AUTHOR'S NOTE:

This is a FIC CHALLENGE from NEVILLES_GIRL! Here was her criteria:

1. Dramione – hot, hot sex – lots of it

2. AU, during Seventh Year

3. Harry, Ron, Pansy, Blaise & Seamus must also appear

4. A contest or bet of some kind must be the main plot

5. Characters that can't appear in speaking roles: the Dursleys

6. You have to use at least 20 song titles or lyrics in the story somehow

7. Lots of angst and romance

8. These words must appear: dangle, candle light, sex toys, Save The Queen, Veela, and Quidditch

9. I want a scene with a sexy massage, a scene using food in a sexual manner, and a scene with a kiss that leads to love

10. Happy ending

Okay, let the games begin... literally!


TIMELINE: June, 1998 (ending date not given as it's a spoiler)

MAIN CHARACTERS FEATURED (alphabetical order, last name):Lavender Brown, Tracey Davis, Seamus Finnigan, Hermione Granger, Daphne Greengrass, Draco Malfoy, Theodore Nott, Pansy Parkinson, Harry Potter, Ginny Weasley, Ron Weasley, Blaise Zabini

SECONDARY CHARACTERS FEATURED (alphabetical order, last name): Hestia Carrow, Michael Corner, Astoria Greengrass, Neville Longbottom, Alastor Moody, Parvati Patil

STORY DETAILS: Hogwarts-era, 7th Year -Alternate Universe (events after novel #4 never happened; Cedric Diggory didn't die, Harry won the Tri-Wizard Tournament, Voldemort was not resurrected, and there was no war). Years five, six and seven were filled with regular teenage angst stuff for our cast. The Room of Requirement was discovered by the Weasley twins years back, and now all of the students know about it (they keep it a secret from the teachers and Filch, obviously). Quidditch was a bigger deal, too (because it's not like there's anything else major going on), so everyone on team has bulked up for the competition over the years (in other words, those who play are more of an athletic build and less lean/willowy as most wizards would be). Also, for the sake of this fic, all of the main guys featured play Quidditch (even those who didn't in the novels), and Ginny plays Quidditch. Characters are OOC (out-of-character), and I'm taking serious creative license here because it's a smut-fun fic and none of these character hook-ups would happen otherwise. You're forewarned! Card game based upon an idea I had for "La Cerise: The Sweetest Cherry" fic, but decided to scrap. At last, I can use it finally! This will be a multi-part fic.

SUMMARY: Draco Malfoy and his best Slytherin housemates challenge Harry Potter and his choice of five other Gryffindors to a game of Eros– the scandalous card game with strong magical influences on the players. Can the will and courage of a pride of lions overcome the cleverly seductive nest of serpents for the last time, before everyone graduates? It's House versus House, male versus female, pride versus desire, Eros versus Psyche! Turn the first card to find out who will win in this game of hearts and amour…

RATING: M+/NC-17 – extreme heterosexual sexual situations (including frottage, fondling, nipple play, fingering, wanking, oral sex, strip tease, sensual/sexual massage, use of sex toys, loss of virginity, anal sex, orgasm denial, spanking/paddling, light bondage, use of food in a sexual manner, exhibitionism, use of mirrors during a sex act, male ejaculation on various female body parts, unprotected sex); references to homosexual & threesome/moresome sexual encounters in the past (implied, not on screen); explicit profanity; gambling; abuse of magic for the purpose of controlling another person; use of magical spells to prevent conception; references to illicit drug and alcohol use in the past (implied, not on screen); implied child abuse in the past (not on screen); OOC (out-of-character characters); references to magical creatures and their mating rituals; occasional fluff, extreme drama, and angst.

IMAGES for this fanfic (including what characters look like, their outfits, and the cards themselves) can be found here (remove all spaces from the URL to make it load properly): s905 . photobucket albums / ac260 / RZZMG / Eros%20Psyche


EROS & PSYCHE

BY: RZZMG


CHAPTER ONE: WILL YOU FLINCH?

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Scotland
Gryffindor Boys Dorms (Harry Potter's room)
Wednesday, June 10, 1998 (early evening)

Re-reading the note that Malfoy had passed to Harry during Potions class this afternoon, Hermione took a deep breath and slowly let it out, her mind a riot of thoughts over its contents.

Eros – Sat. 7pm, RoR
Pick 3 F, 3 M - 6 & 7 yr. only – must be Gryfs!
No cherries.
Too chicken?

Godric Save the Queen, was that no-count Ferret serious? He really wanted a six-on-six, evenly gender-mixed game of Eros & Psyche this Saturday night in the Room of Requirement, pitting his Housemates against the Gryffindors?

She snorted in partial amusement, partial incredulity. The blond git was so obvious sometimes! Clearly, Malfoy wanted to get even for losing the Quidditch House Cup this last weekend, their last game of their high school experience. She bet it just ate at the pure-blood, overachieving snob that Harry Potter – a half-blood who did so extraordinarily well in classes and out on the Quidditch pitch on mostly sheer talent - had beaten him one final, irrefutable time. Now, he was apparently looking for revenge.

Bloody hell, that meant he'd do anything to win, wouldn't he?

Having intimate knowledge of the Snake's most afflicting moves - she had been on the receiving end of his scathing taunts, cruel looks and occasional hexes more than anyone else in school, after all - she wondered if she could really do this?

Eros was a legendary magical card game that had its origins in the decadently wicked Masked Gentlemen's Clubs of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in England. The objective was rather simple: you played from the time the first card was turned until the final question card was read, and all turns had come to a close. Whichever team had the most players standing at that point won.

More specifically, the game was played with an even number of participants on two teams, evenly split between genders, and was typically engaged in a location that would remain secret to all except to the currently engaged players. It was comprised of four blank decks - so named Partners, Interrogations, Forfeits, and Deeds - the content of which was determined in advance by the players themselves.

The first deck, Partners, was simply a deck made up of the names of all participants in the current game set. These cards were charmed to create a magically binding contract with anyone who signed their name to them; once you accomplished that, you were bound to play the current game set to its completion – much like Jumanji in that way, Hermione thought. The signatory release also bound you to an Oath of Secrecy; in effect, you were gagged from talking about the specifics of what happened in the game with any outsiders.

Once all players had signed their Partners cards, the women put theirs into a pile, which was then shuffled. The men – the Eros component to this whole shenanigan, as he represented the primordial God of Sexual Love - would then take turns drawing a card of his intended Psyche, the mythological woman Eros fell in love with. That witch would then remain the man's committed partner throughout the entirety of the game set. Once every player was matched up, they held onto the card of their associated partner, as it assured the connection between the two of them until the completion of the game.

After partners had been determined, each player was then given two blank Interrogations cards that he or she would fill-in with two questions of their choice. They were also given two blank Forfeit cards which he or she would assign a heinous punishment to, and two blank Deeds cards, from which he or she would dispense a delicious reward to balance out the punishment. This was done twenty-four hours in advance of the game's beginning, to give time for players to think up suitable content for their cards.

In the case of the Interrogations cards, the questions you made up were required to always start with the phrase, "If you had to…" What you asked after that was entirely up to your deranged, little mind. You wanted to be positive, however, that you would only write down a question that you wouldn't mind answering yourself, out loud, in front of all of the other players. The challenge was therefore to balance out your insane curiosity of the other players' secrets versus your own comfort level in dispensing your confidential information to those same people.

On the night of the actual game, everyone's Interrogations cards were put into a single deck and shuffled well. Then, taking turns in a clockwise direction, a player was to draw a card and read it aloud. Each question represented a 'round,' which would only end once all players had either answered the question, or refused to answer the question. There were consequences for either decision, of course.

For players who actually chose to answer the Interrogations question, they were compelled to do so with honesty, as the enchantment on the bespelled deck coerced the truth from a person's mouth as if they'd been dosed with Veritaserum. When they completely answered the question, they were then allowed to draw from the Deeds deck. This set of cards was made up of suggested 'rewards' for the players who showed remarkable courage in answering the questions put to them, and because this "compensation" was determined by the players themselves in advance, the Deeds card drawn could vary between something as simple as a foot massage to something a little more risqué, such as claiming a kiss from your partner, to the full kit and caboodle of engaging in full-on sex with your partner. The partner, in this case, had no choice but to submit to the Deeds card's requirements placed upon them, or they would be required to bow out of the game. If a partner forfeited the game, both players were 'retired,' with the surrendering half considered the 'loser' for their team's final number advantage. It was akin to a 'Truth or Dare' sort of situation.

To add to the excitement, the charm on the game itself allowed any number of accoutrements to magically appear as necessary to fulfill a Deeds card's requirements. Hermione was guessing that they just popped into the air and then were whisked away when no longer needed, although she had no idea how a card deck could be spelled to do such a thing, honestly. So, one could literally put just about anything down on a Deeds card and the magic would assure that any necessary items to fulfill that card's requirements would be made conveniently available.

On the other hand… if a person was uncomfortable answering a question from the Interrogations deck, they could choose to pass and draw instead from the Forfeits deck. The intent of this deck was to punish those who wimped out. These cards were penalties made up by the players, too, and contained shocking and scandalous fines; anything causing permanent physical damage, blood loss, or psychological trauma was caveat understood as absolutely notbeing allowed, and no spells were to be used against anyone for any reason, according to the rules. Everything had to be physically performed on your partner, not magically. The trick in writing up your Forfeits cards was to balance out what you wanted to discipline others with versus what you, yourself, would tolerate acting out, in case you picked your own card.

The amount of time to indulge in each Deeds card or to participate in a Forfeit card was exactly twenty-five minutes per action. Meaning, you and your partner would typically closet yourselves away from the others to act out your cards for a total of fifty minutes per round, with the remaining ten minutes in the hour relegated as a 'rest' period - read: making yourself presentable again for public view, or getting your emotions under control.

The game ended when the last Interrogations card was turned, or when one of the two finalist partners caved, refusing to perform a Forfeit, whichever came first. The team with the most players still 'standing' at that point won.

Hermione realized with a start that this game set could quite possibly string out into a full twenty-four hour ordeal given that there would be twenty-four questions to answer, and each round lasted approximately an hour. No wonder Malfoy picked Saturday night to start; that way they could have all of Sunday night to recover from whatever happened.

Ugh. Seriously, could she really do this?

Looking across at Harry's eager face, she realized that this was her chance to sock it good to that Malfoy git for all of the years of torture he'd rained upon her head - if she was lucky enough to be partnered with him, that was to say. If not, at least she could stick it to that snob Zabini, or finally get a chance to get even with Theo, or maybe even have some fun with Seamus, Harry, or Ron, all of whom she wouldn't mind a one-off opportunity with, as there was some fine meatin that group. If she played, it would be a win-win for her, no matter who she ended up with, she realized.

Besides, she'd always had Harry's back, and he'd always had hers. They'd been there for each other through thick and thin, and the way he was looking at her now – as if the whole world's survival hinged on her acceptance of his invitation to play the game – she knew she would not say 'no' to him.

Looking back down at the rumpled paper in her sweaty, ink-stained hand, two words stuck out like a beacon of hateful contention to rile her anger once more into a whipping fury.

Too chicken?

Yeah, he'd like her to be, wouldn't he? That monstrously stuck-up, rodent-faced Pygmy Puff!

Swallowing back her fear, Hermione looked Harry in the eye and nodded. "I say we take the challenge."

The others all gaped at her, mouths hinging open like rusted steel traps, this clearly being the last thing they'd expected her to announce.

"Really?" her best male friend asked, his emerald, shimmering eyes alight with a combination of relief and skepticism. "I mean, well, anything goes in this game, 'Mione. Anything. You know… sex stuff."

Raising an eyebrow at him, she smirked. "It's not as if I'm unfamiliar with what to do behind closed doors. And Malfoy did specify 'no cherries.'" She looked at her two girl friends sitting at her side on Seamus' bed, then at the three men sitting opposite her on Harry's twin. "I don't think that will be a problem with this group, and we all know it."

Ginny face vaulted, her pretty cheeks flaming red with embarrassment. Lavender giggled, and the three wizards across from them all looked somewhat sheepish, staring at their feet or the wall as to avoid Hermione's direct gaze.

Really, it's not like they were children anymore! How did they expect to beat the Slytherins at a game of naughty sex fetish if they grew embarrassed about just conversing on the subject? It was no secret, after all, that Hermione and Ron had lost their virginities to each other last summer, after they'd tried dating for two months. She really hadn't seen what all the fuss had been about in the afters, as she'd received more pleasure from chewing a stick of Drooble's Strawberry Gum and her own fingers wiggling under her knickers than she'd ever gotten from Ron's penis. Not that he wasn't a fun lover, but she'd just never gotten off with him.

Harry and Ginny had gone for it just this last February, she knew, breaking each other in on Valentine's Day. However, the novelty had worn off quickly for both of them, and they'd realized they'd had even less in common than she and Ron had had. They'd amicably parted ways a month later. Ginny had then hooked up with Seamus once, who'd already been with quite a few girls by then. It had just been a bit of fun for them, though, and not repeated since.

And she knew that Lavender had given her virginity to the Irish wizard two years ago. Nothing had come of that, though, except Lavender's resentment for the man. It had taken until this year for them to just be comfortable in the same room together. In the meantime, Ron had been on and off with Lav for the last nine months in a fuck-buddy manner, neither taking it as anything more than a bit of fun.

They'd all been sexually active, so what was the big deal?

Ron's face turned an interesting shade of puce. "Since no one else is saying it, I've got to: are you barking mad, 'Mione? You can't be serious? We're talking about Slytherins here - Malfoy as head git of the lot. You talk about shagging any one of them as easily as tying your shoes!"

Staring him down with her most confident glare, her smirk widened. "Crass, Ronald. But you're forgetting a couple of very important things: one, that Draco, Blaise, and Teddy might end up with the girls from their own team, instead of any of us, and two, that I am still a woman, after all. It only takes a pair of decent, half-naked breasts to make your gender come to heel."

Lavender giggled.

"And what are you on about?" Ron asked his on-again, off-again bed warmer. "It's not bloody funny!"

The honey blonde patted her beau's broad shoulder. "I think 'Mione's right. Forcing Malfoy, Zabini, or Nott to do the bidding of one of us women, and make them panting hot for more at the same time would be priceless. I can think of more than a few tricks to humiliate the blue-blooded caps right off of their precious heads."

Ginny recovered, catching on to the idea, eyes bright. "Ha! I'd make one of them kiss my feet and beg my forgiveness for every horrible thing they've ever said to me."

Brown laughed. "Honey, you're thinking too small. I'd tie them up and use a stinging hex on their privates. On and off for a good hour, at least. Let them try to reproduce after I'm through!"

Hermione grinned like a shark. "It would be brilliant revenge for the years of horribleness those three have forced us to endure."

Harry stood and nodded at Ron first, and they both turned to Seamus. "Right, Ron and I are in. You?"

"Do ya have any idea who th' Slytherins will be invitin'?" he asked, his Irish brogue thick with excitement.

Harry leaned against the back wall and crossed his strapping arms over his broad chest, which had expanded with hard packed muscle this last year, as he and the other members of the Quidditch team had begun a rigorous workout routine this last September, all so they could claim the House Cup this, their final year. "As I said, it'll be Malfoy, Zabini and Nott for the boys. He said Pansy Parkinson, Daphne Greengrass, and Tracey Davis would represent the girls from his House."

Hermione looked at all three men. "Parkinson? Perfect. I'd love to see her squirm for one of you, too. How galling would it be to her pride for any one of you three to touch her 'precious pure-blood limbs,' much less make her squirm under your mouths and hands?"

Harry looked at her with amusement. "Some days, you really scare me, 'Mione."

"She bloody terrifies me on a regular basis," Ron added.

Seamus snickered. "Are ya sure ya were sorted into th' right House, lass?"

Ignoring the ragging, Hermione shared a look with Ginny and Lavender, the three of them silently communicating their agreement to go ahead with the plan. When consensus had been reached, she turned back to Harry. "Tell that rat bastard that we're all in - to win."

X~~~~~~~~~X

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Scotland
Slytherin Boys Dorms (Draco Malfoy's room)
Wednesday, June 10, 1998 (late evening)

The owl arrived to his window in the dorms that night about two hours after dinner. With a tiny bit of trepidation, Draco held the parchment in his hands. He threw a silent prayer to Slytherin that first, Potter and company had accepted his challenge, and second, that the predictable ponce had picked the one girl he was simply dying to lock horns – and other parts - with.

"Open it already!" Nott growled, brilliant cerulean eyes alight with anticipation. His tall, broad-shouldered frame hunched over at the waist, as he placed his palms down on the edge of the mattress and leaned in. "Go on!"

At the foot of the cot sat a silent, unruffled Blaise Zabini, unmoving, his attention on the note, not giving any indication that he was at all interested in the outcome of the challenge he'd been volunteered for by his best friend. Draco knew the façade to be a carefully crafted lie, however. Deep in the depths of his friend's usually enigmatic, dark brown stare, the same burning desire both he and Theo felt simmered.

With a flair for the dramatic, Draco opened the letter with slow deliberation. Reading its contents, his heart let out a loud and lusty shout of triumph. Beaming ear to ear, he read the response out loud.

Malfoy,

We're on. If you chicken out, we'll let the whole school know it. Unless there's a need for a last minute substitution because of illness, here's our team roster: me, R. Weasley, S. Finnigan, H. Granger, L. Brown, and G. Weasley.

Be prepared for your arses to be handed to you,

- H. Potter

Theodore Nott hooted with laughter. "Gods, I can't wait to mess with Granger! That girl gets under my skin with her know-it-all attitude. I've been waiting a long time to put that little swot in her place."

Keeping his face as neutral as possible, Draco tamped down on the jealous surge through his guts. "If you're lucky enough to draw her name, she's all yours."

Of course, he wasn't going to announce it, but he had every intention of cheating to assure Granger and he ended up paired off. No one was going to touch her except him. She was his. He'd waited years to finally get his hands on her.

He turned to Blaise. "Bet you can't wait to give it to the She-Weasel, especially after the last match."

As a Chaser, Ginny Weasley had been assigned to check Blaise any time they'd faced off across the Quidditch pitch. The two had formed an antagonistic relationship over the last two years since she'd joined the Golden Lions, one that was nearly as rancorous as Draco's own had been with Granger at the start of their school years.

Zabini's dark eyes glittered with a dark, unfamiliar emotion, and a small smile graced his full lips. "If I'm lucky enough to draw her name," he replied, using similar language to Draco's.

In that moment, Draco knew the gig was up - his best friend suspected that he intended on cheating to arrange things in his favour. In the manner of Slytherins, though, his best friend was wordlessly conveying an offer to keep his mouth shut about the subterfuge in return for fixing the arrangement with Weasley for him as well. Draco nodded in silent understanding and acceptance.

"I have a good feeling about this," he casually announced. Dropping the parchment into his lap, he stretched his arms together over his head, cracking his knuckles by interlacing his long, pale fingers. "This'll be a game to remember."

Nott stood to grab a piece of parchment, his quill, and an ink bottle from his school bag, turning them over to Draco. "Let them know we're in agreement. I don't want any crying foul later that there wasn't an official accord."

Taking the items, Draco conjured a wooden lap board for writing and got down to penning a reply.

Potty,

Terms accepted, dandelion. Again, barring subs, our team is as follows: me, Zabini, Nott, Greengrass, Davis, and Parkinson.

Get ready to beg for mercy,

- D.M.

p.s. Don't forget to pack your hankies for when the crying starts.

X~~~~~~~~~X

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Scotland
Seventh Year's Defence Against The Dark Arts Classroom
Thursday, June 11, 1998 (morning)

Harry glared across the aisle at Malfoy. Obviously bored as the rest of them, as classes had officially ended for seventh-years - all exams had been taken the previous week, and this week was simply a wrap-up and individual review of results; next week was personal counselling about every student's future options based on aptitude and N.E.W.T. scores, which were to come in on Monday morning, and handed out by Heads of Houses - the smug git had the audacity to throw a small, waded up piece of paper at the back of Hermione's head. From her seat two rows up, his best friend looked up at Professor Moody, noted the man was distracted by Terry Boot's final interview, and bent over to pick up the wad of paper. She opened it and read. Whatever it said made her stiffen and he could practically feel her ire from across the row.

She picked up her quill and scribbled something on it, then hiding the paper in the sleeve of her robe, she raised her hand. Harry glanced over at Malfoy, who tsk'd and sat back in his chair, knowing he was busted this time.

"What is it Miss Granger?" Moody asked, looking up from the paper in front of him.

Hermione cleared her throat. "Sir, I'm afraid I'm feeling a little dizzy. Since we've already had our review, may I go to the Hospital Wing to have a lie down for a bit?"

Moody stared hard at her for a second, and then nodded. "Potter, you're done as well, so escort your Housemate to Madam Pomfrey, to make sure she gets there safely." He returned to talking to Terry, ignoring everyone else, who sat around in groups and whispered, gossiping and making plans for the weekend and after graduation.

Harry stood without needing to be told twice. Truth be told, he was bored off his gourd. "Yes, sir."

Ron threw him a 'you lucky bastard!' expression and waved him off, then moved his chair back to Seamus, Neville, and Dean's little gathering one row back to join in their discussion about next Friday night's farewell Formal.

Making his way to Hermione's side, Harry took her bag and slung it over her shoulder, and then the two headed out. On the way past Malfoy's desk, Hermione locked eyes with their rival, smirked, and pressed the wadded up paper into his free hand. Without skipping a beat, she kept walking, so Harry didn't stop either.

When they were far enough down the corridor for no one to hear, Harry finally had to ask. "Right, so what did Slytherin's Prince have to say to you, and what did you say back that's got you grinning like the Cheshire Cat?"

Hermione chortled. "I wondered how long it would take before you broke. He asked me if I liked kneeling, because he planned to have me in that position for him this Saturday night if he pulled my name as his partner."

Harry clenched his jaw. "How did you reply?"

A tinge of a blush bloomed across her pretty, golden cheeks. "I told him he should get his cushioned Quidditch leggings out of storage because it wouldn't be me on my knees if we were lucky enough to be thrown together. I further intimated that I might just write up a Forfeit card that required all of the men on his team to suck each other's penises if he kept harassing me."

Harry burst into laughter. "Brilliant, 'Mione!"

His best girl friend shrugged. "Top of the class, you know," she joked, fluffing her hair in playful teasing. They both erupted into fresh gales of mirth then, and changed topics, discussing their all of their test scores to date. Chivalrously, Harry let his Housemate talk first.

As she critiqued her own essay for Potions (which had –gasp- earned her an "E" instead of an "O"), Harry considered his best female friend from the corner of his eye, catching every third word or so. He'd had a crush on 'Mione in third year, and for a little bit of fifth year, too, but hadn't wanted to step into Ron's territory. Now, though, she was free and clear, as his two best friends' relationship hadn't worked out, and he knew she wasn't currently dating anyone.

For just those few minute's walk, Harry let himself consider the possibilities, eyes roaming covertly down her body, appraising… Hermione had definitely grown-up, hadn't she? Her bushy hair and teeth had been tamed by fourth year, and her overall figure had matured with ample curves. She was really quite pretty, too, in a girl-next-door sort of way, with a very light sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of her nose, and warm eyes that reminded him of dark-bronze pence pieces. Her smile was genuine, her shiny curls a warm blend of copper, chocolate, and russet, and her skin was an enticing golden-pink hue. Overall, he found he was physically still attracted to her.

Perhaps it wouldn't be a total disaster if he drew her name from the pile tomorrow, as he'd worried when the thought occurred to him last night. Their personalities sometimes clashed, yes, but she was someone he could be honest with, and he felt comfortable talking about private things with her. Maybe that would be enough for a start?

On the other hand, 'Mione was the upwardly mobile, independent type, always looking for that next plateau to conquer. She didn't need someone to emotionally lean on, and her intellect and personal ambition far outstripped everyone else's he'd ever known. He knew from Ron that she was also the aggressive type in between the sheets. Harry was exactly the opposite; he was more laid back about his future, content to enjoy his work. He wanted a woman who would need him and let him be the strong one in the relationship, would let him romance her, and who would actually enjoy long love-making sessions.

No, clearly 'Mione, like Ginny, was not the girl for him, no matter how sexually attracted to her he may be, and he knew it deep down inside. In fact, if they messed around, he was worried he'd become even more attached to her than he already was, which would be very bad for their friendship in the end. Theirs would be a messy break-up...

No, he decided, it would be a really bad thing were he to draw her name as his partner for the game.

Leaving Hermione at the entrance to Madam Pomfrey's lair, he turned about and headed back towards D.A.D.A., wondering if he would ever find a girl who actually wanted to fall in love the old-fashioned way.

X~~~~~~~~~X

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Scotland
Dining Hall
Thursday, June 11, 1998 (mid-afternoon)

Blaise stared across the Great Hall at the Weasley girl. Crimson fire flashed as she brushed a long gathering of her hair over her shoulder, laughing in delight over something Seamus Finnigan, her Quidditch teammate, had said. Her pink lips were turned up in a beauteous smile that lit up the room, and Finnigan laughed in conjunction around his sucking on the end of a Sugar Quill. The two shared a secret smile.

He couldn't believe it: she'd fucked the Irish, too! Blaise could see it in the intimate look that passed between them. It was bad enough Potter had taken her virginity, but Finnigan was an unapologetic man-slag with a roster that outstripped even Blaise's list of conquests.

Inside his guts, something tightened and his blood heated, amping him up for violence.

Weasley was his. The sexy, little minx had spent the last two years taunting and haunting him from the Quidditch pitch… and in his dreams… and in the bed he'd shared with others during that time, as well. Every partner, no matter their skin or eye colour, their gender or body shape, or how they smelled or sounded, all were her as he shut his eyes and took them. They all had her bronze-gold orbs that sparkled, her shiny, straight strawberry-blonde mane that she'd randomly dyed black at the tips just to be controversial, her full bottom lip that begged for kissing, and her lightly freckled skin that smelled of spicy orange and cinnamon perfume. Every single time he'd orgasmed over the last two years, whether in a partner or in his own hand, he'd cried out for Ginevra in his mind, pretending it was her sweet, tight body he was pouring his seed into.

Yet, his single-minded fixation regarded him with nothing but clear disdain each time she glanced over at him, refusing to acknowledge or even attempt to know the real man under his various uniforms - and all because he was a Slytherin. Her House prejudice was firmly ensconced by a generational Gryffindor brainwashing, and her contempt cut him up inside and out.

The fact of the matter was, from their very first formal introduction across the Quidditch arena two years ago, Ginevra Weasley had effectively ruined Blaise's aloof calm. She continually distracted his concentration, made him feel ineffectual, and manoeuvered him into positions where the consequence was him acting the fool – and she'd accomplished that task with minimal effort, and clearly, without care.

He intended on making her pay for that. He was going to destroy her senses as much as she did his. Once he had Draco fix the cards on Saturday night so he was partnered up with her, and he'd had a chance to fuck her good, he would drop little Miss Weasley on that prissy, snooty ass of hers with relief, and finally be free of this obsession that had made him pathetic for far too long.

Glancing to his side, he watched his best friend's winter-grey gaze zero-in on Granger. "Patience," he cautioned under his breath to his friend, low enough for only the two of them to hear. Unlike Blaise's temper, which was usually reserved and outwardly rational, Malfoy's was fireworks-in-the-sky volatile. The last thing they needed was be called 'foul' by the other team and be disqualified for provoking pre-game fighting, thus losing before the contest could commence. "And more care, if you don't mind. We've both read the rules of the game. Your little stunt this morning in class could have cost us."

Draco's lids lowered in an unspoken warning. He didn't take well to being chastised, Blaise knew. "I'm well aware of how much skirting the edge I can do. Besides, it's all a bit of fun. I like riling her up. I love watching what it does to her."

Blaise nodded, turning his attention to slicing up his pot roast, smearing a daub of gravy on it with his knife. "Just don't anger her enough into crossing a line. I wantto play this one out to the end."

Malfoy speared a potato wedge and held it up, focusing on it before popping it into his mouth. Once he'd finished chewing and swallowing, his smirk returned. "Eager to get at our little red bird, are we?"

"My little red bird," he growled under his breath, clenching his jaw at the man's audacity. His grip on his silverware tightened. "Don't forget that."

Glancing through dark-gold lashes, Draco grinned at him. "Wouldn't dare," he cheekily replied, popping another chip in his mouth.

They shared a moment more in silent understanding: he would not interfere with Draco's pursuit of Granger, and in return, his friend would show him the same courtesy in regards to the Weasley girl, his lioness. That agreement made, Blaise consumed the rest of his meal in quiet introspection and with restraint, refusing to look back up at his little firebrand's goings-on, not wanting to appear soppish or imprudent. He'd leave that sort of thing to Draco, who was clearly besotted with Gryffindor's Princess.

X~~~~~~~~~X

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Scotland
Seventh Year's Charms Classroom
Thursday, June 11, 1998 (afternoon)

Pulling the Pixie Pop from his mouth, relishing its honey flavour across his tongue, Seamus drifted in and out of the conversation he was sharing with his mate, Michael Corner. His attention was currently fixated on the front of the classroom, where Flitwick was going over Lavender's final exam results with her in a semi-private interview.

Even as he half-cocked listed to his friend brag on and on about applying for a position within Magical Law Enforcement over the summer, Seamus' eyes meandered of their own accord over the curve and dip of his ex-girlfriend's long, graceful neck. Absently, he wondered what it would feel like to touch that soft-looking skin of hers again…

Lavender Renelle Brown.

For some unfathomable reason, this one witch had driven him fair mad since his first wet dream. Something about her kept drawing him back in, no matter how many others he'd taken to bed since their one-off in fifth year. He'd been the lucky bloke to win her virginity back then, and although the event hadn't been all roses and romance, it had definitely haunted him since - and not in a good way.

Alright, so admittedly, his technique had seriously sucked back then, and he could understand why she would pretend as if shagging him had never happened. In his defence, though, it had only been his second time having sex. Yeah, he knew he'd hurt the lass with his lack of skill, his over-eagerness, and his size, but he'd also known that it always hurt for a girl the first time.

He'd tried to make it right afterwards, though, by cuddling with Lavender, but she'd been strangely stiff in his arms. It was as if she didn't want him touching her anymore. She hadn't returned any of his kisses either. In fact, she'd cringed from him. So, he'd taken the hint, picked his seriously bruised ego up off of the floor, and left. He'd wanted to respect her need for privacy, so she could take care of the more feminine, delicate matters of her clean-up. He'd also needed to retreat so he could cover up his embarrassment at having failed to make her come, and being little more than a 'two-pump chump' himself.

Of course, he'd learned since how to properly minimize the pain for the girl if it was her first time, how to last while inside a woman, and he'd also come to appreciate the finer points of bedroom etiquette - specifically, assuring his partner's care-taking in the afters. It was knowledge that he wished he'd had back then, however, as it continued to be a major regret of his that he hadn't had such proficiency available to make Lavender's first time all it should have been. He'd wanted her to scream with pleasure, not moan with pain.

He still regretted the fallout from the event, too – specifically, that she'd written off both him and their budding friendship. He'd really been head over boots for Brown then, but she'd made it very clear that she wasn't having anything to do with him after their one night together.

At the time, he'd been brassed off at her for deliberately avoiding his sincere attempts to apologize the next day. He'd meant to make up his inept treatment of her the night before by going down on her and giving her some pleasure, but she had flatly refused to meet him again. After a week of repeated rejections, he'd finally given up, assumed she'd had her piece of him, and was moving on - which had, at the time, stung his pride and made him feel quite used. He hadn't bothered to approach her again for any reason thereafter, and for the next year and a half, things had remained severely strained between them - to the point where they were never alone, she'd hardly glanced in his direction, and she'd made sure to keep at least one person between them at all times. It had only been since she'd hooked-up as Ron's casual bedmate this year that she'd marginally relaxed in Seamus' presence.

Feeling a bit petulant over the memories, he shoved the Pixie Pop back in his mouth and took another good suck at it. The sweet, addicting taste helped his mood, somewhat.

As he considered the upcoming challenge this weekend, an exciting idea occurred to him: perhaps he'd get a second chance this Saturday night to make up for their first time! If he drew Lavender for a partner, he'd have the opportunity to not only apologize for the rough treatment she'd experienced under him back when they'd both been fifteen, but also to give her that orgasm he'd been dying to give her for the last two years. Maybe even multiple orgasms!

Ah, the luck of the Irish would tell, as his Mam was so fond of saying. He'd cross his fingers and toes, and hope for the match.

"Mate, you all right?" Michael asked, looking at him askance.

Seamus turned his head and focused on his friend, pulling his mind back into the here and now for the moment. "Sorry, was thinkin' o' next week's graduation. Whaddya say?"

Corner accepted his excuse and picked up right where he'd left off, so engrossed in talking about himself that he hardly noticed that his audience's attention was not wholly recaptured. In fact, thereafter Seamus' responses to him consisted of little more than a series of party nods.

His gaze traveled back to Brown's profile as she animatedly spoke with Flitwick, entranced by the way her mouth moved and her indigo-coloured eyes sparkled. Letting his gaze drift downward, he grew hard in his trousers at noting the curve of her ample breasts sweetly outlined from the side, as her summer uniform blouse was pulled tight across the lovely mounds of flesh. When she laughed at something the professor said, his attention was drawn back upwards to her lips again.

He'd kissed that mouth once...

Licking his own lips, he took her all in once more, from head to toe. Gods alive, she was lovely! She reminded him of a fairy, with her pretty features and her golden hair, and he secretly chuckled over the idea. Now wouldn't that beat all if she were?

When she stood up and shook their instructor's hand in thanks, there was a happy bounce to her movements that captivated him as assuredly as her brilliant smile did. She moved with confidence and a flirty, enthusiastic grace, and once more he was helpless but to note just how comfortable she had become in that body of hers now that she was all grown up and knew how to use it. If only he could he convince her to use such charms on him any time before graduation! All he'd need is one more chance with her...

Godric's bollocks, he hoped she was his partner this weekend for the game, because he'd waited long enough for her to come back around his way.

X~~~~~~~~~X

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Scotland
Seventh Year's Charms Classroom
Thursday, June 11, 1998 (afternoon)

As Lavender turned away from her interview with Professor Flitwick – who had encouraged her plans to apply for a position within the Department of Mysteries, as her Charms scores were rather high – her eyes roamed the room…

…and froze on Seamus Finnigan, who was staring at her with some serious heat while sucking on a Pixie Pop.

Her heart gave a sharp thump, lodging in her throat. Godric, those spring-green eyes of his, surrounded by sensual, dark lashes! He could seduce anyone he put his mind to with them.

Oh, who was she fooling? He did exactly that! Everyone knew his sex score card was filled with a long list of conquests. To her humiliation, even she appeared on the list. Thank the Founders she'd had sense to only make it a one-time mistake, though. At least she didn't look quite as foolish as some of the girls who mooned all over him after he'd kicked them to the curb, girls like Lisa Turpin or Romilda Vane. At least she…

Shite, he was playing the game tomorrow night, wasn't he? There was a one in six chance that he could draw her card on Saturday night. If that happened, a whole lot more than gawking was going to happen between them – again.

Oh, no. Please, no! She wasn't sure she'd be able to face that kind of grief again!

But… she had promised 'Mione that she'd try to stick it out in the game, if only so Gryffindor would be able to smash another triumph in Slytherin's face. She owed the witch a huge debt, even though she could never tell Granger such a thing. Her conscience tugged at her to accept this responsibility as part of her penance.

No choice then: she'd have to suck it up and deal like a true Gryffindor if she did end up partnered with Sea. The Irish was one man she knew could break her emotionally in half if she let him; he almost had after their brief little affair when she'd been fifteen. Since he'd only had time to hone that charming charisma over the years, she knew that meant she'd have to be extra careful guarding her heart this time around… if, indeed, it was her fate to be stuck with the man.

Better to not think like that for now. Better to simply hope the cosmos partnered her with Ron instead. She was comfortable with her current, casual lover. They knew each other well enough that nothing they did on Saturday night would, in any way, damage what they had. After all, how could you ruin a friends-with-benefits arrangement when there were no deeper feelings involved?

As she bent to retrieve her satchel from the floor to put her test scores away, she felt a single finger trail down her spine in passing. Jerking upright, her spine tingled with mini-electric shocks. Seamus threw her a naughty wink over his shoulder as he made his way to the front of the room for his interview with the Professor. He held his hand low at his side, but waggled the one finger he'd just touched her with in a playful backwards wave. Blushing to the roots, Lavender hurriedly stuffed her papers into her bag and sat down in her chair.

"Did Sea just pinch you?" Parvati whispered to her, scandalized. "You jumped as if he had."

Struggling to regain composure, Lavender tried for nonchalance, laughing the incident off, even as her heart raced under her ribs. "Oh, you know how he is. He's just trying to get a rise."

"Looked to me like he succeeded," her friend joked. "His pants were tenting rather inappropriately just now." The witch whistled in appreciation. "I'd forgotten how big he is. Yum!"

Oh, that was right: Parvati had had a piece of Seamus a couple of times, too, hadn't she?

"He's not that big," Lavender sniffed, trying not to think about Seamus like that again, if she could help it.

Her friend's eyebrows achieved a world record jump for height. "Don't tell me you've had bigger, because I'd say that wasn't possible. The boy is a good ten to eleven inches long, and thicker than my wrist."

Lavender blinked, feeling the rush of her blood travel like a locomotive steam engine all the way to her toes. Had Sea really been that big? She honestly couldn't summon up a memory of such a detail, because she hadn't actually looked at his penis or touched it with her hand the night they'd had sex. What she did recall from their time together wasn't so pleasant a memory…

He laid her down on a flat, cold, foreign bed in an empty dorm room. The light was so dim, Lavender could hardly see Seamus' expression, but she could most certainly feel everything happening to her. It seemed like a dream come true. She'd wanted this with him for the last year, and now it was really happening!

Her unbuttoned shirt was parted and her bra tugged down. Sea's hot, wet mouth wrapped around a nipple and began sucking. Founders, that felt good! He switched between her breasts, giving each equal attention.

Distracting her with sensations she'd never known before, he slyly scooted her knickers down her legs and off, pushing her skirt up over her waist. His hand delved between her legs, touching her in a place she'd only recently discovered herself. But she wasn't moist at all. Talk about embarrassing! Sea didn't seem put-off by that, though. He licked his fingers several times and brought the wetness of his saliva to her slit until her body began to relax and her natural arousal overcame her fear.

Suddenly, what they were doing wasn't so scary… and it was beginning to feel really good, too.

His mouth lifted to hers and he kissed her once more, pumping his tongue sloppily into her mouth. It was clear Sea was only a little more experienced than she was at this, but they learned together how to properly French in those minutes, even as one of his fingers entered her and began slowly pumping back and forth.

At some unspoken signal, his hand moved out of her and the sound of his trouser zip coming down was loud in the silent room. The sharp rasping noise brought her back to reality better than a bucket of ice water would have. She was actually going to have sex with him, here, tonight, wasn't she? Her thighs quaked at the thought. Sure, she'd been daring and brave earlier when he'd suggested they try this, but now she wasn't so sure she was ready.

There was absolutely no time to tell Sea any of this, though, as he quickly spread her legs apart, and using his hand, lined his penis up with her opening. Right as she was about to tell him, "maybe we should wait," he thrust. A series of hard shoves followed, as he tunnelled into her virginal channel, opening her wide and splitting her hymen with a powerful shove. Lavender bit her lip to keep from screaming at the searing pain that followed the loss of her innocence, whimpering instead as he inelegantly moved in and out of her at a fast pace.

Godric, this was nothing like she'd expected. She'd known it would hurt the first time, but this was just… terrible. She felt absolutely no pleasure from the act whatsoever.

To her relief, however, it was quickly over. Sea groaned around a kiss, and then stiffened with a cry, his back arching, his hips rolling forward one more time. He came inside her, but she couldn't feel it. Wasn't it supposed to feel warm? Gooey? Sticky? There was nothing except the feeling of being stretched too far, and an ache in her hip bones. When he was spent, he collapsed on top of her, breathing hard.

When he finally recovered a bit of his strength and sanity, there were some kisses, and his arms came around her, but Lavender felt oddly disconnected to what she'd just experienced, as if it had happened to someone else. Her arms refused to obey her mind's command to hug him back, and her lips felt too cold to move. She was numbed by shock.

Her first time had been absolutely horrid - not at all the romantic moment she'd imagined.

Abruptly, Seamus pulled out of her body, and it was then that she finally felt the rush of warm fluids as they followed in the wake of his quick withdrawal. Her body was too tender and her pelvis too sore for her to sit up just then, so all she could do was watch as Sea stumbled around, getting re-dressed. When he was presentable, he murmured a series of repeat apologies, and then he turned and left.

He just… left.

How could it have gone so wrong?

Lavender flinched from the memory of what had come after…

Once the dazed astonishment had worn off, the tears had come. They had been scalding and bitter, and her accompanying sobs had been loud. Yet, even in the middle of her regretful snuffling, she'd found a moment of unexpected pleasure: a series of rolling, electric shocks – tiny fingers of stroking, erotic pleasure – had come upon her without warning, caressing up and down her spinal column with a pressure that had had her whole body tightening up. Her eyes had rolled back in her head as the sudden, overwhelming sensation had riotously ridden her every sense, and a moment later, she'd orgasmed. The warm, lovely feeling of peaking, flying, and finally melting had hovered around her senses for a few minutes after that, until eventually the cold of the room had seeped back into her tired bones…

…and with it had returned hateful reality.

Instead of giving her a sense of peaceful satisfaction and closure, that bizarre, after-the-fact climax she'd experienced that night had only served to remind her of how deficient her first sexual experience had truly been. Her body had been so shocked by what Sea had done to her that it had actually delayed her ability to come! She still felt that to be a totally fucked-up reaction.

She'd gotten up after that and cast the Contraceptive and Disease Charm on her belly, as taught by Madam Pomfrey in her Health and Healing Class. The stinging pain between her legs and the heavy throbbing in her hips had been sheer torture to endure all the way back to her dorm, but it had been a toss-up to say whether it was physical or emotional pain that hurt worse then. It had been especially difficult not to feel so wounded by the feel of Sea's sperm, deposited so casually and indifferently into her just minutes before, finally dripping down her thighs as she'd done the 'walk of shame' back to her bed.

As she'd lain down to sleep in her room later that night, she'd berated herself for having had sex for the first time on the spur of the moment - and all because she'd been hot for Finnigan, and he'd been able to talk her into taking such a big step with a few lush kisses. An even bigger blow was when she'd had to admit the fact that in walking out on her as he had, Seamus had let her know that she'd meant nothing more to him than a hole to fill. As she'd feared, she'd been only a bet for him to win with Dean Thomas. The crush she'd had for the Irish literally did as the name suggested then, and she'd cried to sleep that night.

Her sorrow over the one-off affair didn't abate for quite a long time for her, either. The painful lead weight of regret and the major blow to her pride at being so thoroughly used had continued to press down on her ribcage and linger over her shoulders for months after. Finally, time did its usual favour and abated the worst of it, but it had taken almost two years.

After that, she'd vowed never to be used by another man. If there was to be sexual servicing going on, it would be on her terms. Yes, sir, Lavender Brown had decided to become a take-charge kind of girl when it came to her sexuality, and there was no way in the seven layers of Hell that she'd let a man overwhelm her in that arena ever again - especially the likes of Seamus whore-mongering Finnigan!

X~~~~~~~~~X

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Scotland
Dining Hall
Thursday, June 11, 1998 (evening)

Daphne was squeezed between her best girlfriend, Pansy, on one side of the dining table, and her younger sister, Astoria, on the other, pretending to be engrossed in eating her cheese, onion, and leek quiche while drowning out the gossip and prattle amongst her female Housemates. She was, instead, fine-tuning her ability to eavesdrop on the conversation happening a little further down the table, where her Theo sat next to Mister Zabini and Mister Malfoy.

Shutting out extraneous noise and focusing on a specific voice or series of voices while surrounded by others was a trick she'd learned over the years to survive living in Slytherin House, for the more secrets you knew, the more you were left alone by others who feared your knowledge against them. Daphne had never had cause to use such a weapon to date, as it wasn't in her nature to want to abuse such things, but one never knew what the future might bring, so she kept these confidences locked in her brain for a rainy day. She rarely had much to contribute to idle chit-chat anyway, preferring to be an active listener instead.

As she chewed, she picked up wisps of conversation floating on the air, capturing the essence by filling in the blanks. Theo had just intimated that everyone should dress-up for their game night, and the other two wizards in his accompaniment had readily agreed.

Oh dear, she could just envision what that meant. It was no small stretch to assume that if Theo had his way, all six of the women would be pasted into either tight leather corsets and lacy, barely-there bits of lingerie. Six-inch heels and some sort of restraining device around the neck, wrists, or waist would also, no doubt, be in fashion. She may love the charming, silly Slytherin, but she was also well aware of Nott's sexual depravities from having observed him in secret for years. He was a visual sensualist, stimulated by colours and shapes, more than any other sense. Physically monitoring the reactions he purposefully elicited from others – seeing their eyes flare and their cheeks pink with panic or anger or desire – aroused him more than touching them. Consequently, that also made him a natural voyeur, and a daring and uninhibited exhibitionist.

It would be best to warn her friends of their male Housemate's intentions, so the women would have input into their wardrobe choices.

"It sounds as if our male teammates have determined that we three ladies are to embellish our clothing options this weekend for their amusement," she leaned over and whispered in Pansy's ear.

Immediately, her friend curtailed her unflattering comparison of Professor Snape to Sanguini, the world's most famous 'outed' Vampire with Millicent, turning rounded, surprised eyes on Daphne. "What?" the witch hissed in anger. Clearly, she understood the situation. "We'll have to talk about that after dinner. I don't like things sprung at me – especially costuming – at the last minute."

Daphne did not look up; she merely continued to cut into her meal with genteel precision. "Agreed," she murmured.

"What is?" her little sister chimed in next to her.

"You need not be concerned with our discussion," Daphne coolly replied. She loved Tori, truly, but the girl's curiosity was simply too rambunctious for long-term exposure. She should never have been sorted into Slytherin House; Hufflepuff would have been a far better match for her sister's temperament. Daphne suspected that the only reason her sister had been selected to join her in the Silver and Green was because the girl had wished not to be parted from her older sibling, and everyone knew the Sorting Hat took a person's private wishes into account when making its final decision.

Tori pouted. "You always say that. I'm not a baby anymore, Daph."

Taking a deep, calming breath, Daphne turned to address her sister and tried not to sound like a horrid bitch, keeping her voice even and mild, and her tone low enough so that no one else knew she was gently rebuking the girl. "I have never stated that you were, Tori. I recognize that you are fast maturing at the proper physical rate. However, your mental development must occur at a synonymous rate if you are to survive in this House. That includes making smart decisions and rummaging for social cues before interjecting yourself into a conversation or situation. To speak ahead of considering your questions or imparting information could mete out your downfall. We have discussed this before." Conveying such wisdom was the only way Daphne saw of helping her little sister survive dwelling alongside the other Slytherins once she graduated in a week, for Tori still had two more years until she matriculated from Hogwarts, and unless she appreciated and assimilated these important lessons soon, her final four Terms would be utterly miserable for the girl. Daphne would spare her affable, guileless, gullible sister such pain, if she could.

Putting her fork and knife down, Daphne daubed her lips with her napkin, and then put a hand over Tori's as it rested on the bench between them. "In this case, what Pansy and I are discussing is truly nothing of significance, just a bit of tittle-tattle."

Tori's brilliant smile lit up her face and she looked with honest eyes up at the taller Daphne. "Sorry for being so nosey, sis."

Daphne shook her head and smiled back. "Curious, remember? Snape is the only nosey one around here." It was an oft-told joke around their House that their Head's hooked beak was large enough to rival a hippogriff's.

Her sister erupted into peals of laughter once more at the sly innuendo. The sound was merry and frank and artless – a sound not ever heard at a Slytherin gathering.

Out of the corner of her eye, Daphne caught sight of Theo as he turned his attention in their direction to investigate the commotion. Her heart beat just a little faster under his scrutiny.

X~~~~~~~~~X

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Scotland
Hallway to Transfiguration Classrooms
Friday, June 12, 1998 (morning)

Ron was walking the hallway, his satchel the lightest it had been all term now that exams were over. He slung the bag about in the nearly empty corridor, late for McGonagall's class, but not truly concerned, since he'd already had his final exam interview with her, and was merely required to show up out of a need for the school to 'maintain routine.'

He considered whistling low a merry jig taught him by Charlie over the Easter break, but ditched the idea in a heartbeat when he heard the sound of a female in tears coming from a window niche up ahead. Slowing, he stopped swinging his bag and within three steps, had come to a complete halt.

Yes, that was definitely a girl crying. Shite. What should he do? Should he keep walking and pretend he didn't see or hear the girl, who sounded as if she was valiantly trying to stifle heavy sobs against some sort of fabric, or did he run past her at top speed instead? He had to get to class; old McGonagall would notice he was missing and might even use that as the excuse to flunk him, as she'd threatened to do to anyone who skived off her classes this week or next, passing exam scores or not.

He shifted around as he contemplated his options, his feet scuffing the stone flooring.

The girl's crying abruptly stopped. "Who's there?" she demanded.

"Uhhhh," he began, but that was as far as he got before Pansy Parkinson popped out of her hidden location, face streaked with tears, cheeks reddened by embarrassment and anger, and dark eyes spitting mad.

"Weasley!" she snarled in righteous fury, spitting his name out as if it were a blasphemous thing. "Spying, were you? I shouldn't be surprised. I'd expect no less from the boy," she emphasized the word, "who'd been caught sneaking peeks in the Prefect's bathroom every Sunday afternoon last year. What despicable manners you have!"

Taken aback at the unfounded attack, Ron could only stare at Slytherin's Bitch Queen with open-mouthed astonishment. Spying? Was she serious?

"I wasn't! I didn't!" he refuted, feeling indignation pitting a corrosive, acid hole in his stomach. He'd put up with Parkinson's bite for the last seven years, giving it back to her every time she challenged and sassed him, so he expected ridiculousness to spew from her mouth every time she opened it. But to have her unjustly accuse him of stalking her like some sick pervert was pushing it. He may have been caught in a few compromising positions with Lavender over the past year, but he'd never peeped the Prefect's bath, and he certainly wasn't spying on this witch! "You're in the middle of the hallway, Parkinson! How's a bloke supposed to get to class and not notice your weeping mug gushing all over the place? Bloody drama queen!"

Parkinson's eyebrows shot into her hairline and her fists clenched at her side. She stomped forward, bristles up like some sort of badger on the attack. "How dare you, you hideous, intellectually-challenged carrot top!" she screeched in ear-splitting volume, closing the distance between them. "I'll have you know, Weasley, that I'm considered quite beautiful by some people!" In one of her hands, she held a piece of wadded up paper that she shook at him now. "Some wizards find me so attractive, in fact, that they've sued my father to court me already!"

He scoffed and shook his head. "Well, obviously, they're blind, aren't they? And clearly deaf, too!" He stuck a finger in one ear and wiggled it around, as if to clear it of the ringing her high-pitched voice had caused. "Honestly, you screech like a lunatic Veela. I s'pect you might've deafened me." Pulling that same finger out of his ear, he pointed it directly in her face in a moment of brilliant clarity. "Hey, I've got an idea: you could put those big lungs of yours to use and make an honest living after graduation. I'm sure there are plenty of openings for a good tuba player or balloon blower out there somewhere, and it beats whoring yourself out to some pure-blood ponce just to make dad and mum happy, yeah?"

As if he'd thrown a bucket of frozen water over her, Parkinson's cheeks sheeted white in an instant, and hot tears flooded her eyes again. Her lower chin quivered, her lips pursed into a thin, straight line, and her jaw clenched as she struggled not to fall apart in front of him.

For a second, staring into the raw, naked hurt so obviously etching her face, Ron felt real shame flood through him. Sure, he and this infuriating witch had traded some nasty barbs over the years, but he'd always assumed those were just empty words meant to rile and blow off steam, or occasionally to jab or prod to test each other's strength. They'd never been meant to seriously wound, however. Now, however, he realized something important: sometimes words weren't just meaningless, and sometimes, they could hurt. It was a lesson he'd never taken seriously when 'Mione had explained her feelings every time Malfoy had called her a 'Mudblood,' but now he was learning the moral in record-fast time as he stared directly into Parkinson's anguished face.

Looking down in mortification, he shuffled his feet again. "Look, Parkinson, about what I just said-"

He never saw the blow coming. It was the slap that reverberated around the world, as loud as the one 'Mione had given Malfoy in third year, he was sure. Stunned, he took a step back and his eyes flew to the witch's face…

…only to find those fat, welling tears had escaped and were streaming down her cheeks. A deep misery was etched into every line of her face. Somehow, she'd seemed to age a few years in a matter of seconds.

"I hate you, Ronald Weasley!" she shrieked around a sob, then ran past him and didn't look back once.

He turned to follow her path, watching her shaking shoulders as she cried until she'd turned the corner and was out of sight. Only then did he let out the breath he'd been holding.

What the hell had just happened? What had he said specifically to set her off like that? Blinking away the after-effects of Parkinson's blow, he shook his head, rubbed his stinging cheek, and numbly continued on his way to class, feeling disoriented by the events of the last five minutes.

By the time he'd reached Transfiguration, though, he'd convinced himself that the incident in the hallway with the Slytherin Queen – her acting like a loon, that was to say - was probably just a result of PMS. Heck, his sister and 'Mione were always a bit barmy that time of the month, too.

He felt sorry for the poor sod that drew her name on Saturday night, as a woman on her period certainly limited what you could and would want to do with her in private.

X~~~~~~~~~X

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Scotland
Seventh Year's Transfiguration Classroom
Friday, June 12, 1998 (morning)

Tracey had received her Transfiguration final review with Professor McGonagall earlier that morning, and now sat, staring across the room at the boy she'd secretly had a crush on since first year. Harry Potter… Merlin, but he was gorgeous! His charming smile was currently turned on by something that Neville Longbottom had said, and she loved the way it lit up his face. She had to admit that she liked him much better without his glasses in the way now that he'd had his eyesight magically corrected this past year, although she would miss his rounded spectacles, as they'd been a mainstay of his appearance for as long as she'd known him. His dark, messy hair made her fingers itch to smooth it back, as usual. At least that would never change.

"Keep staring at Potter like that and he's going to find out," Hestia Carrow murmured to her.

Tracey blushed and elbowed her best girlfriend. "Shhh, not so loud," she admonished.

Hest looked about, pointing out the obvious – that they were the only ones sitting at the back of the class at the moment. Everyone else was situated closer to the front. "Who's going to hear?"

Tracey sighed and swung her head back around to take in Harry's profile. He was now in a discussion with his best mate, Ron Weasley, who had slunk in late today, looking a little mystified. "Doesn't matter anyway, I suppose."

Hestia's arch tone was a tad scathing. "Why, because he said he'd never be caught dead dating a Slytherin?" She sniffed in scorn. "For such a 'nice guy,' Trace, he sounds like a total toffee-nosed prat to me."

But Tracey adamantly shook her head. "House enmity is too ingrained into all of us, Hest. It's tradition for the four Houses to be rivals, because of personality differences. Gryffindors are diametrically opposed to Slytherins, and vice versa. It's the same with Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs. Because of that, no one from our House has dated anyone from his House in over three decades. I'm not sure any of that is going to change within the next week, either… and then, it might not really matter, anyway."

Hestia snorted indelicately. "Then why bother following him into the Auror apprenticeship program?"

Tracey bit her lip, watching the boy she'd fallen for hard laugh over something his best friend said, feeling that familiar, sweet, painful pang in her heart once more. "Because maybe outside of Hogwarts, he won't see me as a Slytherin, but as a woman."

Her friend said nothing for a long minute, contemplating her. Finally, she gave up and sighed. "I still say you weren't sorted into the right House, Trace. You've always sounded too sentimental to me to be a snake. You should have been a Hufflepuff."

Hiding her smile, Tracey did not reply to the allegation, but merely continued staring at the boy-man who had utterly captured her heart, praying for a miracle at this weekend's game. Even having a slim chance of being partnered with Harry in Eros was worth any price, as far as she was concerned. Maybe if he could see her as a woman sooner, rather than later…

If destiny was in her corner and he picked her Partners card, she was going to give him everything, she decided, and let the chips fall where they may. At least then she'd have the memories of a few hours in Harry's arms to recall with fondness throughout the rest of her life, if nothing else.

X~~~~~~~~~X

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Scotland
Dining Hall & second floor Women's Bathroom
Friday, June 12, 1998 (afternoon)

Pansy entered the dining hall with head held high, refusing to look towards the Gryffindor table. She was sure that the filthy, raffish Weasley had told everyone by now about her little crying spell, and that he and his friends were even now snickering behind their hands at her. Well, she wasn't about to cower under their mockery. Hiding her pain behind her face, she marched with determination towards her regular spot next to Daphne, keeping her back to the rest of the room.

To her surprise, however, Daphne stood to meet her and escorted her and Tracey both out of the room by faking a need to go to the girl's loo together. They headed towards the second floor girl's bath. To their luck, Moaning Myrtle was occupied somewhere else at the moment, for the room was absent of her annoying humming and floating about.

"What's this all about?" she asked her friend, only to be interrupted by the sound of stall doors creaking as Daphne checked every pen to assure there were no other visitors about.

"You wished to discuss in private the outlandish scheme Mister Nott, Mister Zabini, and Mister Malfoy were conferring over at lunch," Daphne reminded her, waving her wand over the room and entrance to assure privacy. "They will arrive in approximately another minute or two for precisely that confrontation."

Great, just what Pansy needed – another altercation, for she was sure that was what this was going to turn into. She just knew what Draco and the others would consider proper 'attire' for tomorrow night's game, and there was no way Pansy was stooping to dressing like a whore.

"What idea?" Tracey asked.

Pansy sighed. "Draco has this ridiculous idea that we're going to play 'street salt' for him and model in our underwear."

"Which sounds like a fine plan to us," Draco announced as he, Blaise, and Theo entered the woman's loo without respect for the conversation or reverence for the location.

Tracey's face went pale. "No. Absolutely not! I am not a wanton woman! I will not dress or act as one, either."

Blaise's handsome gob twisted up into a smirk. "But isn't that the point of the game – to pretend to be something you're not just for one night of fun?"

Biting her lip, Tracey stared daggers at Zabini. He had a point, the slick git. Still, Pansy wouldn't back down from a similar position. It was time to set the limits on the game, and to make it clear to Malfoy that this wasn't his show alone. All of them were in it for their own ends. "I'm with Tracey, Draco. You won't see me dressed in something that leaves little to the imagination," she said, planting her hands on her hips and facing off against the three males in the room. "I've got my own sense of style and standards, and you do not dictate them to me. None of you do."

Tracey took up the space to Pansy's right and nodded, folding her arms over her chest, showing solidarity. "Agreed."

Daphne cleared her throat and also stood in the line of female authority, to Pansy's left. "I concur. This game may be one of sexual mischievousness and dalliance, but it was concurrently designed for sophisticated diversion, not common tawdriness. You may wish to indulge in such uncouth sport, but I would like to enjoy it as a game of sultry delight – a conclusive initiation, as it were, into realizing adulthood."

Theo purred. "Rowrrrr… I love it when you talk smart, Greengrass," he grinned. "Gets me hard."

Daphne sniffed with disdain. "That is no stupendous accomplishment, Mister Nott. As you have so abundantly made clear over the years, Witch Weekly seems enough to instigate the same affect upon your person."

Nott's grin took up the expanse of his handsome face. "That it does! Care to forward me your subscription as an early Christmas gift, love?"

Pansy blew a harsh breath out in growing impatience and frustration. "Fun aside, I believe you have our answer, gentlemen. We will not play sex-doll slag for you or the Gryffindors." She glanced at her two female companions, and held up a finger to block Draco's protest just as he'd started to launch his campaign to change their minds. She knew that he could be so persuasive when he put his mind to having things his way, so it was best to cut him off before he got rolling. "However," she compromised, "I, personally, would be willing to wear a fancy dress that is stylish for the game - something French gothic in theme."

Malfoy raised one golden eyebrow in speculation. "And where would you have picked something like that up, Pans-dearest?" he dared to ask, smirking.

Pansy shrugged. "I couldn't decide between it and two others for the Halloween dance last October. I've been dying to wear it, honestly. This will give me the excuse."

"Is it at least marginally naughty?" Theo teased, leaning against a nearby stall and folding his arms across his tall, well-defined frame.

Chuckling, Pansy shook her head. "For someone of your tastes? No, Theo. But it will probably suit Blaise's just fine." Everyone knew Blaise was into dark lace and velvet, not leather and chains, like his roommate.

Nott dipped his head in acceptance. "That'll do, babe."

"I don't have a costume," Tracey admitted. "But, I do have a rather striking dress that I'd wanted to wear to the last Yule Ball. I bought it, but traded out for something else at the last minute. I could wear that! It's elegant though, not naughty."

Daphne nodded her head. "I have a similar dress that I had intended to display at next week's Final Summer Formal, but have since exchanged the garment for a different inspiration. I believe it would be appropriate to display it for this occasion instead."

Draco eagerly rubbed his hands together. "Excellent! We'll just tell the Gryffindors tonight that their women have to dress well, too. That way, we're even on both sides. Problem solved." Believing the matter settled, he turned to leave.

"Nuh-uh-uh, Draco," Pansy stopped him. "We're not as even as you make it seem, sweet cakes. What about you men? Can we expect to see you play dress-up as well?"

Next to her, Tracey laughed. "Yes, if we're expected to look sexy, you're expected to look dandy, too."

Theo traded a look with his friends. "Dandy? Does anyone even usethat word anymore?"

Zabini threw him a sardonic grin. "I do when talking about you."

Nott gave him the two-fingered salute, which had them all snickering, even the normally placid and reserved Daphne.

"You know I'll look fabulous," Draco arrogantly boasted. "Sexy shirt, pressed slacks, polished shoes. I'll even make a concession from my preferred colour of choice for my wardrobe ensemble and be contrary in white, just for the occasion. Sound good to you, love?"

Pansy nodded, and looked at Nott next. He scratched the back of his head, ruffling his chestnut hair. "We're about the same size, so I'll just borrow something from Draco's wardrobe, since all I brought back with me from Easter break was my dress robes for next week's dance." He threw his friend a pleading look. "Good?"

Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Plebe."

"Crank wanker," Theo shot back. He was definitely, of the three, the more overt trouble-maker.

Blaise cleared his throat behind a polite fist. "I have a more than adequate dress shirt and trousers for the occasion. I won't disappoint, your Majesties."

Pansy puffed up, putting on false airs. "Wonderful. See that you don't." She turned her nose into the air and made a shooing motion with one hand. "Run along now, boys. We'll see you three at dinner."

With light-hearted humour, the trio of wizards bowed to their troika Slytherin goddesses - as they should, Pansy thought - and left. When the door shut behind Theo's bum, the three women looked at each other and erupted into giggles.

This was definitely the type of therapy that Pansy had needed to get over Ron wanking Weasley's cruel taunting from earlier that morning. Being fawned over by three delicious, wicked men was definitely a boost to one's ego.

X~~~~~~~~~X

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Scotland
Seventh Year's Herbology Classroom
Friday, June 12, 1998 (afternoon)

Theo met with Professor Sprout for his final exam review immediately after lunch during Herbology class. He spent a good ten minutes discussing her recommendations – she highly encouraged him to wizarding university to further study the particulars of magical and non-magical plants, as his knowledge of the subject, she'd claimed, was exemplary – and then took his seat next to Draco and Blaise.

Lounging back on his elbows in his chair against the empty desk behind him, he considered this afternoon's impromptu meeting with the girls in the loo again. "Hey," he hedged, getting the attention of his two friends. "What do you think of Daphne?"

Draco smirked. "She'll eat you alive."

Blaise's answer was to shrug in a noncommittal gesture that told Theo nothing.

"You've shagged her?" he dared to ask his friend, feeling an odd jealousy ping about his ribcage at the thought.

"No."

Usually, Zabini was tight-lipped about what he did behind closed doors, finding it impolite to brag, so when he actually committed to saying that he didn't do something, you could trust he was telling the truth.

"You want to shag her, though?" he pressed the issue, wanting to be crystal clear where the guy stood concerning the girl. He and Blaise had been awkward around each other since third year, and he didn't want to upset their recovered friendship by pursuing the same witch as his roommate.

Blaise shook his head again, making it clear that he had no feelings whatsoever for the witch in question.

"Good." At least that much was settled. Now Theo could pursue Greengrass without any regrets. He kicked a foot against the desk in front of him. "Wonder who she's taking to the formal?"

"Entwhistle," Draco replied, always seeming to know the newest gossip around the castle without any obvious sources.

He pulled a face. "Why would she want to go with a tosser like him?"

Chuckling, Malfoy shook his head. "Because that 'tosser' is intelligent enough to have a decent conversation without it devolving into sexual innuendo."

Theo pondered that for a bit. "Hell, I could give her stimulating dialogue after, if she wants. I could spew out an entire discourse on magical water plants found in the Brazilian rainforest, if she'd let me fondle her jugs just once!"

Neither of his friends said anything more on the subject, leaving him to grumble and turn-over what he knew and thought of Daphne Greengrass over the years.

It hadn't been until recently that he'd begun noticing her. Prior to the Easter break, he'd thought of her as somehow cold and untouchable, but when they'd both returned a few days early and happened to both decide to sit in the Slytherin common room on the couches and read silently before the fire one afternoon, he'd begun noticing the little things she did that made her seem more… human. For instance, she often mimicked the emotions of the fictional characters within the stories she read. Her face became a mask of true honesty as she smiled or became upset because of the plot of her books. She also twirled her long, golden-blonde hair while reading and preferred to tuck her legs up under her, leaning against a couch arm as a favourite comfortable position. There was, when he inspected her closer, a softness to her face and body that was certainly compelling, despite the iciness of her husky tone when she spoke.

He grew hard in his trousers just thinking about her soft curves now.

Right, so Greengrass was a dichotomy just dying to be explored, and Theo - who had been kicking about the idea for the last two months of getting a taste of her sugar – decided then and there that he was going to be the man who did just that! Maybe he'd even be the one to finally melt that icy core of hers, and bring out the warmth he'd occasioned to spy during those few days she'd sat across from him reading in silence.

X~~~~~~~~~X

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Scotland
Dining Hall, then Corridor (Hidden Nook), then Gryffindor's Girls Dorms (Hermione & Lavender's Room)
Friday, June 12, 1998 (evening)

Ginny pecked at her chicken, spinach and mushroom pie while trying to quell the excitement in her belly. Harry had informed them all that at seven o'clock tonight, Malfoy would approach them to pass out their blank cards for tomorrow night's big game, and Hermione had given them all a run-down back in their common room just before dinner, of what she knew of the game through her research on it. There hadn't been much, her friend had admitted, but at least being armed with some knowledge was better than going in ignorant.

Fidgeting in nervous excitement now for the appropriate hour to arrive, unable to contain her anxious energy levels, Ginny accidentally spilled the entirety of her apple juice on the plate to her immediate right. "Sorry, Neville," she apologized, watching the flaky crust of her friend's meal soak up the too-sweet beverage. "I've gone and ruined it now."

Always so gentle and kind, Neville shook his head. "No, it's fine. I thought it needed a bit of flavour added anyway."

She gave her friend an understanding smile and a small kiss on the cheek. "You really are too good a fellow, you know."

Nev's cheeks exploded with colour and he looked down at his plate, clearly embarrassed, stammering a muttered, unintelligible reply. Ginny couldn't help but be amused. Neville Longbottom was just so cute! And innocent… something she hadn't been in a while. She sighed for her lost virtue.

Reaching her glass into the middle of the table to request a refill, she happened to look up and across the room at that moment…

…and locked eyes with one clearly-incensed Blaise Zabini, whose dark gaze travelled between her and Neville and back again with obvious disdain.

Astonished, she nearly knocked her drinking cup over again. Harry saved her this time as he reached across and grabbed it before it could tip. "Gin, you okay?" he asked, concerned by her uncharacteristic clumsiness.

Pulling her attention away from the glittering black depths of her bitterest Quidditch rival's stare, she focused on her ex-boyfriend instead. "I'm sorry, what did you say?" she asked, shaken to her very core.

Over the last two years, there had been a lot of animosity between her and Zabini, as was only natural given their positions as Chasers pitted against each other on the Quidditch field, and the fact that they were in two opposing Houses. However, this was the first time she could ever recall him looking at her with naked, untamed anger. Usually, he preferred sneering down his nose at her, or viciously smirking in her direction. What had she done to provoke such a strong emotion in him this time?

"I asked if you're all right?" he inquired again, focusing on her with narrowed-eyed concern. "Are you ill?"

That was the third time in the last two days he'd asked about her health. Secretly, Ginny was suspicious that her ex was seeking any excuse to call her unfit for the game tomorrow night. Harry, she knew, was a little too possessive and overly-protective of the people he'd 'claimed' for his own, and the thought of possibly sharing her or allowing her under the thumb of some unscrupulous Slytherin didn't sit well with him, she knew. She understood, however, where those tendencies originated - in his lonely childhood – and simply couldn't hold his possessiveness against him as a result.

Forcing a placating smile, she attempted to appear calm and in control of her nerves. "I'm perfectly fine, Harry," she reassured him. "Just a bit of gas."

Next to her, Neville began choking on his food, and had to cover his mouth with his napkin to prevent food particles from spraying the table. Ginny tried hard to cover her smile, but failed miserably when Seamus banged the table with an open palm and belted a hearty guffaw. He raised his glass of Mulled Mead – Madam Rosmerta's non-alcoholic blend, which was allowed at Hogwarts; it was Sea's favourite drink, as he always called it up with his meals - and saluted her.

"Honestly, Gin," Hermione giggled to her left. "Sometimes you say the most shocking things!"

"Got you to laugh, though, didn't it?" Ron asked around a mouthful of food from across the table from them, sitting at Harry's right. He swallowed. "Haven't heard you do that in over a month."

Hermione cleared her throat. "Yes, well, unlike some, I take final exams seriously."

Ron snorted, picking up his glass of pumpkin juice for a sip. "A little too serious, if you ask me."

Lavender scooted down to Ron's right, now that Parvati had excused herself to sit with her sister at Ravenclaw's table. "That's because studying has always been Hermione's sport of choice, Ron. You've got Quidditch, and she's got her revise charts. You've just never understood that."

"What's there to understand?" Gin's brother bantered back, shovelling another pile onto his fork and preparing it for open-mouth entry. "She's a little tooobsessed with books, I tell you."

"Says the man who owns every Chudley Cannons branded item on the market," Harry countered with a mocking grin.

They all enjoyed a good one at that as Ron's cheeks turned an interesting shade of magenta.

It was in that moment that Hermione nudged Ginny in the ribs, and indicated with a nod of her chin that she was to look over at the Slytherin table. Peeking around Harry, Ginny dared another glance in the direction of her rival. This time, he indicated with his eyes and a tilt of his head for her to meet him outside in the hallway. She traded a silent message with Hermione, who nodded.

Was this it, then? Was this when Malfoy and the others would meet them with their cards? It was a quarter to seven now.

Her stomach fluttering with pixies, Ginny politely patted her mouth with her napkin, having eaten her fill, and made her excuses about wanting to enjoy a long, relaxing soak in the Prefects' bath before turning-in for the night. Hermione and Lavender offered to join her – as did Seamus, who was flatly turned down.

The three ladies tucked their utensils in proper, and headed out together. When they reached the hallway, an unmistakable, "Psssst," from a small, curtained alcove to one side of the Grand Staircase called their attention. It was Pansy Parkinson. "Draco said to wait for him and the others here," she whispered, replacing the Silencing Charm over the fabric entrance after checking to make sure no one had seen them duck behind the purple cloth. She, Tracey, and Daphne stood against one wall, so Ginny leaned against the opposite side, checking out the competition. 'Mione and Lav huddled at her side doing the same.

For a full minute, there was a strained silence that simply begged to be filled.

"So," Ginny began, wanting to suss out the manoeuvering of genders for this game. "I'm going to ask the really important question." Five pairs of eyes focussed on her as she dramatically paused for effect. "What's everyone wearing tomorrow night?"

Tracey tittered, and then tried to hide her amusement behind her hand in embarrassment.

"Well, it is sort of important, don't you think?" Ginny asked, feigning interest in her nails just then.

The three Slytherins shared their own silent communication with their eyes, and in that instant, she realized how similar she and her friends were to this group of girls who had stood on the opposite side of the fence for so very long.

Pansy shrugged. "We figured we'd get prettied up."

"Actually," Tracey corrected with a wry smile, "the boys asked us to. I'm wearing one of my Yule Ball alternate dresses."

Ginny straightened, unfamiliar with the term the other witch had used. "Alternate dress? You mean, like, you bought a second dress just in case you decided you didn't want to wear your first choice?"

"You do that, too!" Lavender squeaked in pleased surprise. "Thank Merlin! I thought I was the only wishy-washy girl out there who couldn't settle on a dress!"

Daphne bent down to adjust her knee-high socks. "It seems to be a trait we share, as I also will be draped in a secondary choice, although mine was originally intended for the Formal next week."

"Hmmm… well, I suppose I could wear the dress I planned to for next week's dance as well," Hermione considered, chewing her bottom lip in thought. "I can shop for a different one next Wednesday, as classes will be officially over for seventh-years then." She looked up at Ginny. "You'll be done by then as well, right? We could go together. Make a day of it in Diagon Alley! I'm sure Dumbledore would grant permission, so long as we promise to be back by dinner."

Lavender cooed. "Ooooh, sign me up, too!"

The idea of spending good Galleons on several dresses – some of which you might not ever wear – seemed odd to Ginny, but she went with it. "We're talking shopping, lunch, and ice cream, right? Seriously, you had to ask if I wanted in?"

Her best girl friend looked across the space between them, and directed her question to Pansy. "And you?"

Parkinson's stare was even, unfazed, and clearly weighing how much to say. She gave a casual shrug, crossing her arms over her chest at the same time. "I've got a costume I wanted to wear last Halloween. It's a gothic-style dress."

Hearing that, Ginny's heart did a teeny jig. "Well, at least someone with some taste around here," she smirked. "I prefer the Romanticism counter-culture myself, so I'll copy the idea, if you don't mind. I've got just the thing sitting in my trunk, just dying for a chance to air."

Tracey looked at each of them. "It's settled then," she brought them to an accord. "We'll dress to dazzle!"

"How sinful of you all," Malfoy mock-chastised, stepping through the entrance. "Conspiring behind our backs like this, ladies. Tsk, tsk." Following him was the rest of the gaming group. Everyone hurried in and took up spots against the two walls, just as the girls had earlier.

With a sigh of disgust at Slytherin's Prince, Pansy waved her wand over the entrance again, assuring its privacy. 'Mione followed it up with a spell of her own that Ginny didn't recognize. She turned to the group, noted the variety of questioning gazes and shrugged. "Doesn't hurt to be thorough," her housemate explained. "And, I even added an extra spell that blends the entrance into the wall. Unless you knew this place was here all ready, you wouldn't know it existed at all."

Malfoy's smirk meandered up his cheek. "Like the Room of Requirement. Clever," he complimented. "But then, I'd expect no less from the Head Girl."

The earlier comfortable camaraderie that had begun with the women was erased in an instant with that one comment. The Gryffindors crowded closer together in the already-overcrowded space and faced off against the Slytherins, trading glares. Hermione crossed her arms over her chest and stared her blond arch-nemesis down. "You just can't help being a foul-mouthed git, can you?" she asked, shaking her head in resigned cynicism. "I think it must be a consequence of all that Malfoy in-breeding."

Opening his mouth to retort, it was a surprisingly quick Daphne Greengrass who slapped a hand over Draco's face and stopped him cold. "I do not doubt that the scathingly adroit rejoinder you planned to launch at Miss Granger would generate hours of endless self-gratification, Mister Malfoy, but need I remind you that we have a distinct purpose here tonight, and that belaying said task may, in fact, result in our imminent discovery by a member of the staff sooner, rather than later?"

There was a pause as everyone digested what she'd just said.

"Wow, that was so totally hot," her brother muttered from somewhere off to her right. "She made a scolding sound sexy!"

Ginny felt like sinking into the floor. Only Ron could make the seriousness of the moment inappropriately charged with sexual intimation.

"You said it!" Theodore Nott chimed in from the other side of the aisle. "Smart girls get you hard!"

Ginny actually groaned and slapped her face into her hand, realizing in a second that there was truth to the myth that everyone had a like-minded doppelganger out in the world somewhere. In this case, her older brother was standing not three feet away from his own.

When she turned back to focus on the team across from her, Draco was already charming open a Bag of Holding and pulling out a wooden box that looked like it might have come from the Victorian Era. He plunked it down into Pansy's hands and opened it, extracting a deck of oversized cards. They were about the size of two Muggle playing cards placed top to bottom, and about as wide sitting side by side. Leaning forward, Ginny was able to fully appreciate the beauty of the artistry on the backs: a full-colour image, deeply burnished with bronze and gold foil paints depicting the mythological paradigm of true love, Eros and Psyche.

At the top of an arching canvas stood the moon and the sun on opposite sides, the stars twinkling in between. In the far-off background of the cloud milieu was a fantasy castle with glimmering spires that reminded her distinctly of Hogwarts. In the centre, hypnotically pulling one's attention, the lovers embraced – Psyche draped in a shimmering gold swath of satiny fabric, her hair pulled into a half up-do by layers of metal combs and twisted and looped by glistening foil leaves, the long, aureate strands winding down her naked back. Held in her tight, desperate embrace was her Cupid, whose profile was hidden behind Psyche's, his cheek pressed into her temple. Short, phoenix wings made of golden feathers erupted from his back, sensuously curling at the ends. He was completely naked, although his body was mostly hidden as it pressed intimately into his paramour's curves, shielded by her flowing, molten dress. It was an erotic post, yet innocent at the same time.

It was Psyche's face that drew one's attention however, as a miniscule tilting to the image's pouting ruby lips denoted a hidden sorrow that tugged at the heart. Usually, Ginny he wasn't one for ominous signs or scrying for portents, but in that moment, a chill crept up her spine and she had her first taste of doubt about this whole design. Glancing at the faces of everyone else, though, she noted that only two others seemed to share her reservations – Sea and 'Mione. The others appeared engrossed in watching the proceedings or each other, barely taking an interest in the artwork on the back of the deck.

Malfoy divided the cards up and counted them out. He then looked from one face to the next as he made his presentation. "First, I'm required to go over the rules of the game," he stated. "As the Lead Challenger, that makes me head of Slytherin's team. As the Contender, Potter serves as the head of Gryffindor's. As such, either of us may, at any time before the actual game begins, forfeit the match for our team." He smirked. "But I think we can pretty much state here and now that's not going to happen, right?"

There was a chorus of nods and ascent from both sides of the narrow aisle.

"Good, now that's out of the way," Malfoy continued, "it is part of the convention that I lay down the game play. Even if you know this already, I'm obligated by the rules to reiterate. So, pay attention because I'm not wasting time tomorrow night repeating this cripe."

He then launched into a full explanation of the purpose of the game, and how it was played, including the purpose of each of the four different colour-coded decks. "Again, the red cards represent the Deeds cards. The blue are the Forfeits. Green is for Interrogations. And the gold card is the Partners deck." He showed an example of each, holding it up and moving it from side to side slowly. "Don't mess it up when you're writing your questions, punishments, and rewards, because nothing can be taken back once it's down on the card."

"What happens if two of us write the same question, or the same punishment or reward?" Ron asked from the back, his greater height affording him a good view even at such a distance.

Draco began passing out the cards – one Partner, two Interrogations, two Deeds, and two Forfeits – to each player as he answered. "The cards are charmed, Weasley. Once you sign your name to the Partner card tonight, the game officially begins for you, and the spell on the deck aligns to all of the players who have signed their card before midnight tonight. If one of us writes something down that's too similar to the others, the cards will simply erase and prompt you to try again. That's why it's important to start right away on filling in the cards, because you don't want someone to trump your ideas." He glanced down at 'Mione as he passed her cards to her. "Remember that."

When everyone had their cards in hand, he took his wand out. "You mark up the cards by touching the tip of your wand to the blank side and thinking what you want to appear." He placed the end of his wand on the Partner card in his hand and before their eyes, his name appeared. "To seal the cards and keep the content you've written on them frozen you simply keep your wand tip on the surface and say, 'Meus mos est vox.'"

A bright, white light surrounded Draco and the card together for a moment as the magical contract was made, fading out in seconds.

"'My will is word,'" Hermione translated the Latin spell, a thoughtful expression on her face as she turned the cards over in her hands. "Interesting. Just like a Wizard's Oath."

Malfoy nodded. "Exactly like a Wizard's Oath - which means, you're promising to obey the rules and stay until the game is concluded, and not to speak of anything that happens in-game with anyone not involved in this set - ever."

Removing a honey-coloured lollipop from his mouth, Seamus gave a grunt. "An Oath o' Silence as well, then?" he asked.

Her Housemate's brogue was thicker than usual, which always indicated an elevated level of nervousness in him. Ginny shivered in response, loving the way the syllables rolled off the man's tongue. Even though he was an incredible man-slag, and she'd sampled him once, he was still a very sexy wizard. Sea could easily make a girl wet just by talking.

Another shiver danced down her spine, as a whiplash of anger slid across her magical aura. It felt as if she'd just been burned by fire. She glanced up, unsure of where it was coming from…

…and was skewered on Zabini's knowing, dark gaze across the way. From the daggers he was staring into the very heart of her, it was clear that he was incensed with her again.

What the hell had she done this time?

Annoyed with his cryptic emotional displays, Ginny simply raised an eyebrow at him and flattened her expression, letting him know in a simple look that she wouldn't let him intimidate her, and she could care less what his problem was. His lips twitched in rising fury and she pointedly turned away, determined to ignore him from then on. Whatever his problem with her was, she refused to allow it to affect her mood.

"Questions?" Draco addressed them again. "Last chance."

"You collectin' these before or at the game?" Ron asked for clarification.

Malfoy tsk'd, clearly believing the answer should be obvious. "At the game. Hold onto them until then, and for Slytherin's sake, don't let anyone else see them – especially teachers. This is a forbidden game on campus, don't forget, and I don't relish expulsion a week away from graduation."

"Who's setting up the Room of Requirement?" Harry asked, once more reaching for his phantom glasses, noting the behaviour and changing it at the last second to run his fingers through his short hair instead.

Draco shrugged. "I'll do it - if you trust me?" He grinned like a shark, all white teeth in that pale, pointed face.

Harry stared hard at him. "No, I think we'll do it together, if you don't mind."

Always so polite, Harry was. It's too bad their chemistry didn't mesh, Ginny thought, because he'd have been the perfect guy for her. He was the romantic, wanting to take his time making love for hours, never rough, always soft and patient. Ginny liked things a little harder, more desperate, though. It was this incompatibility in the bedroom that had driven them apart. Tragic, really.

Malfoy snickered. "Fine by me, Potter. Shall we meet at half past six tomorrow night in front of the room? We'll arrange it as necessary when we get there."

Harry nodded. "Deal." He raised his card, magically signed his name with his wand, and then spoke the charm to commit to this course of action.

Following their teammate's lead, the rest of the Gryffindors and Slytherins did likewise. Once everyone had bound themselves to the game, Malfoy turned towards the fabric door, peeking out, making sure the coast was clear. He turned back once, grinning with glee. "See you tomorrow night, kiddies. Don't forget your hankies." With that, he was gone, Zabini and Nott following close behind.

Eventually, they all made their exits together, girls going next in groups of three. When they retired to their House common room, the six Gryffindor teammates looked askance at each other, nodded, and left for their dorms without another word. Ginny followed Hermione and Lavender back to their room. Pavarti was out, probably hanging with her sister for the evening, as the two liked to bunk over in each other's rooms every other weekend, to hang with the boys from that House during that time. Apparently, it was a Ravenclaw weekend for her friend. That worked out just splendidly as far as Ginny was concerned.

Locking and bespelling the door for privacy, Hermione indicated them to all flop down on her bed. "We should work together on our cards, so we don't duplicate any efforts and waste precious time. You heard the Ferret about getting down an idea first. I've got some ideas that I'm praying a Slytherin doesn't take."

Ginny considered it. "I don't mind sharing the fun," she admitted. "In fact, if we do it together, we'll get it done quicker."

Lavender nodded. "Sounds good to me, too." She put her cards down on the red and gold coverlet, and separated them by colour. Picking up a blue Forfeit first, she held it up. "I think we should do punishments first, though, since I'm sure the Slytherins will immediately jump on that."

'Mione chuckled. "If I know Malfoy, that will be the first cards he'll reach for, followed by the Deeds."

Ginny held up her blue card as well. "All right then, what kind of penalties shall we invent to torture our fellow players?"


TO BE CONTINUED…


AUTHOR'S NOTES:

Two-fingered salute: In Britain, we give the "middle finger" to someone by turning our hand out and waving our index and middle fingers at a person in a 'come hither' way rapidly. It means essentially the same thing as saying, "fuck you," to someone.

Madam Rosmerta's Mulled Mead recipe is an actual drink served at The Three Broomsticks. Since they serve Butterbeer – another Hogsmeade specialty brew, which is slightly alcoholic - at Hogwarts for special functions (it's served at Slughorn's Christmas party in "Half-Blood Prince" novel, for instance), I figured another Mulled Mead would fit right in and be seen as harmless by the staff, since it's non-alcoholic. Here's the recipe (source: ):

Ingredients:

1 quart of water

1 cup of honey

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon of ginger

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:
Step 1: Add all ingredients to a pan, and bring to a boil on the stove.
Step 2: As it begins to boil, a skin will form on the surface. Scrape it off, and continue to stir the contents of the pan until the scum ceases to form.
Step 3: Allow to cool, and enjoy!

Bag of Holding: A bag with an Undetectable Extensions Charm placed upon it. The term is an old roll-playing gaming term.