"Dammit, Malfoy! Watch where you're going!"

Hermione studied the hand she used to brace herself. The stone wall had scratched it slightly.

"Granger, what are you doing here? It's past curfew," Draco said, his voice tinged with anger and surprise.

"I'm doing my rounds." She liked to make the Astronomy Tower her last stop. "What exactly is your reason for being out this late?"

Ignoring her question, he asked, "I thought you had them yesterday?"

"What?" He kept track of her schedule? "I switched with Hannah, she had some—"

He cut her off. "Where's Macmillian?" What was the problem? Prefects traded duties all the time.

"He's taking a first year to the hospital wing."

His agitation scared her. Suddenly he was dragging her away from the stairway that led to the tower. "Go! Now! You are not supposed to be here."

"No! I will not. Not until you tell me what's going on!" She looked directly at him but he avoided her gaze. Then it dawned on her. Everything that Harry said, everything that she knew to be true was happening. She clasped her hand over her mouth, slowly removing it before she spoke. "Draco, what have you done?"

She thought maybe her use of his given name had startled him. He paused briefly before shoving her further away from the entrance to the tower. "I said leave!"

"Please, tell me," she pleaded. "It's not too late. I know it isn't." She wouldn't let go of his robes, forcing him to face her.

"Don't look at me like that. It's always been too late. I need to do this. To save my family. To save everyone I love!"

The pain that filled her stomach was unexpected. His words roared in her ears. Everyone I love – but not her – he didn't love her. Hermione hadn't realized until that very moment that she wanted him to. She knew she wasn't in love with him. Why would she think that he might feel differently? Because he had kissed her, wanted her, and deep down in a place she kept hidden even from herself, she thought that he might love her.

It was a foolish fantasy, that somehow loving her would be enough to change him, to make him do the right thing.

It took her a moment to realize tears were streaming down her face. Angry tears shed at her own stupidity.

His posture changed as he pulled her closer. Roughly brushing his thumbs across her cheeks, he wiped the tears away.

Without thought she kissed him, slowly at first, increasing the intensity until it became almost painful. His hands pressed fiercely against her back. Minutes passed and the burning in her lungs traveled to her throat, yet she continued, as if kissing him would stop time. Eventually, her need for oxygen forced her to let up slightly, and he used the opportunity to pull away. "Go, find Potter. Warn him if you can."

With that he disappeared up the stairs.