What The Best Friend Saw
Harry Potter was annoyed, irritated, confused, puzzled and just plain pissed off. For several weeks he had been trying to find the reason behind his best friend's strange behaviour, but to no avail; he was just as clueless as when he had started trying to find an explanation. He simply did not understand the changes that had taken place in the other boy over the past couple of months; he was…well almost placid these days, calm and rational, and he very seldom lost his temper. Hell, he didn't even argue with Malfoy anymore. Apart from the odd smirk or strange look, the two barely interacted. He'd also noticed that Ron's grades were steadily improving, especially in Potions, something which Harry couldn't begin to explain.
He looked up from his Transfiguration textbook (not that he'd actually been reading it anyway), and glanced furtively across at his friend. He was sitting cross-legged in one of the armchairs in front of the fire, frowning down at his Charms textbook, his expression one of concentration and thought. Every now and then, Harry noticed that he would glance up at the clock that was perched upon the mantelpiece, his mouth would quirk in the most imperceptible of smiles, and he would return his attention to his notes once more. He was obviously waiting for something, and Harry suddenly resolved that if Ron disappeared anywhere, he would be close behind. He was determined to get to the bottom of this thing once and for all.
It seemed like hours before he suddenly heard Ron announce, "Right, I'm going to do a quick patrol before I turn in, see you guys later," before rising to his feet and making his way out of the portrait hole. Harry's voice joined the chorus of "See you later," and "Don't dock any points from Gryffindor!", but as soon as Ron had left, Harry swiftly said his own goodnights to the others, raced up to their dorm, grabbed his invisibility cloak and hurried back down the stairs again, hoping that Ron hadn't got too far ahead.
Luckily for him, Ron was not the quickest of walkers, and Harry only had to jog slightly in the beginning to catch up with him. Putting a safe enough distance between them so that Ron wouldn't hear any footsteps besides his own, he continued to follow the redhead, hoping that he was being as stealthy as he thought he was. He continued to tiptoe behind him, feeling slightly awkward that he was spying on his own best friend, but this really was the only way to discover exactly what the boy was up to and to finally give his curious mind some answers. Really, when you thought about it, what he was doing wasn't so bad, he reasoned. And anyway, if Ron would only tell him, then he wouldn't have to go sneaking around under invisibility cloaks, and following the boy to…well, wherever he was going. Yes, Harry told himself, this was all Ron's fault really.
He was so caught up in trying to justify his actions, that he almost didn't notice when Ron turned into an unfamiliar corridor, then disappeared into what Harry assumed was a disused classroom. "What the hell…" Harry muttered, frowning and following him in, stopping in his tracks when he saw Draco Malfoy leaning against a dusty table, arms folded and the perpetual smirk firmly in place. He almost dropped the cloak, preparing to come to Ron's aide and start hurling defensive curses, but before he could, Malfoy began talking.
"A disused classroom, Weasley? A little cliché don't you think?"
Harry frowned. What did that mean? Why on earth was Ron sneaking around at night to meet Malfoy in an old classroom?
"Well I didn't hear you offer any better suggestions," Ron replied, leaning against the table opposite Draco. It was strange, but Harry was sure that there was something different about the way Ron was speaking to Draco; the usual hostility was absent, and his whole body seemed more relaxed, almost…comfortable. Something definitely wasn't right about this situation. "I tell you what, next time you can be the one to make all the arrangements, then you should have nothing to complain about," he said, and Harry was incredibly confused to see that he actually looked somewhat amused, his blue eyes calm, twinkling.
"Well the Room of Requirement would have been fine for me, but oh no, someone thinks that's getting a little too boring now!" Draco replied, rolling his eyes.
"Listen Malfoy," Ron said, putting a peculiar emphasis on the name as he pushed himself off the table and stalked menacingly towards the blond. "If you don't change your attitude and stop acting like the royal prat we all know you are, I might just have to shut you up."
"Oh? And just how are you planning on doing that?" Draco asked, an eyebrow quirking in obvious amusement, his eyes glinting with a strange kind of mirth that Harry's never seen before, one that somehow looked completely devoid of malice.
"Well," began Ron slowly. "I was thinking maybe something like this…"
And before Harry had time to even blink, Ron had suddenly wrapped his arms around the blond and was kissing him softly and slowly. Harry's world suddenly slowed down, and he felt his eyes widen and his mouth run dry as he stared dumbly at the image of his best friend kissing Draco Malfoy with what looked like tenderness mingled with passion. He was fairly sure his brain was about to explode. He had to get out of there, had to get away from the sight his eyes were being forced to look at, had to burn the image out of his brain. Finally realising that his brain had kicked in enough to send a few motor signals to his legs, he paused for one second more, just to be sure that it was actually Ron he was seeing, then turned and all but ran as quickly as he could back to the Tower.
After a moment or two, the two boys finally broke apart. "Is he gone?" Draco asked, a lazy smile playing about his lips.
"Yep," Ron replied. "I think I heard him practically run all the way back to Gryffindor."
"Well at least now he knows," said Draco, pulling Ron right up against him, his arms possessively round the Gryffindor's waist as Ron's hands slipped easily up onto Draco's shoulders. "I still think it's a strange way to inform him about us though."
"Yeah I know, but I just think it's best this way. Believe me, I sat down for ages just thinking about how I'd even start the conversation. I will talk to him eventually of course, but for now, at least it's out in the open."
"Oh yeah, just the rest of Hogwarts to go now," Draco answered with another eye-roll. "That should be fun."
"Well we both knew it was never going to be easy, but we'll deal, we've been through too much to let a few idiots stop us now," Ron replied with a gentle smile, one that spoke of the affection he held for the blond boy whose hands were currently stroking the small of his back in a rare display of tenderness. "It'll be interesting to see how my brothers take it though," he added with a smirk.
"Oh yeah, really interesting," Draco replied with an eye-roll. "If you find the idea of being flayed alive interesting. Just warn me before you tell them so I can get at least a day's head start on them!" he said, to which Ron laughed. "See the things I'm willing to put up with? Crazy best friends, insane older brothers, a whole house of angry Gryffindors! I hope you appreciate the trouble you're putting me through," said Draco with a pout.
Ron merely gave him a soft smile and gently slid one hand from Draco's shoulder to rest against one porcelain cheek. "You know I do," he said softly. "We've come through so much," he continued, his expression becoming more serious, his thumb gently brushing Draco's cheekbone. "I have more to thank you for than I can ever…" he trailed off, his voice becoming heavy with emotion.
"Hey," said Draco with an affectionate laugh, placing a finger under Ron's chin to raise his head slightly. "Don't go getting all emotional on me, you know I don't cope well with thanks and gratitude and gushing; it just ends with me blushing, which we both know does nothing for my complexion."
"You're a prat," snorted Ron, giving him a light punch on the arm. "I was being serious and there you go spoiling the moment!"
"Well I just figured that there are better things we could be doing than 'having moments'. You don't agree?" he asked with a teasing smirk.
"Well as much as I hate agreeing with you, I have to admit that you have a point," the redhead replied, mirroring the Slytherin's smirk. "However, I'm a little confused as to what you might consider 'better things' to be," he added innocently, feigning a pensive look whilst ignoring the look the blond was giving him. "Hmm, maybe you meant we should go and grab a game of quidditch, or catch up on some studying or mpfh…" Ron's little speech was effectively silenced as Draco pushed him against the wall and closed his lips over Ron's.
"You're a fucking tease, Weasley," he growled against the Gryffindor's mouth. "It's a wonder I've put up with you for so long," he murmured as his lips moved to Ron's overly-sensitive neck, eliciting a sharp intake of breath from the boy pinned against him.
"You know you couldn't live without me," he whispered breathily, snaking a hand into Draco's blond locks as he continued his attack on Ron's vulnerable neck.
Draco gave a small chuckle and replied, "That's actually rather true."
Ron had had a rather miserable day, and the only thing he wanted to do was take a good long soak in the tub in the Prefect's bathroom, which was exactly where he was headed. It had just been one of those where everything that could go wrong had gone wrong, and he was just about ready to go insane. From the minute he'd woken up, his day had gone steadily downhill and it wasn't showing any signs of improving as he caught his cloak on a protruding nail, grimacing as he heard it tear.
"Bloody, fucking…ugh screw it," he muttered, snatching it away and ripping it further, beyond caring at that point. He quickened his pace, intent upon reaching the bathroom and spending the entire evening submerged under a mountain of bubbles. "About bloody time," he growled, reaching the door and all but hissing the password. He shoved open the door and immediately froze at the sight that greeted him. Lying in a pool of blood, still in the day's uniform was the deathly still form of Draco Malfoy.
"Shit," Ron breathed, stunned to the point of immobility for a moment. "Oh shit," he repeated, his wits returning to him and kicking him into action. He rushed to the blond's side and gently turned him over, taking in a sharp breath as a bloodied blade fell from Draco's hand, drawing Ron's eye line to the slashed wrists, steadily losing blood. "What the hell did you do you idiot?" asked Ron, his voice tinged with panic and his mind whirling as he tried to think what the best course of action would be.
"You stupid, stupid sod," he said through clenched teeth as he began tearing a couple of strips from his already torn cloak to act as make-shift bandages until he could get the blond to the Hospital Wing. "What the hell were you thinking?" he asked, carrying on his insensible tirade to the unconscious boy as he tightly bound the strips around each of the blond's wrists, praying fervently that he wasn't too late. Making sure he'd stemmed the blood for the time being, he hauled Draco up into his arms, shocked at how little he actually weighed, and headed as quickly as the extra weight would allow him to Madame Pomfrey.
The Hospital Wing was silent as Ron shoved his way in through the heavy swinging doors, exhausted from his efforts. "Madame Pomfrey!" he called as he placed Draco on the nearest bed, hoping ardently that the medi-witch was around. "Come on you prat, I'm not going to let you win that easily," he said, addressing the blond, brushing pale blond hair off an even paler face.
"Mr Weasley!" came the medi-witch's voice as she appeared beside him. "What on earth is going on here?" she asked, looking down at the still, ashen-faced boy.
"I found him in the Prefect's bathroom, he tried to…" he trailed off, indicating the thin wrists, still bound in the tatters of Ron's cloak. "Please help him," he implored, shocked at how much he really meant it.
"I'll have to ask you to step outside, Mr Weasley," said Madame Pomfrey, immediately switching into professional mode. "There's nothing more you can do."
Ron nodded numbly and shuffled out of the Hospital Wing, glancing back over his shoulder for one last glimpse of the blond before Madame Pomfrey pulled the curtains a round the bed and began her work. He stepped outside and leant against the wall, emitting a deep sigh and running a hand through his already dishevelled hair. "Bloody hell," he whispered into the darkness, sinking down the wall until he was sitting against it, his long legs stretched out in front of him, his eyes unfocused.
He was still in shock, unable to believe what Malfoy had done to himself. His mind kept replaying the moment he had found him; the amount of blood; the vulnerable expression on the ghostly white face, and the horror he had felt in those awful moments. What had pushed him so far to have reached such desperation? What had happened to make him believe that taking his own life was the only way left for him? He couldn't imagine ever reaching such a point, but then, there were colossal differences between himself and Malfoy, the biggest being the fact that Ron had a marvellous support network of friends and family around him. As far as he could tell, Malfoy had virtually no one, and the worst thing Ron could imagine was an existence dominated by loneliness.
He stayed there, sitting on the floor, staring at nothing, for what seemed like hours. It could very well have been for he had no sense of the time, nor did he particularly care. The only things he was concerned with were his rather troubled thoughts and his strangely overwhelming worry for the Slytherin's wellbeing. It was something of a shock then when he noticed the sun through the window and realised that it was already dawn. He rubbed at his eyes tiredly, beginning to feel the effects of a sleepless night, and pushed himself up, internally debating whether or not he should go and see how Malfoy was.
"Oh you know you're going to do it," he mumbled to himself, taking a deep breath then pushing the door open.
"Mr Weasley? What on earth are you doing back here? And look at the state of you! You look as though you've spent the night in the hallway!"
"You're not far wrong," he muttered. "I came to see how Malfoy is, he is alright isn't he?" he asked, not sure what he would do if the medi-witch answered in the negative.
"He's stable, yes. He's still resting, I've given him several blood replenishing potions and a touch of Dreamless Sleep, so he'll be out for a while yet. Well done on acting so quickly though," she said with a gentle smile, "if it hadn't have been for you, I'm not sure he'd still be with us."
He nodded then said, "Is it ok…I mean…could I go and see him?"
"I suppose so, but like I said, he'll be out for some time, it might be a couple of days before he wakes up. He's in the bed over there," she said, indicating the bed in far corner with the curtains pulled around it.
"Thanks, I…I won't stay long," he said and waited until Madame Pomfrey had disappeared back into her office before heading over to the bed. He slowly pulled back the curtain and had to stop himself from grimacing at the ghostly pallor of the blond's skin and the deathly paleness of the thin, aristocratic lips. "Why did you do it?" he asked softly, perching on the end of the bed. "What on earth would make you think that that was your only way out?" Ron really wished the boy was conscious at that moment so he could get some answers.
Without thinking, he reached out and wrapped his fingers about the blond's own thin ones, shocked at their coldness. "I know you'll probably hate me for helping you and that you'll probably wish I'd have just left you there, but I'm not about to apologise for what I did. You're a fool, a complete bloody fool and I can't wait for you to wake up so I can tell you properly! And I will be here when you wake up, make no mistake about that," he said firmly, only just coming to the decision. Whenever the blond came round, Ron would be there waiting for him.
"Mr Weasley, come on Mr Weasley wake up now."
Ron slowly blinked his eyes open to find Madame Pomfrey peering down at him, giving his shoulder a firm shake to rouse him.
"I thought you weren't going to stay long," she said with a raised eyebrow.
"Sorry, I…suppose I just lost track of time," he said apologetically. Shifting himself up in his chair he glanced across at Draco and asked, "Has there been any change?"
"None, but as I said, it may take a while, his body's been through a lot and I've had to give him several potions. It could well be a couple of days before he wakes up and you can't stay here every second until that happens. Come on, get along with you, lessons start in fifteen minutes and I'm sure you wouldn't want to miss them."
"But…but I said I'd be here when he wakes up," Ron replied, knowing how odd that must sound as the enmity between the two was infamous.
"You can come back later, but for now I really must insist that you leave. I doubt very much he'll wake up before you return."
Ron nodded, only mildly placated and rose from his seat, still feeling groggy and slightly disorientated from lack of sleep and worry. He stole one last glance at the blond, who still looked like some tragic statue, deathly still but the most peaceful Ron had ever seen him. "I'll come back after lessons," he informed the medi-witch, who merely gave a resigned nod and steered him out of the Hospital Wing.
He strolled dazedly through the halls, his mind still very much preoccupied with the sleeping blond he had just left. He wandered down to the Potions lab for his first lesson, ignoring the glances he received from several of the other students at his dishevelled and brooding state.
"Where have you been all night?" asked Harry as he spotted his friend making his way through the crowd.
"Just…around. I um…had some stuff to sort out, don't worry about it," he said, hoping Harry wouldn't press the matter further. The brunet gave his friend an appraising look and seemed about to say something when Snape appeared and ushered them all irritably into the lab. Ron had never been so relieved to see the man in his life.
"Where's Malfoy? I don't remember seeing him at breakfast either," said Hermione, taking a seat in front of the boys.
"Who knows, who cares?" replied Harry.
Ron had to bite his tongue to keep from saying anything. Surely it was attitudes like that that had landed Draco in his current situation. He kept his head down and let Snape's lecture pass over his head; he barely listened to the man on a normal day, that day there was no chance of him listening.
The rest of the day passed in very much the same way. By the end of it, Ron hadn't a clue what had gone on throughout it and he had missed all the questioning looks his friends had been sending him. He ate dinner almost mechanically, barely noticing the food that passed his lips. "I'm going to the library for a while," he suddenly announced, rising from his seat. "I'll see you guys later."
"But…" Harry began to protest, but was too late as Ron was already making his way out of the door. He made his way up to the Hospital Wing, the day having passed in such a blur that he hardly felt as though he had left the place.
"Back again, Mr Weasley?" asked Madame Pomfrey, looking up as the doors opened, admitting the red-head
"I said I would be," he replied, heading straight over to Draco's bed, settling himself in the chair beside it. "Any change?" he asked.
"No," she replied, "he still hasn't woken up. He's shown some signs of movement though, which is positive. Give it some time, Mr Weasley, he'll wake soon enough."
Ron returned his attention to the blond, who, he had to admit, looked much better than when he had left him earlier that morning. He still looked ill, certainly, but he didn't look quite so ghostly. Deciding that it would be a little weird to simply sit and stare at Draco, Ron pulled some work out of his bag and set to it, glad to have something to occupy himself with other than his incessant thoughts about the boy next to him.
He spent the rest of the evening engrossed in his work, occasionally looking up at the blond who was, to Ron's mind, disobligingly remaining in his unconscious state. "Trust a Slytherin to take his own sweet time," he mumbled to himself, flipping over another page in his textbook, ready to resign himself to an entire night of reading and waiting for something that wasn't going to happen, when he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. He quickly looked up and saw that the blond was indeed beginning to stir. Ron shoved his books aside and leant forward in his chair, suddenly feeling very apprehensive. "Malfoy?" he ventured tentatively. "Can you hear me?"
Draco stirred again and Ron watched as he slowly blinked his grey eyes open, confusion plainly evident on his face. "What the hell's going on?" he asked hoarsely. "Where am I? And what are you doing here?"
"Which question would you like me to answer first? Ron asked sarcastically, irritated by the boy's attitude. Sighing, he reminded himself that Draco had been through a lot and said softly, "I found you…in the Prefect's Bathroom after you tried to…" he trailed off, indicating to the blond's bandaged wrists. The blond's own eyes followed Ron's line of sight until they fell upon the bandages and his expression hardened. He turned his head away but Ron could still see that his jaw was tightly clenched.
"You brought me here?" Draco asked tightly.
Ron nodded, then realising Draco couldn't see him said quietly, "Yes".
"Why?" Draco whispered.
"What do you mean?" Ron asked, confused.
"Why? Why didn't you just leave me there?" he asked, his voice barely audible.
Ron couldn't believe what he was hearing; did Malfoy really think he would do that? "You think I would have left you there to bleed to death?" he asked, the incredulity plainly evident in his voice. "There's no way I would have walked away from you last night, and if you believe for one second that I would then you obviously know nothing about me," he said.
Silence hung in the air for some time, Draco still refusing to look at Ron. Finally, unable to bear the quiet, and needing an answer the question that had plagued him since he'd found the blond, Ron asked, "Why did you do it? What made you…what pushed you that far?"
For a while Ron thought the blond wasn't going to answer and he was about to ask his question again when Draco finally said in a voice barely above a whisper, "It was my only way out, it was the only thing I could do."
"But why? What made you need a way out in the first place? What made you that desperate?"
"Oh why do you even care, Weasley?" Draco asked, at last turning to face Ron. "What are you still doing here? Hoping to get a bit of gossip to take back to Scarhead about how the big bad Slytherin was such a failure he had to try and take his own life?" he spat and Ron was horrified to see tears forming in the cold grey eyes.
"Don't be so stupid," he replied, moving his chair closer to the bed. "I'm here because I promised you I'd be here when you woke up, because I couldn't just walk away and leave you to think that you were on your own. And believe it or not, I do care; I'd care about anyone I found lying bleeding to death voluntarily! As far as telling Harry goes, he doesn't know, no one does, and if they do find out, it won't be from me," he finished, wondering why he was getting so heated about the whole thing. His little tirade had seemed to silence the blond though, who was looking at Ron with searching eyes, as if trying to determine whether or not the Gryffindor was lying.
"Just go, Weasley," he said, his voice laced with tiredness. "Neither of us wants you to be here."
Ron sighed, feeling as though he was fighting a losing battle and said, "Fine, I'll go for now, but I'm coming back tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that, every day until you're out of here. And if you think I won't, I can't wait to prove you wrong," and with that he stood up, spared one last long look at Draco then left.
True to his word, Ron returned the next day. Draco looked shocked to see him, but said nothing, stubbornly refused to talk to, or even acknowledge the red-head. Silence reigned for a good half hour before Ron finally broke it, never one to keep his mouth shut for very long. "Are you not even going to say hello?" he asked.
Draco turned to face the Gryffindor, raised an eyebrow and said in the most dead-pan voice imaginable, "Hello".
"You could make an effort you know," Ron replied, already feeling irritated with the blond.
"Why? It's not as if I want you to be here," Draco retorted. "I don't even know why you are here."
"I told you yesterday, I'm here because I care."
"How very touching."
"Oh you're impossible, you know that?" Ron said, rising from his chair and standing at the foot of the bed, bracing his arms upon it and fixing the blond with a firm glare. "If you'd just stop being a prick for long enough you'd see that I really do care and I'm here because I want to be, though mind you, the way you're behaving today is beginning to change that!" Realising he was letting his temper get the better of him, he took a deep breath and said, "Look, you're just going to have to resign yourself to the fact that I'm not going anywhere and you know what? I'm determined to make this work."
"Make what work, Weasley? What exactly is it that you expect from these little visitations?"
"I don't expect anything, I just…oh never mind, you're obviously determined not to see my point. Here," he said, picking up his schoolbag and removing a few pages from it, "I brought you the work you've missed, the teachers sent it on."
The expression on Draco's face changed suddenly and he looked up at Ron, meeting his eyes for the first time and asked, "Do they know what happened? Why I'm in here?"
"I don't know. I haven't told them and I don't know whether Madame Pomfrey has. Snape probably knows, the man seems to know everything. Would it bother you if they did know?" he asked softly.
"Of course it would bother me," Draco replied instantly, "it bothers me that you know!"
"Oh come on Malfoy it's me, it would bother you if I knew what your favourite colour was!" Realising that he was letting himself become irritated again, Ron sighed and moved back to sit in the chair, saying, "Look, as far as I know, no one besides myself and Madame Pomfrey knows about what's happened, but it is possible that they'll find out, and you're going to have to be prepared for that. For now, just take it slowly, stop thinking about ifs or maybes, they're not important. Now, do you want to go through the work that you've missed?"
Draco didn't respond for a few moments, merely continued looking in the opposite direction, his chin set in what Ron could only describe as a sulky pout before finally saying, "Fine, although I don't suppose I'll learn anything with you as my tutor."
"Just count to ten and take deep breaths," Ron mumbled to himself, promising that he would hold his temper and not kill the blond menace who was severely trying his patience.
"Bloody stupid thing," Ron murmured under his breath as he cut his finger on a pruning knife for the fifth time that Herbology lesson.
"Well if you'd concentrate instead of spending half your time staring into space then maybe it wouldn't happen so much," Hermione chided. "I don't know what's wrong with you today; you've been on another planet all morning."
"Oh let it go Hermione, I really don't need this today," Ron replied, wrapping a stray bit of tissue round his bleeding finger. Hermione simply tutted and moved back to her work, giving up on him.
"What's got you so wound up today?" Harry asked, not caring if he got his head bitten off, it wouldn't be the first time after all.
"Oh nothing, I'm just thinking about things, I've just got a lot on my mind at the moment."
"So I noticed," Harry replied. "What's going on with you? I've hardly seen you these past couple of days, you haven't been in the Tower and you've been skipping meals, what's going on?"
"Harry please just leave it, it's nothing really. I'm just…a bit preoccupied at the moment, I've been letting work pile up and I'm just…tired, you know how it gets. I think I'm going to take off, I can't be doing with this class right now. If Sprout notices I've gone could you just tell her that I cut myself and had to go the Hospital Wing?"
"Please Harry, please just do that for me," he implored, desperation seeping into his voice.
"Fine," Harry yielded, resigned to the fact that nothing he could say would have any effect of the red-head. "But don't expect me to make your excuses to Hermione, you're on your own with that one."
Ron managed a half-hearted grin and said, "I wouldn't expect anything else. I'll see you later, cheers Harry."
Ron slipped away from the greenhouse and headed back up to the castle, only deciding when he reached the doors that he was going to go to the Hospital Wing. Draco was sitting up reading a book when he got there, something which Ron took as a good sign; the blond had done nothing but stare into space with a blank look on his face since he'd arrived there.
"You're supposed to be in Herbology," he said, flicking over a page in the book, his eyes never leaving it.
"Couldn't concentrate," was the Gryffindor's short reply as he seated himself in the usual chair by Draco's bed, "too much to think about." At that Draco glanced across at him and raised an eyebrow, but thankfully said nothing. "How are you feeling today?"
Draco shrugged and said, "Ok I suppose, bored out of my skull, but ok."
"Can I bring you anything next time?"
"And just how were planning on doing that? Thinking of sneaking into the Slytherin dorms?"
Ron was about to retort that the blond could try and show some gratitude and stop being his usual pig-ignorant self when he noticed there was a kind of amused glint in the sharp grey eyes, and the only thing he could really feel was gratification that the blond was beginning to pick himself up out of the mire of gloom he had been seeping himself in. "Prat," he murmured, resisting the urge to smile. "Now once more without the sarcasm – can I bring you anything?"
"No…thank you," he added, almost as an afterthought. "So you just skipped out of Herbology then? Were you that desperate to see me again?" Draco asked with a smirk.
"Don't flatter yourself," Ron replied, "I just couldn't stand being in the lesson anymore and I had nothing else to do so I thought I might as well come here."
It was a lie, both he and Draco knew that as he said it, but he wasn't about to admit the truth, to either of them. His mind had been totally preoccupied with the blond all day, all week even; he was all he seemed capable of thinking about. He couldn't stop himself from considering the circumstances that had driven the boy to try and take his own life, and though he had tried to tell himself otherwise, he was now concerned with the boy's welfare and his current circumstances.
"Are you…feeling better?" he asked tentatively.
Draco gave a slight nod and said, "Better than I was anyway. Pomfrey says I'll be out in a few days – that should be fun; I can't wait to sit in lessons while the teachers all look at me thinking 'I wonder if he's going to try and top himself again'."
"Don't talk that way," Ron reproached, "no one's going to think that. Just concentrate on getting better and getting back, that's all you've got to worry about."
"All I've got worry about?" Draco repeated, an incredulous tone to his voice. "You seem to forget why I'm here in the first place."
"Actually you still haven't told me exactly what it was that put you in this hospital bed," Ron replied, his ability to remain calm strengthening at each meeting with the blond. "The only thing you've told me is that this was your only way out, you won't tell me from what though."
"And you really expect me to?" Draco shot back. "Why the hell would I tell you of all people?"
"Maybe because I'm the one who found you," Ron replied, his temper now rising. "Maybe because I'm the one who brought you here and stayed in the corridor outside the Hospital Wing the entire night worried sick that you might not make it; maybe because I'm the one who cares what happens to you, who cares what has happened to you; and maybe because I'm here, now, and like it or not, I'm not going anywhere," he finished firmly, determined to show Draco just how resolved he was.
Draco seemed to have been rendered speechless by Ron's outburst, seemingly only capable of staring up at the red-head with something akin to confusion and puzzlement in his eyes. "You…you stayed in the corridor all night?" he finally managed, sounding bewildered beyond comprehension. At Ron's small, affirmative nod he then asked, "But why?"
"Because I was worried you prat," Ron replied, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "I could hardly just leave you."
"Most people would have done," the blond replied quietly.
"Yeah well good thing for you I'm not most people," Ron returned with a small smile. "Everyone needs a friend Malfoy, even you."
"And I suppose you want to apply for the position?" Draco asked, the ghost of his old smirk settling upon his lips.
Ron returned the smirk half-heartedly, not sure if he was ready yet to relinquish the sobriety of the earlier moment, and said, "I can guarantee I'm the best applicant you'll get."
"Now there's a depressing thought," was the sardonic reply.
"The word gratitude doesn't even enter into your vocabulary does it?"
"Not if I can help it."
As he originally promised, Ron returned each day and they soon fell into a strange sort of routine. It felt comfortable and strangely familiar; Draco began to await the Gryffindor's arrival and Ron looked forward to heading up to the Hospital Wing to visit the blond. They would sit and finish the work Ron brought from the day's lessons and afterwards they would fall into a funny kind of conversation, something that began to feel strangely natural. Draco still had yet to discuss the circumstances that had put him in the hospital and Ron didn't press him to. He figured that Draco would talk about it in his own time, and when he did, Ron would be there to listen.
It was a Saturday when Ron tramped up to the Hospital Wing and found Draco out of bed, dressed and flattening the sheets down. "Being checked out?" Ron asked.
Draco looked up at him and smirked, replying, "I'm always being checked out, didn't you know that?"
"Prat," Ron answered with a smile, surprised at the amount of affection he heard in his voice. "Are you ready to leave here?"
"Pomfrey says so and she's the expert, apparently, so I guess so," Draco replied, averting his eyes from Ron's, busying himself with smoothing down the sheets on the already perfectly straightened bed.
Ron moved around the corner of the bed and gently grasped Draco by the shoulders, dipping his head slightly to look the blond in the eye. "I didn't ask that, I asked if you were ready to leave," he said softly. Draco looked up at him, a small, slightly cheerless smile playing at the corner of his mouth.
"I suppose I have to be, I could hardly stay here for the rest of my life, have to get back to normality some time."
"Such as it is," Ron quipped, offering his own half-smile. The hand that lay on Draco's left shoulder slowly moved up until it gently cradled Draco's head, moving the blond hair back and forth slightly. "I don't think you really want to go back to the dorms right know, how about you and I take off somewhere for the day? You don't need to deal with a load of people and questions. We can go anywhere you want, your choice."
"I am privileged," Draco said with a smirk, slightly puzzled by Ron's affectionate gesture, but almost too comfortable with it to question it. "I think I might have an idea."
Draco's idea turned out to be a little patch of land behind one of the Herbology greenhouses, a small square of grass with an ancient looking oak seemingly plonked in the middle of it. It was this oak that Draco and Ron were sitting up against, placidly wasting the day away, talking about nothing in particular, enjoying the lazy feel of the afternoon.
During a lull in the conversation, Ron turned to Draco and asked, "Will you be ok going back to the dorms and classes? I know it won't exactly be easy."
Draco gave a small shrug and said, "It has to be done. As long as I can keep my head down and just try and carry on with things I should be alright. I don't know how much anyone knows; hopefully I can just pass it off as a bad case of the flu or something. It's not like anyone cares anyway, they probably didn't even notice I was gone."
Not really knowing what to say to that, Ron simply remained quiet. He couldn't really offer any words of comfort as what Draco said might well have been true, and even if people had noticed, who was to say they would have cared? Conditions between Draco and those he lived with were obviously bad, or he wouldn't be in this situation in the first place, he would have been able to go to someone and talk about things, rather than deciding to take matters into his own hands and end it all.
"I'm not going anywhere you know," Ron eventually said, staring off into the distance.
Draco tilted his head to look at the boy next to him and asked. "What are you talking about?"
Ron paused for a moment before turning to face the blond, saying, "I didn't plan on just sticking round until you got out of the hospital; now that you're well again I'm not just going to go back to the way things were before…if that's what you were expecting."
"To tell the truth I'm not sure what I was expecting. When I woke up and you were there I was confused, I mean, I was puzzled enough that you'd…saved me, but that you'd actually stayed to see me wake up…it threw me, I just…didn't get it. And now? Now we sit and talk and spend hours in each other's company. It makes no sense to me at all."
"No, I don't suppose it does," Ron replied quietly. "It doesn't have to though does it?"
Draco emitted a short laugh and replied, "If it did you and I wouldn't be sitting here now."
"For what it's worth, I'm glad we are." Ron slowly turned his head and found the blond was already looking at him, a small but somewhat confused smile on his lips. Ron's gaze moved lower until it rested on Draco's thin wrists, both marred with small, white scars. "Are you ever going to tell me…why?" he asked gently.
Draco sighed and looked ahead, as if searching for the answer, his brows furrowed. "It's complicated. I…I just felt like it was the only way, the only option I had," Draco paused, considering his words carefully. "Things in my life have been a mess for a long time now, but things finally came to a head that day…the day I tried to…" he trailed off, then took a deep breath and continued, "For a long time my family had been pressuring me to…take the Mark, and for a while it seemed to be the right thing, it was the logical step after all. I just didn't know any better, I thought it was all status and nobility, I was an idiot. I didn't think about what that meant, what I would have to do to continue to be part of that world, a world I never really fully comprehended.
"As I began to see more of it, this thing I was supposed to be a part of, that was supposed to fill me with pride, I realised that all I felt was disgust, all I wanted to do was leave it and never return. But that was never going to be an option, not when you consider how deeply involved my family is. I just began to get more and more disillusioned, sank further into myself and just…saw no way out. The day I…" he made a vague gesture to his scarred wrists, not meeting Ron's eyes, "…I'd received a letter from my father saying I was to be initiated next month. I knew once that happened there would be no way out for me. The only option I could see…well…turns out it wasn't really an option, especially as you bollocksed it up royally," he finished, finally looking at Ron with a small smile.
Ron returned the smile and said, "Yeah, sorry about that. I have a habit of ruining people's plans. But for once I'm glad I did." He gave Draco another smile, soft and warm, then reached up and rested his hand on the blond head. "We're going to be fine," he said gently, moving to slip his arm round Draco's shoulders, pulling him closer. Draco felt as though he should be uncomfortable in the situation, after all it wasn't every day Ron Weasley put his arm around him, but instead he found himself leaning in, enjoying the warmth of the other body and the feeling of safety he found in the embrace. Suddenly things didn't seem so bleak anymore.
As the weeks went on, Draco discovered that Ron was an extremely tactile person; he had never had as much physical contact with anyone in his life. Not that he was complaining, after growing up in a house where a hug was considered something one gave on birthdays and birthdays alone, it was nice to have a change. Still it surprised him just how much of their time was spent in contact of some sort.
They would sit side by side with their knees brushing; or they would wind up sitting with Draco held gently to Ron's side, they would sit with Draco's head in Ron's lap looking up at him while they talked and laughed, Ron slowly sliding his fingers through the soft, blond hair; Ron would reach over and brush the hair from Draco's face or tuck a strand behind his ear; they would even playfight occasionally, grinning the whole time and landing in a heap on top of each other, limbs tangled and laughing.
Draco had dreaded going back to the Slytherin dorms, he knew they would have figured things out by now and he knew that he would be given a hard time. When he had stepped through the door, every head had turned and looked at him and for a moment he forgot how to breathe. Clenching his jaw he brushed past everyone and strode up to his room, locking himself away. He spent the night terrified, hunched up on his bed, waiting for some kind of attack. It never came. Of course, what he didn't know was that Ron was sitting outside his room the entire night in Harry's invisibility cloak and had cast some rather neat spells on a couple of bastards trying to sneak in. Their testicles would grow back eventually.
After that, Draco had received a letter from his father informing him that he was disowned and disinherited. The blond took it remarkably well, although it might have had something to do with the fact that he and Ron snuck a bottle of firewhiskey down to the lake and downed the entire contents in about fifteen minutes, spending the next few hours staring up at the stars and talking general nonsense. When a silence had eventually fallen, Ron had pulled Draco to him, splayed out on the grass with the blond head resting on his chest. "You don't need him," he had whispered, "you don't need any of them," and then he had pressed a feather-light kiss to the blond's temple and nothing mattered, somehow everything would be alright because Draco had this strange, unexpected beacon of hope and light in his life.
He was currently in the kitchens (Ron having told him how to access them about two and a half weeks prior) waiting for the Red-head to join him. He was happily off in his own world, which oddly enough included thinking about Ron, when the aforementioned Gryffindor snuck up behind him and wrapped his long arms around the smaller boy's waist. "Fucking hell Ron! You scared the shit out of me," Draco said, turning his head to look at the grinning boy, trying very hard to not return the smile.
"Everyone should have at least one good scare a day, keeps the heart healthy," Ron replied, not releasing his hold on the blond. Draco merely looked at him with scepticism and turned round again, relaxing into the embrace and enjoying the familiarity of it.
"You're late," Draco told him.
"Makes a change from you being late, I've never known anyone so bad at keeping time in all my life."
"Oh shut up, you know you enjoy waiting for me, you like the anticipation."
"Is that a fact?"
"Prat," Ron replied affectionately. "So what's the plan?"
"There isn't one. I thought you preferred things unstructured, haphazard, you know, kind like your dress sense."
"Cheeky!" Ron exclaimed, digging the blond in the ribs and making him squirm out of Ron's hold to escape.
"You know I can't stand it when you do that," Draco complained, thought they both knew it wasn't meant. He moved over to one of the preparation areas, examining the various piles of fruit and melted chocolate. Maybe he wouldn't skip dinner tonight. "Think they'd notice if we stole a few things?" Draco asked, looking over his shoulder at the red-head. Ron grinned and moved over to join him, picking up a strawberry and dipping it in the chocolate.
"I think we might just get away with it," he replied. "Oh hey, you've got something on your nose."
"Right…there!" he laughed, smearing a huge blob of chocolate on the aristocratic nose.
"You're going to be sorry for that Weasley," Draco said, aiming for menacing but falling decidedly short. Gathering a scoop of chocolate on his fingertips, he stalked towards the Gryffindor.
"Now now Draco, play nice."
"Slytherins don't play nice, surely you've learnt that by now?"
Draco lunged forward but Ron caught his wrist before the chocolate-covered digit could make any contact. "Gryffindors don't always play by the rules either you know," Ron said with a smirk, keeping a firm hold on the thin wrist.
"So I've noticed," Draco replied smoothly, very aware that Ron didn't seem about to relinquish his hold anytime soon. A sudden compulsion propelled the blond forward and before he had time to blink, Ron suddenly found himself being very firmly kissed in the middle of the Hogwarts kitchens. The kiss was slow and sweet and Ron couldn't help but think that he'd never had anything feel so right as when Draco seemingly melted into his hold so they were firmly pressed together, a perfect fit. He'd been waiting for this for weeks now, but had been too afraid to act upon his wishes, fearing that he would push Draco away, unsure if the boy even swung that way, and even if he did, who was to say he would be interested?
He was getting very definite proof however that the blond was interested as a pair of thin arms snaked around his neck and pulled him even closer, long fingers tangling themselves in his hair. Ron gave an appreciative moan as the Slytherin gave his lip a playful nip then continued to kiss him thoroughly. Ron turned them round so Draco was pressed against the worktop, increasing the friction between them as the kiss became more passionate and less restrained as each became more confident in what they were doing. It was a heady feeling, and one Ron thoroughly enjoyed as he felt sparks of pleasure reverberate through him as Draco moved against him.
"You're beautiful," he whispered, as his lips moved to Draco's neck.
"So are you," was the breathy reply. "I've wanted this ever since that night at the lake but I was so afraid of scaring you away that I didn't want to do anything. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you."
Ron moved to look the blond in the eyes and said seriously, "I can assure you that that will never happen. I told you a long time ago that I wasn't going anywhere and I meant it. I'm here, and I always will be. You've come to mean so much to me Drake, I'm never letting you go," he finished with a gentle smile, brushing the hair out of Draco's eyes, which were threatening to fill up with tears.
"That's a promise I fully intend to make sure you keep," Draco whispered in response, pulling Ron down into another kiss, which only finally broke off when Draco asked quietly, almost shyly if they could take it somewhere a little more private than the kitchens, a request which resulted in the two them ending up in Ron's bed with some very strong silencing charms in place.
"You know I love you don't you?" Ron asked, running a finger down Draco's flawless cheek.
"Of course I do, just as you know that I love you, it's just one of the facts of the universe," the blond replied with a smirk. "You're the only person who's never broken a promise to me, the only one who's ever bothered to love and comfort me, to treat me with kindness and compassion. You show me every day that you love me, never doubt my knowledge of it," he assured his lover softly.
"I just worry sometimes that I don't show it as often as I could, and I would never want that, I want you always to know how I feel about you."
"And I do, love, I do," he said, placing a soft kiss on the already reddened lips. He pulled the Gryffindor close and rested his head on his chest, a smile settling on his lips when he felt the strong arms go round him, protecting and loving him. Sure hands began to trace patterns on his back, a comforting and familiar gesture and the blond smirked at what he knew would be next. Sure enough, the next thing he heard was a soft murmur and he found himself with no clothes, his lover in a similar situation. "You're far too good at that," he said with a smile, looking up into the playful blue eyes. "Well are you going to transfigure us a bed or do you expect us to shag on the cold stone floor?"
"Whinge, whinge, whinge, that's all I ever get from you," Ron complained, though the glint in his eyes betrayed the humour behind his words. "And if there are any complaints about the style of bed this time, I promise you you will be going to back to your room far sooner than you expected," he warned, to which Draco merely rolled his eyes, quite used to his lover's empty threats. He watched as Ron transfigured a few old tables and chairs into a double bed, not the most striking of things, but serviceable enough.
"Really, my standards have slipped sooo much after taking up with you, I really must question the sense of my actions. Have you no taste? No style? No sense of – " but the blond's criticisms were soon cut off as Ron picked him and placed him firmly on the bed he had been so disdainful about.
"You talk too much Malfoy," Ron told him, pinning the blond beneath him.
"Well then why don't you make me shut up Weasley?" Draco taunted, grinning up at the beautiful young man above him.
"With pleasure," Ron replied, effectively silencing him for the rest of the night.
~*~Meanwhile, elsewhere in the castle~*~
"I mean can you believe it?" Harry ranted, still in an absolute state of shock at what he had seen. "Ron and Malfoy! What the hell is the world coming to? I thought I'd seen everything but this is just…there's not even a word for it! I just don't understand how this could have happened. And how could he not have told me? This has obviously been going on for some time, you'd think he'd tell me, his best friend!"
His lover looked on at him in amusement, thinking to themselves how utterly delectable the young man looked when he was all riled up and in a frenzy over something. "Harry love, don't you think you're being just the tiniest bit hypocritical?" his lover asked, trying not laugh when Harry whirled around and inquired,
"What do mean?"
"What I mean is that you and I have been conducting a relationship for over a year now and you haven't told him. Also, I think if Ron were to come across us in such a situation, his reaction would be much the same as yours. Our circumstances aren't so very different from theirs, and if you'd calm down long enough you would see that."
Harry gave a somewhat defeated sigh and plonked himself down in his lover's lap, pouting ever so slightly. "But Sev," he began to protest but was swiftly cut off.
"Don't 'but Sev' me," the Potions Master replied, "you know perfectly well you're just acting like a child and that given what we've been doing this past year, you can't say a thing against Ron," he smirked, loving the look on Harry's face as he realised that there was nothing he could say that wouldn't make that true.
"Why do you always have to be right?" the boy groused.
"Because I'm older and wiser and I actually take the time to think about things, unlike you who are impetuous, younger, considerably less wise and…well…you," the man finished with a raised eyebrow.
"You still love me though," Harry told him confidently, grinning up the man.
"Unfortunately that's true," Severus sighed dramatically. "Now, are you coming to bed or do we have to stay here all night while you prattle on about Ron and Draco and how sacrilegious their relationship is?" he asked, knowing full well what the answer would be. Harry was eighteen after all.
"Bed," Harry whispered, wrapping his arms around the man's neck as he stood, enabling himself to be carried to the bedroom. "And I'm not a hypocrite."
AN: Well that was just a little plot-bunny that jumped in my head a little while ago, so I thought I'd exorcise it and share it with you all. I'd love to hear what you thought of it.