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Her jumper and jeans lay in a heap on the floor just near the doorway. She shivered, her fingers thick and clumsy from the cold. After three tries, she finally got her jeans buttoned. Pulling her jumper over her head, she snatched her bra and underwear off of the floor, balled them up, and shoved them into her back pocket. She'd throw everything out when she got home. Fuck, where were her shoes?

"Under the bed," he drawled, took another drag from his cigarette, and went back to blowing smoke rings into smoke rings.

She sat on the bed, tied her shoes, and made for the door.

"Great fuck, Granger."

She turned around, blinked twice to focus, and then realized she couldn't see him properly because of the smoke and shadow. Small, dark, with the bed shoved into one corner, the lone lamp screwed into the nightstand, it was the kind of room where people stayed who had no choice or were desperate for sex. "Rent by the Day or Hour" glowed the neon sign just outside the window.

He lay against the headboard, his body partly hiding the "FUCK" someone had carved into the headboard, his shoulder blades resting between the "F" and the "K." With his eyes closed, hands clasped behind his head, cigarette perched on the corner of his mouth, he looked strangely perfect lounging in threadbare sheets in a Muggle hotel room that stank of mould and sex and cigarette smoke. She didn't want to think too closely that she, too, might be playing her role perfectly; the woman, still flushed from her orgasm, who can't get her clothes on too fast or take a shower soon enough.

"A one-off, Malfoy." Not waiting for a reply, she left the room.

Three feet from the door, she heard the click of the locks.


Two weeks later they didn't even make it into the room. As she fumbled with the room key, he snaked his hand under her skirt, his gasp of surprise hot against her neck when he realized she wasn't wearing underwear. She leaned her head against the door, and spreading her legs as far apart as she could, she began moving her hips back and forth, fucking his hand as his hand fucked her. The second she came, he pried the key from her clenched fist, muttering "Fuckfuckfuck" under his breath. When the door swung open, she more or less fell inside the room, him right behind her. He slammed the door shut with his heel and took her right there.

As he lay on top of her, his hands still clutching her hips, the worn carpet scratching her cheek, she noticed that someone had added an exclamation mark to the "FUCK"!


One week later:

"Get your clothes off," she barked, not caring how rude it sounded. She'd been lying in that ratty bed for over an hour, bunching and unbunching handfuls of sheet.

She'd requested a different room, a better room. This room was identical to the previous one except that this headboard had a big "SHIT" carved into it. She supposed in a place like this, a slightly less offensive swear word constituted an upgrade.

He'd just smoked a cigarette; she could smell it on him from across the room. He slid off a polished loafer and then stopped. "Why, Granger?"

Splaying her hands on the blanket to wipe them free of sweat, she tried to bluff it out. "What do you mean?"

He shook his head at her and smiled as if to say, you're not that stupid and we both know it.

"What do you care? You get off. Right? I get off. End of story."

"Call me curious," he said mildly and slid his foot back into the loafer.

He reached into his jacket pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He shook a cigarette free from the pack, the motion smooth, graceful, easy, just like his fucking. He put it in his mouth.

Before he could light it, she stated flatly, ""When you and I fuck, I come. Then I can get a decent night's sleep. Satisfied?"

He put the cigarettes and lighter back into his shirt pocket. "You don't get off with Weasley?"

She shook her head. "It just doesn't work," she admitted.

"And you thought I'd work?" he mused.

Two hours later, his semen pooling in the crotch of her panties, she nodded at him in a terse farewell.

"Sleep tight, Granger," he called to her through the cigarette smoke.


Three days later:

"Doesn't he know?"

"Know what?"

"That you don't get off."

"I moan. Arch my back. Moan again. I mutter a few 'oh Ron's.'"

"He falls for that? Always knew Weasley was as thick as two planks. But that dense?"

"Shut up. He's good in bed. It's this war."

"So why don't you just jerk off?"

"Mmmm, I do. Sometimes. Doesn't seem to do the trick though. Not like you."

"Next time I want you to show me."

"Show you what?"

"Show me how you jerk off."


She waited for him to betray her.

Be a Slytherin.

But he didn't. He wasn't any different to her except for the odd hand on her shoulder. The cup of tea that appeared when she was so tired that even her eyelashes ached. Sometimes when Tonks would trip or Moody would bark out "Constant vigilance," he'd raised one eyebrow if he'd caught her eye, a mute invitation to share in his amusement.

One day, when several of them were standing around in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place gulping down a quick cup of coffee before flooing for Scotland, he tucked the manufacturer's tag inside the collar of her Muggle-made tee shirt. She turned away from everyone to put her cup in the sink so that they wouldn't see that her nipples were hard.


Five weeks later:

She had requested an even better room on a different floor. One farther away from the neon sign.

When she arrived, he was already there. Smoking. His back resting against the headboard, his shoulders bracketing a "C" and a "T."

"When did you get back?" she asked, as she removed her clothes in six swift movements. She hadn't bothered wearing a bra or underwear. He stubbed out the cigarette on the headboard and threw the butt in the direction of the nightstand. It was that kind of place.

"Three hours ago."

Crawling up the middle of the bed, she snuggled in the vee between his legs and was about to put his cock in her mouth when he stopped her with a palm to her shoulder.

"Sit up," he ordered. He fingered her ribs, ran a finger none too gently along her collarbone. "You've lost more weight. You look like hell."

"I know I look like hell," she snapped back at him. "While you were away, Blaise was killed getting off a train in Milan."

"I know about Blaise, thank you very much. Whom do you think had to tell his family?" he snarled. He began to pinch her breasts. Close to her period, they were tender and swollen, the way he liked them. "Nice, Granger. You have such nice tits," he cooed. Rolling a wet tongue in her ear, biting her lobe until she moaned, he stopped for just a second and whispered, "Don't bring that shit in here. Don't."

He went back to laving his tongue along her ear and neck, and pinched her nipples harder. Arching into him, she cursed and blessed her body as it walked that thin line between pain and pleasure.

"Do you want me to jerk off for you? Like you asked?"

"Oh, baby."


Two weeks later:

They were back in the cunt room again.

"I hate this room most of all."

"What does it matter? All we're here to do is fuck. Think of the poor bastard who goes from room to room venting his frustration on these headboards."

"I'd hate to meet him. He must be a lonely, bitter man."

"Oh, I don't know about that."


On a cold spring night they attacked Malfoy Manor. Wands in one tight motion cast Silencing charms for miles so that the only evidence of their presence was the scent of crushed daffodils that followed in their wake as they marched across the fields behind Draco's home.

At three thirty that morning, Draco held Harry as he sobbed over and over, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." The light from the fire eating Malfoy Manor room by room shadowed their figures as they knelt in the rose garden, Harry begging for forgiveness as Narcissa Malfoy's white roses turned black from ash.

The next afternoon, Hermione knocked on the door to Draco's room. He hadn't bothered changing from his soot-blackened clothes. His ashtray was filled to overflowing; butts had spilled onto the floor in haphazard piles on the floor near his bed. He must have been lighting one off the other for hours.

He didn't bother looking up when she came in, locked the door, and then opened a window. He didn't acknowledge her when she took the cigarette out of his mouth and stubbed it out on the sole of her shoe. He didn't say anything as she lay down beside him and gathered him in a tight embrace. His hair smelled like old smoke.

"Sleep," she said.

"I'm just glad it wasn't me who killed him." His voice was hoarse and raw from the cigarettes.

"Sleep."


"Ron thinks I look like a dyke. He says it's weird having a girlfriend with hair shorter than him."

"I like it. Why'd you cut it?" He scratched his fingertips back and forth across her scalp.

"An act of self-destruction, I suspect."

"As if you've needed any more proof that Weasley's a moron. It's very sexy, Granger. Now you can see your mouth. That hair was a fucking distraction. And you have a lovely mouth. Now put that lovely mouth around my… Yeah… Just like that."


"Did you bribe the manager or magic the headboard?"

"Something like that. Don't think he knows quite what to write anymore."


"Why can't you get off with him? I put my tongue on your clit and you're screaming." He was splayed on top of her, his torso pressed against the length of her back, his hands covering her hands, his arms on her arms, his legs on her legs; his cock just beginning to soften, almost falling out of her. "Never more surprised to discover the sex kitten lurking under that prim, bookworm exterior. It's a total fucking turn on, let me tell you."

She laughed. It felt odd. "Ever heard of the Muggle expression, 'still waters run deep?'" and she wriggled her arse a little to push him out.

He hoisted himself up on one elbow and gave her a light smack on the arse. "No you don't, my naughty Gryffindor. That was just round one," and he snuggled his cock back inside of her. "So, spill. And don't tell me you haven't given this any thought. You're always thinking."

She pushed back into him, feeling him beginning to harden again.

"I don't know. I think it's because I'm afraid he's not going to come back one of these days. Or worse. That I'm going actually see someone curse him and not be able to stop it in time."

He shivered, pulled out and then peeled himself off of her, the bedsprings wheezing as he got off the bed. By the time she'd turned around, he'd pulled on his pants and shirt and bundled everything else under his arm. "You're cheating on your boyfriend with someone that if he knew, would probably have him throwing up frogs for a month straight." And with that he Apparated.

Somewhere.


For the next three weeks, he was excessively polite; he discussed battle strategies with her, which charms were more effective in battle than others, which potions were worth spending the time and energy on; he praised her when he thought her ideas were good, and told her she was full of shit when he thought her ideas were bad. He did not touch her. He did not return to the hotel. He did not ask her to return to the hotel. He was a perfect gentleman; her grandmother would have approved.

She slept no more than three hours every night.

She organized a successful raid on McNair's house; she accompanied Ron on a mission that turned the giants against Voldemort; she drank an entire bottle of wine one night and threw up for three days.

On day twenty-two, she sat in the Friday morning war room meeting. Conversation swirled around her. She reached for her teacup, and in slow motion she watched her hands shake with the effort. Tea slopped over the rim, soaking her lap. Before she knew it, the cup had crashed to the table and all she could say over and over again was, "I'm so tired, I'm so tired."

An arm closed around her and hauled her to her feet, "Carry on, Ron, I'll take her upstairs. Think she needs a good nap."

He tightened his arm around her, guiding her up the stairs to her room. To her frantic mantra of, "Please, Draco, please. Please," he kept whispering back, "Shhh."

"Which bed is yours?" he asked as he shut the door.

She didn't answer but brought up her hand, still wet from the spilled tea, and cupped his crotch.

"Fuck, Hermione," he whispered and cast a Silencing charm. They stood there, hands down each other's pants, bringing each other off to Hermione's incoherent sobs of relief.


On the once-pristine headboard carved in deep, angry grooves was the word DESPAIR.


He bit her shoulder.

Hard.

"Don't say a fucking word," and he waited for her to protest. She said nothing but shoved her shoulder back against his mouth. He sucked and bit his way all over her body, every mark accompanied by a word: beautiful, mine, fuck, bitch, lovely, cunt. Some words he repeated over and over, some he only said once. Then he turned her over and with the flat of his tongue, he swiped the cleft of her arse, demanding if Ron had ever done this to her. When she panted out a "No," he sighed a "Yes," and began to tongue her arse, opening her up, circling at her clit with his thumb, playing out the orgasm until she thought she'd go crazy.

As she reached for her underwear, he charmed away all the marks.

"Why did you do that?" she demanded.

"It was the principle of the thing."


They were supposed to have returned over two hours ago. Hermione and Remus had flown in just about the time Bill and Charlie were putting their brooms away. A three-pronged attack devised to divert the real mission, getting Harry to a healer at the new hidden location of St. Mungo's without the Death Eaters noticing. In the last battle, Harry had been badly hurt, and the treatment he needed was far beyond what Hermione and Ginny could provide. Ron and Draco had planned it so that it was nearly full proof, but that meant nothing. Just ask Blaise's family. Everyone was back except Ron, Draco, and Neville. Molly had made hot chocolate for everyone. Because despite the fact that the night was rather warm, everyone's hands were freezing. With fear.

After setting off the portraits in the hallway for the fourth time with her pacing, Remus quietly begged Hermione to move into the lounge. She could pace just as well in there.

Picking up her mug for the hundredth time, she clutched it in her hands for no earthly reason. The cocoa had gone cold, but it gave her an excuse to stop her frenetic pacing.

She was about to put the mug down for the one hundredth and one time when the front door slammed shut and the shrieks of the portraits began. Ron's voice boomed through the open door of the lounge. "Shut the fuck up! Shut the fuck up!"

Hermione heard the thumping of many feet and several people struggling to cover up the portraits. She didn't move or breathe, her feet rooted to the fireplace hearth, her lungs frozen. Ron walked in the room alone.

"What happened? Where have you been? We've been mad with worry," she yelled, knowing even as words came spilling out of her mouth that she had no right to be so angry; but she also knew he'd understand.

He collapsed on the sofa. He was missing one boot.

"Did Harry make it okay?" he demanded. At Hermione's terse nod, he stared into the unlit fireplace, unable to meet her eyes anymore. "We were outnumbered. Not sure whether they knew we were coming or not. Maybe they didn't know. We miscalculated," he explained in a monotone.

Remus came in the room, his fists clutching two tumblers filled to the brim with Firewhiskey. He sat down next to Ron and motioned one in Ron's direction. "Here, Ron. Drink up," he ordered. "I am sure you need something more than the cocoa your mother's got heating up on the cooker."

Ron grabbed the tumbler but didn't move to drink it. Remus didn't drink his either. Tears began sliding down Ron's cheeks.

"I tried Hermione, I really tried," Ron mumbled in his I-mustn't-cry voice, I-must-be-strong voice.

Hermione started to die inside. Die. There was no other word for it. Her heart and lungs began to atrophy, to shrivel, too shrunken and brittle to move.

"It's just us to mourn him, I mean with h-h-h-his family..." and Ron's voice trailed off unable to even finish his sentence.

Three things happened at once. Ron began quietly sobbing in Remus' arms, Hermione shattered the mug in her hands from the sheer force of her grip, and Draco entered the room, a nasty burn marring a stark, white cheek. "He's told you about Neville, then?"


Hermione waited until she was sure everyone was asleep. She'd given Ron a sleeping draught so that she could leave his bed without waking him. He'd fallen asleep in her arms, clutching her like he was afraid he wouldn't ever wake up.

The butt of Draco's cigarette burned bright in the shadow and dark. He'd stubbed it out in the time it took for her to lock the door with her wand, put up a silencing charm, and make her way over to his bed. The other bed was still empty, a jumbled mess of tired sheets, a silent tribute to Blaise, who hadn't bothered to make his bed on the last day of his life. But no one, not even Molly, could bear to strip it and erase the only thing left of him in the house.

"Not here, Hermione," Draco whispered, even as his hand caressed her cheek. "Not now."

"Yes, here. Yes, now," she whispered back and began to trail her fingers tentatively over his nipples.

With both hands, he grabbed the hem of her nightgown.

"No," she shook her head and brought both his hands up to her mouth and kissed them. They smelled and tasted of tired magic. "Let me tonight."

When she had memorized every part of his body with her tongue and her lips, brought him to orgasm again and again with her mouth and sex, she finally let herself come while straddling him, one hand cupping a breast, two fingers caressing her clit, his hips snapping in time with her rhythm.

"What's this?" He wiped away the tears on one cheek and then the other.

"I thought it was you."


"The headboard is new again. Must be costing the management a fortune to keep replacing these headboards."

"Perhaps."

"I am curious what he's going to write next, aren't you?"

"I think he's written everything he's going to write."

"Fall's coming on early this year, isn't it?" she shivered. "Want to help me go over some ancient texts in the restricted section of the British Museum? Dumbledore finagled two passes. I'm doing some research on tattooing, trying to figure out if we can unmark the Death Eaters. I'd imagine there are a few Death Eaters who really regret getting those blasted marks. If we can break Voldemort's hold over them, we could bring them over to our side."

Draco shrugged, "Sure, I'll go with you. But let's Apparate back home first. I need a shower. I have no intention of using that sorry excuse for what passes as plumbing in this place." He wrinkled his nose. "We smell like fuck."

Hermione blushed. "I like the smell of your come on me," she mumbled.

Draco stiffened as if in pain, his eyes blackened. With his impossibly elegant hands, he reached for both shoulders and pulled her to him. "Hermione, Hermione," he sing-songed over and over again in between kisses and began to undo the buttons of her coat.


"I don't think the war has anything to do with your not getting off with Weasley," Draco panted.

"Oh really," Hermione said in as sarcastic a voice she could muster, considering she was tonguing his balls.

He pulled up and away from her mouth, and then flipped her over so that he covered her. He rubbed his erection against the soft mound of her stomach, wetting it with his pre-come and her left-over saliva.

"No, I don't. I think it's him. I think he bores you. You may hate me, you may despise me, but I do not bore you. Do you like that, Hermione? Tell me yes," he demanded as he wiped a thumb in the wet on her stomach and began to tease her nipple with it.

"What do you know; what do you know?" she demanded, the last coherent words either of them got out as they bit and laved and thrust and screamed each other's name in the most brutal sex they'd ever had.

Hermione lay under him in a post-coital haze, savoring the glow and tingle of her orgasm.

"I know when I look at you like this," he said quietly. "So beautiful." She moved into his kiss as he caught the edge of her mouth.

"I do not hate you. I do not despise you," she mumbled through his kisses.


"Sometimes I can smell him on you, Hermione. It makes me want to hit you."

"I'm sorry."

"You do know that you're too good for him, don't you? He'll end up resenting you, despising you in a fashion."

It was three weeks before Christmas. A series of especially brutal attacks had left the Order weakened, but in much better shape than the Death Eaters. Dumbledore was making tentative noises that if they didn't suffer too many more losses, they would launch their final offensive in spring.

She scrambled out of bed and began to dress. "I do not want to talk about this. And I'll have you know that he tells me every day how lucky he is to have me."

"Of course he appreciates your brilliance now," he sneered. "We all do. Without you, we'd all have been cursed and buried years ago. But when this war is over, he'll resent it. It's bad enough being in your best friend's shadow," he mocked. "But to be in your wife's shadow as well… I can see him cringing internally every time someone says to him, 'So you're the lucky chap married to the brilliant Hermione Granger.' And he'll smile and say 'Yeah,' in that goofy way of his, but it will eat at him. And knowing you, you'll push him to his potential. And he's essentially lazy, so he'll resent that, too. He'll have affairs with women who are a little dense, who will listen to his war stories and ooh and aah at him, not correct him as you do when he embellishes them. You will fake orgasms for the next fifty years. Can you do that?"

Her knees began to shake uncontrollably. She sat down on the edge of the bed, half-dressed, her head in her hands.

"I don't know," she sobbed.

He made no move to comfort her.

"I am not saying he doesn't love you. I am not even saying that you don't love him. I'm just asking. Is it enough?"

She sobbed harder.


"Draco, look at this. There's some interesting notation here about tattoos and how in some rituals, the ancient Egyptians actually believed that certain types of marks conferred evil."

"Sorry. Busy."

Hermione gripped her quill a little tighter and didn't bother to look up. "You are not busy. You're smoking a cigarette, and do not flick ash in my direction. If you mark these parchments, the British Museum will have my arse."

"Smoking is an activity, Granger. Therefore. I. Am. Busy."

She shifted her body to the side and kicked him. Hard. "Look at this, will you, please?"

"Ow, that hurt! Bitch."

"You're lucky I didn't break your ankle. Put down that cigarette and look at this."

With his usual languor, he didn't so much as put out his cigarette as caress his ashtray with the butt. Then placing a hand on the dining room table to steady himself, he glanced in the direction of the hallway and then leaned forward, pretending to study the manuscript. His lips were just a hand's width away from her mouth, and the tips of his hair grazed her shoulders. She stiffened. Had he gone mad? He couldn't, wouldn't kiss her here.

All he did was smell her. The gentle hiss, hiss of his breath tickled her collarbone.

"You smell like mint, Granger," he whispered. "It's making me hard."

"Toothpaste, you pervert," she whispered back.

"So why does your cunt taste like mint, too?"

"Don't," she mouthed.

He sat back down and pulled the parchment toward him and studied it for a couple of minutes.

"Worthless, Granger. Mudblood shit."

Hermione threw her quill in his face. "How do you know?" she demanded. In a much lower voice, she added, "I'll remind your prejudiced arse of this the next time you want me to do 'Mudblood' shit on your dick."

"This has nothing to do with being prejudiced," he snapped. "Look. Here and here." He stabbed the parchment with his index finger. "Stop grasping at straws. We still might find something, but this shit is useless."

Reluctantly, she saw that he was right, that there wasn't anything in the parchment that was worthwhile. Christ, will this never end? Her hands began to shake from exhaustion and, god, was that fear? Even her hands felt old.

"So, what does my prejudiced arse taste like?"

She laughed.


As the war became more brutal, the number of missions escalating, Hermione began sleeping less and less. Sleeping potions didn't work; alcohol only made her sick. Not even fucking Draco made any difference. She would drop from exhaustion at 1:00 a.m., but then wake at 4:00 a.m.

She would pad down to the kitchen and make herself a cup of tea. And think. Think about ways to defeat Voldemort: plans, stratagems, potions, charms, anything that would end this once and for all. Before they all died.

After a week of this, Draco appeared in the doorway, his black silk robe wrapped loosely around his waist, not hiding the fact that he was losing weight, too. They were all being whittled away, ounce by ounce. A package of cigarettes bulged out the front of his breast pocket. He was in for the long haul.

"Want some company?"

She nodded, grateful that he didn't berate her for being up, for not sleeping, for looking like death warmed over because sometimes she felt like she was slowly dying. And the only thing keeping her alive was shagging Draco Malfoy.

"Water's still hot," she told him.

He brewed up his own cup and sat across from her. Lighting up a cigarette, he smoked in silence. When the cigarette was finished, he reached across the table and curled his hand over hers. Interlocking their fingers together, he raised his wand and murmured, "Nox."

"How did you know I was down here?"

"Magic."

She could hear his smile in the dark.


This continued night after night. No matter how quietly she made her way down to the kitchen, not five minutes would pass before he'd show up. Sometimes he'd ask her what she was thinking about or she'd ask him or they wouldn't say a word. Sometimes they'd just sit there holding hands in the dark until he'd know inexplicably that she was sleepy enough to go back to bed. He'd ask, "Okay now?" She'd scrape back her chair. He'd walk her back to her room with Ron in her bed, his parting gesture a gentle hand to her brow.

On the nights that no amount of hand-holding would keep the demons at bay, they'd watch the sun come up. Hermione would stand at the kitchen window, Draco flat up against her back, his arms around her, their fingers intertwined together. When the pink lip of the dawn would finally sneak a peek over the horizon, he'd hug her tight and kiss her hair. "Good morning, Hermione Granger," he would whisper and she'd think, "Perhaps I can face this day."


For Christmas, he gave her an inlaid silver comb that had belonged to his mother. It was the only thing he had managed to save from Malfoy Manor.

She gave him a plain locket with a piece of her hair in it.

"You didn't engrave it,' he chided her gently, as he combed her hair front to back. They knelt on the bed, torso to back, the cool silver of the locket hanging around his neck resting between them, the smell of mould and cigarettes in abeyance for once. Draco had covered the walls and ceiling of the room with enormous boughs of fir. Hermione had magiked lights and berries in the pine needles. It was like they'd been swallowed by a Christmas tree.

"I don't know what to say."


"I've rented the room for six months."

"Good."


They always put intruder charms on the stairs, so that if anyone came downstairs for an early morning cuppa, they'd find Hermione and Draco already drinking their tea, a freshly lit cigarette in Draco's hand.

That morning was no different. It had been a morning for standing there and watching the sunrise. Not because Hermione couldn't get back to sleep, but because she wanted to feel Draco's arms around her.

Remus shuffled into the kitchen, his ancient bathrobe cobbled together with safety pins.

"Let me put on the kettle, Remus," Hermione made to get up.

"Don't bother, Hermione, perfectly capable of doing it myself. Shall I make a pot?"

At their nods, he lit the stove, filled the kettle, and sat down at the table. Draco moved the pack of cigarettes in his direction.

"Thanks, Draco." With the practiced ease of a lifelong smoker, he shook one free from the pack, brought it to his mouth, and fished his wand out of the sleeve of his robe to light it. "Ahh," he intoned as he inhaled. "This is lovely tobacco. I must get up at the crack of dawn more often. Or would that be intruding?" he added with a touch of sarcasm.

"Not at all, Remus. What do you mean?" asked Hermione, confused.

"Oh, I think you know exactly what I mean," Remus said quietly.

Draco shifted in his chair so that their knees were touching.

They sat in an uncomfortable silence, waiting for the water to boil, Draco and Remus smoking, Hermione finishing the dregs of her cold tea.

The whistle of the kettle only added to the tension building in the room. Remus banged around the kitchen, smacking the tea tin down on the kitchen counter with a sharp twang. Brought the teapot to the table with such force that a few drops spilled out of the spout. Same thing with his cup. Hermione half expected it to shatter. Remus refilled their cups and poured himself a fresh cup, but he shook his head when Draco tentatively offered him another cigarette.

"Can't get used to those, my boy. I'm afraid my budget won't handle that expense. The dole for werewolves is shockingly low." He paused, and then continued, his voice sharp with an uncharacteristic edge to it. "However, being a werewolf does have its perks, mind you. Of course, it's wasted on me because I'm not a gossip, but do you know that I can smell who's fucking whom? Smell one person's pheromones on another. Another odd little bit of werewolf trivia for you. Every man's semen smells differently. I can actually tell them apart. Say, Ron's from Draco's."

Hermione couldn't look at Remus; she couldn't look at Draco.

"Don't think it's any of your fucking business, Remus," Draco snarled in a tone reminiscent of a fifteen-year old Draco Malfoy.

Despite a sense of shame so deep that even her toes were blushing, she reached across the table in Draco's direction with a "Don't." under her breath. His hand met hers.

Now it was clear that Remus had been restraining himself, because he whipped out his wand and barked out a Silencing charm. Then he began yelling.

"You're damn straight it's my business. Do you think I want more casualties because you can't keep your dick in your pants? Do you think I want Ron anything but one hundred percent? Which he bloody well won't be if he discovers his girlfriend is shagging you. I've waited for months for this to run its course, but as you two are seemingly bent on continuing this insane affair, I have to put a stop it."

Hermione had never seen Remus so angry. He'd pushed off from the table with such force that his chair clattered to the floor. He began pacing back and forth in front of them, the hand not holding the cigarette punctuating every sentence with a gesture of rage.

"Are both of you out of your minds? Frankly, Hermione, I'd have expected you of all people to have more sense. This stupid little fuck could jeopardize all of us. No, kill all of us. In case the two of you have been blind and dumb for the last three years, Ron is our best tactician. If he's not at the top of his game, we all might as well invite Voldemort over for tea. I know this is wartime, people do things they normally wouldn't do, but I am surprised, shocked, Hermione, that for some quick and dirty sex with Draco… So I am asking you, no, I am telling both of you to stop this little shag, for whatever reason--"

"It's not a shag. It's not a stupid little fuck. It's not quick and dirty sex," she shouted.

Tearing herself away from the shock on Remus' face, she turned toward Draco and repeated much more gently, "It's not a shag. It's not a stupid little fuck. It's not quick and dirty sex. Is it?"

He blushed, the flesh pulled tight over a too-defined cheek, and his eyes blackened completely, eclipsing that translucent gray. She couldn't help but reach over and cup his chin. He leaned down to kiss her hand, rubbed his chin against the curve of her palm, and murmured, "No."

"It's like that, is it?"

At the sound of Remus' voice she turned back to him.

Hermione nodded.

"Draco, may I speak to Hermione alone?"

Draco stood up, then hesitated, but at her "Please, go back to bed," he shoved back his chair, kissed the top of her head, and dropped the cigarettes in front of Remus before he left the room.

"Fuck," Remus muttered as he righted his chair and folded himself into it, and then lit another cigarette. "You know, Hermione," Remus began in between deep drags on his cigarette, "that Draco and Sirius were cousins. I used to think that Draco was more Malfoy than Black, but I changed my mind on that score some time ago. He's the spitting image of his father, but inside a Black. You also know that Sirius and I were lovers?"

"We guessed."

"Hard to put anything over on you three. Sirius was a study in opposites. He was possibly the most arrogant, insufferable bastard I've ever met. Unfortunately, he was also utterly charming; he invented the word. He'd enter a room and three minutes later have everyone in the palm of his hand. Even if you disliked him, you wanted him to like you. You met him after twelve years of hell. You can't imagine how captivating he was when he was young. So completely alive. He never did anything by halves. And physically beautiful? Sometimes I'd find myself unable to breathe just looking at him. Generous to a fault, he was also the most selfish person on God's earth because he truly couldn't understand anyone who wasn't as generous as he was. Could hold a grudge for years. Once on his bad side, you were never pardoned. But if he decided you were a bit of all right, there was no one more loyal. Intellectually, he had few peers, but he could be maddeningly obtuse about people. Look at the business with Peter and the Secretkeeper. The worse of it was that he often asked impossible things of people because if you'd ask him to do the impossible, he'd do it. No questions asked." He took a drag on his cigarette. "Does this sound like anyone else we know?"

He didn't bother to wait for an answer.

"Yes, a Black through and through our Draco Malfoy. Sometimes when I hear Draco toss off some witty bon mot, or explode with some commentary on how so and so is a 'complete fucking moron', I have to pinch myself. He sounds just like Sirius. They even slouch the same. Always for effect, because no two men ever had more correct posture. It's that, 'I know I am as sexy as all hell, what are you going to do about it,' slouch.'"

"Remus, why are you telling me this?" Hermione asked quietly.

"Because, my dear," and he reached across the table and took her hand in his, "I understand, and I am possibly the only person who will."

"I love Ron," she insisted.

"Yes, I don't doubt that you do."

"Some days Draco is the only thing keeping me sane."

"I understand, I told you that. I do not condone it. But I understand."

"So," and here she untangled her hand from his and spread them both out flat on the table, "I cannot tell him."

She never knew what his reply was going to be because Ron came staggering into the kitchen, complaining between yawns, "What are you two doing up at the crack of dawn? Bloody hell, Hermione. It's 5:30 a.m. Come back to bed."

"I agree with him, Hermione. It's hellishly early. Try to get a couple more hours sleep, you two. We have another fun day ahead of us plotting ingenious ways to kill and maim people." He stubbed out his cigarette.


Hermione arrived at the hotel room an hour early. She took off all her clothes and summoned a Warming charm against the chill of the early spring air. Armed with her wand, she began to write. She wrote everywhere. On the walls, the floors, the windowpane. In big capitals:

PASSION

FRUSTRATION

FEAR

LUST

DESIRE

GRIEF

ANGER

COMPASSION

DREAD

HAPPINESS

DESPAIR

GUILT

PATIENCE

RESPECT

ADMIRATION

JOY

She was just etching the final "E" of her final word into the headboard when Draco Apparated into the room.


Fin