Hermione wrung her hands together anxiously and covertly glanced at the blonde man sitting across from her at her kitchen table. "So," she said nervously, hoping Draco didn't catch the tension, "you know where the loo is and my room's across the hall from the guest room if you need anything."

Tiredly, Draco nodded. "Thank you, Granger," he said softly. "I really appreciate you letting me bunk here again. I just… didn't know where else to go."

She nodded in response, the sympathy that burned in her chest refusing to erupt from her mouth. It wasn't what he wanted, she reminded herself. If he wanted sympathy he'd have gone to Ginny – she'd give it to him in a heartbeat. He wanted a place to stay, a cup of tea, and a good night's rest.

That was the only reason he was here, and she should know better than to hope for anything else.

The fact that her heart was ferociously involved with him and his emotions would have to wait. He'd lost his father and he didn't want her to ask him about it, or to ask about how he was holding up. He just needed a bed. He'd get his comfort from Ginny later.

But not my bed, she thought dejectedly. Not my comfort.

Her chest lurched, and she was sure that a small part of her heart had died with the admission.

He thanked her again for the tea and as he walked from the kitchen his hand squeezed her shoulder lightly. A wistful smile slid onto her mouth; that was not a lover's touch. It was a thank-you-for-not-asking touch, a thank-you-for-being-a-friend touch, and damn it, she wanted to ask and she didn't want to be that friend. Every bone in her body throbbed with anger.

Why can't I be happy with him in my life the way he is? She thought to herself harshly. Why am I not content with being his friend?

Another rattle in her chest reminded her that it was because she loved him. It was because she ached so badly to be his one and only love, not his one of many friends. She felt selfish and guilty for being more concerned with her relationship with him than how he felt after his father's death, and forced herself to remember everything he'd ever said about the man. It wasn't difficult – she had spent hours, maybe days out of her life remembering her conversations with the sexy blonde. She could probably recite all of them verbatim with little or no help from him.

He had said that the man had abused him. He had also said that he had spent half of his life trying to please him. Trying to become him. He had said once that he hated Lucius Malfoy, but he stole the words back before she could comment. He did not hate his father, he just wanted to. Lucius had given him nothing but cruel disdain, but the part of Draco that was Lucius' son still wanted his love and approval.

Hermione couldn't fault him for any of that. She had hated his father, and he knew that. It hadn't been a hindrance in their relationship – their friendly relationship, she thought reluctantly. Draco could understand her hatred for him – his father had tried to kill her, and she had every right to hate him for that. She could also understand that he was still related to the man, and that he couldn't possibly hate him after trying so hard to impress him.

Draco's relationship with his father was not just confusing, it was twisted, cynical, and remarkably unchanging. They seldom spoke to each other, and neither had wanted to see the other. Ever. Narcissa had all but dropped to her knees and groveled at Draco's feet to get him to visit his father once a month at St. Mungo's. She'd said that Lucius needed support to recover, and despite their rocky relationship in the past, she was still his son.

Narcissa, Hermione thought, rubbing her eyes wearily, does not understand how much those visits hurt Draco.

And she wouldn't, she told herself. Draco wouldn't talk about his father to his mother. As far as Hermione knew, she was the only one Draco had spoken to about his personal matters. It had pleased her once, until she realized that he trusted her as a man would trust a best friend, not as a man would trust the woman he loves. And so she had been the friend that helped him through his father's death. She couldn't offer him sympathy because he didn't want it, and she couldn't offer him herself because he didn't want that, either.

I can't give him anything that he doesn't already have, she slapped her hand against the wooden table angrily. I can't love him the way that I want to. I can't hold that man the way that I want to. I can't even help him grieve the way that I want to.

Draco was frowning when he reentered the kitchen, his face the perfect picture of seriousness and Hermione longed to jump him right there, to tear his clothes from his perfectly sculpted, perfectly sturdy body. "Are you alright?" He asked worriedly.

"Yes," she murmured back quietly, scolding herself for slamming her hand against the table. "I'm fine."

"Are you sure? Because I heard – "

"I'm fine," she snapped. "I'm just bloody dandy, Malfoy."

Draco looked stunned, and she realized that it had been months, no, it had been years since she'd called him by his surname. She had called him Draco, or maybe Drake a time or two, but not Malfoy… she hadn't been angry enough to call him that in ages.

She closed her eyes and heaved in a deep breath, refusing to apologize for being harsh with him. She was angry, and he was a convenient target. "Go back to bed. I'll be alright."

"No," he said carefully, shaking his head. "If I got back to bed you'll pretend this didn't happen, and something tells me that this is something that needs to be out of the way."

She hated that he could read the situation so well when he had no idea what she was thinking, and she hated that he wanted her to tell him the one thing that had the serious potential to wreck everything she had built with him. It might not have been the relationship she wanted, but she had worked hard to build it and was not willing to lose both her best friend and the man she secretly loved at the same time. Especially not because she loved him.

"Draco," she pleaded, to tired to keep the desperation at bay, "I am begging you to go back to sleep before I say something to you that I know I'll regret."

He narrowed his eyes at her and she struggled to swallow. Angry Draco was solid and unrelenting and firm and fierce, and he really turned her on. Hell, could she breathe? Her head felt like it couldn't possibly be receiving enough oxygen, but she was sure that she could hear the roar of her breath in her ears.

"What would you regret telling me?" He sounded calm, but Hermione knew him too well to think that his narrowed eyes were lying to her. Oh, he wasn't just angry, he was furious. And she loved it.

Well, it was now or never, all or nothing. She wasn't prepared to lose, but what else could she say? There wasn't anything else that she would regret telling him because there was nothing else that would jeopardize their friendship so hazardously.

But could she really hold it back any longer? She didn't think she could. She was beginning to resent his obliviousness. She was starting to hate that he relied on her in a way that she didn't want to be relied on. She didn't want to resent or hate him, and if she held onto any of this for any longer, their friendship would implode on itself. No, she didn't want that either.

"I just…" She began warily, and sucked in a sharp, heated breath when he rolled his shoulders back to prepare himself. The gesture itself was normal, but the muscles in his chest rippled outrageously and it was suddenly more masculine than anything she'd ever seen. "My God," she hissed breathlessly. "Do you have to do that? You don't think this is hard enough? You don't think admitting that I love you would be difficult enough without you doing… that and reminding me of everything that I can't have?"

Anger always seemed to stick her in places she never wanted to be. Awkward, uncomfortable, and entirely unwelcome places. Cursing herself for even letting him speak while she knew she was angry and vulnerable, she collected the cup he'd used for tea earlier and brought it to the sink, where she began to scrub at her dishes without mercy.

She focused on the bubbles, on the sponge, on the damn dark spot that had tainted her cup and she couldn't get out. She didn't listen for the door, she didn't listen for his movements, she absorbed herself into doing the bloody dishes.

Hermione saw his hands reach for the saucer she was scouring, and swore at him. "Damn it, Malfoy, give it back! Just get the hell out of my house. Get the hell away from me! I can't put up with this anymore and I won't – "

Her breath caught. The world shook on its axis and it was not her breath she heard in her ears, but her unapologetic heart. She had seen this look on Draco before, only once, two nights ago, and it had killed her then because it had been aimed at her closest girl friend and not her. Love. Lust. Ardor.

"Who says?" He whispered, his mouth so close that she could feel his breath brush against her nose, hot and wet, much as she was.

"Um…w-what?" The bluntness of her ungraceful comment taunted her and she cringed inside.

Patiently, tenderly, he reached his hand behind her neck and skimmed his fingers across the soft, smooth skin that was found there. His hand crept into her hair and he twirled a lock of it around his finger, while she struggled to keep a grasp on her sanity. He must have pulled away the pins, because she felt her hair collapse onto her back, wincing as she thought of what a mess it must be.

"Who says," he pressed on slowly, tortuously, "that you can't have exactly what you want?"

She released a shaky breath, convinced that she was either dreaming or he was humoring her, but neither were appreciated. If it were a dream, she would wake up disappointed and if it were his sick sense of humor, she would cry until she died of dehydration. "This isn't funny, Draco," she muttered reluctantly.

"It's not supposed to be funny," he rebutted. "It's supposed to be me telling you that I am teetering on the edge of needing you too much. It's supposed to be me telling you that I want you to the point of recklessness. It's supposed to be me telling you that I love you more than I ever thought I possibly could love anything else."

"Stop," she breathed, her knees weak, her heart beyond unsteady.

"No," Draco refused. "No, I will not stop. I've wanted, needed, and loved you for longer than I could possibly remember and if you think I'm going to back off now that I know you love me back, you're bloody insane."

"Don't break my heart," she finally croaked. "I don't think I can take it if you're joking, Draco, I really don't."

"Good," he growled lowly, the noise reverberating through Hermione's spine and bringing her to a state of lust she never knew existed. A surprised moan flew from her mouth to his as his lips pressed to hers roughly. She fought to kiss back, her mind numb, her heart ecstatic, and her body positively on fire. He pulled away from her lips and layered openmouthed kisses down her jaw and neck as he spoke. She could hardly latch onto the words. "Should – have – told – me – sooner."

She grunted as he hoisted her up against the counter, moving them both a fair bit away from the sink, not that she was aware enough to notice. His hands touched against her thighs and her mind reeled into overdrive. "Draco," she mewled into his ear, and allowed herself to bite his shoulder in pure ecstasy when she felt under his t-shirt for his frighteningly arousing abs.

He shivered, and she took a split second to be pleased with herself before the hands on her thighs pressed her nightgown upward and hands touched her stomach. She gasped when the nightgown rose higher and rough, masculine hands barely touched the sides of her breasts. She lifted her arms anxiously and he tugged the gown away from her. She was suddenly aware that she was stripped of all clothing in front of a fully dressed man.

She tore her lips away from his, encouraged by arousal and love and lust and all but ripped the shirt away from his chest. Draco's mouth latched on to her left breast and she cried out magnificently in response. His hands roamed her chest, her stomach and further until he'd reached the center of her of nerves and she shuddered against him, certain she'd never been happier.

He groaned when her hand touched the front of his plaid pajama pants, so she pressed against it rather hard until his eyes rolled back. She made quick work of the pants and the boxers beneath as she licked the shell of his ear and muttered words that she couldn't think about, let alone understand.

Her legs wrapped around his waist and Draco's hands latched onto her arse. "Christ," he swore. "God," he said as she released a particularly long moan when he bit at her nipple. "Merlin, Buddha, I don't bloody care. I need y – "

"Shut up," Hermione whimpered against his hair, head tilted back, giving Draco whatever room she could to continue those delicious things with his tongue. A cry of mixed surprise and absolute delight flooded her as she felt his fullness press against her. She pushed herself down on him, aching to feel him inside of her, and a French curse erupted from her throat.

She couldn't tell if it was her shuddered breath of pleasure or his, and she didn't care. He rocked her effortlessly against him, his hardness pressing against wonderful places inside of her. She didn't care enough to wonder how he was holding her up with no added support. A low rumble fell from her lips and she scraped her nails across his broad shoulders, his chiseled back.

He bit her lip roughly until she tasted blood and thrust himself inside of her again. Her senses rushed into an abyss of orgasmic pleasure and she gripped his shoulders to keep herself from falling as she bit the juncture between his neck and shoulders. He roared when she brought him to the ledge and staggered for the first time when her lips tenderly touched his jaw.

They were still, attempting and failing to catch their breath, clutching on to each other helplessly.

"I don't think I can walk," Hermione mumbled against his shoulder.

"You don't have to," he breathed back, unabashedly lugging them both from her kitchen to her bedroom and – with the softest movements Hermione had ever seen – placed her on the bed before climbing in to join her and pulling the duvet over them both. "Cor, Granger…"

She made a soft noise in agreement and curled into him, unable to resist the urge to touch him, despite her hesitancy to believe his sincerity with his earlier proclamations. She was too happy, too ecstatic to ask him now. She would not ruin her one moment with the man she loved to ask if he meant what he said.

"I love you," he whispered against her hair. "Merlin, I love you."

Contentment fell to self-consciousness and she sat up, tugging the sheets with her as she looked down at him. "Are you sure? I mean are you – " she gulped and attempted to reign in her fear, "are you absolutely sure? Because I can't be a casual sex friend, Draco, I can't be that. I don't want to be that. I love you too much and I need you and I just don't think I could live that way."

Draco wrapped his arms around her stomach. "I mean it, 'Mione. I've loved you for years," he said softly, removing one hand and scraping it through his platinum blonde hair. "I was too Slytherin to do anything about it but, damn it, I love you."

She launched herself at him and slammed her lips against his violently and with need. "Don't break my heart," she said to him again.

"Never," he said back, tugging her lips with his. "God, I'd never."

"But Ginny –"

Draco frowned and drew away to look at her face better. "What about her?"

Hermione flushed but looked away from him. "I thought you two dated the other night. The way you looked at her... It was –"

"No," Draco inserted firmly, and turned her chin to face him. "No. Ginny and I went out to eat the other night to talk about you."

What? Her heart fluttered wildly, hopefully.

"She asked if I had planned to make you make the first move. She asked if I wanted you the way you wanted me and I was so stunned I haven't slept the past two nights at all. That was why I came here. If I gave any sort of look to Ginny, it was because I was thinking about you. I love you, Granger."

She was so relieved that she couldn't fight the need to straddle him and press her mouth to his ear, nip it, and sigh, "I love you too, Draco."