"Just a kiss, Granger. That's all."

"Draco, no."

"I'll do anything."

"..." Hermione's eyebrow sketched a question mark in the air.

"Anything."

"How much is this bet for, anyway?"

"You don't want to know."

Hermione sighed. "All you have to do is kiss a Gryffindor? How about Ginny? Isn't she more your type?"

"No, she isn't -- look, just -- I said I'd do anything, what more do you want!?" Malfoy scowled. He wasn't used to having to grovel and it showed.

"Right." She looked him up and down, as if considering the options. Why on earth would she bother to help him, she wondered. Because he wasn't evil. He was just stupid. "Right," she repeated. "Go back to your room and wait for my owl."

"Really?"

"Go. You'll have your prize by midnight. Oh and Draco? Swear to me you'll never tell anyone about the details of our agreement."

"Oh I swear."

"Swear it on your wand. I'll hex your bits off if you tell a single soul."

Draco narrowed his eyes at her. "I swear, on my wand, I'll never tell anyone the details of your conditions for fulfilling this wager, lest you hex my bits off, satisfied?"

She scrutinized him for a moment and then nodded. "Make sure I don't regret this, Malfoy."

"I will endeavour. Granger." He dropped a half bow and turned to go, checking both ways down the corridor before exiting the deserted classroom.


Draco glared at the missive in his hands. A hair off Severus Snape's head could only mean one thing. "The little minx." No problem. He had one in his stash. He had one of almost every staff member. You never know when these things could come in handy.

He made it back to the deserted classroom a few minutes before the appointed time, easily dodging Mr. Filch and that feral beast he called a cat. He'd even thought to bring a breath freshener. He looked at the tiny beaker of poly juice she'd left on the desk. Five minutes worth, if that. He cursed beneath his breath. He'd thought perhaps she'd let him carry her fantasy through to the logical conclusion, but no, ever practical Granger would not even oblige him that far. He read the note again.

Astronomy tower, stroke of midnight. Take the potion at the top of the stair and don't you dare open your mouth to talk. You'll spoil the illusion. Just one kiss and our bargain is fulfilled. And remember, you swore an oath on your wand.

Draco felt the air pressure in the room change. He held the hair over the beaker, whispering, "Just a minute."

The swish of fabric in the air behind him made his blood run cold. "Really, Mister Malfoy. You should know better."

"Sir, I can explain."

"No need. Twenty points from Slytherin and a week's detention with Hagrid." Snape took the tiny beaker of the green viscous potion out of Draco's hand and held it up to the light to examine it. "I wonder what you hoped to accomplish in such a short time." He turned and raised an eyebrow. "Why are you still here?"

Draco fled. Granger could face her fate alone.

Snape read the note on the desk with a snort. "Astronomy tower. How typical."

He disposed of the potion and made his way through the long corridors. A wicked smirk stole over his features. Some poor lass thought she was getting a snog from his doppelganger. Wouldn't he give her a start?


He ascended the stair as he had hundreds of times before, taking the angle that allowed him full view of the landing before anyone standing there could see him. She was leaning on the stone, chin on her hands, her hair catching the moonlight like a net full of stars. Of all people, it was Hermione Granger.

For a moment, he felt fifteen again. She thought he was coming to kiss her. Like he had thought Lily was coming to kiss him. A flare of rage surged in his chest.

He swept across the stones, not even trying to conceal his presence.

Hermione whirled and looked stunned. "Professor..." And a heart beat later, she looked away. Her words were a whisper. "No, that's good. The robes. The boots. Really good. But he wouldn't be angry, would he? If he were meeting me for a midnight liaison?"

Snape's stride faltered and he came to a halt a few feet away from her. She looked back at him, trepidatious. Her words were spoken to the air, not to him. "Forgive me, Professor. I just -- it's just a kiss."

He dipped his chin, feeling his heart twist in his chest. She was too clever, too brilliant, too beautiful to be standing here like this, begging a kiss from Draco Malfoy. A forbidden kiss. A false kiss.

He studied her face, dark brown eyes glittering with anticipation. Her hand reached out and came to rest on his chest. His mind reeled and his heart pounded in his chest. It was just a kiss. What could it hurt?

As if from a distance, he felt his hand come up and touch her cheek. She closed her eyes and nuzzled into his palm. Lily had never once looked at him like that. So this was what it felt like, being adored. He felt her move closer, into the circle of his half embrace.

"Quickly," she whispered, her fingertips tracing the line of his jaw, moving beneath his hair to pull his head down.

The first brush of her lips, warm and inviting, were a shock to his system. And then she was kissing him in earnest, and he was kissing her back, his tongue tasting the sweetness of her mouth, sending shivers down his spine. Not a false kiss. A real and tender kiss. A powerful and arresting kiss.

He felt wetness on her cheeks, even as she continued to kiss him. And then she was trying to push him away. "Go. You got what you wanted."

He tried to hold onto her. "Please don't cry," he whispered, his voice treacled gravel.

Her eyes went wide and the colour drained from her face. Her hand flew to her lips. "Oh shit."

His lips pursed in a suppressed laugh. "That good, hmm?"

"Professor, I'm so sorry." Tears flowed freely down her cheeks now. "I... He... It was a stupid wager. He had to kiss me. I said only on my terms." Still she tried to back away, and still he kept a firm grip on her arm.

"And I -- am your terms?"

Her mouth opened and closed, but no words came out.

"Hermione, think for a moment. I can hardly punish you now, can I?"

Her brow furrowed and she scrubbed her hand across her eyes. "Why?"

"I am just as culpable --"

"No I understand that. Why did you kiss me?"

Now it was his turn to pause and search for the words. His hand came up to touch her cheek again, his thumb wiping away the track of a tear. "The moonlight. It affects the mind, doesn't it."

"Professor..."

"Call me by my name, Hermione."

She swallowed, staring up into his face. "Severus."

Again, from a distance, he thought that a second kiss would seal his fate. It was no longer a folly that he was here, no longer a ruse he was participating in. "So if I kiss you now," he started, brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes, "that would be an unmistakeably deliberate act."

She closed her eyes, and nodded. She could feel his breath along her cheek. Unconsciously, she sucked her lower lip between her teeth and held it there. He chuckled, a low rumbling sound. It was such a characteristically Hermione thing to do, this little mannerism. And he knew it as such.

The realisation made his head spin.

"May I kiss you again, Miss Granger?"

"If you desire to do so," she whispered, the words tickling his lips, and before the sentence was done, he was doing so, his hand tilting her head and his mouth pressing down on hers. Her hands came up to encircle his neck and he drew her into his arms, kissing her soundly.


Draco glared at Pansy across the table. "You'll get your money."

"Let me guess. You tried to pull one over on Snape and he caught you at it."

"Let's just say Granger probably got it far worse than I did."

Pansy eyed the bushy-haired Gryffindor across the House tables. She didn't seem to be that unhappy. "Oh really. Well, that's a relief."

"Snape was going after her when I --" Draco's words trailed off.

"Really." Pansy eyed the first years who were gaping at the head table. "What's going on?"

"It's Snape," Fergus whispered. "He's smiling."

Draco and Pansy looked at each other and then, in unison, they darted a glance at the head table.

Sure enough, their Head of House seemed supremely content with his piece of toast.

Pansy leaned in. "Double or nothing, you can't get proof."

Draco smirked. "You're on."


finite incantatum


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