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Hermione Granger was not amused.

The bar was loud, the people louder, and some gods-awful person had decided that music with a heavy baseline was the way to go. Grimacing, she turned away from the bar and leant back against it, holding her new drink to her temple. She could barely hear the clink of the ice against the glass thanks to the decibel level, but the coolness against what was sure to become a raging headache was welcome.

“You know, drinks usually work better if you actually drink them, Granger.” Hermione opened her eyes and saw Pansy looking at her, brow raised in what a charitable person would call disdain.

As usual, Pansy looked phenomenal. A sleeveless boat-neck dress, grey silk tight to her slim frame, the hem ending a daring three inches above the knee. Silver at her neck and on her fingers, emerald at her ears and in the colour of her wickedly tall heels. On anyone else, it would have looked entirely too out of place. On Pansy, with her kohl-lined eyes and ink-black pageboy, it simply looked stunning. She made everyone else in the room look humdrum.

Which was, of course, the point.

“Thank you, Pansy. Wherever would I be without you,” Hermione drawled. The condensation from the tumbler was starting to drip down her wrist, so Pansy’s suggestion to actually drink her drink was probably a good idea.

Wincing at the burn, Hermione let her gaze wander around the packed room.

For a Thursday night, is was surprisingly busy. There were quite a few people from the Ministry in clumps around the room, all at varying degrees of inebriation.

She caught a flash of platinum blonde from the balcony. Before she could look closer, she felt Pansy elbowing her in the ribs.

“One of these days, I swear to Merlin, I’m going to bushwhack my way into your closet and get rid of every item that doesn’t belong there,” Pansy said. “You won’t have a choice but to let me at it.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, and then immediately regretted it as a spike went through her temple. “Jesus, fuck.” Sometimes, a Muggle curse was the only appropriate thing at hand.

Her left eye shut (because that would totally help), she turned to her right, raising her hand to flag down the bartender as she did. She saw Harry sitting in the same place at the bar, idling twirling his straw in his half-empty drink.

“Merlin, I can barely think in here.”

Pansy grimaced and turned to the bar. “Barkeep! Another, if you please. We seem to be on the verge of maudlin, and that simply won’t do.” Seeing Hermione rubbing her temples, Pansy frowned. “Headache back, Granger?”

“Mmmm.”

“Trouble with the Bulgarian again?”

“Oh, Merlin, don’t remind me.” Hermione fell forward and let her head drop to the bar. “Ow.” Although she couldn’t see anything except the marred wood of the bar, she could suddenly feel the attention of both of her friends on her.

After a suitably awkward length of silence, Hermione lifted her head to see them both looking at her expectantly. She huffed out a breath. “Everything is fine with Viktor, he just . . . can’t make it to the wedding anymore.”

“Well, then,” said Pansy, “This is an even better reason to be out tonight.” The bartender, a beautiful woman with silky hair and big brown eyes, placed three shot glasses in front of Pansy. “Come on, Potter, think you can readjust your lens enough to find a date for Granger? I know you have trouble with the long term, but I’m sure you can ferret out a few options that will last at least a month?”

Ignoring Hermione’s protest, Pansy slid one shot glass to Harry, passed one to Hermione, and held up the last for herself. “To Hermione, and finding a date for a wedding! Slainte!”

Looking at her shot glass in despair, Hermione said, “You know, alcohol actually increases the likelihood and veracity of headaches, so this really won’t help my –“

“Shut up and drink, Granger, you’re already three behind.”

“Shit.”

~oOo~

Draco Malfoy was not having a good night.

It had been a long week, and all he wanted to do was go home, sit down, and have some Firewhiskey.

Alone.

But then Blaise decided it would be a great idea to go to a bar on a Thursday night, and before he was quite sure what happened, Draco found himself sitting in the balcony area, surrounded by people he didn’t know, and the beginnings of a headache.

He looked out over the rest of the bar. For a Thursday night is was pretty full – he could see several groups of Ministry wizards and witches clustered together, and the bar was three-people deep. There was a small space surrounding three people at the bar, however. He couldn’t make out much detail from this distance, but he saw a bushy-haired woman bookended by a striking beauty in silver and a young man in a tight pants/leather jacket ensemble. There was something familiar about the young man, and Draco frowned as he tried to place him.

“Another, Draco?”

“No, thank you, Blaise. I think I might call it a night.” Turning back to his companions he swallowed the last of his drink and dropped the glass to the small table in front of their group of chairs. There was a slight space around where their group was sitting – the Malfoy name still had its uses after all, even if he hadn’t been the one to use it. The table and chairs at the edge of the platform where useful, however, he had to admit. And more comfortable than standing around high-tops.

“But we’ve barely begun to help you recover!”

At this remark, Draco raised an eyebrow. “Recover? From what, pray tell?”

Blaise lounged in his chair, collar and cuffs loose. While their business was based in the Wizarding London, they had branched out in the last year to include some work in Muggle London, and with that came some necessities. Noticeably, fashion. Muggles were a pretty easy-going bunch when it came to clothes, but even they would find it weird if a bunch of businessmen turned up to meetings and client dinners in flowing robes. So, Muggle suits it was.

“Oh, I don’t know.” Blaise waved a laconic hand in Draco’s general direction. “A year-long relationship? There one moment, gone the next? I swear, your mother had practically picked out the table settings, and then next thing I know, Skeeter is having a field day with headlines.” Leaning back, he gestured widely with his arm. “’ Wedding of the century is OFF! Prince of House Atticus and the Ice Princess call it QUITS!’ Oh, and my personal favourite, ‘Will Malfoy find Greener Grass? Honestly, after a year of this you’d think she’d be sick of the puns.” Blaise rolled his eyes. “So, we are here, your friends, to help you drown your sorrows.” Toasting Draco, he finished his drink and reached for the bottle to pour another.

Draco felt the muscles in his jaw clench. “Don’t be too maudlin on my account, Blaise. My mother can be . . . enthusiastic. She knew that my relationship with Daphne wasn’t serious, and so did Daphne.” He shrugged, feeling his shoulders tighten. “All things must come to an end, and this simply ran its course. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll head home.” Draco managed to get partway up out of his seat before he was abruptly pulled back down.

“What the fuck, Theo?!”

He looked at his arm, and Theo Nott quickly let go. From the look in Theo’s eyes – part apology, part apprehension – Draco knew that his mask wasn’t as well-crafted as he hoped. Taking a deep breath, he pushed up from where he’d braced himself on the back of the chair, raising a querying brow at his friend.

“I’m sorry, Draco, but desperate times.” Theo pointed to the top of the stairs. The crowd briefly parted, and Draco felt a heaviness settle onto his chest as he saw a beautiful blonde woman sweep her eyes across the balcony before landing on him. Her eyes brightened in recognition, and Draco winced as she started towards them.

“Shit.”

~oOo~

“I honestly don’t see what the problem is, ‘Mione.”

After her first (and last) shot, Hermione had decided to stick to Gillywater. She’d found it amusing to see the wince on Pansy’s face when she ordered it, and had added ‘with a twist’ just to see her friend shudder. One Firewhiskey and one shot of a dubious nature was more than enough for a work night, in Hermione’s opinion. Her companions obviously disagreed, although Hermione didn’t fault them their fun.

Luckily, they’d both always managed to hold their liquor well. Ginny was the only person to every really give them a run for their money, although it had been ages since the bunch of them had gotten together and tested the theory.

Easier times, I guess. Ironic, really, considering the whole ‘evil wizard intent on taking over the world’ thing.

“Oy! Hermione!” Hermione started in her seat as Harry waved his hand in front of her face.

“Earth to Hermione, you still in there?” Harry grinned, his hair still refusing any attempt at styling and falling into his eyes.

Hermione shook her head. Her headache had eased and was now only a slight annoyance that she was studiously ignoring. “Sorry, Harry, what were you saying?” Turning to face him fully, she caught a flash of silver from the balcony from the corner of her eye.

“I was saying that there really isn’t a problem finding you a date for the wedding. Between the three of us, I’m sure we can find someone willing to go out with the Golden Girl.”

“And there I was thinking that the amount of alcohol you’ve imbibed has had no influence on you,” Hermione grimaced. Harry knew how much she hated that nickname. “Wait, the three of us?” Her eyes widened in alarm as what Harry said made its way through her headache-addled brain.

“She’s right, Potter. Once again, your complete ineptitude when it comes to interpersonal relationships is showing.” Pansy’s scathing retort came from Hermione’s other side.

Men had been checking Pansy out all night, but not one of them had yet found the courage to actually approach her. It could have been the fact that she was clearly with friends, but Hermione thought it more likely that they were wary of breaching the invisible field of self-assurance that surrounded Pansy.

That, or the icy stare that she was using with abandon.

“Pansy, I am perfectly capable of – “

“Alright, Parkinson, you think you could do better by yourself?” Harry interjected.

“You’re damn right I could, Potter.” Pansy looked to Hermione. “Would you like my help, Granger? Or can you find your way through this morass of humanity by yourself?”

“No! Uh, I mean, I’ll be fine. Thanks.” Shuddering slightly at the thought of Pansy helping to choose her a date, Hermione took another look around. Pansy was very protective of her friends, and Hermione knew how ruthless she could be to anyone she deemed as a possible threat. Fearing the gauntlet any man would have to face, and knowing she had barely three weeks to find an appropriate date (for a wedding, no less), Hermione took a breath and looked around the bar.

Date a guy for a few weeks and then go to a wedding, what could possibly go wrong?

Her gaze lingered on the raised portion of the bar. She saw that it was full, but not as busy as down on the main floor. There seemed to be a separate area around the railing with a few comfortable chairs arranged in a group. When she’d briefly looked that way earlier in the night, she’d noticed three men quietly (well, as quiet as you can be in a bar) conversing and having a few drinks. It’d seemed like they were having a good time.

Like some of the wizards in the room, they had chosen to wear a Muggle suit. Business in Muggle London, perhaps?, thought Hermione. As she watched, a blonde followed by a rather burly looking guy in more traditional robes joined the group. The man looked familiar, but it was difficult to tell from this distance.

“Pansy, do you recognise that guy that just showed up over there?”

Pansy spared a brief look. “Oh, him. That’s Marcus Flint. He was at Hogwarts with us, remember? I’m sure Potter does.” She grinned at Harry’s muttered profanities. “Boys and their sports.”

“Oh right, that’s who it is.” Hermione shuddered, remember run ins with the Slytherin Quidditch captain. Like most of his house, he seemed to enjoy pointing out how much better he was than people like Hermione. She remembered some of the creative curse words he’d thrown at her during the years. Shaking off the memories, she asked, “What about the guy he’s talking to, the blonde one?”

“Hmm, let’s see.” Pansy squinted and leaned forward, as if an extra two inches of distance would help her see better. “If I’m not mistaken, that’s . . . sweet bloody fuck, it’s Draco fucking Malfoy.”

“Who?” Hermione was at a loss. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but not familiar enough to jog her memory.

Pansy continued swearing under her breath. “Draco Malfoy, the git. Our families used to be close, well, they still are, technically.” She drained her glass in one swift swallow. “We used to spend most of our summers together, and then I went to Hogwarts, and he went to Durmstrang. Honestly, I think his mother wanted him out Britain as soon as possible. There were rumours . . . anyway, we haven’t really seen them much since the war. Last I heard he had started some financial consultancy company. Prick,” she finished savagely.

Hermione laughed. “Okay, that was sounding completely normal up until the end. What did he do to make you loathe him so much?”

“Well,” drawled Harry, “He’s the love ‘em and leave ‘em type, isn’t that right, Pans’.” He was chewing a toothpick and grinning at Pansy, not one bit fazed at the murder in her eyes. Hermione felt her eyes widen as she looked at Pansy.

“Wait, so you and he –“

“No, we did not!” Pansy bit out. “But he went out with a few of my friends from Hogwarts. He’d woo them, make them fall desperately in love with him, and then leave without another thought. Fuck,” she reached for her glass, remembered it was empty, and pushed a strand of hair out of her face before taking a calming breath. “Why they always came crying to me about it, I’ll never know. You definitely can’t choose him.” Hermione rolled her eyes.

“Oh no, and here I was thinking it what a great idea it would be. How dare you ruin my master plan.”

“I don’t know, ‘Mione,” mused Harry. “You only need him for, what, a month? I’m sure you can put up with a pureblood tosser for a few weeks. And then you get to leave him! Think of the irony.”

“Hmmm . . .” Harry did have a point. Three weeks, get through Ginny’s wedding, and then sweet release. She’d put up with a lot worse for a lot less. And it wasn’t like he was difficult to look at. From the little she could see, it wouldn’t exactly be a tortuous few weeks.

“This may be the Gillywater talking, but I think you may have hit on something there, Harry.” This time it was Pansy’s eyes that widened in horror.

“Granger, don’t you dare! He will eat you up and spit you out, and not in the incredibly fun way.”

“You said you wanted me to find a date, Pansy,” Hermione said, getting up and straightening her robes. “Why not this one? There’s no chance I’ll catch feelings for him, so you don’t have to worry about that. And I’m so far from his type that the odds of him sticking around after a month are pretty limited, so that won’t be an issue.” She squinted up at the balcony. “Financial company, you say. Maybe I can appeal to his logical side.”

With that, she started across the bar, the crowd forcing her to make her way underneath the sitting area on the way to the stairs.

“Oh yeah,” said Harry as Hermione walked away. “Logic. That’s totally going to work.” He looked at Pansy. “Drink?”

“Drink,” she nodded.

~oOo~

Of all the bars in all the world, it had to be this one.

I’m going to fucking murder Blaise.

Draco bit back what would no doubt be a veritable deluge of swear words and smiled in what he hoped was a very bland, noncommittal way.

“Hello, Daphne.”

Daphne Greengrass, of Daily Prophet infamy, smiled at him, her face lighting up at his greeting. “Draco, how lovely to see you. I heard that you might be here tonight.”

“Oh, you did, did you?” Draco glared daggers at Blaise, who was suddenly extremely interested in his drink. “Well, I was just heading out, so I’ll leave you with these two and –“

“You’re leaving already? But, I have someone I thought you’d like to meet.”

Draco had been vaguely aware of the man hovering behind Daphne, but then he was used to seeing men hover around her. Classically beautiful in that cold, ethereal kind of way, with long blonde hair and clear blue eyes, men flocked to Daphne wherever she went. He’d simply assumed that she had dragged him in her wake as she crossed the bar.

“Draco, this is Marcus Flint, an old friend from school.”

Handshakes were exchanged as Daphne introduced Flint to Blaise and Theo.

Lucky this isn’t a well-known bar – Skeeter would have a field day if she saw this group.

“So, Draco. As in, Draco Malfoy?”

Lost in his thoughts, Draco’s attention was pulled back to the conversation. The guy Daphne had brought along was sizing him up as though he was measuring Draco for a suit.

Draco quirked a brow at him. “Yes, the one and only. And you are? Sorry, I seem to have forgotten your name.” A slight tightening around his eyes let Draco know his shot had landed.

“Flint. Marcus Flint. I was at Hogwarts with Daph’. A few years older than her, of course,” he leered. “Same house, though. Slytherin. Captain of the Quidditch team. Involved in other . . . extra curriculars.” He smirked at Draco, clearly expecting him to be impressed.

Oh, so it’s going to be like that, is it. Wonderful.

While he couldn’t see them, he could feel both Theo and Blaise rolling their eyes into their drinks. All three of them had worked hard to separate themselves from this type of wankish, pureblood snobbery. While he had not been directly involved with a lot of the Second Wizarding War, he knew many families that had stood at Voldemort’s side. He had been expected to be there, but his mother had played the game well and had managed to keep both of them safe.

“How delightful for you. Daphne, it was nice to see you, however I really must be going.”

“Oh, come on, Malfoy, we were just getting to know each other!” Marcus snatched a full glass off the table before leaning back in his chair and crossing one leg over the other, the picture of aristocratic decadence. “Stay awhile. Enjoy the view. I saw a few lovely possibilities as I was crossing the bar – are they enough to tempt you to stay?”

Draco felt more than saw Daphne wince. He had been the one who ended things, and for good reason, but that didn’t mean he wanted to see her in pain. And having to listen to an ex talk about other women could not be pleasant.

“Sorry, boys, I think I need another drink.” She made her way through the throng to the bar.

“I’m afraid not,” he said, looking back at Flint, “however don’t let me stop you from enjoying the evening.”

“Bah!” Swallowing his drink in two long pulls, Marcus poured another. “Not even the raven-haired vision at the bar?”

Draco threw a cursory glance towards the bar. He couldn’t see too much from this distance, but the woman Flint had pointed out was difficult to miss. Tall, slender, wearing a dress that acted like a second skin. The woman next to her had a frizz of brown curls and was swathed in heavy Ministry robes. They both seemed to be deep in discussion with a guy in a leather jacket, who at the same time was trying to get the bartender’s attention.

“Nope. I am not placing a bet or whether or not I can get a dinner date, Flint,” Draco drawled. “I’m not that hard up quite yet.”

“That’s not what the papers are saying, Malfoy,” Flint commented. “Apparently you’re quite heartbroken over this whole mess with Daphne.”

“Yes, because Rita Skeeter always reports the facts.” Draco bit off.

Blaise had been looking at the bar as well. “Draco wouldn’t even need to try with that one, Flint. Now the brunette, on the other hand . . ."

“Oh, a challenge? Alright, Malfoy.” Flint leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “I bet you a hundred that you can’t nail her.”

What?”

Flint laughed at his response, but there was an edge to his voice when he spoke. “It’s just a bet, Malfoy. Daphne says that you’re a part of some big consulting company. Financial risk, and all that. Is that right?”

“Yes, that’s right,” Draco said cautiously.

“Well, I happen to be looking for a new firm. I’m finding that the day-to-day grind of managing my estate is just getting a bit too plebeian. I’m sure you know what that’s like, right, Malfoy?”

I swear, if I roll my eyes any harder, I’m going to see my brain.

“Your point?”

“Finance, risk – you’re basically placing bets every day.”

“That’s not even close to what we do.”

Flint waved his hand, annoyed at the interruption. “Whatever. What do you usually charge new clients? Eight grand? Ten?” He leaned in closer. “I’ll bet you ten thousand in cash, to cover your fee –“

Draco smiled tightly. “Flint, this isn’t happening –“

“But for ten thou, you’d have to get her into bed. I’ll play fair – I’ll give you a month to get the brunette bint out of those Ministry robes.”

“Piece of cake,” Blaise said.

Draco glared at Blaise. “Flint, I don’t bet. Especially not on whether or not I can bed random women.” He saw Flint’s brows draw together, and thought Damn, he’s really not going to let this go. As much as Draco loathed the idea, the company was a bit thin after the expansion – a client like Flint, no matter how odious, would definitely help them get back to the black.

Okay, alcohol had clearly shut down important parts of Flint’s brain. But once it was up and working again, he would back down on the ten thousand, and they would forget all about it. He stole a glance across the room to the bar and was delighted to see that the brunette had disappeared some time during their conversation.

“You make a good point, Flint, however I’m sorry to say that the lady in question seems to have disappeared.” And thank Merlin for that.

~oOo~

Hermione had walked across the room, telling herself that it was a real toss-up to which would be worse, trying to talk to this guy or enduring the gauntlet of press when she showed up to Ginny’s wedding un-escorted. When she neared the landing, she edged her way around the rail towards the stairs, catching faint snatches of conversations as she went, not stopping until she heard Flint’s familiar coarse tone.

“But for ten, though, you have to get her into bed.”

What? Hermione thought. It was noisy here, maybe she’d been mistaken –

“I’ll play fair – I’ll give you a month to get the brunette bint out of those Ministry robes.”

Hermione brought a hand up to touch her hair as she looked down at her Ministry robes.

“Piece of cake,” somebody said to Flint, and Hermione thought, Son of a bitch, of course he would try something like this, and forced herself to move on before she climbed the railing and hexed them both into next week.

Hermione headed back to Pansy and Harry, fuming. She knew what Flint was doing. Pansy had said that Malfoy was a pureblood, and of course Flint knew that she was Muggle-born. If the debasing comments he’d made at Hogwarts were anything to go by, he’d find it endlessly amusing to make a bet with a fellow pureblood wizard to get someone like her into bed. Either way, he’d win – Malfoy would either lose, and Flint would get paid, or he’d win (fat chance of that happening), and Flint would crow over the fact that Malfoy had ‘sullied’ himself.

“What’s wrong?” Pansy said as she got back to the bar. “Did you ask him?”

“No. As soon as you finish your drinks, I’m ready to go.” Hermione turned back to the landing and caught sight of them, just as they caught sight of her.

Flint’s face was smug, but Draco Malfoy clutched his drink and looked like he’d just seen Death.

~oOo~

“Ha, there she is! I told you she’d be back.” Flint crowed.

Draco could practically feel the smugness in Flint’s voice. “Uh, Flint,” he began, consigning the robe-wearing brunette to the lowest circle of Hell.

“A bet’s a bet, Malfoy.”

Draco slugged back the last of his drink, putting his glass down as he thought fast. The brunette did not look happy, which could mean she’d be happy to leave the bar if he offered dinner. “Okay, look, Flint, sex is not on the cards. I’m adventurous, not slimy. You want to bet ten Galleons on a pickup, great. But that’s it. Nothing with a future.”

Flint was shaking his head before Draco had finished his sentence. “No way, Malfoy. I’ll bet on the pickup as well, why not – ten Galleons if you leave with her. But the ten thousand is still on. If you lose,” he smiled at Draco, if baring his teeth could be considered smiling, “your company consults for me, for free, for a month.”

“I’m not sure what you’ve heard, Flint, but I don’t own the company outright. I have two partners.” He waved a hand at Blaise and Theo. “I’m sure they – “

“I’m good for it,” Blaise said. “Draco never misses.”

Draco glared at him. “Well, Theo isn’t good for it.”

“Hey, Theo, are you in?” Blaise asked, and Theo said, “What? Sure, whatever,” without looking away from the bar. “Okay, I can’t tell from this distance, but I swear that guy looks familiar . . . “

“Theo,” Draco said through gritted teeth, “You just bet that I could get a random woman into bed. Now, please tell Flint you did not just agree to us giving away ten thousand Galleons of our company time over sex.”

“We what?” Theo said, finally dragging his eyes away from the bar.

“I said – “

“Why would you bet on something like that?”

“I didn’t-“

“But he totally could, right?” said Blaise.

“Of course,” Theo replied, “But I still don’t think –“

“Exactly! It’s a done deal,” Blaise said, a disturbing note of triumph in his voice.

I wonder how many years in Azkaban I’d get for justifiable homicide.

Cursing under his breath, Draco tried to focus on coming up with a suitable answer instead of a suitable hex for his so-called best friend.

“What do you say, Malfoy? She’s waiting for you.” Flint said, and edge to his voice.

“She?” Draco hadn’t noticed Daphne re-joining their group, drink in hand. “Are you seeing someone already, Draco?”

Shit.

“Well, Malfoy?” asked Flint.

“Draco?” said Daphne.

“This is brilliant,” said Blaise.

“Sweet Merlin, I think that’s Harry Potter!” said Theo.

Everyone froze and looked at him.

“Sorry, not important right now, we’ll come back to it later.”

Pushing Theo’s discovery to the back of his mind, Draco ran through his options. If he just went to the bar now, he wouldn’t have to explain to Daphne what was going on. A quick dinner, ten Galleons, and he could get on with his life.

“Sorry, Daphne, I have a dinner to get to.” He pushed past them and wended his way to the bar, wishing once again he had never given in to Blaise.

~oOo~

Hermione watched Draco Malfoy head down the stairs. What an absolute git. Making a bet that he could get into her knickers in a month, and acting like she was just going to let him –

Wait a second.

“Could you please tell us what is going on here, Granger.”

“A month,” Hermione said.

She could see him making his way towards her, ignoring various the looks women (and a few men) were throwing his way. Clearly a man on a mission, on his way to pick her up.

Suppose she let him.

Suppose that for the next few weeks she strung him along, used him shamelessly as her date to Ginny’s wedding, and then left his ass cold. She’d strike a blow for women everywhere, give him a taste of his own game. All she had to do was say no to sex for the next three ish weeks – he couldn’t leave, he needed to stay to win his damn bet.

Logically, she knew it was a solid option. She was out of available friends, and the ones that were available were not keen to go to such a public wedding. Which was fair enough, all things considered. And it really wasn’t Viktor’s fault – an injury meant he had to play at the next game, which just happened to coincide with the wedding. Why Ginny was having her wedding in the middle of the international Quidditch season was a sore point all around, so Hermione tried to not bring it up.

She nodded. It was a good plan. Toy with Malfoy for a few weeks, bring him along as ridiculously good -looking arm candy, and them leave him in the cold.

“Firewhiskey, please,” Hermione said to the bartender. “A double, if you’d be so kind.”

“I thought you were sticking to Gillywater, Granger.” Pansy raised a curious eyebrow. “Not that I’m adverse to you drinking, but what caused you to change your mind?”

“Did he say some completely pratish when you asked him? He does look like a prat,” Harry added his two Knuts. “What happened when you went over there?”

“I didn’t talk to him,” Hermione said, waving them away. “Now please go away. I’m about to get hit on and you’re cramping my style.”

“We totally missed something, didn’t we?”

“Move,” Harry said.

Pansy waited another few seconds to make it clear she was leaving on her terms, not Hermione’s, before allowing Harry to drag her to the other end of the bar.

The bartender came back with her drink, meaning that Hermione had her back to the room when he came up behind her.

“I have a problem.”

Hermione jerked her head up at the sound of his voice, catching the full force of his gaze somewhat unprepared: high cheekbones, platinum blonde hair that looked like creamy silk under the lights of the bar, and silver eyes that seemed to draw her in with almost no effort.

“P-problem?” Breaking his gaze and cursing the hitch in her voice, Hermione took a sip of her drink, feeling warmth spread through her chest and down her fingertips.

“Well you see, my line is usually, ‘Can I buy you a drink?’, but I see that you already have one.” He smiled at her, and Hermione could tell it wasn’t something he did often, but by Merlin he did it well. Focused, sincere, the whole package.

“That is a problem,” she said, focusing on keeping her breathing even.

“So why don’t we go somewhere else,” he said, leaning closer, “and I’ll buy you dinner instead.”

He looked even better up close. Beautifully cut Muggle suit, which he filled out very well, Hermione was annoyed to see. He was pale, but in that alabaster sculpture kind of way, rather than an invalid stuck in a healing ward way. At some point he had rolled up his sleeves, which meant she had a great view of his forearms.

His smile had disappeared while he waited for her to answer, and now he looked uncomfortable.

Huh, probably not used to waiting. For anything. Git.

Remembering that he was doing this for ten Galleons, Hermione suddenly found it a lot easier to breathe.

“Dinner?” she said.

“Yes,” he said, bending even closer. “Somewhere quiet where we can talk.” She could feel his breath against her curls. “You look like an interesting person – I’d love to hear what you have to say.”

Hermione leaned back and smiled at him. “Wow, that is a truly terrible line. I mean, really. Does that ever actually work for you?”

He froze for a moment. His eyes glinted, and Hermione could have sworn that he smirked at her. “Well, it has up until tonight.”

“Hmmm, must be the delivery. Not a hitch to the voice, very sincere.” She threw back the last of her Firewhiskey. “Hermione Granger.” She held out her hand.

“Draco Malfoy.” He shook her hand, and she gave it a quick shake, noting the callouses on his palm and fingertips as she did.

“Before we leave, promise me no more dreadful pick up lines,” she said, smiling to herself as she noticed a muscle in his jaw twitch.

“Anything you want,” he said.

“Another line,” she sighed, shaking her head and picking up her bag. “I suppose you just can’t help yourself. Shall we go, then?” Not waiting for his reply, she started for the door, passing a thoroughly confused Pansy and a mildly curious Harry as she did. She felt him catch up with her about halfway across the room but noticed that he didn’t try the whole ‘hand at the small of a woman’s back’ trick, seemingly happy to let her lead the way.

He’d get points for that if he wasn’t such a bet-making git.

As she pushed open the door to a warm, London evening, she looked back to the balcony and saw a thoroughly outraged Flint glaring at both of them.

This evening was turning out to be a lot more interesting than she’d expected.