Knowing You, Knowing Me
The first time that Malfoy had said it had been at the Gryffindor table during breakfast on a Monday morning.
Ron had already been in a foul mood since waking up and finding his face squished flat against the wood of a table like putty, his uniform wrinkled, his index finger soaking in an ink well and Crookshanks making a crude sort of nest out of shredded bits of his Potions essay on Deadly Nightshade; the essay he had, incidentally, spent the majority of the early morning finishing and was the reason that he had spent the night in the common room in the first place.
After attempting to wrestle with the damned cat for the remains of his work and acquiring scratches on nearly every part of his body, Ron had decided to up his bad mood another notch by aiming a furious kick at the kneazle, missing and stubbing his toe on a table leg instead.
So he furiously limped his way to breakfast, his face so red that he could have glowed in the dark and on reaching the Gryffindor table, where both Harry and Hermione were seated, threw down a piece of ripped parchment that he had managed to salvage.
It landed right on Hermione's eggs.
"Look!" Ron bellowed, pointing at the scrap bit of essay with an accusatory finger. "Look at it!"
Lifting her head up from a book and shooting Ron an irked look, Hermione sniffed and leaned forward to read it.
"Deadly Nightshade isn't pink, Ron."
Ron had ignored this.
"Look what he did to it!" he yelled some more.
Hermione blinked, daintily pushed the paper aside with her spoon and returned back to her eggs.
"Who?" she asked apathetically, thumbing through a copy of an enormous book that Ron himself had been using as a doorstopper for a good part of the year.
"Who else is psychotic enough?!" the redhead shrieked in some hysteria, flapping his arms about in what he believed was a threatening manner and causing one or two nearby breakfasters to look up at him in surprise.
"Voldemort?" Harry supplied unhelpfully from further down the table, grinning through a mouthful of toast
Ron briefly winced but ignored him.
"That devil cat of yours, that's who! And don't you go defending him, Hermione! He was at it right in front of me!"
"Oh, honestly, Ron!" Hermione huffed, closing the book with a loud 'thunk' so it made all the cutlery on the table rattle and Lavender squeal as bits of her scrambled egg flew onto her shirt. "That is the worst excuse for not handing an essay in that I've ever heard! And even if Crookshanks had something to do with it, he's just a cat, he didn't know it was wrong!"
"Didn't know it was wrong?!" Ron spluttered, his face almost going purple. "You're the one always harping on about how clever the stupid furball is! Oh, he knew alright! I bet he stayed up all night, just plotting to get his claws all over it before I woke up!"
"Oh, really! If you could just hear how absurd you sound!" Hermione retorted brusquely as Seamus and Dean, who were halfway down the table, sniggered and made the occasional few kissy noises. She shot them a look before turning back to Ron irritably. "And anyway, why would Crookshanks want to do such a thing?"
"Oh, I don't know, let me think – because he's evil?!"
Hermione narrowed her eyes.
"Ron," she said in an extremely terse voice. Harry, in an uncharacteristically wise move, slid further up the bench. "If you're not going to talk about this in a rational manner then there is nothing for me to do."
"And what about my essay?!" Ron demanded, punching his fists on the table and leaning forward on them.
"Well, if you had just done it earlier then you wouldn't be in this mess!" Hermione retorted, and, seeming to have had enough of this conversation, jumped to her feet angrily. "It serves you right! I've been telling you all week to write that essay but you kept putting it off! If it's not Quidditch practice, it's sneaking into Hogsmeade and playing chess all night with Harry! This is your own fault, Ron! Perhaps this will teach you next time!"
And then swinging her book bag over her shoulder and accidentally smacking Harry in the back of the head so his glasses flew off and into Neville's cereal, she jumped over the bench and stalked off.
Ron stared after her, his mouth working but unable to speak, eyes incredulous and unbelieving, a soggy cornflake slowly trailing down his cheek…
And a light tinkle of a laugh in his ear.
The sound broke him out of his daze and, turning confusedly to the source of it, Ron's face overtook yet another scowl.
Draco Malfoy was leaning casually against the Hufflepuff table, legs crossed at the ankle and one arm crossed languidly over his chest whilst the other held a bright red apple aloft. His smile was reptilian.
Ron briefly wondered, amidst his frustration, what the heck Malfoy was doing there but catching Crabbe and Goyle to the left of him, grunting and punching fists into their palms at Justin Finch-Fletchly, who was more than eager to give them all his pocket money, he didn't have to wonder too long.
Ron scowled at him.
"Can I help you, Ferret?"
Malfoy didn't answer. He just smiled that infuriating smile some more and turned to his hand, casually bouncing the apple repeatedly on his palm.
Ron felt his eyeball twitch.
"What do you want, Malfoy?"
And it was at that moment that Malfoy, his straight white teeth glinting, his pale head almost haloed from the sunshine expelled from the enchanted ceiling above and his eyes still focused on the shiny apple in his hand, first said it.
"I know, Weasley."
"Either start making sense or bugger off."
Malfoy's thin, cold smile seemed to stretch at this and looking up, he eased himself off the table with irritating grace. He then sauntered forwards, his polished shoes clicking against the stone floor, his stride self-assured.
Ron's hand instantly went to his pocket, his fingers clutching the top of his wand but Malfoy was already one foot away from him and, before Ron could even think of a spell, let alone cast one, the Slytherin had leaned his head forward towards his.
For one horrific moment, Ron thought the bastard was going to kiss him but Malfoy appeared to change tack at the last moment and turned his head slightly to aim for Ron's ear instead, into which he whispered the words,
"I know about you."
Lips brushing against the shell of Ron's ear and warm breath tingling the side of his face, Malfoy indolently leaned back. Then, with their noses just an inch apart, he lifted his hand and through a thoroughly smug little smirk and a particularly loud crunch!, he bit into his apple.
With a lick of his lips, he then stepped himself back and, acting as though he hadn't said a thing, he motioned to Crabbe and Goyle that it was time to leave, one of whom had Justin Finch-Fletchly in a headlock. Malfoy then whipped around, his robes swishing dramatically and swaggered back to the Slytherin table. Looking heartbroken, Crabbe let go of the Hufflepuff's head, which bounced off the edge of the table, and they shuffled off after him.
Harry, who had managed to fish his glasses out of Neville's bowl, had stilled wiping the lenses with the inside of his robes to squint flummoxed at Ron instead.
"What was all that about?" he asked.
Ron stared after Malfoy, dumbfounded, who in turn bestowed Ron with a rather predatory little smile before flicking his hair and strutting away.
Ron slowly shook his head.
"I have honestly no idea."
The second time that Malfoy had said it had been outside Professor Snape's Potions class but three hours later.
Ron and Hermione had still not made up from their morning dispute and had spent the majority of Transfiguration speaking to each other through Harry, who had finally lost his temper after the fifth "Tell Hermione to pass me a quill, since somebody's cat seemed to like the taste of mine" and stormed off to sit beside Parvati and Lavender, who had spent the rest of class shooting looks at him and giggling.
This being the case, none of them were speaking to the other by the time they got to the dungeons and, silently pouting and with their arms crossed, they waited with significant gaps between them in the queue outside Snape's classroom.
"My, my… trouble in paradise?"
Crabbe and Goyle guffawed dully on either side of Malfoy as they approached through the crowded corridor, harshly shoving people out of their way to get to the front of the queue and throwing aside a first year Ravenclaw who had been passing by.
Ron made a growl of a noise as he met the blond's lazy gaze.
"Shove off, Malfoy," he spat out and, automatically, both Harry and Hermione were at his shoulders. Seamus and Dean, sensing trouble, quickly stood beside them as well while Parvati and Lavender, also sensing a volatile situation, stepped closer with relish to get a better look. Malfoy's quick eyes caught all their moves and he let out a magnificent sneer.
"Aww, Gryffindor united – how touching," he drawled sarcastically, crossing his thin arms over his chest. "What's wrong, Weasel? Can't fight your own battles? Or…" and here Malfoy leaned forwards towards Ron, waggling his pale eyebrows, "are you afraid that I might say something I oughtn't?"
"What are you talking about, Malfoy?" Hermione snapped angrily, the wand in her hand shooting red sparks at her side and singeing her book bag. Both Crabbe and Goyle jumped back noticeably and Malfoy's eyes looked wary for a second. He then lifted his gaze back to Ron's blue eyes. Malfoy flashed his teeth.
"Don't they even know, Weasley? Didn't you even tell them? But then again, you shouldn't need to. It's so obvious. After all, I know about it. I know all about it. I've known about it for simply ages."
"What the bloody hell are you even on about?!" Ron said in annoyed exasperation, his voice going almost embarrassingly high at the end of his sentence. He would have stepped forward in an intimidating manner to punctuate just how worked up he was but Harry's hand was clamped securely to his arm and was successfully holding him back.
Malfoy inclined his head slightly, his hair falling into his eyes and a thin smile on his face as he briefly addressed the two bodyguards behind him.
"Denial," he told them in a knowing voice. He then gave Ron an unmistakable wink before strolling into the classroom, Goyle holding the door open for him whilst Crabbe shoved Neville out of his way.
Neville, who a minute later was still peeling himself off of the wall, blinked dazedly with rather wide, crossed eyes. Harry went over to help him before he collapsed to the ground but not before shooting Ron a rather bemused look.
"Does Malfoy know something about you?"
"Oh, of course he doesn't!" Hermione cut in savagely, eying Malfoy's retreating back with annoyance and irritably smacking her smoking bag with the back of her hand. "He's just trying to rile you up enough to do something stupid."
She then, reminding herself that she wasn't talking to either of them, sniffed and stalked inside.
Harry rolled his eyes. He and Ron then helped a hobbling Neville through the doorway and into the classroom after her but not before Ron turned to them both in utter confusion and asked,
"Did Malfoy really just wink at me?"
The third time Malfoy had said it, he hadn't technically said it at all.
A balled up piece of parchment had bounced off the back of Ron's head just as he was about to dice up the dead caterpillars for his and Harry's Strengthening Draught. The blade, narrowly missing his fingers, scratched a harsh line into the woodwork of his table and, slamming his knife down angrily on the tabletop, Ron snapped his head around.
Malfoy, situated near the back of the class, gave him a patronising little smile and a regal wave.
Physically growling at this stage, Ron snatched the balled-up piece of paper angrily from the table behind and off of where it had landed on Dean Thomas's textbook. He then turned around to smooth it open in his lap.
Harry, never an expert at subtlety, leaned over Ron's shoulder to read the four words written on it, too.
Guess what I know?
Swearing angrily under his breath, Ron ripped the paper in two, then into four, then balled it up between his palms. He then turned around, chucked it as hard as he could in Malfoy's face and had all of two seconds to enjoy watching Malfoy's eyes widen and the paper ball bounce off of his nose before Snape looked up, barked, "Weasley! 20 points from Gryffindor!" and went back to his marking.
With one last loathsome look at the Slytherin, who although slightly red-nosed was grinning disturbingly at him, Ron turned back to his table, ears reddening in anger, hands gripping the side of the table and catching Harry's concerned eye.
"What is Malfoy's problem?" Harry mouthed.
The fourth time that Malfoy had said it, it was beginning to get ridiculous.
Ron and Hermione were back on speaking terms again after Snape tersely accepted Ron's spellotaped essay, sneered down his beak-like nose at it and icily informed Ron that the next time an essay of his was in this condition that he would fail him.
He and Hermione had made up soon after that and although Ron had reasoned that it was still Hermione's fault for instilling no discipline in her cat, he decided that there was no point crying over spilt potion (the fact that she was the one who had leant him the spellotape worked largely in her favour, too).
So, happy to be on speaking terms again, the two walked side by side and chatted all the way to the Great Hall, where the third Prefect's meeting of the year was being held. Hermione, positively glowing in excitement, was carrying a very thick roll of parchment under her arm and talked in a very quick, breathy type of voice about all the many topics she wished to highlight in this meeting. Ron, who was walking up the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables and eyeing the parchment warily, was just about to make a derogatory comment that was bound to get him into trouble when an expensive-clad leg came out of nowhere and with a loud "Ooof!", he toppled over it and landed right on his face.
The hall echoed with laughter and with an angry, "Really!" from Hermione at them all, she helped pull a crimson-faced and absolutely mortified Ron up. Face and ears burning with embarrassment and having the added humiliation of having to deal with a motherly Hermione fussing over his wonky tie and wiping his smudged nose with her thumb, Ron heard him before he saw him.
"Have a nice trip, Weasley?"
Malfoy, who was sitting languidly with his back against the Hufflepuff table, elbow resting casually on the edge of the tabletop and idly swinging one leg, smiled pleasantly.
Trying to tear himself out of Hermione's grasp, Ron, losing all composure, attempted to go with his animal instincts and viciously claw through the air at the blond but Hermione, with her arms around his waist, was pulling him back and for such a slight-looking thing she was very strong indeed.
"Ah, temper, temper, Weasel," Malfoy drawled, his mocking mouth curving up at either end as he waggled his finger at Ron in exaggerated admonishment. He then easily ducked one of Ron's many wayward swipes before continuing. "And do try not to touch me. I don't want to catch whatever the mudblood over there is passing on to you. Unless…"
And here Malfoy trailed off suggestively before smiling and swaggering himself off to the head table, where Professor McGonagall had stood up to begin the meeting.
The meeting itself lasted a lot longer than most, which was mainly due to Hermione unrolling her parchment – which was at least 6 feet long – and briskly reading off her 'topics for discussion' one at a time. To Ron, the meeting was stretching unbearably longer than that since Malfoy had decided to slip into Hermione's vacated seat, crossing his legs at the knee in a disgustingly casual way, and kept jiggling his foot so the front of his shoe kept brushing against Ron's shin.
When Professor McGonagall finally stood up to declare the meeting was adjourned, Ron practically bolted out of his seat, the front of Malfoy's shoe still pressed on the back of his knee and his malicious laughter ringing in his ears.
Hermione, not noticing a thing, caught up with Ron easily, gushing and chattering happily about how helpful a meeting that was. With a shaky, almost abnormal little twitch of his head, Ron absentmindedly agreed but not before turning his head, looking Malfoy right in the eye and clearly reading the words, "I know," from his mouth.
The fifth time Malfoy said it, Ron was beginning to worry.
Malfoy had once again sauntered over, regaled in a fair amount of teasing before saying the words, smirking, and predictably swaggering off.
This time it was at dinner and Ron, a greasy chicken leg in each hand and with his mouth so full that half of his food was dangling passed his lips, stared silently after him.
Ron then turned mutely to Harry, mouth still full, to share a look with his best friend but Harry just grunted, carried on with his dinner and briefly said,
"That is getting so old."
Hermione snorted in agreement and daintily sliced her potatoes with her cutlery, but not before giving Ron and his table manners a rather disgusted look.
"There is a reason we're given knives and forks, Ron."
But Ron didn't catch this. He was still staring after Malfoy as the blond eased himself onto the Slytherin table, Crabbe and Goyle physically pulling Blaise Zabini by the scruff of his neck so Malfoy could put his feet up on his now vacant seat. Malfoy then, feeling Ron's gaze on him, turned and, on catching his eye, smiled spectacularly at him before lifting his silver goblet and raising his pumpkin juice at him in a mock toast.
And it was at that moment, as Ron watched Malfoy gulp down his drink so the blond's Adam's apple erratically bobbed within his pale throat, that Ron suddenly had a horrible thought.
What if Malfoy did actually know something?
A bubble of panic rose up Ron's throat and he turned frantically to Harry and Hermione to share this point of view with them but on hearing the words 'house-elf' coming from Hermione's mouth as well as witnessing Harry's look of exasperation at the enchanted ceiling, he knew better than to interrupt Hermione when she was mid-rant.
So he turned back to his food, allowing the two greasy chicken legs to slip out of his hands and back to their plate. Then, swallowing his mouthful and wiping his hands with a nearby napkin, he lifted his eyes in wary suspicion back at Malfoy.
Momentarily entranced with the pink tongue that peeked itself out from Malfoy's mouth to lick a smear of cranberry sauce off of his thin upper lip, Ron only really snapped out of it when Malfoy caught him looking. Face flushing furiously and not averting his eyes quick enough to avoid seeing Malfoy's face overtaken by a smug smile, Ron glared back at his dinner once again.
He then shakily pushed his plate backwards away from him.
He had suddenly lost his appetite.
The sixth time Malfoy had said it, Ron was really starting to panic.
"Oh, for goodness sake, Ron, what could he possibly know?" Hermione said through a long-suffering sigh as the trio walked themselves out onto the grounds to pay Hagrid a visit, Crookshanks bounding happily at their heels.
Still not having entirely forgiven him, Ron found himself accidentally stepping on the kneazle's tail at every opportunity and saying, 'Whoops! Foot slipped!' at regular intervals, much to the amusement of Harry. Hermione continued to rabbit on, not noticing yet another savage hiss from her cat as she gesticulated wildly in the air with her hands.
"You know, I really don't know why you insist on letting him get to you. Can't you see that's just how he wants you to react? You don't see either me or Harry caring what he thinks – why can't you just ignore him?"
"Yeah, but it's not you he knows something about, is it?!" flustered Ron, his angry words dying somewhere inside his throat so that he was beginning to sound rather hysterical. Even his aim was completely off direction as he erratically kicked at a pebble in the grass and winced as Crookshanks jumped out of the way before spitting irately at him.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, he doesn't know anything!" Hermione said in mild exasperation. "And even if he does, what could he possibly know that would cause you such trouble?"
"That me and Harry sneak into Hogsmeade? That we illegally brewed Polyjuice in second year? That we snuck a niffler into the Slytherin dorms? That we sent a singing Valentine to Snape last year as a dare?"
Harry blinked, looking at Ron's hands, which the redhead had been using to count off with his fingers. Harry then lifted his gaze back to his friend's eyes.
"You've been thinking about this a lot, haven't you?" he said. Hermione, on the other hand, merely tossed her bushy hair over her shoulder, looking unconvinced.
"Well, it obviously can't be any of those," she said matter-of-factly, punctuating this with a little lift of her chin.
Harry and Ron looked at one another curiously before staring back at her.
Hermione, rolling her eyes, decided to remark on their poor listening skills another time.
"Because all of those things involve one of us with Ron, not Ron alone," she said shrewdly, pulling her robes tighter around herself as the wind blew a particularly harsh breeze at them. "And I don't see Malfoy sneering knowing little comments to us."
"But I don't have any secrets!" Ron protested, flinging up his long arms in frustration and causing Harry to use his quick reflexes to dodge being whacked in the face. Ron then paused, arms still high above his head and turned to Harry. "Do I?"
"Oh, this is getting ridiculous!" Hermione snapped, nostrils flaring as they reached the foot of the steps going up to Hagrid's hut. She turned around, her hands on her hips and looked extremely irritated, Crookshanks mirroring her expression. "Ron, if it really bothers you so much, go and ask Malfoy what he's talking about and stop going on about it! Honestly! If I didn't know better, I'd say you were obsessed with him!"
She then spun around, stomped up the stairs and knocked fiercely on Hagrid's door.
Harry sighed and climbed the steps after her as Ron opened his mouth to speak. Many phrases popped into his mind, such as, 'You're barking!' and 'Fine! I will talk to him!' and 'I don't need to listen to you!'
But in the end, the words that came out were,
"I'm not obsessed with him!"
Before the door slammed open and Fang pounced him to the ground.
When the seventh time Malfoy had said it had been in Ron's own head, Ron decided it was time for drastic action.
He had been having an afternoon nap, as most people were wont to do during History of Magic and was settled in a nice mellow dream where he was sat in the Great Hall and eating Chocolate Frogs when, with a 'pop!' and a puff of smoke, Malfoy had appeared beside his piles of stacked Wizards cards. He then ripped a Chocolate Frog from Ron's hand, jumped on a table to avoid Ron's angry swipes and, clearing his throat importantly, loudly announced to the school that Ron's big dark secret was that he had no teeth. At first, Ron had laughed at this, saying that he obviously had teeth and snatched back the Chocolate Frog from Malfoy to prove this as a fact but, on putting the Frog in his mouth, he realised that Malfoy was right.
The whole room had exploded into laughter at this and every table – including the Head table – was screeching and chanting, "Weasley has no teeth! Weasley has no teeth!" with Malfoy, from his tabletop, leading the cheers. Even Harry and Hermione, who Ron turned to in desperation, were on their feet, clapping and pointing and jeering with laughter while Hagrid could be heard from the teacher's table, slamming his huge fist on the tabletop, nearly breaking it in two and roaring,
"Yeh've got no teeth, Ron!"
Slapping his hand over his toothless mouth, Ron had made a run for it towards the exit but a tug on his arm had yanked him back face to face with Malfoy again.
Ron's hand had already balled itself up into a fist to punch the little git but the small smile on the blond's face had momentarily stopped him.
It was a genuine smile.
"You know, it could be worse, Weasley," Malfoy drawled softly.
And then flashing Ron with his own toothless grin, Ron woke up with a start.
After sticking a finger in his mouth and biting it to check it was only a dream, Ron had decided that enough was enough.
So, finishing History of Magic with a shorter, dreamless nap, he gathered up his things, told Harry and Hermione to go to dinner without him and headed to the dormitories to check on the Marauders Map.
Tracing a nail-bitten finger across the rough parchment to look for the name 'Draco Malfoy', Ron soon found it swaggering itself down the fifth floor and minus the larger dots of Crabbe and Goyle, who were rather predictably racing towards the Great Hall for dinner.
So, stuffing the map back into Harry's trunk, Ron dropped his book-bag onto his own bed, raced out of the dorms, thumped his way through the common room and made his way down to the fifth floor, almost colliding head-on with the statue of Boris the Bewildered. Grabbing Boris's rather baffled looking head to keep himself from falling over, Ron caught Malfoy just in time as he strolled into the fourth door to the left of him.
"Oi!" Ron called rather uselessly but the door had already clicked shut and, not really thinking, Ron ran after him, snapped "Orange-flavoured bubbles!" to the door and pushed it open.
Taking a second to appreciate the softly lit, white-marbled splendour of the room, the gold-framed picture of the mermaid on the wall and the foamy multi-coloured water cascading into the giant swimming pool of a bath, Ron soon found Malfoy standing by the stack of fluffy towels, finger drumming his upper lip as though contemplating which would be the most appropriate to use.
Malfoy looked up after a second or two and far from looking surprised to see Ron there with him, he slowly scrutinised the boy from his scuffed up shoes to his rather disarrayed red hair. He then broke into a slow smile.
"Why, Weasley, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
Ron ignored the cocky stance, the glittering eyes – and was Malfoy leering at him? – to stomp forward. He then lifted up his hand and, to the surprise of the other boy, poked Malfoy hard in the chest with his finger.
"What are you playing at?" Ron demanded.
Malfoy, whose gaze had been travelling down Ron's face, slowly passed his chest and unhurriedly down to the tip of his prodding finger, blinked his wide eyes up at him innocently. The expression looked rather abnormal on his face.
"Playing?" he repeated in exaggerated confusion, eyes still wide, pointing at himself and briefly turning around to look behind him, as though checking for someone. His lips were hardly repressing his smirk when he turned back. "What, little ole me?"
"Cut the crap, Malfoy, what do you know about me?"
But again Malfoy smiled, those white teeth glinting as he stepped closer, his shoes almost stepping on top of Ron's own and his sharp nose but an inch from the redhead's. Ron could feel a combination of the heat of Malfoy's person, the steaming, luxurious looking bath behind them and an underlying itchy sort of clamminess under his own skin as Malfoy slowly wetted his lips.
"I really don't know what you're talking about, Weasley."
"Yes, you do!" Ron shouted, already rather wound up as his prodding increased and he could feel Malfoy's heartbeat drumming against his fingertip under the expensive material of his clothes. "All those sarky little comments?" Ron continued fiercely. "Those stupid little looks!?"
Malfoy shook his head and made a soft tutting noise under his breath, his eyes twinkling maliciously.
"Poor, Weasel, you must be getting delusional in your old age," he said and feigned a look of concern that would have worked a lot better had he not been grinning disturbingly throughout it. He then – continuing to smile at the glare Ron was bestowing on him, their eyes locked and still only a breath apart – reached up and, rather impulsively, undid the clasp on his own robe.
With a click of a noise it unfastened, silkily slipped off of his shoulders and pooled around his feet in a rippled pile. Malfoy then, light eyes still on Ron and darting to the Gryffindor's mouth to watch his breathing increase, loosened his own tie.
It was only as the green and silver striped material joined his robes on the ground – stark against the colour of the black velvet, his fingers deftly undoing his shirt buttons – that Ron finally found his, albeit squeaky, voice again.
"… Malfoy, what the hell are you doing?"
But Malfoy just smirked before shucking off his shirt and revealing a white undershirt underneath.
"Taking a bath, Weasel. Now, if you'd turn around while I strip…"
Ron just stared at him, his mouth slightly open.
Malfoy's smile had turned to a leer.
"I thought not."
He pulled the undershirt over his head, mussing up his white-blond hair in the process and revealing a pale bare chest. He then held the vest momentarily in his hand before throwing it aside.
It was as Malfoy's fingers started twiddling with the serpent buckle of his belt, metal hinges creaking and the serpent's emerald eyes actually winking at the redhead, that Ron forced himself to try and get a hold of the situation.
"But… but you're stripping…" he stammered quite stupidly.
Malfoy fleetingly snorted.
"Being naked is one of the main components of having a bath, Weasley," he said in his usual slow patronising tones, although Malfoy's eyes were still twinkling at Ron as he pulled the belt leisurely out of its belt loops. He then dropped the serpentine accessory by his feet among the rest of his things before his hands crept along the top of his trousers.
Ron blanched as Malfoy idly fingered his fly, his blue eyes panicked and alternating between looking at the blond's crotch to his face.
"But… but I'm still here!" Ron tried to point out frantically, flapping his arms again so he couldn't possibly be missed.
Malfoy lifted up his head, fingers having already swiftly undone the top button of his trousers and, staring at Ron for a very long time, he slowly pulled down his zipper and seductively licked his lips.
"Oh, trust me," he said in a deep, throaty sort of voice. "I'm well aware."
Malfoy then pulled down his trousers and boxers in one quick action.
And Ron's mouth went dry.
Stepping his ankles out of their clothed enclosure, his eyes still trained on a stunned Ron and looking more amused than one had ever seen, an unmistakably nude Malfoy bent down to retrieve his wand from his trouser pocket. Malfoy then used the wooden instrument like a baton, twirling it with a charm to fold his clothes and then pointing it casually over his shoulder to turn off the five jewelled taps that had been pouring their numerous coloured and textured waters into the bath.
And no, Ron's eyes did not follow him all the way.
They didn't follow him as he straightened his knees back up again, slight muscles flexing in the warm light of the room, pale skin glowing under the chandeliers…
They didn't trail after him as Malfoy strolled his way over to the pool and turned his head slightly, watching Ron watch him with a self-satisfied little grin…
And no, they definitely didn't continue to pursue him as the blond descended down the small steps leading into the frothy bath water itself, multicoloured foam, snitch-shaped bubbles and fluorescent shades of oil streaking down his body, flashing different colours and marking him like some sort of festive sweet that Honeydukes would put in their window display.
And no, it didn't make Ron's stomach grumble in the slightest.
Malfoy leaned languidly against the tub, arms resting spread-eagled on top of the porcelain on either side of him, cocking his head. A drop of green apple flavoured bubble bath was trailing its way down the side of his pale face and Ron was so enthralled with watching its slow journey to his collarbone that he almost missed Malfoy's next words.
"You coming, Weasley?" the blond called in an innocent voice.
Ron continued to gape at him, his blue eyes looking rather glazed and unfocused.
"I… uh…" he replied rather eloquently.
Malfoy snickered, shaking his head with mirth and shifting his gaze to focus up at the high ceiling, looking far too amused for a naked boy having a bath.
"Oh, yes," he said, not even attempting to smother his considerable laughter. "Straight as an arrow, you are."
That snapped Ron out of his daze immediately.
"What the hell's that supposed to mean?!" the redhead demanded, hands automatically balling themselves into fists, his posture attempting to look threatening and his eyes fixed on Malfoy's own, not trusting himself to look anywhere above or belowthe grey of Malfoy's eyes.
Malfoy, who seemed to have noticed Ron's discomfiture, grinned.
"Still not figured it out, I see."
"Figured what out?!"
"Merlin, and here I was thinking that your being slow was an act…"
"I'm warning you, Malfoy," Ron growled, stamping himself forward, his scratched up shoes only stopping at the very edge of the pool, just before the floor sunk itself into the oversized tub, "if you don't tell me what you're talking about…"
"You're going to what, Weasley?" Malfoy smoothly cut in, blinking slowly and calmly although an amused twitch seemed to be going off in his cheek. "Use your fist on me? Take me from behind? Give me a lethal blow?"
Ron suddenly found it very difficult to swallow.
"… stop that."
"Stop what?" Malfoy asked in a baffled, light sort of voice that wouldn't have fooled anyone, shrugging his shoulders with exaggeration to exemplify his befuddlement. "No need to get so frustrated, Weasley."
"Stop doing that!"
"What?" Malfoy had ceased bothering to cover his smiles as he let out the widest of beams. "I'm only trying to help! Honestly, didn't your fat mother teach you any manners?"
Ron barely restrained himself from leaping off the diving board in front of him, jumping on top of Malfoy and strangling the life out of him.
"You better shut it about my mum, Malfoy," Ron snarled through clenched teeth, his ears turning red on either side of his already scarlet face and his leg jerking towards the Slytherin's general direction, twitching subconsciously for a fight. "And help me? As if! All you're helping is my need to punch you, you undergrown little git!"
"You sure that's the only need you get from me, Weasley?" Malfoy practically purred, his eyes sparkling with more than just their usual malice.
Ron blinked for a moment, the strange, almost seductive tone of Malfoy's voice throwing him completely.
"What, besides the need to throw up?" he asked sarcastically then promptly snorted, "Yeah, I reckon it is!"
For a split second, Malfoy almost looked affronted, his face falling ever so slightly. However, this look didn't last long as the Slytherin, fierce determination suddenly harsh upon his sharp features, charged forward, swimming ferociously to where Ron was standing on the edge of the sunken bath. Ron only had a few seconds to note how frothy Malfoy had made his bathwater and how neatly his bare, slender body cut through the water before a wet hand had grasped his ankle, dug its oddly sharp nails into his skin and yanked him angrily into the pool.
With a yelp of a howl, Ron found himself hurtling headfirst into the water, his impact splashing foam, soap suds and magical sparks (Dr Filibuster's Fantastic Firework Foam!) all around the room and causing him to choke on a pink bubble that had somehow bounced itself into his mouth.
Letting out a series of spluttering gasps, arms flailing, one shoe slipping from his foot to glide softly to the pool floor and his robes heavy and wet and clinging to his kicking legs, Ron's large hands desperately sought out the side of the pool.
Fingertips clumsily gripping the solid marble, hair plastered to his face and his mouth tasting soapy from all the bath water he had swallowed, Ron had just attempted to heave his soaking, shivering self out of the tub when he heard Malfoy's laugh.
It was Malfoy's tittering, condescending little laugh and it made Ron freeze to the spot. And, before Ron could even stop himself, tell himself to ignore the blond or even think, he had thrown himself back into the pool, arms and legs violently hurtling him through the water so fast that he collided smack into Malfoy himself. He then, not finding a collar, a shirt or, in fact, anything to hold on to, let out a growl of frustration and wrapped his wet hands around Malfoy's neck instead.
"You think that was funny, ferret?!" he snarled, red nose pressed against Malfoy's pale and pointy one. "Get a laugh out of that, did you!?"
Ron's hair was sticking up wildly, nails pressing crescent shapes into the blond's throat and his expression was looking rather manic and insane. However, although Ron was squeezing the life out of the boy and stopping his air supply rather effectively, Malfoy – probably from years of practice – somehow managed to get out a smirk.
"Found it hysterical, actually," he miraculously wheezed out before wiggling slightly in Ron's grasp. Feeling a flush rising from his toes right up to the tips of his hair, Ron, suddenly aware of just how naked the boy was (and feeling more than just Malfoy's muscles through his clothes from that impulsive wiggle), let go of his throat as though Malfoy's skin had scalded him. A flustered Ron then tried to step himself backwards.
But Malfoy didn't seem to be having that.
"Going somewhere, Weasley?" he asked lightly, a ferocious glint in his eyes as he stepped forwards, wading his arms through the hot water and instantly making up the gap Ron had created. Ron felt himself gulping as he fumblingly moved another step backwards, one foot still shy of a shoe and Malfoy's bare self advancing, and advancing fast.
"What… what are you playing at, Malfoy?" Ron tried to demand, his voice barely above a squeak.
Malfoy merely smiled. It looked terrifying.
"Oh, I think you know."
Ron stepped back some more, almost tripping over the floaty hem of his own robes.
"… Know… know what?" he stammered.
Malfoy just continued forwards, his eyes dark and his grin predatory.
"Playing as dumb as you are isn't going to change the truth, Weasel."
Ron swallowed, still moving back through the steaming water as fast as his feet would allow.
"Stop… stop looking at me like that…"
"Like what?" Malfoy asked, smiling evilly from ear to ear.
"Like… like… You know what I mean!" Ron blurted out, looking behind him in panic. The other side of the pool was unwelcomingly close.
"You know what?" Malfoy suddenly said, stopping his walk with a halt and wearing a pondering expression, wet hand raised to rest under his pointed chin. "I think I do know what you mean."
Ron nearly tripped over the shoe that had fallen to the pool floor.
"… You do?"
"Oh yes," Malfoy said conversationally. Then, with a step towards the redhead and wearing a light, charming smile, "I'd say that I look at you like I want to fuck your brains out, don't I, Weasley?"
Ron's knees almost collapsed underneath him.
"And…" Malfoy continued, looking so incredibly blasé that he could easily have been talking about the weather, taking advantage of Ron's momentary stupor by leaning in extremely close to him, "… I'd also say that you look at me like you want me to."
With a thump, Ron's back hit the edge of the pool and immediately Malfoy's hands landed on either side of him, his face an inch from the other boy's and his unclothed body forbidding escape, trapping him.
Ron suddenly felt very dizzy, his entire body coming out in a cold sweat.
"You're… you're mental…" he said shakily when he finally found his voice, heart fluttering madly inside him and every millimetre of skin that Malfoy was pressing against burning feverishly under his wet clothes.
Malfoy, breath ghosting across Ron's already burning red face, only increased his smile.
"Oh come on, Weasel," he whispered through a smirk, leaning himself even closer so his elbows were now on either side of Ron, their chests sliding against each other's and a stray bit of blond hair clinging to the wet on Ron's forehead. "Do you really think all this denial is helping anyone?"
"I don't know what you–!" Ron began but this protest soon melted into a breathy, "Oh sweet Merlin…" as Malfoy suddenly rolled his hips against Ron's own.
Ron rolled his eyes shut and had all of two seconds to enjoy the feel of Malfoy's lips brushing against his neck and his tongue lapping up the sweat that had gathered there before something snapped inside him. And then remembering where he was, what exactly he was doing and most importantly with whom, Ron let out a yelp, snapped open his eyes and attempted to push Malfoy away from him.
However, Malfoy, with reflexes that told Ron his father's influence wasn't the only reason he had been made Slytherin seeker, moved back and caught his hands easily within his own. He then held them to him, where they lay trapped in the middle of their bodies, and gave Ron yet another lazy grin.
"Weasley," he drawled in a voice that brooked no opposition, stroking Ron's hands with his own and tightening his grip so their fingers curled around each other's, "You want me to stay."
Ron tried, rather unsuccessfully, to shake his head.
"I… I don't…" he stuttered in reply, although his hands didn't attempt to fight their way out of Malfoy's grasp. In fact, to his horror, they appeared to be entwining themselves around Malfoy's on their own accord and he was suddenly growing light-headed and… and…
And it was then – right then – that it suddenly hit Ron, like a Bludgeoning Charm smack in the head. The previous few days, the previous few years, all rushing back to him as though he had stepped into a speeded-up pensieve.
Malfoy's knowing comments, Ron's complete and utter frustration, the way Malfoy would always sneer remarks at him, the way Ron would always try to commit homicide…
Ron felt as though the bottom of his stomach had dropped out.
He fancied Malfoy.
Of all the witches, of all the wizards, of all the non-evil persons in the entire world, he was turned on by Draco sodding Malfoy.
The dirty Slytherin.
The cheating bastard.
The bouncing ferret.
The bastard who was so up his own arse that his platinum hair practically tickled his tonsils.
Ron let out a spectacular groan and dropped his head forward so his forehead landed on Malfoy's shoulder.
He was totally screwed.
"Oh bugger," whimpered Ron, his words muffled against the blond's neck.
"That was my main objective, Weasley," said Malfoy amusedly, squeezing in another wiggle and leaving Ron groaning in both arousal and frustration before he mentally slapped himself, lifted up his head and tried to get some sort of hold on his hormones.
"Malfoy, we can't do this."
"Actually," Malfoy replied, busy nuzzling the side of Ron's face, his tongue mapping out the curves of Ron's ear and his fingers nimbly undoing Ron's shirt buttons while the redhead looked on in awe… "I can do this just fine."
Ron gulped, his throat dry as Malfoy's purrs sent every bit of Weasley hair on end and every cell of Weasley blood to the surface. Panicking, Ron got it together long enough to try slapping Malfoy's wandering fingers away, his palms pushing against the blond's bare chest to try and move the boy from his path.
It wasn't working very well.
"Malfoy, just… just geroff! This isn't right!" Ron practically squealed through his struggles, beginning to get hysterical.
"Oh, I think you'll find it is," Malfoy retorted blandly, easily ignoring Ron's thrashing about and returning his mouth comfortably back to the curve of Ron's neck, his fingernails scratching lightly against his freckled stomach as his other hand curled possessively around the redhead's hip.
"But I… you, this… bad…" Ron seemed to be floundering over his words, his voice breathless and pleading and his eyes round and suddenly beseeching.
Malfoy replied with a long, languid lick from Ron's collarbone up to his earlobe before giving the latter a nip with his teeth and contentedly watching Ron let out a gasp and roll his eyes closed. Malfoy then turned his head so their foreheads were pressed against each other's, his fist around Ron's tie and tugging at it so Ron's nose bumped his own.
He smiled rather cockily.
"So what do you say, Weasley?"
Ron, his lip trembling, shakily opened his eyes and tried to take everything in.
He was in the Prefect's bathroom, he was backed against the wall, his clothes were completely soaked and his naked enemy was pressed against him and propositioning him with sex.
"Oh crap," said Ron before grabbing Malfoy by the back of his neck and pulling him in for a searing kiss.
It was just striking midnight when an absolutely soaking, and rather dazed, Ron Weasley strolled his way back to the near-empty Gryffindor common room.
Hermione was working doggedly on translating her twelve-inch rune scroll on the peoples of ancient Maya and Harry was playing a game of wizards chess and frowning because he was losing horrendously to himself as the redhead squelched his way in, creating a series of small puddles with every step that he made.
It was Hermione who spotted him first, and letting out one of her trademark huffs of air, she irritably threw her quill back into its ink well so she could focus her whole attention on admonishing him.
"Ronald Bilius Weasley! Where on earth have you been?! Harry and I have been worried sick – do you hear me, sick about you! You even missed dinner – you never miss dinner! What could you have been doing for 7 straight hours? You didn't even inform us, you know how concerned we get! And for heaven's sake, how did you get so wet? Have you been walking about in the rain again? Honestly, not even taking an umbrella or performing an Impervious Charm on your clothes – what were you thinking?! Do you want to catch a cold? Because if you intentionally did this to get out of lessons tomorrow, Ron, I'll owl your mother about it! And do you have any idea how much studying time you've missed today?! Don't even attempt telling me that you've finished perfecting your Disillusionment Charm for tomorrow's Double Charms lesson! You could barely spell that Flobberworm in class, let alone the full-grown kneazle Professor Flitwick expects you to charm for next lesson! I mean, really! What kind of example is this for a prefect to set? You're in your seventh year now, is it too much to expect you to try and behave like an adult? Do you know how much the lower years look up to us? I mean, honestly! –"
Despite the fact that Ron had said this in a soft, uncharacteristically far-away type of voice, Hermione had heard and stopping mid-rant, she and Harry turned to look at him.
Ron, whose eyes were still wide, shining just a little too brightly and distantly staring at the roaring fireplace, flickered his gaze to look at Hermione, his hair completely disarrayed, his face pink and a smile slowly creeping up on his face.
"I know," he said.
Then getting happily to his feet, face still split with a grin, Ron smacked Harry jovially on the back – whose glasses flew off his face for the second time that week – and practically skipped his way upstairs.
Hermione and Harry mutely watched him go and it was only when the dormitory door had shut and Harry had retrieved his glasses from the black knight they had landed on top of that Hermione, looking slightly puzzled, opened her mouth.
"Was that a bruise on Ron's neck?"