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It is a Friday. Over dinner, while most are busy making plans for their first weekend of the school year (trips to Hogsmeade, Quidditch games, picnics, what have you), two students grudgingly finish tonight's beef stew and treacle tart as excited conversation swarm about them.

"Hermione, you're not done yet?" Ginny asks incredulously, looking at her friend's plate. "Come on, we're gonna check out Fred and George's Blubbering Fool game set, remember?"

"It's Flubbering Bull," Ron corrects.

Harry shakes his head, "It's Bubbling Ghoul."

"You three very well know I can't," snaps Hermione.

The three "oh" and "ah" and "that's right" in unison and glance at the Slytherin table where Draco just happens to look up at them. Instead of giving the Gryffindors his accustomed sneer, he opts to ignore them. He then stands up and leaves the Great Hall.

"Well that's new," Harry comments in surprise, "I kind of miss the old pompous bit he does whenever he sees our lot." He glances at Hermione who now seems very interested in the swimming carrots in her stew. "We can wait for you, if you want Hermione. We'll be staying up late anyway, right?" He looks at his group who is now joined by Luna Lovegood and they all nod vigorously.

Hermione knows her friends are being more patronizing than sweet tonight. From the look on their faces, they are all too eager to sort through the care package of tricks that Fred and George sent this afternoon. "It's all right," she sighs, "I'll just catch up."

"Let's get on with it then," Ron points out, wiping the jam off his face with the back of his hand. At his word, the group scrambles out of their seats and of the Great Hall. In two minutes flat, they are well on their way through the Fat Lady's portrait, appendixes aching a bit.

Hermione smiles a bit and shakes her head as she looks at freight train of red and gold that are her friends. Had it not been for them, she might have long since lost it to the reptiles of this place. She glances at the Slytherin table as this thought crosses her mind. She spots the Pug Squad eyeing her maliciously--Karla and Patricia especially murderously, obviously livid that she's strangely slime-free.

Being the smart girl that she is, Hermione takes this as her signal to leave. After all, a once a week encounter with the Pug Squad is more than enough for her. She quickly gathers her books and takes off for the Infirmary.

Aurora is looking better today. Her white-blond curls are glinting healthily, and her cheeks are pleasantly rosy against her brownish skin. Although still noticeably skinny, Madame Pomfrey remarks that the baby's improvement has been vast and it will only be a matter of time before she gets more flesh on her tiny bones.

That night, the matron leaves Aurora in the care of her two babysitters to join the rest of the faculty in conducting a battery of spells to help identify her. There aren’t any students confined that night, it was just the three in the Infirmary who are not on speaking terms.

The first few hours of babysitting is uneventful, with Hermione on an empty bed doing Monday's homework and Draco several feet away, stiffly marching around the Infirmary burping Aurora and "swaying" her to sleep. Needless to say, Malfoy's soldier-like gait does no magic in lulling a baby to sleep.

Nine o'clock sees Hermione's turn to carry Aurora. Draco seem to have forgotten though as he continues to sway around the Infirmary even half past nine.

"Draco," Hermione calls her detention mate, "It's way past nine. Let me try to get her to sleep."

"What?" he says, snapping back to reality. "Oh, right." He walks over to her hands over Aurora as gently as possible. "I thought she was already... she was closing her eyes... then they'd open... I'd--" He catches himself, probably wondering why he should be explaining to her. Of all people.

She, on the other hand, is surprised at his newfound concern for Aurora but decides to mask it lest he changes his mind out of shame. "It's all right," she nods. She positions Aurora comfortably on the crook of her arm. "I'll give it a shot."

"Yeah," he mutters. He walks over to the armchair near the crib and slumps on it. He reaches for his Potions book and opens it.

Hermione slowly walks around the nursery. Once. Then twice. It is already ten in the evening when she did eight full laps and at the same time a painful yet stealthy sound starts ringing in her ears. She looks around and realizes it's only the bothering sound of silence when the sound of flipping pages from the armchair breaks it every five or so minutes.

She walks over to Draco who is still busy reading their Potions book. She winces as another stream of "silence" filters through her eardrums. She clears her throat just to soothe it a bit.

"What?" Draco asks, looking at her.

"Oh, nothing," she answers quickly. "I was... it's just... it's too quiet."

Draco gives her a strange look before going back to his reading.

Hermione looks at Aurora who is still wide awake and now playing with her mittens. She smiles at her. If only she can talk, then maybe it wouldn't be this painfully quiet and she wouldn't feel too compelled to talk to Draco. She coughs softly and moves towards him a bit closer. "Are you studying?" she asks.

Draco doesn't look up. "No. I'm swimming, Granger. Can't you see?" He flips to another page. "Now step back or I might hit you with my backstroke."

Hermione bites her lip. Her question IS rather daft. She steps back and does another round in the Infirmary before going back to Draco.

"I didn't get to thank you. Properly. For what you did yesterday."

Draco doesn't say anything. He continues to busy himself with his reading.

"You know. With the Slime Conjurer."

More silence.

"So thank you."

"I don't remember helping you Granger," Draco finally replies. He still won't look at her.

Hermione mentally shrugs and goes to walk Aurora around again. She would love to forget everything that happened that afternoon as well but unfortunately, memory is working against both of them. So her effort to tell him her thanks was just so he knows she's not some persona non grata. Heaven forbid he uses her ungratefulness to bash Muggles again.

She walks towards one of the Infirmary's windows and starts humming Aurora a song. The baby girl gurgles a compliment and in a few minutes her eyes start to close.

Draco looks up at them distractedly. "Could you stop that? I’m finding it hard to concentrate."

"This is a song she happens to like," Hermione says defensively. "Look, it’s putting her to sleep. Just be thankful I’m not singing it."

Draco frowns and goes back to his homework. Hermione starts humming again.

"I don’t know that song," says Draco suddenly, "Who sang it?"

"Chet Baker. It’s called Moon and Sand. It’s about a boy meeting a girl—"

He grimaces. "A Muggle? Don’t sing it to the baby, then. Won’t be good for her."

"So now what's good for her actually matters to you?" Hermione says in her challenging tone, putting the sleeping Aurora back in her cradle. "And what is your deal with Muggles?"

"They’re stupid," shrugs Draco.

"Wizards can be stupid," she counters.

"Oh, that’s right. Like you. Then again, you’re a Mudblood," he says slyly.

Hermione rolls her eyes. "And how are you so sure that Aurora isn’t a Muggle?" she points out.

Draco shrugs. "How are you so sure that she isn’t a wizard?" He stands up and turns on Aurora's mobile with his wand. "A kid as good-looking as her might just find her way in Slytherin."

"I thought she looked like a mole rat to you—"

"If she is a Muggle, then you should consider her lucky," Draco continues, "At least she's had a few months of good wizard upbringing—"

Hermione laughs. "And you consider yourself to have had one?" She sees Draco glaring at her but he doesn't say a word. She took this opportunity to bosh on everything she got on her chest since she came in tonight. "You’re a screwed-up git with no respect for others. If that’s what you call a product of good upbringing then I pity Aurora. Come to think of it, tell your parents, Malfoy, that I pity you, too. Because it looks like you’re going to be as ruthless as they are."

Draco laughs but his face has turned scarlet with anger. "You don't know my parents, Granger. So don't you dare talk about them like you do."

She remains unfazed by his sudden frightening exterior. "Oh, I think I know more about them than you give me credit for, Malfoy." She crosses her arms and looks thoughtful. "Tell me, who loves you a whole lot less: your dad or your mum?"

Draco definitely looks grim. At this point, Hermione knows she hit a nerve. A fragile one. What she saw in Draco’s eyes was more on hurt than contempt. She immediately feels guilty for her merciless banter. Obviously, she's right about the love subject being such a family issue. But it isn't her problem therefore giving her no right to highlight it at any point of argument with Draco. 'So much for saying 'thank you',' Hermione says to herself.

Malfoy says nothing and goes back to his chair and his book. Hermione walks back to the bed where she has spread out all her homework. She begins reading through her Charms checklist to practice for Monday's practical. She looks at Draco from the corner of her eye. He's now staring blankly out the window.

After an hour of reading the same line over and over, it was clear that none of what she's reading seem to be penetrating her mind. Telling off Draco distracted her more than she expected. She glances at him again and sees him nodding off to sleep. She looks at the clock near the door. It was nearing 11. Madame Pomfrey still hasn't come back from the faculty's identifying conference.

Hermione sighs and wonders if she should apologize to Draco. He might be rude but she really hit below the belt with that last row. Her mind starts to wander to the Gryffindor common room where her friends might still be yelling outrageous spells at each other. They would never hear of it, apologizing to Malfoy. But then again, they don't know what she told him. After all, nobody likes it when people bash their families.

Her eyes are now growing heavy as she continues to ponder giving an apology. She finally drifts off to sleep with a vision of laughing friends and the sound waves in her head.

*

He laughed as he stared at the midnight sky. "Truth or dare, Hermione?"



"Truth," I said without hesitation as I lay back on the sand with the waves lapping at my toes. I felt at ease and at the same time giddy. I looked over to my right and there was an empty bottle of Faust and two champagne glasses lying beside me. Then I turned back to look at him.

He smirked. "Do you like me?"

I laughed and stared at him. The reflection of the full moon glinted from his light gray eyes. "Hell yeah..."

He smirked once again.

"Now you, truth or dare?" I asked.

"Dare me."

"I dare you to kiss me - for a good five seconds," I said all of a sudden.

Then before I realized what was happening, he was in front of me. His smiling lips centimeters from mine. Our noses touched, sending flashes of sparks throughout my body. I felt my eyes close involuntarily. I quivered under the touch of his hand on my right arm. I fell into him. His lips gently grazed over mine. Then they strayed away. But even before I could open my eyes, they were back on my lips once more. Forcefully this time, but with more passion and honesty than before. My mouth opened unintentionally and I tasted his lips, still sweet from the red wine.

My fingers found its way into the soft tangles of his blond hair. Pulling him closer to me, we fell onto the sand, with the moonlight still dancing above us. "Draco..."


*

Hermione wakes up with a start. Lightning and thunder along with rain, are ruling the skies again. Her eyes are wide open. If anybody can see her, they would think that she just had a nightmare. She looks around as she desperately tries to remember her dream, but most of it is slipping quickly away with every second she's awake. Only one detail seem to stick though. Draco. She was--

"Ssh," said a familiar voice. "It's okay."

Her heart starts beating fast. 'Where am I?' she wonders, panicked.

A humming from her far left causes her to turns her head. She feels her hair snag on a bunch of parchments lying beside her in bed. Past "flick" and "swish" and "tapping" directions, she sees Draco on his feet, carrying a crying baby. For a good five minutes, Hermione can't seem to place where she could be in the middle of the night with Draco and a baby.

"It’s okay Aurora," he whispers. "Go back to sleep. It was just a bad dream."

Then she remembers. Detention. Madame Pomfrey and Identifying Spells. Then Chet Baker. A row. And wine.

'No, wait,' she thinks, shaking her head. There was no wine. That belongs in the dream she just had. She touches her lips with her fingers. It felt so real.

She peeks at Draco and sees him plant a kiss on Aurora's forehead. He marches around the Infirmary as he continues humming... Moon and Sand. He looks tired but his face has also a measure of calm and benevolence she has never seen before.

She continues to watch him, strangely enamored by the sound of his voice. She drifts off again, waves and his humming echoing in her ears.

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