Losing Harry as a friend during his fourth year had been hard, harder than Ron would ever admit. As soon as they had the first argument, all he wanted to do was apologise and make up – but being stubborn teenagers, he had held his tongue. He had been jealous, oh yes, that much was true, but never did he ever hate Harry. Harry had been the first person to not see him as 'another Weasley' but as his own person, and even though Harry had (through no fault of his own) gained more popularity and talent than him, Ron had treasured his friendship highly.

But, then, they had fought – and suddenly, Ron realised what it was like to be alone. After three years, it was habit to wake up with Harry, travel with Harry, eat with Harry, and be with Harry constantly. But now he had to go out of his way to avoid Harry. So when he woke up one morning and saw that Harry was already gone and probably eating breakfast, he didn't feel the urge to slump into the Great Hall himself. He got dressed and absent-mindedly walked down the halls, until he found himself to the secret entrance to the kitchens. Figuring why the hell not, he tickled the pear in the portrait and let himself into the kitchen.

The tables inside were laden with food that was being sent up to the Great Hall above for breakfast. The house elves were clearly busy and rushing around on their little legs. One elf noticed Ron and quickly scampered over, bowing.

"Anything I can help you with, young master?" She squeaked.

"You wouldn't happen to have Firewhiskey," Ron asked, deciding on the spot.

"Of course sir!" The elf replied, dashing off and returning seconds later with a full bottle Ogden's Old Firewhiskey. She pressed it into his hands and asked if there was anything else.

"No, no, thank you so much!" Ron sputtered and the elf beamed, before bowing again and returning to the busy bustle of the other elves.

Ron stowed the bottle carefully within his robes and walked quickly out of the kitchen, down the hall, and outside into the grounds. He did not know what had suddenly come over him back there; he had never drunk anything alcoholic in his life and didn't plan on starting now. But for some reason, that was the first thing that came to mind in the kitchens. He settled himself in front of the Lake and watched the squid's tentacles probe the surface of the water.

Harry wouldn't approve of this, a small voice said in the back of his head.

Harry wasn't here, was he? That seemed to decide the matter; Ron uncorked the bottle and took his first ever gulp of Firewhiskey. It didn't taste bad, per se, but it burnt his throat and made his eyes water. The warm liquid seemed to explode within his stomach and already his head was beginning to feel a bit lighter.

If this is being drunk, then I don't see what's so bad about it, he thought.

It took him a good hour to finish the whole bottle. By the time he had drained the last drops, students were starting to come out from the castle, to take in the weekend's sun after breakfast. Ron decided that he didn't want to be found here, less someone started asking questions. He chucked the bottle into the bushes across from him and stood up. Quite as soon as he did, he stumbled sideways and barely managed to stay upright. He hadn't noticed how blurry his surroundings were, or how wobbly he was.

You are drunk, he thought to himself, and yes, he supposed he was.

He would have to take the long way around the castle if he didn't want to get spotted. It would be harder, but he felt he could do it. So he set off – stumbling and careening off course, thinking he was looking quite alright, and not noticing the curious glances he was getting from nearby students. He staggered off around a corner and broke into a run, around one wall, another, another and then finding himself back at the front of the castle, where he only now had to subtly get to the front doors, up the stairs and into the common room.

As he made his way to the door, however, he spotted Harry and Hermione walking right towards him. They had not seemed to notice him yet, so he ducked behind a group of Ravenclaw third years and waited until they had gone inside. He thought he saw Hermione glance in his direction, but figured it was just his imagination.

"What are you doing?" One of the girl's in front of him asked.

"I, uh, nothing," he said lamely, and ran off before they could ask him anything else. He legs almost buckled from beneath him as he walked in the doors but he caught himself once again. Now all he had to do was get to the common room.

It took him much, much longer than usual to find it – the staircases had confused him, he had kept getting into fights with suits of armour, and to avoid students he kept dashing into hidden passageways that just got him more and more lost. Eventually, finally, he found himself in front of the Fat Lady.

"Password?" She said.

Ron found that he could not remember it at all. "Come on, just let me in," he said, but the portrait stayed resolutely shut. "You know I'm in Gryffindor, come on, just open up."

But she wouldn't.

He stood undecided for a moment, debating taking out his damn wand and just blasting her open, when Fred, George and Lee came up the corridor. He tried to compose himself the best he could.

"Hey guys," he greeted them.

They exchanged looks between each other almost immediately.

"What are you doing?" Fred asked.

"I've forgotten the pass," Ron replied, "don't you hate that. I always hate that." He wasn't aware that his words were slurring alarmingly.

George opened the portrait, and the three of them stepped back to allow Ron to go in before them. First, he couldn't quite climb up into the portrait hole, but then managed to crawl in and fall out awkwardly out the other end. He stumbled over to a chair and sat himself down in it. The twins and Lee came through the hole and stood near him, talking in low voices, which swirled around Ron's head and didn't make much sense to him. He had a sudden urge to roast marshmallows in the fire, and decided to make another trip to the kitchens to get some (and maybe pick up another bottle) when the boys approached him.

"Here's the deal," George said, "we don't tell mum you've been drinking and you don't tell her about our joke shop plan. Okay?"

Ron blinked. "I haven't been drinking, why –"

But George held up a hand to stop him. "Don't bullshit us, Ron, we can tell. But we aren't going to stop you. We'll remind you tomorrow when you're sober." With that, they retreated to a corner and discussed ideas.

Ron sat in the chair for a few moments, head spinning and spinning, before trotting up to the common room. He spent the afternoon tripping and stumbling around his room, before the sudden sickness washed over him and he ran to the bathroom, to throw up violently in the toilet. He spent his evening in the bathroom, either squatted in front of the bowl, throwing up his guts, or sleeping (passed out, rather) on the cold tiles. Fred and George managed to pass this off to his other roommates as him just being ill, and not letting them see him like this. Eventually they dragged him to his bed, where he passed out cold.

This would be the first time Ron would get drunk.

It had now been a month since he had had his first drink, and it was suffice to say, he had gotten a lot better at it. He could drink a whole bottle now without being sick, in fact, his tolerance had gone up so much that he could have two bottles and still be able to function somewhat normally. He was drinking every day, starting as soon as he woke up to his lonely existence within Hogwarts. Fred and George knew, of course, but stayed quiet as he stayed true to his side of the deal. Hermione had no idea, and nor did Harry, not that he cared about that git.

It was in History of Magic, when he heard Harry and Hermione laughing together, that he asked to be excused to the bathroom. The bathroom was empty as he walked in and hit his head against one of the stall doors. Of course he still cared about Harry, that's why it hurts so goddamn much. He pulled out his hip flask from his robe pocket and took a long sip from it, closing his eyes gratefully.

"Well, well, well," a voice sneered. Ron opened his eyes and saw Malfoy had come in, smirking at Ron. "Weasley's got himself a drinking problem, does he? How cute, does he miss his wittle boyfwend Pwotter?"

"Shut the fuck up," Ron growled, wanting any excuse for a fight. He'd love to hit Malfoy right in his little rodent face.

"Feisty," Malfoy replied, "that Firewhiskey sure makes you angry. You should try something more calming." He pulled out a vial from his robes, filled with a greyish powder.

"What's that?" Ron asked.

"Powder," Malfoy replied mysteriously, opening the vial and making a line of it on the bathroom sink."

"Floo Powder?" Ron replied stupidly.

Malfoy chuckled. "Not quite, Weasley, but it sure will take you places."

Ron watched as Malfoy made a straight line on the sink, pulled out a small roll of parchment, and used it to snort up the powder. He let his head fall back with a satisfied grin on his features.

"You want a hit," he asked; though it was less of a question and more of a statement. Ron struggled for a few seconds; alcohol was one thing, but drugs! But then, the memory of Harry's laugh came back to him, and he felt a sudden urge to do anything to block it out. He nodded, and Malfoy set him up a line and handed the parchment to him. Ron snorted up the line, and it burnt his nose, much like the Firewhiskey had burnt his throat the first time. He rubbed his nostril, sure that some powder was still on it, and looked over at Malfoy.

"You'll feel it in a second," the blonde-haired boy said, before returning the vial to his robes and leaving Ron alone.

Ron stared at himself in the mirror for a few minutes, waiting and willing for anything to happen. He debated having another mouthful from his flask when it happened. It was as if a blanket had covered his head; suddenly, all thoughts disappeared from his mind, and a sense of serenity stole over him. He raised a hand to his face to find it was numb and he spent a little while touching his body and revelling at the numbness. He was smiling widely. He made his way back into History of Magic, seating himself at his usual backseat. Professor Binn's monologue suddenly seemed much more thrilling; he found himself listening attentively, perching himself on the edge of the seat. Even laughter from his two old friends could not deter him; his head was far, far away, situated in a place where only bliss and happiness reigned.

The bell went and he seemed to float from the classroom. He knew he was still smiling, but he couldn't seem to stop – everything was suddenly much more beautiful and amazing. The sun from outside made the suits of armour glitter, lights seemed to dance and twirl in front of him, even Mrs Filch seemed much more inviting, and he even patted her. He walked into the Great Hall to be overcome with the sight of the enchanted ceiling – it reflected blue sky and white clouds, and it was mesmerising. He stood watching the clouds for a long time, following their progress and admiring their shapes, before being buffeted to the Gryffindor table.

Ah, how the golden plates and cutlery seemed to shine at him. He picked up a knife and examined it closely; twirling it between his fingers. Ginny said beside him and looked curiously at his actions.

"You, uh, alright Ron?" She asked.

"Fine," he breathed. It was halfway through lunch when he started to feel the effects wear off, and reality start to come creeping back. Suddenly things seemed less beautiful, and he was starting to become painfully aware that Harry was only across the table from him. Ron looked up and spotted Malfoy leaving the Great Hall alone, and made the split decision to catch him. He hurried from his seat and sped to catch up with him, having to hurry up many staircases before finally seeing him.

"Malfoy! Malfoy!" He yelled, sprinting towards him. Malfoy turned around and smirked, before ducking into a door beside him. Ron followed and found himself in a disused classroom. Malfoy stood with his hands in his pockets, raising his eyebrows at Ron as he caught his breath. He didn't say anything, so Ron talked first.

"I, uh," he mumbled, "I think I would like…some more of that powder, um, please."

Ron soon found himself, as crazy as it seemed, spending a lot of time with Malfoy. Malfoy did not want to give out the name of his 'dealer' and contented himself with providing Ron with his drugs, and they most often than not ended up doing them together. They would plan periods to meet in the bathroom together, to share powder and alcohol. On their breaks they would wander up to the astronomy tower to smoke what Malfoy called Gillyweed. They could never meet in public, less someone decided to investigate what they were doing together, so they had to sneak around carefully. It was now two weeks until the first task, and Ron was determined not to think of it at all – which meant he was ingesting something illegal almost every hour.

He was now sitting with Malfoy in one of the North towers, passing around a smoke as they sat and looked out at the inky sky. They did not talk much, even though they shared this secret, it could not dissipate the animosity between them. It was best to stay quiet and savour the moment.

Ron took a drag from the smoke, feeling it fill his lungs, and that familiar feeling of his head not being quite attached to his body. He passed it to Malfoy and contented himself to lying back and watching the sky. That was, until, Malfoy spoke up.

"Do you want to try blowbacks?" He asked.

Ron focused his eyes on the boy, "I don't know what they are."

Malfoy sat up and Ron followed suit. Malfoy explained that blowbacks are when one person holds the smoke in his mouth, with the lit end in his mouth, and the other end hanging out, and the other person takes a drag from the unlit end, so they both get a hit at the same time. Ron felt that it would somehow burn Malfoy, but he insisted he had done it before, so Ron agreed.

They sat facing each other. Malfoy clamped the smoke in his teeth, closing his lips around it, and ushering Ron forward. Ron put his face close to Malfoy's, cupping his hand around the end of the smoke, and Malfoy put his hands on the side of his head, to make sure they were connected. Ron put his mouth on his end and took a giant drag, looking at Malfoy the entire time. Then his leant back and expelled the smoke from his mouth, and watched Malfoy remove the smoke from his teeth and do the same. They were still very close together.

"That was cool," Ron said, not quite meeting the other boy's eyes.

"Yeah," Malfoy replied.

Ron looked up at the same moment Malfoy looked down, and they caught eyes. Maybe it was the Gillyweed, or the powder, or the wine, or the Firewhiskey – maybe it was all that – but Ron felt himself inching himself closer to Malfoy. Closer. Closer. Their faces were an inch apart.

They kissed.

Ron was not sure how long they were kissing for; from the time their lips met, seconds seemed to melt away and all he could be sure of was how warm Malfoy's mouth was and how amazing it felt when their tongues wrestled together. Malfoy had his hands on Ron's head again and Ron's arms were linked around his neck. They were kissing, and kissing, and kissing. It wasn't until one of Ron's hands found itself trailing down Malfoy's chest, and Malfoy let out a low groan into Ron's mouth, that they suddenly broke apart, realising exactly what they were doing.

They pulled back, both breathing heavily, and Malfoy took a short drag from the half-burnt smoke in his hand and passed it silently to Ron.

"That…that should probably be kept a secret too," Malfoy mumbled. Ron nodded and they finished the smoke in silence, parting without a second glance.

There was a week until the first task. Harry and Hermione were spending copious amount of time together, and no one really had time for Ron – that was except for Malfoy. They were almost meeting up every hour, sneaking out of class to meet in the bathroom or ducking into classrooms together. Oh yes, they were kissing, it was hard to stop – almost addictive as their substances. The last few days were a blur, but thankfully, the teachers had accredited to his 'best friend' being in the tournament, rather than anything else. Powder, and smoke, and drinks, and these funny little pills that Malfoy got hold of. They were barely in their common room's, choosing to venture out together for their own time.

But this may seem cute, beautiful even, but Malfoy and Ron were not a couple and they were definitely not in love. They were sharing something, something intimate, and there was a connection, but that was it – when Ron was sober, he still felt his unbridled anger towards the Slytherin boy, and sometimes even disgust at himself. Ron was hardly sober, though, and his brother's weren't failing to notice – but still they kept quiet. Ron was on a lovely little path to self-destruction and no one was standing in his way.

Two days until the task. Ron made his way to Defence Against the Dark Arts but was suddenly jerked into a classroom and found a mouth attached to his. He gladly complied in kissing this mouth, getting pushed into a wall and grinded against. Malfoy took out his vial and they had three lines each, before kissing again and then leaving for their classes. Ron sat in the back and watched as Moody stomped around the class, barking words and sometimes getting people to stand up to practise spells on.

Harry, he noticed, look shaky and uncharacteristically pale. Moody bent down and whispered something to him, before clapping him on the back and continuing with the class. Hermione smiled reassuringly at him. Ron, like a nervous habit, pulled out his flask and took a shot before realising what he was doing. He hastily put it away but had the sneaking suspicion Moody had seen. He rushed from the classroom to avoid any awkward questioning.

As he walked down the corridor, he suddenly realised he hadn't had a conversation with anyone lately other than Malfoy. Not Dean, not Seamus, not even his own siblings. That was odd. Then he realised he hadn't been to the Great Hall in ages, as Malfoy and he often just wandered into the kitchens for food, rather than socialising and wasting precious 'them' time. With a jolt, he understood he was missing them. Missing other people. Missing…was he missing sobriety?

Malfoy, he knew, had detention during lunch, and Ron would usually wait outside for him…but he didn't have to. Malfoy would never know the difference. Ron took a deep, shaky breath and directed his feet to the Great Hall. The sound of other students rose with every step, and it was almost deafening. Ron rubbed his sensitive ears but kept walking.

He almost skulked to the Gryffindor table, keeping his head low, feeling vulnerable because he was almost sober. He looked quickly around and spotted a spare seat between Fred and Ginny, and sat down heavily. They both turned and looked surprised at his presence.

"Ron! We haven't seen you in here in ages!" Ginny exclaimed.

"I just thought…I just missed being in here, I guess," Ron said quietly.

Fred patted him on the shoulder, "it's good to see you again, mate, really."

"Could probably do with a shower though," George said from across the table, and they all laughed, and Ron even managed a weak smile. He was so comfortable at being back that he completely forgot about meeting Malfoy after his detention, and only realised when he saw the boy in question standing in the doorway, looking over at him. Ron ducked his head, trying to blend in with his family, and when he glanced up again, Malfoy had gone.

Ron indeed did have a shower once his got back to the dorm, scrubbing every inch of his body until he felt clean. He couldn't help but polish off his drink, but then put the flask into his trunk rather than refilling it back up. He walked out of the common room, and wandered up the halls, until he found what he was looking for. Malfoy was sitting alone in the astronomy tower, smoking and looking into the sky. He did not acknowledge Ron's presence as he sat down beside him.

They sat without talking for a long, long time. Malfoy smoked an entire smoke by himself, and then lit up another and held it out to Ron. Ron reached over to take it, but Malfoy pulled it back.

"So you avoid me at lunch," he said, scrutinising Ron's face desperately, "but you come up for a hit. What do you want, Weasley. Do you want a hit or is there something more now."

Ron bit his lip. There was something more now.

"I missed the Great Hall," he offered, "I missed…my family. I guess I missed my friend's. I got sober and discovered that it wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be."

"And where does that leave me? Am I supposed to just adapt to your absence, when I've f-fucking based my entire weeks around you. You suddenly get a moment of clarity and I'm just left to fade out, is that it? Why are you here?"

"I guess…I guess I wanted one last hit before it's gone."

Malfoy glared at him for a long, long time – longer than their silence. Ron finally took the smouldering smoke from his fingers and placed it in his teeth, lit end in his mouth. Malfoy cupped his hands around it, and Ron placed his hands around his head, and he took a big drag.

Soon, like always, they were kissing – but this time it was different. There was urgency in their touches, a sense of time running out. Ron was determined to touch every part of Malfoy, kissing and rubbing and grinding. Malfoy slammed him on the stone floor, pinning his arms to his sides and straddling his hips so that he couldn't move, and kissed him ferociously. Ron bit every inch of Malfoy he could reach from his restraints, leaving bite marks and bruises. Soon their clothes were disposed of and they were moving much faster, hurting and groaning and melting together.

It would be, as Ron said, their last hit together. Sweating and bleeding, they both had lines, and drags, and shots and pills. They got themselves further away than they ever had before, and it was only when the sun started to peak from over the mountains that they finally left each other for the last time. Neither of them looked back.

Ron sat in the stands for the first task, with Hermione on one side and Ginny on the other. It was his first official day of being absolutely sober, and that thought was slightly terrifying, but he let the nerves of Harry overtaken him. Hermione had poked him a couple of times, asking where he had gotten all those funny bruises from, but he hadn't answered. He could see Malfoy's head in the rows below him and felt no pang at the sight of him. It all felt like a dream now, a wonderful dream that disappeared as quickly as it started. He figured that the smell of firewhiskey would always take him back, but for now, he was content with taking every day as it was.