"Malfoy, wait."

He paused in front of the door, his back to her. He was dressed again; they both were. He'd used a quick, wandless spell to dry their clothing – in the aftermath of their coupling, thoroughly warm and fully functional again, they had both regained the physical and mental strength and coordination needed to perform simple wandless magic. Hopefully this crucial ability would now see each of them through to their respective safe places.

He had dressed without a word – neither one of them had spoken at all, in fact, since he'd told her to stop worrying her lip. But when it appeared that he really did intend to simply walk out of their little sanctuary and back into the fray without saying anything further to her, anything at all – well, she couldn't let him do that, just leave like that. There was still so much she wanted – needed to know.

He was waiting for her to continue. And she could see in the tense lines of his body that he wasn't going to wait much longer.

"Malfoy…" all of a sudden, she was painfully unsure of how to proceed. Might as well just spit it out then, the question that was twisting inside of her, gnawing at her already. She needed an answer. She deserved an answer. "Malfoy, why? I have a right to know why. You owe me that much."

Slowly, he turned back to face her.

He looked at her for a long time, his face impassive. And then, finally, just when she was beginning to think that she wouldn't get an answer at all – "Owe you? I don't owe you jack, Granger." His voice was flat. "I saved your life, so don't you ever imply that I owe you more than that. If your… Muggle warming technique, as you so charmingly call it… happened to save mine back, then at the most we're even and I still don't owe you a thing. As for my motives –" he gave a casual, one-shouldered shrug – "who knows? Maybe I was working on higher orders; orders that clod McNair knew nothing about. Maybe the Dark Lord has other plans for you, close to Potter as you are." He paused for a moment, watching for her reaction. When she said nothing to this, merely tilting up her chin in silent, angry defiance, he went on. "Then again, maybe I was only looking out for myself. Maybe I saw a chance to get you under a life-debt, so I could use you as a trump card in the unlikely event that your side wins this bloody war. You'd make a hell of an insurance policy in that case, Granger." Once more he paused before continuing. When he spoke again, his voice was lower, quieter; and yet somehow far more intense. His slate-grey gaze, too, now seemed to pierce right through her. "Or maybe, Granger, just maybe the truth is, I've actually been in love with you for years, and I've been shadowing you for the entire battle, trying to keep you from harm's way. It's possible." Those mercurial eyes were boring holes her in her. Her lips parted in shock – she almost felt as if she were underwater again; she could hardly breathe.

Slowly, never breaking eye contact with her, he bent to gather up the silvery puddle of cloth that was his invisibility cloak. Straightening up again, he graced her with a sardonic little smile as he turned once again toward the door. "Stranger things have happened. Right?"

She didn't answer him. Her mind was reeling. She wasn't at all sure that she could form coherent words at the moment. He shoved aside the crates that had been barricading the door, then swung it open. Outside, all was darkness, and eerie silence. The silence of a battlefield from whence the battle has largely moved on; a battlefield that is rapidly becoming a boneyard.

He didn't step through the doorway yet – but he didn't turn back toward her either. He seemed to hesitate like that for just a fraction of a moment. Then; "see you around, Granger," he said softly. And vanished into the mist.



She sat straight up in bed, as she had a hundred times before, gasping and shaking, with a cry on her lips and his voice – "See you around, Granger," echoing in her head as clearly as if he'd just spoken those words a heartbeat ago, right there in her room.

"Wait," she whispered again, but the phantom Malfoy from her dream was long gone; into the mists, into the ether, away beyond the veil. 'See you around,' he'd said, but she hadn't seen him around; she'd never seen him again. He'd been killed the next day, in the climax of the battle… leaving her behind with the awful, gut-clenchingly cold feeling of a profound debt unpaid.

With a tiny, grey-eyed daughter that Harry, now tossing and muttering fitfully in the bed beside her (his sleep had been every bit as troubled as hers since the war), had gallantly offered to raise as his own, no questions asked.

And with a host of burning questions that would never, now, be answered.

"Oh Malfoy, please wait."

He dove in after her – but why?

HAD he loved her? Stranger things had happened. Harry was reaching up now, still ninety percent asleep, to pull her back down, into the warm security of his arms.

And she would never know. She would never know.