Hermione was finishing up her last sweep after the Halloween party, herding first-years out of the corridors and off to bed, when she discovered Draco Malfoy's latest nefarious plot.
True to form, he was hiding out of sight when she stumbled upon him. To her slight disappointment, his plan wasn't the most nefarious she'd ever encountered. He was simply dodging his prefect duties by sitting on a window ledge in a dimly-lit corridor and eating sweets out of a decorative cauldron. Hermione cleared her throat, and he looked up.
“How refreshing to see a fellow prefect diligently attending to his duties,” she said dryly. Mafloy rolled his eyes and turned back to his cauldron. She walked closer, making sure that every step echoed loudly. “You're supposed to be helping clear the corridors, not sitting around stuffing your face.” She was close enough to peer into the cauldron, and found that in addition to what looked like half the sweets from Honeydukes, he'd also managed to get hold of two pumpkin pasties. She could smell the cinnamon and pumpkin from where she was standing. What with the extra duties given to the prefects, she hadn't had a chance to eat since dinner; that had been five hours ago.
Malfoy was sucking on a Sugar Quill, but obliged her by removing it from his mouth so that he could talk. “Come on, Granger. The party's over, and most of the younger pupils have run back to bed. I've been on my feet all night.”
“Did you steal that from the party?” she asked indignantly.
He snorted. “I confiscated this from some first year Hufflepuffs who were trying to sneak it back to their dormitory. Where, undoubtedly, it would have molded, evolved, and then eaten one of your precious house-elves.”
She frowned. While bringing food back to one's dorms wasn't against the rules, it was gently discouraged. On the other hand, confiscating food from pupils on such flimsy grounds was an abuse of authority.
“That's a remarkably thin pretext. I wonder what Cedric would have to say about you exercising your authority over first-years to steal their sweets,” she said.
He laughed. “Oh yes, do tell Diggory. I'm sure you'd love to score points with the Head Boy for my shocking trespass against his house.”
She was supposed to be rallying her moral arguments for precisely why Malfoy was a terrible excuse for a human being, but the pasties looked delicious. She took that back; they looked incredibly delicious. Maybe—maybe she could confiscate the pasties from him. They wouldn't be ill-gotten stolen goods; no, they'd be pasties of righteousness. She'd be putting a little bit of morality back into the world by not letting Malfoy enjoy his ill-gotten gains.
She took a deep breath. “Regardless of whether or not it was done in accordance with the guidelines for prefect authority, I'm going to need to confiscate—”
Her stomach gurgled, to her mortification. Malfoy raised an eyebrow.
“Why Granger, is your interest in my pasties less than pure?” he said with a smirk. “Do I detect a hint of self-interest?”
“Shut up, Malfoy,” she muttered.
He straightened up from his slouch and smiled slyly. “As a dutiful Hogwarts prefect, it would be unethical of me to let a fellow prefect starve without offering them assistance. It seems that your options consist of summoning one of the house-elves who are undoubtedly eager to help the founder of S.P.E.W., going back to your room and starving until morning, or taking part in my pasties of dubious origin.” He smiled like sin itself and held out the cauldron. “Have a pasty.”
Caught between S.P.E.W., her ethics, and the feeling that she was going to start gnawing on the walls, her ethics cracked. She reached into the cauldron and fished out a pumpkin pasty, biting into the flaky crust before she could think too much. She closed her eyes in bliss; it was delicious. In little to no time, she had devoured the entire pasty.
“Thank you. That was quite good,” she said as graciously as she could manage. Which wasn't that gracious, all things considered.
“Of course it was. Stolen things taste the sweetest.”
And with that, her mood plummeted. As much as she wanted to deny her enjoyment of the stolen treat, her stomach had stopped attempting to eat itself. She also realised that she was licking her lips. She turned away with a sniff.
“Get down to the dungeons. It's almost eleven.” With that, she quickly walked away from Malfoy and his cauldron of temptation. She wondered if this was how otherwise upstanding people started sliding down a slippery ethical slope: one day it was dubiously obtained pasties, and then it was lying, tax fraud, and cheating on exams.
In the future, she'd have to be more careful around Malfoy and his temptations.