"Hermione," Harry said tentatively. "It's nearly two in the morning...perhaps you should turn in for the night."

She blinked owlishly at her bespectacled friend, taking in his pyjamas and hastily knotted dressing gown. "Nearly two in the morning?" She peered around noting the empty common room.

He nodded absently. "You've been at it for hours without a break."

She closed the thick textbook immediately and gave a huge yawn. She looked at the table before her, bits of parchment and discarded quills spread out endlessly. Harry capped her inkwell and began gathering her quills, while she began to assemble and arrange her notes properly. Once the lot was tidied away and stowed in her crammed-to-capacity school bag, she gave a stretch that set her neck to cracking audibly. Harry cringed the slightest bit.

"Honestly, Harry, it felt wonderful," she told him drowsily.

"To bed with you," he said in a tone that brooked no refusal. She clambered to the stairs leading to the girl's dormitory and gave him a weak, sleepy smile before ascending the stairs and closing herself into the room with her already sleeping roommates. She tossed her bag to the floor at the foot of her four-poster and tugged the hangings aside before hastily undressing and pulling on an old, comfortable night shirt. Settling into bed and drawing the hangings about her, she allowed her thoughts to drift to the dungeons, where Draco Malfoy lay sleeping.

The next day, Harry and Hermione sat near the lake, under their favorite tree, with the remains of a picnic lunch spread amongst them. The weather was fine, partly cloudy with a light breeze; Hermione could not recall the last time she'd been outside simply for the sake of being outside.

Ron, with Ginny and Neville, strolled by and Hermione busied herself by banishing the food remains and repacking the basket, once the dishes had been properly cleaned.

"You can't avoid him forever, Hermione," Harry said sagely.

"I'm not the one avoiding him," she said grimly. "And since when has he begun avoiding you?"

"He reckons that I've chosen your side. If I were a proper friend, I'd hole up with him and listen endlessly as he went on about what a heartbreaking bint you are."

"Did he really say that?" Hermione asked, aghast.

"He might've mentioned it, yeah," Harry hedged. "But he's Ron being Ron. You're going to have to give him time."

"I'll tell you what I'd like to give him," she said darkly. Harry laughed.

The weekend stretched luxuriously before them, and nothing, neither thoughts of Ron Weasley nor thoughts of Draco Malfoy, could take that from them.

"What happened to the weekend?" Hermione groused Monday morning as she selected a muffin for breakfast.

"We spent it by the lake," Harry said as he buttered toast.

"Ah, yes, lounging by the lake. Your cheeks are still flushed from the sun," she said with a chuckle at his expense.

"While you look perfectly sun-kissed, as though you've spent your days lounging poolside."

"I can't help it if a tan suits me, Harry."

Their conversation ground to a halt as Ron entered the Great Hall and sat next to Harry, directly across from Hermione. Harry sent him a sidelong glance and Hermione's brown eyes widened just a fraction, waiting for Ron to speak.

"Good morning, Hermione," he said formally.

"Good morning, Ronald," she returned stiffly. She dared to glance at the Slytherin table and saw the stormy gaze of Draco Malfoy upon her. She'd only seen him once since he returned from his initiation, but Hermione was expecting to feel the charmed galleon to flare with heat any time now. It had been ten days, and she'd twice counted him absent from dinner, though he'd turned up by the next morning's breakfast. She couldn't bear to imagine where he'd been whisked away to, what dangers he'd faced, what atrocities he'd been forced to commit.

"Oi!"

Hermione snapped her head to the left where Harry sat waiting, somewhat impatiently, for her to answer him. "Sorry, Harry, what was that?"

He rolled his eyes and Ron snickered, though not unpleasantly. "We have charms in ten minutes." He stood, grasping the strap of his school bag; Ron followed suit, still chewing the remains of his breakfast. As Hermione paused for a last gulp of tea, she felt the charmed galleon blaze in her pocket; she choked. "Go on without me," she told the two wizards waiting for her. "I've got to nip by the ladies." With a snigger about barmy females, Ron led Harry from the Great Hall.

Hermione dashed to the first floor loo, thanking Merlin that it was so close to the Hall, for she could hardly wait to retrieve the bewitched coin from the pocket of her robe, but wanted to do so in private. Tonight. 9pm. 5th floor corridor, behind Morgana.

She made it to Charms, but only just. She took her seat and promptly lost herself in thought. She wanted to see Draco, but she hated when he gave her a full day's notice; she had a suspicion that he knew she'd wish the day away, ignoring important N.E.W.T. review in favor of daydreaming of a certain fair-haired wizard.

Hermione came to stand before the statue of Morgan le Fay precisely at nine o'clock. "Avalon," she whispered. The door materialized and she wasted no time scurrying into the room where Draco would be waiting for her. The room was dark, however, and she was alone, and she grew uneasy at once. Drawing wand, she murmured a spell and the sconces flickered to life, but no sooner than the room became illuminated, Draco stepped into the room and began casting wards about the room. Her breath hitched when he turned to stare at her; he looked angry.

"Weasley has been ignoring you, why?"

She turned away from his angry gaze and transfigured a plush bed from an ottoman. He moved forward and grasped her upper arm, shaking her slightly; though she may have felt the inclination, she did not cower.

"I broke it off with him," she said boldly.

"When?" he demanded.

"The night we met behind Achilles, the night you left for your initiation."

"And are you with Potter now?"

Her eyes widened the slightest bit, "With Harry? Of course not, Draco, we're friends."

"Friends," the blonde wizard spat. "You looked awfully cosy by the lake this weekend."

"You're jealous," she said incredulously. "Trust me," she implored, "you have nothing to worry about. I'm not seeing anyone other than you."

He grabbed her by her upper arms and hauled her to him, looking into her warm, chocolate-coloured eyes. He kept her gaze for several moments before nodding his head. "Good," he said tersely. "And, for obvious reasons, this needs to stay between us. It's safer for both of us."

"Harry knows about us," she told him reluctantly.

"You told him?" he hissed.

Wincing at the venom in his tone, she tried to explain. "He followed me one night and waited for you to leave before he confronted me."

She noticed that Draco was trembling with fury. "Did he hurt you?," he ground out through his clenched jaw.

"Of course not," Hermione said, shocked. "He demanded that I break it off with Ron, which I did, and insisted on having a long chat with me afterward. He had already assumed we were involved, I didn't tell him anything he hadn't already assumed."

"Does he know I took the Mark?"

She closed her eyes for a moment before whispering, "Yes."

Draco Malfoy said nothing, only glared at her coldly.

"It doesn't matter, Draco," she said hurriedly. "He thought you took it ages ago and has never breathed a word!" That wasn't necessarily true, but the icy glare of the wizard before her was unnerving her. "Please," she said desperately, "Harry isn't a risk to you. He wants me to be happy."

He looked at her again, and something in his gaze softened. "I make you happy?"

The young witch dropped her gaze to the cold, stone floor and her cheeks flamed red. "After a fashion," she said in a feather-light tone.

He closed the space between them and slipped his hand beneath her hair to rest on the sensitive skin of her neck. She leaned her forehead against his chest. "Don't be angry with me," she said.

"I'm on edge, is all," he said. She could feel his voice rumbling in his chest. He had not apologized and she did not expect him to. She moved to unclasp his robes and he allowed her to slide them over his shoulders where they pooled, inky black against the stone grey of the floor. He grasped her neck and tilted her head back before covering her lips with his. He groaned when she parted her lips and deepened the kiss. Minutes later, he broke their kiss and rested his forehead upon hers, both breathing erratically. "What are we doing, Granger?" he asked. She couldn't tell if he'd asked hypothetically, so she contented herself with answering him.

"I don't know," she whispered. "We've both gone mad."

He kissed her again, fiercely, his arms constricting about her waist, pulling her to him. She set about unbuttoning his school shirt even as he shed her outer robe and began to deftly unfasten the pearly little buttons of her school blouse. She felt the air chill her skin as the blouse hit the floor behind her, joining her robe. Her bra followed moments later, and he'd unzipped her skirt before she could reach for his belt.

"You're overdressed," she muttered.

"Bed, Granger," he said in a strained voice. She, in her knickers, complied at once.

Shedding his trousers and shorts as he stalked toward her, she hastily peeled her knickers off and flung them in the general direction of the pile of her clothing. She felt herself flush under his hungry gaze; moments later, he was upon her. Hermione began kissing his neck, opening her thighs to urge him on.

"Slowly, Granger," Draco said, amused. He grabbed her wrists and pinned them, taking advantage of her sudden immobility. He began to trail kisses from the underside of her jaw, to her neck, to her shoulder. "If I release you, will you be a good girl for me?"

She moaned.

"Tell me, Granger, will you be a good girl?" he asked in a teasing drawl.

"Yes!" she ground out. "Please let me go!"

Draco released her and her hands immediately flew to his shoulders; he continued kissing his way down her body, though she was squirming harder with every inch he moved. "You want me to just get on with it, don't you, Granger?"

She was nearly sobbing with frustration. "Yes, please!" she cried. Finally, Draco complied. She moaned, low and long, when he entered her so slowly she thought she might incinerate on the spot. He was not content to move quickly, as she learned at once. He wanted to take his time, to relish their coupling. Their eyes were locked, cool grey meeting warm brown as he moved within her. Hermione wanted to babble her feelings, to put voice to the things she would be afraid to say in the light of day, when they were bitter enemies.

He gasped, Hermione assumed in pleasure, and rolled to his side so that he would not crush her. She stared at him as he clutched his left forearm, where the Mark was writhing

"I must go," he said urgently as he leapt from the bed and began hastily redressing.

Hermione, nearly paralyzed with shock and fear, sat up hastily, pulling the sheet to her chin, not daring to speak.

"I'll charm the coin when I return," he said before kissing her gently on the lips; he dropped the wards on the room hastily and left at once.

She clambered from the bed, sad to leave its warmth, but infinitely sadder that Draco had been taken from her with no warning. She redressed quickly and restored the bed to its original state, a dusty velvet ottoman. Peering anxiously in one direction, then the other, she set off toward Gryffindor tower, knowing that she'd never sleep until Draco was safely in the castle.

Hermione Granger had never had trouble with Charms, but, tonight, her N.E.W.T. review was proving difficult. In her current state, she would wager that she couldn't manage a simple hovering charm. Draco had left the castle hours ago and she was terribly worried for him; for the first time, she allowed herself to think the words. Death Eater. Draco was a Death Eater, the very thing she'd been fighting against since entering the wizarding world. Though she knew them to be true, she couldn't associate the words with the blonde wizard, though he'd felt the Mark flare only hours before.

"Hermione?"

She whipped her head around and found Harry standing at the bottom of the stairs.

"Pulling another all-nighter?" He came into the common room and sank into a squashy armchair opposite her. She regarded her friend for a moment; how simple things would be if she loved Harry. They were best friends, had been for years. He was, undoubtedly, on the right side in the war looming. He was caring, sincere, and just good. And she was sleeping with his exact opposite. Draco Malfoy was many things, conniving, controlling. She'd seen him be petty and cruel-he'd been cruel to her, and here she was, anxiously awaiting his return from Voldemort.

"Hermione?"

"Sorry, Harry," she said contritely. "What are you doing out of bed in the middle of the night?"

"I was about to ask you the same thing," he said shrewdly. "I saw you come in sometime after curfew, but you've been studying ever since. I didn't want to disturb you."

"I haven't been studying, Harry, I've been staring at my Charms notes for hours but haven't written a single word or cast a single spell."

"What's wrong, Hermione?"

"I was with Malfoy tonight..."

"Go on," he said, though he wasn't quite sure he wanted to hear his friend get into the steamier aspects of her association with the boy who had once made a rather amusing bouncing ferret.

"He was summoned by Voldemort, Harry. He jumped up, threw his robes on and dashed out of the room. I've been worried sick," she admitted miserably.

Harry paused to consider his words, "He's a Death Eater, Hermione. It's always going to be like this, not that you have a future with him."

His words stung and she made no reply.

"I'm sorry, but it's true," he went on.

"Just hurts to hear, is all," she mumbled.

"Sorry?" he said. "I didn't catch that."

"I said I didn't plan on a future with him," she said peevishly.

Harry stared at her for a long moment; she squirmed slightly under his gaze. Finally, he spoke. "Are you going to wait all night?"

She paused for a moment, "No, I don't believe I will." She packed her bag and started up the stairs to her dormitory. Harry, satisfied, did the same.

It was nearly three o'clock before she felt the coin blaze in her hand. Ishtar, right now. Throwing caution to the wind, she threw on her dressing gown and dashed toward the dungeons.