Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I in any way associated with, Harry Potter. I'm just taking the characters out for a spin.
AN: This is a seventh year AU. Everything through OotP happened but since then the timeline veers off sharply. Also, this will probably only be a light M so don't get your hopes up for any hard kink.
It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
"I'm sure you all remember these lovelies," Professor Sprout said, gesturing to three flourishing rows of plants. Their wide leaves glistened in the sunlight and every few seconds one of the stalks would shudder and shift position.
The class, recognizing mandrakes from their second year, groaned. Even Neville looked distressed by today's lesson. Hermione tried to nonchalantly scoot closer to him while Professor Sprout outlined the day's task and necessary safety procedures. Neville usually preferred to partner with her, Seamus, or Parvati - the only three other Gryffindors in what had, in their seventh year, become an all-house Herbology class - but today she wasn't about to take any chances. Neville had a green thumb that easily made up for any amount of reading Hermione could do on the subject and she wasn't about to be stuck with anyone else today.
Professor Sprout called for them to break up into pairs when Hermione was still three feet from Neville, not far in the grand scheme of things but far enough that if he turned in the other direction she'd lose her chance. She fairly leapt at him, reaching for his arm to grab his attention. Something caught her ankle and she felt her feet fly out from under her. With one arm still up, reaching for Neville, she could only catch herself on her left. It wasn't nearly enough to support her and she fell face first into a batch of wormwart.
"Hermione!" Neville cried and several sets of hands hurried to help her up. Familiar snickering sounded behind her. Ernie and Seamus were cursing, fighting against those students who had rushed to hold them back. The moment Hermione was on her feet, Parvati had to abandon her to hold Neville back as well. Hermione staggered, still not quite steady, starting a new round of laughter from the Slytherin quarter.
"Silence!" Sprout thundered. Everything stopped. The smiles on the Slytherin faces froze, waving fists fell limp, yelled threats cut off mid-stream, even the mandrakes stopped their shuddering. Down the hill a hippogriff whinnied in confusion and Hermione winced. She had no doubt Hagrid's entire third year class was looking up at the seventh year Herbology students right now.
"Are you all right, dear?" Sprout asked gently, brushing dust from Hermione's shoulders.
Hermione nodded, forcing her left arm to lower. It hurt like hell but she wasn't about to give the Slytherins the satisfaction of sending her to the hospital wing.
Sprout, satisfied that she would live, nodded tersely and turned to the class at large. "Seven years," she said, loudly enough that there was no doubt she wanted those third years at Hagrid's to hear every word. "Seven years you have lived together, worked together, studied together-"
"She doesn't know much about house dividing lines, does she?" Seamus muttered in Hermione's ear. She gave him a pained half-smile over her shoulder.
"-and yet you still act like a bunch of ignorant, intolerant first years. I never thought I would see the day when I had to punish an entire class of seventh years, mere weeks away from matriculation."
It was almost worth it to see the mutinous looks Malfoy's fellow Slytherins shot his way when they heard this news.
Sprout began calling out pairs of names. That alone was a punishment, she hadn't forced team assignments on them since third year, but no pair had students in the same house. In fact, it seemed Sprout was pairing students with who she thought they'd hate the most. Even the Hufflepuffs, known for their ability to let bygones be bygones in the face of a job to do, were paired with their worst enemies - everyone knew Ernie had hated Trent Harker from Ravenclaw ever since Trent stole his date at the Yule Ball. If a Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw couldn't get along, what hope did the rest of them have?
Sprout's eyes fell on the final four students and Hermione cringed. There was no way this would end well. The professor saw Hermione's distress and gave her an apologetic grimace before calling out, "Longbottom with Greengrass. Malfoy with Granger. You have now wasted a quarter of your time for what is a very delicate job. Do not think I won't keep you late if you don't finish!"
No one dared bemoan this pronouncement, instead they broke into their teams and set to work on the mandrakes. Hermione was forced to jog to catch up with Malfoy. He had already grabbed their pot and was moodily pushing his way through the crowd to the bed. She knelt on the ground beside him and began helping to pull the day's necessary tools from the pot.
"Don't touch me!" he hissed when she reached for the spade at the same time he did.
"Don't you think you're being a bit childish?" she asked, keeping her voice low so Sprout wasn't likely to hear. "You're wearing gloves for heaven's sake!"
"I suppose you don't need any," Malfoy said, noting her bare hands, "no point keeping you skin clean when your blood's already filthy."
"Earmuffs!" Sprout called.
Hermione gladly pulled a fuzzy blue pair from the pot and stuck them down tight over her ears. Malfoy smiled triumphantly, having gotten the final word in. Hermione glared, promising she'd have more to say later.
Not being able to talk did not stop their mutual antagonism. Each of Malfoy's digs in the dirt was as small as possible, forcing her to do more work. When Sprout's back was turned Hermione retaliated by throwing dirt up towards Malfoy's face with every dig. He sputtered and coughed and tried to wipe the dirt off with his filthy gloves. The sun beating down had them all sweating and when Malfoy finally gave up, his face was streaked with dirt and his bangs were muddy. Dust sat in a thin layer atop his hair, making him look like he'd rolled around in the dirt. He glared murder at her. He might not have been able to see himself just then but he was too much of a peacock not to know when he was looking poorly.
Hermione giggled, not even bothering to hold it back and began digging in the dirt closest to the root with her fingers, not wanting to damage the mandrake with the spade. She wished she had her gloves right now but they'd met with an unfortunate end last week when the rare Doradan Blood-Boiler they were studying grabbed her fingers. She'd been able to pull the gloves off before the acid coating the vines ate through the dragon hide to reach her skin, but the gloves had been a lost cause. She'd ordered a new pair but there was a backlog of her preferred brand due to Viktor Krum's recent endorsement. She knew she never should have told him how much she loved them.
"Ow!" she cried, pulling her hands back from the mandrake. Heedless of the dirt covering her skin she instinctively put her aching finger in her mouth and tasted iron. The little brat had broken the skin! The mandrake laughed manically - or looked like he was - and waved its arms gleefully about.
"Nice one," Hermione saw Draco say. He held up a hand for the mandrake to give him five, which the little beast did happily.
Hermione saw red. Malfoy had already purposefully injured her today and now he was laughing at an injury she wouldn't be suffering from if he'd just done his fair share of the work! Her pain lessened in the face of her anger and she reached out to slap his extended arm. He'd rolled his sleeves up in the heat and she felt the satisfying give of his skin under her nails. He recoiled instantly, clutching his arm and looking at her like he'd never seen her before.
She ignored his wide-eyed stare and got back to work. By now the mandrake was laughing so hard it was rolling around in the dirt. Hermione used its distraction to grab it by the stalk emerging from the top of its head and drop it unceremoniously into the pot. It was definitely one of the adolescent mandrakes they were supposed to be on the lookout for and needed to be removed from the general population or it'd band together with other adolescents and throw wild parties where they sucked all the juice from the ergundy melons in the next bed over and ended up passed out on the lakeshore.
After several minutes of rage-filled work while adrenaline burned through Hermione's system, Malfoy began helping. He wasn't happy about it, that much was obvious, but the way he never quite looked at her told her she'd actually frightened him a bit. That, and his tie wrapped tight around his arm just above his glove had her in a good mood for the rest of class.
Draco would have preferred to shower away the layer of dirt Granger had heaped upon him but there were other things that needed attending to first. He locked himself away in his dormitory's washroom and turned the taps on the tub as far to cold as they would go. While the tub filled he kicked off his shoes and pulled off his shirt, taking care when he slid the left sleeve over his hand. When the tub was nearly full he shut the water off and knelt beside it.
This would hurt, he knew, but it was pain on the way to healing. Even so, it took him five counts of three before he finally forced himself to put his arm in the icy water. He felt the chill go straight to his bones. For several seconds there was only more pain and then his nerves began to numb and for the first time in hours he could relax, even if it was only a little. This was his own fault. He should have known better than to sneak out during the day but with a free morning he hadn't been able to help himself. He'd been so busy keeping lookout when he returned that he'd gotten two of his fingers broken by the Whomping Willow.
He could skip this next part until he was finished but the ends of his tie were floating at the surface of the water, a taunting reminder of what that mudblood had done to him. He tugged the dragon hide glove off his right hand with his teeth and dropped it over his shoulder. He needed his nails to undo the tight knot. Once it was free, he lay the soaking tie over the edge of the tub and ignored the renewed stinging in his arm. It wasn't nearly as bad as the ache in his hand and that he desperately needed to take care of.
He'd been lucky that his only two classes this afternoon were History of Magic and Herbology. Binns paid so little attention to his students that he didn't notice Draco cradling his hand under the desk. In Herbology he was able to shrink his glove, making a pseudo-splint to keep his bones from moving too much. He was paying for it now though. The swelling had gotten so bad he couldn't even move the hand.
He pulled out his wand, cast a quick silencing charm at the door, and hesitated. Healing oneself was never recommended and given the extent of this injury and how long he'd let it fester this should knock him out cold until at least tomorrow. That's where this little experiment of his came in. He was betting that the laws of physics would hold true and the healing magic would go to his arm first due to its lower temperature, keeping the energy confined mostly to his body and preventing him from burning out.
With one deep breath - and hoping he wouldn't take his next conscious one in the hospital wing - Draco pulled his arm from the water, touched his hand to his wrist, and said, "Osecto."