He was staring at her.


On this of all nights, he really, really ought to be paying attention to his own date… but he could hardly help himself- he was just so surprised to see her here.

He never would have thought her capable of coming to the ball after the events of the night before. He had been true to his word; he'd marathon-fucked her until dawn, only releasing her once the sun was fully in the sky, and keeping her undergarments as a trophy of his conquest.

By all rights, she should hardly be able to walk straight right now, let alone waltz.

But then, she'd shown him on more than one prior occasion that she had reserves of strength he knew little about.

And now that she was here, clad in elegantly flowing dress robes of deepest forest green, how could he possibly be expected to give Pansy the consideration she deserved, when every glance across the room at Granger brought him a fresh and staggeringly powerful memory of the night before?

Of how she'd absolutely wailed- there was no other word that could accurately describe it- wailed when he'd slammed through her hymen and driven himself home, steadying her hip with one hand and plunging the other deep into her hair- winding the thick, dark locks around his fingers and yanking- forcing her to arch her back. She'd very nearly swooned with the shock of it then, as he'd commenced rutting into her with brutal short, deep, strokes.

Of the way her body had reacted entirely against her will as he'd continued, mercilessly, to use his fingers on her, flicking and grinding all the while he'd fucked her hard and long.

Of the way she'd fought that first aphrodisiac-induced orgasm- fought it more savagely than she had fought anything before- but in the end it took her anyway, her body bucking, and then stiffening, and then tightening unbearably around his cock as she shaken her head frantically- "No- no- oh… God… nuhh… please… ah- ah- OHHHHH!"

Of the broken-hearted way she'd sobbed the first time he'd spilled his seed inside her, pushed over the brink of his own orgasm by hers, crying out that she could feel his cum, that it burned.

Of the way he'd rested inside her after that first time, kissing and nuzzling and sucking at different parts of her body as he had first softened, and then hardened again within her… had begun to move once more, causing her to beg almost hysterically, oh Malfoy please not again, please, I can't take anymore, you're h-hur-hurting me! But her body, not being hers to control, had been moving with him even as she'd spoken, meeting him thrust for thrust.

Of the taste of her skin, the taste of her tears, the scent of her hair, the curves of her body as he'd taken her in one position after another- on her back, her side, her knees; inside the bath, outside the bath, bouncing in his lap- making her cum right along with him each and every time, marking her with his mouth all over her stomach, her shoulders, her breasts.

Of how he'd talked dirty to her nearly the whole time, tormenting her with questions of what Weasley would think of her, if he could see her now… or now? At one point he'd wiped away the freshest flood of tears almost tenderly, and had confided to her in a gentle, reassuring tone that it was all right, really- Weasley was well accustomed by now to sharing his things.

Of the way he'd made her talk dirty back, forcing her to repeat words that he was sure had never passed her lips before nor ever would again- words she choked on; that it was clear were almost painful for her to say. And then, to add insult to injury, he'd made her touch herself too- showed her where and how to rub and then sat back and forced her bring herself to orgasm while he'd simply enjoyed the show.

Of the hopelessness in her eyes and the way he'd lifted the Imperius Curse from her after that, because he had judged her spirit to be finally, sufficiently broken, and how she'd continued to allow him to fuck her, and to fuck him back as well, just as he'd predicted- she had still been a prisoner of the aphrodisiac spell, after all.

Of how he had pulled her over to the ornate floor-to-ceiling mirror at one point and ordered her to watch herself get fucked, positioning her in such a way that she could see his cock driving in and out- and how she'd both cried, and cum, the hardest then.

Of the image he had in his mind of her returning to her room and her bed, once the pink morning light had been streaming in through the bathroom's leaded glass window, and he'd finally lifted the contraceptive spell and permitted her, shivering and exhausted and half-sick and beyond sore, to struggle back into her still-damp clothes; had performed a passable Disillusionment Charm on her to allow her to go unnoticed should any of her housemates already be awake.

He imagined her practically stumbling by the time she'd climbed the many stairs required to reach her tower room, grabbing at walls for support the way he'd seen her do outside the pub; falling onto her crimson-hung four poster bed and tugging the curtains closed around her, too tired and wounded to even make the effort of crawling under the covers; simply curling herself into a tight, hurt little ball in the middle of the bed, lying like that as the day passed her by, her thighs still sticky with his seed- God, he'd cum in her so much, so much- shaking, no tears left to cry, until she finally fell into a troubled, feverish sleep. He hadn't thought he'd see her around the school again before he left for the holidays.

And yet here she was. Subdued, to be sure; there was no question about that. But she had come to the ball, on Weasley's arm, and she looked positively enchanting. Her robes were so dark a color as to look nearly black when she was standing still… but ripples of green washed over them when she moved. She'd done something with her hair, but it wasn't up as it had been fourth year… it hung instead in loose curls halfway down her back, with tiny diamond-like gems scattered throughout the dark tresses, seemingly at random. They glittered almost aggressively in the dim light of the Great Hall. All in all, she took his breath away… and the thought that even as she danced with her boyfriend, it was his seed that still filled her belly, aroused in him an intense desire to take her all over again, coupled with a wave of fierce, perverse, possessiveness.

She was dancing with her face pressed against Weasley's chest, looking almost as though she were relying solely upon him to keep her upright. He obviously sensed that something was the matter, though he had no idea what. His face was troubled and he was holding her very tight- one hand stroking her hair in an absent yet soothing gesture. He dipped his head and whispered something- a question, Draco thought- into her ear. She shook her head against his shoulder- shook it without looking up. Ron frowned even more deeply.

Draco would have given a lot to know what it was he had asked her.

Reluctantly, he forced his eyes away, returning his attention to his own date, and his own friends. Still, he was peripherally aware of Granger throughout the course of the ball. She danced almost exclusively with Weasley, but there was a point where Potter cut in and danced an entire song with her while Ron went to pour drinks. It was clear that Potter also sensed something amiss- he was murmuring to her as well, pressing her to tell him what was wrong… but he was having no more luck than Weasley had.

Then several couples danced past in rapid succession, breaking Draco's line of vision- and when he could once again see Granger clearly, she had dropped her head to Potter's shoulder and her own shoulders were shaking- no, more than shaking, heaving; it was obvious, even from across the room, that she was sobbing almost hysterically onto Potter's dress robes. Draco's blood ran cold. Had she just told him what had happened?

Potter maneuvered her to a chair in the corner of the room; Draco danced Pansy in that direction, so as to continue keeping an eye on them. Granger collapsed bonelessly into the chair, dropping her face into her hands as Potter sank to his knees in front of her and gripped her by the shoulders, talking at her in a low, urgent voice. Draco couldn't make out the words. Weasley appeared at her side then, the drinks forgotten, looking absolutely sick with worry; he sat in the chair beside hers and gathered her into his arms, his eyes going to Potter, who said something terse and shook his head grimly.

His own date apparently forgotten for the moment, Potter took the chair on the other side of her, wrapping one of his arms about her in addition to both of Weasley's- leaning in to whisper continuously in her ear. Her distress was a nearly painful thing to witness, even for Draco, who had caused it. Still, several long moments later he was breathing easier again- she obviously hadn't told. There was not a doubt in his mind that had she told Potter and Weasley the truth, they would have attacked him by now- killed him if they could- right here in front of everyone. As it was, they hadn't so much as glanced his way. He was safe.

He turned his back on the trio and danced Pansy away again; he had to collect himself, and quickly. There was something he needed to do tonight, and it was very nearly time. He'd gotten the letter from his father just this morning at breakfast; it had contained detailed instructions, and an enormous, antique diamond ring. Draco had known that his parents had been in negotiations with the Parkinsons for several weeks already- though they were not as wealthy as the Malfoys, their lineage was pristine, and the match with Pansy was highly desirable to both parties. Apparently, an agreement had been reached at last that was satisfactory enough to Lucius that he didn't mind welcoming his future daughter-in-law into his home after, rather than before, the engagement officially commenced. So he'd "strongly suggested" that Draco propose immediately, and publicly, at the ball.

Sure enough, the music stopped, and he knew the time had come. He caught Pansy's hand in his and swept it to his mouth for a kiss, then turned and strode directly toward the stage, even as he heard someone- faculty member, performer, he didn't bother registering which; he didn't care- calling for silence and explaining that one of the seventh year students had a very special announcement to make.


Draco felt strangely detached as he mounted the risers to the stage. This was one of those life-defining moments; nothing would be the same after this. Nothing. He was about to pledge his life to Pansy Parkinson, and why? Because his parents, and her parents, had decided that such a match would be advantageous to both of their family names. Galleons, and lots of them, entered into it somewhere too, he was sure. It wasn't that he minded… he understood the logic of it all, and the fact that there were simply not all that many eligible young witches out there who could measure up to his family's high standards. Besides, he was… relatively… fond of Pansy; they'd been a couple for over three years now, and they'd been children together. He couldn't remember a time in his life that he hadn't known her. But did he love her? Well, he could learn to love her. His parents had had an arranged marriage, after all, and nobody could question their devotion to each other.

Still, this moment didn't feel the way he'd always imagined it would.

Merlin… if only Granger had been a pureblood.

If only.

But he stomped down furiously on that line of thought, even as he crossed the stage, breathing deeply and mentally rehearsing what he was about to say. Granger was not a pureblood. She was a mudblood and she may be beautiful and she may be the best fuck he'd ever had, but he had used her up and he was done with her and it was time to move on.

Let Weasley have his sloppy seconds.

Damn it, she was too fucking good for Weasley.

No. He had taken what he'd wanted. He was through.


The hush that has fallen over the hall was now complete. It was Showtime.

He sought out his date's eyes; she looked almost faint with anticipation, surrounded by a cadre of whispering, giggling Slytherin girls. "Pansy Parkinson," he said calmly, "you are the best thing that has ever happened to me. Would you do me the very great honor of becoming my wife?"

And why, why was he unable to resist, even at this critical moment, seeking out Granger just one more time? She stood framed in the double doors that led out of the Great Hall, sandwiched between Potter and Weasley, who looked as if they were supporting her on either side. Potter's date- the Weaselette- had joined them by this time as well, and it was obvious that they'd all four been in the process of leaving the dance.

But Granger had stopped, and turned back, and she met his eyes now. Her face was as white as a sheet and even from across the room he could see the silvery tracks her tears had left, but she was not crying anymore. She returned his gaze steadily for a long moment, standing there backlit by the torches in the entrance hall, her robes shimmering from green to black to green again, and holy fucking shit, she was incredible, she was glorious- and Pansy was ascending the stage now, positively glowing, amongst rousting Slytherin applause, to accept his proposal and Merlin help him, he couldn't fucking tear his eyes off Granger.

Then she shook Potter and Weasley off, and turned her back on him, and walked away.

The double doors slammed shut behind her.

00000 X0X0X 00000

He was staring at her.


It was the first time he'd seen her since the night of the Yule Ball… and that had been months ago.

He hadn't returned to Hogwarts after the winter holidays. Almost as soon as he'd arrived home, while a house elf had showed Pansy to her room and assisted her with settling in for her stay, his parents had sat him down and explained to him, almost apologetically, that open war was very nearly upon them- and that young men were required to grow up quickly in times of war. He would not be returning to school at all, they had decided; instead he would take the Dark Mark, begin his Death Eater training in earnest, and, of course, marry Pansy. Lucius had smiled and told him that "war weddings" had a long and proud tradition in the Malfoy family; that he and Narcissa had had one themselves, during the Dark Lord's initial rise to power.

It had seemed that they'd been bracing him against any possible disappointment he might feel at his newly altered lot in life, but he hadn't been upset at the prospect of leaving his Hogwarts days behind him. He had no regrets, no unfinished business there, since he'd succeeded in claiming Granger before he had left.

Still, if he'd thought he'd be able to wipe her entirely out of his mind once he'd fucked her, he found that he had been sorely mistaken. He'd thought of her often over the next few months, wondering where she was, what she was doing; was she training for combat as he was? Or still plaguing the house elves and obsessing over exams and marks in silly, useless subjects like History of Magic and Ancient Runes? Had Weasley tried to fuck her yet? Had she let him?

He thought of her on his wedding night, grabbing his bride by the hair (such disappointingly fine, straight hair) and pounding into her so hard that Pansy- who was not a virgin by any stretch- had cried out to slow down, he was hurting her.

He had thought of her, truth be told, nearly every single day… and now here she was, solid, right in front of him… and about to die.


Draco had returned to Hogwarts at last, barely a week before school was to let out for the summer holidays, as part of a Death Eater invasion force. They'd had the element of surprise on their side, and had managed to gain access to the castle after dark, with a minimum of difficulty.

It was now nearly midnight, which was the time that had been appointed for withdrawal, if they didn't manage to actually take the building. The fighting had been raging through the rooms and corridors of Draco's former Alma Mater for hours. This wasn't meant to be the battle to end all battles… it was mostly about wreaking havoc on their enemies' morale. If they managed to actually capture the school, so much the better… but it was not the main objective, not tonight. This was merely the first stroke in what was intended to be a debilitating campaign of psychological damage. The only orders that had been handed down had been to try to avoid killing purebloods… excepting, of course, known blood traitors like the Weasleys. Half-bloods, mudbloods, and anyone offering any sort of active resistance was fair game.

Granger, who was both a mudblood and pretty much guaranteed to offer one hell of a lot of resistance, could hardly help but come out badly tonight. All in all, Draco was scarcely surprised at the predicament in which he found her.

She was badly outnumbered; a group of young Death Eaters led by Marcus Flint had her surrounded, backed up against a wall. Her own companions, Neville Longbottom, it looked like, and that ridiculous Lovegood girl- lay crumpled at her feet, either unconscious or dead. She was deflecting hostile spells from half a dozen directions at once, and even managing to fire off a few of her own in between- she was fighting fiercely, and brilliantly- but she was doomed all the same.

Even as he watched, Flint managed to get a curse through her defenses. Draco wasn't sure what it was, but it hit her in the stomach and it hit her hard. She doubled over… dropped her wand… fell to her knees. Flint aimed a brutal kick at the side of her head, which sent her sprawling to the floor. With what appeared to be a supreme effort, she rolled onto her back and wrapped both of her arms protectively over her midsection, where the curse had hit. Her breathing was shallow and labored. She paid no more attention to Flint or any of the others; just lay there staring straight up at the vaulted stone ceiling above her, waiting for the inevitable; waiting to die.

And as Draco watched Flint raise his wand again, a sudden thought crashed over him that was stunning in its intensity; as powerful as it was irrational.

NOBODY hurts Granger but ME.

Flint grinned. "Ava-"

"Expelliarmus!" Draco shouted, cutting Flint off mid-word, hurling him against the same wall Hermione had been backed up to, knocking him out cold. He then strode straight into the midst of the remaining Death Eaters to stand over Hermione's prone form, protecting her by his mere presence. "Lower your wands, you idiots," he spat, and they did so, post haste- Draco commanded a great deal of respect among the younger Death Eaters; it was well known that he, like his father, was a member of the Dark Lord's inner circle- one of his most elite.

He glared around himself. "Have you lost your fucking minds? Have you any idea who this is? Have you stopped to consider that this is Hermione Granger, golden boy Potter's best friend? Dead, she's useless to us- alive, she's a powerful bargaining chip. Now stand aside; I'm taking her to my father."

And he scooped her into his arms and walked away, as simple as that, stopping only long enough to toss a last command or two over his shoulder; "Get Flint back on his feet, and get your arses back into the fighting, now!" Behind him, he heard them scrambling to comply- heard a couple of peremptory Avada Kedavra's fired off in rapid succession. If Longbottom and Lovegood hadn't been dead before, they were now.

He got down a long, deserted corridor and around a couple of corners before he stopped and looked down at the girl in his arms. Her eyes had fallen shut; her face was pale as wax. He wondered fervently what curse it was that Flint had hit her with. He shifted her so that her head clunked against his shoulder. "Granger," he said. No response. "Granger?"

He knelt and deposited her on the floor, propped in a semi-sitting position against the stone wall. "Granger," he said insistently, tugging off his mask and hood as he spoke. This time her eyelids fluttered. She dragged her arms, which had been flung out to either side, in to cross over her stomach once more. She dragged her eyes open.

It took her a long time to focus clearly enough to recognize him, but he saw the exact moment it happened; saw the rush of despair in her dark eyes. "Malfoy," she croaked.

"Do you know what curse Flint hit you with?" he asked her brusquely. "Did you recognize it?"

She gave her head the barest little shake.

He lapsed into a long silence, thinking furiously. What the hell was he going to do with her? He knew damn well what he wanted to do with her- find a quiet, deserted spot, away from all the action, and heal her somehow, and then fuck her, and fuck her, and fuck her some more. But that was impossible. He couldn't just walk away from the battle. He couldn't heal her, either- it was obvious that there was something seriously the matter. And as for fucking her… well, Merlin, it was tempting… he could probably do it right here if he was quick enough; he was ready to go, no doubt about that…

"Malfoy," Hermione whispered. He snapped out of his reverie to meet her eyes again. He could tell immediately that she'd been thinking along the same lines he was.

"Don't," she said simply in a quiet, cracked voice. Slowly, she raised a hand to push a wayward curl of her hair out of her eyes. "Just kill me, all right? Don't… don't… hurt me again."

He opened his mouth, hardly knowing what he was going to reply- then stopped abruptly, arrested by something he'd just spotted on her hand. His eyes narrowed. "What the hell is that?" he demanded, and grabbed her hand out of the air for a closer look.

A pair of thin silver bands graced her fourth finger, the outer one set with a brilliant- though exceptionally small- diamond; the inner one was plain. It appeared that the Malfoys were not the only wizarding family that engaged in the tradition of short-notice war weddings.

Draco stared at them for a long time before raising his eyes back her face, wearing an expression of frank disbelief.

"Granger, are you fucking married? To WEASLEY?"

She tugged her hand free and stared for a long time down at the rings herself, almost as if she'd never seen them before… then slowly lowered her hand to cradle her stomach again. When she raised her eyes back to his, tears were standing in them. She tried to speak; failed; and then nodded her head, yes. She closed her eyes- two fat tears spilled over to trickle slowly down her face.

"Merlin, Granger, are you out of your head?" Draco exploded without thinking. "You may be a mudblood, but you're still the most fucking beautiful witch I've ever seen! You could do better than… that… that!"

And she slapped him.

Hard, too, for someone who was meant to be seriously injured.

He raised a hand to his stinging cheek in utter, blank amazement. Hermione's eyes were flashing with a completely unexpected fire.

"How dare you?" She said, in a low voice that shook with anger. "You know nothing about it, you foul… perverse…" she broke off, fighting for control of herself; swallowed hard. "Say what you want about me, Malfoy- do what you will to me, I can take it. But you leave… Ron… out of it, you hear me? You leave him the hell alone. Ron is… Ron… is… whoa."

Her eyes suddenly slid out of focus again, and she listed to the side, beginning to slip from her half-sitting position toward the floor.

"Granger!" Draco grabbed her by the shoulders, hauled her upright again, gave her a shake. "What is it?"

Her eyes were falling shut. She swallowed thickly; moistened lips that looked, to him, painfully chapped, with her tongue. "Malfoy…" his name came out as little more than an exhalation. "I don't know… hurts…"

Shit. Shit shit shit.

Draco was at absolute war with himself… and he would never, in his whole life, really understand exactly what compelled him to do what he did then.

"Shit." His face settled into an expression of grim determination. "Granger. Where is Weasley?"

This got her attention. She forced her eyes to focus on his face once more. "No," she whispered. "Leave him… Malfoy, leave him alone…"

"Goddamn it, Granger, tell me where he is! I want to take you to him."

Incredibly, she cracked the tiniest of smiles. "You liar," she breathed.

Draco's jaw clenched, his teeth grinding together in an agony of frustration. It had nearly killed him to reach this decision- not to keep her for himself, not to keep her for his cause- and Merlin knew, she'd be an asset to his cause- God help him if the Dark Lord ever found out he'd had her and let her go- he'd have to tell everyone who'd seen him take her that he'd been ambushed and she'd been stolen back. It was the hardest decision he'd ever made- it was putting his own arse on the line- he didn't even know why in Merlin's name he was doing it- well, except that once he handed her over to his Lord her fate would be out of his hands, and he didn't like that idea very much- and now she was thwarting him in it!

"Granger." He fought to keep his voice steady. It actually occurred to him at this point, distantly, that she probably didn't even answer to 'Granger' anymore… hell if he was going to start calling her 'Weasley', though. "I swear to you. If you make me go and Imperio your arse to get it out of you, I will not be held responsible for what else I may do. Now tell me where Weasley is and I will take you to him."


Well, that was the question, wasn't it? Why, indeed? But he was saved the need to answer it, as she chose that precise moment to pass out completely, her eyes rolling back and her body slumping; not an ounce of resistance left in it.

"No- NO! Granger, you little bitch!" Draco swore, even as he pulled her back into his arms with a bizarre tenderness. "What the fuck am I supposed to do now?"

He ran a hand through his tangled, sweaty silver-white hair, thinking hard. (He really hated what that fucking hood did to his hair.) Finally he picked up his wand, touched the tip of it to Hermione's wedding ring, and muttered a complex incantation, ending with the words, "Point me to Ronald Weasley."

He laid the wand flat in his palm and waited. Nothing happened for a long time- long enough for it to occur to him that it wasn't going to work and that was for the best anyway, because this was the most spectacularly stupid idea he'd ever had- and then it began to rotate, very slowly, in his hand. It was another long moment before it stopped, quivering slightly like the needle of a compass, pointing in what Draco fervently hoped was the right direction. Hoisting Hermione a little higher up in his arms, he couldn't resist the urge to press a lingering kiss to her chapped, unresponsive mouth, pushing his tongue just a little way in, sucking gently for a moment on her bottom lip. Then he started to walk.

It was no easy task, keeping one palm free and flat, his wand resting balanced on it, and carrying Hermione at the same time. He managed somehow, though, regardless of the fact that his mind was chanting in rhythm with his footfalls, stupid- stupid- stupid.

He found Ron, along with Harry, the Weaselette, Zacharius Smith, and a few others, in a small, unobtrusive ground-floor chamber that had apparently been set up as a makeshift war room. A fairly expert Disillusionment Charm had been cast on the door, but Draco was able to find it because, guided by his wand, he was actively searching for it.

Looking tired and careworn, dirty and bruised and as if they had only just stepped out of the fray themselves, Harry and Ron were bending closely over a small desk across which had been spread a mess of parchments; reports, charts, intelligence… all the same things Draco was accustomed to seeing his father pore over in Voldemort's much more comfortable and permanent command center. If occurred to him that it could be very valuable indeed to get a good, long look at some of the papers on that desk- even nick a couple if he could… but there was a more pressing matter on his mind at the moment. The matter of Hermione.

"Weasley," he said, "I believe I've found something that belongs to you."

Both Ron and Harry's heads jerked up at his voice, their eyes first widening, and then narrowing, in near perfect unison. Ron, whose eyes were fixed on Draco's face, and who had always been the more impulsive of the pair, snarled and lunged immediately for his wand- It was Harry whose eyes first actually took in the contents of Draco's arms.

His hand shot out to catch Ron by the arm.

"Wait," he said, in a low, intense voice. "Ron, look."

Draco saw the exact moment that Weasley registered just what it was that he was seeing. The color drained from the redhead's face in an instant, leaving him ghastly pale- his freckles now standing out in sharp contrast to his suddenly ill-looking skin. He actually staggered a little, catching himself on the edge of the desk. He looked as though someone had just sucker-punched him hard in the gut.

All this happened in the space of a couple of heartbeats. Then Potter said "Malfoy, what the fuck have you done?" at exactly the same time that Weasley, in a hoarse, nearly strangled voice, said, "I am going to fucking kill you."

Draco shifted Hermione slightly in his arms, shifting his own weight from one foot to the other at the same time. "I didn't do this to her, you sodding idiots," he said in a tone of sheer disdain. "Do you really think I'd have brought her here if I did? Now is one of you going to bloody well take her already? I don't have all night!"

Ron looked like he was about to fall to his knees. Still, he made no move forward. "Is this a trick, Malfoy?" he whispered. "A decoy… some sort of a… glamour… Polyjuice…?"

"No, Weasley, you poor, spotty bastard, this is your- wife, is it now?" (He sneered the word with utmost contempt)- "and she's very badly hurt. And as a married man myself, may I just say- if it were my wife I'd bloody well take her and do something about it!"

Ron still appeared paralyzed by shock, horror and doubt.

"Stop acting stupid, Weasley!" Draco very nearly shouted, now losing all patience. "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. This is the first, last, and only good deed I ever intend to do for you- so you had goddamn well better take advantage of it! If you value your- wife- at all, you'll take her and get her some medical help. Take her already, you fucking idiot!"

"Ron," Harry said quietly, "Ron, take her."

"But what if it's a trap-"

"Ron, what if it's Hermione? She needs help; take her."

At long last, Ron came around the desk, still appearing not quite steady on his legs, and reached out his arms. "All right, give her here, Malfoy." His voice was still suspicious, though, almost to the point of reluctance.

Draco took one last, long look down at Hermione's face. It was pale, and scratched, and dirty… but it was beautiful for all of that, and peaceful in unconsciousness. All of a sudden he keenly regretted bringing her here, and wanted desperately to hold on to her… the way she fit in his arms, the weight of her there; it was just so right.

But he couldn't hold on to her, and he knew it. He passed her over to Weasley, who gathered her up and immediately sank to the floor with her, cradling her crosswise in his lap. Draco remembered holding her almost the same way on the floor of the prefects' bathroom. The heat radiating off of her. Her voice, cracking with emotion. Malfoy God I'm scared.

The corners of his mouth wrenched violently down. He spun on his heel to leave.

"Malfoy, wait." It was Potter. Draco stopped, but he didn't turn back.

"Malfoy… you can't know what this means to Ron. To us. Thank you."

Draco snorted bitterly. If you only KNEW, he thought. He remembered the scent and the feel and the taste of her naked skin- the almost unbearable ecstasy he'd felt every time she'd orgasmed, bucking frantically against him, clamping down on his cock so hard that she'd always pulled him over the brink right after her- even as she'd cried out that no, she didn't want this, oh God, no. Merlin, it had been so fucking hot. And as long as she was alive and well somewhere in the world, there was always a chance that he could have her someday again. To fuck Hermione Granger had been damn good. To fuck Ron Weasley's wife… now that would be fan-bloody-tastic. That was why he had saved her. That was the reason.


"Don't thank me, Potter," he said. "Seriously. Don't. Oh, and you understand, I'll have to report the discovery of this room. I'd be out of here with those parchments, in five minutes, if I were you."

Harry said nothing more. Draco could hear Ron now, murmuring quietly, intently to Hermione. He imagined him stroking her hair the way he'd done at the Yule Ball, maybe shaking her gently, or cupping her cheek with his palm, running his hand over the contours of her face, her lips; planting a kiss on her forehead. He heard the word "Ennervate!" and a second later, Hermione's cracked voice whispering "Ron?" in a dazed sort of wondering disbelief.

He wanted so badly to turn around for just one final, fleeting glance… but he didn't do it.

He simply squared his shoulders, and walked on.

00000 X0X0X 00000

He was staring at her.


The End