Disclaimer: All characters are property of JK Rowling. The plot, such as it is, is mine.


Merlin help me, I love it when he pulls my hair. This has to be the best sex ever— well, that time on the couch was great, and that time a few weeks ago when he— oh! Fuck yes! I can hardly catch my breath. That actually made me dizzy. I have to close my eyes, but I can feel his lips kissing a trail across my collarbone. And up my neck. And along my ear.

His hot breath on my skin makes my toes tingle. He makes every part of my body tingle. With one more kiss on my neck, he lies still beside me.

Sometimes when I'm lying like this, casually drifting between sleep and consciousness, I think about our relationship or whatever this is. There can't be one though, can there? Antonin shifts a little next to me. I don't think he's really asleep either. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure of the moment when I started referring to him by that name in my head. One day he wasn't Dolohov anymore. Rarely do I ever say either name out loud, nor does he refer to mine. Hmm, he's rubbing small circles on my inner thigh now. I knew he wasn't sleeping. He'll be leaving soon, I know it. It's what we do. I really want to say 'stay' and see what happens.

Stay.

I guess I have to say it outside my head for it to work. I open my mouth. Nothing. Maybe it's for the best. Sometimes he comes here; sometimes I go to his flat, we have fantastic sex, and then I go home. We've never talked about it. It just happens. Six weeks now. I keep thinking it will get old and we can go our separate ways, but it doesn't. We talk, but never about our little situation. He's kissing me now. Mmm. How can I think this could ever get old? Oh, he's getting up to leave.

Stay.

I can't say it with my voice, but I think it really hard. When I open my eyes, he's gone. Sigh. It shouldn't bother me. I do the same thing. He never tells me to stay. Out loud anyway.

"What do you want to shop for next?"

I look up from the shop window I've been perusing and shrug. Ginny looks ridiculous wearing hot pink earmuffs with that red hair of hers. She's happily married and knocked up so she doesn't give a shit and I do admire her for that. Damn, it's freezing out here.

"I don't care, somewhere warm!"

"How about we pop into the Wheezes to thaw out and decide what we still need?" I nod. Sounds like a plan to me. Anything to get out of the snow. I should have owl-ordered everybody's Christmas presents this year. George's shop is toasty warm and fairly crowded. Ron grins at Ginny and me and goes back to helping his customer. I look around for something Antonin might like. What does one buy the person they are secretly shagging for Christmas? I've never found that information in the library.

"Ginny, darling! You're positively glowing!" George is swinging his little sister in a circle. It'd serve him right if she puked on him. She's out of that stage, but a flare up would be perfect right about now. "Hermione!" He's set her down and is coming my way. Don't do it buddy, don't—

"Ack!" After two full swings I might puke on him.

"You're glowing as well! Something you're not telling us about, Hermione?" That is not funny. Really not funny. It's also impossible. I have been beyond careful. Plus I had my period last week. I, uh oh, he's looking at me. Now he's grinning. Git.

"We're not glowing, we're sparkling with frost, George; it's ruddy cold out there!" Whew, thanks for the save, Ginny. Wait Ginny, where are you going? Come back, don't leave me with—

"So, who's the lucky bloke, Granger?" George uses a low voice so only I can hear.

"No one. There's no bloke."

"You're a terrible liar." Sigh. It's true; I am. "Anyone I know, and does he have anything to do with your mysterious disappearance from the Halloween party?" George is officially the most annoying person I know.

"You've been wondering about that all this time?" Stalker.

"Well, it was suspicious, but not quite as suspicious as the cheery mood you've been in since then."

"I'm cheery because I like the holidays." He just glared at me. Okay, that was a dumb lie. Everyone knows I hate the holiday season after I brought my parents back from Australia four years ago this month only to have them disown me for modifying their memories in the first place. "All right, you win, George, but don't tell anyone. I'm not… I'm not ready yet."

Wow. For once, George looks like he's going to be a decent human being about this. I guess he's having a caring older brother moment.

"Your secret is safe… for now." I roll my eyes. He smiles and looks me right in the eye. "Whoever he is, he's doing a fantastic job."

"George says you're doing a fantastic job." He looks up at me over the counter. I smile. Antonin's boss, Mr. Fletcher, is busy helping an elderly lady. Both are giving us shifty glances, so I know they're talking about us. I keep my voice low so our little audience at the deli doesn't hear. "He commented on how remarkably well shagged I was looking these days." He smirks. Men and their egos. "He doesn't know who." His smirk falters. Oops, I thought he'd be worried about that.

"Hey, I don't pay you to flirt with all the young ladies." All the young ladies? Mr. Fletcher is laughing. Whew. Not that I shouldn't allow him to, should I? We're hardly dating if it's some big secret that we even know each other. Mr. Fletcher knows we're friends, that's all. I hope. Harry knows I helped him get this job at the deli. Uh oh, they're both staring at me; I've been lost in thought again, haven't I? Antonin winks at me.

"I'm sorry, I just thought I would drop by and see if you wanted a ride home since it's freezing out there."

"No, no Miss Granger, don't be. Mr. Dolohov, you can leave early, I'll handle things from here." He is grinning. This is kind of embarrassing actually. Antonin nods and heads to the backroom. "Your friend's a good worker, bit funny sometimes…" I try not to snicker; blending in with Muggles is harder than it sounds. "…but he's a good sort." Huh. Now he is. I hope. "I'm glad he's got a friend like you. I don't think he's had the best lot in life." That much you nailed, sir. Oh good, he's coming back. I doubt he'd be pleased his boss is confessing this to me.

A warm arm slides around my waist. "Good evening, Mr. Fletcher." Antonin leads me out of the shop with a grunted goodbye to his boss. I scrunch up to him when we get outside. I wasn't exaggerating; it is freezing! "He really cares about you, you know." He doesn't say anything. I shouldn't be pushy. I can't help it though. "He's not the only one." Wow, did I just say that? Out loud? He still doesn't say anything. We walk the rest of the way to the alley in silence.

My back hits the brick wall before I can even register what's happening. His hand keeps the back of my head from hitting too. His mouth is on mine, urgently attacking with lips, tongue and teeth. My body responds immediately. I press my crotch against his thigh. Why didn't I wear a skirt today? Damn. I think he's realized the same thing. His hand is stroking me through my jeans. I gasp and pull him closer.

"Let's get out of here." He nods, panting as much as I am.

"I'm going to bend you over the nearest piece of furniture when we get there."

I am definitely not freezing anymore. He grips my arm. I concentrate very hard on my destination, but part of my mind keeps trying to decide what piece of furniture I want to Apparate us closest to. I feel the familiar pressure and release. His hand is already gripping my hair. Yes, the couch! Oh. Crap.

There's someone on it.

Lucius Malfoy jumps to his feet, just as surprised to see us Apparate in as we are to see him making himself comfy in Antonin's living room. He glares at me with what I am sure is the most intimidating look he can muster. Antonin drops his hands from me immediately, but Malfoy's turning red.

"Cavorting with a Mudblood? You really are going out of your way to impress the Ministry." That man has a special way of wording things that makes me feel two inches tall. I look at Antonin. This is the part where he disagrees. He's not saying anything. His expression is hard. My insides go cold. He isn't going to disagree. I don't feel so good. I take a few steps away from them. They turn to look at me. Antonin's jaw is set. Malfoy is sneering, utterly delighted at my distress. Neither says anything.

"I have to go." I don't go though, I just stand there. So do they. He doesn't stop me. He isn't going to stop me. I feel a tear coming so I Disapparate before I embarrass myself further.

I try to drown myself in the shower; it doesn't work. I still feel like scum. This shouldn't bother me so much. It's not like I would admit anything in front of my friends. Of course, it wasn't about admitting anything, we were caught red handed. Lucius is his main supporter at the Ministry and I know his greatest fear is being sent to Azkaban. Surely he knows I would vouch for him, and Harry too… That is, if Harry could ever forgive me.

Why am I so worried about this? This is more than just a ding to my ego. Hmm. Only a tiny bit of Dreamless Sleep potion left, not a full dose, but it should get me knocked out. I sit on the edge of my bed and raise the vial above my head. Here's to you, Antonin Dolohov, you stupid bastard. Bottoms up.

I need a new job. This was supposed to be the road to equality for house-elves, not the glorious battle of the red tape. I just had to spend an hour of my life that I will never get back explaining to my boss that— ouch! Damn interdepartmental memo just poked me in the head. It must be from Draco, he always charms them to do that. Yep.

Hermione Granger

Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures

House-elf Committee

Due to a recent surge in the use of side-along house-elf Apparition, our department is in need of information on its limitations and possible side effects for humans. Please provide a written report to me by the 23rd

Yours,

Draco Malfoy

Department of Magical Transportation

PS- I heard you finally found a pureblood that will have you, congratulations.

I crumple the paper in my hand, imagining it is his neck. Whew. That actually made me feel a little better. I need to get out of here. Almost lunchtime, close enough for me. I sneak past my boss' office.

"Miss Granger?" Ack! That was embarrassing.

"Sorry, you startled me, Mr. Cresswell." He's looking at me like I'm mental. Way to make a great impression on the head of the Goblin Liaison Office.

"Someone was asking around for you earlier." Huh? I try to do the eyebrow thing. Great. Now he knows I'm mental. "You were talking with Diggory so I told him you were too busy; he said to give you this." He's holding out a rose blossom. Wonderful. He knows that is my favorite. I might be touched by this if it didn't look just like the ones on his neighbor's rose bush.

"Was this man brown haired, blue eyed and about yea tall?" I hold my hand above my head.

"Yes, that sounds right." He holds his hand out further. I suppose I'm being rude for not taking it. It's not his fault.

"Uh, thanks." I shove it in my pocket. I know he's laughing at me, but I don't care.

It's times like this I wish I had a close girlfriend to talk to. Harry and Ron would not understand. I love Ginny, but I just can't share these sorts of things with her. Her views on men and mine never really coincided. Although, I'm thinking at this time that her way was more successful. Maybe I should go talk to Ron anyway. It's been a while since we had a nice conversation. Especially without Luna around.

"Are you sure that has been tested appropriately George?" He's trying to smear something on my shoe.

"Of course, here." Oof. He lifts me up to sit on the counter, "much better, now don't squirm, this won't damage your shoes, it'll just give you traction so you don't fall in the snow." I'm so glad George is using his powers for good these days. Ha! I take that back, he's tickling my ankle. The bells on the door tinkle.

"Hermione."

Oh no, no, no, no. Not here, not now.

Ron comes out of the backroom scowling. "You aren't welcome here; move along."

George lets go of my foot. He's confused. I don't pay attention to him though. Antonin is standing in the front of the shop staring at me. That man is a bloodhound. He's quite good at using the telephone now. It's much easier on than knees than Floo calls. Why couldn't he just call me? Oh, he did. I hung up on him, that's why.

"I said move along." Ron walks up to him and gestures to the door.

"I just want a word with Hermione." Perfect. Ron is glaring at me now. I try to look innocent; I don't think it's working.

George is still confused. He looks at me, looks at Antonin, and his mouth drops open. He grabs the front of my cloak.

"Please tell me this is not…" He can't even say it. I don't know how I ever thought this would be okay. George is horrified. I feel so guilty. Oh great, now I'm going to cry.

"George, please." He yanks me off the counter and holds me flush against him so he can speak right in my ear.

"Do you know what he did, Hermione? Who he murdered?" He shook me. Hard. I want to get away from him, but all my limbs are rubber and my eyes are burning and I know I deserve much worse than what George is doing. "My uncles, Hermione, my family."

He's absolutely disgusted and shoves me into Antonin's arms. Again, I don't have the strength to escape. If it wasn't for Antonin's strong grip, I'm not even sure I could stand. Mercy, what have I done?

"WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?" Ron roars. George points at me.

"Ask her! Ask her why she's been in such a good mood lately! Ask her who she's been shagging the last two months!"

I would have preferred it if Ron yelled at me or hit me, but he didn't. He didn't do anything but stare at my sobbing wreck of a person.

"Get out." It was hardly a whisper, but it echoed in my ears as if he shouted it. Antonin half carried, half walked me to the door. I regain enough strength to pry myself free. I may not have any dignity left, but I am still walking out of here on my own two feet. Antonin follows me out and unfortunately, so does George.

"Take your whore girlfriend and don't ever darken our doorstep again." Oh no. I think I'm going to vomit right here in the street. I spin around to look at George.

"Aaaaaahh!" I can't hold back my scream as Antonin decks him right in the face. I step backwards on a patch of ice and slide.

Before I hit the ground, I realize George only treated one of my shoes.

Wow, I'm all nice and warm and drowsy. It's nice. Comfy. Wrong. Something's wrong. I open one eye. Crap. I'm in St. Mungo's. I open my other eye. Harry's sitting by my bed. It looks like he's almost asleep.

"Harry, psst, Harry." He jerks upright.

"Oh good, you're awake." He's got the 'I've got good news and bad news' look on his face. "You hit your head pretty hard." Really Harry, you think? Oh, the pain relief potion is starting to wear off. The pain in my head is nothing compared to the emotional damage I've done to myself.

"How's George?"

"He's fine, a black eye and a large bruise to his pride, but otherwise— he's sorry too. For what he said. And how he treated you."

"I deserved it." Harry covered my hand with his and squeezed. "What about…" I can't bring myself to say his name.

"Dolohov?" I nod. "He got a reprimand, but he doesn't have to go back to Azkaban if that's what you mean." Sigh. I am still royally pissed at him, but I don't want him to go back to prison for something that's my fault.

"Do you think Ron, and George, will be okay?" He sighed. I take it that is a no. Harry rubbed his face with his hands before answering.

"Give them some time."

I bite down on my tongue to keep from crying again. I really buggered things this time. "What about you?" He takes my hand again.

"To be honest, I wish it was someone else, anyone else." He doesn't say anything for a minute. "Maybe in some sort of dark, perverse way, we needed this." Huh? "A wake up call I mean. All this time Dumbledore lectured us on the importance of second chances. It's not so easy when you have to make the choice to believe in someone yourself. Look at how he changed his life or how Snape changed his."

When did Harry get to be so wise? I lean forward and give him a hug. Whoa, moved to fast, now I'm dizzy.

"The Healer said you could leave when you felt up to it, but to get plenty of rest. Do you want me to help get you home?" I nod. Yes, Harry, I need a lot of help.

"You shouldn't be here. I don't know how you even found my parents' house, but I don't want to talk to you." I put my hands on my hips and glare at him. He's got a lot of nerve showing up here. My head still hurts.

"If you didn't want me to find you, you shouldn't have taught me how to use a telephone directory." Fair point.

"Look, I'm on shaky ground with them as it is, I don't think this is a good time." His eyebrows knit.

"Why are you in trouble with your parents?" He's not giving up. I step out on the front stoop and shut the door as quietly as possible. I should have grabbed a jacket first. This has to be the coldest winter ever.

"I modified their memories five years ago so they would change their names and move to Australia. I was afraid Death Eaters would come looking for them." He lowers his eyes for a moment. I have no idea what he's thinking. "After it was safe, I brought them back and they were very cross with me for altering their minds without their consent. They wouldn't even speak to me for a few years."

"You did this to keep them safe from, from…"

"You." He nodded.

"And they were still mad?"

"I violated their basic human rights. They had every right to hate me." Oh no. Not that look, not pity.

"You must have been an exceptional student to do memory charms at that age." Don't blush, don't do it. He's just trying to get on your good side.

"I guess so, a little after that I, uh, may have…" Just spit it out; he deserves to know. "…Obliviated you." The last part was barely audible, but technically I said it.

"What?"

"Hermione?" The front door cracked open. "Is that one of your friends at the door? You know how we feel about that kind under this roof." Way to be subtle Mother, but your timing is fabulous.

"It's okay Mum, he's not, um, he's not a…" Can I still call him a wizard?

"I am unable to do magic, ma'am." Whew. Nice save. I'm still pissed at you.

"Well, come in then, no sense in standing out in the cold." He slides past me, throwing me an uncertain look before my mother drags him down the hall to the living room. I am gobsmacked. This is not how this was supposed to go.

"Close the door, Hermione, you'll freeze the whole house." I shake my head. It is going to be a long night.

This is so wrong. My parents love him. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Oh no, Dad is telling him the infamous 'first root canal' story. Why don't they just invite him to Christmas dinner while they're at it?

Come to think of it, this is the nicest they've been to me in ages. I may get invited to Christmas dinner at this point. He's being quite charming. I suppose working at the deli has been a crash course in Muggle Studies.

I must relax. I am going to give myself an ulcer if I keep this up. I've been tapping my foot and readjusting my position every few minutes, but they keep bloody ignoring me. Antonin isn't. He's been staring at me enough to make me even more of a nervous wreck.

"So where did you two meet?" Uh, well…

"At the Ministry." He said it in a small voice, almost shameful. I feel bad now too. We stare at each other. He's sorry, he's telling me silently across the room. What were we even fighting about? Mum and Dad are staring at us.

"I need to check on the roast. Hermione, will you set the table?" I follow her into the kitchen.

"I still can't trust you." Please Mum, don't start on this, I can't take it right now. "But," and she strokes my hair, "I miss you. Your Dad misses you." I am an intelligent, articulate person. Usually. I have never been at a loss for words so many times in one night. I may even cry again. I hug her and she hugs me. There are some times you just need mum therapy.

"I miss you too."

She wipes my face with a cloth. I feel like I'm eight years old again and I've gotten in trouble for nicking sweets.

"Now," and she dabs at her own eyes too, "tell me all about your boyfriend." In the interest of preserving our new found harmony, I think I'll leave out some details.

I feel rather relaxed after my talk with Mum. Upbeat almost. Dad and Antonin are still chatting in the living room when I go to tell them dinner's ready. Just as I reach for the door, Antonin's voice stops me.

"I know this is not my place, sir, but I have to tell you about what happened. In the War." So much for feeling upbeat. I should run in there and stop him from ruining all the progress I've made tonight, but my own curiosity stops me.

"I don't—"

"Please, sir, it was a dark and dangerous time, for everybody." He paused to collect himself. "People were doing unforgivable things. I'm not saying that she was right for not asking you first, but I know for a fact what she did saved your lives."

I held my breath. My brain couldn't register the idea that what he said was true. I waited to hear my father's answer. It seemed like ages before there was one.

"That is a family matter, but I appreciate your honesty. Now, be honest with me about something else. What are your intentions with my daughter?"

This is why eavesdropping is a bad thing. There are things I don't need to hear. I push open the door and try to look clueless. "Dinner's ready." Dad smiles at me. He thinks he's clever by sliding past me and down the hall, leaving Antonin and I alone. I'm so busy watching him, I don't notice Antonin has his jacket already on until he's standing before me pressing a kiss to my forehead.

"I'll leave you to your family."

What? He's not leaving is he? I don't want that. Wait a minute. I really don't want that. My pulse jumps. He's got the door open. It's now or never. I reach out and touch his sleeve.

"Stay."

Relax, Hermione; remember your breathing. You can make it through this; just breathe. I grip the seat harder.

"Push down." My father's voice is low and steady. My whole body rocks forward and I screech. "Relax, Hermione. You're being melodramatic." The car slows down. "Now ease up on the clutch." The whole thing lurches forward and dies. "No problem, just start her back up again and raise your foot slowly until you find that contact point."

I debate getting out of the car, but decide it is marginally safer inside of it than out. Why did I think it would be a fine idea to come along while Dad teaches Antonin to drive? The car lurches again, but stays running and we are off down the deserted lane. I take a few deep breaths and relax a tiny bit.

"You've got it now! Good job!" Antonin turns to smile at me, making the whole car swerve. Dad grabs the wheel and saves us from ending up in the ditch. "Might want to keep your focus forward until you get the hang of it." Dad doesn't sound so chipper now. "Pull over up here."

They switch seats and Antonin turns to grin at me. I don't know which he enjoyed more, driving or terrorizing me. I close my eyes and lean back in my seat, utterly content now that my life isn't in danger. Something has changed between us; I know it's not just that the sex is better. It's the connection. There is nothing to hide anymore, and that rush of freedom is intoxicating. My friends hate him; his friends hate me. Everything is out in the open. My parents are talking to me; I'm not lying to my friends anymore. My job still sucks, but I can get another one, one where I can actually make a difference. I may even be in love. I open my eyes to see him still looking at me.

That is a definite maybe.