Need to Know - by Sara's Girl
Disclaimer: Own Harry Potter? No entender. I'm from Barcelona, you see. *smiles* Also, there's too much butter on those trays.
AN - This isn't big, it isn't clever, and it isn't original.
What it is, is the result of a daydream during an extremely boring train journey. Train-Subconscious then demanded I write this silliness, and it's well-established that when it comes to me and my subconscious, he is the master and I am the bitch. So here it is.
I must've read about a thousand 'Oh no, I can suddenly hear your thoughts' H/D fics, but I've never read one where the person hearing the thoughts is someone other than Harry or Draco. I've never written from Ron's POV before, and he might well be wildly OOC [as might everyone else], but I don't care :)
Set in my 7th-year fluffy!verse, which gleefully disregards HBP and DH [Voldemort is dead, everyone else is alive, and no one at Hogwarts is evil]
For Sevfan, who is awesome, and taught me more about semicolons in five minutes than anyone managed to do during my fourteen years of full-time education.
Warning: this is extremely silly. I mean, seriously. It's bordering on crack. *smirks*
It's in the split second between wondering why exactly his best mate has disappeared under the desk and hearing Zabini's weary, "Nice one, Longbottom," from the row behind that Ron realises his grave mistake.
Of course, by then it's far too late to do anything about it, even if his reflexes are pretty good, thank you very much, and as the lukewarm, slimy liquid splatters out of Neville's cauldron and all over his skin, hair and robes, Ron merely closes his eyes and heaves a philosophical sigh.
When he opens them again, Harry is standing slowly and blinking apologetic green eyes. Ron wipes pale pink goo from his face and scowls.
"I did tell you to duck," Harry says mildly. "It's not my fault you weren't listening."
"I was," Ron protests, thankful at least that a simple Empathy Potion—even Neville's mangled version—can't actually do him any serious damage. His robes on the other hand... throwing the pink-slathered fabric a cursory glance, he screws up his nose and shrugs. They were at least third-hand anyway, and the set that only just covers his knees.
Harry smirks. "OK." Bending down to retrieve his dropped stirring rod, he adds: 'If you call trying to see through Lavender's shirt 'listening'.'
Having twisted around to watch Snape banish what's left of Neville's potion, it takes Ron a moment to register his friend's words. Indignant and still sticky, he nudges Harry with his elbow: "What did you say?"
"I said 'OK'." Harry gives him an odd look and turns away again.
"Ron, are you alright?" Hermione asks, appearing at his other side. 'I can't believe Snape hasn't even bothered to ask, that pink stuff will be soaking into your skin by now and doing God-knows-what, it's just irresponsible.'
"Yeah, I... thanks, Hermione." Hurriedly, he casts a Cleaning Spell over himself that stings like mad; he's never quite got the hang of doing them carefully, but never mind, at least he's goo-free now.
"Snape should have done that straightaway," Hermione mutters, glancing at their supremely unconcerned Professor, now sitting on the edge of his desk and glowering in Neville's general direction, probably mulling over just how many points to take away.
"I know, 'Mione, you just said that."
She frowns and returns to her seat next to Parvati. "I think you're hearing things again."
Beside him, Harry is snickering, but when Ron turns to him with a "Lost the plot, that one," on his lips, Harry's mouth is firmly closed and his dark eyebrows are drawn down in concentration.
"Ten minutes," barks Snape.
'Ten minutes, your greasiness,' Harry mutters.
Except that he doesn't.
Snape sweeps past the end of Ron's desk, scowling. 'Twenty? Thirty, perhaps. Detention? No. An evening of Longbottom amounts to nothing more than unnecessary masochism. Perhaps it ought to be... twenty-five points from Gryffindor, Mr Longbottom. It would be more, but I find I am becoming accustomed to your terrifying levels of incompetence."
Neville merely nods wearily, Zabini rolling his eyes beside him. Ron catches his breath, realization dawning firmly and inescapably.
This cannot be good.
"No, no, it's OK, you drink it," Ron urges, eyeing his and Harry's finished potion with suspicion.
"If you say so." Harry shrugs and downs the vial of shimmering liquid in one. 'Don't know what the hell's up with you today, mate. Have you been eating bad pumpkins again?'
"I haven't!" Ron insists before he can stop himself. That pumpkin incident was a one time thing, apart from anything else. At Harry's baffled expression, he weakly adds: "I haven't... er, been to the seaside in a while."
The worry that this is the best he can come up with in a pinch is pushed aside when Harry's eyes widen and he looks around the room.
"Brilliant! It worked—I can see what everyone's feeling," Harry enthuses. "Snape's angry—well, that's shocking; Hermione's excited; you're... worried about something, apparently..." Harry looks at him, askance, for about half a second. "Malfoy's... hmm." Harry trails off, flushing and averting his eyes from the Slytherin, but when Ron twists to look at him, cool grey eyes are trained unwaveringly on his friend.
"Oh, I don't know," Harry hedges, suddenly very focused on clearing away his potion ingredients. "I think it's wearing off now."
For some reason, Ron doesn't believe him. He wants to believe that his best mate wouldn't lie to him, but the overly-casual tone and averted eyes tell another story.
'Who the hell gets turned on in Potions?!' Harry wonders, scrubbing violently at their worktable, and Ron thinks he could have happily gone through the rest of his life without that piece of information.
Clearly a glutton for punishment, Ron turns around again just in time for Malfoy to lock eyes with him and give him the finger. Poncy Slytherin wanker. He returns the gesture with feeling and half-heartedly helps Harry to pack everything away before lunch.
In what is obviously a moment of temporary insanity, he debates telling Snape that Neville's fuck-up has apparently left him with the ability to hear people's sodding thoughts. One unprompted glare from baleful black eyes is all it takes for him to reconsider; there'll be some other way to fix this. He hopes.
The classroom is practically silent, as Snape's classrooms always are, and Ron decides that it must be a proximity thing, because there are thirteen other people in the room but he can only hear Harry, who's right next to him, shoving things into his bag and frowning.
'I wonder who he's thinking about,' echoes Harry's voice inside his head, and it's so close to a sigh that Ron freezes. 'Hope it's not Snape,' it continues darkly.
Ron bolts from the room seconds before Snape dismisses them for lunch.
Yep. Definitely a proximity thing, he muses, trying to hide the horror on his face as he sits at the lunch table and wishes he could close his ears. Not that it would help if he could, he reasons, because the Silencing Charm did approximately bugger all, so he's dispelled it in exasperation. Fortunately, he's sitting right at one end of the Gryffindor table, but he's still surrounded by enough people to hear plenty of things that he'd rather not.
There are few things that can put a man off his lunch faster than hearing that Seamus Finnegan thinks Snape looks hot eating soup, or watching Harry shifting back and forth on the bench with the painfully certain knowledge that his underwear is riding up his bum crack.
Or so he thinks, until Ginny, suspiciously silent for some minutes, tilts her head on one side, watches Parkinson stride across the Great Hall and thinks: 'I wonder what colour knickers Pansy's wearing.'
Ron groans and drops his head to the table, narrowly missing his soup bowl.
"Ron, I hate to pry, but I get the impression something's bothering you."
He doesn't need to look up to see Harry's dry smile, or to hear his internal: 'You know, Gin, there are more subtle ways of staring at Slytherins.' So he doesn't. It's nice here; the table is warm and smooth against his face and it smells like wax and soup.
"I'm fine," he mumbles against the wood, wondering if it might be easier to just tell Harry—he is his best mate, after all.
'Where the fuck's Malfoy?' Harry wonders. "You sure?"
"Pass the bread, Harry," Ginny requests. 'Green, I bet. Little green pants...'
'The things he could do with that mouth,' Seamus muses beside him.
Head spinning, Ron unsticks his face from the table and stares at his Housemates with ill-concealed dismay.
"Fine, yeah... just feel a bit... not hungry. Going to go to the, er, library," he improvises, leaping to his feet and ignoring Hermione's staggered expression from halfway down the table. Fuck that idea, he's not telling any of them. They're all obsessed with Slytherins. In a really worrying way.
As he races out of the Hall, he narrowly avoids smacking straight into Malfoy, who's attempting to enter.
"Watch where you're going, Weasel." Malfoy glares and then looks away. 'Potter's eating soup,' he adds silently and cryptically.
"Fuck off, Malfoy," Ron retorts, somewhat distractedly, and pushes past him out of the Hall.
On second thoughts, the library might not be such a bad idea. Though—disturbingly—he suspects that all the books in the world won't explain why Harry seems to think of little else but Draco Malfoy.
The library has nothing useful to offer, as it turns out. Well, it has plenty to offer on the subject of a vast array of Empathy Potions, but absolutely zilch on what to do in case of a Longbottom-related mishap. The worrying thing is... one of the worrying things is, that the correct potion should have worn off in under a minute, just like Harry's did.
Three hours later, as he enters the common room, he finds that not only has it not worn off, but that portraits can think as well as speak. And that the Fat Lady thinks he has a nice bottom.
Which is nice to know.
In an attempt to think like Hermione, since he's definitely not going to be asking her, Ron decides that an information-gathering conversation with Neville is in order. Finding him sitting alone by the fireplace, chewing anxiously on a scarlet quill, Ron strides purposefully in his direction, trying to ignore the voices of his Housemates, both out loud and otherwise. He's starting to get a headache.
"Neville... what did you do this morning?" he asks, trying not to sound desperate.
Neville's eyes widen and fill with guilt. "It was an accident!" he blurts. 'How was I supposed to know the kitten would get stuck in the cistern?'
Ron stares, baffled, before deciding that like many things today, it's best not to ask.
"Never mind, Nev," he mutters, flashing a smile at his nervous friend and retreating to the blessed silence of the seventh-year boys' dorm.
The night is silent but far from peaceful, and in what he considers to be a slyly tactical move, Ron delays his shower and descent to breakfast for as long as possible, so as to avoid any accidental over-shares on the part of his dorm-mates.
Just as he's crossing the Entrance Hall, he notices what seems to be half of Slytherin House heading his way, and only just steps behind a suit of armour and out of the way in time. He's not certain that the potion hasn't worn off, but by the same token he doesn't fancy testing it out by finding out who Crabbe and Goyle secretly lust after. Especially if certain rumours are to be believed, and the answer to that is, in fact, each other.
When the coast is clear, he takes a deep, fortifying breath and strides into the Great Hall.
Traumatised, Ron drops heavily onto the bench opposite Harry and loads his plate with as much bacon as he can conceivably fit on it. When in doubt, eat breakfast.
"Hungry?" Harry enquires with a smile, and then... nothing. Ron holds his breath, barely daring to hope that perhaps that's it; perhaps it's over.
"Yeah, starving," he offers, because Harry's giving him that look again; that look that says, 'Did a Basilisk eat your brain?' without having to actually say, or even think it.
There's still nothing, and as Harry turns away to gaze over his shoulder, Ron rejoices silently, stuffing two rashers of bacon into his mouth at once and performing a small seated jig.
Hello, silence! Fuck, I missed you.
"Morning, Ron. Could you pass the juice? What's Harry looking at?" Hermione says all in one breath as she sits down next to him with an armful of books and the appealing scent of raspberries. 'Why can you eat your own bodyweight in bacon every morning and not be the size of a house? Do you know that Lavender Brown's a vegetarian? Are you even aware I'm sitting here, you ignorant prat?
"Of course I am," he snaps, handing her the jug. "And is she really?"
Hermione's dark eyes sharpen just as her mouth drops slightly open, and Ron realises instantly that not only is it 'no such luck' on the wearing off, but now she's onto him.
"Is she really what?" 'Oh... god.'
"A vegetarian," Ron whispers, knowing there's no use even attempting subterfuge.
"Yes, as a matter of fact she is. And she hates bacon." Hermione wrinkles her nose and snags a rasher from his plate. "Since Potions?" she demands, and not quietly. Fortunately, Harry isn't to be distracted from his weirdly thoughtless staring.
"Keep your voice down!" he hisses, leaning closer. "And yes, if you must know, I have it under control and I'm sure it'll go away very soon. Don't make a big deal out of it."
She folds her arms on the table top and glares. 'And you're suggesting that I make a big deal out of everything, are you?'
"Pretty much." Ron swigs from his glass of juice and wonders if there's not some merit to this whole mind-reading business after all.
"I see," she says. 'Insensitive sod. I bet you have a tiny willy.'
Or not. "I do not!" he cries, spilling juice all down his front as he turns to her, indignant.
Her lips curve into a most uncharacteristic smirk. "Just trying to help," she shrugs. 'Tiny, weeny, little...'
Horrified, Ron turns back to Harry. What is wrong with everyone?
Suddenly, his best friend's staring intensifies and one tiny corner of Harry's mouth jerks upwards.
'Six,' he's thinking, 'six and a half at the most, Malfoy. You can do better than that, I know you can.'
It's a special brand of morbid curiosity that makes Ron slowly turn around in his seat to see what Malfoy could possibly be doing to put that odd little smile on Harry's face. And he's... glaring. Drinking coffee from a delicate cup cradled in prissy white hands, and glaring at Harry through the steam. It's amazing that anyone can glare for that long, Ron thinks. Malfoy's not even blinking.
Ron turns back to his breakfast, thoughts racing so hard that he barely tastes the last six rashers of bacon. Harry's thoughts have quietened down again, but beside him, Hermione is determinedly singing in her head, something baffling about green fields and Jerusalem, whilst she simultaneously consumes a bowl of cereal and skims her Transfiguration notes. Ron rubs at his eyes and exhales hard. She smiles and sings louder.
'And then you have to smile at Parkinson like that. Now, is that really necessary? Why can't you smile at me like that?'
Head whipping around so fast it's painful, Ron gapes at Harry. Surely he didn't just say that. Surely he doesn't rate Malfoy's glares out of ten and want him to smile. Surely, he... oh, fuck, Harry, no.
Harry's expression is carefully blank but the gleaming green eyes behind the glasses are so obvious that Ron is tempted, just for a moment, to drown himself in his pumpkin juice. Harry likes Malfoy, like... likes him likes him.
"I'm going to kill Neville."
"You could just tell Professor Snape, I'm sure he'll know what to do," Hermione suggests sweetly without looking up. '... nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,' she continues seamlessly.
"I'm not sure I could look Snape in the eye after yesterday," Ron admits with a small shudder.
Hermione lowers her spoon with ill-disguised interest. "Why's that?"
"Believe me, you don't—"
'Ah, Draco, I do like to watch you leave,' comes from across the table and Ron doesn't know whether to be relieved for the distraction or alarmed by the almost-longing in Harry's unspoken words and the familiarity that he never expresses out loud and the way his eyes are—he turns to check—yep, fastened firmly upon the departing Slytherin's arse.
"What was that about Snape?" Harry asks as the doors close behind Malfoy, and it takes Ron a moment to realise he's being addressed out loud and therefore expected to respond.
"Yes, Ron, what was that about Snape?" Hermione asks helpfully, pausing for a mere second before recommencing the song from the beginning at ear-splitting... mind-splitting? ... volume.
Looking around wildly for bacon, Ron is stricken at the sight of empty platters and with some effort focuses on the matter at hand: his two best friends looking at him with expectant faces.
'...among those dark satanic mills,' sings Hermione, blinking innocently.
Ron chews on a ragged thumbnail. Something about Snape. Malfoy. Snape. Come on, he tells himself, when everyone around you is losing the plot, you just have to...
"Oh, well, I heard that Malfoy has a thing for Snape," Ron says before good sense can stop him. "Which is, you know...pretty disturbing."
"I don't believe it," Hermione murmurs, gazing over at the staff table.
"I know, weird, eh?" Ron tries not to look at Harry, whose thoughts have fallen completely silent. "No accounting for taste on either count, but then again, they are both Slytherins."
'No, I mean that I literally don't believe it.'
"I think I'm going to be sick," Harry offers after a moment, nose scrunched up. "Thanks for that lovely mental image, Ron."
"Well, you did ask."
"True." 'I know, and I really wish I hadn't. Fucking Malfoy... god, I'm such an idiot. "I'll see you in class, OK? Forgot something from the room."
Ron nods and watches him slope out of the Great Hall looking... defeated? Genuinely disappointed and, dare he say it, hurt? It's worse than he first thought. Turning back to the table, he tunes out Hermione with some effort and stares down at his empty, crumb-strewn breakfast plate.
Looks like he might actually have to come to terms with the fact that Harry has it bad for Draco fucking Malfoy. And it's not the gay aspect; that's neither here nor there. It's the Malfoy aspect. The pointy, snarky, Slytherin, bouncing ferret-face aspect. Not only that, there's an odd, somewhat troubling little part of Ron that's insisting his best mate can do better.
"Bloody hell," he says out loud.
Hermione, standing and gathering up her books beside him, narrows her eyes. "When you're ready, you'll come and tell me exactly what's going on in that head of yours, and I'll be waiting." She rests a hand on his shoulder and smiles. "And until then, I have lots and lots more songs."
"I was afraid of that," Ron mumbles.
When she leaves, he is alone at his end of the table. With a sigh, he pulls her bowl towards him and starts into her unfinished soggy cereal, enjoying the silence.
He enjoys the silence so much, in fact, that he's late to Transfiguration. He loses five points from a stern-faced McGonagall and is forced to take the only remaining seat in the room—the one next to Draco bloody Malfoy.
Obviously. Because the forces of karma and whatever else Lavender and her friends believe in have clearly not quite finished fucking with him just yet.
"Sit down, Weasel, you're making the place look untidy." Malfoy doesn't even look at him, just continues tipping his head back and staring at the ceiling as though nothing in the world is quite interesting enough for him.
Ron sits without a word and attempts to concentrate on McGonagall's demonstration. It's pretty difficult, though, with Harry sitting two rows ahead and Malfoy sitting beside him, just breathing and being Malfoy. He consoles himself with the fact that Malfoy's thoughts are actually pretty boring; he doesn't seem to be hatching any evil plots at all... in fact, it's almost disappointing.
In fact, as Ron slowly but surely Transfigures his slug into a ball of wool (because he's been asked to, best not to think too hard about it), he is treated to the following gems:
'Weasley smells like bacon.'
'It must be quite nice being a slug... apart from that everyone hates you. It's a bit like being a Slytherin, I suppose. Hm. It would amaze people, just how philosophical I can be.'
'My wool's nicer than Weasley's.'
And then: 'Why must Potter's hair always look like he's just been shagged up against a wall? Maybe he has.'
Ron stops poking at his slimy wool and slides his eyes very slowly to Malfoy, who releases a low snarl that might or might not be out loud, it's getting hard to tell. Either way, his attention is caught, and he watches with horrified fascination as Malfoy checks to see that McGonagall's back is turned and starts flicking screwed-up, inky bits of parchment at the back of Harry's head. The look of absolute determination lights eyes that Ron always thought were cold, and his silent words are no less compelling:
'Look at me, Potter. Look at me. Fucking... look—at—me.'
Finally, Harry turns in his seat, irritation written all over his face, and armed with this avalanche of unwanted information, it's childishly easy for Ron to see the feeling that flares in both sets of eyes when Harry and Malfoy lock gazes—it's only there for a split second before they both settle into comfortable glares, but it's long enough for Ron to feel supremely uncomfortable, like he's caught up in something that neither of the real participants really understand.
He turns away and rests his head in his hands, covering his eyes.
'That's better, Potter,' Malfoy thinks beside him. 'So beautiful when you glare at me.'
Oh, hell no. He takes it all back. Sexy Soup Snape and Green Pants Parkinson, come back, all is forgiven. This... this is not only the weirdest thing that has possibly happened ever—and that includes the thing he saw Filch and Mrs Norris doing during Prefect rounds last month—but it's also worryingly plausible and, now he thinks about it, makes a lot of things make a lot of sense.
But still. He's quite prepared to admit that he's not the most observant person in the world, but seriously, how the fuck has he missed this? More to the point, how has Hermione missed this?
"Concentrate, Mr Weasley," McGonagall chides as she walks past him. 'I feel a detention coming on.'
Ron bends hurriedly over his wool.
"Good going, Gryffindork." Malfoy leans back in his chair and crosses his arms. 'Why Potter is friends with someone like you is beyond me.'
"Shut up, Malfoy."
By the end of the day, which includes three classes sitting next to Harry and two meals sitting directly across from him, Ron is seriously considered Stunning himself and just getting Hermione to wake him up when all of this is over. He loves Harry, he really does, but there's only so much pining after Malfoy that a person can take.
It's so bad at times that he can't help wondering how Harry manages to get anything done. His best friend's internal rhapsodizing is continuous and impressively varied; Ron soon knows way too much about Malfoy's eyes, his hands, his glares and smiles and patterns of speech.
Plus, during Charms, a frankly terrifying musing on what he might look like in leather, which segues into a morbid pondering over whether Malfoy would wear leather for Snape, and whether Snape would like it. Ron whimpers and slides over to sit next to Hermione, who corrects his wand-grip and launches into a silent, rousing rendition of 'I'm Henry the Eighth I am'.
Which, much to Ron's chagrin, she's still singing as they sit by the fire in the common room that evening, Harry having wandered off to do whatever Harry does in the evenings; Ron's never bothered to ask before, but now he suspects it has something to do with looking at Draco Malfoy. And the thing is, now that he knows Draco Malfoy wants him to look, Ron's not quite sure what to do with the information.
Staring into the flames and scooting his chair away from Neville who has started angsting about kittens again, he scratches at his hair and wonders. After all, there's no getting away from the fact that it's Malfoy, but... try as he might, he can't seem to scrub out the image of Harry's face when he'd told the lie about Snape.
Harry's been through enough... all things considered, he deserves not to be miserable, even if it's Malfoy making him... Ron gulps... not miserable. Fitfully, he reaches into his robe pocket, pulls out a Chocolate Frog and stuffs the whole thing into his mouth at once. He turns the card over and over in his hand: Dumbledore. He'd know what to do. Not that Ron's about to ask.
'H-E-N-R-Y, Henry the eighth I am, I am,' sings Hermione, frowning at her Charms essay. He's always impressed at how she can concentrate on so many things at once, but then she is probably the cleverest witch he knows.
Ron sighs, mouth full of melted chocolate. He's going to have to ask her.
"If you... er, found something out," he begins, swallowing quickly at her eye-roll, "about someone... and someone else, and you were the only one that knew that both the someone and the someone else were actually thinking the same thing, but they each thought the other was thinking something different, and that if they knew they were thinking the same thing, it'd be really good, even if it was also really weird, what would you do?" Ron pauses. "Hypothetically, of course."
Amazingly, the singing has stopped, and Hermione's thoughts are racing far too quickly for Ron to catch a single word, but she's pursing her lips and looking completely exasperated.
"I should be worried that that actually made sense to me." She rolls up her essay and stretches in her seat. "I'm going to bed."
Turning at the bottom of the stairs, she throws him an odd little smile across the almost-empty common room. "If it were me... if it were me, I'd tell them. Or I'd find a way to help them find out on their own." Her eyes find his and hold warmly. "You're being very calm about this, Ronald. It's good. See you in the morning."
And with that, she's gone, leaving him staring at an empty space. She knew. She knew all along, of course she did. The edges of the card in his hands dig into his skin, and he glances once more at the knowing twinkle in the Headmaster's eyes. Hah. Who needs Dumbledore when you have Hermione Granger?
... and she likes bacon, Ron thinks sleepily as he trundles upstairs and draws the curtains around his bed. Brilliant.
By Saturday—the fourth day of entirely Too Much Information—Ron has learned to judge the exact safe distance at which he can talk to his friends and not overhear anything weird. Even so, it's not one hundred percent effective, and he's managed to learn that Seamus thinks that Snape looks good eating spaghetti, too, that Hermione knows more infuriating songs than any one person should, and that what Harry thinks about in the shower makes self-Obliviation look like a very tempting prospect.
And just to put the icing on the cake, his friends keep asking him why he's developed a twitch.
Having weighed up the odds over a late-night canopy-staring session, Ron has decided that he has no choice but to speak to Malfoy. As Hermione had put it, in between verses, the previous night, "Some people work stuff out on their own. Some people need a bit of a push. Others... more like a kick in the teeth. Hypothetically, of course."
And though he knows that Harry will likely trust his story more easily, Malfoy is exactly the type to fly into a defensive hissy fit if Harry approaches him, and back up so far that he'll ruin the whole thing. By approaching Malfoy, he realises he's relying on the fact that snakes are opportunists, and more than that, the fact he's relying on Slytherins to be anything at all is only further proof that the plot, along with his morals, vanished long ago.
But, he reminds himself firmly, this is because he is a bloody good friend.
After classes let out for the weekend, he dashes up to the dorm and rifles through Harry's trunk until he finds the Map.
"Why am I not surprised?" he remarks to the empty room, on finding that both Harry and Malfoy are in the vicinity of the Quidditch Pitch.
When he gets there, Harry is flying in effortless swooping circles, hair everywhere and face utterly relaxed as Ron stands three feet behind Malfoy and squints up at him. Malfoy leans back on the grass in shirtsleeves, propped up on his elbows, a heavy book spread out beside him and his eyes trained unwaveringly on Harry.
There are others scattered across the grass; it's a bright, warm day and several little knots of students sit talking, laughing and reading under trees, but as usual, Malfoy is on his own.
Ron braces himself and takes one silent step closer.
'...so hot on a broom, fuck... can you see me, Potter? No. You never see me. You think you're worth getting grass-stains for?' Malfoy sighs, threading long fingers through the blades of grass. 'Probably. Why can I smell bacon?'
"Weasley." Sitting up straight, Malfoy narrows his eyes and rests his wand hand at his waistband.
Ignoring the repeated and vitriolic silent cursing being flung in his direction, Ron drops down beside him in the grass. "I'm not going to drag this out, Malfoy. Just listen to me."
"Give me one good reason why I should listen to anything you say, Weasley."
"Because I think you'll want to know this," Ron says wearily, wrapping his arms around his knees and looking straight ahead. As they both watch, Harry pulls sharply out of a spectacular dive and lands lightly on the grass some distance away. Suppressing a smug smile at Malfoy's internal 'Nice, Potter, very fucking nice,' Ron glances between them both one last time, just as Harry's eyes fix upon the blond, and hesitates.
As he sits there watching Harry and Malfoy pretending not to watch each other, and tries to remember the exact order of play in his complex, subtle plan, Ron experiences what can only be termed a shining, crystallizing moment of 'oh, fuck it'. Straightforward it is.
"Malfoy, he likes you as well." Ron continues to stare into the middle distance. "Now, you can pretend not to know what I'm talking about, or you can hex me into a three-legged goat, or you can get over there and fucking ask him out before one of us DIES."
The silence, both out loud and inside Malfoy's poncy blond head, is most satisfying. Malfoy is dumbstruck for long seconds before he very quietly, in a soft tone Ron has never heard before, says: "What about hexing you into a goat and then asking him out? Weasel," he adds after a moment.
Ron grins suddenly, light with a mixture of relief and pure weird. Harry's halfway across the pitch towards them now and he needs to make himself very, very scarce.
"I dunno, Draco, but he'd probably like it better if you and I were nice to each other." Getting to his feet and brushing off grass-stains hurriedly, he stares down at the blindsided Slytherin. "Nice? Yeah, it's a Gryffindor thing. We'll show you, don't worry."
'Weasel... Potter... hmm?' Draco blinks.
And then—and he's not ashamed to admit it—Ron Weasley shoves his hands in his pockets and runs away.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the first person that he runs into once inside the castle is wearing bright purple robes and a strangely serene smile.
"Slow down, Mr Weasley. Is something the matter?"
Ron straightens up and shakes his head, arranging his face into an innocent expression. "No, Professor Dumbledore, Sir. Everything's fine. Normal. Regular."
The old man laughs, and it's then that Ron registers the strange silence; surely Dumbledore, if anyone, can't be not thinking. He must be thinking all the time. Thinking's what he does.
"I thank you for that assessment, Mr Weasley, however you must know that some of us can keep our innermost thoughts hidden more effectively than others," he replies, eyes sparkling when Ron's jaw drops.
"Of course, I... sorry, Professor," Ron scrambles, trying to imagine his mind as a blank canvas, with less-than-impressive results, seeing as it keeps drifting outside and wondering what Harry and Malfoy are up to. Which is disturbing all in and of itself.
Dumbledore's little smile isn't helping matters, and he knows he's turning red.
"You do realise, Mr Weasley, that I cannot allow you to keep this... gift." His face turns serious.
"Yeah. Sir. I just wanted to—"
The old man holds up a silencing hand.
"No need to explain to me, Mr Weasley. Had I not been certain that your motives were pure, I would have intervened some time ago."
Ron groans. "You just know everything, don't you?"
The smile returns with full force. "With that knowledge comes great responsibility, don't you think?"
"It does, Sir. Can I please give it back now?"
"Certainly," he agrees, fishing a small bottle out of the folds of his robes and making Ron suspect that he's planned this whole little meeting, of course he has. "And I think Severus would be rather flattered, don't you?" he adds innocently, making Ron splutter on the viscous liquid he has already started to drink.
He nods and thanks Dumbledore, receiving an absent-minded pat on the shoulder in return. The trouble is, Ron suspects that after four days, he might already be scarred for life. Still, he takes off in the direction of the common room to find someone to stand very close to.
Just to check.
By the following weekend, Ron is immensely grateful that he can no longer eavesdrop on his friends' thoughts, even if he can guess with a little too much accuracy now what some of them might be thinking about whilst looking at the staff table.
Or each other. He looks up from his chess game with Neville at the sound of soft laughter from the hearth rug, where Harry and Malfoy are practically sitting on top of each other, fingers laced together as they pick through a bag of Every Flavour Beans, looking for all the disgusting ones.
He doesn't know exactly what happened after he ran from the Quidditch pitch, but he does know that Harry returned to the common room some hours later, windblown, dishevelled, and wearing the biggest smirk Ron has ever seen.
"He won't tell me what you said," Harry had admitted, wrapping him in a tight one-armed hug, "but thanks."
Yep. It's all his fault. Ron Weasley, with a little help from Neville, has succeeded in accidentally unleashing on Hogwarts a couple that is, according to the girls, who know these things, 'the most disturbingly cute thing in the world.'
Fuck. Ron rests his chin in his hand and stares through his fingers as Malfoy spits out a pale green bean and twists around, hand splayed across Harry's jaw, and kisses him thoroughly. Ron wants to look away but he sees Harry's smile and his fingers stroking through blond hair and spilling perfectly good beans everywhere, and it's sort of compelling and unsettling all at once, like looking at an accident.
"Checkmate," announces Neville, and Ron snaps his attention back to the board in horror.
"You weren't really concentrating," Neville says kindly, eyes flicking across the room to the table directly behind Harry and Malfoy which contains Lavender, Parvati and several other shrill, pretty girls.
"Right," Ron agrees, deciding not to tell Neville what he'd really been looking at. Or that he's still wondering what happened to that kitten.
Just then, the group at the table dissolves into loud laughter, and Ron suddenly realises that, actually, Lavender Brown's giggle is possibly the most annoying sound... in the history of things that make a sound. Hermione looks up, too, from the sofa where she's correcting his History of Magic essay. She smiles at him, and all of a sudden, he gets it.
"'Mione?" He crosses the room to sit next to her, all at once feeling nervous. "Want to go for a walk?"
She blushes prettily and nods.
Harry and Malfoy, tangled happily together on the rug, don't even notice.
-- Hermione sings 'Jerusalem' [traditional] and 'I'm Henry Viii I am' [by Herman's Hermits]