When Draco woke up the
next morning, he was alarmed to hear pronounced snoring coming from a
few feet away. It took him several seconds to realize that it was
only Weasley, and suddenly the prior night came flooding back to him.
He could smell breakfast from outside his chambers, and realized
Weasley had overslept. Typical of him, not to think ahead enough
to set an alarm clock, he thought scathingly. Another part of him
immediately felt bad for the sentiment, given the slight amity that
had begun to develop the previous night. Draco carefully climbed out
of bed and padded over to the sleeping boy, using the loud snores to
"Weaselby! You're going to miss breakfast!" Draco reached out, found Ron's shoulder, and jostled it.
"Whaa-?!" Ron started.
"I said, you're going to miss breakfast. Honestly, Weasley, and I thought you called yourself a food-lover!"
"Shit! How late am I? What time is it?" Ron asked, springing to life.
"About quarter past 'how the hell can I tell'," Malfoy replied sarcastically.
"Not a morning person, I take it," Ron replied, spelling the wrinkles out of his clothes. "So I'll see you in class?"
"No… you're not so good with bits of information, are you? See, I'm blind. I can't use a wand or go skipping down the halls anymore," Malfoy spat.
"Oh yeah," Ron responded lamely. "Then I guess I'll see you around…" he said, letting himself out the door.
Draco was livid. How dare the Weasel act so nonchalant! This should never have happened to him in the first place. He should have been out there with everyone else, headed towards his first class of the year, not stuck in some room like an invalid. What's the point of school if I can't use a wand or get a job, anyway? It was a thought Draco had carefully avoided until then. But it had been tugging at the back of his mind since he had been unceremoniously dumped at Hogwarts by his parents, a week before the start of school. Dumbledore had promised his father that Draco would get tutoring in all the subjects he could still participate in, but his tutoring wasn't due to begin for another week. This left him alone, in his room, with nothing to do but mope. So mope he did. Later that morning, a house elf did finally bring him some breakfast, but it lay untouched until it was cleared to make room for the lunch another house elf brought to him. Draco thought back to the conversation he had had with Ron that morning. The Weasel clearly didn't understand how much Draco was going through, and probably didn't care either. The thought hit him like a blow to the stomach. Why would he care, anyway? Draco wondered. He has no reason; he doesn't get anything for being friends with me… He's probably telling his friends all about how pathetic I was. It was disgusting, the emotion he was being overcome with. He needed to get his head back together. Displays of emotion meant weakness, and he couldn't be weak. If he were to be honest, he felt like crying, but a pitiful release wasn't worth the shame of crying. So Draco headed for his bed. Halfway there, a hard object connected with his shin and he fell awkwardly onto Ron's forgotten camp bed. Draco cursed hard and crawled the couple remaining metres. He climbed up onto his bed, falling asleep dejectedly.
Ron couldn't pay attention in his classes. Two seconds after Professor Binns had started explaining why the Goblins rebelled in 1326, Ron's mind was already on the forlorn blond he had left that morning. He hadn't bothered to tell Harry or Hermione where he had been, firstly because they hadn't asked, and secondly because he didn't think they'd believe him. It was hard to explain how the snarky Slytherin had suddenly turned into a person. A flawed one, granted, but someone who felt, at least. Realizing that neither of his Gryffindor friends had asked where he had been the night before made Ron feel alone. It wasn't helped as he realized how rude he had been to Malfoy in his effort to leave quickly. Normally he wouldn't have cared, but here was one person who seemed at least slightly pleased to have him around. Well, he thought to himself, that's awfully simple with Malfoy. He doesn't have anyone else to talk to. I'm sure I wouldn't be his first choice. Ron sighed. He knew what he had to do.
Later that afternoon, as soon as he had finished his classes, Ron had parted from his housemates and headed off in the direction of the kitchens. He figured this was a good excuse, were anybody to ask where he was going. No one did, however, and soon he found himself outside of Draco's room. He knocked tentatively at the door, then waited a few seconds. He was just about to walk away when a groggy voice came from the other side.
"Malfoy, could I come in?" Ron said timidly.
"Why, so you can rub it in my face some more that I'm stuck here?" Malfoy replied acridly.
"No, I came to apologize," Ron said, sounding remorseful.
"Very well," Draco said tersely, "the door wasn't locked anyway…"
Ron twisted the plain brass knob and let himself into Draco's chambers. Draco was sitting up in his bed, a pillow tucked behind his back.
"Look, Draco…" Ron started with a sigh, "I was a git this morning and I apologize."
"Well, the Weasel apologizes. This is certainly a new experience for me. How long did it take before you asked Granger what to do?" he spat. Ron noticed the disconcerting way in which the boy glared unseeingly at the space to the right of where he stood.
"You're a git, Malfoy. You know that? For your information, I didn't talk to Hermione about you. I haven't told Harry either. I came to apologize because I was rude. But now I don't feel so bad. You clearly don't give a shit. And it's not like you have anyone else to talk to!" Ron immediately felt guilty about the last bit of what he'd said.
"Get out," Draco hissed in a menacing tone of voice.
Ron didn't need to be told twice. He made his way out of the room quickly, slamming the door behind him. Damnit, he swore to himself. He hadn't intended to make their rift bigger, but Malfoy hadn't been at all kind when he had offered up an apology. Maybe, Ron figured, they weren't meant to be friends after all. As much as he disliked the blond, Ron had to admit that the boy's company had been welcome. All the same, he didn't figure it would be easy or possible to patch things up. I give up, Ron thought to himself defeatedly.
Several days had passed since their big argument, but Ron couldn't get it off his mind. Things had continued downhill with his friends, and they now spoke mostly only to say hello in passing. Harry and Hermione were officially a couple now, and had little time for Ron. He had taken to sitting with Seamus and Dean in classes, but they already had their own bond. Ron caught himself thinking about Malfoy a lot, often spacing out in his classes or while at the library doing homework. In particular, he kept remembering the hurt look Draco had quickly hidden after he accused the boy of having no friends. It's true, Ron thought to himself. No one else cares about him anymore, not even the Slytherins. Life had gone on without him, and aside from some rumors that he had transferred or died, no one really spoke of him.
Ron couldn't sleep. He decided to go get some food to settle his stomach, but he knew the real reason he was headed for the kitchens. He padded silently through the corridors, praying he wouldn't run into Mrs. Norris or Filch. Soon, he was approaching Malfoy's door. He promised himself he would just listen for a moment before continuing towards the kitchens. Pressing his ear against the solid wood door, he held his breath. He couldn't hear a sound and assumed Draco was asleep. Ron sighed quietly and continued onwards to get food.
The house elves were, thankfully, all asleep by the time he entered the kitchen. He saw a plate of jam filled scones. Grabbing them, he headed over to where they stored the flasks of pumpkin juice. He made to grab one glass from the cabinet nearby, but a whim struck him and he grabbed two. Ron put everything on a tray and snuck quietly back out of the kitchens. He got back to the door outside Draco's room and noticed it was still silent. He made a silent prayer to Merlin as he opened the door.
Draco was sitting in the armchair several feet from his bed with his knees drawn up to his chest, his arms wrapped around them. His head was resting down on his knees, but as he heard the door open his head shot up and he quickly straightened out the rest of his body.
"Who's there?" he asked with a twinge of fear.
"It's me," Ron said calmly.
"What are you doing here? Did I not make it clear enough to get through your thick skull that I didn't want to see you ever again?!" Draco said irritably, though he made no move to do anything.
"I brought scones," Ron stated simply.
And with that he crossed the room to sit down in the chair across from Malfoy's. He set the tray down on the table next to them, reminding himself of the first night he'd come in.
"Here," Ron offered, picking up a jam-filled scone, taking Draco's hand, and placing it onto his palm.
Draco said nothing but closed both hands around it and brought it to his mouth. Giving it a sniff, he began to eat. Ron smiled a bit and grabbed one for himself. After both were finished, he poured each of them some of the juice.
"Do you want some pumpkin juice?" he asked cautiously.
Draco nodded, clearly not quite ready to talk to the redhead. Ron took the glass and guided it carefully into Draco's feebly outstretched hand. While the blond drank, Ron took the moment to take a look at him. He had dark circles around his eyes like he hadn't been sleeping, and his normally porcelain skin had taken on a sickly translucent quality. Ron almost felt it was disrespectful to see him in such an undignified state.
"Are there more scones?" Malfoy demanded.
Ron gently handed him another.
"You don't look so good," Ron said with a hint of concern.
"Well I just can't seem to find a mirror around here!" Draco replied sarcastically.
"Have you been eating?"
"Not very much," he replied, relaxing back in his chair a fraction. "The stuff the house elves bring me is all rubbish. Just because I can't see doesn't mean the vegetables don't still taste horrid."
"I bet it's all very funny for you, Weasley. Sitting in the Great Hall chowing away on pastry-wrapped Beef Wellington while I'm stuck here with a plate of steamed Brussels sprouts!"
"Sorry… I mean, if you want, I guess I could, em, bring you dinner sometime," Ron said, his voice trailing down to a whisper at the end. He could feel his cheeks burning and thanked Merlin that Draco couldn't see them.
"Then what do I have to do?"
"What's in it for you?" Draco said, sounding genuinely confused. "Do you expect me to pay you or something?"
"No!" Ron said incredulously.
"Then why would you offer?"
"Erm, I just thought it might be nice, since you're not eating. If you don't want me to I won't!"
"You're barmy, but I'm not going to turn down a decent meal."
"I'm not barmy! That's just the kind of things friends do!" Ron realized what he'd said approximately 1.5 seconds after he had said it.
"Really?" Draco said quietly, as if he expected Ron to jump up and yell 'Just kidding!' and leave.
"Yeah," Ron replied cautiously with a shrug. "I mean, I know you don't like me that much, but…"
"You're not a complete git." They sat in silence until Draco broke it.
"So where are Potter and the Mudblood? I thought you guys were mates."
"Don't call her Mudblood. And they're dating now, so they just don't have as much time anymore…"
"They ditched you. I mean, really Weasley, you might as well face the facts."
"I don't want to talk about it. So how come everyone in Slytherin thinks you're dead?"
"I guess that's what my father told them, then…" He bit his lip as if to stop himself from feeling anything else. "If you'll excuse me a minute, I need to go to the loo." Draco rose hesitantly from his chair and held on to the back of it as he turned around. Ron watched him step carefully to his bathroom, shutting the door behind himself.
Ron started to think more about the conversation they had just had. He quickly shut out all thoughts that Harry and Hermione had truly ditched him. The idea that Malfoy had so few friends he could disappear without anyone checking on him was a bit disturbing. Well, I suppose I never really liked him before, Ron thought to himself, but I thought the Slytherins liked him a bit more than that… Ron was roused from his thoughts by the sound of the door opening again. Draco's face was slightly pink, but Ron couldn't decide if it was the result of crying or just a blush. Draco strode a bit more confidently towards the chairs, but misjudged his path but a bit and managed to catch his foot on one leg of his bed.
"Fuck!" he exclaimed from his position on the ground, nursing his ankle. Ron jumped up and rushed over.
"Are you ok?!" Ron demanded as he knelt down next to the fallen boy.
"I twisted my ankle," Draco replied, grimacing.
"I'm going to go get Madam Pomfrey."
"No!" Draco said quickly. "If you do that then she'll think I need a babysitter or something. Just let me take care of this."
"Can you even walk?"
"I'll be fine," Draco insisted. Ron grabbed his arm to help him stand up, and it quickly became apparent that Malfoy couldn't put his weight on the injured ankle. Ron ducked his head under Malfoy's arm and proceeded to help him to the head of his bed, pulling the covers down for him.
"Here, just sit down on your bed… Are you sure you don't want me to get someone?"
"I don't need anyone's bloody help!" Malfoy sat grimacing on the edge of his bed as his words seemed to echo throughout the room. "Sorry," he amended. "I just don't need some adult fussing over me and then going and telling Dumbledore I need some caretaker or nanny or something."
"I understand, I suppose," Ron replied as he helped Draco gingerly pivot his legs onto the bed, "but you should really do something about your ankle, mate. It's all red and swollen…"
"Well?" Malfoy asked expectantly, "can't you do an Episkey or something?"
"Ermmm," Ron began, stalling for time, "I've never done that one successfully."
"Merlin Weasley! Well can you just try it right now? If you screw up though, I'll track you down…"
"Well that sounds like a wonderful deal for me! If I do it well, you'll probably make some sarcastic comment about luck, but if I screw up you'll hurt me?"
"Weas— Ron, I promise I won't do anything but damnit mate could you hurry it up?"
Ron squared his shoulders and bent over Draco's dramatically swollen ankle, which was starting to turn purple. He gripped his wand and whispered the spell almost tentatively. The ankle returned to its original size and faded to a faint pink color, as if it had been lightly squeezed instead of brutally twisted. As an afterthought, Ron lifted his wand back up and waved it, whispering a faint 'Ferula!' as he did so. A splint appeared over the blonde's ankle.
"How'd you learn that last part?" Draco demanded.
"A friend used it on me once," Ron volunteered after a second.
"Not bad Weasley."
"Thanks. How's it feel?"
"Better now. At least good enough that no one will notice, not that anyone else but house elves visit anyhow…"
"So what will you do here with no wand?" Ron asked curiously, leaning against a column at the foot of Draco's four poster bed.
"Thanks for the reminder," Draco replied sarcastically. "I'm supposed to get tutoring in a couple subjects, the ones even invalids like me can master I suppose."
"That's rotten," Ron concluded lamely.
He looked at the blonde boy, taking everything in bit by bit. Draco still looked sickly, his skin translucent and his hair messied from sleeping. His face seemed permanently emotionless, a result of his state of unhappiness. His lifeless eyes gazed unseeingly up to the ceiling as his head lay on arms folded behind his head. In any other case, Ron would have given the guy a hug or a pat on the back. But this was Malfoy. Ron was familiar with the rock-strong resolve of the Malfoy family and figured Draco wouldn't appreciate such an acknowledgement of his weakened state.
As if sensing Ron's thoughts, Draco piped up.
"So how awful do I look?" Malfoy said it as if it didn't matter to him, adding a small chuckle in for an air of nonchalance, but Ron knew he valued his appearance.
"Hit me. Given the gorgeous features I started off with, it couldn't be that bad."
Ron snorted a little at that, but gave the boy the truth.
"Not great. You look a tad sick and your hair's all ruffled."
"This is rubbish," Malfoy muttered after a moment. "Do you know how dreadful it is to be blind, Weasley? I'm sure you're enjoying it. I don't get to watch you squirm when I find your weakness or give you my patented death glare. But I can't do a thing for myself. And of the people that care, everyone babies me. Just because I can't see doesn't mean I've regressed mentally to the state of some idiotic child who needs help with every damn thing."
"I didn't think I
babied you," Ron responded.
"I said everyone that cares," Malfoy clarified bitterly.
"Then you're wrong," Ron said awkwardly, as if unable to say how he felt outright.
"Honestly, Weasley, I don't get it. My dad's probably cut off my inheritance anyway, so why are you still here?"
"I don't want your
money!" Ron sounded offended. "I'm here because you seem
unhappy and I understand that, ok?! I'm here because I don't have
other friends. Are you happy? Is that what you wanted to hear? You're
not happy until someone else is miserable?"
"No!" Draco looked genuinely surprised, Ron noted as he glanced up. "Weasley, I didn't mean to… that doesn't make me happy. I'm just not used to having a friend I guess. In Slytherin there's always bloody alliances or strategy below the surface of friendships."
"What?" Draco asked, mystified.
"I said move over. All that spell work on your ankle has me bushed. I wanna lie down."
"Weasley's asserting himself!" Draco replied, shifting his body over on the bed to accommodate the other boy.
"Git," Ron whispered under his breath as he lay down on the bed.
"You know Weasley, my hearing's fine."
"That's why I didn't bother yelling," Ron replied snarkily.
"You've been spending too much time with me," Draco replied with a smile.
The two boys lay in silence for a while, eventually succumbing to sleep.