Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or the castle. Or the village...or the spells...or anything except the plot. And I'm sure if we search hard enough, we can even find someone who's done a fic similar to this one. SO...apparently I don't own anything. Lovely.

Author's Note: This takes place during 6th year, and is not HBP/DH compatible. Snape still teaches Potions, Harry doesn't have the Prince's book, and he & GW are already dating. They just wouldn't let me keep them apart. DM is somewhat OOC at the beginning; he's appearing nicer to get what he wants. Rating may go up later, but I will let you know before I do that.

Hermione felt pretty good, all things considered. She didn't usually get to indulge in satisfying releases of emotion. In fact, last night was only the second time in the last three years that she'd given in to the urge. And I don't regret either instance, she thought to herself, a small smile playing on her face as she remembered. If only I'd used falcons rather than canaries…

"Um, Hermione?"

"Hermione!"

She jumped, looking around wildly before laughing a little nervously when she realized that Harry and Ginny were just trying to get her attention.

"Good morning," she chirped brightly.

They exchanged a Look, but she just grinned and began filling her plate.

"Herms? You're humming."

"What? Oh yes, it's a lovely day, isn't it?" she asked cheerfully.

"It's…it's storming," Ginny said slowly.

"Oh, is it? I hadn't noticed."

"Alright, that's it! Are you feeling okay?"

"Why wouldn't I be?" she asked, taking a bite of omelette.

"Er, well, because Ron snogged Lavender…"

"Oh, that!" she laughed. "That's nothing."

"You sent a flock of canaries at him," Harry said flatly.

Hermione set her fork down and looked across the table at her friends. "And he's lucky it wasn't a flock of fire-breathing hawks. But I am completely okay, okay? I've come to the conclusion that I am better off now."

They exchanged another Look.

"And quit trying to figure out how fast you can get me to the infirmary! Honestly! I'm fine!"

She didn't notice that the Great Hall had gone quiet.

"Now, if the two of you don't mind, can we please stop talking about—what? What is it?"

She followed their gazes.

Ron. Ron Weasley. Ron Weasley and Lavender Brown. Ron and Lavender. For a brief second her eyes narrowed.

They were celebrating the win. She was tired of hearing about Quidditch, and she was still mad at Harry for not telling her sooner that he hadn't really slipped Ron any Felix Felicis. But Ron was so happy that he was in the spotlight for once—well, it was contagious…she just had to smile and stick around.

Then Lavender had kissed him.

Hermione had watched it happen as if it were in slow motion. She wasn't aware of everyone else's shocked silence and then their raucous cheering. Didn't see Harry looking at her worriedly. Her gaze was riveted to the kissing couple.

Suddenly the room seemed too crowded. There was a pain eating through her stomach. With a gasp she realized it was betrayal. She turned and pushed through the crowd, not seeing anyone. Finding the first empty room, she sat and summoned canaries for comfort as she weeped. There was no reason to feel betrayed; they'd never been more than friends. Sure, best friends, but still just friends. And it killed her to admit it, killed her to see that Ron would prefer Lavender over her.

An arm came around her shoulders and she leaned against Harry's chest. He didn't say anything. He didn't need to.

They sat in silence while she cried and the canaries circled above them.

Then Ron and Lavender had burst into the room, stumbling and fumbling and laughing, and she'd stood, and they'd stopped, and then Lavender had giggled like everything was okay. And Ron had stood there, ignoring her tear-stained face and looking at her guility.

But when he tried to speak, she found she didn't even want to hear his voice. She'd snapped, and a fierce "oppugno" had sent him scrambling for the door.

She'd left almost immediately after, going to bed and pulling the bedcurtains firmly shut.

And now the new lovebirds were standing in the Great Hall. They were holding hands and couldn't seem to take their eyes off each other. For a moment Hermione considered hexing them, maybe permanently welding their hands together. As if he sensed the animosity rolling off her, he looked up and met her gaze. She smiled, and he smiled back in relief, never noticing that hers didn't quite reach her eyes.

She turned back to Harry and Ginny, smile still plastered properly on her face. The rest of the Hall went back to their breakfast as they realized there'd be no Gryffindor drama that morning.

"So. Where were we?"

"I think you were asking us to shut up," Harry said dryly.

"Ah. Yes. So, what are you two doing today?"

He looked sheepish. "Well, um, we were thinking about taking our brooms out for a bit."

"Yeah, Harry thinks he's a better flyer than me."

"That's not what I said!"

"It's what you meant, and you were thinking it."

Hermione rolled her eyes and pulled out a book. She really was tired of anything Quidditch related. Blasted sport.

She'd only read a few pages when an unmistakable "mmm" drew her attention and she looked up to see Harry and Ginny locked in a battle of lips. She simply sat there a moment, stunned as images from last night washed over her again, and her eyes inadvertantly strayed down the table where Ron and Lavender were similarly fused together.

Only for a moment though.

Then she squared her shoulders and resolutely returned to her book. She'd only read half a page when she felt someone staring at her, and her eyes flickered up to see none other than Draco Malfoy looking back at her. Mercury colored eyes bore into chocolate brown, and there was no smirk, no contempt. He was just…looking.

She didn't trust it.

Raising a haughty eyebrow, she turned her attention back to her book, pointedly ignoring both the sneaky Slytherin and the kissing couples.

A page later she had no idea what she'd just read. She could still feel Malfoy's gaze on her, and it was taking everything she had not to look up again.

Finally she snapped the book shut and stood, leaving without looking to the other side of the Hall.

Ten minutes later, she was in a quiet, secluded corner of the library, chewing her lower lip and staring out the window, where the angry black clouds were drifting away. Well, at least Harry and Ginny won't be flying in a storm, she thought as she turned back to her book with a smile.

After a few minutes she became aware of a presence, and glanced up to see who it was. She rolled her eyes.

"Has anyone ever told you how predictable you are, Granger?"

"What do you want, Malfoy?"

"What? Can't a guy be friendly?"

She snorted. "Malfoy, you haven't wanted to be friendly the last six years. What makes you think I want to be friendly now?"

"Yes, I suppose you have a point."

She waited. He looked at her expectantly.

She sighed. "Will you be getting to your point, or may I return to my book?"

"Oh, alright! I need help."

She blinked.

Then she shook her head.

"Um, could you repeat that? Because I thought—"

"You heard me just fine, Granger," he growled.

With difficulty, Hermione collected her wits and stared at the Slytherin incredulously. "Why in Merlin's name would you ever ask me for help? And why would I help you?"

He sighed in frustration and raked his fingers through his hair. She resisted the urge to follow the movement with her eyes, instead crossing her arms impatiently.

"Because you're the…smartest witch of our year and you…always help. I mean, look at your elf thing."

"Wow. I'm impressed. You managed not to vomit."

He scowled and started to speak, but she cut him off. "And I help the powerless and downtrodden. You are neither. And furthermore, I don't see how it would benefit me to spend more time than necessary in your presence," she finished loftily.

He smirked. "I can help you make the Weasel jealous."

"I am not trying to make Ron jealous!" she sputtered. "And if I were, I wouldn't need your help!"

"Okay, okay," he said hastily, raising his hands in surrender and actually backing a step away. "Why don't we partner in Potions?"

She stared at him. "Malfoy, maybe you need to go see Madame Pomfrey. I think someone has slipped you a potion."

"What? Why would you think that?"

"You just suggested we spend even more time together."

"Granger, we're both in that class."

"Yes! On opposite sides of the room!"

He grinned.

She was nearing hysterics, and he was just grinning at her. Ugh. Maybe she needed to see Madame Pomfrey.

"It would get Snape off your back," he said simply.

Her jaw went slack. She hadn't thought of that. A dreamy expression crept across her face as she imagined Potions without Snape being a git.

Malfoy snapped his fingers. She jumped, and noted that he was smirking again.

"Give me your schedule."

"What?"

"Your schedule. I need it. To compare it to mine so I know when we can study?"

He complied. "Thank you," she said briskly. "I'll give it back at dinner. No, not dinner. In Potions tomorrow," she told him as she gathered her bag and started to leave.

Suddenly she stopped.

"What do you need help in?"

"Charms," he answered, looking annoyed when she grinned.

By the time she stepped through the portrait, she was laughing so hard she could barely walk. Ginny was waiting for her in the common room, and immediately jumped up.

"Oh my God what's wrong?" she asked worriedly.

"Nothing," Hermione managed to gasp before she hiccupped, which sent her into another peal of giggles. "Honest. You and Harry…are together…and…I'm glad. Ron's…got Lav…and I…don't need him. And…and Malfoy…" she stopped, just the thought of him sending her over the edge again.

"What? Malfoy what? Hermione!"

Hermione just shook her head and clutched her sides helplessly. Ginny grabbed her shoulders.

"Oh my God he hexed you, didn't he?"

"No…Gin," she gasped, finally calming down. "He didn't hex me. He needs help with Charms," she said with a snicker.

Her friend still looked concerned. "Um, Hermione…?"

"Charms! Ginny, he's got half the school drooling over him, and he needs help with Charms."

Ginny's expression didn't change.

"Oh, I'm fine. Go fly Harry into the ground."

"Actually, we thought we'd hang out with you today. Maybe go visit Hagrid."

"You mean keep an eye on me? No thanks. I've got study sessions to plan anyway. Shoo. Go have fun."

The next morning she walked down to the Great Hall with Harry and Ginny. Ron wasn't anywhere to be seen. Lavender came in long after midnight the night before, so Ron was probably still in bed as well.

They'd barely sat down when the seat on Hermione's left was taken.

"Good morning, Dean," Hermione said before turning back to her plate.

"It's weird," he said. "I'm so used to seeing Ron with you guys."

"Yeah," she agreed absently. "He's a little preoccupied these days."

He laughed loudly, startling her. It really wasn't that funny. Ginny's eyes were sparkling with mirth as she watched. Harry was opening grinning.

"What's so funny?" Seamus asked, sitting on Hermione's right.

"Wow, you boys moved slower than I expected," Ginny said slyly, laughing when they flushed.

Hermione looked up to see Malfoy smirking in her direction. She narrowed her eyes and deliberately turned away. She swore she could hear his laugh from across the hall, and gritted her teeth in annoyance.

"So, Hermione," Dean asked casually, bringing her back into the conversation. "What are you doing next weekend?"

"Erm, well, I—"

"Would you want to go to Hogsmeade with me?" Seamus cut in.

"Um, well, actually, I wasn't planning on going," she lied apologetically. "Maybe next time?"

"Yeah, sure," he said. Hermione looked at Harry, begging him to help her. Still grinning, he started talking about Quidditch. After a few minutes, she told them she couldn't handle another word about the sport, and made her escape.

There was no one in the Potions room when she arrived, and she paused in the doorway a instant, steeling herself for the ordeal that was to come.

Shaking worst-case scenarios from her head (one of which included Malfoy as a purple two-headed moose), she squared her shoulders and moved to a table near the front that usually wasn't occupied by anyone. She started setting up her cauldron as other students began entering the room. None of them spoke directly to her, not even Harry and Ron, but she knew the moment her friends walked in. Everyone else was unnaturally quiet, obviously waiting for her to do something. She kept setting up her workspace, pulling out her parchment and sitting down, studiously facing the front the entire time.

"Hello, Granger."

She turned her head a fraction of an inch, just enough to meet his gaze. "Hello, Malfoy."

She could feel the rest of the class watching in stunned shock as he began preparing for class. They weren't whispering yet, but that was most likely because this was far more strange than anything they'd imagined happening. She had the sudden urge to laugh.

"Granger, do you have my schedule?"

"Oh, yes. Here," she said, digging it out of her bag and handing it to him.

Seconds later he yelped. She jumped and turned to look at him fully.

"What is your problem?" she demanded.

"My problem? Granger, where's my free time?"

She raised an eyebrow. "You want to do better, right?"

"Yes, but I don't want to be a slave!"

Her eyes flashed dangerously and she opened her mouth to speak.

"Mr. Malfoy, please keep your voice down in my classroom," Snape said as he walked in. If he noticed Malfoy's new partner, he didn't show it.

Hermione glared at Malfoy and held out her hand. "Fine," she hissed. "Get someone else."

"No," he said, clutching the schedule to his chest. "It's okay," he muttered reluctantly.

A/N: So I had this written, but when I started typing it to upload, I thought "wow this sounds boring!" But I finished it anyway, and if you're also thinking how incredibly boring this was (that's assuming anyone made it to this point), I swear it gets better.