Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.
Apology: For those who were hoping this was a notification for a new "Perils" chapter, I can say that I'm almost there. Hang in there.
Reminder: I'm on Twitter under "avidbeader" if you are reading this on a guest account and would prefer to get your notifications of a new chapter or story that way. I promise I won't be spamming. I'm also on Tumblr under the same name.
Plug: This story was begun several years ago. When I was invited to take part in the annual Fandom for LLS fanworks charity drive, I debated for a while and finally brought this story to a close. If you donated to the charity drive back in August, you already have this story in the compilation. For everyone else, new story! And for everyone else, here's a new H/Hr story!
Harry Potter hated crowds at the best of times. He had spent too much of his childhood shunned and alone to be completely at ease in a crush of people.
And "crush" was a perfect word to describe his current situation.
He looked around for any glimpse of Hermione or Ron, not caring that he was being quite rude to the two simpering witches in front of him. They had him effectively cornered, ignoring his every effort to turn them away politely. Not that they could have gotten far given just how many people were crammed into the Leaky Cauldron tonight.
He saw Ron first, worming back up to the bar to trade two empty glasses for full ones. If he'd counted correctly, Ron was on his fifth drink and Hermione her second. And Hermione was drinking a light wine compared to Ron's Firewhisky. Harry relaxed a little and tried to focus on the women before him, but his mind kept returning to that afternoon. He had just arrived at Ron's flat by Floo after leaving work and was dusting himself off when he heard Ron and Bill's voices.
"Here's that Stay-Sober potion you asked for. Why did you need me to get it from Fred and George when you see them every day?"
The clink of a bottle being set on a table.
"They aren't going to ask you why you want it. They would've asked me all kinds of questions and I probably would've lost my nerve."
"Lost your nerve to do what?"
"I'm going to make my move with Hermione tonight. We're supposed to be dating, but she keeps putting off any...you know...all she ever does is kiss me! If I can get her a little drunk, get her to loosen up, maybe we can finally...you know."
"Ron, if this is an issue you should talk to Hermione about it. This way you're trying to sneak past some boundary that she's clearly set. I'm not going to help-"
"Hey, give it back!"
Sounds of a brief scuffle.
"No, Ron. I'm doing this because I care about and respect Hermione as a colleague-she's done wonders as Liaison to Non-Human Populations for the Ministry. The goblins have never been happier with wizards. And I'm doing it for you-you're treading a very dangerous line and if you really want a future with her you've got to tackle this head-on instead of trying to find a shortcut around it."
Only the fact that Bill had taken the potion kept Harry from storming into the kitchen and putting a fist in Ron's face. He was mostly fine with Ron and Hermione dating, or so he kept telling himself. He had done his best to be supportive of Ron, to let Ron finally be first with something in his life. But here Ron was, planning to trick Hermione over something so important and so personal, and Harry's reaction was instantaneous and furious.
The overheard conversation made him start thinking of the situation from Hermione's point of view. Hermione rarely did anything without thinking it through six ways. Harry knew, thanks to one of many long conversations when it was just the two of them during the Horcrux hunt, that she had no issues with pre-marital sex, provided it came with contraception. So if she was keeping Ron at arm's length, she had another reason. And Ron ought to respect that reason until Hermione was ready to talk about it.
The two witches had finally given up in the face of Harry's complete lack of attention, and for the moment no one had stepped up to take their place. He watched as Ron wobbled toward Hermione, who was fanning herself with her wand and looking tired. Ron handed her the drink and she smiled briefly and thanked him, setting the glass on the table next to her. He moved to sit across from her, but spotted someone in the throng and dove back in with a happy "Oi, you!"
As Harry's gaze wandered around the room, he noticed two men with their heads together in an intense conversation. At first glance there was nothing remarkable about either of them: one dark and one blond, both with bland, forgettable good looks. Then he realized why they'd drawn his notice: one of them was studying Hermione carefully, like a predator that had marked its prey. The growl that threatened to leap from Harry's throat surprised him, and he took a hefty swallow of butterbeer to calm himself.
When he looked back, the dark man had approached Hermione and was trying to engage her in conversation. The blond man was moving away, out of Hermione's line of sight. Harry shifted to be more hidden behind one of the pub's many timbers, looking frantically for Ron as he did.
He looked back just in time to see the blond man cast the spell on Hermione's drink. The dark man withdrew, apparently taking Hermione's hints that she wasn't interested in talking to him.
Harry began shoving his way through the crowd. He saw Hermione fan herself once more and pick up her glass. He shouted, trying to be heard above the din, "Hermione! Put it down!"
She took a hefty swallow from the glass.
Harry felt as if he were moving through treacle, trying to reach her. She swayed in her chair and dropped the glass, which shattered on the stone floor. A few people looked toward her in concern, but the blond stranger was quickest. He darted forward and began lifting Hermione to her feet-
Harry's curse caught the man squarely in the chest and flung him up and back into the plaster wall. Hermione fell and cried out dazedly, to all appearances fully drunk. Harry raced forward, now that the mass of people had parted in the wake of the spell, and dropped to Hermione's side, lifting her in one arm. He levelled his wand at the man.
"What did you do to her glass? What were you going to do?"
The man's eyes widened as he recognized Harry, and instantly Apparated away.
Harry swore furiously enough to blister paint, then looked down as Hermione moaned. Her eyes were wide and unfocused and he could see the panic in them, fighting to come out. "I'm here, Hermione. I've got you."
"Ha...Harry?" She squeezed her eyes closed. "Can't...can't move..." She slumped forward into his shoulder.
People were starting to crowd in again and Harry looked around again for Ron. Someone knelt beside him and Harry's wand was in her face before he registered that it was Susan Bones.
"Can I help, Harry? I'm almost done with my training at St. Mungo's."
He thought fast, then nodded. "Catch!" He waved his wand at the broken glass and it reassembled itself, the remaining liquid regathering in it. Susan took it. "Can you get that identified as soon as possible and let me know if there's an antidote? I'm taking Hermione back to my flat."
Susan nodded. "I'll call you by Floo as soon as I have something. Anything else?"
Harry looked around once more in vain. "Yeah, if you see Ron, tell him what happened."
He pulled Hermione close to him, concentrating fiercely, and Apparated them away.
Author's Note: As always, thank you for reading!