Author's Note: Another one-shot that has finally been betaed. Many thanks to Poppyxxxx from Hawthorn and Vine for editing this.

This is my take on the cliché of a bet leading to Draco and Hermione getting together, having many grey-eyed, bossy babies and generally living happily ever after. Enjoy!

Oh and I should warn those faint of heart and fond of Ron, that this does contain a little bit of Ron bashing. Nothing too gratuitous but enough to highlight how stupid and insensitive he is. So don't read if you're going to get angry and shout at me for being mean to him. It will only lead to another one-shot where I am hideously mean to Ron ;)

Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter belongs solely to the creative imagination of JK Rowling. I do however have legal parental responsibility for a toddler who throws tantrums that would make Voldemort flee in terror.

The Quidditch Bet

The silence around the newly built Quidditch pitch at Hogwarts was deafening. Even the Slytherin fans were stunned into silence. Harry Potter stood there with the Snitch in his raised hand, but he hadn't won the game for Gryffindor. They'd lost by ten points to Slytherin. Draco Malfoy smirked in triumph. He might not have been as good as Potter when it came to Seeking, but he had kicked his arse tactically this time round.

The blond had used all his Slytherin cunning to put out a team designed to win without catching the Snitch. He himself had practised during his long summer and had switched from being Slytherin's Seeker to a Chaser. He wasn't looking for personal glory this year, but he wanted to beat Gryffindor and show Hogwarts that Slytherin house might be down, but they certainly weren't out. Besides, Harper was a more natural Seeker than he had ever been. And now he'd grown too tall and heavy and was never going to out-fly Potter. But Harper was crafty and excelled in drawing little to no attention to himself. He could sneak around a Quidditch pitch with barely anyone noticing him.

Draco found he made a better Chaser, anyway. He liked the fast-paced action of it, and he got to celebrate a lot. He'd built a new team around him, Theo Nott on one side, and Astoria Greengrass on the other. Slytherin house usually didn't pick girls, but Draco decided this was outmoded, and he'd seen Astoria on a broomstick over the summer. She was a natural, and she had the looks to dazzle opposing players. She'd used these to great effect on that overgrown, gangly oaf Weasley. He'd spent so much time ogling Astoria that he'd failed to save over half the shots aimed at his goal. Crabbe obviously wasn't here, having burnt to death in the Room of Requirement last May. Instead, Draco had teamed the intimidating Millicent Bulstrode with Gregory Goyle. Millie had excelled in her first game. She'd injured several of the Gryffindor players and put Dean Thomas out of the game for the whole match. He was currently residing in the Hogwarts infirmary suffering from a concussion and a broken leg.

Draco couldn't help but smile smugly at the Weasel, who had gone pale when he'd seen the scoreboard. It served the ginger growth right.

Weasley had sought Draco out a few days before the game, looking to make a bet with him. If Gryffindor won, then he would get Draco's brand new Firebolt II. Weasley didn't have anything to stake, as he was still ridiculously poor. But Draco had opted for a solution that would potentially split the Golden Trio up for good. He'd accepted on the condition that if Slytherin won, then he would get a date with one Hermione Granger, bookworm extraordinaire and Weasley's girlfriend. He'd expected the redhead to back down, but to his surprise, Weasley had shaken on it. They'd sealed it with an Unbreakable Vow so that neither of them could back out.

Losing his Firebolt II was nothing to Draco. He had more than enough money to order a replacement the next day. But betting your girlfriend away to the opposing captain was something altogether different. He smiled deviously when he saw Granger give Weasley a consolation hug. He bet she wouldn't be so willing to comfort the Weasel after she found out what he'd done.

Hermione waited patiently outside the changing rooms for Ron, Harry, and Ginny. Not being a massive Quidditch enthusiast, she wasn't cut up over the result, but Harry looked as if someone had told him Voldemort had been resurrected for a second time. Ron had been strangely quiet about it all. Usually, he'd be ranting about Slytherin's underhanded tactics and about the foul ferret in general, but he'd just been pale and a little clammy.

She wondered if it was because he was worried she was going to shout at him for his disgraceful eying-up of Astoria Greengrass. Once upon a time, she might have cared, but she was used to Ron's inability to keep his eyes to himself or on his girlfriend. It was something she'd had to put up with every time they'd gone to Diagon Alley over the summer and girls had fluttered their eyelashes at her susceptible boyfriend. Hogwarts was slightly better in that the pool of girls was a lot smaller, but Ron had flirted with several girls right in front of her. She wasn't sure why she was continuing to give Ron a chance, but she wasn't one to give up and she had always wanted him, hadn't she? It just seemed easier this way.

Hermione was wrapped in her own thoughts, and she didn't notice Malfoy until he was standing directly in front of her. "Hello, Angel," he said.

She rolled her eyes and sighed. "Well, I guess it's an improvement on Mudblood. What do you want, Malfoy?" she asked.

She really wasn't in the mood for whatever crap Malfoy wanted to spew right now. She'd also kept her distance from the snarky blond since they'd returned. They shared many of the same classes, and she'd found her eyes straying in his direction once too many times for someone who was meant to be in a committed relationship with someone else.

Hermione perked up as she saw the door to the Gryffindor dressing room open. Surely the appearance of Ron and Harry would make Malfoy scarper pretty quickly. However, Malfoy spotted the door opening also and just smirked. He put his arm up to rest alongside Hermione's head in a gesture that was far more intimate than she appreciated, especially as her eyes drifted to the way it pulled his jumper tight over his upper arms.

He smiled down at her. "I just wanted to tell you to be waiting outside the Headmistress' office next Saturday night at seven," he said.

Hermione frowned. "Why would I be waiting there and for whom?" she asked, confused.

"Why for me, of course. For our date," he explained, as Harry and Ginny came over.

"What are you talking about, Malfoy? What date?" she asked, beginning to suspect that the blond had taken a Bludger to the head.

"You might want to ask your boyfriend about that. He made a bet with me, and you're my winnings," the Slytherin said, gesturing over to a hovering and clearly unhappy Ron Weasley.

Her eyes flashed back up to Malfoy's as he leaned in a little closer and whispered in her ear, "Make sure you wear your nicest dress, Granger."

He straightened up as Hermione's eyes flashed with her mounting rage. "Oh, and Angel, make sure you do something with that hair of yours. I'm taking you somewhere classy," he said with a wink before departing.

Hermione looked helplessly at her two friends who were looking bemused and puzzled before her gaze settled on her shuffling boyfriend. He looked guilty and scared. "Ronald Weasley, what have you done?" she asked in a menacing hiss.

Hermione managed to make it back to Gryffindor Tower and Harry and Ron's dorm room before she exploded.

Neville was innocently lying on his bed reading a Herbology book. "Neville, would you mind reading that somewhere else?" she asked politely.

He was about to refuse until he looked up and saw Hermione's incredibly angry expression. Something wasn't right, and judging by the apprehension on Ron's face, it had something to do with him. Neville wasn't one to get involved in other people's domestic problems. "Sure, Hermione," he replied, jumping up and disappearing pretty quickly.

After Neville had left, she cast a silencing spell over the room. She didn't want anyone to overhear the shameful details of Ron's moronic bet. "Do you mind telling me exactly what you have done?" she asked in a deceptively calm voice.

Ron shifted his feet around and looked towards the floor. "I may have made a bet with Malfoy over today's Quidditch match," he said.

"And what were the terms of this bet?" she asked once more.

"I would get his Firebolt II if Gryffindor won, and he would get a date with you if Slytherin won," her boyfriend explained, realising now quite how bad the terms of the bet were.

Hermione closed her eyes and counted to ten whilst taking deep breaths. She didn't think that she would get away with murdering Ron, no matter how justified the circumstances were. "Why would you agree to something so stupid?"

He looked into the angry face of his girlfriend. "I wanted his broomstick, and I can't afford one," he mumbled.

That did it for her. "I can't believe you would pimp out your girlfriend just for the chance of winning a sodding broomstick, Ronald Weasley!" she yelled.

"I didn't pimp you out, Hermione," Ron tried to say soothingly.

Hermione advanced towards him, and he backed up quickly. "Really? So betting your girlfriend to an opposing player is not pimping me out?"

"I didn't think we'd lose. I mean, Harry had never lost to the Slytherins before today."

"Oh, that makes me feel so much better about this whole thing, Ronald," she intoned sarcastically. "Well, you'll have to find something else to give Malfoy as I refuse go anywhere near him, let alone on a date."

He looked pained at that. "Hermione, you have to," he said.

"I don't have to do anything, Ronald. You don't own me to bet me away," she shouted.

"We made an Unbreakable Vow," he murmured.

She stared at him for a few seconds and gaped, speechless at the sheer audacity of her so-called boyfriend.

"Have you lost all ability to think?" she exclaimed. "So if I don't go on this date, you'll die?"

Ron knew the smart thing would be to keep his mouth firmly shut, so he just nodded.

Hermione threw her hands up in the air and paced around the room furiously. "You are a real piece of work, Ronald Weasley. I can't believe you thought a broomstick - a piece of wood with twigs hanging off the end - was more important than the feelings of your girlfriend!" she screamed. "Well, you can kiss your girlfriend goodbye. I'm fed up of putting up with your insensitive behaviour. Not only did you embarrass me at today's match by panting all over Astoria Greengrass, but then you pulled this stunt."

Ron looked at Hermione in shock. This wasn't meant to happen. They were meant to get married and have smart, ginger children and live happily ever after. "You can't break up with me, Hermione; I love you," he said.

She narrowed her eyes at him. "You have a funny way of showing it. Betting me to Draco bloody Malfoy is hardly a sterling declaration of love. But that isn't the real problem; it's just a symptom of what is wrong in our relationship."

"What do you mean?" he asked, clueless as usual.

"I mean that you don't even show me an ounce of respect. You constantly check out other girls in front of me and flirt with them. I put up with it because I thought that you would grow out of it, but this is the last straw. I'm not a commodity for you to trade in for something else," she seethed. "I'm tired of looking like an idiot in front of everyone else. No man is worth that."

She stormed out of the room, bumping into Harry and Ginny who were hovering nervously in front of the door. She didn't bother to stop and say anything to them, needing to get away before she hexed Ron or did something worse. Books were so much more attractive than boys. They gave you knowledge and didn't stamp all over your heart in the process.

Harry walked into his dorm room and looked at the distraught figure of Ron sitting on the end of his bed with his head in his hands. "She broke up with me," the redhead said.

This didn't come as a surprise to Harry. He couldn't see Hermione putting up with something so outrageous. "What were you thinking, mate?" he asked.

"I don't know. I thought we'd kick their arses like usual, and I'd have a shiny new broom that I could rub in the ferret's face."

"You're an idiot, Ron," Ginny said. "And Mum is going to kill you for this stunt."

Ron flung himself back on his bed and groaned up at the canopy. "Do you think she'll forgive me when she calms down?" he asked.

Ginny snorted. "You're lucky she stuck with you for as long as she did. You've been an insensitive prick for the past six months, lapping up any female attention you could get, and she put up with it all, thinking it was just a phase."

"She's not going to come back, is she?"

"Nope," Ginny said, shaking her head. "You were losing her already, but this just pushed her to break up with you."

"What's got you so excited?" Blaise asked the next night in the Great Hall, as he took in the more-than-usual devious smirk gracing his friend's lips.

"Just basking in the glory of my victory," Draco replied.

Blaise would've swallowed that if Draco had actually turned up to the after-party in the Slytherin common room the previous night. He followed his friend's line of sight and saw him staring at the Gryffindor table. "What's amusing you so much with the Gryffindorks?" he asked.

Draco turned his head briefly to look at him, and Blaise was taken aback by the sheer, vindictive joy that was shining out of the grey orbs. "Noticed anything different there tonight?"

He looked at the Gryffindor table in minute detail. He couldn't say that he usually paid them any attention but something was giving Draco an unusual amount of joy. His eyes flittered over Granger who was sitting with Parvati Patil at the end of the table. He clicked then. Why wasn't Granger glued to the hips of her hopeless beau? She usually sat faithfully next to him whilst he tried to consume the entire table's food. He turned his attention to the other end of the table where the feckless ginger sat miserably next to Potter and his sister. Unusually for him, he was barely eating. Meanwhile, Romilda Vane, sitting opposite, was wearing the lowest-cut top Blaise had ever seen inside Hogwarts, and yet the Weasel wasn't gawping down at her chest.

Blaise turned back to Draco who was now watching him take all this in with that creepy smirk. "What did you do?" he asked.

Draco tapped his fingers against his chin as he pretended to think about it. "I may have been instrumental in splitting the orang-utan and the bookworm up."

"What?" Blaise asked, confused. "How?"

His blond friend chuckled. "She has a date with me next Saturday, and it's all Weasley's fault," he said before explaining the situation in its entirety.

Blaise was laughing away by the time Draco had finished. "Could anyone be as clueless as the Weasel King?" he remarked.

Draco just shook his head and watched as the redhead left the hall, trailing disconsolately behind Potter and the Weaselette. Granger had refused to look his way all night and was nodding furiously to something Patil was saying. Draco doubted she was that interested but was saving face.

"So how are you planning on winning the bushy-haired bookworm over?" Blaise asked, causing Draco to whip his head around and stare at his friend uncomprehendingly.

"What do you mean?"

Blaise scoffed. "Please, Draco, you've had a thing for Granger since we returned to Hogwarts, and you've obsessively watched her for weeks now."

He scowled. "I don't have a thing for her. She's a pain in the arse."

Blaise rolled his eyes. "Sure, sure, Draco, whatever you say. But if you want her, then you'd better move quickly because you aren't the only guy impressed with her brains and beauty."

He sat stunned for a minute. "You like Granger?" he asked.

"What? No! I have plans for someone entirely different," Blaise said, looking down the table towards Astoria. "But the Ravenclaw males have been eyeing her up. I believe Michael Corner was moaning just the other week that Weasley didn't deserve her."

Draco narrowed his eyes as he glared venomously towards the Ravenclaw table. Blaise chuckled at him. "Yeah, you don't have a thing for her at all."

"I don't," he insisted. "I'm just messing with her and her dumb friends." Liar, the little voice in his head whispered.

"So where are you planning on taking her next week?"

Draco had never been so pleased that the rules regarding the eighth-years had been changed to respect that they were adults who had been through a war. They were allowed out of Hogwarts on the weekends, though not that many of them took advantage of it. But Draco planned on taking Granger to the latest restaurant to open down Diagon Alley. It was expensive and prided itself on having an intimate atmosphere. It was somewhere that the Weasel wouldn't be able to afford in a million years.

"I booked a table at Le Rayon D'Or," he said.

Blaise whistled softly. "Going all out to impress her I see."

He frowned at his friend. "No, I'm just rubbing it in for Weasley that I can take his girl to such places and he can't."

Blaise grinned at his blond friend. "I could say something a river in Africa, but I think you already know that you're in denial. Good luck; you have one hell of a fight on your hands."

Hermione was having a really bad week. She was still refusing to talk to Ron who was giving her puppy dog eyes every time he saw her. This had forced Hermione to hide out in the library for longer than usual just to avoid him in the Gryffindor common room. The most depressing thing for her was that she didn't even feel sad that she had broken up with Ron. She felt relieved more than anything, not realising until now just how much she'd been clinging to the façade of a relationship because it was what she felt she should want. In reality, she hadn't enjoyed being Ron's girlfriend at all. It had highlighted all his worst qualities until she struggled to remember what it was she liked about him in the first place.

Harry was trying to stay clear of the fall-out. However, because he didn't like to spend the majority of his time in the library, this meant he was seeing Ron a lot more than her. Ginny was being as supportive as she could be. She'd made it clear to everyone that Ron was to blame for the break-up. Surprisingly for Hogwarts, the details of the bet had not spread far and wide. Hermione and her friends had a vested interest in keeping it quiet, but she didn't understand why Malfoy wasn't swaggering around bragging about it.

In fact, Malfoy had been spending a lot of time in the library, too. Hermione had felt his mercurial gaze burning holes in the back of her head, and it was only a severe amount of discipline that had stopped her from turning around every five minutes to stare back at him. Every time she did catch eyes with him, he'd smile that smug smirk, and she'd be tempted to go over and smack him once more.

All in all, Hermione was in a constant bad mood.

She was currently scribbling furiously on her Transfiguration essay. The one good thing about the situation she found herself in was that she was miles ahead in all of her studies. The chair opposite scraped across the floor, making her look up.

"Angel," Malfoy greeted her before flopping down and spreading his things across the table.

"What are you doing, Malfoy?" she asked.

"What does it look like? I'm studying," he replied.

"Not here you're not. I don't want you sitting near me," she said emphatically.

"Tough," he remarked. "You're stuck with me. Besides, you have all the books I need for the Transfiguration essay."

Hermione huffed as Malfoy started fingering through the huge pile of books she'd collected around her. "Go and work on another essay," she ordered.

He stopped what he was doing and raised an eyebrow. "Was that an order, Angel?"

"What if it was?" she asked.

"I only take orders from the significant women in my life. Are you offering to be significant?" he asked suggestively.

Hermione blushed as she realised that Malfoy, Draco Malfoy, was flirting with her. He'd moved in closer and ran his finger down her reddened cheek. "So are you looking forward to Saturday night?" he whispered intimately across to her.

She was feeling a little hot and dazed. "What?" she uttered weakly. Then she took in his smug look, cleared her throat, and sat up straighter.

"You're lucky I'm turning up, Malfoy," she said waspishly. "I'm only doing this because Ron was stupid enough to make an Unbreakable Vow with you, and I don't want him to die."

The blond smiled beguilingly at her as he reached across and took her hand in his. "So you're not even a little curious about what a date with me would be like?" he asked, stroking her fingers.

She cursed her traitorous body. His warm hands were causing tingles to ripple up her arm. What the hell was going on? Nothing Ron had done had even felt remotely like this. She also wasn't sure how to reply to his question, as she was a little curious.

Malfoy had always been a bit of a mystery. Earlier in their school career, she'd dismissed him as a school bully, but when Harry had told her about what had happened at the top of the Astronomy Tower, she'd realised that he'd had immense pressures piled on him, too. His surname meant that he was expected to act and think a certain way. Then the times she'd seen him during that final year, he'd seemed diminished somehow, and she'd never forget how haunted he'd looked as he'd watched her being tortured by his aunt. He'd tried his hardest not to identify her, despite the fact that it was obvious who they were as soon they'd been dragged in front of him.

And this year, she'd noticed that he watched her -not in the same way that he had before but with an intensity that made her shiver and not in a bad way. His grey eyes would darken when they rested on her, and he no longer sneered and insulted her. He'd returned to Hogwarts looking healthier, having grown a couple of inches and filled out. He no longer looked like a boy but like a man.

Hermione had heard the whispers about him in the Hogwarts female bathrooms. Many girls were going out of their way to bump into him, but he appeared uninterested. A spiteful Morag McDougal had suggested that maybe he was gay. He and Blaise Zabini were seen together often, and neither handsome boy had a girlfriend.

The sound of a book being flung down caused Hermione to whip her head around. There, standing across the library, staring at the pair of them in horror, was Ron.

She realised how intimate she looked, leaning a little towards Malfoy as he clasped her hand. She pulled her hand out of his and quickly fled the library in confusion.

Draco smiled slowly as he watched Granger retreat in disarray. So the little Gryffindor wasn't as immune to him as he'd thought. He'd seen the goose bumps on her arms as he'd stroked her hand. Her pupils had dilated, too. To top it off, she'd hesitated for a telling time before being startled by Weasley. Maybe he had a chance in bringing her around after all.

He watched as the Weasel stalked towards him. "What are you playing at, ferret? You leave Hermione alone," Weasley growled.

The Slytherin rested his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair. "I can't, Weasel. I have to take her on a date, or you die," he taunted.

"You'd better not try anything, or I'll hurt you," the redhead threatened him.

"I'm so scared," he drawled sarcastically. "Anyway, what Hermione does is none of your business. She ditched you and is free to move on to whomever she likes."

He smirked as Weasley went bright red at his use of Granger's first name. It was always fun to wind him up.

"Now, if you don't mind, I have things to do, and you're wasting my valuable time," he said with a languid wave of his hand.

Weasley spluttered a little incoherently at him before stomping off. Draco went back through to sorting through the books and settled into his essay.

He'd finished a few hours later, and he was packing his things away when he realised that Granger had run off without her stuff. She had grabbed her bag but in her rush had left her quill, inkbottle, and incomplete essay. He gathered the things up for her before placing them in his bag. It would give him another reason to seek out.

Draco had kept his infatuation with Granger quiet, not even telling Blaise, although the git had guessed with his latest stunt. He hadn't seen the point in telling anyone as she'd appeared settled and happy with the Weasel, no matter how lecherous the ginger oaf got. It wasn't as if he'd have a chance anyway. He'd bullied her mercilessly and wasn't stupid to think that she'd just forgive and forget and give him a chance.

But then Weasley had been stupid and made that bet. Draco hadn't thought he'd actually agree to his terms but had grabbed at it when the fool had.

Now he had a limited amount of time to make his move and show Granger how good they could be together. Today had given him a little hope.

Hermione cursed as she unpacked her book bag. After leaving the library in such a rush, she'd fled to the lake and walked and walked until she'd tired herself out. But now she realised that she'd left her essay on the table in the library and she didn't want to go and get it in case Malfoy was still there. She'd go back for it when dinner was in progress. No one would be in the library then, and she really couldn't face Malfoy right now.

The snarky blond was confusing her far too much. She was pretty ashamed that she found him attractive. There was no point in hiding it now after what had happened earlier in the library. The Slytherin had made her tingle as no one else had before, and now she had to go out on a date with him.

She groaned and put her head in her hands. She didn't doubt for a second that Malfoy didn't find her attractive in return, as he'd never hidden how ugly he thought her. She also didn't think he would ever consider dating a Muggle-born.

She flung herself back on her bed and tried to calm her anxious nerves.

Hermione slipped into the Great Hall. She'd passed by the library, but her blasted essay was no longer there. She wouldn't put it past the devious blond to have stolen it to pass it off as his own. Ginny waved her over.

Hermione slid into the space gratefully and then paled slightly as she noticed Ron sitting opposite her. He narrowed his eyes and glared at her. "What the hell was that between you and Malfoy earlier?" he growled.

She squared her shoulders. Ron had no right to question her actions, and he'd done a lot worse when they actually had been dating. "We were sharing books for an essay," she sniped back.

"And that requires holding hands, does it?" Ron snarled.

Hermione noticed that Ginny and Harry were following the confrontation with wide eyes. Ginny looked intrigued whilst Harry looked a little disturbed. "Not everything is how it looks, Ronald, and you shouldn't jump to hasty conclusions," she snapped.

"Canoodling with Malfoy is hardly innocent," Ron hit back.

She felt her temper rising. She really didn't want to lose it here and cause a scene. It would be embarrassing, and Hogwarts was talking about her and Ron already.

"I was not canoodling with Malfoy, and even if I was, then it would be none of your business," she spat.

She hated it when he got so judgemental. He read far too much into situations like with Viktor Krum and the Yule Ball.

She was about to turn back to her food when Ginny started nudging her with her elbow. She turned to her friend, who was gesturing to something in the distance. She looked to where Ginny's finger was pointing and saw Malfoy sauntering in the direction of the Gryffindor table with his eyes pinned on her. She closed her eyes. Could the Slytherin have timed this little foray over to her at a worse time? She didn't think so.

Ron looked as if he was about to have an apoplexy as Malfoy stopped behind Hermione. The blond leaned over her and placed the things she left in the library in front of her.

"You left this when you ran off," he said, his eyes flittering to Ron's purple face. He smirked evilly and kissed Hermione's cheek as he straightened up. "See you on Saturday, Angel."

Ron spluttered ineffectively for a few minutes before raising a shaking finger towards her. "That's what I'm talking about," he hissed.

Hermione's hand covered her flushed cheeks as the whole of Hogwarts went silent and stared at her. Ron wasn't making the situation any better with his reaction. Now the rumour mill was going to be working overtime as it looked as if she'd dumped Ron for Malfoy.

She couldn't look at Harry. She didn't want to see whatever expression he had on his face. Could her life get any worse?

Hermione had holed herself up in her room. She pretty much had the place to herself these days since Parvati spent most of her time with her twin sister, Padma. McGonagall allowed her to stay over in Ravenclaw Tower, recognising how distressing Lavender's death had been for Parvati. Hermione had never been more grateful for the silence than she was now.

A knock on her door pulled her out from under the pillow she'd buried her mortified face in.

A redhead poked around the door. "Mind if I come in?" Ginny asked.

Hermione shook her head. At least Ginny might be able to offer her some perspective on how upside-down her life was at the moment.

Ginny sat down on the bed and faced her. "So Malfoy," she said conversationally.

"It's not how it looks," Hermione defended.

Ginny held her hands up. "I think you're confusing me with Ron. I didn't say it looked like anything, and even if it did, you are free to date whomever you like."

She looked at Ginny in shock. "But it's Malfoy. You know, ferret boy. Mr Pure-blood. The teenage Death Eater," she spluttered.

"He's fit, and if he actually does want to date you rather than just wind Ron up, then I think he's over any blood supremacy that he had," her friend analysed.

"You wouldn't hate me if that happened?" she asked, surprised.

"No, there's no point in holding grudges. All that will do is get us into another war a few years down the line. If he's changed, and he's into you, then I say go for it."

"Don't I have to be into him too?"

Ginny shot her a knowing look. "You don't fool me, Hermione Granger. You are blatantly into him. Your reaction today in the Great Hall gave you away."

She flung herself back into the bed. "What am I going to do? He flirts with me, and it makes me go all gooey."

"Doll yourself up on Saturday, let him take you out and see where it leads."

"What about Ron?"

"I love Ron, but he blew his chance with you. Also, I'm not Harry who was desperately rooting for the pair of you. I could see that there are things that make you deeply incompatible. You may have limped along for a couple of years, but the pair of you were never going to work out," Ginny commented.

"But it's what everyone expected," she remonstrated.

"So? Are you going to build a relationship on other people's expectations, Hermione? Because if you are, then kiss goodbye any happiness for you," the redhead said shrewdly.

"Harry wouldn't forgive me if - and this is a big hypothetical if - if Malfoy and I got together."

Ginny smiled. "Harry would be perturbed and a little put out, but he'd forgive you anything. You don't go through a brutal war with the one friend who stuck by you through thick and thin only to hate her for who she dates."

"But it's Malfoy. Harry hates Malfoy," she pointed out.

"But it's you. Harry loves you," Ginny countered.

"You don't think I'm weird for finding Malfoy attractive?"

"Nope, the boy looks good. Besides I'd rather you dated him than Michael Corner, who, frankly, is a creep," Ginny said, disgusted.

Hermione looked at her friend inquiringly. "He came up to me today and asked if I would set the pair of you up. That's just grim. I'm his ex-girlfriend and your ex-boyfriend's sister." Ginny all but vomited.

She stifled her laughter. "No disrespect, but Michael Corner doesn't do anything for me."

"Ugh, he slobbers all over you when he kisses, too. I'd much rather kiss Malfoy. He looks like he knows how to use his mouth," Ginny said lecherously.

Hermione giggled, blushed red, and threw her pillow at Ginny.

Saturday came round too quickly for Hermione's peace of mind. One part of her wanted to get it over and done with whilst the other part was worried sick. Thanks mostly to Malfoy's continued flirting and partly to Ginny's conversation, Hermione was now a wreck of nerves whenever she came across the blond, which was entirely too often for such a large castle.

She now had a fully blown crush on him. And her hormones, no longer constrained by her disciplined mind, were reacting in an illogical manner, causing her to go hot and cold whenever he approached. The blood seemed to reside permanently in her cheeks, too. And to top it all off, her brain was conjuring up some R-rated and explicit daydreams.

All in all, she was feeling thoroughly uncomfortable when Ginny had barged into her room just after lunch that day with a bag full of make-up and hair products and half her wardrobe trailing behind her.

The result was that Hermione was now fully dolled up, hair tamed, and wearing a very fetching dress. If Malfoy mocked her, then she was definitely going to hex him, and it was going to hurt.

By seven twenty, Hermione was pacing up and down outside McGonagall's office and getting increasingly angry. By seven thirty, she'd fully given up and was stalking back to the Gryffindor common room. She couldn't believe she'd fallen for Malfoy's bullshit. Of course he wasn't going to take her out on a date. He'd probably spent this last week flirting with her so she'd gain a crush on him and then he could completely humiliate her when he didn't turn up.

She also wouldn't put it past him to have pretended to undertake an Unbreakable Vow with Ron. Her ex-boyfriend wouldn't have a clue what it looked like, as that would require him opening a book and researching it.

If it didn't reveal that Hermione cared whether Malfoy turned up or not for their date, she would definitely be using her most potent hex on him next time she saw him. Instead, she was going to have to batten down her hatches and encase her heart in ice. She was not going to give Malfoy the satisfaction of knowing that he'd succeeded in hurting her.

By seven forty-five, Hermione was back in her room where she proceeded to rip a pillow apart. Taking her rage out on the harmless pile of feathers was making herself feel a lot better, especially when she closed her eyes and pretended it was a certain blond Slytherin she was tearing to pieces.

She didn't even have Ginny to rant to as she'd gone out to The Three Broomsticks with Harry. Well, Harry had gone out legitimately. Ginny had snuck out hidden under Harry's Cloak of Invisibility, as she wasn't allowed the same privileges as the eighth years.

Draco swore as he turned the corner into the corridor outside the Headmistress' office and realised that Granger had already gone. Damn Slughorn to hell. He'd nabbed Draco just as he was leaving the Slytherin common room to come and meet Granger. The Professor had yapped at him for an unseemly amount of time about increasingly unimportant things and had resisted all efforts of Draco's to go. His Head of House had assured him that the young lady Draco was obviously meeting would wait. Stupid Slughorn didn't realise it was Hermione Granger, and she wouldn't wait endlessly for the honour of going out with him, and she likely wouldn't forgive him for being late, either.

The fact that she wasn't there justified those feelings.

He ran a hand through his hair as he realised this meant that he was going to have track Hermione down, and the first place he was going to have to look was Gryffindor Tower. He winced. No self-respecting Slytherin ever stepped foot there. It was all bright and cheery. It was hideous.

Draco eyed the painting of the obese lady in pink with disgust. Only Gryffindors would want to be guarded by something so heinous. She was eyeing him back with extreme displeasure.

"I'm not letting you in here -you're the Malfoy boy and a Slytherin," the Fat Lady spat at him.

He rolled his eyes and sardonically slow-clapped her acumen before leaning against the wall and waiting for an impressionable first-year to come by whom he could bully into giving him the password.

He didn't have to wait long.

The chatter in the Gryffindor common room died down as the Slytherin Quidditch Captain stepped through the portrait hole and hauled the first-year behind him.

Draco sneered around him before pointing to a female third-year. "You," he stated imperiously. "Go and get me Hermione Granger."

The girl eyed him for a minute before realising that it would just be easier to do what he wanted. She disappeared up a flight of stairs while he eyeballed anyone stupid enough to stare back at him.

The silence remained until a clattering down the stairs heralded the arrival of Granger.

"What do you want, Malfoy?" the hostile brunette asked, her hands on her hips.

His eyes roved over her. She looked amazing. He'd never seen her looking so good, and that included their fourth year when she'd scrubbed up well for the Yule Ball. The fact that she'd made such an effort for him told him more than anything else previously had. She cared about this date, and she wanted to look good.

"I've come to pick you up for our date," he said nonchalantly, ignoring the gasps that rang around the common room.

Granger pursed her lips, and her hands curled into little but impressive fists. "A bit late, aren't you?" she sneered at him.

"Yes, well I got waylaid by Slughorn, who wouldn't shut up."

"Why should I believe you?"

He raised his eyebrows at that. "Because why else would I take the trouble to feed the gossips and come to the Gryffindor common room to hunt you down?"

He had her there. It was a lot of effort for Malfoy to go to if he really didn't want to go on a date with her. Then again, it was an Unbreakable Vow. He didn't have much choice and might have turned up an hour late just to show her that he didn't like or respect her enough to be punctual.

"There's no point in going now. The table's probably gone," she said snootily.

"I'm a Malfoy. They'll keep the table indefinitely."

Stupid ferret, he was probably right. They probably would keep it open, waiting for him to grace them with his presence.

"I don't want to go anymore," she said contrarily.

"Liar," he commented.

"What?" she hissed, outraged.

"I called you a liar. You didn't get all dressed up to refuse to go with me just because I was a bit late," he said.

"A bit late!" she screeched. "You kept me waiting out in that drafty corridor for at least half an hour. I call that more than being a bit late!"

"And I'm sorry, but I was delayed. It couldn't be helped unless I Stunned Slughorn, and I doubt you, Little Miss Goody Two-Shoes, would be happy with me if I did that," Malfoy explained.

"Well, tough, you missed your chance to go out with me," she said.

"So what, you're just going to let Weasley and me die?"

"If you actually had contracted an Unbreakable Vow, then you would have made sure to turn up a little early to make sure I went out with you," she persisted.

He growled at her. "You are the most stubborn, the most contrary witch I've ever had the misfortune to meet. Get your cloak and your bag and get your backside out of that door."

She tossed her tamed hair and stuck her nose in the air. "No."

Malfoy stalked forward and grabbed her. Hermione looked up at him in shock, her eyes going wide as she saw the frustration in his grey orbs. He bent his head and kissed her fiercely. She couldn't help but melt into him as he used his teeth to nibble on her lower lip and coerce her mouth open. She clung onto his upper arms as he deepened the kiss.

He lifted his head, and she slowly opened her eyes, seeing stars as she did so. "Is that enough persuasion to convince you that I really want to take you on this date?" he murmured in her ear.

She nodded and then dazedly turned to go back upstairs to get her things. Draco smugly smirked at the Gryffindors who were stunned into silence by what they'd just witnessed.

Yes, he'd come into the lions' den and stolen their queen.