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Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot. 

In the end of Chapter Three:

Draco had to admit to himself that he actually enjoyed Hermione's company. Being on good terms with her was much better than the continuous bickering. Not insulting her also meant that he didn't get a biting comeback in return. Instead he would tease her and make her blush, which was actually a rather pleasant sight.

All in all she wasn't that bad, he decided. When Hermione emerged from the bathroom, he wasn't grinning at her anymore – the small smile was genuine.

Chapter Four 

The next day Hermione decided not to read her book, because she was hoping it would make Draco stop teasing her. The plan didn't exactly work. He couldn't snatch the book from her hands or stare at her and grin while she was reading, but he could follow her and ask her where her book was or if she was planning to read it anytime soon. She found it immensely annoying.

She took every chance to get away from his continuous questions. He didn't dare to say anything if she was with an Order member, so she tried to stay in their company as much as she could. Unfortunately they had other things to do, too – for example making sure that the house was safe. The guardian pairs also worked in shifts. When the pair changed in the afternoon, Hermione noticed she didn't really know either of the two. In her moment of desperation she decided to start knitting.

Ginny had put some yarn and Hermione's knitting needles in the bag she had brought. It was common knowledge to her friends that knitting helped her relax, and at the moment she definitely needed to relax. She was sure that Draco would leave her alone if she was doing something as boring as knitting.

She was wrong.

”What are you doing?” he asked curiously as he plopped down on the sofa next to her. 

”Knitting,” she answered, trying not to sigh in defeat.

”What are you knitting?”

”Woolen stockings.”

Despite the fact that it was mid-summer, she was cold. Draco watched her work silently for a moment.

”Where did you learn to do that?” he enquired soon.

Hermione glanced at him quickly. He was being surprisingly nice, even though she was sure he was somehow trying to irritate her. ”I studied the theory by myself. I started making little hats in our fifth year at Hogwarts, and after that I've been knitting other stuff as well.”

”Why did you make little hats?” Draco asked, furrowing his brows.

She blushed a bit. She knew he would probably make fun of her, but she wasn't ashamed of her S.P.E.W. project.

”I wanted to free the house-elves. I thought that they weren't treated fairly, and I haven't changed my mind,” she huffed.

Draco nodded in understanding, and that was it. Instead of picking on her he just sat there, drumming his knees with his fingers and looking around for some kind of stimulus to fix his eyes on. Hermione looked at him with wide eyes, but he didn't notice. She couldn't believe he was being so nice. He had always been such a pain in the arse.

Suddenly she was angry at herself. Hadn't she promised herself to give him a chance? Yet here she was, trying to look for flaws even though Draco really hadn't been that bad. She shook her head a bit and decided to observe his behavior for a couple of days before judging him. 

* * * 

Not worrying about how Draco was acting seemed to lower Hermione's stress level – she was gaining strength pretty quickly. She needed help getting up the stairs before going to bed that evening, but the following morning she felt a lot better already. She was so happy to bounce down the stairs by herself that she didn't even stop to think that maybe she hadn't fully recovered yet.

Hermione spent the morning doing things she hadn't been able to do the day before. She hand-washed the dishes, learned a couple of new defensive spells from Hestia Jones and re-arranged the living-room book shelf. Keeping herself busy with all the normal stuff felt great, but she was about to learn it wasn't such a good idea after all.

She reached her breaking point while arranging her bed chamber.

The room looked spotless once she was finished cleaning it. The dust that had previously covered the tables was gone, her things were placed around the room even more neatly than before, the flowers had fresh water. Looking around, Hermione decided that the only thing left to do was to change the place of the flower vase. It would look better on the other side of the room.

She picked up the vase and turned, noticing to her horror that her steps were short and wobbly. She didn't make it to the table where she was supposed to put the flowers. Her legs gave in once again and she fell to the floor, the glass shattering into pieces and cutting her – she didn't even notice the trickle of blood. She hated herself so much for losing control.

Draco had heard the crashing noise and rushed to the door just in time to hear Hermione's words, full of loathing towards her condition.

”I... hate...being...weak.”

He came in, fixing the broken vase with a flick of his wand. He sat down next to her, gathered the flowers back into the vase and dried the floor.

”Are you alright?” he asked quietly once he was done.

Hermione didn't answer. She just sat there, leaning on her arms and taking in shaky breaths to calm herself down. Her anger was quickly being replaced with desperation over the powerless state she was in. She really hated it.

Draco noticed the small wound in her hand. He reached to lift it up and carefully healed the cut. He could see that she was about to break down, and he wanted to do whatever he could to comfort her.

”Is there anything I can do for you?”

”I could really use a hug,” she replied in a broken voice.

”That's not exactly my specialty, but I'll do my best,” Draco smiled.

He gathered Hermione in his arms and pulled her close. He was a bit surprised at how good it felt to have her wrap her arms around him. It really was nice. Still he could sense that something wasn't right. Hermione was stiff, as if she was trying to keep herself from crying. Draco felt a pang of guilt in his chest as he realized how much pain she had to have inside her. If only he could make it better...

”Let it out,” he whispered softly a moment later. ”I know you're hurting. Just let it all out.”

And she did. All the pain she had fought to hide when she had been Crucio'd and hexed, the feelings of utter loneliness during those weeks spent in the cold dungeons, the horror that came from thinking she could have been raped, the disappointment of not being able to talk through her experiences with her friends... Everything. She let it all out. And while she cried her heart out, Draco held her, stroking her hair and murmuring soothing words in her ear. Not once did he tell her not to cry.

”You've been a brave little Gryffindor, but you don't want to bottle up the bad feelings. Trust me. I've been doing it for years,” he told her with a hint of bitterness in his voice at the last bit.

”No one has asked me what it was like,” Hermione sobbed in a strangled tone. ”They think I'm fine, but they don't know how hard it was...”

”They didn't ask you what it was like?” He disentangled himself from her to look at her properly. He couldn't believe what he was hearing – he had always thought her friends would do anything for her. How hard could it be to ask a simple question?

She shook her head in response, looking thoroughly miserable. As her eyes met Draco's, a lonely teardrop fell down her cheek. He raised his hand and gently wiped it away. But even after he was done with the motion, he didn't remove his hand from her face. Something told him that his touch could make her feel better, and he caressed her cheek lightly to see if it would help.

And indeed, a small smile formed on her face as she closed her eyes. The small, comforting gesture seemed particularly significant coming from Draco Malfoy. He wasn't her friend, but he was there when she really needed one. And more importantly, he knew what she had been through. He knew she had been hurt and didn't try to play it down or ignore it. At the time being, she was happy to have him by her side. It didn't matter that their history was rather hostile... That was in the past. At the moment she didn't want to worry about a thing. For whatever reason, she felt safe with him. 

* * * 

It was very liberating for Hermione to realise that she was comfortable in Draco's company. She had already stopped watching his behavior, now she could lift the restrictions she'd put on hers. He had already seen her cry, though, so she didn't think there was much she could hide from him after that. Nevertheless, it was a huge change to show her emotions so openly in front of him. She didn't feel like she had to hide her amusement or bite back a sarcastic comment in case he didn't understand her humor – which he did, by the way – it was pretty much like being with anyone she knew and liked. Or got along with, at least.

In the evening of the day of Hermione's breakdown, she made hot chocolate for herself and Draco. They sat in the kitchen sipping on their hot drinks and talking about knitting. Well, Hermione was explaining the technique and Draco was listening, but still. Obviously he had known that fabric didn't just appear out of nowhere, but he found it interesting to actually see someone create a peace of clothing. And she only had yarn and knitting needles for help.

But no matter how liberated Hermione felt, it couldn't hide the fact that they were quickly running out of things to do. She had kept her distance to the Harlequin (just in case), and besides knitting that was about the only pastime she had. The safe house was proving to be quite boring.

On their fourth day at the house, Draco found Hermione jumping on the second floor, trying to reach a drawstring that was hanging from the ceiling. She was a tad bit too short for the job and looked quite funny.

”Ahem... What are you doing?” he asked. The tone of his voice gave away his amusement.

”I'm – trying – to get – to the attic,” she explained, jumping all the while.

”Let me do that for you,” Draco offered.

He lifted his hand and being a lot taller than Hermione, he grabbed the drawstring easily. He pulled it carefully, revealing a set of attic ladders. They were soon fully extended and ready for use.

”Thank you,” Hermione nodded. She lifted her foot on the first step, but Draco stopped her.

”Uh, Granger, are you sure you want to go there all by yourself?”

”Of course I'm not going there by myself. You're coming with me,” she announced brightly.

He raised his brows. ”I am?” Hermione started to climb the stairs as if she hadn't heard the question, and Draco sighed. ”I guess I am.”

They climbed the stairs and emerged in the attic. The place was awfully dusty, and there were only a few boxes and a tall cabinet. Draco looked around while Hermione went over to the cabinet. Soon he heard her excited squeal.

”Ooh, they have Draughts in here!”

”They have what?”

”It's a board game... A bit like Wizard's Chess, but a lot less violent,” she explained with a happy smile on her face and childlike enthusiasm shining in her eyes. ”Can we play?”

He couldn't say no to her, and they left the sooty attic. The board, which looked like a normal chess board, only smaller, was set on the kitchen table and Hermione told him the rules of the game. They decided to have a test round before starting to play properly. Draco had the dark pieces and he made the first move.

”You can only move your pieces diagonally on the dark squares – yes, just like that. And now it's my turn. If you think about a strategy, you might want to back you pieces up or... Well, you've just done what I was going to explain. There's an unoccupied square behind your piece – there – I can jump over your piece with mine...and now I eat you,” she exclaimed happily.

”Wait a minute,” Draco quickly moved his chair away from the table in surprise. ”I thought you said it wasn't violent. And now you're going cannibal on me?”

Hermione let out a giggle, the lovely noise sending shivers down Draco's spine. He had never heard her laugh like that.

”No, silly, I'm not going cannibal on you,” she smiled widely. ”I captured your piece and now you've lost it. I always called it eating when I was little,” she told him. ”Oh, and look – you can eat me too!”

He couldn't help the grin that spread on his face. The girl was actually rather adorable when she let her excitement bubble out and take over. She was so full of life – he couldn't believe she was the same person he'd seen in the dungeons less than a week ago.

”I suppose I'll have to eat you then,” he answered and moved his dark piece over her light one.

Draco soon got the gist of the game, and won the third round. Even though Hermione was a skilled player, he was sometimes a step ahead of her. But even then he let her win every once in a while. The genuine delight on her face was enough of a victory for him. He had a passing thought about how people would react if they knew what he was doing, but he shooed it away. If he wanted to play a Muggle board game with Granger, he would do that. If he wanted to let her win just to see her smile, he would do that too. It was no one else's business.

They played Draughts the whole afternoon, only pausing to eat. That day was the best one either of them had had in a while. When Draco went to bed in the evening, he was still smiling. 

* * * 

He didn't get up right away when he woke up the next morning. He lay down on his comfy bed and thought about his days at the safe house with Hermione. His behavior had changed quite a lot in that little time. Of course he knew that the extraordinary situation they were in was affecting him, but he was glad it did.

After he'd helped her the first time she collapsed, he had realised it was easy. He had even learned to like being the one she could count on – being her rock. It felt natural, and he'd gotten used to it during the few days they had spent together. Knowing that someone needed him actually made him feel rather masculine and proud of himself. The only thing he was concerned about was the fact that Hermione's friends would be arriving at the safe house that very day. In his opinion it was way too soon. How long would it take for them to shove him aside whenever she needed help? Not too long, he presumed. Then he would be forced to spend all his time alone. Sure, he'd been doing a lot of that in his life, but it was different now. He had seen what life could be like and he hated to think he might have to let it go.

Another thought also occurred to Draco – what if Hermione was dating one of the Wonder Boys? He knew she and Weasley had been together at the time of graduation, but he didn't know if they were still an item. She hadn't said anything. Not that it mattered if she had a boyfriend, obviously... He was just wondering what the situation was.

Finally he got up and dressed, already dreading the moment the gang would arrive. Time seemed to be moving faster than he would have liked. It felt like he had only sat down to have lunch a minute earlier when Hermione was already urging him to get up and form a welcoming committee with her. He wasn't too keen on the idea for obvious reasons.

”They need to understand that you really are here, and you're not going anywhere,” she said. ”It'll be easier for everyone if they see that we're getting along. Please, just behave yourself.”

”And if I don't? What are going to do, eat me?” he replied sarcastically.

”Malfoy... Please, be nice,” she pleaded. He could see she was getting stressed out again, so he nodded. She gave him a grateful smile.

They went to the lobby to get ready for the newcomers. Lupin was there, too, as was some other Order member – Hermione didn't know him. She was quite nervous about seeing her friends. They wouldn't be happy to see Malfoy standing right by her side, but it had to be done. He would not be left out, she would see to that. She just needed to make sure her friends saw how comfortable she was in Draco's company.

Then it was already time to set the plan into action. A group of people had just Apparated in front of them. Harry, Ron and Ginny each had their own escort, who quickly nodded at Lupin and that nameless Order member and disappeared again, leaving them to get settled.

Hermione greeted her friends by hugging each one, but after that she took a few steps back to stand next to Draco. Harry raised his brows in surprise, Ginny's eyes widened and Ron had an ugly look on his face. Even Lupin seemed to be watching the situation from where he stood.

”So... How have you been?” Hermione asked tentatively.

”We've been in better company than you,” Ron spit out, looking at Draco with clear hate.

The blonde's eyes narrowed dangerously, but Hermione placed her hand on his arm to calm him down. That did the trick. He took a breath and looked away from Ron.

”I've been in good company,” Hermione glanced at Draco with a small smile. When she turned to look at the centre of the room, she met less than friendly faces. She shifted nervously. ”Look, it really isn't that bad, if you just let me explain –”

She suddenly stopped speaking and blinked twice. Draco noticed the slight shaking as she slowly lowered her head to look at her legs, and instinctively moved closer to wrap his arm around her waist. He was just in time. 

”Oi! Get your dirty hands off of her!” Ron exclaimed as Hermione fell into Draco's embrace.

”It's alright, Ron... It's my legs, they're not supporting me. He's just helping.”

”Well I can do that,” Ron said, shuffling over and grabbing his friend from the enemy with a bit more force than was necessary. ”Let's get you to the living room.”

Hermione was only able to send a quick look to Draco over her shoulder, hoping he could see she didn't want to leave him like that. Nothing was going as planned, she thought as she was being dragged to the living room. She was already separated from Draco and her friends didn't understand the situation one bit. She would just have to take care of it alone. Just because someone didn't like seeing her with the Malfoy heir didn't mean she would let go of him, not after she had seen a glimpse of a whole new person in him.

”I still can't believe they're making you stay here with that Death Eater,” Ron grunted as he sat her down on the sofa. ”But don't worry Hermione. I'll take time off from work and come here to make sure he doesn't bother you again.”

Excuse me?” Hermione couldn't believe what she was hearing. ”First of all, Ronald, you are most definitely not taking any more time off from work than you already are. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, thank you very much. And secondly, he is not a Death Eater.”

Ron's mouth hung open. He had not been expecting such an outburst to follow his noble offer. Harry, however, wasn't concentrating on that part of Hermione's statement. ”How do you know he's not a Death Eater?”

”I've seen his arm,” she replied, turning to look at Harry. ”He doesn't have the Mark.”

”That doesn't make him any less of a jerk,” Ron rolled his eyes.

”You should keep some distance to him,” Harry adviced.

Hermione's eyes flashed dangeriously, but Ginny interrupted her before she could give her scathing comment. ”Look, here's the way I see it – if Hermione says that he's alright, then he is alright. Or do you still think he's an ass?”

”No, he's nothing like he used to be,” the brunette assured.

”I thought so. Your word is enough for me, and it should be enough for you guys too,” Ginny glanced angrily at Harry and Ron. She looked awfully a lot like her mother, and the boys didn't dare to talk back.

After a moment of silence, Hermione spoke again. ”I don't know if it proves anything, but he didn't even laugh when I told him about S.P.E.W. And he was really nice to his house-elf.”

No one made a comment, but Ginny gave her a smile. They soon moved to other subjects. While they talked, Hermione noticed she was looking at her two male friends with whole new eyes. Now that she thought about it, they had always been quite protective of her when it came to other men around her. If they hadn't pre-approved someone, he wasn't allowed anywhere near her. It had been rather embarrassing to have them show up at her work to obviously check on the people she was working with. Of course she knew it was good to know what kind of people your friend is dealing with, but this was getting ridiculous. It wasn't like she was about to start dating Draco Malfoy, for Merlin's sake!

They had a nice, long talk, during which Hermione was able to tell them a bit more about her time at the Malfoy Manor. She didn't go into details too much, for she didn't want to get too emotional. After all, she had let it out once already. They also talked about everything that was going on in the outside world. At dinner Harry remembered to mention that Hermione's parents would visit her the following week at the second safe house. They would bring Crookshanks with them.

After dinner the group of four returned to the living room. Harry and Ron were arguing about some player in the English National Quidditch Team – Ron thought they should replace him with some Chudley Cannons player. Once she was sure the boys were wrapped up in their conversation, Ginny decided to do some questioning about Hermione and Draco's suddenly warmed terms. There was something shady about the situation. She couldn't stay overnight, so no time could be wasted.

”So tell me, what's the deal with you and Malfoy?” she enquired curiously. ”He rushed to help you pretty fast earlier.”

”I know how it must have looked, but there's no 'me and Malfoy', Ginny,” Hermione gave her friend a firm look. ”He just happened to get me out of a sticky situation. And, well, he's been rather nice towards me.”


”And what? That's all there is.”

Ginny raised her brows and grinned. She seemed to think there was something going on that Hermione wasn't telling her. Which there wasn't... Obviously. 

* * * 

While Hermione had been having fun with her friends, Draco had spent the whole day sulking in his room, feeling extremely gloomy. He'd had the worst day in a long time. When there was a knock on his door in the evening, he only grunted in response.

”Hi... Can I come in?” Hermione asked, opening the door a fraction.

”Yeah, sure... What is it?” He moved to sit more straight on his bed, feeling a lot more alive already.

”I just felt like talking to someone. Ginny had to go home already and the boys are hardly good conversationalists, so I thought I'd come see you,” she explained, closing the door behind her.

Draco gave her a smile and gestured for her to sit down at the foot-end of his bed. In the inside he was a lot more glad to see her than he appeared to be, for he had been feeling secretly depressed the whole day. The seven hours she had spent with her friends and away from him, to be precise.He had been rather surprised by his own reaction. It seemed that Hermione had wrapped him around her finger, and it had only taken her a few days. Not being the one she leaned on had felt surprisingly bad.

But now she had come to see him, and that told him something. Even though her friends might want to keep her away from him, she made her own decisions. And she had decided she wanted to spend time with him. Him, not them. The thought made him feel slightly light-headed. She couldn't be seeing either of her male friends, either – otherwise she wouldn't have come to him.

”How was your day? What did you do?” Hermione wanted to know.

”Boring. I've been sitting here doing nothing all day.”

”Nothing? You could have read something,” she said.

Draco gave her a condescending look. ”All the books are in the living room.”

”You could have come to get one.”

”Yeah, and have Potter and Weasley glare at me like they want to strangle me? I don't think so.”

”I'm sure they don't want to strangle you,” she assured. Draco just raised his brows and said nothing. ”So you've been by yourself the whole day?”

”Yeah,” he said, shrugging. ”It's no big deal, I do that a lot. Or at least I did... Back at the Manor.”

He didn't look at her. He didn't want to remind her about the place where she had suffered so much, and the fact that it had been his home. That he had lived all his life surrounded by the kind of people she hated from the bottom of her heart. He didn't want her to remember that she had hated him for half of her life.

It seemed that Hermione wasn't thinking about anything like that, though. ”I've been meaning to ask you about that... How are you holding up? This is hardly easy for you, being ripped away from everything you're used to.”

”I'm alright,” he replied. He couldn't believe she cared about how he was doing – he hadn't even thought about it himself. ”It's not like I miss home or anything. My mother might be concerned about me, though.”

”I don't know if it makes you feel any better, but at least she doesn't have to worry about you getting the Dark Mark,” Hermione pointed out.

Draco's eyes lit up and a nice smile spread across his face. ”She doesn't,” he agreed. He suddenly grinned. ”And I've probably been disinherited already!”

”Why is that a good thing?”

”Because past generations of Malfoys are turning in their graves as we speak, because we're speaking,” he rolled his eyes. ”I think it's quite an accomplishment. I might make it to the history books.”

There was a smile tugging at the corner of Hermione's lips. It got even wider when Draco voiced a question that had come into his mind.

”Speaking of books...have you finished that kinky one yet?” he enquired with a grin.

”I'm afraid I've been too busy for that,” she quipped. ”But I'll try to see if I have some time tomorrow. Ask me again later.”

He nodded, making a mental note to himself to do just that.

”So... Lupin told me you skipped dinner.”

Draco's stomach grumbled in response. He had indeed skipped dinner, for he had wanted to make sure he didn't have to watch Hermione with her friends and have her ignore him completely. Although she probably wouldn't have done that – she had even come to see him voluntarily, why wouldn't she have talked to him at dinner? Draco had to admit to himself that he had probably been a bit foolish. And now he was hungry.

”Yeah, I should probably eat something,” he remarked.

”You probably should,” Hermione commented. She decided not to mention that Lupin had told her Draco had seemed to be moping when he had gone to tell him dinner was ready. ”You know... I don't think I ever thanked you for visiting me in the dungeons,” she continued. ”It was nice to see a familiar face. Even if it was yours...ferret boy.”

”Ha ha, very funny,” Draco rolled his eyes again, an amused smile playing on his lips.

Hermione grinned. ”It's not a bad thing, really. I like animals.”

Draco was about to answer the interesting comment, when they heard a knock on the door.

”Malfoy? Can I have a word,” came Harry's voice through the door.

”Sure... Just a sec,” Draco gave his reply. They both got off the bed.

”I should go,” Hermione noted. She glanced at the bed and straightened the badly wrinkled cover with a flick of her wand. ”Just a precaution,” she answered Draco's questioning look. ”We wouldn't want them thinking anything funny.”

With that, she walked to the door and opened it, greeting Harry with a bright smile. His mouth fell open with surprise.


”Yes, it's me – do I look like a troll or something? Close your mouth, Harry darling,” she adviced kindly. ”You're going to catch a fly. Anyways, I'm going to bed... Night, boys.”

She left the two standing there and went to get ready for bed. 

* * * 

The next day Hermione wanted to make sure Draco wasn't left all by himself. She persuaded him to come to the living room to read something. He was a little reluctant to be in the same room as Harry and Ron, but settled into a secluded corner nevertheless. For a fleeting moment she wondered why Harry had come to see him the previous evening, but soon forgot about it.

”So, what have you been doing in here? I guess there isn't that much to do,” Harry asked her.

”Nothing much really. I've been reading a bit,” Hermione shrugged.

”I should have known,” Harry laughed. ”Do they have Hogwarts: A History in here?”

”Well, not exactly... I've been reading other stuff,” she said, squirmimg a bit at the thought of the Harlequin book.

”Okay. Just remember that you don't have to educate yourself all the time,” he smiled.

That caused a low chuckle to be heard from the corner where Draco sat. They all turned to look at him.

”What's your problem, Malfoy?” Ron demanded. ”It's none of your business if Hermione likes to learn new stuff. Get used to it or get away.”

”On the contrary, I have no problem with her thirst for knowledge,” Draco replied smoothly. ”And I'm sure her book was very...educational.”

The mischievous twinkle in his eyes caused a small blush to creep on Hermione's cheeks. It annoyed her to no end, for normally she wasn't the type of girl who blushed. Malfoy had created weird responses in her in general. And of course she had known he would tease her about the whole book thing, but she had hoped he wouldn't bring it up while her friends were present. Obviously that had been a fat chance.

”Of course it was, this is Hermione we're talking about,” Ron grunted, clearly missing the message that was only meant for Hermione to understand. ”You could learn a lot from her if you were smart enough to listen.”

Draco flashed his trademark smirk. ”I'm sure I could. So, Granger, did you find anything useful in that book? 'Cause if you did, I'm all ears.”

Harry and Ron turned to look at her, too. She avoided everyone's gaze and muttered in a muffled tone, ”I'm sure you'll do fine with your current amount of knowledge.”

Draco grinned from ear to ear as he watched Hermione beckon her friends to follow her out of the room. He would let her go now, but he'd get back to the subject later on.

* * *

A couple of hours later Hermione was washing the dishes when Draco came into the kitchen, whistling to himself. He was annoyingly chipper – how dare he do that when she was mad at him? – and she scowled at him. It didn't affect him in the least bit – he only whistled louder. Suddenly she recognized the tune and blushed to the root. It was Celestina Warbeck's A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love. No wonder he was having so much fun.

”You really are insufferable, I hope you know that,” she huffed.

”I know,” he grinned. ”But I'm also unbelievably charming, so it doesn't matter.”

”You are not,” Hermione rolled her eyes. Still she couldn't hide her smile.

”Yet my mere presence has made you smile,” he pointed out.

”Your mere presence annoys the hell out of me,” she chuckled in response.

”And I don't believe a word you say,” Draco told her. He jumped to sit on the kitchen counter a few feet away from her. ”So where are the Wonder Boys?”

”They fled the scene when they saw the dishes.”

”Ah... Should have seen that coming. But aren't they afraid that big, bad Draco Malfoy might do something to their precious friend?”

Hermione turned to look at him, one eyebrow raised. She gave him the once-over and a crooked, devilish smile. ”They have no need to worry about me. See, I could do you with my eyes closed and my hands behind my back, and they know it too.”

”Oh, really? Think you can do me?” His grin reached from ear to ear. ”Bring it on.”

”Oh, I will. You won't even know what hit you,” she smirked, rather a lot like he used to do. Then she turned back to the dishes.

He couldn't wait to be alone with her again. 

A/N: Aah... Juicyness! :D Aren't they cute together?

Just to let you know, Draughts is also known as checkers, if that helps anyone who didn't recnognise the game.

I hope you enjoyed this extra long chapter – I have no idea how it got so long, but I suppose it doesn't matter! As always, I love hearing your thoughts about the chappy. Any review is great, no matter how long it is!



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