A Drop of Firewhiskey
Bewildered, Hermione stared at the red-headed young man sitting outside her common room, staring down the hall in the opposite direction of the way she came. At her voice his head snapped around, and he regarded her silently, eyebrows furrowed.
Clearing his throat, Ron slowly stood up.
"Umm... Hello, Ron..." Hermione was unsure of what to say. He hadn't said a word to her since that time on the train, and now he was suddenly waiting outside of her common room? "What--what are you doing here?"
"Waiting." He said shortly, shuffling his feet awkwardly. "Where've you been?"
Hermione sighed inwardly, relieved that Ginny hadn't thoughtlessly let it slip where she had gone. That would have required quite a bit of explaining...
"I was just... just..." She racked her brain frantically. What would he believe? "I was in the library."
Ron raised his eyebrows. "You were?"
She nodded confidently.
"That's funny... I checked there first."
Hermione mentally slapped herself. He may not be speaking to her, but he still knew her like the back of his hand! She should've known not to say the library, of all things...
"Oh. You musn't have looked everywhere then. I was there."
A long silence stretched between the two Gryffindors, both looking anywhere but at each other. Bright sunlight streamed through a nearby window, causing Ron's flaming red hair to look even more vibrant than usual. Sighing in irritation, Hermione stepped forward and gave the password. Ron looked confused for a second before snorting in realization.
"That's your password?" Shaking his head, he followed Hermione into the Heads' Common Room.
The two sat down on the long sofa, staring at the flickering fire in the grate. Out of the corner of her eye Hermione could see him running his hands through his hair, over and over again. Finally not being able to stand it any longer, she huffed, before turning to face him.
"Alright, Ron. Why are you here? What do you want? Finally going to start talking to me again?"
Ron blinked, startled. But then he scowled. "Don't you start acting like I'm the bad guy here!"
Hermione let out a shrill, uncharacteristic laugh. "What am I supposed to think, Ronald? You've been completely ignoring me the whole week!"
His ears were turning red already. "What am I supposed to do? Be all happy and friendly? After what you did?"
"What did I do Ron? Enlighten me!" They were both standing now, staring furiously into each other's faces.
Snarling in anger, Ron turned. He strode over to the fireplace, planting his clenched fist on the wall. "You left, that's what you did Hermione! You bloody left in the middle of the summer without telling anyone where you'd gone! You were there one night, and then the next morning you had completely vanished! Did you even think about how scared we'd all be?"
Hermione felt herself deflate.
"There we are, in times so bad that we have to take refuge in our bloody school, and you just up and leave without even saying goodbye to your best friends! We had to go to Dumbledore, Hermione, to find out that you went home! And then you show up on the train trying to act as if nothing happened, like it was just a regular old trip back to Hogwarts!" He fell into silence, breathing heavily.
"Ron. . . "
"Don't 'Ron' me!" he spat.
"Ron! Please calm down! I'm sorry!" Hermione took several steps toward him, her eyes wide and pleading.
Slowly, Ron turned to face her. "Why'd you go home, Hermione?"
She stopped dead in her advance, her mind once again scrambling to come up with a plausible lie.
"You disappeared the night of the ball... Did something happen?"
Hermione looked away from him. "N-no. Nothing happened on the night... of the ball. It was just- something came up. Family stuff, you know?" She offered up a watery smile, praying that he would believe her.
He did. "Why didn't you say anything about it in your letters?"
Briefly Hermione's mind flashed back to all the worried letters she'd received from her friends, and how she'd written short, two or three sentence vague replies to all of them. "I didn't want to talk about it. And I still don't" She added as an afterthought, hoping to prevent any curious questions before they came.
"Come on 'Mione, you can tell me!"
"No, Ron. No. I already told you I'm sorry for how I behaved, and I truly am. Now please, respect my privacy!"
Looking defeated, Ron nodded, holding up his hands in surrender. She looked at him, amused, before jumping forward suddenly, enveloping him in a hug.
Ron stiffened, sucking in a deep breath, before awkwardly patting her on the back with one hand, the other wrapped loosely around her back. She buried her face in her shoulder, ridiculously happy that they were back on speaking terms with one another. He may be an immature, infuriating, irrational young man, but she loved him to pieces.
All of a sudden Hermione realized how close they were. She could feel his hot breath against her shoulder, and one of his hands felt uncomfortably low on her back. Swallowing, she turned her head slightly, regretting it immediately.
Their faces were very close. Their eyes locked, and she noticed the strange expression in his eyes.
The portrait creaked open, and Hermione jumped back from Ron as if burned. Nervously she smoothed out her robes, playing with a brown curl of hair, looking anywhere but the red-headed man before her.
"Ugh, bloody Dumbledore and his stupid rules. . . " Malfoy's irritated drawl drifted up the short set of stairs leading to the portrait, and Hermione felt panic flutter in her breast. What if he assumed Ron knew about her pregnancy and said something? He couldn't find out! Not now!
"You really should go, Ron. I'm feeling a little tired," Hermione said hurriedly, still not looking at him.
"What? Oh--ok. . . "
Hermione felt a twinge of regret at the confusion in his voice, but it didn't last long. Malfoy came into view at the that moment and stopped, observing the scene before him with a raised brow. Slowly Ron passed him and descended the stairs, shooting the Slytherin a venomous glare.
As soon as the portrait clicked shut behind Ron, Malfoy let out a derisive snort.
"Oh please, don't tell me Weasel's the father!"
Hermione winced, before narrowing her eyes. "No, Malfoy. Ron is not the father of my baby." Sighing in exasperation, she continued, "Now please don't start. I am really not in the mood for your little games."
A thin smirk stretched over his pointed face, and he wiggled an eyebrow dangerously. "I'd watch myself if I were you, Granger. You never know what I could let slip. . . Just a little whisper in someone's ear, or a stray note left lying in the corridor. . . You'd be the talk of the school!"
Hermione rolled her eyes at his bluff. "Oh please. Do you think I'm stupid?" She mentally patted herself on the back as his smirk slipped ever so slightly. "I know for a fact what Dumbledore told you. You are, under no means, to let it slip to anyone. If anyone finds out, he'll know it was you." She paused. "And don't you dare say anything in front of Harry and Ron either. They don't know yet."
And she ran back up to her room, leaving a fuming Draco Malfoy in the common room.
By 11:00 that night, Malfoy had obviously gotten over his defeat earlier that day. Thankfully. Hermione wasn't sure how long she'd be able to stand him during their patrol if he wasn't.
They had been walking for nearly two hours in complete silence when they turned into a rather old, unused stretch of the castle. All the classrooms were empty, most of them hadn't been in use for several years.
Hermione stopped short as a soft, girlish laugh echoed from further down the corridor. Striding purposefully forward she made a bee line for the door, propped slightly ajar. Malfoy sighed and followed. As they drew closer, another voice sounded from the room.
"Want another sip?"
Pushing the door open with her arm Hermione marched in, to be met with the sight of two obviously drunk students. The boy, his shaggy brown hair falling into blood-shot eyes, stared up at her dubiously. The girl simply brought the bottle to her lips, not paying the slightest attention to the two intruders.
Hermione felt rage blossom in her chest. She had always been a stickler for rules, but this-- this was just beyond her! They were no more than 13 or 14 years old, and here they were--on school grounds--getting completely sloshed!
"What are your houses?" Hermione snapped, before lighting her wand to check their robes when they didn't respond.
"20 points from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff!"
"What!? You can't do that," The boy slurred with great difficulty, rubbing his eyes with one hand, the other arm slung over his girlfriend's shoulder.
"Do you see this badge?" Hermione said angrily, jabbing at the Head Girl badge pinned to her robes. "I can very well do that, and I also can very well report you to your Heads of Houses!"
"Now, now, Granger, don't get carried away."
Hermione sucked in a deep breath, before turning to face Malfoy, her eyes practically sending off sparks. "Malfoy, don't test me."
Completely ignoring her, the Slytherin prince strode forward and plucked the bottle of firewhiskey from the girl's grasp.
"Now, if we let you go without any punishment, do you promise not to mention to anyone about tonight?" he asked, his voice low and dangerous.
The two nodded mutely.
"Good. Remember, if I find out you told anyone, you'll be in big trouble. Tell all your little friends that you were drinking, I don't care. But don't tell them you got caught. Understood?"
They nodded again.
"Well, now that that's settled. Coming, Granger?" Malfoy asked, already at the door.
Against her better judgement, Hermione followed Malfoy back down the hall, glancing back nervously over her shoulder.
"Malfoy, what are you doing!?"
"Hmm?" He said absently, swishing a mouthful of firewhiskey around in his mouth.
"Is that why you did that? So you could get some bloody firewhiskey?" Hermione questioned, appalled.
"I'm doing them a favor," he drawled. "The two of them hadn't even drunk half the bottle and they were that far gone. If we'd left it with them they probably would've killed themselves." he snorted in amusement.
Hermione sighed in irritation. "Stupid prat," she whispered hotly under her breath.
And they lapsed into silence.
It was when they were nearly back to their Common Room when he spoke again. "So, Granger. Tell me. I always knew you were all about not breaking the rules, but that was a bit on the extreme side back there. What got your knickers in a twist?"
Hermione sighed in annoyance, wrinkling her nose at his lewd reference. "They're too young to be doing that! They're not mature enough to handle it."
As she said this they came upon their portrait, to which Malfoy gave the password. He went in ahead of her, tossing the now empty bottle onto the carpeted floor, no doubt expecting a house elf to have whisked it away come morning.
Hermione waited a moment until he had shut himself into his room, before approaching the bottle and gingerly picking it up. She observed it sadly, letting her fingers dance softly over its smooth surface. Then, before her judgment could get the best of her, she poured the last remaining droplet onto her finger.
The amber liquid shone in the light of the fire, and she stared, mesmerized. Hermione could just remember when she'd begun drinking that fateful night. She could recall how the liquid had burned her throat as it went down, to then settle in a warm heap in the pit of her stomach. Her emotions had been in a turmoil that night, she'd just wanted to escape for a few hours. She'd wanted to not have to be the one everyone looked to for help. She'd wanted to not have to think about the coming war, how everything was so tense and dangerous. Desperate.
Slowly she brought her finger up to her lips, wrinkling her nose slightly at the potency of it. Placing the bottle one of the desks, Hermione slowly paced to her room.
That night, she had wanted to not be Hermione Jean Granger.
Author's Note: Thanks again for all those who are keeping up with the story! :) Tell me what you think. And also please click to the like button if you're enjoying what you've read so far.