Hermione listened to Jason as they took their tour around the enormous castle. But her attention was lost as she glanced behind her. Draco and Kate were talking to each other with Ashley putting in every now and then. Draco kept glancing up at Hermione and Jason, a peculiar look in his gray eyes. Shaking her head, she smiled as Jason held open the door for her and they stepped outside and down towards the lake. Sitting down on the grass, Hermione looked around at the beautiful grounds. Draco, unwittingly, sat down beside her and Kate beside him. Ashley sat down between Brian and Jason.

"Beautiful," Hermione murmured. Draco glanced at her and said nothing. Ashley glanced between them but also kept her silence. Jason leaned back on his elbows.

"So, is this better that Hogwarts?" he asked. Hermione smiled.

"Oh, granted, it's bigger and probably a lot prettier," she began. "But Hogwarts is just…I don't know how to explain. I've been there for so long that it's almost like my home." Kate turned to Draco.

"What about you?" she asked him. He stared out at the lake through his platinum blonde hair.

"I could care less," he grumbled. "It's all the same to me. But I'll have to say." He then eyed Ashley and Kate. "The women here are much more…fuller, than over at Hogwarts." Both girls giggled. Jason grinned, turning to Draco.

"Now, Malfoy, that can't be that true," he said, glancing at Hermione. "I mean, judging by what I see, looks like Hogwarts got quite a good crop." Hermione grew red hot in the face and shoved Jason. Draco eyed Hermione for a minute, who met his gaze. He then stood, and walked down to the lake edge. Squatting, he dipped his hand in and then shook it around to get the water off.

"Is there anything living in this water?" he asked.

"No," Ashley said. Draco nodded, standing.

"Good. Then nobody minds meeting back here tonight, do they?" Jason and Brian grinned broadly and the two Allenburg girls giggled. Hermione, however, got up and walked over to Draco.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" she hissed. He rolled his eyes.

"The water's warm, mudblood," he growled back. "Besides, I don't want to stay inside when it's actually warm outside."

"If we get caught-"

"Hey!" he snapped, cutting her off. "No one said you had to come." She glared at him and he smirked.

"That's what I thought," he slurred. "Now, if you excuse me." With that, he walked away, leaving her frowning after him.


Hermione blinked, opening her eyes and sitting up in bed. It was dark in her room except for the moonlight that slipped threw the drawn window hangings. Rubbing her eyes and grabbing her robe, she got up and slipped to the door. She laid her hand on the doorknob and opened it a crack. The common room was empty. Slipping down the stairs, she opened the portrait door and headed silently down the corridor, wondering to herself why she was doing this. Arriving at the Entrance doors, she paused, wondering if she should just turn around. Sighing and cursing herself for her morbid curiosity, she opened the door and headed towards the lake.

"Hey, look who decided to join us!" Brian greeted, waving from the water. Jason and Ashley looked up from a water fight and waved also as Hermione stopped at the water's edge. Draco, who had been in the middle of flinging Kate into the water, stopped as he turned to see who had arrived. All of the boys were topless and only wearing boxers while both girls had large shirts and shorts on. Hermione pulled the robe closer around her.

"Come on, Hermione!" Jason called. Hermione shook her head and Draco smirked.

"Don't try, Jason," he told him. "Granger doesn't swim co-ed. Something about guys." Hermione glared at him and untied the robe, letting it drop around her ankles. She wore long, drawstring pajama pants and a skin-tight tank top. Her baby blue bra strap showed bright under the moonlight. Brian crowed, Jason wolf-whistled and Draco crossed his hands over his chest, saying nothing. Kate smiled.

"You know you can't come in here with long pants, Hermione," she told her and Hermione sighed. She had known this as soon as she had left the castle. She didn't need to be reminded. Sighing again, she pulled off the pants and the boys whistled. Well, Brain and Jason whistled. Draco just stared. Slipping into the amazingly warm water, Hermione turned over on her back, floating a bit.

Soon, a fight broke out and, after an hour, everyone pulled themselves out of the water. Jason conjured towels and warm butter beer for everyone. Wrapping herself in the towel, Hermione watched Draco grab a towel and, surprisingly, sit down next to her.

"Why the change in seating partner?" she asked bitterly. "I thought Hogwarts girls weren't up to your standard."

Oh Merlin, did she sound jealous?? She thought frantically. Draco obviously thought so. He cocked an eyebrow.

"Getting jealous, Granger?" he asked. She frowned, trying to hide her embarrassment.

"Why would I get jealous?"

"I don't know, you tell me." She turned away from him, taking a sip of butter beer.

"I don't know why you suggested it in the first place, Malfoy," she snapped. "I just asked you a question." He eyed her for a bit then genuinely shrugged.

"I don't know," he muttered, looking out at the lake. "I guess I needed a change of conversation." And a girl who wouldn't try corny pick up lines on him.

Oh Merlin, did I just think that? Hermione glanced at him.

"Did you think you'd get a friendly conversation?" she asked him. He actually smiled, this time genuinely.

"I'm getting one now, aren't I?" She blinked, startled at the reality of his answer. They were actually having a real conversation and hadn't once insulted each other.

I am going mad, both of them thought at the same time, staring at the lake with a concentrated look.

Ashley watched them as they conversed softly to each other. How come she, a mudblood, was able to snag such a handsome, well-bred young man as Draco. Ashley wasn't blind. She could tell that, no matter how much they denied it, something was going on between them. And Ashley didn't like it. Mudbloods didn't deserve anything higher than their own race.

Kate was also watching them. What was up with them? One minute, they hated each other, then next minute, they were sitting having a perfectly peaceful conversation with each other. She shook her head.

A small wind blew in and Hermione shivered, unconsciously moving closer to Draco. He noticed, but made no move to resist her. Instead, he merely slung his robe over her. She jumped at his touch and gave him a quizzical look but he had stood, motioning for the others to do the same.

"Come on, let's get to bed," he grumbled. He hated the cold. Kate got up, holding out her hand.

"Could you escort me to the castle?" she asked, giving him a coy smile. Hermione rolled her eyes, turning and heading back up.

She was soon lost in the labyrinth of corridors and halls that made up Allenburg castle. Sighing, she realized she still had Malfoy's robe on. Pulling it closer, she caught a whiff of spices that tickled her nose and made her giggle. Turning a corner, she froze, staring straight ahead at what blocked her way. Five cloaked figures stood hoods up and wands out. She stared between them, taking a step back.

"Um…" Hermione took another step back.

"You are Hermione Granger, are you not?" one of them inquired. Hermione nodded.

"Daughter of Fred Granger?" Hermione flinched.

"How do you know my father?" she asked, voice shaking. Instead of answering, they dove at her. Screaming, she tripped over her robes and fell to the floor. Scrambling on her knees, she tried desperately to get to her feet when slim fingers grabbed a handful of her hair and yanked back, making her scream. Hauling her to her feet, the one with her hair laughed.

"Let us kill her slowly," he hissed. Her eyes widened with horror and she opened her mouth to scream when she suddenly dropped as a cry rang from the dark space where her captor's face should be. All five of the turned and fled down the hall, a large black thing chasing after them. Gasping, Hermione pulled herself against the wall.

"You know, Granger, Dumbledore gave us those rules for a reason," Draco muttered as he approached, alone, and kneeled down next to her. She stared at him, tears leaking down her face.

"They…I…my-oh…Dr…m…dad…" She couldn't form the words that her mind was screaming and promptly burst into tears. Draco was frightened. He had never, except for his mother, handled a crying young woman and Hermione Granger was certainly a crying young woman. Opening and closing his mouth and finally sighing, he moved over and gently, reluctantly, picked her up. Shifting her around so that he was cradling her, he strode down the corridor, glancing behind him in the direction of the fleeing figures.

"Flames of Old," Draco muttered, waiting as the portrait door swung open. Entering, he climbed the stairs and managed the door with his elbow. Taking the room in with a glance, he headed over to the bed and set Hermione down in it. She had stopped crying and, turning on her back on him, she made no sound. Glancing around awkwardly, he made to leave when her voice stopped him.

"Please don't go…" Her voice was so small that is scared him a bit. Turning around, he frowned.

"I've gotta get to bed, Granger," he growled softly. For a moment there was no movement, then her hand came up, small and shaking, to point at a small sofa in the corner.

"Please…I don't want to be left alone…" For the first time, Draco actually moved around to look her dead in the eye. No longer lay the hardheaded, intelligent, smart-assed Head Girl Draco had known, but a terrified seventeen year old that had, in the last ten minutes, become defenseless and very much threatened with her life. She was no longer demanding his help. She was pleading it. And this made Draco very uncomfortable. Sighing, he kicked off his shoes and, conjuring a blanket, plopped down on the sofa. She closed her eyes quickly, scooting closer to the edge of the bed as she pulled the covers over her.

"Are you going to go to sleep?" she asked softly. He sat up, taking out his wand and showing it to her.

"No," he told her. "I won't go to bed." A small smile appeared on her face. Five minutes past and he thought that she had fallen asleep when,

"Draco?" He jumped at the sound of name on her lips.

"Yes…Hermione?" The smile returned.

"Thank you…for saving my life." He stared at her as she finally fell asleep. He looked out the window.

"Hermione…Hermione…Hermione Granger…Hermione Jane Granger…"

Why did the name flow from his lips so well?

Why did he yearn to hear her say his name again?