Twenty Sinful Nights with Draco Malfoy: PART TWELVE

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Such a long time, I know. I hope you've not forgotten me or our kinky little heroes. Don't forget to review and let me know what you think. I keep getting ideas from your comments and I welcome all kinds. Thanks to all who've followed me this far.

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Blaise took the portkey Hermione gave him. It was a quill, presumably the only thing she had on her when she made it. He flew out past the mist into the middle of the ocean as he was told, and soon came crashing into the Weasley kitchen. Mrs. Weasley came running in, shrieking and smacking him over the head with his own broom.

"Ma'am! Ma'am! I'm a messenger for Hermione Granger! I come in peace, woman!" he yelled, snatching the broom away.

"ARTHUR!" she yelled, long and loud. Mr. Weasley came running down the stairs, followed by Ron.

"Blaise Zabini?" he asked. "Is that you, boy?"

Blaise threw his hands in the air in surrender. Ron and Adlai came rushing down the stairs. Ron pulled out his wand but Adlai snatched it from him quickly. He had seen Blaise in his mind and knew what needed to be done, so he helped him calm down the Weasleys.

They all sat around the dinner table, a bit more harried than usual, and let Blaise talk. Ron went to get Harry and Ginny but Adlai told him to stop.

"I'll do it," he said and went upstairs, slowly and reluctantly. He knocked twice on the door and heard shuffling and hushing. He rested his forehead on the door and closed his eyes. He was looking for possibilities, for a chance to avoid what he'd seen in his mind, but nothing. It was inevitable.

Ginny opened the door, her hair a mess. Harry was sitting on the bed, putting on his shoes. She seemed surprised that it was him, expecting one of her brothers of course.

She went to whisper his name but he just smiled and it cut her off. Her mind was blank.

"The family's waiting downstairs. We've news from the castle, from Hermione," he said, his tone soft and calm like he'd it together long before. He'd known what he was getting himself into when he decided to love her. But he'd also decided that a long time ago, to love her despite everything he knew was coming.

She went downstairs first, after Adlai flattened a few stray stands of hair. Harry watched his gentle touch as he did so, a mix of pity and jealousy rustling inside of him. He knew then, as Adlai had always known, that Ginny would always be with him. No Adlais or Krums or Dean Thomases would ever take him from her.

Ginny saw Harry and Adlai give each other a look. She wasn't sure what it meant but there was no ill will between them, none she could see of course.

When they got downstairs, Blaise had already begun to tell them what happened, what they needed to do. Mr. Weasley asked that he and Mrs. Weasley be left out of this and dragged his wife out of the room, much to her complaint.

The moment Blaise was about to explain to them that he had the portkey to get them back, it began to glow and they all quickly ran to snatch it before it left without them.

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"You're nutters, you know that?" Ron stuttered. "You want us to go barging into Vol-Vol-Voldemort's old house? To save a Malfoy?"

"Actually, it's his current house… fortress, really," Hermione clarified. Ron glared at her. They were back within the hour so it hadn't given Hermione and Draco much time to talk. They had to find the thestrals so they had to find Luna first, their unofficial liaison. She was still in the castle. Quite a few had left after Hogwarts was taken by the mist, including one or two professors.

On the way to the thestral clearing, they lagged behind so they could at least have a caring glance but it was too difficult. Every time Hermione looked into his eyes, she quickly looked away, picturing his face covered in blood. She couldn't kiss him without gagging. She was tarnished, war-worn. He knew she would move on with time but he quickly reminded himself that if they succeeded, he'd have his old Hermione back.

When Ginny arrived, Hermione had made that clear. She said she didn't want to stay in a world without Draco.

"Who else died?" Ginny had asked.

Hermione never answered.

And now, on the way to see the thestrals, each felt an enormous weight over their heads. Ron wondered how they would find them in the fog since so few of them had seen a death and they could barely see their feet hit the ground. Hermione took Draco's hand so tightly that their knuckles turned white. Suddenly, nothing needed to be said but still he said it, "I don't know if I told you before I died… but, no matter what happens, I love you. It wasn't the lust or sex. It was you. I love you."

"You didn't have to. I knew," she whispered back.

He suddenly felt her pulling him back but the mist was too strong to see. Nobody noticed they'd stopped. She pinned him against the tree and kissed him in a way she'd never kissed him. It wasn't a goodbye. It wasn't pure desire. It was just comfort. Pure comfort, in a kiss. It wasn't even the kiss but the way they held each other as they kissed, their curves finding each other again as they pressed against each other.

She heard someone clear their throat through the mist and they parted. It was Ginny. She was cutting through the mist with rays of heat from her wand. Hermione hated that she hadn't thought of it first but she had other things on her head, things she was trying so hard not to forget. Lives depended on it. Draco still didn't let go of her hand.

He was more determined than ever to save himself, for her. He felt if he wasn't with her, he might as well let the mist eat him up. So, while she executed her grand plan to save him, he was quite determined to save her because he knew the extent she would go to for him. There was certain comfort in knowing someone cared for him like that. No one had ever cared for him with such passion and determination. The only one to even come close to caring was his mother.

And look where that got her.

They mounted the three thestrals and off they were. Harry and Ron rode up front, followed by Draco and Hermione in another, then Ginny and Adlai. Luna was asked to stay behind with Blaise to keep a look on the sleeping Hermione back at the castle. They'd been left with specific instructions to guard the body and at 5AM the day after next, no matter what, they were to give her Ginny's potion.

Harry knew exactly where the Riddle house was, maybe even better than Hermione who had been there in person, because of his connection to Voldemort. He wouldn't be there for the day, Hermione knew, but he was on his way there.

"The sun's about to rise over Scotland," Hermione said, with the amazement of watching a movie for the second time. She knew every ray of light, every speck of bright orange and purple. She couldn't help herself and started to cry. Draco could hear her behind him and put his hand over hers on his waist. She hugged him tighter as if clinging to him for just a little bit longer.

"Is that where we are?" he asked.

She sighed and nodded. "Hogwarts was near Iceland at 9PM last night. It doesn't live in our own time anymore. It's outside that, constantly shifting from different points in space. Iceland was the closest we could get. We're almost at the highlands now. We have to make a stop there. After that, we have to get to London and then we take a train into the village."

"I have a castle there we can stop in."

She smiled. She had fallen in love with the Draco in plain old school robes like everyone else. She knew he was rich. She had seen it. But it was moments like this that reminded her just how much and what she was getting involved in. She wondered if she could live like that for the rest of her life. She imagined a wedding with white orchids that draped down in tall centerpieces and cloth napkins with a gold trim. She imagined her white dress, something regal yet simple. And she imagined him, standing there at the altar, waiting for her. Then she realized she would never reach the altar and wept again.

When they saw Draco's castle in the distance, she wiped them quickly as if covering up evidence of a crime, and they landed. The thestrals practically collapsed and Ginny and Adlai's landed a bit head first. They came flying off and Ginny landed on top of him, laughing. They all ran to help them up but Harry couldn't touch her, could barely look at her.

He turned towards Hermione and asked, "Why couldn't we take a portkey?"

"We can't get there too early. It has to be just as I planned. Besides, no portkey will work near the house."

He nodded like he was listening but his mind was elsewhere. "You've seen the future, 'Mione. Are she and I--"

"You're timeless, Harry. I promise you."

"Then why wasn't I the one who traveled back in time? Why isn't Ron or Ginny or any of them here?"

She smirked. "You didn't know it could be done, not like this. It took two weeks of planning, from the moment he died. All by myself. This isn't your fight, Harry. It's mine."

He snapped out of his thoughts of Ginny to face her and grasp her shoulders as if it would give his words further meaning. "Listen to me," he said. "I've been where you've been. I've wanted to do it all myself. I wanted to save the world from an evil I helped bring back just by existing. But it wasn't worth it. I cannot save the world. I can only save those I care about. You're one of them, Hermione. We all love you and we will do what it takes to help you save him."

She tried to hide it but she wanted to cry. He could see it and hugged her. She completely broke down, the sudden feeling of being utterly alone overwhelming her. Harry didn't understand it, why she would continue to feel alone. The harder she cried, the tighter he hugged her but she just slid down to her knees, taking him with her.

The others heard it in the distance and Draco quickly ran to see what was wrong. Harry got out of the way and Draco knelt down in the mud before her.

"'Mione? Darling, are you all right?" he asked, trying to lift her face as if it might tell him what was wrong. He took out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped away her tears. It had the Malfoy crest on it but it was obvious it came with the robes. "Hermione, talk to me!"

"I tried to convince myself it was fine to cheat fate because something in my heart told me I had to be with you. I tried to tell myself I could risk their lives if it meant getting you back. But it doesn't make it right. I've been selfish. We can't go on, Draco. We can't."

Ron pushed Draco out of the way and took Hermione's face in his hands. "You listen to me and listen well, girl. You're right. You shouldn't be risking our lives, but we have every right to risk our own. You've been there with Harry and me every step of the way. You've risked your own life countless of times to save stupid us who do stupid things to get in the way of unthinkable evils. Forget what I said before, Hermione," he whispered finally. "We will go through Hell to make you happy. And if Malfoy does that, we'll do everything we can to save him."

Hermione's eyes were fixed on Ron's. They were determined, almost dangerously so. She gulped down her tears and nodded. He helped her up from the mud and lent her hand to Draco, who thanked him in a whisper.

Ginny started another conversation about something cheery and fun. She was always the child bringing light back to their weary lives. Adlai was her escape. Harry was their connection to another world of peril and excitement. Ron was the trusted friend, the confidant. Hermione was once the brains. Now, she was a cause, which they found more honorable. To save her, they'd have to welcome the enemy into their midst – Draco.

Walking down the garden path to his mansion, pulling the thestrals behind them, they all thought the same thing. They had to do this, no matter the risk. For Hermione.

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"Welcome to Haydn House," Draco announced as they watched his house from the hill.

They arrived at the mansion stables. It was a large house, old and covered with vines and hanging lavender. It seemed more of a country retreat but almost all his mansions had that feel. There was only one, Malfoy Manor, which truly stood as a house and a home. Hermione had seen a picture of it once in a book and upon meeting him, often wondered what it would be like to lead such a house, to be the wife of a man of his status. She hadn't thought of that in what seemed forever. Life kept reminding her it was a fairytale that could never be, making it ever harder to reach the Manor doors.

The elves helped them to their rooms. Only Draco and Hermione shared a room, a large one with burgundy linens and rich, dark wood carvings. They wouldn't have too much time to stay but they were told to relax till Hermione gave word that it was time to go. As far as they knew, they could spend the night and they would get a head start the next morning at promptly 7:03AM. Hermione insisted on the time. 7:04 would be too late. 7:05 would be a disaster.

Hermione found herself staring at their bed. She'd been there before. She'd shared his bed and his embrace and it only made her remember the bad times, the gory details he was not allowed to invade.

He came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. She loved it and he knew it. He loved to hear her moan when he kissed her neck all down her back. But he didn't now. She pulled away too quickly.

"I'm going to take a bath," she announced.

He sighed and nodded that she should go ahead. He'd usually join her but he knew she'd come a long way and needed some privacy, some time alone. It was breaking his heart to see her drift even more apart from her.

He heard a knock at their door just as he heard the bath water turn on. It was Adlai.

"Have you a minute?" he asked.

"Yea, come in," Draco replied. "Hermione's in the bath."

"I know. Just like I know what you're thinking of doing. Just like I knew Ginny and Hermione would come to me at the village. Just like I saw the yellow dress covered in blood, your blood," he whispered, stepping inside.

"Hermione told me you were a Seer."

"I need to know one thing, Draco, the one thing no vision will tell me."

Draco looked scared that he'd be asked something he should never know, that he'd have to give an answer he'd never wanted to admit to even himself.

"Does it still hurt when you kiss her?" Adlai asked, hurried and with no shame.

"What?"

Adlai asked again. "Does it still hurt when you kiss her? You said it, maybe you thought it, but you knew that every time you kissed her, it hurt to control yourself. It hurt to tell yourself it must come to an end sometime. Knowing the truth, knowing she's not the mate you envisioned, does it still hurt?"

Draco tried to respond but he couldn't breathe. Great grief had lodged itself in his throat. He missed Hermione now more than ever.

"Yes," he finally whispered. "It still hurts, more than you'll ever know."

Adlai looked back at the hallway. Ginny leaving her room to find Harry. He turned back to Draco and with pain easily read on his face, he replied, "Oh I know. I've seen her future, sir. Don't leave her, not for an instant. I do not have options. I have seen my end and it comes soon. But you sir, you and her… It takes a moment to change a lifetime."

Draco looked back at the bathroom door. It'd been left open just a sliver, just enough for him to gain hope.

"Thank you," he whispered back, hoping no one in the halls would hear. "Thank you."

Adlai smirked sadly and left. Draco turned back to the ever so slightly ajar door and with the determination of a man who knew his end was coming, he lifted his shirt above his head and tossed it into the room. He tore off his pants and threw his shoes off. One went flying out the window but he didn't notice.

Hermione heard the scuffle of clothes and banging furniture outside and stopped before getting into the bubble bath. She turned off the water.

"Draco?" she called out. "Is everything okay?"

He didn't respond. She went to the door to open it just a tad and saw him trying to get his socks off by hopping on one foot, naked, in the middle of the room. He stopped hopping when he saw her smile. It radiated on her tired face.

"Draco?" He stormed to her and kissed her savagely and without remorse. She pushed away. "Draco, what's gotten into you?" she shouted.

His voice quivered but he held her waist and her cheek and she enjoyed his warmth. "I don't know what about us died, Hermione. It wasn't me. It wasn't you. It died long before you came back here. It hasn't been that long and yet we're not the same. We never will be. But I'm here, right now, and no matter what happens I want to look back at this night, this last night, and know that we can live again."

She wanted to cry but she didn't because it would ruin the memory. She realized now that by trying to make 20 perfect nights in her mind, she had forgotten how wonderful it was to be in his arms, his real, corporeal arms. Not a single one of those nights meant anything. It had bonded them, even some would say saved Hogwarts, but she would only have the next night. It was the promise of tomorrow, of change and growth, that those 20 nights lacked. In one night, in one very long bath, they were able to capture what they could never feel in their greatest dreams.

And though both were quite sure this would be their last night together, it felt as if it lasted an eternity – that they would have this eternity. If even one of them survived, they would know they did not live in vain. They would know love in their final hour.

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TO BE CONTINUED IN PART THIRTEEN:

--What will they find at the Riddle House?

--Only one will live. Who will it be? Draco or Hermione?

--Will Hogwarts ever be found?

--Why is there blood on Ginny's yellow dress?

--If he can see the future, what is Adlai waiting for? Or is it who?

--Will Voldemort find them?

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