A/N: A few strong words used here. Just had to say that. Most of this chapter is mush and therefore I have made it short-ish so you don't have to suffer. I'll try write more for the next chapter, promise. ;)
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Ms. Rowling.
A pale-faced Veronica Weasley stared back.
There was a tense silence.
"You… you…" Draco stammered.
"I know I should have told you earlier, I'm really sorry…"
"Damn right you should be sorry!" Draco yelled furiously, his cheeks turning red in anger. "What the hell did you think you were playing at? I suppose you thought it was funny, didn't you?"
"Like hell you didn't" Draco sneered. "Gawd, I should have known. It was just a game wasn't it? Just one little game!"
"Draco, it wasn't-" Ron started.
"Don't call me Draco!" Draco shouted. "I should have KNOWN it! You Weasleys… you damned Muggle lovers… you all think EVERYTHING'S a game, don't you? You and those faggot brothers of yours… and you DARED to ask me last night how I felt about…" Draco trailed off.
"I wanted to tell you, but I thought you'd be mad, can't you see that?" Ron asked, his voice rising angrily.
"Well good, you thought right, didn't you? How could I have been so stupid… I TRUSTED you damn it! I thought you were different. My father was right, you Weasleys are nothing but a Muggle-loving, cheap, poor-"
"Shut up!" Ron yelled, his eyes filling with tears.
"Stupid, using, lying, pathetic bunch of fag-"
"I SAID SHUT UP!" Ron screamed.
"Or what, WEASLEY? You'll put a curse on me? I'm SO scared"
"You think I did it for fun? Gawd Malfoy, I didn't even WANT to be Veronica, at first. You want to know the truth? My brother MADE me eat a cake that had the potion in it. I never wanted to be female, but what choice did I have afterwards? I had to WAIT for the thing to wear off. And if I correctly recall, YOU came after ME, so quit blaming me!"
"You didn't tell me" Draco said through clenched teeth. "You didn't tell me. You just kept parading around, enjoying yourself. Did you enjoy it, huh? Pretending to be someone you weren't, LYING to everyone? I actually KISSED you and you STILL didn't tell me!"
Draco glared at Ron with the utmost hatred and disgust in his eyes. "You pathetic, sick faggot. Don't you DARE tell me not to blame you"
"Oh, I suppose it's all MY fault then? You know what's your problem? You always think you're so damned perfect. You think your family's the best, so rich, so powerful. You know what the REST of the world think of you? Selfish, greedy, snobbish, lying, cheating, dictating shoe-polishers for You-Know-Who, parading around with this high and mighty name and lots of money, but you know what? You're all just one big lie, you're all just… just HOUSE ELVES to your beloved Dark Lord" Ron sneered.
Draco hit him, punched him as hard as he could on the cheek.
"Say that again, and I will kill you" the blonde seethed. Ron at Draco, shocked at what he had just said.
"Omigod… Draco, I didn't mean to…"
Draco hit him again, sending him to the floor.
"Don't you EVER talk to me again. Don't even LOOK at me. Ever. Understand?" he said threateningly. He turned and walked to the stairs. Ron watched him leave helplessly then covered his face and cried.
Draco stormed down the corridor, furious at both himself and at Ron.
How DARE he? How dare that… that FAGGOT say that about MY family? How COULD he just have gone on with the whole thing and NOT TOLD ME? That… that ASSHOLE. And I BELIEVED him. Gawd, I actually l… no, I NEVER did.
He looked up as he reached the entrance of the Slytherin dorm in surprise.
"Father? Dumbledore?" he asked questioningly. Dumbledore looked at him grimly.
"About time you turned up. Hurry, we have to go" Lucius Malfoy snapped.
"What are you doing-"
Draco's sentence was cut off as his father roughly grabbed his arm and dragged him back down the corridor, Dumbledore not far behind.
Ron sat in the Astronomy Tower silently, arms wrapped around his knees which were drawn up to his chest. He had changed back into himself again. Dried tear marks were streaked on his face and his cheek was turning an ugly purplish-black. He stared out into the night sky and shivered. He was cold.
I can't believe I really said that to him… Oh gawd, what have I done… I just ruined EVERYTHING.
Ron sighed, his heart hurting.
Like I always do, I guess. I ALWAYS ruin everything. Me and my stupid temper and my stupid big mouth… Why can't things go RIGHT, for once? Why is everything I do WRONG? I HATE myself…
He put his head down on his forearms, deep in thought. He didn't hear Draco's panicked voice or Lucius' shouting as they went out of school and disapparated.
Ron lifted his head to the sound of a soft, concerned voice. Hermione knelt down beside him and touched his arm.
"Oh Ron, you're so cold, why didn't you come in? It's so late… we were so worried. We didn't know where on earth you were… here, put this on" she said, placing his maroon sweater around his shoulders. Ron put the sweater on numbly.
"Come on now, let's go in… I'll make you a cup of hot chocolate" Hermione said. Obediently, Ron got up and followed Hermione in. Once inside the castle again he saw Harry run over.
"Hermione! You found him… thank GOODNESS… where was he?"
"What? For how long? It's so cold at night, what were you doing there Ron? We were so worried… do you have any idea what time it is now?"
Ron stared blankly ahead.
"Ron? RON?" Harry said, worried. He looked at his friend and gasped. He touched Ron's cheek lightly.
"You're bruised… what happened…?"
"Let's just get him back first Harry…" Hermione said.
"Yeah, okay… I'll get a spare blanket" Harry said and ran off. Hermione took Ron's hand and squeezed it reassuringly.
"Come on now Ron… let's go back to the dorm, okay? I'll make a nice cup of hot chocolate, you can sit in front of the fire, Harry'll get a nice, warm blanket, then you can tell us what's wrong, okay? Just, please, don't ever stay out in the Astronomy Tower so late again, all right? It's cold, and we start to get worried…" Hermione faltered then smiled warmly. "I know we seem like we're being really nosy, its none of our business, and we may not understand exactly how you feel, but just remember that we're your friends, okay? We're BEST friends, and we stick up for each other and help each other, so if you need anything, just say so… me and Harry, we'll ALWAYS be there for you. Okay, Ron?"
Hermione was considerably startled when Ron burst into tears, ran into her arms and sobbed on her shoulder.
"Feeling better now?" Harry asked, a little awkwardly. Ron nodded as he slowly sipped a sweet mouthful of hot chocolate.
"Want to tell me what that was all about?"
Ron stared into his hot chocolate. He slowly shook his head. Harry sighed.
"Okay, fine, I'm not going to force you… just say something though, please? You've been silent for the past half hour"
Ron managed a weak smile. "I'm okay. Thanks Harry"
Hermione walked out of the bathroom, having changed her now damp shirt to a dry one.
"Thanks Hermione… and sorry about your shirt…"
"It's okay. Feeling better?"
"Wanna talk about it?"
Harry and Hermione exchanged glances.
"Okay then…" Hermione said. They sat in silence listening to the crackle of the fire. Ron got up.
"I'm going to go to bed… okay?" he asked.
"Sure, go ahead" Hermione said softly. Ron walked away quietly. Hermione looked worriedly at Harry.
"What do you think is wrong with him?" she asked.
The next day crawled by slowly. The change of mood was apparent in Ron. He didn't look at anyone, didn't smile, didn't talk; just walked by staring at the floor with a glazed look in his eyes. He skipped all his classes and seemed exactly as if he was in another dimension. After countless efforts by Hermione to 'bring him back' by asking nicely and being as supportive and gentle as she could Harry had finally lost his temper.
After dinner just outside the Great Hall Harry grabbed his friend by the shoulders.
"Okay Ron, this has gone far enough. You can't go on like this forever. At least you have to eat, you just sat there like a bloody zombie. Now, I don't care whether or not you tell me what's been going on with you, but I do care that you're acting like you're dead"
Ron looked at his feet and for the first time that day spoke. "You do?" he asked, his tone flat, his voice half sarcastic half hopeful. Harry shook Ron hard.
"Of course I do! You're my FRIEND. You think I LIKE watching my friend look so lost? HELL no! Whatever it is, get OVER it! It can't be THAT bad!"
Ron looked at his friend in the eyes and Harry was startled by the amount of raw emotion bubbling in those emerald green orbs.
"You don't know how I feel," Ron said simply. Then he broke out of Harry's grasp and ran away.
Ginny knocked on the door tentatively.
"Can I come in?" she asked. There was a silence then a resigned "Yes". Ginny walked in quietly and shut the door. She saw her brother lying on his back on the bed, staring at the ceiling and sat down next to him.
"You okay?" she asked.
"Yeah" Ron replied.
"Because um, you've been a bit… well, not like yourself today…"
"Why do you care?" Ron asked suspiciously. It wasn't like Ginny to come in and talk to him. Sure she was his sister, sure she was a sweet young girl, but they hardly ever talked except when Ron was playing a prank on her. Ginny looked indignant.
"Because I'm your sister and I'm worried!" Ginny said. Ron turned his head, glanced at her, then continued staring at the ceiling.
"Hermione told you to come in, didn't she" Ron said. A statement, not a question. Ginny flushed. Ron sighed.
"I am FINE. Why can't people just leave me alone?" he asked.
"Maybe because they love you –as a friend, brother, whatever…- and they don't like to see you hurt?" Ginny said. Ron snorted.
"They love me. Yeah."
Ginny looked at her brother. "We're siblings Ron. I love you. Bill loves you, Charlie loves you, Fred and George love you… in their own strange way… and Percy loves you… I think…"
Ron's mouth quirked up slightly. "Thank you ever so Ginny, I feel so much better now"
"See? You're smiling! Things can't be that bad now… can they?" Ginny said cheerfully. Ron's smile disappeared.
"Gin, promise me, NONE of this leaves the room, understand?" he said, his voice firm and serious.
"I understand" Ginny said. Ron looked uncertain.
"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, I understand if you don't trust me…"
"No, it's okay, I figure I've got to tell someone soon… Well it's just… I like someone"
"That doesn't sound so bad…" Ginny said.
"No, it's more like I… I love someone… but I was too afraid to tell that person because I thought that the person would hate me…" Ron said, his voice starting to break. Ginny leaned over and stroked her brother's hair gently. It seemed to calm him.
"One day I decided to tell the person… and… and…"
"Was that what you were doing last night?" Ginny asked softly.
"Yes" Ron said, gulping back tears.
"And the person…"
"Now hates me," Ron said, a tear rolling down his cheek. Ginny brushed it away with her finger and continued to stroke his hair, occasionally running her fingers through it reassuringly.
"Oh don't say that Ron…"
"The thing is… the person liked me before… when I wasn't… when I was…" Ron trailed off, trying desperately to keep his tears in check. Ginny noticed that.
"It's okay to cry Ron…" she said consolingly. "And how can you say that the person hates you, if she liked you before? If she liked you before, it's not likely that it's all suddenly going to go to hate"
Ron looked uncomfortable. "That's the thing Gin… the person's not a 'she'…"
Please Gin, don't freak on me, please don't… Ron begged silently. I've told you so much that I wouldn't have said to anyone else already, please don't freak out…
Ginny's mouth opened in shock then, seeing her brother's pleading face, closed.
"So you like… a guy…" she said. Ron just looked at her.
"Okay… and he is…"
"Remember my 'date' to the last Yule Ball?"
Ginny's face went from blank to shocked to horrified.
"MALFOY?" she squeaked. Ron inclined his head slightly. Ginny looked amazed.
"Malfoy, Malfoy… wasn't that when…?"
"Yeah. When I was 'Veronica'"
"But I thought when you liked Malfoy then it was only a side effect of the potion… Uh, you still don't like uh… guys… as in other guys… right?"
Ron blinked. "No, not other guys… just him…"
Ginny looked visibly relieved. "Wow… when I thought we hid secrets from each other I didn't think a secret like this…"
Ron's mouth quirked. "Even if we didn't share secrets you wouldn't have expected something like this"
"That's a good… hold on, MALFOY?"
Ron looked puzzled. "I thought you got that part already"
"Malfoy… oh no… oh that is NOT a good thing"
"What? What's not a good thing?"
Ginny stared. "Didn't you know? Malfoy's not at school anymore!"
Ron jerked up. "WHAT?"
"His dad came last night and took him back home… oh! Sorry, of course you didn't know, you were… but didn't you notice today… oh, right, I forgot…" Ginny trailed off, flushing slightly.
"Took him back home? Why?" Ron asked, ignoring the last part of Ginny's sentence. The door suddenly slammed open. A terrified Dobby stood in the doorway.
"Master Wheezy must tell Harry Potter to go home sir! Harry Potter must be safe!"
"Safe? What do you mean 'safe'? Dobby?"
Harry appeared from behind the house elf.
"Take a guess," he said grimly.