all characters belong to JKR


"No, this isn't real. You're not real!" she said in a shaky voice, as he held her body up against his. He stood up and brought her with him. He held her by her upper arms, but pushed her slightly away.

"I'm real. I'm here," was all he could say, then he put each hand on her cheeks, with the intention of kissing her, but he smiled and wiped some dirt off her cheek first. Then he kissed her. His mouth found hers, and it was as if it had never left. He kissed her slowly, every few seconds pulling back to look at her, and then finding her lips again. She closed her eyes and leaned into his body, and reached up to feel the stubble on his cheek. After the third time of him pulling back, she grabbed the back of his neck and forced him to stay. He opened his mouth against her mouth, and drank from the fountain, from which he had been deprived for so long.

When they finally parted, she put her hand up to his head, and rubbed his scalp. His hair was shorter than she had ever seen it. Almost a military cut. It seemed darker blonde when it was shorter. He had a hint of beard and mustache, which she had never seen before. He was always clean-shaven before. He was so thin. Being as tall as he was, his slight frame looked awkward. No wonder she didn't recognize him.

She placed her head on his chest and hugged him tight. She kept saying, "You're home, you're really home." She put her hand back on his jaw, and she could feel him clench it slightly.

He said, "Hermione, I have so much to tell you."

"Just first tell me you're really here, and that you don't have to leave again. Don't do this to me. If you can't stay, don't even come in my house," she said without hesitation.

He smiled larger than he had smiled in a long time and said, "Same old, Granger. I'm here. I really am here." He reached for her hand and started into her house. She took a deep breath, but refused to move from the spot. He turned back around and asked, "Are you coming?"

She had so much she wanted to ask him, and more she wanted to say, but something deep inside her told her to be completely sure that he was being truthful. She needed to be completely sure that he wasn't going to go away again. It had been hard to trust him in the past. She had to be sure. Therefore, she refused to move.

"I'm not leaving this spot until I know for sure that you aren't leaving me again," Hermione said passively, almost embarrassed. She couldn't help it, for she really didn't want to be hurt again.

The next thing that happened shocked her, and she realized that it shocked Draco as well, when he said, under his breath, "I can't believe I'm about to do this." He walked up to her, put her over his shoulder, and started walking toward the house. He put her down on the porch and said, "Now, after you."

"That didn't prove anything," she concluded.

"For goodness sakes, let's open the damn door and get inside!" he said, grabbing her hand and leading her in her house.

Hermione had no choice but to follow him inside. He dropped her hand as soon as he entered and looked around her cozy little living room. He started touching things: pillows, a chair, a vase. He bent down to smell the fresh flowers. He walked around the room once more, saw a book on the coffee table, and picked it up, smiled, and laid it aside. Hermione was just watching him, biting her bottom lip.

"So, Potter said you moved me in, where's my room?" he asked, heading toward the bedrooms. She ran up and caught him before he opened the door to her room.

"When did you see Harry?" she asked him.

"Nothing gets by you, Granger. I'll explain everything, I promise. Can you show me my room first?" he asked her, taking her hand and bringing it up to his lips. He kissed her fingertips, and she closed her eyes. The closeness of him was enough to bring her to her knees. "Granger?" he asked again.

She pointed to her right, with her free hand. He let go of her and went through the other door. He saw all the familiar furniture, and books, and even his clothing, some of which was on the bed, folded in neat piles. He picked up a shirt and turned to her, with a question in his eyes. "Has someone been wearing my shirts?"

She smiled widely and said, "Yes, but they have been freshly laundered. I just haven't put them away yet."

"Who wore them?" he asked, with the raise of one eyebrow.

"Various men," she lied. He laughed and hugged her again.

"Does this mean I get to wear your clothes as well?" he whispered in her ear.

"If you want," she said quietly.

"Can we start with what you have on now?" he asked seductively.

"This old thing?" She pointed to her t-shirt.

"I like it, let me have it, Granger," he said, pulling it over her head. "Oh, Granger, you're so beautiful." He pulled her into his arms and started kissing her all over her face and neck. "I've been dreaming of this moment for so long. I don't know how I've survived." He rained kisses down her chest and on her shoulders. He sucked on her neck, brushing his tongue flat against her flesh.

"I know you have questions, and I have answers," he said, through ragged breaths, "but first, I need you. I need you so badly. Please." She nodded and he lifted her up and put her on the bed, knocking all his clean shirts to the floor.

He hovered above her, removing his shirt and kicking off his shoes. She watched him somberly. He removed his trousers and sat down on the bed. He put his hand on her chest, between her breasts. He wanted to feel her heartbeat. He put his head on her left breast, for the same reason. He sat back up and put his hand on her stomach. The scars were faded slightly, but still very much there. He dipped his head and kissed her stomach. He unbuttoned her shorts, and helped her remove them. He removed her leg brace, as he had done before. He held his breath. It was almost as if he didn't know what to do first.

He lay down beside her and threw his leg over her body. He leaned over and kissed her gently on her neck, then her jaw, then her cheek. His elbow supported his body, as his free hand roamed hers. She met him point by point. He would kiss her, and she would kiss him back. He was all she ever needed.

Her hands traveled down his side. She could see his ribs. He was thinner. Her hand went back and forth, up and down, on his back and chest. He pulled away again to stare at her once more. She was his…finally.

Hermione undid her bra and removed it, as well her underwear. He removed his underwear. There was no need for introductions, no need for formalities. He needed her now, and she wanted him as she had never wanted anything in her life.

The gnawing feeling that he felt in the pit of his stomach traveled lower, as her hands traveled down his body. They were side by side, kissing, touching, caressing, holding, biting, sucking, beginning and ending. One circle, one life, amen.

His hands traveled to her heat and explored her as he kissed her hungrily. She continued to fondle him with tentative, soft, hesitant touches. He could take no more. Their need was too great, too massive. He continued to kiss her as he glided into her body, stroking, back and forth.

Theirs was a passion like no other. Not only were they making up for lost time, but lost space and freedom as well.

His mouth moved down to her long neck, as she clutched his broad shoulders with her fingertips. She soon wrapped her hands into his hair, and she brought her legs up to his hips, so they could become even closer.

She moaned softly, and then louder. It was an explosion to his ears. His senses were in overdrive. He had been holding his breath without being aware, and as he finally expelled his breath, a loud guttural sound expelled from the depths of his soul.

Nimble fingers, soft kisses, passion and heat. It was all theirs for the taking. Everything he offered her, she gladly accepted. As quickly as it started, it quickly ended. He cried out once more, he was so close that he couldn't hold on a moment longer. He had waited so very long, but for her, he could do anything. When it was clear that she was starting to climax, he released all of his passion in one final thrust of the hips. She moaned a long, almost mournful sound, and he collapsed upon her, more exhausted, but happier than he had ever felt in his life.

Without meaning to, he fell fast asleep. She let him slumber. She knew he was finally at peace. He deserved a fitful, peaceful, sleep. She reached down for her brace and quietly put it on her leg. She crawled out of bed, lifted his arm from her body, and replaced it on the bed. She looked down at his sleeping form, and bent to kiss his cheek, gently, so not to wake him. "I love you," she whispered softly.

He opened his eyes slightly and said, almost inaudible, "I love you, too." He shut his eyes and went back to sleep.

She grabbed her clothes, and tiptoed out of his room. She went to the bathroom, cast a silencing and a locking charm on the door, and turned on the shower. She entered the bathtub, drew the curtain, sat on a little bench she had within the tub, and with the water spraying above her, she cried, and cried, and cried. She didn't even know why she was crying. Was it happiness? Was it trepidation? Was it because she feared that none of this was real, and that he might go away again? Was it anger that they had lost so much time? It was everything and nothing. She cried until she could cry no longer.

After an hour in the shower, and the water finally running cold, she heard a knock on the door. "Hermione, are you in there?" Draco asked. He could not hear the shower, or her, but she could hear him. She took her wand, lifted the charm, and unlocked the door.

He stepped inside, saw her in the bathtub, shivering. He could see that she had been crying, for her face was flushed and blotched, and her eyes red. He turned off the water, bent down, and lifted her to stand. He took a towel and wrapped it around her body. He helped her to step out of the tub, held her in his arms, and said, "I'm never letting you go."

She was no longer crying, but her breathing still sounded like shuddering. He finally said, "Go get dressed. I'm going to shower. Seems like a it's cold shower for me, as you've used all the hot water." He smiled, lifting her chin with his index finger. "I'll meet you out on the front porch, on the swing, okay?"

She could only nod to him her response. She left the bathroom and put on fresh clothing. She went to the kitchen and poured two glasses of lemonade, and then waited for him outside. She sat on the swing, slowly moving it back and forth with her good foot, as her other leg swung quietly in front of her.

When she heard the front door screen squeak open, she turned to watch him lithely walk across the porch to join her on the swing. She offered him his glass of lemonade, and he downed it in one drink. She smiled, hiding her mouth with her hand. He put the glass on the floor and said, "Yummy."

"I never thought I would ever hear you say, 'yummy'." Hermione laughed.

"I'm a whole new man." He smiled.

He took her hand and she moved closer to him on the swing. He started swinging them both back and forth, since his feet firmly touched the ground, as his legs were longer than hers were. She brought her good leg up to the swing, so she was sitting with it folded in front of her. She reached around and put her glass of lemonade on the windowsill. "Speak," she commanded.

"Okay." He took a deep breath, willing himself to speak. The things he had to say would not be easy. He would tell her things she might not want to hear, but he was never going to be a hypocrite again. He would never lie to her again.

"Okay, Hermione, just let me say what I have to say. If you feel the need to interrupt, please put your hand over your mouth, at least until I' finished, please?" He let go of her hand and stopped swinging. He shifted slightly to face her.

"I've lied to you, about more things than you could ever know, and I' going to tell you those things right now, but please, know that from this point on I'll tell no more lies."

"First lie, the last day I saw you, that day in jail, and I told you I was sentenced to five years in prison, that was a lie." He stopped, looked to see if he should continue, and saw that she had not changed expressions, so he continued. "Potter and I came up with a plan the night before I turned myself into the Ministry, and we proposed it to them, and they accepted. Our plan was that I would go to jail, under the guise that I was awaiting sentencing, but not for Snape's death. Everyone in jail, from the guards to eventually the inmates, was told that I was arrest for the attempted murder of you."

At this, she gasped. Then she actually put her hand over her mouth. Draco smiled slightly and again he continued, "We wanted all former Death Eaters to think that I was sympathetic to their cause. They wanted them to think that I wanted revenge against Snape's killer. After several weeks in jail, I was approached by a recently arrested Death Eater, who struck up an acquaintance with me. He told me that he knew of some Death Eaters that were still on the outside, who were also after revenge for Snape. He said he himself could care less that some Mudblood murdered a half blood, but he gave me their names and how to contact them."

"That was when the Ministry decided to put our proposal in action. I told you I was being sentenced to prison, and I know we should never have told you such a long time, but we really didn't know how long I would be gone, because we didn't know how deeply the treachery went."

"So, while you thought I was in prison, I was undercover for the Ministry, uncovering plans for Death Eaters against the Ministry, and Muggles, and the like. I also eventually became close to the men who were after you. Two of them remembered me from that night I went to retrieve your parents' letter. I had to tell them that I had gone there because I thought you would be there, and that I wanted to kill you."

Hermione had a tear go down her cheek. This was too outlandish, too incredulous. This was unbelievable. How could they not trust her? Why couldn't they tell her? As if he read her mind once more that day, he said, "It was my idea not to tell you. I wanted you completely safe and away from harm. I also didn't trust myself. If you had known the truth, I would have been tempted to contact you somehow. If you hate me for lying to you, so be it. I won't apologize, because I did everything out of love."

She stood up and said, "May I speak now?" She was openly crying.

"What do you want to say?" he asked, afraid of the floodgates opening.

"What took you so long? Why were you gone from me for so long?" she asked.

He stood as well. That wasn't quite the first question he anticipated, but he thought he could at least answer it easily enough. "It took that long to infiltrate the Death Eaters, and to make sure we had enough evidence against them. We uncovered so much more than just the plot to kill you, so again, I won't apologize."

"Heaven forbid you should apologize," she said flatly, almost without emotion. She pushed him hard, out of her way, swung the screen door open so hard that it hit the house, and walked in her living room and then she slammed the front door shut. Then she locked the door.

Draco sat back on the swing, took her glass of lemonade from the windowsill, took a sip, and thought overall, it went better than he expected.

Two hours later, on the nose, almost as if she was punishing him with a 'time out', she opened the front door. She didn't invite him back in, she said nary a word to him. She opened the door and walked into the kitchen, where she was preparing dinner. He hesitated at the threshold for a moment, and then walked into the little brick cottage, which he hoped he could still call home. She was setting the table, with two plates. He walked up to her and took the silverware from her hands, and laid them in their proper places beside the plates. She reached above the sink for glasses, and he came up and stood behind her, reached over her hand, grabbing two from the top shelf. She remained at the sink, neither turning around nor looking at him. He put the glasses on the table and then he came to her, stood behind her again, and put his arms around her waist.

"Forgive me and let's begin our lives. Don't we deserve to have a life together?" he asked softly in her ear.

She turned so quickly in his arms that he almost toppled over. She threw her arms around his neck and cried out, "I forgive you. I love you so much. Never leave me and never lie to me again." He picked her up from the floor, and held her suspended in the air for many, many moments.

He finally placed her feet back on the floor and said, "I'm finally home, and I'll never leave again, even if you try to throw me out. I'm here to stay."

"Promise me," she begged meekly.

"I promise you. I belong to you now. You belong to me. We've saved each other's lives, both figuratively and literally, so now we can never be parted. Nothing and no one will put us asunder," he told her in a husky voice. He kissed her lips with passion and promise. He meant every word. He would not ever lie to her again. She needed no such reassurance; for she knew down deep in her heart that he loved her, and he meant what he said. He was there to stay, and would never leave her again. Her life was finally worth loving, by him.