Disclaimer: if you recognize anything, then it's not mine.
A/N: Again, I've revisited the first chapters of this story and hopefully worked out any remaining kinks. I break for Christmas soon so I'm hoping to be able to update regularly, at least for now.
A/N: I understand that a lot of people appreciate review responses, but while I thank everyone for their continued support, it's just too difficult to respond to them all so I've decided to leave them. Instead, let me thank everyone now for their continued support and encouragement.
I'll Drink You Under The Table
Hermione didn't trust herself to speak. Who knew what kind of hex or curse might come out of her mouth, with the mood that she was in. Instead she turned on her heel and walked out of the common room, leaving Harry and Ron standing with their mouths hanging open. "But – but what did we say?"
Lavender sighed and looked up from her tarot cards. "Ron, she's feeling undesirable and boring anyway. You just brought it to everyone's attention."
"And how would you know? You get that from your divination?" Ron sneered at her.
She ignored the insult, but did narrow her eyes a little. "Hermione might not be interested in make-up charms and glitter dress–robes, but she's still a girl. And I know more about my gender than you ever will, Ronald Weasley."
Harry nodded. "Yeah Ron, you were a bit tactless."
The snort was very unlike Lavender, and both boys looked at her in surprise. "You were no better, Harry. Honestly, I can see why the two of you need to be friends with her. You'd never get anywhere without her to explain everything to you."
The boys looked at each other and decided not to discuss it any further. It seemed that Lavender could be just as scathing as Hermione, so long as it was a topic she knew something about. Ron muttered something about girls being far too sensitive for his liking, and they decided to give her some time to cool off. They soon lost themselves in a game of wizard's chess, though, and forgot about Hermione's bad mood.
"What are you going to have?" Hermione glanced at the dirty bar stools, the cobwebs, the shadows and the goblins, sighed, and sat down anyway. She knew all too well that she was about to break the rules in a seriously big way, and in the dodgiest pub in Hogsmeade, no less.
"I don't care. So long as it's strong enough to get me drunk, it's OK by me."
The barmaid raised her eyebrow and for a minute, Hermione thought she was going to comment, but then the woman shrugged and turned to get a bottle. "That'll be a fire-whiskey then. You're from the school, aren't you?" She filled the glass and slid it over to Hermione, who put the money on the table.
"Yeah I am, I'm afraid. I've got ID, but I don't think you'll want to see it."
The witch nodded knowingly and grinned, showing a mouth containing only three yellowed teeth. "Never asked to, and you look old enough to me." She winked at Hermione – which was very bizarre to see, given that she had only one eye.
Hermione found the darkest corner in the place and settled back into it, ignoring the lecherous looks she was getting from the old wizard sitting across the room. She studiously avoided eye-contact with everyone in the place, and swallowed a mouthful of liquid from the filthy glass. She winced as it burnt the back of her throat, then resolutely took another swig.
Half an hour later, she was still on her first drink. She had pulled herself as far into the corner as possible, and was starting to regret coming out at all. A glance out of the window told her that it was already getting dark, and she wasn't completely sure she could find her way back to the castle in the dark. The secret passage would be no help, of course, unless she wanted to get arrested for breaking into Honeydukes.
She was so lost in her own thought that she never noticed the man that slid onto the seat beside her until he spoke. "Are you alright there, darling?"
She jumped and turned towards him, instinctively reaching for her wand. The man was ugly and threatening, sitting only inches away from her. "Get away from me." She spoke through gritted teeth, trying hard not to show her fear. The witch at the bar would surely intervene before anything got really out of hand. But then, this wasn't a nice place - maybe things like this were the norm. She tightened her hold on her wand.
"Oh now come on, don't be like that. We could have some fun together. Don't you think…" he ran a finger suggestively down her arm, but didn't get any further.
"Stupefy!" He was a big man, but completely unprepared for the spell, and Hermione's magic was stronger than that of an average 17-year-old. He wasn't knocked out, but was dazed enough for Hermione to be able to push him far away from her. The goblins barely looked up at the commotion, but the one-eyed witch was at the table in an instant. "You come near me again and I will put you into Mungos for the rest of your life."
The man backed away nervously at the sight of Hermione's wand, and she started to wonder whether he was even a wizard, let alone a dark one. The witch that had come up to help Hermione smiled at her. "Sorry love, most of the people in here just go about their business in quiet. Don't let this put you off."
"He's not a wizard?"
"No, Conan's a squib," she said, looking disdainfully at the man who was still backing away. "It makes him feel inadequate so he tries to intimidate young women who he thinks won't fight back." She grinned again, showing all three of her teeth. "Looks like you picked the wrong witch this time, Conan. Now why don't you leave before the girl carries out her threat?" Muttering and sulking, the man left without any real complaint, and the witch turned to Hermione. "So sorry about this, love. Do you want another drink? On the house."
Hermione hesitated again, her old doubts returning, but then she mentally kicked herself for being so boring. True, she had been irritated with Harry and Ron, but maybe they were right. She never took any risks, and surely Gryffindors were supposed to be brave and daring. Even she had to admit that letting go without thinking of the consequences for once had been exhilarating. She nodded. "Another drink would be great, thanks."
Draco entered the bar alone, relieved to have finally finished his transfiguration essay, and ready for some hard liquor. He didn't expect to see anyone he knew – he had been frequenting the Crow Pub since his fifth year at Hogwarts and he had never seen anyone else from the school there. Located on the outskirts of the town, he wasn't even sure if the teachers knew it existed. And since they didn't look too kindly on underage drinking at Hogwarts, that was a big plus point. The fact that the bar-staff would serve anyone over the age of nine was also a factor.
He nodded to the witch behind the bar and pulled out a bar-stool, ready to stay for a good couple of hours. "Magenta, my love, I will have a fire-whisky if you've got one spare." The one-eyed waitress grinned at him and passed him a glass, leaning over to whisper to him.
"I've never seen any of your friends in here before." He looked at her questioningly, and she nodded towards Hermione's corner. "She's been in here since half-six. Says she comes from the school. Kicked up quite a fuss about an hour ago."
Draco looked over and saw Hermione dressed in a long black cloak, a few empty glasses on the table in front of her. She had straightened her hair to try and make herself less obvious, but she was still unmistakable.
"Granger?" He turned back to Magenta and explained, "just a stuck-up mudblood bitch I go to school with."
"Well she didn't seem so bad when I spoke to her. She certainly taught Conan a lesson."
"She took on that idiot?" After a moment to think about this, he started to laugh. "I'll bet that didn't go down well?" Magenta shook her head. "Still, how stupid must she be to take on someone his size? If he weren't a squib she'd have been dead by now. That's exactly what I mean about her – only Granger would believe that she could take on a fully-grown wizard and win." Magenta rolled her eyes, then moved away to serve a hunchback on the other side of the bar. Draco sat back and regarded Hermione with some interest as he drank his fire-whisky. He found himself thinking that, with her hair all sorted out she wasn't all that unattractive. But could he ignore her heritage for one night? On the one hand, his entire creed was screaming at him that she was not worthy, but on the other, he was a 17-year-old boy with a raging sex drive, and in the dim candle-light she was looking pretty damn sexy. He sighed, and called Magenta back over.
"You want another drink? Starting as you mean to go on, that's what I like to see," she laughed.
"No, Magenta, I wanted your advice."
"Advice? Draco, honey, people usually wait until they're drunk to pour out their troubles to me. Besides, I'm paid to be a barmaid, not a therapist."
"I'll buy you a drink," he said with a smile.
"Sold." She pulled up a bar-stool, opened a bottle, and sat, ready to listen attentively, pausing only to yell, "get your own damn drinks!" to a customer who requested her service. She turned back to Draco. "OK. Continue."
"Well I was just wondering. What's your view on sleeping with mudbloods?"
Magenta raised her one eyebrow and glanced over at Hermione. "You're talking to the wrong witch here, honey. As far as I'm concerned, sex comes before pure blood every time," she said with a grin. "You're a growing boy. So long as you don't fall in love with the girl, what's the difference? And if she's as stuck-up as you say she is, it could be interesting. Still waters run deep, and all that." Magenta finished off her drink and set it down on the table with a flourish. "That's if you think you can handle her. She didn't seem too open to propositions when Conan was chatting her up." She winked at him and walked back behind the bar. Draco's competitive spirit flared up inside him and he stood up with purpose. He knew it was going to take all his skill to crack that little mudblood in the corner.
Hermione looked up, hand on her wand, when someone slid into the seat beside her, almost expecting to see Conan beside her again. Still, the tall blonde sitting there wasn't much of an improvement. "My, my - a Griffindor drinking. Doesn't that go against your code of honour, or something?"
"Leave me alone, Malfoy."
"Now, Granger, that's not very polite. I actually came over to ask if you wanted to have a drink with me. I've always felt that you and I have never really understood each other, and I wanted to fix that." His voice was heavy with mocking undertones.
"I'm warning you, Malfoy. I've had quite a bit to drink, and nothing to eat all day. I could be dangerous for all you know."
"If you're trying to tell me that you're drunk, love, there's really no need. I could have figured that one out all for myself. Here, let me get you some water."
"God, not from this place. The glasses are even dirtier than the ones in the Hog's Head."
"Don't be stubborn. It won't work." He gently took the fire-whiskey away from her and went up to the bar to get a glass of water. "Here you go, drink this. It'll sober you up."
"I don't want to be sober. I came here to be drunk. I don't care if it's against the rules and I don't care if it's not sensible. I don't care."
"Oh, so this is a rebellion kick then, is it? Makes sense, I suppose. Now come on, drink it. You might not care right now, but you're totally drunk, and Dumbledore won't like it if you stumble into the dining hall and throw up over everything. I can't imagine Filch would be too pleased either." Hermione said nothing, and Draco leant back in the seat, looking infuriatingly at ease. "So, as the cliché goes, what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?
"Nothing." Hermione sipped the water reluctantly, glaring at the table. "I just felt like a drink."
Draco shrugged, and looked at the other patrons in the bar. "OK, but I'd suggest that next time you take a journey onto the dark side, take someone with you. That wizard over there is a regular here, and not known for his gentleness with women, if you know what I mean."
"I can handle myself."
"Against a guy like that? I don't think so. You might have handled Conan, but if he had been a wizard then you wouldn't have been getting out of here alive." She tossed her hair back and shot him a look worthy of McGonagall herself. But one thing Draco was good at was seduction – the one thing Hermione wasn't prepared for. He leant in and placed one hand over hers. "You want to be careful, Hermione. You can't save yourself from everyone."
Hermione looked up into his eyes, feeling vulnerable and disarmed by his sudden change in attitude. "Why do you care, Malfoy?"
He sat back casually, phase one of the seduction complete. "Call me Draco," he said, with a suave smile. He glanced down at the table. "So, that all you've had to drink so far?"
"What do you mean, so far? Four fire-whiskeys is a huge amount." Draco just laughed, and she glared at him, the alcohol making her feel daring and fun. "Fine. If you think it's so little, you do it." She sat back and folded her arms.
"Have four fire-whiskeys?" She nodded. "Honey, that's not even enough to make up a normal Friday night for me. Do you really want me to match you drink for drink? Can you bear to agree to a challenge that you're doomed to lose?" He watched her carefully and the indecision was showing in her eyes. "Come on, take a walk on the wild side for once. To hell with responsibility?" That did it – she tossed her hair back and grinned.
"I'll drink you under the table, Malfoy."
Three hours and several drinks later, both the Slytherin and the Gryffindor were undeniably drunk. "You want to give up yet?" In response to the swaying girl in front of him, Draco smirked and picked up another glass. Hermione giggled. "I don't think I can do another one."
"Oh, so you mean I win?" He laughed at her frown. "I think that means I win, Granger. The Slytherin male is triumphant again." She scowled, and Draco looked at her, a teasing smile on his face. "Hey, we're just having fun here, right?" She relented, and smiled up at him. "Doesn't it feel good to let your hair down?" Draco was so close that he was whispering, and Hermione could feel the electricity in the air. She was so quiet she was almost holding her breath. Draco reached up and gently pushed a strand of her hair behind her ear. He brought his face down to meet hers, and Hermione hesitantly tilted her head up. Her eyes drifted shut when their lips met.