Ron screamed and began brushing the spiders off his body. Hermione, Harry, and Ginny rushed to lend him a hand.
Mrs. Weasley was admonishing Fred and George. "Really, boys! I thought you'd given up such nonsense. Tormenting your brother like that the moment he steps out of the Floo."
"Knew he was bringing home a girlfriend," Fred said, still laughing.
"Thought we'd help him make a good impression," George added.
Millicent stepped forward. "You like hearing him scream."
"It's amusing," said one twin. "Just a joke," said the other.
Millicent smiled her most Slytherin-like smile. "I like hearing screams, too."
Fred and George's eyes widened and they backed away from her. In response, she stepped forward and hissed, "Only I don't joke."
The spiders were gone and Ron had finally calmed down. His father and the rest of his brothers entered the room to greet the newcomers, in a bustle of 'hellos' and hearty hugs. Percy looked fairly pale next to Bill and Charlie, but pushed his way in with the rest of them to give stilted hellos to Harry and Hermione. Then, in the midst of the happy chaos, Ron heard a strident voice.
"Weasley! Is your brain completely filled with snot?"
Silence filled the room as Ron turned to face Millicent. "What now...", he glanced about at the astounded faces surrounded him and added a hasty "darling?" The faces became even more astounded.
"You never told me you had a brother that worked with dragons." Millicent pointed at Charlie.
"Didn't mean to keep it a secret. It just never came up in conversation."
Millicent hmphed, then with one meaty paw grabbed Charlie by the arm and proceeded to pull him from the room. "You and I need to talk about dragons."
Ron saw Charlie gulp nervously as he was dragged away.
Silence descended once again upon the remaining group as everyone stared at Ron.
"Well, I like her, Ron" Arthur stated. "Reminds me of your mother."
Mrs. Weasley promptly smacked her husband on the head.
Ron thought he could see the resemblance.
- - - - -
It seemed as though it took forever for Christmas to come. Hermione had taught them the Muggle way of stringing popcorn on the tree. They'd spent most of one evening creating strands of decorations only to come downstairs the next morning to find the tree denuded.
Millicent had mumbled that she'd become hungry during the night and had wanted a snack.
The sleeping arrangements caused a bit of a problem at first, as neither Ginny nor Hermione had wanted to fall asleep with Millicent in the room. Ron wasn't quite sure how it was resolved, but after that first night when the walls had reverberated from the force of hexes being thrown, he was certain he didn't want to know, either.
He did know that Hermione had stumbled out of the room the following morning with green hair, Ginny had acquired a tail, and every time Millicent opened her mouth that day to say anything, it came out in song. Consequently, she didn't say much and the day passed quite pleasantly.
In any case, the three came to some sort of a truce. It was the type of truce where each side possessed weapons that could destroy the other and would be quite willing to use said weapons, but a truce nonetheless.
Finally, Christmas morning arrived. In silence, Millicent opened the present Ron had given her – a birdcage he'd spent several days making, having Hermione teach him the spells to make the wood supple enough to shape before returning it to its previous hardness.
"What do you think?" Ron asked eagerly, a little surprised at himself that he even cared. "You never said you had a bird. Thought you could get one now."
"It... it doesn't suck."
That was high praise indeed, Ron decided. He was slowly learning how to speak Millicent. Her scowl at him was not nearly as lethal as it normally would have been, so she was obviously enthralled with her gift.
As he basked in her not-quite-a-glower, Millicent handed Ron a bag of money. "I was supposed to buy your family Christmas presents."
"But you didn't have time. I'm sure we all understand, dear," said Mrs. Weasley
"Actually, I couldn't be bothered," Millicent corrected her.
The Weasleys once again stared at her.
Ron took the opportunity to glance inside the sack and gasped.
"Dad, you know how you've been wanting to take us all to Romania next summer to visit Charlie but you weren't sure you could swing it?" Without saying another word, Ron handed the heavy bag of galleons to his father.
His father also looked inside. When he faced his family, he was smiling brightly. This is marvelous. Thank you so much, Millicent."
"Whatever," Millicent said, waving aside his gratitude. "When's dinner?"
Ron shoved a present into her hands. "I've told you four times already, we'll eat after we open all of our gifts."
Millicent glanced around at the huge number of Weasleys and their huge number of presents. "I'm going to starve," she whined as she unwrapped another gift. She opened the box then turned to Ron. "What's this?"
"It's a jumper. My mother makes them." Ron didn't tell her that his mother had taken one look at Millicent at the train station and had hastily begun a larger garment. The knitting needles had only just finished their task the night before.
Slowly, as if fearing it might bite, Millicent pulled the garment out of the box and held it up. "It's very red," she said slowly. "And it has the letter M on it."
"Yes. The M is for Millicent."
"I'm going to look like an M & M," Millicent grumbled.
Harry let out a short, quickly stifled laugh. Hermione giggled.
Ron looked mystified. "What's an manem?"
"A Muggle candy," Hermione supplied.
Ron turned to look at Millicent. "How do you know about muggle candy?"
Millicent glanced down at herself, then back at Ron. "Take a wild guess, Weasley."
"Oh. Well, I suppose you'll look like one because you're so sweet," Ron said, hoping to placate her.
He realised it didn't work when he felt Millicent's fist connect with his head moments before she stomped off.
"Ah, that brings back memories," Mr. Weasley sighed.
The memories were brought back even more vividly when Mrs. Weasley whacked him on the side of the head in retaliation.
- - - - -
They'd sat down to the Christmas feast Mrs. Weasley had prepared and were halfway through the meal when there was a large popping sound, startling the entire group.
Draco Malfoy stood in their midst smelling of smoke, energy crackling around him, and blood running down his cheek from a cut on his forehead. His right arm seemed to be hanging strangely.
For a moment, he stared around at everyone seated at the table, then began to slowly collapse in a faint. Harry just managed to race forward in time to catch him before his head smacked on the ground.
"Good heavens," shrieked Molly.
"Oh dear," said Arthur, standing up and hurrying to help Harry with Draco's limp body.
"Pass the potatoes," Millicent said, between bites.
- - - - -
Ron looked at his bed. There was no help for it. He'd have to burn it.
The reason why burning was necessary was the blonde currently occupying it. Harry lay next to Draco, murmuring soothing nonsense while patting his shoulder. Mrs. Weasley had done her best to heal all the injuries she could find then loudly pronounced that the boy needed to sleep. Hermione and the rest of the Weasley clan filed out of the room, Millicent not among them. As far as Ron knew, she was still eating dinner.
Draco's eyes fluttered open. "Harry?"
"I think I died for a moment." Draco looked at Harry with horror in his eyes. "I went to hell. It was terrible. The demons all had red hair."
"Well, you're safe now. At the Burrow." At Draco's blank look, Harry explained, "The Weasley home. Ron's mother healed you up."
Ron stepped forward. "What happened, Malfoy?"
For a moment a sneer touched Draco's lips before fading away. "I didn't want to take the dark mark. I told Vol--," Draco paused, swallowed hard, and then continued. "told You-Know-Who that we should postpone it. I gave him plenty of good reasons, such as how I could spy on Dumbledore for him while I finished my education."
Draco looked down at his lap for a moment before raising his gaze. "He decided that he'd educate me in the use of 'Cruciatus'."
Harry leaned forward to clasp Malfoy's hands, which earned him a small smile.
"How'd you get here?" Ron asked.
"Harry's gift. I figured out that it was a portkey. I didn't know it'd bring me here."
"No," Harry said quietly, giving Malfoy's hand a squeeze. "It wasn't created to bring you to the Burrow. It was supposed to bring you to me."
"Are you barmy?" Ron shouted.
"Have you finally misplaced that miniscule brain of yours?" cried Draco.
A brief glance passed between Ron and Draco, both quite uncomfortable that they were in any sort of agreement.
Ron recovered from that odd experience first. "They could've taken it from this git. Used it to get to you."
"It could've been Voldemort who arrived." Draco was incensed. "And you'd have had nothing but a pack of Weasleys to defend you." Ron let out an angry expletive, which Draco shrugged off. "Oh, I'm sure the lot of you can be quite rabid, but this is Voldemort."
"I don't care." Harry was completely unrepentant. "It did what it was supposed to. It kept Draco from harm."
"If you ever do anything quite so idiotic again, I'm going to tie you to a bed," Draco hissed. "Then do you know what I'll do to you?"
Harry's eyes went wide with a combination of curiosity and fascination. "What?" he asked breathlessly.
"Oh." Harry thought for a moment. "Oh," he said again in a small voice.
Draco covered his face with his palms. "I've turned my back on my family and will probably soon be penniless, I've become enemies with a powerful dark lord, and now I discover that my boyfriend is a nincompoop. At least things can't get worst."
Ron smiled wickedly. "Malfoy, did you know that you're in my bed?"
- - - - -
It was three days after Christmas and Draco had healed sufficiently to go downstairs. This had led to some squabbling because he could not get it into his head that Fred and George weren't house-elves and had kept ordering them around.
"But why else would you need two of them?" he asked Harry, who, tired of arguing, simply shrugged his shoulders.
Charlie burst into the room. "I just received notice that there's been a wild dragon spotted less than a hundred miles from here. They're trying to capture him, but they need all the help they can get."
All the younger Weasleys, except for Percy, immediately clamored to volunteer. Hermione made clear her desire to join the group, while Millicent ploughed through their ranks to make sure that she was in front of all of them.
Harry was quiet for a moment, his gaze resting on the still weak Draco.
"Oh, do run off, Potter. You finally have the opportunity to slay a real dragon."
"He'd better not touch it," threatened Millicent.
With one final glance at Malfoy, Harry brightened and joined the volunteers. The group excitedly headed out of the Burrow.
- - - - -
It was an exceedingly different group that wandered in several hours later, sporting singed hair, a few burns, and assorted scorch marks on their clothing.
"You should've seen Millicent," Charlie crowed to his parents and Draco. "She was marvelous. She arranged a diversion, and then, while the dragon was occupied, used a slow shrinking spell on its wings. In no time, it was grounded."
Draco looked at Harry, whose robe was torn and blackened. "And where were you when all this was happening?"
Harry scowled. "Guess who the diversion was."
Draco's screech filled the room. "Bulstrode!"
"What is it, Malfoy?"
Millicent thrust through the crowd to face Draco. Ron thought her expression looked more belligerent than normal.
"Do what you want with these." Draco waved his hand at the assembled Weasleys, "but Potter belongs to me."
"Hey!" said several Weasleys.
For a moment, Harry grinned widely; then it struck him that he'd just been labeled as property. "Hey!"
Both Draco and Millicent ignored the cries of outrage as they faced off.
"I did not just abandon my family and all that the Malfoys stand for simply so that Harry could become dragon kibble."
"Oh, stuff it, Draco. Others might buy that 'abandoned my family' crap, but I know better. Your father's probably so happy about you and Potter that the Dementors are getting fat trying to suck it all up."
Everyone looked at Draco, who was flushing.
"What does she mean by that?" Harry asked, touching his boyfriend on the shoulder.
"My father always wanted to me to befriend you. You know that," Draco mumbled.
"Right. So he could turn me over to Voldemort."
Ron could see that Malfoy was doing his best to avoid Harry's eyes.
"That's right, isn't it Draco? Your father wanted you to betray me."
"Not quite." Draco's voice came barely above a whisper. "Malfoys have been around for centuries. Despite wars, despite politics, Malfoys have survived." Draco raised his head to stare at Harry. "We've done it by having different generations support different sides. That way, no matter who prevails, a Malfoy is always on the winning side."
"If you were a Slytherin, you would've known that," Millicent smirked at a stricken Harry.
"Oh do shut up, Bulstrode," Malfoy spat. "You'd think you'd be happy that I've finally joined your side."
Wait a minute, Ron thought. "Millicent's on Dumbledore's side?" he managed to stammer.
She let out a huge exasperated sigh. "Of course I am, you dolt. Voldemort kills unicorns. He needs to be destroyed."
"But... but... that can't be right." Ron ran a hand through his hair, totally exasperated. "Malfoy's supposed to turn to the side of good 'cause of Harry, not as part of some Malfoy plot. Millicent's supposed to do the same 'cause of me." Ron pointed at Millicent. "You're not supposed to be good on your own"
"Is that what all this has been about?" screamed Millicent. "You pestered and tormented me thinking I'd fall for you and join your goody-goodies? Like I didn't even have a mind of my own? Like I'd just do whatever my boyfriend wanted?"
"If you want to hit him, I'll hold him for you," volunteered Ginny, stepping forward. "I can't believe my brother is so chauvinistic."
Millicent glared at Ron. "I'm through with this farce. I'm packing up my things and going home."
"I don't blame you," Ginny said, following her upstairs.
Draco was fuming. He stepped forward to confront Ron. "You will pay for attempting to manipulate me."
"Attempting?" Ron said, then immediately wished he hadn't.
Clenching his fists, Malfoy announced. "I'm leaving. I'm going to..." It occurred to him that he really had no place to go. Reaching a decision, he grabbed Harry. "I'm going to my room and I'm taking Harry with me."
Draco disappeared upstairs dragging Harry behind him.
Slowly the rest of the Weasley's filed out, shaking their heads in disappointment until only Ron and Hermione were left.
"I was just trying to help," Ron stammered to Hermione. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
Hermione stepped closer to him and Ron gave her a sheepish smile. Which was why it completely stunned him when her fist landed on the side of his head, knocking him to the floor.
"Didn't you think I could convince some idiot to change sides?" she shouted down at him. "Or am I too unattractive?"
As Hermione stomped off, Ron decided it was a good thing everything was over. She'd obviously spent much too much time around Millicent.
- - - - -
"Are you mad at me, too, mate?" Ron asked Harry.
He'd spent most of the rest of the day underneath a tree while being shunned by everyone. When Harry had walked over, he'd expected another tongue-lashing, but instead his friend had quietly sat down next to him, not saying a word.
Harry thought for a minute, then shook his head. "I know you manipulated me, but I'm used to it. Heck, I think Dumbledore has made it his full-time job. You were just trying your best. And I guess it wasn't all bad. Draco's on our side and now we know we can count on Millicent. I think.
Ron sighed. "Everyone's angry at me."
"Yeah, you're right. Draco's absolutely furious." A smile played over Harry's lips. "Which means lots of really good angry sex, so I can't complain."
"Too much information, Harry," warned Ron.
They sat together in silence for a few more minutes before Harry spoke.
"Hate to give you more bad news, but..." his voice trailed off.
"What is it?" Ron prompted.
"Charlie was protesting Millicent's leaving. It seems he was very impressed with how she handled herself around the dragon."
"He was really, really protesting her leaving." Harry grinned. "The way he was going on, she might be joining your family, yet."
Groaning, Ron put his head in his hands. "God is punishing me, isn't he?"
The sound of Hermione's voice made him raise his head. "What are you doing here?"
"I just wanted to apologize for hitting you."
Ron glanced at her as she sat down next to Harry. "It wasn't because I thought you weren't attractive, you know," he explained. "That's not why I didn't set you up. You're just too smart. I was sure if I tried, you'd figure it out."
"Oh." Hermione looked at the ground and a long silence followed before she broke it. "You know, it actually wasn't that bad of an idea."
Harry and Ron turned to stare at her.
"Maybe if we made everything more above board. Let everyone know what we were about."
"Hermione, are you suggesting that we..." Harry hesitated, not quite sure how to say it.
"Pimp ourselves out?" finished Ron.
"No. No, of course not. That would be rather crude, wouldn't it?"
Ron breathed a sigh of relief, then realised he'd done it too soon.
"But we do have many quite attractive people on our side. There's all of your siblings, Ron. Then there's Tonks, and Shacklebolt, who are both quite dishy."
"Oliver Wood," suggested Harry. "The Patils."
"We could each pick someone to... um... work on." She thought for a moment. "It really is a good thing Lucius Malfoy is married or I believe Ginny and I might have come to blows over him."
"I think I'm going to be sick," Ron groaned.
"Nonsense. It was your idea in the first place. We should have a catchy name or phrase, though."
"Make love, not war!" Harry suggested, pleased with himself.
"Perfect." Hermione eyed her friends. "Harry is obviously taken and can't participate, but we should start recruiting and choosing our targets."
Hermione studied Ron. "How do you feel about Pansy Parkinson?"
The world had gone crazy, Ron decided. That was the only explanation. He could either fight it, or go with the flow.
"I hate her. When do I start?" he asked.
A huge thank you to my beta fishsanwitt for doing an absolutely wonderful job.