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Draco sat in the Great Hall wearing a scowl that would have scared an ogre staring distastefully at his stack of pancakes. The Slytherin table was empty this early in the morning and he was glad of it. There was no way he could handle seeing any of his housemates - in fact if possible he never wanted to see any of them again.

He was in the foulest mood imaginable and his lessons hadn't even started!

That's got to be a sodding record.

Using fierce swipes Draco cut into his pancakes, shoving them into his mouth vehemently. Try as he might the only thing the blond-haired Slytherin could think of was the previous night and the less than satisfying conversation with the little know-it-all bitch Gryffindor.

I am Draco Malfoy! How did I let that silly tart get the best of me?

He had felt thoroughly dissatisfied when Granger had shoved past him their discussion effectively terminated. He'd intended to have a bit of fun at her expense, and it had backfired on him. In a major way.

Bloody hell!

All he could think about was Daphne and Blaise.

Damn that Mudblood!

He was angry with her, true, but he was angrier at himself for allowing her to get to him. For letting others make him weak.

Who cares about them? Daphne's a stupid bitch and Zabini's exactly what Hermione called him – pathetic!

He stopped.

Did I just refer to the Mudblood by name?

He didn't have time to dwell on the unfortunate slip because just then his morning went from bad to unbearable. Pansy walked into the Great Hall, her circle of giggling girlfriends following her. The thought of spending time with Pansy made Draco grind his teeth in frustration and suddenly he wanted nothing more than to apparate out of the Great Hall. The pancakes that had tasted almost decent a minute before now tasted like nothing, like paper, like-

"Drakey! Are we in a better mood this morning?"

Her croon was beyond grating and it made Draco bite the inside of his lip to keep from screaming.


"Oh, good!"

Then she offered him what she most likely thought was an enticing smile. Fortunately, he wasn't even remotely fooled by a batting eyelash, pouty lip or any other wiles – especially if those wiles belonged to Pansy Parkinson.

He took another bite of the tasteless breakfast on his plate, doing his best to look anywhere but at Pansy, who had plopped herself down next to him without permission, and allowed her silly girlfriends to surround him as well.

Staring around at the Great Hall wasn't much fun, Draco realized. Very few students were up this early; in fact, he was clearly insane because even the Mudblood Bookworm wasn't down for breakfast yet! He wondered if maybe she had already come and gone, although that seemed impossible since he'd come to the Hall nearly at daybreak. Or maybe, that morning, she hadn't taken breakfast.

Or maybe you're a nutter, Malfoy, thinking about her!

Unfortunately, the alternative was talking to Pansy, and that was becoming more and more distasteful by the second. Correction. By the millisecond.

"Draco, are you planning on going to the Halloween Feast?"

The question was sly, but Draco found it impossibly irritating.

"Are you?"

"Of course!" she giggled.

"Well, then, I'll plan on skipping it."

He liked it when she got all red-faced and that hideous pug nose of hers began to flare. She looked less like a girl and more like the dog she was. Quite fitting, Draco thought.

"Must you always be this cruel?"

"I must." He got to his feet. "And if you used the loaf Merlin gave you, you'd realize that I eat everyday, Parkinson. Halloween night is no different, and seeing as I'm here most nights for supper, it goes without saying I'll probably be eating that night, too."

Pansy was pouting.

"I just thought maybe we could do something different that night, you know? With it being Samhain and everything. I really hate it when you get like this!"

"And I really hate stupid girls."

Reaching across the table, he gathered up his books, stuffing them into his pack with unusual carelessness. He was in a hurry to get away from this girl and her nutty Samhain ramblings, afraid he'd be subjected to more in less than three…two…one…

"I wish you'd just give in and realize that we're meant to be!"

Draco groaned.

"Spare me just one day, won't you, and shove off?" he spat, and then turned on his heel, stalking out of the Great Hall.

Now where am I going to go?

The thought was an irritating one, as his first lesson wasn't due to start for another two hours and he didn't relish pissing the morning away stalking the Hogwarts corridors like some pureblood version of Argus Filch. Without thinking, Draco found himself heading towards the library. He needed help. And he was pretty sure that he'd find the unholy source of all knowledge in the library. Bushy-hair, ugly jumper and all.


Hermione found herself in such a bad mood the morning following her row with Malfoy that she had even missed her usual morning porridge and cup of tea. This was especially grating because Hermione relished the two early mornings she had each week, where she spent alone time in the Great Hall eating and reading without disruption. It wasn't that she didn't love being in the company of Harry and Ron; that was the furthest thing from the truth. She happened to be a bit miffed at the both of them, though. Ron for being a daft prick and Harry because lately he had taken to walking about the school like some kind of proud peacock, certain that Ginny's Samhain apple divination would reveal him as her true love.

As if that's any kind of secret? Bloody hell, they make Luna seem normal!

This morning, however, she wasn't just irritated with her brainless friends. She found that she was also still quite angry about what had happened in the library the previous night.

At least I didn't let him win, she thought, remembering the dumbfounded look on Malfoy's face as she had stalked away from him. It was a small consolation, but Hermione smirked with pleasure at the thought just the same. They called him the Slytherin Prince, didn't they? Merlin's gift to witches, she supposed. And yet, she still could beat him in a good, old-fashioned battle of wits. Just because he happened to be handsome didn't mean he was smart. Not that she found him handsome, Hermione amended hastily. She didn't. Others might have, but she…well, it wasn't like he was as hideous as Crabbe and Goyle, but he just wasn't her type. At all. She didn't like blond men, and especially ones that wore perpetual scowls.

Wait, what I am I thinking?

Clearing her throat, Hermione blushed at the strange turn her thoughts had taken and she refocused her attentions on the massive Charms tome that lay on the desk in front of her. It was best she concentrate on schoolwork than idle, stupid thoughts, anyway.

As if her stupid, idle thoughts had conjured him, Draco Malfoy dropped unceremoniously into the chair opposite her at the large, wooden desk. Hermione started at his sudden appearance, making the blond Slytherin smirk.

She looked around; they were alone.

"Granger, I need your help."

Hermione let out a snort.

"No, you don't."

"I do," he insisted, and when Hermione looked up from her book the look on his face was one of grave sincerity.

"Well, even if you did, which I don't believe, why would you ask me?" she said icily, eyes narrowing. "Especially after the way you treated me the last time we spoke?"

She returned her gaze to the book.

"Why would I be asking if I didn't need your help?" he asked snidely.

"To torment me?" she replied without looking up.

"Come off it, Granger. We both know that you weren't being tormented last night. I bet you got off on our little discussion."

Hermione gasped and when her eyes shot up to meet his, he was wearing a grin of satisfaction.

"You're disgusting!"

Draco made a show of gasping in turn and covering his heart with his hand. But what he really wanted to do was laugh at the pink color that flushed across her cheeks, making her brown eyes sparkle. He liked her when she was all up in arms.

"Tell me something I don't know!"

Then he fell back against the chair once more, casually studying his fingernails.

"As I was saying, I need your help."

"You'd better find someone else, Malfoy. I'm rather busy trying to come up with a study guide for your dim-witted accomplice."

Malfoy scowled.

"Come on, Granger. You're the only girl in this whole school who hasn't bought into this Samhain Divination rubbish!"

Hermione looked up, trying not to appear interested in this turn of events, even though she was. She raised one eyebrow.

"Oh? And here I thought you liked your girls stupid, Malfoy? I thought you were spending the next two days preening over how many girls are going to fall at your feet?" she said disdainfully.

"I can't do it another year." Draco suddenly leaned across the table in one fluid movement with a grace that surprised her. "I can't take Pansy and her shoddy theories on how we should be together. Help me, Granger. You've got a sensible head on those Mudblood shoulders, haven't you? You know all about this rubbish, and you haven't fallen prey to it. Tell me what to tell her to get her off this!"

Hermione rolled her eyes, feeling more hurt at his constant reminders of her blood status than she would ever admit.

"Look, Malfoy, it's not like you're the only boy in school whose first name begins with the letter 'D'! Tell her that she's going to end up with Dennis Creevey."

Draco stared.

"You're kidding me."

"I actually don't care what you tell her," she countered easily and shrugged. "There's also Dean Thomas."

Draco looked appalled.

"They're both bloody Gryffindors! She won't believe me!"

Hermione found she rather liked the fact that Draco Malfoy seemed so…upset about this. It was nice to see that he wasn't as put together as he allowed everyone to think.

It's probably eating away at him, knowing he has to come to me for help.

"Since when did being in a certain House get in the way of true love?"

She smirked.

"There's Derek Bletchley and Darren Ogden. They're both Slytherin, if that makes any difference."

Draco nodded and watched her tick off names on her fingers.

"And Derek Chambers in Ravenclaw. Oh, and Dexter Flume from Hufflepuff, he's rather nice. His grandparents own Honeydukes, so if Pansy likes that sort of thing…"

Draco gave her a strange look.

"This is Pansy we're talking about, not Millie Bullstrode."

Hermione let out an exasperated sigh.

"All I'm saying is that even if she thinks she's seeing the first letter of your name, I'm sure you could convince her she's meant to be with someone else. Merlin's beard! You were given a brain, weren't you? Why don't you try using it?"

"This insanity is melting it." Draco scowled.

"I'd say it's your arrogance."

Once more, Draco found himself wanting to laugh. In spite of her strange jumper and the fact that he found her loathsome, she really was quite witty. And smart. He wondered why it had taken him this long to realize it.

Hermione leaned against her elbow, propped up on the table.

"Did you actually see this supposed apple peel, Malfoy?"


"Did you see it? Were you with her when she did it?"

"Bloody hell! Why would I encourage her? Besides, she's with that gaggling group of vapid biddies all the time and I don't have the strength to deal with it all."

Hermione offered him a little smirk although it seemed awfully condescending to Draco.

"Well, then, how are you so sure that she even saw the letter "D"? Or if she saw any letter at all?"

Draco sat back, flabbergasted. This, he hadn't thought about; he had just assumed that Pansy wouldn't lie about something like that. After all, she had wanted him for ages, it seemed!

"She might be lying to you, Malfoy. She wants you, I'm not questioning that, but for someone who is reportedly such a womanizer you don't know much about girls at all, do you?"

Draco flushed a bright pink color, and, for a moment, Hermione swore he might have been handsome. Just a little bit.

"Girls will do anything to get what they want. The clever ones, anyway."

Draco glared at her.

"Oh, yeah? Then what about you, Miss Clever Knickers? Do you do anything to get what you want? Why haven't you gone after that wretched blood traitor, since everyone says you want him so much?"

Though Hermione was taken aback for a few seconds, she couldn't deny that the question held a certain validity. If a woman did what she needed to get what she wanted, why hadn't she gone after Ron the way she should have? Why hadn't she fought for what had been hers for so long, and was now in the clutches of some silly little Goldilocks?

I don't know.

She flushed pink from embarrassment at being caught without an answer, at the audacity of the boy lounging in front of her for even asking such a taboo question, and the fact that he was trying to change the subject!

"That's not your business! And stop deflecting!"

Draco snorted, but ignored her.

"Ah, cover uncertainty with haughtiness. Good choice," he drawled with obvious sarcasm, his eyes flickering over her for a second with lazy interest.

"What is it about the Weasel anyway? It's not like he's got much going for him, is it? Have you seen him, Granger? That unsightly hair and those ugly freckles make me want to hit him with a bludger, put him out of his misery."

He continued to speak, with amusement dancing in the depths of his silver eyes. Somehow, Hermione couldn't look away. Maybe it was because she was secretly glad someone was putting Ron down, she decided. He deserved it, at least in some ways.

"Since it's clearly not his looks, I thought maybe you liked him for his mind. But, after a bit of consideration, I realized he's really quite thick. I'm stumped, Granger. What is it about him?"

He smiled. It was strange to see Draco Malfoy smile genuinely, she realized. Not only that, but it was awfully flustering, making her look away for a moment.

"He's not stupid!" she exclaimed, instantly on the defense. "And I happen to like red hair, Malfoy!"

She had stood, her eyes narrowing in his direction, and Draco, not to be outdone, was standing as well.


Hermione couldn't gauge his tone, but realized she didn't care. She gathered her books, shoving them into her pack quickly, wanting to be away from this boy who was making her feel strange, and asking questions she didn't have answers for.

"But, maybe, you don't want him as much as you think. Could that be why you're letting him run around with Lavender Brown?"

Fingers trembling, Hermione glared up at Draco.

"Sod off, Malfoy. This is none of your business."

Stepping away from the table, he shrugged nonchalantly.

"Or, maybe, you're just a coward, yeah? Afraid to go after what you want." He offered her another unsettling smile. "Such irony, you being a Gryffindor and all."

Hermione stood rigidly in place, watching him as he sauntered away.

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