This little ficlet is in response to a Valentine's Day prompt at 'Luvlikerocketz' over on LJ. It was fun to do and my first Dramione attempt. Hopefully it's not too bad. Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. I wish I made the kind of money she did, I'd be writing full-time! WARNING: This is rated M for a reason - naughty words, naughty thoughts, and naughty actions - please read responsibly! If your eyes begin to bleed while reading this, you have no one to blame but yourself. ;)____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

He knew she watched and listened to him from the shadows, had been for quite a few weeks now, and he wondered not for the first time, why she remained silent all the time. Looking down, he watched his fingers glide over the black and ivory keys on the baby grand piano in the Room of Requirements as he played Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, his solace in the brewing storm.

Stepping on the sustain pedal, Draco drew out the notes in a mournful melody that called to those lost in despair, pleading and promising sweet oblivion if they agreed to lose themselves in the music. He needed no sheet music, having the uncanny ability to reproduce anything he'd heard without reading a single note, a talent that infuriated his piano instructor to no end. The poor man had finally given up after several months of trying to bend him to read the bars and scales, all to no avail, telling Narcissa, 'The boy has an aptitude so profound the angels must've wept to lose him when he was born'.

More like demonic imps, he mused with a snort; never breaking the spell he was weaving.

No one ever knew he came here, at least not until he was followed one night several weeks ago by the annoyingly curious Hermione Granger. How she was able to gain entrance into Ihis/I room was beyond him, and he covertly questioned other students and even professor Snape about this, trying to find the 'glitch' that would allow her to spy on him when he most needed peace from his troubled thoughts. As usual, Snape provided the most probable answer.

"It's obvious Granger is bespelled by whatever you do in there. As long as there's no bloodshed, the room grants access to more than one student at a time." The tall gloomy professor arched a brow and narrowed his eyes. "You're not engaging in deviant sexual behavior with the Gryffindor ninny, are you?"

"Be serious, as if my father would approve of the Mudblood," Draco sneered.

Snape crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair, studying the younger Malfoy. "That's not what I asked you and I'm fairly certain you have the ability to keep your liaisons secret from your father."

Draco turned away from his hard gaze and neither confirmed nor denied his words. Instead, he sidestepped the whole issue and brought forth another topic, just as disturbing as the first. "I'm expected to take the Dark Mark on my seventeenth birthday," he said quietly, tracing a pattern on the floor with his pale gray eyes.

"And if you don't?"

The young man gave his professor a look that said it all: you should know.

"Well. Am I to presume you'll do as your father demands?"

"Do I have another choice? If there is, tell me, because I don't fancy a brand that means I'm at some lunatic's beck and call because my father failed."

Snape's eyebrows rose. "I take it you and your father don't see eye to eye with regards to Voldemort?"

Staring at his folded hands, Draco blew out a heavy sigh. "I don't believe we've ever seen eye to eye with regards to anything."

Rubbing his chin in thought, Severus pondered something aloud. "Maybe there's a deeper reason for Granger's presence during your 'sessions' in the room. Tell me, how long has she been observing you?"

"About two weeks. She sits off in the shadows, just listening. I didn't notice her until I thought I heard a sob one night, I suppose she must have used a concealment charm. When I turned around, she was gone, but you could tell it was Granger. Her scent lingered."

Steepling his fingers, the professor hid a smile. "Let her continue as she wishes, barring any interruptions, of course."

"But I-"

"You came to me with questions!" Snape growled, slamming his hand on the desk. "I presumed you wanted my answers, or have you been wasting my time, Malfoy?"

A cold and distant look overcame Draco's eyes, much like when his father yelled at him. "No, sir."

"Good. You're dismissed."

Rising from his chair, the young man headed for the door only pausing when his professor called to him.

"Malfoy?"

He didn't turn to face him, hand on the doorknob. "Yes, sir?"

"As a reminder, the Room of Requirements presents itself when one is in need of something specific. If Granger is able to gain access while you're using it, perhaps she is present because you need her there, to serve a purpose. Keep that in mind, will you?"

Draco looked sharply over his shoulder at his godfather. "I understand."

Striking the keys a little more forcefully in the lower range, the blond recalled how many scenarios sped through his mind as to why Granger would serve any sort of purpose in his tangled life, discarding any possible ideas as ludicrous and improbable.

After all, what role, futile or otherwise, could a Mudblood play in the life of the Prince of Slytherin?

~*~

"`Mione, we know he's up to something," Harry argued, sipping his pumpkin juice during dinner. "I mean, he hasn't said a bloody thing to any of us this term!"

Tearing off a piece of chicken and stuffing it in his mouth, Ron agreed. "Yeah, since when does ferret-boy pass up the chance to issue insults like they were Rocket-pops?"

Heaving a long-suffering sigh, Hermione pushed her mashed potatoes around on her plate with her fork, listening to her friends complain about not getting bullied. "I, for one, am grateful he's let up this year." She glanced across the Great Hall to study Draco Malfoy's face, frowning in contemplation when she noticed him staring blankly at his empty dish. "Maybe Lucius told him to lay low this year since the Ministry finally acknowledged Voldemort's return."

Ron snorted in disbelief. "Hardly. Probably told him that he's so pureblood he doesn't need to talk to any low-life wizards or muggle-borns."

"That doesn't explain why he's not eaten in three days," she pointed out in a hushed whisper. "Surely Lucius doesn't want his son to starve."

Harry's eyes narrowed at her in suspicion. "How do you know he hasn't eaten in three days?"

Blushing profusely, she stammered, "I-I'm simply more observant that you two." Seeing that he was waiting for her to continue, she sighed again. "I've just noticed the last few days that he sits apart from the usual group, never filling his plate, staring into nothingness. I think something is happening to him and intimidating us is the last thing on his mind." Shoving her own dish away, she looked into Harry's eyes. "He's never this quiet – I don't think he's said two words to any of us since the term started."

"That's what I'm getting at, `Mione. The cobra that's silent is the most deadly," he warned.

"You're preaching to the choir, Harry," she muttered.

"Huh?" Ron said, puzzled, not following her. "Malfoy's in a choir?"

"Muggle saying," the two brunettes said in unison. She explained further when Ron's ginger brows refused to ease in their confusion. "It means he's telling me something I already know."

His eyes widened in shock. "Malfoy's preaching in a choir? How'd that git-"

"Never mind!" she groused, tired of Ron's lack-brained mindset. "Look, why don't I just follow him for a couple days, find out what might be affecting him. Would that set your mind at ease?"

Shaking his head, Harry's lips thinned. "You shouldn't be the one sneaking-"

"Why not?" she huffed in righteous indignation. "I swear, Harry, friend or not, if you say it's because I'm a girl, I'll hex your toenails!"

He grimaced at the thought. "Actually, I was going to say because of his attitude towards you. He seems to have it out more for you than either me or Ron."

Glancing away, she tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. "Because I'm a Mudblood, right?"

"We've never thought of you that way," Harry reassured her, laying his hand on her clenched fist. "I think he sees you as more of a threat than we are."

"With the way you two cast spells, I am more of a threat," she sniffed.

Popping a grape in his mouth, Ron nodded. "She's got you there, mate. Have you seen her Ostendo charm? Tried it myself, but the only thing that kept happening was Lavender Brown showing up in my lap."

She snickered and rolled her eyes, wondering if Ron had any idea what the spell was intended to do – reveal the heart's desire. Apparently, Lavender Brown was her best friend's heart's desire and every time he muttered the words, Lavender invariably ended up sitting on his lap… ready to snog. She smiled sadly to herself; it was a bittersweet day when that occurred as she quietly buried any hopes of Ron getting a clue about how she felt.

Tired of feeling sorry for herself, she reiterated her previous plan. "I'll follow him," she posed, stalling Harry's concern with a hand. "But at a discrete distance and I'll be using your Invisibility Cloak."

"How will you find him?" Ron asked, not really liking the idea either.

She arched her eyebrow and glanced at Harry. "With the Marauder's Map."

~*~

That had been two and a half weeks ago.

The first night, she completely passed the area where the map stated Draco was located, backtracking to stand in front of an empty wall, his foot-prints clearly indicated on the other side. She was about to tap on the bricks with her wand when she heard Mrs. Norris, Filch's cat, meowing incessantly when she picked up her scent, managing to scramble away before she was caught.

The next night, however, she followed his lanky frame and watched from the shadows as he gained entrance to the Room of Requirements, staying within for the duration of the evening. What was he doing in there that required him to remain inside almost all night? Never realizing she'd dozed off while sitting in an uncomfortable crouched position, she awoke with a start when she heard a door creak open at around five-thirty in the morning.

As Draco emerged from the room, his face looked gaunt and haunted, his body thinner than it was at the beginning of the school year, which was a mere two months ago. He was impossibly lean to begin with, but he was starting to look emaciated, worry and stress carving deep groves at the corner of his eyes. Wrapping the cloak around her tighter, she watched as he threaded his fingers through his soft hair, swiping a hand over his features.

Here was an enigma, a man trapped – at least she'd like to think he was – in a world that dictated everything he was supposed to be, one that brooked no argument if he thought to choose otherwise. A world of pureblood connections, dark magic, greed, and… She let the thoughts dwindle as she cocked her head to the side, studying his expression, likening it to that of a caged animal.

She couldn't be the only person in the school who'd noticed his social decline… could she? He was barely in class, and if he did show up, he was too distracted to pay attention to the lesson. Surely his professors noted this… right? Watching him slink away to the Slytherin house, she slowly stood up and cracked her back, sore from sitting too long in one spot and headed off to her own house, desperate for sleep.

Three nights later, she was able to gain entrance to the room.

It was a fluke, really. She'd long ago disposed of the Marauder's Map, since she knew where the room was, following him diligently every night until he was safely ensconced in the chamber. The night she found a way in, she'd used a simple Abscondo charm to conceal her presence, forgoing the Invisibility Cloak as well so she could move about more freely. Instead of using her wand to disarm any spells, she laid her palm against the stone, feeling vibrations from the other side, the wall warming around her hand.

The next thing she knew, she was standing in a darkened hall, the only light coming from the moon as it shone in through the diamond-pane windows that ran from ceiling to floor on the right side. Looking down to make sure the concealment charm was still in place, she startled upon hearing a thunderous cord of music from an instrument near the fragile glass, peering hesitantly around one of the stone pillars scattered about the room.

There, Draco Malfoy played like a mad genius on a massive, four-manual theatre pipe organ, the resonance echoing into the rafters above and sounding vibrations powerful enough to make everything tremble.

Her jaw couldn't drop further than it already was. This is what he did every night?

Inching closer slowly, so she wouldn't give away her presence, she glanced over his shoulder to see what he was playing… only to find no sheet music of any sort. Curious, she moved to the side, mesmerized by the fluidity of his hand movements, his fingers quickly touching any of the four console of keys, each one above the other. His feet moved just as fast, depressing the expression pedal boards to enhance the sound of the piece he was furiously playing. Occasionally, he'd reach to the left or right and pull or push one of the stop knobs, the tone in the pipes changing.

She stared in amazement at his ability, the dexterity in his long fingers needed to perform such a complicated composition. It was familiar to her, but she couldn't place the work until a certain stanza, recognizing it as Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Closing her eyes, the notes conveyed what she suspected all along: that he was, indeed, a tortured man within himself. A particular wistful part called for a lighter hand, climbing higher in pitch and she had the sense, if she were not earth-bound, of flying. Unconsciously, she began swaying in time, her hand weaving to and fro, following the music.

Abruptly, the music came to a harsh end and Hermione stood still as one of the pillars in the room, deathly afraid her charm had dissipated. Daring a glance, she watched his brows draw together in confusion as he whipped his head around to scan the room for something. That's when she noticed the sweat beaded on his forehead… and her own tears sliding down her cheek.

Without thinking, she bolted for the wall she'd come through, closing her eyes just before she hit the stone, hoping she'd pass right through. When she opened her eyes, she was in the dimly light corridor, no sign of life at the late hour. Drawing in a shuddering breath, she walked quickly to her tower, swearing she'd never follow Malfoy again.

It was an empty promise.

The next night, she felt compelled to trail after him once more; casting her charm about her to enter unnoticed… or so she hoped. Testing a theory, she tried her wand against the stones, but nothing happened. Once she laid her palm on the wall though, she found herself in the chamber, hidden in the deepest shadows. She never approached as close as she did the first night, content to stay just far enough away in order to watch his hand as they moved… and listen.

That night, he played the piano, the unearthly music a magical spell of its own. Feeling a column behind her, she edged down until she was propped in a comfortable arrangement, laying her head against the cool stone. He wasn't as aggressive in his tastes this evening, the ethereal pieces just as somber and melancholy as the more thunderous ones from the previous night, which suited her fine because to tell the truth, she was exhausted.

Her eyes drifted shut and she dreamed of a world where they were both free.

~*~

Several weeks later, Draco decided to confront her, especially after his conversation with Snape. He could feel her close by, her scent lingering in the air, one of lavender and something that must intrinsically be her, though he'd have never guessed a Mudblood could smell so… enticing.

Having finished the Moonlight Sonata, he switched to Handel's Sarabande in D Minor, keeping the sound leggiero so that she wouldn't stir. As the piece progressed, he glanced around the chamber, scanning for her presence. Sensing she was still there, he withdrew his wand and cast a spell to reveal where Granger was hiding, never breaking his tempo.

"Aperio," he whispered, waving his hand to encompass the entire chamber.

A fairy-like light flitted into the deepest recesses, stopping next to the column that stood between the entrance and furthest window. There she slumbered, so peaceful and trusting, her legs curled under her chin, shivering somewhat. The glow from the spell illuminated the dark circles under her eyes, just like the smudges underneath his. Just how long had she been following him before he caught on? At least a month, from the looks of her haggard appearance, as an unfamiliar compassion edged its way into his chest.

Scowling at his weakness, he continued playing. "Accio Granger," he muttered.

The next moment, she was sitting beside him on the oversized wooden bench, still asleep, facing the opposite direction, her cheek lying against his right shoulder. She was also completely visible.

He then began Chopin's Nocturne in F, turning his head to bury his nose in the mass of curls atop her crown, her body's natural perfume overwhelming his senses. Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply and thought he'd reached paradise, his fingers itching to weave their way through her tangled locks.

What the hell! He wasn't supposed to feel this for a Mudblood!

Feel what? Lust?

Shut. Up.

You could present her as a gift to the Dark Lord. Steal her away now, no one would know.

I would know.

You're going soft for a worthless, dirty, mediocre witch!

She's not mediocre; she and I practically get the same marks… and I'm not going soft on anything.

Prove it. Taste her luscious fruit, take her and spill her filthy blood!

"NO!" he roared, waking Hermione.

Realizing her predicament, she tried to scramble off the seat, but was held fast by Draco's voice.

"Stay."

Gripping the edge of the bench, she slowly turned to see his gaze boring into hers. "Why?" she whispered.

He smirked, arching an eyebrow. "Well, you've been here every night for the past month, I'm guessing. Why stop now?"

A mortified blush bloomed across her face. "How did you figure it out?"

"Oh, I knew the first night you broke in," he said with a grimace. "But afterwards, not even a Sensor snake could've detected your movements."

"Then how did-"

"Lavender."

"Lavender? Brown? She didn't know I was-"

"That's what you smell like, Granger… lavender," he admitted reluctantly. He stopped playing, turning to peer into her startled countenance. "You smell like a field full of lavender."

Her brows drew together in a heavy frown, disconcerted by this bout of decency from Malfoy. "Why do you come here?"

"Why did you follow me?"

Crossing her arms, she huffed. "I'll answer if you do."

He smirked; he knew how to play this game. "Alright. You first."

"That's cheating."

"Slytherin," he replied simply.

She rolled her eyes. "Like that explains everything."

"It should."

Tilting her head, she studied him intently. "No, it doesn't. You're more than what you seem."

"Careful, Granger. I'm not some Potter, standing on a pedestal," he warned, returning to idly stroke the ivory keys.

A long silence ensued, punctuated only by random notes until he heard her sigh heavily. "I followed you because I was…"

"Curious?" he filled in for her.

She murmured something so low he had to ask her to repeat it.

"Worried, okay? I was worried," she confessed into the hands covering her flaming face.

He hadn't expected that. "About what? That I was convening with Voldemort, formulating some dastardly plan to off your precious Potter?"

Shaking her head, she forged ahead with her true intent. "You weren't eating, and you've been growing thinner by the day. I-I was afraid that no one else noticed you becoming distracted and… haunted."

His eyes couldn't open wide enough. Opening and shutting his mouth several times, he finally gained his wits. "I'm not your charity case, Granger."

She snorted. "Charity is for those who can't help themselves. You can."

"No, I really can't," he growled.

Braving the fire of his wrath, she gently laid her hand on his shoulder. "Why not?"

His head turned sharply at the contact, but he didn't shrug her off. "It's complicated."

"Complicated enough for you to spend almost every waking moment in here to keep the expectations at bay, right?"

"You know nothing of my life, Mudblood!" he spat, scooting away from her.

Biting her lip to keep the hurt inside, she resumed her position next to him as if nothing happened. "That's why you come here, isn't it? To escape your fate, even if it's just for a little while."

Hearing nothing to refute her theory, she continued. "I've come to realize something, Malfoy."

"Do enlighten us, oh muddy one," he sneered.

Ignoring his jibe, she nudged his side in a friendly manner. "You're completely human."

"What?" he whispered harshly.

"You heard what I said, I know you're not deaf."

Grasping her shoulders, he gave her a shake. "Take it back!"

Oh, this was good! She'd disarmed him not with the use of magic, but by the powers of observation. "No."

Retrieving his wand, he laid the tip against her forehead. "Take. It. Back."

Relying on gut instinct, she softened her gaze. "Only someone that's human could produce such beauty," she murmured, trusting him not to harm her.

"Beauty?" he ground out between clenched teeth. "You think all that music was beautiful? That was my fucking soul, Granger! Twisted and dark, confused and angry! Don't bloody tell me you see any sort of beauty in that second-rate playing."

Tentatively, she reached up to caress his cheek, smoothing away the tears that had started to fall without his notice. "If you weren't human, you'd feel nothing."

Pushing her away, he clutched his head in agony. "I can't afford to feel anything," he moaned.

Shuffling closer, she laid her hand on top of his head, threading her fingers through the pale strands, reveling in their softness. "Please… tell me."

"Why? So you can tell Potter or Weasel?" he snarled.

"No," she said quietly. "So I can help you stay safe."

His blotchy face quickly turned to hers. "Safe?" he scoffed. "Being in the Dark Lord's service is anything but safe."

Her worst suspicions were confirmed with his words. "They want you to become a Death Eater."

"Hermione, the minute I turn seventeen I'm as good as gone, there's no 'want me to' about it. I have to fucking kill someone to prove myself to Voldemort. They might as well give me the Mark right now!"

She never knew what made her shudder; the fact that in a few months his life would never be the same or that he'd used her given name. "We'll think of something."

"I don't need your help," he barked, shutting the lid of the piano so hard it made the instrument reverberate.

"Too bad."

"Excuse me? Since when do I need a Mudblood running interference for me?"

Shooting him an angry glare, she poked him in the arm. "Since you started showing less-than-Slytherin traits… like growing a conscience."

He stared at her, aghast.

"Okay, well, I use the term 'conscience' loosely… more like an upgrade in scruples?" she proposed with a smirk.

"When have I Iever/I shown anything remotely resembling scruples or a conscience?" he asked incredulously.

Pursing her lips to keep from grinning, she returned to her original question. "So… why do you come here then?"

"None of your damn business!"

Slowly, as if approaching a feral thing, she reached out to stroke the underside of his jaw, catching him completely off guard. "Then why am I here?"

Wrapping his cold fingers around her wrist, he flung her hand back at her. "You don't get to touch me… Mudblood."

"It's not working anymore, you know," she sighed, shaking her head in pity. "Every time you throw insults at me, I recognize them for what they are."

His eyes narrowed as he instinctively withdrew into a crouched position, practically hissing at her. "And what are they?"

Not daring to move closer to him, she laid her hands on her skirt, palms up in supplication. "Shields against your vulnerability."

Before she registered his movement, his hands were clasped behind her head, his long thumbs pressed to her temples as his piercing gray eyes searched deep within her. "You think you know my weaknesses, Granger?" he whispered cruelly against her cheek. "You, who gets to know your heart's desire simply because you wish it, have no earthly clue what it's like to live up to what others expect of you. To be whatever I want, to speak to whomever I please," he murmured, focusing on her mouth. "To kiss another's lips because I crave it."

She must have whimpered for he backed away and left her feeling bereft of his touch. "Don't join them," she pleaded, trying to hold back the tears. "I'll find a way to… I'll do anything to keep you safe."

"Would you now?" he mused bitterly. "And just what is the going price for a Malfoy's security these days, hmm? Must I break my wand to prove I'm not a threat? Must I lick the boot-heels of Weasley's shoes or kiss Potter's arse?" He became more agitated the longer she remained silent. "Tell me!" he roared, making her shrink into herself. "Tell me what I'm worth!"

"Everything," she sobbed quietly, the curtain of her hair hiding her face.

He stared at her bowed head in confusion. "You can't possibly fathom what you're saying," he said with scorn.

That irritated her beyond belief. Raising her head, she glared at him, silent tears making their way down to pool on the edge of her chin. "I receive better marks than you do, so I know what I'm saying," she ground out.

"I know what it's like to not get what you want," she continued, not letting him get the upper hand again, thinking back to the Ostendo charm she cast, waiting for Ron to come to her. Instead, she'd been drawn to…

"Oh, Merlin," she breathed in panic.

"What?"

"I-I didn't mean… that is to say, I didn't know…"

He cut her off by grabbing her upper arms and giving her a slight shake, hoping to bring her to her rapidly deteriorating senses. "Quit blathering and tell me what you did, witch!"

Nearly hiccupping in fear, she cringed. "I cast an Ostendo spell," she answered meekly.

Your heart's desire will be revealed. Draco eyed her speculatively as he recalled the specifics of the charm. "What does your heart's desire have to do with me, Granger?"

She held his gaze earnestly. "Like I said… everything."

Shaking his head in denial, he snorted mirthlessly. "I'm no one's desire, Mudblood… least of all yours."

Wanting to slap him across his arrogant face, she clenched her teeth in thinly veiled rage. "Don't presume to know anything of what I want, or desire."

Gripping her arms tighter, he pulled her close, until the tips of their noses touched. "And what would you do to achieve your heart's desire, then?"

Unable to help herself, she leaned closer, their foreheads touching in tender acknowledgement. "Anything it takes."

Steel met amber in shocked silence. "Anything?" he asked, quirking an eyebrow.

"Everything," she said softly.

A smirk broke out across his face. Now he had her where he wanted her. "Give yourself to me."

She pulled back a little to stare at him. "Forego the Dark Mark and Voldemort," she challenged.

"Conniving, dirty witch," he muttered.

"You have no idea," she said, nuzzling his face.

Languid sensations began filling Draco the more she rubbed, calming him enough to relax his grip, his hands making their way to cup her cheeks. "Is that so?" he sighed against her skin, desperate to taste her.

Linking her fingers behind his neck, she closed the distance until their lips lay a hairsbreadth from each other. "Give me my heart's desire," she whimpered.

Threading his fingers in her hair, he curled the strands tightly around his hands and kept her immobile. "Give me mine," he grated harshly.

Neither could imagine the fire that roared to life as their lips touched, the kiss all-consuming as he devoured everything she had to give, only to want more. He nipped at her chin, tasting the salt of the tears she'd cried for him, his heart shattering as he clutched her body closer.

They only parted to gasp for air, both drinking from each other as if they'd been thirsty all their lives, never missing an opportunity to savor the sweet flavor waiting on their willing tongues. Needing her closer, he shifted to the middle of the piano bench and made her straddle his lap, her hot core aligned with his throbbing member.

"Are you wet for me, kitten?" he purred against her chest, nuzzling the white material of her blouse aside.

"Gods, yes, Draco," she panted, her head thrown back as he shoved aside her offending standard school shirt, the buttons scattering across the stone floor.

He stopped suddenly when he came to her bra, an evil smirk settling on his mouth. "Well, well… who would've thought little Miss Priss was a Slytherin at heart?" He eyed her hunter-green bra with silver trim and he sobered somewhat. "Did you know what your heart's desire was before you cast the spell?"

Skirt bunched up around her waist, hands buried in the hair at his nape, she smiled lopsidedly. "Actually, I thought it was Ron."

A storm brewed in his icy-gray eyes as he pulled her upwards, dipping his tongue in her navel. "That ginger git better stay the hell away from you," he growled low, tickling her stomach with the vibration.

Her sharp intake of breath made his heart lurch with longing. Closing his eyes, he breathed deeply of her scent, the one he'd come to love so much, licking a path from her belly to her lace-covered breast. Moving the cup aside to reveal her nipple, he glanced up to see her watching him, her eyes dilated beyond their normal realm, as he flicked his tongue against the rosy bud.

Barely registering her gasp of delight, he traced the areola with the tip, finally pulling her nipple between his teeth, biting it lightly. She tensed in his arms momentarily, but began rocking back and forth on his erection the harder he suckled.

"Draco," she whimpered. "I feel… I've never…"

Releasing her nipple with a wet 'plop', he cursed, "Bloody hell, Hermione!" Drawing in a deep breath to calm himself, he raised his head to look into her slightly dazed amber eyes. "You've never had…" He coughed, embarrassed. "You're a virgin," he stated as he stilled her undulating hips.

"Could you sound a little more displeased with that fact? I don't think the glower you have etched on your face works without the snarling," she huffed, trying to cover herself up.

He batted away her hands. "Stop your-" he groaned as she shifted on his lap, pressing closer to his length. "-thrashing," he said through gritted teeth. Opening one eye when she remained motionless, he sighed heavily. "I only asked because I thought you might want to do this with someone you lo-" He let the last word drop.

But she didn't. "Love? And here I sometimes wonder how you're second only to me in marks when you have no idea about the composition of spells."

"I'm not following you."

"The Ostendo spell?" She rolled her eyes at his blank expression. "In all the texts I've read on the charm, nowhere does it say anything about remotely liking a person or thing. Every reference has one thing in common. Love."

His eyebrows rose into his hairline. "Y-you… love me?" he asked, dumbfounded.

Ducking her head shyly, she picked at a stray thread on his robe. "I wasn't lying when I said 'everything'. If giving myself to you prevents you from becoming one of Voldemort's mindless minions then I gladly sacrifice my vir-"

He clapped a hand over her mouth to keep her from saying anything further. Frowning heavily, he pushed for clarification. "You love me?"

Tears misted over her lashes as her fingers traced his dark brow. "I love you," she whispered against his palm.

Dropping his hand to rest on her hip, he glared hard at her. "I'll be poor… a cast out, on the run if I do this, Granger."

Hope lit her eyes, and he'd be damned if it wasn't contagious. "Would you mind so much… being tied to a Mudblood?"

One dark brow rose. "Yes, I think I'd mind very much if I were tied to a Mudblood," he snarked, watching her smile fade. Lifting her chin, he caressed her lips with his thumb, loving the feel of her skin beneath his fingertips. "I'd mind a great deal if it were any other Mudblood but you."

She blinked, stunned.

"Speechless, Granger?" He licked the tip of his index finger and marked an invisible hash in midair. "Point one for Slytherin," he said with a wink.

Gasping in outrage, she spluttered, "Why you… you arrogant, spoiled-"

"Point two for Slytherin – making the victim blabber in a most unbecoming way," he stated unrepentantly.

Fisting his hair in her hand, she leaned in and began moving her hips against his, smiling when she heard his groan. "Point for Gryffindor, making the 'winner' cross-eyed with desire."

Thrusting upwards, he bit the side of her breast, panting. "Okay, you win, give me my prize."

Laying her cheek on top of his head, her pants ruffling the light strands, she ground her hips to meet his. "What do you want?"

He grabbed the back of her neck, forcing her to look at him. "You… but there's no going back, Hermione," he rasped.

"Never," she promised before sealing their fate with a kiss.

~*~

Severus Snape sat in his leather chair next to the fire, studying the chessboard, contemplating his next move in the ongoing game he had with Dumbledore. They'd play up to ten games in a school term, no student – or professor for that matter – ever the wiser about their yearly matches. Occasionally, the two would actually sit down and enjoy a quiet game, but more often than not, one would apparate for a few moments, gauge their move and apparate away just as quickly.

This evening, it was his move against a rather formidable attack initiated by the headmaster earlier in the day, his nimble fingers stroking his pointy chin as he moved his dark bishop several squares left to potentially block his opponent. Rubbing the back of his neck to rid himself of the knots that seem to be growing in intensity, he glanced at the small pendant suspended under a glass jar on the mantle; the one Narcissa Black Malfoy had given him six years ago, when Draco first arrived.

At the moment, it was slowly turning, held aloft by a mother's love. The locket was infused with a Misfacio spell, one that indicated if harm or happiness was affecting the chosen person within the tiny photo frame. Narcissa had given it to Severus so that he could keep Malfoy safe from harm… any and all malicious intent, regardless of its origins. He accepted the piece, promising to return it once the blond Slytherin graduated from Hogwarts, a constant reminder of his Unbreakable Vow.

It would flare with a soft green glow when Draco was troubled, but nothing ever really threatened him… until recently. Before term started, the silver locket began to glow a disturbing shade of crimson; growing in intensity the further the year progressed. Snape began keeping a closer eye on the boy, but he could see no outside threat to his wellbeing, though it was before the conversation concerning Voldemort. Glancing at the pendant, the dark professor no longer questioned why the crimson hue continued to deepen the closer Draco came to his birthday.

Banking the fire as he prepared to retire for the evening, a bright flash suddenly issued from the glass container and a wondrous, soft blue light filled the atmosphere, washing the room in peace and security. Carefully, Snape lifted the dome off the now motionless locket, staring as the face opened to reveal a handsome picture of Draco on one side and on the other… no, that couldn't be. He rubbed his eyes and peered deeply at the other image gracing the right side.

Miss Know-It-All herself… Hermione Granger.

The blue shifted in radiance, flaring once more then dying down to become a dull and muted silver, the pendant falling to the wooden shelf of the mantle. Cautiously picking it up by the chain, Severus examined the piece thoroughly, scanning for any dark magics that might have been at work. Finding none, he pried the heart-shaped ornament open again and gazed at the students within.

Draco smiled and sneered, reaching over occasionally to tug on a lock of Granger's hair, after which she would in turn gasp out loud and smack him on the shoulder, the pair grinning like imbeciles. Though he would never admit it, at least publicly, Snape smiled softly at the pair and close the lid, allowing the couple to remain together. Feeling something rough on the backside, he turned it over, magnifying the miniscule text engraved there, never noticing it before.

Green are the troubles that plague us all; Red is the disaster that makes us fall; Yellow reveals the fool and liar; Blue is the one that grants our heart's desire.

"Well, Narcissa… it seems your son will gain his heart's desire and his freedom in one fell swoop."

Returning the chain to the shelf, he cast a protection shield over the both of them, knowing that if Granger could protect Malfoy should he fail, then it was worth the long-suffering googly eyes they'd make at each other during the remainder of the term. Pausing at the bottom step, he glanced over his shoulder and smiled, wondering if the charm would work for someone as cynical as he.

"Ostendo."