That bastard.

It was all Hermione could think. Bastard Lucius for what he had tried to do. Bastard Draco for not telling her. And for standing by while it happened.

She knew honestly that there wasn't really a way that he could have stopped it but she wanted to be mad and it was easier to be mad than try and see his point of view. But he at least could have warned her, and she could…could have what? She wasn't sure, but she just knew that it wasn't right that he hadn't told her.

She lay awake in her own room, stuffing her head beneath her pillow to try and block out the sounds of the rest of the night. It felt like hours before silence finally settled on the property and she could at least try and get a little sleep. She kept expecting to hear footsteps coming down the hall but by the time she fell into a deep sleep she remained undisturbed.

In the morning Hermione got up, still in a grouchy mood, and skipped breakfast entirely to go down to the kitchens. The house elves were delighted to see her and thanked her profusely for what she had done for them. Hermione demanded to know on what other occasions it was considered "tradition" to beat them and was at least a little relieved to hear that Halloween was the only time.

'Master Draco used to do it regularly, but not since you came along,' a tiny female admitted a little half-heartedly, fearing her response. But having already suspected this, Hermione was not altogether surprised.

'And you don't resent serving him? You don't think he should have tried to put a stop to his father doing it since he has?' she asked them. They looked at each other in confusion.

'It is not for Master Draco to tell Sir what to do, just as it is not for us to tell him what to do,' one of them said, and Hermione gave up straight away. She spent hours watching them moodily as they went about their chores, silently in awe of the way that they lived their lives. They went on and on, never missing a beat, never complaining. They couldn't quite be called happy, but that was only because Hermione had seen happiness. If she asked one of them, she was sure that they would believe that they were happy. How did they just accept what they were faced with? In a way, Hermione yearned to be like them. She, too, was a slave with no power, no prospects and no hope. But every day a little part of her resented it, resented everyone, resented herself. What if she just let go of everything she knew and accepted her new life?

But no. It was impossible. Maybe once she could have, but since she had fallen for Draco he had slowly been feeding hope back into her, and it spread like an infection. She reeled at this analogy. Even hope wasn't a good thing to her anymore. But the truth was, hope was the most dangerous feeling. The more you have, the more you have to lose. And as Hermione's life became more human, more "normal", the harder it would be to lose it again. This pessimistic view made her even more depressed, but how could she be any other way? Where could she go from here? Hide inside Pearl forever, forget herself, become one of them? Never.

Saying goodbye to the elves and promising to see them again soon, Hermione trailed back upstairs. She paused by the grand staircase, resisting the urge to go up, and then headed back to her wing. Almost four minutes later she made it to her bedroom door and pushed her way inside, only to find that Draco was waiting for her by the window. He was staring out into the grounds but turned when she entered. Hermione was mad at herself when her heart did its usual flip at the sight of him, but she left the door open pointedly and stalked over to the desk to pour a glass of water.

Seeing what she was doing, Draco followed her to the desk and pried the water jug from her hands. Hermione resisted for a moment but his grasp was much stronger than hers, so begrudgingly she let him have his chivalrous moment and instead headed out onto her terrace to sit down by the brook. Draco appeared a moment later holding out a glass for her, and when she didn't take it immediately he placed it onto the small table beside her. He took a deep breath and Hermione readied herself for a fight.

'Look, I'm sorry that I didn't tell you what was going to happen,' Draco began, and this didn't give Hermione much to work with. She looked up into his face, which was towering above her, and raised an eyebrow. 'But you can't go around pulling stunts like you did last night. That was insane, what you did!'

'And yet everything turned out fine, didn't it?' she replied snidely. Draco shook his head and paced away from her in exasperation.

'My father isn't happy with you,' he said after a moment's pause. 'He's going to want an explanation.'

'I saved his marriage, he should be thankful!' Hermione said, raising her voice angrily. Draco stopped pacing to give her a funny look and she replayed her words quickly in her mind, realising how they must have sounded.

'I hardly think that's true,' he said at long last, more coldly than Hermione liked to hear. She bobbed her head and shrugged.

'No, that was silly what I said. Never mind,' she muttered, reaching for her glass to take a big sip of water. Draco sighed and took the seat on the other side of the table, drumming his fingers across its surface in an aggravating manner.

'I know why you did what you did. But you just…can't do things like that. Ok?'

'I just wished you'd told me,' Hermione said dully, avoiding his gaze by staring at the gently streaming water before her. She saw his head shake out of the corner of her eye.

'It wouldn't have helped you. And you would still have been mad at me, just for different reasons.'

'Hmph,' was all Hermione could think to say. Draco sighed and stood abruptly.

'I have places to be now, so you can just stew on this by yourself,' he said irritably and returned indoors. Hermione blinked for a moment, taken aback by his coldness. His head popped back around the doorframe as she was still sitting, frozen.

'And I hid it from you to protect your feelings, which have been pretty fragile lately. I won't make the same mistake.'

Then he was gone, and Hermione was left feeling sheepish and guilty. When he put it like that it made perfect sense to her…after all, wasn't she keeping a secret of her own to keep him from getting hurt?

Draco did not return that day and Hermione remained reclusive in her sitting room, reading some dull books on the Malfoy family history, which had been sitting on the shelf when she arrived. Apparently they were a standard feature to every room – how lucky for their guests. Her anger had seeped out after her talk with Draco, and now more than ever she felt the urge to confess to him her own knowledge. She wondered how he would take the news of his mother's affair and hoped only that it wouldn't end in death.

But if he had lied to her to protect her feelings, did that mean that Hermione had made the right decision in not telling him? That had been the logic she'd been following so far, but now it just felt like a betrayal. And surely the longer she took to tell him – because Hermione was always a believer in the theory that the greatest secrets always came out eventually – the angrier he would be. If he was honest with her she owed him the same.

Hermione had almost completely resolved herself to telling him the truth that night – but Draco never came home. She had expected that he would come by when he returned, but as the clock strode past midnight Hermione quietly made the journey up to his bedroom. The bed clearly hadn't been slept in and there was no sign of him, so she tried his study instead only to find the door firmly locked and no response to her timid, then demanding knocking. To distract herself from the increased level of guilt and worry that she was feeling Hermione retreated to her favourite room – the library – and stocked up on a large pile of books which would hopefully be more interesting than Malfoy family trees. She carried them back to her wing and tucked herself into bed with a biography of one of Draco's great-uncles who had apparently discovered an ancient rune that had saved an entire rainforest. It was painful to read, and soon she fell asleep.

Hermione didn't see any sign of Draco the following day, or the one after that, but when Tellty came by her room to drop off some fresh towels he insisted that he had seen Master Malfoy in his bedroom early that morning. This news was disheartening to her, as she was sure that he was staying away out of annoyance at her sulky, childlike behaviour. She decided that she wouldn't allow him to hide from her any longer and spent the rest of the day camped out in his room, waiting for his return. She wore nothing but her nightgown and a silky but magically warm dressing gown that was patterned with falling snow.

And sure enough, late that night he finally made an appearance. He came through the fireplace and did not look surprised at the sight of her rugged up in his bed but merely dusted himself off and went to sit at his desk. He didn't say a single word as he carefully wrote out a letter, which he then sealed magically and placed in his top drawer. Then at long last he came over to the bed and sat down beside her, looking at her expectantly. Hermione wasn't quite sure what to say, though, and there was an awkward pause.

'Did you want something, or just to steal my bed for the night?' Draco asked her, an amused expression playing across his face. Like a schoolgirl, Hermione felt her cheeks going red.

'I just wanted to see you. To say…to say sorry for being immature. And to make sure that you came home,' she said feebly, and without being able to help herself she reached out to stroke the back of his hand as it rested on his knee.

'Where else would I be?' was all he said in return, but Hermione took this as an acceptance of her words. He suddenly caught her fingers with his own and held them up to his mouth, running his lips back and forth over them gently.

'Everywhere,' she smiled at him and settled back into the pillows, pulling his arm along with her. Draco let himself be pulled on top of her, careful to hold himself up on one elbow, and buried his face into her neck, inhaling deeply. Hermione held him there, stroking his hair, and waited for him. They stayed like that for a long time until finally he groaned and pushed himself back up.

'I've got some stuff to do down the hall,' he said, standing up. But Hermione jumped out of bed and moved to stand in front of him, placing her hands against his sturdy chest.

'But you just got home and you must be exhausted,' she said soothingly. A tiny voice in her mind whispered to her that tonight wasn't the right time to tell him about Narcissa and Blaise and, cowardly, she agreed with it. It felt like a lifetime since she'd last seen Draco and she wanted to be near him again.

'Just stay with me for a minute,' she whispered to him and he blinked at her slowly through heavily hooded eyes. Without looking away from her he reached down and pulled at the cord that held her dressing gown snugly around her. It fell open and Hermione shivered slightly as her skin was exposed to the cool air of the room. The fireplace had gone out. Draco's eyes travelled down her body, taking in her flimsy white nightgown. Her breasts were clearly outlined against the fabric, the darkness of her nipples easily apparent to him. His eyes were like a physical force on her body and Hermione felt her breathing become laboured beneath his gaze.

Draco's hands went to her waist and held her tightly. Seizing her moment, Hermione walked him back towards the bed and as hard as she could pushed him down on top of it. He tried to pull her down after him but Hermione slapped his hand away playfully, instead taking her time to straddle his waist. His hands moved to caress her thighs, sliding up beneath her gown impatiently. Hermione ripped at his shirt, forcing it open so that she could take in every inch of hard skin beneath it. She leaned down to kiss him and he held her fiercely by the neck, deepening the kiss and increasing Hermione's excitement. His hands continued to sneak up her thighs and he groaned against her mouth when his fingers discovered her nakedness beneath her nightgown. Prying their lips apart Hermione sat up and reached for his belt, scrabbling to touch his thickness as quickly as possible. She was practically panting as she could feel his hardness rubbing against her wrist and she worked furiously to unzip his trousers. Draco aided her just as impatiently, inching himself up slightly to free himself from his confinements, and then cupping her thighs in his itching hands, placing her so that she was perfectly positioned to impale herself on him.

Hermione bit her lip and slowly, ever so slowly, lowered herself onto his waiting staff. He exhaled, not taking his eyes from her face, as she filled herself completely with him. And with his hands still tightly holding onto her thighs she began to rock back and forth on top of him, her hands steadying her against his clenched stomach. It did not take long with her fast, desperate pace and the help of his forceful hands for Hermione to begin a low whining as her g spot was awoken. She moved against him even harder, wanting to reach her peak and bring him to his, and all at once she was bucking on top of him and he was pulling her down so that he could reach her lips, kissing her deeply as he released inside of her. They continued to rock together gently as their shallow breathing slowly became normal and Hermione rested her head against his chest, tracing a pattern over his skin. Draco closed his eyes and a small smile crept over his face as he enjoyed the softness of her touch. Eventually he sighed and gingerly rolled Hermione over, reluctantly prying their bodies loose. He righted her nightgown and tucked her beneath the sheets.

'I'll be back soon,' he promised, doing up his shirt and fixing his fly. Hermione nodded and let her eyes drift shut as she heard him stroll from the room. She had barely drifted off when she heard the door open again and she rolled over to greet him.

'That was quick, I thought…' she trailed off when she saw that it wasn't Draco but Lucius, who was taking in the effect of her curled up half naked in his son's sheets. Hermione sat bolt upright and pulled them right up to her chin, making sure that she was covered.

'Good evening,' Lucius sneered, sauntering closer.

'Dr-Draco's in his study,' she managed to splutter. She didn't like the wolfish grin that had spread across his face. He stopped a metre from the bed and just looked at her for a moment, his eyes trailing over her messy hair and still flushed face.

'And you're just waiting for him to return, are you?' he smirked. Hermione didn't like his tone, but at least he wasn't shouting at her for ruining his party…yet. As though he could hear her thoughts he suddenly stopped smiling and strolled away from her.

'Lucius, I apologise for my actions the other night,' Hermione said, not liking him anymore in his silence. 'It was entirely out of character and not at all my place to interrupt.'

Lucius did not speak, and as his back was to her Hermione wasn't sure of his reception to her words. She gulped and hoped that he hadn't heard it.

'I merely…I mean…well, Narcissa had spoken of your anniversary that morning and it had occurred to me to make a toast to the two of you. But then I forgot and then…and then I remembered and I didn't mean to interrupt you but –'

'That's quite enough,' Lucius said coolly, and she stopped quickly. She waited for him to hand down some punishment to her or for the yelling to begin, but when he turned his head back in her direction she was shocked to see that he was smiling again.

'I like a woman with some nerve,' he said, and Hermione's jaw dropped open.

'What?' she said stupidly. Lucius chuckled as he continued his stroll about the room.

'I accept your apology, Pearl. It was not your place to do what you did but I couldn't help but admire you for it. It's been a long time since a woman – or anyone, actually – dared do such a thing to me.'

Hermione couldn't believe what she was hearing. Lucius…admired her?

'And besides, I had forgotten our wedding anniversary. So you actually helped me out. Narcissa was…very pleased with me,' he smirked at her and Hermione tried not to let her mind imagine his meaning.

'So you're not mad at me?' she asked in disbelief. His face darkened slightly but he held his smile.

'I must command that you don't ever do something of the sort again. You have to remember your position in this family, Pearl, and what your actions reflect upon Draco. But it is his place, not mine, to punish you for your behaviour,' his eyes again took in her scantily clad figure hiding beneath the sheets. 'And by the looks of it I'd say he already has.'

Hermione blushed crimson and Lucius laughed softly before making his exit. Hermione couldn't believe that she had escaped so easily. She could not shake the memory of his face at the party, his eyes boring into hers over his cocktail glass. It didn't feel right…

Hermione flopped back against the pillows and let out a loud shudder. Lucius always did that to her. Draco returned twenty minutes later and didn't seem surprised to see that she was still awake.

'Your father found you, did he?' Hermione said in a falsely cheery voice. He moved around to the other side of the bed and began to undress.

'He did, yes,' Draco frowned at her over his shoulder. 'He seemed in an unusually good mood. What did he say to you?'

'Oh, not a lot. Just something about being impressed by me and the usual crap about me being yours to punish, etcetera…' she said casually. He raised an eyebrow at her.

'What did he really say?' he asked her sternly, now down to his underwear. He pulled back the covers and lay back, pulling her into the gap beneath his arm.

'That's what he said and I'm not joking,' Hermione swore, holding her arm up to gesture her honesty.

'That's…' Draco searched for the word, 'not right.'

'Which part?'

'He didn't yell or anything?'

'No. His most severe moment was to tell me not to do it again. Then he had a laugh over my nighty and sex hair.'

Draco snorted. 'What. Is a nighty?'

'This!' Hermione gestured to her nightgown incredulously. 'You never heard that word before?'

'I don't think anyone's heard that word before,' he sniggered at her. She frowned slightly.

'I guess it's just what my mother used to say…' she trailed off and Draco stiffened slightly, feeling her discomfort. Then he reached up to ruffle her hair.

'Well, I like the sex hair. And don't worry about my father. He's just distracted.'

Hermione snuggled down against him and closed her eyes. 'Time for us to sleep. You especially.'

Draco yawned and nodded simultaneously. 'For a little while. Then I have to leave.' Hermione's eyes snapped open and she craned her head up to look at him.

'Leave? You mean…on your "mission"?'

'Yes. I'll be gone for a few weeks. That's all I know.'

Hermione felt like clutching to him like a child. Don't leave me, she wanted to beg.

'I suppose I have your mother for company.'

'And books.' Draco yawned again. Hermione wanted to keep talking to him but he was clearly exhausted so she bit her tongue and let him sleep.

When she awoke a few hours later the bed was still warm but he was gone.

So this was a bit of a slow chapter but it felt like a good place to end it considering that there's a lot of drama coming up. Thank you for all of your reviews on the last chapter! To address a few questions/comments...

How many chapters are left? Can't really say, but looking at my time line and how much more is still to come I could see it getting up to 50 I've said before, I reallllly want to finish writing this story, so even though I take a long time to update I will not give up on it. The ending is really special (in my biased opinion) and I can't wait to get there.

The 'mudblood camps' is just the nickname that caught on for the camps, but yes there are half-blood witches there as well.

If you have other questions feel free to ask in your reviews, I do read them all and I'll answer the ones that I can. I feel so tempted sometimes to go back to the very start of the story and just re-write large chunks of it, when I look at the start compared to where it is now I can't help but cringe at some parts! My biggest regret is chapter 8, The Degrader - when I wrote that the story was leading in a completely different and much more twisted direction than it is now. So I'm very thankful to everyone who is still reading!

What's coming next? Perhaps some revelations...but first, It's Just Me coming soon...