Chapter Thirty-seven: The Duality of Love

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Scotland

December 7-9, 1996 (Hermione Granger's sixth year)

Hours later, Malfoy returned. How many hours, Hermione had no way of knowing, but it felt like three, maybe four.

She went instantly alert the moment she heard the door open at the far end of the room. Her stomach knotted in fear as her tormentor's easy, measured footsteps came closer. She was cold, having been left naked and uncovered in this drafty, old room, but that wasn't why she was suddenly shivering.

To think she could feel dread where her boyfriend was now concerned…

No, the man coming towards her wasn't Draco. Not wholly, anyway.

Hours alone with nothing to do had provided Hermione's active brain time to turn over the entire situation, and she'd come to some very startling realizations: 'Malfoy' and Draco were two personalities warring for supremacy within the same body, much like that Muggle woman whose real-life struggle with mental illness was made into the movie, The Three Faces of Eve. Hermione recalled watching that show as a child one day when her parents were out and it was on the telly. It had both frightened and fascinated her then, and seemed rather relevant to her situation now.

In Draco's case, Tom Riddle's dark magic had somehow managed to either partition or promote the basest side of Draco's identity, allowing it its freedom. In effect, the Dark Mark had caused a dissociative identity crisis, or multiple personality disorder. 'Malfoy' was what Draco might have been had he been born strictly amoral, power-hungry, violent, and pleasure-seeking.

As to Malfoy's life goal, well, he'd already made that clear, hadn't he? He wanted to break Draco's mind and heart, to fully embrace the darkness and become an entity of chaos itself… but to do that he needed to destroy everything Draco loved - starting with her. He'd already told her how he'd planned to accomplish such a thing, too: by making Hermione lust for him, believing obsessive physical desire the key to stealing her love from Draco.

It seemed Malfoy was under the mistaken impression that sex and love were symbiotic passions.

Regardless, Hermione knew Malfoy's ambitious plan would certainly do the job of severely wounding Draco, no matter its eventual outcome. Aside from the physical brutality he visited upon her, which severely upset Draco, her boyfriend was also rather emotionally insecure about their new, untried relationship. His constant demand that she tell him she loved him during sex was an obvious indicator of his anxiety. Clearly, any betrayal of her feelings for him would be a crippling blow. It would also isolate him, removing her as one of his strongest supporters, weakening him - leaving him vulnerable to Malfoy's complete take-over.

…Which is what the slimy, evil git wanted.

Speaking of, Malfoy rounded a tall pile of abandoned school trunks, coming into full view at last. He was smiling like the happiest man on earth, his step jaunty and light. Looking as he did, she almost expected him to burst into full-on Julie Andrews mode, spinning around and singing with arms flung wide.

Something was slung over his left shoulder - a sack of some kind. Whatever it was, it looked not to be too heavy.

Her tormentor sauntered up and stopped at the edge of the bed, looking down at her with a calm, superior amusement. "Hello again, my princess. Did you miss me while I was away?"

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Not a bit."

A slow, devastating smirk wound up his cheek. "Didn't think of me at all, hmm? Now, why do I find that hard to believe?" His gaze glided over every inch of her body, stopping at the exposed curls between her thighs. "I bet the fact your pussy's still sticky with my come has bothered you the entire time."

"You're foul."

His mouth widened, and his perfectly straight teeth were bright through his grin. "How's your arse feel? All stretched out and ready for another go?"

"You're a despicable human being."

"So, now I am human?" he snarked, throwing back in her face her earlier contention that he wasn't anything more than a shadow of Draco – a piece, not a whole entity. "Knew you'd come around to that fact, eventually."

"You're only fooling yourself," she countered. "That may be the body you share with Draco, but it's his first and foremost. You're merely letting the space… for the moment."

He lost his amusement in a heartbeat. "Keep telling yourself that while I'm boning you into the mattress and making you scream for more."

Turning his back to her, he moved towards a small pile of miscellaneous furniture nearby and dragged a small table out of the stack without toppling the rest. Malfoy pulled it over near the bed, and used Draco's wand to clear it of the years of dirt and dust. Tossing the sack onto the table, he began pulling food items out of the bag: cheese slices, bread, and a variety of fruits. Hermione was starving, but she turned her head away, refusing to let her captor know she needed anything from the likes of him. At the same time, she wiggled up the bed a bit to give the ropes around her wrists a little slack.

Malfoy sat down near the end of the bed, reaching out to tickle the arch of one of her feet. Hermione squirmed and kicked him in retaliation. He laughed, grabbed her foot, and yanked it hard. She gasped at the pain of almost having her ankle dislocated.

"I love your feistiness, but for right now behave, or you'll go hungry tonight."

"How long do you intend on keeping this up?"

Malfoy smoothed his hand up the back of her calf and she jerked, but didn't kick this time. "Until I win our little bet," he stated matter-of-factly.

"Which will be right around… never," she flatly informed him.

His smirk spoke of utter confidence. "I don't think your stubbornness will be able to stand up against the lust I evoke in you." He moved up the bed, letting his hands slide through her thighs, parting them with a forceful grip. Dipping his head, he licked right over her clit once, twice. "You've discovered that you like being fucked, haven't you? Sex feels good, doesn't it?" He flicked his tongue over her labia, rimming the entrance to her vagina. "You like being dominated, being taken. You like me owning you. Secretly, I think you like me punishing you, too."

He held her legs apart, leaning his weight on them to prevent them from moving as he slowly devastated her with his tongue and mouth. Hermione shut her eyes, determined not to find any pleasure from his force.

"Get off me," she snarled. "Stop it!"

"You're so wet already, and I've hardly touched you," he bragged, and thrust his tongue once into her. He continued torturing her for a bit, seducing her with his talent.

Abruptly, he pulled away, leaving her body in a state of unintended, unexpected arousal. Disgusted with herself and Malfoy, Hermione fumed in silence, struggling to get her body back under her control.

"Seriously, my delicious, little princess, I don't think it'll take that long until you to give yourself to me on a silver platter."

She sneered. "I wouldn't count on it." She peeked through her lids, casting all her scorn at him. "Eventually, when I don't show up in classes or the dining hall, people are going to search for me. They'll lock you away once they find us, and I tell them all about you and what you've done to Draco and me. They'll help me figure out a way to get rid of you once and for all."

Malfoy's face became deadly serious, his eyes flat, reptilian. The hands gripping her thighs began applying bruising pressure. "It would be very unwise of you or that sop, Ted, to tell anyone about me. You might want to rethink that plan. It would be a shame to have to kill you both this soon… not to mention how I'll make Draco pay."

Hermione's breath hitched in her throat. She hadn't considered that Malfoy would threaten to cause physical harm to Draco to win her compliance to his plans. Could he really do it? How was such a thing possible? Surely, he wouldn't damage the same body he was forced to inhabit, would he? That would be like cutting off his nose to spite his own face.

…Which seemed like something Malfoy might do. He was mentally unstable.

"What do you want from me?" she asked. Her voice had gone whisper-soft, trembling with fear. Malfoy, she was beginning to realise, was most likely capable of anything.

His gaze became hungry as his eyes lowered to her mouth. "You know."

She shook her head. "No, I don't. I know what Draco wants from me, but you… I don't know what you want, Malfoy."

His lips twitched with cynical amusement. "I want what every red-blooded male in this castle wants: you on your knees, worshipping my cock with your last breath."

"Be serious," she stated, exasperated with his flippant attitude. "Tell me what you really want."

His eyes narrowed again. "Don't order me around, princess. I'm not some love-sick fool who falls all over himself to get your attention, like your pussy-boy, Draco."

"I know you're not him," she carefully replied, realizing she was treading dangerous waters.

He reached up and pinched one of her nipples in punishment, squashing it with force between his forefinger and thumb. Hermione bit her bottom lip to keep from making a sound.

"As long as we've established that," he stated, all smug, male arrogance once again.

He released the pressure on her nipple, soothing it now with soft caresses. "You want to know what I really want from you, my princess? I want you to abandon your feelings for your boy-toy, and to give them all to me. I want to own your pleasure and your pain for the rest of your life. I want to make you cry, and to hear you scream. I want to make you moan, and to have you beg me to pleasure you." He dropped his head between her legs and licked her again several times, arousing her body all over again. "I want you to be mine in every way, to love me so thoroughly that when I finally decide to end our little game you'll willingly let me end your life, too."

Holy. God.

He was truly, psychotically insane.

"I'll never want you like that," she vowed in a waspish tone.

He chuckled against her cunt, and his warm, huffing breath made her squirm.

"By all means, fight me."

He lapped through her seam a few more times, latching onto her little nub of flesh and sucking hard enough for her to see white spots before her eyes. When he bit her there, she let out a yelp, as the pain was sharp and instant. He grinned up her body as she struggled, but failed to raise her knees up, so she could bring them together to squash his head between her thighs.

Like before, he simply released her and moved back down the bed to the table where the food was laid out, switching off his interest in the game for the moment. He picked up an orange and casually peeled it with his fingernails, acting as if he hadn't just been doing nasty, cruel things to her.

"You're sick and twisted," she told him.

From this angle, she could see his profile. His smile was humourless. "You like me like that, because I'm the only one who'll give you pain without remorse."

She firmly shook her head. "No, I don't like it."

He glanced at her from the corner of his eye. "Of course you do. You're the compassionate caregiver type – which makes you a secret masochist. Think of all the times you let that idiot Ginger King use you. And Potter. Neither one of them appreciate anything you do for them. Yet, you'll give everything you are to them over and over again, despite the fact it hurts you when they take your efforts for granted." He split the orange in half, and then into its further segments. "I think by now you've accepted the pain they cause you, because it's preferable to being alone and friendless. You've acclimatized to it even. That's why you enjoy what I do to you." He flicked a glance up and down her body, leering. "What I'm going to do to you."

Hermione could say nothing to that, because in some of Malfoy's declaration, she heard the ring of truth. Not that last bit, obviously, but the stuff about accepting Ron and Harry's exploitation, intended or otherwise, over the years. It bothered her that he knew her so well. But then, Draco had spent six years observing her on and off, hadn't he? He'd probably witnessed her spats with the boys more than two dozen times over that period, and she'd caught him more than once eavesdropping on her conversations with them. He'd most likely watched her a lot more than she'd been aware.

Yes, it was in his Slytherin nature to catalogue others, to learn their weaknesses and strengths, but she'd also assumed he'd paid particular attention to her because she'd been Harry's friend, and Lucius Malfoy had wanted any intelligence he could gather on The-Boy-Who-Lived. Now, though, she wondered if there hadn't been more to Draco's intense scrutiny of her behavioural patterns and activities than she'd supposed.

Scooting back up the bed, Malfoy brought one of the orange wedges to her mouth. "Open up."

She intentionally shut her mouth and turned away from him.

He nudged the fruit slice against her mouth. "Eat it."

Hermione made a grunt of refusal in her throat, and kept her mouth intentionally closed.

Refusing to be denied, Malfoy's free hand shot out and pinched her left nipple again, this time much harder. When she gasped, her lips parted, and he took the opportunity to shove the orange into her mouth. She caught it with her tongue before it choked her, and tossed him a defiant look.

"If you spit it out, I'll beat you," he threatened, and she was sure he meant it. Grudgingly, she chewed the orange and swallowed it. He presented her the next piece, sliding it across her closed lips. She shook her head, refusing him again. He snickered, enjoying her defiance. "Keep fighting me, princess. It just makes me want to fuck you all the harder."

A wave of helplessness washed over her as she stared into Malfoy's sadistic, black eyes. Would she ever see the grey of the arctic sky in Draco's face again, or was she stuck with this sick bastard forever?

Her emotions swelled and unstoppable tears slipped free from the corner of her eyes, trailing down the sides of her temple.

Malfoy lost his brief humour and snapped at her, "Stop crying all the bloody time!"

"Why do you care?" she shouted back. "I thought you wanted my suffering!" A sob caught in her chest. "You want to hurt me, because… because you know I'll never love or want you as you are, and you hate that you're the one who's alone and without real friends! Not even Draco likes you, and I-" She sneered at him, despite her tears. "-I despise you."

He pulled back a fist to hit her, swung, but stopped an inch from her cheek. His hand trembled, his face filled with fury and confusion.

"Hit me," she dared him. "You're losing our bet anyway, so what does it matter?"

Showing unexpected restraint, he pulled away and quickly stood up, turning his back on her. She could feel the violence radiating from him; waves of fierce hostility rolled off of him, stifling the very air.

"Draco," she sobbed, her heart breaking into pieces. "If you can hear me, please fight him for me. I love you and want you back!"

Malfoy's hands clenched, the knuckles going white from strain. Swiftly, he took off, heading towards the exit. She didn't hear the far door open, however, meaning he hadn't left the room. Where was he? Had he just gone to walk it off?

A moment later, she got her answer: on the next aisle over, his scream of rage broke the silence in the room, sending a slew of pixies and doxies hiding among the debris into a panicked escape. They fluttered as far from ground zero as they could get, heading into the rafters and dark corners of the room as Malfoy began destroying everything in sight. The sound of splintering wood, of heavy furniture being thrown around, and of glass shattering was frightening.

His tantrum lasted a good ten minutes. In that time, it sounded as if he'd toppled several piles worth of junk, and broken a dozen chairs and mirrors. The hairs on the back of Hermione's neck stood on end, and her lungs were nearly choked with fear.

What a vicious, scary display of temper!

As he rounded the corner a few moments later, returning to her, she noted his face, though pink and sweaty, appeared much more controlled and his hands were no longer tight with the need to unleash violence. His hands were loosely held at his sides, but the knuckles were bloody. He paid no attention to that fact as he began to disrobe, though, letting his clothing fall where it may as he closed the distance between them without pause.

Panic welled up in Hermione's chest. "What do you think you're doing?" she demanded of him, warily watching as he tossed his belt to the floor, and unzipped his trousers.

He didn't reply, merely continued to strip, his glossy, black eyes locked on hers.

When he was fully naked, he crawled up the bed towards her. "Turn over," he coldly commanded. "I don't want to look at you right now."

Terrified again, Hermione shook her head. Who knew what he'd do to her if she didn't comply, but she was equally as scared of what he was going to do to her if she did.

Undaunted by her rejection, Malfoy forced her onto her belly with rough hands, and he shoved her with strength towards the headboard, lifting her hips. "Better hold on," he fiendishly warned her, already prodding her entrance with the hard, blunt end of his length.

"Don't," was all she had time to sputter, before he'd slammed back inside her with enough force to make her scream from the pain.

Without pause, without mercy he pounded into her, taking what he wanted at the same time as punishing her for her earlier defiance. The muscles in her legs and arms quaked, yet still she struggled against the bonds that held her wrists.

"You're mine," he hissed, slamming even faster and as deep as he could into her. "MINE!"

"No," she denied in between sobs. "No!"

She'd thought things couldn't get any worse… until he withdrew from the depths of her vagina rather suddenly, and forced the cheeks of her bum apart. The only thing he spared her was to call his wand to hand and to use it to summon lubrication to fill her back channel. The cold liquid felt awful and alien, and her body tried to expel it.

Before she could manage to do so, Malfoy countered, inching his way inside her back channel. His claim burned just as badly the second time as it had the first. Hermione nearly choked on the pain as he took her slowly, but thoroughly.

"Relax," he said, spanking her, adding to the sting. "You're killing my prick with the clenching."

"Stop, p-please," she pleaded. "It h-h-hurts so m-much!"

To her surprise, he paused and held still. "Relax."

She'd have done anything right then to get the pain to end, so she tried letting her muscles go loose as he wanted, hoping as soon as he received her compliance, he'd pull out and not touch her there again. No such luck. He simply eased the rest of the way into her until his pelvis met her backside and held still, letting her feel his total ownership.

"That's better. Just accept what I do to you, princess," he taunted, "since I'm going to take what I want anyway."

"I h-hate you," she bawled, feeling helpless and despising such a sensation. "I hate you s-s-so much!"

Behind her, she felt his bigger body shake and heard his panting breath escape between clenched teeth, as if her words enraged him once more. His fingers wound through her long, curly hair, knotting it so he could have a firm hold to apply enough pressure to pull her head back. He kept tugging, until her face was turned to the ceiling and she was up on her knees, and the rope holding her wrists went taut.

He pulled his hips back, easing out of her, and then slammed them forward. Hermione yelped at the sharp intensity and the way this new angle kept her from finding any sort of pleasure from his thrusts.

Not that she wanted to feel such a thing at all. Not from him.

He took her just like that, his hand holding her captive in an upright position, his other reaching around to pinch and rub her clit as his hips thrust over and over. "Feel me, princess," he hissed in her ear, malevolence tainting every word. "Feel me take you, fill you where no one has before – where it's forbidden. Feel how your body likes it." He rubbed the wet between her legs, slicking it between her lower lips. "Feel how powerless you really are, my little whore."

"How dare you! I am not a whore," she snapped, furious at being called such a horrid name. "And you may force me, but you'll never own me, you bastard."

He pressed his mouth over her ear. "We'll see about that."

Once more demonstrating how erratic and unpredictable he could be, Malfoy suddenly stopped shagging her and pulled out. He had her flipped onto her back once more, legs spread before she could blink, though.

Pinning her hips to the bed with his hands, he entered her swollen, much-abused core again. Rear-end burning, hips aching, and the heart of her femininity viciously stretched once more, and without care, Hermione whimpered.

Malfoy paused.

"Sore, princess?"

He seemed pleased by the prospect.

"Why not just kill me and be done with it?" she snapped, blinking sweat and tears from her lashes. Her wrists burned from the rope, too.

He leaned over her, setting a brutal rhythm, pistoning in and out of her body for his own pleasure. "I told you: because you're mine." He punctuated that claim with a hard slam of his hips. "I've waited years to have at you."

Wha-? Years? What was he talking about?

It dawned on her quite suddenly what he was implying.

"Are… are you saying you're the reason Draco tormented me all this time – because you wanted my attention?!"

Malfoy's shark-like smirk widened.

Anger burned in Hermione's guts. "All these years, you've been the one prodding him to be cruel, haven't you? You've encouraged him to be mean and spiteful." She barked a cynical laugh. "Well, of course you did! You're his evil side!" The ramifications of that revelation slammed into her hard. "You're the reason he's been so intolerable. But the Mark is somehow… it's slowly splitting you apart from him – the real him. He's becoming who he should have been if you'd never been in the picture."

"I saved his life!" he thundered. "Without me, he'd have been even more pussified than he already is. He'd have folded under his father's lash a dozen times. He'd have refused to take the Mar-" Abruptly, she stopped, reconsidering his words. "I've given the whelp purpose and strength," he finally hissed. "I made it possible for us to have you!"

"You're delusional. All you've done is fuelled his hatred and prejudice!" she fumed. "You ruined the good man he could have been!"

He pressed his forehead into hers, staring her in the eye, and gave her a heartless, triumphant grin. "And I ruined you, too, let's not forget."

She snarled at him, baring her teeth, her anger hitting a whole new level of loathing. "Fuck you!"

"Gladly," he growled back.

Leaning away from her, he pressed his palms down upon her shoulders and pinned them to the mattress. Then, he dropped his hips and went for it with all his strength. He forced himself into her so hard Hermione was crying again, her anger draining away in the face of such awful pain.

"Take it," he grunted, tensing up. "Take me!"

The bed squeaked loudly in the otherwise still room, its ancient springs performing a rhythmic counter to his frantic grunting, and her mewling cries.

Finally, with a roar and last violent surge, Malfoy stilled and released, coming deep inside her. In that moment, where ecstasy met its pinnacle, his face was free of all its usual negativity, filled instead with a dark, rapturous beauty.

"Fuck, yes!" he cried out, laughing with triumph, his whole body seizing as he ejaculated into her.

Merlin, he was as low as they came! To Malfoy, this act was all about taking, not about giving. There was no care, no goodness in it with him. And her role? She was merely his whore, as he'd pointed out earlier - a hole to fill, a warm body to punish... simply because he could.

Sick bastard.

She knew he was finished when he slumped forward and stopped making those god-awful victory noises.

Hermione turned her head and let her tears flow freely once more. "I never thought myself capable of hating someone this much." She sniffed and looked at him from her peripheral vision. "Don't you see? You lost your stupid bet before it even began."

He stared at her for several heartbeats, panting, red faced, considering her words.

"We'll see," was all he said in reply.

Pulling out of her, he scooted back down the bed, and then made his feet. His legs held, steady as tree trunks… unlike hers, which were shaking so hard, she couldn't hold them up. Malfoy's recovery time was completely abnormal - as freakish as he was.

He began gathering his clothing from where he'd discarded it earlier, and redressed. When he was done, he reached into the bag he'd brought into the room earlier, and pulled out a Slytherin girl's school uniform. He tossed it so it landed near her head. There were no shoes, socks, or a bra, but there were a pair of what looked to be cotton, blue knickers that had never been used.

"The Parkinson bint won't miss it."

He tossed her wand on top of the pile of clothes. He'd gambled correctly that she couldn't have reached for it fast enough to make a difference just then, as everything hurt too much for such sudden movements. Besides, he was backing up already, wand out and pointed at her wrists.

"There's food in the bag, and ointment to help soothe the ache."

"Thought you liked me starving and in pain," she tiredly pointed out.

Malfoy stared at her through an enigmatic, black gaze for several seconds, before that arrogant smirk of his was back in place. "Can't have you fainting in the hallways and calling attention to the fact you've been missing from the dining hall this afternoon and evening. As for the medicine, you go back to your common room looking like you've been fucked to within an inch of your life -like you currently do- and the Idiot Brigade will ask questions. Can't have that either, can we?" He lost his amusement a moment later, menace darkening his countenance once more. "Remember: you tell a soul about any of this, and I'll punish Draco in a way you'll never forget."

With that, he waved his wand and released the rope from around her wrists. He then spun on his heel and hastily walked away.

For almost an hour, Hermione simply laid in the bed, too tired and sore to move. She stared up at the tattered blue curtains above, her mind numb with shock from the events of this afternoon and evening. Absently, she realized that this bed had come from a Ravenclaw house, and wondered whose bed it had been, and why it had been moved here.

After a looooooong time, she finally felt strong enough to push herself up into a sitting position. Reaching for her wand, she Accio'd Malfoy's bag to her hand. Inside, she found a small tub of pain ointment, just as he'd promised. Taking it out, she struggled with the lid a bit before prying it off, and slathered the eucalyptus-scented paste everywhere across her skin where there was even the slightest bruise showing. She healed her wrists with a charm to remove the rope burn marks, but she knew of no spell to ease the ache in her muscles; they were going to be sore for a while.

When that was done, she noted that there was, indeed, food inside the bag as well - more cheese and bread, and a green apple. Her stomach churned at the thought of eating right then, so instead, she pushed the bag aside and slowly dragged on the clothes Malfoy had left for her. It took a few modifications with her wand, transfiguring size and House designations, but in the end, she had a new school uniform that fit. She supposed stealing someone else's winter uniform to make-up for disintegrating hers earlier that afternoon was Malfoy's twisted way of making things up to her.

Whatever.

Parkinson's family was rich, anyway. The witch could afford the loss of some clothes without blinking; she'd probably just replace the outfit this Christmas break at Madam Malkin's.

Dangling her legs over the edge of the bed, she summoned her shoes and socks to her hand with her wand as well. Pulling them on took a few tries, given how it hurt to raise her knees.

Another ten minutes, and she'd made her feet. Something was missing, though…

"Oh! Accio my red ribbon!"

The ribbon floated up off the floor on the other side of the bed and flew into her hand. She gathered her messy, frizzy curls into a ponytail and tied it off at the nape of her neck with the hair accessory.

Wanting to do nothing more than crawl into her own bed and sleep a million years, she trundled towards the exit and left the Room of Hidden Things, hoping never to return to such a place of awful memories.

It only occurred to her once she was back in her bed in Gryffindor tower -having by-passed her friends' questions and offers to join them for study groups or evening board games in the common room with the excuse of extreme exhaustion- that Draco had been in the Room of Hidden Things when she'd entered it earlier that day.

Why had he even been in there?

x~~~~~x

Sunday came and went, and Hermione couldn't find hide or hair of Draco no matter where she went in the castle. No one else had admitted to seeing him either, and that frightened her. There was simply no telling what Malfoy might be doing in Draco's body – especially to others. He was an unstable sociopath with psychotic tendencies.

She spent an exhausting day keeping a sharp eye out for him and going up and down staircases, ignoring her protesting muscles, all to no avail. As a result, she didn't get to her homework until late that afternoon, and was awake until midnight trying to finish it.

On Monday morning, Draco was absent from the dining hall for breakfast. Teddy Nott, who had also been conspicuously absent yesterday, sauntered in alone. He looked deeply unhappy as he scanned the crowd. When their eyes locked, he signalled her to meet him outside in the corridor. She made up an excuse to Ginny, leaving her satchel with her friend, and hurried outside the Great Hall.

Teddy led her to a side corridor and into a comfortably spaced broom closet. "Draco's been tearing himself up since he came back to our common room on Saturday night," he told her as soon as the door was shut and he'd bespelled it for privacy. "He told me everything. Apparently, the side you've named 'Malfoy' wore itself out... um, abusing you."

He looked decidedly uncomfortable breaching the subject, and Hermione wondered what exactly Teddy knew - the awful details, or just an overview?

Her cheeks flushed with her own embarrassment.

"Draco was able to regain control of his body by the time he'd made it to the dungeon that night. He came to me right away, asked for help, and explained why he didn't want you helping him anymore." He sighed, looking truly concerned. "Are you... all right? Do you want me to say anything to Dumbledore?"

Hastily, Hermione shook her head. "We can't tell anyone. He's... Malfoy's threatened to hurt Draco if we go to the teachers or the Ministry." She clenched her hands before her, as if praying. "I really think he's capable of doing it, too. He's vindictive enough to do anything, even if he hurts himself in the process. He takes pleasure in pain - anyone's, even his own."

Teddy began swearing under his breath. "Merlin, this sucks! How are we supposed to help D? This is so completely beyond my experience, and I'm guessing yours, too. How can we keep him from hurting you again, much less prevent him from forcing Draco to do even more deranged or dangerous things?" As if realising he'd put his foot in his mouth, he reached out and cautiously placed his bigger hand over her clasped ones. "Christ, I'm really sorry, Granger. I didn't mean to... to make light of..." He shook his head, obviously remorseful. "I'm sorry."

"You only spoke the truth, Teddy," she replied, giving him a forgiving smile.

"Man, you really are goody-good to the core, aren't you?" he asked, his tone wistful. He stroked the back of a knuckle across her cheek. "Draco wasn't exaggerating. I'm glad. He needs someone like you in his life. He's been alone for a long time."

Hermione frowned. "He's never alone. Parkinson's always hung all over him, and he has friends - you, for one."

Teddy shook his head. "He has conveniences and lackeys - and believe me, Parkinson definitely qualifies under both definitions. You're right, though: I am his only long-time friend, but even then he's always kept me at a distance. At first, I'd thought it was single-child syndrome, you know? He can be a total spoiled git at times. But I was wrong. He's alone because his father has kept him that way, on purpose. I told you, Lucius is cold and calculating, and mean as a snake. I'm sure he had a slew of grandiose plans for D to be the first leader of a 'pure-blood only' political party or some such shite. But with the Dark Lord's reappearance, everything's changed. This year, Draco's even more isolated."

"Because of the Dark Mark," Hermione guessed.

Teddy nodded. "That's why I'm glad he has you. He needs someone he can rely upon, someone who's not afraid to see him for who and what he is, and who will fight to keep him away from Lucius' and the Dark Lord's plans for him. He needs you, Granger. I think..." He reached up and gently stroked over the red ribbon woven into a strand of her hair at the side of her temple. He considered it, turning it this way and that, narrowing his eyes as if trying to discern the ribbon's secrets. "...he always has."

Oddly disconcerted by someone touching the ribbon other than her or Draco, Hermione gently extricated it from Teddy's hold without making it seem as if she was chastising him for touching without permission. "You're saying, you think what's happening now with Draco and I might be fated?"

Her companion dropped his hand and shrugged. "I think a lot of things happening right now in this world are. Potter, for instance, and the re-emergence of the Dark Lord. Fated, according to Trelawney's cracked-up prophecy." He held up a hand to halt her obvious question. "My father's in Azkaban right now because of the fight in the Department of Mysteries, remember? I know all about it."

"Oh, yes. That's right."

Teddy chuckled, but his tone was all dry and cynical when he said, "Don't let it bother you. I'm positively thrilled the bastard's tied up in a dark, fungi-infested cell and living in constant fear of Dementors. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving wizard." He waved the subject away, returning to the original topic, clearly uncomfortable talking about his father. "Listen, D wanted me to be sure you were healing and taking care of yourself as you ought to. We should get back to the dining hall so you can eat. Also, if you need me to sneak into the Hospital Ward later and check out Pomfrey's stores for you, I'm good at fishing."

Hermione looked down at her shoes, feeling awkward over the topic, as well as the kind, but bizarre offer her new friend had made. "Thank you, but I don't want you getting into any trouble for me. I'm fine, really. I keep a stash of Muggle pain medicine in my trunk and I've been taking it when needed. But Teddy-" She glanced up at him, gripping the sides of her robes to keep her hands from shaking. "It's not me that needs looking after right now. I'm worried about Draco. None of this was his fault. Please, if you know where he is, tell me."

Teddy hesitated. "He said he doesn't want to see you anymore. He thinks he's stained your relationship permanently, and he doesn't trust himself to be alone with you ever again. He told me that he's planning on dropping out of school and going home today."

A small sob escaped her lips before she would quell it with a shaking hand over her mouth. Dropping out of school? If he did that, the chances of her seeing him again before they crossed wands on the battlefield would most likely be zero percent. By then, Malfoy would have taken over fully... and Draco would be forever lost.

"No, he can't," she whispered, agonized by the thought.

Teddy sighed, running a frustrated hand through his dark hair. "Merlin, I'm really sorry for the both of you. You don't deserve this. Maybe it's best if… if he does go away, though. At least then you'd be safe."

That thought had Hermione panicking, and the red ribbon in her hair whispering in her mind:

Do not let him fall into ankoku… into darkness!

"No, he can't go home! We can't let him!" she argued. "If he stands in Voldemort's presence again, and his mind and heart are still fractured, Malfoy will gain all the dark magical strength he needs to destroy Draco forever," she stated with all surety. "I just know it's true!"

To her surprise, Teddy's arms were abruptly around her, and he was cradling her to his chest. His kind touch was enough to send her jittery nerves and frayed emotions right over the edge. An agonized cry was torn from her chest as the reality of what had been done to her this weekend hit her hard. She pressed her face into his chest and let herself come to terms with it, so she could move past it.

Say it, she thought. Say it and face it.

Rape. She'd been raped again. She'd been abused, tortured, and emotionally scarred by a person she'd trusted and loved... No, not by him, but by this other side of him that dark magic had given a life of its own. Draco and his doppelganger shared a face, but not a heart.

Now Draco planned to go away - to let Malfoy win, all to keep her safely out of his darker side's clutches.

God, the situation really was like Jekyll and Hyde - and she was caught in the middle, loving one, hating the other. Theirs was a collision that some weird intuition told her would change this war's outcome. Yet, everyone knew how Jekyll's tale ended: with Hyde in complete control and Jekyll effectively no more. Would it happen like that for Draco, too?

"I can't let Malfoy win," she fiercely resolved, dashing away her momentary upset with the back of one hand while stroking the ribbon in her hair with the other. "I'll find a way to get rid of him! I'll make a new fate for Draco - no matter what it takes!"

Teddy clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "All right. Say I was to tell you his location, Granger, what would you do?"

Hermione straightened her spine and met her friend's eye, stepping out of his embrace. "I'd convince him not to throw his life away – not to let that bastard side of him win! I wouldn't let him give up fighting to reclaim his life. I'd convince him that our plan at the Ministry is the way to go, and do whatever research was necessary to find out all I could about the Dark Mark and how to shut it down permanently. I'd lie for him, steal for him - I've done as much for Harry and Ron over the years. I'd certainly do it for Draco. I'd protect him, even if I had to stand up to Malfoy and Voldemort both!"

"He'll hurt you if you stay with him," Teddy reminded her. "He may even kill you. You love him that much to risk such a thing?"

"I do."

Her friend let out a deep sigh and stepped back, releasing his hold on her. "The Room of Erised. He's been camping out there since he left you. He won't go back to the dorms. I've been bringing him what he needs. I suspect he's punishing himself with memories of what happened there between you two before, which is why he chose that room now."

She turned to go, but Teddy grabbed her hand and stayed her a moment longer. "You'd better have meant it, Granger."

"I meant it," she reaffirmed. "I swear it on my wand, I meant every word."

Taking her at her vow, he let her go, and she hurried from the closet without a backwards glance. Rushing down the corridor and up the stairs towards the fourth floor, she hurried past her fellow classmates, the resident ghosts, the portraits, and even Professor McGonagall, ignoring them. All of her focus was for Draco right then.

x~~~~~x

Hermione was huffing and puffing from all the running around when she reached the door to the Room of Erised a few minutes later, and paused to take precious seconds to catch her breath. When she pulled on the handle, she noted the door wasn't locked – probably so Teddy could get in easily. She opened the door and shut it behind her quickly, locking it and leaning against it to let her eyes adjust to the dim lighting in the room.

Draco was lazing about on the floor on top of a coverlet from his dorm bed, another blanket lying to the side of him. He had a pillow under his head and was staring at the ceiling, deep in thought, lounging in a dishevelled pair of black trousers and a white dress shirt with the cuffs rolled and the tails hanging out. He sat up as she entered, clearly having expected Ted, but froze when she stepped fully into the room.

The moment he zeroed in on her, his face went so pale it almost seemed translucent, his eyes flared wide, and his breathing jumped. His anxiety hit the roof.

Hermione crossed the room, heading towards him, but he was up in a flash and backing away with his arms out. "Stay away. Don't come near me!"

His panicked tone had her heart clenching, but she kept moving forward, ignoring his warning.

"Granger, please, just-" His back hit the wall, and his eyes went even wider. "Leave! I'll hurt you again!"

When only a couple of feet separated them, she did stop… but not for the reasons he might have suspected. "I forgive you," she said, her voice tremulous with emotion. "Draco, none of this is your fault."

Frantically, he shook his head. "It is my fault. All of it! I unleashed him when I took the Mark! Somehow… He's me, don't you get it? He's a part of who I am… and clearly, I want to hurt you. I'm sick. Sick! Don't you see?"

She took a single step towards him, but he flinched back. He'd have probably tried to crawl in between the stones to get away from her, if he could.

"We'll find a way to stop him - together," she told him, tears blurring her vision again. "Please just don't give up on me, Draco. Let me help you. I love you."

"You can't love me!" he refuted with a shout. "You have to hate me now! I hurt you." He started crying, but angrily brushed the tears off his cheeks even as they fell. "I hurt you so much, baby. I… I'm evil."

She started crying again, his pain becoming hers. "You're not. Don't you understand? It was him, all this time - this other side of you. He's made you cruel, but that's not who you are. This, right here, right now, this is who you really are. Don't you see it? This man, this heart…" She reached out lay her hand upon his chest, and could feel the organ underneath pounding out a rapid tattoo under her fingertips. "This is the side of you worth saving - worth loving."

"I don't understand you! There's nothing about me worth that much! I've spent years tormenting you and your friends. A part of me enjoyed it, even." He shook his head. "I don't deserve your forgiveness, much less anything more." His wounded eyes met hers. "For both our sakes, please, Granger, just walk away."

She was desperate, knowing he would run out that door very soon if she didn't do something. One way or another, he meant to leave her.

She wouldn't allow him to give up on them without a fight!

Reaching for the clasp of her robes, she undid it and let it slide to the floor. Then, she removed her jumper and tie, and started unbuttoning her shirt.

Draco's breathing accelerated. "Don't do that," he warned. "Stop."

She slipped her shirt from her shoulders and reached behind to unhitch her bra. Shimmy-ing it from her shoulders, it fell to the floor as well. Reaching behind her, she unbuttoned her skirt and unzipped it, letting gravity take it to the floor. She kicked her shoes off.

"Please, stop," he begged. "Christ, Hermione, don't do this to me."

She hooked her thumbs on either side of her knickers and lowered them from her body, and while she was down there, she removed her socks as well. Finally, she was completely naked for him, standing in a stray beam of greyish light from the window, unashamed of offering everything she was to Draco.

She held her arms out to him, supplicating. "Come make love to me. Help me erase his touch, and remember only yours."

He squeezed his eyes shut, his face tortured. "Hermione, you don't want me like this. I'm not worthy to touch you. You're so good, and I'm so… so fucked up!"

She closed the distance between them while he wasn't looking, and wrapped her arms about his neck, pressing her body against his. He fought her, grabbing her hips and pushing, trying to get her to relinquish her hold on him. She refused, standing firm, despite her protesting muscles. "Love me, Draco," she huskily murmured, lifting her head and pressing her lips to his. "Love me as I love you."

His lids peeked open a margin, and in his gaze was hunger, desperation, and fear. He was like a victim of starvation staring down at that first bite of real food, wondering if it would kill him or relieve him. "What if he comes forward again? He's not conscious right now. What he did to you… I can feel that it exhausted him. But, what if… I don't want to touch you again as him."

"Just hold onto me," she told him, placing small kisses on his face, "and trust in us. Trust in me to handle him."

He shuddered, even as his fingers gripped her sides, pulling her in. "Merlin, I want you. It's been too long – just you and me," he said. "But I'm scared of hurting you, too."

She kissed him with all of the love and passion she felt for him then, forcing his lips open. When her tongue dipped into his mouth, as he'd taught her how to do, he groaned, and gave in.

They were slow to touch, to taste. He was oh-so-careful, not aggressive, letting her lead them. She undressed him, taking her time with each task, as he had done with her that night in the Prefect's bathroom. When she knelt to remove his pants and shoes, she stroked his hard length and took him in her mouth. She looked up between them and watched him watching her, his eyes glazed with want. When her tongue lapped at his tip, he moaned, and twined his fingers through her hair, encouraging her with caresses.

Feeling the change in his breathing, signalling he was climbing towards his end, she let him go with a kiss and regained her feet. Taking hold of his hand, she led him to the small pile of blankets on the floor, and guided him down onto his back.

As she knelt over him, the ribbon in her hair gave off a red, warm glow, cocooning them in its magical radiance. Draco was careful not to touch it, but as she claimed his mouth again, she noted there were no negative effects this time as they touched.

"Take me," he pleaded

The same words were so much different from two days earlier; Malfoy used them as a weapon, whereas Draco spoke them as an offering. Clearly, their split was widening, and Draco was changing. He was gentling.

Hermione took his hard length in her hand and guided him into her wet, still-swollen body. There was only a little discomfort for her – hardly enough to notice. Instead, there was a wonderful melding of their bodies as she slid down his shaft. They both gasped at the exquisite sensation of coming together again.

She entwined her hands in his and made love to him.

They locked eyes, watching each other as she slowly moved up and down on him. Their exhalations tickled each other's faces, matching the rise and fall of their bodies. As his orgasm built, she was relieved to see the irises of his eyes were still the same beautiful grey that she adored.

"I'm close. Are you?" he rasped.

She nodded. Her belly ignited with little electric shocks that built to a fast crescendo. "Yes."

"Tell me," they both said at the same time in the same desperate voice.

"I love you," they responded together, their hearts as one.

They came together, in perfect accord, and when she collapsed atop him, he wrapped his arms about her. This time, he didn't let her go.


TO BE CONTINUED…


AUTHOR'S NOTES FOR CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN:

Ankoku = Japanese for "darkness" (the ultimate kind), made up of the kanji 暗for "dark, obscure, in secret", and 黒"black, dark, evil".

Musical selection recommended for this chapter:

"The Beauty & The Tragedy" by Trading Yesterday