Chapter 5: Lifeguard on Duty
When Hermione saw who it was, she gasped and froze, momentarily forgetting that she was in water too deep for her to stand in. Her head slipped under the water, and she struggled to gather enough of her wits about her to reach the surface again. Forcing her arms to move through the deep water when she was already so surprised was difficult. She was also very aware that if she broke the water’s surface, odds were pretty good that he was going to see her naked.
A hand plunged into the water above her and grabbed a hold of her arm as it was flailing about. She was tugged rather forcefully from the pool and dragged up out of danger. She found herself face to face with her rescuer before she doubled over and began to cough up the lavender water she had swallowed. It may have smelled lovely, but it did not taste as good. Her face was red, both from her coughing fit and from pure humiliation at being caught. Not only was she wandering around the school after hours, but she was found naked, indulging in a private swim by the last person on Earth she wanted to see her almost drown, much less actually have save her.
Her knees gave out, weak from the struggle and the coughing, and he caught her around the waist and half-guided, half-pulled her to the benches along the wall. He left her sitting there for a moment, and went to grab her a towel from the massive rack on the other side of the bathroom. He returned in almost an instant, making to drape the towel around her shoulders. He stopped when Hermione looked up into his gray eyes. They were cloudy with what Hermione thought was concern, although to see compassion in Draco Malfoy’s expression was something very new to her.
He looked her over, very slowly, apparently realizing for the first time since he yanked her from the pool, that she was completely naked, and her wet hair was dripping and curling. Hermione blushed again, feeling the heat of his gaze rove over her, and she reached for the towel still held in his hand. Her hand brushed against his when she tried to remove the towel from his grasp, and his eyes shot back up to her face again. Now the clouds were gone and were replaced with a full-blown tempest. Their silvery depths seemed to want to convey an emotion that scared Hermione slightly, but then he blinked, and gave her the towel, stepping back.
Hurriedly, Hermione wrapped the soft, fluffy terry cloth around her exposed body in an act of belated modesty. He was still staring at her though, and the silence was beginning to kill her more than the water might have.
Licking her lips nervously, she rasped, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Are you all right?”
His concern startled her again, and she stammered out, “Y-yes, I think so. You- took me by surprise, I guess.”
He watched her carefully for another moment, then seemed to think that she would be fine. He took another step backward, away from her, and the light fell halfway across his handsome face. To Hermione, it was as if the room was telling her something. His features were half in light, half in shadow, and the look in his eyes seemed almost haunting in the strange lighting. It was just as Hermione would have pictured Draco’s soul. Torn between two sides, and neither one at ease with the other.
They were watching each other intently, and Draco was increasingly aware that now that he’d seen her naked, there was no way he’d be able to ever see her otherwise again. She looked so uncomfortable though, and he knew that he should leave, and let her get dressed. Then again, Draco had never been much of a gentleman when it came to that. Instead, he tried to tease her out of her discomfort. He’d love to see her get mad while she was still wet. It would be quite a sight.
“Not much of a swimmer, are you?”
She wiped her face off with the corner of the towel that she clung to as if it had just saved her life. “Not really, no.”
Her flat response drew him to take a step closer to her. It looked to him as though she was truly afraid of drowning. Not that he would have let it happen. Just because he wasn’t a gentleman, didn’t mean he wanted her dead either. Especially not in a place where he was the only other person, and quite likely to have been blamed for the accident. Although, according to her account, he was to blame for it, as he had startled her in the first place.
The silence between them was deafening, and Hermione was starting to shiver. Her hair was wet, she was cold, and all she wanted was for him to leave her alone, so she could get dressed, and then go to bed and forget this ever happened. Of course, he might tell people the second she left him alone, and she really didn’t want that to happen.
“You startled me.” She repeated, trying to convince herself it was all right to talk, and part of her wanted to make sure that he would keep her secret.
“You already said that.” He replied, though his tone said that he wouldn’t be apologizing any time soon.
She swallowed hard. She was going to have to ask him to not tell anyone, and the thought was a difficult one to conquer. Yet the fear that he would humiliate her with his knowledge was more than enough to give her the strength to look him in the eye.
“You’re not going to tell anyone about this, are you?”
Her voice quavered halfway through her sentence, and Draco couldn’t figure out if it was fear or cold that caused her to tremble. He hadn’t planned on telling anyone, but if she was that worried about it, then there must have been some reason for her asking. He narrowed his eyes at her.
“Why shouldn’t I? You’re a Prefect, sneaking around the castle at night, and hiding out in the bathroom.”
Her eyes clouded with fear for only a second before they began to burn. It was amazing, seeing her get so angry in such a little amount of time, but fear did that to some people.
“So? You are here too! A Prefect, wandering about after curfew, and you were in the bathroom as well!”
Hermione shook with outrage. Her thoughts, already so unsettled, swirled madly about her head, like a swarm of angry bees. He wouldn’t, no, couldn’t possibly tell! she thought It would get him into just as much trouble!
Draco smiled slightly. She was beautiful when she was angry. The smile vanished when he realized what he’d thought. Hermione Granger was NOT supposed to be beautiful to him! Although, perhaps it would be fun to see just how far she was willing to go to make him keep her little secret.
“You know as well as I do, Granger, that I don’t care if I get in trouble. After all, you are the one with the Miss Perfect reputation.”
She flushed a becoming pink at the words ‘Miss Perfect’. That confused him, but he would think about that later. Right now he was playing with her, and that was all the distraction he needed. He was still uncomfortably aware of her nudity under her towel, and it was growing to be a problem, as the towel got soaked from her hair, and molded itself to her figure.
“You don’t want me to tell anyone? You’ll just have to make sure that I don’t then.” He issued this in a challenging voice, daring her to ask him how. He was pleased when she shivered again and then asked him,
“How am I supposed to do that?”
He grinned. “You’ll just have to keep an eye on me, won’t you? You’ve already been watching me all the time, but I suppose now you’ll just have to spend all that time listening to me instead.”
She gulped. Listen to him? That would mean that she would have to be near enough to hear his conversations, almost all the time. It would require her to spend long hours in his company, and then distract him if he got close to spilling.
“What about classes? I can’t just show up at a Slytherin class, being a Gryffindor!”
Her thoughtful tone made him stop for a second. She was actually thinking about this? She was taking him seriously? Either she was more afraid of something than he’d originally thought, or she…but, no…that would be crazy. The thought that Hermione would actually want to spend time with him was simply out of the question.
“Well, I will give you my word that I won’t tell anyone when you’re not around. After all, it lacks the same, shall we say, embarrassment factor if I can’t see you turn red.”
Even as he spoke, there was a certain relief that crossed her features. It was obvious that it was fear driving her now. Very well, he thought, If she’s that afraid, I’m going to make this worth my while.
“Of course, you’ll need to think of some way to explain why you’re always hanging around me. Good luck with that.” He chuckled darkly, though to him it seemed forced. He didn’t really want to push this with her, but since she was going to take him seriously, there was little he could do. He turned around, intending to leave her to her clothing and thoughts.
Her soft voice caught him, as did her use of his first name, and he looked at her. She was still trembling, looking for all the world like the lost kitten that he’d pulled out of the river when he was five. She had the same terrified, yet grateful look he’d seen in the cat’s brown eyes, and he didn’t even think about it. He simply walked right up to her and gathered her in his arms. Just like he had done for the kitten, he stroked her soft, damp hair, and murmured to her softly.
Then, unlike with the cat, he tipped her head up and kissed her. She gasped into his mouth, and it took him a second to realize that not only was she kissing him back, but she had let go of the towel in order to wrap her arms around his neck.
Prying himself away from her wet, clinging form, he only glanced at her once, before leaving in a hurry.
The door shut behind him, and Hermione took a deep shuddering breath. She didn’t know what had come over her just now. Why had she pressed herself against him? Why had she even allowed him to kiss her in the first place? Quickly drying off the rest of the way, she scurried into her clothes and made for the door. As she reached for the handle, she realized that she had her fingers pressed to her lips. They were still warm and a little tingly from his kiss, and she felt a shower of that warmth cover her from head to foot, remembering how wonderful he had felt.
With one last look at the place where she had experienced something unique and thrilling, she closed the door to the Prefect’s bathroom and went up to bed.