Authors Note: The final scene of this chapter was inspired by Clint Mansell's beautiful score for the Fountain, which I listened to over and over in the writing of it. I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of movie scores, it is a beautiful compostion, as is everything he does. The songs I imagined in particular "Together We Will Live Forever", "Death is a Disease" and "Death is the Road to Awe". This chapter has been a long time in coming (3-5 years actually), I started this journey in '02 and last updated sometime either in '03 or '05. A lot has happened since then including a complete revamp so if you reviewed previously I had to delete some chapters to edit it, so I apologize. I encourage you as always to review, it keeps me writing, and I do plan on finishing this, you have been warned, it's going to be a bumpy ride!

Hermione had tried in vain to keep herself awake to wait for his return. She had stretched out on the couch, book in hand, fully prepared to greet him when he returned. He had, after all, done nothing wrong, and did not deserve this. It was the least she could do.

But as the hours passed, her eyes grew heavy, and the book fell from her hand, to lay forgotten in her lap. This was how he found her, sleeping on their common room couch, the firelight dancing across her hair.

In truth the first of the detentions had not been bad. Weasley had said not a word, cast not a glance in his direction, and Snape had them do no more then catalogue the contents of the Potions cupboard. The list, he had informed them, would be what they worked on for the remainder of their detentions.

Draco knelt beside the sleeping girl, a wave of rare tenderness sweeping over him as he brushed the hair from her face, tracing a path down her cheek. She stirred slightly, sighing contentedly in her sleep.

His eyes took in her firm cupids bow mouth, the flush of her lashes against her cheeks, the freckles that dotted her nose and sprinkled her cheeks. His finger's traced a path under her eyes, brushing her lips.

He found himself staring into rich cinnamon brown eyes. She had awoken. She just stared at him, her eyes curious, wondering, and a bit scared. They had not spoken since the incident. She had not directly taken his side, and thus she wondered about his mood.

"Oh…Draco, your face," her hand reached out to touch the bruises from Weasley's punch. And he let her. In truth he was feeling much too tired, much too strained to fight her.

"The letter, was from my father," Draco said finally, reaching up to take her hand. At first Hermione just nodded sleepily, and then the force of his statement hit her. Her stomach wrenched painfully with the knowledge of what that meant.

"He knows?" Hermione was wide awake then, shooting up in her seat. Draco nodded grimly.

"He knows. The owl that delivered it was a family owl, I recognized it immediately," Draco wasn't going to tell her about his visit, and his father's thinly veiled threat.

"Oh Merlin," She turned away from him then, her eyes on the fire. "He'll kill you."

"No, his plans for me are set in stone," Draco moved to join her on the couch. "I think he thought the letter to Weasley would resolve it."

Several beats passed before she spoke again, her eye's still trained on the fire, the flames flickering across her face, dancing in them.

"And….did it?" she choked a little.

"Not yet," Draco grasped her face, rather roughly turning it to face him. "Not unless you want it to."

"Not yet," Hermione echoed his words, and then she crushed his lips with hers.

Her kisses were desperate, passionate, and laced with fear. He could taste it on her tongue, feel it in the clutch of her fingertips on his arms. She was grasping, clutching, feeding off of him. It was a fear of the future, of the present, of what lay in store for them.

He let himself fall back against the couch as she continued her onslaught of ferverent kisses, her fingers deftly pushing his robes aside. It was enough to make him forget the day's events, and as always they were lost in the passion, forgetting everything about the lives they led outside of their sacred place.

It was her night for control, her need pushing it onward. He let her. He gasped, and moaned at her touch, and reveled in the feeling of her hands on him, her lips, her tongue, her mouth. She was saccharine sweet, and deliciously dirty.

He truly enjoyed these rare moments where she took charge. She was liquid smoke across his body, the barest whisper against his flesh. She fair danced across his skin, removing his clothes completely, stripping off her own. Her lips whispered across his face, kissing the dark purple bruises, her fingers following as if to heal them.

Her hair caressed him as deftly as her fingers, and he was lost in her scent. His moans mingled with her own as she moved atop him, his hands clutching her hips, their movements furious and hard. She cried out his name, and he hers as their passion peaked, and she felt against him slick with sweat, sated and weak.

He more felt her whisper against his chest then heard it outright. In his state it took a minute to process.

"If he hurts you I won't ever forgive myself."

His response was to twine his fingers in her hair, stroking downward.

Ronald Weasley was a man of passion. A man prone to fits of irrationality and anger. It was hard to maintain, and once he was past the initial rage he found himself unable to regain its power. Thus he worked almost amicably with Draco over the course of their detentions.

The anger would spark anew when he saw him at the beginning of their shared detention, and then was lost in the tasks at hand. They chopped, crushed, and harvested in silence, and Ron found it harder and harder to be angry as the days went on. Hermione had been correct. There was no way she could have known outright about his intentions, and truth be told with the closeness that Draco and her had been forced to endure it was almost understandable. Hadn't Dumbledore said it was a house tradition?

He chalked it up to temporary insanity on her part, sheer malice on Malfoy's. He didn't trust the boy, nor would he, but in regards to an attraction for Hermione he could certainly understand him. His heart still clenched with jealousy, and his stomach still felt sick with the knowledge, but he would eventually forgive. Her at least.

He would bide his time, and wait for her. He would always wait. Malfoy and Hermione had mere months, and he had a lifetime. Ronald may have been horribly dense about a number of things, but he knew a doomed relationship when he saw one. Being the youngest in a family of troublemakers had given him the ability to see consequence in everything.

She wasn't tainted in his eyes. She never could be. He was disappointed surely, but her purity wasn't something a person as foul as Malfoy could ever touch.

He had spent several nights lying awake thinking on it. It made his blood boil at the thought but it was something you eventually came to accept, if not understand.

He had decided though, that on this, their last night of detention, that something must be said.


So that was why as the boys gathered themselves to leave he laid a hand on Draco's arm to stop him.

"Malfoy, a word," Ron struggled with each syllable, especially the last. "Please."

Intrigued if nothing else Draco turned around to look at the boy. Ron was taller then him, but extraordinarily Draco still managed to appear as if he were looking down at him.

"What is it?"

Ron shifted uncomfortably.

"I-" he swallowed, refusing to let himself get angry as he spoke, as he watched Draco shift impatiently. "I just wanted to say, that I don't agree with it, and I don't much enjoy it, but I am forced to accept it." He took in a breath, gathering strength, and calming the beast in his belly. "I do want to make sure that you won't hurt her." Ron went on. "I mean obviously she is going to get hurt to some degree and she knows that, she'd be daft if she didn't, but anything else, if you hurt her in any other way, I WILL kill you." It wasn't terribly original, but it was exactly what he meant. Ron was nothing if not direct. He knew without a doubt that he had the capacity to be true to his word. Unlike Hermione and Harry, he didn't have any moral reservation about killing a human being in the name of justice, and protecting those you loved. It was taking a great deal of self-control and common sense to keep from killing the boy now.

Draco regarded him for a moment with cool silver eyes. Ron was quite sure that Draco was going to hit him again. He steeled himself for the punch, and was prepared to retaliate. He was surprised when Draco merely nodded.

They stood in uncomfortable silence for a moment. Ron having said what he wanted to say was at a loss, his anger dissipating at Draco's cool acceptance of his threat.

Ron opened his mouth to say something else, but Draco had already turned to leave, his robes billowing out behind him.

Ron felt slightly better, not entirely appeased, but better.

The weeks passed with incredibly quickness. The days seemed to drag as they always did while they waited for their time together, yet still she found herself constantly amazed at the rapidly passing days. With studying, and their duties as the Heads, and their time together at night it was no wonder everything seemed to be moving so fast.

N.E.W.T.'s were fast approaching, and their time was mostly spent studying, pouring over 7 years of knowledge, trying to retain it all. That almost pleasant anxiety Hermione felt close to an important exam or assignment was heavy in her stomach. It was coupled by another anxiety as she crossed the days off her calendar, as she watched the end of the year loom closer.

They still didn't talk about what lay in store after, about their plans for the future. Her acceptance into the Auror Academy was pushed away, as were his ties to his much darker path. They were trying gamely to focus on the present.

Still as she wrote essay after essay to this scholarship foundation or that grant she couldn't help but feel a twisting in her stomach. It was a matter of weeks now until the end of term, and the two separate paths they must walk. Hermione dipped her quill in ink and resumed writing an essay that would hopefully secure her an academic scholarship meant especially for Muggle-borns. It was pointless really, she had known what would happen shortly after they began their "affair". Draco had not lied to her, or given her the impression that he had any intention of following her to the light side. She knew he didn't want to join his father in the ranks of the Death Eaters, but he would. It was his familial duty, it was what he was bred to do. Hermione also had an inkling there was much more to it then that. If Draco was worried about familial duty he would never have started anything with her in the first place. Still they had yet to discuss it, and she couldn't help but fear that such a discussion would be the end of them. The straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.

So she kept her peace, and wrote her essays, and studied for her exams, and lost herself in his arms nightly.

So absorbed was she in her thoughts and in her work she didn't realize he had entered the common room until she felt his hot breath on her neck.

"Hello," she murmured, closing her eyes as his lips brushed her collarbone.

"Busy?" he whispered back.

"Not horribly so," Hermione smiled and turned around, her other hand pulling a paper over the essay, lest he see what it was for. No need to spark any anger tonight, not with so few nights left.

"Excellent," his lips caught hers.

The kiss was achingly sweet, and with her thoughts where they had been a few moments before Hermione drank it in, savouring it, trying to burn it, and all his other touches into her memory.

"What did you have in mind?" She rasped, breaking the kiss.

"Oh you know, a little of this, a little of that," Draco arched an eyebrow, smirking wickedly. His hands traveled to her skirt. "Mostly that."

Hermoine smiled, and braced her hand on his chest, she pushed him backwards toward his room.

"I'm always up for some of that," she closed the door behind them.

Severus Snape would not readily admit to being masochistic, but he found himself once again in a situation that would cause him a great deal of pain, and he had willingly brought himself here.

Time was running short, and he had to know he had done all he could.

Audrey had been furious, slamming her door in his face and not seeing him off on his departure. She realized of course that there was a slim chance he would not return. Lucius was an old friend but the bonds of friendship did not run deep with him, and Snape had betrayed his Master. Lucius could very well decide that he would be the one to exact punishment for Severus's crimes.

Severus took a deep breath, and raised his hand to ring the bell to announce his arrival. It was not long before a timid, twitchy house elf opened the door, leading him into the foyer.

"Master says he in his study and you to join him there," the elf bowed low and scampered away.

Severus knew the way to the study by heart. He was, in truth, nervous, he was no fool and a healthy dose of fear was needed in situations such as these. He had steeled his nerves long ago, for this must be done. He had one last shot.

"Severus!" Lucius greeted him grandly, rising from his seat. "To what do I owe the pleasure?" Lucius gestured to a seat. "No wait. Let me guess, Draco?" Severus took a seat and Lucius took his own. "Brandy?"

"No thank you," Severus cleared his throat. "You are, I'm sure, aware of my reason for being here."

"Of course," Lucius scoffed. "You are, if nothing else, persistent," Lucius poured himself his own glass of and took healthy sip.

"I am asking you to reconsider inviting Draco into the life we had Lucius," Snape decided to just get it over with, but kept his hand close to his wand. "I am asking you once more to be a father to your son."

Lucius paused in the second sip of his brandy, his once amused silver eyes going cold.


Severus pressed on, his fingers brushing the tip of his wand as he spoke.

"He is innocent Lucius, and though I know you are set on him joining in your cause we both know regardless of which side you are on it is a bloody one. I fear not for his chosen path, but for his life." Severus Snape was not usually nervous, nor was he usually flustered, but at this point in the game he was desperate. He watched Lucius calmly set the glass on the desk, and then he gripped his wand.

"We have been friends for many years Severus, which is why I allowed you to enter my home and didn't strike you dead on the spot," Lucius stood. "Which is why I am going to let you leave unharmed once again. You saved my life many a time in our day, and in return I am giving you yours. I risked a great deal by allowing you here without alerting the Dark Lord, and I risk more by continuing to do so. Draco WILL join our Master, and he will do so because I demand it, because I promised it, and because it is DUTY and his RIGHT to do so. You have made your plea Severus, now leave and do not return to my doorsteps with your trivial sniveling again." Lucius's voice rose with every word until he was fair screaming.


Severus Snape stood, not alarmed in the least bit, his hand still on his wand. The fear that he had felt initially left him, replaced instead by anger, he turned to leave the study. His chance had come and gone. He knew it was useless to talk to Draco, Lucius had more hold over the boy then empty promises of protection ever could.

"You make a grave error in pursuing this Lucius, as your ifriend/i-" Severus fair spat the word, "-I attempted to allow you to correct it. I attempted to help you save your family and offered you what protection I had to give, and still you serve him." He opened the door. "It will be the death of you both." And Severus Snape left the Manor to return to Hogwarts, having failed his mission. He felt the heaviness of his heart increase, for the loss of a friendship, and for the loss of, how he had come to view him for many years now, of a sort of son.

Draco pushed his text into his satchel, following it with the odds and ends of a very boring, double Defense Against the Dark Arts. He looked up to see Hermione's retreating back, the tantalizing swish of her skirt and smiled despite himself.

"Mr. Malfoy," the sharp voice of his professor snapped his head away.

"Yes, Professor?" Draco liked the new DADA teacher despite her upbringing. He found her to be funny and frank. A refreshing difference from most of the old bores that taught in the institution.

"A word," she motioned for him to follow him to her office. He watched as the remaining students cast curious eyes on him before shrugging and taking their leave. Confused as well Draco draped the satchel across his shoulders and followed her.

"Shut the door Mr. Malfoy," her voice was colder then he had ever heard it, and instantly his defenses rose. However, he still shut the door as she instructed, and took a seat in the chair she motioned to.

Draco shifted in his seat uncomfortably as cold blue eyes raked across his body, her mouth twisting into a look of disgust. Her normally pretty face was marred by the look, now ugly.

"Have I done something wrong Professor?" Draco raised an eyebrow.

"Not yet," Audrey reached behind her, pulling a pack of cigarettes from some unknown place in her desk. "Do you mind if I smoke?" She had lit the cigarette before he could reply, obviously not caring for his response.

"I'm curious Draco," she took a drag, conjuring an ashtray with her wand. "Just what is entailed in a Dark Mark ritual?" She raised an eyebrow at him and expelled the smoke.

Draco stood abrubtly, turning towards the door.

"You will SIT," she was almost yelling now. Draco froze, and felt himself being forced back into the chair with a flick of her wand. "And you will listen, Mr. Malfoy," she said his name with a sneer, her voice a hiss, she took another fortifying drag. "For right this moment, at this EXACT second in time someone that I care a great deal about could be sacrificing himself for iyou/i, a petulant, egotistical child with no regard for those who care about him, and even less for those he finds to be beneath him." Draco turned, his eyes cold.

"I don't know what you are talking about i Professori," Draco replied, his tone implying he did not at this moment regard her as such.

"Severus Snape," she flicked her cigarette against the side of the tray, ash falling into its depths, "The fool, is trying to appeal once more for iyour/i life, an appeal that could cost him his own. He has walked into the lion's den for you, and for what?"

Draco felt his heart drop in his chest. He knew the implications of her statement. Snape was a former Death Eater, he had estranged himself from them at the fall of Voldemort, and upon his Lord's return had failed to rejoin the fold. It was common knowledge that his only protection from their vengeance lay in Hogwarts which was why the Potion's master never left the grounds.

"I didn't know," Draco said, it was not an apology, but it was as close to one as he was willing to give this woman, this virtual stranger who was looking at him with such undisguised loathing.

"Of course you didn't," she laughed, a mirthless tinkling laugh laced with venom. "Why would you? So wrapped up are you in your selfish life, tainting those around you, you couldn't possibly have known that there are people who are not selfish, people who would do a great deal to keep you safe." She expelled another puff of smoke. "And truthfully Mr. Malfoy I cannot fathom why. I look at you and I see a spoiled little boy, a little boy who is all too eager to fill Daddy's shoes and join the fold. Oh yes, he is big enough to lower himself by cavorting with someone whose blood is beneath him, but a little dalliance, a taste of the forbidden before he pledges his life away." She snubbed the cigarette out viciously.

"You're wrong," Draco bit out, anger rising in his stomach, tensing his shoulders.


"Am I?" she smirked then, and still her face was ugly, twisted with anger and grief. "Tell me Mr. Malfoy will you be here for graduation? Will you walk with your fellow students? Will you walk with your Ms. Granger? Or will you be swearing an oath to kill them all? Kill those who had the misfortune of being born to families not as "blessed" as yours, not as "pure". Will you kill her?" Draco did not respond. He had spent 7 years of his life knowing how to address the Professors of this school, but now that one was attacking him he was unsure how to proceed. "Did you know Mr. Malfoy that your father was the one responsible for MY parent's deaths, that he was almost responsible for my own, that he walked free despite the wrongs he did, the sins he committed? I have watched you, waiting, giving you the benefit of the doubt, and now I can see that you have little to distinguish yourself from him, and I am quite sure you will live up to all his expectations." Audrey flicked her wand and Draco flinched, expecting an attack. She had, however, merely opened the door. "Get out, and know this, if Severus does not join us again it is on your head, and no one else's. And it would be in your best interests Mr. Malfoy, if you didn't mention this conversation to anyone, lest your after school plans come to light."

Draco practically ran from the room, his mind spinning, his heart pounding in his chest. He was furious. More than that he was terrified.

It didn't take long after Severus's departure for Lucius to take action. He knew that Snape would not give up his pointless quest to change Draco's mind. The man would approach Draco head on, attempting to sway him from one path to another. He also knew that Draco had already taken steps down the path to be turned on his own. Which was why immediate action must be taken. He had hoped that his initial letter would have done the trick in ending the relationship between his son and the filthy muggle-born witch, but that was simply not the case. Combined with his threats he had been so certain that alerting the Weasley boy would finish the deed. The roots of it were deeper then he had anticipated and it was time to yank them out.

Lucius grabbed his quill and a piece of parchment and started the second letter that would attempt to end his son's misguided courtship. This one, he was sure, would break the tie completely.

He wrote with a sure, quickness, the quill flying across the page in his elegant and exact penmanship. His orders were clear, concise and without question of intent. It was sooner then originally planned to be sure, but one did what one must regardless of timelines.

Lucius finished the letter, and called once more for his faithful owl. He sealed it with his ring, and tied it without preamble to the animal's leg, instructing it on its destination.

When the deed was done Lucius poured himself another glass of brandy, and leaned back in his chair. It would not take long he was certain, and his mind was whirling with things to do before the actual ceremony. They had but weeks to prepare him, and make sure that he was back on track without falter. It would not do if Draco was not prepared for the ceremony, and Lucius was not a man to incur the Dark Lord's wrath. His Master had great plans for his son, and Lucius considered the attention a great honor. None had been as blessed as he to have a child curry such favor with so powerful a man.

Lucius took a thoughtful sip, and he planned. He knew that even after the ceremony that Draco would not have the strong resolve he needed to serve properly. It would take a great and drastic deed to secure the kind of absolute, unwavering sense of purpose that was required of being chosen by the Dark Lord. Lucius had a very good idea of exactly what that deed needed to be. His son had given his body and possibly his heart to their greatest enemy, Lucius would be damned if he would give his life. He nodded and smiled. It was not the smile of a man who had accomplished great work, but the smile of a man who knew his greatest work was yet to come.

Hermione had taken to studying while eating, shoveling half noticed bites of food into her mouth as she turned pages and muttered key words and definitions. The Trio was once again on normal, speaking terms, however strained, and the boys could only shake their heads and smirk at their overly studious best friend.

They too were feeling the strain of the rapidly approaching exams, both in the sheer amount of homework they were assigned, and Hermione's meticulous "Suggested Study Schedules" that she had handed to all students facing an exam. She had insisted they follow the rigid requirements, stating that following the outline she had composed would prepare them completely for all eventualities in testing matter.

No one followed it as rigidly as Hermione herself, who had not been seen awake without textbook or carefully crafted notes for weeks now. She walked down the halls muttering dates and potions ingredients to herself, and had even brought her texts and notes on the final Hogsmeade outing of the year, sipping butterbeer while practicing different transfiguration spells on a bowl of nuts. Her anxiety was spilling over, and even Ron, usually not bothered at all, had been seen with a textbook in hand, his eyes wide and frantic for a moment before he tossed the book aside with a sigh and went to play chess.

Hermione sighed and turned a page, shoveling another forkful of food into her mouth, her eyes darting back and forth across the page. So absorbed was she in her notes she didn't notice the owl swoop into the room through an open window, quite off schedule again. The murmur among the students was quick, most of them recognizing the bird from the very public and very recent display. All eyes flew to Ron, expecting the owl to deliver the note attached to its leg. However, it went straight for Draco, landing squarely in front of the surprised boy.

The quiet, almost frantic hum of speculation had Hermione raising her eyes, following everyone else's to the boy in question. She watched with a sense of heavy dread as he untied the note from the birds leg, and gave it a bit of meat he had been eating before it flew away.

She glared as Pansy Parkinson leaned over, too far into Draco's personal field, attempting to see the contents. Hermione was smugly satisfied when Draco snatched the parchment away, and sneered at the offending girl, who promptly leaned back in her seat with a huff, crossing her arms across her chest.

The hum of the hall died down, and attention was diverted elsewhere as minutes passed with nothing overly dramatic occurring. It seemed a repeat performance was not happening on this evening.

Hermione, however, continued to stare, taking in the expression on Draco's face as his eyes swept the letter's contents. The clutch of his fingers on parchment, and the slow drain of color from his already pale skin. She could almost see him stop, and reread the letter again as if he didn't believe he had read it correctly the first time. She swallowed hard as she watched his shoulder's tense.

She forced herself to pull her eyes away, and instead shoved another forkful of food into her mouth, even though her appetite was gone. Her textbook lay forgotten on the table, but she trained her eyes on it trying to look absorbed as her mind whirled with possibilities. She knew the letter was from Lucius and while no correspondence from Lucius was ever a good thing, she knew that the odd hour of its arrival and Draco's reaction to it was even worse. Hermione felt her stomach churn, and swallowed, trying to keep from being sick. Each conclusion she drew was more horrible then the last, and she felt acid rise in her throat.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Draco casually rise from his seat, nodding a farewell to his friends before he swept from the hall. She counted slowly in her head, one, two, three, all the way to ten. She closed the book, laying her fork to the side.

"I'm going to the library, do you guy's want to go?" she looked at her friends. Harry and Ron looked sheepish, knowing they should feel guilty.

"Actually we have a practice scheduled tonight, last match of the season coming up and all," Harry looked at the wall beyond her shoulder, refusing to meet her eyes. Relief flooded Hermione, but she kept her face neutral, composing it into something a little sterner, and more fitting for the conversation.

"Nothing is more important then our exam's Harry, and if you don't put some time in…" she let her voice trail off.

'We will," Ron said hastily. "Tomorrow night we are all yours, promise," he held his hand to his heart.

Hermione sighed and nodded.

"I'll see you later then." It took all she had to keep from breaking into a run from the hall. She kept her steps normal and composed until she was past the door, and then she flew up the stairs to their tower.

Draco was just staring into the fire when she arrived. He did not turn around at her entrance, just continued to watch the flames lap at the dark wood. She did not see the letter clutched in his hands, and his face held no expression.

"Draco-" she started but cut her voice off immediately. It was then she saw his trunks. They were packed and waiting expectantly near the door. She shook her head. "No." The voice that left her mouth was not her own. It was a disbelieving broken thing. Still he did not stir. "No." She repeated with more force.

Her school bag fell to the floor with a loud thud, and her hands fell weakly to her sides. It was as she had feared, the worst thing.

Her eyes swept his face, from the fine length of his silver white hair, caressing the high bones of his aristocratic cheeks, the line of his nose, the curve of his lips in profile. His eyes did not stir from the fire, and it danced in their gray depths turning them black as smoke. Her hands were shaking.

"There are still a few weeks left, what about graduation?" she said finally. Draco stirred then, and it was to laugh. To laugh fuller and with more feeling then she had ever seen him laugh. He laughed until he clutched his sides, laughed until she saw the shine of a tear at the corner of one eye. His shoulder's shook and his head was thrown back, his hair falling almost to his back with the force of it.

Hermione stood frozen, hurt and confused at the laughter, and waited for it to cease.

"Did you really think that the Dark Lord cared about graduation?" his laughter subsided to a small chuckle and he turned to her, his eyes suddenly going grim and fierce.

"I just thought…" Hermione trailed off, unsure of how to phrase what she had thought. She had expected they had more time. She had set graduation as the final day in her mind, her eyes flitting to it on her calendar, not now, so many weeks before. She hadn't been expecting it, and she didn't think it was fair. She had expected a deadline and realized now there wasn't one. "When are you leaving?" Hermione said finally.

"At first light," Draco cast his eyes to the window, as if expecting to see the dawn already, even though it was barely twilight. Hermione grasped her fingers in front of her, pulling herself in tightly to keep from screaming. It welled deep within her chest, goosebumps standing out against her flesh with the force of keeping it in.

"My father has preparations to make before-" Draco cut himself off, his eyes darting back to the fire. He was perfectly still, a statue, she couldn't even make out the rise and fall of his chest beneath his robes.

"Before you become a Death Eater," and then she was as close to screaming as she could come, the words leaving her mouth in a snarl, her hands dropping and clenching into fists at her sides. "A murderer. A killer."

He was not a statue any more, he crossed the room in swift sure strides and Hermione closed her eyes and stiffened in response. Her face was a grimace, flinching with fear. She could feel his heat approach her, heightened by the fire, warm on her face.

"Yes," he said it softly, and still her eyes were squeezed shut. She felt something in her break at that simple word. It tore her insides to shreds, a wide gaping hole opening somewhere in her chest. She felt the raw edges as she breathed, shredded and exposed, getting larger and sharper with each passing second, with each breath she drew. The word repeated itself over and over in her head, softly at first and raising in volume, until she could hear him screaming yes in her mind.

She startled as she felt his gentle hands on her cheeks. They splayed across her face, his thumbs brushing the flesh beneath her eyes. Still her eyes remained closed.

His breath whispered across her face, he smelled sweet, like lemons and so utterly Draco. She drank it in, savoring the citrus. She filed it away with his cheekbones, with the color of his eyes, the pitch of his moans, the tilt of his smirk. They stood for several seconds with his hands on her face, her eyes squeezed tight, not moving. She startled again when she felt his lips on her eye lids, softer then she had ever imagined, like butterfly kisses against her lashes. First one eye and then the other, his hands still clutched her face. She felt his lips again at her hair line, he kissed each space, his fingers dug almost painfully into her jaw, but she could not bring herself to care, to open her eyes. Her nails cut into her palms.

"Please-" she whispered. "I can help you." She heard him suck in a gasp of air, and then she opened her eyes. He was so close, his lips centimeters from her face. She could see the flecks of darker grey in his eyes, the ring of blue around the iris, the pink veins that snaked the white, the small scar at the end of one perfectly winged eyebrow. "Let me help you." She pleaded. She saw his eyes darken, the pupil opening up dangerously.

Then he was kissing her, his mouth bruising hers, his tongue forcing itself inside. She kissed him back with equal force, teeth scraping lips. His hands left her face to wrap around her waist and she was yanked against him, crushed against his chest, his pelvis, her legs wrapping around his own instinctively. His arms were iron bands around her waist, around her back, and his fingers clutched desperately at the fabric of her robes. She grabbed his neck hard, dragging him down.

She felt the rip of fabric and felt her robes brush her calves as they pooled to the floor. Her hands were frantic against his shirt. It passed in a blur the shedding of clothes. He kissed her with so much force her jaw hurt, and she struggled to get enough air in through her nose, but she did not pull away.

Then she could feel the rug beneath her back, and his hands on her thighs. She closed her eyes again, squeezing them tight as he kissed her, over and over again with crushing force. She whimpered into his mouth and wrapped her legs around him.

He took her again and again, his own eyes burning into her face. She could not see him for her own were squeezed tightly shut, but she could feel the fire of them. It was powerful and rough, it was painful and sweet, and she marveled in his touch as she had so many times before.

And then she reached the pinnacle, crying out "I can help you" in a whispered scream as she did, not realizing that in the moments his lips left hers she had whispered it over and over again, until he silenced her with another bruising kiss. Then he was collapsed on top of her, sweat beading in the curve of his shoulder blades, the hollow of his lower back.

It was not the first of the nights couplings. Again and again, in every way she could have imagined he teased and taunted, he caressed and kissed. He burned her skin with his fingers, his mouth, he silenced her whispered pleadings and she silenced his own. She forgot about the letter, about the trunk, about the dawn as she cried out over and over her release. He used her over and over, cold and calculated with each time. She let him.

Until the final time. It was different. The other's had been frantic, pawing passion, need and forgetting, pausing only for a few moments to rest, and in the resting he would not look at her. He stared instead at the fire, at the ceiling. He did not touch her inbetween, just lay covered in a thick sheen of sweat, his hair soaked through, as was her own.

Hermione felt the shift in his attentions immediately. He swept her up into his arms and carried her into his room.

Draco lay her on the bed as gentle as a child, and his eyes slowly moved from her head down, she flushed with embarrasment at his close scrutiny. He hovered over her then, kissing her forehead with agonizing slowness, her eyes, her nose, her cheeks, her breasts, the curve of her stomach, the bones of her hips. Each in turn he kissed delicately, his hands following in his lips across the map of her body.

When he came back to her face she repeated his act in kind, raising her back off the bed to press her lips to the smooth skin of his forehead, to the fluttering lashes of his eyes, the bones of his cheeks, his lips. She let him fall next to her on the bed, and resumed, she kissed the sides of his stomach, the crease of thigh, she kissed his knees, her hands following her route. With each kiss her brain catalogued the feeling "This is Draco's stomach, this is Draco's cheek" on and on the list went until she was sure she had the feel, the taste of him memorized. Her pulled her back down next to him, for a moment brushing the strands of her hair away from her face. Then he was hovering above her, his eyes locked with her own.

She was reminded of the night when she had taught him how to be slow. He did not move, his arms shaking slightly from the exertion and still he did not move. They just looked at each other for an eternity.

Then he was moving, and she was meeting each movement with her own, her hands running down his back, his stomach, his chest, torturously slow and savoring.

He was whispering something she couldn't hear, and she was too caught up to try harder. He continued to move agonizingly slow and Hermione cried out with each movement.

Together they reached the top, and cried out. It was then she realized what Draco had been whispering, for he cried it now, at the top of his release.