The stone wall was cold and hard against his back as he leant against it, rubbing his hands together to warm them. His eyes scoured the surrounding trees, looking for any sign of movement in the darkness between them. Then his gaze fell on the sleeping hulk that was Crabbe and he sighed. They were supposed to be standing watch. Crabbe was standing, it was true, but the "watching" part seemed to have eluded him. Fat lot of help he would be if an intruder appeared.

No that one would, because they never did; it was the principle of the thing, though...

Draco and Crabbe had been on guard duty at headquarters for over four months now, and so far all they had had to contend with was a rather frightened looking otter which had run away as soon as Draco had lit his wand to get a better look. The night watch was especially boring, because there weren't even many people going in or out of the building with whom to have a brief conversation. Not to mention the fact that night-time was usually meant for sleeping, not freezing half to death as he was now.

He sighed again and breathed on his knuckles in an attempt to warm them.

That was when he noticed a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye, over to his right.

He kicked Crabbe in the leg to wake him. "Stay here," he hissed in response to the groan that came from his so-called partner but actual near-useless slug.

Another groan as Crabbe rubbed his eyes and then attempted to focus them.

Draco turned his back on him and took his wand from he pocket as inched along the wall and peered around the corner.

There was someone there. A rather short figure almost drowning in a large hooded cloak was tapping the wall with its wand and muttering what sounded suspiciously like an incantation.

This was not good. Not good at all.

Not illuminating his wand because to do so would alert the intruder to his presence, Draco sidled along the side of the building until he was only a few feet away from his enemy. Then it bent down to get something from a bag beside it, and Draco pounced.

He grabbed her -- he could tell it was a her now, definitely a her -- around the middle with his left arm and wrenched the wand from her grasp with the hand holding his own. Then he seized her elbow and spun her around to face him.

"Hermione..." he said, barely suppressing the urge to stutter that suddenly arose when he recognized her.

She gulped. "Draco." He could see the fear in her eyes. Then he realized why it was there, and that realization made him more than slightly nauseous.

He was going to have to kill her.

"I can't let you go," he stated.

"You could come with me," she replied, though he knew she knew what his answer to that would be. "Change sides. Fight for something worth fighting for!"

Draco shook his head. "Hermione, we've been over this a thousand times and you know it. I'm not changing sides. I'm evil, and I'm selfish, and what the Dark Lord is offering holds far more appeal to me than anything your side would give me."

"You're not evil," she said. Tears were forming in her eyes.

"You would be better off believing that I was," he told her. "Then maybe you'd forgive me for what I'm about to do."

"I forgive you anyway, Draco. Because I understand." She sniffed. "And I love you."

There was a sudden knot in Draco's stomach. "I love you too," he said, lifting a hand to run a finger down the side of her face.

One of her tears ran onto his hand and he withdrew it quickly. "If I don't kill you now they'll rape you and then torture you to death," he told her solemnly.

She nodded silently. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, causing more tears to stream down onto her cheeks. Then she looked up at him and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him.

They had kissed many times before, and many times had they thought it would be the last kiss, but they had never known it like they did now. It was the best kiss and the worst; the most loving and the most painful. It was over far too quickly and not soon enough.

Hermione stood up straight and held Draco's gaze. Finally she nodded.

Draco let go of the hand he hadn't realized he'd been clutching and took a step back. "Goodbye, Hermione," he said, forcing his voice not to break.

Hermione gave him a sad smile. "Goodbye, Draco."

Draco raised his wand and struggled to hold it steady. Then he took a deep breath. "Avada Kedavra!" he shouted, louder than was necessary, and then there was a flash of green light and a body lying crumpled on the ground.

He bent down and closed her eyes. He wiped his eyes angrily with the back of his hand before picking her up and slinging her over his shoulder. Nonchalantly he walked around the corner to find a decidedly more awake-looking Crabbe.

"Look what I found," Draco said, laying Hermione's body down in front of him.

Crabbe looked at her, awed. "Cor," he said. Draco wanted to punch him.

"Take it to my father," Draco said briskly. "I'm sure he'll be... pleased..."

Crabbe nodded and picked her up. Her face was obscured by that insanely bushy hair of hers.

He got one last glimpse of her before Crabbe closed the door behind him and she had vanished, and with her Draco's last hope of redemption.

He leaned against the wall again, and no longer fought against the cold.