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The Hero Within by Jemione

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 15
Word Count: 59,801
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Humor, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Ginny
Pairings: Draco/Hermione

First Published: 08/31/2008
Last Chapter: 05/27/2011
Last Updated: 05/27/2011

Summary:
Beautiful banner made by hannah17 at PHFF. Thank you! :)







They were brought together by extraordinary circumstances.

She was weak, he was there for her.
He needed to break free, she showed him a new way to be.


Non HBP or DH compliant.

67,000+ reads!

May 23rd 2011: Sorry for the long absence! I WILL finish this story one day, but I'm not making any promises on when that'll happen. Hang in there!


Chapter 15: Chapter Fifteen
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A/N: Thanks to dracosgem for beta reading this chapter. :) You're the bomb!

Warning: As you might already guess, there are sexual innuendoes in this chapter, too.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.

 







 

In Chapter Fourteen:

 

Are you sure you want to do this?” he had to ask.

She only nodded for she couldn't find her voice. She reached under the blanket and soon her panties accompanied Draco's clothes on the floor. In every way possible, she was ready for him.

He gave her a tender kiss before cautiously moving to hover above her. She suddenly seemed so fragile – he was afraid of crushing her with his body weight. Sensing his hesitation, Hermione smiled at him reassuringly. She wrapped one arm around his neck, placed the other on his back and pulled him closer.

Slowly, tentatively, they became one.

 









 
 

Chapter Fifteen

 

“Mmmh... That was mind-blowing,” Hermione purred contendedly, lying in Draco's arms.

“I know.” He grinned in a lewd manner.

“And that nipping thing you did to my ear... Wow.”

“Glad you liked it, baby.”

The couple lay there for a while, not saying a word, but instead drinking in the other's scent. Both enjoyed the peaceful moment far too much to get up...not to mention they were far too worn out to have the energy to do it.

“I didn't know you were such a wild little kitten,” Draco suddenly smirked. “I think my back is bleeding.”

“Really? Did I hurt you? Let me see,” the girl demanded, her tone laced with concern.

“It's alright, honey, just a little sore,” he assured her, but turned around obediently nevertheless. “I actually kind of liked it.”

Hermione gave him a condescending look as he waggled his eyebrows. “Have I ever told you that you're a pervert?”

“You might have mentioned it once or twice,” he drawled cockily.

She shook her head and sighed, refusing to lie down again. A brief flicker of mischief flashed across her face, but it quickly segued to suspicious innocence. She gazed at the blond and batted her eyelashes.

“So... D'you need help washing your back?”

Draco's eyes glinted dangerously and he grinned at her. “Why, yes, my dear, I could use some help. Lead the way.”

 

* * *

 

For obvious reasons, the couple decided to sleep a little longer than usual the following morning. When they finally made it out of bed, it was close to lunchtime. Hermione stayed in the bathroom, trying to do something to fix her hair, while Draco wandered around the house. Coming to the second floor, he frowned when he heard unfamiliar voices mixed with Potter and Weasley's. Curious to find out what was going on, he followed the voices and opened one of the doors a moment later.

The sight before him made him roll his eyes so thoroughly that he was afraid they might go crooked permanently. There were three redheaded and one raven-haired boy in the room, and none of them were wearing shirts. Judging by their stances, they were having some kind of stupid competition about who had the biggest muscles.

“What the hell is wrong with you Gryffindors?” he queried in exasperation.

“Ah, there he is! Come on in, Malfoy,” one of the Weasley twins greeted. The blond decided to call him twin A. “We thought you were going to sleep all day.”

“Uh, yeah... I was a bit tired,” Draco squirmed, scratching his head in embarrassment. He didn't think Hermione would appreciate it if he blurted out why he had been so tired.

“Well, now that you're here, dear ferret, we could put you straight to the test,” said the other twin. “See if you're any good for our girl Hermione.”

“Alright... What do you want to ask?”

The twins looked at each other meaningfully, then fixed their gazes on the blond and announced in unison, “Let's see the muscles.”

What? I'm staying out of your stupid competition,” he groused.

“Oh come on, Malfoy, you can't possibly be that skinny,” Twin A replied, a smug grin on his freckled face. “She would have given you the boot already.”

“I'm not, it's just that... I don't think it's a good idea, you know, for other reasons.”

Twin A and Twin B looked at each other, matching smirks on their faces.

“He's a coward,” Ron threw in a challenge.

Draco raised his brow at Ron. He looked back, a defiant look on his face. Against his better judgment, that decided Draco right there – he wouldn't have the redhead call him a coward and get away with it.

“Alright then, I'll do it. But I'll have you know I wanted to save you from this,” he said, pulling his shirt over his head and lining up with the others.

He earned some appreciative pats on his back from the Weasley twins, as one of them took a few steps away from the line to do the evaluation. As the twins looked so similar, there was no reason to assess them both.

“Not bad, not bad at all! But...man, what's that on your back?”

All the boys turned to look at Draco's back, where a series of red scratches adorned more than one spot.

“Dude, have you been tortured lately?” Twin B asked in amazement.

“No, wait,” Twin A shushed, taking a look at the tips of his fingers and then the blond's back, making a comparison. A look of awe and respect appeared on his face. “Malfoy, are those what I think they are?”

Draco shrugged, but couldn't keep the grin from spreading over his face. “What can I say... I'm sharing my bed with a tiger.”

After a moment of stunned silence, the Weasley twins broke into guffaws and patted the blond's back approvingly. Ron's face had taken on an unhealthy greenish-red shade. Harry didn't seem to know if he should be appalled or amused, and his mouth twitched strangely as a result.

“In less than two weeks! He must be doing something our little Ronniekins couldn't do,” Twin B commented cheerily as he pulled his shirt back on.

“I'm sure he has a trick or two up his sleeve, but I wonder...are we finally going to learn what kind of tricks she knows?”

The twins seemed to have yet another conversation topic at the ready, and by only looking at each other! They concluded their wordless exchange with a firm nod, and turned to the now-dressed Malfoy heir with identical sly expressions. Each took him by an arm and led him towards the door.

“Let’s go have some lunch and you can tell us all about it.”

 

* * *

 

Sitting opposite to the twins in the dining room, Draco couldn't help but think he might be in trouble. He knew he shouldn't have said anything about what he'd done with Hermione. He honestly didn't mean to brag, because the girl was so much more than just a conquest to him. She definitely wouldn't jump for joy if she found out that he'd let the information slip.

“Uh, guys... I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention what I said earlier when Granger comes. I don't think she'd be too happy.”

“Ooh, she's got you on a tight leash, doesn't she?” Twin A smirked. “I bet she likes to dominate.”

“That would make sense, wouldn't it? Under the mask of decency, there's a wilder side...”

Draco watched the twins' interact, his eyes widening in horror. They thought Hermione was a little dominatrix? If they brought that theory up in her presence, he was a dead man. The brunette would never forgive him.

Just then the girl in question stepped into the dining room, followed closely by Ginny and Tonks. She smiled delightedly at the twins, and they returned the gesture eagerly.

“Hermione! Come and sit down, we have a lot to talk about,” Twin B welcomed her excitedly. “We've been chatting with your new boyfriend. Real stud, he is.”

“Oh?” Hermione raised her brows politely, although she seemed a bit confused at the twin's tone.

“We hear he has been...making you happy,” Twin A told her impishly, trying to keep his face a bit more serious.

“Oh, yeah,” she smiled serenely as she sat down next to her boyfriend, still oblivious to the hidden meaning of their inquiries. “He's been really great.”

“And you've never felt the need to...punish him for anything?”

Hermione's eyebrows rose as she slowly glanced at the blond, whose cheeks were starting to look a little pink. She then turned back to the twins with a frown on her face. “No... Should I?”

Ron splashed out his pumpkin juice and the twins grinned widely.

“Of course not,” Twin B replied. “It was just a question. Any disciplinary actions are completely up to you.”

“We're just making sure that Malfoy knows to watch his back,” Twin A grinned. “He should know that if he can't keep you satisfied...”

“...the claws might come out,” Twin B finished the sentence.

Harry buried his head in his hands, as did Draco. Ron made some gagging noises and performed a trick he had learned to master lately – quickly fleeing the scene with his plate in tow. All the girls, especially Hermione, just sat their with their mouths open at the absurdity of the situation. It didn't make any sense.

The twins seemed way too happy. What could make them so boisterous? Hermione let her gaze wander from the redheads to the blond, and suddenly something clicked. Fred and George had been overly interested in her love life for a couple of years, always trying to learn about her preferences in bed. She couldn't understand their obsession and had consistently refused to answer their questions. Could they possibly have gotten some answers from her new lover?

“Draco,” she began, her voice ominous. “Do you happen to know why everyone's acting so weird?”
 
“Uh, yeah... They sort of saw my back,” the boy confessed.

Hermione raised her brows, not quite understanding the relevance of his statement. “They saw your back? What does that have to do with... Oh.

She blushed furiously. The twins' identical grins were becoming impossibly wide.

“Right,” she concluded. “So you heard.”

“Too right we did,” Fred and George confirmed in unison.

“Heard about what?” Ginny frowned. “What's going on?”

The brunette didn't answer, but instead buried her head in her hands like her boyfriend had done some time ago.

“Oh gosh,” the Weasley girl gasped. “You slept with him, didn't you? How could you not tell me? It's my birthday!”

“I didn't have time,” Hermione explained weakly from behind her hands. “Happy Birthday, by the way.”

“And more importantly, how could I not hear anything?” Ginny continued, more to herself now. “Oh, thanks. It's just weird, because I walked past your room several times last night and there wasn't a sound...”

Fred raised his eyebrow at Draco, who gulped, but figured it couldn't hurt to tell them. He'd get to the damage control later.

“Silencing Charm,” he mumbled.

“A dominatrix and a screamer?” George's eyes almost bulged out. “You're a lucky man, Malfoy.”

What?” Hermione cried out. “I do not dominate!”

“You did scream a bit, though, honey,” Draco pointed out.

The girl looked so thoroughly flabbergasted that everyone burst out laughing, even she herself after a moment. Some of them laughed so hard that they had tears in their eyes by the time they were able to calm down a bit.

“Why can't you people have love lives of your own,” Hermione sighed as she wiped her eyes. “You wouldn't have to spy on mine.”

“Your love life is just so interesting, baby,” Draco grinned, earning a fierce glare and a smack on the arm.

“I will deal with you later.”

“Ooh, I bet someone's getting whipped,” Fred rejoiced.

“You got that right,” the brunette confirmed. “If you hear someone screaming tonight, it's not going to be me... Now shut up and eat.”

 

* * *

 

During the festive dinner they had in honor of Ginny's 19th birthday, Hermione came to the conclusion that it was quite impossible to stay mad at Draco. She tried her hardest to show her annoyance whenever the twins decided to poke fun, but the blond had the talent of deflecting them and directing her thoughts elsewhere. He reminded her about all the good things without saying or doing much. She wasn't sure if he even knew what he was doing.

His witty repertoire made her think about how much she enjoyed their conversations. Even though he liked to tease her a lot, he really listened and tried his best to understand if she wanted to talk about something she found important. And since he was so clever, he brought a lot of substance to the table and stimulated her intellect in the most delightful manner.
 
Another thing Hermione really liked was the way Draco made her feel. It was great to just cuddle up with him and enjoy the closeness, but even at those moments he was able to keep her on her toes. She never knew what to expect from him. If she was starting to get really comfortable, he might all of a sudden flash her a sexy crooked smirk that sent shivers down her spine. Usually she didn't like not knowing what would happen, but Draco's unpredictable nature made it exciting. The tingly feeling she got every time he surprised her was intoxicating.

She didn't regret sleeping with him at all. It had happened fast, but with the extraordinary circumstance they were in, it was to be expected. How could they not be all over each other when they were spending all that time together? It was unfortunate that the news of the...progress of their relationship had gotten out, but if that was all it took for the Weasley twins to accept the blond, she was fine with it. And if the immensely pleased looks on Fred and George's faces were anything to go by, they were completely supportive of her and Draco's relationship.

The twins seemed so supportive, in fact, that when the couple retreated to their room that evening, Hermione made sure to cast an Imperturbable Charm and every other charm she could think of on their door to stop the two curious redheads from eavesdropping. Once she was done, she nodded to herself in a satisfied manner.

“Is this the part where you punish me for being such a bad boy?” Draco ventured with a roguish grin. “Do you want me to take my clothes off?”

The girl gave him a pointed look. “No, you perv. I was just making sure that no one can listen in on us.”

“Will there be screaming, then?” He waggled his eyebrows.

“Draco! Will you stop that? Someone might think you're in need!” She rolled her eyes.

“Well... I have been waiting to be alone with you the whole day,” he shot back, shrugging. “Are you telling me I've been waiting in vain?”

“I'm telling you that I'm quite tired, and would love to go to sleep.”

“Well, in that case I'll go to sleep right now,” Draco decided and was lying under the covers in no time. “Tomorrow'll come faster.”

Hermione rolled her eyes again. The boy was impossible. If he thought she would fulfill his every dirty wish, he had another thing coming... Perhaps she would punish him after all, she smirked to herself as she started to make her way to the bathroom. Her steps halted for a moment as the blond called for her.

“Oh, and honey... If there's some kind of, uh, funny situation going on when you wake up, it really isn't my fault.”

 

* * *

 

The following afternoon Hermione found herself in the first floor living room, a smile gracing her lips from the memory of waking up next to a deliciously disheveled Draco Malfoy. His hair had been mussed up and, like he had predicted, there had indeed been a funny situation going on. She had suggested that maybe his condition was only due to the time of day. The blond had sighed dramatically, claimed that he was like a lovesick puppy and remarked that she was being unnecessarily cruel. He should at least have been allowed to hump her leg.

Needless to say, his wishes hadn't been answered. The brunette had smiled crookedly and pointed out that all puppies needed to be trained properly before earning such liberties. By then it was clear to Draco that he shouldn't have compared himself to a puppy, and he had decided to let the subject drop.

A flash of red hair in the doorway caught Hermione's attention, breaking her from her reverie – Ron had just passed the room. She frowned as she realised that she couldn't remember the last time they’d spoken. Come to think of it, she hadn't even seen him that much lately. Where had he been? And more importantly, why hadn't she noticed anything earlier? Before she knew it, she had hoisted herself off the sofa, determined to find out what was going on.

“I need to talk to Ron,” she informed Draco, who had been sitting next to her.

He nodded in understanding and wished her good luck. She was already halfway to the door. Rushing out of the room, she caught sight of the redhead near the stairs.

“Ron,” she called, “can I talk to you for a moment?”

The boy stopped on his tracks and took a deep breath before turning towards her.

“What is it? I'm busy.”

She was thrown off guard by his less than friendly demeanor. There was no warmth in the way he looked at her, and it actually seemed like he wanted to be anywhere else but there with her. Hermione gulped. When had he become like that? Had she been too blind to see that her best friend had started to resent her? If there was anything she could do to change that, she would, she decided.

“Look, I know we haven't talked a lot lately, but I really want to make things right between us,” she told him honestly. “Can you ever forgive me for neglecting you so horribly?”

“Are you going to keep seeing the ferret?” the redhead asked.

Hermione flinched. Did he honestly hate Draco that much? They had a long and hostile history, but things had changed. He had been nothing but good to her. If him being her boyfriend didn't make a difference...she didn't know what she could do to prove that he wasn't like he used to be.

When Ron didn't get an answer right away, he glanced at the stairs impatiently and sighed. “You're serious about him, aren't you?”

“I am,” she said in a small voice.

“Thought so. Too bad...”

He shook his head in disappointment and started to climb the stairs. Hermione dashed after him and clung to his arm in desperation.

“Can't we just talk about this?” she pleaded frantically.

“I need to go,” the boy told her, sounding very annoyed. “We can talk in two weeks, the next time you remember I exist.”

Hermione let go of the redhead, pain flashing over her face. How could he say things like that after everything they'd been through together? Maybe she hadn't been that great a friend in the last few weeks, but she had never stopped being his friend. Sometimes friends didn't even see each other for a long time. He had been there all the time, he could have said something if he wasn't happy with her behavior.

“Hey, Ron, are you coming? We're about to start,” George called out and threw open one of the doors on the second floor. Only then did he notice Hermione standing next to his brother and the look on his face quickly became awkward. “Oh.”

Time seemed to slow down. From her spot on the stairs Hermione could see a bit of the insides of the room George was in, and she could instantly tell that something wasn't right. Everything felt blurry when she forced herself to move and enter the room. Every single Order member she had seen in the various safe houses in the last couple of months was there, and then some more. Even Professor Dumbledore. A lot of them were sitting around a huge table, but since there wasn't enough space for everyone, many had had to find a place to sit on the floor or a sofa.

She couldn't speak. Her world was about to turn around, she knew it. The last couple of weeks had been amazing, but now her happiness was about to break into pieces.

“It was about time someone told her,” Professor McGonagall huffed as she saw her former student step into the room. “You all know how I felt about keeping her out.”

The older lady threw a fierce glare Harry's way. Hermione's eyes were drawn to her raven-haired friend.

“Harry?” she said in confusion. “What is this?”

The boy looked extremely embarrassed, and he wouldn't look at her. Beside her, Ron was also shuffling nervously. She let her gaze travel on the grave looks on everyone's faces, the notes strewn across the table, the huge map in front of Dumbledore... And suddenly everything made sense.

“What's going on?” Ginny asked just then, having been drawn to the room by all the commotion. She frowned as she saw all the people in the room. “What are you all doing in here?”

“They've been having meetings,” Hermione replied quietly. “And I wasn't invited.”

Now that she thought about it, she realised that something had been going on for a while already. When they had first come into their current safe house, Hagrid had been there...as a third Order guard. Around Harry's birthday more people had started to stay over, and there had been several guards watching over ever since.

But...what were they watching? The house seemed perfectly safe to her. Then again, she had spent most of her time in the arms of Draco, who... She blinked twice. Maybe that was it – they didn't trust Draco? Did they – she gulped – know something she didn't? It couldn't be that. She had been with him all the time, and hadn't noticed anything weird. All colour drained from her face as she considered all sorts of horrible possibilities. Maybe the blond had been a spy for the Dark Side all along, and it had all been an act. Maybe he had been lying to her all this time. Maybe he had never even wanted her.

Her thoughts terrified her, but in her heart she couldn't bring herself to believe in them. How could he have faked all those looks, all those touches? It wasn't possible. Yet she was feeling more and more miserable by the minute.

Next to her, Ginny had been protesting loudly for being left out for a while already. She was creating such a scene that Draco suddenly appeared at the doorway, having been alerted by all the noise. His eyes snapped straight into Hermione's face. He could instantly tell she was terribly upset.

“What have you done to her? Is she alright?” he demanded to know and tried to step into the room, only to be stopped by Mad-Eye Moody.

“She's fine, just a little shocked,” the man assured. His arm was firmly planted across Draco's chest. “If you want to come in and see for yourself...you need to choose the side you're taking in the war.”

“I've already chosen my side,” the young Malfoy snapped, annoyed at their lack of trust in him. “It's right next to her.”

Moody looked at Dumbledore, who was sitting at the end of the long table. The old man nodded. Mad-Eye lowered his arm, and Draco dashed to his girlfriend. He wrapped his arms around the brunette and spoke to her in a low voice.

“What is it, baby? Are you okay?”

“They've been having meetings without me,” she said and pulled the boy even closer to herself. “It hurt to hear it, but I'm good now.”

She felt the burden fall from her chest – Draco had been let in, he wasn't the reason for the meetings. Everything was alright.

Except that it wasn't.

“Yeah... About those meetings we've been having,” Harry cleared his throat. “You're not going to like this.”

“You might want to sit down, dear,” Molly Weasley suggested sympathetically.

Hermione let Draco lead her to a bench by the wall. They sat down, the blond's arm still safely wrapped around the girl's shoulders. Ginny took a seat next to them. The three turned their expectant gazes towards the table, signalling they were ready for the news.

What they learned in the next few minutes was appalling. The Order had been keeping tabs on Voldemort and his followers, as usual, and a month ago they had detected an increase in the group's activity. For the past few weeks a constant stream of Death Eaters had been flowing to their base at the Malfoy Manor. The Order had every reason to believe that the war was coming, and they had been preparing for the fight in silence.

“We have just received confirmation of their plans,” Dumbledore informed with a heavy tone. At this point everyone in the room became more alert – this fresh piece of news was the reason for the meeting. “Lord Voldemort is planning to take over the magical community, and he intends to do it soon...starting with an attack on Hogwarts on the first of September.”

The announcement was met with shocked gasps and heavy cursing. Before anyone had a chance to speak their mind about the matter, Dumbledore continued.

“I know you are upset, but let us not get carried away. We all know about the Dark Side's hate towards Muggleborns, and their crude preferences in fighting. Right now our two main tasks are to find a way to protect the students and to prepare ourselves for the battle. I suggest we split into two groups and start planning.”

The room became a blur of colour as people organized themselves into said two groups. Professor McGonagall and the Weasley parents lead the student protectors into another room, while Dumbledore and Moody took charge of the battle planners.

Hermione stayed glued to her seat. She couldn't believe this was happening. Tears welled up in her eyes as she thought of all the new little students, crowding at the castle doors in their excitement to start their first semester at Hogwarts, only to walk straight into a bloodbath. How could anyone do that to them, or any of the older students for that matter? Her heart clenched painfully. They had less than three weeks to come up with a solution that would keep the future makers of the wizarding world safe.

“Do you understand why I wanted to keep you and Ginny out?” Harry appeared in front of her and seemed to have sensed her train of thought. “You've been so happy, I didn't want to be the one to ruin it.”

“I suppose I understand,” Hermione sighed.

“What about me?” Ginny queried with a huffing noise. “You could have told me.”

Harry looked at the little redhead with sadness in his eyes. “I wanted you to be happy, too.”

Draco and Hermione both suddenly felt like they were watching something private, and lowered their heads simultaneously. Thankfully the moment didn't last very long, for Harry coughed and continued. “Anyways, I didn't want to bring anyone down with me if I could avoid it. This is my burden to bare.”

Hermione's hand flew to her mouth to stifle her horrified gasp. Merlin... It was Harry's destiny to try and finish off the Dark Lord. Her best friend had no other choice, he had to put himself in the frontline if they were ever going to make it. He had known the moment was coming and he had been carrying that knowledge inside of him all this time. By keeping her out, he had let her enjoy some of the best days of her life.

“Oh, Harry,” she whispered, tears falling down her cheeks as she threw herself in the boy's arms.

He had done so much for her throughout the years of their rock solid friendship. How could she ever make it up to him in the three short weeks she could be sure they had left? Who knew if either of them would make it through the battle. Reality was hitting her hard. But whatever happened in the weeks to come, she would be forever grateful for the time she'd been able to spend on cloud nine.

“What can I do to help?” Draco's voice rang out next to them.

Harry and Hermione loosened their grip on each other, the latter wiping her tears away with the back of her hand. The raven-haired boy looked at his former enemy with a deep respect.

“If you could give us any inside information about the Death Eaters, that would be great."

The blond nodded, taking the hand his girlfriend had offered him and squeezing it gently. They took a seat at the table. All eyes turned to Draco, and as he started to speak, Dumbledore whipped up a long piece of parchment and a quill that began to write down notes.

Being the son of a Death Eater, the young man naturally knew a lot about what had been going on in their camp before he'd left his home. He had tons of useful information about which hexes and curses they preferred, he could even block some of them with effective and little-known counter-curses. Having observed the group from the inside longer than he cared to remember, he had also spotted many of their weaknesses. The most important bit of knowledge concerned his Aunt Bellatrix, who could easily duel against several opponents, but who also forgot to watch her back if she got too excited. The crazy laugh gave away the best moment to attack.

“Thank Merlin she wasn't at the Manor while Hermione was there,” Draco shuddered at the mere thought.

“Who was there, then?” Lupin inquired.

The blond started to list the names of everyone that had been hanging around at his house in the month of June. From the clenching of his jaw Hermione could tell he had something against quite a few of the people he mentioned, and it wasn't too hard to figure out why. Moody listened intently, grunting here and there and mumbling about 'having put them behind bars once already'.

Once Draco was finished with his list, Kingsley gave an update on which Death Eaters the Order believed to have joined Voldemort's forces. Lupin studied the list with a slight frown on his face he seemed to be searching for a name that he couldn't find. He caught the young Malfoy's eye and voiced his observation.

“Someone seems to be missing from the list... May I ask about your mother?”

“She has nothing to do with any of it,” Draco responded fiercely. He rolled up his sleeve to show the unmarred skin of his left arm. “See this? I was never branded with the Dark Mark because of my mother. She hates the Dark Lord as much as any of you do, she just hasn't found a way out.”

“If she joins the battle, she will not be harmed,” Dumbledore promised with such assertiveness that it effectively brought the discussion to an end.

“Great to have some more black sheep in the family,” Tonks couldn't help grinning at Draco.

“Back to business, now,” Moody barked out.

The next couple of hours were spent planning the best defence tactics. A lot had already been thought of in the previous meetings, but now that the location had been clarified, they could focus on different areas of the big picture more efficiently. By the time they ended the meeting and went downstairs for dinner, they had a good basic structure to protect their safety.

Sitting at the table opposite Ron, Hermione watched her redheaded friend and now understood why she hadn't seen him much lately. Immersing himself in the fight planning had given him a valid excuse to stay away from her and her new boyfriend. She didn't have much time to make peace with him, and if she wanted to get her friend back before the war, she would have to start doing damage control right away.

“Ron, I really think we need to talk things through. You can't avoid me forever.”

“What's there to talk about? So you like him,” he scoffed. “That doesn't change the fact that he's barely done any good in his life. And now everyone seems to think he's a hero. Do you have any idea how much that pisses me off?”

“Did you ever stop to think that maybe I didn't have enough of a reason to change who I was before?” Draco narrowed his eyes angrily.

“Oh, so now you've suddenly found a reason to become a whole new person?” Ron mocked.

“As a matter of fact, I have. She's sitting right in front of you.”

That silenced the hot-tempered Gryffindor quite effectively. He slowly turned his head to look at Hermione, who looked at Draco, who shrugged. It was the truth, and there was no point in denying it.

“Yeah... That should have been pretty obvious, Ron,” Ginny rolled her eyes. “Then again, you've never been much of a brainiac...”

Ron shot her a scathing look.

“I'm sorry, but it's true!”

“Alright, let's not go there,” Harry interrupted. “All that matters is that Malfoy is fighting on our side now. It would do you well to deal with that, Ron, because I don't think he's going anywhere.”

“I know,” the boy grumbled. “It's just not that easy.”

“Yeah, well, do what you have to do,” Harry told his friend, and then directed his words at Draco. “Thanks for all the help you're giving us, Malfoy. I really appreciate it, I hope you know that.”

“You gave me two incredible weeks with her,” the blond nodded towards Hermione. “The least I can do is help you get a shot at the same kind of happiness.”

He glanced at Ginny on the other side of the table. Both Harry and Ginny blushed and quickly focused on their plates.

“That's, uh, very nice of you,” the raven-haired boy mumbled, and then quickly changed the subject. “Now, is it just me, or does this chicken taste different?”

The two Weasleys and Harry busied themselves in a meaningless conversation about a possible new recipe for either the chicken or the sauce. Draco rolled his eyes at the Gryffindors' inability to discuss affection Potter clearly felt for the girl, if his earlier words in the meeting were anything to go by. He glanced down at his girlfriend, only to find that she was looking at him with the cutest smile on her lips. His heart skipped a beat. When had she managed to wrap him around her finger so completely?

He was still pondering the same question when the two of them left the dining room some time later. They lingered in the foyer, the brunette toying with Draco's fingers.

“So...about what you said earlier...me being your reason to change,” she started lightly, her head tilted to the side. “What does it mean?”

“I guess it means I'd do just about anything for you,” the blond smiled crookedly.

“I see,” she nodded mischievously. “So, basically...if I asked you to make sweet love to me, you...?”

“I would carry you upstairs to get there faster,” Draco grinned. “Your wish is my command, darling.”

The corners of Hermione's lips twitched, her eyes sparkling with mirth as she finally let the dazzling wide smile spread on her face.

“Well, let's go, then, loverboy...”











 
 

A/N: Pheew! That was the super long Chapter Fifteen, finally... Hope you liked it!

So, did anyone see that coming? :D I've been dropping some subtle hints for some time now, because this plot twist was always going to happen. Obviously I couldn't just let them live happily ever after since You-Know-Who is still out there. That being said, I want to remind you that this story is not about Harry beating Voldemort – this is about Draco and Hermione. I will not focus on how they will try to bring down old baldy. Remember that there are all these extremely helpful characters I've kept alive by making this story non HBP or DH compliant ;)

How'd you like the Weasley twins? I've never written such a long scene with them before, so I hope it wasn't awful or anything. Since there is ONLY ONE MORE CHAPTER TO GO, I'd really love to hear if there's anything you think I should work on at this point! The comments I get from you guys give me the strength I need to write even when I'm really tired :) You people rock my world! <3

Love,

Jemione








A/N June 2010: Hi guys, I'm so so sorry for the long wait. I never meant to be this slow with the last chapter, but life gets in the way sometimes. However, I am now trying to brace myself for the inevitable and finally finish this story. I hope you're still out there with a bit of patience left!

Love, Jemione








A/N May 2011: So, yeah... I suck at finishing this story. It's been a year and a half since my last update and I'm DEEPLY SORRY about that. Life has taken me in all sorts of directions, and unfortunately The Hero Within has had to make room for all the new stuff.

 

HOWEVER... I'm not giving up on this story, which is why I haven't listed it as 'Abandoned'. I promise to actually finish this one day, but I can't tell when that'll be. I just know I've kept you guys waiting and it's not fair at all. I hope some of you are still out there! I really appreciate all the support I've been getting, you guys really are awesome :) Hope you can stick with me a little longer still.

 

Love,

Jemione


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