Disclaimer: The characters contained in this fanfiction are the sole property of J.K. Rowling her publishers, their publishing houses, and the fine studio of Warner Bros. and subsidiaries. I will in no way sell or reproduce this story for profit. In no way will any funds be made from the writing of this work.

Beta Credits: ShagMeDraco

Part 3

He had known since three days after his initial recovery from the curse or so his letter said. Hermione lay curled tightly into a ball on the lounge, Blaise's letter to both her and Draco having fallen to the floor. He had known, and that realization kept playing over and over again in her mind.

Everything made sense. Blaise had wanted to leave them both knowing they had one another, except he had forgotten to take into account their very volatile past and their stubbornness. Still, Blaise had done everything in his power to bring them together, as he knew all along that he wouldn't be there for them in the long run.

The constant attempts to push them to be intimate one on one, the very basis of their relationship to begin with, had been a calculated move on Blaise's part. Hermione wasn't surprised, since he had been a Slytherin, but she was thoroughly livid that he hadn't confided in them that he was dying. There might have been something else they could have done or something that could have prolonged his life.

Hermione knew Blaise well enough, though, that his reasoning was probably to protect all three of them. Blaise hadn't wanted to admit to his mortality, Draco had already lost so much and wouldn't have handled the news well, and she, waiting years for the curse to run it's course, wouldn't have enjoyed their time together. She would have driven herself to find a cure. It had been a difficult but correct decision. That didn't make Hermione's grief any easier to bear.

How had he gone on, day in and day out, knowing each one could be his last? Hermione couldn't imagine how Blaise had managed to hide his illness from them for so long. It wasn't fair! He shouldn't have had to die. It should have been her. "It should have been me!"

She hadn't realized she said the last part out loud until her voice startled her. Shaking herself a bit, Hermione tried to sit up but found she was very unsteady. Taking a moment to catch her breath, she walked to the loo and splashed cool water on her face. She started to walk back to the lounge when the open bedroom door caught her eye. On impulse, she walked in.

Everything was as she had left it. There wasn't a pictured moved, and even her bookcase was still empty. Draco hadn't changed a thing. The sheets were still silk and a light hue of blue, the nightstands still had no lamps on them only candles, since Draco considered lamps to be far too Muggle. It made her nostalgic and homesick. Hermione had to bite back a sob as she realized this wasn't her home anymore.

She was about to walk away when a stack of letters caught her eye. Shoved a little behind a photograph of Blaise receiving his Order of Merlin were numerous folded pieces of parchment. Hermione, curious by nature, snatched them up and began thumbing through them. They were all addressed to her and she had never seen a one of them. Judging by their worn appearance, they had at one time been attached to an owl. Draco hadn't lied, but someone had been.

Ginny. Hermione sighed with a great deal of frustration. Ginny hadn't been very subtle the last few weeks pushing Hermione about possibly seeing if there was a spark with Ron. She'd been at Hermione especially the last Sunday dinner at the Burrow. Ginny was convinced that Hermione was better off with Ron and that her relationship with Blaise and Draco had been a phase. Ginny thought it was time for her to grow out of it and move on with her life, preferably move on with Ron.

Hermione skimmed each letter, discovering that they were stacked in the order they had been sent. One letter wasn't forthright, but there was enough to read between the lines. Draco would never give up his pride to ask her to take him back, Hermione was sure, but he obviously had hoped she would return to him. There was more emotion in simple posts about his days and weeks without her than she'd ever seen him display in her presence.

The last letter wasn't as long as the others. In fact, it was only a few lines. Draco's usually aristocratic scrawl was a bit off and not as neat, but Hermione thought she understood why. He wasn't confident in what he was writing, he was afraid of rejection. In those minimal words, Draco spelled out his feelings completely. I miss, you. I love, you. Come home.

If Hermione hadn't cried so desperately before, she would have completely lost all of her senses then. Austere, selfish, cold as ice Draco Malfoy had sent her that heartfelt declaration and plea. Ginny had intercepted it, and judging from his mood when he returned to the flat, twisted a knife deep into his heart. Ginny was good at things like that. When she wanted something, others didn't matter. Draco was insignificant to her and it was Ron who was her priority. Hermione vowed to reserve Fred's hex for Ginny.

Exhausted from reliving Blaise's death, sick at the knowledge nothing could ever work between herself and Draco, Hermione collapsed onto the bed. Whatever Ginny had said, Draco was erecting the walls around his heart again, and Hermione had a feeling that it would prove impossible to tear down those defenses again. Having a deep sense of regret and feeling defeated in a way she had never thought possible, Hermione slipped under the sheets and buried her face in the pillows. One final time, she thought to herself, before she walked away from this life forever. Oddly, her last thought was that the pillow she once used still smelled like her shampoo. Tinkerton must have been getting lax.

888888888888888888888888888888888888888

The flat was dark and quiet when Draco came through the door. Glancing at the lounge, he saw Blaise's letter lying forgotten on the floor. It seemed to confirm his supposition that Hermione was gone. More than likely this time she wouldn't come back. Why should she, after all, since he'd basically resorted to his old pettish ways? There was also, still, a part of him that couldn't help but to keep repeating her wish for him to have died instead of Blaise. Rationally, he knew she had said it in the heat of the moment, her anger and hurt causing her to lash out. However, those were the last words she would ever speak to him, and somewhere there had to be irony considering all of the terrible taunts and insults he once cast in her direction.

Gingerly, he picked up the letter, careful not to get it wet since he had just been walking in sleet, and eventually large flakes of snow, for the past two hours. Draco didn't think he could read the letter again, not after everything that had happened. It would be like losing Blaise once more, and since he could likely call Blaise his first love, that wasn't something he could handle at the moment.

Not caring that his shirt clung to him, and that he was likely freezing his way to hypothermia, Draco didn't even bother to cast a warming charm on himself and let the wet shirt and trousers be. He'd peel them off and leave them for Tinkerton to whisk away from the bath. A long, hot shower would probably be best, then an entire bottle of Firewhiskey. That would make truly adjusting to the loss of both Blaise and Hermione tolerable, possibly.

Muttering to himself, he almost missed noticing the small form curled beneath the sheets. Blinking for several seconds, Draco wondered if the cold had possibly addled his brain, but there she was still. It didn't make any sense that Hermione would have stayed let alone cuddle up in the bed they had shared for years.

Draco kept staring at the unbelievable sight until he also noticed the stack of letters, unbound and opene on the nightstand. She'd read them, and the very last one was still clutched in her hand. For a split second, Draco let the old resentment and anger take hold of him again, his usual defense against possible disappointments. Granger probably pitied him and had waited for him to come back before dealing the final blow.

Shaking his head, Draco even realized how mental that sounded. Granger wouldn't have been that cold or calculating. His fury dissipated in that moment, and he sat on the edge of the bed, not caring that the duvet and sheets were becoming soaked through as well.

Hermione was sleeping so peacefully, her breathing deep and even. He'd forgotten how lovely she looked, lying in their bed, unaware that she was being observed. There had been times, even when Blaise had slept soundly, that Draco hadn't been able to drift off for hours and he had lain there simply watching her. She sometimes snored very softly, which he would never tell her, she was self-conscious enough as it was about her appearance and mannerisms. Still, it was that sound that he found comforting sometimes when he needed to reassured that he wasn't imagining her next to him. He had always taken it for granted that Blaise's affections were real, that he would always comeback to him, but Hermione had been different. It had been soothing to have that small and inconsequential quirk to remind him she was truly there, not a simple hallucination.

Unconsciously, Draco reached out to brush away a few stray curls resting on her cheek. Even sitting a small distance from her, the hint of lavender from her shampoo wafted towards him, and he wondered briefly if she noticed her pillow had been charmed to never lose that particular scent. Hermione would probably think him overly sentimental, and a bit pervy, but he wasn't above admitting to himself that it was comforting to sleep wrapped around a pillow that still carried her scent or even wank while clutching the sham.

The slight motion had been enough to wake Hermione, who opened her eyes slowly, finding Draco in an unguarded moment. He was watching her longingly, every emotion plain and naked upon his face. She couldn't remember ever seeing those cold, grey eyes so expressive or sincere. Maybe there was a small ray of hope. Draco wasn't looking at her with pure hatred but instead wistfully, with a small amount of regret.

They had always said terrible, vile, hurtful things to one another. Hermione knew she was as guilty of it as he was at times. Still, she had dealt the worst blow earlier and now, knowing that Draco wasn't capable of truly hating her as she had feared, was her only chance to redeem herself, to have the courage to put aside her own pride and take the first step. Just because he was gazing at her with yearning didn't mean once he noticed she was awake, he wouldn't retreat behind a frigid mask of indifference.

His fingers trailing down her cheek slowly, Draco was too immersed in memorizing how soft her skin was to immediately detect that Hermione was watching him in return. He froze instantly when he saw her dark eyes staring back at him thoughtfully. This was it, Draco was sure, the last time he would ever be this close to her, the last time she would ever look back at him with anything but anger or regret.

There was a flurry of movement as Hermione pushed herself up, sending the duvet and sheets flying to the side. Throwing aside all fear of rejection, or her own regrets, Hermione took Draco's face between her hands and kissed him, hoping she hadn't misjudged the moment and that he wouldn't push her away. If he had meant anything at all in the letters, it was worth taking the chance.

There was a long moment where Draco didn't respond in any way, and Hermione was sure that she should pull back and accept the obvious rebuff. She had miscalculated the moment, and if she had any hope of salvaging a small amount of her self-respect, Hermione knew she should leave the flat as soon as humanly possible. She had started to retreat when she felt fingers threading through hair tightly, holding in her in place. Draco's lips were suddenly moving beneath her own, and in another instant, he had taken control, deepening the kiss by thrusting his tongue between her lips, earnestly flicking and stroking the interior of her mouth and coaxing her tongue into play as well.

Hermione nearly sighed with relief, but did not have the breath to do so. She was just as insistent in putting as much emotion into their kiss as she possibly could. She didn't think words were necessary at the moment. After all, words had never gotten them very far before, written or otherwise. Right now, Hermione was simply content that he wasn't pushing her away or mocking her for taking the initiative.

Reaching up and twining her own fingers through Draco's silvery blonde hair, Hermione noted how cold and wet the normally vibrant strands were. It was only a momentary recognition, her attention drawn elsewhere to warm palms sliding under her jumper and against her naked skin. The clasp of her bra was hurriedly undone and the jumper was being pushed upwards. When Draco broke the kiss momentarily to tug the garment over her head, Hermione wasted no time in helping, shedding the offending jumper and falling back into the pillows again, impatiently pulling him down atop her.

The stinging coldness of his soaked shirt hardened her nipples instantly, but worried her as well. Roaming her hands over Draco's back, Hermione noted how the material clung to him, most likely chilling him considerably. With a concerned frown, she began to unbutton the wet shirt, looking up at him questioningly. "You weren't out there walking around in the storm for the last few hours, were you?" Hermione asked, afraid that the answer was yes and blaming herself for being the reason.

"Doesn't matter," Draco muttered thickly, shrugging somewhat clumsily out of the sodden piece of clothing.

It didn't matter, nothing did now, except that she was here. Hermione was here with him, not moping with Potter and Weaslette, not lying about with the Weasel, but here where she belonged. It might be too much to hope for that she would consider the flat home again so soon, but Draco wasn't going to think past the moment at hand. Hermione had woken up, found him sitting there gaping at her like a lovesick fool, and instead of immediately fleeing, had kissed him with as much desperation as he had felt thinking she was going to walk away forever.

She was shaking her head at him, her brown eyes troubled. "You shouldn't have been wandering around like that. It's cold and…"

While it was endearing and heartwarming to hear her prattling on and worried for him, Draco didn't want to waste anymore time talking. There was time for that later, time that they needed to take to sort through things more thoroughly. That could definitely wait for later, possibly morning if he could find the stamina.

Hermione didn't protest the kiss that silenced her, having ultimately realized how stupid she had been to ever leave. Frantically, she traced a pattern of kisses along his jaw, around to his left ear, and then across his cheek, unable to convey the sudden burst of emotion overwhelming her. She shivered with delight as Draco's mouth and tongue moved in a slow and maddening path down her neck, to her shoulder and up again until he was nipping gently on her earlobe. It was always the innocent caresses that seemed to arouse her the most.

Shaking from her need, and still some nervousness, Hermione began to work on removing his trousers and her denims. She completely missed slipping the buttons out of the holes on her first two tries, finally calling her wand to her and simply casting a Divesting Charm. She gasped into Draco's mouth as he captured her lips for another frenzied kiss, reveling in the evidence that he wanted her as urgently as she wanted him. Impatiently, she rocked against him, causing him to groan. When she arched her hips again, gripping his shoulders tighter, the almost growl that issued from his lips skipped down her spine and caused the fluttering in her belly to turn into surging waves of anticipation.

Draco dropped his head into the slope of Hermione's shoulder, pleasantly lost in the feel of her small hands moving over his skin. Still, he wasn't in the mood to play and fondle at the moment. He made a mental promise to himself to properly caress and tease her delectable body later, but now he had to be to know that this wasn't some dream.

It struck him suddenly that this was the first time they had ever been intimate with one another for no other reason except they wanted it. There was no Blaise watching, urging them on. This was all about them, and it sobered Draco momentarily, the enormity of that realization. Rising upward, he sat back on his knees looking down at Hermione, trying to memorize this moment just in case this was the only time he would have her to himself.

Her eyes were watching him warily now, but there was still the haze of desire and need present in the dark depths. Her lips were red, swollen, and wet, her hair a wild mass of curls that seemed to spread out in every direction, but still managed to look beautiful to him. The very breasts he had just devoted an almost unforgivably small amount of attention to were full and their rosy peaks jutting forward proudly. They were beckoning for him again, it seemed.

The unreadable expression on Draco's features had Hermione nervously biting her bottom lip. He was staring at her intently, his grey eyes traveling over her body, a certain fire evident in his gaze. With a great effort, she pushed herself up on her elbows, swallowing hard to rid herself of the lump forming in her throat. She was wondering if he was suddenly coming to his senses, suddenly deciding if he didn't want her after all. "Is there something wrong," she asked in a hoarse whisper. "Do you want me to leave?"

That last question had Draco tensing and shaking his head fiercely. Bloody hell, but she was insecure about this all, and he was to blame there. If he hadn't been such a damnable coward, or arrogant arse, Hermione would have no cause to doubt his feelings for her. He wasn't naïve enough to think that just because she had read his letters that she wouldn't still have uncertainties. "If you even think about getting out of this bed, Granger, I'll drag you back and bind you to those posts," he promised.

It wasn't exactly a reassuring answer, but it was one that she would expect from him, so Hermione found she couldn't be offended. Instead, she welcomed Draco back into her arms when he came forward again, lips searching out her own for a gentler kiss. She was panting in Draco's ear when he began to move his lips over her face, the kisses more soft and tender than she had ever thought him capable of. It wasn't enough however and she began to buck frantically against his hand as he began to tease her the soft flesh between her legs.

He couldn't ever remember Hermione being this impatient or this responsive, and he hadn't truly touched her the way she needed, the way he needed. Draco nearly remarked on the fact, but kept silent, not wanting to have her take the comment the wrong way, thinking he was mocking her. It was humbling that he could have this kind of affect on her, and even more gratifying that it was him alone. She wasn't watching Blaise, she wasn't thinking about Blaise either; her eyes were wide and focused solely on him, Draco. Galvanized by that knowledge, Draco swiftly, but as gently as he could manage, plunged forward, groaning in pleasure.

There wasn't anything slow or easy about the rhythm they set and Hermione soon felt the elusive hint of her release, a strangle cry falling from her lips. Lifting her hips to meet his final thrusts, Hermione clutched Draco to her tightly as he muttered a guttural growl before collapsing upon her heavily, his heart hammering in sync with her own. He never wanted to move again, and he honestly had no desire to ever leave the bed or Hermione for that matter.

Despite the slight discomfort his weight caused her, Hermione didn't feel inclined to have Draco roll away from her just yet. Everything had happened so fast, that she still wasn't certain where things stood, if she was welcome to come home after the terrible things she had said. Remembering the defeated look upon Draco's face, her vision blurred from tears that fell easily down her cheeks. How could she have been so cruel? She was supposed to be the logical one, the smart one, the sympathetic and forgiving one. She'd left him without any word as to why and she'd basically wished him dead. Biting back a sob, she shook her head and clung to him even more determinedly.

Feeling the drops of moisture sliding down his shoulder, Draco lifted his head, panicked at the sight of her tears. Was she already regretting waiting for him to come home? Maybe he should have taken more time with her just now, obviously he should have, but she had been as impatient as he was or so it seemed. Maybe he wasn't as good at reading her as he liked to think he was.

"It should have been me," Hermione sobbed, more tears slipping beneath her eyelids.

"What are you talking about," Draco asked, somewhat relieved that she hadn't said anything about being sorry she was lying, naked in bed with him.

"Blaise shouldn't have died, and I didn't mean it when I said I wished you had either. It should have been me!" she asserted fiercely. "He pushed me out of the way that night and took a curse that was meant for me. He'd be alive right now…"

"Don't you ever say that again!" Draco ground out through clenched teeth. "It would have killed him if you had been hit, and… fuck… Granger." This was something Draco hadn't thought on very often, not liking how different everything would have been.

Hermione's death would have been a blow that Blaise wouldn't have recovered from. In that respect, Draco knew he would have lost them both. Hermione might not have been strong enough to recover from the curse's initial affects, and then Blaise would have withdrawn, leaving Draco alone. They would never have had the years together that they did.

"You had Blaise first," Hermione reasoned. "You could have had him all to yourself and…"
"I wanted you too," Draco interrupted her again. "I worked to have Blaise trust me so I could have the both of you. You know how selfish and spoiled I am."

"He should have told us," Hermione countered, feeling guilty for taking comfort in Draco's confession. It almost seemed unfair for them to by lying together while Blaise lay dead and buried in his family's tomb.

"Maybe," Draco amended, rolling over onto his side and drawing her close. Maybe she'd stay the night if she was drowsy enough to drop off to sleep quickly. "Then again, we'd have been miserable waiting for the inevitable. Blaise did the best thing for us all in the end."

Sucking in a shaky breath, Hermione only nodded, but didn't know if she believed what Draco told her. Blaise had died for her and he had constructed a plan that had both her and Draco learning to coexist, learning to live together for when the time came and they would have to live without him. It was all too much to take in and process, and Hermione simply didn't think she could ever understand how truly selfless and amazing Blaise had been through it all. "He wanted us to have each other," Hermione whispered. "He wanted us to stay together, and we rather stuffed that up didn't we?"

"Is that the only reason you're here now?" Draco asked warily, a distinct undertone of caution evident in his tone.

Hermione tilted her head up to look into his eyes, placing her palm against his cheek. "No, I'm here because…" She suddenly wondered if she had the courage to continue. Actually saying the words made them real and somehow she knew that all of the actions in the world wouldn't be able to convey her true feelings like those three simple words could. Draco deserved to hear them, even if it did take them weeks or months to get back to where they were before.

When she began to falter and fell silent, Draco resigned himself to the possibility she would be leaving and soon. He didn't want her staying if it was just out of some obligation to Blaise. "Don't, Granger. You don't have to say anything. If you truly don't want…"

"I'm here because I love you and even though I know it's too soon, someday I'd like to come home and start over," Hermione said in a rush, dropping her gaze to stare at the base of his throat.

It took a few moments for her words to sink in, but when she began to shift away from him with a sad sigh, Draco tightened his hold and refused to let her go. "Stay," he said simply, dropping random kisses over her forehead, cheeks, and then her lips.

"If you want," Hermione whispered back with relief, returning each kiss that she could. "I'll stay the night."

"No," Draco said, rubbing soothing circles over the smooth skin of her back. "Stay forever."

"If you need time…"

"We've wasted enough," Draco said firmly, taking her chin between his fingers and staring back into her eyes with piercing sincerity. "Tomorrow we're going to Potter's, you're going to pack your things, and you're coming home," he told her with a tone of finality. "And no more balancing journals for those twin tossers either. The Weasleys have had you for years. I don't want to share you anymore."

There was more to that last statement, Hermione knew, than Draco would ever admit. Sharing with Blaise was one thing, sharing with anyone else was absolutely out of the question. She really should have been offended by his authoritative tone, but she was too happy to properly dress him down for ordering her around as though he had the right to do so. Maybe she would give up her job at the twins' shop. They would probably be thrilled to have their financial freedom back.

"You know, it was actually Fred who told me to come and talk to you. Say what you want about him as far as his prankster nature, but he really does have an insight into people that is rather endearing," Hermione said, running a fingertip over the planes of Draco's face as though reacquainting herself with each and every line and slope.

"I mean it, Granger," Draco said, trying to maintain his resolute stance and strict tone. "You're coming home."
"I want to," she said softly. "But there's so much that we have to talk about, so much that we have to decide, to work through…"

"We will," Draco promised, knowing she was right, but confident for the first time in many years that he would have the sense and drive to actually make anything between them work. "One step at a time. Just come home."

"I didn't mean it before. I couldn't have dealt with losing you either," Hermione apologized again for her terrible words.

"I crossed the line first," Draco told her seriously. "That word, it… I shouldn't have said it and further more I shouldn't have outright lied to you either." At Hermione's confused expression he continued. "I find your mind delightfully attractive, but you, your heart, your body… Granger, you had to know that both Blaise and I have always thought you were beautiful."

She was a grown woman in her mid twenties, but still blushed like a teenager whenever she was complimented. She wanted to argue with him, tell him she knew that he was either being too terribly nice or had gone rather blind, but instead, Hermione couldn't seem to find any words. Not a few hours ago she was certain she'd be going back to Harry and Ginny's alone to nurse a broken heart and to mourn another loss. It was all a bit overwhelming to realize that she was getting a second chance.

"Promise me you'll come home," Draco murmured, taking the opportunity for another kiss. It was all very new and almost frightening having her with him again. He couldn't seem to stop touching her in any way he was able.

"Ginny's going to hex us both," Hermione laughed softly, running her fingers in lazy circles up his spine.

Draco's eyes darkened to a stormy grey. "That conniving little bitch can find herself in one of the circles of hell for all I care."

"I didn't finish," Hermione said pointedly, leaning up to touch her lips to the tip of his nose. "I fully intend to hex her as well. Harry will understand."

"Potter isn't going to like this either," Draco warned her, nuzzling her neck, breathing in the scent of lavender, sweat, and her own unique fragrance.

"Harry will support me. He always has," Hermione assured him.

"I don't want to talk about the Potters, I want you to tell me you're coming home," Draco asked again, determined to get an affirmative answer.

"You'll come with me to get my things?" Hermione asked. "I don't want to go alone. I want them to see that they can't change my mind, that they shouldn't even want to. I want them to see how much we love each other."

He would rather be anywhere other than knocking on Potter's front door, but when Hermione put the request in those words, Draco couldn't find a way to refuse her. "I should have told you sooner, the night we found out that Blaise…"

"I could have said something, but I didn't think you'd want to hear it," Hermione explained idly playing with the hair on the nape of his neck. "I thought you only put up with me for Blaise's sake."

"I wanted you for a long time, since Blaise decided to pursue you, but telling you I loved you, I was certain you'd pat me on the head and tell me how daft I was," Draco told her in between kisses that were trailing from her shoulder to her left breast.

"We're both rather cowardly aren't we?" Hermione mused with a regretful sigh.

"We'll get it right now," Draco said declared firmly. "No more letting Weasleys or Potters interfere, and no more assuming anything about one another."

Hermione nodded her agreement and moved to straddle him, leaning over for a more thorough kiss that became heated very swiftly. Hermione almost purred into Draco's mouth upon noticing how quickly he was ready for her again. Hermione then started to kiss a path from his throat to his chest.

While she was busy swirling her tongue around a rather flat, but firm, nipple, she felt him taking her face in his hands. Compelled to look up, she was momentarily stunned by the depth of emotion in his gaze. "Promise me something else. No matter what we say to one another, no matter how vile or painful, never doubt how much I love you. I won't say it nearly enough, but I'll mean it everyday."

Fresh tears gathered in her eyes and Hermione knew she couldn't find any words to return such a open and poignant declaration. Instead, she placed a lingering kiss on his lips before returning to her previous goal. With each kiss and touch she hoped she conveyed her own feelings. After all, he was right, he wouldn't say it nearly enough, neither of them would, and she would have to remember that actions should always speak louder than words, if you simply listened.