It wasn't meant to be this way.

Ever since that first Potions lesson, her hand waving impatiently in the air, that arrogent need to always be the one to know, the one to answer, then her dogged insistance on helping that toad Neville, wasting her intellect on the stupid kid who didn't have the brains of a slime mould - he had always hated her. Or that's what he'd thought.

When Voldemort had dared to suggest his plan for... for them, he had considered it merely another of his Dark Master's sick jokes. The ugly, sallow Potions master that nobody could love, trying ineptly to seduce one of his young pupils. He had supposed it was Malfoy's idea, some light entertainment for his precious son. And anyway, she was a Mudblood, for heaven's sake.

But she had grown on him. She had grown on him like a particularly virulent colony of E. coli on room-temperature British beef. Somehow, they'd just been right for each other. Compatable. And after leaving himself open, the beef couldn't really complain; not, he chuckled silently to himself, that he could ever really be thought of as beef.

He caught himself tangling his long, spidery fingers in her bushy curls of hair, as if to convince himself that she was still here; not daring to think of what Voldemort would consider the next step of his twisted plan. He had been right again, of course; he was always right. A special lesson here and there, access to a few restricted textbooks, and after a quite spectacular falling-out with Ron the girl had come running straight into his arms.

And still, he could always fall back on his position with Dumbledore; the poor fool still thought he was on his side, after all. He'd be sure to protect him.

To protect them.