Title: Drinking Games
Chapter Title: 1/1
Characters: Blaise Zabini, Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley
Genres: Romance, Humour
Rating: PG-13
Summary: As Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger play the "Harry Potter Drinking Game", they both acknowledge they want something more from each other than just friendship. (DMHG)


Hermione Granger took a sip of her fire whiskey and choked on it. "When is it going to stop burning on its way down?" she asked her tablemate.

"When you stop being a wuss."

Hermione glared daggers at the all-too-attractive blond wizard seated across from her. If anyone during the first 20 years of her life had ever suggested that she would be spending her 22nd birthday, sitting in the Leaky Cauldron, playing a drinking game with Draco Malfoy, she would have apparated them straight to St. Mungo's for a checkup.

But here she was celebrating the day of her birth with the man who used to be her worst enemy. And although she would never admit it out loud, she had enjoyed everything about the evening so far, except the fire whiskey.

"Drink," Draco told her again.

Hermione took another drink of her fire whiskey and made a horrible face that caused Draco to laugh at her.

Merlin, but she loved that sound. Although most people could never imagine it, Draco had an infectious laugh and a wicked sense of humor. Hermione had heard it for the first time late one evening in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place. She had walked in to grab a sandwich and found Ron and Harry listening to Draco telling the story of his and Snape's first few weeks on the run.

"Snape had transfigured his robes to resemble a black trench coat, leather pants and biker boots. He looked like a bad-ass and we'd been walking around muggle London as if we were untouchable. But at one point we entered some rundown pub and the hairiest, smelliest muggle I've ever seen approached Snape and asked him what type of 'hog' he rode. Well of course we were clueless."

Draco noticed that Ron looked clueless as well. "We learned later that 'hog' is muggle slang for a motorcycle," Draco informed him. "But at the time, Snape took the bloke literally and told him in his best potion master's voice -- Sir, I have never been astride a hog. I have no immediate plans to travel by hog. But should I feel it necessary in the future to avail myself of that mode of transportation, I will endeavor to seek your assistance in choosing the specific breed of hog to meet my needs."

Harry and Ron let forth barks of laughter at Draco's spot on imitation of Snape at his snarkiest. Draco quickly joined in their amusement and for the first time since the young men had become friends, Hermione got a glimpse of what the two Gryffindors saw in him.

These days, of course, Hermione spent more time with Draco than she did with Harry or Ron. In part it was because they both worked as code breakers, her for the ministry's law enforcement division and him for Gringotts loss prevention office. They had found themselves paired on several cases where the government and the bank had overlapping interests.

Hermione, however, also spent a lot of time with Draco because they genuinely enjoyed doing the same things. While she would have to bribe Ron or Harry into going to the theater with her, Draco appreciated watching a good stage production. Likewise, Harry and Ron hated being dragged into Flourish and Blotts bookstore, but Draco liked wandering the aisles and oftentimes emerged with more books at the end of a trip than Hermione. In fact several evenings a week would find him at her flat sitting in front of the fire with her, both of them engrossed in their own books - breaking into conversation only after one of them had read something particularly provocative. Draco even went clothes shopping with her, although he ruined what might be considered a considerate gesture by explaining that it was the only way to insure she didn't purchase another tacky, synthetic piece of muggle clothing.

Given how close they were now, it was amusing to remember how outraged she had been when Ron and Harry first became friends with Draco.

Harry, Ron, and Draco had entered the front door of number 12 Grimmauld Place after a three-week-long mission that Mad-Eye Moody had sent them on during the third year of the war. Hermione had been forbidden to go with them since she was still recovering from a painful hex she had taken during the Trio's last outing, so Draco-Bloody-Malfoy had been selected as her replacement. Harry and Ron had both thrown a fit about how they couldn't trust Malfoy and how they'd end up spending as much time worried about him doing them in as the Death Eaters, but Moody had refused to relent.

Hermione had been initially nervous that all three wouldn't make it back. She really wouldn't put it past Malfoy to try something, or for Ron and Harry to get fed up and leave Draco someplace untraceable. But she definitely had not been prepared for how chummy the three young men were when they returned. They were joking together, looking more carefree than any of them had in months. Ron had actually slung one of his arms around Draco's shoulders and was recounting some Quidditch story, while Harry was listening intently and laughing at Draco's witty responses to Ron's enthusiasm.

Hermione had marched up to them and poked her index finger in Malfoy's chest. "What have you done to them?" she demanded.

"Back off, Granger," Malfoy had responded pushing her finger away.

At that point Harry and Ron had both sobered up and stood between her and Malfoy trying to explain to her that Draco was really an okay bloke once you got to know him.

"Did he give you anything to drink?" Hermione demanded. "Have you cast any diagnostic spells on yourselves to make sure nothing has happened?" She whipped out her wand to begin to check them out.

"Hermione!" Harry interrupted her loudly. "It is nothing like that." He glanced around at Draco, as if to say 'Sorry about this mate' before turning back to the intense girl in front of him. "Look, it just that on this mission we got to see a different side of Draco and he's really not like we thought at Hogwarts."

"Draco?! Since when do you call him Draco? And have you forgotten that he killed Dumbledore; that he thinks I'm an inferior Mudblood, who doesn't deserve to be treated equally with him! Harry Potter, there is absolute nothing good about Draco Malfoy!"

"Hermione be fair," Ron broke in. Hermione's eyes widen because Ron was the last one she would ever expect to be able to view Malfoy from a new perspective. "He didn't kill Dumbledore, Snape did. And Draco wasn't given much of a choice in the matter anyways, what with Voldemort threatening to do in his parents. Moreover, he hasn't called you a Mud- ur.. hasn't called you THAT since we were in school. If you just spend a little time with him-"

"Ronald Weasley are you barking mad!" Hermione had exploded. "I can't think of any reason to voluntarily spend time with Malfoy and if both of you value his company so much, you can enjoy it without me!" She had then stomped off down the hallway and up the stairs.

"Chug," Draco told her, breaking into her memory.

"What happened?" Hermione asked looking around for Harry and Ron in the pub.

"Weasley just got slapped by the cute little brunette witch by the door for looking down her blouse."

"Oh, the damn wanker," Hermione grumbled as she held her nose and drowned the rest of her fire whiskey in one gulp.

Hermione sputtered and coughed as Draco refilled both of their glasses. "This is an evil, evil game, Malfoy," she told him using her prefect voice.

He laughed and replied, "Well, I could hardly let this Friday night pass like all the rest, could I Granger?"

Hermione's birthday had fallen on a Friday night, and like every Friday night since the defeat of Voldemort, the four friends had met up in the Leaky Cauldron for dinner and drinks. And just like every other Friday night for the last year, once Ron and Harry finished eating they began to prowl the bar looking for single, attractive witches, while Draco and Hermione chatted. Tonight, however, as soon as former Gryffindors had gotten up to go introduce themselves to some recent female Hogwarts graduates – who just happened to be wearing sweaters two sizes too small, Draco had ordered a bottle of fire whiskey and pulled out a sheet of parchment across the top of which was written "The Harry Potter Drinking Game."

Hermione glanced down at the rules again.

1. If a witch gives Harry her floo number - take a drink.
2. If Ron "accidentally" bumps into a witch in lieu of coming up with a real opening line - take a drink.
3. If a witch makes at play at Ron in order to get introduced to Harry - take a drink.
4. If Harry takes off his glasses and polishes them on his shirt to look boyish for some witch - take a drink.
5. If Ron spills his drink on a witch so he could use his ridiculous line: 'If you take that blouse off for me tonight, I'll get it dry-cleaned for you tomorrow morning' - take 2 drinks.
6. If Harry goes home with a red headed witch that looks remarkably like Ginny Weasley - take 2 drinks.

The rules got exceedingly complex after that, including one that required them to chug an entire glass of fire whiskey without using their hands. Hermione grinned as she again scanned her favorite rule: Number 27 – If Ron strikes out, comes to the table making puppy dog eyes at Hermione, and tries to convince her to participate in a pity shag - spit your drink out and hex Weasley for being a tosser.

Of course, when Hermione had initially read the rules, she'd refused to participate. "This is immature and silly, Draco. You can't really expect me to play a drinking game based on Ron's and Harry's love lives?"

Draco had looked hurt, "Come on Hermione, you are always telling me that I should experience more muggle culture!"

"I meant going to an Art Museum or taking a tour of Buckingham Palace."

But as usual, Draco had eventually charmed her into doing what he wanted and now she was well on her way to getting smashed.

"Take two drinks."

Hermione looked toward the bar and saw Harry snogging some long-legged blond - two drinks, indeed. Unwittingly, she let forth a quiet sigh after taking her second sip of fire whiskey.

"What's the sigh for, Granger? Are you secretly harboring a crush for your best friend?" Draco asked her suspiciously.

Blushing a bit, Hermione turned back toward Draco, wondering what he would say if she told him 'Yes, but the best friend I'm crushing on isn't Harry.' Instead, she replied with a smile, "I was just thinking about how long it has been since I've had a good snog."

"I am sure I could find a volunteer in the pub tonight to help you rectify that."

Hermione giggled, "If I keep drinking like this, I might just take you up on the offer."

Draco looked pleasantly shocked. "Well then drink up. It is my duty to fulfill your every birthday wish tonight."

Hermione blushed even more as she thought about a half dressed Draco Malfoy running around her flat serving as her personal love-slave. Oh Merlin, she needed to find a way to get over the attraction she felt for Draco. It was unhealthy to spend so much time thinking about have your legs wrapped around the naked thighs of your best friend. Just look at what a disaster her crush on Ron had been back at Hogwarts. Closing her eyes, Hermione tried to remember when she had first felt drawn to Draco. She recalled that it was after Harry and Ron had befriended him, but before she had accepted him as anything other than a prat.

"Granger and Malfoy," Mad-Eye Moody called out to them as they sat as far away from each other as possible in the parlor of Grimmauld Place. "I have a mission for you both."

"I am not teaming up with Draco on a mission," Hermione had told Moody in an unwavering voice.

"Sacred, Granger?" Malfoy taunted her.

"Fuck off, Ferret," she replied her eyes blazing.

"Both of you just shut-up," Moody said, interrupting them. "You ARE going on a mission together. You WILL successfully complete it. And, I do NOT want to hear another word about it!"

The mission had been relatively easy. They had to apparate to a section of Southern Wales, set up some anti-apparition wards for protection, and then gather some ingredients for a potion Snape was working on to heal internal injuries. The most difficult part of the task was that hornwart, one of the ingredients, lay at the bottom of a deep pond.

"I'm afraid you're going to have to collect that one, Granger," Malfoy had smirked at her. "I never learned how to swim."

"I don't believe you," Hermione responded, speaking to him for the first time that since they had left London.

"Granger, I am shocked that you have so little trust in your fellow Order members," Draco told her in a tone of mock indignation. "I'll have you know, that I would never jeopardize a mission simply to avoid a little personal discomfort. Because of my lack of swimming ability, however, if you refuse to gather the last ingredient, we'll just have to return to headquarters and tell Moody we failed."

Hermione glared at him, hoping that if she stared long and hard enough he would back down and admit that he could swim.

Draco, however, just continued to look at her expectantly not bothering to hide his amusement.

"Fine!" Hermione ground out through clenched teeth. "I'll go get it. Turn around."

"What for?" Draco asked, looking genuinely confused.

"I am not going to swim in my robes and I'm definitely aren't going to undress in front of you!"

Draco looked mildly surprised, but quickly turned around, "Never fear, Granger. I have no desire to see your skinny body anything but fully clothed. In fact, if I could convince to wear a mask or a bag over your head it would even be better for my constitution..."

As Draco continued to ramble on about her qualities that he found so unattractive, Hermione quickly stripped down to her underwear and bra, and waded into the pond. Taking a deep breath she dove underwater looking for the hornwart.

When Draco heard the splash, he turned around and watched the water ripple where she had gone under. He wondered if he had time to cast a shrinking charm on her clothes before she came back up. Apparently not, because just as he charmed the clothing, Hermione's head poked out of the water.

"Malfoy!" she screeched, causing him to drop his wand. Next thing he knew as wad of soggy hornwart struck him in the face.

"Very mature, Granger," he complained, pulling the plant off his face and putting it into the ingredients bag.

"You are one to talk, Malfoy. Just what did you doing to my clothes?"

Draco smirked at her, "Just cast a cleaning spell, Granger. I thought it might help remove some of the muggle stench."

"You are a real prick."

"You are a bitch. Moreover..." Draco never got to finish his thought, because the next second a watery vine enchanted by Hermione crawled out of the pond, grabbed him by the leg, and drug him into the water.

Hermione laughed as she saw Draco flaying in the water. Apparently, he didn't realize that he was in the shallow end of the pond. If he just stopped panicking and stood up, the water would only be chest high. Hermione laughed again as Draco's head went underwater before he quickly spluttered back. When his head went under for a third time and he didn't immediately come up for air, Hermione sobered up quickly, now realizing that the stupid git really did think he was drowning.

"Shit," she muttered and dove underwater swimming as fast as possible to the location she had last seen Draco. She found him floating right below the surface and quickly hauled his head above the water before dragging him to the shore. "Fuck, fuck, fuck," she muttered kneeling beside him watching to see if he was breathing, but she could not detect anything. "Malfoy!" she yelled at him and slapped him on the face twice trying to get a reaction. He still didn't move.

"Don't panic," Hermione told herself. "Just think about to what you learned in summer life guarding classes." All of a sudden, she felt calmer. She tiled Draco's head back, pinched his nostrils together, and covered his mouth with her own, breathing in two quick breaths. She then watched his chest for signs of breathing. When nothing happened she repeated the procedure. Before she could lift her head this time, however, one of Draco's hands had grasped the back of her neck and was holding her tight against his lips, while his other hand took hold of her wrist and pulled her on top of his chest.

Hermione was so startled that she didn't immediately attempt to pull away. Her brain just kept asking her, 'What is going on? What is going on? What… Is… Going... On!?!' Finally, she reached a conclusion. Draco Malfoy was kissing her! His lips were moving on hers! His tongue was in her mouth! 'Well get off of him!' her brain screamed at her. Suddenly, Hermione wrenched herself away from Draco. "What the hell was that?" she gasped at him, sitting up.

Draco propped himself up on his arms and smirked at her. "That was snogging, Granger. And I don't see why you are so surprised, when you are the one who started it. Although I must say your technique leaves a lot to be desired."

"I wasn't snogging, you dumb fuck! I was giving you mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It is a muggle procedure to help get people breathing again."

Draco blushed. He seemed really embarrassed to have misinterpreted Hermione's actions. Hermione was just about to rub it in, when Draco gave her a big leering grin. "I suppose I should feel awkward about this," he told her. "However, I find that my discomfort is relieved by that fact that I am probably one of the only men in the Order who have seen Hermione Granger in her bra and knickers."

Hermione gasped. She had forgotten her state of undress. Running over to her robe and clothes, she tried to get dressed, but discovered that they were now sized for a toddler. Trying to cover herself as much as possible with the scrapes of material, Hermione turned on Malfoy, "I want your robe and an oath that you will never mention to anyone that you saw me in my under things. If you don't comply, I'll tell Ron and Harry how you forced yourself on me."

Draco blanched slightly but his Slytherin negotiating skills kicked in quickly. "And unless you want your precious Order members to know how you tried to drown me," he sneered, "I am going to need a vow from you that no one ever hears that any part of our bodies, especially our lips, once came in contact."

"Gladly," Hermione ground out.

Both of them glared at each other in hostility, trying to determine whether or not they could trust the other to maintain the agreement. They both came to the same conclusion and stated at exactly the same time, "Blood oath."

Hermione and Draco and returned to Grimmauld Place less than half an hour later. Both of them were soaking wet and sporting identical cuts on their right hands. Hermione was dressed in Draco's robe and he was carrying a full bag of potion ingredients. Despite intense questioning from Ron, Harry, and Mad-Eye, neither of them ever spoke a word about what had happened that day. Afterwards, however, they became more comfortable around each other and eventually settled down into an easy friendship.

Hermione, unfortunately, had not been able to block the memory of Draco's kiss from her mind. Although she had been initially horrified to have kissed the ferret, it eventually become the kiss against which she measured all other kisses – most of which she found sadly lacking. This realization had, by the end of the war, forced her to acknowledge that she fancied the handsome blond.

Just as she was wondering if their blood oath would kick in if she asked Draco whether or not he really couldn't swim, Harry and Ron rejoined them at the table. "Time to open presents," Ron grinned.

Harry went first, handing her a large white box with a red bow on it. Hermione ripped open the wrapping and pulled a pink hoodie out of the tissue paper. She began laughing as she saw the letters that had been embroidered on the front of the sweatshirt – QCQ. Turning it around so Draco and Ron could see it as well; they both joined her in chuckling over the gift.

Giving Hermione a wink, Harry commented, "I had to custom order that because no one has yet begun merchandising our joint role in the downfall of Voldemort."

"You should have just gotten her one of those ugly 'Potter for President' t-shirts that are still being sold on every street corner in Diagon Alley," Draco teased.

"I couldn't," Harry replied jokingly. "That is what I got her for Christmas."

As Harry and Draco got into a friendly argument about the extent to which Harry enjoyed the attention that came from being the Man-Who-Defeated-the-Dark-Lord, Hermione thought back to the day the four of them had decided on QCQ for a nickname.

Draco threw the Daily Prophet down on the kitchen table and sat back in his chair with a pout. Ron, Hermione, and Harry exchanged looks, but no one spoke. None of them wanted Draco to turn whatever bad mood he was nursing towards them. As Draco began to drum his long fingers on the table, however, Harry steeled himself for the inevitable. "Um… something wrong, Draco?" he asked.

Draco's eyes narrowed. "Oh no, Potter. Everything is bloody brilliant! Why should I mind that the Daily Prophet continues to refer to our efforts as 'the work of the Golden Trio and other Order members'? It's like I'm an afterthought. Fuck, I am not even an afterthought! And afterthought might at least get some name recognition. I might as well be Neville or Seamus or some random bloke you picked up on the street."

While Harry and Hermione were used to fickleness of the press, they had after all had their names smeared all over the Prophet during the Tri-Wizard Tournament of their fourth year, Ron felt a stab of sympathy for the blond wizard. "You know mate," he explained. "It is not like we asked to be called the Golden Trio. The papers just kind of dubbed us that."

"Well it is well past time that they figured out that your working as a quartet and not a trio," Draco snarled.

"'The Quartet' isn't really that catchy, Draco," Ron informed him.

"You are missing the point, Weasley."

"Draco," Hermione had broken in, determined to save Ron from Malfoy's sarcasm. "It does make some sense that if we want the papers to refer to us as something other than the Golden Trio; we might need to supply them with a better alternative."

"Like what?" Draco asked.

Hermione bit her lip, "The Quaint Quartet?"

"The Quiet Quartet?" Ron suggested.

"I don't think we are supposed to give ourselves a nickname," Harry interrupted, earning himself stares of incredulity from Draco and Hermione. "Ur… right, then. How about the Quidditch Quartet?"

"I don't play Quidditch," Hermione complained.

"The Cosmopolitan Quartet?"

"The Cunning Quartet?"

"The Quibbler Quartet?"

"How about the Questionably Creepy Quartet?" Harry offered. "For short it could just be the QCQ."

"The QCQ - I kind of like that," Ron smiled.

"Me too," Hermione grinned.

Draco just nodded.

From that moment forward the friends had referred to their group as the QCQ. It never caught on with anyone but the four of them – Mad-Eye even considered them pathetic for wasting time coming up with such an absurd name. But even now, over a year since the war's end, they continued to call themselves the QCQ. Ron, Draco, and Harry actually got the abbreviation tattooed on their bodies after one particularly festive victory celebration thrown by the ministry. Despite Hermione's begging, however, they refused to show her where the tattoos were located.

"Enough!" Ron griped, bringing an end to Harry's and Draco's dispute. He then handed Hermione a birthday card. She frowned slightly while reading the front of the card: 'Happy birthday to the sweetest girl I know.' Hermione raised an eyebrow at Ron; he knew she hated to be called 'sweet.' She giggled, however, as she read the inside: 'And by sweetest girl, I mean the most intelligent, bravest, beautiful and caring woman in the world.' Tucked in the card was a pair of season tickets to the Chudley Cannons' home games.

"Now we can all go together," Ron smiled at her. Part of Ron's contract for working as a columnist at Which Broom magazine included two season passes for the Cannons' home games. He usually took Harry or Draco with him to the matches. While Hermione did not enjoy Quidditch as much as her three friends, she had at times felt left out and a bit lonely on game days.

"Thanks Ron," she beamed. "This was really thoughtful. But what if I want to bring my boyfriend to the game instead of one of you blokes?"

"Since when do you have a boyfriend?" Harry asked, looking skeptical.

"A girl can always dream can't she?" Hermione joked.

"Granger, everyone knows that none of those poofy ministry types you date will be interested in Quidditch. You are better off giving me your spare ticket so that we can sit together and reminisce about our glory days on the pitch."

Ron and Harry both rolled their eyes. "Not again!" Harry moaned, desperate to head off a Malfoy monologue about how he and Hermione had once bested Ron and Harry at Quidditch.

Hermione, however, shot Draco a brilliant smile and raised her glass of fire whiskey toward him. "To my coach, my teammate, and the man who truly made me appreciate Quidditch - Mr. Draco Malfoy!"

"Cheers," Draco responded with a laugh, clinking his glass against hers, while Ron dropped his head into his hands.

As Harry began to sputter, Hermione crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair knowing that for the next 15 minutes her three best friends would be occupied in a debate about how much skill, talent, and sheer mastery of the game had been involved in Draco's and Hermione's Quidditch victory. She even smirked a bit thinking back to the day she had exceeded all expectations on the make-shift Quidditch pitch Draco had transfigured at the safe house, the four of them had been sent too, three months before the final battle. It was easily her best wartime memory, since it didn't involve any death, pain, or loss.

Moody had sent them to the South of Wales for their protection before the final battle. He had been worrying that a Death Eater would take out Harry before the Order could locate Voldemort, thus ruining the strategy they had been working on since Dumbledore's death. The four young friends had vehemently protested that they didn't want to go into hiding, but eventually caved in after Remus, Tonks, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Arthur and Molly Weasley, had urged them to accept this one last command.

In reality, the four had been so exhausted that they really did need the break. In fact, the first two days in Wales all they had done was sleep. By the third day, however, each member of the quartet was going stir crazy.

Hermione had taken over the kitchen table and transfigured pieces of crockery into a miniature replica of Hogwarts. She was using it as a model to test tactics for the last battle, should it take place on the grounds of the school. Alternately, she used the replica to diagram possible prefect routes, imagining she had spent her seventeenth year as head girl, instead of traipsing running around England looking for little bits of Voldemort's soul.

Harry spent his time with a never-ending piece of parchment writing down his thoughts and farewells in case he shouldn't come out of the upcoming battle alive. Ron paced. He paced from the kitchen through the parlor, up the stairs to the bedrooms, then back down the stairs and out to the front porch. He would sometimes stare off at the horizon for large chunks of time before he started pacing again. Draco, on the other hand, just disappeared outside and didn't return except at meal times.

Eventually the strain of doing nothing got to them causing Harry and Draco to begin arguing one morning over breakfast. "Who cooked this swill?" Draco complained; dropping his fork down onto the plate of runny eggs he'd been trying to eat.

Ron and Hermione both shifted uncomfortably, stealing glances at Harry. "Potter," Draco sneered, "I should have known."

Harry glared across the table at Malfoy, "You are more than welcome to actually stick around today and cook lunch instead of sulking outside all afternoon."

Ron tried to catch Harry's eye. He was shaking his head vigorously, not wanting Malfoy to attempt cooking again. The one meal Draco had made for them had been completely inedible causing Ron to spend in the evening in the loo, while Harry and Hermione had gone to bed hungry.

Harry, however, was ignoring Ron. "What the hell do you do outside all day anyhow?" he demanded.

"None of your damn business."

"He flies." Hermione told Harry, trying to prevent whatever clash was building up between the two from exploding into something physical.

"He practices Quidditch," Ron added, enjoying the opportunity to correct Hermione for once.

Harry looked at Draco and began laughing. "What are you practicing Quidditch for Malfoy? You surely aren't considering trying out for a professional Quidditch team after the war, are you? You wouldn't even have made the Slytherin team if your father hadn't brought your way on the squad."

Draco blushed. "Sod off, Potter. I caught just as many snitches as you did during my time at Hogwarts."

"You never caught one while playing against me though did you?"

"Quidditch is more than just about catching a snitch, Potter. I think the fact that I was able to take a group of rather talentless Sytherins, who usually thought about only about themselves, and turn them into a winning team, says something about my Quidditch ability."

"Your ability to cheat," Harry declared, while Ron nodded vigorously.

"I think that sounds like a challenge," Draco said coldly in tone that made them all remember that he was after all the son of a Death Eater. "Granger and I will take on you and Weasley in a Quidditch match a week from today."

Ron and Harry both burst out laughing. "Merlin, Malfoy, we are going to have to spot you 300 points just to make it even."

"You don't have to spot us anything," Draco ground out through clenched teeth.

Harry shook his head, trying to catch his breath. "If we are going to do this let's at least make it fair. Ron can play keeper against both of us, we can both shoot the quaffle and search for the snitch at the same time."

"No way am I going to let Ron keep against you. He'd accidentally miss so many of your shots; I wouldn't have a chance even if I found the snitch in the first 5 minutes of the game. I'll stick with Granger as my teammate thank-you."

"Hey!" Ron exclaimed, "I wouldn't cheat and let Harry win."

Draco shrugged, looking unconvinced.

"Look Malfoy," Harry tried to reason with him, "If this is going to be a real competition, than you are better off trusting Ron not to cheat than relying on Hermione. She can barely fly, let alone play Quidditch."

Hermione, who had been looking a little ill at the thought of playing Quidditch, now glared at Harry. "I can fly!"

"Get real, Hermione," Ron said in a fairly patronizing tone.

"You both are being complete jerks," Hermione told Ron and Harry in a huffy voice.

Draco smirked. He'd take an angry Hermione Granger as a partner any day, over the slow-witted Weasley. "Come with me Hermione," Draco told her, linking his arm with hers and slowly leading her out of the kitchen. "We'll show them in a week what brains, good tactics, and proper preparation can do."

"It is going to get your asses handed to you on a sliver platter!" Harry yelled after them.

Draco and Hermione spent 16 hours a day for the next seven days discussing, practicing, and strategizing over their upcoming Quidditch match. Hermione really was pathetic on the pitch. She could fly – slowly – and only while holding on to her broom with both hands. She had given into despair about their chances of winning on their second day of practice and sobbed into Draco's robes. "I am complete rubbish! I should be banned from ever being allowed within 20 feet of a quaffle or a beater's bat!"

Draco, whose side was still smarting from where Hermione had smacked him with a bat while aiming for a bludger, silently agreed. Nevertheless, while he had patted her back and stroked her hair, his mind had been racing. What Hermione lacked in skill and ability, she more than made up for in intelligence. All Draco needed to do was to figure out how to use that intelligence to their advantage.

"Granger," Draco spoke, not too harshly, but not too compassionately either. "We can both agree that you don't have the talents of a typical Quidditch player. However, that is no reason to get all maudlin. It just so happens that the traits you do have-"

Hermione looked at him inquisitively, her eyes still rimmed with red from crying.

"Your mind, Granger, your mind," he informed her, shaking his head only slightly. "Anyways, the traits you do have happen to be the ones that I am most skilled at exploiting."

"I do not want to cheat."

"Never fear," Draco smirked at her. "I'll come up with a 100 sly, sneaky, and underhanded – yet legal – Quidditch maneuvers. You'll use that brain of yours to memorize every one of them and we'll keep Potter and Weasley so turned around and confused about what we are going to do next, that they won't stand a chance."

For a moment, Draco thought that Hermione was going to explode at him, yell that he was just as devious and deceitful as she had always suspected, and refuse to have anything else to do with him. Instead, to his surprise and vast relief, Hermione linked her arms around his waist and gave him a grin that made Pansy's most sinister smirk look like that of a bleeding-heart do-gooder. "Draco," she whispered, "I am willing to do whatever it takes to win."

Draco gave her a little squeeze, "Then just stick with me, Granger."

In the end, Draco had only come up with 87 sly, sneaky, and underhanded Quidditch maneuvers. The most successful one had involved Draco charging Ron with the quaffle, forcing him to commit to protecting a specific goal while Hermione trailed behind, grabbing the quaffle at the last minute and dropping it in an unprotected goal. The maneuver that won the game, however, was "The Hermione Faint" that involved her taking both hands off the broomstick and screaming in sheer terror as she plummeted toward the ground. It was just enough of a distraction to slow Harry's progress toward the snitch, allowing Draco to capture it and win the two underdogs the game.

When they had landed, both had been ecstatic. Draco had picked Hermione up and swung her around in his arms, while she had chanted over and over, "Draco Malfoy you are brilliant!"

As Ron and Harry made their way toward the celebrating duo, Draco set her down and lifted her chin with his hand so he could stare into her eyes. "And you, my dear girl, are shrewd, cunning, single-minded, and ingenious. It is a real turn on to a guy like me," he winked.

Hermione imagined that if Harry and Ron hadn't arrived just at that moment to offer their half-hearted congratulations, Draco would have kissed her. There had definitely been some kind of spark just begging to be followed upon. Hermione never got to pursue her theory, however, because the next day Moody had summoned them back to Grimmauld Place to prepare for the final battle.

Frustrated with her friends continuing Quidditch debate, Hermione eventually interrupted them. "Although I could listen to this all night, and I know that because you have forced me to do that before, isn't there at least one more present coming my way."

"Sorry, luv," Draco said smiling at her. He then passed her a black jewelry box.

She quirked an eyebrow at him and slowly opened the lid. Inside was a silver necklace with a pendent on it. The pendent was like nothing she had ever seen before. It had 4 rotating disks, each with more than a dozen different symbols on them. As she rotated one of the disks all the symbols lined up to reveal a new pattern. Hermione's eyes got wide. "Is this a key?"

Draco nodded, looking extremely pleased with himself.

Ron leaned over to examine the gift. "It doesn't look like a key," he told her.

"No, it is not a house key or anything. It's the key to a secret code." Hermione passed the gift to Ron and Harry so they could take a look at it.

She then gave Draco a huge smile, "Thank you. It is beautiful, thoughtful, and useful."

"I am glad you like it," Draco told her, grabbing her hand briefly and giving it a squeeze. "It is based on the code I developed recently."

Hermione nodded and thought back to a week ago, when Draco had presented her with a code she hadn't been able to break.

Draco and Hermione were sitting next to each other at the far end of a long conference table. They'd been in the meeting for 45 minutes already and nothing of significance had been talked about. In fact, for the last 20 minutes, they had amused themselves by passing notes back and forth. Each of notes had used a different code as the two friends tried to stump one another while preventing their colleagues from figuring out what they were discussing.

H – What are you doing tonight?

D – Obliviating this meeting from my memory.

H – Ha! No really, what are you doing?

D – At present I have no plans.

H – Come to muggle London with me to see a movie.

D – What is it about?

H – The Queen of England's relationship with the muggle Prime Minister. It's called 'The Queen.'

D – Sounds more boring than this meeting.

H – Just because it's about muggle politics doesn't mean it's boring!


H – You are such a prat.

D – You are beautiful when you are angry.

H – So what? You are beautiful all the time, but then you open your mouth and ruin the affect.

D – I think I've figured out why you don't have a boyfriend.

H – Why?

Draco wrote a long response, but Hermione was unable to break the code before the meeting ended. "What's this code?" she asked him, as everyone was packing up their things.

"Just a little something I developed recently."

"Give me a clue how to break it."

Draco raised an eyebrow and grinned at her. "I don't think so. It is too rare that I get to see the brilliant and talented Hermione Granger struggle."

Hermione rolled her eyes and stuffed Draco's note into her robes. She'd carried it around ever since, however, trying to break it during her free time at work and at home.

Smiling up at Draco, she pulled his note from her pocket and started to decode it using the pendant. While she was working, Harry and Ron excused themselves and took off across the bar to become better acquainted with a couple of attractive witches who had just entered the pub.

D – I think I've figured out why you don't have a boyfriend.

H – Why?

D – 1. You are too snarky. While I like a girl with a bit of spunk, who can hold her own in a verbal sparring match, there are too many wizards who only like women who fawn all over them. You need to locate a bloke with a healthy ego, one who won't be put off by your sarcasm.

2. You are too intelligent. Unlike me, most men dislike being challenged mentally. So you either have to find someone smarter than you – no easy task – or learn to act stupid.

3. You are a war hero. This can be a bit intimidating to those men who buried their heads in the sand while you and the Order were bringing down the most powerful dark wizard in history. You'll have a much better shot at maintaining a long-term relationship if you date someone who also participated in the war.

Hermione looked up at Draco and saw he was watching her intently. "Let me get this straight," she said, her heart starting to pound. "You think the perfect man for me is an egotistical genius, who fought in the war?"

Draco smirked at her and nodded.

Sweet Merlin, thought Hermione, the description seemed to describe perfectly the man sitting across from her now. She took a deep breath, hoping that it would calm her down and keep her heart from bursting out of her chest. Gathering all her courage, she asked, "Did you… did you have anyone particular in mind for the position of my boyfriend?"

Draco nodded again, but before he could speak, a waitress sat a fruity-looking drink in a highball glass on the table. "It's from the wizard up at the bar. It's a muggle cocktail called 'Sex on the Beach' made with Vodka and schnapps."

Hermione blushed a bit, turned in her seat to see who had sent the drink, and met the eyes of Blaise Zabini.

Zabini had been a housemate of Draco's. He was dark, handsome, and intelligent. The year that Hermione had spent with Ron and Harry looking for Horcruxes, Zabini had been Hogwart's head boy. After graduation he had joined the Order and done some important work convincing wizards and witches from the continent to join the fight against Voldemort in England. He also was not lacking in self-esteem. Zabini worked on the floor below Hermione at the Ministry and he stopped by her office every couple of weeks to ask if she was finally ready to give some of the 'Old Zabini Magic' a go. Truth be told, Hermione might have been tempted to date him, if it weren't for the rumor that Zabini was sleeping his way through the entire female half of the wizarding civil service.

Hermione quickly did the calculations in her head – smart, confident, war hero. She looked back at Draco, feeling very disappointed. "Are you trying to set me up with Zabini?"

Draco, looking shocked, answered back sharply, "What? Hell no, Granger."

Whatever else he planned to say was lost as Zabini showed up at the table, "Happy Birthday, Hermione."

Hermione turned her glare of suspicion away from Draco and smiled up at her colleague "Thanks for the drink, Blaise."

He gave her a wicked grin, clearly intended to hint at seduction. With one hand on the back of her chair, he leaned in close to hear ear, "I just love muggle drinks, don't you? They are so descriptive."

Both of Hermione's eyebrows rose in mild surprise, but it was Draco who replied, "Bugger off Zabini; we are having a private discussion."

"Really?" Zabini scoffed. "It didn't look very intimate from where I was sitting."

"Well, you never were the most perceptive wizard," Draco responded haughtily.

Hermione reeled, feeling like she had been dropped in the middle of a male testosterone power struggle. "Blaise," she intoned, turning toward him slightly and placing a hand on his arm as a means of demanding his attention, "Draco and I were in the middle of a game."

Zabini drug his fierce stare away from Draco to grin down at Hermione. "Really?" he said huskily. "Tell me Hermione, is it a game that can be turned into a three-some?"

Before Hermione could even gasp in shock, Draco was on his feet with his wand pointed at Zabini's throat. "I think you owe Hermione an apology," he snarled.

Hermione scraped her chair back and was on to her feet immediately, looking around the bar desperately for Ron and Harry. "Draco, it is okay," she said softly, not daring to touch his tense body. "I'm sure Blaise was just teasing."

Draco did not blink. "Apologize," he demanded again.

Not taking his eyes off Draco, Zabini inclined his head slightly toward the anxious witch, "Sorry if I offended you, Hermione."

Breathing a sigh of relief as Draco began to lower his wand, Hermione replied, "No, no of course you didn't. We can catch up on Monday. Okay Zabini?"

He nodded while still glaring at Malfoy, turned on his heel, and stormed out of the bar. Hermione wanted nothing more than to crawl under the table and die from embarrassment.

"Hermione," Draco sighed, reaching out to her.

Jerking away from his touch, Hermione growled through clenched teeth, "What the hell was that?"

Immediately affronted, Draco responded harshly, "You had better seriously re-evaluated our relationship if you think I am going to sit around and not do something when someone insults you."

"He wasn't insulting me, you idiot. He was flirting – like an arse, I agree – but a typical Slytherin arse, I might remind you. Moreover, even if he had been insulting me, I'm a grown woman. I can take care of myself. Harry and Ron are bad enough; I don't need a big brother scrutinizing my possible dating choices."

Draco grabbed her wrist and pulled her within inches of his face. "I would have thought it was clear by now, Granger, that I have no desire to be your big brother."

Hermione caught her breath and her heart leaped at what Draco was implying. At the same time, however, her head throbbed in pain. She had drunk too much and experienced too many emotions tonight to try and figure this out rationally. "Draco," she said tiredly, "Neither of us is in the ideal condition for any serious discussion. Let's just call it a night. Harry and Ron have obviously found some star struck witches and taken off without bothering to say good-bye. So let's just end the game and go home."

Draco was unwilling to let Hermione off so easily. "Granger, you obviously did not read rule 38."

He then turned the drinking game parchment over and allowed Hermione to read the rule. "If Harry and Ron both get lucky – finish the bottle of fire whiskey, escort Hermione home, and tuck her into bed."

Hermione shook her head and glanced up at the wizard who was looking pleased with himself. Was he inviting himself into her bedroom? Fuck rationality, this was so much better. Whispering a wordless sobering spell, she teased, "I don't know, Draco. Anyone who tucks me into bed also has to give me a goodnight kiss."

Draco grinned widely at her, obviously more than willing to comply with whatever she wanted. "Well Granger, I will be happy to abide by your wishes, but I warn you that my goodnight kisses don't inspire many witches to seek sleep."

Blushing a bit, Hermione couldn't stop herself from asking, "And just how do you respond to these suddenly wide awake witches?"

"Depends on the witch," he smirked, his eyes sweeping over her body with a look of pure hunger.

Sweet Merlin, Hermione thought as her heart began pounding once again. I'm going to melt into a puddle of longing right in front of him. She then decided to treat her love life like she did the rest of her life, and go after what she wanted. "Well," she said, leaning in closer to Draco, "what if the witch was a good friend of yours, with slightly frizzy hair, and a bossy, but still endearing personality?"

Draco raised an eyebrow and moved a bit closer to her too. "Given those circumstances, I might be tempted to crawl into bed next to the witch and not let her sleep all night."

Moving in even closer, Hermione shivered as her lips gently touched Draco's. He pulled away, "Who am I kidding? There is a good chance that if the bossy, yet endearing witch was amenable, I would never let her go at all."

Hermione grabbed his hand, pressed her body into his, and vanished the "Potter Drinking Game" parchment with a flick of her wand. "Take me home and tuck me in, Draco."

The End

Notes: All the characters belong to J.K. Rowlings.