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Why is Alcohol Your Solution for Everything?

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Hermione sighed exasperatedly and shoved the book she’d been reading across the table and into the pile she’d designated as ‘completely useless’. It was the fourteenth book to end up there in the time she’d been in the library today and she was starting to lose hope. What on earth the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher had been thinking when she’d set them this essay Hermione didn’t know; all she knew was that the Hogwarts library was proving to be about as much help as a chocolate saucepan.

 

Usually, the research element of essay-writing was one of Hermione’s favourite parts (well, alright, joint favourite with the note-taking, the writing, and the rewriting) because it was an opportunity to learn far more about a given subject than was taught in class. Despite living in the wizarding world for seven years, she was still absolutely awed by all things magic, and any opportunity to learn more was to be cherished.

 

But today, Hermione had already written three other essays, two of which had been relatively easy and one of which delightfully challenging. To say she was absolutely shattered and swiftly approaching completely knackered would be an understatement. 

 

Usually, she’d call it a night and start finishing up. She’d pack everything away nice and neatly, grab a few things to drag up to bed with her, and swing by the kitchens for a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate. She’d then crawl up into bed, curl up under her duvet, and read until she felt like she was about to fall asleep. It was a routine she’d stuck to for years now, and it worked wonders for her and her schoolwork, but tonight that wasn’t an option.

 

As winter break approached, the amount of homework and assessments increased dramatically, and whilst Hermione really didn’t mind writing essays on Christmas day (it was certainly more mentally engaging than playing charades for the millionth time), finding enough peace and quiet to concentrate at the Burrow was an impossible task. There was always something exploding, or someone yelling about something (be it an argument, or a conversation about where an unmatched sock had gotten to, the Weasleys were very fond of talking to one another from several rooms away), and when there weren’t any noisy interruptions it was because there was housework to be done and housework was more important than homework.

 

As such, Hermione had elected to complete all of her holiday assignments before she even left for the break. This had required very careful planning to ensure each essay had adequate time for research, planning, and writing, and they absolutely could not run over into the time of another essay. Running late on even one would set off a chain reaction that would surely see Hermione attempting to lock herself in Mr Weasley’s garage on boxing day to get enough of a breather to actually put quill to paper.

 

Unfortunately, with how stupidly impossible to research this DADA paper was shaping up to be, that far-fetched fantasy was feeling more and more like reality with each passing hour.

 

Sighing again, Hermione ran a hand through her hair then groped blindly across the table for the next book. She dragged it across to her then flipped it open and began to read.

 

The letters danced before her eyes.

 

“Granger, if you glare at that book any harder you’ll burn a hole through it.”

 

Hermione’s eyes snapped up and met the amused gaze of her deskmate, who’d been reading quietly next to her since after dinner.

 

All things considered, Pansy Parkinson was one of the better study partners Hermione had had over the years; she was quiet, efficient, didn’t take up much space, and didn’t ask her inane questions every five minutes. She didn’t try to copy her work like Ron, didn’t bring an obscene amount of snacks in rustley wrappers like Ginny, and didn’t try to coax her into going to bed early like Harry. And, to top it off, Pansy’s very presence at Hermione’s table generally meant that everyone else in the school tended to avoid them like the plague, which allowed them both to work in peace. 

 

There was also the added, unacademic bonus of Pansy being gorgeous to look at. Since starting eighth year, she’d cut her hair back to a short bob and styled her fringe back in, stating the only reason she’d grown it all out in the first place was to appease the Malfoys, who thought bobs were childish, but since she was no longer aiming to please them she could do as she liked. Despite a few weeks of being unpleasantly reminded of a much younger, much more intolerable Pansy, Hermione had to agree that the short style suited the other girl, and though it had indeed looked like a very childish haircut on her when they were eleven, now they were adults it only served to make her look sophisticated and mature.

 

Adding to that aura, Pansy had mastered the art of cosmetic charms somewhere over the course of their education. As such, her skin was always flawless, her makeup always neat and precise, and Hermione was sure she’d found something that enhanced the natural beauty of her eyes in such a way as to allow someone to become completely lost in them.

 

Sometimes, when the Slytherin was particularly concentrated on her book or her work, Hermione would sneak small glances at her. Pansy never looked stressed when she was working, always the very picture of grace and serenity, and seeing her so unflustered and beautiful somehow managed to calm Hermione down from whatever she was borderline-panicking about. It was absolutely delightful.

 

But Pansy did still have her moments.

 

“I need to finish this,” Hermione insisted, resisting the urge to squint at the Slytherin’s slightly-blurry figure.

 

“Oh I’m well aware of that,” Pansy waved her off, “only I wonder how you’re supposed to be able to write a coherent essay when you’re at the point where you haven’t noticed you’ve been trying to read that book upside down and backwards.”

 

Hermione opened her mouth to retort back that that was ridiculous, but then a quick glance down revealed that Pansy was, indeed, correct. 

 

“Oh.” That would explain why she was having such a hard time of things.

 

“Oh indeed,” said Pansy, gently reaching over and flipping the book the right way up.  “Do you, perhaps, think you should call it a night?”

 

“No.” Hermione was adamant. “If I don’t do it now-”

 

“Alright, alright; I know. Burrow. Noisy. Bad for work.” Pansy backed off. “I’m just- never mind.” She picked her own book back up. “Carry on.”

 

Part of Hermione wondered what Pansy ‘was just’, but a bigger part of her wanted to finish this research, so she wrenched her attention back to the books and forced herself to read.

 

It was slow going; sometimes she’d have to reread entire pages because her brain was refusing to process the words correctly or her eyes blurred to the point where the delicate spirals of ink were completely illegible, but Hermione was making steady progress. It was still shaping up to be another useless book, however.

 

Groaning quietly, Hermione let her head thump onto the pages in front of her, eyes sliding shut.

 

After half a moment, she felt a cold hand on her shoulder that made her heart skip a beat and Pansy’s concerned voice once more reached her ears.

 

“Hermione, I really think you should stop now. At this point, even if you do manage to write anything, it’s not going to be your best work and you’ll end up hating it and rewriting it.” Hermione looked up into gorgeous eyes laced with hesitancy and worry and, for a moment, only a few seconds really, allowed herself to get lost in them. “Come on,” Pansy continued, “we’ll go grab some butterbeers or elvish wine and sit by the fire for a bit. Sound good?”

 

It really did sound rather nice indeed, but Hermione couldn’t help but roll her eyes.

 

“It’s a Tuesday night,” she pointed out. “Even if we stopped now, we can’t have alcohol.”

 

Pansy pouted. If there was one thing the other girl was fond of, it was drinking. Not heavily, mind you; Pansy steadfastly maintained that binge-drinking was ridiculous and uncouth, but she did enjoy a cider or two before bed, or a nice strong gin and tonic to help her unwind after a long day, or a fruity tropical cocktail with her lunch.

 

Hermione didn’t fully approve, but she wasn’t about to stop Pansy if it wasn’t causing her any harm. Partaking in the drinking herself, however, was usually out of the question.

 

“Has anyone ever told you you’re the very definition of a wet blanket?” Pansy asked her with an eye roll of her own.

 

“Not in so many words,” Hermione shot back. She sighed. “Really though, Pansy, I’m fine. I’ll be fine. It’s only-” she cast around them for a timepiece and spotted the clock on the back wall. It was 11:30 at night. “-not that late,” she finished lamely.

 

“Have it your way then,” Pansy shrugged. “But if you fall asleep, I’m definitely going to practice my human transfiguration on you.”

 

Hermione huffed out a half-laugh, then buried herself in her book again. It soon became apparent, however, that she was too tired to concentrate on reading. Perhaps writing would keep her more awake? Of course, she still didn’t have any idea what she was going to put in her essay, but she could always make a mind-map or attempt an introduction. And maybe if she got going everything would fall into place and work itself out.

 

It was a longshot, but a shot she was willing to take nonetheless.

 

Hooking her foot around the strap of her bag, which she’d flung under the table several hours ago and not touched since, Hermione dragged it towards herself across the floor and fished out of it a few sheets of parchment, two quills, and a bottle of ink. Setting it all up before her, she nearly sent the library book toppling to the floor, but caught it just in the nick of time and slammed it back onto the table with such force that it drew the attention of everyone else still in the library at this hour and earned her a lazily raised eyebrow from Pansy.

 

Blushing heavily, Hermione tried to pretend that nothing had happened and busied herself by writing the essay title at the top of her parchment. She then moved onto the introduction attempt.

 

But writing, as it turned out, did not make her feel more awake, nor did it improve her ability to concentrate. If anything, it made her feel even more exhausted, and Hermione felt herself slowly losing consciousness. 

 

She jerked herself awake again, opened her eyes as wide as she could possibly manage, and pressed on.

 

And then she felt herself dropping off again.

 

The cycle repeated itself several times before, finally, in what felt like an inevitability in hindsight, Hermione started awake so violently that she knocked her ink bottle over, spilling a pool of midnight blue across the tabletop and onto several of the books.

 

“Wow, okay,” said Pansy, hastily pushing herself backwards and away from the spreading puddle as Hermione scrambled to right the ink bottle and stem the damage. “ Wingardium leviosa .” The books on the table, damaged and undamaged alike, leapt into the air and out of the danger zone. Pansy then twirled her wand over the tabletop which served to gather up all the spilled ink, and artfully directed it back into the bottle Hermione still clutched in her hand.

 

“Sorry,” she squeaked, grabbing the cork off the table and jamming it back onto the bottle.

 

“You,” Pansy said, turning her attention to the books and siphoning the ink off those that had been splashed, “are done for the night. I’m going to put these back-” she gestured at the books, which had now stacked themselves neatly on a chair, “-and you are going to pack all your stuff up, then you’re coming with me to relax for a bit before bed.”

 

It was non-negotiable, so Hermione nodded slowly and rubbed at her eyes. Relaxing really did sound like a good idea. She clearly wasn’t in any fit state to work.

 

“Just promise me you won’t make me drink any alcohol.”

 

Pansy made a face at her. “Granger, I’d never make you do anything.”

 

Hermione shrugged in a ‘yeah, fair enough’ sort of way, then set about slowly gathering up all her own textbooks and parchment and quills and the traitorous bottle of ink and jamming them back into her bag. Pansy whisked off into the stacks with her arms full of books, and by the time she was back Hermione was all packed up.

 

“Ready?” she asked.

 

Hermione nodded.

 

Pansy beamed at her then linked their arms together in such a way that brought their sides flush against one another and caused Hermione’s heart to give a little jolt. She knew the gesture didn’t mean anything; Pansy linked arms with Daphne, Tracy, Millicent, and almost anyone else she walked anywhere with, but she couldn’t help enjoying the contact perhaps a little bit more than anyone else.

 

Hermione and Pansy seldom went anywhere completely on their own, usually being accompanied by at least one other Slytherin and Harry and Ron or Luna and Ginny, which meant that arm-linking opportunities were few and far between, but really that only served to make them all the more special. With Pansy so close up against her side, Hermione could smell the other girl’s perfume (something flowery but unidentifiable) as strongly as if she was wearing it herself and it was intoxicating, and the way Pansy curled her hand around Hermione’s bicep was a strange combination of possessive and comforting.

 

It was a sensation that Hermione secretly relished, and it was distracting enough that she didn’t even notice where it was she was being led until they began their descent into the dungeons.

 

“Where are we going?” she asked, looking quizzically at her guide.

 

“Somewhere nice,” was the response.

 

“The dungeons hardly qualify as nice,” Hermione pointed out.

 

“I’m not taking you to the dungeons, I’m taking you somewhere to relax, to take your mind off all this work.” Pansy’s eye roll was practically audible. “You’ve been quiet all the way down here so I know you’re still thinking about it, don’t even try to deny it.”

 

Hermione kept her mouth closed. She very well could deny it, but she didn’t exactly want to admit that almost all coherent thoughts that didn’t involve Pansy had fled from her mind the moment they came into contact with one another.

 

Pansy smiled smugly. “Exactly what I thought,” she said, tugging Hermione down a narrow, dimly lit corridor.

 

They continued on in silence for a while as Pansy wound her way through the labyrinthine corridors, Hermione content to let the other girl guide her as she let her mind wander again.

 

Soon, however, they came upon a familiar stretch of wall.

 

“Pendragon,” Pansy said, and the wall slid away.

 

“Pansy,” Hermione said slowly, “this is the Slytherin common room.”

 

“Funnily enough, I was aware of that, thank you Hermione.”

 

Hermione lightly shoulder-bumped her for the sarcasm. “I can’t go in there.”

 

“Yes you can,” she said, striding forward authoritatively, dragging Hermione with her. “You’re with me.”

 

“But what if someone sees us?”

 

“They won’t.”

 

“And is the Slytherin common room really the best place to relax?”

 

“We’re not staying in the common room,” Pansy said as they emerged into the space. “I’m taking you somewhere else.”

 

Hermione was always surprised by how different the Slytherin and Gryffindor common rooms were, and also how startlingly similar they could be at times. There were obvious things like the differing house colours and difference in location (honestly, the giant window into the lake made Hermione feel more anxious than being hundreds of feet above the ground), but underneath all of it, both common rooms were comfortable places that the students could call home. Both had comfy, squishy sofas and armchairs, both had bookshelves and tables and other places to get some work done, and both had brilliant roaring fires set in ornate mantlepieces.

 

It was over to this mantlepiece that Pansy pulled Hermione. Here she unlinked their arms (Hermione tried not to visibly lament the loss of contact) and swept off to the side of it where she reached up on tiptoes to twiddle with something Hermione couldn’t quite see.

 

Whatever it was, however, it caused the fireplace in the grate to sleekly and silently slide out of view, revealing behind it a hole, which in turn led to a short little corridor.

 

Hermione turned to gape at Pansy, but Pansy only smiled at her, rejoined their arms, and set off into the fireplace. When they crossed the threshold of the passage, Pansy stopped and reached up to twiddle with something else, which moved both the fire back into place and caused a door that Hermione hadn’t spotted to slide across the entrance of the passage, sealing them in darkness until Pansy’s wand tip flared to life.

 

“What-?” Hermione began, but Pansy, clearly anticipating the question, directed her attention upwards to a tiny stone dragon that glared down at them both, immobile, with it’s jaws wide open.

 

“I call him Titus,” Pansy whispered, breath ghosting over Hermione’s ear and causing her to shudder. “When his mouth’s open, like this, the fire is in place then, when you close it-” here she reached up and gently pushed the dragon’s mouth closed as easily as if it were hinged, “-the fire moves and you can get in and out.”

 

And indeed, the moment the dragon’s jaws closed, the door that had sealed them off from the corridor slid open again.

 

Hermione gaped.

 

“Good, isn’t it?” Pansy winked, then she tugged the dragon’s mouth open again and the common room was once more hidden from view.

 

It was indeed. Hogwarts and it’s many mysteries would never cease to amaze.

 

“Where does this go?” Hermione asked as Pansy headed off down the corridor to a downward-leading spiral staircase.

 

“Somewhere nice,” Pansy replied.

 

Hermione rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “Yes, but where exactly-?”

 

“I’m not telling you that, Granger, it’s a surprise.” She paused. “And a secret.” Another beat. “Don’t tell anyone about this.”

 

A secret? Hermione grinned to herself; it was nice to know Pansy trusted her with something that was clearly very near and dear to her heart. She wondered just what on earth it was.

 

They continued the walk downwards in silence, the narrowness of the staircase making it impossible to remain linked at the arms, which had Hermione disappointed for all of three seconds before Pansy rectified this by holding her hand instead. It made it slightly awkward to walk, and the angle at which Pansy had to hold her arm out behind her in order to maintain the contact looked incredibly uncomfortable, but it was nice. Pansy’s hand was cool and smooth in Hermione’s own, and sometimes she would give a little squeeze or run her thumb over Hermione’s knuckles, both actions Hermione was all too willing to reciprocate.

 

After a time, they reached the bottom of the staircase, and Pansy led them down yet another narrow corridor to an ancient-looking wooden door.

 

On the other side of the door was a wine cellar.

 

“Pansy,” Hermione groaned the moment she laid eyes upon the rows and rows of bottles and barrels, “really? I said no alcohol.”

 

“We’re not stopping, don’t worry,” Pansy said. “Though I do still maintain that it would do wonders to help you wind down for the night.”

 

“Why is your solution to everything to get mildly drunk?”

 

“Because it works?”

 

“It absolutely doesn’t.”

 

“If you ever tried it, I think you’d find it does.”

 

“So we’ve just popped down here so you can grab something to drink and then we’re back up and out and off somewhere else, is that it?” Hermione asked exasperatedly.

 

Pansy rolled her eyes. “Bloody hell, Hermione, no. Come on,” she headed off towards the back of the room, weaving down aisles and around barrels with familiar ease, “it’s this way.”

 

Hermione followed bemusedly, taking in the room as she did so. Unfortunately, all she could really glean from this fly-by observation was that it was low-ceilinged, and absolutely packed to the brim with booze. Wherever she looked, there was either a rack of wine bottles, a stack of barrels, or a table of some sort that housed various distilling apparatus.

 

Pansy led them both past it all, not even stopping once to pick something up or point something out. Eventually, they reached the back wall, where a large haphazard pile of ale casks stood almost to the ceiling.

 

Here, Pansy dropped Hermione’s hand.

 

“Now I know this looks unstable,” she said, gesturing at the casks, which did indeed look likely to topple over at any moment, “but trust me, it’s safe.” And then she turned and began to clamber up and over it.

 

Hermione’s heart leapt into her throat, sure that Pansy was going to fall or be crushed by falling debris, but that didn’t happen, and soon the other girl was hidden from view on the other side of the pile.

 

“Come on, Granger,” she taunted. “I thought Gryffindors were supposed to be brave.”

 

Hermione childishly stuck her tongue out at nothing, then began to carefully pick her way over the casks. They were indeed surprisingly stable, and had probably been enchanted in some way to be so. It was still mildly nerve-wracking though, as, despite the stability, the pile did still creak and goran every time she took a step or shifted her weight.

 

At long last, she made it to the other side, where her Hand was swiftly recaptured by Pansy. 

 

They were stood looking at a small but beautifully detailed tapestry of a mermaid, and it wasn’t a typical human depiction of a mermaid with long flowing hair and human features, but rather a real mermaid much like those that dwelt at the bottom of the lake. It stared them down with proud features, it’s hair drifting about slightly in unseen currents as the seaweed in the foreground waved lazily too.

 

Hermione had only a moment to admire it, however, because Pansy lifted up the bottom of it to reveal yet another long narrow passageway. Just how many of these things could one castle have?

 

Having resigned herself to not knowing their destination, Hermione allowed herself to be pulled along in silence, and instead chose to marvel at the strange, otherworldly torches that lined the walls. They emitted no heat, only a shimmering blue-green light, and the flames didn’t dance as normal fire did, instead they moved as if in slow motion. Hermione reached out to touch one as she passed it and it felt as if her hand was passing through ice water.

 

“Fun, aren’t they?” Pansy asked. “I tried to replicate them once.”

 

“Did you manage it?”

 

“Gracious, no, you know I’m hopeless at elemental magic.”

 

That much was true so Hermione shrugged in agreement.

 

They continued on for a time, the corridor twisting and turning before them, coiling in on itself like an enormous snake. Every now and then, there were a couple of steps upwards, but never very many at once, until they reached the bottom of a steep stone staircase that led up into darkness, the torches at the top being too far away to sense their presence so they had not yet ignited.

 

“What was the point,” Hermione asked, “in building a spiral staircase all the way down here, only to have another staircase leading right back up?”

 

“It adds to the mystique,” Pansy shrugged.

 

“Adds to my legs aching,” Hermione grumbled, but she didn’t complain all the way up it, even if her legs were screaming by the time they reached the top. You would have thought by now that all the students of Hogwarts would be used to an obscene amount of stairs, but there were some flights that no one would ever be used to, and this looked to be one of them.

 

At the top of the staircase, the narrow corridor continued for a time, then widened, and then widened again further up ahead.

 

This stretch of corridor was also better lit than those at the bottom of the stairs, and Hermione could see clearly the intricate carved patterns that adorned the smooth stone walls. They depicted stylised images of merpeople and mer-cities and other underwater creatures. One section was dedicated entirely to the giant squid.

 

But these were not what Pansy had brought her to see.

 

The further they travelled up the steadily widening corridor, the more Hermione felt like they were building to something impressive, and she wasn’t disappointed. After another few steps upwards, the corridor opened out even further, this time seemingly straight into the lake itself. The way ahead was no longer a passageway encased in stone, but instead a corridor encased in glass so clean and clear that you could see unobstructed into the lake on all sides.

 

It was absolutely breathtaking.

 

Hermione gaped at Pansy, who was smiling fondly at her.

 

“Pansy, this is so-” she didn’t have the words to describe it. Beautiful didn’t quite cover it, and magical was stating the obvious.

 

Pansy seemed to sense her dilemma however, and simply smiled at her even wider and re-linked their arms as they marched off further under the lake.

 

“This isn’t even the best part,” she said. “Mrs. Malfoy told me about the wine cellar when we were in sixth year and Draco being stressed and distanced was making me anxious. I found this place all by myself last year when the Carrows had the run of the school.” A dark look passed fleetingly over her features. “I spent a lot of time down here. It made me feel safe, knowing no one on earth knew where I was.” She shot a sad smile at Hermione, then her features brightened for real. “Now, I just come down here to relax, or to get away from Daphne and her terrible taste in music.”

 

Hermione could definitely understand that; Daphne had recently discovered muggle pop music and, whilst the Vengaboys were certainly tolerable for short periods of time, they certainly weren’t the appropriate study music the other girl seemed to think they were.

 

Wrapping a hand around Pansy’s forearm, Hermione gave her a small little squeeze and a grateful smile. “Thank you for sharing this with me,” she said earnestly. It really was an honour that Pansy would share something with her she hadn’t even told her best friends about. “Really.”

 

Pansy blushed and looked away, trying to wave her off.

 

“Yes,” she said. “Well. Don’t thank me yet; we’ve still got a little bit to go until we get there.”

 

And have a little bit to go they did, but Hermione didn’t mind; she was content to watch the fish swim past them and above them and to sneak the occasional glance at Pansy, who didn’t seem to be able to keep her eyes off her. On those occasions, the two would lock eyes for a moment before Hermione would blush and look away, feigning interest once more on the fish, but she would always find her gaze wandering back to Pansy.

 

In fact, so distracted by Pansy she was that Hermione didn’t even notice they’d arrived at their destination until the other girl announced the fact, and even then it took a moment to register because Hermione had been too focused on the way Pansy’s lips formed the words to really notice what words were actually said.

 

When she got the message, however, she blinked and looked around her, and swiftly had her breath stolen.

 

They’d come out into an underwater dome made completely of glass. The floor before them was made of the same grey stone as the rest of the corridor had been, but here it was carpeted by various rugs of many patterns, all in different colours and styles, overlapping in such a way as to give the impression of a very large patchwork quilt. In the middle of the room was a large statue of a merman surrounded by a swirling school of fish with shimmering silver scales, and at it’s base was what could only be described as a nest of pillows and blankets.

 

Next to the blankets was a small stack of books, but not the large academic tomes that the library housed; these books were small and paperbacked, and looked to be fiction, some muggle and some clearly magical. There was also a small low side table on which stood a handful of wine glasses and a selection of half-drunk bottles, which immediately gave the place away as belonging to Pansy.

 

The water pressing in on all sides of them was clear and sparkling, allowing them to see for miles undisturbed, not the murky darkness Hermione associated with the bottom of the lake, and it was only when she looked up and noticed the crystal-clear view of the sky above them that she realised some sort of magic must be at play with the glass.

 

She turned back to Pansy, who was still gazing at her with fondness in her eyes and a soft smile on her lips, and it was this that really, finally, took her breath away completely.

 

The moonlight shining down from above filtered through the lake and danced across Pansy’s face, reflecting off her sleek dark hair giving her an ethereal glow. Dark eyes and darker lips stood in contrast to the paleness of the moonlight, and the gentle flickering of the torches around them made shadows dance around her alluringly.

 

She was stunning, and Hermione couldn’t help herself.

 

Gently, she reached over and cupped the other girl’s face, delicately ghosting her thumb over plump red lips.

 

“Pansy,” she breathed, fully intending to ask for permission before she accidentally crossed a line, but she didn’t manage to get the rest of the sentence out before Pansy’s eyes slid shut and she closed the distance between them.

 

The moment their lips touched, Hermione almost went weak at the knees. In stark contrast to her hands, Pansy’s lips were warm and welcoming, but just as soft as they moved against her own. Hermione’s hand slid from Pansy’s jaw to the back of her neck where she curled her fingers around the soft short hairs at the base of her skull whilst Pansy herself grabbed Hermione’s hip with one hand and wound her other into her tie, anchoring Hermione too her totally and completely, though it wasn’t like Hermione was planning on going anywhere any time soon anyway.

 

Feeling bold, Hermione flicked her tongue out over Pansy’s bottom lip, but then the other girl pulled away.

 

Hermione flushed, feeling that she’d made a mistake, but Pansy’s grip on her tie stopped her from backing away too far.

 

“Tonguing on the first kiss is uncivilised,” was all Pansy said by way of explanation before dragging her back to her mouth again.

 

Tonguing on the second kiss, however, was apparently completely acceptable, and Hermione lost herself in the sensation.

 

When they finally separate, they’re both disheveled and out of breath and Pansy pecks her on the lips three times before she can find it within herself to relinquish her grip on a now very crumpled Gryffindor tie. Hermione is sure she’s an absolute mess to look at, but Pansy is remarkably well put-together; her lipstick somehow completely unsmudged. Hermione makes a mental note to ask her what charm she used to accomplish that when she’s sure she can think straight enough to remember the answer.

 

They stand for a moment, just breathing each other in, and then Pansy walks them over to the little nest of pillows, never fully letting go of Hermione as she does so. She pushes Hermione down onto the floor with her back to the statue, then straddles her lap and then they’re kissing again and Hermione never understood why all her classmates were so preoccupied with snogging one another until this moment because kissing Pansy feels very much like her reason for living.

 

They kiss until Pansy’s weight on Hermione’s lap causes her legs to go numb, and then they kiss a bit more until it becomes too distracting.

 

“Sorry,” Pansy says as she slides from her lap.

 

“It’s fine,” Hermione groans as she stretches her legs out, pins and needles kicking in almost immediately. “More than fine, actually.”

 

“Really, it’s your own fault for being so ridiculously irresistible,” Pansy smirks, reaching over her to the low table for a glass and a bottle of wine. She wiggles the cork out and pours out a decent sized glass, looking uncharacteristically shy. “I, uh, I’ve actually wanted to do that for a while,” she admits, refusing to meet Hermione’s eyes.

 

Hermione gently lifts her chin up and kisses her short and sweet.

 

“Me too,” she says when they separate.

 

Pansy’s whole face lights up and she dives in for another quick kiss, then she settles back and tucks herself under Hermione’s arm, glass in one hand, the bottle resting between her legs.

 

Hermione eyes it for a moment, then swipes another glass of the table. She can practically feel Pansy smirking at her as she fills it.

 

“Thought you didn’t drink on a school night,” she grins.

 

“Well, I don’t usually follow pretty girls to hidden underwater rooms either,” Hermione points out. “I’m full of exceptions tonight.”

 

Pansy hums in contentment. “Good. But you’d better not regret this when you’re doing your homework on Christmas morning.”

 

Hermione laughs. “I don’t think I could regret this even if I didn’t manage to do any work all holidays.”

 

“Well, we can’t be having that,” Pansy announces. “I suppose you’ll just have to come and visit me if you need some peace and quiet.”

 

“I’d like that,” she says softly.

 

“As well you should. I’m a very good study partner.”

 

Hermione flushes at the implications and tries to hide it by taking a long sip of her wine; it’s sweet but not overwhelmingly so, and has a hint of another unidentifiable fruit to it. Perhaps strawberry.

 

It tastes like Pansy.