Hermione felt as if she'd just leapt off a cliff and landed in a pile of feathers. She would never get used to having sex with this boy. Just as she thought she had him figured out, he turned around and did something that blew her away. She would never have guessed that Draco had this kind of self-restraint in him, but what a ride… The way he had moaned her name when he came had made her breath catch and her heart start pounding all over again. Using each other's first names really was too intimate, but he seemed to like it so much. And, in a way, she secretly did too.

She watched him as he slowly opened his eyes to look at her. They were filled with wonder and a warmth that made her breath catch all over again. Then his eyes widened in shock and the proverbial spell was broken.

It would perhaps be an exaggeration to say that he jumped off her, but he moved very quickly, seemingly eager to put some distance between them. Hermione wasn't all that surprised, but it still stung a little. He was the one who had been… been doing whatever this was to her – not the other way around.

It was always him who initiated new intimacies, yet he always acted as if it had been her who had done something, something horrible. As if he didn't really want it. She pushed her hurt feelings down and openly rolled her eyes.

"What?" he asked, looking positively panicked.

"You're freaking out," she said in her best matter-of-fact voice. "Get over it. Not every time needs to be fast, hard, or perverted."

"Felt pretty perverted to me," he mumbled, looking calmer, but still scowling and eyeing her warily.

What had she done to deserve this? He had wanted her to come tonight, hadn't he?

Clenching her teeth hard as to not show him any weakness, she sat up and began rummaging around for her clothes. She found her knickers first. They were damp and slightly ripped. She sighed and put them on anyway.

"What are you doing?" Draco had sat up to give her a confused look. Right. Be an arse, and then be confused about it.

"I'm getting dressed," she calmly replied. "I don't want to stay in your line of fire, so I'm leaving." She clasped her bra.

He frowned a little, processing this. "I'm not doing anything!" he protested.

She shook her head. "No, but as soon as you recover from your surprise, you are going to figure that this was really all my fault and attack me for it. I'm leaving."

He started. "W-what did I say?" he asked, looking even more pale than usual.

Hermione was getting annoyed now. Good. Anger and annoyance was better than hurt. "What do you mean 'what did you say'? We had slow sex and now you're acting as if… as if I don't know any better!" She angrily reached out and grabbed her robes.

"No, wait!" His hand shot out to stop her before she could pull them on. "I promise I won't take it out on you. I don't want to sleep alone tonight. Stay."

She really didn't know what to think. He looked sincere. He looked as if he didn't want her to go. He looked lonely. He slowly pulled her robes from her grasp, tossed them aside and patted the bed beside him.

Against her better judgment, she found herself laying back down. He laid down next to her, not touching her, and not extinguishing the light, but merely watching her. It was unnerving.

Suddenly, he spoke. "We're no good together out of bed, are we?"

Hermione fought the urge to roll her eyes at him again. "Well, duh!" That was saying the least. They were only ever getting along when they were fooling around or sleeping. She couldn't recall them ever having had just one nice conversation. They definitely weren't friends.

He nodded and pulled her closer for a kiss. He was acting so strange, but she didn't mind the kiss. She loved the kisses. Some days she thought that a day spent kissing him would be a day well-spent indeed. That was utter nonsense, of course, but it still felt nice. His lips were tracing hers, feeling them, as if he hadn't been kissing the same lips for months now.

Actually, now she thought about it, it was now almost five months ago that he kissed her that night. Well, ok, he hadn't just kissed her, but that had definitely been the start of it. She was surprised at how long ago it was, yet at the same time also surprised that it hadn't been longer. It felt like a lifetime. It had been a lifetime.

His hand on her waist pulled her a little bit closer, and he buried his other hand in her hair. He was insatiable. Hermione really didn't know how he could keep being so enthusiastic about going at it all the time. She was exhausted and sated, and, yet, she had no doubt that if he wanted to go for round two, he would persuade her to join him, and she would love every minute of it.

He didn't make a move to do so, however. He just… kissed her. His eyes were closed, and his lips were caressing and nibbling at hers in a way that once again had her heart pounding with something other than desire. She moved her hand from his arm up to his neck, and he moaned slightly at the simple caress. His heart was beating hard and fast against his chest, she was close enough to feel it.

He didn't seem to be randy again, though. Instead he seemed almost agitated. She could feel it barely restrained in the way he held his body tense.

Hermione was confused. What was wrong? She opened her mouth to ask him, but his tongue sliding in to taste her effectively cut her off. She knew that he did it on purpose, that he didn't want to hear her questions… And for now she let it go. After all, this kiss did feel really nice. She put both arms around his neck and concentrated fully on the sensations.

Suddenly he broke it off, looking almost as horrified as he had before.

"Get some sleep," he whispered, and without looking at her, he extinguished the light, and, for the first time ever, he laid down to sleep without pulling her close to him again.

Draco's (it was hard for her to keep even thinking that name after night became day again) strange behavior didn't seem to change much the next day. He didn't look at her as she hurriedly got dressed, and he didn't kiss her goodbye. He didn't ask her when she'd come back either.

Hermione was, by now, used to him taking all initiative, so she didn't know how to respond. In the end, she decided not to respond at all. He would come around again once his strange mood passed. And if he didn't… if he didn't, that was ok too. At least she tried telling herself that. Perhaps that was what he had been trying to tell her.

'We're no good together out of bed, are we?'

But it just didn't make sense after the way he had, well, almost made love to her. Perhaps that was the reason, perhaps he hadn't liked that.

No, she could clearly tell what he liked in bed, and as far as sex went, that definitely had to go on at least his top three. She had never seen him that consumed by his own climax before. Perhaps he didn't like liking it so much with a Mudblood….

Her final conclusion was that she probably didn't want to know what was wrong. It had to be something unpleasant, and she preferred not to hear it. If he was going to end this thing, she would much rather that he spared her the details and just did it. It wasn't as if she didn't know it was coming sooner or later. As if they really had anything more than lust between them. Even if they did – which they had time and again proved that they didn't – it would never work. Nobody could know about this. Nobody would understand.

It was Thursday, which meant tutoring at the library in the afternoon. That could be the reason he hadn't bothered securing an assignation. No, that didn't make any sense – he always bothered. They met in the library three times a week – Monday and Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, each time for a couple of hours, and this time was the first time he'd simply let her go in the morning.

Since when did it matter so much to her anyway? She couldn't even meet him tonight, but it would be nice if he'd just ask….

"You know," Hermione said, after they had settled down with their books that afternoon. "You don't really need me to help you anymore. You've caught up nicely and if you'll just continue to apply yourself…"

He briefly glanced at her. "I know," he mumbled. He didn't elaborate.

He didn't make any excuses to keep it up, nor did he suggest that they stop. He just kept reading his stupid book. For a flash, Hermione had the urge to tear the book from him and shout her frustration. Then she composed herself. This was nothing to be this upset about, she was clearly overreacting.

"You're really quite clever," she said. "I don't know why you don't bother more. There is life after school, you know, and good grades might help there."

That elicited a small smile from him and a teasing look that made her heart beat faster. "What do you know…" he mused. "Hermione Granger, the notorious Muggleborn know-it-all, just called me, a mere – pureblooded, of course – mortal, clever! This should be a national holiday."

She wasn't a know-it-all, was she? She hadn't been that bad for years! No, he was just pulling her leg. This was not entirely new, but still… There had been no malice in the words, nor any innuendo, which was entirely new.

"As should the day you called me a competent witch!" she countered.

He looked a little taken aback at her words. Had he forgotten? He had probably never meant to say it in the first place, but he had been beside himself with jealousy at the time and had attacked her parentage.

'They are Muggles; you are a competent witch. You'd do better to disassociate yourself.'

She certainly hadn't forgotten. It had possibly been the greatest compliment he had ever paid her – his recognition of her being a witch, and a competent one at that – even if it had been veiled in insults directed at her parents. He had even said it so naturally, as if her being a witch wasn't a fact he'd normally dispute every chance he got.

She waited to see if he would comment further, but he didn't. Instead, he fell silent again and stared down at his book.

"I can't come tonight," she finally said. "I've got my duties and then I plan on hanging out with Ron and Harry."

He just nodded. He never just nodded; he always had to make a fuss!

"And, of course, tomorrow is out of the question."

He looked slightly puzzled. "Tomorrow is… Friday, isn't it? What's wrong with Friday?" So he did still want her to come? Or was this only because he didn't know why she couldn't make it?

"It's the fourteenth," she said.

This didn't seem to ring a bell with him.

"February the fourteenth?" she ventured.

This time there was a hint of wary recognition in his eyes.

"Anyway," she continued, trying hard to ignore that look. "Since it's on a Friday this year, there's a Valentine's bash at the Gryffindor common room, and I already agreed to go."

She waited to see if he would comment or ask her any questions about, say, whether she had agreed to go with anyone, but he merely nodded. This didn't please her at all.

"So I can trust that nobody will turn purple?" she asked.

His head whipped up.

"Oh, come on, Malfoy," she said, deliberately reverting to his last name and getting some satisfaction from the annoyance she was causing him. "You know I'm not that dense. I knew it was you all along, or, most likely, your cronies acting on your behalf."

"Then why didn't you confront me?" he asked. So that got his attention?

I thought it was kind of cute and it wasn't as if he didn't deserve it.

No, she'd better not say that. "You had to get your pent-up aggressions out somehow, didn't you?" she said instead. "And I'm sure he could at least handle himself."

Again, he only nodded and then paid more attention to his book than her. Hermione had to remind herself of the times she had had bad days and had been unresponsive or downright rejecting his advances. Still, she couldn't keep from grinding her teeth.

Hermione tossed her bag on her bed and left again without bothering to unpack it. She was in a terrible mood, and this time she did not have the excuse of hormones, yet she kept telling herself that she was horribly overreacting. So what if Draco was acting all distant? It was bound to happen sometime. He couldn't always focus all his energies on her. So what if it had happened after the one time they had… Hermione blocked the thought. Last night had been no different than any other night. They had just gone a bit beyond, that was all.

She went up to the boys' dormitories to see if Harry or Ron was around. They sometimes waited for her on Thursdays. Besides, she just really seemed to love hanging around boys' dormitories lately. She finally reached the top of the tower and peeked in to find that Harry was indeed there with his back to her, seemingly inspecting something. Ron was nowhere in sight, though. He was probably off somewhere with Lavender.

"Hey, Harry," she said, striving for a casual tone. Merlin, not letting her friends know what was going on with her was really hard sometimes. "Want to come for dinner?"

"In a second," he mumbled.

She went in and around him to see what he was looking at. It was the Marauder's Map. She wouldn't exactly say she had forgotten about it, but she hadn't seen or heard about it for months.

"What are you looking at?" she asked.

He looked up at her, a frown on his face. "You know what and who I am looking at."

Hermione's heart skipped a beat. "I-I thought we agreed that he wasn't—"

"No, Hermione, we didn't agree. You decreed. I know he's some pet project of yours, but that doesn't mean he isn't still up to his old tricks."

"Oh, for Heaven's sake, Harry," she huffed. "He's been as tame as a kitten since I had him sign that contract. Just what do you base this on?"

"Did you know," Harry asked, more or less ignoring her last statement, "that when you leave him, he always goes to the Room of Requirement? Perhaps you can tell me what he's doing there?"

When I leave him… Oh, no! He can't know!

"W-what do you mean 'when I leave him'?"

Harry gave her an odd look. "After your little study dates, of course."

Oh. Right. Of course…

Hermione suppressed a sigh of relief. She had never considered what would happen if Harry one night took out his map to check if Draco was in his bed. With a pang she realized that she couldn't go there anymore. It had just become too dangerous. She was just thankful that she had been going back to the Gryffindor castle to set up the glamour for the past couple of months before meeting up with Draco.

"Well, then?" Harry persisted. "Do you know?"

"What? Oh. No… I don't. But I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for it."

He made a disbelieving sound and rolled up the map. "Yeah… Let's go get that dinner, shall we?"

Valentine's Day at Hogwarts was never really anything spectacular. Not since Hermione's second year where Gilderoy Lockhart had made such a vulgar display, which Hermione at the time had found quite charming. An excuse for a party was, however, an excuse for a party and the Gryffindors were all feeling the anticipation.

In the spirit of the day, the common room would also be open for dates from other houses. Somehow, Hermione doubted that included Slytherins. Not that she would have invited a certain Slytherin, but even had she wanted to and been able to… she couldn't because of this mentality.

The segregation issue was really beginning to annoy her. Why didn't anyone try to bridge the gaps? Professor Slughorn might be a rather silly and self-indulgent man, but at least he didn't enforce the house division. Instead, however, he made judgment on who would be successful and who wouldn't and divided people because of that. There simply wasn't anywhere that anyone from any house with any potential could go and nobody seemed to care! Instead the whole system seemed to enforce this bigoted way of thinking.

Also, why was Shaw constantly hanging around Draco instead of Zabini at mealtimes? He'd said he wasn't into her, and Hermione believed him as far as she'd believe any boy wasn't into a beautiful blonde, blue-eyed girl with a chest that Hermione could only dream of ever getting – but they sure did seem friendly. Shouldn't Shaw be eating lunch with her boyfriend on Valentine's Day at least?

How typical. Finally Pansy was out of the picture and then all of a sudden there was someone even worse to compete with.

Hermione knew she was being paranoid and unreasonable, but she just couldn't seem to stop herself. When Shaw handed Draco a card with dancing hearts on it, and he accepted with a lopsided smile, Hermione decided that she didn't want any more lunch anyway and left the hall.

Hermione figured she had a few options. One was, of course, to wait Draco's odd mood out and see what happened, but she was sick of being passive. Another option was to forget that she was a prefect, dip into the firewhisky at the party and see if Gryffindor had someone who was a better kisser than McLaggen. That one was not entirely without merit. The last option she could think of was to demand answers, which would be a tricky business indeed.

She had yet to entirely make up her mind, as she was making her way back to the common room, when school was finally out. Unwittingly, just then she came across Draco talking to Crabbe and Goyle in the hallway of the second floor. She really didn't understand why he felt he needed to be the leader of such a dimwitted gang. Right now he didn't look pleased with them either.

Seeing him made up her mind for her. She caught his eye and almost imperceptibly nodded in the direction she was going to get him to follow her. He didn't react, so she thought he might have missed it or was ignoring her, but, nevertheless, she stopped around the corner and waited.

A few minutes later he turned the corner as well.

"What?" he asked, giving her a decidedly guarded look. Good grief, what did he think she wanted? Cards with hearts on them? She almost laughed out loud even though she was hardly amused. Gods forbid she might want that sort of recognition. Gods forbid she might want even a kiss from him today.

"We're close to being found out," she said, deciding that now was not the time to badger him after all. She didn't trust herself not to say something she might regret if she did.

He gave her an incomprehensive look. She sighed.

"Harry has this… way of seeing where people are. He could notice if I go to you, so I can't anymore." Like you care. You're already bored with this, aren't you?

He frowned slightly and slowly nodded. "And is this way is new?" He bloody well knew it wasn't, so why did he even ask?

"No…" Hermione didn't know whether to glare or fidget, so with some effort she decided against doing both, "but I didn't really realize the risk before."

"You mean: you didn't realize he was spying on me." He sounded unnaturally calm. It was so unlike him. Everything was so unlike him.

"He's not spying on you," she insisted. "He's just… checking that you aren't up to anything."

He raised an eyebrow, and she had to acknowledge that he had a point.

"It's not like he's following you or anything," she mumbled.

"Except for the times when he is," he pointed out.

Hermione didn't know how to answer that. She remembered the time they had been in a closet and Harry and Ron had been stalking Draco. She was also well aware that Harry had been following him a few times since without his knowledge.

"Well…" she finally said. "It's not exactly like you're being forward about what you're up to."

There was a tic in his jaw. "And what exactly is it that you want me to be forward about?" he asked.

Why did he look at her like that? He didn't think she meant them did he? Good grief, he was actually afraid that she might want to take their relationship further? She tried not to think about how this revelation made her feel. "I mean whatever it is you're sneaking off to do. Harry thinks it's something really bad."

"And you don't?" he asked, sounding somewhat surprised.

She shrugged. No, she didn't. She didn't really think him capable of it anymore.

"That's your mistake," he said. His face was suddenly stony.

Hermione blinked. What? "It's a mistake to think that you wouldn't do something nasty?"

"Nothing's changed," he coldly replied. "What we're doing doesn't change my views or priorities. You should know this."

That stung. No, it didn't sting, it bloody hurt. Just how much did she have to take from him today? "So you still think I'm worth less than what's under your shoe?" she asked much too quietly.

For a few moments he didn't look like he would reply. She had to look away and blink a few times as her vision became suspiciously blurry. Why did she let him do this to her? "No," he finally said. It was clipped out as if it cost him great effort. "But just because I won't cheer at your funeral doesn't mean that I wouldn't rather be rid of your precious friends for good."

She looked at him again. He had just acknowledged the barest minimum of regard for her, but that didn't assure her as much as it might have only a few minutes ago. "And how far would you go in achieving that?" she asked.

"You don't want to know," was his reply.

No, she suspected that she really didn't. "Well," she said a little shakily. "I… have to go." She turned and fled.

Hermione groaned and desperately tried to block out the light. She felt as if she ought to be dead. Her tongue was swollen and her throat felt dry as parchment, while her head was throbbing in the most painful and nauseating beat. She swallowed as her stomach lurched at the movement she had made.

"Go away," she rasped at the offender who had opened her drapes.

"I would love to," said a female voice belonging to Lavender Brown. "But Ron begged me to give you this." She shoved a plate of toast at Hermione, who promptly leaned over the side of her bed and vomited.

"Sod off, Lavender," another voice said. Ginny. "Can't you see she's sick, you moron?" Right now Ginny was Hermione's favorite person in the world, especially because she hadn't raised her voice.

"She just got smashed last night, probably because she couldn't get a date. I hardly think that warrants any sympathy!" Lavender huffed as she left.

Hermione winced at the grating voice and then leaned back and tried hard to remember. No, it wasn't because she had been dateless that she had started drinking. It had been because she had been hurt by Draco's words and drowning her sorrows had seemed like such a good idea at the time.

She had thought it to be great fun to demand a bribe in the form of a tithe in order to not confiscate everyone's alcohol. Little had she known how happily they would all pay and just how much alcohol they had. She strongly suspected that she hadn't even come close to drinking the amount she had demanded, and she was really happy that she hadn't, because this hangover was bad enough as it was.

She groaned and then sighed with relief as Ginny blocked out the sunlight for her and scourgified the vomit. She was quite possibly an angel in disguise.

"Why did you get smashed?" Ginny softly asked. "It's not like you at all."

Hermione had a few flashes of the party last night. Ron and Harry had been surprised, amused, and then concerned at her abandon. She remembered Ron suggesting that perhaps it was time for her to go to bed, which she had replied to by demanding more liquor. Fortunately, it didn't seem as if she had followed up on the whole 'trying to find a better Gryffindor kisser' thing. Imagine having to look people in the eye after that.

"I don't know," Hermione forced out and swallowed as the bed moved when Ginny sat down on it, making her sick again. "It seemed like a good idea at the time?"

"I hope you got rid of your demons," Ginny said, "because I'd hate to see you pull more stunts like this. The school song will never be the same to any of us again."

Hermione winced a little at that particular memory. The only demon she needed to get rid of was Draco Malfoy, and she didn't want to get rid of him, not really.

It was a bitter potion to swallow, but in spite of all his mean words, she had missed him last night, and she missed him now as well. She would much rather have woken up in his bed after a night of debauchery than in her own bed after a night of drink. She had had to drink until she could barely walk just to keep from seeking him out. He clearly didn't want her to, and she'd be damned before she humiliated herself like that.

"I'd hate it too," Hermione whispered, clenching her teeth to keep her stomach in place as Ginny shifted on the bed again. "You don't need to lecture me," she said when it was safe to speak again. "Trust me, I know it was stupid."

"I'm not lecturing you," Ginny replied. "And you were hardly the only one to go a bit overboard last night either. I'm just wondering."

"Don't," Hermione replied. "Just please don't. I'm fine. Or I will be as soon as the room stops spinning."

Ginny got up. "I'll leave you to it, then. Try coming down for lunch. And some non-alcoholic fluids might help you too."

She left and Hermione slipped into the blessed darkness again.

Hermione did make it down to lunch. She was still pale, queasy, and slightly unsteady on her feet, but the extra sleep had done her a world of good, and she was starving.

When she approached the Gryffindor table, however, they all started whooping and cheering and banging their plates to her great mortification and headache. Would she ever live this down? She ducked her head, trying to conceal her pink cheeks as she tried just slipping into a seat near her friends.

She didn't miss the attention she was now getting from the other tables, and certainly not a certain penetrating grey stare, so when people continued to make grinning remarks and sing the school song in imitations of last night, she recognized that she might as well play along for now.

Placing a bright smile on her face, she did just that.

"So what exactly did you do last night to make your house greet you so enthusiastically?"

Hermione jumped at the voice. She had opted to not stay in her common room to study since that would mean getting no studying done today for her. Instead, she had found a nice quiet space on the sixth floor, a room with a comfortable couch that she was currently lounging on with her books spread out. It looked like an unused office of sorts, and Hermione didn't think she was breaking any rules by being there. That Draco had found her suggested that he had possibly been looking for her for some time, since Ginny was the only one who knew where she was at, and she wouldn't have told him.

She didn't know how to feel about him looking for her after yesterday.

"I slept with them all in the middle of the common room," she said. "It was fun, you should have been there."

He laughed. He seemed genuinely amused. Hermione's own lips twitched a little. She couldn't imagine saying something like this to anyone else under any other circumstance. He was the only one that brought out this other non-Hermionic side of her. Whether it was a good thing in any way remained to be seen.

"Forgive me," he said, not looking contrite in the least, "but I can't seem to believe that." He came in and closed the door with a soft click.

She shrugged. She hadn't really looked up from her books. She didn't want to look at him. She didn't want him to say more hurtful things to her. Perhaps, if she didn't look at him, he wouldn't. Perhaps he would just go away, but then again – she didn't want that either.

She hated the way he made her so skittish around him. She hated the way she seemed to lose her independence around him. She hated the way he made her feel about herself, about her friends, about her life, and about him. She hated the way she always wanted to be around him.

"I'm sorry," he quietly said. "I know I shouldn't have said those things yesterday."

"Didn't you mean them?" she asked.

He was quiet. It was a telling silence.

"Then there's not much more to say about it, is there?" she said, the tiny hope gone.

"We shouldn't always say what we think," he said. "I was out of line."

"You were terrified that I might want to be your Valentine," she said as calmly as she could. "So you made sure that I didn't." Except she did, didn't she? She'd be damned if he'd ever know.

"I already said I was sorry, what more do you want?"

What did she want? She recognized the absurdity of wanting him to be someone that he was not. If he was someone else, then he wouldn't be him, and she wouldn't be attracted to him. Still, she wished that he would be just a little bit less himself sometimes.

"I want…" What did she want? What could she let him know that she wanted? "I don't want this," she finally admitted on a sigh.

"Neither do I!" he said so forcefully that she had to look up at him. He had apparently been leaning on the door until just now where he pushed away from it to glare at her. A lock of his hair was getting into his eye, and she wanted to brush it away.

She quickly looked back at her book.

"I don't want to want you," he continued. "But I do. What am I supposed to do about it?"

Hermione felt a jolt go through her and her face heated up. She knew he had wanted her sexually before, but she had been far from sure that he still did. She was glad he did – happy even. Yet it was both gratifying to hear him say it and hurtful to know how little he wanted it. Apparently he still did find her beneath him.

"You could stay away," she mumbled, afraid to look at him. "It's not like there's nobody else you could… could do it with."

"Yeah? Look how well I'm doing at staying away so far," he said. "You only have to look at me and I—" he broke off the sentence, uttering a thoroughly exasperated sigh.

She finally looked up at him again. "You're saying that it's all my doing? That I'm like some Veela?" How typical of him to try and put it on her, to find excuses for why he might be wanting to sleep with the boring little Mudblood prude!

"You're worse than a Veela," he said. "But no. It's me. I'm weak and I can't resist touching you…" He looked as if he very much wanted to touch her right now, but he didn't make a move to do so. Nor did he say anything more. He just stared her down, daring her for a reaction.

He didn't even have an idea how much he hurt her, did he? She had to fight back the pain, she had to. He couldn't know how much power his words had over her.

"I'm sorry that it's so much of a hassle for you," she said, numbly aware of the sharpness in her voice. "If I had realized how much of a chore it was for you to sleep with me, I can assure you that I wouldn't have succumbed to your advances so easily!" She snapped the book shut and got up.

He looked truly confused. "Chore?" he asked. "Aren't you listening?"

"I think I heard enough," she said, gathering her things. The common room was looking much better to her now.

"I think you didn't hear me at all," he said, going to her. He took the books from her hands, threw them down on the couch, and, grabbing her arms, he forced her to look at him. "My family is in deep with the Dark Lord. I could get us all killed for wanting you, and yet I still do and you call it a chore? This is a real threat, Hermione. I can't just ignore it. It won't just go away."

Hermione felt a little dizzy and it had nothing to do with last night's overindulgence and only a little to do with his nearness. Of course she had been aware of some danger in being connected to him, but she hadn't really considered the very much less-than-shallow risks he might be taking. If he was telling the truth, then maybe he wasn't just being mean to her? It was a silly hope that she immediately tried to thwart. "It's just sex," she breathed. "He won't care."

Draco smiled cynically. "How many lives do you want to bet on that?"

She had to look away. She felt she might have severely misjudged him, and she cursed herself for wanting it to be the case. "What do you plan to do about it then?"

"What can I do?" he almost whispered. "I can't stay away, can I? But nobody can know, Hermione. Nobody."

He had pulled her closer and was leaning in for a kiss. There was a small voice inside her head telling her that this was a very unwise move and that she should stop it, but it was drowned in the clamoring of voices that desperately wanted the caress, needed it. Her eyes drifted shut, and she willingly offered her lips.

There was a loud gasp and a clank behind them.

They both whirled around to see a pair of big, golden, horrified eyes in a face curtained by ginger tresses.

Oh, no, Ginny!

The redhead closed her mouth, shot them a look of pure loathing, and turned on her heel and left. Hermione looked down to see the drink tray that had fallen to the floor before she ventured a glance at Draco. He looked frozen in place, his eyes cold and distant.

He thinks Ginny might talk. He's going to end it.

The thought was unbearable. "I-I can fix this," she said desperately. "Don't… Don't worry." She hurried out the door after Ginny, praying she could get her to not tell Ron or Harry.