Warnings and Disclaimers found in Chapter 1.

Author's Notes: The much anticipated confrontation between Ron, Harry and Draco. I've wanted to write this scene for about ten chapters now, but Jokes kept telling me that it was too soon. Oh well. Since she's absolutely brill, I listened and I think the story's better for it. Thank you to all my reviewers. I love you all!

Author's Note 2: I'm very glad that everyone enjoys this story as much as they do, but please do not harass me about new chapters. I work full-time, have an ill mum, and a lot of other stories that I work on. I will update the stories as I find time. Thank you!

Chapter Twenty—A Showdown, of Sorts

Harry bristled at Draco's domineering tone and opened his mouth to say something in return when Hermione pushed past the blond teen to come stand beside her best friend. "I'm afraid that that would be a bad idea, Malfoy," she said coolly. "Ron would only attack first and then place blame on you if he was questioned by the Aurors. I think it's best if we all come out as a group, Narcissa excepted, to stem off any irrational behaviour."

"Don't you mean to keep anyone from having to go back to St Mungo's?" Harry asked tightly. "Let's not beat around the bush here, 'Mione. We all know that we all have bad tempers."

"Well, yes, there is that," Hermione said, her cheeks pinking a bit in embarrassment.

Harry watched as Draco's eyes flickered back in forth in thought. I know he thinks he's so inscrutable, but anyone can see that he's weighing the options in his head. It would be attractive if he wasn't acting so high-handedly. I guess.

"Forgive me, Hermione, but why should I stay inside while I let you three face Mr Weasley?" Narcissa asked neutrally. "I fail to see why I should let my son and our guests face an unknown danger while I sit comfortably inside the Manor."

"Ron's hardly an unknown danger," Harry said with a sigh. "He's more temper than anything else, but if he sees either you or Draco, he's liable to attack and not listen to anything we say. It's bad enough that Draco's coming out. Besides, you're safer inside, Narcissa."

"I am not letting you go out there alone, Potter," Draco snarled. "So, either you let me speak to the Weasel or we just call the Aurors to have him arrested. If he does anything that trips the wards, I would be more than happy to file charges."

"Draco," Hermione said calmly. Harry was proud of her for not flinching when the blond man turned hard, cold grey eyes on her. Instead, she smiled widely and laid a hand on Harry's arm. "Do you really think that I would let my best friend go out there alone to talk to our other friend?"

"No," Draco all but snarled, "but I do think that you would be torn as to which you should side with once they begin fighting."

"Don't kid yourself," Hermione snapped. "Harry and Ron are able to conduct at least a few minutes of conversation without coming to blows. Besides, they're grownups—in theory anyway—and don't need me to play peacemaker all the time. And what makes you think that I would even want to choose a side between the two of them?"

"Forgive me for thinking that a confrontation between your boyfriend and best friend would be a conflict for you," Draco sniped. "Perhaps I'm giving you too much credit with being a human being."

"I'll have you know that during the whole Tri-Wizard tournament fiasco during fourth year, I was the one who stayed by Harry's side while Ron and he were fighting and you were telling lies to Skeeter!" Hermione nearly shrieked. "You have no right to act as if I don't know where my loyalties lie, Malfoy!"

Harry stomped over to the door of the room, ready to push Draco out of the doorway and face his friend out on the Manor's grounds with or without the blond. However, Narcissa's cool, cultured voice stopped him. "Harry, please do not leave the Manor alone," she requested. With a sigh, he turned around to face the aristocratic woman and waited for her to continue speaking. "Draco, Hermione, it is unwise for any of us to go by ourselves to speak with Mr Weasley. However, my son, assuming that Harry would not go outside to speak to his friend is unreasonable of you. Now, I have a suggestion as to how this should be conducted safely for all involved."

The three teens waited patiently—well, as patiently as three angry, short-tempered teenagers could wait, Harry thought wryly—for her to explain what she had in mind. "Harry and Hermione must go outside. That is unavoidable." She held up her hand as Draco drew himself up to say something. "No, Draco, you will listen to me, or else. Now, I will stay inside as Hermione has recommended. However, I will move to the Front East parlour and watch everything through the French doors. That way, I can set off the alarm wards in case of an incident and I will still be able to assist. Draco, you will go out with our guests and you will remember your manners."

Harry watched as Draco stared at his mother for a few silent moments before nodding stiffly. The dark-haired wizard released a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. He felt Hermione's hand slip into his and he squeezed it before moving towards Draco. The blond stared at him with hot, silver eyes that made something inside Harry squirm with desire. He gave the other man a slow, warm smile and watched as the tips of his perfect ears and his high cheekbones turned a delicate shade of pink. "Are you coming out with me or not, Draco?"

"Of course," Draco snapped, his blush becoming more pronounced as Hermione snickered at them both. "Shut it, Granger."

"You don't scare me, Malfoy," she shot back before leading the way out of the parlour and towards the foyer.

Draco knew that it was a bad idea for all three of them to come out and face Weasley alone, but Harry and Granger were determined to be there. Even his mother seemed to be against him in his desire to keep Harry safely ensconced in the Manor so that he could deal with Ronald Weasley. Reluctantly, and without a little muttering under his breath about idiotic Gryffindors and manipulative mothers, Draco followed behind Granger and Harry.

How dare Harry attempt to manipulate me with that stupidly handsome smile of his, Draco thought venomously as he pushed through the Gryffindors to be the first out of the Manor doors. He almost wished he hadn't when he saw his father's precious peafowl running around the front lawn, squawking and screeching so loudly that Draco could feel his eardrums vibrate with the sound. Flashes of light were coming from the grand iron gates, signifying that Weasley hadn't given up trying to take down the entrance to the grounds; although, the creaking noises coming from the portals didn't sound very promising for their integrity.

"MALFOY! COME OUT HERE, YOU COWARD," Weasley bellowed between shouts of Confringo and Relashio.

"Is there some reason you're trying to use low-level Cutting Spells with Blasting Curses upon my antique iron gates?" Draco drawled in a louder than normal voice while Weasley's panting breath reached his ears with no problem.

"Where is he, Ferret?" the redhead snapped.

Granger and Harry turned to stare at Draco in confusion. "What's he mean, Draco?" Harry asked quietly. "We can see him on the other side of the gates. Why can't he see us?"

"Because, Harry," Draco replied calmly, "my ancestors were paranoid. While we see the gates as they are supposed to be from our side of them, when they are completely closed to an enemy, an impenetrable mist surrounds them."

"I don't remember that being the case when we were dragged here by Greyback," Granger whispered. "We could see clear up the pathway to your pompous entrance."

Draco felt the corners of his mouth twitch—as if he was going to smile—but he pressed his lips together to keep the urge at bay. Only Granger could have perfect recall of a life-threatening situation. "No, you wouldn't have, because Greyback and his filthy Snatchers were tied into the wards."

"Fascinating," Granger murmured as she stared at the gates in front of them. "I'd like to talk to you about how that works later, if you don't mind."

Draco sighed, knowing that any discussion with his female counterpart would bore Harry to death and the less time he spent with Harry, the more reluctant the dark-haired boy would get, Draco feared. "Yes, but one thing at a time, Granger, if you please."

"Oh, of course," she replied, shaking her head like a Crup puppy Draco had seen at Pansy's house as a child after it had woken up from a nap. "I suppose we should get this over as quickly as possible. Is there a way to make it so Ron can see us but still not gain access to the grounds?"

Draco looked at Granger, not used to hearing her saying something so inherently stupid. Merlin, I thought it was only Harry I had to worry about, not her. He continued to stare at her as colour crept up her pale face from her neck. "Yes, well, if you're done looking at me like you used to, perhaps we could get this over with?" she snapped, running her hands through her frizzy hair in an agitated manner.

The corners of Draco's mouth twitched again. "Yes," he answered calmly, taking his hawthorn wand out of his robe pocket with exaggerated care. "Harry, when the mist drops, I have no doubt that Weasley will jump on the opportunity to speak to you. You should be ready to defend yourself from anything that he has to say. I don't know if he will have any valid points, but you will be his main target. I'd bet my father's entire flock of peafowl on that."

Harry bit his bottom lip, as he blinked rapidly. No doubt he is wondering if he really wants to deal with everything right now. That is why I thought it was too soon for him to face Weasley, but he's so bloody stubborn that he won't listen to reason. Draco was surprised when Harry's face settled into a frown with his dark, heavy eyebrows knitted together. "I reckon you're right, Draco, but it was bound to happen eventually. Best to get it done with now so we can get back to that list I know you and 'Mione had earlier."

"As you wish," Draco replied with a slow, easy smile. I knew you were smart, Harry, even if you are more stubborn than anyone else I know. Draco whispered Revealo as he pointed his wand at the eagle that made up the massive iron gates. Suddenly, the bright, fevered, blue eyes of Ronald Weasley were glaring at the group on the other side. "Weasley, I must thank you for stopping your attack on my property."

"Sod off, Malfoy," the redhead snarled before his eyes stopped on Granger. "I didn't believe Bill when he told me that you were here, but I can see that I was an idiot to think you actually cared about me."

"What do you want, Ron?" Harry said forcefully as he stepped closer to the gates. He turned his head to glare at Draco. "You let me handle this and stay quiet."

"Harry, what are you doing here?" Ron shouted angrily. "If you'd wanted peace and quiet, we would have gladly given that to you at the Burrow! But you've been acting like you're too good for my family now that Voldemort's gone and you're a famous celebrity. Or maybe you've decided that you want to have the Malfoys cater to your every whim now that you're the great conqueror of the evil fuck?"

"Merlin, you're an idiot," Harry muttered under his breath. "No, Ron, I couldn't get any alone time when I was at your house. If I wasn't surrounded by you, Gin and Hermione, your mum and Percy and George were there needing something from me: a shoulder to cry on, someone to blame, or someone to reminisce with about Fred. I couldn't take it anymore. I felt like I couldn't breathe. I was suffocating. There was nowhere I could go to think or be myself.

"So, after you made it bloody obvious that you thought that the only way I was worth anything to you was if I spent every second of every bleeding day with you and your family, I knew I had to get away. I don't belong to you, Ron. I'm not a Chocolate Frog card that you can horde or trade with others. And that's all I felt like when I was around you after the Final Battle."

"Oh, Harry," Granger whispered as she put a hand before her face and took a step forward. Draco put out a hand to stop her. When she turned to glare at him, he shook his head and continued to look at Harry, waiting for the fierce, angry young man to say what had been on his mind for too long and he'd been too nice to voice.

"It wasn't like that, Harry," Weasley snarled from the other side of the gate. "It never was. Not for me. You were my best mate and the bloke dating my little sister. You were practically my brother, and then you just dropped us like last week's rubbish. No word. Just packed up your things and disappeared like a coward, like you really were a Slytherin. And then, you sent a letter to my sister to break up with her? What the hell were we supposed to think after that? You didn't even have the guts to tell Gin to her face that you're a bloody poofter and ready to bend over and take it up the arse for Malfoy!"

"Oh, fuck you," Harry shot back, his ears and cheeks turning a violently red colour. "Like you were really there at my hospital room, hounding me right after I'd been in an accident, for Gin's sake. You can tell yourself that, but I'm not buying what you're selling, mate. You were there because you wanted to yell at me for not being your family's lapdog. At least Draco and Narcissa have been honest about why they've let me stay at the Manor and what it means that I've accepted it."

Draco watched as Weasley's face went from red to purple to white to green to back to red at an alarming rate before it settled into a shade somewhere between purple and red. Five, four, three, two…

"FUCK YOU, POTTER!" Weasley roared. "My family has done nothing but welcome you and tried to make you feel welcome. I didn't even give you shit for dating my sister, or breaking up with her the way you did. I supported you through everything. I saved your arse from drowning in a frozen pool and from a possessed locket. You're nothing but a selfish, self-centred prat and you and Malfoy deserve each other if you're going to be so bloody ungrateful."

Draco had reached his limit with Weasley's stupidity and stepped to stand in front of the trembling, angry boy. The lashing of Harry's magic against Draco's back was vicious, almost like he was receiving licks from a whip of rose thorns. Part of him relished in the thought of Harry being so powerful, but he focused the main part of his attention on the fuming Weasel before him. "I fail to see how Harry coming to stay at Malfoy Manor to find some peace has anything to do with ignoring your family. From what I understand, Harry has been in contact with your eldest brother, William, and George sent him a letter the other morning that he was replying to today. It seems to me that the only ones that Harry has avoided speaking with are you, your sister, and mother."

"What would you know about family, Malfoy?" Weasley snarled. Harry's magic picked up in its unrelenting viciousness with his friend's obviously threatening behaviour, but still Draco was determined to have his say.

"Oh, I don't know, Weasley," Draco drawled, affecting a bored tone that he knew that the other boy would see as a challenge. "I only nearly killed you and Katie Bell trying to get to Dumbledore so that I could protect my family. I only nearly killed myself with trying to find a way to get the Dark Lord's forces into Hogwarts to keep my parents safe. I've only opened my ancestral home to both Harry Potter and Hermione Granger to keep the honour and prestige of my family alive. So, you tell me what I would know about family, Weasley."

The redhead took a menacing step forward, but before anyone had said another word, Harry's magic exploded, knocking both Draco and Granger to the ground. The blond just barely managed to safe himself from knocking his head on the ground by letting his Quidditch-trained reflexes kick in and take over. He rolled to the side to see Harry standing in the middle of a very visibly pulsing aura of malice. Granger had not fared as well. "Do not threaten him, Ron. In fact, remove yourself from Malfoy property. Do not talk to me again. Do not speak any of our names. Whatever you have to say, you can write it in a letter and I'll decided if I want to talk to you or not. And if you go to the public with any of this, I will know."

Harry turned on his heel and moved over to help Draco and Granger stand up. "Do you want to talk to him, 'Mione?" he asked his best friend gently as she got back up on her feet.

"Yes, I have a few things to say to him," she said quietly. "You two don't have to stay though."

"Don't be stupid," Draco snapped as he brushed grass and gravel off of his robes. "If I allowed you to be threatened by Weasley, my mother would never forgive me and my reputation as a man would be ruined. Speak your piece. Harry and I will stay a few feet away. You can even cast one of your lovely Muffling Charms while you speak with him."

She turned large, pain-filled brown eyes to him and gave a huge sigh. "Fine," she whispered, looking over at her boyfriend. "And thank you."

TBC
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