Chapter 3:

Completely Foolproof

"I don't know, guys . . . ."

Ron's face was pale, even in the dim lighting, as he anxiously rubbed his sweaty palms on his lap.

The dance was in full swing.

Music filled the elegantly decorated room. Satin panels waterfalled down the walls, pooling passionately on the floor. The ceiling, matching the outside world, was bright and clear. Stars twinkled; snowflakes fell lightly, but disappeared before hitting the surface of the tables. Candles flickered, casting romantic shadows to every corner. It was an immaculate evening, filled with magic and joy.

Students laughed, ate, and danced—enjoying themselves.

But Ron, who was sitting between Fred and George at a deserted table near the back of the room, was miserable.

He was hot—uncomfortable. And it was getting hard to breath, his tie suddenly too tight. Swallowing thickly, he pulled at the restrictive band.

Fred and George looked up at him with identical quizzical faces.

"What are you talking about?"

Ron opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Clearing his throat, he licked his lips anxiously.

Fred's face slacked into a look of disbelief as it abruptly dawned on him. "You are such a girl!"

The music swelled suddenly and George had to raise his voice to be heard over it. "You're not seriously having second thoughts about this, are you?"

Ron glanced around nervously, his stomach in knots.

His friends had long ago left their table to enjoy the evening.

His eyes shifting, Ron caught sight of Lee, sitting at a table close to the dance floor, leaning close and talking with Dean Thomas . . . presumably about Quidditch.

Harry and Ginny were dancing—Harry holding Ginny close to his body as they spun slowly in the center of the dance floor, blissfully unaware of the faster paced song that was playing.

And Hermione . . . .

Hermione was currently dancing with Neville, laughing unabashedly as he twirled her across the dance floor. Her cheeks were flushed with laugher and delight—a light sheen of sweat glowing from her collarbone.

Neville spun her once more and a curl became unpinned and fell against her face, framing her cheek.

Ron watched, mesmerized by her—his mouth suddenly dry.

He wanted nothing more than to pull her from the dance floor, rip that silky material from her body, and ravage—

He shook his head, physically shaking the thought from his mind.

Tearing his eyes from her, he pushed himself away from the table, stood abruptly, and began to pace. Hastily, he cleared his throat. "I mean . . . this is wrong, right?" He stole another glance in Hermione's direction. "What if we get caught?"

Fred shook his head and pulled on Ron's arm until he was seated once more. "Look, you won't get caught, alright?"

Ignoring him, Ron pushed himself to his feet once more. "No . . . no . . ." he said speaking more aloud to himself than to anyone else. "This is so wrong. We're gonna get caught . . . ."

He spun to stare his brothers in the face, his face wild—almost primitive—as a terrifying thought entered his mind. "I'm gonna go to Azkaban!!"

George stood quickly and forcefully, pushed Ron back into his chair, and kept his hands planted strongly on his shoulders. "Oh, for Christ's sake! You're not going to Azkaban!"

"And the only way you're going to get caught is if you don't relax!" Fred's face was stern.

Dejected, Ron dropped his face into his hands heavily. "This is a bad idea," his voice muffled from behind his palms. "I can just feel it . . . this isn't going to work."

"Oh, it'll work." George's voice was light.

"How do you know?" Ron moaned. "It's not like you've tried it."

Silence was Ron's only response.

Slowly, Ron's hands slid down his face until he was able to peer over his fingertips—his eyes wide. "You've tried it?"

"Quality control . . . ." Fred said matter-of-factly.

"What? And it worked?"

"We won't be giving it to you if it didn't." George's voice sounded from above him.

The thought sinking in, Ron looked around the room—eyes searching frantically. "Who did you use it on?"

Fred and George exchanged a wicked smile that only lasted a split second.

"A gentleman doesn't kiss and tell." Fred's face was serious.

Ron looked from one brother to the other and his eyebrows dropped in a sinister glare. "You two are not gentlemen."

George waved an absentminded hand and sat down beside Ron. "Whatever . . . Look, we've told you . . . it's foolproof."

Ron stared at him hopelessly.

George sighed heavily. "Have you got the vial?"

Ron dug in his robes until he was able to find the small glass container. Stupidly, he held it out to his brother.

George snatched it from him pointedly, with a roll of his eyes. "Okay . . . so follow me. This is easy, alright? You take said vial," he held the small bottle up between his thumb and forefinger, "and you take liquid . . . ."

"Any liquidous substance will do," Fred chimed in.

"Precisely." George nodded as he grabbed the drink that was before Ron. "Now, you watching? Cuz this is where things get a little tricky . . . ."

Ron stared at him blankly and George took this as a sign to continue—yet this time, he spoke with a horrendous French accent. "You take ze potion, like so, and dump . . ." tipping his hand, the ember fluid drizzled out slowly, "into ze liquid . . . un voila!"

"Ze magic is ready to occur." Fred mimicked.

"Se magnifique!!"

Ron stared at the glass in front of him, his eyes tightening. "That's it?"

George grinned, all traces of his bad accent gone. "That's it."

"But you didn't explain anything . . . you didn't explain how it works . . . or how it's foolproof, for that matter!"

Fred sighed. "It's quite simple, really. The liquid that is now mixing deliciously with your drink, is a simple . . . let's call it . . ." he waved his hand, searching for the word, "enhancer."

Ron's face was void.

"It's simple, really . . ." George added. "You first drink from it, then share it with a person of interest. Someone you want to get to know on a little more personal level."

"The chemicals mix and enhance your feelings for one another. If the other person is feeling anything for you, their desire will be enhanced ten fold."

"So, you see, it's purely consensual with no worries of being caught. It just acts as a catalyst that provides a much needed . . . push . . . in the right direction."

Fred laughed. "Yeah, a push right into bed."

Ron flushed scarlet and was thankful the lighting was so dim. "And what if they don't feel anything for you?"

"Ah . . ." George nodded. "Now there's where the foolproof part comes in."

Fred leaned in. "If nothing is felt by the person of interest, then nothing will happen. It will do nothing to quench your desire, of course, but they will be none-the-wiser. They will continue on with their life having drunk nothing more than plain liquid in their mind. And, although it'll sting a little bit for you, you will have received an answer to a very important question without ever having to embarrass yourself."

"Pretty ingenious, if you ask me." George tipped back in his chair, satisfied.

"So, there's nothing to lose. There's no way that you can get caught, there's no way that you'll get in trouble, and there's no way that this can backfire . . . because it's perfect."

"She does have some feelings for you, doesn't she?"

Ron swallowed thickly. "I don't know."

"Only one way to find out . . . ."

Reaching out, with finger trembling slightly, Ron pulled the glass toward him. Nervously, he leaned forward and peered into the cup.

The liquid bubbled gently, like sparkling champagne, and Ron paled visibly.

Fred took notice and pushed the glass closer. "C'mon . . . drink up, Mate."

Licking his lips—his mouth suddenly extremely dry—Ron's eyes never left the twinkling amber liquid. He gripped the cup lightly in his fingertips and lifted it carefully off of the table.

Slowly, he brought it close to his face and sniffed at it suspiciously.

George draped his arm over his shoulders. "I assure you, it's tasteless, completely painless . . . ."

It smelled normal enough—yet the bubbled tickled his nose delicately. Taking a deep breath, he gradually lifted the cup to his lips.

Fred and George leaned in expectantly, their eyes wide—matching grins covering their faces.

Ron could feel the bubbles, lightly tickling his lips, and his stomach churned violently.

He placed the cup back on the table hurriedly.

The smiles melted from Fred and George's faces. "What's wrong?"

Ron exhaled audibly. "I just need to get a few seconds of air."

Fred groaned. "Oh, come on, Ron . . . stop being a child and just do it!"

"I can't believe you're chickening out of this."

A frown etched deeply on Ron's face. "Stop chastising me. I'll do it . . . but I'm going to do it on my own time. And right now," he pushed himself up from the table, "I'm going to get some air. So, just let me go. I'll drink the damned stuff when I get back."

Not waiting for an answer, Ron turned and strode out of the Great Hall.

Fred and George watched him retreat, with matching looks of disbelief.

Finally George broke the stillness with a light scoff. "Unbelievable . . . ."

Grabbing for his own drink, he suppressed an incredulous laugh. Shaking his head he brought the glass to his lips. "Baby . . ." he mumbled before taking a large gulp.

Hermione Granger was having a wonderful time.

Her heart beat furiously against her chest as Neville spun her wildly around the dance floor.

With a snap of his wrist, Neville twirled her into his body and dipped her low. Laughing, Hermione could feel heat rise in her cheeks as her hair swept gently over the hardwood.

Pulling her suddenly upright, Hermione squealed and clawed at his shoulders, embracing him tightly. Panting, she tried to catch her breath. "You're going to dip me right out of my dress," she giggled lightly

Neville slowed his movements and spun her lazily. "Well, we wouldn't want that, now, would we?" He pulled her closer to her body, his hand resting lightly on her lower back.

Catching her breath, Hermione allowed Neville to lead her gracefully over the floor. "No. No, we would not."

Neville's feet moved swiftly, an odd elegance radiating through his actions. Hermione sighed lightly and allowed herself to be swept away with the music.

It felt as if she were floating.

Her eyes closed, she could feel everything and yet, nothing, all at the same time. She was aware of each breath that she took, of each heartbeat, of Neville's warm hand around her waist, of the sweeping music—but she couldn't feel anyone else. For all she knew, she and Neville were the only ones left in the galaxy, slowly moving to songs from the Heavens.

And, before she knew it, the song was fading, dying tenderly into nothingness.

Neville stopped moving and Hermione slowly opened her eyes. Smiling, she took a step back from her dance partner. "Well, Mr. Longbottom, you certainly know your way around a dance floor. I'm impressed."

Neville blushed crimson and shrugged casually. "It's easy when you have a great partner."

Another song started and Neville looked distantly toward the corner of the room, listening. He turned his attention back toward her and smiled. "Wanna go again?"

Hermione smiled, but shook her head. "I need a break. But, save me one a little later?"

Neville smiled and nodded in agreement. Then, humming lightly to himself, he twirled dreamily toward the edge of the dance floor.

Hermione laughed and shook her head at him before she slowly maneuvered through the dancers and made her way toward the tables.

She had only made it a few feet, however, when Draco Malfoy's cynical drawl caught up with her. Stopping, she tipped her head slightly and listened.

"You're so pathetic, Longbottom . . . Following along like a love-sick puppy. I mean, do you really think you've got a chance with her? There's no way . . . you're far too stupid."

Hermione spun angrily on her heel.

Neville stood—his face red with embarrassment—as Crab and Goyle laughed moronically behind a smug faced Draco.

In three large steps, Hermione stormed over, grabbed Neville's arm, and glared heatedly at Draco. "Leave him alone, Malfoy."

Draco feigned fear before scoffing menacingly.

Rolling her eyes, Hermione held Neville's arm tightly and turned to leave.

"Granted, I don't know why you would want the dirty mudblood in the first place."

Anger sparked in Hermione's chest and, twisting, she narrowed her eyes. "Oh, get a new insult!"

Draco crossed his arms tightly over his chest, his face cold. "All right. How about this one: I have no idea why you'd even want to taint your dick with that piece of rubbish."

Inhaling sharply, Hermione dropped Neville's arm and crossed the short distance until she stood toe-to-toe with Draco.

Standing close, Draco stood a good head and shoulders taller than she was, and looked impressively big in his black dress robes, but she held her ground, her eyes narrowed into slits. "Do you really want to go there?"

Exhaling through her nose, her hands balled into light fists at her sides.

It didn't go unnoticed.

Draco's eyes flashed from her hands and back to her face. "What are you gonna do?" His eyebrows lifted slightly. "Hit me?"

Biting the inside of her cheek, Hermione shook her head. "No. I've already done that . . . ." A smug look crossed her face. "But, I'm sure you haven't forgotten that."

Draco's face flushed slightly.

Crab and Goyle chortled until Draco shot them a menacing glare.

Composing himself, Draco sneered toward Hermione. "I'd just like to see you try it again."

Hermione lifted her chin in defiance. "You're not even worth it . . . besides," she pushed the stray curl back from her face, "I wouldn't want to mess up my hair."

Before Draco had the chance to retort, Hermione turned and grabbed Neville's arm. "Come along, Neville."

Neville, wide-eyed and open mouthed, allowed her to lead him away.

Moments later, they reached the table that Fred and George were sitting at.

All composure lost, Hermione dropped Neville's arm and began muttering angrily to herself.

Fred looked up in question as Hermione paced irritably in front of the table. "Everything all right, Love?"

"He just makes me so mad." Hermione stopped abruptly, her hands balled into fists. "He's a worthless blond-haired little snake . . . a maniacal malicious sleaze . . . a repulsive, ugly . . . ."

She paused, breathing hard, at a loss for adjectives.

"Dick?" George offered.

Hermione cracked a smile. "Yes. He's nothing but a complete and utter dick." Taking a deep breath, she surveyed the table momentarily, before she reached forward and grabbed Ron's goblet from the surface.

She raised it towards her lips.

"That's Ron's . . . ." Fred's voice cracked slightly in alarm.

Hermione glanced over the rim. "He won't mind." Tipping her head back, she finished half of the drink in one gulp.

Fred and George exchanged an uncomfortable glance.

Hermione's shoulders relaxed slightly as she gently wiped her lips with her fingertips.

However, the peace was short-lived.

She felt a shiver travel up her spine as Draco's voice drifted from behind her. He was walking slowly toward the exit, taking loudly to Crab and Goyle . . . talking loudly so that she could hear . . . laughing loudly so that she could hear.

Hear that they were talking about her.

She refused to turn. "Fuck off, Malfoy."

She could tell that he had stopped walking.

"Such a dirty mouth . . . ." His drawl was cold, judgmental.

Hermione turned slowly, fist tightening around her glass. She could feel the heat of adrenaline and anger creeping up toward her face once more.

Staring Draco in the face, she forced her voice to remain calm. "You're just trying to get a rise out of me, and it's not going to work."

"I may not be able to get a rise out of you . . . but . . . ." Draco's eyes dragged slowly down the length of her body, lingering on the skin between her breasts.

Hermione's heart pounded heavily in her chest, her mouth dry. She felt exposed and suddenly wished her dress covered more flesh, but she forced her face to remain in an unflinching glare.

His eyes trailed up her body, undressing her, until he reached her face. "There's no saying you wouldn't be able to get a rise out of me."

Slowly, Draco leaned forward, until his mouth was inches from her ear. Hermione could feel the warmth of his breath against her skin and was embarrassed when her body reacted: Shuddering, her knees went weak momentarily, and she had to fight to keep her face in a scowl.

"Of course, I could think of one thing to put that dirty little mouth of yours to use." His voice low and raspy, his eyes flashed to her lips and back to her eyes as he lifted his eyebrows suggestively. "It may just be the only thing that makes you worth having around."

All former emotions gone, Hermione was once again filled with undiluted anger. Her mouth dropped open in disgust, her eyebrows knit together tightly.

Gripping the goblet in her hand, she suddenly snapped . . . unaware of her actions . . . and flung her arm (and the liquid) forward—directly into Draco's face. "You've repulsive."

Across the table, Fred choked into his drink and George shot him an alarmed look.

Choking, amber liquid dripping from his skin, Draco's mouth remained open in surprise. Looking down at his soaked clothes, he spit angrily onto the floor. "You bitch!"

Hermione breathed heatedly through her nose and never broke eye contact with him.

She watched how the fluid wet his hair, collecting on his forehead in large drops that slowly trickled down his cheeks until they fell off of his pointed chin. She watched as his tongue, pink and wet, slowly snaked out to lick the substance from his lips. A fire was in his eyes, but she couldn't help but wonder how they were able to look like molten steel, even in the dim lighting.

Her heart was beating heavily against her ribs, her mouth dry once more, and she was suddenly having trouble remembering what she had been angry about in the first place.

Draco angrily wiped at his chest with widespread fingers. "You fucking whore . . . You're going to pay for this."

Oh, she hoped that she would pay for this . . . . Her face flushed at the sudden thought.

Without waiting for Crab or Goyle, Draco turned heatedly and stormed toward the exit. Hermione watched him leave, wondering how she had never noticed how pristine his body was, draped in the expensively tailored dress robes.

He disappeared through the door and she turned back toward the table in a daze.

Fred, George, and Neville were staring at her, their eyes wide.

Clearing her throat, she fixed her hair before smoothing the silk of her dress down the front of her body. Her nerve endings felt like they were on fire, and she wasn't quite sure if it was just from her confrontation with Draco.

Pausing, her hands on her torso, she looked down. Some of the amber liquid had splashed back, creating small circles of wet on the front of her dress.

Swearing softly under her breath, she looked up once more. "I have to go change . . . excuse me."

Without waiting for a response, she began making her way toward the exit.

Fred and George waited until she had completely exited the Great Hall before they bowed their heads together, their voices in a panicked whisper.

"He didn't drink any, right?"

"I don't know . . . ."

"And even if he did . . . ."

"It was such a little amount . . . ."

"And there's no way . . . ."

"No way . . . ."

"I mean, he's Draco . . . ."

"She hates him."

"And he her."

"So, there's nothing to worry about . . . right?"

"Right . . . ."

"What's going on?"

Ron's voice sounded from behind the twins and George screamed. Sitting up, they looked at Ron and tried to act like everything was cool.

"Nothing . . . nothing's going on." Fred suddenly found it hard to look his brother in the eye.

"Yeah," George's voice cracked and he cleared his throat in haste, "nothing at all."

Ron narrowed his eyes suspiciously and glanced from Fred to George. They smiled artificially at him.

Ron turned his attention toward Neville questioningly.

Neville's face turned red, but he merely shrugged.

Not convinced, but not caring to push any further, Ron took a seat beside Fred. Slowly, he scanned the table. "Where's my drink?"

Fred shot a nervous look at Fred, his eyes wide. "Um . . . um . . . it's . . . ."

George reached out and grabbed the goblet that was in front of Neville. "Right here. We just moved it for safekeeping."

Ron smiled and reached for it. "Good . . . because after some thinking, I've come to realize that you guys are right. This is a golden opportunity and I'm ready to give it a go. There's no harm in it, right? Because it's foolproof, just as you said. Good or bad, I'll have all of the answers tonight."

Fred and George smiled, tight lipped.

"So . . . here's to the truth. Cheers." Ron tipped the glass back and took a large gulp. Swallowing, he sat, as if waiting for something magic to occur.

When nothing did, he turned toward his brothers and smiled. "So far, so good . . . now, I just need to find her." He glanced around the darkened room. "Where's she at?"

Fred and George exchanged another look.

"Um . . . powder room, Mate."

"I'm sure she'll be back any minute."

Although, neither of them could definitely say that they wanted her to come back.