Just This Once
Summary: Hermione is brilliant, easily the cleverest student in all of Hogwarts… and struggling with her schoolwork. She receives help from an unexpected source. RH one-shot.
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Hermione had never realized just how heavy her eyelids were. They kept on closing of their own accord, and she could not summon up the strength to lift them. Her Charms essay blurred before her eyes as she fought, tooth and nail, against the call of slumber. It was so, so tempting. She yawned widely and blinked, shaking herself. It was only twelve-thirty. She'd lasted far longer than this before. Just a few days ago, she'd gone to sleep at five in the morning, and she'd been all right.
Pathetic, she told herself. Twelve-thirty is nothing. You can stay up all night if you need to. You've done it before.
She couldn't allow herself to sleep now. She'd finish this essay, and then permit herself half an hour of bliss, and then write her Herbology essay.
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Someone was shaking her. Hermione ignored the shaking as well as she could, trying to will herself back to sleep. The shaking continued. How annoying. Oh, when she got up, she'd give whoever was shaking her a piece of her mind—she was Head Girl now, and she'd gladly take points off of whoever was disturbing her—
"Hermione, it's eight fifty-five, and if you don't wake up this instant—"
She screamed and opened her eyes. Ron Weasley was standing beside her, hand laid on her shoulder, the corners of his eyes creased with worry.
"God, Ron, don't ever do that to me again," Hermione said snappishly. "I'm trying to sleep, for heaven's sake. Don't scare me like that."
"But it really is eight fifty-five," Ron said tentatively, retreating a bit as if he was afraid she was going to bite his head off.
"Oh, very funny, Ron." Hermione looked around the common room to find that it was completely empty. The sun seemed to be shining rather brightly for seven o' clock in the morning. She glanced down at her watch.
And screamed again.
"It's eight fifty-seven, Ron! I have Charms in three minutes!" She stood up hastily and winced as her neck cracked. She'd spent the entire night sleeping with her head on the table, the surface of which was terribly messy. (The table, not her head, though now that she thought of it, her hair must be extremely messy as well.) Books, rolls of parchment, quills, and ink bottles were thrown haphazardly on the table. She was never that messy. She glanced down in disgust at her half-finished essay.
Her half-finished essay.
"No," she gasped. "No. This isn't happening. I couldn't possibly have done this—not finished my homework—I always finish my homework, always. I always finish my homework ahead of time. I didn't finish my Charms essay—oh, I didn't even start on my Herbology essay, and it's due today—Ron, why didn't you wake me up earlier?"
She was on the verge of tears. Ron looked quite terrified.
"I tried to wake you up," he said. "You just kept on slapping me and telling me to go away."
"I did?" She looked at the mountain of supplies on the table helplessly, and began to stuff everything in her school bag. "I have to go—Charms—"
Ron gently but firmly placed both of his hands on her shoulders, succeeding in immobilizing the upper part of her body. "Hermione, slow down. Breathe. It's okay."
"Slow down? Breathe? It's okay?" Hermione's voice reached a tone of hysteria. "I can't calm down! I didn't finish my homework, and I'm late for class!" Before she even had a chance to stop them, tears raced down her cheeks. She pushed Ron away, angry and ashamed of herself, and sat down, laying her head on the table and hiding her tears. Sobs racked her body as she tried desperately to compose herself. It wouldn't do to have Ron seeing her like this. It wasn't proper at all, and he'd think she was weak and stupid and irrational and…
"A failure." The words were almost unintelligible, as she sobbed them into her sleeve, but Ron heard them.
"A failure?" he repeated incredulously. "Hermione Granger, a failure? Hermione, in case the thought never occurred to you, you're Head Girl. You're the cleverest student in the school. If I ever hear you calling yourself a failure again—"
"But you don't understand!" she wept. "It's not just this time. It's—it's—" She took a deep breath, making a valiant effort to stop crying. "Last week, I fell asleep in Transfiguration. Transfiguration! I don't know how I could have possibly done that, but I did, and Professor McGonagall was so disappointed in me, I just know she was. She took five points off of Gryffindor, and I was so ashamed of myself. I still don't see how I could have fallen asleep, but I was just so tired, and—" She dissolved into tears again.
Ron awkwardly stepped closer to her and sat down in the chair next to her. "McGonagall would have understood. She knows how many N.E.W.T. classes you're taking."
"But she's Professor McGonagall! She's my favorite teacher, and I've always tried so hard to win her respect, and now look what I've done." Hermione sniffed. "And that's not even all of it. Yesterday, I got an A in Potions. An A, Ron. An Acceptable. I thought it was bad enough when I got an E last time—"
"Oh, yes, because it's such a tragedy to get an Excellent in Snape's class—"
"—and I was really hoping to make it up this time, but I ended up with an A! I've never gotten an A before—I've always gotten O's, and I've always thought that as long as I work hard enough, I'd always get O's—"
"Not so in Snape's class. You know he doesn't care how hard you work—he'd use any excuse to fail all of us in Gryffindor."
"And two days ago, Professor Vector wanted me to stay after class so he could talk with me, and he said—he said— " More tears made their way down Hermione's cheeks. "He said that I should consider dropping Advanced Arithmancy, because it didn't look like I understood the material. I do understand it! I've studied so hard for it, and I'm not that familiar with the concept yet, but I will be. I just need to study a little harder, that's all. I can do it—I don't need to drop the class—"
She cried harder than ever when she realized that the last three sentences she spoke were completely lies. She didn't understand the concept. If she studied harder, she still would not be able to understand it. She needed to drop the class.
"I can't do this," she said at last. She was surprised at how calm her voice sounded. Calm and absent of emotion. "I can't handle all of these classes. I've gone for two days without sleep this week, and even though I keep on trying to convince myself that I don't need that much sleep, I know it's not true. I'm tired, and I'm absentminded, and I can't focus in class or when I'm studying. I'm moody and irritable, and I know I've snapped at you and Harry and Ginny for no good reason, and I'm so sorry about it, but I can never bring myself to apologize."
She swallowed the last of her tears. "I'm Head Girl and I can't keep up with my classes. I'm a failure."
"Hermione, don't say that!" Ron's voice was so harsh that she looked up in surprise.
"You're not a failure, Hermione. Just because you're struggling a bit doesn't mean that you're failing. Everyone's having trouble in their classes, and I bet everyone would kill to have your grades. What do you have in Transfiguration now, a ninety-six percent?"
Ron rolled his eyes. "Know-it-all."
"But I've always gotten at least a ninety-nine percent in every class!"
"Oh, whatever. See, you're getting a ninety-seven, and I'm getting a seventy-nine."
"That's not bad," Hermione said encouragingly.
"That's not bad, but a ninety-seven is?" Ron rolled his eyes again. "I'll never understand your logic, Hermione. Your grades are so good, yet you're always worrying."
"I have to work so hard for my grades," Hermione objected. "I get three hours of sleep a night, five if I'm extraordinarily lucky."
Ron was silent for a moment. "Okay," he said. "I see your problem. Do you want to hear the solution?"
Hermione nodded eagerly.
"Number one: when a teacher asks you to write a three-foot essay, write a three-foot essay, or even a four-foot one, if it makes you that happy. But don't write a six-foot essay when one a three-foot one is required."
Hermione gave Ron a shove, but a smile was beginning to creep onto her face.
"Number two, which should really be number a subset of number one: when a teacher asks you to answer questions one to twelve, don't answer questions one to twenty. Likewise, when the question is specifically marked 'short-answer,' don't write three paragraphs for it."
"Ron, I'm not that much of an overachiever—"
"And number three: let Harry and I copy your homework so you don't have to spend so much time editing our essays."
Hermione pushed Ron off his chair in indignation, and he lay sprawled on his back on the carpet. He reached up and grabbed her hand, and she screamed and fell on top of him. Laughter rang out in the room.
They lay side by side, content for the moment. Hermione rolled over and impulsively kissed Ron on the cheek. His ears turned red, and she giggled.
"Thank you, Ron," she murmured.
"For listening to me, and for missing Charms to stay with me. You didn't have to do that, you know—and oh, gosh, I'm so late for Charms." She stood up and began to pack her supplies in her bag again. "And I didn't finish my Charms essay! What am I supposed to do? It's due today. I can't believe I haven't finished it yet."
"Hermione." Ron stood up as well, and gently pulled the bag out of her hands. "It's okay. It's okay to take a break once in a while. We'll just not go to Charms today. You can explain to Flitwick tomorrow, and I'll back you up. Everything will be all right. Flitwick is a decent teacher, and he'll believe whatever excuse you come up with. He'll find it harder to believe my excuse, though."
Hermione allowed Ron to pull her back into a sitting position, and she allowed herself to believe his words. Yet she couldn't help adding worriedly, "Ron, I'm ditching class. If Professor McGonagall finds out about this, she'll kill me. Or worse, she'll take away my badge, and I'll be forever disgraced in her eyes. Plus, I still haven't finished my homework."
Ron's mouth twisted into a crooked smile. "Live a little, Hermione, won't you? Don't finish your homework all the time. Fail a test. Ditch class once in a while. It's good for you."
Hermione swatted Ron on the arm. Ron just laughed.
"I'm starving," Ron said presently. "I didn't have breakfast, you know. I was too busy trying to wake you up."
"I'm hungry, too," Hermione admitted.
"Great, we'll go to the kitchens and get some food."
"Ron, no! What if we get caught? And besides, we shouldn't trouble the house-elves to get us food. The whole concept of it is completely unjust."
"We'll take Harry's invisibility cloak with us. Are you hungry or not?"
Hermione hesitated. Ron was grinning at her with that adorable grin that always made her melt.
She thought about it. Ditch class, not do her homework, sneak to the kitchens where students were not allowed, and beg the poor innocent house-elves to appease her hunger. She had never thought that she would even be considering a proposition like that, but she was.
She looked at Ron again. She shouldn't have. He was still grinning that adorable grin.
Oh, what the heck.
"Okay," she agreed.
She'd do it. Break the rules and go against everything she believed in. Just this once.
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A/N: This is a seventh-year fic, in case you haven't figured it out. I imagine N.E.W.T.s classes are exactly like AP classes.
Fic inspired in part by my own struggles with schoolwork as of late. Sleep is now a luxury that is no longer affordable. I'm getting a B for the first time in my life, and I think I'm grounded. My mom has sentenced me to "implied grounding" for probably the rest of the year. I'm not even allowed to go to the library to volunteer. (That rhymes.) Sigh.