Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. Depressing, but true.

Thanks for your thoughtful reviews and birthday wishes! Chapter two, as promised. Yes, this is a far degree darker than what I usually write, but you'll see where I'm going with it when you reach the end. It's been so nice to have you along for the (short) ride. Off to go make some headway on a longer story! Tah lovelies!



The fourth time they fucked, she was visibly nervous, her hands clammy and her heart beating unusually fast all day leading up to it. Not good. Not good.

No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get the memory of the previous orgasm out of her thoughts. Familiar feelings of hatred and revulsion were being nudged aside by the warm feeling in her stomach. It was the first time in so long she had been able to let go, the first time she had felt actual pleasure in years. She was wet just thinking about it. The fact that she was wet made her want to die. It was unacceptable.

But it was a fact. Her body was responding in a way she couldn't control, and it was scaring her. Had she really been that starved for release? Her time at work was tense and busy. Her time at Headquarters was tense and lonely. It made sense that a moment of pleasure would become a welcome thing.

But not from him... Right?

Christ, was she really questioning this?

Right on schedule, he came into her office again, locking the door and killing the lights. He bent her over. He tugged down her knickers.

But when his fingers thrust in, she heard him make a surprised sound in the back of his throat. Shame took over her, and she felt her cheeks heat up. This was not the way it was supposed to work. She wasn't supposed to be wet for him. That was never the plan. She was not allowed to look forward to this.

Remember the first time. Remember how terrible he can be.

He didn't say anything, but stroked her opening a few times before sliding in. He wasn't as rough now. She made it through the rhyme seven times before she came, an eighth to bring him there.

She didn't cry afterwards.

The fifth time they fucked, she was called into his office. Expecting to get pushed onto the desk again, she was surprised to see a leather couch against a previously-empty wall. He took her arm and guided her over. He pulled down his pants to his knees and sat down.

"Knickers off," he commanded. She removed them, finding it hard to take her eyes off his stiff length. She'd always averted her gaze until now. Coupled with his muscular thighs, she was surprisingly transfixed. He was unfairly beautiful. He knew it.

"Ride me," he said.

She forgot to recite the nursery rhyme.

Their sessions began to blend together until the following week. She was against the wall again, legs wrapped around his waist, waiting for him to thrust. They were nose to nose.

"Kiss me," he ordered.

She stared. Despite him having fucked her a dozen times over, they had never done anything as intimate as kiss.

"Now," he said, his voice hard.

Realizing that she might insult him by waiting any longer, she brought her lips to his. Their movements were unsure and timid for the first few seconds, but she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, and she felt him melt into her embrace. He tasted like wintergreen. His hands grasped her buttocks, and he slid inside her with an almost-inaudible sigh.

She came twice.

That night at Headquarters, Bill Weasley commented that she looked content. Happy, even. "You've just got this aura about you, 'Mione." He meant it as a compliment, as was alarmed when she burst into tears.

"Work stress," she explained, embarrassed and wiping her cheeks.

"'Course love," he said, patting her on the shoulder. "It must be hard working for those bastards. Not much longer now. You'll be out of there soon... I know it."

She couldn't identify the sensation that was building in her chest, but it felt strangely like panic.

Draco wasn't at work for two days straight.

Hermione was too scared to ask anyone, and didn't leave her desk to go searching. There were too many dangerous people here for her to be wandering around. Not even to look for him. She knew he was the only reason she was still alive - every other employee here would sooner deliver her to Lucius than tell her what had happened to Draco.

The third day, she nearly cried with relief when she was called into his office. She walked in quickly, trying not to seem eager, but desperately curious to know where he had been.

The answer was painfully clear.

Draco sat at his desk with his head in his hands, his face marred with black bruises, his fingers in bandages, and one of his eyes hurt so badly that the whites had turned blood red.

"Hello Granger," he said, his voice tired.

She bit her lip to stop it from trembling. "Who did this? Is... Is it my fault?" she asked, quietly.

"Doesn't matter," he said. Then, standing slowly, he walked around the desk and stopped in front of her. He moved a piece of hair out of her eyes. "You've still got a job, anyway."

Before he could say anything else, she leaned in and kissed him as gently as she could. She felt his face react with surprise, and then his arm snaked around her waist. She raked her fingers through his baby-soft hair.

"Thank you," she whispered.

The twentieth time they fucked, she walked into his office and was shocked to find that he had transfigured the couch into a bed. He was sitting on the edge, watching her with his strange gray eyes.

"Take off your clothes," he said.

Somewhat nervously, she dropped her skirt. The buttons of her shirt came undone one by one, until she let it fall to the ground. Her lace bra slid off her breasts. Slowly, she stepped out of her knickers. Drafty, cold air made her break out in gooseflesh. That fact only made her more nervous. She winced as she looked up at him, deeply self-conscious.

She had never been fully naked in front of him before. They had always fucked on borrowed time, quick sessions with minimal removal of clothing. What if he didn't like what he saw? Her throat hurt with nerves as she watched his reaction.

His jaw went slack as his eyes raked over her body.

He stood, pulling off his shirt and dropping his pants in one quick move. He was pale and thin, but with tight, defined muscles. A perfect torso. Beautiful arms. God, those fucking thighs. Butterflies made her stomach clench uncomfortably. She noticed that the Dark Mark was missing from where she expected it to be. Was he using a glamour charm? Her eyes traveled to his face as he walked towards her. They fluttered shut as his lips met hers.

"Come to bed with me," he said, his voice hoarse.

When he came inside of her, she could have sworn he whispered her name.

Neville was killed overnight on a mission. Hermione came into work with dead eyes, having not slept a wink. She went through the motions at her desk, reading robotically, making notes, filing. Repeat. She missed lunch.

When Draco came to fetch her, she didn't even realize he had entered the room.

"Granger," he said. She looked up. "You're crying."

Surprised, she felt her cheeks. Soaking wet. How long had she been crying for?

He looked strangely guilty. Of course. He must have known about Neville. Jesus, his father was probably responsible. She narrowed her eyes, anger licking at her throat. Goddamn bloody bastard.

Her mind tingled.

They didn't fuck that day. He sent her home early, and gave her the following day off.

The next week, there was a fresh bottle of the blue potion on her desk.

She stared, wondering how she felt about the fact that she might have another month of work lined up. Work, and whatever the hell else she was doing here. What had this complicated agreement become? Her life revolved around him now. Knickers had become redundant, usually discarded in her desk drawer. She was also always wet, her body in a constant state of excitement of what Draco might do to her that day. He was the enemy, she knew, but apparently her cunt needed to be reminded. Even now, just looking at the potion, she felt her clit tighten.

Uncorking the bottle, she swallowed the liquid down.

He fucked her hard that afternoon, holding her ankles up around her ears as he drove into her. He came so strongly she could feel her insides fill up with warmth, a broken cry escaping from his lips.

"You didn't come," he said, panting. She was about to explain that she had been right on the edge when he dropped to his knees and ran his tongue over her quim. Holy fuck. Holy fuck. Holy fuck.

She moaned his name as white light exploded behind her eyelids.

Something was happening at Headquarters. Although she wasn't supposed to ask for details, she found herself becoming intensely curious as to what was going on. Voices were buzzing in the kitchen. There was excitement in the air.

Teddy rushed out of the kitchen with Tonks in hot pursuit. She gave Hermione an apologetic smile as she scooped him up and headed back to the packed room.

"Almost there, Hermione," she whispered gleefully. "Give me an hour and then I have something important to put in your mind."

Hermione laid in bed until 4 a.m., unable to sleep, dread kicking at her chest. What had Tonks done? What was she going to do by extension?

The thirtieth time they fucked, it was urgent and desperate all at once. Clothes were strewn around his office, and she straddled him on the couch, writhing as he bounced her on his lap. His mouth was everywhere - on her neck, her breasts, her lips.

"Draco," she murmured in between kisses. "Draco."

"Oh God, Hermione," he moaned, and then his body stiffened. They came together with a gasp, her hands in his hair, his nails digging into her arse.

She rested her forehead in the crook of his neck, hoping her tears would be hidden by her bangs. They stayed like that for a long time, ignoring the ticking of the clock on the wall. He ran his fingers along her spine, gently, up and down.

Her mind tingled.

When she arrived back at Headquarters that night, nobody was home.

There was always someone home.

She walked through the huge old house, hoping for signs of life, terrified what this might mean. Every bedroom was still. All the cots were empty. The cloaks were gone.

When she finished in the kitchen, she saw the note. It was pinned to the hearth in the hopes that she might find it. Trepidation shook her body as she walked over, reaching out to take the small piece of paper from where it hung.

Lucius is dead. Going in for the kill.

The room spun, and she clutched the table for support.

This was it. This was the night they either win or lose. This was the night that would decide the rest of her life.

She sat down and waited, feeling physically incapable of doing anything else.

For the first time, she wondered if Draco ever joined his father on missions.

She prayed he didn't.

In the end, Voldemort fell shortly after Lucius, along with over half the Order. Malfoy Enterprises was shut down almost immediately under suspicion for its ties with Death Eaters. England was free again.

Hermione felt a mixture of overwhelming relief and an equally overwhelming sensation of having a bomb go off inside of her chest. After moment's hesitation, she ran back to her former place of work, stalking through each room to find some clue as to where Draco might be. It was deserted, all signs of life gone, the couch she had become so familiar with was cruelly abandoned in the shadows. As she rifled through his office, she realized how insane she must look. Looking for a lover who was on the wrong side of the fight. Looking for a lover who might never have been a real lover at all - just a man who was taking advantage of a convenient situation. She didn't care. She had to find him. Even if it was just to hear that she meant nothing to him, she had to know.

Two weeks of fruitless searching yielded nothing. The celebrations came and went, big noisy affairs with lots of heartfelt speeches and sobbing onlookers. Hermione felt shell shocked through them. She watched, but didn't hear. She and Harry linked arms at all the public events, hardly speaking. He seemed as dazed as she was.

"I don't know what to do with myself," he said to her, quietly, during one of the speeches. "I feel like my old life is gone. Like I have to start over now."

"Me too," she whispered, her throat tightening with grief. How do you rebuild your life on an unstable foundation? Her parents were dead. Most of her friends were dead. The person who occupied her thoughts might very well be dead too.

"I feel like my heart is broken," she murmured, resting her head on his shoulder.

He nodded solemnly. "That's a good way to describe it."

After three weeks, she returned to her parents' home. It had been left to her in the will, and she had been steadfastly avoiding going back. It was almost too much to be standing in the rooms where she spent her childhood. Nothing had changed, and yet, absolutely everything had changed. She spent weeks there, sorting through boxes, looking at pictures, sobbing on her parents' bed. What would they say if they saw her now? What would they do with their mess of a daughter?

Eventually she began to accept her new reality. She really was going to start over. Harry was staying in Godric's Hollow, trying to get some sense of what to do next. Similarly, she would stay here until she felt ready to move on.

And as for Draco, she accepted that he was not coming back. The changes she thought she saw in him never existed. She was an easy screw, and he was a Death Eater. An unfortunate and incompatible pairing. It was stupid of her to have considered it, to have given herself hope. Even if he was alive, they would never see one another again.

Several weeks later, there was a knock at the door. Assuming it was one of the women from the church who so often visited the neighbourhood, she opened it, and felt her vision swim when Draco was standing on the other side.

She couldn't move, staring at him as her jaw dropped.

He looked exactly the same. Perfectly parted hair, cool gray eyes, pale skin. His suit had been replaced by dark slacks and a black dress shirt.

She couldn't breathe.

He arched an eyebrow at her. "Going to invite me in Grager? Or are you going to gape at me all day?"

"What are you doing here?" she choked out.

He gave her an indecipherable look and walked in, slipping past her to stand in the living room.

"I heard you were looking for me," he responded.

She closed the door and stared at him again, anger starting to build inside of her. How could he just stand there? Did he understand what she had been going through? No, of course not. She was just a convenient fuck. Right.

"Who told you that?" she asked.

"Potter," he said, casually.

The implications of Draco talking to Harry were far beyond what her mind could handle right now. "I never mentioned you to Harry," she said, simply. It was true. As far as Harry was concerned, her relationship with Draco was only what the Order had planned out when she got the job.

"Perhaps Potter is smarter than he looks," he shrugged, still seeming irritatingly indifferent.

"So what did you tell Harry?" Hermione said, feeling the fury taking over her senses. "That I was a good little whore? That I was a model employee? That it was a pity I was born with dirty blood?"

Draco's eyes widened and then narrowed, his jaw tensing angrily.

"Fuck you Granger. You have no idea what I've done for you."

"So what have you done?" she said, her voice verging on hysterical. "Please tell me. I would love to hear."

"Do you really think I didn't know?" he roared, suddenly, advancing on her. "Did you really think I couldn't tell that your bogus memories were just that? What kind of an imbecile do you take me for? You gave me almost no information for years. I had to spin so many lies just to keep you employed. My father would have gutted you on the first day."

"What?" she said, shaking her head in confusion. "You lied for me? Why?"

"Because the alternative was death! They weren't about to let you go back to the Order if you weren't working for us. You either worked for me, or you were killed."

"But... Why did you want to keep me alive?"

He stared at her, panting angrily. "Wh... What? Really? I would have thought that would be fairly obvious by now."

"Nothing with you is obvious," she whispered. "I never know what's real and what isn't. If you were trying to keep me employed, then why did you threaten to fire me?"

"Because my father had reached the end of his patience. He said he would arrive at the end of his mission to kill you himself. I was trying to give you an out."

She stood, quietly, absorbing the information.

"But you kept me."

"Frankly Granger, I wasn't about to resist what you were offering."

"You could have taken it anytime by force."

"I may not be the romantic type, but I would never take that from you without your consent," he seethed. "I told my father you would be getting some key information within the next month. I had to buy some time to figure out what to do. He wasn't happy - we fought about it. But I got my way in the end."

"But the memories stayed vague," she said. "What information did you give him to hold him off?"

Draco looked at her guiltily. "I saw in your mind that Potter was travelling with Longbottom. I had kept it to myself, but when my father threatened to kill you, I told him."

Hermione gasped. "They tracked Neville! They killed him... They could have killed Harry!"

"I had to tell them something!" he said, pleading with her to understand. "Granger, my father wouldn't have given you the benefit of a quick death. He would have made it as gruesome and painful as possible, for you and I. The Longbottom tip was just vague enough that I hoped it wouldn't do too much damage. Unfortunately, it did."

Tears started flowing down her cheeks, anger and sadness finally breaking her down. "And the last memory? The one you saw on the final night?"

"It was Harry's location," his voice tired. "It was a trap set by the Order."

"You knew that?" she gasped. "Did you tell your father?"

"I told him the location. I didn't tell him my suspicions."

"You gave him information that lead to his death," she stated, in awe.

"He was a tyrant," he replied. "He killed my mother. He wanted to kill you. It was for the best."

She stared at him.

"Are you a Death Eater?" she asked. "Don't lie."

"I was," he admitted. "My Mark disappeared when it was clear I wasn't loyal enough. My father let me run the company to keep me protected."

Several large pieces of the puzzle slid together in her mind... But there was still one missing. "What am I to you?" she asked, somewhat dreading the answer. He could break her right here if he wanted to. He could ruin her with one word.

He ran his hand through his hair, shuffling his feet uncomfortably. She held her breath.

"The only good thing I have left, it seems," he said.

She exhaled.

"Where did you disappear to?" she said, softly. "I thought you had died."

"Potter told me to clean up my life if I was serious about you," he said. "Gave my mother a proper burial. Cleaned all the Dark artifacts out of the Manor. Cut my ties with my father's acquaintances. Got everything ready."

"Ready for what?"

"To start fresh. Hopefully with you." He met her gaze and for a split second, she saw absolute terror in his eyes. He was as scared as she was. She blinked, scarcely able to believe what this meant.

"You realize that what we had... Well... That's not the way it will work if we are to try this out in a serious way," she said. "I'm not your employee anymore. I'm your equal."

He nodded. "I understand that."

Relief flooded her. She walked up to him slowly and ran her fingers along his jaw. He leaned into her touch and closed his eyes.

"I'm willing to try," she whispered.

He kissed her palm with a tenderness she had never seen him display before. "I could treat you so well," he said. "You wouldn't have to lift a finger if you didn't want to."

The nursery rhyme came back to her, but this time, she wasn't trying to escape anything.

Curly Locks, Curly Locks,

Will you be mine?

"Draco?" she said.

You shall not wash dishes

Nor feed the swine

He looked up, a happy calm on his face for the first time she could remember.


But sit on a cushion

And sew a fine seam

And sup upon strawberries,

Sugar, and cream.

"Come to bed with me," she whispered.

That night, Hermione decided to throw away the tally she had been counting up in the back of her mind. This time would be the real thing. Forget the previous thirty: this was number one.