Disclaimer: I don't own the Harry Potter universe. Sue me at your own risk, because all you'll get is a pile of student loans and a cat with three legs. I'm rather attached to the cat, but you can have all the loans you want.

A/N: Now that I know people are reading, let me outline my plan: I will try to update every few days, though I can't promise anything. The first two chapters have been done for a while, and I have the fourth chapter completed though not thoroughly edited. I also have scenes from later chapters written out because they wouldn't leave my head until I did. I will admit, however, to having trouble with Chapter 3. I know what needs to happen, but it's rough going because a lot of information needs to be outlined but not a lot of action takes place. Therefore, I have a question for my readers: Would it be unbearably boring if most of Chapter 3 was an excerpt from a book that Hermione is using to research the potion? Tell me your opinions as quickly as possible and I'll try to get the chapter out as soon as I can. Now, on to the story!

Chapter 2: Unexpected Side Effects

An hour later, Hermione and Malfoy were just finishing their potion. Despite the occasional trade of insults, the potion-making process had gone comparatively smoothly. He was knowledgeable about the potion and surprisingly attentive to detail, but she found that she would rather have a friendly but inept partner than a snide and arrogant but relatively competent one. Their potion was done before any other group even showed signs of wrapping up. Panicked questions and snapped admonishments filled the room as Hermione finished clearing the ingredients and seated herself beside Malfoy.

"I suppose we should wait for everyone else to finish up," she said, looking around and bouncing slightly in her chair with anticipation. "Oh, I hope we do all right. I need this to go well." Malfoy had his feet up on the desk (something no other student would dare to do in Snape's class) and was staring at the ceiling with his hands behind his head.

"Your potions always go well, Granger," Malfoy said in an exasperated voice. "Must you continue to nag us all to death with your constant fretting?"

"Well said, Mr. Malfoy." Malfoy glanced over casually and Hermione spun around to find Snape standing behind her.

"If you are quite finished lazing about during my class, Miss Granger, perhaps you might be willing to test your potion and possibly have a chance of passing this assignment?" Hermione blinked at him speechlessly, her mouth open but soundless. Malfoy slid his long legs off the table and straightened up with a small smirk as Snape smiled sourly at Hermione and stalked away.

"Well, you heard the man, Granger. How about you get off your ass and do some work around here?" He stood up and began pouring small doses of the potion into slim glass vials. She stood up and was about to let loose with a scathing retort when he placed one of the vials in her raised hand and gently tapped his own against it.

"Cheers, Granger. If this poisons me, my father will hold you entirely to blame." Before Hermione could respond, Malfoy had thrown back the potion with a grimace. Hermione did the same, and felt like grimacing herself. The potion tasted acrid and metallic, and she resisted the urge to make a very unladylike retching sound.

All the sudden, she felt a rush of penetrating, warm tingling wash through her body, beginning in her stomach and flooding out to her extremities. Following the not-unpleasant warmth came a strange sensation that at first she couldn't place. A few moments later, she recognized it as disdain, and a scant moment after that, recognized that it had not originated with her. Malfoy's emotions drifted inside her like changing tides, surging and receding, first dominated by expectation, then curiosity, then a wariness that told her he found the sensation as disquieting as she did.

"This is . . ." Malfoy began with a somewhat perplexed looked on his face.

"Surreal," Hermione supplied, which, she realized, was exactly what he was thinking. "I'm not sure I like this." Across the room, Ron was giving Hermione a concerned look. He mouthed 'Are you okay?', and she nodded with a small smile. Malfoy glanced back and forth between them.

"But you do like him, don't you, Granger?" Malfoy asked with a sly smile.

"I most certainly do not!" she exclaimed, but she could tell that he didn't believe her. She could feel that he didn't.

"Oh, yes, you do," he argued. He glanced over at Ron one more time. "I think I'll tell him." Malfoy began to make a move to get out of his chair.

"Don't you dare!" she exclaimed, catching his wrist before he could get up. Suddenly, Hermione's world spun, and her chest was empty of air, as though the breath had been knocked out of her in a fall. She blinked her eyes . . . and found herself in another dungeon, not like any she had ever seen in Hogwarts, with rich tapestries on the walls and horrible-looking devices scattered about the room, some of which she recognized as tools for Dark magic. Most strangely of all, another part of her did recognize the room. The same part of her was gripped with terror. She looked up and realized why.

"What have I told you about coming down here, Draco?" Lucius Malfoy asked in chilling voice. Draco? Hermione looked down at her hands and would have gasped in shock if she could have, but she seemed to have no control over her body, if it was her body. She was looking at the small, chubby hands of a child. Her skin was ghost pale, and it was not her own. She didn't understand how, but she seemed to be inside Draco Malfoy. Judging from the size of his pale hands and the way his father towered over him, she guessed that he couldn't have been more than four or five. A memory, perhaps?

A moment later, she was too distracted to marvel at the phenomenon of experiencing another person's memory when Draco's terror overwhelmed her own curiosity. She suddenly realized that Lucius was standing directly over her.

"I'm sorry, father," she heard herself say in the trembling voice of a child. Lucius did not respond, his eyes cold and impassive.

"That's the last time you disobey me, Draco. I didn't want to have to do this, but you haven't left me any other choice." Lucius pulled his wand from the folds of his expensive robes and muttered something that Draco did not understand.

The pain that ripped through Hermione was beyond comprehension, beyond anything she had ever known or imagined. Her blood itself seemed to burn in her veins, and she felt as if every bone in her body had shattered into uncountable, razor-sharp shards that tore through muscles and tissue like shrapnel. Briefly she was aware of a scream that issued from her rapidly closing throat, a scream that was not her own but that of a tortured child. That thought and all others were quickly swept from her overloaded brain, and she was swallowed up by an agony so profound that she feared it might actually kill her.

Finally, the curse was lifted, leaving a deep ache in her bones and silent tears on her cheeks. She looked up at Lucius from her curled-up position on the floor and watched him approach with a calm stride and a disgusted sneer.

"You shame me Draco," Lucius spat, as though he were repulsed by the taste of the words. Even as fury seethed in Hermione's mind, she could feel young Draco's heart break in his small chest. "A Malfoy never cries," Lucius reminded his son with cold fury. His leg pulled back and when the silver toe of his polished boot connected with her temple, Hermione knew a blinding pain, then a blinding light, then only blindness.

Hermione's eyes – her real eyes, not those of a young and terrified Draco Malfoy – flew open and she was back in the Potions room, the buzz of chattering, blissfully ignorant students all around her and a much older, much angrier Draco Malfoy seated in front of her. His eyes, usually cold, distant, and arrogant, were now flinty with hatred and shame, heated and dark as melted pewter. She suddenly realized that her hand was still clutching his wrist, and she let go as though his skin scalded her. So tightly had she been squeezing him that her hand's imprint was still visible, first bloodless and impossibly whiter than his moon-pale skin, then angry and red. Behind her, she could vaguely hear Snape speaking, though his voice seemed blurry and far away.

"In a few very rare cases, when the skill of the potion makers is exceptionally high and their magic or their personal connection especially strong, the potion can have another effect besides a temporary empathic link. There are several documented cases of a deeper, more intimate connection resulting from this potion, in which one of the potion makers is transported into the most powerful and defining memories of the other. Once this occurs, the empathic link goes both ways. Though none here possess the skill or power required to produce this effect," Snape continued dryly with a sneer at the Gryffindors, "in case someone accidentally creates a truly perfect potion, I would suggest refraining from all physical contact with your partner until the effects wear off. The deeper connection is triggered by touch and once it has been made, it cannot be broken. A permanent empathic link will exist between the two people for the rest of their lives."

Hermione stared at Malfoy, her mouth open in mingled horror and shock. Malfoy looked less shocked than sullen and furious, but even as she gazed into his hate-filled eyes, she was reminded of another face, pale and silver-eyed, twisted with more evil and cruelty than she had ever witnessed in this particular Malfoy. She could feel his anger, his disgust, his tightly reigned-in fear, but even as she grew angry in response, she remembered feeling his pain, his terror, his innocent confusion. Indignant fury and wrenching pity battled for prominence in her heart.

"Stop it, Granger," Malfoy growled through clenched teeth. She blinked, startled out of her reverie.

"Stop what?" she wondered, honestly confused.

"Stop feeling sorry for me," he snapped. "I don't need your pity."

"I wasn't – " she began, but he cut her off with a snarl as he leapt from his chair. His face was inches from her own, and with the closer proximity came an intensifying of the feelings that rolled off him in waves, overwhelming her already-taxed emotional capacity.

"Don't lie to me, Granger," he warned menacingly. "I know." Vaguely, Hermione heard the outraged cries of classmates whose attention had been drawn by the clattering of Malfoy's chair to the floor, but she was curiously unconcerned with them. Her entire consciousness was taken up by the unfathomable realization that he did know; she could feel his certainty, his utter awareness of her. She suddenly felt intolerably exposed, horribly violated. She jumped out of her own chair, sending it crashing to the floor beside Malfoy's, and stumbled backward, shaking her head as if to dislodge Malfoy's presence in it.

"You stay away from me, Malfoy," she demanding in a trembling voice. "Don't come near me."

"Gladly," he sneered, and he turned with his robes swirling around him and stalked out of the room. As a stunned, confused silence fell in his wake, his fury, his uncertainty, faded mercifully into an echo of what they had been, until she could feel only a whispered awareness of his presence, charged with hostile emotions.

"Ten points from Gryffindor," Snape said smoothly into the silence. Hermione nodded and righted both her chair and Malfoy's, too absorbed, confused, and exhausted to argue.