(A/N: There is sexual content in this chapter. Do with that info as you wish!)
She had the best of intentions, too, but the "Draco Project", as she'd mentally dubbed it, just kept getting back-burnered, by necessity, as other more pressing matters continually vied for her attention. She was the Order's principal researcher, after all… so there was no shortage of pressing matters to be dealt with. As a result, the days slipped into weeks without her managing any progress whatsoever on an effective plan of action for dealing with the perpetually enraged Slytherin… though in truth he was never far from her thoughts.
In any event, they wouldn't see each other again for a long time- nearly a month, in fact… but the next time they did find themselves in one another's company, it quickly became apparent to Hermione that Draco had been thinking about her as well- perhaps even as much as she'd been thinking about him.
She'd felt his eyes burning into her all throughout the latest briefing session, seeking her out every time there was a pause in his report or someone else took the floor. She'd kept her own eyes mostly averted, uncomfortable with the intensity she glimpsed in his grey gaze every time she'd allowed it to clash with her own. But all the same, there'd been no missing the aura of taut energy about him, sitting ramrod straight and biting out his words in a clipped, terse tone. He'd been sweaty and grimy and clearly exhausted, but none of that had dulled the edge in his manner or speech. It had been crystal clear that he'd wanted to get the meeting, which had been held in the second-floor sitting room on this particular evening, over with as soon as possible- and really, who could have blamed him? It was almost nine o'clock, and furthermore was obvious at a glance that if ever there had been anyone in need of a hot meal, a cool shower, some clean clothes and a good night's sleep, it had been Draco Malfoy at that moment.
So imagine her surprise when he waylaid her, a good three or four hours later, as she entered the deserted- or so she'd thought- kitchen in search of a light nighttime snack.
She'd been up poring over her books, as per usual, long after the rest of the household had settled down for the night. There was something… something to help them in their struggle, hidden somewhere in the words of the ancient texts, she knew it, she could feel it. But it hovered there, concealing itself stubbornly- almost deliberately, she felt- in the written words that were usually her allies; keeping itself just out of reach, taunting her.
All she needed was a twenty minute break, some brain food, some coffee… then right back to work. Back to it until dawn, if necessary. That was the only reason she'd come down here… not because she'd thought for one iota of a minute that Draco Malfoy might still be in the house. No, surely not. He'd have taken himself off to… well, to wherever it was that he took himself off to, to clean up and grab some shut-eye of his own.
Of course right.
…or not. Oh, crap.
The kitchen was silent and dim, just the barest ghost of a fire in the grate, throwing eerie, flickering shadows about the walls… but she had no trouble picking him out; even in this dusky light his hair threw off sparks like silver.
And, he was pacing like a caged animal. Despite the silence and the lithe fluidity with which he naturally moved, the fact that he was on the move certainly helped in making him readily apparent to Hermione, who gasped at the realization of his presence and stopped stock-still with one hand pressed against the wall where it had been groping for the light switch.
He stopped too, whirling to face her and something flashed in his pale, intent eyes as he recognized her; some unfathomable, tempestuous combination of admiration and loathing and the entire spectrum of emotions in between.
It took her several seconds to collect herself enough to even make an attempt at speech, and when she finally got around to it, it was only to be cut off by him before she'd managed even to get out his name.
"You have no… bloody… right." He was half snarling, half panting. "No right at all, Granger."
"No right to what?" Her heart was in her throat at the look in his quartz-colored eyes; she could barely make her voice work.
His hands were clenching and unclenching again, spasmodically. He had so much anger, so much rage, he didn't know what to do with it, where to put it. It was right behind those incredible pale eyes of his, simmering just beneath the surface. But there were other emotions there, too- she could see them clearly, he wasn't even trying to hide them anymore. There was pain, so much pain… and grief, and confusion, and… yes, it was true, she was sure it was… there was longing there; a half-mad desire. For her.
His mouth spoke of hatred, but his eyes said different. There was no love in them; nothing that extreme. But there was lust, all right. There was that. And that was her opening, she realized; the chink in his armor that she could exploit. That was her way in, in to where she could help him. For the moment, that was enough.
"No right to…" his throat seemed as constricted as her own. "No right to offer me sympathy, no right to act like you understand, or care, no right to… to feel sorry for me, I can see it in your eyes and I told you before, I don't need your fucking pity, mudblood."
She flinched inwardly at the ugly word, but it didn't affect her resolve to see this thing through; to press her advantage and get under his skin and help him the only way she could, at least for right now, at least to begin. Besides, she knew that his anger wasn't directed at her, no matter what he might want her to believe. She was only a handy outlet. So let him get it out. Let him.
The only outward response she gave was to tilt her chin up in defiance, meeting him glare for glare.
"No right to…" his voice had dropped to a strangled whisper- "to be so goddamn beautiful when you're… when you're the enemy, and so fucking unattainable, no right to make me want… want you like this, so much that it hurts, Granger. It hurts." He was gulping in air now as if he was drowning; chest heaving, eyes blazing. Abruptly he raised both hands, fisting them in the soft white hair at his temples. He pressed his eyes closed, fighting for composure; for control. It was, Hermione could see, a losing battle. He swallowed hard before continuing in that same ragged voice.
"I'm so… confused… Christ, I don't know if I'm coming or going. I'm losing it, Granger, and I'm going to slip up and I don't want to die… oh, fuck me, I don't… I don't want to fucking die." He was almost crying now, his voice cracking on the last word.
She felt her heart very nearly breaking with it. She didn't want him to die either. Oh God, please no. He was fighting so hard, but he was being dragged under just the same and she was the only person who could throw out a line, the only one who could possibly, just maybe, pull him back from the precipice, from the bottomless pit of furious despair that threatened to engulf and consume him.
It all came down to her. And she was going to go the distance. She was going to do whatever it took.
She had to. That was simply who she was.
"Malfoy-" she began, hardly knowing what she was going to say, but the second those pale eyes of his snapped open again, meeting hers once more, she knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the time for words was over now. The time to act had come.
There passed only a heartbeat in which they stared mutely at each other, breathing hard. Then she hurled herself into his arms.
There was nothing gentle, nothing even remotely tender, or loving, about it. It was all heat, and friction, and frantic, clawing need. She had thrown herself at him so forcefully that he stumbled backward, fetching up against the wall, but it took him only a second to steady himself, his arms wrapping about her so tightly it hurt, one hand snaking up to bury itself in her hair, roughly, yanking her closer than she'd have thought possible as they kissed hard, almost painfully, hot and wet, lips sliding and teeth nipping and breath mingling in quick little bursts and both of them fighting, fighting relentlessly for dominance.
Draco had hit the wall almost in a corner of the room; now he threw his weight forward and sideways, slamming Hermione, none too gently, into the other wall so that she was the one pinned. She gave a muffled "mmph!" that was lost in his mouth, and hooked one leg around his waist, pulling him in closer. He was all kinetic energy and sharp angles and rough, demanding hands and mouth, and there was something- Merlin, something as hard as an iron bar, and nearly as big by the feel of it, pressing into her stomach and… and oh God, what was she doing? Was she really about to shag Draco Malfoy, did she truly care that much and was it really the only way, the ONLY way to save him?
She ripped her mouth from his, gasping, but before she could say a word he dragged his lips down over her chin to suck greedily at her throat… and the only sound she found herself capable of making then, as her whole body arched toward him and her head flew back, her suddenly wide, surprised eyes fixing on the ceiling, was a great, shuddery sigh followed by a jagged sort of moan.
A second later, though, it was Draco who abruptly stopped.
"I have nothing… nothing to offer you, Granger," he panted, burying his hot, flushed face in the juncture of her shoulder and her throat. The collar of her blouse had been pulled askew and his lips were moving- dragging- against her bare skin as he spoke; "nothing except… for this. And you… Merlin help me, it hurts to say it, but you are beautiful, Granger. You're beautiful… and you're polluted. Your blood… impure. But you're also smart, and brave, and kind, and… shit, you deserve better than this. But you're not going to get it from me. Not now, and not ever. I can't give you more than this. I don't have it in me. Are you fucking hearing me? Do you understand?"
"Oh God, Malfoy," she managed to get out between short, manic pants of breath. He was shaking, she realized- she could feel it, pressed up against him as she was. He was shaking from head to foot. "I un… under… stand."
She did, too. She understood everything. And yes, this was the only way. If she wanted to have even a hope of saving him from himself, this was what she had to do. And there was more to it than that- this was what she wanted to do. She saw it in a brilliant flash of clarity; saw it beyond the shadow of a doubt.
This was what she wanted to do, even if he was right and could never give her anything else.
"I understand… Draco." (Well hell, she was about to give him her virginity… she supposed she'd better progress to a first-name basis with him, even if he declined to follow suit.) "I understand, and I won't ask for anything you're not ready to give. I want… I just… want…"
It was no good. She couldn't articulate what it was that she wanted. She had to settle for showing him instead.
So she seized two fistfuls of the soft, impossibly pale hair near his temples and dragged his head back up, crashing her lips into his once more. His reaction was immediate, and strong. The sound that was wrenched out of him could easily have been mistaken for one of anguish, and maybe, after a fashion, it even was. There had to be a degree of pain, of fear, in the act of giving himself over this way; of collapsing into this impassioned embrace with a partner that his beloved parents, whom he had made it his life's work to avenge, would have considered utterly repugnant- practically sub-human.
But if any such thought entered his mind, he managed to banish it with incredible speed and decisiveness, for two seconds later he was turning with her in his arms, backing her up against the spotless kitchen table and then lifting her, with a nearly effortless little heave, so that she found herself sitting perched on the edge of it. Through all of this their lips hadn't parted.
He tore his away then, for a matter of seconds only, in order to speak two quick incantations with a rapid intensity that Hermione found arousing in and of itself; extending his left hand first toward the kitchen door, which swung shut, barred itself, and became immediately soundproof- and then pushing her gently yet firmly down on the tabletop until she was lying on her back, legs dangling over the edge, and laying his warm, heavy hand on her lower stomach while murmuring words Hermione was unfamiliar with, but which she assumed to be a contraceptive spell based on some of the Latin roots involved.
At the culmination of the spell there was a moment where his hand, and her body beneath it, was suffused with a deep pink light- followed by a tingling warmth that shot unerringly down to the most sensitive part of her, causing her to arch clear off the table with a shuddering gasp.
"Mmm… Malfoy, what-?" In that instant of total sensory overload, her resolve to call him 'Draco' was completely forgotten.
He brought his lips crashing down on hers again, sliding his hands under her head, cushioning it from the hard scrubbed wood and pulling her closer all at once. Her legs twined themselves around his waist almost of their own volition… she wasn't really even thinking coherently anymore; her mind swept away by a torrent of sensation.
He broke the kiss only when the need for air threatened to overwhelm them, then trailed his mouth along her jaw to her ear, then down the side of her neck to… oh, God.
Her blouse had already been pulled askew, and she hadn't been wearing a bra, she suddenly recalled with a thrill of embarrassment, seeing as she'd only planned to be out of her room for ten minutes, and it was the middle of the night. It was a very easy thing, therefore, for him to push the thin fabric of the blouse entirely aside and catch both her breasts in his hands, thumbing the nipples erect and enclosing first one and then the other in his impossibly hot, greedy mouth.
A sort of sobbing groan was wrenched from her as she arched upward against him, her body begging for more of this glorious treatment, far more articulately than her mouth possibly could have at that particular moment in time. One of her hands flew to fist in his hair, the other to clutch at his back, scratching him right through the fabric of his own shirt. Her legs tightened convulsively where they were wrapped around him, yanking his hips forward to grind against her own- her thighs tensing and relaxing, tensing and relaxing in a rhythm that she didn't even fully understand- her body, operating on instinct and desire now, was doing things all on its own that she'd never even imagined before.
He seemed to understand, though. He seemed to understand just fine.
"Shit, Granger," he ground out. Releasing her breasts, which by now were positively aching from his attentions, he reached up with one hand to cup the side of her face, stroking first her cheek, and then her lips, with a calloused thumb. Hardly knowing what she was doing anymore, and not at all knowing why, she parted her lips, sucking it in- and felt a shudder go all through his body. His other hand, meanwhile, was making some adept adjustments between her legs- it being a hot night, all she'd been wearing below the waist was a pair of oversized plaid boxers purloined earlier in the day from Ron's clean clothes basket. They made for quite the easy access, and oh Merlin, if Ron, who had fancied her for years, had any idea, even a clue-
And then her mind was wiped clean of anything save the skin-on-skin contact that was like nothing she had ever felt before; nothing she'd even imagined.
There was friction first; an incredible feeling of slick warmth that left her panting and begging, only semi-coherently-
"Don't… oh, Malfoy… oh God… puh-please… don't stop-"
Until he shushed her again, dropping a kiss on her temple as he moved both hands to her hips, holding her, steadying her, and then she felt their bodies align- a marvelous sensation of… of the pieces to a complicated puzzle clicking perfectly into place, and then…
ah- ah- AH- AH-
It was a scream in her mind, but only a gasp passed her lips. She gulped in air, and more air, and more… but she couldn't seem to let any of it back out again. Everything in her had locked up tight, from her fingers, which had curled into fists, scratching him, right down to her toes. There was a moment that stretched out like that, indefinitely long, and then all at once she relaxed; her head, which she'd raised a second ago and slammed into his shoulder in reaction, falling back against the table with a dull, crunching thud that made her wince. She let her eyes fall shut and just lay there, breathing now in tiny, shallow, ragged pants. Her legs were still wrapped tightly around his waist, and he was still buried hilt-deep in her body, but for the moment at least he was as silent and still as she. An eternity later… or maybe it was only an instant… he released her hips and slid his hands up her body to plunge into her thick, sweat-dampened hair, slip under her head, and cradle it once more. She felt a burst of his warm breath on her face and opened her eyes to find herself nose to nose with him.
There was a deep furrow between those artic-ice eyes of his; the expression on his face one of mingled anger and puzzlement. When he spoke, his voice was uncharacteristically rough around the edges.
"Granger… what the fuck… have you done?"
She swallowed, trying to collect herself to speak- but she couldn't quite manage it. He was still inside of her, he felt huge- she'd never dreamed she could feel so… well, full. No, more than full- complete. Complete in a way that, now she was experiencing it with Malfoy, her schoolyard tormenter and erstwhile enemy, she could barely comprehend the idea of doing so, ever again, with anyone else. Surely she could never again recapture this intensity with just any other man? And as her body adjusted, as it was forced to cope with, even to accept the intrusion, the pain was ebbing and leaving her with an increasingly strong urge to-
She wriggled her hips a bit, grinding them experimentally against his. They both gasped explosively, and his head fell forward, causing their foreheads to clunk together.
Staring up into his eyes, if she'd expected to see any kind of a reaction in that moment, it certainly wouldn't have been fury. But that was exactly what contorted his face in the next instant, and it was only her strong legs wrapped so tightly about him that prevented him from yanking himself out, and away, from her entirely.
"Woman, are you out of your fucking mind? What the hell do you think you're doing? Don't you know that's a gift you can only give once!?! What the fuck were you thinking, giving it to me? Why- Granger, why?"
"Because you needed me to," she answered simply, her eyes locked on his. "And don't you dare stop, Malfoy, don't you dare. You told me what you could give me, and I accepted it, I'm not asking for any more than that, but I'm not willing to take any less, either. So you give me everything you've got."
Reaching up, she fisted her hands yet again in his fine, soft hair. "I am asking you, Draco Malfoy," she said, "no wait, bugger asking, I am telling you shut up and fuck me. Hard."
That was certainly all the encouragement he needed to hurl himself head-first over the brink- and take her right along with him.
They held each other in the aftermath, still twined together atop the table that Hermione's friends and compatriots would be eating breakfast off of in only a few hours' time. They were both sticky and shiny with perspiration, both breathing harshly from exertion, both trembling just the slightest bit. At some point in the heat of passion she had ended up on top, and now she lay draped across him bonelessly, decadently, as his fingertips traced light, barely-there and yet oh-so-erotic patterns across her shoulders, back and sides, making her shiver with delicious chills. She waited long, long moments, until she felt every last bit of tension ebb completely out of his body, before she dared to raise her head and meet his eyes once more. She was afraid of what she would see in those eyes because they would tell her at a glance whether her experiment had been a success. She wouldn't give her lost virginity another thought if it had been… but it would be a high price to have paid for failure.
When she was finally able to bring herself to look, his eyes were closed, the furrow between them gone for what she thought had to be the first time since their school days. He looked- at least temporarily- at peace.
"Malfoy?" she said, her voice a cracked murmur.
"Mmh." His eyes cracked open and she was searching instantly for that spitting fury and red-hot boiling hate… but she didn't see it. They were like liquid silver in the near-dark, and all she saw in them in that instant was an almost boyish, languid sleepiness.
For right now, for this one moment in time, he wasn't being consumed- eaten alive- by fury, or hatred, or the unquenchable thirst for revenge.
And that meant she'd been successful; she'd lifted that burden from his shoulders for however short a time, and if she'd done it once then perhaps she could do it again… and again. She had saved him from himself for the next few days, she was confident; he would sleep well and arise clear-headed in the morning, she was almost certain of it. She didn't know how long it would last; she wasn't naïve enough to think that it would be indefinite and the problem had just been solved once and for all, but it was a first step… and that was enough for now.
Now she just needed to figure out how to get him to realize that he could come back to her any time; that she would always be there for him, to bind his wounds, listen to his words, give him physical release. It was an obligation she had entered into willingly… and an obligation she would diligently fulfill.
But it didn't look as if convincing him would be easy. His eyes had just gone distant again, distant and closed-off and as hard and grey as slate, and he was pushing her aside so as to get to his feet; not roughly, but not particularly tenderly either. Gone were the light, shiver-inducing caresses of just a moment ago; not even a trace of them- of the boy-man who had lavished them upon her- remained in his now-brusque manner. He was pulling his clothes back into place with short, jerky movements, raking a hand through his hair, refusing to look directly at her.
She sat up slowly, alone on the table now, and began straightening and smoothing her own clothes, which had never been entirely removed, just… pushed around to some very strategic angles. The feeling of euphoria that had accompanied her first-ever orgasm was fading now, leaving behind a damp, aching soreness between her thighs; and she shifted on the hard wood, wincing, feeling tears beginning to prickle at the corners of her eyes. She fought them back fiercely; to cry now would be the kiss of death to her plan- and thereby, she was positive, to him. Nothing would send him running further and faster away from her than that.
She was watching him quietly, sadly, trying to think of exactly the right thing to say- but in the end it was he that broke the silence first.
"You shouldn't have done that, Granger," he said flatly, as he bent to yank the laces tight on his boots, his hair falling across his eyes in a ripple of silver-white, effectively hiding them from view. She was positive he'd done that on purpose, so he wouldn't have to deal with looking at her as he spoke. "I was straight with you; I told you there was only so much I was prepared to give you. And that hasn't changed. If you think I do, or even that there's a remote possibility that I could, love you for this, then you're in for a rude awakening. This changes nothing; you'd have been better off giving it up to that pathetic clod Weasley who snuffles about after you like an overgrown puppy in heat. At least he'd have done right by you."
His voice was bitter, but she couldn't decide who the bitterness was directed toward- Ron, or her, or… Draco himself.
He turned for the door.
She had to say something, she realized, and fast, or he would be lost to her; lost to himself; and it all would have been for nothing after all, completely without meaning.
"Malfoy," she said, as he reached for the knob, "wait."
He stopped; dropped his hand; but didn't turn back.
She took a long, uneven breath.
"Look, I… I'm not sorry about what we just did, all right? I only regret it if you do. I want- I, erm…" She broke off, frustrated, at a loss as to how to put her thoughts across correctly. And it was so important, so very important that she say the right thing. She tried to run both her hands through her hair, much as he had done a short while ago, but even that didn't come out right; her hair was in rather extreme disarray and her fingers tangled almost immediately in its dark, tumultuous masses.
Yanking them free, she sucked in several more deep breaths in an attempt to ground and steady herself.
"I know you're limited in what you can offer me. I accepted that when you first said it, before we-" she felt heat rising to her cheeks, felt his seed, sticky and warm, between her legs- "um, before. And I still accept it now. I just… I hope you won't cut me off, thinking that you're doing me a favor, because it wouldn't be. A favor, I mean. I, um… I liked it. And I'd like to do this again with you, and I hope… I just hope that you'll stay safe so that we can."
Oh, God, she'd made a mangled mess of it. But it was out now, at any rate; something at least resembling what she'd wanted to say.
He stood there, perfectly still, for a long time. Then his hand rose toward the knob again; grasped it; twisted.
He was going to leave without saying anything, she realized; without even a backward glance. It really had all been in vain; she'd given away her virginity, for nothing.
The tears pricked harder, but still she held them back.
And he did turn. The door was already open- but he did turn.
His eyes were unreadable, though.
He looked at her for a moment that seemed to spiral out for a lifetime… then let go the doorknob, crossed back over to her, and held out a hand, helping her down from the table. Her legs didn't want to support her; they nearly buckled when her feet hit the floor. He steadied her, hands lingering for a fraction of a second under her elbows. And he spoke.
"Thanks, Granger," was all he said.
And he turned, and strode away.
But there was something- something in his eyes there at the very end- just the smallest, briefest flicker- that suggested to her that maybe, just maybe, he would come back. Tread carefully and keep himself out of harm's way so that he could come back.
That thought was enough to keep the pending tears at bay, at least until she was back in her soft, disheveled, book-piled, familiar-smelling bed. Which, with the sheets wrapped close about her like a soothing, cool embrace, was enough to offer her some modicum of comfort, at any rate.