Authors Note:

The Ron/Lavender kiss happened but they are not dating in this story.


Hermione wasn't sure why she had thought that this would be a good plan. But then again.. it hadn't really much of a plan to begin with. It was completely an emotional reaction-which she had known was quite foolish to make, of course. But that hadn't stopped the better part of her brain from asking Cormac McLaggen to attend Professor Slughorn's Christmas Party with her. She had been angry at the time, but now her stomach was churning, this was a bad idea.

No, she tried to convince herself, this was what she needed. Just because some people prefer to snog her beautiful blonde roommate instead of girls like her, didn't mean that everybody thought that way. Cormac didn't. Cormac wanted her on his arm. Cormac would rather have Hermione than Lavender.

Hermione took a deep breath, glancing over herself in the lavatory mirror. "You just need to convince him that you're fanciable." She stared at herself for a long moment. "No, you need to convince yourself that you're fanciable." A soft sigh left her lips, she hadn't known where the words had come from but they were far too honest. She couldn't even meet her own eyes. No, it was much easier to do this in spite. "Right, well, you'll just have to show him what he's missing then, yeah?"

Fixing her hair back behind her shoulders, she straightened her posture and gave herself one last glance over. With a final nod of approval, she tried to swallow the feeling of doubt that was telling her to recant her decision and made her way down the staircase. She was supposed to meet Cormac at eight, she peered briefly at the clock on the wall, five minutes to eight. Her heart was beating hard in her chest, she took slow deep breaths until all of the sudden there was a hand resting on her lower back.

Hermione looked up and saw none other than Cormac McLaggen. "Hey, you're looking quite fit." He grinned while eyeing her up and down.

Apparently he approved of her wardrobe, she smiled politely in reply. "Thank you."

"Let's get out of here." Cormac wiggled his eyebrows up and down and firmly led her forward towards the portrait hole, not waiting for her nod of agreement.

She probably should've been paying attention as they walked towards Slughorn's office, Cormac was going on about his and his uncle Tiberius' latest hunting expedition. But Hermione's mind was drifting back to the one person it always drifted back too... Ron. Would he even care that Hermione was going to the party with Cormac? Would he be jealous? She hoped he would. She wanted him to feel every bit of jealousy that she had felt watching Lavender kiss him.

Hermione felt like a withering plant these days. Every interaction with Ron had been tense lately. For good reason, she reminded herself. He's been acting downright nasty towards you, and all you've done is try to help him. She had to stop herself from rolling her eyes. He deserved this. Didn't he?

"I give it about another week before Potter is begging to have me on as Keeper." Cormac proclaimed proudly.

Hermione really did roll her eyes this time. Ron might've been acting nasty lately, but Hermione didn't think he should be thrown off the team because of it. He really was quite good at quidditch and Ron was always so happy when he talked about it. His face positively lit up and he would get that lopsided grin that she adored. She had to fight off the smile playing on her lips at the image forming in her mind.

Cormac had pulled her back by her arm as they reached the doorway, giving her a smarmy smirk. "Look."

Hermione stumbled back as she had already been halfway through the door, following his line of sight and spotted the mistletoe. "Oh."

Before she had time to come up with an exit plan, Cormac was pushing his mouth onto hers. Hermione pulled back quickly and gave a tight smile. "Shall we?" She gestured towards the door and didn't wait for an answer as she darted inside.


Damn him.

Damn him.

Damn him to hell.

Hermione wanted to hex him for doing this to her. What kind of teacher hung up so much mistletoe? And mixing it with alcohol? It was a recipe for disaster, which is what Hermione's night was turning out to be. She hated Slughorn. She hated this stupid party. She hated this whole night. She just wanted it to be over.

She had just dodged Cormac for the dozenth time and Harry was nowhere to be seen. Not that she wanted to talk to Harry, she was angry at him too. Did he really think she was callous enough to tell Ron what happened at tryouts? Apparently he thought so, as he had no faith in her. Hermione would never admit to Ron what she had done. Ron already thought, that she had thought, that he was a lousy quidditch player... not that she had done anything to convince him otherwise, well besides confunding his rival.

Hermione just wanted Ron to succeed so badly, and he was always too hard on himself. If he just believed in himself, the way that she believed in him, she wouldn't have needed to confund anybody. Why couldn't he see that he was more than capable?

Hermione had had enough of this. It was time to call it a night. She had enough self-respect to say that enough was enough. Quickly, she ducked behind some of the drapes and started making her way down the corridor. She would just go up to her dormitory, crawl into her four-poster and forget this night ever happened.

That was her plan, until she heard someone lumbering down the corridor after her. Hermione decided the best course of action would be to simply ignore it, for fear that it could be McLaggen, she quickly turned the corner and quickened her pace. Evidently she wasn't quick enough, because he caught up to her and pulled her back by her wrist.

"Where're you going?" Cormac slurred. "The party is just getting started."

Hermione shook her head gently. "I'm actually quite tired, I thought I might head to bed."

It was apparent that that wasn't the right answer to give him, because Cormac only got his smug smirk back. "You could come up with me."

Hermione fought the wave of dread coming over her as he leaned towards her. "Oh, no, that's quite alright, I-" She didn't get to finish her response as his mouth descended on hers. Hermione immediately let out a noise of protest as she tried to push him away. Cormac took the opportunity and pushed his tongue into her mouth. She could taste the alcohol on his breath, Hermione felt absolutely sick. She pushed as hard as she could manage on his shoulders, but it wasn't enough.

More muffled complaints came from Hermione as she fought to break free, but she wasn't making any progress. Cormac seemed to think that her wrestling against him was some kind of tantalizing gesture and he responded by roughly pushing her up against the wall. The back of Hermione's head smacked against the castle wall painfully, all she could see was blinding stars. Cormac slid his hand down under her skirt, onto her bum and squeezed it, hard. She felt herself start to get weaker the longer she fought, her head now pounding, tears started to form in her eyes. How was she going to get herself out of this? She was trapped.

"OI!"

Hermione took opportunity of Cormac being distracted, she pushed him away as hard as she could manage and staggered back from him. She fought to keep from retching as she looked up to see who had come to her rescue. She instantly wanted to disappear. Ron was thundering down the corridor his prefect badge pinned to his robes. He was on rounds. If Hermione had thought that her night couldn't get any worse, she was wrong.

"What in the bloody hell do you think you're-" Ron had started off positively flaming, that was until he saw Hermione quickly wipe a tear off her cheek. Immediately, he surveyed the situation. Cormac was standing less than a foot away from Hermione, whose dress was rumpled and she was desperately staring at the ceiling trying not to cry. Ron roughly pushed Cormac back another step and leaned in closer to her. "Is he bothering you, Hermione?"

Hermione couldn't speak around the lump in her throat, she met Ron's gaze and she could barely hold back the tears that were flooding her eyes. Cormac reached out to grab her arm, hand closing around her wrist. "We were just looking for somewhere more private." Hermione looked back at Ron with panic. She didn't care about what little dignity she had left, she was begging him not to leave her alone with Cormac.

Ron turned to face him, eyes narrowed. "Piss off."

Cormac scowled at him. "Excuse me?"

"Get out of my sight, McLaggen. Before I give you detention." He managed to get out through gritted teeth. Ron was about a second away from cursing him halfway to Azkaban.

Cormac looked like he was about to protest, but Ron's wand arm was practically shaking with restraint. Deciding it wasn't worth the risk, he shrugged, dropping Hermione's wrist and turned to walk away with a mumbled; "Fine, she's not worth it anyway."

Ron's blood was boiling, he began charging after Cormac to hex him into oblivion. But wait, something else needed his attention, Hermione. He turned back to look at her, but she was already fleeing, nearly halfway down the corridor. When she reached Gryffindor Tower, the Fat Lady took one look at Hermione's disheveled appearance and didn't even ask for the password.

Hermione sat on the edge of the sofa by the fireplace in the common room, taking her party shoes off and dropping them to the floor carelessly. She wrapped her arms around herself tightly and closed her eyes.

"Hermione?" She opened to eyes to see Ron coming through the portrait hole. She wiped her eyes again and he made his way over and settled himself onto the table in front of her. She looked quite small. Her hair had completely fallen out of whatever style she had fashioned it in, her eyes were red and her arms were wrapped protectively around herself. Ron frowned. He had never seen Hermione look so... defeated.

"Yeah?" Her voice was soft but thick, there was no way for her to hide that she had been crying.

He furrowed his eyebrows, seeing the flushed skin of her wrist where Cormac had grabbed her. "Are you alright?"

Hermione followed his gaze down to her wrist and gently covered it with her other hand, her eyes darting away. "I'm fine."

"Are you?" He softened his voice, sensing how vulnerable she felt in this moment. Hermione met his eyes and started to nod, but couldn't help herself as her eyes welled up even more before finally spilling over. With a shake of her head, she completely succumbed to her tears. Ron moved next to her and she fell against his shoulder, pressing her face into it. She let silent tears soak into his robes while the only noise she made were soft sniffles and tiny gasps of breath. Ron didn't know how to help her in this moment. He didn't know what to say or how to fix it, so he just allowed her to cry. He only shifted to gently wrap an arm around her so he could rest his hand comfortingly on the back of her shoulder.

Many moments passed before Hermione finally regained her composure. Her sobs softened into a mildly irregular breathing pattern and she turned her head to rest on Ron's shoulder, using him as a pillow of sorts. A soft exhale left her lips, she was emotionally exhausted.

Ron was quiet for a long time, just letting her be at peace for the time being. When she was breathing normally, he finally chanced asking about the mark on her wrist. He turned his head so he could attempt to look at her face. "Did he hurt you?"

Hermione didn't answer for a moment, trying to carefully choose her words. "No, he just... bruised my... ego is all."

"What?" Ron questioned. She nodded softly, deliberately looking towards the fireplace so she didn't have to meet his eyes. Ron wasn't sure how to respond, he and Hermione hadn't exactly been on speaking terms lately. He had to ponder for a full minute before deciding on what he wanted to say. He had quite a lot of experience with feeling subordinate, spent the majority of his life feeling that way. Suddenly, he knew just what to say. "Well, we'll just have to build it back up then."

Hermione gave a soft sniff, turning her head to look at him. "What?"

"We'll just have to rebuild it. Your ego." He clarified. Hermione seemed confused.

"What do you mean?" She questioned again.

Ron moved his arm, settling it on the back of the sofa, it was just close enough that it brushed against the back of her shoulders. "'Mione, you're the brightest witch in all of England... probably all of Europe... no definitely all of Europe."

Hermione's mouth opened, but no sound came out.

"How do you reckon you remember everything? It's brilliant, really." He quirked a small smile at her, but Hermione's mouth opened and closed as she tried to come up with something to say. "I bet by the time you finish Hogwarts you'll know more than all the professors combined."

Hermione shook her head, finally finding words she could actually form. "That's impossible."

"That's just it though, innit? Nothing is impossible for you. You succeed at everything you try." A different smile melted onto his lips this time, it was softer, almost proud. Hermione lost the newly formed words and could only manage to stare at him. "I don't think there's a spell created that you couldn't master." She ducked her head, taking the compliment with grace, her cheeks heating up just the tiniest bit.

"That varnish looks really good on you." Ron gestured lazily at her exposed toes. They were painted with pink lacquer to match her dress, something she rarely ever did, and Ron shocked her into silence again with his observant eye. "Looks pretty wicked with your dress." Hermione could only look at him, her cheeks heating up the slightest bit more.

Ron met her eyes and examined them for a long moment. Hermione felt her stomach give a little jump at the way he was looking at her. His eyes flickered back and forth, as they focused on each of her eyes. "Have I ever told you that you've got really nice eyes, Hermione?"

That one made Hermione roll her eyes a little with a soft laugh. "No I don't."

Ron shook his head. "Yes you do."

Hermione squinted at him like he was insane. "They're the color of dirt, Ron."

He looked positively scandalized and stared back at her. "They're the color of chocolate!" He licked his lips just at uttering the word of his favorite sweet.

Hermione couldn't help but watch his tongue as it darted out to wet his lower lip. Her eyes fixated on it before bouncing back to his. Both of them were awfully close to each other, only inches apart. Ron gazed down at her for a long moment, his head tilting slightly, getting closer to hers to take a closer look. "I didn't know you had freckles on your nose."

Hermione glanced down at her nose and looked back up to meet his eyes, a soft pant of an exhale was all she could manage, he was so close. And then suddenly, his eyes were fluttering shut, and he could feel the soft exhales of her breath against his face. Hermione felt her eyes closing of their own volition, and his lips brushed hers.

"Ron..." She began, about to give in and just kiss him. "Wait."

Ron halted immediately, their lips just barely touching and began to back up.

"It's not that I don't..." She tilted her head, her nose bumping into his. "I do...It's just Cormac... and I don't..." She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to collect her words, her head felt like it was spinning. She took a quick breath and let it out slowly. "He kissed me and I can still taste it... " Her voice held her distaste of the admission, but she opened her eyes slowly to look at him. "I don't want that to ruin this moment."

He shook his head, meeting her eyes. "Nothing could ruin this moment, H'Mione." She looked at him until she couldn't bare it anymore and closed her eyes, her forehead moving to rest on his. They stayed like that for a few moments before moving back, the tension ebbing into comfortable silence. The two of them shifted to sit back against the cushions, his arm slung over her shoulders and they stayed in each other's company well after the fire turned into embers. Hermione thought that this was a night she would want to forget and she was pleased to find that she was wrong. She would remember it forever.