It doesn't occur to Ron that he's killed Draco until a moment afterward -- but by then, naturally, it's a bit late. There isn't much to do but gape, disturbed, at the crooked angle of the boy's neck, and shuffle awkwardly backwards. So shy, as if this were private -- a clandestine meeting, secret, so far from the others Draco must have enjoyed. A funny reflection stares up from the red on the floor: a Weasle face, pale as the marble sink, with lips that murmur and quiver like a silly rabbit's nose. Innocent even as Malfoy's smile freezes, still so insolent -- apparently he can scoff just as well in death, though Ron would say that this new look is loads more effective than the old. He doesn't have very much time to admire it, though. He's busy thinking of a way to pretend it was an accident, and honestly he isn't very sure he'll be able to. The laughter wants to bubble up and out of his throat like champagne, but he drinks it back down, pausing at the door. Biting the shock, the accident, the terrible evil dirty black happiness. Fold it up like a paper bird. Ron doesn't say anything, as much as he'd like to. He can still see Draco's fist, curling like a dead leaf, and for a moment it nearly makes him vomit.

He knows he ought to care a little more, maybe. Care for more. All he can appreciate of this is the contrast of the colors: bright berry red, like a muggle crayon, and the pale somber white of the world Draco cried and told his secrets in. Staring into the basin and through that strange ghost, who is going to scream and cry when she sees the accident. The ugly fact. The black swan in all of the white ones, obvious and disturbing. This is that Ron is a murderer, a real murderer. For now it's the only thought and the only truth, but he knows how to lie. He knows how to lie very well. He can imagine himself shrugging, wiping his eyes with the back of a hand. "I'm sure there are loads of people who would kill Draco if they had half the chance. Nobody's going to come to me right away about it. Not till everything else has fallen through, anyway."

For a moment Ron nearly gets sick again -- none of this is like him. None of it. The heavy feeling in the room, as though the new lead in Draco's limbs has grown to an enormous size. The absence of life, a corner of empty space, is coming to swallow the bad boy alive. And that smell -- of water and pennies -- is so far from the comfortable stench of Ron's own bedsheets. That creamy sweet broom polish stench. S-t-e-n-c-h. The same aura Harry is wreathed in, tugging at his Christmas sweater, kissing all of the tiniest freckles. In all the memories it is always the same, but for now that vision is blurred: here is the marble, the white, the puddle. None of this is Ron. What's more, red is pooling in the center of the floor -- and there are bruises. Draco's bruises, lining the starved edge of his collarbone where SOMEONE had a little fun, where SOMEONE'S THUMBS pushed in and cut all of the lines in half and bubbled Malfoy's blue blood until he choked. While Ron's sure even Harry would feel a little upset over his suffocating the Slytherin and breaking that perfect blonde crown on the sink, somehow he himself can hardly put it into perspective.

That badness, that broken little boy in first year with his cronies and his sneer? Silly badness that grew smaller with every year, less and less of a threat, until he was nothing more than a fly buzzing in the window. Still so much of an annoyance, a creep and a hatred, so that Ron grit his teeth everytime he saw green. Still so. That silver blonde hair, those girl hands? His snotty -- BRAVE -- voice, confident even in his own falseness? All of it dead? But...

At the bottom of his heart he doesn't care that someone's missing a son, a friend, a rival. All he cares about is that SOMEONE is running around out there in Ron's clothing, in his skin, with the same murky honey eyes to wink with. This isn't like him, really. A scapegoat would be nice -- a way to espape it, that strange Weasley temper that will jump up at the slightest provoking. All he cares about is what will happen to himself.

It doesn't occur to Ron that he and Draco were really rather the same until a moment afterward.

x

The death/murder/suicide isn't quite as impacting as he feared it would be. Slytherin house is in a shambles, naturally, and of course there are some nameless bodies in other houses who will hunch over and cry. Other than that, it's as if everyone has heaved a collective sigh of relief: no more boyish threat, no hissing insults. No baby death eater, dealer. The professors are careful, however, of how they speak about Draco -- about their missing snake. The whispers grow into murmurs which grow into numbers as thick as in a bee hive. Ron wanders the hallways swatting all of it away, head still as high as a Weasley's can go. He bites his lips, disturbed by the idea that soon questioning will begin. But days pass. Weeks pass. There is no investigation, and for the first time in his life Ron has been let down by Draco Malfoy. Let down completely. All of that worrying, all of those nasty deeds, nasty rumors? SOMEONE wandering in his body? All of that for nothing? NOTHING, DRACO? He's so careful not to draw any attention to himself, that desperate fear still imminent in his mind, that he begins to withdraw. There's a delicious little thrill at the familiar syllables -- WHAT HAPPENED? He becomes so careful that Hermione teases him, asking if he misses the boy -- all of this for nothing?

Draco had once been a constant, daily dose. He had administered the same pressure to all of the wounds, salting them as frequently and lovingly as he'd water a favorite plant. He had been Umbridge's guard and his own private God. But now, when Ron had finally ended it -- all of it -- for the remainder of time, that white face still hovered boyishly before him. Still as insolent. Lip still curled at the corner. Familiar and lovingly hated, destroyed all for nothing.

Whenever Harry brings up an old memory, laughing over a distant trouble Malfoy had once given him, Ron wants to dance on the table, singing the deed. He wants to admit everything. The funniness of the murder, the feeling that he had been controlled. An out of body experience. White marble, frothy with blood and soap. I'm guilty. You should have seen it. I think you should know. I really think you should.

Darling.

Hermione will shake her head, disgusted by Harry's apparent mirth. What she doesn't know is how his hands shake now, eyes rolling in fear, as he confides in Ron. Sweet broom polish s-t-e-n-c-h rolling off of everything, his brightness a contrast to the black turning of his best friend's heart. That putrid pump. Poor Harry has to wonder: if Draco can die in these walls, can I? And poor Ron bites his lip, wanting to say NO. Because the SOMEONE wouldn't want YOU. The boy who falls in between me and myself.

You should have seen the way Malfoy looked when he couldn't breathe -- or even when he fell to the floor! That was colorful, at least.

Hermione will stare beadily into the sunset, contemplating the possibility of murder on Hogwarts campus. It has never happened, as far as she knows, and is incapable of happening. Her theory is that the killer has already been apprehended silently, or that the staff is undergoing a massive cover-up. Ron begins to shake just like the black-haired angel in his bed: the funny boy with the eyes that don't say anything, his skeleton fragile like paper whenever he's held. Brittle as a bird. Harry has nightmares so frequently now he dreads sleeping, pleading anyone to stay up with him. And so they play cards late into the morning, staring eachother boldly in the face. Telling lies? Truths? Secrets? Nothing matters in those dizzy games, not so much as the conflicting colors between them. Ron thinks and thinks about how everyone might already know. How everyone probably knew from the first second. How McGonagall and Snape are banding together, preparing to call the ministry. His parents. Ron thinks and thinks about all of this, but he can stop the shaking just as easily as he stops the tears. He can stop the crackling of Harry's skeleton when he tries -- it's just a matter of holding his arm just so, and not squeezing. Everything requires balance, and so does this.

I killed that boy who made you miserable. I killed that boy who would have killed YOU. Who acted so tough. But he didn't even fight, Harry. I guess he sort of laughed -- except it wasn't really laughing. I guess it was a chokey laugh. I don't know what you would call that.

x

Big secrets. Big secrets weigh like stones, or anchors. Ron walks with his head down, his fists clenched, far from where any of them can see him. All he can think of are Harry's big green eyes, that crooked little grin -- "Do you know something I don't?" NO. NO. NO. Not even in jest. Not even that. It's only because something like guilt has begun to gnaw at him along the inside, tearing the seam where stuffing has already begun to spill out. Ron pictures himself torn in two, his expectations on one side and his friends on the other. The love of his life? The friend he would never leave? That ridiculous sister...

I want myself to be quiet. Draco would have wanted me to get caught, so I won't -- but all of this, for nothing? All of this... for nothing? Taking this

To the grave seems so dull and dismal. Seems like something Hermione would do, stretching her arms up and out of the soil: a puzzle for anyone else to solve, as long as she's far from blame. If you're dead nobody wants to hate you. I CAN'T EVEN HATE HIM.

The snow swirls unintelligable messages; Ron imagines for a moment that they're all for him, spreading his arms out like an aeroplane's. He thinks of Harry again, of Harry and the way he'd trailed Malfoy, so determined to solve his own mysteries. There had always been that funny set of rules inside that separated him from everyone else, the line where dark and light found eachother. Ron remembered a kiss, maybe, or the hint of one -- a DREAM of one -- along his jawline, a murmur of plans. The only time he could see the center of his best friend was at three in the morning, when Harry tended to forget who he was. Tended to forget the big secrets that weighed, and that Ron might have a few of his own. Whispering so intimately, desperately. You're the only one who can know.

Was it because you thought I would forget? I don't forget anything.

The brightness of the drifts around his knees reminds Ron of Malfoy's teeth -- carnivorous, cruel, tearing. They had sprang, electric, into the skin of his shoulder. That much he could remember, and his own anger at being teased. At being nipped like a dog. What he hadn't considered was that it had been a joke, like everything else. He could forgive Malfoy all of it -- all of the badness -- but the last straw had been entirely the last straw. All he could think of was that he might've stood there and let it happen if he were Harry. He might not have watched SOMEONE'S HANDS spring out like pistons, and cheered at the noise of Draco's shock.

At the strangeness that there hadn't been any struggle.

At the quiet. At the smell. At the noises and the sights of that magical world, where SOMEONE had had the courage to take all of it and turn it upside down in the most permanent way. In the act that Harry would someday commit, circling his own hands around someone else's neck -- because he had to. Not because SOMEONE wanted him to. Because he needed to in order to live. The injuries would not fade like his friend's had and were still in the process of doing. All of it depended on Harry. On one small act.

But Ron remembered kissing all of those sores away.