She traces his (lithe) movements, her eyes fascinated (hungry) as they cling to him.

She does it because she wants to dispel any notions that he is anything but a maze with a map, a crossword she's scribbled the words into (deatheaterevilcoldcold), a simple figure in the backdrop of her routine. She does it because she wants to dispel (lust) doubts of what's Definite, doubts that he's (breathtaking) wholly evil. She does it because of (curiousityalwayscurious) a flash of gold.

It's absurd. She wonders if she's becoming delusional. Harry often says she is when she talks about the future.

Harry's hopelessness only furthers the intensity of her gaze upon him.

It began at the Quidditch game. Hot rain is pouring over the field, the players are sopping blurs within minutes, and she, as always, is watching Harry protectively. Somehow, he seems so much more vulnerable in the air, though she thinks she is the only one who feels this way. It's Gryffindor and Slytherin, and the expected tension is humming around the stands. Ron fumbles but his fingertips grip the ball, Ginny flings the Quaffle easily into the hoops, Pucey makes a seamless pass to Montague. The rain is like a whirring film between her and the game, and she reaches out impulsively to touch it, as if it will part. Her gaze trails her palm and suddenly she looks up and there is Draco Malfoy, robes in muddy clumps, brow furrowed in determination and…

A flicker of gold.

It's staticky. As if brass lightning seized him for a moment, or a gold raindrop seeped into her eye. Maybe, she thinks, maybe it was simply the snitch flurrying about, clouding her vision.

Or maybe she really did see regret in his eyes when he beat Harry to the snitch, maybe that was remorse she spotted as his fist closed around the minute ball, and he gave Harry a curt nod.

And Harry nodded back, unfazed. Detached, apparently unbothered that the game was lost.

She told herself this was because he was so tangled in the grand scheme of things (childishwarfare) that he sees that Quidditch loss does not weigh so much. The impassionate playing, the gradual but distinct withdrawal of passion in all things, she denies, ignores.

And Malfoy, Malfoy who has never been quiet (passionate) but is no longer interested in imitation (flattery) or much of anything, who is keeping his down which alarms her more than anything. He is quiet, suddenly reserved in the hallways where once his boasting echoed off the walls.

It's another unnerving shock to her system this year, as normalcy erupts and crumbles around her. She desperately wishes griping about NEWTs were at the top of her agenda.

Battles escalate; England is becoming a slaughterhouse, Hermione dreams of mountains built from piles of bodies, dreams of drowning in blood, dreams of everything possible, because impossibility is dispelled as well.

She watches him because maybe if Malfoy is still as horrid, everything will be justified, her beliefs will snap back into place, black and white will replace the red (tasteofblood) and green (magic) of death.

Christmas morning and Diagon Alley is a tumble of fire and piercing agony. London is in awe when an apparent inferno ravages the city, when odd hurricanes strike Kent, when muggle farms in Tunbridge Wells seem to be plucked out of the ground.

They're inducted to the Order because age isn't important enough, and Harry's the saviour of the world so what argument is there anyway? There have been murmurs that the Seventh Year Slytherins have been branded with the mark (skullevenshehasone) and when she observes him she watches his arm, but the folds of his robe never move away.

She doesn't want them to, she discovers later when she realizes she's known all along she could have used a tiny spell to have the wind brush them, to see.

Training ensues; weekends are better spent dispatched on missions of dueling and healing and the horror of waiting for Tom Riddle to make his appearance, for some final battle, for an end.

Thoughts are smudged; concepts are fading in Hermione's mind. She is exhausted and pondering her latest assignment while patrolling the hallways. Hermione never dreams anymore. Fear begins to be replaced by intoxicating fatigue.

And she is moving so mechanically it takes her two seconds to whirl around with her wand at Malfoy's throat, instead of catching him when he was at the other end of the hall. Exhaustion dulls the reflexes, she notes.

"Paranoid?" he asks softly, teasingly.

"Survival skill," she quips, about to continue when:

"I know you've been watching me, Granger, and I know why."

And without waiting for an answer, he wraps his hands around her wrists and tugs her into a bruising kiss.

"I know," he hisses, "that you've found out that My Lord wants you dead."

And oh-so-quickly, in a neat, fluid move his wand is at her collarbone.




Forget gold, he's enveloped in the smothering green of death, and she tucks her wand back into her robes, his pallid body slips to the marble floor and Hermione tries to remember what for, and wishes she regretted it when her Order superiors congratulate her.