Title: Here's to the Night

Author: Wynn

E-mail: effulgent_sun@hotmail.com

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Harry Potter. They are owned by J.K. Rowling, Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic Press, etc.  No copyright infringement intended.

Chapter Two: Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground

By: Wynn        

            Instead of the usual enchanted ceiling, normal Gothic arches greeted me as I entered the Great Hall.  Ever since the massive attack upon Hogwarts by Voldemort and his allies five months ago, the level of magic surrounding the school had been low, dangerously so.  The force of the spells used by both sides in the battle drained the natural magic levels to near nothing, a feat theretofore believed to be impossible.  But Voldemort never believed much in limits, and he tested Hogwarts', and Dumbledore's, to the fullest. 

            Hogwarts survived, barely. 

            Dumbledore hadn't.   

            Professor McGonagall and the other surviving teachers assured everyone that the levels would rise back up to normal given time, but until then all non-essential magical spells, like the special enchantment on the Great Hall's ceiling, were prohibited. 

            Time.  Time heals all wounds.  Or so they say.

            I stopped just inside the double doors, moving off to the right and leaning back against the wall, watching the small crowds of people gathering by the refreshment tables.  Camera flashes popped every few seconds as another proud, emotional parent forever captured the hopeful exhilaration of the day.  I spotted the Weasley family easily.  Six heads of blazing red hair standing at the opposite end of the Hall: Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, Fred, George, Bill, and Ron.  Mr. Weasley and Charlie had died in the final battle three months ago, fighting against Voldemort's Death Eaters.  Percy had died then, too, but he had been one of the Death Eaters.

            Harry stood next to Ginny, his arm wrapped around her waist.  They had recently become a couple, much to Mrs. Weasley's delight I was sure.  Harry had finally seen Ginny as something more than Ron's little sister after the battle at Hogwarts; she, along with Neville, had taken over control of the Mediwizard tent after Madame Pomfrey's injury at the hands of Bellatrix Black.  Ginny had kept her cool under pressure, dealing with crisis after crisis, injury after injury, and she'd helped save so many people, including Harry.  It was then, during the battle and the recovery, that Ginny had finally moved past her blind adoration of Harry and discovered the man behind the legend.  Harry waited until after the war was over until acting on his feelings for Ginny, of course, but the important fact was that he finally acted.   

            I was happy for them.  Truly, I was.  They deserved happiness and love, deserved something other than the pain and misery of the past few years.  Everybody did.  I thought it ironic that their love blossomed in the midst of all the horrors of war.  Sometimes conflict and struggle brings two people together.  But sometimes…

            Sometimes it doesn't. 

            My gaze drifted from Harry and Ginny over to Ron before I could stop myself.  I started when I realized he was staring back at me.  And for a moment I thought everything would be alright, that things would return back to normal and we'd be friends again.  For a moment, I thought that because I could see it.  On his face.  Plain as day.  He loved me.  He loved me, in spite of everything that happened between us, or maybe, in a better world, because of everything that happened between us, he loved me.

            But then he turned and shut me out, out of his life and out of his family, and he reached for her hand, clasping it within his own.  A silent, subtle message of rejection delivered with the punch and the shock of a Howler.  I wanted to hate Luna.  Because he loved me but chose her, someone less harsh, someone less confrontational, someone less stubborn.  But I couldn't because I could see how much she loved him, the plain adulation that had been on her face since the first moment they'd met on the train.  I wanted everyone to be happy and find love.  Even her.  Even him.

            Even me.

            A stupid dream maybe.  How the world should be but wasn't.  Isn't.  Could never be.

            I felt a few tears roll down my face, staining my lips, and I tasted saltwater, me adrift on the sea with nowhere to go, no destination in sight.  I wiped my face with one sleeve of my robes and pulled in a shaky breath.  Push it down, push it all down, and put on a brave face.  I eased off the wall and turned to leave, stopping when I felt another pair of eyes on me.   I glanced up, half expecting to see Harry or Professor McGonagall signaling to me.  But all I saw was Malfoy. 

            He stood in the corner of the room, next to his mother, who was conversing with Blaise Zabini's parents.  His hair was slicked back; his arms were folded across his chest, his face inscrutable, watching me with what might be described as curiosity on anyone else.  But on Malfoy, it was something more.  And less.  A nonchalant assessment.  A casual consideration.  Something completely unnerving to anyone else, but I had been on the receiving end of those looks far too many times in the past four months to feel unsettled.

            He was the ultimate riddle wrapped in an enigma, changing so subtly over the past five months as to seem like he hadn't changed at all, at least to those who hadn't frequently interacted with him.  His arrogance remained along with his penchant for unleashing the most vicious insults at a moments notice.  So had his antagonism towards everyone who wasn't him.  But it was overlaid not with his usual attention-seeking, drama queen exterior, but with an eerie calm that never seemed to be broken.  Everyone had their theories as to what brought about The Change in Draco Malfoy.  Most said it was the death of his father during the battle at Hogwarts.  Malfoy had watched Snape unleash the Avada Kedavra that killed Lucius, watched his father fall to the ground dead, and then he had turned, left the grounds, and disappeared for a month.  Nobody knew where he went, not even his mother, or if he was even alive.  When he returned, he was different, inside, underneath, waltzing into one of the Order of the Phoenix meetings in the Potions room, dropping a rolled set of parchments detailing his knowledge of Voldemort's forces, his hideouts, and his plans before me, and then saying simply to Harry, "Kill him." 

            No one knew for sure how he'd gotten the information. 

            Nobody except me. 

            I broke the gaze between us, dropping my eyes to the floor, and then I slipped out of the Great Hall, drifting through the silent stone passageways, up stairs, down corridors, to the special quarters set aside for the Head Boy and Head Girl.  I whispered the password to the statue of medieval armor, and a section of the wall swung out, revealing the entrance to the common room.  I passed through the entranceway and crossed the dark room to my bedroom door, where I stood for a moment at the threshold.  One lit oil lamp illuminated the small room, casting cool creamy light onto the stacked trunks and boxes, on the bare walls and shelves, into the empty closet.  A place for everything and everything in its place.  I finished packing weeks ago, storing away everything except for the small shoebox at the end of my bed.            

            I don't know how long I stood and stared at the box.  Time passed and my feet began to grow numb in my ridiculous shoes.  I forced myself to walk into the room, towards the bed and the box.  My joints were stiff and my heart was pounding; my palms dotted with sweat.  I saw hands grasp the box, and I realized they were my own.  I backed out of my bedroom, pivoting on my heels and stepping over to the granite fireplace.  Fresh logs were stacked on the grate along with small twigs of kindling.  I reached for the box of matches on the mantelpiece, sunk down to my knees on the thick patterned rug, and lighted a small fire with a matchstick.  The kindling cracked and popped; the fire burned brighter and hotter, igniting the heavy logs. 

            The box was beside me.  My hand drifted over the lid, around the corners and edges, before easing it off and setting it aside.  I felt breathless.  Lightheaded.  I sucked in a half-breath, holding it in, keeping it inside, keeping it all inside, as I looked down at the box.  Looked into the box.  Photographs of all shapes and sizes lay inside.  I picked up the top picture, delicately, by the edges.  The image shook; my hands were shaking.  It was a shot of Harry, Ron, and I at the Quidditch Championship held before fourth year, sitting just outside the Weasley's tent, laughing at a practical joke Fred and George had pulled on Percy.  We were still the invincible team then, the indivisible Trio.  We were still innocent.

            I dropped the picture and reached for the next one.  It was taken a few days before the start of seventh year at Grimmauld Place.  Professor Lupin, Tonks, Moody, and Mr. Weasley all around the dining room table, talking and eating during a rare quiet moment at the hub of the Order of the Phoenix operations.  The calm before the storm.  The eye of the hurricane.  And now Professor Lupin and Mr. Weasley were dead, Tonks incarcerated in St. Mungo's with Neville's parents, and Moody gone, a recluse in some isolated island off the coast of Scotland, too burnt out from war and paranoia to do much more than exist from day to day.  I brushed my finger against the faded image of Professor Lupin, which turned and waved to me, a faint worn around the edges grin on his face.  I swallowed hard around the lump in my throat and closed my eyes in a vain attempt to ward off the tears.

            I grabbed another photograph.  Sixth year.  House party after the end of winter exams.  Seamus, Neville, Dean, and Ginny playing Exploding Snap in the corner.  Parvati, Lavender, and a few girls from lower years around a table, gossiping like mad, decorating each other's hair with glitter and ribbons.  Harry, Ron, and I by the fire, in our favorite armchairs, Ron's arm slung around my shoulders, Harry rolling his eyes at our embrace.  This was the night Ron first kissed me, after dinner, on our way back to the common room.  The staircase leading to Gryffindor tower had suddenly moved, shifting over to the complete opposite side of the castle and knocking Ron and I to our knees.  He helped me to my feet, stared down at me for a few seconds as I babbled on about stupid moving staircases, and then he kissed me.

            And now Seamus and Parvarti were dead, Dean was permanently blind from a dark magic curse, and Ron and I were no longer together, not even friends, incapable of saying anything to one another, even a simple hello.  The war killed us, too. 

            When the tears came, I didn't try to stop them.  I doubt I could have if I wanted to.  I sat in the dark common room, before the blazing fire, legs pulled to my chest, arms wrapped around my knees, clutching the sixth year photograph in my hands, crying like I hadn't done since Sirius died.  Nothing was the same.  Nothing would ever be the same again, and I had no clue what to do.  People died, people lived, people changed and moved on, and I felt stuck, static, and lost.  I didn't know how to move forward, to move on, to leave these people and these memories behind.  Where did I go from here?  I had no purpose, no destination, only possibilities I didn't know how to grasp.  Where did I go from here?

            Where did I go?

            The door to the common room opened, and I jumped from the floor, spinning around so fast I lost my balance and tumbled back down to the ground.  The light from the hall spilled into the room, my own personal spotlight, and Malfoy froze in the doorway as he spotted me sprawled across the floor, hands gripping the tear-stained, crumpled picture of the past.

            Oh, god.

*                      *                      *

            His fingers work the delicate gold clasp of the strap open, and he slides the shoe off my foot, tossing it over his shoulder once it's free.  His robes swish against the backs of my legs; his mouth rests beside my ear; his breath flutters the fine hair near my temple.  Fingertips glide across the top of my foot down around to the underside, pressing up into the arch, and I moan at the feeling.  I can't help it.  Malfoy's hands are things of beauty, strong and agile from years of flying brooms, catching Snitches, and holding wands.  His thumb moves over my heel to the ball of my foot, pressing and kneading the sore spots, working out the tension. 

            "Sit down," he says.  His hands guide me around in a circle until I'm facing him and then he eases me back until I'm sitting on the bed.  Malfoy kneels before me, between my legs, and I notice his dragon hide boots are gone, left back in the common room.  He grasps my other foot, quickly unfastening the buckle and discarding my second shoe with another toss over his shoulder.  His eyes are fixed on me, and I can't look away.  Passion simmers in his gaze, covering a haze of sorrow, but the doubt I'd seen in the common room is gone.  He's here because he wants to be, completely, without reservation.  He knows it.  I know it.

            I slide to the edge of the bed.  My skirt hikes up a few inches and his eyes flicker down to my exposed legs, gaze darkening with lust at the sight of pale skin above the onyx silk.  I use the distraction to grab onto his robes and haul Malfoy towards me, swooping into him for a kiss.  There's nothing soft or slow about this kiss; it's hard and brutal with more teeth than lips, and it sets my body ablaze.  I fumble for the clasps binding his robes while his fingers tangle themselves into my hair and cradle the back of my head.  I shove the robes apart, grab onto his already loosened tie, and yank the knot open, pulling the silver silk from round his throat and flinging the cravat away from us.

            Malfoy shrugs off his robes and then he follows me onto the bed, covering my body with his and pressing me down into the thick, downy comforter stretched over the mattress.  The fabric is cool against my heated skin and feather soft.  He kisses me again; his tongue slides against mine, steady strokes dissolving into tiny flickers evolving into slow swirls, a heady mixture of changes in tempo and intensity that has me clutching at him, his arms, his chest, his back.  His hands crawl up my legs and release each of the catches holding my stockings, knuckles brushing once, twice against my underwear, teasing, tantalizing, and I cry out at the brief caresses.  He pulls back from me, from the kiss, and moves down my body until he's crouched between my legs, one hand resting on each thigh.

            He lifts his eyes to mine.  There's a smirk curving his lips.  He asks, "What do you want, Granger?", and 'Just keep talking' is on the tip of my tongue because his voice mesmerizes me.  Husky and deep with sex coating the syllables like a sticky sweet layer of honey.  He curls one finger into the stocking covering my right leg and then he eases the delicate cloth down, down, down.  His mouth chases the fabric all the way to my toes, punctuating his not-so-innocent query with soft, slick kisses.  I shift and twist on the bedding at the mouth-to-skin contact, needing and wanting and burning with the white-hot desire pooling in my gut.  He turns his attention to my other leg and repeats the process of kisses trailing silk.

            Coiling the stockings between his hands, Malfoy waits and watches.  He lifts an eyebrow at my groan of frustration, being entirely too pleased with himself, and the urge to slap him returns with a vengeance.  Slap him or kiss him: it's too close to call at this point. 

            He drops the stockings over the side of the bed.  Placing his hands back on my thighs, just above my knees, not nearly close enough, he says, "It's a simple question…", and he trails off as I raise my foot and brush the tips of my toes against his erection visible beneath his pants.  I cock my head to the side, waiting and watching as he squeezes his eyes shut, barely suppressing the shiver that threatens to course through his body.      

            Sitting, I crawl over to Malfoy until our faces are scant inches apart.  He opens his eyes as I reach for his belt, and I hold his gaze while I undo the belt and then the top button on his khaki pants.  I stop, my hand lingering over the still closed zipper.  His hands remain on my thighs.  And then we duel, not with wands, but with wills, testing the resolve of the other to resist the temptation so very close. 

            His hands journey across my skin visiting all the preferred destinations save one.  The crease of my thigh, the corners of my hips, the curve of my bum, the small of my back.  Over the flat of my belly, through the valley between my breasts, into the hollow of my throat.  His fingertips dance along the edge of my bottom lip, brush over my cheekbones, and capture a lock of my hair, and all the while, I stare spellbound at eyes like the sea after a storm. 

            And then I'm crashing into him, kissing him, touching him, moving, caressing, feeling, searching.  Finding clothes but not skin and I tug his belt free, pull the zipper down, and shove his pants over his hips, down around his ankles, where Malfoy kicks them off.  His fingers find the hooks keeping my skirt fastened, and then I'm free, from the garter and the pleated, rolling him over onto his back and stretching myself out on top of him for another kiss. 

            My hands slip under his shirt, and his muscles tremble under my explorations.  He cups one of my breasts, and his thumb skates across the nipple, squeezing and stroking, and a ray of heat, blinding like sunshine, races through me.  There's too many buttons on his shirt, and I scramble to undo them all, moving up, up, up to the top. 

            I push the shirt open. 

            He freezes. 

            I freeze.

            Scars crisscross his torso.  Thin slivers and wide slashes, some stark white, others flesh-toned, ridges and arcs and gashes, blight his skin in a random pattern of pain.  My eyes fly to his face, but he doesn't look back at me.  His gaze is fixed on the ceiling, storm clouds of emotions brewing behind the grey.  My hand is on his arm before I realize I moved, and his eyes snap to my face, startled, hesitant, almost, almost anxious. 

            And then it's gone and he pushes to a sitting position, face blank, his hands on my waist to shove me away, but I hold firm.  A scowl flashes across his face like lightning and he snaps, "Move."

            I don't.  We've been moving for too long, from day to day, moment to moment, brave face to brave face, bottle to bottle, with no destination in sight, and it's time to stop. 

            "Move."

            It's time we stopped.

            "No."

            The past is on our heels, snapping and clawing and biting, and if we keep moving, it will consume us, completely, until there's nothing left but a lost empty shell.

            His hand grips my wrist, keeping me from discovering the truth he doesn't want known. "Granger-"  

            But I already know.

            "No.  Don't.  Just, just let go.  Please, Draco…"

            It's a moment that stretches into eternity, a displacement of time and space.  His name echoes in my ear like a heartbeat as I wait and I watch.  I don't breathe, I can't breathe, oxygen is not as precious a resource as knowledge.  As acceptance.    

            Then he moves my hand away.

            And takes off his shirt.

            The Mark is ugly, black like burnt paper, a ragged depression amidst his pale skin.  Scar tissue surrounds it, ugly, raw, red slashes that failed to mar the Mark itself.

            He says quietly, "Snape… He's trying to find a way to remove it."

            I feel him watching me, gauging my reaction to his words and to the Dark Mark.  I lift my eyes to his, and I see defiance on his face, fragile as the break of day.  He expects revulsion or disdain from me, maybe some suspicion too.

            "I did what I had to do," he says before I can speak.  "I tried to tell you out there in the common room what I was, but you didn't listen.  You never listen.  You-"

            He's right.  I never listen.  At least not to him.  Because his words are always lies.  You have to look past them to see his actions to get the truth.

            I stare unblinking at Draco as I lift his arm.  I feel the tension coiling in his body; he's waiting for me to react, to strike out at him, because he thinks I don't understand.  That I can't understand.  But I do.  I do.

            So I raise his arm to my lips, and I taste not death but life as I lay my kiss down upon his scarred skin.  Anguish and rage and guilt and sorrow and all of the other thousand emotions that let us know we're alive reside in Draco's Dark Mark, and they saturate my lips through the kiss, washing over me like rainwater.  

            "Hermione?"  Voice broken like shattered glass. 

            I look up at him and say, "This isn't what you are.  Or who you are.  It's just a mark, a symbol, and it doesn't mean anything unless you believe in it.  And I know you don't because the only reason this is on your arm was to bring down Voldemort.  You're not a Death Eater.  You're not even close."

            I grasp the hem of my satin tank and pull the shirt over my head.  I trace the faded crimson burn stretching from the middle of my sternum down to my navel.  Remnant of the first big fight against Voldemort at the Ministry of Magic.  No healing potions or spells could ever remove the scar completely.  "Believe me, Draco.  I know the difference."

            He places his palm on my chest, over my heart, and leans down, pressing a kiss against the faded burn.  No more moving.  I close my eyes to stave off the unexpected tears, and I feel his lips brush against both of my eyelids.  No more running.  I find his mouth with my own.  I taste saltwater on his lips; I can't tell if it's his or mine.  We'll find our way home from the darkness.  I wind my arms around his neck, his wraps his around my waist, and we fall back onto the bed.  We'll be each others beacons of light in the night.

*                      *                      *

            I sat frozen on the floor for a few seconds, staring wide-eyed at Malfoy, who gaped open-mouthed back at me, and then I scrambled to my feet, stuffing the wrinkled photograph behind my back, breaking the spell of shocked stupor that had spun up between us.  Malfoy moved inside the room but stopped a couple paces away from the door; his eyes darted all around the room, landing everywhere except on me.  Heart racing, palms prickling with sweat, I eased over to the open box before the fire, quickly gathered the loose photographs, and placed them back in the box, covering the smiling and waving images with the lid.  Now all that remained was getting from here to my bedroom with what was left of my dignity before Malfoy overcame the shock keeping him silent and spoke. 

            Turning back around, fighting to keep my voice steady, I said, "Um, I thought you had left, that you were leaving tonight." 

            As I spoke, his eyes lifted to mine and I saw him shake off the uncomfortable shroud that had descended upon him.  He shrugged and said, voice smooth and detached, "Mother changed her mind.  She wanted to stay in Hogsmeade an extra day."

            "Oh."  I looked down at the box clasped in my hands, unable to think of anything more eloquent to say.  I knew he was staring at me.  I could feel his gaze travel over me, adding all the bits together, assessing the tear-lined face and the battered shoe box, and I knew it was time to exit stage left before he lined up all the puzzle pieces and discovered the conclusions I'd rather keep well hidden.  "Well," I said, starting towards my bedroom door, "I'm… I… Goodnight then." 

            I made it all the way to my bedroom door and then he spoke.

            Bastard.

            "Going to cry over Weasley some more?"

            I hated him.  More at that moment than at any other time of the past seven years.  More than when I slapped him third year.  More than when he became Umbridge's personal flunky fifth year.  More than all the times he called me Mudblood or purposefully got Harry in trouble or spread lies to Rita Skeeter about everyone.  God, how I hated him.  He couldn't let me be, not without getting in that one last jab, not without twisting the knife a little bit further inside me.  I didn't understand how a person could be so horrible or want to cause so much pain simply for the sake of causing it. 

            "No, I'm not going to cry over Weasley some more.  I have to finish packing." 

            And I shouldn't have spoken; I should have walked into my room without another word and slammed the door in his ferrety face.  But I didn't, I couldn't, and he knew it.  He always knew what to say to provoke a reaction.

            "No, you're not.  You finished packing weeks ago.  Are you that desperate to get out of here?  Not that I blame you, of course, what with being known to all as Weasley's leftovers.  If that was me… if that was me I would have Avada'd myself a long time ago."

            "Leave me alone, Malfoy.  I don't want to fight with you."

            "The truth hurts, doesn't it, Granger?"

            I dropped the box on the floor and turned around to face Malfoy.  He leaned against one of the armchairs before the fireplace with his arms folded across his chest and an expectant look on his face.  The gel keeping his hair slicked back was gone, and his blonde locks fell loose around his face, curling behind his ears and skimming his chin.  His dress robes were rumpled; dirt and dust coated his shoes.  The urge to stalk over there and smack the smirk right off his face burgeoned inside me.  "If what you were spouting off could be remotely described as the truth, then it might have hurt.  But since all you say is lies, I feel just fine."

            "Oh, yes.  You were crying in the dark over a bloody picture because you feel fine."

            Face flushing, I snapped, "Sod off, Malfoy!  You don't know anything about me or how I feel, so don't delude yourself into thinking you have this great insight into my mind.  Because you don't."

            Malfoy pushed off the chair.  "But I do, Granger.  You're like a sodding open book, showcasing your feelings for anyone to see.  All I had to do was take one glance at you and realize you're a big weeping mess inside, even if you don't always show the tears.  Talk about a lost little girl."

            "What would you know about anyone's feelings anyway?" I yelled.  "You don't have any.  You're a living, breathing stone statue comparable emotionally to a brick wall.  So please, Malfoy, do me a favor and stop talking about things you know nothing about."

            His eyes hardened and he became so still he truly did resemble a stone statue.  Cold waves of rage radiated off him, intermingling with my own heated anger, and I could see the explosion coming, as vivid and violent as a summer thunderstorm, sitting just off the horizon.  I could see it, but I didn't try to stop it.  I didn't care anymore. 

            "Just because I don't snivel and cry like a whiny little brat at the drop of a hat," he said, "doesn't mean I don't have feelings.  It just means I'm not insane.  Or desperate.  Weasley's moved on, Granger, to that freaky little Ravenclaw.  Get the fuck over it and spare us all your blubbering."

            "I am so sorry, Malfoy."  Tears started flowing down my face again, hot streaks that burnt trails down my cheeks.  "I didn't realize that me being totally alone in my own room bothered anyone.  Let me go crawl in a hole somewhere o-or lock myself in one of the Hogwarts' dungeons.  I wouldn't want to interrupt your nightly ritual of getting completely sloshed with my blubbering, now would I?  That wouldn't be civilized at all."

            "Spare me the pity party, Granger.  It's been two goddamn months!  Two months of nothing but moping.  One would think you're fashioning yourself into being the next Moaning Myrtle.  And all over a Weasley, too." 

            "Yes, yes this is all over a Weasley.  All over Ron."  My voice broke on the name, and I shattered inside.  The ice cracked, and everything melted, and all the fake smiles and brave faces and carefully composed masks vanished, and there was nothing but the pain I'd been pushing away for too many nights.  "I loved Ron.  I loved him, and he left.  He left me because it was easier to love Luna.  And I don't want to feel this way.  I don't want to, but it hurts.  Having someone choose not to love you anymore.  Knowing that you're hard to love.  That you're not… that you're not worth the effort put into loving someone, and that there's nothing you can do to change that fact because you can't up and become another person.  Someone more lovable.  Someone more capable of loving.  You're stuck being you, and it's not enough.  And everything you know is dead or gone and you can't help thinking it's your fault.  That if you tried harder or loved harder or worked harder he'd still be here.  With me.  They all would.   

            "So please, oh exalted one, tell me how exactly I'm supposed to 'get the fuck over it.'  Illuminate me with your illustrious wisdom.  Should I become a callous, unfeeling bastard like you?  Is that the more preferable method than crying in the dark over a stupid picture?"

            His eyes dropped down to the floor, and he murmured, "That is one way."

            "Yes, because it's working so well for you."

            Gaze flickering back up to me, he snapped, "What do you mean by that?"

            "Did the firewhiskey kill all your brain cells, or did you grow suddenly stupid overnight?  I mean, it's pretty obvious, isn't it?  You say I'm the big weeping mess inside.  Well, maybe you should turn your keen powers of observation back on yourself for a while.  I think you'll be surprised at what you see."

            Malfoy shook his head, indignant bewilderment on his face.  "You've lost it, Granger.  You've finally gone around the bloody bend.  I'm just fine.  Much better than you, in fact, because I actually have a job to go to after graduation.  Seems like your honored position as top student means exactly shit in the real world."

            "This is very interesting, I must say.  Malfoy can dish it, but he can't take it."  I folded my arms across my chest.  A cold smile stretched across my face.  "It's not so fun being on the receiving end, is it, Malfoy?"

            He glared at me, silently, and I knew I'd struck a nerve.  "Whatever, Granger.  This conversation's finished."  He spun around and his robes flared out behind him as he strode across the common room towards his bedroom door.  "Have a nice bloody life, and I hope to never see you again."

            "What's the matter, Malfoy?  Can't handle the truth?  I always knew you were a coward, just like your father."                

            He jerked to a halt halfway to his room, and I watched his hands clench into fists.  You'd think I would have felt better, making Malfoy hurt as much as I did, but I didn't.  All my stupid, stupid comment did was to make me hate myself as much as I hated him.  The blinding rage faded from me, leaving behind a dull, pervasive pain.  I didn't understand.  Why did we always have to hurt each other?  There was no reason.  There was never a reason to any of it.     

            I was tired of hurting.  So very tired of the pain.  I rubbed a hand across my face, wiping at the tears, and said, "Malfoy… Malfoy, I'm sor-"

            "Don't you ever, ever, mention my father again."  He turned around, and I took a step backwards as I caught sight of the expression on his face.  I'd never seen Malfoy like this, even after Lucius's death.  So calm on the surface, alabaster skin smooth and flat and hard like marble.  But on the inside, in his eyes, raged a hurricane.  Grief so raw it scraped down to the bone.  Lightning flashes of fury.  And hate.  Pure, undiluted, soul chilling hate.  And standing in the midst of all the chaos and confusion, I saw.  I saw and my heart broke.  A boy as lost as I was, as scared as I was, and desperately trying to hold it in, hold it all in, and put on a brave face. 

            "My father… My father was a strong and proud man before that, before that thing came back into our lives.  That monstrosity turned my father into a sniveling, boot licking, shell of a man.  Voldemort killed Lucius long before Snape did, Granger, and he did it as effectively as he killed Weasley's father or Potter's parents.  Only with my father, he took years to murder him instead of a few short moments."  Malfoy stalked across the room, stopping scant inches away from me.  His eyes narrowed to thin slits, and his voice dropped to a soft murmur that would have sent chills down my spine were it not for the stark anguish underlying the menace.  "You haven't the faintest idea what kind of man my father was, Granger, so please do me a favor and fucking stop talking about things you know-"

            I pressed my fingers against his mouth.  Malfoy started at the contact.  His lips were soft under my fingertips.  I smoothed out the lines of tension pinching his mouth.

            "What."  He stopped, closed his eyes, and drew in a shaky breath.  Then he continued, "What are you doing?"

            I shook my head as my hand dropped down to his chest.  Palm hovering over his heart, I whispered, "I don't know.  I don't know.  Tired of hurting… tired of all of it…"  His eyes opened at my admission, and I stared up at him, searching.  "I just… I don't want to be lost anymore."

              I saw something shift inside Draco.  The last puzzle piece slid into place, and I knew he finally realized what I was only just beginning to understand.

            "I don't want to be lost."

            He touched my hand and pressed it against his chest, and I held on as he leaned down and kissed me.  His mouth was not at all how I thought it would be. 

*                      *                      *

The end

Challenge requirements:

Rating(s) of the Fic: R to NC-17


3-5 Things to Include in the Fic:
1. 7th year Graduation Ceremony - like the last day of school
2. They are Headboy/Headgirl, but that's as far as their "relationship" goes...strictly business. [They have separate bathrooms and beds, but share one big room].
3. At the end of the Graduation night, they're packing up the last of their possessions while having a big *heartbreaking* fight. Hermione has a nervous/emotional breakdown because of the fight, but also cos she'll miss his evil ass...and this...
4. Leads into an emotional, memorable, romantic kiss....and preferably "other things" - hot lust sex or emotional sex...tastefully written please!
5. Must be called 'Here's To the Night'

What Not to Include in the Fic:
No heavy use of bodily fluids lol, no regrets, no suddenly falling in love after the sex, no OOC after the fact (they still gotta "hate" each other lol), No previous relationship betweeen the two (there could've been sexual tension, but they've never dated before!)