Author: Mad Maudlin
Category: Adventure, romance, sports drama
Keywords: Ron Weasley, Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, slash, Quidditch, Cannons, Damn Yankees, musical
Spoilers: Through OotP
Summary: Ron Weasley has no life, and it's put him in a bit of a bind.
Disclaimer:This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
In other words, they're not mine; talk to the nice Scottish lady.
A/N:This fic has been over a year and a half in the making. It started when I had the priviledge of being stage manager for my high school's production of Damn Yankees: the parallels between the Washington Senators and the Chudley Cannons seemed obvious, Ron made the natural Joe, and everything else sort of fell into place around them. I've taken some liberties to accommodate JKR's universe, as well as my own musings about the play—if Draco and Pansy recall Good Omens or The Screwtape Letters more than Applegate and Lola, blame a misapplied Catholic education. As for making it slash, well, let's just say I thought about this all a bit to hard after one too many late rehearsals; any time you start comparing musical theatre to The Divine Comedy, you need to take a break. Plus, there's not nearly enough H/R with plot.
This is not a songfic; that's not to say the songs aren't worth listening to, because they are, very much so, except for "Who's Got the Pain?" (strictly IMO). I recommend the soundtrack of the 1994 Broadway revival featuring Jerry Lewis as Applegate.
This fic is dedicated to all my buddies in Thespian Troupe #3300, plus Mrs. K and Mr. A; to Dee and Tas, who were respectively no help and loads of help at various times; and to the 2004 Boston Red Sox, because nobody likes a sore loser. There's always next year....
Act One, Scene One:Six Months out of Every Year
"...passes the Quaffle to Harkins, Harkins to Samson, Samson's hit by a Bludger and the Cannons recover! Killjoy, Macelwrath, Killjoy, Funt, Macelwrath, the shot...wide of the goal, and Harkins recovers, narrowly misses a Bludger from Brajnikoff...Harkins, Samson, Lewis, intercepted by Funt...wait a moment...the Tornados' Seeker is going into a dive, I don't think this is a feint, MacGregor is following about a mile behind him, both Cannons Beaters are on the move...Jenkins has the Snitch! Tornados win it, four hundred twenty to seventy!"
Ron shut the wireless off and slumped back into his chair, running his hand through his hair and mumbling under his breath. "Eight hour game and it's all for nothing. Damn Tornados."
"Cheer up, Ronniekins," George said, patting his arm. "They made a good game of it, didn't they?"
"Last time they played the Tornados, they lost in thirty minutes," Fred added encouragingly.
Ron rolled his eyes. "Jenkins could've caught the Snitch a dozen times today. They were dragging it out on purpose, just because they could, to pad out their standings when they're already first in the bloody League."
George shrugged. "Maybe next time. You never know."
Ron made a derisive noise and left the kitchen. The twins merely shrugged at each other.
Sunday dinner at the Burrow had become a ritual by now, Molly Weasley's way of keeping tabs on her far-flung sons from week to week. Though he tried not to let on, Ron spent most of each week looking forward to it. It was nice to escape the cramped flat he shared with Harry and return home, if only for an evening or so. It made the other six days in the week very nearly bearable.
Oh, he knew he shouldn't complain. His dad had made a big effort to land him a job in the Ministry; the twins would get tired of the secretary jokes eventually. ("He's not a secretary, he's a clerical aide," Percy would tell them in exasperation, every time.) Yes, his flat was microscopic and had a lovely view of a filthy alley, but that was his own bloody fault—if he'd just swallowed his pride to begin with, instead of insisting on paying half the rent, they could be living in a penthouse suite. Harry had been sore about that for days—not that he ever said anything about it. Not that he ever said anything about anything, really, these days. But he was alive, Ron was alive, and they were still friends, and he really didn't have any right to complain. Things could have been a lot worse; he should be grateful for all that he had.
He was going to be grateful if it killed him.
A systematic search of the house turned up his flatmate in the rarely used front parlor. Harry was curled up in a window seat, staring at the moonlight that glowed on the snowy front garden without really seeing any of it. Ron leaned against the wall. "Hey."
Harry barely glanced up before turning back to the window. "Hey."
"The Cannons lost again."
"I'm ready to leave."
"By the way, Mum just burst into flame."
Harry glanced up again. "Mmmm?"
Ron sighed through his teeth and crossed his arms. "You feel like rejoining the land of the living, mate?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I mean, you've been hiding in here most of the afternoon."
Harry glanced at him for just a moment, then looked back through the window. "I'm glad you noticed."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Ron asked, bristling.
"Then why'd you say it?"
Harry sighed, and seemed to deflate a little. "Never mind, Ron, it's not important."
Ron opened his mouth to press the issue, then let it snap shut again. If Harry wanted to be weird and cryptic, fine. Ron wouldn't make an issue out of it, because he had to work in the morning, and when he and Harry fought these days it left them both sleepless on opposites sides of a paper-thin wall. When they saw each other the next morning—or more often than not the next evening, since Ron was usually at work long before his friend even rolled out of bed—they'd mutter apologies and rattle around awkwardly in the flat for a few hours, stepping on each other's toes until some trivial thing broke the tension. Then they'd laugh, and forget why they'd been angry in the first place, and everything would be fine again until suddenly it wasn't. The reliability of it all was nearly comforting.
So instead of pushing for an explanation, Ron sighed and glanced at his watch. The minute hand was fixed on Past You Bedtime, while the hour hand had been stuck on Time to Take a Vacation for the past month"We should probably get going soon," he said
"What do you mean?"
"I've got work, Harry. I need to be up early."
"So?" At least Harry was looking at him now, instead of addressing his comments to the window.
"What do you mean, so?"
"You can go on without me, you know."
Ron stared at him for a few minutes. "What are you talking about?"
"Go ahead, Ron. I'll be along in a bit."
Ron's brows knit in confusion. Harry always wanted leave; except for these Sunday dinners and occasional lunches with Remus, the Boy Who Lived had become a veritable hermit at age nineteen. He rarely left the flat, and when he did he was usually all too eager to get back again. Ron leaned in closer and dropped his voice. "Harry, is some thing wrong?"
He snorted. "Of course not."
"Then why are you acting like this?"
Harry sounded more irritated than Ron thought he had any right to be. "Is it a capital crime to want to be with people I care about?"
"Pretty odd way of socializing you've got," Ron snarled, stung by the backhanded insult, "considering you haven't said five words to anyone all night."
"And you spent all evening screaming at the wireless." Harry turned back towards the window with a set-jawed scowl. "If you're so eager to go, then go. No one's keeping you."
"Believe me, Harry, I've no desire to go back to the flat, but unlike some people I have a job." Of course, Harry didn't need to work; between his inheritance and the awards heaped on him by the grateful Ministry, he was set for the rest of his life. Of course, in Ron's way of thinking that didn't mean he had to spend all day in his pajamas eating corn flakes out of the box, either.
The comment must've hit a nerve, thought—not that that was particularly difficult—because Harry jumped to his feet and started yelling. "Fine! I'll go! Because God forbid anything I think should interfere with the smooth operation of the Ministry of Magic's clerical pool!"
"What the hell's the matter with you tonight?"
Harry's face flushed, and he didn't bother to lower his voice when he said, "Of course, something must be wrong, I've got an opinion."
"That's not what I said..."
"That's what you meant."
"Don't put words in my mouth."
"Then quit treating me like a child."
"Then quit acting like one!"
He regretted the words the moment they left his mouth. He wanted to take them back the moment he saw Harry's face. But it was too late and he was too slow, and Harry had already pushed past him by the time he had gathered his wits enough to apologize.
"Harry?" Ron called, hating the way his voice squeaked on the end of the word. "Where are you going?"
"Home." His voice was flat and controlled, artificially pleasant and utterly cold. "That's what you wanted, isn't it?"
"Look, if you want to stay, we can stay. I didn't—"
"Stop." Harry leaned against the wall and shut his eyes, pressing one hand against his forehead. "Just stop. You can stay, or go, or whatever, but it doesn't matter to me, because I really don't care anymore. So... just stop. Please." With one last backwards glance, as if stabbing Ron in the gut and twisting the knife had been terribly exhausting, Harry left through the front door and Disapparated.
The house was terribly silent, and it occurred to Ron sort of vaguely that his entire extended family must have heard them shouting at each other. He kept waiting for another pop, and for the door to open again, and for Harry to come back and apologize; but the longer it didn't happen, the more he realized that this time he really may have screwed things up.
Well, fine. If Harry wasn't going to expend the effort, then neither was he. Ron spun on his heel and stalked through the rest of the house, ignoring his gaping relations, through the empty kitchen and into the back garden. He paced outside in the January cold for a good thirty minutes before he noticed someone watching him in the darkness.
"Ron." His eldest brother nodded without moving from his position in the shadow of a tree.
Ron couldn't keep pacing, though, not under Bill's steady silent gaze. He raked his fingers through his hair and rounded on him. "What do you want?"
"I've been chosen by popular cowardice to find out what's wrong."
Ron scowled at him. "Nothing's wrong."
"That's why you and Harry were screaming, then, yes?"
"Harry..." Ron turned his back on Bill, but his indignation suddenly petered out, and he felt deflated and tired. Part of him insisted that it was nobody's business but their own, and he should tell his brother to keep his nose out of it. Another part, though... "I don't know about Harry anymore," he confessed, chapping his hands without really warming them.
"What's the problem?" Bill asked softly, handing Ron his cloak.
He snorted as he wrapped it around himself. "What isn't the problem?" he growled. "He spends most of his time sleeping, he never leaves the flat, he treats my job like some bloody great inconvenience. He doesn't say two words to me all day and then he acts like I ought to have been reading his goddamn mind..." He hated the words even as they came out of his mouth; it felt like a betrayal, and he instantly wanted to take them back, like that would make them untrue. But at the same time he'd been wanting to say something like this for so long that it almost couldn't come out fast enough. "I don't think I've seen him smile in weeks, it's like...like he refuses to do anything that might accidentally make him happy, but he expects me to cheer him up anyway, and he gets snitty if I try to do anything else. I don't know what to do, or what to say, because it seems like the most random sorts of things set him off, and...and I thought things were supposed to get better when the war was over, you know?"
The last part came out almost as a plea; a weight seemed to lift from his chest, one he'd been so used to he hadn't even noticed. Bill squeezed his shoulder, but what he said next jarred Ron badly. "So that's the problem with Harry. Now what's the problem with you?"
"I don't have a problem," he said, pulling away.
"I don't believe you." Bill snagged the back of Ron's cloak to keep him from walking away, nearly causing him to slip on the icy path. "You're exhausted lately, Ron, everyone's noticed it."
"Be honest with me, here. With yourself."
Bill had a way of saying things that always made them right, and Ron was too tired to resist it. He leaned against the apple tree alongside Bill and rubbed his eyes. "I'm tired, okay? I work a lot."
"And you go home and fight with Harry."
Bill sighed and steered Ron over to the bench opposite the tree, which was mostly clear of ice and snow. "Look, Ron," he said as they sat, "you and Harry are closer than anyone I know, including the twins. Hell, that includes Mum and Dad. Did you ever think...maybe you're too close?"
Ron looked up sharply. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that you know each other better than your know yourselves, and that means you know exactly how to hurt each other. And whether you realize it or not, that's what you two are doing every time you argue like you just did. It's not healthy and it isn't good."
"Harry needs me," Ron cut in, uneasy about where Bill was taking all this. "And I...I guess I need him, too. Hell, Bill, I followed him through the war and back, a little bickering's no big deal."
"You call that bickering?" Ron cringed; Bill shook his head. "Tell me, Ron, if Harry disappeared tomorrow, what would you do without him? And be serious about it."
Ron tried to imagine a Harry-less life, without the flat, without the fighting, without idle conversation or inside jokes. A world without the boy—the man, now—who'd been the center of Ron's world since he was eleven years old. It made something lurch uncomfortably in his chest. "I...I dunno."
"Which is exactly why you should find out." Bill held up one hand when Ron tried to protest. "Look, you two have been joined at the hip since you were kids. Hell, you've already got more commitments and history with Harry than some married couples, and you're not even twenty yet. You deserve a chance to figure out your own identity—you both do. And I think you can only do that apart from each other."
"He needs me," Ron said again. "Bill, I can't abandon him after—"
"I know what Harry's gone through, Ron, believe me. I was there for some of it, too. But he's got to get over all that on his own. You can't fix him all by yourself—and it hurts the rest of us to see you trying."
Ron started at the ground, at the snow that had been stomped into slush and frozen again in strange peaks and swirls, and bit his lower lip until the icy air stung it raw. "So you just want me to give up?" he asked quietly.
Bill sighed again. "Think of it as a strategic retreat. A little time apart could do you both a world of good."
"What if he hates me for it?"
"The way you're going, he'll hate you for something eventually."
When Ron didn't respond immediately, Bill stood up and flicked his wand in a slow circle. The lamps around the garden burst into flame, softly illuminating the snow-blanketed beds and spindly remains of last summer's flowers. "Hey, how did the game end?" he asked briskly. "I didn't quite hear."
"Cannons lost again."
"Ah, well. Better luck next time, I guess."
He snorted. "Next time, right."
"Hope springs eternal." Bill patted Ron on the shoulder again. "Promise me you'll at least think about what I said."
"Yeah. Sure." It was the last thing on Earth he wanted to contemplate.
Bill stared at him until Ron felt his neck begin to redden, then sighed. He turned up his collar and shoved his hands in his pockets. "G'night, Ron."
Ron nodded, and hunkered down into his cloak. He stared at the sky, at the icicles glittering in the trees, at the diffuse lights coming from the kitchen windows. Leave Harry...but where would he go? He couldn't afford his own place, and he had no intention of moving back in with his parents. Hermione might put him up, or—if it were absolutely necessary—one of his brothers, but that didn't solve the basic financial problem, and secretaries weren't the most upwardly mobile of Ministry employees. And Harry would be by himself in the dingy little flat, eating cornflakes out of the box...
He couldn't deal with this right now. He needed to clear his mind. His first instinct was to go get pissed, but his more rational side told him (in a voice that eerily resembled Hermione's) that he'd just end up hung over and late for work. What he needed was distraction—something to help him calm down and think straight. And there was nothing to drive a bloke to distraction like the Chudley Cannons.
"Bloody Tornados," he muttered under his breath as he rose to his feet. "Think winning the League Cup four years in a row makes them special. We just need a good Seeker, is all...or at least one that can find the Snitch when it's still in the crate..." He kicked at a stone and watched it skitter on the ice that crusted the pond. "One good Seeker, that's all we need..."
From the deepening shadows, a smooth, silky voice that Ron didn't recognize chuckled softly. "Oh, I agree."