"You're late," she said as she opened the door.
"This better be quick," he said under his breath as he passed by her.
She gritted her teeth, knowing it was done intentionally – he wanted her to hear his words. "Oh don't worry – I don't want to keep you from whatever plans you've got for tonight. Heaven forbid that some poor unnamed Gryffindor just might go to bed unhurt." Hermione slammed the door afterwards.
"If you must know, I don't have any plans of that sort." Malfoy paused and turned to face her. "At least, not for Gryffindors." He then went on to find a place on the empty classroom as far away from her as possible. "It's just that I'd much rather be elsewhere at the moment." He glanced her way before looking anywhere but. "I'm sure you understand that sentiment."
"Of course," she agreed tonelessly. "More so than you think. After all, I'd much rather have someone else as a partner for this assignment. Not that I have any choice in the matter, do I?"
"You could always ask Snape to assign Weasley as your partner. Only you'd have to be content with subpar results - not to mention subpar company." He smirked, crossed his arms, and leaned back on the wall. "Then again, that's something you're already used to, considering who your friends are."
"Oh, as opposed to your dazzlingly brilliant companions Crabbe and Goyle?" she scoffed. "I'm sure together they have an IQ of an undercooked egg. I can't even imagine what the three of you talk about all day."
Malfoy raised a brow at her. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
"Not particularly, no," Hermione said, walking towards a table where all her things were stacked. She patted the topmost book and continued, "Here are some of the books we need. I've already taken the time to browse through them and made notes on the pages we could use for reference. That at least might shorten the time we need to spend together on this project, since we could very well just decide on which ones to try out and do them separately."
"Well. That notion is at least is something I can agree with wholeheartedly. Twenty points to Gryffindor." He then proceeded to mock her by clapping.
She rolled her eyes and silently asked for infinite patience, since it was obvious she was dealing with an idiotic, irksome imbecile. Hermione looked at him pointedly. "What have you got, then? Did you bring anything with you that can help us? Or are you hoping that I'll do all the work for us?" She eyed his empty hands and raised a brow at him.
"Don't get your knickers in a twist, Granger – and don't ever think I'm like your so-called friends who rely on you for almost everything." Malfoy took something from his pocket, tapped it with his wand, and watched as it swelled into a large tome. "Had someone from home owl it to me. It's one of the rarest, oldest, most reliable books on potions – I'm sure whatever we need we can find here, thus effectively rendering all the time you spent on your books useless. Come to think of it, this just might render my partner useless too."
But Hermione wasn't listening to him. Curiously, she stepped closer so she could peer at the title – and of course, being that he was Draco Malfoy, that was when he angled it away from her prying eyes. "Just so we're clear, Granger? You can't touch it." Almost lovingly he caressed the cover and added, "Can't have you dirtying such a rare, old book now, can I?"
For a few seconds Hermione could only glare at him. "Fine, you foul loathsome little cockroach," she gritted out. "I wouldn't want to touch anything that belongs to you or your family anyway. You and that book can go rot for all I care."
Malfoy did his best to look wounded and said, "So cruel. So callous of you! I am just. Shocked."
"Shut up." Hermione squinted at him. "You do realize that you're just prolonging everything by acting like a complete fool, don't you?"
"It's your fault for being so easy to bait. Really, Granger, have you no restraint at all?"
She took a deep breath, choosing to ignore that question. If only it were possible to ignore him as well. "Shall we start? I've a theory that lacewing flies can be stewed for far longer than twenty-one days for their effects to be even greater. I've yet to come across any reference that disputes my claim." She made a sweeping gesture towards her books.
"Have you come across anything that supports it?"
"Well, no." She abruptly closed her mouth when he snorted. Defensively she said, "Don't you think that if there were any ill effects to stewing lacewing flies longer than what's necessary they should've at least been written somewhere? Or, or a warning should have been included whenever a potion calls upon their use!"
He shook his head and laid his book on a table, flipping through its pages as though looking for something. Then, "A warning like that doesn't exist because everyone knows they're supposed to stew the damn things for twenty-one days and twenty-one days only," he told her, tapping an open page with his finger. "With potions, it's unnecessary to go against common knowledge, Granger. It's not-" He seemed to think for a moment before settling on, "—practical."
"Must I remind you that our assignment calls for us to improve potions, Malfoy?" She walked towards him and tapped his book as well. "If we're not going against common knowledge here, then I'm really not sure how we else can do it."
"I'm sure there are other ways," he said, slamming the book shut.
She rolled her eyes, then grabbed a quill and parchment. "Still, I believe this is worth investigating. I'm adding it to my tasks. After all, what harm can testing it do?"
"Oh I don't know," he said blithely. "Render a perfectly serviceable potion useless?"
She curbed the urge to stab him in the eye with her quill. "You don't know that. It's still one of the options I choose to explore – and if I'm right, then you can't claim any credit for it." When he rolled his eyes right back at her and muttered something unintelligible she asked, "What do you suggest, then?"
"I thought you'd never ask." Malfoy looked every bit the pompous git he was when he continued with, "We could—"
His words were cut short when another voice, clear as day, intruded with, "You self-absorbed sidewinding cocktoboggan!"
They were both silent for a few seconds.
"…cocktoboggan?" he repeated, one eyebrow raised.
"Oh god," she said, covering her mouth.
"You are nothing but a self-aggrandizing piss spitter! I so pity whoever it is standing next to you every time you open your mouth, you shittywig!"
"That doesn't even make a lick of sense you… you overgrown, overbearing arse midget!"
Hermione thought she recognized that second voice as she walked out of the room. Cautiously, she stepped closer to the door on her left.
"Arse midget? How dare you, you snotty disgusting pig! My arse is anything but—"
She jumped back, and then jumped forward when her back collided with something solid. Turning around she found out that that something solid was, in fact, Malfoy.
Somehow, he was able to look both annoyed and amused all at once. "So much for finding a room where we can concentrate," he told her.
"Well if you weren't late, maybe we might have been able to finish before this distraction happened!" Hermione glared at the room, then marched into the one they're using. "How inconvenient. How completely and totally bothersome this is! To think that they're there now, of all days-"
"Calm down, you silly bint. There's no need to overreact." Malfoy took out his wand and cocked his head to one side. "We can always hex them to silence if you want."
"And just who's overreacting now?" Hermione stepped towards him so she could stop him in case he was planning on hexing people. "There's no need for that. Anyway, I wouldn't worry about them lasting for long. I'm sure whoever they are, they're about to stop fighting soon."
"And you'd know that how, exactly?"
She gestured at the wall dividing the rooms and said, "Well, based on their completely uncivilized conversation, sooner or later one of them is bound to get away from the other, thus effectively ending their argument."
"Or they might continue far longer than you give them credit for," he said, tucking his wand away.
Hermione laughed and said, "That's absurd."
"Is it?" Malfoy raised a brow at her. "You do realize that some people do find arguing rather… stimulating, don't you?"
"I'll believe it if the argument is more like a debate in nature than anything else," she told him, lifting her chin up. "Clashing of ideas with real, solid pieces of evidence to back up both parties' claims instead of, of debasing each other with silly, childish insults. This one they're having? It's just noise. One I'm certain isn't at all necessary or even… healthy." Hermione paused and tried to listen to more sounds coming from the other room. Satisfied that they weren't as loud as before, she nodded at Malfoy. "What were you saying?"
"Something about you being not right all the time, I think?" He had the nerve to smile at her.
"I meant about the assignment," she said, glaring at him.
"Oh. Well you weren't very clear." Malfoy opened his book again and was silent for a while. "I say we can try increasing the amount of ingredients used on the potion. Two ounces of crude Antimony in one, eight unsucculated leeches on the other, that sort of thing."
Hermione drew her brows together, then went to grab her notes. "That would mean we're going to brew at least nine different batches. Ten, including mine."
"Not counting batches having two or more ingredients doubled in one potion," he added. "That's another route we can try."
She tapped her quill against her lip, mulling that over. "We only have a limited supply of ingredients available for this," she reminded him. "Your idea is quite… well, interesting, but I don't think we'll be able to explore all the options as much as we want to."
"My idea is brilliant, thank you, and yes – we can. I'm sure that—"
"…what was that?" Hermione asked.
Malfoy looked irked as he said, "It's from the other room."
"What, they're resorting to throwing things at each other now?" She shook her head and mentally cursed whoever was occupying the room. "As long as they're not as loud as before—"
He waved a hand. "You don't have to worry about shortage of ingredients, since there are other ways of getting them."
It took her a few seconds to realize that he was back to talking about their assignment. "Yes, but that's not the only problem we have right now." Hermione flipped through her notes. "Don't you think we'll have to worry for when we're actually testing these batches? I mean, who'll be willing to be our guinea pigs?"
"Oh, I don't know. People who have the combined IQ of an undercooked egg, perhaps?"
Hermione had to laugh at that unexpected answer. "Are you quite sure?"
"Of course." He looked smug and wagged his brows at her. "Those two idiots would do whatever it is I tell them to. Telling them to drink these potions wouldn't be a problem."
"I… could ask Harry and Ron," she offered, chewing on her lip. "But I'm not as confident as you are that they'll say yes to it."
"You have your ways to convince them, I'm sure." Before she could even begin interpreting his tone and what he meant by that he added, "I suggest, however, that we focus on making the potions first before thinking about testing them. We could—"
"-also choose just one item and then focus on how it changes the effectiveness of the potion when we increase its amount in increments, if you'd rather we not waste ingredients."
And for once, Hermione was actually grateful to him that he was at least trying to trudge on despite their bothersome neighbors – and that they were actually making some progress in their task! This really wasn't as bad as she thought it would be, at the beginning. "That's a good point," she admitted. "We could still brew ten batches, see which one will have most improved, and then go from there."
Malfoy nodded. "Exactly."
"All right." Hermione took a second set of quill and parchment and handed it to him. "We should just take note of which ingredients we're going to double, then. Five ingredients for you, four for me plus the longer-stewed lacewing flies if that's all right with you."
He shrugged and took them from her.
Which was when they both heard the unmistakable sound of someone moaning.
For exactly ten seconds, neither of them spoke - and the silence seemingly increased the volume of the moaning tenfold.
"Well, who would've thought." Malfoy sounded positively wicked as he said, "They are done with arguing, it seems."
Hermione kept her eyes on her parchment, then studiously wrote 'lacewing flies' on it. "Yes, well, good for them." She cleared her throat. "I'll take the first four ingredients, which are—"
"Oh. Oh, you scrote twiddler! Oh god! Yes, fuck, harder, more—"
By now she was really certain that her face was flaming. "—flies, fluxweed, Antimony, and leeches. You're in charge of the rest. Got it? Good. We're done." Hermione then turned around and went to her table, pretending to look for something in one of her books.
"Don't stop. Oh please, harder, yes that's it-"
"Granger, Granger." She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth when she heard him laugh. "Do you mean to tell me that you know exactly what's going on in there?"
"I'm not an idiot, Malfoy, and I don't appreciate your tone," she told him, keeping her back turned to him. "Of course I know what they're doing. It isn't that hard to deduce considering-" Helplessly, she gestured at the wall again - and as if on cue, someone moaned long and deep.
"My, my. Aren't you just full of surprises." Five unbearably long seconds passed. Then, "And here I was, looking forward to explaining to you what they're busying themselves with."
"In case you didn't hear it, I said we were done." Hermione glanced at him very quickly. "You may leave. Now. Owl me after a month or so, when your shares of the assignment have been properly brewed."
"If you wish. I do live to do your bidding."
Hermione was about to sigh in relief when Malfoy appeared at her side and said suddenly, "I'll let you borrow my book for a short while." He dragged a finger up her arm. "I'll expect you to return it personally, and soon."
"Go away," she said, slapping at his hand.
And finally, after a few more seconds of enduring his laughter, he did.
Meanwhile, the two were still at it when Hermione had finished gathering all her things. Vexed and embarrassed beyond reason, she took out her wand and muttered a silencing charm aimed at whoever was on the other room.
That should at least teach them a lesson or two.
She returned to the Gryffindor common room after dropping some of her books at the library. By now Hermione had regained her calm, and was partially regretting hexing other students like that. Still, there was no way she was going back to that room, much less that part of the castle, any time soon.
Hermione was sitting in front of the fire, Malfoy's book on her lap, when the sound of the door opening made her look up.
"Hey, Ron," she greeted him. "Where were you?"
He opened his mouth to speak, closed it, then raised a hand in greeting.
She frowned. "Are you all right?"
Ron's ears purpled, and he nodded vigorously before almost flying out to his room in haste.
"Huh," Hermione muttered. "How odd."