The morning moved slowly.

When it was time for her to return home—probably face the wrath of her mother for being out all night without calling—Tom rolled out of bed first. With all the grace he possessed in everything he did, he dressed and threw her clothes into a garbage bag, and in the dim light of the early morning he told her he would be back within the hour, once he had disposed of their clothes and changed his own.

"You should feel welcome to take anything you need from Bella's wardrobe," He told her, and with a decidedly displeased turn of his lips, he added, "She's rather fond of you, so I doubt she would mind."

Hermione watched him get ready from the bed, folded her arms under the pillow and remained on her stomach and just watched, familiarized herself with the narrowing of his waist, the way when he bent at the waist you could see his spine strain against his skin, the way his fingers looked when he dragged them through his hair to pull it into place, stark white against the dark locks that immediately obeyed his touch and remained swept off his forehead. There was something calming in his movements, in the calm confidence he possessed as he dressed. Soothing, and when he moved toward the bedroom door as if to leave without so much of a goodbye she called his name to stop him, there was something indisputably comforting about the way he stopped and turned immediately to see what she wanted.

She reached out her hand, watched the confused and somewhat irritated set of his brow, and when he set the bin bag down and moved toward her to take her hand and kneel by the bed, barely-patiently awaiting for her to tell him what she called his name for, she felt something happy and pleased well up in her chest. He quirked an irritated eyebrow when she didn't say anything, so she just shook her head and kissed him shortly.

"Goodbye." She said pointedly, to make it clear that he almost forgot to say it, and he gave her a tired look that suggested he thought she was being silly.

"I'll be back in an hour," He said just as pointedly, rising to his feet and dropping her hand to start toward the door again, picking up the bag.

"An hour is a long time." She called after him, and when he turned at the doorway to eye her with a single, unimpressed eyebrow raised, there was something indisputably fond in the way he looked at her.

"Get dressed." Was all he said, and he left.

Hermione waited for a moment after he was gone, listened to the sound of the front door of Bella's flat opening and then closing with his departure. She took a deep breath, pushing herself up and swinging her legs off the bed, wincing at the ache between her legs. She paused, remembering what they had done, and she tried to find it within herself to regret it, even just to regret that they had done it too soon, that they should have waited, but the more she thought about it the more she thought that it was the only good thing that had happened all night. After being kidnapped, and…Lestrange…

She screwed her eyes shut and breathed sharply in through her nose. It would do her no good to dwell on it. There was nothing to be done about it now.

She rose to her feet and walked uneasily to the bathroom, still naked, still sore, feeling almost as if she should be waking from a dream. She spared herself glance in the mirror and paused, taking in the dark circles under her eyes and the mess of hair upon her head. Tentatively, she raised her fingers to trace the blue-purple shade under her eye, and when she did she took noticed of the pinky-red lines around her wrists. Those must be from the ropes.

Something clenched in her chest at the memory and she had to quickly banish it from her mind, angrily jerking on the shower and hopping in before the water even had a chance to warm.

She was thankful that this time there was no blood to wash away.

She didn't stay in the shower long, just long enough for the hot water to soothe her aching muscles and for the smell of the shampoo to wake her up a bit. She squeezed her eyes shut and tilted her face up to allow the water to spray over her face, and she brushed off the sudden tightness in her throat and tears in her eyes as a side-effect to her exhaustion.

When she finished her shower she dressed in the same borrowed clothes from last night, rummaged through Bella's shoes when she saw that Tom had taken her own to dispose of. Not only were Bella's feet bigger than hers, her shoes consisted almost entirely of high heels. She found a rather expensive pair of trainers and slid those on, tying them tight enough so they weren't slipping off.

She sat in the living room to wait for Tom to return and she wondered what it was like for everyone who had been looking for her. She wondered what Harry was doing, if he regretted ever getting involved, if he went home and lied to his parents like she was about to do. She was certain Malfoy must regret ever getting involved, but at least she had never particularly cared about Malfoy's opinion to begin with. But Harry…

The door opened, drawing her from her thoughts, and when she turned Tom was standing in the open doorway. "Done?" She asked,

"It's done." He said, and holding out a hand to signal for her to come nearer he said, "Let's get you home."

She hesitated. "These shoes are too big," She said.

"I'm certain you can manage," He shot back dryly, his eyebrow raising in response. She eyed him for a moment from her place on the couch, unsure of what to say, before rising slowly and moving toward him, crossing her arms in front of herself as she went. He watched her near him, and when she reached his side there was a silent, awkward moment where neither moved and neither said anything, Tom just watched her closely as if he was trying to read her.

"When Bella is done with the police, the Lestrange family will likely try to brush this under the rug as quickly as possible, lest their new block of flats suffer," He told her after a moment, "No one will know you had anything to do with it."

"I'll know." She argued. His brows pinched together for a moment as he regarded her, before he lifted his hands to wrap around her wrists and uncross her arms, holding her wrists between them.

"If it's any consolation," He told her, "I'm proud of you."

Her lips tipped up without her control and she rolled her eyes, looking away from him when she said with some humor, "I'm not sure that's comforting at all."

"No?" He pressed, calling her eyes back to meet his.

"I'm as bad as you now." She tried to joke, but midway through her voice broke and tears sprung to her eyes. She hurriedly blinked them away, banished the horrible thoughts that had sprung to her mind, focused instead on Tom's thumb which had begun a sweeping motion back and forth over the inside of her wrist.

"Not quite," He assured her, his eyes narrowed as if he was trying to gauge her reaction before he said anything else. After a moment, he moved his hands so that they slid up her arms as he continued, "The difference between you and I is that what you've done can't be classified as murder."

"But I suppose I can't really lecture you on it anymore, can I?" She asked wryly, and his lips twitched in response, one hand sliding up over her shoulder until it rested on the side of her throat.

"I'm sure this won't stop you." He said, and she tilted her chin up to eye him closer.

"Well you aren't planning on doing it again, are you?" She asked.

"No," He said, his eyebrows raising briefly in an expression of irritation, "You may not believe me, but I don't plan to make a name for myself by being a serial killer."

"No?" She challenged, and his lips twitched upwards once again in that almost smile.

"Perhaps I've considered it." He admitted lightly, and she hummed in response. The quiet moment that followed made her suddenly aware at how lightly they spoke of it, of how easy it was to pretend that everything that had happened was unimportant, to disregard the fact that two people had died. Tom noticed her sudden chance in mood, and his thumb moved to run along her cheek. "Don't think on it." He told her.

"On what?" She asked, taking a deep, calming breath, "On you considering being a serial killer?"

He smiled, just one corner of his lips tipping up to show his teeth, "That too." He told her, tugging her forward so that they finally left the doorway. As he pulled the door shut behind them, his hand found the small of her back and he said, "You'll be my impulse control."

"I've not done a very good job so far," She muttered, falling into step with him as they left Bella's flat.

"You have." He told her lowly, sounding much more serious than he had all morning. She didn't say anything in response, sliding her arm around his waist, her fingers curling around his side. He followed suit, his hand shifting from where it had been guiding her at her back to slide more securely around her waist.

They hadn't talked about what had happened after everything, about what they had done. Hermione supposed it wasn't of terrible importance, sex after all would definitely fall below murder on the scale of monumental life-changing decisions. But for some reason she still felt as if it should be important, as if they should talk about it, but when she considered it she really didn't know what they would say, save for a short and awkward recognition of what they had done. 'So we had sex.' 'Yes, we did.'

It should be important, she thought, shouldn't it? People built entire relationships around sex, after all, and she had only just barely come to terms with accepting the change from friends to more-than-friends in their relationship. But she didn't really feel like this was a change so much as a progression, and when she examined the easy way Tom walked beside her, the comfortably way he touched her and let her touch him, she didn't really feel as if anything had changed.

She supposed she was overthinking it. There was a reason it didn't matter, after all, and it was because her life was filled with bigger worries than when and where and to whom she lost her virginity.

"Will you stay in London?" She asked instead, allowing him to slide out from her arm and take her hand instead as they exited the block of flats and started walking along the pavement. He glanced down briefly at her before looking ahead again, raising his hand that wasn't clasped in hers to hail a cab.

"Do you want me to?" He asked her.

"Yes," She said, "And you don't have to get a cab, we can take the bus."

"A cab is faster," He told her, "And if you want me to stay, then I'll stay."

"Where?" She asked as the cab pulled up to the side of the road beside them.

"I'll invest in a place," He said flippantly. Hermione sent him a look before briefly turning her attention away from Tom to tell the cabbie her address, who nodded and tilted his head back to signal for them to get in.

As she pulled open the back door she turned back to Tom and said, "I hate you when your rich." His brow quirked up into a decidedly pleased expression, "Oh I suppose I can just spend a little extra money on a million-pound flat in London—"

"Would you rather I stay at your parents' house?" He challenged, his fingers curling around the top of the cab door as he followed her into the backseat. His eyes scanned the cab as he pulled the door shut and slid beside her.

"No," She said immediately, "Absolutely not." His eyes met hers, something dark and decidedly dirty in his expression that told her he knew exactly why she was so resolute against him staying with her. She dutifully ignored the flutter in her belly, knocking her knuckles against his abdomen when she said, "Overpriced London flat is a good idea."

He caught her hand with his and trapped it against his stomach, and she really wished he would stop looking at her like that while they were in the back of a cab. His eyes fell to her lips when he spoke next, his tone was casual and unaffected, his thumb moved across the back of her hand, "I'll get you a key." He told her. Hermione felt her cheeks warm and she pursed her lips against a smile, but she didn't bother with a reply.

The conversation died there, but the silence that followed wasn't uncomfortable. Hermione kept her hand in Tom's and tried to keep at bay any thoughts from the night before.

She almost could.

When Hermione returned home, her mother lectured her for fifteen minutes before Hermione finally managed to force out her lie about falling asleep at Lavender's house and forgetting to call. It wasn't much as far as lies went, but thens he supposed if she made it too elaborate then she wouldn't be able to get it past her mother. Her mom was certainly easy to hide things from as long as she wasn't questioning her, but she was exceedingly difficult to lie to. Her mother continued to lecture her for an extra twenty minutes—during which Hermione quietly agreed and admitted to every wrong-doing—before her mother finally cooled down and dropped the issue. There was something orly comforting about the lecture, something ordinary and settling to have her mother reprimand her for staying out all night, to pretend that it really was as innocent as her being a forgetful teenager.

It was for that reason, in the silent, awkward moment following the end of her mother's lecture, Hermione stood in silence for a long time before asking, "What are you doing?"

Her mother paused in confusion, the anger-induced flush already faded from her neck. "Pardon?"

"I just—right now, what are you doing?"

Her mother hesitated. "Well, I was going to eat breakfast and get ready for work." Hermione nodded, and her mother offered gently, "Do you want some breakfast?"

"Yes, please," Hermione agreed immediately, watching the way her mother smiled and narrowed her eyes, a good-humored sort of suspicion in her expression.

"You really must feel bad," She joked, "You haven't eaten breakfast with your father and I in forever."

"Dad eating breakfast, too?" Hermione asked, following her mother into the kitchen.

"If he's out of bed yet," Mrs. Granger said exasperatedly. "That man would miss every day of work in his life if I wasn't around."

"I would muddle through," A grumble sounded from the doorway to the kitchen, and Hermione's pajama-clad father shuffling in, taking the pan from Mrs. Granger's hands and turning the stove on while she got the carton of eggs.

"You would have never even made it through dental school without me," Her mother joked, nudging him out of the way of the pan and shooing him toward the fridge, "And you're not burning my eggs."

"That was an anomaly," Mr. Granger argued, "I have never burned eggs in my life until yesterday."

Her mother held the spatula out between them. "Stay away from my breakfast, old man."

Hermione watched the two of them bicker with an unfathomable amount of fondness, and she suddenly had the disturbing realization that this morning could have been completely different. She had dwelled and dwelled on what had happened, on the people who had died, on the man she had killed, but she realized that it was almost her. She almost didn't come home. Someone would have had to show up at this house and tell her parents that she was dead.

She pictured them at the kitchen table, dressed in black, no loving bickering, no eggs for breakfast, contemplating the death of their daughter and the murderer they would never be able to catch. The Lestrange brothers would have killed her and gotten away with it, she could have died, she almost died less than ten hours ago, she—

She didn't realize she was crying until her parents had fallen silent. Hermione lifted her eyes from the kitchen table where she had been blankly focused on, met the concerned and shocked gazes of her parents and glanced between them before coming to her senses and hurriedly wiping at her eyes.

"Why are you crying, darling?" Her mother asked carefully. Hermione shook her head, unsure of what to say. She couldn't tell them what had really happened, what she had really been crying about, but it wasn't as if her parents would be able to just drop the subject and let her cry over what seemed like nothing. So, panicking a bit, feeling her heart pounding in her chest as she internally berated herself for being unable to keep it together, she blurted out-

"I'm dating Tom."

There was a moment of silence where her mother and father shared a confused glance, communicated silently, before turning back to Hermione. "That's…" Her father started unsurely.

"Fine," Her mother finished, raising her eyebrows carefully, "But why are you crying?"

Hermione glanced between them. "Because I lied about it?" She said, sounding far more unsure than she intended.

"How long have you been dating?" Her mother asked, her eyes narrowing.

"Since Christmas."

"Christmas?" Her mother exploded, not so much in anger as in surprise, "You mean when he was staying here with us?" Hermione nodded silently, wiping a final time at her eyes when she finally managed to pull herself together, to stop thinking about such horrible things. Her mother stared at her for a moment, slack-jawed and wide eyes, before she started again, looking strangely determined, "Alright, now you know that one in six pregnancies in Britain are unplanned—"

"Mum!" Hermione shrieked, her face twisting into disgust immediately.

"I'm just saying—You know I had a pregnancy scare when I was 18 and I thought my life was over—"

"Did you?" Her father interrupted.

"Yes, I told you."

"No, you didn't."

"I absolutely did—at any rate—" She turned back to Hermione, who flinched, "I was on the pill, you know, that doesn't always—"

"Mum—oh my god," Hermione groaned, running her hands over her face, "I'm not going to get pregnant—"

"I'm just saying—Tom is a bit older, and you're both quite close, I just want to make sure you know the risks—"

"I know the—" Hermione groaned again, "Mum, I'm not an idiot."

"And you know, you can always ask your mother or I if you have any questions." Her father offered. Hermione nearly gagged.

"Absolutely not—" She said, "You know the internet exists? I don't need to hear about your sex life—can we please drop this? We're not even having sex—"

"Hermione, sex is a perfectly natural part of—"

Hermione nearly screamed, "Mum, stop!"

"I can't believe you would turn to google instead of your own parents," Her father scoffed, affronted, turning back to the pan on the stove to start on the eggs since her mother was distracted. "Did google raise you? Feed you? Take you to the bookstore and buy you all those books when you threw a temper tantrum in the lobby?"

"Dad—"

"Do you want eggs?" He asked, "Or will you get google to do it for you—"

"Will you stop?" Hermione snapped, "You sound eighty—"

"Tell it to google!"

"You're burning the eggs!"

The uncomfortable subject was dropped momentarily, her mother nagging her father for nearly ruining their breakfast as Hermione watched them again. The admission lifted some sort of weight on her chest, even if it wasn't what she wanted to admit. Saying something—anything—helped to make the morning feel less dismal, made her feel more normal. Her mother switched on the telly in the living room when breakfast was done, turned it to the news so that she could hear it from the kitchen. They were halfway through breakfast when Hermione heard the name 'Lestrange,' as the world had sensed that she finally felt at ease and sought to rectify that.

Her parents didn't recognize the name as someone Hermione knew, but then Hermione didn't expect them to. If she had ever mentioned it to them before, it had only been in passing as one of Tom's friends from university. Still, it didn't stop Hermione from freezing, her fork poised halfway to her mouth, listening to the reporter speak from the living room.

She didn't know why, but she was waiting for her name. She knew she wouldn't be mentioned, she couldn't be, but she was still waiting to hear it. There was very little on the report, very little known as of yet other than that the boys had passed away in the Lestrange family's new block of flats. Bella's name wasn't even mentioned yet, though Hermione supposed that very little information was being passed on from the police to the press. It was unnerving, to be on the inside, to know what had happened. She wondered if it would ever be over, if this feeling would ever pass.

"Oh, that's enough of that," Her mother muttered, rising from the table, "No news this morning."

She shut it off. Hermione didn't say anything else.

Hermione slept for most of the day. She wrapped herself up in her blankets and drifted in and out of unconsciousness, kept a small stack of books on her bedside table for when she woke and couldn't get back to sleep. She would sleep, wake, read some Neruda or Nietzsche, go back to sleep and wake again and read Austen or Woolf. She wasn't sure when the last time was she just got to lie in bed and read and not worry about anyone else.

But then, of course, she ruined it by worrying about everyone else.

It started with Bella, wondering how everything had turned out with her lie about the Lestranges. She wondered if they believed her, worried that maybe they hadn't believed her and thought that their deaths were somehow her fault. She wondered if she had returned home or if she was sitting in a prison cell, which drove her to fish her phone out from her covers—Tom had returned it to her when she left the cab—and sent a text. She considered asking how everything went, considered a simple how are you? But in the end, afraid of what would be an incriminating text and what wouldn't be, she finally just settled on a simple Hey, Bella, and left it at that.

Then, still worrying and unable to fall back asleep or focus on her books, she called Harry.

"Hey, Hermione!" He answered after the first ring, sounding strangely chipper considering everything.

"Hello, Harry." She responded carefully, "Alright?"

"Yeah, alright, you?" He answered easily. Hermione hesitated.

"Uh—I'm fine. I guess I just wanted to check in, and—" And make sure he didn't hate her now, wasn't going insane having to keep this secret, "—and make sure you were…alright."

"Yeah," He answered slowly, "Uh—are you alright?"

"I'm okay."

"Yeah, alright." There was a brief moment of silence, then Harry said, "What?"

"What?"

"No—not you, sorry—" He said quickly, then faintly, as if he pulled his phone away from his ear, she heard again, "What?"

"Oh, am I—are you with someone?" Hermione asked.

"No, no, it's no one, don't worry." Harry said dismissively. She thought she heard something else on the line, and then Harry said, "Yeah, absolutely no one. How'd the morning go? Are you home?"

"Yeah, I'm home now. I—listen, Harry, I'm so—"

"Do you need anything?" He interrupted, as if he knew she was going to apologize and didn't want to hear it, "I can swing by your place on my way home."

"You're not home?" She asked.

"No, I uh—didn't go home yet."

"Why not?" She asked, "Aren't you tired?"

"I've been drinking a lot of coffee," He said dismissively, "Besides, at Uni I'll probably be pulling plenty of all-nighters, so—"

"Uni?" Hermione interrupted excitedly, "Uni—you want to go to uni?"

"Uh—" Harry laughed a bit uneasily, "I don't know for certain yet, I mean—nothing is certain, but—I think so, yeah. I gotta tell Ron I won't be going to the police academy with him."

"He'll get over it." Hermione said, smiling widely. "That's great, Harry, I'm happy for you."

"You're happy whenever anyone goes to uni." Harry laughed.

"University is exciting, Harry."

"Yeah, I know you think so—shut up, will you? Can't you see I'm on the phone?" Harry snapped, but he didn't really sound particularly angry.

"Who are you—"

"I'm not talking to you."

"No, I—I know you're not talking to me, who are you—"

"No, sorry, I wasn't—I was telling him I wasn't talking to him."

"Who?" Hermione stressed.

"Who?"

"Yes, Harry, who are you with?" She pressed exasperatedly.

"Oh, nobody."

"Harry—"

"So do you need anything? I can still swing by—"

"Harry who are you with?"

"No, no, really, they're not worth mentioning." Harry insisted, a loud laugh sounding immediately after he said it, bursting from his lips as if he hadn't meant to let that laugh loose but couldn't hold it back. Hermione pursed her lips.

"Are you refusing to answer to make me angry or him angry?"

"Both." Harry chirped, "I'll talk to you later. You sure you don't need anything?"

Hermione opened her mouth to berate him, but she stopped. There was a moment of silence between them before she said a bit pathetically, "Harry, I'm so sorry, I'm sorry you had to—"

"Hermione." Harry cut her off sternly. "No apologies. I mean it. What happened has happened and well get through it." There was a short pause. "Besides, there was a lot of bad but…a lot of good, too, so…you know…it's alright."

Hermione hesitated. "Alright."

"See you later?"

"Who are you with?"

He hung up.

Bella responded within the hour, with a phone call instead of a text, while Hermione was still in bed.

"Oh love," She drawled before Hermione even said hello, "What I have gone through for you."

"Thank you." Hermione said immediately, caught between thanking her or apologizing, "And also for the clothes—I'll return those—I just, are you—"

"Oh please, keep them," Bella insisted, her voice dropping when she added, "Wear them the next time I see you,"

"Oh could you—just—stop that," Hermione snapped, "I just wanted to know if you were alright, and—and thank you, for all the trouble."

"I can think of plenty of ways for you to thank me." Bella drawled.

"Can't you ever just—just stop?" Hermione said, but she was smiling despite herself.

"You'd best get used to it love," Bella warned her, "You're too fun to wind up."

"Are you—I mean—this morning did everything turn out—"

"Everything is fine," Bella assured her, suddenly rather serious, "Didn't Tom tell you?"

"Yes, he did." Hermione said quickly, "But I just—I didn't hear from you, to see if you're alright."

There was a pause in which Hermione wondered if she said anything wrong, long enough that she even pulled the phone away from her ear to make sure the call hadn't disconnected. But just as she was about to call Bella's name to make sure she was still there, Bella's voice returned, "Were you worried about me?" She asked, sounding horribly delighted. "Oh, darling, I didn't know you cared—"

"Bella—"

"Oh please," Bella scoffed, "We should meet up for a coffee, I'll tell you all about how long I've been waiting for those prats to die."

"Should you be saying that over the phone?" Hermione asked a bit skeptically, unsure if she was relieved or appalled.

"How did you like the flat?" Bella changed the subject, "You know you're welcome anytime."

Hermione laughed, rolling her eyes and flopping back on her bed, "You know, you're extremely chipper," Hermione said lightly, "Aren't you supposed to be grieving?"

"Not when I'm at home," Bella argued, and there was a pause and a faint voice on her end that had Hermione straining to listen closer.

"Is that—?" Hermione started.

Bella's voice had dropped into what could only be described as a purr, and she said, "But if you'd like to come over I'll gladly play the grieving widow." Hermione bit her lip to stop herself from laughing, "You can comfort me."

"Tom's with you, isn't he?" Hermione guessed.

"Why, do you want him to watch?" Bella fired back. There was a brief silence and a shuffling sound on the line that made Hermione think Tom had snatched the phone from Bella's hand.

"Did you call Bella?" He asked without so much as a hello.

"She called me," Hermione corrected him, "I texted her."

"Why?"

"To check on her?" Hermione answered, her tone suggesting she thought that should be obvious.

"Where are you?" He asked.

"At home," She answered, "I haven't left my bed all day."

"I'm coming over." He told her, and she rolled her eyes at the way he didn't even ask if she wanted him there. It didn't particularly matter because she always wanted him there.

"Alright, but can you hand the phone back to Bella?" She asked. There was a long pause.

"Why?"

"Because she's my friend and I would like to speak to her?" She offered slowly. Another pause, longer this time, and because it was so quiet she could very faintly hear Bella in the background.

"What is she saying?"

"She called you her friend." Tom said, sounding less than pleased.

"Oh, I adore her—give me the phone." Another pause, this time accompanied by the same shuffling she had heard when Tom snatched the phone. "Are you sure you won't come over?" Bella asked when she had the phone back.

"No," Hermione said resolutely, "I have no interest in leaving my bed today"

"Well, what about my bed?" Bella asked, and a loud peal of laughter left Hermione's throat. "Oh, Tom just slammed the door—you should see him, he get's so delightfully riled up where your concerned."

Hermione already knew that, he had been that way ever since they were children, so she ignored that comment and took a moment to consider her next words. "Are you certain you're alright?"

"I do wish you would stop asking me that," Bella sighed.

"I wish you'd answer it." Hermione pressed. She thought back to their first conversation, remembered that she had never seemed to like Lestrange much at all, but she also remembered that—for some reason—she had still factored him into her future. They were engaged after all, whether or not that meant anything. After a moment, Hermione admitted, "I feel like I've sort of ruined your life."

Unexpectedly, Bella laughed, "Darling," She said, "My life has been ruined from the day I was born."

"That's morbid." Hermione muttered.

"Believe me," Bella continued, "Somehow my world will continue turning without Rodolphus Lestrange in it."

Quietly, Hermione asked, "What about Rabastan?"

Bella hesitated, and in her hesitation Hermione felt something well in her throat that she had to force back down. "Rabastan was hardly better."

"Still a bit better though." Hermione surmised.

"I'd rather have you alive than him." Bella told her simply, "Try not to think on it."

"Right." Hermione agreed.

"Shall I let you go, love?" Bella asked, "Tom will be there any moment demanding attention."

Hermione laughed, "Yeah, he will." She agreed.

"Men," Bella scoffed. Hermione grinned.

"Men." She agreed.

Tom arrived within thirty minutes, and when Hermione answered the front door he was scowling down at her as if she had personally offended him. Hermione mimicked one of his favorite expressions by raising a single eyebrow, which only made him scowl even deeper.

"Are you going to come in or just glare at me?" She asked. His expression didn't change as he stepped in the house, shutting the door behind him and following her when she turned and started up the stairs.

"Since when is Bella your friend?" He asked.

"Since I involved her in a murder-plot?" She suggested, pausing just after she said it, a delayed sort of discomfort with the subject before she continued up the stairs without saying anything else. She shouldn't joke about it. She wouldn't joke about it anymore.

"You could still reconsider." He told her, and Hermione turned to send him an exasperated look when they reached her bedroom door.

"Bella is your friend too." She argued. His face went a very particular sort of expressionless that it always did when she said something that shocked him.

"No." He said evenly, "You're my friend."

"You can have more than one." She laughed, turning away from him and continuing into her room, flopping backwards onto her bed. Tom watched her for a moment from her doorway, his dark eyes surveying her room briefly before approaching her bedside, eyeing the books scattered along the side of her bed with a judgmental eye. He picked up a couple at a time, setting them on her bedside table in a stack. He paused when he picked up the last one, the poems he had translated, and she watched with a certain amount of wonder the way his long fingers gripped the spine, the way he flipped through the pages.

"You could read it to me again," She offered, stretching her legs and flexing her toes. His eyes slid from the book to meet her eyes, and he silently set the book down on the bedside table. She pouted, having hoped he would read something to her. He neared her on the bed, his hands circling her waist, and she thought he was going to kiss her until he stopped just shy of her lips.

"Maybe nothingness is to be without your presence," He started, and her face split into a wide grins he moved away from her lips, dragging his nose along her cheekbone to near her ear, "Without you moving, sliding the noon—"

"You did not memorize it."

"You liked it so much the last time," He said by her ear.

"You were trying to seduce me the last time." She pointed out.

"I'm always trying to seduce you." He said, one of his hands sliding around her waist to press against the small of her back. "like a blue flower," He continued as if she hadn't ever interrupted him, "without you walking later through the fog and the cobbles,"

"Say it in Spanish." She commanded, smiling and drawing her lower lip between her teeth when he pulled away to meet her eyes. His hand at her back slid under her shirt to press against her skin.

"y desde entonces soy porque tú eres—" He started.

"Since then I am because you are—" She translated, and he huffed an almost-laugh against her throat when he dipped his head again.

"y desde entonces eres," He continued, pausing to press an open-mouthed kiss just under the corner of her jaw.

"Since then you are," She translated a bit breathlessly, sliding her hands up his arms until she reached his shoudlers.

"soy y somos," He caught her earlobe between his teeth and her breath caught, her fingers curling into his shoulders.

"I am and we are," She breathed, "You skipped almost all of the poem."

"Ah," He said distractedly, curling his fingers against her back so his nails drew lightly down her spine when he moved his hand, "Did I?"

"I must say," She tried to sound nonchalant, but when his teeth dragged across her pules she promptly failed, "Your seduction techniques have really gone downhill,"

He hummed, dragging his nose up her cheek until his lips were hovering over hers again.

"I told my mum," She said suddenly. His hands stilled, and he pulled away to better meet her eyes, his face still as stone.

"You told her what?" He asked.

"About us." She said, admittedly slightly nervous at his reaction. His brow puckered ever-so-slightly, so she elaborated, "I told her we're…dating."

He blinked. "Ah," He said, and if she wasn't mistaken he looked inarguably relieved. It wasn't until that moment she realized what he thought she was going to say, which only reminded her of everything she had been pushing from her mind all day.

"She tried to give me the sex talk." She told him in an effort to keep herself mildly distracted.

"She's a bit late for that." He said blankly.

Hermione cupped his face between her hands, pursing her lips briefly, "Well, it certainly means if we ever want to be alone you'll have to buy a flat."

His lips twitched. "Alright." He agreed.

She examined him for a moment, and he let her hold his face in her hands in silence for a long time. She was so immeasurably thankful for him in that moment, for the calmness that he brought, for the way he somehow made it seem like nothing had changed even when she knew everything had.

"I won't live there, though," She made clear as she dropped her hands.

"I'll be in Scotland most of the year," He told her, "So you'll be welcome to it while I'm gone." She nodded, happy for the way he seemed to understand what she meant. She didn't want to live with him, but then she supposed it might be nice to spend time studying in quiet flat somewhere in London. It was nice to think that life still moved on, even if everything was different, even if everything was tainted. "Nothing has to change," He told her.

"Everything already has." She argued. "We have."

"No," He argued, "We've only progressed." She narrowed her eyes at the phrase, and his lips twitched into that almost-smile again. He pressed his lips against the corner of her mouth, again at the center of her cheek, and once more just by her ear. "This was always inevitable." He told her.

"Inevitable?" She scoffed, "Why, because you wanted it?"

"No," He said, a confident sort of patience that he always possessed when he was certain he was right. "Because we did."

She liked the way he said it, the nonchalance and the confidence, as if he truly believed they were bound to come to this point from the very moment they first crossed paths. She supposed he did believe it, and it made the future seem less daunting somehow. It made the steps they took now seem less like leaps, and it made it sufficiently harder to question the choices she made with him when she thought of it that way. She wasn't sure she had ever been interested in picturing a life without Tom from the moment she met him, regardless of his violence and his anger and the indisputable darkness within him. She supposed she had been preparing herself for this for years without realizing it, preparing herself for an existence where she could be with him without guilt, without constantly feeling responsible for every immoral thing he did.

And so in some sense nothing had changed. Tom remained this single, unalterable, immovable piece of her life that remained no matter how many things around her burned. And even now, when everything should be wrong, it all still felt so immeasurably right when he was there with her.

"We did," She agreed.

ummmmMMMMMMM? ? ? ? ? ? ? IM INCOHERENTLY SCREAMING 1000 REVIEWS WHAT TEH HONEST FUCK YOU GUYS IM CONVULSING NEVER IN MY ENTIRE FUCKING LIFE DID I EVER THINK ANYTHING I EVER WROTE WOULD GET 1000 REVIEWS WHAT THE HELL? ? ? WHAT? ? THE HAIL ? ? ? ? ? JESUS FUCK I LOVE YOU GUYS SO MUCH

this chapter was a tad bit shorter, mostly because there was no conflict here, really, just the falling action, sort of, so….lmao. I hope it wasn't boring? or out of place? or choppy? idk also i know it seems like everyones completely over the fact that there was a murder…but…..idk

ANYWAY I LOVE ALL FO YOU SO FUCKING MUCH! ! ! ! YALL ARE ANGELS! ! ! ! ! ANGELS! ! ! ! ! ASLJFBSLDJFBW

so only one more chapter after this, which will be after a final time-jump. AND THEN ITS OVER! A COMPLETE STORY! THE LONGEST COMPLETE STORY I HAVE I'm really excited. Hopefully you guys like the ending? ? ? I love you all so much adn the support for this tory ahs been so overwhelming. SO S O SOOO O O overwhelming. I'm overWHELMED.

D

i love all y'all so much my chest hurts. ur making my chest hurt. i hurt. i hurt with LOVE FOR YOU

ok anyway plsplspls let mw know what you think! I'm getting back into the swing of writing now, sooo hopefully next update will be prompt. I LOVE YOU GUYS. BYEEEEEEEEEEE

P.S. i didnt proofread its 1.43 am pls love me anyway i might proofread it in the morning and edit it and repost w/o typos but i wanna get this out so bad OK BYE