Chapter Three

Dean and Seamus had questioned him about the second broomstick he carried into their room that night. Neville was too engrossed in studying for his Ancient Runes test to even look up, but then, he was never much for Quidditch and flying anyway. It was one of the many reasons why he didn't mesh entirely well with the other boys of Sixth Year Gryffindor. Ron tossed away the vague thought that maybe he should make an effort to be friendlier to the other boy – after all, Neville had never expressed an interest in getting to know any of them either, and it wasn't like they hadn't tried at various points in the past.

He waved the other boys off and settled in to finish up his Transfigurations' homework, before giving up in half an hour to get to sleep. Fights with Granger took a lot of a person, and Ron found his thoughts more preoccupied with the strange boy than with the stages of turning a plant back to a seed.

The next morning was normal; and the classes following it were as well (except for an unfortunate Jelly-legs jinx gone wrong in Prof. Lupin's Defense class). Despite this, Ron felt anticipation tingling in him through all of them. His thoughts constantly went back to the broom he'd stashed beneath his bed – a broom of unfamiliar make and model, with smooth polished wood that gleamed even in dull light. He dodged all of Granger's many attempts to quarrel during dinner and dashed upstairs afterwards. Before anyone could see him to stop him, or worse, tag along, Ron grabbed the broom and ran out to the courtyard.

He was sure that the boy would be there again.

But he wasn't.

Well, he wasn't anywhere that Ron could see him. Ron glanced around impatiently, even waited for a full hour, before huffing and walking back to his room at a much slowed pace. Despondency made him drag his feet and hang his head; the broom was held limply by his hand. Meeting up with Malfoy in the hallway leading to Gryffindor tower livened him up, however.

Malfoy's customary sneer was present in all its hateful glory; backed by his cronies Crabbe and Goyle, he puffed himself up to twice his size. "What's the matter, Weasley? Tried to go out for a spin, only to realize that your hand-me-down broom finally exhausted all its flight charms?"

Ron glared half-heartedly. He didn't know why the failure of his plan to meet with the boy again had affected him so deeply; nevertheless, all he felt in response to Malfoy's detestable presence was the familiar surge of loathing. "Sod off, Malfoy," he growled.

"Oh, no," Malfoy smirked. "I think I'll just dispose of your sub-par Quidditch equipment for you-" and he reached out to take the broom from Ron. Ron yanked it out of Malfoy's grasp, however, and the sudden movement prompted Malfoy to actually look at it. His eyes widened comically and his mouth formed an 'o' of shock. "You—" he gasped, "where did you-!"

"What?" Ron asked, honestly confused. He looked from the handle of the broom to Malfoy's paler-than-usual face. "What is it?"

"That's a Lightningbolt! They've only just been made, how in the world did you get a hold of one!"

Ron looked at the broom with newfound appreciation. Anything that made Malfoy so envious was definitely alright in his books; and if it was as spectacular as Malfoy was making it seem… He turned a smirk onto Malfoy and didn't bother to answer, instead brushing past the struck dumb Slytherin and his goons. "Hope you're ready for our match next month," he said nonchalantly over his shoulder, and rounded the bend.

He was still riding high on his victory over Malfoy as he entered the Common Room. Ginny looked up at him expectantly from her chessboard. She knew that he'd been anxious about something all day, but not what. As his little sister (and a nosy brat), she took it upon herself to learn every detail of his life. To forestall the inevitable interrogation, Ron bee-lined to her armchair. He cast a critical glance over the board – Ginny was winning, but it was a deceptive sort of game; in five moves she'd be on the outs and her opponent would be swooping in to take the king. He looked on the other side of the board to Ginny's opponent where inquisitive brown eyes met his calmly; Granger was really getting quite good at the game. In another month or two he might even consider playing her again, so long as she made it challenging.

"All right," he sighed long-sufferingly. "Out with it."

Ginny scowled. It looked quite ridiculous, as if she were trying to be their Mum. "Where've you been?"

"Just out," he said. "Look, I'm not the twins; I'm not trying to make trouble or anything. There's something I want to do but it's not dangerous and it's not breaking any rules. So you-" he cast a glance over to Granger and included her in his warning, "and you, keep out of my business. If it's to do with family, I'll let you know, Gin. And if it's to do with school, you'll be the first I tell, Granger." He nodded to both and turned to go, not entirely sure why he was being so curt, but knowing it had something to do with disappointment over not having had his hopes met. Granted, he did get to one-up Malfoy, and that took most of the sting of it away… but not all, not nearly. To show he wasn't being a complete prat, he said absentmindedly, "For heaven's sake, Gin, protect your rook, else you'll be dead soon," and smiled when he heard his sister's delighted "Ah-ha!" and Granger's outraged squawk.

Oh well, Ron thought. He'd just have to try again tomorrow.

A/N: Okay! The next chapter will be waaaay longer and will introduce the actual action, I swear! Sorry for all the excessive set-up; but it was slightly necessary. Thank you to all of my reviewers for encouraging me to write and sending me thoughtful comments! And yes, to the overwhelming question: the entirety of this story will be written from Ron's perspective. I'mthinking of it as a challenge, and if anyone finds that my Ron voice is off somehow, please let me know so I can continue to work on it - this series is really just my warm-up for an epic Ron-centric fic I've got in the works (well, Ron-centric in that it's once again written in his voice, but Harry and Hermione are strong characters as well). Ack, I'm babbling! Well, I hope you like this latest chapter, and good night!