesn't have a wand, and you have to go and insult me."

"You're here to help?" Hermione asked incredulously, feeling a tad bit guilty about how she had treated Regulus. She wasn't stupid though. Regulus was anything but selfless. "What's in it for you?"

"Just the satisfaction of a job well done," said Regulus with a smirk, pointing his wand at her and casting a spell.

Not expecting to be attacked, Hermione reacted too late and was unable to block the spell. The top two buttons of her uniform immediately popped off. For a moment, she was worried she was blowing up like Harry's Aunt Marge, but as her skirt proceeded to shorten enough to reveal a dangling pink ribbon, it became quite clear what the spell really did. It made her look like a slut. Hermione looked down at her uniform disapprovingly (definitely not regulation) and glared at Regulus. "How am I supposed to do anything useful when I can't even bend over?" she asked angrily.

"I don't see why you need to bring sex into it," Regulus quipped with a lascivious grin on his face.

"Yeah, you're a smart girl," added Malfoy, his eyes unconsciously flickering down to the dangling pink ribbon peeking out from her skirt. "You don't need to resort to that."

Hermione scowled. "You two are so annoying when you get along. And on that subject. Why are you two getting along?" she asked suspiciously, her eyes narrowing.

"Well," began Malfoy awkwardly, struggling to come up with a reason. "He's, um, not so bad once you get to know him, I guess."

"Oh, really? For some reason, I find that hard to believe. And in your opinion, what is it exactly that makes him not so bad now?" asked Hermione, crossing her arms across her chest and watching Malfoy squirm.

"He's a Slytherin, and he's a... a relative," stammered Malfoy, grasping for straws.

"Hardly admirable traits," Hermione said dryly. "Besides, you were aware of those particular qualities from the beginning, and you still found him irritating. Surely, there must be something else."

"Well... since I've gotten to really know him, I've discovered that he's... kind of... funny and... uh... clever," choked out Malfoy.

Hermione turned to Regulus. "And what do you have to say?"

"He forgot charming and devastatingly handsome," replied Regulus conceitedly, flashing her his best smile.

"I meant about why you're being so nice to him."

"Oh, that." Regulus shrugged. "He's bribing me."

Malfoy glared.

"What..." began Hermione, but Malfoy interrupted her.

"Enough of this chit chat. Those Weasley twits aren't going to Avada themselves, remember?"

"Fine. I will get to the bottom of this though," huffed Hermione, turning on her heel and stomping down the stairs.

"Oh yeah? What are you going to do? Read my diary again?" asked Malfoy sarcastically, following close behind her.

"No. Are you going to read mine again?" she threw back over her shoulder.

"No," he grumbled. He hadn't particularly enjoyed reading about her crush on Weasel. At all. But at the same time, he knew she didn't have feelings for the red-headed dimwit other than friendship. And while that was bothersome in itself, he could deal with it. Putting up with her useless friends wasn't so horrible. After all, making cracks at Weasel's expense just happened to be one of his favorite pastimes. Goyle, on the other hand, was a different story. Hermione actually had some kind of feelings for him. That fucking asshole.

And the worst part was that she didn't even seem to know what those feelings were for sure. How could he compete against that? For all he knew, she could be in love with the stupid prick. And then where did that leave him? Part of some bloody love triangle, that's where. He didn't want to be in anything with Goyle, let alone some crappy geometric symbol of angst. He would end up killing the stupid, bloody fuck. And then he would end up in Azkaban. And Goyle would probably come back as a ghost to be with Hermione just to spite him. Because annoying bastards like Goyle just didn't go away. Ever. Malfoy was so wrapped up in these unpleasant thoughts that he didn't notice that Hermione had stopped at the bottom of the steps, and he ran right into her.

"Malfoy, would you watch where you're going?" Hermione snapped.

"It's your fault," Malfoy grumbled. "You shouldn't have stopped so suddenly."

"Oh, yeah? Well, why don't you go first then," said Hermione, stepping aside for Malfoy to pass. "Be my guest."

"Holy shit," breathed Malfoy when he saw the room before him. What was once the front parlor was now a dense jungle, thick with trees, dangerous-looking vines and exotic flowers that looked like they could eat him alive.

"What now, commander?" Hermione asked sarcastically.

"Fuck if I know. You're the brilliant strategist. You tell me."

"I thought you just wanted me for my boobs," she huffed.

"I do. But... that's not the only reason."

Malfoy's serious tone made Hermione's breath catch in her throat, but she somehow managed to choke out, "There's another reason?"

"You have a tight ass too."

Hermione pursed her lips and counted to ten before she turned and glared at Regulus. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm spying, remember? You snogged me for those services. Almost ended up having sex with me if you recall."

"I did not almost have sex with you," snapped Hermione angrily, trying not to blush at the memory of her practically devouring him whole.

"Alright, you almost had sex with 'Malfoy' using my body. Better? Anyway, fun was had, and in exchange, I agreed to spy."

"You are supposed to be spying on the Weasley twins, not us," said Hermione, glaring at him.

"How the fuck am I supposed to spy on them?" asked Regulus. "They're in camouflage."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "You'd think I'd be used to being surrounded by idiots by now, but it never gets any easier."

"I don't know what you expect. It's a goddamn jungle in here," replied Regulus, gesturing to their wild surroundings. "In case you've forgotten, I am a fucking painting. I'm stuck on the wall, and I can't see shit from here. You two are going to have to go in there and do your own dirty work this time."

Hermione sighed. "I hate to say it, but he's right."

"I'm not going in there!" exclaimed Malfoy, looking at Hermione and Regulus as though they were both crazy.

"Well, we can't stay here. We're open targets." As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she got hit in the left boob. The single shot of water was extremely cold and made her gasp. Hermione raised her wand and looked over at Malfoy, expecting him to have his water guns drawn, or at the very least, getting ready to launch a chicken. Instead, he was just standing there like an idiot with his mouth hanging open staring at her boob. Clearing her throat to get his attention, she asked him pointedly, "Aren't you going to do something?"

"Oh, right." Malfoy snapped out of the trance he was in and quickly pulled her in front of him. He held tightly onto her by her arms, so she couldn't even use her wand to protect herself anymore.

"Are you using me as a human shield?" she asked incredulously.

"Yes."

"Are you fucking kidding me!"

"I told you I needed your tits for a distraction, and believe me, that is one major distraction. You can see right through that shirt. That water was pretty cold, huh?" He smirked.

Hermione stomped on his foot hard enough to make him let go of her and then she punched him in the arm. Just because.

"Ow! Insubordination!" Malfoy yelled, clutching his arm and hopping on one foot.

"You got that right I am not participating in some degrading wet t-shirt contest just for your amusement."

"It's not just for my amusement," replied Malfoy, trying to look her in the eye to give that statement a little more credibility.

"Yeah," agreed Regulus, backing him up. "It's for my amusement too. Don't tell me you forgot about me."

"As if I could," muttered Hermione.

Malfoy shot Regulus and unappreciative look and then said as seriously as possible under the circumstances, "It's for the cause."

"I don't care why you want me to do it," she huffed, crossing her arms across her chest in an effort to cover herself up. "I'm not doing it."

"We already talked about this. I will not tolerate insubordination."

"Oh, yeah? What are you going to do about it?" challenged Hermione, giving him a shove.

"I'm going to, to..." Shit. What was he going to do about it?

"That's what I thought," Hermione, said, smirking at him triumphantly.

Malfoy couldn't have that, even if she did look cute with a smirk. So, he shoved her back.

"Hey!" exclaimed Hermione indignantly, returning the shove.

"Do you really want to get into a shoving match now?" asked Malfoy, shoving her a little harder. "Because I will win."

"You will not," insisted Hermione, shoving him as hard as she could.

"I will," said Malfoy, shoving her up against the wall and pressing his body against hers. He either knocked the breath out of her, or she had no objections as he leaned in to kiss her. Their lips molded together perfectly, and Hermione most willing succumbed to his command of the kiss. He pulled away just long enough to say, "See?" before quickly resuming his duties and quieting any more thoughts of mutiny.

Draco and Hermione were so busy snogging each other that they completely forgot they were under attack and didn't even hear the rustling and whispering coming from a nearby shrub. After a while, a disgruntled Fred and George finally stood up with annoyed expressions on their faces.

"They're not even trying to fight back," said Fred, the irritation evident in his voice. "It's no fun if they don't fight back."

"Oi! We're trying to have a war here," called George to the oblivious snogging couple.

Fred shook his head in defeat. "Fucking pathetic. It hasn't even started yet, and we've already somehow managed to lose the war."

"Fucking lurf," George replied. "Always fucks things up. Well, we may have lost the war, but that doesn't mean we can't still win a few battles before it's all said and done. You know, just for fun."

"Just for fun," echoed Fred, a wicked smile forming on his face, his lips a mischievous shade of purple. "Ready, bro?" he asked, raising his Weasley Water Waster.

George's matching purple lips returned the smile, and on the count of three, they blasted Malfoy and Hermione, soaking them in a matter of seconds. The blast of freezing cold water hit Malfoy first, causing him to yelp and jump away from Hermione, exposing her to the wrath of the rapid-fire weapons.

Despite the force of water drenching them, Hermione managed to shout, "Accio umbrella!" A black umbrella came flying out of the ugly troll-leg umbrella stand, and Hermione quickly snapped it open, using it to help shield them from the relentless blasts of water coming from the Weasley twins.

Malfoy gave her a disapproving look. "You do know that it is unlucky to open an umbrella indoors, don't you?"

"As unlucky as pissing off the umbrella holder?" asked Hermione, tilting the umbrella to her side so that Malfoy received a blast of water right in the face.

Malfoy sputtered some profanities until Hermione felt she had proved her point and repositioned the umbrella to protect him from the incessant fire. "Now stop standing there blabbering superstitious nonsense and shoot!" she ordered.

"I'm the commander," began Malfoy.

"Just fucking shoot!"

Making the executive decision that it was better to obey her for the moment, he sprung into action. Bravely jumping out from behind the umbrella, he dramatically held out the pink and purple squirt guns in front of him. With a battle cry, he repeatedly squeezed down on the triggers just like a Muggle action star. However, the minuscule arcs of water that shot out of the guns unfortunately fell short of their intended targets, barely even making it to the edge of the bushes where the Weasley twins were standing completely unscathed. It ended up being such a lame counter attack that the twins stopped firing so that they could watch and make funny comments at Malfoy's expense. After several frustrating attempts to shoot them, Malfoy finally stopped firing and angrily threw his weapons at the Weasley twins instead, hitting one of them in the head. Malfoy and Hermione both turned to glare at Regulus.

"Did I forget to mention that their guns were a tad bigger?" Regulus asked, not even trying to hide his amusement.

Fred and George walked over with their water machine guns slung carelessly over their shoulders. George was rubbing his head, but they both looked rather dazed like someone had sent a Stunning Spell their way. Not even bothering to look in Malfoy's direction, the twins focused their attention solely on Hermione. They weren't exactly looking her in the eye though.

"Ah, sexy schoolgirl. We underestimated you, Malfoy," said George with a hint of admiration in his voice, his eyes never leaving Hermione.

"And we definitely underestimated you, Hermione," said Fred, his eyes glued to her chest.

Hermione quickly cast a Drying Spell on herself and after only a moment's hesitation cast one on Malfoy as well. A wet Malfoy was too much of a distraction. Scowling at the twins, she said, "That was completely unfair attacking us like that. We haven't even discussed the rules yet."

Fred and George both shrugged. "Weasley rules."

"Weasley rules," scoffed Hermione. "That's the same as there being no rules at all. How are we supposed to know who wins?"

"We've already conceded that Malfoy won," George said grudgingly.

"Malfoy?" said Hermione in surprise. "But he didn't do anything."

"Exactly," agreed Fred bitterly."Undeserving bastard."

Malfoy smirked at Fred and made the "L" sign on his forehead, causing Fred to yet again rub angrily at the loser symbol still faintly showing on his forehead.

Hermione looked confused but not wanting to argue only said, "So, I suppose we're done here?"

George laughed. "And people say you don't have a sense of humor."

Hermione scowled. "If Malfoy has already won, despite the fact that he didn't do shit," she couldn't help adding, "then I don't see the point of continuing this nonsense."

"The point is that it will be fun," said Fred.

"Fun!" scoffed Hermione. "This is not fun."

"It sure looked like you were having fun." George smirked.

"Yeah," agreed Fred, his lips tinged green. "A lot of fun."

Hermione chose not to dignify them with an answer which was fortunate as she didn't have one.

"Besides," said George, "we need to test our latest product before we make it available for sale. Pretty impressive, huh? It's called Battle in a Bag, patent pending of course."

"We are not going to be your guinea pigs. Again." Hermione was adamant.

"Battle in a Bag is part of our new defense line. It's our contribution to the war effort," said Fred passionately. "People need to be prepared. They need to know how to defend themselves. Lives will be saved with this product, and we're not just talking love lives this time. This is going to make a difference."

"And," added George, "you could totally use the practice."

"What is that supposed to mean?" asked Hermione offended.

"You were totally unprepared. If we were shooting you with Avada Kedavras instead of water, you would both be dead right now."

"If you can't handle us, how do you expect to handle You No Poo and his Shit Eaters?"

"We can handle you," said Hermione defiantly, rising to the bait.

"Prove it," they both said, smirking at her

"We will," Hermione replied confidently.

"Where do you get off saying we?" asked Malfoy, glaring at her. "I already won. Why should I have to prove anything?"

"Because we are a team. At least for another twenty-two hours. So, unless you are willing to release me from your command," Hermione threatened, "we are fighting. Together."

"Bloody Gryffindors," muttered Malfoy. "Alright, we fight."

Hermione rewarded him with a big smile.

Afraid he was going to turn into a Hufflepuff ball of goo, Malfoy said in his cockiest Slytherin voice to the twins, "And we're going to kick your ass too."

"You'll have to catch us first," said Fred and George, turning and Apparating away with a crack.

"Fuck. Now what?"

"We find them," said Hermione as though it were obvious.

"And how do you suggest we do that?"

"Homing chickens."

Malfoy stared at her blankly.

"I know a Homing Device Spell."

"Of course, you do."

"I'll simply place it on two of the chickens, and we'll blast them out."

"That might work."

"Of course, it will."

Malfoy rolled his eyes, but reached into his bag and pulled out two chickens. Hermione stuffed the chickens with some hairs from the Weasley twins that she had nicked from their room and cast the spell. Handing one back to Malfoy, they both took a deep breath and squeezed. The chickens flew out of their hands and zoomed off toward the northwest corner of the room, leaving a colorful, glittery trail in their wake. Apparently, a fairly powerful Extension Charm had come with the twins' Battle in a Bag because it took a while before the chickens reached their targets. Hermione smiled when she finally heard the first scream in the distance.

"Those chickens should keep them busy for a while," she said, looking rather pleased with herself. "I doubt they will be able to Apparate anytime soon. I changed the properties of the spell on the Whiz-Bangs, so they won't be able to vanish them very easily. Let's just say it will really be a pain in the ass if they try. So, we pretty much just have to follow the Whiz-Bangs from here."

"You mean, we're actually going in there?" asked Malfoy in disbelief.

"Do you have a better plan?"

"Yeah. Let's ditch the twits and go back to your room and finish what we started before we were so rudely interrupted."

"We can't just quit."

"Um, yeah we can."

"No, we can't," Hermione said with finality in her voice.

"Fine," said Malfoy, resignation in his voice. "Why don't we just Apparate then? Don't tell me you can't do a Side-Along, Granger."

"Of course I can do a Side-Along," snapped Hermione. "The reason I don't want to Apparate is because I don't want to end up in a pit of quicksand or something equally unpleasant, that's why."

"Oh, you'd rather walk right into it, would you?" asked Malfoy sarcastically. "And on the way, we can get strangled by dangerous vines and be eaten by a lovely bouquet of flowers. No thanks. Pothead and Weasel might be stupid enough to go on these crazy, pointless adventures with you but not me."

"If you're too scared to go with me, you can stay here with your new best friend. I'm sure Regulus would be glad for the company."

"Not really," said Regulus in a bored tone from the wall.

"I am not scared. I just don't feel the need to get myself killed just so you can prove yourself," Malfoy said heatedly.

"This isn't about me proving myself, Malfoy."

"What's it about then?"

"It's about... Oh, never mind!"

Malfoy looked at her closely for a while and then it slowly dawned at him. "Oh," he finally said. "It's about me proving myself. You still don't trust me, do you?"

"I do," began Hermione, clearly uncomfortable. "I just..."

"No. I get it. Once a snake always a snake."

"You know I don't feel that way," Hermione said quietly.

"That's just it. I don't know how you feel. Not really."

"You want me to kick you again?" asked Hermione with an uncertain smile.

"No. I'd rather you show me in a more... pleasurable way," whispered Malfoy, stepping closer to her and leaning in to kiss her neck.

"You..." Hermione paused, closing her eyes and sighing, "are trying to distract me."

"Is it working?" asked Malfoy, nibbling on her ear as his fingers worked the buttons on her shirt.

"No," moaned Hermione unconvincingly as she arched her back in response to the delicious trail of kisses he was leaving on her body.

Malfoy slipped her shirt off her shoulders, letting his fingertips glide sensually over her soft skin. "Maybe I should try a little harder then," he said huskily, pressing himself into her.

"Oh, please. Could you use a cheesier line? That was pathetic. And I was just getting into it too."

"Would you stop interrupting me!" Malfoy snapped. "I don't need your stupid little comments. If you don't like how I'm doing it, you can go get yourself off."

"It was just a little criticism," Regulus replied offhandedly as though he couldn't understand why Malfoy was making such a big deal about it. "No need to stop on my account. I'll just use a spell to block out your annoying, mood-killing chatter. I only need a visual anyway."

"You are disgusting," said Hermione, buttoning up her shirt and glaring at Regulus.

"What? It's natural. And you two are the exhibitionists here. I'm just an innocent wanking bystander."

"If you don't fucking get out of here now, I'm going to... to..." stammered Malfoy.

"What?" asked Regulus with a smirk. "Turn purple? You should really do something about that. I hear if you let that go on too long, your dick can fall off."

Malfoy started to lunge for Regulus, but Hermione held him back. "Just stop. We should just go. This isn't going to work out."

"Yeah, because he..."

"It's not him, Malfoy. It's you. It's me. It's us..." she trailed off. "I don't think that I'm ready for us."

Malfoy stood there staring blankly at her, unable to think of anything to say. He couldn't seem to find the words to express what he was feeling at the moment.

Regulus, on the other hand, had no trouble finding words to describe the situation. "It's so quiet right now you could almost hear a dick drop."

"That's it!" Malfoy yelled, breaking away from Hermione and charging toward Regulus, who of course, immediately popped out of his frame and into a nearby still life.

"Malfoy, would you please stop? I'm not wasting my time watching another one of your pathetic fights with Regulus. It's completely pointless."

"It's all rather pointless, isn't it?" asked Malfoy bitterly. "You're never going to trust me, are you?"

"That's not true. It's just..."

"You know, you sure expect a lot from me," Malfoy interrupted. "I had to meet your parents. I had to suffer through dinner with Goyle. I had to stay the night in a Weasel-infested Burrow. I had to listen to Potter's self-righteousness. I had to look at Weasel's face. I don't know what else you could possibly want from me."

"You only did all of those things because I made you," said Hermione, starting to get angry.

Ignoring her, Malfoy continued on, "And now I have to hunt for dangerous Weasley twits. Not exactly my idea of a fun recreational sport. I'm doing all of this for you. What have you done for me?"

"Oh, here we go. It's always about you, isn't it, Malfoy? You are nothing but a selfish, spoiled brat. I don't know how you can expect me to trust you when you obviously haven't changed at all!"

"Ha! See, you don't trust me!"

"I... I don't know what to think anymore!"

"I have changed," Malfoy grumbled.

Hermione sighed. "I know you've changed. And I want to trust you, but this is all happening too fast. There are too many things going on in my life right now. I need more time."

"Fine. I'll wait," he said grudgingly and then muttered to himself. "I just hope my dick doesn't fall off."

"This is all about sex to you, isn't it?" Hermione snapped. "How could I be so stupid as to think..."

"You're not stupid," Malfoy interrupted, grabbing her hand and taking a deep breath. "You're the smartest witch of your age, remember? I have changed. And I will prove it to you. I'll hunt Weasley twins with you. I'll hunt dangerous eggs that have ripped up bits of human soul in them and probably even worse things, knowing that stupid painting. Hell, I'll even push Potter out of the way and kill Voldemort myself if I have to. Just give me a chance. I don't just want sex. I want you."

Hermione stiffened and pulled away.

"I'm sorry," said Draco, turning red. Did he really just say all that? He was such a fucking Hufflepuff. "I didn't mean it. I mean I did, but I didn't mean to just blurt it out like that. I... Oh, fuck."

"No, it's not that," said Hermione dismissively. "I mean that's lovely. Truly. It's the Horcrux Hunt. I can't believe I forgot about it again. I still need to earn the last Horcrux."

"Oh, that. Well, you see..."

Ignoring him, Hermione marched up to Regulus. "What do I have to do to earn the last Horcrux?"

"Nothing." He shrugged. "It's yours."

"You're just going to give it to me?" asked Hermione incredulously.

"Yep."

"No kiss?"

"No."

"No touching?"

"No."

"No blow job?"

Regulus wavered slightly, but after glancing at Malfoy, he reluctantly said, "No."

"What about..."

"Would you stop torturing me!" exclaimed Regulus.

"So, you're really just going to give it to me?" asked Hermione in disbelief.

"For the love of Merlin, yes!"

"Why?"

"Because I'm a nice guy," said Regulus, unable to hold in the sarcasm.

Hermione pointed her wand at him. "Try again."

Regulus rolled his eyes at her. "Because your boyfriend already procured it for you."

Hermione lowered her wand and slowly turned her eyes on Malfoy. Unfortunately for Malfoy, her eyes weren't full of gratitude. "You earned the last Horcrux for me?" she hissed.

"You're welcome?" he countered uncertainly, backing away from her. She didn't look as happy or as grateful as he had imagined she would. In fact, she looked a little unstable.

"You had sex with him!"

"What? No. No!" exclaimed Malfoy, horrified at the thought.

"Does a blow job count as sex?" asked Regulus, trying to keep a straight face.

Malfoy scowled at him but turned to Hermione. "I made a trade. That's all. I swear."

"A trade?" echoed Hermione, still looking skeptical.

"Yes, a trade. A family heirloom so to speak."

"He's giving me a piece of ass, I mean a piece of art, in exchange for the last Horcrux," said Regulus with a wicked smile.

Hermione turned to Malfoy in shock. "You did this for me?"

"And the world," Malfoy said stupidly. The way she was looking at him made him feel very uncomfortable.

Hermione smiled at him. And before he could say anything else stupid, she threw her arms around him and kissed him.

"Ugh. I think I'm going to puke. Can you two go be nauseating somewhere else? Sex is one thing, but I can't watch all of this lovey dovey crap."

Hermione reluctantly pulled out of the kiss. "I suppose we should get going."

"If we have to," said Malfoy grudgingly.

"We have to," said Hermione adamantly but with a smile.

"Might as well make the most of this then, I suppose," he said, reaching out and slipping his hand in hers.

Hermione looked down at their entwined hands and then back up at Malfoy in disbelief. "Is this like a date," she choked out.

"Why not?" Malfoy shrugged. "I lurf you. You lurf me."

"I never actually said that I lurfed you," pointed out Hermione.

"But you do, don't you?" Malfoy smirked.

"Um..."

"You can confess your lurf after our date. If you can wait that long."

"I don't know if this such a good idea, Malfoy. We're heading into a dangerous jungle, hunting Weasley twins. We really don't need the distraction, and you have to admit, this is hardly an ideal first date."

"What are you talking about? We're in an exotic locale, going on a lovely stroll with fireworks exploding in the distance. And best of all, we'll be alone. Between your interfering friends and that stupid painting, who knows when this will happen again?"

Hermione took a deep breath and laced her fingers with his "Kind of a cheap date, aren't you?" she said jokingly in an effort to hide her nerves.

"Get used to it," Malfoy replied. "My parents are going to disown me for sure when they find out about you."

"You're going to tell your parents?" exclaimed Hermione in disbelief. She kind of thought their relationship would be of the clandestine variety.

"Well, I'll have to. Eventually. Did you think we were going to keep it secret?"

"Um, no."

"You did," he accused.

'I just don't know how you can be so cavalier about it. Harry and Ron are going to freak when I tell them."

"I have news for you. They already know."

"They do not know," Hermione insisted.

"They do. But even if they didn't know, do you really think it would be worse than me having to tell my Death Eater father? I thought Gryffindors were supposed to be brave."

"You don't know how Harry and Ron get. It's not like they'll be locked up in Azkaban like your father." Hermione gasped and put her hand over her mouth. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."

"No, you're right. The whole Azkaban thing does make it a bit easier."

"You don't seem very concerned about your father going to Azkaban," noted Hermione.

"Why should I? They finally got rid of those nasty Dementors. Father is very resourceful. And rich. He'll pay off the guards and live quite nicely until the Ministry releases him early for good behavior, a.k.a. a sizable donation."

"Your father is vile," Hermione commented.

"He has similar feelings about you."

"So, you're willing to go up against your father and risk getting disowned... for me?"

"Well... I am, but I don't really think I'll get disowned. I am like my father in someways. I can be quite resourceful too, you know."

"So, I guess it's a date then?" Hermione said hesitantly.

"Well, that depends," Draco teased. "Do you put out on the first date?"

Hermione reached up to touch the diadem on her head and sighed. "Probably."

"Then it's most definitely a date then," said Malfoy, smiling at her and leading her into the jungle.

After a while of walking without saying anything, Hermione couldn't take the silence anymore. "You know, it's a little disconcerting, you being so nice."

"It is a bit," agreed Malfoy. "And you not yelling at me feels definitely off. Don't worry though. I'm sure it won't last long. I'm bound to do something to fuck it up. Until then, let's just enjoy it, shall we?" Malfoy plucked a flower growing along the path and handed it to Hermione in what was supposed to be a romantic gesture.

Hermione glared at him. "Congratulations, Malfoy. It hasn't been two minutes, and you've already fucked it up."

"What? It's just a rose. It's not like I picked any of those man-eating flowers over there."

"This is the Weasley twins we're talking about. Do you really believe it's just an ordinary rose? Roses don't even grow in the jungle."

Malfoy had to admit she had a point, but he was only willing to admit that to himself. "It's a rose," he said dismissively. "It's romantic. If it is one of their joke products, it's probably one from the back room. So, I'll more than likely get lucky as a result of it. Everything thing they do pushes us closer together. If I didn't already know they were idiots, I would think they were trying to set us up."

Hermione eyed the rose warily. But it really was beautiful. The reddest rose she had ever seen. And as nothing seemed to be happening, who was she to argue with Malfoy being romantic? She hadn't thought that even possible. Feeling very much like Eve taking the apple from the snake, quite an apt description really, Hermione reached out for the rose. Vines immediately shot out and entwined their hands together, continuing to slither around their arms in a tight coil. Hermione only had a minute to glare at him before the vines wrapped around their waists and tightened. Their bodies were now pressed closely together and in the perfect position to... tango.

"Er, may I have this dance?" asked Malfoy.

"Do I have a choice?" asked Hermione angrily.

"No," replied Malfoy, stuffing the rose in her mouth before she could retort. Wrapping his free arm around her, he lead her elegantly across the jungle floor in the dance of love or lurf as he now preferred to think of it. The vines moved with them, twisting and maneuvering to accommodate the dance. Malfoy was an excellent dancer, his mother had made sure of it, but his partner was not being very cooperative. "Would you stop trying to lead?" he finally snapped.

While Hermione had never danced the tango with an actual partner, she had read about it and was familiar enough with the steps to feel confident that she could take over the lead. She liked to be in control and saw no reason why the male should always get to be the dominant partner. Besides, Malfoy wasn't doing it right. She spit out the rose so she could tell him. "You are going in the wrong direction. The Whiz-Bangs are over there," she said, moving their entwined arms and pointing them in the right direction.

"If I dance us toward the Whiz-Bangs, will you let me lead?" asked Malfoy exasperatedly.

"I suppose," mumbled Hermione reluctantly.

"Then hold on tight and follow me," said Malfoy, dramatically lengthening his strides and dancing her toward the beautiful bursts of color in the distance.

Hermione did her best to keep up and couldn't help admitting to herself that this wasn't bad for a first date. They eventually found their rhythm, and she released herself to the dance. As the passion and heat intensified between them, Malfoy finally ended the dance with an abrupt twirl, ending in a deep dip. Breathing heavily, they both stared into each others eyes until Hermione's eyes fluttered shut, and Malfoy leaned in to kiss her. However, before his lips reached hers, the spell lapsed, loosening the grasp of the vines, and Hermione fell to the ground with a thud. "Ow."

"Sorry," Malfoy said, holding out a hand to pull her up and trying not to laugh.

Hermione pushed his hand away and picked herself off the floor. "Not a very smooth dancer, are you?"

"Maybe I just need a little more practice," he said, reaching out for another flower.

"Don't you dare," warned Hermione.

"Note to self. Granger is not a flower kind of girl."

"Shut up, Malfoy."

"I'm just saying..."

"No, I'm trying to listen."

Malfoy listened for a while and finally said, "I don't hear anything."

"I think we should change directions," said Hermione out of the blue.

"You mean go back? Because that's the only scenario where I see us staying on the path."

"We are not going back." Hermione stated with authority in her voice as though she were in charge.

"Well, I am not going off the path," returned Malfoy obstinately.

Hermione gave him an exasperated look. "It's not like we'll get lost. I do know how to do a Directional Spell. It's basic magic. I've been able to do one since I was eleven."

"Yes, I am quite aware that you know how to do everything. I did go to school with you for six years. Your being a know-it-all was a bit hard to miss with all of the incessant hand waving going on.

Hermione scowled and started to give him an angry retort but then her expression softened, and she simply said, "Oh."

"What do you mean, 'oh'?" He didn't like her tone. It resonated with something a little too close to pity for his liking.

"Well, I can do a Lumos if you want."

"I am not afraid of the dark!"

"Then there isn't a reason why we have to stick to the path." Hermione insisted. "You're just being difficult."

"There is a reason. It's because I said so."

"That's a stupid reason."

"There are no stupid reasons, only stupid people who won't listen to reason."

"I would listen to reason if I could hear any."

"Well, how about this? Follow the right path. Follow the path with the least resistance. Follow the path of righteousness. Follow, follow, follow the yellow brick road. Do you notice what all of those sayings have in common? They all mean you should stay on the fucking path!"

"You've seen The Wizard of Oz?"

"That's not the point."

"Is the point that you need a brain?" asked Hermione sarcastically."Because that's something we can both agree on."

Malfoy glared at her. "The point is that we're staying on the path whether you like it or not. And I'm not the Scarecrow in this scenario, by the way. I'm Dorothy. Just trying to find my fucking way home."

"Are you implying that I'm the Scarecrow?" asked Hermione indignantly.

"No, of course not. You're more like Dodo or whatever the dog's name is. You know, obediently following me, occasionally pawing and licking me."

Hermione got a scary look on her face. "The dog? You think I'm the dog in this scenario!"

"Or maybe the Wicked Witch." Draco was quick to amend.

"I am not following the fucking path!"

"You will because I say you will. We made a bet. You lost. You are at the mercy of my every nonsexual whim. If I say we should sing and skip while we follow the path, you'll sing and skip."

"Malfoy, I realize you're wacked out on a power trip right now, and completely out of your mind, but I really don't think staying on this particular path is a good idea."

"And I really don't think it's a good idea to leave the path and wonder off on one of your silly adventures that always end up with someone in the Hospital Wing. And since I am the commander here, my opinion is the only one that matters. So, you and your breasts and your tight little ass can stick to the path as per my order."

"You know what? Fine. Let's just get this over with and get to the part where I say, I told you so."

"After you," said Malfoy, bowing mockingly.

"Oh, I don't think so." Hermione laughed. "You're the idiot who wants to stick to the path, you can lead."

"I will lead but because I'm the commander not an idiot."

"We'll see about that," said Hermione, rolling her eyes.

"You know what your problem is?" said Malfoy, starting down the path.

"You?" grumbled Hermione, grudgingly following him..

"No. Your problem is that you're too smart, and people who are too smart have no common sense. Any normal person would want stick to the path, but not you. You know 'spells'. Enough spells to get us both killed. And to make it even worse, you also suffer from an acute case of Gryffindoritis."

"Gryffindor what?"

"Gryffindoritis," Malfoy said over his shoulder. "A horrible, sometimes fatal, condition of false bravado that blinds your judgment and results in rash behavior, stupid decisions and even stupider friends. You're lucky you're here with me and not those two idiot sidekicks of yours. They probably would have just blindly followed you out into the jungle. They wouldn't have even thought to challenge you because they are inflicted with it as well. Fortunately, I'm a Slytherin, and therefore I'm immune."

"You want to know what I think?"

"What?"

"You're a moron."

"You don't get a lot of second dates, do you?"

"I could say the same about you," threatened Hermione.

"Well, this date would be going a little better if you would walk next to me instead of two feet behind me."

"I think I prefer long distance dating at the moment."

"You just want to check out my ass, don't you?"

"Narcissist," muttered Hermione, shifting her gaze up to avoid any further temptation. The view wasn't as nice. "Um, Malfoy?"

"What?" asked Malfoy, turning around to look at her. "Why are you stopping? We've almost caught up to the Whiz-Bangs. Sulking because you're mad that I was right?"

"No, snapped Hermione, unable to hold in her glare. "I think we've reached the point where I say, I told you so."

"What?"

Hermione pointed up. "I told you so."

Malfoy looked up and screamed.