Hermione Granger Ron Weasley
Romance Action
Multiple Eras
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Order of the Phoenix Quidditch Through the Ages Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Published: 06/06/2004
Updated: 01/06/2005
Words: 243,073
Chapters: 26
Hits: 84,040

Hermione Granger and the Beginning of the End

Ann Margaret

Story Summary:
This is the story of the beginning of the trio's last months at Hogwarts, the beginning of the end of their childhood and the end of the war. But will good prevail? Will they survive? And why the hell did Ron Weasley throw away his relationship with Hermione? Once again, a lot more action, darker, but perhaps this time we shall have a happy ending...or not...

Chapter 03

Chapter Summary:
He's baaaaccck! Drunk Ron! And some of our other favorite characters are a little intoxicated themselves....

Hermione hadn't discussed with Harry for the rest of the week about what he had talked to her in the library. Ron of course had demanded to know what was going on and he had been as equally as concerned as she had. They had discussed ways to try to make Harry relax but with no clear success. However, when she returned from the library on Friday night seconds before the new curfew became enforced, and she didn't see Harry or Ron in the common room, she rather hoped that Ron had found a way to cheer Harry up. She had intended on joining Ginny, Neville, Parvati, and Colin Creevy's game of Exploding Snap for an hour or two before heading up to the solitude of her room. However, she mentioned to Ginny that she wondered just what Harry and Ron were up to and Ginny, with a wide smirk, had instantly suggested that Hermione go up to their dormitory. Ginny claimed that she was positive that whatever fun Harry and Ron were having, they would want Hermione to join in. Hermione was slightly suspicious of Ginny's eagerness but she had to admit that she was rather curious herself just what her two best friends were up to.

So Hermione made sure that no one was watching her before slipping up the stairwell that led to the boys' dormitory while Ginny distracted their other friends to make sure he didn't notice her sneaking into his dormitory. The only time she had been up there was on Christmas when no one else was here but Ron or Harry. But now, she ran the risk of walking in on something that Dean, Seamus, or Neville would never want her to see.

She knocked tentatively on the seventh-years' door. "Harry? Are you in there--it's Hermione."

At first she wasn't sure if her voice would adequately penetrate the heavy wood, but immediately after she identified herself, she plainly heard a response. However, it wasn't the voice she was expecting and he certainly wasn't using the language she condoned of.

"Ron? I'm coming in..."

"No," Ron protested wildly but Hermione shoved open the door anyway. Ron skidded to a stop; apparently he had be on his way to physically restrain the door. His face rather flushed, his shirt untucked, and his eyes slightly glassy, Ron instantly straightened up when Hermione stepped in the room. He raised an arm to lean against Dean's bedpost in mock casualness, his other arm wrapped around his back. "Hey, Hermione, how're you?"

Hermione stared at him for a moment, her eyes wide as a horrible suspicion crossed her mind. No, Ron, please don't tell me you and her...

A wild, unrestrained snicker of laughter echoed loudly from one of the beds but the voice was decidedly male. Hermione took another step in so she get a better of view. Seamus Finnigan was sprawled out on his bed, laughing so hard that he was almost as red as Ron's hair. A loud crash caused Hermione to whip her head back in Ron's direction who was now scratching his burning pink ear, his eyes much too innocent. His one arm was no longer hidden behind his back--he must have thrown something out of her view. Drops of an unknown amber color were trickling on the wall nearby, indicating that whatever he had thrown had contained liquid...

Hermione gasped in outrage, rounding on Ron. "Not again!"

"What?" Ron demanded. His lips were scrunched together in an obvious effort to restrain a guffaw but a loud snort from Seamus only set him over the edge. Ron was rather unsteady on his feet and his arm slipped off of Dean's bed, causing him to stumble and almost lose his balance completely. This only set Seamus off even more, and Seamus rolled over on his stomach, now laughing soundlessly as he had lost the capacity to breathe due to his extreme elation.

"You're drunk!" Hermione accused furiously.

"What, no!" Ron protested exaggeratedly. He held his hands in the air and tried to turn around in a circle but his drunken stupor rather prevented him from completing his movement. He grabbed Dean's bedpost again and let out one snicker before refocusing on Hermione with an obviously false serious expression. "I don't see any alcohol around here, d'you?"

"I see some, I see some!" Seamus crowed with triumph as he pointed at the dripping wall.

Ron turned towards Seamus with a dropped jaw. "Seamus," he reminded him, "we're not supposed to tell her." He indicated Hermione with both hands. "She's Head Girl!"

Seamus stared at him blankly for a moment. "Oh, oh, oh!" he cried eagerly, sounding eerily like Hermione had whenever she had exuberantly raised her hand to every question in primary school. He rolled over a few times across his mattress before landing on his stomach so he could rummage under his bed and extracting a bottle of firewhisky. "I see some, I see some!" Seamus kicked his legs in excitement as he rolled over again and set the bottle on his nightstand while lying on his back.

"And I've seen enough!" Hermione snapped as she started to stride over to Seamus to retrieve the bottle that was only a quarter full. Obviously, Seamus and Ron had been very busy tonight. "Give me that!"

"Uh, uh, uh," Ron tutted in disapproval as he snatched Hermione's arm and pulled her away from Seamus. "You don't want to do that,"

"Oh, really?" Hermione challenged as she tried to pull away, hoping that Ron's current state would reduce his strength without avail. "And just why wouldn't I, Ronald Weasley?"

"Ooo, called you by your full name, you're in tro-o-u-u-ble!" Seamus sang out the last word as he amused himself by trying to pour the whisky with his head dangling off the edge of the bed so he was staring at the glasses upside down.

"Because as much as y'hate to admit it." Ron shot her the cheeky grin that he had used many, many times before while they had dated in order to escape getting in trouble. "You like to see me this charming."

"Charming?" Hermione sputtered in disbelief. "You--you honestly think I like to see you act like this?"

The cheeky grin grew even wider. "Yeah. You do,"

Oh, God, there was the surge of heat in her stomach. Hermione used her free hand to push back her hair in a futile attempt to either distract herself or dissipate the heat that was now seeping throughout her entire body. Whether the hormonal rush originated from his strong yet gentle hold on her arm, the bright, sloppy smile that lit up his entire face, the way his voice could still cause her spine to shiver, his eyes boring into her like that...oh, she knew exactly what had caused her to feel this tingly and wonderful all over; it was Ron, just Ron being Ron, as aggravating and drunk as he was, was enough to make her have to frantically concoct very platonic images within her mind in order to calm herself. The hats for the house-elves, Jeremy Bateman, and her parent's dentist office all didn't work; it was only the disturbing thought of Snape without a shirt on was enough to make her shiver and pull free from Ron's intoxicating touch.

"Put that bottle down right now!" Hermione ordered Seamus sharply. Ron's eyes were still on her but she forced herself not to look; she would only have to call to mind Snape again and she really didn't want to have to go there ever again. "No one is drinking any more tonight!"

"But, Hermionnnneee," Seamus whined as he rolled over three times again, ending up on his stomach, his head imploringly tilted towards her. "I already poured!"

She glanced over at the messily poured glasses and her anger mounted. "Four glasses?" she pointed out, glancing back and forth between the two culprits. "Who have you been drinking with?" Seamus and Ron both lowered their heads whether to hang their heads with shame or hide their laughter, Hermione didn't know. They remained silent. "Oh, I see how it is; you two don't want to rat your friends out, is that it?" Hermione's hands went to her hips. "You have to tell me--you're already in trouble so you might as well admit everything!" Hermione's breath burned in her chest when she suddenly thought of who they were probably hiding; both Seamus and Ron had girlfriends. They must be having a double date. A double date with alcohol in a bedroom. Hermione wished she could close her eyes and scream into a pillow; she had now found a mental image to use whenever Ron was around that was even more effective than a half-naked Snape although she didn't particularly fancy the acute sense of nausea eating away at her stomach. Her fists clenched, she strode over to Ron's bed and pulled back the curtains, praying that she wouldn't find anyone hiding inside. Her wish came true; no one was there. She crouched down to check under Ron's bed and to mask her relief. She wasn't sure how she would handle finding Daphne in Ron's room.

A door banged open as Hermione was kneeling on the floor so she remained there to ensure that the latest guests at the little party Seamus and Ron were having wouldn't be aware of her presence. It would be the best way to find out who else was in flagrant violation of Hogwarts rules.

"All right, he hurled all over the floor and it smelled really bad and all, but he's fine and he wants some more, so fill us up!"

Hermione jumped back to her feet. "Harry Potter!"

Harry Potter instantly froze the moment his glassy eyes rested on the glowering girl. "Oh bugger," he muttered as he raked an unsteady hand through his hair. He stepped close to Ron but his voice was anything but low so Hermione heard it all. "I thought we didn't want her to know,"

"We didn't," Ron said to Harry before returning his attention to Hermione. "You wanted to find a way to get him to relax!" He gestured towards Harry wildly. "And he's relaxed!"

"I said relaxed, not completely pissed!" Hermione shouted furiously.

Her tone of voice left no room for argument so Ron turned back to Harry and shrugged. "We're fucked," he said cheerfully.

"Okay." Harry swatted Ron on the shoulder but his depth perception was off and he only grazed Ron's sleeve and almost toppled over. Ron grabbed him by the collar and steadied him with a smirk and a laugh. Harry shook himself free as he dropped onto his trunk, leaning his head back against his bedpost. "Well, I reckon it's for the best." Harry closed his eyes wearily. "I'd rather have Hermione kill me than Voldemort."

Hermione and even Ron stared at him with open shock and fear. Hermione couldn't stand hearing Harry talk so casually about dying. The idea of Harry dying brought back a ghost of the chest pain remnants of the battle in the Ministry in fifth-year. Her hand fluttered to her heart. "Harry," she said under her breath. Ron glanced over at her with an obvious frown of concern, but before he could respond, Seamus spoke up.

"Good one, 'Arry!" Seamus chortled as he wrapped his arm around his torso to dispel the pain in his stomach from laughing so hard. "But you really shouldn' say his name, Harry," he continued, suddenly very serious or as serious as you can get while completely smashed. "You're not supposed to say his name."

"Says who?" Harry demanded.

"Says the rules!" Seamus insisted, waving his hands wildly about. "It's unspoken, it's just known, I dunno who thought of it, but you--don't--do--otherwise!" One of his flailing hands pointed in Hermione's direction. "Ask Miss Head Girl over there!"

"Hermione says Voldemort all the time; Hermione, say Voldemort," Harry said forcefully.

"Voldemort," Hermione said quietly. It still felt funny to her to say it, but it did get easier every time.

"Good." Harry nodded with satisfaction before turning to Ron. "Your turn."

"No, no, no," Ron protested, waving his arm to indicate his disapproval. "I'm the one who doesn't say it, remember?"

"Come on," Harry cajoled, pounding his fist into the lid of his trunk. "It feels good."

Ron's slightly numbed lips moved soundlessly a few times before he shook his head again. "I can't,"

"Come on!" Harry's voice rose dramatically. "I want to hear you say it!"

"I can't!" Ron yelled back.

"Why not?"

"Because there's too many syllables," Ron explained in a slightly whiny tone. "It's too long." For the second time in a minute, a flailing drunken arm was pointed in Hermione's direction. "I'm even havin' trouble saying her name but I can manage that because she's Hermione." He said her name as if she was the most precious item in the entire world and it made Hermione's heart thump rather loudly and her cheeks turn a very bright pink. "But I don't even like this bloke 'cause he keeps tryin' to kill you and all so I'd rather not."

Harry studied Ron for two seconds after Ron had completed his explanation before the laughter exploded from his mouth. Harry fell to the side as he let the fit of laughter overtake him and Hermione had to fight a small smile of her own--she had never seen Harry laugh this hard in seven years. Harry abruptly straightened back up after a minute and leaned forward intently. "Listen carefully," he told Ron. He pressed his thumb and forefinger together and jerked his hand forward to punctuate every syllable. "Vol--de--mort,"

"Vouldemop," was all that Ron got out which only elicited another burst of laughter from Harry before trying again, one syllable at a time.







"Vol. De. Mort."

"Vol. De. Mort."

"YOU DID IT!" Harry yelled with glee as he jumped up from the trunk to clap his best friend on the back with joy. Harry however only really managed to trip over his own feet and he collapsed back on the lid of the trunk, contenting himself to simply applaud his best friend while remaining seated.

"Hey, I did!" Ron looked rather shocked at his nerve. "I said it! VOLDEMORT!"

He punched his fist in the air in triumph. "VOLDEMORT!" A huge grin was plastered across his face as he twirled around in a victory dance. The endearing quality of his horrible dance skills made it quite difficult for Hermione to maintain her status as an authority figure but by pressing her lips very tightly together, she managed to control herself. "You're right, Harry, this does feel really good!" He wheeled around to find Hermione still standing at the foot of Ron's bed with her arms folded across her chest. "You hear that, Hermione, I said it! I did it! Aren't you proud?"

"Yes," Hermione conceded, "but I'd be even prouder if you could say it sober."

Ron's face fell and he turned back to Harry. "Shit, she's still hacked off."

"How could I not be hacked off?" Hermione fired back.

Ron rolled his eyes and took a seat on the trunk Harry was perched on. "Here we go," he muttered to Harry. "This is actually one of her better lectures, so try to stay awake." Harry snorted.

"Honestly, I don't know what to say!" Hermione continued with her rant regardless of Ron's jibes. "I've already talked to you two about this." She gestured to Seamus and Ron. "And Harry, I am really surprised at you--I would have thought you of all people would have more sense than this!"

"Why, because he's the Boy Who Lived?" Seamus called out, sounding more than slightly bored at having to sit through the lecture he had already heard last year.

"No, because he hasn't been taken in like you two obviously have by the lure of alcohol!" Hermione retorted. "And Ronald!" She turned on him, anger climaxing as she stared into his deceptively innocent face. She knew that he was better than this; she knew what a wonderful person he could be but he had to stop doing these idiotic things all the time. "You are a prefect; you are a role model..."

"Ha ha ha; Weasley a role model," Seamus chortled heartily, slapping his knee with mirth.

"He is," Hermione hissed irately as her head whipped back to glare at him. "And I would think someone with your marks would try to be a bit more like Ron and maybe you would succeed a bit more!" Harry snorted with laughter again but Ron didn't join in; he just blushed instead. Hermione wanted to shout at Ron some more but then it would be fairly obvious that she was favoring him and she couldn't have that, so she hastily steered the conversation back to the matter at hand. "How many times do I have to say it--it is illegal to consume alcohol until you are eighteen which I know all of you are not, not to mention that it's against Hogwarts regulations as well! All of you could get into serious trouble for this! And that includes getting kicked off the Quidditch team or losing prefect responsibilities!" Harry and Ron simultaneously gulped with those threats. "Also, it's dangerous to consume a lot of alcohol if you don't know what you're doing and I think it's safe to assume from the current state that all three of you are in, that you don't know--what--you're--doing!" Hermione jerked her thumb towards the bathroom. "Now, who's sick?"

"Dean," Harry admitted.

Hermione let out a sigh of disapproval. "How sick is he?"

"He chucked it a few times," Harry explained, wriggling slightly in his seat. "But he said he felt loads better and he'd be back in a minute,"

Hermione's brow had creased with concern by this point but Ron of course had picked up on Harry's discomfort first. "Are you all right, mate?" Ron asked.

"I'll be back," was all that Harry muttered before holding a hand over his mouth and tottering over to bathroom. Hermione sighed--now she had two sick drunk people to contend with. But first, there were the two culprits with previous records that needed to be dealt with. "First of all." Hermione crossed over to Seamus' bed. "Give me the rest of it."

"That's all we have." Seamus gestured towards the four glasses beside him. Well, there was only one glass that had any consumable amount in it; Seamus had spilled most of the firewhisky on the tabletop. Hermione picked up the glass but Seamus sprang to life as she did. "What're you doing?"

"Disposing of this," Hermione informed him.

"That's stuff's expensive," Seamus protested as he climbed off the bed with an agility that Hermione didn't believe he had so he managed to block her path in time. "Give it back!"

"No," Hermione yelled. She jerked her arm out of reach as Seamus tried to forcefully retrieve his firewhisky back and easily pushed him back down on the bed. "Now," she continued firmly as she returned to her spot equidistant from Seamus and Ron so both could endure the wrath of her glare. "For your punishment."

"You can't punish us!" Seamus yelled stubbornly.

Ron exploded with laughter once again when he saw the fury on Hermione's face from Seamus' statement. "This is fun," he practically giggled. "It's not often she yells at someone that's not me."

"Shut up!" Hermione shot over to him before turning back to Seamus. "If you want me to not report this to McGonagall, you're going to have to let me punish you so which would you prefer: detention from me or a meeting with McGonagall?" Her head whipped back and forth between them heatedly. "What's it going to be, boys?"

Ron had his fist over his mouth to muffle his laughter so he couldn't respond. Seamus groaned in defeat and sat still for a moment before toppling over to the side, his cheek pressed against his comforter. "Just don't keep me from Hogsmeade again," he wheedled. "I promised Lavender!"

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Fine, you can go into Hogsmeade! But you will be...what did you say?"

Seamus sat up. "Last time you kept me from Hogsmeade and that was all righ' although I missed the whole graphorn thing and everything but this time, I have a date and you know Lavender, she'd kill me if I got myself landed in detention during Hogsmeade again!"

She stared blankly at Seamus for a long moment until Ron shook her arm. He had unsteadily climbed to his feet and crossed over to her, the mirth from seeing Seamus yelled at gone. She blinked once and shifted her position slightly, head tilted to the side in confusion. "I did keep you from Hogsmeade that weekend, didn't I?"

"Yeah." Seamus' brows were knitted and lips scrunched up in extreme confusion, making him look a bit like a monkey.

"And you stayed here that day--you didn't sneak in or anything," Hermione pressed intently.

"No," Seamus replied glumly, flopping over on his side again. Apparently the giddiness of his drunken stupor was wearing off.

"Okay," Hermione said slowly. "Okay," she repeated, barely aware that she was speaking out loud. "I--I-have to go," she finally got out, arm whirling absently towards the door and her feet soon following.

Ron had tried to grab her again when she pulled loose but his instincts were already slowed by the alcohol so he only grabbed air and the next thing he knew, Hermione was gone. "Harry!"

Harry, despite his inebriation, heard the sharp tone in Ron's voice and immediately shot out of the bathroom. "What is it?" he asked, steadying himself against the doorframe.

"Hermione," Ron said as a response. He was already bolting through the door, leaving behind a still very bewildered Harry and a half-conscious Seamus.

"W-what?" Harry yelled after him. He wanted to follow but he felt it was necessary to steady himself for a moment longer. "Ron!" He groaned and turned his attention to Seamus. "What's with them?"

"Who cares," Seamus slurred before dropping off into alcoholic-induced sleep. Harry sighed, pushing his glasses up off his face so could rub the bridge of his nose. He was feeling rather sick himself but he shoved himself reluctantly off of the doorframe and wobbled after Ron. He dully realized that he had no idea where Ron or Hermione were at the moment as he stumbled down the spiral staircase, for the first time realizing how difficult it really was to walk down stairs. However, his luck changed for the better the moment he reached the common room because there she was.

Ginny Weasley smiled expectantly from her armchair. She was playing Exploding Snap with Neville, Parvati, and Colin and they must have been really intent on their game since they didn't seem to notice how fascinating it was that the firelight actually caused Ginny's hair to sparkle with iridescent radiance. They also appeared to be as equally unfazed by the fact that Ginny was wearing a very short skirt-- Harry had never seen so much of Ginny's skin at once and those tantalizing first glimpses of previously hidden portions of her body made Harry realize how warm the fire really was. He averted his eyes from her but the images still blossomed within his mind and he realized that it wasn't the fire heartily cracking in the fireplace that was causing him to loosen his collar and squirm slightly; it was the fire that she had lit inside of him. Harry closed his eyes and thought as hard as he could about safe topic that wouldn't cause his hormones to erupt--Quidditch...Quidditch maneuvers...Quidditch practice...Ginny at Quidditch practice...Ginny riding a broom in a short skirt--damn it!

"Harry?" Harry's eyes flew open at the sound of her voice and she pointed towards the Fat Lady. "They went that way."

"Thanks." Harry managed a wave before he followed the direction of Ginny's pointed finger. He really hoped that she couldn't tell that he was having major difficulty walking. Heat still rising in his face, Harry tripped out of the tower and into the corridor, partly still marveling over the sun-kissed tones in Ginny's hair partly wondering how the hell he was supposed to find Ron and Hermione who could be anywhere in the castle.

"Honestly, Ron!"

Ah, Harry thought as he turned to the left and jogged down the corridor, there they are. He rounded the turn to find Hermione leaning against the wall, one hand on her forehead, another hand holding a half-full glass of firewhisky. Ron was grasping her elbow and both were rather red in the face.

"Can't you see that you badgering me like this isn't helping," Hermione continued on. "Just give me a minute to think!" She used the hand not covering her face to roughly shove Ron away from her, unintentionally passing the glass of liquor to him in the process. Ron obeyed her request but tapped his foot in impatience, fists clenched. Harry could tell that Ron was just bursting to touch her in some way, but Ron had held back from those instincts many, many times before in the past year and he managed to do it again.

"What's up?" Harry asked as he came to stop in front of his two friends. Ron glanced over at him and Harry knew that Ron had instantly sobered himself up over whatever had happened.

"I dunno--she got that bloody look on her face and just ran out." Ron jammed his free hand angrily into his pocket. "Y'know that I'm-thinking-really-hard-about-something-and-can't-bother-to-tell-my-best-friends-what-is-going-on look?"

Harry shook his head, wishing he could sober up as easily as Ron--it wasn't fair that Ron could sober himself up so easily while he was still trying to remember how to set his foot on the ground to walk properly. "What's going on, Hermione?"

In all honesty, Hermione didn't know what was going on. She was trying to connect random facts in her mind which usually came extremely easily to her but having four drunk stupid boys so close to her made that quite impossible, especially since one of them was often drove her wild just when he looked at her. She had come out in the hallway in hopes that the quiet and lack of people would allow her to focus. However, Ron had shattered any wish of that by barreling out after her and demanding to know what her problem was. This was why she usually went off by herself whenever she needed to think things through: she always would process all of her thoughts alone, sort out her arguments, and then she would go to her friends and present what she had learned logically and clearly.

"Look, why don't we talk about this tomorrow," Hermione finally spoke. "I-I don't really know myself and I don't want to spoil the rest of your evening with something that could very well be nothing..."

"Oh come on, Hermione!" Ron interrupted heatedly. "You don't have to worry about dampening tonight's festivities--you already did that when you barged in on us!"

A huge rush of irrational anger flooded Hermione and before she could think about it, she was screaming back at him. "Fine," she shot back at him irately. "It's just a bit disconcerting, don't you think, that I banned Seamus from Hogsmeade the day of your kidnapping yet he mysteriously was the one who told us about Harry and Ginny being missing?"

Her hand clapped over her mouth at the realization at what she had just said, eyes wide. So that's what had been bothering her about what Seamus had said. Before she could try to process anything further, Harry had grabbed one of her arms, seized Ron's shoulder, and steered them both into an empty classroom. With a flick of his wand, the door was locked and Harry looked steadily at Hermione. Apparently, he had also lost his drunken high. "What did you just say?"

Ron spoke up before Hermione could. "I made him honorary prefect," Ron recalled vaguely.

"And he walked Dean back after we found him," Hermione added.

"Seamus wasn't there!" Ron contradicted.

"It was after you left," Hermione reminded him with a shake of her head. "You kept looking for Ginny and Harry while I stayed to wake him up, remember?"

"Wake him up?" Harry asked faintly.

"He'd been Stunned," Hermione clarified. "I revived him, Seamus came to help and I left Dean with Seamus so I could go after Ron."

"And the two of them walked back to the village?" The sharp tone of Harry's voice indicated he was on to something.

"I assume."

"So this was all before I ran into you?" Harry continued.

"Yes, when you found me, I had just come from them, why?"

Harry raked his hand through his hair as he started to pace. "So I should have seen both of them since I was coming the opposite way, right?"

Hermione straightened up and Ron sucked in a deep breath. "Yes, you should have," Hermione said under her breath.

"Did you?" Ron demanded although all three of them already knew the answer.

Harry shook his head.

There was a long silence as the three friends tried to sort out what this new bit of information meant. Hermione of course was the first one who was able to think of a suggestion. "It could just be a Memory Charm--maybe Dean used it on him because he was upset about all that was happening."

"That's weaker than my Strengthening Solution from fifth-year Potions," Ron retorted.

Hermione frowned at his curt words and folded her arms over her chest. "You think of something if you're so clever."

"All right," Ron shot back. "What if Seamus is with them--he wasn't exactly very supportive of Harry when the war started."

"So he's automatically a Death Eater?!" Hermione shook her head vigorously. "That's ridiculous!"

"It is not!"

"Is too!"

"Pettigrew," Harry said abruptly.

The childish bickering that Ron and Hermione had yet to grow out of came to a screeching halt and their heads whipped as one in Harry's direction. "What?"

"Wormtail spied on us all of last year, right?' Harry elaborated thoughtfully. "He could have been in the tower the night Hermione caught Seamus with the alcohol so he knew that Seamus wouldn't be going into town so he nicked some of Seamus' hair up in the dormitory and used it to impersonate Seamus."

"And Pettigrew was just carrying around a vial of Polyjuice Potion, did he?" Hermione pointed out with a raised eyebrow.

"Hermione, we already know this had been planned for ages." Harry shrugged. "They could have planned it from the beginning that someone was going to impersonate a student." Harry's eyes gleamed as he became more convinced of his theory. "Think about it--they sent Pettigrew in with the intention that they needed a student to be for the day. He didn't know who he was going to become but he had all the supplies; all he needed was a person who wasn't going to be at Hogsmeade."

"But why would they want to impersonate a student?" Hermione asked. "They already had the graphorns and they already sent you the letter asking you to meet--how would becoming Seamus help?"

Surprisingly, it was Ron who spoke up first. "He came to us," Ron recalled with a slight groan. "Seamus was the one who made us realize that Harry and Ginny hadn't shown up while we taking attendance."

Hermione gasped again as she realized what Ron was insinuating. "He lured you back there," Harry jumped in, face growing a bit paler. He swallowed hard. "Ginny wasn't the only one they wanted to use as collateral."

"He came after us to make sure we went in the right direction," Hermione picked up the remainder of the theory. "Ron had already gone ahead, but I was still there since I couldn't leave an injured student but since Seamus was there..."

"...you could go after us," Ron finished for her with a frown. "But why did Harry still not see them on the road?"

"Seamus could have changed back by that time," Hermione hypothesized.

"But where was Dean?" Harry shook his head in confusion. "I dunno--maybe Ron's right, maybe Seamus is just evil." Ron threw his hands in the air in mock victory and gave Hermione a withering, triumphant look.

"That still doesn't explain where those two were when you were rushing down the path," Hermione argued while shooting back a glare of her own.

Harry sighed in frustration. "We need to talk to Seamus or Dean," he finally stated. "Get their perspectives on what happened that day."

"I don't think Seamus is in any state to be questioned just now," Ron reminded them. "Why can't we just wait until tomorrow when we're all up for it," Ron suggested reasonably. "It's not as though this is a major catastrophe is it--Pettigrew isn't sneaking in any longer so he can't be Seamus anymore, right?" Ron shrugged. "It really doesn't matter if we know if that was Seamus or not anyway; that day is over and done with." He glanced down at his trainers. "What happened that day is over," he repeated to himself more than anyone else.

Harry stared somewhat sullenly at the floor while Hermione let out a reluctant sigh. "Fine," she agreed. "Fine, we'll talk to them tomorrow in Hogsmeade."

"Good," Ron stepped back from Hermione and started towards the door of the classroom. "Now let's get the hell out of here before Filch finds us."

"You don't understand," Harry said quietly, still focused on an ink stain on the floor. His words were barely audible but the underlying intensity was enough to make Ron stop in his tracks and Hermione's chest freeze with concern. "You don't know...what he's like," Harry's head shook from side to side as if he was trying to rid his mind of horrifying images and thoughts. "Once he's used you, once he knows how he can manipulate you, how he can use you to not only accomplish his own means, but to make you suffer..." His face had become grimly set with bitterness and hatred. "...He'll use you again. He'll never let you go; he'll make sure of it." One hand snaked up into his unruly hair and Harry clenched the untidy strands fiercely as if he hoped that ripping his hair out would get Voldemort out of his mind. "Once he's got you, you're his forever,"

Hermione's knees had gone weak from an overwhelming sense of horror at Harry's words. Harry never talked this freely about Voldemort and how each encounter affected him. It seemed a bit random and out of context but Hermione after a few moments realized why he had said it. "So," Hermione found it was necessary to swallow hard before speaking, "you think that Seamus is in danger of being used by Voldemort again?"

"That," Harry said slowly, "or he is a danger."

Hermione's stomach dropped to her shoes. "No," she whispered, not wanting to believe that fun-loving, outspoken Seamus was actually being controlled by Voldemort. Seamus Finnigan, the boy who reminded her the most forcibly of Ron, the boy who had been dating Lavender Brown for almost a year, the boy who would repeatedly blow up objects throughout first-year due to his over-zealous approach to magic...

It was the perfect cover and they all knew it.

"We were with him all night and he didn't try anything," Ron finally spoke, voice laden with disbelief. "We drink with him every Friday night and he hasn't tried anything..."

"Excuse me?"

"...he's our friend!" Ron ignored Hermione's interjection and continued to stare at Harry. "Friends don't betray each other!"

Oh, Ron, Hermione thought with a flood of affection for the oblivious prat. Ron was obstinately loyal to his friends that he just assumed that everyone else was. It just wasn't conceivable to him that anyone would betray a friend.

"Wormtail was one of my father's best friends," Harry barked. "People do drop their friends like dung if they can get a bit of power or fame or money in the process!"

Ron looked so horrified at that awful truth of the deceitful nature of some people that Hermione wished she could wrap her arms around his waist and nestle her face into his chest so that he knew that she would never betray him like that. But before she could, another voice echoed distantly in her ear and she repeated the words out loud, although both of her friends did not know just how meaningful they really were. "You never know who lies behind a friendly face," she whispered.

"Exactly," Harry agreed forcefully. "We've got to talk to him!"

"We will!" Ron held up his hands in mock surrender. "We will! I just don't think we'll have a very good interrogation session with him if he's unconscious!"

Harry groaned slightly as he screwed up his brow. "Oh yeah."

"He's not going to try anything tonight," Ron continued. "If he was, he would already have done it when we were alone and smashed."

"Yeah, you're right," Harry conceded finally, taking off his glasses to rub his eyes. He was starting to look a bit embarrassed that he had caused such a scene over this. Hermione found herself glancing at Ron with more than a little bit of pride; Ron had actually calmed Harry down. Ron had actually talked back to Harry in the process. Ron had finally grown up. "Tomorrow then?"

"Tomorrow," Hermione and Ron agreed. Harry strode over to the door to inspect the halls for a sign of Filch, Snape, or Mrs. Norris. He motioned an all clear sign to them. Ron and Hermione followed Harry out in the hall but after two steps, footsteps echoed loudly down the hall that obviously were not their own. Ron let loose a slew of very colorful words and Hermione quickly sprang into action. With a rough shove, Harry stumbled back into the classroom and Hermione closed the door with a snap of her wand.

"What are you doing?" Ron hissed as he tried to get over to the door but Hermione shook her head and grabbed his arm.

"You can't--they already heard us!" The footsteps were getting even closer. "Come on," she whispered. "Pretend we're patrolling."

"Oh yeah." Ron sagged with relief. It wasn't their night or time to patrol but hopefully whoever was about to round the corner would have no idea of the patrol schedule. His relief was however fairly short-lived when he remembered the object in his hand. "How are we going to explain this?"

Hermione gasped as she looked down to find a glass that was very obviously filled with alcohol. She looked around desperately for a place to throw it but there was no discreet place to put it and she couldn't very well place a full glass in her pocket. Ron swore under his breath again and started to drink the entire glass himself. But before he could, Hermione was already handling it; she didn't think it was a good idea for Ron to get drunk again so she grabbed the glass from him, downed the entire glass of firewhisky and dropped the now empty glass into her pocket.

"Hermione!" Ron's voice indicated that he was impressed against his will but also that he was a bit worried as well. Hermione waved her hand dismissively to indicate that she was just fine. She couldn't orally respond due to the bitter taste that was burning her throat, esophagus, and stomach and she couldn't help coughing rather violently to dissipate the vile flavor. How could anyone drink this?

"Hey, that's a nasty cough you got there, Granger," Ernie Macmillian commented as he and Hannah Abbott rounded the corner. Hermione wanted to sigh with relief that it wasn't a teacher wandering down the hall but she was still wheezing quite a bit so she only managed a weak smile.

"Yeah, she caught that cough that's been going around," Ron stepped in smoothly as he thumped Hermione on the back while she kept one hand on her chest and continued to cough a bit.

"I didn't know there was a cough going round," Hannah inquired with puzzled concerned.

"Well-uh--that's the nasty part about it, isn't it," Ron lied not so smoothly. "You don't know it's coming until it's too late."

"Right." Ernie didn't look convinced but he simply gave them a parting wave before the two Hufflepuffs continued down the corridor.

Ron waited until they were out of sight before letting out a huge breath of relief. "That was close--that Macmillian is such a little stickler."

"I don't think so." Hermione finally gained her voice back. "It's the Ravenclaws turn to patrol tonight; they were out past curfew too." She giggled slightly. "I'm assuming that if we won't tell anyone about them, they won't tell anyone about us."

"Ah," Ron finally understood. He flicked his wand over to the door they had locked Harry in while examining Hermione's now flushed cheeks worriedly. "You might want to sit down, love; you're really going to be feeling that in a minute." Although Hermione could tell that he was honestly concerned, he couldn't stop a snicker from escaping at the thought of Hermione drunk. Not that Hermione intended to get drunk; it had just been one glass, for goodness sake. She had drunk wine before at special occasions so it wasn't as though she had never tasted alcohol before; even butterbeer had a mild alcoholic content. She could handle herself and she was going to let the hot liquid that was currently bubbling in her stomach dictate all of her actions.

"I'm fine," Hermione said shortly. She whirled back around to smile apologetically at Harry but she underestimated her own strength and stumbled slightly. Ron quickly steadied her, desperately trying to hide a smirk. "I'm fine," she shot over her shoulder at him before focusing on Harry. She had a feeling with the current sensation of light-headedness that had deluged her brain that looking at Ron may not be the best idea at the moment. "Sorry for shoving you like that, Harry--I couldn't have anyone seeing you with me and Ron."

"All right," Harry said slowly, looking Hermione up and down with puzzlement. He gave Ron a questioning look.

"She drank that glass of whisky," Ron explained.

"Really," Harry said with pure shock. That shock soon turned into amusement and a smirk broke out across his face.

"Kicked back the whole thing in one gulp, she did," Ron continued with a hint of a proud smile tugging at his lips. "Never seen anything like it."

"And I missed it!" Harry exclaimed in honest disappointment. He wheeled back to Hermione. "Can you do it again?!"

"Now?" Ron repeated with an anxious laugh. "Do you want to kill her--I'm shocked she's still standing as it is!"

"Oh, please," Harry scoffed, his face twisted with disbelief. "One shot?! I've seen Dudley drink more of that stuff and he's always perfectly fine and Hermione's loads tougher than that pig!"

Hermione giggled quietly; Harry's facial expressions were so open and expressive that Hermione knew in an instant that he was still feeling the effects of the alcohol despite his momentary sobriety a few minutes earlier. Ron, on the other hand, was remarkably sober at this point. Hermione cocked her head to the side as she absently stared at Ron's profile. He has such a good jawbone, Hermione reflected, it wasn't too square nor too round and whenever she would touch his face, her fingers always seemed to run perfectly along the strong bone structure. Her lips also had always enjoyed exploring the curve of Ron's jaw. A smile remained plastered across her face at the memory of Ron's jaw pressing against her lips and then there was the memory of the feel of Ron nuzzling her neck, of their lips joining...

Snape in his underwear, Snape in his underwear!

"Oh bugger!" Hermione shouted as she clapped her hands over her eyes. Why did she do that to herself?

"What?" Ron jerked out his detailed description of how magical alcohol will have a greater and more potent effect on the consumer than typical Muggle alcohol.

"Nothing, it's nothing," Hermione mumbled dismissively, eyes still closed. It was amazing that the world could still spin even though she was technically looking at nothing.

She could sense that Ron was going to pursue the topic further but Harry interrupted before Ron could ask. "So will you be taking a shot for me or not?"

"Tell you what." Hermione opened her eyes and leaned against the wall for support. "After you kill Voldemort and all, my reward to you will be to get utterly and completely pissed." An uncontrollable giggle escaped from her throat. "And I must admit, it does feel rather nice--I'm starting to understand why you lot keep defying me."

And now that she thought about it, it really did feel lovely to drink that stuff. Yes, it was a bit bitter and difficult to swallow and she could only imagine how horrid her breath must be since she kept surreptitiously burping the after-taste. But now that she was getting used to the world spinning round and round, it was fun. She felt light and free and uninhibited and it wasn't very often that Hermione Granger allowed herself to feel like this. She had the sudden urge to go flying or dancing or something wild like that; she wondered what Ron and Harry would think if she asked them to come dancing with her atop of the Astronomy Tower--she always thought it would be utterly romantic to dance in the moonlight. The image of Ron and Harry dancing suddenly seized her mind and another trail of laughter bubbled out of her mouth; she didn't think they would be very good at dancing.

So dancing is out of the question, Hermione thought carefully, nose wrinkled in concentration. So what was she going to do? She glanced over at Ron and Harry who were now openly laughing along with her and her laughter intensified. She'd think of something and she was certain that whatever scathingly brilliant plan she concocted, those two would be ready, willing, and able to join right in. Yes, Hermione conceded as she tossed her hair over her shoulder, the three of them were going to have a very good time tonight.

Author notes: Thanks for reading and I would love to hear your thoughts on the review board!

Next up: so what did happen afterwards? And how will interrogating Seamus and Dean go?