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    Draco sat impatiently in the empty Slytherin common room Tuesday morning, staring absentmindedly into the roaring fireplace. His mind was clouded and groggy, his face tired and thin. He had grown accustom to sleepless nights in his previous term but was adapting to them lethargically this year. Bedtime was something he took reluctantly now. 

    His stomach sounded a low growl; he ignored the hungry noise and tapped his long, white fingers on his knee. He scanned the door with his eyes every few minutes, wary of Slytherin intruders. His head lolled backwards just as a head came into plain view within the embers of the fireplace. The head was stretched against the fire, as if struggling to break free into the common room. His face was long and smug, much like his son’s. He scowled at the sight of Draco. 

    “Father!” Draco leapt from the chair and kneeled at the fireplace timidly. “I was expecting Snape! If somebody sees you–” 

    “Tell me you’ve figured out your task,” Lucius said coldly. 

    “Well, I–” 

    “Honestly Draco, it perplexes me as to why you are unfocused. Perhaps there is something less important keeping you from the Dark Lord’s orders?” Draco shook his head but said nothing. “I would have thought you would put more effort into this after your abhorrent blunder last year!” 

    “Father, it’s not like I–” 

    “Listen to me, this is our last chance. DO NOT FAIL HIM, DRACO!"

    “But how will I be unseen?” There was a hint of desperation in his voice. 

    “This is more important than you getting thrown into Azkaban! This is our entire family’s life at stake! Think of your mother for Merlin’s sake.” The battle of guilt and gratitude for his mother risking her life for him everyday seemed constant with Draco; he did not need help heeding his father’s request. “They MUST fear that Hogwarts is dangerous without that no-good-Dumbledore. It’s your job to ensure that happens!” 

    “I don’t understand what the point is,” he muttered under his breath. 

    “It is just a mudblood! See here, you will do as I say. I will not have a coward for a son!” 

    As he looked up to retort, Lucius’ face had diminished from the fireplace and he was left alone on the floor with his agonizing thoughts. They threatened to pummel him into a storm of worry and isolation. Draco felt beside himself in this, longing to break free from the torrential downpour. His stomach grumbled uneasily again, and something malicious wrenched upward from the pit of it. How was he, now somewhat renounced, to commit the most abominable Unforgivable Curse? Surely he couldn’t. He wouldn’t. Yet amidst his own afflicting argument with his heart and head, he was irresolute. And this reality scared him to death. 

    These thoughts circled continuously, lapsing over each other, choking the other out. He felt sicker with self-disdain the more they repeated. The Dark Mark stung lightly, embedding itself into his arm, deeper than his pale skin should allow, reminding him what he was meant for. He knew without a doubt that the Mark on every Death Eater’s arm was burning just like his, and were all apparating next to Lord Voldemort at this very moment. To escape his imminent thoughts, he decided to head to the end of breakfast, a possibility of seeing her

    When he opened the Great Hall doors, to his surprised relief, she was sitting alone, unaccompanied by her sickening friends. Her movements seemed to be displayed before him in slow motion as he watched her turn the pages of her book and play with her hair. Hermione then picked up her goblet, her eyes still searching the pages intently as he dashed up to her. 

    “Hey!” he yelled at her back, overly excited to see her. 

    Hermione jumped a few inches off the bench, goblet and all, spilling pumpkin juice all over the table and book. She twisted around displeased. Draco was bleary eyed but smiling from ear to ear at her. She sighed heavily, thankful it was only him. 

    “Will I always be cleaning up your mess?” she asked, flicking her wand. The juice evaporated, leaving the pages dry. 

    “Probably,” he said, as she stood from the table. 

    He wanted more than anything to embrace her, but quite a few Gryffindors still lingered amongst the table. “I’m probably going to skip out on first lesson.” He awaited her righteous speech, but nothing came. “You should skip Runes and come with me.” He moved to the table, sitting on the top of it next to her book, and placing his feet on the bench. 

    “Come with you to – wait, how did you know I have Runes?" she asked. 

    "Well I kind of studied your schedule," he said slyly. “Technically watching. It’s not like I’m only loitering hallways when I’m with my friends.” 

    “You mean you watch me go to class?” 

    “Yes,” he said again. “I have to make sure you’re alright.” 

    “From what?” she lightly laughed. 

    But he didn’t answer her, and she didn’t need him to. He looked away up at the bewitched ceiling, cumulus clouds circling above them in a periwinkle sky. The beauty was intoxicating. His signature smirk formed on his face, giving him a more spirited look. 

    “So are you in?”

    Hermione whispered into Draco’s neck as he hastily pulled her around a fifth floor corridor. “We’re going to get caught!” she said in hushed tones, giggling louder. “I’m a Prefect!” 

    “You should be docking points from me then.” Draco laughed heartily too, unafraid of being caught or expelled form Hogwarts. To him, that might only be a blessing. His laugh boomed through the corridor and rang off the walls, creating a sudden echo in the still school. 

    “Shh!” Hermione giggled again, into her hand. 

    Huge grins were plastered on to both of their faces. All they could sense were teeth and lips, smiling at each other childishly, ducking out of sight from teachers and Aurors. 

    “Boris the Bewildered,” Draco chuckled out as they reached the prefects’ bathroom. 

    “The statue?” Hermione asked puzzled, still half laughing. 

    The door clicked open. “No, it’s the password.” Draco tilted his head behind him towards the door. “You of all people should know, Prefect.”

    She playfully pushed Draco into the bathroom, her eyes glittering with seduction now. Once upon the other side, she bolted it shut again. She looked about the lavatory, thrown aback at how seldom she used the glorious room. The candles in the chandelier were dimly lit, casting a handsome golden color upon everything. It felt intimate in itself, and Hermione wondered if he had planned on this happening all along. 

    Draco tinkered with the many faucets for the pool-sized tub. Red, blue, and green soap erupted from the jeweled spouts, quickly filling the tub to mid-level with rainbow bubbles. The mermaid above flitted her fins. 

    “Fancy a bath?” he asked her alluringly. 

    Hermione chuckled into her sleeve. “You’re not serious,” she said with a smile. 

    “I’m not?” he asked, unfastening his belt and pants. 

    Hermione rolled her eyes. He dipped his hand into the water, retrieving a few suds on his fingers. He gently blew them off into the air and watched them float towards her, hovering to the ground and dissolving there. 

    He walked over to her, now looking humorless. She was nervous about how intent he grew. He came closer to her, allowing no space between their bodies. Hermione’s heart-beat rapidly became deep and unmanageable. It thundered against her chest causing her to falter backwards, as if taking steps away from him were to save her from what she knew was to come next. She was almost terrified now as she reached her end; her back meeting the cold, stone wall. But his body came in close to hers, reassuringly, his chest pressed against her. 

    He bent his head low enough to touch hers, his cool breath fanning her face. With his succulent lips barely brushing hers, he muttered “I love you” against them. He kissed her sweetly, once on the mouth. 

    Her heart boomed louder, shaking her insides, as he pulled away to look at her. But she couldn’t return his gaze. She felt nervous and shy all over again with him, not knowing what to say. She was unusually thankful for the darkness in the room now, but she was not naive enough to believe he would let his admission go without her acknowledgement. She had not replied, and Draco never let such things pass. 

    His hand entered the top of her blouse, and a few of the buttons naturally unfastened. He rested his hand over her heart and creased his brows. “Are you alright?” he asked, feeling the beats as they tried to penetrate her smooth skin. 

    She smiled in response, unable to use her words anymore. He grasped both of her delicate hands and pulled her towards the edge of the marble bathtub, crossing the bathroom floor together in a few strides. He pressed his lips firmly to hers, while she stood on tip-toe, her arms sliding up his body and encasing his neck. His tongue entered her mouth, tasting and devouring her. His hands soon became tangled in her mess of curls as she responded and kissed him more deeply. 

    She began undoing the remaining buttons on her blouse, fully aware of Draco’s startled expression. His arms hung at his sides, unaware of what to do with them. “You’re sure?” he whispered against her face. 

    She nodded. Her breath escalated into panting like a ravenous animal when he slipped the blouse from her arms. Draco’s palms began to sweat and he left a trail of moisture on her skin. His nerves had got the best of him. 

    He took a short moment to relax and allow them both to steady their breathing. But with his fingers still clenched in her naked shoulder blades, none of it made any difference. Draco no longer wanted to contain the demon inside of him. He tried desperately not to lunge at her but had executed failure. Excitement flooded his veins; those veins that harbored the blood enslaved to Voldemort. 

    He tore off his green necktie and shirt together, and looked her dead in the eyes. “I love you,” he repeated, tossing his uniform to the tile floor. “And I don’t care if you won’t say it back.” 

    The golden light brimmed the top of her breast; he watched her chest rise and fall as she heaved in difficult gulps of air. She was grateful at his last statement because Hermione no longer believed she could assemble those words for him. Not now, and maybe not ever. In theory anything had been possible for them. But as they moved in the dark, hands upon skin, the lion and the snake, “love” was far too unreal to submit herself to. 

    He tickled her bottom lip with the tip of his tongue. Ecstasy entangled her better judgment. She started kissing his bare chest, pressing her lips lower to his porcelain stomach and even lower to his defined hips. When she reached his slacks, she swiftly pulled them down with his boxers. When she got to her feet, Draco moaned with satisfaction as she allowed her hands to slip beneath his hips to touch and please him in a way no one else could. A fever jolted through his body and the animal inside of him stirred. 

    He picked her up effortlessly and viciously put her on the edge of the bathtub. Hermione saw the danger mixing with the muted silver in his eyes, but she ceased to care. He bundled her skirt up to her waist and slid her knickers down her toned legs, letting them dangle at her ankles. His craving overwhelmed him when she bit her swollen lip, assuming she was gratified with his decision. He opened her legs and came in closer, desire and urgency lusting in his body. 

    “Do you really need me?” he asked seriously, flicking the blonde hair from his eyes. 

    “Yes,” she could barely utter, feeling his hand naturally move up her thigh. 

    Draco leaned in close to her ear, his platinum hair falling in front of his face again. “Then take me,” he whispered. He grazed her earlobe slightly with his teeth. 

    Hermione nodded in agreement, utterly blind as to what any of this really meant. The hindsight of it all would have to pummel her later because she wasn’t letting go now. As he moved himself inside her, his hips pressed into hers, and she dug her nails into his back. She clawed at him more uncontrollably when he thrust his body hard against hers and back out again. In and out, he ventured to measures her body had never endured before. And if he was being honest, he had never experienced either. 

    Hermione and Draco: naked and intertwined in the dark prefects’ bathroom. Nothing could keep the sweat from dripping to their lips. 

    They spent the rest of the day, ironically, quietly inside the Library; Hermione’s domain. It was conveniently empty during classes and secluded. The hours seemed to tick away and Madam Pince was obviously oblivious to their inhabitance of it. 

    They chose a table in the back, far left corner, where Hermione normally resided for her studying and leisure time. She fiddled with the pages of a book, creasing and uncreasing the corners while Draco caressed the back of her hand with his thumb. She propped herself on her elbow, her hand cupping her chin. She was looking at the past hour in retrospect, battling with herself. Had this been the right thing to do? She glanced at Draco as he watched her, a secretive smile on his lips. She turned the page and smiled internally, realizing she didn’t care what was right. She was past "right" by now. 

    Draco laced his fingers in between hers and felt thankful for the few moments of repose he could find here with her. His world held the utmost chaos that he was unsure of how to deal with anymore. 

    His father being a Death Eater, always caused an unsettling fear to stir inside of him as a child, but he had been, nevertheless, proud. He was likely to ignore his father’s business in the past, much the same way his father had done to him. Unless it was something to spoil the Malfoy name, Draco was disregarded. Scraped knees and nightmares tended to nurture themselves. The only parent Draco had ever truly known was Narcissa; perhaps what caused him to be so attached to her through his youth. But now Lucius’ endeavors were made Draco’s. There wasn’t time to hide himself behind vulgarity and trouble making. He was to perform right next to his father; however unsorted he might feel about it. 

    He longed for the bravery to reveal all his horrible secrets to Hermione, but she was so pure. Despite how dirty her blood might be, she was the epitome of chaste, and he refused to contaminate her with his deceitful ways. 

    His idolizing was ferociously interrupted when a group of Gryffindors entered the Library, Harry included. Draco released her hand as Harry walked over to the two of them and furrowed his brows. 

    “I thought you might be here. What are you doing, Hermione?” Harry sounded confused. 

    “T–Tutoring,” she stuttered. 

    “Can I have a word with you, then?” Harry’s eyes flickered from Hermione to Draco rapidly, waiting for an answer. Draco glowered at him and left without a goodbye. Harry watched him exit the Library completely before sitting down and explaining himself to her. 

    “You missed Defense Against the Dark Arts, Hermione. That’s a first in like what, seven years? I mean I can’t believe you’re even tutoring the bloke! You know what happened last year!” He paused, taking in a deep breath to calm his boiling blood before blowing up at her. 

    “You said it yourself, Harry. He was lowering his wand…” 

    “That doesn’t make him a saint,” he said matter-of-factly. 

    “I’m only doing it to get closer to him. To see if he knows anything.” She had said this so quickly. Immediately, she felt her lie sting painfully inside her body. 

    Harry sighed. “You need to be careful.” Hermione said nothing, and Harry carried on. “Listen, Hogsmeade is tomorrow and I…” but he couldn’t finish. 
    “I know,” she said soothingly. 

    “Do you remember what I told you about the sword?” 

    “Yes. You can count on us.” 

    “It’s extremely crucial, you understand that right?” 

    She nodded. 

    Ron and Ginny joined them a few moments later. Ron took the seat next to Hermione and laid his head in his arms on the table shamefully. Ginny did not sit. She stood distraughtly next to Harry, her eyes filled with tears, her arms crossed on her chest. Harry observed her melancholy expression, and comprehension dawned on him. 

    “Ron, you didn’t!” 

    Ron just shook his head in disbelief as Ginny let out a cry. “I can’t believe you were just going to leave without saying anything, Harry!” she screamed. 

    Harry didn’t yell back or explain to her it was better that way, but rose from his wooden chair and plainly held onto her, wrapping his arms around her waist. Ginny responded by putting her arms around his neck and sobbing into his cardigan. Hermione left to leaf through the Library again, suddenly feeling like she was intruding on a special moment for them. 

    “I’ll be back,” Harry reassured her, stroking her hair. 

    “No you won’t.” she said, sobbing harder. 

    Her tears collectively soaked Harry’s shoulder instantly. He said nothing because despite what all of them had hoped for, she was probably right. He wasn’t coming back. Nobody was sure if he was even going to be alive in the end. 

    “Can you promise you’ll come back to Hogwarts? Or at least to the Burrow?” Hope was twinkling in Ginny’s eyes. 

     “I promise.” Yet as soon as he said this, he knew it had been a terrible thing to vow.

    That night in the Heads’ Dorm, Harry and Hermione reviewed their plan for Harry to escape. She was inexplicably on her feet and attentive about this and could sense Harry was confused about her abrupt change. Hermione could hardly comprehend it herself but still cherished her secret: the prefects’ bathroom. 

    The duo had stayed up all night until the early hours of the morning, mainly due to Harry’s worrisome thoughts. The sun was just showing over the horizon. Harry ruffled his shaggy black hair and yawned as Hermione stretched her legs. He rose from the Gryffindor rug, gathering his parchment. 

    “I think I’m going to get in a couple hours of sleep. Do you mind? I’ll probably need it.” 

    But Hermione did not want to think of what Harry might need out there when he went searching for the Horcruxes, so she nodded him away. He ascended the steps, and she suddenly felt like sleeping for days. Weariness swept over her. She curled her legs up to her chest and rested her face there on her bony knees. Harry leaving in a few hours time was too surreal. I should have been prepared for this, she thought. She had always known Harry was setting out alone, but some small voice deep inside of her conscience failed to believe so. And as she struggled with the visions of him alone in the wilderness, dying without aid, Hermione drifted into an abysmal sleep against the foot of the couch that she never desired to wake from.

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