Written for D/Hr Valentines Exchange 2004, for the lovely, cherri_emreii.

I apologise in advance for this fic. It is the second-earliest D/Hr piece I've written, waaaay before I had any appreciation of what OOC Draco meant. This is pure, unadulterated fluff :) Rated R for language, mostly.

The following fic is in response to Fic Request #6 which stated the following conditions:

Rating(s) of the Fic: any and all

3-5 Things to Include in the Fic:
1. Chocolate body paint
2. Hermione initiating conversation about how Valentine's Day is a marketing tactic used to create spending while Draco tries to hide all the cheesy muggle presents he bought.
3. A Malfoy version of Cupid.
4. Fluffy and mushy with humour!

~~RIBBONS~~

Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.

- Charles M. Schulz (1922 - 2000), Charlie Brown in "Peanuts"

"Whipped." Blaise Zabini shook his head at his best friend. Although considering that Draco Malfoy was partially obscured under several dozen meters of fluttering, enchanted ribbon, it was likely that Draco missed the gesture. "You're completely pussy whipped," Blaise continued, "when they announce the great Satin Ribbon Shortage of 1998, I won't be surprised if they hold you personally responsible."

Having wrestled the ribbon into a corner, Draco was now prying the lid off a large crate he had recently taken delivery of. He lifted his head to glare at Blaise. "Eat fist, Zabini."

"Look, do you need a hand or what?" Blaise inquired, hopping off Draco's bed to hold the crate steady.

"Watch the chocolates!" Draco pointed to a stack of small, silver boxes on the floor. "You nearly trod on them."

This was obviously the wrong thing to say, given that Blaise's second great love was chocolates. His first great love was his broomstick, but then this was the same for most boys at Hogwarts.

Blaise's smile was slightly scary. "Oooh. What sort did you get her?"

Draco paused in his digging through the crate to scrub at the back of his head. The blasted charmed ribbons he had purchased seemed to be unnaturally attracted to his hair, and he was becoming increasingly paranoid that they were planning some sort of formation attack whenever he had his back turned. Twice, over the past week, he had awoken in the morning to find said ribbons attached to his head. Thank Merlin for the Malfoy Family Code of Conduct, Rule Number Two Hundred and Seventeen: 'A Malfoy must take great care to maintain an immaculate and radiant head of hair at all times.'

If Draco wasn't obligated to make sure his coiffure was its usual presentable self every morning, he would have attended breakfast with six, tiny, pink ribbons bobbing merrily along his fringe. His reputation may have already been in tatters, but that would have been the icing on the cake.

The sound of snapping fingers beside his left ear alerted him to Blaise's impatient look. "Oy, Surly Distracted One. So what chocolates did you get Granger?"

"Um, a box each of Christophe's, Belle Fleur and Godiva. There's a sample box on the dresser if you want to have a look."

Blaise was already one step ahead. The dark haired Slytherin was examining each exquisitely crafted confection with a gleeful expression. "Merlin's girdle," he exclaimed, as he held up a pink, heart shaped piece, "these are so cute it's disgusting. You're a lost cause, my friend."

Draco flicked hard at Blaise's upper arm, causing the other boy to yelp and rub at his stinging skin. "And yet I wasn't the one caught serenading my girlfriend outside her classroom this morning, was I?" Draco drawled.

Blaise reddened slightly. "I told you what I'm going to get in return for that stupid performance. Three minutes of embarrassment in front of sixth year Charms is most certainly worth ten minutes of Estelle's clever little hands on certain parts of my devilishly handsome person."

Draco snorted. Blaise and Estelle von Oost had an odd sort of relationship. Blaise would pay for her new set of formal robes, Estelle would let him put his hands inside her blouse. Blaise carried her books and obediently escorted her to school functions, Estelle allowed him twenty minutes a week in the south end broom closet on the fourth floor. Conversation was kept to a minimum, which Blaise apparently considered to be a bonus. Estelle Von Oost may have looked like a Botticelli angel come to life, but the girl had the demeanour (and the vocal range) of a harpy.

"And here I thought the barter system was outdated," Draco sniggered. He was now in the middle of wrapping a cream angora cardigan in soft, ivory tissue.

Blaise waved a hand dismissively. "You're doing that all wrong, by the way. Paper first, ribbon later, you git. And I'll thank you not to pass judgement on Estelle and I. You're hardly an expert on the subject of relationships."

That was true, Draco conceded. He and Hermione were far from the school's model couple. If anything, they were the anti-couple; forever bickering, hurling insults at each other in corridors, slamming doors and storming to and from their meetings.

Their relationship was no bed of roses. In fact, it was more like a briar bush. Prickly.

But there were good patches, and when things were good, they tended to be exceedingly so. So good in fact, that often, after a fruitful, illicit stroll through the grounds with Hermione, Draco could be found making his wobbly, weak-kneed way back to the Slytherin dorms, too sated to even disguise the stupid smile on his face.

Really, the girl was a spitfire, and he was-

"Gah!" Blaise suddenly said. His face purpled with laughter as he unearthed the card Draco was intending to give Hermione. "'I am the kindling to your fire'? Good lord, Malfoy. If she doesn't zap you on the spot for being such an enormous piece of milk toast, I bloody will."

Draco snatched the card from Blaise's hand and distractedly shoved his friend off the bed.

Yes, they were an odd match, he and Hermione. Plain, old, dislike had transformed into something quite different the previous year. He had begun to find her more intriguing rather than annoying, not in the least because she hardly ever succumbed to the taunts he often sent her way.

By the time they were halfway though their sixth year, their intermittent hallway exchanges would often result in Draco having to retire to the boy's toilets to attempt to glare the noticeable bulge in his trousers into submission. The girl made his blood boil, but in an entirely different way from when they had been children.

Six years of poisonous looks, insults, barbs and jibes had culminated in a screaming match shortly after the new Slytherin Keeper, Ranulf French had perpetrated the foulest of fouls against Potter. As the unconscious Gryffindor hero was bundled away on a stretcher, Hermione had been furious enough to storm into the Slytherin showers to have a private, heated word with Draco.

The small matter of there being four, soapy, nude boys in her immediate line of sight didn't seem to be a deterrence. The sight of a startled Crabbe frantically slapping a washcloth between his legs was almost worth Draco's annoyance that the hallowed Slytherin Quidditch locker rooms had been desecrated by…gads…a girl.

Now if only he could get Crabbe to react that quickly in the air.

Angry, but at the same time highly curious, Draco had ordered his team mates out, and had dared the livid Hermione to accuse him of deliberately plotting the foul on Potter.

The fact that he had orchestrated the entire thing was completely beside the point, of course.

Hermione had been enraged. The leftover steam that billowed from the shower stalls had rendered her unbound hair a riotous halo of brown-gold curls. Her face was flushed with anger and her brown eyes shot venom at him. Fists, clenched, chest heaving, white, school shirt hugging every subtle curve of her slim upper torso, she let loose.

He wouldn't have taken her for a finger jabber. But jab him she did, and rather forcefully too. He recalled gingerly massaging his solar plexus for days after. She called him a despicable, conniving, cheating, scumming, boot licking, pustule-ridden, bigoted, smarmy, villain. This was in addition to an array of other interesting phrases he could only assume were Muggle in origin.

With his modesty maintained by a low, tiled cubicle wall, he had endured her tirade, for no other reason than because he was enjoying himself and becoming extremely aroused in the process. An angry Granger, he discovered, was a sexy Granger, and he had been exceedingly thankful that his towel had been within quick reach before her eyes chanced to dip southwards.

Dabbing casually at his body with the towel, Draco had said the first goading thing that popped into his head. It was way below his usual standard, but at the time, he was too exhausted to have been buggered.

"Admit it. You're hopelessly in lust with me and it's just killing you."

After a short period of stupefied silence (Hermione's) and suspicious surprise (Draco's), she threw her hands up in the air, bit her bottom lip and nodded at him.

Whereupon Draco had promptly lost hold of his precious towel in sheer disbelief.

What happened next was a bit of a blur, but Draco remembered that it had involved a short argument to the tune of "are you fucking serious?" Once the initial barbs and accusations were out of the way, he had attempted to call her bluff by grabbing hold of her chin and kissing her until her knees buckled. What he hadn't expected was for her to kiss back with the kind of enthusiasm she usually reserved for extra credit Potions projects. She groped him like a blind woman, sliding her hands down his wet torso to grasp his bare buttocks and squeeze. It was at that point that Draco's cunning plan backfired. He ended up having to pull away from the kiss before he disgraced the name of Malfoy by having to hold on to Hermione's much smaller frame for support.

He could recall almost hearing the sound of a great, creaking, iron door swinging shut.

It was the downfall of the mighty General of Slytherin House.

And it was all her fault.

A week later, he casually accompanied her on the senior students' jaunt to Hogsmeade. Three weeks later, they began dating. It wasn't until they made the decision to become exclusive after four months of shrugging off curious classmates and sneaking to and from their dorm rooms in the middle of the night, did they make it official to their respective social circles.

The response was mixed, to say the least.

There had been cautious well wishes from the Hufflepuffs who were too considerate to openly slander; curiosity and suspicion from the Ravenclaws; and horror from the Slytherins.

The Gryffindors had been entirely predictable. They had simply balked.

Draco hadn't been at all surprised when Potter and Weasley had cornered Draco outside Ancient Runes, ostensibly to pummel him into the stone floor on their way to Transfiguration.

How odd that Hermione seemed to have garnered the school's pity, protectiveness and concern, while he got the bum end of the deal. Poor Hermione was assigned the role of 'victim', and Draco the role of evil rake. Oh, it was all good and well to turn to Hermione for intelligent, timely advice in times of trouble. But everyone apparently thought her to be a complete dunce when it came to matters of the heart. In truth, Draco didn't mind taking the brunt of the backlash, due to the fact that he was no stranger to malicious gossip and poisonous looks. Hermione wouldn't have complained, not even to him, but he didn't think she would have handled that sort of treatment too well.

Upon hearing the couple's news, Pansy Parkinson was rumoured to have had some sort of breakdown in Potions remedial, and was revived by an extremely unimpressed Snape. Even the usually unflappable Potions Master had had something to say about it, albeit in an annoying, roundabout manner. The austere Professor had summoned Draco to his office one afternoon and inquired, with a perfectly bland expression if Draco was 'alright.'

"Quite," Draco had responded, irked that the entire world seemed to take a personal, vested interests in whom he chose to snog and hold hands with after class.

Thankfully, things got easier as the weeks passed. And after a while, he put his time and attention into simply being with Hermione and enjoying that.

He liked her, he supposed. He certainly liked her body, her intelligence and the things she did to him without him having to um and ah over it. Other girls weren't like Hermione. She was just different. Strange even, as far as teen-aged girls went. Hermione never whined or cajoled or begged him to hold her hand or her books. She never got angry when he was in a pissy mood or when his friends were less than cordial to her. She didn't pout when he showed up late to their meetings, or demanded an apology after a tiff.

Their first real 'special day' had was coming up. Valentines Day. And even though Hermione had routinely assured him that she wasn't the least bit interested in 'all that nonsense', Blaise assured him that this was just her way of testing Draco.

"What do you mean test?" Draco had demanded of his friend. He was usually suspicious of any advice Blaise had to offer, since Draco considered Blaise's girlfriend to be more creature than human.

"You know, to see if you really like her and make the effort to please her, no matter what bullshit she feeds you."

Blaise was romantic and thoughtful like that.

And so Draco had endeavoured to cover all bases and make it a memorable Valentines Day, seeing that it would likely be their first and last together while they were at school. Being a fan of thoughtful organization, he had planned it weeks in advanced. He had placed orders for the chocolates, browsed through florist catalogues, and selected what he was certain were the perfect gifts.

Girls like pretty things, after all. Wasn't that a universal truth? Draco certainly enjoyed it whenever his Lucius sent presents every time Slytherin won a match, or when Draco did exceedingly well in class. Of course, there was also the inevitable disappointment that his father never took the time to actually congratulate him in person, handwrite the cards he sent, or explain why he insisted on the being the henchman of raging, homicidal, mass murdering lunatic who couldn't spot a lost cause when he saw one.

But again, that was beside the point.

That was the other thing. Despite her ridiculously busy schedule, what with being Head Girl and adoptive mother to Potty and the Weasel, Hermione always managed to have time for him. He liked her attentions, he supposed, and she was never sparing with it.

For a Muggle-born witch, Granger wasn't a bad girlfriend at all. **

Gregory Goyle marched up to Draco's bedroom, fully intent on reminding his Quidditch captain that the Slytherin team had practice in less than five minutes. What with Draco's temporary descent into insanity (vis-a-vis the whole dating a Mudblood business), Draco had been slightly distracted.

Goyle was just about to pound his fist on the door, intent on dragging his team captain down to the pitch, when he caught wind of the conversation in the room. It didn't take him long to surmise that Draco was with Blaise Zabini. This was nothing unusual, given that the two boys got on like a manor on fire. But it was the nature of the conversation, however, that gave Goyle pause. Normally not one to snoop and sneak about (his large frame tended to make this rather difficult), Goyle gingerly pressed his ear to the door.

Inside the room, Draco was attempting to tie a length of sparkly, satin ribbon into an enormous bow.

"I could get this done sooner if you'd just put your finger here and help me," Draco said in frustration.

Zabini meanwhile, sounded impatient. "Pull it tighter, yes…just like that. Harder, Draco! Merlin's teeth, you're such a novice at this."

"It's not like I've ever done this before!" Goyle heard Draco snap.

Blaise pfft-ed. "That much is obvious."

Blaise was seated on the bed, busy tucking into the box of samples. He popped a large, dark chocolate and cherry-liqueur cherub into his mouth and then wiped his chocolate stained fingers on the front of his pants.

"Zabini, watch the sheets. I don't want them stained."

"Thorry," Blaise said, his mouth obviously full.

On the other side of the door, Goyle's eyes widened slightly.

"Can't we just use magic?" Draco seemed to be asking. This was followed by the sound of paper or plastic being ripped. "Bugger. Why do these things have to be all wrapped up for? I can't get the bloody thing to stay on."

"No magic." Blaise sounded adamant "You want it to be more meaningful, yes? Just use your hands, you incompetent prat."

Draco was having a hell of time wrestling the slippery satin into place. The cheeky ribbon was smooth and crisp and not at all responsive to his threats to attack it with scissors if it didn't soon cooperate.

Blaise sighed. "Give it here." He tugged the strip of ribbon from Draco's hand, a bit too hard, too quickly. The thin, hard edge of the material sliced into Draco's thumb like a paper cut.

"Ouch! Be careful!" A line of blood welted up across the pad of Draco's thumb. He sucked on it noisily. "I'm bleeding you stupid oaf."

Looking apoplectic, Goyle nearly smashed through the door in his haste to rescue his already straying captain from Blaise Zabini's obviously depraved pleasures.

Draco's startled, silver eyes narrowed on his large classmate. "Goyle? What the bloody hell?"

The sight that met Goyle's eyes was an improvement on his imagination, but only marginally. Draco and Blaise were seated on the edge of Draco's sizeable, Head Boy's bed, surrounded by yards of pink, glitzy ribbon, partially wrapped parcels, two enormous bouquets of flowers and at least a dozen balloons. There was also an open box of candy on Blaise's lap, and a smudge of chocolate at the corner of the boy's mouth.

"Hullo Goyle," said Blaise amiably. He licked his fingers before holding out the chocolates. "Want one?"

"We have Quidditch practice now," Goyle informed Draco, in a meek voice.

The assault on his room door momentarily forgotten, Draco jumped to his feet, sending bits of ribbon and wrapping flittering to the floor like rainbow coloured butterflies. "Shit. I completely forgot."

**

Ginny Weasley narrowly avoided being smacked in the forehead by the six, pink, heart-shaped balloons that Parvati Patil was hauling down the corridor. She ducked her head and then reached out to pull Hermione out of the way. The two girls pressed themselves flat against the stone, waiting patiently for Parvati and her helium-filled entourage to pass.

"Lovely day isn't it!" Parvati chirped, as she skipped along.

"Splendid," Hermione muttered.

It was busy at Hogwarts on Valentines Day. Hermione glanced along the length the corridor, watching her fellow schoolmates make their chattering way to the Great Hall following the sounding of the lunch bell. Many were carrying stacks of cards, gift-wrapped packages, great, big, plush animals and enough candy to put Honeydukes out of business for a month.

"Look at all this," Hermione tutted. "To think we go through this every year."

Ginny smiled. She was used to Hermione being less than excited about Valentines. Though she would have wagered that this year would be different, given recent events.

"So. What are you and Draco doing to celebrate?" Ginny asked, in a respectably casual tone. Most of the school had placed bets on what the infamous Head Girl-Head Boy pairing would get up to. Ginny herself had put down twelve sickles on a Quidditch-themed evening, although Lavender Brown swore that she overhead Draco asking Professor Sprout if the new, yet unused greenhouse would be available on the day. Hermione had been extremely tight lipped on the matter, but seeing as Valentines had finally come, she seemed to be more open to prying questions.

"We're planning to meet up on the pitch this evening," confirmed the Head Girl, to which Ginny made a mental note to collect her winnings from Ron. "Other than that, we're not doing anything special."

"Well I hope you've booked ahead for the pitch. There are only about thirty other couples planning to do the same."

Hermione was incredulous. "What do you mean booked ahead?"

"Didn't you know? Ernie McMillan is the designated booking officer for Valentines Day venues. Dumbledore doesn't want us traipsing all over the castle like did last year. And before you even think it, no, unfortunately Ernie is impervious to bribes," said Ginny, sounding unimpressed. "Harry already tried to promise him a signed Viktor Krum photograph."

"But Harry doesn't have a signed photo of Viktor Krum."

Ginny patted Hermione on the arm, much like her older brothers often did whenever she was slow to catch on to something. "Yes, dear, but you do."

"What do you and Harry have planned, anyway? Hermione inquired. She had put the same question to Harry a few times over the past week, but the boy seemed to come down with a bad case of lobster-face every time she asked. Though in hindsight, Hermione recalled that Ron had been beside her during these instances.

"The Astronomy Tower was our first choice. Unfortunately, it's completely booked out. So Harry and I are settling for Classroom 4C. We're sharing with Justin Flinch-Fletchley and Megan Jones, but we're planning to install a magical partition." Digging into a book bag, Ginny pulled out a tattered copy of 'Magical Home Renovations: The Best New Looks for Less'.

Hermione recalled seeing the copy on Molly Weasley's kitchen table on a few occasions. Ginny flipped open to a page that was folded at the corner. "Says here that the walls can be made entirely sound proof!"

"Harry will appreciate that," Hermione said. She couldn't help but smile at Ginny's obvious anticipation.

"So," Ginny shoved the magazine back into her bag and waggled her eyebrows at the older girl. "What have you got Draco, then?"

"Nothing really."

The girls had reached the Grand Staircase, and were trailing behind the noisy crowd heading towards the tantalizing scent of a roast beef lunch.

Ginny paused at the bottom step. "You're dating the best looking, richest boy at Hogwarts, who could buy you Hogsmeade Village if you so desired. And you haven't got him a single thing?"

Hermione looked distinctly uneasy. "Well I did put together something small. But it hardly qualifies as a Valentines gift. I mean, I don't think Draco is into all this froufrou."

As if on cue, a surly looking goblin-Cupid (complete with a droopy set of white wings) came barrelling down the stairs, chasing a frantic looking Seamus Finnegan. Unlike dwarves, who could be made to look quite smart and adorable in a Cupid costume, goblins looked rather scary. With their green tinged skin, sharp, crooked noses, pointy ears and beady, black eyes, they looked more like stunted, winged demons rather than cheerful purveyors of fluffy chaos. Dumbledore had been forced to hire a goblin troupe to undertake Cupid duties, after the Union of Professional Dwarf-Cupids had decided to go on strike that year.

Tradition dictated that only the girls of Hogwarts were to employ the services of a Cupid, at the token cost of two Sickles and two Knuts. Each 'Cupid' carried a set of golden arrows, upon which a simple Valentines Day request could be issued. Etiquette required that any boy struck by an arrow would unconditionally consent to its attached request.

Consequently, there were more than few boys bolting through the castle.

"Make way! Make way!" hollered Seamus, running past Ginny and Hermione at lightning speed, before disappearing out the castle entrance.

Draco and Hermione's coming out as a couple had caused more than mere gossip to ripple through the school. Their couple status had inadvertently sparked a serries of latent crushes between Slytherins and Gryffindors. Case in point was Millicent Bullstrode, who had recently professed an interest in Seamus.

Millicent herself shortly appeared at the top of the stairs, sounding immensely puffed out. She glared at the goblin, "You missed him again?" before looking hopefully at Ginny and Hermione. "Don't suppose you girls saw-"

"That way," Ginny said, pointing to the doors.

Millicent huffed her thanks and was off. The goblin twitched his wings and followed resolutely behind.

"Traitor," Hermione grinned.

Ginny shrugged. "Millicent is nothing if not determined. I know what that's like."

Ten minutes later, both girls were seated in the Great Hall with the other early arrivals to lunch. A boy shuffled up to the table and took a seat across from Hermione. It was impossible to tell who it was, given that he was almost entirely hidden behind an enormous, neatly stacked pile of cards and gifts.

Ginny didn't have any trouble recognising him, though. "Hi Colin," she greeted, "want me to put a plate together for you?"

"Yes please," sounded the squeaky voice of Colin Creevey.

At Hermione's questioning look, Ginny explained. "Colin is Harry's designated Valentines Gift Carrier for the day. It would have been naïve of me to assume that Harry wasn't going to get a slew of Valentines from other girls, but I've forbidden him to lay a finger on any of it. Colin here has volunteered to help compile all the stuff," said Ginny, as if the arrangement made complete and unshakable sense.

Hermione hid her smile behind her napkin, thinking that the lengths to which couples had been planning for the day was nothing short of mind boggling. Draco had hardly even mentioned the event, apart from a brief conversation weeks ago about the silliness of it all.

"It's become like Muggle Christmas," Hermione had said to him. "Nothing but a commercial ploy by the card companies to get people to spend as much money as possible."

She had scoffed, he had scoffed and they had resumed the pleasant business of snogging behind a tapestry on the second floor.

Gods, she really was dating Draco Malfoy, wasn't she? The fact still hadn't properly sunk in, not even after six months.

Truth be told, it was a hard concept to wrap one's mind around. Her interest in Draco would have been easier to explain if she were the sort to go for looks. Draco after all, was undisputedly a divine specimen of wizardly perfection. But it wasn't just looks, Hermione decided. Draco was a package deal, and she couldn't help but feel that she had scored one hell of a bargain.

Lord, did he have a sexy voice. And hands that were perpetually warm. The boy seemed to come with an internal radiator. He had hair that felt like silk between her fingers, spotless skin that any girl would have been envious of, and a mind that was as sharp as a tack. Too sharp, on occasion, especially when he put his elegant mouth to the task of returning the snide little comments Harry and Ron still threw at him.

They had something, she and Draco, but Hermione wasn't sure what it was. He made her smile, which was something she would never have thought Draco Malfoy capable of. He was actually very funny, although his usual acerbic attitude made most people overlook this fact.

Realistically, they couldn't possibly have a future together outside of Hogwarts. And so Hermione had taken steps to safeguard her heart. The simplest way to do this was to not give it to him. Whether he would mean to do it or not, Draco was liable to break her heart neatly in half. As comfortable as they had become with each other, Draco had certainly made no attempts to overcome that last, very personal boundary between them.

They were a couple, yes, but they were not in love.

Hermione was often tickled to think that it had been Quidditch that brought them together.

It had been the most obvious foul in the long and sordid history of obvious Slytherin fouls. Harry had been carted off field that day, unconscious and likely concussed. A pale-faced Ginny had hurriedly accompanied him. Hermione had been beyond furious at the audacity of the foul. The game was called to a halt, as Madam Hooch attempted to blast a hole through Slytherin Keeper, Ranulf French's head using only her voice. The rest of Team Slytherin, meanwhile, had made a timely retreat to the showers.

Hermione had torn off her Head Girl badge, shoved it into Lavender's hands and marched straight to the source of the matter.

Draco.

The Slytherin shower stalls were certainly roomy. And unlocked. Stupid, arrogant Slytherins.

There he had stood, with his back to her, under the shower spray. Water ran down his lean back, rivulets of the stuff snaking down the subtle indent of his spine, flowing past the cleft that was just visible above the low cubicle wall.

Hermione was meant to be enraged. She had come to do something…but at that precise moment, she hadn't been able to remember what it was.

Vincent Crabbe's high-pitched shriek at seeing Hermione soon jarred her from her momentary loss of mental ability.

Draco had turned off the shower, ordered his team out of the locker rooms and proceeded to stare at her as if she were a particularly squishy toadstool he had just trod upon.

It was difficult trying to unleash a stinging tirade upon one's foe when said foe was watching you with curious silver eyes, wet, slicked back hair and a body that was ought to have been preserved in plaster and stored in a vault for posterity. Hermione's academic good sense was legendary, but her baser urgers, it seemed, were about as refined as a Gryffindor post-Quidditch celebratory party.

"…boot-licking, weedy-dicked, daddy's boy," she heard herself say. She didn't recall how exactly she had ended up inches away from him, with her finger poking him in his hard, wet chest. He didn't seem terribly interested in arguing with her. Indeed barely put any effort into his comeback.

"Admit it Granger," Draco had drawled, "you're madly in lust with me and it's just killing you, isn't it?"

As far as epiphanies went, this one had been rather anticlimactic.

So that was what it was. Lust. The reason why she couldn't take her eyes off him in class or at prefects' meetings, why she seemed to loose her appetite every time she watched him make bedroom eyes at Sylvia Burrowsmith at breakfast, why she felt an electric shiver of excitement every time she passed him in the hallways and knew his disdainful smirk was passing over her.

She was in lust with Draco Malfoy. Had been, for months.

Convinced that her face and her silence had already given her away, she saw no reason to deny it.

Despite his silver tongue, Draco was apparently also a man of action. After a few token, smart alecky retorts, he had pulled her into a kiss, ostensibly to teach her a lesson. But also because he was the Head Boy, and assumed he could get away with just about anything.

And to Hermione's horror, she had melted against him like a loose-skirted heroine in a Muggle bodice ripper.

It was to be the start of an interesting arrangement. Their relationship consisted of arguments. Many, many arguments. Heated discussions regarding topics ranging from wizarding politics, the state of Hagrid's pumpkin patch to the weekend lunch menu.

But there was also plenty of snogging.

The boy kissed like the Devil and Hermione found herself quite willing to brave the fires of eternal damnation every free period on Monday afternoons, on Saturdays after Slytherin team practice and on the odd occasions when they were partnered for prefect rounds.

And despite her well-known idealistic beliefs (Draco was ever quick to remind her of S.P.E.W), Hermione maintained a realistic stance towards their relationship.

Draco Malfoy may have enjoyed her company, but love her, he did not.

**

Hermione noted that it was a full moon that evening, as she walked with Draco along the Quidditch pitch. Their intended destination was the Hufflepuff Quidditch stands, or rather, underneath the Hufflepuff Quidditch stands. It seemed to be the only moderately suitable place left unbooked out of all the designated Valentines venues

"Nobody mentioned anything to me about booking a spot this year," Draco grumbled, as he led Hermione along the wet grass.

"I know," she agreed. "It's ridiculous."

They approached the stands, and Draco lifted the yellow and black tarp for Hermione to enter. "I made a bit of an inspection earlier. It's not too bad. At least it's roomy."

It was certainly roomy. The trouble was that it was also rather whiffy. The combination of wet wood, damp earth and tarps that hadn't been changed since Professor Sprout had been a student, contributed to interesting array of scents.

Draco wrinkled his nose. "It's also um…"

"Smelly?" Hermione supplied.

He sighed. "Yes. Like sweaty boys' shoes."

Hermione giggled. "I was going to say like Filch's old mops, but sweaty boys' shoes is also accurate."

"We could go somewhere else, if you like?" he offered. They couldn't actually. He had spent an entire hour setting up. Not that he was going to tell her this.

"No, no. This is fine." Hermione took his hand and pulled him further under the stands. "I think we'll need a bit more light though. I can barely see you."

She heard him dig inside his robes.

"Are you ready?" he asked her.

"Yes."

"Lumos," Draco breathed, and when the soft, golden light flared from the tip of his wand, Hermione was startled to find that they was standing nearly nose to nose, and that he was grinning widely.

She got her first clear look around the space and gasped. The entire area had been done up with yards of maroon silk, suspended from the rafters like curtains. Silver and maroon balloons were tied to several support beams. There was a woven rug covering the dirt floor, two enormous bouquets of hothouse flowers, a large flagon of warm apple cider and a platter of cheese and fruit resting on a crate. Two unlit candles sat in crystal candleholders in a corner.

Hermione was stunned speechless. She turned to goggle at her boyfriend, who hadn't so much as given her a spare quill in the time that they had been together. Where was Draco Malfoy and what had this suave impostor done with him?

Draco smilingly reached out a finger to gently ease her gaping jaw shut. "Surprise."

Hermione blinked. "Is all this for me?" She asked, sounding aghast.

She regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth. He sounded distinctly put out as he bent down to light the candles. "No, Granger. I'm renting this space to Goyle and Pansy for the nine-o'clock slot. After them, Millicent's booked it for her planned seduction of Finnegan."

"I'm sorry," she rushed out. "You just caught me completely by surprise is all."

He stared at her. "That was kind of the point. I got you presents too." He reached into his robes and produced several small packages.

"Draco-"

"You don't have to take them, of course," said Draco, in an extremely snooty tone.

"No really! I'll have them," Hermione returned, eager to correct her earlier bungle.

At least that wrung an amused snort from him. He raised an eyebrow and proceeded to hold the packages high above her head.

Undaunted, Hermione reached under his jumper to pinch the taught skin of his the belly. She quickly yanked the gifts from his slackened hold when he yelped in surprise. He remained standing, rubbing his abdomen and looking surly as she opened the presents.

There were chocolates. Really expensive chocolates, judging from the fact that they came with a short brochure explaining their origins and composition. There was an adorable plush lion with a red and gold Gryffindor scarf wrapped around its neck (she oohed appreciatively). The last third and last package was wrapped in ivory tissue and pink satin and brocade ribbon.

"Goodness, Draco." Hermione ran her fingers over the finely wrought fabric. "This ribbon is gorgeous. Oh, I'm definitely saving it."

Hah! Take that, Zabini, thought Draco, feeling smug as he watched Hermione inspect the ribbon with reverence.

His girlfriend saved ribbons.

With the package presently unwrapped, Hermione looked down at the cardigan in her hands, her fingers buried in the cotton-soft angora. "This is just overwhelming…"

"You like it, then?" he asked, his voice sounding slightly tight.

Liked it? She loved it, but he was scaring the hell out of her. Hermione was mortified. The small gift she had brought for him suddenly seemed woeful. To think of the effort he must have gone to. It almost felt as if they were a normal couple, one that celebrated special days, exchanged gifts, exchanged declarations even…a couple that might have had a future outside of the blessed sanctuary that was Hogwarts.

She'd knew better than to wait for the words to come, but the ragged desire was there, all the same. Damn him for making her want more that just a temporary arrangement, Hermione thought.

And damn her for being so weak as to want it.

Draco mistook her silence as hesitance. He toed at the rug. "This was obviously a mistake. I don't do Valentines."

"News flash," Hermione laughed nervously. "Neither do I."

It was dark, but she knew he was watching her carefully.

"Though I think I've changed my mind," she told him seriously.

He looked up at her, taking a moment to read her expression before he smiled. It was the easy, confident smile she had come to love over the months. But there was also something new in it. She might thought he looked vulnerable, but that would have been impossible.

"Will you sit down with me?" he asked.

Hermione nodded, afraid that if she actually opened her mouth to acquiesce, her heart would likely tumble out.

They lay down on the rug for hours it seemed, making their steady way through the fruit, chocolates and apple cider. It was cold, but the combined heat of their bodies and the palpable tension between them was as effective as a warming charm. They were in foreign territory and they were both very aware of the fact. This was no hurried meeting in an empty classroom during a free period. This was…

This was bloody romantic was what it was.

And Hermione had no idea how to deal with it.

For some reason, he was careful not to touch her, and Hermione found her skin growing itchy with the need to feel his hands on her. After the last of the cider was consumed, and their casual banter had dwindled to meager remarks about the state of school Quidditch, and the ever-rising hemlines of the junior girls, Hermione decided to take matters into her own hands.

"Is something wrong?" she finally asked.

Draco was playing with a dried fig. "I'm not sure," he said, without looking up.

"Whatever it is, it's best we talk about it."

"Look," he said, staring her straight in the eye. "I got you these gifts because I wanted you to have them. I don't expect anything from you in return."

That was it then. He was embarrassed and not a little bit uncertain about how to proceed. Well, that made two of them.

"Draco, I don't trade favours, and I should belt you for thinking that I might be anything like Estelle Von Oost. You've been talking to Zabini again, obviously."

He looked disgruntled. "I'm just saying that there isn't some sort of implied message in my doing all this for Valentines Day."

"Oh?" she said quietly, letting disappointment seep into her voice. "I was rather hoping there was."

He fed her the fig, almost absently. "And what message were you hoping for?"

Hermione chewed the sweet, slightly rubbery fruit. "That maybe you've become rather fond of me." Her voice sounded squeaky and very small.

Draco brought his knees up and rested his folded arms on them. He tilted his head to the side. "The presumptuousness of Gryffindors," he drawled.

"The arrogance of Slytherins," she countered, raising her chin.

They stared at each other.

"Fuck this," he suddenly said, his voice gruff. "No more games."

Hermione found herself yanked towards him so abruptly that her knotted hair came loose and tumbled past her shoulders. His kiss was wild and unrestrained, completely anything she had experienced with him before. He sucked her plump lower lip into his mouth, dipping his tongue along the sensitive flesh inside her lip before, seeking out the remnants of the sharp cider and the more mellow chocolate. Hermione broke out in goosebumps, so keen was the relief she felt at having him touch her again. It was very quiet under the stands, and the small, wet noises of their kissing were amplified. It was tremendously arousing.

He broke the kiss first, pulling her to him as they caught their breath. She lay with her head pillowed on his shoulder, playing with the ribbon her had given her. The trapped, floral scent from the hothouse bouquets made the air around them heady and thick.

"Draco."

"Mm?"

"I have a gift for you too."

She sat up and retrieved her bag, pulling out something dark, slim and sleek. He watched with sleepy, half lidded eyes, placing his warm hand under the hem of her blouse to stroke the smooth skin of her back.

"I'm horribly embarrassed because I didn't even wrap this," said Hermione sheepishly, as she handed him the diary.

Draco propped his head on his elbow and cracked open the black leather cover, upon which his name was inscribed in silver calligraphy. He turned to the first page and watched in amazement as shiny, silver writing appeared just inside the cover. It was in Hermione's miniscule, neat script:

Dear Draco

I thought you might find this useful. They call it a Lover's Journal. It is something we may use to instantly communicate with each other across long distances (or across vast expanses of castle, as it is in our case).

There was a little smiley face drawn at the end of the sentence.

Whatever you choose to write in these pages will appear in my own copy. Quicker and more secure than owl mail, I think you'd agree.

Hope you like it. Hope you use it.

Yours, as always,
Hermione

"Hermione, this is really something…" Draco whispered, running his palm over the smooth, ivory pages. He dipped his head slightly and inhaled. "It even smells like you."

She went slightly red. "I scented it with a charm. It's only my shampoo."

Draco's expression was intense. "Cocoa butter and honey," he said, his voice languorous. "I remember."

Hermione could only shiver in response.

He frowned. "You're cold. I should have brought a blanket."

It was then that she remembered. "Wait. I brought one. Ginny packed me a blanket to bring this evening."

Ginny was no stranger to outdoor trysts, and had thoughtfully tucked the plaid, woollen blanket into the bottom of Hermione's book bag. Hermione unrolled the material, and was startled to find that the cheeky, young Weasley had hidden something inside the bundle.

It was a large jar of chocolate.

"Venus Body Chocolate," Hermione said, her eyebrows rising as she read the label. She started laughing. "Apparently guaranteed to arouse and satisfy the most discerning of appetites."

"Let me see that," Draco requested, taking the jar from her.

He uncapped the lid and dipped a finger in to taste. "Hmm. Not quite Godiva's, mind you, but it's not too bad. Here, have a gander."

He scooped up a small dollop with his finger and held it out to her.

Curious (and slightly embarrassed that Ginny had taken such liberties) Hermione brought his hand up to her mouth and sucked briefly on his finger, her tongue swirling around to his digit of the sweet taste.

His eyes were molten iron as he watched her. "Remind me to thank the Weasley brat...."

Emboldened by the warm look in his eyes, Hermione grinned mischievously. She stuck two fingers into the chocolate and
smeared them over his lips with a triumphant, "Hah!"

As usual, he was not to be underestimated. Before she could scamper away, he put his hand at the back of her head and brought her in for a kiss, ignoring her squeals of protest. She was laughing when he released her. Their mouths, noses and chins were liberally smeared with chocolate.

"It's such a large jar," said Hermione, pointedly licking her lips.

Draco watched her with a lascivious expression. "Well then we'll have to do our best to put it to good use before the chocolate goes off, won't we?"

Hermione didn't see the need to remind him that magical chocolate never went off. **

The small crate bearing Hermione's presents bobbed merrily behind them as they made their way back to the castle.

The moon looked brighter, the dew on the grass seemed to shine and twinkle up at them like a tumbled-over sky. The earthy scent of the forest was sharper, and the feel of Draco's arm around her was so good that she closed her eyes to savour the sensation.

So this was it then, Hermione sighed. This was the stuff the poets raved on about.

They walked through the castle foyer, pass several other strolling couples who were too caught up in their own evenings to give them more than a passing glance.

Not a word was spoken until they reached the entrance to the Gryffindor common room. "I'll see you at breakfast," Draco eventually said. Even his ever-present smirk looked new.

"Breakfast," she agreed, rising on her toes to kiss him softly on the forehead. He was slightly sticky from the chocolate, even though she had done her best to lick most of it off him. Draco Malfoy and chocolate, Hermione mused, definitely an acquired taste.

"I'll be the girl with the pretty pink ribbon in her hair," she reminded him.

He nodded with mock seriousness. "I'll try to remember."

"Password?" The Fat Lady asked. She was attired out in a dress that was completely bedecked with pink, heart-shaped sequins, in honour of the occasion.

It took Hermione a moment longer than usual to recall the password. "Mirabile visu".

"Young love always is," The Fat Lady sighed wistfully. The portrait swung open. Draco gave the small crate a little shove, whereupon it sailed obediently into the Gryffindor commons. An arm's length of Hermione's pink ribbon hung over the edge, flittering happily in the light draft like a puppy's tail.

"Happy Valentines Day, Granger."

She released his hand and stepped into the opening. "Happy Valentines, Malfoy."