Hi there :)

I don't own Harry Potter, but I do have a fandom team at my back who I adore. Alpha thanks to In Dreams, Beta thanks to LightofEvolution, and Cheerleader thanks MH Calamas... An ABC power trifecta if ever there was.

Warning: There be lemons ahead.


"Hermione, you have to do it; you took the oath, same as the rest of us."

Hermione Granger huffs and crosses her arms over her chest. "Yes, well, that was before I realized it would be completely stupid."

"Oh, come off it. Just a bit of fun."

Hermione has shared a dorm room with Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil for far too many years. She spent the first six ignoring them pretty spectacularly. Unfortunately, with Harry and Ron off to Auror training, she finds she is a bit on her own during this, her eighth year. She promised herself (and Harry, come to think of it) that she would make an effort at forming some bonds with her schoolmates before she leaves Hogwarts forever.

Which is how, she reminds herself, she got roped into this utterly inane little plot. The Girls, as she has dubbed them since they seem to be nearly interchangeable in all the silly, shallow, frivolous ways that matter, were slow to trust her intentions. They pointed out, rightly so, that she had wanted nothing to do with them for the entirety of their school careers, both before and during the war. Agreeing to a mild Wizard's Oath hadn't seemed a poor choice at the time, but she is very much rethinking that now.

Pavarti joins in with Lavender, now both of them staring her down with confident and insistent expressions. "You're the one who wanted to be a part of what we get up to. Well…" The witch gestures down at the copy of Witch Weekly on the side table between them. Hermione thinks - not very kindly - that if this is what they get up to, perhaps a solitary year would have been just fine.

"Oh, I see..." Lavender finally says, trailing off, her eyes filling with sympathy.

"What?" Hermione demands. "What do you see?"

Pavarti jumps in next. "Oh, Lavender, of course… I apologize, Hermione."

Hermione is not at all ashamed to admit she stomps in place, petulant and frustrated by their vague comments. "What in the world are you two on about?"

They exchange a look of very irritating understanding. "It's just," Lavender starts, hesitantly, "I guess since Ronald isn't here, it might be painful for you to participate. I mean… he's the only boy you've ever really… you know." She gestures vaguely for Hermione to fill in the blanks.

Her mouth agape for a moment, Hermione pulls herself together to say, "No, I don't know, in fact. Ronald has absolutely nothing to do with this, and I'm certainly not pining for him." She raises a challenging eyebrow at Lavender. "Are you?"

Both of the other girls laugh at that, and Lavender denies, "Oh mercy, no! I moved on from that little mistake as soon as it happened."

"Well, I assure you, I've moved on as well," Hermione answers back. The very idea that she would still be hung up on Ronald Weasley... He wasn't even a good snog… less likely anything else in their shared repertoire of curious teenage experiments.

"So then… Is it just that you've no interest in another boy?"

Hermione shakes her head at Pavarti's question. "No, not necessarily. It's that I think finding tricks in a tawdry magazine is not the way to snare the attention of a respectable date for the ball."

"Because you've had so much luck with your own methods?" Pavarti challenges back.

Regardless of not appreciating the sarcasm, Hermione can't really argue. It took a war, torture, and the potential for very real death to push her and Ron together. Easily snaring a partner is not one of her gifts.

"Look, Hermione," Lavender tries, "What have you got to lose? If it doesn't work, it's only a few months to the end of term. Whoever you choose, you probably will hardly see again. I mean-" she shrugs, "-You're going to work at the Ministry; everyone knows that. How many boys in our year can say the same?"

That is a fair point, she would suppose. But the biggest problem is, Hermione really isn't sure who she might pursue. None of her peers really seem mature or interesting enough to catch her eye.

Well, mostly, but the one exception hidden in the back of her mind isn't worth considering. Maturity seems to run along the same lines as haunted for some in the aftermath of war, and maybe she doesn't want someone aged beyond their years, after all. Not to mention, the man in question would certainly not look the way of someone like her.

Nor would she want him to.

Obviously.

Probably…

"Fine," she huffs, agreeing and immediately regretting it. "I made a vow, I suppose."

Both of her roommates grin. "That's the spirit," Lavender says, brightly. "Now, pick a number."

Hermione wrinkles her nose. "A number?"

"Right, yes. As I was saying, we're going to use some of the advice from this really great dating column. They have all these excellent suggestions, and we just need to choose one. So give me a number, and I'll tell you which suggestion you have to use."

She thins her lips, wondering already about the other half of this equation: how to determine-

"Which boy, of course, is the question," Pavarti both interrupts and finishes Hermione's thought.

"Oh, yes, of course," Lavender says, waving her hand with flippancy. She turns to explain to Hermione, "I've a spell from my mum's copy of Love, Lust, and Intimate Charms."

If you can think the general sound of disgust, Hermione does. What on earth has she roped herself into now?

"And just how does this charm work?" she asks a bit haughtily, not trusting anything even remotely related to love potions.

"Easy. You have to have a photograph or personal effect of every boy in our class, and the spell will point you toward the one that most appeals to you."

Hermione chews her lip, thinking through the possibilities. "What if I'm interested in someone outside our year?"

Levelling her with a look, Pavarti asks, "You expect me to believe that Hermione Granger, the literal oldest and likely most mature eighth year at Hogwarts, fancies a boy under the age of 17? Padma might be the Ravenclaw, but I'm certainly not the foolish twin."

Alright, so it's true enough. Hermione isn't interested in anyone below her year. But what of the rest? Surely this little secret fascination she has tried to push into the back of her mind wouldn't be real enough to trigger a spell, right? There must be someone…

Terry Boot has a rather appealing look about him, she would suppose.

That Blaise Zabini as well… A Slytherin, sure, but quite handsome. Rumor has it his father was also a Halfblood, so perhaps he's not as prejudiced as the majority of his house.

There's always Justin Finch-Fletchley. He's been very kind this year, constantly asking after Hermione. She hasn't worked out if it's concern for her well-being given all that happened during the war, or if he has a romantic interest. Would she be interested if he did?

Anthony Goldstein? Michael Corner? She doesn't know them well, but there has always been an appeal to Hermione in dating a Ravenclaw. After six months of - first patiently and then not so patiently - explaining absolutely everything to Ron Weasley, it seems like it would be refreshing to date a boy who knows the answers to life's questions.

Her mind wanders to grey eyes staring at her across a desk, McGonagall between them, explaining that they will be made Prefects and she expects them to act accordingly. She remembers how he had merely nodded, no quips or demands or haughty indifference… None of the reactions she might have expected.

She shakes her head, clearing the image. Thinking of him might have some effect on the spell, and she certainly doesn't want to alter the results.

Remembering that they are staring at her, waiting, she considers her options and finally says, "Eleven."

"Sorry, that's my number," Lavender denies. "I've already picked it."

Not thinking it makes much difference, Hermione chooses another. "Fine then… seven. What about number seven."

Grinning and seeming honestly happy they will all be doing this together, Lavender squeals a little and picks up the magazine, thumbing to the appropriate page, an article titled Whatever It Takes.

"Alright. Dating advice number seven… 'Clip and owl him a funny cartoon that means something to both of you.'"

Hermione blinks. "That's it?"

All three girls seem a bit disappointed.

"Not terribly romantic," Pavarti voices.

"Or sexy," Lavender puts in.

Trying very hard to be positive about the whole thing, Hermione thinks maybe that's for the best. Perhaps she can find a funny little drawing about a potions mishap and send it to Seamus. Maybe they could then attend the Valentine's Ball as friends and forget the more romantic aspect of this little plan.

"Sorry, Hermione," Pavarti offers, sounding quite sincere.

"Yes, well, it's not the game but how you play, right?" Lavender soothes. "You can make it work. Just have to find something personal between you and your potential date. He will appreciate the gesture. Now, then, time to find the name of your date." She rubs her hands together like a cartoon villain. Hermione is mildly concerned.

Pulling a small trunk from under her bed, Pavarti opens the lid and begins to pull out a collection of brick-a-brack and wizarding photos. A quill, a chocolate frog card, a photo of Dean Thomas… Other than the latter, it seems like a lot of random rubbish. "How do you know what belongs to whom?" Hermione asks, only to have the witch give her a hard look.

"I take this very seriously, Hermione. You don't think we would go forward with this without meticulous planning, do you?" Pavarti begins to point at the items littering her bed. "The quill I borrowed from Stephen Cornfoot, and he forgot to ask for it back. The sack of Bertie Botts came from Wayne Hopkins on the first Hogsmeade weekend this term. The pin is broken and fell off Terry Boot's tie last week. The frog card-"

"Alright, alright. Yes, I see. Very impressive," Hermione notes and quite means it. Memory and intellect are pretty cozy bedfellows after all. She hadn't realized Pavarti had such a mind for detail.

"Shall we, then?"

Pavarti and Hermione both look at Lavender who has retrieved her mother's book and is pointing her wand between them.

"You first," Lavender points to Pavarti who is solemn as she nods. The spell itself seems simple enough. A Latin combination that incorporates a standard "Point me" but something a bit more subliminal. Intent seems to be the key, Pavarti concentrating on the question as well. Hermione wonders how much is simply suggestion, like a Ouija board…

The broken tie pin laying on the bed rattles and glows a faint blue light. Pavarti blushes in response.

"I knew it!" Lavender squeals at her. "I knew you had it bad for Terry!"

The witch shrugs but doesn't really respond, only allowing a small smile to curve her lips.

"Hermione, ready?"

She nods at Lavender, taking a deep breath. However the spell works, it certainly seems her roommates agree with the first result.

Her eyes close and she listens to Lavender cast the spell, her voice oddly soft and soothing. Hermione tries to clear her mind, opening herself to the possibilities and imagining the night of the dance, a strong hand holding hers as they spin across the dance floor. She doesn't envision a face, instead thinking of the feel of being physically close to someone, of a hand holding hers and warm breath grazing her ear. She shivers lightly, realizing how long it's been since she has thought of herself in such intimate terms. It is then she notices the room is dead silent.

Her eyes open to Pavarti and Lavender staring at her in mild shock. "I'm… Maybe I cast it wrong."

Hermione frowns, looking down at the bed to see a faint glow fading off of a cufflink that seems to be missing a gem from its facets. Fearing she already knows the answer, she asks softly, "Whose is that?"

"Here, let me try again," Lavender says loudly, raising her wand. "Just to be sure I didn't make a mistake, right?"

With a thick swallow, Hermione consents, hoping for a new result in light of the reactions in the room. She tries again to imagine a faceless and gentle man. He holds fingertips lightly to her back as they enter the Great Hall, guiding her and presenting her all at once. She'd like to think whatever man would have her is proud to have Hermione Granger on his arm and wants the room to see them together. Not ashamed of her swottish ways or strong personality, he appreciates her and sees the young woman beneath the brains and books. He smiles down at her. She can't help but look back, noting his eyes as they crinkle at the corner, creased with the sincerity in his smile-

"There's no way that's a mistake."

Her eyes open to find Lavender frowning down at her wand and Pavarti looking almost bemused. "My, my, Hermione. Could it be true?"

"What's true? Whose is it, Pavarti?"

The witch looks irritatingly smug, so Hermione turns to her cohort. "Lavender?"

"Hermione… maybe there's a way to break the oath…"

There's not. She knows there's not, because she created the hex at Lavender's behest. It is a modified, albeit milder, version of the one she used on Marietta Edgecomb in fifth year. "Just tell me who it is," she says more emphatically, eyes closed as if expecting a blow.

There's a beat, the room around her silent and her blood pounding in her ears. Finally, in a tone she could pick apart into a mix of shock and indulgent delight and horror, Pavarti confirms, "That cufflink belongs to Draco Malfoy."

XXXXXX

A funny cartoon. A bloody funny cartoon.

Hermione has very little personal interaction with Draco, less likely something that might be considered funny.

She only has a couple of weeks to at least make an attempt at Witch Weekly's suggestions to woo a wizard. Immediately, Hermione begins to scour WW as well as other wizarding periodicals for something that might at least give Malfoy a laugh.

The very first one she finds is the most tasteless and horrifying thing she's ever seen. It depicts a terrible rendition of Harry asking a grotesque and quite noseless Voldemort if he would like to join him in getting a nose piercing. To which Voldemort replies he can't because he will be having dinner with his parents. It offends her on Harry's behalf and definitely feels like a case of "too soon" from the artist.

The next portrays the late Albus Dumbledore posing in front of the Mirror of Erised in rather risqué fishnets. Hermione doesn't believe the man who once tried, albeit not very well, to kill their old Headmaster would find that very funny.

None of the main players in the war seem to be safe from what seems to be Witch Weekly's version of a muggle political cartoonist. Hermione, for her part, is often drawn as a large cloud of hair with eyes peeking out and a pile of books in her arms. She doesn't find it very flattering. Though, perhaps Malfoy would get a chuckle out of one of those…

Days pass, and Hermione starts to think this is a fool's errand. She tries asking to choose a different number, but Lavender and Pavarti are oddly firm sticklers for rules. Lavender had shaken her head firmly. "Sorry, Hermione, you picked the number. I'm sure you'll think of something."

Hermione is pretty well convinced at this point that she will do no such thing. Unfortunately, the Oath is going to make for a rather uncomfortable night if she fails to at least make an attempt. If she is unable to subtly approach Malfoy on her own, the spell will compel her to make a clear and concise announcements as to her affections in a public setting. It has seemed safe enough at the time before she understood all the particulars of the little plan.

So, does she embarrass herself to Draco directly, in a private way, with a failed attempt at both humor and flirtation? Or does she act the Gryffindor and clearly state her interest in a bold and unmistakable way? The latter is more in keeping with her preferred way of carrying herself, but the former allows her to save face to the majority of the school.

Of course, there's the possibility he will be interested, but that's just stupid.

And why should she even hope he would be? Why in Merlin's name is she interested?

Alright, yes, perhaps he has shown himself to be different this year than she had ever realized. Maybe it's the way he keeps his head down, his eyes wary like he's lived a thousand years. It could be the engaged and professional way he now speaks to the faculty, his quiet yet companionable demeanor on the occasions they have shared Prefect patrols. Maybe it's the care she sees that he shows the books in his possession, reverent and respectful, just as Hermione has always believed literature deserves.

There's always that possibility it's due to Draco Malfoy being incredibly attractive, but she'd like to think herself not to be shallow, thanks very much.

Whatever the reason, she can no longer deny it or excuse Lavender's spell as some psychological parlour trick. Ever since it was brought to her attention, she has found herself looking for him when she enters a room, seeking out his presence and watching him when she finds it.

She's lost in these thoughts, flipping idly through another issue of WW when she hears a drawl from behind her. "I'd have thought you of all witches would have better ways to spend time than on that drivel."

Hermione starts, gasping out a surprised breath, and she spins to find him smirking down at her. Laying the magazine on the ground beside her, she snaps back, "Don't do that, Malfoy!"

He chuckles and flops down by her side, gazing out at the Black Lake before them, her warming charm creating a bubble of comfort on the frigid shoreline.

"What are you doing with that rag, anyway? I've never thought you the type of witch to go in for cosmetic potions and courtship advice."

She blushes all the way to her roots, feeling absolutely sick how close he is to the exact truth. Instead, she grabs on to a sense of feeling affronted, familiar as that is in his presence, and asks snippily, "Because the potions would do me no good, I suppose you meant?"

She almost finishes with a snappy bit about the ineffectiveness of potions on those of her blood status, but that might be going to far. Yes, she might have a bit of a crush on him, but he still has an innate ability to make her spitting mad in zero point two seconds.

"Just so," he agrees, and she bristles, ready for a fight, hurt in spite of herself. "Those potions are mostly for remedies to physical flaws. Sorting out dry skin or brittle hair or…" He waves his hand indicating there should be more, but he can't be bothered to think of them. "Nothing you need."

She's stunned. It sounded like a compliment, but surely that's not the case…

Hermione doesn't respond, not sure what she would even say. They sit there a moment, the quiet a welcome change from the fast pace inside the castle. It's dusk, and Hermione had been about to head to the Great Hall for dinner. The grounds had emptied of students over an hour ago as the sun began to set. It's lovely, sitting here in the soft grass and watching the rippling surface of the water. Malfoy doesn't seem to mind, as he simply sits beside her gazing out at the same view.

Finally, he breaks the silence with a soft remark. "You've been watching me."

She feels her pulse quicken. Does she deny it? What would be the point? She's a rubbish liar and he had caught her eye more than once. "Maybe I'm keeping an eye on you."

He snorts. "Well, that is what I had thought, but the mere fact that you don't sound entirely sure yourself makes me wonder. Why are you watching me, Hermione?"

Swallowing seems difficult. At least, it takes effort on her part. He's caught her and he used her given name and she can feel him staring at her regardless that she isn't looking in his direction... "I could accuse you of watching me back," she notes, "since you always seem to catch me."

"You could," he agrees, and something in the tone of his voice sounds like he's speaking through a smile. "I never denied that."

Hermione chances a look to find him exactly as she imagined. He's close, his mouth stretched into a crooked grin, his body leaned in her direction, and his hand laying within a mere breath of her own. "Why?" she whispers back.

"Oh, no, love, I asked you first."

"I…" What on earth does she say? Where is that funny cartoon now? She could just thrust something at him, any ridiculous thing, and hope it satisfies the challenge and confuses him enough to make her escape. She would keep her head down and finish the school year. Four months would pass fast, and then she'd likely never see him again; never have to answer his smirking countenance with her awkward response.

She starts to rise, ready to make a very un-Gryffindor retreat, when he stays her departure with his hand on her arm. "Don't go. Apologies… if I've made you uncomfortable. Perhaps I misread…"

Hermione looks over to find that beautiful, boyish smile has twisted with concern into a frown, his confidence replaced with something unsure. "What…" She clears her throat before continuing. "What was it you thought you'd misread?"

"It just seemed…" He trails off and tries again. "I had wondered if perhaps your attention was of an...intimate purpose."

Well. That's one way to put it. Hermione stutters, trying to find the words to say. His disappointment when she pulled back… was he, not just wondering, but hoping as to the nature of her attention?

"I was going to ask you to the ball," she blurts out. Or she assumes it was her. There's no one else here, after all, though she certainly didn't intend for those words to make it past her lips.

He blinks at her. "The ball?"

"The, uh… the Valentine's Ball. I'm sure you've already secured a date," she adds, quickly. "I just thought… since we are Prefects, I don't know.. Perhaps it make sense that we might… you know… together..." She promptly buries her face in her hands.

It's only a moment before his larger palms wrap around her wrists, pulling her hands away. "You can't ask me to the ball, Hermione."

Right. Of course not. She knew better. He's a pureblood. Wizarding royalty. Not that Hermione doubts her own worth, but someone like him would see that as a deal-breaker before any other considerations. She nods in agreement, knowing it was folly anyway, but he isn't finished speaking.

"That's not how it's done. Allow me to be the one to ask you, or my mother would hex me for improperly approaching a lady."

She gawks at him as he stands, pulling her up with him by his hands. "Miss Granger, might I escort you to the Hogwarts' Valentine Ball this Saturday next?"

"I… you want to go with me?"

He nods, awaiting an answer.

"I'd love to," she answers quite honestly, the smile returning to his face.

XXXXXXXX Chapter 2 XXXXXXXX

To say the ball is enchanting or magical or any other trite metaphor would be an understatement. Hermione has never felt so overwhelmed by an event nor by a wizard.

They dance for hours, talking all the while, laughing and learning about each other in every way she could imagine. Over the past few days, they had also enjoyed light conversation. Some had been simply plans for the evening in question, though he had also made an effort at small talk and pleasantries on more than one occasion.

Now, the night is at its end, and they have left the remaining students in the hall in favour of walking around the exterior of the castle, Draco's robes laid gallantly about her shoulders. They find a small courtyard, hidden from view of the open grounds.

"Would you are to sit a moment? You've been on your feet all evening?" Draco gestures down to Hermione's less-than-sensible heeled shoes, and she nods gratefully. She enters the courtyard and takes a seat upon a stone bench after adding a cushioning charm for comfort. Her date adds a warming charm around them so she can remove his robes from her shoulders before settling down beside her. Draco only hesitates a moment but then boldly wraps his arm around her waist.

He's thoughtful, just gazing out at the grounds with her, much as he had by the Black Lake. She feels he is on the verge of saying something, the air thick between them.

"I was raised to be a gentleman, Granger."

She nods, having known that, of course. She certainly hopes this isn't the beginning of a speech to let her down easy.

"And I want you to know this is no reflection on whether I see you as a lady, nor on my level of respect for you as a witch, but I don't really want to play the gentleman tonight. I've waited weeks for a chance at an evening with you."

She glances over to find him leaned very close, looking down at her with intense eyes and barely parted lips. "Weeks?" she asks. Looking for assurance; looking for intention.

"Yes." He is quiet, whispering the word into the warmed air between them. "You accused me of watching you," he reminds her. "I was watching you long before you began to look for me." Before she has time to respond, her heart pounding in single dull beats inside her chest, he asks, "Why did you, Hermione? Why look my way? You knew what I was…"

"I'm not sure." She admits it like a secret. "I've tried working that out myself. A lot of reasons, it seems."

They are speaking low, regardless that not a soul is in sight, the grounds silent and bare. It seems the more she says, the softer her voice becomes. He answers in kind, murmuring, barely audible, "Can I kiss you, please?"

She nods, her soft answers changing to silence, and lets her eyes fall closed when he presses his lips to hers.

It's soft in the beginning. Soft and polite and oh so gentlemanly. She thinks to ask why that is, when he said he did not want to play nice. It's been a while since she has been kissed, and about a week before never that it was this good. Even this gentle touch of lips carries more anticipation, more excitement, than any tangled limbs and tongues she had experienced with Viktor or Ron.

Just as she settles into the rhythm, the lazy tasting of his kiss, the pressure builds between them, his other arm burying into her curls and placing an open palm possessively against the back of her neck. He hums against her mouth when her hand, laying first on his knee, begins to creep onto his thigh. She hesitates, feeling, not shy, but unsure. Hermione likes to know all the answers, and right now she isn't sure what Draco expects of her this evening. She also isn't sure what tonight will mean tomorrow.

"Please, can I touch you?" He's broken the kiss just to pull his lips away. She can feel them flutter against her mouth with his words. She nods again, his voice warm and soft, snaking through her blood.

His hand finds her arm and follows the line of it to her shoulder, across her clavicle, skin brushing the ledge of bone. Down he trails, following the dip between her breasts with one fingertip, the others barely touching the swell of her breast. "Here?" he asks. "May I touch you here?" His eyes watch the path of his hand, following the curves of her, seeming entranced by the sight of their bodies touching, of her chest filling with each breath.

She doesn't answer, simply closes her eyes and tilts her head away, inviting him to move closer and fill the spaces she leaves open for him. She feels his lips land on the base of her neck, his tongue flickering into the hollow there.

This is the first time she moans, her hands clinging roughly to his shirt. He's encouraged, daring another, and very lingering, taste to her throat. "Can I touch here?" This time, his voice is more insistent, and his hand has already settled, palm cupping her breast and thumb tracing over the peak. Hermione whimpers this time, surprised and excited by the increase of his attentions. She nods, though he hadn't wait for an answer.

Draco returns his mouth to hers, this kiss full of tongue and promise. The gentle press of lips, the delicate nibbling and brushing, has vanished in favour of something much more aggressive, and Hermione welcomes the change. When she lifts her hand from his thigh, tracing his inseam and then sliding up to find him strained against his trousers, he pulls away to hiss a breath through his teeth. It makes her smile, wicked and satisfied, to watch him react to her touch. She continues, petting the shape of him, pressing against his shaft as he releases her neck to lay his second hand on her other breast. He is caressing her more insistently, tweaking at her and making her stiffen between his slender fingers.

She feels competitive and bold, seeking his approval and hoping for more from him in turn. When he lowers one hand between her legs, she is momentarily stunned, her hand stilling on his lap. His fingers are quick and light, coaxing her to press her pelvis forward, seeking more. She whimpers and begs as he continues to ask with every change of pace, every new place he touches, "And here? Can I touch you here?"

Hermione almost surprises herself when she is the next to raise the stakes of their play. Working at his button, she is the first to seek intimate skin beneath their lovely party clothes. Her small hand sneaks beneath his pants to wrap around him, squeezing lightly. It is his turn to be stilled, his hands seeming to cease working properly for a long moment. He changes his script, no longer asking permission and instead praising and begging. "Merlin, yes… just like that. Fuck, please, just like that. Feels good, Granger; fuck, that's good…"

She is grinning when she tilts his head to kiss his jaw, studying his face while his eyes are closed.

The kiss seems to snap him out of his haze, and his eyes land on hers, darkened and hooded as they are. With renewed confidence, Draco places one hand on the back of her head and pulls her mouth to his once more. Each kiss has grown harder, more needful, and this one is nearly violent in its ferocity. He growls against her when she swipes her palm over the head of his cock, feeling him twitch, feeling the slick texture she has created as his body readies for more.

His hands return to their work, alternating between touching between her legs and exploring her thoroughly. The top of her gown is pulled down, revealing her to him, and he quickly drops his head to lick and suck at her breasts. She feels pulled tight everywhere, screaming for more than he is giving. Words fail, and she simply gives more, showing rather than asking for whatever he might want to give. Her knickers are lost somewhere in the midst of it. She's only vaguely aware of how they were removed. Perhaps she slipped her legs through; maybe he ripped them off. Everything is moving fast, and she's lost in all of it, sensations overtaking her and thoughts slipping around like water through a sieve.

His hands are on her hips and he lifts her, frantically pulling her closer. He is still begging and praising as he does, and then she is sinking onto him, impaled on his lap, and time stops when they groan together in chorus, neither moving or speaking for a long time.

She feels like she's taking a breath for the first time when she rises above him and slides back down, testing the strength of her thighs and the intensity of the experience. "Gods, Hermione…" She is coaxed into a rhythm as his fingertips spasming against her waist. She starts slow, and he meets her with light thrusts of his own. His hands move to her back, holding her up and pulling her down, and then he demands, "Kiss me. Kiss me while you ride me," and they are joined completely, mouths crashed together, as she increases her pace and makes pitched and wanton noises against his lips.

Hermione feels her body tighten and build, and reaches between them to lightly touch herself, pushing her toward completion. The effect on Draco is obvious. He loosens his hold so she might lean away and he can watch her hand laid between them. "Fuck, yes, that's it...show me how you bring yourself…"

She shudders and sucks in a breath when she comes, and Draco finds a frantic pace, following her within mere moments. He clings to her, pressing their bodies tightly together and shouting into her curls.

They sit there for some time, her still astride him, breathing heavily and listening to the quiet of the night. When she finally pulls away, unsure how to traverse this new relationship between them, he mutters, "Salazar, you're incredible," which makes her flush and smile as she slips her knickers back onto her legs.

Hermione stands and straightens her dress next, still not sure what to say. Partially, no doubt, because she is too shaky to form words, but also not sure what this will mean tomorrow.

"Meet me for breakfast," he says. It's barely a question, confident and assured. He might seem entitled if not for the open and hopeful expression on his face.

"Will you sit with me at Gryffindor?" Her grin is lopsided and challenging, and he snickers at her, shaking his head.

"If that's what it takes, Granger."

The other side of her lips tweak up, turning that cheeky grin into a smile.

XXXXXXX

"And then he kissed me!"

Hermione wakes to Pavarti squealing and giggling as she recounts her night, not noticing her roommate's secret smile that she had secured far more than a kiss.

"How did you fair with Michael?"

Lavender shrugs in response. "He was nice enough, but he barely touched me. I think he held my hand twice, maybe." She huffs. "I guess when you snag a date by dropping a handkerchief," she says in reference to her own Witch Weekly dating advice, "you might expect him to be a little old fashioned." Pavarti nods sagely at that, and the girls then notice Hermione is awake.

"Oh, good morning! I suppose your night went well," Lavender asks, her eyebrows bouncing in suggestion. "You came in awfully late…"

Hermione shrugs, but the smile is impossible to tamp down. "I had a very nice time," is all she offers.

Pavarti looks a bit put out by the lack of gossip. "You're no fun. But at least you got the date, right? We all managed it, no hex required."

The girls agree that, indeed, it is fortunate they all satisfied their little arrangement.

Dressing in denims and a fitted jumper, Hermione is in a bit of a hurry to get to breakfast. Part of her, of course, is worried Draco might be having second thoughts today. It is in her nature to worry, but she mostly keeps the fears at bay until she enters the Great Hall to find him sitting between Theo Nott and Blaise Zabini at the Slytherin table. Does she really expect he will leave his friends and his House to sit with her, a muggleborn, at Gryffindor? It seems unlikely, regardless of what happened the night before.

Still, though her heart is pounding and she feels sadness clouding her previously happy mood, she is drawn to him almost against her will. He looks up when he sees her, and his expression is unreadable. Is that regret staying his smile? Her mind is racing, but her body is on course, almost running toward him until she is just across the table, all of Slytherin, and probably the rest of the Great Hall, staring at her.

Then, she does something that horrifies her, and everything clicks into place.

The hex. The wager. The arrangement…

She got the date but she never sent the post.

Without control over her actions, Hermione climbs up onto the table, standing just over Draco Malfoy who is staring up at her in shock.

"Draco Malfoy, I think you are the most attractive, intelligent, witty, passionate man I know. I would like very much to be in a relationship with you and continue where we left off last night for the foreseeable future."

Then everything, absolutely everything, stops for at least a dozen beats of her heart. When the silence breaks, the Hall erupts into every student talking at once. There is a cacophony of support and judgment and gossip and delight, but it's nothing to Hermione compared to the stunned look on Draco's face.

What the hell has she done?

Realizing she is still literally standing on a table, Hermione climbs down with as much dignity as she can manage, accepting Draco's hand that he offers, gentleman that he is.

I was raised to be a gentleman, he'd said. Yes, she had known that.

"That was, erm…" She's never heard him so uneloquent. Well, at least she is capable of rendering a man speechless…

"Very Gryffindor?" she offers, and jumps just a little when he barks a laugh.

"Very much, my little lion." Then, continuing to surprise her, in his long list of surprises, he gestures to where Ginny Weasley is gaping at her. "Should we join your friend?"

"I…" She looks between Nott and Zabini, both of whom look amused. "You seemed you were already settled."

"So you thought I wouldn't simply move, as per our agreement? No need for the theatrics, Granger, I just liked our scone flavours better this morning."

"Oh." So no one is terribly eloquent today.

"Shall we?" he prompts again, and Hermione allows herself to be led. Draco lays his hand on her lower back to guide her. He leans in as they walk and whispers low, "Is that the kind of thing I have to look forward to, dating a Gryffindor then?"

He sounds affectionate and bemused and Hermione's heart stutters. "No… No, I do believe that will be a one time things."

"Pity," he notes as they reach the Gryffindor table and he helps her to sit, his hand on the small of her back as she had envisioned her mystery date before he had a date. Once she is in place, he pulls a napkin from the table and lays it across her lap. His face is close to her ear, and he finishes his thought. "I rather enjoyed you staking your claim. Who knew you'd go so far for a man who was already yours?"

She looks up, melting at the look of a sincere smile on his face. Answering back with her own, she just agrees, "Whatever it takes."


Hi again :) This was written for a fest. Unfortunately, in true Kyo style, it didn't accommodate the challenge... This is the 4th fest that has prompted 2 stories because I initially failed to meet the criteria lol. Another one shot will be coming on Valentine's Day. You'll notice a similar theme :P

Thank you for reading! Would love to hear from you in a review!