"That stumpy BASTARD!" the boy's voice rang through the empty dorm. The miniature slammed against the stone wall before bouncing to the ground. A solid kick sent the souvenir-turned-football bouncing off another post.
Ron Weasely knew what he was doing was not mature. It didn't respect Hermione or her decisions. It didn't do any real harm to Viktor Krum. But damned if it didn't feel good. "You overrated git!" he yelled as grabbed the toy and threw it against the wall. Still no damage, but the action itself was making him feel better.
He knew his mum would tell him to talk it out with her, to grow up, to show a little patience. He could see the twins shaking their heads and saying things like, "the girl's not worth it, mate" He could see Harry give him his best "are you going mental" look. And he knew Hermione would just find more immaturity if she saw him. Damn them. Ron had only hatred for Krum, and for ever supporting the continental prick in the first place.
Kick. Punt. Hurl. Hex. He was glad this thing was so durable, as it allowed him to seep his anger out. Ron's temper was a common joke with Hermione and Harry, but this time had made him snap. More than any fight, more than Snape's abuse or Draco's jibes, this was the last straw. He had been lectured a thousand times about it, but no one was here to stop him this time. He was so absorbed in his hate that he didn't notice the door slip open and another boy sigh his way into the room.
Neville Longbottom had messed it up again. Not only did he fail to reach the one girl he was sure respected him, but failed on her best friend. Astaire made it look so easy, but no matter how he tried, he had trampled poor Ginny underfoot. He was inherently clumsy, and he cursed himself for it. What had made him think he could honestly enjoy a big dance? What made him think that Ginny deserved to be an abused last choice? What was he going to tell Gran? That he had blown his chance completely?
For that matter, what was he going to tell Ron? That he had proven so awkward and clumsy that Ginny left him for Michael Corner as soon as the third song was over? What kind of friend was he to let both of them down like this? They hadn't been close before, but he had always been a good friend of the "Gryffindor Trio". He owed Ron and Ginny all that he could give, and he had failed his part. Neville was so lost in worry that he didn't notice Ron until he stepped on the Krum toy.
"Oh", he said to himself before stepping back and looking up. The boys' eye met in terror. Ron rolled into his bed, Neville tripping backwards into Harry's. "I was just….." "I came back because….." Ron was first to recover, albeit hanging his head sheepishly, "All right, I was beating up the Krum toy I got from the world cup. I was feeling kind of pissed. Your turn"
"Ginny….well….kind of….lost interest….went off with Michael. It was fun while it lasted, but I just couldn't…." Ron winced. He knew his sister was demanding, and lost her patience as easily as he did. He would suppose it was a Weasely thing, probably from mum. "I'm sorry to hear that, Neville" Ron was honest about this, as it was yet another blow. It was bad enough that his best friend had also suffered, but also his sister and another good friend. "I think we both blew it, didn't we?" the other boy blurted.
Ron nodded. He wondered either of the Patils would speak to him or Harry after this night. "As for the figure…." Damn, he couldn't think of a good excuse. "If you were kicking him, could I have a go?" The redhead snapped his head up, surprised. "Why?" Neville blushed, "for the same reasons as you" Ron remembered that it was Neville that first asked Hermione out of all the Hogwarts boys, and had been just as hurt by Viktor as he had been.
"Why did he get to her first?", Ron whispered only partially to himself, "Why did she say yes?". "I mustered all my courage to ask her", murmured Neville, "and I just failed again. Why do I even try?" "I can't believe she would leave her best friends for that sot. I just can't believe it", the redhead continued. "If it's any help, you're a better match with her than Krum" the other boy whispered, "at least your good friends". "Thanks" came the murmured reply.
The resulting pause was awkward, with neither boy wanting to bring up Hermione. Each saw something new in the other, something that was both frightening and encouraging. It was a real connection after all these years. Somehow this night made their mutual victimization by a certain slimy teacher and a squeaky spoiled ferret-boy pale in comparison. Now what where they? Still friends? Rivals over her? Comrades in a war? Victims of a snotty Bulgarian? Ron was the first to define it: pissed at Viktor Krum.
"You know, Nev, you want to play football with Viktor as the ball?", he proposed quietly in order to break the tension. Neville brightened. "Sure! How about….the bedposts as the goal and extra points for bounces off the beds?" "Ten for the walls and twenty for the ceiling!" Ron grinned infectiously, "I'll start"
Neville tried to narrate, in true Lee Jordan style "Weasley starts with the prick-" Ron fell back onto his bed laughing at the joke. He had never seen such humor or language from the usually quiet and unassuming classmate. "Weasley starts with the prick-nice knee and elbow action-and SCORE against the dresser!"
"Krum" went flying hard against the wooden cabinet and bounced to the floor. "And he's on it again, Weasley's on fire….he shoots-and gains fifteen with a ricochet off the bedposts!" Ron jumped back on the bed, letting Neville take over. "Longbottom has the prick now, and is dribbling around the bed….he shoots up-nice trajectory…and SCORES off another bed! He's on the rebound, and has the git moving along nicely"
Neville punted the figure into the air, and kicked it again in midair, sending it bouncing off the ceiling. "And twenty points for Longbottom!", Ron cheered. "Longbottom passes to Weasley"-the figure was kicked back to Ron, "and Weasley is keeping the bastard in midair. Some fancy footwork and…a ricochet off both the bedpost and wall! Beautiful!"
Ron raised his hands together in the air. Neville cheered. As the game went long into night before the other boys arrived, not once did they bring up the heartbreak. That was understood by both silently. They were in the same boat, and could not afford to bicker over her. Not tonight, not after the grief and pain and shame.
Neville wondered what would have happened if he had talked to Ron about his feelings for their friend. In a way, "the bloody wanker" made the Yule Ball less of a tragedy, one where the potential rivals became stronger friends than ever. Ron's shock and Neville's secretiveness had both worn off by the time the mini-Viktor's arm shattered, and both boys fell asleep to dreams of revived hopes, where crushed happiness was reborn stronger than ever and where a certain bushy-haired muggle-born (not the frilly-dressed, tooth-shrunk Yule maiden but the one both had first met aboard the Hogwarts Express) smiled back through the haze.