The Sugar Quill
Author: leilani  Story: Calling the Cards  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Call ‘em

Calling the Cards

…..

A/N – A big up to Zsenya for putting up with me and my shenanigans throughout this episode! Enjoy J

…..

 

“3 nines…”

“Bugger!”

“Language Harry!”

            Harry, yet again, had lost poker. Beaten by 3 nines, and he really thought he had it that time!

“I’m not sacrificing any more of my Bertie Bott’s on a stupid Muggle game, I’m going to bed.” And with that, Harry picked up his remaining two Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans (Butterbeer and choc-mint, saving the best for last) and climbed slowly up the staircase to his bed. Ron, Hermione and Ginny were left in the otherwise empty common room. All that remained was a few popped balloons and excess Christmas wrapping paper.

…..

It was Christmas night at Hogwarts, and Hermione had given Ron a (non-exploding) pack of Muggle cards. Ron had greeted this present with a quiet 'thanks...' and had thrown the cards on top of a pile of wrapping paper.

“Well, I got you something a little more, in case you didn’t like the cards,” Hermione said through gritted teeth. She threw a bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans at Ron, hitting him in the shoulder. She was aiming for his head; but then again, Hermione had never been the best at sports.

“Watch it!” Ron said, playfully chucking a pile of wrapping paper at her. Hermione giggled, and looked expectantly at Ron.

“Oh yeah! Your present!” Ron said lightheartedly. Purposefully avoiding Hermione’s gaze, he passed her a messy parcel. As Hermione opened her present, her smile grew wider. Inside the package was a pair of soft, woolen mittens in an attractive navy, with the Gryfindor emblem splashed across in red and gold. The lion on the emblem let out a soft growl and winked at Hermione.

Hermione shoved them on. She let out a slight moan of frustration, as they seemed too big for her. However, as she gazed at her hands, the gloves shrunk to fit the size of her hand perfectly.

            “Oh Ron, they’re GORGEOUS!” she gushed, throwing her arms around his freckled neck.

            “No problem,” Ron said, blushing ever so slightly under his light green jumper that his mum had knitted him – again. “Oh, and, err… Thank you for the cards too…”

Hermione smiled at him sweetly. “Don’t worry, I’ll teach you some games later, now let’s go down and get some breakfast!”

            Hermione pulled herself up from the pile of wrapping paper she was sitting in, and walked out of the door, rubbing her hands together in her new mittens. Ron followed, tossing Bertie Botts into his mouth.

            “Ron!” Hermione said, looking shocked.

            “Vwat?” Ron said, mouth full of Bertie Botts.

            Hermione, giggling at Ron’s innocence just muttered ‘oh, never mind…’ as she made her way out of the portrait to breakfast.

…..

           

That night, after a feast of stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce, jacket potatoes and Christmas pudding with hot brandy sauce, Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny retreated to the common room. Harry, having only seen a pack of cards when his uncle was having betting nights with his friends (“He has friends?!?!” Ron blurted in as Harry was telling them) along with Ron, was being taught numerous games from Hermione. They had learnt Solitaire, Go Fish, Black Jack, and Hermione had attempted to teach them 500, in which neither of them could understand the trump rule. Typically, the boys both liked Snap the best ("Its great, same game, no scorched fingers!” Ron exclaimed excitably) Hermione could have figured this – it was the game that required the least thinking.

After the cards had been long abandoned, Ginny, Harry and Ron sat around the fire, eating the Chocolate Frogs that the twins had given them (they were quite sure that they weren’t tampered with; Neville had already tried one, and he remained un-mutated). Hermione however, sat up at the table behind them, drawing out lots of five cards, then grunting, pulling out another five, then another, each time with a frown, putting them on the table.

“What ARE you doing?” questioned Harry, looking perplexed by Hermione’s strange doings.

“Poker…” she grumbled, barely audible as she threw another lot of cards onto the ever-increasing pile.

“Joker? Is that like Old Maid?” Ginny asked, curiously.

Finished with the pack of cards, Hermione pushed her head up. “No, poker,” she said, “ I’m playing with myself, not much fun though…”

“Oh, come on then, teach us!” Harry said, taking a seat.

“You, you actually want to learn something else?” said Hermione, slightly surprised.

“Yeah, why not?” said Harry, tearing opening the bag of Bertie Bott’s that had came along with a hand knitted cage cover for Hedgwig that Hermione had given him. He took the top one out (a crimson bean dotted with yellow) and placed it in his mouth. He had chosen correctly; the taste of Strawberry Tart filled his mouth.

“Well, you’re going to have to use something to bet with…” said Hermione, gazing at the packet of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans grasped in each of her friends’ hands.

Ron gazed down greedily at his beans. Looking back up at Hermione, he sighed, and sat down at the table, Bertie Bott’s in front of him.

“So, how do you play then?” he asked as Harry and Ginny joined him at the table and tipped out their beans in front of them. After the rules and betting limits had been stated, Hermione was surprised to see just how good Ron was at poker. “Well, Dad brought home a pack of misbehaving cards once from the Ministry. Once he had got the queens to stop swapping suits, he taught me a few games…” Ron said, blushing. Ginny also had been taught some games, but only knew the rules, and played by them. She had little tact in the game itself.

Harry, on the other hand, was out of his league. He had a small amount of sense when it came to betting on low pairs and such. By the fourth hand, he was nearly out of beans.

………

Shortly after Harry had given up and gone to bed, Ginny had started losing, quite quickly in fact. Most likely, due to the fact that Harry was gone – she now had the worst hands. Before long, she had half a dozen Bertie Bott’s clenched in her fists, and was walking up the stairs, just as Harry had before. Ron and Hermione heard the door close upstairs, leaving them entirely to themselves.

“Another game?” Ron said, hopefully.

“Actually, I think that I might retire before my reputation gets succeeded,” Hermione laughed, gathering her beans (quite plentiful) into a new study bag that Ginny had given her for Christmas, and making her way towards the stairs. “Wouldn’t want to leave Ginny alone anyway, those dorms can be scary if you’re by yourself…”

            Ron had no idea what she was talking about. She was making excuses, and they both knew it. However, Ron wanted to keep playing, he was having a lot of fun. And besides, he never got to be alone with Hermione, and he thought he would like to be more often.

Hermione had to drag herself away from Ron. She couldn’t possibly stand to make a fool out of herself over a stupid game, she knew that they would start fighting, they always did. But Hermione didn’t want to do that, she liked Ron, she really did, but she had to go. Although she would prefer to stay and stare into his hazel eyes, watch him as he chewed his lip in frustration, watch him run his hands through his fiery red hair…

“What if I said that we up the wages?” Ron yelled up at her.

Hermione snapped out of her daydream “No, I want to save my Bertie Bott’s!” she said, tapping her bag. That wasn’t a lie. She continued walking up the stairs.

“Strip Poker!” yelled Ron.

“What?!?!” exclaimed Hermione, missing a step because she had snapped around so fast.

“What….” Ron said inaudibly, he couldn’t believe that he had just said that; but he had. Sure it would be fun, but she would never agree to such a thing; But… Ron looked up at her confused face. She actually didn’t seem disgusted; but then again, Hermione was good at disguising stuff like that.  In fact, she almost seemed…

He’s reading my thoughts… Hermione did not what to say; or what to think; so she decided to see what he would say.

“Strip Poker,” Ron said, more quietly this time. His voice was shaking, he had already made an arse out of himself, and he may as well follow himself up… “Instead of Bertie Bott’s, we wager… clothes…”Ron said this last word in almost a whisper; in fact, to say that he ‘said’ it would be wrong, ‘squeaked’ it would be a more appropriate word. He could feel himself going pink, Hermione was going to laugh any minute now, and he was never going to hear the end of this.

Hermione’s mouth opened into a devilish grin.

“What?” Ron said, he too now smiling, more nervously than happily.

“You think I don’t know how to play Strip Poker?” she said, slowly walking back down the stairs, “What kind of Muggle do you take me for?”

They both laughed at this. “Do you need reminding of the rules then?” Ron said, relieved that he had broken the ice.

“I may be smart, but I do have a life!” Ron mocked a shocked face, Hermione giggled.

“Three items of…” Ron started. Was three items too much? Or maybe she wanted to bet more, or perhaps-

“Clothes,” Hermione finished for him; she could see that his discomfort was mounting, yet so was hers, “Loser has to take of the amount of wagered clothes.” The seriousness of the situation was starting to dawn on her; what if she ended up, well, losing?

The same thought was going through Ron’s head. “To save us both some embarrassment let’s set clothing boundaries. I’ll go down to my boxers, and err… well…”

“And I’ll go down to my knickers and my singlet, okay?” Hermione could only imagine what Ron could have been thinking… They both looked at each other, going very red. Nobody talked for quite awhile. It was a very awkward silence.

“Look this was probably a stupid idea to begin with and –“ Ron started.

“No,” Hermione said firmly. “I haven’t had any fun in ages, and I want to let my hair down a bit,” she said, moving towards the couches near the fireplace.

“Good idea…” Ron said, following her to the fireplace. If they were going to do this in the corner, they would freeze. Ron sat across from Hermione on the couch. Hermione sat herself down in a large backed chair. He swept an empty box of Chocolate Frogs onto the floor. Hermione chose to ignore it.

“Deal ‘em,” she said defiantly.

Ron dealt five cards each. After Ron had put down and picked up two, and Hermione had put down three and picked up another three, the betting started.

“Raise you one,” Hermione started.

“See and raise one,” Ron said, smirking.

“Call, “Hermione said; she too was smiling.

They both lay down their cards.

“Bugger!” Hermione said in disbelief. Ron had beaten her two kings with three nines.

“This coming from a girl who never swears, wow, you really are letting your hair down…”

“Oh, shut up Ron!” Hermione said playfully, throwing her mittens at him. Ron laughed, and placed the mittens beside him on the couch. They stared up and him and growled loudly.

                                                                        …..

 

            Two more logs on the fire and an hour later, they were both getting close to their agreed boundary lines. In an odd turn around from the first game, Hermione could afford to lose two more items (a sock and her skirt) and Ron only had his pants to lose. There would only be one more hand.

            “Last hand right?” said Ron through gritted teeth. IT was the middle of winter and he was only wearing his pants, which wasn’t really a good combination.

            “Well you don’t really have anything more to lose, do you?” smirked Hermione. After the first three games, where she lost the bulk of her clothes, Ron had got cocky and started using bluff hands, which Hermione saw through and he quite quickly started losing.

            “Goodo then…” Ron said absentmindly, dealing the last hand.

As Hermione picked up her cards, he could see her eyes growing wider. As he swapped three cards in his deck, he gestured for Hermione to swap. But she didn’t.

“Stay,” she said firmly.

Ron started panicking; she wasn’t swapping! He chanced a look at her. She looked confident, and was staring straight at him, with smiling eyes. Ron only had two eights. He was sure that he was beaten. But he would try. The betting began.

“Putting in one,” he said with all the confidence he could muster. He knew that passing would seem meek, and he didn’t want to appear that to Hermione.

“Raise one,” Hermione said, her smile now nearly reaching the sides of her dimpled face.

Ron sighed; he was beaten. “Meet and call.”

Ron threw his eights into the middle. Hermione was flipping over her cards when her brown haired head took a sharp glance at the girls’ dormitory staircase. Ron didn’t notice what the interruption was for at first. Then he heard the unmistakable sound of Ginny’s voice drifting through the upstairs corridor. He couldn’t quite make out what it was saying though. He opened his mouth to speak but Hermione shushed him with her hand as she put her cards facedown on the table and got up out of her chair.

“Who’s there?” Ron heard Ginny say quietly. He also thought he heard Hermione swear very softly underneath her breath.

“Okay, when I say too, grab the clothes and run as quickly as you can back up to your dormitory,” Hermione whispered nearly inaudibly.

“What about your clothes?” Ron whispered back excitedly. This was all very amusing for him. He knew that she didn’t have a spare tunic and whatnot, which would mean that she would have to come and get them from him at some point. He looked forward to that moment.

“I’ll work that out later, JUST GO!” Hermione said, that last in a particularly loud whisper.

“But how will you get up? Ginny is blocking the…”

“GO!” Hermione said, giving him a push. Ron noted how warm her hands felt on his bare back. Ron scooped up the clothes off the couch and shuffled his way through the darkness towards the steps. He risked a glance at Hermione, who was looking particularly nervous, but beautiful at the same time with the light of the fire reflecting onto her face. Ron suddenly was reminded that he halfway up the stairs when he stepped on the edge of his shirt (or was it Hermione’s?), causing him to trip over. He heard Ginny gasp and start running down the staircase. Ron continued running, and didn’t stop until he reached the landing. As he glanced over his shoulder, he was positive that he could see a flicker of bushy brown hair fleeting up the girls’ dormitory staircase. He smiled and walked into his dorm.

…..

 

Hermione hardly slept that night. She had just jumped into her bed – still cladly dressed- before Ginny came in, looking for her. Hermione thought she did quite a good job of pretending she was asleep. She couldn’t believe how close she had come to being found out. If she had, she would no doubt lose her role as prefect. She could imagine the rumors flying….

Ron, unlike Hermione, and slept soundly that night, dreaming of The Queen and King of Spades chasing him into the fire, where there was a lion with Hermione’s head…. He woke up that morning feeling very calm and relaxed. The opposite of what Hermione was feeling. He found himself lying in bed early the next morning, after the Queen had slapped him with a giant tie… he could not go back to sleep, so he decide to go downstairs.

The common room looked exactly as it had the night before.  ; Ruffled cushions, the remains of a hot fire, Hermione’s very full book bag, and the untouched up turned cards. That’s when Ron remembered; he didn’t know what Hermione had in her final hand. Although he knew that he had no hope, curiosity got the best of him. He sat down in Hermione’s seat, for a second hoping that it would still be warm. He grasped her perfectly fanned cards (typical he thought, even when they where risked being caught, she still had enough time to be perfect) and flipped them over.

No. Something was wrong. He flipped the cards back over. That must have been his hand. No, but… My cards are over there. Ron checked again, to make sure that he wasn’t wrong. He flipped them over, staring at them. Nothing. Absolutely Nothing! The bloody girl had bluffed! But she called, and you had those two eights…. So you had won… wait. YOU WON! Hah! He knew that he would make sure that Hermione would NEVER here the end of this!

“What are you doing Ron?” Ginny had come downstairs, still in her pajamas, rubbing her eyes; she didn’t look like she had much sleep.

It wasn’t until that point that Ron realized that he had not bothered getting changed, and was still in his pants from the night before, and still shirtless. He started going a soft red. He was positive that Ginny must of heard his brain clicking trying to think of a possible reason that he could be downstairs so early, shirtless and grasping a handful of cards.

“Erm… I was… I mean I FELL asleep by the fire last night after.” Ron’s eyes where darting around the room, quickly flittering from the couch, to the table, to Ginny’s crossed arms, to the cards… the cards…. “…. After I was playing solitaire with myself…?”

“You were playing solitaire shirtless because….” Ginny had a hard stare at Ron, he could not break it, he felt as if she was reading his thoughts.

“I was shirtless because… because I was sitting by the fire and I was getting hot…” Ginny continued staring. “Erm…. Really hot.” Ron finished grinning awkwardly; he hoped that that would satisfy her.

Ginny simply rolled her eyes and yawned. It was too early to argue with him. She walked round to the couch, where a large pile of clothes sat the night before and plopped herself down, her head on the armrest. “Did you hear anything last night? I thought I heard someone down here, they might have woken you up…”

Ron searched her voice for any hint of sarcasm. He couldn’t sense any… “Well, no, I was pretty tired after eating all of that Christmas pudd,” Ron lied confidently.

“Sure?” Ginny said, hoisting herself up until she was sitting. She was still leaning against the pillow. The pillow was yellow, but it also seemed to have a blue Hogwarts symbol on it… he was sure he had never noticed THAT before…

“Yeah, pretty sure…” he said, still staring blankly at the pillow.

“What?” Ginny said, looking at the pillow. Then, to Ron’s great disgust, Ginny tugged at the Hogwarts symbol, and took hold of Hermione’s tie.

Ron gaped at the tie that Ginny was holding… it certainly was not his…. He could never tie a knot that neatly… his brain clicked over as Ginny gave him a confused stare.

“Ohh…. There it is… I’ve been looking for my tie EVERYWHERE.” Ron didn’t think he sounded to convincing, obviously Ginny didn’t either.

“But…. I thought you just woke up….” Ginny said looking around. “And where are the rest of your clothes anyway?”

Ron was all out of ideas; he lunged across the table, reaching out for the tie. A shocked Ginny looked at a number of things in quick succession. First a shirtless Ron, then the cards on the table, then the tie that she was still grasping, to Hermione’s bag in the corner, then Ron, then the cards, then the tie, the bag, then Ron…. Then the staircase… A wide smile crept across Ginny’s face.

“Positive you didn’t hear anything last night?” she said, eyes suddenly wide open and staring at a now very red Ron.

Ron just looked fixedly at Ginny’s face.

“Well, all I can say Ronniekins …” she said, getting up of the couch, “Is that you sure can call them!”

Ginny laughed as she threw the tie at a purely horrified Ron as she walked up the staircase, heading straight for Hermione’s room. Ginny just simply had to hear this story!

 

//
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