Disclaimer: By JKR, I wish Draco and Hermione were mine to toy with so that I could make them see their animosity is really just the potential for something much more meaningful. Alas, I don't. I still try with my fanfiction, though, which is just that. FANfiction. Not AUTHORfiction. Got it?

Setting: During the Second War, before the Battle of Hogwarts.

Rating: T - a bit of harsh sexual language around the ending

A/N: Wrote this quite a while back. Was supposed to be sweet and painful at first, then smutty and failing both of those, now I just wish it was longer than it turned out. If I get reviews asking for a continuation, I might write the rest of the story. Don't know whether I'll go with the original ending that I'd had in mind for about two years or give you a smut chapter first or whatever. For now, all you need to do is read, hopefully enjoy and review if the mood strikes you!

Oh, and should you be one of those people who like flaming, please go write something yourself before tearing other people's works down. Constructive critisism is much appreciated, though.

Out there

"What happens if we meet?"

He opened his eyes. The drowsy contentment he had been bathed in just seconds before was gone just like that. He could still feel the warmth radiating off her body so close to his.

(That beautiful, impure body of hers.)

But the peace was gone. The peace he only knew with her. The peace that made him risk both their lives time and time again.

They had met in the middle of the Forbidden Forest, both fleeing from their respective enemies; he from the Order members that had separated him from his group and she from the Death Eaters that had gotten far too close for comfort.

He had recognized her right away. That bushy hair of hers was unmistakable even in the dim light that made its way through the many layers of leaves and shrubbery above them. Furthermore it was the way she moved, her head held high even in flight, yet her back seemingly burdened by exhaustion.

He assumed, he, too, would be easy to identify, with his silver blond hair and the cowardly way he was running, head ducked, eyes frantically searching for enemies.

Draco was proven right when she stopped abruptly as soon as she saw him and did the same. Both wands suddenly raised high in preparation for battle, they began to circle each other, keeping the distance, but inching towards each other slowly.

His mind was racing. It had been all day. There had been so many things going on that he had yet to deal with internally and now he had met Granger of all people and was meant to duel with her? Apart from the fact that he somehow doubted he could defeat her, he was kind of reluctant to actually turn his wand against her. She was, after all, not just some nameless face that fell victim to the War. She was Hermione Granger, the ugly little know-it-all Mudblood he had had so much fun verbally sparring with. She was one of the people he knew from Hogwarts.

Surprising himself, he lowered his wand with a tired sigh.

"We don't have to do this, Granger. Let's just both walk away."

She didn't answer, just looked at him with those wide brown eyes of hers, suspicious, unrelenting. It was obvious she didn't trust him, expected him to make her let her guard down, then attack her.

"Seriously, Granger. I don't want to fight you."

He did the unthinkable and dropped his wand. Had he been a Gryffindor, he still wouldn't have called that bravery. Giving her complete control over him was one of the stupidest things he had ever done. Sure, it wouldn't be like her to hex an unarmed man, but still. All she had to do was call some of her Order friends and he'd be done for.

He slid down the tree he had been half-concealed by until he sat on the cold forest ground and buried his face in his hands.

"This has not been a good day and I don't want to fight you."

The headache he had magically suppressed all day came back full force.

"How bad was it?"

It was only when she spoke and he looked up that he realized how close she had gotten. Her wand was still at the ready, but she didn't seem as if she was thinking about the best ways to jinx his ass into next year. He also absent mindedly noted that he'd kind of missed hearing that prissy voice of hers. Even though it didn't sound so prissy right now. Just cautious and old.

"Really, Granger? You're asking me how my day went?"

He laughed sarcastically and saw her squaring her shoulders in response to that well-known side of him.

"I'm not asking for your sake. I'm sure you had tons of fun, despite the act you're putting on, now."

He looked at her hard.

"Just because I'm a Slytherin I don't necessarily enjoy going on killing sprees with my sadistic Death Eater buddies."

His voice was as cold as ice. Then the faces came back and the screams and the blood.

His head sunk down onto his palms again and he began massaging his temples. It didn't help the headache, nor erased it the terror he had witnessed today. He just wanted it all to stop.

"Just go away, Granger. Shut up and go away. Leave me alone with your accusations and your self-righteousness."

When she spoke again, her voice was hesitant and strangely gentle. He felt as if she was talking to a house-elf and wondered whether that should make him indignant.

"You know we could get you out of there, Malfoy. Just say the word and the Order will happily accept you."

She was very close now. He was almost certain he'd see her crouching before him if he opened his eyes.

"Forget it, Granger. I will come out of this on the winning side.", he snapped, looking up.

They're eyes were on the same level and for a second he was distracted by the fact that the last time he had seen hers up close, she had slapped him. Then all he could see was the sadness in them.

"There are no winning sides, Draco. Only people who lose the ones they love the most."

She seemed a thousand years old.

"Do you really want to live in a world ruled by the Dark Lord?"

His answer was as honest as the rest he had said during this strange exchange. It would startle him, if he was any less exhausted.

"I would rather live than be dead, like you and your precious Order will be."

She hesitantly reached out to touch him. He was surprised he didn't flinch when her fingertips reached his cheeks. But then again, it had been too long since anyone had touched him in any way other than violent.

"It won't go away, Draco. The way you are feeling now. If the Dark Lord kills us and lets you live, you still won't be happy ever again. This war has changed us all."

He wanted to tell her to get her filthy Mudblood fingers off him, but somehow he knew there'd be no bite in his voice. And what good was an insult without bite? She was warm. She was gentle. She was real. Right now, he could care less about her being a Mudblood.

Those brown eyes held all the sadness in the world.

"I still won't help you."

She nodded slightly. And then he kissed her.

It was simple. Just a brush of his lips against hers. Then his hands snaked to her neck, buried themselves in her messy hair and his lips found hers again. There was no force in his grip. She could easily have broken free and for more than just a second he was almost sure she would. That she would push him away from her and slap him soundly.

She didn't.

Neither could ever tell what had happened there. Why he had kissed her and why she had eventually decided to kiss him back. It hadn't turned into more than a kiss, either. There hadn't even been any tongue involved. It remained a small thing, a few minutes of forgetting everything but the feel of cracked lips caressing each other and giving themselves over to the exhaustion the War brought with it.

A bit of peace.

Then they broke apart and stared at each other for a long time. There was no panic in either set of eyes, no regret. Just a shared understanding.

Eventually, they both got up and walked in their respective directions without another word or another glance at each other.

They both made it out of the forest. They both found the people they had been looking for.

The second time they had met, they had both secretly strayed away from the others to get closer to each other. He had dragged her behind a rock and she had let him aparate her to one of his villas by the sea. She contacted the Order that she was fine and had simply run into a bit of a bother; he owled the same thing to his father. Then they proceeded to get to know each other physically.

From that moment on, they met once a month in that hideout. Just for the moment of peace after the boiling passion.

Which brought his thoughts back to the present.

"What do you mean?"

She propped herself up on one elbow and looked him in the eye.

"What happens if we meet on the battlefield?"

He closed his eyes. It was so like her. So like her to go ahead and destroy everything. He wasn't here for her, he was here for the peace, the goddamn peace!

"We'll go our separate ways."

He didn't know whether he was lying. Sure, he didn't expect to be capable of killing her, but what did he know, really? He would have to kill once the final battle started.

(And that battle was coming closer every day. Everyone knew that.)

If she stood between him and his life… He didn't know what he'd do.

"Let's just sleep, Granger."

She didn't give up so easily, though.

"But what if I find you at the mercy of Order members? Or if you see that Death Eaters are about to kill me? What are we supposed to do then?"

Angrily, he sat up.

"This isn't love, Granger. It's just sex. Don't make such a big deal out of it. I might not be looking forward to killing you or watching you die and vice versa, but that might happen and if it does, so be it. Frankly, I would rather be dead than captured, and so should you be."

He wished she didn't look so… So… Like she'd expected him to say it.

"Since when would you rather be dead?"

"I won't be. My side will win. But hypothetically, if you did beat us, I'd rather be dead than without anything resembling a life. They'd shut me up in Azkaban and eventually have me kissed."

The thought was worse now that he'd given it a voice. She just had to go ahead and ruin the moment. And look so indifferent while doing it.

"So I suppose we could make a deal. If you win and I get captured, you kill me and if we win and you get captured, I kill you. We can just claim we've been waiting the entire duration of the War to be able to do that. No one will dispute that."

He just looked at her for a long time. At those hypnotic brown eyes that were so cold now, so rational. Wasn't she supposed to be the emotional one?

"That's why you're sleeping with me, isn't it? You want an out if things don't go as planned. That's pathetic, Granger."

A bitter snort escaped his lips and with an almost cruel smile, he whispered in her ear.

"But what more could be expected of a filthy little Mudblood like you."

She didn't show the slightest reaction, even though it could not have been more obvious he meant his disgust for her. She just kept looking at him. Wasn't he supposed to be the Slytherin who only wanted her because of an advantage? When had the roles become so reversed?

She eventually nodded.

"Yes. That's the reason."

And just like that, his mask was back.

"How very cunning of you. Now kiss me."

She did it without hesitation, even though he was surrounded with a deadly calm that in no way resembled the peace he was with her for.

Her lips meeting his felt different now. The gentleness seemed fake, so he couldn't allow it anymore.

He wished he had the strength to just kick her out of his bed and make her leave for good. But he was much too angry right now. He was so angry he actually felt helpless. Fucking helpless! And he needed that control back he'd had over himself.

It had always been gentle. Gentle, careful, slow. Every exploration of each other's body. Every time they had kissed. Every time they had had sex. It had been about the peace, not the passion. There had been no roughness.

She would get roughness now. If she wanted to whore herself out to him to make him do her a favor, she would at least pay for it properly.

He grabbed her hair hard and pulled her head back.

"Don't fucking kiss me like that. Kiss me like you mean it."

And finally, finally, he didn't feel like the victim in this. When her lips came crashing down on his again, they were as passionate as he needed her to be. There was no trace of gentleness left in them and he would make sure to fuck even the last rest of it right out of her. Today, she would not leave as the victor.

He devoured her hungrily, bruisingly, his hands no longer caressing her but punishing. He pushed her onto her back, pressed her wrists into the mattress over her head and denied her access to his lips. For a second, he couldn't help but stare. At the chocolate curls that framed her head like a halo, at her heaving chest aching to touch him, at the undeniable lust in her eyes that he had never really noticed.

At the complete and utter lack of peace.