A/N: I don't believe I addressed this in the last chapter, but someone asked why Hermione seemed surprised at the tasks, when she had been involved in the original conversation where the group came up with the tasks. I never thought to make this clear, which is my own fault, so I'll do so in this chapter.
I really hope this helps to clear things up, and if you don't understand something, please let me know. It's my job as the author to convey this stuff to you in the story, and if I'm not, I need to know so I can start. Along those same lines of thought, I'd like to remind everyone that I write this story using UK English, and try to use the proper Britishisms, so if something looks like it's spelled incorrectly, it may be because of that (for instance, in American English, it's focusing; in British, it's focussing).
Also, I say it's the continuation of the shrine, but technically, that task is finished. Now we're just seeing the after-effects.
Chapter 19: Slytherin-Gryffindor Relations
...In which Harry stops sulking and Draco reveals interesting House secrets
The continuation of:
Task 14: Set up a shrine to him. Somewhere very public
Task 19: Drop vague hints that Filch likes him a little more than is strictly necessary
Task 20: Make casual but loud references to Harry Potter being considered for an Order of Merlin
Hermione was still laughing as she entered the Gryffindor Common Room. She could hardly wait to tell the others. Her enthusiasm faded, however, upon noticing Harry sitting alone in the corner, shooting petulant glares at the rest of the group. Honestly, she thought, enough is enough.
Ignoring the others, she marched straight up to Harry. He reluctantly met her gaze.
"Come with me." She turned on her heels and strode away, trusting that Harry would follow. She sent a small nod to the rest of the group as she passed, Ron shrugging and sending an "I hope you know what you're doing" look in her direction. Ginny smiled, clearly thinking it was about time someone did something about Harry. She exited the Common Room and walked to her own room, Harry following, arms crossed and head down. He threw himself into a chair upon entering her room, and she sat on the bed.
"Talk," she said simply.
"I don't want to," he said. He must have realized how childish he sounded, because he straightened and met Hermione's gaze. "You don't understand."
"I know. Tell me, and maybe I will."
"It's not that simple," he said, dragging a hand through his hair.
"It never is," she said, a small smile pulling at her lips.
He took a deep breath, but remained silent.
"Why are you so opposed to Draco?" she finally asked.
"It's not–I mean, it isn't–I–" He broke off suddenly, squeezing his eyes shut behind his glasses. He sighed, then started over. "It isn't Malfoy," he said. "Not him in particular."
"Then why were you so upset?" she asked, puzzled.
"It's not Malfoy," he repeated. "It's me. I just feel so...so guilty." Hermione frowned, but nodded at him to continue. "I've been a prat."
"I know," she said, smiling at him.
"No, not about this. Well, I have been about this too, but I meant before. Did you know I knew about Lucius Malfoy? Turning spy, I mean? Oh, not the reasons why," he said, noticing her upraised eyebrows. "I reckon only Malfoy himself knows the full reasons, and maybe Snape. But I was told of his turn and I–I took it badly. Very badly."
"That's not such a surprise," she said gently. "None of us would have been overly thrilled at the news, and you had more reason to doubt him than any."
"It wasn't just Malfoy though. It was all the Slytherins. I didn't trust any of them. I sent them into danger, over and over again, forcing them to prove their loyalties. And then–Millicent–It's my fault, Hermione," Harry said, tears sparkling in his eyes.
"Harry, you couldn't have known," Hermione started to say.
He cut her off. "That's just it, Hermione. I did know. I gave some of the most dangerous jobs to the Slytherins, knowing full well what they were going into. I forced them to prove their loyalty with their magic, their strength, their tears, their blood and, ultimately, their life. I was so stupid, so naive. I was blinded by my prejudice. It sounds so childish now, House rivalry. I knowingly sent Slytherins to their death to prove to me that they were loyal. And they did it. They didn't hesitate. They knew it was a test, and they never hesitated. She was braver than I ever was, Hermione. I saw it in her eyes, the day I told her the plan," he paused, gathering his resolve. Tears were streaking his face, but he paid them no mind. Hermione wondered if he even realized he was crying.
"It was a foolhardy plan and even Fred and George would have argued against it. She was to infiltrate a Death Eater party that neither Snape nor Malfoy had been invited to. A party for...for women only. Voldemort wasn't supposed to be there. Small comfort, that, but it wasn't meant to be a suicide mission. She was to learn what there was to learn, watching the torture of the male hostages, the blood and the sex," he said harshly. Another deep breath, and he continued.
"No one person knew every other Death Eater, only Voldemort himself. And he wasn't supposed to be there. It was dangerous, of course, but I never meant–never expected... Her mother recognized her, recognized her voice. No one knew Millicent's mother was a Death Eater, least of all Millicent herself. But her mother knew her daughter was not a Death Eater, because she was not yet seventeen. And then... no one knows the rest. Voldemort was there and he didn't take kindly to a spy, or so we must assume. After that, we know nothing. Only that she died and her body was left where it fell. We only know that much because of Snape, who performed Legilimancy on the mother. She died before he could extract the whole story."
"Harry..." Hermione didn't know what to say. She knew he felt guilty for doubting the Slytherins, but she never dreamed...
"There it is. That was the day I realized my hatred was blinding me, causing me to do foolish, risky things. I put it aside. I realized there was no room for doubt among us, no room for House rivalry or other foolish mentalities. And yet, there were times when I couldn't help but think, when the enemy seemed one step ahead of us, Maybe Malfoy is a spy. Maybe Snape. Maybe... Always maybes. And then..." he trailed off, wiping the tears from his face. He was breathing too fast, too shallow.
Hermione patted the bed beside her, and Harry gratefully settled in next to her. She lay back, his head on her shoulder, stroking his hair as he calmed.
"I learned where the thoughts were coming from," he said quietly at last. "It was Voldemort all along. I never did learn proper legilimancy. He'd been using my doubts and fears against me. And for that, Millicent died. For that, countless others were injured. For that, I risked us all. Facing Malfoy... Draco... it will be hard," he said simply.
"But Harry, if you can face Draco, be friendly, maybe it will help assuage your guilt. Then you'll know that it wasn't you, it was Voldemort. That on your own, you can put aside old differences, free yourself of the old prejudices."
"I never thought of that," he said thoughtfully after a pause. "It might help, to know that without his influence, I can live without prejudice and hatred towards someone, simply because of their House."
"I was thinking we could use the Room of Requirement now that we've got a non-Gryffindor with us," she said, changing the subject to lighter matters. "If it's free, of course." The Room of Requirement was no longer the secret it had once been. Students were frequenting the room for various reasons, the most common being alone time with another.
They talked of inconsequential matters long into the night. Laughing at the various tasks, wondering how Malfoy would react to their plans, reminiscing over previous pranks. Hermione wasn't sure who fell asleep first, but when she awoke the next morning, Harry was already gone.
It was at breakfast on the first Friday of December that Dumbledore announced the news.
"If I could have your attention, please," the Headmaster said simply, standing up. Everyone quieted and turned to face the head table. "Ah, thank you. It is with the utmost delight that I announce the first annual Celebration Ball." He paused as students whispered over the news. "I can see that you are as excited as the staff over this newest development." Hermione doubted that; clearly, the students were far more excited. The only two professors that looked pleased were Tonks and Flitwick, the small wizard beaming widely, though whether that was excitement or his usual good cheer, Hermione was unsure. McGonagall's lips were pursed, Snape glared at Dumbledore's back, Hooch and Sprout exchanged long-suffering looks, and the rest of the staff displayed looks of polite interest.
"The ball will be held during the upcoming holiday break, so if you wish to attend, please be certain to sign your names to the list of those who are staying at the castle. Your Head of House will review the rules and other pertinent information with you tonight in your common room. But I've taken enough of your time," he said smiling, returning to his seat.
"A Celebration Ball, what do you reckon it will be like?" Parvati asked.
"Probably like the Yule Ball in fourth year, I would imagine," Lavender replied.
"Though hopefully with a better partner," Parvati laughed, winking at Harry, who was very quiet.
"What's up?" Ron asked, nudging him. "Not still peeved about Malfoy, are you?"
"No. Just thinking. Celebration Ball. It'll be a year since Voldemort was defeated," he said simply.
"Right," Ron said. "Sometimes it seems like it all happened a lot longer ago than simply a year."
"And sometimes it seems like it was only yesterday."
"That too, mate."
"Are you all going then?" Hermione asked.
"I have nowhere else to go," Harry said simply.
"You know you're always welcome at the Burrow," Ginny said a bit sharply. "But I'll stay, it might be interesting."
"Do you even need to ask us?" Lavender asked, indicating her and Parvati.
"I was going to stay anyway," Ron said. "Last year and all, might as well. How about you?"
"It could be interesting," she answered, looking at Ginny and sliding a glance towards Draco. Ginny's eyes lit up; Hermione knew the girl was already plotting some way to get Harry and Draco closer together. Hermione rather thought that, if not for her bravery, Ginny might well have been sorted into Slytherin. She had the ambition and more than enough cleverness.
Hermione was lost in thought, finishing her breakfast, when she noticed the group looking at something behind her. Not Snape again, she thought, turning.
"Hermione," Draco said, nodding at her.
"Draco," Hermione said, smiling warily.
"Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the Celebration Ball?" he asked politely.
"It would be a pleasure," she said, watching a smirk break out across his face. She could feel a grin spreading across her own features as well. A quick glance showed that most of the remaining students were watching the scene unfold.
"Oh no," he said, taking her hand. "The pleasure," a slight emphasis on the word, "is all mine." With a flourish, he bent over her hand and kissed it. She was hard-pressed not to laugh aloud. Draco looked as though he felt the same, though he was no longer looking at her, but instead at the group behind her. Probably at Ron and Harry's faces, she thought gleefully.
He walked away, seemingly oblivious to the stares and whispers that had broken out through the Great Hall. Even after the war, some students still considered a Slytherin and Gryffindor couple scandalous. She turned around, facing the group, and this time didn't stop the laughter when she noticed Harry and Ron's faces. Harry looked shocked and Ron's face was a mixture of shock, indignation, anger, and jealousy. Though not, she was sure, jealousy that Draco had asked her first; more likely, jealousy at the smooth manner in which he had done so. She and Ron had tried a relationship, and the results had been disastrous.
Ginny met her eyes, giving her a small nod. Hermione knew very well what she meant: Draco was now one step closer to Harry.
Snape paced his rooms, dragging a hand through his tangled black hair. He snarled when his hand got caught in a tangle, then Summoned his brush, dragging it roughly through the knot, relishing the pain as it forced him to think. The Granger girl had once again had the last word, had once again gotten the upper hand. He was a Slytherin, for Merlin's sake; a grown Slytherin man in his prime, one of the most powerful legilimens in the country, a renowned potions brewer, and a former pupil of the Dark Arts. Yet this Gryffindor, this girl, was managing to get the better of him. She was able to come up with things that seemed perfectly designed to drive him slowly insane. And the best he could come up with? The usual Slytherin sarcasm and dry wit.
Yes, they've worked well so far, haven't they, the old Slytherin standbys? he thought. He tapped the brush against his palm, trying to think of a way to recapture his dignity. Or at the very least, catch a small glimpse of it.
The problem wasn't that Snape lacked ideas with which to torment Granger; various scenarios ran through his mind almost constantly. His current favourite was the one in which he locked her in his dungeon and forgot about her; unfortunately, Dumbledore frowned upon misplacing students, which was really a shame, because he had longed to misplace Longbottom for years.
Then there was the scenario in which he duelled with the girl, managing to strike her speechless–if such a thing were possible, he couldn't imagine how Potter or Weasley coped–with his prowess and quick-thinking while duelling. But that, he thought uncomfortably, was a little too close to showing off for his comfort, and if there was one thing he was not, it was a show off. How he had despised James Potter, for doing that very thing... But that was another line of daydreaming entirely, not to mention a moot point as the man was already dead.
No, it wasn't that he lacked ideas; rather, it was that he lacked appropriate ideas. He was unable to think of anything he could do without facing a challenge to duel by Minerva, the prospect of being fired by Dumbledore, or being hunted down by her friends and caught alone on a dark and stormy night, perhaps drunk and without the proper level of sobriety to adequately use a wand. He surmised that he could take the Weasley boy if drunk, and perhaps Patil and Brown; but even he was willing to admit that those three plus Potter and the girl Weasley–and perhaps even Draco, he was unsure of developments in that department–were more than any inebriated Potions Master could reasonably be expected to handle.
He sat down heavily on the arm of his couch. He could see now that mere threats were not going to force the girl into submission. If he was honest with himself, he had known idle threats would be of no use. As intimidating as he was–and if Longbottom were to be consulted, he was quite intimidating, stuffed vulture hat be damned–the Granger girl was not one to back down from a challenge. And by issuing those threats, he had thrown down the ultimate gauntlet.
And now he was stuck. If he backed down, he would look like a coward, and no Slytherin was a coward. They might save their own skin and cut their losses, yes, but that was good common sense, not cowardice. If he continued with his vague, idle threats, she would believe she had won, which was obviously unacceptable. His only choice was to back up his threats, to pay her back with more than private notes of a future reprisal. And therein lie the problem: he could think of nothing that would work while still being school appropriate.
He tried to think on past escapades, to see if he could find inspiration. There had been the time he had almost drowned Black with a well-placed Petrificus Totalis. If only Potter hadn't been there to hear the splash... But no, he could hardly drown the girl. There was the time he replaced Nott's toothpaste with bubbotuber pus. But no, he hardly wanted to try and poison the girl. Well, he did sometimes, but it was hardly the right solution. Then there was the time he had extended his canines and played on the vampire rumour in order to get back at a snooty Narcissa Malfoy. Though, granted, instead of scaring her the thought had done the exact opposite and he had somehow–accidentally and through no fault of his own, of course–ended up in bed with Malfoy's fiancee. But hardly appropriate for the Granger girl, though oddly alluring in its own way.
Snape jerked in surprise hard enough to propel himself backwards, arms windmilling as his back thumped the sofa. He bounced once, then managed to slip on to the floor in an ungainly heap of black robes and newly-bruised elbows. I did not just think that, he said to himself, propping himself up and leaning his back against the couch, his long legs stretched in front of him. She's a child!
Not quite, another part of himself said. He recognized this voice as the one that always gave him bad counsel and got him into trouble. Ironically enough, the voice sounded like Lucius'. She is eighteen, after all.
I am not arguing with myself about an eighteen year old child. And, he continued, I don't care how old she is, because that did not just happen. I did not think it. It was never a thought. I didn't even think of thinking it. I didn't even... he stopped abruptly, realizing how ridiculous he seemed, arguing with himself. Though Lucius–erm, that is, his own mind–had a good point. Not that it mattered, of course. But something to keep in mind. Should the need ever come up–that is to say, should he ever require the information.
He pushed himself up from the floor, vowing to himself that he would no longer think of Herm–the Granger girl anymore. Only the task he had to perform. Once he thought of it. If only he could...
Yes, he thought. Yes, that might just do nicely...
Hermione looked around at the group, sitting in a circle on large puffy cushions, as they waited for the newest member to arrive. She remembered meeting her for the D.A. meetings, though of course Draco hadn't joined them back then. She could tell, by the look on Harry's face across from her, he was thinking something along the same lines. Lavender and Parvati were speculating loudly to her right on Hermione's coziness with the Slytherin, trying to bait her with lewd suggestions of what the pair might get up to after the Ball. Hermione had to fight hard not to laugh; knowing what she did about Draco's feelings, the very thought that there was aught romantic about their date was absurdly laughable. She chanced a quick glance at Ginny on her left; the younger girl rolled her eyes at Hermione.
Draco slipped in, unnoticed by everyone but Hermione and Ginny. The two girls exchanged sly glances, before Hermione welcomed Draco in a loud enough voice to stop the others' chatter. They watched as he un-self-consciously flopped onto a large green cushion between her and Ginny, his fingers laced and sitting demurely on his lap. He looked the perfect picture of innocence; Hermione was hard put not to laugh, especially when she heard someone–she suspected Ginny–stifle a snort.
"So, how does this work, exactly?" Draco asked, his question directed to the group as a whole.
"You'll have to ask them," Hermione said, indicating the rest of the group. "I'm just the victim."
"You mean, you don't know any of the tasks?" he asked, his voice full of surprise.
"I know them, or some anyway. They came up with them on the train at the end of last year. I was there, and I helped with a few, but this lot reordered them. Now that I think of it, I'm not exactly sure how or why they reordered them," she finished, looking expectantly at them.
"For the element of surprise, of course," Ginny drawled, in a fair imitation of Draco.
"Actually, there was a method to our madness," Parvati answered, before Draco could respond. "We ordered them from the least..." she trailed off, looking for the right word.
"The least offensive?" Lavender offered.
"I suppose that will work," Parvati nodded. "From the least offensive to the most. Not that the tasks are offensive, of course. But the ones that are worst we saved until later in the year. We figured that, by that time, Snape would be somewhat prepared, after all the lesser tasks."
"Or driven mad by the earlier ones, and in no condition to care about the later ones," Ron added, grinning.
"So, you see, I remember some of the tasks, but the real surprise is finding out when and for how long I have to do each one. And, of course, how exactly to pull it off."
"Interesting," Draco murmured. "So you lot just tell her the tasks then, and let her complete it however she pleases?"
"Sometimes," Ginny answered. "It depends on the task."
"Like with the current one," Ron cut in. "Hermione has to drop vague hints that Filch likes Snape a little more than is strictly necessary."
Draco's eyes bulged. "Snape? And Filch?"
Everyone laughed at his reaction. "That was my reaction," Ron said, smiling at the Slytherin. Hermione marvelled at the ease with which he conversed with the blond. "Still, Hermione said the git nearly fainted when she dropped the hint. Sometimes we help, like we did with the shrine."
"What task is she working on now? The shrine, still?"
"I'm working on task nineteen, the task they just told you about. We've finished with the shrine, though it's still there, obviously. Speaking of which, who's been renewing the spells?" she asked, curious.
The group looked at each other expectantly, but no one claimed to have renewed any of the various charms.
"Someone must be renewing them," Draco said. "If it's not one of you..."
"I did see Flitwick lingering around the shrine yesterday," Lavender said, eyes narrowed.
"Now that I think of it," Ron said, laughing, "I saw McGonagall doing her own lingering earlier today."
"I thought Tonks was admiring the shrine, but she was there an awfully long time," Ginny added, grinning.
"But wait a minute, Hermione," Parvati said. "With the shrine finished, no matter the unasked for help we seem to be getting, you're supposed to be working on task nineteen and task twenty: make casual but loud references to Harry being considered for an Order of Merlin."
"You're right," Hermione said, feeling a twinge of guilt at not having attempted the latest task. She laughed inwardly at her reaction. It's not like it's course work, Hermione, she said archly to herself. Then she looked at Harry, realizing he had been silent throughout the exchange. He looked uncomfortable, as if torn between joining in the laughter of the group or going back to his sulky disapproval of Draco. He kept sending darting glances from underneath his lashes towards the Slytherin. Thinking of one Slytherin reminded her of her last encounter with another.
"However, I did learn something interesting yesterday," she added, relating her experience with Snape to the group.
"Oh, well, Cynthia Alexander. Right little slut, that one," Draco said negligently. "I wouldn't be surprised if she claimed to have seduced Snape. In fact, she's probably spreading the rumour as we speak."
"Even so, according to Snape, those two aren't the first to have claimed ownership of the shrine. He implied that he had already taken points from ten other students for saying the same."
"Now that is interesting," Ginny said softly.
"Now what are you planning?" Harry asked, finally giving in to his desire to join in the banter with his friends. "I know that look only too well."
"Snape may know the shrine was really constructed by Hermione. But the rest of the students–and indeed, some of the staff–have no idea. We might perhaps help this rumour to grow."
"What would that gain us, though?" Draco asked shrewdly, already including himself in their group. "And what do you mean, 'some' of the staff. Surely, all of them are ignorant, though quite helpful all the same?"
"Not exactly," Hermione said, proceeding to tell him the story of Snape's surprise party. She was certain, however, to leave out his small role in the matter. Her glare directed at the rest of the group convinced them to do the same.
"Tonks and McGonagall, then," Draco said, almost to himself. "Perhaps even Flitwick. We'd best keep these allies in mind should we need their help later."
"Is there anything else we really need to discuss?" Hermione asked. "Draco is brought up to speed, or mostly so, at any rate. I know the two tasks I need to work on. I've told you of the latest developments, or the ones I've heard of, at any rate. Remember, we have to be in the Common Room when McGonagall comes to explain the Celebration Ball."
"Actually, I believe I may be able to provide some more information concerning these developments," Draco said, smirking.
"By all means, enlighten us," Ginny smirked back.
"Well, the talk in our Common Room oft turns to the brooding Potions Master. It would seem he has his share of admirers," Draco said softly, as though sharing a great secret. Hermione hid a grimace; she had neglected to share the end of her encounter with Snape, too embarrassed to admit how she had reacted to his question. She could almost hear his voice, even now, soft and sounding too intimate while trapped in the prison his arms had made. "Are you one of these...admirers?"
"Bloody hell," Ron said, shaking his head. "The man is a greasy Slytherin git–no offence, Malfoy–yet the man has students panting after him. Here I am, a good looking bloke, captain of the Quidditch team, and–"
"Yes, Ron," Ginny said dryly, rolling her eyes, "We're well aware of your myriad charms."
"Haven't you been paying attention, Ron?" Harry asked, smirking. "Apparently, big noses and greasy hair are in. At least mine is black," Harry continued. "Perhaps I'll grow it out, stop washing it for a while, and see how many admirers that gets me."
Lavender sighed in disgust, shaking her head at the pair. "Haven't you been paying attention, Harry? Have you even looked at the man lately?"
"What?" Harry and Ron asked simultaneously.
"Hopeless," Ginny said in a loud stage whisper to Draco.
"He doesn't have greasy hair or skin anymore. His teeth and skin are nicer. He's never looked better," Parvati finished.
Hermione laughed at the looks of horror on both of their faces. "It's true," she said, still laughing. "He does look better."
"Not you, too!
"No, I'm not an admirer," she said, ruthlessly dispelling a nagging twinge of doubt. "But I agree with Lavender and Parvati. The man looks healthy for a change."
"Now that we've all agreed the man does, indeed, look better," Draco said loudly over Harry and Ron's protests. "Back to his Slytherin admirers. Some of the more...forward...sixth years fancy they can seduce him."
"What makes those girls think the man will fall for them?" Ron asked.
"Did I say it was just girls?" Draco asked, his glance sliding quickly towards Harry. "There are just as many Slytherin males who think the same thing. Perhaps more."
"Are all Slytherins..." Ron asked, his voice trailing off.
"Are we all what?" Draco asked, clearly amused.
"You know," Ron said, lowering his voice. "You do both?"
"If you mean are most of us bisexual...? I can't say most, but a fair few of us are, yes. Does that bother you?"
"It's not my thing," Ron said. "But to each their own. Why, though?"
"Ah, well, that's simple enough. We're equal opportunity lovers." Draco laughed at the look on their faces. "More to choose from, isn't it?"
Ron looked thoughtful, elbowing Harry in the side. "I never thought of that..."
"Don't look at me!" Harry said, laughing. "I won't be part of your foray into Slytherin territory."
Hermione and Ginny met each other's eyes as the rest of the group laughed; Hermione could feel the slight flicker of alarm showing on her face. She did her best to hide her thoughts, but knew she failed when she met Draco's eyes. He was laughing, but his smile didn't reach his eyes. He didn't look like he was giving up though, she noticed, as he shifted his focus back on Harry.
"Our loss," Draco said lightly, his focus remaining on Harry for a moment longer. "But anyway, that's the news from my House. I've yet to hear people claiming ownership of the shrine, but doubtless I will sooner or later. I'll do my best to play one rumour against the other."
"Is that all?" Lavender asked.
"Actually, I have one last question," Draco said. "Exactly how many tasks are there?"
"Ninety-nine," the group answered, all at once, laughing.
"Ninety-nine?" Draco asked in surprise. "But, it's December, and you're only on task twenty," he pointed out, sobering the group.
"I hadn't thought of that," Harry said quietly. By the look on the rest of their faces, no one else had either.
"We need to work harder," Ron said.
"And faster," Ginny added.
"Grand," Hermione said. "Just grand."
A/N: Yes, a Ball may be considered cliched. But again, balls tend to be humor!fic staples. Why? Because funny stuff can happen so very easily while at a Ball. I don't know why that's true, but it is. So, cliched or no, there is a Ball. Funny stuff will happen at that Ball. And before the Ball... And hopefully after, as well.
I hope you liked this first glimpse of Draco as part of the group. More of that next chapter, along with more developments concerning, Snape, the shrine, the Ball, and the will they/won't they mystery of Harry and Draco. Also, I added the last bit to let you all know that I am indeed aware of how much time has passed and how little has been done. They'll start picking up pace soon enough, just watch. As for Ron...I'll be honest. I hate–absolutely despise–canon Ron. Because I don't really enjoy writing about characters I despise, Ron is going through a much needed attitude adjustment. His new attitude: easy going, loyal, always laughing, up for anything (well, almost).
For those of you wondering, I'm beginning to lean more towards an SS/HG romance (the last two chapters might have tipped you off). That doesn't mean it's definite. That doesn't mean I'm going to start writing NC-17 chapters. That doesn't mean I might not end up changing my mind. Whatever else this story may be, it is constantly changing and evolving. And the characters are always surprising me, especially when they're getting up to mischief, which seems to be what they like doing best.
For more insight into this fic and the characters, go to annoyingsnape dot blogspot dot com. There are notes for each chapter, where I talk about the characters, their choices, and point out any changes I may have made. Also, when it is fully updated, I will also post answers to questions there.