Sleeping With Thine Enemies 6
It is on a cool, clear night - two weeks before the start of the school term that Draco realizes that he and Ron have come to a crossroads.
At first everything seems normal . . . or, as normal as a situation like theirs can be. He is inside Ron's cell, about to sit down to one of their visits, when he senses that something about Ron is off.
Perhaps it's the way that the other boy won't quite meet his eyes, or perhaps it's the way his voice trembles when he says his name. But whatever it is, something is definitely wrong. And the longer that Draco stands in front of Ron, the stronger that sense of wrongness becomes, until it is almost suffocating in its intensity.
Draco forces himself to sit down, mentally preparing to hear about his father's latest and greatest atrocity. He figures it must be especially bad to have brought about this change in Ron.
As always, he waits for Ron to speak first, but Ron does not seem inclined to talk. And still Ron's eyes do not meet his.
When he tires of having the silence weighing on him, Draco clears his throat and calls out the other boy's name. This is how familiar he is with his former enemy now. To call him by his last name would be a grievous insult.
Ron hesitantly lifts his gaze to meet Draco's, but still he does not speak.
"What's the matter?" Draco asks, letting the concern he feels slip into his voice, tainting it colors it shouldn't be.
Draco's concern grows exponentially at hearing Ron unable to complete even one sentence. He can't imagine what could have happened to cause the other boy to act like this. Or, to be more accurate, he does not want to imagine what could have happened. But he continues to pursue it anyway, once again asking, "What is it?"
Ron opens his mouth as if to speak, but all that emerges this time is a small wounded sound.
Draco furrows his brow and leans in close to Ron, intently searching for any indication of what has happened. It is then that he sees that Ron is holding something in his closed fist, which is tucked under his arm. The object is mostly hidden from view, but as Draco peers more closely he can see that whatever it is, it glints softly against the light.
"What is that?" he asks.
Ron looks down at his hand, then back up at Draco. "I took it," he whispers.
"What is it? Why are you hiding it?"
"I took it from your father. From his robe. He didn't see me."
"What is it, Ron?" Draco asks, feeling a sense of foreboding descend upon him.
Ron pulls his hand away from his arm and slowly unclenches his fist, unveiling the concealed object.
Draco recognizes it right away. How could he not? After all, it belongs to his father. A beautiful, small silver dagger with the Malfoy crest adorning its hilt.
"Ron . . . "
"I took it from his robes. He leaves my hands free now. He didn't even notice."
Afraid to know the answer, but not able to stop himself, Draco asks, "What are you going to do with it?"
Ron hesitates, then looks down at the dagger, and once again closes his hand around it.
"Are you going to hurt my father, Ron? Is that what you're going to do with it?" Draco hisses.
Ron's eyes widen with undisguised surprise, as if that idea had never entered his mind. "No! No, this is for me."
Draco is stunned enough that he is rocked back on his heels. "What?"
"It's sharp enough I think," Ron says vaguely.
Frustrated and confused by Ron's demeanor, Draco moves forward and, grabbing Ron's forearms, gives him sharp shake. "Ron!" he shouts in the other boy's face. "What the hell are you talking about?"
This seems to bring Ron around. He blinks once, and his eyes clear, losing the foggy, uncertain look of before. When he looks at Draco, it's as if he's seeing him for the first time tonight. "I'm going to kill myself," he says in a steely, determined voice.
Draco slowly lets go of Ron's arms and sits back. "You can't be serious."
"Why can't I be?" When Draco doesn't answer, he says, "Draco, I've never been so serious about anything as I am about this."
"But Ron, you can't . . . you just can't."
"No, what I can't do, is live like this any longer," Ron says, his voice low and heated. "I can't sit in this cell, day in and day out, waiting for your father to come and rape me. I can't."
"Ron, this won't go on forever. Eventually, he'll let you go," Draco says, then inwardly cringes at his words. How terribly false they ring, even to him.
"No, he won't. If and when he gets tired of me, he'll give me to Voldemort. And then I get to be tortured to death or into insanity . . . whichever comes first." Ron pauses, gathering his breath. "There is no way out for me, except for this," he says as he indicates the dagger with a short nod.
Desperate to convince Ron that he cannot kill himself, although he's not really sure why, Draco blurts out, "You're going to be rescued, you know. They're going to find you. All you have to do is hold out a little longer."
Ron shrugs. "So what if they do?"
Not understanding, Draco merely shakes his head in confusion.
"Even if they do, Draco, how am I supposed to live with this? Don't you get it? I don't want to live anymore. No matter what the circumstances . . . with your father . . . with Voldemort . . . back at Hogwarts . . . I don't want to live."
Draco can think of nothing to say to this. Essentially rendered mute, he can only stare at Ron dumbly.
"What does it matter to you anyway, whether I live or die?"
Draco, caught off-guard, stumbles through his answer, as he once again tries to find his voice. "Well, I . . . mmm . . . that is . . . "
"If it matters that much to you, why don't you help me get out of here?"
A different question; an easier question. Now Draco can speak. "You know I can't do that. Ron, he's my father."
"If you cared at all, you would help me."
"I can't, Ron!" Draco insists. "They would arrest him. They would put him in prison."
"That's where he deserves to be!"
They'd been inadvertently moving closer to each other as they spoke, their voices rising, until they are finally nose to nose, both breathing heavily. Draco blinks, disconcerted to find himself so close to Ron. He makes an effort to slow his breathing down as he edges away to a safe distance.
Ron appears to be doing the same and a long moment of silence passes between them before Draco speaks again. "If things were reversed and you were in my place, what would you do?"
"My father would never do this to you!" Ron says indignantly.
"It's hypothetical Ron, Jesus!"
"I would turn him in," Ron says resolutely.
"Would you? Would you really, Ron?"
"Yes, I would," Ron says again, although this time his voice doesn't sound quite as certain.
"Well then, you're a better person than I am. But that's nothing new, is it?"
Ron looks at him hard, eyes searching his face for God knows what, before sighing deeply, his eyes dropping to the floor. "I'm just tired, Draco."
And he is. Draco can see how tired Ron truly is. Of being stuck here, of being hurt . . . of everything. "I know," Draco acknowledges quietly.
"If things were reversed, and you were me . . . what would you do? Wouldn't you want to die?"
Draco, usually so good at lying, struggles to come up with something. An answer that Ron will buy, that will somehow supply him with whatever he needs to want to stay alive. But he can't. He owes Ron the truth. He owes the other boy that much. "Yeah, I probably would," he admits.
"Well then, I would say that settles it then, wouldn't you?" Ron says as he takes the dagger and gently lays it on the ground next to him.
"It shouldn't matter to you. None of this should," Ron says, looking at him intently, and maybe expectantly. Like he's waiting for Draco to give a reason for his behavior.
Draco crosses his arms, not answering the subtle, unspoken question. "No, you're right. It shouldn't."
Ron rolls his eyes, and exhales in frustration. "Draco, just tell me why you care."
Draco groans internally, hating that he has to admit this. "Look, I like you, all right? You're a decent fellow once someone gets to know you. And I think I'm maybe going to miss you a little if you're gone."
Ron looks down at the dagger. "Oh."
"Yeah. Oh." Feeling embaressed and uncomfortable with his revelation, Draco shakes his head and stands up abruptly. "Look, I have to go."
"Draco," Ron says as he places a restraining hand on Draco's arm.
Draco stills and looks at him, part of him wanting to get out of here while another part of him is curious as to what else Ron could possibly have to say.
He waits, then he feels Ron pulling him closer.
Draco allows himself to be led, bending low at the waist as he nears the other boy, so that their faces are level.
He listens; waits for whatever Ron has to say. But Ron says nothing at all. He just continues to move Draco forward until there is almost no space between them at all. Draco only realizes what is about to happen a mere second before it does.
And then Ron's lips touch his; gently, tenderly. Draco can feel his pulse quickening, his heart fluttering. It is a wonderful sensation, and it becomes nearly overwhelming as their kiss deepens just the tiniest bit.
Draco has almost completely lost himself in the softness and the heat of the other boy's mouth when Ron breaks away suddenly, leaving him feeling strangely cold and aching.
Draco brings a hand to his lips, a little dismayed to find that it is trembling. "What did you do that for?" he breathes out.
Ron smiles just a little, suddenly looking sheepish and very shy. "Because you've wanted that from me for a long time. You've never stopped, but you've never let yourself hurt me again."
Draco smiles, and it is both a little bit kind and a little bit wicked. "So, a gift then?"
Nodding, Ron says, "A gift."
For a moment, Draco just savors the moment. Two people smiling at each other - it almost feels normal. But then reality creeps in, and Draco's smile fades. "Ron, I wish . . . "
"But I . . . "
"Don't, Draco. There's nothing else to say."
Draco straightens. "You're right. There is nothing more to say." Yet he can still feel Ron's heat on his arm, on his lips.
He takes a few steps back and in the dim light he can see the tears that are now running down Ron's face.
But there is nothing more to say.
There is nothing more to do.
It is Ron's choice now.
He closes the cell door behind him, leaving Ron crying alone in the dark.
And still his lips burn with the other boy's kiss.