A/N: Well, this was fun! I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who was so kind as to take the time to read and review! It's because of your support that I finally got off my bum and finished the damn story! ^_^

Also, a quick note, because this is the last chapter, I upped the rating a bit. This one gets graphically sexual, so please be forewarned. And lastly, enjoy!

Chapter 19: It All Ends Here

"What do you want?" Hermione wasn't frightened, just a little unsettled. She hadn't meant to be so oblivious to her surroundings, and this was exactly the reason why.

Honestly, Hermione, she chastised herself, In these uncertain times especially, you need to take better care! She glanced back over her shoulder at the two hulking brutes behind her. They were definitely blocking off any other route, not that she was really considering running off, but it also made it harder for reinforcements, if they were to try and help her. Ruefully realizing her folly, Hermione slipped a hand into the pocket where she kept her wand.

"Expelliarmus!" The figure in front of her cried out with a hysterical note. Hermione's wand went flying over the figure's shoulder, and then the person stepped forward a little, making it clearer to see her.

Pansy Parkinson's face was a mottled expression of fury and jealous rage. She brandished her wand with an ugly sneer that was probably permanently etched into her face, and laughed at Hermione.

"You didn't think I'd actually let you get away with it, did you, you filthy little Mudblood?"

"I'm quite sure I have no idea what you're talking about, Pansy." Hermione raised her chin and stared down the other girl. She may have been unarmed, but she wasn't the type to give in, and Pansy had done her no favors in the past.

"You bitch!" Pansy spat at her, "Like you don't know! You've gone and bewitched him with your clever little love spells and made him think that he doesn't love me anymore!"

"Pansy," Hermione said reasonably, "I'm sure that you've got it all wrong. After all, it's illegal to use love potions, and who would I have enchanted anyway? It's hardly worth my time."

"Draco is worth five of you! No, ten, a hundred! You're nothing but a filthy bitch, and he's a Pureblood; a Malfoy!" Pansy screeched, furiously waving her wand around. A small voice inside Hermione's head told her that she was clearly dealing with a very unbalanced Slytherin girl.

"Oh, are we talking about Draco?" Hermione answered lazily, her eyes furtively glancing around the darkened corridor for a means of escape, or a weapon to protect herself, or both.

"Yes! My Draco was devoted to me, and then came along and for whatever evil reason took him from me with your illegal potions and charms! Well, no more. I'm taking back what is mine, and you're going to pay for it dearly, you little Mudblood bitch. We're going to make it so that not even that stupid little Weasley boy will want to give you a second glance." Then she slowly approached, and Hermione almost felt as if the walls were closing in on her when she realized that the hulking forms in the shadows behind her were Crabbe and Goyle and advancing on her. Pansy swung her wand out with a waspish snarling; using a spell that Hermione had never heard, but knew was probably not very pleasant. She ducked beneath the other girl's arm, and stumbled down the hall a few steps.

There were crashing noises behind her as Pansy slashed her wand at everything and anything she could reach, screaming insults and obscenities all the while, her blind fury making her a dangerously unsettled opponent. Hermione needed to get to her wand and quickly. She was more or less helpless without it. Pansy must have realized what she was trying to do, because she changed her tact.

"You'll never mean anything more to him than a little plaything, you know. That's what he does to women, Draco, he plays with you, makes you believe that he loves you, and then as soon as he's had his fill he flings you away and pretends like you don't exist." Her words, poison that they were, were spoken with too much regret, too much pain for Hermione to ignore as mere vitriolic.

"You're wrong about him, Pansy. I don't think you know him at all." If she could just keep Pansy talking long enough to get to her wand…

"Oh, no, I know my Drakey, and he would never, and I mean never take up with a filthy Mudblood slut like you unless it was all for the piece of ass he could get. Maybe he thought you were a challenge. Topple the ivory tower that was Hermione Granger." She laughed ruthlessly, and more things fell behind Hermione as she stumbled along, trying to see in the dusky, infrequent lighting.

Just a little farther…come on, another step or two…but Hermione went down hard as the great bulk of one of the Slytherins crashed her to the ground. She felt her teeth bite down into her lip, and the pain caused tears to well up unbidden, blurring her vision. She let out an involuntary yelp as whoever it was lying on top of her yanked on her hair hard and managed to pull a chunk of it free. Hermione couldn't think through the searing pain in her ribs, it was as if something very hot was stabbing her in the side.

With a start, she realized that it was her wand. Carefully, she tried to reach down, but her arm was caught and dragged up hard behind her back. She felt something snap, and then a searing numbness ran through her shoulder as her arm broke. She yelled again, trying to dislodge her attacker. Suddenly a very angry voice from the other end of the hallway shouted,

"Expelliarmus!" And the person on her back flew off as if struck with a large bat. Goyle slumped down against the opposite end of the corridor, unconscious from the blast. Pansy screamed, then started to simper.

"Oh Drakey! Thank goodness you're here! This evil little Mudblood was trying to kill me, I swear she was!" The grating sound of Pansy's voice carved its way through Hermione's astonished gasping; once the weight had been removed, she could breathe again. Her anger caught her up, and she grabbed her wand as she jumped to her feet and whirled around. Her arm was outstretched and her wand shooting off little sparks of annoyance, ready to defend herself against Crabbe and Pansy at a moment's notice.

Draco stood at one end of the hallway, his face half-hidden in the shadows, and he stared with contempt around him at the mess Pansy had created. Hermione was stepping closer, heated temper in her every movement. Crabbe backed away quickly, stumbling over a torn tapestry, and falling back to crash his head against the wall. Pansy yelled at him.

"Get up, you moron! You're supposed to be taking care of her!" Then she stopped and looked at Draco, fear written across her features for the first time. "I mean, you're supposed to be protecting me." She back-pedaled lamely, but Draco shook his head and looked at Hermione.

"'Mione, are you all right?"

"I'll be better if I can deal with this on my own, Draco." Her eyes narrowed with distaste as she examined Pansy, still moving closer in tiny little steps. Her right leg hurt, and her head was pounding from getting hit on the floor. She was fairly certain that her lip was bleeding, and that she had a slightly crazed look about her, but she didn't care.

"Hermione, love, put the wand down," Draco said, quite sensibly, considering the situation, "You don't want to hurt anyone."

"But who's to stop her from hurting me again?" Hermione demanded, her eyes never leaving Pansy's stricken face as the Gryffindor girl bore down on her, wand pointed directly at her heart. "She attacked me, called me names and was all but ready to kill me. Why shouldn't I do the same to her?"

"Because you're better than that," Draco pointed out quietly, though his tone held a note of suppressed amusement, as if he somehow found the image of the tall Pansy shivering in fear at the sight of the petite form of Hermione armed with a skinny stick of wood funny. Of course, he's seen what Hermione could do in a temper, and he knew that whatever she did would probably be nothing less than Pansy deserved, but even so, there was no use letting on that he knew that.

"So, by being a better woman than this," she gestured with her wand in Pansy's direction, the tip shooting off a small cascade of sparks dangerously close to Pansy's face. "I'm supposed to let her get away with it? Your logic is faulty, Draco."

"Oh, now I didn't say that. Go right ahead and punish her for her trespasses, by all means." He motioned lazily, and Pansy cried out in alarm.

"No! Drakey, you can't let her touch me! She's going to kill me!" Hermione gave Pansy a look of pure and utter disgust.

"Why would I bother to kill you? You're not worth my time." Then she muttered some incantation too low for Draco to catch, but whatever it was the effect was immediate. Pansy's eyes rolled back into her head, and her body slid back along the wall to collapse in a heap on the floor.

"What did you do?" Draco asked, still in that same lazily contemptuous tone. Hermione shrugged and brushed her hair out her face furiously.

"I put her to sleep with a fantasy. Well… really more of a nightmare." No sooner had she said this then Pansy's feet began to kick and squirm. Her eyelids fluttered as she turned her head from side to side in a frantic, unconscious reaction to whatever nastiness was being played out on the back of her eyelids. Draco smirked. He knew the terror that a good nightmare could instill and maybe that would teach Pansy not to mess with his 'Mione. He looked back at his girlfriend as she stood trembling slightly in the hallway.

He quickly went to her and caught her right before she fainted. She was almost nothing to lift and he hurried her to the Hospital Wing.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Hermione's eyes opened slowly against the bright sunlight filtering in through a window near the bed she was lying in. At first her thought was that she had forgotten to close the drapes on the east side of her bed, but after a moment's contemplation she realized that she was not in Gryffindor Tower, but rather in the Hospital Wing, and that her left arm was bound and bandaged up to her torso. Her right hand was carefully lodged between a pale, slender hand, and her head was pounding slightly, but other than that, she couldn't feel anything else that was remotely unusual.

She blinked again, trying to remember how she ended up in the Hospital Wing, and her gaze followed the line of the hand that held hers so protectively, up an equally pale arm, and to the sleeping face of one Draco Malfoy. She gave a little gasp as the events of the previous night washed over her memory, and she tensed up. Draco's eyes flew open at the tiny sound, and he jerked upright.

"You're awake," he muttered unnecessarily, as he blearily rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "How are you feeling?"

"Muddled," Hermione admitted quietly, "What happened?"

"You fainted. I think it was the pain in your arm that got you in the end." Then he smiled wolfishly. "But not until after you'd dealt with Pansy."

Hermione sighed and leaned back against the pillows. "I wasn't too terrible, was I?"

"You were perfect," Draco whispered, still a little awed by his 'Mione's control and power. He'd always known she was a brilliant witch, but after hearing Madame Pomfrey's diagnosis of Pansy's condition, he would seriously have to think a second, and maybe even a third thought before he ever pissed Hermione off that way!

Hermione flushed slightly as his awestruck tone, and glanced away from him. She noticed that she was not the only one in the Hospital Wing, but that Madame Pomfrey was busily attending to both Crabbe and Goyle's minor wounds, and that there was a bed at the opposite end of the wing with the curtains drawn. As soon as she noticed it, a low groan came from behind the curtain, and Madame Pomfrey shot it a distracted glance before turning her attention to the newly awakened Hermione.

"And how are you feeling this morning, Miss Granger?" The nurse asked with concern.

"Fine, though my head is a little sore still." Hermione answered honestly, as Draco's eyes took on a stormy quality. Madame Pomfrey started to take the bandages off of Hermione's arm, as she commented.

"And no wonder why," here a dark glance went across the hospital wing to the curtained bed, "It's probably from the break in your arm, dear. You tore through a rather large muscle with bone. It's going to take a few days for that to heal properly, and I'd not be surprised if it's a bit tense and sore still for the next couple days after that. Mr. Malfoy, I'll need you to step outside for a few minutes while I help Miss Granger change."

Draco did not look too pleased about the prospect of being away from Hermione's side, but after another dark glance from the nurse sent him on his way. He pressed a light kiss to Hermione's temple before he left.

"I'd better go tell the others that you're awake, anyway. I know that Ginny's been pacing the better part of the night, and that little Harry could do would settle her." She blinked at his use of Harry's first name, but didn't mention anything as Madame Pomfrey hustled him out of the ward.

"How long have I been asleep?" she asked the nurse when she returned.

"About a day and a half. Mr. Malfoy brought you in around one in the morning on Christmas night." She responded briskly as she bustled Hermione out of the sweater she was wearing and into a clean top. She helped settle the girl back into the pillows so that she was sitting up, and then disappeared for a minute. When she came back, Hermione asked another question that had been bothering her.

"Are they injured badly?" she gestured with her good arm at the other two that were visible in the ward.

"No, they just complain quite a bit. I've decided to make it worth their while to be here." Madame Pomfrey added with a wink. "Now that one, she's a right mess. Can't sleep, and when she does, it's all nightmares. I have a feeling Miss Parkinson will not be sleeping well for a few weeks at best."

"Oh," Hermione bit her lip, then glanced up at the nurse guiltily. "Do you think she's going to be okay?"

"Serves her right," Madame Pomfrey nodded succinctly, surprising Hermione with her frank approval. "But don't say that I said it. She's sent a fair few number of her classmates here on 'accidents' that were potentially hazardous to them. I think it's about time someone made her think twice."

Hermione gaped at the woman for a moment, before Madame Pomfrey continued with a softer tone.

"Now that young Mr. Malfoy of yours, I had so worried that he would turn out the way his father did. Goodness knows he's started a few scrapes of his own, but he never left your side once. The others came and went, but he refused to stray. He's quite a devoted young man." She watched Hermione's reddening cheeks with a keen eye and a small smile.

"He's certainly that," Hermione agreed, amazed that Draco would do such a thing, then wondering why she was so surprised. Hadn't he proven to her that he was a changed man? That he was not as cold and distant as everyone thought him to be? Her heart warmed at the remembrance of his sleeping form in the chair next to her bed.

"Here now, my dear, take this, you're still rebuilding muscle, and it helps if you sleep while that happens." Madame Pomfrey pressed a cup of something that did not smell all that pleasant into her hand and to her lips before Hermione could protest. Almost instantly, Hermione could feel her eyelids growing heavy, and sleepiness was pulling her under.

"Draco," she murmured, "tell him… I love… him…"

*~*~*~*~*~*

Hermione was vaguely aware when Draco came back in a fresh change of clothes, and sat back down at her side with a book in his hand. She wasn't sure how long she was supposed to stay in the hospital, but she felt the tension in her shoulder and knew that Madame Pomfrey wouldn't let her go until she was given a clean bill of health. She wondered what Draco was going to do with all that time… then she was asleep again…

*~*~*~*~*~*

Hermione drifted in and out of consciousness over what she figured must be a couple days. It was hard to tell, since Draco hardly ever left her side, and every time she would wake up for more than a short time, Madame Pomfrey would give her more sleeping potion. Once when Hermione was awake, she noticed that the other beds in the Hospital Wong were empty again, and another time, Draco and Ginny were playing Wizards Chess quietly at the foot of her bed. Aside from that though, Hermione's last days of December passed by in a dreamy haze.

*~*~*~*~*~*

When next she woke, there was a quiet conversation going on above her head. She kept her eyes closed, hoping to hear something of interest.

"-she could have been a lot worse," Harry was saying in a hushed tone. Draco's voice was equally low, and filled with a deep regret.

"I know, believe me, I know. I never wanted her to get hurt, you know that. If I had thought that she would be in danger like that, I wouldn't have let her out of my sight."

"You did the best you could," Ginny comforted him, and Hermione had to smother a smile. Trust Ginny to try and ease Draco's guilt.

"What are you going to do about it?" Ron asked, and Hermione had to wonder for a second what he was referring to. Draco sighed heavily.

"I don't know. I promised her that I wouldn't stop her if she wanted to fight. I just didn't know that she meant to do it so soon," he added with a rueful little laugh.

"Why would you have to promise her something like that?" Harry wanted to know, and Hermione got the impression that Ginny had just rolled her eyes at him, because then he said, "It's an honest question!"

"She disagreed with my methods. I didn't want her to get hurt, so I suggested that maybe it would be better for her to remain in a safe place while the fighting was happening. Needless to say, she had a few pointed things to say about that."

"I can imagine she would," Ron agreed with a laughing lilt to his voice. Someone smoothed a hand across her forehead, and pressed her bangs back to one side. Draco was speaking again, this time his tone was contemplative.

"I sometimes wonder if she wouldn't be safer away from me."

Hermione decided she was done listening to them talk about her in such a manner. She opened her eyes without preamble and stated, quite eloquently for having supposedly been asleep only moments before,

"No." The others were startled at her adamant refusal and blinked down at her as she struggled to sit up. Ron and Ginny stood at the foot of the bed, and Harry and Draco each lent a hand in helping her to sit up.

"Now, 'Mione, listen to reason," Draco started, but she cut him off.

"No, absolutely not. You will not sacrifice my happiness because you're feeling guilty. I refuse to allow it."

"Very well then," Draco smiled down at her, with a smirk lingering somewhere in the depths of his grey eyes, "I wasn't too keen on the idea myself, you know."

Then he kissed her, right there in front of the others; he kissed her with the passion of a man worried, then relieved when his worries fell false. Harry glanced away uncomfortably, and Ron turned red. Ginny grinned at them like a Cheshire cat.

"Now then, Mr. Malfoy, that's enough of that." Madame Pomfrey came bustling in with a pile of clean linens in her arms. "She's not been awake more than a few minutes and you're already tiring her out. Stop that at once, young man!" Draco moved back from Hermione with a recalcitrant look on his face. Ron was laughing, until Madame Pomfrey shot him a nasty look, and he stopped.

"Miss Granger, if your friends will clear the area, then we can do a final check on that shoulder, and if I think you're clear, then you may go."

The other four scattered quickly, anxious to have Hermione out of the Hospital Wing. A few minutes later, she joined them in the hallway, flexing her left arm and rolling the shoulder as if loosening a tightened muscle.

They made their way down to the Great Hall for some lunch, and as they walked, Draco hung back with Hermione for the entire way. Just before they entered, he motioned for the others to go on ahead and pulled Hermione out of the way of the doors.

"What is it, Draco?" She asked softly, squeezing his hand. She had been feeling particularly softened to him in general since finding out that he had spent the night in the hospital with her while she was there.

"Hermione, I'm really sorry about what happened, you know that, right?" He looked worried.

"Draco, that wasn't your fault. You didn't know that your ex-girlfriend was psychotic." He flinched when she called Pansy his ex, but he let it pass, instead gathering her close, and kissing her again.

"Are you really hungry?" He murmured in her ear. She looked up at him through her lashes with a deeply tempting expression and licked her lips.

"I'm suddenly ravenous, but I don't think I'm going to find something to suit my current appetite in the Great Hall."

Draco paused as he looked down at her. "Are you sure, Hermione? I don't want you to feel like I'm rushing you, or pushing it."

"I know that," she assured him, "I'm ready for this, and I'm sure. I love you Draco, and I trust you."

With that, he took her hand and led the way down the stone stairs to the lower levels of the castle. With a quiet whisper of the password, he took her into the empty Slytherin Common Room. She hesitated on the threshold, knowing that this was taboo, but the look of desire in Draco's once-again stormy eyes overrode any reservations she may have had about entering this forbidden territory.

He took her down a long hall, and another set of stairs to a locked door. He pulled the key from his pocket, unlocking what turned out to be a bedroom, and letting her precede him into the room. She looked around with interest at his room. There was a large bed in the center, with a deep emerald comforter with silver lining covering it. A fireplace to one side of the room sent heat and limited light bouncing off the stone grey walls, and a desk on the opposite side of the room bore very little sign of use.

"You don't have to share with anyone?" Hermione asked with interest. Draco shook his head.

"It was long ago decided that Slytherins were better off having their own space. It breeds less contempt."

"That makes sense," Hermione nodded, her eyes falling once again on the oversized bed. She felt a slight flutter of nerves, but as soon as Draco came up behind her and held her against his chest, even those little butterflies were dissipated.

She turned in his arms and kissed him suddenly. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed herself against him. He gripped at her hips, bringing their bodies even closer together, and kissing her back fiercely. There was a sense of desperation and need there, but it was firmly leashed in with a controlled passion that made Hermione tremble.

He carefully caught her up and carried her to the bed, peeling back the blanket and lying her on soft steel-grey sheets underneath. He just as carefully helped her to remove her clothing, leaving her in only a soft pink bra that nearly blended in with the creaminess of her skin, and a matching pair of bikini panties. Draco marveled at the sight of her, finally laid out across his bed, just as he'd imagined in the most fiery nights of their relationship, and, if he was honest with himself, several times before they had ever started going out.

Her soft, peachy skin stood out against the harsh grey sheets, and made her all the more ethereal appearing. Her hair fanned out on the pillow as she watched him with doe-like brown eyes. He kissed her slowly, letting her get used to the idea of being so uncovered around him. He wanted nothing more than to simply strip them both bare, and plunge into her with a heated abandon, but he held himself in check. Hermione deserved better than that… at least the first few times. Once they got the hang of this, he was sure they could afford to get a little more inventive.

He caressed her shoulders, running his fingers along her collarbone with a light teasing brush. He moved his hand down her side, avoiding her breasts, coming to settle on her soft belly instead. She gave a tiny sighing moan as he dallied around her belly button, then swept his hand upward, between the valley between her breasts to rest a couple fingers on her rapidly beating heart.

"I love you too, Hermione," he murmured, and she frowned in confusion. He smirked down at her, looking a bit roguish and quite handsome. "Madame Pomfrey said you had a message for me. I love you too."

"You know I love you," Hermione reminded him, "I didn't think there was any doubt in that one."

"No, there really isn't, but I do love to hear you say it." Then he got up and slowly took off his own clothing, leaving his boxers on until they were ready for that final step. If he took down too many of his barriers, he'd more than likely lose control too quickly.

Instead he wanted to see Hermione lose it all and come back for more. He smiled wickedly down at her, and then he kissed her. His lips traced hers, his tongue following the outline of her mouth until she opened her lips and admitted his tongue. He tenderly took her into his arms, running an arm down her side again, this time to hold her hip and turn her to face him as they lie on the bed together. He danced little kisses down her neck, and to her breasts, reaching behind her, he fumbled momentarily with the closure on her bra, before it sprang free and the bra fell away from her succulent breasts.

He had thought that the pink of her undergarments was tempting; it was nothing compared to the dusky rose of her nipples as they beckoned to him. Leaning down he took one into his mouth and laved the tip with his tongue. She cried out lightly, arching into his hold and pressing his head closer with one hand. Taking this to be a good response, he lapped at her nipple, sucking and nibbling on it with a delicate set to his teeth. She moaned and tried to keep him closer, but he switched to her other breast, and watched as she squirmed and wriggled under his lips. He slid one hand down to cup her bottom in one hand.

She arched her hips into his, pressing insistently against his just as insistent erection. He groaned with the effort it was taking for him not to just ravish her in that instant. Hermione seemed to sense that his hold was tenuous, because something very wicked and un-Hermione-like flickered in the depths of her eyes, and she separated one hand from where it had gripped in his blonde hair to stroke his chest. Her questing fingers sought out the waistband of his underwear. Warning bells sounded in his head.

"'Mione, stop that." Draco remonstrated quietly. "Just let me touch you."

And saying that, he moved the hand that had cupped her bottom to tease along the elastic at her leg, slipping one finger beneath it, to stroke the soft skin of her thighs and hips. He ran the same finger toward the front of her panties, and gently rubbed at the damp, heated flesh he discovered at the apex.

She shivered at his touch and pressed closer, urging him to continue. He dipped his other fingers beneath the crotch of her panties, stroking the tender flesh there, until her hips were undulating against his hand. Cautiously, he slipped his middle finger inside the wet channel secluded beneath her womanly folds. She cried out at the invasion, but she shifted against him more furiously, riding his hand as he moved his finger slowly in and out of her.

He watched as her eyes went overly bright with desire, the pupils dilating wildly, and her cheeks suffused with an attractive blush. Everything about her in that very instant cried out for sexual release, from the bow of her arched back, to the tension in her lower body as her hips jutted against his hand. Finally, it proved to be too much for her, and her body arched further, her hips thrusting up to meet his hand as he pressed against that little nub hidden in the folds of her drenched apex.

She cried out his name, her hands gripping at his shoulder tightly, her nails digging lightly into the flesh there, but he didn't mind. He watched her as the convulsions he could feel against his fingers slowly subsided, and then he kissed her gently, slowly removing her panties and his boxers. We wanted no more barriers between them, and she gasped slightly as she looked up at him with a slightly wondering look in her eye. Carefully, he aligned himself up with her opening, the paused.

"We'll go slowly," he murmured, and she smiled trustingly up at him, and nodded.

"Go on, Draco, I'm ready."

He took a deep breath, and then slowly he inched himself inside her. He froze when a tightness stopped him, and that tension was reflected around her eyes. He let her get used to him being in as far as he was, then pushed against that final barrier. She tensed, her eyes closed, teeth sunk into her lower lip. It took a moment, but when she opened her eyes, the look there was indefinable. It was something like love, wonder, and a tinge of discomfort, but Draco was lost in the feeling of her wrapped around him like that. Tight, warm and so soft.

She gasped as he slid all the way into her. He paused again, to make sure she was okay, then slowly, much more slowly than he even thought he could manage, he began to thrust in and out of her. She gasped on every in stroke, and gave a little sigh on every out, and the sounds that she made set Draco even closer to the edge. As she grew more languid beneath him, he carefully upped the pace. Now her gasps were coming out as little moans every so often, and Draco could feel himself starting to perspire with the effort of keeping a steady rhythm going.

"Draco," Hermione gasped, her hands going down to grip his hips and push him in farther, "Oh, please, go faster."

It was all the permission he needed, as a low grumbling groan bubbled up from his throat. He pushed in and out of her more quickly now, giving them both what they needed. She was trying to meet him thrust for thrust, but missed every third one or so, and was pushing her hips upward to his, letting him slide in even deeper with the better angle. Suddenly, she grasped his back with grappling fingers, forcing herself up and closer than ever before as a second wave of orgasm crashed through her. The tiny tremors and convulsions inside her squeezed him with a delicious torture, and with another few thrusts, he came with her name as a desperate cry on his lips.

Shuddering and gasping as soon as his orgasm had passed, he fell slightly, catching himself on his elbows so as not to crush her with his weight. She was smiling dreamily up at him, and he couldn't help but return it with a goofy grin of his own. Tiredly, he leaned down and caught her lips in a lazy kiss. She kissed him back with the same level of spent energy, then cuddled him close. He turned to the side, and drew her into the circle of his embrace. She sighed and rested her head against his shoulder.

"Draco," she murmured, her eyes fluttering closed.

"Hmm," he couldn't manage much more than that, his eyelids already feeling heavy. Lack of sleep over these past few days caught up with him, and he could use the nap, but he tried to stay conscious long enough to hear what she was saying.

"Love you…" she whispered against his shoulder, and then she sighed and seemed to settle into sleep.

"Love you too…" he whispered back, finally allowing the waves of exhaustion and worry roll him off to slumber.

*~*~*~*~*

When Hermione woke up, she was in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar room, with a very unfamiliar sensation in her lower body. It took her a few seconds to get her bearings, and then it all made sense again. She was in Draco's bed, in his room, and that sore, tingly feeling was more than likely a reaction to their earlier activity. Hermione smiled like the cat that got the cream. Making love with Draco had been amazing, and could only be described as breathtaking. Granted, she didn't have any other experience to compare it to, but as far as she was concerned, that was all right with her.

She yawned, and shifted, realizing with a start that Draco was pressed against her from behind, and that his arm was slung across her waist in a vaguely possessive manner. She smiled wider, and patted his hand absently.

"Are you awake?" Draco asked quietly, and she turned in his arms to face him. His grey eyes almost seemed to glow silver in the low light from the fireplace, and he was smiling down at her. Leaning in, he kissed her gently, then sat back again, his head propped up on one hand. "How're you feeling?"

"Wonderful," Hermione responded, stretching her arms languidly above her head. "What about you?"

"I can't remember feeling better," he replied, leaning in to kiss her again, this time a little more warmly. Sighing, he rolled to his back and stared up at the ceiling for a minute, before he said, "We should probably get back to the others soon, you know. It's probably almost time for the party."

"What party?" Hermione asked, sitting up next to him, pulling the sheet up to cover her chest as she did.

"The New Year's Eve Party. Apparently the Weasley twins have something interesting planned, and McGonagall gave them permission to do it in the Great Hall for all the students."

"Oh," Hermione was a little surprised to hear about this, as it must have been planned while she was still in the Hospital.

"Ginny said she wanted you to go with her before it anyway. Apparently she has some special outfit that you're supposed to be wearing."

"Oh," Hermione repeated, trying to reconcile this caring man who fit in so nicely with her friends with the boy who had made fun of her since shortly after she started attending Hogwarts. He grinned at her, and rolled out of bed. As he bent to find his clothes, Hermione had a chance to really admire him.

The all-too-brief look she'd had in the Prefect's bathroom, and then again earlier, hadn't allowed her to outline his physique as clearly as she'd have liked. He had the lean muscle tone that was required for his sport, but he had enough definition to make her mouth water when she realized that that was hers. And now she knew what to do with it, too. Another slightly wicked smile lit her features, and Draco caught this expression as he turned, his pants back on.

"What's so funny?" He asked, slightly bemused. He tugged on his shirt, and then started gathering Hermione's clothing and setting on the foot of the bed near her.

"Nothing, funny. I was just thinking about Quidditch, that's all." She said misleadingly, and started to get dressed. He watched her with a quizzical look, not sure she was being entirely honest, but didn't press it as they got ready and went back up towards the main part of the castle.

*~*~*Several hours later*~*~*

Draco stood in the corner and brooded. It was an odd feeling, to be brooding again. He'd been so cheerful, so happy for the past few months that this dark expression he was wearing felt almost unnatural. One of the Weasley twins tried to engage him in conversation, but Draco waved him off. He wasn't in the mood to talk right now. Even Ginny couldn't drag him from this mood he was in. It was her fault that he was feeling this way anyway.

He watched as the attractive brunette shimmying on the dance floor with a sulky expression. Sure, she was only dancing with Neville Longbottom, but even so. She had only been able to dance once with him, before half of the Gryffindor boys, and a fair number of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw ones too, had swept down on her and she'd been dragged off to the dance floor.

"You don't look like you're enjoying yourself," Ron stated as he leaned against the wall next to the Slytherin. He handed Draco an opened bottle of butterbeer, which was accepted with a quiet word of thanks.

"Does she have to do that?" Draco asked, gesturing at the group of guys swarming around Hermione like bees to honey.

"I don't see that there's anything wrong with her dancing," Ron commented, then took a sip of his own butterbeer. "It's not like they don't all know that she's off-limits."

"Then why must they flock to her like that? She's never been one to attract a lot of attention before. What's different now?" Draco's mood was not improving, and he was tempted to leave the party, but he wasn't willing to let Hermione out of his sight.

"I don't think she's intentionally doing it, you know. Although she is a sight to see in that dress that Ginny's dressed her in." Ron's appreciation was something that Draco couldn't handle. He turned to look at the lanky Gryffindor boy.

"You're not going to try and dance with her too now, are you?" he demanded. Ron looked surprised at the suggestion.

"Me? No, I'm not," he laughed a little ruefully, "Two left feet, you know."

"Humph," Draco clearly didn't find that to be an issue, as Ernie Macmillan from Hufflepuff cut in and took over Longbottom's dance with 'Mione.

"I just don't like it. They're all touching her and looking at her. She's not the type of girl that you do that to." Draco protested, knowing he sounded like a petulant child, but not knowing how to stop it now that it's begun.

"Well, you could ask her to dance yourself." Ron said quietly, as if it should have been obvious. Draco glared at him. The redhead shrugged.

"Just a suggestion. If there's one thing I've learned from Hannah, it's not to be afraid to take a step. She's a brilliant girl, you know."

"I'm so very happy for you," Draco drawled sarcastically. Ron shot him a censuring look, then pushed away from the wall.

"Well, I can see there's no point in standing here and being ignored or insulted. See you 'round, mate." The he merged back into the crowd and disappeared. Draco watched him go with a tiny stab of guilt. Now he was alone again, and he had to suffer through Hermione's dancing with every other guy in the school on his own.

About ten minutes, and quite a few vicious thoughts aimed at the male population of Hogwarts, later, there was a break in the dancing as the students dispersed to mill along the tables lined with food along one wall of the Great Hall. Hermione and Ginny were arm in arm and giggling madly as they fought their way through the crowd over to where Draco was pouting.

"-was fantastic," Ginny was saying, and Hermione was nodding in agreement. Draco looked her over appraisingly. The burgundy dress that she had on was snug across the top, accenting her chest, before flaring out slightly to form a little bell of a skirt that fell to just above the knee. Ginny had found her a pair of burgundy ballet slipper-style shoes that laced halfway up her calf, and Hermione had tamed her hair again, though it was less demure, and more controlled chaos as it framed her face in a brown, wavy halo.

Ginny hadn't spared any trouble on her own outfit either. Her light purple dress brought out the color of the stone at her throat, and the lighter streaks in her hair. All in all, he thought they both looked very nice, but he wished that the rest of the male half of the student body didn't agree with him so readily. Draco shot Ginny a nasty look that brought her up short. Her hands propped up on her hips and an argumentative look crossed her face.

"If you don't like it, you don't have to look at it!" She shot at him, and Draco crossed his arms in front of his torso. They glared at each other for a minute or so, until Hermione broke the tension with a quick snap of her fingers between them.

"Stop, the both of you. You're acting like spoiled children." Her chastisement was firm, though her voice was light-hearted. Ginny dropped her arms to her sides with a sigh, and shook out her long red hair behind her haughtily.

"It's all right, Draco. I know you're just jealous." Then she grinned, and wandered off to grab something to drink. Draco stared after her with an indignant look of surprise on his face.

"I am not jealous," He retorted to nobody in particular, making Hermione stifle a giggle, "I am a Malfoy, we don't get jealous." Hermione's amusement broke free at that, and she bent at the waist as gales of laughter overwhelmed her thin frame. Draco watched her with an eyebrow raised, disdain written across his features, although a spark of mirth smoldered in his eyes. She was just too damn adorable, in his not-so-humble opinion.

"Hermione, kindly cease your laughing. It is not funny." He stated, quite calmly, with just a hint of the disdain that was in his expression. Hermione tried to calm herself down, and ended up stumbling over into Draco's side. He sighed and finally chuckled along with her, holding her in his arms. He was suddenly feeling much better, now that his 'Mione was back in his arms, and away from the drooling masses of boys. She sighed as her giggling subsided and she nestled into his embrace.

A slower song started up, and Draco looked down at Hermione with a small smile. Couples were starting to fill up the floor again, and Draco led her out into the crowd along with them. He pulled her into his arms with a soft sigh, and held her close as they rocked back and forth.

This was much better than brooding, he thought. Much better indeed.

*~*~*~*~*

That was not the last time that Draco danced with Hermione, nor the last time he stood by and watched her dance with other people. He came to enjoy just watching her and if he happened to intimidate several of her dance partners with a dark-eyed glare, then so be it.

As the entire school counted down to the New Year, he held her close and they waited for whatever special surprise the Weasley Twins had planned.

"3…2…1! Happy New Year!" As the cheering filled the Great Hall, Draco looked at the lovely brunette in his arms and kissed her soundly. The coming year was bound to be fraught with perils, but right this second, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the world.

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind…"

Music was blaring from somewhere, and high over the heads of the students a sudden booming crash resounded. As everyone looked up to the ceiling, more fireworks were set off. Large pinwheels of color and light zoomed across the Great Hall, earning oohs and ahhs of appreciation from the students gathered below. Bright flashes of shape and chromatic wonder lit up the faces of them. Hermione was grinning up at the fireworks, and then caught Draco's eye as he smiled at her.

The look she returned him was full of joy and love, and he kissed her again with a passion that took even him by surprise. He pulled her backward against the wall and kissed her more thoroughly. Hermione responded in kind, pulling back long enough to gasp in a quick breath. She dragged his head down so that his ear was pressed to her lips.

"I've got a sudden craving for dessert."

"Oh?" Draco's eyebrows jumped up at her brazen suggestion. "Do you want to go back to mine?"

She shook her head. "Let's go for a swim," she whispered, taking his hand and leading him down the corridors to the Prefect's bathroom. Draco grinned. Yes, this was a very happy New Year indeed!

~END~