Disclaimer:  Characters are, of course, owned by J.K. Rowlings.  I own nothing but the silly situation. 

Warning:  Mild Harry/Draco slash. 

BALLOON TRICK

Chapter 2

Draco sulked.  He folded his arms over his chest and looked reproachfully at Harry.  "I will do no such thing," he said crossly.  "You can't possibly expect me to do anything – not when my hair's all . . . ruined."  He glared his utter indignation at Ron, who collapsed back on the floor, limp with laughter.  "Besides that," he added with a disgusted snort, "I refuse to touch those awful balloon things again."

Harry struggled not to laugh any more.  But the intended effect of Draco's scowl was so completely spoiled by the fact that his hair was still sticking up in places, that Harry really couldn't help it.  "Come on," he said at last, giving his petulant boyfriend an apologetic grin.  "We can fix your hair – all we need is a damp comb to take away the static."  He pushed Draco off his lap and stood up, then took the blond firmly by the hand and towed him off to the bathroom.  "And I do need your help, love," he said as they went, "or we won't be done in time before Hermione comes back."

Ron laid on the floor for a moment longer, grinning at the ceiling, enjoying the delicious feeling of warmth generated by having, for once, gotten the better of Draco Malfoy.  Since Harry was inexplicably in love with the git, Ron had to put up with him.  But oh, this . . . this had been just hilarious.  He was still grinning as he got to his feet.  Then he remembered about the cake and that swipe of icing on Draco's finger, and his grin turned into a frown.  "Oh, crap," he muttered to himself, as he strode out to the kitchen, "if Malfoy's messed up Hermione's cake. . . . "

He found the elegantly decorated cake on the counter, already set on a glass cake platter and perfectly adorned with 21 candles.  Ron examined it closely, but could find no sign of Draco's tampering fingers.  That was a good thing, he thought, still, it ticked him off a bit that he couldn't.  It meant Malfoy, as usual, had gotten away with something.

In the kitchen, as he started getting out the ingredients for the party punch, Ron could hear Harry and Draco's low voices coming from down the hall in the bathroom.  There was a minute of silence and then a soft sultry laugh that Ron knew was Draco's.  God, they were probably kissing – in his house – in his bathroom.  Ron thought it was rather disgraceful how they went at each other, even if he had to admit that Harry seemed completely happy and had somehow mastered the art of patiently dealing with Malfoy's annoying personality and fluctuating moods.  It was beyond Ron to understand how he did it though. 

Ron was pulling a chair over to the cupboard so he could reach the punch bowl on the top shelf when Harry and Draco reappeared.  Draco's hair was once more neatly arranged.  It looked stunning again, as usual – and Draco's smug face indicated he was quite well aware of that fact.  So much for small victories, thought Ron wryly.

"Need any help," asked Harry, as Ron wrestled the large bowl off the shelf.

"No," said Ron, staining a little but determined not to show it in front of Malfoy.  "I've got it."

"Then we'll finish up with the decorating out here," said Harry.  He gave Draco a meaningful look.

"I said I'd help, didn't I," protested Draco, "since you promised to – "

Ron didn't hear the end of that sentence because Harry quickly dragged Draco off into the parlor.  He decided it was most certainly something he didn't want to know about anyway.

Draco and Harry worked on blowing up the balloons and tying ribbons to them while Ron finished making the punch.  Just having Malfoy in his house was enough to annoy Ron, but it was when Draco accidentally let go of one of the balloons while trying to tie it off, and consequently discovered how it flew around the room, that he really started to get on Ron's nerves.  

By that time, Ron was bustling in and out, putting out the tablecloth and napkins, the dishes and silverware, and the brightly wrapped gifts.  Twice, just as he came in with his arms full, a balloon whizzed past his head with such a startling sound that he involuntarily ducked and almost dropped what he was carrying. 

Draco grinned infuriatingly at him.  "Oops," he said with an blatantly innocent look that told Ron it was no accident.  "Bloody hard to hold on to, you know.  Sorry," he smirked.

When Ron brought in the punch bowl, a pink balloon flew right into his face, bounced off his startled eyebrow and just missed dropping into the punch.  "Gah!" yelled Ron, as the punch sloshed around, almost spilling over onto his shoes.  "Malfoy!"

"Draco," said Harry in a soft warning tone, but with an slightly amused smile, as he walked over to retrieve the pink balloon from Ron's feet.  "I think we have enough balloons.  If you'll please finish hanging them up, I'll help Ron bring in the rest of the cups from the kitchen."   

Draco shrugged, still grinning slyly and pulled a chair out from the table.  "Whatever you say, Harry, love," he purred.  "As long as you keep your promise later to – "

Ron set the punch bowl down on the table with an aggravated thump which caused the punch to slosh threateningly all over again, but succeeded in cutting off Draco's remark.  Then he stood aside with a frown and watched in critical silence while Draco gathered the loose ends of all the ribbons together and got up on the chair. 

Draco looked down at Ron, one eyebrow raised in haughty inquiry as he deftly tied the ribbons from the small chandelier so that the large bouquet of balloons hung festively over the table.  "Just admiring the view, Weasley – or did the fright from that last balloon finally make you lose your wits entirely?"

Ron glared at Draco.  "I'm warning you, Malfoy," he hissed quietly, so Harry wouldn't hear him in the kitchen.  "Shooting balloons at me is one thing, but if you do anything to mess up this party for Hermione, you will be banned from my house forever!"

"Don't get your knickers in a knot," said Draco with an arrogant sniff, adjusting the balloons to hang just so.  "I'm not going to spoil Hermione's party.  I promised Harry."  He looked down on Ron and suddenly laughed that low sultry laugh that Ron hated.  "Want to know what reward I get if I'm good?" he asked, a suggestive tease in his voice.

Ron turned three shades of red.  "No," he managed to choke out.

Harry came in just then, both hands cradling a stack of glass punch cups.  He grinned up at Draco and balloons.  "Looking great!" he said, setting the cups on the table by the bowl of punch.

"Of course," said Draco, accepting the compliment as if it were meant exclusively for himself.  He stepped down from the chair and gave Ron a brief smoldering look as he walked around the table to wrap his arms around Harry.  "Don't I always?"

Harry grinned indulgently and returned the embrace.  "You do," he said softly. 

Ron beat a hasty retreat into the kitchen to get the rest of the cups – before he had to see any kissing.

In a very short time after that everything was ready and guests began to arrive.  Hermione's parents had taken her out to dinner to their favorite Muggle restaurant.  Ron normally would have gone too, but this time, he had convinced Hermione that she should have some time alone with her parents, and had carefully arranged with them to keep her out until the party was ready to begin.

Ron's family were the first to get there, and then old friends from their days at Hogwarts.  When Hermione arrived, everyone shouted "Surprise!" and she was delightfully amazed at all the fuss.  The balloons were particularly admired.  Ron was soundly kissed – Harry and Draco were both hugged tightly.  All in all, the party turned out to be a great success and Ron was very pleased.  Even Malfoy was exceptionally charming to everyone.  Everyone that is except Ron.  Through everything, Ron was aware of Draco's mischievously raised eyebrow directed solely at him as if it were a constant, unspoken reminder that Draco was up to something and just biding his time.

When the party was over, Hermione walked outside to say her goodbyes and thank-you's to the guests.  Ron stayed inside to start cleaning up.  He'd seen Harry go out and assumed Malfoy had gone as well.  Finally, he thought.  He breathed a sigh of relief.  Peace at last.  He had to hand it to Harry – even if he didn't want to know what Harry had promised – at least it had worked.  Aside from the taunting looks, Malfoy had been perfectly well behaved.  

But just as Ron picked up the platter with the leftover cake to carry it to the kitchen, there was a loud BANG from the back of the house, followed immediately by a terrified yowl.  Ron froze in place.  What the h – ?  In the next instant, Crookshanks came tearing down the hall, claws scrabbling on the wooden floor as he came flying around the corner, three balloons tied to his tail.  BANG!!  BANG!!  Two of them popped just as he streaked into the parlor. 

And Ron was right in his way!  Crookshanks leapt onto the cake plate Ron was holding and landed with a slippery-sounding squelch – right in the middle of the cake.  Ron stared for one horrified split second at the frantic, huge-eyed cat standing haunch-deep in cake, then BANG!!  The last balloon popped!  Crookshanks, his feet and underbelly plastered with cake and icing, shot straight up Ron's chest to the top of Ron's head and then made a mad, frenzied leap onto the top of the china cupboard. 

Ron just stood, completely dumbfounded, in the middle of the parlor, limply holding the platter with the squashed cake, swaths of chocolate cake and icing smeared all over his shirt and face and bits dangling from his hair – hair which was sticking up in all directions.

Draco appeared in the parlor doorway with a highly amused smirk on his face.  "You know, Weasley," he said, twirling his wand around one finger, "I am actually starting to like these balloons."

"MALFOY!" yelled Ron, livid with the realization that he'd just been set up in the most despicable way.  "I warned you!"  Little blobs of cake and icing dripped from his head to his shoulders and rolled down his shirt front.

Draco shrugged.  "I kept my promise, Weasley," he said, obviously immensely pleased with himself.  "I didn't mess up the party."  He walked up to Ron and grinned insolently as he wiped a dab of chocolate icing off Ron's nose with one finger and held it up. 

For one sickening, heart-stopping second, Ron thought Draco was going to lick that icing off his finger.

But with a smug, infuriating smile, Draco slowly and deliberately wiped the icing on Ron's shirt.  "You on the other hand . . . " he drawled, as he sauntered nonchalantly out the door to find Harry, ". . . you, I messed up quite nicely."

Ron rolled his eyes up to the ceiling in disgust and defeat, then heard Draco's half-demanding, half-coaxing voice from the porch, and almost dropped the cake platter. 

"Harry, love, let's go.  Now, please.  I kept my promise.  So you have to keep yours . . . and treat me to ice cream on the way home."

~ The End ~